Traveling: Top 5 Romantic Cities

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to write my favorite romantic places I have visited with Cristina

5. Venice: Venice can be grueling because it is all cement and water. That is also what makes it beautiful. Best thing about Venice is that it is a perfect city to get lost. Eventually you find your way, but its a beautiful adventure.

4.Barcelona: My favorite walking city I have visited. Barcelona is a place to do lots of shopping at high fashion stores and at outside food markets. Coffee shops and restaurants are plentiful to sit and have a nice conversation. In addition, the architecture is full of wonder.

3.Paris: Sure the Eiffel Tower is romantic, but so is most of the city. A leisurely stroll down the Champs-Elysees is hard to beat in the romantic department, yet a cruise down the Seine comes close.

2. Rome: Rome is another city best seen by walking (I’m sensing a theme). The best time is sunset when the natural light and the city lights bring the Eternal City alive.

1. New Orleans: Yes, I am a homer, but I cannot see any reason why our city should not be number one. If you know how to walk the French Quarter (mainly stay away from parts of Bourbon), you can easily pretend you are in the Old World. If the moon is out, a walk along the river near Woldenberg Park is as good as it gets. Moreover, I have not even mentioned Uptown and Oak Street which are just as good if not better than the Downtown. As far as restaurants go, well, I think we have it pretty good.


Traveling: Independence Day in Venice

Happy 4th of July! Let me tell you a funny (to me) story. As we’re standing on the bow of the ship, pulling into Venice, our cruise director comes on the intercom and wishes us Americans a happy Independence Day. Now, at this moment, we are literally in a small channel, overlooking the entire city, seeing the canals and small boats of Venice, for the first time for either of us. I turn to Kurt and jokingly say, “Oh, who can think about 4th of July right now. We’re in Venice!” These high school girls next to me, who have been valley girl talking like crazy, turn to me and say, “Who cares about America?” like I’m a terrorist. I say, “Oh, I’m American, I’m just talking to my husband…you know, we’re in Venice, it’s so beautiful…” They then proceed to talk about how patriotic they are and started singing I’m Proud to be an American (which, according to them, was made after the 9/11 attacks). I know that Kurt hates when I get into altercations with people, so I just keep my mouth shut and enjoyed the sights of Venice, but I really want to slap them upside the head and tell them not to join in conversations where adults are talking.

View of Venice from Carnival Breeze

View of Venice from the Carnival Breeze

Anyway, patriotism aside, we enter Venice (Venezia) today. We are able to get off the ship around 1:30pm, and after taking some pictures of St. Mark’s Square, we decide to walk quite a ways to across the canal where the Peggy Guggenheim museum is. St. Mark’s Square is easily the most crowded place we’ve come across on our trip; actually, Venice in general is crowded. The Guggenheim museum, since it is out of the way, is blessedly less crowded. Inside we see several Picasso’s, Miro’s, Dali’s, a Chagall, Magritte’s, Pollack’s and some other nice work of arts. There is an outside area right on the Grand Canal (granted, almost every place in Venice is along water), but it is such a beautiful spot to sit and relax. The sad thing about the canals in Venice is that they are dirty, with trash building up against the buildings in the water. Still, it’s really cool to see the boats like cars on the water, with everything from water buses, to water taxis, to private boats. In the city, there is absolutely no cars whatsoever…I didn’t even see Vespas.

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco)

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

Symbol of St. Mark, the winged lion, which is everywhere in Piazza San Marco.

Clocktower in St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco)

Clocktower in Piazza San Marco

Canals filled with gondolas are a common sight in Venice

Canals filled with gondolas are a common sight in Venice

Grand Canal in Venice

Sitting along the Grand Canal, outside the Peggy Guggenheim museum

Joan Miró - Dutch Interior II (Intérieur hollandais)

Kurt’s favorite painting: Joan Miró – Dutch Interior II (Intérieur hollandais)

After the Guggenheim, we walk to the Rialto Bridge. Kurt didn’t realize how big it is, and it actually has shops and such along it. We then make the long trek back to St. Mark’s Square, and decide to grab a bite to eat. We first sit along the Square, before realizing that they charge an extra 5.80 euro per person because of the “bands” the restaurants have playing. Nope! We quickly get up and go out of the Square and find another restaurant, Kiro. I get cheese gnocchi while Kurt gets Penne All’Arrabitia. Boy, is his spicy! Since all the water comes in bottles, we wind up spending 42 euro at this restaurant. We way exceed our budget in Venice.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

cheese gnocchi and Penne All'Arrabitia

Cheese gnocchi and Penne All’Arrabitia…equally delicious!

