Nicoblossom Travels

Stories from afar


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Greece!

I am so happy that I got to spend a whole week in Greece with Tyler! We had such a great time, it was the highlight of my trip 🙂

Our first day together was dedicated to travel, even though we had spent so much time traveling to Athens. After getting lost super early in the morning at the Athens port, we took a ferry to the beautiful island of Santorini where we spent the majority of our stay in Greece.

Santorini

Our first day in Santorini was spent enjoying amazing kebabs, exploring the town where we were staying, and watching the best sunset of our whole week in Greece! I also had my first taste of the delicious cake that our hotel’s owner’s mom makes daily for the hotel guests. This cake was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had in my life, and we got to eat it every day for breakfast!

enjoying the santorini sunset with my love

Santorini sunset in fira

On our second day we decided to hike from Fira to Oia, the most famous town on Santorini. It was a really beautiful hike and it was so cool to see the ocean on both sides of the island. We hiked through red rocks, wildflowers, small towns and then through Oia itself. It was a really warm day and we both ended up getting sunburnt, but the incredible ice cream that we had in Oia made up for it! We had the best ice cream ever at Lolitas. I got orange and biscuit ice creams and they tasted like an orange creamsicle together! Bliss. Tyler got a biscuit ice cream milkshake which was also wonderful. Seriously, the best ice cream ever. Maybe even in the whole world. We also got kebabs for lunch (again because they were just so good). We walked around Oia and then watched the famous sunset over the town before heading back to Fira for dinner.

santorini hiking fira to oia

greece island hiking

Our 3rd day was the best day because we rented an ATV! We explored the whole southern area of the island, including the red and black beaches and a few small towns. It was so fun and an ATV provided the perfect way to get around Santorini!

Santorini red beach

Santorini´s Red Beach

Our last full day in Santorini was rainy, so we didn’t get to do as much as we wanted to. We started with breakfast at Mama’s. I got a huge bowl of thick Greek yogurt with honey and fresh fruit, and Tyler got a huge omlet with toast and hashbrowns. I was apprehensive about eating there since it seemed like they only had American food for breakfast, but the yogurt was actually really good and I’m so happy we went there! After breakfast we walked around a little and went to a museum in Thira. Then we had kebabs for lunch and hung out around town before going out for a nice dinner at Naussas. Tyler ordered the best pasta in the entire world and I was jealous. The restaurant gave us a lot of their house wine so I was a little giggly when we left the restaurant to go and get baklava for dessert. It was a perfect, fun night to end our time in Santorini.

Athens

The next morning we had to be up early (too early to have cake for breakfast, which was so sad) to go to the port and take a ferry back to Athens. The ferry was a lot rougher than the first one and I felt pretty bad for the first half of it, so by the time we reached our hotel in the city we decided to take an easy evening and plan the rest of my travel for the next 3 weeks.

Saturday was our last full day and we spent it exploring Athens’ sights. We went on a great audio-guided city walk that showed us areas of Athens that we would have never found had we not gone on the tour. After that we visited the Acropolis and then the Ancient Agora. We also had kebabs for lunch (we had kebabs every day, they were just too good in Greece) and some little ice creams later in the day.

 

I tried to upload more pictures but the internet sucks here 😦 You can find more pictures on my Instagram (& Facebook for friends and family)

 

 

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From Venice to Budapest

The last month of travel has been an enormous, life-changing, personal-growth-encouraging adventure. Since I last wrote I have been to 6+ cities and small towns in 5 countries, and now I´m sitting in country #6, city #7+. I feel like I have learned a lot about myself, about happiness, and about how to live a simple and fulfilled life. 

I started by taking an early morning bus to Rome to catch the first of a string of expensive trains. My first stop on my one and a half month-long period of travel was Venice, Italy.

Venice, Italy

It took me more than 7 hours to get to Venice and finally find my hostel! My ¨hostel¨ was actually a quaint all-girls B&B, which was nice. I spent most of my time in Venice just wandering around and admiring the cute streets and small bridges that criss-cross over the canal. I visited the island of Murano to see the glass blowers and the island Burano to see the colorful buildings and houses for which it is famous. That was my favorite day of Venice, the islands were so nice. They were picture taking paradise!

solo travel in venice italy

visiting burano venice italy

Burano, Venice

visiting burano colorful houses

Colorful painted house in Burano

 

Zurich, Switzerland

After Venice  I took 2 trains to Zurich to visit my friend Sharon and her family. I met Sharon in my apartment building in Tel Aviv and we became friends just before she left, so I told her I would come to Switzerland to visit her while I was in Europe 🙂

visiting zurich

It was so nice to be with a friend and to have someone show me around their town, I love that experience! We had the most amazing white hot chocolate in the whole world as well as some truly delicious Swiss cheese fondue! We also shared a wonderful Shabbat with her family and some of their family friends. I discovered that her mom owns the True Food Kitchen cookbook, so I made my favorite dish from the restaurant (and the cookbook) for them – chicken teriyaki with homemade sauce!

