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Adding The YOU To A Room

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  • March 12, 2015
Confession: sometimes I struggle with completing a room. I can hit all the major points: color scheme, furniture placement, rug, curtains, pillows…I can do that all day long. But then there are those items that really make the room feel ‘done.’ And more often than not, those items are the things that add YOU to the room. They tell your story and give a little insight to who you are.

One way I’ve found to add those touches to our home is through items picked up from our travels. And I’m not talking about shot glasses or key chains. I’m talking about meaningful souvenirs that you can display proudly and that bring to mind happy memories. I’ll show you a few examples from around our home.

On the shelves in our living room, live the little nesting egg dolls we picked up while in Russia. They complement the color scheme well and they add a whimsical touch to the vignette.

Adding The YOU To A Room | Lemon Drop Life
Adding The YOU To A Room | Lemon Drop Life
Recently I switched out a print in our stairway gallery wall for the one I picked up while we were in Scotland. I love walking by and seeing a reminder of our fun trip.

Adding The YOU To A Room | Lemon Drop Life
Also on our gallery wall is a fun little art piece I made using some leftover currencies from a few of our different trips (Costa Rica, Russia, Poland).
Adding The YOU To A Room | Lemon Drop Life

Hubby’s most recent trip was to Peru and he brought back an AMAZING tapestry (I’m not exactly sure what to call it) made completely of alpaca fur for Everly. He wasn’t exactly sure of its’ intended purpose – he said “maybe it can be a nice blanket for her to lay on”, but I turned it into a wall hanging and now it lives in Everly’s nursery. It filled a blank space I’d been struggling with perfectly, and I hope it’s something she’ll cherish forever.

Adding The YOU To A Room | Lemon Drop Life
Adding The YOU To A Room | Lemon Drop Life

And, just keep in mind, you don’t have to travel to exotic locations to pick up meaningful travel mementos. Collect cool looking rocks on your next walk with the kids or buy a fun print from a local artist. Important moments happen all the time and I guarantee you’ll love having the reminders in your home!

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Travel Guide: Scotland

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  • February 25, 2015

Happy Hump Day! This marks my first week back to work (boooooo!), so I’m pretty pumped that it’s halfway over! Last week, I shared my travel guide for London, and today I’m going to be sharing my travel guide for Scotland.

We spent 3 days in Scotland and actually got to see quite a fair bit. We flew into Edinburgh and spent a day there, then the next 2 days were spent driving around the Highlands and visiting various locations. When visiting Scotland, I would definitely recommend renting a car. The larger cities (ie., Edinburgh, Glasgow) have public transport, but it’s definitely not as convenient as it is in London. And definitely spring for the upgrade and get a GPS – it’s a lifesaver. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the weather considering how far north we went. I would periodically check on the weather back home and Indiana had far more snow, plus wickedly low wind chills.  For the most part it was mid 30’s – low 40’s while we were there and I was pretty comfortable walking around in a coat, scarf, and hat.

Hotels:

As I mentioned, we spent our first day/night in Edinburgh. We stayed at the Apex City Hotel (if you read my London recap, you’ll recognize this as the same chain of hotels we stayed at in London) in the Grassmarket area and it ended up being a great location. It was very near to a good selection of restaurants and shops, and it’s not a far walk to the Edinburgh Castle. If you visit this area, be sure to stop by The Red Door Gallery. It’s an adorable art boutique, and the perfect place to grab a souvenir! I grabbed this lovely print that showcases some of the business in the Grassmarket area:

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop Life

 

After we left Edinburgh, we drove up to the Inverness area and we stayed at a B&B that was actually a recommendation from our pediatrician. And it did not disappoint! It’s called Antfield House and it was absolutely adorable! The owners were so friendly – we were the only ones staying there at the time (they actually opened up early for us; they’re normally closed from January until March!), and they were so accommodating. They upgraded us to a nicer room, cooked us an awesome breakfast spread, and gave us recommendations of places to eat and things to do. It’s a ways off the beaten path, but it’s in the most quaint setting. I SO wish we would have been there in the spring because I can’t imagine how gorgeous it would be with everything blooming!

