Long Weekend in Champagne

 

Celebrations both big and small happen every single day. Maybe you were recently promoted, the offer on your dream house was accepted, it’s your birthday or your child is leaving the nest, anything should be celebrated. And how do you celebrate? With a champagne toast, of course.

I love champagne and Prosecco, basically anything with bubbles. It’s my go-to drink order at a bar or restaurant. I love it. So when two of our really good friends were talking about planning a European trip and asked what cities were still on our bucket list, I was quick to say let’s go to the Champagne district. I figured we could celebrate being with dear friends and, let’s face it, there would be lots of champagne consumption.

This past weekend, this trip that we’ve been planning for months finally happened!

We spent four days in Reims, France (the unofficial capital of the Champagne district) visiting several larger Champagne houses, seeing sights, laughing, eating and drinking lots of bubbles. I thought I would break up our trip into two posts: a more photo dense post (this one) and then a more detailed post with information on where we stayed, tips and details about our tours.

Vinn and I drove to Reims from Germany, which only took 4.5 hours and arrived just in time to pick up our friends from the train station. We headed to the apartment we rented (more on that in my next post) and set out to discover the town.

 

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The Reims Cathedral is absolutely stunning, minus the scaffolding, and looks a lot like the Notre Dame in Paris. It is in the center of the small town and even has a light show at night during the summer.

Our plans were fairly flexible. We didn’t have too many expectations or set plans. We did book tours in advance to Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot and Pommery on Friday and then to Moët and Chandon on Saturday. The tours went through the champagne making process, which is fascinating but repetitive once you’ve been to several and then the history of the house. Each of our tours ended with a tasting and great photo ops! It was a great combination of set plans and flexibility because we were able to stop into places that looked good to us and try some smaller houses’ champagne.

Did you know that sparkling wine is only considered champagne if it comes from the Champagne district in France? Fun fact.

 

 

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Friday was go, go, go since we had the three tours planned and I definitely would have spaced them out more. But it was so fun to see how different the houses are from each other, what they do to separate themselves and just how different the champagnes do taste. More detail will be coming soon because I want to write more of a travel guide and that’s just too much information in this post.

On Saturday, we drove 30 minutes outside of Reims to Epernay, which is more vineyard like and less city-like. We actually also met my friend, Megan, and her dad there because they happened to be in Paris at the same time for the Paris Air Show. What are the odds?

 

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I want to point out how special these two ladies are to me. Megan (on the left) and I have been inseparable since the first day of college when we lived next to each other. We just went to her wedding in Chicago. And Caitlin (on the right) and I have been super close since like 5th grade! We were in each other’s weddings and talk all the time. It is rare to have such close friendships and we are so lucky to be able to pick up right where we left off no matter how much time has passed. I am blessed to have them in my life.

 

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The same can be said for having “couple” friends. You definitely learn about people when you travel with them and when you end up being closer friends at the end of the trip, then you’ll be friends for life. These two are definitely in that category.

After our time in Epernay, we drove the scenic route back to Reims for dinner and to pick up Copley. Yes, despite what these pictures show, Copley was in Reims with us. She wasn’t allowed in the houses, so she stayed back at the apartment.

 

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It was absolutely gorgeous to see the vineyards and the grapes that will eventually be champagne. Stopping for pictures on the side of the road has started to become our thing! We grabbed Copley and dinner for our final night in Reims. We woke up on Sunday, had breakfast and bought a few more bottles to bring home.

Our trip was exactly what we wanted: relaxing, full of laughs and delicious drinks. Check back on Wednesday to see exactly what a tour is like at a champagne house, tips for planning a trip here and my favorite champagne!

 

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5 Ways to Fight Jet Lag

 

I travel A LOT. It’s probably my favorite thing to do of all time, travel and eating anything chocolate. And with travel comes a ton of positives…and a few negatives, mainly jet lag.

