Stockholm + Gothenburg 2017

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When my mom was in high school, my grandparents decided to host a foreign exchange student, and they were paired up with a girl named Malin from Sweden who was just about my mom’s age.  They rode horses and visited Vegas to drive along the Strip; I remember hearing stories about my mom and May while I was growing up even though I never met her.  This past summer, over thirty years after she had lived with my mom and grandparents, I had the opportunity to stay with Malin and meet her fiance and kids!  It ended up being one of my most unforgettable memories from my trip.

In addition to being a nurse, May flies planes for fun.  I didn’t even know that people could do that!  But she does, and she took took me up in the Swedish skies in a vintage plane from the 60s.  We flew from Stockholm to a small island off the coast called Visby where we walked along the beach, found some of the cutest coffeehouses, and then ate lingonberry ice cream.  On the way home, we followed one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen, and then I got to try Swedish-style cheeseburgers!

May and I spent the rest of our days riding bikes around Stockholm decked out in neon-orange helmets!  We found some amazing coffeehouses, and after a long day of bike-riding, we came across this Thai food-truck where we picked up curry and then picnicked at a nearby park!  I got to experience Stockholm as a local, and it delivered.

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After Stockholm, I took the train over to Gothenburg where I spent my whole day there eating buns and drinking coffee.  Gothenburg is wonderful to just walk around in, taking pictures, and looking at cute local shops.  I also found myself along the coast on my first night there and saw an incredible sunset even though it was probably midnight or something.

The next night, my airbnb host took me to the most stereotypical American-style sports bar I have ever done seen, and we watched golf, drank Swedish beer, and ate artificially-buttered popcorn.  Later at home, we talked over beers at his kitchen table until it was super late, and then I got to regret it during the whole plane ride the next day!  I hated myself at the time but looking back, it makes me smile, and I almost don’t remember the headache!

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Things to do in Stockholm:

  • Rent bikes – Stockholm was one of my favorite places to just stroll around and take pictures, and bikes are definitely the most convenient way of doing so!
  • Vasa Museum – visit the old 17th century ship here and learn all kinds of cool history.  There was a really amazing installment on women of the Vasa, and it was definitely my favorite part.
  • Picnic – Stockholm has some amazing parks, so pick up some sandwiches or Thai food and picnic while watching the sunset!
  • Fabrique – delicious coffee and the best cardamom buns!!
  • Rooftop bars – Stockholm has some amazing rooftop bars for wine-ing and sunset-watching.
  • Visit Visby – oh, you mean you don’t have a pilot-friend to take you to Visby for a day?  Don’t worry, you can take a ferry!
  • Drop Coffee – order the capp and also get a brownie + whipped cream for good measure!

And for a day in Gothenburg:

  • Haga – This street has all kinds of cute shops and places to brunch – I easily spent half a day here.  It’s also really close to other nice areas of town!
  • Walk near the coast – this is especially fun around sunset.  Most of my day in Gothenburg was spent walking around and taking pictures!
  • Bakeries – if you walk around Haga long enough, you will come across some of the best bakeries even on the side of the street!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: All your Love by Jakob Ogawa

Oslo + Bergen 2017

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One of the places I was absolutely most excited to go during my Europe trip was Norway.  Not only am I obsessed with lefse and green mountains, but I have Norwegian heritage, and I just really couldn’t wait to visit the motherland and meet my kin!!  And guys.  It was #perfect #worthit #thebestnorwegianexperienceever #hashtag.  It was four hashtags amazing, and I had some of my greatest times there, and when can I go back?!?!

I started my Norwegian adventure in Oslo, where I saw viking ships and so many naked people!! (And by people I mean statues).  I stayed with a man from China who had lived in Norway for years, and he gave me some of the best recommendations and was the nicest ever!  I spent my nights before dinner eating chocolate, drinking tea, and sitting in his kitchen talking about the world with him.  After dinner, I would walk around Oslo until late hours of the night, because it’s ALWAYS sunset there after 9 PM.  I found some amazing coffee shops with beautiful blonde baristas and even found a secret lake where the metro ends.

After Oslo, I got on an eight hour train ride through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen, and it was absolutely, hands-down, the best train ride I took in all of Europe.  The rail slowly climbed through the tippiest-toppiest point of Norway, through a field of white and blue even in the middle of July.  In the more hospitable parts of Norway, I looked down upon rows of tiny, brown cottages with white trimmings, rainbow flower gardens, and older couples sitting on their porch enjoying wine and snacks.  I snuggled in my seat with a cup of milky, black tea from the snack carriage and stared in awe for the entire journey.  I think it may have been one of the best parts of Norway.

