Road Trippin’ the Emerald Isle

One day when I was at work I recieved a text from Robert that said something along the lines of “I really want to go to Ireland and I almost just booked the airfare on a whim and let the rest work itself out”. While I am all for some spontaneity, I do consider myself a somewhat responsible person and could not just abandon my babies at work. So, we compromised. We agreed that in the offset chance that I could switch enough days around at work in such a short period of time then we would go. Just do it and not think twice. Thankfully, a few angels in my unit made this happen and the next thing I knew we were booking airline tickets for an international trip that was happening in only 6 short weeks.

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It’s True What They Say….

Truman Capote put it nicely when he said “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”

Venice truly is one of the most beautiful cities in this world. A timeless floating island with narrow, windy streets packed full of rich history, how can one not fall in love? If if ever get the chance I recommend not only experiencing Venice in the day, but also succumbing to its charms when night falls. The city is lovely by day, but it becomes something magical at night.

Can’t I just sleep here?!
Having a fun photoshoot in the rain

Yes, Veince is chock-full of tourists, but for good reason. Who wouldn’t want to experience this amazingness….. especially before it disappears. This ancient city is slowing sinking, and some of the basements are currently underwater. In the future, this city will be only a distant memory of place where merchants once lived and tourists once swooned.

We arrived in Venice utterly exhausted, after 20+ hours of international travel and no sleep for Kaylee before that (thanks night shift). Venice welcome us with open arms, strong lattes, and lots of pizza.

Our top three Venice memories:

1. Getting stuck (yes stuck) in the city.
“Remember that one time we were stranded in Venice?” Robert will ask me all the time. On one hot May day (and many more I presume) there was a transportation strike and all public transportation in the island was suspended for a short period of time (around one day). Without going into too much detail, organized strikes are apparently common in Europe. The only way to get in or out was to pay an arm and a leg for private transport…. no thanks.
We had no choice but to stay put. With no further ado, we plopped ourselves down at a fancy cafe in the middle of St. Mark’s Square, ordered an outrageously expensive bottle of wine (ouch), and listened to the live music for hours. It was awesome.

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2. Taking a Gondola ride at sunset.

Venice is expensive, and if you want to take a gondola ride it will cost you your first born child. It’s worth it. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s a little cheesy. But it’s also romantic, and a great way to see the city from a new perspective and find small canals that you otherwise would have missed. We went at sunset, and it was drizzling which I though might put a damper on things (pun intended). But no worries, our Gondolier was prepared with a large umbrella to keep us dry, and 15 minutes in the drizzle stopped. I really was sad when the ride was over! It was just so beautiful, and I always find being on the water is peaceful. Bottom line– When in Venice, consider a gondola ride.

Go Gondola!

3. Experiencing the city at sunrise.
With jet lag creeping in, we found ourselves wide awake before the swarm of cruise ship tourists showed up. We decided to explore St. Mark’s square and the Rialto bridge while it was still quiet. This was a smart move, as we had this magical place all to ourselves. We had fun doing a self-guided tour and taking pictures, not having to worry about anyone bumping into you and photobombing the shot. We also felt like we experienced “true” Venice, where locals were setting up shop, Gondeliers were cleaning their gondolas in anticipation of a busy day, and the streets were essentially desolate.

I don’t know if our future travels will bring us back to this wonderful place, so I’m glad we got to experience it before it is no longer.

A Slice of Paradise

I frequently get asked by friends where my favorite place I traveled to has been. I would first like to say that this is an almost impossible question to answer. Every place is different, and every destination has special memories attached to it. Just being immersed in a new culture is an enjoyable experience for me.

However, there are a few places that I revisit time and time again in my mind and think, “Wow, that was just an incredible day.” One of those places that keep creeping up would be a tiny Greek Island named Mykonos. Well known enough to get plenty of traffic during peak season, yet not quite as touristy as the famed island of Santorini, Mykonos packs plenty of charm on its own. The island still boasts the iconic white stucco houses with bright blue trim, yet feels quaint enough to stay for a while (or forever).

We unfortunately only had one day in Mykonos and it was certainly not enough. It’s easy to fall privy to the laid back lifestyle of the locals and the pristine beaches that make you want to prop your feet up, read a good book, and never leave. It’s also easy to find some adventure of the island if you are a thrill seeker. We were lucky enough to do both.

