Ultimate Guide to Lake Como

 

Vinn and I just got back from the most relaxing vacation we’ve had in a long time, probably the most relaxing since we moved to Germany. We went to Lake Como last Friday to Wednesday and spent those five days chilling by the pool, taking a ferry to Bellagio and having an amazing dinner with the most incredible view. I thought I would put together a list of all the amazing things we saw and did in this post and then I’d do another post on Monday all about the amazing restaurants because they deserve their own post.

Our time in Lake Como began on Friday when we drove from Germany to Italy. It took a little longer than expected, so we just got to the hotel (we stayed at the Sheraton Lake Como), ordered room service and passed out.

The real fun began on Saturday morning when we ventured to downtown Como to walk around, grab breakfast and put together a game plan for the rest of the week. The city of Como is right on the lake and is truly spectacular. Grabbing a cappuccino with a lake view is the perfect way to start a weekend, that’s for sure!

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

Right? I just can’t believe that this picture is real. And that I took it! I am so blessed and lucky to be able to visit places like this with my husband my puppy.

Como is a great city, too. There are restaurants all along the water, gelato places every third shop, great little stores and cafes and a beautiful church.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

Our hotel was an 8 minute drive from city center Como, which wasn’t horrible, but we wanted to grab dinner within walking distance so we could both enjoy a little bit of wine. We asked our hotel concierge for a recommendation and she directed us to a little town called, Cernobbio.

And this little town is seriously charming. There is a small square with a fountain right on the water. We snapped some pictures before heading off to dinner.

Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como, Italy

The next day, Sunday, was dubbed, “Boat Day!” Whenever I’m close to the water, all I want to do is get on a boat. There’s something about it that just relaxes me, especially on lakes since there’s no chance of getting sea sick!

We took the ferry from Como to Bellagio because I had read that it has some of the best views in all of Lake Como. And boy did it not disappoint. Travel note: get to the ferry line to buy your tickets ahead of time. We arrived around 10:30 and waited in line for 30 minutes. Dogs are allowed, too, and the tickets are about 12 euro per person for a round trip. 

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como, Italy

Walking around Bellagio was one of the most relaxing parts of the trip for me. The mountains are just so stunning and I could stare at them all day.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como, Italy

After we grabbed lunch, we visited Villa Melzi and the gardens. I’ll be honest, the villa is a little underwhelming, but it’s right on the water and the grounds are the reason to visit. There are a ton of walkways that climb up the mountain and you can get some beautiful views of the lake from there. There’s also a gorgeous home behind the villa that is worth seeing.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

There are also statues everywhere and I just sat in awe of how gorgeous they are. It is definitely worth a visit to this spot, it’s only 5 euro per person and is worth a walk through while you’re in Bellagio.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

Italians certainly know how to do something amazing with marble.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

Copley may look like she’s not enjoying this, but she is such a happy pup. I love that we get to bring her around with us and share in the memories with us.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake como

There’s the gorgeous home in the background. Can you call that a home? It’s a mansion and a villa in its own right. If I could build a dream house, it would look just like that. I would also like the point out how pristine the trees are. The landscaping around Bellagio is top notch and amazing.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

We made our way back to Como around 5 PM on the ferry and headed back to our hotel for dinner there and then called it a night.

The rest of our week was spent lounging by the pool, blogging, reading and drinking cocktails. Our hotel had an amazing pool and I think it is a definite must when staying around Lake Como. There are some public pools with snack bars that are on the lake and some tiny beaches, but I prefer pools with alcohol bars, myself.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

Is that not just sheer perfection? Amazing. I finished my book, Truly, Madly, Guilty from my 7 books to read this summer post, and I have to say I was not too impressed. But reading by the pool with a tequila sunrise is seriously one of my favorite things.

Monday night was the most epic night and the best thing we did during our time in Lake Como. If you only do one thing In Como, it has to be this: taking the funicular tram up to the top of the mountain in Brunate. It’s on the lake and within walking distance of downtown Como and only 5 euro per person. You get the most incredible views of the city and the lake from up there. Dogs are allowed, but we left Copley at the hotel because she needed rest.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

Is this real life? To get to this view, go down the stairs from the tram and then turn left. It took us a while to find this look out point but it is the best one.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

We stood here for a half an hour just staring. We absolutely love climbing to the top of places to get the best views and, I have to say, this is one of the best ones we’ve seen.

