Dan’s 30th in Majorca, Spain

de001a03-bf3b-45e3-9942-7707154ac1b0October was a special month for us this year, not only did Dan turn thirty, but his brother and family were able to hop across the pond to celebrate with us.  And we’re not talking a small hop…they came all the way from LA to London and then we flew on to Majorca, Spain with them!  And they have a one year old baby!  Scott, Christine and baby Henry were major troopers! 

They arrived in London the fd6b8ec9-8b2a-4419-9225-5e0b83a71045weekend before Dan’s birthday and we were able to show them our new London neighborhood as well as explore some of their favourite areas from the last time they visited.  

After a few days in London, we made our way over to Majorca.  We stayed in a fantastic villa up in the cliffs, with sweeping views of the beautiful Spanish island’s coast. The infinity pool was by far the best feature in the home, and where we spent most of our time.  

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We took a day trip up to Valldemossa, which is a quaint historical village lined with shops and restaurants. We had a fun time exploring and enjoyed soaking in some Spanish culture.

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We celebrated Dan’s 30th on the water at a lovely restaurant in Port d’Andratx. We enjoyed sampling the fresh seafood and we were treated to a beautiful sunset!

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We were able to spend a bit of time at a few of the local beaches.  We visited a popular beach in Palmanova on the southern coast of the island. It had beautiful white sand beaches and we all enjoyed swimming in the sea. Another day we decided to try a “secret” beach. Before long we found ourselves on a two-track winding into the hills. The road eventually became too much for our “mini-van” and so we decided to walk the rest of the way to the beach. After about a 15 minute walk, we were rewarded with a perfectly secluded beach in a small little cove. We spent the afternoon swimming in the crystal clear water and soaking up the sun.

All too soon, our time in Spain was up and Scott, Christine & Henry were headed back to LA.  It was unfortunate timing that one of my big deals at work was closing the week they visited.  It was massively time consuming and kept me occupied much more than I would have liked. As a result I wasn’t able to spend as much time with Scott, Christine and baby Henry as I had hoped, but overall it was a great trip and we love our precious time with family.  It’s so hard not seeing them when we’re living on opposites sides of the world, but we cherished every moment we had together!

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.   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:  Royal Ascot!  I was so excited for this, we organised a group to attend probably about six months in advance 🙂

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And unfortunately, to be completely honest, we had quite the disaster with transport and logistics for the day.  We organised a mini bus to transport Dan and I along with 12 other friends to the racetrack.  Not going into detail, it ended up being a nightmare transport service and caused a lot of headache for the whole group.  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.  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.  The fashion was by far the best part of the experience.  Despite the chaos with the transport, we had such a memorable day at the track.  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.  The first is entering the ballot a year in advance and cross your fingers you get in.  We’ve done this the last 3 years and have not been successful.  The second is to queue in line for hours upon hours the day before/morning of each day.  The third is to enter the daily ballot on Ticketmaster to win 2 tickets for the next day’s matches.  This year, we entered the ballot on Ticketmaster daily for the first 4 days unsuccessfully.  Dan decided it was time to queue to guarantee some tickets!  He went around 5am Friday morning and queued until 10am to get a grounds pass.  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.  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.  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.  Us girls planned the entire evening a as a surprise to our hubby’s.  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.  Our landlord decided he wanted to sell the flat we were living in, so we had to be out quickly.  We truly loved our flat and neighborhood in Pimlico, it was so hard to leave.  But we were super fortunate to find a new great flat in a new neighborhood for us.  We landed on Marylebone, which has proven to be a great choice.  It is much more central (I  mean my commute to work is just a 20 min. walk!) and it’s right next to Regent’s Park.  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.  (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.  I hired out three courts for a morning and organised a round robin tournament with five other double’s teams.  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.  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.  We thought it would be cool to cycle the area, so we took our bikes on the train and headed down south.  After a quick 1.5 hour train ride, we hopped on our bikes and cycled up, up and UP.  Neither of us were prepared for the amount of uphill the 17 mile cycle to the castle entailed!  More than once we (well I) had to stop and walk our bikes up the steep hills.  Hills aside, it was such a beautiful route.  The English countryside is so special.  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.  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.  This cycle journey was much more pleasant as there were some great downhills!  Even though Dan may say I complained quite a bit about the hills, I genuinely loved this trip.  It was so nice to get out of the city and see the beauty England has to offer.  And it was so nice being outside for the majority of the weekend.  Fun to spend a whole weekend with just our cycles and backpacks! It was absolutely perfect for our anniversary!

Lyon & French Alps

 

Dan recently had the opportunity to join a weeklong project in Lyon, France.  Of course as it was a new city for us, I quickly wanted to join!  So I arrived on Friday at the end of the week for a night in Lyon then the weekend in the Alps.

