72 Hours In Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Sometimes, you just don't have the amount time in a city that you'd like to. To be honest, 72 hours is a pretty good time frame to get an overarching sample of a city.

We've got some suggestions of things to do, see, and eat if you only have 72-hours in Amsterdam, the Netherlands!

Sees

NEMO Science Center

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The first site-seeing stop we made was at the NEMO Science Center. It was one of the spots included in our IAmsterdam, and who can resist fun science!?! The center is, of course, very family-friendly and geared towards children, but that does not mean we did not have a ton of fun here. From optical illusions to weather demonstrations to the sex-ed section on the "young adults" level. It was all in both Dutch and English, which was very lovely. We meandered and explored every level all the way to the top, which includes an observation deck that looks out over the city and waterways. *Fun fact: you do not have to pay for entrance to the NEMO to go up on the observation deck, as long as the museum is open. It would be a great place to meet someone for coffee or have an afternoon snack.

Van Gogh Museum

My favorite painter of all time is Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum, as you may be able to guess, houses a large collection of Van Gogh paintings along with his contemporaries. It contains such an amazingly constructed narrative of Van Gogh's life. You can learn about his studies, family and mental struggles. For me, it was a pretty emotional experience and mom definitely enjoyed getting to see all the artwork. 

Vondelpark

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Vondelpark is one of the main, and biggest reasons I have come to fall in love with Amsterdam. We were very lucky that, to get to our hostel, you had to go through the park. Vondelpark is a public, urban park in the middle of the city. It might easily remind you of Central Park. In this park, you can find restaurants, gazebos, ponds and statues. It is just so beautiful and peaceful. This is the park that we took our bikes to ride around. (If you go to Amsterdam and don't ride a bike, have you really been to Amsterdam?)

Redlight District

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The Redlight District was, honestly, nothing like what I think mom and I expected it to be. It was very busy and very similar to the crowds and vibe of Times Square in New York City. You can find here the museum of sex, but mostly, you can find a plethora of shops and restaurants surrounded by beautiful architecture.

Anne Frank House

We were never actually able to go inside the Anne Frank House. We were pretty upset about this, but there just wasn't enough time. The thing about the Anne Frank House is that it is such a famous historical site that is always busy, and by always busy, I mean ALWAYS BUSY. So here is what we suggest: if this is one of the most important sites on your tour of Amsterdam, you should definitely book a morning tour at least a week out. This will ensure that you get an appointment and you'll be able to add it to your itinerary.

Eats

Alchemist Garden

The very first thing we did in Amsterdam, other than checking into our hostel, was going to get food at Alchemist Garden. It is a pretty simple walk from Vondelpark and is this super-cute, open space, cafe with a plethora of raw, vegan, and organic dishes. From raw vegan club sandwiches to delicious smoothies, it is English-friendly and fairly inexpensive. Alchemist Garden is, definitely, a great place to stop in and grab either a quick bite or enjoy a nice full meal!

Mediamatic Eten

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This restaurant was suggested by the amazing vegan.in.amsterdam Instagram, which I 100% recommend you check out if you love vegan fare and are heading to Amsterdam. It was fairly close to the NEMO Science Center, which was much further out than most our planned stops, so we had to eat there our first night. We originally thought we were stopping in for some pizza, but learned that their menu changes depending on the day. Some days they only serve pizza and spirits and others they serve a full menu. We went on a day with full menu service and ate so much amazingly delicious food! The staff there are very English-friendly and our waitress was actually an American student, studying abroad. Seeing as the restaurant is in a greenhouse style building right on the waterfront from our table, we had an amazing view of the city, the water, and the NEMO. We also had a great view of the open-concept kitchen where we watched the chef and his staff prepare all the meals. Important: Make sure you make reservations, though, because it gets very busy!

Vegabond

For any vegan visiting Amsterdam, we must insist you go check out Vegabond. Right on the canals of the city, this cozy little lunch spot has it all; fresh food, desserts, coffee, and juices. It was amazing, and even better, if you are going to be spending extended time in the city, it also has a small grocery store with all kinds of vegan essentials! I found myself visually shopping around, knowing, I was only going to be in the city for a few days!

Meatless District

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Fancy but worth it! We met up at Meatless District for dinner one of our nights in Amsterdam and were blown away! Within walking distance from our hostel, in Vondelpark, the Meatless District is a high-class vegan eatery, open late, and exactly what we had been looking for that night. It is a beautiful restaurant that is definitely the setting for a birthday or celebration dinner!

MOOK Pancakes

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MOOK Pancakes was another restaurant we discovered through the amazing vegan.in.amsterdam Instagram account. It is not a 100% vegan restaurant, but they can make the majority of their pancake options vegan, and that is all I was asking for since I have a serious vegan sweet tooth! MOOK also serves some amazing beverages from wellness shots to fresh pressed juice to smoothies! The restaurant itself is super-bright and inviting and the staff was super-sweet. They even had English menus, which of course, is always very helpful when you don't speak the language. MOOK is definitely a great place to stop in for a weekend brunch date. 

SLA Westerstraat

You want a nice big salad? Look no further than SLA! With three locations throughout Amsterdam, there is sure to be one close by. We really appreciated the set up of this organic salad bar. You can order from their list of specialty salads with feature ingredients like teriyaki marinated tempeh, beets, and black rice. Or if one of the signature salads is not quite your style, have no fear! You can always build your own from the kinds of greens to the toppings and dressing. We definitely recommend if you are looking to satisfy your daily veggie intake!

Tours

Lover's Canal Tour 

Yes, my mother and I went on a "Lover's Canal Tour". Yes, we both enjoyed it very much. And no, it was not a bunch of couples. This was one of the tours included with our IAmsterdam cards, and it was great. If you have not guessed by our many aqua adventures, or maybe you are new to our blog, but we love being on the water! And, with the canals in Amsterdam being as famous and picturesque as they are, we could not give up this opportunity. It gives you a great view of the city while learning a little of the city's history. We 100% recommend taking a canal tour while in Amsterdam.

Five Months Later, An Envelope from Copenhagen

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When we traveled to Copenhagen, I had told you about getting pick-pocketed. I had my change purse stolen which held my debit card, credit card, and ID as well as US cash and Euros. Although, it was stressful and a bit of a pain in the you know what, I was able to get all my cards replaced within a few days of arriving back in the US. After the bank and credit card companies had finished their investigations into the matter, all debts were covered and the cases were closed.

Well, fast forward five months later.  It was Saturday, and I was headed out to run some errands.  I walked down to the mailbox to check the mail.  When I reached inside, I pulled out an odd envelope.  I was a larger envelope with the clear windows which showed my name and address.  There were no real markings on it. It just seemed odd.  

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I felt through the envelope and noticed there was a card that was the size of a credit card.  I thought to myself, "I am not expecting any replacement cards, I wonder what this is"?  So, I tore open the envelope.  There was a ordinary piece of white copy paper that had my name and address typed on in it, but the rest of the sheet was completely blank.  Within the fold of the piece of paper were my driver's license and my credit card.  I stood in the driveway and tried to put this puzzle together. 

