The Real Madrid

In Madrid, I drank gin and tonics. Who knew Madrid was famous for their gin and tonics? I didn’t. But I wasn’t upset about it! With full page menus consisting of only gin and tonic drinks, the options were endless. Even if you aren’t a fan of the gin and tonic, there was bound to be one out of the hundreds of combinations you would have liked! The drinks were fabulous, the food was great and the city was full of life. Being the capital of Spain, we knew we were going to have a great time.



Coming from Seville, it was like night and day. Madrid had that mysterious Spanish vibe combined with that big New York City feel. The contrast was interesting. The old architecture was drowning in cell phone ads and publicity posters. Cabs lined the streets ready to chauffeur people to their next destination. And businesses big and small snugged every wide street and corner. The plazas weren’t so charming, but the people who filled them were. And if you searched deep enough, you would stumble upon old tiny streets that haven’t been touched in decades. Madrid was a maze that my husband and I were so badly trying to figure out. One minute we loved it and the next we’d be questioning ourselves. I think it’s the kind of city you need more than three days to explore.


We arrived by fast train from Seville late Monday morning heading straight to our hotel. The city is large, so it’s not entirely walkable the way some cities have been, but we did manage to walk all the way to our hotel due to the fact that we needed to kill some time as our hotel room may not have been ready yet (it was rather early). Also, I’m quite keen on doing as much walking as I possibly can now-a-days, given all the tapas I’ve been eating. We stayed at a Preferred Boutique Hotel (which are my favorites! If ever you are traveling to a destination where they have one, I highly recommend staying there!) called Only You. In fact, we loved the hotel (and our room) so much that we ended up staying there the entire first half of the day. Eating lunch over a bottle of wine in the restaurant and relaxing in the tea room over a game of cards until we were ready to go out. Our hotel was located within perfect walking distance to all the sights we wanted to see and all the neighborhoods we wanted to explore. If you turned left out of the main entrance, you’d step into the trendy, local boutique-y neighborhood. And if you turned right, you would wind up by all of the main plaza’s, squares, museums and parks. It was really the perfect mix of everything right below our feet.



Walking around the neighborhood we were staying in has been one of my favorite thing to do once we arrive anywhere. It helps me get a grasp of what’s around us and also helps me understand the city a bit more. Madrid de los Austrias, the puzzle of 15th and 16th century streets surround Plaza Mayor, the city’s most infamous plaza, and are the oldest streets of Madrid. So we did a substantial amount of walking in that area followed by a quiet dinner at a restaurant our hotel had recommended. It was located within a small door to what seemed to have been an old wine cellar made out of rock and brick. Dark and cold and really cool. Not tapas style, which we were ok with… as all we had been eating lately was tapas! But great food.




My husband gets in serious tour guide mode whenever we have “tourist days” scheduled. He seriously reads up on where we are going and gets extremely excited about showing me all the cool sites and museums, as if he has been to each one a hundred times before. It’s really funny to me because sometimes we don’t talk like we’re husband and wife until the end of the day when our “tourism” is over. I’m super appreciative of his efforts, I just had no idea I married a secret tour guide! Lucky me…! Wednesday was a “tourist day”. We woke up, got coffee, and went straight to the Prado Museum. This museum is known to have one of the worlds best art galleries, so we were excited. Home to not only Spanish art, but that of other countries and eras as well. Masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck fill the walls while sculptures, prints and drawings were scattered throughout. I’m not sure if it’s just because we are at the end of a three month escapade through Europe and we have been inundating ourselves with museums and art galleries galore, but we found this museum to be rather boring.


Our boring museum experience lead us to the magical Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid. Magical might be a stretch, the whole experience was rather elusive as the overall experience was a bit unimpressive. But we happily strolled through the gardens and after walking through some major shopping lanes and eventually made our way to Buen Retiro Park. Buen Retiro Park was filled with picturesque meadows, tranquil walkways and multi-colored gardens that were simply amazing. We loved this park. And seeing as it is huge, we spent a lot of time there. Back in the late 1600’s when the piece of land was transformed into gardens, it included a lion’s cage and an octagon shaped pond, both of which are still in tact today. The whimsical shapes of the trees and surrounding greens are captivating. I dream of going back! We ended our day with tapas followed by gin and tonics, of course!













Our final day in Madrid was one to remember. After hours of strolling through Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Colon, we witnessed a once in a lifetime moment. The King of Spain was being sworn in and we got to be in the heat of it all. Reporters, cameramen, flocks of people crowded the palace and on Thursday, June 19, King Felipe VI was named the new King of Spain. That’s some pretty serious stuff! And we were there! It was the coolest. Also, I almost forgot to mention, his wife, Queen Letizia, is gorgeous.





That night it rained. It poured, actually. And just as any 20-something-year-old couple on a budget, we decided to trek through the downfall of the puddles and make our way under a broken umbrella to dinner. I guess you could say it was pretty romantic. We did walk through my favorite park, Buen Retiro, and did share a kiss under a tree as we waited for the hurricane-like winds to die down. I think the kiss came out of fear from my husband… Fear that I might kill him for making me go to dinner soaking wet. He’s still alive, so it worked. We had a lovely dinner at an upscale restaurant and after my hair had finally dried, took a cab back to the hotel.

The next morning we were set to take a flight from Madrid to Dublin, where our Ireland adventure would begin! We were sad to be leaving Spain, but very excited to drink gallons of beer with happy Irish people.

Until drunken tales from Dublin, adios amigos!

Sevilla State of Mind

In Seville, I ate jamon iberico. My brother-in-law, Danny, who studied abroad in Seville, was very adamant about us eating as much jamon iberico as we possibly could during our stay. And now I know why. It was amazing! The food situation in Seville was far better than Barcelona’s and the overall atmosphere of the city was so incredibly old school Spain, it made for one of the most charming and authentic stops we have made thus far. Squeezing Seville into our jam packed travel schedule to salsify my brother-in-law and sister was probably the best decision we made. (Thank you Becky and Danny!!)


Side note: Seville vs. Sevilla – to us it is known as Seville, but to the locals it is known as Sevilla. I’m never really sure which one to use… So I may refer to it as both. It’s the same thing. And he L’s in Sevilla are silent 🙂


Seville was all sorts of sexy, which is a word I had yet to use on my blog up until now. The city was so rich in history and so uniquely gorgeous it was love at first sight. Home to Spain’s most colorful architecture and festivals, it’s no wonder the population’s way of life is so relaxed. The Seville natives live life to the fullest. As my sister often reminds me, they work to live, while us Americans live to work. A European concept I have grown to love. Much different than Barcelona and Madrid, Seville locals still take a siesta – a couple hours in the middle of the day where businesses shut down and the people head home to enjoy some relaxing time with their families before heading back to work. Much like it was in Spain back in the day, siestas are still important, however, the city is becoming more Americanized as time goes on. My husband and I were worried we would have absolutely nothing to do for two or three hours in the middle of the day, but we didn’t have a hard time finding fun restaurants to enjoy tapas and the local beer (Cruzcampo) during that time.


Important note: during the hours of 2pm and about 6-ish, people don’t typically spend time outside. We learned this the hard way. We arrived by fast train early Sunday afternoon. It was a long ride from Barcelona to Seville, almost 6 hours of traveling. We headed straight to our hotel – Hotel Palacio de Villapanès – which was located on a hidden narrow road. The city was so quiet, I could hear myself breathe. We thought maybe it was because it was Sunday, but that wasn’t the reason. It was because we arrived during the hottest part of the day, between 2pm and 6pm…The time of the day where people think you are crazy if you step into the sun. We didn’t know this, so we dropped our bags off in our room (highly recommend this hotel.. we loved it!) and set out to explore the streets of Seville. After approximately four minutes of walking, we were dying from the heat. Seville gets uncomfortably hot in the months of July and August, but the travel books warn you that mid to late June can be just as bad… And that’s when we were there.


Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Seville, which sounds strange as us Americans like to make dinner the most valued time to dine. It does in fact make a lot of sense though. Families gather every day for a few hours in the afternoon during siesta and then go back to work until early evening. So why wouldn’t lunch be the biggest meal there? I love breakfast and I do enjoy a big dinner, but lunchtime has never completely sparked my interest. But when in Seville, we dined over excessive tapas, bottles of wine and Cruzcampos at lunch followed by a relaxing couple hours back in the air conditioned hotel. Our first tapas experience was at a place called Bodega dos de Mayo… Which was about a four minute walk from our hotel and where we stopped once we got too hot to be in the sun any longer. We shared tapas ranging from jamon iberico (the best ham in the world and so much better than your typical prosciutto), flamenquin (a tapa my sister, Becky, recommended as it is her favorite! It’s hard to explain what it is, but if you are ever in Seville, order it. Trust me.), potatoes bravas (typical Spanish potatoes) and many, many more.



Seville isn’t a city where every single restaurant and bar provides English speaking menus, so we found ourselves winging it in a lot of situations…. Not always working in our favor as we would get dishes we weren’t super enthused with. Like fried fish tapas and creamy mushrooms… Not my favorite. Also, as I mentioned in my Barcelona post, my two years of high school Spanish got me nowhere. It was kind of fun just pointing to things on the menu and then being surprised though! It forced us to try all kinds of new foods and we found ourselves loving more than less.


After a filling lunch, we decided to stroll through the scorching heat of the city for the rest of the afternoon. I have never sweat the way I sweat that day, no bueno. Despite the heat, it was really nice having the streets to ourselves. There was literally no one on the roads and all of the beautiful side alleys were ours. We didn’t have to share with anyone and I liked that. All the sweat and SPF usage was worth it. Seville is not that big, you can walk the entire city in just a few hours passing over the bridge to Triana, where really neat old buildings topple over one another and fabulous ceramics are made. We wanted so badly to get some ceramics for our home (our future home), but given our current suitcase situation, we just couldn’t swing it.