After Dan finished up work on Friday, I met him in the city centre where we walked around exploring.  The city is really adorable – I couldn’t believe how many cafe’s, restaurants and bars there were! It’s a very small, but incredibly charming city built around the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers.  I wish we had more time there than just the one evening…

 

Lyon is known as one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.  It is FILLED with Michelin starred restaurants and is home to some of the most infamous culinary institutes.  I’m a HUGE Anthony Bourdain fan (R.I.P.), and love to follow his recommendations as we travel around the world.  One of my favourite episodes of Parts Unknown was his Lyon trip.  He visited Paul Bocuse’s restaurant and was able to dine WITH Chef Paul himself!  Watching Anthony Bourdain’s excitement and respect for such a chef made me want to experience those feelings as well.  I had just been promoted at work, and Dan told me we were going to go out to dinner to celebrate that evening.  Never did I think we’d be able to get into Paul Bocuse – but somehow Dan managed to secure a booking!!!

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We indulged in the most memorable six course meal:

  • Amuse-bouche de l’Auberge
  • Duck foie gras terrine, ginger jelly, dried fruits chutney [Kirsten] & Traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish, Normande sauce [Dan]
  • Filet of beef Rossini, Périgueux sauce [Kirsten] & Fricassee of Bresse chicken in cream sauce, morel mushrooms [Dan]
  • Selection of fresh and matured cheeses from ‘La Mère Richard’
  • Delicacies & Temptations
  • Fantasies & Chocolates

Two things in particular stood out to me; first was the veal sweetbread that was on top of my beef filet – out of this world delicious! And secondly, was the dessert cart.  I wish I was able to take better photos of them (because there were FOUR – not just ONE dessert cart!) I had a hard time containing myself and not asking for a sampling of each of the desserts offered!  It was such a special evening and was by far the best meal of my life!


 

Part two of our trip kicked off early the next morning as we hired a car and drove off east towards the French Alps.  Our plan was to arrive late morning and spend the afternoon hiking.  However…the World Cup was on (and France was playing) and it was nearly 100 degrees out, so we decided to take it easy and just drive and stop in a few small villages along the way and then watch the match at a local pub.

It was such a beautiful drive climbing up and up through winding steep mountain roads, to where we stayed at a beautiful catered chalet.  The house was built into the rocks.  It was quite a striking mix between old/mountain rock and modern.  The area even had a local friendly donkey that greeted us 🙂

 

 

The next day we set off for a full day’s hike in the alps.  Dan chose a beautiful trail around one of the ski resorts with views of Mount Blanc.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  It was quite funny because it was about 70 degrees and sunny, but parts of our hike were still through the snow!

We love adventure trips, and this one in particular because it was such a contrasting trip – gourmet meals to trekking in the alps.  It was also really cool to see this area in the summer as this was a similar area we were in the winter for our ski trip!

Lisbon, Portugal

If you follow us regularly, you’ll probably notice both Dan and I have been travelling a lot for work.  Our last weekend trip was stapled onto a work trip Dan had in Oslo, Norway  and this time it was my turn to travel for work and have Dan come visit me on the weekend!  I’m working on some really cool projects across Europe right now, and lucky for me, two of them are in Portugal.  After a few days in Lisbon and Porto for work, Dan joined me Friday evening for a weekend of exploring.

For some reason (which were both still not entirely sure why) we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. We rarely do this, but it ended up working out great as it got us quickly to some of the main sites…although in retrospect, we only used the bus about 2, maybe 3 times 😉

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First stop:  Belém Towera stunning tower structure that from afar looks like it is floating off of the Lisbon shoreline.

After snapping a few photos and walking along the shore, we walked over to Pasteis de Belem, the world famous bakery known for its Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts)!  We were warned that the queue would be quite long, but it would be worth the wait.  Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes before we had the most delicious, warm custard tarts in our possession!  Unlike a lot of places that are very hyped up about being “the best”, this place totally lived up to the hype – they were outstanding!  Totally worth it if you’re in the area!

A quick Uber away (not the bus :)) was the, also very famous, TimeOut market, where we enjoyed some delicious lunch.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around various neighborhoods, while gawking at all of the gorgeous architecture and TILES. I fell in love with the tiles.  I took close to 100 photos of buildings and tiles.  We even ended up visiting a tile shop to purchase some to bring home with us!

That evening we had a really good Portuguese dinner at a really cool, funky restaurant and topped off the night with some incredible wine at what is now possibly my favourite wine bar ever.  The entire building was covered in beautiful green glass wine bottles and their service and selection was FAB!

On Sunday we did a bit more exploring, but mostly just enjoyed relaxing and walking in the sunshine.  We had the most perfect weather while in Lisbon, about 65-70 degrees and sunny the entire time.  We loved the food, the wine, the culture, and just about everything!

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I’m so grateful that I am able to work on a project in this incredible country!

Saint Petersburg, Russia

 

Russia has always fascinated me.  The history, the vastness of it’s land, the people, everything about it interests me.  I also love the cold, and the ballet, and beautiful architecture, so Saint Petersburg in December sounded like the perfect trip for us!

