N I C E //

My wife and I were looking to celebrate our wedding anniversary and wanted something beachy, beautiful, and romantic. Located in the French Riviera on the southeast coast of France, we found what we were looking for. Nice is a vacation paradise and an experience you'll not soon forget. Northern Europeans (and everyone else, for that matter) flock to the pebbled beaches looking out over turquoise water, with a pastel backdrop of winding Old Town alleys packed with boutiques, gelaterias, and restaurants serving mouth-watering French and Italian cuisine. This is truly a place to go to relax and catch your breath.

Coming from somewhere where beaches were sort of an exotic thing, this was both a lovely time as well as an alien one. Not having much experience with sitting on a towel at the waterfront, I did feel a sense of "am I doing this right?" Not to worry! Nice is such a laid back place that figuring "it" out is quite easy. We spent one afternoon in the adorable, posh harbor of Villefranche on paddle boards because we thought, "hey, why not squeeze in an abdominal workout while on vacay while enjoying a beautiful view?" Another day, we made our way onto a vintage French yacht, indulging in Rosé, charcuterie, sunshine, and open water as far as the eye could see, without  a care in the world. I didn't hate it. And speaking of boats, if you want to see more expensive yachts in one place than you've ever seen before, hop the train for a short ride along the coast to Antibes.

In addition to the water attractions, we also found ourselves wandering through town, carefree and mapless, checking out vast parks filled with palm trees, flowers, mist zones, and splash pads, weaving through narrow pastel alleyways, and enjoying the many markets selling the most succulent and colorful fruits and vegetables you've ever seen. Do yourself a favor: grab yourself a carton of fresh strawberries to pop while you stroll through the farmer's markets, which transition into craft markets in the evenings. 

On the last full day of our trip, we spontaneously decided we needed to see the French Alps. So we rented a motorcycle for the day, headed north, and took a breathtaking, exhilarating, unforgettable ride into the mountains. I've taken a few rides in my life, but nothing quite like this. We cruised through tunnels and curved along cliff edges, following the riverbed to the medieval walled city of Entreveaux. After stopping to take a few pictures (obviously), we continued onward to the dramatic red-rock canyon of Gorges de Daluis. If you ride a motorcycle, this route is an absolute must. 

Nice is a dream getaway that oozes laid-back vibes that anyone can appreciate. If you're looking for good food, plenty of beach to go around, beautiful French/Italian architecture, amazing views, and a place where time seems to slow down, then head over to Nice and see what I'm talking about. But before you dash over to your favorite booking website to set some price alerts, check out the photos below. Cheers!


S W I T Z E R L A N D //

I've had a fascination with Switzerland for some time now. I think of Swiss watches. I'm wearing a a watch on my wrist as I type this that says "Swiss Made" at the bottom of the dial below the 6 o' clock mark. I love the excellence and attention to detail Swiss watches offer. I think of Swiss Army Knives. I've had pocket knives for as long as I can remember. They got me in trouble on occasion when I was younger, but now they're extremely useful tools to have on hand. I think of cheese. I love cheese! I put it on everything. I grew up in Ohio near Amish country where cheese was plentiful. I went to college and met the love of my life in Wisconsin, the cheese state, for crying out loud! I think of snow. Snow makes me happy and feel cozy. I have many delightful memories of playing in the snow in the midwest winters as a kid. All this to say, I was super pumped to spend some time in Switzerland this past November. Here's a few snaps from my time there. I will definitely be back. One more thing. I actually suggest visiting in the winter. It's absolutely beautiful then! Cheers!


P A R I S //

Sometimes, you need to switch it up a bit. I thought I might do that when I had plans to visit Paris. What can you say about this city that hasn't already been said? It's home to one of the most recognizable symbols in the world, the Eiffel Tower. It lays claim to some of the best, if not, the best food on planet earth. I could go on. But instead of continuing ad nauseam,  I've decided to share my experience of the most visited city in the world (42 million visitors per year) through video rather than with photos. So grab a chocolate croissant and an espresso and sit back and enjoy. Lastly, if you like this post, please don't forget to share! Oh, and don't forget to hit the HD button in the bottom corner to see all that crispy high def goodness :).

Au revoir!


N O R M A N D Y //

I apologize in advance if this post gets a little philosophical, but I guess that's what France does to you. There are very few times in my life when I have been so overwhelmed by a place, where such immense beauty is juxtaposed with such a unimaginable tragedy. It makes you wonder how such horrible things can happen in such a beautiful place. I speak, of course, of Normandy, in northwestern France, saturated with rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and delicious wine. 

