Theme: European Christmas HolidayCountry: Italy Language: English & Italian Unit of Currency: Euro Location: Milan, Rome, & Venice Year: 2011 Bucket list: Entering Rome’s Colosseum
DO: BROWSE EUROPE’S MOST FASHIONABLY PRICED DESIGNER CLOTHES
Exploring the city and setting the scene for creative photography
DO: TOUR THE COLOSSEUM
Touring the Colosseum and adventuring into other ruins for the day
DO: EXPLORE THE FLOATING CITY
Walking through every nook and cranny that the city has to offer
A little life lesson I learned– When traveling you have to be flexible. Sure I have an itinerary on the locations and dates that I should be in the following countries; however, you cannot prepare for some hiccups along the way.
After my train from Ljubljana, Slovenia I woke up to find myself missing my train connection in Villach Westbf, Austria and ended up in Spittal – Mattersee, Austria (merely 45 minutes away from my anticipated arrival train station!). At 0300 this was not what I wanted to deal with, but fortunately I was able to get a train back to the original train station in Villach Westbf and later continue my train ride to Venice, Italy! If this was the worst thing that happens to me during this Eurotrip, then I will be grateful!
Ventures of Italy:
Venice – The city’s labyrinthine network of islands, bridges, pedestrian alleys, and canals made this location one of most unique and spectacular places to visit! If the fact that Venice sits upon a body of water was not amazing enough, the entire city prides itself on the festival where locals wear masks (resembles Mardi Gras).
Every shop sold masks; some of the most beautiful and creative pressed paper designs that I had ever seen. And therein lies the beauty of the destination: afternoons spent wandering from palace to piazza, exploring the small art museums, shopping the stalls that line the streets, and encountering a fresh side of Venice, a fascinating amalgamation of influences—Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Italian—every time you round a corner.
Venice or as locals acknowledge this city as the perpetual love affair has over 118 small islands that create this watery world of mystery. It was super easy to forget the map and get lost amongst the Byzantine domes and palazzos leading to an amazing slew of mystical possessions and great treats!
Milan – the famous location known for the completed works of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” The locals referred Leonardo da Vinci as the “genius of a renaissance man” with compelling captivation of his power, depth, and humanity of his masterpieces.
It was evident that along with the great combination of architecture, artists, and a keen fashionable sense, Milan is the perfect example of a place that enjoys the finer things in life. For example, a stroll across its Piazza del Duomo and the endless streets of local shops corroborates the city’s love for fashion, which consequently folded Milan into a city of an epicent of fashion, design, and good living. The Duomo itself captured the city’s creative energy with its size and ornamentation
Rome – Several years past its third millennium mark, the warmest of European capitals was more captivating than ever. Rome’s dramatic physique, from her majestic antiquities to her sinuous baroque curves, had been thrown into even higher relief by a modern trend that had made its presence felt in a major way: in hotels, restaurants, and shops that have adopted a more current, international aesthetic. Traditionalists needn’t worry, however—Rome was still very much enamored of her past, and you can find old-school establishments all over town if you know where to look.
While the Colosseum and the Vatican still loom large in the skyline and identity of Rome, you’ll discover the true soul of the city away from the big sights—in neighborhood coffee bars and trattorias, and from riders of Vespas exchanging boisterous greetings while passing on cobblestone backstreets. For a city this stylish and accomplished, Rome’s remarkable accessibility, even for first-time or short-term visitors, is her most generous asset. Not to mention that Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, was a barrier to the visitors of Rome, but home to the residents who pride on this mysterious and intriguing location.
At the time of Christmas Cheer and Good Tidings, the traditional and more decorative Christmas Markets come to light. Romans erect elaborate presepi (Nativity scenes) across the city, from life-size tableaux on the Spanish Steps and before St. Peter’s to countless crèches in church chapels, all populated by papier-mâché or terracotta figurines and most with a pizza parlor tucked between the shops of the Bethlehem backdrop.
