Honeymoon Recap – Nice, Monaco & Monte Carlo

Our amazing honeymoon trip continued with a stop in Nice. For this port, the boat docked out in the water, so we took mini boats called tenders in to shore. Ian and I chose to do this day mostly on our own and opted just for transportation. We hopped on the bus to Nice and our tour guide welcomed us with the warning that she usually loses at least one on each trip, so don’t be late getting back to the bus. She then handed out cards with the number for the cruise in case we did get left behind – yikes!

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To top things off, because every couple ahead of us decided they EACH needed a map, she ran out of maps by the time she got to us. She insisted we would be fine if we just, “memorize the city with our eyes.” I tried to explain that would be tough given we had never been here before. No one wanted to part with their maps though, so we struck out on our own hoping for the best! Sheesh!

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Nice was a cool city, but with only a few hours we didn’t get to see too much. We saw the Court – called the Palace of Justice – and walked through the flower market. We saw the statue of Apollo and then walked through a park built over a river bed that steam shot up through. We took a bunch of pictures here pretending to walk through the steam like badasses, because we are just that cool!

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Before finding our way back we took a long walk along a rocky beach. I was expecting beautiful white sand beaches, so this surprised me, but I’m guessing they are in another part of Nice?!? We also stopped at a cute little cafe/bakery where we had the best peanut butter chocolate chip cookies – they were still warm along with a hot chocolate for me and an Oreo milkshake for Ian!

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The bus took us to Monaco next. This might be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen and one of the places I would definitely want to go back to some day. We started our afternoon in Old Monaco City, which is built on top of a giant cliff and has unbelievably beautiful views from the top.

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We got a quick history lesson and learned why Monaco is referred to as a Prinipality instead of a Kingdom – it is a country too small to be considered a kingdom so they are ruled by a prince who will never become king. We walked by an Ocean Musem once run by Jacques Cousteau and saw the Church where Princess Grace is buried.

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We ate lunch outside of a small restaurant called Pasta Roca. With apologies to Rome, Ian enjoyed the best fettuccine alfredo he has ever had and I had one pretty amazing four cheese white pizza. Yum!

The best part of the day was we got to visit the city of Monte Carlo, which we were initially told would be closed because of a meeting of heads of state. We took a city bus to Monte Carlo, which took us along the route of the famous Grand Prix there – so cool! The bus was empty except for us and a guy in a three-piece suit. Apparently this is what happens when you have public transportation and no poor people in a city. As we pulled in to Monte Carlo we got a glimpse into how the other half lives…or maybe the other one percent is more like it.

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We of course went to the Casino Royale. The cars parked in front were unreal. We saw Bentleys, BMWs, a McLaren, a Rolls Royce and more! I had never heard of a McLaren – when I asked Ian if they were considered nice cars he told me they cost a million dollars – wow. The casino was also surrounded with expensive shops like Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and on and on.

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We peeked into the main Casino to see the lobby, which was beautiful, but were chased out when we were unwilling to pay the 10 euro fee each just to get on the casino floor. We popped into a side casino where we played pin-ball like roulette for an hour and turned our 5 euros into 12.50. Woo – we took money out of Monte Carlo! I left out the exact amount and just told everyone else on the bus we had more than doubled our money, haha!

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After heading back to Monaco we took in some more views of the Alps and the water. We saw so many amazing yachts including one so big it had a helicopter pad!

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It was a very cool trip and if anyone ever wants to bankroll me, I would love to go back and really play in the Casino Royale!

 

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Honeymoon Recap – Rome

Somehow it’s almost March and I haven’t gotten further than Ireland with my honeymoon recaps on the blog! Where is the time going?! You can check out my Dublin and Galway/Cliffs of Moher posts if you missed them, but there were so many more fun cities we visited on our honeymoon that I haven’t shared yet. One of my absolute favorites was Rome!

On day four of our trip we caught a 6 a.m. flight out of Dublin for Rome. A driver was waiting for us at the airport to whisk us off to our hotel just a block from the Vatican. All I can say is thank god we didn’t have to make that drive on our own – there appear to be no traffic rules in Italy!

We stayed two nights at the Relais Vatican View and I could not have been happier with this hotel. It was a small hotel with only a handful of rooms. After our tiny Dublin hotel room, this place seemed huge. We had a king size bed, a couch and room to spare – plus a very nice bathroom. The room was also stocked daily with delicious tasting bottles of wine. Coming from someone who normally hates wine, this is saying something. There was also a rooftop terrace all guests could use that you could see St. Peter’s Dome from. This was a bit of a splurge compared to our Dublin hotel, but worth every penny and I highly recommend it.

On our hotel rooftop terrace

On our hotel rooftop terrace

We arrived too early to get into our hotel room, but dropped our bags and quickly found a great lunch spot just down the street. We had the most amazing margarita pizza and pasta carbonara. It was definitely a great way to start things off in Rome and just a sample of some of the amazing food we would have.

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We stopped for gelato after lunch as you can find it everywhere in Rome and we made sure to eat it early and often while there!

one of our several gelato stops

one of our several gelato stops

We quickly found the metro and made our way to the Colosseum. It was a really amazing structure and seeing it in person is the only real way to do it justice. Part of it was under construction, but given how old it is, it was still in really good shape. We took advantage of our Roma Pass to skip the line and head right in. It blows my mind how many people were waiting for hours in a line when the first thing I read in every guidebook was how easy it was to skip the line here. I guess not everyone else watched the Rick Steve’s videos!

