Quick trip stats:
- Dates traveled: July 9-11
- Transportation: Air Berlin
- Hotel: Hotel Bavaria
Day 1: Our flight arrived in Munich at 11:45 Saturday morning. We headed to the hotel to drop off our bags and then hopped back on the train to start exploring. I grabbed a Starbucks coffee since we don’t have Starbucks in Naples. It was yummy, but somehow it kept leaping from the to-go lid airspout onto my shirt. I allowed myself about two minutes of annoyance, then decided to rock the coffee stains rather than make a fuss.
After lunch we found some yummy cheese topped with fig at a market stand and ventured back toward the Christopher Street festival. A big parade had commenced, so we stood and watched for a bit before following the clubbish music back to Marienplatz with a couple more beers.
After a long day traveling and exploring, we returned to our hotel for a much-needed nap before heading out to an amazing dinner at El Gordo Loco. If you ever find yourself in Munich, this restaurant is a must. From the chips, salsa and guacamole to the burritos and tamales, it was all deliciously authentic latino food.
After Dachau we went on a walking tour of Hitler’s history in Munich. I had no idea his initial passion was for painting.
Initially, I was watching because my husband really wanted to see the game, but by the end of it I was leaping and screaming after having been glued to the TV with a churning stomach for more than two hours. It was emotionally exhausting, and so worth it! Go USA! Against the odds we played a man down for half of the game, and there were some crazy, questionable calls from the refs, but none of that kept us from a gorgeous victory. Note to refs…
Sorry Marta, we’re SMARTA (everyone in Atlanta giggles, everyone else just thinks I’m a giant dork)!
Day Three: We checked out of our hotel, stored our backs at the central train station, and rented bikes to take in the English Garden. The weather was mild since rain had cooled it down – perfect cycling weather.
To really travel well in Europe, you need to be physically fit.
I don’t mean you need to look great in a bikini (although that is a bonus of being fit); I mean you need to be able to manage the physical demands you might encounter on your trip. This ain’t Cabo.
Even if you’re staying at a resort along the Mediterranean, there will likely be stairs you have to take to get to the sun deck.
You’ve invested the money and blocked off the time for your dream vacation; shouldn’t you prepare your body, too?
With proper preparation and a bit of training beforehand, you can set yourself up for success and truly enjoy your “trip of a lifetime.”
Don’t pack a bag you can’t carry.
We’ve all been guilty of this at some point, but there are multiple reasons to pack lightly, and you’ll be so glad you did. You will want to buy things while you’re traveling, and you’ll need room to include them and the added weight in your bag for flying. If you reach your destination and don’t have something you need/want, all the more reason to go buy something new and have an instant souvenir you’ll actually end up using.
Also, no matter how buff your travel partner is, at some point you will need to move your bag without assistance. There are many instances when you may find yourself dashing for a train or bus while managing your luggage, and, along the way, you could encounter stairs. Or, you might need to quickly hoist your bag into/onto your mode of transportation.
Speaking of stairs…
Whether you have a driver to help reduce the amount of walking you do, take every elevator you find, or use public transportation everywhere, there will still be times when the only way to reach something you want to see/do is to take hundreds of stairs. Whereas the United States requires handicap access almost everywhere, Europe does not. Also, going back to the part about packing lightly, there will be many times when your only option is to carry your bag up/down stairs (hello, Venice and Positano).
It’s easier to enjoy vacation when you aren’t exhausted or in pain.
Europeans walk… a lot. It’s great, and it’s why they aren’t all overweight. Having said that, if you’re not used to walking, your vacation could start to feel more like a grueling training session than a relaxing getaway.
People underestimate how hard a full day of walking can be. After all, it’s only walking, right?! If your usual “daily walk” is only the distance from your office to your car, your body is not properly prepared to tackle a European vacation.
Consider this: You might cover two miles weaving through the Vatican Museum before you’re able to enter the Sistine Chapel. If you’re not in shape, your feet and your joints will be screaming at you as you try to enjoy the magnificent ceiling.
You’re gonna want to eat… a lot.
If none of what I’ve said thus far motivates you to get fit for your next adventure, please hear my final plea: Exercise just so you don’t fit the “obese American” stereotype.
Madonna was right when she sang, “Music makes the people come together.” I had the pleasure of attending an America concert (slightly different genre than Madonna) in downtown Naples, Italy last night, and it was so cool to stand and sing Ventura Highway with a bunch of Italians. It was a blast!
Who knew Italians loved America so much? As it turns out, they were huge here in the 80s, and have continued to return frequently during their over forty years of touring.
There was a great turnout, and everyone knew every line to every song. Fans showed up with vinyl they hoped to have signed, and took plenty of pictures and video from the audience.
Music is a huge part of my life, and it just makes sense to me that something so powerful would span cultures so easily.
I exist because of music. I don’t mean to sound profound and deep. Literally, my mom made eyes at my dad from the audience when he was on stage singing and playing, and the rest is music history.
