Floriade 2012

I realized I goofed and never shared photos from our amazing experience at the Floriade during our trip to Europe this past summer.  Better late than never, right?  Check out the slideshow and see the beauty we experienced while there!

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Adventures in Europe

‘Allo, friends!  I’ve just realized that I never got to sharing the lovely trip abroad that Mumbles and I took earlier this year. So, in the spirit of back to school and getting back in the routine of blogging, I thought I’d do the ol’ “What I did on my summer vacation” bit. It’ll be a lot easier in English than having to do it in Spanish, as I recall. Although, BFOTB can attest that a time or two after a few too many sangrias (or in desperate transportation emergency situations), I have been known to spout out near-perfect Spanish almost in a Will-Ferrell-esque Old School moment (feeling like you’ve blacked out after giving very impressive remarks).

What I Did On My Summer Vacation:
I should start by saying that I’m not quite sure I’m sane because I did leave dear Mumbles in Amsterdam for few extra days of gallivanting and boy-like shenanigans with fraternity brothers following our week and a half long trip. (!) I dare say as he kissed me goodbye at the airport that I was praying he’d make it home in one piece and without any embarrassing face tattoos! We had such an extraordinary trip and I reveled in spending such quality time alone with him exploring and discovering new cities, cultures and cuisine.

After a long flight from LA to New Jersey and an even longer flight from the US to Germany, we arrived in Stuttgart having missed our connection into Dusseldorf, just an hour plane ride away. Blast! The next flight they could get us on was that evening so we happily decided to spend the day exploring Stuttgart. Plus, it’s fun to say. Schtoot gahrt. See? Fun. As luck would have it, Stuttgart happens to be home to the Mercedes Benz Museum…so you can guess where we spent our afternoon. It was really a beautiful museum, very modern and interesting. I had no idea Mercedes Benz has such a storied history.


getting caught up in the crowds and cheers of european soccer.

Once in Dusseldorf (also a fun one to say), we walked most of the city on foot while it rained on and off. And, trust me, I’m not usually fond of rain (curly hair and all) but this definitely was the more picturesque movie-quality rain where you hop underneath a storefront canopy after getting poured on, shake out a bit, giggle together, kiss, hold your jacket above your head, and run back out to face the day together. At least, that’s how I’ve romanticized it in my head now that it’s months later and I’m warm and dry as I type. We found two microbreweries to try the Altbier, a traditional beer made in Dusseldorf. The promenade between the Rhein and Altstadt is apparently known as Europe’s longest bar, as cafes and bars line the whole way, very similar to those of Barcelona, except much less club-like. W were fortunate to happen upon a restaurant bar one evening that was not too busy so we could stay in to watch the Spain v. Portugal soccer game during Euro Cup… it was a very boring match up until the shoot outs but still so fun to be in such lively company while watching.


potato pancakes just like my Papa makes!

One afternoon while exploring the city by bus we got off in the Alstadt for lunch where we had ventured around on foot the day before. We couldn’t read the menu at the cafe but when we saw the woman next to us receive a plate of what looked like my Papa’s (grandfather) delicious potato pancakes we knew exactly what to order! They were superb! We ate outdoors and hopped back on the bus with a refreshing homemade sparkling lemonade with ginger and basil – my new favorite!

Across the Rhein they were setting up for what looked to be a very large festival in the coming weeks – all I could think was how unfortunate that we wouldn’t be there to enjoy it. Funny how timing can seem so off and then surprise you in the most delightful ways. Our last night in Dusseldorf we watched the Germany v. Italy game at a microbrewery in the Altstadt. It was the oldest brewery in town called Zum Schnissel – we really enjoyed the beer here in Dusseldorf! Plus, I can’t tell you how spectacular it is to be in a country that idolizes a sport while their team is playing. I also can’t describe in perfect words the sadness and heartfelt disappointment these dedicated citizens feel when their beloved team loses. It’s truly an aching sadness to see — painted faces being wiped clean, a wave of depression that comes over a crowd, beers left unattended on tables instead of raised high in cheers amidst the crowd. Still, what an exhiliarating evening! We did see some spiriting Italians closing down some streets with impromptu celebrations, flags waiving, releving in the safety in numbers game.