Listen! It had been five months, and, I had just come back from visiting Brandy in Orlando. I knew I used my credit card and license while I was there.  Had I left them somewhere and a helpful stranger mailed them back to me?  I looked at these two cards harder and realized that the number on the credit card was not my current number.  I quickly flipped over the envelope and noticed that it had a Copenhagen, Denmark postal marking for the stamp.  

Someone in Copenhagen had found these two pieces of my property and mailed them back to me!  How did they come across these items?  Why did they take the time and money to send them back to me?  These are questions I'll never know the answers to and I'll never be able to thank anyone, because there was no return address.  Would thieves do this?  I don't know, maybe the person who pickpocketed me has had this guilt eating away at him for the past five months, Edgar Allan Poe style!

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I'm still baffled by it all!  If, somehow, the person responsible for retrieving my belongings and returning them to me should ever read this.....thank you!  Both cards had long since been replaced, but the gesture was there.  Once again, my faith in the people of Copenhagen has been a little more restored.

Life......It's An Adventure!!

Copenhagen, Denmark

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We took a flight from Brussels to Copenhagen, Denmark for our quick stay in this city.   When we arrived we took the metro from the airport to Frederiksberg Centret, a large shopping mall in the Frederiksberg borough.  The mall is really beautiful, but we weren't there to shop, in researching Vegan restaurants, we had found a couple of options that were located in the mall.  We decided that was probably a good sign of what Copenhagen would have to offer in the way of vegan fare.  I was in the mood for a burger and fries and Brandy didn't really know what she wanted.  We decided to try Raw 42.  I had the Raw 42 Burger with a side of sweet potato fries Brandy decided to try their Acai bowl.  We sat and enjoyed our lunch, we had both made very good choices.

When we left the mall we took a bus to find our Airbnb.  As we walked off the bus we stopped to check Google to get our directions to the Airbnb.  A gentleman stopped and asked us if we needed help finding something and as we were talking to him a lady stopped to offer assistance too.  We thought it was really nice to have two people try to help us, but we were just consulting our map.  The gentleman explained that the stop we got off at was at the Assistens Cemetery, the very cemetery that Hans Christian Anderson is buried in.  We decided to carry on to check into our Airbnb to drop our bags and get our bearings before exploring the landmarks and sites.

We arrived at our Airbnb which was in a grouping of row houses in a residential neighborhood.  By this time, we had realized that most of the residential buildings in Europe are walk ups, but this time we were on the 5th floor.  With our heavy backpacks on our backs, we climbed the narrow stairs to the 5th floor.  This place would prove to add an additional challenge when returning from our long days out and about!  

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Once checked in and settled, we decided to head out and check out the cemetery and walk around the neighborhood for a bit.  We headed back to the cemetery first to look for the resting place of Hans Christian Anderson.  The cemetery itself was really beautiful and designed to be almost a thoroughfare for pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists.

Speaking of cyclists, while Amsterdam is known as the bicycle capital of the world, I would argue that it might be Copenhagen.  The streets are so bicycle-friendly with car-size lanes just for cyclists and their own street signals.  At any one time, a hundred cyclists would make their way through the intersections and you better not be walking in their lane!  It sometimes became a game of Frogger to move through the city with the number of other pedestrians, cars, buses, scooters, and cyclists also trying to get to their destination.

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We found the Anderson memorial and continued to look around the cemetery.  As we made it out the other side, we walked on with no particular destination in mind.  We headed toward what seemed to be downtown and were in awe of the Danish architecture and ancient-looking cathedrals in the distance.  As we passed by apartment buildings, we would decide which ones we'd want to live in.  After we had walked around for a bit, we started our search for food.  We decided to make our way to California Kitchen for a healthy dinner.  That was the beginning of my "bowl" obsession.  The place was so crowded that we took our bowls back to the Airbnb to sit and eat.  The wind was really howling that night as we settled into our 5th-floor room.   We didn't care as long as we were inside.  With our bellies full and our legs aching we called it a night.

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The next morning we got up early and headed out to meet our tour bus.  I had purchased a hop on/hop off bus and boat tour so that we could take in as much of the city as possible in the short amount of time that we would be there.  We boarded the bus, second level of course, and sat back to see all the sites of Copenhagen.  First, we went by the Black Diamond Library which was beautiful and so much different than all the other architecture of the city.  We stayed on the bus and headed on past many sites as we made our way to "The Little Mermaid" statue.  It was here that we would "hop off" to walk down to the see the mermaid.  We were told we had 12 minutes to explore the waterfront where the statue sits.  There were so many tourists down by the statue taking photos that we had to wait our turn for Brandy to get her photos including her artsy yoga pose with the mermaid.  As we headed back to the bus we realized it was pulling away from the curb.  

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Now, this would not have been a major problem, we could just wait for the next bus to show up, except for the fact that we had left some of our belongings on that bus.  We panicked and broke into a run with Brandy leaving me in the dust.  She was determined to stop that bus, and stop it she did.  It was a good thing she did because we were not the only ones that were getting left behind.  After we got chastised for being late (we weren't late!), we continued on with our tour.  It was cold outside so getting back on the bus was our chance to get warm again.  We decided to take in the rest of the sites without hopping off so that it might warm up a bit as it got a little later.  

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On the second time around we decided to hop off and take the boat tour.  We boarded the tour boat and headed out onto the waterway and through the canals, one being the iconic Nyhavn Canal.  When we traveled up this canal we were able to see the brightly colored water-front houses and businesses that are seen as typical Copenhagen.  People own places next to the canal and some own houseboats docked in the canal.  The boat tour took us out into larger waterway and between Amalienborg Castle and the Opera House.  Copenhagen by water was a beautiful tour, however, it was pretty cold!!  Luckily, the tour boats have roofs and retractable windows.  

After we made it back to the tour boat drop off we disembarked and waited for the next bus to arrive.  This time we would hop off by the Gefion Fountain.  It was here we decided to make the most of hopping and picking up the bus in another area after taking in all the sites this area had to offer.  We were able to marvel at the fountain, tour St. Alban's Church, Churchillparken and the Kastellet.  Walking atop the Kastellet star fortress was really cool because we could see some of the cadets moving through to the dormitories and realized that this still an active military compound.  From here we walked back toward The Little Mermaid to hop on another bus that would take us back toward the city centre.  

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We decided to hop off and walk a bit to check out more of the city.  We walked toward Norresport Station to renew our metro passes for the morning.  This is where our trip went downhill.  Upon leaving the very crowded metro station and making our way to Torvehallerne for our afternoon snack, it is here that I realized my wallet had been stolen with my license, debit card, and credit card as well as US and Euro cash.  We searched and searched the area to try to find my discarded wallet, but to no avail.  We sat in the Starbucks on Fredericksborgade and canceled credit and debit cards but not before the thieves could put them to use and charge nearly $1000 US dollars to my accounts.  This made my heart sink! I had enjoyed my trip up to this point and really felt comfortable here, I guess too comfortable, as I had let my guard down.  It was at this point we decided to return back to our Airbnb and try to find out about making a police report and to try to put this event behind us.

