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Three Weeks in Europe with Carry-Ons

August 13, 2015

Today by popular request I’ve compiled a list of what I brought with me on my Europe trip in carry-on form. It’s been over a month since I’ve been back home from our three week trip – sorry it’s taken me so long to publish this post – it took me a while to figure out how to photograph and edit everything. I’m still missing Europe very much and it took me a while to get adjusted back to reality. I hope to go back again very soon.

To recap, my husband and I spent three weeks traveling through Europe. We traveled to 9 cities via 7 flights and one 7 day cruise. It was my husband’s decision that we travel with carry-ons only. His logic behind this decision was based on a number of things: we would avoid long lines at airport check-in, we’d save time from having to wait at baggage claim, we wouldn’t have to worry about lugging heavy suitcases around Europe, and we could try to look less touristy. I had no intention in participating and had plans to pack regular suitcases like normal people do. However after doing a lot of research on airline reviews (there are so many horror stories about bad experiences) I decided to make it work with carry-on bags.

I’ve traveled with carry-on suitcases that fit US Airline standards but European Airlines have different dimension restrictions on luggage. All the options in the US are larger than what European Airlines list as acceptable. I didn’t want to risk it so we decided to go the backpack route. My husband helped research travel backpacks and day packs. He picked out this Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L GII Backpack. It worked to fit all of his clothes, flip flops, and laptop. He’s over 6 feet tall and it worked for him, but I’m 5’3″ so this one didn’t work for me. We looked for one a bit smaller and I opted for the Ultimatesafe 22L version. This combined with my Tumi Voyageur Tote (mine is an old model, current ones here) is what I brought with me on our trip.

These two bags fit all my clothes and makeup. For reference, my two other packing posts for this three-week trip below (note my husband carried his own products in his own bag):

Left backpack fit clothes, flipflops and one makeup pouch
Right tote fit my laptop, electronics cables/cords and earphones + liquids

Inside each of my bags shown above, I used several things to organize and compact my items. If you order items directly from J.Brand they will send denim and tees packed in these nifty black pouches (shown on the far left). I’ve kept them from previous orders and brought 2 of them with me to keep tops in one and jeans in another. I know people usually say roll your clothes. I think it works with regular rectangular shaped suitcases. I found flat packing to be better for me, but there’s really no right or wrong. We also used a number of the Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. I brought three: one small one for electronics, one for clothes, one for small items such as socks, underwear and swimsuits. (My husband brought and packed the Translucent Specter Pack-It Cubes).

Another item I packed was the Eagle Creek RFID-Blocking Undercover Money Belt. I only used this a few days when we did sight-seeing activities where we wanted to be hands free. We used a number of Muji Clear Pouches (featured in this post here) that we found really handy. It kept things organized and easy to find.

Many have asked for a very specific list of everything I brought with me. I’ve split it up into categories to help make things easy to view. First up include electronic devices. I brought multiples of some items since both my husband and I had our phones, laptops and one iPad. For our flight I splurged on the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. They were well worth the high price. These make a world of difference and are really great for long flights. I brought one Tumi USB Travel Adapter and several Apple plugs, cords and the World Travel Adapter. For charging I had one for my camera. These Mophie Powerstation Chargers are lifesavers. I brought two and it was definitely worth bringing both of them on our trip. I use them in everyday life too. Having an extra one charged up in my purse is great for times I have super low battery. I kept most of our electronic plugs and cords stored in the smallest size of the Eagle Creek Black Pack Cubes.

Onto the clothes I packed. We spent our first week in Paris and second week in Rome, but my mind was set on our cruise through Greece. Here are the clothes I packed. Most items were thin in material and I’m petite so it was relatively easy to keep everything compact to fit into my backpack. Keep in mind I had one outfit on at all times, so everything pictured below minus one outfit was what was packed in my carry-on.

The tanks and tees worked really well for warm hot weather. The ones I brought were lightweight in material so they folded up easily and didn’t take up a lot of space. I brought two casual dresses with me. In hindsight we both should have brought at least one nice outfit but we kept thinking our vacation would be a relaxing trip. Also if we needed something more formal, we could just buy something in Paris or Rome. Due to the limited luggage space we didn’t buy any clothes. We had to pass on several restaurants we wanted to go to because we didn’t have anything formal enough. In the end though we had a really good time and had lots of fun so it didn’t matter. Next time we know to pack differently.

