Archive | Travel

Eating in Tokyo & a Lesson in Perspective

Eating in Tokyo & a Lesson in Perspective |

“Perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their true value.”
(Rafael E. Pino)

We got off the elevator on the 45th floor and I immediately remembered coming here for drinks the last time we were in Tokyo. It had somehow slipped my mind when we were booking the trip. I remember feeling out of place. We were two youngish foreigners, indulging in overpriced drinks to catch the city views from the fancy Ritz-Carlton lounge. My cocktail was some tea infusion served with dry ice that bubbled like a witch’s cauldron. After our first round, we went straight to Havana Cafe, a dive bar that’s known on TripAdvisor for having the cheapest happy hour in Tokyo.

We weren’t married. We were child free. He went to a conference during the day. We explored the town at night. We went to the Tsukiji Fish Market, a crazy place called the Robot Restaurant, and the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar from Lost in Translation. We visited countless shrines and enjoyed many delicious meals out. We had no clue we’d be back in a few years with our eight-month-old who would learn how to crawl in our hotel room.

This visit to Tokyo has been different, but that’s true of most things these days. As a rule, life is more exhausting, more surprising, and more sweetly amazing with our baby. Bringing him to Japan has given me a fresh perspective on a few things I did not know before he came into our lives.

Going out to eat was a major focus of our first time in Tokyo.

The morning after we arrived, we waited in line for 30 minutes to have sushi for breakfast at Daiwa Sushi. It was a shock to the system, especially for my husband, but a true sign that we had arrived. On our second night we went to a fancy shabu-shabu restaurant where we cooked strips of raw Kobe beef in a traditional Japanese hot pot at our table.

In a tiny basement restaurant named Agaru, we sat at the counter and watched our chefs prepare ten Kaiseki dishes, each more refined and delicious than the last. We also discovered our love for the simple, but satisfying combo of draft beer and ramen at Kyushu Jangara in Harajuku. Of all the places we tried, our favorite was a smoky neighborhood yakatori bar called Ganchan where we shared 13 plates and 2 rounds of beer.

During that trip I took pictures of all our meals. I ate with both hands and actually tasted my food. I was unencumbered… and unable to appreciate the simplicity of dining without a small person on my lap, grasping for my attention and the food on my plate.

Coming into this trip, I set my expectations low when it came to eating out. I tried to be realistic, knowing our days (and nights) of being foodies are on hiatus… at least until our travel companion can feed himself.

We continued our “first meal in Japan must be sushi” tradition at Sushi Zanmai. The fresh fish and draft beer were as delicious as I remembered. Seated in a small restaurant amongst locals, a familiar feeling rushed over me. We were again outsiders in a foreign place, but this time as a family of three.

When my husband was away at his meetings I skipped lunch or had a small bite at the hotel’s lounge. The idea of getting to a place and eating alone while managing the baby in a foreign city is overwhelming to me. Perhaps I should’ve put on a brave face and given it a try, but instead I ate through our stash of “emergency” Larabars.

Dinner was much less glamorous during this visit to Tokyo. Most days, I put the babe down for his afternoon nap at 3:30 or 4pm, only to learn that he was down for the night! Jet lag is a whole new beast with a small baby who has yet to reliably sleep through the night and can’t tell you what time of day it is.

Since going out to dinner was off the table, we resorted to takeout most nights. The Tokyo Midtown shopping mall was in the same building as our hotel, so the hubs picked up pho and curry after work. We ate quietly, sharing stories from our days while the baby slept. Fortunately, the bathroom in our hotel room was big enough to roll the crib into. Every night we put the baby to bed in his makeshift nursery so we could hang out with the lights on for a few more hours.

On our final night in Tokyo we managed to keep the baby up late enough to grab dinner at 5pm. On our walk back, I realized it was the first time I’d seen the city lights from outside our hotel room.

Being out of place and out of routine is disorienting. It is one of the things that makes travel hard. It’s one of the things that makes travel so wonderful. In these past 8 months of baby-raising, I have learned to cozy up with discomfort. I have nestled into the unfamiliar.

