A Perfect Stay In Akureyri

Iceland has been in the news this week with consistent earthquake tremors that have led some to believe a volcanic eruption in the populated southwestern peninsula is imminent. No need to worry, however; both Reykjavík and Keflavík Airport are deemed to be out of the way of potential lava flow. While 2/3 of the Icelandic population live near the capital, the island nation offers so much more and a lot of that is in the north, where you can create a base in Akureyri – the country’s “northern capital.”

Akureyri, Iceland.
How To Get There

Traversing Iceland is relatively simple – you follow Highway 1 or the Ring Road in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Leaving the capital region and its sea of countless roundabouts, you’ll be rewarded pleasantly by heading either way, but for the sake of this post, we’re heading north. Cross under the Hvalfjörður tunnel, bypassing the fjord’s vistas and about 45km, and continue along the Ring Road which will take you about 5 hours over mountains, one-lane bridges, and beautiful landscapes. There are several gas station stops along the way to fill up on fuel or grub. You’ll be coming down a mountain as you enter the city of 18,000.

The drive up to Akureyri is full of tons of places to stop for pictures.

*Big Tip* Please do not try to drive between the two cities during white-out conditions. The risk is not worth it.

Where To Stay

We stayed in a super cool tiny house that we found through Airbnb. It sat across the bridge overlooking the fjord and Akureyri from the eastern side. The place had a loft-style design and the side of the building that faced the water was almost entirely window, letting you wake up to an absolutely perfect view. The homeowner even left a pair of binoculars for you to try to catch some whales that swim up the fjord during certain times of the year.

Back down in the city, you can find a few more homestays as well as hostels such as Akureyri Backpackers, which offers quality rooms and a decent food menu. I recommend the potato wedges and a beer then take a walk over to grab some icecream from Brynja or Isbuden Akureyri.

*Tip* Use this link to save up to $65 off your first Airbnb stay.

Our tiny house with an incredible view of the fjord.
What To Do

In order to get the most out of a trip to the north of the island, it’s a good idea to take a tour of the Diamond Circle – a lesser known but, in my opinion, better version of the famous Golden Circle that is right outside of Reykjavík. This was our route:

⭐️Goðafoss is your first stop, a powerful waterfall surrounded by a legend that a lawspeaker transitioned Iceland into the Christian religion when he threw pagan idols into the water.

You’ll hear it from the road before you see it.

🔥 Dimmuborgir is a lava field covered by large lava tubes and several trails for you to explore around. It was used as a shooting location in a few Game of Thrones episodes, too. Unfortunately, the trails were heavily iced over, so we only took a few steps before deciding to skip this stop.

💧 Grjótagjá is a small lava cave with a thermal pool inside. It has two entrances where people can battle back and forth between which the correct in-and-out direction is. It’s pretty icy, has steep climbs to crawl up and down, and lacks any safety parameters, so be careful. This was also used in GoT, specifically the scene where Jon Snow and Ygritte finally share an intimate moment. The steam from the water is so hot that any picture I tried to take was immediately fogged up.

🥚 Námaskarð is a geothermal area covered in volcanic mud pools that you’ll smell before you see. Once you catch the scent of rotten eggs lingering in the sulfuric mist, you’ll know your close. The high winds will make it all the more intense. You can follow the trails around, catching photos of what I’d say is closer to a Martian landscape than that of Iceland.

It looks like a picture from NASA’s Perseverance camera.

🌋 Krafla is a place to stop for a hike that will take you to the caldera of a volcano and a picturesque lake sitting in the middle. We were pressed for time, so didn’t get to stop, but from what I’ve seen, it would be worth it. Make sure to look out for the toilet along the road.

💦 Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall (a statement disputed by Rhine Falls in Switzerland and dependent upon ice melt from the Vatnajökull glacier.) We made the nearly hour drive from our last stop up to Dettifoss after a snowfall. Once we arrived, the road to the falls was open so we continued forth at an incredibly slow pace traversing over rocky roads to preserve our rented car’s exterior. After what seemed like an eternity of bumpy driving, we arrived at the gates that said the falls were closed due to inclement weather. Sigh. About 100m ahead, we saw a truck that had attempted to make the drive in spite of the warning and was stuck in snow and ice. We didn’t want to chance it and turned around.

