The colder months are my favorite time of year. From fall through winter, we break out all the cozy sweaters, light up the fireplace and indulge in the best comfort foods. The nights are longer, which most people hate, but I happen to love because it motivates me to finish my day earlier. I get caught up in whatever book is on my nightstand, maybe watch a show or two, or simply spend time with friends or family. Believe it or not, I enjoy going out and meeting people for drinks or dinner more in the colder months than in the summertime. It sounds a little backwards but there’s something about crisp winter air and meeting people in warm, cozy restaurants when it’s already black outside by 6PM…Read More
Traveling abroad for the first time is both exciting and nerve wrecking. Doing it on your own heightens both of those emotions ten fold. On the one hand, you’re heading to a new country! Those of us who travel alone have a passion for it and it’s something we look forward to and dream about. So the excitement is certainly unparalleled but the nervousness that can accompany it is also very real. Travel is an experience for the mind, the body and the soul and when you embark on that journey by yourself for the first time, you feel a lot of things and that's ok.
The day I left for Paris, I remember talking to my Noni (my grandma) on the phone before they boarded us onto the plane. I was by myself, I had never been to another country let alone traveled by myself before. I could count the number of trips I’d taken in my life on one hand. It was surreal but overwhelming and as soon as I hung up the phone I started crying. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited, I was beyond ready for this experience and I worked really hard to get there. The immensity of it was an entire different situation. Knowing I’d be far away from my family for the first time, not knowing if I would even like France, and every other uncertainty weighed in my mind. But soon, they called my boarding group so I grabbed my plastic bag of homemade lemon cookies my Zia Tia made for me and put on my big girl pants. And you know what? I have never looked back.
The scariest part of traveling alone is leaving for your first trip. You know you were made for this because otherwise you wouldn’t consider doing it. Between the excitement and the apprehension and the uncertainty of it all, it’s a lot of feelings and thoughts flooding your brain. My best piece of advice...embrace it. Embrace all of it. Confront those fears and keep pushing forward because on the other side of that plane or train or car will be the first of many unforgettable and meaningful experiences on your journey.
Deciding the destination to visit for your first trip alone is incredibly personal to you. There are a lot of factors including language, location, and money. Do you want to travel somewhere that English is the main language? Do you want to travel somewhere that is more urban or more rural? Do you have a specific reason for traveling? France was a no-brainer for me and Paris was the easiest city to get to. It was also through a study abroad program so that was another factor. After a lot of research, feedback from fellow travelers, and my own personal experiences, I have come up with 8 European cities that are great for a first time solo trip. Tell me in the comments below if you have any other recommendations and if you’ve already made that first trip, where did you go and what was it like.
The #1 concern of many first time solo travelers is safety. According to an article citing The Economist, Amsterdam is the 6th safest city in the world based on a 2017 index. That alone should make anyone feel pretty great about Amsterdam. If you haven’t practiced another language, mostly everyone speaks English making it ideal for easy communication. Finally, Amsterdam is a city smaller in scale compared to other European cities like Paris, Rome, or London making it easier for adjusting and personally connecting with locals.
Besides the important factors, there are a lot of things Amsterdam offers. For starters, it has a very well preserved and rich history. You can find houses, buildings and monuments that date as far back as the 16th century and are still functioning today. Amsterdam has citizens from many different countries making it uniquely diverse in its cultural representation. This translates best to the food! You’ll find everything from pizza to pancakes and love every bite. For my fellow coffee addicts, Amsterdam is home to over 160 coffee shops many (or all) of which also serve weed (not that it’s personally for me..or you for that matter - no judgement! You do you). And let’s not forget the Canal Belt, the beautiful canal that flows through the city and offers more Instagram opportunities than anyone would ever need.
If you’re looking for a smaller yet still somewhat urban experience, Bruges is an ideal city and small enough to navigate on foot. It’s known for having a medieval feeling to it especially since it’s the most well preserved medieval city in Europe. Backpackers trek through Bruges to experience its rich history which makes it a fantastic city to connect with fellow travelers. Let’s not also forget that Bruges is in Belgium meaning an abundance of Belgian Beer and Chocolate right from the source. Bruges even has a chocolate walk! It’s certainly a city for both foodies and history buffs. In case you’re worried about communication, English is one of the three main languages spoken in this city.
