Category Archives: Europe

Moving Onwards

Living in eastern Europe has been an incredible experience. I have traveled to many places and have learned so much from my experiences abroad. As my days in Portugal come to a close, and I look to continue onwards; I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate all of the ‘Onwards’ photos we have taken thus far! Enjoy!

Parents in Portugal

It is crazy to say, but I have been living in Portugal for months now! It has been an incredible experience, and I have even been able to pick up a new language while out here — not to mention a few extra pounds.

With all of the good news I have been reporting back to the homeland, I have finally convinced my parents to join in on the fun. They came out here for 10 days, and they had an incredible time. We explored through Lisbon together and enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine, but the best part about the visit was when we ventured out. We wanted to see what Portuguese wine country was all about so we chose to visit Alentejo, a well-known wine and culinary capital to the local Portuguese.

Upon our arrival to Evora, a city within Alentejo, we approached our hotel with utter amazement. I found this hotel, which seemed to be in the middle of no where, on the SPG site and booked it without thinking too much, so I didn’t expect too much from it. We quickly found out that it was a converted 15th century convent! It was one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in —hands down. After checking in, we were taken on a tour of the property and were then escorted to a wine tasting in the ancient wine cellar that used to house monks!

After the wine tasting we were then shown the church grounds, where they regularly hold weddings and other events. We enjoyed learning about the hotel and indulging in some of the best Portuguese cuisine ever, but the following day was only going to raise the bar.

We drove about another hour from the hotel to arrive at one of our favorite Portuguese vineyards, Herdade Esporao, where we spent the entire afternoon. Esporao is one of the largest and most well known vineyards in all of Portugal, and we were lucky enough to take advantage of it before we all left the beautiful countryside. We went on gastronomic adventures, wine flights, and even olive oil tastings.

Everything was perfect. I don’t think I have ever had such an immersive culinary adventure. It was really an unforgettable experience, and I am so glad my parents were able to be there to share it with us. (That, and I am also thoroughly happy that I had my camera to memorialize it all!)

Rekindling Old Memories in Milan

So, we took a last minute train ride to Milan for a few reasons: 1) It is an amazing city that Gesy and I spent some time in almost 6 years ago when both of us had been studying abroad in Europe, 2) the little sisters had never seen Milan before, and 3) we needed to catch a flight out of Milan the next day.

Milan is a really fascinating European city! Primarily because it doesn’t “really” feel like a European city. It is hit or miss, I have spoken to people who hate it and never want to return, and I have also spoken to people who rave about it (me included). One of the biggest things I have learned throughout my travels: You must be prepared, both mentally and physically, to travel anywhere in the world. If your expectations dictate something that is not consistent with how you prepared yourself then no matter where you have gone or will go — you will not have an optimal experience.

When coming to Milan, one needs to prepare for a large New York-type city. Although there is much culture, fashion, shopping, food, etc. Milan has the “big city” stigma associated to it, and that is the main reason it is not frequented by many tourists.

Milan is the financial hub of Italy and, more interestingly, the fashion hub. It is like no other place I have experienced in this world. When you land in the airport there are more Armani signs around the landing strip than runway status lights! Whether it is going to dinner, grocery shopping, or just relaxing with friends, you will be surrounded by models at every step of the way. There were many instances where I felt that I was the only person in a place that wasn’t a model! Was a pretty unique feeling!

If you like big cities definitely check out Milan — it is a place you will never forget.

Fashionable Florence

Florence is one of the few cities in Europe where I can really see myself spending a lot of time. It offers the European charm while providing a more wholesome view of its culture without many touristy distractions like many other places.

It is a city situated on the Arno River and is home to one of the most beautiful and famous bridges in the world, the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge). It is a medieval stone arch bridge, which is inhabited by countless jewelry shops, and is definitely a site to see  for those visiting Florence.

The food in Florence is also something out of this world. Italy in general has great food, but I had some of the best food I had ever eaten in the world while in this city. From blueberry steak to chocolate pasta, the creativity behind the dishes was like something I had never seen before in Europe, and I was all for it!

After we spent a few days in Florence we hopped back onto one of our favorite European train rides and headed to Milano!

A City-Wide Museum: Rome, Italy

Revisiting Rome was an interesting experience. I had visited when I was younger, however I was never able to understand what was really at play. The city is incredible in countless ways; from priceless photo backdrops to some of the best food out there, Rome caters to all sorts of people from across the globe. It’s logical that it is the most frequented tourist destination in the world; consequently, it is not an odd occurrence to hear multiple languages being spoken in what is considered to be a ‘back-street’. Rome provides a level of international exposure that few other cities in the world come close to and that is just one of the ways this city is so fascinating.

Thanks to our guys over at SPG, we were put up in a pretty incredible room for the weekend, and even our room looked like a museum!

We saw the must-see attractions such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the Sistine Chapel among others — and we were able to capture some pretty memorable photos!

After we were done with Rome, we hopped on the Frecciarossa and took it to our next destination, Firenze.