About three weeks ago, I embarked on a journey (with my absolute favorite person/adventure buddy/life partner, Dan) and got to experience a little bit of three wonderful countries and cities.
ROME, ITALY (& BONUS: ALMAFI COAST)
I say experience because that's what it was -- an unforgettable, dreamy experience. To be honest, I'm still in a little disbelief that it all actually happened. This was my first time traveling overseas, and Europe was always at the top of my list. I've always dreamt of going to various parts of Europe (as I'm sure a lot of people have) -- including France and Italy.
My parents have been all over and they tend to visit different parts of Europe atleast once a year it seems (they actually just got back from Germany, Austria, and Hungary!) and my big brother -- who works for NASA -- has been all over as well, for leisure and a little work (France, Greece, Germany, India). My opportunity to finally go abroad (I've only ever been to different parts of Mexico), had finally come.
It all really was a dream come true.
We only took carry on bags (I couldn't believe we were actually able to pull this off -- but we did)! We really wanted to keep it light and small, especially because of all of the flying and travel between countries we were going to be doing as well! Dan also brought his Nikon camera that we both used and multiple cards for us. (However, all of my photos posted here are with my iPhone!)
So we packed our carry ons and the camera and headed to--
We decided to drop in and see Copenhagen first -- the capital of Denmark!
Celebrated as having the "happiest people in the world" ...I knew this was a place I had to see first hand. The picture perfect, colorful array of buildings on every street ...all lined up and so quaint, immediately caught my interest as well. So when the time came to pick a starting city, I knew Copenhagen had to be the one! I'm so glad it was our starting point (and ending point) for our European Holiday. I remember telling Dan that this was probably going to be the most American and modern part of our trip -- and I think I was right.
Right when we landed after flying for about twelve hours -- (from LAX and connecting, well...more like running to catch the flight at JFK) -- we got us some iced lattes from a Danish bakery, Lagkagehuset. This would be one of a handful of iced coffee drinks I would have -- Europe loves their hot coffee drinks, and let me tell you, I do too now! Ha! Who would of thought I'd fall in love with hot coffee/espreso drinks! :)
We then got our train tickets and immediately headed into town to the city centre.
We dropped our bags off at our hotel and we got on with exploring...right away. There are so many things in walking distance in Copenhagen. We actually walked quite a lot in all three cities. I knew from the jump that this vacation was going to be pretty "non-stop" for the most part. I wanted to make sure we really utilized our time well, while also making sure to rest up too.
Copenhagen is a great mix of the old and the new -- it's got the old school historic charm but is also very modern, which I think Dan and I both really appreciated and loved about it! Also, English is spoken by pretty much everyone! :) We didn't encounter any language barrier issues the entire trip! And if someone came up to me and started speaking Danish, I just hit them with the "Hi!" and they knew to switch over to English for me. :)
In Copenhagen, we both immediately became obsessed with the architecture, the captivating colors, all of the bikes EVERYWHERE, the insane quietness and everything in between.
The Danes, at least in Copenhagen, love bicycling. It's a very bicycle friendly city, which they highly encourage. We would have loved to go cycling while we were there (cycling is one of our most favorite things to do), but it rained quite frequently during our time there, unfortunately. However, I enjoyed seeing all of the Copenhageners riding their bikes, despite the rain! :) Also, I was a little taken aback by the quietness at first. The Danish folk are pretty quiet people. I caught myself laughing at something or just talking and hearing my voice echo because of how quiet it was outside! :) I also enjoyed going to their various bookstores, which were often coupled with a coffee shop! :)
We passed by the beautiful Tivoli Gardens (the second oldest operating amusement park in the world) and caught their fireworks display one night!! So fun! King's Garden and the Rosenborg Castle were absolutely dreamy -- and my favorite part!! The trees lining the walkway stole my heart (see my photo above). I'm a sucker for trees y'all! And it was fun to walk around the castle and its grounds! I kept telling Dan that he was "the King in the North!" (Lol! Game of Thrones reference!)