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop Life

Restaurants:

You’ll find just as many pubs (if not more) in Scotland as in London. Our favorite was actually a recommendation from the owner of the B&B we stayed at. It was called The Dores Inn and it sits right on Loch Ness. Of course Jordan had to try haggis, a traditional Scottish dish, while we were there – if you don’t know what it is, well, I’m not going to be the one to tell you. I tried a little bite; it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. When we were in Edinburgh, we actually found a super tasty Mexican restaurant (like I said before, you can only eat fish n’ chips so many times) called Mariachi. It was a nice change of pace, for sure.

Attractions:

Edinburgh Castle – A must-see in Edinburgh. Also, this was the coldest I was during our entire trip. The castle is set up on a hill and it was windy as all get out, so if you’re going anytime but summer, dress warm! It was 16 pounds/person to get in (~$24), and that gets you access to the castle, which also has the National War Museum and Regimental Museums inside.

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop Life

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop LifeThis was the governor’s house – nice digs, no?

Scott Monument – If you’re a lover of gothic architecture, this is the monument for you. There are also platforms you can climb up to that give you great views of the city.

Royal Mile – This is basically the Main Street of Edinburgh and it’s a mile full of a restaurants and shops. If you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs, there are plenty of opportunities. Cashmere and wool are big exports in Scotland, so there’s lots of shops with scarves, hats, and suits. And, of course, there are plenty of places to pick yourself up a kilt. And they sell baby kilts! I was 5 seconds away from buying one for Roarke, but I couldn’t justify spending the money for something he would wear basically just to make me laugh and swoon. He makes me do that anyway.

Loch Ness – Obviously, you can’t go to Scotland without visiting Nessie. We stopped by the Loch Ness museum and they tried to explain it all away with science, but I’m not fooled. I know she’s out there. #ibelieve

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop Life

There’s actually a guy that lives on the beach and has dedicated his whole life to hunting Nessie. I’m sure he’s not crazy at all.

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop Life

 

Urquhart Castle – This castle is situated right on Loch Ness and has some pretty breathtaking views. I think tickets were about 10 pounds/person (~$15)

Highlands – Obviously, this is pretty vague because it encompasses a huge chunk of northern Scotland, but in general the area is breathtakingly beautiful. On our way back down to Edinurgh, we drove the A82 which essentially goes from Inverness down to Glasgow. The mountains, the lakes, the snow…it was all just gorgeous.

Travel Guide: Scotland | Lemon Drop Life

I didn’t edit that picture at all. I imagine it would be just as amazing in the summer, too. I would definitely recommend driving up north and taking in all the beauty!

That recaps all the things we saw in Scotland, overall it had a much more relaxed vibe than London so it was a nice breath of fresh air in the middle of our trip. One thing to note, though, if you’re visiting both countries in the same trip. While both countries use the pound, the Brits  and Scots each print their own (with their own respective political/royal figures and such), so there is a difference. We made an ATM withdrawal in Scotland and got a bunch of Scottish pounds and then when we went back to London, we discovered there was a difference. Luckily, most places took them (the only problem we encountered was the automated ticket machines in The Underground), but usually the business owners would give us a strange look like we had just handed them Monopoly money. So just be aware of that.

I loved our visit to the UK – there really was so much to see and do, and I feel like not having a language barrier really brought our stress levels down compared to other international travel we’ve done. Got specific questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail!

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Travel Guide: London

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  • February 20, 2015

If you follow me on Instagram (@lemondroplife), you know that a couple weeks ago JP and I took a little adventure to the UK. It. Was. Awesome. So I’m recapping the London portion of our travels for you today, and I’ll be posting a travel guide for Scotland next week!

First of all, winter is a great time to travel to Europe because it’s off-season and you can get some pretty great deals on flights and hotels. And with London being one of the most expensive cities in the world (seriously, the dollar-to-pound conversion totally. stinks. At the time we went, 1 pound = 1.54 US dollars, which is actually better than normal.) the off-season is a great time to go!

Hotels:

When we’re traveling we usually book all of our hotels through hotels.com. We’ve had really great experiences with them and have gotten to stay at some incredible hotels at discounted prices. For our first couple days in London, we stayed  at the Apex Temple Court Hotel, which was right off of Fleet Street. The hotel was upscale and absolutely fabulous – probably our favorite of the trip.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

 

For the last few days of our trip, we stayed at the Citadines Hotel near Trafalgar Square. Again, the hotel itself was very nice – the rooms are set up more like apartments for extended stays, complete with little kitchenettes. Honestly though, the staff were not the most helpful. Pretty much anytime we went to the desk to ask a question, they acted like we were inconveniencing them. The location, however, was absolutely superb. Literally, a 3-minute walk to the nearest Underground station – which brings me to my next point of discussion.