The next day I woke up and decided to put my pic-pocket violation behind me and enjoy our last few hours in the city.  We would be leaving soon to catch our flight to Amsterdam.  One thing I would say about Copenhagen is that there is a lot of beauty there and the people really do seem to love the tourists and try to help in any way they can.  Unfortunately, I crossed paths with persons that totally went against that idea.  But, I must say, I learned a very valuable lesson in all that.  As my son always tells me "head on a swivel, Melissa, head on a swivel!"  That advice is just a good rule of thumb when traveling or wherever you may be.  

It's an Adventure!! 

36 Hours In Copenhagen

Sometimes you are not going to be allotted a very long time in a city. 36 hours is definitely not a ton of time in a new city but where there's a will there is a way!

Here is a list of things you should definitely see, eat and do in Copenhagen, Denmark in just 36 hours.

MUST SEES:

Frederiksberg Centret

If shopping is your thing, one stop that you will probably want to make is Frederiksberg Centret. This is a big Mall in the Frederiksberg borough. Filled with clothing stores, home furnishings, and amazing restaurants. We didn't stay here long, only long enough to grab a bite and catch our breath.  

Assistens Cemetery

We were very happy with the location of the Airbnb we chose. In a very hipsterish neighborhood, we were just right across the street from the Assistens Cemetery where Hans Christian Anderson is buried.  Of course, we had to take a stroll through to locate his memorial. 

Nyhavn

The most picturesque spot in Copenhagen, Nyhavn is a 17th-century water-front canal and entertainment district.  This is where you can get your postcard like photos, grab a bite to eat or just sit and enjoy the beautifully colored old houses.

The Little Mermaid  

This was something that I was most excited to see, as the Little Mermaid was one of my favorite stories growing up, even though it might not have been the same as the story written by Hans Christiansen Anderson. The bronze Little Mermaid statue by Edvard Eriksen can be found by the waterside at the Langelinie Promenade and is definitely worth a visit. This is a really great area for photos and even a little picnic.

Amalienborg Palace

You can find the home of the Danish Royal family in Amalienborg. It has absolutely gorgeous architecture and is perfectly aligned between the Opera House, on the water, and Fredriks Kiirke. If you are on one of the canal tours, this is a great destination for some beautiful photos.

Gefion Fountain

Pretty much every city reveals some hidden gem that you hadn't heard of prior to the trip. In Copenhagen, this gem was the Gefion Fountain. This gorgeous fountain stands tall as a representation of the Norse goddess Gefion as she rides on her chariot pulled by her animals. The fountain is right on the harbor front very close to some other worth while cultural spots like Kastelle, The Little Mermaid, St. Alban's Church and Churchchillparken.

St. Alban' s Church

The St. Alban's Church is a super-cute little English Church. It is located near the Gefion Fountain and the Kastellet. It is not a huge tourist location but, honestly, it is a really cute place to stop in. The church stewards are really friendly to travelers and enjoy sharing their church's history with the people who wander in. They welcomed us in and had informational pamphlets in like 20 different languages. This 130-year-old church is a beautifully serene place to sit and catch your breath. 

Churchchillparken

The one of the many public parks in Copenhagen is Churchillparken. You can find it in the green area surrounding the Kastellet. This park commemorates British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the part that Britain played in the liberation of Denmark during World War II. Me, myself, am a huge World War II history nerd so I really enjoyed getting to see the park and the bust they had placed in the park of Churchill himself.

Kastellet

We hadn't originally planned on go to the Kastellet, but it was so conveniently located, we couldn't pass up the opportunity. The Kastellet, located in Copenhagen, is one of the best-preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe. It was really cool to be able to walk on top of the fort. We were able to walk from the Gefion Fountain over to the Little Mermaid statue through and on top of the fort. It's definitely a good spot for those who love history.

The Black Diamond

 Not exactly what you might think of when you hear The Black Diamond, this library is one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen. It is right on the water so you can get great photos of it from both land and the water if you take one of the canal tours.

EATS:

Raw 42

Raw 42 was the first restaurant we found in Copenhagen, and let me tell you, it was right then and there that I fell in love with the food of Copenhagen. In the Frederiksberg mall, it is upstairs next to two other vegan restaurants. Their menu ranges from burgers to acai bowls and I recommend both! The food is a tad expensive but the staff was English-friendly as well as just friendly in general.

California Kitchen

California Kitchen as its name suggests honestly looked like a restaurant I would find in Santa Monica. It is a super cute and aesthetically pleasing fast service restaurant. They serve food for any kind of healthy lifestyle from omnivores to vegan. It is kind of similar to a build your own foodie bowl restaurant. The staff were super nice. The menu was in English and the food was incredible. We almost considered going there more than once. 

Slice of San Fran

This amazing little hole in the wall stop is run by an American expat and brings you some of the most delicious burritos we've ever had. I got to admit the fact that we found so many Californian restaurants in Copenhagen made us both laugh but the food was so good. The food is delicious and can be ordered to be vegan with honestly huge portions. The cheesecakes are, unfortunately, not vegan, but from all the online reviews I can tell you they must be to die for. I highly recommend checking out this place!

TOURS:

 With all the sites to see in Copenhagen, I would 100% recommend getting a city card or a hop-on hop-off bus pass. It will give you the best opportunity to see all the city has to offer at a decent bundle price. We booked with Gray Line bus and boat tours! This bus loop runs in a circle around the city giving you the opportunity to stop and spend as much time as you like at any site.

Brussels, Belgium

I must admit, when we were first planning this trip and deciding on the cities in Belgium that we should see, I was not really interested in traveling to Brussels.  All I knew about Brussels was that lots of International Government agencies are located there and that there had been an attack in the Brussels airport in 2016.  These two points did little to fuel my desire to go to the city.  I guess, to be honest, I was a little scared.  But after reading about the city, and seeing all that it had to offer, we felt that we had to add Brussels to our itinerary.   

After arriving in the city by train from Ghent, I immediately felt more at ease seeing the level of security in the train/metro station.  There were groups of armed military walking through the tunnels, which comforted me but scared Brandy a little.  From the train station, we decided to take the metro and head out into the city.  Brandy had picked up a cool Visitor's Map (Use It Maps) for the city of Brussels and had done her research, so she lead the way.  The first stop we made was to a parking garage.  Now when she suggested this I said, "a parking garage?", but I must say it was a cool idea.  Parking 58 is a ten story parking garage that tourists visit to have a great view of the city.  From the tenth story, we were able to see many of the sites we were planning to visit, even a view all the way to the Atomium.

From the bird's eye view from Parking 58, we started on a trek to see the sites that Brandy had mapped out with precision.  Right next to Parking 58 was the Sint-Katelijneplein Place Sainte-Catherine. Of course, the Cathedral is exquisite, but the adjacent little square is just as beautiful with its reflection pond situated in the shade of the cathedral. There were so many people just sitting by the pond and enjoying the day.  For what felt like the heart of the city, this spot was unbelievably relaxing.

