Europe Recap Part 5 – Mykonos & Santorini

This is the last of my Europe recaps. Sadly, we had to come home at some point! If you missed my previous recaps check them out here:

Lisbon, Madrid & Venice

Florence, Pisa & Cinque Terre

Rome & Athens

Mainland Greece

After mainland Greece, Tom and I headed off to the island of Mykonos. After a busy trip, ending with some relaxation on the Greek Islands was definitely the way to go. When our ferry pulled up to Mykonos, I was a little surprised. Compared to the lush mainland, the island of Mykonos is quite barren and desert like. However, the town is absolutely gorgeous. The white houses with blue trim is striking! We pulled up to our apartment we were staying at and I thought I might never leave.

mykonos

Our apartment actually seemed to be a very popular picture spot. I think Tom & I ended up in a lot of tourists photos as we were coming and going.

Mykonos is well-known for 2 things…beaches and partying. Check and check!

mykonos

I even found a Sephora in the small town of Mykonos, that’s when I officially decided I could move there.

sephora mykonos

Mykonos also had some gorgeous sites like the windmills & “little venice”

mykonos

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After two days in Mykonos we moved onto the island of Santorini. Santorini has been my dream place to visit for as long as I can remember. I was not disappointed!

The first night we got there we had a sunset dinner right along the Caldera overlooking the volcano. The view was outstanding the food however was meh. In Santorini you either have good food or food with a view.

santorini

The next morning we got up bright and early so we could hike from the town of Fira, where we stayed, to Oia. The hike took a little over 2 hours and was beautiful. You get incredible views the entire time and get to see some great little churches along the way. The island of Santorini has over 250 churches with many of them built in the most difficult to reach places – up steep hills, in the middle of cliffs, etc. No matter where you go, you are never far from a church.

santorini

santorini

Once we reached Oia, my dreams of Santorini came true. This is the most beautiful town imaginable.

santorini

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After Tom dragged me away from Oia and my paparazzi picture taking, we headed back to Fira where we took a tour to the volcano. We learnt about the volcanic history of Santorini and the formation of the Caldera. Afterwards we went to a natural hot springs formed from the volcano. It’s in the middle of the sea and the hot spring water mixes with the sea water so there are pockets of hot and cold. It is full of sulfur from the volcano, it didn’t smell but the water was brown.

santorini hot springs

After our tour, we decided to opt out of the roughly 600 steps to get back up to the town and went for an old-fashioned donkey ride. The donkeys just do their own thing. They stop when they feel like it and then they will take off and try to pass the other donkeys. You just hold on for the ride.

 

santorini donkey ride

That night we checked out a local bar called Two Brothers. We stumbled upon it and ended up having the best time. It was a tiny bar but by the end of the night the place got packed. They had some interesting specialty drinks including one where you took a shot of ouzo while wearing a helmet and the bartender would whack your head with a bat. Sound like a good idea? I didn’t think so either, but Tom did! Boys…

santorini two brothers

 

The next day we rented an ATV to cruise around the island and check out the sites.

santorini ATV

We drove around looking at smaller towns, the light house and then headed for the beach. Santorini has a red sand beach and a black sand beach. They are both really unique. We didn’t stay long at Red Beach, it’s really beautiful but it’s pretty small and didn’t have much to offer. We spent our day relaxing at the black beach of Perissa.

red beach santorini

After a day of beaching we went to Santo Winery for some wine tasting. We got the most incredible wine tasting that included a flight of 12 wines with some delicious local snacks. The winery was gorgeous with incredible views. Sipping on 12 wines while overlooking the sea wasn’t too shabby. Even better, Tom had to drive the ATV so more wine for me!

santo wine winery

That night we drove to Oia for the famous sunset. Tom wasn’t too interested in going because we heard the crowds were pretty big and he figured the sunset would be the same as we saw in Fira. But I insisted we go and see, otherwise I would always wonder if I missed out on something. So was it worth it?

oia sunset

It was gorgeous. Although, truthfully the crowds do take away from the experience. I really tried to embrace the experience though, I took a few pictures then I just put down my camera, blocked out the crowds and truly enjoyed the experience. I found it the perfect end to our holiday. I sat there thinking about our trip and was so grateful for my life and the opportunity to travel and see these gorgeous places.