Another one of my favorite spots, and a must see in Copenhagen, was Nyhavn -- the 17th century waterfront! Great restaurants lined the waterfront, along with -- once again -- the colorful buildings. I mean, they're everywhere, no wonder people are "happy" here. So much color and a very fairytale like ambience!
After a couple of days taking in some of the highlights of Copenhagen and sipping on more coffee and eating at different local spots...we hopped on another plane to--
Oh Paris. You have my heart. Literally.
I started missing this beautiful city as soon as we left. It's a little hard to explain the feeling to be honest. It's magical there, and the magic hits you hard. I felt a connection from the very beginning.
Once we landed in the capital of France, we figured out our train route and got on our train into the city. We stayed in the 5th arrondissement near the Seine river (the city is divided up into twenty arrondissements, which are like administrative districts). Our place was in a lively area but it never got too noisey - and it was in a prime spot! I highly recommend staying in that area!
We took a stroll around the neighborhood and stumbled upon the Jardin des Plantes (my favorite garden that we visited -- I talk more about that in a little bit)! We took a walk around it and spent some time there.
And then, as you might have guessed, we went and saw the Eiffel Tower!!
I knew I wanted us to go see the Eiffel Tower right away. So we got a quick bite and got back on the train and it took us right to the Eiffel Tower -- in the 7th arrondissement. We walked up out of the train station exit and--
Boom! There she was, in all her beauty ...in all her glory. The monument I've seen on television, in movies, in books.
The Tour de Eiffel, right there in front of me.
I couldn't believe it. So naturally, I got all teary-eyed. My eyes legit shed a tear. Ha!
I know that it's just a "structure" ...but it represented more, to me. It represented that I was actually in this city -- this city I've always wanted to visit, ever since taking French classes back in elementary school. The city that exudes love and magic. I was here.
I was there.
We, of course, started taking photos and a nice couple (Americans as well) took a photo of me and Dan together! We also stayed a bit and took it all in -- and as the sun creeped away and nighttime started to fall -- she LIT UP!
Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle.
And I caught myself gasping, again, and getting all giddy like a little kid. It was magic!
The Eiffel Tower twinkles during the first five minutes of each hour on the hour, at night. I knew she lit up, but I didn't know this fact until afterwards. What an incredible vision to see, right up there at the base of it! We looked on and absorbed it -- and we both got some video and photos too.
We both left smiling -- hard. What a night!
The next few days were filled with lots and lots of coffee, espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, croissants (the best, and I mean the BEST croissants I've ever tasted), and baguettes and some yummy meats -- and enjoying "coffee time" ...which is all the time really! The Parisians know how to do it! :)
One of our favorite things to do is to visit museums. We love art! So, of course, we went to the incredible...and I mean INCREDIBLE, Louvre Museum -- the largest museum in the world!! Oh yeah, it also is the home to one of the most famous paintings ever, Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci! The museum is incredibly huge (did I say incredible already) and would take days and days to go through it all. We had great times in there for sure, learning and taking in all of the art!
We also visitied the Notrê Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Palais Royal -- and had some fun on our cruise down the Seine river, while learning some Paris history!
Paris coffee shops.
We found a nice coffee shop across the street from where we were staying which had incredible pastries and espresso! Also, while visiting the 1st arrondissement and going to Palais Royal, we had some "resting/coffee time" at a place a friend recommended, Café Kitsuné. I got a mocha latte and Dan got a chai latte! We sat and sipped in the Jardin du Palais Royal -- so we basically sipped coffee at a palace built in 1628! :) So perfect and relaxing!
While leaving the Notrê Dame, we stumbled upon my favorite coffee shop, the Shakespeare and Company Café! It's right across the street and is located right next to its partner, The Shakespeare Company bookstore! We went into the bookstore first! Whoa! Love love love! I'm a sucker for a cute bookstore and this one was right up my alley! Loved it! I bought a classic poem book and we went next door to get us a cup of joe!
I walked in and knew, "This is where I'm meant to be!" Haha!
