✈ Europe | WB Harry Potter Studio Tour

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles | London | Bath

When planning our trip to London, it was a given that we’d be visiting the Warner Bros. Studio for their Making of Harry Potter tour.

My friend Liz, who is currently in Scotland working on her master’s degree, had planned a weekend trip to London while we were in town and decided to join us.

My mom was Liz’s kindergarten teacher so we’ve known each other and been friends for ages. In a hometown as small as ours you really get to know everyone; it also helped that Liz and I were big into music and drama in high school so we spent lots of time together there and in youth group. It was really neat (and a bit trippy) to be able to connect while both overseas!

That morning, Mom and I met Liz at Watford Junction where we took a shuttle over to the studio and proceeded to geek out for hours!

The London Warner Bros. studio is where all eight of the Harry Potter movies were filmed, so all the original props, sets, costumes, etc. on display for the tour.

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| the shuttle, giant chess pieces, Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, an obligatory studio shot, and the actors’ hand molds |

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| the Great Hall at Hogwarts |

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| costumes, set pieces, wardrobe/makeup, and props |

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Gryffindor Dormitory |

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| Snape’s Potions Classroom – our favorite! Oh, Alan Rickman… |

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| Dumbledore’s Office |
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| entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, the Golden Snitch, and the Burrow (Ron Weasley’s house) |
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Number Four Privet Drive, Liz trying Butterbeer |
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Hogwarts Bridge and the Potters’ Cottage |
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| wonderful witches, the Knight Bus, Flying Ford Anglia |
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| going behind the scenes at the Creature Effects Workshop – why, hello, screaming mandrake! |
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| full-scale models of Aragog, Buckbeck, and a Dementor were also on display |
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| the impressive Diagon Alley set |
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| The magical and impressive Hogwarts Castle model that was used to create all the exterior shots you see in the films. As you circle the model, the room’s lighting cycles from “day” to “night” – which is gorgeous! |
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| playing in the gift shop |

After the studio tour we weren’t quite ready to leave Harry Potter Land, so once we returned to London we made sure to stop by King’s Cross Station to check out Platform 9 3/4.

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| St Pancras railway station (next to King’s Cross) and Platform 9 3/4 |

After King’s Cross, we parted ways with Liz and Mom and I headed over to the British Museum. The museum is free to all visitors and houses a vast collection of world art and artifacts.

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For dinner, we found a decent Greek restaurant and feasted on our favorite dishes: saganaki, fasolakia, and taramosalata. Yum!
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On our way home, we ran across a cheap ticket booth in Leicester Square and scored last-minute, 11th row center seats to Evita!

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It was quite the way to end our very fun, eventful day!

Up next… Oxford!

✈ Europe | Bath

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles | London

During our stay in London we decided to take a day trip over to Bath.

My mom visited London five years ago and took a Jack the Ripper tour with the lovely people at London Walks. She had such a great experience that we signed up for their guided tour of Bath, England.  The tour guides of London Walks are incredibly well-versed in history, great at helping you see the “big picture” of the place you’re visiting, quick to share local stories or point out things you might not otherwise notice, and of course they’re quite clever and humorous too (as you’ll gather from glancing at their website).

We met our tour group at Paddington Station and hopped on a train to Bath. There we toured the Roman Baths, Royal Crescent, and Abbey.

A little history: The city was founded in the 1st century AD when the Romans built a temple and baths in the valley and baths, using the natural hot springs as a thermal spa. However, tradition and archeological excavations suggest the hot springs were known before then and were probably enjoyed by Neolithic hunter-gatherer tribes and Celtic people. In the Middle ages, Bath became and important center for the wool industry. In the 18th century, it developed into an elegant spa city, famed for art and literature (Jane Austen was famous resident).

Want to take the tour yourself but never have to leave your couch? Click here for a short video.

