Exploring Markets in the South of France & Barcelona

We arrived in Nice, France and found an apartment to stay in, which we were happy about to be able to do some cooking for a bit. Our first morning there we headed to the daily market to stock up on fresh ingredients for a salad… and it was delicious! We took it easy in Nice and just hung out at the beach and walked around the city.

One of the days we headed to another coastal town, Antibes, a town several friends on Facebook recommended we check out. It’s a 25 minute train ride away and absolutely adorable. It has the largest marina in the Mediterranean so with that, there was every type of boat store, seafood and the fresh smell of the ocean coming in off the breeze. Antibes had an amazing market, which we purchased all our lunch items from and went and ate by the beach. We also spent quite a bit of time eyeing the ENORMOUS yachts in marina. Shane looked up one boat and it was the 102nd largest yacht in the world. The boat beside it was having a day-time party where there were several workers helping to throw the flashy party. A lifestyle that was beyond imagination for me. It did slightly make me want to work on one of these boats though… could be a helluva experience, right?!

From Nice, it took us about 8 hours to get to Barcelona on three different trains. Barcelona is a city Shane has been to a couple times before and loved it, wanting to bring me one day. I was also excited to see it as it’s one of those cities if you mention it to someone who has been, they all love it. I can confirm, specifically for the food, drink and culture, it’s fantastic. We didn’t do too many tourist sights as we’d done a lot over the trip so there’s still lots to explore.

On Monday we did a walking tour through the Gothic District and this was great to get information from a local throughout a neighbourhood. From there, we went to what is know as one of Spain’s best markets. And it was wonderful! Except for the skinned goat head I saw that has scarred me for life. Check out some of the photos below (from the market and not of the goat!). Monday night we went for paella, the rice dish. Shane was able to indulge in some seafood while I enjoyed my vegetarian one. We also stopped off at a mojito bar Shane had been to before for really good 4€ drinks.

On Tuesday we visited La Sagrada Familia, which is a church that was designed by Gaudi. It’s been under construction for more than 100 years and they are targeting to have it completed by 2026, 100 years after Gaudi died. This church is like nothing I’ve ever seen and when stepping inside, is breathtaking. The inside is extremely modern for its time, with everything very thought out. Apparently Gaudi left very detailed plans and they have been followed as they complete the church. On the roof inside, everything is as if you’re under a forest with stained glass windows creating the effect of sunlight pouring onto the branches. It’s mind boggling how someone envisioned this and it’s stunning. Highly recommend going inside if you’re ever there, or in the mean time, look it up on YouTube.

I had read one of the must-do activities if they have a home game, was to go see the Barcelona FC team play in their home stadium, Camp Nou. Luck would have it that they were playing Tuesday night so we got right into it with tickets and jerseys. The stadium is one of the biggest in Europe, holding over 99,000 fans! We went down to the stadium a couple hours before the game, thinking the bars around it would be busy. We were about an hour too early before fans started pouring in, grabbing their last beers as you can only get non-alcoholic beers in the stadium (we think because of rioting…). Our tickets were up in the nose bleeds so we climbed and climbed the stairs to the top, where we were just a section over from a fenced in area rowdy fans of the opposing team go. They were playing a Dutch team who had very loud fans, chanting all sorts of songs (see the video below). In that section, there were security guards at the beginning and end of each row, then lining the top and bottom. There were also several police officers around the arena with riot gear on but thankfully we didn’t get to see why.

The game was at least 2/3 full and the fans were so loud when a goal was scored or a shitty call was made. The players impressed me with their quick footwork, which I guess is the name of the game playing at that level! Barcelona won 4-0, with their star player Messi scoring a hat trick.

On Wednesday we went back to the market to pick up a few souvenirs then lazed at the beach, knowing our summer was coming to an end. In the evening, we went to a couple different bars in search of live music. In the cocktail bar we found music in, we also met three Russians who we ended up hanging out with for a long time. Super interesting comparing stereotypes of each other’s countries! Two of them were on their honeymoon and part of their wedding tradition is to fly out for your honeymoon the day of the wedding while everyone else stays back to party. So four hours after the ceremony, they were on a plane, still in dress and suit. Happy we don’t have that tradition as we would have missed a lot of fun at our wedding!

After being in Europe for 32 days, we are heading back home, via Detroit to celebrate my brothers wedding. We’ve had an amazing trip, that really was once in a lifetime, having this time after getting married to know we made the right choice (😄). We’re coming back relaxed, tanned and over living out of a backpack but most importantly, still in love and married!

In our vows Shane promised to carry the heavy stuff. So far he’s kept up his vows!
The beach in Nice

Shane shopping in the Nice market
What kind of spice do you need?!
Olives, olives and more olives.
Beachin’ in Nice
Shane’s hair was getting quite long…
So we cut it off!
Ta da! Beard clippers for the win
We kept seeing these trees in Tuscany and I wasn’t sure what they were. Olive trees!

