Iceland in November? That’s insane.

When I told people I was going to Iceland in November the general response was “oh my god, you’re going to freeze your ass off.” And I did. Was it worth it? You can bet your ass it was.

My Iceland trip couldn’t have come at a better worst time in my life. Feeling the strong onset of the “winter blues” mixed with stress at work, I needed a break. Per my usual method I booked my Contiki tour in July with intension of paying in increments up until my November departure. However, the summer turned into fall and I hadn’t made a dent. So dropping the final payment put a serious jam on my finances and turned my trip into a zero budget adventure. That being said when it came to pack, I realized that I was grossly under prepared for Icelandic winter weather and had no money to purchase the proper attire. So I set about packing as many layers as I possibly could into a very tiny carry on and prayed for a mild winter.

Recommended packing items:

  • Hot Hands
  • A decent camera for photos of the Northern Lights (I brought my Sony A6500)
  • Waterproof Gloves
  • Thermal Leggings and Top
  • Facial moisturizer
  • Sun Glasses

Tips for Packing:

  • Don’t be to stressed about different “cute” outfits. You’ll be wearing a jacket the whole time! No one will no that you’ve worn the same thing for four days. :p

 

Cruise life – Contiki Greece Days 6-8

 

Warning if you’re booking Contiki’s Spotlight on Greece plus 3 day cruise you are not cruising around on a Contiki yacht, you are cruising on a mega ship with hundreds of other passengers. This was a fact I was unaware of when booking and slightly disappointed about. My roommate Ashleigh also didn’t know this either so we were both a little unpleasantly surprised when arrived at the dock. Never the less we decided to make the most of it and I made a pact that on the cruise we would be drunk as much as possible. Mature? No. Fun? Hell freaking yeah.

First docking was at the beautiful island of Mykonos. The tranquility and magic of the island was spoiled by the disembarking of the 500 hundred other cruise passengers. But our amazing tour manager Alex led us to some more secluded spots where we were able to take in a magical sunset before heading to dinner at a swanky restaurant. I don’t have any pictures but we were able to sample fish eyes and octopus!

The crappy thing about cruise ships is we only got to spend a few short hours on Mykonos. Some day I’m going to make it a point to go back and spend several days on this wonderful island.

Day 7 – Kusadasi, Turkey

One expected treasure of this trip was our stay in Kusadasi, Turkey. I’m not sure if when booking my trip I wasn’t paying attention or what, but I actually had no idea we were going to Turkey. Frankly, I was a little bit nervous about it. However, Kusadasi ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. Also, the pictures of me are amazing because for this trip to Greece I packed and actually wore all of my cute clothes. How nice is this green dress?!

The ruins of Kusadasis are extraordinary and so well maintained. There are perfectly preserved mosaics and stunning architecture that is still standing. Again, another place that is cooler than the very over hyped Acropolis…

Warning: Don’t drink the pomegranate juice before you go into the site. Even though the fresh squeezed juice is tempting, pomegranate lowers your blood pressure which is dangerous if you’re about to go on a long walking tour.

After visiting the ancient ruins we were then herded into a rug making “artisanal” factory. It was interesting to see the rugs and the old traditional style of weaving. But I did not like being hounded about buying one. Some people on my tour actually got suckered into purchasing these rugs for $100-$800 dollars!

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Next we sailed to the little island of Patmos. We spent the afternoon cooling off in the beautiful blue ocean and at sunset our tour manager Alex led us to an amazing overlook where we were able to climb to the perfect spot for instagram worthy pictures!

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We approached our final Island towards the afternoon, leaving us only a few hours to explore world-famous Santorini. Everything about this island is breathtaking. But the crowds caused by the cruise ship made it very difficult to really enjoy it.

 

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You can’t tell but I’m surrounded by 100’s of people.

After making sure we checked off of the necessary Santorini pictures spots we hustled back onto our cruise ship.

 

For our last night celebration, our tour manager Alex arranged a toga party. We all were under the assumption that it was a cruise ship wide toga party. Nope. It was just the 13 of us, running arround in toga and our undies. The other cruise passengers had a blast laughing at us and some even asked us to pose with them for pictures!

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Our group spent the final night dancing with each other in an empty cruise ship ball room. Ashleigh and I even hung out on deck with some super cool older women. Dorris and Nadien were in their late 60s and on their first trip to Europe. They told us how much they admired us for traveling when we were young. It made me remember how blessed I am to be living in an age where women can do more than just raise families. We can strive for our dream jobs, travel the world and make our own paths.