J.Crew Drapey Sleeveless Tee (Black, Pale Silver and Heather Sky)
J.Brand Natasha Tank (grey, second from left)
J.Brand Coronado Tank (fifth from left)
Banana Republic Tank (green)
Zara Low-Back Floral Dress
I brought two sweaters with me and two long-sleeved tees. One tee I threw away on the trip as well because I ripped it and it was beyond saving. J.Crew makes the best long-sleeve tees I’ve tried, they have lots of colors and I like the stripe ones. One soft cardigan was packed on day trips for places I needed to have shoulders covered. In the hot summer heat there were days I would have died if I wore long-sleeves the entire day so having a light weight sweater rolled up in my purse was a lifesaver. I packed one jacket which worked well throughout the trip.

J.Crew Boatneck Stripe Tee (old style, similar here)
Banana Republic White Woven Moto Jacket (in-store only)
For bottoms, I could have skipped one pair of jeans (probably would have left the white ones at home). Having four pairs of shorts was definitely good for me. I packed one skirt to wear out at night with any of the tops shown above and one pair of yoga shorts to sleep in.

J.Crew 3″ Chino Shorts (white, tan and grey)
J.Brand Cropped Rail (white denim)
Miscellaneous items include three swimsuits (I could have been fine with two), 1 pair of flip flops and 1 pair of sneakers. Many asked if I thought bringing the Pumas over Nikes was a good idea. Let me first say that I usually hate sneakers. I’m a flats or sandals kind of person, but I needed a good pair of walking shoes for our trip. The Pumas worked really well – they did take 2-3 days to break in. After wearing them for 3 weeks walking hundreds of miles, I have to say that I do like them and give them a thumbs up. If I were to do it over again though, I would have brought Nike sneakers instead. In my experience they just feel a lot better.

For an everyday tote, having something with fully closed zipper at the top was essential. I didn’t have to worry about pick pockets. A simple canvas material is also non-flashy and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention. I opted for the shoulder version which worked just fine. It’s small enough to fit my petite 5’3″ frame but large enough to hold my camera, wallet, water bottle, sweater and then some. Cross-body bags might be a good option if you have a very compact camera. I found it difficult to find one suitable for all my needs so the tote was the next best thing for me.

1 Pair of Flipflops (Havaina Flip Flops shown above, I actually brought a pair of Tory Burch with me, but they were ruined by the end of our trip so I threw them away while we were on our cruise)

I didn’t photograph my socks or underwear but I did bring enough for 10 days worth of wear. In our three weeks away, we did our laundry four times. Twice we hand washed items in our hotel sink. The other two times we had laundry service on our cruise ship. Ideally we could have done laundry once or twice but it was so hot there were
days we went back to our hotel to change mid-day so we went through
clothes quickly.
We made the carry-ons work. I brought one backpack and one tote. My husband brought one backpack. After our first week in Paris we decided to buy one Longchamp Expandable Tote to carry souvenirs and disperse some clothes so they weren’t all squished. It was the largest carry-on tote we could find at a relatively affordable price. The sales rep who helped us said he knew for a fact all European airlines would consider this acceptable so we bought it. I like it because you can unzip it around the middle to expand it. It comes with a large over the detatchable shoulder strap. My husband on the other hand hates it. He prefers bags that have some support, structure or decent pockets. This one is just an open nylon tote. It’s very sturdy and durable but it has no shape so you can fold it and put it away easily.

If we could go back in time and do it all over again there is not much we would change given our itinerary. We had a lot of stops and quite a few flights. I can’t tell you how relieved we were at the airport when we were able to skip lines to check and weigh bags. Most airlines have weight restrictions but as long as your bag doesn’t look heavy we found most didn’t weigh our carry ons. My backpack at the heaviest was 17.3 pounds (most weight limits were around 19-20 pounds). It was a bit challenging but it’s definitely do-able. We would have definitely packed 1-2 nicer outfits. I would have brought one nice pair of shoes. To make room for those I could have skipped a lot of the beauty or skincare items I packed. Paris has so much to offer, I could have relied on pharmacy minis for the entire trip.
Our next trip to Europe will consist of fewer destinations so we will definitely be taking regular suitcases. It was all our flights and stops that made us decide to do carry-ons only. Had we planned to stop in 2-3 places, suitcases would have been the way to go.

