INSTAGRAMMABLE CINQUE TERRE

My Instagrammable travel series is where I dive straight to the point and list out the most photogenic & memorable spots in each city I visit.

CINQUE TERRE

Enchanting, magical, the ultimate photogenic Italian dream. I don’t know about you, but I have been dreaming to see these picturesque villages all my life! These colorful coastal backdrops are all over social media, but did you know they’re actually located in different towns? 

Cinque Terre consists of 5 coastal villages: Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore, & Vernazza. All 5 villages are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is a train that runs from La Spezia that can drop you off in each town or if you like a challenge, you can spend the day hiking the trail that connects you to all 5 of them. Although each town has similarities, they have personalities of its own that make them stand out. I’ve listed them from the southernmost town to the northernmost town.

RIOMAGGIORE

Riomaggiore has a cascade of multi colored houses right on the mediteranean sea. We chose to stay in this town because of an INSANE airbnb location we discovered. Book this AIRBNB NOW. There’s no other place to stay- nothing beats it and the pictures don’t do it justice!! The airbnb is a 5 minute walk from the train station, located smack-dab on the port, yet with just enough privacy away from the crowds.

Another location to shoot is down by the rock waves. You can also capture an epic view from the fisherman’s port by walking along some rocks located at the bottom. Rocks do get slippery and waves can get intense so please go with caution. 

MANAROLA

Come to this town just so you can dine at Nessun Dorma. Sip on some yummy Aperol Spritz with a view of the picturesque cliffside homes. Make a reservation ahead of time and request for a spot with a view. Another photo spot here is down by the stone pier. Cross the ropes and wander onto the rocks. Please be careful if the tides are high!

Nessun Dorma Address: Localita Punta Bonfiglio, 19017, 19017 Manarola SP, Italy

CORNIGLIA

One of the more quiet villages. The only town that cannot be accessed from the sea because it’s elevated. From the train station, you will have to take 377 steps up a steep stairway just to get to the center of the town… To be completely honest, this town does not really stand out compared to the rest because it’s one of the oldest and there’s not much development… If you’re short on time, I’d suggest skipping this town.

VERNAZZA

This town is known to be the most photographed village out of all of them. This is the spot where you see the classic #postcardgoals backdrop all over IG. If you are stopping by for a quick day trip to Cinque Terre and have to choose, I would say to choose this instagrammable spot over all the other ones! Take the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso, follow the signs, and within 5-10 minutes into the hike, you’ll see a wired fence to your left with this epic view. Please be safe and do not get too close to the edge.

Follow the blue dots! This is the path we took from the train station to the entrance of the hike! That sharp right off the main road is when you want to start timing the hike to get to the specific spot.

MONTEROSSO

It is the largest town out of the 5 and the only one with a sandy beach where you can lounge. When you’re here, make sure to visit the 14th century Church of San Giovanni Battista. The black and white striped church contrast is stunning and the gothic architecture makes it look like an ancient chic Sephora.

Church of San Giovanni Battista Address: Via Roma, 12, 19016 Monterosso al Mare SP, Italy

I hope this Cinque Terre guide will help shorten your planning process and that you’re able to find these instagrammable spots the next time you visit. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, please leave a comment down below!

Xoxo,

Soph

INSTAGRAMMABLE SEDONA

I dive straight to the point and list out all of my top instagrammable spots in each city I visit. I know, I know, it sounds so cliche/vain and I’m well aware that traveling is NOT about getting the most perfect shots or creating a false illusion on social media, but I truly enjoy the process and experience of capturing these moments and hope it inspires and motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and explore these magical destinations . The photos are not just for the world to see, but for my memories and keepsake. If you enjoy capturing some killer angles and views, keep on reading! 

Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?

Seems to me we are turning road trips to Sedona into a yearly tradition! Our first trip here was around the same time last year and we could not get enough of it! As you drive towards Sedona, you start seeing the red canyons peaking in the distance and the closer you get, the more amazed you become. There truly is something special about this town. The abundant, positive energy flow radiates here. You instantly connect deeper to your spirituality, there is heightened inner peace that settles in, and you instantaneously become present. The thoughts, stressors, anxieties in life magically fade away and you become one with Earth’s power.  Even with 2 trips here, I still feel like there are soooo many other spots I’ve missed and have not yet visited. These are just the main instagrammable spots that I recommend so far.

SECRET SLICKROCK

This was a hidden gem that we discovered through our airbnb host. It was literally in their backyard (about a 10 min walk) There is a trail that you can follow to get to this spot called the Secret Slickrock Trailhead. It’s only a short walk up to an unobstructed view of Cathedral Rock.  It’s not as popular of a spot so you can definitely find some peaceful moments here for sunset/sunrise. We sat down and watched the mountains glow from red to orange as the sun came down and it was a pretty epic moment. Highly recommend to set up a fun little picnic!

Address: Chavez Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

FAY CANYON ARCH TRAIL

1.5 mile out and back trail that is soooo underrated! It’s got an awesome view and a thrilling upward climb (as if you’re rockclimbing) It’s pretty steep towards the end so if you have a fear of heights, this might not be for you. I do want to point out that as you are on the Fay Canyon trail, there is a normal straight trail that is very walkable, however the spot pictured above is a side trail that takes you UP to the arch so don’t get confused! You will abruptly turn right to continue on an unmarked trail… The only way to describe the entrance is you will see 2 cairns with a wooden stick on top… I know, slightly confusing but make sure you are looking out for it as you walk on the trail at the bottom. From there, you just keep hiking up until you reach the arch! (Side Trail for Arch (marked by cairns)34.9083775, -111.8627545) You can also download the trail map app that will show you where the entrance to that turn is.

RED ROCK CROSSING

Park at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site (Address: 300 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Munds Park, AZ 86017)

There is a $11 fee (cash only), please support and be a good citizen even if there’s not a person monitoring. The money goes towards maintenance and supporting Sedona national parks. From the parking/ picnic area, continue on a path that leads you towards Oak Creek. You will see an old ranch on the left side, but head right in stead! There is an entrance to a path that will lead you closer to the creek. Check out this website for more information on how to get to the specific vortex energy spot here.

Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

BELL ROCK TRAIL

Unfortunately, it was over 95 degrees all weekend long and it was impossible to go on a long hike. Even stepping out for more than 10 minutes in the sun made you feel a little loopy. We decided it was not a safe choice to hike, but I read everywhere online that this is quite an enjoyable hike. We wandered around the entrance of the trail for about 5 minutes and even from the bottom of the trail you can capture an insane view. 

Address: Bell Rock Access Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336

Soldier’s Pass/ Brins Mesa 

Wow wow wow! This was our very first hike in Sedona last year and it exceeded our expectations. If you only have time for 1 hike in Sedona, this is the one I would HIGHLY recommend. If you know me well, you know I’m not a work out fanatic, but if I can get through this hike, you can too! This was recommended to us by our airbnb host. We started bright and early at 5AM to avoid the heat later in the day. It’s a 6.4 mile loop and you will pass by the 7 sacred pools. We loved every minute of it. This hike is on the longer end with no shade the majority of the time, so please pack enough water and snacks.

Directions: From the roundabout intersection of State Route 179 and State Route 89A in Sedona, go north on SR 89A for 0.2 miles to Jordan Road. Turn left onto Jordan Road and continue 0.7 miles to Park Ridge Drive. Turn left onto Park Ridge Drive and continue 0.1 miles to where the pavement ends. From there, continue 0.5 miles on the dirt road that leads to the Jim Thompson Trailhead.

LOVER’S KNOLL

One of my favorite scenic viewpoint. Parking is limited since you do pull over on the side of the road. It doesn’t get crowded and you don’t have to do too much walking to get to this spot. Absolutely breathtaking view!

Address: 1891 Upper Red Rock Loop Road Sedona, AZ 86336 GPS Coordinates: 34.8388857, Lng: -111.8235568

AERIE TRAILHEAD

I’ve read that it was a pretty boring trail, but the drive here was very enjoyable. It’s a bit more secluded and farther away from the center of town so if you are looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the scenery then this is the place! We did not do the hike, but rather found a space to sit and watch the sunset from the parking lot.

Address: 340 Aerie Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

CRESCENT MOON RANCH

If you’re looking for serenity, this is it. Listen to the water running in the creek and admire the glowing rocks during sunset. You won’t want to leave this place. It’s so spread out that you can roam and wander everywhere without it being too crowded. This trail is not strenuous and you won’t have to hike at all so it is the perfect place if you’re looking for a relaxing stroll during sunset.

Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

AIRBNB: CATHEDRAL ROCK VIEW

This Airbnb was such a gem. The price was considerably cheap compared to all the other accommodations in Sedona. You feel the energy of Sedona the moment you wake up and look out the window. It’s a small space, but there’s everything you would need inside. There’s privacy (separate entrance on the side door), everything was sparkling clean, a grill outside to use, a spacious backyard for you to roam freely and explore. Most of the bathrooms in hotels/airbbnbs have never exceeded my expectations, but the shower here made me want to take an hour long shower! I looovedddd the shower here- it was a luxurious rain shower system and wish I could transport back to my home. If you’re coming to Sedona & you love airbnbs, this is the place to stay at!!

Use my LINK to sign up and get $20 off your first home booking!!


I’d love to see your recreations of these instagrammable spots, so don’t forget to tag me on IG @sophcation ! Have a rejuvenating time here and stayed tuned for my next adventure!

Xoxo, Soph

My Techniques for Anxiety Relief

Going from one pandemic to another, it feels like the world is collapsing down on us. My anxiety has most definitely heightened and I’ve noticed my mental and physical health taking a toll. Nerve wrecking events lead to chemical imbalances and can have long term negative effects on your health. When the body is under stress, you’ll notice it starts breaking down. We are in fight or flight mode, which makes your internal body work in overdrive. Be aware of that, acknowledge that we all experience those feelings and know that it will pass. The key is to admit your anxiety, express those feelings, and make the changes in your daily life to maintain your physical and mental health.

Health has always been my number one priority. I’ve tested and tried out so many products for the past 3+ years to see what will keep my body functioning well. Here are some natural supplements and products I’ve incorporated in my daily routine to keep my temple balanced and protected. Remember, our bodies are all built differently, so what works for me might not work for you. Long term consistency with ALL of these habits/supplements/products below has made a difference in my life. This does not happen overnight- developing a routine and incorporating all of these elements habitually will help in times like this. 

AFFIRMATIONS

I’m constantly scrolling on Pinterest. There’s an abundance of information on there that is so useful and whenever I’m feeling down or anxious, it’s been an extremely helpful site for me. I search up positive, strengthening quotes that help keep me level headed. Visually reading motivational quotes shifts my mindset and when you consistently repeat positive affirmations, you are actively rewiring your anxious thoughts.

CBD CREAM

Have you noticed the facial expressions you make whenever you’re under stress/ anxiety? Your face has so many muscles and sometimes we furrow our brows or clench your jaws without realizing it. These unconscious facial expressions deepen your wrinkles overtime, but worse, it leads to tension headaches. I constantly suffer from headaches and CBD cream has helped relieve some of the inflammation. I buy the ShiKai brand from Co-Op and apply the lotion on my temples, neck, shoulders, wherever the tension is. 

EPSOM SALT

Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral that we do not get enough of in our diet and when you dissolve this chemical compound in a warm bath, you soak in all the benefits through your skin. Taking a hot bath also has calming effects. Whenever I feel an anxiety attack coming along, taking a hot bath reverses those feelings. I like to add Dr. Teal’s foaming epsom salts in my baths. If i’m taking a bubble bath to relax and unwind, I use the lavender scent. If I’m having any sort of tension, aches or stress, I use the Eucalyptus Spearmint scent. 

EXERCISE

I’m not the best with this one… but staying active is key! Even if you do not enjoy exercising, it’s important to get your body moving. Go on a simple walk around the block, a 5 minute yoga video on Youtube, or stretch out your body! It will provide mental clarity, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. 

MAGNESIUM POWDER

Magnesium helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that reduce stress. I like to scoop some Natural Vitality CALM powder into some sparkling water and drink it right before bed. I’ve noticed it helps me sleep through the night better and relaxes my body. They sell this at Whole Foods and it comes in different fruity flavors for you to choose from- my favorite is raspberry lemon!

