My favorite moments from Paris, Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar, Venice and London
Four countries, five hotels, and six flights in two weeks: when we re-entered the U.S., I had blisters on my feet, and every part of my body was throbbing. I was travel-weary and exhausted in the best kind of way. I had missed my kids terribly, but I realized that this was the last time in a long time that Bri and I would do anything like this without them. By the time we were settled back home, and my girls started to bicker, and real life started to set in, I felt grateful to be fit and healthy enough to tackle our aggressive agenda, for the time away and means to explore like two carefree kids, and to be able to return to our happy home and family.
I won’t bore you with all the details or pictures, but I will share the highlights from each stop. Don’t worry; I’m not going to act like a travel expert the way so many bloggers do when they go abroad. Bri put months of research into every detail, so if you are planning a trip, especially to Croatia, I’m happy to send you our notes. It is, by far, the most incredible place I’ve ever traveled to in my life.
We had a little over 24 hours in Paris, and since we had been there recently, I thought it would be fun just to wander around the city. Bri had other plans with an extensive list of sites to see before we headed to dinner. The commute from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city is usually 45 minutes. It took us three hours with a driver who thought he was Jason Bourne. I’m not joking; we sped down streets backward more than once. We were off to a rocky start, and I was no good with no sleep and car sickness.
After finally making it to the hotel, and an hour or two of walking, we ended up at a cafe outside Luxembourg Gardens, where a giant glass of wine made me feel a million times better. I convinced Bri that a more chill approach to the day would set us up for success for the rest of the trip, and two hours later, I was sound asleep back in the hotel.
- Stumbling into a random tiny restaurant for a surprisingly delicious dinner.
- Chatting with a lovely older couple from Memphis seated on top of us who had family that lived in our neighborhood.
- Grabbing seats outside of Cafe du Trocadero and ending the night with rosé, a cheeseboard, and people watching with the lights of Eiffel Tower dancing in the background.
I could wax poetic on Dubrovnik for days. It was, hands down, the highlight of our trip. The moment our cab driver picked us up at the airport wearing a red cocktail dress and sky-high, red-studded stilettos, I knew we were going to have an incredible adventure.
We stayed in Old Town, a charming city encircled by a massive wall. Inside, you’ll find hundreds of stone stairs, with restaurants, shops, and homes tucked into every corner and alleyway. The food and wine are incredible, and the people are some of the most lovely you’ll ever meet. We stayed inside the walls at a bright and airy Air B&B (our host was a delight). Some people like staying outside the walls, but we loved being able to sit in our courtyard with a glass of wine after a long day of walking and taking in the life around us, especially since there was a hostel a few houses away that had all sorts of hilarious shenanigans going on.
Aside from everything?
- Walking the city walls. To say the view is breathtaking is an understatement. It’s extra cool if you’re a Game of Thrones nerd like we are since Dubrovnik is where they film much of Kings Landing.
- Finding a cliff bar and drinking rosé while listening to 80s music and looking over the Adriatic Sea.
- Getting lost in the alleys with no agenda.
Hotel: Le Meridian Lav, Split
From Dubrovnik, we rented a car and drove the Croation coast to Split. We’ve been lucky enough to drive the PCH and Road to Hana, and I’m here to tell you they pale in comparison. It’s a long drive–it took us four hours–and you spend about 20 minutes in Bosnia and have to go in and out of their border patrol, but holy moly, is it worth it.
Unlike Dubrovnik, we stayed at Le Meridian Lav, Split, which is about a 15 minute Uber drive to Diocletian’s Palace and the marina. Split is a bit of a tourist trap but an absolute must see. The palace itself is incredible. It’s filled with people, restaurants, and ancient ruins. One of our days in Split was a recovery day, so staying at Le Meridian was ideal because we didn’t have to leave the resort. We just laid by the ocean, fell asleep, and read. More my speed of a vacation day.
- Sitting outside a random corner restaurant watching the waitress drink and smoke while serving customers. It was hilarious and not far from the kind of waitress I used to be.
- Finding a little place called Zinfandel Wine Bar (within the palace), where we had life-changing mussels and figs.
- Touring the “Dragon’s Dungeon” or the undergrounds of the palace.
- Dinner at Leonis for an incredible meal where we’re pretty sure they thought we were heirs to a crystal company fortune.
From Split, we took a day trip to Hvar Island.
