Tuesday, December 29, 2009


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Ahh, what to say about Amsterdam? Brandon and I fell in love with the city. It was my grandma's third time there, and she guessed it would probably be our favorite trip. She was right :-) We took the high speed train, which ended up not being very "high speed." There were a bunch of technical problems and we arrived two hours later than we should have. We checked into our hotel and my friends Kevin and Finn met us in the lobby. I've known Kevin since middle school and we both discovered that we would be in Amsterdam at the same time so we made it a point to meet up! Finn grew up in Amsterdam and speaks dutch fluently, so we felt so lucky to have him show us around.

After a few hours they had to go, so they walked us to Anne Frank's house (we had a tour reserved at 5:30 pm) and we said good-bye. Anne Frank's house was a very moving experience. We got to see the secret Annex that the Frank family lived in for two years while hiding from the Nazi's. It was very surreal for me. 

The next day we woke up early and had breakfast and discovered poffertjes!!!! They were truly amazing. They are similar to mini-pancakes but they are more doughy. They come with powdered sugar and whipped cream. I could live off of them.

After breakfast we went to take a canal boat tour of Amsterdam. It was amazing to see the city from a different perspective. Amsterdam is such a beautiful, old city with a lot of history.  Here is a picture of brandon and I on the canal boat, and a few pictures we took of the city from the boat.

After the canal tour, we took the metro to the VanGogh Museum. I was so excited to see so many famous paintings in real life! We paid for the earphones so we could hear about each painting and the stage that Vincent VanGogh was in while he was working on each one. Poor guy, was very troubled. We got to see a few of his famous paintings such as the sunflowers, and his bedroom. But Starry Night was out on loan to another museum, so we missed that one!

After the VanGogh museum, we ate lunch and headed to the Heinken Experience. Brandon had heard so much about this from friends of his, so we had to do it. It was basically a really fun tour of the brewery. We got to see how the beer is made, and then have a few afterwards. Neither me, nor my grandma are huge beer drinkers, so after having a sip, Brandon got our beers as well. He was a happy camper :-) Here is a picture of the four main ingredients in Heineken: Water, barley, hops and A yeast.

The next day we had the dutch pancakes again and walked around a bit more. There were soooo many things that we didn't have time to do, and we vowed that we would come back :-) We took a tour of one of the oldest canal houses, I believe it was built in the 1600s. They turned this wealthy house into a museum and it was interesting to be able to walk around inside.

After that, we had to head back to the train station! It was definitely too short of a trip!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas and Engaged!!

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Our Christmas day in Brussels, Belgium was wonderful!
We slept in, and hung out in our pajamas
for the better part of the morning and early afternoon.
We watched A Christmas Story and then started cooking our Christmas dinner.
 Garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, corn and BBQ'd steaks
{steaks were actually cheaper than the small turkeys here!}

After dinner we watched the movie Love Actually
 It's also become kind of a tradition for Brandon and I to watch it every year.
Afterwards, I told Brandon I was sleepy
but he asked me if we could stay downstairs for a little bit
because he wasn't ready for bed.
He went to the basement to get his laundry
and I curled up on the couch to read my book.

When he came back upstairs,
he sat next to me and we just talked by the Christmas tree.

"Are you a little bummed there were no presents this year?"

"No, it's not really the presents that make Christmas,
but I sure did miss the shopping and the wrapping etc."

"Well, I actually do have a little present for you"
{which made me feel terrible because I had nothing for him}

He went to dig something out of his pocket
and I didn't even realize he had gotten down on his knee.

And before I knew it,
there was black box in front of me and I thought I was going to faint.
I don't really even remember what he said,
{is that sad?} 
but I did catch the "will you marry me" part.

For some reason, the first thing I asked was, "Do my parents know?"
and he laughed and said,
"I will answer all of your questions, after you answer mine."
Of course I said YES!!!
This picture was taken a couple of hours before the proposal in the exact spot it happened.

And for those of you that are interested,
here is a picture of the ring although it doesn't do it any justice!
It's absolutely gorgeous and sooo sparkly :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

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Our Christmas Eve was different than any other year (obviously) but it was wonderful. We slept in, and then Brandon and I bundled up and decided to take the Metro to the city. We had such a great time at Grand Place/Grote Market. There are all of these narrow, cobblestone streets filled with shops and restaurants. There are also lots of covered carts/booths selling different goodies (waffles, candy, trinkets.) It is similar to Christmas-on-the-Prado at Balboa Park...but better :-) I could easily have gotten lost after wandering down so many streets if it wasn't for Brandon.

