Travel Misadventures

Today I’m linking up with the ladies of Travel Tuesday to talk about the rare times that things don’t go as planned. 😉

In the past three and a half years that Travis have been going on trips we have had pretty good luck with the actual travel part (besides last month when my sister took our passports to Scotland)

We have had a few mishaps in finding our intended location…

Seal Rock

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Our first trip we took together was to San Francisco when we were still dating. This is where I learned of Trav’s travel style of hitting the pavement early and seeing anything and everything. This day was no different, Travis woke me up at the crack of dawn to go on an hour long bus ride and mile walk to see the Seal Rock that he had seen on our trusty map. Once we finally made it to the rock we noticed not only were we the only people around but also there were no seals in sight. That is when Travis decided to do a quick google search which informed us that the seals stopped coming to the rocks in 1989. They now go to Fisherman’s Warf which was much more conveniently located…

Buckingham Palace

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This by far our most embarrassing mistake. On our first trip to London together to see my parents we headed out and see the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace. After following signs and walking for a while we noticed a small crowd and some guards on horseback. We assumed that this must be it. We watched the whole ceremony that mostly consisted of guards on horseback switching places and standing around. We decided that this whole changing of the guards business was underwhelming and Buckingham Palace wasn’t all it was chalked up to be (and didn’t look anything like it did on the postcard in Cool Runnings). Imagine our surprise when we continued our walk and stumbled upon the actual Buckingham Palace.

Playa Conchal

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On our honeymoon in Costa Rica, we rented a car and tried to explore a new beach each day. The concierge at our hotel told us the most beautiful beach was called Playa Conchal and we had to see it for ourselves. He gave us loose directions and we headed out in our trusty little Jimmy. We followed our outdated Garmin until we saw the sign for a Playa Conchal. We parked and headed to the shore. When we got there we were greeted by an empty beach with brownish water. We were surprised that concierge would speak so highly of such a subpar beach but decided to enjoy having the place to ourselves and frolicked in the waves all day, only stopping to have lunch on the shore. On our way back to the car a man outside a restaurant asked if we were looking for Playa Conchal. We were so confused until he informed us it was just on the other side of the big rocks and we were at Playa Brasilito. We walked around and saw the most beautiful beach with white sand and blue water, resort loungers and umbrellas scattered everywhere.

We decided to return the following day, following our GPS every turn. Until we turned right onto an empty beach. And sunk. We had to walk a long way to find some locals to help push us out. After that ordeal we decided to return to what we knew- Playa Brasilito. We spent the afternoon smoking cigars (Trav not me), drinking cervezas and hanging out with the restaurant owner that first told us we were in the wrong spot. He wished us luck and made us promise to return to Brasilito in ten years with our children. We still talk about making our trip back to our special little slice of Costa Rica.

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Reflections on 2014

As I look back on 2014 I can’t help but smile. It was probably the busiest, craziest year so far but also one full of friends, family and lots of travel. I realize that not all years are going to be so great so I just want to take a look back on the glory that was this past year and appreciate the adventure that is our life right now.

In 2014…

We rang in the new year at my parents’ local pub in London with an 80’s cover band, a man in a kilt and a girl in flannel pajamas.

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Travis bought the cutest bull, we named him Eddie and we spent lots of time at the ranch (especially Travis).

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We celebrated many wonderful friends with weddings…

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engagement parties…

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bachelorette weekends,

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bachelor party weekends away,

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and lots of showers at our house (and a few that weren’t).

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My sweet girlfriends threw me (and my mom) a surprise party for our birthdays.

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I wrapped up my fourth year teaching and (tearfully) said goodbye to my students and co-workers.

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We packed up and sold our first house.

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We said goodbye to friends that are more like family.

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We got on three planes and traveled over 24 hours to our new home .

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We had our first visitor… one week later (more here).

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We settled in to our new home- a two bedroom loft on the Brisbane River (more here).

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We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in our new hometown (more here).

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I traveled back across the world and stood next to my best friend on top of a mountain in Aspen, Colorado as she got married. (more here)

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I conquered one of my many fears and went white water rafting.

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We ran our first 10k (more here)

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We went scuba diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef (more here)

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and spent the day on Australia’s most beautiful beach (more here).

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I spent time with an old high school friend in Melbourne (more here).

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Travis went to Denver for work, saw his first ice hockey game and met the future governor of Texas at the airport on the way home.

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We saw a play at the Sydney Opera House and spent the weekend falling in love with the city (more here).

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We visited my parents and sister in London and pretended we were Harry Potter at Platform 9 3/4 (more here).

