Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

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Yesterday, I shared about the first half of our day excursion out of Barcelona on a tour booked through Viator (more on why I highly recommend using this to book tours in yesterday’s post!) , and today I’m back with the second half of that long, but fun day.

Leaving Girona, we headed east to Pals, a hilltop village on the Costa Brava that has preserved most of it historical features and is an official Site of Historical Interest. We didn’t have that much time on this stop and I was getting a head cold and this part of the day is probably when I felt my worst, which was a little disappointing because I could have wandered through this little town for hours. As you can see from the pictures this little town is incredibly picturesque and adorable!

Next we headed southeast to the coastal town of Calella de Palafrugell, which is still part of the Costa Brava region, and originally an ancient fishing village. First we ate at the Restaurante la Vela and then were given a few hours of free time to explore on our own. We chose to spend our time on the beach and eating gelato. Mom and I are mountain girls at heart, but Jodi grew up in Florida and is a true beach girl so I know this part was one of her favorites parts of the whole trip. From what I read about the area both before and after our visit, many agree that among the various destinations on the Costa Brava, this is the one most frequented by Spaniards on vacation vs. tourists. Regardless, after a busy and heavy walking morning, it was nice to relax a bit in the sun and the water was pretty warm and clear!

OK, that’s a wrap for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with my post on our visit to the Palau de la Musica and walking past the Arc de Triomf.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Girona, Catalonia, Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

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Since we decided that we were flying in and out of Barcelona and had plenty on our to-do list there, we decided to not travel elsewhere in Spain or Europe overnight. But I knew I wanted to get out of the city at least once and booking this day trip allowed us to do that! I have used Viator for booking tours/excursions in three countries now and highly recommend utilizing it when trip planning! This full-day trip included being picked up and dropped off right at the front door of our VRBO, transportation in a passenger van, a personal tour guide for our small group (the three of us plus five other people) and a meal at a restaurant where reservations were made for us in advance. Going this route allowed us to pack a lot more in to a single day and not deal with the stress of figuring out all of the logistics, meaning we probably did things that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Plus our tour guide was very knowledgeable and you could tell that he genuinely enjoyed his job. I unfortunately had a head cold forming on this day, so I thought our tour guide was a little annoying and over the top, but Jodi and Mom thought that he was great.

Our first stop for the day was in Girona, which was a little over an hour drive from Barcelona in the Catalonia region. Personally, I was really invested in getting to Girona on our trip because several scenes throughout Game of Thrones Season 6 were filmed here, including the exteriors of the Sept of Baelor, and parts of Kings Landing, Old Town and Bravos. When I was looking up tour options, there were several that focused exclusively on Game of Thrones, but since Mom and Jodi hadn’t watched it and I wanted more than just that, this was a great option for us.

It was a beautiful morning there for us and relatively pretty quiet and not crowded.

The River Onyar

Right as you cross the river and into the historic part of the city, there is this pillar with a lioness at the top (if you ask me it looks like a sloth). The legend is that if you visit Girona, you have to kiss the bottom if you what to visit again. No one who knows me should be surprised that I was not a fan of playing along, but Mom took one for the team.

The Girona Cathedral was used for the closeup exteriors for the Sept of Baelor in Season 6. So think about when Margery is about to do her walk of atonement and Jamie rides his horse up the stairs. I’ve always been super interested in behind the scenes stuff from television and movies that I watch so this was pretty cool.

This is the view looking the other direction from the steps. In Game of Thrones it is not a a small enclosed court yard but instead opens up to space for a large crowd and a view of the sea. Technology is pretty cool.

Girona Cathedral facade

Side entrance of the Girona Cathedral.

Backside of the Girona Cathedral.

The Passeig de la Muralla is a medieval wall with walkways along the eastern border of the city that also has amazing views. We didn’t walk along the walk but we did pop up on top one of the towers to catch the view.

The Girona Cathedral was the only specific set from Game of Thrones that the tour guide pointed out and spent time talking about. Before the tour I looked up what some of the other specific locations were and I am pretty sure that this staircase above is from the opening scene in Season 6 where Arya is blind and begging. Other than that I don’t think we walked by any others that were distinct enough to spot without the dressings of a set.

