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Feb 24, 2015

European Superlatives: Part 1

I've had this post in drafts for so long. Since a few weeks after we touched down in Florida, in fact. While D and I sat on that last incredibly uncomfortable 10 hour plane ride from Germany to our new home in the Sunshine State, we kept our minds busy reminiscing about all the things we'd done during our 3 years in Europe. Our conversation lasted for what seemed like hours. That's how amazing our time abroad was…of course, you already knew that though. As we talked, I jotted down a list of things I wanted to tell you guys…our favorite restaurants, the worst tours we took, the destinations we can't stop daydreaming about…and then it hit me. A European Superlatives list! Just like high school, only we won't talk about you behind your back and draw mustaches on your senior pictures. We're adults now, ahem.

This will likely be a series of posts, because let's be real…we've got a lot of favorites out of the 28 countries we visited and you guys need to know about them all so you can, in turn, email me and let me plan a trip to get you there (shameless plugs are my new favorite thing, but will not make this favorites list). Moving on. Keep in mind, these picks are purely based off our own experiences. Some destinations we had just a taste, others a full 4-course meal. Even so, we enjoyed every second of coming up with these superlatives...and reliving the memories that go along with them. I guess you could call this the Team Coté's European Superlatives of 2011-2014. 

Opening lines reading...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." 

…or something like that.

    Positano, Italy
I literally can't look at this photo without drooling. Italy may not have been our favorite country, but it did prove to have some of the greatest food we ate while abroad. How could you not love pasta, wine, bread, and more pasta?? Positano, however, reigned supreme in our food memories. We only spent 4 short hours in this Amalfi Coast town, but it left such an impression on our taste buds. Fattoria La Tagliata, we still dream fondly of you.

     Doner Kebab in Istanbul, Turkey
I LOVE a good Doner Kebab. Germany was chock full of tasty doner stands and we tried a lot of them over our 3 years in Wiesbaden. So, imagine my surprise when I visit Turkey, the region of the world delicious doners originated from, try one and then HATE it. From the bread all the way to the tiny pepper on top, it tasted like…what did Veronica Cornerstone call it? A used diaper filled with Indian food. Ok, maybe not that bad. But it was no Germany doner. I was sufficiently disappointed. A handful of people have mentioned that Germany perfected the doner kebab and I'd wager to say those folks are right, because I'll never eat a doner in Turkey ever again if they all taste like this one.

Innsbruck, Austria
Imagine wandering around in the pouring rain, snapping photos and trying your darndest to enjoy your one and only day in a beautiful Austrian town. Suddenly, your soaking feet just can't walk anymore and you've had just about enough umbrella tourism for the day. A tiny cafe comes into view (angels audibly rejoice) and your sanity returns with one sip of a cocoa-heart dusted cappuccino. That's how I remember this little cup of heaven found in one of the tiniest alleyways in Innsbruck. So tiny, in fact, that I can't even remember the street nor the name of the coffee shop. My chances of finding it ever again are probably slim to none, but at least I had a that one moment of coffee bliss. 

  Free coffee on the cruise ships we sailed on.
Hey, it was free...I honestly shouldn't complain. But when you're the type of person that falls asleep at night already looking forward to the cup of coffee that awaits you come morning, then a bad cup becomes a big deal. We got smart after our second cruise and sprung for the specialty stuff at the coffee shops. So worth the extra money. And when we got a beverage package for free included with our final European cruise last May, we milked that coffee bar for all it was worth!

    Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt wins this title, but almost by default. We only went a handful of cold places during our time living in Europe. But that doesn't mean it wasn't cold as ice...it was! And the ice on the slopes proved it. D and I skied in almost white out conditions (fog and snow flying errrwhere) and I slipped an slid over patches of ice down a handful of slopes. Even with the cold and ice (and aching quads), Zermatt also takes the cake as one of the most gorgeous snow-laden destinations we ever visited...even more beautiful than our Austria ski-cation our first year abroad (sorry, Austria). If you've never been, I'd highly recommend a romantic winter getaway! TIP: stay at this hotel...the view of the Matterhorn is just too much!

  Riquewihr, France
You're probably thinking, huh? French wine country...the warmest destination? NO WAY. Well, how does 108 degrees sound? Yeah...hot as Hades! D and I spent a weekend (our 6th anniversary weekend) exploring charming Alsatian wine towns during the hottest heat wave Europe had experienced in, well, almost ever. Salzburg, Austria (for example) reached record highs of 101, unheard of for the area. We stayed in the adorable town of Riquewihr on the 3rd floor of a sweet-as-pie NON-AIR CONDITIONED hotel. We had one fan in our room and it just blew around hot, humid balls of fire. We both soaked through our clothes while touring and took multiple cold showers a day...but even so, we LOVED Riquewihr and the Alsace wine region. It was gorgeous (the vineyards had me smitten), even though we were sure we were burning alive. 

