Lifestyle

A Day In Girona

Posted on: April 17, 2017

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We rented a car and headed up north to Girona for a day while my girl Katia was visiting! It was about time we explored a little bit more of Spain and I highly recommend a quick day trip if you are visiting Barcelona. The drive was about an hour and its gorgeous!

We made sure to wander through the city and the massive Cathedral is hard to miss. It stands alone in a small square surrounded by colorful buildings and cobblestone streets. Be sure to see the famous Red Bridge that was constructed by the same architect of the Eiffel Tower! Great view of the river and the colorful buildings.

We walked through the city and stumbled upon the most delicious Mexican food at Maguey. Best Mexican food we have had in Spain so far and the chef, Arthuro, was so generous giving us recommendations for other Spanish cities to visit.

For those of you Game Of Thrones fans, the Cathedral and streets are used for some of the filming! You can read all the details on this helpful article!

What cities in Spain should we add to our list?!

xoxo

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How To Do Rome in 3 Days

Posted on: March 31, 2017

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My parents flew into Barcelona to pay us a little visit! I was so excited to show them around Europe so we jumped on a plane and headed to Rome! We are a pretty religious bunch so Rome is something my parents have been dying to see and it was one of my favorite stops on my last Europe adventure years ago. We had three days to see it all so I thought I would share the best way (in my opinion) to do it!

First things first. Download the City Mapper app. It’s like google maps but better! All you have to do is input your destination and the app will give you a list of options for public transit, taxi’s, or walking. My favorite feature is the little compass it provides while walking. It points you in the direction you need to go before you start walking. Very helpful! I’ve had countless moments of looking like an idiot while trying to get the blue dot to move on google maps. We purchased a metro pass for the 3 days we would be touring. We used the bus and rail train a lot to get around! If you plan to use public transport I highly suggest it! More information here regarding rules and where to buy!

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We booked this airbnb and I can’t say enough good things about it. Super clean, recently renovated, and fully equipped! The host even drove us to and from the airport! He really went above and beyond! The neighborhood is located in a student/artist area and about 25 mins by metro into the main cites!

DAY ONE  get up early and grab a true European breakfast of pastries and head towards the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain has recently been restored/cleaned (in 2015) so it looks AMAZING! It already is my favorite site in Rome and the restoration is something to marvel at. Toss a coin in the fountain and then headed to Piazza Spagna to climb the Spanish Steps. Stop for some gelato at the base of the stair and then I would suggest seeing the Pantheon in that area too!  (We  had a tour to catch of the Vatican so we saved the Pantheon for another day!) Grab the public transport to your next stop…..

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The Vatican! We purchased a tour from What A Life Tours and I highly suggest a tour guide. They offer a few different tours but we selected the small group tour in the afternoon. The tour included a skip the line pass (the line to get in is SO long), admission into the Vatican, Vatican Museums, Raphael Rooms, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica. We thought we would be in a group of 8-12 but it was just us! We basically had a private tour and our tour guide was so knowledgeable! We would’ve missed so much information regarding the history, art, and religion had we not hired a tour guide. If you get a tour in Rome, make it for the Vatican. I cannot speak more highly of the value of it! #worthit

In my time touring European cities, I have never seen anything so ornate, marvelous, or beautiful. The sheer amount of money and power dedicated to the structures is unreal. To see St Peter’s Basilica after studying the bible and learning of Peter is a really cool experience! We are not Catholic, we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) and study the Bible along side The Book of Mormon. Making the connections from what I’ve read growing up to real life was a little mind boggling!

Exit the Vatican and then walk toward the Castel Sant’Angelo to take it in at night. Grab a classic Italian dinner across the river and catch the Castle light up!

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DAY TWO get up early and take the metro to the Colosseum which opens at 9 am. Get there early to get your tickets or get them online and print before hand. There are two ticket counters. One inside the entrance of the colosseum (cash only) and the other just to the right at the base of Palatine Hill (card accepted). Don’t get stuck in a long line when you have two options! There is an audio guide you can buy as well as placards all over the site with helpful information. The ticket covers the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. Plan to spend the better part of your morning/afternoon because it is a lot to see!