Its Jewish Quarter, is known as one of the best preserved in the world. The area, “El Call,” is a maze of several narrow, cobblestone walkways and staircases.

Neoclassical building facade in the Placa de la Independencia, a 19th century square in the Mercadal district.

OK, that’s a wrap for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part Two of this fun day trip.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Barcelona, Spain

Oh hey there blog, my old friend. It’s been a while. I’ve been focused on other things in 2019, but after an amazing trip to Spain for both work and vacation, I decided it was time to dust things off and share. Never mind that its three months after the trip took place… hey, its been a full season for me!

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

**********

For my first post, I just want to share a little about the trip overall and my work conference, which also gives me the opportunity to share some of my “random” photos, meaning those that don’t really fall into their own specific post 🙂

Overall, we loved Barcelona! It was a great location for a conference, which went really well. With so many colleagues around the world that I connect with frequently over email, I always love reconnecting with everyone all together in-person. The opportunity to regroup and refocus is extremely important for us, as is just getting to know each other better and enjoy each other’s company. In the Communications Department we are working on a really fun campaign for our 40th anniversary in 2020, so we also brought along some friends from our creative agency so they could meet more of our staff and get a closer look at what USW is all about. This included my friend Jodi, who is a consultant for the agency. I first met Jodi when I worked for Kansas Pork right out of college and am so happy that we have been able to reconnect recently. Jodi also joined my Mom and I for a few days of vacation.

A few thoughts and memories about our overall experience…

  • Leading up to the trip, I don’t think anyone I spoke to had anything bad to say about their own experiences in Barcelona. From things we read online there was some concern about pick-pocketing, theft, etc. We witnessed the aftermath of someone realizing they had been pick-pocketed once and there was one time that we felt a little uneasy while we were sitting for a long time waiting for an outdoor show, but overall we followed all of the standard safety tips and tricks, and felt really safe.
  • Neither my Mom or I speak Spanish, just a few common phrases here and there, but we did not have any trouble overall with the language barrier.
  • For the conference we were obviously at a hotel, but for the vacation part of the trip we booked rental through VRBO, and other than an early morning that involved me yelling at the washer and dryer that we couldn’t figure out… we were so happy with our choice! I did a lot of research on location and rental options and chose an adorable little studio apartment that was very central to a lot of what we wanted to visit, including the La Sagrada Familia, which was just two blocks away. In my opinion, VRBO and AirBnb is the way to go, at least in Europe. It was very affordable for what we got and just gave us the space to spread out and relax a bit more than a standard hotel allows.
  • Barcelona was very walk-able (granted we really like to walk) and really easy to navigate. At first I used a paper map of the city that I snagged from my conference hotel and then just used Google Maps on my phone once I go the general idea of the city’s layout. Before leaving I had done my research on using the city’s Metro but we never ended up feeling like we needed it. There are also taxis on virtually EVERY corner, so whenever we were in a time crunch or tired of walking we hopped in one for pretty cheap.
  • This might be an unpopular opinion, or maybe I just didn’t go to the right places (I promise we mostly ate at non-tourist trap places), but I was a little underwhelmed by the food, especially how excited I was for all the tapas. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still probably give it a B+ overall, but I felt like our choices quickly became repetitive and I only had 3 or 4 meals that I was still thinking about well after the fact.
  • I think we were there at a good time of year. The weather was great and we felt like the crowds weren’t too bad most of the time.
  • I had read quite a bit about the fact that before the Summer Olympics came to Barcelona in 1992, the city wasn’t a huge tourist destination. But then afterward it became one of the top European destinations and there has been influxes of anti-tourism movements over the years. Obviously I can’t speak to a local’s perspective of the impact of tourism but I thought Barcelona was a very clean and friendly city that is very proud of its history and culture. I loved learning that because of Barcelona’s unique location, the area’s specific micro-culture, including religion, food, architecture and more, is the result of a variety of influences from other parts Western Europe and North Africa.
  • This last comment will be very specific to my mom and I, but last year around this same time we were on a family vacation to Italy where we were hopping from city to city every 1 to 3 days. For OBVIOUS reasons, staying in one city for 11 days creates a much different experience because we had more time to relax and really get to know Barcelona. I don’t know that either of us would say that we prefer one experience over the other, because they were both amazing trips and different in other ways besides timing. For me, I think it just made me appreciate both experiences a bit more… and definitely makes me want to go back to Italy and take more time on some of my favorite parts of that trip.
Pro tip: Surround yourself with people in your work life that also make stellar friends.