According to The Daily Meal, Copenhagen is listed as #21 in the top 50 safest cities in the world. It might not be #6 like Amsterdam and it seems these surveys get different results but it’s not a bad title to have. If that doesn’t sell you, Independent named Copenhagen as the #1 most livable city in the world. The home of literature icon Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen is an ideal city to experience Denmark’s culture. Everyone speaks English so you don’t need to learn another language and they have an entire road system for bicycles. Denmark is also home of hygge so if you’re planning winter travel, this is the spot to go. The people of Copenhagen are supposedly the friendliest anywhere. There are gorgeous palaces to get lost in, much of the city has inspired fairy tales (*ahem* Andersen), and the world’s best restaurant is located here. What more do you need?
Dublin is one of those cities that is not only ideal for first-time solo travelers but also ideal for women in general. All of Ireland is pretty good for us ladies, to be honest. Ireland, Scotland and England are very high on my personal travel bucket list for a lot of reasons but mainly their beauty and their history. There are two main reasons Dublin (really, all Ireland) is a great place for solo travel: it’s affordable and they speak English. You may have to decode the Irish accents and slang but you’ll get by. Ireland has plenty of transportation to get from point a to point b, including in Dublin. The options are all affordable for the most part and will cover any ground you could consider. Eat Sleep Breathe Travel has a great article with more information on traveling to Ireland including tips to not make a fool of yourself.
I can’t have a travel list and not include Italy, my homeland. I chose Florence for this specific post because Rome might be too overwhelming for the first time traveler and Italians are their own breed of people. As far as I have been told (sadly, I have yet to make it to Italy), English isn’t spoken much or well in Italy. Having basic conversational skills in Italian will serve you well. According to The Curious Appetite, Florence has a surprisingly good English speaking community but it would be smart to do research before arrival on where to go and what to do.
Like the rest of Italy, Florence puts a lot of cred in style. Italians are known to dress to the nines at all times, even if it’s just to go to the corner market. If you want to fit in as a local, take on their common practices like dressing well. Besides the things to note (as there are many for Italy), Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance. You will feel its influence everywhere. The Uffizi Gallery is located in Florence which also happens to be one of the most famous art galleries in the world. The architecture is one-of-a-kind and it has a somewhat urban feel but is still small. Florence is one of the best cities to introduce yourself to Italy and its culture. And I promise us Italians are worth it 100%.
According to the same article I sourced in Amsterdam, Madrid is the twelfth safest city in the world according to a study by The Economist making it another great option for safety. And that’s not to say that the other cities on this list are not safe. These lists just happen to specifically mention a select variety of cities. There could be many variables involved including that they just did not look into all the urban areas in each country.
Madrid is a great option for first time solo travelers because it’s much less concentrated than Barcelona. While Barcelona is on my personal bucket list and is a phenomenal city to visit, Madrid is like it’s more chill cousin. Madrid has year-round ideal weather, it has a very rich culture, there are endless outdoor markets, the nightlife scene is very active which means you’ll never feel isolated walking around at night, and there are tapas! Nothing gets me excited like tapas. Whether you love to shop, enjoy great food, embrace history or take in the arts, Madrid has it all without all the crazy tourism of Barcelona. While both cities offer great experiences, Madrid is an easier entry into Spanish culture and some say a more authentic one. I would suggest freshening up your Spanish before heading there.
“We’ll always have Paris” is a phrase that means 10x more to me after having been there. As you read earlier, Paris was my first trip. It was my first time traveling out of the United States, it was my first journey on my own, it was my first everything when it came to travel and I feel so fortunate for that. France is a country that values its culture beyond anything else. Because of that, you can’t help but be immersed in it and it makes the experience that much more memorable.