Jet lag, according to Medical News Today, occurs when people travel rapidly from west to east or east to west in an aircraft. Basically, if you are flying from the States to Europe, you will most likely experience some jet lag. And then you’ll get jet lag again when you fly back from Europe to America. It is always more intense when going from west to east, so going home is worse, which extra sucks because you also have post-vacation blues. Yuck.

So, how do you beat jet lag and enjoy your vacation and get back to normal life quickly? Here are 5 practices I use to fight jet lag while traveling. I hope these help you and if you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them!

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Drink lots of water. I drink water all day long, thanks to my Swell bottle, and just wasn’t implementing that while flying across the Atlantic. I would drink one small airplane glass of water the entire flight and would then be dehydrated and slightly tipsy when I landed. Thanks free alcohol on international flights. My new strategy is to drink only water in the airport and then fill my water bottle up right before boarding and drink that throughout the flight. Then I only order a glass of wine with dinner. Since I started doing this, I have noticed that I feel much better when I land and don’t feel as tired throughout my stay. Water truly is magical.

Exercise. Once I land in my dream location, I try my best to exercise. Even if it’s just a short walk or a 10-minute Tone It Up video, the endorphins help me stay awake and feel refreshed. While we were in Dublin, I brought some resistance bands for a quick, yet effective work out. Resistance bands are perfect for travel because they don’t take up any space, can be used anywhere and you work up a good sweat in no time.

You are not feeling sleepy. Stay awake! Time change isn’t easy, but it is imperative to stay awake as long as possible. I remember landing in Frankfurt after a trip at 5 in the morning only to take a 4 hour nap once we got home two hours later. Then that night I couldn’t fall asleep until 1 AM and took me 3 days to get back to my normal sleeping schedule. After that horrible experience, I started to stay awake as long as possible in the new time zone. This is definitely easier said then done, but even staying up until 8 PM local time will help your body get on track quickly.

Make healthy-ish decisions. In tandem with good sleeping, good eating is also super important when trying to fight jet lag. This starts at the airport, too. Airport food is expensive regardless, but I try to stick with a fruit cup and a salad if we’re eating before we leave and I only eat half of the meal once we actually on the plane. This part is easy because economy food certainly isn’t gourmet. Of course, I enjoy food once we land, hello, this blog has gelato in the title, but I try to balance everything. I try to have some kind of fruit for breakfast and a vegetable at lunch and dinner. It doesn’t always happen but, as with life, eating healthy helps keep you alert, less sluggish and ready to tackle all the sights.

Keep sickness at bay. And last but not least, take some Vitamin C. It will help you fight sickness, which usually happens thanks to the lackluster air quality on planes, and keep your immune system in top shape so you can actually enjoy your vacation instead of needing a tissue every 5 seconds. I definitely notice a difference when I take Vitamin C vs. when I don’t. If I take it, I don’t feel like a cold is coming and honestly feel much more awake throughout the day. Plus, you can put a packet directly into a cup of water on the plane. Super easy.

Moral of the story is that you can do things to overcome jet lag. And being tired during your vacation that you worked hard to plan and finance is no way to enjoy it. I do these things even if we’re only going a few hours away, especially the Vitamin C one, because I don’t want to end up being stuck in the hotel sick when I could be exploring a whole new city. I hope these help on your next international vacation!

Have you ever experienced jet lag? What ways do you try and fight it?

 

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10 Tips to Surviving a Long Road Trip

It’s summer time and that usually means a few things: lemonade stands, no school, days spent at the pool, summer camp and vacations. Some people say it’s not about the destination it’s the journey. Well, in a lot of cases this is true, but that can’t necessarily be said for long road trips, especially if you’ve ever been in the car with small children.

My husband and I have taken our fair share of road trips, most recently from Germany to Milan, and have realized a few things that work for us so the drive is somewhat enjoyable.

Here are my 10 tips to surviving a long road trip! I’d love to hear your’s in the comment section below.