I am so grateful to have met so many amazing women on my travels. Becky, Ashleigh, Dorris and so many others.

Greece, you have been intoxicating. Something in my soul is connected to your blue waters, olive trees and white washed houses. I will be back again soon.

 

Olympia! Contiki Greece Day 3 & 4

I could get used to this view…morning sun on our hotel room’s deck. I would’ve stayed there forever…. but then I would’ve missed Olympia and Delphi!

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At the ruins of Olympia we were given a great tour by a local guide and then got to explore on our own. Some of the gentlemen in our group even raced on the original track field. Which was hysterical.

The resturaunt at Olympia was surpirsingly good. My roommate Ashleigh and I shared a Greek sampler and they had free Olive Oil tasting!

Afterwards we piled back on our coach and headed towards Delphi.

On the way we made pit stops in several adorable Greek towns inlcuding Naupaktos and Galaksidi. There we got to see some beautiful churches, charming Greek village homes and even do some swimming!

When most people think of Greece they imagine the Acropolis or the Greek Islands but mainland Greece should not be forgotten. Looking back on my Greecian adventure one of my favorite things I did was hike to the top of Delhpi.

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people standing and nightWe spent the night in charming Delphi. After a yummy meal filled with lots and lots of SAGANAKI. Which is litterally a huge chunk of fried cheese and tastes like heaven. We went dancing and drinking at the local club Katio Dancing Club. It was a tiny place with cheap drinks and good music.We had to climb up a very very very steape hill to get back to our hotel.  I still don’t know how half of us made it back from the club to our hotel without breaking bones.  14330119_10154284238775813_8634604808745435230_n-1.jpg

Where did I stay? Delphi Palace Hotel

Delphi is the ruins of a magical city. They say the airs of Delphi are healing and can provide you with enlightenment. The hike to the top of Delphi is steap but well worth it. Just keep pushing yourself and you’ll make it. You can not beat the view from the top. Many people on my tour decided not to climb all the way and I couldn’t believe it. You’re in Greece, you came all this way, just do it!

Our last stop before heading back to Athens was a cool little mountain town called Araxoba. This apparently is a bustling ski town during the winter (yes, there’s skiing in Greece). But while we were there is was very quiet. Most of my tour mates went looking for shops. I decided to explore the scenic overlooks solo. Sometimes it’s nice to depart from the big group. I found a nice bench and caught up on my book while taking in the warm sun and mountain air. Wandering alone through Araxoba is one of my favorite memories.

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Araxoba, Greece

Our return to Athens marked the end of the tour for some our our companions who were on the shorter Spotlight on Greece trip. But for me and my roomate Ashleigh we were on to the next leg in our adventure, the Greek Islands!

 

 

 

My Greek Adventure with Contiki – Day 1

After spending several days in Greece with my travel soul sister Becky I practically felt like a Athen’s native. Becky and I said our teary good byes and she headed back to London, while I marched towards my next adventure. Eight days with Contiki on their Spotlight on Greece plus Island Cruise.

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Toasting to the skyline of Athens and my next adventure

After meeting our Contiki tour manager Alexandros (and swooning over his tan and Greek swagger…sorry I may have had a little crush on him…) we piled into taxis for a night time tour of Ancient Agora market. 14330083_10154271001070813_8151400399173136619_n.jpg

If you read my Grecian Days with Becky post you know how much I loved Agora. I found myself wishing Becky was nearby again. All 28 of my tour mates and I squeezed ourselves into a restaurant on the side of a hill. Where we samples an assortment of Greek dishes and watched traditional dances. It was all very chaotic and cramped. But still a good way to bond with my new tour mates over wine and thieving kitties.

Day 2:

Up bright and early is the Contiki way!

Since I had already been in Athens for three days when we visited the Acropolis I decided to take the slow and steady approach and explore different parts of the ruins I hadn’t seen before. I sipped an orange freeze and wander through the back enterance near the theater. I really enjoyed people watching and perfecting my selfie stick photos.

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#hatgameonpoint

Then we boarded our tour bus and headed out of Athens towards Olympia. The drive through the Grecian countryside was absolutley breathtaking. Half way to our destination we made a quick instagram stop at the Corinth canal. IMG_8725.jpg

Warning to my TMI about to occur:

At the Cornith Canal my dear old “aunt flow” decided to come early. A week early. For any female traveler this is the WORST situation to be in. I was completly unprepared and the gas station we stopped at did not have the right equipment to handle my delicate sitation. So I resorted to middleschool measured and balled up some toilet paper and hoped that we’d stopped near a pharmacy soon.

