Epic 39,702 mile trip around the world

Trip around the world: 39,702 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and feet

During a two month period last summer I calculated I traveled 39,702 miles on a trip around the world. It was an exhilarating time, I saw amazing things and met some fascinating people, but that amount of travel in a relatively short period of time, can take its toll on anyone. More on the toll in a bit.

While I have done a ton of traveling the past six years as a professional travel blogger, I had planned on slowing down to focus more on the publishing/business side of Mike’s Road Trip, and to stay close to Phoenix where my girlfriend at the time resided. Plans however have a funny way of changing. Hunzhou Global Storyteller winnerOn occasion, I apply for trips and other contests, but not often, as they are typically a waste of time. In early 2015, I entered a contest organized by the Hangzhou, China Tourism commission which I had to submit a writing essay on an unexpected and happy moment during my travels, along with a video and questionnaire. I had zero expectation of winning, which is probably a good philosophy to have, that way one is not subject to disappointment. I had even forgotten that I had entered the contest.

A  couple months later I received a reply that informed me that I had been selected as a finalist, with a handful of additional questions to answer. I really did not think much of it, I figured thousands of people had entered the contest and that it was still a long shot of winning. Excitement was not even an emotion I experienced, I simply put it out of my mind and continued with the task I had been working on.

A week later, I received another email, this one informing me that I had, in fact, won the Hangzhou Global Tour contest and was selected as the American storyteller (more on that in a bit). This was so epic, that I really had to question if it was authentic. After a fair amount of due-diligence, my heart began to race. I was stunned! My mind was trying to get a handle on the enormity of the prize, the implications and the logistics. What I had just won, and needed to commit to, was a 5-week, all-expenses-paid-trip around the world. Oh, and I had less than 4 weeks to prepare.

While I have been away from family and friends for long stretches of time, it’s another thing to leave the one you love for that long. I wasn’t sure how my girlfriend Terri would take the news, but before I committed to this trip around the world, I needed to discuss it with her. Terri was very supportive, and after a long discussion, we both agreed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that could create future opportunities.

Trip around the world in China at Hangzhou send off event

While I had been to Asia before, this was my first trip to China, so the first thing I needed to do was get my visa in order. The next few weeks was full of meetings with organizers, preparation, packing and rescheduling other commitments.  It wasn’t really until the day before my departure that the weight of it all finally hit me: I was going to be traveling around the world. I was very excited, but I also knew that the amount of travel would be exhausting…and it was! I would not be traveling alone though, there were other winners. The contest was structured like this: There was a winning family from the US and a winning family from China who would be the “Ambassadors” of the trip. Then, there was an individual storyteller from the US and China as well who would be tasked to document the journey. This was my role, as the US (English) storyteller.

CHINA

I left Phoenix for San Francisco where I had a layover en route to Beijing. I met up with the Capaldi Family, who were selected as the US Ambassador family. Just a few days before departure I did a bit of research on the Capaldis and discovered they were a showbiz family. The mother (Leigh) has been on Broadway and film, while the father (Domenick) is a rock ‘n roll musician, and the 15-year old daughter (Cayleigh), is an accomplished singer.

Family with monks

Before the departure, the Capaldi family and I swapped contact info and decided to meet at the SFO airport before the flight. We had about an hour to swap stories and get to know one another. While I am a seasoned traveler, it was a bit comforting to know that I would be doing this adventure with such a wonderful group of people. And, it was reassuring to know that Cayleigh spoke really good Mandarin.

We arrived in Beijing, and due to weather, our three hour layover turned into more than five hours. We finally boarded our plane to Hangzhou and didn’t arrive until nearly midnight local time. To our utter surprise, and after traveling for more than 30 hours, there was quite a lot of fanfare at the airport. It seemed as though there were about 100 people waiting to greet us. From media outlets, local tourism officials, to the Chinese ambassador family who graciously agreed to drive us to our hotel.

The next eight days in Hangzhou were a whirlwind, we were taken all over the city to see the amazing sights of this ancient city. From a Buddhist temple, to the tea fields, silk museums, pagodas, epicurean experiences, performing arts, to the majestic West Lake, we saw and experienced so many facets of the city known as the happiest in all of China. I blogged about each day of this trip, so if you wish to start from the beginning, click here.

