bruges by day // bruges by night

12.31.2014




europe adventure // bruges



stepping into the heart of bruges was like stepping back in time. these red rooftops combined with thick fog, swans swimming in the mirror-like canals, and bells chiming throughout the city made bruges the most enchanting place we have ever been. preserved cobblestone streets wind their way through the medieval city centre leading to quaint, picturesque scenes at every turn. 

after we checked into our cute little room with a view we just meandered through the town, stopping to take a photo here, stopping to buy a waffle from a street vendor there. hoping for a couple of calm days, there were only a few things on our to-do list: canal tour by boat, buy chocolate (best chocolate of my LIFE), eat mussels & frites (popular belgian meal -- sans mussels for daniel of course), drink delicious beer and tour the de halve man brewery, and climb the beautiful belfry tower for stunning views -- 366 cramped steps through a very old spiral staircase to reach the bells at the top -- click on the link to check it out. 

we saw all we wanted to see and then filled the rest of our time with what i wanted to do most of all -- wandering the city, drinking in all its sights. belgium, you were magical -- all we imagined and more. *update* for more tips on things to do in belgium check out this link: https://www.jenreviews.com/best-things-to-do-in-belgium/

europe adventure // amsterdam

12.24.2014

"its a world of laughter a world of fear, its a world of hopes and a world of tears...
its a world that we share and its time we're aware its a small world after all..."

in my head. on repeat. i suppose you can take the california girl out of the magic kingdom but you can't take the magic kingdom out of the girl. this fact aside, holland was like a dream. of course the bells, lights, canals, bridges (and clogs) reminded me of what i had only ever experienced as make-believe. it reminded me of disneyland -- only, this place was real. this is the place that disneyland is trying to transport you to. and here we were.

after separating from my parents we landed in amsterdam on a wet sunday night. the rain wasn't too light, it wasn't too heavy. it fell from the black sky softly on the quiet cobblestone streets. it returned to the still canals whose warmly lit reflections were disturbed ever so slightly, transforming their usually clear pictures to impressionist works of art. we walked in the rain that night, listening to the bells chime their music-box-like songs and watching the lights of the bridges flicker over the water.

morning came fast and we set off in exploration. from our hotel to the train station and then walked to dam square. from dam square we walked to bloemenmarkt, the worlds only floating flower market! we bought tulips to share and to plant some of our own. our wedding flowers were orange tulips, they are scheduled to bloom (if i don't kill them first... ) this spring, around our ten year anniversary. we did a lot more walking from the flower market to museumplein. museumplein means museum square and is, as the name would indicate, where all the museums reside. we scoped it out but decided to return later. from there we walked SOME MORE to this craft brewery and vowed to not walk anymore... at least until we had to leave. the beer (plus cheese & sausage) was the best of the trip.

the next day we opted to join the rest of the amsterdammers in their mode of transport -- the bicycle. bicycles were everywhere. they ruled the rodes the way the cars rule the 5 freeway in LA. they were rounding corners, jingling their bells, locked up on bridges, fences, and poles. so we figured if you can't beat them -- join them. best decision ever. what fun we had! i was worried that i was going to get hit by a car at first; or worse yet, slow down a dutchman on his way to work while he zoomed around me cursing tourism. thankfully i can report neither of those things happened! (i hope). we rode through the charming, neighborhoody area of jordaan, rented a paddleboat and paddled around the canals for an hour. it was a blast to get another view of the city whilst working off some of the gouda from the day prior. from the canals we rode to the rijksmuseum for vermeer & rembrandt. they were wonderful. the museum itself is such a beauty. (see IG for a photo of the building). it boasts a bicycle path through its center so you can see through the glass windows into the museum on either side as you peddle along to the sounds of violists playing vigorously in efforts to earn a few euro. after a slice of marzipan cake, glass of rose and obligatory jaunt through the gift shop we returned our bicycles and went out for a proper dutch dinner -- more meat and more cheese. fine by me. ;)

we departed from amsterdam for an early morning train to belgium by way of rotterdam. next stop: bruges.

