Paris, The Cote D’azur & Monaco

Is there anything better than combining a work trip with a little vacation time? I don’t think so, so when Eddie found out the date of his company’s summer party in Paris, we started planning a trip to the south of France. I looked forward to the trip all throughout the grey winter, spring, and early summer and the thought of sunny skies kept me going.

The party in Paris did not disappoint. French companies sure know how to have a good time and we spent the night eating, dancing and sipping champagne in the most amazing venue – an old carnival complete with rides!

This year, Eddie was smart enough to steer clear of the beef tartare which meant that even though our train left at 8AM the next morning, we felt fresh enough to make it on time. It was a loooonnnnnnggg train ride, three and half hours and it did not at all pass quickly.

When we finally arrived in Marseille we were greeted at the hotel with an appropriately “french rude” receptionist who scoffed at our request to check in one hour early. The horror!

So we parked ourselves by the pool to relax. “Relax” would be a really strong word for what we experienced. The pool was overflowing (almost literally) with 10-15 sub-seven-year-olds and varying levels of parental supervision. Splash. Scream. Cry. Repeat. Oh well.

Sadly, once we had finally been allowed to check in and headed to the beach, the scene wasn’t much better. Marseille is not known for its beaches but I wasn’t quite expecting the dirty and packed conditions we found. We gave up pretty quickly because though it was at least 100 degrees neither of us could work up the motivation to get in the dirty and crowded water and we were probably going to melt if we stayed in the direct sun much longer.

Marseille was meant to be a jumping off point for us, because the city isn’t exactly known for being beautiful or cultural. We spent the next day in the adorable village of Aix-En-Provence doing little more than enjoying the cute streets and nice weather. Another day was spent making a marathon train journey to Monaco. I think we can both admit that this was one of those “Check the country off the list” visits. We had come that far.

After our brief tour around Monte-Carlo we spent the afternoon at a beach in Nice. Our not so great experience in Marseille made us decide to treat ourselves to renting some chairs and an umbrella. This is pretty common on European beaches and unfortunately isn’t cheap but it means you get your own space, shade, and the ability to order drinks and food if you so desire. We felt pretty swanky since our usual MO is sneaking towels out from the hotel and roasting uncomfortably on the free beach. But not this time, #ballers.

Our day spent on the beach in Nice was by far my favorite day of the trip. We relaxed and soaked in that Cote D’Azur sunshine while sipping on some overpriced but oh so delicious Rose. It was bliss, and this made it especially hard to hear about the brutal attack that took place just three days later on the same streets we were happily strolling along earlier in the week. 😦 Thankfully, we were home in London by then but we couldn’t help wondering if anyone we were swimming next to in the beautiful Mediterranean sea had been affected. I hope not. 


Defend the Queue

What is it about security lines that make people go a little nutty?  I’ve known perfectly reasonable people who have gotten into arguments with the TSA over taking off a scarf, and guess how that usually ends? An extra thorough pat down. Whatever it is, people are rarely in a cheery mood.  

Coming home from Paris via the Eurostar recently was a great example of tensions running high… There might have been a small altercation between myself and the woman behind me. But she started it. And I won. Here’s the story:

If there is one thing that English people are good at, its queueing. If they see a queue they sometimes even get in it for no reason, you think I am joking, but I’ve seen this first hand. Last year when my Mom visited, we went to a concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral and were outside queueing to get in. After about 10 minutes the person behind us asked “what is this queue for?” During the London riots a few years ago, there was a famous image of looters waiting outside of a shop, queueing to get in and pilfer it! Only in England. 

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If placed outside their comfort zone in a cultural setting where there are not orderly, calm queues – the english person becomes agitated, distraught even. That is just not how it is done in Her Majesty’s kingdom. It’s a matter of national pride to them and cutting a queue is one of the more offensive/culturally insensitive things you can do in the UK.

So, you can imagine the situation in Paris. It was mayhem with no queues and rather more of a mob descending on just two passport control officers – they were behind bulletproof glass, yet even still, they looked a bit scared. Tensions were high, probably because the Eurostar line is usually a breeze, so people had arrived late only to find out they were now likely going to miss their scheduled departure.

