Basilica Di San Marco and Museo Correr- Venice, Italy

Our second day in Venice started bright and early, with the determination to see as much as possible now that our leisurely day of walking around (and souvenir buying) had been allocated. After eating a pretty delicious breakfast at the hotel, we booked it to the Piazza San Marco to see if we could either get into the Doges Palace or the visit the Basilica Di San Marco first. The previous day when we had walked by the Basilica we had seen a line that rounded back towards the exit of the church and we had seen something similar with the Doges Palace, so we had decided that waking up early would be the best bet to get the chance to see more without having to be stuck in line for too long (and also cut down on costs by not buying skip the line tickets- they’re great when you’re more pressed for time but in general if you can just wake up early, it’s always nicer to save that money for other things).

We found only a couple of people in line to enter San Marcos at 9:15 (it opens at 9:30, and is free admission but they do check to make sure you’re not carrying large backpacks) and so we figured that was our best bet for getting a chance to explore the most famous of all churches in Venice and one of the most beautiful examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Photography is not allowed inside the Basilica but, I don’t think any photography would really do justice to how beautiful and just awe-inspiring the interior is. I’ve been to my fair share of churches (and I would continue to visit yet more on this trip) but the clear and heavy influence of Byzantine artifacts and style here- like the beautiful mosaic work in the floor- makes it a genuine favorite.

After exiting the main area of the church we decided to wander up and pay the fee to visit the accompanying museum thats housed on the upper level. I would highly recommend paying the 5€ ticket fee even if you’ve absolutely no interest in the historical context of the Basilica or the artwork it houses (although I’m judging you something fierce if you’re here at all and have no interest- the heck are you wasting your time like that for?) if only for the view of the square and part of the Doges Palace that you can only get if you go up to the second level.

After sitting down for a good bit to bask in the veritable splendor of the basilica, we took ourselves back downstairs and across the square, to the Museo Correr. We decided to do this rather than go straight to the Doges Palaces because we found out that if you bought tickets at the Museo Correr, they were also valid for the Palace and would enable you to skip the regular line, and since I had wanted to visit this museum anyways, it worked out perfectly.

The Correr Musuem encompasses both the art and history of Venice and it’s a fantastic primer for someone who’s never been before and has only a small idea of what Venetian history contains (I really only know the history of Venice as it intersected rather bloodily with Byzantine history, namely the 4th crusade). Though the Doges palace also contains plenty concerning the history of Venice, I would really recommend visiting the Correr Museum if you have the time during your visit here because the art on display is supremely interesting, the building itself is gorgeous and honestly there’s just so much to see here alone that we didn’t realize two hours had already passed until we checked the time.

We would have spent longer there, but for reasons not quite well explained to us, the Doge’s palace wouldn’t be open it’s full hours until 6pm that day, and would instead close much earlier. So we exited back onto the now very familiar Piazza San Marco and headed to the Doges Palace, for a taste of another kind of opulence.

~m

Giant Calzones and a Rainy Piazza San Marco – Venice, Italy

Arriving in Venice via Paris( and the long layover from there is its own story to tell that involves being ferried out onto a snowflake dusted runway by a very rickety bus jam packed with pissed of Italians) we were greeted at the airport by a private driver that would be taking us to a waiting water taxi- transportation arranged ahead of time by the hotel we would be staying at,the Ruzzini Palace hotel. Having never taken a water taxi before, I can say it was one of the coolest experiences, not least of all because I was pretty out of it from having been traveling for the past 24 hours and watching the city open up in front of us, the twinkling lights from open windows reflected on the waters of the canals was a beautiful introduction to the enchanting city of Venice.

We didn’t do much that first night apart from get settled in, marvel at the beyond gorgeous room we had been given and order breakfast in for the next morning. I poked my head out the room windows for a while, just trying to really believe I was actually there, because it all still felt like something out of a (slightly sleep deprived) dream.

