Tipsy Tea with Mr. Fogg

For our next “Afternoon Tea” adventure, Arnie & I headed to our good friend Phileas Fogg’s Residence. Mr. Fogg has a few establishments dotted around London – his residence (where we came for tea this time), his Tavern, and his Gin Parlour.

In case you aren’t yet acquainted with our dear friend, Phileas is the protagonist in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.  So naturally, his home is filled with knick knacks and relics from his fictional adventures around the globe. Visiting his London institutions are always a treat; they are quirky, unordinary, and thoroughly lovely.

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WE LOVE MR. FOGG!

This Afternoon Tea is particularly fantastic because it doesn’t serve tea, strictly speaking. Instead, the tea pots featured on the menu are filled with delicious cocktails, all available with “bottomless” options. That’s right. All you can drink Champagne cocktails are available (that is – if there’s anything remaining after we left).

Check out the menu:

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What’s even better – if you choose the BOTTOMLESS option, you’re able to try a different concoction with every round. They were all delicious. Arnie went for the Bottomless Spirited Teas, and I went with the Bottomless Champagne Teas.

The tea pots are so pretty, and the libations themselves were gorgeous as well.

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HELLO FROM ME & ARNIE (before we became way more than Tipsy)

 

When you have the chance, check it out! We ❤ Phileas, Always xoxo

Oh – and BONUS TIME!!! This BANKSY street art is right around the corner from Mr. Fogg’s home. Can you find it??

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(note – feature image here has been graciously borrowed from https://mr-foggs.com/residence/)

Tale of a Canterbury Day Trip

That’s right, folks! We have completed another day trip in our London Bucket List FINAL COUNTDOWN.

So what brought us to Canterbury, you might ask? Well, I’m not really sure, to be totally honest! It was one of those towns where I recognised the name and it came up on lists of day trips from London, so I figured, why the heck not – let’s go for it.

When we got there, we headed straight for the tourist information office and asked what’s up. I don’t think the staff were expecting someone so unaware of the Canterbury attractions; I legit went to the desk and said, “hey there, we’re here for the day and have no idea what to do, guide us, kind sir.”

But before we knew it, we were toting the perfect little map, had a plan of action, and were ready to explore.

Here are a few starter pictures of things we came across through random stumblings:

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The first notable thing about Canterbury was just how old the city was, and how old some of the buildings were. The typical white houses with the black outer woodworkings, the stained glass windows, the charm of the pubs decked out in flowers – it was all so wonderfully old and British – a true delight. I forget that a lot of London burned down, and that you have to get to places like Canterbury to really appreciate the age.

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Now – before I get into the serious and important things about Canterbury, can I talk about Punting and Food ?

Punting …?

Punting is this thing where long, flat-bottomed passenger-carrying boats have a man/woman standing up on the back, pushing the boat along with a long skinny pole. It’s basically like paddleboarding, but instead of paddling, you’re shoving the stick on the bottom of the canal to thrust the boat forwards. It’s actually quite elegant and peaceful, and they do it on the canals in Canterbury.

Here are some pleasant punting & canal pictures ::

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Food & Bev in Canterbury

Given we went on this little trip on a Sunday, we needed to stop somewhere to get the most important meal of the week – a Sunday Roast.

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We opted for the oldest pub in Canterbury, which dates back to the early 1300s. This pub is called The Parrot, and I’d like to think it was inspired by a pirate’s friendly pet. It is super cool and super old, and such a great atmosphere. They also served beer from Shepherd Neame brewery, which is the oldest brewery in England, and local to Kent.

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The inside of The Parrot with the old wooden beams ::

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The other totally British feast activity we partook in was a visit to Tiny Tim’s Tea Room, where we indulged ourselves with pots of delicious tea with scones, jam and clotted cream. This combo is known as a “cream tea” and it is absolutely delightful.

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Churches & Religious Significance

Now for the historical / important stuff (with some pictures at the end 🙂 )

It was throughout the day that we realised the significance of our pilgrimage to Canterbury, as this route has been taken by many a traveller, especially after the death of Sir Thomas Becket in 1170.  Essentially people thought his remains, stored in the Canterbury Cathedral, could perform miracles – and people would travel from all over to pray for miracles at Sir Thomas Becket’s shrine. The tales that people told on the pilgrimage from London to Canterbury was the premise of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Also, random factoid – the horseback riding term “to canter” stems from the pace people would wish to ride their horses on the journey from London to Canterbury.