From Sint-Katelijneplein Place we headed to the Brussels Stock Exchange. Now, when I go to these cities I am all about the architecture and the Stock Exchange did not disappoint! Of course, this site was a major tourist site and had so many people lounging on the stairs of the exchange.  It was hard to believe that any serious work was being done here.

Our next destination was right in the heart of Brussels Old Town, the city's main plaza known as Grand Place.  The architecture of this square doesn't quite seem to all match but somehow dazzles, nonetheless.  One of the buildings certainly shows off with its ornately carved stonework, and gold decoration along the entire facade.  There were so many people milling about and we even saw a professional photo shoot taking place, although we did not know what it might be for. 

By this time, we had been traveling and walking (that's what we do) all day and were ready for dinner.  Brandy had mapped out a little vegan restaurant called Moon Food, but, of course to get to it, we would have to climb many steep hills!  Oh, how I love those hills.  Now, on our travels in Europe, vegan restaurants are usually set up in a buffet-style offering lots of cold pastas and salads, not always my favorite.  Moon Food was a little different.  While they were set up buffet-style, the array of food was much more sophisticated.  I think we both definitely enjoyed our meal here.

After dinner, we headed back onto the crowded, tourist-filled streets of Brussels to take in a few more sites.  Brandy had mapped out the Mannken Pis, but I'm sure she didn't know what it was.  My husband and I have a shop where we sell concrete statues and fountains and we were very familiar with the little peeing boy fountain.  I never much liked the little guy, as I thought he was rather tacky, until one day when an FSU professor had come by to shop and told me the legend of the boy.  He said that a wealthy family had their young son go missing and formed a search party that scoured the city to find the boy. It is said when they found him he was happily urinating in a small garden.  As a gift of gratitude to all those who had helped in the search, his father had a fountain built depicting his son at the time he was found.  There are a couple of other stories out there, so who really knows for sure.  What I do know is that I will never take this little guy for granted again.  Brussels certainly does love their pee-pee boy!!

One thing we really did enjoy seeing as we walked through the city was the beautiful graffiti on so many of the street corners we turned down.  I'm not sure you can even call it graffiti as it looked more like commissioned art pieces several stories high. As we'd walked down the streets, it seemed we'd turn a corner and come upon one whimsical piece of art after another!  As the sun was setting, I was more than ready to head back to our Airbnb to rest up for the next day's adventures.  As we relaxed, Brandy did a little more research on the places we should visit the next day, but decided to keep them a secret. What would the next day bring?

The next morning we got up and out to really enjoy some of the lifestyle of Brussels.  Brandy decided to surprise me with a trip to a locals daily flea market. The Old Market in Marollen is open every day from 6 am to 2 pm and is so expansive, it covers a city block.  Oh the treasures we saw and would love to take home, but when you travel like we do, there is not much room to take anything extra home, especially that really cool table I saw. Oh well, it really was so great to experience one of those European flea markets that I had always heard about.  From the flea market we headed to De Biomarkt and Melting Pot Kilo! When you think of these think sustainable living! De Biomarkt which is a really cool warehouse set up as a local grocery store. People were lined up with baskets in hand to get their daily/weekly local, fresh fare. You can get anything here from fresh produce to grains to dairy! From there we walked down the street to find Melting Pot Kilo, a second-hand store where everything you buy is priced by the kilo! Brandy was very happy to find this little shop and the cute leggings she bought there.  

After our walk around residential Brussels, we hunted for a place to eat.  Using our trusty google we were able to find a little hole in wall pizza joint called Ai 6 Angoli, that offered vegan and gluten-free options.  Brandy went for a gluten-free, vegan pizza and I chose a beautiful Arugula Salad.  After we filled our bellies we were ready to take to the streets again and once again Brandy set our course.  

Our trek was once again an up-hill climb, the end point was well worth it. After about a 20 minute walk we made it to the Royal Library of Belgium, at the very center of Brussels. While the smell of books drew Brandy in, I was thrilled by the maze-like gardens, simple round fountains and a walkway lined by beautiful shade trees.  We walked up the steps to get a better view of the gardens and pause for a moment to take it all in, and then continued on our way.

Our next stop was a walk toward the Royal Palace of Brussels.  This is a such a stately expanse of building without being too over the top.  Although we paused a moment to take in the beauty of the royal house, we were actually looking for the gem directly across the street from the Palace, Brussels Park.  This park seems very reminiscent of Central Park in New York City. While still being right in the middle of everything, this is was a very welcome oasis for us, a place to sit and relax after a long day of moving through the city! We sat and people-watched, caught up on social media and just recharged our batteries.  I even got into bird watching as I was seeing some birds that we do not have here in Florida like Magpies and an elusive green bird that Brandy didn't believe I saw.  I would be visited by the "green birds" later in our trip and get my proof.

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The last stop on the itinerary that we felt was a must before leaving Brussels was a trip to the Atomium.  So, we hopped on the Metro and headed North. I had never heard of the Atomium and really didn't know what to expect.  What a cool site!  The Atomium was built for the World's Fair in 1958 with five spheres that house permanent and temporary exhibitions and all spheres being open to the public.  We were content to hang out on the green space area to take pictures and help others to take their pictures.

With our last day full of walking and site-seeing in Brussels under our belt, we decided to head back to our Airbnb and relax for a bit.  We laid down to nap and regroup.  As night was approaching we tried our best to find a proper vegan restaurant.  We decided on Mr. Falafel after reading all the great reviews people had left.  We headed back to the tourist area in search of the best Falafel in Brussels.  When we arrived, we were surprised by the small little hole in the wall restaurant with a total of four tables on the interior.  When we tried our falafel pita, we understood what all the raving was about.  I think it, by far, is the best falafel and hummus I had ever had!  We were very pleased with our dinner choice.  After dinner, we decided to head back to our room and get our things ready to take off for our next destination.  The next morning we would be headed to the Brussels airport for an early morning flight to Copenhagen, Denmark.  

It's An Adventure!! 

36 Hours In Brussels, Belgium!

Sometimes you are not going to be allotted a very long time in a city. 36 hours is definitely not a ton of time in a new city but where there's a will there is a way! 

Here is a list of things you should definitely see, eat and do in Brussels, Belgium in 36 hours!

MUST SEES:

Parking 58

You may be wondering, what is Parking 58? Some crazy cool club? Nope! It is an actual parking garage. At ten stories tall, head to the very top to get an amazing view of the entire city! You can even see the Atomium in the far-off distance! Parking 58 is a fun and free way to see a lot of the city! NOTE: It is a little sketchy at the top so I do suggest going during the day, especially if you are traveling alone.

Sint-Katelijneplein Place Sainte-Catherine

Just right across the street from Parking 58, this little square is absolutely beautiful! Sit next to the reflection pond in the shade of the cathedral. This would be a great place to bring lunch to just sit and people watch and the cathedral is a great photo stop.