As I have mentioned before, dining in Europe on Sunday nights is never easy. The world shuts down and you are left fighting for a table at one of the touristy restaurants that’s actually open. Here in Seville, the night life was a bit more robust. There was a row of restaurants lining a beautiful street, all with outdoor seating and live entertainment. Entertainment in the form of old men strumming their guitars and singing Spanish melodies while serenading couples at their tables. We dined over tapas and local wine and witnessed a rather drunk man at the scene of a crime. Exciting stories like these are far from my daily tales, so I’ve been eager to tell it!

Here it goes – while we were sitting there, clinking our glasses over, “cheers to our first night in Sevilla”, a very drunk man sprinted past our table… beer in one hand, humongous hookah in the other. Water spilling atop the hookah and beer spraying in all directions. Behind him sprints a woman hostess and a male server screaming things in Spanish that neither Mike nor I understood. All of a sudden, our waiter dropped his tray and started sprinting after the drunk man as well, as did other waiters from different restaurants all along that street. It wasn’t before long that the glorifying moment happened – the female hostess was spotted walking back up the street… carrying the hookah over her head as if she had just won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in a movie. Behind her were two male waiters (Both from different restaurants) escorting the drunk man up to the original hookah bar where this all began, probably to hold him in place until they called the police. The other waiters walked behind high-fiving each other in happiness. All of the restaurants on the row were packed with hungry customers eating dinner, and we all stood up and cheered as the “hookah stealer” shamefully walked past with his head down. Mike and I obviously participated in the standing ovation, claps and whistles. Hugs were going around and the entire restaurant community, servers and diners, for that night only, became one big supportive family. It was amazing! And it goes to show that in the city of Seville, they all really do have each other’s backs.


Breakfast in Seville = tiny ham and cheese sandwiches on toast… which are so good because they are made with jamon iberico! How I know this – my brother-in-law’s best friend and wife, who my sister has become quite fond of, live there. So naturally, Monday morning we met them for breakfast! It is so nice to socially interact with people who speak your language and that you have even the slightest connection with. Jesus and Sarah have two beautiful young daughters and have been living in Seville together for years. Sarah being from Nebraska caused her to have that Midwestern charm that I know and love so much, and Jesus being from Triana, just over the bridge from Seville. They were so incredibly sweet and we had such a good time eating breakfast with them that we decided to meet for dinner that night too! Two meals in one day… That’s love. They gave us some great suggestions for sights to visit and things to do. They also gave us the low down on all things Seville – from siestas, to schooling, to the crazy hot weather, to the architecture, and the list goes on. It was an entire handful of information we continue to find interesting. It was great.



Aside from eating and drinking extremely well, there is much to do in Seville! Being fully aware of the heat situation that was going to come over us at some point that afternoon, we started our Monday early. After breakfast we headed straight to the famous Cathedral & La Giralda. It was massive and so impressive. We had to stand in the heat of a line for about 20 minutes, but once we got inside we were so amazed by the iconic gothic architecture of the interiors that the wait was worth it. With 90m high ceilings and intricately decorated walls, the cathedral is really exceptional. If you happen to visit Seville and visit this church, be sure to go as early as you can. For heat purposes, obviously, but also because it closes early and you don’t want to miss out!








The Alcazar Castle, Seville’s royal residence for many centuries, was next on our list of things to do. Mike and I both love palaces and old living quarters, which I have mentioned before, but this one I was particularly excited about because of its lovely gardens. The Alcazar has been rebuilt and redecorated many times in its decades of existence, first founded for the Muslim fortress and then slowly taken over by the Catholic Monarchs. Aside from the colorful tile that lined every room wall and entrance, the outdoor gardens and patios were exquisite. With a maze (an Alice in Wonderland type maze!) built in the middle and fountains leading to rose families, it was heavenly.






























In the middle of the city is this crazy bizarre piece of architecture that was built for… I’m actually not really sure of the reason. Some German architect visited Seville years ago and decided that one of the plazas would lend itself perfectly to a random curvaceous design of his. They then proceeded to build it and surround it with bars and restaurants. It looks really cool, but doesn’t quite fit in with the city’s old charm. Jesus was telling us that it was built spontaneously out of wood… Which is really silly because the extreme heat in the summers of Seville will cause it to slowly deteriorate. Wood probably wasn’t the best option, but I’m not an architect, so who am I to judge! It’s just really bizarre to me. We ate a big lunch in the plaza and then took a siesta. In blasting air conditioning.




My sister has been to Seville with her husband a few times and is always raving about her favorite restaurant, Bar Santa Marta. She kept telling me it was the restaurant in the plaza. Well, Seville has at least ten plazas, maybe more, so that wasn’t very helpful. However, we did manage to find it and eat a late dinner there with Jesus and Sarah (Seville locals eat dinner around 10pm, with their kids and all. The reason being that no one wants to go outside until the sun sets as it is just too hot! They also work a little later than us Americans due to siestas, so it all makes sense. They’re theory is… If the kids are that tired, they will fall asleep. And so they did! Both of their kids passed out right at the dinner table over flamequin and tortilla. It was great!). The restaurant was far from fancy and nothing special, but the food was so good!! Probably the best tapas we had in all of Seville. Before we ate dinner, Mike and I got some drinks and tapas at one of Spain’s oldest bars, El Rinconcillo. This was another place my sister and brother-in-law told us about and it was awesome. Super old and really cool. If you are ever in Seville, you have to go here. It’s a must!





Late Monday night was an exciting night for my husband. USA played Ghana (at midnight Spain time) in their first World Cup game and we were determined to find an “American” bar to watch it with fellow Americans. It was a hike, but we found an Irish pub near the bridge to Triana and got to sing in glory with a bunch of American college kids as the US kicked butt. My husband’s favorite night ever. Drinking at the bar with drunk college kids as they shouted chats at the television screen. We even met a boy from Wisconsin who was studying abroad in Seville! It’s a small world after all. (Please notice my husband’s happiness in the photo below with the fellow Wisconsin boy that we met…).



Tuesday morning was rough as we were out rather late drinking tinto de naranja’s at dinner (tinto de naranja = the famous drink in Seville… a mixture of red wine and fanta (yes, fanta, the soda) on ice. Rather a strange drink, but my sister would have killed me if I went all the way to Sevilla and didn’t order one!!) and beers with college kids until 2am. Luckily, the train from Sevilla to Madrid was only a few hours long. Stay tuned to read more on Madrid! Until then, ciao!

The Hidden Streets of Barcelona

In Barcelona, I ate paella! I have long been wanting to make paella at home, but the challenge seems too difficult to overcome just yet. And I’m sure eating it in Spain is so much better. My husband and I became huge fans of Spanish food and tapas were a great way to try everything. We sipped sangria and fell in love with the croquettes. We never had a hard time finding good food in Barcelona and the atmosphere made eating it even better.

Barcelona is confidently one of Europe’s coolest city’s. It’s always on the cutting edge of art, design, architecture and food. The big city vibe combined with old Spanish charm make it easy to fall in love with. No wonder people decide to study abroad here! The dark, tiny streets are hidden like secrets which make them so magical and romantic. The people are so full of life and the air must have something in it that makes everybody happy. Barcelona air has endorphins. It must.


I felt useless with the two years of High School Spanish under my belt. Not only because I forgot almost everything other than, “hola” and “gracias”, but also because Barcelona natives speak Catalan. Sure, they speak Spanish as well, and many of them speak English too, but Catalan is their dominant language. I never quite understood the story behind Catalonia and Spain, but I got a taste while I was there. Catalonia (Barcelona) is actually struggling to become their own government. They have no Spanish pride and would like to eventually become their own country. In fact, in just a few months they will be meeting with the new King of Spain (residing in Madrid) to discuss the possibilities of this happening sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see what happens. It’s funny to me because I never removed Barcelona from Spain, I always thought it to be proudly part of the beautiful country, but I was wrong. We learned much of this while watching the Spain vs. Netherlands World Cup game at a crowded outdoor bar. Mike and I were excited to be there to watch the Spain fans go wild at the television screen, however, the crowd went wild in happiness when The Netherlands scored a goal. They were actually rooting against their own country! All in all, Catalonia (Barcelona) does not want to be a part Spain, they would ideally like to be their own country.


We arrived by plane early Wednesday afternoon. It was our first flight of the trip and all went smoothly! We did not take advantage of the super cheap flights on Ryanair as they were unavailable, but we did find good rates on another airline. The reason we flew was because the travel time from the South of France to Spain would have taken an entire day. And we didn’t want to waste any time. Like France, Spain’s main means of transportation were on strike. Meaning no trains and no taxi-cabs were running. So we had to take the city bus from the airport to the hotel, not the most comfortable option, but I am quickly becoming less snobby about public transportation, so it didn’t bother me. We stayed at a really gorgeous boutique hotel called Hotel 1898  that sat right along the La Rambla, which is Barcelona’s most famous boulevard. Our room was rather noisy as the windows looked right out onto the vibrant streets (Barcelona is one big non stop party, so it never quieted down), but the overall location, beautiful rooms and atmosphere made it perfect for us. Another perk being the rooftop pool and bar which offered stunning views of the city and made our stay even more enjoyable!


We had so much fun strolling through the La Rambla boulevard, stopping at flower vendors and unique shops that lined the car-less row all the way down to the water where it ended. On either side of the boulevard were the small, dark, tiny streets  that I found so magically romantic. These were the most fun to explore. We must have walked a hundred streets while we were there and it never got old. We’d look for tiny restaurants, cafés and bars to grab food and drinks in, and we happened to stumble upon some really cute places!


