Bath, England

Edinburgh

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We spent three nights in Edinburgh, but if you are fast travelers, you could easily do two full days. Since this was the start of our trip, it was nice to have an extra day to relax. To save money on our flight, we actually flew into Glasgow and took a train to Edinburgh. Google flights is a great tool to use to find opportunities to lower your flight cost. Here are the highlights of our trip!

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Hotel: Fraser Suites

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This hotel was right on the Royal Mile, making it an ideal location for sight seeing. Plus, it’s about a 10 minute walk from the train station so we didn’t need to take a taxi to our hotel.

Cost: including tax was $126 a night. This might be because it was during the off-season, but it was so spacious and clean! It included a living area with a couch and chair, large bathroom, small kitchen setup (without a stove) and a decent gym! I would definitely recommend staying here.

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Stroll & Shop the Royal Mile

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This strip is in the heart of Old Town and filled with restaurants, bars and shopping. We also paid for a short tour at Gladstone’s Land, a 17th century merchant’s residence.

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Edinburgh Castle

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It cost about $21 a person to enter, but if offers great views and history of the city. You’ll be able to see the crown jewels, great hall, one of the largest cannons used in Europe and receive a free Scotch whiskey tasting! This was a short walk from our hotel.

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Palace of Holyroodhouse

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This palace was the residence of the King and Queen of Scotland starting in the 16th century. They still use this palace for entertaining. We enjoyed strolling through the royal apartments, chambers, great hall and more. The gardens were unfortunately not open during our visit.

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Hike Up to Calton Hill

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Along with Arthur’s seat, these two short hikes offer some of the best views of the city. It’s opposite of the Edinburgh castle. We walked up here in the morning then headed straight to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

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Stroll Down Victoria Street

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Especially if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will love this cute street! It’s filled with shops and restaurants, but I enjoyed the bright buildings. Since J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh during the time she was writing the first few books of Harry Potter, she used this street as inspiration for Diagon Alley. As you walk from the bottom of the street, it slightly curves up as you walk up. It also has a joke shop!

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Other good sights to see

National Museum of Scotland

St Giles’ Cathedral

Dean Village – this is a beautiful place to walk around!

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Memorable Meals

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La Locanda – this is located right off the Royal Mile. It’s a great family owned Italian restaurant and they served up the best lasagna I have ever eaten.

The Elephant House – great coffee and desserts. We split a salted caramel brownie (twice!). This is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few books of Harry Potter. It’s a cute cafe with a great view of the Edinburgh castle from the back room!

Wildfire – a  Scottish steakhouse. Be sure to make a reservation. It’s a small restaurant and located in the New Town, about a 15 minute walk from our hotel.

The Devil’s Advocate – we enjoyed a great cocktail here. It’s tucked back in an alley off the Royal Mile, but the bartenders dress in fancy aprons and you feel like a local.

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Bruges

As far as small town charm, Bruges is just as great as Rothenburg, Germany. 

Two Nights

Enjoy the Market Square

From restaurant terraces, the Bell Tower and old buildings, this square is quite charming. There are even a few food vendor stands. We split an order of Belgian-style French fries and a hot dog and simply people watched. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, a farmer’s market is held in the Market Square. It was so fun to shop the stands and I only wished we would have rented an apartment so we could cook like a local.

Visit the Church of Our Lady

This holds the famous Michelangelo statue Madonna and Child. It’s the only statue that was able to leave Italy! The church was under construction during our visit and there is a fee to see the inside, but we enjoyed it.

Enjoy the local desserts

Ok, the moment you step into the square you can smell chocolate! There are chocolate shops everywhere! As as matter of fact, they have an entire “Chocolate Row” street dedicated to their famous Belgian chocolate. I bought chocolates from the well known Dumon shop and B&B. The Belgian waffles are also delicious! This one is from Chez Albert. Yum!

Take the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour

An 1856 brewery, we toured both the new and old areas of the brewery. They still kept the 150 year old beer casks and cooling rooms. Funny enough, the highlight of the tour was the viewpoint from the top of the brewery. It overlooked all of Bruges. It was a great tour and ended with a freshly brewed beer.

Rent a bike and ride the outer skirts of town

We peddled all over the place! We had 3 hours with the bikes and rode around the city moat viewing original windmills and stopping at a park to take a break and watch the lazy river make its way around. Locals here were picnicking, reading books and taking naps.

