I recently returned from an absolutely amazing vacation to Europe with my mom. We spent a little more than a week visiting Barcelona, Rome and Tuscany and here are my five favorite things from our trip:

1.       Taste Barcelona Walking Tour

On our first night in Barcelona we went on a food and wine walking tour of Barcelona. Without a doubt, this was one of the highlights of my trip. It was a five hour walking tour with our incredible guide Paul, who took us around the city and into restaurants and bars to introduce us to Catalan cuisine and culture. The tapas and wine were amazing and we went to places that we would have never found on our own. My personal favorites included: Tortilla de patatas o española, (Potato omelette), Pimientos de Padron (Padron peppers) and one of the best wines I’ve EVER tasted Llagrimes de Tardor. Seriously, if you’re going to Barcelona, please do yourself a favor and go on this tour: http://www.taste-barcelona.com/

2.       Sagrada Familia

The famous Sagrada Familia designed by the world renowned architect Antoni Gaudi is one of the most breathtaking sights I think you could ever see. The level of detail and intricacies are something you can’t believe until you see it up close. The church has been under construction for more than 130 years and isn’t expected to be complete until 2023 at the earliest! And hey, it must be pretty cool – 60 Minutes just did a special on it.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES3.       The Colosseum in Rome

I have to say Caesars Palace doesn’t have a thing on the real Colosseum in Rome! Seeing such a historic building that I’ve seen in pictures for years was unlike anything I could describe. We went on a VIP tour that took us onto the stage where the gladiators fought and down below into the tunnels where they had trap doors to lift “monsters” onto the stage for the gladiators to fight. Three fun facts I learned 1) The gladiators were mostly slaves and DID NOT look like Russell Crowe; in fact, were probably malnourished or severely overweight 2) There was sand on the stage floor to soak up the blood from the fights, and 3) They would lift animals, like a lion, onto the stage floor and the crowd would think that it was a magical creature and that the emperor was very powerful – because they’d never seen anything like a lion before.  Also, imagine the gladiator’s horror when it saw a lion coming after him. They didn’t have the Internet back then, you know!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES4.       Tuscany

Tuscany was something out of a postcard. Honestly, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Between the lush, green rolling hills to the old villages set up on top of them, Tuscany is stunning. And yes – the wine was pretty great too. (An added bonus – we visited the village of Montepulciano where the final scene of New Moon was filmed. So, I walked where Edward Cullen walked.)

 

5.       My mom 

Though all of those things I named were great, and there are countless others, my favorite part of my trip was being able to experience it with my mom. That is a memory that we’ll have forever. Though we sometimes drive each other crazy, she is my best friend and I couldn’t imagine having a better time with anybody else.