Zakynthos, Greece

One of our favourite trips of all time was about two years ago when we spend a long weekend in  Santorini, Greece.   When we sat down  this spring to decide where we should visit for a long relaxing weekend, we both quickly agreed on going back to a Greek island.  We settled on Zakynthos as it was super easy to reach and offered some great resorts.

This will quite possibly be my shortest blog post, as we pretty much spent 90% of the time lying by our resort’s infinity pool overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea.  The remainder of our time we spent on our motorcycle winding through the olive tree farms to see the dramatic coastline or out to eat the most incredible Greek food.

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How we spent our whole first day 🙂

For our first night on the island, Dan found the most amazing Greek restaurant for dinner, Bassia.  We actually ended up loving it so much, we went a total of 3 times throughout our week there!

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The next  morning we drove across the island over to Porto Limnionas, a sheltered cove for swimming.  The 1.5 hour drive was so beautiful, passing through olive farms, vineyards and tiny little towns.  When we arrived to our lunch destination, we were greeted with the cutest little restaurant set high above the cove overlooking the most crystal clear turquoise waters!  After a quick bite, we climbed down the steps to the water where we went swimming and explored the caves.  I couldn’t believe how clear the water was – you could see the sandy bottom the whole time and the water was at least 30 feet deep!

That night’s dinner treated us to one of the best views on the island. Lofos Pizzaria is set up in the hills, overlooking the middle valley of the island.  It is quite the trek to get to on a motorcycle…lots of hairpin turns and a steep climb!  But after a somewhat eventful trip there, we made it in one piece and enjoyed some Greek pizza and a perfect sunset!

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The next day, we did nothing but move from the pool to the beach 🙂 It was perfection!

IMG_3918In the evening, we rode over to another incredible Greek restaurant.  The entire “dining room” is set outside, underneath a canopy of greenery and fairy lights.  It’s magical!

For our last excursion, we drove across the island and to the north to see the Island’s most famous sight – Shipwreck Beach!

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From there, we explored another beach, Xigia Beach.  This area is incredibly unique, as the water has a layer of collagen on the top!  The natural springs flow sulphur and collagen, making the water feel silky and smooth against your skin (although quite stinky too!).

 

For our last night, we went back to our favourite restaurant where the staff treated us to a “going away” meal which included 5 courses of their best Greek dishes.  It was an unforgettable meal, and we made some great friends that we hope we can go back and visit some day.

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We were really lucky to have a late evening flight back to London and were able to spend the WHOLE day pool and seaside again.  It was the perfect trip.  We were able to actually relax, read (and finish!) books and soak up the Greek sun.  I cannot recommend this place enough, particularly our hotel.  It was a 10/10.

Venice, Italy

Last week I was SUPER lucky to have one of my friends come visit us in London.  Courtney and I went to university together and met each other on the women’s hockey team.  We instantly became friends and she’s been by my side ever since.  She even stood up next to me on our wedding day as one of my bridesmaids.  Just before we moved to London, she started dating her boyfriend, Dan.  As we were leaving, I never had the chance to meet him – so when they arrived in London it was our first chance to meet.  And it was hard to believe by the end of the week we had just met – we loved Dan – I mean it doesn’t hurt that his name is also Dan ;)! The four of us had such a wonderful time together.

They arrived Saturday morning and without skipping a beat, we took off for a quick tour of some of the London sights.  We started with a walk through Hyde Park to see Kensington Palace.  After a quick pub lunch nearby, we made our way up to Notting Hill to stroll through Portobello Market.  It’s so easy to forget about these incredible streets and markets when we’re busy living our fast paced London life, so it’s extra special to go back and visit these places with friends and see the excitement on their faces when seeing it for the first time.

That evening we met up with the Ives and Phelps for a night of darts.  Flight Club is easily one of our favourite group hang out spots.  The atmosphere is so much fun!  After a few hours of hitting the bullseye, we made our way over to a speakeasy for some cocktails and live music.  Again, I just love having our US friends in town to visit.  Dan and I love London so much, and it’s so amazing to show our friends the city we’ve made our home.

 

Sunday was a full day of sightseeing.  We started with brunch at Dishoom before making our way across the city.