The Underground:

The Underground (or ‘tube’, as it’s more commonly known) is, hands down, the easiest way to get around the city. We flew into Heathrow and took the tube all the way into the city to the station nearest our hotel. Our plane got in around 7:30AM London time, so it did get quite crowded with people commuting to work, but other than that, it was a breeze. Every morning, we went to the nearest station and purchased an all-day travel pass (12 pounds/day; ~$18.50). It might seem intimidating at first, but it’s one of the easiest subway systems I’ve ever navigated – I promise, with the help of a little Underground station map, anyone can do it!

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Restaurants:

Obviously, there are a lot of pubs in London. Like, A LOT. A couple we went to worth mentioning were The Swan (located in the Bloomsbury neighborhood) and The Sherlock Holmes Pub, which was right around the corner from the Citadines hotel. They both had great food and amazingly friendly staff. However, a girl can only have fish n’ chips so many times before her body starts to shut down from the carb overload.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

 

Indian food (one of my favorites) is highly popular in London, and we went to a restaurant called Masala Zone (there are several throughout the city) that was SO good. Seriously, we ended up going twice. We also went to a fun little pizza place called Franco Manca – the pizza tasted just like what I remember when I was in Italy! I’ll warn you, it’s a pretty popular place. There was a line outside the door when we got there, but it went fairly quickly.

Attractions:

There is an insane amount of things to do and see in London. We could’ve stayed another week and still had plenty to see. So let me run through the list of what we saw. (WARNING: it’s going to be a loooong list.)

St. Paul’s Cathedral – There was a charge to go in, so this was just one where we took a picture and went on our way.

Tower Bridge – Lots of good photo opportunities. You can go inside and tour it for around 10 pounds, I think. You’ll soon discover that there are a lot of sights that cost money, so you’ll want to pick and choose which ones are most important to you.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Globe Theatre – Shakespeare’s famous playhouse. They actually still put on plays here, but only in the summer, since it’s an open-air theatre.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Harrod’s – This is a shopping mall, on steroids. Eating a box of chocolates. At Disney World. That is to say, it’s INSANE. You’ll see shops from every designer you’ve ever heard of, and some you haven’t. Obviously, most everything there was way too expensive for us, but they do have a food section where you could pick up some gifts and make people think you’re rolling in the dough.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Big Ben – Another photo opportunity. And, if you have time, I would recommend seeing it at both day and night. And make sure you go at the top of an hour so you can hear the bells chime – it’s pretty spectacular!

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

British Museum – This one’s actually free. And HUGE. There is a whole lotta history to take in here, so if you’re the kind that likes to read and see everything, you could easily spend an entire day here.

Madame Tussaud’s – There are so many wonderful historic things to see in London, so I am somewhat ashamed to say I was a little giddy to see this one. What is it about wax figures of celebrities that make people go into a duck-faced, posing, selfie frenzy?? I’m not sure, but I was right there with them. And, let me say, some of these wax figures look scary-real. Like, I was pretty sure Benedict Cumberbatch was going to come to life at any moment. (Which would have been AWESOMEEEE.) This one cost 20 pounds/person (~$30), but we ended up buying bundled tickets for this and the London Eye that gave us a bit of a discount on each attraction.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop LifeWe look nice together, no?

Piccadilly Circus – This is kind of the like the Times Square of London – big digital advertisements and street performers everywhere. I would recommend this one at night.

Westminster Abbey – The site of royal coronations and weddings. Unfortunately, it was closed on the day we went for a church service, so make sure you check beforehand whether it’s open. If I remember correctly, it’s 20 pounds/person (~$30) to go inside.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

London Eye – Basically, a huge ferris wheel that gives you an amazing view of London. We did it at night and it was absolutely incredible. I have a thing about heights (in a nutshell, I crumble onto the floor like a small child), but I still really enjoyed it.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Hyde Park – It was rainy and cold the day we walked through, but if you go in the summer, I’m guessing Hyde Park would be absolutely beautiful. The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain is also located here.