Wander the city and enjoy it’s beauty

Some locations are so pretty they are known as the Postcard Canal View or Picturesque bridge. We enjoyed walking to the Minnewater which is filled with weeping willows, swans and a peaceful lake. If you like ruins, be sure to check out the Crowne Plaza Hotel. In the basement rooms are lined with original stone walls and there are many display cases filled with what modern archaeologists found here.

Other highlights

The Basilica of Holy Blood : This double-decker church, built in 1150, holds the drops of Christ’s blood a Crusader brought back from Jerusalem. We were there to observe the relic itself. This church also has a pretty painting at the alter and it tells the story of how the blood arrived in Bruges.

For local cuisine, try the mussels! I’m not a big seafood person, but when I travel, I love to have as many local experiences as I can. No matter what restaurant you choose, it’s a good meal to split because the pot is huge!

Visit the post card

Austin, TX

Prague

Explore the Jewish Quarter

praguebetterYou can pay for what sites you want to see, but we paid our way into all of the sites. We liked the Jewish cemetery and the Old-New Synagogue best. The buildings in this area were beautiful!

 

 

 

Also, the Castle Quarter

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Our hotel was right next to the Charles Bridge. Our first day, we crossed the bridge and wandered in and out of shops until we arrived to the Castle Quarter. It’s an area that’s walled in and contains a large cathedral, Saint Vitus, a treasury, the Golden Lane, and much more. Our favorite was the Golden Lane that consisted of tiny living quarters for many of the city’s workers. They were lived in until WWII.

Visit the John Lennon Wall 

prague2It’s a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace. It’s also a monument to free speech.

 

 

 

 

Old Town and the Astronomical Clock 

prague4Great food vendors are in the square and people gather round for the clock to go off every hour. You can enjoy the wooden figure apostles, the Astronomical Dial and the Calendar Dial.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Of course, enjoy a walk over the Charles Bridge 

prague5You can shop the vendors and observe artists doing their work.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the local beer and food

20140914_190314_editedczechfoodWhat a treat. We usually started out splitting a beer, but always ended up ordering more. The bread dumplings, pork and sauerkraut were so tasty.

Germany

When I first booked my trip to Germany last year (2014), I was mostly excited for Oktoberfest. So many people have this on their bucket list! I’m happy to say I’ve checked that box, but looking back on the trip, it was actually one of my least favorite memories. We spent the first three nights of our trip in Prague. Read more here. Then, we explored Bavaria.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – 2 nights 

20140917_113935 (2)This is the best small town I’ve been to in Europe and highly recommend coming here. I loved the buildings, the signs for each shop, walking through the town, and just relaxing! This isn’t a lot to see here, but you will definitely enjoy your time.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the square

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People gather around at the top of the hour to watch a mechanical drinking scene. Back in 1631, the mayor of the city had to drink over three liters of wine in order to save the town. Our hotel was the yellow building and is 600 years old. It was old, but clean and they offered a nice breakfast.

 

 

Walk through the town 

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buildingsThere are so many cute cafes and shops. Like I mentioned above, each building has a unique sign hanging on their building.

 

 

 

Shop at Käthe Wohlfahrt

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There are a few shops around Germany and Rothenburg hosts one of them. To say I love Christmas is an understatement. This holiday shop is incredible and we ended up spending over 300 euro in gifts for ourselves and family. You can’t take pictures inside, so this was the only shot I have from my trip.

 

 

 

Walk the wall and down below the city 

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The wall is neat and it closes the city in. There are plaques on the wall that show the names of donors who contributed to the rebuilding of the city. The countryside below the town is quiet and great for enjoying a nice walk.

 

 

 

Take the Nights Watchman Tour 

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For 7 euro a piece, you follow a man dressed as a night’s watchman. This tour went through the entire history of Rothenburg from start until today.

 

 

 

Other highlights:

St. Jakob church

Füssen – 2 nights 

Visit Neuschwanstein Castle

fuessen2I’m pretty sure most people who come here, visit the castle. It’s a nice 30 minute hike up to the castle. Be sure to walk to Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge) and even venture up a little more for a better view of the castle. It almost looks fake as you stare from a far!

 

 

Also Visit Hohenschwangau Castle

It was the childhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. You get to see much more inside compared to the other castle. Look to purchase tickets early in the day if you’re going in peak season.

 

 

 

Enjoy the German food (at Madame Plüsch)

germanfood soupfinalAlways ask the locals for restaurant suggestions. We enjoyed awesome food from this restaurant. It was so good, we learned to make it at home.

