Amalfi Coast, Italy

July 11, 2018

We arrived in Amalfi from Napoli this morning by private car. The other options to get to Amalfi seemed too complicated so we decided to spend the little extra money and take our Napoli AirBnB hostess’ suggestion of going by private car for 120 euro. Luckily we did because the place in Amalfi was a bit hard to find! Our new Amalfi AirBnB host met us by a small moped car park, easily missed. Then he walked us down to our apartment, which can’t be seen from the road! When we got to see the view from our place it just made the small inconvenience forgotten. The view was great! The water was so blue, you could see boats passing by, and to the left a really great view of the coast. Even though this place was small, the luxury of being next to the ocean was so awesome.

Starting from a few days before arriving, I started to feel a little sick. I think the constant walking, being outside and not having the best diet (Italian carbs all day) really started to take a toll on my body. So when we first got there, I took a power nap (repeat of Naples haha) hoping to gain some energy.

Afterwards, we walked about 8 minutes down the road to a nearby cafe that had an AMAZING view! Oh I just think anywhere we go there’s so much for the eyes to see! The food there was fine but the view was really spectacular.

Our host had told us about a beach that could be accessed by steps off the road. After lunch, we found the entrance and headed down. I believe the beach was called Lido Degli? I could be wrong but there is a restaurant on that beach with the name. Anyways, the steps down wasn’t so bad but up would be! That’s why instead, after some time on the beach, we took a water taxi to Amalfi’s main port. But the time on this little beach was nice. The beaches here don’t have sand. It is all pebbled. The water was so blue and clear it was tempting not to go in. But being that it was our first day, and starting the day off rather late, we wanted to focus on just seeing what is around first.

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The water taxi put us at Amalfi’s city center about 5:30 pm. On the ride there, is was nice to see the coast from a different angle. While in the “city” (hardly a city more like a village), we saw many tourists and shops. It took only a few minutes to walk from the port to the top of the busy area. So small!

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The village was charming though, but filled with tourists just like us. Once we finished looking at some shops, bought a magnet and some towels, we found a place to sit down for dinner.

So far what I’ve seen of Amalfi it looks rather nice. I’m excited to have a lazy beach day where all I do is sunbathe and swim in the ocean. Tomorrow we are going to Positano, a neighboring town by boat. I feel it is similar to here but I guess we will have to see then!

 

July 12, 2018

The ferry to Positano was at 10:30am. This morning, we caught a city bus to get to Amalfi’s center. Once we boarded the ferry, it was as short twenty minute boat ride to Positano.

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Coming into Positano, you could see more houses, hotels, and places build along the coast than in Amalfi. I think when people imagine the Amalfi Coast, they imagine Positano. Like I had said before, I was really looking forward to being a beach bum. Yes there was a beach right near the port but I didn’t want to be where everyone else was. It was just too crowded and not peaceful.

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In my night’s research, I saw that Positano, like Amalfi, also has smaller side beaches. On the map, it had showed Arienzo beach also had a ‘free beach’ section. To get there we would have to walk. I was feeling lazy and saw that the Arienzo Beach Club also had its own water taxi to get from the main port to the beach. Hey we’re on vacation. Why not! We then took a water taxi to Arienzo Beach Club.

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Here, if you take their water taxis you must spend money at their establishment. So when we got there, two chairs and an umbrella was 15 euros a person. A little steep but we weren’t going to be moving elsewhere so let’s spend a little money. Next to Arienzo there was the free beach that could be reached by steps from the road above, like I had mentioned before. We saw people come down from there but had no idea how long it actually took to get there from the port.

After getting settled in some chairs, the waiter asked us if we wanted to make a reservation for lunch. Wow we even had to book a time slot!? We supposed 1 pm would work and enjoyed where we were till then.

For lunch, we had a bar seat that looked out onto the beach. Let me tell you, a person could get used to this view! The water was so blue and it was just so nice to look out into the sea when having a seafood lunch!

We pretty much spent the day sunbathing and swimming in the water. The water’s temperature was brisk. It took some courage to dip your body fully in, but once you did, it felt really great with the sun.

We headed back to Positano’s main port to check out the sights there at about 5 pm. After closing out and packing up, our total bill was about 77 euros (chairs, umbrella, and lunch). Arienzo was nice because they had an available free shower, bathroom for guest as well as food and drinks. It was a bit pricey but a nice time on the beach. Plus it wasn’t so crowded like it was on the main beach.

Positano had more little walkways and alleyways. It was definitely bigger than Amalfi. We had about two hours till our ferry so we tried to find the best view to take pictures of the coast line. There were many art galleries and small boutiques that filled the little streets. Maybe next time we go to the Amalfi coast we should stay in Positano!

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Our ferry was at 7:45 pm so we quickly headed back. Trying to take pictures in the town at this time of day was difficult though. The sun was so strong and nearly every photo we had squinty eyes! I’m hoping we at least got something memorable!

The ride back was an easy twenty minutes. We then had dinner in Amalfi at Taverna Degli Apostoli. I’m super happy we found this place. It was very delicious! We had seafood with fumili noodles and the gnocci that was stuffed with cheese (the lighting was so dark it was hard to get food photos. Sorry!). The waitress and waiter were also very nice and the ambiance just perfect for dinner. We really wished we had more time this evening but we were trying to catch the 10 pm bus back to our place so had to rush a bit.

Having a relax day in Positano, amazing views of the coast and one of the best meals of the trip thus far were a great way to start off our time in Amalfi.

 

July 13, 2018

So being that we are vacation, and the beginning half was “go-go-go,” we were a little guilty of sleeping in. This morning we woke up pretty late and decided to have a day spent nearby. After getting ready, we took a bus to Amalfi port to catch the water taxi to Santa Croce. We had originally seen Santa Croce from the lunch spot on our first day in Amalfi. Just looking at it from above was gorgeous so we had to check it out.

So based on our previous experience in Positano, we knew that taking the Santa Croce water taxi we were essentially saying we would spend money at their establishment. At this beach, it was much smaller and there were only two restaurants there. When we first arrived, we sat down and had lunch straight away. For lunch, we chose a salad (trying to get more vegetables in the diet), a plate of mussels and seafood risotto. The food was not bad and the service nice enough.

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After lunch, we purchased two sun-beds and one umbrella (20 euros) for some time on the beach. Once we digested, we took a dip in the water and checked out this little beach a bit. To the right of the restaurant there was this other beach section that seemed abandoned. There looked to be scraps from an old bar that used to be in that space. Now, all that was left was scrap wood and an empty beach lot.

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It was sort of interesting because it felt like a small private beach. From here, we could see many people swimming in the neighboring beaches and some even jumping off rock bridges and cliffs. Since we weren’t that confident in our swimming skills, we stayed close to the shore.

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Santa Croce beach was nice in that it was smaller and less people. Unfortunately, not too long after lunch, a swim and some photos, the sun disappeared from this beach. The restaurant owner told us the sun usually goes about 4:30 pm. Well, that’s what we get for starting the day so late! Already by 4, many people started leaving this beach in search of more sun. After closing our bill, a total of 44 euros, we too were some of those people.

We took the restaurant’s water taxi back to the port. It wasn’t too late in the day, so we figured we make a stop for gelato.

About this time, I had checked my phone and got some really sad news. My grandma had passed away. My mom had told me she went peacefully and to pray for her. My grandma was nearly 100 and everyone knew that she would go Home soon, but death always is accompanied by sadness. Suddenly a heavy feeling came over me and all I could do was try not to cry. But of course that was a failed attempt as I am the biggest baby ever. Writing this now weeks after it happened, I’m much better. I feel sad but also happy she can rest easy now and be with my grandfather and with God. My grandmother was a great woman who lived a long life. I will always have these happy memories of her in my childhood and even months before her passing. I’m glad she got to meet Caoliang and we were able to share the memories we do have. I love you Ba Noi and will see you again.

Not wanting to have the rest of our holiday spent in sadness, after having a good cry and calling my mother, I tried to put my head in a better space. That night we decided to check out one of the restaurants that we could walk to.

The place was called Al Pesce d’Oro and had surprisingly good food. We had a veggie pizza and a seafood pasta that was cooked in a bag. Sorry I can’t remember the proper name but it was apparently a local item. After finishing our meal, we walked back to the apartment, enjoying the sounds of the sea as we went.

 

July 14, 2018

On our last day we decided to stay near by. Caoliang was thinking about checking out Capri but being that it was our last day, we wanted to have an easier pace than an early wake up call and no time to really relax.