We were not in this situation and had arrived an appropriate one hour early. Gold star! So, while it was annoying that we were walking into a chaotic situation, we just settled in for the long haul. We weren’t in a rush and I for one do not mind a little extra security when it comes to the Eurostar. If there is one place I do not want to be trapped with a crazy person with a gun or worse, it’s under the english channel.

That’s why when I noticed a guy was sneakily trying to edge his way in front of me in the most pathetic queue ever, I weighed the options and made a conscious decision not to do anything about it. Yeah it was annoying, but I have better things to do than engage with him over it. I let it go, talked with my husband and lazily looked at photos on my phone as the line moved one painful inch at a time.

But the lady behind me (english) had other ideas. She was obviously clocking the situation earlier than I had even noticed it and couldn’t handle the blatant disregard for proper queue etiquette. In also stereotypically English fashion, she let her anger bottle up until she just couldn’t take it anymore. But did she confront him? No, instead she felt I was the right person to speak to about this injustice.

“You better keep your eye on this guy, it looks like he is trying to edge in front of you!” She was rather rude about it and her tone suggested that I had the power to stop him and was not doing my part as a citizen of the world to police the honor code of the queue. Perhaps she thought I was English, and therefore should have been bred to be outraged by such moral depravity. 

I was a bit shocked she had brought this up with me and not the offender himself but I decided to ignore that and her rude tone and politely replied, “Yeah, but I’m not about to get into a fight with him about it.” I thought this response would make her feel heard and show that I commiserated with her plight, but also make it clear that I didn’t intend to get involved.

My response didn’t help though, in fact it really seemed to upset her even more and she then started attacking me, “I’m not saying get into a fight with him! Just tell him to RESPECT THE QUEUE.”

Seriously, she said RESPECT THE QUEUE. This is a line the writers of SNL would put in for the satirical english character on SNL. I couldn’t help but laugh a little, but I was now officially annoyed by her tone of voice and the fact that she was getting into an arguement with me about it, rather than the person who was causing the problem!

If English people are stereotyped as being non-confrontational, than American’s are definitely the opposite and I’ll admit that I went a bit American on her at this point. “Lady, if you want to say something to him, be my guest, I’m not going to.”

“I just might! I will just tell him to get into his place!” Not sure what she was waiting for then? By the way the offender could clearly hear all of this…

“Go ahead, I’m not sure why you are getting mad at me? I am not doing anything wrong here.”

“I just don’t understand your attitude, stick up for yourself and the queue!” That was the end of our conversation because I actually had to face forward and hide my laughter at this point. I also just didn’t think it would be productive to continue the conversation.

Eddie and the queue jumper exchanged a look, and he moved behind me in line, but still in front of the offended woman. In my mind this was the perfect opportunity for her to bring up her grievance with him, but did she? No. Apparently she did not respect the queue enough to actually confront the man directly.

No one likes to get into a verbal argument with anyone, and even though I felt like I hadn’t done anything wrong I was still a bit bothered by the encounter. However, I made up for it about an hour later when an elderly woman couldn’t find her train car, so I offered to walk her to it. She showered me with life affirming compliments and I quickly got over the encounter with the crazy queuer.

The summer of great British train travel

There are a ton of TV shows here that have the adjective “great” in them. Great British Bake Off, Great Canal Journeys, Great African Train Journeys. It works, since this is GREAT Britain afterall.

We recently purchased a Two Together Railcard which prompted us to name this “The Summer of Great British Train Travel” for ourselves. I already wrote about our journey to Liverpool and since we got the railcard which is good for one year we have been trying extra hard to take advantage.

It has already paid for itself because anytime we take a train together we get ⅓ off the total price. That adds up in a country where getting to the airport and back can cost as much as £50 on the train. And, it has forced us to explore some places that we have really been putting off.

I haven’t written about any of these trips on the blog. But here goes….