The next morning we were hopping a flight from Santorini to Athens, Athens to London, and then finally London to Calgary. We got home around 8 p.m. which was 5 a.m. Athens time. We got a little bit of sleep before we both headed off for work the next morning. Ugh, worst decision ever. I was a complete zombie the first day back at work.

Overall, the greek islands live up to the fame and hype. They are simply incredible. If you have ever thought about going there, make it a priority. If you have never thought about going, start thinking about it now!

If you have any questions about my trip or are planning a trip of your own and want some advice – feel free to ask!

 

The Hump Day Blog Hop

Europe Recap – Part 4 – Mainland Greece

I have two more Europe Recaps for you. I know some people are thinking thank goodness, I am so sick of this girl’s vacation! But I hope some other people are sad and wanting to see more pretty pictures because I have a bunch in store for you today!

If you missed my previous Europe Reaps check them out:

Lisbon, Madrid & Venice

Florence, Pisa & Cinque Terre

Rome & Athens

For mainland Greece Tom and I decided to book a bus tour. Greece is not nearly as easy to get around by trains. With my less than stellar navigating skills, driving can become stressful very quickly. So in order to save our vacation and marriage we opted for the bus. The great thing about the bus trip was that we had a guide. I highly recommend this if you are going to be visiting ancient Greece. I find that after a while of visiting ruins they start to look alike, having a guide there to explain everything was so worth it.

After leaving Athens our first pit-stop was at the Corinth Canal.

corinth canal greece

Next stop was the ancient town, Mycenae. This is one of the oldest ancient Greek civilizations dating back to 1600 BC. This place made the Roman Forum look brand new! The ruins that remain there are very minimal except one, the lion gate which was the entrance to the city.

mycenae greece

After Mycenae we headed to Epidaurus which has the most well-preserved amphitheatre. This place is 2500 years old and still hosts theatre performances. I wish we had got a chance to see that! The acoustics in this place were incredible. If you were standing at the very top you could hear every word someone talking in a conversation voice was saying on the stage.

epidaurus theatre greece

 

The next day we were off to Olympia. I loved this stop. It was so cool to see the origins of the Olympics, which dates back to 776 BC and the museum there was phenomenal.

It was funny to learn that not a whole lot has changed in thousands of years. Athletes learnt that taking certain herbs helped enhance their performance. This was considered cheating and in order to stop this, they had to submit a pee sample. The pee was smelt in order to determine if the athlete had been taking any herbs. If athletes were caught cheating their names were carved in the stone walls that led to the Olympic stadium. These carvings are still there today, talk about the ultimate punishment.

My favourite part of the day was running a lap in the Olympic Stadium. It is one of those life moments that I’ll never forget.

olympia stadium greece

FYI – that is supposed to be me celebrating crossing the finish line, I don’t just run with my hands up in the air…

After our run, Tom and I graciously accepted our place on the podium where victors were crowned with olive wreaths.

olympia greece

On top of that podium used to be a statue of Nike, the goddess of victory. We got a chance to see the statue later in the museum.


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The next day we were in Delphi. We started the morning off with an early morning hike. Tom was less than impressed when I said I wanted to set my alarm for 6 am to go hiking. But it was a gorgeous hike through the Greek mountains where we got to overlook the ruins of Delphi, well worth the early morning wake up call.

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After the hike we headed off with our group to tour Delphi. Delphi was believed to be the centre of the earth. This is where, in the Temple of Apollo, the oracle was. Greeks would come from all around to ask the oracle questions as it was believed they could speak directly with the gods.

I found being in Delphi such an incredible experience. This is the place of Greek mythology.

delphi

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Our last day on the bus trip we headed way north to Meteora. Meteora means suspended in air which is entirely fitting for a place where monasteries are built on the top of sandstone pillars. This area of Greece is absolutely beautiful and then the monasteries just make it incredible.

meteora

There were 24 monasteries but today only 6 remain. In this picture, you can see 4 of them.

meteora monasteries

We visited 2 of the monasteries, where I was given a very fashionalble skirt to wear.

meterora

You couldn’t take pictures in the monasteries but these are still functioning places of worship where nuns and monks live.

