Amsterdam Adventures

Would you believe me if I told you that in our entire 4 1/2 year relationship Marcus and I had never taken a vacation? Don’t get me wrong, we have been on many weekend trips and even extended trips for the holidays. However, those trips were (almost) always with friends, or to visit family. There are a couple weekend road trips I can think of that were just the two of us, but this trip to Amsterdam was the first time we packed up, hopped on a plane and had more than 2 nights away with just us. It was long overdue and we sure did enjoy every moment!

When we started getting serious about planning this trip Marcus told me that he had always wanted to stay in a hostel. I had to admit that I also was curious about it. When you think of staying in a hostel you think of meeting people from all over the world, sharing stories and experiences and becoming friends. At least that is what we thought of. The thing I don’t think we realized was that most of the travelers staying in hostels are a bit younger than we are (by about 5-10 years!), and they also have slightly different ideas of what to do when traveling. To get the full ‘hostel experience’ we booked a shared room, with 6 roommates. Yes, 8 strangers in a room full of bunkbeds. It almost sounds like an episode of MTV’s ‘The Real World’  right?! Since this was my first time booking a hostel I didn’t know to specify that we would like to share a bed. There was one bunk bed in our room that had double beds, rather than the typical twins. We did not get that bed. We each had a twin bunk, one of top of the other. This trip was the first (and last) time I will ever sleep in bunkbeds with my husband. The first couple nights we tried to sleep together. The two of us on the smallest twin mattress you have ever seen. It turned out to be a terrible plan and we finally sucked it up and slept apart. The bathroom situation was also interesting. There were 2 itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny bathrooms on our floor, one of which only had a urinal and no toilet. In addition, there were two ‘shower rooms’ that were just barely large enough to stand in, hang your things on the door and be able to turn around. I must say the bathrooms and showers were impressively clean though. All in all it was an experience we won’t ever forget. The highlight of the hostel was the location. We were right next to Vondelpark and just a quick bike ride away from nearly everything!

Arriving to our hostel!

Arriving to our hostel!

Amsterdam 2015-4We touched down in Amsterdam at about 6:00pm on a Thursday evening. After finding our way to our hostel we decided to head out to explore the area a little. We were hungry and happened to stumble across FEBO! If you have been to Amsterdam, you know how amazing FEBO is. If you haven’t been, allow me to introduce you to the most delicious food you will ever get out of a ‘vending machine’. FEBO is a fast food joint. They have a counter where you can order food, but they also have this amazing wall filled with various burgers and our favorite, krokettes! We probably could have eaten just these for the rest of our trip and we would have been content.


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The Stadsschouwburg in Leidseplein – (Municipal Theater)

While Spain is technically in Europe, Southern Spain doesn't have much of a 'European' feel. One of the things I was looking forward to seeing most in Amsterdam was the canals and they were nothing short of amazing. 

While Spain is technically in Europe, Southern Spain doesn’t have much of a ‘European’ feel. One of the things I was looking forward to seeing most in Amsterdam were the canals and they were nothing short of amazing.

We called it a bit of an early night because we had an early morning on Friday. I booked us a bike tour with Mike’s Bikes and we couldn’t have had a better time! The forecast called for rain all day, but we decided to go for it anyway. It was a quick walk over to the bike shop from our hostel.

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 Once we reached the shop we had a quick info session and we were given our rain ponchos before we headed out to ride. There were about 15 people in our group and Marcus and I quickly realized that many people are not so great at riding bikes. We made our way to the front of the pack early and we sure were glad. We got to hear all the info that our awesome guide, Pete, had to offer. We rode up and over countless canals, through the Red Light District, near the Albert Cuyp Market in the Pijp neighborhood, through Jordaan, past the Anne Frank House, the Van Gough museum and the Rijksmuseum. And that doesn’t even cover it all! It was wonderful to cover so much ground and it really gave us a sense of where things were for the rest of our stay. It was literally pouring rain for the majority of our ride and we made a pit stop to a ‘brown cafe’. The brown cafes in Amsterdam are what a pub is in London. The name comes from the dark, but cozy, wood interiors. Some of the brown cafes date back to the 1600’s! We were happy to get out of the rain and we found a cozy corner to enjoy a few drinks.

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Amsterdam 2015-14 Amsterdam 2015-16We are all about giving the local favorites a try. The traditional drink in a brown cafe is a beer and a shot of genever. You don’t shoot the shot though, you sip on it. It definitely wasn’t the tastiest drink, in my opinion, but it did warm me up and for that I sure was thankful!