We were greeted with a real life snapshot of local Parisians reading their "book of the day" while sipping on their favorite drinks! If I lived in Paris, I'm sure I would be just like one of them -- reading a book, sipping on my coffee, looking out of the window (and seeing the Notrê Dame). I mean, c'mon now! Wow!
Dan and I sat and enjoyed our cups of joe! We mostly drank hot coffee and espresso drinks while in Europe (the Europe way -- as mentioned earlier), but I loved being able to try the way the Parisians make their iced coffee and espresso drinks (which you know is my favorite way to drink coffee!) at the Shakespeare and Company Café and at Café Kitsuné! Both so yummy!!
The Parisians love leisure time at their gardens! I loved visiting and seeing all of the Parisians hanging out in the middle of the day at a coffee shop or at one of their beautiful gardens. My favorite one is probably Jardin des Plantes. It was the one right by the place we were staying at and it was breathtakingly beautiful -- so many colorful flowers everywhere! I'm obsessed with flowers by the way, so this was too perfect for me. Jardin du Luxembourg was also a favorite of mine -- and so gorgeous and had a fountain that children utilized for their little sailboats!
I also enjoyed hanging out at the Jardin des Tuileries, right outside of the Louvre Museum and the Jardin du Palais Royal (that's where Café Kitsuné is located)!
We took the train almost everywhere in Paris. If there's anything I would have done better with the planning of the overall trip, it would have been to thoroughly plan out our train routes lol! I love how there are train stops near all of the monumental areas. We still did our fair share of walking, but the train helped out a lot! At first, the train station can be a bit confusing (the signs drove us a little crazy -- and not because they were in French haha) -- but we figured it out and became semi-pros, somewhat, by the end of it! ;)
Also, one thing I do have to mention is the witnessing and seeing all of the military men and police everywhere. I remember being a little nervous going to Paris because of everything that's going on in the world right now. But I immediately blocked that out of my mine, because you can't live with that mindset. I can't control what I can't control. So I tried to release those nerves and thoughts of fear from my mind. But all in all, there are reminders.
It's a pretty crazy thing to see military men patrolling -- all of the time. In small groups...almost on every corner we went to and every main street we were on....there they were. It's crazy to see them carrying their guns, strapped to their bodies, hand on the trigger, ready. It's a pretty intense thing to witness. You can never really get "used to it" I don't think, but we started "expecting" them. We knew to expect them, especially in monumental areas.
So that was pretty crazy -- but we didn't let that hinder our experience and amazing and lovely time spent in the City of Love!
There is so much to see and do in Paris, and we couldn't do or see it all -- but I'm immensely happy with all that we go to do and see and experience during the time we were there! I even got to speak a little French while I was there, which made me so happy!
I WILL be back Paris. Until then, keep being magical!
Paris, je t'aime!
After Paris, we hopped on another flight and headed to--
Ah Roma! You are beautiful and full of wonder!
We flew along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea before landing in the capital of Italy! We started our little Roman Holiday right when we stepped off of the plane. We were on full throttle for the most part!
Once again, when we got to our destination, we hopped on a train (trains are so convenient and accessible in Europe) and we headed to our neighborhood, Trastevere! :)
I found out about this 'hood through another blogger who had just recently visited there! I looked it up beforehand and knew this was the right area and spot for me and Dan to stay in while in Rome. So after about a thirty minute train ride from the airport and a three minute bus ride, we landed in Trastevere. It's on the westbank of the Tiber river (Trastevere actually means "beyond the Tiber" in Latin). What a fun, hip, bohemian little 'burb! There was so much to do and see just in this part of town alone, including numerous fountains. We loved it!
