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Dec 272016
 

Hi friends! How’s everyone doing on this Tuesday? Did you have a nice Christmas? Mine was absolutely wonderful, even if it was a bit crazy driving around from place to place. I’m planning to recap everything, but there’s too much to cover in just one post! Let’s start off with part 1 of my recap: a day at the New York Botanical Garden!

As I think you all know, Fabio’s dad, sister, and niece all live in Queens, New York. Since they came down to Maryland for Thanksgiving, it was our turn to go up there for Christmas. Initially we weren’t sure how we were going to manage splitting up the holiday with Fabio’s family and my family, but luckily we found a solution that involved us driving up to New York on Thursday evening, spending Friday with Fabio’s family, and then driving back down to see my family on Saturday morning. Phew! I told you it was a lot of driving around.

Thursday

After work on Thursday, Fabio and I packed up all our gear and drove over to my mom’s house since she and my stepdad kindly offered to watch Jack for us. We were planning to pick up Fabio’s sister, Diane, and brother-in-law, Alex, on our way, but they had an office holiday party to attend until 9 p.m. That meant we had some extra time to kill at my mom’s house, so we enjoyed a lovely dinner there!

Our family friends Lee and Dan were over, and Lee made a delicious pasta carbonara dish with homemade pasta. My mom’s pasta machine is amazing – it’s a Phillip’s pasta maker – and you better believe we added this thing to our wedding registry. You just dump the ingredients in, put on the pasta attachments you want, and press a button. Boom! Now you have fresh pasta.

Lee’s carbonara sauce was absolutely amazing as well. We enjoyed the pasta alongside a warm spinach salad. Yum! I’m so glad we were able to stop by for dinner!

After dinner, it was driving time! After a short trip, we met up with Diane and Alex and then continued making our way up north to New York.

We didn’t wind up arriving in New York until nearly 2 a.m. since we had such a late departure time, and we were all pooped when we arrived. Bed time!

Friday

Friday was such a fun day! We lazed around the house a bit in the morning and enjoyed some whole wheat croissant sandwiches with cheese, spinach, and smoked salmon (yum!) before getting ourselves ready for the day’s adventure: a trip to the New York Botanical Garden! This amazing garden in the heart of the Bronx has 250 acres of beautiful woodlands, gardens, plants, and trees. The conservatory also has a special display at Christmastime where model trains run on different tracks around miniature plant versions of popular New York landmarks. Cool!

I had been to this garden once before with my family in about 2003, and I remember it being really pretty. We thought it was the perfect place for a family outing, and something that Fabio’s niece, Sofia, would really enjoy.

Although you can definitely buy tickets for the garden on-site, we decided to buy them online ahead of time since we heard it can be really crowded during the holidays. This made getting inside really easy!

Once we had our tickets in hand, we walked a short ways down to get to the conservatory building where the train show was taking place. It was a beautiful day out and surprisingly warm!

The conservatory itself was a huge greenhouse-like building with literally thousands of plant species inside.

When we entered, we saw our first model NYC building, the Macy’s store! All of these “buildings” are made with twigs, sticks, leaves, and anything else you might find in nature.

All of the creations had such amazing detail, and we were all in awe of the patience that the artist must have.

Here we are, ready to start exploring!

When we entered the first room of the exhibit, we saw a miniature version of the very conservatory we were standing in! I can’t even begin to imagine how they made this out of twigs and leaves and got all the proportions just right.

There were also trains running in every direction around the buildings! It was really cool to watch them all.

This front room also had some beautiful Christmas trees set up for the holidays. Of course we had to stop for a photo opp!

Then we entered the main conservatory area where trains and miniature buildings were intertwined with all the beautiful plants. There were even replicas of all the famous New York bridges that the trains were running over! It was so impressive and these pictures don’t come close to doing it justice.

One of my favorite displays was midtown Manhattan! Here they had copies of the Chrysler building, Empire State building, and even Rockefeller Center.

See the Rockefeller tree and skating rink at the bottom of the picture below?

It was very cool. Around the corner was lady Liberty!

Then came Fabio’s favorite replica of the day: Yankee stadium!

Fabio and his dad had season tickets to the Yankees for 14 years, so of course they had to take a picture together in front of the replica. 🙂

Then we found the Frick museum, which is really close to where Fabio’s dad works. We got a picture with this one too. 🙂

My favorite display was the random assortment of brownstones and townhouses. I thought these had so much character!

Overall we had a fantastic time at the exhibit and I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a family-friendly holiday activity in New York.

Once we were done looking at the trains, we took a tram ride around the garden to get a sense of what the rest of the 250 acres looked like. The tram stop was right next to a set of gorgeous Christmas trees! Everything at the botanical garden was so festive for the holidays.

The tram ride was very informative, and we all agreed that we need to come back and visit in May or June when all the plants are at their peak. Everything was kind of sad looking in December, but I’m sure it’s breathtaking in the spring!

Before we left, we stopped for a group photo in front of the lovely trees. 🙂

What a fun day!

After our garden adventure, we stopped at a fun Italian restaurant called Dominick’s for dinner, and then headed over to Fabio’s sister’s house to open up some Christmas gifts. We decided to throw on some festive holiday vests, sweaters, and Santa hats to make it more fun for Sofia. 🙂

Santa’s helpers!

It was the perfect end to a fun day!

Saturday

On Saturday, Christmas Eve, we were back in the car on our way out of town. Sigh.

What a fun (quick) trip!

Question of the day: Would you like exploring the Botanical Gardens?

I honestly thought it might be a little boring, but everyone in our group seemed to have a great time!

 Posted by on December 27, 2016
Jul 222016
 

Hey there! I’m back today with the very last recap of our trip to Colombia. These posts have been so fun to write and I’m sad they’re coming to an end. If you missed any of the first recaps you can find those here.

When we last left off, we had just wrapped up an awesome boat ride to see the Rosario Islands. When we got back we rested for a bit and then headed up to our rooftop to enjoy the beautiful view.

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I could get used to this!

For dinner we made the walk down the street to La Perla, a seafood spot that had great reviews online.

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We ordered a delicious tuna tartare dish to start and had no problem gobbling up every bite.

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We also got an order of the ceviche, of course! Cartagena is famous for its ceviche, and this one did not disappoint. With the steamy temperatures outside, I can understand why the locals love eating this dish so much. It was so refreshing!

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For my entree I ordered one of the fish specials, which was incredibly fresh and likely caught that day. It was perfectly cooked and served on a bed of mushroom and spinach risotto. Delicious!

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After dinner we decided we wanted some dessert, so we strolled over to Mila, a cute dessert spot I had read about online. Mila is decorated with funky chicken decor and has a substantial dessert menu with tons of delicious options.

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There is also a huge display case where you can take a look at the desserts they have, and I was practically drooling over all of them.

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They even had a cake iced in gold frosting! How fun.

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We wound up getting an amazing chocolate cake that our waitress recommended, and it reminded me of a cross between a fudgy brownie and cake. Holy cow, was it delicious.

