Daydreaming about… San Sebastian, Spain

Yep. Again.

Those of you that have been following along for awhile know I have shared my excitement about this destination before, but now that my trip is approaching, I’m starting to freak out! Can’t wait to visit my little sister in this literal slice of paradise. Even though I’m visiting during their rainy season, I’m so looking forward to exploring the Basque region. Rain or shine, don’t matter NONE. It’s going to be a blast.

Much of my enjoyment during my travels revolves around food and this trip will be no different. I can’t wait to visit some of the places I’ve heard about, like Bar Zeruko and El Quinto Pino (below). Need to try the local pinxtos (I was already warned not to call them tapas) and of course, as much sangria as I can stomach.

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

And now, some links…

Hey Nike, can I do this next?

40 maps to help you understand the world (12! 17?!).

My friends and I are being vegan for a month (a day is child’s play).

The cutest tiny house on Sauvie Island right outside of Portland.

Tried this place recently and loved it! Trying to eat more whole foods.

This diary of a Whole Foods visit is hilarious and true.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

(images via Pinterest)

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Monday Travel Memory: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Over two years ago now (which I cannot believe), I choked out a tearful goodbye to life as I knew it in the United States. With one way tickets in our sweaty hands, my husband and I boarded a flight to our new home. Amsterdam. Stepping on that plane was a turning point. I’m forever changed because of it.

I reflect on our time in Amsterdam often. How in love with it I became (and still am). Yet the way that I think about it is completely different from the other cities and countries I merely visited and took vacations. When traveling, I was always looking for the extraordinary. The fabulous. The unexpected. The downright thrilling. For those reasons and so many more, I continue to travel.

But for Amsterdam I have a different sentiment. Why? Initially it was all those things. Extraordinary. Fabulous. Unexpected. And yes, downright thrilling. But as I settled in and became more comfortable, what I truly appreciated was the ordinary. It was everyday life. So wonderful and pleasant and… normal.

That’s what makes this memory different from all the others. It wasn’t the grandiose whirlwind of museum-browsing, guided tour-shuffling or extravagant dining that I remember so fondly. It was the falafel from the shop down the street that we would eat messily as we walked the half block home because we just couldn’t wait. It was the cheap wine we would drink as we sat in our window, legs dangling. It was going on dates by riding those rickety, old cruisers. Sometimes rather that ride my own, I would sit on Jaro’s rack, one arm casually draped around his waist, watching the cobblestone whiz by under my feet. It was the predictable weekend market where we would get the same lunch every single Saturday. From the same two dudes that ran the booth.

It was all the things we had to explore, learn and discover that only could have been done by actually living there. Like any seasoned traveler would tell you- Ask the café server what they order. Ask the store clerk where they go for nightlife. Always ask a local. In my own way, I became one. 

The way I came to appreciate Amsterdam has changed my view of the world. For the better, I would think. My gratitude for the way other people live their ordinary lives is something I have taken with me and carry in my heart. I may have left Amsterdam, but Amsterdam hasn’t left me. It never will.

(These are some photos from our final days there.)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Cinque Terre

Hey kids. It’s been awhile. A solid three month absence. Sometimes it’s good to take some distance from stuff, even stuff we love, to come back with better focus and energy. Right? It’s been nice to have some space and not spend so much time at the computer. Sounds like a legit excuse. Maybe nobody even noticed. 

And maybe you did. I know I miss writing on here and sharing bits of our sometimes interesting life. So why the long held breath? This had a little something to do with it:

This is Flinck.

This is Flinck.

Yes, we adopted a tiny puppy from the shelter where I volunteer (Oregon Humane Society). His name is Flinck, in honor of the street we lived on in Amsterdam (Govert Flinckstraat). And, not that I’m biased, he’s the best. 

But back to the topic at hand. As August hit, I realized that I have not been swimming or have even donned a swimsuit this summer. That’s just not right. To me, that’s the quintessential summer experience that I have not had this year. Too many house projects and other commitments have consumed our time. Bummer. Summer bummer.

This had led to some serious reminiscing. About this time last year, we took our summer vacation to Italy. Twelve months and some crazy life changes later, I’m still enchanted. And amazed at just how much Italy has to offer. Oh, Italy. What can I possibly say about you that hasn’t been said before? From your bustling streets in Roma, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to your seaside luxury in Sorrento, to your decayed elegance in Venice, you truly have it all. And you have more. And on top of all that, you have this glorious little region known as the Cinque Terre.

I know I shared this trip with you before, but it’s fun to look at the pictures with fresh eyes and see the beauty anew. Sometimes I sit here and pinch myself because I cannot believe we were there. While far from a luxurious resort getaway (you lay out on rocks to sunbathe after all), it was the perfect break from reality for my husband and me.

When we arrived, I was instantly smitten with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. As we walked the narrow “streets” (they can hardly be called streets as barely a moped could squeeze through), you could smell the salty sea and catch whiffs of a grandmother’s sauce on the stove.