 

On Monday,  Dan  and I had to go to work for the week while Courtney and Dan made their way over to Paris then Munich.  Courtney’s brother and family live in the Munich area so they were able to spend some quality family time!

Friday night we all met back up in Venice! We had the cutest Airbnb! It had a fab terrace where we enjoyed many, many pizza’s and vino!  We were so lucky to have stumbled upon an uhh-mazing pizza shop just near our apartment on the first night.  We ended up visiting them every day (I think maybe even twice in one day?).

All day Saturday was spent sight seeing.  We quickly checked off all of the main tourist sites in the area.  These areas were SO busy with people, so we wanted to make sure we saw them and then were able to spend the rest of our time enjoying the quieter spots of Venice.

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Saturday evening was probably the best part of our trip.  Our apartment’s concierge service connected us with a local boat owner/guide (Marco) for a sunset cruise around the islands and canals.   Marco was incredible!  The five of us quickly became friends as we cruised around enjoying local prosecco and snacks.  The gondola’s on the main canals in Venice are SO expensive and touristy.  Again, it was nice being able to enjoy the quieter side of Venice and he even took us out to Burano which is one of the most colourful islands in the area!  The three hours with Marco flew by, and we all struggled to say goodbye and not book him again for the next evening!  I would HIGHLY recommend going with Boat Skipper Marco if you’re planning a visit to Venice in the future!

Sunday was spent meandering around and enjoying all of the hidden gems Venice has to offer.  All of the bridges, canals, boats, cute buildings make it so easy to just walk for hours.  And not to mention all of the homemade pasta shops and gelaterias! I also can’t believe I’ve made it this far without mentioning Bellini’s!  Venice is the home to the Bellini!  Prosecco and fresh peach juice – how can  you go wrong?  We made many pit stops along the way to enjoy fresh Bellini’s and spritz’ throughout the weekend!

 

 

 

We flew back to London early Monday morning for one last day of exploring and spending time together.  After a bike ride through the city, we ended up at Louis Vuitton where Courtney and I decided to celebrate our friendship with matching handbags 🙂  We had so much fun picking them out then flaunting them around the streets.

 

On our last evening together, we went to one of our favourite food markets, Mercato Metropolitano, for dinner before capping our trip off with drinks at the top of the Shard.  We had such a great time with Courtney and Dan!  The hardest thing about living abroad is not being close to friends and family.  And it’s even harder to say goodbye after such a special week together.  But…we’re already trying to plan our next trip together!

 

Lisbon, Portugal

If you follow us regularly, you’ll probably notice both Dan and I have been travelling a lot for work.  Our last weekend trip was stapled onto a work trip Dan had in Oslo, Norway  and this time it was my turn to travel for work and have Dan come visit me on the weekend!  I’m working on some really cool projects across Europe right now, and lucky for me, two of them are in Portugal.  After a few days in Lisbon and Porto for work, Dan joined me Friday evening for a weekend of exploring.

For some reason (which were both still not entirely sure why) we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. We rarely do this, but it ended up working out great as it got us quickly to some of the main sites…although in retrospect, we only used the bus about 2, maybe 3 times 😉

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First stop:  Belém Towera stunning tower structure that from afar looks like it is floating off of the Lisbon shoreline.

After snapping a few photos and walking along the shore, we walked over to Pasteis de Belem, the world famous bakery known for its Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts)!  We were warned that the queue would be quite long, but it would be worth the wait.  Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes before we had the most delicious, warm custard tarts in our possession!  Unlike a lot of places that are very hyped up about being “the best”, this place totally lived up to the hype – they were outstanding!  Totally worth it if you’re in the area!

A quick Uber away (not the bus :)) was the, also very famous, TimeOut market, where we enjoyed some delicious lunch.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around various neighborhoods, while gawking at all of the gorgeous architecture and TILES. I fell in love with the tiles.  I took close to 100 photos of buildings and tiles.  We even ended up visiting a tile shop to purchase some to bring home with us!

That evening we had a really good Portuguese dinner at a really cool, funky restaurant and topped off the night with some incredible wine at what is now possibly my favourite wine bar ever.  The entire building was covered in beautiful green glass wine bottles and their service and selection was FAB!

On Sunday we did a bit more exploring, but mostly just enjoyed relaxing and walking in the sunshine.  We had the most perfect weather while in Lisbon, about 65-70 degrees and sunny the entire time.  We loved the food, the wine, the culture, and just about everything!

