When my parents first got to Lisbon, we really had very little in the way of concrete plans set for the next 2 weeks. Initially, my mom and I planned to take the brunt of it, and the she got really busy with school and passed the task to me, and then I, knowing my lovely mother would want more input than she cared to admit, decided we would just “play it by ear” and plan as we went. That turned out to be a great idea, as it was that mentality that led us here. Originally, in our basic sketch of the trip, the plan was to head north and then take on the south, lounging on the beaches just before they arrived back home. Thankfully, our lack of concrete planning gave us the mobility to look at the weather, head south first and on our way up to Porto, stop in Serra de Estrella. It was my mom’s suggestion, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip for all of us.
After a few days in the country, we headed to the Algarve, specifically, Lagos + Sagres. The city of Lagos was quite small and it was great for easy exploring. My parents went to the fish market, my dad waking up around 6 am one day headed down to pick out some delicious tuna for us for dinner. We celebrated Easter (Kev and i standing the entire mass from the balcony, my parents sitting at the alter) and found about 15 items wrapped in tissue paper hiding in various places around the house. We had a gin + tonic tasting event, “sponsored” by Kevin, who claimed (and was correct, sadly!) that given the chance to have 4 drinks, we couldn’t tell the difference between them. We went sea kayaking and swam in the beach. We went hat hunting for my mom (which turned out to be quite a feat!), and ate a delicious Indian dinner. My dad tried gelato for the first time, and they ate their first salted sardines (another Portuguese specialty). We ran on the beach, looked at cool urchins, played paddle ball while Kev practiced his card trick. We went to Sagres and ultimately to “the end of the world!” aka, the south-eastern most tip of Europe. We geo-cached and ate egg salad sandwiches and chocolate seashells on the side of the road. Needless to say, we killed it.
So, we drove south. Our ultimate destination was a little city called Tavira, and more specially, a tiny island off the coast called Ihla de Tavira. The plan for my exhausted parents, after weeks of preparing for this trip, was to chill out on the coast for a while, run on the beach, read a book, and relax. Knowing that we were going to be on the beach for the next few days, we opted to check out the Portuguese countryside, and man, what a great decision that was. We literally were in the middle of NO WHERE, or at least it felt like it, and it was a total change of pace from the busy city. We stayed in this amazing log cabin, were greeted by the world’s biggest dogs, and chilled out on the giant porch overlooking the desert-esque landscape. It was pretty cool.
So, needless to say, we were pretty excited that my parents were coming to visit. We ended up coming in to Lisbon via bus around 11pm the night before their arrival, and were picked up by the world’s most hospitable host (yet another Airbnb success story). Right off the bat, we were feeling quite spoiled, as it has not been the norm for us to have someone PICK US UP from anywhere, let alone in a car. Normally we’d be dealing with following our GPS god-knows-where and walking normally 1-4ish km from our stop to our place with our packs in whatever city it was that we happened to land. The fact that we had a real, live person meeting us to ease our transition into Lisbon was pretty damn awesome to say the least, especially after the 8+ hour bus ride in the back of a giant, bumpy bus with no air. On top of him being just a really wonderfully warm person, he also bought us dinner after explaining that he remembered “how difficult it was, traveling in the past, when [you’d] get somewhere late, and were starving and everything was closed…. ” Honestly, if there could have been a more perfect way to enter a new city, bellies full, warmed with the kindness of this man who we were only paying $22 per night to stay with, well, I don’t know what it would have looked like other than this.
Today, I woke up and decided to run the Barcelona marathon.
I don’t say that to brag, but it did feel quite a bit like that, if I were to be honest. Last night at around 7pm, Kev and I saw a sign advertising the race. I was a bit bummed, as had I known, I might have trained (I’d like to think so anyway :)) or done something to prepare for it, but I didn’t, and it was starting in about 12 hours from the time I saw the sign.
