Does every good travel story start with a quest?
"Are you open?" It was nearly three in the afternoon, far too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. But I was starving. Starving! And the small, unassuming Italian restaurant which I had passed earlier in the day suddenly felt like just the ticket.
The older waitress shook her head emphatically from side to side. I pushed aside a micro-flash of confusion then nimbly skipped over the threshold. This was Bulgaria, where shaking your head "no" is actually a gesture for "yes", and catching on was easier said than done. Once inside, I was greeted by the mouthwatering smell of cinnamon, so bright and vibrant that I could only conclude that the restaurant was using its pizza ovens to make baked goods during their downtime.
The staff of Sofia's Restaurant Balito (ul. "Pozitano" 50, 1303 Pette Kyosheta) laughed when I inquired about what they were baking. I was smelling an air freshener! Perhaps I was more hungry than I realized or Bulgaria must make the best commercial scents in the world. Either way, I couldn't shake my craving, even after several courses of savory Italian delicacies. I knew I had to find the best apple pie in Sofia.
Planning a two week trip to Europe? Here are three potential itineraries to consider.
I've never seen a European itinerary I didn't like. People ask me all the time what I think of their plans to see certain cities and, inevitably, I always convey my hearty approval. And whenever I hear any kind of "if only" scenario, I always find a solution. "If only" you could go to Krakow? You can - because I know all about the overnight trains that will get you there while you sleep. "If only" you could afford to go to Stockholm? Pull up a chair, because I'm about to outline every freebie the city has to offer.
But when I'm asked what someone should do with two weeks in Europe, I draw a blank. What an impossible scenario! How do you squeeze dozens of countries and hundreds of cities into two weeks? Alas, the two week scenario is a common one. Honeymoons, graduation celebrations, retirement splurges, and long overdue vacations all come up when chatting about how to spend two weeks in Europe.
I've pondered this situation at length and I think I have three realistic, affordable, manageable approaches for how to spend two weeks in Europe. They aren't exact itineraries but rather philosophical approaches that any traveler can mold to their own precise interests and travel style.
Legendary art, freshly baked pizza pockets, luscious gelato, and... Starbucks? How to experience Milan in one day when you're on a layover. Plus: The Milan airport hotel we loved!
On my first visit to Milan, I changed trains and spent my last precious lira (yep, it was a long time ago) on a soggy train station sandwich that was decidedly not good. I was unimpressed - and hungry.
One my second visit to Milan, I once again changed trains and spent way too many Euros on Burger King. Yes, BURGER KING. My least favourite fast food - and the last thing you want to eat in Italy.
But on my third visit to Milan, oh let me tell you about the third visit. It was filled with gelato so luscious it was downright profane. And dough. Soft, fluffy dough, fresh from the oven, with the cheese and tomato sauce so hot they were bubbling together in a happy stew. Then there was art, the kind of art that puts all the other art to shame. And - of course! - there was coffee.
After two false starts, I finally had my day in Milan. I arrived via an overnight flight from New York and I left the same day, on an overnight flight to Addis Ababa. It was all part of our epic round-the-world trip that required us to cash in all our frequent flyer points and embrace a world of short but sassy layovers. Though my time was short, I was ready to do Milan in one day - or, at the very least, do my version of it in one day.
Here's where we ate, what we did, and even where we stayed in Milan, plus practical advice on getting from Malpensa airport to Milan's central station.
Bruges in a day? Yes, it's possible! Here's what to do if you're planning a short break and have one day in Bruges.
We LOVE Bruges! It is one of the most charming, the most romantic, and the most fun small cities in Europe. Indulging in short trips to Bruges in northern Belgium have been a highlight of our time in Europe and they've been the perfect relaxing interlude to otherwise busy trips. But what are the best things to do in Bruges, other than just walking around and eating chocolate (which, for the record, is a superb use of time)?
We've put together a Bruges one day itinerary of some of our favourite things. We've also reached out to some of the best travel bloggers we know to get their take on the best things to do in Bruges at night, their favourite restaurants and pubs, their top Bruges museums, suggestions on where to sleep and so much more. There is so much to see and do here!