The next day we went on a day trip to Lucerne, a typical Swiss town. It was so cute and quaint, we had such a nice time walking around and exploring the town and its interesting buildings.

 

Our last day was spent along the lake of Zurich. We went on a lovely walk along the lake and took lots of pictures. Then we stopped for a snack which included the BEST thing I have eaten on my trip so far: passionfruit cheesecake. I must figure out how to make it at home!

Vienna, Austria

Vienna was one of the most beautiful cities I´ve ever seen. I was in awe of how green the city was; I think I heard that Vienna is one of the greenest cities per square mile?? and I believe it! I spent most of my first day in Vienna strolling through and journaling in the gardens of the Schonbrunn palace. The sound of the fountain in the background with the wind blowing through my hair and the new spring leaves on the trees was just the dose of relaxation and nature that I needed.

visiting vienna austria schonbrunn palace

flower gardens schonbrunn palace vienna

My remaining days in Vienna were much more upbeat and filled with sightseeing! I went to the Nachtmarkt and finally tried a mangosteen! They say they are the queen of fruit and I really loved it (so much that I bought 2 to bring to Greece to surprise Tyler!). I also tasted 3 different falafel balls from 3 different stands, but none of them came close to the 8 shekel falafel in Tel Aviv. Then I got a ¨Sacher torte¨to go and some local pickles and saurkraut… don´t worry, I didn´t eat them together! Then I waited for standing tickets to the Vienna Opera which was a really great experience. I loved it! I ate apple strudel during intermission and felt fancy.

going to the opera in vienna austria

At the Opera!

On my last day in Vienna I went to the cathedral and then had to run back to my hostel because it went from summer to winter in a day! Then I had wienerschnitzel and a beer for lunch. Do you know how big a wienerschnitzel is?? They´re huge- bigger than a dinner plate! Needless to say, I didn´t finish it. After lunch I went to see the Belvedere palace and the Sisi museum in the Hofburg palace, which included the royal apartments. They were so luxurious!! It was really amazing. Then I went to catch my train to….

Budapest, Hungary

I started my stay in Budapest with a tour of both the Buda and the Pest sides of the Danube river. It was a good tour and I was so happy I took it because I met 2 great girls who were staying in my hostel. We ended up doing a lot of things together over the next few days! It was really refreshing to have people to do things with. After the tour we went to the famous Ruszwurm to share some cakes. I ordered the cream cake and it was absolutely divine. Later we had one of the best dinners of my trip in a little place called Bali Cafe. I ordered beef stew with red wine and noodles, and my new friend ordered savory crepes filled with chicken and paprika sauce. We split our meals and each had a beer, it was sooo yummy! The beef stew was amazing.

visiting budapest

St. Stephens Basilica in Budapest

The next day I went to the Széchenyi bath with one of the girls, which was such a relaxing experience. I think there were more than 20 baths and lots of steam rooms and saunas. There were two pools next to each other, one was 18 degrees C and one was 40 degrees C and we went back and forth between the pool and it was invigorating, excruciating at first, but felt amazing at the end!

baths in budapest

After the baths we grabbed a kebab and then I went on a great tour of the Jewish quarter in Budapest. It was so interesting to see all of the unique sites and hear the stories of the history of Budapest´s Jewish community. Of course, not all of that story is positive, so the tour included numerous Holocaust-related memorial sites. One of the sites was a gorgeous metal weeping willow tree. Each leaf on the tree has a name of a Holocaust victim, and they can keep adding names if they discover a new person to include.

holocaust memorial weeping willow in budapest

Later we got dinner and then went to see Budapest at night, which was beautiful. We also stopped in a ¨ruin pub,¨these cool bars where they decorate abandoned buildings with funky and unique furnishings and decorations. Words can´t really describe the vibe of the place, but its probably one of my favorite bars I´ve ever been to. Each room had its own unique atmosphere and it sprawled out through an abandoned apartment complex, so it was really big. I loved it and I want one in Phoenix.