After Meteora we took a very LONG bus ride back to Athens. We stayed at the port because we had a early morning ferry the next day.

Overall, I loved seeing mainland Greece. I think a lot of tourists skip over this part and go straight to the islands which I think is a big mistake. While the tour did involve a lot of driving, seeing these ancient sites was incredible. It’s so humbling to think of how old these places are and the civilizations that came before you.

Tomorrow I’ll share my final recap of the Greek Islands, which are incredibly beautiful so you don’t want to miss that recap!

 

Europe Recap Part 3 – Rome and Athens

Hello and Happy Monday. I don’t know what happened on Friday but my scheduled post didn’t go out. So here it is today! I’m continuing with my European recaps. If you missed my previous ones check them out:

Lisbon, Madrid & Venice

Florence, Pisa & Cinque Terre

The morning we were leaving the Cinque Terre we had to take a train to Le Spezzia in order to catch our train which we had a reservation to in Rome. Unfortunately, Italy tends to run on their own time. And we heard the first announcement that our train was 10 minutes delayed, then 15 minutes delayed. Tom and I started panicking because we only had about 12 minutes between the time we were supposed to arrive to the time our Rome train departed. Once we arrived in La Spezzia we ran with our backpacks on – Amazing Race style – to see if we could make our train. Luckily, like I said, Italy runs on their own time and that train was also delayed.

When we got to Rome we headed right out to do some sightseeing. We started at the Roman Forum, which is incredible. This was the centre of the roman empire for so long. It’s kind of humbling standing in a place that’s thousands of years old.

roman forum

roman forum

After the forum, we headed to the Trevi Fountain where we threw in coins as our promise to return to Rome. It worked for me last time! I returned 5 years later…with the same hairdo…embarrassing.

trevi fountain rome

 

Next up…the spanish steps. Holy tourists! There were just so many people here and truly I didn’t see the appeal but still took the obligatory picture.

trevi fountain

The next day we started out early as we had booked a tour for the Vatican that started before the Vatican opened to the public. I have been to the Vatican before but last time I felt like I just walked through and saw some pretty art but didn’t understand. Booking the tour was SOOO worth it, it was incredibly interesting.

vatican

vatican

After the Vatican we headed to the Pantheon…not to be confused with the Parthenon like Tom did. Wrong country!

parthenon

Next we headed to the Leonardo DaVinci museum where we got to see the brilliance of Da Vinci. His inventions and knowledge in so many different fields is just unreal. Did you know he was the person to invent the 360 mirror…What Not To Wear has him to thank. Of course, I had to take a turn in the mirror…is my outfit working for me?

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Next it was time to head to the iconic Colosseum.

colosseum rome

colosseum rome

We returned to the Colosseum again at night because it’s just truly magical at night. I spent some time pondering the magnitude of the building.

colosseum

 

After Rome it was time to say goodbye to Italy. I was definitely sad about this. Of course I was looking forward to Greece but Italy is just such an amazing country. I love the cities, the food, the people and the culture.

Athens, Greece

We didn’t arrive in Athens until about 2p.m. Our hostel was super easy to find from the train and really close to the Acropolis. Since we were there on a Sunday the Acropolis was free, score! And Tom finally got to see the Parthenon!

pantheon athens

We were actually lucky we got this picture. In Greece they are SUPER strict at all museums about picture taking and behaviour. There are workers everywhere and if you try and do any sort of funny poses they make you delete them from your camera.

After the Acropolis we wandered around Athens for a bit then checked out the rooftop bar of our hostel. It had an incredible view of the Acropolis and was the perfect place to watch the sunset.

acropolis sunset

And of course, no night in Greece would be complete without some shots of Ouzo!

greece ouzo shot

Blech! That stuff is so horrible. That was the only shot I did!

The next day we headed out on our mainland bus tour of Greece and I will tell you all about that in my next recap.

 

 

Europe Recap Part 2 – Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terre

Last I left off on my recap Tom and I were in Venice. If you missed my first European recap check it out here.

After Venice, we headed off on a train to Florence.