I hope you found this post helpful! I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to travel. I know many who travel with carry-ons only all the time and they make it work.
France Italy Mediterranean Travel

Travel Beauty For Three Weeks in Europe

July 15, 2015

Today I have a roundup of what makeup I brought with me on my 3-week vacation. My travel beauty picks for makeup and tools were packed into my Anya Hindmarch In Flight Patent leather-trimmed travel case and MustaeV Bloom Pouch (liquids, skincare and fragrance packing in this post here). These kept everything compact, organized and made everything relatively easy to find. Above photo: Longchamp Expandable Tote, Marc by Marc Jacobs Rimless Aviators, sandals by Hermes. Beauty details broken down below.

First up makeup breakdown. I limited myself to 1 eyeshadow palette. I usually almost always bring one of the Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Palettes with me on travel because they are versatile and can be used to create a number of looks. I decided to try something new for this trip and brought the MAC Nordstrom Naturals Palette with me instead. It worked just as well to create a number of different looks – I like that there’s a good mix of matte and shimmer. If you’re limited on space – there are some good browns that can double as brow powder.

For face products I brought a mini tube of NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer in St. Moritz (currently only in one size, I was lucky it was a good shade match). Other face cream products listed in my liquids post. For powder I brought my Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder in Shade 2, I knew there was a chance I would get a tan on my trip so I brought the Chanel Powder Foundation in Beige 30 and 40 with me (40 shown above).

For cheeks products I brought the NARS Dual Intensity Blush in Craving, Edward Bess All Over Seduction in Afterglow, Edward Bess Bronzer in Daydream, Tom Ford Cream Blush in Pink Sand (discontinued) and Charlotte Tilbury Blush in Ecstasy. I definitely could have skipped a few of these but I’m one who always layers cheek products.

Eye makeup included my favorite stick shadow Laura Mercier Caviar Eye Stick in Rosegold. For pencils I brought Marc Jacobs Ro(Cocoa) which is the perfect bronzey taupe liner (it lasts all day). I also brought the Tom Ford Liquid Eyeliner, NARS Brow Perfector, Chanel Fresh Effect Eyeshadow in Caroube and Charlotte Tilbury Chameleon Pencil in Amber Haze. I also brought my NARS Dual-Intensity Eyeshadow in Himalia which is a good bronzey tan beige shimmer for the lids and one waterproof mascara by Guerlain.
I kept my lip products edited to one lipliner in Charlotte Tilbury Pillowtalk. For lipsticks I brought three including Tom Ford Summer Lip Color Sheers in Skinnydip and Rose Soleil and one Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Reveuse.

Tools and brushes:

Above (excuse the messy brushes, I haven’t had a chance to wash them yet):

MustaeV Bloom Pouch (large, also featured here and here)
MAC 135 Large Flat Powder Brush is a new brush from MAC, it’s large fluffy and flat which is perfect for a sheer dusting of powder or bronzer
MAC 239 and MAC 219 Brushes
Chanel Powder Brush is a dense brush ideal for powder foundation
Chanel Eyelash Curler (discontinued)

Several of you have asked about the Anya Hindmarch case that I’ve previewed on a few posts and on Instagram. I bought mine from Net-A-Porter although several have told me they’ve found it discounted at Duty Free locations while they were traveling. Based on online photos and reviews I couldn’t tell if it was one open case with two openings or if it had two compartments. It has two compartments – one is slightly deeper than the other. It’s fairly pricey for a makeup pouch but the material is very sturdy and it’s very well made.

The MustaeV Bloom Pouch comes in two sizes, small and large. I discovered the line at The Makeup Show LA earlier this year and love them. I brought the large one with me on this trip. The small one was featured in this travel post back in April. I’ve added a repost shot of the large one below to show how it stands up.

For three weeks I brought plenty to last me the entire trip. I did miss my eyeshadow palettes and lip glosses but given the heat and warm weather a good portion of the trip was makeup-free for me so it didn’t really matter. I worried that skipping concealer would be a mistake but my skin has cleared up pretty nicely in the past few months so for face coverage, tinted moisturizers and powder was enough.

