Getting Over Post-Holiday Blues

 

It is January 12th, two weeks after the New Year, the allure of new beginnings has somewhat faded and January’s seasonal affective disorder has started full swing. And to top it all off, I have the post-holiday blues. Hard. They hit me every year but this year especially because I spent almost 3 weeks in America with family, friends and almost daily trips to Publix. We had pizza with real pepperoni, I tried some delicious almond milk coffee creamer, I watched Parks & Recreation on Netflix and old Housewives episodes on Hulu. I went to Nordstrom, ate Panera, took really hot showers with insanely soft water, went to Target, ate French onion dip and used a Keurig. I got to visit two high school girlfriends and their babies. It was just all so wonderful.

One morning this week, I was sitting in the VW dealership (our car was making weird noises & turns out our tires have rust all over them!) on the verge of tears. I was just looking around, hearing a language that is still confusing and just wanting to be home. That was the moment I knew I was having my post-holiday blues.

I later got to work, downed a cup of coffee and started to think about how to make the day better. There’s only one year left of living in Germany. I seriously think I’ve mentioned that in every post so far in 2018. But, it’s true. I don’t want to waste the last year of this incredible opportunity being sad, mad, confused, any negative feeling.

I want to spend 2018 happy, excited, content!  And a little tipsy, if I’m being honest. The wine and champagne here aren’t going to drink themselves. To combat feeling sad and lonely, I have made plans with girlfriends, put together a work out schedule, started researching some travel destinations, downloaded lots of books and plan to reorganize our apartment. I know that keeping my mind busy is the best way to not drown in the darkness of after Christmas and January.

It’s so hard missing family and wondering what life would be like if we were back in the States. There’s no sense in wondering if we’d have a house or a baby because we aren’t there. Life dealt us this incredible had and we’re living it to the fullest. I choose to focus on the positive. And that the glass is half full.

I think focusing on the positive is the only way to get through life, including when I feel like I’m having post-holiday blues.

Have you ever experienced the post-holiday blues? What do you do to feel better?

Getting Over Post-Holiday Blues, It's Always Hard to Leave Home

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Travel Bucket List 2018

It’s hard to believe that 2017 will be over in a few days. I’ve seen all over other blogs, YouTube videos and Facebook and Instagram how everyone is gearing up for the new year. For me, 2018 is going to be the year of travel!

We have certainly done our fair share of traveling in 2016 and 2017 but with this being our last year living in Germany, it’s time to make the most of it! Here are all the places we want to go in 2018!

Related: Our travel bucket list 2016.

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Spain // Can you believe that we haven’t been to Spain yet? I can’t, especially because Vinn speaks fluent Spanish and studied abroad in Madrid in college. Madrid has made our travel plans for a few months and something would always come up that would force us to cancel the trip. But not this year. This year we are making it happen! I’d love to hit up Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Seville.

Berlin // Our travel throughout Germany has been slim. It’s one of those things like, “It’s always going to be there, so we’ll just wait.” Well, now’s our chance to really hit up some German cities. Vinn and I have been wanting to run a half marathon in Europe and when the Berlin half marathon kept showing up in my research, we thought we’d hit two birds with one stone. Plus, what better place to have some recovery beer than Berlin?

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Scotland // This country is Vinn’s top of the list. He loves Scotch, so it only makes sense for us to visit the homeland. Plus, I really want to see all the castles and greenery! The trouble we’re finding is that to get to many of the distilleries is a feat. But it’s fun to do all the research ahead of time!

Auschwitz & Krakow // Poland seems like a fascinating country and I’ve only heard great things. I’ve wanted to visit Auschwitz since I learned about the Holocaust and feel like I need to see it in order to really comprehend that time in history. It’s also one of those places that I’m not sure I would want to travel all the way from the States to visit, so now’s the time. Plus, it will be one of those life changing trips, I think.

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Amalfi Coast // Need I say more? I mean, just look at that picture. My family plans to visit the Amalfi Coast sometime in May and I just can’t wait to sit back and enjoy this amazing view. There’s nothing like the water, a good glass of red wine and bowl full of pasta!

Greece // For some reason, Greece never seemed to make it on our big list of destinations. It just seemed over-hyped to me. But after talking with too many people who have said that Greece only exceeds expectations, I’d like to look into it. I managed to find a hotel in a cute coastal town over my 30th birthday week. That wouldn’t be the worst way to ring in a new decade!

