VENICE, ITALY

Is it the fact that it hosts some of the best (literally) food on the face of the Earth? Is it the opera houses and streets lined with Venetian carnival masks? Is it the romance rising from the canals in the form of a gondolier’s operatic tones? Or is it simply that in Venice the wine flows like water and is probably easier to find?

If we are being honest, it is all these reasons and more that makes Venice one of the absolute best places to visit in the world. 

Getting Around

One thing that makes Venice so tourist friendly is the accessibility. You can take a train from virtually any major European city right to the center of the old town. If you fly into Marco Polo Airport (VCE), all you need to do is grab your luggage, walk a few steps outside, pay a small fare at an automated kiosk, grab your small ticket and hop on a bus. After a 30 minute bus ride you will be dropped off at the main bus stop right on the edge of the old town. There are no roads or cars in old Venice.

Best Things to do in Venice

1. Eat If there is one thing I recommend it is eat, eat, and eat some more. Italian food is to Venice as abandoned buildings are to Detroit. Between the noodles and pastas, wine and champagne, cannolis and  zeppoles, it is a carb-lover’s dream. Challenge: See if you can finish your gelato before reaching the next gelato stand. Then repeat. 

2. Sightsee Get the camera ready and head out to see some of the most beautiful buildings and waterways in the world. The larger than life structures are a mixture of Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic architecture set in a backdrop of the most romantic waterways your heart can handle. 

3. Gondola Ride There are certain things that you must do in certain cities and a gondola ride in Venice is one of those things. It really is a cool experience to lay back and take in the sights as a charming Italian man serenades you, but keep in mind, it comes at a price. A gondola ride cost roughly $100 USD for 30 to 45 minutes and seats up to six people. This is something you should do so just budget it into your trip from the beginning. You do not need to go to a specific place to find a gondola they are all over the canals. 

4. Visit Murano Murano is a small series of islands about one mile off off Venice. Murano is known across the world as for it’s glass art work.  Here you can see glass blowers at work, take tours, visit the Murano glass museum, and grab some very fragile souvenirs. You can access Murano by water taxi, vaporetto, or ferry for about $5 USD.

5. Go to an Opera If you are the fancy cultured type, nothing is says fancy culture than an Italian opera and Venice is the place to see it. The Teatro La Fenice is toted as the most extravagant and prestige opera house in Venice and lives up to the reputation with opulence fit for a king. Performances range in prices roughly around $150.  

6. Do A Walking Tour There is so much history to know about this 2,000 year old city. The best way to hear the stories from those who live there and are passionate about sharing the stories of their homeland. Tours range from $25 and up

7. Wine Tasting It isn’t hard to realize what brings people from around the world to this location. The wine is some of the best in the world. There are tons of wine tours that keep you inside the city or venture into the countryside. The prices range from $30 and up

8. Make Your Own Carnival Mask If you are looking for something unique to Venice that the whole family will enjoy you can hide your face in fashion at a mask making workshop as the tutelage of real Vancian craftsman. These workshops last an hour and cost about $55 USD.  

9. Pasta Making You can enter Venice a mer cooking novice and leave as your own Giada De Laurentiis. These authentic Italian kitchen trades can be taught to you in courses of an hour or up to three. Prices range from around $100 to $150 USD

10. Get Lost In a world of unique places, Venice is near the top of the list. There is no other place on the planet with more wondering splendor. The tall stone corridors seem to entrap you like a maze as you pass interesting shops connected to ancient churches. Just let yourself go aimlessly and see where you end up.  

Free and Cheap Things to Do in Venice

1. Take Pictures If you’re not doing for the gram then why do it at all. Price: Free

2. DIY Wine Tasting Buy a couple bottles of cheap wine and sit on the edge of the canal and drink away as the sunsets. Price: $15

3. Get Lost There is no better place to put your phone away, put one foot in front of the other, and take in the atmosphere that only Venice has to offer. Price: Free

4. Go People Watching at Piazza San Marco Go to the main town square and laugh at the hundreds of tourists stumbling by with their roller bags. Price: Free

5. Visit the Ghetto Ebraico (The Jewish Ghetto) The first “ghetto” in the world was originated in Venice when the Jew were forced to segregate almost 500 years ago. The area is still full of life and culture and doesn’t cost anything to enjoy.  Price: Free

6. Explore the Hotel Danieli This over the top $1,000 a night hotel is worth popping into to cool off. Just grab a drink and act like you belong there. Price: Free

7. Shop the Rialto Market Toss a couple Euros to the vender and enjoy some fresh fruit while you walk this colorful market.  Price: Free

8. The Crypt of San Zaccaria This is a creepy and super unique basement crypt which has surcome to Venice flooding giving indescribable eerie feel. Entry Fee: $1

9. The Scala Contarini Del Bovolo A vertigo inducing spiral tower leading to a picturesque view of the city. Price $8 

10. Libreria Acqua Alta Book Store Because in Venice flooding is a way of life, this book store has made inventive ways to store their books (in tubs and boats) to keep them safe creating a picture worthy sight. Price: Free

Veteran Tips For Venice

1. Take a backpack. DO NOT TAKE A ROLLER BAG!

I repeat: DO NOT TAKE A ROLLER BAG! I always recommend taking a carryon-size backpack as your luggage on any trip, if possible, but in Venice it is almost a commandment. Between the the thousands of steps, bridges, and cobblestone walkways, you will be so frustrated at your roller bag it will end up at the bottom of the Grand Canal. 

2. Get a hotel close to the train station/main bus drop off. 

The train station and main bus drop off are pretty much right next to one another. The reason I have this rule is because Venice is so so so easy to get lost in. Venice is an actual maze and one of the easiest places you will find the get disoriented. If you get a hotel/hostel near the train station it will be a thousand times easier for you to find and you wont have to spend half your day walking in circles in the blazing Italian heat searching for your hotel. 

3. Bring a travel fan. 

Like so many other places in Europe if you stay in a hostel and some hotels or Air BnB, you may not have air conditioning and if you do, the cool air will be as faint as a hummingbird. Last time I visited Venice the only way I could cool off was to jump in a cold shower and air dry to stay cool. 

Lodging Recommendations

At this point it is getting harder and harder to find lodging under $100 in Venice. If you happen to find one, check it out before you book. 