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We wandered the historic streets of Brugge and got in the Christmas spirit (more here).

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Travis completed his open water scuba certification and is already planning out future dive trips (more here).

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We spent Christmas in paradise (more to come).

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Cheers to 2104! I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our little family to yours. I hope your holiday is filled with lots of love (and presents) and quality time with family members. We sure are missing that over here but are so excited for our little trip.

We are heading out the door to Fiji as we speak and will be on the beach by the time this is posted, see you in a week.

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Bruges Basics

If you are like me you probably have little background knowledge of Bruges, I honestly knew nothing about this place until we began planning our trip. If you are interested in visiting Bruges or just learning more about this mysterious little town I have put together a short informational guide based on our trip last month.

Hope you enjoy 🙂

Where is Bruges?

Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) is the capital of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium. Lost you yet? Here’s a map…

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A canal based city, Bruges is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North.” It is about an hour drive from the more popular city of Brussels and only thirty minutes from the Netherlands. You can get to Bruges by train, car or flying into Brussels. Once you are in the historic centre of Bruges you can easily get around on foot or bike.

Where We Stayed

If you are planning on staying in Bruges (it can also be done as a day trip) make sure your accommodation is within the city walls, in the historic city centre. That is where all of the tourist attractions, shops, markets etc. are and once you are in there you can walk everywhere you need to be.

As I mentioned before my parents actually booked this trip, so all accomodation credit goes to Randy Rhoads (that’s my dad). We rented an apartment called De Drie Koningen, which I just discovered is actually ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for speciality accommodations.

My family loves renting apartment instead of staying in hotels, usually the price is comparable if not cheaper, it’s much more comfortable (for five people that’s pretty important) and you have the luxury of preparing your own meals if you want.

This particular apartment was awesome. It was a three bedroom, two bath with two floors. When you check in the owner, Niko, gives you an iPad that has all of the necessary information for your stay on it, including all of his recommended restaurants saved on google maps.

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I think my favorite part was the Christmas tree since we don’t have one in our apartment.

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I think my dad and Travis’ favorite part was the Honesty Bar where you could choose a beverage (and coordinating glass, this is important) and mark on your check out sheet. When you check out you just hand them your sheet (the owner called it the Sheet of Shame) and pay for what you drank. In this same room they also had a huge selection of DVDs (in English too!) that you could borrow. This was great for cozy nights on the couch after adventuring out in the cold.

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What To Do

This is just what we did during our stay. We spent two full days in Bruges.

Christmas Market 

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As I said before, we were there during the week and so the market was a little less hopping on a Tuesday night than it was later in the week. It was still fun to walk around, look at the shops, Christmas lights and enjoy a warm (adult) beverage.

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The Belfry

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The Belfry is a medieval bell tower that was built in 1240. You can pay to climb to the top (336 steps) and get a 360 degree view of the town. The steps are really, really narrow and steep so they only allow 70 people in there at a time. The trek is broken up with different levels where you can see how the bells are wrung and historical

 Also, it closes at 5 so you have to go during the day.

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Church of Our Lady

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Not only is the historic church beautiful but it also houses Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child- the only one of his works that left Italy during his lifetime. The church itself has no entrance fee but to see the sculpture you have to pay a whopping 2 Euros. Other sites I have read have said there were long lines to get in but when we went there wasn’t a line at all (another benefit of traveling during the week I suppose).

Basilica of the Holy Blood

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Basilica of the Holy Blood contains what is believed to be a relic of Jesus’ blood. The church is located off of the corner of the main square, entrance is free but a small fee is required to go into the (very small) museum and to see the vile. Definitely check the times they are open before going because they are open very strange hours.

Museums

Brugge is full of museums. My dad and Travis visited the Beer Museum while my sister, mom and I hit up the Christmas shops. They were impressed and we ended up being the ones waiting on them to finish after almost two hours. Your ticket into the museum includes two beers and they give you an iPad to guide you through (Bruges loves iPads). They were enthralling us with their beer trivia the rest of the trip.

My family had visited the Historium (which is right off of the main square) on their last visit and were none too impressed. If I were to go back again I would be paying a visit to the Chocolate or French Fry (Friets) Museums.

Where To Eat 

La Trattoria

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The first evening we got into Bruges we were tired and VERY hungry after our drive. It was only 5pm but we went and when we went out searching for a place for dinner we realized many places didn’t open until 5:30. We also realized due to the small seating capacity in most restaurants, reservations are a must. As we were looking (and shivering) at the menu outside La Trattoria, the manager (or possibly owner) came out and told us we could come in and sit and warm up until they opened. Clearly that sold us on where we were eating. The hospitality did not stop there though, the staff was very friendly and gave us suggestions on everything from the food and drinks to where to go in Bruges. Once the food came out, it was delicious. We also got various pasta dishes that were on special and my sister got a pizza, all of which we would order again. We even noticed they had a takeaway menu and discussed getting food from their later in the week, it was that good.