🛀 Mývatn Nature Baths make for a pleasant stop along the Diamond Circle. A less expensive option to the popular Blue Lagoon outside of Reykjavik, the Mývatn Nature Baths offer a chance to relax. The quick sprint from the locker room to the pool is cold and windy (trust me, you’re going to run, not walk), but once you get in the water, it is nice and warm. A nearby hot tub and sauna room make for cozy places to meet other travelers.

Hot thermal baths with a view.

If you don’t want to spend a day driving from place to place, you can stick to the nearby community in Akureyri. Whale watching companies offer tours that will give you free replacement tickets if you don’t have any luck spotting one the day you go. We opted to have an experience with a different type of animal – we rode Icelandic horses. Although they are a bit smaller, near pony-sized, they have two unique gaits and a heavy coat. A young German girl was staying in Iceland to help tend to the farm and took us on a tour on our two horses – Gelding and Jolly. Every once in a while, our guide’s horse would stop because “he saw ghosts” and mine just decided to wander into the grass randomly before I got him turned back around.

Highlighters on horses.

Akureyri is a great town and if you have more than two or three days in the country, I highly recommend checking out the capital of the north.

Why Brussels Is Where I Fell In Love With Europe

I stopped in Belgium for a brief layover between Paris and Rome. It should have been a forgettable few hours where I could find enough time to grab a bite to eat and relax before the second leg of our flight. But Brussels had a different plan for me.

How I envisioned Europe looking.

When we arrived at the airport, we began our layover by getting on the wrong train (heading in the opposite direction towards Luxembourg.) The layover ended by finding out my luggage had been lost once we returned for the second flight to Rome. This should have been a bad experience, but it just wasn’t.

We realized, rather quickly, that our train was going in the wrong direction and made the switch at the next station to head back into the city center. Once at the Central Station, we headed down a hill towards a pedestrian-only walkway. We had no plans here. We didn’t look up “Top Things To Do In Brussels” or have any recommendations of where to go and what to see. That ended up being the best part.

We had mussels in Brussels.

The cobblestone alley we stumbled upon was what I had imagined Europe to look like. It was busy, intimidating, and foreign. You couldn’t tell where one restaurant or shop ended and the next one began. While one host is pointing you towards their menu exclaiming how its in English, you have a host across the alley beckoning for you to look at their high-quality dish pictures, all while avoiding the never-ending sea of tourists walking through you as if you didn’t exist. In other words, it was exactly what I wanted.

We found a tourist-facing restaurant to sit down for a meal, but they had €10 specials that included an entrée, frites, and a beer. It was a lot of food, too, so our bellies left happy. Our next stop were the Saint Hubert Galleries’ to window-shop some chocolates and Smurf memorabilia.

Smurfs and chocolate everywhere.

The trip was short, unplanned, and uneventful, but it left me craving more of the maze-like corridors and small, family owned shops that I romanticized about Europe having. I look forward to visiting again in the future for an extended stay, maybe with a trip out to Bruges or Ghent.

7 Things To Do On A Layover In Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of the most famous cities in the world – and rightfully so. Its laidback atmosphere lends itself to any and all visitors. When someone tells you they’re interested in going, you might instantly think of some sex shop, weed-filled Eurotrip-esque adventure, but there’s more to the city. Much more. I look forward to my chance to go back and explore the Dutch country, but these are my recommendations if you have just a brief stint in Amsterdam:

1. Take a canal tour
The best way to see the city is by boat.

Nicknamed Venice of the North, the city boasts over 100km of canals and 1,500 bridges. Because of this, I believe the absolute best way to get a grasp of the city is to see it by boat. Ranging from €10-35, the nearly hour and a half trip will lead you around the outer city accompanied by a guide that will explain the purposes of creating half-circle canals, how the residents got furniture in their skinny houses, and tidbits about the Dutch Resistance.