MAGNESIUM OIL 

During traumatic, stressful times, our body tenses up, our shoulders and necks form knots, our jaws clench down so tightly, and we might not even notice the subtle changes in our body. The minerals in magnesium help relieve sore muscles. Your body absorbs it very quickly and in a short 10-15 minutes you will feel a difference in where you apply this oil. Make sure to buy a highly concentrated good quality one for the full effect. Sometimes for me, as a hypochondriac, the moment there is a slight discomfort that is all my mind can focus on. So when I’m able to temporarily make the tension fade, it distracts my mind from it and I’m able to relax more. This is the specific magnesium oil I recommend and use.

MASSAGER

This massager was recommended by Chrislle Lim, an influencer I’ve been following and I rarely fall for promotion/ad products, but this was something she purchased on her own and was highly recommended. When I first got it, I wasn’t too big of a fan… It didn’t seem to make my muscle tension feel any better. I realized wearing it properly on my shoulders didn’t fix the deep knots, but I played around with it and made it work. Now I’m constantly using it to ease my shoulder tensions. I don’t recommend just wearing it normally on your neck, but instead place it diagonally on your back, starting from the shoulder. Adjust the massager depending on where the tension is. It is pretty powerful and you will be sore the next day if you pull on this massager too tightly. 

MEDITATION// DEEP BREATHING

This is probably one of the hardest tasks, especially when there are so many thoughts running inside our brain. It’s something you’ll have to practice, and if meditation is too difficult, try 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises instead. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen which stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and that promotes a state of calmness. It takes the focus off of the anxiety and helps you feel more connected to your body. There’s many resources out there for guided meditation such as HeadSpace, but there’s one deep sleep meditation soundtrack on YouTube that always does the trick for me! Give it a try and see if the music helps find your inner peace.

PEPPERMINT/ MENTHOL STICK

Menthol is known as a muscle relaxant. It does not cure you, but will help the symptoms subside. I swear by this product!!! It has gotten me through anxiety, nausea, headaches, motion sickness. You can pretty much find one of these sticks in every single room in the house. This is the one I stock up on whenever I’m home in Taiwan. I’ve seen other products out there, however I know this is 100% menthol and I’m all for supporting Taiwanese businesses.

PRAY

Sometimes anxiety can make you feel like your mind is spinning in circles, so actively setting aside a moment to pray can train your mind to snap out of it. For some, praying can help with calming anxious thoughts. Reciting a prayer, repeating a mantra will help you control your thoughts a bit better and slow down the pace. 

PROBIOTIC

When your body is under stress, your tummy gets into all these knots. It can lead to nausea, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Calming an anxious gut with probiotic has been a MAJOR life changing supplement for me. Even if I feel fine, I’ve incorporated probiotics into my diet every single day. If you don’t want to take probiotic supplements, try drinking Kombucha or yogurt, which both contain natural antioxidants and probiotics! I use the brand Antibiophilus for probiotics, which is not sold in the US (my parents send them over from Taiwan), however David uses this one which is widely available online and at Whole Foods. Important: focus on the amount of STRAINS in the bottle (the more the merrier)

SUNSHINE

We’ve been in lockdown for 3+ months now, and with current events, Santa Monica’s even had curfew starting as early as 1:30pm… We all feel so trapped inside. It’s necessary to keep your body moving and soak in some vitamin D! Vitamin D will boost your energy level and nervous system. Go for a walk, read in your backyard, plant some vegetables. Never take a breath of fresh air for granted.

TEA

Staying hydrated is key in everyday life. If you’re like me, drinking water consistently can be a bit tricky. I love a good cup of coffee, but too much caffeine can have adverse effects (heart palpitation which then increases my anxiety) The warmth of a nice hot cup of tea will have a soothing effect. Every night I drink a combination of chamomile and peppermint tea to wind down and relax before bedtime. 

VITAMIN B COMPLEX

This vitamin is so crucial for women. Whenever I am consistent with taking this supplement, I notice a huge difference in my energy level. I’m less fatigued and more alert. Research shows Vitamin B2 helps prevent migraines and vitamin B12 reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.  The one I currently take is only sold in Taiwan and I have not been able to find it here in the U.S, however there are a ton of options!

I’d love to learn more about the tools that you use and incorporate in your life to help manage your anxiety. 

Xoxo,

Soph

Apple Galette with Lemon Marmalade

This has been my go to baking recipe during quarantine. It’s my version of an apple galette. Galette’s are flat, open faced crusts and I’m all about that. I’ve never really been a crust person- with pies & pizzas, I always end up giving David my crusts. I’m obsessed with it and can eat the whole thing in one sitting…. Though I try to space it out with only one slice a day 😉 It looks fancy and complicated, but it’s actually SUPER easy. It’s somewhat on the healthier end compared to brownies, marshmallow stuffed cookies, etc and you can adjust/ add your own twist to it depending on your taste preference! I hope you give this a try and if you do, make sure to tag me on @sophcation 

DOUGH
1 and ½ cup of flour
3 TBS of sugar  (white or cane)
½ cup of unsalted butter  (1 whole stick)
1 tsp of lemon zest
4-5 TBS of cold water 
Pinch of salt

FILLING
3 large apples (it’s quarantine so use what you have!)
2 TBS of brown sugar
2 TSP of vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon cinnamon or more if you like more spice 
1 TBS of lemon zest
Squeeze half of a small lemon 
Pinch of salt
2 TBS of Lemon marmalade jam (substitute with apricot/ sour tangy jam that’ll pair well with apples)

First, make the dough. Combine all the ingredients and use a fork or your hands to knead the ingredients into a soft dough. It should feel like playdoh… If your dough feels too sticky/wet, add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry and flaky, add some more cold water. Use seran wrap and pop it in the fridge to sit for 30 minutes.

During this time, I like to make the filling. Wash your apples and slice them thinly and evenly. Sprinkle in the sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, lemon, salt and mix it together with the apples in a bowl. You can let this sit for 15 min in the fridge so the apples soak up all the flavors.