I woke up this morning and thought, “what the hell. I’ll just go enjoy the crowds and run as far as I want, and then stop” assuming it was going to be a 12-15km kinda run, as the MOST I have run on this trip was 9km. So we got up, walked to the subway, gave my biggest supporter a kiss, and I squeezed my way through the crowds to the starting gates. I didn’t register (obviously, it was closed) and so I was quite self-conscious the entire time about getting booted off the course. Thankfully, there were close to 20,000 people there, so I was able to remain pretty inconspicuous.
Our trip to the Amalfi Coast was honestly kind of a pain. From our hostel in Rome, walked to the metro, which we took to the outskirts of the city where we did another ride-share. We met at this rinky-dink little gas station (Q8) on the side of the road. From there, we drove about 2.5 hours to an airport, where we hoped bus to a city called Salerno. We were the only ones on the bus (guess we were the only ones stupid enough to head to the coast when rain was in the forecast!). After about a 45 minute ride to Salerno, we were again dropped off at the bus terminal where we grabbed yet another bus (after waiting in the pouring and FREEZING rain for 1.5 hours) to Minori.
The bus ride the the Amalfi Coast was BEAUTIFUL, but never having great luck driving, I was crazy sick with the switchback turns. Another hour later, we arrived in beautiful Minori, where we were lucky enough to get to walk 950+ steps up the side of a mountain (no joke) with our packs. (Like I said, wasn’t the best day of travel we’d ever had, but certainly not the worst!). We arrived (somehow!) in great spirits (probably due to our insane view) and despite having un-perfect weather, were thrilled to be there.
So, our time in the Amalfi Coast looked a lot like this:
Although the weather wasn’t great while we were there, the views were nothing short of spectacular.
The colors of the towns “popped” even more given the dark sky contrast
And the fog/mist rolling in over the hills was awesome.
We could almost imagine what it would have been like to visit in the summer, or some warm months when swimming might have been possible, but instead we collected rocks…
Read on the pier (and made new friends)…
Watched the sunset roll in…
Enjoyed the town (and the cute little lemon trees)…
Ate some delicious pasta a couple of nights, and had a really memorable night chatting with the owner one night (we were the only ones in the restaurant, so we were lucky that way). Talking with her was a highlight of our time in Minori, as was her delicious homemade limoncello that she gave us at the end of our 2.5 hour long meal. It is interactions like these that are definitely one of the perks of traveling in the off season. We saw her on various nights of our stay, and both times she took our hands and greeted us like friends. It was great.
Enjoying views like this from our guesthouse (again, 950+ stairs up the side of a mountain just like you can see mirrored here)
Walking from town to town on the windy sea-side roads….
Kevin posing in Minori.
Enjoying the SEAFOOD pasta (where it couldn’t have been fresher!)
AND, taking a 7-course cooking class in Sorrento!
Because of all the rain (and the fact that we had been meaning to take a class while we were here), we decided to “bite the bullet” and take the class. After an almost 2 hour bus ride (only about 20km away, again, the switchbacks are no joke) we finally made it to the beautiful Sorrento. It was just us in the class, which was yet another instance where traveling in February has worked to our benefit. About an hour into our class, the chef’s father (speaking no English), beautiful mother (who was one of the classiest women I have ever met in person, and reminded me so much of my great-grandma) and aunt (also, Italian speaker only) arrived to come see what was happening, chat with us and talk food. Honestly, it was exactly like you might imagine an interaction with a bonafide Italian family might be. They were warm, and gracious, hilarious and honestly made our time 1,000 times better than it already was. It was awesome. Standard (ridiculous class photo + certificate).
All in all, our time in the Amalfi Coast was amazing. We were especially happy to have stayed in Minori, which was far less touristy than the other cities in the area. Despite our original plan to make our way south, south, south, we decided to head a bit north to Naples as rain was still in the forecast and we figured that if we were stranded in the rain, at least we would be able to indulge in copious amounts of pizza (which we did, but that’s for another post).
