Vacation Photos: Bruges, pt 1

We spent almost 3 days in Bruges. Initially, we wanted to fill the Saturday between Bruges and Brussels with an overnight stay in a castle in the Belgian countryside, but it became nearly impossible once we encountered fully-booked lodgings and really overpriced, 3-day-minimum car-rentals. Thankfully, we liked Bruges enough after two days that we decided to stay a third (though that was a headache in itself, since the Procession of the Holy Blood was that week, which we didn’t know until we arrived in town and found that every bus was being detoured, fun!, and nowhere in Bruges had any vacancies. We magically landed a night here, literally half a block down from our amazing apartment rental, and it was the best-smelling hotel I’ve ever stayed in.) I sort of wanted to take a train back to Ghent for the afternoon. We also wanted to rent bikes and head to Damme, but a combination of rain, exhaustion, and general vacation-laziness caught up to us. Next time.

Bruges is more crowded and a lot more tourist-filled than Ghent, but has no shortage of amazing architecture and winding canals. We had waffles from street vendors and split a giant cone of frites with mayonnaise. We even went grocery shopping and made dinner one night in our apartment. We bought a museum pass and visited the Groeninge Museum, climbed all 366 steps in the Belfry, visited Sint-Janshospitaal, and the Jerusalem Chapel and Lace Museum (lace is huge in Belgium). I’m considered a youth pretty much everywhere in Europe since I’m 25, so everything was cheaper for me, but the museum pass paid for itself after 1 museum and the Belfry for both of us. I’d recommend it if you’re huge museum nerds like us.

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Vacation Photos: Ghent

And now we move on to the Belgian portion of the photos. Situated halfway between Brussels and Bruges (it’s a 25 minute train ride from Brussels, and pro-tip, no one ever collects your train tickets in the country) in the heart of the Flanders region, Ghent is what I imagine Bruges was 10 years ago before tourists found out about it. It’s picturesque, untouched, filled with gorgeous architecture, winding canals, and super friendly locals who all speak Flemish. And at the risk of sounding wholly ignorant, it sounds like everyone is making fun of the Swedish Chef. The local speciality is a dish called waterzooi, which is pronounced exactly as it looks. Water. Zoo. EEEEE. It’s a cream-based fish soup, and it’s delicious.

We only spent 24 hours in town before moving on to Bruges. If I could change one thing about our trip, it would be to have spent more time in Ghent. We toured a castle from the 1100s, had a long and lazy lunch on the canal, bar-hopped with the locals, drinking tons of Kriek (sour cherry lambic!), and one weird guy befriended us and bought us drinks. We were convinced he was going to follow and murder us but really he was just awkwardly overfamiliar (he mentioned he had six kids. “Three boys, four girls.” At least we had math skills in common). We stayed in the most gorgeous hotel I’ve ever seen (where I left my macbook charger under the desk), never paid for the tram (I’m serious, it’s like tickets are optional in Belgium), visited the Design Museum, stopped into about 15 magnificent churches, and had a traditional Flemish dinner.

Ghent, man. It seriously charmed the pants off of me.

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Vacation Photos: Paris, pt 2

Tuesday we woke up early, walked to the D’Orsay to see the Degas Les Nus exhibit (and stumbled across new French President Hollande’s motorcade in front of the Place des Invalides, random). We followed Süsk’s guide to the 17eme and had dinner at her favorite restaurant before heading to the Eiffel Tower at 11pm and taking the last elevator to the top. Between my fear of elevators and Boyfriend’s fear of heights, it was quite the experience. It rained a bit that day but we managed to avoid it, and the light that splashed across the city after the storm was unreal.

Wednesday morning we went to the Louvre bright and early and got to skip the long line thanks to the advanced tickets we’d bought from our hotel concierge (I highly recommend this!). We spent over 2 hours in the museum and both walked away feeling like we could have spent a full week. Afterwards, it was time to check out of our hotel and take a train back to Belgium. I’m still sad about it.