When the dough is ready, take it out and roll it into a thin round crust. This is when you can add a layer of jam in the center and spread it out (tip: dont spread it out too far to the edge because you will need to fold the edges over after) Line your apples nicely, starting from the outer layer and work your way in. You should approximately have 2 rows of apples! Then take the edges and roll them up to create a barrier.

Bake for 375 F for 30 minutes and voila! Enjoy and pair a slice of this yummy apple galette with a hot cup of coffee.

Xoxo,

Soph

Authentic Taiwanese Pickled Cucumber

This is one of my favorite childhood side dishes- Taiwanese smashed pickled cucumber! My mom and uncle used to make this pretty often and I just can’t get enough of the garlicky, vinegary taste. They have these at Din Tai Fung, but to be honest, they don’t make it that flavorful…. (dont get me wrong, I LOVE Din Tai Fung for other main dishes) 

After my trips back home from Taiwan, I always crave it, so I decided to perfect the recipe. I’m so happy to share this special dish with you and if you give it a try, let me know how you liked it!

INGREDIENTS

2-5 Persian Cucumbers

5 Garlic cloves (we LOVE garlic… add less or more depending on your taste)

1 Chili Pepper (1 Red or Yellow) or substitute with black peppercorns

4 Tablespoons of White Vinegar (depends on how vinegary you like your cucumbers- adjust accordingly)

2 Tablespoons of Sesame Oil

1/2 Tablespoons of Salt

1/2 Tablespoons of Sugar

Red Onion (Optional)

STEP 1:

First, wash your cucumbers. Cut the ends off, take the flat side of the knife and SMASH your cucumber until it starts breaking off into bite size pieces. 

STEP 2:

Put the cucumbers in a glass tupperware and sprinkle in the white/cane sugar and salt. Use your hands and mix it together so the cucumbers are evenly coated. Put a lid on it and stick in the fridge for 2 hours. 

STEP 3:

Slice chili pepper- keep the seeds if ya like it spicy. Since we’re in quarantine, we might not have the exact ingredients…. so improvise! I’ve used fresh grounded black pepper or peppercorn and it works just as well.

Smash the garlic. This method helps the aroma come out more when you marinate it. Optional: slice some red onions

STEP 4:

Drain and rinse the salted cucumbers that have been sitting in the fridge. Add chili peppers/onions/garlic to the cucumbers and combine it with vinegar and sesame oil. I like to sprinkle a generous pinch of cane sugar before I pop it back in the fridge.

Mix it all up and marinate for at least a couple of hours. The longer you marinate the more pungent the taste. ENJOY!

Xoxo,

Soph

INSTAGRAMMABLE PCH

We finally had the chance to explore  our home state, California, from the comfort of our car. David and I both grew up in Santa Monica, CA and I lived in northern CA for 4 years (UC Davis for college), and we’ve done road trips here and there, but we’ve never taken the coast on Highway 1 the whole way. I don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner because it was an epic adventure! So I’m super excited to share my guide with you and hope it encourages you to get out of the comfort of your home and explore the beauty the California coast has to offer. I will most definitely be doing this drive again in the future!

Find more photo inspo on my instagram @sophcation !

SANTA MONICA, CA

We left around 8am and started our drive on PCH. One thing I prefer with driving vs flying is that you can pack AS MUCH AS YOU WANT and it’s so accessible. It’s a long drive so I recommend bringing water, tea, snacks for the road and using the bathroom before you leave the house. No one enjoys peeing in a gas station bathroom… 

SANTA BARBARA, CA

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Our first stop! We’ve been here a couple times already, but here’s a few things you can do: munch on some seafood along the wharf, visit the old mission, go on a whale watching tour, etc . Santa Barbara hands down has the most beautiful courthouse, so this time we stopped by to admire the old Spanish architecture! 

SURF BEACH // LOMPOC, CA

Surf Beach

We turned off our GPS and made the wrong turn, but it led us to the most beautiful beach in CA….. I COULD NOT believe it. Growing up in SM, our beaches were always muddy and brown and I always thought I had to travel far to find serene, white sand, turquoise water beaches. I never realized that there was one this close! It reminded me of the beaches in Cape Town, South Africa. 

When you pull up, there is a small parking lot (maybe fits around 15 cars?) At first, we pulled over at this dead end to check our GPS, but something made me hop out the car and walk over to see what it was all about…. And when I walked past the parking lot over a slight hill, I looked down and saw the most precious and clean beach. I ran back to the car and told David that he HAD to come out and see it.

Surf Beach is a public beach located on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The areas north/south of Surf Beach are closed intermittently on March 1st-Sept 30 to protect the Snowy Plover bird nesting spots. If human violations reach over 50 times, the ENTIRE beach will be closed for the remainder of the nesting season. So be respectful, protect our wildlife/nature & don’t ever leave trash when visiting.. PLEASE.

ELEPHANT SEALS // SAN SIMEON, CA

Elephant Seals

This spot is located right off Highway 1 and is the ONLY elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible. I am all about conservation and I have so much respect for the state for fencing the whole area off to protect these animals. Observing and witnessing these beauties in nature is such a gift. 

The elephant seals birth and breed around December- March. There is a designated parking lot and a couple pathways for you to roam around. DO NOT throw food, taunt, disrespect, etc when you are visiting. The seals are protected by federal law so it is illegal to touch, throw things at them to cause a reaction…  Use common sense and enjoy the wildlife here. 

RAGGED POINT

The stretch of highway from San Simeon to Big Sur is so incredibly picturesque. There are jaw dropping views in every twist and turn. We couldn’t help it and stopped every 5 minutes to enjoy the scenery! There are a ton of turn offs for you to pull over to take a photo. Make sure to slow down and put your signals on so cars behind you can be alerted since cars are going pretty fast here. Don’t be an idiot and hop over the fence to get a shot- it’s not safe.

BIG SUR, CA

Now this stretch of the drive was so enchanting. Take your time and pull over whenever you see something you want to explore. We had the windows down, and I heard some running water so we decided to pull over to find out. We found the Big Sur Creek and it was so magical and lush. It’s as if you walked into Disney’s Snow White movie with massive redwood trees all around you. Dip your feet into the creek for a refreshing break! I promise you won’t regret it! (*use bug spray to avoid bites)

BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE // BIG SUR, CA

Bixby Creek Bridge

You HAVE to pull over at the northern turnout and hop out to admire the beauty of architectural beauty. This iconic bridge was completed in 1932 and is one of the tallest single- span concrete bridges in the whole world. 

