Posted on August 16, 2018
February is a wise month to fly to Europe! Tickets are lower since it is the off-season to travel there. You won’t find the crowds that you may during summer. But it can get pretty chilly, so pack accordingly! HA. (Well- to be honest, just for people like me who have poor circulation to begin with, so gloves, boots, scarves and coats are totally necessary!)
This was my second time in Italy, and I love it more each time! We spent our week right in ROME! Flights were nearly $470 RT which was a good deal- we flew directly via AirFrance from JFK to FCO, and just like that woke up in Rome.
Rome is so charming because the local bakeries and coffee shops and neighborhood restaurants are so sweet. If you’re anything like me, you NEED an American breakfast to start your day— which consists of some kind of substantial protein like eggs or yogurt to go with my amazingly flakey, Italian croissants and cute little cappuccinos!
I love that Italians take time to have their little pastries and espresso while standing or sitting in these cafes throughout the day. They sit inside and enjoy them. They’re not like us Americans who get it to go- always on the run- never time to enjoy life! They sit and appreciate the taste, the smell, and the people alongside them who they may just have met that day!
Navigating through Rome, I only have one thing to say, and that is thank goodness we had an international wifi package on our phones, because I’m not sure how we could’ve managed to adventure through the little, winding streets without it! We used Google Maps for everything! Rome is huge. We walked approx. 8 miles daily!! I had my apple watch on and it calculated every single step haha! That means you’ll need to stop plenty for Nutella treats and cappuccinos to not only fuel your journey, but to warm you up when temps were low!
Our Airbnb was situated in a quaint, and seemingly affluent neighborhood north of most of the walking we did. We mostly wandered the cool, Roman streets, smelling of pastas and breads. Our first night we actually stumbled upon the top of the Spanish Steps. Where we made our way down and through the shop-lined streets towards the Trevi Fountain! Lizzie McGuire moment! I loved it at night! The fountain all lit up was amazing, and we even stopped for some gelato right next door, and walked into a few open churches to take in the breathtaking sculptures and painted ceilings.
Because this was our first night in Rome, we realized our appetites were a little off so decided to go to a friend’s recommendation on a cozy little spot that had the GREATEST meat and cheese platters!!! We were so thrilled with our selection, and even went back a second time. The meat and cheese platters are amazing in Italy and I highly recommend ordering a few! My favorite two were: La Prosciutteria Roma + Antica Salumeria
Just to give you an idea- below is a photo that will leave you feeling hungrier than before.
While we are on the subject of food.. I would have to say that the wine was also exceptional.. our go-to seemed to be the Chianti – which is a red wine (served at about 60 degrees) from the Tuscan region. And, boy was it a good choice. We even found bottles to stock up our Airbnb at the local grocery store for only $2.99!!! That is $2.99/ bottle. For high quality. That’s Italy for you! We brought some bottles home for each of our families.
Pictured below is our favorite that we found our our local market for no more than $3.
I truly loved the architecture. I just found so much beauty walking down the Roman streets. I would constantly stop and say “OH I MUST TAKE A PICTURE OF THIS!” Haha, but really, the buildings are colorful and interestingly textured. It’s amazing how they’ve held up all these years. I especially appreciated how beautiful the churches were and the doors! I loved the floral arrangements as well. So picture-perfect.
Below you can see a little bit of what I mean.
I lived for finding rooftops!! Because it was a colder month for Rome, unfortunately, many of the famous rooftop bars and lounges were closed for that season. We still found some great vantage points. The first photo below is taken from Campo Marzio. The second was a secret rooftop cafe on top of the Capitoline Museum. This location was sure tough to track down! If you do make it to Capitoline Museums make sure you follow the correct signage leading you to the Cafe/Restaurant Rooftop Level! There you will find such a magnificent view of the city.
FACT: There are more than 900 churches in Rome!! Not kidding. Just about one adorning every corner, all with their own story, holding some of the most beautiful frescoes, paintings, and sculptures that this world’s ever seen! Love this history and that is preserved in this ancient city! I could spot quite a few from this museums’s balcony!