Unfortunately, we forgot to buy a Christmas ornament for our tree while in Dusseldorf. That’s our tradition everywhere we go so that come Christmastime, our tree is lit up with the memories of the places and important events in our lives. So that was a bummer. I mentioned that we found a small place to watch the Spain v. Portugal game one night and it was there that we asked our waitress if she could recommend any towns we should stop in on our way to Amsterdam and she said “Ah, Venlo.” She didn’t seem to think about it too hard so we asked why she’d recommend it and all she could really say was that there was nature there and she thought we’d like it. Good enough for us! We found an awesome hotel and booked a nice suite without much clue of what else to do but noticed in the online hotel reviews that most people staying there mentioned “Floriade.” After a bit of research we discoverd the Floriade is a huge horticultural expo held every 10 years and it just so happened to be in Venlo this year. Going on now. What luck! We bought two day tickets and spent the last two days covering an enormous theme park-like area with five different worlds to discover. If you get a chance, look it up – Floriade 2012. And, heck, if you can fit in a trip to the Netherlands in the next few weeks, you have until October 7 to see it in person. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it.


our terrace overlooking the resort’s lake in Venlo.
seriously dreamy.

Also, our hotel was amazing. Tucked into a wooded area, it was more like a resort with a gourmet restaurant (best dinner ever!) and our suite had a huge outdoor balcony terrace overlooking a little lake. Gorgeous! The name of our hotel was Bilderberg Hotel De Bovenste Molen in Venlo if you want to Google it. Just lovely.

The town was really cute too but I have to wonder what will happen to the area once Floriade is over and they break down the exhibits and structures. I imagine it will be a lot like the Olympic cities after the games. Still, I’d love to go back someday – it was absolutely a perfect getaway.


Riding in the open-air tuk tuk (like a bike/cart/ATV) from our resort in Venlo to the Floriade.

After Venlo, we took the train into Amsterdam where we stayed for a few days before I left Mumbles with the men for their debauchery. I was hoping for some good cheese tasting while we were there and we did stumble upon a newly opened cheese shop but the “tasting” was grabbing a piece out of a communal bowl in front of all the different types and that just didn’t seem my style. Or sanitary. I should mention that at the Floriade, however, we saw our favorite cheese that we get at Trader Joe’s called Old Amsterdam! (this was big for us – it was like the one time in Italy that Mumbles saw the brand of pasta that he always buys at Costco…it legitimizes the purchase because it’s authentic!)


our happy “we just had the best meal ever!” faces enjoying dessert on the terrace one evening.


those Heineken folks are clever!
This logo sign is made out of ice! Fancy!

While in Amsterdam, we did the Heineken Tour, did some thrift store shopping (which I love anyway but seems so much more chic in another country) at a really interesting place called Out of the Closet. They have locations in the states – in fact I think the only one abroad is in Amsterdam; the stores benefit the AIDS Healthcare Foundation while also providing HIV testing and some pharmacy services. Everyone there was very friendly and welcoming, even the guys in drag. It was fun. Our hotel was right across from the Stopera, city hall and the opera house.


my new thrifted flats. i adore them!


a chic houseboat in one of the channels in Amsterdam. At least I thought they were chic until I found out that most of them aren’t connected to sewers…eww.

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. We hadn’t been back to Europe since right after we were engaged in 2009 and we do so love to travel so I definitely hope we can make a habit of it. Barcelona is still my favorite city, probably so because BFoTB and I spent a summer studying abroad there. I’d like to go back and also visit Greece. I’m not quite sure where else. Any suggestions?

Collecting Christmas ornaments during our travels is my favorite tradition that we started. Do you collect anything when you travel?


I will say, Amsterdam is a majestic city. The architecture and practically everyone has a view of the water!


i couldn’t bring myself to take a photo in front of the sign, but seriously, what a brilliant tourism marketing tactic. can you even imagine how many people have shared this photo?

What I like about VA

We’ve been going non-stop in Virginia so I haven’t had much time to sit down and write. Sorry about that. Our first trip is almost finished so I thought it would be good to share some highlights of our time here so far.

The weather has been beautiful, albeit very humid which is not a good look for me. On the upside, though, rain just dumps on you and then it’s gone which is a nice little cool down refresher amidst all this humidity. Except for the one night in Virginia Beach where we decided to eat at a place called Abbey Road (which had 101 Beers From Around the World on tap!). They were so sweet about allowing Baxter to dine with us on the patio (we had a hard time with that) and as we sat outside a huge storm moved through, dumping bucketloads of rain, and in true dinner and a show fashion: a sky full of lighting and surround sound thunder. It was amazing and luckily we had more than enough beers to sample while we waited it all out. My favorite was Legend Brown Ale brewed in Richmond. I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of Newcastle – it tastes of toasted nuts, caramel and molasses. Good stuff.

