With sweeping views, gorgeous beaches, and killer cuisine, Dubrovnik, Croatia is a can’t miss destination. Yes, it can be crowded in the peak season but that’s no reason to miss the “pearl of the Adriatic.” We visited in September, which is the shoulder season and much less crowded than summer – if you’re wondering. At some point, I knew I wanted to do a food tour so I did my usual research and found this gem called Piknik Dubrovnik.

Piknik Dubrovnik offers a unique kind of picnic because they do all the work for you by including, absolutely, everything you need for the ultimate picnic. I mean it, they give you plates, silverware, napkins, insulated sleeves for the wine and cold lemonade, cute little tiffin boxes with a variety of insanely good food, a tray so your food doesn’t have to sit on the ground, a blanket so you don’t have to sit on the ground, and they pack it all in a nifty backpack so you can pick it up and be on your way.

You can choose from two different “pikniks” and, of course, the menu changes often since they only use the freshest ingredients. One thing I loved was how they asked about food allergies and our likes and dislikes – making it a pretty custom menu. Here’s an idea of what they offer in each package: *Please note: Prices are subject to change.

piknik dubrovnik

Photo Courtesy of Piknik Dubrovnik

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Have you had a picnic with Piknik Dubrovnik? Where have you had the best picnic (in or out of Dubrovnik)? Tell me about it in the comments.

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If you’re headed to Madrid, be sure to stop by two of the famous markets in the city. Mercado De San Miguel and Mercado De San Antón. Both markets are very popular and have their own sights, sounds and salivation factors so I’ll let you decide which one is best for you.  If you have time, visit both!

Mercado De San Miguel:

Mercado De San Miguel was by far my favorite market of the two but it was beyond crowded and it was almost impossible to find a seat.  Don’t let that stop you from visiting this market because you’ll love the atmosphere and all the hustle and bustle. Here you’ll find everything from churros and hot chocolate to paella and sangria.  This market is more upscale than Mercado De San Antón and the food is a bit more expensive but it was worth every penny.

Mercado De San Antón:

Located in the Chueca neighborhood, this market is less expensive, less touristy and less crowded than Mercado De San Miguel. However, that doesn’t make this market any less appealing.  Upon entering this market, you’ll find fresh fruits, colorful spices and mountains of meat. Not only can you eat your way through the market, once you reach the rooftop you can take a load off and relax at La Cocina De San Antón.  Enjoy a beautiful view of the city, a glass of wine and bowl of chips and corn nuts (free tapas!).  Go for tapas and you’ll leave with a full belly and a full wallet.  The prices are amazing for the amount of food you get!

Visiting the markets of Madrid was a highlight of my trip and I look forward to going the next time I’m in town. Have you been to either of these markets?  What’s your favorite market in Madrid?


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Barcelona Revisited
Barcelona, Spain

 

As you can see, I’ve been away from my blog for a little while and that’s mostly because I’ve made some major changes in my life and career.  Most of you know that I’m a flight attendant but I recently changed companies and I’m now working for mainline instead of a regional airline.  This change took me away from home, my husband and my dog for weeks on end but I could not be happier with the change.   However, if I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that it’s taking a little while to get used to because I’m commuting between Los Angeles and my new work base.  So, I feel like I’m always on the go and that led to me getting sick with the flu and not being able to shake it for a few weeks. I’m still feeling a bit sick but I’m trying to make the most of it and get some writing done in my down time.  Luckily, I have a wonderful husband who is super supportive and he’s all for me following my dream and looking at the bigger picture.

I’m still getting used to the new job and living the life of a commuter but things are starting to calm down and I can finally start thinking about my next big adventure.  My poor hubby has been working like crazy on his latest project and he’s itching for a holiday as well.

Some of the places we’ve thrown around are Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas, Aruba, and Thailand (top of our list but there’s no way I’ll have that much time off as it takes a full day to get there and back – not to mention the two weeks we’d like to stay!).  We’ve also talked about taking a 5-7 day Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles.  It’s hard to choose just one because we’d like to just run away for a month and do nothing but rest and relax and any of these destinations would fit that bill.

