Guide to Praiano, Italy
Praiano is a beautiful fishing village on the Amalfi coast, situated between the towns of Positano and Amalfi. I stayed here for about a week and I absolutely loved it. It’s a picturesque oasis that offers everything the other more popular towns do, but is less crowded and a bit more laid back. My family and I rented a beautiful villa on the highest point of the coast, and woke up every morning to stunning views, were able to get reservations very easily and didn’t have to fight for a spot on the beach. Here are some tips and recommendations!
Hit the gorgeous beaches
I look forward to swimming in the sparkling blue waters of the mediterranean every year. The way the water feels on your skin, like silk, is enough to take years of stress off your life. One of the highlights was when I was taking a dip, saw a restaurant in the distance and swam about 15 minutes to get to it. I climbed the ladder, walked up the pathway and as I stood there soaking wet in my bathing suit, I made a reservation with the 4 foot 8 inch Italian owner named Pasqualina! Only in Europe! The beach I went to every day was called Marina di Praia. The cost of an umbrella and 2 lounge chairs is about $25 euro and it’s best to get there by 10/10:30 to secure a good spot. The beaches are rocky (there’s no sand) and the sun is very strong so pack that sunblock!
Take day/night trips
The best part of staying in Praiano is that the other more bustling towns (Positano and Amalfi) are only about a 15 minute bus ride away. (Sorrento is closer to 50 mins) You can get your fix of the more lively, loud and upbeat areas, and then head back into the peaceful village of Praiano to turn in for the night and get away from the overly saturated tourist spots.
Bus tickets to Positano and Amalfi are less than 2 euro a person each way and you can buy them at the tabaccherie “cigar shops”, coffee shops or newspaper stands. Sometimes the buses are crowded and a cab ride costs about 30 euro. I drove to Sorrento and it was worth it. The markets on the winding narrow streets are beautiful!
You can also take a private boat to Capri from Praiano for 80 euro a person. The boat takes you to Capri, tours the grottos and stops in the glorious blue grotto where you can jump in. It’s a full day event from about 8am until the boat drops you back off in Praiano at 5pm. Tickets available at Marina di Praia
Eat your heart out until it turns into a ball of spaghetti!
I say this with such conviction: The food you will eat on the coast of Italy will be some of the best in your LIFE. The simplicity of dishes like spaghetti con pomodoro e basilico (tomatoes and basil) taste like a masterpiece as the ripe and vibrant red tomatoes burst in your mouth, accompanied by the perfect bite of al dente pasta topped with the aromatic touch of basil. I ate pasta every day for 6 days and the pasta was ALWAYS cooked perfectly. And the seafood? I implore you to get it in any way you like: Clams and mussels atop fresh housemade pasta doused in olive oil, garlic and fresh parsley, or as a filet in “acqua pazza" (white fish cooked in a tomato broth). Or perhaps a cold polpo salad (octopus). Imagine eating this impeccable food while enjoying a glass of wine and looking out onto the blue mediterranean stretching for miles and miles. You have to pause, take it in and savor it. These are the moments I truly live for.
Restaurant recommendations in Praiano
One of the most beautiful views you could ask while dining for lunch or dinner. The spaghetti con pomodoro is superb!
La Dolce Vista
Come for dinner, and enjoy the ambiance of the white terrace with an evening view of the nearby towns all lit up. The staff was incredibly attentive and so so sweet! And the creamy chocolate gelato with pieces of chocolate inside made me want to kiss the waiter! Scusami!
Trattoria San Gennaro
This place is a gem! Casual outdoor seating with a gorgeous view of the San Gennaro church. The portions are HUGE (unlike the usual Italian serving) but the food does not suffer. All the pasta I tried was delicious and my branzino was so fresh. The bruschetta will knock your socks off and the prices are ridiculously low for such wonderful food. If you like anchovies they have an anchovy pie that was so good, my body builder brother who’s always dieting ate TWO of them.
Il Pirata (On Marina di Praia beach)
This is the restaurant I swam up to to make reservations. Work up an appetite with a swim and make your way over to this charming seaside restaurant. You cannot beat the view of the glistening blue water as you dine on fresh octopus and calamari dishes. Enjoy an aperol spritz as you wait for your entree and know that life in that moment is perfect!
Very casual pizza spot that I recommend for take out. The pizza is great and the arancini (rice balls) are crunchy and chock full of mozzerella! Everything on the menu including the gnocchi is worth it if you’re dining in.
Bar del sole
For café and GELATO!
I dined in Positano for two nights and would recommend both these restaurants right by Positano’s main beach.