The salad we made with our market purchases
Aren’t these interesting beans!
Shane shopping for lunch at the Antibes market
Largest dates I’ve ever seen
Olive oil anyone?
Antibes

That’s the 102nd largest. 266 feet. 14 crew members. Owned by a Russian billionaire.
Just having a thought
Our market lunch. The fresh goat cheese was unreal.
Had to have a crepe in France of course!
Shane needed a French dinner. He had duck
Training to Barcelona
My first time having pinotxo. And they are everything I’ve ever wanted and more in bite size. We had them a few times.
Roman graves that were recently found
A cathedral on our walk through the Gothic District
Drawings by Picasso
More delicious goodness
Eggs on eggs.

These are a few of my favourite things!
Sangria and a meat cup at the market
The best sangria we’ve ever had

We stumbled upon this little museum/shop for the soccer team
A photo of a photo of the stadium. Pure craziness!
A poster from 1919!
La Sagrada Familia!
And inside this beautiful place. Look for the trees

On the east side of the building there is stained glass that’s green and blue for the sunlight to shine through. On the west are the warm colours for sunset

Look at that staircase

Trying to capture the place side to side but it’s hard
A bar we walked by. Just makes me happy
The bar we were in before the game. The bartender poured vodka into a guys water bottle so they could bring it into the stadium. You can bring in a water bottle, they just take the lid. I guess they don’t smell it!
Getting into it all!
And in the stadium!

Shane took a photo of the washroom because there were that many urinals and he was the only one in there!
The sectioned off area for the opposing teams fans

A riot officer

Pancakes with meat. Was actually pretty good. Still love my maple syrup though!
Soaking up our last beach day in Barcelona

This was one of Shane’s favourite places when he was in Barcelona last time for tapas and Spanish wine. We went back and everything was the same. Including the bartender. Shane in his happy place
Cocktails with fire!
In Barcelona we saw the 33rd largest yacht, 360 feet, 40 staff

Town to Town to Town : Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre includes five villages along the Ligurian Sea that are built on steep cliffs and are all quite small. One can hike between the villages which are a total of 9km apart from each other.

We stayed in Vernazza, which is known as perhaps the quaintest and steepest of the villages. We arrived around 1pm and the Main Street was very lively by this time. There is really only one road and then the rest of the “streets” are staircases woven through small walkways. It was a little overwhelming the amount of people in the town for the size, and apparently this is shoulder season. We went for a swim, explored a castle and then read books in our apartment. Around 6pm we headed to the end of the pier to read and it was a completely different town by this hour. The street had cleared and people had gone back to where they were staying (another village or have moved onwards from Cinque Terre). At this hour, the locals also were hanging around, swimming and shooting the shit. It was that small town feel where everyone knows each other (the population is 1,000). With the much more laid back atmosphere, we were very happy we were staying in one of the villages as it’s a completely different feel.

We woke up early the next morning and caught the train to the next town over, Corniglia. This town was tiny, with its population of 150. It was peaceful walking the couple streets that consisted of cafes, shops and houses before the masses were out. We headed for the hiking trail to walk back to our town, 2kms away. Around Corniglia and most of the other villages, vineyards surround the towns for as far as the eye can see up the cliff side. Apparently making wine is becoming less popular by the locals as they are seeing the money with tourism instead. The hike was relatively easy and well travelled. We saw a lot of older folks hiking it, which was inspirational for when we’re old!

We hiked back into Vernazza and immediately went for a swim as it was getting hot. We found a peaceful rocky beach area that was less used than the main beach to hang out at, where we may or may not have enjoyed a beer ocean-side.

The pass we’d bought for the train and hiking included unlimited train rides for the day so we decided to go explore the other towns. They’re all just a few minute train ride away so were easy to cover. Riomaggiore is the easternmost village and our least favourite. It didn’t have a ton of character compared to the others. We really liked Manarola for its quaint, beachy feel. For lunch we stopped at a takeaway pasta place where we got a half bottle of the local wine to try as we sat outside waiting for lunch to be cooked. Here we met another couple from Holland and ended up talking with them for a few more drinks. It’s the type of town where sitting on a bench with a drink in hand can quickly pass the time! We also went to Monterosso, which is the westernmost village and feels like a resort town. Seemed good for families but after a stroll around town, we were ready to go back to Vernazza.

Our last day was very lackadaisical and it was glorious. We started the day at a breakfast place that served more than just pastries or cheese and meat… I needed some eggs dammit! We attempted to plan where to go to next then headed to the beach for several hours. We’d read, swim, read, swim. I even read a whole book during our stay!

We ended our time in Vernazza by going to a wine tasting place overlooking the water then to a local opera. Neither of us had been to the opera and decided to give it a whirl in the tiny church. The singers and piano player were very talented but the opera definitely isn’t something I really understand. My ears were ready for some quietness leaving. At our last Italian dinner, we sat beside a couple from New Zealand and chatted with them for a couple hours as the service was slow. It ended up being a really enjoyable last evening, as was my pesto pasta (they make a lot of pesto in this town, it’s on most things!). Overall the food in Cinque Terre wasn’t great … I guess with the number of tourist that come in and out each day it just needs to be mediocre. One night we ordered takeaway vegetarian pizza to eat in the room. We got back and the pizza was covered in a mass amount of cheese and olives. I ended up just eating cheese pizza and Shane had a VERY olive covered dinner. We enjoyed Cinque Terre but Amalfi Coast ended up as the clear winner for us after visiting both coastal areas.

