Of Lost Cameras and Sinking Cities

IMG_20170703_100336

Sad story:  We lost our camera in Venice.  It was a hot, miserable day and our hotel was out in the middle of nowhere.  It took us 3 hours to find it, which meant we had to take a few breaks because the heat was so unbearable…it just so happens that on one of those breaks, I stupidly set the camera down and forgot to pick it back up.  Not a great start to our trip.

IMG_20170703_111301

After we got to our hotel, I was feeling so shitty about it that I didn’t even bother to go out into the city our first night, but I decided that one night of sulking was enough.  Camera or no camera, we had come to see Venice.

IMG_20170703_114503

It was hot, crowded, and beautiful.  I did my best to capture it with some grainy Kindle Fire shots, but of course, they don’t do it any justice.  We arrived with no itinerary and we definitely didn’t want to fork out the cash for an overpriced gondola ride – especially since we now had a camera to replace.  Instead, we simply wandered through the alleys, stopping for the occasional gelato to try and beat the heat.

IMG_20170703_135214

IMG_20170703_140134

IMG_20170703_142835

IMG_20170703_143900

So where to begin with Venice…  It’s a tourist trap for sure, albeit a beautiful one.  It’s also possible that my experience was a little tainted due to having lost our camera.  I definitely couldn’t imagine spending more than a couple days there, but I certainly don’t regret going…especially when considering it may not be around much longer.  My advice?  Don’t go in July.  Wait for the off-season to avoid the crowds and the sweltering heat.

IMG_20170703_113331

Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge

DSC_0035.JPG

After several days of rain and grey skies, there was finally a sunny day in the forecast.  It was time for the crowning jewel of Slovenia:  Lake Bled.

DSC_0065.JPG

For some crazy reason, we left Ljubljana without having coffee, so we had to stop for a caffeine break before exploring the lake.  It didn’t look very big from a distance, but one we got closer, we realized what a walk it really was.

DSC_0013.JPG

It was big, beautiful, and impossibly blue for a lake.  The adorable island with the church in the middle was just the icing on the cake.

DSC_0047.JPG

After a nice, long stroll and picnic around Lake Bled, we decided to head to nearby Vintgar Gorge.  Unfortunately, we missed the last afternoon shuttle to the entrance, so we had to walk there; however, once we got a good look at the scenery en route, we didn’t feel so bad about it.

DSC_0074.JPG

DSC_0072.JPG

DSC_0068.JPG

After what felt like forever, we finally reached the entrance to the gorge.  It was much cooler there, which was nice after such a long walk.  The gorge itself was breathtaking, with mint green water rushing beneath the wooden path.

DSC_0080.JPG

I would love to share more photos from Vintgar; however, I stupidly forgot to check if all of the photos uploaded before I left for the States and the SD card with these photos is still in Turkey, so this will have to suffice for now.

For such a tiny country, Slovenia is teeming with natural wonders to explore.  In fact, my husband and I loved it so much that we are already planning a return trip…ideally in autumn so we can see everything surrounded by colorful trees.  There are also some sights that we didn’t have time for this trip, such as Lake Bohinj, that we’d love to go back and see.

DSC_0038.JPG

Thanks for being beautiful, Slovenia.  Until next time.

Škofja Loka

DSC_0205

We had to make some adjustments to our schedule in Slovenia due to some inclement weather.  We had originally planned on visiting Lake Bled on our second day there, but because of the forecast, we decided to delay it for sunnier days.  Instead, we decided to take a day trip that was a little closer.

DSC_0173 (1).JPG

Škofja Loka is a cute little medieval village about 30 minutes away from Ljubljana. Luckily, our hotel was a short walk away from the bus station, so we didn’t have to spend too much time in the rain.  We hopped on the bus, and to our surprise, it had stopped raining when we arrived.

DSC_0166.JPG

The charming medieval houses were only made more stunning by the view of the mountains that surrounded them.  We didn’t go in with any kind of plan; we simply took off to wander all of the winding alleys.