Buckingham Palace – Obviously, one of the most famous sights to see while in London. They do the changing of the guard every day at 11:30AM, and if you want to see it, I suggest getting there at least 30 minutes early. We got there around 11:10, and there was already a huge crowd. You can book tours, but they only offer them at certain times so you’ll want to check on it beforehand.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Imperial War Museum – This one is free as well, and it’s an excellent museum. It’s very interactive, so if you have school-age children, this might be a good one. They have exhibits for World War I and II, as well as the Holocaust.

Phantom of the Opera – One thing there’s no shortage of in London is Broadway shows. We chose to see the Phantom of the Opera – neither of us had seen it before, and it seemed like something ‘classic’ to see while we there. We purchased tickets while we were there, and we got a pretty good deal – about 42 pounds/person (~$65). Our seats were pretty good, and the theatre was only about 75% full. The show was fantastic and the music was incredible!

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Tower of London – I think this one was around 20 pounds/person (~$30), but there’s a lot to see inside, including the Crown Jewels.

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Borough Market – Surprisingly, this ended up being one of our favorite stops. It’s a large market with dozens of food vendors – we had lunch here twice. And I’m not ashamed to say that the second day, my lunch consisted of a freshly baked loaf of rosemary focaccia bread and a heavenly almond croissant. #fattiemuch?

Travel Guide: London | Lemon Drop Life

Phew. I think that exhausts the list of things we saw while we were there. We had very full days trying to see everything we wanted to, so I would definitely recommend wearing comfortable shoes and keep the things you’re carrying to a minimum. I carried a small cross body bag and a small backpack (this one), which held my nice camera. It worked out really well; I think the backpack was one of my smartest purchases and can easily be used for future travels.

I enjoyed London so much; if you’re looking for a taste of Europe without worrying about a language barrier, this is the spot for you! It’s definitely a place I would like to visit again in the future!

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A Little Map Action

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  • January 24, 2013

JP and I love to travel. In the 2 and a half years we’ve been married, we’ve already visited 10 countries outside of the US and 10+ different US cities. We love planning trips and visiting new places, and we plan to continue that even after we add another little human to the equation.

So it makes sense that I love to look for ways to document our travels. And when I stumbled across this picture, I totally fell in love with the idea.

diy-cork-travel-mapvia

However, I wanted a whole world map since we do a lot of international travel, too. And I had a pretty sizable wall to fill, so it was going to need to be BIG. I knew it would be easy to get the basic outlines of the continents, but nearly impossible to cover all the little islands in the Carribbean and Phillipine Sea (two places we’ve each done quite a bit of travelling in, separately). So I just put the idea on the back-burner and tried to think of alternate options.

And as luck would have it, when we visited Ikea last weekend, and alternate option presented itself. While wandering through the showroom, the clouds parted and we laid our eyes on a GIANT canvas world map! I’m talking over 6 feet wide and almost 5 feet tall!! And for only $150, say whaaaa?!?! Art that big would normally come with a pretty hefty price tag, so I was totally pumped! We snatched one up and I couldn’t wait to get home and put it on the wall.

But, unfortunately, we couldn’t just slap it up on the wall and  call it a day. Part of the reason that they could sell it so cheap was because, while the map was printed on canvas, there was no actual backing. So basically, it came rolled up and you attach it to the metal frame they provide. I knew if we wanted to put pins in it, we would need to find a way to back it with something that the pins could sink into.

I made my way to Hobby Lobby and picked up a few pieces of foam board along with some spray adhesive, with the intentions of attaching the foam board to the actual canvas. But for some reason, the foam board just did not want to stick to the canvas. Womp womp. So we went with Plan B. We grabbed some finishing nails and nailed the foam board straight to the wall behind where the map would sit. Boom. Done. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the process..it was all hands on deck trying to get something so massive put up on the wall while keeping it level. But when it was all said and done, here’s where we ended up!

world map

world map_2

The yellow pins represent places I’ve been, the green is JP, and the blue is places we’ve both been to.

world map_3

I LOVE it! Now, I just need to disguise that dumb doorbell box..any suggestions?