From the brown cafe we made our way back to the bike shop. Pete, our tour guide, invited us to stay for a drink and we were happy to oblige. After all, it was still raining and we didn’t know exactly where we were headed next. We got to know a little more about Pete, his girlfriend Mike and Amsterdam. There was even a bike shop kitty that looks like my cat that I had to leave behind when we moved. I was happy to spend some time giving her some love. When we were headed out we were thankful to accept an umbrella from the ‘lost & found’. That umbrella kept us dry for the remainder of our trip!

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After our day of riding in the rain we were ready for a bite to eat. We rode around until we found something that looked good and ended up at a great Irish bar & cafe. We had a delicious lunch and enjoyed some downtime.

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We headed back out for some more exploring, and eventually some dinner. When we returned to our hostel after dinner we headed to the bar for a nightcap. We were quite surprised when everyone in the place, with the exception of the two of us, was dressed up for a 60’s costume party. I’m talking completely decked out! We had clearly missed the memo. To say we felt out of place was an understatement. We called it a night and headed up to our room to attempt to sleep.

Amsterdam 2015-21We started our Saturday morning off with a walk around town, with a final destination of The Lobby for breakfast. I did quite a bit of research before we took our trip and The Lobby was highly recommended. It surely did not disappoint!

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As we continued on after breakfast, we stumbled upon a bike rental shop. We decided to grab a couple cruisers for the remainder of our trip. We rode around the Museum Quarter and wanted to visit the Van Gogh however, the wait was around 2.5 – 3 hours! There was a huge event going on for the unveiling of a new entrance to the museum, and it attracted quite a crowd. We aren’t exactly the type to stand around for hours so we decided to put the museum on our list of to-do’s for our next visit…when it isn’t peak tourist season!

Amsterdam 2015-29 Amsterdam 2015-28We did get to see some art in the making. This artist was painting a scene right outside the  museum. We had fun watching for a few minutes. I am still curious as to what the finished piece looks like.

Next we found our way to De Pijp, a trendy residential neighborhood in the south part of Amsterdam.  It is home to the Albert Cuypmarkt and we were so glad we took some time to check it out. It’s an open air market with a wide array of vendors selling everything from pottery, clothes, and flowers to delicious food. We browsed, we shopped, we ate. It was wonderful!

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Marcus enjoying a famous pickled herring sandwich at Albert Cuypmarkt

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Our next stop was Brouwerij’t IJ, Amsterdam’s leading organic brewery located in an old bathhouse at the foot of the De Gooyer windmill. The atmosphere was second to none, with a spacious outdoor patio featuring long community tables and market lights overhead. We enjoyed some delicious craft brews along with some tasty meats & cheeses.

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We ended our evening checking out the views from the top floor of the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (the Amsterdam Public Library), Europe’s largest public library.

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Centraal Station, Amsterdam

Sunday was our last full day in Amsterdam and we wanted to take full advantage of our time. We heard about a few festivals going on in Noord, so we rode down to Centraal Station and hopped on a ferry, bikes and all. Our destination was NDSM, the docks across the Het IJ in Amsterdam-Noord (North Amsterdam).

Waiting for the ferry!

Waiting for the ferry!

One of the many things Noord is known for, is the art scene which includes street art. It didn’t take us long to find some seriously amazing stuff. My younger brother, Jeremy, is a very talented artist. Marcus and I both grew to really love and appreciate street art during the 2 years he lived with us.

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All of our morning explorations had us ready for a bite to eat. We found the most amazing cafe, Noorderlicht. The building resembled a greenhouse, and it was so cozy inside. The wood burning stove definitely added to the warmth and we found a snug little corner with a leather couch and a makeshift table that was actually a (really awesome) vintage trunk.

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Amsterdam 2015-72We ordered the bruschetta lunch, which was 3 varieties of bruschetta and a pieperrada; a typical Basque dish prepared with onions, green peppers and tomatoes and flavored with red espelette pepper. This dish also had roasted artichokes, goat cheese and boiled eggs with a crostini on the side. I would take a trip back to Amsterdam for this meal alone! It was  so savory and delicious. I will definitely be attempting to recreate the pieperrada at home.

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Right across from Nooderlicht was another area with some great street art. This wasn’t the last time we would see the work of Pipsqueak, a duo of artists who work together on pieces all over Amsterdam. Their style is so unique and unmistakeable. We became quick fans!

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I wish I knew this kid so I could give him this photo.

I wish I knew who this kid was so I could give him this photo. He had some sweet moves!