  Amsterdam, Netherlands
Not to beat a dead horse, but yes, Amsterdam was the one and only city D and I ever got totally lost in. Lost in the sense that we weren't sure we were ever going to be able to find our car again. I was only slightly freaking out (ok, a lot freaking out). It's no surprise that it's one of the cities I'd love to re-do, because our day there was just not the loveliest. Getting lost is no fun. Getting almost run over by multiple bicycles is annoying. And the Red Light District, well, you know.

   Idstein, Germany
When you're a cute German town with two main streets and the square footage the size of a modest Wal-Mart parking lot, you win the award for easiest to navigate. Idstein was a town all the expats in Wiesbaden liked to visit when they wanted a quiet day of beautiful scenery and cafe sitting. While there wasn't a whole heck of a lot to see, it was a super charming town (or village, maybe?). We enjoyed a handful of days strolling around, eating gelato and just marveling at the German quaintness. 

I had no idea it was possible (or even plausible) to fall in love with doors. Seems like a weird thing to love, but man, Europe is the continent of beautiful, photo-worthy entryways, is it not? Large, small, old, new, painted, rustic...you name it, there's a door for it...and I could not get enough! I've got dozens upon dozens of door photos from our travels abroad. So many, in fact, that I really need to make a cute photo book of them all. When I think about beautiful doorways, Germany always pops into my mind. It's where I first fell in love with them and it's where the majority of my door photos come from. This photo is currently hanging on the wall of our family room (Rothenburg swoon!). Maybe I'm partial because we lived in the country, but even so, no one can deny Germany's adorable doors. No one.

Totally different style of doors than Germany, but beautiful all the same. Colorful, worn, rustic, CHARMING. The kind of doors that make you wonder what lives could be behind them. Greece had to be mentioned as my runner up of door favorites. All of these were taken in either Santorini or Mykonos. I die over them every time.

I really feel like there is no need to elaborate on this. Belgium is and will forever be the country of amazing beer. The locals love it, the tourists love it...if you're a beer fiend, you lust over Belgian beers. I didn't love beer before living in Europe. But after multiple trips back and forth to Belgium, sitting through beer tastings and lounging around at Bruges bars, I quickly developed a fond appreciation and haven't looked back since. Our group of American friends we hung out with while we lived abroad were also smitten with Belgian brews. We used to have at home beer tastings and took "drinking trips" to Belgium on the regular. D and I even made what I like to call a "beer pilgrimage" to Westvleteren for highly coveted monk-brewed beers...and then shipped back 14 crates of various Belgian beers upon moving back to America. I guess you could say we love the stuff...just a little. ;)

We realize we might be a bit biased seeing as we lived in German wine country, but it makes no matter...German wine is delicious. From dry to the sweetest of sweet, German Riesling (among many other varieties) grabbed hold of my heart (and wine cabinet) very quickly. We loved visiting wineries around the Rhine and Mosel River regions and every wine fest we could find, we attended. I also count our day picking grapes in Nierstein as one of the highlights of my adult life (thus far). If you thought I loved Belgian beer, multiply that love by 5 and that's my affinity for German wine. We brought back over 100 bottles upon moving to Florida and I've been slowly savoring my stash ever since.

    Burano, Italy
Seeing the island of Burano in person is really something special. Hands down the most colorful floating village I've ever wandered through. The rows upon rows of brightly painted houses against the blue sky and watery canals is an Italian gem I won't soon forget. Venice is gorgeous, but when a day trip is in order, Burano is the island you've got to visit. I spent two wonderful days here snapping gobs of photos and enjoying the beautiful lace handicrafts of the locals. I'd spend another 100 days here if ever so lucky.

    Athens, Greece
A delicious gyro meal including beer at a sit down restaurant for $4. A hand-painted ornament for $5. A day filled with ancient history and gorgeous vistas...PRICELESS. Cliche, but Athens was the most affordable city we visited while abroad. I'm sure Greece's economic turmoil has much to do with it, but either way, it's a dream for any tourists wallet. I remember walking the Plaka and gasping over the souvenir and meal prices (compared to other cities on our Med cruise). I could have shopped in those stores and made a serious dent in my Christmas gifting list for minimal cost. I was very impressed with Athens, both in affordability and in overall awesomeness.