I recommend taking photos on the North side of the bridge.  The winds can get pretty strong here so please be careful and don’t get too close to the edge… Your life is more important than an epic photo on social media.. 

PEBBLE BEACH, CA

The Bench Restaurant. Located on 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach

The popular 17 mile drive…. We did this drive a couple years ago and you have to do this drive in your lifestime. Inside the 17 mile drive, there is a special restaurant we fell in love with. We dined at The Bench and lucked out with the best seats! Highly recommend this restaurant- can be a bit pricy… but the food was delicious!!! Tip: order seafood whenever you’re seaside- it will never disappoint.

MONTEREY, CA

I took a class in high school called California Literature and we studied John Steinbeck religiously (Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men). At the end of the year, our class took a road trip up the coast and spent some time here in Monterey. John Steinbeck is one of the best known American literary figures and you can tour the house that inspired him to write the character “Doc” in Cannery Row. Last time David and I visited Monterey Bay, we visited Monterey Bay Aquarium and walked around the quaint fisherman’s wharf.

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, CA

Lastly, we stayed in an eco friendly luxurious Airbnb tent at a working cattle ranch. The most chic way of “glamping” and honestly, the only way I could actually camp in a tent… haha don’t judge.  It is a solar powered tent with a mini kichenette, fireplace, and separate cabin for bathroom. When you’re out in nature, there’s bound to be bugs everywhere, but this place was maintained and cleaned VERY well. You should still bring bug spray with high amounts of deet (listen I’ve tried the organic “all natural” bug spray… it doesn’t work. I got eaten alive in Thailand bc of it.) The host goes above and beyond by preparing wine, chocolates, cheese plate, and adds excellent touches in every corner of the tent. The bed/ pillows were EXTREMELY comfortable and clean. The bathroom had an outdoor shower with all the amenities you’d need and truly every detail that went into this was intentional & thoughtful. We loved the starry night, epic sunset, and morning birds chirping. It was quite a spectacular getaway. We highly recommend it and can’t wait to return.

XOXO,

Soph

DEATH VALLEY GUIDE

When you hear about Death Valley, you automatically think of a flat, dry wasteland. Why would anyone want to visit? Well I could not be more wrong! It is surrounded by breathtaking landscape and the perfect weekend getaway from the buzzing LA life!

February is the best time to visit Death Valley, as temperatures can become unbearable and unsafe. It was in the lower to mid 70’s, and yet with the dryness it felt more like the 80’s. When traveling here, please do your research, download maps, directions ahead of time (no service) and bring LOTS of water to stay hydrated. Also, don’t drive in a nice car- it will get dirty and damaged. 

Below I have listed our path from LA– Death Valley. There are a couple spots we stopped by before we got to Death Valley National Park that I highly recommend. If I missed any must see places, leave a comment below and let me know! Xoxo, Soph

Death Valley Entrance Fee: $30 for 7 days per vehicle ( please pay it… there is no check point, but be an honest person. It funds the maintenance of these parks!

Where to Stay: Everywhere inside Death Valley National Park is EXPENSIVE, averaging from $500ish/night. To me, it’s just not worth it. We found an awesome deal on the outskirts of the park in Beatty, Nevada. Death Valley Inn was only $85/ night on V-Day weekend (AAA cardholders get a discount) The hotel was surprisingly decent: huge comfy bed and a clean bathroom.. That’s all you really need! The moment you walk in, it smells like Fabulosa (at least that shows they are cleaning the room… haha) We looked everywhere and that was the best hotel we could find that was decent enough to stay in… To be completely honest, for our travels we have a hard time bumming it and staying at a budget hotel.

TIPS:

Download an offline google map

Easy directions for all the stops you want to make. There is no service in the park. 

Pack water and snacks

Limited food/ restaurants inside the national park. You will most likely spend an entire day there so pack fruits, protein bars, and plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.

Start your day early

Best lighting and temperature is in the morning. You will also avoid crowds the earlier you start.

Fill your car up with gas BEFOREHAND

Before you enter the national park, fill your car up all the way. Gas prices inside are insanely expensive! 

Wear sunscreen and bring a hat

The weather is extreme so protect your skin & avoid sun damage.

Wear good quality shoes

Don’t make this mistake… Unlike me, I only wore my birkenstocks. Not ideal for hiking, exploration, and the freezing sand temperature for sunrise. Pack sandals for the car and comfortable hiking/walking shoes.

Fun Facts: 

Death Valley has the HIGHEST recorded temperature: 134 Fahrenheit

It is the hottest and driest place in the country.

Death Valley has the country’s lowest point: Badwater Basin sits 282 ft below sea level

Google Map of our whole trip

Los Angeles

8am Departure– approx 2 hour drive to Red Rock Canyon State Park 

Red Rock Canyon State Park 

Located in the northern Mojave Desert- right off the 14N freeway. We hopped out to see the popular rock formation, Turk’s Turban. We spent about 30-45 minutes exploring and shooting some photos.

Trona Pinnacles 

From Red Rock, it was about a 1 hour 15 minute drive. You will spend the last 20 minutes driving on unpaved rocky roads. Because of this stop, I suggest taking a car that can withstand offroading.. Very glad we didn’t take my Lexus. Take your time on the rocky road so you don’t pop a tire in the middle of nowhere.

This location is filled with 500 Tufa Spires The pinnacles vary from sizes and shapes composed of calcium carbonate. Many movies, commercials are filmed here- Disney’s Dinosaur, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek etc!

We shot from the top of the hill: I ran down to the bottom of the road, while David stayed at the top to capture this shot. The whole area was completely empty and we loved having it all to ourselves. 

DEATH VALLEY SPOTS (alphabetical order)

Artist’s Drive/ Palette

Artist’s Palette

The colors of the mountain are produced by the oxidation of metals/ elements found in the ground, which is why you see purple, blue, green tones. 

