Our Favorite Summer Destinations

The Arches in Oregon from our Pacific Northwest Road trip

The Arches in Oregon from our Pacific Northwest Road trip

Summer is almost half way over, can you believe it?!  We certainly can’t.  This summer has felt more like summer than the past ones for Alex and I and so in honor of summer and how wonderful it is, we thought we would put together a list of our favorite summer destinations from our past articles.  That way when the cold starts again and we are dreaming of summer we can always come back to this post and think of all of our great summer trips!

 

The Cinque Terre

The Rock at Monterossa, one of the 5 towns in that make up the Cinque Terre

The Rock at Monterossa, one of the 5 towns in that make up the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is 5 small cities located along the Italian Riviera and are some of my favorite Italian beaches.  They are characterized by bright houses built into the cliffside and the bright aquamarine Mediterranean Sea.  The Cinque Terre is a perfect summer destination for relaxing along the beach, hiking the 5 cities and overindulging in Trofie al Pesto, one of the best dishes in the region.

 

Crete

This is Matala on the south coast of Crete.  The rock is covered with manmade caves from the neolithic period and in the 1960s they were completely overrun by hippies

This is Matala on the south coast of Crete. The rock is covered with manmade caves from the neolithic period and in the 1960s they were completely overrun by hippies

Crete is possibly my favorite place in the entire world and this is a perfect place for a summer trip whether you are interested in relaxing by the sea, hiking, eating amazing food or exploring Crete’s fascinating history.  You can explore the ruins of Phaistos and Knossos which date back to 2000BCE or you can hike the Samarian Gorge and after go for a swim in the Mediterranean.  Crete has it all and the people are so fantastically friendly.  Crete will always be one of my top destinations regardless.

 

Paris

The Sacre Coure dominates the skyline of Montmartre in Paris

The Sacre Coure dominates the skyline of Montmartre in Paris

While Paris in the Springtime may have been made famous thanks to Ella Fitzgerald, Paris is a city you can visit at any time of the year.  Summer can be busy but it is worth it to just wander the city.  Think long afternoons in the park by the Eiffel Tower, taking a long coffee break at an outdoor cafe, dining in the late evening while the sun sets at 10pm and then having a Kir Royale or listening to live music in a bar.  Paris is meant for the summer.  Soak up the sun, eat glace, visit Versailles, and live the Parisian life.

 

Rawaii

Absolutely love the longtail boats all over the islands of Thailand.  So glad we were able to hitch a ride on one of these bad boys to Coral Island

Absolutely love the longtail boats all over the islands of Thailand. So glad we were able to hitch a ride on one of these bad boys to Coral Island

I think we can safely say that our absolutely favorite place in Thailand was Rawaii.  Rawaii was everything we wanted out of Thailand.  We rented a beach house, we drank beers all day at the Paradise Beach Bar, we rented a longboat and visited nearby Coral Island.  It was essentially paradise and I could stay there forever, or at least all summer long, drinking mai tais on the beach.

 

Sedona

Bell Rock Sedona

Bell Rock Sedona

Summer in Arizona can be hot but that doesn’t mean you should stay away especially if you plan on visiting Sedona.  Sedona is the heart of red rock country in Arizona and it is well worth a trip to see these beautiful mountains.  I would highly suggest taking a sunset jeep ride through the red rocks, it was so exhilarating!

 

Brussels

The medieval Grand Place n the heart of Brussels

The medieval Grand Place n the heart of Brussels

 

Our summer weekend trip to Brussels was perfect.  It was full of exploring the quaint cultural center of Brussels, discovering pubs and eating frittes and waffles!  Brussels is a little different than your typical summer beach retreat but Brussels has everything you want out of a European city.  Plus any excuse to drink rare Belgian beers is A OK with me!  And make sure to overindulge in the waffles and beer, after all bikini season is only a few months :)

 

Thessaloniki

The Harbor in Thessaloniki

The Harbor in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is our absolute favorite city to escape to.  Whenever Rome would get overwhelming we would pop over to Thessaloniki to chill out.  There is not a ton in the way of sightseeing, you can see the sites in a day really but it is a great city to explore the small streets, visit the markets, spend all day out at the harbor drinking frapes and then head out for a late dinner and some even later nightlife.  When you finally make it back to your hostel make sure it is Little Big House for one of the best hostel experiences Alex and I have had.