This was our best meal! Ciudad Condal came highly recommended by many so we decided to let the waiter to bring out what he thought was best for the group. I definitely tried some strange things that I wasn’t a fan of but this was such a fun evening together.

Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s main strip through the city. A lot of my research told me to just avoid it since it is tourist central, but we actually really enjoyed it.

So many of the streets in Barcelona are split down the middle with a center island, which definitely helps with foot traffic congestion. Most of the restaurants on those type of streets actually have the majority of their seating out on these islands which I really enjoyed because it made people watching super easy.


Since the conference had people coming in from all parts of the world, some of us arrived a day or so earlier than others. For those early arrivals, we had the opportunity to take a half-day trip out of the city to the Jean Leon Winery where we learned about its history, experienced Spanish wine country and of course did a tasting!

At the main building they had a small plot that featured a different type of grape in each row and we were allowed to go through and pick and eat them. As a wine lover and an ag kid, it was fun to compare each one with what I know the final product to taste like and apply some of what I learned in a class in college about viticulture.

This indoor, food court of sorts, El Nacional, was just two blocks from where we stayed for the conference. We went here with a large group for lunch one day, but thought it was so pretty that we returned later for a snack and more time to just walk around.


“Pan con tomate” is frequently served with meals here or included as an appetizer on the menu, which I was a big fan of. However, this was the one and only time that it was served to us not prepped and ready to eat. So of course I was THAT TOURIST that did it wrong… I started slicing up one of the tomatoes (with a butter knife haha) so I could eat pieces of it with the bread, but the waiter quickly came over and kind of scolded me before he explained that you cut the tomato in half and then squeeze and scrape the tomato across the bread, and finish with drizzling oil and salt over the top. Lesson learned, be better than me friends 🙂

I try to visit local markets in every country I travel to, and after visiting an amazing flower market in Thailand, I’ve tried to visit markets with flowers if I can find one. (Note: in case you are new or somehow don’t know this about me — my family has owned a flower shop for 30+ years.) So for this trip I did some research and really thought I found one with flowers, but instead it was just a really large flower shop that was a block away from the actual market. Regardless, my mom loved it, and it was both fun and slightly embarrassing to watch her observe the differences to floral arrangements in the United States and then proceed to take pictures of everything when we really probably weren’t supposed to.

 

I didn’t include any of the photos because they all were pretty dark, but my mom and I also spent a few hours at the Aquarium Barcelona. It was on our last afternoon and we were pretty tired and decided that a visit there would be a bit more relaxed than some of our other options. It might seem like a super typical tourist thing to do or more for families with small children, but we really enjoyed it. It has the only Oceanarium and the largest collection Mediterranean sea life in Europe. It also randomly has a penguin exhibit which I made my Mom sit and watch with me for way longer than a 28 year old should probably want to 🙂

Ok, that’s it for my random intro post, though I am sure as I work my way through the rest of my planned post I am going to think of other notes to add to this post about our overall trip. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part One of a fun day trip we took out of the city and up the Costa Brava.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Oregon

2018 Ego-Spoo Family Photos

My family isn’t always the greatest at remembering to take pictures and ones of us as a whole group are few and far between. So when my Mom asked that we take some over this past Christmas we made it happen. Christmas day was our only option so we made the best of it by using my DSLR, taking turns as I jumped in some shots and soliciting help from our neighbor for a picture of all of us.

