Traveling into the New Year

It’s been an incredible 2016 so far as I met two friends from the US for about two weeks of adventures in Italy and France. We celebrated NYE in Venice, prepared and ate delicious food in Florence, hiked through Cinque Terre, enjoyed the brilliant blue waters of Nice, France along with an adventurous day trip to Eze and Monaco. Then, before returning to Moldova I finished my travels with a quick overnight trip to Rome where I was able to see the Vatican at night.

We had a wonderfully epic trip together and it was perfect timing as I was able to verbally process my thoughts and ideas with them regarding my next chapter after Peace Corps. I still don’t have an answer about what is next, but it was refreshing to have the opportunity to talk it over with them as they asked good questions.

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The 3 of us in Burano, Italy one of my two most favorite places we visited in our travels.

I also learned some valuable “travel lessons” such as…

  • Not to pack as much as I think I should;
  • Always double and triple check the date when booking a train ticket online;
  • When planning a hike, don’t forget hiking shoes/sneakers;
  • If traveling to multiple cities in one trip, backpack it (rolling a suitcase through Venice and Cinque Terra as well as multiple train stations is quite the workout);
  • Pre-planning destinations using a map will save valuable time;
  • Traveling by train in Europe is fun and easy!

Even though I packed too much in to a small rolling duffle suitcase, thankfully I figured out halfway though our travels that I could turn it into a backpack if I put my arms through the carrying handles. I may need to get a massage after doing so but it makes going up and down stairs much quicker and traveling through the snow easier, which I returned to when I got back to Moldova.

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Katie and I in Florence near the Duomo. You can see how I’m “kinda” backpacking it on this trip – viola!

It was an epic traveling adventure with all the new locations we had traveled to together – about 7 cities/towns and 10+ train trips. KT and Spud were easy to travel with and were incredibly flexible and adaptable. Like that time I accidentally booked the wrong date for our train tickets to Nice. We had to do a last minute train switch to fix the error, thankfully it was realized in time to do a little running around between trains and stations.

Celebrating NYE in Venice

We spent 5 days in Venice exploring the streets and unique shops in the city. We spent one day traveling to Murano and Burano where we enjoyed the bright colorful houses along the narrow streets and canals. We rang in the New Year along the grand canal as we watched fireworks light up the sky above the waters.

Florence

Our next stop after Venice was Florence where we encountered rain during our stay. We made the best of it as we explored some sights and enjoyed the lights. We also got the opportunity to take a cooking class where we made pizza and gelato!

Hiking through Cinque Terre

This place is amazing and the photos just don’t do any of it justice. None. You have to go to experience it yourself and see what I mean. We were fortunate that it didn’t rain too much during our short stay in Cinque Terre as we explored the 5 different towns along the coast. We were able to hike along the coast of the Mediterranean sea between 3 of the towns which was incredible!

Nice, Eze, and Monaco

Our next stop took us to Nice, France where we explored the city and the amazing French Rivera views. Since we were so close to Monaco and Eze, we did a day trip to those places as we continued our adventure together with this being our last location before we parted ways.

 

Rome/The Vatican

To return to Moldova I opted to do an overnight in Rome instead of on a train from Bucharest. Even though I was only able to visit the city of Rome for a few hours, I got a chance to visit the outside of The Vatican and enjoy dinner not far from St. Peter’s church. I hope to be able to visit sometime when I have more than 4 hours at night to see this amazing place.

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The Vatican at night complete with large Christmas tree and nativity scene.

Although I have traveled to Italy and France before, it was nice to see different parts of these countries. Then without even planning it, I was able to add the two smallest counties in the world to my list of “countries visited”.

Now that I’m back in Moldova, where I have been greeted with snow and ice, it’s back to work as I finish up the last 6ish month of my service!

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As we flew over Moldova on my return flight home we could see the snow covering the country in fun patterns.

 

Traveling Adventures in Europe with Family

My mom and brother visited me in Moldova a few weeks ago. After an amazing time together in Moldova we embarked on an adventure that I don’t think we’ll ever forget. This was our first time traveling internationally together as a family (minus my father who was unable to make it).

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I met my mom and brother at the airport — it had been about a year and a half since we last saw one another.

My mom made all the plans where we started out in Venice, Italy for a day and a half. We wandered the streets, got lost a few times, tried some new tasty Italian foods, toured the city by water bus, and visited some fun sites. I’m looking forward to going back and exploring this city a little more again soon.

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The view of St. Marks Square at sunrise. How many sites can you name in this photo?

After our adventure in Venice, we boarded a cruise for some quality family time at sea. Sunrises and sunsets from the balcony, playing shuffleboard with new friends, reading and relaxing in the open sea air, and enjoying the random activities and entertainment provided. It was a fun time.  

Our first stop for a day-trip was on the island of Malta where we did a quick excursion of seeing the “best of” all things Malta. I had been there previously last winter, where I had fallen in love with the sea and was eager to visit again since I enjoyed it so much. I’m glad that my mom and brother at least got a chance to see and experience it since I raved so much about it last Christmas.

Our next stop took us to the island of Palma Mallorca for a quick tour around the center city and a few historic sites.

The next day we ended our cruise along the Mediterranean sea in Barcelona where we spent a day and a half and soaked up the last of our adventures in Europe together.

We checked out a few of the popular sites of Barcelona and on the last day we participated in a fun cooking class where we learned how to make an authentic 4-course Spanish meal. It was complete with a visit to the famous Boqueria market where we went with the chef to pick up fresh ingredients and sample some delicacies of the area. This last part was my most favorite part of the trip — quality time with my mom and brother in a fun, creative, and tasty atmosphere!

At the Boqueria Market with the chef before the cooking class…

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Lots of laughs during the cooking class! Not sure if this is before or after all the tears from mom cutting up the onions…

After our time together I made my way back home to Moldova while my mom and brother made their way back home to PA. I realized on this return flight at how normal it felt for me to travel back to Moldova and didn’t think twice of referring to it as ‘home’.

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Flying home from Barcelona.