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I think it might have been one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had (sorry mom!). The fact that it came with a chocolatey gold truffle on the top didn’t hurt either. 🙂

Diane, Alex and Karen also ordered a couple of chocolate cakes which we sampled, but I thought ours was the best.

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We were all pretty full by this point so we packed the rest of our cake to go. It was so nice to snack on during the remainder of our stay!

Definitely check out La Perla and Mila if you’re ever planning a trip to Cartagena; I can’t recommend them enough! (Don’t get the coffee at Mila though, as it wasn’t very good.)

After dessert we headed back to our Air BnB and debated between going to bed or going out. We were all exhausted and were tempted to stay in, but we knew we only had a couple of nights in Cartagena and really wanted to make the most of them. We turned on some music, drank some of the famous Colombian aguardiente, and then we were ready to go!

We decided to check out Bazurto Social Club, a salsa dancing spot that was both recommended to us by Fabio’s sister Karen who had been to Cartagena once before and one of you! Thank you for the recommendation!

We obviously needed to stop to take pictures with the cutout in front of the club. Fabio makes a good Colombian lady, don’t you think?

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We spent the rest of the night drinking more aguardiente and dancing! I definitely improved my salsa dancing skills during this trip, and Diane even said I moved from beginner to intermediate. Woohoo!

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So much fun. 🙂

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The next day we slept in a bit, had a delicious home-cooked breakfast courtesy of the housekeeper who came with the Air BnB (she made the most delicious fresh juices every morning), and then headed out!

On our walk we passed by lots of cool street vendors selling everything you could think of. I thought this fruit stand was especially beautiful!

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Our plans for the day included a trip to the old military fort in Cartagena, San Felipe de Barajas Castle.

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Originally built in 1536, this fort was used to protect the old city of Cartagena from international pirates. At the time Cartagena was colonized by the Spanish, who used the port city to export all the goods out of South America. You can imagine how prosperous this area was back then, since everything that was grown and mined in South America had to travel out of a port city like Cartagena to go back to Europe.

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The Spanish had to have a good hold on the city to keep “pirates” (aka English, Portuguese, French, etc.) from trying to take over the city. We obviously know they were successful since people in Cartagena speak Spanish instead of one of the other languages!

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Once we arrived at the fort, we climbed to the top to meet up with a tour guide who did an amazing job of explaining different details of the fort to us. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone who is interested in hearing a bit of history about the city!

The views from the top were also pretty great.

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Our tour guide then took us around the fort to show us all sorts of booby traps and tricks that were set up to protect it from any enemies.

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It was a lot of fun!

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Overall we had a great time on the tour and the hours flew by.

We also made sure to take a picture in the big bronze shoes outside the fort, which is a more modern art piece that’s dedicated to the hard working lower-class people in Cartagena.

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After all that walking we were hungry! We hopped in a cab to take us over to La Mulata, another fun seafood spot that had rave reviews online.

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First off, we enjoyed some complimentary fish soup and then I ordered a delicious coconut lemonade drink that was out of this world (Fabio got mango). The drinks cooled us right off after walking around in the super hot and humid weather. 🙂

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Then it was time to eat! I ordered a seafood stew that came with huge hunks of lobster. It was really good, but the coconut rice stole the show.

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La Multa was also a great pitstop for tourists since they had free wifi and iPhone chargers that you could borrow to recharge while you ate. Awesome!

Then we spent the rest of the day walking around the Walled City!

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Cartagena is so cute and we all loved the charming old architecture.

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And the bougainvillea everywhere!

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After our walk we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then got ready for another fun night out.

While I was getting ready I got a text from our friends Jadd and Jojo saying that they thought they could see our rooftop from their own Air BnB’s rooftop across town. It turns out they were right, and we wound up waving to each other from across the city. Can you see the two little blips on top of a square beige building on the left side of this photo – near a random tall vertical line (tower?) thing? That’s them. Haha!

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Then they came over along with some of their friends to join us for drinks before the Colombia soccer game!

Soccer is a huge deal in Colombia and they happened to be playing the USA, so we made a fun night out of it.

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That means, of course, more aguardiente!

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Before long the game was starting so we headed over to a nearby bar to watch it. Every single bar was playing the game, so we had no trouble finding a spot.

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Go Colombia! (And USA…)

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Truthfully I can’t remember who won (we ladies were way less interested in the game) but I do remember when the game was over it was salsa time!

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After the game we kept the fun going – it was our last night of vacation after all – and we wound up on a rooftop bar right near Plaza de los Coches (I forget the name!). It was a lot of fun and we had a blast with our little group.

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🙂

We ended the evening back at Bazurto Social Club, and then finally we headed home. Phew!

The next day was travel day, and were all sad to be ending our trip.

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It sure was fun!

Question of the day: Have you ever tried salsa dancing?

 Posted by on July 22, 2016
Jul 132016
 

Hello there! Today I’m back with the second to last recap of our trip to Colombia. If you missed the first few posts, you can find them here!

I actually thought this was going to be the last recap, but when I dumped all my pictures into this post I realized it was way too long, and we had so much fun in Cartagena that I didn’t want to rush through it.

When we left off, we had just climbed to the top of Guatape and spent our last night in Medellin. The very next morning, Fabio’s dad, two sisters, brother-in-law, and our friends Jojo and Jadd all joined us on a quick flight to Cartagena, Colombia!

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Cartagena is on the northern coast of Colombia and is located on the Caribbean sea. As soon as we landed, we were smacked in the face with the heat and humidity. Cartagena is the hottest place I’ve ever been, and I’ve been to lots of Caribbean countries!

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Cartagena is divided into two distinct sections: one with huge white skyscrapers that look like Miami and the other with adorable colonial-style buildings in the walled city. All the research I had done ahead of time recommended spending the most time in the walled city, so that’s what we did!

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The other area with the skyscrapers is frequented more by celebrities and there’s a lot of fancy hotels and condos there, but we wanted to stay in the quainter old town instead. I’m so glad we did because it was absolutely beautiful!

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The architecture reminded me a lot of New Orleans, and I loved all the balconies with wrought-iron details and flowers spilling over the side.

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What a beautiful place!

After a quick cab ride from the airport, we arrived at our Air BnB which was right in the heart of the old city and walkable to everything.

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It was a huge apartment on the top floor of a building, and even included a cute balcony where we could watch people pass by on the street below. Plus, it had air conditioning which was very helpful in this hot climate!

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After dropping off our bags and taking a quick shower (we all showered multiple times a day in Cartagena because it was so hot!) we set out to explore the town.

First up: lunch! We walked down the street to El Bistro, a fun spot with a dry-erase menu featuring the latest fresh fish options of the day. Since all the food was so fresh (I’m sure it was caught that morning), there were limited quantities of each item available. Once something ran out for the day, it was erased from the board. So fresh!

I wound up getting a lobster dish, which was incredible and got me really excited for all the seafood I was going to eat in Cartagena.