We decided to go to the beach that was walkable from the apartment. Once we got there, we picked a couple sun-beds that were in front of Lido Degli Artisti Restaurant. When we got there about noon, there were already so many sun-beds filled. Luckily we got a couple for 25 euros total.

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The afternoon was basically spent in the sun. It was so nice to take a dip into the cool ocean, especially after sitting under the hot Italian sun for so long! At this beach there were also some large rocks that we just had to check out. Thank goodness we had water shoes! I have no idea how people walked barefoot on these rocks! The rocks didn’t offer much amazing scenery and after being out there for at least thirty minutes, I knew we had to go back for water and lunch!

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Being that we were in front of this establishment, we decided to have a quick lunch here. For lunch we got a large beer, water, a caprese panini and octopus starter salad. The total was 21 euros for everything. The food was good and filling. Since we didn’t order from the regular menu, we sat by the bar to eat and had a nice view.

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After lunch we continued to swim until the shade covered the beach. Like before, we took the water taxi back around 5:30. Since it was our last day, we walked around getting  some last minute souvenirs. We didn’t want to go through the struggle of figuring out what to eat so decided to go to Taverna Degli Apostoli, again. It was so good so why not!!!

This time we got a lemon pesto spaghetti and the same seafood pasta. But today we chose a caprese salad which had baby tomatoes on it and this huge ball of mozzarella cheese. Best caprese salad ever! Since it was our last night, we had a glass of red wine each. We also ordered a side of local veggies, peppers. So, so good. Dinner turned out to be 92 euros. A bit much but hey it was our last night in Amalfi!

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Once dinner was done, we still had some time before our bus at 10 pm so we just walked around the port. Great and simple day. Tomorrow we go back to Naples and then fly to Madrid in the evening.

Honeymoon, you were awesome.

 

xx
t.

 

Naples, Italy

July 9, 2018

The last few days in the north side of Italy had been so lovely. We were on the second half of our honeymoon trip and still had Naples and the Amalfi Coast to enjoy. Travelling within Italy, we decided it would be best to get to each city by train. So from Florence, we took the train down south to the city of Naples, or Napoli as the Italians call it.

When we arrived, it was about noon. The streets were full of people and honking cars. Immediately, we could feel the change in city! Florence was so charming and small but Naples was bustling, loud and dirty. The walk to our lodging was only 16 minutes but with the amount of people and cars everywhere, it seemed like so much longer.

We had been really lucky so far with AirBnBs this whole trip so far. Thankfully, Naples was no different. The hostess met us and introduced us to her apartment. She also had to add that the stone around the entrance door was real rock from the volcano Vesuvius. After we got the chance to put our stuff down, we had a slow start to getting into Naples. To be honest, I was so tired. For over a week we were going and going and going, so much that I was starting to feel sick and in need of so much sleep. I didn’t mind that we didn’t dive into Naples. It was kind of nice to just take it easy for a little bit.

After a nap and getting ready, we finally leave the apartment about 3 pm. The first place we went to was Ill Cuoppa on Via Vicaria Vecchia. I had read that cuoppas, a paper cone filled with different fried items, are a popular street snack in Naples, so with many places closed midday, we decided this quick snack would be a good option. We got two different cones, one with different vegetable items and a fried rice bowl and another one that had seafood, anchovies, little octopus too. They were pretty good in my opinion. The place fries it as you order so they were very hot and much larger than we expected! Luckily, my husband has a good appetite! The total for our snack was 12 euros.

Afterwards, we walked down Via Vicaria Vecchia which had many little shops and also a very narrow street way. The feel of Naples is so different from other Italian cities we have seen before. Here there is a lot of cars and mopeds, honking and pedestrians. The streets here are so busy but most of the cross walks don’t have lights to tell you when to walk, you just walk and hope cars stop! It is a little bit scary but I try to just follow someone else into the street. I’m not brave enough to go alone!

On our walk, we passed by a few churches and Naple landmarks like Obelisco – Guglia di San Domenico and Gesù Nuovo Square. From there, we took a left onto Via Toledo and found many shops. In my research before, I had seen that this street held much of Naples shopping. We spent some time just looking around and window shopping.

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Later we headed to the water’s edge and really enjoyed the sight. From the port, you could clearly see Mount Vesuvius. I didn’t expect to see it but it was nice to have it in the background and know it had such an important role in Italian history. Did you know that Mount Vesuvius is the most dangerous volcano? Yup! It is so because of the high population of people that live near it. Let’s hope it stays in a deep sleep.

We didn’t do much on this first day, partly because I was feeling tired and didn’t do much research as I usually would before coming to a place (shocking but looks like a new trend of mine). One thing I found out though was Naples is the birthplace of the Margherita pizza! So with that, we had to at least have it here right?!

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We first attempted to go to Gino E Toto Sorbillo for dinner but the crowd waiting outside was huge! The thought of waiting for probably at least an hour didn’t sound so appealing so we walked ten minutes to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele which had an equally huge wait outside!!! I’m thinking these places are just hyped up. Not wanting to wait and it being late, we decided to go to a nearby pizzeria instead, Pizzeria D’Angeli. The wait was nonexistent and the food was not bad. I know some foodies might be dying that we didn’t go to the famous pizza places, but hey we still have one more night!!

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July 10, 2018

This day we started off a little later than expected (at 11:30am) but we had a pretty successful day anyways. The night before I spent some time researching some things to do before bed. One of those things was a tour of the underground waterways of Napoli. That sounds nerdy but it got so many good reviews and sounded really interesting to check out. So we went by the place about 11:40 am and was told to come back at noon when the tour started.

For the short time we had to wait, we walked Via dei Tribunali to look for a small snack before entering the tour (which would take an hour and a half). We came across Antica Pizza Fritta da Esterina Sorbillo dal 1935 which had some pretty appetizing pictures of fried pizza in the window. We ordered one, paid 3.50 euro for it and waited only a couple minutes before it was given to us.

This thing was huge! Good thing we only ordered one! The length across was at least 15 inches. The filling was a mix of cheese and some meat, but very different from a calzone. What I liked most about it was the fried crust. It was piping hot when we got it so we had to be really careful not to burn our mouths. I was pretty happy with our snack. It was about time to go back so we cleaned up our things and went back to Napoli Sotterranea for the underground tour.

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Napoli Sotterranea is an underground tour that focuses on the waterways underneath the city. Of course they span much longer than the area we explored but in the tour, they would show us more than just the waterways. We would also be able to learn about how they were made, what they were originally used for, what they were used for during WWII, as well as some other parts of Napoli’s history like their Roman Theatre and its remains.

The tour group wasn’t so big, thankfully. Our tour guide Alex was from Napoli and very quirky, knowledgeable and funny. The first hour of the tour was spent all underground, 40 meters deep to be exact! To give you a more informational background on the tunnels, here is an excerpt from the tour’s website:

The first artifacts of underground excavations date back to about 5,000 years ago, almost at the end of the prehistoric era. Later, in the III century BC, the Greeks opened the first underground quarries to obtain the blocks of tuff needed to build the walls and temples of their Neapolis and dug in numerous rooms to create a series of funerary hypogea. The impressive development of the underground network began in Roman times: the Romans in fact in the Augustan period endowed the city with road tunnels and above all a complex aqueduct network, fed by underground ducts coming from the Serino springs, 70 km away from the center of Naples. Other branches of the Augustan age aqueduct arrived as far as Miseno, to feed the Piscina mirabilis, which was the water reserve of the Roman fleet. Wide that little that allowed the passage of a man, the aqueduct burrows branched out in all directions, with the aim of feeding fountains and houses located in different areas of the upper city. At times, on the walls, there are still traces of the hydraulic plaster, used by the engineers of antiquity to waterproof the tunnels. At the beginning of the 16th century the old aqueduct and the many pluvial cisterns could no longer satisfy the city’s need for water which had spread like wildfire and so the wealthy Neapolitan nobleman Cesare Carmignano built a new aqueduct. It was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that it stopped digging underground for water supply and abandoned a network of tunnels and cisterns of over 2,000,000 m², spread throughout the city.

The undergrounds were then used during the Second World War as air-raid shelters to protect themselves from the disastrous bombings that hit the city. The cavities were lit and arranged to accommodate dozens of people who hurried to the sound of the siren down the stairs that went down. Remains of furniture, graffiti and various objects in an excellent state of preservation still testify to the great fear of the bombing and the numerous periods of the day lived in the shelters, revealing a cross section of important life and at the same time tragic city history.

