The City of Echoes

Part 3 of our Eurotrip was Rome.  Be sure to read about Part 1 (Germany) and Part 2 (Venice) if you missed them.

On Wednesday, March 22nd, we took a train from Venice to Rome.  The train ride was very scenic and it went by fast (about a 3.5 hour ride).  Once we arrived in Rome, we picked up our Romapass, which is a pretty good deal if you are planning to see several major sights in Rome.  Then we took the metro to our airbnb.  (Get $40 in travel credit when signing up here for Airbnb!)

Our host was there to greet us and give us a map of the neighborhood, which included her recommendations.  Our flat was actually amidst some ruins and only a short walk to the Colosseum.  As Giotto di Bondone said, “Rome is the city of echoes.”

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There was an amazing cafe near our airbnb that served delicious coffee and donuts, so we were able to start the next day off right.


Then we walked to the Colosseum for a tour.  It was crowded (of course), but such an amazing sight.

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Next, we headed to the Roman Forum.  I was not expecting the Roman Forum to encompass such a huge area.  We actually spent several hours here.  Pretty incredible place!

We also got to see a cool view of the Colosseum.


IMG_4174Next, we walked up to Palatine Hill.  It was beautiful.

That night, we went by the Trevi Fountain and then met up with my parents (who were doing a Rick Steve’s Italy Tour) for dinner.  It was really nice to see them and discuss our travels thus far.

On Friday, we went to the Vatican.  I got to cross #88 off my adventure list – see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.  However, this was not my favorite part of the trip.  It was very crowded, especially in the Sistine Chapel.  We were also tired from all the walking we did the previous day at the Roman Forum.

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We had planned to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, but the line to get in was incredibly long so we didn’t even try.  We enjoyed the view from the outside, and then headed back to Rome.


Next, we headed to the Pantheon.  It was crowded, but still very cool to see.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Rome on our own.

We went inside some beautiful churches that we stumbled upon during our wandering.

We had dinner with my parents again that night.  Delicious food, amazing wine, and wonderful company.

K and I took a daytrip to Pompeii on Saturday.  We took an early morning bus which dropped us off right at Pompeii.  We decided not to buy a return ticket yet since we didn’t know how long we wanted to spend at Pompeii.  We figured that once we got there, we could find a bus station and buy a return ticket.  Unfortunately, we walked and walked and could not find a bus station anywhere.

Luckily, I had printed off alternate directions to the train station, so we decided we would just sort that out when the time came.  So we walked back and headed into Pompeii.

It was incredible.  I had not expected that Pompeii would be so spread out.  You can walk through the entire city – it was pretty amazing.  Since the area is so big, even if there are a lot of people there, it doesn’t feel crowded.  There were parts of Pompeii that we explored that made us feel like we were the only people there.

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We followed this little walkway and we weren’t sure where we were going to end up…

After spending most of the day here, we were exhausted.  We followed my directions to the train station and took a train to Naples.  From there, we were able to get a train back to Rome.  We were pretty relieved once we were on the last train – my directions panned out!

Sunday was our last day in Rome.  We met up with my dad for coffee, and then wandered around the city, ending back up at the Trevi Fountain.  My mom joined us for lunch before we parted ways for a few hours.

K and I went to Circus Maximus that afternoon, which was the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium.  It was the perfect place to relax with a cold drink on a sunny afternoon.  We also went by the Colosseum one last time.

We met up with my parents for our final dinner in Italy, where we reminisced our adventures, savored our pasta, and sipped some amazing Italian wine, but not for the last time.  We will be back.

On Monday, K and I planned to grab coffee and breakfast from our favorite cafe near our flat.  Alas, it was not open yet.  So we headed to the airport for our first flight, which was to Amsterdam.  We had a short layover and I bought some delicious waffle candy.  So good!


Then we boarded our flight back to the United States.  Goodbye, Europe.  We will meet again someday!  Until then, I will be dreaming of la dolce vita we lived while here.



Castles in Europe

Before I start blogging about this year, I want to share my adventures from last year.