We’ve always joked that we should get our own sitcom and let me tell you, we were a bit of a hot mess that morning. Sawyer was grumpy, we only partially succeeded at coordinating our colors, the dogs saw our idleness as an opportunity for attention, some of us were sick and we made Dad take his glasses off because they darken when he’s outside, which made him grumpy too 🙂 I totally forgot about a few different picture combos, most importantly one of just my sister and I, and then one of us with Sawyer (just grandkids).

But this is us, imperfections and all, and I am so thankful for these people of mine. It takes thick skin and a good sense of humor to survive in this clan, but I will never take for granted how close my family is and how incredibly supportive they are of me.  We always have a good time together.

Sharing just a few of my favorites.

(Yes family, I will be sending these to you soon!)

Managed to catch a smiling one of Sawyer!

All of us.

I did forget to get a picture with our old family dog, Jack, so I had my Mom take one a few days later.

Cheers!

Year in Review

2018 – A Year in Review

In November, I was back in Manhattan, Kan., for a few days and spoke to an agriculture communications class at my alma mater (Kansas State). After my presentation, I spent most of the time answering students’ questions about my career and my path there. Toward the end, one of my old professors asked, “So what’s next for you Amanda? Do you have a 5-year plan or some goals looking forward?”

I responded, “Nope, I have no idea.”….and I’m pretty sure a couple of the seniors started to doubt everything I had just told them.

He then asked, “So how do you feel about that, or how do you deal with that uncertainty,” and the short part of my response was, “Well I’m going to go work tomorrow, I’ll probably go the next day and God-willing I’ll go the day after that.”

I don’t exactly remember the rest of what I said, but I’ll explain… That short response doesn’t specifically pertain to my job, (which to be clear, I LOVE) but more so to my life in general in 2018. It was just a weird year for me — and perfectly fits the sentiment, “lots of high-highs and low-lows.”

2018 was a year where I had to focus a bit more on patience and letting things go. Yes, of course I still have goals and bigger dreams, but some of them are just starting to evolve a bit and they need the space and time to do so. Right now, I am focusing on being present for the things right in front of me. It is kind of funny to think about the habits we spend so much time forming, only to grow up a little more and realize that some things we need to unlearn — in order to be a better version of ourselves or to move on onto a new season of our life.

2018 was a little bit heart breaking and harsh. It was gritty, sarcastic and the kind of year that really made me think on my feet. But it was also so colorful, and after a super rainy summer in DC, I was grateful for every ray of sunshine, both literally and figuratively. 2018 took me on grand adventures that added new perspectives and cultures to my life, and I got the chance to laugh a few of those deep belly laughs that are so good for your soul. This year was bittersweet, often catching me off guard with memories that needed to be tucked away and full of people who showed up and dug their feet in. There are few things more precious than the grace and love of people who believe in you. 2018 planted so many seeds for good things to come in 2019 and I am so ready for it.

I am thankful for this exciting life that I get to live, and even an off year, like 2018 was for me, deserves to be celebrated.

So hold tight 2019, I know you’ve already started (slacker blogger over here), but I am going to give 2018 one last look…

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In 2018, I traveled to 2 countries…

In April, my friend Brandi was traveling to London on a work trip and we decided make a girls trip out of it. I flew over a few days after her and we had the best time exploring the city in search of corgis and royals (and found none), had our fill of fish and chips and cried during The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre.

In September, I spent two weeks in Italy with 6 family members on a week-long self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also visited Rome, Pompeii, Naples, Venice and Florence. It was quite the trip, which included me spraining my ankle (still not quite ready to laugh about it yet)! And of course, I captured it all here on the blog with hundreds of photos and am still dreaming about the views we saw and all of the amazing food we ate! I had quite a few posts from this trip so I am going to list them all out here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

In 2018, my parents visited me in DC…

Other than a quick visit from my Mom in 2016 to help me move apartments during a busy time, this was my parents’ first official trip to DC to visit me! In March, I had so much fun showing them them all of my favorite places and even exploring a few that were new to me. I NEVER take it for granted how supportive my parents have always been of my goals and independence so it meant so much to me that I could take some one-on-one time with them to share my current home and why I love it so much.