That youngish woman in the hotel bar would have smiled and nodded if I told her about our life in a few years. She would be excited, perhaps a little envious about the prospect of marrying the man she loved and raising a little baby together. She might even mention that it looks like “future me” has my act together. I would assure her that we’re all just making this up as we go along.


When We Flew to Japan with Our Baby

When We Flew to Japan with Our Baby |

“Life doesn’t happen to us, but happens with us.”
(Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent)

As the plane prepared to land in Dallas, I looked over at my husband and said, “this has been our easiest flight yet.” We had only been in the air for 30 minutes. It seemed too good to be true and it was certainly too early to celebrate. I sent a silent thank you to the travel gods and braced myself for the rest of the trip.

Our baby has traveled a good amount in his short life. By the time he was 6 months old, we had been to 8 cities from California to Ohio. Still, it seemed crazy to take him to the other side of the world.

When we were on the fence about the trip to Japan, our friends and family shared their support. They warned, “it will only get harder as he gets more mobile.” They asked, “you want to have another kid, right? You should take advantage while you have just one.” They encouraged, “you have traveled a lot. You should go!”

While all of that may be true, I questioned if I was up for the task.

Before we had the baby, I worked from home and was able to join my husband when he traveled for work. We appreciated the unique opportunity to see the world without having to take PTO. When I was pregnant we went to Australia and we tried to imagine what it would be like to travel as a family of 3.

We took pride in packing light and only brought carry-on bags, even when we were gone for weeks at a time. We knew that would change. We made it a point to enjoy both fancy restaurants and dive bars. We knew that would change too. Yet, we dreamed of being the kind of parents who didn’t let a little baby stop us from traveling. If I’m honest, I think that’s why we went ahead and booked the tickets.

From home to the hotel, our total travel time was 22 hours… and the first 20 were a breeze.

Baby O snoozed during our layover, which gave me the chance to savor an iced coffee, play on Instagram, and update my Facebook status one more time.

I worried the baby would tarnish my love for long haul flights. Before he came along, one of my favorite aspects of travel was getting places. We usually fly business class and I cherish the hours of uninterrupted luxury. It’s pretty amazing to have a glass of champagne or wine (or both!), disconnect from wifi and cell service, and wake up in a completely new place.

The thought of spending hours on a plane with a screaming baby was horrifying. I worried about everything, but mostly that I would get claustrophobic, overwhelmed, and unable to manage the situation if things went sideways.

Since our flight was during daytime back home, the baby only slept for 4 hours. When he was awake, he received a steady stream of attention from the crew. One flight attendant even asked if she could, “carry the baby.” I found myself handing him over to a complete stranger who spoke to him softly in Japanese and bounced him on her hip.

Time went by much quicker than I expected. Our seats went completely flat, so I was able to share mine with O by sitting him in the back (where you’d put your head when sleeping), turning around to face him, and using my stretched out legs as a baby barrier.

Food, drink and entertainment helped make the flight more enjoyable. The hubs and I snacked on vegetable curry, had a few drinks (wine for me & beer for him), and indulged in ice cream and chocolates. The baby was satisfied with several rounds of breastmilk and the occasional teething wafer.

We suspended our parental desires to limit screen time and embraced the inflight TVs. The baby is too young to care about what’s on, but Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was a clear winner. I also downloaded this mini music box app and it’s been helpful in a pinch. I watched a few episodes of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce when he slept and the hubs prepped for his meetings.

All told, there were only a few times when the baby fussed. It was amazing and magical and so very lucky. We landed at 3:30pm local time, which felt like 12:30am for us. The baby was a trooper as we went through immigration, baggage claim, and customs, stopped by the ATM, and picked up our metro passes.

The Tokyo airport is outside the city, so we still had a 2 hour bus ride to the hotel. At first the babe cozied up and fell asleep, but then we hit rush hour. My sweet and quiet traveler turned into an exhausted, hysterical baby. I was wrecked myself and totally understood why he was melting down.

Our 22-hour journey was just about 2 hours too long, but we made it all the same. When we arrived, the hotel staff welcomed us and worked quickly to get us to our room. We were in bed by 8pm, up at 2am to unpack, back asleep at 3am and then up again at 5am… three bleary-eyed travelers, ready to take on our first day in Tokyo.


