The return of the wanderlust

Well, ya’ll, I am back. Where do I even start?

The trip was so amazing. Each city was so different and lovely that as hard as I try, I can’t even begin to pick a favorite. And trust me, since that is the question that everyone asks, I’ve definitely given it some thought.

Rick Steves. Is a travel God among us simple tourists. He walked us through the Vatican City, all of Rome, and nooks and crannies of Paris. He provided things to look at, to take note of and then let you know why what you were looking at was so amazing. We didn’t always follow him word for word, but it was great to have him in our pockets as a reference. We love him. Like really. We love him.

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Everything in Paris. The two main meals I had in Paris were both so perfect and so French. Going of the beaten path served us so well. One night we had dinner with a friend who lives in Paris and she brought us to a little place where the waitresses don’t speak very much English (i.e. not a tourist spot – a sign we looked for throughout the trip for good food) – it was entirely perfect. The other night we just followed our hearts off main road and found this small little alley way with super small French restaurants. Both meals were so delicious! It’s also important to note that macaroons were just as delicious and classy as I dreamed they would be. I also died over the Pompidou Museum. It’s the Modern Art museum in Paris and it was so sick. The museum itself was artwork. OH and the lover’s locks. I’m a sucker for a lover’s lock. Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.45.59 PM Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.46.22 PM Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.46.38 PM Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.46.52 PM

Friends in Sevilla. First off, I got my wallet stollen in Sevilla. That’s literally all I’m going to say about that because I’m trying to pretend it didn’t happen. On a positive note, this is where my best friend lives. We all hung out, ate, drank and danced with her friends. I can’t even express how much I enjoyed this. They were all so nice and friendly..not that Dallas doesn’t have some great people but I noticed in my travels that people who live abroad are so much more open to meeting people and making new friends. We had group dinners and lunches involving a ton of tapas to share.

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That one night in Roma. One night in Rome we camped out on the Spanish Steps and a modpodge of a meal of baguette, brei, jamon, Prosecco, and a few other European sides. We just hung out for a while people watching, reading Rick Steves (our savior) info on the steps and getting a happy Prosecco buzz going. Afterwards we met up with a group of Italian grad student men and we all bonded over a mutual interest in hanging out. So with Italians in tow, we wandered to the almost deserted Trevi Fountain around midnight and mosied the streets of Rome until the wee hours of the morning. There’s nothing like seeing iconic historical sights in the middle of the night with no one around. It was simply magical.

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Fairytale land in Prague. Prague looks like you stepped into Anastasia. No joke. The cobblestone roads, the castle in the background, stunning bridges – oh and shots of liquor that greeted us at our hostel. We really took it easy in Prague. We went on a brief free walking tour, the notorious tourst dance club, and really just kinda existed in Prague for a few days. It was  a great break from the busyness of Rome and the busyness that was to come in Berlin. Many say that Prague is a tourist spot, and I don’t disagree. But I had some amazing food, fun, and delicious hot wine so I’m not complaining.

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Berlin living. By the time we got to Berlin, we were pretty exhausted and pretty jaded. We had trouble mustering the strength to even step foot in one of the hundreds of museums and couldn’t read another word from Rick. Luckily our hostel was another wicked amazing choice and we attended a free guided tour. It ended up taking us to all the major sights and even gave us a great breakdown of Berlin history (including book recommendations – how divine!). It wasn’t till a long run I went on my last day that Berlin really won me over. I’ve come to the conclusion that, among the cities we visited, this is the city I can most see myself living in. I’d love to live amongst the street art, the history, the beauty and most importantly the making of history that is happening right now in the reconstruction of the city. (PS. Is anyone else aware they are tearing down the East Side Gallery? I’m upset. Where do I write my letter of complaint?)

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So that’s just a brief summary of some of the things that I loved on my travels. It was a complete exhausting, eye opening, amazing trip that is totally worth the credit card debt and lack of vacation days. My wonderlust yearning has subsided for now, but that is likely due to the issues getting new credit cards, my slight credit card debt and the mound of laundry I have yet to look at. Plus, it was a dream come true to reunite with my soul sista best friend after all this time!