2. unwind at a coffeeshop
If this is your destination, your nose will guide you.

Depending on what time of day you arrive and how stressful your flight was, you may want to stop by a coffeeshop (different than a coffee shop) and pick up a little treat. You’ll notice the distinct smell as you walk by and you can stop in for cannabis or spacecake. My understanding is that drugs aren’t as legal as they are just decriminalized and tolerated – an idea that would save plenty of lives in the USA if we adopted a similar mindset.

3. Visit the Anne frank house

Currently closed until Spring 2021 due to COVID-19, the museum shares the story of the young girl who hid from Nazi occupiers between 1942 and 1944. Tickets are €14 and it is a quick walk from Central Station (where you’ll likely end up after a train ride from the airport.)

4. Ride a bike around the city
There are 1.3 bikes for every one person in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, there are more bikes (23 million) than people (17 million), meaning traveling by bike is the most authentic way to experience a Dutch city. With over 500km of bike lanes in the city, you’ll find yourself either leisurely coasting down an empty street or in the middle of rush hour with a hundred other bikes in each direction going at high speeds. Obey traffic signals, use your hands to signal turning, and use the bike lanes, but enjoy the self-driven tour of Amsterdam.

5. embrace some culture in an art museum
We enjoyed a Heineken across the street from the Rembrant House.

Home to some reknowned museums, you have myriad choices depending on your interests. The Rijksmuseum offers classic art tours and things to do for everyone. The Van Gogh Museum and Rembrandt House show off collections of the titular artist’s work. The Moco Museum sends you through stunning visual exhibits with a more contemporary flair.

6. Hang out in vondelpark

The largest, and most famous, park in the city, you can stroll through Vondelpark and see people jogging, walking their dogs, or lazing about. Take your time and relax until the next leg of your flight.

7. take a picture with the “IAMsterdam” sign

Located in the Schiphol Airport, these letters offer a great selfie to make your friends jealous on the ‘gram. An original, larger set were once sitting infront of the Rijksmuseum since 2004, but were removed in late 2018 because the city council thought it delivered the wrong message (they wanted it to celebrate the diversity of the city rather than be a mass-tourism hot spot.)

Me and my sister.

Why You Should Visit The Catacombs of Paris

*Warning – some may find pictures below disturbing*

There aren’t many things that I’m afraid of. Bears, snakes, spiders, no problem. I’ll pet the biggest lion or the slimiest slug. But there are a few things I won’t tread near – the creepy beasts of the world beneath us. I mean… have you seen a naked mole rat? Nooo way.

Relatedly, I don’t seek out scary movies to watch. I’ve never understood the appeal of wanting to be scared, usually with some obviously timed jump scare that still gets you each time. There are two, however, that came to mind when I last visited Paris. The Descent (parts 1 and 2) is about a group of girls who have to fight their way out of a cave while fighting some naked mole rat zombie mutants. That is my literal nightmare… The other is As Above, So Below – a group ventures into the Catacombs of Paris in search of the philosopher’s stone before realizing they’ve essentially entered hell.

If you are going to invite me on any kind of spelunking, caving, or potholing adventure, my answer is probably no. But maybe. As much as I don’t want to come face to face with an albino, eyeless monstrosity, there’s something appealing about a site that warns you:

Stop! This is the empire of the dead.

Entering the Catacombs of Paris.

The creation of the catacombs can be summarized fairly concisely. Paris expanded in size rapidly and overfilled the existing cemeteries. In need of space, over 6 million Parisian bodies were moved underground into abandoned quarries by way of covered wagons that worked overnight. There is no way to tell who is who down here. You could be looking at a peasant or an aristocrat, the bones of privilege or the bones of frugality. We all end the same.

The logistics of getting into the Catacombs is straightforward. You arrive at a rather unassuming green building and will likely see a line (sorry, a queue) that is an hour long. They only let 200 people down at a time, pre-COVID and presumably post, as well. There is a longer line that costs less, but you may not be able to get in. We opted for the shorter, pre-purchased ticket line for €29. We grabbed an English-language audio guide and started our descent down 20 meters of stairs.

