Saturday, August 31, 2013

Our Prague Experience

Happy Saturday everyone! Who's pumped for the three day weekend? I know I am, I've been a real slow-poke with getting my trip photos organized so the extra day off of work will be nice.  Hoping to get them all done, but I've got our first city ready to share today (still no word on our camera in Copenhagen).  Here's a look at Prague from our visit along with a his & her take and some tips on the city- Scroll to the bottom for that.  Alex and I had fun answering the questions separately and surprised each other with some of the responses! 
Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, and the Loreta in the Hradcany neighborhood
Views from the Strahov Monestary walking toward the St. Charles Bridge
Cheese & Czech brews at Klasterni Pivovar in Strahov
St. Charles Bridge, Mala Strana, and a view of Prague Castle at night
St. Charles Bridge
Outside of our hotel- Hotel Monestary, lovely & peaceful rooms with a gorgeous view of Prague
Old-world dining in a 13th century cellar and a modern take on traditional Czech dishes at Klub Architektu 
Views from Prague Castle, St. Virus Cathedral, and sunset from the Old Town side of Vltava River
Visit and views from Petrin Hill
Night views of Mala Strana walking up towed the Strahov Monestary
Garlic soup, escargot, and goulash at Kocar z Vidne Kutsche was definetly a favorite meal in Prague!
Old Jewish Cemetary in Josefov, oldest grave dates back to the 1300's, when the cemetery became filled they began to stack the graves
Turkish coffee and hookah at Andalous Shisha Lounge, so far from home, so different than our everyday
Powder Gate and the Old Town Square
Sitting by the Vltava River enjoying less hustle & bustle below the St. Charles Bridge

What was your favorite moment in Prague? 
Alex: My favorite moment in Prague was one that could be experienced in most European cities- sitting in a public park with an adult beverage, just taking it all in.  I don't think we take enough time to slow down and enjoy things in America.  Sitting quietly at the foot of the St. Charles bridge was soothing and surreal.
Carla: After our long flight there, we checked into our hotel and headed up to our room. Once in the room, I dropped my bags and walked straight to the large open window and got my first real view of Prague- my favorite moment.  The city was breathtaking, stunningly beautiful and it felt so old world romantic. It felt as though I stepped back into a fairy tale, especially when a nearby clock tower began to ring! Favorite moment for me, I will never forgot that first glance overlooking the city from our windowsill. 

What surprised you about Prague? 
Alex: It was packed. Sure, we were there in August, but it was really busy.  I shouldn't have been surprised but I was.  The city itself was quiet, splendid, and reminded me of a fairy tale still.
Carla: Honestly, there wasn't tons to do- and I say that perhaps because we were there for four days and probably only needed two or three.  We saw all the sites on our list at the end of day two really and then just enjoyed wandering around.  I know it might sound dumb, but that's what surprised me.

What was your must-try menu item while in Prague? 
Alex: I had a traditional dish made of pork heart, tongue and liver in a creamed sauce that was quite good, but my favorite- and a must try- was simple street food we found in the center of the Old Town Square. Potato Gnocchi with Sauerkrat and ham... So good!  This is a recipe that I will bring home!
Carla: I wanted to try some traditional Czech dishes even though some were foods I normally dislike.  Goulash for example, normally something I hate, but the goulash in Prague at Kocar z Vidne Kutschene was my favorite in Prague!  The restaurant is just below the St Charles Bridge on the Mala Strana side and mixes Czech and Austrian cuisine, it was fantastic! 

What tip would you share for someone going there?
Alex: Slow down! Be willing to explore and take it in. Stray from the usual restaurants and try something daring. I love cities that are on rivers- you can't get lost, just go find something and the river will guide you back.
Carla: Get a lot of cash out of an ATM once you get there because a surprisingly high amount of restaurants, businesses, and tourist stops DO NOT take credit cards.  It got kind of annoying after several ATM withdrawals knowing we were being charged an international fee each time, small but it adds up! If you go, keep cash with you!

Why would you go back?
Alex: I would go back for the Turkish coffee and the relaxing vibe. Prague isn't huge so feel free to take an afternoon nap or sleep in a bit.  It's a great place to kick-off a multi-city trip.
Carla: I would go back to see the beauty of the city in the late fall or winter months.  Everything you read about the city's beauty is true, it's different than other European cities in so many ways.  I'd love to see that beauty in different seasons- I imagine it'd also be less busy and tourist-y in those months! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

An Italian Antique Find From Prague and Sad Camera News

Fun and sad topics to share today, lets start with the fun one first! A couple Fridays ago I did a post about turning travel souvenirs or mementos into home decor (click here for the link).  Despite the very limited space in our carry-on luggage, we were able to bring home a couple unique finds for our house!  