When we arrived in Mykonos we had not a clue as to how we would spend the day. I had read in a guide book that renting an ATV is an option and when I saw those fun hills with stellar views of the Mediterranean, I know we couldn’t resist. 35 USD will get ya a full day on an ATV with a tiny map to explore at your heart’s desire. And if you lose your map, well, you’re on an Island so how lost can you truly get? Robert and I took turns driving at first but then I let him take over because 1) he might be a better driver than I (though I’m never admitting that to him) and 2) it was way more fun to be in the back taking pictures and swooning over those incredible views!

We had an amazing day riding all over, up and down hills, along the crystal blue water, past beautiful houses and  pit-stopping at amazing beaches. And, we only got stuck on a hill once. This resulted in me having to PUSH, yes push, the stupid ATV up the hill. While somewhat scared that it might come rolling back down on me and I would be one with the fishies of the sea, it gave me a great story. And, the way I look at it, if I’m gonna have to do manual labor while on vacation, it might as well be in paradise 🙂

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The Brats Tour

If it were up to my husband, our entire trip would have been a food tour of northern Europe (oh wait, that’s basically what it was). I know that when he’s snuggled up next to me sound asleep he’s dreaming sweet dreams of him and Anthony Bourdain being best buds and eating and drinking their way around the world. While we were in Germany he took on what we now refer to as the Brats Challenge. This challenge consists of eating as many local bratwurst as possible within a few hours. He did pretty good, putting down 4 in the matter of a 4 hours. This was all fun and games until we had an hour and half ride back to our port, in a cramped, crowded, smelly, warm train. I’m pretty sure he was regretting his decision of indulgence when his stomach starting digesting all that meat and it had nowhere to go…. 

I truly thought he joking when he nonchalantly stated that he was going to eat as many bratwurts as possible until either 1) we ran our of euros or 2) he physically could not eat any more. I was very happy that I was able to purchase an adorable scarf before he started buying sausages with our dwindling cash flow (most of those hole-in-the-wall stands don’t take plastic). I did indulge with him and tried local specialty: curried brats. It had an interesting flavor, but I think Robert enjoyed it more than I did. 

We spent half of the day touring Rostock, an adorable industrial german town boasting a cathedral that houses an awesome astronomical clock. I love clocks, especially astronomical ones…. They are so cool! We then took the train to the historic town of Schwerin, where my fairytale castle lives (I talked about it in an earlier post). We did some shopping, eating, and exploring before we headed back to Rostock, where our ship was docked.

Here are some random pictures from our day in Germany:

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By the end of the day, he was so stuffed that we had to relax (i.e. take short nap in grass) at a park before we could continue. Ah, the perks of married life. 

xoxo Kaylee

 

 

Sunburned in Finland

In my honest opinion, two of the three above words should not go in the same sentence. Finland is so far north, so far away from the equator, that it seems virtually impossible to get a sunburn in that country. Leave it up to my fairer-than-fair skin to attract all the sunlight. At the end of the day we started telling folks that we brought the sunshine from Florida.

Our (ironically) sunny day spent in Helsinki, Finland was quite fun actually. I know many people do not have any interest in visiting this city, but I’ll be the first to them they are missing out on a fantastic city filled with culture and style. We began our day by catching the tram into the city. This was quite the undertaking as we do not speak nor read Finnish and that was basically all we had to go off of. We somehow managed to buy a ticket and find our way on the right tram (nothing short of a miracle!). 

We made it into the city center and took a stroll down Esplanadi, a great street filled with fun shops and restaurants. Can I just say that 1) Finnish people are beautiful and 2) They have some outrageously fantastic styles. We didn’t get to spend much time in the design district, but from what I could see it was pretty nifty. After walking for what seemed like 98 miles, we grabbed some coffee and decided to pretend to be Finnish by sitting on a bench at a busy park and people-watching. We watched confused tourists walk by and we pretended like we knew it all. Had them fooled… 

The majority of our day we spent exploring the lovely and intriguing Suomenlinna, an inhabited sea fortress. The island has a lot of interesting history behind it that I won’t bore you with because I realize not everyone really cares about history as much as I do. However, I will tell you that we did somehow get lost on this Island. It was hot. Our bag was heavy. My feet were so over cobblestone at this point that I seriously debated cutting my own feet off so I could get wheeled back into the city. I felt like Piggy from Lord of the Flies. I was hoping that my next move was not to kill my beloved husband (just kidding). At one point we just plopped ourselves down on the ground and laughed our heads off, mainly because we were lost on an old Finnish sea fortress on our honeymoon and the only real thing we could do at that point was to laugh hysterically. I have never felt so sweaty and exhausted yet free and beautiful all at the same time. It was awesome. 