We’re leaving Italy after 15 days of exploring and eating, a lot. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m sick of Italian food! Most of the places we’ve stayed don’t have kitchens so we’ve eaten out far too much and after menus and menus of pizza and pasta, I’m ready for a change of type of food and cooking for myself again. Salads here aren’t great and more expensive than many other things on the menu. My body could use a good ol’ homemade salad!

We are making our way to Barcelona and have decided to make Nice our home-base for 3 nights to explore a bit of the south of France before heading onward. We don’t have anything planned, including a place to stay as our first place declined our request and we haven’t heard back from the second as we head that way. Luckily train tickets can be bought at the station for day of so our lack of planning has been fine… we’ll figure out somewhere to stay soon enough!

A view of Vernazza… and about 1/4 of the town!
Day time busyness
All those people are waiting for a water taxi. And it’s shoulder season!

Imagine farming that?!

The town starting to quiet down
If things don’t work out with Shane, I’ve found my backup. Isn’t he adorable?!?!
Book reading time at the pier for sunset
The narrow streets of Corniglia
Grapes on grapes
Looking down from in town… literally on the edge of a cliff
A view from the hiking path back into Corniglia
Isn’t that the largest and longest squash you’ve ever seen?!
Imagine climbing this with all your groceries and children
Harvest time!

The other end of our hike, heading into Vernazza
Views of Vernazza

Riomaggiore
Monterossa

Manarola
Wine tasting on our last evening. We had some really delicious local wines
This is part of the reading part… which included beer!
And then swim
A view of Vernazza from the water

Relaxing Through Tuscany

From Rome we headed to Tuscany. Tuscany was on my list of places to visit in Italy as it seemed like one of those peaceful places I’ve seen in movies (+ has wine!). Besides vineyards, the hilltop medieval towns were impressive. Our first stop after renting our car from the first unfriendly Italian we’d met, was a hot spring we’d found on Instagram. God damn Instagram exploiting places (but thankful for it in many ways!). The natural hot springs were free and filled with many locals picnicking and hanging out for the day.

From there we drove through the windy roads to a town a friend had told us was a must, called Orvieto. I’ve never experienced car sickness but the Fiat we had did not shift smoothly so poor Shane wasn’t able to drive as fast as he wanted through the windy country side roads. Orvieto, like the few others we visited in the country side, didn’t allow non-residents to drive into the city center. Not a bad idea when the roads are super tiny… we may have returned a scratched rental if so. Orvieto is built up on a cliff and is a stunning town to get lost in. The most impressive sight, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen, was a cathedral (Duomo di Orvieto). The sides of it, which we saw first, are black and white rows of brick. Then, coming around the front, the whole thing is in colour. See the photos below and you’ll understand the beauty! The church dates back to 1290 which took 30 years to plan and 3 centuries to complete.

After staying mostly in hotels, we wanted a place out in the country. We found a perfect gem, between two towns we wanted to visit. It was the perfect home away from home we needed to rejuvenate. The place was the cheapest we’ve stayed, and the biggest. There was also a pool that we relaxed by each afternoon, which we had all to ourselves. We cooked breakfast and dinners which was a nice break from eating out most meals.

The first wine area we visited was Montalcino. It is known for Rosso wines. When looking up information about wine tasting in Tuscany, it was hard to find information on needing to book or not… so we pre-booked one and stopped in at two more. The one we booked was at a winery run by all women and the daughter of the mom that created it (Solaria wines) toured us around the facility including the vineyard, where they store the wine and where they bottle. Bottles of wine cost around €12 to start and go up from there, with free tastings. Most wineries in the region also make olive oil. In the town of Montalcino, we had the best salami of my life.

The next day we went to Montepulciano, which was another hilltop town. We decided to do our wine tastings in the town, where we could taste wines from different wineries. All the towns have enoteca’s (wine bars) where people can taste several different wines from across the region. A common sight around town are people carrying two pack boxes of wine away from all the shops. We stopped at a wine tasting shop that had an underground “city” where they have their barrels today. This place had the best wine tasting experience I’ve had, with food pairings to go with the pours. And free.

After a couple restful days, we finished our Tuscan experience driving through Siena (1 hour north of where we stayed) then on side roads searching for a winery to taste Chanti Classico wines. After several failed attempts of tasting rooms open, we found one tiny winery in the middle of the Chianti region. Driving through the Tuscan country side was much browner than photos we’ve seen before but still had a beauty to it. Driving through the Chianti region there was much more green as there were fields and fields of vineyards. From there, we returned the car in Florence where we stayed a couple of nights.

The first night we arrived in Florence was Saturday so we decided to give the going out scene a test. We started in the best food court I’ve ever seen, from cleanliness, vendors all have similar signage and POS to the ability to buy a drink and walk around with it. We also tried deep fried risotto balls that were stuffed with tomato sauce (I’d heard about these and was pleasantly surprised). We hit up a couple other bars including a delicious Cuban bar with €5 cocktails and then stumbled upon a speakeasy. The last bar we went to had a DJ playing in the front half with karaoke in the back. The karaoke was very entertaining as a 60+ year old man ran the “show” while he attempted to play his guitar at various points in songs and put up the YouTube video for whatever song the drunk student wanted to sing.

