Ponte Vecchio at Sunset

Firenze Ancora – Revisiting Florence, David and the Schiacciata

I recently found myself back in Florence, perhaps my favorite city in Italy, one year after my previous visit. This time I stayed close to Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the city’s main train station, in a bustling neighborhood of hotels and eateries. While I did more running around a year prior (check out my previous article on the city for more in-depth coverage of Florence’s top attractions and on visiting popular Tuscan towns), I was able to catch many things I had missed, namely several churches and David, while revisiting my favorite locales in the city.

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View of Florence and the Duomo from the Torre of Palazzo Vecchio

Florence – Renaissance Art and the Tuscan Countryside

Traveling from Rome to Florence isn’t just a commute; it’s a leap through time. While a visit to Rome is an adventure to the zenith of Antiquity — imposing structures and ruins that leave much to the imagination, pillars and slabs and arches of an immortal nature — visiting Florence offers a more modern, more dynamic experience.

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My Travel ABCs

Never one to ignore peer pressure, I’ve compiled a list of my travel ABCs below, as requested by superstar blogger Suki.

A – Age you went on your first international trip: 4-years-old, Hong Kong. Must have been wild because I don’t remember it at all.
B – Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: All the best foreign beers I’ve had were in San Francisco (thank you, Toronado, La Trappe, City Beer Store). For the sake of this exercise, I’ll say a nice cold Estrella Damm while overlooking Barcelona.
C – Cuisine (favorite): Sushi and Mediterranean cuisine. When they invent a falafel sushi roll, I will have tasted God.
D – Destinations – favorite, least favorite, and why: Venice is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I love the architecture, the canals, testing my Italian with gruff Venetian bus drivers… It’s a mixed tapestry of wonder.
E – Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: There are a lot of cats in Turkey.
Cat in Ephesus (photo) Continue reading “My Travel ABCs”

The Pros and Cons of a Mediterranean Cruise (and Photos)

A few months ago, I went on a month-long trip through the Mediterranean with Princess Cruises. And while I had already shared my photos from the trip, I had not, until now, elaborated on the details of the experience itself. I was a bit skeptical about the idea of traveling quickly from city to city on a cruise (I had previously cruised through Alaska and the Bahamas with mixed results), as each stop would feel rushed and short. On the other hand, the idea of getting to see so many cities in such a short amount of time was exciting; it was sort of like a crash course on the North Mediterranean. A life is a long time, I had reassured myself, to revisit and take in deeper the cities I loved.

The cruise took place aboard the Star Princess in September of 2011, and included the cities of Venice, Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples (only to port for trips to Capri and Pompeii), Rome, Florence, Pisa, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Overall, I had a really great time. I do recommend it to anyone looking to see a lot of things really quickly at a reasonable cost.

The Cons of a Mediterranean Cruise
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Visiting the Mediterranean – Italy, Greece, Turkey, Monaco and Spain

Girl Resting in Amsterdam Airport

The strangest part about returning from a long trip is the reintegration back into the familiar. Life comes back, only, in the back of the mind, there are now memories of places and people one didn’t have before leaving, as if someone implanted them into the head.

During the last three weeks of September, I went off to various cities along the Mediterranean with my family, several family friends and a big group from Hawaii (where I grew up). We traveled aboard a Princess Cruises ship—the masculine Star Princess—from Venice to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykonos, Rome (docked at Civitavecchia), Capri and Pompeii (docked at Naples), Pisa and Florence (docked at Livorno), Monte Carlo, and Barcelona. I initially had reservations about traveling via cruise liner on my first trip to Europe, but the experience was wholly positive: We spent the days out until we were dead tired, returned to the ship to eat and sleep, and woke up each day to a new amazing port.

I’m fortunate for the opportunity of seeing such beautiful places. Everything about the trip worked out wonderfully, from spending time with my family to the fun people in our group and meeting an online friend I had never met before in Rome. These are the things that really highlighted my experience—the people that made the adventure more meaningful than just simply being in nice places.

Prettiest city: Venice
Least pretty city: Athens
City I most want to revisit: Rome
City I least want to revisit: Monte Carlo
Best view: The Acropolis
Prettiest panorama: Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Most random: Saying “Go Giants!” to a guy wearing a Giants cap at the Temple of Zeus
Most adventurous: Squeezing into the Blue Grotto on a little boat off the coast of Capri
Most awkward: Magician on the ship reminded me of Gob from Arrested Development
Favorite moment: Quietly admiring the inside of the Sistine Chapel with a pretty Roman girl

Below are my photos from the trip. I focused on capturing people, street art and basically anything that could describe life in each city. They mean a lot to me, so I hope you enjoy them. Continue reading “Visiting the Mediterranean – Italy, Greece, Turkey, Monaco and Spain”