We also ate dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by the hotel concierge and it was the best meal we had in Como! It had a view like this one, the food was amazing and we got to watch the sun set over the lake and the mountains. It was remarkable.

A Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como

That was our weekend in Lake Como. It was the most relaxing, wonderful weekend ever.

What’s the most relaxing vacation you’ve ever taken?

Ultimate Guide to a Relaxing Weekend in Lake Como, Italy

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Updated European Travel Essentials

 

I wrote a post a while ago (and by a while, I mean October 2016!) all about what I bring with me when exploring new places. I’ve visited a lot more places since then and have learned a few more things that I need to pack since and thought I would share my updated travel essentials.

If you’re traveling to Europe, here are some things you might forget to pack but will be super helpful.

*This post contains affiliate links.*

A Universal Travel Converter is probably the number one thing you should bring with you when traveling to Europe. Obviously, the outlets are different over here and this way you can still use your favorite products from home. I still use my American computer, so my travel converter gets daily use. I have not had one issue with our’s in the last year and a half.

*A note about converters and hair products, do not use a converter for your straightener. It will blow it up! Same goes for hair dryers. Use the hotel hair dryer, bring some product that’s perfect for air drying, or buy a travel straightener. I don’t have one, but this one on Amazon got great reviews.

Scarves are your best friend. I absolutely love scarves and Europeans love them, too. They are not only a great fashion statement, but will come in handy if you’re visiting a church and need to cover your shoulders. I remember when I was studying abroad over a summer in college, I was wearing a tank top into a church in Venice and had to pay to have my shoulders covered. If I’d had a scarf, I could have draped it over myself. I now travel with at least one scarf, just in case. And, they are perfect for keeping you warm on the airplane.

Medicine. This may seem like a strange thing to bring, especially if you don’t normally get sick, but, trust me, you want to have some medicine with you. You never know when something will happen and you don’t want to be wandering the streets of a new city late at night in search of medicine for an upset stomach. A lot of European countries also have lower dosage ibuprofen over the counter, so definitely bring some Advil with you. Some kind of stomach medicine, allergy meds and eye drops make it into my suitcase always.

A portable phone charger is a must. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been snapping pictures or looking up directions on my phone only to realize that I have about 20% battery left and it’s 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon with no plans to stop by the hotel. A power bank keeps your phone charged while you’re on the go and will be a total lifesaver. Gotta get all the photos you can of the Eiffel Tower, right?

Similar to the charger, extra batteries are also things that you will need and when you least expect it. When we went to Munich, I snapped three pictures and then my batteries died in my camera. We had to run to the convenience store to get batteries, which took way longer than it should have to find them and caused quite a bit of stress. Now I always carry extra batteries in my camera case and have seriously used needed them several times.

Comfortable shoes are obvious, but it’s really hard to find cute shoes that you can wear all day. I usually pack some Sperry’s, Nikes and sandals if it’s summer and boots if it’s winter. After too many trips with having sore feet at the end of the day, I have totally switched over to focusing on comfort. I even stopped bringing wedges with me because I never wear them after a long day of walking everywhere.

Cross-body bags are the best purses to bring because they keep your belongings safe and will keep your hands free for taking pictures, eating gelato or shopping. I have several Kate Spade ones and they are big enough to hold my wallet and phone while staying relatively light.

Of course, bringing clothes and toiletries need to make it into your suitcase, but the above things are sometimes an after thought but bringing them will make for a happier vacation.

What do you always pack on vacation?

European Travel Essentials - Things You Might Forget to Pack

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7 Reasons to Study Abroad

 

Studying abroad is one of my favorite college memories. I spent six glorious weeks in Rome, Italy during the summer between sophomore and junior year. It was 2008 and while people at home were worried about the recession, I was worried about finding the Vatican and if getting a third round of gelato was a good idea.

I traveled all around Italy, ate so much pasta, earned six college credits, bought a purse I still use to this day and created memories to last a lifetime. I have friends who didn’t study abroad and when we talk now, they say it is their biggest regret. If you are contemplating going abroad in college and need some convincing or need to convince your parents that this is a good idea, here are seven reasons to study abroad.

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One – You will never have weeks or months to just travel.

I know it seems like I travel all the time, which I do, but I still have to work, pay bills, take care of a dog and husband, normal life stuff. When you’re a college student, you don’t have as many responsibilities and all you need to worry about is studying. While you’re abroad, you most likely won’t have a full class schedule, so you can spend your time traveling.