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After lunch, we spent a few hours walking around!

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All of the streets were so cute and I was so impressed with how well Cartagena preserved its history and culture through the architecture. I’m sure it would have been easy to knock down these buildings and build more high-rises, but I’m so glad they didn’t.

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At one point, we stopped to take pictures in front of a giant elaborate door. There were unique doors all over the walled city, but this one was especially imposing.

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After I took this picture, the owner of the building said we could come in to explore the house!

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Apparently this house was once owned by Sir Francis Drake, an English sea captain (or pirate, as he was known in Colombia) who tried to take over Cartagena. Obviously he didn’t succeed, since the people in Cartagena speak Spanish and not English. 😉

His house was absolutely beautiful, and had a small pool inside the courtyard.

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The house has 11 bedrooms and can sleep approximately 25 people, and we were lucky enough to get a private tour of the whole house, including its two rooftops. Apparently the house is very popular with bachelor and bachelorette parties, so Diane (Fabio’s sister and one of my bridesmaids) and Alex (Fabio’s brother-in-law and one of his groomsmen) went into planning mode to get us any details we would need in case we want to have our parties there (separately, of course). Haha!

The house also comes with a resident toucan named Francois, so there’s that.

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He was so cute!

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Soon enough it was time to leave the beautiful house and continue wandering through the streets.

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We found ourselves at an amazing coffee shop with an extensive selection of books to buy!

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Diane was telling me how her favorite author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a nobel-prize winning author who lived in Cartagena and used the city as the setting for some of his books. I actually had one of his books – Love in the Time of Cholera – on my reading list, so when we saw it in the store Diane bought it for me as a souvenir!

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I actually finished reading it last week, and I loved reading such a beautiful story that took place in the city we visited. It was an amazing book! Thank you, Diane!

We wound up spending the rest of the evening relaxing in our Air BnB and enjoying the beautiful rooftop view.

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Day 2

The next morning we were up early to get ready for a fun boat day! Clearly we were excited and broke out some musical instruments that Fabio’s dad got us.

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Then it was boat time! We met up with Jojo and Jadd and a few of their friends who were planning to come on the boats with us. Then we walked over to the docks!

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Booking the boat was a bit of a pain, and I am so thankful we had Fabio’s dad with us for this part! I had read online that the best way to reserve a boat is to head down to the docks in the morning, but I was warned that there was a lot of haggling involved and that you have to work hard to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. Well this wound up being a huge understatement because Fabio’s dad wound up having to haggle a LOT between two boat companies to make sure we didn’t get ripped off. Phew! Definitely have someone with you who can speak Spanish if you ever try this, since this would have been way over my head if I was traveling alone.

Finally we found our way onto a private boat and set off! Our plan was to stop by the Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca Beach, and get some snorkeling in as well.

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Byyyye, Cartagena!

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After half an hour of boating, we stopped off at a fun little island that the boat company owned that had flamingos, parrots, a water slide, and bathrooms (ok, that’s the main reason we stopped there).

Obviously Fabio and I had to check out the water slide.

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Whee!

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Then we boated out a little further and it was snorkel time!

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We hopped off the boat in a shallow area to arrange our snorkel gear, and then swam out with one of the guides to the area where the coral reef and fish were.

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Cheese!

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While it wasn’t the best snorkeling I’ve ever done (that happened in Bermuda!) it was still a lot of fun and we saw some cool fish!

Plus I got to hold hands with this guy while we swam. 🙂

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After snorkeling, our boat took us over to Playa Blanca Beach! This beach has lots of little huts where you can buy lunch or a drink, plus some fun little stands selling jewelry and other souvenirs.

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We were just happy to be on a beach!

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Yay!!

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As soon as we were all off the boat, we sat down to lunch which was included in our fare for the boat ride/snorkeling adventure. It was so fresh!

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Ahh, lunch with a view!

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After lunch our group decided to grab some fun drinks! I had a coco loco (or something) and it definitely hit the spot!

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Then we took our drinks for a walk along the beach, which was lovely!

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While we walked we stumbled across a guy from Medellin who was selling really nice jewelry (we all bought some bracelets) and…he had a bunch of puppies!

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He told us how there are a lot of puppies/dogs on Playa Blanca, but the people take really good care of them and get them all their shots for flees and ticks.

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They were so adorable and I could have sat in the sand all afternoon playing with them.

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I especially loved the little black one who reminded me of Jack!

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Eventually it was time for us to head back to the boat, where we passed around a bunch of beers.

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Clearly the sun wore us all out because a bunch of us took a nap on the way back. 😉

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Before long we had made it back to Cartagena! Woohoo!

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Overall we had a great time on the boat, and I would definitely recommend this day trip to anyone visiting Cartagena. It was one of the highlights from our trip!

More adventures to come…

Question of the day: Have you ever been snorkeling?

 Posted by on July 13, 2016
Jun 242016
 

Hi friends! Today I’m back with another recap of our adventures in Colombia! If you missed the first few posts you can find them here.

This time we’re talking about a day trip we took to Peñol and Guatapé! This was a bit of a drive outside of Medellin, but still in the state of Atioquia. This area of rolling hills and little streams was absolutely beautiful!

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The water is green this time of year due to a certain type of algae that grows here. It was SO green!

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We actually joked that it looked like the “dip” from the movie Roger Rabbit. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

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It was sort of spooky looking!

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Weirdly enough, I had spotted this same area from the plane when we arrived in Colombia, and took a picture because I thought the green water was really interesting. Who knew I’d actually be getting up close and personal with it a week later?

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Once we arrived in Peñol, we met our tour guide who explained some of the history of this area. Apparently it used to be a thriving town, but in the 1970s the government flooded almost nine square miles of it to make room for a hydroelectric plant. The people of Peñol were against this idea and protested, but the government flooded the town anyway. The citizens of the area packed up all their stuff and moved to a neighboring town, and now they call themselves people of the Phoenix because they survived a hard time and made it out to the other side. They also built a replica of what the town used to look like so that people wouldn’t forget.

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Side note: while exploring the town replica we found a Jack lookalike and couldn’t resist giving him some love. 🙂

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After checking out the town and buying a couple souvenirs, we headed down to a boat that would take us on a tour of the area.

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Fabio’s uncle, Juan Pablo, joked that he was Captain Morgan and asked for some rum (lol).

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Then we set off into the green water. Eek!

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Our tour guide explained that this cross was constructed to mark the spot where the old church from the town used to stand. It’s crazy to think that the whole town we had just seen was right here under the water!

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Then our tour took quite a turn, as our tour guide pointed out this little hut where Pablo Escobar used to make international business deals. Yes, as in, cocaine drug lord Pablo Escobar.

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I knew Pablo Escobar’s house was close to this area (I had read about it when researching which day trips to do) but I didn’t expect to start hearing about Pablo Escobar in the midst of this tour about the lost city of Peñol.

But before we knew it, we were boating past Pablo Escobar’s house!

