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THINGS TO DO DURING A DAY TRIP TO CALGARY

THINGS TO DO DURING A DAY TRIP TO CALGARY

Are you looking for a great city to explore?  One that offers a variety of nature, restaurants, activities, and arts?  How about Calgary!  Tucked into the Canadian province of Alberta, this cosmopolitan city has so much to offer.  After Toronto and Montreal, Calgary is the third most populated city in all of Canada and is located not far from several national parks.  Calgary makes a great day trip when you are road-tripping through the Canadian Rockies or camping at a nearby national park and you just need some city life!  So you may be thinking what all is there to do in Calgary?  Plenty!

THINGS TO SEE

Calgary Tower – Explore Calgary’s most famous landmark and take in panoramic views from the city skyscrapers to the Rocky Mountains.  Be sure to check out their dining options while you’re there!

Studio Bell Museum – An exciting music museum with galleries that span five levels, this awesome museum boast 22 interactive exhibits to give a place that amplifies the love, sharing, and understanding of music.

Stephen Avenue – Also known as 8th Street, this major pedestrian mall is a mix of high-end retail, public art installations, and eclectic boutiques.  Foodies and discerning shoppers are certain to enjoy.

Calgary Zoo – Not far from the City, this is one of the largest zoos in Canada and boasts over 100 species of animals and a huge butterfly conservatory.  Here you can enjoy close encounters with animals that originate from the vast reaches of the planet.

Peace Bridge – This bridge, designed by a Spanish architect, was constructed to connect the Southern Bow River Pathway and the City Center with the Northern Bow River Pathway and the City of Sunnyside to accommodate the increasing pedestrian commuter traffic.  From here you can take in beautiful views of the city skyline.

WHERE TO EAT

Native Tongues Taqueria – Native Tongues is the best, most authentic Mexican restaurant in Downtown Calgary.  The atmosphere offers an upscale, modern take on Mexican street eats.  With some of the most amazing cocktails and tasty tacos, they are sure to please.  I definitely recommend the Hongas Tacos, you’ll thank me later.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese Steakhouse – Japanese Barbecue restaurant where you can actually cook your own dinner.  All the dishes are highly flavorful and the portions are quite large.

Phil & Sebastian – This trendy coffee shop is always packed because they offer the best coffee in Calgary along with some great dairy alternatives.  Whether you want a classic Americano or an oat milk latte, this modern place will set you up with the most tasty cup of joe in town.

Last Best Brewery Company – The best brewery in downtown Calgary, their beer is frigid cold, and of course frigid and Calgary in the winter just go together.  Located in the City Center, it is easily accessible by foot or public transit.

So as you can tell, Calgary is an amazing cosmopolitan city in the Canadian Rockies.  There are so many things to see and places to go.  If you visit and find yourself unable to leave due to the sheer beauty and bustling excitement, here is a site full of Calgary homes for sale!  So now it’s time to hit the road and start your adventure!  Eh?

OUR 19TH ANNIVERSARY IN EDINBURGH

OUR 19TH ANNIVERSARY IN EDINBURGH

Okay, the day has finally come for the last Europe travel post.  You may or may not have read yesterday, but I explained how I thought the blog was becoming stale and lacking variety with such a heavy focus on travel.  I wanted a break from exclusively talking about it, but I probably did delay it a bit too long.  So let’s talk about our stay in Edinburgh, Scotland!

Let’s start with some photos of the gorgeous architecture of the city!

We stayed at the Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile and the location was perfect!  Close to so many attractions and restaurants, and walking distance to the Edinburgh Castle, which you can just barely see in the background. Because of the natural terrain some areas had cross streets that were maybe 50 feet higher or so, creating upper and lower sidewalks, it was really cool.  You can see an example of that below.

The weather in Scotland is crazy.  It can literally be warm, then suddenly cold.  The skies can be blue and within minutes heavy storm clouds can roll in, a lot of days the skies just went back and forth from blue to gray.

It never poured rain on us in Edinburgh but we did have lots of mist.  It wasn’t enough to really justify an umbrella but was enough to keep my hair in full frizz and highly poofed.  Hence no photos of us.  Plus I was really tired from traveling and just not having it.

Here is a statue of a very important man with a bird on his head.  If you read my summer travel posts you know we get a kick out of birds.  I mean you remember birdhenge right??

The crowds were heavy in our area due to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Everyday you could see local street performers performing various things and they were so extremely talented!