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Seeing skyscrapers: A love affair

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My one year anniversary is almost here! …The anniversary of my first trip to New York City that is. I always thought I would like New York, but nothing prepared me for how infectious the unique combination of nostalgia, success and so much more would be. That city just has momentum, you know?

I’ve never been the type to get all choked up about goodbyes with people. But when I left New York, I truly felt a twinge of sadness. Okay fine, at that immediate moment making my way towards the airport I felt exhausted and possibly just a tad hungover from one of the best weeks of my life. But that next week watching Gossip Girl, I couldn’t care less what annoying thing Dan was doing this time, because all I was watching was the city. My chest literally ached to be there again.

Why am I not there right now? Well, it all goes back to that conversation about settling I mentioned a couple posts ago. If I’m being honest the reason I didn’t move to New York or even pursue a job there after graduation was that I was scared. Scared of not having enough money. Scared of finding a place to live. Scared of not finding a job.

I’m realizing though that this is pretty stupid. In life I’m never going to feel I have enough money or always have certainty about what’s next. This is why (or so I’m told) being in your twenties is so brilliant! This is the time when we’re supposed to be trying new places and jobs out, going for those dreams…and still have plenty of time to pick ourselves up if we fall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scared. But I’m sticking my toes out in the water, exploring my options for making this dream come true. If you have any words of wisdom I’d love to hear them! For now, I’ll leave you with this quote from Michael Bloomberg:

And because no matter who you are, if you believe in yourself and your dream, New York will always be a place for you.

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D.C. life

Newseum in DC - first amendment DC brunch - ardeo + bardeo DCnewseum - good photography quote Newseum - Berlin Wall artNewseum freedomGoing into my long weekend, I have to say I was a little skeptical about D.C. After living nearby in Virginia for several, albeit younger, years and a couple visits later, I still wasn’t sold on the magic of our capitol city. As far as U.S. cities go, New York, Seattle, Austin and Boston inspired an instant infatuation that has only grown stronger since my last visits. Los Angeles won me over with one of the best weeks of my life, and let’s face it, I’ve always been a self-proclaimed California girl at heart (with the birth certificate location to match, thank you very much)!

While I still don’t feel like I really “know” D.C. after this weekend’s trip, I can now say that I do see why people like it and have deemed it worth further exploration. Despite the too close for comfort winter storm warning, my trip enjoyed fantastically sunny weather with just the right amount of morning chill. On top of the weather, I also had some pretty good food, including a completely perfect brunch at Ardeo + Bardeo (great food, menu, atmosphere, service all with bottomless mimosas at decent prices) and a special night thanks to my cousin at Matchbox. Seeing his culinary success firsthand and hearing our waiter tell me, “We always take care of family,” filled me with Italian pride. And as this is probably the strongest familial, food-related pride there is, that’s really saying something.

Now it’s back to real life, and I’m taking this as the perfect opportunity to get back on track with a lot of real life things.

Between the traveling, health costs and a growing combination of laziness/never enough time, my budget has really gone out the window this year. I literally cannot afford to keep carrying on this way, so I’ll be taking stock this week, re-prioritizing expenditures and brainstorming some hopefully cheaper ways to continue exploring Dallas.

I’m forcing myself to write this next one as I’m really not feeling the motivation, but I know I’ll thank myself later…It’s er…well, time to start working out again. There, I said it, and if I’m being honest, I’m even feel a little relieved. I will be adding a couple yoga classes to my week, at least one (although I could probably stand more) runs, and looking for ways to be more active in general. Have you been seeing all the buzz lately about how bad sitting all day is for us? I’m feeling a little more motivated already…

Wanderlust 2013: Berlin

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Traveling with friends is always a little hairy. First off, you’re together constantly which can get old in and of itself. Second, you likely will have different ideas as to what you’ll do on your trip. For my Europe trip (now referred to as Wonderlust 2013), I did some planning and research on Berlin last night. Berlin is so rich in history so the major tourist attractions are memorials and museums. I’m not a big history buff. I have an appreciation for history, but it doesn’t exactly get me giddy. So when listing out possible activities, I didn’t list too many of the history heavy spots that populated the pages of my tour guide. What I do find fascinating, however, is how the wars and history affected the landscape of the city. Streets and squares were demolished during the war and the falling of the Berlin Wall and are still working to get back to their original glory. East and West Berlin have switched personalities completely. It just reminds you that all this extreme violence wasn’t too long ago.