Our first day consisted of exploring the tiny streets followed by a rather unimpressive dinner. Our hotel concierge recommended a restaurant close to the hotel called Restaurant En Ville, and since we were both so tired from traveling, we decided to trust him. Important note: Whenever the hotel concierge pulls out a business card of the restaurant he/she is recommending, never go. This is not a good sign. It’s unfortunate because we knew better, but again, we were so tired that we decided to trust him. Terrible decision. Anyways, we ate really bad seafood, a mediocre bottle of wine and then bolted to a colorful bar down the road where we enjoyed tapas accompanied by a pitcher of sangria! It wasn’t the worst way to end a bad dinner and tiring day!



Thursday morning we set out to explore even more of the city, making a pit stop at Gaudi’s famous designed building, Casa Batllo. I fell in love with all things Gaudi while I was in Barcelona. Sure, I’ve learned about him, read about him and knew how significant his innovative designs and architecture was, but I never truly appreciated the genius that he was. Blown away by the building’s movement and curvature, I was so excited to see the La Segrada Familia, which we had purchased tickets in advance for (very smart thing to do) on Friday.




After hours of walking, we decided to eat lunch at the big local market right along the La Rambla. I love local markets more than anything, so I was really excited to spend some time there! The extremely colorful Mercat de la Boqueria had an extremely inviting entrance and an even more intriguing inside. With tons of fresh stands and a number of bars and cafés to choose from in and around the establishment, our options were endless. We ate some really good seafood and delicious tapas, had some local wine, and then ended our afternoon with fresh fruit juices!











That night we dined at a well known restaurant called Ciudad Condal. Famous for fresh tapas and delicious sangria, the place is always packed. With a strict no reservation policy, the wait can usually be very long, but we got lucky with a table by the bar. We shared way too many plates and sipped some really good sangria. The fun atmosphere was absolutely better than the food, the portions were very large and the dishes were just okay. We had so much fun dining there though that it was worth it! After dinner we stopped at a sports bar to watch one of the World Cup games. It was the first night of the World Cup, so if you can imagine, the bar was packed with people in great spirits! Which made it really fun!


We had purchased tickets in advance to go see Gaudi’s La Segrada Familia for Friday at noon. I was so excited. I’ve heard such amazing things about the masterpiece, but seeing it in person blew me away. The line to get inside the temple wrapped around for blocks, but with our passes we had purchased online we didn’t have to wait at all! As soon as we stepped up to the entrance, our jaws went limp. We were speechless and awestruck with many different feelings. It was a moment of wow. Hands down the coolest architecture and design I have ever seen, words can’t even begin describe its beauty. Barcelona’s most famous attraction and for good reason began its construction in 1882. Still not complete, they are hoping for it to be finished by year 2026. At which time I would love to go back and see it completely finished! Cranes and scaffolding obscured many of our views, but so much of it was visible and what I could see I loved. We took an elevator up to the top of one of the towers which lead to the most stunning views of the city. We also walked through the small museum explaining much of Gaudi’s progress in the works of the temple and his life. It was just the coolest church ever.




















We were in such good spirits after having such an eventful morning at the church, we had a really fun lunch filled with tapas and beers at a cute spot called Set de Gotic followed by a relaxing afternoon at our hotel’s rooftop pool. We drank sangria over a competitive card game and soaked up some vitamin D. For dinner that night we ate at a fun restaurant in a tiny plaza right below our hotel called Bar Lobo. The tapas were amazing and the atmosphere was great! We loved it there! Just outside the plaza was an outdoor bar with a huge flat screen TV. We grabbed seats and beers and watched Spain play The Netherlands in the World Cup game. This was the night my husband and I got a true taste of the Barcelona sports fan. The crowd screamed negativity toward Spain and cheered on The Netherlands. It was so bizarre. Still really fun though!






Saturday was our final night in Barcelona. We started the day by taking a walk by the water, exploring the coast and gazing at the hundreds of sail boats.








We then proceeded to walk to the coolest restaurant ever, Cal Pep. The restaurant seats roughly 20 people and is open weekdays and on Saturdays from 1:15pm-3:45pm and there are no reservations. A line of prospective customers stands outside the door typically an hour before opening… that’s how desirable this place is. It’s a spot where locals go to gossip and eat spectacular food. How did we hear about it you might ask? My mother-in-law and sister-in-law dined here during their trip to Barcelona a few years back and still swear it is one of the best meals they have ever had. So Mike and I got to the restaurant around 12:45 and waited in line. As soon as the doors opened, a nice man sat each diner along the bar where you get to watch the chefs cook. Mike and I were the last two people who made it in the restaurant, being seated at the very end of the bar. We were all smiles and high-fives as we had just made the cut to eat at the coolest place ever!! The people behind us who didn’t make the cut just stood outside and waited. Brutal. No menus were provided, the chef just started bringing us food, it was amazing. We ate the best fried octopus I’ve ever had, delicious mussels, potato omelets (also known as a tortilla here in Spain) and so much more. We shared a bottle of wine and had a rather expensive, but perfect lunch. Cal Pep was one of my favorite experiences of Barcelona and one of the best meals I have ever had. I am so excited because each customer receives a recipe card for the potato omelet! I am going to attempt to make it for my husband as soon as we get back from our trip 🙂






That afternoon we visited the Picasso Museum, home to over 3,000 Picasso pieces. We love museums and we love art, but we were actually rather disappointed by this museum. Sure, it was cool seeing doodles Picasso drew when he was just 14 years old, these doodles were amazing, don’t get me wrong, but the museum did not house any of his well known masterpieces. It was kind of just a hodgepodge of works that they stumbled upon from his childhood one day. My favorite series of work in the museum were that of his Pigeon paintings. I despise pigeons more than anyone in the world, they are useless creatures who are literally good for nothing, but he portrayed the pieces really beautifully, actually!

Barcelona’s Gothic Cathedral was next on our list of things to see. It was built in the 11th century and was so dark and bold. The chandeliers were my favorite. This church was a lot more dramatically gothic than any other church I have seen and I really loved it. I was happy we made the trip to see it.








Before dinner that night, my husband and I took a walk down to the Plaza Espanya metro stop to see the fountain show, which happens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night starting at 5pm until 10pm. My friend Abbé studied abroad in Barcelona and is in love with the city! She had some great suggestions of things to do and this was one of them! After our romantic water escapade, we dined over paella at a very authentic Catalan restaurant. I’m not the biggest fan of cutting open and de-shelling my own prawns, but it was worth it.


I learned so much during my time in Barcelona and I have a list of tapas to add to my cooking to-do list! I’m so excited to take what I have captured here back home with me and infuse it into my everyday life. No, my paella will never taste as good as that from a traditional Catalan restaurant, but I sure as heck can try! And my prawns will be de-shelled, so there. 🙂 Sunday morning we board the fast train to Sevilla! Stay tuned for authentic tales on old Spanish charm. Until then, adios!

Sweet on Switzerland – Interlaken & Geneva

In Switzerland, I fondue’d! With Swiss cheese, of course. I also ate Swiss chocolates and drank a few really great local Swiss beers! It was a country that caused me to marvel at not only the food choices, but the peaceful spirit and the beautiful scenery. Switzerland was all kinds of wonderful.


We only had three nights to spend in the clean air of Switzerland, so we broke it out by two cities with two totally different dynamics. We spent our first two nights tucked away in the mountains of Interlaken and our final night overlooking Lake Geneva in the city of Geneva.


We arrived by train from Paris mid-Monday afternoon. Having to switch trains three times in order to get there. Once we arrived, we walked to our hotel which was located right in the town that sat hugged below the mountains. We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Interlaken (real original, I know…) – not the nicest of places, I must admit. The room somewhat resembled an oversized walk-in closet and there was no air conditioning. There was a big fan provided for the room though, which was….. nice, I suppose. But much like Paris, last minute booking in Switzerland was extremely difficult. So we decided we would take what we could get and made a vow not to spend a whole lot of time in our room. On a positive note, the staff was extremely friendly and the room was really clean! We also had gorgeous views of the mountains, which made the situation a little better!



The town of Interlaken was adorable! It reminded me a lot of a ski bum community you would find in Colorado. Much like Breckenridge, only on a way smaller scale. The old architecture was so charming and the air was so clean. It was refreshing to take in the serenity of the town and all it’s surroundings.


The town is known for catering to backpackers – more so than anywhere else in the country! It is famous for being a major Swiss travel destination for travelers on a budget. So if you can imagine, the amounts of youth hostels and dive bars were rather excessive, which didn’t bother me! The town is also a major mecca for adventure seekers and thrill chasers. Activities range from high adrenaline sports such as hang gliding, sky diving, parachuting, winter sports (when the season is right) and water sports – as the town sits right in between two large lakes. Many of these activities, however, are not so cheap. And budget travelers often find their wallets rather light after partaking in such activities. Mike and I went on our own hiking adventure on Tuesday that did not dent our wallets at all. And in my opinion, was so much more fun than the thrill of risking your life in the air 🙂 Personal opinion, of course!


There is one major road that leads a path directly from the train station as far deep as into the town. Cobbled narrow streets with no vehicle access then spring off of this road. Here you will find family owned restaurants, bars and boutiques. Off the main road there are also restaurants, chocolatiers and a number of timepiece shops, as majority of all watches are proudly made in Switzerland. We explored every nook and cranny of the town, walking along the most beautifully glacier blue water and marveling over the sweetest Swiss made houses. It felt as though we were characters stuck in a perfect fairytale. With deep green grass, crystal blue waters, abundantly bright and colorful wildflowers and mountains so high the top isn’t even visible from below. It was surreal.


That night we ate a fondue dinner at a traditional restaurant called Restaurant Chalet. Known for authentic Swiss food with a Swiss vibe unlike any place else. Wooden tables, chairs, plates, floors, ceilings and figurines dazzled the interiors, and it made us feel as though we were dining in the kitchen of a sweet Swiss lady’s home. I am typically not a Swiss cheese lover, but when in Switzerland, you have to eat Swiss cheese! And I didn’t hate it! Our dining experience was not cheap, but it was well worth it.