NH Venezia Santa Lucia

This a very nice hotel located right beside the train station steps with an amazing view of the San Simeone Piccolo church. Price: $180 – $250 USD/night

Hotel San Geremia 

I have stayed in this compact hostel three times. You will not find a lot of luxuries, but they do have a large luggage room if you arrive early and want to drop off your bag and it has an absolutely gorgeous view of the opera house. It is located about 2 minute walk from the train station. Price: $100 and up USD/night

Restaurant Recommendations

Ristorante Quadri

Located in the center of St. Mark’s Square this is a world class, high end, fine-dining Italian restaurant that turns food into art with a price. Price: $$$$

Ristorante Da Nino

This is an out of this world tiny Italian restaurant with outdoor seating on the canal located across from the train station. I have eaten many places in Venice and always come back to this one. Price: $

Best Sights To See in Venice

1. The Grand Canal 

This is the iconic Venice canal we have all seen in paintings and photographs for centuries. This is the spot we all flock to Venice to enjoy. MUST SEE

2. Saint Mark’s Basilica

This Roman, Gothic style cathedral is the church of the Roman Catholic Patriarchate of Venice built around 1063. MUST SEE

3. Piazza San Marco

Also known as St. Mark’s Square, this is the main social square in Venice filled with restaurants and shops and the iconic Venusian constructions including Saint Mark’s Basilica. MUST SEE

4. Venetian Lagoon

This breathtaking view runs between the Piazza San Marco leading and Murano with picturesque gondolas lining the docks just waiting to fill your Instagram.  MUST SEE

5. The Rialto Bridge

The oldest bridge that crosses the Grand Canal, you can use this Venice icon to fight other tourist to take perfect photo of gondolas cruising down the canal. MUST SEE

6. San Simeone Piccolo

When you enter Venice by bus or train this will be the giant green-domed cathedral that takes your breath away. IF YOU HAVE TIME

7. Teatro La Fenice

Considered the opera house of all opera houses it is hollowed ground for Italian theater and one of the most extravagant buildings you will ever see. IF YOU HAVE TIME

8. Doge’S Palace

This massive gothic style palace was the home of the Doge of Venice for over 1,000 years and still sits on the Venetian Lagoon like a monument. IF YOU HAVE TIME

9.The Bridge of Sighs 

This limestone bridge is actually part of the Doge’s Palace, stretching over the canal to connect the palace. IF YOU HAVE TIME

10.Basilica Di Santa Maria Della Salue

Located at Punta dell Dogana, this minor basilica is a less crowded, though just as beautiful Catholic church on the canal. IF YOU HAVE TIME

Best Venice Souvenir 

Carnival Mask

Venice is known for their hand made masks and they are easy to find as you will see shops filled with these masks lining the streets.

Anything Murano Glass

This famous glass comes in all forms, from jewelry to plates to small trinkets in the form of animals. They can be a cute and cheap souvenir to show a loved one you were thinking of them.

Saint Mark’s Basilica

MILAN & VERONA

When backpacking across a country, one never knows what unplanned destinations
might unexpectedly catch your attention. You might be on a train from Lisbon to
Barcelona and when the train connects in Madrid, you hop off only to discover that this
city that wasn’t even on your itinerary has the best blood sausage and sangria you have
ever tasted. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that Milan and Verona, only two hour train
ride apart, are stops you need to make if you are shooing down from the top of the
bootleg. Each city has their own distinct personality with some of the most recognizable
destinations in the world.


Getting Around
The main train station in Verona is the Verona Porta Nuova, which is approximately 1.5
miles from the Verona Arena and 2 miles to the Casa di Giulietta. Both are walking
distance but a cheap taxi will save some time.
The main train station in Milan is the extravagant Stazione Centrale. It sits almost 4
miles from the Santa Marla delle Grazie. I have made this walk and I regret it. It had to
be 100 degrees and I was carrying 30 pounds on my back. I recommend getting a cab for
about $5. You can take the Line 3 Metro line from the Santa Maria to the Duomo di
Milan but a taxi might be quicker and around the same price.

Best Things To Do in Milan and Verona

  1. Experience The Last Supper – Deep inside the unassuming church of Santa Maria
    delle Grazie rests one of the most iconic pieces of art on the planet and viewing
    Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece truly is an experience just to view. Note: YOU
    MUST MAKE AN APPOINTMENT and we highly recommend doing it far in
    advance. Price: $15 USD 
  2. Climb to The Duomo di Milan Rooftop – To begin with, Duomo di Milan (Milan
    Cathedral) is one of the most immaculate cathedrals on planet Earth. The secret
    to this amazing structure is the ability to walk on the rooftop to grab a once in a
    lifetime photo opp.   
  3. Attend the Arena di Verona – I know the draw to Verona is the Romeo and Juliet
    attractions, but this ancient Roman amphitheater is more spectacular than all of
    them. Built in 30 AD this still operating amphitheater is one of the most well preserved structures of its kind. The condition of this 2,000 year old mini Colosseum is unprecedented.
  1. Look Down From Juliet’s Balcony – This is the premier destination for fans of the
    Shakespeare play. You can actually enter the home of the Capulet family and
    make your way to Juliet’s actual balcony. Hours 9am-7pm Price: $6 USD
  2. Pinacoteca di Brera (MIlan) – This is one of Italy’s most complete exhibits of
    Renaissance art including a number of pieces by Raphael and Bellini. Price: $15
    USD
  3. Attend an Opera at Teatro alla Scala – If it’s your thing to get some Italian
    culture, this opulent opera house is the place to go in Milan. Opened in 1778,
    this structure is as extravagant today as ever. Prices vary according to
    performance
  4. Leave A Love Letter at Juliet’s Home (Verona) – Just outside the Capulet home is
    a small arched tunnel where lovers from across the world have covered the walls
    with letters to their loved ones. Price: Free
  5. Visit the Church Where Romeo and Juliet Married – The Church of San
    Francesco al Corso is believed to be the location where much of the plot of the
    story takes place including the secret wedding of the young lovers. Price: Free
  6. Visit the Tomb of Juliet – The Church of San Francesco al Corso is also the resting
    place of Juliet’s tomb. Now empty and in a museum, it is still interesting to
    envision the story unfolding. Price: $3.00 USD
  7. Catch the View From the Torre De Lamberti – This 275 feet tall tower stands in
    the main square of Verona. Take the 368 steps to the top for the best panoramic
    view of fair Verona. Price: $6 USD
  8. Get Lost in the Castle Vecchio – This 14th Century castle in Verona was a vital
    military stronghold, an archaeological wonder, and is in impeccable condition
    still today. Price: $2.00 USD
  9. Walk the Naviglio Grande – Who knew Milan had canals? This waterway is a
    romantic stroll with shops and water taxis perfect for an evening outing. 
  10. Go Chic at the Milan Fashion Week – Two times a year (Spring and Fall) Milan
    hosts the world’s premier clothing trade event. There are fashion shows, clothing
    sales, celebrities, food, and more. The event is free but some shows you must
    pay to attend.  
  11. Find Romeo’s Palace – The small medieval palace is sat right in the middle of
    Verona crammed in by other stone buildings. The once Montague estate is now
    a private home and can not be toured but you can still take in the exterior and
    understand the close proximity the two families lived.   
  12. Leonardo da Vinci Museum – With over 200 reconstructions of da Vinci’s
    inventions, (some brilliant, some wild) this stop in Milan will get you inside the
    head of the genius. Price: $14 