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Hamburg // This city in Germany is supposed to be spectacular. It’s on the water, has fresh fish always and is one of the first cities to welcome the Beatles! Hamburg is the perfect long weekend destination for u and is another German city we can visit while we live here.

French Wine Country // It wouldn’t be a year if we didn’t stop in wine country. We haven’t made it to the French areas like Bordeaux but I’d love to be able to visit next year. What’s not to love?

Wow, that’s a lot of places on the list for 2018. It’s going to be a year full of travel, hectic research and memories to last a lifetime.

If you’ve ever been to any of these places, I’d love some of your recommendations! Or do you have a place in Europe that you just love and think we should definitely visit?

European Travel Bucket List 2018, All the Places to See in the New Year

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Nuremberg Christmas Market

 

After our relaxing Saturday spent at home on the couch, we drove about two hours to Nuremberg for the Christmas market or Christkindlmarkt! We wanted to visit Nuremberg’s Christmas Market because it is undoubtedly the most famous in Germany and gets about 2 million visitors per year. Historians also believe that this is the oldest market that started in the 1600’s.

We arrived around 2 PM, checked into our hotel and immediately headed off to the market. It was snowing like crazy and poor Copley was not feeling it. She was wearing a Christmas sweater but she will not wear little booties, even though we’ve tried. So, after about an hour, we headed back to the hotel and dropped her off so she could be warm & snooze.

Nuremberg, Germany

The city is on the water and has beautiful bridges everywhere. I love that in this photo you can see the snowflakes and the Christmas decorations across the way. There’s just something about Christmas that is so peaceful and perfect.

Going to the Nuremberg Christmas Market

Despite the weather, it was quite crowded with people all bundled up and using umbrellas against the snow. But that’s nothing a little warm, mulled wine (or glühwein, as it’s called in German) can’t fix. I’m actually not a huge fan of the drink because why mess up delicious wine, but I can always manage to find some Bailey’s and hot chocolate.

Nuremberg is known for lebkuchen or gingerbread cookies and Nuremberger Wurst, which are three small sausages in one roll. And, oh man, are both absolutely delicious! I have to say that the wurst sandwiches were the best I’ve ever had and would want to go back just to eat those again. And there are stands and stands and stands full of cookies and decorated hearts and just as many serving wurst. It is a sight to see and one that I absolutely love.

The market itself is mostly in the main square and then also on the surrounding streets. If you have small children, Nuremberg would make a fantastic choice because there is a children’s specific Christmas market with rides, stands selling toys and delicious treats!

Cute dog goes to the Nuremberg Christmas Market

One of my favorite parts was going to the top of Church of Our Lady, which you see in the background. The church is Catholic and was built in the 14th Century. I love the Gothic structure, as well.  The top of the church has two small platforms for people and you just have the most magical view of the market.

View of the Nuremberg Christmas Market

I mean, isn’t that view amazing?! Look at all the stands, all the lights, all the snow. In the middle of everything there’s a manager on display to add even more greatness to the market. Germans certainly know how to celebrate Christmas!

Top of the Nuremberg Church at the Christmas Market

Drinking Gluhwein at a Christmas Market is a German Tradition

A fun portion of the market is a small area dedicated to the sister cities of Nuremberg, included Atlanta, Georgia! The cities have stands and sell items specific to them. The Atlanta stand had Swiss Miss hot chocolate, Reese’s, Hershey’s and Coca-Cola ornaments. There were stands from Cordoba, Glasglow and Venice. It was neat to see all those cities in one place with their famous food and goods.

And while you’re enjoying the Nuremberg Christmas Market, you should definitely make your way to the Nuremberg Castle. It’s a 6 minute walk and offers you a spectacular view of the city. The castle itself isn’t too exciting but climbing to the top during the snow is just spectacular.

View of Nuremberg from the Castle

And they even had a Christmas tree up!

Nuremberg Castle at Christmas is beautiful

Snow in Nuremberg

All in all, our time spent in Nuremberg was just wonderful. It definitely made it feel like Christmas with all the snow and the market. It is a beautiful city with a spectacular Christmas Market. We heard a lot of English, actually, and would make a great destination during a tour of Germany and should not be missed around the holidays.

Christmas Markets are a German tradition and Nuremberg offers the most famous and oldest in the country!

 

What It's Like to Visit the Nuremberg Christmas Market

What’s your favorite way to celebrate the holiday season?