The next morning we woke up somewhat bright and early, tucked into a super delicious breakfast and then got ready to go out and explore the city. There was a light drizzle coming down and we were still pretty bone tired from the traveling and time zone juggling of the day before but, we were ready for this new adventure.

We headed towards Piazza San Marco, a supposed easy 7 minute walk from where we were staying. I say supposed because if you’ve never been to Venice, let me paint you a picture : imagine a maze with very narrow pathways that still managed to be beautiful and is also full to bursting with interesting little shops everywhere you look. We got turned around a good couple of times but eventually we made it to the square and by the time we got there I was already holding a couple of souvenir items I’d bought for friends.

The square and the immediate surrounding area holds some of the top attractions in Venice so we expected it to be fairly crowded but we were pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t too bad- perhaps the rain was a blessing in disguise? Either way, we didn’t want to do any real in-depth sightseeing that day so we just walked around a bit, did a quick currency exchange (that I recommend against doing btw, unless your bank fee’s are insane just take money out of an ATM, much cheaper) and then headed off back into the maze of pretty and winding streets to seek out some more interesting shops and eventually, lunch.

We stopped by a restaurant called Tratorria Casanova, mainly because the menus were displayed outside and I saw that one of them one clearly marked in English. I pointed this out to the boyfriend in a lightly teasing way, “look, they have it in English for you“, and one of the waiters who was outside came over to us and asked me, curious and giving us a easygoing charming smile, “Ah and for you? Italian?”

My Italian was at that time, according to my efforts with Duolingo, at about 50% so I just laughed along and said I could understand it but I was better with Spanish and English. This btw, was something that would happen a lot in Italy over the course of the next week, people assuming I could speak Italian and then being a bit disappointed in my less then adequate attempts- my goal is that the next time I visit, my Italian will be much more up to par. For this visit though, the basics were good enough and with a menu in English, definitely a good choice for us!

The food was amazing and I got to experience the great joy of eating a rather enormous pepperoni and mushroom calzone that cause a number of covetous looks when it was brought out- both because of its size and delicious smell. We ate, got desert and coffee and then we received complimentary savory sorbets that ended up being even more yummy than the desserts we had just finished. Stuffed to the gills, we eventually got on our way and headed back to our hotel to drop off our bags before heading back out foro one last quick exploration (and to find a local grocery store to buy some bottles of water).

Bottles of water procured and a couple of other treats in the bags as well, we walked back to our hotel, rain still drizzling and making the cobblestone streets fairly glisten and sparkle. I had wished, earlier in the day, for a bit more sunshine, but at the moment I took this photo above, standing on a small footbridge over one of the canals and looking towards our waiting hotel, I was content to have a little bit of rain.

~ m

Here We Go…- EuroTrip 2018

Dallas –> Paris –> Venice –> Rome –> Florence –> Paris –> Dallas

That was the itinerary for this last trip I just went on and though I’ve been back home for about two weeks now, considering just last week I finally finished posting about the last trip… you can imagine I’m probably not quite as on top of things as I would want.

But the honest truth is I’m actually really very excited to share photos and stories from this last adventure on here and I’m planning on going back to a 3 posts per week kind of schedule to accomplish that without take half a year to get through it all.

It’s gonna be a lot, I came back with over 1000 photos to go through, not to mention the countless stories, adventures and odd moments of travel to put together into some kind of coherent format but hopefully, with some patience, you guys will still be willing to come with me on this ride.

~ m

OutTakes- EuroTrip Edition (Includes video clips, for once!)

This post was meant to be done about a month ago- or at the very least not right after i’ve come back from my latest travel adventure (I went to Italy but obviously thats for another set of posts) but life has a funny way of kicking plans straight to the curb and here we are: back home, still unpacking and finishing up the last set of posts. And truth time- while I was more than happy to just quietly move on to writing about this last trip and forget about my customary Outtakes post, a couple of friends and readers have been insistent about it so, here we go. (Porcsha, this ones for you.)