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  1. Pack snacks. Seriously, the most important thing in any road trip is to have snacks readily available. We have learned this the hard way and have been starving with no gas station or fast food restaurants in sight. Snacks have become extra important to pack now that we live in Germany because there aren’t exits with food every twenty feet here. They are much more spaced out and most of them are just gas stations and a Burger King if you’re lucky. We love to pack pretzels, water, Doritos (for Vinn), blueberries, crackers and some kind of deli meat, usually salami.
  2. Podcasts. I am seriously obsessed with podcasts. They are perfect for long walks and long drives because you can be entertained and possibly learn something new, depending on the podcast. Some of my favorites are here and here, but really anything related to true crime is a winner! Recent obsessions are Up and Vanished, S-Town, Young House Love Has a Podcast, The Mind of a Murderer and Gilmore Guys.
  3. Music. Just like podcasts, new music is a must. Vinn and I save new music for long car rides so we both have something to look forward to. We’ve listened to the new Zac Brown Band album, John Legend and Rascal Flatts. Michael Buble usually makes an appearance, too. Depending on the destination, I also blast some kind of Disney music. Our road trip to Alsace, France included Beauty and the Beast because we were visiting the fountain that inspired the fountain the movie.
  4. Movies. If you have small children in the car, this is probably the biggest survival tip. I remember when my family would drive from Ohio to Hilton Head, South Carolina, my dad would hook up our small TV/VCR combo so my sister and I could watch our favorite Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. Eventually my parents had a mini-van with a DVD player so we could be in the 21st Century and watch DVDs. My mom would even hop in the back and watch some. Nowadays, I don’t watch movies in the car because I am sitting in the front and have a 6 pound dog on my lap, but I definitely see them in our future when children are in the mix.
  5. Make strategic stops and routes. Not only will stopping be necessary, but you can also visit some new places along the way. We chose to drive through the Alps during one of our trips even though it was going to take us longer because the Alps are so beautiful. Making stops will help break up a super long drive, giving you time to stretch your legs, grab something to eat that is more substantial or even spend the night in a hotel.
  6. Take turns driving.  This may seem like a given, but it is certainly helpful to take turns driving if there is more than one person of driving age. This doesn’t happen every trip for us, but I know it helps when it does.
  7. Talk about your destination. A great thing about a long drive is that you have plenty of hours to chat. Vinn and I like to talk about where we are going, what we hope to do while we’re there and make sure we know what the other person really wants to do.
  8. Play games. And no, not like, I Spy, although that would be fun. We really like 20 questions, which turns into a deeper conversation about life, our future and other random things.
  9. Utilize your phone. Thank goodness for smartphones. You can use the time (if you’re not driving) to check your social media channels, research the history of your destination or find out the correct answer to things you are discussing with your riding partner. I’ve used car rides to read the history of the Duomo, read Vinn the menu of a restaurant we will go to on our trip and looked up the year to many a song to prove a point!
  10. Embrace the annoyances. Traffic will happen, spills will happen, dogs will bark, something will go wrong during your long road trip. It took me a while, but learning to embrace the annoyances has helped make the long road trips enjoyable.

I hope this summer brings you great memories and that these tips will help you survive your next long road trip!

How do you survive a long car ride?

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Milan Part Duo

I’m back to share part two of our long weekend in Milan. In case you missed it, here’s the recap of day one.

Our Saturday began earlier than Friday, thank goodness, and we headed to the Duomo first to finally take some family pictures. The Milan Cathedral is much larger than I initially imagined and took nearly six centuries to be completed. It was actually under construction while we were there, but it was still stunning.

 

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One negative to the Duomo is that there are pigeons everywhere. And then there are men handing out bird seed to tourists trying to sell it to them. Copley was having a hay day chasing all the birds, so we didn’t stay too long there.

 

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See, Copley is eyeing the pigeons. Silly goose.

We walked around more, window shopped and then dropped off Copley at the hotel so we could head to a rooftop bar with a great view of the city. We actually met some friends there who were passing through Milan on their way to Lake Como. It was great to have some drinks, appetizers, great conversation, all with an incredible view.

