Pula, Hrvatska

Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestThis is the Adriatic Sea. And, this is what we did for the entire week. There was some island exploring and mixing with the Istrian locals, but for the most part we just floated. And it was mahhvelous.

Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestIt took us a little while to figure out what roads were on this little peninsula, so we ended up lost…quite a bit. Thankfully so, because we stumbled upon this quiet, little cove on the first day that had a perfectly untouched, natural beauty and declared it our favorite. There was one other group that must have felt the same way, because they set up shop with a leaf-covered fort that looked pretty permanent. We were highly impressed.

Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula, Croatia | Montgomery Fest
We had a fool-proof agenda everyday:

wake up // head to a cove // grab a beer and float to the middle // repeat.

Sometimes we’d pack a lunch or sometimes we’d run back to the flat for a quick bite, before we’d move on to another beach. We tried different coves, but ultimately decided that first quiet one we stumbled upon was just our type…perfect for maximum floating agendas.

The locals seemed to be impressed with the Stoja area..it was wonderfully picturesque, if a little too populated for our tastes…wink.

Stoja | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestStoja | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery Fest
At the southern most tip of the Istrian peninsula lies the Kamenjak National Park. The combination of the cliffs and the turquoise water around that park…man. We tried out multiple spots along the coast, guided by the amount of clothed humans. 

Kamenjak | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestKamenjak | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestOn the last day, we took a break from all of that floating and toured the town of Pula. It holds the incredibly preserved, 6th largest Roman amphitheater, Pula Arena. Apparently, they hold shows and concerts inside. I’m pretty sure that would be the ultimate date night – dinner on a yacht in the Adriatic and movie in the arena. Honey, take note.

Pula Arena | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula Arena | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula Arena | Pula, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula, Croatia | Montgomery FestThe day was a scorcher, so after a tour through the arena and a run through midtown to find a patch for our aging travel bag (the ‘Dad bag’ as I like to call it when J keeps snacks in there. So prepared that one.), we moved right along to the town of Fažana to catch a boat ride out to the Brijuni Islands.

Fazana, Croatia | Montgomery FestFazana, Croatia | Montgomery FestPula, Croatia | Montgomery FestFazana, Croatia | Montgomery FestFazana, Croatia | Montgomery FestBrijuni Islands | Montgomery FestTalk about exotic. There are dinosaur footprints scattered around the largest of the 14 isles. Before it became a Croatian National Park with these fabulous striped creatures, the island was the personal State Summer Residence to then Yugoslavia’s president, Josep Broz Tito. Guy liked animals. While entertaining visiting heads of state they’d often bring him a new little pet to add to his collection. Indian elephants, cougars, goats, pretty much anything.

Brijuni Islands | Montgomery Fest
We rented a flat just outside of Pula in Štinjan, it was our first Airbnb experience, and, it was awesome. Place was: 1 – huge, 2 – brand new, 3 – air conditioned, 4 – close to our favorite beaches, and 5 – had the best hosts we could have hoped for. Ingrid and Franco made us feel so at home and we were so excited to have them accept our invitation for drinks on our (their?) balcony one evening. They shared stories about growing up in the area, how they met (Annie’s standard question when meeting new couples), and brought us a giant platter of deserts from their bakery on the ground floor. Hearts, won. As beautiful as everything was during our visit, staying at their Villa YoYo was the best, and if you make your way down to Pula (trust us, you should), a stay with Ingrid and Franco is recommended.

Fazana | Montgomery Fest

that feeling? why, that feeling is called bliss.

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Zagreb, Hrvatska

Phew. Made it to Croatia. That was one marathon of a road trip. Just one more city stop, Zagreb. So much walking and sight-seeing in the heat..at this point, all we wanted was to sit on the beach for a week. One more day. Just get there.

Our first impression of the city was pretty slow, until we got to the Upper Town. Situated on a hill in the center of the city, the charm of the area won us over. Especially since we were there in time for the International Folklore Festival – so perfect.

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At the top of the hill is St. Mark’s Church in all its marvel. It’s one of Zagreb’s most emblematic buildings with its unique tiled roof constructed in 1880. The 13th-century church was named for the annual St Mark’s fair. She’s a beauty.
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Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb, CroatiaEverywhere we went there was a piece of the festival.