When I studied abroad, I only had classes Monday – Thursday, so it was really easy to travel over the weekend. It was even encouraged by our program to take a day off if you were going somewhere new. Ah, the European lifestyle at it’s best. Some girlfriends and I even skipped class one day to go see the Pope do his weekly prayer in St. Peter’s Square because he only did that on Wednesdays. I figured that was a good trade and forgiven in the long run.

Two – You will expand your horizons.

Experiencing a new culture is the best thing for a young mind. You will be surrounded by another language, possibly, and not know where to go for certain things. I remember the moment when I realized that I was surrounded by a totally new language. I was sitting on the airplane to Rome from Amsterdam and I could hear Italian and Dutch. I’d never really heard another language being spoken in real life before. I took Spanish in high school but that’s about it! I just sat in my seat on the verge of tears thinking, “No one is going to understand me. What have I done?” Moral of the story, everyone will understand you because most Europeans learn English from an early age (I wish I had learned Spanish or Italian or German from an early age) and getting to be part of another culture for even a small period of time is going to change your life.

You will have to find your way around your new city, buy your own groceries and figure out the best time to take out money based on the exchange rate. I loved having Italian professors who were much more laid back than my American ones and really immersing myself in the pasta, wine, dessert Italian lifestyle.

why you should study abroad

Three – Budgeting lessons will be to the max.

I learned how to budget while abroad. My parents gave me a certain amount of money for the duration of my six week program, very generously, and I knew I could only spend what they gave me. I printed out a calendar and wrote down every penny I spent on the day I spent it and then put the remaining total underneath. Some days I would spend 2 Euro on a mezzaluna sandwich for lunch and that was it and other days I would spend hundreds because I booked a train ticket or had to pay my friend back for the hostel. <— Side note about hostels, they aren’t as bad as everyone says. I did stay in some nicer ones and some not so nice ones, but they are a great option when on a college budget. Just make sure you do your research before. 

I did not spend 1 cent over what my parents gave me, I am happy to say. If only I kept this up for the rest of my life.

Four – You will earn some of the easiest college credits.

My college had a sister university in many different cities for the study abroad program. Since I chose the summer program, I completed two classes, so six credits. Back then it costs about $2,000 to get those credits, which was actually pretty inexpensive as far as college credits go. I took an English elective where we read A Streetcar Named Desire, which I read in high school, and then a history of music in America in the 60’s. That class was fascinating and we listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and Beatles music. The best part was realizing how American and British artists had an impact on Italians. I discovered that music is an universal language and that everyone loves the Beatles.

Studying abroad is a great way to check some electives off your list, while not being too difficult. This is my experience, anyway with the curriculum of studying abroad. My sister studied in Belgium for an entire semester where her classes were completely in French as she was a French minor. I imagine that is more difficult but also the best thing for immersing yourself in a language and culture.

Five – You’ll make great friends.

I lived with three other girls, two were from my school and the other was from a school in Boston. We all traveled together with one other girl and just had the best time. We would cook together in our apartment, go to class together and travel all around Italy. We are all still friends, even just social media friends, but we will always have Rome.

why you should study abroad

Six – It looks great on a resume.

The world is only getting smaller thanks to the internet and globalization is here to stay. My husband and I are living proof of it. We both studied abroad (actually Vinn did twice) and wholeheartedly believe that we were able to get jobs at international companies in part because we studied abroad.

Studying abroad shows prospective employers that you can adapt, have a want to experience new things, you perhaps know another language and can communicate across  cultures. These are all great qualities for an employee and will only benefit you in your future career.

Now that I live abroad, I know I was able to jump in with both feet quicker because I had already experienced living abroad. Certainly the scale was different, but the basics were already there. You never know where you life is going to take you but the skills you learn about yourself while you live in another country will be with you forever.

Seven – Memories for life.

This is the most obvious reason to study abroad, but it should absolutely be noted. I still talk about the time I stayed in a hostel in Florence where there were no towels and resorted to using a pillow case. And I laugh every time. My best friend was studying abroad in Spain at the same time and when our programs were over, we met in Venice. And that long weekend was so much fun and we talk about how my flip flop fell off into the canals as I tried to stand up from eating our pizza and our feet hanging over the edge. Or how I couldn’t find the Venice hostel and was carrying all of my luggage from the past 6 weeks and stopped on the street just crying. Some nice man asked me if I was okay and I told him what was wrong and he said, “Well, I’m not sure but a lot of young people always go to this door.” And that was my hostel. I needed to cross a bridge and didn’t know it. And then crying again when I saw my best friend because I was just so happy to see her. I’ve even visited some of the same restaurants after visiting Rome and Venice again.

