There are many cities in Europe that are very walkable and one of the most walkable is Florence. With its cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, and plazas with cafes and restaurants, you can literally spend all day just wandering around the heart of the city. Don’t limit yourself to the main streets, though, as some of the most interesting shops and restaurants can be found by wandering the side streets. With the Duomo visible from almost every corner of the city, even if you get yourself a little lost, you can always head for the dome in order to get yourself back to bustling tourist areas.
We found it completely safe to wander the side streets and never worried about the people that were around us, but we also limited our wandering to the daylight hours. Walking the narrow streets will take you on a trip back in time as you get a feel for what it must have been like to live in the city hundreds of years ago when artists and philosophers wandered the same passageways. One of the best ways to get a true sense of the beauty of the city is to walk along the Arno River with views of Ponte Vecchio. Obviously, these streets will be a little busier, but the crowds reduce as you get farther away from the main bridges.
As popular as Florence is as a destination, you will often find yourself surrounded by throngs of people clambering to see the same sights as you. Sitting in one of the outdoor cafes and watching the crowds go by while having a wonderful glass of Tuscan wine can be a great way to relax and recharge in the beautiful surroundings. If you have the energy, walking up the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo will provide you breathtaking views of the city. As you come back down the hill, you will find some wonderful restaurants and shops if you decide to spend some time on that side of the river before crossing back over to the heart of old town. The streets on that side of the river will also be a little less busy as well, but the quality of the locations will not disappoint.
There is something truly romantic about wandering the side streets of such a beautiful city as Florence. Regardless of the city that you are visiting, there can be many treasures to be found if you are willing to just turn off of the main streets. Obviously you need to be careful in some places as pickpockets can also be found once you are away from the crowds and are more vulnerable, so always be aware of your surroundings. Stop, go into the shops, talk to the locals, and perhaps enjoy some gelato, you will find those moments as special as seeing the Duomo or going to the museums.
While we were in Europe, we made a point of spending a weekend in Paris and buying an oil painting from one of the artists along the Seine. We had it stretched and framed and we picked it up from the framer over the weekend and when we saw it, the painting brought back fond memories for us. We have been to many wonderful cities in various parts of world, but Paris holds a special place in our hearts. Perhaps it is partially due to the fact that it was the first city outside of the United States that the two of us visited together. It might also just be part of the relaxed charm that has made the city renowned for being a romantic location.
During our first trip to Paris, we stayed in Latin Quarter on the Left Bank in a quaint little hotel that was more of a bed and breakfast than a traditional hotel. It was wonderful because we were within walking distance of restaurants, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and even the Eiffel Tower. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather considering the fact that we were there during November, which added to our memories of the beautiful city.
During our second trip to Paris, we weren’t as fortunate with the weather, but that didn’t diminish our experience. There are so many wonderful little bistros and places to stop for a coffee and croissant that we could find places to stop during the times that it was actually raining and not just cloudy and overcast. Obviously we took a walk along the Seine once again, strolling hand-in-hand, and looking at the artwork of the few artists that were out on such a gloomy day. We lucked out and found exactly the painting that we were hoping to find to capture our memories of Paris.
Perhaps it is just a trick of the mind, but sometimes there are places and moments in time that become a special memory that seem to surpass reality. We will always treasure the time that we spent in Paris and it will likely be a city that revisit again and again. There are so many places to see in the world, but there are also some places that just seem to draw you back over and over again.
We were determined not to let the weather dampen our spirits as we ventured back to the city of love for a quick weekend trip. Although it was definitely a rainy weekend, we enjoyed our trip as much as if the sun had been shining from sunrise to sunset. Since we had been to Paris before, this trip was about spending time together in a city that was actually the first place in Europe that the two of us ever visited together. Perhaps it didn’t make for the most picturesque of trips, but that wasn’t what this trip was meant to be about. We went into Montmartre and looked over the gorgeous landscape that is downtown Paris. We listened to a nun give a service in the Basilica de Sacré-Cœur, which was actually quite an interesting experience as we don’t normally see nuns lead a service.
Of course there was plenty of food and wine, but we did what we like to do the most while we are in Paris, we walked the streets. Around every corner, whether walking along the Seine or heading into the neighborhoods, the buildings and the scenery are always incredible. Despite the rain, there was a definite feeling of Spring in the air, which is unusual for us as we don’t normally think about a green grass in Colorado until May. We can’t go to Paris without at least walking by the Eiffel Tower, but we decided to retake a photo from our very first visit, at least as close as we could since our daughter was not with us. We did not go to the top again, mostly due to the weather, but also due to our limited time in the city.
We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which was actually something that we had never done before and would definitely recommend. Obviously the views are not as astounding as those from the top of the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre, but they are still worth the effort to climb the approximate 250 stairs. One of the priorities for our visit was to buy a piece of art from one of the street artists along the Seine, although there were very few out due to the time of year and the weather. We were about to give up when we came upon a stall with some original oil paintings that were exactly what we had hoped to find. Finding various paintings, etches, or sketches in the different places that we have traveled to during our time here in Europe has become one of the ways that we have chosen to memorialize our time abroad.
The next few weeks will be extremely hectic as we attempt to make the most of our remaining time. Having the opportunity to jump on a train and spend a weekend in Paris is one of the memories that has made the past six months so very special. We have spent many nights reminiscing about the incredible sights that we have seen, people we have met, and food that we have tasted. It will take us as many months to truly share all of our experiences here with all of you, but every moment has made us only want to travel even more during the months and years ahead. Regardless of what the future holds, though, we will leave you with the timeless quote from Rick in the movie Casablanca, “We will always have Paris”.