My Top 5 Places in Europe

If you’ve read this blog for a while, it’s no secret I’m always looking for excuses to get back to Paris. Or Europe. Or anywhere, for that matter. I have a serious case of wanderlust.

Since this is the time of year for lists, I’m sharing my top five favorite places in Europe:

#5 – Montepulciano, Italy

When my oldest son was four months old, we spent several weeks in Italy visiting my family. Since we’d done Rome, Florence, Venice, and the Cinqueterra on previous trips, Bug and I were eager to explore the hilltop villages of Southern Tuscany. For this trip, we rented a farmhouse as our base and explored. This is where I first discover Brunello wine and cemented my love of reds. Definitely worth a trip if you’re a wine lover.

#4 – York, England

Maybe we’re weird, but for our honeymoon, Bug and I decided to tour England and Scotland. On our way up to Edinburgh, we stopped off in York. The ancient walls and beautiful church are must sees. We day tripped to the countryside for a picnic and the seaside for fresh fish and chips. The history of York is fascinating, and I loved all the viking lore. Oh, and they have jam rolly pollies. So flipping good.

#3 – Nice, France


I can’t say enough about Nice. Sure, it’s a little touristy, but when I’m lounging on the beach with a bottle of Champagne, I don’t really care. The best part is that we tend to go in late July when a music festival is held in the public space below our hotel. Nothing beats enjoying good music from your balcony while a warm, Mediterranean breeze floats across your skin. And if you have time, Monaco is a short car ride away.

#2 – The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia


Seriously, Croatia was the best vacation I’ve ever been on. The only thing that kept it from being number one is that we didn’t stay long enough. The wine, the people, the sparkling Adriatic sea – it all made for a memorable trip. From Zagreb to Split, we experienced city life and tasted wine under the Syrian Consulate, ate incredibly fresh seafood, saw the marvel that is Pliviche, and leisurely strolled through Diocletian’s Palace. The highlight, though, was yachting from island to island and seeing the lavender fields of Hvar, exploring the military bunkers of Vis, and finding a secluded bay to anchor in.

#1 – Paris – the Marais

marais street

I’m 100% a city girl, and Paris, specifically the Marais, holds a special place in my heart. I got to know the ins-and-outs of the neighborhood, made friends, and ate my weight in macarons. Yes, it’s touristy during the summer, but where in Paris isn’t? The nightlife in the Marais is vibrant and restaurants plentiful. You can spend hours browsing antique shops and munching your way down the ancient, twisting streets. It’s situated on the Seine and in the Summer, sand covered “beaches” line the river complete with volleyball nets, lounge chairs, and kid games. There are numerous free concerts, and l’Hôtel de Ville always has something interesting going on. Plus, if you like seeing the sights, you can easily walk to the Louvre and Tuileries, or take the M1.


Croatia: the final verdict

We’ve been home for two days now and have had time to process our vacation. With a resounding ‘yes,’ we all agree that Croatia was one of our favorite vacations. The people, food, beaches, and history made for an excellent trip.

But as with every trip, I like to break down what I would do differently and what I’d do the same.

Things I’d do the same:

  1. Stay with AirBnB. We used them in Paris and San Francisco as well, and they haven’t let us down yet. Our apartments where clean, well-located, and the hostess very informative. 
  2. Get a local, private guide of the larger cities. These helped orientate us to the cities and gave us information, dining tips, and fun ideas that we wouldn’t have had on our own.
  3. The toll road is mostly empty and Croats are decent and polite drivers. Driving also cuts down considerably on the amount of travel time versus a bus.
  4. Go during the late shoulder season (mid-June). The travel hordes are just beginning, but are nothing compared to what we’ve been told July and August are like.
  5. Visit both the inland and the islands. Zagreb is a nice, manageable city that’s just beginning to become a tourist hotspot. The islands are a magical break from the hustle and bustle on shore. 
  6. We rented a private sailing yacht for the week, and our skipper, Ben, acted as cook/tour guide/sailor/child wrangler. If you can’t afford that option, I recommend taking the ferries to the islands. We did Hvar, Brac, and Vis – all highly recommended, but I want to go back to explore the southern islands too.
  7. Only bring a soft-sided carry-on. You won’t need many clothes, especially if staying in an AirBnB where you can wash laundry. Once on the boat, space is limited, and hard luggage won’t fit.
  8. Eat lots of local food. It was delicious. Fresh and tasty.


Things I’d do differently:

  1. Done more wine research. We’re big wine drinkers and love exploring the local options. We knew of two places to visit, but we got an education at the the first and could have spent two weeks touring the five different wine regions.
  2. Spent one less day in Split, or held on to our car for an extra day to explore Zadar and Trogir.
  3. Bring or buy bug spray for the boat. The mosquitos were ruthless at night.
  4. Budget more for port fees.
  5. Take a side trip into Bosnia and see Mostar
  6. Some how see Istria despite it being along the more northern coast.
  7. Visit the islands around Dubrovnik (which we didn’t visit this time).

xoxo ~dawn

Croatia Days 12, 13, and 14 – anchors away!

Since I went over my data plan a few times, and wifi wasn’t always available, I haven’t been able to post. 

On Thursday, we decided to head to Samorska. On the way, we stopped at Bol Beach on Brac Island. We were all in heaven, and the beach, with its umbrellas, chairs, and rocks reminded me of Nice. No champagne on the beach, though. But that was fine since we seemed to have a never ending supply on the boat. 

This is a split picture of Bol when we first arrived until we left – about 2 hours later. We wanted to stay longer, but needed to get to the marina before 3pm.

Our boat in the distance. David and Keegs rowed us to shore – and we survived! 

Once to the marina, the boys wanted to swim more, so Ben pointed us to a swimming spot with a tiki bar and nice cove. Finn and Boone had a great time looking at sea life and building walls with the rocks. 

After getting back to the marina, we had a late dinner, and were treated to raucous singing from the restaurant across the canal. It went on until at least one, and we sat out on the deck listening to it while the boys slept. 

Friday was our last full day on the boat. Once again, Ben treated us to a delicious breakfast and lunch, and took us to a fun swimming spot not to far from the final marina. 

It was 93-degrees, and we were all overheating, so much to the boys’ delight, the adults all jumped in the water too. Keegan was refusing to go in, instead sticking to the paddle board, but Ben managed to dump in into the refreshing water. 

The picture below is me trying not to freak out over floating in the wrong direction with the paddle board and Finn rescuing me. I tried it, but doubt I’ll ever do it again 😬

After our swim it was back to the main marina. We had another night on the boat since we didn’t leave until 4:30am. It was sweltering, so David and I found a restaurant with AC to cool off. The boys finished early and went back to the boat. When we arrived, they had Ben engaged in another game of rummy. Gotta give it to the guy, he was a good sport. 

The marina was hopping last night, and this was the song of the night. After, oh, the 7th time through, I wanted to scream. 

Today, we left at 4:30am for a flight to Zagreb and then on to London and finally DC. We’re boarding in London right now. 

Bon voyage!

Xoxo ~ dawn