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!

New Zealand [South Island]

For our Christmas adventure this year, Dan and I decided we’d go really big.  We quickly decided on Australia and New Zealand! While planning our route, we decided to make it an AROUND THE WORLD experience by first travelling to LA, California.  DSC07327 (2)Dan’s brother, Scott, and his wife, Christine, recently moved to the LA area AND just had a baby so we were anxious to meet our new nephew, and we figured the few extra flight hours on an already long flight were totally worth it!

We spent our two day layover loving on our nephew, Henry, and catching up with our brother and sister.  We loved seeing their new home and lifestyle in LA.  Their neighborhood is beautifully located in the hills near Pasadena.  Our time with them is never enough, but it was great to see them and catch up (last time we saw them was in Japan!).  And how handsome is my nephew…I couldn’t get enough snuggles with him!!!

After LA, we flew into Auckland, New Zealand which is in the North Island.  This is the only way to get to New Zealand via international flight.  After a quick layover, we few down to Queenstown on the south island which was our base for the next week.  We picked up our Jucy campervan at the airport and headed off!  The best way to do New Zealand is by campervan, and ours was absolutely perfect for the two of us.  The converted minivan’s backseat area turned into a full bed for sleeping, bench seats and a table for dining and the trunk was a kitchen, full with a stove, sink and mini fridge.  We were really impressed with Jucy, their service was great and the campervan was in great condition.  We also loved seeing other bright green and purple Jucy van’s on the road and everyone honked and waved as we passed by!

Our first stop and campsite was in Wanaka, just about an hour through the mountains and north of Queenstown.  We explored the nearby lakes (including the infamous “Wanaka Tree”) and the town before settling into our first campsite.

On our first full day in NZ, we drove up to the base of Mt. Cook, which is the tallest mountain in the country.  On our way there, we stopped by the Clay Cliffs.  These striking cliffs are quite the site as they are HUGE and so different then any of the other landscape around it!

Once at Mt. Cook, we did a long hike through the Hooker Valley which sits just below the mountain.  The hike was beautiful (and hot!), but we were both surprised at how busy the trail was.  Most of NZ was very quiet and we never saw that many people, but out of the whole trip, this trail was the busiest (although we’ve become pro’s at making our photos look like it’s just us and nature!)

After our long hike, we drove back down south to Lake Hawea for our 2nd campsite.  This was our favourite campsite out of the whole trip.  We were able to park right on the lake and we were virtually the only ones there!  It was such a serene place to relax.

We were fortunate to be visiting NZ during their summer time, and even more fortunate to visit during the longest day of the year.  Our days were incredibly long, with the sun rising around 6am and setting at almost 11pm.  So we woke up very early and had nice long full days to enjoy! We went back into Wanaka the next morning to shop around the little town before heading into Queenstown to explore the city and check out Fergburger.  We had heard a lot about this burger place, and were warned that queues are usually around an hour for lunch and over two hours at dinner!  Lucky for us, we only waited about 30 minutes!  The burgers were good (and huge!), but definitely not worth waiting two hours in a line for!  Fun to try!

After lunch in Queenstown, we drove down to Glenorchy.  The drive to Glenorchy is known as the most beautiful drive in all of New Zealand.  And it did not disappoint!  It was incredibly scenic, with twists and turns along the lake and through the forest.

When we got to Glenorchy, we did a horse back riding tour around the Reiss River Valley.  This area is stunning!  And it serves as the filming location for many films such as, Lord of the Rings (Isengard), Mission Impossible 6 and X-Men Wolverine!  It was a really cool ride because we got to go through rivers and do a fair bit of trotting!  It was a great way to spend the afternoon!

That evening we made our way to our next campsite.  We camped alongside Moke Lake, which is 15 minutes outside of Queenstown.  It was a cool site because it’s up in the mountains alongside a lake, surrounded by a horse farm, a cattle farm and a sheep farm!  So nature and animals were all around us!  We made a wonderful stirfry for dinner and enjoyed some local wine before going to bed early so we could wake up in the middle of the night to star gaze.  Living in London, we don’t see a vast array of stars.  So we set up on top of our van and enjoyed the beautiful night sky!

Our next day started bright and early with a 7am flight to Milford Sound.  The fjord’s were at the top of our list to see, but to get there by car, you have to go all the way around a mountain range which takes 5.5 hours EACH WAY!  So Dan found a flight company (Air Milford) that gets you over to Milford Sound in just 45 minutes!  It was an incredible flight (Dan got to be co-pilot!) over the lakes and mountains!

When we arrived at Milford Sound, we hopped on a cruise boat for a tour of the area.  This area is remarkably breathtaking.  It’s been unofficially titled the 8th Wonder of the World – and I totally agree.  The striking coastline, the waterfalls, the wildlife (seals, otters, dolphins, penguins) and the water all make this place magical.  Our boat tour was only two hours, but I could have spent all day in the sun enjoying the views!

