We found flights last fall for less than $1300 round trip for both of us (including taxes and insurance) and booked them on a whim.
I give (rightfully) all credit to Jay for everything about this trip. He booked the tickets, calmed my frugal mind while we worked out a functional budget, religiously researched the best food establishments in every area, worshipped Rick Steve's like the quirky awkward travel-idol he is, and made this time together a priority. (Go Jay!) All I did was pick up some of his chores while he planned (a much better trade in my opinion- travel that requires too much thought is not my idea of fun), and booked most of our accommodations through Airbnb.
Day 1 and 2: Delft, Netherlands YOU GUYS. Delft is a literal dream. Our host (Hey, Hessel!) said they call it little Amsterdam, and it has ALL the charm without the drugs and penis shaped everything (he may have also mentioned the lack of hordes of Asian tourists). I would take it over Amsterdam any day. Everyone rides bikes, it's clean and magical and the birthplace of Delftware (the beautiful hand painted blue and white porcelain) and has canals running through the city and floor to ceiling windows in basically every home and shop. (run on sentences are my weakness...)
Day 3: Fly to Nice, France. I'm going to be honest-uhh we didn't love Nice. Part of that is because we don't love big cities in general, but part of that was another two-fold issue. We had terrible weather while we were there. Nice is a beach town, and it was plain freezing. I think warm weather would cover a lot of ill in that regard. And second, it was dirty. Ugh, I can't stand the grossness of big cities. We literally encountered HUMAN FECES on the sidewalk outside the train station. I could see how it could be charming on the beach in the summer, but that didn't happen to be our experience.
Day 4: Train to Cinque Terre Italy.
Day 5, 6: I can't say enough good things about Cinque Terre. If you are a museum lover/city dweller, it may not be your cup of tea. It's quiet and gorgeous and right on the Mediterranean. Not a ton to do outside of hiking and eating, but those are kind of my favorite things.... so.
Day 7: Train to Florence
Day 8, 9,10: There is so much to see in Florence that even with 4 solid days you couldn't pack everything in. I will say at some point you just have to walk to the south side of the Arno River where it's a little less crowded. There's an unbelievable rose garden and cemetery and old churches with organists playing and old men making sure you have your shoulders and knees covered.
Day 10: Train to Rome, Sightsee.
Day 11: Rome. We only spent one full day in Rome because of our aforementioned aversion to crowds and cities, plus it's just pretty sketchy. Regardless, I'm glad we did it. There's just SO much to see. The Roman Forum was my favorite.
Day 12: Fly to Cologne, Germany. Rent a car, stay in quaint neighborhood in Waldesch.
Day 13, 14, 15: Explore the tiny, magical towns on the Rhine. Castles, tiny German grandmas making your Schnitzel, and a day to drive to/tour Rothenburg which was magical and 100% worth it.
Day 16: Train to Amsterdam, sightsee/try to avoid all things red light district (impossible. there are nasty trinkets and weed in the FLOWER MARKET- I just wanted tulips and waffles!), get SO EXCITED TO SEE YOUR BABY.
Day 17: Fly home and SEE YOUR BABYYYYYY!
There is SO much to say and share about each place and the things we loved, so for the sake of not making this the longest post in history, I'll break them up individually and link them back here when I'm done in the next few days!
For now, here's a series I call "Jay in Europe". While getting the settings just right on my camera I would just take pictures of Jay (without his knowledge most of the time), and I kind of love them all.