Brussels Stock Exchange

Not exactly the kind of architecture I would expect for a stock exchange, the Brussels Stock Exchange is a beautiful building and a must-see stop for your first time in Brussels! It is also another great place for photos and people watching, as you will be in a sea of tourists and locals alike.

Manneken Pis

I am sure you have seen it before, BUT, did you know it lived in Brussels? Yes, the small peeing boy fountain can be found in one of the alleyways of the old town. He is out all times of the year but if you do happen to be traveling during or near a holiday you may be lucky enough to see the young lad dressed in holiday-appropriate attire! 

Old Market in Marollen

Love to thrift? Well, then I have just the thing for you! The Old Market in Marollen is a daily flea market open from 6 am - 2 pm! Every single day you can find merchants out in this square selling all kinds of things from clothes to furniture, old cameras to old photographs. I must say it is a really cool place to people watch and find some really unique souvenirs! 

De Biomarkt & Melting Pot Kilo

In the same area as the Old Market, you can find De Biomarkt and Melting Pot Kilo! When you think of these think sustainable living! De Biomarkt is a really cool warehouse set up as a local grocery store. You can get anything here from produce to grains to dairy! Just down the street from there you can find Melting Pot Kilo! This was one of my favorite stops, a second-hand store where everything you buy is priced by the kilo! If you are part of a more minimalist/sustainable lifestyle, I would highly recommend these stops!

The Royal Library of Belgium

One of the most important cultural institutes in Belgium, the Royal Library of Belgium, stands tall at the very center of Brussels. They have a beautiful garden to look out on and over hundreds of thousands of books! It is really quite amazing to see a library as big as it is standing there, a testament to some of the good qualities of the human race.

Brussels Park

Across the street from the Palace, you can find Brussels Park. Very similar to Central Park in New York City, this park is a lovely place to escape the city while still being right in the middle of everything! A fantastic spot to go for a run, sit and read or just people watch. It is a very well maintained park and you will also see a lot of authorities patrolling this area too.

Atomium

I feel like this is a top five must stop when in Brussels! The Atomium is a giant 102 m tall structure that was built for the World's Fair in 1958. It is absolutely breathtaking! The Atomium is kind of out of the city, but you can still take the metro all the way to the park. There is a whole tour and I believe climb that you can do at the site but if you are on a budget there are many spots around the site to get great photos for free. Definitely a nerdy but cool site!

EATS:

Moon Food

Vegan? Raw vegan? Looking for some delicious food? Look no further than Moon Food! It is located over by the Royal Library and Royal Square. Here you can get a buffet style of all kinds of vegan, raw, and gluten-free dishes. I 100% recommend ordering one of their incredible desserts!  Moon Food is a little pricey, but most buffet-style restaurants are. They are English friendly and have a great vibe!

Ai 6 angoli

If you are looking for some good vegan pizza, look no further than Ai 6 angoli! With both a vegan and non-vegan menu, this is a great stop for people of all dietary choices. The staff was great and accommodating definitely English, French, and Dutch friendly!

Mr. Falafel

A tiny little whole in the wall doesn't look like much on the outside, but Mr. Falafel shop is some of the best Falafel pitas we have ever had! They are English-friendly and boast some of the best ratings of any restaurant I have ever seen. We definitely suggest stopping in to get yourself some good food.

TOURS: 

I fell in love with Brussels. Of course, the big cities is where I feel at home! While there were plenty of tours available and offered in Brussels we decided to only buy metro passes and see the city that way. Like we mention in our Ghent article we suggest using the USE IT MAPS for their Brussels map, it has all the must-see places on there!

Antwerp, Belgium

18 hours of travel. 2 planes. 1 train. 1 bus. And not enough sleep. 

But we made it to Antwerp!

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After quickly getting our keys to our place and dropping off our packs we set out into the city. We made our way down De Keyserlei, which is just next to Antwerp Central and is basically a long strip of restaurants and shops! If you follow down De Keyserlei you make it down to some amazing architecture and even more shopping. At first we had a set destination to find food but we kind of just got caught up in the city itself. 

Eventually we found ourselves in the shadow of the Cathedral of Our Lady, an absolutely beautiful church! After some pictures we realized that we were actually pretty close to the restaurant we had set out to find in the first place, Greenway! This amazing vegan-friendly restaurant was very delicious and has locations in Ghent and Brussels, as well! We highly recommend checking them out. While sitting at lunch we started to feel the effects of our jet-lag, but pushed on to explore just a little more before heading back to our Airbnb where we basically fell into mini-commas until the next morning (when you're jet-lagged you are jet-lagged). The last few sites we got to see for the day were the Brabo's Monument, the Stadhuis van Antwerpen and the Grote Markt. The great thing about Antwerp is that it is very walker-friendly.  The historic centre holds many of it's must-see places.

The next morning we got up and made our trek back to Antwerp Central Station (we used this as our home base for getting around the city). From the outside, the train station is pretty, definitely a spot you would want to stop and take a picture. But, the outside is nothing compared to what awaits you inside! The main lobby of this train station reminded us of the interior of Hogwarts Castle. 

From here we decided to take a stroll to the park.  Park Spoor Noord is park built on reclaimed railway land, with sports, play areas, skate park & terrace for concerts. While there we caught a Saturday morning soccer game.  From there we headed to find lunch.  We decided on sushi, since it seemed we saw sushi restaurants on every corner.  We decided to try Wasabi Sushi and were happy with our decision.  We had the waiter help to translate the menu and were very pleased with our veggie rolls and seaweed salad.

From there we headed on a walkabout the city to take in what the city had to offer.  From talking to our Airbnb host, Isa, Antwerp is a destination for great Belgium shopping.  High-end shops by famous designers line the streets in Meir, the Fashion District and the Historic District. Since we do not really shop while travelling, we still stopped to admire many of the shop windows we passed.  

As the sun was starting to set, we decided to find a great Vegan restaurant for dinner.  One of the restaurants that came up on our search came highly suggested by great reviews, so we decided to try it.  And, let's just say, we were very happy with our selection.  This was my favorite dinner of our entire trip!  DeBroers van Julienne is considered a vegetarian restaurant, but had many vegan options and many entrees that could be made vegan. Their raw Chocolate cake is to die for!

With our bellies full and looking toward the travel ahead, we made our way back to our Airbnb to get a good night's sleep before heading to Ghent.  While Antwerp did not top of our list of favorite cities, we had a very nice time and saw some beautiful sites.  For those who love to shop, Antwerp is probably the Belgian destination for you!   

Just A Little Slice Of Eden

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Ahhh our last stop on our tour of the UK was The Eden Project, in St. Austell! From Penzance we first made a short detour in St. Ives though! 

We would highly recommend making a quick stop in St. Ives. The train station is right on the beach which is very traveler friendly. We explored the beach and just chilled out. We also ate at one of the best restaurants of our whole trip on St. Ives beach, the Porthminster Beach Café.  It was so delicious! You must get their Rosemary Fries if you go!