When I arrived in Bergen, the magic ended momentarily when I got caught in the biggest rain storm in my life, dragging my suitcase through puddles while trying to find my airbnb.  And although my suitcase never dried the entire time I was there, I had a blow dryer to fix my hair, changed into a new dress, and met up with my airbnb host at a tiki bar with his friends, where we drank the sugariest drinks of my life and danced and danced and danced.  It was one of the times that I felt most welcome, and I will always cherish the experience of being taken in my a group of strangers in Bergen.  After the tiki bar, we met with all the other Bergen locals at the kebab shop down the street and sleepily leaned against the doorjambs while we waited for our takeout.  Upon arriving home at 3 a.m., I cozied up in my jammies, drank a pot of tea, and ate while chatting with my new friends.  Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe Bergen is just a secret hub of amazing Middle Eastern food, but I think it was the best kebab of my life.

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Oslo Stuff:

  • The Kasbah – a super cool Mediterranean restaurant & cafe with a boho vibe in a locals’ area of Oslo.  This place has lots of seating, some great hummus, and a yummy chicken pita!
  • Supreme Roastworks – A lovely coffeeshop with an even lovlier barista walking distance from The Kasbah.  I went twice, and I highly recommend their pour overs ♥
  • Sognsvann – the secret locals’ lake that is literally at the end of the metro.  Get off at the metro stop with the same name, and enjoy a serene walk around the lake right outside of the city!  Also, don’t forget to bring a picnic, because it’s the perfect spot.
  • Vigelands / Frogner Park – For a free, outdoor art experience, stop by Frogner Park and see hundreds of naked people statues.  The gardens are breathtaking, and honestly I just can’t believe this whole art gallery is in the middle of a park!
  • Oslo Opera House – the perfect, and I mean perfect, place to sit with a bottle of wine to watch a sunset.  I ate one too many chocolate-covered marzipan bars here while walking along the opera house roof and watching a pink and purple sky.
  • Bygdøy – take a ferry to this island to see all the museums including the Viking Ship Museum which I can’t recommend enough!!
  • Fuglen – an adorable coffeehouse with a name that translates to ‘the bird’.
  • National Gallery – a museum full of Monet, Degas, Picasso, and Munche!  I saw some of my favorite art pieces (I loooove Degas!) and then I went for more coffee at Supreme Coffeeworks.

Bergen Faves:

  • Selam – a really delicious Ethiopian restaurant recommended by my airbnb.  It’s barely advertised, hardly noticeable, but has a beautiful inside and delicious sega tibs!
  • Kaffemisjonen – my favorite coffee place in Norway, this is about a minute away from Selam.  The baristas are so knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is relaxing on a misty day.
  • Mount Fløyen – take a fernicular up the mountain for a pano view of the city.  Also, there is a music note fence up there, and it’s so cooooool!!!
  • Walking around town – it sounds silly to add this as a favorite ‘thing to do’, but this was one of the coolest experiences in Bergen!  I found some really adorable bakeries, great thrift shops, walked by the zoo, and got to see some adorable houses.
  • Fish market – ok, ugh.  I couldn’t do this.  I had to walk through it multiple times to get to Bryggen, and I gagged the whole time.  But if you like eating fish and whales and reindeer, I guess go here and live your best life.  On the positive side, the market vibe was wonderful!
  • Bryggen – old town Bergen with the best art shops, sweater stores, and restaurants!  10/10 recommend.
  • Naboen – a really wonderful restaurant with delicious steak + potatoes + beer.  It’s a more upscale place, and I had a lovely romantic solo dinner.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: It’s Always You by She & Him

Toronto + Niagara Falls 2017

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I’m taking a short commercial break from posting about my Europe trip so I can talk about my visit to Toronto a couple weeks ago!  I partially doing this because I love the pictures, but mostly because my Canadian friend, Stephen, asks when I’m going to post this at least once or twice a week.  (Here you go, Stephen.  Thanks for being a loyal reader, and A+ for enthusiasm!).

After I got back from London, I had a couple of weeks at home, and then I headed off to Toronto for some classes at the Canadian Barista & Coffee Academy!  I got to talk about coffee for four whole days with all kinds of well-respected roasters, baristas, and coffee shop owners – it was a dream.  Plus, I got to work on some really beautiful espresso machines, and I poured my first successful tulip!  I got so excited that I forgot to take a picture, but here’s a visual: it was symmetrical and had 5 whole layers!

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After my coffee classes were over, I took a few days to explore the Toronto area, and luckily, I had my friend Stephen to show me around.  Stephen and I originally met while we were both studying abroad in London, and he’s been trying to get me to visit ever since.  Suffice to say, he had a long list of places to show me, and I had a long list of coffee shops to visit!

One of my favorite nights involved Thai food and meeting up with Stephen’s friends to visit some of their favorite bars.  After a couple beers, they all decided it was time to give me a real Canadian experience, so we walked to Smoke’s Poutinerie.  I finally got to try poutine, and a group of drunk college kids spent the good portion of the night telling me I look like Bjork (which is just the least true thing I have ever heard in my life).  All in all, it was the best late-night Toronto experience I could ever hope for.