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The theme of this trip was the Silk Road, so our next stop was to the Gobi Desert, to the city of Dunhuang, once a frontier garrison on the Silk Road. In Dunhuang we camped under the stars one night, rode camels and sand boarded down giant dunes. We then were to make our way to Europe and our first stop was Greece, but first we had to backtrack to Shanghai as Dunhuang has no international flights.

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Before we could get to Greece, we unfortunately had to fly to Paris (adding more time to our travel). Needless to say, it was a very, very long travel day, actually some 32 hours of travel.  The leg from Shanghai to Paris was deplorable, we were on an Air France international flight that was not only full, but my knees were literally touching the back of the seat in front of me. This I thought, was unconscionable for an international flight. Each leg of travel was made more arduous by the fact that we had a five person film crew in tow, who had tons of camera equipment. As a matter of fact, each leg of our trip cost over $2000 in just overweight bag fees. I can’t even begin to imagine the overall expense of this trip around the world.

GREECE

We finally made it to Athens, but it was the middle of the day, so with no sleep for nearly 2 days, we had 30 minutes to freshen up at our hotel before we went off exploring. Athens was a bucket list destination, so I didn’t care how exhausted I was, I was excited to see some of the historic sights. Athens did not disappoint; it is an awe-inspiring city, with so much of its ancient history still preserved. There was a lot of concern going to Athens with all the current unrest going on, but we experienced nothing but friendly and hospitable Greek people.

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Our next stop was the Greek island of Mykonos. We flew Aegean Airlines, which was just a puddle jumper, but was one of the nicest airlines we’d flown. The crew was smartly dressed, and the airplane had so much more legroom and comfort than the crappy Air France flight on which we traveled to Paris. Mykonos was beautiful, the sea and sky so blue it looked Photoshopped.

Mykonos beach by MikesRoadTrip.com

As the afternoon waned, it was time for the next portion of our journey to begin…boarding a Costa cruise ship. Unfortunately, our tour bus driver dropped us off at the wrong location. We soon discovered the correct pick-up spot was a long walk away, especially with the piles of luggage we now had in our possession since our bus left the station. One of our group leaders found a Costa representative who arranged for a tender to actually pick us up at the pier where we all stood. It was amazing; the folks at Costa were so gracious and accommodating. The group went from frustration, to elation. We did however burn over an hour during the delay and missed our dinner reservations on board the ship.

Costa tender rescues Global Tour in Mykonos

We were cruising along in our transport tender toward the cruise ship; everyone was very excited for the next phase of our journey aboard the Costa Deliziosa. We arrived at the ship and were boarded by security personnel to check our passports and cruise reservations…when the unexpected happened. As an American passport holder, there are only a few countries in the world that require advanced visas, but that is not case for other country passport holders as we discovered. The Zhou Zhen family thought they had their European and U.S. visas in order, but apparently they were only allowed one entry in and out of the European Union (EU). Since the cruise ship was going to Croatia as one of our stops (a non-EU member), this meant that the Zhou Zhen family would be entering and leaving the EU twice, therefore the captain of the Deliziosa could not allow the family to board. The team had been on an emotional rollercoaster and it was quite difficult for us to leave part of our extended family behind, however we had no choice. No travel excursion around the world could possibility go smoothly all of the time, but this was a tough blow for our team.

Costa Deliziosa cruise ship

It was after 10pm before we got something to eat and settled in our accommodations for the evening. We learned that the Zhou Zhen family stayed an extra night in Mykonos and then flew to Milan for a few days. They eventually met back up with us in Venice a few days later, where the cruise ended.

AT SEA

With all of my travel experience, this was the very first time I had been on a cruise ship, and I was diggin’ it. My quarters were quite nice and spacious for a cruise ship. I especially loved my private balcony where I enjoyed coffee each morning and watched the sunset at night.