Apparently, Hvar is a beach/party town, and Bri and I are not beach/party people, at least not anymore. We took the catamaran from Split to Hvar and arrived around 10 am. It was the hottest day of my life, and I’ve been to Disney World in July. But Bri wanted to see the Hvar Fortress, so we went hiking. It’s beautiful, but at that point, I was too hot to care.
- Flatbread at Fig – seriously worth getting up early, boarding a hot and smelly catamaran and hiking to the top of a fort to get to eat the most delicious flat bread. It’s a hidden restaurant, with three tables inside and maybe four outside. Also, I love to eat.
- Aside from the 45-minute cab ride that had me bargaining with God to let me live through it to see my babies again, our wine tasting at Tomic Winery was such a treat.
- A spontaneous stop in Stari Grad, a sleepy town (also the oldest in Croatia) void of tourists, was the perfect stop for another glass of wine before heading back to Split on the ferry.
From Split, we flew to Venice.
Hotel: JW Marriott Venice
I’ve been to Italy but never Venice, so I was super excited to go despite many of our friends telling us it was their least favorite stop in their travels. We were there for two nights, and it was plenty of time. We stayed at the JW Marriott Venice, which is on a private island with a water shuttle that takes you from the island to the city. It’s an incredible property with 5-star service, gorgeous rooms and villas and every amenity you could imagine. We decided to visit the city one evening and stay late so that the day-trippers and the majority of the tourists were gone, and then we returned early the next morning before it became crowded.
- Getting out of the insane heat and touring the Guggenheim museum.
- Dinner at Dopolavoro Dining Room at the JW. They currently have one Michelin star and are hustling for a second. The service was a perfect combination of attentive but not stuffy, and the food – the food was out of this world. It was the second best meal I’ve ever had, next to The French Laundry.
From Venice, we flew to London
London is my favorite city. The people are mannerly and have a great sense of humor, and it’s wonderfully international. After a week and a half of extreme heat, I was quite happy to put on my jeans and blazer. The weather was crisp, sometimes chilly, and the temperature was perfect for wandering the streets. I loved being able to wrap up the trip with a few low key days. We stayed at the Marriott Park Lane, which is one of my favorites of all the hotels where we’ve stayed. It’s LOVELY, with impeccable service and incredibly comfortable beds.
- The Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit in Kensington Palace was beautiful. As a little girl, I played with Princess Diana paper dolls on my front porch. She has long been one of my idols, so seeing some of the same dresses, in her home was special. Bri said that as long as he’s known me it was one of the only times he’s seen me truly giddy about something.
- Enjoying the best margarita of my life (a Nuevo margarita made with vanilla infuse Jose Cuervo blanco) and eating equally amazing tacos at Mole.
- Flying home first class on British Airways. I know this sounds pretentious, but we had great fun. We redeemed points and were somehow able to snag two first-class seats for our flight home. We are lucky enough to fly “first class” domestically and “business” on longer flights on occasion because of our status, but British Airways first class is crazy over the top.
A lovely flight attendant escorts you to your seat and gives you pajamas, your pod is like a hotel, and you can drink all the champagne your heart desires. Thus, when our flight was delayed almost two hours after we had boarded, I couldn’t have cared less. It was the best way to end a crazy adventure and transition back into real life.
Wrapping things up …
There is something sacred about traveling abroad. The ability to be a guest in someone else’s country is a blessing and one that always leaves me feeling a little more optimistic about the world and empathetic towards others. I’ve always believed that we are all more alike than we think, and that showed up in some of the experiences we had during our adventure.
At the end of the day, people just want what’s best for their families; they have pride in their culture, and they want to be seen and valued. Everyone jokes and laughs with friends, toddler meltdowns look the same in French as they do in English, no one likes passport control, and everyone who doesn’t use a selfie stick thinks they’re obnoxious. Family members all over the world wait with hand made signs for loved ones at airports, couples of all ages stroll through century-old streets holding hands, people in London think their government is as incompetent as we think our government is, and apparently, we’ve all sat in a cab/uber/water taxi wondering if the driver has a death wish.
Croatia, in particular, was extraordinary. A country that just 20 years ago was ridden by war is bouncing back to become an international travel destination, rich in history and culture. Every person we spoke to made my heart full; it’s like you could feel the pride and resilience oozing off of them. If it’s not already on your bucket list add it immediately, it’s so worth the effort to get there.
Thanks for letting me share this with you! I’m excited to be back to work.
I’m happy to share our travel notes with you, so just shoot me an email. We’re spending a little time putting one together for our files at home, so it’s no trouble at all!