For those that have followed this blog for a while, I’m sure you’re used to my “Outtakes” post by now but for any new readers, here’s we go-

I’m a horribly procrastination prone writer/blogger and I like to travel. Those two things tend to intersect badly when I’m trying to post about recent travels while also trying to plan upcoming trips and it’s the reason why sometimes I forget to talk about the hotels I stayed at or the tours I took. And so, we get outtakes posts with photographs I forgot to include in other posts as well as the side stories and misadventures I got up to that didn’t fit that well in the general posts I was writing. Like I say to friends when I arrive at their homes or crash land into their lives – hope you enjoy the meds!

Dallas —> Edinburgh 

I did actually manage to cover this part of the trip pretty extensively and accurately- sharing how I lost one of my credit cards on the flight from Paris that first day (because of course I did). On the plus side I must have looked so stressed and tired on this part of the trip that the counter agent for that flight waved the weight overage fee on my checked bag, so I guess you win some and lose some (sometimes literally). 

The hotel I stayed at was the Best Western Braid Hills and I had a couple of reasons to pick it. First, the reviews on it were some of the best in the area and that’s pretty important to me when I’m traveling somewhere I’ve never been before by myself. My friend Rob who I met up with there berated me a bit (gently) as it’s located outside the city center but in general I tend to pick the quieter places where I can come back and unwind. Also I ended up choosing Edinburgh as my first stop almost in a whim, because at first I had been planning of visiting London instead and so by the time I started trying to book a room, pickings were getting slim. I definetly don’t regret staying at this hotel though, and though I plan to come back to Edinburgh in the future with my bf and probably stay in the city center, I’d still recommend this hotel for anyone looking for some relaxation with their stay and great views.

Like I said, this part of the trip was pretty faithfully covered in my original posts but here’s a video clip from the day trip my friend Rob and I took up to Loch Lomond (this would be after we mutually agreed it would be best for him to continue the hike on his own as I was probably gonna die if I tried to complete it with him and I headed back down to the lake )

(This goes without saying but I’m not sponsored by any of the hotels, restaurants, tour companies or anything else I mention in this post- it would be hella sweet if I was but that’s just not the case currently)

Post From this Part of the Trip :  My visit to the Scottish National Gallery
My visit to The National Museum of Scotland
My visit to Loch Lomond and the Last Night in Edinburgh

Edinburg –> Amsterdam 

How to start writing about this part of the trip…. Don’t choose connecting flights that have less than 3 hours of a layover in Dublin because going through customs there is like getting popped in the face by a giant time stealer? That’s probably good advice. Anyways, long story short, I missed my connecting flight to Amsterdam, ended up having to go through some odd airport backrooms to get back to the right side and get my luggage and then had to buy another ticket. Thankfully it wasn’t pricy and finally I made it to my hotel and though I had meant to maybe walk around that evening and explore a little the reality is I shot off an email to a friend I hadn’t talked to in almost a year who lives in the city, ordered delivery and then promptly crashed.

I stayed at the Quentin England Hotel, mainly because of the location which is right by all the museums I wanted to see and just a couple of blocks away from the Vondelpark which just seemed like a good idea.  Amsterdam is a pretty walkable city (at least as long as you don’t fear getting run over by the overwhelming multitude of bike riders) and I don’t know that there’s a “bad” place to stay, so at least to me it’s relative to what you’d like to visit and i’d definetly stay in the area again- though perhaps not at this hotel because my room ended up actually being in the -1 floor which was unexpected.

My first day here I made my way to Dam Square where I was meeting up with the group that would be doing the historical walking tour I had signed up for. I had never done one of these before but it was genuinely fun and I even met a cool girl to walk around with afterwards. During our lunch I got an answer back from the friend who I had emailed the day before letting me know he would be available to meet up either that day or the next- honestly I was a bit shocked he had even responded given how crappy of a friend I had been lately but we made plans to meet up the next day as I had plans to spend as much time as possible at the Rijksmuseum (I made two posts on this visit and could easily have done 3 more.)