The Olive Tree

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The Olive Tree was an easy choice considering it is voted #3 on Trip Advisor for Bruges restaurants, and my mom had been told by several friends that we needed to eat there as well. It’s Mediterranean cuisine with a twist. Everything on the menu is made from fresh ingridients and they provide a mix of fish, meat, and vegetarian options. I ordered a greek stuffed chicken breast that I have been trying to recreate ever since. My family also ordered the shrimp and pork dishes that were all amazing. We weren’t sure what the hype was about this place at first but we definitely get it now. It’s also conveniently located right off the square.

Restaurant Bistro De Shilder

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We stumbled upon this spot during one of our walks around town. It was cold and we were hungry and I saw a fire through the window. Sold. It was right off one of the smaller squares and was perfectly quaint. Also their spaghetti bolognese (that I ate as a snack, stop judging) was delicious and under ten euros for a large portion. It’s the perfect place to escape the cold and have a Belgium beer or two, plus they have a “snack menu” and I am all about that.

Gingerbread Tea Room

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When I googled “Best Belgium waffles in Bruges” this place kept popping up so of course we had to try it out. My mom and I both got the Belgium waffle with fruit (seen below) and it was so delicious. I am not a big sweets for breakfast person but I knew that I had to have at least one Belgium waffle while I was in Belgium. This was the perfect choice- not too rich or sweet since they don’t put syrup on their waffles. They also have an extensive coffee and tea menu. Below is my mom’s hot chocolate and not pictured is my delicious macaroon latte (I didn’t even know they did that!).

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I read online that you should make a reservation but it was too late at that point. We were ok finding a table but during a busier time you would probably want to call ahead. Also, like a lot of places in Bruges it is cash only so bring your Euros!

Tea-room De Proverie

A lot of places claim to have “the best hot chocolate in Bruges” but this place takes the cake. They get their chocolate from the chocolaterie across the street and then you mix it with the hot milk your self. It also comes with a few pieces of scrumptious chocolates.

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Travis ordered an Irish coffee which also came with chocolates and cream.

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It is the cutest little tea room with fire places to keep you warm and homey decor. A great place to duck out from the cold and warm up. They take credit cards and we went twice without a reservation and didn’t have a problem getting a table.

Well I think I covered everything, let me know if you have been to Bruges and I need to add anything else in.

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Summertime Christmas

Twas the Friday before Christmas…

I can not believe that Christmas is next week. I know I have said it one million billion times already, but it’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit in the middle of summer, it just does not feel right.

Either way, the calendar tells me it is December 19th so I guess I need to get with the program.

As I have been finishing up my Christmas shopping, I have enjoyed seeing how Brisbane celebrate their sunny Christmas. There have been parades, firework shows and Christmas carol shows going on around the city.

Yesterday afternoon we went to a Christmas market in South Bank. It was pretty disappointing though, it was the same (non-christmasy) vendors that are are always there but in a Christmas stall.

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I did find this humorous. While everyone at home is sipping on hot chocolate and warm gingerbread lattes, we will be drinking Christmas Iced Tea! They had Grinch Green among other holiday flavors.

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Speaking of Gingerbread Lattes… Starbucks here still capitalizes on their famous seasonal flavors- only in frozen form.

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Also, Santa wears board shorts here…

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For a humorous video depiction of Christmas in Oz, check this out. PS- thongs are flip flops 😉

So since I have been making an extra effort to get into the holiday spirit, here are some of my favorite ways to do so…

Christmas Movie Marathon

I’m on a mission to watch as many Christmas movies as I can this season. If I watch people bundled up in the snow long enough it might cool down the climate here a few degrees right?!?

We knocked out The Holiday, Home Alone and Christmas Vacation while we were with my family. Now that I am back home I only have access to movies on Netflix, which means cheesy ABC Family flicks- my personal favorite.

I have discovered my favorite new Christmas movie- The Mistletones. I seriously watched it twice in 24 hours. Why has no one told me about this before? Yes, it’s cheesy and has Tori Spelling in it BUT it is cute and fun and has Christmas songs in it so you will get over the fact that someone (Tori Spelling) said “she’s peppermint barking up the wrong tree.” Also, I just love Tia Mowry after growing up watching Sister, Sister.

