Category Archives: Europe Trip

Europe 2016 (plus future plans)

My friends, I am officially done recapping our Europe trip. At the end of this post I’ll link to all the blog posts from this trip. Or if you feel like watching all the videos in a row you can do so here:

This trip was amazing. It was so precious to have those 17 uninterrupted days together. Just us. Exploring and adventuring and making memories. I’ll be honest, there are times when life can be really hard. And we are notorious for taking on more than we should when it comes to volunteer work (though we’re better than we used to be thanks to our 30 Days last year). So this trip was such a blessing for us.

We’ve been asked quite a bit where we’re headed next as far as travel goes so I thought I’d fill you guys in. Our plan for 2017 is to travel state-side (maybe with a cruise or a trip to the Caribbean thrown in if we find a good deal). So if you have any suggestions for must-see places in the good ol’ US of A, let me know! I’m not sure if we’ll make it everywhere, but I know that we’d like to visit California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Wyoming, Illinois, and maybe even possibly Disney World.

And in 2018 we’ve got our sights set on the UK. We’re hoping to visit England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to see all the places my family is from. And if it works out, I wouldn’t say no to hopping on a plane over to Finland while we’re on that side of the ocean. 🙂

We love to travel and are so thankful to have jobs that allow us time off. This 2016 Europe trip was amazing and we’re already looking forward to all the fun that 2017 and 2018 will bring! 🙂

switzerland.jpg

Links to our 2016 Europe Trip:

Vienna, Austria
Prague, Czech Republic
Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Cinque Terre, Italy
Rome, Italy
Athens, Greece
Mykonos, Greece
Santorini, Greece
Paris, France
Because We’re Terrible at Taking Selfies
How We Travel So Much (and how we flew to Europe for $400 round trip)
Packing for 17 days in a carry on

Any advice for me on favorite places you’ve visited in the USA?

Love Rach

Packing for 17 days in a carry on

This post is an attempt to answer several questions from different people about packing so forgive me if I bounce around a bit.

First of all, I have to tell you guys that if we are driving somewhere, we bring ALL THE THINGS. Seriously. Multiple clothing & shoe options for each day, lots of entertainment (coloring books, reading material, games, etc), cameras, laptops, blankets, pillows, fitness stuff, and suitcases packed FULL. For a simple weekend trip we usually bring enough for a month. 😉

However, if we’re flying… we are no-nonsense, essentials-only packers. This is simply because we don’t like checking bags. If my bag has to be checked, it will no doubt get lost. When we went to Italy in 2013 one of our bags got sent to the wrong place so we spent 2 weeks living out of one carry-on size backpack. This made us realize how little stuff we actually NEED when traveling. So for this trip when we packed, we packed light.

packing light for europe.jpgWhat you see in this photo is everything we brought on our entire 17 day journey! Two carry-on sized bags and 1 personal item.

Our choice for carry-on size backpacks: 

We each carried one Osprey Porter 46 backpack. These aren’t cheap, but they are excellent quality. They are standard carry-on size and you can easily put the straps up to carry the bag like a suitcase as well. We loved all the extra compartments on these bags! Plus they were very comfortable to carry and easily adjustable. Best of all, they also have a front panel opening. So they open like a suitcase. I LOVE this feature! It makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for in the bag. For a size comparison, here’s the backpack next to my standard rolling carry-on that I usually fly with:

osprey 46 next to carry on.jpg

And here’s a peek inside my bag once it was packed:

osprey-46-packed

For bottoms I brought 2 pairs of shorts (1 athletic, 1 regular), 1 pair of yoga pants, and 1 pair of skinny jeans. I also brought 3 dresses to rotate through. In Christopher’s bag he packed 3 pairs of shorts and 1 pair of linen pants as well as 1 casual button up shirt. To save space in our bags (and because planes are cold!), we wore our warm clothes on the plane (a cardigan & scarf for me, a jacket for him). We both wore sneakers on the plane and packed Chacos for beach days. We brought the barest essentials as far as extras, entertainment (1 deck of cards plus books & music on our phones), and toiletries went (1 quart size bag each, thankyouTSA) and that was that. 🙂

How we pack our backpacks:

We packed our outfits (minus pants) for each day in these gallon-sized bags (see below). Each bag has a date on it and then into that bag Christopher and I put one shirt each, one pair of undies each, and a pair of socks each. That way we are sure we won’t clash and we don’t have to figure out what we’re wearing each day. For this trip we brought 8 different gallon-sized bags with outfits that we washed half way through the trip and then re-wore for the second half of the trip. We also had a 9th bag for our swimwear and a 10th for one long-sleeved shirt each. So each of us packed 5 gallon-sized bags in our backpacks.

clothes in ziplock bags

I posted about this before we left and I had several of you ask me how I actually rolled the clothes up in each bag so I made you a super quick video tutorial:

Very basic. Very simple. A lot of blacks, whites, greys, and blues. But very practical which worked well for us. 🙂

Our choice for a personal item:

We carried the Travelon anti-theft cross body bag as our personal item (we would swap it back and forth since it got heavy). We bought this bag in 2013 for our Italy trip and it has been awesome! It has traveled to most major cities with us. Inside this bag goes our itinerary for the day, snacks, travel journal, lip balm, medicine, band aids, headphones, flashlight, deck of cards, cell phones, power brick for charging cell phones, a credit card (other credit cards, passports, and cash were carried in these money belts), and my DSLR camera.

camera-and-bagChristopher with the cross body bag and me with the DSLR camera (at the Roman Forum)

How we pack and travel with a DSLR camera when flying:

When we fly, I don’t bring my whole camera bag. Which means that we only bring one DSLR camera and only one lens for it attached already (on this trip we brought a Nikon D750 and a 50mm 1.8/f). We also brought a little point & shoot camera (Nikon S8100) that has served us well and is perfect for beach days (if we are planning to swim, I usually leave the DSLR in the room because I don’t want to leave it unattended on the beach). And honestly, cellphones these days take awesome pictures and video as well. The DSLR goes into a protective sleeve cover (I have this one, but when I searched for it just now, I also saw this other one and it looks even better so I might be purchasing it in the future). And then my camera is either worn crossbody if I know I’ll be using it a lot (which is pretty much always, haha!) or it goes our Travelon bag.

Whew! That was a lot of information. Let me know if I left anything out or if you have any questions! 🙂

So tell me, how much do you usually pack for trips? Do you pack less when you fly?

Love Rach

 

Because we’re terrible at taking selfies

Christopher finally upgraded his Samsung S3 to the newest Samsung S7 just before we left for Europe.

With a new phone comes fun new features and learning how to use them all.

This includes the fact that when you take a photo on his S7 you can press the screen and the phone with automatically focus on the spot you touch and fix the lighting for that area as well. A super cool feature!

However, this feature doesn’t work in selfie mode.

Instead, when you touch the screen in selfie mode it takes a photo.

You guys, we seriously kept forgetting this so we have all these hilariously terrible selfies with us touching the screen trying to get his phone to focus on what we want it to focus on.

And clearly I need to share these terrible photos with you. 😉

switzerland-1Underneath a waterfall in Switzerland. This was when we first found out that this feature doesn’t work in selfie-mode. We took like 6 photos in a row before we realized it, ha! Also, please note Christopher’s horns. 😉

switzerland-2Same day in Switzerland. This was near the beginning of our trip so we had trouble remembering that this feature didn’t work.

athensAnd then in Athens. This was the end of the trip so we really have no excuse for not remembering, ha!

And then finally… this lovely shot in the Cinque Terre. This one wasn’t a problem because of us touching the screen. Oh no, this one is terrible because of my face.

manarolaThis is one of Christopher’s favorite photos because he finds it so hilarious. What is this face I am making?! Horrible, that’s what. 😉 I had been smiling quite prettily at the camera when this girl walked up behind us and stood in the background of our photo (which happens a lot when traveling in touristy areas so no big deal). So I made this silly face that was supposed to be a “yikes” face, but it just looks horrible. Hence why Christopher finds it so hilarious.

So there you have it. We have lots of beautiful photos and video clips from our time in Europe, but there are some terrible ones too. And you just got a taste of the worst of it. 😉 Just keepin’ it real, my friends.

Are you good at taking selfies? Any tips for us??

Does anyone else’s phone have a feature like this one? 