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Some interesting facts I remember, the tunnels walls were this porous rock. When the waterways were stopped being used, it was because there was an outbreak of cholera and it infected the water since the water walls cavities were this porous rock. So they had to stop using them. Also, the aqueducts were kept cleaned by a cleaner. They would climb down these narrow holes, there were foot holes chiseled in the rocks side so they could use them to climb down and up from, and use like a net to clean the cisterns. Also during WWll, the space was used as an air raid shelter, an area with “stalls” were made for showers and bathroom areas. We also got to see toys that children had left behind during the time of the war.

When we were learning about WWII, Alex had told us Napoli was the first city in Italy to be liberated. The interesting part was that it was liberated by the citizens of Napoli! But because southern Italy was rather poor during that time, it took a very long time to rebuild the city so many people had to live on the streets to wait until their homes could be rebuilt.

One of the coolest parts of the tour was being able to walk in these super narrow waterways. The waterway was very tall but only as wide as my shoulders. We held onto an electric candle to light our way. You had to walk as if you were on a cat walk, one foot directly in front of the other just to get through the tunnel. Alex told us the waterway had to be designed this way so that water would always be moving. Really cool! Also Alex showed us some plants that were being grown as an experiment down there by a university. The humidity is always 100% so the plans didn’t even need to be watered! Also the temperature is always about 17 degrees celsius which is very perfect for the plants needs.

After exploring underground, Alex took us to a place nearby that had ruins from the Roman Theatre. The archaeological site actually had apartment buildings built all above it. Archaeologist didn’t discover it till hundreds of years later. Alex also told us that they couldn’t even continue any further digging and discover everything that could possibly exist because of the apartments above it. So there actually could be even more of the Roman Theatre that exists! We got to see the “backstage” area where the actors or musicians would prepare. The area discovered was actually found in a private home. Pretty interesting stuff if you ask me!

I was really happy with the tour and our guide, Alex. I think it was really interesting to see a different side of the city many people typically wouldn’t see.

After the tour, it was about 1:30pm. The night before we tried to go to the famous pizza place, Sorbillo but the wait was too long. We decided that today, our last day in Napoli, would have to be the day we try this pizza! So we took a short walk to the place and put our name on the list. It took a solid 50 minutes to be seated. When we did, we ordered the Margherita Extra and also their anchovy pizza.

The pizza definitely had to be eaten with a fork and nice. Super cheesy with a really wet filling. I think if you are expecting the traditional pizza you can hold and eat with your hands, you might be a little disappointed. The taste though was really good. I really liked that I had heaps of mozzarella on my pizza (my favorite cheese)! Caoliang said his anchovy pizza was really good too. Was it worth the 50 minute wait? Eh I would say if you only had a day or first time in Napoli, yes you should wait and yes, we weren’t disappointed when we got our food. Checked that off the list!

Afterwards, we headed to the San Carlo Theatre for our guided tour. The theatre opened in the 1700s and was still active now. It was a piece of Neapolitan history I felt like would be cool to see. Unfortunately, when we reached the theatre, the man at the ticket book said the tour was cancelled!! So we just shrugged that off and went to get some coffee.

So according to my research, coffee is a big thing in Napoli. We decided to check out Gran Caffe Gambrinus. This cafe has a lot of history and has been around since the 1800s. If you would like to know more, click the link HERE. We ordered the Caffe Nocciola, a coffee and nutcream, as well as the Caffe’ del Nonno, a cold creamy coffee. Both were so sweet but so delicious! It was perfect since we just had lunch. The look of the place was very fancy and so were the workers in their attire. I felt they were a little snobby but we had our experience and coffees so I was happy with that.

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After our plans didn’t work out withe theatre tour, we had more free time in the day. We decided to walk around Via Toledo and look at some shops.

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That evening for dinner we went to Tandem for pasta and ragu. I had read ragu was a big thing in Napoli too. The ragu here was good but honestly, it was not spectacular. I think Caoliang definitely could’ve had that delicious pizza for dinner too!

Oh before I forget! We also went to Sfogliatella Mary fora popular Napoli sweets, sfogliatella frolla and sfogliatella riccia. The pastries were very sweet and had a hint of orange. So anyways back to dinner. We had a pretty filling dinner of meatballs, ragu and ricotta pasta, grilled eggplant and a salad.

What a day in Napoli! I felt that we got to learn a lot this day and also had an easy paced day. Lately, everyday has been go, go go, so it was nice to have a late start to the day but still get to do everything we intended to do.

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Tomorrow we are headed to the Amalfi coast for some down time by the water. Can’t wait!

xx
t.

Cinque Terre, Italy

July 8, 2018

On our first day in Florence, we were kindly greeted by our AirBnB host (as mentioned before). We had seen a small tour ad for Cinque Terre on one of the maps she was showing us of Florence. Hm, Cinque Terre? Caoliang had heard of the place and our hostess spoke really highly of it. Should we go there? With about three and a half days total in Florence, why not plan another day trip! Our hostess had said it is actually not that far and very manageable for a day trip.

So with the beautiful pictures we searched and our hostess’ advice, we looked into a day tour to go to Cinque Terre. Of course with tours you don’t really get a lot of your own time to fully enjoy the place, but with only a day to spare, we figured the most efficient way to see all of Cinque Terre was within a tour group.

After a little bit of research, we found Getyourguide.com that had a full day tour to Cinque Terre from Florence. Perfect! The tour would be about twelve hours and cost 90 euros a person. The tour was titled: Seaside Beauty and included seeing 4/5 of the villages that made up Cinque Terre. It also included some time to swim! We were sold!

This morning we woke up super early to make sure we were at the meeting point on time. When we arrived, we saw the tour group was rather large. In our group there had to of been at least 50 people! After all the guest were accounted for, we took a double decker bus two hours to Cinque Terre. Summer time is crazy for tourists and honestly I kind of hate being part of that big annoying group moving through a city but when time is short, it just made sense.

The first little village we arrived at was Manarola. It is a tiny little village with an amazing view. The houses lined the coast creating a very colorful backdrop with the ocean right next to it. The thirty minutes given here, we spent mostly taking photos. It was hard to venture off any further in fear we would get left behind from the tour group! We saw people were also swimming and sunbathing on the rocks. The water looked so enticing! But with little time there we had to keep moving.

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Next was Vernazza, also a small village with similar coastal homes and view. Many swimmers and sunbathers here too. I really wanted to get in the water but we only had about 40 minutes here. You would think 40 minutes would be plenty, but once you get situated and in water, 40 minutes could already be nearly gone!  But i knew swimming was coming soon so i just stayed patient. The villages were rather similar, very small with old colorful houses. Looking around made me wonder who lives here and for how long have they lived here. 

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After Vernazza, the whole group headed to Monterosso Al Mare by train. This is the largest village out of the Cinque Terre. We were allocated nearly three hours here to have lunch, shop, sight see or swim. Basically whatever you wanted as long as you were at the meeting point at said time. It was so crowded right where the station let out so we walked down the coast a bit to see if more space was available. We ate lunch at this small cafe with some outside tables. The food was fine but nothing special. They had a clean bathroom though with a toilet seat (in Italy, toilet seats are rare)! Then we walked to the beach and found a small spot to set up. We got to spend about twenty minutes in the water. The water was clear and cold but felt nice to be able to swim. Again, we didn’t have much time so soon had to grab our things and meet the group. Monterosso is beautiful though and it was nice to see such a different view then we’ve been seeing. After this we took a short boat ride to Riomaggiore.

In Riomaggiore, people were swimming too but it wasn’t like a beach set up. It was more like slabs of concrete and rocks that went straight into the ocean. There were a group of boys jumping off tall rocks here. They are brave. It made me nervous just watching them. We walked around the village just a bit to grab a coffee and use the bathroom then had to go meet the group again.

Lastly we ended up in La Spezia. This was just a meeting point to get to our bus to go back to Florence so we really didn’t see much here. Our tour guide said there wasn’t much to see anyways. I guess we will just have to believe him!

The tour was decently organized for the size group and wanting to fit so many things into one day.  The tour guides really just helped us get to one place to another but didn’t offer too much information about the actual villages or history of the place. That was ok though. It was nice to see the different views. Originally we didn’t even plan to go see Cinque Terre. But with so many beautiful pictures and a day tour that was 90 euros a person to see 4 out of 5 of the villages, we felt like we had to. We think it was a good deal even if the day felt rushed.