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passing St. Mary’s Hospital on our way to Paddington Station |
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| arriving in Bath: the Empire Hotel, Pulteney Bridge crossing the River Avon, and St. Michael’s Church |
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Pulteney Bridge – historic, with shops built into it, similar to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence |
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| part of the medieval city wall |
bath4Georgian architecture crafted from honey-colored Bath Stone and the Royal Mineral Water Hospital - a working hospital that has searched and treated rheumatic diseases for over 200 years|
bath5| historically popular bathing places in Bath |
bath6| the gorgeous Bath Abbey |
bath7| Bath Abbey: magnificent stained glass windows, fanned vault ceilings, and angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder |
bath12| (left) The Royal Crescent, one of Bath’s most iconic landmarks, is a row of 30 terraced houses arranged in a sweeping crescent, (right) another rounded landmark, The Circus |
bath9| entering the Roman Baths |
bath11| inside one of the best preserved baths in the world |
bath10| The Sacred Spring that still supplies natural hot water |

bath8| in the Pump Room curious visitors can taste Bath’s natural warm mineral water |

After saying goodbye to Bath, we headed back to London where we wrapped up the day with a hearty dinner at the pub in our neighborhood – The George & Dragon.

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Up next… Oxford!

✈ Europe | London

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles 

Day 1: We woke up early to the Eurostar (a high-speed train service that travels underwater through the Channel Tunnel aka “Chunnel”) from Paris to London. As we stood in line at the passport checkpoint before boarding, I saw a bald head in front of us that looked awfully familiar. The man was with his wife, both in chic but casual attire, and talking about sweet potatoes of all things. Mom was acting like a giddy school girl when I told her who I’d just spotted but we both managed to keep our cool (for the most part). We did about lose it when the passport officer asked his occupation and he answered, “Actor.” (dreamily, Mom says!). I mean with those lashes and that talent?! Who wouldn’t be smitten with… Stanley Tucci!!! Yep, turns out he and his wife were returning to their home in London after a day-trip to Paris. I only know this because someone else blogged about being six rows away from him the day before!

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| Stanley Tucci: on his wedding day with wife Felicity Blunt, alongside Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada, and as the outrageous Caesar in the Hunger Games series (images c/o Google) |

Anyway, our little celebrity-sighting was like finding a heads-up penny because it definitely started the next leg of our trip off right. We arrived in London and went straight to our lodgings at Carr Saunders Hall, a dormitory that the London School of Economics rents out to tourists when college isn’t in session. We ditched our bags quickly, got a map and directions from the front desk, and set off to our next destination… the Apollo Victoria theater.

There we spent the afternoon basking in the glory that is “Wicked The Musical”. I’ve read the book series multiple times, played the soundtrack to death, and saw it once before in Chicago – but it was Mom’s first time going and we had an amazing experience. Great seats, incredible performers, knock-out costumes – Wicked is such a treat that you definitely should go if you ever get the chance!

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| Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz |

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Buckingham Palace |

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| Everyone’s favorite phone booth! |

Day 2: We took a break from London and spent the day in Bath.

Day 3: Mom & I met up with my friend Liz and spent most of the day at the Warner Bros. Studio – Making of Harry Potter tour.

Day 4: We woke up, grabbed breakfast, and headed downtown to meet Liz and do some general sight-seeing. Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey – quintessential London! After taking in the scenery we split up; Liz walked over to St. James’ Park and Buckingham Palace while Mom & I took a tour of Westminster. We reconnected for lunch at The Laughing Halibut where we were joined by Liz’s friend, Lauren. It was a fun lunch –  traditional fish and trips, good conversation, and a little entertainment on the side (a pigeon flew into the restaurant and wildly flapped about until one of the cooks caught it bare handed and tossed it back outside!). Following lunch, we parted ways with Lauren and strolled down to Trafalgar Square, passing the Prime Minister’s house along the way. We then spent some time wandering the National Gallery, a free art museum that houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900s. After the museum, we bid farewell to Liz so she could pack and get some sleep before her long bus ride back to Edinburgh (where she’s working on her master’s degree – you can follow her adventures here.). Mom & I continued on to the National Portrait Gallery for a while before finally calling it a day.

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| Big Ben – Palace of Westminster |

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Westminster Abbey |

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| The Chapter House of Westminster Abbey and the oldest door in Britain (it’s the only surviving Anglo Saxon door in the country)|