Sunrise on Costa Cruise Ship

Our next stop was Santorini. I found this Greek Island to be so inviting and quite different from Mykonos. Santorini is more laid back, even rural, while Mykonos is more about the party scene while basking on its sun-drenched beaches. When we first arrived via the cruise ship tender, I was pretty underwhelmed. The landscape was arid and the port lay at the base of a rocky cliff face that soared more than 550 meters. The street was lined with some cheesy looking shops and cafes. As we boarded our tour bus and ascended a narrow and treacherous road toward the top of the island, my impressions began to change. For starters, the views were stunning, and I’ve never seen ocean water so blue and crystal clear in all my travels. As I looked out to the other side of the island, I saw a gradual descent of the landscape as it met the waters on the other side. I saw homes, buildings and vineyards as far as the eye could see, but it wasn’t congested by any means, but rather spread out.

Santorini Greece by MikesRoadTrip.com

It was a wonderful day in Santorni, but it had tom come to an end as it was time to board our Costa cruise ship for a fine-dining experience we’d not soon forget.

The feelings we all have about the wonder of flight, is similar to cruising. The enormity of the ship seems like such an engineering marvel…not only its sheer size, but also the volume of people, staff and food required to operate the vessel is simply amazing. Cruise ships, such as the Costa Deliziosa, are literally floating cities for a week.

Costa Deliziosa cruise ship

After departing Santorini, we had a full day of sailing ahead of us. The first part of our day was spent getting some rest and exploring the ship. I started off by sitting on my ocean view balcony watching the sunrise. It was so peaceful and relaxing—from listening to the water being parted by the ship’s hull, to amber twirls of clouds in the sky becoming more vibrant as the sun began to peak above the horizon, to the perfect ambient temperature that nestled me into a cocoon of contentment. These elements and slowed pace were so very welcome given our hectic travel schedule.

Costa Deliziosa deck

CROATIA

We arrived into Dubrovnik first thing in the morning and it was a spectacular day. Croatia had been another bucket list destination for some time and I was excited to disembark and start exploring. Our first agenda item was to ride the recently restored Cable Car to the top of town. The views of Old Town and the sapphire blue waters below were simply stunning. While atop Srdj Hill, we toured the Croatian War of Independence Museum, which is located within an old fortification bunker. The venue for this museum is so apropos…fitting. Not only is it a fascinating look at this relatively recent war that broke up Yugoslavia, but the venue is so raw and full of character—it was a photographers delight.

Cable Car view of Dubrovnik

A short while later, we rode the cable car back down to the bottom where we took a short walk to Old Town Dubrovnik and entered at the east entrance Plocw Gate. If you’re a fan of the T.V. show, “Game of Thrones” (like I am), then you’ll really appreciate the fact that this fortification area of Old Town is the set for the show. Two months out of each year, most of Old Town is closed to tourists to film portions of the show. Our tour guide even pointed out the spot where the Queen Mother was released from prison and had to do a walk of shame…fully naked, down a long corridor while extras threw rotten food at her.

Old Town Dubrovnik by MikesRoadTrip.com

ITALY

The ageless patina that casts its shadow over Venice makes it one of the most unique and interesting places in the world. This would mark the end of our cruise and would be the second time I had visited Venice. I really enjoyed my first trip to Venice, but became enamored the second time around.

After getting settled, we embarked on a walking tour with a local guide and got familiar with the general area. This familiarization tour however did not prevent me from getting lost later in the evening. Venice is a maze of waterways, bridges and alleys that take visitors a fair amount of exploration in order to get one’s bearing.

Santa Maria della Salute in Venice by MikesRoadTrip.com

The Gondolas are one of the most iconic symbols of Venice and is pretty much a rite of passage when visiting. Since we were already near the Grand Canal, this is where our tour would begin; however, it wasn’t long before we entered a narrow and slightly more secluded area—this is where Domenick broke out his guitar and began strumming a few chords and started singing. Apparently, playing a guitar or other instruments is prohibited on gondolas for some reason; However we were able to obtain special permission from the vice-mayor for filming purposes. The Grand Canal of Venice is somewhat reminiscent of the Grand Canal we floated down in Hangzhou, however the one in China is much, much older—parts of which date back to the 5th Century B.C.

Gondala in Venice by MikesRoadTrip.com

It was an early morning water taxi the next day that took us from Venice proper, to the colorful island of Burano. When I saw Burano on the itinerary, I thought it was a typo…that we were actually going to the island famous for glass called, Murano (with an “M”). As it turned out, Burano was, in fact, correct. As I learned, Burano is very well known for its quality lace and vibrantly colored homes.

