As anyone who follows us on Instagram or likes our Facebook page will know, we recently spent two and a half weeks in Europe, exploring the Mediterranean coast on route to a wedding in Rome. Our dear friends, Joseph + Kathryn, joined us on our adventure and were kind enough to put up with our constant requests for photo sessions. We were a little bit shutter happy but have tried to be selective in picking our favourites to share with you.
Also, if you ever are heading to the Mediterranean and are looking for places to stay, we found some serious gems on AirBnB and would be happy to share them with you!
We arrived in Barcelona with time to check in and enjoy an array of tapas from a restaurant around the corner from our hotel. After an incredible sleep we woke up with no plans for the day ahead except enjoying our breakfast, an all-you-can-eat pastry spread. The Praktik Hotel is built above the Praktik Bakery, so it smelled amazing during our entire stay. There was no better way to kick-off our trip than with fresh chocolate croissants, donuts and prosciutto on warm artisan bread. Anyone following Sancia on snapchat will know that food was one of the core elements of our travels.
There was no itinerary for the day, so we took off in search of pretty streets, more coffee, and whatever sights we came across. We saw the Sagrada Familia on our maps and made a beeline for what would the most touristy stop that week. We took photos of course, but honestly, nothing will do justice to the intricate designs and architecture. You need to go see it for yourself! We made a stop at the beach, took a wander around the marina, and then stocked up on pastries + coffee in preparation for the long night drive ahead.
We may have spammed your Instagram feeds with our Portugal discoveries (sorry not sorry). After driving eleven hours through the night, encountering only one sketchy gas station, we arrived in Carveiro, which is essentially the farthest Southern tip of the country. If you are looking for a place to travel in Europe that isn’t terribly touristy but is full of places to explore, make the coast of Portugal your destination. We loved it, and I’m sure these photos will show you why.
We had a couple of impromptu sunset sessions with Joseph + Kathryn during our stay in Portugal, and we will be sharing those in their own post soon!
Our journey from Carveiro to Alicante was uneventful, but it was so wonderful to see the Spanish countryside in daylight. Small villages filled the valleys, castles and churches sat atop many of the peaks, and vineyards lined the roads. We sang along to more High School Musical than we would like to admit, and were happily surprised to find that the gas stations serve espresso to go.
Before going our separate ways at the end of our trip, we evaluated our travels together and all four of us concluded that Alicante was our favourite stop along the coast. Our AirBnb was located in the historic city centre meaning that we couldn’t access it by car. Our casita sat at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the castle, and by turning one corner we could walk five minutes down to the beach. Restaurants lined the middle of every street (we ate outside for all of our meals), and we discovered that the McCafe’s have a wonderful selection of macarons!
The beach had the nicest sand (I mean, we didn’t complain about any of the other beaches of course), and the warmest water. We relaxed by the beach all afternoon before freshening up and having dinner on the marina. When we arrived our host had told us not to expect anything to be open before 1PM, and she was correct. The town slept all morning and then we could hear a partying below our window at 4AM that night. When we left early to head on to France, the streets were silent!
MARSEILLE // CASSIS
If you asked us what the highlight and lowlight of our trip would be, arriving in Marseille would (without a doubt) be the lowlight. We pulled in to town as the sun was setting, unaware of how busy Saturday nights can be. To make a long story short, we got separated from Joseph + Kathryn without our cellphones, and once reunited spent over an hour looking for a parking spot. Every parkade was full, and our larger car had no chance of squeezing in to the bumper-to-bumper parking along the streets. Hanger had gotten the best of us at this point, so a stop at a pizza truck was our first and only stop that evening.
We quickly realized that Cassis was only a thirty minute drive away, and so we spent the day hiking through the Calanques to some beaches in the cliffs. We ran in to some baby wild boars, and ran out of water on the way back to our cars. Signs had recommended 1.5 litres for the hike (per person), which we had, between four of us. If you want to retire in France, Cassis might just be the perfect location. We loved this part of the coast so much that we scouted out a rock face to visit the following morning on our way to Cannes. The water was crystal clean and Sancia was about to jump in to enjoy a morning swim when she realized she was in the company of some little pink jellyfish. Needless to say, a nap on the rocks sufficed.