(***Forgive me in advance for the worst blog post yet, but we’ve already done so much since Croatia and time’s a wastin’! In the effort to get caught up, here’s a short and sweet version of our time – but I’m not going to do this beautiful country justice!***)
So, when Kev and I decided to visit Croatia, we went to escape the Schengen region visa restrictions, hunker down, save some money, see some beautiful sights, but again really, to avoid digging into our visa time. I have wanted to visit Croatia for years, since one of my best pals, Brian, mentioned it to me as a possible rock climbing destination during college. Croatia turned out to BLOW our expectations, and will be somewhere we without question visit in the near future (hopefully in the summer) to scuba dive, spearfish and enjoy the absolutely pristine, beautiful water. These photos are backwards given our (sadly!) very basic route due to the way they uploaded, but you’ll see a glimpse of what made this country so incredible.
Squid-ink risotto (a local delicacy) color created by, you guessed it, a perforate ink sack of a squid. Kinda made my stomach turn (seriously, imagine eating across from those lips pictured below). Kinda delicious.
Sunsets like you would not believe.A couple photos for our dear friend, Nicola.Kevin (being a bad ass), doing something even the locals refused to do…swim.
I told you, the sunsets, right?! I got to run on this boardwalk every day. Heaven. Heaven, I tell you.
Mushroom museum.￼Museum of Broken Relationships (yes, you read that right). It was awesome.And another 2 weeks zip by, off to Italy we go!
We arrived in Paris an hour earlier than planned (5:50 am) to pouring rain, a dark morning sky and garbage littering the streets (which thrilled Kevin beyond belief). We had another opportunity to stay with yet another awesome friend, Adrienne, who lived in the “red light” area of Paris, Piagelle. Despite the fact that we could have probably had a lot of fun at the Moulin Rouge, or cruising a dance floor somewhere nearby (which were quite possibly still open!), we opted for the lame route (not surprisingly :)), and went to get coffee at a little kebap place near her house. After making friends with the Algerian dudes working there, they refused to let us drink any more coffee (because it was bad for us) and instead loaded us down with the most sugary-sweet tea IMAGINABLE, which was definitely bad for us in a completely different way. On a sugar buzz like you would not believe, our morning turned out to be quite a lot of fun – a great start to the city that never sleeps! After refueling with (yet) more coffee at Adrienne’s and settling down in her amazing flat, she took us on an amazing tour of the city, and was seriously quite the tour guide!
When I think about Paris, I imagine accordion players serenading the lovers walking along the Seine River, cute girls and little old men wearing berets, artists painting scenic landscape portraits, and people of all ages eating croissants. Turns out in January, only the croissant thing happens to be true. There was no music, there were no artists, and only the tourists wore berets. That said, despite the rain, and despite the cold, I could not help but gawk at the beauty of this city, and can only hope that we can visit again one day when the weather is warm, the skies are blue and when people (other than us!) are singing Aux Champs Elysees 🙂
One of our first stops was the beautiful, Sacré-Cœur, a beautiful Catholic cathedral, my first “real” one since being in Europe! It didn’t disappoint.
Walking down the Seine, we happened across the Pont des Arts bridge. In the city of Love, it’s no wonder so many people latched on to the idea of hooking their “Love Locks” to the bridge to leave behind in Paris… That said, these photos can’t even begin to display the INSANE number of locks on this bridge. Recently “Love Locks” have been banned because this bride is near collapse due to the extra weight of the locks, if that gives you any idea of how many locks are actually on this thing. It’s insane.