As we plan, I have a feeling we’ll be more budget minded on this trip so we can take multiple trips this year.  I love traveling the world but I also like being debt free and you really can’t do both if you don’t plan, save and keep an eye on your budget… and stick to it.  We could  spend thousands on this week-long vacation or we could find an affordable option that allows us to pay it off not long after we return thus freeing up money for our next trip later this summer (and if I have my way, another trip late fall).

Once we decide where we’re going I promise to tell you all about it!  In the meantime, I still have tons of stories to tell you about the trips we took last year including Italy Part III: Rome, Thailand (Bangkok & Koh Samui) and China. Please stay tuned for more Travel with Mia.

Where do you think we should go for our next adventure?  Are you planning any big trips this year?  I’d love to hear your travel plans, suggestions for my travel plans and/or details on your favorite destinations.  Leave your comments below!

After spending two days in Venice, we planned to take the train to Rome and stop in Florence for the afternoon.  I bought the train tickets online in advance so they were dirt cheap.  Also I purchased advanced tickets to see the statue of David at the Accademia Gallery.  I didn’t buy tickets to any other galleries because I thought we could walk around the city for a bit and then stumble upon some things to do.  Plus, we’re not big museum fans.

Anyway, we arrive in Florence without a hitch and walk over to the Accademia Gallery for our entry time at 9:00 a.m.  Walking into the gallery it seemed small and well thought out but nothing prepared me for rounding that corner and seeing David for the first time in person.  Whoa! He is massive and stunning!  The hubs and I spent about an hour just staring at him.  We talked about his hands, his feet, his veins, his hair, his butt, his arms, I mean, we really had a good, long look at David.  By far, this was one of the best stops on our tour of Italy.

After leaving the gallery, we walked around and found ourselves back in front of the Duomo.  Now, that is another sight we weren’t prepared for. On our way to the gallery, we walked past the Duomo trying to take in as much of its beauty as possible but we knew we had time to return and return we did.  We walked around the Duomo a few times looking in wonderment at the color, the detail and the presence of this magnificent cathedral.  We contemplated going to the top but I didn’t think we had enough time.

We walked around a little more, stopped for coffee and used the wifi to see what other things we could do in Florence.  It turns out, both of us were extremely exhausted and more interested in sitting than exploring.  Once we determined that the wifi at the coffee shop didn’t work, we remembered there was a McDonald’s across the street from the train station and it had wifi. So, we ended up at McDonald’s in Florence and since we were already there… we decided to eat. Yes, I know.  Who goes to Florence, Italy to eat McDonald’s?  Normally, I would laugh at anyone who did such a thing but I wanted to sit, use wifi and I was starving.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I booked our train tickets in advance and thought our 5 hour stopover in Florence would be jam-packed with things to do.  As it turns out, we spent a good 3 hours sitting in McDonald’s trying not to fall asleep.  Now, that has nothing to do with Florence and everything to do with jetlag and exhaustion.

Not long after eating, the smell of food, or the guilt of eating McDonald’s, got to me so we went back to retrieve our luggage and wait for our train. As we approached the doors to the station, I all but lost my mind.  I was so tired and overwhelmed by planning my first two week vacation that I just started bawling.  Yes, right there in front of the main entrance to the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station.  All my husband could do was hold me and tell me that soon the train would come and I could sleep on the way to Rome.  I guess that was all I needed to hear.  Finally, we hopped on the train and took a ride through the Tuscan country side and all I kept thinking was “why don’t we have a villa in Tuscany?”

So, we didn’t make it to any other famous museums, we didn’t eat any fancy food, we ate McDonald’s, and we don’t own a villa in Tuscany.  And that, my friends, is how I failed in Florence.

 

October of 2014, I was in Greece, one of the most stunning, sun-kissed countries on the planet!  My husband and I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in Athens and 5 relaxing days on the island of Santorini.  Now, I’m sitting at my desk writing this post and wishing I was still there.  It’s times like these, I’m glad I keep a travel diary so I can reminisce.

