When Trent was accepted into UCI we were really excited because it was his first step toward med school. One of the most admirable traits about my husband is his work ethic. He paid his way through college while working three jobs and managing two of them. After college, he didn’t know if he wanted to continue with medical school so he pursued real estate and he was an SAT tutor. Then he learned about Life Sharing and he received a job with them doing organ procurement work. That is when his love for medicine re-sparked. He went back to school to buffer his resume, spent his little-to-no spare time volunteering, and he took five hour MCAT classes for four months. He then took the MCAT three times and afterwards he applied to twenty fives med schools. We prayed a lot about this decision and we knew that there was a possible chance that we would be completely uprooted. Trent’s number one pick was in LA and when he received an interview we were on cloud nine. A few weeks later, they called him to tell him that he was accepted! PRAISE GOD! When he told me, I started crying. Words don’t suffice when it comes to telling you how hard my husband worked toward this and I am so thankful that he was rewarded for his efforts. He truly deserves it!
We said in the beginning of this med school journey that if he was accepted, we would travel to Europe before we began this next chapter in our life. Once accepted, we quickly planned our trip. A few people have messaged us about our itinerary, so I’m going to blog about the five countries, eleven cities, and nine hotels that we visited.
The number one place I have always wanted to visit in this world is Greece. I used to Google images and send them to Trent. He made that dream come true and that is where we started our journey. We really lucked out this trip and received awesome service from so many people. This happened multiple times where the managers tricked us by telling us that our room is now longer available… BUTTTT then they upgraded us to the honeymoon suite. Here is the itinerary for our first day:
- Fly from Lax to Zurich
(flight time: 11 hours, 20 minutes)
- Layover in Zurich
(flight time: 1 hour, 35 minutes)
- Fly from Zurich to Stuttgart
(flight time: 45 minutes)
- Layover in Stuttgart
(flight time: 1 hour 35 minutes)
- Fly from Stuttgart to Thessaloniki
(flight time: 2 hours, 25 minutes)
- Arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece
- Check into first hotel: Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel had superb service. I loved their front desk! They had complimentary breakfast (we all know how quickly food adds up so this is a big plus) and our room had a beautiful view of the water and the country side of Greece. Trent and I had so much work prior to this trip that we pulled multiple all-nighters. It was nice to finally be able to sit down and relax. We were so excited to get some rest.
Thessaloniki, Greece is beautiful but not a place I feel a need to revisit. However, I loved that it wasn’t a tourist town. We really got to experience the Greek culture and see how people live their daily lives. However, if you don’t live there, I don’t know what you would do after visiting the main tourist attractions.
Some of my favorite moments on this trip was just sitting with Trent and looking at our view. We love to travel and feel blessed to be able to do so. Sometimes it’s nice to take moments to soak it in.
I love the Greek fashion. Everyone is layered with coats, jackets, scarfs, and suspenders. If they lived in San Diego, we would title them as hipsters. They wear layers from head to toe, skinny jeans, the coolest shoes, and shades. The only thing I don’t like about the Greek people is their love for smoking. Maybe that’s stereotyping, but we could not escape it.
Very few restaurants had their menu in english. We picked this restaurant because it was cute. We asked for the best thing on their menu and it TRULY WAS THE BEST! We received chicken gyros on pita bread and it was my favorite meal of the entire trip. Seasoned chicken to perfection! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Does anyone have a favorite greek place in San Diego? I’m having separation anxiety.
One of my favorite memories was when we were literally running because we realized that we were about to miss our flight. Time passes when you are having fun. We were looking for our taxi, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. We were jogging up and down alleys completely lost and we almost ran over this cute little old man. He spoke no english, but he stood right in front of Trent and kept pointing at all his heavy equipment and at his store. We realized he needed help and we looked at our watch and looked at the man and we knew we couldn’t walk away. We spent the next ten minutes loading equipment into his store. We gave the man a hug and when we walked away we bumped into our taxi driver who just pulled up to where we were. Talk about good karma! We sped through the city (I closed my eyes the entire drive) and quickly arrived to our hotel. The front desk manager literally ran to our room, grabbed our luggage, and loaded it into the car. We then sped to the airport and we barely made our flight.
Our next journey was the one that was most anticipated. Santorini, Greece!
