Honeymoon Recap: Palma de Mallorca

I’m back with another city recap from my amazing honeymoon adventure. After a relaxing day at sea (I’ll get to a recap from the boat later!), Ian and I arrived in Palma de Mallorca. Palma de Mallorca is located on the southern shores of Mallorca overlooking the Mediterranean. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain and it is a beautiful city.

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We started off our tour visiting a really cool castle. It was a bit of an anachronism because it was a circular Gothic castle and the two styles rarely intertwine. It had a lot of Gothic arches and Roman-style artwork. Notably, the heads were interchangeable on the statues signifying that maybe they’ve had one or two different rulers in their time!

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Next up we headed to a pearl factory where they did the mounting of the pearls. I think it was mostly a tourist trap to get people to buy pearls, but I got lucky and Ian got me a beautiful pearl necklace, bracelet and earring set! I’ve never owned pearls (I wore my Mom’s for the wedding), so I was very excited!

After the pearl factory, we walked across the street to a bull fighting ring. It was built in 1929, but was built to look much older. It actually looked like a little Colosseum. Turns out they only fight bulls now about five times a year during major celebrations. I’m not sure I could stomach watching a bull fight, so I was OK that nothing was going on while we were there. On the downside, there was no toilet paper or soap in  any of the bathrooms – a theme that would continue throughout Spain. I’m worried their financial situation may be even worse than they’re letting on!

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From there we got back on the bus and headed to the center of town to tour the Cathedral. It was one of the coolest Cathedrals I’ve seen. Outside, it had fountains and gardens, which are traditional symbols of Arabic wealth from the time when it was turned into a mosque. There was a giant water spout out front and a manmade lake built recently when a highway was added between the water and the Cathedral because the residents still wanted to see the reflection of the Cathedral in the water.

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The exterior walls are built entirely of sandstone – an unusual building material for a cathedral. It also has the largest rose window in the world – 12 meters across. Twice a year its reflection lines up directly underneath a smaller rose window on the far side of the Cathedral above the entrance at 8:30 a.m. if it’s sunny on February 2 and November 11 – we just missed it!

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It was a ‘living’ Cathedral so they weren’t attempting to keep it in a preserved state. They had new art exhibitions in the Chapels that were very interesting and a bit controversial with some of the older members of our tour group! What was funny about that was the main altar remains unfinished because when the bishop who commissioned it died, the new bishop was uninterested in having it finished because he didn’t like the artist and thought what is now considered a traditional altar was too flashy and an unnecessary use of money. They still hold masses there as well.

Rocking our earbuds for the audio tour so we could hear the tour guide, but still wander on our own!

Rocking our earbuds for the audio tour so we could hear the tour guide, but still wander on our own!

We headed back to the boat for lunch and attempted to go back out to the beautiful beaches since I was determined to put my feet in the Mediterranean, but were thwarted by cruise staff who said they sold out of shuttle tickets even though we were never told that was a possibility. I was none too happy at the time, but we made the best of our afternoon and headed back to the ship hot tub instead and laid in the sun for a little while. All in all, another pretty great day!

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Honeymoon Recap – Corsica

Another port visit on our honeymoon adventure took us to Corsica. We planned to do a half-day guided tour of Ajaccio – the Imperial City. We started out on bus for the first hour and then spent about 90-minutes walking through the city.

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They are very proud of Napoleon here. We first stopped at a monument to him with what our guide called a realistic statue on top as opposed to the other ones we would see of him throughout the island that made him look Roman. The statue was right next to a small cave where he supposedly played as a child.

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We drove along the coastline taking in some breathtaking views as we learned more about the history of Corsica. Once we set out on the walking portion we saw two different Churches  and learned how intermingled culture and religion were here. Also, many of their monuments are new and have been put up very recently – something different than most of Europe.

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We also saw the still-occupied French garrison, which no longer has a moat and instead has donkeys there to eat the grass. Finally we stopped at Napoleon’s house and birthplace.

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I finally ran out of energy so we called it a day and ventured back to the boat after our half-day tour. We enjoyed a bottle of our new favorite Italian wine we had brought from the hotel in Rome on the balcony of our ship-room. We watched the most amazing sunset as we pulled away from Corsica and the Blood Islands on a perfect night and sat talking into the dark.

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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!

 

Honeymoon Recap – Pisa & Florence

We woke up bright and early our first day on the boat as we arrived in the port of Livorno. After breakfast on the ship, we boarded a bus for Pisa to check out the Leaning Tower. Our tour guide was pretty entertaining saying she was from Livorno and they didn’t understand why the people of Pisa were so proud of their leaning tower and thought that tourists should be more impressed with towers that stayed upright!

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The tower was a very cool sight though. We snapped some pictures pretending to hold it up and tip it over. It was a beautiful, sunny morning so after looking at the Tower, we walked around the grounds and also checked out the Church and Baptismal around it.