Free (and Cheap) Things To Do in Milan and Verona

  1. Call For your love at Juliet’s Balcony – The Casa di Giulietta is believed to be the
    home of the tragic young Juliet. There is a fee to enter but if you simply want to
    stand under Juliet’s balcony you can enjoy the small courtyard and have a
    perfect and close view of the famou balcony at no cost. Price: Free
  2. Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – This Milan is the oldest active shopping
    gallery in all of Italy and (I’m sorry Dubai) the most extravagant and beautiful
    mall in the world. Price: Free
  3. Naviglio Grande – This colorful and romantic canal through Milan is an ideal
    place to grab some gelato and take in Italy in a free environment. Price: Free
  4. Pose for Photos in the Piazza del Duomo – This piazza  is an ideal location to set
    up for a new profile picture with the opulent Milan Cathedral posing in the
    background. Price: Free
  5. Leave A Love Letter at Juliet’s Home – In Verona, lovers come from across the
    globe to add to the thousands of love letters pasted to the walls outside Juliet’s
    home. Add one of your own for your star-crossed lover. Price: Free
  6. Monumental Cemetery (Milan) – If you want to fill an album of creepy yet
    beautiful photos, this ominuse cemetery, with its marble monuments, is more
    like an eerie museum. Price: Free
  7. Stroll Centro Storico – This old area of Verona filled with statues and
    Renaissance buildings will take you back 2,000 years. Price: Free
  8. Catch the View From the Torre De Lamberti – Standing 275 feet high This tower
    in Verona will give you a breathtaking view of the city from its highest
    point. Price: $6
  9. Walk the Brera District – This Italian neighborhood is like a painting come to life
    with the flowered pots swaying from balconies as the sun rays hit just the right
    angle on the narrow stone streets.  Price: Free
  10. Have a Picnic at the Parco Sempione (Milan) – The Parco Sempione is a spraling public park near the Arco della Pace with
    tranquil ponds and bridges, perfect for a midday picnic. Price: Free

Best Sights to See in Milan and Verona

  1. The Last Supper – If you go to Milan the one thing you must see is the most
    famous fresco in the world painted by the hands of the world’s most famous
    painter. MUST SEE
  2. Milan Cathedral – If you go to see The Last Supper, stay for the Milan Cathedral
    and make your way to the roof for a truly memorable experience. MUST SEE
  3. Juliet’s Balcony (Verona) – We all know the story of the tragic lovers, now relive
    the most iconic scene from any play ever penned. MUST SEE
  4. Arena di Verona – This amphitheater is the Tom Cruise of amphitheaters. It looks
    the same as it did 2,000 years ago, giving you the feeling of transporting you to
    another time in history. MUST SEE
  5. Tomb of Juliet – The Church of San Francesco al Corso holds a number of pivotal
    moments in the Romeo and Juliet saga, but the tomb of the young Capulet still
    remains. MUST SEE 
  6. Naviglio Grande – When the colorful buildings reflect off this canal as a water
    taxi motors by, you will understand why this is one of the best sights to see. IF
    YOU HAVE TIME
  7. Castle Vecchio – This well preserved Verona castle is a sight to see and a
    photographer’s dream with complex angles at every turn. IF YOU HAVE TIME
  8. Teatro alla Scala (Milan) – One of the world’s most lavish opera houses is
    majestic on the inside and out. With its trademark red chairs and curtain with
    gold accents, the Scala will no doubt leave you awe inspired. IF YOU HAVE TIME
  9. Arco della Pace – The gate to the city of Milan is a magnificent sight to capture as
    golden hour rolls in and the Arco is backdropped with a milky Italian sunset. IF
    YOU HAVE TIME
  10. The San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore – This unassuming building has an
    interior covered with vibrant 16th Century frescoes and sculptures was once a
    church, though now a very cool concert hall. IF YOU HAVE TIME

Veteran Tips For Milan and Verona
You Can Do Milan in A Day…or less. 
You can knock out the Last Supper and Milan Cathedral in one hour (on foot). Take that
information and do as you wish. 
You Can Not View The Last Supper Without A Reservation
Just in case you didn’t get that, YOU MUST HAVE AN RESERVATION TO SEE THE LAST
SUPPER! You have to go online and make an appointment on the Santa Maria delle
Grazie’s official website and even then they are not always taking reservations. Check
the official website for more:  https://cenacolovinciano.vivaticket.it/en
You Only Get 15 Minutes To View The Last Supper
You read that right. You gather in a lobby and meet your guide. The guide takes you to
get sanitized before entering the room of the Last Supper. Then you get 15 minutes to
take in the aged fresco and then you are ushered out. When time is up, time is up. 
There Will Be Crowds At the Juliet Home
Despite the other sights, the Casa di Giulletta is the reason people travel to Verona. The
courtyard facing the house entrance is quite small causing the crowd to congregate.
Expect it to be crowded but you can still get some good pictures even with the crowd. 


Souvenir
A Copy of “Romeo and Juliet” 
Why not pick up a copy of the world’s most famous play in the city it takes place in? You
can find them in English and Italian.

Dublin

~By Amanda and Julie

I fly to Dublin often enough for work trips, however I’ve never had the opportunity to experience the amazing night life. When you have to be on your A game at 9 am, one can not stay out drinking pints and fine Irish whiskey all night. Julie and I decided we needed a long weekend in Dublin just to see this awesome city without a curfew. Warning! This post is pretty much about eating, drinking, dancing and sleeping. The most cultural thing we did was listen to Irish music and enjoy a run though Phoenix Park. However, it does contain a list of amazing spots in Dublin to enjoy all the above mentioned activities, including quite a few outside the normal tourist circuit of Temple Bar.


(Julie’s story)
I’ve always had an unusual bucket list, and at the top of the list was to get in a real Irish bar fight. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually want to hurt anyone; I’m a giant wimp whose bark is bigger than her bite. However, breaking a wooden stool with beer splashing everywhere and people yelling in Irish accents just did something for me. I flew to Ireland a few years ago with Anna, who couldn’t let me do this alone so she signed up to join the adventure. Once we got to the bar, I tried everything with anyone to pick a fight. I was being so difficult, but I learned that day that the Irish are the absolute best people! Every time I was indifferent to someone they bought me a beer. I was told a story about an Irish man who didn’t wanna fight, but was being called outside to prove his masculinity. He kept a telling the guy he didn’t wanna fight. So when it was time to go outside, he just stripped down bare naked on the street and lifted his fists. Who wants to fight a naked guy?!

The Irish have good hearts and adore fun. Somewhere on the internet there is a picture of me holding 4 or 6 full beers at one time looking dumbfounded. I fell in love with the Irish that day and someday I’ll find a way to smash a wooden stool without being a jerk.
(Amanda)
Trying to maintain a budget, we jumped onto Hostelworld.com and searched through the lists of available bunks. I have a gift when it comes to comparing accommodations and was quickly able find a place near the city center with the right price tag. Kinlay House sits just outside the Temple Bar area and is walkable to most major points in the city. This gigantic hostel has several floors of rooms at variable price points; it’s clean and provides the typical amenities. My only complaint is they close the common room. In all my travels I have never seen a common room closed every night for cleaning at 1:30 am. Being still on NYC time, we found ourselves with no place to go after the bars and pubs dimmed their lights for the night, not quite ready for sleep.

