My Second European Trip

My second European trip started much like my first, on a whim. The idea of traveling abroad had been floating in our minds (mine and my fiancé, Hank’s) since my first trip. But what solidified things for us, and what I imagine prompts most travelers, was the discovery of cheap airfare. We each paid $545 for round-trip tickets on Norwegian Airlines. This was an upgraded fare that included meals, drinks, a checked bag, and the option to choose our seats. As we were going to Scandinavia in the dead of winter, we knew that our luggage would be no small matter. Plus, nine hours in the tight confines of an airplane is time best spent next to someone you enjoy. Our trip was set to be from December 26, 2015 to January 12, 2016; pretty long for two people with full-time jobs! Luckily, we had been saving our time off and, with a few federal holidays and weekends mixed in, it all worked out.

One of the great beauties of inner European travel is that, once you’re there, getting anywhere else is relatively easy. We kept this in mind when purchasing our international flights, not necessarily picking dream destinations, but places where ticket prices were cheapest. We knew we’d be going back to Europe at some point so we didn’t need to cram everything in all at once. Many hours were spent deciding on locations, looking at the best areas to stay, and checking trip advisor and Google flights. Our route was dictated by train paths, hidden gems, and recommended spots. Having the bookends planned was exciting because it meant the entire trip was to our discretion. This was Hank’s first time in Europe and our first time together, so we knew it would be special regardless.

We began with the basics, plotting points on a map, keeping our options entirely open. Once we hammered down the places we felt were musts, we looked into transportation. A good mix of airfare and train travel allowed for essential flexibility. The flights were set, but any destination that was travelled to by train was changeable. In fact, we enjoyed Bergen so much that we opted for another day there, and cut a day out of Oslo. This was also beneficial as we originally had Brussels on our tour. However, terrorist activity and heightened threat levels eventually pushed it from our itinerary (with heavy encouragement from our parents).

A visual of our path, red is plane, purple is train

Here is the trip breakdown (which I highly recommend for anyone interested in this area). We landed in Stockholm, Sweden on December 27th and then flew out on December 30th to Bergen, Norway. We stayed in Bergen until January 2nd where we took an incredible train ride to Oslo, Norway’s capital. After Oslo we flew to Amsterdam on January 4th. After three fantastic days we took a train to Hamburg on January 7th. This was a short visit and we left via train on January 9th to head to Copenhagen until January 12th. This was our first attempt at planning a long trip and overall I think we were very successful. Plus, it served as a great learning experience for future trips.

Journey to Jamaica

I traveled to Jamaica for my cousin’s wedding, with the intent of turning a special day into a special trip. This was my first time on the island and my first time staying at an all-inclusive resort. It was… interesting. I left the states with excitement but also with an uneasy feeling that is difficult to describe. While I would be going to a beautiful resort, right on the beach, with endless food and drink – I recognized that it might not be a true representation of Jamaica. I was eager to make the most of my short stay, but was only able to venture out of the resort once.

If I got one thing out of the trip, it was ultimate relaxation. You do not need to think much beyond going to the beach, the pool, and the buffet. The ability to grab a drink or a bite to eat at any moment indulges the life of leisure, but I felt like it also encourages you to not leave as you are paying for this luxury. Why get it somewhere else? While the food was nothing special, the fruit was incredible and made up a significant part of my meals. I slept late, had leisurely mornings of coffee, and spent afternoons reading on the beach. The sunsets were consistently beautiful and the ocean was a calming lull in the background. The pool had swim up bars and built in lounge chairs. My favorite moments came when it was slightly overcast and the light drizzle of rain bounced on pool. The resort where we stayed is near the airport and I loved seeing and hearing the planes overhead contrasting the calm of the beach.

a plane flying overhead

the sunset after the wedding ceremony
a serene, cloudy moment the morning of my last day

The trip was short – two days dedicated to travel and one day to the wedding. This left three full days to do what we please. One of the days, we chose to explore a little bit of Montego Bay. The resort arranged someone to take us out and give us a tour. Heading from the confines of our hotel and into the city was immediately striking. The façade that we were living in carried such a contrast from what stood immediately outside its walls. It wasn’t necessarily negative, but it was just clear that we were staying in a bubble. After a short drive we were in the heart of Montego Bay. The guide pointed out streets, landmarks, sites, and explained island history. I noticed here I couldn’t spot a single tourist. I’m sure there were some, but the way the guide talked it was not somewhere travelers came to see. Instead, it was people, living their day-to-day lives in a sharp contradiction to the Jamaica we had been experiencing.

Jamaica is a beautiful country, that much is clear. With the ocean, mountains, and white beaches, it’s an easy place to forget your worries. But Jamaica also has high levels of crime and violence and a large amount of poverty. This doesn’t mean it’s unsafe, but there were areas our guide said we needed to stay in the vehicle. This reputation of Jamaica being unsafe was something I was familiar with before arriving, but I think, like any place you visit, you have to be smart. It is unfair to lump the whole country into this category, as every experience is different. Being confined in the walls of a resort does little to give a glimpse into the “real” Jamaica. And, although I toured just a small area on the large island, I am glad I did. I think the juxtaposition between the photos above and below speak more than I can.

the Craft Market with 3 school girls in the back
our guide jokingly referred to this as the Jamaican Costco
a busy side street
an area filled with homes

My Favorite Moments from my First European City

It’s an indescribable feeling, the moment you land in a foreign country, and the moment I touched down in Paris I was overwhelmed with it. The sounds of unknown language, the food for sale, the signs, everything was new and set my excitement ablaze. My older sister (Jessica) and I met at the airport (I had to wait seven hours for her – another story for another day). My previous experience with public transportation was next to none, but I trusted my research and my instincts, and off we went. As we wound through the city, seeing parts of little towns that we would never reach, I was overcome with the beauty of the adventure and what it would be going forward.