 

 

 

Munich – 3 nights 

Day One: It was opening day of Oktoberfest! Munich throws this awesome parade and I’m happy we were able to experience it. The horses were decked out in gear, locals were wearing their best lederhosen or dirndl and everyone was just happy! It ended up being a rainy day, but that didn’t stop us from wanting to join the fun. After watching the entire parade, we headed to the festival. Little did I know, it was basically a large fair. I always gave the analogy it was the Puyallup fair on steroids. It was huge! Lots of carnival rides, food vendors, games, and of course, the beer tents. We grabbed lunch first, then walked around to the many beer tents. After recognizing our favorite German beer tent, Hacker-Pschorr, we thought it would be best to wait in line to get in. We waited, waited, waited, and waited some more. After waiting nearly three hours to get in, we gave up. We walked around trying to get in to other tents and didn’t have much luck. After our fourth attempt at a tent, we finally got in to one with standing room only. For the other tents, if you didn’t have a seat, you didn’t get a beer. I’ll never forget the staff saying, “No sit, no beer!” Inside the tent was fun, but since it was just the two of us, we were over it in a few hours. After leaving the tent, all we noticed were drunk people passed out on the grass and puke everywhere. My experience of Oktoberfest (patience, party, puke). I would highly recommend NOT attempting Oktoberfest on opening day. We ended up meeting a nice couple and learned they showed up to their tent of choice at 7 AM just to get a table.

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Day Two: 1/2 day trip to Dachau

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The original and first concentration camp in Germany. The site includes the original crematorium, a museum, one replica barrack and a few items like shoes, clothing, a desk, plus more.

 

 

 

Other highlights of Munich:

Visit the Hofbräuhaus

steinsfinalThis is what I was expecting from Oktoberfest. It has many floors to listen to music and enjoy a liter of beer. We met two nice couples from the U.S. and listened to music.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy a Bavarian creme donut

jenThere are cafes all around Munich who serve pastries. This one did not disappoint! We split this donut on the first day, but the next day, I needed my own 🙂

Florence

Visit the Statue of David (Galleria dell’Accademia)

IMG_1441This flawless sculpture is something to see with your own eyes. You are not able to take pictures inside so I’ll hold the picture of the statue in my memory forever! Keep in mind, this is a pink statue in courtyard after you exit the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Gelato in Italy 

IMG_1507There is something about the gelato in Florence! If I hadn’t read that most people think it’s the best in Italy, I would have been saying it to others myself. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo 

IMG_1411You might go up several flights of stairs, but it was one of the best views of Florence.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the view from the Bell Tower (Giotto’s Campanile) 

IMG_1363IMG_1381Back to more stairs! This has great views of the cathedral next door. You’ll also get amazing views of Florence.

 

 

 

 

Visit Duomo 

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This Gothic cathedral was built in the late 1800’s and is covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble. I enjoy walking through all cathedrals and this one didn’t disappoint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a day trip to Siena 

IMG_1489It has one of the best squares in Italy (II Campo) and an art-packed cathedral with mosaic floors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights: 

Shopping the market.

 

 

Capri, Italy

Naples + Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri

How to Spend Three Nights in Naples

When I thought of visiting Italy, I visualized the major landmarks. Naples showed me what real life looks like. We watched kids play soccer in the streets, dodging cars when needed. We also watched people try to pick pocket others on the train. I wouldn’t come back to stay the night in Naples, but perhaps a day trip. I would recommend staying in Sorrento and taking a day trip to Naples.

Day One: Explore Naples 

Eat at the famous pizzeria (Antica Pizzeria da Michele)

IMG_1107Julia Roberts filmed Eat, Pray, Love here. The pizza was great! You only get two choices of pizza. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit the Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico)

Day Two: Day trip to Pompeii/Sorrento 

IMG_1179 IMG_1161 IMG_1162So much history in Pompeii! We were able to get a guided tour (for 10 euro a piece) right at the entrance. We loved our tour guide and he walked us through all the major areas to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1227Sorrento was beautiful. Not a lot to do, but great to relax, people watch, and enjoy some shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Three: Capri 

IMG_1314IMG_1274Capri was a nice getaway, but I felt most people come here to relax & spend a weekend. Spending a day on the island was ok, but I wouldn’t feel like I would need to come back. I did enjoy the gondola ride up to the top of the island. Great views! It’s hard to beat the beautiful blue water!