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We arrived in Dublin exhausted, but ready for excitement. As opposed to sleeping, we elected to stay up most of the flight, enjoying the complimentary red wine and watching Beauty and the Beast. I think we are both mentally about 5 years old. The most efficient and cost effective way into the city is by Airline Express Bus. Just outside of Terminal 1 arrivals you will find the ticket sales stand, where the agent will direct you to the correct bus for your hotel or hostel. For 7 euro, we expected a long and gruesome ride, however twenty minutes later we are swinging onto the sidewalk into the sunshine.

Our first priority was breakfast, which in our world means beer and a plate of fries. Don’t judge, we were in vacay mode. By random chance we found ourselves across the street from Doyle’s Irish Pub, which happens to have the exact same name as our second home in Astoria, New York, a bar named Doyle’s Corner. We immediately plopped down at the bar and befriended the owners. They were intrigued by their “sister bar” in NYC and provided a Doyle’s Dublin hat as a gift for them. We are basically ambassadors now. It graces the panel just over the bar in Astoria now. Fueled and happy we set off to our hostel for naps.


Darkey Kelly’s Bar & Restaurant

From our hostel bedroom window we spied a cute little Irish pub with a garden patio. It was the perfect place to grab a pint and wait for friends. The staff here is incredibly friendly and we made it our meeting point and breakfast beer rendezvous spot for the remainder of the trip.

(Julie)

The best part about traveling is meeting people. The hard part is saying goodbye. About 10 years ago I became friends with a girl online from Brazil. I was able to meet her face to face again finally in Rio, then again in Amsterdam, Stockholm and NYC. Our paths crossed over the years and when we decided to plan a Dublin trip, I remembered my friend had moved there to work with Puffins (how do I get this job)! We met her and her boyfriend at Darkey Kelly’s and headed over to a tapas place they had tried before and highly recommended.

Salamanca

(Amanda)

Always take the advice of locals, they hardly ever steer you wrong. Dublin has amazing food, if you choose the right places. I will never say no to tapas– why only choose one item from a menu when you can sample 4 or 5? The ambiance of Salamanca is just as amazing as the food. As usual, we over did it and ordered way too much food, because decisions are hard. The Pollo Renello and the Patata Rellena are both incredible choices and I could not stop sneaking bites of the Pate de Pollo, even after my stomach ached from fullness. With a bottle if Spanish Rioja, the meal was complete.

Anseo

We followed our friends down Camden street to Anseo. The bar was dark and divey, just the way we like it. The older DJ was spinning classics the traditional way; actually carrying around a record collection, props to you Sir! This bar is just how you would expect it, with a nice chill vibe away from the tourist tangle down in Temple Bar. We ended our night here, initially planning to seek out another divey local place. However, we found ourselves back at the hostel in the common room, drinking a bottle of red we had acquired; that is, until we were kicked out at 1:30 am…

Day number two brought in our friend Kmo from NYC, stopping over on his way to Italy. We met him at out our new hangout Darker Kelly’s for breakfast drinks. While he napped from his trans-Atlantic quest, Julie and I headed out for late lunch.


Toscana

With a craving for cheese and charcuterie we stumbled upon Toscana. Their appetizer portion was more than enough for two small girls to share. Of course red wine was ordered to accompany this meal of the gods; because really these entire three days are about drinking and how can you have cheese without wine? Our little seat tucked next to the window was the perfect place to people watch. Here, we realized we had yet to eat anything that was considered typical Irish food and in reality we didn’t for the entire trip.

Turks Head

Sauntering down towards Temple Bar we decided if we went back to the hostel we would just get tired. From outside we noticed the amazing decor inside Turks Head. It was like Alice in Wonderland meets The Little Mermaid, which pretty much has Amanda and Julie written all over it. The bartenders were awesome and let us bring outside coffees to pour in shots of Bailey’s, since we needed a little pick me up. Kmo finally woke from his beauty sleep and joined us for a pint to plan the evening.

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The Original Backpacker Pubcrawl

We decided to join the pub crawl which was advertised all over our hostel. Included was a welcome drink and specials for 10 euro. We added a new friend Lizzy, an American backpacking though Europe for the summer, who was in the same room as Kmo. This is why I love hostels: every trip brings a new friend. We were directed to Badbob’s Temple Bar, which was the meeting point and claimed our free drink, which was a beer. We bounced from pub to pub around Temple bar, I am not quite sure which places we even visited, however this was an amazing opportunity to meet friends and for 10 euro, why not?!

Hanger

Since bars and club close early in Dublin, especially compared to NYC, we headed for Hanger around it’s 11 pm opening time. It was time to dance. I respect the Irish for their lax dress code at clubs. They only require you to look presentable, no heel requirement, which suits my converse-only lifestyle just fine. The doors open initially to a smaller area playing hip hop mixed with top 40. Later a second room opens, spinning progressive house and trance. This is where I belong; I stayed and danced for the remainder of the night. My only issue with Irish bars is that they close early at 2-2:30, but I guess you can’t have everything!

Korkoro- The ramen bar

Casually mentioning ramen the previous day, we now all three of us had the craving etched in our brains. Through Yelp, we determined Korkoro was the best place in the city to curb this desire. It was the perfect brunch, the bowls of noodles and broth were served up steaming hot and held to the traditional style of this amazing cuisine. I chose spicy pork and it did not let me down; was the perfect thing for my stomach after a late night out. Afterwards we wandered around the city, stopping at George’s Street Arcade. The local covered market was home to several vintage, indie gift shops. This victorian style covered market is one of the oldest in Europe.

Dawson’s 37

We had planned a chill evening of dinner and a couple of drinks before settling to bed for early flights. Famous Last Words. My favorite place in Dublin is 37 Dawson Street and not just because they have a life-size sparkling pony guarding the entrance. Arriving for a late dinner, there was already a DJ spinning and the downstairs seating area had been converted to a dance floor. We were doomed to stay. I have eaten here several times and the food and beverages never disappoint. We shared another cheese and charcuterie board and an appetizer sampler. As we finished dinner, the music transitioned from lounge to dance. One more glass of wine became another, somehow gin and tonics got involved. Time to dance and the deal was sealed, we were staying. Around two we headed back to the hostel and creeped in for a quick 3 hour nap before heading to the airport.

I know this blog makes us look like alcoholics, but we really aren’t and we had fun, so don’t judge. 🙂 People think of Dublin and Irish food and pubs immediately come to mind, which are both amazing when done right. However, Dublin is often forgotten as a diverse city with so much to offer besides the initial first impression. There are several more restaurants and bars which I frequent on my work trips, which unfortunately we did not have time for this trip. So now we have go back again and we are so upset about it…….

On the other coast of Ireland

Check out our blog about the Cliffs of Moher

 

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Kinlay House: 2-12 Lord Edward Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 www.kinlaydublin.ie

Airlink Express Bus:  www.dodublin.ie

Doyle’s Pub: 9 College Street, Dublin 2 www.doylesintown.com

Doyle’s Corner: 4202 Broadway, Astoria NY 11103 www.doylescorner.com (Because by now you likely want to be friends with us.)