On Sunday, our last day in Florence, we each went off and explored the city separately. Shane went to the Uffizi Gallery while I wandered through the busy city streets to a botanical garden. There was also an exhibit on of the famous photographer Steve McCurry which was incredible to admire the photos of. From the garden, I walked to the Piazzale Michelangelo which is a beautiful viewpoint over the city. The day was hot so I slowly strolled through random back streets, enjoying the time by myself. Sunday night we went out to a steak house as Florence is known for its bistecca alla fiorentina (T-bone steak) where Shane was able to devour a large steak to himself. The cut of meat and cooking style is much more undercooked for my taste so I stuck with pasta (which I’ve had almost everyday). We left Florence on the train to Cinque Terre, back to the coastline we go!

The Instagram hot springs Cascate Del Mulino.

Driving into Orvieto. Shocking how a town is built on the cliff side like this!
A view from the top of Orvieto
Shane strolling the streets of Orvieto

The side of the Duomo….

And then the front. Absolutely stunning

Inside was also beautiful

Shane wandering the streets of Orvieto
Wine tasting in Orvieto
First time I’ve ever seen pomegranates grow on a tree before
This spicy sauce and white don’t mix. Being a child.
One of the wineries we visited in Montalcino
Harvest will begin around Sept 20
#truebeauty
Inside the cellar room at Solaria winery.
The glass container on top is an airlock where they add more wine than the barrel can hold to make sure oxygen doesn’t get in
A view though Tuscany. Not so green 🙂
Shane with a wine glass the size of his head
This folks had the best salami I’ve ever tasted in my life
Bruschetta with pancetta
A view from the town of Montalcino
Working hard, or hardly working
Our homemade dinner. Of course it was pasta!

Entering Montepulciano
Pure genius

Italy 😍[[

There’s no other way
Welcome to my cellar
This is a barrel of wine!
Views from Montepulciano
Our free tasting with pairings
Another gigantic glass with REALLY good wine in it
The town of Siena has similar ties like this around the town for horses back in the day
Twice a year, the city square turns into a horse racing track where 11 of the 17 neighbourhoods have a horse participating.
Fresh figs are beyond delicious. Cold ones, even better
All that yum
A Tuscan stew of veggies and bread.
Steak with sautéed red onions
Driving through Chianti

Mean while beef in Florence…
Risotto balls!
Two packs of beer should become main stream
The church in Florence

In the gardens I visited

View from a rose garden of the town

Michelangelo, what up?!
My selfie game is poor
Shane’s visit to the Uffizi Gallery

Europe is doing this right. 1) Walk into a grocery store and buy a personal sized bottle of alcohol. 2) Go drink it wherever you want. We sat in the piazza and people watched before dinner
Shane’s steak!

THE Sights of Rome

I’m not generally a city lover or a history buff but Rome was absolutely incredible. Now that I’ve been, it feels like one of those places everyone needs to go to once in their life. The architecture, history, sounds, food and wine, paired with a super walkable city impressed me. It felt like every couple blocks there was a stunning building that was older than the country I was born in.

The first day we arrived we walked around to check out the must sees that we knew we weren’t touring the next day. This included the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and a park, Villa Borghese. Lots of cities have the “do not miss sights” and generally, a few can be missed. Every place we went in Rome had that awe effect that was mind boggling to really understand how any of it was built so many years ago.

We did an early morning tour of the Vatican, which was incredible. I was felt very middle of the road about the tour and not long after entering the building, was super excited. If you go to Rome, it’s a must. Our tour guide was amazing and told us just the right level of history to art as we walked room to room. The paintings are incredible and absolutely mind boggling how long everything must’ve taken. St.Peters Basilica is WAY bigger than it feels inside as there is so much going on. There is a stained glass mural at the very front that to the eye, looks small. Turns out the dove in it is 6 feet wide! The Sistine Chapel was another one of those “what in the hell” moments as understanding how Michelangelo learned to paint just before he painted the ceiling is WOW. And on scaffolding. Just Google photos of the ceiling and you’ll understand :).

Later that day we went to the Colosseum. I was excited for this … and it did not disappoint. Another incredible piece of architectural that was great to explore. From there, we went next door to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. All and all it was a day full of incredible memories that really can only be experienced in Rome… so add it to your list of places to visit if you don’t have it on there!

On our last day in Rome, we did an Italian cooking class, which I had got Shane for his birthday (what else do you get a man that needs to spend hours researching anything?!). I was super exited about this as who doesn’t want to learn how to make delicious pasta from an Italian?!? The chef teaching it went to the market that morning to purchase all of the ingredients and we made everything together in the class from scratch. The menu included: appetizer of zucchini flowers with prosciutto/anchovies and mozzarella, (no anchovies in mine!), first course homemade Fettuccine alla Chitarra with Ragù Bolognese, second course Straccetti di Manzo con Pachino, Rughetta e scaglie di Parmigiano (beef “carpaccio” with cherry tomatoes, arugola and shaves of Parmesan Cheese) followed by dessert of Crema al Limone con Pesche (Custard flavored with lemon zest and fresh seasonal Peaches). Just look below at all the mouth watering photos :). Of course each course was served with a pairing of wine. Highly recommend Cooking Classes in Rome with Andrea if you’re ever in Rome!