The next morning, we grabbed a coffee and headed to Niagara Falls!  The falls were on my bucket list, and I still can’t stop thinking about how beautiful they were.  After taking approximately a million pictures, Stephen and I went to an amazing Greek restaurant, found a cool brewery, and then he beat me at mini golf.  On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in Niagara-on-the-Lake where, in true fashion, we ended up at a British-style pub and listened to a live band!  It was the perfect last night in Canada.

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Things to do in Toronto & Niagara Falls:

  • Country Style Hungarian Restaurant – I have a newfound love for Hungarian food, which is not easy to find in Reno.  Luckily this place has plenty of good options like paprikash and schnitzel!
  • Put a Cone on It – this is a coffee/ice cream shop in Korea Town that I stopped at every morning before class.  They only have espresso drinks, but they make great cappuccinos.
  • The White Brick Kitchen – a restaurant on Bloor that has really great sandwiches and fries.  It’s also close to some artsy, local shops!
  • Bellwoods Brewery – probably the most beautiful brewery I’ve ever seen.  Apparently, it gets ridiculously busy some nights, but when we went, it was such a lovely place to relax and try local beer.
  • Ramen Isshin – this is an insanely popular ramen joint, but if you’re willing to wait about 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth it.
  • Get Well – a local barcade where I played Mrs. Packman and somehow won a Star Wars game purely by pressing a lot of buttons!
  • Salad King – a restaurant that does not, in fact, serve salad but does serve delicious Thai food.  It also has huge windows with a great view of downtown.
  • Smoke’s Poutinerie – only for the purest of Canadian experiences.
  • Manic Coffee – a recommendation by one of my instructors!
  • Koutouki – a lovely Greek restaurant near Niagara Falls.
  • Niagara Brewing Company – lots of beer choices and live music!  We got a flight, and I think their cream beer had to be my favorite.
  • Boxcar Social – probably my favorite coffeeshop in Toronto, I finally found pour-overs, and the aesthetic was beautiful.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Im Glad She’s Not my Girlfriend by The Soulboy Collective

Copenhagen 2017

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After Budapest, I headed to London for a few days to see The Lumineers, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (*cries*), and after spending a few days walking around my old favorite spots, I flew over to Copenhagen!  Copenhagen was by far the one place I wish I had spent longer.  I was there for 2 nights, but I could have easily been there for a week, I loved it so much!!  I wouldn’t say Copenhagen has the most fascinating touristy attractions (tbh I skipped most of them), but the food, bars, music scene, and overall culture was just my type.  Plus, if I had more time, I definitely would have checked out some of their art museums, because I’ve heard they’re amazing!

When I got to Copenhagen, my airbnb host gave me a tour of the town and showed me where all of the best restaurants and bars were!  Funny enough, he was an Irishman living in the city (when I asked why he moved to Copenhagen, he claimed he was a “sexual refugee” which still makes me giggle).  The next day, I followed his guide and ended up eating the best schnitzel at one of my favorite restaurants during my whole trip + I was in beer heaven.  Copenhagen is so hip that it’s hard to choose exactly what to do – I was overwhelmed by all the hipstery things I wanted to experience, but luckily I think I got the chance to visit a lot of the best spots.  At one point, I ended up stuck in the rain, and I had Sufjan Stevens stuck in my head, and overall it was a perfect moment.  Next time I’m there, I definitely want to rent a bike and ride all over that damn town and I’m going to make it to the Little Mermaid statue!

On another note, all of this talk of Copenhagen is making me miss Copenhagen, who wants to go with me?!?!?!?!?!

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My most favorite places in Copenhagen:

  • Stroget – the longest pedestrian street in Europe – it’s super touristy and filled with shops, but some of the architecture is cute, and there’s plenty of great places to check out on its side streets!
  • Nyhavn – this is Copenhagen’s harbor and one of my favorite places to walk around and take pictures.  Around here, a lot of the restaurants and bars will be filled with tourists, but it’s one of the best parts of the city to walk through!
  • Paper Island – after walking through Nyhavn, go cross the bridge and walk over to Paper Island where there’s a huge food market filled with food stalls.  I got a beer and hung out with all of the hippest millennials Copenhagen had to offer.  (Plus there’s an amazing view from the outside!)
  • Original Coffee – there is no lack of specialty coffee in Copenhagen, but I especially enjoyed the espresso and aesthetic here.
  • Torvenhallerne – a large food market filled with groceries and stalls to stop and have a pastry, sandwich, or coffee!
  • La Pentanque – a cute French restaurant and crepe place where I had the most delicious dessert crepes!  The owner is friends with my airbnb host, and he was super welcoming and helpful at helping me translate the menu!
  • Tight – by far one of my favorite restaurants on my entire trip.  I had the pork schnitzel with potatoes gratin and ratatouille, and it changed my life.
  • Black Swan Beer Bar – a fun bar with tons of beer options!  My favorite option for a pint.

