My family has always been big into traveling. I went on my first international trip when I was 2 (went to Canada to visit family). We had our annual summer vacation for 1-2 weeks. I have carried on that tradition in my married life so far, except for it being in the summer. I have this rule about going international in the summer. Don’t do it. Yes, I know Europe in the summer is fantastic, but I just don’t want to deal with big crowds and high prices. When my husband and I have children, I will have to take these trips in the summer most likely. Until then though, it’s all about spring and fall!
I have been very lucky to experience many different places and here are the international locations that I believe are worth the hype
Florence, Italy – I did my study abroad in Florence, so I am definitely biased. Seeing the Duomo leaves you with a sense of awe even if you are not an Architecture fan. Another point I don’t know if people realize is that Florence is relatively small. Florence’s current population (2017 figure) is a little over 382,000. Just the city of Los Angeles has 4 million people for a comparison. What makes Florence is it’s ability to feel like you can live there and be a tourist at the same time. Go to the Uffizi, but then you can walk 10 minutes away and be in a normal Italian neighborhood.
Positano, Almafi Coast, Italy – Since we are on the Italy theme, I will include Positano. Yes, it’s glitz, glamour, and expensive, but it’s fantastic, romantic, and relaxing. I went to Positano for the first time in September 2017 with my husband, Rich. It was my husband’s first time to Italy, so we hit up Venice and Florence and then we went onto Rome after Positano. It was great to experience a place together for the first time even though I had been to many areas of Italy. The main splurge on the trip was to take a private boat up and down the coast. It was completely worth the 400 euros. It was not a large boat by any means, but David, our captain, took us to these small coves and Rich was able to swim in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, I got a little sea sick and am not the best swimmer in rough waters, but watching the coast go by with my love was worth it.
Paris, France – Sabrina (aka Audrey Hepburn) was right. Paris is always a good idea. I have been to Paris three times: June 2006, March 2009, and February 2015. The trip in 2006 was a gift from my aunt upon graduating high school. We went to Paris before heading with the rest of my family to Sweden. March 2009 was with my parents and brother and then in 2015, I went with my husband as an early 1st wedding anniversary trip. The 2015 trip definitely put our hearts in perspective. Paris had just dealt with the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. You could see the armed police and military around, but it still felt like Paris. Going to Paris was different with my husband. (Maybe because I was excited I could afford to go to Paris with my own money! haha!) In all seriousness, the cliche romance comes alive. Since it was winter, we could cuddle into one another as we walked and have the city to ourselves. Another benefit of going in winter is experiencing the City of Light for a longer amount of time. I also didn’t feel as bad eating the great French food when it’s so cold outside.
Hong Kong – Going to China was #1 on my bucket list for a long time. The last stop on our extended family vacation was Hong Kong and I wish I wasn’t so tired! We were at the end of a two week vacation with my extended family, including my 88 year old grandmother. The magic of Hong Kong is similar to that of New York. It has glitz and glamour, but also an everyday hustle that is easy to get swept up in. Number one recommendation: stay on the Kowloon side (mainland). If you have the budget, stay in a bay front room, so you can watch the Hong Kong Island lights. You can easily take the Star Ferry or a taxi to the island. Kowloon is where you can go to night markets, new restaurants, and experience everyday life.
Istanbul – With on going tensions between the US and Turkey, I would be a little hesitant to go to Istanbul at the moment. But it is such a fascinating place to visit. It blends Western and Arab cultures and modern and ancient history together seamlessly. I spent a week in Istanbul after a week exploring other parts of Turkey with my brother. Roaming around the streets, visiting mosques and churches, and seeing modern Turkey reminded me that we have similarities though we seem so different. City life continues. Faith continues. Progress continues. It’s something all nations have in common.
Hot Air Balloon Ride over Cappadocia – If you go to Turkey, this is the number one thing I recommend doing. There’s is nothing in this world like floating over surreal landscapes. My brother and I were lucky enough to get upgraded to a smaller “tour.” There were only 9 people in the basket, including the pilot. The region is famous for its limestone. People use to carve out their dwellings high into the cliffs because of the limestone’s ability to harden when exposed to air. Seeing that landscape with all the balloons rising together was breath taking. It began my journey to have experiences are worth the money you spend (i.e. Positano above)
Where are some of your favorite places you have check of your list? Let me know in comments!
*All photographs are my own