Darkey Kelly’s Bar & Restaurant:  Fishamble Street, Christchurch, Dublin 2 www.darkeykellys.ie

Salamanca:  1 St. Andrew’s Street, Dublin 2 www.salamanca.ie

Anseo:  18 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin 2

Toscana: 3 Cork Hill, Dame Street, Dublin 2 www.toscanarestaurant.ie

Turks Head:  Paramount Hotel, Parliament Street & Essex Gate, Temple bar, Dublin 2 www.paramounthotel.ie

The Original Backpacker Pub crawl:  www.backpackerpubcrawl.com

Hanger:  Andrews lane, Dublin www.hangerdublin.ie

Korkoro-The ramen bar:  51 Williams St. S, Dublin 2 (no website found)

George Street Arcade:  between George’s Street and Drury Street, Dublin 2 www.georgstreetesstreetarcade.ie

37 Dawson Street: guess what the address is…. www.37dawsonstreet.ie

Throwback Thursday: Hvar, Croatia

Croatia never sat of on the top of my must travel list. What I knew about Croatia was mostly from news casts about the war when I was a child. I was too little to understand. Fast forward many years later, my current roommate Aida, a Bosnian, shed light on that part of the world. After hearing her powerful story, I became curious; after she showed me pictures I was ready to get on an airplane. Croatia was where her family had vacationed before the war. All three roommates decided to go together with Aida as our local guide. I fell in love.

With our heart set on traveling to Hvar, we found accommodation at a guesthouse which checked off all of our must-haves in our price range on booking.com. After climbing what seemed like 100,000 stairs with a backpack, we were greeted by the sweetest old lady. Her English was limited, but Croatian and Bosnian are essentially the same language. She was over the moon when Aida greeted her in familiar words and immediately asked us to join her for coffee and cookies. Our stay was wonderful and we promised to come back….. And we did; a year and a half later, we booked the same apartment and that wonderful lady immediately remembered us.

On the morning of our second day, we decided to have a group run to the fort on the hill overlooking Hvar town. It was an uphill battle, but we conquered. As we were leaving the apartment, the owners’ son waved hello. He ran a car and moped rental business attached to the guesthouse. We noticed a cooler lined with beer for sale: our planned reward for after the workout. Upon our return we ran over to quench our thirst on crisp cold Ozujsko. The group had grown with men from the neighborhood settling down for their afternoon gossip. We sat down with our beers and joined the group’s conversation. We tried the best we could to understand everyone using half English, mixed with some Croatian, some German, some Italian, some French. Essentially everyone shared a common second language and well, laughter and smiles are the same no matter what you speak.

Soon enough rain clouds closed in and we all huddled together, opening more beers, each person taking their turn buying another round. We spent three hours making new friends and laughing at each others half understood jokes. The family dog Dzeko (Jako), a silly black lab, was running back and forth to each new friend hoping for a treat. My favorite was this little old man; he and I both spoke some German, so I learned about his life. He had seen it all– WWII, the Russians coming into former Yugoslavia, and then the Yugoslav War itself. His demeanor was so light and pleasant. Every once and a while he would sneak off only to return 20 minutes later in a new outfit complete with fun hat. Eventually a bottle of Greek liquor was produced and sticking with proper European etiquette, we were all expected to take a shot. It tasted like paint thinner, but how could we say no!

This is why I travel. These memories are the ones that will stick with me until I’m that sweet old lady, sipping bourbon in the afternoon with Anna and Julie, of course. Hopefully then too, I can sit with a group of young tourists and laugh for an afternoon. Tell them my stories and adventures, tell them personal accounts of what they learned in history class. While seeing the castle, going to the popular museum or hiking that trail can highlight a trip, it’s when you get to know the people and truly see the culture, that you have graduated from vacationer to traveler.

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~By:  Amanda

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Apartments Bodlovic: SimeTome Buzolica 9, Hvar Croatia 21450 booked via http://www.booking.com

The Travel Shack in Vienna, Austria

 

The reason I love a good hostel is because you can make new friends who all have the 411 on what to do in that city. Checking into Wombat Hostel in Vienna, I quickly made friends with a crazy Aussie. He told us about the best bar in Vienna right around the corner from the hostel, with a shot list that will change your life. Typically I am not a shot person, I’m a pretty small person and shots make alcohol rush into my veins and often throws me over that drunk edge. However, with shot names such as the “Chuck Norris” and “fire shot” I was instantly intrigued. The guy had been in Vienna for 6 days and gone to Travel Shack for five of them; so all I could think was, “I must go!”

After a quick stop at the Christmas market for some cheap dinner and of course gluhwein, we arrived at Travel Shack a little early for the party….ok, we were the first ones there. Travel Shack has three rooms and a stage with a stripper pole, because that is absolutely necessary in a party bar. We settled in with some delicious German helles beers, because it’s not time for shots yet (what kind of girl do you think I am?) We decided to play a few games of pool before the masses showed up. I lost a lot, but you can’t be good at everything.

After failing Team America at pool, things started to pick up at the bar, or in other words, more people showed up. The DJ showed up and the music became more lively. It was time for the shots! Earlier in the evening I had carefully consulted the menu, as there were so many choices. It was obvious, to me that only acceptable shot for me was the “Chuck Norris.” Basically its a shot of your choice and the bartender then smacks you across the face, twice, once on each side. If I’m taking a shot, its going to be tequila. Otherwise the outcome can become quite grim; lets not even talk about Fireball and what that does to me. I steadied up to the bar— I’m a little girl right?— this guy bartender is gonna go easy on me, right? …. NO! Down the hatch and BAM, wow Austrian bartenders don’t play around. However, I couldn’t quit laughing, it was hysterical. Next, my travel buddy decided on the Fire Shot, where they essentially light your mouth on fire. It was like a dragon.

Our night continued with countless helles. Being a full moon, the bar hired several artists to paint everyone with neon body paint, in honor of the Full Moon Party celebrations in Koh Phangan, Thailand. At some point the Aussie bought a paddle of different shots. I can’t remember what each one was, but at this point I was far past caring. The karaoke room opened up and everyone crowded in to sing group karaoke. We found ourselves a place to sit on top of the table at the far end of the room to sing along. My only complaint about this entire bar, was they would not allow “Wonderwall” by Oasis in the Karaoke room. That is my jam; how do you not like this song?  The rest of the night was spent dancing and laughing, until it was time to slink back to the hostel at 2 am. Stopping for doner kebab, which is the most accepted drunk food in all Europe, we strolled home with happy tummies.

This was by far one of the most fun bars I have ever been to anywhere in the world, so much so that I already have plans to return with the usual posse this summer; pretty much specifically to go here again. My friend who is essentially the queen of shots is already looking at a calendar.