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I’m so grateful that I am able to work on a project in this incredible country!

My mom visits London & Almafi Coast

A few weeks ago, my mom was able to make the trip over to London! We were excited to show her our London life.  We spent a whole week in London showing her all of the hot spots and sharing all of our favourite local places.  We did an afternoon tea at Kensington Palace, brunch at Duck & Waffle, a river ride down the Thames, saw Wicked the musical, had coffee and macaroons at Laudree, checked out Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. It was full on London!

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After getting her acquainted with London life, we took her over to Italy for the weekend to show her a bit more of Europe.  We flew in and out of Naples, which is the perfect gateway to the Almafi Coast.  We spent the morning of our first day there exploring the Pompeii and Hurclean area.

From Pompeii, we drove (ahem – Dan drove) the super windy, beautiful roads over the mountains to the Almafi Coast.  We stayed in a little village just south of Almafi town.  It was beautiful!  Our hotel had an amazing balcony with views of the sea and coast line and a fun rooftop bar where we enjoyed a night cap watching the sunset over the coast.  We spent the afternoon laying on the beach and swimming in the sea before heading into Almafi for some shopping and a wonderful pasta dinner on the water.

The next day we drove the entire Almafi coast from Almafi over to Sorrento.  It was incredibly beautiful!  Although we were only in this area for less than 24 hours, we decided we liked this area much better than the Cinque Terre area.  Much less crowded and stunning 360 degree views from every angle!

From Sorrento, we hopped on a ferry to go spend one night on the island of Capri.  It’s a quick 30 minute ferry and the views when you arrive are breathtaking.  To be fair, every view once you’re near, or at Capri, are breathtaking!  Our AirBNB for the night was up at the top of the island which provided some great sunset views.  We spent the afternoon down at the beach in the turquoise water and the evening indulging in more delicious Italian pasta.

The next day we took a boat tour around the whole island.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a day out on the boat.  Capri was lovely.  We loved it.  It’s quite touristy, but we went in the shoulder season, so it was just perfect.  The food was incredible, the people were nice and the scenery was gorgeous.  It would be a great place to go back to for a relaxing weekend, as there isn’t much to actually do.

We ended with a ferry ride back to Sorrento and a drive to the Naples airport.  We made a quick pit stop in Naples to walk around and grab one last gelato before dropping the car off.  It was a great weekend and it was nice to be able to show my mom how we do our short weekend trips!

My mom left London the day after we returned from Italy…and I started a new job! It was great finally getting her over to Europe!  We love showing our friends and family our life over here!

 

French Rivera & Cinque Terre

It’s hard to believe that SIX years ago Dan and I exchanged “I do’s” and promised our lives together forever.  I feel so blessed to share my life with my best friend and adventure all around the world with him.  For our anniversary, we decided to take another road trip.  This time we went to the French Rivera and Cinque Terre, Italy.  We decided to make it a long weekend as it was our anniversary! We did a nice loop, starting and ending at Nice. It was a lot of mileage, but the views along the way were unbeatable!

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We flew in Thursday morning and grabbed our rental car.  We checked into our hotel and quickly hit the beach.  Our hotel was located in a quiet, secluded area between Nice and Monaco which provided us with the most amazing little cove of private beach.  We spent the afternoon floating in the turquoise water and walking along the coast.  That evening we went into Nice’s city centre to have dinner and drinks.  We found this amazing cave restaurant where we feasted on great Charcuterie and cheese and had great wine.

The next morning we drove into Monaco.  I’ve never seen so much wealth in such a small concentrated area!  Dan was in super car heaven, as every 2 minutes another insane super car would drive by!  And the yachts…don’t even get me started!  It was unreal how large these “boats” were…and how many of them there were!  Not just one or two big boys…we’re talking hundreds!  I thought some of them were cruise ships…but no…just private family boats 🙂 Monaco was a lot of fun.  You probably don’t need more than a half a day there, but if you’re in the area, it’s 100% worth checking out.  We really enjoyed it.