 

Disneyland

A summer without at least one Disneyland trip is a summer wasted

A summer without at least one Disneyland trip is a summer wasted

What can we say?  We are suckers for Disneyland and a summer is not complete without at least one trip to Disneyland, although I always try to go early June before school is out of late August/early September once school is back in.  However, if someone asked me to go tomorrow, I totally would.  Every time Alex and I go we always get new Mickey ears as well, it has become somewhat of a tradition. And a trip to Disneyland is also not complete without a Dole pineapple whip and watching the fireworks; there are no better fireworks in the world.

 

Rome

The sprawling city of Rome

The sprawling city of Rome

We just recently published an article all about Rome in summer and all the awesome things that Rome has going on in the summer but all I really have to say is GELATO at any time of the day! If that isn’t enough to make you want to visit Rome I don’t know what is.  Sure they have the Pantheon and the Vatican, and maybe their neighborhoods are full of charm, and the pizza and pasta is to die for, and they perform operas in old Roman bath complexes; but we all know the real reason to visit Rome in the summer, it is Gelato and it always will be.


What are some of your favorite summer destinations?  

A Glimpse of Mt. Saint Helena

The other day Alex and I had our first weekend off together in a long time and we had been feeling lazy…and broke.  So we decided to do something free and active.  We decided to climb Mt. Saint Helena, and it was a wonderful/crazy idea.  I actually have never climbed a mountain besides Vesuvius, and honestly it is not that hard considering most tours (and mine) drive you more than 75% of the way up, so while I was the one who suggested climbing the mountain I was more than wary of what I had gotten us into.  Mt. Saint Helena is the tallest mountain in Sonoma County and the hike is 5 miles up 2,000ft and of course you always have to go back down.  Alex and I did it however and it only took us 4 1/2 hours!  I am amazed that I was able to climb the mountain and it was utterly exhilarating to have accomplished this. Here are some photos from our awesome adventure!

This was one of the first views we had as we climbed the mountain.  The first 1/2 hour was in the trees and then we reached the fire trail and were greeted with this view

This was one of the first views we had as we climbed the mountain. The first 1/2 hour was in the trees and then we reached the fire trail and were greeted with this view

Then we realized there would not be any shade for the next 4 hours..... BRING LOTS OF WATER!

Then we realized there would not be any shade for the next 4 hours….. BRING LOTS OF WATER!

Still so far to go!  The summit looked close but this was about an hour away from the top

Still so far to go! The summit looked close but this was about an hour away from the top

After 2 hours we reached the summit and this was our first view after a the steepest part of the trail.  We decided to take the fork to the southern summit too which was much closer than the northern summit.

After 2 1/2 hours we reached the summit and this was our first view after a the steepest part of the trail. We decided to take the fork to the southern summit too which was much closer than the northern summit.

Then we turned the corner and were greeted with the view of Napa Valley, Calistoga and Alexander Valley

Then we turned the corner and were greeted with the view of Napa Valley, Calistoga and Alexander Valley

We then spent about 20 minutes searching for the picnic benches.  Don’t fret they are behind the cell towers and to get there you just need to take the second trail on the right.  There will be 3 benches with a map of the vista.

We made it!

We made it!

On a clear day you can see Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, Lake Berryessa in Napa and sometimes the Sierras

On a clear day you can see Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, Lake Berryessa in Napa and sometimes the Sierras

Look at that view!  So excited to be on a mountain!

Look at that view! So excited to be on a mountain!

Mt. Saint Helena is located on Highway 29 in Calistoga, CA.  To reach Louis Robert Stevenson Park simply follow Highway 29 up the mountain until you see a sign on the right side of the road and a parking lot on the left; pull in either to the right or the left as they both count as parking lots.  The trail head is on the right hand side.  The beginning is fairly simple with a few switchbacks as you head up the mountain and then you will reach the Louis Robert Stevenson memorial.  Once you reach this point which should take about 20 minutes take the eroded/barely there trail off to your right.  Don’t take the scary trail up to the cave, this will not take you to the top of the mountain.  The trail on your right will connect to a fire road, turn left and head straight on till morning or at least to the top of the mountain.  It is a great hike just know if you go in the summer make sure to bring plenty of water.  We brought about 2 1/2 liters of water and really I wish it had been more.  Also it is great to bring lunch because there are picnic benches at the summit where you can relax and enjoy the view before heading back down the mountain.

View of the valley

View of the valley

If you find yourself in Sonoma County and you have found that you have been wine tasting too much in Healdsburg and need a break than definitely head to Mt. Saint Helena, also the famous Chateau Montelena (the winery from the movie “Bottle Shock”) is at the bottom of the mountain.

Happy 4th of July!

