Today, May 9th, marks exactly 2 years since I spontaneously booked a flight to Europe with my best friend. I remember the day so vividly– it was a little past lunch time, the day before, when I got a text from JJ exclaiming that she had just been accepted to a fellowship position in Barcelona, Spain for the summer with the Atlantis fellowship program. There, she would have the unique opportunity to shadow many different doctors covering an array of fascinating specialties. With this program, she would gain valuable experience in global medicine and healthcare practices across many specialties and cultures. First off, my best friend is one of the most brilliant people I know, and her getting accepted to this program further proves that! I was so excited for her journey, and when she asked me if I wanted to join her in exploring Paris & Italy once her program ended, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity! JJ and I took French all 4 years of highschool, and we had a mutual agreement back in highschool that our first real trip together would be to Paris. Four years after we made that promise, we found ourselves calling back and forth to book our flights, rent Airbnbs, and save up spending money for our trip. The months seemed to fly by, because I shortly found myself in July, on the way to the airport for my journey to Paris to meet up with JJ. After an 11-hour red-eye flight, I woke up in Paris! We were lucky and thankful to have a friend we met in highschool through our French class pen-pal program who lives in Paris, Garance, and she graciously let us stay with her for the duration of our France portion of the trip. We stayed in a suburb of Paris, about a 15-minute train ride from city center. Garance was very hospitable and a great tour guide for us as we navigated Paris for our 5-day stay. Garance worked in the city, so JJ and I ended up doing the majority of our explorations on our own.
First stop, Eiffel Tower! Seeing this in person was a culmination of all my dreams coming true! Parisian culture and aesthetic has always captivated me, and I was so intrigued by the language, style, and the food! We didn’t end up going up to the top of the tower, but we enjoyed taking in the view and ground-level. We spent the rest of the day in the biggest mall in Paris, Galeries Lafayette, to look around and shop!
We took a tour of the Palace of Versailles! It was so breathtakingly beautiful and JJ and I had fun drinking champagne and roaming around the gardens and even reached a point of relaxation where we took a nap on the grass! JJ’s Ray Bans did not survive the pond however, but we still had the most amazing time! In the late afternoon, we found a day club, Wanderlust! JJ and I spent hours here dancing our hearts out!
We went to the Lourve! It was well worth the wait and the extra money to buy same-day tickets. The highlight was definitely taking a selfie with the Mona Lisa! This was also the day that JJ and I were at war with the heat! It reached 100 degrees and we were melting. We are convinced that we burned double the calories that day because we were sweating so much!
Skirt: Showpo; Shoes: Nordstrom
We walked through the Arc de Triomphe, ate macaroons, and explored more of the suburbs of Paris! We ate alot of baguettes, and drank alot of wine. Highlights of the day were having a picnic on the Seine River, and touring the Cathedrale Notre-Dame!
Our last day in Paris, we walked up to Montmartre which is the highest viewpoint in all of Paris! We were serenaded by musicians along the way, and we rewarded ourselves with gelato at the top. We ventured to see the Moulin Rouge and ended the day on Champs-Elysees, the famous shopping street of Paris. I had been saving up to buy myself a Louis Vuitton purse. I wanted to buy my first one in the first ever LV store, and my dream came true! The experience at the flagship store was nothing short of incredible. Definitely one of the biggest highlights of the trip for me!
Romper: X Generation
We took a train from Paris to Venice. It was a 16-hour train ride, and it was also very cramped, but we made some friends who kept our spirits up while we past the time. We were blown away by the beauty of Venice! It is a small, quaint town, with immense charm. We spent the first day taking everything in, and walking a ton. The picture above was on our third day, after we met two nice Italian men for a boat ride. We met them on day one, and they helped us navigate the town and treated us to meals. Getting a free boat ride out of it was a major plus!
We took a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal! I think everyone has heard about the famous gondola rides, and they originated in Venice! JJ and I had this on our bucket list for years, so we were trilled to get to finally partake in this activity! The rest of the day consisted of eating pasta, drinking wine, and eating gelato! Wine was cheaper than a bottle of water in every restaurant we went to, so we decided to treat ourselves to a bottle during each meal, because wine-not! We ate ALOT of pasta, let me say! Italian food has always been one of my favorite cuisines, so to get to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without judgment was a fulfilled fantasy!