One recommendation to make sure you remember everything: keep a journal. I kept a journal while I was there and having my thoughts, memories and feelings written down in one place from that time of my life is so special.

That’s it! Did I convince you?

If you did study abroad, where did you go? What was your favorite part? Are you going to study abroad if you’re in college? 

why you should study abroad

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5 Ways to Battle Airport Anxiety

 

Traveling is probably my favorite thing to do…of all time. I love seeing new places, trying new cuisines and embracing different cultures. But with all the great things that come with travel also comes some anxiety, especially at the airport.

I’ve experienced anxiety for years, probably since I graduated from high school and then it got exponentially worse after graduating from college. I have anxiety and worries over big and little things, like leaving Copley for a long time, money, the state of the world,  seeing our apartment super dirty or falling into a rut of not eating healthy.

My anxiety is at an all-time high when I travel. My lungs get really tight the day before we leave because I’m worried that we will miss our flight. And then once we get to the airport, I can’t breathe at the check-in counter or in line for security for fear that we won’t have a document that we’re supposed to or we’ll be in the wrong terminal or something.

Once we make it through security, I’m a little better, but then it goes back up when the gate attendants announce that boarding will start soon and everyone starts standing in line. And not in an orderly line, in a somehow this is really three lines that has to convert into one kind of line. Aren’t we all going to get to the same place eventually? Why are you all so excited to go sit on an airplane for hours? You have an assigned seat, no one is going to take it from you. People give me anxiety.

Man, my hands are sweating just typing this. Now that we travel much more often, I’ve discovered a few techniques that help me battle my airport anxiety. If you have some other tips, I’d love to hear them!

Lay out all your documents the night before

Did I mention that I also have OCD and have to check a million and one times that I have my passport, ID and phone before leaving the house? Oh, no? Well, I do. I even ask Vinn no less than 25 times if he has his passport and wallet. It’s his favorite part about travel!

I have gotten better with this thanks to laying out all of my documents the night before. I usually put them in my purse and then leave my purse by the door so I can do one final check before we leave the house. I like doing this because it is the last thing I do so it’s at the top of my mind as we go to the airport.

Arrive early

As I mentioned before, my biggest anxiety happens because I’m nervous that I’m going to miss my flight. I arrive at the airport with plenty of time before departure, probably a little too early in fact. But, getting to the airport two hours early (especially for international travel) helps me realize that there’s no way I’m going to miss anything. And then I can relax after security knowing that we’re here and all is well.

Worry about only what you can control

This has been the biggest thing that has helped me at the airport and in life. I can’t control how fast the passport control line goes. I can’t control that the guy behind me is inching forward every time I make subtle movement. I can’t control that we need to go to a different line because we’re traveling with dog. I can only control my reaction to it. And that reaction shouldn’t be one with contempt or a big, deep sigh (guilty!), but with acceptance that I will make it to my destination as quickly as possible.

Take deep breaths 

Taking deep breaths helps keep my blood pressure low and reminds me, again, to focus on what I can control, even if it’s as simple as breathing. If I take four deep breaths in, hold it for two seconds and then let it out for four, I feel so much better. It may seem simple and almost trivial, but it really does help. I can actually feel my shoulders leaving my ears and start to relax. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Have a plan

Planning where we are going to go once we get to the airport is a great idea. European airports are definitely different than American airports because there aren’t as many food options, especially in the smaller airports, but knowing that when we get to Frankfurt, we will visit the Starbucks first and then go in search of food provides a plan and takes the guess work out of what to do first. I know that just aimlessly walking around the airport is the worst and if I’m hungry, forget it. I’ve even started looking up the restaurant options on my phone ahead of time just so I have some semblance of an idea of where to get a coffee or snack.

Well, these are my 5 tips for battling airport anxiety. No one loves to go to an airport but the reason behind it is so worth it! I’ve used these tips for the past year and can honestly say that I am a much less anxious traveler now, even my husband would agree.

5 Ways to Battle Airport Anxiety

Do you get anxiety while traveling? What do you do to combat it?

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Visiting Krka National Park

 

One of the biggest draws to visiting Croatia is water. The coast is gorgeous and there’s waterfalls everywhere, too. There is something just so calming, relaxing and beautiful about seeing water rush down mountains and it really makes me want to buy some kind of fountain for my living room.Visiting waterfalls was the only thing I wanted to do while we were in Croatia and our visit was one of the best things we’ve done while living in Europe.