Hello Everyone,

We just quickly wanted to wish our American readers a Happy 4th of July!  We hope that you are celebrating with a BBQ and fireworks!  We may be at work all day today but we will be celebrating mentally.  I hope the fireworks over town are visible tonight :)

Happy 4th of July

 

-Ashley and Alex

Rome in Summer

Rome is a wonderful city and despite the heat, humidity, and lack of air conditioning, it really comes alive during the summer.  There is so much going on in the outdoor piazzas, along the rivers and all the different exhibits that it is worth being in Rome in the summer, as long as you arrive before August as everything shuts down for Ferragusto (the August holiday).

 

Here are our favorite things to do while in Rome for the summer:

 

Drinks along the Tiber:

Drinks along the Tiber

Drinks along the Tiber

Every summer the Tiber transforms from just another river running through a city to the heart of the city’s nightlife.  Beginning at the end of May you can see construction all along the Tiber as they begin to build temporary restaurants, bars and even nightclubs all along the river from Trastevere up to Castel Sant’Angelo.  It is a wonderful place to spend the evening during the summer in Rome.  The restaurants can be a little expensive for what they are but there are always awesome hookah bars and the nightlife is fun.  You can even watch old movies on Tiber Island.

 

Opera and Ballet at the Baths of Caracalla:
The Opera at the Baths of Caracalla

Every summer the Baths of Caracalla (one of my favorite archaeological sites) hosts a series of performances in the baths.  Last year Alex and I saw the opera Attila and it was fantastic, the dramatic opera played out in front of the backdrop of some of the most impressive ruins of Rome.  This year Swan Lake and Carmen are two of the major performances taking place at the Baths.  If you love opera or ballet this is definitely the backdrop to see these performances!  I wish I was in Rome this summer to see Swan Lake!

 

Shaved Ice Stands: Grattacheccari

Grattachecca

Every summer Rome explodes in roadside stands and one of those is the Grattacheccari, which sells essentially shaved ice but it is so much better than the snowcone you used to purchase as a kid.  Grattacheccari stands, especially the one by the Tiber just south of Viale di Trastevere, are famous for their hand shaved ice.  That means some guy is in front of a giant block of ice personally shaving ice off for every order, and then of course you have the variety of flavors.  I have noticed that coconut is insanely popular although I am more a fan of the berry flavors.  Also the great thing about these stands is they also generally serve fresh lemonade as well.  There is nothing better on a hot Roman day than a lemonade and shaved ice.

 

Viewing the Monuments at Night:

Pantheon at Night

Pantheon at Night

When it is hot in Rome no one wants to do extensive sightseeing and honestly thats ok because Rome is gorgeous at night.  Some of my favorite sites are best seen at night.  They are also waaaayyyy less crowded and believe me in June/July that means a lot.  So many famous sites in Rome can be seen after hours and its definitely worth it.  The Trevi Fountain is open at all hours, the Pantheon can be viewed outside all the time and it is gorgeous just as the sun rises, and same goes for Piazza Navona.  The night is my favorite time to view monuments and many tour companies are catching on.  There are night tours of the Coliseum and even the Vatican now, if you have a chance to do this take them, I promise it will be worth it.

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

 

Castel Sant’Angelo at Night:

Photo courtesy of World Viator

Photo courtesy of World Viator

Every summer Castel Sant’Angelo on the Tiber river opens for guests after hours and it is definitely something you should check out.  Castel Sant’Angelo should be on your list regardless because of its history but if you happen to come in summer visit it at night.  The best thing about the castle being open at night is you actually get to explore more of the castle than normal.  In the summer evenings you can head down to the oldest parts of Castel Sant’Angelo and visit Hadrian’s tomb (this is what the building was originally built for) and then you can walk down the Passato.  The Passato is the “secret passageway” that was built from the Vatican to the castle so that the Pope could escape the Vatican if it was under siege.  The passage was used several times especially when the French sacked Rome in 1527.  Castel Sant’Angelo was also used as a prison in the Middle Ages.  There is so much history in this one building and it is worth spending a few hours visiting.  There are also stunning views of Rome from the rooftop as well.

 

Drinks at a Rooftop Bar:

The rooftop bar at Albergo Cesari

The rooftop bar at Albergo Cesari

I feel like having drinks at a rooftop bar is just a requirement in a city as beautiful as Rome and we obviously had our favorite.  Actually after we discovered it we never went anywhere else…  Our favorite rooftop bar to visit is at the top of Albergo Cesari on Via di Pietra and it is located near the Pantheon.  Surprisingly enough though it does not have views of the Pantheon but actually has spectacular views of St. Ignazio Church.  It is a wonderfully baroque church and the views from the rooftop are unsurpassed.  The drinks at Albergo Cesari are also amazing.  This is one of the few places in Rome where if you order a martini you will actually get a martini and not the vermouth Martini dei Rossi.  It may be on the little of an expensive side but it is worth checking out and if our bartender is there you will get some of the best cocktails in Rome.