It was a pretty big travel year for me.  I have been dreaming about going to Europe for years, specifically to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.  Last March, we made those dreams come true and I was able to cross #1 off my bucket list – tour castles in Europe.

And as always, along the way, we had many other adventures that weren’t on my list. I’ll start with Germany.  I did organize a fairly detailed itinerary for our trip to make things easier for us since we were traveling alone and don’t speak the language.  We also booked our airbnbs for all three cities (Munich, Venice, and Rome) before we left the States.  However, other than specific dates for each city, the rest of the itinerary was fairly flexible.

We started off our Eurotrip by flying into Munich on March 18, 2017 and arriving in the morning.  From the airport, we took a train to central station in Munich.  We had some difficulty figuring out how to buy a train ticket and then how to validate it, but luckily a local helped us out.


We couldn’t check into our airbnb until later that afternoon, so we stored our hiking packs at the central train station.  They have lockable boxes you can rent for pretty cheap.

Then we took a train and bus to Dachau Concentration Camp.  On the train, we met a very nice man from Australia who was also heading to Dachau.  I was relieved that the directions I found online of which train and bus to take from Munich to Dachau were accurate.

Dachau Concentration Camp was surreal.  K referred to it as a “sobering experience”.  The museum was very informative and interesting from a historical perspective, but it was of course very sad.  Apart from the museum, you are free to wander around the camp.  We spent several hours here – there is a lot to see.  The weather was cold and rainy – luckily we brought some warm hats!

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After we got back to Munich, we grabbed our bags and then headed off to find some lunch.  Unfortunately, we walked for ages and couldn’t find a single place to eat.  By this time, I also really needed to find a toilet, which proved to be more elusive than a restaurant.  This was a low point of our trip.  We were cold, wet, jet-lagged, hungry, in desperate need of a bathroom, and in a country where we don’t speak the language.  By some stroke of luck, we finally stumbled upon an Italian place as we headed back in the direction of the train station.  Although we would be in Italy in a few days, we decided to stop here anyway because it was warm, it was food, and there was a bathroom.  After a few minutes, our stress faded away.  I think the drinks helped with that.

We checked into our airbnb flat after lunch, which happened to be right next to the Italian restaurant.  Our home for the next couple days was very nice and close to the train station.

That night, we went to a beer hall that K read about online, called Augustiner.  This place was my favorite thing about Munich.  When we arrived, it was all community seating at big long tables.  We found what looked like the only empty spots, two seats next to each other across from a couple older gentleman.  It turns out that they were from Sweden, but they spoke German too and some English.  It was definitely a humbling experience for me to see that most people we encountered in Europe spoke more than one language.  I don’t think that we do a very good job of that in America.

We actually never found out the names of the gentlemen we sat with at Augustiner, but they were very nice.  It was pretty loud in the beer hall.  Their English was limited and our German was reliant on a pocket translation guide, with our Swedish being non-existent.  But despite language barriers, we had a fun night with those guys, who we affectionately referred to as Pieter and Marten from that night on.  The food was amazing and the beer at Augustiner was actually the first beer that I have ever liked.

As we were leaving, we met a really funny (and very intoxicated) English man who had us rolling with laughter.  All in all, it was a great night.

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Unfortunately, K woke up sick the next day with a bit of a travel bug.  This was the day we planned to take a train to Neuschwanstein Castle, and it was the only day we would be able to go as we were leaving Munich the following day.  I offered to go on my own while K rested at our flat, but despite being sick, he did not want to spend our last full day in Munich in bed.

We grabbed croissants and coffee for breakfast at the train station.  The train took about 2 hours and then there was a short bus ride to Hohenschwangau, the small town where the castle is.  The view on the train was very scenic.  Also, I just love trains.




We booked our tickets for both castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) in advance before our trip, but were able to upgrade to an earlier tour time once we arrived.  We toured Hohenschwangau Castle first, and then stopped for a quick lunch.  I had a delicious schnitzel sandwich and poor K, still sick, nibbled on a pretzel.

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We had a little bit of time in between the castle tours, so we went for a walk around the area.  There was a beautiful lake nearby.