- Fly from SKG Thessaloniki to Athens
(Flight time: 1 hour)
- Fly from Athens to Santorini Island
(Flight time: 45 minutes)
- Check in to: DANA VILLAS Hotel
Santorini was everything I expected and more. The pictures do not do it justice. This is a place that I’m already dreaming of revisiting. However, stretch you legs because you will walk SO many steep stairs. I’m thankful for my buff hubby who had to carry our large suitcases up/down several flights. The entire island is on a mountain that seems to be entirely connected by pathways and stairs. You will walk up and down wherever you go.
Once again, we were tricked into thinking they gave away our hotel room. Our front desk lady said, “do you want the good news or the bad news? Well the bad news is we gave away your room, but the good news is, we upgraded you!” Once again, we loved the service that we received at this hotel. Our hotel room was in a cave in the mountain with a huge front patio that overlooked the ocean. It was amazing!
Trent and I are crazy animal people. If we could, we would own a wide variety. We love our two dogs, but we would gladly add to our fur family if we had the space and more time in our schedules. This adorable little cat always greeted us when we walked back to our hotel room. I told Trent not to let the cat in the room, but when I walked out of the bathroom, there she was on Trent’s lap. I Googled stray cat diseases, crossed my fingers, and then we named her and brought her food each day. She stayed with us our entire visit. We miss her, she was the cuddliest little cat.
My favorite part of Santorini (and possibly the entire trip) was when we rented quads. You can’t rent scooters without a license, but thanks to a helpful tip we learned that you could rent quads. We were able to ride around ALL over Santorini. Our visits was short, so this helped us see everything within our limited time. Trent kept laughing at me because every time he looked back at me, I had the biggest smile on my face.
- Fly from Santorini to Athens
(flight time: 45 minutes)
- Fly from Athens to Rome
(flight time: 1 hour 30 minutes)
- Check into hotel: Rome Armony Suites
Talk to Lucca and Andreas (owners) about best places to go
I cannot brag about Lucca enough from Rome Armory Suites. The rooms are VERY small, but it doesn’t matter because Lucca is so amazing and the rooms are fully updated. He was the most helpful person we encountered on this entire trip. His service is above and beyond! He will give you all the best kept secrets, places to visits, and helpful tips. We avoided long lines, received cheaper deals, and we found the best places to eat. You have to stay with Lucca if you visit Rome, you won’t regret it! You will also receive a complimentary breakfast at a cute restaurant has the best baked goods and fresh squeezed juice that we have ever tasted.
We headed to the colosseum and it’s amazing as they say. We avoided the hour+ line (thanks to Lucca) by walking a little further and entering into the Roman Forum. We received our tickets under five minutes and fast passed thousands of people.
It’s kind of heart wrenching when you get inside the colosseum. How cruel our world once was to enjoy watching people fight to the death. It definitely has a spooky feel to it. One of my all time favorite book series is, Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. Grab/download them for your long flights. It takes place during gladiator times and when Rome was in all its glory. Amazing novels!
So many times throughout the trip, Trent and I had to praise God. We are constantly in awe of His creations. That is what I love most about my husband. He has unwavering faith and seeks to live his life for God in everything that he does. We were walking around the city and we encountered a homeless woman. She was so cold, frail, and she was so bent over that we couldn’t see her face. We stopped and prayed for her and gave her the little change that we had. She didn’t speak english, but she held our hands so tightly and kissed them. It was so touching, Trent and I almost started crying. We took a few steps and we encountered another woman in the same predicament. We couldn’t walk away and we sat next to her, prayed with her, and hugged her. I wish I found time to do this more throughout my life because it’s amazing how God can use you to touch others and vice versa. Such a humbling experience and I learned that it’s the small acts that you make in other peoples lives that can make all the difference.
This was the best meal we had in Italy. Once again, we were lost (what’s new) and we were so hungry. We found this quaint restaurant and they served me the best lasagna I have EVER had in my life. I’m such a tough lasagna critic and this melted in my mouth. Sadly, it was one of the only meals we enjoyed in Italy. The bread is awful and I think this meal set the bar so high we couldn’t find anything else that compared.
The next day we ventured to the Vatican City. Once again, Lucca came through and helped us purchase tickets online. We avoided a line that would’ve taken hours to get into the city and walked straight to the front. You could spend a week alone in the Vatican City. We only had a couple of hours so we hustled through so that I could see the Sistine Chapel.
