Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Venice aka. Engagementmoon!!!!

We arrived to the last destination of our Europe trip, Venice, on September 10th and stayed in a lovely hotel a few blocks from St. Mark's Square (thanks Mom & Dad!!!). Venice is absolutely beautiful, and it was a nice break to just relax after an incredibly busy time in Paris & Rome. While in Venice, we decided to eat leisurely lunches & dinners, and walk around with no obligation to really see anything if we didn't want to. This felt very freeing and relaxing!

We took the train from Rome to Venice, and when we arrived at the Venice train station, we hopped on a public water taxi to our hotel. This ended up being pretty fast (20 minutes or so) and cheap! The private water taxis were very James Bond looking, but definitely expensive, so we just decided to save our dough--plus we mostly walked everywhere.



I have never been to a city like Venice, and it really wowed me!

Cathedral in St. Mark's Square:

Gorgeous clock tower equipped with zodiac signs:


Our sweet balcony at our hotel:


The first evening we arrived in Venice, we dressed up for a delicious dinner at Vini Da Gigio.

We took this very cheesedick picture, and it ended up being our last picture as just girlfriend & boyfriend...so there's that...haha...


Awesome wine that we drank...


As we were walking home from dinner, around 11:30pm local time, Matt wanted to go see St. Mark's square at night (during the day it's so crowded), and I happily obliged (clueless-ly). The clock tower there is extra special and even has zodiac etchings in it. There were still a lot of people in the square, so Matt asked if I wanted to go walk along the water (which was really empty and on our way to our hotel) and I said sure. We were walking for awhile, and then decided to sit down at this really cute bench by some gondolas (empty) with no one else around. We were talking about moving back East to be closer to our families at some point soon...and then he all of a sudden told me that I was the, "most wonderful person he had ever met"....which I responded "aw, you're the most wonderful person I have ever met too babes"--since I didn't get the hint that he was about to propose!!! haha...Then he said, "I want to spend the rest of my life with you," after which I realized what was happening, and my heart started racing...and he got down on one knee--I was still sitting on the bench in anticipation, and he asked, "will you marry me?"...and then I don't really remember what I said, I just remembered giving him a kiss, and him taking the most beautiful ring I have EVER seen out of his pocket (yes, he carried it loose in his pant suit pocket the entire night since I would have been able to see the box---he later said that he kept feeling for it in his pocket, but that he wasn't nervous) and putting it on my finger--apparently, I said "Yes, of course I'll marry you!"...very shortly after, I asked if he had asked my Dad for his permission--not that he would need it, my parents are very "new school" and knew Matt very well at this point---but, Matt of course had--and said that it was one of the most nerve-wracking calls of his life (my parents live cross-country from us)--asking my Dad if it would be okay for him to propose in Venice to me --he strongly felt my Dad would say yes, but it's still a BIG call! My Dad said, "Go for it!" haha which is kind of a hilarious response...and he even kept it a secret from my Mom!

The proposal was over before I knew it, but it was simple, sweet, and a perfect moment I will treasure in my memory for the rest of my life.

Matthew, you truly are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I'm so excited and thankful that I get to become your wife next year! I don't know what mixture of luck & fate brought us together on a blind date in Denver, but I do think it's somewhat of a miracle when you get to marry the love of your life, and I'm extremely thankful for that! I will love you forever!

Sorry, this is gross, but I had to include it...immediate aftermath of engagement!




We came back to our hotel afterwards, and I immediately had to facetime my best friend of 25 years, my maid of honor, Tory! I have always told her that she would be the first person I called, so I kept to it! P.S. Matt and Tory have the same last name actually--so I'll have the same last name as my two best friends now! haha


I am absolutely in love with my ring too!
 

We also facetimed with my girl Cara--who cried she was so happy!!


The phone calls with our happy families, siblings, and friends continued the entire weekend--but we did make some time to head to Burano island for an amazing and fresh lunch of Flounder at Romano...walk around the glass island of Murano...and hang out and celebrate in Venice all weekend long!





We finished our time in Venice, with the most amazing dinner EVER at Da Fiore in Venice. This is rated one of the top restaurants in the WORLD. It was incredible....



My handsome fiancé!



On the colorful island of Burano:





This trip was the absolute best trip of my life, and I can't wait to keep traveling with this guy until we are old & grey!

 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rome!

