3 Famous Things I Didn’t See in Europe {and What I Did Instead}

3 Famous Things I Didn’t See in Europe {and What I Did Instead}

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Traveling is all about seeing stuff, right? I used to think so, but now I’m not so sure. For each city I had a punch card listing the places I had to see, but as the days passed, I realized that I wasn’t actually checking those items off.

I may not have seen everything that I was “supposed” to see, but I sure as hell got to do a lot. I’ve already written about how I said “screw the Louvre” in favor of dinner with Lionel Richie, but this was not a one-time incident. Here are the top three things I didn’t see in Europe and what I did instead.

#1 Colosseum

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You could also put the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Roman Forum onto this list. I didn’t so much as get a glimpse of them. Granted, I have been to Rome and have seen all these typical tourist spots. I didn’t not see them on purpose. In fact, I had every intention of revisiting all of these places. It just didn’t happen. And guess what? I still had the best time in Rome! Here’s what I did instead:

Roman Food Tour

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The best moments from this trip centered around food and/or booze and not on a bunch of old buildings, and the Walks of Italy Rome Food Tour reinforced that. Instead of getting the gratuitous photo op of me throwing a coin into the Trevi, I met my guide in Campo dei Fiori on the morning of my second day in Rome. Loaded with stalls of fresh food from local farmers, Campo dei Fiori offered a glimpse into Roman life.

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The first stop was a bakery where I tried white pizza, which is a typical Roman breakfast food. From there, I stopped at a stall and sampled olive oils from several Italian regions {Sicily was my favorite}, balsamic vinegar of varying ages, and homemade limoncello.

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After a little early-morning buzz from the limoncello, I left the stalls and dropped into a cheese shop. There I tried several different kinds of cheeses. Mmmm…buffalo mozzarella. I then crossed Campo dei Fiori to visit Antica Norcineria Viola, a butcher shop that’s been in the same location since 1890. Prosciutto…Pancetta…Salami…Oh My!

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As if I hadn’t had enough to eat, it was time for lunch and pizza making was on the agenda. A short and much-needed walk took me to a restaurant with a wood-fired pizza oven. Thank goodness the dough was ready and waiting; I’m not sure that my cooking skills are that advanced. After some instruction from the chef, I was rolling out my dough, ladling the red sauce, perfectly arranging my toppings, and piling on the cheese. A quick three minutes in the oven and lunch was served.

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I’d like for it to be known that although I gorged myself on plenty of pasta, Parmesan, and prosciutto while in Italy, I only had gelato once and it was on this tour. Given my affinity for all things sweet, this might be even more unbelievable than not seeing the Forum. Although stuffed, I somehow found room for some pistachio gelato. When in Rome, right?

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The final stop was at Sant’Eustachio Il Caffé, which is widely known to have the best coffee in Rome. I’d have to agree, and like a true Roman, I drank my long coffee standing up at the bar.

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And with that jolt of caffeine, my five-hour food tour was over. Armed with leftover pizza and a satisfied stomach, I made my way back to my space-aged Go with Oh apartment for a nap. After all, don’t they do siestas in Italy.

#2 Prague Castle

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I got really close to the Prague Castle. I even walked half way across the Charles Bridge, but alas, I never made it to Lesser Town. I’m not broken up about it either. It’s been around since 870 AD and I figure it’ll still be standing when I return to Prague. What did I do instead? Well, I played with dolls, of course.

Marionette Making

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I’ve already written about my marionette making experience in my post, “Three Things I’ll Miss about Prague” and I know many of you thought it was creepy, if not extremely weird.

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Initially, I wasn’t so thrilled about doing this. In fact, it was Lola who had her heart set on creating her own marionette. She sought out Obchod Pon Lampou, and with the help of the fine folks at Four Seasons Prague, we had a private workshop scheduled. I was going to make a marionette whether I liked it or not.

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Dating back to the 18th century, Czech marionette and puppet making is an art form. Representing various characters that include princesses, angels, witches, devils, kings, and clowns, they are traditionally made using plaster or hand carved from wood.

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When I arrived, I was first shown a variety of characters and told to pick one. Then I was given a piece of paper to practice sketching my doll’s face. I’m not what you’d call artistic, but something about having a million map colors and paint turned me into Georgia O’Keeffe. Once satisfied with my sketch, I was given a wooden head and told to draw in my facial features. It was much easier on flat paper; the curvature of the head proved to be a bit challenging.

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After the face was colored, I painted the torso and limbs of my doll’s body. They were a blank canvass and I could have made her look however I wanted. This was my marionette and there were no rules. Doing something that I didn’t think I could do and making something from basically nothing is probably what I enjoyed most about this process.

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The Obchod Pod Lampou workshop took all of four hours, which was a large time commitment considering I was only in Prague for three nights. Through this lesson, not only was I able to learn and find a new appreciation for the skills needed to make marionettes, but I also was able to spend time with actual people from Prague. For me, that was far better than looking at some stuffy old castle.

#3 Sagrada Familia

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If I wanted to, I probably could have hit Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia with a rock as it was that close to the balcony of my Go with Oh apartment. For the five days that I was in Barcelona I walked past the entrance of the famous church. I saw long lines of people strung a block long waiting to get inside.

Each morning I stepped onto my balcony and watched the sun rise over the Mediterranean and saw the early-morning light cast a warm glow onto Sagrada Familia. It was beautiful despite the ever-present cranes, yet I never had the urge to step foot inside. The church has been under construction for 129 years and is said to be completed in 2026. Perhaps I’ll just wait until then. So, what took the place of gawking at Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece?

Flamenco Dance Lessons

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Just as I’m not an artist, I’m not a dancer. In fact, I LOATHE dancing. Basically I look like an idiot and I’m not into doing things that make me look stupid, thus dancing is out. But, just as with the marionette making in Prague, Lola wanted to take flamenco dancing lessons. Since this trip was about experiencing new things, I played along.

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I wasn’t exactly prepared for my lesson as I didn’t have the necessary high heels or frilly dress, so I made due with my lululemon tights and Adidas. I really don’t think that the proper attire would have helped my performance. Let’s just get this out of the way. Flamenco dancing is hard!

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I’m a coordinated person. I’m athletic. I was a college basketball player for goodness sake. HOWEVER, I couldn’t even get the basic wrist roll. Don’t even get me started on the stomp and clap footwork. Add a scarf and some turns and you have a train wreck.

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Our beautiful and talented teacher knew as much English as I do Spanish, so I basically followed by example…at least I tried to follow. Moving my arms in rhythm, stomping, clapping, turning, swirling, and twisting proved to be nearly impossible. Basically, this lesson was a comedy of errors. I’ll probably never take another flamenco lesson again for the rest of my life. I have too much respect to butcher the dance again. But I would never give up the experience of learning and laughing with Lola in that Barcelona studio. I certainly wouldn’t trade it for standing in line to see an unfinished church.

There’s a laundry list of things I’d planned on seeing during my thirty days in Europe that I didn’t get around to. Like “they” say, there’s always next time. And you know what? If there’s not a next time then I’m ok with that. Experiences are much more memorable than looking at a bunch of stone and mortar. For my lifetime, I’ll certainly remember the giggles over Gaudi.

I was a guest of Walks of Italy for the Rome Food Tour, but as always, these views are my own. I was in no way swayed by the plethora of cheese, balsamic vinegar, or olive oil to write a glowing review.

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Sit back and stay awhile