Our first great british train trip was a day trip to Whitstable, a cozy village northeast of London along the ocean. I was hoping this would turn into a nice and sunny day by the sea but alas, in typical english summer fashion, it was windy, cold and grey. I’ve decided there is no point getting down about this, you just have to enjoy summer for what it is here. So, we enjoyed ourselves despite the weather by going for a long, albeit breezy, stroll along the ocean. Sometimes when we visit these little villages, we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs after a couple hours thinking… so what do we do? It didn’t feel that way in Whitstable because the village had interesting shops, restaurant and a little “castle” to explore. We also pretended it was summer and enjoyed some Oysters outside with a bottle of local cider.



We decided we were going to Gloucester and the Cotswolds about two days before we left. It was one of those spontaneous decisions that tend to either work out really well or not at all. The snap choice meant we were limited in terms of city to visit and hotels to stay in. We chose Gloucester because it was within easy access of the Cotswolds, one of England’s more picturesque regions, and we wanted to drive around the countryside.

We arrived in Gloucester late in the evening and then had a long walk to our hotel. The next morning we woke up feeling rested and refreshed, it’s amazing what a night spent in the countryside can do for your sleep quality. So quiet!

After picking up the rental car our drive around the countryside began. We had our trusty Rick Steves guidebook to Great Britain and followed his instructions for hitting the best villages such as Stow-On-The-Wold. This was right after the EU referendum and there were “Vote Leave” & “Vote Remain” signs all over the place. Still, the ride was beautiful and the villages were cute. But overall the day and drive was uneventful, just what we needed.

On Sunday, we decided to stay in Gloucester and found that there was more to do than we had thought. There has been a lot of rejuvenation in this little port city and we enjoyed the shops, restaurants and bustling streets. Luckily, our spontaneous weekend trip ended up working out and we were glad we had dropped everything to go.


The Lakes District

When we first purchased our train pass I knew that the Lakes District would need to be one of the first places we journeyed to. We had both heard that it is beautiful and makes a good summer getaway.

The train journey took 3 and half hours and unfortunately, we were delayed almost one hour. This meant we had to have a train dinner and ended up arriving at our AirBnB fairly late in the evening, but what can you do.

Our AirBnB was a room above a pub which meant that the location, right downtown was convenient but also a little loud. Included with our room was a full english breakfast which filled us up for most of the day.

We planned to do a hike that day and had chosen the town Keswick because there were hiking trails that left right from the village, meaning we could skip a rental car.

Before leaving for our hike we checked out the local market that apparently happens every Saturday. On sale at one tent was a wide selection of homemade baked treats including quiche, cookies, cakes, you name it. We bought two cornish pasties to have later on for lunch at the bank breaking price of £1.50. Amazing what you can get for your money when you venture outside of London!

We set off for our hike and luckily enjoyed nice weather for most of the day with clear views from the top of the Cat Bells ridge where we enjoyed our delicious pasties. English people hiking is truly something to behold. There aren’t a ton of mountains in England so most of them aren’t exactly natural born hikers. That’s fair enough, but the funny part was all the gear they were lugging around. Perhaps many of them were training to hike Everest, but it looked like they all came more than a little over prepared to us. 

We can’t exactly talk though, because we are certainly not in our best hiking shape. After the 6 hours we spent hiking, it was pretty clear we wouldn’t have trouble sleeping later that night. I was beat!

We were not as lucky with the weather on our last day and unfortunately, it was too rainy to scale a mountain. We set out to walk around the lake but found that were getting too wet so we quit and turned around deciding to enjoy tea and a nice lunch rather than exercise.

I can only echo what everyone else has said and encourage everyone to visit the lakes district. Our train tickets from London were pricey, even after the discount, but once we got there we enjoyed small town prices on food which made up for it. “Summer” getaway is a bit of a stretch, it was cold and cloudy and I couldn’t relate to the people who were actually swimming in the lake. Brrrr. Even in the rain the Lakes District is beautiful though, the pictures speak for themselves.




It rains in our bathroom.

Everyone always talks about how summer in London means rain. Based on last summer, I thought they were just having a “bit of a moan,” that’s how the English would say it. There were bright skies, sunshine and even a few 90 degree days. We had lots of sun, even when we went to Scotland and Ireland for weekend trips. I kind of thought it was just one big exaggeration.