Departure Times

Departure Times |

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
(Anita Desai)

My husband and I went on our first international trip in 2013. It was a celebration of his graduation from business school, our recent engagement and cross-country move to Austin. I had never left the country and he’d only been on a few spring break trips.

We traveled to London, Paris, Rome, Cinque Terre, and Lucerne. We ate fancy dinners and toured museums. We wandered through parks and got lost a few times. We went on an epic hike along the cliffs of Cinque Terre and road a train through the Swiss Alps.

While we were in Paris, we had lunch at a small bistro with great TripAdvisor reviews. We arrived early and were the only people there besides the chef and server. It was a magic and memorable meals. The food was simple and delicious. The wine went down easy. The ambiance and service were comfortable. And we reveled in having the whole restaurant to ourselves.

At the end of the meal I asked my mister if we could come back next year. To the restaurant. To Paris. Or Europe. Or anywhere else on the map. This trip unlocked a new aspect of our relationship.

Removed from our everyday routine, we connected on a deeper level. We had to rely on each other in new ways. Even through delays, mishaps, and jet lag, we thrived.

So when I asked, it was with hopeful expectation. Even before our trip was over, I wanted to be back. But he was starting a new job and we had a wedding to plan. There were no signs that we’d have the time, money, or ability to travel again soon.

And yet. Life works in mysterious ways.

It ended up that my husband’s work took him across the world and since I worked from home, I was able to travel along. We visited more than 10 countries since our first big adventure. And we went back to our favorite restaurant in Paris every year for three years in a row.

In 2016 we took a break from our travels for a different kind of adventure. We welcomed our baby into the world last July. And just like that first big trip, our bond has grown deeper with each challenge and surprise.

We’ve taken a handful of trips to introduce our babe to family and friends who live in other states. but today we are leaving for two weeks in Japan. As we embark on his first big adventure I am filled with nervous anticipation. Door-to-door our journey will be nearly 24 hours! For a seven month old, that’s a lot to ask!

And yet. I have to believe.

I have to believe this baby, who traveled to Australia in utero, will surprise us and amaze us and rise to the occasion. And I have to believe that as his parents we will make this trip magical… like that lunch we shared in Paris. Unexpected. Wonderful. The three of us together out enjoying the world.


Europe Trip – Highlights from Paris

View from the Arc de Triomphe | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris |

Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn)

Now that we’ve been home in Austin for two weeks, our visit to Paris feels like forever ago. Even though we are back to our normal day-to-day, I can still feel the city’s energy as I look through these photos. It’s hard to explain why I love Paris so much — there are countless elements of beauty, magic, romance, and sparkle. Too many to describe. This is my happy place.

Here are some highlights from Paris:

After flying in from Vienna, we checked into our hotel and were welcomed with mini macarons. I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful way to get things started!

Once we unpacked, we headed straight to the Arc de Triomphe. We walked to the top and were greeted by the view in the photo above. From every angle, the city is gorgeous! We snapped a bunch of pictures of the skyline, then attempted to take a few of us together. Thankfully, a friendly stranger offered to take our picture when he noticed our terrible selfie attempts!

We headed back down as the sun began to set. My Mister captured the picture below as we were crossing the street. It’s the picture I have as my desktop right now — I cannot get over the way the clearing in the sky frames the Arc. Next, we headed to The Peninsula hotel for drinks at their rooftop bar, L’Oiseau Blanc. Our beverages were not cheap, but it was worth it for the view! I took this video of the Eiffel Tower sparkling just before it started rain.

Arc de Triomphe | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris |

Since my Mister had days filled with meetings and work, we did not have time for any other major tourist attractions. Instead, we explored some different neighborhoods and enjoyed a few of the many parks in Paris. The picture below is from Square Louis XIII park in the Marais district. We also went on a morning run through the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was just a few blocks from our hotel.

 | Square Louis XIII Park | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris |

When we visited Paris last summer, my Mister and I added our lock to the Love Lock Bridge (Pont des Amoureux). We jotted down the approximate location in an Evernote and hoped we would travel back to Paris one day. We had no clue that we’d return so soon — and somehow we also managed to lose or delete the note! I was skeptical that we would be able to find our lock without any guidance. Plus, the city of Paris has started to board up the bridge panels to discourage locks altogether.