Maxi Dress: Showpo
Florence! The true gem of Italy! We went to Ristorante Pizzeria il Grillo all 3 days we were in Florence because it was THAT good! I got the same order each time: Pappardelle Bolognese with extra Parmesan cheese! JJ made fun of the aggressive amount of cheese I asked for on my food. We were told by many that Piazzale Michelangelo is the absolute best viewpoint of Florence. We were advised to go during sunset, and the trek up the hill was 45 minutes, but oh-so worth it! On the journey back down, we stopped at a wine tasting store and met a few guys who invited us to an outdoor music performance. From there, we went bar-hopping and sang karaoke at Red Garter toward the end of the night! The architecture in Florence is what captivated me the most! We saw so much beauty, and I want to point out that Piazza Del Duomo and the view atop Bar La Terrazza were my favorite memories of Florence. We even met a nice family at the rooftop bar and they paid our bill!
We spent the most time in Rome, out of all the cities we went to. Since seeing the Lizzie Mcguire movie, I made it my goal to go to Rome and sit at the Trevi fountain! It was stunning in person, and VERY crowded so I am impressed that we got decent pictures! As tradition holds, JJ and I made a wish with a coin and tossed it in the water. That day we went to the Vatican as well, and I believe we hit over 25,000 steps! We walked everywhere, and it was a nice way to take in everything the city had to offer.
Maxi Dress: Showpo
We went to the Colosseum! We didn’t end up taking a tour, but we were able to walk around and get up pretty close! That day we also saw the Piazza Venezia, Pantheon, Roman Forum, and the Spanish Steps!
We really wanted to go wine tasting in Florence, but it was not available during our time window, but we were glad that we got to do wine tasting in Rome! We found it on the Airbnb Experiences page and we traveled 20 minutes outside of Rome’s city center via train to the vineyard. It was a private wine tasting with the woman who owned the vineyard and cellars and she gave us a thorough tour of the grounds. We learned about the history of the type of grapes that grow there, and learned how the wine is fermented. We then went to the tasting room and she let us try 4 wines: 2 red, 1 white, and 1 dessert wine. She gave us a discount on the bottle we liked the most, so that was all the incentive we needed to each purchase a bottle! Above is a picture post-wine tasting!
Jumpsuit: Small boutique store in Florida (don’t know the name),
Hat: Forever 21
We took a day trip to Pisa! It was an hour train ride from Florence, and our focus was to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We spent about an hour roaming the grounds, reading about the history, and taking pictures. At this point of the trip, we were extremely proud of ourselves for seamlessly navigating the public transportation systems!
Maxi Dress: Showpo
Our Cinque Terre day trip was an absolute dream! We saw 3 out of the 5 towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola Liguria, Monterosso. Filled with beaches, this was the perfect time during the trip for JJ and I to go to the beach and swim! I was too afraid to cliff jump at that point, so I watched from a distance as JJ went for it. The buildings were so vibrant and colorful, and it was a treat to aimlessly walk around and take in the sights. Towards the end of the day, we met a nice couple who we bonded with and bought us dinner! My dream of getting the “postcard view” was fulfilled!
We did a spontaneous day trip to the Amalfi coast! I had read about it over the years, and wanted to make this happen for us. We woke up that day, bought our tickets, and went on a series of trains, buses, and boats to get there. All the travel was worth it, because this place is at the top of my list of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. That was the day I overcame my fear of deep water. The coast is surrounded by the Ionian Sea, and as beautiful as the water looked, the innate fear of drowning has been a burden i’ve carried since I was a kid. JJ is a certified lifeguard and gave me the best pep-talk she could to convince me to take a leap of faith. After my first scary jump, I panicked, stopped to breath, released tension, and started treading! I gradually gained confidence and kept jumping in and swimming farther out into the ocean! I was very proud of myself that day, and even more thankful that JJ was there to guide me. We met Ashley, a nice girl from Canada, who spent the remainder of the day with us on the beach.
Swimsuit: Forever 21
17 days, 2 countries, 7 cities, and so many memories on this trip with my best friend! This trip challenged our friendship but overall made it stronger than ever. I wouldn’t have wanted to experience this with anyone else, and I am forever thankful that we got to share in this opportunity and adventure together! Check out the full video compilation of the trip on Youtube!