They are very strict about taking pictures, but the Canon 5d mkiii has a silent mode. I know it’s rebellious, but I had to sneak one shot! Trent scolded me when he saw it later ;)
I loved the cobble stone streets. Europe has so much character! We then headed out to Florence. We took the train, which was so fun because we got to see the green rolling hills of Tuscany. The train is awesome and if you ride with Italo, you receive free wifi! I prefer the train over an airplane any day! Once again, we really enjoyed our hotel. They had a free gym and spa. It has the hottest steam room that we have ever been in.
I really wanted to visit a garden in Italy so Trent took me to the Pitti Palace. It was beautiful and had so amazing lookout points.
Trent was always laughing at me because of how many stairs we climbed each day. My job consists of sitting on my computer and editing so our days were tiring. Now I understand why you don’t see overweight people in Europe.
We then took the train and a water taxi to Venice. Venice quickly climbed its way to the top as one of my all time favorite cities. I love water, so to be surrounded by it was the best. I also love that the entire city smells like Pirates of the Caribbean. That is my all time favorite smell, so this place was meant for me. Our hotel was one of the most romantic rooms that we stayed in. High ceilings with a beautiful chandelier. I definitely recommend it.
- Hotel: Colombina Hotel
When we got off, we stumbled upon a courtyard of birds. I’m not a fan of birds, but like I said earlier, Trent LOVES them. These were the friendliest pigeons we have ever encountered. You could put your arm out and three would fly right onto it. This was the day we lost all our snacks because Trent wanted to feed them. We regretted that later. The only thing I didn’t like was the teenage boys who were kicking the birds. I went over and yelled at them. So rude… I was ready to kick them.
When you aren’t surrounded by water, you are walking in narrow pathways. It was a serious maze when it came to finding our hotel, but we enjoy getting lost (unless we are hungry, then we fear one another).
We originally thought we were going to do a gondola ride once we arrived. However, our hotel offered private boat rides for double the time, double the tour, at half the price. If your hotel offers this, I definitely recommend it. You get to see so much more of Venice at a cheaper rate.
We then took the train to Switzerland. This was a stressful day because we missed our water taxi by one minute (we got lost) and long story short, we missed our train. The only time we encountered stress on this trip was when we fell into situations like this one. We then had to stand in long lines, we had to pay extra for new tickets, and we talked to multiple people who knew little-to-no english. One time, a lady looked at Trent and when she realized he didn’t understand Italian, she face palmed herself and said, “mama mia.” That helped lighten the mood. We said that throughout the rest of the trip whenever we were frustrated. Somehow, we managed to get back on track and we had a little layover which made us stumble upon the BEST french fries I have ever tasted. French fries are my favorite food so that is saying a lot!
If you’re planning a trip to Grindelwald, let me save you the trouble of looking for a hotel. The Belvedere is awesome! Close to the train station, restaurants, and the ski slopes. Excellent service, the best complimentary breakfast we had on the trip, along with the most delicious hot chocolate. They have an outdoor hot tub that’s heated year round and it’s so fun to sit in a jacuzzi during snowfall. I know I keep recommending all our hotels, but Trent spent months and HOURS researching them and it paid off.
Hotel: Belvedere Hotel Grindelwald
Luckily for us, the day cleared and we headed to the Swiss Alps. This is what Trent was looking forward to most on this trip. Me… not so much. I’m a terrible snowboarder, but I used to be a good skier when I was kid. They say that you pick it up right away if you have done it before so I thought, why spend the entire afternoon on my butt on a snowboard and I decided to ski. I was anxious, but I knew I couldn’t say no when Trent was so excited. We got to the top and it was the most beautiful day. We were warm, the sun was shining, and we were surrounded by fresh powder. When we get off the lift I didn’t fall and that was a plus. We went down the mountain and although I looked ridiculous, I was getting down without falling. Then, it took a turn for the worse… literally. We took the wrong turn and we realized that we were in route of an expert hill. It seems like the people in Swizterland come out of the womb with ski’s on their feet so they zoom pass you at Olympian speed. When I saw the hill and it’s steep incline, I knew I was doomed. I couldn’t get down without falling and I was so afraid. Embarrassingly enough, I started crying. Everyone was coming at us so fast and because we were on an expert hill, they were basically flying. I was so frustrated and sometimes when you are upset, your significant other seems to only complicate the situation more. Why is that? Trent was being nice and asking if he could walk me down or up the mountain. He also tried to have me hold onto him, but I was so frustrated that I refused all help. Then a lady came to my rescue and she informed me that she used to be an instructor and she asked me why on earth was I on this hill? She helped me down with basically the same services that Trent offered me prior, but we were able to laugh about it later and I enjoyed the rest of the day on the easy hills. I then retired early so that Trent could do his thing without waiting for me because he’s just a sexy pro snow boarder ;)
Here’s me. The entire day, all I could think about was… pizza, pizza, pizza. Not the food, but the trick to help you stop while skiing. But then all the pizza thinking did make me think about the food. They should rename that so that you don’t get so hungry.