Our trip began in the village of Sainte Mère-Église, Normandy, one of the first European towns liberated from the Nazis in WWII, where U.S. paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines just a few miles inland from Utah Beach. It was the site of a well-known incident during the D-Day invasion where an American paratrooper found his parachute caught on the village church spire upon his decent. He hung there helpless for two hours watching the battle below before the Germans temporarily took him prisoner.

You can still see a parachute hanging from the tower, and a beautiful stained glass window in the church commemorates the heroics of the allied forces. Era-appropriate cars are parked outside the church, which are not only just really cool to check out, but also help to immerse you in that point in time. Sainte Mère Église is also home to a fantastic Airborne Museum that is more than worth your time. It's packed with incredible artifacts, maps, and stories. You can check out the Waco gliders and a C-47 used to land men and equipment in Normandy on D-Day. This place was also perfect for an audio-visual learner like myself. 

Next, we made our way to the coast, driving through small towns and open farm fields. As an American, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that, while U.S. troops did fight here in France in WWII, average civilians could pull back the curtains on their windows and watch as Nazi soldiers marched down their streets. At Pointe du Hoc, we wandered amongst huge craters left by air raids,  climbed into remaining German bunkers, and looked over steep cliffs to rocky beaches below, which U.S. Army Rangers scaled under heavy fire on D-Day to take control of this strategic vantage point for artillery within range of both Utah and Omaha Beaches. 

Later, I found myself walking along Omaha Beach on a bright, sunny day wondering how such atrocities could take place in such a calm, and serene venue. I think it's easy to forget that the beaches of Normandy are just that: beaches. Places often associated with serenity and recucuperation. As you continue on across the sand, you notice a few reminders of what happened there not so many years ago... beachside French homes waving American flags, commemorative plaques. Much of the physical evidence has been washed away by time and tides, but the reverberations of the actions on that day are still quite evident in today's world order. 

We finished our first day at the Normandy American Cemetery just up the hill from Omaha Beach. We walked amongst the thousands of head stones and witnessed the American flag-lowering ceremony as "Taps" played. It was truly a solemn experience I won't soon forget. This setting, these sights, these emotions, really have a way of making you feel patriotic.

The next day, we ventured another 1000+ years back in time and visited the unmissable Mont Saint-Michel, a grand monastery and tiny village set atop a a massive rock-island accessible at low tide, but would have deterred would-be medieval invaders at high tide. It's a fascinating sight to see, even on a gloomy, grey day. The sight of it on the horizon inspired many an "oooh" and "ahhh" from the passengers on our bus as we approached. It reminded me a bit of our recent adventure to Civita in Italy. We toured the monastery and then strolled through the tiny village-on-a-rock as it started to rain, so my wife and I ducked into a small cave-like nook off the walkway where we gobbled down baguettes whilst attempting to stay dry. 

We finished our day in Fougeres. This little village is host to something I was excited to see in France: castles. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time passing up the opportunity to see one. While many castles do look quite similar, I find there's something romantic about imagining yourself as a knight or a blacksmith living in this rocky fortress... but maybe that's just me. 

For one last history-rich excursion in Normandy, we spent our last day in Bayeux. One of the most famous sights to see there is the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Norman conquest of England from 1064–1066 led by William the Conqueror. Be sure to take the audio-guided tour along the tapestry, and check out the museum exhibits upstairs for more explanation of its complicated history. Next, we wandered over to the town's grand cathedral, an interesting reflection of the town's history, borrowing elements from both Norman and Gothic architecture, and hosting a WWII memorial near the back. 

After the cathedral, my wife and I peeled off from the rest of our group and spent some time at the Bayeux War Cemetery honoring the graves of British soldiers who fought to liberate Bayeux from the Nazis after landing at D-Day. The individualized, heart-wrenching epitaphs and the brightly colored flowers along the rows of headstones made for a uniquely profound experience. 

Something we came across unexpectedly was a Reporters Memorial for 787 journalists who have been killed on the job since 2005, either on the battlefield as war correspondents or specifically targeted by those hostile toward their reporting. As a photographer and self-proclaimed photojournalist, this really caught me off-guard. You can also see the copper memorial inscribed with "To The Memory Of The Journalists Gone Missing" in my photos below. A truly inspiring memorial that I highly recommend seeing. 