The next day was a jam packed adventure- I woke up early to make it to the Van Gogh museum, then walked to the Albert Cuyp Market to meet up with Elsa before she headed off to Geneva and then took a break in the form of getting lost on my way back to the hotel to drop off my bounty of accidentally acquired souvenirs before meeting up with my friend Dennis that afternoon for a good couple of hours. He took me to an excellent music shop where I made a couple of purchases, namely this Toto greatest hits CD which I think he’s still befuddled by to this day. But really, it was such a good deal, I love Toto and the look on his face when he realized I was seriously gonna buy it was priceless.

Post From this Part of the Trip: 

First Day in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum pt 1
Rijksmuseum Pt 2
Last Day in Amsterdam

Amsterdam –> Munich 

The longest part of the trip, the time I spent in Germany with my good friend, Bavarian native (and fantastic human being all around), Julia. I made the 8 hour journey from Amsterdam to Munich via train and while it wasn’t always comfy or easy, it was still an experience worth having if only so I know what to do the next time. So technically my first day in Germany was spent traveling to Munich, navigating the train-station with Julia, being stuck in rushhour traffic for a bit before she took me on a picturesque side road to get to her apartment (she lives outside of Munich thankfully, in a charming smaller town and I have never been so tempted to want to switch lives with someone then when we drove into it). 

My second day in Germany was actually not spent in Germany. Julia and I had agreed on doing a day trip to Salzburg since I had picked up a travel guide book to Bavaria that listed it as a possible day trip option and when am I ever not swayed by suggestions in guidebooks? It was honestly the highlight of the trip since it was the day we were blessed with perfect weather, bountiful energy and a beautiful city full of winding streets, beautiful churches and grand squares to explore.

We ended that day by her driving us out of Salzburg and then to find one of her favorite churches in Ramsau which we made it to right as the sun was setting and it was a perfect end to the day. On the drive home we got a bit turned around and ended up having to bust out the google maps to find the way but we were still laughing and happy by the time we stumbled up the stairs to her apartment and after a small dinner and fresh fruit we dropped off to sleep so we could wake up relatively early for the next days adventure.

A day exploring Neues Schloss Herrenchiemsee and then crossing the lake by ferry to wander on the Fraueninsel and take a look at the Benedictine abbey of Frauenwörth. The day ended with us driving in after dusk to her hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and us stopping in at a Burger King to grab a quick dinner. The experience was surreal for us both but the fries were hot, crispy and delicious.  Afterwards, Julia dropping me off at the Biohotel Garmischer Hof (I booked it last minute but would definetly recommend if staying in the area).

The next day involved waking up somewhat early, checking out of the hotel since I had only booked it for one night (and booking another one for that next night as our plans changed a bit) and then taking a Julia guided tour around Garmisch-Partenkirchen before heading on our way towards Neuschwanstein Castle. I covered this extensively it’s own post but we ended up skipping the tour of Neuschwanstein and instead hopped on over to the town of Füssen to grab lunch and some Schneeball. We finished up the day at a Linderhof Palace and then drove back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen so she could introduce me to her bunnies (and her family to off course).

My final day in Germany involved heading over to her family’s house again to see her bunnie’s (Tinki, the white one, looked like she wanted to prove she wasn’t scared of strangers and would fight me- I love her) after which we grabbed a quick breakfast at a local cafe and then headed off to the town of Mittenwald. It was rainy but the colorful town was incredibly beautiful and charming nonetheless and by the time we made it back to her apartment and I started packing, I knew I would want to be back to explore more of what this region of Germany had to offer. (And of course it doesn’t hurt that Julia gifted me a fantastic book full of beautiful photos of the region as a welcoming present, or that her family put together a parting gift for me that included a little cow because of course their daughter made friends with a weird American girl who loves cows).