Well, I’m starting to get the picture, because this year? To say it like the English, summer has been “a bit shit.” Record amounts of rain, flooding and some pretty violent thunderstorms have been unrelenting over the past couple weeks. During one of the storms we were lazily watching TV in the living room, looking outside every couple minutes and smugly thinking “stinks to be stuck outside in that!” when I heard the faint sound of water dripping in the bathroom… you see where this is going. Dripping quickly turned into what can only be described as flowing or gushing and it turned out to be coming from the ventilation fan. 90 minutes and ALL the pots and pans from the kitchen later we had collected several liters of water.

A couple days later it happened again… but this time we were at work so there were no pots and pans ready to collect the water.

So, apparently it rains in our bathroom now. Awesome. We suspect this might have something to do with the roof flooding, but as much as I don’t want to admit it, watching constant reruns of This Old House and HGTV doesn’t actually make me an expert on these matters. Strangely, our flat seems to be the only one in the building having this problem. Lucky us!

Getting a problem like this fixed is not easy. Why? Well that is a long story.

The rental market in London is unreal, even crummy flats get snatched up in seconds and at exorbitant prices. This doesn’t motivate landlords and building managers to fix problems quickly and unlike in the US, the tenant doesn’t have as much power/rights. We have heard horror stories of landlords refusing to address problems like rat infestations and non-flushing toilets. The kinds of issues you definitely need resolved.

Additionally, most flat owners pay fees to building management companies (kind of like HOA dues) and those companies are supposed to maintain the building as a whole. The owners of the flats in our building recently banded together to fire their company because it had been taking their fees and not fixing anything for years at a time. It is hard for us to understand the complexities of how these things happen, but they do.

We are the lucky ones, our landlord is really reasonable and every problem we have ever had she has been great about. Except once our intercom stopped working and it took over a year to get fixed, I was pretty worked up about that for a while but the other day I found myself thinking “Remember when the intercom was the ONLY problem we had?” #nostalgia

But really, we can’t complain. We have had more serious problems since the intercom (like when our hot water boiler died while my mother in law was staying with us) and she has been really helpful and fast acting. The only trouble is, she lives in Asia so it can be challenging for her to work with the building management company, contractors, etc.

We contacted her and she asked us to touch base with the building to let them know about the problem. They came back basically saying “water falling into your flat from the sky? We don’t know anything about that, so it’s not our problem.” Sounds about right.

To make the situation even more fun, our neighbor below has noticed water stains on his ceiling. It doesn’t take an architect or an expert in gravity to have seen that one coming. He is concerned about the issue, understandably – because let’s face it, who wants someone else’s bathroom caving into their home?

So, we find ourselves caught in the middle of a disgruntled neighbour, a landlord in a far away timezone, unhelpful building managers and a bathroom that rains. All we can do is hope the weather clears up and gives us a break.

Right now, the seven day forecast looks pretty good. Of course, my expectations for “good” summer weather have certainly adjusted because I consider 60+ degrees and mostly cloudy a win these days. On the bright side – we don’t have rats, our toilet flushes and the intercom even works!


After our bank holiday weekend in Dublin, Eddie’s father and brother came back to London with us for a few days. We had to work during the day, but they kept themselves busy sightseeing and we met up with them for some dinners around town. Eddie’s whole family loves the Beatles so at the end of the week, a trip to Abbey Road was required. We had been waiting to see this famous crosswalk and studio until it could be shared with his family, so it was a big day and worth the wait!

The funniest part was watching American tourists timidly waiting for cars to pass before heading out into the crosswalk to get their photo. English drivers take crosswalks VERY seriously, stopping even if they think you might be crossing it but are actually no where near the edge of the street. This is obviously hard for American’s to understand considering you’re usually lucky if a car stops for you when you’re already in the road. And out of the hundreds of annoying tourists taking photos in the middle of the road only one got an angry beep. That pretty much sums up the cultural differences between Americans & the British. If you want to get a small dose of culture shock, there is no better place than Abbey Road.