 

Rome’s Globe Theater:

The Globe Theater in Villa Borghese, photo courtesy of The Times

The Globe Theater in Villa Borghese, photo courtesy of The Times

Every summer Rome sets up a replica of London’s Globe Theater and of course they put on Shakespeare’s plays based in Italy.  The replica Globe Theater is set up in the Borghese Gardens and it is wonderful to see the plays put on in their native Italian.  If you are a Shakespeare fan and heading to Rome I am sure you will love visiting the Italian Globe.
These are some of the best special events going on in the summer in Rome and worth checking out.  There are of course the usual things to do: eating gelato for three meals, drinking cold beers, and hanging out on the steps of Trastevere; but if you want to experience a real unique, cultural, summer moment in Rome than these are some of the things I would suggest.  Rome is filled with so much history and culture, and the Romans live for summer; it would be a shame to let some of these typical Roman summer experiences pass you by.

Craving Travel: The Top 11 Reasons We Miss Travel

The View of the Bay of Naples from Vesuvius

The View of the Bay of Naples from Vesuvius

It seems the more little trips we go on the more we are missing travel as a whole.  It has been awhile since we have been able to just take off and explore and right now we are craving travel.  In the end travel means everything to us and here are 11 reasons we miss and are craving travel (regardless how silly some of them are)

 

 

1- Morning beer

Having a morning beer while watching the sun rise over Rome

Having a morning beer while watching the sun rise over Rome

Seems a little strange to start out with us missing morning beer, really I could have a morning beer right now if I wanted to but thats not really what we miss.  What we miss is the freedom of being able to wake up in the morning, have nothing planned and sit and have a beer as you watch the world go by.  The freedom of knowing your time is your own and you don’t have to answer to anyone.  The freedom of knowing that we have chosen a life of travel and we will never regret that.

 

2- Nerding out on history

Did you know that Castel Sant'Angelo was not only a prison for the Vatican but it also was Hadrian's tomb and also linked to the Vatican through a secret passageway so that the Pope could escape if the Vatican ever became under attack?

Did you know that Castel Sant’Angelo was not only a prison for the Vatican but it also was Hadrian’s tomb and also linked to the Vatican through a secret passageway so that the Pope could escape if the Vatican ever became under attack?

I love history, a lot.  We are talking about someone who purchased an academic book on the Library of Alexandria years out of college, for fun.  I am weird but I love it.  I miss being able to go to a site and learning about it.  I buy guidebooks just so I can read about the history of the country I am visiting and to be able to understand the country we are visiting.  I also just love going to a historical site or museum and actually know what I am looking at.  And yes I can do that here in California but when you start your studies off by learning about the ancient Minoan societies from 2000BCE suddenly San Francisco doesn’t seem so old.  Plus no one seems to care when I get all nerdy about history or art but when we travel it is suddenly fascinating.  I was a tour guide for a reason after all.  I love sharing the knowledge I have and learning from others as well.

 

3- I miss not understanding anybody.

Friendly warning sign.  Almost wish I didn't understand this one!

Friendly warning sign. Almost wish I didn’t understand this one!

There is something wonderful about going somewhere new and realizing that you cannot understand anybody.  Yes it can be as equally frustrating but is there any better sign that you have gone somewhere completely different from what you know than walking around and realizing you don’t have a clue what is going on?  Its the first true sign that you have traveled somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere outside of your comfort zone when this happens.  Yes it can be difficult but travel is about new experiences and pushing yourself.  It wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy or convenient.  When you realize you cannot understand anyone it is a sign to learn something new and connect with different people even if you only begin to understand hello and thank you.

 

4- Waking up and deciding to go somewhere new.

Let's just take off and go to Thessaloniki

Let’s just take off and go to Thessaloniki

There is a freedom with being able to wake up and decide to go somewhere new, maybe its just a train trip out of town, a day trip somewhere new or packing up and heading to a new country but there is a freedom in travel that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.  We can go where ever a whim takes us.  Alex and I ended up planning a trip to Vienna and Prague one Fall when our other plans abruptly fell through.  We will never forget that trip and had such an amazing time.  Its amazing what can happen when you spontaneously change your plans or randomly book tickets to Greece.  We would never have discovered Thessaloniki otherwise.