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It was pretty cool to see, even if it was just a bunch of ruins (I think our tour guide said it got bombed by the Cali cartel, but I don’t want to ruin season 2 of Narcos for myself by looking it up! Haha!)

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Very cool!

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Apparently this area is also very popular with celebrities because a short distance away we saw the house of the famous soccer player, James Rodriguez.

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I wasn’t too interested in that fact, but the boys thought it was cool!

Overall we had a great boat ride and learned a lot!

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After our boat tour was finished, we stopped for a quick lunch (more traditional Colombian platters) before it was time to in get our real exercise in for the day…

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…climbing the giant rock of Guatapé!

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This rock is a natural formation, and it has 740 very steep steps to the top.

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At first I honestly didn’t think this sounded too challenging, but I didn’t realize how steep the steps were going to be! They sort of reminded me of staircases in Europe that have very steep and high steps. Phew – this was a workout for sure!

As we started climbing, the views started getting better and better.

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Guatapé is just a short distance from Peñol, so it was cool to see the flooded areas from an aerial view.

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Up and up and up we went! We had to take a few breaks to rest, and take pictures of course.

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After much climbing, we made it to what we thought was the top.

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At this point there were a few little shops and restaurants where you could buy souvenirs or a cold beer. We thought we were done climbing, but then we noticed a small spiral staircase – sort of like a lighthouse – that would take us up to the very top. Alright then, up we go!

Finally, we made it to step 740! Woohoo!

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The 360 degree views from that high up were pretty amazing, and made the climb so worth it.

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Yay!

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After spending some time soaking up the scenery, it was time to climb back down, down, down.

Finally we made it to the bottom. So glad we conquered this giant rock!

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Overall, I thought our day trip to Peñol and Guatapé was a lot of fun, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is booking a trip to Medellin and looking for some fun activities outside the city!

Question of the day: How do you feel about heights?

It was a little scary looking down from the top!

 Posted by on June 24, 2016
Jun 152016
 

Hi friends! I’m back today with another recap of our adventures in Colombia! In case you missed it, you can get caught up with my first post about exploring Medellin and my second post about touring a Colombian coffee farm. Today we’re talking about the long weekend we spent at a finca, which translates to “farm” but is basically a villa that large groups can rent. We wound up spending three days at the finca with all Fabio’s family, and we had an absolute blast!

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Also I wasn’t kidding when I said there were about 50 family members with us – we were a huge group!

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And you know what was even better? Our good friends Jojo and Jadd came with us!! Jojo has a couple of high school friends living in Medellin right now, so when we told her we were going to Colombia for vacation and asked if she and Jadd wanted to come with us (months ago!) they happily agreed! It was awesome to have them join us at the finca for part of the time too. Having some other “gringos” around definitely made the experience better for me! Plus these two are so much fun. 🙂

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The finca itself featured a huge house (it slept 50) plus a pool, cabana area, and outdoor kitchen. It was beautiful!

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There were also a few resident animals running around, including some cute pups…

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…and a bunch of peacocks!

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It must have been mating season because this guy extended his feathers to the female about every hour.

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So beautiful!

We arrived on Saturday and quickly unpacked our bags for some pool time!

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We had a great time splashing around in the water with all of Fabio’s cousins, who were so incredibly fun/welcoming/sweet to me.

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(That’s me above in the peach colored dress lol. Talk about awkward…)

Later in the afternoon we cracked open some beers and had fun hanging around the giant tables in the kitchen! This was so much fun and a great way to get to know everyone better.

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At around 4:00 pm, Fabio and his sister Diane had an announcement to make! Diane and Alex were celebrating their one year anniversary, and it was a little more than a year out to our own wedding, so we decided to throw a surprise party for everyone in Colombia who likely won’t be able to attend our wedding and weren’t able to make it to Diane and Alex’s. We had planned everything way in advance and even spent some time in the afternoon decorating the cabana with string lights we had gotten from Target before our trip, so it was really nice to see all the cousins, aunts, and uncles so surprised and excited by our announcement. Who doesn’t like a surprise party?!

We told everyone to meet under the cabana at 6:00 pm, and I was so happy to see that our string lights looked perfect under there!

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Then everyone sat down in a little designated seating area we had arranged and waited for the party to start.

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At a little after 6:00 when everyone was gathered, we turned off all the lights to announce our biggest surprise: a live band! The band members walked up to the cabana playing their instruments, and then when they were fully assembled we turned the lights back on so everyone could see them.

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Here was the reaction when people realized it was a live band and not just more music playing from the stereo we had been using so far in the trip.

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Fabio, Diane, Alex, and I had another surprise up our sleeves though: a caterer came in to grill up a bunch of chicken, meat, and pork for everyone! Once again, everyone was really surprised that we brought food in and were so appreciative.

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The rest of the night was dedicated to dancing!

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Once the music got started it was all salsa all the time, and Fabio’s aunts and cousins did a great job of teaching us how to dance.

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The band did an amazing job at playing all the best salsa songs (not that I would know, but Fabio’s aunts and uncles sure seemed to love it) so the energy of the party was absolutely perfect. Everyone seemed to have a great time dancing and drinking, and then running to back to their tables for little bites of the delicious BBQ here and there. I couldn’t have asked for a better party!

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Having Jojo and Jadd there was pretty amazing too. Thank you guys for coming!!

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We wound up drinking and dancing late, late into the night, and it was just SUCH a blast. This was definitely one of the highlights from the whole trip!

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(Fabio’s aunts added a few peacock feathers and glow sticks to my hair, haha!)

Sunday

The next day we awoke to a much-needed breakfast of arepas, cheese, eggs, and potato hash. Yum!

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Then we repeated the events of the day before, which included pool time and lots of chatting with the cousins!

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The boys also got in a few sweaty games of soccer while the girl cousins painted their nails and had girl talk. Typical. 🙂

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Every once in a while the peacocks would start cawing, and we’d always find them perched on random areas of the house. These are some weird animals, let me tell you!

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Later that evening, we all joined in the cabana for a white party!

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This party was much more relaxed, and we spent the evening taking pictures of the family and playing games.

Girl cousins!

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Boy cousins!

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Fabio’s immediate family, plus Alex and me!

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All of us!

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It was such a fun night, and we stayed up until nearly 4:00 am playing games like musical chairs and concentration 64, which brought me back to elementary school days! While we were all probably a little too old for these games, it was hard to find games we could play in English and in Spanish, and it actually wound up being a blast. (Especially with a little alcohol involved 🙂 haha!)

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It was such a fun evening, and I couldn’t believe when I saw how late it had gotten. We finally cleaned everything up and went to bed after 4:00 am. Yikes.

Monday

The next day started off as another pool day! The sun was so strong on Monday, and I wound up lathering myself up in so much sunscreen, but still wound up with a bit of a sunburn.

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Oh well, it’s tan now! 🙂

The entire family was in the pool on Monday to escape the heat, and we had a ton of fun squirting each other with squirt guns and having an epic splash war.

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So fun!

