2022 in Review

2022 was definitely a year of travel! My first trip was in late Jan/Feb for almost a month in Honolulu, Oahu. Although I went by myself, I had lined up a few dates through online dating and also went to a couple of Meetup.com happy hours. It was a nice escape from the winter here in Northern Kentucky.

I left in early April for almost three months in Europe, 5 countries, 21 accommodations, with 18 day trips. It was a trip of a lifetime! When you travel solo, you tend to meet people more easily. I met a man at the beach in Mykonos, Greece and had dinner with him, a man and his family from a Facebook Europe travel group in Colmar, France, another lady from the same group in Colmar, France, and was invited to a friend’s country home in Chania, Greece.

I started in Rome for six nights with day trips to Tivoli and Orvieto. (Photo at Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy)

I traveled by train most of the time. Next I spent seven nights in Spoleto with day trips to Perugia, Assisi, and Spello. (Photo in the town of Spello)

My next destination was Florence where I spent eight nights with day trips to Siena (photo below), Lucca, and San Gimignano.

With nine nights in Paris, I was able to take day trips to Rouen, Versailles, Chartres, and Troyes (photo below).

Rouen shown below

During my five nights in Tours, France I took a shuttle bus to see some amazing Chateaus: Villandry (the gardens)…

Azay-Le-Rideau…

Cheverny…

Amboise, Chambord, Clos Luce, and Chenonceau.

I also had my hair colored/cut and had a spectacular 90 minute massage!

The seven nights I spent in Colmar, France were some of my favorite. It’s a magical place.

I took day trips to five quaint towns surrounding Colmar: Riquewihr, Kayserberg-Vignoble, Ribeauville, Equesheim, and Turckheim.

I also took a day trip from Colmar to Strasbourg, which I loved!

I began my time in Germany with five nights in Freiburg Im Breisgau (Black Forest) with day trips to a couple of area lakes. My Airbnb host let me borrow her bicycle which I rode often. I also went to a day spa with indoor/outdoor mineral pools.

Next, I made the journey through towns along the Romantic Road and spent one night each in Wurzburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbuhl (photo below), Noerdlingen and Augsburg.

The last stop was in Fuessen for two nights. The Neuschwanstein Castle is located here. The first photo was taken while on the uphill walk to the castle…

I flew from Munich to Mykonos where I spent four nights.

Then took a ferry to Santorini for three nights.

To finish my Greek Islands experience, I flew to Chania, Crete, and spent three glorious days.

Next up was Switzerland…I flew to Zurich, took the train to Lucerne and spent two nights.

I backtracked and spent three nights at Lake Como, visiting Varenna, Menaggio and Belaggio (photo below).

I spent eight additional nights in Switzerland and discovered it’s my favorite European country! The hiking is amazing!

Took the Bernina Express Scenic train to St. Moritz for two nights. (Photo taken from a hike)

Took the Glacier Express Scenic train to Zermatt for two nights. (Photo taken from a hike)

Spent four nights in Lauterbrunnen (Photo taken from a hike)

In September I took a 10 day road trip through Michigan, Traverse City, Taquamenon Falls State Park, Marquette, Munising in the Upper Peninsula, and Mackinac Island. My dear friend Sherry joined me for the UP and Mackinac. (Photo: Pictured Rocks Boat Tour)

In October, a friend and I drove to the Smoky Mountains and hiked for a couple of days.

Finally, in December I found an inexpensive ($160 including luggage) flight to St. Petersburg, Florida and rented a beautiful Airbnb for 10 days. A new girlfriend joined me for part of the trip.

The holidays are rough for me since my husband and only child passed away a few years ago. I don’t contemplate suicide like I used to. I’m getting used to living alone. On Christmas Day I had brunch with my brother and his wife and then went to a get-together at a girlfriend’s home.

A few other things to note: I had my bathrooms and kitchen remodeled and after a six month break from online dating, joined five sites and have gone on too many first dates to remember 🙂 I also joined a health club and have been working out pretty regularly.

I’m writing this on my deceased son’s birthday. We named his Justin, because he was born Just-in time for the new year. I miss him so much. I’ve been invited to go out this evening, but I’ve decided to stay home.

I’m looking forward to a trip I planned to Mexico City for the month of February. I’ve always gone to beaches when I’ve visited Mexico, so this will be a nice change.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Villa Monastero, Varenna, Lake Como

It was early morning when I left my place in Varenna to explore and my last day at Lake Como. Before leaving I was zooming around on Google Maps to see what might be of interest in Varenna and came across the Villa Monastero, a Villa and botanical garden. It’s only €10 to see both and a little less for just the gardens. It’s another magical place! I arrived when they opened and had the Villa to myself for a while!