Linking up at Design, Dining + Diapers

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Travel Guide: Prague

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  • March 31, 2012

When our last left our travel saga, we had just left Latvia to go to Prague. Let me start off by saying that I pretty much instantly fell in love with Prague. SUCH a charming city. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

We got in around 4:00pm and were set to leave at 11:00am the next morning, so we didn’t have that long to tour the city. Needless to say, as soon as we checked into our hotel, we ventured out to try and soak up the last few hours of sunlight and see as much as possible. It happened to be about 55 degrees (the warmest weather we had experienced the whole trip) so it was perfect weather for walking around.

We set off walking towards the Old Town (in case you’re confused by me always talking about Old Town..many European cities have them. It’s essentially what it sound like..usually consists of the main town square and other historical buildings.) In order to get there, we had to cross the river, which is where we caught our first glimpse of the famous Charles Bridge.


Stunning.

I swear it was like everywhere we turned, there was some beautiful historic building. We didn’t even know what half of them were, but they sure were purty!


We made it to the town square, where the famous astrological clock is located.


Old Town was bustling with all kinds of people and street performers..the whole city had a very casual but happy feel that I just loved. Prague is said to be a very bohemian city..it’s often thought of as the birthplace of street performing, and I would definitely agree. Everything about the city just said, “Hey, come relax and have fun.” To which I happily replied, “OK!”


I would definitely put Prague on my ‘Would Visit Again’ list..anyone else been there?

That officially wraps up my travel posts! Sorry to all of you who hated them..but good news, it’s over and now we can get back to business as usual! Anyone else done any travelling? What places are on your ‘Must Visit’ list?

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Travel Guide: Latvia

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  • March 31, 2012

Today, I’m going to finish up our travel posts with the last two stops we made: Latvia and Prague. I’m going to do them as two separate posts..so you lucky dogs are going to get two posts today! Wahoo!

We left Russia early Saturday morning and headed back to Latvia to spend a couple days. When we got in, we headed for Riga’s Old Town to do a little sightseeing.

First, we made a visit to their local Occupation Museum. It gave a good history of how Riga in particular had been affected by wars and communism over the years. It’s crazy to think that the country as a whole has only had its’ freedom since 1991. Makes me very appreciative of what we have here in America!


After we finished there, we were able to go up in the tower of St. Peter’s and get an awesome birds eye view of the city.


Then we headed over to one of the famous ‘lock bridges.’ The gist of it is, you go to one of these bridges with your sweetheart, snap a lock onto the bridge, throw away the key, and then you’ll stay together forever. So, we got a lock engraved with our names and our wedding date and joined in the tradition. It’s actually really sweet to see this bridge all covered in locks..even though a couple of them had one name scratched out and had written in someone else. Whoops.


From there, we went and had dinner at a delicious Italian place called il Patio.

On Sunday, we lazed around the house for a good part of the day (which was nice seeing as how we’d been on the go basically the whole trip) and headed out for a late lunch/early dinner at a place called Lido. Apparently, they’re quite famous in Latvia and people drive from all over to come visit them. JP liked it so much that we ended up going back on Monday before our plane left!


After we finished eating, we had the opportunity to go to the church my aunt and uncle have been involved in getting off the ground there in Riga. Jordan preached (with the help of a Russian interpreter) and we had a wonderful time meeting all the people there.

The next morning, we packed our bags, hopped on a plane, and headed to Prague!

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Travel Guide: Russia

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  • March 27, 2012

After we left Poland (catch that recap here), we hopped on a plane for Russia. A couple hours later, we touched down in Moscow. We were lucky enough to get in contact with one of the missionaries to Moscow and he was kind enough to act as our tour guide.

We got into Moscow in the late afternoon, so first we headed off to a Georgian restaurant for dinner and it was amazing. It had kind of a Mediterranean flair..super scrumptious!

After dinner, we headed down to Red Square to take in some of the sights by night. Let me just tell you, Red Square is absolutely stunning at night. Everything is all lit up and it looks totally magical. I didn’t have my nice camera with me, so  all I got was an iPhone picture.

The next morning, we headed back down to Red Square to take some pictures during the day and go inside Lenin’s tomb. No pictures of that, unfortunately, since they won’t let you take cameras inside. And they’re pretty serious about their security..you can’t even stop when you’re inside the tomb or have your hands inside your pockets. But I do have lots of pictures of the rest of Red Square!