Love Rach

Paris, France

This may sound strange because it’s such an iconic city, but Paris has never been super high on our list of places we wanted to visit. However, due to using airline miles to pay for our plane tickets, we were limited on places we could fly in and out of on the dates that we wanted. So Paris was the city that lined up best with the departure date we wanted. We figured we might as well see the city while we were there. And oh my, am I glad we did! We loved visiting Paris!

Time Spent in Paris: 23 hours

Where we stayed: Hotel Jean Bart

Where we ate: 

Le Royal
Pomme de Pain

What we saw/did:

Eiffel Tower
Louvre Museum (best museum of our trip!)
Notre Dame Cathedral
Sainte Chapelle
Luxembourg Gardens

Total Steps: 26,773

Miles Walked: 12

Floors Climbed: 19

Overall thoughts: Paris was such a fun city! I liked so many things about it, but the Eiffel Tower (iconic, much?) and Louvre were my favorites. I absolutely loved the Winged Victory at the Louvre. I’m pretty sure I need a full-scale replica of that somewhere at my house. 😉

I discovered on this trip that I love croissants. I’ve always thought that I didn’t like them, but I guess I’ve just never had a really good one before. I had some incredible ones both in Greece and in Paris! And speaking of food, I have a story I need to share…

At dinner in Paris I ordered the vegetable soup. The server informed me that they were out of vegetable soup, but that the onion soup was very good. I was a little unsure because I was envisioning a vegetable soup, but with only onions and no other veggies. But it was inexpensive so I thought I’d try it as a starter. When I was served the soup, I exclaimed, “Oh! It’s FRENCH onion soup! I didn’t realize that’s what it was!” Christopher found this absolutely hilarious. We have both laughed about it many times since then. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it, but obviously we were in France… so all onion soup is French onion soup. 😉 The clip of me at the end of the video is from when Christopher was asking me to tell him all about my “onion soup” which is why I’m laughing so much. 🙂

I’m so glad we got to spend the day in Paris. It was a fabulous end to our European vacation! 🙂

23-hours-in-paris

If you’ve been to Paris tell me what you loved about it! 

Have you ever had an experience with ordering food and not realizing what it was until it arrived?

Love Rach

Santorini, Greece

Time Spent in the Santorini: 1.5 days

Where we stayed: We stayed at two places in Santorini because we had to leave Mykonos early to due to a ferry strike. Our hotel in Santorini for the following night didn’t have any availability when we called them the day we found out about the strike. But they recommended the hotel across the street and we were so glad that they did!

Pension: The Flower
Anemomilos Hotel Apartments

Where we ate: 

Thalassia (breakfast)
Anemomilos Restaurant (lunch & dinner)

What we saw/did:

Explored Oia in the morning
Spent the afternoon lazing around at the pool with a view over the sea
Sunset in Oia

Total Steps: 29,976

Miles Walked: 13

Floors Climbed: 112

Overall thoughts: Oia, Santorini was just as beautiful as I expected! Postcard perfect views everywhere you look. However, it can get super crowded and we knew this going into it. So spent the morning exploring Oia and hardly saw other tourists at all (just the locals preparing for the day). By around 11am there were lots more people out so we decided to walk back to our hotel at that point. So here’s the magic… we stayed 5 minutes outside the heart of Oia and because of that it was empty and serene. We spent the afternoon at the pool with a view out over the sea (gorgeous!) and just enjoyed relaxing together after the go-go-go nature of most of this trip.

We did go into Oia for the sunset because we’d heard that it was a can’t-miss experience. And honestly… totally truthfully… don’t hate me for saying this… but it wasn’t the most gorgeous sunset I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful. It really was, but just not the most gorgeous we’ve seen. But even if it was the most gorgeous ever… it was far from romantic since we were out there seeing it with 1,000 of our closest friends. 😉 I’m glad we got to see it, but the crowds were just crazy. I can’t imagine how bad it is in peak season. Again, it was beautiful, but the sunset has been just as beautiful on every island, beach, and cruise ship that I’ve ever been on (with cruise ship sunsets probably being the best because they stretch out so far over the open water).

Santorini is iconic so for that I’m glad we went. But honestly I think I liked Mykonos better. The town was cuter (still white & blue!) and it was far less crowded. But I’m glad we got the chance to see two of the islands. If you go visit Oia, I highly recommend going in the morning to see sunrise (I got to see the sunrise from our hotel and it was beautiful!) and to explore the town without getting hit with selfie sticks. 😉

1-5-days-in-santorini

If you’ve been to Santorini tell me what you loved about it!