As far as tours go, we only really booked a few. One was at the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. I highly recommend doing so, and my art history course knowledge from college was brought to life! These tours were inside the Vatican so I would suggest maybe ubering over to it because the entrance is on the complete other side of the Basilica entrance (where you can walk in from the street) Upon exiting your tours, you leave via St. Peter’s Square, and from there you can pass the Castel Sant’Angelo, and cross the bridge back into the usual areas of Rome!
The artwork around the Vatican Gardens and inside was exquisite! Spectacular tour guide we had from Italy, she had such a good sense of humor but so much knowledge and well spoken. She took us to the most significant pieces and told their stories. We would’ve been otherwise lost in there by ourselves. I wouldn’t have wanted to experience it any other way. The tour was worth booking. We booked ours the same day.
Mission to see the Pope: Wednesday morning (7am) we cabbed over to the Vatican in hopes to attend the Papal Audience! We requested tickets after our Vatican tour from the Swedish Guards who stand guard outside of St. Peter’s Basilica a few days prior. Having a ticket though, doesn’t ensure you have entry to the audience, for there may be great numbers who want to attend and in this case, it was raining so an even smaller amount of people could attend inside.
YES, we did make it in!! It was the most amazing experience witnessing the love that all people had for our Pope as he processed down the aisle of the room holding thousands. He was blessing people, stopping to pray with them, to comfort, to kiss the head’s of children. It was absolutely incredible. It was would I would imagine it was like seeing the people flock to Jesus, a feeling of pure love. It was my absolute favorite part of my trip. The Pope finally made his way to the alter where he prayed for all the countries in attendance. There were also representative bishops who translated the homily in several languages for everyone to understand.
We exited through St. Peter’s Square. I made a [horse] friend. 🙂 Oh yeah, wear comfortable walking shoes throughout your trip. Comfort is key!
We also booked a tour at the Colosseum!! So much Roman Empire history over there, I guess you can’t leave Rome without at least exploring the Forums and Colosseum!
I don’t even think we planned to match this day! I just had to prepare for the colder weather, so layering up was key!! I thought these tours were interesting and enjoyed our tour guide from London. It was cool- we were the only Americans within our group!
We spent my bf’s birthday dinner at a Michelin-Star restaurant called AROMA, which sat on the rooftop level of a boutique hotel. The service, the food, the ambiance, the views: UH-MAZING. We could not have said enough wonderful things about the incredibly kind staff (who sung and brought out an entire sampler platter) for his birthday, but also were extremely attentive, and served us a wonderful 5 course meal! ALL with a lovely and casual view of a very beautiful and lit Colosseum at night.
Category: feature, travel Tagged: a week in rome, art, cheese, chianti, churches, colosseum, gelato, italian roads, italy, lizzie mcguire movie, papal audience, pope, rome, rome in february, rome trip, rome views, romeviews, rooftopbar, St. Peter's Basilica, swedish guards, travel, travel for less, travel tips, trevi fountain, tuscan region, vatican, views, wine
Posted on July 27, 2018
What a trip!!
So rewind to 2 weeks before my birthday. My boyf refused to drop ANY hints on where he was taking me to celebrate! He said pack a bag for a long weekend… the temperature between 65-70s.
If you’re a female, you know it’s hard enough to pack for a “long weekend” type of trip as it is, when you KNOW where you’re going, and what the weekend’s agenda will be! So imagine my thought process… so that year we had discussed potentially traveling together to New York, to Seattle & Vancouver, to Napa, Nashville… so I thought maybe one of those would be the destination. I’d pack for outdoor activity but also for urban vibes! To be comfortable but cool! Some athleisure + some neutral-colored streetwear! My mom encouraged me to find a leather jacket for fall and I agreed– that’d be a good piece to pack too!
SO. A week out and hurricane weather advisories were all over the forecast for Southern Florida. Just great. The plan was for me to fly down to Miami, and then together, we’d head to our destination from there the next morning! Which would’ve been totally fine, but I soon come to find out most of the state of Florida was being evacuated!!! You read correctly, evacuated.
After quite a few texts back and forth. Worried families. And me demanding to meet my bf at whichever city he chose to take me for my birthday, I was told to relax, and get on my Miami-bound flight.
Just to give you an idea of my airport experience heading down to Charlotte, the connecting city— many, many delays, kids from Florida were we’re flying north to get out of the storm, and passengers on my plane were only heading south to help board up their parents’ homes!! Yikes. This had “bad idea” written all over it.
