Welcome to 2018!!! When reflecting on the past year I always like to think about the highlights of the year. Our little family really had some amazing adventures this year. I would love to share with you some things you must try. I interviewed my family members this year (my husband Phil, my daughter Audrey (age 9), and Luke, my son (age 7). I will of course give you my input as well. Also, happy 2 year anniversary to the blog!!! We really enjoy sharing with you our expertise and hearing about your travel adventures as well. Here we go!
Top Vacation Pants Destinations 2017
Phil’s Pick – New York City, United States
Phil and I had visited the airport in New York. Phil even ventured out to get a slice of pizza during a high school trip to Europe, but we had never really been to NYC until one snowy day in March 2017. We made the first flight out after a huge storm. Snow was everywhere and it was quite beautiful, but nothing prepared us for the emotion that came over us when we took the subway into the city and walked out on Time’s Square. We had seen it in movies before, but there is nothing quite like being there in person. Read more about how to take a trip to this magnificent city here.
Audrey’s Pick – Pompeii, Italy
Audrey chose an ancient city we visited this year. The New York City of its day, if you will. Visiting Pompeii was like stepping back in time. The city is a perfect picture of what life was like over 2,000 years ago. It obviously had an impact on my girl because she often talks about what she learned visiting the city. We loved exploring the city on our own and doing research before and after we went. Also, there were plenty of tour groups walking around the city, and we heard some tidbits of information here and there, but sometimes just educating yourself makes it more personal. We had quite the day walking around, even in the July heat.
MVP (My Vacation Pants) Tip: Bring water, we thought we could buy some right inside, but we actually had to walk around a bit to find a restaurant, and we only found one water fountain. It happened to be a faucet style one, so we had to fill our hands with water and drink from our hands (or from a hat. Grandpa did that, LOL).
Luke’s Pick – Middelfart, Denmark
I know my son is not the only 7 year old that is delighted by bathroom humor, but we had to stay in this town while in Denmark. What ended up being a kitsch thing to do ended up being a lot of fun. We stayed at a fantastic hotel called the Milling Hotel Park and had a lovely stay. We had a lot of free soft ice (soft served ice cream) and enjoyed the fresh air out on the patio. I understand why Luke picked such a quaint Danish town as his top destination of 2017. If you want to explore some Denmark countryside I wouldn’t look any further than the town of Middelfart.
Janelle’s Pick – Venice, Italy
I have seriously never been somewhere quite like the magical Venice. Yeah, we did the tourist thing, but we also did our own thing too. We found some secret pasta served in Chinese take out containers. We walked through hidden alleys and found little gems throughout the city. We took a morning Gondola ride through the hidden canal. We also took the train in to the city, so we didn’t have to worry about finding a place to park our car outside the city. Of course, we had to see the library (which in real life is a church) where Indiana Jones found the X that marked the spot to his treasure hunt.
MVP Tip: I am not a person who wakes up early. I love my sleep, but this one is worth waking early for. We got to the city about 8:00 in the morning and it was empty. I can’t quite explain the feeling, but it was like we were on the set of a movie starring us!!!
Top Hotels of 2017
Phil’s Pick – I Silos Bed and Breakfast, Seriate, Italy
There is just something special about the bed and breakfasts throughout Europe, but this one was just too cool not to mention. Yes, they used to be silos, but have been converted into a bed and breakfast. The host family (who was there to greet us, but didn’t live on the property) were just good people. They put out a spread because we were leaving too early to have breakfast. We had to catch a plane and this place was 11 minutes from the airport. They taught us how to play soccer and we shared some wine with them. We also met a family later that night that had a little girl who played with Luke and Audrey. Listening to them play just made my heart happy. They didn’t speak the same language, but in this case, kindness and fun are universal languages. I mean, how cool is this place?! We stayed in a Silo!!! Not many people can say that.