Our next destination was a community park that was hosting a festival. On our way there we passed through an area with a handful of antique shops. If you know me personally, you know that I absolutely delight in browsing antiques. Obviously we had to make a pit stop! It was perfect timing as the rain started to come down heavy again. As we wandered through the warehouse sized shop, we wished we had our old Dodge 2500 long bed with us so that we could load it up with all of the treasures we were finding. Since we were on bicycles with only a backpack to carry items, I had to settle for a small consolation prize; a gravy boat. It may sound like a silly choice, but I’ve been needing one and now when I use it I will always think of our trip and that wonderful shop.

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Once we finished browsing, we continued on and finally made it to our destination. The park was abundant with lush, vibrant greenery. Being a California girl living in Southern Spain, I wasn’t used to the bountiful landscape. It was simply gorgeous, and an amazing backdrop for a fun festival. The festival was going full swing when we arrived and we jumped right in! There were 2 stages hosting musicians simultaneously, an area with a lovely selection of food vendors and some fantastic activities for kids. There were people of all ages dancing and enjoying the afternoon.

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I was so impressed by the children’s activities. There were humongous paper boats for children to draw and paint on. There was an area set up with supervision where children could practice circus tricks, like walking on top of a large ball. All of the play structures were made out of wood. It was the first time I had seen a play area for children that was so organic, and it seemed to really encourage the children to use their imaginations.

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There was even a booth set up where you could try different musical instruments!

There was even a booth set up where you could try different musical instruments!

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Amsterdam 2015-92We have always loved live music and we were happy to find some on this trip. The first set that we heard was  a group of guys who spoke English and Dutch, and sang in Spanish! They had an awesome salsa/jazz vibe to them. You know we were getting down on the dance floor! It was a ton of fun. The second set we heard was a group of guys with a jazz/folk/spoken poetry kind of feel. Their lyrics were bold and current and really carried a message. We got to chat with them a bit when they were finished with their set, and we learned that the lead singer is from Colorado!

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If you were wondering if there was some more street art at the park…there was! There were a few pieces by Pipsqueak. The one on the right takes the cake for my favorite piece of the day!

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As the rain started to come down again we made our way back to the ferry to head home. It was unanimous that this was our favorite part of our entire trip. We loved the vibe in Noord. There was just something about the people and the area that made you want to come back and spend more time. We definitely plan to! We had a nice dinner in Leidseplein and called it a night.

We had an early morning on Monday so that we could squeeze in a few more things before we had to fly home. Since the Van Gogh museum was still overcrowded, we opted for a trip to the Rijksmuseum. We literally walked right in, no lines at all!

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The museum was ginormous! We could have spent days perusing the exhibitions. We had to narrow down our focus and choose which areas we really wanted to see. I had taken an Art History class years ago in college. I never thought that class would have much relevance until we visited the Rijksmuseum. I remember class discussions about some of the pieces that were housed in the Rijksmuseum, most notably the ‘Milkmaid’ by Johannes Vermeer. It was fascinating to see it in person.

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The museum library was one of my favorite features.

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This vintage FK23 Bantam from World War 1 was one of Marcus’ favorite exhibits.

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A trip to the Museum Quarter isn’t complete until you have a photo with the IAmsterdam sign.

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Our time in Amsterdam was coming to an end. After the museum we had to return our rental bicycles and retrieve our luggage from the hostel. We had just enough time for a quick bite to eat before we made our way to the airport. We stopped in at Hoopman’s Green Bar in Leidseplein. We had a couple pints, a panini and Oma Bob’s bitterballen. Our lives were changed forever. Bitterballen is the single best food I have ever had! It is basically angus beef gravy, breaded and fried. Very similar to the krokettes at FEBO, but even better. Thankfully we don’t live in Amsterdam because I would eaten bitterballen every day. Seriously. It is that delicious. As we were enjoying our meal there was an incredible street performer jamming out on a guitar with some topnotch vocals to go along with some hardcore strumming. This guy was amazing! We got to chat with him a bit and learned that his parents are Greek, but he grew up in England. He spent many years in Barcelona and now he spends his summers in Amsterdam and his winters off the coast of Africa. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

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you are beautiful

you are beautiful

And just like that, we were serenaded out of Amsterdam! Until next time…

Love Life Travel

A Taste Of Germany!

Marcus and I were lucky enough to turn a work trip to Germany back in March into a quick getaway for the two of us. We spent a few days in Landstuhl, took a day trip to Heidelberg and spent our last day and night there in Frankfurt. It was my first trip out of Spain since we moved, and it was so nice to get a different taste of Europe.