The trip is very easy to accomplish in just a long weekend.  Unfortunately because of the time change, you need almost a full day to get there from London.  Although the flight is only a little over three hours, the three hour time difference means a six hour plus travel journey.  But the city is pretty small and condensed, so having just two days to explore works well.

We spent our first morning visiting Saint Isaac’s Cathedral.  It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world! Also – the dome structure at the top was actually the inspiration for the United States Capital Dome!  The interior of the church is jaw-dropping.  The amount of gold, marble, granite and bronze decorated throughout is magical.  I loved the bright green from the emerald columns and the glittery bright mosaic’s that scattered the ceiling and walls.  The cathedral also had an external staircase up to the top which gave way to some of the most beautiful views over the city.

IMG_0165Standing atop the cathedral, I spotted a massive turquoise building, adorned with gold and white trim and immediately declared we had to go there.  Having done very little research on the city myself, Dan quickly informed me that it was the Winter Palace, and that was actually already our next stop on the trip! (He’s so good at planning and research!)

A quick walk from the cathedral and we arrived in the Palace Square.  And what  MASSIVE square this is…but for some reason, I just expect everything to be huge in Russia. I mean they have so much room for everything!  The square itself was home to many significant historical events, including the Bloody Sunday massacre, assassinations and parts of the October Revolution.  But now, it’s just a beautiful square in front of the Palace, and they even had magical horse drawn carriages dotted throughout for rides throughout the city!

We spent about two hours wandering the Winter Palace.  The Palace has a long and complicated history.  Changing hands a lot and suffering wars, fires and battles. The last time royals lived in the palace was early 1940’s, and since it’s been a tourist museum.  As we went in the non-tourist season, the place was relatively empty so we were able to make our way through very quickly.   What impressed me the most were the ceilings and the floors!  Each room had it’s own character, with it’s own ornate ceiling design and floor design.  It was incredible to imagine the amount of work that went into creating everything.  I think I took at least 100 photos of the ceiling, and I think my neck even hurt a bit from looking up the whole time! I thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Winter Palace, it was one of my favourite palaces/museums we’ve visited since moving abroad.

After the Palace, we spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering the streets and canals of the city.  Deemed “Venice of the North”, the city is dotted with many rivers and canals, which adds to the picturesque-ness of the city.

That evening, we went to a Georgian restaurant for dinner, followed by the Russian Ballet!  I love the ballet, and the Russian ballet was one of the big draws to going on this trip.  We saw their performance of Cinderella.  It was incredible!  Definitely a once in a lifetime experience – amazing!

On our last day in the city, we started off with breakfast at an adorable café where I discovered the Russian coffee drink – the Raf.  It’s basically a latte, but it’s made completely different with everything being put in the frothing mug then frothed together (versus just the milk being frothed and poured on top of the espresso).  They also dotted the top with about 2 whole cups of marshmallows, so I was in espresso heaven!

After breakfast, we went over to The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  This is one of the most striking buildings I’ve ever seen.  The ornate, colourful domes stand out and provide a stunning backdrop along the canals.  (Sadly, the very top of the cathedral was under construction so there was some scaffolding on the top – but nevertheless, it was still STUNNING!

 

We spent the remainder of our time waking around and shopping!  We loved our experience in Russia.  Saint Petersburg had a wonderful Eastern European feel with so many colourful buildings and all of the water makes is so charming.

 


As a side note, we also hosted our 6th annual Glaser Holiday party! We did a crazy wig theme this year which turned out pretty amazing!  Everyone smashed the theme and looked great!

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Germany + Netherlands Heritage Trip

Dan and I have always known we had a bit of common German and Dutch heritage, but it wasn’t that long ago we found out how close our family’s history’s actually were.  Dan’s dad’s side of the family is from the Leer area in Germany, which is just east of the Dutch/German border.  Dan’s mom’s family is from the Friesland area in the Netherlands, which is just west of the Dutch/German border.  Crazy how close they are to each other!  Then we come to find out, my mom’s side of the family is also from the Friesland area of the Netherlands! We decided we needed to go explore these areas to learn more about where our family’s are from.  It was a quick trip (although was unexpectantly extended…will explain later!), but it was a great one.

Dan’s family provided us with a lot of information and detail of actual places/homes to check out which was incredible to see.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really have much information from my side, except that Groningen was the main town that they were from.

We flew into Bremen, Germany early Saturday morning, grabbed our rental car and start our journey.  Our first stop was in the adorable little town of Oldenburg, about halfway from Bremen to the German/Dutch border.  We don’t have any evidence of either of our families spending any significant time there, but it was fun to check out and have an incredible German lunch.  The restaurant has been there since 1886! It was fun to visit small German cities where English is not widely spoken.  It was a great chance for me to practice mein Deutsch!