After three days in Rome, we headed off into the Tuscan sun. Stay tuned for wine, wine and pool time in the next blog post. Ciao!

And the Pantheon ladies and gentleman
This old man… and that delicious meat
So many of these amazing little shops
All the delicious sandwiches

We came across performers like this all across Rome. So fun to stop and watch.

One of the every block gelato shops. This place only had 150 flavours!

The Spanish Steps.

Trevi Fountain. Aka THE place to people watch
Including those that take photos on iPads. And selfie sticks galore.

The street we stayed on

The Vatican! Early morning sunlight on it was beautiful

One example of the ceilings. Every room had its own paintings which were mind blowing

The picture doesn’t do justice of how massive this place is

Apparently they all need to be Swedish who speak German
Just a castle
The Colosseum I was most excited for. It was fascinating
Mind blowing

The Colosseum in the background
In all fountains around the country, you can drink the water 😁[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
Palatine Hill, just next to the Colosseum
😍
All the other history

There are huge buildings like this all over the city
Dinner time. Gotta get in the veggies
Rome pizza is much different than Naples. The crust is very thin and harder. Apparently it’s from the calcium in the water
Let’s play a game. How much does all of this cost in the grocery store?! (Hint, under $20!)
Morning breakfast view
Just adorable
It’s Italian cooking class time! All ready to learn the new skills
Zucchini blossoms

Our ingredients for the day
Peeling celery for the first time in my life. Apparently eliminates the stringyness
Shane stuffed the blossoms with cheese and anchovies.
Making of the dough for pasta
Shane making the steak for the second course
The musical instrument also used for pasta rolling
Cut the sheet of dough to the size…
Roll over it. And then once you can see the strips cut, run your finger along it like a violin and the pasta falls to the bottom.
End result… fettuccini!
Deep frying the blossoms that are in a beer batter
Voila! Served on a bed of puréed zucchini
Ragu Bologna’s
Peach custard dessert
The team that made all the delicious food
A sunset from our hotel rooftop

Pasta, Pizza, Gelato, oh my!

Italy has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time but I’d been waiting to come until I could spend the time and money to eat and drink my way through. With how romantic feeling the country is in addition to the delicious food and wine, I’m happy to have waited for my honeymoon. Italy has a feel that’s very different from where I’ve travelled before. It combines poorness and happiness with simplicity and beauty.

We drove from Naples to Praiano, a town on the Amalfi Coast. We’d heard before that drivers in Italy are crazy. In the two hours it took, besides speeding, the biggest concern were the bikers who fly down the middle of the road, regardless of which way they are supposed to be driving. In the first five minutes of driving we were already going faster than our entire time in Norway, which was only 100km/h! The roads are windy, climbing through the dramatic coastline of cliffs and passing through tiny towns.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Amalfi Coast as I’d really only seen some pictures on Instagram and Shane selected the spot. I wandered if it would be too touristy … it ended up being a perfect oasis. Our hotel was amazing, with a balcony view of the ocean. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, the gentleman working was extremely helpful, giving us a bunch of local tips including that we should go jump in the ocean before going straight to dinner. We took his advice as a refresher after 15 hours of travel was needed.

The food has been great. The first night we had what Shane can’t get out of his head, delicious carbonara. We’ve also had amazing paninis with the most mouth watering cheese. Pasta, pasta and more pasta. Wine. Caprese. All of the things I’ve been dreaming about when thinking of eating in Italy. We also had dinner one evening overlooking the stunning sunset across Amalfi and Capri. 6€ glasses of wine with this view were a steal!

We hiked the Walk of the Gods on Thursday, which is an impressive hiking trail on the side of the mountaintop between Praiano and Positano (a busier town 6km down the coast). Per guidance from a local, we could hike to the start of the trail from our hotel. That was straight up hill through town for 30 minutes to then climb another 45 minutes to a monastery where we hadn’t yet started the hike. There was a guy that hiked 50 minutes up each day to sell drinks at the monastery, and he gave me complimentary cold figs which were SO delicious.

In 30 degree weather with humidity, the hike was difficult. The views from above once we got to the ridge line are incredible, looking back on the sea and towns, with the path winding up and down with dramatic drops throughout. After profusely sweating, we grabbed a refreshing lemon drink on the other end before climbing down about 2,000 steps to a beach. A swim has never felt any better!

On Friday we took a boat to Capri, which was perfect to spend a day on the water. It took about 45 minutes to get close to the island then we circled it, stopping at several grottos along the way. On this day, we saw half a dozen 100+ foot yachts, many with wet docks for their numerous boat toys. I’ve never seen yachts this size in my life. We spent 4 hours on the island, where we immediately took a bus to the other side to Anacapri where there was a chair lift that took us to the top. Views were stunning. This included looking down at all the boats and enormous yachts. We walked around Capri a bit afterwards, which is a much more showy area of the island and just a walk through was enough for me. We went for a swim on the way home, where the water was so clear and blue.

We left Praiano with sore calves as everything was a climb up or down staircases built into the side of the steep cliffs. From Amalfi Coast, we headed to Naples to drop our car rental off and get pizza in the town it was created in. An Italian colleague gave us a recommendation for the “best pizza in the world” so we immediately drove to Starita, a pizzeria established in 1901, before dropping the car off. The margarita pizza came out about 2 minutes after ordering it, tasting so fresh from the wood fire oven.

