Category Archives: TRAVEL

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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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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Mechelen, man

Via our friend Doris we’ve found out about this awesome map of Brussels made by Use-It. It’s a free little guidebook of sorts made up by young locals to point out some of their favorite spots in the city, keeping you in the cool, not too touristy parts. We’ve been whipping out our Brussels one every once in a while to get some ideas on new places to try out or areas to stroll through, so we were excited to find out that they’re a Europe-wide sort of thing. In Belgium they’ve got all the big cities – Antwerp, Bruges, Gent and Leuven – but also a name we hadn’t seen come up all too often: Mechelen. So one slow Sunday we figured we’d give it a go and visit this place that finds itself about halfway between Brussels and Antwerp.

Now that we’ve built up this map you’re probably assuming that we’re checking off all the hot Mechelen spots. Well, no. Who knows what happened (ok, it was because Doris hand delivered the Brussels one and the tourist office doesn’t find itself in our living room) but we ended up in the town mapless. Comme d’habitude. Our first stop was St. Rombold’s Cathedral, mainly because we could spot the tower from where we parked and figured it’d be in the center of town.. And if that tower looks a little unfinished to you, it’s because it is. They stopped when the town ran out of money way back in the 16th century and it’s stayed a flat-top ever since. Inside we found a corner full of gossiping statues, presumably talking about whoever went broke.

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Cleanest. Belgian. Town. Stuff was almost shiny, and the city had flowers almost anywhere they could fit them. It did have a little emptiness to it though – the place felt like it was made for way, way more people. But it was a Sunday, sunny, and holiday season so it’s not too far fetched to think that the residents had vacated their pristine little town for the beaches. The extra space gave Annie some time to practice her cartwheels. Or maybe all the locals are at the spots we should have known about if we had our Use-It map..

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Visitors Itinerary | Jordan

Welcome Jordan. You might remember her sweet dance moves from here. She hails from Dallas, where the we all met post grad at work and bonded over crazy long hours and dreaming of retiring in Europe immediately (at least that’s how I remember it). She knew the work Annie and Justin who were total opposites and then the dating Annie and Justin who somehow, strangely worked despite polar responses to life and then the night I picked her up for Girl’s Night and she flipped out when we sat down at the table and saw my shiny ring finger, but I couldn’t exactly tell her in the car, so I was waiting for the right timing and that was a fun night. Anyway, it’s now my mission in life to make this a reality, because really, Europe looks good on these people down here…. 

Fete de la Musique | Brussels, Belgium

Because it wouldn’t be a true Jordan visit if we didn’t hear a little live music, we headed to Parc Royal to check out the Fête de la MusiqueAaaand it was just what we needed to go from this (left) to that (right). Asap:

Excited friends a la airport | Brussels, BelgiumContent friends a la Place Jourdan | Brussels, Belgium

Necessary.

Also necessary, we consumed a whole lotta Belgian beer, chocolate, and much-needed girl chat. It was better than Disney World.

There was a trip to Bruges, where we climbed the tiniest stairwell in all of the land. Smaller and taller and smaller and smaller. Finally. The top, where those bells ring all of a sudden no matter how close your ears are. They don’t care.

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And then, we went all touristy in Brussels and plopped down in the middle of Grand Place with the messiest kind of waffles. The kind that you find in your hair at dinner later that evening.

There was a lot of walking and chatting and chatting and walking and maybe some slight getting lost (although I might have been the only one who knew it?) and a mildly inappropriate tourist attraction and a very, very inappropriate tourist attraction.

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So, here’s the deal. I’m totally in love with all of the fantastic ladies (and gents) we’ve come to know and call friends in this sassy area of the world, but, ya know, sometimes you just need some home cooking. I’m sorry, Jordan. I just compared you to cooking. But, it’s just soooo GOOD FOR THE SOUL. Laughing about shenanigans we got into back in Dallas (if she’d let me, I’d start uploading embarrassing photos because they make me happy, but I’m sorry. and also, you’re welcome.) and understanding the same cultural references and just sitting and enjoying good ol’ friend time. BUT, I’m getting carried away, I didn’t have to choose!  We threw together a fancy schmancy Girls’ Night! And, in general Girl’s Nights make me a happy one, but this one. This one was a special sort. Plus, my hubby crashed the party at the end, so it was the best kind of night. 

