2018 Summer in London

It’s not often that I write about our London adventures, but if I’m going to share any, I should probably write about summer in London. 聽 When we first moved to London, there were a few quintessential British events that we noted we must attend, but the last two summer’s Dan and I have been very fortunate to spend in Asia, therefore missing summer in London.

First up:聽 Royal Ascot!聽 I was so excited for this, we organised a group to attend probably about six months in advance 馃檪

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And unfortunately, to be completely honest, we had quite the disaster with transport and logistics for the day.聽 We organised a mini bus to transport Dan and I along with 12 other friends to the racetrack.聽 Not going into detail, it ended up being a nightmare transport service and caused a lot of headache for the whole group.聽 Luckily, they at least got us to the event and we were able to enjoy some of the races.

Once inside the venue, it’s quite the scene.聽 It almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time as many of the men are wearing tails and top hats and the women are decked out in beautiful dresses and the most elaborate hats.聽 The fashion was by far the best part of the experience.聽 Despite the chaos with the transport, we had such a memorable day at the track.聽 Totally worth the headaches and we’ll remember this forever!


The second big event we had to make it to was Wimbledon!

The process of securing tickets for Wimbledon is an event in itself. There are a few different ways you can get tickets.聽 The first is entering the ballot a year in advance and cross your fingers you get in.聽 We’ve done this the last 3 years and have not been successful.聽 The second is to queue in line for hours upon hours the day before/morning of each day.聽 The third is to enter the daily ballot on Ticketmaster to win 2 tickets for the next day’s matches.聽 This year, we entered the ballot on Ticketmaster daily for the first 4 days unsuccessfully.聽 Dan decided it was time to queue to guarantee some tickets!聽 He went around 5am Friday morning and queued until 10am to get a grounds pass.聽 Funny enough…I entered the ballot that morning while at work (while Dan was queuing) and I won 2 tickets for centre court on Saturday! Our friends Gina and Charles also won tickets to the Saturday matches!

So Dan went two days in a row and was able to see Rodger Federer and Serina Williams play on Friday, then we both saw Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic play on Saturday.

The Wimbledon set-up is so quintessentially British.聽 From the queuing system to the strawberries and cream to the champagne to the white outfits, it was all perfectly organised, efficient and exceptionally clean.聽 It’s such a good day out – even if you don’t like tennis, it’s something if you’re able to try and experience!


Another really cool thing we did this summer was kayak down the Thames with the Phelps and Hitchcocks.聽 Us girls planned the entire evening a as a surprise to our hubby’s.聽 The weather ended up being absolutely perfect, and we had the most beautiful 2 hour kayak down the Thames where we ended in Greenwich for a pub dinner.


In July, we had a bittersweet moment in which we had to leave our beloved flat in Pimlico and find a new place to live.聽 Our landlord decided he wanted to sell the flat we were living in, so we had to be out quickly.聽 We truly loved our flat and neighborhood in Pimlico, it was so hard to leave.聽 But we were super fortunate to find a new great flat in a new neighborhood for us.聽 We landed on Marylebone, which has proven to be a great choice.聽 It is much more central (I聽 mean my commute to work is just a 20 min. walk!) and it’s right next to Regent’s Park.聽 It’s a quirky little flat (jungle garden and a wine cave!?!), but we’ve grown to love it already and are quickly making it our cozy new home.


Now that we live close to Regent’s Park, Dan and I have been trying to play more tennis.聽 (We were also super inspired by Wimbledon!) We knew a lot of our London friends also like to play tennis, so we decided to put on an Expats Tennis Tournament.聽 I hired out three courts for a morning and organised a round robin tournament with five other double’s teams.聽 The weather was perfect and the competition was fierce – with Mary and Nick taking home the championship! This is definitely something we’ll try and repeat next summer!


And last, but certainty not least, Dan and I celebrated our SEVEN YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!

Absolutely crazy to believe that seven years ago we vowed our lives together for better or worse.聽 I can honestly say it has been the best seven years, and I cannot imagine life any other way.