Audrey’s Pick – Ny Kirstineberg Gods Bed and Breakfast, Nykobing Falster, Denmark
Audrey is my little princess and this place was just like her palace. The host family welcomed us with open arms and we felt like family. They thought we were from Italy because our last name is Vecchio, but they were even more excited we were American because we traveled from even further away. We had nine people in our party when we stayed here. They gave the teenagers rooms of their own and they let the four of us have a big room with the most plush bedding. Seriously, can we talk about Danish beds for a sec?! They are like sleeping on a cloud. This place was no exception in the cloud bed department. The grounds had peacocks, roosters, cats, and chickens just hanging about like they they were in their own little kingdom. There was also a soccer field, lawn swings, and games to play with the family. The breakfast was made to order at the time we wanted. The homemade biscuits were my personal fave, and they came with an assortment of jams and butter. Also this place ended up bring the lowest priced accommodations that we stayed in throughout the entire year.
Luke’s Pick – Sankt Helene Holiday Center, Tisvildeleje, Denmark
Luke’s favorite was another hotel from Denmark. This place was pretty unique. I guess it is considered a hostel, although it didn’t seem like one to us. We rented a cabin that had multiple rooms, plus a loft. Because we traveled by plane we didn’t bring bedding, so we paid a small fee and got bedding and towels for each of us as well. This place is about 45 minutes north of Copenhagen and right off the North Sea. We came in late at night, so we didn’t get to see our surroundings until the next day, but let me tell you, the area is beautiful. We were very jet lagged and still managed to love this place despite our weariness. We happened upon a forest full of carvings of Vikings, and the accommodations include a playground, giant chess board, tire zip line, climbing wall, and much more. This place was the perfect start to an amazing trip through Europe.
Janelle’s Pick – Tenuta Le Colonie, Vinci, Italy
I have grown up watching movies set in Italy and was very excited to stay in an agriturismo in Tuscany. An agriturismo is a farmhouse type accommodation that is common throughout the Tuscan region of Italy. I thought that maybe the movies I watched romanticized Italy and that just, maybe, it wouldn’t be as romantic as the movies. Well, I was completely wrong, this place was better than those movies. This place was the real deal. First and foremost, Tenuta Le Colonie is just outside the town of Vinci. Yeah, the one Leonardo is from. It’s small and historical and perfect. You couldn’t quite walk to the downtown area from our villa, but it was a short drive to the town center. The villa has a pool, and BBQing area. The rooms were set up like townhomes with full kitchens and upstairs and downstairs living areas. We had a common area in our Villa that we used to play card games and break some of that great Italian bread. Again, our hosts were very friendly and told us stories about growing up on the farm. My brother in law even bought some wine from the farm. I wish I could have brought home a huge bottle of their olive oil which was made right on the property.
Top Dining of 2017
Phil’s Pick – Dolcezze Siciliane, Naples, Italy
We had just come back into the Port of Naples from a day trip to the Isle of Capri. I had just seen some things that really blew my mind. Capri was gorgeous, but we barely had time to eat between the ferry ride back and forth and our boat tour around the island, with a stop at the Blue Grotto. We were starving. We passed this tiny Sicilian place that looked closed, but we saw some people coming out. I think they were closed, but when they saw the size of our group, they reopened for us. They said they only had a fixed menu for the evening. We weren’t quite sure what that meant, but apparently it means ooodles and boodles of food courses that taste amazing. We are talking bread, oysters, bruschetta, calamari, Italian sausages, pasta, and countless other courses. There is no way we were finishing all they brought out. They even brought us out drinks and desserts to toast the occasion. We were freaking out that this was going to cost a fortune since we did have 12 people in our party. Nope, it ended up being about $20 a person. Needless to say it was an amazing time. A couple different waiters came out and told us to say something in Italian, while they videoed us. Not really sure what we said, but it was all a part of a very unique experience.
They don’t have a website, but here is their TripAdvisor Review Page.
Audrey’s Pick – Terrazza Pompeiana, Pompeii, Italy
After a warm, but educational day at the ancient ruins of Pompeii, we crossed the street back to our van and saw an advertisement for pizza. It smelled good, it looked good, and it wasn’t too busy, so we decided to try it out. They had an amazing special that if you got cheese pizza is was only 7 Euros which translates to about 8 American Dollars, so most of our group got the special. The pizzas were huge and tasty and a perfect way to end our day in Pompeii. We could see the ruins from our seats on the patio. I guess it made quite the impression on my Audrey because she picked this as her best of 2017. That’s really no surprise. The girl loves pizza and here we are eating pizza where pizza was invented.