Two of best places to see waterfalls in Croatia are: Plitvice Park and Krka National Park. Plitvice is the larger of the two, with 16 terraced lakes and hiking trails and is about a 2 hour drive from Zagreb, the country’s capital. It is forbidden to swim in any water in this park, which is a bummer, especially in the summer months when it is so incredibly hot. Krka National Park is smaller, allows swimming and an hour drive from Split. Since we were staying in Split ( < guide to Split here) we chose to visit Krka and it was absolutely amazing. Find out why below.

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My sister booked us a tour through the concierge at the her hotel and it turned out to be the best thing. We drove to the park and stopped in Sibenik, a small town with lots of great history, for lunch and then had a mini tour of that town. We chose a private tour because we were traveling with our dog, Copley, and wanted to have the ability to choose how long we stayed at the park.  Our guide stayed with us the entire time giving us lots of details about the park that we would not have known otherwise, like how there are poisonous snakes around!

We left the hotel at 8 AM and arrived at the park shortly after 9. Krka opens at 8 AM in the summer and I highly recommend arriving right at opening time. The park was flooded with visitors around 11, especially the Skradinski buk, so it’s best to get a head start before the crowds.

The park is 42 square miles of mountain and river with wood walking trails along the way. There is wildlife, many different types of fauna and even an area dedicated to showing how the people of Croatia lived hundreds of years ago when the park was still just a small town. There are many entrances and starting points depending on your interests but the main draw of the park is the Skrandinski buk which is at the Lozovak entrance.

croatia national park

This is where we started our tour. The area is one big circle and we made our way through the trail stopping to take a few pictures along the way. I lost count of all the waterfalls because there is one everywhere you turn. The trails are very nice with wood beams showing you where to go. When traveling down, there are steps or inclines if you are visiting in a wheelchair or with a stroller. There are several look out points along the way, as well, so you can easily stop and get wonderful vantage points and photos.

krka waterfall

If you are bringing your dog with you, make sure you come prepared for them, too. We brought her portable water bowl (similar here), treats and pick up bags with us. The water bowl is essential, obviously, because it is so hot. It was 90 degrees the day we visited. Dogs must remain on their leash the entire time and must wear a muzzle if you take a bus or boat to any location. We chose to walk everywhere because the views are just stunning and experiencing the almost rain-forest-like park is a once in a lifetime moment, plus we don’t own a muzzle.

Once we climbed down some dusty, sandy stairs, we heard the sounds of water crashing and found the Skradinski buk waterfall.  Seeing these waterfalls is awe inspiring, to quote Lisa Rinna during the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills trip to Hong Kong. There is a bridge over the river and is the perfect location for Instagram-worthy photos. We did this first before going in for a dip so we’d look somewhat presentable in the pictures.

krka waterfall bridge

 

Swimming is allowed in the waterfalls. I repeat, you can swim in the waterfalls! You can’t go under them and there is a buoy line showing you where you can’t go passed. We threw out our beach towels on the very sandy area right before the cliffs where you can enter the water. There are rocks everywhere and it is extremely slippery. If you have water shoes, I would wear them. If you don’t, wear flip flips like I did.

Krka National Park Croatia

It takes quite a bit of time to get from the rocks to the water and the water can be a little chilly, but it is so worth it. The water is so clear and seeing the waterfalls from the bottom is truly amazing. We had a little photo shoot in the water so we could remember this incredible moment.

falling in love with Krka National Park

Poor Copley even got in on the action.

I’m taking these pictures from the bridge, screaming at Vinn to pick her up! “She doesn’t like it!!!” Such a helicopter dog mom.

Dogs at Krka waterfalls

Once we were dried off and changed clothes, we finished walking the loop of the Skradinski buk. There is an area toward the end of the loop where the park has used old buildings to showcase how the Croatian people lived in the park before it was a national park. There was a horseshoe maker, the bath, laundry room and with displays of the clothes. It was very, very interesting.

Visiting Krka National Park was the highlight for me during our trip to Croatia. It is an incredible sight and absolutely worth a visit. If you love waterfalls, this is the place to go. In case you do, here’s what you should bring with you! I wish I had some of these things with us.

I hope this helps you decide to visit Krka National Park and help prepare for your visit. If you do visit or have visited before, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

visiting krka national park

 

What’s the prettiest place you’ve ever visited?

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