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Later in the day, we went on a horseback riding adventure!

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I haven’t been horseback riding since I was a little kid so I knew I was going to be pretty terrible at it, but I love animals so I was strangely calm around these big guys.

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I named mine Colby (I’m sure he had a real name, we just didn’t know what it was) and I wound up talking to him almost the whole time I was riding. Is that weird?
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We took the horses on a ride through the areas surrounding the finca, which gave us some beautiful views of the mountains.

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Colombia is so pretty!

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Once we were done riding, we took the horses out to the back of the finca where we were able to feed them mangoes. There were a ton of ripe ones on the ground, and the horses gobbled them right up! (They spit out the pits, in case you were wondering.)

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I had a lot of fun feeding them from my hand too, even though it wound up being quite messy.

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Lol!

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Shortly after that, it was time to pack our bags and leave the finca! Overall it was such an amazing weekend, and I thank Fabio’s cousins, aunts, and uncles from the bottom of my heart for making me feel so welcome in their family. I have never felt so much love and hospitality from total strangers, and I felt truly honored to be accepted into this group.

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Thank you, Echalocos! (That’s their family nickname, since loco means crazy and they proclaim that they’re all a little coocoo!)

Question of the day: Do you like horses? Would you feed a horse mangoes from your hand?

 Posted by on June 15, 2016
Jun 132016
 

Hi friends! Hows everyone doing today? Sorry for my absence on Friday; I was traveling to New Orleans for work and wasn’t able to get a post up during my down time. Luckily I’m back today with a recap of my adventures!

Thursday

I flew into New Orleans late Thursday afternoon, and when I arrived I was starving! After checking into my hotel, I wound up at Two Chicks Cafe for a late lunch. Per a recommendation from the waitress, I ordered the Thai shrimp po boy, which definitely hit the spot.

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Two Chicks Cafe also had wifi, so I spent some time answering emails while I ate. Multitasking at its finest!

After that, I spent a few hours finishing up some work in my hotel room and then my manager and I enjoyed dinner together at Cochon, a delicious little spot with lots of yummy cocktails and pork dishes.

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Even though pork is definitely the specialty here, I opted for the gulf fish per another waitress recommendation. It was very fresh and flavorful!

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My manager and I also shared an (unpictured) order of the creamiest, most delicious grits I’ve ever had. Yum!

After dinner, we walked around New Orleans!

A trip to NOLA wouldn’t be complete without one of their famous hurricane drinks, so we sipped on a couple of those while we walked around. Man, they sure are sweet! I knew it was going to give me a nasty headache in the morning but decided it was worth it. When in NOLA!

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We took our beverages down to Bourbon St, where we had a great time popping into little shops (we went in a cool voodoo shop where I saw all kinds of weird things) and bars with live music.

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I especially loved this one jazz band made up of a bunch of older white men. I couldn’t help wondering what they do for a living when they’re not playing jazz. Teachers? Lawyers? Engineers? It was fun to think about. 🙂

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At the next bar we wound up dancing and drinking a little more, and at that point we realized we should probably call it a night since we had an important meeting in the morning. The good news is that I’m going back to New Orleans for work in November, so I’ll get to spend a bit more time in that magical city then!

Friday

Our big work meeting was on Friday morning, and it went so, so well. I had to plan all of the logistics for the meeting, and since mistakes always seem to happen I was thrilled when everything went according to plan. Success!

After the meeting ended (around 2:00 pm) I joined my manager and her boss for some celebratory margaritas, and then I hopped on a plane to…Philly!

One of my best friends, Kristen, celebrated her birthday last week, so this weekend we all convened in Philly for the celebrations. It was a lot of traveling, but worth it to be with so many of my best friends!

Saturday

Saturday morning started with bagels from Philly Style Bagels! We got to watch them make the bagels while we waited for our order, which I thought was really cool. Talk about fresh!

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I chose an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese, and it was perfect. Plus iced coffee on the side. Yum!!

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After breakfast we got ourselves ready for the day and walked over to Frankford Hall beer garden!

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It was a beautiful day, so nothing sounded better to us than drinking beer outside. We also played a bunch of games of Jenga, which is always entertaining.

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Careful!!!

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Haha! What a fun day. 🙂

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After the beer garden we walked around a beer festival in the street for a while.

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A few girls tried their hand at the dunk tank, and Jess wound up sinking the guy! Nice one!

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Overall, it was a perfect afternoon with my best girl friends. 🙂

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Later in the evening, we cleaned ourselves up for dinner at a cute Italian place called La Locanda Del Ghiottone.

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For some reason we all wound up wearing white and black. Best friends think alike, I guess!

We started off by sharing a delicious house salad…

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…and then I enjoyed some amazing lobster raviolis for my entree.

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Delicious!

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Megan & me! 🙂

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Happy birthday, Kristen!! Thanks for inviting us all to celebrate with you!

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For the rest of the evening, we went over to two of our guy friends’ houses from college, and then did some dancing out at the bars! It was the perfect end to a perfect day. 🙂

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Sunday

On Sunday morning, we slept in a bit then walked to brunch at Kensington Quarters, a cute restaurant with an in-house butcher. We started off brunch with a huge slab of bacon to share. Holy bacon! It was in a honey mustard sauce that was to die for. So good!

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For my meal I got the French toast, which comes with homemade scrapple and a fried egg on top. The syrup was also infused with rosemary, so I had no problem gobbling this right up.

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It was really, really good. Salty + sweet is my favorite flavor combo!

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After breakfast we said our goodbyes, and then Megan and I made the drive back to DC. It was such a fun weekend and I’m really sad that it’s over. Wahhh! Now I’m not sure when I’ll get to see these girls next, since I won’t be able to make it to Fire Island with them later this summer (we have a wedding to go to that same weekend). Looks like we’ll need to get a fall reunion on the calendar!

Questions of the day: How often do you get to see your best friends? Have you ever been to New Orleans or Philly?

 Posted by on June 13, 2016
Jun 082016
 

If you missed part one of my Colombian vacation, read that first!

One of the things I really wanted to do during our trip to Colombia was visit a coffee farm. Although I’m not a huge coffee drinker (I probably have two or three cups a week) I do enjoy the taste of coffee and, what’s more, I love learning about local specialties when we travel. Similar to when we learned about making champagne in Reims or brewing beer in Belgium, I thought that seeing how coffee was produced in Colombia would help me understand a bit more about the country and its culture.

On Friday morning, a bunch of Fabio’s family members boarded a bus with us to visit the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, or Federation of Colombian National Coffee Growers, where we were able to tour a coffee farm!

The farm was about an hour outside Medellin, and as soon as we started driving the views got better and better.

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As I mentioned in my last recap, Medellin is surrounded by mountains, so this trip took us up into this beautiful, lush landscape.

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Unfortunately, after driving for about 45 minutes our bus got a flat tire! Womp womp.

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Luckily we were able to find a tire repair shop on the side of the road within a few minutes, so I’m guessing this must happen pretty often on these windy, mostly dirt roads.