Interesting observation: Swiss beer vs. Swiss wine – Swiss beer is so much better. Much like Germany, the local beer tastes better than the local wine. If you are a big fan of eating and drinking locally when visiting foreign places, this is an important observation. We actually loved the local beers on tap in Switzerland, but the wine was not great and we were not the biggest fans.

The next day we woke up extra early and set our for a thrilling adventure. A DIY (do it yourself) hike through the Swiss Alps… Led by none other than my tour guide husband. I did not prepare myself for the steep climbs and lack of restroom situation, but at the end of the day, I was alive and it was so worth it!

How we started our journey through the Alps: We made our way to the local train station very early in the morning where we hopped on a regional rail up to Lauterbrunnen. From there we jumped in a scary cable car up to Murren – where we began our hike. While in Murren, we explored the car-free town that literally is the storybook of Switzerland. It was quiet and secluded and high up enough to feel like you are floating on the clouds. The houses were straight out of an old tale where characters that resemble friendly gnomes might live. It was a serene moment where for a short time, life stood still.






We stopped at a nice lady’s small cafe where we picked up sandwiches, snacks, waters and beers to toss in our backpack for a picnic lunch we would have later on in the day. We then hiked up and down on paths and in whisking meadows to reach a teeny tiny town called Gimmelwald. Why Gimmelwald, you might ask? Easy. Long, long ago an anonymous backpacker jotted down these words in a mountain hostel’s guest book: “If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald”. Heavenly is exactly what it was. After catching our breath once we reached the town where not much was going on other than goats laughing and cows mooing, we were suddenly breathless again. We were one with the mountains and flying on clouds in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was surreal. We found a broken down bench, cracked open our beers and ate our sandwiches over priceless views. It was one of my favorite days. Not only did I get to bond with my husband in one of the most secluded areas, but I got to experience nature and all it’s beauty with such simplicity. I didn’t take for granted once the clean air I was breathing and I thanked Mike a hundred times for guiding me through such an amazing journey. I guess you can say, I was struck by happiness.
























We hiked around the area to experience even more beauty and then made our way back to Murren. Where we rewarded ourselves with beers at a small cafe overlooking the mountains. It was such a wonderful day!


That night we dined at the most famous restaurant in all of Interlaken, the Golden Anker. It’s the place that locals insist on being the best in town. I beg to differ. Then again, I am not a local and I am not familiar with the other options they have. It was an experience I am glad we got to partake in and the menu was quite vast with dishes ranging from spicy fajitas to ostrich steaks! It was a fun setting to end our visit in Interlaken.


Wednesday morning, we boarded a super quick train to the cosmopolitan city of Geneva. It was like night and day going from Interlaken to Geneva. We hopped off the train into a super sleek and ritzy area decked out in all things fancy.

We would only be spending one night in the country’s second largest city, and the hotel rate was far from reasonable. Geneva is easily Europe’s priciest city. We stayed at a beautiful hotel overlooking the lake (Lake Geneva – gorgeous!!) called Hotel de la Paix. To help put things in perspective for you: a tiny room at a hotel on par with one like the Holiday Inn ran at the rate of €400/night when we were searching for hotels. Granted, we were staying over the time a convention was taking place in the city, resulting in the extremely high prices, but that might help give you a gist of just how pricey it can be.





We spent the day roaming the city streets and trying on glamorous timepieces. When in Geneva, you have to try on ridiculously expensive watches, of course! After some serious convincing to my husband that we are in no situation to be splurging on $15,000 watches, we got cocktails and sulked over the struggles of our really tough life 🙂

That night, we got a casual dinner at a (very expensive) bar and walked along the sparkling lake where we stumbled upon the most vibrant double rainbow we had ever seen! It rained while we we were eating dinner resulting in our walk back to bed magical.




Thursday morning we boarded the train to Nice, France. A week in the French Riviera is exactly what we needed after long hikes and tiring travels. Stay tuned for beach tales from the stunning south of France! Until then, bon voyage!

Drunk on Brussels

In Brussels, I ate Belgium waffles. Smothered in Belgium chocolate, of course. Paired with a Belgium beer. Not really! The chocolate on the waffles, YES! The beer with my waffles, no. More like a cafe au lait with my waffles. And Belgium beer later on in the day and at night. It was a glorious two days for my tastebuds.


We arrived by fast train in Brussels late Tuesday afternoon. Spending the majority of Tuesday morning amongst the streets of Amsterdam. Being excited for the Belgium beer and waffles, we weren’t really expecting much else from Brussels. Little did we know how fascinating the city truly was! We instantly loved it. We roamed the tiny streets lined with restaurants, cafés, tempting chocolate shops and dark Belgium beer halls. The architecture was seducing, especially in the awe-inspiring square, where our jaws dropped with astonishment of its radiant beauty! No one ever tells you just how spectacular Brussels square is…. They are always raving about the squares in Florence, Venice, and Rome. Yes, those are beautiful too, but Brussels was my favorite of all the squares. It glittered with such magic and I never wanted to take my eyes off it.




Interestingly enough, Brussels is officially bilingual! So all names from train stations to street names have both Dutch and French versions. Which worked out much in our favor as my husband speaks French (one of the many reasons I fell in love with him). We started our Tuesday evening with a stroll through the magnificent central square. With trade symbols and Gilt statues adorning the sparking guildhalls that were rebuilt shortly after the originals were bombarded in the late 1600’s. Not all was broken in the 1600’s though, the beautiful City Hall is an old survivor and sits proudly amongst the rest.



We stopped at one of Brussels most famous beer halls called Delirium. We sipped some Belgium beers (I drank an apple beer that tasted like fizzy apple juice!) and headed to dinner. My husband did some research and we ended up having a fantastic meal at a true Belgium restaurant called Fin de Siecle. We ordered dishes that were unfamiliar to us as there was only one menu… which was written in Dutch… in chicken scratch on a mirror at the bar area of the restaurant. Flustered and unaware of anything, we just pointed to two random things on the mirror and got lucky! I got sausages and mashed potatoes in a mushroom sauce while my husband got honey ribs. It was great!





Important side note: majority of restaurants (actually all of the restaurants, tea rooms, beer halls and cafés) in Brussels and many other European cities are cash only. And ATM’s are far and few. So if ever traveling to Brussels, be sure to carry a substantial amount of cash on you for big dinners and nights out in the town.

Wednesday morning we set out to continue our exploration of the city. Starting our day off with amazing Belgium waffles from a tea room that is known to serve the best waffles in all of Brussels! It is called Maison Dandoy and if you are ever in Brussels, you must go here. We each got our own waffle doused in Belgium chocolate, cooked strawberry’s and whipped cream. It was a heavenly breakfast. Just off of the square we noticed a tiny shopping street filled with chocolatiers and boutiques. Did I mention the whole city smells like chocolate? It was an absolute dream. Also right off the square we happened upon a colorful, narrow street that was jam packed with seafood eateries and Italian restaurants with waiters heckling you to dine there. It reminded me a lot of New York City’s Mulberry Street. Really funny actually!




We made sure we took a walk passed the infamous Manneken Pis. This is a well known monument right in the center of the city that tourists and school groups flock to. I am still unsure as to why it is so fascinating to some, but it was humorous to Mike and me. The national symbol is a fountain in the form of a little boy joyfully taking a leak into a fountain pool…… Yes. This causes masses of people. It is supposed to symbolize sexual equality. So we saw it, took some photos, had a good laugh and were in our way!



The city’s overall architecture was very interesting. It combines awesome art-nouveau and 17the century masterpieces against suburbanism and gold spires to create an insanely dramatic backdrop. If any of you are familiar with Trip Advisor – the current backdrop when you open the app on your iPad or iPhone is Brussels square. It’s just so beautiful there! I can’t reiterate it enough.







Wednesday night we dined at another fabulous restaurant we had read about in one of our travel magazines. It was Belgium/French fusion and was located in what looked to be the living room of a tiny home in the center of the city – Nuetnigenough. They did not take reservations, so we ended up drinking some Belgium beers at the minuscule bar while we waited for a table. The wait was so worth it because dinner was phenomenal! We started with the most scrumptious veal meatballs ever, some cheese and some olives. Followed by our main courses – I got pig, my husband got steak. It was fantastic!

Brussels was such a pleasant surprise. We were excited to drink beers and eat waffles, but little did we know its culture and beauty. We are so grateful we got to explore it together! Thursday morning we boarded a super fast train to Paris. Our second time venturing to the city of lights together, we were really excited! Stay tuned for tales on our long weekend in the romantic city. Until then, bon voyage!

High on Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, I ate Dutch pancakes. Breakfast is one of my favorite things in the world and I am a huge fan of the pancake, but Dutch pancakes in Holland were to die for! They were paper thin and covered in whipped cream, strawberry’s and syrup. Delicious!


My overall expectations of Amsterdam were completely different than my immediate impression. I had thoughts of it being a sleazy hippie town filled with dreadlocks and tie die t-shirts. I was completely wrong. Amsterdam was outrageously beautiful. With picturesque town homes lining the waters and 17th century cobbled streets connected by small bridges, it was heaven. A thousand shades of vivacious green trees lined the canals and old wooden boats floated atop the waters in perfect rhythm. There was a pattern to the city that melted my heart and it was a destination I unexpectedly fell in love with.


While there, my husband and I did a lot of walking (what’s new…). And as we were strolling through the neighborhoods, I told him that the city of Amsterdam, in a very bizarre way, reminded me of Philadelphia’s Old City meets Nantucket’s downtown meets Copenhagen’s charm meets Venice, Italy’s sparkle – because of its canals. It was the coolest contrast of all the places I love. It wasn’t long before my husband and I to got into a pattern of walking the streets. Amsterdam wasn’t the easiest of places to navigate, but we found ourselves remembering landmarks that would help guide us in the right direction. And getting lost in Amsterdam is not the worst scenario in the world, it’s so pretty!