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Eugene by Sufjan Stevens

 

Budapest 2017

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One of the best parts of traveling throughout so many countries was being unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised by cities I knew little to nothing about.  Enter Budapest, one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to!  I had a concert in London planned out for a random weekend in July, and I needed a place to visit for a few days in between Luzern and London, so off to Budapest I went – and I’m so glad I did!  Budapest is such an amazingly historic city filled with all kinds of nightlife, hip coffee shops, food, and culture.  I was there for only one full day, but I already can’t wait to go back!!

I stayed in a cute little airbnb with a loft bed – something I thought was a good idea until I had one too many limoncello shots at an Italian restaurant down the street courtesy of the owner who had a massive crush on me – in a great area of town near many of the most popular sites.  I rode on the oldest subway in Europe, ate TONS of paprikash, and bought a hedgehog toothpick holder!  I walked from Buda to Pest, saw all of the historic sites, paid tribute at the Shoes on the Danube Bank monument, and fell in love with a  coffee shop.  The people were so nice and welcoming, and I had the most beautiful day exploring such a cool city.  Budapest, I love love love love you!!

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What to do!

  • Fisherman’s Bastion – a part of the old city that has beautiful architecture with an even more amazing view!
  • Hungarian Parliament Building – one of my favorite buildings to take pictures of in Budapest!  I didn’t tour it, but I would absolutely recommend looking around!
  • Hősök tere – a famous square that has tons of cool sculptures and places to walk around.
  • Matthias Church – right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, so you can either take a tour, or just look at the detailed architecture.
  • Chain Bridge – this bridge connects Buda to Pest, has great views, and is a quick walk across and back!
  • Shoes on the Danube monument – a heartbreaking, yet beautiful, monument built to remember the Jews who were shot in the Danube River during WWII.  It’s not a common touristy visit but definitely important.
  • Ride the oldest metro – Budapest is home to the oldest subway, (Line 1!) and while it may not be the coolest thing to do in Budapest, it’s still fun to see the old railway cars and subway stops.
  • Borlap – a somewhat touristy restaurant, although I noticed plenty of locals there as well!  Their chicken paprikash was my favorite meal I ate in Budapest, and they also had yummy aperol spritzes!  They are also located right near plenty of other great bars!
  • Kaffeine – a very impressive coffee shop over in Buda that has delicious espresso drinks as well as pour-overs yay!  The baristas know their shhhtuff, and they have a Black Eagle espresso machine!  The street it’s located on had some other great restaurants and shops I wish I had time to check out.

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Take it Easy – Triathalon

 

Interlaken + Luzern 2017

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After having the loveliest couple of weeks in Italy, I took a train from Milan to Interlaken, Switzerland.  It was honestly probably one of the most beautiful rides of my journey – taking a train through the Burnese Oberlands was incredible, especially cozied up in a cute carriage with a cup of tea in my hands.  10/10 recommend.

On top of the amazing train ride, Interlaken itself was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been – everything looks like a Christmas card, and I seriously can’t imagine what it must look like in the snow!  A holiday dream, I’m sure.  Everything is so close that I spent my entire time strolling around the town visiting cute restaurants and walking along the river, which I swear, must be colored with blue no. 1.  Plus, after spending so many days sweating my balls off in France and Italy, I was stoked to be in a colder climate wearing – get this – a coat in July!  I found a cute little café playing Leonard Cohen, and even though the waitress thought I was insane, I drank tea in the rain and watched people walk along the river.  One day, I wanted to be outside and see a view of the city – I decided to forgo taking the fernicular to the top of the mountain, but ended up following a trail nearby that brought me to the most beautiful little clearing where I saw a view of the entire town as well as the neighboring areas.  I went in my ankle boots, which were not the ideal shoes for a hike, but when in Rome (Interlaken)!

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After Interlaken, I took another train over to Lucerne where I stayed in the prettiest Airbnb that was just a five minute walk from the lake!  I saw Old Town and the Kapellbrucke, dined on sunny patios, and visited cute local shops.  I spent my nights watching the sunset while sitting on the beach.  Behind me, locals hung out on the grass drinking, bbqing, playing games, smoking, and laughing.  At dinner, I would eat cordon bleu with mayonnaisey french fries and hoppy, local beer.  I also spent a lot of time hanging out in a specialty coffeeshop called Café Tacuba, where the owner let me use his espresso machine and even taught me how to roast coffee!  All of his coffee comes from farms his friends and family own in El Salvador, and he always had the nicest people hanging around the shop for me to make friends with!  It was the coolest.