~By:  Amanda

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Travel Shack:  Mariahilferguertel 21, 1150 Vienna Austria +43 1 961 0131 www.travelshackvienna.com

Wombat Hostel, The Lounge:  Mariahilfer Strasse 137, 1150 Vienna Austria +43 1 897 2336 www.wombats-hostels.com booked via www.hostelworld.com

 

Throwback Thursday: Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

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Where Europe ends and the vast expansion of the Atlantic Ocean begins, the Cliffs of Moher plummet down the coastline of West Ireland. Standing over the edge almost feels like you are standing at the end of the world, as the wind blows though your hair and the salt sprays up from the ocean. A quick stop between work trips, our group decided to rent a van and be tourists for the day. With 8 people, it was enough to spread the cost to hire a private coach. We arranged through a tourist transportation company and for $40 it included hotel pick up and drop off, the $6 entrance fee into the cliffs, and a stop over at an traditional Irish pub for a late Lunch and a pint. 

With beer and snacks stashed in our day totes, we set out on the windy Irish day. Our first stop was in the town of Lehinch, here we watched the waves crash into the beach from the promenade. The intense waves looked like a surfer’s dream and there were several zipping up their wetsuits against the icy water of the North Atlantic. Back on the bus, we climbed the road to the cliffs. Our friendly driver let us off at the parking lot across the street and we made the easy stair-clad climb to the edge.

It is easy to understand once you have seen these magestic cliffs why so many myths and legends surround the area. Green fields let into the rocky cliffs before they plunge into the deep blue water. Our 1.5 hour visit didn’t leave us enough time to explore the entire 5 mile (8km) stretch. Luckily the sun was shining and we had the opportunity to relax on the edge and watch the sea churn below.  Entrance also included access to the visitor’s center, however our timeline didn’t leave more than a moment to poke our heads in and use the restroom. The Visitor’s Center  has several informative exhibits about the natural geography, history and geology of the area. If you have time, we regret not doing an educational guided Ranger tour of the Cliffs. 

Back on the road headed towards Limerick, we stopped at Gus O’Connor’s pub. As always I ordered Guinness stew to go with my Heineken……I’m super basic when it comes to beer. Our drive home was filled with a couple more beers and giggles sharing pictures of our happy day. Western Ireland is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ventured, I definitely recommend taking the time to explore this amazing countryside.

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From Miami to Ibiza

~By:  Amanda

Part of my soul is in Ibiza, it’s waiting at Usuhaia for me to return for it, hopefully next summer. Based on our love for electronic music we decided Ibiza was the the best choice to round out our Spain vacation. Electronic music lives in Ibiza. Every night one of the world’s top DJs is here spinning at the numerous clubs dotting the island.

Ibiza is located just off the coast of Spain in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, about a 30 minute flight from Barcelona. After some research and tips from helpful British friends we learned that Playa d’en Bossa, located just east of Ibiza Town, was the best place to stay on the island. Furthermore we were informed that Jet Apartments is in the center of it all, recommended because of their daily pool parties. This is the ONLY reason to stay at Jet Apartments, for the price we paid we could have booked a hotel with a rooftop pool in Miami. However, location is location and high season is high season. The apartments are outdated and could use some maintenance and upgrading. For two days in July heat, our air con was kaput and the front desk provided little assistance in the matter. The maids are towel Nazis, however they cleaned properly and the room includes a mini kitchen. My final straw with this hotel was when we were told that even as hotel guests we were required to pay 15 euro to reserve a lawn chair by the pool. Never mind– the beach is just fine with me. A wrist band would remedy this situation, differentiating hotel guest from outsiders.

Bad accommodation aside, I still love Ibiza, the party girl inside me was ready to erupt full force. After unpacking and hitting up the convenience store, for beer and champagne and chips (essentials), we headed down to the pool area, where a DJ spins way into dusk. After a few cocktails we attempted to purchase tickets for Avicii, who was spinning at Usuhaia that evening. Unbeknownst to us, these shows typically begin around 9 pm. Living in NYC, I have never seen a DJ start before 11pm, usually not before 12-1 am. At this point, it was 8:30 pm, so that wasn’t going to happen.

With that plan scratched, we chilled on our balcony planning our next few days. Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike were performing a late night show at Amnesia and a few of our group opted to go see them. Being tired after a crazy previous night in Barcelona, I regretfully declined, as the show began at 3 am. The rest of us chilled on the beach, lounging in the sand, laughing at each other. We created our own party, complete with our personal EDM Spotify playlists, hooked up to speakers. Watching the flights from all over Europe approach Ibiza airport, we played with my new favorite app called Flight Radar 24. These are the moments you know you’re on vacation with true friends, because you can go anywhere and do anything and have the best night of your life.

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Late? I am never late! Ibiza flip flops who you are and brings out the best in you. With a boat party booked for 1:00 pm, mom (Anna) set a pick up time of 12:00 noon. Surprisingly, two of the most adult people in our group forgot to set an alarm. Waking up at 11:40, we snapped into action and got ready in 20 minutes, “Home Alone” style. We hopped into cabs and set off for Playa d’en Bossa pier.

Oceanbeat Ibiza Boat Party is an absolutely necessary addition to your Ibiza vacation! The three hour cruise is an insane boat party sailing around the Mediterranean with an amazing DJ. The flier totes unlimited beer, sangria and sparkling wine, but do not be fooled, you receive one glass of sparkling wine upon boarding. The sangria, beer and soft-drinks (soft drinks, why?) are bottomless. Half way through the fiesta the boat anchors giving everyone an opportunity to splash in the ocean. The front of the boat was equipped with a long driving board and the back has a small waterside. According to my friends I was the only girl who did a flip off the front of the boat, I guess those gymnastics lessons were good for something. For the next half an hour we floated and played in the water. It was the perfect time to haul out the go-pro dome and get those fancy action shots. Heading back to the pier, the DJs continued to keep the party going strong.

Because one party is never enough for a day, we headed back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for David Guetta. Usuhaia is by far the best concert venue I have ever been. Every night in the summer, they feature a different headlining DJ. The line-up for the week included not only David Guetta and Hardwell, (both shows which we attended), but also Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Martin Garrix and Avicii. For cost efficiency you can pre-purchase tickets online for about 40 euros, but this must be done weeks in advance, as pre-sale goes quickly. Once you are on the island, if you purchase tickets the day before the event, you can get roughly a 5 euro discount from the day of purchase price of 55 euro. We learned from the party planners that Usuhaia has a time restriction on noise, hence why shows begin at 9 pm, as it is also a ridiculously expensive hotel.

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Usuhaia has to be one of the best music venues in the world–it’s definitely MY favorite. The stage opens up to a large area flanked by hotel rooms on each side. If you are bougie and can afford it, several of the rooms actually overlook the stage. There are several wading pools scattered throughout the venue. I can not fathom a better way to watch a concert than dancing to the beat of the music with the cool water moving around your legs, twirling barefoot around each other. A word to the wise: I spent 55 euros on three beers and two bottles of water. Drinks here are exorbitant, everything on Ibiza is. A mojito, while really delicious, is 15 euros, so have a few drinks before you arrive.

Desperate to work on our tan, the next day was dedicated to beach time. Going with our traditional vacay breakfast of Bloody Maria’s in hand, we had ourselves a proper morning. Julie and I hauled real Bloody Mary mix and Tequila minis all the way from ‘Merica. We hadfr our Bloody Maria’s with all the fixings, including olives and pickles.