Can you imagine waking up to this view every day?!


The lake water was so beautiful!

Finally, we made the trek up to Neuschwanstein.  I was pretty much bursting with excitement.  My ultimate travel goal was actually happening!  The sound is pretty soft on this video, but you can see the excitement on my face!

No photos were allowed inside the castle, but if you are ever in Munich, I would highly recommend that you take the day trip to Hohenschwangau.  The castles are amazing and the scenery in the area is absolutely beautiful.  This place was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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We were pretty tired by the time we got back to Munich and K was still feeling pretty bad, so we grabbed some food from the train station and took it back to our flat.  If he would have been feeling better, it would have been fun to have one last night out in Munich, but we decided to stay in so he could rest up for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, we took a bus to the airport.  We had some trouble finding the bus stop, and actually ended up running to make it on time.  Nothing like jogging with a heavy pack on your back in the early hours of the morning!

Once we got to the airport, our troubles were not over.  I had some difficulty getting through security because apparently I had too many liquids in my bag.  It was a little nerve-wracking to have problems at a foreign airport.  The security officer actually pulled my liquids out one by one to examine them, but most of them he referred to as “medicine”, such as my contact solution (“medicine for the eyes”), so these were excluded from the limit.  I ended up having to throw out one small container of dry shampoo that was almost empty anyway.

We departed Munich at 8:20 am on March 20th, 2017.  It was a quick trip, but we were able to see a lot in a couple days.

Next stop, Italia, but I’ll save that post for another day.


Under the Town

Number 132 on my list is “Take a boat tour of Bonne Terre Mine in Bonne Terre, Missouri.”  I think I first found out about it when I came across a photo on Pinterest.  When I saw that the mine was in Missouri, I knew I needed to go.  We made the trip in October with my parents.

One of the major highlights of the Bonne Terre Mine is the billion gallon lake, which is 17 miles long.  It was amazing how big the mine is (and we only saw part of it on the tour!)



The mine is kind of a big deal.  It has been featured in National Geographic and USA Today, among other publications.  It is best known for being a fantastic diving spot.  However, we skipped going underwater and went on the walking/boat tour instead.



I thought it was fascinating that there are 3 levels of the mine that are completely submerged in water, including a “ghost town” where the miners lived.  If you are into diving (or want to be), this would be such a cool place to explore!  It made me (almost) want to conquer my claustrophobic fears and jump in.

The tour itself was interesting and informative, and the mine was eerily beautiful.  I would definitely recommend that you stop by if you’re in the area.  It felt a bit surreal after the tour as we drove through Bonne Terre, knowing there was a whole other world under the town.


P.S.  My photos don’t really do the mine justice.  Check out this article by St. Louis Magazine for another look.

Adventure is Near

Number 104 on my adventure list is to travel to 15 new places/towns/cities/events within driving distance of where I live within one year.  I was really excited about this goal because taking grand trips isn’t always possible.  I was surprised to find that there are so many cool places that are close to where we live.