IMG_0057After lunch we made our way into the Netherlands, all the way over to Balk (Beam).  Balk is where Dan’s mom’s side of the family was from.

We were able to see Dan’s Great-Great grandparents house and the church where they attended and his Great-Great grandpa played the organ.

That night we stayed in Groningen at an adorable little hotel in the countryside.  We went into town that evening for dinner at a local pub, but were exhausted from our early flight we called it a night early! We went back into Groningen Sunday morning for coffee and breakfast and the chance to explore a bit in the daylight.  It was fun wandering around knowing some of my great-great-great grandparents walked there as well!

From Groningen, we drove back into Germany to Leer where Dan’s dad’s side of the family is from.  Our first stop was a funny one, because it was to a Chinese buffet.  If anyone knows me well enough, you’ll know it had to take a lot of convincing to get me in the door as Chinese buffet’s are at the low side of my kind of restaurants.  But we were under the impression that the building was an old hotel in which the family had stayed many, many years ago.  So we did it! … come to find out the building actually had no real significance to the family, it was just a hotel that Dan stayed in with his family when they visited the area in 2000. Ha!  But it was a funny experience and we have comparison photos of Dan then vs. now!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town of Leer and the surrounding Holtland area.

After checking all the heritage places off our list, we then started making our way back to Bremen where we experienced their Christmas market and did a bit of shopping!

We were supposed to fly out of Bremen back to London that evening.  Unfortunately, our flight was cancelled which caused quite the stir.  We took a train over to Hamburg with the intention to fly out of Hamburg back to London, then found out our Bremen flight was rescheduled for first thing the next morning.  So we took the train back to Bremen, stayed in a hotel for the night and eventually made our way back to London mid-day on Monday!  Quite the exhausting travel experience, but we made it!

 

 

French Rivera & Cinque Terre

It’s hard to believe that SIX years ago Dan and I exchanged “I do’s” and promised our lives together forever.  I feel so blessed to share my life with my best friend and adventure all around the world with him.  For our anniversary, we decided to take another road trip.  This time we went to the French Rivera and Cinque Terre, Italy.  We decided to make it a long weekend as it was our anniversary! We did a nice loop, starting and ending at Nice. It was a lot of mileage, but the views along the way were unbeatable!

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We flew in Thursday morning and grabbed our rental car.  We checked into our hotel and quickly hit the beach.  Our hotel was located in a quiet, secluded area between Nice and Monaco which provided us with the most amazing little cove of private beach.  We spent the afternoon floating in the turquoise water and walking along the coast.  That evening we went into Nice’s city centre to have dinner and drinks.  We found this amazing cave restaurant where we feasted on great Charcuterie and cheese and had great wine.

The next morning we drove into Monaco.  I’ve never seen so much wealth in such a small concentrated area!  Dan was in super car heaven, as every 2 minutes another insane super car would drive by!  And the yachts…don’t even get me started!  It was unreal how large these “boats” were…and how many of them there were!  Not just one or two big boys…we’re talking hundreds!  I thought some of them were cruise ships…but no…just private family boats 🙂 Monaco was a lot of fun.  You probably don’t need more than a half a day there, but if you’re in the area, it’s 100% worth checking out.  We really enjoyed it.

 

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After lapping in the luxury, we hopped back into our little European car and started making our way over to Portofino.  Of course, after about an hour of driving, we had to stop on the side of the road for a dip in the water 🙂

The stretch of drive from Monaco to Portofino was our favourite of the trip.  The expressway follows the coast and ducks in and out of mountains the whole way.  Bridge, tunnel, bridge tunnel, bridge, tunnel…you get the point!  It was really beautiful.  We arrived at our AirBNB just outside of Portofino (in Rapallo) in the early evening where we freshened up and headed into Portofino for dinner.  What a night it turned out to be!  About 10 minutes into our drive we were stopped by the police!  We were informed that as Portofino is really small, they weren’t letting any more cars in for the evening because it was already full.  After a few minutes of discussion, we were somehow allowed to advance and try to get in.  We found a parking spot and quickly found out the reason why the town was shutting down…Ferrari was hosting an event in the town square, literally taking up the entire space! They were holding the world premiere of their new Ferrari Portofino!  The whole town was lined with a red carpet, massive tents, fancy tables and guest dressed to the nines!  We clearly didn’t fit in…ha!  We were able to walk around the edges of the town and catch the views from the peripheral.  Our dinner plans were also thwarted as Ferrari had booked out every restaurant on the waterfront…!  But we were able to grab a pizza 🙂 It was quite the scene and we really enjoyed the environment.  It was a bit unfortunate that we weren’t able to do Portofino as we had hoped, but we got to see the premiere of the car and walk the red carpet which was quite fun!