The next morning we went to the central market hall to buy some souvenirs. Then we shared a great Middle Eastern lunch at a hummus bar! It was a really fun last day with them. The next morning I went to a farmers market in the same ruin pub. Then I visited the Synagogue, which is the biggest one in Europe and the 2nd biggest in the world. It was too beautiful for words or pictures to describe.

synagogue in budapest

After Budapest I got on a plane to go to Greece and see Tyler 🙂

 

 I tried to upload more pictures but the internet sucks here 😦 You can find more pictures on my Instagram

 


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Finding Balance in Pisa & Florence

I think my last 3 days have showed me that big cities make me feel disconnected, lost and a little on edge. When I was in Manarola and the other Cinque Terre towns I felt so connected to nature and to people and my surroundings, but the moment that I left Manarola and went back to the world of bustling stations, big cities and thousands of tourists, I felt a shift.

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Pisa is kind of small, but compared to Cinque Terre it is an enormous city. It was really overwhelming for me. I was totally lost and confused about why I had to leave Cinque Terre; I think a part of me will always long for the peace and calm of those towns, but a series of events showed me that I really was in the right place and that it truly was time for me to be there. I took a nap at my new, funky hostel in Pisa and woke up at around 9 and went on a walk. I found my way to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and my first thought was, wow it really leans! Ha, ha. I heard that there was a festival that night, but had no idea where until I was walking back towards my hostel and saw an enormous crowd. I asked a girl what was happening and she told me it was the Pisan new year! There was an entertaining act performed by people suspended in the air by cables, which was followed by an incredible fireworks show! At that moment I was feeling really lucky and happy to be where I was.

fireworks in pisa

The next morning I went back to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to see it during the day. After exploring and eating a waffle with chocolate sauce for lunch, I decided it was time to move on to Florence. Right as I walked out onto the street with my backpack, ready to make my way to the train station, I was greeted by a parade making its way down the same street towards me. How lucky!

chocolate waffle

pisa italy

Unfortunately my luck ended right there because I forgot to validate my train ticket and a super grumpy and mean train ticket guy fined me 40€! That definitely put a damper on my day and I arrived in Florence struggling to find the bright side, to accept that it’s “just money,” and to enjoy the things around me. That night I ate gelato with my new roommates and called it a night – I just wasn’t happy. My new hostel is dingy, I was in a strange new city at night, thousands of miles away from my friends and family.. it was a real pity party.

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The nice thing about having “too many days” in a city is that you have time. You have time to get lost for a day, experience side streets and neighborhoods, find tiny cafes off the beaten path, spend too much time at the market and enjoy the lack of pressure to see things or be on a schedule. You have the opportunity to experience the city as it is, without the need to seek out the sights. You have the chance to see things that you wouldn’t have taken time to notice if you had less time. That’s how I started my first full day in Florence; I wandered around the city, found the leather market and the enormous Mercato Centrale and had a panini at a famous panini shop.

florence market

 

Then I took my time navigating to the Synagogue and paid my way to enter. When I see some of these magnificent, enormous synagogues in Europe I can’t help but admire the grandeur of them. To tourists, the synagogue is just another sight on the map, but for the Jewish community it is where they go to pray. It just amazes me. It was so beautiful, but I think my favorite synagogue is still the Spanish Synagogue in Prague.

florence synagogue

The Hotel Arizona!

The Hotel Arizona!

I read that people either love or hate Florence and so far I think I am somewhere in the middle. Florence is beautiful, but even with 3 maps plus GPS on my phone I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding my way around. Florence is also really expensive, and you have to wait in line for everything. Even in the off season.

view of florence tuscany view of florence italy tuscany florence lookout view

Now I am getting ready to go out for dinner with a really nice woman and her daughter who I met in Manarola. Tomorrow I have a wine tour. I am doing my best to keep looking up, to find the beauty in every day, and to embrace the change in scenery.

florence tulips

florence flowers


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Manarola Magic

Sometimes you know you are in the right place, and sometimes your heart tells you that it’s time to leave.

Every time I look at Manarola, when I walk the streets or climb the hills or sit by the water and look up at the town, it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time. There’s always something new to discover; the way the vines climb down the rocky hills and succulents grow out from the stones, the huge white calla lilies that naturally grow amongst the citrus and greenery, and the fallen ruby red prickly pear fruit along the walking path. The sun glitters along the water and the sea gurgles its happy sounds as it laps up on the boulders, and I know this is where I am meant to be.
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I am leaving today, and ironically today feels different. Clouds cover the playful sun and the air has a chill in it that wasn’t there before. Unlike my previous mornings in Cinque Terre, the weather never really clears up; it only gets colder.