If you’re wondering what to buy while visiting Scotland, that would be cashmere.  You can find cashmere shops everywhere with just about every shade of tartan you can imagine.

I remember it was quite chilly walking up the long hill to Edinburgh Castle, and this was in August!  It was misty and the skies were gray but the views from the top were incredible!  There are many things to see and nooks to explore on the castle grounds as well as a restaurant overlooking the city.  Below are some of our views from the castle.

Can we talk about all the amazing food we had?  The Gardener’s Cottage was certainly a favorite.  It’s away from tourist attractions an in a quieter area, with incredible food, perfectly paired wine and lush gardens to explore.

We ate at Tower Restaurant on our anniversary that had beautiful castle views.  Angels with Bagpipes had a great cozy vibe and Cannonball Restaurant & Bar is right outside the castle and I highly recommend it!

We also took a few day trips from Edinburgh, so if you haven’t read up on our trip to Inveraray Castle and the Scottish Highlands be sure to do so.  I can’t believe it’s November tomorrow, Happy Halloween!  I’ve got some exciting projects, tips, and outfits to share soon.

A DAY IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

A DAY IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

As promised I’m finally getting our Scotland trip up on the blog.  I’ve talked about everything else about our Europe summer vacation but what many of you probably don’t know is it all started with Scotland.

We’ve traveled to France, England, and Ireland, but Scotland has always been on my list.  Our anniversary is in August, not a good month for living in Texas, so every summer we’re always talking about places to visit to get a break from the heat.  So in honor of our 19th anniversary we picked Scotland!

It started out as a simple 8 day trip, we bought the airfare and that was that for months.  Then we were invited to a music festival in Milan in early July that we really wanted to go to.  We ended up moving our original airfare departure date nearly 5 weeks, we paid a change fee but it was a lot cheaper than 2 people flying round trip twice over the summer.  And so our 6 week European vacation was born.

While visiting Scotland we stayed in Edinburgh, and the next and last Europe blog post will be some highlights while staying in the city.  A while back I did blog post about our experience at Inveraray Castle so if you’re curious be sure and read up on that.  The castle is in my husband’s family, although according to our DNA tests I’m more Scottish than him, so where’s my castle?

I had so many photos from Scotland so I’ve decided to split this into 2 sections, first the Scottish Highlands and then I’ll talk about our experience in Edinburgh, and that will officially be the end of my talking about Europe for 2018!

For convenience we took a Viator tour out to the highlands.  Ideally you’d want to spend a lot more than a day here… it’s beyond gorgeous.  I think the next time we visit Scotland we’ll stay just in the Highlands, hike, relax, and just explore the area more.  When we travel to new places we almost always want to go back and visit the little places, places that we had just gotten a glimpse of and places that we’d never even heard of, like Vezelay in France for example.

The drive through the Highlands is absolutely gorgeous, we stopped at lots of scenic places, and after lunch we took a boat ride on the Loch Ness.  I’m sure you’ve heard of the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie as she’s known as in the area, anyone who can catch a photo is looking at lots of money and publicity… but sadly she didn’t surface.

This glacier formed lake goes as deep as 745 feet, so there’s definitely room to swim around and hide!  The water is a very dark brown due to high amount of peat that washes down the hills, so that also helps Nessie stay hidden.

The mountainous area is so lush and green, with tiny streams running down them, pink and yellow wildflowers grow everywhere too.  Even though we visited in August during the Europe 2018 heatwave the air was still nice and cool.

The Scottish Highlands were so picturesque and beautiful, whether you go for a day trip or you stay for a week you will thoroughly enjoy the time you spend there.  It was certainly the highlight of our 19th anniversary trip even though I win as being more Scottish than Brian.  The question is where will we go for our 20th?

VISITING THE SACRE COEUR IN PARIS

VISITING THE SACRE COEUR IN PARIS

I should have had this post up a few months ago… SHAME but better late than never I always say.  The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris was my favorite thing about or last trip to Paris.  Also known and commonly referred to the Sacre Coeur, it sits up on a hill in the highest point in Paris in the area of Montparnasse. I’ve always admired it in the distance while walking the streets of Paris, it’s always looked like a beautiful tired wedding cake while the domed tops and the gorgeous architecture. They say 24 hrs a day every day of the year, every year, someone is here in prayer.

I didn’t quite have the same overwhelming spiritual moment I had at the Milan Duomo Cathedral, but it was still an incredible experience.  Being a sunday morning the crowds were thick from mass, and although it was early in the morning it still made the wait to the top of the tower a little longer.  So be sure to take that into consideration when planning your trip there.