We hopped back on the plane after the boat tour for a quick flight home.  But our pilot told us it was very rare to have little to no wind in the area, so he wanted to have some fun and took us a little out of the way to see some cool glacial lakes and more views of the fjords!

That afternoon, we went back into Queenstown where we took the gondola up to the top of the town.  Dan did downhill biking and I enjoyed the sun and read my book 🙂  Dan LOVED the biking!

For our last night in NZ, we stayed in Queenstown at a Holiday Park walking distance to the town.  We spend that evening having dinner in the town before catching a good night’s sleep for our last big NZ adventure…

…BUNGY JUMPING!!!  The first thing we did after booking our flights for this trip was book bungy jumping!  We’ve had this up on the top of our adventure lists for awhile now, and why not do it at the home of bungy!?  This was the most UHH-MAZING experience!  Words cannot describe the feeling you have as you freefall 134 m over a gorge!  Both Dan and I loved every second of it and we can’t wait to do it again!!!

Shortly after bungy jumping, we boarded a plane and made our way over to Australia for the next part of our Christmas Trip!  New Zealand was incredible; if anyone gets the chance to go you have to take it!  We loved everything about it and are ready to go back and explore some more!

Oh – and if you didn’t notice…we FINALLY GOT A GOPRO!!!  Our parents got us the new Hero6 for Christmas!  We were finally able to capture some of our crazy adventures!  We hope you enjoy some of these fun videos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

My mom visits London & Almafi Coast

A few weeks ago, my mom was able to make the trip over to London! We were excited to show her our London life.  We spent a whole week in London showing her all of the hot spots and sharing all of our favourite local places.  We did an afternoon tea at Kensington Palace, brunch at Duck & Waffle, a river ride down the Thames, saw Wicked the musical, had coffee and macaroons at Laudree, checked out Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. It was full on London!

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After getting her acquainted with London life, we took her over to Italy for the weekend to show her a bit more of Europe.  We flew in and out of Naples, which is the perfect gateway to the Almafi Coast.  We spent the morning of our first day there exploring the Pompeii and Hurclean area.

From Pompeii, we drove (ahem – Dan drove) the super windy, beautiful roads over the mountains to the Almafi Coast.  We stayed in a little village just south of Almafi town.  It was beautiful!  Our hotel had an amazing balcony with views of the sea and coast line and a fun rooftop bar where we enjoyed a night cap watching the sunset over the coast.  We spent the afternoon laying on the beach and swimming in the sea before heading into Almafi for some shopping and a wonderful pasta dinner on the water.

The next day we drove the entire Almafi coast from Almafi over to Sorrento.  It was incredibly beautiful!  Although we were only in this area for less than 24 hours, we decided we liked this area much better than the Cinque Terre area.  Much less crowded and stunning 360 degree views from every angle!

From Sorrento, we hopped on a ferry to go spend one night on the island of Capri.  It’s a quick 30 minute ferry and the views when you arrive are breathtaking.  To be fair, every view once you’re near, or at Capri, are breathtaking!  Our AirBNB for the night was up at the top of the island which provided some great sunset views.  We spent the afternoon down at the beach in the turquoise water and the evening indulging in more delicious Italian pasta.

The next day we took a boat tour around the whole island.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a day out on the boat.  Capri was lovely.  We loved it.  It’s quite touristy, but we went in the shoulder season, so it was just perfect.  The food was incredible, the people were nice and the scenery was gorgeous.  It would be a great place to go back to for a relaxing weekend, as there isn’t much to actually do.

We ended with a ferry ride back to Sorrento and a drive to the Naples airport.  We made a quick pit stop in Naples to walk around and grab one last gelato before dropping the car off.  It was a great weekend and it was nice to be able to show my mom how we do our short weekend trips!

My mom left London the day after we returned from Italy…and I started a new job! It was great finally getting her over to Europe!  We love showing our friends and family our life over here!

 

Japan [+Singapore]

Dan had to go back to Tokyo for another long business trip.  Lucky for me, I was able to join him for the last half of the trip!  This was our third time in Tokyo.  I said it the last two times we were there, and I’ll say it again – I love Japan!  I was so happy to be back!

Dan’s time in Japan was primarily spent working.  And after only one week in Tokyo, he had a 2 day work training in Singapore.  He was able to fly to Singapore the weekend before the training began to get some sightseeing in.  Here’s a brief glimpse of his time in Singapore:

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After a long [almost] four weeks apart, I was able to join Dan in Tokyo! I spent the first few days reacquainting myself with the city I love so much [and was quickly reminded of how HOT and HUMID it is there!] Dan made sure to welcome me to the city with a beautiful view of the sunset from Tokyo Tower on my first night in Tokyo.