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Our plan for the night was to start off with our first proper sit-down meal as a complete group, since we arrived, because eventually everyone gets sick of sandwiches and chicken nuggets. El Limonero Ibiza is the number one restaurant on TripAdvisor in Playa d’en Bossa and somehow we managed to get a table here for 9 without a reservation, thanks Universe! Since Julie and I essentially have the exact same taste buds we paired off and ordered tapas to share. They were so delicious, I wish I was eating them now! The waitstaff treated us like family and finished off our dinner with a complementary round of limoncello.

After an amazing supper, it was Hardwell time! Heading back to Usuhaia, we parked ourselves back in the wading pool and waited for one of our favorite DJs to start spinning. Hardwell is so ingenious, he even incorporated a Dr Dre remix into his set. I still feel like it was one of the best remix tracks I have ever heard. Words can not explain what this music does to me. The beat travels though my veins and takes me over. I can’t help but move, as the notes climb to a peak my heart follows them into the sky.

With our adrenaline jumping from the performance, we decided our next stop was a paint party at Privilege. Anna had acquired a discount wristbands from some random person on the street, which is actually totally normal. In the mass confusion of Usuhaia letting out, we finally made it onto the city bus for 2 euro (the cheapest thing I did in Ibiza) and rode out to Privilege Nightclub, located inland in San Rafael. Arriving at the city bus drop-off point, we still had to walk down a curvy hill to the club. Without a sidewalk, we ventured down the road in a large group all headed in the same direction. Safety in numbers……probably not in Spain.

Inside the club was a giant dome with a stage set in the middle for the DJ and dancers. Waiting an hour for the party to start, we posted up to the bar and ordered more beers. I don’t know why Budweiser was the only beer option. I also didn’t realize anyone drank this disgusting liquid loaf of bread outside the USA. The concept of a paint party is pretty self explanatory: they spray-gun neon paint all over the crowd and the club is lit with black lights. The paint cannons are timed to spray with the swells of the music…..The set was well blended with EDM and old school Hip Hop, which created an amazingly diverse sound. The paint comes from all angles so attempting to not get paint in your eyes usually ended in an epic fail. Despite my outfit being ruined, all my euros gone and paint stinging my eyes, I didn’t ever want to leave. Finally in the wee hours of the morning we took a cab back to our hotel to shower, because our hair was now a solid. Word of advice: don’t wear any clothing you care about and ensure all your valuables are protected in a purse or plastic bag.

Out of bed early, way too early, we needed time to pack up before the noon checkout. Throwing our bags into luggage storage, we had 2 hours to kill before heading to the airport. A group breakfast with gallons of coffee revived us just enough to grab cabs to the airport. At the airport far earlier than we have ever been for a flight, we checked in and headed to the bar. That is perfectly acceptable at 2 pm. Somehow “Ratchet Air,” I mean Ryan Air, let us on the airplane with draft beers; I love people who don’t care! Flying away with my head on the tray table, I got a 45 minute nap before landing in Malaga.

Spending what I would have normally spent in 7-10 days in Southeast Asia, I still want to go back to Ibiza! Like right NOW! But, its cold and no one is there, so alas I will wait until next summer to go back and fetch the other half of my soul. Who knows, maybe I will leave it there again, just to ensure that I make another trip!

*Authors note: I listened to an entire Axwell^ Ingrosso set while writing this, because that is who I am ♥

Read about our other Spain adventures:

Way too Wanderlust Recommends:

Amnesia: Carretera Ibiza a San Antonio Km5, San Rafael, Ibiza +34 971 19 80 41 www.amnesia.es

Oceanbeat Ibiza Boat Party: Av. Pere Matutes Noguera 22, 07800 Ibiza +34 633 81 14 41 www.oceanbeat.es/boat-party-english

Usuhaia: Platja d’en Bossa 10, 07817 Sant Jordi de Ses Salines, Ibiza Spain http://www.usuhaiaibiza.com

El Limonero Ibiza: Calle Argelagues 15, 07817 Playa d’en Bossa Ibiza +34 618 72 21 111 www.limoneroibiza.com

Privilege Ibiza: Apartado de Correos 94, San Rafael Ibiza +34 971 19 81 60 www.privilegeibiza.com

Ryan Air: www.ryanair.com (because they let me bring beer)

References

Swedish House Mafia. “Miami to Ibiza.” Axwell, Steve Angello, Sebastion Ingrosso, and Patrick Okogwu. “Until One.” U.K. , Virgin, EMI and Astralwerks, 4 Oct 2010, digital download.

Throwback Thursday: Fasching, Mainz Germany

Come to a festival? Ok then, I will get on an airplane! When considering pre-lenten celebrations, most people think of either Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio; no one considers Germany. However, two cities in Germany hold rather large and entertaining pre-lenten festivals called Karneval (Cologne) and Fastnacht (Mainz). Throw in an inviation from two crazy German friends to attend the Mainz celebration, and Anna and I are on a flight bound for Frankfurt.

Faschnacht (or Fasching) is the gigantic party leading up to what is Ash Wednesday, which occurs 46 days before Easter. This festival has roots dating back to the 14th and 15th century and started in Mainz in 1838. Now I know that Germany in February is freezing cold, but after a couple beers you won’t care. The most important thing you should be considering is your costume. Just like Halloween, every night of this 5 day/night festival people dress up in costumes. Animal costumes typically are the favorite as dressing up like a giant furry bear keeps one pretty warm. Plus it’s hilarious when your friends have tails, they are fun to pull!!


Come prepared, because Germans can DRINK. Like a lot, all day! The five day schedule is pretty intense, starting on Thursday, called Altweiber, typically known as Ladies Night. Most people in Mainz gather at Eisgrub (the brewery) for this event, where they transform this restaurant into a club. Friday night is the most calm night of the week, but if you have your heart set on partying all five nights, a pub crawl works. For Saturday the party moves out to Gonsenheim, an outer suburb of Mainz. Alternatively, if you prefer to stay in the city center the Prinzengardenball is a secondary option. For both these events it’s best to have advance tickets, as they are quite popular, so make friends with a local.

I promised parades, because who doesn’t love candy being thrown at them from a moving vehicle? On Sunday everyone takes the short tram ride out to Finthen where the parade and a large outdoor celebration is held in the afternoon. Save your warm costumes for Sunday night, as the party moves outside again into the Schillerplatz. A giant stage is erected for the bands and everyone parties in one of the town squares. Ladies, pay the three euro entrance fee to the Extrablatt Cafe adjacent to the Platz, this way you can make unlimited trips to their clean and warm bathroom facilities.

The Sunday after-party destination splits between the Extrablatt Cafe, right off the Schillerplatz, or Ballplatz. For the parades and other outdoor events, it’s best to come prepared and bring alcohol. However for the poor planners out there, convenience stores called kiosks do sell select beer and spirits, just don’t plan on being picky at this point. Someone nearly always brings a bag of beer babies though!

