Category Archives: Europe

Brilliant Budapest

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I know very little about eastern Europe. The only thing I could tell you off the top of my head about Hungary is goulash and dumplings, and I’m honestly not a huge fan!

I visited Budapest for the first time in April of this year. The weather was, for the most part, beautiful, but we got rained out later in our tour of the city so I don’t have too many photos to share. But I’m definitely hoping to visit again when the weather is pleasant.

Our very knowledgeable tour guide was able to educate us on a lot of the history of Budapest, which was originally two different cities that merged into one – you guessed it – Buda and Pest.

Our first visit was to Heroes’ Square, where we were lucky to happen upon the city’s Budapest sign, which had just been erected that morning, and was only up for a few days the week prior.

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Heroes’ Square is in the Pest side of the city, and  features the Seven Cheiftans of the Magyars, and other important national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.IMG_6769IMG_6774IMG_6772IMG_6773IMG_6775

Afterwards, we stopped by the check out what’s called a “ruin bar”, an abandoned apartment building that was turned into a bar. It seems to be a thing in Budapest – the owners bring in wacky and thrifty finds or get local artists to decorate and create installations. It apparently has some great nightlife but due to our schedule, we didn’t spend much time here.

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This is Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar that started the trend in 2001. It’s one of the biggest and still one of the most popular ruin bars in Budapest.

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A sign in the toilet

A sign in the toilet

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And just a few steps away was a trendy little spot made up of faux food carts where we grabbed a bite to eat.

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We then crossed the Danube River to the Buda side to visit Castle Hill, and Buda Castle. At this point it began to sprinkle and I brilliantly didn’t dress warm enough, so our time here was fairly short.

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Great view of the city

Great view of the city

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With the weather being uncooperative, we ended our tour at this point and headed back to the hotel. Once the rain stopped, I stepped out to explore the area near the hotel, and was lucky enough to experience the Budapest Food Festival!

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The square was filled with food booths, local artists’ stalls and live music. I was ecstatic to be able to purchase some beautiful locally made jewelry for my friends and family. Any opportunity I get, I love supporting the local economy and especially talented artists.

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And the food?

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YUM!!! Fall off the bone pork, fresh vegetables and potatoes! The last thing I picked up on my way back to the hotel was a traditional Hungarian doll. As an avid doll collector, I search and pick up dolls unique to a country or culture. I think this calls for a doll post soon…

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Budapest was a beautiful sight, and I will definitely being looking forward to my return trip there some day soon!

Summer 2014 Part 2: England and Paris

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Continuing from Part 1 of my eventful summer!

Back in Guildford, we spent a peaceful afternoon with a picnic and seeing more green than I have ever seen in one day; Dubai is definitely a concrete jungle, but even my hometown of Phoenix lacks this much green!

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He took me to a place called “Silent Pond”.. while pretty, I’m not sure what its purpose is…

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We paid a visit to the amazingly astonishing Harry Potter Studio Tour, but it is so magnificent, it’s getting it’s own blog post and I will link it here when it’s finished! And here it is!

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And at one point, I forced Alan to find a Chipotle, it’s my new mission to visit one in every country they’re in… (Yes, we did get to Chipotle in Paris but no pics! And I also have been in Frankfurt, too!)

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The weather had been so sunny and warm that we decided to have a barbecue at the end of the week on Friday, as it was near the end of our summer vacation and a good time to gather all of our friends around. As luck would have it, it rained all day, up until the late afternoon when we started to barbecue! Good ol’ English weather. Our friend Shaddy that we know from Dubai was staying in Southampton studying, so we invited him over.

Is he doing it right?

Is he doing it right?

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan's brother Tom

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan’s brother Tom

Alan’s friend, Alex, had asked me to bring graham crackers so that we could make authentic s’mores. FYI, a s’more consists of the said cracker, melted chocolate and slightly charred marshmallows. It’s a staple for American campfires. To be honest, I had never even had a s’more myself! But I happened to be on a US layover, so I picked up a few boxes and yes, I did pack it in my suitcase and take it to England.

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s'more preparing techniques...

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s’more preparing techniques…

Alan tries his very first s'more.

Alan tries his very first s’more.

Oh, did I mention we had more clotted cream, jam and scones?! Seriously, this is the best invention to come out of England. If you haven’t had it, have one PROPERLY! But I know the debate is on… I like my cream first, and THEN the jam.

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On the weekend, the family headed back out to Southampton for Alan’s cousin’s wedding. This one was a change from the Indian wedding, set in a barn with a nice, DIY vintage feel. It was complete with Pimm’s Cup during cocktail hour and a “wedding breakfast”. What is a wedding breakfast? Well, it’s simply the first meal the couple has as a married couple, thus the use of “breakfast” since it’s typically the first meal of the day. You weird Brits!