Many tourists but the food is phenomenal. The fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, mozzerella and ham was enough to make want to go back.
Every seafood dish here was outstanding. When dining here or at Tre Sorelle, local musicians come around playing fun music adding to the ambiance. Don’t forget to tip them!
There are so many reasons to love this city. It’s like a little slice of Europe with its beautiful cobble stone streets and French speaking locals. It’s clean and very safe making it ones of my top cities for solo travel. It’s also perfect for a weekend getaway because it’s small enough where you aren’t overwhelmed by things to do, but has many neighborhoods to explore. Interested? Well read on eh?!
No matter what time of year, Montreal seems to have some sort of festival going on. These Canadians know how to enjoy life. They have their famous Jazz festival, the Grand Prix, Osheaga (3 day outdoor concert), Sugar shack (where you eat all things drowning in pure maple syrup, listen to folk music and sleigh ride) and endless food festivals! As serendipity would have it, my last trip coincided with a POUTINE FESTIVAL. Poutine with lobster, truffle mac and cheese, wagyu beef, hundreds of different variations! (And it was free entry!) I also had an absolute ball at Osheaga. Dancing to my favorite artist while sipping from a coconut filled with rum and being sprayed by a fountain on a 98 degree day? What more could I seriously ask for!?
Bike ride everywhere
This is one of the most biker friendly cities I’ve been too. There are bike lanes almost everywhere you want to go and drivers are very respectful. I always take advantage of traveling the city by bike where I can get a workout in and let the breeze whip through my hair as I take in all the sights. It’s incredibly peaceful for me and just really fun. You can rent a bixi bike (like citi bike) for $5.00 a day and there are stations all over for you to return it.
Visit the old port
This is the gorgeous part of Montreal by the water with winding cobble stone streets. There are amazing restaurants, food trucks and ice cream spots, plenty of shopping to do, fireworks certain times of the year, food festivals, zip lines, a fun maze game to go through and water paddling, where you sit and peddle around. It does have a lot of tourists but locals also go there to enjoy everything the old port has to offer.
The food here is exquisite! Throw your calorie calculator out the window and enjoy yourself!
Queues de Castor
Pure Maple Syrup
(For purchase anywhere!)
GREATEST PANINIS EVER
Olive and Gourmando
Some fabulous restaurants:
Aux Vivres -Great vegan
Chez Ma Grosse Truie Cherie
Aloha Espresso bar
Visit the bustling Marché Jean-Talon
I have never seen such a perfectly crafted farmer’s market. The vendors line up their fresh multi colored produce and you can sample a juicy peach or piece of cheese as you shop. Who doesn’t love free samples? Also be sure to visit the delectable chocolatier next door, Chocolats Privilége!
Enjoy the beautiful public parks
Whether you’re riding your bike, reading or just relaxing with your thoughts, these lush green parks are perfect for taking a time out. I loved Maisonneuve park.
Explore the churches
Check out the stunning Notre Dame basilica for its gorgeous Gothic architecture or climb the top of St. Joseph’s Oratory for a beautiful view of the city.
Thanks for hanging with this Starving Actress!
For some reason Paris was never on my bucket list. I’m not sure if it was because the French have a snooty reputation, or maybe because I always pictured Parisian women as high fashion models, dressed to kill to go grocery shopping and that idea just exhausted me. For a hopeless romantic like me, it always struck me strange that I never had much of an interest in the city of lights.
I wanted to take my yearly solo trip somewhere new, and I saw that direct flights to Paris were only $400.00. Checking my bank account, I knew it would be stupid to pass this deal up. And thank God I didn’t. Because what ensued shortly after were 9 days of complete bliss, relaxation, discovery and new found friendships. I fell in love with Paris. It was like an 80s rom com when the girl realizes her best friend was the love of her life the whole time. I would come to fall deeply in love with a place I never knew I wanted to venture to.
I would wake up every morning with no clear plan. I just wanted to walk around and see where the day would take me. Here’s a break down of my adventures and what I recommend!
Climb the 422 steps to the top of Notre Dame (About 12 Euros)
This is one of the oldest and most prestigious churches in France. At 800 years old it is absolutely stunning with it’s Gothic architecture, stained glass windows, and detailed carvings and sculptures.
Interesting fact: Every first Friday of the month at 3pm, Jesus’ crown of thorns is put on display. (Insane! )
The 422 stairs lead to the very top of the church where you can overlook the entire city, and even spot the Eiffel tower. You may have to stop and catch your breath a few times, even if you’re in good shape. I did this fresh off my transatlantic flight with no sleep so if I can survive it you can too! The view is glorious and so worth it, ESPECIALLY at sunset.