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We decided to stay in England for our anniversary. We found a cool castle that was converted into a luxury hotel over in Cornwall (southwest corner of England), in Dartmoor National Park.聽 We thought it would be cool to cycle the area, so we took our bikes on the train and headed down south.聽 After a quick 1.5 hour train ride, we hopped on our bikes and cycled up, up and UP.聽 Neither of us were prepared for the amount of uphill the 17 mile cycle to the castle entailed!聽 More than once we (well I) had to stop and walk our bikes up the steep hills.聽 Hills aside, it was such a beautiful route.聽 The English countryside is so special.聽 I love all of the little pubs, churches and villages dotted along the way.

After a lovely night stay at the castle, the next morning we were off to do some clay pigeon shooting.聽 We had an awesome guide who taught us some great tips and tricks which had both Dan and I hitting *most* of the targets!

After shooting for a few hours, we hopped back on our bikes for a 15 mile cycle back to the train station.聽 This cycle journey was much more pleasant as there were some great downhills!聽 Even though Dan may say I complained quite a bit about the hills, I genuinely loved this trip.聽 It was so nice to get out of the city and see the beauty England has to offer.聽 And it was so nice being outside for the majority of the weekend.聽 Fun to spend a whole weekend with just our cycles and backpacks! It was absolutely perfect for our anniversary!

Oktoberfest: Munich, Germany

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you’ve probably noticed how often I say “This was a bucket list trip!” 聽We’ve been so fortunate to be able to cross so many items off our “list” since moving across the pond! 聽And this past weekend, Oktoberfest in Munich was another cross of the list!

Oktoberfest is unlike any other celebration in the world. 聽It’s hard to compare the experience. 聽It’s not quite a festival, it’s not just a big party, it’s a mixture of culture, traditions, fun (and yes lot’s of beer and food)! And it was bigger and better than I had 聽even dreamed! Prost!

We arrived Saturday morning and immediately made our way over to聽Theresienwiese, the official Oktoberfest grounds. 聽Dressed in our liederhosen and dirndl, our group quickly took in the sights, sounds and made a quick decision to soak up the beautiful German sun and enjoy our lunch in a beer garden. 聽(Side note: I totally fell in love with my dirndl, and wish I could wear it every weekend!) We were super lucky and were able to grab a picnic table immediately. 聽Our first Oktoberfest stein’s and taste of Bavarian food was perfection.

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After lunch, we moseyed around the Oktoberfest grounds to find a spot to enjoy our afternoon. 聽We learned quickly that once you get a table at a tent or beer garden…you stay there! 聽The place gets completely packed and it’s not worth giving up your spot because it is unlikely you will find another one. 聽We were incredibly lucky to find a spot in the Lauenbrau beer garden where we parked ourselves for the afternoon/early evening.

The next day, we decided it would be a wise choice to take a break from the main tents and festivities. 聽As Dan and I had already been to Munich a few times before, we didn’t have any specific sights to see, so we rented bikes with the Phelps for the day. 聽 The weather was perfect and we biked all through the English Gardens. 聽We even came across an amazing Hofbrau Haus beer garden in the middle of our bike which was the perfect pit stop. 聽The boys loved biking down the hills and we all enjoyed watching the surfers in the river.

That evening we went for an early dinner with the whole group at the Original Hofbrau Haus. 聽It’s a complete tourist trap now, but I still think their food is incredible! 聽And the building is so beautiful! I think it’s totally worth going to on every trip to Munich!

For Monday, we had a table reservation at Pschorr-Brauosl. 聽We spent the majority of the day drinking steins, eating the most incredible (and filling) Bavarian food, dancing on tables and singing along to the oompah music. 聽Not to mention, singing Ein Prosit every 15 minutes…:) 聽One of the best parts about Oktoberfest is that everyone is your friend. 聽As soon as you enter, you have hundreds of friends who want to eat, drink, dance and laugh with you. 聽It was so fun!

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Unfortunately, it was a quick weekend and that night we all had to fly back to London. 聽This was a total bucket list success. 聽We already have so much love for Germany (especially Bavaria), and Oktoberfest made us love it even more!聽We’d love to go back someday! 聽Auf Wiedersehen!