Eddie’s Dad headed out for Berlin later in the week and Sean, Eddie and I decided to take the train to Liverpool and explore The Beatles sights.

We took a direct Virgin train to Liverpool which took about 2 and half hours. It was easy, comfortable and fast. Once we got to Liverpool we had to figure out the best way to get to the spread out Beatles sights. It ended up being easiest to take a bus to the furthest away points of interest first which included Strawberry Field and Penny Lane.

From there, we bus’ed back to the Cavern club and watched a cover band play some songs from the 60’s. Even at two in the afternoon there were many lively groups of birthday parties, bachelorette parties and groups of baby boomers reliving their youth – this time with smart phones and lots of photos and videos, oh boy!

Liverpool has undergone a massive restoration and walking along the newly cleaned up harbor was a treat. There are several museums, galleries and a pretty cool statue of the Fab Four, but good luck getting your photo taken without 1000 tourists in it! It was lucky that we happened to have beautiful weather, so being outside along the sea was ideal.

Before we knew it though, our day trip came to an end and it was time to get back on the train to London. Liverpool was a great day trip, and if you buy your train tickets far enough in advance it is not expensive to visit.

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Dublin, Ireland & a visit with family

I’m behind/unmotivated on blogging again, but should be catching up this week!

We have had plenty of visitors in London and this summer the guest list is pretty full. It seems like everyone always decides to come at the same time and who can blame them, you have to capitalise on the weather & cheap flights when you can.

Our latest visitors were Eddie’s father and brother. We met them in Dublin for the bank holiday weekend and then they came back to London with us. Having family visits makes it a little easier to be so far away and it was nice to get out of London for a change.

We met them in Dublin on Saturday and managed to hit a couple museums and do a little sightseeing before celebrating his brother’s graduation in Temple Bar with a few drinks. Dublin was absolutely on fire that weekend and the bars, streets and restaurants were filled with weekenders enjoying the scene. The weather was sublime, a rare treat for Ireland, so we were told.

Since they had taken a red eye from Boston, they were understandably falling asleep (literally) at the dinner table, so we called it an early night and let them get some rest. Our AirBnB slept us all comfortably, if there is one thing AirBnBs are great for, its group travel.

The next day we went to the Guiness factory which is pretty much a whole afternoon event. It’s kind of like the Disney World of Beer with everything except a roller coaster. In fact, they should really think about adding some kind of thrillride to round out the experience… I’m kidding, but probably people would love it. At €20 apiece for tickets, we didn’t mind getting the full experience. Your entry cost covers a pint, which you can either learn to pour yourself or have poured by a professional. We decided to learn how to do it ourselves, and I’m not gonna lie – I crushed it, but being a former college bartender certainly gave me a leg up.

The last day was by far my favorite because we ditched the city and took the train to the coast where there was a small seaside village with shops, seafood and beaches. We were very lucky with the weather and everyone was out and about enjoying the rare sunshine. We enjoyed the scenery, walked around and grabbed some fish and chips before jumping back on the train and heading to the airport.

Overall impression of Dublin? I’m glad I saw it but the real beauty in Ireland certainly can’t be found there. Perhaps it was the bank holiday weekend, but the streets were crammed and the city was on the dirty side. I think every Bachelor and “hen do” (Bachelorette party) chose the same weekend as us and the masses of drunken revellers got old pretty fast. I much preferred our trip to the Ring of Kerry last summer as far as sightseeing goes.

Only somewhat related rant –

We flew RyanAir this trip and both of our flights were drastically delayed. A delayed flight is always frustrating but RyanAir really manages to take that annoyance to a new level by not communicating with passengers at all. The flight home was delayed by 2 hours, and we didn’t find out until we had arrived at the gate. Turned out this wasn’t a freak last minute incident causing the delay, it was a backup they had been dealing with since that morning – why not just tell us via email, app, phone or even the screens at the airport (all of which they had access to). That way, we would have been able to leave Dublin later in the day and not sit eating crappy airport food, thinking of ways to badmouth RyanAir via all forms of social media and vowing never to fly them again… I mean really, it’s in the interest of your brand.