Christmas Baking

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My friend, Emily Anne, and I spent the majority of Tuesday in the kitchen baking up some holiday treats. There was no calorie cutting or healthy substitutions going on here just a lot of sugar and chocolate- all in the name of the holiday spirit. We are going to be writing more about our bake-a-thon next week but it’s safe to say I might be in a sugar coma after consuming all of our treats (I just can’t stop, someone take them away!).

Christmas Shopping

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I typically prefer Christmas shopping of the online variety and that is how I did my first round this year for our family back home. Since we will be in Fiji (ohmygoodness it’s so close!!!) we are just going to be exchanging stockings on the beach Christmas morning. So I have actually had to venture out into the malls to look for goodies for Trav’s stocking (sidenote: he hasn’t even started on mine). I was surprised to see that the mall was not that crowded and there were tons of great sales! Also, I discovered my new favorite concept- A Christmas Giftorium.

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One of our large department stores, Meyer, has an entire floor dedicated to gift giving. They have tons of stations set up based on the gift recipient (ie. travel lover, glamour gram, dapper dad etc.) and have free personalization of some items that they do right there. Vistaprint even has a booth set up where you can create photo gifts, I am currently working on a t-shirt with my face on it for Travis’ stocking. Kids can visit with Santa at the Giftorium and adults can sample fancy teas and coffees- win, win. I think I might just move in.

Reflecting on Christmas Past

This is Travis and my fourth Christmas to spend together and I am loving looking back and seeing how things have changed over the years…

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Our first Christmas together in 2011. We had only been dating a little over 6 months and this was one of my first few visits to Victoria. Also, notable that my parents still lived in the United States at this time which made the commute to see both families much more convenient.

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Our first (and only) engaged Christmas. Travis proposed to me on the last day of school before Christmas break so that Christmas has been the most exciting one of all. We hopped on a plane the very next day to see my family in Midland then flew back to Houston Christmas Eve and drove straight to Victoria to celebrate with Trav’s family.

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I loved last Christmas. It was our first Christmas as a married couple in our very own grown up house that I got to decorate. We spent Christmas day in Victoria then we hopped on a plane the next day with my mother and sister-in-law and went to London to see my family. We had no idea at the time that we would be the expats in the family next Christmas…

I love looking back at these memories and wondering where we will be and what will be going on next year at this time. It also makes me realize how blessed (or #blessed) we are to have all that we do and more importantly to have such wonderful family to share life with.

That’s all for today, have a great last weekend before Christmas! Hopefully we will spend ours at the beach… 🙂

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Linking up with Gunters Abroad for Bring Your Own Post

Sights of Bruges

Today I am talking about our trip to Bruges, Brugge or whatever you want to call it (not really, I am sure they would prefer you stick to one of those two) a couple weeks ago.

After a couple of days in London with my parents and sister, all five of us piled in the car and headed to Belgium. Before this trip I did not know anything about Bruges, or Belgium in general. All I knew was that my parents said that it was a cute little town with christmas markets and an ice skating rink, and it was only 3.5 hours away from London. Sold. Spending the holiday season in 90 plus temperatures had me craving a winter chill to make me feel like it was actually Christmas.

Note: Bruges is such a beautiful city and everywhere you turn there is something photograph worthy. I wanted to share those sights in this post and share other tourist information (what to do, eat etc.) in a separate one.

So here you go, the sights and sounds of Bruges…

Ok, there aren’t any sounds but you can use your imagination.

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Burg Square

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Bruges has been around since the 9th century and the historic city centre (which is located within the city walls) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fun fact: Bruges received their official city charter on July 27, 1128 which is exactly 885 years before Travis and I got married. It’s like we were meant to visit.

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The most photographed spot in Bruges (according to the internet, so it must be true)

Most of the city’s medieval architecture is still in tact and walking around you literally feel like you are stepping back in time.

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Delicious chocolate shops on every corner.

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Adorable cafes on every corner, adorable husbands as well.

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The canal runs through the town and boat tours are available but the frigid weather detoured us from going.

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The Church of Our Lady in the background.

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Minnewater Park

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BĂ©guinage, a monastery.

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“Stop staring at me Swan!” Name the movie.

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I got sick of smiling in front of things.

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This gentleman really wanted in the photograph.

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Cobblestone streets and cozy shops.

We were told Bruges has two seasons- busy and really busy. We were there during the week and the streets were pretty actually pretty quiet. It was nice to not have to wait in lines or for a table at dinner. By Thursday, everything was picking up for the weekend and there were noticeably more tourists.