Before arriving in Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon, we spent a night in Hannover, Germany. The train from Copenhagen to Amsterdam is extremely long (11 hours total travel time), so we broke up the extended ride in Hannover. We didn’t do much there, to be quite honest. We were so exhausted, we sort of thought of Hannover as a rest stop. We did walk around the city and got dinner in the square, which was nice! But we were in bed watching a movie by 9pm (we watched Frozen – it’s hard to keep up with our many niece’s and nephew’s without having a clue as to what they are talking about half the time…. so we familiarized ourselves with the story so that we can now converse (in 2 year old talk) to our little munchkins!).

We arrived by train in Amsterdam mid-Saturday afternoon. Our hotel was in the Jordaan neighborhood, a very desirable area. We stayed at a boutique hotel called The Toren – renovated from a town home along the canal into a charming hotel a few years back, it was gorgeous. We got lucky with a room on the top floor overlooking the canal. With huge windows and stunning views, three nights wasn’t going to be enough! We immediately dropped our bags and set out to explore. We walked a ton to get to know the area stopping at a Cafe for lunch.


Important: In Amsterdam, Cafés and Coffee Shops are totally different things. Cafés are where you sip coffee. Coffee Shops are where you buy marijuana. Remember this. It’s very important to know as you would look quite silly ordering a cappuccino with extra foam at a Coffee Shop 🙂

Amsterdam’s restaurant scene is awesome. The gorgeous streets are filled with bite size cafés and trendy restaurants. The options are endless! We made dinner reservations for Saturday night at a place called Gartine. Highly recommended by the hotel as a trendy French/Dutch spot to eat. We dined in the restaurant’s back garden draped in trees and twinkle lights. Also, the food was great! It was a beautiful setting to start off our stay.

We started our Sunday off at an amazing pancake house that we read about in our April issue of Travel + Leisure Magazine (in the issue titled, “Eat Like a Local”) called The Pancake Bakery. Where we ordered Dutch pancakes. They were so so good!! I got sweet pancakes topped with strawberry’s and whipped cream while my husband got more savory pancakes with bacon, cheese and mushrooms cooked into them. He said they were delicious, but kind of funny to eat because every time he took a bite he was expecting eggs (like an omelette), and instead got thin pancakes with bacon and cheese!


We then walking through the flower market. Tulips… Everywhere! Which made me so very happy because tulips are one of my favorite flowers!! After observing the many different shapes, sizes and colors of the tulips at the market that sat alongside the canal, we made our way to the Red Light District. Yes, this happened. It’s something I have always wanted to see. So with anxious eyes, we walked through crowded streets, through an area that is too commercialized and crazy for me, to the District that made my jaw go limp. My poor innocent eyes saw way too much!! However, aside from the nearly naked women posing in just about every window, there were some cute cafe’s and restaurants tucked away as well! It was actually a rather pretty area! With a lot of prostitutes.






We did not stop anywhere in the Red Light District, we just explored the neighborhood and (happily) walked back towards the Jordaan. Where we ate lunch, stopped at a few places for a few beers, shopped around, and had a lovely Sunday afternoon! Sunday night we dined at a really cool Thai restaurant called Kinnaree. Our hotel concierge was telling us that Amsterdam is known for having really good Thai food, interestingly enough! The rumor is true, our meal was great! And my craving for some salt and pepper chicken with vegetables was fulfilled that night. I was very happy.


Monday was a crazy busy day. So much fun! Just with a lot on the agenda. We woke up and got breakfast at a really lovely tea room that sat alongside the canal called Greenwoods. We sat outside and planned our day over eggs benedict and cappuccinos. I love how important breakfast is as a meal to the Dutch people! They understand me. And most of them are blonde haired and blue eyed, so I fit in perfectly. After having our caffeine fix, we headed straight toward the area of the city where all of the museums live. Starting our informative day at the Rijksmuseum. A very well known museum holding important works like Rembrandt’s Night Watch. It was amazing seeing this piece in particular up close. It was huge! And really amazing. We also saw some famous Vermeers amongst other major collections valued in the billions.




After getting a taste of history at the Rijksmuseum, we headed to the Van Gogh Museum, where we spent countless hours taking in contemporaries not only done by Van Gogh, but also by Gauguin, Monet and Bernard. It was truly remarkable. The museum houses the world’s largest Van Gogh collection, from his Japanese phase to his dark phase. I would go back a hundred times to see these works again. If you are ever in Amsterdam, this museum is a must! And the Red Light District. You have to walk through the Red Light District.

After inundating ourselves with timeless art, we needed a drink. So we thought, why not kill two birds with one stone and drink beer while at a museum! Amsterdam is home to Heineken, so we spent the remainder of our afternoon at the Heineken Museum, also known as The Heineken Experience. We immersed ourselves by touring through the beer making process amongst multimedia displays, rides, games, more games and plenty of beers. It was quite the experience. It kind of felt like a really serious brainwashing marketing ad, luring tourists into believing Heineken is the best beer in the world. They didn’t fool me, I’d still take a Miller Lite, Leinenkugel’s or Stella Artois over a Heineken any day.












Monday night, before scurrying to get to our late dinner reservation, we stood in an hour long line to walk through the well known Anne Frank House. It was one of the coolest “museums” I have ever stepped foot in. We got to tour the quarters Anne Frank and her family hid during the war. Climbing up tiny, narrow staircases up to small rooms where she would write her stories. On top of physically standing where Anne Frank once stood, we got to see her actual diary on display, handwriting and all. It was a really cool, yet eerie experience. I am so happy we had the chance to see it. My advice would be… if ever visiting Amsterdam, you have to see the Anne Frank House. Hands down one of the neatest sights. They tell you to either get there early in the morning or later on in the evening, before the house closes. We tried going early in the morning and the line had at least a three hour long wait. Walking past multiple times mid-day, it didn’t seem to get any better. So we went around 7pm before our 9pm dinner reservation with all fingers and toes crossed and it was perfect. Sure, we waited an hour, some of that hour being in the rain, but it was well worth it. And we had just enough time to make it to dinner!


Our final night in Amsterdam we dined at a really cool Dutch tapas restaurant called Envy. Also recommended by the hotel as a trendy place to eat with a young and vibrant scene. We sat at a high top table surrounded by really cool refrigerators filled with local fruits and vegetables and wines. We shared a number of small plates that included local fare and seafood. We shared an amazing desert paired with desert wines and then stopped at a bar on our way back to the hotel. It was really a fun last night out in Holland!


Tuesday afternoon we boarded the fast train to Brussels, where we would be spending two nights indulging in Belgium chocolates, waffles and I can’t forget… BEER! Stay tuned for tales on Belgium! Until then, Bon voyage!

Planning a trip to The Netherlands? For more information on to all things Amsterdam visit this amazing travel guide. It will give you tips and tricks on hotels, restaurants, transportation, neighborhoods, activities and even history! My favorite part about this guide is the links to all the gardens and markets (the flower market is a must!!). Visit:

Happily Ever After Copenhagen

In Copenhagen, I ate herring. They catch it fresh from the sea every day and it is a staple dish on just about every menu. I’m not a huge herring fan, but the way they prepared it was delicious! Those Copenhagen folk sure do know their herring. Being a canal city situated close to the sea, the seafood was amazing!


The city of Copenhagen was unreal. It was love at first sight for both my husband and me. At times, I had to pinch myself for reassurance that I wasn’t in the midst of some perfect movie set. There were moments where my husband and I would converse about our future in Copenhagen… How we would FedEx our dog Calvin there, and how we would spend endless hours at the local farmers market… It was all a fun joke to me, but not to my husband. I had to propose threats and drag him by his insanely long beard (he is so confidentially proud of) just to get him on the train to Amsterdam. Needless to say, Copenhagen was a wonderland filled with pirate ships and fairy tale architecture. It dazzled with pure beauty and has become one of our all time favorite cities (other than Milwaukee and Philadelphia – being our favorites!).


We arrived by fast train Tuesday afternoon with unknown expectations. Getting there was actually quite a fun adventure! It wasn’t your typical train ride, I can assure you. When boarding the train from Hamburg that morning, we realized we would have to ride over quite a large body of water. Not knowing how this would happen, we were soon swept away by a ferry and a conductor’s voice advising us passengers to leave our train car and head into the main floors of the boat. Our train literally rode on a track that into the bottom of a ferry. It was so cool! We left our bags in our train car and headed to the main floors. Where we were pleasantly surprised by what seemed to be a really bizarre cruise line. Laughing at our current situation, we were surrounded by numerous bars, restaurants, cafés, cosmetic shops, grocery stores, currency exchange windows and so much more. It felt like we had just entered the twilight zone. And we were extremely amused. Only 45 minutes were spent on the ferry, which majority of that 45 minutes my husband and I spent outside on the deck getting some fresh air and enjoying the water. Back inside the train, riding outside on normal train tracks, my husband and I watched the movie, American Hustle, and before we knew it… Arrived in Copenhagen! For some odd reason or another, my husband had a strong feeling he would love it there. His assumption was correct.


We stayed at a Design Hotel called Skt. Petri – perfect location and even more perfect room. We were on the top floor with a wrap around balcony overlooking the charming city with views of the red-topped buildings and stunning copper spires. We dropped our bags off and went out to explore the 1000-year-old harbor town that has managed to retain all of its historic charm. With old fashioned store fronts, vintage looking cafés and cobbled squares, the pastel colored town houses weren’t the only awe-inspiring feature to this perfect city. We got some cocktails, stopped in some shops, and walked along the water until it was just about time for dinner. We read that Copenhagen is known for superb restaurants and fantastic dining, so we were excited to eat! In fact, Copenhagen is home to the #1 restaurant in the world – Noma – which surprisingly (cough cough) was fully booked for almost a half a year out. A few months ago my husband put our name on the waiting list to dine there in the rare occasion that there were cancellations, following up almost every day since. Unfortunately, there were no cancellations during our time there, and nobody responded to my husband’s hundred follow-up emails, so we never got the chance to go.





