Vatican City- The Holy See

Location: Vatican City, Italy

edit00Our day started off on a terrible foot: V’s sprained one, to be precise. We woke up insanely early for vacation (at 5:30am) anticipating that we’d spend the full day out and about. Since the poor girl was broken, we had to give her some additional prep time.

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After we wrapped her ankle, we popped downstairs for a delicious breakfast. Espresso and elegant little pastries abounded. Our doorman hailed a taxi, and we were on our way to meet our tour guide outside the one of the smallest city-states in the world (0.17 square miles). We got some more coffee to fuel up for our hours of walking at Caffe Vaticano- an expensive but cute little cafe- across the street from the front gate.
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A private guide is the way to go for the Vatican if you value your time. People start lining up really early to get from Rome through the doors to this other city, and if you come with an authorized guide, they usher you through quickly. And there’s the added benefit of seeing a bunch of classical, 15th century art with someone who’s an expert in classical, 15th century art. Getting the right guide is really important because many popular companies will do anything to rip you off for a high TripAdvisor rating. I highly recommend our guide, Marta . She was incredibly kind, knowledgeable and she made the whole experience feel intimate.

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A Roman Holiday

Location: Rome, Lazio, Italy

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I won’t attempt to characterize Rome- its history or its grandeur- or how the ancient capital intertwines with the modern in such peculiar and unexpected ways. It’s a giant, frozen in time. You’ve undoubtedly heard the legends and the stories of emperors, conquerors and kings. I won’t tell you about those.

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I will, however, tell you about some contemporary Roman surprises.

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I will also inform you of the proper way to select gelato.

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Pisgah National Forest- Linville Falls

Location: Linville Falls and Gorge, Jonas Ridge, North Carolina

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Can we have some real talk for a second? Maybe it’s the Rio Olympics going on now, but I am having all kinds of feelings about how much of an average human being I am.

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When it comes to survival skills and outdoors-y-ness, let’s just say I would be screwed if the zombie apocalypse happened. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I even rank in the top 25% of my friends- many of whom have hiked the PCT or biked in the Pelatonia or built energy efficient homes in the wilderness. I’m just getting to the stage of getting a fire started without motor oil. Points for effort?

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Vieques- Island of Horses

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Location: Vieques, Puerto Rico

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Vieques island is one of those truly magical, untouched gems of the world. As a United States citizen, it still baffles me that you don’t need a passport to travel there. Only eight miles east of the mainland, it is accessible by ferry or small plane. It’s commonly referred to as “Puerto Rico’s little sister.” Unlike its crowded neighbor Culebra (home of Flamingo Beach- the most photographed beach in the world), Vieques is primarily visited by Puerto Ricans and only 9,000 people call the island home. As you might expect, this makes the place quite serene.

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El Yunque Rainforest

Location: Carolina, Puerto Rico

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This post will be short and sweet! We only spent a day in El Yunque Rainforest on our Puerto Rican adventure, but I felt that the remarkable scenery deserved its own post.

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It used to be called Luquillo National Forest because it’s located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains and overlooks the stunning shores of Luquillo Beach. We hiked the famous La Mina Trail and swam in the beautiful Juan Diego Falls.

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Old San Juan- The Walled City

Location: Old San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan) makes up only a fraction of the sprawling metropolis- most of it firmly rooted in the 21st century. Founded in 1509, it is the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico and the entire area is a protected National Heritage Site.

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Old San Juan still contains blue cobblestone streets and flat roofed brick and stone buildings (many dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries). My best friend and I stayed for about a week in the most gorgeous artist’s loft right on Calle San Francisco. Although Puerto Rico is a protected territory of the United States, and the majority of people speak English, I was grateful she could speak Spanish because I felt like it helped me to appreciate everything more fully. We were also able to get some incredible recommendations from our host.

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Philadelphia-The Dark Horse

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Stop. You have to see this!

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When I first learned I was going to take a trip to Philadelphia, I was excited. I would get to see some friends I hadn’t spent time with in ages. The city itself didn’t matter to me–it was mostly about D and R (and Trudy, the cat).

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I even mocked the city a bit by calling it exotic and scenic–words you definitely wouldn’t use to describe a former factory town. But it won me over.

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