Florence, Italy

We checked into our hostel and then sat down and planned out what we wanted to do while in Florence. The top of my list was get into the countryside to a vineyard to try some wine.

wine meme

We found there was a tour going out that day at 5 p.m. so we booked it right away. At the same time we booked our tickets for the next day to go to the Accademia Museum so we could see the statue of David. After a quick lunch we were on a bus and headed into the countryside. Tuscany is absolutely breathtaking. I definitely wish we had time on this trip to spend in the countryside and I think it would be top on my list if I ever get back to Italy. Many of the vineyards have accomodation right at them.

We got to the first vineyard, Casanova. It was a small organic vineyard where they also made olive oil, balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, honey, lotions and grew a variety of herbs. The owner used to be a veterinarian but gave up his practice to live his farming dream. He and everyone who worked there were so incredibly nice and welcoming. They brought us into a tented area that they had all set up for our tasting of wine and food.

panzanello vineyard

 

I could go on and on about this tasting that they set up. The snacks were amazing, I have never tasted olive oil that was that flavourful. And of course the wine was fantastic. After the tasting we got a chance to wander around the vineyard which had just breathtaking views of the rolling hills of the Chianti region.

chianti vineyard

We headed to a second vineyard, Panzanello. We got a chance to tour the cellars and learn about some of the processing of the wines.

vineyard tuscany

The wines at both of the vineyards were Chianti Classico’s. We learnt that Chianti classico have very strict regulations. Wines that meet the criteria are labelled with a black rooster. These labels are sent out to the vineyards in limited quantities in order to promote quality wine over quantity. We were really hoping to take some wine home from these vineyards but we didn’t want to carry it around with us for the whole trip in our backpack. Unfortunately Canada’s laws made the cost of shipping home wine astronomical. So we just enjoyed it while we were there.

The next day was sightseeing in Florence. Our first stop was to the Accademia Museum. We arrived there with our email of our confirmation that we had booked online. However, when we got to the desk the guy informed us that we had bought tickets for the Accademia museum in Venice. Two museums with the same name, talk about a tourist trap! Of course they were non-refundable tickets. Luckily the guy took pity on us and let us in to see the statue of David right away without waiting for a different reservation time to the proper museum. I don’t have any pictures of the statue because you weren’t allowed. But wow, just wow. Seeing that statue was just truly phenomenal.

After the museum we headed out to see the Duomo, where we decided to climb the 463 steep and narrow steps to the top of the dome. It was worth it though, you got to see the frescoes of the dome which you can only really appreciate if you do the steps up and then got to see panoramic views of beautiful Florence.

florence duomo

florence duomo

Aftewards we climbed the 414 steps up the bell tower where you get the best view of the Duomo.

duomo

Right beside the Duomo I found what I like to call a little slice of heaven….a Lindt chocolate store!

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Next up we checked out the San Lorenzo market which is essentially an Italian farmers market. I loved looking around the shops and seeing what types of things locals buy.

san lorenzo market

san lorenzo market

That night Tom and I decided to go out for a drink. We found the coolest little cocktail bar. It was so eclectic with the most random stuff on the wall and old school cartoons playing on a projector. The owner was amazing and knew his stuff about alcohol. He made me this incredible spicy peach cocktail. I never knew that combination would be so delicious.

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The next day we were off on a train again heading toward the Cinque Terre. But first, we needed to take a stop in Pisa to take some infamous touristy pictures.

Pisa, Italy

pisa

Pisa

I think my favourite picture was this one….an epic fail.

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Cinque Terre, Italy

The Cinque Terre is absolutely beautiful. If you ever get to Italy going here is a MUST.

We stayed in the southern most town, Riomaggiore.

riomaggiore cinque terre

 

All 5 of the towns are easily accessible by a couple minute train ride. There are also multiple hiking trails between cities. You used to be able to walk all 5 towns on a hiking trail along the coast but now only one section of the trail is open. On our first day we checked out the middle town, Corniglia. We started with 382 steps to get into the town (there is also a shuttle bus you can take, but we figured that was for sissies). Of course the town was just beautiful. I loved just wandering around these streets, though I was cursing the hills and steps a lot!