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Once you exit the Colosseum you can explore Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Palatine Hill is the center most of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the ancient parts of the city. It holds the ruins of the largest imperial palaces from the time of the Augustus. Wear good walking shoes because it is large and a lot to see! DSC_0325

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Grab some carbs near by the exit of the Forum and then walk over to Piazza Venezia. The huge, white marble building holds the Tomb of the Undying Soldier and some of the Italians call it the “Wedding Cake” because its kind of out of place next to the old ruins. Grab a bus to Piazza Navona and enjoy dinner in the square! #jamesgangtravel tip: Trevi Fountain at night is spectacular so you could also head there to eat and enjoy! DSC_0342

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DAY THREE take it a little easy and sleep in! Make your way to some of the more “out of the city” sites. Starting at the Catacombs of St Callixtus ,which Carson and my dad loved, you get a small taste of the country side too! The Catacombs take about 30 mins to tour and the ticket includes a guide! Spend a few minutes on the grounds for pictures and then check the handy City Mapper app to head to your next stop. The Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls is another site further out of the city. They call it that because the basilica is located outside the main city wall. It’s a bit a trek but St Paul is one of Carson and my Dad’s hero’s so we had to go! And I’m so glad we did. It wasn’t crowded at all, gorgeous, and contains the tomb of St Paul. Spend as much time or as little as you’d like and enjoy an evening off in Rome!

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What is your favorite part of Rome?! Have you been yet?! WE LOVE the Eternal City and hope to go back someday soon! They say if you toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain your bound to return right?!

xoxo

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Paris With the #jamesgang

Posted on: March 26, 2017

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My last Paris recap post! I wanted to share a few more photos as well as the last bit of tips for visiting Paris! Is it just us or is it SO HARD to get pics with your significant other unless they are selfies? I am not equipped enough to set up a tripod and I really don’t want to carry that around. I’m pre apologizing for the bad quality selfies and iphone photos! I don’t trust anyone with my nikon! #firstworldprobs

I know it is such a tourist move but we had to stop by Laduree and try the macaroons! They lived up to expectation and I am such a sucker for cute treats. The weather cleared up for a little bit (still freezing) and we walked up the Champs-Élysées towards the famous Arc De Triomphe. Our Paris Museum Pass (explained in this post) allowed us to climb up to the top and get an aerial view of the city. #worthit. As you can see it was raining and cold the ENTIRE trip so we are bundled nice and tight. #somuchformycuteoutfits. Of course we had to see the Eiffel Tower and we spent some time at the Catacombs of Paris and it was creepy. We waited in line for about 45 mins but I would say it was worth the wait. I’ve never seen so many real human bones and the sheer amount of them is mind boggling.

If any of you know us we are die hard Disney fans so we had to stop at Disneyland Paris! I was a little under whelmed but I do think it had to do with the time of year as well as most big things were closed. The park is gearing up for their 25 yr anniversary so we didn’t get to see it in all of its glory! I have heard from other Disney addicts they loved it so don’t let me deter you too much!

We stayed in this airbnb while touring the city and it was SO clean and SO modern. The host recently renovated the place and I wanted to move in full time! It is a bit out of the city, some of you may not love that, but it was right next to a metro stop and easy to head into the heart of Paris.

Have you been to Paris yet? What is your favorite spot?!

xoxo

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Paris [Tips for Visiting The Louvre]

Posted on: March 24, 2017

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Unfortunately our visit to Paris was filled with chilly weather and rain, but that didn’t stop us from seeing EVERYTHING! And I mean EVERYTHING.  My feet were dead by the end of the day and we didn’t waste one second. In my previous post I shared all the tips about seeing Versailles and other money saving tips and today I wanted to share a little bit more about The Louvre!

Anyone that has done The Louvre knows it is huge and impossible to see in a day. We decided to do a little research and find the “must sees” on our list. I highly suggest that. Without a plan, you could wander aimlessly through the museum and miss out on the most historical things to see.

Here is our top 10:

  1. The Mona Lisa
  2. Les Noces de Cana by Paolo Veronese
  3. Vénus de Milo
  4. The Winged Victory of Samothrace
  5. Psyche Revived by the Kiss of Love by Antonio Canova
  6. Marly Horses (located in the most beautiful, bright section of the museum)
  7. Michelangelo’s Dying Slave
  8. Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix’s
  9. Great Sphinx of Tanis
  10. The Raft of the Medusa

Like I said, there is A TON to see! We gave ourselves a good part of the day to do the museum and you could always go back a second day if you want to see more!

If you are in the mood for a little more art, make sure to see the Musee d’Orsay too! One of my favorite museums I’ve had the privilege to see!

There you have! Comment below with any other Louvre tips!

xoxo

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Versailles [How To See it For Free and Other Free Admission Tips]

Posted on: March 16, 2017

 

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Bonjour! We snuck away for a little weekend in Paris and I thought I would share some money saving tips! Who doesn’t love to save money while traveling? So here are our #jamesgangtravels tips for museum hoping in Paris!