A labyrinth of dust and bone.

It’s fairly cold by the time you get to the bottom, so bring a jacket with you and some walking shoes for this 45 minute, 1.5km walk through tight alleyways of rock and bone. There are a lot of sections that are not friendly to tall people. I highly recommend spending the extra €5 for the audio guide, because you can take a gentle stroll between the numbered guide points taking in the history and stories of the underground Paris.

Various gated passages will peak your interest as you try to look down them for a glimpse of what’s being hidden from you. Maybe a cult of druids who are summoning the king of naked mole rats, but probably just some ballsy Parisian cataphiles who are trying to escape the life above for a few hours.

Over 6 million sets of bones exist down here.

You can only spend so much time around a city of dead. Your mind will wander and there’s some lingering dread that you’re ready to shed by the time you get to the stairs that will take you back up and drop you by a side street and skull-themed gift shop.

If you’re in Paris and have a few hours free in the morning, I’d suggest venturing over to the Catacombs of Paris. I may not have sold it to you on excitement and flare in this post, but sometimes we need a bit of realism that can bring us back to Earth. You may be in the city of lights, but it hides a dark history beneath.

The skulls and bones are all mixed up.

Cruising Around The Aegean Sea

I never considered taking a cruise before. I envisioned them as either too family-friendly with kids running around, screaming, being in the way or full of old, entitled people, playing bingo and white washing the culture in all of their destinations.

I was mostly wrong.

As part of my trip to Greece through a group tour company, we ended our stay in the country by taking a cruise around several of the islands:

Mykonos

What do you notice first? The gorgeous, white buildings that backdrop the harbor, providing a beautiful contrast to the vibrant blues and purples of window shutters and flowers. The pleasantly arranged seafood platters at each restaurant that tries to ensnare you from your first step off the boat. Or do you go straight for the maze of walking streets that take you from one bougie store to the next, juxtaposing your life into that of a Kardashian’s for but a few moments.

We meandered through some back alleys to bypass some of the busier sections, but ended up behind homes of the local workers and business owners, subject to the law forcing them to keep their homes the white and azure blue you picture when thinking of Greece.

I split a delicious seafood feast with a friend, enjoying calamari, clams, and more, while escaping the 95-degree weather for a bit. We were on a tight schedule and had to be near the ship for boarding to the next destination.

Samos

The next stop for the cruise ship was actually Kusadasi, a beach resort town in Turkey. For reasons I’m still not positive on, no U.S. citizens were allowed to disembark the boat for this stop. I’m guessing it was related to Turkey’s involvement with Qatar or the 2016 coup d’état attempt. Still not sure, but it cost me an evening in the country. Luckily, I had purchased the all-inclusive drink plan right after boarding, so I explored the ship seeing which bar had the heaviest pour.

The next morning, we ventured onto the island of Samos. The Archaeological Museum of Pythagorion had a great collection of statues, busts, and trinkets from the island’s past. Just south, near the port, is the Tower of Lykourgos Logothetis, a residence/defense tower used by the island’s leader during the Greek War of Independence.

I was once a beer drinker.

We continued along the beach and followed a trail made by a Jeep to a restaurant, the Pegasus Tavern. The owners were beyond hospitable, immediately letting us sit wherever and provided excellent service. The combination of a tall lager and the shade from the grape vines helped fight off the heat until we got closer to boarding time.

When our group all met back up at the port, our tour director, Ally, gifted me a bottle of wine for my birthday which was a few days prior. I didn’t open this until we were back in the U.S. The label was all in Greek, so I had no idea what to expect. Not my favorite, to be honest. Some Google and reverse-image searches later and it turns out it was church communion wine.

Patmos

My favorite thing about the Greek islands is how each one has its own personality. Mykonos was about luxury and partying, Samos shared its history and had easy-shopping. Patmos was a laid-back beach island. We had arrived mid-afternoon, but hardly any shops were open, so we easily strolled to a stretch of beach recommended by Ally.