Have we forgotten anything from the list? We want to hear what you love about this delightful city!
My cozy Dublin list reflects nearly 20 years of favourite special places and flavors.
Dublin is a cool city. I am not a cool person. And herein lies the root of my problem with it comes to recommending things to see and do in the Irish capital. I can't tell you a thing about hip bars, trendy music venues, or any of the amazing shops led by a new generation of makers and creators. I'm not much better when it comes to chic restaurants, festivals, or exhibits. Alas, people ask me for recommendations for their Dublin city breaks all the time. This autumn alone, two sets of dear friends are going there and I couldn't do much more but issue an impassioned plea for them to visit my favourite bakery. Not exactly cutting edge stuff.
But all of a sudden, I thought that, maybe, it might just be enough. After all, lots of people are eager to share why they think Dublin is cool. But who's talking about about what makes Dublin cozy? Me, that's who! Who says that little bakeries aren't the best part of a city, anyway?
At last, I'm ready to own my Dublin recommendations. Here are the cozy places, flavors, and spots that I visit again and again in Dublin. Better luck next time, hot clubs.
We found incredible temptation in the gorgeous Orvieto pottery shops. Temptation that we couldn't resist...
You know me. I don't usually do much shopping when I travel, thanks to my very small bag. And, of course, I'm rather stingy with my travel budget! But when I had the chance to do a little Orvieto pottery shopping, I jumped at the chance and broke ALL my usual rules.
Of all the things you can buy in Orvieto, pottery is number one. The Orvieto ceramic scene is legendary and an important part of the town's identity. It's been at the center of Italian ceramic tradition since the 13th century! Today, there are dozens of shops lining both the main streets and also tucked into lanes that sell the town's signature brightly colored plates, bowls, cups, and decorative figurines. I dare anyone to walk down Orvieto's streets and not be tempted! I sure couldn't. The stunning colors and designs give Orvieto such a cheerful, jaunty feel - and definitely beckon you inside to explore more.
Here are some of my favourite shops, plus a few extra suggestions on what to buy and how to get it all home.
In search of the ultimate travel coziness in Italy, we fell in love with Orvieto - oh, and Orvieto wine too!
Is there anything cozier than stumbling into a delightfully snug wine bar with a full roaring fire at the end of a long travel day? Perhaps the only thing better is when said wine bar also doubles as a spectacular restaurant - and is owned by one of the kindest families you've ever met. This very scenario was our introduction to Orvieto wine, food, and family - and it set a new bar for hospitality, not just for all other Italian towns but indeed everywhere we travel.
Here's what made Orvieto such a wonderfully cozy destination for us, including our beloved wine bar and our new favourite hotel, lovingly decorated by local artists.
Your value-focused Pantheon guide: What to know when visiting the Pantheon for the first time.
There are few places in Western Europe as important as Rome's Pantheon. This ancient temple turned Catholic church is unmatched in terms of its significance regarding architectural, political, and religious importance. It's an amazing place to visit and I make a point of stopping by every time I'm in Rome. If your plans will take you into Rome for the first time or the tenth, we have the ultimate Pantheon guide to help you get the most out of your visit and make the most of your money. Here's what you need to know before you go.
Wondering where to stay in Zurich? These are our favourite hotels in Zurich Old Town and there's something for everyone.
Lounging around in bed when you could be out exploring Zurich's streets and lane ways? Say it ain't so! Never fear - I walked A LOT while I was in Zurich. This restful moment was just a brief interlude of downtime. I just couldn't resist trying out my super cozy bed for just a few moments! And I was so lucky that I was staying in the heart of the old town so I could easily pop back home for a rest. As a sleep enthusiast, I know that there are a lot of options on where to stay in Zurich and for my money, the best choice is one of the hotels in Zurich Old Town. Here are my favourite places to stay, some great alternative options with different styles and price points, and a few things that I love about Zurich's old town.
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