Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you have a Valentine this year or not, the world is full of romantic spots. Some areas are just incredible to appreciate the history of romance, and some are great with your Valentine in tow. If you’re looking for a romantic vacation beyond the beach and Venice, read on!
The Taj Mahal, India
This is a monument built to love. Thus, it’s the perfect place to reflect upon love! Not to mention, it’s an incredible testament to human accomplishment. The level of detail in the marble inlays is stunning! Read more
I love ice cream. And I love gelato. So I knew I’d love Italy! This is not a comprehensive list of all of the gelato flavors I tried (alas, I forgot to write some down… whoops!), but suffice it to say Italy has pretty amazing gelato.
I heard people say before that “you get like a ton of gelato for like one Euro!” and I don’t think that’s true any more – or it wasn’t true where I went! It was more like you get a nice serving for 2-4 Euro, depending on where you are. The chains are more expensive, as are the super-nice gelaterias in Florence, Rome, Venice, etc.
Some things to look for in and know about your gelato:
- You frequently walk by shops that have gorgeous, heaping gelato in freezer cases. Seriously,
it’s the most gorgeous thing ever. Shockingly, that is NOT the best gelato. The best gelato is kept where you can’t see it. You’ll find gelaterias with silver pails to keep the gelato in.
Those are the best! That way, you know it’s made fresh in small batches. The heaping portions on display? Those aren’t small-batch gelato.
- And as gorgeous as the bright colors in the heaping gelato can be, you don’t want gelato that has bright colors, either. I heard a lot of people tell me you can judge a gelateria based on their pistachio – if it’s bright green, walk away. If it’s a brownish color that doesn’t look quite as pretty – dig in! When gelaterias are making gelato that’s most true to artisinal gelato, they’re not using artificial colors and flavors. So you trade off some level of “pretty”
for amazing taste.
So many people have questions about this stuff – so here goes: the trip by the numbers! If I’ve left any out you’re curious about, just let me know!
Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, France, & the United Kingdom
See the full details in this post. Read more
I woke up on Saturday morning (early) to head to the airport to meet my mom. At this point, I was so excited to see her for so many reasons! First, I was so excited to see Italy with her. And second, I’d known for a while that her joining me on the trip meant that the trip was basically ending. I had one week with her, and then it was time to go home! And of course, I was just happy to see HER after four months!
It was so fun to see her there, and we immediately got on the water taxi to see Murano. We decided it would be easier than detouring to Mestre to put her stuff up, and then going back out. Looking back, that was probably a suboptimal decision. I’d been so used to basically every public transit station (or touristy area in general) having somewhere you could pay to stash your bags for a few hours, but alas, Murano has no where to store bags.
After Bucharest, I decided to go to Brasov, Romania. It seemed like a good stopover on the way to heading into more of Central Europe and, let’s be honest – it’s in Transylvania. For real. Transylvania is not just a place of legend, it’s a place in real life!
There are lots of castles and other sites you can get to from Brasov, and the town itself is just completely picturesque and charming. Brasov is very centrally located in Transylvania, and it’s in the mountains so the weather was far cooler.
When I was researching what to do in Sofia, I came across day trips from Sofia, and one that was highly recommended was the Seven Rila Lakes. I decided that sounded perfect – I have seen many temples, many churches, and many museums – it’s a good change to get out into nature!
Seven Rila Lakes is about an hour and a half drive from Sofia, and I used a tour organized by my hostel to get there. In my car, there were three others – Hailey, an Australian girl, and a pair of French friends – Eric and Genevieve.
I took the train into Sofia from Thessaloniki, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s Bulgaria, so I knew I’d try to find Viktor Krum (no luck…), but other than that… I had no idea what was in store. I am definitely making up this part of the itinerary as I go!
I booked two nights in a hostel in Sofia, and checked in after getting off the train. I decided to walk in from the train station – about a mile – and it was a good way to start seeing the city.
I spent the afternoon walking around town. First, I went to Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski and it was so massive! The architecture is quite different from any of the churches I’m used to seeing, so it was really impressive – the gold dome on top made it even more so!
On the morning of my only full day in Thessaloniki, I started talking to some Australian guys at my hostel breakfast. They started the conversation by comment on my hot pink Lilly Pulitzer shorts, and I just laughed and said “Florida.”
We ended up hitting it off quite well and they mentioned they were going to Mount Olympus for the day and asked if I’d like to join them. I decided to go! I was so excited to be invited because I’d really wanted to go to Mount Olympus, but it’s really hard to get to even with a car, and I wasn’t ready to rent a car and drive in Greece.
So Tom and Shannon (the Australian guys) also invited another guy named Tom from the UK, and the four of us set off for Mount Olympus.
After Kalambaka, I headed on to Thessaloniki – yes, that Thessaloniki of “Thessalonians” fame. Thessaloniki is right on the water, and it’s in far north Greece. I knew it would be my stepping off point for other countries in Europe, so I took the train there.
When I got off the train, I decided to walk the mile and a half to my hostel because I really didn’t want to deal with cab drivers. Whoops. I definitely got lost and probably ended up walking more than two miles in 100F+ heat and with all almost-50lbs of luggage. I did mention I feel like I’m getting stronger, right?
After getting into the hostel and settling in, I went out to see some of Thessaloniki. It’s a gorgeous city, and like so many cities here, you can practically trip over the history. Right outside my hostel was the Rotunda, an ancient Roman church. It’s pretty big and pretty from the outside, but I didn’t get a chance to go in!
When I first saw pictures of Meteora, I thought it was unreal. And then I arrived and it stole my heart!
Meteora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s got six active monasteries perched high up in the rocks above the village. The villages at the base, Kalambaka and Kastraki, are perfectly nestled in the valley with red-roofed houses and incredibly walkable streets. Meteora is in inland Greece (basically the center of Greece), and it’s compared to Mount Athos – with one important difference. Women are invited to Meteora.