In case you missed it, how I packed all my liquids in this post here (Muji containers, clear pouches, his and hers travel skincare, fragrance and body care):

http://www.thebeautylookbook.com/2015/07/his-and-hers-travel-essentials-skincare.html

What do you like to bring with you on extended trips? Do you have any packing tips or favorite carrying cases?

The MustaeV bloom pouch and easy go brush was gifted during The Makeup Show. The Afterglow highlighter was also a gift courtesy of Edward Bess.

Mediterranean Travel

Traveling Through the Mediterranean: Greece and Turkey

July 8, 2015

The last part of our Europe trip was through the Mediterranean. We took a seven day cruise from Athens through the Greek Isles to Istanbul. This was the first time I have experienced a cruise – we booked our trip with Celebrity Cruises on the Equinox. We boarded the ship in Athens, spent a day at sea, and then had day stops in Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Kusadasi and Istanbul and were at sea each evening. The Equinox was an impressive ship – standing at the port and looking up it was hard to believe the entire structure was floating in the water (there were 16 decks). The ship was well maintained and the staff kept it extremely clean. It was nice to be able to relax and unwind each night after our day trips. I do think in terms of having time to explore, cruises can be limiting since your time in each city is limited from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Still it was a nice way to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. All the islands we stopped at were beautiful. The water was so bright and clear. Beaches were so beautiful – I loved how they were all organized. I wish I could be on a permanent vacation in Mykonos, I hope to visit again someday. My heart goes out to all who live in Greece due to the financial crisis!

We spent one day in Athens before we boarded our cruise which was enough time to walk around the city, visit the Acropolis and enjoy some delicious Greek food. I stopped in a few pharmacies to see how they compared to those in Paris and Rome. There are a lot of similarities in the setup, but the pharmacies in Athens carry different brands and sometimes items more similar to American drugstores rather than just health and beauty products. We took a hop-on-hop-off bus through Athens. A few photos from our day there.

Rhodes was our first stop. We didn’t plan anything in advance and taking any buses or tours to Lindos would take up a significant amount of time. We decided to walk around the port area and enjoy the beaches nearby. We stopped by the Palace of the Grand Master and walked around the streets. I wish we could have spent an extra day here to see more.

Above with my Longchamp Small Tote which I carried around with me for our vacation. It was the perfect size to carry essentials including my camera, wallet, tickets. It was lightweight but roomy. At times I was able to fit in a sweater, my husband’s jacket and a water bottle inside. The zip top closure was perfect to keep everything tucked away and safe. I didn’t have to worry about pickpockets with it zipped closed.

Mykonos was my favorite place out of all the islands we visited. We took a local bus to Elia Beach which was only 4 euros each for a round trip (compared to the cruise beach transfers priced at $50 each). It was approximately a 20 minute drive from the port to the beach. I hope to go back again to visit and spend more time here. We only had enough time to visit the beach for about 4 hours and have lunch before we had to head back to the ship.

Santorini was the place I was most excited to visit. My feelings about our trip were mixed though (scroll down and you will see why). The day we visited there were four other cruise ships in port at the same time making everything extremely packed and busy. We went to the Perivolos Beach which is a black sand beach. It was really hot and the sand felt like it burned the feet but the water was nice and warm. Santorini is such a beautiful place – one day is not enough to see much of anything but we had a lot of fun at the beach.

To reach the town, they ferried us to a dock where buses go up a steep,
windy and narrow road up the cliffs. To get back down to the ship, there
are cable cars and also steps down the cliff where they have donkeys.
By 3:45 pm, the lines for the cable cars were extremely long. After
waiting 30 minutes, the line didn’t seem like it was moving so my
husband decided we should just walk down. I read about the steps ahead
of time and insisted on waiting in line for the cars. My husband left
for a few minutes to check it out, came back and said “they aren’t bad at all and the steps are really wide” so I said ok. If you google “Santorini donkey steps” you will see that the steps are wide, but extremely steep, slippery and dangerous. We were almost run over by donkeys multiple times. My husband insists that he saw 3 year olds and 60+ year olds going down the hill with no problem. For me it was 500+ steps of pure terror as I have a fear of heights. It took us over an hour to walk down because I was so slow. We heard later from others on our ship that the cable car line was up to 3 hours for some people. If you visit Santorini – I do not recommend walking down the hill.

Above to the right, if you click on the image you might be able to see the cable cars. The arrow points to the steep zigzag cliff we walked down. I seriously thought I was going to die.