 

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After lapping in the luxury, we hopped back into our little European car and started making our way over to Portofino.  Of course, after about an hour of driving, we had to stop on the side of the road for a dip in the water 🙂

The stretch of drive from Monaco to Portofino was our favourite of the trip.  The expressway follows the coast and ducks in and out of mountains the whole way.  Bridge, tunnel, bridge tunnel, bridge, tunnel…you get the point!  It was really beautiful.  We arrived at our AirBNB just outside of Portofino (in Rapallo) in the early evening where we freshened up and headed into Portofino for dinner.  What a night it turned out to be!  About 10 minutes into our drive we were stopped by the police!  We were informed that as Portofino is really small, they weren’t letting any more cars in for the evening because it was already full.  After a few minutes of discussion, we were somehow allowed to advance and try to get in.  We found a parking spot and quickly found out the reason why the town was shutting down…Ferrari was hosting an event in the town square, literally taking up the entire space! They were holding the world premiere of their new Ferrari Portofino!  The whole town was lined with a red carpet, massive tents, fancy tables and guest dressed to the nines!  We clearly didn’t fit in…ha!  We were able to walk around the edges of the town and catch the views from the peripheral.  Our dinner plans were also thwarted as Ferrari had booked out every restaurant on the waterfront…!  But we were able to grab a pizza 🙂 It was quite the scene and we really enjoyed the environment.  It was a bit unfortunate that we weren’t able to do Portofino as we had hoped, but we got to see the premiere of the car and walk the red carpet which was quite fun!

 

20170909_155550The next morning we made our way down the Italian coast for the Cinque Terre portion if our trip.  Cinque Terre (CT) literally means 5 towns; and these towns are cute little colourful towns built into the seaside cliffs.  We stayed in the most southern town, Riomaggiore.  We ran into a few hiccups during our time in Cinque Terre.  Our main plan for our time there was to hike from our town up the the northern most town, Monterosso.  Unfortunately, the hiking trails from our town up to the third town were closed for repairs.  Okay…so we start at the third town and make our way from there!  We bought our tickets (you have to have a trail pass to walk the trails), and started our trek!  We hiked for about 10 minutes when we reached the first trail checkpoint to show our passes…and were informed that all of the trails are closed for the day because there is a “chance of rain”.  SO – during our few days in CT, because there was a chance of rain in the forecast, we weren’t actually able to hike at all! It was super unfortunate as we love hiking and there really isn’t much else to do in the area besides take in the views!  (Oh – and it only rained at night! The sun was out during most of the day!)

Luckily, our friends Gina and Charles ended up being in CT the same time as ourselves so we are able to hang out and make the most of it!  We took the train from town to town, ate a lot of pasta, pizza and gelato, drank incredible wine and spent a lot of time relaxing!

Cinque Terre was beautiful!  Although we had some unfortunate circumstances, we were glad we went and we’re able to see it.  I do think the area has become overrun with tourists.  We felt like we were in Disney Land being shuffled around with all the other tourists.  It’s sad that the natural beauty and history of the area is now overshadowed by pushy foreigners.

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We also managed to shoot a beautiful six year anniversary photo!  We’re past the point of being able to take selfies now – need two hands!

Six Years!

For our last day, we had intended to stay in CT for the full day, but as the trails were still closed (with no rain…) we decided to make our way over to Parma to check out the home of Parmesan cheese!

We went to Hombre Farms for a tour of the Parmesan cheese process.  They are a unique farm because they are a fully closed circuit.  Meaning, everything comes from just them!  They grow the feed for their cows and their cows provide everything for the cheese. And they are 100% organic.  The owner is also an avid car collector, so we were able to walk around his “garage” to see some of his collectibles!

As we still had a few hours to spare until we needed to head back to Nice, we decided to check out the Ferrari museum and factory in the neighboring town of Modena.

After drooling over cars we’ll never be able to afford, we started the trek back to Nice!  We arrive back just in time to catch a little of the sunset on the beach before dropping the car off and flying back to London! Although not everything went as we had hoped, it was such a beautiful trip.  We love taking road trips! Happy SIX YEARS DAN!

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Wine Weekend in Bordeaux

Woo hoo!  Another long bank holiday weekend! Thank you England! Dan and I love wine, and when we moved over to London we said we wanted to be sure we did at least one long weekend in one of the best wine regions in Europe. SO off to Bordeaux we went!