However, before all of this, Christianity was brought to England by Augustine in 597AD (by orders of the Pope), who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  I have a hard time understanding which church was first, but the 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are 1) St. Martin’s (claimed to be the oldest functioning church in all of England), and it’s got a great graveyard, 2) St. Augustine’s Abbey, and 3) The Canterbury Cathedral, known as “the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

Without further ado, here are some holy pictures.

First, the Canterbury Cathedral.

If you can’t tell, I love the ceilings and the stained glass —

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Next, St. Martin’s Church & Graveyard ::

This first picture looks like Dorothy Jane is trying to escape from the grave ….!!! can you see the eyes peering out at you? SUPER CREEP!

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That’s it!! Thank you 🙂

 

xx

Bergen

Superior Cool :: Carnaby Street

Carnaby Street, along with the collection of streets surrounding, gives off a feeling of proper (borderline “posh”) coolness – almost the hipster antidote – where true pioneers of the good vibes flourished. What do I mean? I mean Jimmy Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Famous 60s Fashionistas, Mods, Punks, and all of their faithful retailers selling the threads that thrust them into stardom.

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I mean, check out these guys to the left. How awesome do they look? It’s like Megan from Mad Men level coolness (though Joan was always my favorite).

 

Just walking on these streets, breathing in the air, I get the sensation that just for that moment, I get to be on the inside of the palace walls, live like a true star, like a true leader and influence in counter culture …that is until I see all the other 100s of tourists taking pictures and living in my dream.

I do not belong. I am not worthy.  But for these few moments, I am in.

This place isn’t just super cool, it is “superior cool,” and my “borderline cool” self only knows the edges of what to do and where to go. So any suggestions are welcomed – I promise not to kill the vibe.

As for what I do know – there is so much to see and do in this area, and on any given day after 11 am (and maaaybe even earlier – we are in Britain after all) you will see thirsty pub-goers in the streets under the colourful hanging light bulbs with pints of amber ale in their hands. There are restaurants and bars galore, and the shopping on Carnaby street leaves nothing to be desired (and nothing left in your credit limit either).

One spot that is not to be missed is Kingly Court, which is a small courtyard tucked away – almost hard to spot at first if you’re not looking for it. There are about 20-ish restaurants & bars in the square across 3 stories, including places like the Rum Kitchen, Wright Brothers ( … oysters!!…), a place I passed that looks like it’s got banging chicken burgers, and a TRUE gem and speakeasy – Cahoots (which I will describe in more detail in my next post).

This whole area is great for after work drinks, date night, dinner with the girls, random wandering around central London, probably a few good little music venues, and of course for making you feel much cooler than you really are 😎

Random factoid – not only is Carnaby known for its influential pop culture / counter culture eminence – it is also famous for housing one of the first buildings where Londoners with the plague were annexed to as to not infect the rest of the population. So yeah, this area’s got that going for it, too.

London Museums :: Natural History Museum

For my first museum post, I take you to the museum that I have visited most frequently over the 5 years living in London. As a nature lover / dork, and a wishful student of photography, the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year is something I always try to get to. This exhibit is what brought us the the museum today.

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…. notes on the building ::

A few notes on the museum itself first. This museum is striking because it was purpose built for this specific scientific & exhibition museum.  Therefore, not only is the architecture stunning to look at, but it’s filled with a number of little animal & plant ornaments scattered throughout the building; take a look at this monkey I found checking out the whale skeleton ::

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The Standard Exhibits ::

As for the rest of the museum, there are thousands of “specimens,” including large stuffed animals (like dead ones, not teddy bears), skeletons, rocks, butterflies, coral, and then obviously some pickled dead things in jars. Here are some of my favourites that we saw today —

Rocks & Coral

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Random pretty things and this Dodo skeleton ::

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Creepy jars with things (that make you feel like a mad scientist) ::

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Some really pretty seaweed & butterflies ::

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…. and let’s not forget some skeletons!!

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You could easily spend multiple days here reading and seeing everything, but beware, there are lots of kids (which may be a good or bad thing for you)!! Like most museums I’ve found in London so far, I prefer to go to the special exhibits, such as ….

… the Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Now, about the exhibit we went to see – Wildlife Photographer of the Year. There are a number of categories (maybe 10 or so?) each with at least 5 finalists and then each with the winner. They also have really interesting stories that accompany each photo, and there are at least 2 whole categories dedicated to photojournalism on specific environmental or wildlife conservation topics.