Burano colorful by MikesRoadTrip.com

SWITZERLAND

Our trip around the world continued. From Venice we made our way to Geneva, Switzerland where one day we took a fascinating tour of the UN. That evening we headed to the airport, and after our usual arduous task of getting checked in, we headed to the gate to wait for our departure. Just as the time to board approached, I noticed a big storm envelop the airport. Soon after, we heard from the gate agent that our flight had been canceled. We quickly went into action to get re-booked on the next flight, but I suggested that we seriously consider getting on a train instead—there was one that left nearly every hour and would not be affected by weather. Looking at the satellite map, inclement weather would be an issue for a few hours. Several of us collectively took control of the situation to think through the details of how to get from point A to point B. It didn’t take long before we informed the ticket agent that we would not be getting on the flight, but rather taking a train.

It took real team effort to organize on the fly each of our next moves. Time was not on our side as there were only two trains leaving yet that evening. It was quite amazing how a group of 14 with a ton of heavy luggage, and a common goal, could quickly move from one area of the airport terminal to the train platform…when properly motivated.

Venice Train Station family waiting by MikesRoadTrip.com

Try as we did to make our scheduled train; we missed it by 6-7 minutes. The coach section of the next and final train of the evening was completely booked, so organizers had no choice but to upgrade us to First Class, which oddly enough we had a section of the car all to ourselves. It was so fantastic to be in the comforts of first class and able to relax and take a sigh of relief that we were now on our way to Paris.

Bullet train at Venice train station by MikesRoadTrip.com

FRANCE

Since we arrived so late to the hotel here in Paris due to our canceled flight from Geneva and long train ride, we didn’t get out of the hotel to sightsee until 11am. We engaged a local tour guide to show us around the Notre Dame area, which reminded me of when I was last in Paris—some 19 years ago…nearly to the day!

Mike at Notre Dome by MikesRoadTrip.com

If you’ve ever been to Notre Dame, you may be aware of a marker in front called “Ground Point.”, which apparently is the center of Paris. Legend has it, that if you jump in the air and both feet land on the marker, then you are destined to return to La Ville Lumière (City of Light). Well, it must be true, because here I was!

We started our next day touring the Latin quarter of Paris, which is the oldest part of town…dating back some 2000 years. There are even some remnants of Roman occupation which visitors can see.

One morning while in Paris we went to a local Parisian farmers market to pick up a few things to prepare a picnic. As a foodie photography enthusiast, I was thrilled to capture some close-up shots of the vibrant produce and other edible goodness on display. Unfortunately, I learned many of the vendors are not so keen on people taking pictures of their goods. I don’t speak French, and I have no idea what was being said, but I was pretty sure I know when unpleasant things are being said about me. Later, we all gathered back at our bus en route to the famed Eiffel Tower where we spread out some blankets on a grassy knoll at Champ de Mars, a large public green-space between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest, and the École Militaire to the southeast. We found a spot without hoards of people, but within sight of the iconic structure to enjoy our picnic.

Picnic by Eiffel Tower by MikesRoadTrip.com

UNITED STATES

Our last international flight (at least for the Americans) was from Paris to Boston. Boston is a sister city to Hangzhou, so we had a meet-and-greet scheduled with the Mayor, but he was called away on city business. We toured many parts of the city, from Harvard to Quincy Market. After a couple of days we took a tour bus to New York City where we would spend the final four days of the Global tour.

Massachusetts State House by MikesRoadTrip.com

After arriving back to Phoenix, I had just a week to prepare for another international trip, this time to the Czech Republic. And, this time, I got to take my girlfriend Terri.

CZECH REPUBLIC

15 years after my first trip to the Czech Republic, I returned to one of my favorite countries in Europe.  I was very excited to explore some new areas, and, to see what (if anything) had changed since I was last in the country. This trip would be especially memorable since I was with Terri.

