Cities Worth A Wander

london, Travel, Uncategorized

The United States is not particularly conducive to walking about. Yes, you could point out that I have made posts about wandering Georgetown and Old Town, and you could try to convince me that New York city is walkable, but the perferred mode of transportation here is not by foot – we prefer our cars. And don’t get me wrong – there’s something to be said about driving hours at a time with constantly changing scenery and your favorite music playing on the radio. But it doesn’t have quite the same experience as wandering down streets and stumbling upon little spots of sunshine and history.

Unlike the U.S., where our cities were built with straight lines and strategic planning, Europe is a great place for wandering. European cities contain thousands of years of adapting and expanding with the practicalities of day-to-day life with no straight lines in sight. (For instance, when someone in Europe asked how far a store is, telling them it is four blocks away means nothing.) Through my travels, my feet have carried me through many a strange alley and up plenty of subtle hills, fulfilling my monthly step count in just a few hours. And I truly enjoy the experience of getting just a little bit lost and having to work your way back to a landmark or pulling out a good ole fashioned map to check street signs.

The city I think of the most when I speak about walking is Venice. Because of the canals and the narrow streets, there’s next to no chance for a car to get you from point A to point B. Your feet are your best option (and we won’t speak about the super expensive gondola rides every tourist seems to want to take). I loved my time in Venice, because I felt like a little kid again, walking down streets, into courtyards, and generally getting lost. The best part: once you hit the water, you know you only have two options to get back home – left or right.

Sweden in general is not particularly compact, but the historic section of Stockholm is really wonderful. Gamla Stan is a small island connected to the rest Stockholm but a series of bridges, but it feels like a completely different place. Whereas most of modern Stockholm is, well, modern, Gamla Stan (literally Old Town) is not; instead, Gamla Stan is a series of smaller streets, which all kind of look alike, but each have their own personality. In the center of the island is the Nobel Museum, from which you can head any direction and find cute streets that will lead you back to the edges of the island (similar in many ways to Venice, but without the overly expensive gondolas). Bonus shoutout to Malmö and Gothenburg for also being really wonderful to wander.

If you’re a big fan of canals, let you tell you about Amsterdam. Like Venice, Amsterdam is a city of canals, but unlike Venice, they’re a little larger. One of my favorite parts about my time in Amsterdam was wandering from my hostel towards the more central parts of the city. Every time I’d cross a bridge, I had to stop myself from taking thousands of those perfect Instagram shots. And once you get past the bridge, you’re faced with a cute line of buildings with someone biking by with a basket full of groceries. The entire city is a dang postcard.

London is a wonderful city for a thousand reasons, one of which is its walkability. I loved exploring its various neighborhoods, hunting for Wisteria in Kensington or exploring the classic look of Notting Hill. Now don’t get me wrong, London also has great public transportation. But just like with all of these places, when you’re walking through London, you get to spot the little things you might have missed, like a historic plaque about who lived in a home or a little pocket garden tucked away behind a fence. These kind of little sparks of personality are hard to catch when you’re in a car or on the second level of a bus.

Now, maybe you’re not in Europe or not able to get there quite as easily. Well, I have a spot for you: Melbourne, Australia. I loved my time in Australia, but if you have to ask my mom about the best part, there is a strong chance she’d say Melbourne. Despite being on the other side of the planet, Melbourne has a lot of the personality of a smaller European city. There’s the compactness of its central city, its alleyways filled with graffiti art, and its general walkability.

Basically, what I’m saying is I miss wandering through European cities. Did I miss a lot of good ones? Yes, yes I did. Will I be heading back as soon as possible to get lost a few more times? Yes, yes I will. Maybe, we’ll run into each other…