 

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After sitting in the sun for a few hours, we both were really in the mood for a nap, so we went back and snuggled with Copley for an hour. After the rest, we decided to go for a walk with the dog to tire her out before we left for dinner….and we had more gelato.

 

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After our walk, we dropped off Copley and then walked about 35 minutes to dinner at Boccondino. I had read about this restaurant on TripAdvisor and after reading all of the reviews, I knew we had to go!

The concept of the restaurant is that there is no set menu, each course is a surprise with an option of a wine pairing. Obviously, we opted for a wine pairing and were prepared to be super full afterwards.

Once we arrived, the owner of the restaurant greeted us, took us to our table and poured us a glass of Prosecco as a welcome treat. When the owner was explaining the concept of the restaurant he said, “Do you know what we’re about here?” When we answered that we knew a little bit, he responded with, “It’s very simple. We want to increase your cholesterol!” I mean, isn’t that the goal of any Italian restaurant.

 

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We started with some fresh vegetables, bruschetta and a fried cheese balls. I knew we were in for a treat after eating the fried cheese balls. They were delicious!

Next came the meat course. The restaurant cures their own meat and, boy, was it amazing! We had a range of prosciutto and salami and we ate them from most fat to least. It was better than any other meat I’ve ever had in my life.

Then the real highlight of the night, the pasta course! They brought out a huge wheel of parmesan cheese with basil cream pasta in it. We also had risotto with asparagus. Another huge perk was that they left the bottle of wine with this course at our table. It was a delicious Sangiovese wine and we certainly enjoyed our fair share of refills.

 

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Words cannot describe how amazing the basil cream pasta was. After the first bite, I literally hit my hand on the table, it was so good. After we each licked our plates clean, I jokingly said to the waiter that we wanted more. And then he brought us more!! Another entire plate full of the basil cream pasta. We were both beyond full but somehow managed to finish the second helping. You could tell this pasta was homemade, the sauce wasn’t too heavy or too light and it was out of this world. I don’t think I could even come close to replicating it at home but I am certainly going to try.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but we had more courses after the pasta. And it involved cheese and dessert. But glorious, homemade buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and burrata cheese. And then the “cheese guy” came out with this HUGE platter of cheese for us to select. I have no idea how we kept eating, but we did. And then they brought out chocolate chip biscotti and raspberry sorbet.

This meal was out of this world and top two meals of my entire life. If you go to Milan, you MUST visit this restaurant. It was a life changing, once in a lifetime experience.

After a very deep, food coma sleep, we woke up on Sunday and got right in the car to start our drive back to Germany. There was quite a bit of traffic, so we decided to stop in Lugano, Switzerland to walk around and have lunch. Lugano is stunning and is essentially the Swiss side of Lake Como, but it’s on Lake Lugano.

 

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I mean, is that not the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen?! We walked along the boardwalk for a while just staring at the boats and houses, dreaming about what life would be like if we lived somewhere like this. We both love being near the water, so I definitely think a house on water is in our future. But in America and not Switzerland, we are not millionaires.

 

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Just stunning. We walked a little more and then found an Italian restaurant for lunch. Since Lugano is just on the other side of Italy, there were lots of Italian restaurants and lots of Italian language speaking. Isn’t that so cool?

 

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I just can’t get over how cute Copley is. I love taking pictures of her on ledges with water or a monument in the background. It’s becoming a thing. Remember this picture from Vienna? Such a model.

 

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One more because look at how happy they both look!

After lunch, we headed back to the car to drive back to Germany. We hit quite a bit of traffic, like we didn’t move for an hour, people were getting out of their cars traffic. But, we were driving through the Alps again, so at least we had an amazing view. The mountains are just incredible and every time I see them it I am just in awe. There are waterfalls everywhere, snow caps and even little lakes.

 

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Thank Goodness for the self-timer on the camera. It comes in handy so much when no one is around. We went from 80 degrees to 50 in the mountains, so we were all pretty darn cold. Copley was even shaking. I think it’s so funny to see us in our summer clothes with snow and ice around us. Copley’s like, “What is this crap?”