DSC_0180.JPG

DSC_0169.JPG

Though Škofja Loka wasn’t a part of our original itinerary, we were really glad we stopped.  It was a great place to wander, escape from the rain, and stop for a coffee while enjoying the view.

DSC_0159.JPG

Ljubljana: My New Favorite City

DSC_0107.JPG

Full disclosure:  I knew practically nothing about Slovenia before I flew there last week. All I knew is that Ljubljana (pronounced loo-blee-ana) was one of the cheapest destinations on Skyscanner for the dates we were looking to travel for our end-of-the-year/anniversary trip.  That was good enough for us.  I never would have expected this tiny city in a tiny country that still seems fairly undiscovered for this part of Europe to leave such a mark on my heart.

DSC_0096.JPG

There is something so genuine about Ljubljana.  Unlike much of Europe, it hasn’t sold its entire soul to the tourism industry.  It has nothing to prove, and because of that, Ljubljana is a city that is unapologetically itself.  Despite the fact that it doesn’t have the imposing skyline or massive crowds of cities like Prague, Ljubljana is an incredible, enchanting city.  It truly felt like something of a magical secret.

DSC_0103.JPG

Ljubljana seems to be in a stage of renaissance, with an incredible contemporary art and music scene.  You can’t walk five steps without running into some kind of street performer, though not the usual fare.  In our short time there, we ran into break dancers, magicians, bongo drummers, and opera singers, in addition to more traditional bands. Amazing street art lines just about every corner of the city, but especially in the little artsy neighborhood of Metelkova.

DSC_0113.JPG

DSC_0059 (1).JPG

We ended up basing ourselves out of Ljubljana the whole time we were in Slovenia simply because we loved it so much.  It gave us time to figure out all of the best places to eat,  hang out, and take walks at sunset.

DSC_0150.JPG

DSC_0090.JPG

DSC_0087.JPG

I wish I could find the right way to describe how laid back and charming Ljubljana is. The whole time I was there, I felt so at home…so much so that I probably could have moved in right then and there.  I’m really surprised it hasn’t become overrun with tourists!

DSC_0210.JPG

Until next time, Ljubljana!

26 and A Weekend on the Rhine

DSC_0109.jpg

So, I turned 26 last week.  I guess time just really flies as you get older because it feels like I just turned 22 last year.

Fun fact:  I am exactly 15 days older than my husband, which means I get to tout my extra wisdom for a couple of weeks every year.  It also means that we normally try to do something extra fun together to celebrate.

This year, we decided to spend the weekend in Switzerland and France because who doesn’t love croissants and chocolate!  I also scored a sweet birthday discount from Pegasus and I never turn down a cheap flight.

DSC_0040.jpg

It just so happened that last Friday was a holiday in Turkey, so we had an extra day to explore!  We landed in Basel, Switzerland Friday morning and hit the streets right away. Even though the forecast had shown three days of rain, we completely lucked out and had nothing but dry, sunny weather!  We had the best time walking through the city and admiring the architecture.

DSC_0044.jpg

DSC_0065.jpg

DSC_0060.jpg

DSC_0062.jpg

DSC_0057.JPG

Now that I’m 26, my sense of humor is vastly more sophisticated.

We also couldn’t help but notice all of the playful sculptures and parks all over the city. We may or may not have spent a lot of time on playground equipment.

DSC_0089.JPG

DSC_0090.jpg

Of course, we couldn’t leave without sampling tons of Swiss chocolate, but I ate it all before the thought of taking a photo of it even crossed my mind.  Just take my word for it…or go check it out for yourself!

The next morning, we got up bright and early to catch the train to Colmar, France -an adorable little village that has been on my radar for a few years.  I also had the good fortune of experiencing my first “cougar” moment, when my husband was able to buy a youth ticket and I had to pay full price for the regular “adult” ticket.  I guess this makes up for taunting him with all of my brand new freedoms on both my 18th and 21st birthdays.

DSC_0130.jpg

Although it’s only 45 minutes away from the Swiss border, Colmar is distinctly French. My heart leapt at the sight of all the colorful buildings and pâtisseries and at the sound of French being spoken all around me.  Though I studied French through part of high school and all of university, I’ve rarely had the chance to use it since graduating and moving to Turkey.  It made me so happy to jump back into that world.