We walked all around Naples, clocking 26,000 steps. This included an underground tour that took us through a history of what is built under the Greek Roman city. This included tunnels they built for supplying water across different towns, a bomb shelter and recently, a place for testing growing vegetables without water. We also walked through what used to be an old theatre that is underneath a typical Neapolitan home. An old lady had lived their for years and wasn’t aware of the history she lived on top of as someone had just built her apartment on top of it.

Naples is an interesting city, where the rich history can be seen and felt yet some areas are really dirty. We enjoyed walking through the cobblestone streets and admiring the many castles and churches. We intended to go out to bars here but when searching online, all the bars were coffee bars or restaurants and the two “clubs” we tried to find, one was non-existent and the other not so inviting.

With our bellies full of pizza for lunch and dinner (a margarita pizza is only €4!) and our legs ready for a short break, we’re now heading to Rome on a bus. The experience has been interesting, with stops every 45 minutes at rest stations for people to get off to smoke and buy snacks. Soon enough we will be in the Roman Empire!

My first meal in Italy by the water did not disappoint.

Fresh figs anyone?!
Walk of the Gods

We made it!!!
Beach time after hiking and Norway couldn’t have felt better
Why not have prosciutto with melon and pasta on the beach?!
The beach we hung out at after hiking
View from Praiano

Sunsets 😍[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
Sunset dinner
Eggplant parmigiana… sooo fresh
Ready for all the boating
At the end of Capri are these three rock formations called Faraglioni.
My first yacht
and then my other!
Chairlift to the top of Anacapri
Boats on boats
On boats

Roaming the streets of Capri
View over Capri

There’s fresh food markets like this outside tons of stores
Capri
Shane enjoying lunch
Get in me ice cream

A view of Positano from the water
Sunset from our hotel
This was unlike Tiramisu I’ve ever had. Crunchy and creamy all in one. Not too sweet.
Our drive back from Amalfi Coast to Naples crossing the mountain
In the home of where pizza all started, we had to indulge. At Starita.

Coffee in a chocolate cup. Why not?!
Roaming the streets of Naples
From World War II
Urinals down in the tunnels… can’t imagine the smell!
Basil that grows just without water and just uses the humidity
Don’t mind if I do!
Our €1 wine to go
Alleyway in Naples
Italy 😁
Food porn
My Italian coworker recommended il Caffe del Professore as the best espresso… this shit was delicious!!!

The ceiling in a shopping mall. Nbd.
Castle Nuovo

More pizza for dinner!!

From Sea to Snow

The last few days have been filled with city life, a concert and exploring more of Norway’s countryside. Coming from what felt like the middle of nowhere to civilization took a bit of adjusting as we arrived in the city of Bergen on Friday. Once we adjusted, we both grew to really like the city as it has a lot of history, is quaint and easily walkable. We had dinner on Friday at an absolutely delicious restaurant that served local Norwegian dishes. Shane had plukkfish which was mashed potatoes and fish while I had a vegetation stew that was so fresh tasting.

On Saturday we wandered Bergen, the city that is surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords. We went to the fish market, the old area of the city called Bryggen and tasted the local sausages (see photo below). The concert we went to Bergen for was amazing and was at an old fortress. We enjoyed the opener, Julia Michaels, who a few of her songs we recognized. Turns out she’s written a bunch of songs for others including Sorry by the Beebs. Kygo was awesome and even had 7 different singers come out throughout the performance to sing which I’ve never seen that many different singers live with a DJ before. Fireworks ended the show and we followed the crowd to see where they were headed next and ended up in a bar with a guy playing acoustic songs and talking with locals. We also sampled some local liquor, Aquavit, which was similarish to Vodka to me.

Sunday we had great weather so before leaving Bergen, we took a cable car to the top of Mt Ulrikren which is 2,000 feet above the city. The views from up there were phenomenal, with fjords and mountains in every direction. We left Bergen mid afternoon for the countryside, heading towards Voss which is 1.5 away. Voss is a super outdoorsy town and one I felt like we could spend a decent amount of time in but with Monday calling for rain, we decided to push on to drive a road called Aurlandsfjellet. It’s a 45km road that is a summer-only drive as it’s impassable in the winter with the amount of snow it gets. The road was beautiful, starting within a fjord, then once we got to the top, it felt like we were on Mars. We saw more sheep than cars on the drive.

We stayed in a tiny town called Lærdal that night, which we booked the hotel room a few hours before arrival. From here, we had an 7 hour drive to Ålesund, which we needed to get back to by Tuesday evening. We found a farm stay about 4 hours away so drove on to there on Monday. The weather was hit and miss with rain but Norway continued to be beautiful regardless of the weather. We stopped at a Fjord Museum along the way, which had exhibits on boats, fishing and the way of life along the fjord. Then, as I was driving through switchbacks, we came into sight of fresh snow on top of a mountain in front of us. Shane pointed out that’s where we were going… I missed that memo! We crossed over northern Europe’s highest road pass, which is 4,700 feet. The drive was beautiful and windy, with temperatures dropping from 11c to 3c at the top. Apparently it’s really early for fresh snow and a hiker almost died last weekend out in it.