  • Lyons Mansion in Fort Scott, KS (March 2015).  We stayed in this beautiful bed and breakfast on our wedding night.  Our room was amazing and we enjoyed a very nice breakfast the following morning.  I would definitely recommend staying here if you’re ever in the area.  11169889_10204502686389464_9122851108080492586_n
  • Wallace State Park in Cameron, Missouri (May 2015).  We had a picnic lunch and went hiking here one afternoon.  We saw several deer on our walk.  It is a peaceful park.11254461_10205148929745144_2662140801566373161_n
  • Drum Circle Monday at Loose Park in Kansas City, MO (Summer 2015).  We spent several Monday nights this summer here with friends.  There were drums (of course), hippies (of course), and plenty of people watching opportunities.  Having a drink at the park with friends was a great way to make Mondays not so Mondayish.11745510_10204863212887352_804741153251768178_n11742818_10204863211727323_6551875589229498319_n
  • Corinthian Hall Museum in Kansas City, Missouri (June 2015).  This is a really interesting historic home in KC that you can tour.  I find it really interesting to explore old homes.  High, painted ceilings…fancy furnishings…it’s hard to imagine actually living in a place like that.11755079_10205148932105203_1835623140903898045_n
  • Cliff Drive in Kansas City, Missouri (June 2015).  Every weekend, Cliff Drive is closed to cars and open only to pedestrians and bikers.  This was a very scenic road and we had a fun time exploring here.  It was pretty quiet during our afternoon here.  It was almost a bit creepy as it had an abandoned feel with no cars and very few other people. 11173322_10205148933865247_479027777847153680_n
  • Sioux Falls Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (July 2015).  We stopped here on our way back home after our roadtrip to North Dakota to visit friends.  This was a cool little museum and it was worth the stop.  IMG_1794IMG_1789
  • Lantern Fest in Wichita, KS (July 2015).  In one word – magical.  Read more about our adventure at the Lantern Fest here. 11705188_10205069744285557_2331137236662233132_n
  • Louisburg Cider Mill in Louisburg, Kansas (October 2015).  We went here with some friends for the corn maze, cider, and delicious cider donuts.  This was the perfect fall activity.  This was also K’s very first corn maze.    12038312_10205664542595143_8106030887305856768_n
  • IKEA (October 2015).  We finally broke down and went to IKEA.  This place is HUGE.  It was all a bit overwhelming.  Somehow we managed to leave without buying anything.  12063779_10205664888043779_4535771982979732346_n
  • Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, MO (November 2015).  What a creepy but interesting place.  It was neat to learn the history of psychiatric hospitals.  I think we especially enjoyed this museum as our backgrounds are in psychology.    IMG_2668
  • Oregon Trail Landmark in Saint Joseph, MO (November 2015).  Pretty cool to imagine what it would have been like for the pioneers when they first came across the Missouri River.  We had a nice time exploring the area and seeing the sunset on the river.  12308655_10205869138629916_4330478030340237096_n
  • Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Kansas City, MO (November 2015).  This was a cool place to visit with lots of history.  It is also (apparently) the spot to take family photos, because everyone was doing it.  I would like to go back during one of their events as all the buildings are apparently open then.  During our visit, we had to peer through windows to see inside.  12191049_10205734476903457_8679000225760285273_n
  • Harrah’s Casino in Kansas City, MO (November 2015).  We randomly decided to go to a casino one night.  This was K’s first casino in the States and my first one in Kansas City.  We left with more money than we went in with, so I’d call that a successful night. casino.jpg
  • Vaile Mansion in Independence, MO (December 2015).  This place has a really interesting history.  It was built as a private residence.  Only a year or two passed before Mrs. Vaile died.  Our guide said it was an accidental overdose of laudanum, which Mrs. Vaile took for pain (she had stomach cancer).  However, there are speculations that she may have committed suicide as her husband was currently on trial for fraud.  After Mr. Vaile died, the mansion became a nursing home for many years.  Based on a google search I did, it seems that many people feel the mansion is haunted.  What I read online says that the mansion served as an asylum for many years; however, our tour guide never mentioned this so I’m not sure if that is accurate.  It was very bright and cheerful inside when we visited, all warmly decorated for Christmas.  The outside was a bit creepy, though.
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  • National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, MO (December 2015).  This was such a cool museum about the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails.  There were some fun interactive exhibits, too.  We got to pack a covered wagon with supplies.  We also got to spin a wheel to see if we would strike it rich in the gold rush.  I feel like I learned a lot at this museum.  Would definitely recommend it. pioneermuseum


    Got our wagon packed!

  • Chicago Alton Depot Museum in Independence, MO (December 2015).  This was an unexpected stop for us.  The staff at the National Frontier Trails Museum recommended we stop by the train depot, which is right next to the Trails Museum.  We got a private tour of the depot from a very nice man named Marvin.  It was worth the stop, we got to learn some interesting things and have a nice chat with Marvin.  I am fascinated with trains anyway, so I had a fun time here.
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Well, I made it to 16 new places within one year.  Even though I can officially check this goal off my list, I plan to keep searching for interesting places to explore that are within driving distance.  If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!