Rome and Cats

I don’t believe there is anything that I can tell you about Rome that you don’t already know or haven’t already seen so I’ll keep this short.

So after our trip to Santorini, we flew out to Rome to spend one night there before going back to Berlin. So with two whole days to go roam around, we tried to make the most out of it.

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But first, lunch. Buffalo mozzarella is an essential part every trip to Italy. It’s just sooo goood.

After lunch, we took the mandatory tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Obviously, it was fantastic and worth a visit – just probably not on a summer’s day because it just gets really hot in Rome this time of the year. We would have wanted to see more if it hadn’t been 40C outside.

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But this is just gorgeous from all angles.

We were surprised by how cheap a cab ride is in this city – to a point that we even let ourselves be toured by a local cab driver, showing us the most important attractions in this city. We didn’t have to pay more than 10 € for a 10 minute ride with light traffic.

For more flexibility, we decided to rent Vespas – one for each couple, to complete the whole Italian experience.

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And realised they are not exactly comfortable for riding in tandem…

At night we drove around Vatican City, and then to Fountain Trevi. Some attractions in this city are just so busy even late at night.

The next day, our friends woke up to some bad news from back home and they had to leave for LA with the next flight. We were supposed to leave Rome at night then spend the whole day in Berlin the next day and drive them to the airport the day after that. The wife and I then decided to make a quiet day of it, just driving around on our Vespa.

At some point in the afternoon, we went to Torre Argentina. Today it doubles as a cat sanctuary that houses around 150 gatti. It may be visited in the afternoons during which you may choose to adopt a little feline of all ages. They also sell some goodies like towels and mugs made by a few volunteers to help raise some money for the cats’ needs. Don’t forget to leave a donation!

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They are so lucky to be taken care of by volunteers, surviving off donations from locals and tourists alike. And they get to live among ancient ruins of this historical city!

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From there, we walked towards the Pantheon, which in my opinion, was the most beautiful attraction in this city. Seeing the inside of this building is free of charge and it’s just amazing how it’s still standing hundreds of years after it was built.

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And after we have satisfied our eyes and tastebuds with all the best of Italy, we took our ride to the airport to take our flight back to Berlin. It was a short holiday indeed, but so eventful.

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All these in less than a week!

 

Ah, but before we go…

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Gelato!

Santorini, Greece

I’m excited to share with you all this post on our recent trip to Santorini, Greece. It is, as you can see, one of the most romantic places in Europe – maybe even the world, and rightfully so. The famous whitewashed cave-houses by the cliffside of this beautiful volcano island, resting in the middle of the blue Aegean are surely hard to resist for all lovebirds out there. And it doesn’t help that it’s in a land known for excellent food and exquisite wine – it just makes me wonder why I had waited this long to come to Greece!

Some time last year, an old friend of Joan’s had told us she wanted to come over to Berlin to visit us and to do a mini tour of Europe together. She had brought her wife, who had never been to Europe before, and they flew in all the way from LA. Their goal was to see Europe so I cooked up a travel plan to let them see as much as possible in the one week they were to stay here. This is where my madness kicked in…

Getting there:

The island of Santorini has one airport big enough to accommodate only a handful of flights a day. I did not find a direct flight from Berlin to Santorini so I took the opportunity to get creative – sending us all over Europe.

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All this from Saturday to Thursday. I told my colleagues about this plan (since the nature of our work involves a LOT of travel planning) and they thought I was crazy. Maybe I was, but these destinations were carefully picked out. Our guests wanted a city break somewhere in Spain so I made that happen, choosing the beautiful city of Barcelona. They left Saturday early in the morning to make the most of the day. I did not join them until Sunday night – before leaving for Santorini – because I had already been to Barcelona two years ago and I did not want to miss work for too long because summer time is always high season in our industry.

So on that faithful Sunday in summer, I started work at 5 AM and from there I went straight to the airport to catch my flight going to Barcelona to meet with my wife and our friends. I got there at 8 PM and realised I hadn’t eaten anything since I woke up at 3 AM. Our flight wasn’t until late, around 11 PM and we had plenty of time to grab a bite and chat. It’s my first time officially meeting them so it was a great time to get to know each other over card games. When we got to the aircraft, I finally got some shut eye for maybe one collective hour until we landed in Santorini at around 3 AM the next day. We picked up our rental car and looked around for food. Good thing we found a bakery nearby – apparently those are open 24h a day.