Once we arrived in Prague and got settled, Terri and I took a walk to look for a casual place to dine. After our extensive day of travel, all we wanted to do was get something quick and get to bed. While we found a charming area near the hotel, the few restaurants present were either not appealing, or were closed for a private party. We veered in another direction and discovered a fantastic venue that fit the bill perfectly… Peklo Restaurant. This unique restaurant in the remarkable setting of a 12th-century grotto (sort of a cave or wine cellar) won us over with their delicious food, exceptional service and an environment that was so unique and romantic, that it was the perfect way to kick off our Czech adventures.

The next day, before meeting up with other travel journalists who flew in from around Europe for the beginning of our group press trip, Terri and I had some time to explore on our own. Just down the street from the Lindner Hotel (where we were staying) we noticed some interesting activity going on. It felt like we’d been transported back in time, or perhaps we accidentally wandered onto the set of a movie. It ended up being the latter of the two.

WWII Motorcycle in Prague by MikesRoadTrip.com

It was evident straight away that a WWII movie was being filmed. Dozens of cars from the period lined the streets, along with people in 1940s attire. It was quite surreal. Unfortunately, each time I tried to photograph or film the scene, I was shooed away by representatives from the film crew. We stood by and watched the filming for a little while, which included a scene of German trucks driving up the street and coming to an abrupt halt, letting dozens of German troops disembark from the back with guns in tow.

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A few hours later we met up with the other journalists and our local tour guide who took us on a walking tour of the Prague Castle (not just a castle, but an entire walled off area of Prague, where the President lives and congressional leaders have offices).

Around the world trip of Prague Castle at night by Mike of MikesRoadTrip.com

After a several days of traveling with the other journalists, we broke off from the group and were on our own for nearly two weeks. We road tripped throughout Bohemia and Moravia.  We toured countless castles, cathedrals and chateaus. One of the many things that makes the Czech Republic so fantastic is that it has been minimally impacted by wars, so many of the buildings are many centuries old.

Our first day on our own we met up with Vojtech, my U.S. based Czech contact who had arrived in Prague the night before. He took us to the Novotel Hotel, which would be our home for the next few night. We were quite happy that we would not have to move the next day as we had been doing. Our first stop was a stroll around the Prague Castle, which is the largest coherent castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000m².  This UNESCO World Heritage site consists of large-scale palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles—from Romanesque buildings that date to the 10th century, through Gothic modifications into the 14th. It really is an extraordinary place to explore.

Prague Lesser Town by MikesRoadTrip.com

We then walked to Lesser Town, which slopes below the Prague Castle and is probably the best preserved part of Prague, dating back to 1257. Coming from America, it is simply extraordinary to walk the streets that so many generations before me have done. In America, if something were 50 years old, it would be considered “old,” and often ready for demolition. In Prague, many of the buildings have been standing and occupied for hundreds of years. Something interesting we learned was that before the numeric address was introduced, each house had a figured relief, such as a cat or a snake, which identified the owners and/or the building. Most of these images still exist on the buildings in Lesser Town.

From Lesser Town we strolled across one of the most famous bridges in all of Europe, Charles Bridge. The iconic pedestrian-only bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague and was commissioned by Charles IV in 1357. There are 30 Baroque statues on both sides of Charles Bridge along with a host of artists and street performers on any given day. Toward one end of the bridge is a flight of stairs we walked down to access Kampa Island, which is sort of an oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of Charles Bridge.

Around the Wrold Trip - Charles Bridge from the river by MikesRoadTrip.com

The highlight of the day was our tour of the Estate Theatre, one of the oldest and most beautiful theaters in Europe still being used. This theater is quite famous as it is the place where Mozart himself premiered his 1787 opera “Don Giovanni,” and his 1791 opera, “La Clemenza di Tito.” It was amazing to be standing in the orchestra pit where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart actually conducted his famed operas. It’s also interesting to note that many scenes from the eight Academy Award winning movie “Amadeus” (1984) were filmed in part at the Estate Theatre.

Estate Theatre in Prague (inside) by MikesRoadTrip.com

The next day our highlight was a tour of the Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle, which is the oldest, largest and most intact private art collection in the Czech Republic. The collection represents twenty-two beautifully appointed galleries that contain all the aspects of culture and nobility of Central Europe over six centuries.