We met my younger sister (Laura – who I call Lars) at the hotel. Our room was tiny and only added to the experience. Lars and I took off at once, wanting to explore the immediate area around our hotel, while Jessica rested. We were two giddy American girls, bouncing down the cobblestone streets, talking a mile a minute. We passed a pastry shop and got a loaf of bread because it felt right and laughed at how cliché it was. But we didn’t care and reveled in every second of it. This was one of my favorite moments. Everything about Paris surpassed my expectations and we hadn’t gone but a few blocks from the hotel. It felt perfect in every way.

Lars and I enjoying our first baguette in Paris

It was busy, yet stunning, both out front and inside, when we got to Sacre-Coeur. But we were told to climb to the top, and that we’d understand when why when we got there. We found the entrance, got our tickets, and started our way up. It wasn’t long before we realized there was no one else doing this and we knew then that it would be an experience. Laughing filled the stairwell as my older sister yelled at Lars and me for making her come along. We wound up and up and up to the top. The stairwell was hardly shoulders breadth apart, the ceiling was low, and the spiral made it so you were felt you were spinning. After no less than 300 steps, we broke free into the dome overlooking a breathtaking view of Paris, and one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. But the real beauty came unexpectedly as we looked over the city. There, written on a stone ledge, I saw one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite Beatles songs, and I knew, in that moment, that this was something I would never forget.

the sun is up, the sky is blue. its beautiful and so are you
Lars – who is no taller than 5’5″ – showing off the height of the stairwell

During our three days, we took quick metro rides into the most famous parts of Paris, each one more spectacular than the last. We had a cappuccino or café au lait every morning, along with our chocolate croissants. We wandered through the streets into churches and museums. We saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and spent a few hours in the Louvre (I could have spent the whole trip here). I left Paris sure of one thing; wherever you go there exists that feeling, an endless romance and beauty found on every corner and every street. Since this trip, I’ve added more than 15 cities to my list of places visited, but Paris will forever hold a special place in my heart.

I hope you are able to visit Paris and share in the magic too!

My First European Trip

I first thought an international trip would take months and months of planning and saving. I booked my first trip to Europe exactly 49 days before I went. My sister was studying abroad in San Sebastian, Spain and the opportunity was too strong to deny. We convinced my older sister and, one night in October, we bought our airline tickets.

Not only would this be my first time in Europe, it also stood as my longest flight and my first time flying international alone. Anxiety was definitely a factor, but the anticipation and excitement drowned out my worries. The moment I set foot on the Parisian streets, my love affair with Europe began, but, even more, I found a passion for planning routes and scouting destinations. And with European travel, the possibilities are seemingly endless. This trip was a rather simple route since it was only 11 days. In future posts I will discuss my two longer trips that were both over 19 days.

Our three journeys began quite differently: my older sister in LA, my younger sister in San Sebastian, and me in Vegas. Instead of flying to meet my sister in Spain we decided that it would be special to meet elsewhere. We decided on a place that is now very near to my heart: Paris. For three days we wandered the avenues of the City of Lights, ate chocolate croissants, and drank far too many café au lait. From Paris we flew to a little town in France called Biarritz and immediately boarded a bus to San Sebastian. For the next three days my sister assumed the role of tour guide and we followed her around the charming Basque city. We followed a logical progression from France to the Basque Country and then from the Basque Country to Spain, taking a bus to Madrid. Here we stayed in the city center and enjoyed Thanksgiving Day dining in the oldest restaurant in the world. Madrid was a quick two-day trip that led on into Barcelona, where we spent our final three days.

the red is our flights, the blue is by bus

This trip taught me a lot about traveling, what you can squeeze into such a short amount of time, and how easy it is to get around. While I don’t think talking about routes, timelines, and transportation is the most exciting topic, I find it to be the backbone of a good vacation. While in future posts I will go into my favorite things about my trips and the cities I was able to visit, I will also discuss the logistical side of it all. While not as glamorous, that is what can make or break the perfect trip.

Thanks for reading and I encourage you to follow my twitter (@elizabethnubel) to see what I am up to.   This week I am headed to Jamaica for a wedding– future post to follow!

A Life of Travel

My full time job is not traveling; it does not take me to beautiful locations around the world, and rarely do I go where I haven’t already been. Instead, I seek out opportunities and jump on any chance to experience something new.  If you have a passion for travel, I believe you can bring back what you love and incorporate it into your daily life. This is what I hope for, turning something occasional into something constant, while in the meantime, enriching my days in Las Vegas with bits and pieces of my past travel life.

Outside of the Unites State, I have been lucky enough to visit 12 countries (in order of visited):

Costa Rica

My three trips to Europe have all occurred within the last three years and it has quickly become my favorite area to visit. The charm of walking down cobbled stone streets and sneaking into coffee shops, the history of buildings, palaces, museums, every turn brings up something special. In future posts I will detail trip specifics, country and city highlights, as well as tips for each area. Here are a few of my favorite moments:

in Norway, on the train from Bergen to Oslo
a bridge with something extra in Amsterdam
standing in Gamla Stan, a famous square in Stockholm, Sweden
a bike with flowers in Budapest, Hungary
enjoying the views in San Sebastian, Spain

Traveling is something that has become a huge part of my life. This blog will cover all aspects of my travels from what I have learned to what I wish I knew; my best travel tips and my necessities for a long flight. I will post the most special moments and the moments that left more to be desired. I will highlight both international and domestic locations through places I have visited and places I hope to go. This blog will be a journey through it all, and a never-ending journey at that, as I know my travels will continue.