Here are some of my favorite Helsinki pics:

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The Trip of a Lifetime

We decided to go all out for our honeymoon. We did, in fact, pick the date of our wedding AFTER we picked the dates for our trip. We knew we wanted to do a lot of traveling in a relatively short amount of time, and we knew we wanted to see Russia sometime in our lifetime. A cruise through the Baltic Sea seemed perfect. We saved a lot. We researched a lot. We did a lot to make this dream happen. At times I thought we were crazy to plan such a big trip in the midst of so many life-altering events. We probably were a bit insane, but we did have the most incredible time on this vacation.

In all, we were gone for 19 days and traveled through 7 different countries. We went through so many different time zones and traveled through so many different cities in such a short amount of times. We met so many fun and kind people from all over the world. This trip ignited our love for traveling and experiencing different cultures. Our only complaint was that we could not stay longer! Ah well, I guess it’s just an excuse to go back.

Over the course of the trip I kept a hand-written journal about our adventures. Let me tell ya folks, this was WORK. The last thing I wanted to do after walking 10 miles on cobblestone and drinking a glass (or 2) of wine was write down what we did. It seemed mundane at the time, so unnecessary. I thought “how could I ever forget these incredible cities and the things we did?” Well, in the end I am SO glad I slaved away at writing that journal because while I may never forget the names of the cities I visited I will forget all the little details that made our time there so remarkable. It’s the little things, that’s what I’ve learned.

So, because I have this nifty little journal, I can now easily blog about all the cities we explored and the things we did. Today I’ll share some of my favorite memories from the trip, and then I’ll make individual posts for the majority of the cities.

 

One day we spent the morning exploring the German countryside and then we went to Schwerin Castle, a Disney-like fairytale princess castle. The exterior and the gardens surrounding the castle were truly breathtaking. We even saw a couple taking wedding pictures there (Jealous!). The inside was less than princess-like, and we did get lost trying to get out of the darn place. For a hot second I felt more like a damsel in distress wandering around the halls and sweating through my skinny jeans than a princess.

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In Helsinki, Finland we went to the Old Market Square and scoped out a local treat, reindeer. While I did have some remorse eating Santa’s travel team, I must say that Rudolph tasted delicious. Yep, I’d eat him again. Below are the smoked reindeer balls that we gobbled up.ImageThis is called the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. It’s located in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, and I regret that the pictures I took just don’t do it justice.ImageOur favorite city, Tallinn, is located in the small country of Estonia. Never heard of it? Yep, we hadn’t either. Once we visited it though we agreed that this is one the world’s best hidden secrets. The town is such a beauty, and the people there are incredibly kind and welcoming. We love you, Tallinn.ImageOur day in Amsterdam was spent exploring the Anne Frank museum (no pictures allowed) and almost getting killed by cyclists. If you’re ever craving a near death experience by simply just walking on pedestrian streets I recommend you check out Amsterdam. ImageWanting a short detour from exploring busy cities, we found ourselves wandering the estate of Leed’s Castle. For a moment I thought I was living in Downton Abbey and was waiting on the Crawley family to invite me over for tea. While that didn’t happen, it did not stop me from at least pretending I was an aristocrat living during the turn-of-the-century. ImageWhile in London, we found Tower Bridge, which we immediately mistook for London Bridge. After taken a bajillion photos and singing “London Bridge is Falling Down” we were disappointed to discover this was not the actual London Bridge of our favorite childhood song. The actual “London Bridge” is pretty unremarkable, so we decided to just keep the photos of Tower Bridge and appreciate those instead.ImageMore pictures to come!

xoxo Kaylee