I was so impressed with these two VanGogh statue impersonators! He was asking me where we were from, and when I said 'California' he said "Oh! Barak Obama!" which made me laugh right before Brandon took the picture.

So a very famous Brussels Landmark is the Manneken Pis which is Dutch for Little Man Urinating. It's a statue/fountain of a little naked boy peeing. I mean there are figurines of this little boy in EVERY gift shop. The coolest part about it, is that no one is really sure of the story behind it. There are many legends told to tourists including, "a young boy who was awoken by a fire and was able to put out the fire with his urine, in the end this helped stop the king's castle from burning down." I was exceptionally impressed by the chocolate-looking replica of the boy in this chocolate shop:

Needless to say, Brandon and I were very curious to see the actual statue. We wandered through a few streets and came upon it. He's so small! And it's very amusing because they dress him up in different outfits for the different seasons. Currently, he is Santa :-)

After a few hours of walking in the cold, we stopped to have some "frites" or fries which are absolutely delicious in Belgium. They sell them all over the place. We did a bit of shopping and then it was time to head home, it was Christmas Eve after all! We got home around 6:00 pm and made a taco dinner (we all miss Mexican food!) Then, the three of us watched the movie The Holiday before bed!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


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I was so excited about our trip to Brugge today/this evening! Mostly because Brandon and I really enjoyed the movie with Colin Farrell, In Brugge and we've wanted to see the city ever since. It was quite an adventure to get there because we were going to drive the car (by we, I mean Brandon) and it was going to be an hour and a half drive. **The driving here seems so different, but one main difference is that priority is always given to the right. So we'll be driving along and someone can make a right turn directly in front of you without looking! Anyway, Brandon was a little nervous, but very collected and determined. After awhile we got the hang of it, and enjoyed the "motorway" or freeway. It was snowy countryside and pretty to look at.

Brugge is just absolutely gorgeous. It's almost like a smaller version of Venice maybe? There are lots of canals, and bridges that go over the water. The cobblestone streets were very narrow with a lot of different shops, restaurants and chocolatiers. We tried our first Belgian chocolate today and it was great! We just chose a few pieces from the many choices, as we didn't really know what we were looking for.

The buildings and squares here are absolutely GORGEOUS! Some of the famous Brugge buildings kind of look like they are made out of lego's on the top :-)

My Grandma and I in front of the famous bell tower :-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


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Well, our day in Paris could not have been better (maybe longer) but not better! The train ride there was beautiful (snowy fields mostly) and pretty quick (about 1.5 hours) and the first thing we did when we arrived was find lunch. We came across a cute Italian place, and the service was so friendly and the food was amazing. Brandon said they had the best lasagna he's ever had (although we were pretty starving at this point.) We enjoyed the warmth of the restaurant and watched the city from the windows.  Here is a photo I took of the restaurant later that evening before we left.

After lunch, we walked down to the Metro and made our way over to the Louvre. I loved using the Metro, and wish that we had more public transportation options at home. It was so quick, easy and inexpensive. Arriving at the Louvre was amazing! Brandon and I had both seen the outside of it previously, but we were so impressed by the size inside! We only had a few hours and were only able to see one of the three wings. It could have easily taken all day to see the whole thing. I was most excited about the Mona Lisa :-) I've heard that it can be kind of anti-climactic so I pictured it on the smaller size however I thought it was a normal size painting. I wish that we could have gotten closer to it, but they had it roped off. Afterwards, we played in the rain outside by the fountains and the famous glass pyramids :-)

Afterwards, we got back on the Metro and headed towards the Eiffel tower. We found a park right along the Seine River and took a few pictures of the Eiffel tower at night. It was gorgeous outside and it was raining, and then the Eiffel tower started sparkling. It was truly a perfect night!! Here is one of the many cheesy photos we took :-)

Afterward, we had a reallllllly good kebab sandwich from this kebab place and then headed back to the Gare de Nord train station. ALL of the trains were delayed due to the weather! So we didn't end up getting home until almost 1:30 am. We fell fast asleep immediately!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowed in!

