Kristin and I just returned from a highlight tour of Europe…covering three major cities in nine days. We were able to spend New Year’s Eve at the Eiffel Tower, check six things off of the Bucket List, and even tried pizza in Chicago, Rome, and New York City within a week!
Below you will find a pictorial journey through our trip with a short description of the highlights of each day.
Kristin and I woke up early on day 1 and flew from Tulsa to Chicago. We had a really long layover at O’Hare, so we decided to spend a few hours in the city.
We took the subway into downtown Chicago and stopped first at Millennium Park. We took a few pictures with the bean statue in the cold and snow, and decided it was time to start our Chicago, Rome, NYC Pizza challenge.
Kristin had the great idea of creating a pizza challenge…we would be in Chicago, Rome, and NYC with about a week, so why not try all of the pizza in the different cities to determine which city has the best pizza. Our first stop was Giordano’s Famous Pizza. As you can tell, the pizza is super thick and super delicious.
Overnight To London
After having some pizza and eating some popcorn from Garrett’s, we hopped back onto the subway and boarded our plane to London. It was an overnight flight in crowded coach, but both of us were able to catch a few hours of sleep before our overseas journey began.
Arrive in London
Kristin and I made it through customs at London Heathrow, and took the express train from the airport into downtown London. We took a taxi to our hotel, checked our bags and ventured into the city.
Double Decker Bus
After we checked our bags we jumped on the first double-decker bus that we could find to take an impromptu tour of London. This was my first item I was able to check off of my Bucket List! The bus dropped us off at Hyde Park and we walked around until we could find Buckingham Palace. I really wanted to check another item off of the list.
We stayed for a few minutes at Buckingham Palace, long enough to be able to take a picture with this giant of a palace guard. This was the second thing I was able to check off of my Bucket List. I tried to make him laugh, but it was not happening. I did learn that if the guard was going to move, he would move regardless of whether you were standing there or not.
Fish and Chips
We stopped at a really cool pub near Buckingham Palace that was everything that I imagined an English Pub to be. I of course, ordered the fish and chips, and…I absolutely loved it. I ate all of mine and some of Kristin’s.
Kristin and I walked down the block and ran straight into Westminster Abbey. It is an amazing monument where the most famous of English dignitaries, politicians, and cultural icons are buried. It was awe-inspiring to walk by the grave of Sir Isaac Newton or Edward the Confessor.
Right next to Westminster Abbey is the House of Parliament, which has the huge clock tower also known as Big Ben. Kristin and I spent some time checking out the intricate tower as we crossed over the River Thames.
Boat Cruise on the River Thames
We took a boat cruise of the River Thames and got a highlight tour of all things London. The tour guide explained to us the history of Westminster Abbey, The House of Parliament, Big Ben, The Eye of London, The London Tower, and London Bridges. It was entertaining and insightful to hear the history behind all of these famous landmarks.
Eye of London
We hopped onto the Eye of London right at twilight, which gave us some of the best views of the entire city. This was the third thing I was able to check off of the Bucket List! After our ride into the sky, we took a bus home and slept off some of our jet lag.
Day 3 consisted of a tour of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. We were under the understanding that the tour company was going to pick us up at the hotel, but they did not pick us up at the hotel. We had to run to the nearest Tube entrance to make it to Victoria Coach station. We ran through the station to catch the bus and barely made it there in time. Once we boarded the bus, we met our awesome tour guide who took us first to Windsor Castle. Here we saw the Queen’s castle and got a brief history of the British monarchy before we stopped for some more fish and chips and headed to our next destination.
Our next stop was Stonehenge in the English countryside. I was amazed by the actual sizes of the rocks, and the history behind them.
We finished our tour in Bath, a resort town west of London that is centered around the hot springs that run throughout the city. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. They passed an ordinance in Bath that required all buildings to match the original buildings built hundreds of years ago. When I go back to the UK, I will stay in Bath and visit London on occasion. After our tour, we went back to the hotel for some much need rest and relaxation.