It’s hard to manage such a large group and do so much in a few hours so I think we got our money’s worth and had a nice day of it too. No complaints here but I can’t say that for other people in the group!! We heard a few complaints from other people on the tour group. Honestly though, if you’re paying 90 euro a person to see as much as we saw today, AND knowing you’re in a group of nearly 50 people, you can’t expect everything to go perfect to your liking. I think for the things we saw and for the price we paid, this was a pretty good tour.

Cinque Terre is a really beautiful place of Italy. I definitely would recommend setting aside more time for these villages so you can really enjoy the scenery and have enough time to soak up the sun and swim in the sea. I’m pretty pleased we got to fit it into our honeymoon though when we didn’t expect to be able to see it.

 

xx
t.

Florence, Italy

July 5, 2018

We arrived in the afternoon from Rome by train. Unfortunately for us, we were short one euro for the bus so had to walk to our AirBnB, which was a 25 minutes walk with luggage. It was hot but luckily it wasn’t further. Our hostess was really nice and came to meet us. The apartment was small but had all the essentials and was located really centrally to all the shopping. After resting and letting our sweat dry, we wandered around the city.

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This was the first time I DID NOT plan a very clear schedule for the day. Shocking, I know! My little sister had lived in Florence for six months before, and told us that Florence is pretty small so because she said that, I felt like it would be fine to roam around. This first day, we saw many shopping places, squares, statues, churches and a couple markets. The thing about not researching was I didn’t know what anything was!

The feeling of Florence was already very different to Rome. Even though there were tourists, it wasn’t crazy like in Rome. Florence also felt smaller, because it is. We still saw some iconic Florence sights like Brunelleschi’s Dome and the Piazza della Signoria.

After walking around the city center (and having a quick lunch), we headed to the hilltop for the evening hours. The walk wasn’t so bad because we followed our host’s advice of checking out the rose garden before going up all the steps.

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Since we were in the garden, it kind of put us almost halfway up the steps to the top. Once we got to the top the view was really nice. You can clearly see the whole city including the famous Duomo (which actually means “house of God” not “dome” like people think).

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We spent some time up there taking in the sights and taking photos. Up there was also some cycling event going on. It was like a massive group cycle session. It was pretty cool to see.

Afterwards we went to eat at Enoteca Fuori Porta. We got there a little before dinner rush so there weren’t many people, but most all the terrace was reserved. Thankfully, the host was pretty nice to let us sit at a table with a later reservation (as long as we left by (9:30pm). The weather is so nice when the sun goes down so having a patio seat was good. We had so much carbs in our trip in the few days we were in Italy, I wasn’t sure to have more pasta. But I guess it would be silly not to! We chose pate on toast, a ravioli dish and a stuffed rabbit dish to switch it up a bit.

Since I mentioned dinner, I have to stress how much carbs we have been eating! Too much! I can see how easy it is to gain weight visiting Italy. Every meal we eat consists of 99% carbs! Pizza, pasta, sandwiches…ugh too much! I need a stalk of broccoli or something!

 

July 6, 2018

This day we signed up for a cooking tour. Like I had mentioned, I didn’t plan much for Florence (surprisingly) so we kind of planned things a couple days ahead of doing them. Since we would have a good chunk of time in Florence, Caoliang thought it might be cool to do a cooking tour since we’ve never done such thing. So on this day, we met up with the tour group at 8:45 am. The group was pretty large consisting of at least twenty people (most American or Canadian). The tour was a really fun experience! It was hosted by this company called Walkabout Florence.

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It might be too much to tell in detail but basically we started the tour with a walk through the Central Market. Here, our guide Isaac, an American chef who has lived and cooked in Italy for at least ten years, told us about the vendors, foods to buy or cook with, and bought the items we would use to cook our meal for the day.

Then we took a bus 15 minutes outside the city to a venue with a lovely view of the Tuscan hills. We then met Isaac’s cooking partner, this spunky older Italian woman, Carmela. Carmela and Isaac showed us how to make bruchetta, pesto sauce, ragu sauce, how to prepare an Italian pork roast and tiramisu.

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We also had an endless amount of red wine and got to eat as we learned.

Isaac also had a little pasta making lesson. He showed us how to make pasta from scratch and also the different types of pasta you could make after you have the dough ready. Then after that we each got to make our own pasta!

A fun fact I learned was in Italian pasta, they typically use the thinner pastas for lighter sauces and thicker pastas for the darker sauces. Also they usually use red onion and red wines for things with red meat and white onion and white wine for lighter meats. When someone asked Isaac why, he said it was primarily for an appearance factor. Oh, another fun things I learned, it is pronounced “bru-sketta” not “bru-shetta” and to say thank you it is “grazi-eh” not “gratsi”!

After the cooking lessons and a few glasses of wine, the whole group sat down to enjoy our homemade lunch! It was really nice to sit with such an amazing view. First, we were served our pesto pasta as our “first course.” The pesto sauce was so good! Also the homemade pasta was just perfect! After the first dish, we had our ragu with the thicker cut pasta. Also very delicious. You think two pasta dishes would fill you up right? Well, we still had the pork with roasted potatoes! By this point I was so stuffed but we still had our tiramisu!! Lunch was one of the best meals we have had in Italy thus far. Not to mention the killer view!

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After filling our bellies, we had time to take some photos with the beautiful background and chefs Isaac and Carmela. Once we wrapped up the tour, it was about 4 in the afternoon. The rest of the day we walked around the city more until we called it a day around 8pm. So pooped! But so far, so good.

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July 7, 2018

-After returning from PISA-

Once we got back to Florence, we rushed over to the Duomo to go see inside the cathedral before closing time. Unfortunately, when we arrived at 4 pm, the line to get in wrapped all around the cathedral!! There was no way we would make it if we got in line. Also, we tried to buy tickets to the duomo earlier in our Florence stay and they had said tickets were sold out till Tuesday! Looks like we just have to come back to Florence to see this dome and cathedral!

The rest of the day we spent roaming around the city more. We finished off the day at Il Latini restaurant. Our AirBnB host had this place written on her list of food places as a good place for Italian steak. I had no idea Italy was known for their steak! The place didn’t open till 7:30 pm and we arrived at about 8 pm. The place was already pretty crowded! Luckily, we got seated and noticed there were many tourists around us. It’s possible this place was written about in a tour guide since it seemed so popular amongst foreigners.

Skimming through the menu, I saw the Florentine Steak was 50 euros per 100 grams. Since Caoliang and I aren’t too picky with our food, we decided to try other things instead. We ordered a plate of salami to start, a penne with meat sauce, sirloin steak with a side of grilled vegetables and tiramisu to finish it off. We noticed everyone around us (the foreigners) ordered the Florentine steak though. The Florentine steak is prepared rare and for many people, it was too much to eat. We constantly heard foreigners around us ask them to cook the meat longer. I felt it was a little silly to order a steak that was meant to be cooked rare and then just go mess it up and ask them to cook it more. –sigh– Our sirloin was rare and it was bloody but not so much that you felt disgusting eating it (I typically eat steak medium rare).

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Anyways, dinner was satisfying, especially because we only had one real meal this day! (Oh yeah, our previous meal in the day was more like a brunch and it was a famous boiled beef stomach sandwich from Da Nerbone.) With full tummies and a bit more lifted spirits, we headed home and called it a day!

 

July 8, 2018

-after the Cinque Terre-

When we got back, we were pretty pooped from a full day tour in Cinque Terre. After resting and washing up, we went out to L’Osteria Di Giovanni for an unexpectedly fancy dinner. Since the night before we didn’t eat the “real” Florentine steak, Caoliang really wanted to have it on our last night.

At Giovanni, we had to wait a little bit for a table but it was easy to see why. The place was pretty packed and busy. The whole evening was really nice with lots of good food, but at a pretty slow pace. After the bread, caprese salad, truffle sauce pasta, and 100 gram Italian steak AND a few glasses of wine, we were stuffed!! Definitely a good way to end our time in Tuscany! Onto the next city! Napoli here we come!

Oh before I sign off.. I wanted to mention the awesome street art we’ve seen in Florence. I think it’s much more than your usual street grafitti. We especially like this little white character and his red hearts. When ever we walk around the city and find it, we try to snap a picture. Florence has a lot of charm and these random pieces of street art definitely add to it!

xx
t.

Pisa, Italy

July 7, 2018

By this point, we had been in Florence for two nights and had already seen most of the city. So on Saturday morning, we decided to take a day trip to Pisa. Originally, we had booking train tickets that would put us in Pisa for at least six hours. After hearing that there isn’t much there, we decided to change our train time to come back earlier in hopes to be able to see the basilica of Florence before it was scheduled to close at 4:30pm. So we boarded a train about 10:30 am to Pisa. The whole train ride was only an hour. It is probably possible to get there even earlier if you go by car since the train had a few stops.