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Palace of Westminster, The London Eye, Liz soaking up the scenery… and rain |

fishnchips | lunch at The Laughing Halibut |

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| The National Gallery |

Day 5: For our last day in the city, we decided to meet up with a guide from London Walks for a tour of the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a 900-year-old fortress and castle. It has also served as a royal residence, housing for the Royal Mint and the Crown Jewels, barracks, storehouse for military paraphernalia and weapons, and notorious prison. Throughout its history, the tower imprisoned many people – from common criminals to monarchs. Famous prisoners include Lady Jane Grey (who was executed on Tower Green, an open terrain in the Tower of London, nine days after being crowned Queen), Edward and Richard (two princes, ages 12 and 9, sons of Edward IV, who are believed to have been killed by Richard III, their uncle, who took the throne for himself), and Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard (two of Henry VIII’s wives who were both imprisoned and later executed).
After touring the Tower of London, we walked along the Thames and waved to St.Paul’s Cathedral before collecting our luggage and catching a bus to the final destination on our grand European adventure, Oxford.
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| The Tower of London |
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| Traitor’s Gate (the water entrance where many prisoners, accused of treason, passed through), The White Tower, and one of the famous ravens (legend says that if the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall) |
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| views from inside Beauchamp Tower where the important prisoners were housed |
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| graffiti left by prisoners, mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries when the Tower of London was the country’s foremost state prison (this time period was one of great religious and political upheaval) |
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| an arrow slit in the fortress wall, the Bloody Tower gate, and a glass memorial that commemorates those who were executed on Tower Green –  scaffolds for beheadings were often erected in front of The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula |
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| Armor and artifacts on display in the White Tower  – including suits belonging to Henry VIII |
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| Tower Bridge |
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St.Paul’s Cathedral |
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| walking along the Thames |

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| traveling first by tube, then by bus to our final European destination |

Up next… Oxford!

✈ Europe | Versailles

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris

During our stay in Paris we decided to take a day trip over to the Palace of Versailles. It’s just 10 miles from the city and is easily reachable by train.

Well…easy if you can navigate the train station. In our case, we raced over to the Gare d’Austerlitz to catch the RER train only to find that there were no ticket agents on duty that morning. So we flitted from machine to machine trying to buy our tickets. We couldn’t use any of our cards and it wouldn’t take bills. Turns out – you had to go upstairs to get your cash changed to coins, then come back down stairs to buy the tickets and find your track. Thankfully after a semi-rude encounter with a worker who insisted she knew nothing and was just on the maintenance crew, a passerby took pity on us and swiped us through the gates!

Since we’d missed the earlier train, this one was caught was packed with people heading to Versailles. A band of really talented musicians wandered through the cars serenading the riders.

When we arrived, we rushed along with the rest of the herd toward the Chateau. Walking up the street, all you can see is the golden gate and decorated rooftop of the palace glittering in the morning sun. Once there, we were ushered into a winding line to wait to be let in.

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The Palace of Versailles is a royal chateau in the Île-de-France region of France. In French, it is known as the Chateau de Versailles. It’s commonly just called “Versailles”.

Versailles has been known as the epitome of indulgent luxury for centuries. It’s a place of queens and kings and pure decadence. I mean, this place is definitely over the top!

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We started by touring the Chateau. The ceilings, wall paper, fireplaces, and enormous canopied beds were all amazingly luxe. Marbled floors, impressive pillars, and gold in every direction you glance.

There is a stunning chapel and the sparkling Hall of Mirrors which has 357 mirrors in total. It was in this hall where Treaty of Versailles was signed following World War I. Grand celebrations and balls were also held here.

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| the two-story Royal Chapel, designed after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris  |
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 | the chapel |

versailles5warhall  | The Hall of Battles |

As you walk through this jaw-dropping home, it’s easy to see why the French grew angry and resentful about the unfair and undeserved privileges enjoyed by aristocracy and began a fiery revolution.

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| entering the Hall of Mirrors |

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| the Hall of Mirrors |
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| The Queen’s Bedchamber, where she also gave birth to the heirs to the throne |

Mom and I actually walked through the palace twice. The first time we were jostled around so much by the large tour groups that we could barely enjoy a thing since we were way too busy pushing our way through the crowds just so we could breathe again. Seriously folks, it was pretty overwhelming.

Thankfully, the beauty of the place does provide a bit of distraction if you have to battle throngs of tourists. Our second pass through was much calmer and we could really take in the beautiful surroundings without being trampled.
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After our visit at the palace, we explored the grounds that sprawl over nearly 2,000 acres. The gardens are perfectly manicured with flowers, grand fountains, and statues.