The views were stunning!

The inside was interesting also…

p.s.  If you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.  Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Varenna to Bellagio, Lake Como

On one of the three days I stayed in Varenna at Lake Como, I took a 15 minute ferry (15 euros for all day) to Bellagio and then another 15 minutes to Menaggio. It was a full day of sightseeing. Bellagio was as beautiful as I’d heard. There were maybe a hundred steps to get up into the town and then I veered off to the other side of the lake and took another hundred steps down. I couldn’t wait to round another corner and see what delightful scene I would encounter. The weather was glorious and the sky and lake were so blue! I stopped to smell some honeysuckle as I wandered the streets.

There are lots of shops…

and outdoor cafes…

Goodbye Bellagio!

p.s.  If you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.  Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Three nights at Lake Como, Italy

After taking the Gotthard Panorama Express from Lucerne, Switzerland, I arrived in Varenna, Lake Como at 7:30pm. My lodging was located there, only a three minute walk to the train station and three minutes to the water. The next morning I did laundry in my washer, hung it to dry, purchased an all day ferry pass for €15, took a few photos in Varenna and then boarded a ferry for Bellagio (which I’ll cover tomorrow).

Varenna is charming.

The view of Varenna from one of the ferries.

Traveling solo has it’s pros and cons, like anything in life. Although this is a beautiful view, I didn’t sit around much. I was usually walking, exploring, and taking photographs.

p.s.  If you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.  Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Florence to Lucca, Italy

Lucca is only 80 minutes via train from Florence and makes a perfect place to visit as a day trip from Florence. I walked 7 miles exploring this beautiful city. I walked a portion of the 4 km completely preserved wall that surrounds the city.

More sidewalk cafes…

and Italian architecture…

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.  Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

The Boboli Gardens

While researching what I should see during my 8 night stay in Florence in April of this year, The Boboli Gardens which date back to 1766, was a place I wanted to experience. It’s filled with beautiful vistas, cool sculptures, and a peaceful vibe.

I asked this young man if I could photograph him…he looked so Italian and handsome.

The light filtering through the trees caught my eye.

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Florence to San Gimignano, Italy

To visit San Gimignano from Florence I took two short bus rides. As you can see from the photos, San Gimignano is a beautiful town with views of the tuscan hillsides. Taking photos was the main source of entertainment on my trip and my souvenirs. Time doesn’t stand still except for when you snap a photo.

I love anything whimsical.

The shops were filled with lavender, ceramics, and lots of other things that wouldn’t fit in my luggage. I did purchase some jewelry and a wooden wine bottle holder for friends and my brother.

I loved taking a break with a cappuccino or a glass of wine to rest my feet.

Why do we love seeing laundry hanging to dry? Perhaps it takes us back to simpler times.

Italian gelato is the best in the world!

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Florence to Siena, Italy

I took an 80 minute train ride from Florence to Siena on Easter Day. The Piazza del Campo, dating back to the 12th Century, was beautiful! Siena was one of my favorite cities in Italy.

The tuscan hillsides are gorgeous.

The Duomo di Siena is a masterpiece.

I love to capture people living their lives.

Sidewalk art can be so beautiful!

I asked this couple if I could take their photo looking out at the Piazza del Campo.

My love of architecture began in 2010 when I took the Architectural Foundation’s boat tour in Chicago, Illinois.

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

8 nights in Florence, Italy

It was Easter day when I checked into my Airbnb in Florence, Italy for an 8 night stay. I took a few photos after dropping my bags and boarded a train for Siena, thinking it would be less crowded. I’ll post about Siena soon. Anyway, these are a few of the photos from my time in Florence.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is absolutely gorgeous!

Occasionally, I like to use the portrait mode on my phone to blur the background.

Friendly shopkeepers…

The Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River is the most popular bridge in Florence.

This is the Saint Trinity Bridge

Florence was more crowded than some of the smaller cities I visited.

This was me before starting my day…feeling good!

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Spoleto to Magical Spello

Traveling through Italy via trains is an adventure. I purchased a 3 month global Eurail pass and used their Rail Planner app which made it much easier, but occasionally I ran into issues. Spello is only a 30 minute train ride from Spoleto (my home base for 7 nights), and on this particular morning I checked the platform as usual and boarded what I thought was the correct train, but once on board after checking with a passenger, found out it wasn’t. I ran to the door but the train was departing for Rome. The next stop before Rome was 30 minutes away. While waiting at that station for the correct train, I saw this man and asked if I could take his photograph. He asked what he could do for me and I said nothing…just a photograph and he obliged. Afterwards, I gave him some money (which I rarely do) and he pulled out the below book and gave it to me. I asked if his feet were cold, to which he shrugged.