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When we arrived we had a clear point of being there, to see the tower! I had done some research prior but it wasn’t much. We exited the station and walked through the square with the statue of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II (old king). It was a pretty small statue and easy to look past. After that, we took Corso Italia Street to get to the tower. This street was full of shopping and small food places. Also lots of tourists! After about twenty minutes or so, we reached the tower! It was pretty cool to see in person I’d have to say but man, the sun was just baking our faces. We quickly found some shade to try and cool off.

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So I’m not sure if I have mentioned it earlier, but going on a trip where it is just two people is really hard in trying to get a photo together! And yes, we have asked other people to take it but they always come out so terrible! So while trying to get a photo of us in front of the tower was a little tricky. We had a small tripod and did our best anyways.

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Afterwards we paid 5 euros each for a ticket to see the baptistry and inside the cathedral. The entrance to the cathedral is usually free but it is only free at certain time slots. Since we were on a time crunch, we figured just to pay the 5 euros and see it right then. (Also random, but, the toilets at the tower cost .80 to use!) The whole space that the tower and cathedral are on is called the Piazza dei Miracoli. This space consists of the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile, and the Camposanto Monumentale. Each place had a different entrance fee, or 18 euros to see everything. Again with our time crunch, we figured two out of four isn’t bad.

The Pisa Cathedral was very nice (inside and out) but after seeing THE church in Vatican City the other day, it’s hard to be amazed by any other church. Nonetheless, still great to see and walk around. The Baptistry was also interesting to see. I had never seen such a large structure dedicated to a baptismal fount. It was very large but didn’t have much in it. It made me wonder if they still use it for baptisms.

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Soon 1:45 pm rolled around and with a train at 2:30 pm, we had to start walking back to the station. There are a few other things to see in Pisa but really, it is just the tower. So it was cool to see such an iconic figure of Italy, even if it was for a couple hours.

Back to Florence!

 

xx
t.

The Vatican City, Italy

July 4, 2018

Besides the Colosseum and all of the Ancient Roman ruins, what else do people tend to go to Rome to see? The Vatican City! The Vatican City is an independent state that is located within Rome. With only 110 acres of land and 1,000 people living there, it is considered the smallest state in the world! But that wasn’t what I was really interested in. Being raised Roman Catholic, it is a huge thing to be able to see the Vatican City. Here, the pope lives and carries out many important duties for the Roman Catholics.

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First on the list, St. Peter’s Square! St. Peter’s Square is located right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter is one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and plays a very important role in the beginning of the Church. St. Peter was also the very first Bishop of Rome and pope. St. Peter’s Square was very big and mostly empty, besides the tourists. It offered a great view of the Basilica but besides that, there was not much else. The importance of the square, I suppose, lies in its purpose. I believe here, the pope sometimes holds large masses for special celebrations.

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One of the things we had to see in the Vatican City was the Sistine Chapel. This place was something I only read about. With research, I found out that the chapel is located within the Vatican Museum. So, you guessed it, we had to get a ticket for that. We booked the night we arrived in Rome and luckily got a ticket via TicketsRome. Two tickets to enter the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel cost us 59 euros. Our entry time was about 1pm. After we had met the group and the guide, he walked us in as a large group, had us wait a couple minutes, then came back and gave us each entry tickets and set us free. It seemed like a sketchy procedure but it was legit.

The museum was SO crowded. I love museums and I go to them as often as I can, but when a place is this crowded I get agitated and flustered. Even though we purchased informational audio guides (8 euros a person), the inability to relax or even look at artwork in peace was so uncomfortable.

The Vatican Museum had many artifacts, sculptures and artworks. These were more than just Roman history. There was a whole section on Egyptian history as well. The museum and overcrowding was so overwhelming. I think Coaliang and I were so frustrated, we kind of just tried to find our way to the chapel and get out! The museum was set up in a way where there was no direct path to the chapel. You had to walk through at least half the museum to find the entrance to the chapel.

The Sistine Chapel was not what I expected. I’ve gone in my fair share of chapels and this one didn’t have anything I was used to seeing. It was a huge room with very colorful paintings everywhere you looked. There were no chairs, no clear alter, and tons of people. (There were no photos allowed and many museum staff so sorry for no pictures!) I did like seeing the iconic paintings of stories in the Bible I grew up with. It was even good to point out things to Caoliang since he knew of the stories and history from our marriage prep. We didn’t spend too long in there, again, the crowds, but it was interesting to learn that this is where the cardinals gather to vote for the new pope. I also learned The Sistine Chapel is considered the pope’s chapel. The fame that this chapel gets from most of the world, is probably the painting of the ceiling, The Last Judgement by Michelangelo.

I think after we saw the chapel, Caoliang and I were done with the museum. It felt a bit suffocating to be in there and we just wanted to get some air. Museums and learning history is great but when you’ve seen hours and hours of artwork and read so much information, it starts to get a bit much.

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Before our next big item to see, St. Peter’s Basilica, we wanted to get a late lunch. Like I said before, picking the right place to eat on a trip is tricky. This meal, we didn’t do so well either. We ordered two quick pizzas from a place I didn’t even care to remember and they were terrible. I’ve had frozen pizzas better than this! The pizza was hard to cut (or even tear), the cheese was almost nonexistent and the best thing I had at this place was my bottled iced tea! Again, choosing a place near a tourist attraction, not the smartest idea. I think after this situation we will learn to be a little more picky about our restaurant selection.

After the massive crowds at the Vatican Museum, a part of me wanted to skip the Basilica and just get away from the crowds. Luckily that part of me was a tiny part! After getting over myself, we headed over to the Basilica. The entrance to the cathedral is free but you have to be in the right dress. Thankfully, Coaliang had mentioned before about the dress code so we were sure to wear the appropriate clothes this day. In the summer, it is often men and women wear shorter shorts and smaller tops, but at the Basilica you have to be sure you are covered up! To enter, you must have your shoulders covered, no low cut tops and you have to have your knees covered (or at least wear shorts long enough to hover over your knees). When we were entering, we saw a man got turned away because his shorts were too short. They also sold these paper panchos if you needed more coverage. Thankfully for us, we were good (but sweaty).

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When entering the Basilica you just immediately go into a state of awe. The ceilings are so high and so decorated. Everything was so ornate and detailed. It was amazing to be in THE church of all Catholic churches. One of the reasons this church was named after St. Peter is that his body is buried here. I read it is under the main altar. There was a mass going on at the time we entered so we couldn’t see the whole church, but just being in the space is breathtaking enough.

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Being in there I reflected and thought about why Catholic churches are so big and grand. I then came to the conclusion, maybe it’s because man was trying to capture the beauty and grandeur of what Heaven would be like. I could be wrong, but in my mind it was a pretty good fit. St. Peter’s Basilica was purely magnificent. I’m happy we didn’t pass this up. After a few prayers and purchased items from the shop, we headed out to see parts of Rome we missed.

 

Back to Rome…

The ticket we had to enter the Colosseum the day before, was also good to enter the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We didn’t have time to make it the day before by closing time so we really wanted to be sure we take advantage of the entry ticket this day (it was our last day in Rome)! We didn’t think we would spend so much time in the Vatican as well but by the time we got out of there it was already 5pm! The only way to get to Palatine Hill in time was by taxi. So I fired up the app MyTaxi and we were off!

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With a little bit of traffic, we made it just before 6pm (they stop letting people in around this time since it closes at 7pm). While we were there, we overheard a tour guide saying the Palatine Hill was like the Beverly Hills of its time. The rich people would live on the hill with the “clean air” and everyone else below in the city with the “unclean air.”. The hill now looked like a bunch of broken brick walls. It was interesting to see but without a guide, pamphlet or much knowledge, it was hard to get a complete feel for where we were. The hill then led to the Roman Forum, again, cool to see but hard to know everything about it. Also I think the view from above was better than being actually in the Roman Forum. After this, we walked to the Trevi Fountain.

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The fountain was so crowded, as you could probably guess. It was very large with clean water and nice to look at, but the crowd that surrounded it made it impossible to get up close. I really didn’t want to get that close just because the amount of people (can you tell I don’t like crowds). To give you some history on the fountain; it was designed by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi and is 86 feet high by 161 feet wide. Also it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. After some pictures and videos we headed out of there.