We rented a car at the airport and headed over to spend our first day just east of Bordeaux in Saint-Émilion.  The town and surrounding area is really cool and worth checking out.  The medieval town is full of beautiful churches, ruins, shops and history.  It sits up on a little hill, so it looks very majestic among all of the vineyards below.  We did a morning tour/tasting, lunch in the town then another tour/tasting in the afternoon.

DSC05692Our morning tour/tasting was at at Château Franc Mayne.  Out of all of our tours from the weekend, I think this one was the most unique.  We were able to walk through their underground tunnels!  In the Saint-Émilion region, there are approximately 200 kms of underground limestone tunnels.  A lot of the chateau’s are interconnected and can lead all the way into the town.  They were originally limestone mines and were later used as shelter during the wars. Now they are used to store and mature wine.  It was fascinating to walk through!  We were surprised to learn that all of the wines in the Bordeaux region are blends.  Typically, the grapes used are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.   Most of the wines we tasted had Merlot as the base (60-80%).

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Château Franc Mayne

After our first tasting, we went into Saint-Émilion to explore and have lunch.  No surprise, we had wine, fromage and Charcuterie!

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For our second tour and tasting, we went to Château Soutard.  It is a beautiful working winery and is very modern compared to many of the other Chateau’s in the region.  The facilities are incredibly posh, which made it really fun to explore and learn about the history and their wine making process.  We learned that this was one of the first chateau’s to start planting grape vines in rows versus clusters.

Unfortunately, out of all the tastings and visits from the weekend, this one ended up being our least favourite.  The wines were very acidic, which is true to the region’s taste, but definitely not one of the flavour profiles we love in wine.

After our tour, we drove over to Château La Mothe du Barry, where we were staying for the night.  We nailed it with our lodging for this trip!  Our room at this chateau was UHH-MAZING! It was an old wine vat!  It was super modern and unique.  And the place had the most perfect little pool, which is where we spent the remainder of the afternoon.  We were able to taste the chateau’s wines poolside.  The owners of the chateau were so accommodating and nice. And the breakfast was worth the stay itself!  So delicious and all homemade.  Can’t recommend this adorable place enough!

For day two, we drove up to the Médoc region, just north of Bordeaux.  This area is absolutely brilliant!  The region is filled with tiny villages and massive chateau’s dotted through the rolling hills and vineyards.  It was so beautiful to drive around with the windows down, music up and smiles on our faces.

The first chateau we stopped for a tour and tasting was Château D’Agassac.  Talk about storybook chateau!  WHOA!  I still can’t believe this place was real…it was so cool! And our guide was amazing and their wine was the best we tasted from the weekend!  We found that most of the chateau’s wine making process is pretty much the same, but at this one we learned that they put in egg whites with the wine during the aging in the barrel’s to collect the sediment from the grapes.  The egg whites have no taste and do not alter the wine at all, so it is an easy way to extract the unwanted sediment.  Very interesting…

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Château D’Agassac

After our tasting, we drove up to Pauillac for a quick lunch by the river.

We then decided to drive over to the coast to cool off and spend the afternoon by the sea.  We went to Soulac-sur-Mer and immediately hit the beach!  The weather was so fantastic the whole time we were away – mid 80’s and sunny!

For our second night in wine country, we stayed at Hotel Rollan De By.  Again – totally nailed it with the accommodations!  Everything was perfection!  The room, the chateau grounds, the vineyard, the host…everything! Oh, and the breakfast! SO GOOD! We were even given a tour of the operations and a tasting.  We got to taste the wine straight out of the vats too! We ended the evening with a wonderful French dinner at Table Tartine.

On our last full day in wine heaven we drove over to another seaside town, Arcachon.  The area is known for their fresh seafood, especially oysters and mussels which are harvested locally.  So we immediately hit up a local spot for some fresh mussels!  We then went over to the Dune of Pilat, which happens to be the largest sand dune in Europe!`  We spent about an hour swimming in the sea and exploring the coast (which was filled with mussels!).

We finished our weekend off in Bordeaux’s city centre.  The city is very small, so we were able to hit all of the highlights in just one afternoon/evening.  We walked the river, saw the Palace and the large cathedrals, before finishing the trip off with one last French meal: wine, cheese and meat (again)! It was the perfect end cap to an amazing long weekend away.  The city of Bordeaux is cute, but pales in comparison to the countryside!