We only needed a couple of hours to see the cute stuff and it was nearing dinner time, so we thought we’d exit the hill and find something less touristy to get our grub on.20130810-202844.jpgzagrebThe yellow. Oh, the yellow.zagrebzagrebafterlight (24)IMG_1758When we got to the bottom with zero luck of finding an authentic patio, we weighed our options of driving through the main town where we wouldn’t have the slightest idea of where to get good food OR trudging back up the hill to that one Italian resto that looked semi promising. Italian won, as it does, and we promised our feet that this was the LAST hurdle before they were floating in the water. promise.

And wouldn’t you know it, that Italian resto did not disappoint. I had lasagna and J had a risotto….plus! a bottle of wine, all for 20 euro. We had to check our math because that is crazy talk from Brussels standards. So, if you’re looking for a cheap vacation..

Up next, paradise…

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Summer Feesten

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Welp, last weekend was the big weekend. MontgomeryFest in Illinois kicked off and we saw searches and hashtags flying all about the web. Those party animals were livin’ it up – fun jumps, carnival prizes, fireworks. Heck yeah.

Over here in Belgium, we had a little festin’ going on as well. Complete with hot air balloons at Lokerse Feesten and front porch sittin’ at the palace…well, front street at least. I think we might be turning spoiled. Goin to festivals in front of the Royal Palace and not thinking two thinks about it. Except when someone asks about moving back to the states and my first thought is no more parties at the palace or every day walks near 8th Wonders of the World type places…how do people live like that. Obviously, I kid…but no, I’m not ready.

Last Thursday evening, we drove up to Lokeren, Belgium to see Donovan Frankenreiter, Seasick Steve and Damien Rice play. I wanted Donovan to feel welcome on our continent, and in the slimmest chance that his buddy tagged along, so I sported a Mr. Ben C. Harper tee and a skirt that I got at Bonnaroo three years ago, that when J commented that he liked it, I told him where/when I got it and that I never wear it and his response was – ‘and THAT’s what made it into The Necessary Pile coming to Belgium?!’ chyeah. Welcome to my fashion blog.

shoes via Walmart….supply shopping for that same Roo
ring via my mom‘s mom..or maybe her mom’s mom – we can’t remember
purse via Florence

More kidding.

feestenphoto 1feestenand Damien was killin’ it in his yellow suit and ‘fro’d out hair. But, Damien always brings the rad.photo (1)

Then, on Sunday, we took a walk down to the palace and attended it’s yearly open house. Welcomed by kid paintings that rival my own, we quickly discovered our chandelier collection is slightly below par.

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That magnificent green up there is made from the shells of over a million beetles. Thai jewel beetles’ emerald green shells reflect light in this crazy cool, iridescent way. They call the ceiling Heaven of Delight and it’s certainly a sight.

We are such city kids. Every time we find ourselves strolling around in downtown, we’re reminded how we can never do it enough. The energy and the art that’s ever moving is addicting..

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In true Annie fashion, I rambled a bit. So, let’s try to recap the day so far:

palace tour – check.
video on the new Belgian king being sworn in and subsequent half-meltdown that we missed the best day to be in Belgium all for a non-baptism out of town – check.
subsequent gleeful moment when J told me his grandmother sent the Belgian king (3 kings ago) flowers and got Thank You letters back and I started plotting all of the events that Philippe and Mathilde need flowers from us for! – check.
strut through downtown – check.
a lay in the royal park – check.

That only leaves music left on the list. That’s your cue, Dandy Warhols……

feestenfeestenand then I put on J’s glasses and things got outta hand, especially mine..afterlight (21)feesten

And, do you remember this song? Apparently, that 1980s hit band is still touring. And rockin’ it.

Hope you had a rockin’ weekend. If so, we want details….

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Ljubljana, Slovenija

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana was completely unexpected. Actually, we didn’t know what to expect, but it hinted along the lines of communistic square buildings in gray like other parts of Eastern Europe. We were passing through from Verona to Zagreb, feeling the pull of the sea far too strong (it was right there!), but since we had to make it to Zag, we should at least take advantage of passing through Slovenia and stop in at the capital. Cleanest, shiniest, pastel-iest city filled with patios along the river, Ljubljanica. If we didn’t have to drive to our hotel in another country, we’d most def have been amongst the patio drinkers. Besides looking so lovely (check out that pink building!), it’s also fun to say (lyoo-blee-yana).