The line to climb the stairs is usually very long, so hit up the kiosk right by the church, get a ticket, scope out the inside of the church (free) and come back at your designated time to climb.
Visit A la Croix Patisserie
This beautiful coffee shop is situated right across from Notre Dame on 11 Quai de Montebello. My air bnb was around the corner so I stumbled into it on my very first day. What a wonderful place to feast your eyes on all the beautiful and carefully crafted pastries! It was hard not to smush my entire face against the glass case, and gaze in awe at all the brightly colored works of art. I wanted them all every day. And did. The word ‘calorie’ completely vanished form my brain and I lost myself in a new creation each morning. Lemon tart? Dark chocolate mousse? Croissant? Macaron? YES. YES. YES. GOD YES. On my last day I got to see the master himself, whisk in hand, whipping something in a bowl and I felt like I was watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel. Such a thrill!
When you leave, head across the street and peruse the stands lining the river (La Seine- pronounced Sen). They sell books and art for cheap prices!
Treat yourself to a Berthillon Ice cream and take a stroll
Is there anything more enjoyable than getting a cold ice cream on a hot day, and walking around one of the most charming cities in the world? The original Berthillion brick and mortar is over half a century old, located on 29-31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile - 75004 Paris.
This ice cream is so knock your socks off heavenly that there are now pop ups all over the city. The family run business keeps their recipes a secret, but we do know that their ice cream and sorbets are made using only natural ingredients with no added sugars or preservatives. Grab an ice cream and walk along La Seine, across bridges, through quiet streets and listen to the music of the city. Literally. There are passionate musicians everywhere and at any turn you can hear an accordion solo or a quartet playing with fervor. Every step I took felt like I was sucked into a French film as music accompanied me wherever I walked. And that ice cream. Took the experience next level.
Picnic at the Eiffel Tower
Seeing the Eiffel Tower up close was a bit emotional for me! It’s beautiful and historic and located on the Champ de Mars, a public green park. Pack some cheese, meats, a baguette and of course a bottle of Rose, and relax in front of one of the most iconic monuments in the world.
Montmartre, located on a hill, is a more quiet and quaint section of Paris complete with winding cobblestone streets and adorable shops. Pop in and out of stores, climb the steps to see the famous basilica Sacre-Couer with an overview of the entire city, and enjoy some AMAZING food. I came across Pain Pain, a lovely blue painted patisserie and had the BEST eclair of my life. I wanted to cry in the middle of the street from joy. It was a pillowy cream filled chocolate covered delight. I could have eaten ten and I will truly never forget that moment.
See a show at the Moulin Rouge
Dress up in your finest, and head to the cabaret. The theater itself is nothing like I’ve ever seen, decadent, drenched in red lights, high ceilings, streaming curtains, and small table tops with glowing lamps and candles. Order a bottle of champagne and enjoy the show!
Take a boat cruise during the day and in the evening (14 Euro per ride)
The one hour boat ride takes you up and down the Seine and right up close and personal with the Eiffel Tower. I’m so glad I took this tour on my first day because it gave me a general idea of where everything was located, which made it a lot easier when exploring the city by foot. When you exit the boat, climb the nearby stairs and lock your love for eternity with a lock on the love bridge. (The original love bridge, located elsewhere, collapsed under the weight of all locks) I also recommend taking the cruise at night after dark. The Eiffel Tower lit up at night is even more beautiful. You can catch a glimpse of it sparkling every hour on the hour starting at 9pm. Magnifique!
Eat macarons from the MASTER Pierre Herme'
You haven't had a macaron until you've had them from Pierre Herme'. This is no exaggeration and a definite must. Forget Laduree. The freshness, texture and exotic flavors made here take the macaron experience to new heights. There are a ton of flavors such as the familiar chocolat and caramel, but he also created gems like hazelnut oil and green asparagus, and white miso with lemon. You will never look at a macaron the same again I promise!
Visit La Marais and get falafel!
Walk around this historic Jewish quarter and feast on some damn good falafel at L'as Du Fallafel. There's competitors all around but this is the best and worth the long line. If you can manage to not scarf the whole thing down immediately, walk to the nearby square, Place des Vogues, and enjoy it in the beautiful park with a bottle of Rose. Another one of those moments where everything is perfection.
Take a private bike tour with April in Paris!