Love Lock Bridge | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris |

Somehow my Mister (who’s usually the “realist” in our relationship) was surprisingly confident! I was so doubtful and after a few minutes of looking, I gave up. He kept at it, certain that our lock had to be around here somewhere. I mean, look at all those locks!

I don’t know how I ended up with such a patient and persistent fiancé, but I am so very grateful for him. After what felt like an hour (which was probably more like 10 minutes), he found our lock… ta da!

Love Lock Bridge | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris |

I was so surprised and excited! We took a bunch of pictures of our lock, then headed back to our hotel so we could change before dinner. The whole time I kept exclaiming, “I can’t believe you found it!” and he seemed pretty pumped about it too. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had one more romantic surprise up his sleeve. We walked right into Ladurée and stopped in for some macarons. Paris is my happy place.

Ladurée | Europe Trip - Highlights from Paris |

We ate well in Paris… here are my restaurant recommendations:

  • Chez Gabrielle – we came here for our first meal in Paris. Many restaurants are closed on Mondays, so we were happy to find a good one that was open for business. The most memorable items from our meal were the desserts! We shared some amazing pain perdu (French toast) and truffles.
  • Le P’tit Bercy – we came here for lunch and it was my first time ordering mussels as my main course. Dessert was the main highlight again, with a unique take on tiramisu + oreos!
  • Oka – this is a relatively new restaurant that has received high praise on TripAdvisor. The premise is interesting, especially if you are an adventurous diner: they serve 7 courses with a surprise menu. It was fun to guess what we were eating next.
  • Firmin Le Barbier – this was our favorite restaurant from our trip to Paris last summer. We came back for another memorable meal, seated in a cozy corner of the restaurant. We savored every bite. Highly recommended!

Just like the last time we were in Paris, the days passed by way too quickly. There’s still a lot on our list for future visits, including: the Louve, Versallies, crepes, and falafel in Marais. Oh, and we would love to see more of France one day!

After Paris we flew to Ediburgh for one last stop. I’ll share my highlights in the last post of this recap series next Tuesday.


Europe Trip – Highlights from Vienna

Train from Munich to Vienna | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna |

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
(Henry Miller)

During our trip to Europe last summer, we traveled a lot by train. It was relaxing and easy, and also a lot more timely than air travel. Unfortunately, most of our destinations on this trip were an 8-hour train ride away. We flew everywhere, except for our train ride from Munich to Vienna. The journey was relaxing, scenic, and productive! I was happy to get some work done while also enjoying the picturesque countryside.

Here are some highlights from Vienna:

Park Hyatt Vienna | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna |

We are building up Hyatt points for our honeymoon, so we were excited to stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna. The hotel occupies a 100-year-old building in the historic First District that used to be a bank headquarters. Our room was spacious, impeccably decorated, and full of modern niceties like touch-pad lighting and bluetooth Bose speakers. My Mister thinks this hotel has ruined me for any future vacations!

We arrived on Thursday evening, had a full day of work on Friday, then a wonderful weekend before leaving on Monday for Paris. We got the full Vienna experience, including a night at the opera and three morning runs through the city!

Schonbrunn Palace Gardens  | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna |

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Schönbrunn Palace. Photography was discouraged, so while we have a few sneaky pics of the incredible rooms, they don’t do the place justice. If you go, I recommend investing in the audio guide. I wish I was more of a history buff because much of the content was over my head!

Neither of us had major aspirations to see an opera, but we thought, “when in Vienna, do as the Viennese do!” Tickets to the State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) were too expensive by the time we considered buying them, so we booked two seats at the Volksoper instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but halfway through the show we were both totally lost. Since we do not speak Italian or German, following along was quite difficult! I am embarrassed to admit that we ducked out at intermission and did not come back…

St. Stephen's Cathedral | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna |

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is a central landmark in the First District. After walking past it a few times, we went inside during Sunday morning services. The church is beautiful, with ornate details around every corner. Inside, there was a mix of tourists and parishioners — but everyone seemed to be in awe. Listening to the organs play and the choir sing, it was a magical way to start the day.