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Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful? Yep, yep. She also likes to be serenaded..probably.

Na svidenje Slovenija! | Goodbye. See you again, Slovenia!

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Verona, Italia

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Verona has all of the luxuries of Italy that has stolen my heart. I mean. This country – the colors. the architecture details. the food (oh snap, the food.) the adding of the fun, extra syllables to everything. It agrees with us and I try to convince J about this fact perpetually – ‘deer, look at my skin. it’s softer now that we’re here.’ or ‘love, your eyes are extra blue since we crossed the border.’ I’m not totally unsure that it’s working. If you want to discuss how much you love Italy, come sit next to us….unless you don’t wear deodorant, because c’mon.

The city boasts the third largest Roman amphitheatre in Italy, built around 30 AD.  Also, in order to solidify a spot in our list of great cities, Verona went ahead and claimed a fab body of water. Not just claimed, but straddled itself around the Adige river making it quite convenient to enjoy best of both worlds.

Verona, Italy
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UNESCO isn’t the only one who appreciated the beauty of the city, Shakespeare was a big fan as well. He set three of his plays there – Romeo and JulietThe Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew. The tomb of Ms. Capulet, called Tomba di Giulietta, finds itself off the beaten path lined with columns leading to the monastery. The balcony, however, lives in a small, but highly sought-out courtyard in the center of Verona, named Casa di Giulietta. R+J’s tragedy attracts romantics from all over to come and leave love notes and locks as forever symbols. We played along – got us a rad little pink lock, wrote our initials on it and brought the keys to Croatia with us.

Ahh! And the best thing ever. Justin got stopped by an Asian tourist who asked for a photo with him. Her friends spoke English and told him that it was because he looked like Leonardo DiCaprio.. He tried to tell her that he was not Leonardo DiCaprio, but the lady insisted, it was ok that he just looked like him. Y’all. Leo D played Romeo which was set in Verona. Mind: blown. You don’t know how bad I want a copy of that photo.

Tomba di Giulietta | Verona, ItalyIMG_1593 Romeo + Giulietta's balcony | Verona, Italia  Romeo + Giulietta's love locks | Verona, ItaliaIMG_1599IMG_1611
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Goodnight, good night, Italia. Parting is such sweet sorrow. For in the morning, our road trip continues.

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Milano, Italia

So, the car ride out of Lucerne was pretty much full-on Annie trying to coerce Justin into stopping in Milan..

“Honey, I’ve never been to Milan.. Love, we’re driving right through.. I love Italy what if we never come back?!”

He’d break about 45 minutes outside of the city and thought he could prove his wife wrong in that there wasn’t anything to see. Ha. While not as lovely as Florence, Milan was still able to add to her love affair with Italia. So we park the car in the first lot that we find in the (what we assumed was) center of town and begin our trek around the city to see the sights in pit-stop number two on our way to Verona. We spot a tower and figure, ‘hey, that must be something important.’ Ends up that we’re walking next to the beautiful Sempione Park on our way up to the 15th century Sforza Castle, one of the largest citadels in Europe. Psh. J and his ‘nothing to see’. A of course made friends with the first musical street performer we come across..

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Wandering through the castle’s renaissance courtyard, we find one of the entrances with a long boulevard on the opposite side. The trek continues down the street and leads us to the Piazza del Duomo, where Annie with all of her inner strength fights the urge to say, ‘see, told ya.’ But she doesn’t need to, he knows, he knows. It was a good pit-stop, the square is dominated by the Milan Cathedral, the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the most important example of Gothic architecture in the country. This guy that takes six centuries to build is just as grand on the inside, but unfortunately the cathedral ushers don’t let A in since she’s in shorts.. Women in shorts are forbidden, men in shorts are fine.. What year is this?

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After J makes a quick run through the inside our eyes turn to the left of the cathedral where we find a giant glass covered walkway – the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II is the worlds oldest shopping mall – but we were hard pressed to notice the shops while looking up at the ceiling the entire way through.

The little trolley car at the stop on the other side reminded us of our days back on McKinney Avenue in Dallas. We smile, and think, ‘yeah, we’d much rather look at them in Milan’ while we make our way back to our chariot. Next stop, Verona. Annie promises her husband no more pit-stops on the way.