Santorini:

After one night in Athens, we took the Blue Star Ferry to Santorini. The trip took about 8 hours but we were excited to slow down after a week of hustle and bustle in Italy.  We even booked a cabin so we could grab a few hours of sleep.  Once we arrived, we took a taxi from the port into Fira where we met, Yiannis, the owner of the house we rented from VRBO.  (Side note: This one was amazing!)  He drove us from Fira to Oia where we stayed in a pretty awesome two bedroom Cave House.  http://villasonsantorini.com/Earth-House.html  As we checked in and got the scoop on our rental, I couldn’t help but look at the ridiculous view just outside our door. I was sure this was the most beautiful place I had ever been.

Our plan for the 5 day trip was to relax as much as possible and disconnect from work, social media and America.  I admit, at first it was difficult but by the end of the 2nd day I had it down. Most of our mornings were spent lying on one of our 3 patios reading and soaking up the Mediterranean sun.

In the afternoons, we ventured out into the main area of Oia to shop and drink with the locals. Some of the most charming parts of Oia were the marble streets, the white-washed buildings and the colorful rooftops.

The rest of our days were spent eating fresh fish, crisp Greek salads (I assume they’re just called salads in Greece) and delectable desserts, most involving Greek honey! One of my favorite meals was in Amoudi Bay where we stopped for a lovely seaside lunch.  I even got my hubby, who loves sashimi but is super picky when it comes to shell fish, to try a few new things.

Each night, we witnessed phenomenal sunsets where the sun seemed to melt into the Aegean Sea. It was during our very first sunset that my husband and I deemed Santorini our spot and decided to come back whenever we needed to recharge our batteries. (Side note: in the first photo,  in the upper left-hand corner you can see the famous spot, the Fortress Ruins, where people gather in Oia to watch the sunsets. We’re relaxing on our patio with lots of wine and cheese!)

On our last night in Santorini, Yiannis, made dinner reservations for us in Fira. The atmosphere on the patio dining area was sweet and serene and the food was to die for. This was definitely the best meal we had during our two weeks in Europe and a great way to end our trip to this charming island.

This time next year, we plan to go back to Greece to relax, disconnect and eat! I’d love to hear about your favorite places to getaway from it all.  Leave your comments below.

Click to see the full gallery! Santorini 2013

Happy travels!

Mia

Everyone knows, Paris is the city of love and sometimes it’s referred to as the city of lights!  What you may not know is that it’s also the “city most likely to pick your pocket.” Now, let me clarify, I don’t mean the seedy criminals who prey on unsuspecting tourists at every popular location.  I mean the city will, literally, pick your pocket.  Expensive meals, transportation and sightseeing will drain your budget faster than you can down a bottle of French wine and if you’re anything like me, that’s pretty fast.

Here are my top 3 tips to keep your travel budget in check so you can enjoy your vacation and not feel like you’re pinching pennies.

TRANSPORTATION

Most people think taking a taxi is the quickest way to get around Paris and that’s absolutely not true.  The Metro (subway) is the best way to get from one end of the city to the other and it’s quick and cheap.  However, you have to be careful how you purchase Metro tickets because they can add up.

Tip #1: Buy a day pass/2 day pass/weekly pass for the Metro depending on the length of your stay.  Not only is the cost less expensive per ride but you’ll save yourself some frustration when you enter a station that doesn’t have a ticket machine or booth.  I found out the hard way and had to walk around looking for another entrance where I could purchase a ticket.  Save time and money, buy a Metro pass!

 

SIGHTSEEING

So, you’re in Paris and you want to do all the cool things you see people doing on Facebook and Instagram.  That’s cool but be warned that $h!t isn’t cheap. Visiting the Louvre will set you back 12 euro, Eiffel Tower (summit access) 15 euro, the catacombs 10 euro, and a boat tour/dinner cruise along the Seine River anywhere from 40-100 euro.  I think you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should skip the cool sights and experiences.  I’m just saying you should be prepared by knowing how much things cost and how to minimize those costs.

