Christmas in July

Last fall, I had some friends contact me about taking a river boat cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe.  Most people plan these a year or so out, but I love the spontaneity of these folks, so getting a last-minute request for such an amazing trip was both awesome and a bit hurried!  But, we had sweet success in finding the perfect trip and my clients really enjoyed their experience.  They have given me permission to share some of their photos and it is always fun to show off other people’s travel experiences as I get to see the world from someone else’s eyes!  Check out these fabulous memories!!!

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The lobby of AmaWaterways’ beautiful ship AmaPrima

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The AmaPrima decorated for Christmas

Gegenbach Germany

Gegenbach, Germany

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Great eats at Heidelburg, Germany

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Heidelburg Market

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Rudesheim, Germany

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Strasburg Market, Germany

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Strasburg, Germany

Quebec – Day 3

This was our final day in Quebec and on our big adventure north.  We decided to stay in the city this day (Friday) and really enjoyed the festive feel of freshly fallen snow and had a wonderful time out and about all day!

We all slept in and got our start after a nice breakfast at our hotel.  We stayed at the Hotel Royal William – this is outside the old city and maybe a 15 minute walk (uphill) to the walled city, but for the fabulous cost for  two rooms for three nights, we couldn’t pass it up!  The rooms were spacious, well kept and the included breakfast was adequate (cereal, pastries, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit and cheese, coffee, tea and juice).  I would absolutely stay there again with pleasure and we enjoyed the walking each day.  Anyway – at the end of the day, it’s all downhill!

So, the snow – I mean, could it have been more gorgeous?  Maybe if it would have been a tad warmer, but if you’re embracing winter, you WANT a winter wonderland and we got one!!

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On our way to the old city – our hotel, the Hotel Royal William, was two blocks behind us and to the left!

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One of the old city gates. Did you know that Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico City? Pretty cool place for this history buff to visit! It was seriously like visiting France in my back yard!!!

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That’s the Chateau Frontenac far in the background!

We strolled to the city and stopped at all the shops – my daughter loved poking around shops and her money always burns a hole in her pocket!  We got some trinkets and moseyed up to Chateau Frontenac to toboggan again, then found our way to Chez Ashton – a chain of fast food restaurants that specializes in poutine.  Thanks Marie-Andree, for the recommendation!  We enjoyed the Quebec must-eat then scooted on our way again!

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Traditional poutine at Chez Ashton.

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Lined up for the toboggan ride!

The afternoon saw more walking around and touring, including Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec.  We hit the lower city again, rode the Funicular UP (we got smarter as our visit went on) and HAD to toboggan one more time – and by this time, it was freezing rain so the operators had to spread salt and sand at the bottom of the run because people were sledding OVER the barrier!

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The Lower City was bustling! We had a great time exploring this unique, European feeling Petit-Champlain section of Quebec

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I took this on the way UP the funicular – it reminds me of a Thomas Kincade painting.

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A good icing on top of the cake!

Before we left the Lower City, we HAD to try this classic Quebec maple masterpiece.  It was SO good!  Check this out!

My friend, Marie-Andree – who happens to be from Quebec, asked her dad about some fondue recommendations and we got a great one!  We had some amazing Fondue at La Tyrolienne and were so full we could hardly drive back to our hotel!  Fondue = FUNdue!!!!

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Our appetizer..bread dipped in cheese!

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Everyone got a platter of thinly sliced beef, then there was shrimp and chicken to fondue as well!

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Dessert – chocolate and maple fondue with fruit!

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My favorite – banana dipped in chocolate.

Our three night escape was the best ever!!!  It went by so fast and we all had a great time!  The drive home was long but we reminisced about the great experiences we had – our favorites were the Siberia Station Spa, tubing, the ice hotel, the toboggan ride and fondue!  Thanks for taking this journey with us and we HIGHLY recommend Quebec City for families, couples and friends!  In a few weeks I’ll share our next “experience” trip – hold on to your hats because we are going to Paris!!!

Check out a short video of our second toboggan run!