Thank the lord for my fellow girl travelers. I was able to borrow some much needed sanitary supplies just in time for our trek up Mycenae. Mycenae is a ancient (okay most things in greece are ancient…I need a new word) city that once was the heart of Greece. At Mycenae there are facinating temples, caverns and artifacts from the Mycenanian civilization. After exploring the palace we got to go to a local pottery studio and I even got to try spinning clay!

 

Where did we stay? Hotel Europa

 

Grecian Days with Becky

Two years ago while traveling South East Asia a rooming mishap led me to meeting my soul sister, Becky J.

Ever since our teary goodbye in Vietnam Becky and I have been planning our next adventure together. My fluctuating job security caused me to cancel our trip together to Peru, which was absolutely devastating for me. But in the long run a good choice financially. Becky still went and I lived vicariously through her. Luckily just a few months later I landed a full-time position as video producer and we were able to start planning for our reunion trip. The top of both our lists? Greece!

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Becky and Becca reunited in Athens!

Somehow I managed to secure two whole weeks of consecutive paid vacation (unheard of at my job) so our plan was to spend a whirlwind three days in Athens before I embarked on a solo tour with Contiki Tours.

Becky was flying from London and I from NYC so we met up at the airport in Athens. From there we took the very easy to use metro into the city. We got off at our station Agios Ioannis where our very friendly AirBnB host met and guided us to her flat. Becky had a lot of previous experience with AirBnb but this was my first. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience, host or apartment.

Here’s where we stayed: Agios Ioannis Cozy Apartment 

Our host Lydia provided us with detailed maps, snacks and AIR CONDITIONING (which we were very grateful for).

As soon as we could we slung our luggage down and headed out to begin our Grecian adventure.

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First stop: Temple of Olympian Zeus

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From the Temple of Olympian we able to catch the
I love riding the sight-seeing buses. They’re a great way to get your bearings on a new city and easily get around without having to navigate public transportation.
During our loop of the cities we saw the Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium, National Archaeology Museum and so much more.
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After a full loop of Athens we decided to hop of at Agora. Before exploring the ancient city of Agora we sampled some of the most delicious ice-cream either of us had ever had.
Looking back, Agora was my favorite part of Athens.
Yes, yes, yes the Acropolis is nice. But it’s so crowded and their’s construction everywhere.
We entered Agora late in the afternoon. So it was nice a cool and we were practically the only people there. It was quite, calm and magical. There were so many nooks and hidden buildings to see that we really felt like explorers. You can not go to Athens without exploring Agora.
Tired and hungry we plopped ourselves down at the first restaurant we could and feasted on some well…subpar Greek chicken. It was underwelming, but we were so exhausted we didn’t really mind.
DAY 2
Good morning Athens!
This morning we decided to grab pastries from the bakery near our AirBnb. Which sounds simple, but when we entered the bakery they had very little left to choose from. Not wanting to seem rude, we both selected the easiest thing to point to. Which turned out to be sort of stale tasting bread. Life lesson, when in Greece make sure to go to the Bakeries very very early in the morning.
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After just one day we were Greek metro experts. So we hopped aboard the subway and then returned to the City Sight Seeing bus stop. Our first stop of the day was the must see changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown sodlier. The Greek military have very unique uniforms and marching style. So this ceremony is a treat to see. I highly reccomend camping out and watching this hourly event. 14322387_10154266910020813_4042692386468058701_n.jpg
After that we continued on the bus to the foot of the Acropolis near the Acropolis museum. We stumbled upon the most charming little street with cute little cafes and decided we should probably eat lunch before our hike up Acropolis. That’s when we discoved Arcadia resturaunt (Makrigianni 27, Athina 117 42, Greece). We had the most amazing Kebabs, taziki sauce and fries. So good we went back to the same restuarnt the third day. When I think back on Greek food I remember this restuarunt. What a gem.
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So fresh and colorful. 

Next stop The Acropolis.
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Here’s my mandatory picture with the Acropolis. 