pemberley

12.14.2014

"Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view... They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!"
-- Pride & Prejudice

europe adventure // english countryside

this storybook-like town is bridgnorth. idyllic and unassuming this little town stole our hearts. it isn't  bridgnorth's charm alone that makes such an impression but it is the people who reside therein. they are the family of our best friends and we have gotten very close over the years despite the distance. they took us in and treated us like family. many thanks to them!

after leaving london we passed through oxford for sausage & mash and drank a pint at their oldest pub called "the bear," dating back to the year 1242, before our arrival in bridgnorth.

our first day we all went to the chatsworth house in derbyshire county. this immense estate was used as pemberley in the film pride and prejudice. it was my dream come true. sheep dotted the land all around the house. the hedge mazes were the perfect place to get lost and daydream that you're elizabeth bennett... not that i did that of course. perhaps pemberly deserves its own post??

the next day we toured the town of ironbridge which was the home of the industrial revolution. we had the best pasties there... then a cream tea... thankfully we were also doing a lot of walking! after ironbridge we went home to bridgnorth and took the cliff railway up from low town to high town for the above view of the river severn. we saw the ruins of bridgnorth's castle and went thrifting on their main street. we had our meeting that night, then off to a proper english pub (translation: it was very, very old having the original door with the mark of the black plague -- really cool, also a tad creepy) called the halfway house for an ale named "shropshire lad," which was appropriate as we were in shropshire county!

the following day we were off to wales to a waterfall called pistyll rhaeadr. it was wet, windy and oh-so-very-cold which was perfect as that is exactly how one imagines wales to be! gnarly sheep, shetland ponies, mossy fences and RAIN. friday night we went to a mustache themed party (it was "movember" after all) for some fun times and delicious food.

saturday was our last full day *tears* and we went to ludlow castle which dates back to 1086. what an amazing time meandering its corridors and the view from the top was breathtaking. it was a clear, crisp day with children playing rugby in the shadow of the castle and i thought to myself at that moment: this is something i can never experience at home... and i was happy.
one last meal of indian food that night with all the family and we said our goodbyes...

thanks to all for a wonderful time making memories. until next time thoughts of hot english tea and cozy fires will keep us warm at night. (to be honest... it was ace.) we love & miss you all!

we were off to heathrow for our flights and sadly parted ways with my dad and mom...
we were on our own!

europe adventure // london

this view of elizabeth tower peaking out of the trees of st. james park is my absolute favorite view of my most favorite landmark. this was my fourth time visiting the UK and i still jumped up and down with glee at the moment i took this photo, the first moment i saw him on this time around -- it never gets old. i truly believe that even if i was a londoner (for real not just at heart) i would still catch my breath each time i heard those ever-constant sounds of big ben ringing through the city.

i have been dreaming of going to london with my family for the past couple years, maybe even before that. as you can see here. we tried last year and it didn't work out but this time around -- success! we made it! my dad, mom, daniel and i flew from san diego to new york city (i sang new york state of mind while waving to that beautiful skyline as we landed of course) and then on to heathrow. we left on a wednesday and arrived on thursday morning to stay until tuesday morning. we hopped on the tube and took the piccadilly line straight to our airbnb flat on the corner of shaftsbury and neal, in the center of covent garden. the location was amazing.

some of the highlights of our time in london: the above pictured walk from buckingham to trafalgar square, the national gallery, thames river cruise at sunset offered up picture-perfect scenes, neighborhood pubs, portobello road market in notting hill, tons of indian food, the british museum bible tour, the british library's treasures, drinking a glass of fancy champagne at harrods elaborate food hall, and saving the best for last -- beautiful london bethel and new friends made there.

from heathrow we rented a car, then daniel drove us to friends in the west midlands for the next chapter of our english journey... cheerio to london for now & hello bridgnorth!

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