The Trip: {Florence}

We’re home!

Actually, we’ve been home for a week, but today is the first day that my brain is functioning normally enough that it doesn’t feel like work should be over at 11:00a.m. (“it’s 5 o clock somewhere” has never been so true), we don’t flinch every time we hear a motor running behind us (pretty sure we were going to be roadkill on those narrow streets… and those mopeds were vicious!), and our laundry situation is mostly under control.

Also, I’m not violently ill like I was most of our first night home… at least it wasn’t on the cruise ship, but let’s say it didn’t help speed up my post-trip recovery.

Darn circulated airplane air…

Enough about the usual after vacation blues – We are still completely basking in the glow of an amazing, amazing journey. The Trip was everything we had hoped for, and so much more. As anticipated, there were lots of surprises…both the good and bad kind. But, nothing that came close to marring our experience as a whole.

{We were so happy to be there! The view was out of this world…}

There are 1,700 beautiful pictures; dozens of stories; hundreds of suggestions, lessons learned and recommendations that I could share with you, so bear with me as I try to whittle them down to the “best of the best” (and know that you can send me a note for more details any time :)

I’m going to break things up a bit over the next few days, and give you just a taste of our experiences (and try my best not to bore you). I hope you enjoy!

Getting There:

We flew out of Toronto, where we were put up for the night by our WONDERFUL “Friends up North”! We were treated to wonderful wine and snacks upon arrival, a delicious asparagus and brie breakfast bake in the morning, and lettuce wraps after a morning run before we left for the airport. It was the perfect kickoff to our vacation, and a great way to wind down a bit after weeks of packing, planning and list-making, and they had some great parting advice for us that helped make our trip the best it could be… (Thanks, guys!).

We saved a lot of money flying out of Canada, and were on an Indian airline for our 10 hr ride to Brussels, where we changed planes for Florence! The curry we had for dinner was the best plane food I’d ever had, and the chocolate we got during the layover was a great “breakfast”… delish!


Landing in Florence was so, so exciting. Though we were exhausted, the adrenaline kept us moving… and the beyond lovely sights. It was about 1:30p.m. local time when we arrived, and the first thing we did was check into our Bed & Breakfast: Casa Dei Tintori. It. Was. Perfect. Just like the photos, and in an amazing location, we settled in right away, and then were off in just a few minutes to spend the rest of our day exploring!

We walked right to the heart of the historic city in just a few minutes, and gazed in awe at the Duomo… soaking it all in was impossible! The massive building, with its bast dome, dominates the landscape. We went inside, and were lucky enough to be one of the last tours of the day to climb to its peak!

We couldn’t wrap up our day without some gelato… it was literally on every corner calling my name! This was our first (of many, many, many) amazing Italian food experiences. You can SEE the bliss on our faces :)

We woke up the next morning to a day full of plans for visits to the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia, but first things first: Breakfast! The owners of Casa dei Tintori,, Valeria and Alfredo, lived in the back portion of the historic (800 years old!) building, and Valeria presented us with this wonderful spread. Her coffee was some of the best I tasted while on the trip – espresso served in a tiny pitcher with a cup of frothed milk and a shaker of chocolate. There was yogurt, granola, fruit, cereal and delightful (nutella – which was in EVERYTHING the entire trip…no complaints here! And fruit-filled) pastries. Heaven.

We saw so much over the next three days: Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and many, many sculptures, paintings and architecture from the most famous men of the Renaissance. Its was overwhelming… and wonderful.

Also, as expected, we ate some of the best food I’ve ever taste, and some of our favorite flavors of the trip! The sandwiches from All’antico Vinaio were astounding: Fresh bread and meats were being carted from the bakery and butcher across the street while we waited, and wine was available for two euros a person… just pick a bottle, fill one of the small glasses and sit outside with your (huge!) sandwich!

Funny/not-so-funny story about this place: The first time The Husband ordered here, there was an American girl behind him in line (she’s wearing green in the picture of at the bottom left, above). Well, she ended up passing out while he was ordering, and throwing up on the back of his leg – gross! Apparently she had been drinking the night before (way to represent, U.S.A.), and hadn’t eaten anything yet that day. I, however, was waiting outside and didn’t see this whole drama unfold. So, when the hubby cam out with only ONE sandwich, I was mad! Needless to say, I wasn’t as compassionate to my dear husband as I could have been… but it was a good sandwich ;) We ended up going back (without incident) just a few days later.

We were fortunate enough to be there during the Firenze Gelato Festival. The best gelato makers from around the country were there with special flavors – my favorite was passion fruit dark chocolate… intense and with amazing depth of flavor. We also sampled specialties like meatballs, ravioli, bruschetta, pizza, salads and lasagna (eaten on church steps!) during our stay. Perfection.

In a nutshell:

I adored Florence – probably my favorite leg of our journey because it was busy and bustling with life, but didn’t have the vastness of Rome and the crowds of Venice (pictures and stories from both will be coming soon!).

Note: You will see The Husband’s red shorts very frequently in these shots… because we accidentally only packed him one pair. Oops! He’ll never take clean clothes for granted again ;)

To {Vegas} and back…

We’re Baaaaaack!

What a trip! I can honestly say that Vegas wowed me – haters gonna hate, but (like Kale chips) don’t knock it until you try it.

Initially, I approached this trip with a little hesitation. We went because the Husband had a training for work for most of the week, and it worked out for me to tag along and stay the weekend (early Valentine’s Day fun!). But, If you’ve looked at us lately, you might realize that we don’t exactly scream “late-night wild fun” or “risk takers”. Oh no. We’re more the “where are their parents?” and “isn’t it your bedtime”? type…


But, Vegas was everything and nothing that I expected. More beauty, less trash, more fabulous restaurants, less loose women, more untouchably extravagant shopping, less horrible gaudiness, more celebrity sightings, less flimsy facades…

Don’t get me wrong. There was trash and trashy people, there were things that made me want to wash out my eyes with soap and carry a can of Lysol with me at all times. BUT, how we chose to do things, and what we chose to do made the trip a total blast. We loved every minute of it, and I could totally imagine going back!

{Lunch in “Paris“}

We ate at fabulous restaurants – dinners were my souvenirs (minus four magnets and a sweet last-minute Grand Canyon hoodie purchase…. it was freezing and we were unprepared. More on that later.) Two of my favorites were Serendipity 3 and Julian Serrano!

{Yep – That’s Dick Clark checking out the menu! And, the Frozen Hot Chocolate is as divine as it looks…}

{We’ve realized that we’re much happier with a variety of tapas or small plates than just sticking to one entree… that made this restaurant perfect for our pre-show date.}

We went to the Beatles LOVE Cirque Du Soleil show…. totally spectacular. This was my Valentine’s Day gift, and though it’s been around for a while now (celebrating it’s 5th Anniversary), it’s easy to understand why it’s the most popular in Vegas. If you’re a Fab Four Fan, or just like to see crazy cool stunts, it’s a must.

We went out on the town under the lights and the glitz and had a BALL together. SO much to see, hear, watch, do. You could stay in Vegas for a month and still not see every exciting (and pretty clean!) show and visit every swanky shop, hotel and restaurant.

We went to the west rim of the Grand Canyon, and saw Hoover Dam. It was a bit of a hike, and we were nervous about taking a bus tour, but it was a perfect day. Although we got off to a rocky start (Waking up 20 minutes before you’re supposed to be ON the tour bus at a yet unknown location is NOT my style… dang alarm clock. Hence the forgotten aforementioned outerwear.) The vastness of the Canyon was astounding (as was the fact that there were NO railings!) and we enjoyed every bit of the day. So many beautiful pictures!

Overall, we learned that Vegas is what you make it… and here are a few things that we think made our trip great (just in case it’s on your itinerary in the near future, and you’re less of a crazy night owl and more… hungry a foodie/sights person!):

Go with your husband – I wouldn’t recommend going to Vegas single, or going with just one gender. Group of girls = Trouble (aka, fresh meat). Group of Guys = Trouble (aka, easy cash/predators). Not that it’s impossible or anything, but both are asking to rack up a laundry list of poor life choices: Loose all your cash, end up in jail, wake up somewhere random (or with someone random…ew), miss your flight, have a LOT of explaining to do. But hey, with your spouse, MOST of the “problems with Vegas” can be alleviated! Go ahead and dance the night away and fall asleep in a hotel room together. Totally allowed. Totally fun. (But, my feet are killing me).

Be on the same page: We knew we didn’t want to blow a ton of cash, and we wanted to see the sights! We had plenty of boundaries, and found that there was an ENDLESS number of activities that fit within them! Who needs the crap when there’s a dessert, once-in-a-lifetime performances, celebrity-like shopping, astounding food and gorgeous weather and enough people-watching to last a lifetime!

Don’t bring kids: Explaining the “Thunder Down Under” posters or why there are people in orange t-shirts trying to push “trading cards” into your hand as you walk by to a five year old is not on my list of things I’d like to do… like ever. These type of raunchy displays were actually easier to ignore/avoid than I thought they would be – pleasantly surprised – but they’re there. Too many kiddies in strollers at midnight for my taste. Choose another family vacation spot!

Be willing to do a little research: Some of the most fun to be had isn’t on the surface. Dig a little. Read Trip Adviser reviews. Check out Vegas Groupons. You’ll be surprised…

My next post has a complete list of reviews for the places we dined, danced and visited, so if that’s you’re kind of thing (or if you’re headed to The Strip any time soon) read up and get some tips!


Back to reality ; )