After Paris, we flew from Orly airport into Rome. We decided to stay at another Airbnb apartment (we did the ones where we got the entire apartments to ourselves) while in Rome--and I'm so glad we did. Our hosts actually picked us up at the airport and drove us to the airbnb which was amazing. Paris was a whirlwind of sightseeing, and Rome wasn't too different!

Our Airbnb in Rome was really nice and in the Campo di'Fiori neighborhood of Rome--which was extremely centrally located. They gave us a bottle of wine and then breakfast foods in our refrigerator which was so helpful since Italians don't really do breakfast. It was nice to be able to eat a light breakfast before a full day of walking.





We arrived pretty late on Sunday night, and decided to go to dinner at Ditirambo in Piazza della Cancelleria (only a few blocks from our apartment). This dinner was phenomenal, cheap, and easy! In Rome, we decided to treat our taste buds a little bit and definitely indulged in dishes I would never order in the US. I ordered the cacio i peppe dish--which was AMAZING...Matt had an incredible rabbit pappardelle dish. All in all, I would definitely recommend this place--also had a really extensive wine list. We will be back to this restaurant the next time we visit Rome--very reasonable prices sealed the deal
.



After dinner, we walked to see the Pantheon at night. It's funny, because you can be walking around Rome and just run into big monuments like the Pantheon without even trying.


The next morning, we set off to visit the sites. We visited the Colosseum first, and were amazed by it. I visited Rome while in college studying abroad and during that trip it rained while I was at the Colosseum, so seeing it in the sunshine was a nice change!









After the colosseum and walking around for awhile, we went to lunch at Da Enzo. This was an amazing lunch of meatballs (no pasta) and salad...plus a glass of red wine! It was a tiny hole in the wall but our meal was so tasty, and the pastas that other tables were enjoying looked so delicious (we just didn't want to eat a heavy lunch). After lunch we went and checked out the Pantheon during the day, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain (which was under construction).


After lunch, we decided to do a little shopping by the Spanish Steps--and stopped into this lovely Italian leather glove shop!



We walked around until late in the evening, then went home to shower for dinner...I swear we walked at least 5-8 miles per day!

That night, we ate dinner at Da Armando al Pantheon (near the Pantheon, obviously!) and it was really delicious, well-priced, and the bathroom actually had a toilet seat!! This is something you expect in the USA, but in Europe, you often have to squat while in public (ugh)...TMI sorry!


The next morning, we woke up early for an extremely informative and well-executed private tour by Easitaly. It was a little bit expensive (about $300 euro) but 3 hours long, and we learned soo much...we also got to cut the lines. I would definitely recommend this tour company--our tour guide spoke amazing English and was so informed--she had her Masters or PhD in Art History. We did a 3 hour tour of Vatican City--which included the Vatican Museums, the cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, the square, and then after three hours, we walked up St. Peter's Basilica for the best view of all of Rome. It was such a wonderful morning!






It was SUCH a hot day out!

Afterwards, we walked the few miles to the Borghese Gallery (which we had pre-booked tickets for online)...and it was really lovely. I adored the exhibits scattered throughout the museum of clothing (made to look like sculptures/armor) that Azzedine Alaia had created over the last few decades. Everything was absolutely gorgeous! We also walked through the Borghese park/gardens.



Later that evening, we walked to the Monti neighborhood and had the best meal of our trip in Rome at La Carbonara. We shared the Carbonara (UNREAL!) and a filet with mushrooms (ALSO UNREAL!)...I was incredibly impressed--again, the pricing was very reasonable...this place is becoming even more popular--though locals definitely frequent it.


The following day, we decided to shop around again and I found a really amazing Italian lambskin purse that I purchased as my trip souvenir! We visited the Bone Museum in Rome (which unfortunately you cannot take pictures of) and it was one of the most unique places I have ever been.
We  had a nice lunch at La Fontana di Venere (where Matt's Bolognese lasagna was incredible) and then walked around some more.

We also decided to visit Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, and Circus Maximus.




After a long day, we hit Nerone in Trastavere neighborhood for excellent pizza for dinner! This was our first pizza of the trip, and extremely yummy.



 
The next morning we woke up early and took the train to Venice! We had the absolute best time in Rome...and especially enjoyed seeing all the ancient ruins & sites...as well as the food!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bonjour Paris!