We’ve been driving a lot, in fact we’ve been up and down the state twice now. One thing that makes me smile is on the interstate you see signs that say “Church, turn right.” It’s nice to know you can pull in over for a prayer just as much as you can for fast food.

Because of all the wet weather, Virginia is full of lush green plants. We went for a great hike along the James River Park system one day and rock hopping the next at a really neat place nearby called Pony Pasture. The water flowed gently down stream, the rocks were large and flat so families and couples picked one to lay out a picnic, sunbathe, and listen to some tunes in between frolicking in the water. We had to keep Baxter on his leash because he likes to run (sometimes a little too far away) but he went crazy leaping from rock to rock, splashing around, biting some small rapids, and chasing ducks. We loved it.

Down in Virginia Beach we spent one day at the beach, sneaking Baxter on the sand as dogs aren’t allowed between Memorial Day and Labor Day (bummer). The water was warm and pleasant and Baxter, having discovered elusive and mysterious sand crabs only a few days earlier, went crazy digging in the sand and burying his own head in the holes he had just dug. So funny to watch! He still isn’t fond of swimming or waves but we carried him out there and he seemed to be getting more comfortable. Hopefully he’ll be better when we are in Havasu next. At night the boardwalk comes alive with really entertaining street performers and lively crowds. We learned the city of Virginia Beach pays performers so that visitors aren’t asked for tips or hassled by scam artists. It’s a very family-friendly destination and Baxter hammed it up getting lots of affection from passersby. Mumbles and I even met our east coast doppelgänger couple, complete with a girl version of Baxter!

We’ve spent a lot of time in Starbucks. And in the hotel lobby. Looking forward to being home and cooking fresh meals, sleeping in our own bed (let’s just say we bought new sheets to put on the bed in one hotel we stayed in), and celebrating the upcoming nuptials of three sets of friends this August as the Year of the Wedding continues, and the arrival of BFOTB’s precious little miss!

Hope you are enjoying some fun adventures too this summer!








Virginia is for Lovers List

In less than a week, we’ll be on a plane and I’m certainly hoping we’ll have time for exploring and experiencing what the east coast has to offer during our next few months in Virginia. I hear that early fall is a beautiful time to be there (and not too crazy temperature wise, which is important for me and the sanity of my curly tresses) so I’ve started doing some research on towns, exhibits, museums, and things to do while we’re there in between all the working and planning and training.  If you have any must-see or -do’s to add to our list, please let me know!

  1. Tour George Washington’s plantation estate, Mt. Vernon.
  2. Explore the Smithsonian Museum(s).
  3. Dip our toes in the Atlantic while sunbathing in Virginia Beach.
  4. Watch Dark Knight Rises in IMAX at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.
  5. Catch some Civil War Battle Reenactments a la Gilmore Girls! (did you know more battles took place in Virginia during the Civil War than in any other state? you do now!).
  6. Sip and Savor Virginia’s best wines — we’ll have more than 200 wineries and breweries to choose from, plus a winery you can kayak to…how fun!
  7. Delight in the magnificent architecture and history of Colonial Williamsburg.
  8. Celebrate the Heritage Harvest Festival at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  (did you know Thomas Jefferson was America’s first “foodie?” me either!)
  9. Take in the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway – supposedly America’s favorite drive!  🙂
  10. Walk the grounds of the first English settlement in Jamestowne.
  11. Stay at the Colonial Williamsburg Resort, celebrating 75 years of southern hospitality!
  12. Take a drive to feast on crab in Maryland (yum! might have to do that more than once!).

Summer vacation

You may have noticed that I didn’t write about last week’s episode of The Bachelorette. Well, I have some bad news: I won’t be able to write about it now for a few weeks. I’m terribly sorry but I’m also not because Mumbles and I have some jam-packed weeks of fun behind and ahead of us. Dr. Merrett was married in a beautiful ceremony on a gorgeous day in a stunning dress to a wonderful man and we were so thrilled for them and to be part of their day. We got a lot of compliments on the decor so I’ll be sure to share some photos later on. We had another wedding the following day and then we’ll be doing a bit of traveling before I return for BFOTBM’s baby shower which I also can’t wait for! Too much good stuff this summer! I hope you’re all enjoying great weather and times with family and friends. I’ll have lots to share in the coming weeks and hope you know how thankful I am for your support. Cheers!