Tip #2: purchase a Museum pass (2-day 42 euro; 4-day 56 euro; etc…) and it will give you access to many of the sights on your list.  For example, the 2-day pass allows you to visit the following (click to enlarge) :

(Disclaimer: this photo was borrowed from the website below)

As you can see, if you were to purchase each ticket separately it would run you ~ 103 euro instead of 42 euro!  Check out this website for more information on museum passes.  http://en.parismuseumpass.com/

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD

Let’s be honest, we all want to go to Paris and drink fabulous wine and champagne, eat fresh baguettes, sumptuous cheeses and macarons by the truck load.

Well, let me be the bearer of bad news, that costs money too.  Luckily, there are a few ways to save money on certain meals so you can splurge on the good stuff at least once or twice a day.

Tip #3; If you’re renting an apartment or staying in a hotel, hit the market and buy fresh croissants, baguettes, meats ( if you have a fridge) and delicious jams for your morning snack.

It’s much less expensive to people watch from a sidewalk cafe if you just order coffee. Breakfast, like every other meal, can add up quickly so have a bite at your place then head out for a coffee or two.  (Side note: at some cafes a can of coca-cola costs 5 euro, that’s close to $6.50)  Also, grab a few bottles of wine at the market because they’re good and super cheap… don’t forget the corkscrew!

(Left) 5 euro (Right) 3.5 euro

(Left) 5 euro (Right) 3.5 euro

Tip #3 – Part two: For lunch, skip the sit down, fancy restaurant and grab a panini or a savory/sweet crepe from of the many street stands.  To be honest, when I lived in Paris, my favorite meal was a caprese (tomato, basil and mozzarella) panini and it only cost 3 euro!  Or, if you’ve been on your feet all day, find a small cafe off the main street (these are usually less expensive) and have a croque monsieur or croque madame (super yummy grilled cheese sammy  – the madame come with an egg).  These sandwiches tend to be more affordable as they’re considered snacks.

Tip #3 – Part three: Happy Hour!  Yes, happy hour is always a good idea!  In Paris, happy hour tends to have more drink specials and less food.  (Side note: at one happy hour we ordered two divine 5 euro cocktails and a 6 piece order of microscopic samosas that cost 15 euro – no joke, but damn good.)  So, go for a drink or two before you splurge on a fancy dinner since you saved all that money on breakfast and lunch!

If you’re smart with your money and you have an idea of what you want to do during your stay it’s easy to stay on budget.  I hope these tips will help you enjoy your next trip to Paris, or anywhere for that matter.

Happy travels!

Mia

In 2003, I traveled to Paris, France for a month and ended up living there for nearly a year.  So, when my husband suggested Paris for our next getaway I was stoked (do people still say that?).  In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I told him stories of all the fun we would have and the places I would take him and, this being his first time in Paris, he was eagerly awaiting the trip as well.

Finally, the day arrives for us to take off to France!  We arrive at the airport, board our flights and arrive in Paris without a hitch.  We were even lucky enough to fly first class!  And that pretty much ends our streak of excitement, at least for a good 24 hours.

The Lows:

We’re no strangers to renting vacation homes through online sites like VRBO and Airbnb and so far we haven’t had any issues.  We’ve rented apartments in Venice, Rome, Santorini and Barcelona so we know what we like and how to tell the good from the bad.  However, this time I was tricked, bamboozled, led astray.  From the moment we walked in, the apartment didn’t meet our expectations.  1. It smelled like the Indian restaurant downstairs. 2. The furniture was stained/soiled (not sure from what but I don’t want to know.) 3. There was mold/soap scum/dirt in the bathroom.  4. I could go on but I won’t.

Our original plan was to stay for 6 nights and we paid for 4 nights up front and would pay the remaining balance the night before check out.  The first day was rough as all I could talk about was how disappointed I was.  I even spent a good hour looking for a new place stay.  After realizing we had nowhere else to go we unpacked and decided to get out of the apartment to soak up the September sun.  We made the best of the first day/night and woke up early the next morning to hit the town.   Our stops included the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysse, Pont Alexandre III bridge, Arc de Triomphe, Palais Royal, Montparnasse and so much more.  You know, all they stuff they say you have to do in Paris.