Marcus had spent time in the Landstuhl area before, and he knew of these beautiful woods he wanted to take me to. His real motive for taking me there was so that he could drive our (badass BMW 640) rental car off-road, and I just wanted to take photos. I hope to find clients in the area some day because it was so gorgeous, I’d love to go shoot there again.

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Huge windmills on the drive to Heidelberg

Huge windmills on the drive to Heidelberg


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Our day to Heidelberg wasn’t planned, and we were just kind of going with the flow. I love days like that. No agenda. No plans. Stopping when we want to stop, and exploring when we want to explore. Our first stop in Heidelberg was the famous ruins of the Heidelberg Castle. We walked around the grounds and admired the gorgeous views overlooking the old downtown area of Heidelberg. IMG_6990

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IMG_7082 IMG_7081After touring the castle we headed into town to walk around and find something to eat. We just happened to stumble upon the most delicious little macaron shop, and if you know me, you know I had to stop for some tasty treats! There was every single flavor combination you can imagine. The hardest part of my day was choosing only 6.

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We continued our Heidelberg tour by wandering around the streets. We got lost, wandered some more, and found our way. I’d get lost anywhere with my husband, and I’d follow him to the ends of the earth.



IMG_7088The sunset on the drive back from Heidelberg was amazing. This shot was out the car window while Marcus was driving. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. The next morning we got up early to head into Frankfurt for our last day in Germany. We got to Frankfurt and had some time to kill before we could check into our hotel. We headed to the old town square, the Romerberg, where we enjoyed some German beer.

IMG_7134 IMG_7127Despite the cold, we decided to sit outside so that we could enjoy the square and all that was going on. Lucky for us the cafe had cozy blankets at each seat to help keep us warm. We had fun people watching, and even saw a wedding party! As we finished off our beers we made a plan for the rest of our day. We set out to see St. Pauls Church, Main Tower, the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew and the Old Opera House.


The Old Opera House

The Cathedral of St. Bartholomew

The Cathedral of St. Bartholomew


View from Main Tower

View from Main Tower

The Fountain of Justice at the Römerberg

The Fountain of Justice at the Römerberg

After we were done seeing the sights it was time to check into our hotel, Roomers. As soon as we walked into the place, we were wishing we could have stayed longer than one night. We were greeted at the desk with champagne, the staff was so kind and pleasant, our room was amazing, and the all around atmosphere of the hotel was something we hadn’t ever experienced before. If you are in Frankfurt…book a room at Roomers! When we went to the bar and they didn’t have everything they needed to make us the drink we wanted, they sent someone to the store to get it. The service was all-around impeccable. We finished off our night by checking out a few bars, including a true speakeasy! It was an amazing night, and it made for a difficult 8am departure the following morning for me. Marcus had a flight a few hours after me (lucky for him!) so I was on my own for the flight home. Frankfurt, we will be back!

La Alhambra

During my sister’s visit in February we took a road trip to Granada. On our second day there we toured La Alhambra. La Alhambra is absolutely breathtaking. The castle, gardens and Alcazaba date back to the 9th century! We did a self-guided tour and packed in as much as we could in the few hours we had to spend there. If you’re ever in Southern Spain I definitely suggest a trip to Granada and La Alhambra. Below you’ll see some of my favorite photos of the day. The detail in the castle are simply stunning. I was in awe!

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Granada – Day 1

My sister, Vanessa, graduated last year from Vanderbilt with her Master’s degree in Women’s Health as a Nurse Practitioner. This year she landed her first job in her new profession, and I couldn’t be more proud! On a bit of a whim, she decided to treat herself to a much deserved vacation before she jumped head first into her new career. Lucky me she decided to come to Europe and her last stop was Southern Spain! We took an amazing road trip to some of the must-see sights in Andalucía and our first stop was Granada.

When we finally arrived in Granada (about a 2 1/2 hour drive) we couldn’t figure out why everyone was staring at us in our car. Then we realized that we still had our California plates on the car. Most people probably hadn’t ever seen an American license plate! We got a lot of funny looks. Once we got all checked into our hotel we set off on our first adventure. We were headed out into town to explore. We were able to find our way to a bus stop with ease and hop on board to go to the Albaicín district. This area of town is the ‘old town’ lined with cobblestone streets and some wonderful buildings.

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Our first stop was at an amazing overlook that had amazing views! We took the opportunity to take a photo.


While we were enjoying the overlook we saw a cafe on the street below. We decided to make our way there as it was less crowded and we were ready to warm up a little with some drinks and good conversation. It was such a great find and if you go to Granada I highly suggest you find this place!