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Luzern, Schweiz

As a pit stop from overnights in Basel to Verona, we made it to Lucerne for breakfast. We walked along the Reuss river and made friends with the swans. Seriously. I would move to Switzerland just for the animal sitch they’re workin with. I can only imagine that sitch in Austria because Austria is just as lovely and we’re completely obsessed after our Christmas trip. Secret little country doesn’t want the outsiders to know how great it is.. J and I’s conversation on the way through Austria when we forgot how much we adored the country..

‘Hi guys – welcome back! We’re glad to have you. Hope you enjoy being here, really we do. Have a look around at our home..you can tell people about it if you want, or not, either way we’re just chillin.’ – Austria

This is also the method with which J re-teaches me all of the European history that I probably learned in school, but forgot it like a normal person. He personifies leaders and countries and makes them into characters that I’ll remember and he is gonna be the greatest dad. If it doesn’t confuse the heck out of them..

Where were we? Oh yeah, Schweis. Which is the Swiss German, or maybe just German?, way to say it in the city and I like the local language of cities to shine…even if I’m butchering the pronunciation with my Southern-trying-really-hard-not-to-sound-too-Southern American accent. Overly expressive facial expressions and all.

Lucerne.

They’ve got this famous bridge, Kapellbrücke. That thing is a work of art, all 669 ft of it. It cuts through the Reuss and was originally built in 1333, making it the oldest covered bridge in Europe. Except for the restoration that was needed in 1993  (allegedly) caused by a cigarette. Do you know I now feel dirtier for even having that word on our blog. Yuck. Get that crap under control people. Please and thank you. Anyway, that bridge is a beaut with its remainders (and sadly, restorations) of 17th century paintings throughout Lucerne’s history.

It was all so picturesque. Take a gander..

Lucerne, Switzerland Lucerne, Switzerland Lucerne, Switzerland Lucerne, Switzerland IMG_1487Lucerne, Switzerland Lucerne, Switzerland Lucerne, SwitzerlandLucerne, Switzerland Lucerne, SwitzerlandWe called this one Grace.

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JulyFest

Rock Werchter, BelgiumAdriatic Sea glass
Verona, ItalyDuomo | Milan, Italy
Kamenjak, Premanthura | Pula, CroatiaCandelabra Collection
Nuremberg, GermanyRock Werchter, Belgium
Fourth of July | Montgomery FestRock Werchter, Belgium

rockin’ the Werchter // Adriatic Sea glass // intoxicating hues // duomo is a cathedral. hashtag Italian lessons // turquoise // candelabra collection  // say ‘cheese’, Nuremberg // dancin’ hipster feet //4 July, 2013 // peace out!

instafotos.

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Basel, Schweiz

Have you heard we took a little big road trip recently? I ‘grammed a little preview about it. The views we did see. (Over on the side bar: how much do you instagram when you’re on a trip? I’m a photo a day-ish kinda girl.. Ya know, not too much. But then again, when I know a friend is on a trip, I’m such a stalker – more pics, more pics please!) Anyway, it was a whirlwind of a trip, rolling through city after city and spending a week on the beach. Each town gets its own post because they’re all fabulous in their own right.

Basel, Switzerland

First stop on our trip was Basel. We had a little preview of the city on Christmas day here, but this second time was golden. We had the best hostess this side of the Atlantic. Ms. Nayra moved home to Switzerland earlier this year and this was the first chance we’ve gotten to catch up with her since she left Brussels. Man, we missed that little lady. I wish we could plan more shindigs together.

So, yes. After the quick jaunt through four countries in an afternoon, we parked at Nayra’s house and caught up on some much-needed hugs and squeals. She welcomed us to her Wednesday night Girl’s Night with a BBQ….yumm. It was low-keyed and lovely. The next morning we hiked down the side of a nearby mountain (this is Switzerland. those things are everywhere). We made lots of animal friends on the way down. 

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We were pretty proud of our hike, until about 1.2 days later when we realized that we haven’t hiked down a mountain since at least a year ago and those little muscles in our shins are now awake and mad. Still worth it though. 