Here’s the thing though. What if someone I am traveling with is a die hard history nerd and wants to see every museum with a gun or flag in it? Instead of a constant struggle throughout the trip that could end with me going crazy in a museum, a friend feeling they wasted their trip or someone’s feelings getting hurt, I think it’s important to establish these kinds of things before we even step on a plane. That way, we can establish expectations now and even plan on splitting up if need be. So I’ve sent all my research to my two travel buddies to get their feedback and to start that conversation of “what do you want to get out of this trip?” Granted, it’s a tricky question. But I think everyone should stick up for what they really want to see (a life of regrets is no fun) but also be flexible.  You also shouldn’t ruin the trip by having a bad attitude because you didn’t get to see the one statute you came to see. Instead, be up front about what you want to tour that way you can establish early that you might take a solo mission to accomplish your trip goals.

And then sometimes, you’ll see a photo from Tuula Vintage on Instagram in Prague and message your friend and say “OH MY GOD  I HAVE TO SEE THIS BRIDGE OR I’LL DIE” in the overly dramatic way that only she can understand, and then she, in her cool Spain, best friend kind of way, will say “Babes, our hostel is on the bridge. You’re welcome.” Can’t wait to see my best friend in just a short few weeks!

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Well, all, I am so proud of myself *pats self on back*. These last two days I came home from work, took care of my dog, went to yoga, and returned straight back to my room to research the heck out of Europe. I’ve provided myself with the most fantastic outline for my two and half days in Paris. Having a general idea is my favorite way to travel. It allows a little freedom and plenty of opportunities to get lost taking it all in and yet ensures I won’t miss out on anything. Ya’ll. I’m so pumped.

Day 1 consists of a few record stores and the Eiffel Tower area. Day 2 is the Marias Neighborhood and the historic walk consisting of Ile de la Cite, Notre Dame, Latin Quarter and Sainte-Chapelle. Day 3 is the Montmartre area and the Champs-elysees area. Forgive me for any misspellings or miscapitalizations. I gave it a go and Paris will surely be a success!

This weekend a friend and I took a trip to a lake house at Possum Kingdom Lake with another couple. When I first learned where we were going, I assumed Possum Kingdom Lake was likely kinda gross and filled with possums and other creatures I’d rather not interact with. I could not have been further from the truth. I can best describe the area we stayed at as Arizona meets Colorado meets West Texas. The buildings were cottage-y like Colorado, the landscape was rocky and dry like AZ and the friendliness and windmills were all Texas. It was stunning.

We arrived Friday night to a sky filled with twinkling stars. I haven’t seen the sky so lit up in such a long time, too long of a time, really. The rest of the night was spent by the fire, soaking in the silence of the night (okay, and maybe a few drinking games).

Saturday we slept in, cooked up a big brunch and spent the greater part of the afternoon by the pool mixed in with a little four-wheeler riding. The previous night’s drinking and the pool day drinking had us pretty beat and so we hung out by the fire cooking s’mores for a bit and called it an early night. This morning my friend and I both went for beautiful runs. I chose a walking/running path that wove in and out of the lake’s shore line and up on to a field that provided breathe taking views. His took him through neighborhoods, climbing up rocks and animal spotting.  When I got back from my run, my friend was still on his and the other couple had already headed out for the pool. So I grabbed myself a bowl of cereal and my book and sat outside on the porch. Aside from my obnoxious cereal crunching, the silence was deafening. In Dallas I live in a relatively calm part of town and enjoy the gentle flow of people talking and cars driving by. But nothing could beat the beauty of silence. I can definitely now fully understand and embrace the idea of living in the country, it was unbelievably peaceful.

Anyways, a few sunburns later we got back on the road, turned up the music, and enjoyed this 80 degree weather that Texas graced us with. The trip was a perfect anecdote to the hectic week and daily busy life here in Dallas. I am so happily exhausted.