Our last stops were in Turkey. We stopped by Kusadasi, Ephesus and Istanbul. My husband is in love with Turkish Coffee. I was amazed to see wild cats and dogs everywhere. I wanted to take some of the cats home with me. At one of the restaurants there was a black kitten under our table. We fed him some of our kebabs.

Below: Kusadasi, Blue Mosque, Ephesus, Turkish Coffee + Cafe Latte

Sailing into the port at Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

 Parrots in the Topkapi Gardens

 Topkapi Palace Gardens

A few more shots from our cruise:

Above: Havaianas, Rayban Aviators, Marc by Marc Jacobs Rimless Aviators, Longchamp Small Tote, Gray Malin iPhone 5 case (discontinued, but 6 cases here), Dior Sundown, Korres Sunscreen

My favorite bronzer Edward Bess Daydream

I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to travel to Europe and visit so many beautiful places. I haven’t visited Europe since 2001 – this trip was long overdue. Out of all the places we visited, my top two favorites were Paris and Mykonos. I can’t wait to visit again – I am hoping we will be able to do another trip somewhere in Europe next spring.

Have you been to Greece or Turkey? What should I add to my travel wish list?

France Mediterranean Travel

Three Weeks in Europe

June 25, 2015

Hello again! I’m back in the US from my trip to Europe. My husband and I had such an amazing trip and visited so many incredible cities – part of me wishes we could have stayed in Europe to explore more, but I am glad to be back home. I’ve missed blogging! Before I left I had several posts and articles prepped and I had hoped to write while I traveled. Both my husband and I had difficulties with Wi-Fi everywhere we visited, getting connected to the internet for extended periods of time was almost impossible – we were at sea for a good portion of the trip as well where internet connection was slow as well.

A quick overview of our stops:

Our trip was planned more for adventure and exploration versus leisure and relaxation. This was our first trip to back to Europe together since we met in Oxford on a study abroad trip when we were in college (many many years ago). We each had a wishlist of places to see on our first Europe vacation. In three weeks we traveled to four countries, in total we spent 6 days in Paris, 4 days in Rome (including a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius), 1 day in Athens, 8 days on a cruise through the Greek Islands covering Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini, ended in Istanbul, then flew back to Paris for 1 more day on the way back home.

I’ll have highlights on each of our stops in upcoming posts, but for now an overview and some thoughts on our trip. In planning our itinerary I was worried it would be too much but it turned out to be just right if you want to spend a few weeks in Europe and get a sampler of as many places as possible. Our trip was split into 10 days in Paris/Rome, then 8 days on a cruise. I prefer trips where you book a hotel in one city for a few days before moving onto the next city, but the cruise was a nice way to not have to worry about much of anything – you have your room, excellent room service, food available 24/7, clean bathrooms.

Planning Our Trip

To plan our trip we reached out to friends for recommendations and also relied heavily on sites like Expedia, Kayak and Tripadvisor for hotel, restaurant and tour recommendations in each city. Sometimes that “amazing place” your friend recommends in Rome turns out to be on the opposite side of town from your hotel or where most of your actives are planned. I downloaded the Tripadvisor mobile app which helped narrow down recommendations by your location.

In terms of planning our daily activities, my husband and I are complete opposites in how we plan for travel. I like to have a list of places to visit and map them all out in advance knowing I probably can’t make it to all the points of interest, but at least it helps me prioritize what I want to see, where to eat, and tours scheduled. My husband on the other hand prefers to figure things out when one arrives at the destination. He will mark a few points of interest as anchor points for the trip and then prefers to explore everything else just as it comes to allow for more freedom in choosing what to do. We did a mix of both and it worked pretty well.

Packing For Our Trip and Travel to Europe

As many of you have seen from my initial packing post, we decided to do carry-ons only (yes, insane!). As you can see from our itinerary, we had quite a few stops. In total we took 7 flights (in addition 2 layovers in the US). It was because of the number of stops we had planned that we decided to do our best to limit our luggage to carry-on only. After going through all the different airports in Europe, I have to say that I think this was the best decision we could have made. We were able to skip insane lines you had to wait in to check luggage. We didn’t have to worry about waiting for luggage (or losing it) at baggage claim. Once we landed, we found it easy to get from the airports to our hotels, some required a bit of walking. We saw so many others fumble with suitcases that wouldn’t fit through doors or escalators, many that fell over constantly and some that looked really heavy to roll up cobblestone roads. Had we planned 2-3 stops, I would have definitely preferred to check luggage in a proper suitcase. With our itinerary, we would have wasted a lot of time waiting in lines if we checked ours. I’ll have a more detailed post on what I packed, what worked, what didn’t work and what I plan to do next time.