Normandy. It's one of those magical places that offers you the opportunity to easily step back in time. I suppose much of Europe offers such adventures, and the Northwest of France is no exception. When summing up Normandy in one sentence, I think Rick Steves said it best: War-Torn yet Full of Life. But while the past still stings, the life is not gone. Scars remain, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have another glass of Bordeaux or some delicious Calvados while surveying the French countryside and thinking deep thoughts. Until next time, France. Cheers!


I T A L Y //

Italy. This is a tale of two trips. The first was a wine-filled weekend in the rural countryside in Orvieto just 90 minutes north of Rome. The latter was a day in Rome and the Vatican wandering ancient streets and gazing at the Sistine Chapel.

Let's start with Orvieto. Insider tip: if you plan to see the Italian countryside, consider renting a car and staying in a bed & breakfast in the area. We stayed at a wonderful little B&B called Podre di Vitiano, which was like a castle/house off the beaten path with a pool and an absolutely incredible view. We were treated very well by the owner, who met us each morning with espresso, fresh bread, and cake from the local baker. During our stay in Orvieto, we wandered through the streets of the small town and took in the sites. As an American walking through the streets of any European city, it's striking to realize how old everything is. You can't help but imagine what happened a few hundred years ago on the steps of that 14th-century cathedral or in that cobblestoned public square. It's really incredible. 

One of the highlights of our stay in rural Italy was a quick jaunt from Orvieto over to Civita, a magnificently picturesque village founded 2,500 years ago(!!), which hovers atop a steep hill surrounded by plunging valleys! It's a bit of a hike along the narrow pedestrian bridge and then up a steep path to the town (there aren’t any roads for cars across the valleys to this island hill village), and we were pretty toasted by the summer heat by the time we got to the top. (It was a bout 98 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Yikes!) But we re-charged by grabbing some ice-cold Peronis and fresh bruschetta, and it was definitely worth it. You'll see the views in the pictures below. It was awe-inspiring! Sadly, most of Civita’s permanent residents have moved away in recent years after the town was rocked by several earthquakes. In fact, the boyhood home in Civita of medieval Franciscan theologian Saint Bonaventure has since fallen off the edge of a cliff after an earthquake. 

After that adventure, we made reservations for a tour of Palazone, a winery near Orvieto. We had a wonderful tour guide who kept the tour part short so we could get to the good stuff… The tasting! :) (And the incredible views. Views for days!) The rest of our time in Orvieto was spent strolling narrows streets and eating gelato on the steps of the magnificent Orvieto Cathedral, watching passersby. 

Next, it was onward to Rome, just an hour-and-a-half drive away. We popped over to our AirBnB real quick (just €94. Four people. One night. Game changer!), and then we took a tram over to the Colosseum (it was huge!) and other classic must-see sites. I have to say, the highlights for me were the Sistine Chapel and Rome’s night life. 

First, the Sistine Chapel. Just… wow. There's nothing like it. I was truly amazed by the many story panels and intricate symbolism. You will get a kink in your neck from looking up at the ceiling for 45 minutes straight, but it's worth it! Unfortunately, they strictly enforce their no-photographs policy, so you won’t see it posted here, but that's okay, because it did give me the opportunity to take it all in and appreciate it. To finish out our Vatican excursion, we checked out St. Peter's Square and admired the Basilica, while (not surprisingly) enjoying more gelato. Our cool treat was definitely necessary for surviving that heat! 

As I mentioned earlier, Rome after dark is really something. Checking out the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain at night was pretty cool. The people-watching was on point, and I also appreciated that the darkness seemed to make some of the tourists fade away! (Although, be careful to avoid the buzz-kill whistle guys taking way too seriously their volunteer jobs of enforcing unposted rules about where you can and cannot sit at Trevi Fountain. LOL.) Anyway, after a lot of sweating and a TON of walking (seriously, like 20,000 steps), we trekked back to our AirBnB with a view and slept. Hard.

Italy is a beautiful and romantic country. The wine flows like water, the art and history abound, and there's never a shortage of gelato, fresh pasta, or basil. It's really something. I hope to go back to see what it's like in the fall or winter months. 

Until then, ciao! 


