We arrived excitedly back in London to conclude our grand vacation. London is a fascinating city filled with history and dusted with churches, castles, palaces and some of the world’s best shopping and bowling. Our first night in London consisted of bowling, arcade games, beer, and a million laughs and smiles. The following day we attended the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace. We lasted there from start to finish!
From there we dined at Wagamama following by a “quick” shopping spree at Harrods. As one may know, London has some of the greatest museums in the world, one of the finest being the British Museum. The British Museum has an epic collection of art and antiquities stemming from the Rosetta Stone to the Parthenon sculptures. We were simply fascinated by the art and eager to see everything in one day. As the clouds were closing in, as was our time in London. We soon headed back to our hotel after a long but fun journey in the Underground.
On our final night in London, we enjoyed some traditional fish and chips with lots of beer! We talked for hours over dinner re-calling every special, funny, unique and exciting adventure we shared during our month in Europe. This was truly a trip of our lifetime and one we’ll never forget.
Oh Bordeaux, what more can we say? A city of romance, decadent architecture, and gorgeous wine vineyards was an easy sell for us! Our fist day consisted of some shopping on Sainte Catherine Street and around the Grand Theater before rolling along the Garonne riverfront promenade where we were captivated by the miroir d’eau (also known as the reflecting pool). During our journey in Bordeaux, we embraced the wine tours and visited two vineyards. Bordeaux wines are a blend of many grapes. The typical blend consists of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Other fun parts of our journey consisted of a visit to the Monument Aux Girondins in the esplanade and taking a romantic stroll around the public gardens where we walked across an adorable little bridge, under which swans and ducks swim. It was picture perfect. Later that same day we returned back to the public garden with a bottle of wine and enjoyed the local symphony.
As our journey continued, we visited the local synagogue where we saw family and friends gathering outside the synagogue steps before a Sunday wedding ceremony. As we continued to venture down the street, we caught a quick glance of the beautiful bride and her father as they were approaching the synagogue. For us, this was truly a special moment to watch.
Like many of the other cities we had visited beforehand, we toured the city on foot allowing us to capture the hidden treasures of the city and marvel over the architecture, scenery, and the food and wine. The history that spreads in Bordeaux is impressive from the Saint Pierre to the Sainte Croix and the old Squares. Collectively, these are some of the finest and greatest examples of XIXth century architecture.
Other than a minor language barrier, Bordeaux was top on our list.
From Gaudi to Dunkin Donuts, we love Barcelona!
After a wonderful cruise from Rome, we finally arrived in Barcelona at Port Vell. We ventured to our first hotel which was right off of Las Ramblas. The sights and vibration of the city and people was mesmerizing. After an authentic Spanish dinner, we walked around Las Ramblas and enjoyed the street artists, jugglers, shops and amazing architectures that glamoured the city. Later that evening we enjoyed our first flamenco dancing show. The following day we checked into a new hotel on Las Ramblas. The new hotel was perfect, with a Dunkin Donuts next door!
Later this day we visited Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. If you’ve been, you know how incredible and unique this place this and can probably appreciate the vision and brilliance of Gaudi’s work. As the day progressed we continued to explore the fantastic city of Barcelona from the beach to a romantic row boat ride on the lake in Parc de la Ciutadella.
On our last evening out, our palates enjoyed the tastes of Spanish tapas followed by a few brews at El Bosc. El Bosc is a beguiling Lord of the Rings-esque drinking experience with trees, fountains, and a sense of mystery. Overall, we fell in love with Barcelona and are eager for a quick return to this treasure of a city!
Our Mediterranean Cruise
In order to get from Rome to Barcelona we had a few options. One was a short plane ride, another was a loooong train ride, and the last was a one-night Mediterranean cruise. Based on the title of this post, you can guess what we opted for.
We set off from Civitavecchia (about an hour train ride north of Rome) at 10pm on Wednesday. When we got on we dropped our bags in our cabin and headed up to the top deck to watch us set off from the port. Then we explored the ship and watched a fun cruise band in the lounge before crashing for the night. The next day we got our load of sun and made good headway in our books. The view of the open sea from the deck was breathtaking. We even saw some flying fish in the sea and jellyfish as we entered the Barcelona port.
Neither Deb nor I had ever been on a cruise before, so this was a good way to get some cruising experience. We both liked it and want to try a weekend cruise next when we are back in the States.
After relaxing in Cinque Terre we hopped a train down to Rome. We were lucky enough to be seated right next to a couple from the US and one of them was a fellow Hoosier grad who had spent some of his time at IU working at Yogi’s!
Our time in Rome was packed with visiting as many sights as possible. When we got down there on Sunday, we dropped our stuff at the hotel and headed off to see the Colosseum and the ruins on Palatine Hill. It was incredible seeing where people lived over 2000 years ago. At night we had some great Chinese food (to switch it up a bit from Italian food), and then went to the Trevi fountain.