There are a few reasons that Paris is a great city for solo travel, especially that first trip. You will find plenty of English speaking people. They might have really thick accents or they might be cranky about it, but you won’t struggle to find directions. That's not to say you should throw French out the window. I still suggest practicing conversational French to get by. Paris has a fantastic public transportation system making it not only easy to get around but also affordable. I would recommend against trying to drive because the roads are not made for non-Parisians. Finally, Paris is certainly French and very European but it doesn’t deliver a serious case of culture shock. It’s an urban environment where things will feel quite modern. It’s a great city for those of you who, like me, take a little extra time to adjust to change and big adventures.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is an easy city to navigate, it’s tourist-friendly (meaning you won’t feel uncomfortable on your own), and it has an affordable public transportation system. According to Independent, 2018 is the year to visit Prague so what are you waiting for?! Their reasons for visiting are included in any other basic “Why Visit Prague” list so I’m not quite sure why they chose this year in particular. Other reasons to put Prague in the running as your first European solo trip include: it’s affordable, it’s home to the largest “castle complex” in the world (Prague Castle, my dream home), it’s the beer capital of the world, it has some really old historical buildings and structures, plus more. From food to the history to the culture, it’s hard to find a reason not to visit Prague. They even speak English quite well.
Spring break is by far the greatest holiday of the year. It occurs in the best season with the perfect weather, and in later years, is looked back upon and associated with the most fun and craziest memories. Maybe all this is only my opinion, but according to my family and friends, my opinion is usually factual.
With that in mind, here are 5 destinations for your Spring Break Bucket List.
1. PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
Puerto Vallarta is the place I think of every time I close my eyes and wish I were somewhere else. It’s my happy place. Think: sandy beaches, sipping Piña Coladas in the pool bar, that warm, happy feeling of the sun on your skin, a great beach read… You’re drooling, aren’t you? Puerto Vallarta is the perfect R&R destination for spring break. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try zip lining in the mountains or taking an ATV through the villages.
2. VENICE, ITALY
Not only should you see The Floating City before it sinks into the ground, it’s also a great city for active spring breakers. You won’t see a car anywhere inside this city, only gondolas and bridges. This forces you to tour the city by (expensive) boats or by foot, leading you to the nooks and crannies of this beautiful city. Enjoy a bottle of champagne at a café outside St. Mark’s Basilica or treat yo’self to a gondola ride through the canals. A big perk: all that walking means all the pizza and pasta you can eat. Win.
3. MOROCCO, AFRICA
If you consider yourself a decent surfer and you’d like to ride the wave somewhere other than California or Hawaii, meander on over to Morocco where you’ll find countless surf camps all over the coast. Go all out with a morning yoga session, a hearty breakfast and a drive over to the beach to chill until the waves are surf-ready. Don’t fret if you’ve never touched a surfboard! This was my first time surfing and it was an absolute blast. While you’re there, get your hands on some Argan Oil. It’s good for your hair, skin, everything.
4. PARIS, FRANCE
Paris in the springtime. It’s the stuff of poems, and it’s all completely true. For the year I lived in Paris, I woke up everyday in the springtime absolutely loving life. The gloomy, gray skies have officially passed, and you realize what Audrey Hepburn said all those years ago still rings true: Paris is always a good idea. Enjoy an espresso on the busy streets of any arrondissement of your choosing, take a stroll through the Champ de Mars and see the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Head down the Champs-Elysees and see it from the Arc de Triomphe, but do some shopping along the way first. Visit one of Paris’ many famous museums—my favorite is Espace Dalí in Monmartre—and don’t forget to take time to sip, wine and nibble on cheese wherever you go.
5. MYKONOS, GREECE
Mykonos was by far the best trip I’ve ever taken. My friends and I rented the most beautiful Airbnb overlooking the town and beach. We went when it was off-season for tourism in Mykonos, so it felt like we were the only ones on the island. Visit beaches and bars and explore stone pathways through Greece’s famous painted-blue-roofed buildings. Above all, take time to relax and have fun—that’s what spring break is for!