I haven’t dealt with the photos on my real camera yet, so here are a couple off my phone.



A long weekend in Switzerland

There are a few places that made the list from the beginning when we were planning to move to England. Switzerland was one of them but it took us a year and half to make it happen.

I looked into going there several times and found the planning process overwhelming. Not only are flights pricey but there are so many different options. Do we go in Summer or Winter? North or South? City or Mountains? Rent a car or buy a train pass? It also seemed like we needed a solid chunk of time to see anything worthwhile, so that meant saving it for one of our longer trips, rather than a weekend break. Each time I started looking into it I got annoyed and found a reason to pick another destination.

When it came time to plan a trip for the last bank holiday in the UK, I tried to get my head around Switzerland and finally decided to pull the trigger despite the fact that we didn’t have much time to make plans and it wasn’t really the ideal time of year to visit.

The first part of our trip was a bit rocky as we were trying to figure out Switzerland, get from Zurich to Lucerne and plan what to do with ourselves. We were also a bit shell-shocked by the prices of well, everything. One of our first meals cost us close to $40 for little more than a couple sandwiches. And the first activity we did, a trip up Mt. Pilatus via cable car, was $150 for the two of us. Ouch. To save money, we tried buying some meals at the local grocery stores instead of sitting down every night in a restaurant. This was probably healthier, but it got old pretty fast.

The day spent up Mt. Pilates was certainly $150 well spent, but it would have been a total waste if the weather had been poor. We got lucky and were treated to clear views at the summit followed by cloud covering and a little snow shower that only made the experience that much more picturesque. We rode out the snow squall underneath heavy wool blankets with a beer in our hand. It was one of those “is this real life?” moments.


On our second day we were faced with some pretty disgusting weather. It was pouring and cold and there isn’t a ton you can do in Switzerland with this kind of weather. Clouds were blanketing themselves over any possible hope of seeing the alps and I was pretty frustrated. I hate down time when traveling, what a waste. We tried to make the best of it by trudging through the rain and wind and hitting up one of the museums but when we got there, we figured out that a Swiss Rail Pass would allow us to get free entrance. We started thinking about that and our plans for the rest of the trip and realized it might make sense to purchase one.

After we purchased the pass, we were able to take the trains all over switzerland and it also meant we could visit most museums for free as well as take the bus and some cable cars. We took advantage right away by jumping on the first train from Lucerne to Bern. It was still a crummy day weather-wise, but at least this gave us something fun to do. We got a recommendation to take the slow train to Bern and even though the clouds were covering the Alps, the scenery was much nicer. In Bern we visited the home of Albert Einstein, now a museum. It was one of the smallest museums I have ever been to and frankly, it wasn’t all that interesting but it gave us the chance to warm up and dry off a little. We also walked up to a nearby hill that provided a good view of the city, even through the clouds and rain Bern was a pretty place and I’m glad we were able to see it and salvage the day.


The next day we put our rail pass to the test and headed for the heart of the Alps, the Berner Oberland. This train journey from Lucerne to Interlaken is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train rides in all of Europe and luckily the clouds were clearing just as we got to the good part. The scenery was so nice, we didn’t even mind the two hour ride. Not to mention the trains in Switzerland are amazing. Comfortable, spotless and fast. We took two more trains, a bus and a cable car (all included on our Swiss Travel Pass) to get to Murren, a small and remote village in the Lauterbrunnen valley.

We were very lucky that the clouds had cleared, allowing us to see the alps almost completely and the view down to the valley below. It would have been a major let down not to see the Alps on our trip, so I feel like we really lucked out! We wandered around the village and walked our way down to Gimmelwald, which Rick Steves raves about. It was adorable and we even met a local who was good friends with Rick!



Determined to make the most of our one day in the Berner Oberland, we visited a waterfall before catching a train to Grindelwald – yeah that is a different place from Gimmelwald. Grindelwald was dramatically beautiful also, and by this point there were some low hanging clouds that somehow only enhanced the view. By now, it was around 6PM and we had left the house at 7AM, so we were wearing out and still had 3 trains to catch before we were back. So we kept our visit in Grindelwald short, hiking around the nearby hills, and taking in the views before grabbing food for an on-train dinner. We got home late, but it was so worth it, this was by far my favorite day of the trip.

