Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Moments that Take Our Breath Away

Hi Everyone!

As all of you most certainly know, hence the premise of my blog being based on travel, this is something that I LOVE.  I think travel adds adventures, value and excitement to ones life, it gives you memories to hold on to, stories worth telling, new experiences and broadens who you are as a person.  Travel teaches us resilience, learning to be easy going and roll with things as they come, more open to other cultures, braver and more confident.  Travel often renders us speechless and leaves us storytellers.  Travel can be relaxing, reflective, thrilling, awe-inducing, romantic and so many more things.  Travel is one of the few things you can spend money on that actually makes you and your life richer.

So, with all of that said, I have decided to do a blog entry on my own personal "Most Breathtaking Travel Moments."  I know I will add many more to this list throughout the course of my life (which a fantastic and exciting thought) but as of right now, here are the most memorable ones for me thus far.

(PS.  These are in no particular order):

Dinner in Paris with my Mom, on my 23rd birthday to be exact, overlooking the sparkling Eiffel Tower.

I had just finished my Italian Language and Culture course in Florence, Italy.  The final college course of my educational career (for now anyway).  Woo hoo!!!  At this time, my Mom flew over to meet up with me and travel together, since she had never been to Europe before.  This entire time with her was an incredible adventure.  However this dinner stands out as one of the most memorable of my life, thus far.  

The food itself, forgettable.  What stood out was the scene, the company and the night itself.  It was warm and balmy outside.  Our first day in Paris, we checked into our hotel in the late afternoon.  My Mom turned to me once in our room and said, "Want to get dressed up and go see the Eiffel Tower??  Lets celebrate your birthday!"

We rode the subway together, I could feel butterflies tingling in my stomach as I caught glimpses of the tower over the tops of buildings blurring past.  Finally, we excited the subway station, our shoes crunching on the gravel, I could feel myself shaking with excitement.  We turned a corner and I gasped.  There stood the entire tower, an unobstructed view.  It was just as awesome as I hoped it would be.

We walked over to the tower, taking tons of photos on the way, admiring it in all its massive glory.  Then my Mom flagged a taxi and asked that they please take us somewhere tasty and with a view of the Eiffel.
During this dinner, we laughed, we sat outside and watched people, we gazed at the tower sparkling blue in the dark, I know I love this word, but the word "magical! absolutely fits here.  One of the best dinners of my life.

Afterwards, my Mom suggested we go check out the Buddha Bar!!  In my young adulthood, I had read about this place in a fashion magazine, that supposedly it was a super lux, glam and trendy club within Paris and I of course was desperate to go.
As we walked in, I felt thrilled to no end.  We had one drink, which set us back a staggering 25 euro.  Hands down the most expensive drank I have ever had.  But the whole night was absolutely wonderful.  I will never forget it.

Inside the Buddha Bar!  (After our amazing dinner)

Amsterdam by myself during a 7 hour layover.

On the way to my Italian study abroad experience, as I sifted through potential flights which were all roughly the same price (meaning, a price that will blow a hole in ones wallet.  The prices of tickets that summer were INSANE), I decided to take one with a purposefully long layover in Amsterdam.  I wanted to see as many places in Europe as possible while there.  This seemed like a convenient and easy way to knock one off my list.  Plus, Amsterdam, who isn't intrigued by the dark connotations of this place?  I certainly was.  

I booked the ticket, which as a bummer trade-off put me in Amsterdam at 11pm for my return flight home to the USA and not flying out again until the next morning.  So on my return flight home, I would have to spend the night in the Amsterdam airport.  Ah well.  I decided I would deal with that when the time came.  This ticket was booked on a whim, to the slight dismay of my worried mother who found out after I announced my sleeping plans to her regarding overnight in Amsterdam, and my even more worried boyfriend at the time, Adam.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam, I was shaking with thrill.  My first time EVER in Europe.  I had never been so far away from home as well as doing it alone before in my life.  I could feel adventure, romance, wonder and excitement building within me.  I approached the information booth and figured out how to catch the train into the city.  And then I bought a ticket and hopped on.

Within Amsterdam, I felt like a child in a candy shop that was the size of a football field.  (For those who know me and the depths of my love of all things sweet, this is a great analogy ;-)).  
Everything was completely different from the US.  Charming, beautiful, exciting, new, the buildings like gingerbread cookie cutouts, the canals glittering in the sun, boats drifting lazily down, everyone zooming by on bicycles.  I had about 4 hours to kill.  I made my way to one of the famed "coffee shops" as I felt this was a requisite thing to scope out while in Amsterdam.  And yes, this was a totally crazy experience.  All of it like nothing I had ever seen or experience before in my life.  My heart was racing with wanderlust already.  I had fallen deeply in love with Europe.