This is the exact center of the city..it’s just outside Red Square.

Lenin’s tomb

The famous St. Basil’s..so breathtaking in person.

After we left Red Square, we visited the Kremlin.

Inside were several beautiful churches and other monuments.

This is the Tsar’s cannon that was never fired..it was too big. It weighs 40 tons!

This is the Tsar’s bell..it also was too large and it cracked before it could ever be rung. Clearly the guy had a fixation with overly large things. Compensating for something, Mr. Tsar?

By the time we left the Kremlin, it was about 4:00pm and we had every intention of doing a bit more sightseeing…however the day got cut short because someone (*coughcough, me*) had to go and make a huge dramatic scene. Let me explain.

Moscow is a very big, crowded city and the subway is pretty much the only way to get around. The subways are jam-packed with people and it’s about 100 degrees down there. We had been walking all day long and all I’d had in the way of liquids was about 1/2 a bottle of water. You see where this is going?

When we left the Kremlin and headed to the subway station, I started to feel pretty overcome with tiredness but I figured I was just out of shape and didn’t want to be a whiner. So I pushed on. But by the time we actually got on the subway I was feeling pretty terrible..I was sweating and clammy at the same time and my vision was blurring. I looked over at my sweet, sweet hubby and said , “I think I’m going to pass out.” He looked back at me with what can only be described as pure terror in his eyes and says, “What?! Can’t  you wait until we get off the subway?!?!”

Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that and a few seconds later I passed out cold. Like completely unconscious. JP had to carry me off the subway, damsel-in-distress style. Thank God we had the missionary with us..he spoke enough Russian to be able to find help. By some miracle they found a doctor in the subway station. She came and made me drink something and then gave me an injection of something. We have no clue what either of those substances were because she spoke NO English and the missionary couldn’t understand what she was saying. Luckily, I was coherent enough to see her take the syringe and needle out of an unopened package so that was at least a little comforting.

Since then, we’ve been joking that they injected me with some kind of tracking chip and I’m now a spy for the Russian government. Don’t mess with me.

So, sadly, our sightseeing time in Moscow was cut a little short but the next day we got up and took a train to St. Petersburg!

St. Petersburg was a beautiful city..much smaller and less crowded than Moscow. No subway needed, wahoo! It was very easy to navigate the city..we stayed in the Petro Palace hotel which was very close to all the sites we wanted to see.

The Church of the Spilled Blood

The big thing to see in St. Petersburg is the Hermitage and Winter Palace. The place is HUGE. Like, you could easily spend a whole day in there if you’re a big art buff (which I am not..I know shockingly little about it, but it’s fun to pretend).

Talk about extravagance..the place was dripping in gold and crystals. It was like Liberace was their interior decorator. To each his own.

On a whole, St. Petersburg was much more my style. More laid back and it almost felt like Italy (my true European love), especially with the canals and everything. And! It’s where I picked up my adorable little Russian nesting doll that I looove!

Isn’t she a purty lady?? I’ll be back tomorrow with the next stop on our trip, Latvia!

 

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Travel Guide: Poland

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  • March 27, 2012

Well, lovelies, I think I’m finally readjusted and back on a normal schedule after our whirlwind 2 week European adventure! This week I’m going to recap our travels for you and, of course, share some vacation photos!

First up: Poland!

We arrived in Warsaw on Friday evening (March 9th, if you’re keeping track)..just in time to have dinner. After dinner, we went to a place that can only be compared to heaven on earth. It’s a famous Polish confectionary called E. Wedel. They’re famous for their hot drinking chocolate, which is not to be confused with regular hot chocolate. No, no, my friends..this was like the most delicious chocolate bar you’ve ever had in a cup. Pure bliss.

Sorry for the blurry iPhone pic!

On Saturday morning, we got up and drove to Auschwitz, which is near Krakow. It was most certainly a humbling experience and there really aren’t words to describe it, so I will just share a few of the pictures with you guys.

Under the famous “Work Makes One Free” sign.

Various crutches and braces collected from those sent to the gas chambers.

As punishment, prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs and were then hung by their wrists off these hooks for hours on end.

People still come and leave flowers as a memorial to their ancestors.

After we ended our tour at Auschwitz, we headed into Krakow to find a place for dinner and the place we found was A. MAZE. ING. It was a little Jewish cafe called Ariel, and they had the best pierogi’s I’ve ever tasted…seriously delicious!

