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Travel

Travel

Marrakesh, Morocco

September 1, 2018

Leaving Madrid, we took a quick flight to Marrakesh, my first venture into Africa. I LOVED the people and beautiful scenery. At sunrise, we enjoyed a hot air ballon ride followed by a traditional Moroccan breakfast.

On a future visit to Morocco I would love to do an overnight trip to the desert, a days journey away.

Photos of the beautiful Riad we stayed in.

Morocco has some gorgeously designed hotels. We visited the stunning La Mamounia Marrakech. Although beautiful, we chose to stay at the more intimate Riad in the city center (pictured above).

Following photos were taken by my brother Sean.

xoxo

A

Travel

Lisbon & Carvoeiro, Portugal

September 1, 2018

Two and a half hours south of Costa Nova Beach is Lisbon.

I recommend our lunch stop  Time Out Food Market. Everything you could ever imagine! We enjoyed prochutto pizza, steak + fried egg + prochuto and  potato + croquettes a traditional Portuguese dish. For dessert we had something similar to a  chocolate cake but with the texture of a mouse and cookie combined.  Another desert was an egg tart which was really good. Here you can sample the local food with options for everyone.  There are various chef/stores inside (similar style to  Anaheim packing district ..but so much better).

Livraria Ler Devagar bookstore in Lisbon

Torre De Belem Lisbon

Pena Palace Sintra, Portugal

Our final destination in Portugal was Carvoeiro, a small town best known for its beaches and sunsets located in Faro. We enjoyed some wonderful food and a beautiful sunset on the cliffs. On day one, we hiked down to the beach to visit the Benagil Cave. It can only be accessed by boat or  swimming. While the boat tours are conveniant they sadly dont let you disembark inside the cave so we opted for the long swim. Although the coldest water I’ve ever experienced, I was thankful I successfully made it. However, we were unable to bring the cameras, so no pictures.  But do google the unique view inside.  Below are photos of the sunset that first evening.

xoxo

A

Travel

Porto, Portugal & Costa Nova Beach

August 31, 2018

From Barcelona, it’s a 10 hour drive to Porto, Portugal.

Recommendations for Porto:

  1. Lena Swimming Pools
  2. The Church of Sao Francisco
  3. Levraria Lello (A beautiful bookstore often visited by JK Rowling,  said to be an inspiration for her writings)
  4. Church of Saint IIdeforso

From Porto, it’s a 50 minute drive to Aveiro. Our destination, Costa Nova Beach. This is a small fishermen’s village situated between a lagoon and the ocean. So many fun painted houses and excellent seafood. 

xoxo

A

Travel

Barcelona, Spain

August 29, 2018

One week home from my honeymoon, I departed for my third annual international siblings trip. This year, Nathan joined Sean and me. Our game plan was to fly into Barcelona, drive through Spain into Portugal. Then down the coast back into Spain ending in Madrid. From there, a flight to Marrakesh, Morocco. Sean and I accomplished 2 previous road trips, Ireland, followed by Netherlands/ Belgium/ Germany. I underestimated the distance to cover Spain. IT’S HUGE! In Ireland we were able to see many sites in just a brief time.  However, sites in Spain were 3-10 hours apart. We attempted to experience what we could but felt there was so much more we didn’t see.

In Barcelona, we were excited to see Sagrada Familia. Construction of this basilica began in 1882 but completion isn’t expected until 2030. Our hotel was next door with a gorgeous view from their rooftop bar.

For Barcelona recommendations (including some amazing food spots from culinary expert Nathan) scroll to bottom.

From Barcelona to Portugal, we viewed beautiful sunflower fields.

                                                                                      Food suggestions in Barcelona
(Spain has amazing Tapas… be adventurous. We tried french fries with egg and ham on top. SO TASTY !)