Eiffel Tower & Crepes
We took the early morning Eurostar train under the English Channel to Paris, and arrived to our hotel around noon. We checked our bags and took a bus straight to the Eiffel Tower. The first thing Kristin wanted to do when she arrived in Paris was to eat a crepe, so we grabbed a couple of banana and Nutella crepes while we took in the magnificence of the Eiffel Tower.
The Louvre has got to be the most insane building I have ever been inside of, and on New Year’s Eve, it was one of the most crowded areas in France. We were surrounded by thousands of people checking out the ridiculous amounts of artwork from all over the world. The picture above shows how many people were trying to check out the Mona Lisa.
Padlocks over the Siene
Visitors from all over the world have followed the Parisians romantic gesture of locking a padlock to a bridge over the River Siene and throwing the key into the water…forever committing to a lifetime of love with whoever was tossing the key with you. Kristin found out about this ritual from some tourists in London, and were lucky enough to find a bridge to add our lock.
Arc De Triomphe
We walked directly down the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Kristin had wanted to get on top of the famous monument, a task that had eluded her last time she was in Paris. Unfortunately, the museum was closed and Kristin and I decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest before the New Year’s Eve festivities that evening.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve in Paris is a magical thing. First…we were at the Eiffel Tower in the in of the most romantic cities on Earth. Second…there are hundreds of thousands of people congregating in one central area. Third…to be there with the woman of your dreams is literally a dream come true. After the clock struck midnight, Kristin and I made our way through the throngs of people back to our hotel to finish another amazing day.
Kiss on top of Eiffel Tower
On New Year’s Day, Kristin and I decided to go back to the Eiffel Tower to climb to its summit. We grabbed a few more crepes and walked up the 43 floors of steps to the first two levels of the steel tower. Once we made it up all the flights of stairs, we took an elevator all of the way to the top and took in the fantastic views. I, of course, was able to check another item off of my Bucket List…Kiss on top of the Eiffel Tower.
Parisian Meal & A Walk Around Town
After our summit of the Eiffel Tower, we took a walk down the romantic streets of Paris towards the Catacombs. We weren’t sure if they were open, but we wanted to sightsee “real” Paris, not just the tourist areas, and we wanted a bite to eat. We found an authentic restaurant, and ordered some delicious food. The catacombs were not open, but the walk, the food, and time in the city was worth every minute.
Flight to Rome
Early on day six, Kristin and I hopped on a plane to Rome where we got to see the Swiss Alps from the air.
We arrived in Rome about noon, and took to the streets to find a place to eat. Our second leg of the Pizza Challenge was in Rome, so we decided to find a place that served some pizza (every place did). We found some delicious pizza and pasta…I loved the Italian food more than any other place on this trip.
Our hotel was only 3/4 a mile from the Colosseum, so Kristin and I took a quick walk to the famous structure. This area was so old, and so enriched in the history and culture of Rome…even mankind, that it took awhile for it all to soak in. We paid for a tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, and it was worth every penny. I loved hearing about the gladiators and the rise and fall of Rome.
The second stop on our tour of ancient Rome was Palatine Hill. This area is one of the oldest of Rome and overlooks the Roman Forum. The tour guide explained to us the early beginnings of Rome and the amazing buildings and palaces that were now mere ruins all around us.
The Roman Forum was a fascinating building that remained buried for almost a thousand years. It is said that everything in Rome was built on top of an ancient building.
We stumbled upon the Pantheon, a beautiful old church that was as awe-inspiring as any of the sites we saw. It was on our list of things to see the next day, but we walked right into it on our way to dinner, so we stopped to check it out.
Piazza Navona & Tre Scalini
Kristin and I traveled to Europe to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary (a little early), and our anniversary dinner was at Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona. This restaurant came highly recommended from Kristin’s coworkers, and it did not disappoint.