After dinner we headed back to Warsaw, and on Sunday we were able to take a little tour of the city.  We went into Old Town and the first thing we came across was the open air market. I was amazed that even in 40 degree weather, the square was still filled with vendors.

Not to mention this crazy guy, who’d been standing on his head for who knows how long. If you threw a coin in his basket, he would clap for you with his feet. How quaint.

We then walked down towards the Royal Castle. Interesting fact: the castle was destroyed during World War II, but they later found the original plans and it was rebuilt using some of the original bricks!

Again, even though it was cold outside, the square was bustling with people. And I loooove me some people watching.

I even captured a couple getting engaged! 1, 2, 3…awwwww!

From there, we went to see the old Jewish ghetto that used to be in Warsaw. There isn’t anything left of it really, save for some monuments.

Memorial to the Ghetto Wall

This rock represents where one of the gates originally stood.

Memorial to the prison that once stood here.

Poland has some incredible history and it was amazing to be able to see it all in person. And tomorrow I’ll be back with a recap of Russia!

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Will Hola Work?

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  • January 5, 2012

So I know I already posted my goals for this year, but one that I failed to put on the list was that JP and I wanted to travel somewhere internationally this year. Travel is a passion for both of us and we kicked around India (he’s already been) and Italy (I’ve already been), but we wanted to go somewhere that neither of us has ever been.

Over Christmas, we got the chance to see my aunt and uncle who have been doing missions work in Latvia an Estonia for the past year or so. That’s when it hit us..Eastern Europe! They were thrilled with the idea of us coming to visit them, and it will give us a chance to see a part of the world neither of us has ever seen! Cha-ching!!

We booked our flight yesterday (and actually got them for about $300 cheaper than we orginally thought we could..say whaat?!) and our plan is to have my aunt and uncle show us around Latvia and visit Russia, Poland, and Prague.

We’re in pretty hardcore planning mode right now, seeing as we’ll be making the trip in early March (brrr!!). So if any of you have been to any of those places and have suggestions or tips, please let me know! Even if you’ve never been, but have an idea of some cool things to see..feel free to pass along the info!

Oh, and I Googled ‘Russian greeting’ because I was going to be all cute and use it as the title of this post..but, my word, that language looks difficult! Here’s to hoping that I can skate by on the cute little faux fur hat I plan to wear!

Anybody have a horse I can borrow?

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Travel Uncategorized

Tips for Cruisin’

Hey guys! Hope you all had a great weekend..we finally got some much needed rain. I think I heard my flowers give an audible sigh!

I want to wrap up my vacation posts by giving you guys just a few pointers and tips in case any of you are considering going on a cruise in the future.

When I told people we were going on a cruise, most of the reactions were “Ohhhh, wowwww a cruuuiseee.” Meanwhile, I could see in their heads they were thinking, “You must be rich! Cruises are SO expensive!” Contrary to what you might think, cruises can be pretty economical. The fare includes your room, enough food to feed Joey Chestnut, and entertainment including magicians, comedians, acrobats, singers, and dancers. And there a few more ways to save a few buckaroos:

1.) Early bird gets the worm? In this case, true. Sort of. You’re going to get the best deal by either booking far in advance (5-6 months) or wayyy late (1-2 weeks before departure). Cruise lines don’t want to sail their ships with empty rooms, so often times as a departure date gets closer, they will drop the rates significantly. But, of course, not everyone can wait until the last second to plan their vacation. So, my advice is if you know you want to book a cruise, get with a travel agent ASAP and book it. I’ve also heard that some cruise lines have a ‘low price guarantee’..so if the fare drops after you book it, they will guarantee you the lower rate. Check with your travel agent on that.

2.) Forget the ocean view. You’re on a boat. You can go up on the deck and stare at the ocean ’til your hearts content. A balcony/oceanview in your room isn’t necessary. Sure, if you’ve got the extra money to spend, it would be nice to have..but overall, unnecessary. The only time we even spent in our room was when we were sleeping or getting ready. You’ll save hundreds of dollars by opting for an interior room. And, as a general rule, the higher on the boat you go, the more expensive the rooms are. So, if you don’t mind staying on a lower level (still above sea level, though..it’s not like they’re putting you down where Leo DiCaprio had to stay on the Titanic) an in an interior room, you can save a LOT of money.