The Email That Started It All

Travel
This is the email that started it all. I was a quarter of the way through a two-week adventure and wanted to convince my parents that I was, in fact, alive. It was written on a bus on a phone. (It should be noted that despite telling them I would be sending them pictures, I hit send and then realized I had attached a total of zero photos.)
This is the email that started it all. After sending this quick note, I decided to start writing what I was thinking about my travels and my adventures to an audience wider than my parents and whoever they might choose to forward my email to. It was not the first time I wrote them an email summarizing my travels, but it was the time that convinced me to be a proper millennial and start a blog.
This is the email that started it all and this time I remembered to add the photos:
Good afternoon !
We’re heading off to Ljubljana now from Venice and I figured I would use the bus ride to send y’all some pictures.
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I could have taken photos if every crevice of that place. It’s such an interesting architectural marvel. The alley ways were so light but then they would open up to a massive courtyard. There is something so lovely about northern Italian courtyards with the houses all looking down on them. We only had a day and a half so we didn’t spend it standing in lines for the Doges Palace or St Marks Basilica. We wandered about and, Mom, you would have died at the gorgeous random churches we would find. They were stunning and massive and had their own flair and style. The city fills up during the day in such an overwhelming way (and it’s not even peak season) but we loved wandering around at night and getting lost in the alleys and canals. We got off the main island to go see Murano, which is where the glass blowers all work. Some of the artwork was stunning, some not so much.
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Due to the canals and the steps and the winding roads, bikes are not common, but Venice does have a bike share program, worry not, John. [edit: my father rides bikes regularly. this note was for him.]
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I’d love to go back and just get lost for days but unfortunately it’s time to move on to cheaper cities. We’re heading to Slovenia now. We’ll stay the night in Ljubljana before going to Bled. We’ve been lucky with weather but after cold, dreary London, anything is good weather.
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Love you and I’m sure I’ll update you in a few days!
Ciao, ciao!

5 Favorite Things: Venice

Five Favorites, Travel

I’m gonna make a casual series here called my five favorite things. As part of my dual need to express gratitude and live simply, I figured that picking some of the cool places I’ve been and identifying my five favorite things about them would be a satisfying, yet stress free way to show my love in a minimalist way. So enjoy the first installment: Venice!

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Wandering at Night

Some of you may have heard that Venice is going to start limiting the number of tourists on special occasions and is moving their cruise ships out of the closer harbor. There’s a reason. The city is overrun with tourist groups, following a tour guide with a flag, clogging up the tiny side roads. It’s pretty miserable to walk the city when there are so many (inconsiderate) tourists blocking your view and your path. But what’s great about Venice is that at 6:30 pm, the tourists tend to leave. Whether their buses are departing for their next stop or their cruise ships are leaving or they just don’t think they’ll get the best Instagram pictures at night, everyone disappears.

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Nighttime is the best time to wander the little streets and peak down alleyways and canals. I one hundred percent recommend putting away Google Maps and just getting lost for a bit. You’ll eventually reach the edge of the city, but the best parts of Venice are hidden away, discoverable by foot, inhabited by local kids playing soccer in the streets.

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Murano

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To escape the crowds, we hopped a ferry to Murano. Murano is home to glassmakers galore and they display their art everywhere. Whether you’re looking for a new chandelier or just want to window shop, the island is worth a visit. It’s also awfully colorful and gives you all the good vibes without the crowds. We were able to pop over in the mid morning and grab an early-ish lunch for cheap. Spending an hour or two wandering about was lovely. Plus the ferry back might take the scenic route and show you other islands and what Venice used to be: swamp land!

The Church with The Views

We choose to skip St. Mark’s Basilica as we only had a day to explore and didn’t fancy standing in line for hours. But that’s okay, because Venice is packed with hundreds of glorious churches. On your wanders, pop your head in to a church. Be respectful and take a look around. Even for the non-religious, it’s an experience not to be missed.

If you want to see a beautiful church and get great views, hop a ferry to S. Giorgio. You’ll be right in front of the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore. The Abbazia di San Giorgia Maggiore has a bell tower you can take an elevator up to see a stunning view of Venice. The view took my breath away, especially as we arrived as the sun was setting.

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Cemetery Island

If you’re going to visit Murano, you might just stop at the cemetery island on your way. The Cimitero di San Michele is an island that is a still active cemetery. Families were there to visit their loved ones while we wandered. If I inherited one thing from my mother, it’s her love of wandering through old cemeteries. Many of the tombstones had little photos of the dead, which was both touching and a little bizarre. There was still quite a bit of unused space on the island, but apparently they have plans to expand, and the island isn’t a final resting place, as you’re only guaranteed ten years there. I thought it was fascinating and it was both calming and quiet.

The Pups!

This may seem silly, but one of my favorite things about Venice was all the puppies. Venice was full of sweet, well-behaved, pups. If you’re not a dog fan, the people watching is also excellent. Take some time out from running from site to site, church to church, to watch the locals and tourists alike. We stayed off the island and were able to walk to a small bakery for breakfast in the morning. They remembered our order on the second day and were joking with us as we nibbled on our delicious pastries. Plus on our way there, we met the sweetest pup!31543548_10214148234873735_2994261155058286592_n

Sometimes the best thing to do in a new city is blend in, find the locals, and skip the touristy spots in favor of pups and a new perspective.

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