Browsing Tag



Lisbon & Carvoeiro, Portugal

September 1, 2018

Two and a half hours south of Costa Nova Beach is Lisbon.

I recommend our lunch stop  Time Out Food Market. Everything you could ever imagine! We enjoyed prochutto pizza, steak + fried egg + prochuto and  potato + croquettes a traditional Portuguese dish. For dessert we had something similar to a  chocolate cake but with the texture of a mouse and cookie combined.  Another desert was an egg tart which was really good. Here you can sample the local food with options for everyone.  There are various chef/stores inside (similar style to  Anaheim packing district ..but so much better).

Livraria Ler Devagar bookstore in Lisbon

Torre De Belem Lisbon

Pena Palace Sintra, Portugal

Our final destination in Portugal was Carvoeiro, a small town best known for its beaches and sunsets located in Faro. We enjoyed some wonderful food and a beautiful sunset on the cliffs. On day one, we hiked down to the beach to visit the Benagil Cave. It can only be accessed by boat or  swimming. While the boat tours are conveniant they sadly dont let you disembark inside the cave so we opted for the long swim. Although the coldest water I’ve ever experienced, I was thankful I successfully made it. However, we were unable to bring the cameras, so no pictures.  But do google the unique view inside.  Below are photos of the sunset that first evening.




Porto, Portugal & Costa Nova Beach

August 31, 2018

From Barcelona, it’s a 10 hour drive to Porto, Portugal.

Recommendations for Porto:

  1. Lena Swimming Pools
  2. The Church of Sao Francisco
  3. Levraria Lello (A beautiful bookstore often visited by JK Rowling,  said to be an inspiration for her writings)
  4. Church of Saint IIdeforso

From Porto, it’s a 50 minute drive to Aveiro. Our destination, Costa Nova Beach. This is a small fishermen’s village situated between a lagoon and the ocean. So many fun painted houses and excellent seafood. 




Barcelona, Spain

August 29, 2018

One week home from my honeymoon, I departed for my third annual international siblings trip. This year, Nathan joined Sean and me. Our game plan was to fly into Barcelona, drive through Spain into Portugal. Then down the coast back into Spain ending in Madrid. From there, a flight to Marrakesh, Morocco. Sean and I accomplished 2 previous road trips, Ireland, followed by Netherlands/ Belgium/ Germany. I underestimated the distance to cover Spain. IT’S HUGE! In Ireland we were able to see many sites in just a brief time.  However, sites in Spain were 3-10 hours apart. We attempted to experience what we could but felt there was so much more we didn’t see.

In Barcelona, we were excited to see Sagrada Familia. Construction of this basilica began in 1882 but completion isn’t expected until 2030. Our hotel was next door with a gorgeous view from their rooftop bar.

For Barcelona recommendations (including some amazing food spots from culinary expert Nathan) scroll to bottom.

From Barcelona to Portugal, we viewed beautiful sunflower fields.

                                                                                      Food suggestions in Barcelona
(Spain has amazing Tapas… be adventurous. We tried french fries with egg and ham on top. SO TASTY !)

  1. El Canal (Wine + Tapas)
  2. Disfrutar (Fine Dining)
  3. Els Sortidors del Parlament (Bar + Tapas)
  4. Mercat de Sant Josep, aka La Boqueria (Open air market- lots of food to try)
  5. Zona d’Ombra (Wine + Tapas located in the Gothic Quarter)
  6. Bodega La Puntual
  7. Pastisseria Bubó Born (Dessert)
  8. Pastisseria Hofmann (pastry)
  9. ElDiset (Wine + Tapas)
  10. Paradiso (speakeasy)
  11. Baluard Barceloneta (bakery)
  12. Federal Café (brunch)
  13. Picnic
  14. Marmalade
  15. Nømad Coffee Lab & Shop
  16. Horchatería Sirven (Ice Cream)

Sites in Barcelona

  1. La Boqueria Market
  2. Sagrada Familia
  3. Park Güell
  4. Casa Milà
  5. Barcelona Cathedral
  6. Gothic Quarter
  7. Casa Batllo
  8. Temple of Sacred Hearts
  9. Montjuic (beautifully landscaped area famous for its hills, gardens, museums, and castle)




Venice, Italy

August 5, 2018

Our next honeymoon destination….  Venice. Although our first visit here. we had mixed feelings. While the buildings created a beautiful photo backdrop, the city was hot and humid with an unusual odor. Trash filled the streets, probably from tourists and locals.  I imagine winter would be a more enjoyable season with less crowds and cooler weather.  However, we still managed to enjoy these days exploring and eating yummy gelato.