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Why You Should Go to Innsbruck, Austria

 

On our drive back from Florence, we decided to break up the 9 hour drive and stop for two days in Innsbruck, Austria. Neither of us had ever been and Austria is such a beautiful country. I mean, we loved Salzburg & Vienna so much. And, boy, am I glad we went! Innsbruck is absolutely stunning and a gem of a city. And these pictures will be reason enough for you to hop on a plane for yourself.

The main reason you should visit Innsbruck is for the gorgeous mountain views. They are everywhere you turn and literally take your breath away.

Why You Should Go to Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol and is nestled in a valley, so the mountains surround the city. It was quite cold while we were there, which was not great because we didn’t pack the warmest clothes since it was in the high 60’s in Florence.

The number one thing to do in Innsbruck is to take the Nordkette, the tram that takes you to the top of the mountain. There are several stops along the way up the mountain, including a stop at the Innsbruck Zoo, and a lot of people get off at a lower stop and then hike or bike to the top. When there is fresh snow, people go skiing, as well. If you’re not into the winter sports, like me, then you can go to the top, walk around and grab a cappuccino at one of the two restaurants. And, obviously, snap some pictures.

Going to the Top of the Alps in Innsbruck

Look at that city view? I just love the river and the snow-capped mountains.

Mountain Views are the reason to go to Innsbruck, Austria

Small photo taking tip: use your self-timer. I would say 50% of our family pictures are from the self-timer and they usually turn out great.

Nordkette, the number one thing to do in Innsbruck

We took the tram all the way to the top, which has an altitude of over 6,000 sq feet! We were so high and it was so windy. Again, we didn’t really prepare, especially for poor Copley. So, if you go, bring gloves, hats, parkas, etc!

Over 6,000 Sq Feet High in Innsbruck

Mountain views in Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck Mountain Views from the Top

Mountain views from Innsbruck

Innsbruck is one of those cities that is big enough to feel like a city but small enough for you to hit all the major highlights in a day or two. There are lots of great shops, cafes and restaurants, too. We actually went to a Mexican restaurant for burritos because the Mexican here in Germany isn’t the best. And, let me just say, it was the best Mexican we’ve had outside of the US/Mexico! It may seem funny but it was one of the highlights of the trip. The restaurant was called Machete and if you are craving Mexican, I would definitely recommend.

Speaking of restaurants, an amazing Austrian restaurant is Gasthof Weisses Rossi. It’s known for their typical Tirolian cuisine. I ordered a Cordon Bleu and Vinn got the schnitzel. After a few days in Italy, this type of food was delicious and surprisingly felt like home. That’s a scary thought that German/Austrian food feels like home now.

Innsbruck Mountain Views

And if these pictures aren’t enough reason to visit Innsbruck, go for the alcohol. Since it was so cold, we stopped in several bars to warm up and have some wine for me and whiskey for Vinn. Many restaurants have great views of the river and feel extra cozy.

On our drive home, we drove through the Alps and saw the most perfect snowfall. It made me wish we were wearing some cute Christmas pajamas and we could take the perfect Christmas card picture!

Driving in the Alps Gives you amazing Views

Doesn’t this just look like where Buddy the Elf would live? I love looking at snow from the safety and warmth of my home with a fireplace and a glass of red wine, but I do not love the cold. It was freezing while snapping this picture but you gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

Innsbruck, Austria is a hidden gem that should definitely make your bucket list, especially if you are a winter sports fanatic. The mountain views are perfection, the food is delicious and there’s lots of shopping around, too. Basically there’s something for everyone!

Do you like the cold or are you more of a beach vacation person? 

Why you should visit Innsbruck, Austria: mountains & more

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Tuscany Wine Tour

 

My favorite part of our trip to Tuscany (read recaps of Lucca, Pisa and Florence) hands down was our wine tour with Fun in Tuscany. We had the most amazing time seeing two vineyards, walking around the historic town of San Gimignano, eating gelato from one of the oldest shops and having lunch at the final vineyard. We left sufficiently full, a little toasted and ready for a nap.

A wine tour is an absolute must when visiting Tuscany, I mean that’s why people visit the region, wine, especially Chianti. Vinn and I visited the Chianti region when we went with my family in 2012 and knew we had to visit again on this trip.

We chose Fun in Tuscany because it wasn’t an astronomical price (it was 300 Euro for the four of us), allowed dogs, included lunch and transportation and wasn’t a huge group of people. It was an all-day excursion and we learned so much about wine and the history of the area. If you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, I highly recommend this tour.

We started our journey early in the morning, at about 9:15 AM, where we met, signed waivers and met the other participants. As we drove, our driver gave us the run down of the day, the history and the different wines that are made in Tuscany.