The stairs were a killer for me.  I’m normally in great shape but that was when I started to get really sick on our 6 week Europe trip.  Brian had been in and out of pharmacies a few times trying to find different medicines to make me feel better, and this was during the heatwave. We actually visited here the last day early in the morning before departing on our train.

I felt so bad, between the heat, the meds and the stairs I actually ended up collapsing in the Charles du Nord train station that afternoon. Staff members rushed me through security to let me lie down on the sofa in the first class air conditioned lounge, while I sipped water,  which helped.  It was definitely an adventure!  I eventually got a little better but never fully got well until 2 weeks later at home.

As bad as I felt I really enjoyed walking around the beautiful church, l did take a photo inside but wanted to be respectful of the service.  There was the main worship area and them several smaller worship areas around the main area forming a circle, it was stunning.

Outside to the left you can go up the stairs to the top, it’s a long spiral staircase that seems to go on forever with a few angles and turns.  It was hard on me but I still wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!

Here’s the narrow viewing area at the top, it circles all the way around and the views are amazing!  I really think these are some of the best views in Paris, yeah… even better than the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Other people were up here with us but it never felt all that crowded, it was mostly just peaceful.  I could just stare at the views for hours looking at all the architecture.

The grassy hill along the stairs is a terrific spot to rest, relax, or picnic. I love the French carousel at the bottom of the hill, it’s so charming!  There are lots of great restaurants in the area, avoid the ones right across but walk a bit farther down the hill and you’ll find some great options, and Christophe Roussel a great macaron shop nearby.

You can plan your visit and find out a little more information at this website HERE.  Next week I’ll be writing about the final part of our European trip about Scotland, it may need to be separated into 2 posts, and then I am DONE!!  Enjoy the weekend!

 

A DAY TRIP TO WINDSOR CASTLE

A DAY TRIP TO WINDSOR CASTLE

I’m back with another Europe post, I actually have a few more left that I want to write.  I needed a little mini break, but now I’m ready to share Windsor Castle with you!  You might say we we’re fans of Harry and Meghan, we all got up at 5 am to watch the wedding and had a breakfast party!  So yeah… when we were in England we just had to go visit.

The town of Windsor is an easy train ride from London and makes for a perfect day trip.  We spent the entire day on foot, it’s really easy to navigate.  The first thing we did was stop for lunch at Thames View Restaurant and Bar inside the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel.  It had a gorgeous river view and we enjoyed watching the boats and swans as we ate.  After lunch we took a short walk up the hill to the castle.

One thing I didn’t get unfortunately is any interior photos of the castle.  It’s not allowed, and they really watch for that too.  The Queen says no to interior photos and that is that.  That also includes St. George Chapel and certain areas outside on top of the Round Tower.  However we were allowed to take plenty of exterior photos, and also took many in the beautiful town of Windsor.

Walking inside St. George Chapel was certainly an amazing experience!  The architecture is just so stunning that I can’t get over it.

Tickets to the top of the Round Tower were extra but worth it.  It’s a lot of stairs to the top but the views are amazing.  I was excited when our guide told us on the way up that he was the man in the red coat checking the invitations at Harry and Meghan’s wedding.  I found this very exciting, because honestly I found him familiar looking but had no idea why.  He said there were a few celebrity meltdowns and diva moments because a few guests forgot their invitations… he refused to say who though.  Hmm…

So, unseen is the left side of the tower.  It overlooks the Queen’s rooms so photos are simply not allowed, she did have some pretty curtains though.  Straight off the tower was the long road that Harry and Meghan took a carriage ride after the ceremony and the rest had really nice city views, you could even see planes descending into Heathrow.

Of course being summer in Europe and after the Royal Wedding it was crowded, that was the only negative.  There are little shops inside the castle grounds and places to stop and get a snack or some ice cream.  Sadly the Queen was not in the castle that day, if she is they fly a special flag.  Not that we would have gotten to see her, it just would of been a cool feeling to know she was there, I think she was in Scotland during the time.  Then when we went to Scotland she had just gone back to England, haha… how’s that for luck?

After touring the castle we walked around the quaint little town of Windsor, it’s just oozing with charm.  Here are some of our photos.

After some shopping and a bit more exploring we ended up having dinner at the Mango Lounge.  The food was wonderful, if I was the Queen I would be ordering take-out from there every week!  It was a long day trip and we were really tired at the end of the day but it was certainly worth it.