 

20170909_155550The next morning we made our way down the Italian coast for the Cinque Terre portion if our trip.  Cinque Terre (CT) literally means 5 towns; and these towns are cute little colourful towns built into the seaside cliffs.  We stayed in the most southern town, Riomaggiore.  We ran into a few hiccups during our time in Cinque Terre.  Our main plan for our time there was to hike from our town up the the northern most town, Monterosso.  Unfortunately, the hiking trails from our town up to the third town were closed for repairs.  Okay…so we start at the third town and make our way from there!  We bought our tickets (you have to have a trail pass to walk the trails), and started our trek!  We hiked for about 10 minutes when we reached the first trail checkpoint to show our passes…and were informed that all of the trails are closed for the day because there is a “chance of rain”.  SO – during our few days in CT, because there was a chance of rain in the forecast, we weren’t actually able to hike at all! It was super unfortunate as we love hiking and there really isn’t much else to do in the area besides take in the views!  (Oh – and it only rained at night! The sun was out during most of the day!)

Luckily, our friends Gina and Charles ended up being in CT the same time as ourselves so we are able to hang out and make the most of it!  We took the train from town to town, ate a lot of pasta, pizza and gelato, drank incredible wine and spent a lot of time relaxing!

Cinque Terre was beautiful!  Although we had some unfortunate circumstances, we were glad we went and we’re able to see it.  I do think the area has become overrun with tourists.  We felt like we were in Disney Land being shuffled around with all the other tourists.  It’s sad that the natural beauty and history of the area is now overshadowed by pushy foreigners.

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We also managed to shoot a beautiful six year anniversary photo!  We’re past the point of being able to take selfies now – need two hands!

Six Years!

For our last day, we had intended to stay in CT for the full day, but as the trails were still closed (with no rain…) we decided to make our way over to Parma to check out the home of Parmesan cheese!

We went to Hombre Farms for a tour of the Parmesan cheese process.  They are a unique farm because they are a fully closed circuit.  Meaning, everything comes from just them!  They grow the feed for their cows and their cows provide everything for the cheese. And they are 100% organic.  The owner is also an avid car collector, so we were able to walk around his “garage” to see some of his collectibles!

As we still had a few hours to spare until we needed to head back to Nice, we decided to check out the Ferrari museum and factory in the neighboring town of Modena.

After drooling over cars we’ll never be able to afford, we started the trek back to Nice!  We arrive back just in time to catch a little of the sunset on the beach before dropping the car off and flying back to London! Although not everything went as we had hoped, it was such a beautiful trip.  We love taking road trips! Happy SIX YEARS DAN!

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Adventure in the Swiss Alps

Earlier this summer Dan and I started planning a big hiking trip in Switzerland.  We had planned to do 4 full days in the Jungfrau region of the Alps hiking up, along the ridge, down and from hut to hut…well that was the plan until we got back from Asia…In my last post you may have read that I came down with an illness after our Cambodia trip.  Well this illness was unlike any other illness I’ve ever had.  I was completely out for 3 full weeks and now a month later, am still seeing some of the after effects.  Leading up to this trip I still had limited energy and very weak muscles.  So we had to tweak our trip quite a bit to accommodate…

Luckily, we still have an incredible time! With Dan’s master planning skills, we were still able to see and do a lot!

We flew into Zurich very late Thursday night.  We didn’t arrive until almost midnight.  We headed to our first campsite just outside of town along the shores of Zurich See.  We set up our tent and crashed for the night, and woke up to the most beautiful setting!  It was so fun waking up to such a picturesque setting, as we arrived in the dark having no idea where we actually were!  We packed up and headed over to Interlaken.

Just a half an hour into our two hour drive, we decided to take a pit stop for some breakfast in Lucerne.  It was such a beautiful little town!  The river is the most perfect shade of blue, and the main bridge is unlike any other.  We enjoyed our coffee and breakfast pastries by the water before continuing our journey to Interlaken.

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After a beautiful, scenic drive, we arrived in Interlaken.  First stop: Swiss chocolate!  We headed directly to the chocolate shop to grab some chocolate fondue.  I don’t know how the Swiss do it, but their chocolate is truly the best! We definitely took advantage of it and indulged in copious amounts of chocolate throughout the weekend!

IMG_1105After filing up with chocolate for the morning, we drove over to Mürren for our first adventure activity, the Via Ferrata [Klettersteig auf Deutsch]!  This is essentially hiking along the side of a mountain using steel cables and holds to move along.  It was so cool!  I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time!  I kept waiting for Dan to get annoyed with me because I kept stopping to tell Dan how cool the views were; but he was just as excited as I was! 🙂  We both agreed that our favourite parts were the cable bridges!  We’re both a bit of adrenaline junkies and loved the feeling of the waterfalls rushing below us while bouncing on a little cable above! [have fun trying to spot us in some of these photos!]

That evening, we made our way back to Interlaken where we set up our tent at a campsite on the western lake, Thunersee.  We had a wonderful fondue dinner in town, before enjoying the sunset over the lake.  One of the things I love about adventure/camping trips is going to sleep so early 🙂  I love going to bed just after sunset and waking to the sunrise.  It’s so rejuvenating!