We then try to go to the Church of St. Zachariah, which is the final resting place of St. Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, but they are closed for mass. Most things at this point are closed, as it is 6pm, so we just head back to the cruise ship. By the way, to take a water bus from the cruise ship to St. Mark’s Square is 15 euros a piece. And since we plan to going back again tomorrow, that is 60 euro we are going to spend purely on the water bus. I definitely feel a bit ripped off with that, but we just arrived too late in Venice to see everything in one day. We missed eating at Blush tonight since we are in Venice so late, so we grab a few late night snacks on the Lido deck. Let me tell you, the roast beef they have is so tender and it just falls apart. Very surprised at how good it is! Hopefully our second day in Venice is a fulfilling as the first.

Traveling: Europe Cruise 2012

Being teachers, Kurt and I get the pleasure of having almost two months off during the summer. Because I run a tight budget and we live frugally during the year, we’re able to take a trip each summer. Kurt and I were discussing the possibilities for this coming summer, from a week in Disney World to a cruise out of New Orleans. As I’m checking out cruises, I curiously start looking at cruises in Europe. While scrolling through the many wonderful ports and attractions, one catches my eye – a 12 day cruise out of Barcelona. The more I explore it, the more intrigued I am. Half jokingly, I start looking up airfare. $1300? Ha ha…no. I push the thought out of my mind…or, try to at least. That night, all I could think about was this cruise. I had mentioned it to Kurt, and though he was interested, he was very doubtful about the cost.

The next day, I made a decision. I was going to call the annoying cruise guy that calls me EVERY time I log onto their website and see what kind of deal he could get me. Right off the bat, he gave me an airfare/cruise deal…of $6200, more than what I could do separately. No thanks! I bemoan to him that it’s way too expensive and he asks if their are any other cities I could fly from, since certain cities have deals. I mention Orlando…cha-Ching!!! They do have a deal…one I couldn’t pass up.

So, I booked the cruise! It sails out of Barcelona, with it’s first stop in Marseilles, France, a place neither of us has been. We’re thinking of doing an excursion to Avignon and seeing the Papal Palace. We then head to Livorno, Italy, where we’ll take an excursion to Pisa (having done Florence in 2010). The next day, we have an overnight stay in Civitavecchia, Italy, where it’s only a 90 minute ride to Rome. Though I’ve been there three times and Kurt’s been there once on our 2010 trip, he only got to do Vatican City and the Coliseum, since we were only there for half a day. This time, we’ll get to do all the things he missed. We’re thinking about even getting a hotel room to get the full experience and not have to travel back to the ship.

Our next stop is Dubrovnik, Croatia, another new place. I’m probably most excited to visit this place, not only because it’s in Eastern Europe, a gorgeous seaside city, and extremely old, but it’s also the filming location of my favorite television show, Game of Thrones.

We then head to Venice for another overnight stay, a place which I visited ten years ago, but Kurt has yet to see. We finish the trip in Messina, Sicily. We plan on doing an excursion to Mt. Etna, an active volcano. Kurt is terrified of heights, but how many opportunities do you get to go up into a volcano? I’ve never been to one, so this is truly exciting. I’m already looking forward to the photos I can add to my power points for World Geography.

We opted to spend an extra day in Barcelona since neither of us has been there either. Kurt has a cousin that lives there, so we will hopefully get to spend some time with her.

The best part is that through careful planning, this trip will not set us back monetarily at all. We are very fortunate to have such great jobs that allow us to save and have the time to travel. Though if all goes according to plan, this might be our last big trip for a few years…we’d want to wait until our kids are old enough to appreciate the places we’d take them. And maybe by next summer, we’ll have one. And I think he or she will be worth the wait.