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And just what do you think Fabio’s family does when their bus gets a flat tire? Break out the beer of course! (Even if it was only 8:55 am! I knew I agreed to marry this guy for a reason…)

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Haha! Luckily there was a really cute nursery right next to the tire repair shop, so we spent some time sipping our beers and checking out the local flowers while they fixed up the bus.

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There were so many beautiful and unique flowers to browse! I especially loved these succulents, which I would have happily brought home with me if I didn’t think the U.S. customs people would have kicked me out of the country.

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Aside from the flower stand, this really wasn’t a bad place to get stranded – just look at the view from the side of the road!

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Maybe those of you who live near the mountains aren’t as phased by these as I was, but since DC/MD/VA doesn’t have a whole lot of mountains nearby, I am always in complete awe of them when I see them. So beautiful!

Before long we were on our way again, and the beautiful views continued.

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After about 15 minutes more of driving, we had arrived!

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As I mentioned, we toured the national federation for coffee growers, which is basically the government department that oversees coffee growing. It’s basically like the USDA in the U.S., only just for coffee. Apparently they only do tours by appointment, so Fabio’s family pulled some strings with family friends to get us in for a tour. So nice of them! (Psst – in the future they are trying to make these tours more readily available for the public, so let me know if you are interested in going and I can connect you!)

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It was also really nice for so many of Fabio’s family members to join us on the tour. 🙂 They really made our trip so much fun!

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Upon arriving at the federation, which includes a conference area and a separate hotel, we were immediately offered coffee!

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Don’t mind if we do! 🙂

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Then we enjoyed a traditional Colombian breakfast with an untraditional view.

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Can you imagine seeing this every day when you sit down to eat? Seriously. When can we move in?!

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The grounds itself were also beautiful, and we walked around a bit to check out the facilities.

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There was a beautiful pool overlooking the mountains…

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…plus a bunch of spin bikes that I was dying to use!

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I could totally work out in a place like this every day. Just saying.

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After breakfast, it was time for the tour! We hopped back on the bus to take a quick drive (about 3 minutes away) to the farm.

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Once again, these views were seriously breathtaking. The pictures don’t even do it justice!

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First up, our tour guide (gahhh – I forgot his name!) explained to us that this particular farm is a research farm where scientists experiment on the plants to get them to perform to their best abilities. He showed us a number of high-tech instruments that the farmers use to gauge how the plants are doing and how they can help them do better.

This globe thing measures the strength of the sun and provides readings to the farmers so they know when to cover some of the plants with shade, especially the younger ones that have just been planted. Cool!

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And this tool measures other elements of the climate like the wind and precipitation and reports everything back to a computer in real-time.

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Our tour guide explained that while not every coffee farm in Colombia has these tools yet, it’s their goal to get all the farmers in the federation up to speed with the latest technology so they can maximize productivity.

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From there we learned how to plant coffee seeds!

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Our tour guide took us over to the little planting beds where were able to examine different stages of the seed as it germinates and becomes a plant. (And a random beetle that made it into the photograph. Haha!)

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We even got to plant some seeds ourselves. I hope they grow!

Then we walked over to some of the more mature coffee plants, which were around two and three months old.

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Hello, double rainbow!

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At this point our tour guide explained to us all about the merits of chicken and pig poop, which are apparently both amazing fertilizers for coffee plants. 😉

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And then we took a walk to see some of the more mature plants!

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I still couldn’t get over how lush and green everything was. Sheesh!

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At this point we walked through a few rows of coffee plants to where one of the farmers was already hard at work plucking the coffee beans.

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Even though it was tough work, she was a wonderfully cheerful woman who truly seemed to love her job.

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Here she explained that different countries have different processes for picking coffee beans, which leads to different flavors. Colombian coffee has a softer taste to it, and that’s because they only pick the beans when they are perfectly ripe. Some other countries pick the beans all at once, which leads to a bolder flavor (and also saves them time and money).

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The lady showed us how to spot the perfectly ripe beans, which I naively thought were all the red ones. Here she is pointing to a mostly red one that needed something like “six more days” which apparently she could estimate that precisely just from looking at it. Well, ok then. In six days, she’ll have to come back to this very spot on this one plant to pluck this bean. Phew! That’s a lot of work.

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One thing that we learned during the tour is that while Colombia works so hard to pluck only the perfectly ripe beans to preserve its well-known quality, most coffee companies in the U.S. wind up blending Colombian coffee with other country’s products anyway, which basically means this woman’s hard work winds up being for nothing. We were told that we can help prevent this by looking for the logo of the federation (which you see on our coffee cups and the sign in the photos above) to signify that the coffee is certified Colombian.

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At this point I also got to taste one of the beans from inside those red pods, and found it to be sweet and a little slimy. You’re not supposed to chew the actual bean at this point – just suck on it – and I was surprised to find that it didn’t taste anything like coffee.

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Next we went over to a machine that helps remove the red pod from the sweet part that I had just tasted. Even though this machine helps the farmers, it still requires a ton of manual work to sort out any beans that are too dry, misshapen, or whatever else they decide makes them unworthy. The woman we met was a pro at this, but it looked like really difficult work to me!

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Then the beans get dried out for a specific amount of time in the sun…

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…before they get roasted and ground! Phew, these roasted beans smelled heavenly.

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Another thing that we learned is that these coffee growers work so hard every single day (no holidays when you’re a farmer!), and the return on investment is next to nothing. In the past, a few big coffee companies were buying all the Colombian coffee in a bit of a monopoly; luckily due to a recent change in government, now small, craft coffee companies can buy directly from the farmers which will hopefully begin to change things for the better for these hard-working people. Everyone we met on the tour was so incredibly friendly and joyous, and I know I’m going to do my part to shop for pure Colombian coffee from places like Whole Foods and Juan Valdez Cafe (and La Colombe and Union Market for the locals!) from now on.

After the conclusion of our tour we stopped for lunch (and another coffee!) before hopping back on our bus back to Medellin.

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Oh, and one more thing – we had to stop to play with the resident puppy, obviously. 😉

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Thank you so much to Fabio’s family for arranging this tour for us, and thank you to the federation for having us!

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I would 100% recommend this tour to anyone who is interested in finding out a little more about how your coffee makes it into your mug. 🙂

Question of the day: How do you like your coffee?

I like mine iced with skim milk and splenda!

 Posted by on June 8, 2016
Jun 062016
 

Hi friends! On Saturday evening, Fabio and I returned home from our awesome adventure in Colombia! I spent a ton of time yesterday downloading and editing photos from our trip, and today I’m excited to share part one of our recap!

The first part of our vacation was spent in Medellin, one of the largest cities in the country. Medellin is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, and is absolutely beautiful! The majority of Fabio’s family on his dad’s side still lives in Medellin, so I was really looking forward to meeting everyone. This side of his family is huge – his dad is one of ten – so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My family is tiny by comparison, so I knew it was going to be very different from my family get-togethers!