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And THEN, we finally made it to Chalet Robinson and found the best grilled chicken caesar salad in this country, probably. I mean, we had to travel via ferry to the island and were surrounded by freshly pressed business people and dogs, so the stakes were pretty high. But, worth it to meet this stud..

Chalet Robinson | Brussels, BelgiumChalet Robinson | Brussels, Belgium

And in case there’s any suspicion that I went mean girl up there, the guy gave us candy after our lunch. And if you must know anything about me, it’s that candy is the way to my heart (ahem, American candy). Which must mean that Jordan knows me pretty darn well, because that little chica flew to Spain and then to Belgium with at least two pounds of it in tow. These are the kind of people you want in your life.

Chatelain Market | Brussels, Belgium

Aren’t you happy we prettied this blog up with Jordan photos? Now, THAT was necessary.

Til the next overseas adventure, friend!

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, VISITORS ITINERARY

Why Belgium?

Brussels watercolor via MontgomeryFest

Nine months into this jig seems as good a time as any to add a why to this adventure. Leeeeeet’s start from the beginning:

At about the time of our fourth date, we got into the life goals and aspirations chat as two people do and discovered that we both craved seeing the world. A little insight :: I’m from little ole South Louisiana where I’m the youngest of five and the only one to leave the city, much less the country. So, this handsome boy who talked about music festivals (another weakness of mine) and a wanderlust that matched my own was getting a fifth date, fer sher. Fast forward to the next year when we were surrounded by wedding talk and what to do, what to do..

And since you must know, the plan, simply put, was to see the world. Soooo, how do we do this thing? Well, since we’ve yet to become independently wealthy and can’t just drop everything and buy a hut in Bora Bora, we’ll have to go the career route. J’s firm offers (and by offers, i mean if you beg and pester and do HR’s job for them, they eventually give in – I used to work there…one of the reasons I don’t anymore) “tours” to another office, sort of like an in-house job offer to another location within the firm. So, after we got that set into motion and poked and prodded it along, all while planning a wedding, we decided to regain J’s citizenship to Belgium just in case we find an opening anywhere in the European Union…this way, I can bypass the whole tourist visa deal….so now i get to volunteer for super cool organizations like Buddy Werking. The Belgium thing was a total coincidence – crazy, right? And, if you’re counting, that’s three big life adjustments going on for us at once.

And then, there was an opening in Brussels. Hmmm..okay, what do you think about Brussels? Don’t know anything about Brussels. Isn’t it supposed to be boring? Let’s pro-con this thing:

PRO
– it’s small enough so that the travel is light and he’s home every night (biggest pro – the offices are based by country… in the US, he would be gone for 3 weeks in BS and the smell of his unwashed shirts and gchat videos could only do so much)
– we’d get to experience Europe as locals (well, that’d be anywhere we moved)
– doesn’t Europe have WAY better work/life balance (this one is key)

CON
uuuuh, didn’t you say it was boring?

AND THEN, we were all – All right. Let’s do this thing.

After what seemed like fooooorevvvver getting ‘maybes’ and ‘we’ll sees,’ we finally got a ‘probably.’ We didn’t technically get the 90% until 2 weeks before which was convenient (and actually not very convenient at all) because over in America there’s this two week thing that i had to give my job…that I loved. We booked our one-way flights the week before we moved. Livin’ on the edge people.

So, without having any pre-notion of Belgium, we boarded ship. Well, technically we boarded flight and our stuff boarded ship. And, y’all! As we quickly came to realize, this place is anything but boring. I mean, you remember this right? We’ve been having the funnest time discovering this little-big country with a random trip here and a random trip there, here a trip, there a trip, every where…you get the idea. Besides being the capital of Europe and all of the EU institution liveliness, it’s also the center of Europe (was that planned?) so, we have our choice of destinations.

I think I counted 6 tangents in this post, maybe a new personal best, but probably not. 

Anyway. The travel thing. Business travel is fun…for like 4.8 trips and then, it’s lame. Sorry. ’tis true. Which is what makes tiny, little, travel-from-coast-to-coast-in-a-day Belgium puuurfect for the inseparable couple. (yeah, yeah codependent embrace it) As fun as Australia would be, neither of us wanna be doing these adventures on our own while one of us is traveling to clients and the other is lady lunching by the sea!

SO! This + this + this is actually how MontgomeryFest came to be!

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