  1. El Canal (Wine + Tapas)
  2. Disfrutar (Fine Dining)
  3. Els Sortidors del Parlament (Bar + Tapas)
  4. Mercat de Sant Josep, aka La Boqueria (Open air market- lots of food to try)
  5. Zona d’Ombra (Wine + Tapas located in the Gothic Quarter)
  6. Bodega La Puntual
  7. Pastisseria Bubó Born (Dessert)
  8. Pastisseria Hofmann (pastry)
  9. ElDiset (Wine + Tapas)
  10. Paradiso (speakeasy)
  11. Baluard Barceloneta (bakery)
  12. Federal Café (brunch)
  13. Picnic
  14. Marmalade
  15. Nømad Coffee Lab & Shop
  16. Horchatería Sirven (Ice Cream)

Sites in Barcelona

  1. La Boqueria Market
  2. Sagrada Familia
  3. Park Güell
  4. Casa Milà
  5. Barcelona Cathedral
  6. Gothic Quarter
  7. Casa Batllo
  8. Temple of Sacred Hearts
  9. Montjuic (beautifully landscaped area famous for its hills, gardens, museums, and castle)

xoxo

A

Travel

Rome, Italy

August 24, 2018

In 2015 I visited Rome for the first time. It was always a dream of mine to see the Trevi Fountain. We eagerly made the journey only to find the foundation drained and surrounded by a fence. I almost cried. So when planning our honeymoon I decided a quick pop in to rome to see the fountain was well worth it. Let me tell you, this fountain does not disappoint..it is absolutely glorious.

Scroll to the bottom to see all my recommendations for Rome!!

Food
The best lunch spot is Saltimbocca. We got a big pizza, pasta and aperol spritz’s and our whole bill was under 30 euro. It was all so delicious!

A great dinner place to try is Alfredo Alla Scrofa. Its been around since 1907 and is said to be the birthplace of Fettuccini Alfredo. The restaurant is a fancy night out full of history and the Alfredo sauce is to die for.

The top sites in Rome:

  1. Colosseum
  2. St. Peter’s Basilica
  3. Roman Forum (See how many cats you can spot here! there are hundreds)
  4. Pantheon
  5. Trevi Fountain
  6. Vatican Museum
  7. Sistine Chapel
  8. Piazza Navona
  9. Spanish Steps

If at all possible, I would highly suggest NOT visiting Rome in the middle of Summer. We were there at the end of July and it was miserable outside. High temperatures, a hot sun and humidity made site seeing hard. The first time we visited Rome we went in early October and it was wonderful weather and less tourist at all the sites.

xoxo

A

Travel

Mykonos, Greece

August 24, 2018

From Santorini we took a ferry over to Mykonos island. It was a very fast and efficient process compared to taking a flight over. Our thoughts on Mykonos were a bit different then Santorini.

Santorini is more relaxing and peaceful
Mykonos is known as the party island
Santorini is a lot of couples relaxing at nice resorts
Mykonos is a lot of young drunk people out till 10:00 am
Santorini has lots of cute little shops with dresses under $50
Mykonos is filled with luxury shopping and barely anything under $150 haha.

Those are just a few differences between the islands that were apparent in the first 24 hours. We stayed at Rocabella Mykonos which was nice but a bit far out of town. We didn’t realize its a lot harder to walk into town then in Santorini. The road to get to town was only about 5 min but took about 10-15 due to the majority of it being one lane with lots of cars, buses and ATV’s. Since we had to always catch a ride into town I planned one for 7am to go take photos…they looked at me like I was crazy. Its not till we got into town the next morning that I really understood why. All bars and clubs were still open and in full party swing. People don’t go home..they stay and party till 8-9 or even 10am. Some bars even turn into breakfast spots after the partying.

While in Mykonos we heard of the famous nightclub Cavo Paradiso so we checked the lineup for the nights we were in town and sure enough one of our favorite DJs was playing, Alesso. We ended up heading to the club at 1:30am and Alesso went on about 3:00am. While we aren’t party animals who stay out till 9:00am it was a fun experience to be in one of the most well known clubs in the world for a night.

