a year's worth of wanderlust

It's almost Easter and that means one thing: four day weekend! We're taking advantage of the time and jaunting off to Florence and Chianti to get to know my little obsession, Italia, a little better. I've been studying Italian using Rosetta Stone but since I've been a bit inconsistent with it, I'm just barely at the point where I can ask "where's the bathroom?", "how much?" and all of those other simple phrases that will hopefully be enough to get us by! During the past year's travels we've gotten by with our english, broken french, and my fluent Spanish. Joe speaks a little bit of Spanish but he learned it with the Castellano accent that turns every "s" into a "th" sound...it drove me crazy for a while but I've warmed up to it. I had to.

We've definitely accomplished what we moved here to do: travel. There are still so many places on our list but I'm beyond thankful to have been able to check off the ones below and leave with beautiful memories.

Here are some of my favorite moments, places, and thoughts from our European adventures...

shopping at my first European flea market (in Paris) and seeing a different type of vintage and market sceneparis flea

stumbling across the Louvre at night and having the square all to ourselveslouvre at night

walking along Pont Des Arts in Paris with my mom, oohing and awing at the romantic gestures and inscriptions of the love locks. we even witnessed a couple throwing their key into Le Siene followed with a passionate embrace and kiss. must go back there with Joe!pont des arts

cheering on team Atletico with Joe's college buddies in Madrid. we sat in a section called "Vomitorio"..."vomit" is spelled "vomito" in Spanish so it felt a little icky at first. the funny thing was that not even the locals could explain the name.club atletico futbol

finally understanding Joe's love for simple Spanish meals. I could eat like this every day now.spanish snacks

searching for the vista point for the Toledo bridge but instead happening upon our own little corner. we somehow managed to avoid the crowds and feel as if the entire town was ours that day.the famous toledo bridge

walking up to the awesomeness of the ancient aqueduct in Segovia (no mortar!) and then geeking out over the decorative walls and doors all over the place segovia aquaductsegovia patterns

witnessing a modern marvel being built, aka La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelonasagrada familia

and being even more impressed/amazed by what's insidesagrada familia

watching my mom enjoy "the best paella of my life!" while I cooled down with a chilled beercerveca y paella

watching the sunrise and looking for seashells on the beach with my mom in Barcelonabarcelona beach

our first week-long European holiday in Sicily. we stayed in the countryside, Ragusa...it was heaven as you can telllounging poolside at relais parco cavalonga in ragusa, sicily

but we did take a dip in the Mediterranean! this was a total locals' spot that we came across while looking for a place to eat lunch in Syracuse. i'll never forget the views from the water looking back at the city.swimming dock, syracuse

having coffee in front of Check Point Charlie in Berlin and learning about Joe's uncle who was stationed there during the Cold War. finding the perfect German pub/restaurant, Sophien 11, with my friend Caitlin. the bar tender fell in love with her and gave her free beer mugs as souvenirs.

checkpoint charlie sophien 11

seeing Christmas come to life in Brugge, Belgium. i felt like i was in the original Disneyland the entire time. what a beautifully preserved medieval place.so festive at night

giving into a guided canal tour in Brugge and going under stone bridges from the 14th century. i mean seriously? taking it all in (love the step peaks of the buildings to my right)

finding moments to look around and capture the details in Marrakech amidst the craziness of the Medinamarrakech

visiting a Berber market in the Atlas Mountains. this was the parking lot...it was pretty muddy but i loved it. atlas mountains

sipping on sweet mint tea and drooling over too many rugs in Marrakech. i wanted so badly to go through the piles myself and pick which ones I wanted to see. unfortunately that's not how it works. it's a full on presentation and very ceremonial but i was happy to oblige. we left very happy with our new magic carpet in tow. rug shopping

We've left every place very happy, it's hard not to. I can't wait to see what we come across in Italia this weekend and where our magic carpet takes us next!

lace and branches

brugge window lacebrugge door wreath brugge window lace brugge door wreath brugge window lace brugge window lace brugge door wreath brugge window lace

As soon as we stepped off the main market squares and busy tourist streets of Brugge, we found ourselves in quiet and quaint residential lanes where traditional Belgian touches adorned nearly every home.

In addition to chocolates, waffles and beer, Belgium is known for its beautiful lace. Though it was nice to see all of the intricate patterns and pieces displayed in souvenir lace shops, the real treat was seeing how the residents of Brugge use the art-form for dressing up their windows. Pretty, isn't it?

Also great to see was their simple use of leafy branches and berries as door decorations instead of the Christmas wreaths we've come to know. I love this look, especially at night with lights behind them as spotted on a door window near our B&B. Everything we saw was kept simple with a handcrafted feel and was super charming.

What really blew our socks off though was seeing how Brugge's famous bobbin lace is made. Check out the video I took of two women working their magic at the tiny lace museum, Kantcentrum. They were kind enough to let us stop in before the scheduled demonstration hours but as you can see and hear, it's as if we weren't even in the room at all. They were definitely in their own world!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/33990746 w=741&h=417]

the {big} brugge round-up

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two trains and 3.5 hours - hello brugge! original flooring and glass stained window at our B&B St. Jacobs horse and carriage i ate the whole thing. by myself. last shot of the night before the rain picked up ready for exploring the aftermath of the first day's/night's storm taking it all in (love the step peaks of the buildings to my right) brugge canal. some bridges dated as far back to the 15th century watch your head! these little solder looking fellows held window shutters open all over the city brugge parking lot - love this! one of three cats we saw in a shop window display. how much? reminders of the city's textile past stocked up at Depla Chocolatier hot chocolate with amaretto for me, irish coffe for Joe. santas doing a polar bear swim arrival free treats while we watch - thanks, Santa! brugge parking against a typical color-glass window so festive at night the local brew

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Phew! This round-up took longer to put together than expected but there it is - bits and pieces of our adventures in Brugge! Since there are so many tidbits to share, I'm just going to list a few instead of doing a formal write up (yes, I'm being lazy but there's more to come this week).

• bikes are parked everywhere you go, some with a lock and chain but most just rest against a wall (lotsa trust in this town). people were out riding their bikes even in the worst of the storm, too. made me feel like a pansy knowing that I would never do that.

• with church bells chiming, horse and carriages trotting along, canal boat tours and more,  i found myself thinking "this place is like Disneyland" when really, Disneyland looks and feels like this place. it's seriously that charming!

• the waffles, chocolate, and beer are as good as everyone says they are. i've never eaten an entire waffle without getting a food coma but these were special and light - i could eat two...or three.

• polar bear swimming means variety show. we just wanted to see people jump in the canal and be crazy but instead, groups of swimmers each did a cheesy skit before anti-climactically diving into the water. We stayed for three of those, got our candy from Santa and moved on. However, it was funny to see the cold swimmers be greeted with a shot of Jägermeister and branded knit hat once they got out of the water.

• the town shines for Christmas. lights, decorations, festive markets - its medieval architecture is the perfect backdrop for a classic holiday experience.

• our B&B owner was super friendly and knowledgeable about the best local spots (I'll share his amazing recommendations for chocolates later). we definitely recommend St. Jacobs B&B for a modern, homey, and cozy stay in the city but away from the crowds.

• unfortunately, i didn't do any vintage shopping but Madam Mim is a well curated little shop worth returning for (and the canal-side flea market they have in the summers!). Lots of other antique shops on that street, too.

There's lots of reasons to go back to Brugge - flea market or not. It is one cool town. Stay tuned for more!