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Now that we had a train pass there was no stopping us and we were determined to get our monies worth in the one day we had left. So, on the last full day of our trip we devised a marathon plan to hit a new country and two cities. We took the train to Zurich, stashed our luggage in a locker and then jumped on a train to the border of Switzerland, from there it was a transfer to a bus which dropped us in Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein! Who has ever heard someone say, “I’m spending the weekend in Liechtenstein” or “I really want to go to Liechtenstein? No one. But it was a new country for us, and one that I am fairly confident we would NEVER have visited if we hadn’t gone then. Though small, it was a very pretty and inviting little country and the best part is you can see all of it in about 2 hours, which is what we did. We hiked up to the royal palace (yeah they have a King and Queen, who knew right?), we did some shopping and we even got our passports stamped. Not a bad little short visit.


After Liechtenstein we got a train to Basel, another main city in Switzerland that is known for its beauty. It didn’t let us down and we continued to be amazed with how much we were seeing and how worthwhile it all was. The trains are so efficient and easy that we had to resist the urge to choo choo off to yet another destination before finally resting our heads in Zurich. But we were tired, and we still needed to retrieve our luggage, grab some dinner and check into our hotel so we caught our final train back to Zurich.

In Zurich we didn’t do much more than walk around, eat some schnitzel and rest before heading to the airport. Zurich, much like the other cities we saw, had some very lovely streets and buildings, but the real beauty of Switzerland is definitely best experienced outside of the cities.

Though challenging to research beforehand, everything in Switzerland ended up working out and we were really pleased with the trip. I’d love to go back, but perhaps when I make my millions and can skip the grocery store dinners.




Italian Easter: Cinque Terre & Genoa

After Como, we made our way down to Genoa where we were going to spend Easter with some distant relatives of Eddie. Before that, we took some time to explore Genoa and traveled to Cinque Terre which was breathtaking. I wish we had spent more time there but you just can’t fit everything in Italy into 10 days.

Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 small fishing villages spread out between about 10km. Each village is linked to the next with hiking trails that wind through vineyards and olive groves as you walk along cliffs overlooking the ocean. These days, the villages themselves are all rather touristy, but it is hard to fault them for that when they offer such beautiful views and scenery. We enjoyed a glass of wine on a beautiful terrace and some of the traditional Foccacia, it was overpriced, but you pay for the view.

Our day in Cinque Terre was over too soon, but luckily we just barely managed to avoid a huge problem and made the last train before they all got delayed for several hours. That would have been a logistical nightmare and we might not even have made it back to Genoa that night. It makes you feel good when you dodge a bullet like this.


Because we didn’t want to impose on Eddie’s relatives for too long, we stayed in a hotel for the first two nights in Genoa concocting an elaborate lie to satisfy them that we didn’t need a place to stay for longer. Did I mention that they didn’t speak a word of English? Eddie had been furiously trying to learn Italian and was planning to rely on google translate to communicate. I was pretty worried about this, imagine spending 24 hours with people you have never met before, and can’t communicate with.

The family consists of Eddie’s grandfather’s cousin, his wife, their children, grandchildren and one “piccolo” great-grandchild. There is also an older gentleman that lives right next to the cousin and is about the same age. They go everywhere together but didn’t come to the Easter celebration, we are pretty sure he is a relative, but not positive.

Eddie has always known about these family members but he had only met the cousin and his wife once. His grandmother talks to these family members often, and they had invited us to stay with them on a couple other occasions but they always seemed pretty distant and far removed. Imagine our surprise when we show up at their house and they have pictures printed out from our wedding and a photo of Eddie as a teenager framed on the wall. Pretty adorable.

I knew that the older generation would be thrilled to have us as guests, but I was a little worried how the rest of the family would feel about us crashing their Easter. It could have been rather awkward.

