Since this was our first trip, we decided to just get a little taste of several different places and use Dublin as our home-base. After months of trying to narrow down all the amazing places to go, we decided on: Ireland, Paris, Malta, and Cinque Terre, Italy.
We started our trip with a five-hour drive to Seattle where we boarded our plane with Iceland Air. Our flight path gave us a twenty-three-hour layover in Iceland. We didn't want to spend too much money in Iceland, so we decided to rent a cheap car and drive in a loop from the airport. We stopped first at a cute little bakery and got some coffee to keep us awake, and then we continued on to Brimketill lava rock pool.
After Brimketill we continued on to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs. The drive was filled with rolling hills, lava rock, and ocean views.
Once we arrived, there was a short hike, 2.4 miles roundtrip, to the hot springs. We passed a few small waterfalls and lots of steam vents and boiling pools. The thermal river, where people swim was a bit crowded and we were still so exhausted from flying all night, so we opted out of actually getting in. Once we took in the views, we headed back and drove to Reykjavik.
Reykjavik was such a clean modern city; we loved it. We stopped at a gluten-free creperie and had some delicious crepes. Then walked around for a bit before having a delicious fresh dinner at a little restaurant. Because it was the beginning of summer, it was light until almost midnight, but we were so tired that we went to sleep around ten in a little airbnb that we got for the night.
The next morning we were off to Dublin. When we arrived, we headed straight to our airbnb. It was just outside of town and the public transportation got us just a few blocks away. We met our host and then headed out to explore the city.
We stayed in Ireland for four days, and every day we planned to rent a car and go to the Cliffs of Moher, but jet lag got the best of us (which is why I now wrote a post and researched how to beat jet lag). We took one day trip to the small town of Howth just a few miles north of Dublin, and it was well worth it. We started off on the Howth cliff walk along the coast and finished our time there exploring the town.
Once our time in Ireland was up, we headed to the airport and hopped on a plane to Paris. After a bit of a crazy time getting out of the airport, we finally found the train that took us to the city. One of our first stops in Paris was a wonderful cafe where we spent some time relaxing with our coffee and trying to read the French coffee magazines. I was very proud of myself for ordering our drinks in French, but for the majority of our stay, I was unfortunately too embarrassed to try speaking French.
Once it was late enough in the day for us to check-in to our airbnb, we headed on our way. The apartment where we stayed was located in the 10th arrondissement. Hidden behind two giant doors was a courtyard where our apartment lay nestled in the corner. It was a tiny studio with a small bathroom at the entrance, a kitchenette, and a couch the converted into a bed. It was a charming little place and honestly one of our favorites.
We took a short nap and then decided to go to the little grocery store down the street to get some things for dinner. We actually ended up cooking our food the whole time we were in Paris to save money and because we were a bit embarrassed that we didn't know much French.
We spent our days wandering the streets, relaxing in the parks, and getting little treats at the local cafes.
Our time in Paris soon came to an end, and we were off to Malta. It was a fairly quick flight, and when we got to the airport, we rented a car to get around the island.
The first stop on our list was the San Anton Gardens, where we saw beautiful flowers, orange trees, turtles, and more. The gardens are a part of the San Anton Palace, which is now the official residence of the Maltese President.
After enjoying the gardens for a bit, we headed to our Airbnb on the coast. The view from our deck was absolutely breathtaking, looking out to sea, and the calm ocean breeze drifted through the open doors.
Driving in Malta, however, was not so peaceful. Because Malta was previously governed by Britain, everybody drives on the left side of the road, and, let me tell you, Maltese drivers are vicious on their tiny roads.
That evening, we went to Saint Peter's Pool, where we returned just about every day. It was a great place to jump in and go for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea - which is actually very cold, in case you were wondering.
We spent one day in the historic city, Mdina, rented a boat one day, and explored the ancient catacombs. We also made a quick stop at the Popeye's Village view-point, because it is so cute!
We loved our time in Malta, however, for such a small island, it was very crowded and a bit overwhelming. If we were to do it again, we probably would only have stayed for two days and spent more time in Italy. Speaking of Italy, our next stop was Pisa. We stayed in Pisa because it was close to Cinque Terre, and had the best flight deals. We arrived late in the evening and walked about a mile to our Airbnb. Our host was super friendly, he met us at the gate to the house and gave us tons of great information.
The next morning, we woke up fairly early and caught one of the first trains to Cinque Terre. On the first train, we sat next to a very friendly Italian couple. They were headed to Cinque Terre as well, and they told us all about their lives and their favorite things about Italy. The next train was very crowded, everybody wants to see the pretty little fishing villages.
We started with the town of Monterosso al Mare, the farthest village. We chose to stop here because it is the village with the largest beach, and we love beaches! The town is somewhat divided in two, and connected by a tunnel that runs through the side of the hill and an outer walking path. We spent a little while walking around and swimming on the first side, and then we crossed over to the other side and explored and swam some more.
We navigated through the crowds and found some delicious focaccia bread before heading to Vernazza.
Unfortunately, Italy has a law where you are not allowed to hike without closed-toed shoes, which I did not have with me, so we had to turn around and take the train to Vernazza. It was a bit of a bummer, but it ended up being about the same price as it would have been to take the footpaths. I will be prepared next time though!
When we got to Vernazza, found another spot to swim, and we had a beautiful view of the village.
We spent the rest of our time wandering around the village, eating lots of gelato, swimming more, and watching the fish swim around beneath us.
When the sun began to set, we hopped on the train and headed back to Pisa. On our walk back, we decided we had to stop by the leaning tower since we were just a couple blocks away. It was really cool seeing it at night because there weren't many people around.
We could not have asked for a better last day in Europe, and we can't wait to return.