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

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Somewhere in the middle of all this British-ness, Alan and I spent a few days in Paris because.. well, why not?

I was back in Dubai in between Brit visits, so I flew to Paris and Alan flew from London to meet me. We booked our very first AirBnb.com apartment. It was very cheap and in a good location, and the host was very kind, but the apartment was literally just a box with a bed, kitchen and toilet. But it got the job done. We spent most of our time seeing Paris.

I’d been to Paris a few times before, but this was a first for Alan. So we hit up the usual spots, although no one told me how unbelievably HOT Paris summers are, and we became quite exhausted quickly. But we powered through!

First stop was of course the Eiffel Tower. I’d already been twice, but never climbed it. I couldn’t book an elevator ride because it was sold out all summer, but we were “pleasantly” surprised to find that you could climb to the second level via stairs. I wasn’t at all ecstatic at the thought of stairs, but I knew we shouldn’t miss this chance to climb it.

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

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The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

Alan’s a personal trainer, so this was just like no big thang to him, but I needed lots of rest and breaks!!! And can you believe we climbed….

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SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE STEPS WHAT?! And that’s only to the second floor. And note when I say “second floor” it’s actually about 38 stories above ground!! It marks about halfway up the tower.

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And of course, we had to do our usual pictures…

Our #elfie... no explanation needed

Our #elfie… no explanation needed

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Next, we paddled on over to the Louvre Museum, hitting up only a few exhibits since we were a bit strapped for time. The ancient Egypt exhibit is always my favorite!

Cat mummies!

Cat mummies!

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Later that evening, we ventured down to the world famous Moulin Rouge! Of course I love the movie, but it was just a must-do on our short Paris trip. It’s too difficult to get there while on a layover, so it was the only chance I had. The tickets were a steep 100EUR without drinks, so we snagged them, but somehow were must have been mysteriously upgraded to a table right by the stage and a bottle of bubbly!

Unfortunately,  I couldn’t take any photos of the show (Understandably so, but I snuck one in!) but it was incredible! I loved that every routine had a theme (I think my favorite was the Egyptian/Asian one.. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it ended with the stage floor opening up to a huge tank of water with three HUMONGOUS snakes and a girl jumping in to join them!). I would have loved to see more of the traditional can-can dance, as it was only their final number, but I highly recommend checking it out. Honestly, I don’t care if people say “Even Parisians don’t go to the Moulin Rouge!” it’s quite a spectacle and if you can afford it, get a bottle of bubbly!

You guessed it... our #meflie

You guessed it… our #meflie

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The next day, we ventured out to Disneyland. If anyone knows me, they know I love Disneyland! But I have only been to the one in Anaheim so far, so this was quite exciting. Although I mostly enjoyed our day at Disney, there were loads of downsides. Firstly, it was extremely hot. It must have been about 90F and in the wait tunnels there was absolutely no AC or fans, and the temperature must have been climbing to 100F in some of them. Secondly, the staff weren’t really into it. I have heard they often have disputes over the working conditions and pay (although didn’t I just read that Air France pilots are on strike? Again? It seems to be a common thing in France…) and don’t really adhere to the “magic” that makes Disney what it is. Thirdly, some of the sister rides were a bit disappointing, like for example, the Indiana Jones ride in Anaheim is probably one of the best rides in that park, but in France, it’s a silly little outdoor coaster. But to make up for it, Space Mountain: Mission 2 in France is by far THE BEST ride of both parks, even outdoing its predecessor.

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Sadly, I lost those clip in Minnie ears on the Indiana Jones ride! 😦 They don’t sell them anymore.. in fact, they were for babies!

And because I have waaaay too many photos, here are the thumbnails, just click on them for the larger size:

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The closing show was absolutely spectacular! They used Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a screen and projected images onto it. Amazing.

On our last day, we paid a dutiful visit to the Ponts des Arts bridge to do what every crazy couple in love does… seal their love for eternity on the Love Lock bridge! I know they’ve been removing locks as of late to preserve the bridge, so I was thoughtful and brought a small lock.. I was shocked to see people STILL putting ridiculous massive locks on the bridge.

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Here’s me throwing the key into the River Seine…

We spotted some awesome street art…

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And last but not least, picked up an appropriate souvenir from Thomas Sabo…

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And that wraps up my pretty epic summer vacay! With the exception of the Harry Potter studio tour, which is coming soon! How was your summer?

