Europa – Take II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about slowing things down on a recent trip to Europe – mentioning that it would be part one of a soon-to-come saga. Welp, part two is now here!

Throughout our trip, I microblogged our adventure on Twitter and Instagram – so if you’re interested in knowing more in-depth details, you’ll want to check out those resources. Here, I plan to give a little enlightenment on a new style of travel that my wife and I took.

Typically, when we travel, we have to plan everything ahead of time. Otherwise, we’d waste 90% of our time going back and forth with the notorious “What do you want to do?” / ”I don’t know” conversation that I’m sure most can relate to on at least some level. I had a few ideas jotted down in a note on my computer, but I forgot to transfer them to my phone prior to leaving and made a last-minute decision to not bring my computer – which is why I’m writing this now instead of three months ago. This poor decision making also led to our need to take an overpriced cab from the Zurich airport and a bus from the Barca airport to our hotel. We weren’t as affected in Italy since I speak Italian and know the regions we went to fairly well.

This trip was unique for us – sure, we made some plans, but our mission here was to do exactly what I talked about in my last post: slow down… and to experience cultures of the world. We planned next to nothing for our trip outside of the cities we would visit.

I’ve already talked about our flight to and fro, so we won’t get into that. When we landed in Zurich, we had a few things planned, but nothing concrete, just places we wanted to see. Luckily, we found a park to relax in until our hotel was ready. After hanging out for a while and going back to the hotel to get some sleep, we wandered the city, which was quite amazing. The views and architecture was breathtaking – especially looking out over Lake Zurich.

We found a spot to sit down and eat dinner – quick FYI here: everything in Switzerland is expensive!!! I’m a picky eater, so we didn’t have many options for dinner… especially since I’m not big into Swiss/German cuisine. We found a place with a Caribbean/American-style food and grabbed a table… which happened to also be an old out house. Yes, there was a hole in the bench that my wife was sitting on for people to shit in – luckily, it wasn’t really utilized (at least in the past few years of modern plumbing)!

We grabbed a burger a piece since we were still feeling a little off after our flight. The food was “eh”, at best; so, we jetted off to wander around and watch the sunset on the lake – highly recommended.

The next day, we walked through Old Town, Zurich a few times and up and down Bhanhofstrasse, a famous shopping street in Zurich – wayyyy too expensive for our taste (at least for now, anyways J). Following wandering the city for a while, we went out adventuring again, climbing up to the top of Uetliberg and hiking our way down prior to our departure for Barcelona.

Initially, our plan was to only travel within Italy, giving us plenty of time in every city/region we wanted to visit. However, when we started looking through the tickets and travel options, we had a long layover in Barcelona – why not stay for a day and explore?!

Which is exactly what we did.

I’ve always wanted to go to Barcelona – I studied abroad in Italy, but wasn’t able to make the trip while I was there, so this was a first. I had been told by numerous friends, family members and acquaintances to visit the city… and I took wayyyy too long to go.

Upon arrival, we took a bus to an area near our hotel and crashed for the night. We had ordered an Hola BCN card, which I’d recommend for anyone traveling to the city for transportation. The next morning, we went to Camp Nou to tour the stadium and museum before meandering our way through the city.

One thing we didn’t get to do that I wish we had was Park Guell, but we did get to go down by the beach (not to the beach, but nearby for Tapas at the recommendation from a friendly couple we met in Zurich), saw the Arc de Triomf and experience La Ramblas for a while. We stayed in the Gothic Quarter, so we were nearby to the La Ramblas – getting a meal outside on one of the busier streets/tourist attractions was an awesome experience, putting us right in the middle of the melting pot of culture.

Our stay in Barcelona (not to be confused with “Barthelona”, Janet) was quite short – almost exactly 18 hours; so, we didn’t get to do too much, but it was still a great time nonetheless.

The following morning, we got up bright and early to start our Italian journey – my favorite part of the trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love new experiences, but I have been dying to get back to Italy since the minute I left five years ago.

Side note – for those unaware – traveling within the EU, specifically the Schengen region is not only easy, but it’s quite cheap. We found flights all on our own, using email promos, google searches and various flight search engines like Kayak, SkyScanner and Google Flights. My great aunt is travel agent, so we requested some info from her agency – unfortunately, we were bummed with the result. We were able to cut about $1,500 off of our price tag by booking ourselves on this occasion – wake up call, everyone: do your own research to get more bang for your buck. We not only got better transportation options (although not private chauffeurs), better hotels, better proximities to locations we wanted to visit and better flights than we would have by going through an agent.

We arrived in Naples, Italy around 10 AM local time, again, we had not planned out our travel to the hotel we were going to in Sorrento very well since I had left my computer – I knew we could take a ferry or the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento, but we had run into a few other Americans that were looking for a bus to Sorrento, so we tagged along with them. Luckily, they knew about the bus, I knew how to speak/read Italian. So, as we wandered through the airport looking lost, I was able to gain a sense of direction for us and find our pickup spot. The bus was quite cheap, so we decided it was better to go this route than cab and/or bus to a train or ferry station, then pay for the train/ferry from there.

We got to the city center – which was almost exactly the same as the last time I visited, making it easy to navigate. We grabbed a cab, headed to the hotel for a shower and headed out on the town for adventure and dinner.

Disclaimer: Sorrento is one of my favorite cities – so I was eager to show my wife around and let her experience for herself the beauty and people of the city. We walked down from our hotel that overlooked the Bay of Naples – an interesting walk to say the least: single-file sidewalk that you still almost get hit by cars and motorcycles passing by on the road.

We made it back into the center of the city and went to grab some pizza for lunch. Because I could, I ordered a Peroni and took it ‘to go’. We walked down to the port and marveled at the cliffs for a short while before going back up to city-center to window shop. After all, this was day one, so we found a place to sit down for a while and enjoy a nice meal on the side of a busy walkway. If you ever find yourself in Sorrento, I highly recommend Sedil Dominova. You’ll know when you’ve gotten there since Salvatore will be outside greeting you in multiple languages. The man has an art to getting people to sit down at the restaurant he represents. (The tables are outside, across the ‘street’ from the actual restaurant).

We sit down next to a couple of loud-mouthed Brits – not generalizing, stating fact here – they were LOUD… and quite obnoxious. Our waiter is already annoyed when he sees that we are American since he has all of the tourists in his section. To lighten the mood, I spin up a conversation with him in Italian – nothing too crazy, but just to let him know I’m interested in learning their culture and not being a dumbass tourist. A few minutes later, the owner walks by to check on a few things; he stops by our table and we start talking – lovely old man who loves his city and the people that come and go; he couldn’t have been friendlier if he tried (unless, of course, he comp’d our bill).

Let’s be real, you can’t go wrong with food or restaurant choice in Italy, so you’ll have options; regardless of where you end up, you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy it.

We have a few drinks with dinner and are joined by yet another British couple after the others leave. We engage in some friendly conversation and enjoy a few drinks together – why not?! After all, our tables are only separated by a matter of inches.

After a few bottles of wine and some limoncello, we decide to call it a night. By that, I mean we head back to the hotel, bottle in tow, to have a quick night-cap.

In the morning, we head to Capri – which deserves a post of its own.. so, I guess you’ll have to come back to read more about it.

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