 

5- Miss collecting foreign currency

I know that it sounds super nerdy but we love foreign currency. I find it fascinating to see how each country depicts themselves through their currency. You can see the character of a country through their money. It is hard to explain but when I get a new currency I spend a good amount of time examining it and of course trying to figure all the different bills out.  It is always nice to bring foreign currency home as well.  It is a easy and wonderful reminder of your trip.

 

6- Miss the feeling of getting off a plane somewhere new.

Getting off the plane in Macedonia

Getting off the plane in Macedonia

There is something about the first breath in a new country. The unfamiliarity of the smells in the air excites me as my eyes dart back and forth trying to take everything in. Getting off a plane is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It is freeing to know that everything you are about to do is going to be a new experience. I love and am addicted to stepping into the unknown. Crossing that threshold into adventure is just thrilling. Once you have stepped off that plane there is no looking back, you have let yourself be open to new experiences. Why not just embrace and keep on traveling and take the first steps off a plane in a new place more often?  It just makes life much better.

 

7- Miss the expat community

We love our Expats!

We love our Expats!

I love the expat community.  I love sitting with a beer and having a conversation with a person who has decided to leave the comforts of his home country and starting a new life in another. A lot can be learned from them, they have picked this place for a reason and it is most likely a reason that I don’t want to miss out on. They can tell you about all the local places and the touristy place you should avoid. We spent a lot of our time with the expat community in Rome. It was a great community of people who knew Rome and loved Rome. They appreciate certain nuances of a culture that a local might take for granted. Everybody has there own opinions on expat communities but I love them because they will always have the inside scoop.

DSCN3917 DSCN3924 DSCN3947 DSCN3973

 

 

8- Miss discovering a new city and having it mapped out in my head.

Maps? Who needs them?

Maps? Who needs them?

I am very good at directions and very good at mapping a city.  It is something that just clicks for me (except Brussels, I always get lost there for some reason!) and I love it.  I love coming back to a city that I haven’t been to in years and instantly be able to find my way.  I love walking around and getting lost in a city only to take a correct turn and be back at our hostel.  I love that I can stumble around Paris, recognize some monuments and streets and arrive back at a restaurant I thought I would never be able to find again (especially since I couldn’t remember the name of it).  There is something about being in a city for long enough to be able to walk around without a map and really explore the streets and all the city has to offer.

Always get lost in Brussels

Except Brussels, I always get lost here

 

9- Miss talking to travelers

Just like talking to expats, talking to travelers is a good way to get the inside scoop about a new place right away. Also they are travelers and you already have something in common. It is nice to meet people who love doing what you love as well. Ash and I have gotten along with other travelers better than any other people. They typically have the same mindset and it is nice making friends on the road and swapping travel story and tips over a few morning beers.  Knowing that there will always be other travelers like you out there is comforting in a way. To talk to a person about how you are taking 6 years to travel and they don’t look at you like you are crazy is always a nice feeling. They understand the drive to do something like that. They are not shocked or impressed by it, they just understand it and that’s a comforting thought.

 

10- Miss drinking wine around the world

Drinking wine on the train to Bucharest

Drinking wine on the train to Bucharest

Wine has become a huge part of our life, especially now that we live in wine country. Yet Ashley and I over the past few years and been really getting into exploring the wines around the world. It is a fun experience to go to a new a culture. Wine is a big commodity in the world and a place’s wine can tell you a lot about them and the land. Wine is a constant evolving industry and when one is out traveling the world it is fun to try all the local wine, whether it is drinking Romanian wine at two in the morning on a train with a local or going to the wine caves in Budapest and having food paired with it.  I can’t wait till I’m back on the road and drinking all the local wines.

 

 

11- Miss trying a new cuisine

Now this is why I travel! I love to eat and I love to try everything, no matter what the food is in front of me I will at least try it. I have had a rule in my life that you must try everything at least once when it comes to food. Also if you do not like it the first time you keep trying it until you like it. I am definitely the more adventurous one when it comes to eating food while Ashley is a little more conservative. We both though, have a love for food and love exploring local cuisine; it not all bugs and guts for me, even though I do dive into those a few times, but its all about what a place is known for. Like when you go to Rome you have to try the carbonara, calcio e pepe, coda alla vaccinara(oxtail), and tripe. These are just some of the classics that one needs to try. Every culture has their own cuisine and how else are you going to understand another person’s culture without learning about their food and what they eat.


So now we are missing travel even more!  Let’s go on adventure and satisfy our travel cravings!