Summer 2014 Part 1: England

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Wow, I am REALLY REALLY behind… I have just been super busy with my upgrade (I’m still in my probationary period), having been on leave a few times and planning a wedding with 8 months to go!

So I’ll break it down quickly what happened over the summer. Alan quit his job at the gym that hired him to move to Dubai, and with a partner, has started his own mobile fitness company, Universal Fitness. (Would be great if you could like them on Facebook! 🙂 So during Ramadan, he spent a month back home in the UK. I went there and back, I had two weddings to attend (one of my friend’s and one of his cousins’) but had to work in between. We also spent a few days in Paris! I took loads of pics, so I’ll try and post only my favorites, but that will be difficult..

If you’re interested, you can see what I did while on my Layovers In London.

Before we start, I was surprised to find this gem in Alan’s hometown, Guildford:

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Our first objective was the drive to Bath to attend the wedding of my friend Raksha, who was my batchmate. We joined our airline on the same day and became fast friends. She resigned about a year later, and we kept in touch. She is Indian-British and her now-husband is just British… so it was a fun mix to see. 🙂 I got a sari from a friend who no longer needed it, and I crafted the sari top myself. I basically bought a white cotton crop top, dyed it, and then hand beaded it.

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The ceremony was a traditional Hindu ceremony, about 2 hours long. Raksha looked like a Bollywood star!

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During the cocktail hour, Alan and I ventured into the Fashion Museum. The wedding was being held in the beautiful Assembly Rooms, and we had planned on visiting the Fashion Museum the next day, but it was so convenient to pay a visit while the couple were taking photos.

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I had to put my arms through the front and tie it over my sari!

The reception was in a lovely assembly hall with ancient Roman detailing. It was an amazing mix of Indian and British culture.

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The next day, Alan and I spent an unusually sunny British day exploring the adorable little town that is Bath.

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Roman Baths

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Threw a UAE dirham coin into the bath! Wonder how many different currencies are in there..

Threw a UAE dirham coin into the bath! Wonder how many different currencies are in there..

We ventured around the city and stumbled upon a beautiful little park.

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We then went completely British and paid a visit to the very busy and very famous Sally Lund’s tea house for afternoon tea, appropriately, in the Jane Austen room:

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We started with their famous “bunn” with smoked salmon, and finished with amazingly delicious clotted cream, jam and scones!

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On the drive over, we had accidentally come across STONEHENGE! It’s so busy these days that we have to book in advance, so we booked once we got into Bath for the next day. So we stopped by to check out one of the Seven Wonders of the (World) Medeival Mind, Stonehenge.

Our #stelfie... yes, our Stonehenge Selfie

Our #stelfie… yes, our Stonehenge Selfie

The Stonehenge Exhibition and shuttle service was built in December of 2013 to help preserve the monument, as well as offer additional information. Up until then, you used to be able to drive right up to it. I think this way makes it a bit more of a meaningful visit.

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We drove up to London for the afternoon to check out the Natural History Museum:

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Our #trelfie!! Yes, can you see a trend here?

Our #trelfie!! Yes, can you see a trend here?

To be continued in Part 2 coming soon!

Zipping Through Zurich

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I really didn’t know much about Switzerland expect that it can get cold and something about Swiss banks and cheese. And chocolate.

Anyhow, Zurich introduced itself as a beautiful city with both old European charm and modern flair. I paid a visit during the summer, so that whole cold thing wasn’t a bother.

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The weather was so accommodating, so when we landed we immediately set out into the city via the train.

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This quaint little city is made up of alleyways filled with boutiques, cafes and other interesting sights to see.

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We decided one of the best ways to experience the city in a short amount of time was a ferry ride on the Limmat River, which runs right through Zurich.

Look! The Alps!

Look! The Alps!

As we waited to board our ferry, we occupied ourselves by watching the collection of foul at the docks, as well as the surrounding artwork.

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While on the ferry, we decided it was probably best to enjoy the tour with a taste of the local brew…

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And the Lindt chocolate factory!

And the Lindt chocolate factory!

Circus in town

Circus in town

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Locals enjoying the extremely lovely weather along the Limmat River

Locals enjoying the extremely lovely weather along the Limmat River

After disembarking, we stopped off at a cafe for a meal and drinks while exploring what bit of the city we saw on our way back to the station.

A singing choir passed and serenaded while we dined

A singing choir passed and serenaded while we dined

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Local arts

Local arts

The next morning, myself and a few others got up early, borrowed bicycles from the hotel and went for a fresh air bike ride in the small woods and farms just behind the hotel.

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At the end of our bike ride, it was about time to fly back to Dubai. Zurich was a lovely little breath of fresh air from our usual daily Dubai lives.