Monday we took a day trip down to Pompeii to see the ruins down there. It was very cool to see a complete city and really get a sense for the day to day life of regular people. It was once a bustling market town, then covered in volcano ash for centuries, and finally recovered in a very preserved form.
Our last full day in Rome we spent mostly at the Vatican. We went to the museum first. Thankfully we had a reservation because the line for tickets was about 5 hours long! Afterwards we went to St. Peter’s and climbed the dome. Deb was stunned at the footwear of some of the women climbing the dome in stilettos and other kinds of heels.
On our last day in Rome we did some laundry at Ondaspa and then went to see the Pantheon and Piazza Navona before heading to Civitavecchia for our one-night Mediterranean cruise to Barcelona. We’ll update you on that one in our next blog!
After we were in Florence, we needed a break from museums and sights, so we decided to go to Cinque Terre for a bit. We ended up staying there for four nights!
The first couple of nights we stayed in La Spezia and took the train into Cinque Terre each day. On our second day, we hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza, and then Vernazza to Corniglia. Two amazing hikes with fantastic Mediterranean views. We liked Vernazza so much that we decided to make that our home for the next couple of nights.
We spent a couple of days in Vernazza just hanging out and sunbathing on the rocks. I bought a mask and swam in the Mediterranean a bit looking at the fish. Brought me back to my old scuba diving days!
Our first night in Vernazza they held the local Beach Soccer league championships right on the water. They were great 4x4 (plus goalie) matches that were fought hard. The finals even featured matching goals in OT that sent it to PKs. I definitely got my fill of European soccer, even if it wasnt on the professional level.
Overall an amazing time in Cinque Terre. We definitely want to go back there soon!
Florence and the Best of Tuscany
Earlier this week we were in Florence for four days (that’s the view from our hotel room). We took the train down from Venice on Saturday and spent the rest of the day doing laundry (romantic welcome to the city, I know) and then walked down to Il Duomo, Piazza Della Signoria, the Ponte Vecchio, and Piazza Republica at night. We even rode the merry-go-round at Piazza Republica.
On Sunday we visited the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens in the morning and then went to the Uffizi Gallery in the afternoon. Both were good, but we were starting to get a little sick of museums at this point in our trip.
The next day was perfect, because it was a break from museums as we went on a tour to the “Best of Tuscany”. This was an amazing tour and our guide Barbara took us to Siena in the morning, then a lunch (with wine tasting and amazing views) at an organic farm, San Gimignano, and finally Pisa. It was definitely a full day, but was so amazing to see the old towns of Siena and San Gimignano and to eat lunch at a vineyard in Tuscany. We also stopped into the synagogue in Siena that had been there since the 1500’s. The history here is amazing! Overall, the highlight of the day was the lunch at the vineyard with amazing views of the Tuscan countryside.
Our last day in Florence we went to the synagogue in the morning and it was amazing. Such a gorgeous building and it was fantastic hearing about the history of the Florentine Jews. After lunch at a kosher restaurant next door (more felafel!), we went to see the David at Galleria L’Accademia. It is awesome to see it in person as the sculpture is so detailed. At night we met up with a friend of mine from high school who is studying abroad as part of her masters program. It was fun to catch up a bit and hear about her time in Florence.
Now we are in Cinque Terre and are really enjoying our relaxation time. Will update you on that part of the trip next time!
After a fun night and day in Brussels, on Thursday we finally took a plane to Venice to start our Italian adventure. While we got into town late on Thursday (got to hotel at 11PM), we still enjoyed some pizza, wine, and gelato in Piazza San Marco.
On Friday we went to Basilica San Marco in the morning and then explored the canals of Venice, making our way to the Rialto Bridge and then to the Jewish Ghetto. The ghetto was really fantastic and a great learning experience. We toured the five synagogues in the ghetto and learned about the history of Jews in Venice. We finished off the experience by eating lunch at a kosher restaurant nearby and then buying a mezuzah made of murano glass for our apartment in Cleveland.
We then explored the canals more and made it to all six sestiere (neighborhoods) in the same day. After a quick rest at the hotel, we took a gondola ride to start off the evening.
After a good dinner we got a fun dessert and wine at a neighborhood trattoria. We chatted with a fun group of women who were in from central England. All in all, a great Friday in Venice.
Ciao Venezia! Leaving Venice now annd getting on a train to Florence. Will give an update later on our stay in this gorgeous city!
This morning we had another early morning to get up and take a train to Bruges via Brussels. Bruges is an amazing little town and feels a lot like stepping into a fairytale.
After arriving at our quaint hotel we took a walk around the city, making sure to stop for a lunch of mussels, beer, and frites. We had some fantastic Belgian chocolate while walking through the cobblestone streets. Tonight we are going to go to a bier bar and will sample different Belgian beers. Tomorrow we will be biking around the city and taking a canal cruise in the morning before taking the train to Brussels.