We started day 7 in Vatican City, which is considered the smallest independent country in the world…so you know I added it to my countries visited list. We stood in awe of St. Peter’s Basilica and the amazing columns that stood like opening arms to the visiting tourists.
We were fortunate enough to find the Vatican’s best tour guide, a unique man who looked homeless, but was easily the most intelligent and enthusiastic person I’ve ever met. He sang in the museums, joked with every security guard, and kissed every woman working in the Vatican Museum. Few people do their job as well as this man did his, it was inspiring. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of him, so instead here is a pic from the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican Museum is one of the largest in Europe, and did not disappoint. I know that our tour guide heightened our experience, but it was fascinating to walk through, even though it was crowded.
The Sistine Chapel was only open for a two hours in the afternoon, and everyone there wanted to see it, including us. Our tour guide helped us skip through a ton of lines, and when we arrived to the Sistine Chapel it was absolutely packed. I have heard that they are extremely strict about photography inside of the room, but every person there had their phone or camera out…including me.
St. Peter’s Basilica
We had been told by our tour guides at the Colosseum that St. Peter’s Basilica was the jewel of Rome, and they were correct. It was as big, as luxurious, and as amazing as advertised.
The Spanish Steps
We left the Vatican and headed to The Spanish Steps to catch some food and to see the sites. This was the shopping district of Rome and was very nice and had some great people-watching.
Gelato and more Gelato
The best food we found in Rome may have been the gelato. You really couldn’t go wrong with any flavor. On this particular night, we both got double-dip cones, and when finished decided we wanted two more. When in Rome, right?
On Day 8 of our trip, we slept in and then took a quick hike to the ancient Roman ruins. We came across a building that tourists refer to as the Wedding Cake building, but is officially known as the Altare della Patria or the Vittoriano. The best thing about this building is that you could get on top of it!
The Quadrigas Terrace
The views on top of the Vittoriano were breathtaking. These pictures do not do the landscape justice whatsoever.
The Hidden Church
We were walking around the Vittoriano and turned the corner into a pretty much hidden church. It was not on any of the maps that I saw, and there were no signs or huge groups out front. However, this hidden jewel is like so many other buildings in Rome…old, beautiful, and full of history.
For the rest of the day, Kristin and I just walked around Rome. I felt like I was truly backpacking through Europe. We meandered around the cobblestone streets, had lunch at a corner restaurant, and took a walk around Circus Maximus.
Flight to London then JFK
I know this picture is blurry, but this man had a foldable bicycle and foldable helmet and looked like my good friend Mark Bivins, or like Luigi from Mario Brothers. We went from the subway to the bus, from the bus to the airport, and then flew from Rome to London and then to JFK in New York City.
Subway to Times Square
We arrived in New York City about midnight, went through customs, and then took the subway to Times Square. This was Kristin’s first time to the Big Apple, and I hadn’t been since 2004. I was once again blown away by the size of NYC and the hustle and bustle of the people, even after 2 a.m.
Pizza in NYC
We finished our Pizza Challenge in New York City. After having pizza in Chicago, Rome, and NYC…we both agreed the pizza in Chicago was the best. It was a fun challenge and a neat story to tell.
Sleeping in Airport
After our quick jaunt into Times Square, we took a cab to LaGuardia and waited for our plane to leave at 7 a.m. We found a comfy bench and then took a quick nap before we boarded the plane and took off for home.
Seeing Baby Jane
Nothing was better than getting back to Tulsa to see our little baby. It was tough to leave her home, but she handled it like a champ, and loved seeing us when we got home.
I know I am not the first one to travel to Europe, and I know there will be many more opportunities for me to see the world, however, this was a trip of a lifetime. It was my fourth continent to travel to, countries 9-12, and accomplished so much off of my Bucket List. I hope this inspires you to travel the world and discover new people, cultures, and hopefully some new food.