Traveling to Europe has been a dream of mine since I was young, but I never dared to believe it would actually happen. Teenage Kimmi would be in awe of 20-something Kimmi who just got home from celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary with the love of her life from the beaches of Santorini to the Cliffs of Moher. To be honest, I still sort of feel like if someone pinches me it will have all been just a dream.
But it wasn’t a dream, and I’m so excited to write all about it! An international trip is something Dan and I put on our “before we have babies” list pretty early on. A plane ride across the ocean is long and expensive, so we knew we wanted to make the most of it by spending three weeks in Europe. When the timing finally felt right, we finally pulled the trigger and booked a one-way ticket to Athens. And then we did nothing for about six months.
We were hesitant to book anything too far in advance in case covid or other circumstances forced us to cancel the trip. It wasn’t until two or three months before our trip that we started to hunker down and book hotels and the rest of our flights. We planned a three-week European vacation with no travel agent, just google and a notebook.
Our plan was to start in Athens and make our way up to Ireland, as Greece was on Dan’s bucket list, and Ireland was on mine. So all we had to do was connect the dots—how hard could it be? Well, our initial wish list of places to visit was pretty massive, and eventually we agreed that we’d rather pare down our list, allowing ourselves to really embrace where we were rather than feel rushed from place to place to the point of exhaustion. With three weeks fill, we landed on four countries with about five nights to spend in each, and the pacing ended up feeling perfect.
When planning our trip, I originally wanted to make a day by day, hour by hour itinerary with all of our museum tickets and dinner reservations booked well in advance (Type A things, ya know?). Dan talked me out of it, and I’m glad he did. Aside from the obvious, such as hotels, ferries, and flights, we didn’t book too much before our trip at all. I researched each city we were visiting, bookmarking helpful sites, jotting ideas down in my notebook, and saving restaurants, attractions, and even covid testing sites in my google maps. I packed my handy dandy notebook in my carry-on, and that became our guide. On days when we landed in a new country, we’d spend about an hour going through my notes and planning our week, buying tickets to the Coliseum or the Louvre while sipping our espresso. Doing it this way allowed us to have freedom and flexibility while still feeling prepared with loose plans.
The planning and preparation for our trip took a lot of time and brain power, and it was equal parts exciting and exhausting. Even just making the decision to take an expensive, elaborate vacation in the first place was a bit scary. In the end though, every hour of planning, every anxiety, and every dollar (and euro) spent was so worth it. The bills and the work and the responsibilities will always be there. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
After “How was your trip?” the next question everyone asked when I got home was “Which place was your favorite?” I should have been prepared with an answer, but it’s changed every time. I plan on writing a full story for each country we visited– what we loved, where we stayed, how amazing the food was, and anything we’d do differently– and linking them below. For now, I’ll just give a quick overview and my “ratings” for each place.
Greece blew us away with its STUNNING natural beauty, fresh & light food, and the unmatched kindness of its people. We stayed in Athens for two nights, then Santorini for three.
- Food: 9/10
- People: 11/10
- Wine: 9/10
- Overall Experience: 10/10
We stayed in Rome for five nights, ate ALL the pasta, and did tons of exploring. The temperature did not drop below 91 degrees while we were there, and I tried to not let it affect my ratings but there is definitely still some bias.
- Food: 7/10
- People: 6.5/10
- Wine: 8/10
- Overall Experience: 6/10
We stayed in Paris for five nights with a day spent in Versailles, did lots of strolling and sightseeing, and ate our weight in macarons and croissants.
- Food: 8.5/10
- People: 8/10
- Wine: 8.5/10
- Overall Experience: 9.5/10
A road trip through the Irish countryside was a literal dream come true. We started and finished in Dublin, made it as far west as the Cliffs of Moher, stopping for breathtaking sights and a few pints of Guinness along the way.
- Food: 8/10
- People: 9/10
- Wine: No wine but 10,000 points for Dingle Gin!
- Overall Experience: 9.5/10