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On Saturday, we had our second adventure activity, white water rafting!  Neither of us had ever done this before [surprising!] so it was something we were really looking forward to.  We rafted on the Lütschine river, which had mainly class 4 rapids.  As the water flows down from the melting glaciers, it was freezing cold, so the weather was absolutely perfect for this adventure, 80 degrees and sunny!   We were  put at the front of the boat to be the leaders, which was really fun and challenging! We both absolutely loved this experience, and can’t wait to do it again! [Thank you Alpin Raft!]

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That evening, we drove back into Interlaken to check out the Unspunnenfest.   We were super lucky to have caught this, because it only happens once every 12 years!  Think of the festival as the Swiss Olympics…stone throwing, wrestling and yodeling!  We didn’t get to see the actual games as we didn’t have tickets, but we were able to enjoy the outer festivities and we even made friends with a yodeling group which we hung out with for awhile!

After getting our yodeling  fix, we drove over to Grindlewald to camp in the valley of the area we would be hiking the next day.  It was another beautiful campsite.  We couldn’t believe how quiet the whole area was – it was such a nice change from busy London.

IMG_1229Sunday was our big hike day.  Adventure number three began in Grindlewald and ended at the Gleckstein Hutte – 2,317 m high up Mount Wetterhorn.  We had researched a lot of hikes and there are so many in the area.  As our initial plans changed, we decided to let the locals help us with what to do!  We wanted a hike that was very secluded, picturesque and particularly one in which no cable cars could get to to keep the tourists away.  SO we ended up with this hike as the locals recommended it would be perfect as not many people do it and the hut at the top is one of the best views in the area.  Little did we know how difficult the hike would be! We quickly found out it was a very steep ascent on very rocky ridges! [picture on the right shows what the terrain was…!]  After hours of heavy breathing and strategically placing each foot, we rounded the corner to the most beautiful sight – our mountain hut for the night!

The hut was adorable.  There were about 8 other hikers staying there with us for the night.  Some of the hikers were locals that told us this was in the top 3 most difficult hikes/huts to get to!  The hut owners provided us with a delicious, hearty dinner and breakfast which was much needed after a long day of hiking.  After dinner we had a lovely surprise with a heard of Steinbock’s visiting our hut!

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The next morning we started adventure number four…making our way back down to the valley without falling face first. It was a beautiful hike down, as the air was much cooler and the descent takes so much less effort!  We enjoyed scampering down the rocks, taking in our last views of the mountains.

We rewarded ourselves with one last fondue and raclette meal in Grindlewald then made the drive back to Zurich.  We decided to stay in the same campsite as we did the night we arrived because we loved it so much.  As we arrived in the afternoon, we were able to swim in the lake and enjoy the sun and relax for the afternoon.  We cooked a lovely pasta camp meal before crashing early in the night for our 7am flight back to London in the morning.

I was so proud of myself for being able to do everything we did.  And so thankful my health is finally almost back to normal!  We absolutely loved this trip.  Every moment was perfect!

 

 

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia + Hong Kong

After a lovely trip to Bali, we hopped on another plane and made our way north to Siem Reap, Cambodia!  To be honest, the thought of visiting Cambodia never really crossed my mind.  But after some research and discovering the Angkor Wat…Dan and I were sold and knew we had to go!

We arrived mid-afternoon and got settled into our hotel.  Once again, our hotel accommodations were incredible.  We were treated like royalty at this place!  It was the cutest little boutique hotel in the heart of the city, and just a quick tuk tuk ride to the Angkor Wat! Check it out: Privilege Boutique Hotel

That afternoon we relaxed by the pool then had an incredible dinner at the Chanrey Tree Restaurant.  Cambodia food is very close to Thai food, so we both loved it!  And the Cambodian people are so much like the Thai – friendly, happy, super smiley, and helpful!  We loved the service we received at all the restaurants!

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The next morning was our big exploring day.  We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and set out to the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is the 150+ square mile area that houses many famous temples. [Side note: you may notice that Dan and I are in all sorts of funny outfits throughout this post.  Due to different religious traditions, we had to cover up differently.  Lots of random scarves, dresses, etc!]

First stop:  ANGKOR WAT!  The Angkor Wat is the WORLD’S LARGEST religious monument!!!  It was originally built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, but has switched back and forth from Hindu and Buddhism based on who was in power at the time.  There really are no great words to describe Angkor Wat.  It’s absolutely breathtaking.  Just take a look for yourself [although these photos do not even do it justice!]:

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After spending a good amount of time wandering around Angkor Wat in awe, we decided it was time to move on to the next site.  Which ended up being my favourite of the day! This one was called Angkor Thom, which translated means “Great City”. It is essentially an old walled city, filled with the most impressive sculptures and monuments.  Again, I can’t even begin to explain the feeling we felt as we walked around.  I’ve never seen anything so impressive before.  The detail, the enormity, the grandeur…it all just took my breath away. And it all just made me feel so happy!  In all of the sculptures, all of the faces were smiling, the monkey’s were dancing and everything just seemed so cheerful! I couldn’t stop thinking about how talented and skilled the men were that constructed this in the late 12th century.  Can  you imagine something of this detail being constructed today?