Artist’s Drive: It’s a beautiful 9 mile scenic drive that takes you through the canyons. It’s a one way road filled with curves and fun dips through the mountain! Reminds me of the Disney amusement park ride, Cars. 

Artist’s Palette: It is a look out point where you can hike, explore, and where most of the photos you see on IG are taken from. When you make a right turn off the main road, there is a small parking lot. Head down the path and you can start your exploration from there. 

Getting There: located off Badwater Road: the start/entrance is clearly marked. Artist’s Palette is about 5 miles from the start. You can stop and pull off to the side of the road to explore!

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin

Explore the lowest point in North America! It is a bizarre salt flat that sits about 300ft below sea level.  From the parking lot, it’s a quarter mile walk to get to the wider salt flat. The farther you walk, you will start to see geometric salt flats in the shape of polygons.

Getting There: Located right off Badwater Road.  Parking lot is quite small. From there, head down some steps that will lead you to a trail.

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course

Walk over large salt pans- rough in texture from the large halite salt crystal formations. This place got its nickname after someone stated that only the devil could play golf there!! Ha! 

Getting There: About a 2 minute drive off the main road. You will reach a dead end with a sign. That’s where you can park your car and hop out to look at these weird looking formations.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

This place is a must… It’s as if you’ve transported yourself to Dubai… These insane sand dunes go on for miles as if you’re in the middle of the desert. You can freely wander the dunes, although, it’s a rough 2 miles walk in the sand if you want to get to a spot with less footprints. The warm morning light  bounces off the sand dunes in such a beautiful golden way- I highly suggest getting there at least 20 minutes BEFORE sunrise. If you are heading there for sunrise, bring a jacket, hot tea/coffee in a thermal, and a blanket to lay down on.

Getting There: Parking lot is right off the main road. These sand dunes are huge- you can’t miss it! 

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

Sediments from Furnace Creek Lake that dried up 5 million years ago. To me, it wasn’t as breathtaking compared to the other sites. We only drove through to enjoy the view and didn’t stop to take photos. 

Getting There: Parking lot is more spacious than all the other spots. It is located at the bottom and requires you to hike up a small hill to get to the lookout point.

Amargosa Pit Stop

A bit of history about this one block town. When you pull up, it’s a completely run down Spanish Colonial Revival architecture style adobe building. It gives off an eerily vibe and feels like an empty ghost town. Originally, it was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company– years later, a Broadway ballet dancer named Marta Becket moved there and transformed the whole town. It took her 6 years to paint the walls and ceilings of the renaissance audience. The whole Death Valley junction and town is a non profit and this remote desert location is a must.

There is only one restaurant connected to the Amargosa hotel, and a random opera house. When we stopped by, I had no idea the history behind this place and wish I knew! The cafe had spectacular breakfast items and I read that lunch is just as delicious. The coffee there could be comparable to those hip LA cafes. 

Amargosa Hotel: there is a myth that the halls in the hotel are “haunted” with a ghost…. Don’t know if I’m brave enough to stay there, but if you’re all about that, go give it a try and stay the night! 😉

Places we missed and want to go for next time:

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

The Race Track

Ubehebe Crater

Mosaic Canyon Trail 

Gower Gulch 

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Helpful VAT Refund Tips!

Ever heard of a VAT Refund? If you’re heading to Europe and your goal is to do a lot of shopping, you’ll want to read and follow the steps to save a bunch of money. 

What is VAT?

So… for international markets, there is a VAT charge between 5%-25% that is ALREADY included in the price of the good. So if you’re visiting as a tourist, you are entitled to a VAT refund (value added tax refund) IF the purchase is over  175 when you leave the European Union. Items must leave the EU within 3 months of the date of purchase and the refund amount will vary depending on the location and customs laws. Sounds like a dream huh?

Where do I claim this refund?

In the airport; at the LAST stop in the European Union (EU) is where you will get your documents approved and receive your refund.

What kind of refund will I receive?

Depending on the EU country, the VAT standard rate will vary. You can easily google and find out what the percentage is. I’ve linked a website below where it does the calculation for you.

You will have 2 options at the airport: immediate cash back or credit card (will take 5-10 days to process) 

How do I find out the price of a merchandise?

You can estimate it based on the website listed price (luxury brands: YSL, Celine, etc) It’s hard to find the true price of the product until you go in person. The price tag you see on the product will typically be lower than the website listed price and on top of that you will get approximately 10-12% VAT refund on the price listed.

TIPS!

Organize your paperwork

Listen, travel days can get pretty stressful. To eliminate stress of feeling frazzled, bring a folder where you leave all the receipts, tax forms, etc. Have it all located in one place to make it a speedy, efficient process.

Have the UNOPENED merchandise with you at all times

Most people make the mistake of  checking in at the gate first and packing it away in your checked luggage. It is mandatory to have the merchandise with you while you process the refund. Sometimes they will do random checks and ask you to take out the product. Luckily, the 2 times I have done it they have not asked me to show them the purse. Also, most purchases that qualify for VAT are usually really fucking expensive, so I wouldn’t trust leaving it in your checked bag anyway… 

Go to the airport EARLY

I cannot stress this enough. You will NEED that extra time. The lines do get long especially if your flight coincides with Asian airlines. Just being honest, the lines are typically Asian tourists that buy out every single luxury store…  So assume the worst and show up 4 hours before departure. You don’t want to run out of time and either miss your flight or not receive hundreds-thousands of dollars on the refund. Before you head over to check in your luggage at the gate, go straight to the VAT Refund desk to proceed with your process. 

 For example, in London Heathrow, I only had to stand in 1 line to get my stamps/ process documents/ receive refund all through the same person. However, in Amsterdam, there was a two step process: first wait in one line for stamping, then to a different line for processing to finalize it all. 

Do Your Research (merchandize + airport)

First, find out what merchandise you want to purchase and see if there is a price difference. Not every merchandize is guaranteed to be cheaper. Usually, you get the best deals when you purchase brands produced in their own country. For Ex: YSL/ Chanel/Celine- Made in Paris vs. Gucci, Fendi- Made in Italy

Second, every airport varies in the VAT Refund process, so before you go, do you research on where the VAT area is and how to navigate the process.

