Tag Archives: travel

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..

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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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And the town cheered with excitement

Ghent, Belgium via MontgomeryFest

Because we were one for three. Three times the mister and I have tried to hit up a river cruise in the country of Belgium. That first time was kinda our fault..the forecast said it was pretty out, or maybe we didn’t check the weather? Who can even remember at this point, it was like 39 days ago or something. We got in the car and drove straight up to Ghent and parked our car  and walked outside and let it pour down on us for like eight seconds before we decided – nope.. Okay, maybe it was a light rain, but it was cold and being on the water sounded little fun. Bummer. So, we walked back inside and bought some watercolor paint in the parking garage slash shopping mall and got back in our car and drove straight back down to Brussels where I can’t remember if it was raining or not, but that’s beside the point.  That second time was with the ladies in Bruges and the weather was a tiny bit chilly, but not a rain cloud in sight and J and I’s eyes lit up when we walked over a canal by chance and saw a guided tour float by under our bridge.  Maybe?! Nope. Nanan nixed that idea up and real quick since her layer of thermals wasn’t warm enough. On land we stayed. Such is the life of a host.

But! Last Saturday, the stars aligned and there was sunshine and it was just the two of us and we saw our chance.

And the town of Ghent was so excited for us that they all came out to welcome us and, well okay, not totally just for that, but there were many a Belgian and non-Belgian alike amongst those cobblestone streets. I love when you get close to the center of a city and, whether it’s official or not, the cars turn away and all there are are people walking, bicycling, meandering, enjoying the leisurely life along the streets…in the masses (sooo many people here!). Actually, I take that back. Leisurely and bicycles don’t go together in these parts. It’s a serious, fast-paced agenda that bicycling in Northern Europe. We boarded our wooden yacht and sat back watching boats bump into each other and then waving ‘pardon’ or whatever the Dutch word is (sorry Dutch friends)…are they seriously smiling?! So many people. We laughed at the signs on every seat saying tipping was customary in 4 different languages guaranteeing you couldn’t miss it because it’s funny that tipping is not customary in Europe but tipping IS customary on tourist rides. The adventure began and we listened to the tour in English, French, Dutch and maybe there was another one, but my ears only tuned in when they heard english or a french term that they didn’t use during the English translation (what the heck.). Kinda rad how the brain does that, but can’t remember the grammar rules for capitalizing languages (help?) to save my life. Capitalization for all!

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You see, the thing about floating under a willow tree is that it’s lovely. 

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Palma de Mallorca

Our trip to Palma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFest

Monday was particularly Mondayish, so we felt certain that we needed a beach trip in the near future. Like, really near. Like, Wednesday. So, we were giddy about the spontaneous adventure until about 5:01a Wednesday when the alarm clock woke us up, but at around 5:03a, all was better when our neurons started working and we remembered we were headed to the Mediterranean. Ahh, Spain! New country. Get on over there>>.

J went undercover as morning watchman and I risked getting sassed by the flight attendant, but it was worth it to snag these overhead shots of the Balearic Islands just before we landed on them. You’re welcome.

Balearic Islands via MontomeryFestPalma de Mallorca | Balearic Islands via MontgomeryFest

As soon as we landed, we threw on our beach attire and headed straight to the sand. Ahh sand, our toes have missed you. (and you too, waves. and you too, ocean smell.)

Palma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFestPalma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFest
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We stayed just outside of the city center so that we could enjoy a slightly more secluded beach. The walk into town was about an hour along the coast. Everywhere you looked – the colors! I mean! I was giddy. Once we got to the center of Palma, we walked past the Portixol marina to the old town, which looked like anything but an old town. Every.single.thing was well-kept and well cared for…unlike my nails these days (miss you too American nail salons). The cathedral, La Seu, is a marvel and the outside terraces were rocking my world. We’ve never had a better selection of patios.

Palma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFestLa Seu | Palma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFest Old town | Palma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFestOld town | Palma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFestPalma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFestPalma de Mallorca via MontgomeryFestRooftop view of Palma de Mallorca beach via MontgomeryFest

^This is the view from the rooftop of our hotel (sneaking out the restricted door. gosh. we’ve turned out to be such rebels.) Where the coast line bends is the city center of Palma. There are about eight of my favorite things in the world either in this picture or taking this picture (photo courtesy of Justin. obvi.).