Our first night in Copenhagen, we dined at a well known sushi restaurant called Damindra. They too, only offered a tasting menu, which was far too much food, but very tasty! We drank an assortment of sake – the house hot sake, followed by a carafe of special cold sake, followed by a sweet desert sake! I love sake, I’ve never sake tasted such a variety before though! We even ordered the restaurant’s signature cocktail to start off our night, which was cold sake combined with cucumber and ginger! Served in a really cool oversized glass with humongous ice cubes. It was a wonderful sushi date night!


Wednesday morning we woke up early to catch the infamous Copenhagen Torvehallerne Market that was only blocks away from our hotel. Let me tell you – this was the coolest, most magnificent market I have ever been to! If there wasn’t so much to see and do in Copenhagen, we would have spent all day, everyday there. The market was half indoor, half outdoor – with the outdoor section sandwiched between the two rectangular indoor establishments. We explored all vendors, trying to narrow down what we were going to eat for breakfast. With a large assortment of bakeries, butcher shops, sandwich stands, coffee shops, cafés, wine bars, tapas places, cheese bars, bread stands, fresh picked fruit and vegetable stands, fish and seafood places, beer bars, chocolate shops, liquor and bottling services, the list goes on…. It was amazing! It was so clean, well organized and had such an organic vibe. I never wanted to leave!! We ended up getting some baked goods from a bakery in the market that we had read about in our April issue of Travel & Leisure Magazine (in the issue titled, “How To Eat Like a Local”), called Laura’s Bakery. Known for their homemade cinnamon buns that are filled with chocolate and extra spicy cinnamon! And of course, their famous homemade “pop tarts” that are extra thick, sticky and sweet (I need to challenge myself to learn how to make these at home because they were seriously SO GOOD). We got one of each and split them. We also got delicious coffees from a local coffee shop vendor, sat outside at a picnic table in the middle of the market, and enjoyed the morning sun!




After too much sugar and just enough coffee, we bolted toward the city center, which is where city hall stands and is also where the city is least charming, quite crowded, and a bit dirty. The reason for heading there being, we were going to be spending the first half of our day at the Tivoli Gardens. My husband and I are not the biggest theme park fans… me being too uptight to enjoy stressful environments that involve roller coaster rides and cotton candy stands…. and my husband being the type who would just rather be cooped up at some fancy bar drinking an expensive scotch or hitting a golf ball on a quiet course. But we forced ourselves to put carousel smiles on our faces, buy tickets, and waltz in. After all, we did read that the historic park is the number one attraction in all of Copenhagen, and we didn’t want to miss out! Our reactions were not what we were expecting them to be at all…. It was actually quite beautiful inside the park. At first, it reminded me a lot of a glitzy Disneyland, and I was wondering what the whole fuss was about. But the further we walked in, I caught glimpse of the lush gardens, beautiful birds and their baby duckies, large ponds with oversized fountains, some very nice restaurants, clean shops, charming old-fashioned food pavilions and vintage carnival games…. it was really something to marvel about. There were rides here and there, none of which my husband and I participated. And all of the children and families were so nice. It just felt like a really neat community with a bunch of rides gardens bundled into one theme park. Let’s just say, it was no Six Flags.









After being kids for a couple of hours, we decided to take a stroll to a part of the city that actually has its own government – Christiania. Christiania is a neighborhood of hippies who run their own government and regulations. It’s a Woodstock community of people who live an alternative lifestyle and sell a lot of illegal substances. We wanted to walk through this part of the city to get a glimpse and a feel as to what it was all about. It was really quite interesting and rather informative to see the lifestyle of these humans. Almost unreal to me in a way. The whole area was in shams. A dirt road just a few blocks off the canal, about a forty-five minute walk from the area we were staying in, lead us into a tie-dye graffiti awning that then led us into the neighborhood of Christiania. Old, broken-down town homes, some with missing doors and no windows, hugged the “market” of old stands, plastic tables and self-made shops (self-made meaning: shops that are literally divided by black bed sheets, clothes pins and wooden poles). In this area, there were illegal substances being sold, places to buy beer and drinks, little shops with hand made beaded bracelets and woven hats, and people just hanging out and conversing over blasting Phish music from an old boom box. {My parents are probably freaking out while reading this – Mom and Dad I swear it is a safe place to visit… Just a little outside my comfort zone!!} No photographs are ever allowed to be taken within the Christiania walls, for obvious reasons, and I was too nervous to even snap a secret shot, so unfortunately we have no photos from this part of our day. I always find it really fascinating to see the different ways that people live their lives. I love learning about foreign neighborhoods and cultures. Everyone looked pretty happy and that’s all that matters!





After our thrilling adventure, we walked back towards the beautiful area we were staying in and ate lunch outside right along the canal while listening to live music (provided by a funny band that reminded me a lot of the Steve Miller Band) and watching the pirate ships float by. It was 80 degrees and sunny, so we shared some herring appetizers over a bottle of white wine and soaked in the sun. It was perfect!






The day flew by and before we knew it, it was time to go back to our hotel and make dinner plans. Snagging a bottle of wine at a wine shop on our way back to drink on our balcony while watching the sun set. Later that evening, we ate dinner at a really cool spot located on the cute cobbled shopping streets of the city, just blocks from our hotel. It was a place called Tight and we had heard nothing but great things about it! Offering modern Scandinavian fare and a take on trendy bar food, you can’t go wrong!


Thursday morning we made our way to the market, again. Only this time, we went to a bagel stand and got fresh bagels for breakfast! Accompanied by iced coffees from a local coffee shop. Iced coffee is a funny thing here in Europe. It’s not quite a thing yet, actually. There are literally no cafés that offer iced coffee, and the one we finally found that did, blended the coffee with the ice… Making it have the same consistency of a Starbucks frappacino. It’s all very interesting! Anyways, we walked the premises of the market some more and fell even more in love with it there. After bagels, “iced” coffee and loitering, we made our way through a beautiful park to one of Copenhagen’s greatest landmarks – The Rosenborg Slot – a Dutch Renaissance fairytale castle that sits in lush gardens surrounded by deep ponds. Ponds lavished with beautiful swans and exotic fish. Inside the castle, we were surrounded by glorious marbled floors, painted ceilings, and the world’s largest sterling silver furniture collection. Coming from a fine Jewelry background given my former career at QVC, I was astonished by the sterling silver aspect of the castle. It must be worth a fortune!









The castle basement is home to the Royal Treasury. This is where the Danish Crown Jewels live. It was amazing seeing all of the huge rocks of ruby, emeralds, diamonds and pearls. There was an amethyst displayed that was the size of my fist (I have strangely small hands, so this isn’t exceptionally large, but it’s still big for a gemstone!)! It was fun being amongst such treasures!



By the end of our castle escapade, we were starving… So naturally, we headed back to the market. Where we spent the remainder of our day market stand hopping from one spectacular tapas place to the next. Our first stand having a variety of bruschetta style tapas and local beers, our second stand having fish and champagne, and our third and final stand having incredible seasoned steak sandwiches and wine. All three stands being outside, we got to soak in the sun, listen to awesome live music, and hang out with the locals partying at the market on a Thursday afternoon. My husband and I often wondered whether or not people worked in Copenhagen, because we saw an unusual amount of weekday afternoon partying. And we loved it!




After a much needed nap from day drinking and drowning ourselves in tapas, we had a very nice dinner at a modern upscale Dutch restaurant called Geist. The food was very interesting ranging from lobster carpaccio to roasted pig with crunchy artichokes. Everything was delicious! It was the perfect meal to end our time in Denmark.


Friday morning was sad because we had to leave Copenhagen, which we never wanted to do. I had to drag my husband to the train station where we’d be boarding another cool train/ferry to Amsterdam. But before Amsterdam, we’d be making a one night pit stop in Hannover, Germany… to break up the long travel time (11 hours total from Copenhagen to Amsterdam). Stay tuned for tales of Amsterdam! Until then, bon voyage!

Hamburger Happy in Hamburg

In Hamburg, I ate the most delicious hamburger, because Hamburg is the amazing city where the hamburger was invented! And in the case you don’t know me at all, hamburgers (cheeseburgers to be exact) are my favorite food category in the entire world. It’s actually shocking to most that I have gone almost two months without a burger. So clearly, I was giddy excited for Hamburg like a kid on Christmas morning! We stayed in the second largest city in Germany for one night only, the reason being that the train ride from Berlin to Copenhagen, Denmark was excruciatingly long. So we wanted to break up the tiring train ride (7 hours total) by making a pit stop in an interesting city between the two. Hamburg being our destination of choice. Hamburgers being a big part of that decision. Aside from the delicious burgers, Hamburg was a really lovely city! Being situated on a lake and combining the vibe of small town meets big city made it a really pleasant place to spend the night!


We arrived by fast train from Berlin early Monday afternoon. Our hotel was located on a quaint street filled with local restaurants, shops and markets. It reminded me of a small, yet vibrant town street in Wisconsin… Almost like a Door County vibe, if you’re lucky enough to know what that means 🙂 The Design Hotel we stayed at, The George, overlooked the water and was hugged by adorable boutiques and cafés. We walked from the train station to the hotel, dropped off our bags, and set out to find the best burger.