The world is a massive place. Some people never get to go farther than their own homes, others are lucky enough to just see a fraction of it. The thing about travel I love most is being immersed in the history. Each destination has a story. No, each destination has thousands of stories. From ancient empires to devastating disasters, there is so much to discover. We might only be here for less than a century but our footprint leaves a mark just like the millions of people who came before us. History has left us beautiful ruins like the Parthenon and the Colosseum. It has left us civilizations frozen in time like the catastrophe of Pompeii. It brings us together with a symbol of strength like Hadrian's Wall. It's an experience like none other. To inspire your wanderlust, we've gathered 10 places throughout the world to visit for their history. Now, this list was incredibly difficult to narrow down. There are hundreds that qualify for this post but they'll have to wait for another day.
Boston, MA | United States
I guess I can let the cat out of the bag since my plane ticket is purchased. I will be visiting Boston for the very first time this fall. This is a childhood dream of mine come true and I get a little misty-eyed just thinking about all of the things I'll be able to experience. Boston is the city of firsts where America is concerned. From the historical monuments to cobblestone streets our founding fathers walked on, this city has it all.
French Quarter, LA | United States
New Orleans is on my American bucket list as well. This city has a rich history of both celebrations and devastation. The architecture is some of the most sought out in the country and don't even get my started on the beignets. It's a mecca for history from colonial America and the French colonization that happened in the US. Plus, the ghost stories this city has makes me want to run there right this minute. Must sees include Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral and Cafe du Monde.
Pick a city, pick a temple, pick a town. Greece, like many other European countries, is a historical monument in itself. From architectural wonders like the Parthenon and the Acropolis to beautiful seascapes, this country is a history-lover's dream.
Hadrian's Wall | England
Hadrian's Wall was built in AD 122 by the Roman Empire when they could not defeat the people who inhabited the lands, aka "barbarians." The wall is still standing and serves as a symbol to the people who live there of their unbeatable spirit.
Machu Picchu | Peru
Only accessible by train or 4-day hike, this New Wonder of the World is a glimpse of an ancient Incan civilization that was abandoned after the Spanish invasion. I am torn about this particular location because the thought of going on a four-day hike has me freaking out but to be able to see these ruins would be an unforgettable experience.
Paris | France
Where do I start? The "city of love" has not always necessarily been "loving." From violent revolutions to catastrophic plagues, this city has seen its fair share of hard times yet it remains standing as one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse cities in the world. Paris is the definition of resilience. You can experience the history in a number of locations like Père Lachaise Cemetery, Notre-Dame, Île de la Cité, Montmartre, the catacombs or even just walking down the street. I am counting the days until I return.
Pompeii | Italy
As devastating as this city is, it is a true glimpse into an ancient civilization. It's hard to not be completely overcome with emotion when witnessing a place of such destruction but the ability to see how people lived thousands of years ago is just incredible.
Pyramids at Giza | Egypt
My cousin rode a camel to see the pyramids and she said it was one of the most incredible experiences. We still don't know how these pyramids were built with such precision and many of the insides are still undiscovered because of doors that no one can open. They are one of the original 7 Wonders of the World and still stand strong today.
Rome | Italy
Italy is another country that is basically a historical monument in itself. Wherever you go, there are ruins from the Roman Empire or other structures from the timeline of the world. As if walking down a Roman street wasn't enough, there is also the Colosseum and the Forum.
Stonehenge | England
The human-made rock formation is over 3,000 years old. That's one insane birthday celebration! Scientists and historians still have no idea how the stones were transported from Wales to their location and then placed so specifically. Their purpose is also still just a guess and has led to myths, legends and even some really bad movies.
As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of places and monuments that could make this list. Some include the Great Wall of China and Petra. What are some places on your bucket list that have a rich history?
Although touristy adventures can be fun while traveling, some of the most beautiful and memorable moments happen when you venture off the beaten path. Paris and Rome are magical and obvious additions to any bucket list but today we have a few smaller towns in Europe for you to consider adding as well.
Our first stop is Amboise in the Loire Valley. This town is charming and beautiful, and jam packed with historical treasures. Visit the enchanting house and gardens where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years and his presumed resting place (depending on if you ask the French or Italian). Walk the magnificent Royal Château of Amboise, former home of Charles VIII, Anne of Brittany and Francis I. Shop at the outdoor riverside market on weekends, which takes place behind Max Ernst's amazing turtle fountain. Amboise is sure to provide an authentic, medieval vibe that is unforgettable.