The beach itself was nice. It was completely empty except for us, leaving plenty of room to lay out our towels on the sand. There was a short border of rocks and shells as you entered the water before coming out to sand. The water was surprisingly cold until you mustered up the courage to dip all the way in.

We were soon joined on the beach by the happiest labradoodle who ran circles around us in the sand, leaving only to go pee in the ocean. “Max,” called a man approaching from one of the buildings behind the beach. In decent English, the man explained who he and his dog were and how he ran a beachside business here. He grabbed some folding chairs for us to use so we didn’t have to lay in the sand.

The man continued down the beach until he reached a speed boat, apparently his. He came and offered some thrilling water activities to us. For some reason, I did not participate, but two of my friends did, strapping onto an inflatable raft that he began to drag behind his boat. It was really funny watching them bounce around on the waves as he whipped them around at high speeds over the water. I always regret missing the experiences more than paying the cost to do them.

A short while later, we returned to the ship and stayed up a little too late waiting for last call.

Crete
Crete offers a big city without the hustle and bustle.

This was an early, early wake-up call. Between the lack of sleep and the lingering hangover, a good portion of me wanted to stay in bed all day. But, we’re here. We have to at least visit.

Most of our group felt the same way about skipping this island, opting to sleep in while two of us ventured onto the biggest island in Greece. It was a full-on city, but rather empty. We easily walked around, snapping pictures of some of the cooler buildings (most of it looked like any other city – office buildings and apartment complexes.) I would love to get a chance to come back and visit the Knossos Palace.

I grabbed a gyro for an early lunch and we returned to the ship.

Santorini

After a much needed mid-day nap, lots of water, and some reawakening, I was prepared for the afternoon destination – the beautiful island of Santorini.

Formed around the caldera of an ancient volcano, the cities sit at the top of a cliff that can be reached via cable car or stairs. The way up offers a gorgeous view and when you reach the top, no words can describe it.

We wandered into the town, stopping in shops looking for the perfect souvenir to reflect on our journey here. There was plenty of jewelry to try on, a sex shop that welcomed our middle-school aged boy maturity, and a wall art shop that I stopped in to grab a Crazy Donkey brewery t-shirt. I was half-tempted to lose myself in the alleys, hiding from the inevitability that I would have to leave this perfect paradise in just a couple hours.

The hunger hit us quickly and we found a rooftop restaurant to stop into. I ordered some bread, another calamari dish, and a carafe of the house white. I thought one of the five other people with me would have had a glass, but nope… I got to had to drink the whole thing to myself.

This trip was before I took an interest in photography, opting for the “live in the moment” style of travel, but I really wish I had taken some more pictures to look through. The important moments are easy to remember, but its the small intricate details that really let you delve into a memory.

As we approached the cable car station to ride back down, we noticed the line was extraordinarily long and we had a brief window to get back to the ship. We decided to take the 800+ stairs down the face of the cliff instead, a tiring walk when you’re finishing a long day.

Don’t ride the mules.

I cannot wait to go back and explore the islands again, on my own, to really get a chance to take them in at my pace. I got to witness their beauty, now I want to go back and see what they really offer.

Me contemplating how long until I get to come back to the Greek islands.

How To Explore Prague In A Day

Prague is one of the most walkable cities that I have ever been to. It’s winding, cobblestone streets leading towards Old Town Square are dotted with shops, pubs, restaurants, and more. You can easily pass people without the awkward struggle of waiting for them to make space for you or jumping out of the way for the inconsiderate brute who thinks the sidewalk was made for them and them only. If you know me, you know I hate being stuck behind slow walkers.

Our hotel, U Zlatého stromu, was right beside Charles Bridge and offered a great start to the day’s journey. The bridge has two towers on either side and for about $4USD, you can climb to the top for an epic view. Going down the stairs takes you to a little exhibit of items found around the bridge, from old tools to cellphones. The bridge itself is decorated with 30 statues, mostly of saints, that have been replaced with replicas over the years. Grab a picture with them as you stroll around pop-up vendors selling art and souvenirs.