In 2018, I traveled to Nashville for a 5-year college reunion with my old roommates…

Kyla, Megan and I all met when we were freshmen at K-State and residents in the Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House. We quickly became friends and after two years there, we continued to live together through the remainder of college. Megan and I were co-Maids of Honor in Kyla’s wedding, and they are still such an important part of my life. 2018 marked five years since we graduated (what?!) so we decided to make the most of it and go on a reunion girls trip to Nashville and had so much fun reminiscing about college and making new memories.

In 2018, I traveled a lot for work, per usual, and continued working hard at a job that I love…

This year took me to Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona (twice); Seattle, Washington; all over North Dakota; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; and Manhattan, Kansas. In March, I celebrated three years at U.S. Wheat Associates and in July we launched our new website, after I’d spent the previous 7 months pouring everything I had into leading the project. I also shared on the blog about why I was loving my new standing desk (and still do!)

In 2018, I celebrated 100 classes at Pure Barre…

Right at the end of 2017, I practically forced myself to try Pure Barre. I didn’t really want to, but it kept coming up as something I might like and I was a little desperate for a bit of positive order in my life. It might sound dramatic, but Pure Barre honestly helped pull me out of a negative place and was one of the best things to happen to me in 2018. I found something that fits me and now I can’t imagine not having it as a part of my regular routine. In June I celebrated taking 100 classes!

In 2018, I spent a lot of time behind my camera…

It’s been my goal to learn more about photography and how to better know my camera inside and out. I haven’t really pursued that yet, but I did spend a lot of time in 2018 behind it getting a lot of practice. I will never claim to be a pro because there are too many people (and friends) whose talents I have so much respect for, but its a hobby that I love and that really fulfills my creative side. Aside from my big overseas trips, here are a few other of my photo ops in 2018:

Sawyer June turns 1
Golden Hour on the Farm
Pendleton Round-Up Wagon Train
North Dakota Wheat Tour & Sunflowers

In 2018, there was SO MUCH more…

I took a care free approach to my vision board, wrote a personal post on emotional courage and midway through the year shared how I was striving to have a better attitude by writing down my weekly “roses and thorns.” In March, I was a guest blogger for one of my favorite full-time bloggers, Erica at Whimsical September, and in October I celebrated my 28th birthday by writing a love letter to my 18-year-old self. I tried to soak in all the family time that I could on two trips home to Oregon in June and December, and of course doted on Sawyer June. I saw the Grand Canyon and George Strait in concert (in Vegas!!), both for the first time. I served on the AFA Alliance Planning Committee and had the opportunity to serve others and continue to develop myself professionally in an organization that did so much to give me my start. I enjoyed time with friends both here in DC and during my various travels, and kept coming back to the same thought of how grateful I am for their words and company. And of course, I listened to some great live music and drank a lot of great wine 🙂

Yes, 2018 saw a lot of tears and hard moments, but man, it was also so, so good. Thanks for continuing to stop by and read along on this little blog of mine.

Wishing you all the very best in 2019.

For a look at past Year in Reviews:

2017
2016
2015
2014

Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Florence

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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Well friends, this is it! My last post from this amazing trip! It took a little longer to share everything than I wanted it to, but regardless, I am so happy that I’ve created this platform that continues to serve as my own creative outlet and a way to stay connected with my family and friends. Thank you for tuning in!

The last stop on our trip was Florence, which we got to on a quick train ride to Venice. I will say that our train experience was pretty good. They are comfy enough (more than a plane in my opinion) and each time we needed to buy tickets we were able to find someone to help us make sure we were getting the right ones.

Now when people ask me how I enjoyed Florence, the first thing I tell them is that Florence didn’t get a fair chance to impress us. As the last stop on our 15 day trip, we were all just a little worn out, probably a little tired of each other and I was definitely so ready to be done walking around on a sprained ankle. But other than our own circumstances, Florence was beautiful and I want chance to visit it with fresh eyes again someday.