All the photos were true pieces of artwork – I hope one day I can take a photo as perfect as some of what we saw. We grabbed a bunch of postcards – so here are some pics of some of our favourites (please note my few pictures of the postcards are no where near as brilliant as the photos themselves).

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I don’t think I was supposed to take this, so please don’t rat me out!
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this photo was so awesome – the fish on the top of the photo look nearly invisible, it’s a defence mechanism. 
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these mushrooms are the coolest

 

The Low Down :: Fringe Festival

IMG_8427Every year during the month of August, the Fringe Festival runs in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Fringe claims to be the largest arts festival in the world, and I believe it. Let’s just say we ordered a programme / schedule ahead of the festival, and it was bigger than most of my text books from university.  Acts are extremely diverse, and our selection included the likes of music performances, dance, stand-up, monologues, theatre, cabaret & variety, drag shows and magic & hypnosis.

I first heard of the existence of the Fringe Festival during my first project in London, when I was on a team of Scotsman. Naturally they bigged-up the event, and naturally I was skeptical of its greatness. Just because a Delawarian boasts of the annual Punkin Chunkin event doesn’t mean that it’s suitable for everyone … or anyone, really.

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Rumours of this festival’s eminence, however, seemed to pervade conversations and recommendations from other circles, and it was this year that we decided to take the plunge and check it out.

It’s worth noting that Edinburgh, where the Fringe takes place, is worth the visit in its own right. Edinburgh has a castle on a hill that is utterly magnificent; but I’d goes as far as to say the whole city is a giant castle…!  In the event that you can’t make it to Edinburgh in August for the festival, I highly suggest checking it out any time of the year. I have a feeling the Fringe vibe persists the whole year round, and let’s be honest, Scottish accents sound amazing.

The Fringe, I will be honest, was a bit overwhelming for a first-timer, so I’ve pulled together some tips below ::

How do I know which shows to see?

Honestly? Just Guess! All the shows will be entertaining, and there’s honestly way too much going on to try to understand everything & prioritise.

We downloaded the daily PDF show listing, picked the time for the first show we wanted to see, then used the times as our guide. You can see the genre of the act & read a blurb on the website to get a feel for what you may or may not sign up for.  We literally flew blind and purchased tickets for a few shows a day & gave it a go.

Also, if you download the Fringe app, you can search for shows that will be showing in your vicinity. Pretty cool, hey!?

The last option is to walk The Royal Mile (the main big street in the old town), and wait for people to hand you hundreds of flyers for their shows. Pick the ones you like, then go to either the main ticket booths or the venue box offices.

So how much are tickets?

There are a few different pricing schemes at the Fringe, but full price tickets (at least the shows we went for) were between £6 – £15. If you buy tickets online ahead of time, they have these sweet machines that allow you to swipe your card and all your purchased tickets pop out at you.

There’s also a half-price ticket booth, so if you’re really not fussed, you can show up and buy some tickets at discounted prices for shows throughout the day.

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Lastly, there are boat loads of “free” shows at the Fringe as well. However, I must have heard 100s of times that these shows are “free to enter” but they’re not “free to leave,” and the performers will ask for donations for what you thought the show was worth at the end of the performance.

How early should I arrive to the shows?

Generally, I’d get there 15 minutes early if you want to guarantee yourself a good seat (or a seat at all). If you’re not too fussed about Standing Room Only, then I’d say try to get there with 5 mins to spare so you have enough time to grab a beer for the show 🙂

How to get there from London?

Train or plane. It’s up to you, really! Flights from London City are pretty good if you live centrally, and they’re not too expensive. We flew, but others preferred to train it up. The choice is yours!

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Central! Edinburgh really isn’t that big, and you can pretty much walk anywhere you need to go within 20 minutes. Stay towards the central part of the city if you can, it is totally worth it.

If you get stuck outside of the centre, however, there seems to be an excellent bus system as well as a tram. And then there’s always Uber.

What else could I be doing whilst in Edinburgh?

  • Take a quick hike up to Arthur’s Seat, which is a dormant volcano & has incredible views of the city and the water near by
  • Visit the old town, bask in the incredible architecture
  • Visit the castle, also apparently built on top of a volcano
  • Go for a walking tour! We didn’t do this in Edinburgh, but had we not been surrounded by thousands of people, this would have been on the list

Anything in particular I should be eating?