That last night was meant to be a quiet and relaxing one and Julia and I both needed to go to sleep early so she could help me catch my early train the next morning but, unexpectedly, I got a call from work. I mentioned in my Loch Lomond post that I had been dealing with stress from waiting to hear back for a job I interviewed for just a couple of days before I left on the trip, and I had resigned myself at this point that I hadn’t gotten it, as they had said they would be contacting candidates the next week (which would have been when I was still in Amsterdam).  So there I was, 9pm Germany time trying to go to sleep by listening to soothing music in Julias living room and thinking about my Paris plans when my phone starts to go off and I just stare at it because who could be calling me from Texas right now? Turns out, I got the job and even though I was still on vacation and would be till the following week, they would be retroactively bumping up my pay-grade from that last Sunday if I accepted the job offer. I accepted happily, told a sleepy Julia what had happened and decided to stress less about all the money I had been spending on souvenirs.

Post From this Part of the Trip: 

Salzburg, Austria pt1
Salzburg, Austria pt2 (the Churches post)
Salzburg, Austria (Finalpost)
Ramsau , Germany
Herrenchiemsee, Germany
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany
Neuschwanstien, Germany
Fussen, Germany
Schloss Linderhof, Germany
Mittenwald, Germany (Last Post)

Munich –> Paris 

By the time I got to Paris, I was somewhat tired. Just kidding I was mother-frikin exhausted and ready to ooze onto the hotel bed. But I only had 2 full days left, so I found some extra energy reserves, called it an early the night the day I made it there and woke up the next day bright and early so I could go meet up with the tour that would take me to Versailles. I stayed at the Hotel Minerve, located in the Latin quarter in the 5th district of Paris and about 10 minutes walking distance from Notre Dame on the recommendation from Rachid for the area and because the reviews were pretty great. I don’t think i’d stay there again as the rooms where a bit cramped but, the view from my small balcony was pretty excellent and I did actually love the neighborhood a lot.

So about the tour to Versailles. I had signed up for a tour through Viator because 1. I didn’t really want to deal with getting to Versailles by myself either through the metro or by cab and 2. there was a tour that provided skip the line tickets without being an actual guided tour- they just gave you a map and audio guide and set you loose for the next 8 hours. Perfect for me. It’s operated by the PARISCityVISION Agency and they actually run a whole bunch of tours all over Paris and the surrounding area, plus their office is located just blocks from the Louvre so its super easy to find. If you’re looking to take a tour, i’d definetly recommend them.

I finished up that first day in Paris by meeting up with my friend Rachid and us taking a really wonderful night walk over some bridges and unexpected to the exterior area of Louvre which was open to us to walk through. It was a surreal experience for both of us in the best way and by the time I made it back to my hotel that night it was almost 11 but even though my feet ached I still fell asleep feeling happy and just a teensy bit enamored by the city.

I took it easy the last day of the trip, spending pretty much the whole morning repacking my mess of souvenirs and clothes and everything so that I would hopefully not end up having to pay a weight overage charge (I succeeded!) and finding a little present Julia had slipped into my backpack when I wasn’t looking apparently. I then spent the rest of the late morning and afternoon at the Louvre and I didn’t even see a third of it, which was honestly kinda fantastic. Rachid and I met up outside by Pyramid entrance and we went off to see Sacré Cœur and a beautiful sunset there was the perfect goodbye to the city.

The next morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4am to get ready and head off to CDG and headed home, determined to come back to Europe again soon (though after a lot of rest.)

Post From this Part of the Trip: 
Versailles, Pt1
Versailles Pt 2
Musée du Louvre pt 1
Musée du Louvre pt 2
Sacré Cœur (last post)

Misc: 

(Cappuccinos in Germany and inside Versailles- also cappuccinos were had in literally every other country I went to, hence the video below )

So thats it, finally. There so many other stories, anecdotes, videos and photos I haven’t shared here but at least you can trust I shared the best ones, the good stuff if you will. I’m working on possibly doing a whole video edit of clips from all the videos I took on this trip but 1. still need to find the perfect music for it and 2. the whole point of this post is what a horrible procrastinator I am so obviously it will be about a year before that gets put together probably. I had an absolute blast on this trip though, and hopefully if you’ve been following this adventure or even if you just read this one post, you had some fun reading it as well.

