Tag: Eurotrip

Our second stop on the Eurotrip was Florence. What an incredible place! We ended up taking a train from Zurich to Florence, and couldn’t have been happier with that decision. Our hotel (the Marriott) in Zurich was within walking distance of Zurich Main Station and the Airbnb we stayed at in Florence was around a 15 minute walk from S.M.N. (Santa Maria Novella), the main station in Florence. That turned into a bit of a hassle on the way out of Florence, though, as we had a (always reliable, super helpful) Samsonite spinner wheel break off right as we started the walk to the station. That area of Florence is much too congested during the morning rush to try and bail out for an Uber (would have added 30 minutes easily), so yours truly got to carry the bag :(

Some of our favorite spots in Florence:

  • Centrale Market: a great market on the Northwest side of Florence proper. Many shops on the lower level, including places to find great cheeses, wines, and produce. The upper level is a recent addition and includes a food-court-style setup with dozens of vendors who all serve separate fare (anything from pastas to prosciuttos to sandwiches to dumplings, and many others in-between). There are also beer/wine service folks who will help you get a drink once you’re settled at a table.
  • Casa del Garga: an absolutely outstanding off-the-beaten-path restaurant near our Airbnb. We had one of our best meals of the trip at this spot, which was recommended both by our Airbnb host (as a great local spot within a couple blocks) as well as one of our wine tour guides in Tuscany (who used to live in the area when she was studying for her Sommolier exam).
  • 4 Leoni: tremendous spot on the South side of the river, which we found through a quick google search for “Bolognese” (one of my vices) while we were spending a leisurely cafternoon shopping on the more “locals” side of town. The lasagna is out-of-this-world, and the special ravioli/tortellini with pear is excellent as well. Here is the lasagna:

  • The Duomo: one of the more famous spots in Florence. Insider tip: book your tickets in advance (and select a tour time and print this confirmation). Skipping the line will guarantee you a spot, as well as save you hours in line as the flood of tourists for this site is constant. The hike to the top can be a bit cramped, with many small stairwells and several spiral staircases. The total hike to the top is approximalye 25 minutes in length, with an initial (interior) observation deck around 15 minutes in. Once you continue onward and reach the top, the 360-degree views of Florence are unmatched (making the climb totally worth it). One of the many, expansive views from the observation deck atop the Duomo:

  • Academy Art Gallery: the location of Michaelangelo’s famous David sculpture, along with several of his other “unfinished” works. The statue itself is incredibly large – much bigger than one might think based on photos alone.

  • Piazzale Michaelangelo: a common terrace on the south side of the river, with scenic views of the city. Free to go, and several bars/shops around to stop for a breather if the hike up the hill (~15-20 minutes) has you a bit winded.

  • Garga: one of the best hidden gems in Florence. We had what may quite possibly be the best, most unexpected bolognese of our lives here. Just take a look for yourself; you can almost smell it off the screen:

Bolognese at Garga

For lodging, we ended up in an Airbnb on the Northwest side of the main town center. It ended up being great, and gave us some good separation from the much more touristy areas down by all of the historic sites that Florence has to offer. We ended up finding some gems and hole in the wall restaurants off the beaten path, which was an added bonus.

Til Next Time,

Michael

Our first stop on our Eurotrip/Memorial Day extravaganza was Zurich, as that was the cheapest route to get to Europe using Skymiles. 40k miles apiece got us direct flights from ATL>ZMH, which proved to be just fine for the price. The slight added legroom was cluth, although neither of us got much sleep. The flight departed around 5:30 PM and arrived around 8:30 AM (both local times)/

As far as places to go and things to do, we did a little bit of research upfront and knew that we would want to explore key areas such as the old town, the lake, among others. A few of our favorite spots:

  • Widder Hotel:A great hotel/bar that you can head to (regardless if you’re staying there), in “District 1” (which was across the river from us, just south of the train station which we arrived at).

  • Café Balliser Keller:The BEST fondue we’ve ever had, in addition to a personal service of the much-anticipated racelette. Both dishes were absolutely outstanding, and made us wonder why we ever even try to recreate them at home. Added bonus: the chocolate fondue was dynamite, and was served with a very playful preparation:

  • Old Crow Bar:Albeit expensive (20-25 Swiss Franc per drink), this bar was one of the coolest and most interesting environments we’ve ever enjoyed a cocktail in. Kay had a Mezcal drink (called Solanum – Mezcal, Hibiscus, Sugar, Bitters, Champagne), and I had a Wihskey one (called Café Eccosais – Highland Single Malt, Espresso, Chili-Honey Syrup)

For our hotel, we stayed in the Marriott Zurich, as we got a great rate with points. The hotel was pleasantly nice, and located in a fairly advantageous spot for us to be in close proximity to several of the things we wanted to do. We were never more than a 15-20 minute walk from the areas we ended up visiting.

Til Next Time,

Michael

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In order to maximize time off, we decided to do a Memorial Day trip to Europe this year to do our big trip for the year. While we weren’t able to take (quite) as much time off as we wanted, it was still a great way to get away for nearly two weeks while only having to use only ~6 days of PTO. Capitalizing on a late Friday departure and a return stateside the Tuesday after Memorial Day, we were able to achieve a 12 day vacation and hit three total destinations that were of huge interest to us: Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands.

We departed late on a Friday (4/19), flying from Atlanta, Georgia to Zurich, Switzerland (ATL>ZUR). The cheapest option to get us across the Atlantic was to fly into Zurich, and we didn’t mind since it was a destination we had always been interested in. We ended up paying 40k Skymiles apiece for a one-way Delta Comfort Plus fare (not First Class, but more room than Economy), which we found to be fair.

The flight from ATL>ZUR was an overnight flight for us, meaning we took off in the evening on 4/19 (Atlanta time) and landed in Switzerland in the morning on 4/20 local time. We had a wonderful time in Zurich, and wish we had more time to explore and enjoy the culture. Given we only had a short time away, though, we were interested to get to Italy as quick as possible, so we only opted for one night in Zurich.

Sunday, around noon, we departed on a train from Zurich to Florence, Italy. The train through the Swiss Alps proved to be quite the preferable option, not only because we got great views of the Alps (and Lake Como), but even more so because it runs you around the same amount of time as it would to fly. As an added benefit, it was actually significantly cheaper to head South via train as well, which was a plus for us. Intra-Europe travel via train couldn’t be easier either. More to come on that at a later date!

In Florence, we spent 3+ days touring around and generally enjoying ourselves. We even opted for a private chauffeur to take us on a day excursion to Tuscany, and ended up finding a lot of wonderful places, including several vineyards. We stopped in San Gimignano, which was a recommendation from Katy’s parents, and then continued onward to three vineyards, our favorite of which was ….

From Florence, we took another train Northwest to Santa Margherita, a quaint beach town where to locals go to vacation, near Portofino and Cinque Terre. We hiked around quite a bit and relaxed quite a bit, exploring the surrounding beach towns over our 3+ days there. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there, and will share many more memories of that time in a future post.

To round out our trip, we took a taxi from Santa Margherita to Genoa, to catch a flight up to Amsterdam. We spent our last two nights in Amsterdam, soaking up every minute of the Dutch culture that we could!

Our flight home from AMS>ATL may have been just a touch more enjoyable than the Easterly long-haul, primarily because we were in Delta One+. As always, it was an extremely professional and top notch experience.

Needless to say, it was quite a journey, and we are very excited to share more in future posts!

Til Next Time,
Michael

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