Going back to the issue of finding good food while traveling…after the crap pizza in the Vatican, we were determined to eat something good! We reached out to our AirBnB host to see if he had any local suggestions. He told us about this place called Sora Margherita located in an area called the ghetto of Rome. Thankfully we were right in the neighborhood and walked the short distance over. When we arrived, the lady told us the next available table wouldn’t be free until 9:30 pm, it was 8:45 pm at the time. A 45 minute wait? This better be worth it. So to kill time, we walked around the corner and found a street bench with decent people watching. Once we returned, we saw the place was still packed and still busy. It had looked like only two servers were working and the place was small!

When we got seated, it was in a tiny table that was cornered in by other tables. This place was really local. There was nothing glitzy about it. Just harsh bright light, tight tables, lots of Italian chatter and yummy looking platters. With Antonello’s recommendation of the fried artichoke, we ordered that to start followed by fried codfish (a popular dish) and a pasta with red meat sauce. The food was much better than food we’ve had on the trip so far! Thank goodness! Since the tight space was becoming a bit much, we enjoyed our meal and then headed out. We were glad to end our Rome trip with at least a belly full of good food at a place with a lot of local charm!

Wow what a city! After the two full days in Rome, our backs were sweaty and feet were sore, but it was just the beginning of our trip! Rome, you made us feel like we were walking through history but now onto a smaller, quieter city for some different feels. Next stop, Florence!

 

xx
t.

Rome, Italy

July 2, 2018

Honeymoon has begun!! So with wrapping up Malaga, we were lucky to have TWO weeks free till Caoliang had to start work again. Many of his colleagues took this long break to go home but we took this break to see a new country and spend some time together after getting married. Where you ask? Italy! Home of pizza and pasta and people speaking with their hands!

This day was primarily a travel day. So from Malaga, we took a train to Madrid and then a flight to Rome. We didn’t arrive at Rome till the evening so really couldn’t do much. In each place we stay, we tend to look up AirBnBs for lodging. In Rome, we chose a place that wasn’t too far from the Vatican City. We had not been to Rome before but when looking at a map and using Google to figure out walking distance from things, I figured this location would be ideal. Our host, Antonello met us right outside the nearest station and kindly showed us our place. The room was small but it had everything we needed.

After dropping off our stuff, we were hungry! Luckily, Antonello recommended some places nearby that we could walk to and that were still open.

We ended up going to Buona Forchetta. It was a short 10 minute walk away and being that it was a little later in the evening, there wasn’t much car traffic or sun to slow us down. The restaurant was situated next to a residential area, the tables were all outside in front of the restaurant, and a decent amount of people were there. We ordered a pizza, spinach risotto and two beers. The food was tasty, affordable and beers necessary to celebrate the beginning of our trip. I was surprised at how cheap the pizzas at this place were. They were all about 6 to 9 euros each.

Even though this day was primarily travel. We were happy to arrive in Rome safely and to have the next two weeks free to exploring!

 

July 3, 2018

First full day! So I’m not sure if I have told you guys this before, but I’m a very plan oriented person. Before each new place or big trip, I tend to spend some time researching and creating an itinerary for the day. This helps me to feel productive and use my time wisely when going to a new place. In my opinion, I think when you don’t have much time in a new city, you have to know where you want to go and what you want to see before, so you don’t waste time on the actual day fiddling around with your phone trying to think of what to see next. Luckily, my husband doesn’t have a problem with me being so plan oriented.

So as I said, I had the two full days in Rome pretty planned out. I usually make my plans based on other travel bloggers I find via Google, using Google Maps suggested itineraries, or simply just looking at a map of the city and pulling out key interest points that Google already has suggested. From there, I check the distance and see how much time it would take to walk from point A to point B, etc.

On this day we started with Campo de’ Fiori. We took the city bus into the city to save some time and to get a better feel of where our apartment was located in relations to all the stuff we wanted to see. Campo de’ Fiori is a small market area in like a plaza area. All the vendors here sold mostly the same stuff: dried fruit, nuts, dried pasta and some cooking seasoning. The place was interesting to see but unless you were planning to buy something, little time would be spent here. I honestly wanted to buy some of the cool looking pastas but didn’t because of the lack of space in my luggage.

From there, we took a short seven minute walk to Largo di Torre Argentina. According to my research, this was a place with ruins of Pompey’s Theatre but now was a place where a bunch of cats lived. I didn’t see any cats roaming around but I did see a sign that said not to feed the cats because they already had specific food. Strange. As you could guess, we didn’t spend much time there either. Next we walked under the very hot Italian sun to Campidoglio. I’m guessing because Rome is the capital of Italy and it is high travel season, the city was very crowded. Did I mention it was hot? Anyways, Piazza del Campidoglio was laid down at the summit of Campidoglio, the most important of Rome’s seven hills, and is the first modern square to be designed in Rome. Surrounded the plaza was the Campidoglio Museum and Fontana della Dea Roma. We took this opportunity to find some shade and sip some water, along with snapping pictures and video of course. Roaming around the backside of the fountain, we saw the Roman Forum. This was actually very impressive and peaked our interests.

We didn’t exactly go down into the Roman Forum just yet, but we spent some time walking around it. It was actually more interesting to see it from above. We also saw some archaeologists working underneath a tent. I wonder, with something so old, how often do they really find new stuff?

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Rome has a few major sites that nearly every tourist who comes to Rome plans to see. One of those things, is the Colosseum. We had purchased our entry tickets online, with Tiqets, before to enter at 4:30 pm (36 euros for two people). Because it’s such a high traffic place, you must have a ticket to enter. We got to the Colosseum grounds a bit early just because everything was unfamiliar to us and we wanted to be sure we weren’t late for our time slot. Once it was our time to go in, we entered smoothly and bought two additional tickets for a guided tour (5 euros a person). When we were outside waiting in line, there are a lot of people trying to sell you tickets or tours for way more money than it should be. Before we entered, there was a man that was trying to sell us a personal guided tour for 15 euros a person. He also told me there was no guided tour inside! What a liar! I’m glad we didn’t listen to him because the reality was, there ARE guided tours inside for much cheaper! So if you plan to come to the Colosseum, beware of those salesmen!!

Our guided tour started at 5:15 pm. The group was pretty large with at least 15 people in the group. I had never really done guided tours before but in Rome they were everywhere. The tour guide would give you this listening device where you would put one ear bud in, tune into the right station, and hear the guide perfectly no matter how close or far you were from them. I thought this simple device was pretty clever for something such as guided tours (but a little wasteful because they don’t recycle the ear buds).

 

Our tour guide was a French woman who knew a lot about her history. She started telling us about the background of the Colosseum and how it got named. You’ll have to forgive me on not knowing everything she told us. It was a lot to remember! The interesting part, for me, was the information about the gladiators. Some fun facts I didn’t know before: the arena was originally covered in sand. The word “arena” comes from the latin word harenae which means sand. The sand helped absorb the blood from the fights and executions. At the Colosseum, they had many fights, even animal fights. The different animals they had ranged from lions, panthers, tigers, gorillas, giraffes, snakes, elephants, and bears. There was also an order to how the events would happen at the Colosseum. Usually executions or animal fights would come before the gladiator fights. Another fun fact: even if the rare chance a gladiator gets his freedom, he is seen as society scum. He would be equal to prostitutes and grave diggers. Why them? Grave diggers because they deal closely with death and prostitutes because just like them, they use their body for glory.

Being in the Colosseum was pretty interesting. It is such an old place with so much history, I could only imagine how crazy the stands would be during those times or what the spectators would actually see happening before them.

I have also read about a tour of the tunnels in the Colosseum. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have a booking for that so had to keep all our sights above ground.

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After the craziness of the Colosseum, we ventured back towards the city center and came across the Pantheon. The Pantheon is an old Roman temple but now used as a church. It is one of the best preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings because it has been continuously used throughout history. Sadly when we walked by it, the church was closed so we didn’t get to see inside. But the square in front of the Pantheon, Piazza della Rotondo, was very busy with street performers, tourists, and people just hanging out enjoying gelato. Before coming to Rome, I heard that is has a bad reputation for pick-pocketers. So anytime we are in a busy area, like we were in this plaza, I get a little nervous and hold my bag in the front of my body. Also because of this fact, we didn’t spend too much time in the area and quickly moved on.

Nearby, we found a whole street of restaurants. One tricky thing you hope to get right when traveling, is picking the right place to eat! We decided on Il Barroccio based on a blog I read. The restaurant was near the Pantheon and the prices reflected the location as well. We had ordered a pasta and Caprese salad. The food was mediocre and forgetful but I think because of where the place was, the prices were that high for just ok food. Also another detail, in Italy, anywhere you eat there will most likely be a “service fee” of  about 2 euros a person. I guess you could think of it as a tip.