  • Haggis, if you don’t care to know what’s in it
  • Scotch, duh
  • Tablet. Tablet is essentially the Scottish version of FUDGE and it is TO DIE FOR!!!!
  • Oh and this pork roast from Oink!

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Guide: A Romantic Tour of Tuscany

In the autumn of 2014, my future husband and I embarked on a romantic Tuscan Adventure we would forever remember vividly and warmly with our hearts and our stomachs. Here I will share with you some tips and an account of our adventure to help you plan your visit! We fell in love with Tuscany (it is very difficult not to do), and hope you will share the same love as we did.Tip 1 picking an airport

For some background, here’s a quick overview of our travel specs / what we were looking for in our trip:

  • Trip Duration: 4 nights
  • Wanted to visit quaint medieval Tuscan towns & Cinque Terre (we avoided Florence and Sienna)
  • Wanted to do something active & outdoors – we opted for a Bike Tour
  • Wine, wine, wine, picturesque vineyards…… more wine
  • Quiet B&Bs with fantastic views and friendly hosts
  • Freedom to make our own adventures & schedule, hence hiring a car

 

 

Exploring Pisa

Our plane arrived in Pisa right around noon, giving us plenty of time to pick up our rental car and explore Pisa before heading to our B&B to unload and unwind.

Patience is hard to come by when first driving in Italy – so if you are renting a car, prepare to adjust to the Italian driving styles and to be a bit apprehensive until you get your bearings.

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In Pisa we wandered around the streets, ate a fantastic lunch al fresco, had our first (of what would be many) gelatos, and explored the typical tourist sites. Pisa was great for an afternoon to tick the box of seeing the leaning tower, but it was a bit grimy and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend more than half a day here. Perfect amount of time.

 

 

IMG_2703We then travelled to our B&B which was absolutely incredible. The shot below was captured en route to our B&B, next to the incredible antipasto we enjoyed at dinner that evening.

The views were amazing, our host was so lovely, and she recommended we dine at a very small restaurant in the village close by, within walking distance. The owner of the

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restaurant was extremely friendly and accommodating, the venue and set up was so romantic, and the food prepared was just to die for. We went to bed tired from our day of travels, with very happy bellies.

 

 

Exploring Small Towns of Tuscany

For our second day, we started with no set plans (except at some point we needed to get to our next B&B in Chianti), so we spoke to our B&B host during breakfast for some recommendations. We had a delicious breakfast with some wonderful views.

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Upon the recommendation of our host, we decided to check out the two medieval towns of Volterra and San Gimignano before heading to Chianti. These two towns were stunning – both fantastic choices for soaking in all the feels of the quaint old towns of Tuscany.

Tip 2 picking tuscan towns to visit

Volterra was quite small, but much less crammed with tourists than we had anticipated. This was Arnie’s favourite stop, as you could just feel how old the town truly was.  Our B&B host had mentioned something about vampires in Volterra to Arnie (and I wasn’t going to tell him it was regarding a scene from Volterra in the Twilight Series), which enticed his appetite for the eerie.

Also worth noting, Volterra is enclosed in castle-like protective walls, a necessity for the battles fighting Florentine and Medici ruling. As it is also very high in the hills, Volterra lends itself to fantastic views of the surrounding hillside.

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San Gimignano, to contrast Volterra, was very much on the tourist track – but there is definitely a reason why. This is due to the breath-taking views and beautiful towers (there are 13!) present in San Gimignano. Although it might be more crowded, the views from San Gimignano are absolutely not to be missed.

When in San Gimignano, Arnie and I picked up some delicious fresh ingredients from a local shop, as well as artisanal crisps, dry cured meats, truffle tapenade, olives, and lots (….lots) of wine to try. We finished our evening by arriving quite late to our B&B and cooked our own feast using the goods we purchased at the shop earlier. This is typical for us, as we always try to book B&Bs where we can make our own dinner. This gives me the opportunity to craft a dish using fresh local ingredients; it also saves quite a bit of money on dinner, especially when we want to drink multiple bottles of wine!

 

Tuscan Bike Tour

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The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast while waiting for our ride to the Tuscan Bike Tour we had arranged. We didn’t know it until that day, but there is a HUGE cycling culture in Italy, and Italians regard it as one of their most popular sports. When you have beautiful scenic landscapes along the whimsically winding roads at your finger-tips, jumping on a two-wheeler and peddling through the hillside would feel like a birth-right.  And we were definitely excited to partake in some of the butt-busting action!