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Vacation Photos: Paris, pt 1

Two weeks ago today, we landed in Brussels at 8am and took a train straight to Paris. The weather was incredible, warm and sunny. Our first day there we walked the entire city it felt like, stopping only for lunch, Ladurée (verdict: they taste better in Paris, and they’re less expensive), and then later, drinks when we were exhausted and needed a pick-me-up. The first time we rounded a corner and caught sight of the Eiffel Tower I actually started crying. Wept, openly. We took a late nap (at 7:30 at night! thanks, jet lag) before heading across the street from our hotel for dinner. I’ll never get over walking out of the front door and seeing the Arc de Triomphe at the end of your block. Or having champagne at every meal.

“To know that Paris exists and anyone would choose to live anywhere else is a mystery to me.” – Midnight in Paris

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Something(s) About Me

Continuing on with the spirit of community you girls so graciously gave me over the past two weeks with your incredible guest posts, today I’m participating in a virtual cocktail party of sorts, assembled by the lovely Theresa of InspirationCooperative. The theme is piggybacking off of the blogging-sensation “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You.” We sort of interpreted the theme a bit differently and applied it in the most universal sense so as to include everyone, and came up with Something(s) About Me.

For me the decision for to post some hidden facts about myself on the same day as a bunch of other incredible ladies, stems from my dislike of a lot of blogs that are fake and glossy and only show the most tightly edited and stylized versions of their lives. Oh, you went grocery shopping in 5 inch stilettos? I totally believe you. And you’ve never had a bad day, too, right? Show me something real. My favorite blogs are ones written in an honest voice, about people’s real days, even if they aren’t perfect. No one is perfect. Just be real.

Herewith, 10 real things about me.

This is me, unedited, in my cube at work right now, wearing a men’s chambray shirt. Yeah, I’m having a bad hair day. It’s the humidity!

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Vacation Memories (and goodies)

I’m back! And I am sleepy. I’ve honestly never had jet-lag this bad before, despite the previous international travel I’ve done. Maybe the reason I’ve been trying to crawl under my desk at work and take a power nap is because we did too much on this vacation. We hit 4 cities in 9 days, stayed in 6 different hotels, took 5 trains between 2 countries, and went to bed around 1am every night. I have about a billion pictures to show you guys, but I’ve only uploaded a few from the very first day because someone left her macbook charger in a hotel in Ghent but didn’t realize it until she was in Bruges 3 days later. That someone might have collapsed on the floor of the hotel room and cried like a baby over it too, who knows.

The good news is that last night I went to the Apple store and shelled out $80 for a new one, and I would’ve gone straight home and edited photos all night but I had a hot date with my mom. She had made a huge pot of meatballs and spaghetti sauce so I wouldn’t have to worry about fending for food when we got back, so we had a girl’s night last night. You might be wondering where Boyfriend was for all of this; if you guessed that he had to wake up at 4am the morning after we got back to fly to Mexico for 3 days for a business trip, you’d be correct. Oy.

So, yes, pictures are coming, I promise! Starting Monday I’ll do a humongous (I’m probably just delirious, but that word looks wrong. Is that really how it’s spelled?) post each day of photos from the trip. I’m more excited about it than you are, trust me.

In the meantime, let’s talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: shopping! Obviously I didn’t do a ton of it on the trip, because I was too busy professing my love for the Eiffel Tower or imbibing sour cherry lambics all afternoon. And because, hey, I was on vacation! I made one pit stop in Bruges to a Mango store to eye some mint colored jeans, but that was it. Even in Paris I didn’t buy anything! Unless you count macarons or a tiny Eiffel Tower keychain.

I realize that vacations aren’t about the things you bought or the material items you bring back with you, but rather the things you saw and the memories you made. But if that were entirely true no one would have invented the terms “souvenir” or “no foreign transaction fees.”

Or plopped a Zara Home store a 5 minute walk from my hotel in Brussels.

Yes. A Zara Home store. I didn’t even know they had such a thing! All of my impressive self control flew right out the window when I saw it. I dragged Boyfriend inside and commenced the most materialistically satisfying half an hour of my life. Here’s what I managed to come away with:

Pillow / Tealight Holder

The pillow acted as a nice padding agent to cushion the beer we backed in our suitcase to bring home, and I’m keeping it far away from Fitz, Fabric Destroyer Extraordinaire. I’ve already lit a tealight in that candle holder, and I know I’m a total Crazy Candle Lady but seriously, it’s beautiful. And it was only €7! I could have spent the whole day in that store, but Boyfriend must have been allergic to some fragrance in there because he was sneezing uncontrollably so I took pity on him and made it quick.