Market action centers in Rome on Piazza Navona, its Bernini fountains surrounded by stalls hawking toys, handmade presepio figures, carnival games of chance, ciambelle (dinner plate-size doughnuts), and 101 variations on peanut brittle! Talk about a great way to introduce Christmas to the lovely month of December!
I could go on forever about the unforgettable time that I had in Italy, but I thought one post would suffice.
Theme: Jeepin’ Around Canada Roadtrip Country: Canada Language: English & French Unit of Currency: Canadian dollar Location: Montreal, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Quebec City, & Toronto Year: 2000 & 2012 Bucket list: Photographing the mist at Niagara Falls
DO: SPEND HALLOWEEN AT MONTREAL’S SIX FLAGS THEME PARK
Jumping on every roller coaster in the Six Flag’s theme park and checking out the street performers
DO: VISIT THE NIAGARA FALLS
Niagara Falls City:
Photographing the Niagara Falls in Canada and getting a glimpse of New York’s Buffalo Falls
DO: SPEND THE NIGHT IN AN OLD JAIL HOSTEL
On Halloween night, staying the night in a haunted jail hostel and a quick jaunt to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canal Rideau
DO: EXPLORE THE CITY OF TORONTO
Walking down the street taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the city
Theme: Greek Island Hoppin’ Venture Country: Greece Language: Greek Unit of Currency: Euro Location: Athens, Chania, Mykonos Island, & Santorini Island Year: 2012 & 2013 Bucket list: Photographing sunsets from Santorini Island
DO: SCOPE OUT GREEK ARCHITECTURE
Hiring a tour guide and exploring the city
DO: ISLAND HOP
Having a proper night out with a diversity of people all over the world
Spending a few days on the island, and making sure to hit every secret cobble-stoned path
Theme: West Balkan & Turkey War Tour Country: Republic of Macedonia Language: Macedonian Unit of Currency: Macedonian denar Location: Matka & Skopje Year: 2013 Bucket list: Signature jumpin’ photograph in a lake cave
DO: SAIL TO THE CAVE ON THE LAKE
Visiting a cave on the lake only by a boat
DO: TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE CITY
Walking around a populated city, encountering a small taste of Turkey’s culture, and exploring the city’s creativity
The Best of Republic of Macedonia:
First impressions of Skopje at night: After the 4 hour bus ride from Pristina, Kosovo I was relieved to arrive in the early evening. Once set on exploring the city’s nightlife, I quickly checked-in to Urban Hostel. My quest for the night was to view the silhouette of Fortress Kale. To my surprise, the shape of the fortress stood out against the light-shaded moon and background. It was definitely a beautiful, and unexpected sight!
There were a lot of great highlights during my time in Republic of Macedonia, but these top three are the ones that stood out the most:
1) It really is a small world – Consequently, I met up some girls in Pristina, Kosovo who were living in Macedonia for quite some time. Since Skopje was on my list, it was only natural to take the opportunity and visit with them during my travels. Once I was introduced to their international friends, I had my first Macedonian dinner. And that started the tale of how I lost my favorite purple-collared shirt!
2) The cave hidden in the mountains – Since I love caving, it was penciled in my itinerary to journey to Matka (roughly 45 km outside of Skopje). During this time, I was the only tourist located on the mountain, but my tour guide definitely made it worth my while when we went by boat to enter the cave. In the end, I even took a signature jumpin’ photograph and managed to not disturb the bats lurking in the cave!
3) High energy of the Old Bazaar protesters – The trek across Stone Bridge with the whispered warning of protesters in the area made it an interesting experience in this unique location. Not only did this place help create the “Turkey” experience that I longed for, but on this particular day, I had also gotten a taste of the hate within the Macedonian and Albanian groups – fortunately, many civilians came together and wrote positive messages on balloons expressing their love and devotion on ending war between the two parties.