After Switzerland it was off to France. Once again, we took the train and headed to Paris. I wouldn’t recommend our first hotel. Everything in Paris is expensive and the rooms are so tiny. Our shower was so small and to turn it on, you had to lift the lever straight out. However, if you have a butt of any shape and if you are taller, you will experience serval moments of turning the water completely off due to movement of any sorts. Literally, a pain in my butt. This was my least favorite hotel during our trip. However, we were in Paris and I was so enamored by the Eiffel Tower that I had little time to complain.
Hotel: Hotel Eiffel Kennedy
In high school, Trent and I made a bucket list and on it we had the dream to visit all the Disneyland’s in the world. There are currently five and after Disneyland Paris, we were able to check off our fourth Disneyland from our list.
It’s fun being able to compare all the Disneyland’s. We have been to the California Disneyland, Disney World in Florida, and Disneyland in Hong Kong. We noticed that the Disneyland in Paris is a mixture of all three. It has rides and lands from all the parks. It has the best Disney castle and the best main street. It’s so spacious and I love the french character the incorporate into it. In comparison, Disneyland California has the best Small World and Indiana Jones. Disney World has the best Tower of Terror, and Disneyland Hong Kong has the best Haunted Mansion (which is called the Mystic Manor) and Thunder Mountain.
This happened to be the coldest day for us. We did a good job staying warm for the majority of our trip, but we were freezing throughout our Disneyland visit. It was to the point of being painful! It was wet, windy, and there was still snow on the ground. We didn’t do a good job layering for this visit. Once my socks got wet, I knew I was time to leave.
I love their Alice and Wonderland section. They had a fun maze that you are able to walk through and it’s filled with the soundtrack. I loved when we had to walk in circles during the scene where the birds walk in circles on the water. This is a must do!
The next day, we had a photo shoot with, Catherine O’Hara Photography. We found her on Style Me Pretty and she was wonderful. She was like our own personal tour guide and took us to all the best touristy parts in Paris. She was quick with email and very easy to work with. Trent and I found a gown in California and we packed it for the shoot. I loved how it turned out! I can’t wait to see the photos!
That night, Trent surprised me with a new hotel. One of our all time favorite movies is, Moulin Rouge. We can literally quote it from start to finish. I love being married to a man who loves musicals as much as I do. We crashed at the Secret Hotel and we stayed in the Moulin Rouge room. It was THE BEST! If you love this movie, I highly recommend this room. Spacious, great location, romantic, and wonderful service.
Our last stop was to Amsterdam in Netherlands. It was a longer train ride and once again, Trent surprised and purchased first class tickets. We were served hot meals, drinks, wifi, and our seats were so comfortable. I love the train because it’s such a great way to see Europe! We also loved our hotel and the people in Amsterdam. Some of the nicest people that we encountered on our journey. Our hotel was close to the train station and near the heart of the city.
We had to walk through the Red Light District to get to our destination of the museums and what we saw was incredibly sad. Although iconic to many, it’s heart wrenching to see so many woman dancing practically naked behind windows and offering their bodies to strange men. They had multiple buildings that offered viewing for live sex for only two euros. It’s completely corrupt and we learned that many women who are a part of the district are slaves to it. We encountered a tour lady who wanted to give us more insight because she said so many people are narrow minded to the idea of legalized prostitution, but in my opinion, unless you experience that lifestyle yourself, you can’t be open minded toward the idea of it. I wanted to bring all those women home with us and show them that they have so much to offer besides what men pay for them.
- Paris to Amsterdam
(Train ride: 3 hours, 20 minutes)
- Hotel: Moevenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre
My husband blogged every day on our trip. If you want more insight, check it out: https://trentbrookshier.wordpress.com
Big thanks to everyone who gave us recommendations, tips, and for all the encouraging words on our picture/blog posts. This was a trip of a lifetime and I’m so thankful that I was able to spend it with my husband. It was so nice to have two weeks with one another away from the distractions of work and life. If you’re going to Europe and if you stay at any of these places or see any of these sites, please let me know. I would love to hear about your trip! Thanks for reading!