His name is Massimo Coppo. He was the author of the book and explained that he had lived in Indiana during his High School years and now lives in Assisi. Back on the train I read some of his book and found out that he had left his profession, house and possessions and returned to the Catholic Church and is an evangelical Pastor. Sometimes taking the wrong train can lead to unexpected blessings.

Once I finally arrived to Spello, I found it to be enchanting.

As I was exploring, I found this path which led to a monastery.

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. My photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Spoleto to Assisi

Located just 30 minutes via train from Spoleto, Italy, Assisi was one of my favorite cities, along with San Gimignano, Siena, Florence, Spello, and Orvieto.

Although I walked over 400 miles in 11 weeks of traveling, I didn’t lose any weight 🙂

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Assisi.

This is where Saint Francis was born and died. It is a Papal minor basilica and one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy.

There’s something about ferris wheels.

Just beautiful!

Another gorgeous view and delicious Italian wine.

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. Photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Spoleto to Perugia

Located 70 minutes by train from Spoleto, Perugia, Italy is another beautiful Italian city. According to my Fitbit, I walked 6 miles that day.

Up and down, up and down, up and down…

Yum…

Love the pastries and the view!

Once I had returned via train to Spoleto (my home base for 7 nights) and was about 5 minutes from my place, a man made eye contact and nodded hello and I did the same back but then he started following me and I would stop and he would make eye contact again, passing me by and then he would stop and look back at me. I went into a store for 2 minutes and when I came out he was still 15 feet ahead of me standing, so finally I stopped because I was at a crossroads and my place was 15 seconds away. I stood staring him down and he seemed unsure what to do, so finally he walked in the direction that I had started to go in which was not my direction and as soon as he was 150 ft away I darted up my street and had my key ready and went in. This can happen anywhere in the world, but it doesn’t stop me from traveling solo. You just need to be aware.

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. My photos were taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

7 nights in Spoleto, Italy

The 2nd accommodation of my 11 week solo European trip was located in Spoleto, Italy, a 90 minute train ride from Rome. I stayed 7 nights and had rented an Airbnb with a kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom and bathroom. It was mid-April, so still a bit chilly. The owner had space heaters for me in the downstairs and upstairs because he didn’t have the heat on, but I was still cold inside. I went to the grocery and stocked up so I could save a little money. Of course I ate out some also.

There was a laundromat 15 minutes walk from my place, so I placed my dirty clothes in a plastic bag and lugged them over there and realized I had forgotten my laundry sheets (detergent in the form of a sheet for traveling) so I had to lug it back, pick that up and walk back again…uggg. Luckily there was someone there that could speak some English to help me decipher the foreign instructions on the machines. Later in the trip I used Google lens and then translate to figure out cooking instructions, etc.

Most every day of my trip I walked anywhere from 5-8 miles. My feet hurt 😦

Since it was April and I get an early start (usually out the door by 7:30am), there weren’t massive crowds. I stopped for a break and a glass of wine. It seems you can’t order a bad glass of wine in Europe. They’re all good.

I went on three day trips from Spoleto. I’ll be covering those next.

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022. My photos were all taken with my LG Velvet Android phone.

Day trip from Rome to Orvieto

Orvieto is located 90 minutes from Rome via train. It’s a quaint and very walkable town.

The Duomo di Orvieto is gorgeous! April is a great month to explore Italy…the crowds haven’t descended yet.

I encountered cats throughout my travels in Italy.

Around every corner there was something unexpected!

Daily life…

Don’t miss Orvieto when you travel to Italy!

p.s.  In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.

Day trip from Rome to Tivoli

Located an hour from Rome via train, Tivoli’s highlight is the stunning Villa d’Este. I toured the inside, but the gardens are where you’ll find the real beauty, fountains, walkways with towering trees, and all types of plants.

The waterfalls are gorgeous!

Italy’s architecture is amazing! Lots of hills/steps to climb and descend.

I refueled with some prosciutto and bread and of course some vino before boarding the train back to Rome.

Tivoli is a great day trip option from Roma!

p.s. In case you’ve just began reading…I planned an 11 week, 5 European country, 21 accommodations solo trip from April – June of 2022.