We stayed just outside a town called Lom, which looks a lot like a ski town back home. Turns out nothing goes on in the winter and “we all stay inside to not freeze our asses off.” Doesn’t sound fun! This summer was the hottest and driest that Norway has ever experienced, with temperatures 30-35c while they normally don’t get much over 20c. They went 6-8 weeks without rain and had a burn ban on the whole country all summer. The farm we stayed at was really cool… until I realized I had food poisoning and I spent way too many times throughout the night climbing steep, tiny-ass stairs to get inside the main building to the washroom.

On Tuesday we drove back to Ålesund. Throughout the drive the sky cleared and by the time we were in the city, it was a completely clear sky. The first time this trip! We went up to a viewpoint that overlooked the city, which was gorgeous! Take a look at the photos below.

After 1481kms (925 miles), it’s been an enjoyable 9 days in a stunning country. Throughout our drive, we discussed several times about coming back one day and renting a motor home. It would be very easy to spend at least a month in this country, driving, hiking and exploring. It’s an easy country to travel within, with the people also friendly and helpful we encountered. We will be back one day, but for now, we’re headed to Italy! We’re ready for some heat and will start the trip in the Amalfi Coast.

Shane admiring another waterfall we drove by
I love the grass roofs
Bergen!
Chilling in a 16th century wine bar called Altona Vinbar.
The Torget Fish Market… has I liked fish this seemed like a dream!
The biggest crab legs I’ve ever seen!
Wandering through the market
All of the freshness!!!
A cool cafe we stopped in for coffee.
Waffles or pancakes with toppings in them. We had cured ham and goat cheese.
A church built in 1130
One of the buildings in the Bergenhus Fortress we went to the concert at.
Clever bar patio
Norway is known for their hotdogs. Since we both don’t really like hotdogs, we found a stand that served sausages. They were delicious!
Reindeer sausage with Lingonberry sauce
Yummmm
The old part of town, Bryggen

View from the top of the cable car to Mt Ulriken

The adventure town of Voss
These views don’t get old
A view of the fjords driving along Aurlandsfjellet

Had to rock our Canada shirts!
View from Stegastein
Our drive… soooo dreamy
But the moss is so interesting!
Are we on Mars?!
This wasn’t the first time we had to wait for the sheep to move out of the middle of the road
Eating breakfast looking at a fjord is really hard
One of the many stave churches across the country
At the Fjord museum

Imagine making boats… with these.
Knife for cutting livers from sharks. Not aggressive at all!

I don’t know what these are called but they are everywhere. We stopped at a few different bakeries along the way and shits delicious!
Doesn’t fit!

That view 😍[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

Holy hell, that’s snow!
We made it to the highest road pass in Northern Europe!
All the cairns!
Our farm stay outside of Lom

The cottage we stayed in that’s over 200 years old
Just waiting for my horse!

We couldn’t have a fire because of the burn ban and it had a grass roof
The stave church in Lom

Oh hi friend!
The one ski hill we found. The road is closed from October to May because they get so much snow so the season is on either side.

Moooove over!
View above Ålesund

Goodbye Norway

Honeymooning in Norway

Prior to arriving in Norway, I had high expectations on how beautiful the country would be. It has blown that out of the water and I’m amazed that everywhere I look, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Shane and I flew into Ålesund, a town on the mid-west coast. We had a quick one night stay in what is an adorable village. Breakfast at the hotel was the best hotel breakfast either of us have ever had, with options on top of options for all regular breakfast items plus more varieties of meats, cheeses, breads and juices than I knew existed. They even had a self carving station for cured ham. With full bellies, we set off for what was at the top of my list of places to see in Norway, Trollstigen. This is a 2 hour drive that took us much longer as we stopped several times to awe at the beauty around us… everywhere. It’s so beautiful even I don’t want to nap while we’re driving… and that’s saying a lot!

Waterfalls are plentiful, cascading into the multiple fjords and lakes we drove by. Check out the photos as words don’t do it justice… and that’s what the entire time so far has looked like for us! There are tunnels everywhere throughout the drive too, with the longest one so far 6.6km.

Trollstigen is a road that has 11 hairpin turns that quickly ascend up the side of the mountain. We lucked out to experience this on a sunny day as the forecast for much of our trip is rain. It would be terrifying in the rain and the sights wouldn’t have been what we saw. Shane drove our manual car up while I kept my stomach in place, hoping that we wouldn’t come head to head with a car that was flying down the skinny road. We watched a Ferrari speed down the road from the top, riding on the asses of terrified tourists … glad we didn’t have that experience! The view from the top shows the switchback road, see below for a picture. The road was originally a thoroughfare for tradesman that was a trail, then a horse riding path then later a road. The road was opened in 1936.

We continued road tripping through beautiful scenery, took a ferry to cross a fjord then drove through Geiranger, which has, they say, most beautiful fjord in Norway. We lucked out checking this out on a non-rainy day although didn’t spend too much time as we were coming back in a couple days.

We spent the last 3 nights at a cabin near a tiny hamlet called Hjelle. We explored the first morning on a quick hike that took us through farmers properties then to a massive waterfall followed by a beautiful view of the lake we were near. We then met two friends, originally from Seattle who are living in Paris, in a cafe in a “larger” town of Stryn. Most “towns” we drive through are a few houses. Stryn had a downtown street with a few restaurants.