A few of the famous burger joints were closed until late at night and weren’t centrally located to where we were staying, but we did stumble upon one that we had read about. Jim Block – supposedly known for having one of the most amazing burgers. The overall experience reminded me a lot of a quick custard place where you order your food, sit, and then wait for your number to be called. Almost like a fast food chain but not as casual as McDonalds (reference: Kopps or Shake Shack for comparisons). It’s funny because Europeans eat their burgers using a knife and fork. If you pick up the burger with your own two hands, the way us Americans do, you get a lot of funny looks (and not the good kind of funny). So Mike and I politely sat at our little booth, sipped our colas, and properly ate our burgers with a full set of utensils. It didn’t feel natural in the least, and I was a little annoyed because this was the type of burger that looked perfect to pick up and eat. Nevertheless, it was fantastic. If I challenged myself hard enough and was OK with feeling uncomfortably full with a not-so-attractive belly for the rest of the day, I could have easily eaten two!


On our walk back towards the hotel down the cute street with all the local restaurants and businesses, we happened upon a stationary/gift shop that displayed a few bottles of wine in the window. Curious as to what this was all about and eager to find a bottle of wine to bring back to our hotel room to drink together and relax, we walked in. For those who don’t know me, I love stationary and all things paper related. If I see an establishment filled with greeting cards, I run towards it. In fact, when I was little, it was a dream of mine to create my own greeting card line for Hallmark (still a secret dream, but maybe not for Hallmark, for something more independent!). With a sore eye for local paper stores, I was excited to browse this hidden treasure. Little did we know, the back of the shop was not filled with anything paper related. It was filled with glass gallons upon gallons of local liquors! See image below. My husband and I stood there in amazement. Jaws dropped. The sweet old lady who owned the gift shop offered us a taste! We ended up hanging out in the back of the shop for a bit longer than expected – tasting all different kinds of schnapps, desert wines and even balsamic vinaigrettes! It was so much fun! We each picked our favorite liquor out (my husband choosing a strong schnapps and me choosing a sweet desert wine) and filled up a small glass jar to take with us. We bought a bottle of wine and went back to the hotel with happy hearts.



It is so nice to go somewhere for a night and just relax. With no agenda of museums or sights to see, it is really refreshing to be able to just sit around in our pajamas and enjoy each other’s company over a bottle of wine and TV. We don’t get too many days like this, our only other time actually doing this was in Innsbruck. So it was really nice. Taking in the peace and quiet, we decided to just dine at the hotel that night and not make a fuss about dinner reservations or getting ready. It was a beautiful evening!

Tuesday morning we boarded the fast train/ferry to Copenhagen. Where we might never return… Because Copenhagen is the best place ever and we are contemplating over-nighting our dog, Calvin, and starting a healthy Danish life together there. Stay tuned to find out whether or not we leave the perfect (literally perfect) city! Until then, Bon voyage!

Berlin The Beautiful

In Berlin, I ate more sausages… Because when in Germany, right?! Really though, aside from the sausage, I ate like I would have on a typical weekend in Philadelphia! It was quite refreshing. As I mentioned in my latest blog post about Prague… I had no idea what to expect of Berlin as I have heard so many mixed reviews. So I was excited to form my own opinion! Drum roll, please………… I LOVED BERLIN. I thought it was the coolest city! I was so captivated by its history and eeriness, and found such beauty in the mix-matched architecture. So much of Berlin being destroyed and bombed in the war, it’s hard to believe that we are now currently in year 2014 and the city is still rebuilding. I found it extremely fascinating to see the contrast between old and new. For example: there were brand new modern buildings next to super old semi-distressed buildings with bullet holes embedded in their facades next to crumbled down buildings that are still untouched… but will eventually be restored. It was a feeling I had never felt before. One you can’t feel learning about what happened in text books. You have to be there to feel the goosebumps.


We arrived by fast train late Friday afternoon from Prague – Berlin being my mother-in-laws final destination with us until she departed back to the midwest on Monday morning. We hopped off the train into the incredibly modern station and found a cab to escort us to our hotel. We stayed in a beautiful Rocco Forte hotel located in a gorgeous historic building – Hotel De Rome. Everything about it was perfect. The location, the rooms, the luxury and the history couldn’t have been better. Located right across from the opera house, a gorgeous cathedral, and the square at the University where the Nazi’s burned thousands of books during that era. We dropped off our bags and headed out the front doors to explore the city. My husband lead us on a two hour walking tour he had read about of all things interesting – passing the Jewish Cemetery, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall… Just to get to know the city and all its different areas. We ended our tour at the hotel bar with some fun summer cocktails in hand, as the weather was beautiful! That night we dined at a trendy Thai restaurant our hotel concierge recommended (Goodtime) and loved it! It was nice to infuse some Thai cuisine into our diets as we haven’t had it since we’ve been in Europe. And we love Thai food!













On Saturday morning we made our way to the National History Museum of Germany (similar to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, but instead of American history, it was all German history!). On our walk there, we happened upon a really neat outdoor art fair that we spent some time at. The fair featured all local artists which was really fun to see! The museum was huge, it took us a good three hours to walk through the entire thing, my favorite part being the World War II exhibit located on the entire bottom floor of the building. It was really intriguing being able to see actual photographs, letters, uniforms, newspaper clippings, and other artifacts from the war. This was the moment it hit me that I was in the center of the Nazi’s capital from a terrible war that happened not too long ago. It was a super eerie feeling that made me completely speechless. After embedding so much information from German history into our brains, we sat outside and enjoyed the weather over a big lunch. It was quite a busy Saturday in Berlin – there was some kind of big bicycle race going on, and on top of that, there was a huge soccer game happening there that night – Munich vs. Dortmund. Causing the city to be packed with lots of cyclists, family’s, soccer fans and team supporters…. Munchers, to be exact (Munchers: extremely happy Munich locals who drink an obscene amount of beer, sing a lot of loud songs, and act ridiculously jolly all the time). It was indeed an eventful day in Berlin!


The one thing I was so excited to see while in Berlin was the Berlin Wall, so after lunch we headed over in that direction. We stopped at Checkpoint Charlie first, of course, and then spent a good amount of time at the Wall. It was cool. And a lot lower in height than I was expecting! I had all these expectations of it being a lot taller than it actually was, but clearly I was wrong. In front of the Wall was a timeline outlining its significance and vital facts about the War, which was really interesting. It was also interesting to read all the graffiti that has been sprayed on the wall over the years. There was even a birthday shoutout form 1970… Pretty awesome! I learned that not all of the graffiti was still in tact though, a lot of it was removed due to inappropriate graphics from the war and language that wasn’t necessary for the public to see. Art (in this case, street art) can teach you so much about time periods and happenings, and I have really enjoyed gazing at all the graffiti I’ve been lucky enough to encounter these past couple of weeks.









In case you were unaware, a lot of European cities have a habit of shutting down on Sundays. Shops, groceries stores, some restaurants (not all)…. Leaving Sundays perfect for parks, sight seeing and museums. Since Sunday was going to be our last full day in Berlin, we thought it might be smart to graze the local shops on Saturday late afternoon before dinner. Our concierge told us about a really cool area in Berlin that is known for neighborhood boutiques and local designers, which is right up my ally. So we ventured in that direction and shopped local on a cute street that reminded me a lot of South Street in Philadelphia, but a little hipper and more upscale. There was a Berlin designer by the name of LaLa that had the most beautiful assortment of colorful scarves and a selection of really cute and quirky t-shirts! Needless to say, we had a lot of fun there! That night we dined at a very nice Italian restaurant by the name of Malatesta. We sipped on negroni’s and limoncello while indulging in giant plates of pasta. It was spectacular. After spending three straight weeks in Italy the first half of April, eating pasta and pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner got old real fast…. but now that we have more of a variety of food groups mixed back into our diets, a big plate of pasta every once in a while is perfection! 🙂

Sunday morning was cold and gloomy with some pretty serious rain showers. And I wasn’t feeling well. Straight traveling for a month and a half now, hopping from train to train, hotel to hotel, museum to museum, finally caught up with me and I needed a day of rest. I felt a bug fast approaching and I didn’t want to get seriously sick while in an unfamiliar European city. So I stayed in bed all morning while my husband and his mom spent some quality time together at the Pergamon Museum – located on Berlin’s Museum Island, which is a well known section of the city filled with monumental museums. They both said the museum was amazing, which made me feel really left out. Not knowing just how popular this museum actually was, my husband bought tickets online the night before just to make things a bit easier the next morning. Thank goodness he did this!Because the line for tickets had over a three hour wait! Moral of the story — whenever you can, reserve tickets in advance, because you never know just how long these ticket lines are going to be… And you don’t want to be standing in the rain for three hours. My husband and mother-in-law rolled right in and had a great time looking at impressive ancient alters and artifacts. While I laid in bed and felt sorry for myself.

After their wonderful time at the museum, my husband came to check on me. Feeing so miserably left out, I decided to throw some mascara on, rally, and go to the beer hall with him and Mama K. Both of them ordering large German beers while I sipped on sparkling water and tea. A little sad I couldn’t partake in the beer drinking, I was just so happy to be in their company again! That night we made dinner reservations at a traditional yet modern German restaurant that sat in the same neighborhood as all the cool local shops – Alpenstueck. But before heading to dinner, we had tickets to tour the Reichstag building – Which is the glass-domed building you can’t miss just west of the Brandenburg Gate. This is where Hitler gained power and also where the Soviet’s raised their flag to signal Nazi Germany’s defeat. Some pretty important history took place here and in 1999 it was refurbished by adding the glass dome that attracts tons of tourists (I read close to 10,000 visitors a day!!). The dome was made for walking along the internal spiral walkway, also known as the beehive, offering million dollar views of the city and a glimpse at what Berlin used to be and what it has turned into today. After spiraling the beehive, we walked through Berlin’s gorgeous park, similar to New York City’s Central Park, and then went to dinner. As it was one of my final nights in Germany, I ordered traditional German schnitzel and sipped on a German desert wine after dinner.