Vibrant Venice

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My first visit to beautiful Venice, Italy was back in August. The weather was perfect for sightseeing and exploring the city. We promptly hopped on a shuttle fro our hotel into the city, found a water taxi and traveled down to the San Marco Palace. The boatride alone just down the main canal to San Marco plaza was filled with interesting sights – which I’m sure is just another day for the local Venetians.

We eventually approached and crossed under the famous and stunning Rialto Bridge.

We docked off and took a short walk to the San Marco Palace plaza.

And took in the surroundings while we wandered aimlessly through the alleys of Venice. I could have spent all day just darting around and admiring all the buildings and shop windows.

 

We stopped off for lunch, and of course, I need pizza and a glass of wine.

Diavola... YUM!

Diavola… YUM!

I also absolutely love how dog-friendly Venice is.. and how friendly all the dogs are!

Buongiorno.. arf arf!

Buongiorno.. arf arf!

Although I was tired from the flight, we spent all afternoon on foot and took a late bus back to the hotel. Venice is extremely beautiful, and completely unique with its waterways replacing roads. I hope to be able to come back and spend more time exploring fascinating Venice.

 

 

My Favorites Photos of 2013

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It’s that time of the year! The time of reflection and celebration of the good times over the past 12 months. Here are my favorite snaps from 2013.

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Mauritius – we encountered these guys when we had hired a boat to take us out and about. They ate up the bread we gave them and they politely posed for my photo!

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Santa Monica Pier, California, USA – There’s not much I really like about California, actually.. ok, that’s a lie, but because I used to live to close to it its appeal has lost on me. Alan had to remind me that he’d never set foot in California so we took him to all the typical tourist spots. But one thing I do love is street art and public works. This one is beautiful. For more pictures from this trip, click here.

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Castellorizo, Greece – This tiny little island boasted delicious fresh fish at the many restaurants that lined the marina. For more photos from this trip, click here.

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Warsaw, Poland – Loved this shot I caught at just the right moment of a peacock chasing off some pigeons stealing its spotlight. More photos from this trip coming soon.

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Absinthe, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA – Our first Las Vegas show was amazing – Alan wanted David Copperfield but I wanted Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. The sexy show was like a mix of burlesque under the big top with amazing acts like these Russian acrobats. Loved it!

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Casablanca, Morocco – The famous Hassan II Grande Mosque. More photos from this trip coming soon.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA – I hadn’t visited this wonder of the world that sat in my backyard for almost my whole life since I was about 5 years old, so I figured it was a good time to revisit when I showed Alan around my home. It is truly a breathtaking and unbelievable sight. See more photos from this trip here!

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Barasti Beach, Dubai, UAE – One of my usual spots in Dubai is Barasti Beach, a little beach bar that provides a chill layout during the day and dance party and DJs at night.

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Nuri’s Beach, Turkey – Nuri’s Beach was my favorite little spot on our Turkish sailing holiday with Alan’s parents. It was laidback, and not very crowded like a typical beach bar. I love this shot of Alan against the little bay of Nuri’s beach, with our boat in the background of the small marina.

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Legoland, California, USA/Tatooine – Say whaaaaat? Mixing two great universal loves into one – Lego and Star Wars. Check out this awesome lego model of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

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Venice, Italy – My first time in Venice this year. I was completely amazed at how water taxis and use of the canals basically keeps the city alive.

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Mauritius – I hadn’t planned on going parasailing (which I’d never done before) when we hired a boat for a tour, but everyone was so hyped to try it. Here’s a picture of some of my colleagues while they parasailed against the beautiful surroundings of Mauritius.

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Mekong River, Vietnam – The communities all along the Mekong River rely on it for their daily lives. These boats were used for the tour, but they resemble the boats locals use in everyday life. See more photos from beautiful Vietnam here.

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Kalekoy, Turkey – Kalekoy is a tiny town only accessible by boat.

Thanks for taking a look at some of my favorite shots from the past year! For me it’s not always the best shot, but sometimes it evokes an emotion or a memory. I live my life through photos and love sharing and seeing other peoples’ photos!

Magnificent Milano

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My first trip to Italy was to beautiful Milan in March 2011. It was a bit chilly but it didn’t stop me from seeing the amazing architecture and history that awaits in the city.

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The Duomo di Milano (Cathedral Milan)

The Duomo di Milano (Cathedral Milan

Selfie with the duomo!

Selfie with the duomo!

Inside the stunning Duomo di Milano

And of course, you can’t leave Milan without trying Italian food you know.. the way Italians eat it. Surprisingly, genuine Italian food is prepared with minimal embellishments and is kept quite simple, and it actually tastes amazingly good.