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Things to check out in Interlaken:

  • Ladelokal – the cute little café along the river. It’s perfect for a cup of coffee or tea, and they have nice pastries as well!
  • Maharaja Indian – delicious chana masala and roti!
  • Restaurant El Azteca – so, I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Switzerland if you’re in the mood for really good Mexican food. However, if you’re from Mexico, the American west coast, or anywhere else where delicious, authentic Mexican food is around every corner, this was one of the best Mexican restaurants I found in Europe!
  • Take a quick hike! – if you go near the fernicular, you’ll see a little trail off to the side. Take it, walk past the “zoo”, and you’ll eventually reach a point on the trail where there’s a little clearing.  There’s some nice picnic tables and an amazing view of the town!  If you want a longer hike, you can go all the way up to the top for a panoramic view!
  • Walk along the river – there’s so many incredible views to see walking along the river. Get a coffee or tea and walk around the entire town.  It’s amazing.

And in Lucern:

  • Café Tacuba – obviously, I’ve already crushed hard on this place. It was the first specialty coffee I had in over 2 weeks, and I was excited!!
  • Mirch Masala Indian – there’s a very lovely patio and delicious vegetarian Indian food!
  • Old Town – cute shops and cafes with outdoor seating!
  • Visit the beach – there’s a park right next to Lake Luzern that has a great beach area although there’s plenty of places to sit along the lake! It was my favorite spot to hang out after dinner, and the view is stunning!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I Warned You by Good Morning

 

Venice + Lake Como 2017

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Are you guys tired of seeing my Italy posts?  It was one of my longest trips (besides London), so I have a lot of material (and this is without sharing so many photos, and I’m not even writing about Lucca/Milan, because they were quick trips, but still.  That’s how much Italy stuff I have).  However, I’m just going to keep telling myself that no one is sick of my Italy posts yet, because not loving Italy is something I can’t quite comprehend.

Anyways, after San Gimi, I went over to Venice.  I was only there for one night – I actually was supposed to go for two nights, but my mom called me and told me that she recommended that I stay in San Gimi another night, because Venice is absolutely mad crazy busy with tourists in the summer.  I’m so glad I stayed in San Gimi another night, although I did still have lots of fun during my night in Venice!  I still can’t quite get over staying in a town on top of a giant pool of water – my train went right over it, and then my mom picked me up at the station and we waited like, ½ an hour for a water bus, and how weird are water busses?!  After, we walked around Venice for hours looking at pretty masks and all of the buildings.  Pro-tip: If it’s June in Venice, the sidewalks will be so packed you literally cannot walk more than a couple steps at a time.  If you’re not patient, like yours truly, it’s maddening.  A local told me the best time to go would be in late April-early May.  Anyone have any tips on this?  I’d love to visit again!

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Also!  If you get a chance to get out at night after all the tourists have gone to bed, Venice is so amazing!  I got super lost, ate some ice cream, and saw some of the most beautiful sites.  That was by far the best part of Venice in my opinion.  After I got back to my hotel, my mom snuck me into the hotel room, and I shared a bed with one of my aunts and my mom.  It was a squishy night for sure.

After Venice, we took a train ride over to Milan where we saw the Duomo!  So, so gorgeous.  Also, we found a really lovely restaurant that we ended up at twice!  However, the highlight of the Milan trip was our little day-trip to Lake Como.  We took the funicular up to the top of the mountain and ate at the loveliest restaurant, and I had the BEST roast with polenta.  Then we took a boat trip around the lake and got gelato, and it was a perfect day!  All in all, such a lovely day trip and a nice way to end my stay in Italy!

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Some fun things to see in Lake Como/Milan (honestly I wasn’t in Venice very long, and I can’t even remember the name of the only restaurant I ate at.  Sorry!)

  • Boat Ride – Take a boat ride around the lake – we found the hour long tour was plenty! Then, get some gelato across the street from the boat station!
  • Fernicular – the fernicular goes to the top of the mountain in Lake Como and has absolutely the most stunning views and some cute shops! Definitely go if you can.
  • Ristorante Bellavista – this restaurant is located on the top of the mountain in Lake Como which you can get to by hiking or taking the fernicular. The beef + polenta dish was amaaaazzzzzininininggg!!!
  • Ristorante Il Tavolino – Our favorite restaurant in Milan we went to twice! The waiters were very sweet and got us way drunk on limoncello shots both nights!
  • Frank – a nice cocktail bar in Milan! Good whiskey!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Creature Comfort by Arcade Fire

Cinque Terre + San Gimignano

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I’m currently in rainy Ireland, sleepy from my flight over and also the 2 pints I drank last night (when did alcohol start having these effects on me, I’m too young for this?).  While the cooler fall weather has been very welcome lately, I can’t help but be really jealous of 3-Months-Ago-Sara.  How come 3-Months-Ago-Sara got to lay on the beach drinking aperol spritzes, and Current-Sara is slightly damp from the rain and falls asleep after a couple of Guinnesses?  In just a few weeks, I’ve gone from Fun-Girl Mode to Hibernation-Mode.  Okay, not entirely, I have actually been super entertaining in Ireland, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, have you guys heard of Cinque Terre and San Gimignano?!  They were honestly my most favorite places in all of Italy, so I’m super excited to share this post!  You’ll notice by the pictures that they aren’t very similar at all – Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 towns along the Riviera coastline, and it’s filled with these amazingly colorful, boxy houses on the cliffs!  On the other hand, San Gimignano is in Tuscany, and it’s probably what most people imagine when they hear about “Italian wine country”.  Both of them were so different, but I had just the most amazing time in each!