Last Wednesday, Fabio’s sister Diane and her husband Alex joined us at BWI at 6:45 am to board our plane bound for Colombia. A few of Fabio’s other relatives who live in New York (his dad, his sister Karen, his cousin Tatiana, and his aunt, Tia Clara) were planning to meet us down there.

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We landed in Medellin at about 1:30 pm, and were greeted by a whole entourage of people! There were so many of us that we needed a bus to take everyone back to the house.

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We stopped for lunch in an adorable little town outside of the airport, and I was already struggling to remember who was who. This was just the group that picked us up from the airport!

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For lunch, I ordered the typical Colombian platter of steak, rice, beans, chicarones (pork rinds), egg, avocado, plantains, arepa, and sausage. And no, I didn’t even come close to finishing this!

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After lunch, we arrived back at the house where Fabio’s dad grew up. The family had hung tons of balloons and a welcome sign to greet us!

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We spent the rest of the evening getting to know the family, while I tried my best to follow along in Spanish and remember which cousin/aunt/uncle I was talking to.

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Luckily everyone was so warm and welcoming to me, and a few of the cousins spoke English so they were able to help me out.

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I honestly was a little worried that it would be hard for me to fit in with a group of strangers who didn’t speak English, but it wound up being a non-issue. I couldn’t believe how welcoming and friendly everyone was, and it didn’t even seem to matter that it was difficult to communicate.

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in the courtyard of the house listening to salsa music (some people danced, but I wasn’t ready for that yet) and getting to know one another. It was a great way to start the trip!

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On Thursday morning, we set out to explore the city!

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First we stopped off for some breakfast of empanadas and these little gems called papas rellenas, which were basically fried balls of potato deliciousness. Yum!

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Then our group of “gringos” waited to board a tour bus that would take us around the city. Even though it was a weekday and most of Fabio’s family had to work, his uncle, Tio Juan Pablo, and Tio Juan Pablo’s girlfriend, Mary Luz, took time to venture around the city with us. So nice of them!

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Truthfully the tour was pretty horrendous, and I wouldn’t recommend this tour to anyone visiting the city. Fabio and I are used to tours that provide a bit of a historical background on a city, and this tour gave us information like “there’s a softball field on your left” and “on your right is a public gym.” Ok fine, but that’s not really our cup of tea.

Luckily, our tour bus did take us to a few cool sights where we were able to get out and walk around, which we might have otherwise missed. First, we stopped at “El Parque de los Pies Descalzos” or Barefoot Park,  a zen-inspired public park where you are encouraged to take off your shoes and feel the energy of the planet.

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While the material on the ground looks like sand, it’s actually small pebbles that sort of massage your feet as you walk around. I loved the idea of reconnecting with the energy of the planet, and thought this little park was a lot of fun. Apparently on weekends it gets really full with families and groups who want to enjoy the park, and they even read poetry in the bamboo garden in the background, which is nicknamed “lover’s garden.”

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The park also features two water basins where you can rinse your feet off afterwords.

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If I am remembering correctly, our tour guide said these pools are meant for socializing, sort of like in ancient Roman times!

It was sort of like a spa, and we had a nice time wiggling our toes around in the jets. 🙂

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Next, our bus took us to “Pueblito Paisa,” a replica of what little towns looked like when Medellin was first colonized. The little town is located on the top of Nutibarra Hill, which offers beautiful views of the city.

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We took our time wandering around and enjoying the views.

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Unfortunately it was pretty hazy out so it was difficult to see too far, but this would have been absolutely amazing on a clear day!

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After that, our tour bus dropped us off at the Botero Plaza where we enjoyed taking a look at the famous statues from Botero, the famous Colombian artist. The plaza itself was beautiful!

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The statues from Botero were definitely interesting, as he had a unique perspective on the human body. 😉

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We loved this one that reminded us of Jack!

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When we were done checking out the sculptures, we walked around an area known as “the hole” because there are shops and vendors for as far as the eye can see and it can be difficult to escape! I know the guys felt like we were stuck in a hole as all us ladies checked out the shops. 😉

I also really enjoyed checking out the street vendors selling fruit! There were so many different kinds that I had never seen before.

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Next we enjoyed a quick lunch of grilled chicken, salad, and rice, before moving on to our next activity of the day: a cable car ride up the mountain!

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The metro in Medellin runs North to South through the city, but a lot of the poorer population lives East to West up the mountains. The government of Medellin recently built public cable cars to transport these people up the mountains, so they wouldn’t have to climb tons of stairs (taking up to two hours) to get home. Medellin even won an innovation award for this recently, and we could see why. This free public transportation was awesome!

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Not only did the cable car ride give us awesome views of the mountains and the city, but we were able to get a real glimpse into the lives of some of the poorer people in this city.

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One of my favorite parts of traveling is learning about new cultures and experiencing how others live, and having a bird’s eye view into these types of homes that we would never have seen otherwise was absolutely fascinating.

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It certainly made me appreciate all the comforts of my own home, and I left feeling incredibly grateful for the life that I have in the states.

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Our final adventure of the day (we seriously crammed a lot in!) was visiting Fabio’s great aunt, Tia Berta, in the charming town of La Estrella on the other end of the city. I wonder if people ever get tired of these mountain views?

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La Estrella was a quaint little town with a church in the middle and a town square surrounded by little cafes and shops. It reminded me a lot of Europe!

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From the town square we walked a couple of blocks to where Fabio’s great aunt lives. Fabio’s grandfather grew up in this town too! I thought it was adorable.

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Almost as adorable as Tia Berta, who wouldn’t let go of Fabio’s arm. She even said she was going to steal him and keep him for herself! Haha! She was a hoot.

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We had a really nice time visiting Tia Berta, and I know it meant a lot to her that we stopped by to see her. 🙂

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Before long though, it was time to say our goodbyes! Ciao!

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After that we headed back to the house for a quick dinner before venturing out for the evening.

Most of the time when we went out in Medellin, we headed to El Poblado, a neighborhood that caters to tourists and young adults. The area surrounding Parque Lleras in El Poblado had tons of awesome restaurants and bars, including a fun beer garden-esque spot called 37 Park.

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We spent our first evening in the city here and had a great time sipping mojitos and hanging out with Fabio’s cousins who are all close in age to us.

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So fun!

We also went out in Medellin a couple of other nights, and since those evenings don’t really fit in with any of my other recaps (which will mostly highlight day trips outside the city) I’ll share the photos here. Everywhere we went was so fun!

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I’m so grateful that we had Fabio’s awesome family to take us out and show us a fun time. 🙂

Up next on my recaps, a tour of a coffee plantation!

Question of the day: What’s the most eye-opening thing you’ve seen while traveling?

 Posted by on June 6, 2016
Jan 052016
 

With all the excitement over my recent engagement, maybe you forgot that I also went to Jamaica over the holidays? 🙂

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Yep, the day after Christmas, Fabio and I joined my mom, stepdad Fritz, stepsister Maggie and her boyfriend Nick for a family vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica! This has become a bit of a yearly tradition for us, and like last year we spent the days in between Christmas and New Years at the Riu Palace hotel in Jamaica.