I recommend wandering the picturesque streets and viewing the many canals.  A few of my favorite sites are:

  1. Saint Mark’s Basilica
  2. Grand Canal & Rialto Bridge
  3. St. Mark’s Square
  4. Bridge of Sighs
  5. Doge’s Palace




Paris in a day

August 5, 2018

Is Paris in one day even possible? Well no… not really, except if you’ve previously spent a week here.  Then it’s fun to revisit your favorite sites on a one day stop over. On our previous visit, we enjoyed all the tourist sites. So this trip, our focus was to relax, enjoy the food and take photos without large crowds. To accomplish the latter, we started our day at 5:30am before sunrise.  Thus, we had Notre Dame and The Louvre all to ourselves. Next destination…. VENICE!!!

If it’s your first visit to Paris, I recommend the following:

  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. The Louvre
  3. Notre Dame Cathedral
  4. Arc de Triomphe
  5. Musee d’Orsay
  6. Chateau De Versailles
  7. Lots of walking, exploring, and SHOPPING!!!

   Hat  //  Dress  //  Shoes  //




Europe Itinerary + Iceland

May 10, 2017

Looking for a whirlwind trip around Europe? I have the perfect itinerary that allows you discover 5 countries in 9 days. Based upon low cost airfare, we flew in and out of The Netherlands and road tripped through Germany, Austria and Belgium. My scheduled date was based upon the tulip festival in the Netherlands which occurs mid April lasting 8 weeks. Since there was extensive driving required, we traveled into the evenings with late hotel checkins.  Thus how we were able to began most days in a new country.

Tips: When traveling by car through Europe, check on available parking and be aware of high rates.

Day 1:

       Departure LAX  (Flight duration 8 hours 45 minutes)

       Arrive Iceland 1:35pm – layover 1 hour 35 minutes

       Depart Iceland at 3:10pm (Flight duration 3 hours 20 minutes)

Day 2:

        Arrive 8:30pm in Amsterdam

Day 3:

      Amsterdam > Destination: Bruges, Belgium (2 hour 30 minute drive)


  • The “Ten Wijngaerde” Béguinage (24-30 Begijnhof, 8000 Bruges, Belgium). The only preserved beguinage in the Belgian city of Bruges.
  • The Markt (Markt, 8000 Brugge, Belgium) The heart of the city. This includes medieval  architecture and The Belfry tower.
  • The Belfry  (Belfort, 7 Markt, Bruges, Belgium)
  • Rozenhoedkaai (Rozenhoedkaai, 8000 Brugge, Belgium) A famous corner area in Bruges that is ideal for taking pictures and obtaining a beautiful view of the city.
  • Wander canals eating waffles and chocolate!
  • Eat dinner in The Markt square. There are plenty of wonderful restaurants to choose from.

Hotel Van der Valk Brugge-Oostkamp.

Day 4:

  • When in Belgium eat waffles!  We ate them for desert and at Chez Albert the next morning with fresh strawberries.

    Bruges Belgium > Destination: Eltz Castle Germany (3 hour 50 minutes drive)

  • Eltz castle is closed for part of the year so check their website. Open daily from 9:30am – 5:30pm.  However, we arrived after closing but still hiked and photographed this spectacular castle from the outside.

Hotel Villa Vinum Cochem.

Day 5:

Hotel Villa Vinum Cochem > Destination: Reichsburg Castle, Cochem (4 minute drive)

Destination: Hohenzollern Castle (72379 Burg Hohenzollern, Germany) (4 hour drive)

  • Purchased tickets for castle but cash is required for parking and tram.
  • Destination: Neuschwanstein Castle (Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany) (2 hour 45 minute drive)
  • Entrance tickets are available only at the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau in the village below the castle. Make sure to find the right tram since they have 4 different bus stops all going different places. Our bus to go up the hill came every 30 minutes.  However, we waited for a second bus because of volume of people.  Give yourself plenty of time. Tickets for the castle include a guided tour inside the rooms. Without a ticket, you can view the castle from a distant bridge.

Neuschwanstein Castle > Salzburg, Austria (2 hours 45 minute drive)

This whole day was unplanned. We headed south and discovered the beautiful town of Salzburg.

Day 6:

    Salzburg Austria

Things to do:

  • Mozart’s birthplace (Getreidegasse 9, Salzburg 5020, Austria)
  • Mozartplatz
  • Salzburg Cathedral (Domplatz, Salzburg 5010, Austria)
  • Salzburg Fortress (Moenchsberg 34, Salzburg 5020, Austria)
  • St. Peter’s Abbey (Sankt-Peter-Bezirk | off Kapitalpl., Salzburg 5020, Austria)
  • Wander the street markets
  • Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg.   Many tours and destinations to visit including Mehlweg where Julie Andrews sings the opening song in this movie.

Salzburg > Amsterdam (10 hour drive)

Day 7:


   Since we added the detour to Salzburg, we were unable to visit Giethoorn, Netherlands.  This is on my list if I return. However, we were able to visit a similar looking city Zaanse Schans, 25 minutes from Amsterdam. This neighborhood is known for its well preserved wind mills that can be toured. Besides the scenery, I enjoyed more delicious Belgium and Dutch waffles.