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The center of town was the Market Square or “Markt.” This is where the ice skating rink and Christmas Market was set up. Everything else was located on streets that branched off. We were warned that many of the shops and restaurants off the “Markt” were overpriced tourist traps.

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Ice Skating Rink

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I hope you enjoyed the sights of Bruges 🙂 I will be posting a much more informative guide to Bruges next week.

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Friday Favorites and an Update or Two

Happy Friday 🙂

Before I share a few of my weeks favorites I figured I should provide a few little updates on our life (outside of recent travel updates etc.)

  • I got a job! Well kind of… I am officially a certified teacher in the state of Queensland and am registered to substitute (or relief) teach in Brisbane. Unfortunately today is the last day of the school year. They run on a calendar year schedule so they will start back up again at the end of January. Good news is that my friend, Emily Anne, has been subbing the past couple of months and was offered a full time teaching job on Monday. It is pretty crazy because she wasn’t even looking and actually already had six weeks of travel booked for the upcoming months, so she told them about me and recommended that I take her class for those six weeks. We went and met with the director at the school on Wednesday and they added me to their preferred sub list. Hopefully all will go well and I will already have a substantial number of jobs lined up for next year.  I’m really excited to help her get all set up and ready for her little 1st grade babies and we have already started on projects for teachers pay teachers. It does make me miss the classroom some but it’s nice to have the flexibility of relief teaching right now.
  • Travis is getting scuba certified this weekend! He’s following in his parents footsteps and becoming a diver, just in time for Fiji in two weeks. I was planning on getting certified with him but due to my previous ear problems (I have an artificial ear drum in my right ear) I had to get a dive medical before signing up for the course. When I saw the doctor she said it was too risky to my hearing (I also wasn’t able to pop my ears on demand) and said she wouldn’t clear me. She also said I shouldn’t do any sky diving or bungee jumping (I assured her those were not in my plans anyway) because of the pressure on my ears. I did tear up a little when I realized how serious the doctor was and then I made her put it in writing so that Travis wouldn’t think I was just chickening out. I am glad that I was able to go diving once when we were in the Great Barrier Reef (here) even though I couldn’t go very far down but also so thankful that I didn’t do any damage to my ear drums then.  It’s scary to have to be worrying about my hearing at 27 years old but now I know I need to be extra cautious (not that this scardy cat has ever been reckless).
  • I will be home for the holidays! Well kind of… We are celebrating Christmas in Fiji this year just the two of us because a) it’s close  b) who knows when we will get that opportunity again and  c) we had already planned to go back to Texas in January. Travis had a class for work that had been rescheduled from October in Texas the last week of January so his ticket/time away was taken care of through work, so I went ahead and booked my flights to go up a couple weeks earlier to see family. Well, once again his class got rescheduled, this time to March! Hopefully he will still be able to get away from work and get to Texas at some point in January too. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

I can’t think of anymore news I haven’t shared already, so here goes the typical Friday post…

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Nothing makes me happier than a calendar/planner and I have been in a slight panic as I have been making plans for 2015 without having a place to write them down (I refuse to use my phone, I’m stubborn like that). So I finally found one I liked that was simple and cute at the cutest Swedish stationary store, Kikki K. I can’t wait to fill it up!

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My sweet family (one hipster brother not photographed) are always my favorite but I am feeling especially grateful today after getting to spend the past week with them! Nothing makes me happier this time of year than bundling up on the couch with them and watching Christmas movies. I can’t wait to share our trip to Belgium with them on the blog next week.

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But seriously, how cute is this little guy?! He’s a “smoker” that I bought at a Christmas shop in Brugge, you put lit incense in the bottom of him and then it comes out of his pipe (and smells like Christmas). My Christmas decor is pretty sparse this year but he is definitely my favorite. My mom also gave us some Christmas lights that run on 240v while we were visiting. I was elegantly wrapping them around our banister when Travis said “You might want to come down and look at that before you do anymore work.” At this point I was halfway through the tedious chore of wrapping the whole long string through each tiny gap so I told him I didn’t care how ugly it was, I was going to finish. Probably in a really nice tone too. It definitely is not gorgeous, which is why I am not showing you a picture. But whatever. When I turn off all the lights in the room and crank the air conditioner down it kinda feels Christmas. And I am way too stubborn to take them down.

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My mom gave us this “a” last week when we were staying with them. She found it at one of the antique markets she frequents regularly. It used to hang on the sign of a pub in England a long time ago! She’s so good at finding hidden treasures that also have history behind them. One year for Christmas she gave me an antique teacher bell from a schoolhouse from the early 1900’s.

See you next week 🙂

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