Our stay in Cannes but short, but so sweet. After a morning in Cassis we spent the afternoon swimming at the beach in Cannes. Life is so hard. Our apartment was a minute walk from the sand and so we returned at sunset before scouting out our dinner. Breakfast the next morning was perfect. Espresso, quiche, and croissants on a patio outside a darling boulangerie. We checked out a market where we picked up some fresh fruit for the next drive. We were Italy bound.
Florence was the only town we visited that wasn’t on the coast, but we had heard such great things about their food and vibe that we had to make a stop. Our accommodation was located behind a huge gate and within fortress walls, also in the historic city centre. Our flat had white walls, brown tiles floors and white ceilings, it was perfect (with the exception of the cat hair, that didn’t treat Sancia so well). We experienced our first authentic Italian pizza that evening, and it lived up to all of our expectations. The pizza goodness was then washed down with a healthy dose of gelato.
We took a walk across the river to check out some of the sights, particularly the Florence Cathedral and Piazza Michelangelo. The streets smelled of leather and pizza with just a touch of sewage. Just before lunch we got doused in some rain so we bartered for a small umbrella and then sought shelter in a restaurant just outside of the cathedral. We truly were amazed by the details in the architecture of every building we passed, and were able to see it all from the Piazza Michelangelo before we got sick of the rain and made a crepe stop. Again, we enjoyed pizzas outside once the rain had cleared and then explored the nighttime buzz down by the river.
STRIANO / POMPEII / SORRENTO / AMALFI COAST
Breakfast in Florence was the usual: croissants + coffee, and we were in for a lovely surprise when we paid for our parking, a whopping 78 euro bill (the second lowlight of the trip). We arrived in Striano, a town on the outskirts of Naples, and settled in to our bed + breakfast before heading down to Pompeii. We all were under the impression that Pompeii consisted of just the ruins, however, we were in for a wonderful surprise when we arrived in a beautiful town full of stunning architecture and restaurants.
The ruins were incredible. We didn’t bother with a tour guide but wandered the cobblestone streets, exploring alleys and houses, amazed at how much restoration must have taken place to allow us to experience the city like we were. The sun was setting behind Mount Vesuvius as we left, and the light was magical over the ruins. This was an item on Mitchell’s life bucket list, and we were happy to check it off!
We enjoyed a dinner on the rooftop, courtesy of a local pizzeria (15 euros for four medium pizzas), and fell in love with our AirBnB host. Their family gave us the warmest welcome and continued to surprise us with a beautiful breakfast spread (again on the terrace) the next morning. This time we could see Mount Vesuvius clearly in the distance. We ventured out to find a beach to spend the afternoon, and found ourselves on the outskirts of Sorrento before getting lost in the mountains towards the Amalfi coast. We stopped for lunch to avoid grumpiness and ended up at a table looking over the Isle of Capris (what a treat). Our server directed us to a beach and we spent the afternoon reading, swimming and snorkelling. Dinner was in Sorrento (pizza + gelato again).
Rome was a bit of a whirlwind after we arrived early in the morning for Joseph + Kathryn’s last day with us. Our favourite fellow at guest services mapped out the best sights to see and warned us about young gypsies on the bus. We opted to walk (not because of the young gypsies), passing through St. Peter’s Square, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (sadly, it was under construction), the Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Pantheon. It was a 20 kilometre day through the beautiful streets of Rome and we rewarded ourselves with a delicious last supper together.
It was sad to say goodbye to our dear friends after having spent such an incredible two weeks together. Almost every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moments had been spent together, and we are truly so grateful to have such amazing travel companions. The following day was spent relaxing. We slept in, sought out wifi to answer some emails, and attended the wedding rehearsal. Seeing the inside of the church ignited even more excitement in us for the next day’s celebration!
The wedding, well, you will see more about that when we finish the photos + film and post about it. But we will say, it was an absolute blast! It’s not every day that a bride gets to go sight seeing in Rome in her wedding dress, and it’s not every day that we get to shoot a wedding in Italy. It was an unbelievable experience, definitely one for the books!
And that about sums up our trip. If you just haven’t had enough of our adventures, find them on Instagram under #watchmewhipwatchmevacay. It was an experience of a lifetime and we cannot wait to continue taking our craft all around the world!