We had already done a lot of exploring the easy to reach cities outside of Tokyo [Kyoto, Hakone, Yokohama…], and only had a few left on our list to check out.  We decided on Kamakura for our first day trip on Saturday.  It was a really easy one hour direct train ride from Tokyo Central Station.

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We wandered the little shopping streets on our way to the first temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.  We grabbed a quick lunch then made our way over to the Kotoku-in (Great Buddha of Kamakura).  This thing was MASSIVE!  I knew from photos that it would be large, but I did not expect it to be THIS BIG!  It’s uber impressive, and is quite the sight.  I love that it is also a different kind of sight to see versus another temple.  The last real sight for us was the Hase-dera Temple.  It was beautiful, as it sat up on a cliff with beautiful views of the sea.  It also had an underground tunnel system that we were able to walk through [although, we still can’t figure out what it was used for!  Everything was only in Japanese!].

The final stop of the day was the beach!  As it was nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 75% humidity…we needed the ocean!  Although it was not a beautiful white beach with turquoise waters, it was perfect for a quick dip in the water before hopping back on the train to Tokyo.

When Sunday rolled around, I was still fighting jetlag and Dan was pretty tired from long hours at work.  We decided to sleep in late and relax before heading out to DisneySea for the afternoon/evening.  DisneySea has an awesome deal where you pay a much lower ticket price to visit the park anytime after 4:00 PM until closing.  I’ve been nudging Dan to take me to DisneySea the last two visits to Tokyo, and he finally gave in and we had the most amazing time.  DisneySea is gorgeous – it is set up like a sea version of Epcot.  We spent six glorious hours riding rides, stuffing our faces with overpriced park food and enjoying the shows.  Some of our favourites were the Toy Story ride and the light show they put on in the water at night.  Let me tell you – DisneySea was well worth the wait.  I loved every minute of it.  It was so much fun!  Lines weren’t very long, the park was SO clean [typical Japan!] and it is the only DisneySea park in the world!  I HIGHLY recommend going – just the water light show at night is worth seeing in itself!

While Dan was working the next week, I explored more of Tokyo.  I strolled around the parts of the city that were my favourites, as well as checking out a few new areas.  I also spent a decent amount of time relaxing in some of my favouite quiet parks found dotted throughout the city.  I love how quiet, clean and green Tokyo parks are.  It seemed I always found myself ending up at a park sometime throughout the day to either to some yoga or just catch up on some reading.

Hard to believe I haven’t mentioned it yet, but it’s definitely time I talk about the food.  It’s no secret, I’m OBSESSED with Japanese food.  Some people complain that after some time in Japan, they get sick of it…but I seriously think I could eat it all the time.  It’s incredible!  When I was on my own, I checked off the places that were my favourites from trips past.  Ramen still sits at the top of my list.  I love the variety that each shop offers [and there are SO many ramen shops, you can never get bored trying!].  It should also come as no surprise, that spicy ramen happens to be my favourite variety!

One of the most memorable dinners from the trip was with Dan’s work team when we went out and celebrated the finish of their project with a Kobe beef dinner.  The restaurant was Teppanyaki style, and it reminded me of Benihana.  Our chef prepared the courses on the stainless cooktop in front of us.  The Kobe beef was unreal.  Super buttery [and garlicky] and melt in your mouth delicious.

The best part about this trip to Japan was having Scott and Christine come visit for our last week!  Scott is just as big of a foodie as me, and has always wanted to visit Tokyo for the food and culture scene.  As they’re about to have their first baby (yay!), they figured this was the perfect time to visit and celebrate with a babymoon!  AND – they just moved to LA, so the flight to Tokyo is just about the same as a flight to London would be!

It was incredible having our brother and sister in Tokyo with us.  I played tour guide for them while Dan was at work during the day.  And we took them to our favourite restaurants in the evenings.

For the weekend, the four of us decided to take a day trip up to a countryside/mountain town called Nikko.  We took the train straight there, which only took about an hour.  It is such a quiet small town – it was a nice escape from the city! After dropping our stuff off at our hotel, we spent the afternoon checking out all of the temples and shrines.  All of them are located in the Nikko National Park, so it makes checking all of them out super easy and convenient as they’re all right next to each other!  The park is home to some really cool and unique things; including:  Japan’s most ornately decorated shrine the Toshogo Shrine and the famous Three Wise Monkey’s (Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil).

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That night, we stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan.  It was quite the experience!

The next day, we took a bus over to the lake/mountain area to do some hiking and see some waterfalls.  It was so beautiful and the weather was perfect (ok – it was quite hot, but it was manageable!). After a full day of hiking, we headed back to Tokyo for two final nights together.

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We finished our time together with a trip to Tsukiji Market and two incredible meals and invaluable time together.  We miss Scott and Christine so much, and our time together is never long enough.  It was such a special treat to be able to experience Japan together.  Something we’ll cherish forever and ever….and it’ll be a great story for Baby Glaser!!! Her first trip to Japan 🙂

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