Each morning, we would wake up in our tiny room, head out for coffee and fresh fruit, then spend the days alternating between sunbathing on rocks and exploring the twisty streets in each of the five towns. Below are some more pictures that I didn’t include in my original write up. Those initial pictures captured little moments that I felt (at the time) best depicted our experience. Looking back, I realize I didn’t share much of the actual towns or the panoramas that created the wonderful backdrop to all those fried fish cones we devoured. Here you go:

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

The trail that connects the towns

the trail that connects the towns

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso’s beach scene

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Kiss!

Kiss! along the trail

sunset from Manarola

sunset from Manarola

Manarola at dusk

Manarola at dusk

happy tree in Corniglia

a happy tree in Corniglia

pretty door in Corniglia

a pretty door in Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Vernazza

a "street" in Vernazza

a “street” in Vernazza

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

5am quiet

5am quiet in Vernazza

Vernazza at night

Vernazza at night

Our trip to the Cinque Terre was one of my favorite vacations. Ever. These pictures make me want to be back there immediately. August, while brimming with tourists, is still a great time to go. Now if only I could find my bathing suit…

xxx

Koninginnedag!

For all the Amsterdammers celebrating Koninginnedag (or Queen’s Day) – Enjoy! It was one of my favorite days last year and one of the many reasons why the Netherlands is the best. It is a national holiday where the streets and canals are filled with orange-wearing revelers eating, drinking and blasting music all day long. For reasons unknown (other than the Dutch royalty likely having a contract with Mother Nature herself), there is always beautiful weather on Queen’s Day. Here are some pictures I took last year.

Queen's Day, Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Queen's Day, Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Queen's Day, Amsterdam

Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Wish I could do this again! Guess I’ll just wear my orange today to pay tribute.

Party on.

xxx

P.S. Here is the original photo gallery I posted last year.

Monday Travel Memory: Swiss Forgiveness

A few months ago, Jaro and I took a impromptu two week road trip through Europe. I wrote about Switzerland. Specifically, how I pretty much hated it. It’s funny to look back on those thoughts in retrospect. I mean, what a drama queen. Yes, it was shockingly expensive. Yes, I thought I was going to die when I went paragliding in Interlaken. But now, I realize how little those things mattered in the grand scheme of things. Okay, well maybe fearing for my life does sort of matter… but as much as I complained, I trusted. I lived. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Not be that annoying American tourist (cringe) complaining about money all the time? Just forgive and enjoy?

Now that we have our desktop up and running, I scrolled through the pictures from that portion of the trip and am blown away by the stunning beauty everywhere we turned in that country. And how lucky I am to have lived close enough to go.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

J+J in Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Me enjoying Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

I truly only have wonderful memories about our time in Switzerland. I don’t remember the expense. I don’t remember if the food was mediocre. I don’t remember other negatives. I only look back on it warmly. With nostalgia. Sometimes you (okay, I) need time to realize things aren’t as bad as they seem. I strongly, highly, totally 100% recommend visitors to Europe to include Switzerland. Don’t have the attitude I did. Just enjoy it. Switzerland, I forgive you for your (very few) flaws. I hope you forgive me.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Just All Of It

Fiji

Me in Fiji

Barcelona

Me in Barcelona

Istanbul, Turkey

Me in Istanbul

Kiev, Ukraine

Me in Kiev, Ukraine

Sahara Desert, Morocco

Me in the Sahara Desert

 San Gimignano, Italy

Me in San Gimignano

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days (weeks? I don’t even know what day it is).

I wish I could combine, in some way sum up, all the travel I have ever done in my life for this travel reflection. To keep this from getting out of control, I cut it down to these six similar images. It’s funny, all these pictures are all quiet moments I had while traveling over the past couple years. (Thanks for the shots, Jaro.) What’s funny about them is I can’t believe those are all of me. I mean, it looks like me. It’s my bod. I do not really remember being there. But all of it seems like a distant dream, a lifetime ago, something that may never really have actually happened but just been fabricated by my overactive imagination, when really it has only been a few months. Why?

Because I am now a homeowner.

Every single one of my thoughts is focused on this darn house. Every waking moment, I’m consumed by ideas for how to address the storage problem in our bedroom; deciding the right shade of paint color in our living room; getting those last few moving boxes out of our dining room. And don’t get me started on the renovation we want to start immediately on the bathroom.

Is this what happens? Instead of sitting on the floor daydreaming about trips to foreign lands, imagining myself sprawled on a deserted beach, dwarfed in a towering forest or lost in a crowded city, I’m distracted by the dust bunny in the corner and scramble over to catch it. Or find myself wondering how that little scratch got into the hardwoods and what I can do to fix it. Or sit there and go back to my paint color debate… It’s taking over 100% of my brain space. Is this what having a baby is like?

If so, I don’t think I’m ready.