We were lucky to visit two of the most infamous museums in Paris, one being the Musee de Orsay, which just now happens to be my new #1 favorite museum I have ever been to . The museum houses the most impressionist and post-impressionists pieces in the WORLD. While we weren’t able to take photos inside the museum, we were able to stand literally inches away from masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh, Seurat, Renoir, Rodin, Degas, and hundreds more. I mentioned this the day we went, but I literally got a bit teary eyed standing so close to such iconic pieces and was truly humbled and in awe of what we saw there. Mankind is truly incredible. This is a photo just as we left the huge Impressionist floor exhibit. It seemed like the perfect photo to capture our day.
Walking around the streets, there were amazing sculptures and random art pieces everywhere we looked.
Cool Mer-men Fountain
We also visited Notre Dame!
Dad, this photo is for you. Found literally one foot step outside Notre Dame.
The stain-glass work was INCREDIBLE. I can’t even begin to wonder how many hours went in to creating these…
And then, there was the food…the buttery, rich delicious food….
(Scary pic, but!) My first legit Crepe!Eating World’s best CroissantVoted best baguette in Paris.
Love Mural (taken for Corie Brown).
Outside Lourve (taken for Sai the dog).
The Lourve is the WORLD’S LARGEST MUSEUM. It was originally built as a royal fortress, but was officially opened in 1793 with an exhibition (of mostly confiscated church property). There are more than 70,000 pieces in the museum, and we could have literally spent 4 days there and not given it the justice that it deserves.
These were a few of my favorites of the day (which specifically reminded me of Anthea Marie Mitchell, for whatever reason :)):
One section of the museum was called “The Napoleon Apartments,” which (per Adrienne’s suggestion) we might have never even seen (again, the museum was THAT big). Room after room was insanely and decadently decorated. Honestly, no photo can do it justice. Can you imagine living in a space like this!? These are the times when the “1% holds 99% of the world’s wealth” becomes more tangible than I would otherwise understand – even if it is just a replica!
Also, I have to say, there were pieces THIS BIG in the Lourve. I mean, Seriously, look at Kevin next to that thing. I am not one for art history, but I would be VERY interested to know JUST HOW LONG something like this would have taken to paint. Not my style, but look at that detail!
And then, there she was. 99% of the reason we came to the Lourve to begin with, Mona.
On the street in Pigalle.
A romantic French dinner (per Corie’s suggestion!) celebrating us.
A “King’s Cake” night!
And I won (by finding this little guy in my slice :))
A bourbon and beer tasting extravaganza, courtesy of Adrienne’s guy, Paul!
Shakespeare and Company bookstore (no photos allowed inside, but damn. Heaven. on. Earth.)
Where Napolean was Buried.
And last but certainly not least! Paris wouldn’t be complete without the Eiffel Tower!!!! All in all, despite the not-ideal weather conditions, Paris turned out to be pretty darn swell. For the life of me, I can’t seem to find the photos of the delicious Britannia food (fish soup, mackerel pate, etc!) Adrienne cooked for us, or the duck, but man, were they delicious! We were quite lucky to have had such a great friend host us (yet again) in such a beautiful city.
So, it turns out Athens is a graffiti wonderland, and it’s AWESOME. Literally every step of the way to the Acropolis and Acropolis museum was covered in graffiti. Of course, no pictures do it justice, but I can assure you, you would have thought it was awesome too. Every few minutes had me saying “Babe! Just one sec!” *snap* etc. which is why you’ll see him waiting for me in so many pictures….:)
BUT SERIOUSLY! LOOK AT THAT COLOR!
Even where there’s supposed to be NO color, there’s color.We had to walk straight up to get to the Acropolis museum (and to see the Parthenon) but it was well worth the climb. The museum was filled to the brim with pieces (4,000!) of every artifact found on the rock and on the feet of the Acropolis, from the Greek Bronze Age, to Roman and Byzantine Greece. While wisps of info about Athena and Zeus and Hercules wafted around in my head before the exhibits, it was incredible to see just how ornate and modern people were in regards to their art, language and architecture. Pictures weren’t allowed inside the museum, but we found a great view of our next goal for the afternoon: climbing Mt. Lycabettus to get a 360 degree view of Athens. (View from museum)Sweat. Nature’s blush.