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From St. Ives we made our way to St. Austell! To get from the train station to The Eden Project and the YHA is super easy, they have buses right outside the station marked for direct trips to and from. The YHA associated with the Eden Project is incredible! It's everything your tiny house loving heart could ask for! Fashioned out of storage containers, each "room" had a bathroom, 3 beds able to fit at least 4 people and plenty of storage! Let's also not forget the giant tv and lime green theme!

Our first night in Eden we only had about 2 hours to explore So we got our passes, which were free with our stay at the YHA and vailid for up to a year. At first look Eden just takes your breathe away! The biomes are one of the coolest things I have ever seen and mom who is definitely a botanist at heart was completely overwhelmed by all the plants!

We only really had time to walk through one biome before they closed and seeing as the Mediterranean dome was closed for a wedding (which like honestly, how cool is that) we explored the Rainforest dome! Just stepping through the door you are hit by the humidity. It felt like I was all of a sudden back in Costa Rica and with how cold and windy the weather had been during our trip it was such a nice change! The Eden Project is known for having the biggest rainforest in captivy. 

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The next day we started off with thrills. For the first time in her life mom went ziplining and it was epic! There is a secondary company that supplies thrill seekers with extreme activities such as ziplining, free falls, and alleviated swings right on the Eden Project property. If you only have time for one I highly suggest ziplining because you get this incredible birds eye view of the Eden Project and both the biomes! 

We spent the rest of the day exploring the grounds. So many beautiful flowers and plants! So many picturesque landscapes. It was amazing. Also because the Eden Project is so devoted to sustainable living and the environment there was plenty of vegan food options to choose from.  

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If you find yourself making it down near St. Austell, I highly recommend visiting the Eden Project. They even have the occasional music festival there which I can only imagine is magical. 

After our day we were on our way to Newquay to catch our flight back to reality. What an incredible trip and until the next!

It's an adventure! 

 

The Pain in Penzance

Before I even start, let me give you a disclaimer about Penzance. Penzance, while beautiful, supplied us with the greatest challenges we faced during our entire time in the UK. So if some of this comes off sounding a little bitter it is probably because it was a very difficult situation and it is still too soon. 

Now that we got that out of the way! We got to the Penzance train station after 1 in the morning. This was after spending the first half of the day in London and the second half at Stonehenge in Salisbury. Now when planning our trip we got the smart idea that seeing as we were getting into town so late we would just skip the boarding expenses and just sleep in the train station. (I would like it to mention that we were under the very wrong impression that ALL train stations were similar to airports.) Needless to say, staying in the train station was not only a bad idea because it was an outdoor platform, but it was also just not possible because the station was closing down. 

Okay, so it is after 1 am. We are in a very small town. No reservations. No real knowledge of the town and to top it all off we were walking around with all our gear on in icy cold, hurricane like wind and drizzle. Everywhere we found was either closed for the night, or had no vacancies. 

After walking around for probably about an hour and a half, we finally came across the Queens Hotel and couldn't have been more relieved. The hotel is super old, but that is definitely its charm. With our heads on pillows, we were quickly out and the challenges of the night and the tension between us melted away. 

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The next morning we set off for the most picturesque spot on our trip: The Minack Theatre and Porthcurno Beach. The hike up to theatre is quite steep and along the major roadway. I would not recommend this to someone who has trouble with up hill hikes, but, If you make it to the top it is so worth it. The Minack Theatre looks as if it has been there for hundreds of years and as if the universe meant to have something so magical placed there. The detail of every seat and step and archway creates this unexplainable emotional response. We wondered around the theatre for a while, even had a snack and partook in some lovely entertainment from a member of the theatre's troupe.  

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When leaving the theatre you have two choices, either hike back down the steep hill to where the buses come and go from OR take the extremely difficult, highly advanced hike down the ocean cliff path to Porthcurno Beach. This is wear Penzance once again got the best of us. After some coxing on my part we agreed to hike down the cliffs to get to the beach. 

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After getting a good enough distance down the cliff (enough that was too much to turn back) mom took a slide on one of her steps. Before I continue, let me just say this was the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me while traveling. There was no way I could carry her and there was still at least 15 more minutes of treacherous hiking. Mom definitely learned that flipflops were not the ideal hiking shoes and I learned that I can carry a lot more weight than I thought. What ended up happening is I took both of our packs all the way down the hill and then came back to help mom the rest of the way down. It was a challenge, and there were many pauses as we made it the rest of the way to the beach but once again we were able to overcome and move forward.  And, during one of the pauses we got to see a sea lion enjoying the surf.

The beach was absolutely gorgeous even if it was freezing. As Floridians, it was very funny to see so many people out in water that I ended up describing as colder than ice water that had kept in the freezer. Other than the lack of warmth, the sand was familiar and squishy between our toes and the waves were hypnotic and relaxing.  

That night we stayed in another YHA. And let me tell you, traveling can be tiring. When our heads hit the pillow that night, it was a most-luxurious feeling. Penzance was an incredibly beautiful town, but it tested us. You just have to remember...

It's an adventure! 

 

Stonehenge

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Day trip! 

Sometimes, when you are traveling, there are places you will want to see that are not in the big cities you are planning on staying in. They may be just one city away or even half a day's journey, but that doesn't mean you can't go see those places anyway! 

That was the case with Stonehenge for us. When we were planning our tour of the United Kingdom there, was no doubt that Stonehenge was a must-see destination! Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, Stonehenge is one of the best known prehistoric monuments in Europe. The energy, both spiritual and supernatural, openly flows through this site and all it's visitors. 

The actual Stonehenge site is about 8 miles outside of Salisbury and is an easily accessible destination from London and is a perfect candidate for a day trip. We caught a midday train out of London to Salisbury. The tour company that we booked with, and suggest booking with, picked us up right from the train station. The bus was a double-decker, and as always, I suggest trying to get the very front row seats on the second level.  The panoramic view is so worth it. 

The bus takes you through Salisbury, giving you a taste of the town and a chance for some brief sight-seeing before you head out of town and towards Stonehenge. The cost of admission was included in our tour, but even without the tour, it is not very expensive. As a whole Stonehenge was very easily accessible. There were buses that took you from the Heritage Pavilion (where the gift shop, cafe and bathrooms were) to the site or if you were looking for that nice hike you could also walk to the stones.

Seeing the stones is absolutely breathe-taking. It is just one of those places that everyone has heard of, even seen pictures of, but somehow it does not seem like they are real. Standing in front of them, seeing that they are indeed real, yet still a mystery to the world. I one way we realized our size in the universe, yet felt super-connected with that universe. 

I, totally not caring who was watching or what people were thinking, got down on the ground and did a short yoga flow. I also got some journaling in as well. It was really nice for us to just sit and take in everything that was around us. Lots of pictures were taken and then we were off to our next destination!

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It's an adventure!

The One With The Really Big Clock

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 "In London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in." - Paddington

Ahh, London, the whole reason for our trip. We made it to London a little after midday, and no shame, we got off the train at the wrong station. In our defense. it was King's Cross and in the end we were actually way closer to our Airbnb than we would have been had we gone all the way to Charring Cross. 