  • Before you book your trip, look at the dates you will be in Paris and jump online to see what days are free! The first Sunday of the Month November-March Versailles is FREE! The line to get in will be a little long so get there first thing in the morning! . It’s also FREE if you are under-18s, European Union residents under 26, schoolchildren, teachers in a French establishment with a Pass Education, disabled people and the person accompanying them, job seekers in France and recipients of minimum social benefits upon presentation of proof dated no more than 6 months previously, Ecole d’Art students.
  • These museums are also FREE on that first Sunday of the month!
    • The Louvre (There will be big line to get in since the admission is free so be prepared!)
    • Musee d’Orsay
    • Others listed here
  • Paris Museum Pass is a good option if you can’t make it to Paris the first Sunday of the month. You can purchase a 2, 4, or 6, consecutive days. The pass grants you special access to the following sites and museums listed here .  We didn’t know that Versailles and others were free that Sunday so we bought the pass. We used it at The Louvre, Notre Dame (free but it costs extra to climb to the towers and the pass covers that), Arc De Triomphe, Sainte-Chapelle, and we could’ve used it at Versailles had it not been a free day! It def saves you money in the long run!
  • The metro can get a little pricey too! Purchase a mulit day metro pass called the Paris Visite for the length of your stay. All of the landmarks you want to see will be in zone 1-3 and it only costs $12.93 per day!

I’ll be sharing a few more Paris tips in the next post so stay tuned! Great places to stay, eat, and Disneyland Paris!

xoxo

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Halong Bay [Vietnam Travel Tips]

Posted on: March 12, 2017

You guys! This is our LAST asian adventure post! It was a magical three weeks and I have all the tips in my previous posts about great Airbnb’s, Visa tips, and the best places to see! If you are taking a trip soon go check em out! We only had two days in Vietnam ( I would recommend a few more to see other cities) so we took the second day and headed out to Halong Bay. It is one of the 8 natural wonders of the world and a MUST SEE! Our #jamesgangtravels tips are below a few photos we took!

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  • There is no need for a place to stay! We just took a day trip from Hanoi!
  • Book your day trip when you arrive in Hanoi. We compared prices with another family who booked it online through trip advisor and they paid a bit more for the same thing. There are a ton of little “tour” shops on the streets so just find your favorite one!
  • Food is included! You can pay a higher price for better food with drinks included but we found the food to be just fine! I do suggest bringing your own bottled water!
  • Pack snacks. The bus ride is about 4 hours with a 30 min stop at a local tourist trap so bring something to eat and drink or else you may get stuck paying too much.
  • Take your camera. Halong Bay is simply stunning!!!!
  • Wear shoes you can walk in! The tour includes a stop through a huge cave that is really neat to explore.
  • Awesome day tour for families and couples alike!

xoxo

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Vietnam Travel Tips [Hanoi]

Posted on: February 27, 2017

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A TON of gorgeous shots from our day in Hanoi! I was pleasantly surprised by how gorgeous it was and I couldn’t stop taking pictures! It was our last stop on the trip and by this point we were beat. Luckily we landed a great AirBnb that was actually a cute little hotel (listed below)! The streets were insane in Vietnam and there are no rules! Keep your eyes open when crossing the street or you may not make it home! We saw families of four on motos and even dogs riding as passengers. Asian culture is so different than what I am used to and it was a whirlwind! A crazy rush everywhere we went! What an adventure we had. Here are my tips for visiting Vietnam!

  • If you are an American Citizen, you are required to have a travel visa to visit the country. It is EXPENSIVE to get online and we don’t have a Vietnam consulate here in BCN. So we did some research and discovered that a few travel agencies in Siem Reap could take care of the visa process for us. We contacted 5 Oceans Co and they set it all up for us. We dropped off our passports, paid $50 (much cheaper than the $140 each online) and then picked them up a day later with the Visa! Super easy! If you are taking an Asia trip, look into local agencies where you are staying and most times they offer Visa help for the surrounding countries.
  • Only travel with a roller carry on and use Packing Cubes.
  • Stay Here. We LOVED this little Airbnb right next to the bustling night market and in the heart of the city!
  • Use UBER. Way easier than getting a cab and often times the cabs or tuk tuks will take advantage of you and over charge. We saved a bunch using UBER when we could!
  • Check out The Hanoi Social Club for breakfast or a tasty brunch! We actually went for dinner and it was delish. A super hipster environment with live music once a week. Be SMART about food and water! Only drink bottled water and shower with flip flops on. Be aware where you are eating and what’s in your food.
  • Things to see: Old Quarter, Hoa Lo Prison, Lake of the Restored Sword, and the Dong Xuan Night Market.