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Cinque Terre

Story time! In Cinque Terre, I stayed in the bottom town called Riomaggiore.  I was obsessed with the rainbow buildings, and I spent a large majority of my time there hanging out on the rock beaches and taking millions of pictures.  Anyways.  One of the days while I was laying on the beach, a local man walked up to me and asked if I wanted to do a night kayaking tour he hosted after 10 p.m.  Although I’m afraid of 1. the ocean, and 2. the ocean at night especially, I decided to say “fuck it” and have an experience.  I know it’s probably a bad idea to kayak off to a secret beach with a strange man you’ve just met, but he claimed that if I were to go with him, I would see glow-in-the-dark plankton, so obvs that convinced me.  I met up with him late at night, put on a super-sexy wetsuit, and our 1 1/2 hour kayaking tour took about 3, because apparently I’m that bad at kayaking.  There was no moon that night, and it was super dark, and I was kind of freaking out, because I JUST KNOW there was a whale swimming under me the whole time, but I made it!  We went to a dark cave where I saw lots of glowy plankton that looked like millions of stars in the water!  And then we went to the secret beach where I swam (SWAM!) in the dark natural pool there.  I was so proud of myself for being brave, and I had a cool experience!  So there’s your life lesson for the day: sometimes scary things are rad, and also there are some things you don’t tell your mom you do until after the fact!

Another funny story: while I was in Manorola attempting to get a picture of myself in front of the colorful houses with my mini-tripod and self-timer, a big tour group from China walked up and started taking a bajillion pictures of me.  I’m pretty sure they got better pics of me than I ever got!  Also, I think they were under the impression that I was a celebrity – as it turns out, the #papz is not for me.

Anyways, as stated above, I stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the bottom town of Cinque Terre.  I absolutely looooved staying there!  There’s only one street in the whole town, and the beach is honestly less than a five minute walk away from anywhere!  It was so perfect, 10/10 recommend.  I spent my first full day in Riomaggiore, hanging out on the beach, eating lots of food, and doing my night kayaking tour (although you can also do a day kayaking tour if you prefer).  The next day, I took a train to the other 4 towns, walking around each, eating lemonade-vodka granita, and doing the little hikes to the pretty views in each town.  After visiting all of them, I’m still glad I stayed in Riomaggiore (it’s a little quieter and less touristy than some of the other options).  However, I loved being able to take a day trip to the other 4 towns!  It was one of my favorite places on my trip, and I really can’t get over the pictures.

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San Gimignano

After Riomaggiore and Lucca, I took a train over to San Gimignano , which was another favorite of mine – it’s nestled in the hills of Tuscany, and it looks just like the paintings you’d expect to see in a cute Italian bistro.  I spent most of my time there getting lost in vineyards, and I’m still not even sure I was allowed to be in those.  However, I did do some more legal things like pottery shopping and visiting some of its beautiful sites.  Also, a young wine sommelier befriended me and taught me how to drink wine the right way!  I was reminded of how delicious amazing wine is, and totally neglected to mention that I usually just choose a bottle with a pretty label and <$10 price tag.  Convenient!

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Good stuff in Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore unless stated otherwise):

  • Colombo Guesthouse – this is where I stayed, and it was perfect!  Really clean, nice rooms with small kitchens.  Also, it’s on the main (and only) road, so it’s really close to the beach, train station, and restaurants!
  • Vertical – a little cafe that’s good for a cup of coffee and some breakfast!
  • Night kayaking – if you can track down the guy who offers this, it’s an amazing experience!  He doesn’t really advertise, but if you ask around, I’m sure someone can point you in his direction!
  • Gelateria Centrale di Germani e Giaccio – gelato!  Enough said.
  • Mamma Mia Take Away – a little friterie that has delicious cones of fried food that you eat with sticks!  It’s the perfect lunch while looking at shops or walking along the beach.
  • Marina Piccola (Manarola) – I stopped at this restaurant on my way back to Riomaggiore, and it was a nice change from the restaurants in Riomaggiore.  I sat outside, stared at the water, and ate lots of pasta – pretty good food, beautiful view!