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After ticking off a few smaller temples, our tuk tuk driver took us to a “locals restaurant” for lunch.  We had a fantastic meal – Dan had a delicious curry and I had a green mango chicken salad.  [However…I’m pretty certain this is the meal that gave me a horrible parasite and salmonella…that when I got back to London made me horribly ill for almost 3 weeks!]

After lunch, we were already really tired and hot.  It was 90 degrees out and really humid, so it was hard to spend the whole day out in the sun.  We decided to do a drive by tour of some of the smaller temples/sites in the area before finishing by exploring Ta Prohm – the tree temple.  You may recognise this one from the Tomb Raider movie!  This temple was also incredible. Ta Prohm is full of giant banyan and silk-cotton trees growing up out of the ruins; most of the trees are over 400 years old!

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That evening went went for pre-dinner drinks at the Siem Reap Brewpub where we were able to sample some local brews.  We had dinner at another incredible restaurant, Malis.  They even thought it was our hunnymoon so we received a free dessert!

As you can tell from most of our posts, the majority of the places we go and the trips we plan are jammed pack with things to see and do.  We planned our Cambodia trip a little differently!  As Siem Reap is relatively small, and the main attraction is the Angkor Archaeological Park, we knocked out all of the temples in one day and decided to spend the rest of our time slowly meandering the streets/markets, getting massages and relaxing by the pool!

On our last evening, we went to a place called Georges Rhumerie for dinner and a rum tasting!  The place distills their own rum and then creates ten different infusions.  Our favourites were the coconut and the cinnamon!  We brought back a bottle of the cinnamon to London!  The food was also incredible.  It was Cambodian/French fusion which was fun!  After dinner, we went to the Night Market for one last taste of Cambodian culture.

Siem Reap was fascinating.  You really only need 2 days/1 night here.  It’s 100% worth checking out as it’s unlike anything else.  After our lovely time here, it was time to make our way back home to London…but not before we had a one day layover in Hong Kong!


Hello Hong Kong! We decided to try and squeeze in one more place before heading back home.  It worked out well that we could put in a 12 hour layover in Hong Kong.

First stop – food!  We took the express train from the airport into the city and the restaurant we wanted to eat at had a branch in the train station which was super convenient for us!  Tim Ho Wan is noted as the World’s Most Inexpensive Awarded Dim Sum Restaurant.  We were warned there would be a long queue – and surprisingly it ended up only being about 30 minutes.  We ordered a variety of dim sum, buns and other interesting items [the menu was half in Chinese half English, so we couldn’t really figure out what we were ordering!].  Dan even tried the chicken foot! The food was good, but not incredible.  Neither of us really understood the hype and the reason why it has been awarded Michelin stars.  Fun to try though!

We then wandered around the city for a bit before heading up to Victoria Peak to try and catch the famous views of the skyline.  Unfortunately, it was incredibly hazy that day, so although we did get some views, there weren’t the best.  It was still beautiful and were glad we did it!  While up there we even had some bubble tea – which is a must since Hong Kong is where it originated!  It was by far the best bubble tea we’ve ever had!

A quick taxi ride down the hill took us to the ferry docks where we hopped on a boat and scooted across the harbour to the other island, Kowloon.  There we took in the views from the other side of the harbour then did some shopping down all the streets and at the Temple Street Night Market.

Before heading back to the airport, we had just enough time to catch the Symphony of Lights.  It is a huge lights and sound show put on every night.  Apparently, it is the world’s largest sound and light show!  It was fascinating to watch!  We wish it was a bit less hazy, but oh well!  It was beautiful and we’re really glad we were able to catch it!

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One [not even full] day in Hong Kong was just right for us.  You’d be surprised to know, we’re not big “big city” people and Hong Kong is a BIG city!  It doesn’t have an incredible amount of rich Asian culture, it feels very Western.  Definitely recommend it for a layover!

And now we’re back in London after an easy flight back.  Unfortunately, the parasite I caught in Cambodia hit me full force a day after being back.  These last 3 weeks have been quite miserable, but I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!  What an experience…! We love SE Asia, and I wouldn’t trade being sick for any of the experiences!

Bali + Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Ok you guys – just as a warning, this post will have a lot of excitement and a lot of pictures!  Bali is one of those places you see in movies, read about in books and hear about, but never actually think you’ll go there.  Well, Dan is amazing – and he took me!