A song exists for every situation or emotion that’s ever existed, and the right lyrics, with a perfect melody can enhance your feelings better than any drug ever could. Music is a universal connection.
Music can bring you up or down, and last night it was just what we needed to make us feel right at home in Italy.
One of the leads, Dewey Bunnell, was a dead ringer for my dad – looks-wise, and as an entertainer. It made me want to get my dad’s band back together again for a reunion show!
When the crowd took over to sing “Lala, la, la, lalala…” in Horse with no name, there was no language barrier. We all just swayed and sang together. I think it was what the Hilltop Singers intended when they sang, “I’d like to teach the world to sing.”
My life has a soundtrack, and last night it was Italians, Americans and America singing Magic.
Somewhere (in storage) we have that book, “1000 Places to See Before You Die.” When I was able to put my hands on it, I used it to get ideas for where to go next. Now that it’s in a box somewhere and I can’t get to it, it’s harder to keep track of where we’ve been, and where we’d like to go.
I don’t want to forget anything we do or see, so I’m taking this opportunity to write it all down. I’m sure I’m forgetting places we’ve been, and I’ll likely leave out some awesome places to go, so please feel free to correct me.
Perhaps you can help me figure out a list of spots on the globe we don’t want to miss, or, as our dog likes to think of it, where future bushes will be claimed with a lift of his leg. His list of territories has gotten pretty long over the past 8 years.
Let’s start with places I’ve lived:
- Atlanta/Athens/Rome, Georgia (lots of time there, although my first ten years are a bit of a blur of Barbies and skinned knees)
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Norfolk, Virginia
- Naples, Italy
States I’ve visited:
- Alabama (Auburn, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery),
- California (Los Angeles, Napa, San Francisco, Sequoia/Kings Canyon & Yosemite)
- Washington, D.C.
- Florida (Key West, Islamorada, Destin, Daytona Beach, Ponte Vedra, Panama, Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Orlando, Jacksonville…)
- Georgia (um, all cities?)
- Hawaii (Oahu and Kauai)
- Kentucky (Louisville)
- Maryland (Baltimore, Annapolis)
- Massachusetts (Becket, Boston, North Hampton, Springfield)
- Michigan (Detroit)
- Mississippi (Jackson, McComb, Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, Pass Christian)
- Nevada (Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe)
- New Jersey (around a bunch of roundabouts…)
- New York (Manhattan and somewhere upstate)
- North Carolina (Concord, Sugar/Beach Mountain, Charlotte)
- Oklahoma (Oklahoma City)
- Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
- Rhode Island (Newport)
- South Carolina (Charleston)
- Tennessee (Chattanooga, Rock City, Lookout Mtn)
- Texas (Houston, Corpus Christi)
- Virginia (Richmond, Chesterfield, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton)
- Washington (Seattle, Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands)
I’m actually shocked to realize how little of the U.S. I’ve covered. As soon as we’re back, we’ll get to work on that, for sure.
Places I’ve visited outside of the USA:
- Italy – (Rome, Florence, Siena, Sicily (Catania), Torre del Greco, Caserta, Pozzuoli, Sorrento, Positano, Ercolano, all areas around Naples) Also, I have travel planned to Venice, Orvieto and Capri in the next few months.
- France – Paris
- Germany – just to the Neuschwanstein Castle
- Austria – St Anton am Alberg
- Mexico – (Cancun, Cabo)
- Canada – Vancouver
- Dominican Republic – Punta Cana
I feel like I’m missing some stuff, but this is all I can recall.
Where to? Wow, I could go on forever.
Places I want to travel outside of the USA:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Top destinations I still want to hit within the Continental U.S.:
- Grand Canyon, AZ
- Chicago, IL
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Austin, TX
- The Adirondacks in NY
- Jackson Hole, WY
- Big Sky, MT
- Denver, CO
- Portland, OR
- Carlsbad, CA
I’ve still got a lot of ground to cover…
If you would like any information or tips on somewhere I’ve been, what bushes my dog owns, or you have suggestions, please post a comment. Grazie!
Lesson learned: It is a bad idea to throw a banana peel over the edge of a cliff if you are hiking with a retriever. That’s all I’ll say about that. Now, on to our trip.
Friday evening I picked up my husband from work and we headed for Positano, Italy. It was under an hour and a half drive to get there, but the trip felt like an eternity.
We were on the edge of a cliff for most of the drive, and in the pitch-black darkness of night, every curve looked like the end of the world as the sky and water merged. I gripped the “oh-expletive” handle, the dog whimpered in confusion, and my husband laughed at the two sissies he had as passengers.
At one point a small car whizzed by us and all I could say was, “That guy is obviously not married to me.”
We finally pulled into Positano and took the one-way road down towards the center of the city. Our hotel, Conca d’Oro, directed us to a parking garage and sent someone to help us with our bags. I almost offered that we could carry them on our own, but after taking 100 stairs to get to our hotel entrance, I’m glad something stopped me.