We covered a lot of the country and it was so interesting to see what made each city and region unique. Florence is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, and moves at a different pace than Rome or even Venice. I probably enjoyed the architecture most here and all of the warm Tuscan colors.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo.

The first day we arrived in the late morning and after making a beeline for some food, we spent the rest of the day mostly just wandering around the city. My two cousins were taking off the next morning a day earlier than the rest of us so we wanted to make sure that they got a quick taste of the city. I mentioned way back in one of my first posts that we ate gelato every day and I think we all agreed that the best gelato we found was in Florence.

On our one full day, after my cousins left, we decided to listen to our feet and got tickets for the Hop Off/Hop On bus. I’m so glad we did this. There was two different loops around the city that you could choose from, or even jump back and forth from at the few places where they intersected. If you chose to hop off, another bus would come about every 30 minutes. While you were on the bus there were headphones and a recorded tour guide to tune in to. I thought this service was a great option for us and other than one time when we got cut in line and then kicked off the bus because it was full, it was a positive experience.

One leg of the bus ride took us out of Florence and to a small hillside town Fiesole, where we decided to hop off and explore for a while and grab lunch.

This bridge is named the Ponte Vecchio. Until 1218, it was the only bridge in Florence that crossed the Arno River. It is known for having shops built along it, which traditionally was much more common than it is now. Originally this shops were occupied by butchers, but now it houses mostly jewelry and art.

One last piece of Italian pizza!

The Piazzale Michelangelo, is a 19th-century piazza with a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David and a beautiful panoramic views over the city. We considered going into the museum that houses the real statue of David but decided that we were done with lines so we thought the replica with a view of the city was a good alternative.

After Florence, we headed back to Rome where I hopped on a flight back to the United States. The remaining members of my family actually had one more day in Rome where they took a tour of the Catacombs!

Well that’s it friends! This was such an amazing trip and one that I’ll always be so thankful that I got to share with my family. I have loved sharing it here with you on my blog, so thanks to everyone who stopped by! If you are planning a trip to Italy or even just considering one I would be happy to answer any questions and share more recommendations.

Until next time, arrivederci!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Venice

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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After our stay in Rome, our next stop was Venice!

Our original plan was to take the train but that kind of all changed on the fly. Since there was 7 of us, we were having trouble arranging transportation to from where we were staying to the train station. We still had the business card from the car service that had taken us from the airport to Rieti when we first arrived, so we finally called them up to take us the train station and along the way, jokingly said it would be nice if they could just drive us the whole way. Well apparently the joke was on us, but the driver responded quickly that another man could actually do that and after quick deliberation we were on our way via car!

Overall Venice was my favorite city! I knew within a few short hours that it was definitely a place that I want to visit again and take more time to just relax and explore there. It’s old, romantic, earthy and in a strange way, kind of homey and familiar. I felt like I was walking through a book — a story that was just so fascinating to me.

Once again, we used VRBO to book a small apartment to stay in, which we had to go on quite the excursion to find, including a map, picture ques and trying to navigate the water taxi routes in the dark. Thanks to the young Italian women Sabrina for taking pity on us and helping out!

Our time here was pretty laid back. We explored, did a little bit of shopping (hello gorgeous leather purse!) continued to eat amazing food and eventually became master’s of the water taxi, including one long ride along most of the main route.

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)

The one thing from my Pinterest research for this trip that I was determined to do was visit the Libreria Acqua Alta.

This self-proclaimed “most beautiful bookstore in the world” routinely floods, so most of its contents are in bathtubs, waterproof bins and even a gondola that can float when necessary. I have a deep love for bookstores and libraries, especially ones that are a bit quirky, so the more research I did on it, the more I knew we had to go. My Grammy and I are one in the same, and luckily the rest of my family obliged.

After a few mistakes and studying the maps, I figured that navigating the water taxi system is very similar to the DC Metro or New York Subway.

Venice, you are magical, and I will definitely be back someday. Thanks for having us!

Thanks for stopping by again! I’ll be back in the next day or two with my last travel post for this trip!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala