Enjoy guest posts from IGE readers describing their best vacations ever while I’m away on mine! Check out my Italy travel page which I’ll be updating with links to videos, pictures & posts throughout my trip!
Who, what, where, when and why: My husband and I took a trip to San Francisco in the fall of 2009 to celebrate our one year anniversary. We spent 6 full days + 2 half days (the rest traveling) and visited San Francisco, Sausalito, and the Muir Woods National Park.
A view from under the Golden Gate bridge on our Bay tour
My favorite part of the vacation was: Visiting Alcatraz and taking the night tour! We waited until our last night in town to visit Alcatraz and were so glad we did! The fog rolled out mid-day and didn’t roll back in that evening, which was super unusual according to the tour guides. We took the audio tour of the cell house and then sat outside while my husband took some great pictures of the SF skyline and listened in to a National Park ranger talking about different escape attempts off the island. The last 30 minutes or so of our time on the island we walked around the gift shop and then were in for a real surprise when the National Park Staff gave a demonstration of how the doors on the cellblock were opened/closed.
Chris and I at the base of Lombard Street
They asked all of us still in the cellhouse to stand on the first floor in the middle of the hallway and yell/stomp our feet/clap our hands, etc – anything we could think of to make a lot of noise. Then, the guards stood on the tier above us opening and closing the doors. It was their best demonstration of how Alcatraz would have sounded late at night (in years following the ban on talking, of course). I definitely, definitely recommend the night tour to anyone looking to visit “The Rock!”
City view from Alcatraz @ dusk
My best travel tip for this location: Stay on Fisherman’s Wharf! We were hesitant about staying on the Wharf after talking with friends who had visited SF in the past, but were so glad that we did. Our hotel had a shuttle to/from the airport, we were within walking distance of tons of restaurants/attractions and were also just about a block away from the trolley cars to get into downtown SF/Chinatown/etc. Also, we were more than able to get around without a car, I highly recommend getting a day/week pass for the muni system and using that to get around town
Sea lions on Fisherman’s Wharf
The thing you MUST do at this location: I really, really suggest taking a day trip and visiting Muir Woods, it was totally an awe inspiring place! Also, Fodor’s has a great walking tour in their SF guidebook that takes you off the beaten path in China town. We visited some great bakeries, interesting shops and really got to see the culture/lifestyle of living in Chinatown that hitting the tourist traps totally misses.
Another view under the Golden Gate bridge on the Bay tour
The thing I want to do next time I return: When I go back, I’ll first make a stop at Sam Wo’s in Chinatown, an amazing hole in the wall restaurant (like you walk in through the kitchen and pigeons fly in from outside hole-in-the-wall) that we heard about from some friends who live in SF. Their pork noodle rolls are a.maz.ing! Then, my husband and I definitely want to spend more time in Sausalito walking around and experiencing the town. we only spent a few hours there on our trip last year and can’t wait!
Backpacking Through Europe
Name: Francesca Robinson
Who, what, where, when and why: Backpacking through Europe is something that you hear a lot about. Maybe some of you have done it yourself, maybe you would love to do it, or maybe you fall into the category of people who think backpacking through Europe is one of the craziest/stupid/painful ways to travel across Europe. I fall into all three categories.
My best friend and I took off on this 6 week adventure not knowing what to expect, what we would learn, whether we would live or die, and without a plan as to where we were going.No matter how crazy the trip was, the bottom line is I got to experience London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Venice, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Athens, Santorini, Nice, Avignon, Monpellier, Barcelona, Milan, Interlaken, Dijon and Paris (in that order).
Part of the reason the trip was so…let’s see what’s the word…crazy? Is because we were robbed three times. THREE TIMES! I now classify this trip into before or after the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd robbing.
Here I am leaving Amsterdam, On my way to get robbed. Look how happy I am…so naive. The first robbing took place on a night train from Amsterdam to Zurich. I didn’t realize all my money was stolen until we arrived in Zurich, so I had no desire to visit the city so we just sat in the train station (while I cried most of the day) and waited for the train to Innsbruck.
By the time I reached Salzburg I had cheered up immensely! How can you not when you are enjoying a giant, chocolate covered and jelly filled pretzel! If you ever visit Salzburg you must enjoy one of these while singing, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound Of Music” (It’s where Sound of Music was filmed…if you are confused).
Venice…oh Venice…Beautiful! Amazing! I want to go back today. I loved it! You can’t help but love a floating city! Maybe I fell in love because I am Italian and I was so looking forward to spending time in Italy…or maybe just because it is Venice and you can’t help but swoon.
How beautiful! Just pull up your boat and you’re home.
Then we come to Rome. I cannot emphasize enough my love for this place. Go Go Go. Spend a week, spend a month, spend a year.
Whatever time you have, spend it in Rome. There is just way too much to do and see there and not enough time.
I have to skip so many wonderful places because, you see, we have to get to Paris.
Words cannot describe this beautiful city. At the end of the trip I made a list of highlights that I journaled, I knew I would forget as time passed. These were a few of them:
Favorite thing to put on everything: Nutella
Favorite desert: Gelato
Favorite Moment: When I first saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle
Top 5 cities: Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Greece (not a city but I loved the whole country and I couldn’t make myself pick)
Favorite Sightseeing: Seeing the Colosseum at night
Most missed American Luxury: free refills