We decided to stay in the Ubud area, which is more inland and full of forest, rice terraces, coffee plantations and CULTURE!  Our hotel was incredible, I can’t recommend it any more highly, as it was perfection.  It had 2 beautiful pools, a really cool bar with SWINGS (!!!) and their food was fantastic! Again – highly recommend the Sthala Ubud Bali.

We rented a motorcycle for our time on the island, as it’s really the best way to get around.  The roads are so narrow and windy (and not in the best condition), it is almost impossible to get around in anything other than a motorbike! And we love bikes…so it was perfect!

For our first full day, we started at the Sacred Monkey Forest.  Monkey’s are roaming all over Bali, but there is a small area in the centre of Ubud that has a high concentration of monkeys and you can go hang out with them.  I was in heaven as I just love animals, and I loved having little monkeys scampering all around.  If you have bananas, they’ll even come and climb all over you.  They’re feisty little creatures!  But you can’t get mad at them because they’re so darn cute!

After the monkey forest, we walked around the Ubud Palace and grabbed some lunch before taking the bike out to the countryside.

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We took a lovely ride through the “back” roads to get out to some of the most famous rice terraces.  We had so much fun driving through the windy beautiful countryside.  The jungle/country feel was incredible, and after a nice 45 minute ride, we arrived at Bali’s most famous rice terrace, Tegalalang Rice Terrace.  We read online how touristy it had become and a lot of reviews online said not to go because it’s just full of tourists now.  Well, either we lucked out or the reviewers were exaggerating!  It wasn’t that busy, and it was 100% worth it.  It was stunning.  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  They built these immaculate rice paddies into the rolling hills.  The area is the most beautiful colour green I have ever seen!

After walking around the rice terrace for awhile, we hopped back on the bike and went over to check out a the Elephant Cave, which is actually a sanctuary for meditation.  It’s gone back and forth between Hindu and Buddhism over the years.  The carvings and sculptures were beautiful!

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Lastly, we rode over to one of the big waterfalls, the Tegenungan waterfall.  At this point, it was early in the evening, and we were quite tired, hot and hungry.  So very unlike us, instead of hiking to the waterfall and jumping in, we decided to just grab a beer and enjoy the view of the waterfall from a viewing deck before heading back to the city to grab dinner.

Our hotel recommended a restaurant called the Dirty Duck Diner for dinner.  The restaurant is famous for it’s crispy duck, so we had to try it.  We did the sharing platter which was a half of a duck with various side dishes.  Dan and I love duck, and we love crispy duck.  And this crispy duck was fantastic!  We devoured it!  Although we still rank the duck in Beijing as #1, this is a very close second!

For our next day, we decided to take a trip over to one of the other Indonesian islands.  We decided on Gili Trawangan as it was the easiest to access from Ubud.  We drove our motorcycle 90 minutes to the port to catch a “fast boat” over to the island.  I’m pretty sure if you looked up Gili Trawangan in the thesaurus, it’d say PARADISE!.  Picture the most perfect blue/turquoise water with white sand beaches, colourful beach huts, boats and market stalls lining the beach, and amazing restaurants and bars and you have Gili Trawangan.  [Ok you don’t have to picture it…there are a million pictures below!] But seriously, it was stunning.  We quickly got off the boat and walked down the island [the island is TINY] and found some beach chairs and snorkle equipment to rent.  And that was it – we spent the whole day snorkling and napping in the sun!  The best part was the snorkling.  There were MASSIVE sea turtles in the water and you could just swim right up to them and alongside them.  They’re such beautiful majestic creatures! I was mesmerized by them! [And we’re both KICKING ourselves for not having a GoPro for underwater photos…we’re getting one NOW!] If you’re in Bali, it is 100% worth it to take a day or overnight trip to the Gili Islands.

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After a full day at Gili Trawangan, we took the “fast boat” back to Bali.  The journey back was quite the adventure in itself…let me just say that these boats would NEVER be

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allowed anywhere outside of SE Asia.  I wish we had better pictures of this boat, but it was so janky…it had about 40 seats inside then 4 “benches” on the roof where you could sit – and of course, Dan and I had to sit up top :).  The railings were little dinky things and you had to hold on for your dear life while crossing the sea.  We hit some massive waves and got entirely soaked.  We ended up putting our swimming goggles on because we were getting sprayed so frequently we couldn’t even open our eyes! It was so much fun! [Again – lack of photos because we didn’t have a GoPro/waterproof camera!]

The next day started quite early…about 2 am!!!  We decided to do a sunrise hike of one of the large volcano’s on the island called Mt. Batur.  Our guide picked us up from the hotel at 2 am and we drive 90 minutes to the base of the volcano.  Then we started climbing!  We climbed for 2.5 hours until we reached the peak, just in time for the sunrise! The first 2 hours of the climb were pretty easy, but the last half hour was quite challenging and I was very grateful to see the top!  The hike was totally worth it, as it was so rewarding to watch the sun rise over the island.  It was a memory we’ll never forget as it was so unique!