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From there we headed to the far end of the estate, where the Trainon Palaces and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet can be found. It’s so calm and peaceful this far from the Chateau that it completely makes sense why Marie Antoinette made this her little escape.
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The Hamlet was built for Marie-Antoinette in 1783, so that she and her ladies-in-waiting could entertain themselves with the charms of country life.
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| The Farm was home to varied livestock such as cows, goats, sheep, chickens, etc. |
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| The Malborough Tower was the point of departure for fishing outings and boat rides. |
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The Petit Trianon was a gift to Marie Antoinette from Louis XVI when he became King.
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| the Queen’s music room, view of the Temple of Love from the Petit Trianon.|

The Grand Trianon is an elegant residence designed by Jules Mansart in 1687. The pink marble structure is edged by geometric, pastel gardens. The large windows and bright decor give the home an airy, playful vibe – even though it’s still very fancy.

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The Grand Trianon was used mainly for hosting family visitors. Following the beheading of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI in Paris, this residence and its pink arches were left abandoned. Years later, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte reopened it and made it his personal home.
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Although the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy, blew me away, Versailles is really something special too. If you get the chance to explore this lavish and regal complex – do it! It’s definitely a place where the past comes alive.

Up next… London!

✈ Europe | Paris

Catch up on our grand European adventure: Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II 

Day 1: We arrived at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Thankfully we’d been able to catch a decent amount of z’s on our overnight train ride so we were ready to hit the town. We met our airbnb hosts, dropped off our bags, and headed straight to the local street market our airbnb host in Florence told us about. There we bought a fresh rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and fruit. We ate our lunch at a few small parks (we had to keep changing venues because wasps were following us!). Then we wandered around the city and took in the sights!

We walked along the Seine, stopped in at Shakespeare and Company to browse the books, did a few laps around Notre Dame, admired the colorful Love Lock bridge, and visited the Musee de Cluny (which exhibits medieval art, treasures, and tapestries), and grabbed crepes for dinner as the sun went down.

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| the neighborhood market, Marche d’Aligre |

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| wandering the city streets and along the Seine |

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| hanging out at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore |

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| the lovely Notre-Dame Cathedral |

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| the Love Lock bridge – sweethearts attach a lock and toss the key into the water to symbolize their love |

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| outside the Musee de Cluny |

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| a glimpse of the Musee de Cluny’s collection: old treasures, the ceiling of the chapel, intricate tapestries |

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bon appétit |

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| crepes - very thin pancakes that are dressed up with sweet or savory toppings|

Day 2: We took a break from Paris and did a day trip to Versailles.

Day 3: We woke up, packed a lunch, and headed back to Notre Dame – this time to see inside! It was, as you might imagine, a gothic drool fest. Window after stunning window. Marvelous architecture. Neat gargoyles and grotesques. I totally get why people want to visit this cathedral. But then Mom took me to some place that was really mind-blowing…. Sainte-Chapelle.

It’s a breathtaking chapel; one of the finest to be built in France. It was built by Louis IX in the 1240s to house relics from the Holy Land, most notably the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. Most of the relics have been rehoused elsewhere or were lost in the revolution. Sainte-Chapelle also features an exceptional collection of stained-glass windows – 6,458 square feet of it to be exact. If you visit, make sure the sun is out that day because the light pours in and you feel like you’re inside a magical jewel box.

After soaking up Sainte-Chapelle, we continued our trek across the city. We passed a large throng of protesters, checked out the immense city hall, ran across a hidden medieval house, paid a somber yet moving visit to the Shoah memorial/museum, took a short break to people-watch (with a sorbet in hand), and popped into the Musee de l’Orangerie (an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings) to see Monet’s water lilies.

The sun was going to set soon so we quickly made our way down to the world-famous Eiffel Tower. The iron lattice structure is quite a sight! We had booked an evening boat tour so we were lucky enough to get to see the tower during the day and at night, when it was all lit up and glittery. The cruise was fun and it was nice to just relax, float along the Seine, and see the shining city by nightfall.