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We went in search of a beach that we heard about in the town of Corniglia. There were some signs spray painted on rocks leading the way. We followed the signs and seemed to come to a dead end in residential area so we gave up. When we were leaving Corniglia, the train was going to be another 1.5 hours, so we decided to give this beach a second try. We tried a different direction but ended up in the exact same dead end spot. A local speaking Italian starting saying stuff to us we couldn’t understand. Tom said beach and he said “yes beach” and pointed us the way. He even offered us an umbrella. Turns out you had to walk through this residential looking area to get there. But soon we came across this tunnel. It was a big dark tunnel where you couldn’t see the end of it. There were signs in Italian but basically looked like do not enter signs. Tom and I figured this was a bad sign and were too scared to go through the tunnel so we turned and went back to the train. Later we googled it and this was the entrance to the beach, through an old abandoned railway tunnel. So if you ever make it to Corniglia, that is the way to the beach – my suggestion is to bring a flashlight!

Our second day in Cinque Terre we decided to head out hiking. We did our first hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It was so beautiful. While we were first bummed that the coastal trails weren’t all open I think it actually worked out great because otherwise we wouldn’t have tried the mountain trails which were equally beautiful and way less busy. In fact in our 2.5 hour hike, we didn’t come across a single other person. The hiking in the Cinque Terre was tough! For the first 40 minutes of our hike we were climbing straight uphill, but the scenery was worth every painful moment.

cinque terre hiking

After our mountain hike we took a train to Vernazza so we could do the coastal hike to Monterosso.

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The coastal hike was a lot busier with tons of people on the trail but it was still very enjoyable nonetheless. Once we hit Monterosso it was time to relax on the beach! This beach was easy to find. When we got back to our town for the night we decided to sit out on some rocks with some takeout pizza and wine while we watched the sunset. It was the absolute perfect end to our time in the Cinque Terre.

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Next up we head to Rome….stay tuned!

Europe Recap Part 1 – Lisbon, Madrid and Venice

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to best recap my vacation. It was too long (and awesome) for me to recap in one post so I’m going to break it down so that I can give each place the attention it deserves.

I’ll start off with the beginning because that seems logical.

Lisbon, Portugal:

Tom and I headed out on May 5 with our destination of Lisbon, Portugal. We flew with British Airways. At first we were super impressed with their service. I mean, they gave us a travel sized toothbrush on the plane! However once we hit Lisbon our love of British Airways went south quickly. We stood at that luggage belt waiting and waiting for our luggage until the belt shut down and we realized it wasn’t coming. So we went and waited in the lost luggage line up FOREVER to report our lost luggage. Tom was sooo not impressed.

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Okay, he looks pretty happy in this picture but believe me, he wasn’t. I mean I wasn’t psyched about it either but I tried to look on the bright side and considered this a start of our great adventure. Luckily the airline had another flight coming in from London (where they had left out luggage) that night and they would deliver our bag to our hostel the next morning. Of course this happened to be the one time in history that I didn’t pack an extra pair of clothes in my carry on as a “just in case”. Lesson learnt!

Once we finally cleared up our luggage, we went in search of our hostel. The directions seemed fairly simple however it took us about half an hour of wandering around Lisbon before we found it. The adventure continued! I told Tom we were actually lucky we didn’t have our backpacks with us. After checking in we headed out in search of food and drink. We found this cute little restaurant that had about 5 tables in it and we ordered some Espetadas, which are essentially large Shish Kabobs that they hang up at your table. They were sooo yummy!

espetadas

We were originally hoping to head out and check out some of Lisbon’s nightlife but by this time we were just too exhausted and we didn’t have a change of clothes so we decided to just call it a night.

The next day we got in a full day of sightseeing. We stared off by taking Lisbon’s famous Tram 28. These trams started in 1873 and there are still 5 lines used despite their bus and metro system network. Tram 28 takes you down to the old area of Lisbon and winding through some of the tiniest and narrow roads. Cars are parked within a hair of the tram line. It was definitely a fun experience.

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The city of Lisbon was really beautiful. I loved the red clay roofs and the architecture. The city was vibrant and has a lot going on and lots to see yet never felt touristy. I liked that alot!

Lisbon, Portugal

 

The next day, we had to get up at 4 a.m in order to make our flight to Madrid, Spain.