We explored a stunning area of Norway that included Lovanet Lake, Kjenndalsbreen glacier and went on an amazing hike from Stryn. We’ve lucked out coming near the end of their summer season as we saw less than 10 people that whole day exploring.

As a tourist, Norway’s a great for having a very loose plan and just finding gems along the way as hikes are well marked, right off the side of the roads. We had stopped at a newly built skylift in the town of Loen to see if we wanted to go up. The $75 round trip price tag deterred us as that’s a similar price to what we pay at home including skiing. We found a hike that started halfway up the mountain so decided to trek that for free instead. The view at the end was incredible. By this point, it had stopped raining, which it had been for most of the day, and we found a bunch of tiny cabins that overlooked the town and fjord (Innvikfjorden) below. The view was nothing I’d ever experienced and could have sat there for days watching the clouds move over the mountains. No one was up there and when we looked up the cabins later, we discovered they are part of 500 cabins built across the country that are part of a club where hikers can get a key and stay at them along the way. Definitely something we’re interested in for the future.

Yesterday we went to Geirangerfjord, which is included on the UNESCO world heritage list. The fjord is 850 feet deep (deeper than the tallest building in Seattle!) and the mountains surrounding it about 5,500 feet. We took a boat out on the fjord, which the views were very dramatic from the water. After a 40 minute boat ride, we got dropped off to hike up to an old farm called Skagefla. From the boat load of people, the 4 of us and 2 others got off. Turns out the hike was straight up, with idyllic views all the way up. Once we hit the farm, we hung out admiring the views and waterfalls that surrounded us. We could also see another farm built into the mountainside on the other side of the fjord, neither of them with road access.

From the farm, we hiked further up then cut across the mountain back into town. It took us 5 hours to get back and throughout the hike we all continued to be in awe of the views.

Norway is know for being expensive so I thought I’d share some of the costs we’ve experienced so far. Hotels are similar to the US with our hotel in Ålesund costing about $150 with an enormous breakfast for 2. The cabin was a great deal at $140/night for 4 people. Our car rental for 9 days was $490 plus gas which is $1.80 a liter. Groceries are the same as back home but beer and liquor is much more expensive. We bought duty free coming in so it wasn’t expensive but a beer at a pub is $11 and $4.40 in the grocery store for a pint. Eating out is the highest cost with a dinner meal starting around $20-25. Norway can definitely be done on the cheap as one can camp pretty much anywhere and hitchhiking seems common.

Road tripping through this country is amazing. Continuous views with bright green farms, waterfalls, hairpin turns and just jaw dropping scenery make it an adventure. There are also washrooms every hour or so that are clean and have hot running water! We’re on our way to Bergen, by ourselves as our friends are heading to Amsterdam, which is 5.5 hours from our cabin in Hjelle. Originally we didn’t intend to go to Bergen but the week before coming, we realized a DJ we both like is playing on Saturday. Kygo (the DJ) is Norwegian and from Bergen so of course we need to check this out!

Aelsund, our intro to Norway!

Breakfast 😁
View from our window in Ålesund
Can’t get any better than this for the start to our road trip

Just a spot to pull off!

Can’t get enough
Another town we drove through. So dreamy.
Just outside Åndalsnes
#newlyweds
I assume he’s angry
Shane made a friend!
This is Trollveggen which is the tallest, vertical rock face in Europe.
One of the many beautiful views right alongside the road
The waterfall, Stigfossen, that is right smack in the middle of the 11 hairpin turns going up Trollstigen.
Trollstigen!!
How’d I get here?!
Holy shit!
This is the road we drove up. Nbd.

Whispering sweet nothings in my friends ear
First ferry crossing
A view over Geirangerfjord
Local sausage dinner
Hiking time!
Lovanet Lake… sooooo amazing

Just a couple dudes checking out the glacier
Seattle friends in Norway!

The view at the top of our hike!!
This view was incredible.

Not far from our cabin
Boat ride through the fjord
Geirangerfjord
One of the MANY waterfalls

The farm we hiked up to
❤️
Our cabin in Hjelle
Some local microbrews

Bon Voyage

In the planning of a life milestone, our wedding, Shane and I decided the only way to do this right was to take a sabbatical to truly enjoy this life experience. So on August 4, we were married in front of 57 close family and friends in what was an absolutely amazingly fun day.

We “officially” kicked off the honeymoon and sabbatical the week of August 13 with one day of organizing our lives after 2+ weeks of visitors. We decided we should check out our own backyard before jumping on a plane so we packed up the camping gear and headed northeast 3 hours and ended up at Diablo Lake.

The two days were peaceful and mostly filled with standup paddle boarding, naps and relaxing. Just what we had needed to jumpstart this new life together.

Had to put in one photo from the wedding!
That is a mountain in the background if you look through the smoke!
DSCN0417.JPG
Getting my lounge on
Nothing like paddling to an island all to ourselves!
Diablo Lake… you are beautiful!
Our sunset

A hike to Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake

We’re now heading to Vancouver to catch a flight to a country I’ve been longing to visit… Norway! Neither of us have been there before and I’m beyond excited for the road trippin’, fjord sippin’ good time!