Travel Ornaments; A Year in Review….

People collect mementos of their travels, and one thing I collect is ornaments. Every year when we put up our tree, the ornaments from vacations past come out of the box and the trip is relived with joy, stories and laughter. It is EXACTLY why I travel and bring something home with me.

This year was a bit different. While we did still get in a couple of trips pre-COVID (Amsterdam and a girl’s trip to Punta Cana – and somehow I cannot find my ornament from that trip…), and still went to Disney and road tripped to South Carolina, we did miss out on a Disney cruise, a river cruise on the Rhine and my hubby missed a boy’s cruise to Mexico. There’s always next year!!!

Here are some memories and our ornaments…I know I will treasure them for many years to come. What do you bring home from your adventures?

Amsterdam – January 2020 – We LOVED this trip with friends – we can’t wait to go back!

Disney – August 2020

Southern Road Trip – Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC – November 2020

Today’s My Birthday

Today is my birthday.  It’s hard to believe I am 45 years old – but it’s true.  It’s probably harder for my parents to believe!!!!

I have lead a blessed life so far and see many many more years ahead.  I am healthy.  My family is healthy.  And my memories are beautiful and precious!  To celebrate, I’m going to share my favorite pictures from the past few years – each one has a story and a special place in my heart.

I hope you are blessed with so many fabulous memories to look back on year after year!

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2015 – in front of Hampton Court

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Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, Bahamas

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2015 – Big Ben

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San Gimignano in the mist…taken from my torre bedroom window

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My sister, Becky, and I!

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So much Caprese!

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A gorgeous setting for a wine tasting at Palagetto

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Touring the Colosseum

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It isn’t hard to eat like a local in Italy. Lemon risotto – the most amazing risotto ever!

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Culinary magic!

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In Florence at the most adorable cafe right near the Duomo!

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My hubby and I!

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Cheers – again!

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Fire and Ice…I love this picture!

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Lined up for the toboggan ride! Quebec City, Quebec.

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What a beauty!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!! Notre Dame in the background.

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Eiffel Tower!!!! 2019

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Sea Lion Encounter, St. Maarten 2019

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June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City. I ache for another opportunity like this one….we were high tailing it to our private Vatican Tour so we could barely stop to smell the roses, but man, I wish I could’ve frozen time in this very spot. It was so peaceful and serene.

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Pucker up!!!

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February 2019 aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Sunset while docked off the coast of St. Marteen.

Argenton sunrise

March 2013. Argenton-sur-Creuse. This was sunrise out the window of our charming 16 century townhouse at the end of the bridge.

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I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations! EPCOT 2019

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Symphony After Dark! Stunning!

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Yes, these were BOTH for me!

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Brother had to get into the action!

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Photo from the top of one of the towers – San Gimignano, Italy

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Try to blend in. Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

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Prickly Pear blossom – so many foods are made from prickly pear – candies, licorice, jams and jellys, beer…you name it! But look at those thorns!!! Tuscon, AZ

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Sagrada Familia – needs no introduction!

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2015 – Barcelona cathedral rooftop. Spain

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Try a new form of transportation….Char and Sable on a Segway tour of the city – in Europe, kids can do many things they aren’t “allowed” to do in the US.

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Atop the battlements of Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George Castle)

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2015 – Outside of Jeronimos Monastery

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Malaga – breathtaking!

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Scooting in Cinque Terre, Italy.

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On board the Anthem of the Seas, moored off the coast of Nice, France.

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Gibraltar – long lost cousins? Oh and behind Kelton in the distance? AFRICA!!!!!

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Cousin’s Trip – Animal Kingdom 2016

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Magic Kingdom 2017 – mom and dad’s second trip to Disney without kids!!!!

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Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Magic Kingdom 2018

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Windsor, Char and Sable – you all haven’t met Sable yet, but this kitty gets around. She even has her own book series in the works!

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Family photo taken by dad. Yes it was cold, rainy and windy – it was April in England!!!

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Kelton’s hair resembled Albert Einstein’s a bit too much!! Madame Tussauds.

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My beautiful rose petal and Hampton Court gardens.

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Mind the gap. We got an Oyster Card and used all manner of public transportation throughout London! I love this shot of Char and Sable!

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These adorable sheep were all over the city and the kids posed with them whenever possible! The sheep were dressed in outfits that represented the area where they stood.

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Monte Alban behind me!

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Seasoned crickets at the market – I tried one and it wasn’t too bad!

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Mount Washington, New Hampshire

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Ossippee Lake, New Hampshire

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Swift River, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, New Hampshire

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Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

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Ossippee Lake, New Hampshire

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The best welcoming committee EVER!!!

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Near sunrise, the island of Oahu, Hawai’i

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Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawai’i

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Sunset Perfection!!!

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Char playing her Ukulele at sunset…so perfectly cliche!!!

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An evening toast to the good life. We are standing on the Old Stone Bridge in Wurzburg, Germany, marveling at the fortification in the background and enjoying a common daily activity.

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Bamberg, Germany

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Our favorite mode of transportation!

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Outside the observatory. It was cold and windy!

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Best bite in the city!