Overall Mykonos had beautiful streets, wonderful food and gelato BUT we definitely feel like we are more Santorini people. We enjoy the more quiet side!

xoxo

A

Travel

Santorini, Greece

August 23, 2018

Our next stop, Santorini!

This was Justin’s absolute favorite! Two important criteria for our honeymoon were the Dolomites and Charisma Suites (a specific hotel in Santorini). From social media, I discovered this incredible location and knew it must be included.  There are only 8 suites, allowing personal service and the sense of being the only occupants.  It’s quite the journey from the main road but we were greeted with wine and cheese. The staff equipped us with a map of the island and recommended highlighted stops.  Also, a cell phone was included in case directions or assistance were necessary.

Charisma Suites is perfectly located to view Santorini’s famous sunsets.  Most tourist crowd the narrow streets attempting to get a good view.  A memorable highlight for us each evening, was enjoying them from our private terrace sipping champagne, with fruit and cheese!

In Santorini expect steep hills, and hot weather in July. During sunrise, we explored and took photos.  Then back to Charisma for an amazing breakfast followed by relaxing/napping by the pool. Then into town for lunch and back to the Charisma for our amazing sunset view.  Our favorite restaurant was the Lotza. We should have eliminated all the other choices.

We fell in love with this picture perfect destination and hope to return someday!

xoxo

A

Travel

Spain, Portugal and Morocco Itinerary

August 22, 2018

Below I am sharing my itinerary for a 10 day journey traveling from California to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. This is based off renting a car in Barcelona and driving all around Spain and Portugal and returning the car before flying to Morocco for the last few days of the trip.

Day 1 

  • Travel to Barcelona (We flew from John Wayne airport in Orange County to Chicago and Chicago to Barcelona)

Day 2 

  • Land in Barcelona (We landed at 1:30 and picked up our rental car before heading into the city)

What to see in Barcelona:

  • La Boqueria (This is the largest open air market in Europe)
  • Gothic Quarter
  • Casa Batllo
  • The Sagrada Familia (To go inside you must buy a ticket. Cost are $18-$35 per person depending on which ticket)
  • Park Guell (It is free to observe the outside section and about seven euro to get in)
  • Temple of Sacred Hearts (It is free to enter the church but you have to pay for parking and to use the elevators to the different view points)

Day 3 

  • Drive Barcelona to Porto, Portugal (10 hour 30 minute drive)

Day 4

  What to see in Porto:

  • Leca Swimming Pools
  • The Church of Sao Francisco (Six euro admission)
  • Livraria Lello (I believe its five of six euro to enter since its so popular and its recommended to book in advance)
  • Church of Saint Ildefonso
  • Clérigos Church
  • Porto Cathedral

Drive Porto > Aveiro, Portugal (45 minute drive)
More specifally we went straight to Costa Nova Beach. This is the cutest little fishermen village situated between a lagoon and the ocean. Its filled with the cutest painted houses and wonderful seafood.

  • Optional: From Aveiro you can head to Covao Dos Conchos, Lagoa Comprida, Portugal which is a unique sinkhole in the lake but can add a good amount of time if you are trying to do only a 10 day itinerary.

Drive Aveiro > Sintra (2 hours 30 minute drive)

What to see in Sintra: 

  • Castelo Dos Mouros (be prepared for a big hike and paid entrance)
  • Palace of Pena (I believe entrance was seventeen euro and depending where you park it can be a long hike up the castle. My advice is go towards the end of the day and go to the very top. People start seeing one open spot and parking without realizing there is parking after the castle as well. This is definitely a castle you don’t want to miss)
  • Palace of Monteiro

Drive Sintra > Lisbon (30 minute drive)

Day 5 

What to see in Lisbon:

  • Livraria Ler Devagar Bookstore
  • Torre De Belem Lisboa
  • Palace of Queluz
  • Carmo Convent