Places to visit in San Gimignano:

  • Pottery shops – There are tons of great pottery shops throughout San Gimignano – I picked out a couple of ceramic roosters for my mom and aunt, which was interesting – “hi, can I take pictures of your roosters?”
  • Linen – okay, it sounds boring, but I loooved the linen stores!  So many great dish towels that would make amazing props for the blog – I had to leave before I bought one of everything (although I did indulge and buy a cute linen bread basket).
  • Palazzo Buonaccorsi – a historical home owned by a very sweet man who rents out beautiful rooms in a quiet area of town (aka – away from the super touristy areas!).  Lots of great shops and restaurants nearby.  Definitely recommend!
  • Restaurants in alleys – if you get the chance, skip all of the super touristy restaurants in the square, and make your way through alleys where you’ll find tons of small, local restaurants!  There’s lots of hidden gems on these side streets that you won’t find on Yelp or Tripadvisor!
  • Enoteca DiVinorum – a cool bar with an amazing view of the countryside!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Lauren – Men I Trust

Rome + Florence 2017

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My first stop in Italy on Euro-trip 2017 was Rome!!  For some reason, my crazy ass decided it would be a good idea to spend only one night in Rome and fit in both the Colosseum and the Vatican.  lol.  It all worked out.  It was great.  On the other hand, I would not recommend that crazy schedule to anyone.  This is coming from present-traveler Sara who has lived and learned from this experience.  Past-traveler Sara was ambitious but now understands the stress of having only one night in a city.

However!  Apart from the craziness that was Rome, I was absolutely enthralled by it.  After finding my apartment, I headed over to the Colosseum!  Pro-tip: You need to have your tickets printed if you buy them online (and trust me, you want to buy them online, or you will regret everything while standing in line in the blistering heat for 2 hours).  Anyways, printing: I did not print my tickets.  I went to the Colosseum on a Sunday.  Guess what’s not open on a Sunday?  Effing printing services.  BUT.  There is a really nice touring agency near the Colosseum that will print your tickets for you for a pretty cheap price so yay!  Learn from my mistakes – print your tickets, and do not call your mom crying, because you had a bad traveling day, and you want to make your Colosseum time frame, but you can’t find a place to print anything on a Sunday.  Lesson learned!

After the Colosseum, I met up with my mom, grandma, and aunts who happened to be in Rome while I was!  I met my mom at the Spanish Steps, and then she took me over to the Barcaccia Fountain to fill my water bottle!  Then, we ate arancini and pasta, and I drank lots of wine!

The next day, I headed over to the Vatican (got totally lost on the way but made it nonetheless!).  Again: buy tickets in advance!!  The Vatican was amazing and definitely something pictures can’t do justice.

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After the Vatican, I took a short train ride over to Florence for a few days.  I got to see all the amazing leather shops, buy some fun jewelry, and eat lots of pizza!  I also accidentally ordered a giant gelato cone (why don’t the gelato shops tell you when they serve giant gelatos??).  Plus, David taught me that the thing they say about men with big hands is NOT true*!  Thx David!

*I had a friend tell me that David was thought to be “strong of hand” which is why his hands are disproportionate to the rest of his body.  Another friend told me that when David was built, it was common to make mens, ahem, groinal-areas smaller, because only women were to be portrayed as sexual – anyone have any thoughts on this??

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Thanks to my mom for letting me use some of her iPhone pics for this post!


Some things I loved about Rome:

  • Colosseum – buy tix in advance!
  • The Vatican – again, buy tix in advance.  And don’t forget to leave a large amount of time to see it!  Also, and this is very important, even if you’re really hungry, don’t go to restaurants around the Vatican!  They are the worst, most expensive tourist traps ever.  I spent 18 euro on the worst salad of my life.  It was sad.
  • Spanish Steps – fun to walk around, and the view from the top is amazing!
  • Barcaccia Fountain – it’s right next to the Spanish Steps, and you can walk out and fill up your water bottle!  I guess it’s not necessarily that exciting, but it’s definitely something fun to check out!
  • Arancini – I only had 2 meals in Rome, and like I said above, one of them was the most disappointing salad ever.  But definitely find a restaurant with arancini!
  • Aperol Spritz – find a cute cafe to drink Aperol Spritzes.  If you’re there in the summer, it will be hot, and this is the only cure!

Things I loved in Florence:

  • Ponte Vecchio – a little touristy but definitely fun!  There are lots of cool leather stores and jewelry shops to check out.  Plus, there’s a cool place to take photos of the river!
  • Stay in the heart of Florence – I was in a historical apartment five minutes from the main train station, and I could walk EVERYWHERE!  There were tons of great restaurants, gelato shops, and shopping nearby!
  • Accademia Gallery – go say hi to David, and check out the super cool musical instruments exhibit!
  • Ristorante Accademia – my mom, grandma, and aunts raved about this restaurant for 2 years before I visited it on this trip.  I went with the family, and the owners and waiters instantly recognized everyone.  We had plenty of limoncello shots + their veal picatta!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Chateau – Angus & Julia Stone

Lyon 2017

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After my trip to Paris with my aunt and grandma, I headed off to Lyon which I had heard from just about everyone was a cool place to hang out for a few days.  I was looking forward to having some lazy days in Lyon since my trip to Paris was such a whirlwind of getting on and off the metro to see all of the city’s museums and attractions.