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| Notre-Dame |

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| inside the cathedral |

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| the beautiful windows of Notre-Dame |

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| Notre-Dame Cathedral |

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Sainte-Chapelle |

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| the magnificent Sainte-Chapelle |

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The Conciergerie, Hôtel de Ville – the city hall, and a medieval building|

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| Photos weren’t allowed at the Shoah Memorial but we found this plaque outside a nursery school in memory of the small children deported from 1942 to 1944 because they were born Jews; innocent victims of Nazi barbarism and the Vichy Government. They were exterminated in the death camps. |

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The Tuileries Garden, Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe |

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| the Eiffel Tower |

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| Paris at night |

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| views from our evening boat cruise |

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| the shining city |

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| the glowing Eiffel Tower |

Day 4: We woke up extremely early, caught the metro, and head to the Catacombs of Paris. We had read that the wait to get in can sometimes be 2-3 hours long so we wanted to avoid that. And boy, did we – we were the first in line! A little history about the Catacombs, they were developed in the late 1700s because Paris’ cemeteries were becoming overcrowded and causing serious health issues (disease ran rampant and water was contaminated). To solve this issue, the city closed several cemeteries and transferred the human remains to the old stone quarries. The bones were stacked neatly and plaques were installed stating which cemeteries the bones were moved from and the date. The Catacombs house over 6 million bones. To reach the Catacombs you travel down a narrow spiral stairwell and through a few stone hallways before reaching the ossuary, the final resting place for many of Paris’ dead.

After touring the Catacombs, we ascended into the light and made our way to Luxembourg Garden to enjoy a picnic lunch. Next, we stopped at the Panthéon (not to be confused with the Pantheon in Rome or the Parthenon in Greece) and took a quick peek inside the church of Mount St Stephen (which contains Paris’ only surviving rood screen – dated 1535 – which crosses over like a bridge with spiral staircases on either side).

After lots more walking we ended up at the quirky museum of Carnavalet which holds a collection of historic Parisian and French art, furniture, street and business signs, and more. My favorite room at Carnavalet was the one devoted to Art Deco and my favorite painting was one by Rene Lelong (Carrousel au Grand Palais, en 1910). I think I was captivated by its monochromatic beauty. We left the Carnavalet museum and stopped by the Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris.

Then we set off to find the Wall of Philip Augustus. It was built between 1180 and 1225 and a large portion of it still remains which you can find in the Marais (4th arrondissement). It’s across from the Village St-Paul and right next to a basketball court. This was our last discovery in Paris. After viewing the old wall, we grabbed dinner and went back to the our room to pack and prep for our trip the next day.

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| first in line at the Catacombs |
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| down the stairs and through the tunnels under the streets of Paris |
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| the ossuary – the Catacombs |
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Luxembourg Garden |
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the Panthéon |
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| Mount St Stephen |
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| the quirky museum of Carnavalet (yes, that’s a lock of Marie Antoinette’s hair!) |
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Rene Lelong  – Carrousel au Grand Palais, en 1910 |
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| the art deco room at Carnavalet |
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| Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris |
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the Wall of Philip Augustus |
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| on the streets of Paris |
Up next… London! 

✈ Europe | Florence | Part II

Catch up on our grand European adventure: Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I

Day 3: I had caught a slight cold/fever so we slept in before having a very adventurous afternoon. We grabbed pizza (rosemary potato) off the street and supplies at the covered market (bread, prosciutto, brie, swiss cheese, and fruit) and picnicked in a park by a gorgeous synagogue.  We told the shop staff at the market that we wanted just a small slice of cheese… little did we know the wheel was huge and thus we ended up a massive chunk. After lunch we hiked up to Piazzale Michalangelo to take in the absolutely amazing views. If Florence hadn’t already stolen my heart, she definitely would have once we reached the overlook! It was incredible.

After many minutes spent marveling and taking pictures – we headed to the road where we were lucky to stumble upon an empty, walled trail that lead us back down to the river and the city. We wandered the medieval streets before ending up at the Palazzo Pitti. The palace was purchased by the Medici family and became the residence of the grand-dukes of Tuscany and later of the King of Italy. It is now a treasure-house of paintings and luxurious possessions. Many of the art pieces feature the technique known as trompe l’oeil (optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions) and were seriously astounding. After touring the palace and jaw-dropping royal apartments we finished the day with tasty gnocchi at a quaint little restaurant with a very sweet waiter.