So today I will leave a tiny piece of my heart behind here in this little seaside village. It can live amongst the vineyards and soak up the magic of Manarola until I can return.20140322-140451.jpg


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Cinque Terre, Italy

March 18-20

When I arrived in Manarola in the Cinque Terre I dropped my bag off at the hostel, changed into shorts and immediately went down to the water. The sun was warm on my skin and the ocean beneath me gurgled its soothing sounds. The ocean here is a deep green-blue and the sun glistens on the waves. The warmth was a nice change from the chilly weather I had just come from. What a perfect way to begin my journey.

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My first day was really nice and relaxing. I spent the whole day in Manarola. I ate a pear, fresh bread, prosciutto and fontina cheese for dinner overlooking the town with an incredible view.

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I stayed there to watch the sunset.

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I began my second day with a breathtaking walk through the vineyards. It lead along the hills and cliffs through town where grapes, citrus and many types of flowers grow. The path had gorgeous views of the seaside and Manarola.

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After my walk I ate breakfast down by the water before heading to Riomaggiore, another of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre. It was bigger than Manarola but there wasn’t much to do. I went in a scenic walk that lead up and above the town with beautiful panoramic views.

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Later that evening, after I returned to Manarola, I enjoyed dinner at Trattoria dal Billy. When I sat down at my table I noticed that they have the same exact chairs as the ones in my family’s dining room.

The universe has been sending me a lot of signs to let me know that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Sometimes I actually feel like crying because I’m so happy and life is so beautiful, which is a relief.

Dinner at Trattoria dal Billy was delicious. I had a problem with my first dish, but the replacement was flawless. I ordered handmade black pasta with seafood and a white wine sauce. To make up for the mishap with my first order, the chef personally brought out a slice of chocolate walnut pie, and we had a nice chat about travel and what it’s like to live in Cinque Terre.

Then another employee came by and set a bottle of limoncello on the table along with a glass and slyly muttered, “it’s free.” So I finally got to taste the limoncello that I’ve been admiring in storefront windows! It was stronger than I expected, but delicious. Overall it was a wonderful dinner experience with great views of the ocean while it was still light outside.

Yesterday I woke up and had a small breakfast before heading to Monterosso, the largest and most “resort-style” town of the 5. I was so enchanted by the beach that I forgot all of my plans and plopped down to enjoy the sunshine. Once it was almost noon, I knew restaurants might be closing soon so I made my way to Ristorante Belvedere, a highly recommended place for seafood fans. I read that the house pasta was the best, so that’s what I ordered, along with a glass of white wine. The house pasta was black and white handmade pasta with fresh tomato sauce and mussels.

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I asked the couple behind me to take my picture and we started talking. They were from Colorado and the woman went to ASU when she was younger. They invited me to join them for a glass of wine after I was finished eating, and we had a nice time talking all about travel, life, etc.

After that I had a walk through the town and a snack on the beach before heading back to Manarola.

I wish I could stay in Cinque Terre, but bad weather is moving in and other cities are calling my name. I have 2 days left in this beautiful region and I can’t wait to see what else it has for me.


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Paris – Live the Language (Video)

No, I’m not in Paris, yet…

This video is one of the original things that got me really excited to travel. Right now, after a disastrous day, I’m glad that I have little things like this to cheer me up and remind me that everything will be okay. 

I’m so thankful for my incredible boyfriend, family and friends who have been just amazing today. I love you all.

If you love the video, you can find more in the Live the Language series on YouTube. 


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Chieti Updates: Positive Thinking

I really haven’t been inspired to write since the family made their decision on Monday. After a brief talk with a friend from home I feel much more positive and I have this overwhelming feeling that things will be okay. Her strength is really admirable, and it’s nice to know that so many people are supporting me and sending positive energy my way.

The universe really has a way of looking out for the good people in the world, and for now I’m going to have to kind of rest my fate on the universe for a while. 60 days is a whole lot of time to solo travel. It is even more difficult to plan when my route so heavily depends on when I can sleep on the floors/couches of friends.

I ended up at Cristina’s parents’ house to use the wifi on Wednesday night. They let me/invited me to eat dinner with them afterwards. As I was walking down the steps to begin my short walk home, I was struck with sadness in my heart upon the realization that this was supposed to be my “Italian family.”

For now I’m trying to focus my energy on being positive and optimistic.