It is definitely a personal flaw, but when I am traveling, I am always trying to make every little second count.  So, when we ran into the problem of not being able to contact our Airbnb host, our stress levels started to climb to, well, a Big Ben height.  TRAVEL TIP: Always know your passwords just in case you have to use other devices to access your accounts.

Of course everything worked out in the end, we made it to our Airbnb. My cousin and his wife made it to the flat and then we all got food! Well, they did. Being vegan proved to make life a little difficult and I ended up eating an avocado and broccoli as my dinner, with a blueberry cider of course. 

Once we made it back to the flat we started going a little stir crazy. It was probably the first time we had just sat the whole trip, but not for long! We caught an Uber over to Trafalgar Square, frolicked with the lions and then we just started following our feet. We made it to Buckingham Palace, a little underwhelming at night because it wasn't very lit up. We kind of made a big loop and headed towards Westminster Abbey, walking along St. James Park. We were so surprised by how close all these big landmarks were to each other! Right next to The Abbey was the majestic Big Ben. Now we have all seen Big Ben in movies and pictures, but nothing can compares to seeing him in person. I think one of the coolest moments of our trip was definitely standing below Big Ben as the clock struck midnight. We both just stood in awe of this moment, realizing that we were different people for just having lived that.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

King's Cross

King's Cross

Big Ben at Night

Big Ben at Night

The moment ended as all moments do and we made our way back to our Airbnb to get a good nights rest before another busy day of exploring, and for me, an extremely anticipated day at the theatre!

Bright and early the next morning we headed out to pick up our London Passes ( I super recommend getting these! So worth it!) Then we caught a bus to one of my must see locations, Winston Churchill's War Rooms! I 100% recommend visiting the War Rooms, especially if you are weirdly sentimental about history like me! After our walk through history, we had just enough time to get some food before I had to meet my cousin at the theatre and once again we fond ourselves exponentially disappointed with our food. I am sorry but what is up with all the cold pasta!!! 

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The play I was seeing was Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. I know how did we get tickets? Well let's just say we are no mere muggles. The show was absolutely fantastic, had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Above all, I would have seen that play purely because of it's technical aspects. They were doing magic of their own up there. We left the show on practically a sugar rush, especially after getting to meet most of the cast! Stuff like that gets me so inspired and motivated.

Kew Garden

Kew Garden

During my time at the play mom went off to explore on her own:

 While Brandy was enjoying the show, I went off on an adventure of my own. I decided to experience the London Underground. I left out from Tottenham Station and took the 55 minute ride to the Kew Gardens otherwise known as The Royal Botanical Gardens. If you know me, you know that I am a total flower and plant lover, so the gardens did not disappoint!  My only regret is that I would not have enough time to see even a small fraction of the gardens, as it is quite expansive! I meandered around the gardens following paths and snapping pictures of plants I'd never seen before while recognizing the common landscaping plants that both England and Florida share. And just like, that it was time to make my way back to meet up with the group.

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We ended the night with a short stroll down to Piccadilly Circus, which is so reminiscent of Time Square in New York. The next day we would only have a few hours before we had to catch our train to Salisbury but we had one more must see on our list, the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre!  

I completely nerded out, but once again, we would not have been able to see any of it, had it not been for awesome, completely amazing, and understanding tour guides who let us hop into an earlier tour group and leave whenever we had to so that we would have enough time to get to the train station. Nice people make traveling so much easier and enjoyable!

London was really amazing, and for the very little amount of time we had, we got to see and experience so much! I have a feeling we will be making a return trip to London in the future BUT until then....

It's an adventure!

 

York, Our Stay In The Shambles

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On to our next adventure.

Ahhh York, one of our most recommended destinations on our trip. Such a quaint little walking town but before we got to the peaceful York we had to get out of Edinburgh.

Now let me start by saying traveling can be a stressful thing. Our train from Edinburgh to York was our first train ride of the trip, which left from Waverly station. We had everything under control. Tickets printed. Luggage on us. Platform right in view. Nothing could go wrong, right? Well in the end nothing did go wrong BUT for about 30 seconds I was sure I had just completely left mom in Edinburgh and me without my train ticket.

You see what had happened is when we had boarded our train we had found the previous passengers had left their gross half full coffee cups in our seats. Mom being the good person that she is, took the garbage and went in search of a bin. This is when another one of our running jokes was created. Mom had completely left my sight to go find a bin and she went in the direction of the train doors looking. In my head my mother had gotten off the train to use a trashcan on the platform and then the train started moving. Panic coursed through my veins as I came to the belief that I had left my new-to-the-world-of-travel mother on a platform in Edinburgh. In that moment I quickly turned to look out the window and audible said "Mom?" My fears and worries were snuffed out as soon as mom returned to her seat and after I explained the mini-crisis I had just gone through we were off to York. 

With only about 24 hours to go exploring we hopped off the train from Edinburgh and made a B line for the nearest vegan restaurant. We were rather disappointed in our choice of food, I honestly can't even remember the name of the place. We had bought day bus passes which were super handy! We went and dropped off our bags at our hostel and then were off to explore the town.

Cute architecture throughout York

Cute architecture throughout York

View of York Minster from Monksgate Bar

View of York Minster from Monksgate Bar

York is absolutely breath taking, something you would expect to see in a Harry Potter movie! And in the center of all the beauty was York Minster Abbey. This cathedral is absolutely stunning with it's stone gothic architecture and imposing presence. We were lucky enough to sneak a peek inside as they were preparing for a service, the interior is just as exquisite as the exterior. Just walking around the grounds gave you this sense of peace and relaxation, dozens of people were lounging about enjoying the weather and the ambiance of the Abbey grounds. 

View from the lawn behind the York Minster

View from the lawn behind the York Minster

View from our hostel

View from our hostel

After we did a bit of lounging ourselves, and of course a mini-photo shoot, we set out to see what else York had to surprise us with. That is when we found a stone tower, Monksgate Bar. At first it looked like we wouldn't be allowed to go up. The only entrance was this super narrow, one at a time staircase and people just kept filing out one after the other. Once there was a break in people we both scurried up the stairs before anyone else tried to share the space with us. The tower took us up to a stone wall that surround beautiful English gardens and took us on a walking tour above the part of town near the abbey.

York definitely had a small village vibe and by 6 pm the shops were closed and before we knew it, we were nearly the only ones walking around the square. We decided this was the time to catch the bus back to our hostel. We spent the majority of the night out in the common area, playing on our phones, journaling and sampling their assortment of ciders (we of course were very partial to the Swedish-made ones).

York Castle

York Castle

The next day only supplied us with a few hours before it was back on the train and off to London. So in order to make the most of it we got up and made our way over to York Castle, went through some mini street fairs with amazing live performances. (I must say finding street fairs that you had no clue about while traveling is probably one of the best surprises!) 

Las Iguanas from the street!

Las Iguanas from the street!

The last stop before off to London was a stop for food and oh boy I will never forget this restaurant. We honestly just stumbled upon Las Iguanas right as they were opening. Honestly some of the best Hispanic food we have ever had. I mean fresh guacamole and a beautiful rooftop dinning area! Can't go wrong.