Madrid, Spain:

We got to our hostel about 9 a.m. and they were having a free walking tour at 10 a.m. so we decided to join that.

royal palace madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

The walking tour was great to see the sights and we got a chance to meet some fellow travellers. We met a great couple who were from Vancouver, Canada.

That night Tom and I decided to try out Spain’s specialty, tapas. We went to a place recommended by the hostel as a cheap place. And cheap it was! For 10 euros we got 2 sangrias and 2 huge platefuls of food. It was quite the experience. You didn’t get to choose what you wanted, you just said tapas and they handed you platefuls of food. We ended up with cheese croquettes, potatoes, omelette and bread. Works for me!

spanish tapas

Later that night we went on a pub crawl where we met up with the couple from Vancouver. Madrid is well-known for its night life that lasts into the next morning. We didn’t end up leaving the bar until after 4 a.m.

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We probably would have lasted even later but had decided to meet up again with the Vancouver couple the next morning at 8:30 to take a bus to Segovia. This plan was made at about 4:30 in the morning over some after-bar pizza. Seemed like a good idea at the time but I was hating my life when my alarm went off about 3 hours after we went to bed!

Segovia was a really cool city that is a world heritage sight. It has alot of remnants of old segovia mixed with a whole new metropolis. You feel like you’re walking through time as you go from one era to another. It has one of the most well-preserved Roman aqueduct’s.

segovia aqueduct

It has a beautiful cathedral.

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And it has a castle which Walt Disney modelled Disneyland’s Castle after.

segovia castle

After Segovia, the four of us headed to check out a bull-fight. I wasn’t too sure about going to this but Tom wanted to check it out. A friend of ours had went to a bullfight in Madrid recently so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. I enjoyed the beginning, where the bull is just chasing after the matadors. After that, the rest of it was a bit hard to watch. Though, it wasn’t quite as gruesome as I had imagined it would be. In total there were 8 bulls! We left after 5. We knew there would be a huge rush of people to the metro at the end and really seeing 5 was plenty! Overall, it’s something I can say that I’ve done but not something that I would ever do again.

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Tom and I called it a pretty early night considering we were running on nosleep and had another 4 a.m. wake up call to catch our flight to Bologna and then train to Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy:

By the time we got to Venice the lack of sleep caught up to me and I was a raging B. It took a stop for food and 2 espresso before I felt like I could function. Once I did, I looked around and realized that I was in the most beautiful place I had ever seen. Venice is honestly magical. It’s so quiet because there is no traffic and it’s so incredibly beautiful I felt like I was taking a picture every 2 seconds but I couldn’t help it! Between the canals, the gondolas and the architecture there was always something beautiful to look at.

venice

venice

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one looking like a tourist Tom had a GIANT map to lead the way.

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We spent our first day wandering through the streets and getting lost (for fear of pulling out the giant map). Luckily there were tiny signs along the walls that led us to Piazza San Marco. San Marco was BUSY. We stood in line to get inside St. Mark’s Basilica. I felt that we didn’t really appreciate it though because we were being shuffled along due to the large volume of tourists and then this big tourist group in front of us kept stopping and blocking the way. While this area is something to see, it definitely wasn’t my favourite part of Venice.

Afterwards, it was time to head to the Rialto market. I loved all the fresh produce and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a basket of strawberries!! Living in Canada, our strawberries are often white in the middle and sour. They are nothing like strawberries are meant to taste. We sat down and ate an entire carton of strawberries as we watched tourists go by in Gondolas.

venice strawberries

The next day we booked a tour to see some of the other islands in the lagoon. First stop, Murano which is famous for its glass blowing. Venice was always a home of glass making but they decided they were worried about fires, considering the whole city is built on wood stilts, and ousted glass blowing to the island of Murano. We got to see a demonstration and then spend some time walking around the quaint town on the island.

Next stop was Burano. I loved this island with the brightly coloured buildings. The buildings follow a specific system for colours and cannot be changed. The island is also known for lace making.

burano

 

burano

We also made a stop in Lido which is where Venetians head to go to the beach. The weather that day was pretty overcast and too early for locals to be at the beach but we took a look at them. We rented a double seated bicycle to tour around the island in style (or like completely dorky tourists).

lido

Once we returned to Venice we sucked up the cost and went for a Gondola ride. I mean, when would we get the chance again! The cost was worth it, there is no better way to see Venice than to be on the water and in a gondola, even better!

venice gondola ride

We even kissed under the Rialto bridge!

venice rialto bridge kiss

Whew! There’s our first week in a tiny nutshell!