Once you arrive on the Lesser Quarter, you can quickly find the Lennon Wall. Named for John, not Vladimir, the wall quickly popped up with symbols of freedom and western culture shortly after John’s assassination in 1980. It was used to protest the communist regime in then-Czechoslovakia. Each time we passed by, we found a busker performing “Imagine” that is impossible not to sing along with in your head.

The John Lennon Wall.

Climb the steps to the north until you arrive at Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. The most prominent structure here is the St. Vitus Cathedral, where you’ll find an incredibly long line to get in. The good thing is, you don’t need to wait in line to take a picture of the outside. Spend some time wandering around the grounds where you can find all kinds of history surrounding Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire. Statues, medieval-era buildings, one of the most fascinating things about Prague is how untouched it was during the World Wars, leaving many structures still intact, a feat that much of Europe can’t also claim.

As we descended down from the castle, we stopped by the oldest tavern in the city for a beer, and made our way towards Petřín Hill. It’s a doozy of a walk, but you can take a tram to the top if you need a little assistance. At the top, you’ll find it covered with parks and gardens. My favorite spots, however, were the Lookout Tower (it looks like a mini-Eiffel Tower), the Hunger Wall (a 14th century defense wall for the Lesser Town), and the Štefánik’s Observatory (an astronomical observatory used mainly to popularize astronomy.) Take your time here, you have a chance to slow down and take in a great view of the city, while meandering through beautiful gardens.

The city of 100 spires.

We ventured back down, towards the Charles Bridge. Just north is the Jewish Quarter, where you’ll find one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Continuing down the pedestrian-only street, you’ll come across Old Town Square. This is the perfect place to relax with a beer and food. Even the tourist trap restaurants aren’t bad, but a quick dive into some online recommendations and you can find plenty of food and drink options for under 200CZK (~$10USD.)

The gothic architecture is great to see, as well as several museums, but the biggest draw here is the Astronomical Clock. Operating since at least 1410 (with a brief lapse in 2018 for repairs), the clock has several animated figures that put on a show each hour. It’s an overstimulating experience, but it’s one you can’t miss if you’re in Prague.

From here, depending on the time of day, you can take it easy and enjoy some food and drink for the rest of the night, or you can continue on to Wensiclas Square. We chose the former, enjoying some goulash in a restaurant above a bank as I practiced my Czech with our server. It was just the most basic of phrases, but she was very happy with the effort insisting I was an exchange student, at the least, to have spent the time learning some vocabulary. I assured her it was just because I’m a fan of the city.

Below here is a shopping district where you’ll find some international brands like H&M and Zara, but you can skip that and make your way back towards the river. By now, your feet will probably be tired, but you have to make it down to the Dancing House, a pair of office buildings that stick out from the typical Baroque and Gothic buildings you’ve seen around the city.

Fred and Ginger – The Dancing House.

We took an easy stroll back up the river until we reached the Charles Bridge and our hotel. One last beer while I finished the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and we’ll call that a perfect day in Prague.

Where Beer Is Cheaper Than Water

Jedno privo, prosim. One beer, please.

Roughly 100km northeast from the birthplace of the pilsner, Prague is home to beer that is literally cheaper than water. And it’s good beer, too.

We enjoyed beers at the oldest pub in the city.

The Czech Republic consumes near 192 liters per capita every year. That’s nearly double the next closest nation, Austria (107 liters per capita), and far more than the US (73 liters per capita.) The Czech people love their beer.

You’ll find a fairly liberal atmosphere surrounding the drinking culture here. It’s not unheard of to order one or two small beers with your lunch and knock a few more back after dinner, and it doesn’t stop there – the nightlife is never ending. I stayed in an incredible hotel a stone’s throw from the Charles Bridge, but it was right beside a night club and across the street from another bar. There was partying and commotion all the way until sunrise.

Though the tap water is safe to drink in this central European country, don’t expect it to automatically come with your meal. We found a carafe or .3L bottle of water to be around 40Kč or $2 USD. Being one of the most walkable cities that I have ever been to, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated while exploring.

