Tag Archives: Travel

Firenze! (Florence)


Kevin and I found a really great deal on flights (to/from Florence) to Italy for Thanksgiving Break, so we took advantage of it! Plus, the week of Thanksgiving is always our favorite time to travel. To get this particular deal on flights, we traveled from Tuesday to Tuesday. For the first half of our trip, we stayed in Florence and then spent a few days in Rome (see next post).

Firenze is what the Italians call Florence, and this city is just a magical place. We loved how easy it was to walk around the city. We will definitely go back to Florence for a couple days when we can take advantage of wine-tasting and food in the Tuscan countryside, but we didn’t have time for it on this trip because we wanted squeeze Rome in too.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog-posts, the hotel we stay at can make such a difference in our overall experience. Kevin found a deal through booking.com at a new boutique hotel called Ottantato Firenze, and it was incredible. A few weeks after we booked it, we saw it in an issue of Conde Nast Traveler (a travel magazine), so we were excited. During peak season, the hotel is quite pricey, but since we were off-season, it was very affordable at $190 a night. This price included breakfast, and the service was wonderful.

The hotel used to be a bakery several hundred years ago, so it had the old-building charm but offered brand new amenities. Ottantato was not in the touristy district of Florence, rather it was in theĀ Oltrarno district. It was worth the extra ten or fifteen minute walk to be in a neighborhood with restaurants and bars that weren’t at tourist prices. To get there from the airport, we grabbed a cab. Rates to the city from the airport are fixed, and we paid 22 Euro.

Florence is a very walkable city, even for directionally challenged folks! The Dome (Duomo) is visible throughout the city, so if you ever were to get lost, you’d head toward the Dome.


Below are some of our highlights and tips from Florence:

  1. Trattoria Sabtino – family-style local restaurant (not touristy at all so little/no English)
  2. Berebere Craft Pizza (Kevin says he’d fly to Florence just for the pizza)
  3. Finding local bars/wineries was the way to go! For just a couple of Euro, house wines were amazing. Not at all like the three-buck-Chuck you get for that price in the States!
  4. We were given a local tip that if you climb the 500 steps of Giotto’s bell tower you can see the Duomo and the entire city – what a view! Don’t wait in line to climb to Duomo.
  5. The statue of David is worth the hype. It’s really quite remarkable. You can find him in the Accademia Gallery.

I look forward to going back to eat and drink my way through more of Florence. Saluti!


Boston: It’s All Here!


For Spring Break this year, Kevin surprised me with a trip to Boston! He’s never done a surprise trip for me before, so this was especially exciting. I knew a week before that we were going SOMEWHERE, but I didn’t know where until the day before we left.

Since I am a history nerd (especially colonial history), I was thrilled to find out we were traveling to Beantown (AKA Boston) – I had never been to Boston before! It was early spring, so we dressed warmly (sweaters and rain jackets). We were lucky enough to have a couple days of sun!

Kevin arranged for us to use Hilton points to stay right downtown at the Hilton Faneuil Hall. The room was small but clean and comfortable, and it was a great location. Had we not used points, the hotel could have run us $350+ a night. The benefit to selecting a location that was walking distance to public transportation restaurants and tourism was that we didn’t have to rent a car. Aside from a car rental cost (which isn’t cheap in Boston), we would have had to pay $50 per night for parking. A taxi from the airport to the hotel ran us about $30, but we did not arrive during rush hour. Even still, spending a little more on a hotel in a good location near MBTA (Boston’s public transit) would be more economical in the long-run.


We arrived on a Friday and our first stop after checking into the hotel was to Sam Adams Brewery! We walked to the subway and took the Orange line to Stony Brook. From there, it was a 7-8 minute walk. I have been to several breweries, and this one is definitely in my Top 3. The tour and tastings were completely free, and we met folks from all around the country! Plus, I really like their beer. After the tour and tastings, we stuck around for another hour at the bar and had a couple more drinks before departing for dinner.

That night we ate at Bostonia Public House. They had a really cool atmosphere, and Kevin was excited to have a lobster roll! Since our trip, he has actually been back to Boston a couple of times for work dinners, and he still enjoys it. After dinner, we walked to Quincy Market to grab some ice cream for dessert. Quincy Market is tourist-y but still really great. It was constructed in the 1820s and has lots of quick restaurants and snack shops to choose from.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to take a guided walking tour of the Freedom Trail. We didn’t have to make reservations because of the time of the year, but I definitely would go ahead and make reservations during peak season. For being pretty chilly that day, it was still super crowded. Our stops included the Massachusetts State House, the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House. Our guide was dressed up in colonial-wear and he had a lot of information, but it was sometimes difficult to hear among the hub-bub of the city.

After the walking tour, Kevin and I decided to go north to Paul Revere’s house. Admission was $5 which we were happy to pay since the money goes to preservation efforts. Be warned that admission is CASH ONLY. We were only there for about 30 minutes since the house is small, but it was still really interesting and the docents were informative and friendly.

We didn’t make a lunch reservation, but we should have. Everything that was recommended to us in the north end was a 1-2 hour wait. We were lucky and stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant called Tenoch Mexican. No frills, just good food. Eventually we made our way to Mike’s Pastry for cannolis. Mike’s Pastry was founded in the 1940s and they have a couple of locations – we went to the original on Hanover Street. It was Easter weekend, so it was PACKED but the cannolis were 100% worth the wait. So delicious.