After St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we went to the State Hall Library (Prunksaal) at Hofburg Palace. It was neat to walk through the old imperial library, and my favorite part was the four globes by Vincenzo Coronelli. The tour inside Hofburg Palace and the Sisi Museum were a letdown compared to Schönbrunn Palace, but I am glad we went because it lead to one of my favorite (and unplanned) parts of Vienna!

Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School | Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna |

When we walked through the entrance to Hofburg Palace, we saw the ticket office for the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School. Then I remembered my grandma telling me that she, “didn’t get to see the horses” when she was in Vienna. We peeked into the ticket  booth to find out the 11am was show was about to start. We purchased two standing-room tickets and hoped for the best. To our delight, every part of the show was incredible! I would highly recommend it, and hope to go back with an actual seat one day.

Our three morning runs were another highlight. It was fun to experience the quiet stillness of Vienna, before everyone flooded the streets and started their days. We ran through the Naschmarket as it was opening on Monday morning, but I think we both wished we had been there during the day. It’s on the list for our next time in Vienna, for sure.

We had some great meals in Vienna, here are my restaurant recommendations:

  • Café Landtmann – if you were in Vienna for just a few hours and could only visit one cafe, I would recommend going here for weinersnitchel, apfelstrudel, and melange coffee. The full Vienna experience in one iconic location!
  • Freyenstein – this is a neat little restaurant. There is not a menu in the traditional sense. Instead, the chef prepares 7 courses comprised of many small plates. Each one was artfully prepared and full of surprising and delicious flavors.
  • Lola – on our “opera night” we went to Lola for tapas before the show. It was an early meal for Saturday night, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Our food and drinks were both wonderful, and so was the ambiance of the restaurant.
  • Glasweise – eating here was not part of our original plan, but we shuffled into this lovely restaurant across the street from the opera. We sat at the bar, enjoyed a few wine recommendations, and shared a tasting plate. Glasweise is an adorable restaurant with amazing customer service!

Vienna is a historical and magical place that made me feel small and young in comparison. It’s not somewhere I would want to move to tomorrow, but I could see myself visiting again in twenty years… I imagine things might be very similar to how they were this trip!


Europe Trip – Highlights from Munich & Oktoberfest

Double Liters | Europe Trip - Highlights from Munich + Oktoberfest |

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected.
(Carl Sandburg)

I had very few expectations for Munich and Oktoberfest. I figured we might drink beer and eat some pretzels, but the rest was pretty up in the air. My Mister had a conference outside Munich that was the impetus for this whole trip. We didn’t know it was during Oktoberfest until after he confirmed his attendance and started booking our travel.

Here are a few highlights from Munich & Oktoberfest:

We stayed near the conference, which was in an industrial, business-y suburb. Our hotel did not offer Instagram-worthy accommodations, but we were comfortable and near my Mister’s meetings. It was the longest leg of our trip, 6 nights in total. There were days filled with fun, others that were busy with work, and some that were a mix of both.

Beer Delivery | Europe Trip - Highlights from Munich + Oktoberfest |

Our first day of Oktoberfest was certainly the most memorable. According to Wikipedia, “it is a 6-day festival running from late September to the first weekend in October with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year.” We arrived early on opening day, hoping to secure a spot inside one of the tents, but 8am was not early enough!

It was a rainy day, so we searched the various beer gardens for seating under an overhang. We finally found two seats at a table with a bunch of young kids (the drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer) and a group of retirees behind us. As we waited until 12pm for the first kegs to be tapped, we became fast friends with the older bunch, specifically George, his wife Ingrid, and their friend Helga. (Such German names! Dressed in full Oktoberfest garb!)

We went to Oktoberfest 3 different times, and the short version of the story is: we drank lots of beer and ate a few roasted chickens (the “1/2 Hendl” is a Bavarian tradition). So glad we had the opportunity to check this one off the bucket list!