With the passage of restitution laws in the 1990s, the Lobkowicz family was able to reunite most of their collection of paintings, ceramics and armor that were confiscated and harbored by the Nazis during WWII. Today the collection is available for public view. Ironically, we had just watched the film “Woman in Gold” on the flight home from Prague and it mirrored the story of a family re-claiming the art that was rightfully once theirs.

Throughout our trip to the Czech Republic, we were able to stand where Mozart conducted in person (Estate Theatre), view a manuscript written in Mozart’s own handwriting (Lobkowicz Palace) and stayed in the Mozart suite at the Aria Hotel, where we enjoyed the lap of luxury for a night. We both felt honored to have basked in the history of such unparalleled talent.

Our last night in Prague we had a special treat planned, dinner reservations at the Oblaca Restaurant inside the Zizkov Tower, which is affectionately known as the second ugliest building in the world and is the tallest structure in the Czech Republic. When you’re within the tower, all the “ugliness” disappears because you are blinded by the surrounding beauty of the magnificent city. From my experience, restaurants with a view are often overrated, but not in this case, Oblaca Restaurant matched its modern cuisine with the beautiful metropolis view of Prague.

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The next morning we left Prague and headed to the little hillside village of Mcely where we stayed at a fantastic place. An amazing hideaway from the city rush of Prague is the picturesque central Bohemian village of Mcely. Resting upon a bluff overlooking Mcely is the five-star Chateau Mcely hotel, owned by James and Inez Cusumano. The Chateau was a perfect destination to spur a little romance between Terri and me. Vojtech had left us on our own and went back to Prague for the evening. The Chateau was like a fairytale. The hotel’s interior was impeccably furnished in “modern château” style, with each of its 23 rooms individually and uniquely decorated.

Couple in front of Chateau Mcely by MikesRoadTrip.com

The next day we were in Kutná Hora visiting the St. Barbara Cathedral. While our enthusiasm to visit yet another cathedral was waning, our moods soon changed when we discovered that a very special opportunity was in store. Our guide obtained two sets of keys, one that let us stroll up a flight of stairs to peruse some of the alcoves looking down at the massive organ and pews. This in itself was a treat as few are ever able to experience the nooks and crannies of historic cathedrals. The other key however, well that allowed us to exit the interior of the monolithic structure and peer outside, high above ground level to walk along a catwalk…among dozens of late Gothic spires. Getting these vantages from the St. Barbara was exhilarating—we were close-up to the creepy gargoyles, and the valley views of Kutná Hora were stunning.

Bone Church by MikesRoadTrip.com

It was time to hit the road again, this time we made our way to the Czech Republic’s second largest city, Brno. We checked into the Hotel Grandezza, which would be our hub for the next few nights as we explored the wine region of southern Monrovia. Our hotel was situated in one of the most venerable squares in Bruno, walking distance to many of the historic sights, such as the illustrious St. Peter and Paul Cathedral and Špilberk Castle.

We were getting settled in our accommodations when I saw Terri maneuvering the whopping dual window that opened up to the square below, letting in some fresh air. Shortly thereafter we took a stroll through the beautiful streets of Brno, taking in all of the angelic architecture and charm of the historic part of town. We heard music emanating from one of the streets so, being avid music lovers that we are, we followed the sounds.  We ended up in what I can only assume was the main square in town, where throngs of people gathered with vendors providing everything from food, wine, beer, music and more.

Colorful Brno by MikesRoadTrip.com

We were really enjoyed ourselves and wished we could have stayed longer, perhaps just getting some local fare, a bottle of wine and heading back to our room, but a five-star meal with Vojtech awaited us.

After a few more days visiting vineyards and villages, we made our way back to Prague for our last day in the Czech Republic. That last day we were thrilled to experience a symphony of hospitality excellence at the Aria Hotel—and to our utter delight, we had been upgraded to a suite. Not just any suite, mind you, but the Presidential Suite. One of the finest rooms in all of Prague. We said our goodbyes to Vojtech and had the rest of our days to ourselves.

Couple enjoying the Aria Hotel Prague

The Aria is ensconced within a musical theme that is carried through every aspect of the property. Each floor of the hotel is themed in a different genre of music (jazz, opera, classical and contemporary), with each of its 51 lavish rooms and suites highlighting a different artist within the floors’ musical style. Guests will find artwork adorning the walls, books, symbolic references and other odes to musicians and composers such as: Smetana, Dvorák, Elvis Presley, Gershwin, Beethoven, Billie Holiday and Mozart.