After eating our cannolis in the park, we made our way to Boston Harbor to see where the famous Boston Tea Party took place in 1773. It was fun to see all the historic sights that day, but it was a LOT of walking. If you are planning on seeing Boston in a long weekend, good walking shoes are essential.


We DID make dinner reservations that night. Again, on a weekend, reservations are necessary. Italian food in the North End is authentic and YUMMY. We ate Trattoria di Monica where homemade pasta is the specialty.

On our last day, we had a late flight so we ventured out to the JFK Presidential Library. To get there we had to take a bus and a train, but the experience was worth it. Since it was Easter Sunday it was an extremely light crowd, but the museum was huge. Admission was $14 per person. Every presidential library has a (to-scale) replica of the Oval Office, so we enjoyed seeing how JFK’s was set up. Overall, we had an awesome time nerding out by looking at all of the First Lady’s outfits and the Kennedy family’s personal effects.

Our last stop of the day was Bunker Hill. This monument commemorates a major battle that happened nearby in 1775. You could climb all the way up the obelisk, but Kevin and I decided that after all the walking we did, we could enjoy the view without climbing all the way up!

Our weekend trip to Boston was just the tip of the iceburg – I’d love to go back to explore some more! We ate like royalty, saw 15/16 sites on the Freedom Trail, and enjoyed springtime in the northeast. Until next time…

Atlantis (Bahamas)


Now that Kevin has healed from surgery and is feeling better, the doctors ok-ed travel again! (see previous post for details) This trip to Atlantis was Kevin’s annual customer conference. Previous trips for this conference were Orlando, Cabo San Lucas, and Dove Mountain. We enjoyed this getaway in the sun, but at the same time we are glad we were able to experience it without having to pay for the resort. Since the hotel and Kevin’s flight were totally covered for this conference, the only expenses we had were my flight (about $450 to Nassau) and lunches.

Atlantis 1

Kevin and I at the Junkaroo, a Bahamian tradition

The water slides and rapid river were a blast, but since it was the very beginning of Spring Break time, there were some lines/crowds. I can imagine that chairs would be scarce and lines would be pretty long (and annoying) during peak season when cruisers also take advantage of spending the day at Atlantis when they dock in Nassau. The rooms and resort were a little tired for the price-tag overall. The food was also pretty basic (chicken nuggets, fries, pizza, burgers, etc.). I’ll say this: Kevin and I would have been disappointed had we paid $400+ a night for the experience especially since flight prices to Nassau weren’t cheap. It would be very easy for a couple or family to spend THOUSANDS of dollars to vacation at this resort, and Kevin and I prefer to spend our travel dollars more frugally, so we can see more of the world! That being said, if Atlantis is on your list, there are several different hotel options at the resort. The highest-end hotel is called The Cove which can be up to $1100 a night in peak season. This option has 2 private beaches. We stayed at the second-highest hotel called The Royal which ran about $400 a night. The cheapest hotel at Atlantis is called The Beach and it is about $200 a night. If you are planning on going to Atlantis for the water slides and sitting pool-side, don’t spend money on the more expensive hotel rooms because they aren’t worth it! Everyone that stays at an Atlantis hotel gets access to all of the slides, so you aren’t necessarily getting “extra” staying at a more expensive option.

Unfortunately, we never got to go to the beach because it was closed when we were there. The surf was too high and dangerous, but walking to the beach from the resort is an option if the weather is agreeable!

A highlight of the trip was our opportunity to swim with a dolphin! We were given the choice between a deep-water experience and shallow-water experience. We chose shallow-water, and we were really glad we did. According to many of Kevin’s co-workers and their spouses who did the deep-water, they had less interaction with the dolphin than we did in the shallow-water. Our dolphin’s name was Palmer, and we were able to hug her and pet her as she swam around us!

Atlantis 4

All in all, this was a fun trip, but again, do your research before visiting. On to the next adventure!

A Medical Update


Some time has passed since we last traveled. Last September, my husband suddenly became very ill with an unknown heart condition, and he was in the hospital for two weeks. Without exaggeration, there was a time I didn’t think we would ever be able to travel ever again. The only travel we did between our trip to Virginia last July (see previous blog post) and the Atlantis in March (see next blog post) was to see family/friends in Chicago and to go the Cleveland Clinic to see a heart specialist. I am so happy to say that Kevin is healthy and traveling again.

With Kevin’s medical condition, he is required to have a (subcutaneous) implanted cardiac defibrillator (S-ICD) which has changed the security process slightly in the airport. He can not go through a metal detector or get “wanded.” He has to receive a pat-down or go through the body scanner. Sometimes this slows down the check-in process, but overall it isn’t a hassle at all; the TSA agents are very familiar with people who have medical devices. It does present a problem occasionally when we are at tourist attractions with metal detectors because security staff does not know how to handle someone who cannot get the wand OR go through a medal detector.

I mention all of this because I never thought, especially in our 30s, that we would ever have to deal with anything like this. Sometime life throws you curve-balls, and you have to work through fear and other struggles. I am grateful that Kevin is able to travel, and we are going to spend this next year taking advantage of his second chance by seeing as much of the world as we can!

A & K