Will post sometime in the next week (no, really I will!) about this most recent trip I took to Italy and all the sundry adventures therein.

Not drowning in my coffee cups yet,
~m

A Sunset at Sacré Cœur – Paris, France

After finishing up my visit to the Louvre with a quick trip to the gift shop to grab some postcards for friends and coworkers, I headed outside to meet up with my friend Rachid and embark on the last adventure of the trip. Being a resident Parisian, he offered me two choices for the evenings activities- we could either take the métro to the Eiffel Tower or we could go to Sacré-Cœur, another lesser known although still famous landmark. Having never been to Paris before, I was tempted to pick the Eiffel Tour choice, but then I thought, “Ok, you never do things as expected so why start now?”, besides which, I thought it would be good motivation to come back, and bring my bf with me so we could see the Eiffel Tower together. Also, why not visit yet another church?

Choice made, we set out on a walk through the Jardin des Tuileries to find the nearest métro station.

A short while later found us looking up at the tallest hill in all of Paris, Montmartre- at the top of which was my chosen destination. Given I had just spent the day walking around a very immense museum and hadn’t stopped to grab lunch in between, this was probably not the best idea but, onward and up we went. The climb was a bit of a huff and puff for me, though of course Rachid did it easily and I could only side eye him with a bit of probably not so well concealed fitness envy. It was at least a fun climb as it was made with a friend and if I had been alone I might have just plonked myself down at the bottom and enjoyed the crisp weather instead.

The view when we finally made it to the top though, that was worth the climb a hundred times over.

We didn’t attempt to go inside the basilica as the crowds were rather large and tour group after tour group seemed to be lining up already, but I made a mental note to come back for this as well in a later trip. What we did instead was take a walk in the neighborhood behind the church, which Rachid stated was one of this most favorite areas in all of Paris. After turning the corner onto the cobblestone charmingly crooked streets, I could easily see why it had captured a spot in his heart and it grabbed a corner of mine as well.

The smell of good food wafted to us in the cool breeze, artists painted portraits and landscapes on almost every street and beautiful houses and shops lined up one after another on the winding streets and I feel like if I had been less tired (and feeling the impending stress of the next day’s journey back home) I would have liked to have stayed here well into the night.

Eventually though, the fading light from the sunset brought us back to Sacré-Cœur and I took the chance to take a couple of photographs of it’s exterior during a moment when the crowds lessened a little.

While I would never advise someone who’s never been to Paris to not take the chance to see the Eiffel Tour, for me at least, choosing instead to pick another landmark as my last visit of the trip, it was well worth it and a choice I don’t regret at all. Yes the climb is steep (though I’m pretty sure there’s a cable car type deal you can take up as well) and you couldn’t quite call this a hidden gem given the number of tour groups I saw and the accompanying souvenir hawkers posted everywhere, but. Just one full minute of gazing out at Paris laid out in front of you and everything else just fades into the background.

By the time got down the hill and had made our way to yet another métro station, I was ready to call it a day. It was still relatively early and a Friday night to boot, but I had some last minute packing to do, not to mention I had to be up tat 4am the next morning to catch my shuttle to CDG airport. And so, my last night in Paris concluded with a fiercely tight hug to Rachid and about a dozen thanks for having made the city feel that much more fun and lovely and wishes that we would get the chance to meet again soon.

Upstairs in my hotel room, I opened the balcony windows and let the noise of the city float over to me on the cool breeze and while I felt bone achingly tired and ready to head home finally, there was a part of me that would have been happy to stay another night, another week even. That’s the magic of Paris though, that even when your heart longs for home and the familiar, there’s a part of you that’s captured by the city and won’t ever be let go of.

~ m

This is my last full post about my 2017 EuroTrip adventures but my at this point tradition “outtakes post” is still coming up later in the week and in it I’ll talk about where all hotels I stayed at, give some tips about traveling in multiple countries throughout Europe and also give mention to my upcoming travel plans. Thank you for everyone that stuck with me and read along even when it seemed like procrastination was gonna make it a year before I finished!