During check-in I mentioned to the hotel manager that we needed dinner recommendations for two nights. She said she would take care of it, and that a car would be there to pick us up in twenty minutes. We unloaded our stuff into a gorgeous room with a view and headed back down the 100 stairs.
An unmarked car with two passengers in the back stopped in front of where we stood on the side of the road and motioned for us to get in. We got in the car with a guy who didn’t speak English or show any proof that he was supposed to be picking us up, and we did it with confidence that he was not taking us away to kill us. This just goes to show how trusting you become living here.
The other couple in the car were Canadians, living in London, vacationing in Italy. We talked about the Vancouver Olympics and a new gondola connecting Whistler and Blackcomb, then wished them farewell at their drop off point.
Once we were alone in the car, we started whispering about whether we were supposed to pay the driver, and where he might be taking us.
Once we reached La Tagliata Trattoria, it became apparent that the car was a free service from the restaurant, and a smart one at that. I can tell you for certain that we would not have arrived there any other way. Also, since Positano has one road that loops and winds through the city going one way, it’s an easy route to manage for the driver.
The food at the restaurant was delicious, which was a good thing since they didn’t give us options or a menu. The wine was also delicious, and the staff was all one big, proud, happy family – literally. It was a great start to our trip. After our meal, the driver took us back to our stop where we proceeded to walk back up the 100 stairs to our hotel and fall into bed fat and happy.
Saturday morning was lovely as the sun shed light on our surroundings. I pointed at a roadway and said, “That looks cool, huh?!” Turns out I was pointing at the road we had driven in on. Things just don’t look as scary in the daytime.
We had breakfast at the hotel and took off on a hike…a really long hike.
The hike was a portion of the Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei). It was gorgeous, and uphill for a solid two hours. Funny thing though, our legs didn’t actually start to shake until we were coming back down.
We thought the dog was going to lie down and give up at one point, but then he saw some cats and was able to dig into his reserve energy supply to go terrorize them. An Italian lady wasn’t too pleased, but Mason was having fun, and he’s our priority.
Once we reached our hotel (after doing the 100 stairs again) we decided it was time to enjoy our balcony. Books, really good wine (thank you to the Shaffers), a big block of Parmigiano and a gorgeous view were just what the doctor ordered. We polished off the bottle and decided it was naptime.
A 3-hour nap and two cleaned up adults later, and we were ready for our dinner on the beach.
Our hotel had recommended La Pergola for dinner that night, and once again, they were spot-on.
Walking down to the beach we were very aware that it was the slow season. We could imagine how the high season would include many more open venues and huge crowds of people.
For our weekend getaway, one open restaurant on the beach with live music was perfection. The Italian vocalist sounded just like Ne-Yo and even covered some Michael Jackson. It was amazing!
We ordered all fish for dinner, and the mussels alone would have been enough to leave us both in heaven. The seafood was so fresh, and we washed it down with local wine. Already full, we ordered cannolis and limoncello and managed to polish them off, too.
Once again, we went to bed fat and happy. (After more walking, and 100 stairs, of course.)
Sunday we strolled the city and let Mason play in the surf. The locals were very impressed with him as he repeatedly fetched in the water. They all gathered around and cheered for him. They were less impressed to find out that swallowing saltwater works like a saline enema for dogs. Needless to say, the after-party cleared them all out.
For lunch we went back to La Pergola, and they let us dine with our tired, wet dog in tow. We all shared some yummy pizza, and then my boys went to get the car while I strolled around the shops.
Positano is known for it’s great shopping, but it can get pretty expensive. I proved to be my father’s daughter by purchasing steaks from the butcher, a fine bottle of local red, and a ceramic wine stopper with an image of Positano, rather than clothing.
The drive back was beautiful rather than scary because we were on the inside of the road, and I could see the magnificent views rather than solid blackness. In the high season, I think trains and buses will be ideal transportation, but it was nice to explore Positano in our car during the low season.
We’re lucky to have such beauty in such close proximity. Popping off to Positano for the weekend when you live in Napoli is the equivalent of heading to Helen, Georgia when you live in Atlanta.
How the heck did I score this gig?!
What are your reasons for not traveling?
Money is probably the first one that most people say. Not enough time is another. For some it’s children. Everyone has their reason I guess.
The thing is, so many people talk about where they dream of going. It’s the only time a dream makes me sad. Why would you only ever dream of going somewhere if the place actually exists? If we can save for things like cars, houses, tuition, etc., why not save for your dream vacation? Even if you don’t have the money, there are options to go on mission trips, study and/or work all over the globe.
You don’t have to go far though. Travel isn’t defined by covering a certain distance. You could travel close to home to a state park, or cross a body of water. The idea is to experience somewhere you don’t see everyday. Maybe you like it and plan a return trip, or maybe you cross it off and decide it wasn’t your favorite spot on the map. Either way, you can say you’ve been there and put it in your bucket.