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Well, we woke to find that it had stormed while we slept and continued to do so all morning and day! Our plan was to take the car downtown and explore but we felt a little nervous about driving a car that isn't ours, in a city we aren't familiar with, and driving rules that are completely different. Plus, we watched quite a few cars struggle to make it up hills because of the slippery streets and figured we would play it safe. The snow was really coming down! It was so nice to lay around in pajamas and watch movies while the snow fell right outside the window :-)

Here, is a picture from the bathroom window...

It stopped snowing aound 4pm and Brandon (who had cabin fever) bundled up and walked to find where our Metro stop was -- we'll be using it to take us to the train station to Paris tomorrow. It's surprisingly warmer today, maybe low 30's as opposed to 19 degrees yesterday. Turns out the Metro is only about a 25 minute walk, which isn't bad if the temperature stays in the 30's! Fingers crossed that it's not too snowy in Paris as we'd like to walk around quite a bit. If it's storming, we'll spend more time in the Louvre and cafes :-)

Well, we just made a great dinner (chicken, potatoes and green beans) and now we're settling in to watch the Charger game in a few hours(Brandon is streaming it online.) He brought his Charger jersey with him because it seems they've been winning since he bought it ;-)

Well hopefully we'll have great stories to tell later about our adventure in Paris tomorrow!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day Two in the Brussels, Belgium

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I figured I would add a few pictures to Brandon's post. These are just a few from walking around the neighborhood yesterday.  Oh and a sign that I thought was an amusing way of indicating a dog park :-)               


Brandon's Words:
Well, jet lag is not our friend, and because of it we didn't wake up until 10. And shoot, we're on vacation, we can wake up when we want. We eventually got ourselves together and went walking in search of lunch and the nearest metro stop. We did battle with the cold (it was 19 degrees), and the cold won. We only made it like a mile and turned around. In our defense, there was no food in sight yet and we just wanted to eat. We thought maybe we could accomplish more in the car. I went out and swept off the snow and ice and warmed it up and then we went in search of nutrition.

The rules for driving in Belgium are much different. They didn't even issue driver's licenses here until the 60s. I think I only got a dirty look once.We didn't have great luck in the car either looking for food, but we did get a sense of the neighborhood. In the end we got a falafel pita from a little Lebanese take out place. It was really good.

While we were in the take out place we came face to face with the language barrier. Amira wanted a sandwich but ended up with a side of hummus cause she was too embarrased to point to the menu. I got lucky and pointed out that I wanted Falafel, which turned out to be a sandwich. I shared. The man who helped us was very kind. But Amira noticed that he was talking to his friend in Arabic about us. One of the phrases she could understand was "ya harram" (sp? we don't really know Arabic either) which means "poor thing." She was a poor thing.

That is all.


Friday, December 18, 2009

We're here!

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16 hours, two flights, one layover, 6,000+ miles, one train ride and one taxi ride and we made it!! We arrived to our place in Belgium a few hours ago and it's absolutely beautiful!! Brussels very rarely gets snow, but this year they did! Everything is covered in it and the streets are beautiful in our neighborhood. 

I thought Brittney would love this, but much to our surprise RIGHT next store to our place is an amazing bakery. The cakes and goodies in the windows are gorgeous, and we're told every morning we can smell the bread baking. We stopped by and they gave us a few loaves of warm bread as a welcome :-)

We couldn't wait to explore the house, and man was there a lot to see! There are five stories!! The room we are staying in is on the 5th floor and there is a wooden staircase that leads to an artist's loft.  

View of our room from the artist's loft...

Some of the staircases...

I am very happy to report that there is a little Christmas tree, and they even had one wrapped present for each of us waiting! (For clarification, my Grandma does house exchanges, so we are staying in a Belgian family's house, and they are staying at my grandma's place in CA.)

After exploring the house, we walked to the grocery store around the corner and bought a few things for lunch and now we're trying to keep ourselves awake for a few more hours so we can get used to the time in Belgium. It's 4:00 in the afternoon here (7:00 am California time) and we've been up since 3:30am on Thursday. We're exhausted, but excited to explore the town tomorrow :-)

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Official!

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Well, we purchased our plane tickets to Belgium a few days ago!! We've been talking about if for so many months that it's exciting to have it official.  :-)

I chose the name of this blog to reflect the love of travel that both Brandon and I share. We've both been overseas a few times (he even lived in York, England for awhile) but we've yet to travel outside of the country together...except for our cruise to Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. I know I've jumped the gun a little bit by creating this blog when we won't leave for another few months but I'm excited, what can I say?

I hope this will be a simple way to keep our friends and family updated with pictures and stories while we're gone :-)
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