During our last day in Prague, we stumbled upon a cute little antique book store on the way back to our hotel where we found this poster...

Alex and I were both drawn to it- not sure if it was the color, design, the text scrolling across the top, or the worn edges or the paper itself.  It just had an old authentic feel, something perfect and unique to add in our house as a reminder from our trip! I'm still trying to figure out the perfect way to matte and frame it but I just had to share!

From what we found online, it seems to be instructions for how to put together a small scale model from the 1930's or 40's.  Text along the top says "The New Artistic Traforatore" along with "Wholesale- Retail Ettore Ferrari".  The most famous Ettore Ferrari was an Italian sculptor that lived in the 1800's, but given that our print says wholesale/retail it makes me think it is just a name of the store or printing company that made it.  I tried to research as much as I could but it became difficult when the majority showed up in Italian. You can only Google translate so much :) So if anyone out there knows more please share in the comments! 

Now onto the sad news (sadly)...
When our last flight landed in Chicago and our trip finally ended, we realized our camera was left in the seat pocket of our layover flight to Copenhagen from Rome.  Panic, sadness, worry, anger... Every kind of awful emotion you can think of came over us both.  We knew where it was- Could we ever get it back? Did someone steal it when they found it? Would the airline be able to help? What if all of our vacation memories are gone forever? That last one definitely being the worst, who cares about the camera, I just want my (memories) memory card back.  

Thankfully, I did take a lot of pictures on my iPhone but not nearly as many that we had on the actual camera (that also took higher quality photos).  I am so glad we at least have that, I'm just hoping that we somehow get that little camera that seemed to be in Alex's hand in all of my phone photos.  It breaks my heart to think we will never see the panoramic photos of St. Peter's Square, Prague from atop Petrin Hill, Dubrovnik as the sunset, and so many more memories.  Maybe the most heartbreaking is that we'll never watch the videos we took while riding a scooter around Rome.  One of my best and happiest moments from the trip :(
We contacted SAS Airlines with our flight and seat numbers who then informed us they couldn't help and referred us to the Copenhagen Police Lost Property Office.  Heaven forbid SAS Airlines to know anything about what was left on their plane and yes, now I'm whining, complaining, and blaming but Delta recovered something I had left on my flight to Hong Kong... Just saying.  Anyway, Alex got up last week at 2:00 AM to call the Copenhagen police during their two hour window of time they take calls which was 8:30-10:30 their time.  They did tell Alex tht they had a black Sony camera on hand but that they'd need more information from us to prove that it is ours.  So, Alex then sent the serial number from the camera box along with a description of us and the whole story of our vacation, even back to our nephew's birth.  Alex plans to call again tonight/tomorrow at 2:00 AM since we haven't heard anything back.  

I'm really hoping that the Sony camera they have is ours.  I know this just sounds like a whole lot of whining but I'm hoping for a miracle I guess.  Who knows, maybe by putting this out there it will help?  I was hoping we'd find out before I started to write about our trip and share more photos, but since that was the real story going on it's all I've been able to think about.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Fourth Year

Four years ago today, Alex and I began our journey as husband and wife...
Genevieve McKeiver Photography
Given this being a day that Alex and I celebrate our commitment, I naturally had to dig something sentimental out and ended up finding our wedding ceremony outline/script.  Now I know, maybe that's kind of weird, Alex even rolled his eyes at me :)  Anyway... I read through the "Meaning of Marriage" that was read during our ceremony-

Marriage is a commitment to life, the best that two people can find and bring out in each other.  It offers opportunities for sharing and growth that no other relationship can equal (....) Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life.  Happiness is fuller, memories are fresher, commitment is stronger, even anger is felt more strongly, and passes away more quickly.  Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid.  It encourages and nurtures new life, new experiences, and new ways of expressing a love that is deeper than life (...) Marriage is a promise, a potential made in the hearts of two people who love each other, and takes a lifetime to fulfill.

I can't recall my thoughts or interpretation regarding the "Meaning of Marriage" on our wedding day or leading up to it, but reading through it today having experienced four years of marriage I guess it just felt even more meaningful

I feel truly thankful for my husband, our marriage, and believe it is the greatest blessing I've been given in life- and we're only four years in with a lifetime full of dreams and new adventures left to go.... 
That is totally worth celebrating, cheers!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

20 Special Days in 40 Photos

We're back from Europe and settling back into reality at home and at work (sigh). It's funny, I feel like we've been gone for two months instead of close to three weeks.  Maybe it's because we did a lot of living and filled so many special moments into the last twenty days.  From watching the sunrise on a Lake Michigan beach to riding a scooter around the colosseum in Rome- nothing about any day felt ordinary. Perhaps the most special of all was meeting our new nephew Benjamin shortly after he was born, the kind of moment we usually miss living far away from family.  So thankful for every moment that's now happily tucked away in my memory (ahhh heavy sigh).