Calculate Your Price

Below is a convenient & reliable website to calculate how much refund you’ll receive depending on the price of the merchandise. Enter the amount and country you’re purchasing it and it’ll do the work for you!

https://www.globalblue.com/tax-free-shopping/refund-calculator/

VAT REFUND Calculation Example

YSL Lou Lou in Burgundy Large

YSL Website Listed Price:  1990 Euros //  $2204.92

YSL Paris Flagship Store Price:  1790 //  $1983.32

VAT Refund:  214.80 //  $238 (will receive at airport after processing)

Total Price for YSL LouLou: $1745.32. 

Saved $459.60

I hope you found this VAT Refund guide helpful for your next trip to Europe! Let me know down below what are some of the goodies you purchased and received VAT refunds for!

Good luck and happy shopping!

Xoxo, Soph

Instagrammable Paris

Paris! The city of love (very accurate considering I got engaged there 😉 ) It truly is the most aesthetically pleasing, romantic, and magical city in the world. Now if you didn’t know, it is also known as the city of lights because it was one of the first European cities to use gas street lamps in the 1860’s during the Age of Enlightenment. Everything in Paris, whether it’s the food, history, culture, language, etc is done with exquisite taste. 

Getting Around Paris: The city is quite large so it’s impossible to get all these shots in one day. I’d split each up based on which arrondissement you’ll be spending the day in. In the winter time, it is a lot more empty so sunrise is at 8:40am and there won’t be huge crowds. However, in the summertime, keep in mind that you’ll have to get to the popular locations around 6am to have the whole place to yourself. Every inch of the city is photogenic, so if you turn one corner and see something you find interesting, be spontaneous and do a photoshoot there! This was only my 2nd time in Paris and there’s still so much more to see each and every trip here. 

Below is my list of the obvious hot spots in Paris. If you found this useful or if I missed any hidden gems, please leave a comment below to let me know! For daily updates/ travel inspos, check out my IG @sophcation

Eiffel Tower Shot

Square Rapp (3 Square Rapp, 75007 Paris, France)

  • 7th Arrondissement, Rapp- La Bourdonnnais Metro Station (3 min walk) 
  • Google “square rapp”on maps, located between 33 and 35 Avenue Rapp. You will see a black iron gate in the front of a secluded impasse with a fountain in the middle
  • escape from the hustle and bustle of the typical eiffel tower shots

Rue de L’université (dead end between Rue de l’Universite and Avenue de la Bourdonnais )

  • 7th Arrondissement, Invalides Metro Stop (1 minute walk)
  • Quaint street with beautiful architecture, dead end to the base of the Eiffel Tower
  • Will have cars parked on the street 

Avenue de Camoëns (dead end)

  • 16th arrondissement, Passy Metro Station (4 minute walk)
  • Lovely view of the Eiffel Tower, short street; there is a stairwell that takes you down to a different street

Seine River 

  • 16th Arrondissement, Trocadero Metro Station
  • Unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower 
  • Take it from across the bridge/Eiffel Tower 
  • Walk along the river to capture any kind of shot

Trocadéro View Point (Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre)

  • 16th Arrondissement, Trocadero Metro Station 
  • The not-so-secret blogger spot
  • Stairs with the Eiffel Tower in the backdrop
  • Carousel is located towards the base of the Eiffel Tower
  • Most likely to get crowded first so go during sunrise

Bir Hakeim Bridge  (Stations de métro Passy et Bir-Hakeim, Paris, France)

  • 16th Arrondissement, Bir Hakeim Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • The bridge frames the Eiffel Tower 
  • A scene from Inception was filmed here

Arc De Triomphe Shot (Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France)

  • 8th Arrondissement, Kléber Metro Station (7 minute walk)
  • Shoot from the center/middle of the road, please be careful here (crowded)
  • Shoot from an angle off to the side

Louvre Museum Shot (Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France)

  • 1st Arrondissement, Louvre Rivoli Metro Station (2 minute)
  • Most famous gallery, where Miss Mona Lisa lives 
  • Exterior is photogenic, shoot from any angle
  • Tickets must be purchased in advance: 17 (I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in line)
  • First Saturday of each month, admission is free from 6-9:45pm

Palais Royal/ Les Deux Plateaux Shot (2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001)

  • 1st Arrondissement, Pyramides Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • A blogger’s favorite.. You see the black and white striped columns all over IG/ Pinterest
  • Short walk from the Louvre
  • Free entrance 

Montmartre Shots (all located in 18th Arrondissement)

I Love You Wall / Le Mur des Je t’aime Square (Jehan Rictus, Place des Abbesses, 75018 Paris)

  • Abbesses Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • Art installation: features the words I love you in over 250 languages 
  • Project seeks to unify people from around the world

Sacré Coeur Basilica (1 Parvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris)

  • Anvers Metro Station (13 minute walk)
  • Sits at the top of the hill
  • Panoramic view of the city
  • Shoot from the stairs or off to the side at the bottom of the stairwell

Sinking House

  • Anvers Metro Station (10 minute walk)
  • Building is an illusion where you angle your camera and use the hill to make it look that way
  • near the top of the steps to the Sacré Coeur Basilica (on the right side)
  • simply turn your camera at a 45 degree angle to capture the orange house

Moulin Rouge (82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris)

  • Blanche Metro Station (1 minute walk)
  • Cabaret Bar, original windmill burned down in 1915
  • Birthplace of the Can Can dance 

Notre Dame  (6 Parvis Notre-Dame | Place Jean-Paul II, 75004)

  • 4th Arrondissement, Cité Metro Station (9 minute walk)
  • Popular landmark/ medieval catholic cathedral
  • Shoot from the center square
  • Due to the fire that damaged parts of the Cathedral, it will remain closed to tourists 

Pont Alexandre III (Pont Alexandre III | Quai d’Orsay, 75008)

  • Between 8th & 7th Arrondissement, Invalides Metro Station (4 minute walk)
  • Impressive sculptures on the bridge with gold elements

Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?