Up next….Florence, Pisa & Cinque Terre!

 

 

 

Back to the Deep Freeze – Vegas/Phoenix Recap

Last night I arrived back in Calgary to a lovely -20 degrees Celsius, the 45 degree temperature difference was not very welcome, especially considering I was already miserable since it was 1 a.m. But never the less while the vast majority of me is still wishing to be in a warmer climate, part of me is happy to be home.

My trip was really, really fantastic! We started off Las Vegas with a bang when we got a limo from the airport instead of a taxi or shuttle. When you get a limo, you pay for 1 hour, so we decided to make the most of that hour and cruise around a bit. We made our first stop at the liquor store, obviously, and picked up a few things including this classy champagne. (BTW…it was terrible tasting)

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Then we headed to the Las Vegas sign! I have seen the sign before but never stopped so I was pretty psyched. I wish we had gotten a picture of our whole group together but there were people a bunch of pushy people trying to sell you photos, I got annoyed and wanted to get out of there.

The Group Minus Tom

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There he is!

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We stayed at the Planet Hollywood, which was an awesome hotel. I love the location on the strip. When we got there, Tom cooly slipped the check-in-attendant a tip and voila we got an upgraded room with a view of the Bellagio fountains!

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I figured our first night would be an early one since we had all worked that day, I had been up since 5 a.m. However, there are no early nights in Vegas. After a night of craps, beer pong and a late night sandwich, we didn’t turn in until 4 a.m.

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The next day it took us a little while to get going. We mostly just wandered around the strip and got in some shopping at MAC! Then after a power nap it was time for Celine!!

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The concert was good, the sound was absolutely phenomenal, the best I have ever heard at a concert. However, I would have to say overall I was a little disappointed. Totally my own fault, but I didn’t realize that her show had changed from her first Vegas stint. Celine’s first show was a true “Las Vegas style show”. This performance was really a more low-key performance. It was beautiful but just not what I was expecting. Definitely a bit of a let down after waiting all these years to see the performance. After the concert, us girls headed to Freemont street to meet the guys. We ended up going to bed a bit earlier this night, 3 a.m. 😉

The next day was all about shopping! We headed to the outlet malls and I shopped, boy did I shop!

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Okay, those aren’t all my bags. But I still got some really great stuff. My favourite store, shockingly, was this place called The Cosmetics Company Store. I don’t know if it has always been there and I’ve missed it every time but it’s a discounted brand name cosmetics store! So of course, I had to check that out.

That night we went for dinner at our hotel at P.F. Changs. Holy food! We had enough food to feed another 6 people, it was kind of ridiculous. Then Tom and I went with one of the other couples to Cirque du Soleil, Love! It was a fantastic show! I have seen a number of Cirque du Soleil shows and this one was really great. It was very different because it didn’t have very much acrobatics but it had such great music, dancing and other special effects that it made up for it.

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After that we stopped at this hookah bar. I am not a smoker and find it repulsive, but I decided to give this a try. Actually not bad! Not something I would do often but it was kind of fun experience. We stayed there until they kicked us out because they were shutting down. Then we were starving for some late night snacks. For the past couple of days we had talked about going to Hash House A Go Go for breakfast but never got up and were too hungry for the 1 hour wait by the time we got going. Since it’s open 24 hours, we figured this was our perfect opportunity to go! It was quite the experience, we got there and saw about 20 open tables and yet were told we needed to wait for a table. Well it was worth the wait! I ordered a banana brown sugar pancake. It was HUGE! And the most amazing pancake I have ever tasted. I think it was around 5 by the time we rolled into bed the last night.

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The next day we were off to Phoenix, I felt bad the first day because Tom and I were just so tired we made very terrible company for my Dad. Phoenix was just about relaxing which was perfect after all the craziness of Vegas. We lounged around the pool most of the time although we did get out for one day of sightseeing. We went on a scenic drive to Saguaro lake, checked out the world’s tallest fountain, went to an orange orchard and had lunch in an olive grove.

