Saturday, April 9, 2016

we are morans | honeymoon edition

Madrid > Paris > Milan > Lake Como > Venice
March 14 - 25, 2016

I love to travel. I have been throughout Europe a couple of times before. Our honeymoon, however, was John's first time overseas. Go big or go home. We did go big, for two weeks... and then we happily came home.

We did a lot of traveling in those two short weeks. We had an absolute epic time, truly unforgettable. With that, we had a couple of low times. I think every long trip is bound to have a few moments where the only place you want to be is home.

I am sharing a little bit of our adventure along with some visuals. It is long, but I know some of you have been waiting for this. Enjoy!

Our trip started in Madrid. What an amazing place. The people were refreshingly friendly, everything was so inexpensive, and they gave you delicious tapas with every drink you ordered. Our hotel was where all of the best shopping places were and it was glorious. Everyone there had their own style and no one really seemed like a tourist. I love when that happens.

We walked through the Buen Retiro Park and came across the Palacio de Cristal. We stopped for a drink across the small pond where the Monument to Alfonso XII was proudly displayed above people out in the water in canoes and paddle boats. We walked along the city and passed Plaza de Cibeles (a large banner, just below the center clock tower, read "Refugees Welcome") on our way to Puerta de Alcalá. We sat in the Plaza Mayor for a snack and met Spider Gordo (look him up - hilarious). We walked along the garden in Palacio Real de Madrid and walked a little further to eventually find Templo de Debod. My favorite stop in Madrid was the Mercado de San Miguel. The market of all markets. If you plan to visit Madrid, plan your lunch on this stop. Trust me.

 Next stop... Paris. One of my favorite cities of life. The first time I experienced this city, I thought it was going to be my last. On this trip, it was my third time visiting. I always say "farewell" to each city I'm in like it will be the last time I'm there. Soaking it all in. Though, I don't think there will ever be a last time for Paris - I'll find it in my next life even.

We stayed in a quaint boutique hotel down the street from the Eiffel Tower. We caught a glimpse of it every time we went for a stroll. (PS, every hotel upgraded us and it was awesome).

I was able to say hello again to all of my favorite places; The Seine, Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden where people watching with a glass of wine and a caprese baguette is necessary. In the evening we bought a bottle of wine and snacks from a tiny cafe to have a picnic under the shimmering Eiffel Tower. All magic. 

A few months before our trip, I hired a professional photographer, Pictours Paris (click here to view some sample photos from our session!), to capture photos of my new husband and I in this remarkable time in our lives in the most remarkable place. 

See you again soon, Paris.

We took a short flight to Milan to stay for the night before our train to Lake Como the next day. I must say, I wasn't expecting to love Milan so much. We walked from our flat to the Duomo di Milano and wow. We decided to stay a bit and get a drink atop the Duomo21 Terrace Restaurant & Lounge which allowed a perfect view of the Duomo and surrounding plaza.

The next morning we took an early morning walk around a bit before our train. We found the Parco Sempione which has the Arco della Pace (Porta Sempione). All so beautiful. Maybe I'll never be back to Milan again, but I'm definitely glad we thought to stay a night.

Lake Como
Okay... so, Lake Como. I don't even know how to describe this place in its entirety but I can say that you need to go and you need to go NOW. Drop everything and just go.

The train dropped us in Varenna where we were to catch a ferry to Bellagio, where we were staying. Pulling up to Bellagio by boat was surreal. The beauty that surrounded us you can't really even grasp in photos. We could see our hotel from the shore and it already stood out to me as perfect. We climbed one million, literally a million, stairs to get to it. Worth it. Our room had two terraces with long, flowing curtains that wrapped around us with the breeze when the doors were open. And a view. THE view.

We mostly walked around, stopped for a drink and took boats to the other small lake towns. Our first town to visit was Lenno. This is where the Villa del Balbianello summer palace is and where Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones had a few famous scenes, among other films. I mostly wanted to see it because Star Wars, duh.

Next town was Menaggio. It felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. We found a quaint restaurant that had outdoor seating facing the lake. It was super quiet and I ate an entire margherita pizza. I ate a lot of entire cheese pizzas this trip. Not ashamed. Afterwards we walked along the beaches they had scattered about town.

We explored further back in Bellagio and came across so many hidden treasures. I can't believe this wondrous place is home to people. I pretended like I was walking home when, in reality, we were just lost in unfamiliar neighborhoods. We will be back to Lago di Como and we will bring friends.

Train to Venice
We took the train back to Milan and were waiting for our train to Venice. This is where we learned of the heart-breaking Brussels attack. I popped online to catch up with the world and my heart sank. I couldn't help but think that two days from then we were going to be flying to Brussels on a day-long layover to visit the beautiful city. I never felt so, so far away from home in that moment.

Thank you, Aunt Cathy, for rearranging our flights and bookings while we were traveling. We are so thankful our family and friends were helping us figure everything out so we could still enjoy ourselves.

Needless to say, the next couple hours on the train to Venice were sobering. I was frightened and sad. I missed my mom and my dogs. I missed my friends. I guess I missed everything back home. But, I had my husband, and I know that life happens no matter where you go, or what you do, so we ordered some wine and played cards.

Cue walking out of the train station into the land of Venice. Holy. Cow. It was so overwhelming. All we wanted to do was get to our hotel. If you have ever been, you understand that this is no simple task.

We finally figure out which water taxi to grab and which stop to get off on. We dragged our luggage up and down the steps of bridges going over canals and through tiny alleyways until we reached the location we had hit numerous dead-ends to find (dead-ends in Venice is one canal after another, by the way). I'm going to be honest here, locating the place was simply awful and I was skeptical of our decision to go there, but once we spoke to the awesome people at the front desk and saw our amazing apartment (yes, an entire apartment), I knew everything was going to be fantastic.

In Venice we got lost a lot, but without towing luggage around it was a little fun. We walked (I may have chased a few pigeons as well) through Basilica di San Marco. I bought a Gnaga (a common Venetian mask that is part of a costume, which is usually female clothing portraying a female cat, worn by men disguised as women while making meowing sounds) when looking through the Rialto Market. Meow! We also looked up a few hidden spots that not a lot of tourists know about, one being the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. We climbed to the very top and saw an awful lot of Italian rooftops. Another awesome place around the corner from where we were staying is the Teatro La Fenice, one of the most renowned landmarks in the history of Italian Theater. The shows were sold out, which I was super bummed about, but we were able to explore the beautiful building. One of my favorite moments was when we took a romantic and silent Gondola ride after the city seemed to have quieted down for the day. And, on the extra day we spent in Venice due to the reroute of flights, my husband bought me two special paintings from a street (canal?) vendor. I cannot wait to frame them.

I couldn't believe all of the truly amazing structure on this "sinking" city. I think it would be quite a sight to see this place while the water level is raised. I've looked up images online and it almost looks like how I used to picture living like a mermaid would be. If only.

We took a private water cab to the airport. It was pricey but so worth it to not have to deal with what we dealt with on our arrival. The boat literally pulled up to the airport and we got out and walked to our terminal. What?! Mermaid status.

We flew back to Madrid and stayed in a hotel close to the airport so we could conveniently get to our terminal the next morning, to get to our plane, to get hooome. Our flight that morning is a story for another post as I'm trying to keep this one as joyous as possible. Some of you already know the story so you can attest to that. Ugh.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our little adventure and the photos to go along with.

I certainly liked "being there" all over again while writing this.

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