Even though Oktoberfest was the main focus, we managed to explore Munich too.

Walking Across the Isar River | Europe Trip - Highlights from Munich + Oktoberfest |

Inside the city center, we walked through the Marienplatz, then checked out the Rathaus (Town Hall) and St. Peter’s Church. We went for a walk around the market and English Garden, both of which were amazing sights and good people watching.

Predictably, one of my favorite parts of our explorations through Munich was the time we spent in Chinesischer Turm, sharing a few pints. I also enjoyed walking over to Schwindinsel, which is a small island in the middle of the Isar River in Munich. In the picture above you can see the Bavarian State Parliament off in the distance.

Here are a few restaurant recommendations from our time in Munich:

  • Sapori – if you ever find yourself in Unterschleißheim (outside Munich), I highly recommend trying this small Italian restaurant. My Mister and I went twice! Their Picante pizza was complete perfection!
  • Albarone – this little gem is ranked highly on TripAdvisor, and worth every rating. We made reservations in advance and were the only patrons for the night. It was a unique experience and a fancy meal. Albarone is one place we would be happy to visit again!
  • Geisel Vinothek – on our way out of town, we stopped by this restaurant only a few blocks from the main train station in Munich. This place is completely charming, with decor that I would happily “borrow” for our house one day. We shared the prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella to start, and it was the best we’ve ever had!

Our week in Munich was interesting and memorable. If we go back, we will stay inside the city center… and hope for better weather! Our next stop was Vienna, Austria — a new city and country for us. I will share our highlights from that part of our journey next Tuesday.


Sunday Sounds – Tunes for Travel Playlist

Sunday Sounds - Tunes for Travel | - image via Unsplash

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet
and the winds long to play with your hair.
(Kahlil Gibran)

Hello, loves. Happy Sunday!

After three weeks on the road, My Mister and I are traveling from Edinburgh to Austin today. We had the most amazing trip, but I am looking forward to getting back into our normal routine! Since the past 21 days have been filled with many indulgences, I am planning to dive back into Whole30 and daily exercise like it’s my job. Just 48 days until the wedding… that’s insane! Time to refocus on the things that make me feel calm, healthy, and happy.

One thing I really love is making playlists. So, I am trying something new. Every other week I will post Sunday Sounds — playlists from me to you. I made this Tunes for Travel playlist before we left for Europe and I’ve been listening to it since. There’s a mix of mellow and upbeat songs, perfect for travel days and autumn afternoons. I hope you enjoy!

Click here to listen to my Tunes for Travel playlist on Spotify:

alt-J – Left Hand Free
LP – Into The Wild
alt-J – Breezeblocks
Radiohead – Lotus Flower (Jacques Greene RMX)
Hozier – Like Real People Do
Bear’s Den – Sophie
Daughter – Smother
The National – I Need My Girl
Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Pictures
Noosa – Fear of Love
Balmorhea – Bowspirit
Banks – Waiting Game
Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals
Muse – Madness
David J. Roch – Skin & Bones
Jónsi – Go do

Image via Unsplash


Europe Trip – Highlights from London

Europe Trip - Highlights from London |

Travel is more than the seeing of sights;
it is a change that goes on,
deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
(Miriam Beard)

The first time I had my passport stamped was last summer. My Mister and I went on vacation to celebrate our engagement and him finishing business school. We visited London, Rome, Cinque Terre, Lucern, and Paris. It was 19 days of romance, delicious eats, and lots of wine. During that trip, I never thought we would travel to Japan and Korea a few months later, and back to Europe again this year. Life is surprising. We are grateful for these travel opportunities through My Mister’s work, and it’s lucky I have the flexibility to come along.

Two weeks ago, we packed a few small bags and headed on a direct flight from Austin to London. I celebrated the completion of my Whole30 with a glass of champagne and we watched the movie Chef before catching a few hours of sleep. We had four fantastic days in London before packing up again and leaving for Munich.