DSC_0102.jpg

DSC_0114.JPG

DSC_0116.jpg

DSC_0128.jpg

DSC_0120.jpg

Seriously though, how stunning is this place!?  Each twist and turn of an alley led to even more beautiful, colorful houses.  I was in heaven, eating my weight in croissants and sipping on Alsatian wine.  I loved each and every second of our time there and felt so sad when it was time to leave.  I have such great love for all things Francophone and it is still a dream of mine to live in France someday.

DSC_0155.JPG

Lovely little nod to Magritte

Even though we only had three days, it was a pretty damn incredible three days.  26 is feeling alright so far!

DSC_0140.jpg

Pretty please take me back?

Back in Barcelona

DSC_0151.JPG

I was excited to re-visit Barcelona after almost a decade, especially because it would be the first time I ever returned to an international destination (unless you count Turkey, of course).  I was also a little nervous.  I fell in love with the city immediately the first time; I loved it even more than I loved Paris, which is really saying something coming from a former French major.  I wondered how different it would be, and even though I couldn’t possibly expect it to be the same, I hoped I would love it just as much.

20170406_131532.jpg

The moment I stepped off the bus and into the city, I wondered what I had even been worried about.  Even though we were exhausted and it was late, the second I set eyes on the beautiful Casa Batlló all lit up under the night sky, I felt elated to be back.  We struck gold with our accommodation, scoring an incredible apartment with a balcony in the city center with one of the kindest hosts I have ever met.  It was after midnight when we arrived, but she waited up for us, ready with maps and all the advice we could possibly need to explore the city.  I couldn’t recommend the place enough!

DSC_0111

When we woke up from a good night’s sleep ready to explore, we headed first to the famous Sagrada Familia.  I was curious to see how much it had changed since I had seen it last and was amazed to see how big the crowds were and how much had been added to it!  I really do wonder if it will ever be finished.

20170406_140658.jpg

We continued on to the other Gaudi essentials in our area and then headed to the Gothic neighborhood, which was something I hadn’t done on my first trip.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day and there were tons of people and street performers in every alley!  There were also a lot of delicious restaurants and we definitely overindulged on chorizo.

20170406_151800.jpg

We slowly made our way to the marina, where my husband – who is something of a nap enthusiast- took a nice siesta in the sunshine.

DSC_0137.JPG

Before the sun set, we made it over to Park Guell, another of Gaudi’s masterpieces.  We got some really great views of the city up on the trail.

20170406_203214.jpg

After a long and tiring day of trekking all over Barcelona, we ended our day perfectly with an enormous pan of paella!

20170407_103139.jpg

I was so not ready to leave Barcelona, or Spain in general, and I remember snapping this sappy last photo from our balcony window!  Barcelona, you still have my heart.

La Alhambra

DSC_0063.JPG

What a beautiful, magical place this is…certainly fit for royalty.  A feast for the senses, to be sure, with lavender-scented air, sunshine, a light breeze, and some of the most stunning architecture known to humanity.

20170402_133019

It is impossible to fully capture the beauty of this place, with its intricately carved pillars, arches, tiles, and ceilings…but seeing it in person was the real treasure anyway.

20170402_133445.jpg

20170402_133526.jpg

DSC_0055.JPG

I dare you not to pretend you’re on Game of Thrones when you see these chairs.

DSC_0078.JPG

20170402_135407.jpg

If you want to visit, you have to be diligent and plan ahead.  The tickets often sell out weeks in advance, especially during peak season.  They also do not issue tickets anywhere but at the palace, so you have to be prepared to wait at least an hour just to retrieve your reserved tickets…and then you have to be sure you can make your appointment to the Nasrid Palaces (the most beautiful part by far) because you will not be allowed to enter at any other time.

20170403_193441.jpg

In spite of the logistic difficulties, it is more than worth it to see this small slice of heaven. Don’t forget to enjoy a cold Spanish beer in the courtyard after your tour and let it all sink in.