3.) Beware the room card. On both of the cruise lines we tried, there is a cashless system implemented on board. Before you get on the boat, they will have you put a credit card on file. This credit card will then be tied to your room key. So whenever you want to purchase something throughout the week, they will charge it to your room and you will get the bill at the end of the week. It’s very convenient, but it can be somewhat dangerous. Especially, if you’re drinking or gambling (we do neither, so it wasn’t an issue for us). I recommend trying to keep a running tally somewhere of what you’ve spent so that you’re not shocked when they slip that bill under your door at the end of week!

4.) The excursion debate. Excursions are probably where people spend the most money once on board the ship. First let me say, excursions are totally optional. It’s just a chance to explore your port of call in a tour packaged organized by your cruise line or another third-party company. However, if you want to just get off the boat and explore on your own, that’s always an option. You don’t even have to get off the boat at all. {Sidenote: the spa onboard usually runs specials on days when you’re in port. So if you want to book a spa treatment, do it on those days.} If you decide you want to book an excursion there are two ways to do it. You can book it through your cruise line either prior to the cruise or once you’re on board. Or you can wait until you get to the port and book it through a third-party company. Most cruise lines will discourage this because they can’t vouch for the integrity of those companies. However, you can save up to 50% off the price because those companies are run by locals who are willing to haggle. If you’re going to go that route, I would recommend finding some local security officials (there are usually some at every port) and asking if they can point you in the direction of a reputable company. It’s a more risky way to do things, but it can definitely pay off in the end. For example, we booked an excursion where we swam with dolphins (PURE AMAZINGNESS btw) in Cozumel for about $130. When we got there, we talked with some other people who booked it through some locals and only paid $85. No bueno.

And now for some more general tips:

1.)  Packing the essentials. If you’ve never cruised before, you may be at a loss for what to pack. Here’s my suggestions. Pack one outfit for dinner each night. This can be as dressy or casual as you like, depending on the kind of dining you want to do. Most ships offer a buffet style dining where you can dress however you’d like, or a more formal, sit down style, which is usually slightly more dressy (i.e. no jeans, no shorts, etc). Also, some cruises have one or two ‘formal nights’ where you’re encouraged to get all gussied up so check with your specific cruise line for info on that. I really enjoy the formal nights because they make for great photo opportunities! As far as what to pack for the days, you need to consider what you think you will be doing. For example, if you plan to just lay by the pool/swim, you may not need much past a bathing suit and cover up for the daytime. But if you think you might go for a hike or long walk on one of your excursions, make sure to pack comfortable clothes and tennis shoes. Also, consider any specialty items that might come in handy, like a scuba mask or snorkel. That will save you money on having to rent them for an excursion. And, DON’T FORGET SUNSCREEN. The sun is very intense on a Caribbean cruise, and because there is a breeze coming off the ocean you can completely fry yourself and not even know it. I’d also recommend a good hat that will stay on your head, even with a strong breeze. Trust me, you don’t want to burn your scalp because then it will peel and it’ll look like you have really bad dandruff. Not sexy.

2.) Is it just me or is the room swaying? One thing to consider when thinking about going on a cruise is whether or not you experience motion sickness. The movement is nothing like what you would experience on a regular boat, but you can definitely feel it from time to time. The larger the ship, the less you will feel the movement. My mom gets motion sickness, so she takes Dramamine throughout the duration of the cruise and it works just fine. I also saw several people wearing those little motion sickness patches. If you think it might be an issue, pack it just in case. Nobody wants to be upchucking on their vacay.

3.) Gratuity. Throughout the cruise, there are a number of people who serve you..from your room steward to the wait staff to the bar boy. Most cruise lines will add a charge (on Norwegian it was $12 per person/per day) onto your room bill at the end of the week that covers tips for all these people. So be sure to account for that in your budget.

PHEW. That was a lot of reading..sorry guys. For making it through such a wordy post, I will now reward you with some random pictures from our cruise.

 

Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya, Mexico

At Dolphinarius in Cozumel, Mexico


Ahh, I’m ready to go back already! Have you guys ever been on a cruise? Thinking about it in the future? Have any more questions? I want to hear all about it!

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