A Plan to Plan

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So as it turns out, Friday is March 1st. This date implies two things. One, it’s somehow been two months since New Years – I was pretty sure that was just last week. Two, my Europe trip is just a few weeks away. And what have I done to plan and prepare? Nothing. Squat. Nada. Absolutely zilch.

Okay, I am probably exaggerating (a favorite past time of mine). We have all the hostels, trains and planes booked and printed confirmation receipts in a folder for each’s the “what are we doing when we get there” aspect that I haven’t given a second thought. My Rick Steve’s Best of Europe tour book came in last week, and it’s about time I take it out of the bubble wrap. In case you missed it, I’ll be exploring Paris solo.. I’ve never been anywhere outside the continental US of A and I don’t speak a lick of French. Are you praying for me yet?

Now now now, I’ll be meeting up with friends in Seville to continue the Europe adventure, but Paris is me time. I had every intention of spending this past weekend planning more of my day to day trip, but who can turn down hanging out with a new man friend, brunch or seeing Argo? Certainly not this girl. So once again, I didn’t give Europe any more thought than “what should I wear?” Furthermore, this upcoming weekend I’ll be taking an impromptu lake house trip with a few new friends. When I get back it will be March 3rd, just 15 days till I take off on a jet plane. Dun dun duuunnnn.

Part the problem is I am completely  overwhelmed. There’s so much to see in Paris, I’ll have to spend many hours just researching and narrowing down what it is I want to see. And then there’s the transportation, the directions, learning tourist social faux pas, and etc etc. It’s all quite daunting – in the most exciting kind of way of course. So since I’m heading out of town on Friday and am going to a dinner party on Thursday, this leaves me 2 days to nail some plans down.

Now I’d love to come back to you with some life changing trip planning advice or some super brilliant way I am organizing everything, but truthfully I’m the chicken with no head in this game. I really want to find some great way to keep everything organized – 5 cities in 5 countries in 14 days is in desperate need of some organizing tricks. So I am only giving myself one single goal this week. Plan and plan some more.

Austin, in short.

This past weekend, Sarah, myself and two of my very best friends headed south to Austin. This town is my town. Literally.

It really was  a blast. Everyone is so friendly, and it’s easy to strike up a casual conversation while waiting for a latte or for the “walk” sign to cross the street. I know both Sarah and I have so many things we want to share, so I’m going to TRY to limit myself to the top four. This. This is a challenge.

1. Summermoon Coffee Bar

I discovered this little nugget last time I was in Austin. I woke up too early one day, so I drove here to read and have some green tea. On my way out, I picked up lattes for myself and the rest of my friends. Best decision of my life. The lattes are seriously heaven. They use some kind of sweet milk… but they don’t tell you what is in it… not that you want to know how many calories are in there. Regardless. It’ll be worth it. (not to mention the place is adorable)

2. The Parks.

The first on the left was amazing and conveniently located next to a botanical garden. There were people playing frisbee, soccer and dogs running around off leash. It took every ounce of self control I have not to steal one. I survived and am not currently in jail, so the trip was definitely a success. The park on the right was kind of a funny story. We had mentally prepared ourselves for at least an hour or so hike. The walk up the “mountain” was about 10 minutes – Google search let us down. Ha! The view was amazing. We all picked out our future homes fully equipped with their own boats, filled with our hopes and dreams!

3. Record Store.

I have a record player… but it’s currently in storage and has been there for about a year. I never fully committed to living at home, but regardless I purchased three new vinyls. If you’re a professional vinyl collector – don’t hate. I’m no expert. I like to purchase vinyls for bands I know I won’t ever be tired of. Or bands that have unique, powerful sound. Especially older bands who originally published their music on vinyls, it feels like that’s how it was supposed to be listened to. I am DYING for a Louie Armstong vinyl. To get a good one it’s like $40-50, but I know I’ll eventually make this plunge.

Anyways, how could I resist buying vinyl in Austin?

I ended up choosing Sufjan Stevens, Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan. There were about 10 others I NEEDED. But I suppose there are other vinyl stores… I guess.

4. Art.

Do I need to even introduce these? It’s everywhere in Austin. Store fronts, store walls, random alleyways… the personality of Austin is art in and of itself. I love street art more than anything. It’s like the urban version of stopping and smelling the roses.