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| covered market and our giant cheesy surprise |

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| wandering around town |

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| magnificent panoramic view from the Piazzale Michalangelo – a famous square at the top of a large hill |

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| views from and around the Piazzale Michalangelo |

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| more beautiful scenes from the overlook |

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| the hidden walled walkway we stumbled upon |

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| strolling the ancient streets |

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| the grand Palazzo Pitti, view from the palace windows, room after room after room of opulence, one of the trompe l’oeil pieces |

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| inside the palace’s royal apartments |

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| more elegance from inside the palace |

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| walking to dinner - Ponte Vecchio in the distance |

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| can’t go wrong with gnocchi |

Day 4: We visited the Medici chapel, church of San Lorenzo, and our favorite gelato shop (the Gelateria de’ Medici – conveniently located just down the street from our airbnb rental). I tried out their kiwi and pineapple while Mom went more decadent with coffee and chocolate. We made our way toward the Arno River, across, the Ponte Vecchio, and back to the Palazzo Pitti. This time we explored The Boboli Gardens just behind the palace. The gardens were vast, with many trails and fountains, and, of course, gorgeous views of Florence.

A bit rushed for time, we grabbed food to go, collected our luggage, and ate in the train station like typical tourists before hopping an overnight train to Paris. Much to our surprise, it turned out I’d somehow booked us a sleeper car! It was nice to actually catch some z’s but also a little odd since you are a 1 of 6 strangers in a tiny train car with 3 squeaky bunks stacked on each side. Besides Mom and me there was a grumpy man who smelled like sour milk, an elderly lady who was sweet but chatty, her husband who snored, and a young silent barefoot guy who just stared. So that was an experience to say the least…

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| skeleton of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, ceiling in the Medici Chapel, Tomb of Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici with Dusk and Dawn, a bony crypt relic |

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| Ponte Vecchio |

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| at the Boboli Gardens |

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| the many walkways through the gardens |

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| more of the Boboli Gardens |

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 | at the end of the garden is the Grotto of Buontalenti built in 1583-93, here you can also see a chubby Bacchus riding a sea turtle |

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| dusk in Firenze |

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| shimmery sunset at the Piazza della Signoria |

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| good night basilica, good night bell tower |

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| farewell Florence, we’ve got a sleeper train to catch |

Up next… Paris!

✈ Europe | Florence | Part I

Miss our first two stops? Visit the links to catch up on our grand European adventure in Rome and Pompeii.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Florence, thus the need to split this recap into two parts. Florence is so impressive with its absurd amount of art, history, and beauty. I pretty much wandered around in a state of constant amazement. Well, I’d actually say this is true for our entire Eurotrip, but maybe just a bit more so in Firenze…

Day 1: We left Rome in the very early morning to hop a train to Florence. We arrived around 11 am, dropped our bags at our airbnb room, and went exploring. We visited the covered market, many lovely piazzas, and, of course, the always stunning basilicas. The street art / graffiti found in Florence was my favorite of the entire trip. And the food! Gelato, pizza, tiramisu …”Eataly”, you spoiled us for sure.

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| on the train from Rome to Florence |

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| view from our Airbnb room, pizza, and gelato from the best place in Florence |

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The Duomo or Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore with its red and green design & intricate statues and carvings |

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| the golden bronze doors of The Baptistery – one of Florence’s important religious buildings, dedicated to John the Baptist |

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| The Duomo, outside the Uffizi Gallery, the entrance to the Uffizi |

oldchurch

| inside the church of Santa Trinita – built in the 11th century by monks of the Vallombrosan order |

anotherchurch

| inside the church of San Firenze |

streetart

| street art + graffiti |

Day 2: Woke up to thunderstorms but braved the rain to make it to our morning appointment at The Uffizi Gallery. Along our walk we had the pleasure of enjoying the empty piazzas that had been teaming with people the day before. The Uffizi did not disappoint! We breathed in Botticelli and much more then stood in line at the Accademia Gallery to say hello to Michelangelo’s “David”. We lunched like locals – inhaling risotto with asparagus, gorgonzola gnocchi with walnuts, roasted veal, green beans, and a variety of gelato (pineapple, watermelon, pistachio, and chocolate orange).

rainyempty

Piazza della Signoria featuring the Fountain of Neptune, a rainy selfie, Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, outside the Uffizi |

uffizi

| inside the Uffizi Gallery and Botticelli’s Primavera |

viewfromuffizi

| as seen from a window in the Uffizi |

david

| David |

sculptureworkshop

chalk models of famous 19th century sculptors like Lorenzo Bartolini and Luigi Pampaloni |

lunchflor

| lunch – gorgonzola gnocchi – my new favorite dish |

Up Next… our last two days in Florence