Since it was still much too early to check into our Airbnb, we all watched the sunrise together at Kamari Beach.

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Most of the breakfast places did not open until 8 AM so we drove around a little bit until then. We chose this place called Galini Café, which we had found thanks to Foursquare. It offered a beautiful vista and a rich breakfast.

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It was not too early for the local desert wine.

We hit the shops after our meal and then it was finally time for our Airbnb, which was located in Fira. So on the way there, we couldn’t help but notice the many ATV rentals and we all decided to rent two of those, one for each couple. For the rest of the day we were driving around on those, forgetting about the small confinement of our car.

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And they’re great for when you want to enjoy the view around you.

Red Beach

We just dropped our stuff off at the Airbnb and got ready for the beach. I must say, the beach is not the highlight of this island. I’ve heard of plenty of great beaches all over Greece but Santorini isn’t the place if you’re looking for fine, white sand. We hit Red Beach, which is black and partially pebbly, but it looks really gorgeous nonetheless.

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Gorgeous.

Though the water did not show any plastic wastes, it had brought a lot of sea weed residue ashore which got in the way of a nice swim in the open water. We decided to go back to Kamari beach later on since it’s also the closest one to home. This beach is very pebbly but the water was clean.

Late afternoon we went back home and had our take-out dinner there. Our Airbnb was at a holiday apartment complex with a private pool so we had a night swim there until we finally called it a day – and what a long one!

Oia

The next day we finally went to Oia – the very place seen on all those postcards, a honeymooners’ haven. We looked for a place that served breakfast at yet another terrace with a great view and it took us to Skiza Café.

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By now anyone would have noticed an abundance of Freddo Cappuccino (iced cappuccino, Greek style, on the right) on the island. Regular Greek coffee is also a yummy alternative to espresso.

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Bougainvillea on plain white houses will only ever remind you of Greece, don’t you think?
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Byzantine Ruins in Oia

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We spent the rest of the day buying souvenirs in Oia, going back to Kamari beach, and having dinner at a Taverna. It was a short stay on this island but it felt like just enough time to get to know it. I didn’t think there was much else to see on the island itself, but there were a handful of excursions to the neighbouring islands, or to the volcano, that are being offered by many tour operators on the island.

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Next stop  Rome!

Survival Items For Your Long-Haul Flight

I’ve had my first long-haul flight again in years just two months ago and I must say, I was really prepared thanks to a few items that I brought with me on board. I’ve taken so many flights in the last three years but they were all short (3 hours max) so I wasn’t sure this time how to fight the boredom or to help me get some shut eye. Well the boredom part has been fixed rather easily because I forgot that these flights had entertainment systems but sleeping has really only been easier because of my little helpers. I also provided you with the links to where you can buy them.

Blanket

I got this as a Christmas present from my cousin a few years ago and I got to put it into good use this time. There are blankets available inside the aircraft, sure, but this one is just so comfy and doubles as a pillow when you fold it inside its bag. You can’t have too many pillows!

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Cabeau Fold ‘n Go™ Blanket & Case

Hammock

My legs are short, alright. Sometimes those footrests in the aircraft are not adjustable to a height I can feel comfortable with. This hammock has been such big help keeping me in my seat because I tend to move around a lot when I am uncomfortable. This hammock can easily be attached to your table in front of you, giving your feet some peace.

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(photo credit: Amazon)

Inflatable Travel Pillow

I just thought this was the coolest thing ever. I tend to lean forward on the table and hurt my spine for some sleep while sitting inside an airplane. Those days are over though because this pillow lets you get comfortable without really hurting your good posture. And it also folds into this small pouch so it’s easier to carry it around. Even the flight attendant on duty was a big fan.

(photo credit: Amazon)

Memory Foam Neck Pillow

These babies are found everywhere nowadays so just choose one that suits you best. I got this one from TKmaxx. I prefer memory foam over inflatable or microbead ones because it’s just the most comfortable option. It’s not foldable or anything but it’s easily hung on your backpack or luggage or worn in the airport while catching your connecting flight. Believe me, you will not be the only one seen wearing it. 😉

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