My husband used a mix of the travel sites and direct booking for flights and hotels. Here’s a list of what we flew on our trip. For US to Europe, we booked two separate airlines because we weren’t 100% set on our return date back to the US. For the cruise, my husband decided on Celebrity Cruises for our trip through the Greek Islands:

US West Coast to East Coast – Delta
US to Paris – La Compagnie
Paris to Rome – Vueling
Rome to Athens – Ryanair
Istanbul to Paris – Pegasus
Paris to US – La Compagnie
US East Coast to West Coast – Delta
Celebrity Cruises – Equinox Ship, Greek Isles to Istanbul

The number of options available for travel are overwhelming so picking flights took a lot of planning. Thankfully I didn’t have to worry about this as my husband did most of the legwork in picking out flights. He’s a loyal Delta customer – in the past he used to travel a lot for work and he’s always been pleased with Delta. I haven’t traveled as much but have nothing but good things to say about Delta’s service in general. For Europe, our original plan was to fly to London for a few days and then the Eurostar to Paris. Flying through Europe is significantly cheaper than taking any of the trains so we decided to skip London this time and save it for another trip.

To fly from US to France, we picked one of the smaller boutique airlines called La Compagnie which recently launched all business-class flights from New York/Newark to Paris/London. Our tickets for a round trip were about 1/2 of what it would cost for other major airlines for a business class ticket. Once we boarded the plane, we found the trip quite pleasant. It’s a no-fuss, basic and streamlined airline with friendly and attentive flight attendants. My husband researched reviews before booking, as usual with travel reviews, thoughts are mixed. You may want to check the blog called One Mile at a Time for helpful reviews and good photos of the airline.

We found our flight pleasant and without any issues. There was plenty of legroom and the seats were relatively comfortable. The boarding process we experienced in both Newark and our return from Paris on the other hand was less than stellar. They did not have their process flow figured out for smooth boarding. The attendants and staff seemed uncoordinated and the process of checking IDs and seat tickets was excessive. Even after going through security at the gates, there was an additional check of carry-on contents and pat-down of some people at the boarding gate. While waiting in line, a man in front of me lost it when he was asked to show his seat ticket after getting on the plane because he said it was “the 10th time” he had been asked. For our next trip to Paris or London, I am not sure we will rebook with them – if you’re looking for a good basic airline with business-class seats, I would highly recommend checking out the tickets with La Compagnie.

Pros include:

  • All business class seats (usually around 74 seats)
  • No long lines at check-in as with some other large airlines
  • Large roomy seats that recline fully so you can sleep lying down
  • Food is decent, better than average
  • Service on the plane from attendants is very good, all were friendly, attentive and very professional
  • Good pricing

Cons include:

  • Huge thumbs down for the boarding process
  • No Wi-Fi once on plane (our flights were around 8 hours, they should have the option to upgrade for such a long flight)
  • Finding the gates is can be a bit challenging since they are a smaller airline, we had to ask around 5 people where the gates were before we found it
  • Samsung tablets don’t always work well, the attendants could easily swap out the tablets for ones that work, but I noticed several people on both flights that had issues with theirs
  • They handed out little flight bags with very tiny Caudalie creams, socks and sleeping eye masks, all very cute and good in concept, but quality and usability not very good or functional
For flying within Europe, I had little to no expectations of any of the carriers. Reviews seem very negative across the board on all of them, especially the low-cost airlines. I expected the worst but have to say I was relieved to find all flights from Vueling, Ryanair, and Pegasus were no-fuss without any issues. Perhaps our experience was rare compared to the norm, but we had no trouble or issues getting through security, wait times weren’t too bad either although some airports were very busy. We allowed ourselves ample time to check in so we weren’t rushed. We also had only carry-on bags that didn’t look big so nobody bothered us when we boarded. I was particularly worried about these airlines – there are so many “I hate x airline” posts and reviews I expected the worst. Luckily our experiences were ok.