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Naturally, we stopped for some gelato before hopping back on our bus for Florence. Florence is a very cool city. It is a walled city so it grew up instead of out, which was really reflected in architecture. It’s a very tall and skinny city. Before we got started touring we grabbed pizza and a sandwich for lunch at  the Burger Beer Club. It was a good little spot and the pizza was not surprisingly, delicious.

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We saw the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, which is a cool stone arch bridge with shops built right on top of it. It was also the only one that survived WWII intact.

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From there we walked to the Piazza Signoria where we saw the replica of David, Neptune’s Fountain and many other statues by the Uffizi Gallery.

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We continued on our way to the Cathedral and Baptistry Duomo, which were really impressive. It was built with beautiful red and green marble. The design was also incredibly intricate – as intricate as anything we saw in the Vatican.

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We walked back to Santa Croce Square where we started and wandered through the tents selling food, beer and souvenirs and checked out some  leather stores before catching up with our bus back to port.

Florence was a cool walkable city with interesting architecture, history and delicious food. This is another one I would certainly recommend!

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!

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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!

Christmas in Florida

After many years of spending Christmas in Syracuse with one or two years in D.C. we decided to totally mix things up this year and do Christmas in Florida! My uncle was kind enough to loan us his condo near West Palm Beach for the week, so Ian and I met up there with my parents and my brother and his wife.

It was quite the busy year for my family with both my brother and I getting married in August and October, so a quiet, relaxing week in the Florida sunshine was absolutely perfect.

While hot and humid runs may not be the easiest, it felt so incredibly good to head out the door in just shorts and a tank. We’ll be back in DC by 9am today and I’m not looking forward to layering up again for runs this week.

There was a really great Downtown area not far from where we stayed filled with cool shops and restaurants. Seeing as our favorite bar back home is called Mulligans, we made sure to fit in a couple trips to the Mulligans here!

On Christmas Eve we went to a great Italian spot called 18 Seminole Street Italian Bistro. It was an old house converted into a restaurant and the food was amazing. I went with the classic spaghetti and meatballs and it was delicious. I also loved a chain pizza place called Anthony’s just around the corner from us – amazing coal-fired pizza!

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We also checked out a sports bar called Duffy’s and found a great ice cream spot one night! One of my favorite evenings was spent sitting outside at a restaurant/bar called Pelican Cafe. The picnic table outside each had an umbrella and sat on a sandy beach overlooking the water and boats. We spent a few hours drinking some beers and reveling in the fact that we were sitting outside in December!

In addition to eating out we enjoyed some great home-cooked meals as well including steaks on Christmas Day and a turducken over the weekend!

We also fit in a few trips to the movies for The Imitation Game and Unbroken. Both were based on true stories and both were incredible movies. Imitation Game was a really interesting story I didn’t know much about going into it, but really enjoyed. One of my favorite quotes from the movie was: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Unbroken was absolutely incredible and probably the best movie I’ve seen all year. Louis Zamperini’s story of courage and refusing to give up in the face of unbelievable adversity was incredibly moving and inspiring.

All in all it was a great week and such a fun way to spend Christmas!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Marathon training week five was a mix of good and bad. The good – I got to do most of my runs in warmth and sunshine since I spent Christmas down in Florida with my family! It felt so great to run in shorts and a tank again. The bad – while I’m getting my miles in my paces just aren’t where I want them to be. I’m hoping that changes once I completely shake this cold, but I’m definitely not there yet. I also missed one of my runs this Sunday. All together I put in just under 40 miles for last week and am looking forward to working on pushing the pace this week.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: I used all of my motivation to run 6 easy miles after work in the cold, freezing rain and dark. It wasn’t pleasant, but was one of my best runs of the week.

Tuesday: Rest day. I spent most of Tuesday traveling – thank goodness for Gogo internet!

Wednesday: I headed out in the heat and humidity Wednesday afternoon and loved every bit of it! I had planned to run to the track and get my interval run in, but it was all locked up. Instead I explored the streets and put in a little over 6 miles.

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Thursday: I put in 7 Christmas miles sticking close to the neighborhood we were staying in.

Friday: Even though the track was locked up, I made my way over to the high school here and put in five 1000 meter repeats on the empty roads around the school. Phew, that is a long way to go when pushing the pace. I’m not exactly looking forward to this week’s 1200s, but I felt so pumped when I completed the workout!

Saturday: After a bit too much to eat and drink on Friday night I was not super excited for my long run, but knew I had to get it in. Luckily I packed my Nathan Hydration vest for the trip as it was another hot and humid one. It was a bit slower than I would have liked, but I got all 12 miles in and took in some great views when I ventured down to the Boardwalk by a marina.

Sunday: I ran out of motivation today after stacking all of my hard runs at the end of the week and ended up passing on today’s tempo run. I’m hoping to get it in on Monday morning though!