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Christmas in Iceland

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Iceland will be moving up to the top of my favourite lists! The country is filled with picturesque landscapes, animals, and snow. 聽I LOVE snow! 聽 I’ve said this many times before, but we’re SO lucky to have the Ives in London with us and be able to adventure around the world with them. 聽And it was a no brainer for the four of us to spend Christmas together this year, as our Core Four family. 聽So off to Iceland we went!

We stayed in this incredible AirBNB outside of Reykjavik. 聽It was totally perfect for a home base for the week we were there. 聽It is an old house that was built in 1907. 聽It had the cutest decorations and design, and as an added bonus – it had an amazing outdoor hot tub!

Here are some of the adventures we set out on and how we spent our time in Iceland around the Christmas time!

Blue Lagoon: 聽If you’re visiting Iceland and want to do the Blue Lagoon – top tip: 聽book as far in advance as possible to get the time slot you want! 聽We waited until last minute to book, so the only slot available was 8am on the first full day we had in Iceland. 聽Although we didn’t necessarily want to go straight away, I would recommend the 8a time slot. 聽 We had heard that it gets really busy and crowded, but going first thing in the morning left the lagoon very quiet and calm. 聽We stayed for about 3 hours which was just the right amount of time to watch the sun come up. 聽[Which -sun rise is about 11a and sunset is 3p!] It was fun relaxing in the beautiful milky blue water and treating our skin to silica and algae masks!

Waterfalls: There are so many waterfalls in Iceland! 聽We were lucky enough to make it to some of the top ones in the country during our time there. 聽聽They were all surprisingly different and all uniquely beautiful.

1 – Gulfoss: 聽We arrived in a crazy snow storm so these photos do not do it justice. 聽It’s an incredible sight to see.

2 –聽Sk贸gafoss: 聽This one was also really cool. 聽We were able to climb all the way up to the top and catch the incredible sunny views of the land around!

3 –聽Seljalandsfoss: 聽When the weather is nice, you can actually walk behind this waterfall! 聽As the wind was whipping like crazy, we didn’t end up going behind it because we didn’t really want to get soaked. 聽We left there just at sunset and were able to capture some great landscape shots in the fantastic light!

20161224_122047Icelandic Horses: 聽Ok, not another surprise to anyone that knows me. 聽But I LOVE horses. 聽Ok – I really love any animal. 聽But horses are one of my favourites! 聽Add beautiful pony-esque features and flowing beautiful hair – and I’m in heaven. 聽I was on a mission to see these beautiful creatures as soon as we touched down in Iceland. 聽On our way to some of the waterfalls one day, we spotted a group of horses alongside the road. 聽Most of the farms have fences around them, but this one only had a cattle grate, so I hopped out of the car and ran right up to love on them. 聽After a good half hour of petting and playing with them, I decided it was time to hop on one 馃檪 聽This was one of the highlights of our trip!

Ice Caves + Beaches: 聽Ok so going into this trip, we thought we booked this ice cave hike/climb. 聽Turns out, we booked just a tour bus dropping us off into an ice cave where we can just walk around and take photos. 聽Not quite what we expected – however, it was totally worth it. 聽It was the most unique/bizarre natural phenomenon I’ve ever experienced. 聽It was pretty expensive, but if you have the time to do it, I’d say go for it!

Outside of the cave is this incredible lagoon (J枚kuls谩rl贸n Glacial Lagoon) where the icebergs from the glacier float off in and out to sea. 聽The icebergs are so dreamy with their creamy blue swirls. 聽At the mouth of the lagoon is the black diamond beach. 聽The beach is made of fine volcano ash creating a beautiful dark black beach. 聽Pieces of the icebergs break off and rest on this beach, creating a beautiful “diamond-like” scene. 聽Pretty amazing! 聽There were even some seals swimming around in the lagoon!

Christmas (!!!): 聽If we’re going to be away from family on Christmas, we HAVE to be somewhere with snow! 聽It was so fun celebrating with the Ives. 聽We went to a Christmas Eve service at the famous church in Reykjavik. 聽The entire service was in Icelandic, which was really cool! 聽Christmas morning was quite the treat for me and Erin -the boys cooked us breakfast! After breakfast, we had a little family photo shoot then opened our presents. 聽We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hot tub, the boys went for a run, and we watched Home Alone!