Matt and I just got back from Paris & Italy last week after a wonderful 12 days in Paris, Rome, and Venice! I took so many pictures and we saw SO many things, ate SO many amazing dinners, and drank just enough wine ;-). It was truly the best trip of my entire life--which is saying a lot since I studied abroad for 2 and a half months in college on Semester at Sea!

We flew to Paris on Icelandair on the evening of September 2nd and arrived just past noon on September 3rd--we had a 1hour layover in Iceland...which initially I was worried about, but apparently that is their "thing"-- they get you through customs in literally 3 minutes and then the airport is very small. The most efficient country I've ever flown through--it's nice too, because we went through EU customs there, so once we arrived in Paris we just exited the airport immediately.

Anyhow, we took a cab from CDG airport to our sweet Airbnb in the Saint Germain des Pres area of Paris. This is a very centrally located area--and quite ritzy. It could not have been a better neighborhood for us to stay in since we had to see all the sights and everything was very close by. We rented a studio apartment in Paris for the first three nights of our trip, which was right across the alley from Burberry--it was just nice enough and very safe--and we were barely there!




Our first day in Paris, we went to Le Louvre, the Love Lock Bridge, Tuilleries Gardens, and then went to dinner at Au Vieux Comptoir which was absolutely delicious. Matt had the beef bourguignon--and it was the best I have ever tried1










Outside of our apartment in Paris!




Later that night after dinner, we rushed off to a tour of the Eiffel Tower. We ended up having to go back the next day and stand in line because our tour only got us to the 2nd floor, and it was so late that the top had closed by the time our tour ended (this was NOT cool!)...and we had to go to the top! We ended up getting there the next day during the day...so we got to see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower by day and by night. Worked out in the end...but I would recommend just standing in line for tickets to WALK up to the second floor & elevator to the 3rd (this took about 45 minutes to get to the tickets & through security...then it takes about 10 minutes? to walk up to the second floor...then you have to stand in line to get into the elevator to third floor--which took us about another hour)--but you save so much time by walking instead of elevator-ing up to the 2nd floor because the ticket lines and security for the elevators are insane!





The next day we walked through Luxembourg Gardens...

Then we ate brunch at Eggs & Co. which was delicious and in our apartment's neighborhood.

Afterwards we climbed to the top of Arc du Triomph --we purchased the Paris Museum Pass which got us up there without having to wait in lines (and covered Le Louvre as well). The views were spectacular!


We then walked around the Champs Elysee and went into a few stores...and stopped to grab a snack at Laduree...which was picturesque...

Later in the day, we waited about an hour to get inside the Catacombs....It was my second time being at the catacombs, but I still was so shocked by HOW many bones there are. It really is an incredible place to visit, and was Matts favorite activity during our Paris trip.



That night we went to a traditional French brasserie for Dinner--Le Grand Colbert. Matt had pasta with a lobster sauce which was really amazing and I had steak in a pepper sauce--also very good.






The next day we hopped on the train to Versailles and spent a few hours exploring the gardens and the mansion...it was a gorgeous day to be outside, and the gardens were my favorite part!

I also learned how to use our selfie stick hah!



After Versailles, we headed back to Paris and explored Notre Dame. The building itself is so incredibly beautiful...we walked around the outside of the building for a solid 30 minutes just looking at the details.



We also demolished an amazing Nutella & banana crepe!


Afterwards we headed over to the Eiffel Tower and stood in line for a few hours to get to the very top...

Unfortunately, it was pretty chilly & drizzling by the time we got up there...




...but we decided to enjoy a glass of overpriced champagne!




That night, we decided to go somewhere less fancy than planned for dinner since we were wiped out from a long day--and I'm SO glad we did! This was my absolute favorite meal we had in Paris--dinner at Polidor. We had the chicken and mashed potatoes with this INSANE sauce on it. It was divine.



The next morning we explored Le Marais neighborhood, and we were going to get L'as Du Fallafel for brunch, but decided to grab a crepe instead! It sure did look really good, but it felt a little too early for Fallafel.






On our last night in Paris, on our way home from Itay, we stopped inside the Sacre Coeur and ate dinner at Le Petit Bleu (we had couscous) in Montmarte...so SC is really something, especially at night!


 
I absolutely loved Paris--it's such a cosmopolitan and smart city with SO much to do and see. We were really exhausted after our days in Paris, but I am so glad we saw everything that we had on our agenda!
 
Next Up: Rome & Venice!