With Love,

Sophie

Instagrammable Rome

Welcome to my first travel series, where I will dive straight to the point and list out all of my top instagrammable spots in each city I visit. I know, I know, it sounds so cliche/vain and I’m well aware that traveling is NOT not about getting the most perfect shots or creating a false illusion on social media, but I truly enjoy the process and experience of capturing these shots. It’s my passion and the photos are not just for the world to see, but for my memories and keepsake. If you enjoy capturing some killer angles and views, keep on reading!

Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?

Ok.. The first city I will tackle is Rome. There’s really no place like Rome… So much historical architecture confined in a small space. Everything within Rome is walking distance, so you’re able to access all these places by foot so I suggest wearing comfy walking shoes and change when you get there.

Below are the spots I visited, in the exact order I did it! Feel free to change/switch up the order depending on how you like to spend your vacation. You can complete all of these places in one morning or split it up between 2 days so you’re not feeling rushed. Because we woke up early and arrived here around 5:30/6am, we were able to capture these shots without anyone in the background during the popular summer season. I suggest spending the early morning capturing the beauty of these places then head back to your hotel/airbnb to rest after lunch to recharge/nap, then head back out late afternoon/night without all the camera equipment.

Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma RM, Italy)

  • Metro: Spagna (Line A Orange) stop takes you directly here: 3-5 min walking distance from metro to the bottom of the steps
  • No longer allowed to sit/ eat here. The new law states those who don’t follow the rules will be fined 250 Euros/ $280 so be careful! This rule is to preserve the UNESCO heritage site.
  • Scam Alert: You will see people handing out red roses. The moment you take it is when they start asking for money. So don’t reach for the rose. Also, they will shmooze/ smooth talk you and next thing you know they are wrapping a bracelet around your wrist demanding money for it.
  • Tip: Just assertively walk away from the men that approach/follow you with props to avoid these situations
  • Fun Fact: Top of the Spanish Steps is Trinita Dei Monti church (where Lizzie McGuire filmed a scene with Paolo)
  • Surrounded by luxury stores (LV, Gucci, etc) if you like to shop! 

From here, walk to the Trevi (10-15 min walk)

Trevi Fountain (Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma RM, Italy)

  • Metro: Barberini (Line A Orange)- Fontana di Trevi stop is 5 minutes from this station
  • Take a photo from 3 different angles- right, center, left. The Trevi Fountain looks unbelievable from every angle
  • Be mindful, this is probably the first location that gets crowded!
  • Toss a coin to make a wish! Every night, the coins are collected (around 3000 Euros) and donated to a charity called Caritas- this charity funds food to feed the homeless 
  • Free entry (literally in the middle of an intersection)
  • Fun Fact: Legend says that if you throw one coin, it ensures a return trip to the Eternal City; two coins are for those seeking love; and three coins symbolize wedding bells 

From here, walk to Pantheon (15-20 min)

Pantheon (Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma RM, Italy)

  • Original Pantheon was built in 27BC, unfortunately burned down and was rebuilt twice after that. The present Pantheon was built in 119A.D
  • By 7am, they start setting up newspaper stands and cafes start bringing out outdoor seating, which could interfere with the photo
  • Free entry: opens at 8:30AM-7:15pm, Sunday 9AM-5:45pm
  • Fun Fact: Queen Margherita is buried in the tomb inside the Pantheon. Her name was the inspiration behind the classic margherita pizza. The royal couple visited Naples in 1889 and a local pizzeria made her a pizza with tomato, mozzarella and basil to symbolize the Italian flag.

From here, walk to Piazza Navona (5 min)

As you walk from Pantheon to Piazza Navona, stop by this corner- you won’t regret it. It was also featured in Lizzie McGuire!
Hidden Gem Address: 61 Piazza dei Caprettari

Piazza Navona (Piazza Navona, 00186 Roma RM, Italy)

  • Open meeting square/plaza with 3 lavish fountain sculptors 
  • Originally built as a stadium for chariot races 
  • Personally, this plaza did not stand out to me. It was a nice and quiet place to sit down and take a break from all the walking

From here, walk to Ponte Sant’ Angelo (10 min)

Ponte Sant’ Angelo (Ponte Sant’Angelo, 00186 Roma RM, Italy)

  • Arc bridge with a view of the castle
  • Take a photo right in the middle of the bridge as if you’re walking towards the castle
  • Throughout the bridge, there are 10 different angel sculptures displayed 
  • Castel Sant’ Angelo has a distinct look to it. Better view from the bridge

From here, head to Vatican City to spend the rest of your day there or loop back to Colosseum/ Roman Forum

Colosseum/ Roman Forum (Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy)

  • Metro: Colosseo Stop (Line B Blue) 
  • The best spot to take a picture of the colosseum is at Via Nicola Salvi- right above the metro station. When you exit the metro station, make a left and you will see steps going up. Follow that path up to the top where you’ll find the perch!
  • Sunset photos here are gorgeous (it makes the colosseum glow)
  • Entrance: If you want to go inside, be mindful you have to make a reservation slot time months in advance. I personally think seeing it from the outside is good enough. Honestly the interior is not as photogenic as the exterior.
  • Roman Forum is located a block away from here. Definitely go check out the views in there! After you enter, head towards the colosseum, all the way past Temple of Venus and Roma. Then you will reach a picture perfect viewpoint of the Colosseum 
  • Roman Forum: Terrace on Palatine Hill overlooks the whole forum

Saint Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City)

Image result for saint peters basilica exterior
  • Metro: Ottaviano- San Pietro (Line A Orange)- few minutes walk to the Basilica/Square
  • No tripods allowed
  • Shoulders and knees MUST be covered to enter. They were pretty strict even in the summer time (90+Fahrenheit/ 100% humidity) I wore a haltered maxi dress from the LC Lauren Conrad collection and they still made me cover my shoulders with a scarf. Bring your own scarf/wrap- they do not provide any to rent

** 1-6: You can complete it all in one morning before people start waking up and starting their day. From here, you can either continue your route towards Vatican city and spend the rest of your day in that area such as the Vatican Museum, etc (which I DO NOT recommend) or you can take the subway/uber/hop on hop off bus back to your hotel/airbnb to relax.

Please leave a comment below and tell me which is your favorite instagrammable spot in Rome or if there’s any hidden gems that I missed!

With Love,

Sophie