    Stockholm, Sweden
It was late when our flight arrived in Stockholm. After 10pm, if I remember correctly. After taking the train from the airport to the city center where our hotel was located (20 minute pre-booked train ride for $50...yikes), we were starving. The quickest and seemingly cheapest meal option was the McDonald's a half block down the street. Who would have thought those two double cheeseburgers, fries, and drinks would be the most expensive fast food meal we'd ever eat ($20 equivalent). We knew in that moment that our time in Stockholm was going to cost us. Thankfully, we never had to eat major meals here (thank you, cruising!), but Stockholm's reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world still made itself evident to us in our hotel stay, train ride, souvenir shopping, and cheeseburgers. Would I go back? Of course. I'll just have to work double time first. ;)

...More European superlatives to come!...


  1. Great list! I think the most expensive city we've traveled to was Zurich, which sounds like it rivals Stockholm!

  2. Love this theme! The warmest place I've been in Europe goes to Cordoba, hands down! It was over 100 degrees when I was there.

    Silly Medley: Lifestyle and Travel

  3. What a great concept for a travel list!

    I don't blame you for getting lost in Amsterdam- I lived 30 minutes from Amsterdam for 8 months and I could never get my bearings in that city. I would just follow my boyfriend around everywhere. I mean, he's always the navigator anyway, but I would have gotten lost without him in Amsterdam.

  4. Great way to summarize your thoughts on Europe. After we had lived in Provence and before we returned to our home in California we also went to Florida first, not to stay but just for a week of work on our way back. I remember the huge culture shock..... http://bit.ly/1zcYwR4
    Everywhere has something to offer if you look for it! Good luck as you begin your next adventure!

  5. Dang now I really want to go to Athens (and Greece in general) if it's that's affordable! Instead, I'll be in Rome this summer and doing what the Romans do...


  6. What a fun post! Love it! A great walk down memory lane... as well as being informative!

  7. Love this list girl!! Although I'm not quite to 28 countries yet, I may have to do this some time in the future :)

  8. Love this post! I'm so excited to visit Europe!!

  9. Great series, Casey! Can't wait to read more of it :)

    I went to Zermatt for a day a couple of years ago and though it was only November it was very, very cold. Still a breathtaking place! And I've never been fond of beer either but beer in Belgium is a must and I totally enjoyed it during the time I lived there! Same thoughts on Amsterdam but I already told you last time ;)

    1. P.s. I've no idea how that Turkish kebab tastes like but it looks like the weirdest kebab I've ever seen!

  10. What a fun series! Love it! A great way to recap on your memories :)

  11. I just became OBSESSED with this post! I've actually never been overseas, but I have a serious case of wanderlust now.

  12. We loved Zermatt so much too! Thanks for the recap.

    xx Leesa & Kate

    Travel inspiration? www.wanderlustchronicles.com.au

  13. Loved this list!! I'm heading to Germany, Austria, and Paris in May and I've loved going through your posts about those places!

  14. Love this post! Already looking forward to the next one! Although when it comes to Athens I wasn't really bowled over by it - too much graffiti for me and I felt a little unsafe, maybe the protests against the Government didn't help with that though! Loved the views though and of course the history! x

  15. Love this post! These places and pictures are fantastic. The free coffee on cruise ships is the worst. I definitely spring for the specialty stuff as well. All that talk of German wine has me so curious to try it. I am a huge fan of Riesling but I haven't tried any German ones yet. I definitely know what it is like to live in a wine region. I think I would go crazy if we ever moved away from here.

  16. Great post! Love to see great places to visit and I love colorful door!!

  17. It seems like you had such wonder adventures at your time abroad! Traveling so much is an inspiration to me, I'm looking forward to the next parts of the post series!

    Characters & Carry-ons

  18. I love posts with so many pictures and destinations. Wish you many more.

  19. Now, to be honest, the only city on this list I've visited was Amsterdam, but we loved it there. I think we did get lost once, but then we also mostly used the trains and taxis. :)

  20. Whaaaat? Worst doner is in Turkey? :( So sad, I also LOVED the doner in Germany. And Switzerland is pretty darn expensive, too!! But I agree Greece makes my wallet happy. ;) This is such a fun post! I can't wait until part 2. :)

  21. How did i miss this post?! What a fun way to re-cap your European Adventures!! You guys planning on travelling anywhere else this year?

  22. Italian food in Italy sounds amazing! Coffee needs to be good or my morning if never a good one.


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