Don’t worry – I’m not adding a pregnancy announcement to this post or likely any one soon. The house is enough for now. Still. I can’t believe how energy-zapping it is. How tired I am. How drained. And alarmed that my priorities have shifted so much. Not that it’s a bad thing. I’m proud we own a house. Right now, it’s just taking over my every waking thought a little time-consuming.

One saving grace: After 5 months of being apart, of living in other people’s spaces or the hollow hole of corporate housing, we are now reunited with our trinkets, big and small, from all of our travels. I finally dusted off that old globe from the Russian flea market and lovingly draped the blanket haggled from a Moroccan souk over a chair. I see these things and all the others, and smile. I’m pretty lucky to have visited a lot of incredible places.

Home may be here in Portland, but it is also all over the world.

Here’s to quiet moments, wherever they are. Here’s to being (finally) settled. And yet, here’s to re-igniting the little fire inside that beckons – but there’s so much more. 

xxx

P.S. One time I wrote about my favorite souvenirs.

Hello Spring

Well, guys, spring is here! This is the season when my girly nature really goes nuts because I am obsessed with flowers. I just love them. They make me happy. Although it’s rainy here in Portland, I’m thinking about what all this rain will bring. I’m also reminded of that time last year when we went to Istanbul and I could not believe my eyes because there were so many gorgeous flowers everywhere. Especially the gardens at Topkapi Palace. It was just too much.

Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul, Turkey

See what I mean? Spring is the best. So is Turkey.

xxx

P.S. Provence looks like an incredible place to visit in the spring.

Daydreaming about… Ireland

As we head into St. Patrick’s Day weekend (do you celebrate?) I can’t help but think about Irish countryside. Call me cliché. I was lucky enough to visit Ireland in 2011 by myself (!) and it was such thrill to travel there alone. It is SO green. Those lush, vibrant pastures were so peaceful, especially when dotted with grazing sheep. If I were to travel there again, I would spend more time on the western coast and explore the southern coast as well.

IrelandOkay, so that first image was heavily edited. Here are two of mine from my solo trip: IrelandIrelandNothing can convey the freshness of the air in western Ireland. It drifts in from the Atlantic and is salty and clean. I need to experience that again.

Seriously, do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? We normally don’t, but we are excited to get together with some friends this weekend to listen to bagpipers, eat corned beef and cabbage, and have one a couple beers. Being festive is fun.

In other news, I thought it might be fun to share some links that I come across during the week. Not sure if this will be a theme, but I will share when I think it’s worthy:

Which Americans have passports (and more so which ones don’t) is very telling.

Refinery 29 just did a sweet round up of Portland hotspots.

I need to throw a wine and cheese party immediately. Housewarming, perhaps?

Actually, I like the idea of a cheap beer taste test too. Funny!

This man is inspiring, especially since I have been pining for my stuff. It makes me realize how irrational I can be. (link via my favorite, Cup of Jo)

Have a great weekend, friends.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

It might be cliché, but I truly believe there is no place like Paris. It remains one of my favorite cities in the world. No matter what season, it still captivates. In the few times I have visited, I loved finding new angles of famous structures (like this one of a wintery Notre Dame) and exploring some of the lesser known areas to escape from tourist routes. Exactly one year ago, we were there with my parents. One of my favorite memories was tucking into a tiny, candle-lit bistro in the chic Levallois-Perret neighborhood for a beautiful and classic French meal. We were lucky enough to be celebrating my mom’s birthday there.

I will always treasure those great memories. And while it can’t be Paris every year, I’m still wishing my mom a very happy birthday today.

xxx

Daydreaming about… San Sebastian!

We had such a nice Valentine’s Day evening bonding with some new friends. It truly reminded me to be thankful for the relationships in my life, whether new or old, close or casual.

After a crisis this morning regarding our house (when will it end?), I can get back to what I was going to share today….

BIG NEWS. I tend to keep quiet about things going on with my family and friends, but this is too good to keep to myself. My baby sis just got official word that she will be studying abroad in San Sebastian, Spain for the fall semester of the coming school year. I’m filled with pride; she worked so hard to make it happen. And I’m over the moon excited for her to experience life abroad. I think she’ll find it wildly fascinating.

Of course this means that I have to go visit her. Now that I’m nearly halfway around the world (it’s an 8 hour time difference), this will take significant planning. (Sidenote: Imagine if we were still living in Amsterdam or Stockholm! Dang it.) From my initial research, I gather that San Sebastian is a beautiful and glamorous city on the northern coast of Spain, nestled in the culturally-exuberant, wine-rich Basque region. Looks like I’ll shoot for a September/October time frame, so that gives Kimberly a few weeks to settle in (although, let’s be honest, I’d just as happily be there waiting for her as she arrives). Gotta brush up on my Spanish…

San Sebastian

This is going to be a big trip – stay tuned!

And Kim – I’m so proud of you.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

P.S. My most recent trip to Spain.

{image via (what looks like it will be) a very helpful (and funny) expat/travel blog}