 

Trip Overview, Highlights and Summary Thoughts

There were so many amazing places we visited. I was worried it would be too much but we paced ourselves well.
The time we spent in each city of course was not enough time to
explore, but it was a very good trip to get a sampling of multiple
cities. We found it really interesting to see the differences in culture
with each city we visited. My personal favorites were Paris and Mykonos. My husband loved Paris and Mount Vesuvius. Some quick thoughts on each city we visited (more posts on each to follow soon):
Paris is amazing. I was a bit sad to leave. A part of me wishes that I could move there for the incredible food, beautiful parks, culture, and amazing shopping. The buildings and architecture are stunning and classic. We did a lot of touristy things here visiting the major monuments and museums. Parisian women are incredibly chic with amazing taste and style – the way they dress and carry themselves is simple but beautiful. We visited in the middle of summer and it was very hot, I was in awe of all the pretty summer dresses and gorgeous ballet flats that were everywhere. Food is absolutely incredible and the croissants were to die for. Everything we ate was fresh and delicious. One of our favorite things to do was just sit in the Tuileries Garden, drink coffee and people watch. Shopping of course was incredible – the stores and associates put American retail to shame. All the stores we went to had associates fluent in English and other languages in addition to French. Each one I encountered was incredibly knowledgeable about their brands. They were all friendly, patient and very helpful. I never asked for any samples but each beauty counter or store I visited was incredibly generous with samples without me asking. They even threw in men’s skincare and fragrance for my husband as he patiently waited by my side in a number of the stores.

 

 Diptyque Paris, Boulevard 34 Saint Germain

 Eiffel Tower view from Arc de Triomphe

Louboutin Beaute at the Louvre Carousel Shops

In Rome we did more sight-seeing and adventure tours. For touristy things in Rome, we visited Vatican City, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain (under construction). We took a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. We climbed up Mount Vesuvius and made it to the third gift shop (it’s the farthest they will let you go without a special guide). The best part of our trip was biking along the Appian Way with Top Bike Rentals. We biked from center city Rome to the the Appian Way (about 20-30 minutes). It is something I highly recommend. If we go back to Rome, we will definitely be checking out the other Rome tours. It’s something we will never forget. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my biking skills at a sad 2.5 but I was still able to do it and had a lot of fun. There were about 10 people in the group, ranging from one 18 year old to several in the 50+ range. I would say that I bike like a granny, but there were several grandmothers in our bike group who were hauling ***. I was the only one that fell once – I missed a ramp and thought I could bike up a curb. It didn’t work out and I fell over. I got some minor scrapes on my knee and palms, but no injuries – I think the others were more concerned about me tipping over than I was. They have E-bikes which were amazing, especially for the uphill areas. Our guide’s name was Emmanuel, he was an excellent guide. There are a few Appian Way options, we booked this one.

Saint Peter’s Basilica

 Biking along the Appian Way

Rome

For the cruise, we went on the Celebrity Equinox. We started in Athens and spent a day at sea until we reached Rhodes. Each of the stops was 1 day which wasn’t nearly enough time to really explore or enjoy each city. Still it was a great way to get a sampling in a week’s time. After Rhodes, we sailed to Mykonos, Santorini, Ephesus and Istanbul. More on each stop and the cruise in an upcoming post. A few snapshots.

Mykonos – Elia Beach

Rhodes

 Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

 Athens

Istanbul Port

 Santorini

Hope you liked this overview of my three weeks in Europe. Many thanks to each and every one of you who gave me recommendations for each city! I was really touched by all your kind comments and although I wasn’t able to meet any readers on my trip, I was beyond grateful to see welcome comments on my Instagram feed as I stopped in some of your cities. I feel so blessed to have such amazing readers – I had no idea I had readers from Greece or Turkey! I’m sending you hugs and kisses πŸ™‚
I also feel incredibly blessed to have been able to spend almost a month in Europe and that I was able to do it with my best friend and love of my life. I have to say the thought of spending 21 days with someone 24/7 had me a bit worried before we left – I’m of the mindset that all relationships need a little space to work. With our hotel and cruise accommodations there was absolutely no space at all. Whatever we did though, it worked. We had the best time together and I couldn’t have asked for a better travel partner. We did a mix of everything. I planned what we would see in Paris, he planned what we would see in Rome and Naples. For Greece and Turkey we planned everything together. We liked trying new things. I was more adventurous and went outside of my comfort zone to bike 20+ miles through Rome, I climbed up and down Mount Vesuvius to see the volcano my husband was so excited about. My husband on the other hand isn’t a fan of beauty shopping, but he tagged along on a few of the beauty stores, helped me take pictures and was really patient with me for wanting to stop in a French Pharmacy every 5 blocks (lol).