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Gimmewald, Switzerland – 2019

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The happy tourists! Strasbourg, France

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American tourists – Amsterdam – 2020

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Flowers in January. And people say it’s too cold to travel to Europe in winter!

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My handsome date for the evening.

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A canal boat awaiting passengers.

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From the bottom – a look towards the fortress.

 

 

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 4

Well, we have come to our last day – and I think the timing is just right!  We really did SO much on this trip and it was absolutely amazing!  I think for us, a four day stay was just right – enough to learn how to get around the city, see some major highlights, wander around winding streets and canals, and think about the things we haven’t yet seen.

Today we did our final Rick Steves’ audio tour and this one was about and through the Red Light District.  This is the oldest section of Amsterdam and a place not for the faint of heart.  As Americans, we are often rather sheltered in our everyday lives, and the Red Light District of Amsterdam makes Fremont Street in Las Vegas look like kindergarten!  As this is a family show, I won’t post any pictures or give you many descriptors here, but let’s just say the folks in Amsterdam embrace their ability to live a life less restrained by a government attempting to impose and enforce moral values.  For what it’s worth, it seems to be working in Amsterdam.

We visited the Jordaan neighborhood again today, strolled back and forth, in and out of the Red Light District, “Chinatown”, the old city, the Damstraat area and everywhere in between.  All told today, we took over 18,000 steps!!!  We ate some more of the famous Amsterdam French fries, I tried a waffle with chocolate and “caramel” (but is actually tasted like melted circus peanuts) and enjoyed dinner at a small Pad Thai place.  We even popped into a pub near the Jordaan that had Oriental RUGS on the tables instead of table clothes.  It was different!

We have explored a lot of this really cool city, but there is still a lot to do for another trip!   Until next time, Amsterdam!  Keep doin’ YOU!

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I love the mugs at our hotel!!!

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The architecture is so captivating!!!!

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One of the tidal flow gates – they open and close to allow “fresh” water to clean out the canals and help to control water levels.

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Kelly’s “Polish” smile and my “American” smile at the Anne Frank house.

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The Westerkerk in the distance.

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So many people say, “I don’t want to travel to Europe in the winter because it will be cold”. Well, it was in the 40s and 50s while we were here. There were numerous flowers blooming and plants budding. There were fewer crowds and great prices. Why wouldn’t want to travel to Europe in the winter?

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Classic Amsterdam hooks and pulleys throughout the city – and we even saw some in use during our visit!

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What a view!

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Check out the houseboat roofs! There are some 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam – some are for sale for over a million dollars! WHAT!!!

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I really loved taking pictures of the Westerkerk.

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Here is the pub with the carpets on the table.

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It was a little strange – anyone ever hear of this or seen this before?

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The “best” French fries in the city?? Well, the fires were great but we liked the sauce from another fry place. This one had 24 different options!

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Ah, the Amsterdam waffle – and boy, was it good!!!!

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My favorite traveling companion and I.

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In the old city.

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 3

Today was a bit of a later start – we had a canal cruise dinner scheduled for 7:30pm so we knew it would be too long of a day to hit the pavement at 9am.  This is also the beauty of really diving into one single place for 4 days and not traveling around so much – you can take your time a bit more and have a more relaxed touring schedule.

We decided to pull out another Rick Steves’ audio tour today and did the Amsterdam City Walk.  I love these for the knowledge they provide.  I learned that there are just over 700,000 inhabitants of Amsterdam and pretty much all of them have bikes – or more than one, even!  That is pretty obvious by all the bikes we have seen parked along the streets and the tens of bikers that have nearly killed us zooming by!

During our walking tour, we saw a lot of the south side of the city – the bottom of the “U” shape of the canals, if you will.  We passed by a canal lined with tulip markets and passed hundreds of shops and trinket stores.  We found an amazing Italian restaurant for a late lunch and our eyes were clearly too big for our stomachs!!!  We walked that meal off, winding down the brick lined city streets marveling at the gorgeous architecture and admiring the Amsterdam way of life; an attitude that is straight forward and yet live and let live.

Our canal dinner cruise was absolutely amazing!!!!  It has been the highlight of the trip so far and that is saying a lot since we have had an amazing time!  The whole experience was about 2.5 hours and for that entire time we gawked at the stunning buildings, took pictures of the festive lights (there is a light exhibit going on on the canals until 19 January) and enjoyed a four course meal, wine, water and coffee.  Really, I don’t know how it could’ve been any better!!!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day.

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The Royal Palace – technically, yes – but it used to be Town Hall.

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Canal-side tulip market.

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But do not bring them into the US – they will get taken away from you and you could get a hefty fine!

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Our lunch – all in all we got a caprese salad, a Gorgonzola salad, a vegetarian pizza, mushroom penne and 3 calzones – all for 60 Euros!!

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Oh, the sweets!!!!

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A canal boat awaiting passengers.

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Cheers to the good life!

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Our dinner cruise was magnificent.

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Seven bridges canal!

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The Anne Frank house from the canal.

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Westerkerk from the canal.

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My handsome date for the evening.

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The Basilica of Saint Nicholas.