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Europe

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

For our trip, I have a ton to share but for this first post, I want to give a recap of our general thoughts. Partially because I have a million ideas bouncing around in my head, and this will help me organize them! Partially because I’m ready to gush about this place (the good and bad) and I just need to start somewhere!

One of my earliest memories as a child is dancing around our living room to Beauty and the Beast. At the time, I didn’t realize there were so many European influences (French, in particular, stuck with me the most) but the seed was planted for me to fall in love with the romance of the European continent. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are a lot of amazing things about the United States, but as a self-proclaimed history nerd, there are some things that you just can’t top when it comes to Europe!

So, imagine my delight when after two years of marriage, that my husband agreed to go on our honeymoon across the pond! Naturally, I took advantage of this opportunity to make my dreams come true and see the sites I’d only ever seen on TV or read about in books.

Levanto, Italy

For our trip, we went to five cities in four countries: Paris, France; Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany; Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome, Italy. We traveled for just under 3 weeks and flew our international flights from Chicago, O’Hare.

As an overall review, we LOVED Europe (yes, we—the hubs loved it, too!)! There was so much to see and do, and even though this was our honeymoon (#romantic) we fully embraced the ultimate tourist bucket lists. We saw most of the major sites in each city we visited, did a little shopping, and most important of all, we did A TON of eating. Obviously. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing alll the good eats!

The sites, the sounds, and the flavors of France, Germany, and Italy were a melange of all the highs and lows of traveling. Our travel from Nebraska was a lot and if you toss in the time change and excessively heavy suitcase (of course I overpacked), we made a lot of mistakes we won’t repeat. But we went to tourist-filled cities so we were only slightly off-kilter when we had to adjust to a new environment because there are so many accommodations made for travelers from around the world. But overall exploring our sister continent was a delight.

We, of course, missed a few key things about the States, but those are #MidwestLuxuries that we knew are somewhat unique to our part of the world. For example, in the good old Midwest, there’s tons of space. For everyone, and everything, everywhere. Cars, houses, sidewalks, even the bathrooms (they were all tiny everywhere we went, without exception)! As expected, the cities we visited were completely packed to the brim. Each little nook and cranny of the city/hotel/restaurant/street, etc.-—was put to use and most likely had a person walking by it, taking photos (guilty!) which made it pretty congested, too.

The Louvre, Paris, France

To a certain point, it’s actually kind of nice to be in the vicinity of thy neighbor.

The closest example I can think of for basically everywhere (except for our leg of Germany) it’s like being in the Mall of America (or really any mall) on a Saturday, or like being on the L-train at 7:30 a.m. Which makes sense, because we’re all there to do the same thing, so power to my fellow tourists! But it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to crowds. To a certain point, it’s actually kind of nice to be in the vicinity of thy neighbor. It actually makes me realize how dating was possible in the age before co-ed colleges and swipe-y apps.

But to that point, being in a restaurant where you have to move back just a *skosh* and still try to manage standing up without knocking over your very tiny cafe table OR technically sitting on your neighbor’s lap when you get up from aforementioned cafe table to use the W.C., is a level of intimacy that kind of makes personal space obsolete—which could probably benefit some of us in this age of technology. But the bottom line is it just takes some getting used to.

I digress.

Black Forest from the Munsterplatz in Freiburg in Breisgau
Black Forest, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

We were everywhere from the hearts of the cities, to the hills of the Black Forest and the coasts overlooking the Ligurian Sea, and of course (at least where we were and despite all the graffiti) the views were gorgeous.

…there’s just something extraordinary about Europe.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if we had ventured out of the city, and sought a smaller city to experience, we would have had an equally charming time. Since I’m now hooked on international travel, I’m going to make that a priority for the next trip (of which there will definitely be another!).

Anyway, if you couldn’t tell by my Instagram stories or posts, (I’ll be adding some Instagram highlights from our trip once I get the videos trimmed, too!) we had an absolute blast. But we are happy to be home and somewhat ready to get back to a sense of normalcy.

We live in the “city” now, but the vibe is just so much different. Maybe it’s the rivers of holidaymakers or the lead dust from the Notre Dame fire affecting my brain, but I’m pretty sure there’s just something extraordinary about Europe. I’m well aware that we were in very popular places, and I know that falling into the tourist-trap can create a false sense of familiarity, but I felt the same high vibration that I notice when I go to Chicago, Minneapolis, or even Denver (no pun intended). Good energy is just good energy!

Don’t get me wrong, having nothing to do for 2+ weeks except eat, drink, take photos and learn about history with the hubs is an absolute dream come true, but there is some truth in having too much of a good thing. Uffda. Saying that sounds so adult-y. Then again, lazy mornings watching Italian sunrises over the ocean really gives the comfort of routine a run for its money…

Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Overall, the experience was fantastic, and I truly believe that for each moment that was less than fabulous, there were 20 awe-inspiring moments to combat any negativity that could have been noticed in the realities of travel (as opposed to the magazine, movie, or even Instagram portrayals). And now that we know what to expect, going back will be even more of a treat.

One question everyone has asked me is, “What was your favorite part!?” And in the most typical response possible, I say, “There’s so much to choose from!” shortly followed by, “Okay, it was the food!” if only to give some sort of answer. I know it’s generic, but the food absolutely was absolutely spectacular.

Oh yes… it’s worth TWO ‘absolutely’s in one sentence. Can you feel my enthusiasm???

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

We only had 2 plates (not meals, just plates) of not impressive (borderline bad) food. But out of 2.5 weeks of eating more than 3x a day, that’s a pretty great turnout. I’ll share all the good eats from each place in the next few posts because otherwise, this becomes a NYT-length post.

Anyway, my point is that there really was so much to choose from and each place was so different, that picking a favorite thing would be nearly impossible. And really, I don’t need to, so I probably won’t pick just “one thing” that was the best. As Mindy Kaling so aptly put it, “Best Friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.” and I feel the same way about favorites when it comes to travel—tier, not title. I loved all of it because I was exploring a whole new world (still love me some Aladdin, y’all) with my favorite human, on no agenda, which is pretty tough to improve on as far as vacations go.

That’s enough for now, and if you’re still reading this, you’re the real MVP. Thanks for following along on our adventure, I can’t wait to share more!

Cheers, babes!

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Next up: How I planned our trip, and some advice based on the lessons we learned the hard way. Because obviously, I’m an #expert now (😂) and this is probably going to turn into a travel blog so yep, here goes my next bid to become the new Samantha Brown. Lookin’ at you, #TravelChannel!

Oct 22