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IMG_4112We took advantage of the empty restaurant and relaxed there for quite some time while we talked about our plans for the rest of the afternoon and the following day. Vanessa had purchased a wonderfully informative travel book from Lonely Planet and it had a ton of suggestions for things to do in the area as well as a ‘must see/must do’ list. Alhambra was of course on the list and we (luckily) were able to get some last minute tickets for the following morning! Just a heads up – get your Alhambra entry tickets in ADVANCE! I had been keeping an eye on the tickets the week leading up to our visit, and there were plenty available. I had every intention to purchase them online a day or two before we arrived in Granada, but it slipped my mind. Once we arrived in Granada and decided we would visit Alhambra the following morning, all the tickets were sold out! After a few panic stricken moments, and some googling, I found out that the La Caixa ATM’s also sold tickets. We high tailed it to the nearest ATM and were able to secure our tickets for the following morning. I definitely learned my lesson there to plan ahead, throughly!


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IMG_4193IMG_4192After we left the Albaicín district we took our time meandering the streets and making our way back down the hill towards our hotel. During our walk we passed by a church. Every church/cathedral in Spain is breathtakingly gorgeous. We popped in for a moment to check out the beauty. My husband took a moment to say some prayers. I don’t know who or what he was praying for, but boy did I fall a little more in love with him in that moment. He never ceases to amaze me with his spirit.

We continued on our way and we stopped into a few places to grab a caña (a small glass of beer) and a bite to eat. We had heard that the tapas in Granada were amazing, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! We ordered one of my favorite foods, croquetas de jamón, unaware that we would be getting complimentary tapas with our drinks.

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Not only was the plate of tapas HUGE, the croquetas were also the largest I have ever seen! We happily indulged until we could not possibly eat anymore. We had to turn away food with our next round of drinks. As long as you order drinks they will keep the food coming! We were officially ready to call it a night after a long day of traveling and exploring. We just happened to stumble upon a hookah bar on our way back to our hotel, and who can say no to hookah?! Not us! We had a nightcap of some delicious tea and more hookah than we could smoke. It was the perfect end to our day! Stay tuned for the next of our adventures with Vanessa!

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Bringing in the New Year

Wow! It is hard to believe that it is already the middle of March! Marcus and I have been having a ton of fun here in Spain, and I need to catch y’all up on what we’ve been up to. Here is  a flashback to how we spent our New Year’s Eve.

Marcus and I had a lot to celebrate and New Year’s Eve was the perfect opportunity to get out and do just that! We decided to take a little trip to explore a new town and Sevilla was our destination. With the dogs in tow we headed out for a fun weekend. If ‘Sevilla’ does not sound familiar it is probably because it is spelled Seville in American English. I prefer the Spanish spelling and pronunciation though. Sevilla is the capital of Andalucia, the area of Southern Spain that we live in. We kicked off our weekend with a night out. IMG_3497We started the night around 11PM. We walked around, grabbed some food, and at midnight we ate 12 grapes. The 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition in Spain and it is believed that each grape signifies a lucky month in the coming year. The nightlife here differs a bit from what we are used to back home. The club we went to, New Theatre, didn’t even open until 1 o’clock in the morning! Well that was what time they were supposed to open at least. We arrived at about 1:30 and we were the first people in the club! People don’t start coming out until at least 2:00am, and the club is really going around 3am and lasts until 6am. We made sure to take a nap before we went out.


On New Year’s Day, when we finally woke up, we had a great time walking around Sevilla and taking in some of the sights. Every town here in Spain has an ‘old town’ area with the cobblestone streets I’ve come to love so much. We did have Joey & Lola with us, so we were a bit limited on what we could do. We were able to find a horse&carriage that let us on board with the pups!

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The girls seemed to enjoy the carriage ride, and we definitely got some funny looks from people passing by.

square in SevillaThis is a pretty common scene in the afternoons in Spain. Many people go out to have lunch, or tapas and a drink. One of the many things I love about Spain is that people take their children everywhere. You’ll notice many children in the photo on the right playing together. I have fallen in love with the culture here, it is very family oriented!


It is so much fun just walking around exploring. Along with the cobblestone streets, I absolutely adore the beautiful doors and entry ways here in Spain.

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IMG_3664The very best part of this trip is that I got to share is with this handsome guy! Every day I am thankful that we are on this adventure together. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to begin our marriage this way and I know it is helping us to build a strong foundation for the rest of our lives. Until next time, adios!