After  zipping around the city for at least 10 hours we returned to the apartment only to find it more disgusting than we remembered.  Long story short (too late!), we booked a hotel online, threw our crap in a bag and checked into a hotel at 5:00 in the morning.  We’re still negotiating our refund for the 2 nights we didn’t stay.

The Highs:

After shaking off the apartment debacle, we decided to leave a couple of days early since we had to pay for a hotel in addition to the $500 we had already paid for the apartment.  I’m happy to say that days 3 and 4 were the best two days we spent in Paris.

Overall, we had a great time in the city of love and we will certainly go back. We were a bit bummed that we had to cut our trip short and missed out on Versaille and Provins but that’s just another reason to return.

Come back next week for a more detailed account of our Paris experience.

Happy travels!

Mia

 

 

This summer, my husband and I took off to Barcelona, Spain to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary.  We had no agenda before we left but we figured we’d catch all the main sights during our 5 day trip.

On day 2, we found ourselves looking for an affordable way to conquer they city from one end to the other.  Luckily, we stumbled upon the “Hop On, Hop Off” bus tour.  I’ve never been interested in bus tours because they seemed a bit cheesy but after doing this one, I’m a big fan.  Some travel sites will tell you to skip the bus tours and see the city by foot and in most cases I agree. However, we had 4 more days to walk around and really see the city, so I was game.

One of the main reasons it’s a good idea to book this tour is because you can take the bus all around they city from 9 am to 7 pm (roughly).  So, technically, this can be used as your transportation for the entire day.  You can hop on in one part of the city and hop off in another and see whatever sights you like. Granted the bus doesn’t always stop close to the desired sights but they’re all within walking distance (except Tibidabo… it takes a lot of effort to get there).  But, if you add up the amount of money you would spend on train tickets and taxis getting from one end of the city to the other, you’re definitely coming out ahead.

THE TOUR:

There are two options for the tour, one line covers the west side of the city and the other covers the east.  So, you can choose which is more interesting and hop on (you can do both for one price but we only did one).  Check out our sweet view from the bus!

bus view

The first place we hopped off was Barceloneta Beach.  This stunning beach is the closest beach to the city and just about a 15-20 minute walk from our apartment in El Born.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk and we even stopped at the W Hotel for a drink!

barceloneta

Another must see stop on our tour was La Sagrada Familia.  This magnificent church has been under construction since the 1800’s and will not be completed until sometime in the 21st century.  The tour bus lets you off right across the street from the ticket office.  Once inside, you’ll be instantly struck by the ornate beauty of this church.  We spent ample time admiring every inch of Gaudi’s design.

LSF 1    LSF 2

Our third favorite spot was Park Guell located in Passeig de Gracia.  The bus stop is at the bottom of the hill and it’s a bit of a hike to get up to the park but it’s well worth the trip!  As we walked around the park, we took pleasure in the unique architecture and thoughtful design concepts.  Don’t forget to take photos (from one spot you can see all the way to the ocean)!

park guell

One of the last stops on the tour was Casa Batllo, another Gaudi masterpiece within the city.  This facade is one of the most iconic images of Barcelona.  On any given day, you’ll see photographers (amateur and professional) across the street taking photos of Casa Batllo.  Don’t be afraid to whip out your camera. Also, you can go inside to have a look around or grab a drink during certain hours.

casa batllo edit

Plaça Catalunya, Catedral-Barri Gòtic, Barceloneta, La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Tibidabo, and Casa Batlló are just a few of the sights you can visit on this bus tour.  There were so many things to see and do that we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one day (we should have gotten the 2-day pass).  Next time you’re in Barcelona (or any city) check it out because you might get more than your money’s worth!

Check out our Flipgram video with highlights from our entire trip!

Happy travels!

Mia

 

So, this will be my attempt at starting (and continuing) a blog!  I love to travel and give people helpful tips & tricks so they can travel too.  I don’t know everything about traveling but I do know that I’ve created some pretty awesome travel adventures for myself and my husband.  I would love to show people that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to travel (abroad or otherwise), unless you want to.

Be sure to come back for my latest adventures and flashbacks to previous trips.  I will share my “secrets” with you in the hopes they help you plan your own getaway.

Happy travels!

Sincerely,

Mia