This tour was magical! April took me around the entire city of Paris by bike and I got to live out all of my Parisian dreams! She showed me a lot of hidden gems I would have missed and she's extremely knowledgeable and passionate about her city. Not only did I get the greatest views on two wheels, but I now know that Thomas Edison installed the first street lights in Paris, and that Napolean's penis is now in New Jersey.
Buy a book in Shakepeare and Co and relax in Jardin du Luxembourg
When I walked into the shop, I asked if they had any Hemingway. The salesman pointed me to the correct section, I picked up a book and saw that it was 187 euro. Juuuust a tad out of my price range. He then told me I was in the antique bookstore. (A small space with really old copies of classic books!) The newer shop was next door and there I grabbed my copy of “Farewell to Arms” at a much more reasonable price of 20 euros. I also bought a book on the French revolution and made my way down Boulevard Saint-Michel towards the Luxembourg gardens. Jardin du Luxembourg is a gorgeous green park, with tree lined promenades all surrounding the biggest fountain I have ever seen. I sat at the edge of the fountain, listening to the relaxing flow of the streaming water and reading my book as the breeze blew through my hair. I stayed for hours reading, writing, and enjoying the vibrant flowers and greenery. It's the perfect place to channel your inner Golden Age author.
Visit the famous sites
Hit the Louvre and take your most famous selfie with the Mona Lisa. (Buy tickets with a designated time) After viewing the 38,000 pieces of art, relax in the nearby Jardin du Tuileries where you can grab a seat by the fountain, put your feet up and take in the sun. If you are a history buff don’t miss Versailles, the sumptuous palace of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Indulge like the olden days with macarons and a delicious lunch in the gorgeous gardens. You can bring food or enjoy the outdoor cafe. (Make SURE you buy your ticket for Versailles with a specific time on it, cost about 7 euros more but it’s the difference between walking right in and a 2 hour wait!) There are around 130 museums in Paris so do your research and pick depending on what you are interested in!
My favorite restaurants!
I know there are tons of amazing places to eat, but these are the ones I had the pleasure of dining in and I have gone back multiple times!
1. Le Potager du Pere Thierry
16 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris, France
2. La Robe et le Palais
13 Rue des Lavandières Sainte-Opportune, 75001 Paris,
3. Le Reminet
3 course lunch special for 17 euros because the chefs are students in training. What a deal!
3 Rue des Grands Degrés, 75005 Paris, France
4. Le Zinc d'Honore'
36 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
It's impossible to capture the magic of Paris, you just have to go see for yourself! Sit on the terrace with a glass of wine and people watch, eat escargot and foie gras! Take it all in. And don't be afraid to venture there alone like I did. I am so glad I took a chance on this amazing city. Now put on your beret and get ready for a Parisian adventure! Au revoir!
I only had one full day and night in Amsterdam but it was enough to know that I would have to come back someday. It was like a great first date. You kinda fall fast. There was so much to do but the vibe of the city is so relaxed that I didn’t feel like a stressed out tourist choking on my camera strap as I ran around. Instead, it felt like a great adventure, one experience more exciting than the next. Of course I wish I could have done more, and I definitely will when I go back. Here is a list of the awesome things I recommend with 24 hours in Amsterdam.
Have breakfast outside along the canals
Amsterdam’s canals are over 400 years old and run through the entire city. They are lined with brightly colored flowers, and parked bicycles. The weather in August was sunny and warm and having a cup of coffee alongside these picturesque canals felt like a fairy tale.
Take a boat ride
There’s a lot of ways you can get around the city. You can walk, bike (which I would not recommend as the locals ride their bikes like they are driving cars. Fast and furious. Do not get in their way!) There are also trams and taxis, but getting to see the city from the vantage point of the canals is a great experience. You glide gently, looking up to see the colorful buildings on either side and you get a guided history from your driver. I did a hop on hop off tour which is a great way to see the different sites in a timely manner without having to navigate a foreign city!
Visit the Anne Frank House
Take a self guided tour with an audio device and learn about the history of the Frank family during WWII. You will walk through the apartment behind a bookcase where the family hid for 2 years. It’s a surreal experience.
Do the Heineken Experience
You most definitely don’t need to be a beer drinker to appreciate the Heineken brewery. I actually hate beer but this place is a masterpiece. Learn about the history of Heineken, how it’s brewed, sing karaoke, dance, play video games, put your name on a bottle, the list goes on. Get two free Heinekens with your ticket purchase and enjoy them on the rooftop overlooking the city with a burger fresh off the grill.
Take a picture in front of the Iamsterdam sign and eat a stroop waffle!