Hiking through the Cinque Terre and relaxing on the turquoise-water beaches with Johanna.

I met Johanna when studying in Florence, Italy.  She was a fellow student at my school, whom I connected and clicked with the first night during out "welcome" dinner.  I found her to be especially sweet, warm, soft spoken, kind and easy to spend time with.  She and I traveled to Venice together, as well as the Cinque Terre.  We also got together often in Florence during evenings after class.

This was a blast.  On the train ride there, two guys (one an Italian Johnny Depp lookalike, the other resembling a blonde, jock, boyish, all American soccer star type) sat down across from us on their train, all smiles.  They began speaking to us right away, interested and friendly.  

The four of us ended up spending the day together.  This was lots of fun.  Similar to the type of exciting, slightly romantic kinds of adventures I thought being in Europe might bring.

Piazza Navona with my Mom for dinner (more then once).

After my Mom and I spent a few days together in Paris for my birthday, we flew to Rome (which is where we would both eventually fly home to the US from).  We spent a few days in Rome and while there, happened upon a square called Piazza Navona.  This square was breathtaking.  At dusk, the buildings glowed in shades of gold.  Cafes filled with patrons, lingering, laughing, eating and drinking.  A number of ornate and gorgeous fountains were sprinkled throughout the square.

We loved this square so much that we dined there all three evenings we were in Rome.  We did it true European/Italian style, lingering for hours.  Watching the scene of the square, enjoying our food, talking about all sorts of things.  Also some of the best meals of my life.

The excitement of Harry Potter World with Sarah (The Hogwarts Castle ride and getting caught in a huge thunderstorm on our last day).

Ah yes.  Not only was this major excitement for a huge Harry Potter fan like myself (other big fans of the stories, take note ;-)) but as a lover of amusement parks and roller coasters, this was also a total blast.  And finally, I went on this trip with one of my very best friends, Sarah.  So all in all, the trip was awesome.

When in Harry Potter land, one feels as though they have actually stepped into Diagon Alley...or the Three Broomsticks...or Hogwarts Castle.  The decor, architecture and detailing is such that one feels as though they have actually entered this world!  What a feast for the eyes and senses.  Even the magical, twinkling theme music of Harry Potter can be heard in the background.

The ride within Hogwarts Castle, the big one so to speak, is MIND BLOWING.  To give you an idea, this ride cost around 400 million dollars to build.  So the quality is just incredible.  For anyone who has gone to these parks in Florida (Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios) and ridden Spider Man, or The Mummy, this ride MAJORLY trumps both of those.

During the ride, one sits in a "magical" bench that begins the ride by gliding down a moving track.  Then, engulfed in a fog of green smoke ("flu powder" ;-)), the bench lifts off the ground and moves into another room, your feet dangling in the air.  The bench moves throughout the castle where you are chased by a fire breathing dragon.  Then one finds themselves on the Quiddach field, whizzing alongside Harry on his broomstick, your feet dangling, feeling actual wind on your face.  You move into the forbidden forest at one point, the huge whomping willow twisting menacingly above you as spiders spin their webs nearby, and more.  
This ride is a combination of anamatronics, IMAX graphics and more.  Just, WHOA.  Incredible.  The best ride I have ever ridden in my life, no question.

And on our last day in the parks, Sarah and I got stuck in a HUGE thunder and lightening storm, which sent us screaming and laughing, soaking wet, from the parks late on our last afternoon.

Inside "The Three Broomsticks" restaurant, where the students of Hogwarts often went.

SOAKING wet after getting caught in the thunderstorm.

Dinner at the very tip-top attic-like wooded room of St.Pauls Tavern in Salzberg, Austria.

My friend, Becca and I met in Salzburg, Austria one long weekend in March, 2014.  Becca and I met initially in Prague, back when I first moved to Europe in September, 2013.  She and I hit it off pretty quickly, finding ourselves to be surprisingly similar in a number of ways (both introverted, introspective, romantic, into reading, adventure and travel, etc).  She is someone whose company I really enjoyed.  So she snagged a train from Prague and I from Frankfurt, and we agreed to meet in Austria!

Our first evening there, we searched for a restaurant that I had read great things about.  An old, historic, attic tavern that supposedly served amazing cheese spetzel (aka macaroni and cheese).  We found it, down a cobbled, quiet alley.

