Since creating this blog nearly three years ago, I’ve enjoyed including posts recapping my travels around the country, and the world. Though the primary topic of this blog is food, I find travel to be a topic about which I also really enjoy writing. Often when I read others’ blogs, I also find posts and articles discussing traveling to be of much interest to me, so I hope that you enjoy it as well! And as it turns out, even in my travel posts, discussion and pictures of food still tend to dominate the post.
My goal moving forward with the blog is to create a dedicated travel page that will link readers up to a summary of all of my travel posts. The link to this page is be found in the upper right hand corner of the home page, under “Travel” and is still a work in progress. For now, you can still get quick access to all my travel posts by scrolling down and clicking “Food From My Travels” under Categories in the right margin.
Where I am going with this is that today I am here to assemble a summary of what was easily THE coolest thing I did in 2012 – spending two weeks in Europe! You may have noticed over the past several weeks that I posted detailed one-day recaps of each day of our trip. Now I’d like to condense all of those posts into one big recap of our trip. Let’s get to it!
Day 0: Departure
I am calling the day that we departed “Day 0” because we didn’t arrive in Europe until the next morning!
On a Friday night in September, we took a nonstop flight with Air France from Detroit to Paris. We departed around 10:00 PM from Detroit, and landed on Saturday morning, at about 11:30 AM local time in Paris. We did manage to get a few choppy hours of sleep on the plane. This was my very first transatlantic flight!
Day 1: Paris
We arrived midday Saturday, and navigated the crazy CDG airport in Paris in order to take the RER B train from the airport to central Paris. From there we walked to our tiny hotel, Hotel Flor Rivoli. Our room was itty-bitty (pretty much only one person could be standing at a time in the room). We lugged our baggage up an extremely steep, nearly pitch black spiral staircase to our room, which left me laughing hysterically!
From there, we rode the metro to the Eiffel Tower. Our one and only planned event of the day. It was nothing short of magical!
We waited in line for tickets to ride the elevators to the top of the Eiffel Tower where we were afforded spectacular views of Paris. After taking it all in, we found dinner nearby at Le Bosquet, and then came back to see the Tower’s sparkling light show at the top of the hour, and eat gaufres au nutella.
Day 2: Paris
Our first full day in Paris began bright and early, and was jam-packed with so many must-see attractions. Our itinerary was as follows:
- Place de la Concorde, the city’s largest public square
- Wandered around the Tuileries garden and across the Pont des Arts, decorated with love locks
- Musée d’Orsay, houses a large collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, including pieces by Renoir, Manet, Monet, van Gogh and more
- Lunch at the restaurant in the d’Orsay
- Strolled along the Seine until we reached the Ile de la Cité, a small island in the middle of the Seine
- On Ile de la Cité we toured:
- La Conciergerie
- La Sainte-Chapelle
- Notre Dame Cathedral; climbed 220 feet to the top where we got up close and personal with the gargoyles
- Evening river cruise down the Seine
- Dinner at L’Entrecote des Halles. I had the Boeuf Bourguignon.
Day 3: Paris
Another day where we were all over the place! Here’s how our day looked:
- Louvre – got there early to get in line, and went straight to the Mona Lisa! The Louvre was nothing short of mind-blowing. It completely exceeded my expectations. The sheer size of the museum is astounding. You could spend days here and not see everything.
- Breakfast at the Louvre – croissants and yogurt
- Took the metro to Le Marais district of the city, filled with boutique shopping, Jewish bakeries, and falafel shops.
- Lunch: Falafel Sandwiches at L’as du Fallafel.
- Baklava from a local bakery for dessert. We walked to Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest public square, and sat on a bench to eat our Baklava.
- Place de la Bastille, which today holds a column honoring victims of the 1830 revolution, and marks the site of one of the most famous moments in French revolutionary history: the attack of the Bastille prison
- Rode metro to the Opéra Garnier, where we purchased a visitor’s ticket and toured in interior of the famous opera house that was the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera character.
- Visited a neoclassical church, the Eglise de la Madeleine, designed as a temple of glory for Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 1800s
- Ladurée Royale – we bought a box of French macaroons
- Stroll down the iconic, tree-lined Avenue des Champs-Élysées
- Arc du Triomphe – we climbed 164 feet to the top
- Pre-dinner drinks at Hippopotamus where a kid tried to pickpocket the huz
- Dinner: Take-away paninis from a street vendor, and macaroons from Ladurée in our hotel room
Day 4: Paris & Château Versailles
Our first three days in Paris were beautifully sunny with temperatures in the 70s. Unfortunately our final day was gray and rainy, but we made the best of it!
- On Tuesday morning we took the RER C train from central Paris to Château Versailles. From the Versailles-Rive Gauche station, where we departed the train, it was only a 5 minute walk to the palace.
- We spent about two hours each at both the Palace and the Gardens at Versailles.