My stay in Lyon is what I can only describe as the trip where I lost my dignity, and I mean that in the best way possible.  A few not-so-glorious moments for your pleasure at my expense:

  • discovering Lyon’s hills while carrying the worst, heaviest, bulkiest, more horrible, wobbly suitcase imaginable ughhhh (in Italy, my mom adorned her The Gold Bitch and she was later disposed of in favor of a smaller, well-behaved suitcase – more on that later).
  • sweating like I’ve never sweat before whilst climbing up Lyon’s hills with The Gold Bitch – and lots of cute French boys judging tf out of me.
  • finding my apartment building but realizing I didn’t have the gate code, wifi, or any means of communication
  • almost crying in front of an adorable old French man who tried to help me, but alas, did not speak English whatsoever.
  • finally getting through the damn gate and carrying The Gold Bitch up a ton of stairs leading to, you guessed it, more profuse sweating
  • barely getting the front door shut before ravenously stripping off all my clothes and taking the iciest shower until my heart rate decreased to a normal level.
  • getting stuck in torrential downpour with a large bag of groceries and having the paper bag fall apart and carrying all of my veggies home in my arms – and getting judged by more attractive French boys (actually this was kind of amazing, because I felt like I was in a romcom set in the early 2000s which pre-teen me would have loved).
  • going to my first specialty coffee shop on my Europe 2017 trip and not being able to get inside because I was pulling on the “push” door – then getting embarrassed that I couldn’t open the door, so I pretended to take a phone call until someone else went in, and then I casually strolled in and the beautiful men behind the bar were laughing at me.
  • essentially just embarrassing myself in front of a lot of attractive French men
  • probably some more stuff that I have chosen to erase from my memory

Aside from all of the incredibly embarrassing things that I actually find funny af now, Lyon was absolutely amazing.  I don’t know if it was the sense of freedom that comes with being completely alone on vacation, or if it was just the magic of Lyon itself, but it was for sure one of my favorite stops on my trip.  I didn’t plan a lot, mostly just walked around the town and looked at beautiful architecture, ate lots of food, enjoyed the Lyonnaise Airbnb I stayed in, and took a million and a half pictures.  I stayed in the center of Lyon, which is less touristy than Old Lyon and definitely where I’d recommend staying.  I didn’t necessarily leave the area, except for walking to other neighborhoods and whatnot, but the proximity and walkability is what I loved about staying there.  I also had the cutest Airbnb, and one night I decided to cook dinner to get a sense of home.  I had the windows open, the rain was pouring, and there was classic rock music playing in the background.  The neighbor was cooking something with lots of garlic and butter.  It was lovely.


Some things to do:

  • Take a taxi from the train station to your Airbnb (jk, kind of)
  • Visit Old Lyon – this is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it’s full of great shops and restaurants. It’s a little more touristy than I usually like, but it really is beautiful, fun, and full of energy.
  • Esplanade de Fourvière & Fourvière – climb almost 800 stairs to get to the top of Fourvière hill, where you’ll get a panoramic view of the city facing the Soane River. You can also take a funicular apparently, but I did not realize that until later, and honestly, I probably deserve to climb 800 stairs with all the pastries and wine I consumed in France.  Next, stop into the pretty church if that’s your thing!
  • Parc de la Tête d’Or – this is one of the biggest (the biggest?) park in France, and get this, there’s a freaking zoo in the center of it – that was another accidental find, but it was so cool, and I saw some giraffes! The zoo is free to the public and very open, so it’s totally normal if you just happen upon it.  There’s also some botanical gardens and a really peaceful lake to enjoy some ice cream by.  I spent the good part of a day here, so if you like the outdoors, I would recommend bringing a picnic!
  • Café Mokxa – this is where I had my really embarrassing moment but also my favorite coffee in France. They have such a lovely outdoor area, but the inside is relaxing too.  They have all the regulars – espresso drinks, slow-bar, plus iced tea!!
  • Le Jardin Gourmand – I had a late night dinner here after searching forever for a restaurant (not because of lack of restaurants, but because I was having a hard time choosing which one I wanted to go to). I had the steak with peppercorn sauce + wine, and there’s a very lovely view of the city from the outdoor seating area.
  • Glacier Terre adèlice Lyon – I passed by this place once, and the line was absolutely insane, so I knew I had to come back. Luckily I did, because there was no line at 9 p.m., and I had some amazing pear ice cream!  Yay!
  • Stroll around Lyon’s center – I stayed very close to Hotel de Ville, so if you walk up and behind that area, you’ll find a large assortment of cool restaurants, bars, vinyl record stores, and shops (Café Mokxa and Le Jardine Gourmand are both in this area).

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Grapevine Fires by Death Cab for Cutie