We dropped our bags off and headed right across the street to a local café! We got a quick bite to eat and I ordered my first cup of joe in Rome here. It was a latte of course, but oh my goodness, it was so delicious. I still remember what it tasted like! Ha! Afterwards, we jumped right into it -- walking and exploring our 'hood. We found all sorts of picture perfect restaurants and people walking about and street artists playing music! (Ugh, take me back!!) Again, the architecture here and in the historic center part of the city are incredible. The colors, the tree vines along the sides, ah man! :) :)
We then walked across the Tiber river into the main part of the city and toward the historic center. Rome's history spans more than 2500 years -- so much history to see and oh what a sight it all was! It literally felt like everywhere we walked and went, there was something to photograph! Every street looked like a real life post card or a page out of a history book -- so Dan and I, being the photography enthusiasts that we are, started snapping. We didn't want to photograph too much, however -- we really wanted to just enjoy our moments, be present. But when something is too magnificent (can I use this word lol?) then you have to snap a photo of it! ;)
Our first day was spent mostly walking around, discovering hidden gems in the city and going to the famous Fontana di Trevi (the Trevi Fountain)! There are thousands of fountains in Rome, but this is by far the most famous one. We accidently went at a time when there were lots and lots of tourists, but it was still a breathtakingly, engrossing fountain to see in person. We also tried our first pizza (first of many!) at a little pizza place near the Trevi. Oh Roma, you know how to make a great pizza!
That night we ate at a restaurant in our neighborhood. We sat outside in the middle of this square and sipped on wine and I got my first taste of spaghetti. I'm a huge fan of spaghetti so I was the most excited about this part (Dan loves penne pasta and ate that the most while in Italy). :) It didn't disappoint!! I savored every noodle and it was so good (I ate so much spaghetti in Rome)! And the gelato -- the best there is!!
We quickly noticed in Rome that they really take their dinners seriously. We sat and ate and chatted for a couple of hours at almost every dinner. At every place we ate at, the restaurant staff members never rushed us -- it was like they wanted us to stay and just hang out and eat for hours lol! I loved it!! (We both wished the portion sizes were a bit bigger though! Ha!)
Also at night, our neighborhood came (even more) alive! We caught certain areas where the older generation hung out, parts where the young adults all gathered and fellowshiped and of course sipped on the vino, and we also spotted the younger crowd. Trastevere offered a lot for everyone!
Over the next few days, we visited the infamous Colosseum (jaw dropping really), the Pantheon, the Capital building, a lot of the piazza's including our absolute favorite (and where we had Dan's birthday lunch) the Piazza Navona and the vibrant music all around, the Spanish Steps, more fountains including the tucked away Fontana dell'Acqua Paola that we found on our side of the river (that also had breathtaking views of the city), Vatican City & Museum, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel (seeing Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" took my breath away!!), getting coffee at Antico Caffé Greco (the oldest café in Rome, establised in 1760!) -- we loved this café and its location near all of the fancy shops, and walked and walked and walked and saw everything in between! We shopped a little too! So much fun!
Also, I mostly noticed this in Italy, they have this thing they do where people go up to the bar and order their espresso (caffè) or a latte and they stand and drink it right there. So we'd constantly see men and women in their suits or dressed up for work, standing at a bar top and gulping down their espresso. There were "service charges" to sit and dine in at certain places, and maybe that might have something to do with the "standing only" bar option....but it was a fun thing to see. Of course, Dan and I participated in that as well, especially when we didn't have any other option but to do so! Ha!
That Walk Life.
As mentioned earlier, it was important to make sure we got some rest and some time to sit and relax ...or even take a little nap -- because we were going non-stop! The resting came into play in Paris and for sure in Rome. We walked everywhere in Rome. We only used the railway bus maybe twice. We made sure to get our little naps in when we could -- which I highly suggest doing while overseas.
My most favorite part about Rome were the magic moments found while just wandering around, which we did a lot, talking with the Italians, and just discovering (and dinnertime as well)! :) Dan is a great navigator...and really helped us a lot to get around and what not. For instance, we walked all the way to the Vatican from our neighborhood (about a forty minute walk) -- and we didn't have any issues or problems getting there. Also, it didn't feel long at all! Walking with Dan and spending that time with him, in the middle of such a historic part of the world, and seeing all the beauty around us, was such a blessing. Everything else was in a pretty reasonable walking distance. The guy who was in charge of the place we were staying at told us right away that we should "walk everywhere"...and he was right!