Feel free to comment below or reach out with any travel questions! I’d love to help anyone have the best trip possible!

xoxo

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Siem Reap Travel Tips [Angkor Wat]

Posted on: February 23, 2017

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We spent most of our time in Siem Reap at Angkor Wat wandering through the ruins. It’s the largest religious site in the world covering over 402 acres. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of the God Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. Our tuk tuk driver, Mr Vung, drove us around the entire complex for two days and I still don’t think we saw all of it! Ta Prohm, one of the more popular ruins, was actually where Tomb Raider was filmed! Kinda cool! Here is what we learned and some tips for Siem Reap!

  • I would recommend spending two days at Angkor Wat. We planned for three but we really didn’t need it!
  • Hire a tuk tuk driver for your time at Angkor Wat. You will need it to get around the huge area! A tour guide isn’t necessary (we didn’t use one) but is helpful for more information about the history.
  • Stay in an Airbnb! We stayed in this one and LOVED it! It included an airport pick up as well as breakfast and complimentary water!
  • Get a massage! Carson and I splurged at Mudita Spa for a day and it was super affordable for a couples package!
  • We spent a few hours our last day at the Silk Factory  and that is a great place for kids too!
  • Another fun spot we LOVED for dinner was Pub Street and the night markets!

Our time in Cambodia taught me two things. One, it takes very little to be happy. The people of Cambodia are living on basically nothing and yet happy. We had some conversations with Mr Vung about Cambodia’s history and it really but things in perspective. The genocide and continuous struggle seemed so far away in my history books, but being there made it real. Secondly, I learned it’s our responsibility to do our part to take care of the world. Once we have the means to support ourselves, look outside and find ways to support others!

Thank you Cambodia for opening your culture to us! We will never forget our time there!

xoxo

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Siem Reap [Silk Factory]

Posted on: February 20, 2017

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After we left the gorgeous beaches of Thailand, (I was tempted to stay forever), we traveled to Cambodia to tour Siem Reap. We spent a few days at Angkor Wat, which I will share soon, but one of my favorite stops was the silk factory. The factory employs locals and teaches them craftsmanship that will eventually become their full time work. It’s helpful for the community because most don’t have the education to find a decent job. The factory provides security for these people and their families! I was amazed at the detail and the amount of time it takes just to make one piece! These women have so much pride in their work and I am grateful we got to spend a few hour to witness it!

xoxo

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Rantong Elephant Save & Rescue

Posted on: February 1, 2017

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I have been dying to share this with all of you! We shared the MOST INCREDIBLE day with the good people at Rantong Elephant Save & Rescue in Chiang Mai. We’d heard that most of the elephant “sanctuaries” weren’t sanctuaries at all and actually mistreated the animals. We came across Rantong by a recommendation from a friend and we were so happy to see such a great place with ethical practices. There are actually two camps at Rantong. One is for new moms and their little babies and the other is for the adult elephants and visitors. We didn’t get to see the “nursery”  since its pretty special and they try to avoid any disturbances for the new mamas. You’ll see one little guy and his mom in the video above and she actually has an interesting story. She was separated from her other babies while working with a performing circus so she has a large fear of separation. So… even though her little guy is basically a teenager, they keep them together to help her heal! They moved them to the “older” camp to help her regain her social skills with other elephants.

We got to spend the day with Wanwiza and her Mahoot. (I have no idea how to spell that…) The Mahoot is specific to one elephant and they will spend their entire lives together. The Mahoot builds trust and does EVERYTHING with their elephant. It’s their whole life and they become like family. To witness their day to day tasks with the elephants seems like a pretty amazing job. They live on site so their elephant is like a child they are responsible for. We learned a great deal about the rescue effort and what practices are safe/unsafe for an elephant. We got to feed, bathe, and ride Wanwiza and I was ready to take her home with us. I don’t know what it is about an elephant, but we felt this special bond with her all day. There were moments when she was taking us up a steep hill and I could feel her grip my legs with the back of her ears to make sure I was safe. I could be totally dreaming that up, but I will say there was something magnificent and magical being that close with one of gods amazing creatures.  What I really loved is their were no metal hooks to push and prod them, we went at their pace where they wanted to go. If you are making the trip to Chiang Mai, I highly recommend this place. Do your research and make sure you aren’t supporting a tourist trap that doesn’t end up benefiting the animals at all! I hope this gives you just a small taste of the best day of our lives (so far)!

xoxo

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