Top 10 Travel Moments of 2016

2016 was filled with so many amazing travel experiences and adventures. I love looking back each year and reflecting on our travels. You can check out last years post HERE. This year instead of breaking down each trip we took, I decided to pick my top ten favorite travel moments from the year. Here they are, in order of occurance not importance...

Grand Canyon

Talk about majestic! I love the Grand Canyon and I feel so grateful to have seen it. I did an entire blog post on this, so to read more about my day trip to the Grand Canyon, click HERE!

San Francisco

There is so much to see in the city and surrounding regions of San Francisco! We took a wine tour through Sonoma Valley, visited Ghirardelli Square, toured and ate seafood at Fisherman's Wharf, rode a trolley, walked the crooked road of Lombard Street, drank wine in the park near the Painted Ladies and of course took a billion photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. Did I mention this was a girls trip?! I typically am traveling with my husband, and he is the best travel partner I could ever hope for. However, a girls trip with your best friends is so necessary sometimes. Wine, great food, new adventures and tons of laughs is the recipe for a perfect weekend getaway. 

Miami

Nick and I have been to Florida several times, but never Miami until this year. We are extremely surprised by the Cuban culture and influence in Miami. The beaches there are so stunning, with beautiful sand and clear turquoise waters. I did a full blog post on our weekend in Miami, read more HERE.

Amsterdam

In August we began our month long European adventure. We started in Amsterdam. I still need to do a whole blog post on just this city, there is just so much to say that I don't quite know where to begin. My favorite part of this city was the canals. The water was beautiful, they are surrounded by quaint buildings, and there are always boats passing along each canal. My other favorite elements of Amsterdam were the beautiful parks, and the historical museums, including many art museums and the Anne Frank house. With all that being said, there are many things about this city I could do without. The insane amounts of bicycles that are everywhere, leaving you stressed out when you walk around town and the unique culture of the Red Light District. Those things are part of what makes Amsterdam a unique city, I personally just wasn't fond of them. Overall though, our time in Amsterdam was great, we loved walking around while discovering new sights and foods, and we loved experiencing the dutch culture for the first time.

Trevi Fountain in Rome

Rome is my favorite city! It's my husband's favorite city too. We fell in love with Rome a few years ago when we were there on our honeymoon. Going back two years later was a dream. The first time we went to Rome the Trevi Fountain was under construction. It was one of the sights we were most looking forward to seeing, so when it was all covered in scaffolding we were so disappointed. This August when we went back to Italy, Trevi was up and running and let me say looking stunning. It is so much larger and more grand than I had anticipated. The way they light it up at night is just magical. Everyone gathers around Trevi in the evenings, eating their gelato and tossing coins into the fountain while they make wishes. We came back several nights, it just doesn't get old. 

Boating in Tropea, Italy

When it comes to touring Italy, we are spoiled. We are spoiled because we have family there and they give us the VIP tour. We get to see Italy through a local's eyes, not just our tourist eyes. Our cousin Antonio owns a boat in Tropea ( the most beautiful beach town in all of Italy). We took the boat out and got to gawk at the views of the coast from the sea. Tropea is stunning, I love the way the buildings are carved into the cliffs. The sea is such a bright blue, you would think you're sailing through Kool-Aid. We jumped in, swam for a bit, then headed back to the marina where we drank champagne and toasted to family. This is one of my favorite moments not just of this year but of my entire life. I'm so grateful to have family in Italy, they are so fun and such a joy to be around. 

Cinque Terre Hike

Hiking the Cinque Terre trail along the Italian coast had been on my bucket list for probably over seven years. I had first heard of Cinque Terre, Italy because amazing photos of the little fishing towns were going viral on Pinterest. It looked like something I would "pin" but never go to... a dream place that who knew if really existed. This August we actually went! And let me tell you it was as dreamy, quaint and stunning as the pictures on Pinterest made me believe. To read an in depth post on the hike we did, click HERE

Leaning Tower of Pisa

There are some things you see your whole life on post cards, computer screen savers, in movies and in books, but to see them in real life is something else. The leaning tower of Pisa is one of those famous landmarks. It was unbelievable to see it with my own eyes. I loved watching all the tourists take their "I'm holding the tower up" photos. Such a blast! 