Drive Lisbon > Carvoeiro (2 hour 30 minute drive)

  • Relax. Enjoy sunset on a cliff. Go to the beach. Enjoy live music and dinner downtown!
  • Explore the whole coast from Carvoeiro to Faro
  • Visit Benagil Caves (The cave can only be reached by sea. So you can rent a boat or kayak or swim..we decided to save money and opt for the swim)

Day 6

  Drive Carvoeiro > Seville, Spain

What to see in Seville: 

  • Alcázar of Seville
  • Seville Cathedral
  • Plaza de España

Drive Seville > Córdoba(1 hour 30 minute drive)

Visit: Mosque of Córdoba

Córdoba > Madrid (4 hours )

Day 7 

  What to see in Madrid 

  • El Retiro Park
  • Palacio De Cristal
  • Royal Palace of Madrid
  • Plaza Mayor
  • When in Madrid you must try the torrija which is a bakery treat that somewhat resembles french toast. It is a slice of bread soaked with milk and spices, dipped in an egg and fried. The famous La Mallorquina located right outside Plaza Mayor.

Fly Madrid > Marrakesh, Morocco
(We ended up getting a 9:30pm flight from Madrid into Marrakesh and had the hotel driver waiting for us.)

Day 8

  What to do in Marrakesh: 

  • Visited any open air market you can find (you will find many just by walking a few blocks)
  • Ben Youssef Madrasa
  • Bahia Palace
  • Saadian Tombs
  • Try a traditional Hammas spa treatment
  • Hot air balloon ride at sunrise

Day 9

Fly Marrakesh, Morocco > Madrid, Spain

(We took a 5:00pm flight out of Morocco so we were able to explore Morocco in the morning and still get back into Madrid to have dinner and walk the streets)

Day 10

Fly Home!!!

 

Thats a wrap on a fulfilled and busy trip. This itinerary is a bit overwhelming so if you have a few more days then you will definitely have more relaxing of a time. However, it is possible to do in 10 days. If you have any questions or want advice on hotels let me know and I would be happy to share.

To view more detailed account of my trip to each location and view more photos, click the links below!

Spain

Lisbon & Carvoeiro, Portugal

Porto, Portugal & Costa Nova Beach 

Marrakesh, Morocco 

xoxo

A

Travel

Dolomites, Italy

August 22, 2018

The third honeymoon destination… the Dolomites. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone.  I sampled numerous individuals to discover only a quarter had a clue where it is located.  The Dolomites are in the Swiss Alps where Italy, Austria and Switzerland intersect. We rented a car in Venice and drove 3 hours up into the mountains. Temps dropped from 100 degrees in Venice to 55 degrees in the Dolomites, a welcomed change. This magical place has beautiful hikes and relaxing massages.  Each evening concluded with a 6 course meal.   The perfect getaway!

We stayed at the Rosalpina Dolomites. With excellent staff and personal service, this hotel seemed more like a large cottage run by a family.  Even a large brown lab roamed the grounds, mingled with guests and enjoyed any unattended food.

I’m still undecided my favorite part of the honeymoon….here or Santorini. I hope someday to return and experience a full two weeks in the Dolomites and South Tyrol, both dreamy destinations.

xoxo

A

Travel

Venice, Italy

August 5, 2018

Our next honeymoon destination….  Venice. Although our first visit here. we had mixed feelings. While the buildings created a beautiful photo backdrop, the city was hot and humid with an unusual odor. Trash filled the streets, probably from tourists and locals.  I imagine winter would be a more enjoyable season with less crowds and cooler weather.  However, we still managed to enjoy these days exploring and eating yummy gelato.

I recommend wandering the picturesque streets and viewing the many canals.  A few of my favorite sites are:

  1. Saint Mark’s Basilica
  2. Grand Canal & Rialto Bridge
  3. St. Mark’s Square
  4. Bridge of Sighs
  5. Doge’s Palace

xoxo

A