Colosseum

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We also saw Constantine’s Arch here and wandered over to the Roman Forum, but it had just closed its gates for the day.

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We headed back to the hotel and cracked open one of those bottles of wine I mentioned earlier. This wine that we drank there must be magic wine because on top of tasting good it seemed to be hangover free and didn’t leave me with a headache or dry mouth the next day despite the fact that we may have indulged a bit too much.

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We set off for a dinner spot I found on Yelp not too far from Trevi Fountain. I have to say this is one of the first times Yelp has let me down. It was the only not so great restaurant we went to there although it was partially our fault as we got things off to a bad start when I accidentally ordered an anchovy pizza. Gross! Poor Ian had to eat most of it so they would bring us our next course. We also ended up not being able to find the Fountain that night, but that may have had something to do with all the wine.

Day two we got an early start so we could explore the Vatican. We started things off with St. Peter’s Basilica, which is an indescribably beautiful Church. It is much larger than pictures convey. We also made our way all the way up to the Dome. My fear of heights kicked in, but it was worth it. The view from the top of the Church was beautiful.

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We didn’t stop there though. We kept climbing up narrow, terrifying stairs with a rope to get us to the top! The view from the top of the Vatican is one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen though. It was absolutely breathtaking. Ian snapped most of the pictures as it took me a few minutes to peel myself off the wall and inch toward the gate at the edge. It was so worth it – just beautiful and definitely a postcard type view.

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From there we headed to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Again doing a little bit of research let us skip a line that was probably 3-4 hours long. We had printed off tickets we ordered online at the hotel and walked right in an empty online ticket entrance. The museum was very impressive. I don’t have the best knowledge of art history, but even I could appreciate how intricate many of the pieces here were. The Raphael paintings in the last couple rooms we checked out were incredible and then Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel was like nothing I had ever seen. I can’t even fathom how difficult that must have been to do.

By this point we were absolutely starving! Just around the corner from the Vatican Museum was a great little sandwich shop a friend had recommended called Ducento Gradi. This spot is worth putting on your list if you’re in Rome. It was inexpensive and delicious. After devouring our sandwiches, we stopped for some more gelato because as they say…when in Rome!

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We headed out again that evening and managed to find the Trevi Fountain this time! It is much easier when you are sober, but it was closed for repairs so it wasn’t much to see.

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We moved on to the Pantheon. This was an awesome plaza and an unbelievable structure. This was easily one of Ian’s favorites – he really liked that it has been a working building it’s entire life and was made around the time of Jesus! It  also has an intentional hole in the roof – that’s baller, he says!

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From there we wandered our way over to and up the Spanish Steps for some people watching before heading back to the hotel to crack open another bottle of wine!

Spanish Steps - great people watching here.

Spanish Steps – great people watching here.

We drank a bottle on our rooftop terrace taking in the incredible views before heading out for dinner. This time we went with a recommendation from the hotel and had a delicious dinner at Dal Toscano. So freaking good.

Before heading to the cruise ship the next morning we woke up early to get back over to the Roman Forum and take in some more cool sights before leaving. It was nice to walk around here when it was practically empty and very interesting that it is still an active archaeological site where they continue to find and learn new things.

We ended our time in Rome like we started it – devouring some pasta carbonara before hopping on a bus to our cruise ship. I cannot say enough about the food and the sights here – a place I would love to go back to and spend more time in for sure!

Ian made a last ditch effort to send some postcards from the Vatican (they have a special stamp since they are their own country) before we left as I packed up the hotel quickly before our ride arrived. His plans were thwarted though as it turns out it is much more difficult to get into the Vatican when the Pope is supposed to be speaking shortly than on a normal day! Let’s just say that is the last run in he wants to have with the Swiss Guards – don’t underestimate them even if they do wear funny outfits!

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Thanks for making it all the way to the end of this one with me if you’re still reading. More to come soon on our adventures at each port that our cruise stopped at taking us to Italy, France and Spain!

Out and About D.C. Style

One of my favorite things about living in the Washington, D.C. area is that it never gets old to play tourist. Whenever someone comes to visit, it’s a great excuse to get out and explore. My parents were coming down for a visit recently and since they’ve been here many times, we wanted to come up with something we hadn’t done yet.

Amazingly in all the years they’ve been coming down, we’d never gone to the National Archives. I haven’t been in years either, so we decided to make an afternoon of it. The highlight of the Archives of course is that it houses the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Seeing these documents in person as opposed to them just being some abstract thing you learn about in history class is unbelievably cool. Yes, I’m a total nerd!

Our main reason for visiting the Archives on this trip, however, was to see a new temporary exhibit called To The Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The exhibit looks back at the crisis and features real-time White House recordings from Kennedy’s meetings in October of 1962. Also at the exhibit are chairs used by President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev during the June 1961 Vienna Summit. It has personality studies of Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, satellite photos of missile sites under construction in Cuba,  a map of Cuba used and annotated by President Kennedy,  secret correspondence between Kennedy and Khrushchev and a synopsis of a speech that never had to be delivered that President Kennedy drafted if he had to announce an attack to “destroy the nuclear build-up in Cuba.”

The exhibit was great – full of information and cool pieces of history. I could’ve spent hours more there listening to all of the recordings from Kennedy’s meetings and hope to get back before the exhibit closes. If you’re planning on being in D.C. between now and February, this is a can’t miss museum.