L O N D O N //

London. You have always been one of my favorite cities in the world. I haven't traveled that much yet in my short life, but I've always been drawn to Great Britain. I don't know how many people know this, but ever since my first visit to London and Edinburgh, Scotland in 2014, I can't get enough British in my life. I started watching British television, I began following more British chefs, and observing British lifestyle, whether that be on YouTube or Instagram. It's even gotten to the point where my family members gift me Heinz canned beans so I can make a full English breakfast at home. Yep. You read that correctly. Beans for Christmas. So, needless to say, when we planned our trip to London with a good friend, I was stoked. 

We arrived on a Friday and stayed until Sunday. It's really hard to do everything I wanted in such a short amount of time, but we made it work. :) First, we hit up Borough Market. This was a must on my list, because I didn't make it there on my last trip. If you know me, you know I love to cook, and this place is a culinary dream. I had a delicious Steak & Ale pie (and I may have also dug into a Scotch Egg), as well as a proper pint. My wife did the same, because she knows what's up, and my friend, who had never been to England before, had fish & chips. Well done. :) Next, we wandered over to Shakespeare's Globe theater, strolled down the River Thames, and crossed over to see the magnificent St. Paul's Cathedral. We finished the evening at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen, where I had one of the best ribeye steaks of my life. 

The next day we packed in a lot. We did a tour of Parliament, which you should definitely do if you ever get the chance. It was one of the best parts of the trip. It was so fun and interesting. Our tour guide was a lovely, quintessential British lady. I may have learned more about British history and system of government in two hours than I ever did of my own! After that wonderful tour, we went super-British and had high tea at Brigit's Bakery where we sipped Earl Grey and ate the tiniest, most delicious little sandwiches and desserts ever. The rest of the day was spent wandering around Trafalgar Square watching protesters and tourists and locals intertwine. We grabbed a quick pint (again) and then checked out where the British Calvary hangs its bridles. Next, we walked past 10 Downing Street, saw a Joey hat (bonus points to those who can find the Friends reference in the pics below), took pictures of double decker buses and red telephone booths, and rode the tube. We oozed tourist. It was great. :) We finished the day watching the sunset by the Thames and eating amazing Indian food at Dishoom. Holy. Moly. Man, this place was good. Do yourself a favor and go. You should plan on standing in line for a while, but it's well worth it.

Sunday was a little more laid back, since it was our last day and we had to leave for the airport by 3pm. We watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, meandered through Hyde Park, and grabbed one last English breakfast at my favorite little hole-in-the-wall joint in Bayswater that I won't tell you about because it's my secret. Lastly, we had drinks with friends at our swanky hotel, The Hari, before we packed up and made our way back to the airport, wrapping up an amazing trip. 

London, you will see me again. Until then, cheers!

NW x

A M S T E R D A M //

WOW. What a weekend. :) I still can't entirely believe that I'm here, but alas! Here I am! This past weekend, we went to Amsterdam. It also happened to be PRIDE week! It was absolutely wild. The best way I could describe the atmosphere was akin to a college game day: music pumping and people dancing, chatting, drinking, and enjoying themselves. At any rate, we enjoyed a wander around and found several wonderful little spots. In Amsterdam, you always seem to walk past a canal. Duck into a back alley, exit said alley, and you're on to another canal. It's incredible. 

Shortly after our arrival, we followed the crowds to Prinsengracht (Prince Canal) to catch a glimpse of the colorful, lively Pride Canal Parade. Next, we stopped into a pub for some quintessential Dutch bitterballen and a beer. After that, we really just... wandered. No hurry, only a loose idea of a destination, and an attitude of curiosity. I truly think that's the best way to explore a city. You really get a feel for the pulse of a place if you're willing to put away your map, walk around, and get a little lost. :) 

For dinner, we stopped at L'Invite, a little gourmet French bistro by a canal (of course it was by a canal). After that, we wandered across a few more canals, observed the remaining remnants of the Pride parties, and walked over to the Rijksmuseum. We didn't go inside this time, but I plan to in the not-so-distant future! :) We got rained on a bit (welcome to Holland) and ducked into to an awesome little whisky bar called Whiskey Cafe L&B, which I would highly recommend! As we meandered back toward the the central train station, a window packed with waffles smothered in chocolate hazelnut, kit kats, and oreos caught our eyes, and we couldn't resist! OH.MY.GOSH. So good! It was the perfect way to wrap up a fun day in Amsterdam. I definitely plan to go back very soon, so stay tuned for more adventures to come!

Doei! (Bye)

NW x