The food was absolutely incredible.  We each drank a beer, split the macaroni and cheese, and shared a soup to start with.  The soup was a potato, bacon and cheese type of thing, sprinkled with chives.  Whoa.  This was a phenomenal soup.  I really enjoyed this.  Both her company, the restaurant and the food.

Our little cottage on Lake Superior (every summer during my childhood) in Marquette, Michigan.

The majority of my Dads family lives sprinkled throughout the state of Michigan.  Therefore, my Dad, my brother and I have been going there almost every summer since I was born to visit them.  And during these summers in Michigan, we spent most of our time at "camp."  This is a tiny lake cottage that my Grandfather owns.  Lots of us would congregate there for one or two weeks each summer, beginning from when I was a little girl, up through my early teen years.

This was a blast.  I especially loved spending time with my uncles, who were rambunctious, mischievous, energetic and so much fun.  My Grandpa John and I would take frequent walks to a store about 7 minutes from his home that we called "The Spot" to get candy.  We had huge croquet games in my Grandpas backyard which was filled with gigantic hills, making the courses especially challenging.  Every single night out at "camp", we built a huge beach-fire.  We would all sit down together on the sand, enjoying drinks, some snacks, lots of laughter (conversations got more entertaining as the night grew later), the warmth of the flicking fire and sometimes even night swims for whomever was brave enough.  
We ate lots of yummy foods, played cards, swam during the day and relaxed.

Some of my most nostalgic memories contain these things.  I really loved it there.

With my brother, Spencer in Lake Superior.

Taking the jet ski out at sunset...

Love this :-D all of us down at the lake.

Under water camera fun!  My cousin Nick snapped this photo of me.

The summer during which I got into an accident while driving a Go-Kart!  I had to get 4 stitches, and was no longer able to swim for the rest of that vacation :-/ this ended up being the story of that summer haha.

<3 with my Dad

With my Grandma and cousin, Nick.

The view from our lake cottage.

Picnic on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower with my Mom.

This was on the evening of my actual 23rd birthday.  My Mom and I brought a blanket, wine, cheese and other food items, as well as a couple of books and my camera, and we parked ourselves on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower during late afternoon of our last night in Paris.

We sat there for quite a few hours.  Eating...drinking...sometimes I read while she people watched...talking to one another...taking photos.  This was just awesome.  The first two photos below were taken during our actual picnic.  And the bottom one was taken our first day in Paris, in my thrill of seeing the tower for the first time.

Christmas markets throughout Germany.

For anyone who loves Christmas (that would be me!), Germany is the perfect place to spend it.  Germany is like Christmas on steroids.  Christmas markets here are the epitome of holiday magic, nostalgia and sweetness.  Ideally one should go to the markets at night because when they are lit up, it adds to the atmosphere.  There is a Christmas market in every large city or town all throughout Germany, usually for the entire month of December. 

These markets are FILLED with stalls selling everything and anything holiday related.  They sell sweet breads, something called "glow wine" when translated to English (which is essentially spiced wine), candies, chocolates, sausages, pretzels, beer, hot chocolate and tons of non-edible wintery items as well.

At night, the markets are all aglow.  Even better if snow were swirling in the air.  The smell that fills the markets are those of spiced wine, cinnamon, sweet bread and the fresh smell of cool winter air.

I LOVE Christmas in Germany.

The romantic, mysterious city of Venice with Adam.

Venice is a beautiful city.  Its a watery mystery.  When one is walking through the narrow, crumbling alleyways, you will turn a corner and suddenly be facing a quiet, muted green canal in which a Gondola might be elegantly gliding.  The city is old and very quiet (as there are no cars, only by boat or foot). St. Marks Square, one of the most famous in the world, is bustling with tourists and pigeons alike.  

Adam and I explored the quiet back streets, we rode a gondola (yes its cliche but its still an awesome way to see the city and quite romantic) and we spent a lot of time in St Marks Square.

In the square, we bought gelato in cones to enjoy, and once finished, for the purpose of bird food ;-) we used our crushed up cones to attract pigeons.  And the result, the bottom photo in this segment, which I have always absolutely loved.  So much fun and laughing.

Then we revisited the square by night.  It was nearly empty, very quiet, much more serene, mysterious and romantic. As though the mysteries of the city could be discovered there in the darkness.

Just arrived!!!

Have always loved this.

Driving the Romantic Road (well, being a passenger on the drive of the Romantic Road ;-)).