This place also has camping, laundry, and bungalows for rent right across the street from Pompeii. Pretty cool. Here is the website.
Luke’s Pick – Bar Quattordici, Rome, Italy
Have you ever felt like you stumbled upon the jack pot when you travel somewhere and just find a place that gives you all the great feels?! Well Bar Quattordici was that place for us. We actually ate there three times during our visit in Rome because it was only 5 Euros and you got huge helpings of pasta, pub snacks, bread service, and more. The owner was the kindest, most welcoming man, and you could tell this was a place that only locals hang out at. When we walked in with our huge party of 9 he made the regulars move, so we could sit together. Everyone laughed about it, and we felt like were locals too. We had so much fun and felt like we had our Rome dining experience in the perfect way. This was some of the best pasta we ate in all of Italy, and we spent two weeks driving all over the country.
Again, no website, but here is the TripAdvisor Review Page.
Janelle’s Pick – Galleria Umberto, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
So yes, each of us picked Italian food as our favorite dining experience, but mine is like a little piece of Italy right here in the United States. We traveled to Boston during March and needed some cheap dining options because we needed money for the rest our trip. I couldn’t believe how cheap, yet amazing this little place was. We spent $12 and we got basically one of each thing on the menu. This place closes at around 2:00 P.M. everyday because they run out of food, and when it’s gone, they close! They ran out of food while we were dining in. Whew! We made it just in time. I was staring all dreamy eyed at their map of Italy on the wall because we were planning our trip there for the summer and a nice local diner came up and gave me all the tips. He said eating at Galleria Umberto was like eating in Italy (where he used to live) and he knew I would have a great time (which I definitely did). So yeah, Italian food is this family’s favorite.
Galleria Umberto’s TripAdvisor Page.
Best Activities of 2017
Phil’s Pick – Popeye’s Village, Malta
I think we were the only people that got off a cruise ship, took a public bus across the island, and went to Popeye’s Village. I am so glad we did. This place was so unique, so beautiful, and so interesting. Popeye, the 1980 movie starring Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall, was shot here. The set is still alive and well, living out its twilight years as a theme park. You can even go in the little houses of the village. We took a boat out to a gorgeous sea cave. We played in their seaside playground and fake waterfalls. My hubby and brother in law even got to be a part of Popeye show. I wish we could have spent more time there. We definitely want to go back to Malta and experience even more, but we sure had a blast spending the day here.
Popeye’s Village Website (very detailed descriptions await)
Audrey’s Pick – Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli was visited by theme park genius Walt Disney before Disneyland opened in 1955, and for one moment I felt like I was visiting Disneyland in the 1950s. There were so many similarities. We did a write up a couple months ago that you can read here. Tivoli is one of the oldest theme parks in the world and has to be one of your destinations if you are ever in Copenhagen. Until we meet again…I will be dreaming of you Tivoli, and Audrey will be dreaming too.
Luke’s Pick – Legoland Billund, Billund, Denmark
We have long been fans of Legos, but visiting the country that they originated from was a pretty cool experience for this family of Lego fanatics. We also were quite caught up in the fact that this was the original Legoland, where it all began. Check out the post for planning a trip to Legoland Billund here. Of the two Legoland parks we have been to, this one took the cake.
Janelle’s Pick – Blue Grotto, Isle of Capri, Italy
It’s hard to capture the feelings I had entering the Blue Grotto. I wish I could bottle up the feeling for times when I need a little inspiration, but this place was somewhere I will remember for the rest of my life. First, we took a ferry boat from the Port of Naples to the Isle of Capri. Then we took a boat around Capri and transferred to a small row boat. The row boat captain perfectly timed our entry in to the Blue Grotto while the waves were low. We had to duck our head down in to the boat to make sure we didn’t hit our heads on the rocks. Once we entered the grotto we were in a enchanting sea cave wonderland where we were serenaded by our boat captain. It seriously brought tears to my eyes. Don’t miss it when you are in Capri.
Well, there you have it. Our top destinations of 2017. Let us know what you want to hear dedicated posts about in the comments below. Please see our photo travelogue of our fantastic year of travel below, and follow us on social media. Keep on traveling!!!
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