Driving: 聽Ok we could have done this probably a bit more efficiently. 聽But we really wanted a home base during Christmas. 聽A lot of people move around the island every day, but we used our AirBNB as a base every day. 聽So this meant for some long driving days! 聽Luckily, Dan and Kent are the best winter drivers out there. 聽Growing up in Michigan made these guys perfect for the task. 聽The weather changes super quick in Iceland, so one minute it would be clear and sunny, the next it would be a whiteout! We spent many, many hours in the car. But again, it was totally worth it for the views!!! 聽Check out some of these snaps we took while driving –

Northern Lights: We didn’t have the best luck with the Northern Lights on this trip. 聽The cloud coverage was pretty heavy most of the evenings. 聽Our best night was the night we arrived. 聽We were able to snap just a few shots:

Downtown Reykjavik: 聽 When the weather was too bad to drive out, we’d spend our time exploring the town. 聽It’s such a cute town! 聽The buildings have fun colours with the cool modern Scandinavian design. 聽We even spent a relaxing morning at an adorable coffee shop playing cards!

Overall, this was the perfect Christmas trip with the Ives. 聽It was so beautiful, relaxing and fun. 聽If you ever get the chance to go to Iceland – GO! 聽We’d love to go back in the summer months to see it’s beauty in a different season!

 

Berlin, Germany

The Core Four was at it again – this time to the magical, Christmas-y Deutschland. 聽I’ve said it many times before, but I just adore Germany and German culture. 聽Since we moved to London, Berlin has been up at the top of my list for cities to visit, and somehow, it just hasn’t happened yet! 聽But the time finally came and it was well worth the wait.

Overall, I loved Berlin. 聽It’s a fantastic city. 聽It’s big, but not too big. 聽Modern, but still has a ton of character. 聽Lots to see and do. 聽Fantastic bars and restaurants. 聽Friendly locals. Oh yeah, and they had a great Christmas market!

We flew into Berlin late Friday night. 聽I love cities where the airport is super close and convenient to the city centre. 聽It was the easiest 30 min. bus ride into town and just a 5 min. walk to our hotel! 聽We hit up a local bar for some cocktails then went to bed in anticipation for a long day of sightseeing on Saturday.

We spent Saturday morning doing our own walking tour. 聽We clocked about 6 miles walking around seeing:聽Checkpoint Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, 聽the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Brandenburger Tor.

Lunch on Saturday was a special treat. 聽A few years ago when Dan and I visited San Diego, we went to Stone Brewing Co for dinner one night. 聽It was one of the coolest breweries we’ve ever been to and is a really cool company overall. 聽Since then, we’ve followed the brewery on Facebook and have enjoyed their cookbooks and beer brewing books. 聽Just about the time we booked our trip to Berlin, we saw on their Facebook page they were going to open a Berlin brewing facility and restaurant. 聽Lucky for us, they opened last month and we were able to go! 聽And once again, they did not disappoint! 聽Fantastic, unique space and more importantly, really good beer and food!

After a long lunch and beer tasting, we headed over to Alexanderplatz to explore the Christmas markets! 聽We sipped on Gluhwine while wandering around picking up our final gifts for family and friends. 聽We even took a trip on the ferris wheel! 聽I’ve not been to close to ten different Christmas markets throughout Germany and Eastern Europe. 聽My favourites still remain Munich, Vienna and Innsbruck.

We had a fantastic dinner that evening at a local, traditional German restaurant, Zur Letzen Instanz.

We spent our Sunday checking off the remaining sites on our list: 聽Museum Island, Berliner Dom and the Berlin Wall Memorial. 聽We even had some extra time to stop back into the Christmas market for one last lap around. 聽(I was even able to snag this FANTASTIC fur headband at this adorable antique market!)

Yay for Berlin! Another amazing German city. 聽I can’t wait to keep exploring more of Germany and improving meine Deutsche! And I can’t express it enough to lucky we are to have Kent and Erin over here with us. 聽We just LOVE travelling and exploring with them!

We’re in London for the next two weeks (shocking). 聽We have our 5th Annual Glaser Christmas Party next weekend, then we’re off to Iceland with the Ives for a week to celebrate Christmas!

Prost!