We made it!
On the hike down, we decided to get some more delicious gyros (only $2 Euro!) and enjoy the city square at sunset. As you can see, it was pretty glorious. Just 2 days in, Athens has FAR exceeded our expectations in regards to the UNBELIEVABLE food, genuine warmth from the citizens of Greece and overall history and beauty. Pretty stoked to be here.Great view of Parthenon from the square.
We had quite the Christmas! Hours after picking Nick up from the airport, we jumped on an overnight bus to CAPPADOCIA, a region about 10 hours south of Istanbul because our lovely families PLANNED A SURPRISE CHRISTMAS EXCURSION for us there. Who does that? Honestly? Our families, that’s who. Talk about an incredible time.
On the bus!
After 3 connections, and a delayed flight – Nick shows us his “I’M READY FOR A NIGHT BUS” equipment.
We arrived at 7am and headed to “Azure Cave Suites” which happened to be the most incredible “hotel” ever. Our rooms were literally caves – and they were GORGEOUS. We had the most amazing breakfast (provided for free!) every morning, and homemade puddings, breads and sweet treats every night. The family running the place and their German Shepard puppy, Zeus, were absolutely the best ever. They literally roasted us chestnuts (over an open fire!) on Christmas eve, made us gingerbread men cookies and did everything they could to make us feel like family. On our last morning, they drove us back to the main section of town where we could catch our bus, and the woman explained her “business” this way: “every guest is a family member from all over the world that I am just having the opportunity to meet for the first time. It’s a celebration every day.” And, it truly felt like that every. day.
oh! Our place also served, LINDEN TEA, which just so happens to be my namesake tea!
View from our roof top.Morning one, we rented four wheelers (thanks to Anthea and Brittany!). The company we rented through encouraged us to wear hair nets under our helmets…which Kev did proudly.
And this was what we saw:
Cappadocia is especially known for two things…1) exceptional natural wonders, in particular fairy chimneys (pictured below) and 2) hot air balloons (which are a bit further down this post).
The rock formations have eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars which people of the villages at the heart of the Cappadocia carved into houses, churches and monasteries from the soft rocks of volcanic deposits. Obviously now all are completely abandoned, but climbing through the tiny caves and crevices, higher and higher up these formations made for an awesome day of exploring.
After, not surprisingly, we stopped for tea:
The next day we woke up early and went on a killer tour which included an underground city, a gorgeous hike in the basin of the “Grand Canyon” of Turkey, drank (more!) tea, river-side, explored more caves, fairy chimneys and monasteries and truly, just took in the beauty.Once we got up there, Kev was pretty scared of how high we were 🙂Which was kind of understandable 🙂Christmas morning, we woke up at 5:30 am to (FREEZE OUR BUTTS OFF) watch the sunrise and watch the famed hot air balloons take off. Sorry for the 6,000 balloon pictures, but it was honestly magic.morning eyes, cold noses.Another day, we rented mountain bikes. The guys looked like this: magazine-worthy.Conferrng with phones as to geo-cache location.This is how I felt about it. (That picture does not do my grumpiness justice.) We were minutes from dropping the bikes back off for the day, so my spirits were higher than on other times 🙂 Drew, if you’re seeing this, I would NOT have made you proud!BUT, after biking up the insane hills, we had an opportunity to do some pretty killer geo-caching, explore MORE old cave-things and see some pretty spectacular sights, so in retrospect, I shouldn’t have complained quite as much as I did 🙂For instance, on our biking adventure, we happened across a sunset balloon take off! The boys with a close-up view.A few hours later: bike view to Mount Erciyes.All in all, Cappadocia was amazing. We were all so thankful we had a chance to visit! Thanks Mar and Kevin and Mom and Dad and Brittany and Anthea and Ezgi and Mike! It was a Christmas to remember! <3