There are two or three signs around the city and they are usually always crowded, but it’s a fun tourist picture to take. As for stroopwafels, you can find them in most stores that sell things like candy and cigarettes. Enjoy the chewy caramel cookie as you take a stroll to your next attraction.
Check out a Coffeeshop
Here, it’s legal to purchase and smoke Marijuana like a pack of cigarettes. It was definitely a culture shock to see it sold and enjoyed out on the streets. You don’t have to buy anything but you can take a look inside for your own curiosity!
Walk through the Red Light District
Speaking of culture shock, I was not mentally prepared for this part of town. Rows and rows of store front windows are lined with red florescent lights and standing there are young attractive women. They call out to people passing by and offer them “services.” Someone approaches, there's an exchange, they walk in and a curtain is yanked over to cover up the window. There’s also theaters doing live shows and a lot of sex shops. The area was very lively and fun to walk around. It felt like a really kinky version of Times Square.
Finish the Amsterdam game strong with a late night waffle
After an entire day of sightseeing, sit back relax and treat yourself to a decadent waffle.
Switzerland and France
My sister was lucky enough to get a job transfer to Geneva, Switzerland for a year, and I was lucky enough to have her as my sister. Free room! I booked a flight for less than $550 (thank you Kayak) and was off for another adventure. Switzerland was never really on my radar for places to go, especially because I don’t ski. But I ended up being quite delighted by all the lovely things it had to offer. France borders Switzerland so in mere minutes you can be in another country. Two countries in seven minutes. Really saves you on that airfare. Here are 7 awesome things we did on this trip!
1. Ate fondue - Now I’m going to warn you, when you walk into a restaurant that serves cheese fondue, it smells like an old sock; with a foot in it. If you can withstand that in the first ten minutes while waiting for your table, you will be happy you did. The fondue is rich, creamy, salty and not to mention a hell of a lot of fun to play with. Get your sticks ready!
2. Went to Gruyere - More cheese! I had no idea Gruyere cheese came from Switzerland. (Swiss cheese!!) The town of Gruyere is a small medieval village set against the backdrop of stunning green terrain, surrounded by snow capped mountains. It looks like the scene from Beauty and the Beast where Belle sings, “There must be more than this provincial life!” Except you don’t need more. There’s cheese. And a castle. They also have a spectacular local dish called rosti. Which is basically a giant hashbrown that you can top in a variety of ways!
3. Walked along the promenade in Vevey- On a beautiful day, you can walk along the promenade on Lake Geneva with a homemade crepe or nutella waffle, breathe in the fresh air and get a beautiful view of the mountains. You can also bear witness to the gigantic fork sticking out of the Lake. You can take funny pictures likeeee pretending to impale your sister with it! Oh siblings!
4. Passed through Annecy and Lyon (Both in France)- In the old town (vielle ville) of Annecy, in the winding cobblestone streets, local vendors were selling meats, cheeses, flowers, chocolates and other goodies. When I went to purchase the lavender honey, I realized I only had Swiss Francs, (French use Euro) and I had about three minutes to find an ATM in this little village before the shop closed. I ran along the canal yelling, “ATM! BANCOMAT!?!” to any human who would point me in the right direction. I made it back just in time to purchase the sweet treat, and it was worth it. Lyon was more of a metropolitan city with big open streets and brand name stores. I had one of the best meals of my life at a beautiful Victorian looking restaurant. Escargot in a puff pastry with parsley butter, truffle foie gras ravioli, white wine and a chocolate crepe. Bon Apetit!
5. Went to the ski village of Chamonix, France (and didn’t ski)- However, we did we ride a cable car 12,604 ft to the top of Mount Blanc ($60 euros) and took a picture on a see through ledge. Whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK DOWN! Afterwards, while a kickass live band from Dublin was rockin' out with their banjos and guitars, we got some vin chaud (delicious hot spiced wine) and walked around the village checking out all the cute shops. I also ate frog legs for the first time. No thank you!
6. Ate chocolate- I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for a week. In both Switzerland and France you can’t walk 10 feet without stumbling across the intoxicating smell of freshly churned chocolate. Chocolatiere’s are like ATMS over there. The windows are decorated with rows and rows of stacked blocks of chocolate in every variety. Nuts, fruits, milk, dark. Is there any better way to window shop? I think not!
7. Made a swiss army knife from scratch- At the store, Victorianox, I got to assemble an authentic swiss army knife on a sixty year old machine. You follow a chart, and place each individual piece in the correct area. Then you step on a pedal that crunches down and presses everything together. I felt like I was building a weapon in WWII. It was pretty badass. You can also get it engraved, makes a great gift!