For the people who enjoy adventure while also feeling the bliss of quiet isolation, Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland (which means “Big-House Dwellers") is for you. With a population of less than 500 people, this remote village is a special one. The tiny, glacial town can only be reached by taking a once-per-week flight from Iceland followed by a helicopter ride. Ittoqqortoormiit is best known for it’s amazing wildlife which includes polar bears, muskoxen, and seals. It’s safe to say it is rare to experience anything quite like Ittoqqortoormiit. You won’t see this one on Trip Advisor!
Cinque Terre, Italy
This next location is 5 towns in one! Having visited the Cinque Terre in Italy myself, I know how special and beautiful they really are. Cinque Terre translates to “The Five Lands”. With gorgeous colorful buildings lining the streets, fabulous wine, and no cars or traffic lights, you might never want to leave! These gorgeous connected towns ( Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) are dreamy and rustic, and will make you feel as though you’ve gone back in time.
If quiet and rustic isn’t your ideal vacation, how about going to one of the Royal Family’s favorite vacation spots? If you’re screaming YES then Arosa, Switzerland is your new dream vacation spot. Arosa is the picture perfect Alps scene with skiing options all around. While you’re busy skiing, don’t forget to check out the Bergkirchli mountain wooden chapel as it is definitely a sight to see. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, it’s good enough for me!
If you truly just want to go off the grid, you should book it ASAP to Reine, Norway. With a population of roughly 300 people, Reine is truly a no-mans land! Despite being tiny, Reine was voted Norway’s most beautiful village. With options like camping on the beach, hiking, and kayaking, Reine is perfect for someone with an adventurous and outdoorsy soul.
I hope this post has inspired you to think outside the box (or map!) while planning your next European trip. Have any must have spots you think need to be added to our list? Let us know in the comments!
Hi everyone! I hope you've enjoyed this super fun week of blog posts I've had. First you got to know more about me then you had a fun game and yesterday tons of great images from Britney's latest music video. Well, today I'm slowing it down a bit and sharing a great review of a book I was so generously given. It's called Grounded by Angela Correll. Here's some more about it.
Disclaimer: I was given this book on behalf of the Literary Junkies Book Club. I was not compensated and all opinions are my own.
This is a novel about a woman who just had her world turned upside down and she needs to start over fresh. Her name is Annie Taylor, small town girl who moved to New York and became a flight attendant fulfilling her dreams of travelling the world. Her job is on the line and her relationship along with it when one day it all comes crashing down out of nowhere. She finds out her boyfriend isn't who he says and that she was laid within the same afternoon. So much for that relaxing weekend in Italy! With no apartment, no job and a nagging jerk of an ex-boyfriend, Annie decides to hightail it back home to a small town in Kentucky. It's here that she reconnects with her only living relative, her grandmother and finds herself and the man who she was always meant to be with.
I really enjoyed this story. Annie is someone who worked hard to get where she was. She's a fighter and a hard-worker. In that sense she reminds me of myself I guess. I was able to relate to her feeling of defeat after she lost everything and had to go back home. I feel like every single one of us can put ourselves in Annie's shoes at some point in our lives. Having a character so real and so raw was refreshing. Correll really did an amazing job forming this character. She had her strengths but she also had her flaws.
I especially liked Annie's grandmother, Beulah. She is a firecracker and every time she hits a little road bump, your heart drops a little lower into your stomach. She has all of these superstitions and old-wives tails even though she won't admit to you that she believes them. Their relationship is rocky at first but as soon as they learn how to communicate and help each other out, things smooth themselves out.
I'm sorry if I'm giving away a ton of the story but you don't have any of the details. I just really enjoyed it so much and I can identify with so many parts of Annie, especially her relationship with her grandmother. I read this book in one night. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Five stars on my end.
Here is the description from Goodreads:
New York City flight attendant Annie Taylor is grounded, putting a halt to weekends in Rome and her jet-setting lifestyle. Soon her noncommittal boyfriend’s true nature is revealed, and to top it all off, she loses her apartment.
With nowhere else to go, Annie leaves the city for the family farm in Kentucky, a place she’s avoided for years. She finds a shotgun-wielding grandmother, a farm in disrepair, and a suspicious stranger renting the old stone house.