It was soon becoming nightfall but we still wanted to fit in at least one more thing. Our AirBnB host had told us that Janiculum Terrace was really nice and romantic at night. The walk from where we were was a bit far, thirty minutes, but we figured we could walk off our food and kind of be heading in the direction of the apartment. The walk here was a bit dark and out of the way so it made me feel a little uncertain with Google’s directions. Luckily, we made it to the top of the hill and it wasn’t all that great. The botanical garden right next to it had shrubbery that blocked a lot of the city. Also, Rome is a low city with not much to see from a high point. What was there though, were people having beers outside hanging out, a bar with live music, and a truck with snacks, beverages, and souvenirs. We went about 9:30pm and spent only a short time up there before decided to make the walk back down to call it a night.

xx
t.

Malaga, Spain

June 16- July 1, 2018

The time has come! Finally I get to spend time with my new husband! As many of you may, or may not know, Caoliang had to leave back to work a couple days after we got married. It was tough to say good-bye, again, but with this situation happening so many times now, I kind of got used to it. It also helped that I was going to see him a short two weeks after though.

I’ve been asked before if I was excited to go to Spain to see him. The answer is a mixture of yes and no. Yes of course it was nice to go see my husband but a little bit of no because I feel like this chase across oceans have just become part of our normal life as a long distance couple.

Anyways, mixed feelings aside, I would be able to spend a good chunk of the summer with my husband and that would be great! The first leg of the summer would be spent in Malaga, Spain. Malaga is a coastal city on the southern coast of Spain. I was excited it would be a beach city because we all know how much I love the beach! We would spend two weeks there before have a two week break and then move to another city.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan to write a day-by-day post about each day in Malaga! Instead, in this post I will tell you about some of the things I’ve been able to enjoy while in the first city of Malaga.

CASTILLO GIBRALFARO


According to Google, Castillo Gibralfaro contains ruins of a Moorish castle fortress high atop Mount Gibralfaro which offers walkable walls and views of the city. Well said Google! This was exactly what it was. Caoliang had gone here before me so I figured I’d go check it out while he had left for work. From our apartment, I took a ten minute bus ride headed near the castle. Once at the base, it took me about a twenty minute uphill walk to get to the castle. Luckily I had read reviews about the walk and wore comfortable shoes! The views along the way were rather beautiful though. From midway, you could already see the harbor, park below, and even a bullfighting ring. Once to the top, it costed 3.5 euros to enter the castle grounds. I made it all that way so I figured I had to go inside then! Other than the castle walls, there was a small bar, bathroom, and small room that had artifacts, historical clothing, and a paper model of the castle and surrounding lands. I probably spent around 30 minutes to an hour here. Really it was just stone walls and views, little vegetation or anything beautiful inside. The views of the city were pretty cool though. The only thing I wish I brought was a hat! The sun was so strong on my forehead!! It was really that, that made my trip there a bit exhausting. The thought of having a too tanned forehead made me not stay at the castle’s edge very long. After a quick restroom break (which was pretty clean) I headed back down to ground level. Would I recommend this castle to other travelers? Hm for 3.5 euros why not. But, if you only wanted to see the view, I think that midpoint view was pretty good already. Also something I really enjoyed was walking through Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso on the way down. The flowers and greenery were really beautiful this time of year.

PLAYA LA MALAGUETA
Malaga beach was the first beach I got the pleasure of visiting. It seemed like the most popular beach because it was the closest to the city. It was very crowded with sunbathers. The odd thing I noticed was that not many people actually got into the ocean! You would think with so much sun you would need to cool off in the water but nope! I did hear the water was very cold but it was still so unusual for me to see the ocean so empty. I suppose the Spanish only like to soak up the sun. Another new thing to me that I noticed was the freedom to be topless. I had never been on a beach where people were so free! Aside from the crowd, I did like it how Malaga Beach was pretty clean and also had shower facilities for beach goers.

CAC MALAGA, MALAGA’S CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM
It is very typical of me to visit museums when going to a new city. One, they are a good way to spend the day indoors, and two, it makes you see the new city/culture from a different, artistic perspective. Luckily for me, the CAC was free! So after a short bus ride, I found myself in a large, white building with rooms divided by free standing walls. Contemporary art is one of my favorite types of art to enjoy. I feel it is more relatable than traditional art and the chances of seeing something completely new are pretty high. A couple pieces I enjoyed at this museum were a hanging structure of deflated, silver balloons, a neon sign that said “Naughty but Nice” and a sparkly, 3-D ball that hung from the ceiling. All of these pieces were very modern and were something I could imagine in a high class hotel or something. The museum wasn’t too big. I only spent about thirty minutes here before heading out. Biggest perk of this place, FREE ART!

MALAGA POLE & AERIAL STUDIO
So everyone knows doing aerial fabric has become part of my everyday life. One of the things about leaving Houston that is a bit sad is that I wouldn’t be near my aerial studio! But before leaving, Caoliang had found an aerial studio that wasn’t too far from his apartment. I quickly sent them a message to see if it would be possible to train there. To my surprise, one of the instructors, Lai messaged me straight back, despite it being 4am Malaga time!! Awesome!! I was so excited to have the A-ok to train here for a small fee. This really put my mind at ease for the time I would be away from my Houston studio. Trust me, when you train each week and then out of it for more than a month, your body truly feels the weight! At least this way, I would have a place to remind my muscles what it felt like to be on fabric. Since my time in Malaga, I have been able to come here a few times to train. The ceiling is much lower than what I am used to at Hunter Dance Center so it has been a lot of adjusting my usual practice. Lai, though, has been super sweet and a nice friend to have in a new city. She is Filipino and had moved to Malaga six years ago. She is the pole instructor here and even let me join in on one of her beginner classes. It was so difficult but also really fun! I could see how one could get addicted to pole. After getting used to the bruising first though! I was really happy to find this studio and have them be so kind to share their space with me during my time in Malaga.

With my two weeks spent in Malaga, the people from this studio really made this city special for me. Not only did they want to train with me, they also let me join their circle of friends in going to the beach, having meals, and celebrating local celebrations. Special thanks to Lai, Dora, Javi and Ursula (and all their friends) for being so welcoming!!

NOCHE DE SAN JUAN (June 23)
This night is the even of the birth of St. John the Baptist. It is a big celebration here in Malaga and I was lucky enough to be invited by Lai to join her and her friends for a night on the beach. When reading about it online, I saw that traditionally on this night, people celebrate with BBQs and bonfires. They also step over the embers or burn paper to symbolize “out with the old” and to have a new fresh start to a new season. We arrived at the beach about 9pm and left about 1 am. During this time, we watched the sun disappear and the moon come to life, bonfires and fireworks light up the night sky, tons of snacks and food to share, and light hearted conversations to bring in this local celebration.



So my time here in Malaga is coming to an end. Today is Sunday the first of July and tomorrow we are leaving for our Italian honeymoon! I’ve really enjoyed being close to a beach and having such sunny weather everyday. Also it has been amazing to be able to wake up with Caoliang and go to bed with him every night the past two weeks. The apartment we are staying in is so spacious and has everything we need. It really makes me see how life could be for us some day when we have our own place to call home and not have to leave it every few weeks! Like I mentioned before, my new friends I met through the aerial studio have really made this city for me. As a new person to the city, and only staying in the city for a few weeks, it is hard to make a routine – usual hang out, familiar faces, things to do each day – things many may not even think about, but when you switch around to new “homes” every few months, it is one of the challenges. With Lai and her group of friends, they have really made this city special for me. So I want to end my Malaga post with a massive thank you to them. Thank you so much for welcoming me with open arms and spending time with me as if you guys have known me much longer than just two weeks!!

Well Malaga it’s been fun but it’s time for us to leave soon. Thank you for keeping us safe, happy, fed, and surrounded by sun and love.

xx
t

Granada, Spain

June 25, 2018

Granda is a city in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia and only about 1 hour and 45 minutes (by bus) away from Malaga. On this day, Caoliang had a day off so we decided to go a little outside the city to see something different. Luckily for us, it was also our wedding anniversary! Happy one month of marriage to us! Only forever more to go! Anyways, with so many good things said about Granada, we had to go and see for ourselves. The bus ride wasn’t too bad there. Once we arrived, we saw some friends from Caoliang’s work that were also spending the day off in Granada. The four of us shared a taxi from the bus station to the city center.