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Rosen Montag or Rose Monday, is the final day of the festival. A giant parade with roughly a million spectators moves through the city and you will catch enough Haribo gummies to last you a month. The parade lasts three hours– I kept thinking, how do these people have that many floats?! One of the guys in our group had a bottle of Jäger and we did a round of jäger shots roughly every twenty minutes during the parade and by the time it was over, the bottle was empty. This is the only time I have ever witnessed Germans littering– empty champagne bottles, candy wrappers and beer cans strewn about. Miraculously, the entire street is clean and clear about three hours after the parade due to the military precision of the street sweepers. At this point everyone breaks off to various parties, bars and celebrations, or they just go home, because they have been drinking with Germans for five days straight!

Never have I been more welcomed with open arms into a culture as I was by the people of Mainz at this festival. They were always courteous to translate what everyone was shouting, or include us in the games and events of the festival. The first weekend we attended Fasching sparked so many friendships with people we have cherished over the last five years! Always man up and take that shot of Jäger, because in Germany that’s how you make a new friend!

~By: Amanda

Goin’ Up, On a Tuesday: Chez Gladines, Paris

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 I’m going to let you in on a little secret, my favorite restaurant in Paris. Now I know everyone has their favorite restaurant in Paris, but this particular one is mine. It’s not very big and it’s probably not that out of the ordinary, but it’s inexpensive and it’s always PACKED. It specializes in Basque cuisine and the food is sensational. It’s so delicious that locals start lining up at the door when it opens at 7 pm and good luck getting a seat for a large party. Sometimes, for two, you might get a table in twenty minutes, however sometimes it’s an hour wait. (For that, there is a nice wine bar about three doors down.) But I always like to find out where locals go to dine because I feel like they know best. 

  The name is Chez Gladines, it is in the 13th Arr. close by the Corvisart mètro stop on Rue des Cinq Diamants. There are actually six locations throughout Paris so it is easy to find one near you; I frequent the Butte-aux-Cailles location. Basque cuisine is from the Southwest region of France, along the Spanish border. It specializes in grilled meats and fish and stews. It is very rich and hearty food, not delicate Parisian cuisine and the portions at this restaurant are extremely generous. As much as you would like to, it’s difficult to finish your plate. The wait staff here are always extraordinarily busy, but everyone speaks English and I’ve always been happily received with smiles and jokes. You can order a glass of wine or Sangria while you wait, and you can’t beat the house Sangria at only €2.50 a glass. 

  So I have a penchant for duck– I can’t help it, if it’s on the menu, I’m ordering it. Chez Gladines has a duck with Roquefort sauce that will make you swallow your tongue. Everyone raves about the veal and the Cinq Diamant salad as well. The escargot is another crowd pleaser, and it comes with bread to soak up the garlicy goodness. None of the main dishes are over €14, and you may as well split a bottle of wine because those are all about the same price. I’ve come here with colleagues quite a few times and we like to share our dishes around the table just so everyone gets a taste of something different. My favorite are the potatoes. This is southern French comfort food at its very best and if you have room for dessert afterwards I would be shocked! 

  As with European dining culture you may share a table with other guests, it’s part of the casual and friendly atmosphere. Nothing fancy, just great food and wine to keep you smiling and happy as you join in the banter around you. It’s a great restaurant for a first date or with close friends, but I wouldn’t recommend dining here solo. Bring cash as they still don’t accept credit cards! Come prepared to have some wine while you wait and work  up a big appetite! 

~By: Anna

Way Too Wanderlust recommends: 

Chez Gladines, 30 Rue des Cinq Diamants, 75013, Paris, France  +33 1 45 8070 10                       http://www.chezgladines-butteauxcailles.fr

Throwback Thursday: Paris

Sitting on a train bound for Bratislava, I reflect on how I got to this moment. My travel companion, who is a new traveler, has conjured up thoughts on how I made it to here, about to cross the border into my 57th country. I remember my very first trip with Anna and Julie to Paris five years ago. Before this trip I was the typical American girl choosing vacation destinations closer to home such as Mexico and cruises to the Caribbean. My job has taken me to Europe, Asia, and South America; however, work trips allow less time to truly explore a culture. This Throwback Thursday is special, because this was the trip that started it all, bonding us as travel companions for life: our first trip to Paris!

 

Paris was an easy choice as it was a new destination for all of us. The movie Midnight in Paris had just released and this provided all the inspiration we needed. Using AirBnB for the first time, Anna and I found a beautiful apartment with a garden in Montmartre. Exhausted from travel, but never too exhausted for breakfast beers, after checking in we parked ourselves at a café to plan out our next 5 days. After a quick nap we headed toward Sacre Coeur to explore the area of artists and Bohemia. We never managed to leave Montmartre that first night. Finding ourselves at a little café above the Moulin Rouge, we drank beer mixed with Fanta, (which tastes better than it sounds) and made a dinner of pomme frites and creme brulée before heading down the hill. The last thing I remember before heading back to the apartment  is shots being set on fire at the bar and techno music bumping. Back at the apartment, listening to the Backstreet Boys, Anna and I laughingly fought over a stuffed tiger we found in the apartment we named Le Tigre before drifting off to sleep.

The next few days are a blur now, of exploring the city, shopping on the Champs de Elysees, and bar hopping in St Germain and the Latin Quarter. Our boat tour along the Seine was an amazing trip, as we were cleverly armed with water bottles filled with wine. It’s the best way to cover all the must-see sites of Paris in an efficient amount of time. Our nightly dinners were amazing, including fondue, steak frites and more creme brulée. I couldn’t even tell you the name of that fondue place, but the fond memory of bonding over wine and cheese is there forever. Later finding three cute French boys on the street walking past us in Odéon, we ended our night drinking wine with them under the Eiffel Tower. Being one of the greatest museums in the world, Anna wanted to spend at least one day exploring the Louvre; but she dragged along the two least museum people in the world, so after 5 full hours of beautiful art, it was definitely time for happy hour cocktails!


The details of this trip have faded away; I couldn’t tell you a single name of a restaurant or which boat company we used. (It’s Anna who always remembers those things.) What IS important is that this particular trip started something– it was not long before we were planning another adventure together and then another. I recently went back to Paris on a business trip, visited that same area of Montmartre, and found that little bar on the hill and sent pictures back to the girls. They both knew without missing a beat exactly what bar it was. This trip bonded us together as best friends, and as travel buddies for life– this is what started our way too wanderlust. Sitting on a train bound for Bratislava, I reflect on how I got to this moment. My travel companion, who is a new traveler, has conjured up thoughts on how I made it to here, about to cross the border into my 57th country. I remember my very first trip with Anna and Julie to Paris five years ago. Before this trip I was the typical American girl choosing vacation destinations closer to home such as Mexico and cruises to the Caribbean. My job has taken me to Europe, Asia, and South America; however, work trips allow less time to truly explore a culture. This Throwback Thursday is special, because this was the trip that started it all, bonding us as travel companions for life: our first trip to Paris!

~By: Amanda

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