However, here are some other goodies I spotted which I would have been more than happy to bring home with me, and that I’m slightly kicking myself for not snatching up when I had the chance. Read more

Guest Post! My Favorite Vacation: Tina of Colourliving

Well, all good things must come to an end, as they say. Though I don’t know who “they” are and I really think they need to reconsider. Vacation was amazing; I came back more tired than when I left. That’s a good sign, right? While I’m headed back to work today and trying to re-assimilate into normal society (you know, where it’s not acceptable to have a drink any time of day you feel like it, and usually on a canal), Tina of Colourliving has been gracious enough to round out the past week and a half of guest-posts for me. What a relief to not have to come home and worry about a post of my own!

I’m delighted to have been asked by the lovely Erin to guest post on her incomparable blog, while she is swooning around Europe. It is my first guest post and the pressure is on!

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Guest Post! My Favorite Vacation: Nina of Living in 40

We’re catching our flight home today and I’m fifteen different sorts of weepy over it. Thankfully though, I haven’t had too much time to wallow as I’m struggling to fit all of the stuff I bought into my suitcase. Note to self: next time, bring an extra, empty suitcase to stash souvenirs. While we’re flying back over the Atlantic, here’s a relaxing story about the island of Kauai, brought to you by the same girl who sent me my Orla Kiely scarf (thanks, Nina! I wore it all over this trip).

Hello, I’m Nina from living in 40 and Erin invited me to share one of my most memorable vacation stories. I wonder where she is right now, still in Brussels, Bruges or Paris? Wherever she is in Europe, I bet she is enjoying herself! Can’t wait for her to share her stories when she gets back.

Do you have a happy place where you like to escape to when life is too hectic and overwhelming? I like to escape to Kauai, more specifically to Kealia Landing, a house where we spent a week in 2008. Our then landlords, who were also our neighbors and friends, asked us if we wanted to join them and three of their friends on a vacation to Kauai. We had enough airline miles saved up to get our flights for free, so of course we had to say yes. And off to Kauai we went.

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Guest Post! My Favorite Vacation: Chi of 106 Kids

Today is our last full day in Brussels, we’re flying out tomorrow. Boo! I’m trying to cram in as many moules + frites as I can before returning stateside. Kicking off this week is the lovely Chi of 106 Kids, with the very apropos (and romantic!) story of a recent birthday. The floor is yours, Chi!

I was lucky enough to be whisked away to Paris by my husband for my thirtieth birthday. I had always wanted to go and by a rather fortuitous coincidence it remains one of my favourite “holidays”. We journeyed by Eurostar and I was so utterly beside myself with excitement that the 2 hours flew by.

We only had a weekend in which to cram our itinerary and so no sooner had we checked in and freshened up than we set off armed with maps, rusty school French and a spring in our step. For the most part, we went to all the usual tourist haunts and did the usual tourist things but there were three firsts that I remember fondly.

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Guest Post! My Favorite Vacation: Theresa of InspirationCooperative

Bruges is a lot like Ghent, only bigger and not everyone speaks Flemish. It’s a lot more tourist-filled, as well. Today’s agenda includes a canal boat tour, where I’ll be trying not to turn green. We’re hoping to take advantage of the full kitchen in our rental and cook dinner at home tonight, we’ll see! I’m happy to have Theresa of InspirationCooperative here filling in for me today to kick off the weekend. Here we go…

Before we had children, my favorite holiday was the one my husband and I (and two of our good friends) took to Europe. We landed in London, then traveled by train to Paris, Venice, Florence, and, finally, Rome. As soon as (and I do mean “as soon as”) the kids are old enough, I really want to return to Europe, adding a few new cities. I think it would be such a great adventure with the kids. Plus, I can’t wait to embark on city-exploring vacations again.

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