After spending nearly two weeks in Vietnam, we felt lost in time. We spent our days rotating between winding around the maze-like cacophony in the old town of Hanoi and trekking the countryside. We didn't watch any tv or interact with technology much beyond our cameras, and we ate local street foods from simple roadside stalls and restaurants with no electricity or modern facilities. Juxtaposed with our Vietnam adventure which cut out many of the comforts of western culture, our journey to the ultra-modern city of Tokyo was like a trip back to the future.
While on honeymoon in Vietnam, we used Hanoi as a home base and took multi-day side trips to break up crowded city hustle. We returned to Hanoi after our trekking trip to Sapa and spent a few more days sampling street foods, checking in on our custom clothing at the silk tailor and exploring the scene. For our next adventure within Vietnam, we headed south for a two-day trip to the Nihn Binh province.
After spending a couple of days getting settled in Hanoi, we took a respite from the constant honking, traffic and crowds in the city by escaping to Lao Cai, which is situated in the northern countryside near the border with China. To reach this part of Vietnam, we booked a 7-hour sleeper train that embarked at 11pm. We both love trains (especially compared to flights), and were excited to check out the amenities in our private sleeper cabin. The overnight journey was loud and so bumpy that we thought we might skip off the rails at times. At each stop, the train suddenly halted with no warning. Yet we loved every second of it.
For our "honeymoon" trip around the world, we chose Vietnam. We've visited several Asian countries, but the way other travelers describe their experiences in Vietnam seemed special. We'd heard great things about the nature, food, shopping, culture and people in Vietnam, particularly in the north. From Luxembourg, our honeymoon trip included, Vietnam, Tokyo, Seattle and London, wrapping 17,000 air miles around the globe. To begin, we headed out before dawn on a bus from Luxembourg to Frankfurt, and after a very comfortable 10 hour premium economy flight on Vietnam Airlines, we woke up in Hanoi.
We headed to the Wein HBF train station at 6:30 am for the next leg of our trip, sad to leave immaculate, stately Vienna but excited to check out Prague, which had been on our list for years. We hopped on our first class train to Praha and spent the next 3 hours listening to podcasts, snacking on dried mango and granola, staring out at the rolling countryside and falling in and out of sleep. Immediately upon arriving in Prague, we knew we would love it. Where Vienna was sophisticated and palacial, Prague was gritty and mysterious. Even with the sunny day, the dark-toned architecture with jutting spires gave an ominous feel.
So far this fall we've stayed in Luxembourg, beating our previous record for weekends at home by at least 3 weeks. To escape the wet and dreary climate in Lux, we decided to knock a few major cities off our Euro travel checklist by exploring Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic.
For our final trip of the summer, we spent 5 days in the Ionian Islands of Greece. We visited the Greek Isles last September as well because the mobs of tourist recede, the waters are still warm and the sun shines everyday. This year, we chose the island of Paxos, known for its vivid seas, rustic landscapes and more secluded beaches than many of the more well-known islands in the area.
As the summer started to wind down, we decided to head to Puglia, a region in southern Italy located on the "heel of the boot." We learned about Puglia from some Italians living in Luxembourg, and they described it as a rugged, natural area home to miles of olive groves, rustic cooking, and grottoes lined with turquoise water, all undiscovered by the international tourism community. We flew from Frankfurt Hahn airport on a Thursday morning and landed in Bari just after noon. Then we traversed 800 miles by car as we explored Matera, Monopoli, Ostuni, Alberobello, Otranto and more.
For our next Euro summer destination, we chose to return to Dubrovnik, Croatia. We first visited for just a day while on a sailing trip five years ago, and it has always been a goal to go back to the sparkling sapphire waters and fortified Old Town along the Adriatic coast. During our first trip, Dave and Erin's brother Mason accomplished a personal record 50 foot cliff jump, and it was Dave's goal for the trip to set a new PR.
One of our favorite movies is Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief", which features Grace Kelly and Cary Grant traveling through the French Riviera. Since we first watched it together in a Cleveland basement at least 10 years ago, it was always one of our goals to take in the glamour, old-Hollywood history and beautiful scenery of the Cote d'Azur in the south of France. Now that we are based in Lux, it is only an hour flight into the heart of Nice. We woke up at dawn, drove to a local airport in Strasbourg, jetted over the snow-capped Alps and landed by lunchtime.