With full bellies and happy hearts we made the trek back to the train station and were off to London!

Las Iguanas roof top dining.

Las Iguanas roof top dining.

It's an adventure!

It's All Up Hill From Here

Next stop... Edinburgh, Scotland

After our race against time in Ireland, our quick 40ish minute flight was actually quite a treat. We flew with Ryanair, which for a short flight, was absolutely worth it but kind of reminded us of a New York taxi with wings. It was actually pretty cool because, with the Fringe Festival in full swing, there was a troop of actors on our plane heading to Edinburgh to perform.

Once we arrived in Edinburgh, the air was brisk and we were exhausted. The travel clock had reached a whopping 39 hours. We took a tram from the airport to our Airbnb which was extremely central! We stayed with Jess and we couldn't have lucked out more! With Fringe going on, it was quite hard to find accommodations, however, our Airbnb was beautiful. We were in a good location, with an amazing, unique host, and a hip atmosphere. We would absolutely recommend staying here! Jess, our host was incredible, bright pink hair and a personality to match! She filled us in on all the info for the flat and places we should go. Exhaustion had truly set in so we called it a night.

Sunday morning we made a makeshift breakfast out of all the snacks I had brought and then we were out onto the streets of Edinburgh. We set out with only one aim, find a tattoo parlor, other than that, we were just going with the flow. The streets of Edinburgh were just beautiful. I personally knew very quickly that I would love living there. We wandered around a little until we came to a hill that clearly led to great sites. 

Mom had already joked around about Edinburgh being nothing but hills. She said "Even when you're going downhill you are still going uphill." That became one of our running jokes for the whole trip. We accidentally stumbled upon the monstrous Calton Hill. In all honesty, it was not a very long hike but boy was it steep! You had the option of stairs or a paved hill but there was no escaping the daunting incline.

View from atop Calton Hill.

View from atop Calton Hill.

After just a few stops to catch our breath we made it to the top. The climb was definitely worth it!  This was the very top of the city! You could see everything from up there, from the sea to Edinburgh castle. It was breathe- taking. It also had several monuments atop the hill including the National Monument of Scotland, Nelson Monument, and the Dugald Stewart Monument.  

After we were done exploring Calton Hill we found ourselves some Vegan grub at a restaurant called Hendersons. They had a good variety of options including vegan haggis which I have regretted a little not trying. Overall it was not the best meal we had ever had but we both enjoyed our falafel burger and chocolate cake! From Hendersons, we found ourselves in the heart of the Fringe Festival. There were street performers and people flyering left and right. We saw some cool stunts and magic and as well as some very cheesy vaudeville-inspired acts.

Our feet seem to be drawn to adventure because we honestly just kind of stumbled upon the Edinburgh Castle as well. This was another uphill trek but by then we were getting used to it! The Castle and National Gallery were there fairly close to one another. It was really cool because so many of the galleries had been turned into venues for the Fringe Festival. There were people everywhere!

We didn't go into the Castle, just walked its grounds but that was enough to get a feel for the culture surrounding us. We made our way back to the Fringe Market where we bought some small sterling silver jewelry from a lovely man from Spain. We, of course, sampled a local Starbucks and recharged a little. Pokemon Go may or may not have been involved.

Our day was coming to a close, and we had not found a tattoo place that could take us in but we had been on some amazing adventures! We closed out our night with some Vegan Italian food from Nova Pizza, which was delicious and owned by a true Italian, himself. Then, with full bellies, we made the pleasant 30ish minute walk back to our Airbnb, trying to take in every last sight before we left for York the next morning. 

Edinburgh was gorgeous, definitely a place we would be willing to return to.

It's An Adventure...

 

Every Minute Counts

One thing about travel is always trying to pack as much adventure as possible into the shortest amount of time without getting stressed out. On yesterday's trip to Ireland we managed to make one of those things occur.

Our plane from Charlotte, North Carolina landed in Dublin, Ireland at 6:35 am. We then had exactly 13 hours until our plane left from Dublin to Edinburgh. Determined to see as much of Ireland as we could, we decided to book a tour of the beautiful Wild Wicklow with a little time in Glendalough. 

From the airport we got coffee at Cafe Nero (delicious) while waiting for our "Wild Wicklow" tour bus to arrive. Our pick up location was just across the street from the posh Hotel Shelborne in the middle of Dublin, which may we say had some very pleasant doormen! Once our tour bus arrived we met John, our tour guide and proper Irishman, "You best believe". 

The tour began with a short trip through the City Centre as well as surrounding villages on our way up to the Wicklow Mountains. Our first stop was in Dun Laoghaire at Sandycove Beach where wetsuit-clad Ironman contestants were practicing for competition and let's just say this was not proper swimming weather for us Florida girls. 

As our journey continued we got to see both Bono and Enya's castles and stopped again at the Avoca Kilmacanogue Store and Cafes. This is where we found a beautiful garden/greenhouse housing gorgeous native and non-native plants including an amazingly beautiful California Redwood. 

We saw some sights and landscapes that you only see in movies. In fact, we stopped at a bridge that had been used in the film "P.S., I Love You" which had a beautiful little stream running through it. We also passed an adorable little church which we were told was the church that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were secretly married in after filming the movie "Far and Away".

We stopped for lunch in the little village of Glendalough where we found a mom and pop cafe that used locally grown and sourced produce to create their Vegan fare. This was the first real restaurant overseas. The owner even gave us a couple of fresh plums that she had just picked from the tree out back, and they were delicious!

After lunch, we made our way to our final stop, St. Kevin's Monastery, which is also considered Glendalough. John led us on a guided walking tour of the monastery and then released us to take the hike up to the Upper Lake to see one of the most photographed locations in Ireland. The Upper Lake was of course absolutely gorgeous but one look down at the watch and we realized that our flight from Dublin to Edinburgh was quickly approaching.

We made it back to the bus early but we couldn't say the same for everyone. Needless to say, we started to stress a little which is when our amazing tour guide John swept in to rescue us. First, we all toasted to a wonderful tour with a shot of Jameson Whiskey. John was honestly so awesome! He told us that not only would he take us to the airport himself, but he would also personally make sure we were not late (a big promise). Every minute made our hearts beat faster but true to his word, with only us aboard, John rushed us to the Dublin Airport.

We arrived at the airport with a little time to spare... or so we thought. In reality, our flight was supposed to be boarding at that very moment and according to our tickets, the gate would be closing in five minutes. Stressful? Just a little. After practically breaking down one of the security gates, we were so luckily assisted by members of the Dublin Airport Security team. Now all that stood in our way was a sprint across what seemed to be the largest airport terminal ever!!! But in the end, we made it to our gate on time, and ironically enough, our flight had actually been delayed. We had plenty of time, which gave us a chance to catch our breath, use the restroom and board the flight comfortably.

Once aboard, it was hard to believe that not even 24 hours before we had been in the United States. Thus ended our first day aboard and then we were on to Edinburgh. What an amazing and thrilling way to start our trip!

But you know what we say! It's an adventure!