Anyway, I'm eager to organize the mess of photos from our trip so I can share more about the places we visited but for now here's a glimpse from Instagram pics...

That's my new nephew Benjamin, born August 2nd at 9:07pm weighing 8lbs 7 ounces and 20 inches long

Although I'm sad it's all over, every moment reminds me of how many possibilities you have in life- and I'm so grateful for that!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Head Over Heels Friday: A Roman Holiday

Our European Adventure is coming to a close and although I'd love to share some more photos, there's so much to see and more sleep I need! 

For now here's a pic from our version of  "A Roman Holiday" as we scooted around Rome today! 

Alex played my Joe Bradley and I his Princess Ann :) 

Buona notte!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Well Traveled Home Decor and Wall Art

A favorite DIY project of mine has been turning any kind of travel souvenir or momento into home decor.  I'm thankful that I've been able to travel to a few places I've always dreamed of seeing and it's fun to take that experience and turn it into a piece of art or decor that captures the memories from that place.

I've shared a couple decor pieces I've made after our last trip to Europe and then from my work trips to India and China...

Now that we're in Europe again I can only hope to being home some unique pieces or mementos to decorate with!  Here's a couple unique ideas I found while google searching that I might go after. I'm really digging the jar idea with the sand, I'd love to bring home some of the beautiful Croatian beach to keep at home!

Do you have other fun well-traveled decor ideas that we could use? I'd love to know!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Michigan Mitten Wall Art

Before leaving for our big Europe vacation, I added a little priced of wall art back at home in Minneapolis of the first place we called home- Michigan. 
It's a solid wood piece carved in the shape of the lower Michigan peninsula (aka the Mitten).  I lived my whole life in Grand Rapids until moving to Minneapolis and it has a cute little heart where the city is located.

I got my Michigan Mitten wall art from my Aunt Mary a while ago but couldn't find the perfect spot for it until now.  I thought it fit perfectly on the small blank wall we had by our basement door (between our kitchen and back entry).  

It feels sort of hidden or tucked away, like a little reminder just for Alex & I of where we came from, where we started, and where our loved ones are.  Just simple and sentimental little Mitten :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Head Over Heels DIY Friday: How to do Two Weeks in Europe with a Carry-On

I think I've recovered from my terribly busy birthday thankfully, all that crazy prep is starting to feel worth it!  Now, I am ready to let go of everything and embrace our big European Vacation Part Duex!

Since the only thing I've been working on is figuring out how to pack for two weeks in Europe only using a carry-on, I figured I should share the experience.  Not only is it easier hauling around smaller carry-on luggage, but with how much airlines charge to check a bag these days we knew we'd save extra cash with the carry-on luggage approach.  Here's all the crap-o-la I'm bringing...
5 tanks, 3 tee-shirts, 6 shirts/blouses, 5 pairs of shorts + 1 skirt, 8 dresses, 1 swim cover-up, 1 swim suit

2 pairs of jeans, 2 sports bras, panties are in the blue zipped pouch and bras aren't photographed (that just seems to personal and weird to show), 4 additional shirts (one accidentally show twice but not counted), 2 sweaters, 4 undergarment tanks + 1 slip, 2 sets of PJ's, 2 scarves

1 pair of flat sandals, 1 pair of wedge sandals, flat iron, 2 belts; other items like make-up, hairbrush and toilets not photographed
 After gathering everything, I rolled up the dresses, shorts, and shirts then placed them into large Hefty zip storage bags.  Once in the bag I rolled the empty top space and let all the excess air out resulting in some densely packaged clothing which saves a TON of space in a carry on bag!  I took a couple photos of my carry-on luggage all packed an ready to go shown above.  I know it's a little OCD crazy organized but that's how I roll!   

It was a little challenging and I had to sort of map out what I planned to wear each day on the trip but I'm Head Over Heels for this minimalist approach for a long vacation!  Who wants to spend time sifting through tons of clothes and luggage when you could be out exploring instead anyway?

I will be sure to share photos from my Europe trip and if I was able to make it through easily with what I packed for Prague, Milan, Rome, and Dubrovnik!  At least the hot summer weather helped since I didn't need big bulky stuff for cold weather too!

What do you think of my crazy approach to packing? 
Do you have other suggestions for making through a long trip with only a carry-on too? 
Please share, I'd love to know before I go!

Have a great weekend everybody!