We eventually made it home to Germany late Sunday night, exhausted, full and content. It was a great weekend in Milan!

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

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Milan Part Uno

This past weekend, Vinn, Copley and I headed to Milan, Italy for a long weekend of pasta, pizza, gelato, sunshine and churches. It was a great trip, probably because neither of us had any expectations. The only thing I really researched beforehand was the Duomo and made two dinner reservations. That was it. We went into the weekend with an open mind and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Our trip began on Thursday morning as we made our drive to Italy. We decided to stop in Lichtenstein (because why not?) for lunch and to break up the drive. We stopped in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, which is the capital, and walked around. The town is very small, with only about 5,000 residents, is seated on the Rhine River and has incredible views of the Alps.

 

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We walked around, enjoying the views and got stopped every few feet by other tourists asking us if they could pet Copley and take her picture! That was really fun. We ate a quick lunch and then hit the road again towards Milan through the Alps. It was truly amazing. A word to the wise for people who will be driving through Italy, check if your routes have tolls. We had to stop several times to pay, which was only about 2 Euro, but it definitely added time to the trip.

 

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Luckily, we didn’t get stuck in too much traffic and pulled into our hotel, Westin Palace Milan, right around 8 PM. This hotel is so nice and is in a great location about a 25 minute north of the center of the city. They even had set up the cutest little dog bed and water bowls for Copley, which was so incredibly nice. Huge shout out to them!

 

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For dinner, we stopped at this tiny restaurant by the Duomo, which is usually where we avoid eating, but we were starving and just needed some food. Over dinner we realized that on Thursday we had breakfast in Germany, lunch in Lichtenstein and dinner in Italy. 3 meals, 3 countries! Pretty special. I had a pasta with mushroom sauce and a glass of red wine. It was just ok but the real highlight of the evening goes to gelato! The place was filled with people and we had to wait about 15 minutes but, boy, was it worth it. We ate our gelato on the walk back to our hotel and crashed.

 

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Friday started pretty late for us because we all slept in until 10 AM! Well, sorta. Copley woke up at 5:15 wanting breakfast and a bathroom break, but then she fell back asleep. It was glorious. Both of us really needed to sleep in and took our time getting ready for the day.

Once we were ready, we walked towards city center again, down the main shopping streets filled with stores that no one can afford but have the most amazing window displays. I kept eyeing some jewelry stores but got quickly shut down. The hotel concierge recommended a restaurant for lunch, Paper Moon, so we headed there right when they opened at 12:30. And it did not disappoint.

Vinn ordered pizza with real mozzarella and pepperoni. In Germany, sometimes the pizza comes with more of a German cheese and pepperoni means banana peppers. He was in Heaven. I ordered a baked zucchini appetizer and some homemade cheese ravioli, which were out of this world. And a glass of prosecco is necessary at lunch while on vacation.

After lunch, we made our way to Sforzesco Castle, built in the 15th century by the Duke of Milan. It has been renovated several times and now houses art collections and several museums. I love the fountain in the front and the circular towers on each side. There is also a park, so we walked around for an hour or so making sure to stay hydrated and in the shade because it was almost 85 degrees! We even dipped Copley’s paws in the fountain.

 

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We made our way back to the hotel to drop off Copley (thankfully the hotel is air conditioned) and then head out to dinner. We stopped for a happy hour cocktail where we ended up sitting outside and the bar kept bringing us food, like a cheese plate and gnocchi. It was hard to resist but I wanted to make sure we weren’t full for our dinner.

I had read that Dry Milano has the best pizza in Milan, so we gave it a try and each ordered the Margherita pizza with buffalo mozzarella. It did not disappoint and we left full and very tired from all of the walking from the day.

And that’s it from our first two days of vacation. Check back tomorrow for our Saturday and Sunday adventures. You don’t want to miss it because we had the most incredible dinner on Saturday and drove through Lugano, Switzerland on Sunday! See you tomorrow.

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