That night was a bit sad as Mike and I had to say goodbye to my mother-in-law. She had an early flight out of Berlin to Chicago Monday morning and we weren’t going to see her until we returned to the States in July. It was a real treat having her join us for 12 days and we were really going to miss her company! While she had a flight to catch, Mike and I had an early train to catch. We were Hamburg bound for some real, traditional hamburgers! As Hamburg, Germany, was where the hamburger was invented 🙂

Berlin’s diversity and culture made it a city I will never forget. And the thing that I liked most about the German capital, was the way it has reinvented itself from its numbing history. Clearly the world is catching on to this too. I am glad we have another night in Germany, I really love it here! Stay tuned for tales on hamburgers and the city that sits on the lake.


Prague – Sweeter Than Eye Candy

In Prague, I ate traditional Svickova – which is pretty much the Czech version of Thanksgiving dinner. Recommended by a friend who lives in Prague, it definitely made me feel more at home. Instead of turkey and mashed potatoes though, it was beef tenderloin in a gravy served with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce. Becherovka was just as prominent in Prague as it was in Karlovy Vary, too. So lots of herbal (38 herbs to be exact) after dinner drinks were happening and I wasn’t mad about it 🙂 Aside from eating like a local Czech citizen, I instantly fell head over heels for the city of Prague. Confidently calling it the most magical city I have ever visited, and my new favorite spot in Europe. The Golden City sparkles with such character, charm, color and life. Keeping its authenticity from the luck of not being bombed in the war, Prague is a true testament of old European beauty.


Prague lured me in the moment we stepped off the train and hopped into a cab. We arrived Tuesday afternoon and headed straight towards the Mala Strana neighborhood (Mala Strana meaning, Lesser Town or Little Quarter…but don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing less interesting or less beautiful about this part of town), where we would be staying at a beautiful ornate Preferred Boutique HotelThe Alchymist – which was located right next to the US Embassy, so security was quite impressive in our cul de sac of cobblestones. The hotel held such gorgeous features and was pure luxury. My husband, mother-in-law and I dropped our bags off, I sat and stared at the beautiful Bohemian crystal chandelier in our room, and then we immediately set out to explore the neighborhood and grab lunch. We stopped at a corner cafe, had a couple of beers, stopped in a couple really cool markets and got to know the area a bit better. After doing a lot of research on Prague food and dining, we realized that our hotel had a fabulous restaurant! So we decided that after a long day of traveling, and with a rain storm coming through that night, fine dining at the hotel sounded wonderful! After dinner we got a Becherovka at the tiny bar, where I was hypnotized by the amazing interiors (and maybe a little by the Becherovka pour!).



Prague fit the perfect irony of luring me in by the past and keeping my full attention of combining the present and future all in one. The artistic architecture and pure grace of the candy colored buildings, which were all in excellent shape by the way, combined with the cobble stoned streets captivated me for a full 72 hours. Known as the city of gold, the shiny color was present at every angle. And the richness of the city was magic. Unexplainable by words of blogging, really. All I can tell you is… if you have a bucket list of places to go, cities to see, Prague should absolutely be at the top of your list!


Wednesday was my favorite day. Thursday was too, actually. Every day and every single thing about Prague was just my favorite! We walked over the infamous Charles Bridge – which provides the most gorgeous views of the city from all angles and also graces the path with 30 intricate statues dating from the 18th century. Narrow and crowded cobbled lanes lead us east into Old Town Square. Where I fell I love. The Square was dominated by Gothic steeples of churches and the Old Town Hall clock tower where the intricate astronomical clock amazes the crowd. At the center of the square lives a dominant green monument called the Jan Haus Monument, where locals would sit on the steps, chat, and snack under the sun. Also near the Square is the popular art nouveau Municipal House, decorated by the most talented of Czech artists and architects of the early 20th century. We marveled in amazement at the charm of the Square… and that was the moment I knew this city was really special.

















As I have mentioned, I love churches… and lucky for me, so do my side kicks (my hubby and Mama K)! So we peeked into the two most well known churches in Old Town Square – Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church. Both beautiful and very different, making learning about their history and glancing up at their ceilings all the more interesting. Something I have noticed in some of these Western European cities is the significance of the crown. A lot of designs, art and decoration were inspired by crowns. And many of the churches chandeliers were designed in the shape of a crown, which is kind of awesome and very intriguing.


My mother-in-law read about this DIY (do it yourself) walking tour around Prague that showcases the significance of the most prominent buildings and their history. So we did that, with my husband being our lead tour guide, and it was really fun! We ended our tour at the area which was once the Jewish Quarter. Before I studied up on Prague, I had no idea the importance of the once large Jewish community Prague had. At the start of World War II, Prague had a healthy 118,000 Jewish residents living in the city. By the end of the war only 10,000 had survived to call Prague their home. History like this stirs a lot of spinning in my head, and I was just so compelled by the Jewish Museum, Old-New Synagogue, and Old Jewish Cemetery. The part that hit me the hardest though, was seeing artwork that had been preserved by young Jewish children that were being held captive in concentration camps. Seeing their struggles and feelings through crayon construction papered stick figures was extremely hard for me. It made me so sad.



Famished by our excessive walking and DIY touring of the city, we happened upon the fanciest of streets! Nicknamed “Paris Street” for all it’s lavish high-end shops and jewelers. We found a restaurant on the street where we sat amongst cigarette smoking Bottega Veneta bags and Prada shoes. I would have felt really insecure given my frumpy outfit choice of the day if I hadn’t just left the Jewish Quarters and realized how lucky I am to be living such a beautiful life. We walked through the entire city, enjoying its wonders, and headed back to our hotel – where I stepped into the spa for my first manicure/pedicure of the trip. A two hour affair where I relaxed in the joys of pink toe nails and cubical-free fingers 🙂

That night, we walked back over the Charles Bridge, where we noticed sunset views over the water and city which made it sparkle more than ever. We dined along the river at a trendy restaurant that felt the tiniest bit familiar to me. For all of my Philadelphia friends, it had the same feel of a new and modern Stephen Starr restaurant. It was a really cool and hip place called Mlynec – and our hotel concierge had to fight for a reservation for us, so I knew it was going to be good! All three of us ordered the signature dish – veal filet mignon schnitzel. Yes, you heard me. We got thick veal filet’s that were breaded and deep fried, schnitzel style. And we devoured every last bite, that’s how good it was! We ended the fantastic dinner with a Becherovka, of course, and cobble hopped back over the Charles Bridge, where pitch black skies made the city lights on the water sparkle even more!!



Thursday was a day to remember. We walked up steep cobblestone lanes to the famous Prague Castle that sits overlooking the city. It is Prague’s number one attraction and is a must see! We timed our visit perfectly so that we were present during the Changing of the Guard – happening every hour with the most spectacular change with flag fare and a flag ceremony happening at noon. This was quite a popular thing to do for tour groups and locals, so we were lucky to arrive early enough to catch front row views. It was so cool! See photos below.






We walked about the castle courtyards and explored all areas of the property – all really breathtaking and beautiful. We toured the spectacular Vladislav Hall which was located in the Old Royal Palace and saw some really neat rooms (personally, Hofburg Palace in Vienna was far more impressive to me). We then stepped into hands down the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen (and I have seen many cathedrals in my day), St. Vitus Cathedral. It was covered head to toe in dark wood carvings and details with colorful stain glass masterpieces draped throughout. It absolutely blew me away. We then made our way to the Basilica of St. George, which is Prague’s finest Romanesque church. It was amazing. We made sure we saw St. Wenceslas Chapel, which was really old and eerie, but super cool at the same time. And then ended our three hour escapade in the Treasury where we were swooned with jewel-studded crowns, crosses and relics (relics are small, decorative boxes or capsules that were given as gifts back in the day – they were once believed to create miracles). We couldn’t leave though without strolling through a secluded neighborhood hidden in the courtyards of the castle. Tiny row houses of rainbow colors with tiny dwarf-like doors and home replicas of what living spaces used to look like way back in the day were displayed for people to tour. It was so cute and so much fun!!















After our castle adventures, we walked even further up steep cobblestone lanes to a Prague brewery my friend living in Prague told us about – St. Norbert’s Brewery. It is her favorite place to go, so obviously we had to try it!! We had some local beers, beef goulash soup in bread bowls and beer cheese. It was so much fun being amongst happy Prague folk and indulging in local fare. Speaking of my friend, after we walked back to our hotel, she met us there to catch up and chat about all things Prague, all things travel and just all things life! Her name is Sarah and her and I went to High School in Wisconsin together. She is a year younger than me and has been living in the Czech Republic for two and a half years now! Living with family (her Aunt, Uncle and little cousins) in a small town an hour outside of Prague for a while and just recently (last November) moving to the big city of Prague. She is so well traveled and has such interesting views on life, we had the best time with her! She took us to a tiny wine bar in a cold basement that looked to have once been a wine cellar. It was awesome. We had been desperately wanting to find a good wine bar, but when they are hidden underground like that, only the locals can find them… So we got lucky having her with us! She gave Mike and I some good advice and suggestions for our future European travels and we filled her in on what’s happening in the States 🙂




We hugged Sarah goodbye and thanked her a million times for meeting us and then headed straight to dinner. We dined that night at a true Czech restaurant located in the Mala Strana neighborhood, only minutes from our hotel – Konirna. And that is where I ordered Svickova – Sarah actually being the one who told us about it! It was our last night in the Czech Republic, so I had to order a genuine Czech dish. And it was delicious! On our way to dinner, we stopped at the infamous John Lennon Wall – which was heavenly. On this trip, I have developed a new obsession and appreciation for graffiti and this wall was just amazing!! We took some photos and just soaked in how awesome it was. It made me love Prague even more than I already did, which I never even thought was possible!





The next morning, we boarded a very early fast train to Berlin. Going from big city to big city, but with two completely different vibes. I’ve heard mixed reviews on Berlin, some people love it, some people not so much…. So I was excited to form my own opinion.


Until tales of Berlin’s eerie history, wiedersehen!