As it turns out, family is family and everyone was extremely welcoming and happy to have us. The language barrier didn’t end up being a huge issue either. We did in fact use google translate and it worked pretty well. We sat down to Easter dinner around 2pm and didn’t get up once till around 5pm. There were 5 courses of amazing, completely homemade, italian cooking courtesy of a real life Italian grandmother. Does it get better than that? Probably not.

Throughout dinner more and more relatives kept arriving and each time, they would go through a chorus of “Ciao Federico!” “Ciao Edward!” “Ciao Sarah!” “Ciao Nonna!” Everyone gets an individual “Ciao,” so when there are twenty people in the room… this lasts a while. We were also joined by the youngest family member Michael, who decided I was pretty cool and sat on my lap, along with the family Chihuahua for a good 2 hours. Thank god for kid friendly mobile apps and selfie’s.

Everyone was extremely kind of us and we were blown away by their generosity. This was one of the top 10 bucket list items we wanted to do during our time living in Europe, so I am really glad we were able to make it happen and it was the perfect cap to our second Italian Easter.



Italy: Verona and Como

We traveled everywhere in Italy by train. They have such a robust network of trains that it was easy, comfortable and much cheaper than renting a car. Plus we didn’t have to deal with the headache of finding parking or swerving around crazy Italian drivers. After Venice, our next major destination was Lake Como, but we broke up the train journey by stopping in Verona for one night.

Verona turned out to be a really nice spot to visit. It was quiet, quaint and beautiful in a not so touristy kind of way. There isn’t a ton to do there except visit “Juliet’s balcony,” watch the sunset from a nearby hill and visit a colosseum (which was closed for construction when we were there.) We were only there for one day, so we enjoyed walking around, watching the sunset and eating some nice Italian food. Eddie even tried pasta with Donkey in it… tourist trap or local tradition? Who knows…


After Verona we made our way to Como where we stayed in an Airbnb. There is not a ton to do in Como itself, but the city is a great home base for exploring other parts of the lake and offers direct trains to Milan, so you don’t have to worry about taking a ferry or renting a car at the train station. Lake Como is where George Clooney lives and it is known for its lavish mansions and vacation homes for the rich. Again, we were there in the off season so the lake was quiet but there was still the occasional private helicopter flying by or elegant speedboat making its way along the lake. 

We filled our time with long walks along the lake, a hike from Como to Brunate and a ferry trip to Bellagio. The highlight for me was the hike up to Brunate, a village in the hills surrounding Como. From the top, we could see the Alps in the distance and somehow it was warmer and sunnier up above the lake.


Venice – Easter in Italy, Round 2

For the second year in a row we spent Easter break in Italy. This is definitely a tradition I can get behind and there is so much to see that I am pretty sure we won’t be getting bored of it anytime soon. Last year, we hit Rome, The Amalfi Coast, Naples and Pompeii. This time around we started in Venice and slowly made our way over to Genoa where we spent Easter with some of Eddie’s distance relations.

We arrived in Venice late at night and took the water bus from the airport to the city center. It was dark and chilly but I still enjoyed the view. We stayed in an Airbnb in Venice which saved us hundreds of euros and meant that we had an unbeatable location. I don’t always love Airbnb but our host was great and the flat was spotless.

The one downside to traveling in Italy for Easter is that it does mean being there in the off season. Last year, the Trevi Fountain was under construction and this trip, the iconic bridge in Venice was getting a facelift, which meant ugly scaffolding and drapes covering it up. That didn’t keep us from enjoying the rest of Venice’s most beautiful sights though and we spent the majority of time walking around and enjoying the ornate buildings, gondolas and of course, the food. 

We spent only one full day in Venice and many would argue that isn’t nearly enough. For us, it was perfect. A friend described Venice to me as “The ‘Disney World’ of Europe.” Even in the off season there were huge crowds of the worst type – loud and usually lost tourists who choose restaurants with pictures of food on the menu and hit you over the head with selfie-sticks. (Okay, I have a selfie stick too, but I don’t use it as a weapon.) There are tons of overpriced souvenirs and very little to buy that feels authentic or local. What can you do, there is a reason why people want to visit Venice and they aren’t wrong.