Where is the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen? 

Love Rach

Mykonos, Greece

Time Spent in Mykonos: 8.5 hours (originally planned to be here overnight, but there was a ferry strike that required us to leave early… more on that later)

Where we stayed: Bellissimo Resort (this is where we were supposed to stay. I wrote a review for them on TripAdvisor anyway because management was so awesome!)

Where we ate: 

Madoupas Cafe

What we saw/did:

SeaBus (used as transportation between ports)
Agios Ioannis Beach
Windmills
Little Venice

Total Steps: 13,917

Miles Walked: 6

Floors Climbed: 40

Overall thoughts: Initially we had planned to stay in Mykonos about 24 hours, but when we arrived in Mykonos that morning we went immediately to purchase our ferry tickets to Santorini for the next day. Well… wouldn’t you know… there would be a ferry strike the next two days. And our flight to Paris was leaving Santorini in two days. Which meant that if we didn’t want to miss our flight to Paris we would have to leave Mykonos on the same day we arrived. Initially this was a huge bummer, but we made the most of it (and our hotel was AWESOME with a partial refund despite me booking a nonrefundable room plus letting us use their facilities). By the time we finished our day in Mykonos and caught the last ferry out (at 6:30pm) we really felt like we had a full and fun day there. 🙂 Mykonos was beautiful! I don’t know if we’ll be back to the Greek Islands in the future (because as beautiful as they were – there are places equally beautiful and much closer to us in the Caribbean that are far less expensive to travel to), but if we do go back to Greece then I would absolutely return to Mykonos!

mykonos

If you’ve been to Mykonos tell me what you loved about it! 

Have you ever had a strike interfere with your travel plans? This was a first for us!
Love Rach

Athens, Greece

Today I hope you are prepared for what Christopher calls “The Most Epic Ponytail Ever”. When we decided to try and take more video on this trip than we did last time, I knew that would mean there would be times when Christopher would take candid video of me. What I didn’t realize was how random some of that video footage would be. 😉 But it makes me laugh how throwing my hair up in a ponytail suddenly becomes “epic” when you are at an awesome location, it’s super windy, your husband starts panning around you, and you add music. Bada-bing, bada-boom. The most epic ponytail. 😉

Time Spent in Athens: 22 hours

Where we stayed: Adonis Hotel 

Where we ate:

Bairaktaris
Geros Tou Moria (one of the highlights of Athens for us!)

What we saw/did:

Acropolis Hill / Parthenon
Acropolis Museum
National Archaeological Museum
Areopagus / Mars Hill
Ancient Agora

Total Steps: 25,092

Miles Walked: 11

Floors Climbed: 73

Overall thoughts: My overall thoughts on Athens are mixed. The touristy areas close to Acropolis Hill are awesome. Clean, well-lit, and fun. The rest of Athens that we saw was covered in graffiti and had some pretty intense smells. It was also the least friendly city we visited on this trip as far as interactions with the locals went. This really surprised me because I had this idea that Greece would be very open and friendly like Italy. I kind of wonder if it has to do with everything the country is going through economically right now. This is a big part of why we loved our dinner experience at Geros Tou Moria so much – Stefanos made us feel like friends! A refreshing change from our other interactions with the locals.

Visiting the historical parts of Athens was awesome, but I’m glad we were only there one day. I think two would be the most I would have wanted to spend there (just to have a little more time to enjoy the food and dedicate more time at each museum). Not that I dislike Athens by any means (I know it sounds like I do, but I really don’t!). It’s just that there are other places in Europe where I’d rather spend my time. I’m SO glad that we went to Athens. I’ve wanted to visit Acropolis Hill since I was in college. It was an awesome experience! All in all, I’m glad we went for a day to see the highlights. 🙂

22-hours-in-athens

If you’ve been to the Athens tell me what you loved about it! 

Have you visited a new place and been surprised to find it different than you expected? Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and My Big Fat Greek Wedding ruined me… I think deep down I thought everyone would be dancing and laughing and crying “Opa!” all the time, ha!

Love Rach