For lunch, we went with one of Caoliang’s colleague’s recommendation for food (thanks Tyler). The place was called Bodegas Castaneda. It is a tapas bar with mostly standing space at the bar and huge pieces of ham that were hanging from the ceiling (typically seen in tapas bars). Caoliang and I love eating tapas! They are so small and perfect for sharing and trying new things at such an affordable price. We ordered about five plates and received one of the house as well. Some of the plates we had were the spanish omelette, homemade croquettes that was served with peppers, roasted pork with cheese on a piece of baguette, and ham. I usually don’t drink during the day but after Caoliang ordered a glass of sangria, I guess I had to get one too. The food was very satisfying! The food is so simple and straightforward but really nice and filling. Also everything costing us only 16 euros felt good too!

Once we finished lunch, we headed to the Alhambra since our entrance time was 2:30 pm. We had heard that they only sell a certain amount of tickets per day so we were lucky that purchasing our tickets online was so simple. One thing that was not very simple was getting to the Alhambra! I put in the destination into my Google Maps but, of course, Google showed me where it was but we didn’t know where the entrance was! Luckily we left with ample amount of time. After following the wind, some tourists, and signs – we found our way to the entrance but another confusion came up! Our ticket said our entrance time was 2:30pm. I had thought that meant our entrance to the whole Alhambra grounds, but no, it meant to the palace! Luckily I had asked the ticket lady (with 15 minutes before our entrance time) where to enter and she had told me to go ahead and go in and go straight to the palace. So even though we sped walked in the direction she had said, it still wasn’t super clear where the palace was! The place was so big! It was like walking into a little town. Thankfully, after all the confusion, we found the proper line and had made it in time. Phew!

So according to Wiki, “The Alhambra is a Nasrid “palace city”. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. It is certainly Granada’s most emblematic monument and one of the most visited in Spain. It consists of a defensive zone, the Alcazaba, together with others of a residential and formal state character, the Nasrid Palaces and, lastly, the palace, gardens and orchards of El Generalife.”

We started off in one of the palaces. The palace was very crowded. I personally don’t enjoy such cramped spaces. I feel like you can’t even enjoy where you are when you are continuously dodging other people. The palace walls, floors, archways and entrances reflected the Islamic history of the Alhambra. The place was so huge it was like a maze. We had no idea which route we were suppose to walk. We were just trying to enjoy the space, following different crowds, looking for interesting views, and then suddenly we found ourselves in the exit! One of the palace’s pathways led out to an outdoor garden. We had thought it was part of the palace grounds but when we realized the way we came out was the only way to go back in, we turned back to see a sign that said “do not enter”! Oh no! When we tried to explain to the lady sitting at that doorway what had happened, she was not having it. Even with the help of a Spanish speaker, this employee had no mercy for our accident. Seeing no point in arguing with her, we just threw up our hands and left. So a palace that usually people spend and hour to two hours in, we saw in about thirty minutes. Hmph! Oh well, there were a few other places in the Alhambra that was included in our ticket that we headed to instead.

The day was so hot. I mean SO HOT! Being that everything we saw this day was outside, we spent literally the whole day sweating. I have no idea why I even spend time to do my hair in the morning. Hah!

Like mentioned above, the Alhambra also has a defensive zone called the Alcazaba. This was like an empty castle with pathways that led up to the edges where you could have a nice view of the city, but with no protection from the sun. The views were nice but man was the sun strong! Needless to say, we didn’t spend too much time there. Afterwards, we found ourselves in the General Life. The name is really confusing for us. I kept thinking, what is this General Life?

According to Wikipedia, “The Generalife is a garden area attached to the Alhambra which became a place of recreation and rest for the Granadan Muslim kings when they wanted to flee the tedium of official life in the Palace.” This was very beautiful. The flowers were all in bloom. Really lovely roses and leafy archways decorated the Generalife.

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I feel like Granada probably has more to offer than just the Alhambra but with only a day to spend there, it really took up all of our time. With our bus to return to Malaga at 8 pm, we headed back to the city center to find a small bite to eat before heading back. Like I had said, Granada would be nice to stay for another day to see more of the city, but with our short visit, even with the small hiccup, was a really pleasant way to spend a day off together.

Tips for Alhambra: purchase tickets beforehand, make sure you have enough time to get there, and don’t accidentally walk out of the exit!!

With My Fiancé

After our Summer together on the East Coast, Caoliang had to go back to work and back to Europe. Does being in a long distance relationship suck? Of course! But there are perks to having someone who works in cool places. You get to visit! Originally, we didn’t plan for me to come to Belgium but after being able to spend so much time together in the Summer, I missed him too much to stay away. So after two weeks, I packed a bag and was on my way to Brussels!

This was my first time in Europe so I was pretty excited. I had always wanted to go but with the fear of high costs in mind, I never got a chance to make it, until now! I spent a total of three weeks in Brussels, finding time to fit in Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges and Ghent as well. I won’t write you an essay on the three weeks but here are some high lights of each place.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM : Known for Belgian waffles and chocolate, I had to have both of these while visiting Brussels. The chocolate is so delicious! And the temptation is everywhere! The waffles on the other hand, look really yummy but are super sweet and is better shared…unless you really just have a huge sweet tooth! While in Brussels, I did a lot of walking around the city center (outside the city center there isn’t much), visited a couple museums (Royal Museums of Fine Arts and Musical Instruments Museum), and spent a fair bit of time at the Cirque tent (which happened to be next to Atomium). My most favorite thing about Brussels was The Grand Palace. It was just so monumental and awesome just to stand in and look up. There was such detail in all the structures and a marvel to be surrounded by.

 

PARIS, FRANCE : Ah, Paris, the city of lovers. How appropriate Caoliang would take me here! I never dreamed I would be able to go to Paris so soon, but when Caoliang asked me if I wanted to go, of course I said, “Why not!” We only had a day and a night in Paris so it was very difficult to see many things. We walked to as much as we could though. We started our day with a quick train ride into the city, the morning checking out Sacré-Cœur Basilica – the church grounds, insides, and top dome, then strolling around the city seeing such sights as the neighborhood Montmartre, the outside of the famous Moulin Rouge, the magnificent Louvre, and of course the symbol of Paris, The Eiffel Tower. Some of my favorite moments of Paris were watching the lights twinkle on The Eiffel Tower, strolling through Jardin du Luxembourg, and being able to see such a historical and iconic city with my love, Caoliang.

 

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS : This city actually surprised me. From it’s reputation of being a city just for stoners, I was reluctant to think anything more of it. Boy was I wrong. Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen! With canals everywhere, this city is truly something else. We decided to celebrate a year being together by taking a quick day trip to Amsterdam. Arriving by train, we saw heaps of people outside the train station. The weather was perfect and even though we only had a few hours, I was determined to see as much as we could. While in Amsterdam, we saw a couple museums (Sex Museum and Van Gogh Museum ), took a boat ride on a canal tour, walked by many coffee shops, and saw sights such as Bloemenmarkt (floating flower market) and Dam Square. Some of my favorite things in Amsterdam was the walking views and the relaxed vibe. Canals in every direction, beautiful parks, and heaps of people watching, Amsterdam really is a chill place.

 

BRUGES & GHENT, BELGIUM : These two cities I got to see on a day tour! With Caoliang at work so much of the time and me having the free time, I figured why not sign up for a day tour and get out into a different city or two while in Belgium! Luckily, my sweet friend Chloe was up to join me! We set out on a large tour bus that would be hitting up the two cities of Bruges and Ghent along the way. The two cities were much smaller than Brussels and had a different kind of charm. Bruges is also a canal city but much smaller than Amsterdam. There were cobble stone pathways and very medieval looking structures. Ghent was also very similar to Bruges with its canals and architectural structures. My favorite thing about these two cities is that I felt like I was transported back in time. It almost felt unreal how the buildings were. I said to Chloe at one point, “I feel like I’m in the medieval section of Disneyland or something. I just feel like Mickey and his friends will pop out around the corner at any minute!”

 

So this was my three weeks in Europe, part 1! I know it’s not my usual novel-long rant but I hope you guys could get a little feel for what this past September was like. Since then, it’s been back to Houston for me and off to Spain for Caoliang. Fortunately, we got to see each other for a few days this October as he came to Texas to visit me. We are super busy with wedding planning but looking forward to spending New Years together in a couple weeks. So look out for my adventure in Spain soon!

In the mean time, check out my EUROPE PT.1 compilation video of this trip!! Thanks for hanging out and catching up!!