Palma de Mallorca beach via MontgomeryFest

This is where we lived on Thursday. Isn’t the beach just the absolute, most perfect venue to read? I like to get my Mr. Darcy fix in and pretend that I naturally talk so eloquently in my love letters to J (what, it’s not obvious from this blog?). Also, we have this thing where we adore having tan lines from our rings. After the wedding reception, it was pretty much: fly to Jamaica, tan our fingers. That’s not weird. Another thing that’s not weird – color coordinated, even at the beach. Bam.

Palma de Mallorca beach via MontgomeryFestPalma de Mallorca beach via MontgomeryFestPalma de Mallorca beach via MontgomeryFest

And at the end of the day, we said ‘adios’ to that Spanish adventure and returned home to our Belgian one.

Happy Friday Amigos!

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Story Time

So, this one time. Last Friday. We were patioing pretty hard at the trendy Place Lux (it’s at the foot of the Parliament, so it makes for great over-dressed-HH-watching). At the time, it seemed like a really superb idea to crash a family get together at our friends who live nearby – blame it on the Leffe’s. (yeah, yeah.) And when we were at the doorstep telling our peeps goodnight and sorry for the 14th time, J tunes in to the concert playing next door. My non-pop music listening better half yells out ‘it’s We Are Barcelona!’ and before I could hear the next beat (and remember that I had heard of them before), ‘and they’re playing We Are Barcelona!!’…grabs my hand and we run off just in time to catch the end of the set. I’m pretty sure we said goodbye. Random nights are the best.

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And then, on Saturday, we set out to visit Durbuy, the smallest town on earth. Just south of Brussels, there’s this forest that’s known for its bluebells in May, so we pit-stopped there. The fun part was the Dutch signs – when you see red and white signs with 24 character words, it’s easy to assume that they’re trying to warn you about something. With barely any cell reception under the trees, we tried to translate and decided that it probably says we can’t go in. Maybe 10 minutes worth of translating and debating later, we (J, the driver) pulled the car to the side to park it. At exactly the time of ‘park’, some car whips by us and drives into the forest. It’s not that funny right now, but we cracked up at that for another .10 minutes. Dutch is hard, yo. We drove around a bit. The trees were pretty. Lots of runners. And one bluebell. Apparently, May means May, because it was June 1st and we missed the season. (If you’re really curious because I spent a whole paragraph hyping it up, have no fear – A Bee and Toe actually made it on time.)

Also, that anti-climatic pit-stop made the trip to Durbuy extra long, so we stopped again along the way in Namur. And, can I tell you, we were pleasantly surprised at how bustling that cute, little-big city was! We’ve had a knack for finding the squares with violin/accordion stars lately and I’m lovin’ it. We’ll be back Namur, save us a dinner cruise.

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Okay. You know how it’s strawberry season? Well, there’s the precious little town just south of Namur called Wépion and it’s the Belgian capital of the strawberry. Uhhm, so it’s obviously the next stop in this thrilling novel. The road between the two cities boarders the Meuse River and right when we crossed into the town, little strawberry stands and park benches started popping up! Those suckers made the car smell delicious, so we had to hurry home for dinner and dessert – the.sweetest.strawberries.of.our.lives.

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We never actually made it to the smallest town on earth.

Sunday was made for lounging. There isn’t much of a story here, but the day unfolded like this: ‘let’s go to the park.’ picnic blanket – check. ‘I miss Symphony in the Park.’ ‘I miss that park.’ (we lived by my favorite park in Dallas) ‘I miss wine in the park.’ Wine glasses – check. Night shop on the way (Brussels is closed on Sundays…this is their exception) – check. ‘This is a good day.’ And then our friends from Friday night passed by and we didn’t redeem ourselves any. But, really. this is the life.

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We hope you had a fantastic weekend, too – Care to share? Was there a fair? Did you do your hair? Dr. Seuss wants to know..

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, LIFE