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Sunset in Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo

Watching the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence was an evening I'll never forget. It was quite the hike to get to Piazzale Michelangelo but it is so worth it. There you can overlook the entire city of Florence, getting a birds eye view of the red roofs. At the square you will find food and drinks. We drank wine while watching the sun set. It was so peaceful and so stunning that no photo will do it justice. 

Breakfast in St. Mark's Square, Venice

Last, but certainly not least... breakfast in St. Mark's Square! This was the most peaceful, joyous and memorable experience of our Europe trip. I know that may seem silly saying breakfast was my favorite, when we did things like tour the Roman Colosseum, explore the Vatican, we even saw the Pope! But this breakfast was simply my favorite. You pay to sit at this restaurant, you pay for the view and the live orchestra playing right behind you. I ordered a cappuccino and a variety of macrons. It was all so delicious, the best cappuccino and macrons I have ever tasted. We sat there, ate, drank, listened to the music and people watched. There is so much joy happening all through St. Mark's Square, so it is the perfect place to people watch. You'll see people from all walks of life, but they are all seemingly happy. That was one of the most tranquil moments of my life. I can't wait to go back. 

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Cinque Terre Hike | Vernazza To Monterosso

I have been so eager and excited to write this post and share these memories with you all! Hiking the Cinque Terre trail was one of my favorite experiences during our month long trip to Europe. Being a Colorado native, it's only natural that I enjoy hiking, but the views and terrain on this trail was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It was truly breathtaking. If you do not already know, Cinque Terre is on the coast of northern Italy on the western side. Cinque Terre stands for "five towns" because it is made up of five small fishing towns across the coastline. The towns are known for ( especially on Pinterest ) their brightly colored buildings spread across the steep, rocky terrain and the colorful fishing boats that sit in the harbor of each town. We stayed in Vernazza, which is the second town in the bunch. According to Rick Steves, a travel guru, Vernazza is the best of the five towns to stay in. I will eventually do a post on our experience staying in Vernazza but for now we will focus on the hike. 

Since there are five towns with hiking trails in between each of them, there are many different trails to choose from. We chose to do the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso, which is the most northern of the five towns. The hike is said to be about 90 minutes long, but it took us about a hour and 45 minutes since we stopped often to take pictures. The hike was decently difficult I would say, I broke a sweat and felt like I got a good workout. There is a lot of steep uphill trekking on the hike since it is across a mountain. If you were to hike from Monterosso to Vernazza it would be even more difficult because that direction has more uphill than the route we took. The scenery throughout the hike is breathtaking! It is so green and lush the entire hike, with beautiful vineyards that pop up here and there. Like I mentioned before, Cinque Terre is on the coastline, so the hike is filled with stunning views of the sea. The pictures below will help you to better envision the scenery. Many parts of the hike allow you to see the towns from a distance, which makes for great photos. My suggestion would be not to hike this trail without a camera. 

We started the hike around 9am. I suggest getting out early to beat the heat. The hike is hard enough as it is, you will not want to be overheated during it. The evening might also be a perfect time to hike the trail. Mid-day would just be too hot, especially in August when we went. Something you should know is that to hike the trail you need a ticket, and the ticket costs money. Click HERE to get all the details on pricing. Trust me, it was so worth it! You can purchase the tickets at the start of each trail. You have the option to buy a train ticket ( your ride back) and the hike, or just the hike. We chose to buy just the hike ticket because we took the boat back to Vernazza. 

One thing I wish we would have done is brought a swimsuit and towel. The beach at Monterosso looked so lovely and after a long hike, hopping in the brisk water sounded so refreshing. Since we did not prepare for a beach day in Monterosso, we opted for the next best refreshing thing... gelato! We got some gelato and wandered around town. Monterosso was very different from Vernazza, so it was nice to spend time exploring the village. When we were ready to head back to Vernazza, after about a hour of exploring, we bought tickets for the boat ride. The boat will take you from town to town. I would absolutely recommend this. The views from the sea were stunning and the transportation was incredibly quick. The sea breeze from the boat ride felt great after a long morning of hiking.

Writing this post makes me miss Cinque Terre so much. I am so grateful we had the opportunity to travel there and explore the quaint towns. I would absolutely recommend you add this to your must see in Italy list! Of all the places we have seen in Italy, this is one of my favorite. I hope you found this post helpful and make sure to comment below and let me know about your next adventure! 

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