The country quiet haunts Annie with reminders of a past that can’t be changed. She tries persuading her grandmother to sell the farm, but is met with stubborn refusal? Yet in the midst of her crashing life, Annie sees a glimmer of hope for a second chance.
Jake Wilder is contemplating jumping off the corporate ladder to follow his passion for sustainable farming. He’s almost ready to propose to Camille, a girl who wants more, not less. Annie believes Jake is about to make a terrible mistake, but does she have the right to tell him?
As the summer heats up, so do Annie’s unexpected feelings for Jake and her interest in the land. When a sudden phone call comes from New York, Annie is forced to choose between coming to terms with her past or leaving it all behind.
Disclaimer: I was given this novel by the author to review through the Literary Junkies Book Club. I was not compensated and all opinions are my own.
Happy Monday everyone! I'm not going to lie, I wish I was still in bed and laying there for a while. Mornings are the worst, especially Monday after you've had such a great weekend and wish it could last longer. Anyway, on to another week with a really exciting weekend to follow. The Maroon 5 concert on Sunday is honestly going to get me through the week. Anyway, today I have for you a review of a book I recently read. It was interesting to say the least.
It's calledRome for Beginners: The Semifictional Misadventures of Four Women and was written by Fiona Coughlin. I didn't really know what I was expecting when I started reading. It through be off balance at first because each chapter begins with text messages or emails or voice mails. I'd never experienced anything like this before so I was confused at first but really came to enjoy them. It says it's about four women but it's mainly about three friends whose lives have led them to living in the amazing city of Rome. They're each there for different reasons but their friendship brings them together.
This is the best way I can describe this novel. It's a book version of a reality show. Here's what I mean. Reality shows are just random adventures of regular people (until they get famous). We watch them because we secretly enjoy them and like to vicariously live through other people.
Rome for Beginnersis random adventures of four (mainly three) women living in Rome. I loved living vicariously through them. There isn't really a structure that I could pull out or a story line I could explain. It was a fun and easy read just about the lives of these average, American women living in a foreign city that they love and hate at the same time. It's full of history and culture and good times with friends. I enjoyed myself and it took me not a long time to read it at all.
My one complaint is the ending. It came out of nowhere and I didn't understand why it ended the way it did. I wish that there would have been more transition to the end from the rest of the novel and some explanation as to why the author decided to write it the way she did. I'm not sure if I would read a zequel if it came out unless it had all the same characters again. Only, because of the way things ended, that wouldn't really be possible. Have I got you interested to see what happens now?? Good. Pick it up and enjoy yourself.
Here is the description from Amazon:
The girls had read all about living in Italy. The way it worked in all those pink, glossy novels was: woman comes to Italian city. Woman buys farmhouse in Tuscany. Woman's toilet overflows. Woman has a good cry. Woman achieves self-realization.
As Lilian was learning, living in Italy was no vacation. As a fifty-something academic living in Rome, she didn't feel any closer to self-realization, and she had bigger problems than plumbing. Her professor ex-husband had just started dating her boss (the Chair of the department), and if that weren't enough she's just found herself in an Italian Emergency Room, where the people around her seem "to be speaking some dialect of squirrel". Language problems won't hold her back, as she's got her friends Brennan (an athlete constantly risking deportation), and Suzanne (a newly divorced, single mother) to translate.
This story follows these three unlikely friends in different stages of life over the course of a year: broken bones, dates in the Catacombs, multiple boyfriends named Massimo, spelunking into cavernous Roman ruins, killing one's own turkey in a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, explaining to a nun how adorable one's own child is after he is expelled, learning how to get some sleep when you've rented a room in a church directly under the church bells.
As things get ever more messy these women will discover if they can get it all sorted, with or without all the "ciao bellas".
Rome for Beginners is skosh heavier than an average Chick Lit book, yet a smidgen lighter than normal Women's Fiction. Readers who love quirky reading or summer fare, who like satire, who like a biting sense of humor, and who are curious about Italian life should love this book. Lovers of Rome should also love the book, as the city is a character unto itself.