Like I said before, yes the Acropolis is important to see. But it’s not the most amazing thing in Greece or Athens. It is very very very crowded and when I went big chuncks of it were under construction. Worth the time and energy to get to? Yes. Would I go again? No. (I actually did go twice because it was included in my Contiki tour).
Hint to my future finace, don’t propose to me at the Acropolis. lol I a tad bit bitter about this UNESCO sight, if you can’t tell.
On the plus side of the Acropolis. There are tons of kitties around!
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Remeber that amazing ice cream I raved about earlier? We went back again. I wish I could remember the name of this place. I guess you’ll have to wonder around Agroa and find it for yourself!

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Butterscotch 

Day 3:

Travel Advice: If you want to book an excursion do it in advance. We learned this the hard way after trying and failing to book a trip to see the ancient theater Epidaurus. However, we decided to take advantage of our extra day in Athens and have a beach day!

For alot of people Athens is all about the ruins and city life. But actually Athen’s sits just on the edge of beautiful beaches. Today Becky and I decided to venture outside the city to Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni.

We purchased an upgraded ticket with the City Sight Seeing bus and used their Athens – Piraeus – Beach – Riviera line.

If you’re lucky enough to have a half day extra to spend in Athens I highly reccomend taking a trip to spend a few hours at Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni. This freshwater lake is said to have mystical healing powers, so it’s the perfect way to unwind after several days of hiking through busy city streets. The lake is privately owned and operated. So you have to pay to get in. I think it was around $20 USD to enter and then if you want a locker its a little bit more. There are sun bathing chairs, tables, a restuaunt and bar. We managed to snag to prime realestate chairs right on the waters edge. We spent several magical hours floating in the lake and having our toes nibbled on by little fishes (which was weird at first but then soothing). It was the perfect way to end our whirlwind Greacian advenure.

After working on our tans we relunctantly boarded the bus back to the city, packed our suitcases and treked through Athens. Becky was ending her trip while I was preparing for a second part. So she and I hiked to my new hotel where we then said teary goodbyes.

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While I love the adventure of traveling solo, traveling with a compainion (exspecially someone you are so intune with like Becky) is so much more satisfying. It’s nice to know that there’s another person I can reminise with. Someone who has shared in my adventures and misadventures. I will never forget my Rasberry Chocolate Ice Cream and our waiter friend at that one resturaunt. Thank you Becky for being my traveling soul sister! I can’t wait until our next adventure.

How letting my guard down led to my biggest travel misadventure and self realization

I want to tell this story in hopes that it provides inspiration to my fellow travelers. This is a cautionary tale about a girl traveling alone and a big mistake that could have been fatal. In this story the girl gets really happy, a little sad, then a little scared. Ultimately she discovers something deep about herself and has the best night of her life. Last December I was at a low point. Coming off of my life changing trip to South East Asia I had post-travel depression. Most of my friends already had travel plans for New Years and it looked like I would be ringing in 2015 alone. One morning in a daze I was scrolling through the Contiki Last Minuet Deals site when I saw an amazing discount on a 12 day tour of Italy. I debated for a bit and then pulled out my credit card. It was booked. In just a week I would leave for Italy! The day after Christmas I was on my way. Flying to Europe, getting a cab and exploring Rome was so much easier and less scary than Asia so I felt like a travel pro. When I saw the suitcases my tour mates brought (for just 12 days) and compared them to my tiny carry-on I knew I was (a pro traveler). The first couple of days were so flawless, simple and easy that I quickly began to let my travel guard down. When in Asia I had my guard set high. I limited my drinks (although my limit was very high…), always traveled in a group, wrote my hotel down, paid in cash, ect. But Europe is so safe! Or so I thought. On New Year’s Eve our tour rolled through Napoli and to the charming town of Sorrento on the Almafi Coast.

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My roommate and I pre-new years festivities!

As the sun began to set my Australian friend Mollie and I explored the markets where we came upon the beginnings of the New Years parade. Without a thought we decided to join the parade! We danced with the musicians and chanted alongside costumed characters. We followed a large papier-mache Donkey to the town square where Donkey was set on fire using fireworks!

Afterwards our group met up for a traditional Neapolitan pizza feast! Then toasted with Aperol Spitzers at this swanky restaurant right in the center of town. For dancing and more drinks we went to Americano. A Kareoke night club near the festivities.

After a few strong martinis bells rang out to single midnight’s approach. So we stumbled out of the club (stolen martini glasses in hand) and joined the masses in the piasa. Before midnight the locals started shooting fireworks at each other and throwing glass bombs on the pavement. It was noisy, hectic, scary and invigorating!

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Street fireworks!

Finally the countdown began. 3,2,1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The crowd went wild. I felt more emotion, energy and happiness in that tiny Sorrento piassa then I did in New York City!

Music filled the air, laugher, chanting and love engulfed me. Streamers flew and confetti fell. I kissed my neighbor and he kissed my friend. It was all in good fun. Then in Sorrento tradition we broke our stolen martini glasses on the pavement. 10906166_10152891595005813_1466665417180988046_n Then the piasa stage lit up and the DJ started spinning. We dance in a large mob and I made friends with some touchy Armenians. They shared their Grappa and I shared my awesome dance moves.

After dancing for what seemed like an eternity I began to notice that much of 40 person tour group was dispersing. I searched and found a couple of stragglers to join. We celebrated for a little longer before they decided it was time to head to the hotel. It was only 115AM. Our local guide told us that in Italy the party really doesn’t start until 2AM. So I tried to convince them to stick around. But they were done. So reluctantly I began to follow them back to the coach. On the way to the coach we passed tons of Italians who were just heading out for the night. They looked magical and majestic in their sparkly dresses and tailored suits. As we continued towards our bus I got sadder and sadder. I didn’t want to go home. The night was young. I wasn’t ready for bed! I tried again at no avail to get someone to go back with me. “YOLO” I aurgued. “The night is young, no regrets” I pleaded. But they were committed to retirement. As we began to round the last corner I cursed myself. “What was I doing?” I questioned myself. “Why am I following these people? I don’t even know them!” I asked. “I don’t need them to have a good time!” I convinced myself. “Why am I using them as a shield? Don’t be a follower Becca!” I cursed. “Do you! Do what you want!” I boasted. Without another thought I bid farewell and sped back to the town square. On my own.

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When alone you take Selfies to occupy your time.

Back at the the piasa I felt a hint of loneliness and timidness. I swallowed my fear and joined the dance floor where I shook my worries away. I found my Argentinian friends again. We danced the mambo, YMCA and the electric slide. Eventually they retired for the night and I was left alone again. At this point it was around 230AM. So did what all good American girls traveling alone in a foreign city should do…I took a walk. I ventured away from the busy piasa where I found myself alone in a maze of cobblestone streets. I was fascinated by the peacefulness that was just blocks away from chaos. I wandered back to the once crowded market and found myself surrounded by twinkling christmas lights. I was alone, but never afraid. In Sorrento on a mild winter night, I felt at home and at peace. As I walked I reflected on the past year. I wished I could see my mom again. She loved Italy and I remember her recounting her wild adventures in Rome. As I stopped to make a wish at a century old fountain I felt her there with me. I wandered back towards the town square and was met by hoards of drunk young Italians on their ways to after parties and other bars. Their laughter and enthusiasm was contagious. “Happy New Year!” is universal and it chimed throughout. I was got my second wind and wished I could find another party to join. I made my way back to the Americano Bar. I only peaked inside. I thought it was dead, so I turned back. I wish I had gone inside the bar. Apparently the three other Americans on my tour were still partying it up at the Americano! I often wonder what my night would’ve become had I found and joined their party. But I turned away. I went back to the DJ and the main stage. I settled down on a bench and listened to Opera singers and local celebrities belt Italian showstoppers. Around 330AM the festivities began to die down. So I decided it was time to head to my hotel. I pulled out my phone and found that it had died. Stupidly I didn’t write down my hotel or it’s address. I only had the information on my phone. I had no option but to hope that someone would know where my hotel was. So I hailed a taxi. When it comes to Italian Taxi drivers I think I won the lottery.

  • First stroke of luck: Rafael spoke perfect English. Second: He was young and enthusiastic. Third: He was charming and handsome. Forth: He thought I was hilarious.

I flat-out said “I have no idea where my hotel is”. He couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know what my hotel was called. I felt like an idiot. He thought I was super funny. I told him that I knew it used to be a nunnery. That it might be called “Sister’s Hostel”. He hadn’t heard of a hotel like that. So we googled it. Nothing. He called his friends. They didn’t know. So I was up creek without a paddle. I knew I couldn’t lose Rafael. He was the answer. If I walked away and tried to find someone else, they might not have been as eager to help me. So I said “I will pay you anything, just drive and I’ll try to figure out from memory!” He agreed. I hopped in the front seat and we drove. I think we drove all around Sorrento and maybe into Napoli. We navigated the winding streets and whisked past the cliffs and ocean. Rafael asked me to describe the hotel and it’s surroundings. I said “It’s in a very old building, surrounded by orange trees and gardens. It’s on a cliff and has a view of the ocean.” He chuckled “that describes every hotel in Sorrento!” I asked him to drive alongside the ocean. At least we would be in the right area. Finally we turned down a cobblestone path that I recognized. We continued onward. Then I saw a sign for “Phoenix Bar” and I remembered riding in the coach earlier. My friend Molly had asked “What’s a Phoenix?” I knew then that we were close to the hotel! Only moments later I saw what I thought was my hotel. But there were no hotel signs and the large wooden doors were closed. Rafael wasn’t sure so he got out of the cab and went with me to investigate. The doors were locked and my heart sunk. I thought I was wrong. Rafael knocked vigorously and luckily the attendant answered. Once the door opened I saw the lobby and knew I was right! Rafael chatted with the attendant briefly in Italian and they laughed. Rafael told me the hotel was brand new! This was its first weekend open and that it was called “Sister’s Hostel” (I was right!). That explains why we couldn’t find it.

I walked with Rafael back to the cab to pay him and say goodbye. In stereotypical Italian style he begged me to stay with him. I shyly declined. Then he invited me to brunch in the morning. He said “I want to introduce my family to the giggly American”. I was flattered and reluctantly said “I’m sorry, no.” My tour was departing early that morning. I gave him a generous tip (I think I paid like $200 for only an $80 trip). But it was worth it. Rafael was a perfect gentleman and I don’t like to imagine what might have happened if I had been with a different cabbie. My biggest regret was that I didn’t get a photo with Rafael. But my phone was dead so I had no camera. Finally at 430AM I was safe and sound back at my hotel. I passed out fully clothed in my bed. But not before soaking in the extraordinary occurrences on my wild night.

24 Hours in Dublin

Dublin is the bustling capital of Ireland. It is rich in history but famous for its vibrant culture, night life, music and literature. You could spend days exploring this magical city but if you’re tight on time here’s my guide to spending 24 hours in Dublin.

9AM – Spire of Dublin640px-E4324-Spire-of-Dublin

Located in the heart of Dublin on O’Connell Street the Spire of Dublin is a great place to find your bearings. This pin-like statue stands tall and will guide you from where ever you may be back to the city center.

915AM- Arrange transportation

It might seem touristy but in my opinion the best way to see Dublin and get around quickly are the Dublin Hop On – Hop Off Buses.  For a one time payment of $30 you can have a full day pass for tours all around Dublin. City Sightseeing will guide and entertain in addition to highlighting the best of Dublin. Dublin public buses are unionized and often go on strike. The City Sightseeing buses are privately owned and will operate every day.

One Day Bus Ticket: $30

930AM- TRINITY COLLEGE AND THE BOOK OF KELLS LIBRARY

Hop of the bus and stroll through the majestic grounds of Trinity College. Modeled after Oxford and Cambridge the magical architecture will transport you to another world.

Make your way to the 18th century Old Library building which showcases the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a medieval manuscript and Ireland’s greatest treasure. If you’re a fan of “Harry Potter” you will feel at home in the monumental Old Library. The library was erected in 1743 and hosts a collection over 200,000 books.

Entry to Book of Kells Exhibit: $11

“I was in the library the other day, in the Restricted Section, and I read something rather odd about a bit of rare magic”- Harry Potter

11AM- Dublin Castle

After a short bus ride hop off at Dublin Castle. Dublin Castle has been a fixture in Dublin since the 13th century. It has acted as a fortress, royal palace, prison, government center and much more. Opt out of the guided tour inside. You will see more impressive castle interiors in other places throughout Ireland or Europe. Instead wander the grounds and snap a few photos. Then hop back on the bus and cruise to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

1145AM-  ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland and was erected in 1191. It is complied of several architectural styles including medieval and gothic.

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Stunning St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Entry: $6

1PM- Lunch on Thomas St

Get off the bus on Thomas Street and choose from several pubs and artisan restaurants. Why not try and get a seat at the oldest pub in Ireland; the Brazen Head Pub. Sample traditional Irish pub food and beers. But save room for Guinness at your next stop!

230PM- Guinness storehouse

Book your tickets in advance for your guided tour of The Guinness Storehouse, brewery and factory. Learn the history of Irish Brewing, some secrets to making Guinness, beer sampling and much more. Then browse the gift shop for the perfect souvenir!

4PM- SHOP!

Hop on the red line of the City Sightseeing Bus and cruise down Bachelor’s Walk and back up O’Connell St. Jump off at the Moore Street Market and head down Parnell St. Turn left on Capel and again onto Mary Street for an array of shops, bars and markets.

530PM- CHECK IN TO YOUR HOTEL

exterior-home

Drop your souvenirs and bags at your hotel or hostel and get ready for a night out.

If you’re looking for a cozy, cheap and great location why not try the Abbey Court Hostel.

630PM DINNER

Take your pick from the plethora of pubs and restaurants near your hostel or walk down to College Green St. Which is near your next destination.

745PM GRAVE DIGGER’S GHOST BUS TOUR

Possibly my favorite tour in Dublin was the Grave Digger’s Tour! Your ghoulish guide will transport you back to plaque times and escort you via creepy coach around Dublin. Visit Dublin Castle at night, Christ Church, Cork Hill, Kilmainham Jail and more!

The tour concludes at The Gravediggers Pub. A famous pub located next to the historic Dublin cemetery. Down your free drink and then relax with a Guinness before heading back to Trinity College.

Jenny enjoying her Guinness at the Gravedigger’s Pub

Cost: $30

10PM- bar hop in temple bar DISTRICT

Possibly the most famous area of Dublin; Temple Bar District is a collection of pubs and Bars on the South Bank of the Liffey River. Lively nightlight, music, performers and tons of bars makes for endless fun! Check out The Temple Bar Pub, The Porterhouse, Stag Head and much more. The best part of Temple Bar is drinking is aloud in the street and public intoxication? Well that’s just being Irish!

Most pubs will stay open until 1AM and some clubs will stay open later. What ever you decided to do, you’ll be surrounded by culture, history and friendship.

8AM- BREAKFAST

Irish Breakfast

After your big night out you might need to sleep in but if you’re up early then grab breakfast near your hotel. The best place near The Abbey Court is The Bakehouse. This charming little eatery serves traditional foods on homemade breads. Everything is absolutely delicious and fresh. You will not be disappointed.

24 hours done

Hopefully you can find more than 24 hours to explore amazing Dublin. But if not I hope this guide helps you plan your adventure.

Have more time?

Here are some other options if you have more time in Dublin:

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Dublin Hop on Hop Off Map

More about my trip to Ireland and europe:

Ireland   Europe

What Italy Taught Me

My second solo trip aboard gave me another opportunity to reflect on myself and life aspirations. Here’s what I learned:

1. I don’t need other people to agree with me

  • In Sorrento for New Years Eve all of the people I was with were going home at 115AM and I wanted to stay out. I tried to convince them to “stay out, seize the day, YOLO!” But they wouldn’t budge. Everyone “was tired”. As I followed them back to our coach I got really sad. I even started to cry. With all my heart I wanted to stay out, dance and be with the locals. That’s when I punched myself in the gut and asked “why do I need these people to be with me? I don’t even really know them! Why do I need them as a safety blanket?” I told myself “if you want to stay out here’s your chance! You don’t need them. Go back to the city square and dance the night away!” That’s when I found myself running back to the party alone and I am so happy I did.

2. I like to dance

  • When I am traveling I suddenly become a dancing queen. I transform into a sexy vixen with dance moves to kill for! When I go to my hometown clubs I’m more reserved. I’m with people I know or around people I’ll probably see again. So I tend to be more self-conscious. But when I’m abroad I let my guard down and dance like there’s no tomorrow. I defiantly want to adopt my new-found dance confidence the next time I go out in the states.

3. Italian food is good but Asian food is better

  • I’ll probably get some slack from this. But I honestly sampled more “life-changing” cuisine while in Asia. I think that American Italian food killed any ingenuity of real Italian food. I actually left Italy being kind of disappointed. Before my trip every told me “you’re going to eat amazing things.” I tried the local cuisine everywhere I went. I had focaccia, black squid pasta, pesto, meatballs, lasagna, cold cuts and mozzarella but nothing really stood out. In Asia one meal was always better than the last. I went home craving pad Thai, fresh spring rolls, noodle soup and screwers.

4. Always pack more underwear then you think you need

5. I can survive without my laptop or ipad

  • This is the first trip I took without bringing a computer.

6. Australians are not all party monsters

  • The last trip I took was filled with a ton of young Aussies who were perpetually drunk the entire trip. Italy attracted an older and more mature crowd. They surely changed some of the misconceptions I made of those from “down under”.

7. I want to take a trip with my best friends

  • Traveling alone is great. But it would be nice to come home and have other people to reminisce with. I feel rude when I’m talking to my roommates and I interject with “one time in Italy or once in Thailand”. I wish I had other people to revel in the glory I my ventures with. I think my girls and I could totally concur South America. I hope I can convince someone to go with me new time.

8. I prefer adventure tourism to historical tourism

  • Italy is beautiful. The history is fascinating and the sites are bucket-list worthy. My tour focused on seeing the ruins, churches and then shopping. After the third city it got a bit repetitive. I now know I prefer holidays where I can trek, swim, kayak, sky dive, ect. I want to experience the land, people and only a little bit of the history. I would love to go back to the Island of Capri or the Cinque Terre to go sailing or hiking. I defiantly need to visit Italy in the summer. I think it would be a completely different trip.

9. I do not like coffee

  • In Italy I did as the Italian do. I drank cappuccino and did an espresso shot. Each time I asked myself “why did I waste money on this?” Gross.

10. I love wine

  • After wine tasting in Tuscany how can you not love wine? I’m now a connoisseur!

Review of Contiki Simply Italy

Here’s my review for the Contiki website:

I booked this trip last minuet on a whim because I had no New Years plans. I’m so glad I went!

Seeing Italy during the winter is a truly unique experience. The cities are a beautifully lit up with sparkle lights and Christmas decor. Ringing in the New Year in Italy you can feel a sense of hope, love and peace in the air. Our trip was lucky enough to celebrate New Years eve in the stunning seaside town of Sorrento, New Years Day in Florence and the Italian Holiday Epiphany in the Cinque Terre. It was fascinating and truly special to celebrate with the locals and see their beautiful traditions.

Our amazing manager Enzo constantly praised us for our decisions to visit his country during the winter. We were often reminded of our luck when visiting towns like Capri and Venice which during the summer are usually impassable due to the high influx of tourists. Seeing how crowded Verona and Milan were in January, I can only imagine that during the summer these places must be miserably crowded.

I come from a mild climate state so the cold weather didn’t really bother me. But many of my Australian tour mates had a pretty rough time on some of the colder days. Apparently it was the coldest January much of the country had seen in 40 years? It snowed in the South!

I think what really makes or breaks your trip is how you spend your free time. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of like-minded people who believed in the Contiki moto #noregrets. We stayed out most nights, met the locals and explored the cities on our own. Some of my favorite memories are when I went walking by myself in Capri and Sirmione. Being in a group is great, but its important to find time for reflection on your own.

I recommend doing all of the me time meal options. I loved the group dinners and most of them provided bottomless wine! The best meal was our final in Rome. The singing waiters were amazing!

I don’t recommend doing the Contiki arranged gondola ride. I didn’t enjoy being in the gondola with 5 other people. I felt like we were going to tip over and only two people got good seats. The rest of us had to hunch over on little stools. Arrange it on your own! I personally am not interested in in-depth lectures on history so I would not do the walking-tours if I went again. There was more “talking” and less walking. Get a guide pamphlet and explore on your own. I felt like these tours took away from our free time.

I was amazed by the size of the suitcases some people brought for our 12 day trip! Travel tip: Pack and then take out half! You don’t need so much stuff! Everyone complimented me daily on my outfits and I had the smallest suitcase of all the girls! Bring only some key items and mix and match. Because it’s winter you don’t need to worry about getting sweaty or smelly so it’s even easier to pack light! Besides you’re in Italy! If you need more clothes you can buy them there!

My favorite things from the trip?
– Boat ride on Lake Garda
– Montebuoni’ Tuscan Dinner
– Electronic Space Disco
– Getting lost in Venice
– New Years in Sorrento
– Chilling with to much wine in the Cinque Terre

Our hotels were all very nice. Some were pretty far from the city center, but all easily accessible by cab or metro.
Our guide Enzo was great. He provided a wealth of knowledge about the history and lifestyle of Italy. He was also very passionate about the welfare, growth and our impressions of his home country. I’ll never forget his daily greetings (insert italian accent) “Contiki…..!!!” His pal and our driver Fabio was quiet but also entertaining. He didn’t speak english but he interacted with us using hand signals and facial expressions. He reminded me of Mr.Bean.

I certainly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a more in-depth and cultural experience. It’s great to spend a 12 days in one country. I feel like we really saw the best of Italy and I know I could go back someday and traverse it on my own! Go on this trip. You won’t regret it!

“The richest people in the world are those who have seen it.”

Review written Jan 2015

My Contiki was: life-affirming, comprehensive, absorbing