When we checked-in, a bellhop helped us to the Mozart Suite, the largest suite in the hotel. We found it a rather pleasant coincidence we were staying in a room bearing the Mozart name, having recently toured the Estate Theatre where we had an opportunity to stand in the same spot as Mozart did when he conducted his famed opera, Don Giovanni, in the 18th century.

The Mozart accommodations were simply stunning. The suite had 2 bedrooms, 2.5-bathrooms with a very large sitting room and a kitchenette with all the amenities one could desire. Overlooking the gorgeous baroque Vrtbovska garden, this vast yet cozy suite was adorned in romantic shades of red, setting the ‘stage’ for love.

Mozart suite at Aria Hotel in Prague

After the bellhop dropped our luggage and left, we quickly ran around the suite exploring every corner, like two children seeing Disneyland for the first time. WOW! The master king bed was like lying on a fluffy cloud hugged by 750 thread count sheets surrounded by plump feather down pillows… the best bed we’d slept on throughout our Czech travels. We were so exited about the bed we were tempted to jump on it, but decided to maintain our maturity and just flop down in delight.

Before heading to dinner, we took a tour in the Vrtbovska garden with smart and friendly Sales and Marketing Executive Zuzana Šelov, who walked us through the two levels of baroque gardens. The gardens were so charming and romantic, they would make the perfect place for a wedding. In fact, there were several weddings throughout the gardens that day.

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Zuzana informed us that there would be a quartet of live jazz music taking place in the lounge, so before we headed to dinner, we enjoyed a cocktail while listening to some outstanding music. Just as it was getting time for our dinner reservations, the music came to an end. Perfect timing we thought.

We had our choice of dining inside, or on the rooftop terrace. It had been such a fantastic weather day, that we opted for the terrace which overlooked all of Prague, including a view of the Prague Castle. It was so incredibly romantic.

The hotel’s fine dining restaurant is called Coda, an impeccable experience that we thoroughly enjoyed. From the creative dishes to the service and the view, it was an experience that we would not soon forget. During our dinner on the terrace, we watched the sunset over Prague with a perfect view of the skyline, a scene straight out of a romantic movie. Sigh…

Rooftop terrace at Aria Hotel in Prague

We wish we could have stayed a month at the Aria, but, alas, our short stay in paradise had to come to an end. Unfortunately, we were up at 4am the next morning to head to the airport and missed out on the complimentary breakfast buffet. However, just to put the finishing touch on an amazing experience, the hotel staff prepared a breakfast for us to go, while also providing transportation in a luxurious Mercedes sedan to the airport. We felt like royalty for the day!

Shortly after Terri and I returned from the Czech Republic my trip around the world, as well as our nearly two-year love affair ended. There were two fundamental issues that we could not overcome. For her, it was the fact that I had yet to solidify a steady stream of income. This need for financial security trumped a love affair that was on par to the unrealistic depictions seen in movies. The love we had for each other was intense, but clearly love is not enough to overcome financial inadequacies. For me, separation from Terri gave me some perspective. I had not realized it at the time, but I was beginning to feel resentment over the fact that I was the only one injecting romance and adventure into our relationship. I took Terri on amazing trips (none as extensive has the Czech Republic), to extraordinary restaurants and events, all the while planning every detail. Terri rarely reciprocated.

Terri Lynn Campbell with her boyfriend Mike

I’m not sure I agree with the saying, “It is better to have found love and lost it, than never to have loved at all.” Now that I know what love feels like, I fear I will never have it again. What an amazing feeling it is to feel so close to someone, willing to do anything for her, sacrifice anything. It truly is an amazing human emotion.

While I start writing the next chapter of my amazing life, I’ll travel another 300 miles to the next destination. After two months my trip around the world had finally come to an end, and so too did my relationship with Terri, the person with whom I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.

1 Comments

  1. Always enjoyed your site, but what’s with all of these posts referencing your breakup?? Sorry to hear that, but probably shouldn’t be mentioning it here. Just a suggestions.

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