Pure happiness.

After visiting the Prague Castle and Petřín hill, we passed by U krále Brabantského – the oldest tavern in the city. It has an awesome, medieval aesthetic inside and offers shows on certain nights (we didn’t get to see.) Now my mom definitely isn’t a beer drinker, but we ordered a couple and she enjoyed them just as much as I did. One of the things that may shock you is the large head of foam on top of the drink. You’re still getting the .5L of beer, but the foam provides a different taste and a little complexity.

There’s even a pour called the mlíko that’s basically all foam, meant to be drank all at once for a sweet, dessert-style drink. I never had one, but I’ve seen sources say you get it for half-price.

Near our hotel was a long, indoor passage, called a pasáž, which is essentially a small mall. It’s a great way to get around the city. You get to avoid any inclement weather and pick up a sweet beer stein souvenir. Some of the bigger ones, like Lucerna pasáž, have pubs inside where you can pick up a .5L for 35-38Kč (~$1.75USD.) That’s more to drink for a lower price than water. All around Old Town Square, you’ll see green Pilsner Urquell awnings. It’s the most popular beer in the country and quite delicious. It’s nice to stop to people watch for a drink and continue on.

The birthplace of the pilsner, Plzeň, is about 100km southwest of Prague.

In the past decade, some public officials have attempted to enforce regulations that will make pubs sell a non-alcoholic beverage at a cheaper price than beer. This is been in an effort to curb underage drinking and the negative effects thereof. Business owners and the public have fought back and, at least during my first visit in 2017, have been doing quite well.

Make sure to add one of my favorite cities in the world to your travel bucket list and enjoy the beer. Na zdraví.

What Happens When You Lose Luggage?

Flying into Rome was great. I was on my first trip to Europe, having spent a few days in Paris and explored one of my favorite cities in the world, Brussels, just a few hours prior. We arrived at Leonardo Di Vinci airport (FCO) and approached the luggage turnstile. My sister’s bag came through then my mom’s. Then we waited. And waited. Mine did not. We went to the service desk to inquire and start a missing bag claim.

“What did it look like?” “How big was it?” “What color?”

Uhh… normal look, average size, grey. Pretty much zero distinguishing characteristics.

During this time, our shuttle car left and we had to figure out a new way to our hotel. Luckily, we figured out you can an express train from the airport to Roma Termini, the central train station in Rome, in about 30 minutes. We walked the rest of the way to the hotel and after our first slice of Italian pizza at a restaurant down the street, we went to grab some Zzz’s.

Now, the past couple days spent in Paris were very temperate summer days. Comfortable and normal. I had put on some jeans and a thick, long sleeve shirt for the flight over (I always get cold on airplanes.) Rome wanted to be different. We woke up and were met outside with 38°C (roughly 100°F) and being that I only had the same clothes from the flight, I had no choice but to venture out in jeans and a long sleeve shirt. If you know me, you know that I love the heat. I would much rather melt to the ground than shiver in the cold, but this was unbearable.

My sister and I apparently had matching sunglasses

Despite being incredibly hungry, I slipped into every shop I could, looking for a change of clothes to purchase. Nobody had shorts, but I was at least able to find boxers and socks and two soccer (sorry, football) jerseys – an AC Milan Stephan El Shaarawy shirt and a Juventus Andrea Pirlo shirt (this one would give me a funny story a few years later). Most of my outfit needs were taken care of now, but I would sweat it out in those same pair of jeans for the next few days. The only source of respite would be the innumerable water fountains that dot the city. They were lifesavers.

Two months later, I get a text from my mom while I’m at work. Somebody had dropped off my luggage at her house. It had been left at the Charles de Gaulle airport before our flight.

Now, I pretty much only travel out of a carry-on bag (I use a 46L bag). You can get around just about anywhere for three weeks or less in one. Plus, you don’t have to wait at the turnstile for your bags and you have the peace of mind that everything is with you. It’s been working so far.