I loved Windsor even more than I thought I would.  Next time we visit England Brian and I want to stay several days in Windsor, there are lots of hotels and it’s simply gorgeous.  Until next time.

3 DAYS IN BRUGES, BELGIUM

3 DAYS IN BRUGES, BELGIUM

I’ve had lots of people ask me what our favorite part of our 6 week Europe vacation was.  It’s a hard question, all the countries were amazing in their own way, but I would say Bruges in Belgium won my heart.  It’s a close call with Italy though… it was amazing there too, but out of the countries and cities we visited Bruges left such a lasting impression on me.

I already knew when it came time to blog about our Bruges experience it would need to be split up into 2 blog posts because of the amazing experience.  I first wrote What To Eat And Drink In Bruges, so if you haven’t read that be sure too.  We ate so many amazing things!

The entire country of Belgium has 3 official languages, Dutch, French and German.  The language spoken most in Bruges is Flemish, which is very close to Dutch. Which brings me to the spelling and pronunciation of Bruges.  You will see the city spelled a few different ways too.  Bruges is the French spelling, but it’s spelled Brugges in Dutch.

It’s pretty funny how it’s pronounced so many different ways. There are so many different ways of pronunciation that I had a local explain it to me, but it’s still confusing.  The French way of pronouncing it is BROO-ZH, as in rhymes with rouge.

It seems the Flemish and Dutch pronunciation is the most difficult for me to grasp, the accents vary more, some being pronounced with a hard or soft G.  So I go with the French pronunciation – it makes the most sense to my brain.  Everyone seemed to know where I was talking about with the French pronunciation.

How would I describe Bruges?  Absolutely perfect, it’s like stepping into a charming fairytale world.   From the cobblestone streets to the delightful bridges and canals it was perfect.  Bruges is referred to the Venice of the north and it’s easy to see why walking along the romantic canals and bridges, it’s almost intoxicating.

Except for an afternoon city bus tour and a short boat ride we spent all of our time walking on foot, Bruges is a very easy town to walk.   We stayed at the ever so charming Hotel Lucca, which you can see below.  The owners were incredibly helpful and kind, and every morning we were greeted to the perfect complimentary breakfast.  I can’t recommend this place enough and it was a short walk to the Belfry tower.

Bruges is also known as the city of bells.   You can hear the sounds of the bells playing all around you, which makes this medieval town even more enchanting.  We slept with our windows open and I remember waking up to the sound of the bells playing Ava Maria, it was one of those moments you hope to remember forever.

One thing Bruges does not have a shortage of is beer, beer enthusiasts will love doing to the Bruges Beer Experience.  If you think you know everything about beer think again.  Here you can learn about beer with fun interactive exhibits and bonus, at the end of the tour you’ll find yourself in the tasting room – with stunning views of the city.

I had to take this photo, it was just too funny, a man lovingly cradling his pregnant beer belly.  Reminds me of the Demi Moore ’91 Vanity Fair cover.

Taking a boat ride on the canal is a must, here our captain told us so much interesting information about the city, and you get gorgeous views that can only be seen by boat.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and see some swans swimming beside you too.  The boat rides only go in certain popular parts of the canal.  I like this because you can still walk other areas along the canal and it’s peaceful and quiet.

I love how the city has a lot of outdoor modern art, it adds a fun quirkiness, and the blue whale was certainly the craziest!  I love the contrast of old and modern though, it’s fun.

Another thing we had a blast doing was shopping the flea markets along the river.  You could easily spend hours browsing everything, wondering where they came from, and their story.  I found old family black and white photos, war memorabilia, china, and lots of gorgeous brass.  If I would have had an empty suitcase I could of packed it full of cool stuff.

Holland is known for its windmills, but you can find a few right here in Bruges just walking distance from the city center.  The City Tour Bus went right by this one, I highly recommend the bus tour by the way.  It’s about a 50 minute tour and you can see the highlights of the city.

Do you know what to shop for when your in Bruges?  Lace of course!  Belgium is known for a variety of things, beer, waffles, and chocolate – but don’t forget to check out some lace shops.  You want to look for handmade lace, which is pricier than other lace, but it has gorgeous detail.  Maybe you’ll even see a live demonstration of lace being made like we did.  Those looking for a great Christmas shop check out the Kathe Wohlfahrt shop.

Bruges was so dreamy I desperately want to visit again, and I’d love to explore more little towns in Belgium.  If you ever get the chance to visit Bruges do it.  You won’t regret it!