The romantic road is a famous stretch that goes from the middle of Germany down to the very bottom.  It acquired this nickname because this particular stretch of road is dotted with tiny towns, the landscape is like a green and yellow patchwork quilt, tiny church steeples point into the sky, crumbling castles loom in the distance, the drive truly lives up to its name.

I loved this drive.  Stopping frequently to take photos, rest a bit or get food, loving the views passing by my window, the conversations, all of it was a perfect road trip.  I was permitted to drive the rental car once but after I swerved slightly, that was put to a stop right away ha-ha and I was back in the passenger seat ;-) but actually, I enjoyed this very much, all of it.

Reading in lounge chairs on the pink sand beaches in Barbados.

I went to Barbados with Adam.  This was the ultimate relaxing vacation.  Major lounging on the beach, lots of reading, no attention was paid to time or schedules, playing in the waves, eating delicious food, and a few little excursions scattered throughout the trip (one, an incredible catamaran cruise during which we snorkeled with sea turtles, another during which we went to an animal reserve and essentially were able to touch the tiny wild monkey, etc.  SO much fun).  

But overall, the majority of the trip was spent on the beach.

LOVED this.  Not only was the beach quite possibly the most beautiful I have ever spent time on for a beach, but as an avid reader, this was the ultimate reading locale ;-)

The sand is PINK!!!!

Nighttime bicycle tour in Paris.

What a total blast this was.  Riding bicycles alongside chaotic and busy Paris traffic in the dark!!!  Talk about an adrenaline rush!  But even more so, the "the city of light" as is its nickname, is best experienced at night.  

We rode literally all over the entire expanse of the city.  We saw the deserted Louvre courtyard glowing in the dark, like an illuminated handheld puzzle cube.  We rode to Notre Dame, which was looming, dark, elegant and eye catching after the sun had set.  We rode past the Champ Elysees, the arm glowing at the endpoint of the two long stretches of trees filled with small white lights.  We stopped for ice cream.  We rode past the Eiffel Tower, sparkling gold against the black sky.  And at the end, our group boarded a boat and rode leisurely down the Seine river, sharing a few bottles of wine, chatting and taking in the sights along the riverside.

What an awesome travel activity!!!

Ice cream break :-D

Riding bicycles out to Giverny, France to see Monet's famous water lily garden.

Another incredibly memorable and scenically beautiful bike ride.  Adam and I did this on our trip to Paris.  This was a side trip for an entire day far outside of the city.  We took a short train ride with our group, then exited the train station and were led to our bicycles.  We climbed on and rode.  The ride was around an hour through rolling, serene and charming French countryside.  All of this was incredibly picturesque, as you can see below.

We stopped at a small open air food market to purchase edible picnic supplies ;-)  we chose a delicious blue cheese, french baguette, fruit and pastries.  YUM.

Back on our bikes, we rode a while longer until we stopped at a sweet spot by the river to enjoy our food and the relaxing moment as well as lovely view.

Finally, we rode one last stretch before we reached Monet's famous water lily garden.  We parted ways with our large group and were able to explore the garden however we liked on our own, just the two of us.  I took TONS of photos with my brand new, incredibly outstanding camera (this was so great).  And later on that afternoon, we rode the bikes back to the train station.

Loved every minute of this.

This is one of Monet's very well known paintings of the famous water lily garden that we went to.

And that's me, standing on that very bridge that was featured in the painting above.

Monet's house, off in the background.

NYC with Alex, Leanne, Kent, Dan and Adam.

This was not only a fantastic trip but also a really cool heart-stopping surprise for me.

As a Christmas gift, Adam had given me a weekend trip to NYC!!  This was something I had always told him I would love to do with him, that we had yet to do.  So that alone was a super romantic and exciting gift for me!!!  He told me to do some research and figure out what I might like to do while we were there.  Doubly exciting, as I love the research and planning stuff.

On the day of departure, Adam and I sat in Boston South Station eating breakfast together and waiting for the train to call passengers to board.  As I ate, Adam suddenly told me to look up.  I did so, only to have my heart skip and my jaw drop in shock.  Walking towards us were four of our closest friends, Alex, Dan, Leanne and Kent!!!  They had HUGE smiles on their faces, looking right at me, as they pulled rolling suitcases.  "Surprise!" they said.

So, the 6 of us departed by train for NYC as I tingled with excitement and happiness.