- Lunch at a small café in the Gardens at Versailles
- Toured Marie Antoinette’s Estate at Versailles
- Rode RER C train back to Paris
- Nutella and banana crêpes – afternoon snack back in Paris
- St-Germain neighborhood. We did a self-guided walking tour of this area, as laid out in my Frommer’s guide, which included:
- Eglise St-Germain-des-Prés; The oldest church in Paris, dates to the 6th century
- Eglise St-Sulpice; This church houses one of the world’s largest organs, with 6700 pipes
- Palais du Luxembourg – formerly a palace, this structure now houses the French Senate.
- Jardin du Luxembourg – I just loved these gardens! I also got locked in a bathroom.
- Fabulous dinner at La Mediterranée. I had fish soup, white fish, and apple crème brûlée.
- One last evening stroll along the Seine.
Day 5: Traveling from Paris to Florence
Travel pretty much dominated our fifth day in Europe, and by travel I mean taxis and airplanes, and not sight-seeing!
We were up at 4:00 AM to take a taxi to the CDG airport, where we flew from Paris to the FLR airport in Florence, Italy.
Our favorite hotel of our trip was “Corte Dei Medici” in Florence. We took a taxi from the airport in Florence, walked with our luggage through the street markets, and checked-in to our hotel, and then went to grab lunch at a restaurant around the corner.
Then we had a nap in our room! We were exhausted after waking up early and traveling.
In the evening, we ventured out to take care of a few errands, like finding an ATM, purchasing Firenze Cards from the Tourist Office, wandering the streets, and acquainting ourselves with the layout of the city.
And thus began my love affair with Florence!
The plan for dinner? Why, to visit the pizzeria at which the Jersey Shore staffed worked, during the filming of Season 4 – Pizzeria O’Vesuvio! For dessert, we had gelato, of course.
Day 6: Florence, Italy
A jam-packed day, planned with help from our indispensable Frommer’s guidebook. The thing I loved most about Florence is that it is entirely walkable! It is also hopelessly charming. We walked to every attraction we visited in the city. I fell in love with Florence, and Day 6 was quite possibly my favorite day of our trip.
- Free breakfast buffet at our hotel (cereal, juice, coffee, croissants, fruit, salami, cheese, yogurt)
- Uffizi, which my Frommer’s guide describes as, “…one of the world’s great museums, and its single best repository of Renaissance art,” including pieces by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and more.
- Piazza della Signoria – a beautiful square, adorned by dramatic sculptures.
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo – a symbol of Florence! We waited in line and climbed the 463 steps to the top of the dome.
- Lunch at a restaurant beside the Duomo. Tuna Salad and a Smoked Salmon Pasta.
- Tour interior of Duomo.
- Galleria dell’Accademia – holds the authentic statue of David, sculpted by Michelangelo.
- Battistero San Giovanni, a baptistry, stands next to the Duomo.
- Went to see Galileo’s telescopes at Museo Galileo.
- Crossed the Arno River via the Ponte Vecchio, a pedestrian-only, jewelry shop-lined bridge.
- Piazzale Michelangelo – it was quite an uphill adventure getting there!
- San Miniato al Monte, an ancient, Romanesque Church. We heard the Benedictine monks celebrating Vespers with Gregorian chanting.
- Walked back down the hills to Piazzale Michelangelo and across Ponte Vecchio at sunset.
- Pizza at Casa del Vin Santo and gelato at Caffe Mokarico!
Day 7: Florence
- Free breakfast buffet at our hotel (cereal, juice, coffee, croissants, fruit, salami, cheese, yogurt)
- Palazzo Pitti. In the 15th century, this was a palace for the royal Medici family, and today houses a collection of art and museums.
- Boboli Gardens, formal, sixteenth-century Italian-style.
- Lunch – lasagna.
- Walked to the train station, to make sure we knew how to find it, since we knew we would have to be there early the next morning for our day trip.
- While we were in the area, we visited the Santa Maria Novella church, where we toured the cloister, convent, and a beautiful chapel adorned with 14th century frescoes.
- Palazzo Vecchio – a palace in the 13th century; now Florence’s city hall.
- Bought wine, salami, and olives from the grocery store and rested our legs at the hotel.
- Dinner: Salad, Calzones, and Chianti!
- Dessert: Gelato from the shop literally next door to our hotel. Win!
Day 8: Tuscany Tour
- Narrated walking tour of the town led by a local, during which we visited the Piazza del Campo, which is bi-annually transformed from a public square to a stadium for horseracing, and also visited Siena’s 12th century Duomo.
- WINE: Visited a local organic winery, Fattoria Poggio Alloro, in San Gimignano.
- Tour of vineyards and facilities, led by member of the family that owns the winery
- Wonderful homemade lunch, each course paired with wine from the establishment.