Our first stop brought us to Fattoria Poggio Alloro where we had a gorgeous view of the old town, San Gimignano, got a tour of the vineyard and had a wine tasting. We spent the first few minutes snapping pictures. I mean, obviously.

The perfect wine tour in Tuscany

Look at those hills! This picture doesn’t even do it justice. It’s absolutely stunning. You can see San Gimignano off in the distance.

The hills of Tuscany are absolutely gorgeous and should make your bucket list

We stared at this view for quite a while and then we were given a tour of the vineyard and farm. Poggio Alloro means bay leaf hill and there are bay leaves around the property. The farm is totally organic where the family that owns the property grows barley, oats, lettuce, kale, grapes for wine and more. They even have their own cows.

Vineyards in Tuscany even have their own cows

After our tour, we had a wine tasting with cheese and bread with olive oil. We were able to try a white and two reds, including a chianti. We chatted with our friends and the other couples on the tour, talking about life, what brought them to Tuscany (one couple was on their honeymoon) and other general topics. It was easy to have the best time with the most incredible views and delicious wine.

Wine Tasting in Tuscany, What to Expect

We spent some time shopping for wine (we bought 2 bottles of the white and two bottles of port) before heading out for a quick tour of the ancient city, San Gimigniano, before our next wine stop.

Unfortunately, it was raining during our time in the city but we definitely had time to stop for gelato.

Wine and Gelato, Things to do In Tuscany

The Gelateria Dondoli is a world-champion gelateria and has won for several years. It was quite delicious gelato and I do consider myself an expert. Although, it doesn’t quite beat Giolitti in Rome.

Our tour guide walked us all through San Gimignano where we learned that the city has been around since the 3rd Century B.C and became a popular town because it is smack dab in the middle of the route from Florence to Rome. Popes would stop in the city while they would travel between the two cities. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a walled city with many towers that were once built for the wealthy. My favorite part is the lookout point that faces the direction of Siena and Rome.

San Gimignano, the small town in Tuscany, and worth a stop between Florence and Siena

One happy family. Fun fact: we have this fact same picture with my parents and sister from when we visited in 2012. I wish I could find it but it’s on an external hard drive and will take some digging!

After our time in the city, we made our way to our last stop, Tenuta Torciano Winery. Wow is this place gorgeous. It is a family-owned vineyard and winery that has been around for generations. The woman who presented the wines to us knew so much and you could tell she was so passionate about everything. She even will come to your home for a private tasting if you have 20 or more people!

The Tenuta Torciano Winery also has a restaurant and we had a traditional Tuscan lunch during our tasting. All the recipes are family recipes and exceeded all expectations. Our tasting included 8 different types of wine, including white and red.

Tuscan Wine Tour

We had a cheat sheet where we had the wines in the order we tasted them and the price was listed, as well. It was an awesome way to keep track of which wines we liked over others as we drank them.

The food was absolutely outstanding (the family even has a cookbook) and we just had the best time. We actually sat across from a girl and her boyfriend and the girl was studying abroad at the same school where I studied in college. It made me feel super old to say how long ago I was there but it was really fun to hear where the students go now and where she lives.

The main course was lasagna topped with truffle oil and it was one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had! Can you tell?

A Tuscan lunch during a wine tasting is a must-do

Sorry, Stephanie!

We kept eating and drinking, talking to people and just loving it! Can you see little Copley on my lap in the picture above? I have to give Copley a huge shout out because she did awesome during our wine tour and our entire trip! She sat on my lap in the car to and from everywhere and hardly made a sound while we ate. She’s such a good girl.

We were able to try some port as our final tasting, which is never my favorite. Vinn convinced me to have someone take my picture to capture my “iconic” look of distaste.

A Tuscan Wine Tour

No disrespect but port is not delicious and actually makes me want to scrape my tongue to get the taste out. But, I can laugh at myself and know that this picture is funny and I thought I’d share.

Overall, the meal and the tasting were absolutely fantastic. We left with a case of Torciano wine and consider it our anniversary gift to each other. We haven’t opened any yet but we will certainly be doing that soon.

We made our way back to our hotel, said goodbye to our guide and took a much-needed walk around Florence to build up an appetite for dinner. If you’re going to Tuscany and love wine, I definitely recommend a wine tour with Fun In Tuscany. It really was, as the name suggests, fun and classic Tuscan. It was the highlight of our trip for me.

Have you ever gone on a wine tour? What’s your favorite wine?

What to Expect from a Tuscan Wine Tour

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