BUT, eventually my flight boarded to Charlotte, and then to Miami- where I was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to First Class. If I was flying into the eye of a hurricane, I suppose First Class and unlimited glasses of wine would be the way to endure that.
Fast forward to the next day.
So to my surprise, we make it to the airport quickly and like any other sunny, beautiful Miami morning. (Enter confusion) We grab a relaxed Cuban breakfast at the airport and head to our gate.
[Keep in mind- at this point I truly have no idea where we are heading- I’m just praying it’s away from this hurricane! The city is scheduled to evacuate before the storm hits 2 days from our departure…. talk about cutting it close. We are lucky the airport wasn’t closed down! I expected gridlock traffic. The works. But no- everyone was fine that day. ]
We head to the end gate #’s of D and down the escalators toward our group of gates.
So is this a joke? Truly- the listed gates where we were sitting went as the following : Freeport, Bahamas (please let us NOT be heading to the Bahamas, fairly certain at this point the Bahamas had been wrecked by Irma.) Listed Next: Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio. (Don’t get me wrong, the midwest is great but I wasn’t flying down to Miami just to fly right back up to the Midwest area!) The last listed: Pittsburgh, PA. (Similar to the Midwest, I could’ve driven to Pittsburgh and saved me an entire day of flight delays and worry if that’s where we were heading, seriously was this his plan? I mean to catch maybe a Pirates game and hang in the ‘Burgh?)
Well. We boarded the plane, and took off NOT before being delayed by none other than NASA space center, who was, at the time, launching some kind of rocket? How many times can you say you sat on the runway 30 minutes due to NASA launching space stuff? (Ha)
I was super confused why we were heading to Pittsburgh. Small plane, and my bf seemed nervous, like we needed to take off or we would be running behind for our connection- nervous. He stayed cool and collected but I just knew our final stop couldn’t be that! We finally took off and ran to our next gate, where before I looked, asked permission. New York City – JFK.
Awe. NYC it was! I always loved visiting my best friend in New York, and attending my favorite, ABC’s Live with Kelly and Ryan Morning Talk Show (Michael was co-host when I would go!) I instantly was thinking of all the possibilities the weekend had in store.
Maybe my bf’s brother and his wife would be joining us at a surprise, maybe we’d all see a show, perhaps my best friend was in on the surprise, I would definitely be seeing her.
We rode the terminal train out to where I thought we would be picking up an Uber. (It’s a huge airport, are you ever really aware of where you are inside ha?)
Finally we are walking so quickly through the main entrance of another section of the airport where several people are checking in, etc. My boyfriend is on the phone at this point – seemingly getting the status of someone. I figured it was one of the friends or family I assumed we were meeting there for our NYC weekend.
He hangs up his phone and tells me to open up a birthday card my mom had packed in my carry-on bag. I pull out the card…..and my passport!!!
What? He hands me a printed ticket as I look at him, laughing in confusion. (See photo above- a screen shot of the video he took ha) I read the destination: Paris, France. Holy sh*t! Wow. haha, never, not once, did I expect to be leaving the country (from what I knew, without my passport) let alone, Paris, what a dream. I’d be spending my birthday in Paris.
(Photo) PS could we please just take a moment to check the shirt I was wearing as all this was taking place?! St Germain?? Haha whaaaat are the odds??
I turn around, completely oblivious that we were right in front of the TSA check-in line for Delta. We had made our way from the American Airline terminal to Delta without me even realizing haha! I was so focused on what could be taking place in NYC that I didn’t even realize that wasn’t our actual final stop! And to my surprise again, we weren’t the only ones going to Paris— my bf’s best friend and his gf were joining us! I was so mind blown and excited, I just kept repeating myself, “I can’t believe you pulled this surprise off… we are going to Paris?! What in the world?”
I think we talked the entire flight haha. It was an unforgettable trip. Paris is such an elegantly beautiful and breathtaking city. I absolutely loved taking it all in. The wine was on another level. The architecture, the art, the gardens, the palaces, the food, the language, the cafes, the pastries, the views. It was magic Hands-down one of my favorite cities. Such magic fit into just a quick weekend. A very happy birthday, indeed. Xoxo