 

 

To adorn and be adored…

Last week, my whole family went to go see Mary Poppins Returns.  It made me smile the WHOLE time!!!  It was such a Disney-esque movie – the music, the animation, the signing, the sets…..I loved how they took the original, ran it into a sequel, but made a wholly unique movie all at the same time.

Something that was woven throughout the movie was the idea of memories.  I love the memories I make when I travel – whether with family, friends or for work.  I gather together pieces of knowledge, memories of destinations, winding roads and unexpected journeys.   I started thinking about some of the “things” I treasure most from my travels, and right now, those things include the ornaments I try to collect from each destination.  Sometimes I forget, but I usually remember to get some small trinket/ornament every new place we go – except for Disney- we try to get one each time we go and we are starting a rather nice collect:)

Along with the picture books I have made of our travels, these ornaments serve as a tangible memory of a place seen and experienced.   Year after year, they restart a conversation of times past, adventures taken, dreams accomplished, destinations enjoyed and precious memories with people I love.  I feel joy each year when I hold them in my hands to put them on our tree to adorn and be adored.  And after every New Year, I tenderly put them away to await their reveal for the next Christmas Season.

Recently, I have been on a kick of purging personal items – I feel we have too many “things” that we don’t need and these “things” own us.  I read somewhere that when thinking about keeping or getting rid of something, I should ask myself if it has a constant purpose or if it gives me joy.  These ornaments are some of the few “things” I have that truly give me joy and they won’t be headed out with the purging boxes:)

Here are some pictures of a few of my favorite travel ornaments, where they came from, and a memory I have of these places experienced!  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Disney ornaments

Some of our Disney favorites – I love the one in the foreground that is the Mickey ears representing the Haunted Mansion! Right near Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom, there is an adorable ornament shop I love visiting each time we go to Disney! Next month, my daughter and I are going to Disneyland Paris and we will get a lovely ornament there, too!

San Gim ornament

I picked up the gem of San Gimignano, Italy when I was there in June of 2018 with my step-mom and sisters. It was their first trip to Italy and I got to be the tour guide. San Gimignano is a beautiful Tuscan hill town with so much charm and flare and happens to have TWO amazing gelaterias in the same common square!

San Marino ornament

San Marino – the third smallest country in Europe, was a delight to visit! We were road-tripping in Italy and stayed overnight in Remini on the Adriatic. We were driving across country to Sorrento but HAD to make a stop in San Marino and I am so glad we did! It was gorgeous but BOY was it windy!!! I have a picture my husband took of me standing at the top of one of the guard towers and it is so windy my hair was swirling on top of my head like a tornado!

Winsor ornament

I love this beautiful ornament from Kensington Palace. When we visited the palace in May of 2015, all of Britain was on royal baby watch for Princess Kate and Prince William’s second born. This baby would be a girl – born the morning we visited Kensington – and she would be named Charlotte. I have my very own princess Charlotte and she was thrilled to learn the baby’s name while we visited!

Positano ornament

Oh, Positano – breathtaking!!! On our first visit there in 2016, we had rented scooters and scooted our way up and down the Amalfi Coast! What an AMAZING day! Our first stop was Positano and we parked our scooters and walked down to the shore. There, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of an early April morning with some coffee and a view that was indescribable!

Firenza ornament

Florence, or Firenze to the Italians. This city is steeped in history, gorgeous architecture and a surprise around every corner! I have visited twice, each for one day, and both experiences have been wonderful. On my first trip it was a rainy April day. We climbed the dome of the cathedral and although it was raining when we got to the top, I cannot imagine what the view would have been like had it been a clear day – because even with the rain it was wonderful!

Cozumel ornament

This little beauty is from Cancun, Mexico – something I picked up while on a girls trip on a 5 night cruise out of Tampa. My usual girl’s trips involve a beach, so this one was a bit different, and while I hit the hay every night around 10pm, my BFFs partied until the wee hours! No worries – we all go on vacation for different reasons – they went to dance; I went to sleep!