- Bread with olive oil produced onsite with white wine pairing
- Homemade penne pasta with locally-grown tomato meat sauce paired with Chianti
- Romaine salad with ripe tomatoes dressed in Fattoria Poggio Alloro’s olive oil, with a red wine pairing
- Hazelnut biscotti paired with a very strong dessert wine
- Enjoyed incredible views of the Tuscan hillsides.
- San Gimignano – we were given a map and time to explore on our own.
- Headed to Piazza della Cisterna for gelato from Gelateria di Piazza, a two time world champion gelato maker. I tried a trio: Rosemary, Blackberry Lavender, and Fig
- Wandered the town, visited a park, and saw the towers of “Medieval Manhattan”
- Trolley tour of city
- Piazza dei Miracoli, the Field of Miracles, which houses the Leaning Tower of Pisa, cathedral, baptistry, and bell tower.
- Took tons of Leaning Tower pictures.
Back at our hotel, we had take-out pizza and cannolis for dinner! We were wiped out after a long day and had a big day ahead of us!
Day 9: Cinque Terre Trek
Our ninth day of vacation in Europe was certainly our most adventurous! Actually it was one of the most adventurous days not only of our trip, but also of my life!
We departed by bus from the Florence train station with our tour group. Today, we would partake in the Cinque Terre Trek, which required a 2.5 hour drive from Florence to the Cinque Terre. In Italian, Cinque Terre means “five lands.” The area is a national park consisting of five historic villages, built on the rugged mountainside of the Italian Riviera, beside the Mediterrean Sea. The site has also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our bus dropped us off adjacent to the Cinque Terre village of Manarola, where we entered the National Park.
From there, we went on a whirlwind tour of all five villages in one day!
Manarola > train > Corniglia > hike > Vernazza > train > Monterosso > water taxi > Riomaggiore > walk > Manarola > train > bus > Florence!
Day 10: Traveling from Florence to Rome
- We took a high speed TrenItalia train from the S.M. Novella station in Florence to Roma Termini in Rome, Italy.
- Searched and searched and searched for our hotel that was only 0.2 miles from Termini Station.
- Checked into the Yes Hotel.
- Lunch U. Giuliani Caffe: Café Freddo, Caprese Salad, Tortellini.
- Nap! I caught a cold and needed rest.
- Take-away panini and burger for dinner.
- Segway Tour of Rome by night! Super fun! We rode to the following illuminated attractions:
- Piazza Navona
- Spanish Steps
- Trevi Fountain
Day 11: Rome
- Breakfast at hotel (eggs, salami, cheese, pastries, cereal, juice) [free]
- We took the metro from Termini to Colosseo to see one of the coolest things that can be seen in this world: the Colosseum!
- Ancient Rome: Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – spent a couple hours exploring
- Took metro from Colosseo to Spagna
- Lunch: Insalata Caprese and homemade Cannelloni pasta
- Trevi Fountain
- Church of Saint Ignatius to see the painted baroque ceilings
- Dinner at Mamma Angela’s: Salad, Saltimbocca Alla Romano, Lemon Crème Brûlée, Tiramisu, a bottle of local Roman red wine, and Limoncello on the house.
Day 12: Rome & Vatican City
- Took the metro from Termini to the Ottaviano-San Pietro stop, which was only about a five minute walk to the Vatican
- Toured the Vatican Museums
- Sistine Chapel
- Mailed postcards from Vatican City
- Visited St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square
- Lunch nearby; Sampler plate with Saltimbocca Alla Romano, Lasagna, sautéed greens, and roasted veggies. Gelato for dessert!
- Castel Sant’Angelo, originally built as a giant castle and fortress for the Emperor and his family in A.D. 135.
- Took metro to Spagna
- Visited the Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna
- Lovely Dinner at Monte Arci – salad; green and white spaghetti with bacon, spinach, cream, and cheese; and two desserts! Plus 1 liter of local white wine (!!). Wine is so cheap in Italy.
Day 13: Final Day in Rome
- After enjoying the free breakfast in our hotel we took the metro from Termini to Flaminio
- Piazza del Popolo, a large urban square in Rome
- Toured sculptures in the square and two of the nearby churches
- Villa Borghese, a spectacular park in the heart of Rome, with a 3.5 mile circumference. This place was HUGE! We wandered here for a few hours.
- Lunch: paninis, chips, and soda from a food cart in the park
- Bioparco di Roma – our wandering led us to this very nice zoo!
- Trekked back through the park to the metro and went back to hotel to rest
- Dinner on the patio at Ristorante al 39:
- amuse-bouche of tomato bruschetta
- gorgonzola gnocchi
- steak pizzaiola
- After only a few hours of rest, we got up at 3:45 AM and began a looong day of travel back home!
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my Europe trip summary! This was truly a trip of a lifetime! Two of the best weeks of my life, spent with my love. I feel so lucky to have been able to have taken this journey.