Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Venezia: The City of Canals

Sighhhh, Venezia. Absolutely vibrant and full of mystical charm. Truth be told I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. The scent of savory Cicchetti, sweet jasmine flowers draping the alleys, salty ocean water, and the occasional waft of cigarette smoke fill the air as your walk beside the streets of the canals of this old city. It's uniquely beautiful in its own way and I tried to capture its beauty with my photographs but alas, I don't believe it does it justice. 

The colorful buildings and alleys that we got lost in as we walked and walked... every corner with a canal just didn't seem real. People really live here? (Venice is all walking, aside from the gondolas and water taxis). I could almost imagine back in the day the women with their extravagant dresses at the masquerades arm in arm with their masked suitor. You could go on for days exploring Venice, its culture, history, food, etc... here are some of the things we did at our time there.


Rialto Bridge: The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. It connects the the sestieri (regions) of San Marco and San Polo. This bridge is very popular and therefore very crowded. It's beautiful and you can get the optimal shot on the bridge of the busy canals of Venice.

Piazza San Marco: St. Mark's Square features an open area and many restaurants and cute shops.

Libreria Acqua Alta: Cute and unique bookstore featuring many vintage books in boats, gondolas, and resident cats hanging around too. I bought a few cookbooks and trinkets... my favorite part was the back of the bookstore which features a book "staircase" you can climb on and take a few cute photos of, as well as a little gondola in the water that you can climb in and have your picture taken!

Fondaco dei Tedeschi Rooftop Terrace: A historic building on the Grand Canal by the Rialto Bridge, inside is a luxury shopping center. The cool part about this place is the rooftop features a beautiful terrace with an amazing view of the canals and piazzas, bell towers etc,... but you only have free access to it if you reserve tickets in advance. *Tip: They only allow a few people with the reserved slot at a time, so be sure to reserve your tickets online which can be done 21 days prior to your visit!

Gondola Ride: You can't go to Venice and not go on a gondola ride. As "touristy" as it sounds, it honestly was so much fun! Our gondolier told us stories and a little history of Venice as we went for the ride and we got to experience the way the gondoliers speak to one another in singing type voices as we passed others in the canals. You can reserve in advance, but it's actually quite easy to get a ride as you walk around the streets. We just went up to one as we wandered and he was happy to take us for a ride since he didn't have anyone else.

Food & Dining

Gelateria Gallonetto: I can still remember the taste of this gelato... so so smooth, silky and fresh. Definitely one of the best I've tasted the entire trip. A line generally starts to form alongside the store, but it's worth it. You can have your gelato placed in a brioche with some whipped panna and oh my goodness you'll never want to leave!

Osteria alla Staffa: We looked up a few places of where to eat dinner, so we tried this restaurant one night and it is worth mentioning. It was a cute little spot, but the food was really good and the woman that served us was so nice! We wanted to try some authentic Venetian dishes so we tried their seafood appetizer plate, the Papardelle with Duck Ragù, and Baked Pasticcio with Scampi Sauce... all very delicious.

Cicchetti: When in Venice you need to try these savory small dishes or little appetizers. You can try them at a bar for a snack, for lunch, or right before dinner. They vary by restaurant, but are typically crusty slices of Italian bread topped with various seafood or mozzarella or meats. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

Paris: The City of Lights

My husband surprised me with our first stop to Paris on our Italy vacation and I was SO excited! We were only there for a few days, but managed to see all of the must-see spots on our list, ate my favorite flaky, buttery Pain au chocolat, strolled the majestic gardens of the Palace of Versailles, climbed the Eiffel Tower (It's really real! I kept saying that to him the entire trip, lol)... and I finally got to see it sparkle at the given hour of twilight.

Yes, yes, yes. In my opinion Paris was absolutely as magical as I always thought it would be... if not more. Below are the places we visited, our favorite restaurants, shops, and attractions we were able to visit during our time in this beautiful city. Paris vous été très belle!


Apartment in Neymar - Eiffel Tower:

I absolutely LOVED this apartment we stayed in around the Chaillot district of Paris (8th Arrondissemont). I walked in and saw the Eiffel Tower through the Balcony and jumped up and down (another little surprise from my husband). It was located near a little pastry shop with the most incredible pain au chocolat I have ever tasted. 

Overall we did both Uber and also walked a lot. There are bakeries and cafes in almost every corner for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up. And so here is my little "taste of Paris", perfect if you only have 2-3 days to see the highlights. 


Trocadero: Beautiful heightened garden area where you can walk around and get the perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower right across from you.*Tip: This place gets very crowded so be sure to wake up early enough (around 6:30am) depending on the sunrise time of the season to get there before the crowds do.

Galeries Lafayette: This is a beautiful shopping center with a free, accessible rooftop terrace that has breathtaking views of the capital and of course the Eiffel Tower from afar.

Eiffel Tower: I mean is it really Paris without the Eiffel Tower standing tall in every corner you turn? Be sure to go up the Eiffel Tower and see the city from the top. There are three levels you can climb, the 2nd level has a restaurant and the very last one all the way on the top believe it or not has a tiny apartment which was Gustave Eiffel's and is now a mini museum. You can purchase tickets for entry either on the official site or through other parties such as Viator, Get Your Guide, etc... *Tip: The tower lights and beacon light up every evening from dusk until 11.45pm. As soon as it is dark, the Eiffel Tower's golden lighting switches on. It sparkles every hour on the hour and lasts for 5 minutes until 11:45pm.

Parc du Champ-de-Mars: Beautiful lawn area that you can have your own picnic on with view of Eiffel Tower.

Arc de Triomphe: One of the most famous monuments located on the western end of the Champs-Élysées. You can purchase tickets online and climb the top to get a view of the famous street and the Eiffel Tower from afar.

Passerelle Debilly: An arch bridge spanning the Seine River that is only accessible by foot, lined with couple locks... it's the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower at twilight to see it sparkle.

Le Louvre Musuem: National art musuem, perhaps most known for containing the Mona Lisa. We only visited the outside area, but it's strongly suggested you book tickets ahead of time because lines get very long to enter. 

Seine River Boat Cruise: This river boat cruise turned out to be such a great night out, with food, music, and alas the sparkling Eiffel Tower as we took bites of our Crème Brûlée dessert and chocolate mousse filled Eiffel Tower. There are many companies that line the Seine River and you can book one online or at the information desks... I definitely recommend for a romantic night on the water with beautiful Parisian sights!

Flytographer: Since we were in Paris we decided to book a mini portrait session with the Eiffel Tower in the background... and it was so much fun! We met Rachael super early in the morning so there weren't as many crowds, and the photos were absolutely beautiful. Highly recommend when you travel somewhere you love and you'd like to have a keepsake of memories.

Food & Dining

Le Bizetro:  We found this gem on a walk one night when we were looking for a place to eat dinner, and it was just a few blocks from where we were staying. Hands down the BEST steak we've ever had in our lives, and I'm not much of steak person... but this place deserves the recognition. The frites (fries) and bread were also so good.

Angelina: This place was so pretty and the breakfast was so good! There is a line you have to wait, but it went pretty quick. They have different breakfast combinations which include orange juice, a tray of croissants and baguettes with jams, french toast, but most importantly you need to try the Chocolat Chaud (hot chocolate)... it is rich, decadent and quite amazing. 

Pastry Cyril Lignac - Chaillot: This cute pastry shop was located near our apartment and I had to try one of their croissants and pain au chocolat... fluffy, flaky, crispy and warm goodness, best I ever tasted.