I'm in love with the cobblestones and cobbled lanes -- and small alleyways. Every single one we looked down had something special about it. Rome was a lot to take in (I'm still processing everything) and the feeling of being there is a little hard to explain, but those who have been know the feeling -- and for those of you who haven't gone yet, I hope you get to experience all the wonder that is Rome. (Also, just like Paris, there were military men and convoys at the main historical sites -- protecting, watching. It wasn't as many of them like in Paris, but still -- very present.)
What an incredible, vibrant, lively, beautiful city. I've always wanted to go to Italy for as long as I can remember -- and once again, there wasn't any real language barrier issues at all. Everyone was kind enough to speak English for us and we even spoke the very limited amount of Italian we knew a couple of times!
I'm glad my first experinece in this country was visiting Rome. I hope to return soon to visit Florence and Venice -- and maybe even Lake Como!
A little bonus adventure we had during our time in Italy was taking a nice two hour train ride to Salerno and then an incredible boat ride along the coast to Almafi, Italy!!
Oh my goodness!!!! What an enchanting, dreamy, gorgeous boat ride, beach, and town! We had a great time exploring this little beach town, dipping our feet into the sea -- and taking in their picturesque houses on the edges of the hills and cliffs and seeing all of their retro umbrellas! :) The sweeping sea views were captivating! So gorgeous there!
After drinking all of the coffee, indulging in the gelato....eating all of the spaghetti and pizza while sipping wine (beer for Dan) -- we headed back to Copenhagen to finish up our European Holiday!
OVERVIEW AND TAKEAWAYS.
- I wasn't sure how I'd do on a long flight -- our longest one was coming back to the States and clocked in a little over ten hours! Whoa! Talk about a long flight, but I did it! I wasn't as restless as I thought I'd be -- the Game of Thrones score really helped me though! Oh man, I listened to it so much -- and of course watched some movies! But right when we got back home, we were knocked out for a good thirteen hours (no exaggeration)! Jet lag is real y'all!
- Also, I'm never taking free water for granted ever again. I've always been pretty conscious about it, especially since it's what I drink the most often, but I'm even more aware now. It was extremely common to have to pay for water at pretty much every restaurant or eatery we went to and water is all I drink (besides coffee of course and some vino here and there)! So you can imagine my surprise when every place wanted to charge us for water. Ah man, I'm never EVER taking having free water any and everywhere...here in the States... for granted again.
- People keep asking me what my favorite part about our trip was and which one was my favorite city. It's so hard for me to answer this question, because each city left its own little stamp on me -- I took something special away from all three places. But if I must say something, if I absolutely must pick ....I think I choose Paris. Like I mentioned earlier, I had a "Oh Paris, I miss you" moment as soon as we were on our flight to Rome. I think we definitely needed more time there and that may be why I felt that way, but it truly is a special place. Also, I believe the nicest people we met were in Paris. All three cities -- Copenhagen, Paris, and Rome -- were everything I hoped they would be and more.
- I was a little bit nervous about the racism factor overseas. I'm, of course, a black woman and my partner Dan is white. So I wasn't sure how we would be treated as a couple (and individually), but we didn't run into any issues (or at least we weren't aware of any), thank goodness. Also, I gotta point this out, I was extremely, extremely surprised and delighted to see all of the beautiful black people we saw in Paris -- and if you're a minority, you know what I mean and how I must have felt. Wow, it was so beautiful and great to see!
- This being my first time traveling overseas and putting together my first big trip as an adult, I gotta say I'm pretty proud of myself -- and I'm immensely grateful that we had safe travels to and from all of the places we visited.
- I hope this is the first of many more big adventures -- praying for what's going on overseas and at home -- and praying for clarity, guidance, patience.
I'm hoping you too are able to experience different parts of the world -- and to keep experiencing them. There's so much to see and do. When you get a chance, take it!
Oh, what a life.