Have you been to any of the cities in France, Rome, Greece or Turkey? Have you visited any multiple times? I am already trying to plan a trip back to Paris and also the South of France although I don’t know that we will be able to go back this year. I would go back to Mykonos in a heartbeat anytime I am able to. Actually any of the Greek Islands I think would require at least 2-3 days to really explore. Our 1-day stops wasn’t enough!

More on the trip to follow πŸ™‚

France Italy Mediterranean Travel

Packing for Europe

May 30, 2015

I’m beyond excited to share that I’m leaving for Paris in a few days. I will be traveling for the next month to nine different cities across Europe with my husband – this is our belated honeymoon! We both married while we were in grad school (business and law school) and started working full-time immediately after we graduated. This was nearly seven years ago (time flies!) and this year we decided it was about time we getaway from everything and take a much-needed vacation. As I’ve been packing and preparing for our trip, I have also been busy photographing and swatching as fast as I can to have reviews on new Chanel, Clarins, Dior and more. I fully intend to keep posting while I’m away from the US but I don’t know how frequently I will be able to.

Here’s a quick preview of what I’m packing. My husband has decided that we should try and fit all of our items in carry-on bags. On one hand I agree that we should be minimalists in what we pack but being a woman this has had me in a bit of panic (actually a huge one). We did a lot of research and I found this Pacsafe 32L Daypack that actually fits all my clothes I picked out for our trip: four shorts, three pairs of jeans, six tank tops, four tees, one dress, one skirt, one pair of flip flops, underwear,  socks, swim gear, and my liquids bag. The remaining items will fit in a small personal bag which I think will be either the Tumi Voyageur Q-Tote (I have an older color) or this Athens Laptop Shoulder Tote (any thoughts, I have both bags, but am still undecided?).

I’m going through my cosmetics and skincare trying desperately to edit the contents to essentials only. I ordered a bunch of travel-sized Muji Travel Containers and am transferring some cleaners and moisturizers today. All my makeup will be packed in an Anya Hindmarch In-Flight Patent Clear Bag and all liquids are in this Flight 001 Clear Pouch I bought from Amazon.

For day trips, I searched everywhere for an affordable shoulder or crossbody bag that had a zipper but that would also be large enough for my Sony NEX-6 (camera review here). While at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills, I discovered Goyard released a new style of bag in the US (apparently it’s been available since 2014 as a special order item). It’s called the Artois and is slightly smaller than the Saint Louis PM which I have in grey, orange and black (but it’s an open-tote). The Artois comes with a thicker canvas, has some leather detail at the bottom for more structure and most importantly a zipper at the top. Unfortunately you can only purchase this as a special order item and it takes around 5 business days to order so I wouldn’t receive it in time for my trip. I will try to find this one in Paris instead, and I hope the turnaround is faster (more on this style via Goyard threads at The Purse Forum).

After more searching, I decided the Longchamp Small Shoulder Tote would work perfectly. I picked one up from Nordstrom, all the colors were so pretty but black seemed like it would be the most versatile. I like how they fold up so I can fit in my carry-on easily while I’m flying. As a quick update to this post, since many have commented on shoes, I’m bringing along these suede sneakers or these ones from Puma both which are super comfy. I’ll buy flats while in Paris.

For in-flight, I plan on packing some Tatcha Travel-Sized items, my Mophie Powerstation, Noise Cancelling Head Phones, a small grey scarf, my laptop and some travel guides.

I have my packing 90% complete. I’m still in the process of editing my packing contents. I’m leaving behind my hairdryer and straighteners, one of my first stops in Paris will be Sephora to pick up those items.

If you have any travel tips or advice would be greatly appreciated! I’ll be sharing more about the cities we will be visiting over the next month. I will say now we will be staying in Paris and Rome for several days each city – I have a list of places I want to see and visit as this will be my first time visiting those areas. If you have any recommendations of must-see places, shops or museums, I’m all ears!