That weekend, we went out for drinks in a small tavern one night, which got a bit outrageously silly towards the end after more drinks had flown ;-).  We climbed to the top of the Empire State building.  We went to Times Square after dark, which was mind-blowing, as Times Square always is.  We strolled all over NYC.  We stopped in a mouthwatering make-your-own macaroni and cheese restaurant, which was absolute heaven for me since this is my VERY favorite food EVER.  And on our last evening there, we ate dinner at the very top of a skyscraper in Times Square, but the coolest part?  The restaurant was revolving slowly!!  So after one hour, the place had done a full 360 degree turn.  If one went up to the buffet to get food, upon returning, you would encounter slight confusion, having to look a couple more minutes for your table which had since moved a bit.  We walked through parks and checked out Rockefeller Center.

I really loved this entire trip with all of these people that I love :-D such great fun.

With Alex (middle) and Leanne (right)

Balboa Island/Laguna Beach, California with Mom and Lexie.

About a month before I departed over to Europe where I was moving indefinitely, my Mom told me she would love it if she, my sister Lexie and I all went together to California on a trip.  To visit her family out there but also to have a trip together the three of us before I left.  I of course said yes, I would love to.  This trip was a BLAST!!!!

We visited one of my good friends, Jeremy and his girlfriend, Jen in Laguna Beach for a day (going out to eat sushi with them, walking around the city where they lived, all of us talking and laughing).  I spent the night at Jeremy's and the next day, he and I spent the day together exploring Laguna.  I really loved this.  I had never been to his neck of the woods before, only having had experiences with him in Boston.  And it was also really nice to have some time with him to catch up.  This was great fun as well as special for me.  He was a close friend of mine and Adams for a few years, and is a friend I value and hope to remain in touch with.
It was also wonderful to meet his girlfriend, Jen.  They are very sweet together :-) and seem deeply in love.  I really enjoyed getting to see this.

After my time with Jeremy and Jen, he drove me to my cousins home in Malibu, Jennifer and Mark.  This was such fun as my Grandpa Don was there, who I adore, my Nana Lu, Jennifer and Mark of course (who are warm, welcoming, fun and wonderful), their two sons (Derek and Lucas), my aunt Debbie and then myself, my Mom and Lexie.

We played in their expansive and lush pool many afternoons together, Lexie and I laid together on the lawn and read in the sun, we had delicious dinners as a big group, we celebrated many birthdays (as a bunch of ours are close together) with a tasty champagne flavored cake, we played board games, had a fire one evening outside by the pool, played Just Dance on the Wii and more.

This trip was laid back, memorable and wonderful for me.

Jumping into the pool with my little cousin, Derek :-D
Laguna Beach.  Gorgeous.

LOVED these little houses and neighborhoods on Balboa Island.  Such a charming little beach town.

Jen and Jeremy.

My entire solo trip to Portugal, though especially my first day.

I suspect many of you already read my recent Portugal entries.  I loved the entire trip. But especially my first day, as it was totally new, slightly more unnerving and really exciting.

I walked ALL over the city.  Especially up onto the hill in the Alfama district.  A hilly, cobbled, charming, quiet, crumbling, beautiful area set high up above the city.  I took tons of photos.  This is also the day I tried the AMAZING Portuguese sweet coconut bread that I am still dreaming about ;-)

My first solo trip ever in my life, to Italy.

This was last July, the very first time I traveled alone within my life.  Also incredibly awesome.  I spent a week there.  I ate tons of delicious Italian food, did a lot of writing and reading, took a group bike tour out into the hills of Tuscany (the beginning of the day, it DOWNPOURED.  I mean I was so wet, it was literally as if I had fallen into a lake and then gotten back on my bike.  After this, it was sunny and warm.  Nuts haha).  

I was invited out with a mother and son (Matt and Monique) whom I met on this bike tour.  We had a wonderful dinner together which I really enjoyed.  I was also invited out for drinks with one of the bike tour guides, Jason.  He and I also had some fun laughs together and a great time.  

I took a day trip to the Cinque Terre, laying in the sun, hiking a bit and then lounging on the beach.  I relaxed in a quiet and pretty rose garden back in Florence with sweeping views of the city below.  I did a bit of shopping.  

And I survived not having my suitcase for three entire days.  I was stuck with literally just the one dress on my back, my camera and purse.  That is IT.  While humorous in the beginning, this ended up getting to be a bummer by the end of day two haha.  But relief, whew, when the bag was delivered by the end of day three.

Overall, awesome trip.

What are some of each of your most breathtaking or truly awesome travel experiences??  I would love to hear them.


  1. Wow, these trips look like so much fun!

  2. Wow, these trips look like so much fun!