Zaanse Schans > Amsterdam City Center

  • Wander Jordaan Neighborhood known for its picturesque canals and houses
  • Walk through Centrum and Red Light District
  • I Amsterdam sign (Hobbemastraat 19, 1071 XZ Amsterdam)
  • Rijksmuseum (Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam)
  • Flower marker (Singel 630 to 600 1017 AZ   Amsterdam)

The Amsterdam Flower Market is open Monday to Saturday 09:00 to 17:30 and Sunday from 11:30 to 17:30. Market is located on the Singel canal between the Koningsplein and the Muntplein.

Hyatt Place Amsterdam Airport (Rijnlanderweg 800, Hoofddorp 2132 NK)

Day 8:


  • Keukenhof festival – Deemed one of the largest and prettiest flower gardens in the world.  Keukenhof goes back to the 15th century. Over 100 companies and 500 flower growers participate in creating the garden that includes 7 million spring-flowing bulbs. This year Keukenhof is open March 23 – May 21.
  • Viewed individual flower fields owned by local residents near Keukenhof.

Day 9:

Fly out of Amsterdam > Iceland

  • With a  3 hour 50 layover in Iceland, we decided to leave the airport and explore.  This is not recommended unless you’re willing to plan every minute, your plane arrives on time, and are willing to run. I booked our seats in row 2 for an early exit with our carry on bags through customs. We then grabbed a cab on a 20 minute journey to Blue Lagoon.   Here we enjoyed a wonderful hour swim, fruit smoothie and two relaxing face masks. Due to its popularity, buy tickets ahead of time.  After the swim, we showered and quickly returned to the airport. Thankfully, we made it through security just in time for our flight.  Glad nothing hindered our departure.

And that wraps up the INSANE itinerary for this trip… 5 countries in 9 days.  Great trip but glad to be home!




Zaanse Schans

April 24, 2017


Zaanse Schans, a picturesque neighborhood in Zaandam best known for its windmills and quaint houses. Located 25 minutes from the center of Amsterdam, it made an ideal day trip.





April 23, 2017

 Although one of the largest gardens in the world, Keukenhof in Holland is best known as the garden of Europe.  An average of 7 million bulbs are planted each year for this 8 week flower festival. By visiting while the tulips were blooming, a dream of mine has been fulfilled!  The following photos are just a minute portion of what can be viewed on these 79 acres of land. What I can’t share is the heavenly scent that engulfs this garden. 

After exploring the festival grounds, we drove through the town and discovered numerous farmers with their own gorgeous tulip fields.  Could you imagine this as your backyard garden???





April 22, 2017

Last on the Germany itinerary is Neuschwanstein Castle. This is perhaps the most well known in Germany and the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle. The foundation is from 1869 and the towers  completed in 1892. The construction was delayed considerably because of the difficulty of working on a precipice. Personally I believe this was my steepest hike ever, but the view was extremely rewarding!





April 18, 2017

Just completed a 5 country whirlwind trip. Thats right, 5 countries in 8 days. I’ll post individually for each country,  then include a separate post with full itinerary for those desiring to duplicate my adventures.

First up, Bruges, Belgium!

This was the second  international road trip with my brother. We arrived in Amsterdam late Saturday evening and drove to Bruges early the next day.  We added this destination to our itinerary after hearing it was a favorite of our father.  Knowing he has traveled extensively, his choice intrigued us.  We were not disappointed.  Bruges is a small, quant city with cobblestone roads, curving canals, medieval architecture and delicious sweets. Hard to focus on anything but Belgium chocolate and waffles though.  Eating an authentic fresh Belgium waffle is an incredible experience. Such a tasty creation unlike those in the states. Within 8 days, I consumed 4 Belgium waffles and a Dutch waffle (half covered in chocolate and whip cream) with no regrets!!

I recommend the following sites:

  1. The Belfry and Markt –  A large open center outlined with restaurants in medieval architecture. There are carriage and fair like rides in the center. We enjoyed dinner with a sunset view.
  2. Ten Wijngaerde (Begijnhof Brugge) – This is the only preserved beguinage in Belgium. The women who live here have “semi- monastic communities without taking formal religious vows”.  In other words, a non commitment nunnery. This area is often visited for its peaceful flower garden and picturesque white houses.
  3. Canal ride – For the best view around the city, enjoy the canal rides.  A tour guide will instruct you on the history of this unique area.
  4. Sweets – Although chocolate shops are everywhere, I relied on Yelp for ratings. My favorites were Neuhaus and Dumon Chocolatier. For waffles, I recommend Chez Albert and a waffle truck located in the open square just a few feet away from Chez Albert.

Tip: Be sure to bring Euro currency for the small sweet shops and boat rentals.

Next up GERMANY!!!!!!