Tip 3 do something active

Our bike tour started in a small village in the Chianti region (the name of which is escaping me), and we quickly geared up and hit the road. The sun was shining her warmth on us while we chugged along, fresh air filling our lungs, the picturesque Tuscan landscapes seeping in through our eyes, giving us a sense of euphoria. It was absolutely incredible.

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We made a pit stop on our tour at Castello di Brolio, a castle, one of the oldest businesses in the world, and the oldest winery in Italy. Here they produce some of the world’s finest Chianti from their impeccably harvested Sangiovese grapes. We were dying to try some, and almost died from happiness after we had our taste. I’ve since seen this wine for sale in shops in London at an exorbitant price, and we were very lucky to have been to this place in person (and by bike).

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Following our bike tour, and our transport back to our B&B, we napped in the hammocks among the olive trees, drank more wine, then headed out for some dinner in the town of Chianti. As we were exhausted, this was a short-lived adventure, but the piazza at night time was nothing short of Italian romantic splendor.

 

 

Cinque Terre via Lucca

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On our fourth day, we bid farewell to the enchanting views of the sun peering through vineyard mist at our hillside B&B in Chianti, and headed north on our way to Cinque Terre, a place that had been on my bucket list since I heard of its existence.

 

 

LUCCA

In passage to Liguria, we stopped in another small Tuscan town, Lucca, as it was recommended to us by one of my colleagues and it was conveniently on the way up north. Lucca was truly a gem, offering both the genuine medieval feel and aesthetics, while also feeling like it was a town where real people currently lived. This was much different than San Gimignano, for example, where the town felt like the primary inhabitants were tourists.

Lucca had much to offer for our quick visit, including ramparts like none other we had ever seen. The city walls in Lucca are covered with beautifully manicured lawns and a pleasant path along the top, where residents and visitors strolled, jogged, and cycled along. It was a delight to explore the city from this vantage point.

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In Lucca you will also find the exquisite cathedral of San Martino, the typical medieval piazza del mercato, and quaint narrow streets and alleyways. In sum, Lucca was a pleasant pit stop on our journey, and we were very happy to have stopped here for lunch and for a few hours to explore.

tip 4 vineyards and olives

As you move north from Tuscany to Liguria, the landscape evolves from rolling hills and vineyards to rockier, steeper slopes, with more densely packed dark green trees blanketing the scene.  We stumbled across a few vineyards on our journey, and stopped in two of them.  Here we tasted some incredible wines, and stocked up on some bottles to enjoy later that evening.

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Our next B&B was a renovated farm house high in the hillside, over-looking a very small village in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere.

After checking into our B&B, we took the advice of our host and headed to the seaside town west of the Cinque Terre called Levanto. This was a picturesque Italian beach, where we stopped for a light dinner and cocktails at a bar in the sand, with a perfect west-facing view optimal for watching the sunset.

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Once the sun had settled in for the night, Arnie and I found another local shop, stocked up on some snacks, and headed in for the night to drink our wine and munch on some Italian treats.

 

 

Cinque Terre & Portovenere

Our final day was spent touring the dramatic coast-line of Liguria, viewing the 5 towns (Cinque Terre) and a 6th town, Porto Venere.

We started in Monterosso, where you can drop your car and use the ferry service for the day. The ferry is a great way to get around, especially if you only have half a day to explore. The ferry takes you to all 5 towns as well as Portovenere, and it is very easy to hop on and hop off from all locations.

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The sights of Cinque Terre from the ferry were exceptional, and the towns themselves were quite unique and special.

We stopped in Manarola to explore, and loved the small passage ways, the romantic restaurants, and the “beach food” that the Italian seaside had to offer, much different than the typical beach eats I was accustomed to.

We made our final stop in Portovenere, which was recommended to us from my Italian friend and colleague, as he and his girlfriend vacation in Liguria each sum

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mer (lucky). Portovenere is not to be missed.

We first wandered through the lovely narrow alleys to a small chapel on a rock island, following the entrancing melody of an organ playing in the distance. Upon arrival at this chapel, we peaked our heads in to witness a couple getting married to the tune of Ave Maria. I know I may be overly romantic and emotional at times (I’m a Pisces, what can I say), but the scene was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes.

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There is also a castle at the top of the cliffs with incredible views of the town. I believe there was a small entrance fee, but it is worth it.

After Portovenere, we had to say goodbye and left for Pisa to fly out. This adventure of ours was absolutely incredible, and I hope w have inspired you to make a trip! Best of luck ❤