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Overall, a perfect getaway. Now it’s time to get my butt back in gear with eating properly and running. My half marathon is just over 2 weeks away!

How was your week? What’s your favourite hotel to stay at in Vegas?

Weekly Wrap-up – Cancun!

Well, I’m back from a week from sun & sand in amazing Cancun. We had a lot of fun and I was definitely not ready to come back home. I have to say that the best part was truly just being unplugged from technology for a week. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my blog but sometimes technology just overpowers our life and we forget about human connections. So being away from the technology and just spending some quality time with Tom was just what I needed.

But now, back to reality and back to blogging. Lets give you a recap of my holiday, my week and of course the question you’re wondering…did I follow my 5 tips to not gain weight at an all-inclusive and did they work?

The resort we stayed at was called Barcelo Tucancun. It was a nice resort, I would say it was a solid 4 star resort. When we first arrived I felt a little disappointed as it did look like it could use a little upgrading at some parts and the buffet was pretty small and limited on selection. But over the week the place really grew on me. The food was actually pretty good, they did a good job of switching up the buffet every night in theme nights so the food didn’t get too tiring and there were 2 a la carte restaurants.  The pools were beautiful and the beach was immaculate. The hotel was incredibly clean and I can’t say enough about the staff. They were so friendly and so accommodating, every need you had was met.

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By the way, no we weren’t the only people at the resort but we had one rainy day which made for a perfect day to get pictures of the resort.

I forgot to get any pictures of our room but it was nice. Very clean, great bathroom and best of all we got an ocean view room even though we didn’t pay for it. Score!

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View from our room

We went on one excursion while we were there, our second planned one got rained out. We went to see some Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

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Unfortunately…trying to be very prepared for our excursion, I charged my camera battery the night before. And then when I went to take my first photo of the ruins, I realized my camera battery was still in the hotel room charging. Ughhhh…fail!

But the excursion was great. We had an amazing tour guide who has been leading tours at Chichen Itza for over 20 years so he knew his stuff and he was so passionate about Mayan culture. After spending a couple of hours at the ruins, we headed to a local town for some authentic Mexican food. The lunch was amazing! Then we headed off to a cenote, which was a dream come true for me because I have always wanted to go and swim in a cenote. Of course, this is where my waterproof camera would have come in real handy. Luckily, Tom did have his iPhone by this point and we were able to take some photos.

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That’s me jumping in!

One night we went out in Cancun to check out Coco Bongo! We had heard such amazing things about this place before so we knew we had to go. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a nightclub combined with a night full of Las Vegas style shows and an open bar. So yeah…it was awesome!

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Now, how did I do with my 5 rules to not gain weight at an all-inclusive. To recap:

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1. Start your day off with a healthy breakfast – The resort had amazing breakfasts. I had fresh fruit every morning and then would generally alternate between a pancake and an egg, an omelette or eggs and whole wheat toast.

2. Start your meals with a salad – I had a salad at every single lunch & supper.

3. Choose dessert at lunch or dinner NOT both – This one wasn’t a problem for me as the desserts weren’t very appetizing. I didn’t try anything off the dessert buffets. I had ice cream a couple of times during the week though.

4. Limit intake of high sugar frozen drinks – Overall, I didn’t drink very much on this trip and I get very sick of high sugar drinks quickly so I would switch to something else. But don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed my pina coladas. Sometimes even 3 at at time…

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5. Try to get some exercise- Sadly, our resort didn’t have a fitness room. The first time I have ever been on an all inclusive vacation and would have used it and they didn’t have one. Figures, eh! But we did manage to go for one run along the beach. That was amazing. I have never ran barefoot down the beach. It is HARD! We also did a lot of walking. When we were having beach days we would walk down the beach and we walked 5 km from Cancun to our resort rather than taking the bus.

So did I gain any weight? Nope! However, I have to say in full disclosure I think my results are biased. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet was I got food poisoning during the trip. It. Was. Terrible! So this definitely led to me eating and drinking less. However, outside of that terrible time, I really did follow my rules and I think I wouldn’t have gained weight regardless of that.

What have you been up to this week?