The afternoon was spent walking through the city and admiring architecture with history lessons from our friend. The sun was scorching, so we grabbed a beer with Sprite and put our feet in the Rhine river and watched as people floated by (jealous..we’re going to need to plan ourselves a Rhine river floating trip soon).

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Basel, Switzerland
Basel, SwitzerlandBasel, Switzerland

That evening, Nayra’s parents (who are the cutest couple ever) cooked dinner for us and broke out old photo albums of the awesomest, most hippy-fab photos that Nayra needs to frame asap. please. We’re talkin 1970 Spanish summers here. My heart sings. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell this or not, but her parents don’t speak English too fluently, so her dad is taking English lessons so that he can chat with Nayra’s English-speaking friends when they come over. I mean!! Precious, that is. Her mom told us the story of how they met and he proposed while he lived in Spain and she lived in Switzerland. And then, they asked if we’d like a beverage – tea, more water, grappa. Grappa? Well, I’ve only tried it once and didn’t like it. Next thing we know, he’s down in the cellar fetching his liquor cabinet, of which we tasted sips of the variety in her mom’s collection of beautiful shot glasses from her travels. All of it. All of them. A swell night indeed.

The visit was over too soon and the following morning we did our awkward 2.5 kisses until I gave up and went straight for the hugs. By the way, I think it should be a rule that whenever you go in to kiss people, you have to call out how many times you’re going for. No room for confusion, because for Americans, this kissing thing is WAY more intimate than a hug, which is opposite on this side of the Atlantic. And I tend to make it as awkward as possible. You’re Dutch and I’m American, but we both live in the French-speaking part of Belgium, so how many does that compute to…oh, always one (+/-) off than what I go for? Got it.

Basel, Switzerland

Thanks for being wonderfully fantastic, Nayra. We’re particularly appreciative of grand hosts these days in which we’re all traveling quite a bit more.

xxx (that’s 3 kisses for the Swiss!)

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Guest Post | A Girl and Her Travels

Hey all! As MongomeryFest is off driving wild, wonderful Europe they asked me to contribute something to their blog. Their exciting trip reminded me of one of my favorite driving moments – not exactly a relaxing holiday drive (and, uh, I wasn’t exactly driving), but a good one nonetheless.

Guest Post | A Girl and Her Travels

The first thing you should know is that I’m an ESL teacher in Moscow, Russia. The second thing you should know is that Moscow’s traffic is among the most soul-crushing in the world. Unluckily for me, my school was actually outside of the city, requiring a 15-kilometer, hour and a half bus ride at least twice a week.

So there I was, trapped on the very last row of the bus. It was stuffy and uncomfortable, but I just kept chanting “it’s almost over, it’s almost over” in my head. I only had two more weeks of going through this purgatory and then I’d never have to ride that damned bus again!

Unable to relax comfortably while wedged between two hefty grandmothers, I decided to scope out the bus. I almost immediately made awkward eye-contact with a cute Russian guy about my age. Easily embarrassed, I looked away (and thanks to my red hair, likely blushed bright red). I snuck a look back and he was still looking, turned almost all the way around in his seat. I assumed he was someone I had met and forgotten about since that happens quite often.

After a moment he turned away smiling and I intrepidly tried to ignore the weirdo for the duration of the hour long trip.

Upon reaching my bus stop, I hopped off, assuming I’d never see anyone on that bus again. While crossing the street I heard a “devochka!” (girl), turned around, and sure enough it was bus boy. I let him catch up – he was tall, good-looking, and we were surrounded by people. I felt pretty safe I wouldn’t get ax-murdered.

I spoke mediocre Russian for a bit before he figured out I was American. He spoke tentative English. It turns out that he lived a quick two-minute walk from the school I worked at! We agreed to trade phone numbers and the rest is history!

Guest Post | A Girl and Her Travels

Oh, except for a quick kiss outside the school’s windows which caused another teacher to abandon her class of children to grill me on what was going on.

Oh, and the fact that I just took that very same bus this morning from his house to get a decent wifi connection. They say love makes you do crazy things, but they never said it would torture you with Russian traffic jams!

Adorbs, right?! We always love hearing how the couples we know met, especially around the world. Always different, quirky, interesting, and gives a little sneak-peak into what is to come. Check out what Polly and the Russky are up to at A Girl and Her Travels, and thanks Polly for adding your story while we’re out on our adventure (updates to come!).

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