I was really excited about our trip before, but once Fabio proposed I was even more excited! What a perfect way to celebrate our engagement! I spent a lot of time admiring my ring in the sun. 🙂

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(Don’t worry, Fabio had it insured before he gave it to me so I didn’t have to worry about losing it or anything!)

Hooray!

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Weirdly enough, Fabio’s best friend Hayden was actually staying at the same hotel as us for the first day and night! Fabio had texted him on Christmas letting him know that we were engaged, and Hayden responded saying he would love to call and congratulate us but he was in Jamaica and the cell phone bill would be too expensive to call. Of course Fabio then asked where in Jamaica Hayden was staying, and it turns out he was in the exact same resort as us! It was so fun seeing him (and his family) for a little while. 🙂

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What a nice surprise for Fabio especially!

The rest of our trip was spent lounging in the sunshine and enjoying lots of food and drinks from the all-inclusive hotel.

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Most days included lots of lounging in the sun for me, and lots (AND LOTS) of volleyball for Fabio.

One of the days, however, everyone broke off and did something different!

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Maggie and my stepdad, Fritz, decided to go on a horseback riding adventure, which they said was a lot of fun.

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Go Maggie!

Meanwhile, Fabio and Maggie’s boyfriend, Nick, decided to go golfing, which they also loved. (No surprise there.)

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As for my mom and me? We stayed behind to look at wedding magazines on the beach!

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Right before we left for vacation, my mom picked up a few bridal magazines for me and we had so much fun browsing through the images, talking about what we liked, bookmarking pages, and making plans for everything to come. It was so much fun! Plus you couldn’t beat the views – looking out at the gorgeous blue ocean while talking about fun wedding plans was so surreal.

In the evenings we did the usual: get all dressed up and go out to dinner! I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I should warn any new readers that my mom’s side of the family likes to get very dressed up for dinner. This is a habit of my stepdad’s that we’ve all sort of followed so we don’t look completely under-dressed standing next to him. I don’t mind of course; it’s fun to get dressed up!

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All of our dinners were a ton of fun with great food, lots of wine, and plenty of laughs. 🙂

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Surprisingly delicious sushi

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Shrimp spring rolls

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Duck ramen

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Shrimp & veggie tempura 

After our dinners, we usually headed over to the beach bar to continue the shenanigans. Each night we had fun playing Heads Up (the best iPhone game there is!), drinking too much rum, and dancing the night away. It was such a blast!

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There was also a professional photographer on the property who came over to take some pictures of our group two of the nights. I just love the pictures he took!

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How cute are those two? 🙂

All in all it was an amazing vacation, and I can’t think of any other way I would have wanted to kick off this year of engagement festivities!

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Thank you mom and Fritz for taking us on this incredible vacation!!

Question of the day: Do you like to be active on vacation or rest?

For me it depends on the vacation; when we go to Europe I am go-go-go and want to see and do everything. In the Caribbean I am all about relaxing in the sunshine!

 

 Posted by on January 5, 2016
Dec 072015
 

Hello, hello! I’m back from an amazingly fun weekend in New York City with some of my best friends from high school. I had been looking forward to this weekend for months, and now I’m so bummed it’s over. Wahh! Take me back!

Fabio and I arrived in the city late on Friday evening, and after grabbing some New York pizza (mandatory) we headed to my aunt’s apartment in the Upper West Side (where we were staying) to hit the hay.

On Saturday morning, we met up with these three in Central Park!

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Hana lives in the city – a little further downtown – and Bianca and Sam had come in from Hoboken and Philadelphia, respectively, for the weekend. It’s crazy that we all live in different cities now (even though Hana and Bianca are pretty close to one another) and I’m so thankful that we still keep in touch as much as we do.

On my way to meeting up with the girls, I stopped by the famous Levain Bakery for some delicious cookies for us! These cookies are seriously ridiculous and weigh almost a pound each! I shutter to think of how much butter and sugar is in each one…oh well. Worth it!

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Finally, after meandering through the park a bit, we found each other!

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Hooray!

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It was a beautiful day to explore the park, and we had a great time wandering around.

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Girls! I have to thank Fabio for snapping so many pictures of us, haha. What a trooper!

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Some selfie stick action in front of the boathouse. 🙂

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The boathouse was really beautiful, and I loved watching the row boats go by.

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We wound up stopping in the boathouse for a quick drink, and then Fabio’s friend Hayden joined us! After a cocktail, our group continued exploring the park. 🙂

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Soon enough, it was time to head over to our brunch reservation. Don’t worry, we snacked on some more cookie bites along the way.

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A little before 1:00 pm, our group sat down for brunch at Osteria Cotta on the Upper West Side.

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The restaurant had a ton of delicious brunch entrees (our group decided to share a bunch of things) plus bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, or sangria.

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Everything was delicious, but my favorite dish had to be the eggs in purgatory – eggs and polenta in a spicy tomato sauce. So delicious!

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The best part though was just getting to sit and chat with my friends! I sure did miss them.

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More cookie bites happened too.

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After brunch, our little group continued walking around the city! I loved seeing all the beautiful holiday decorations.

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New York City at Christmastime is the best!

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More selfie stick action in front of the Rockefeller Christmas tree. 🙂

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Girls again!

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My handsome guy. <3

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Skating rink!

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After that, we walked over to Bryant Park to check out another beautiful Christmas tree, as well as all the holiday shops.

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It was beautiful, and I think I may have liked this tree better than the more famous Rockefeller one. 🙂

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Up next, we headed over to Rolf’s, a famous German restaurant in the city known for its Christmas decorations. Hana made reservations for us about a month ago to ensure we’d get a table, and I’m so glad she did. The line to get in was ridiculously long, and we didn’t have to wait at all! Thanks, Hana!

It sure was beautiful inside – just look at this!

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We couldn’t get over how beautiful the decorations were and I think we all got a bit of a neck cramp from staring up at the ceiling for so long. It was so festive in there!

We enjoyed a couple of delicious German beers while we took in the decorations.

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So fun!

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NYC Christmas Bar Rolf's

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🙂

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Later in the evening, a bunch of our friends came over and we got ready to go out!

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We wound up going to a fun bar downtown that played amazing music including hits like Whitney Houston’s I Want to Dance With Somebody.

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You better believe we sang out loud to every single word and had ourselves a little dance party. It was so much fun! Fabio’s friends all met up with us too, and it was really nice to see them. 🙂

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Sadly, on Sunday morning Fabio and I had to hop back on the bus to go back home. Overall it was such a fantastic weekend, and I’m so glad I got to spend so much time with my best friends. 🙂

Until next time, New York!

Question of the day: Have you ever been to NYC over the holidays? If so, what’s your favorite part?

Last year we saw the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular, and it was a lot of fun!

 Posted by on December 7, 2015