Here are a few restaurant recommendations + highlights from London:

Berners Tavern at The London Edition | Europe Trip - Highlights from London |

We stayed at The London Edition, which is a Marriott hotel. It was modern and nice, with a great restaurant and busy nightclub in the basement. They also have a small reservations-only bar known as the Punch Room. We may or may not have ordered seconds of the Oxford Punch, which is a blend of port, Cognac, rum, green tea and sherbet. Yum!

Our hotel room was spacious enough for me to unroll my travel yoga mat and practice during our stay. We were quite comfortable, aside from the noise from construction next door. Perhaps we should have complained to the front desk, but I think we are just used to it from living in downtown Austin.

Notting Hill | Europe Trip - Highlights from London |

Since this was our second time in London, we focused our sightseeing on things we missed last year. Our first stop after arriving into town was the Notting Hill neighborhood. I loved all the cute houses and shops. Another highlight was St. Paul’s Cathedral, even walking the 528 steps to the top. The view was worth it!

View from St. Paul’s Cathedral | Europe Trip - Highlights from London |

We also walked through the Southbank area and went to the Tate Modern art museum. I especially liked the pieces from Picasso and Jackson Pollock, and my Mister’s favorites were by Yves Tanguy. We stepped onto the balcony for a cappuccino break and watched a band finish their set on the steps of the Millennium Bridge. The lead singer was dancing around like crazy… even from far away, the mini rock show was fantastic.

View from the Tate Modern | Europe Trip - Highlights from London |

We had some great meals in London, here are my restaurant recommendations:

  • Lal Qila – our first dinner in London had to be Indian, of course! We tried the Madras and Vindaloo Chicken Curries with Garlic Naan. The chef prepared everything deliciously spicy… just the way we like it.
  • Berners Tavern @ The London Edition – I had a solo lunch here while my Mister was out on business meetings. Their rendition of a Caesar Salad has a flattened and grilled chicken breast as the base, with lettuce and dressing on top. Very good!
  • Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack – this was a tiny little restaurant with a focus on seafood (the name might give it away!). The crab starter and Rosemary Salt Skinny Fries were our favorites.
  • The Wahaca Southbank Experiment – we ate lunch here during our last visit to London and had to come back! The restaurant is built out of shipping containers and they serve Mexican street food. We loved the black bean dip and the Pork Pibil Tacos.
  • Edwins Borough – our last meal in London was at another small and cozy restaurant! Their Rabbit, Polenta & Parmesan starter was unbelievable. We also enjoyed their cocktails, I had the Bourbon & Ginger Flip and my Mister had the Pear & Cardamom Sidecar.

We had such an amazing time. As we were walking around the city, I could imagine how fun it would be to live there. It’s so beautiful, lively, and interesting! My Mister kept trying to remind me that it’s been unusually beautiful weather during both of our visits to London. After our four days, we headed to Heathrow for a quick flight to Germany. I will share our highlights from Munich + Oktoberfest in another post soon.


Packing List for 21-Days in Europe

Packing List for 21-Days in Europe  | - image via Unsplash

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.
(Martin Buber)

Hello from London! My Mister and I arrived Tuesday morning and have been enjoying the beautiful late-summer weather. One of my September Intentions was to travel here with just one bag + carry-on for each of us, and I’m happy to say that we did it!

This trip is a long one (3 weeks total) and it will take us to five different destinations. We are visiting London, Munich, Vienna, Paris, and Edinburgh. The weather forecast is a range of 40-70 degrees with chances of rain. So far it has been nice, and warmer than expected!

My packing list for 21-days in Europe

The process began a week before our departure and included one “test pack” that was followed by me adding several items to the list. My bags are heavy, but manageable. There isn’t a lot of room for souvenirs, but we try to take lots of pictures and I usually collect tickets, business cards, and other paper things from the places we visit.

The Actual Bags

We each have one of these Travelpro suitcases that we bought during an Amazon luggage sale. They are great little bags for travel because they meet all major requirements for overhead bins and you can really pack a lot in them!

I have a purse very similar to this one that I’m using as my carry-on.  For travel days, it gets stuffed with my laptop, iPad, Kindle, makeup, and liquids bag. It’s also great for carrying around when we are exploring, especially if we want to bring our umbrella and pullovers.


I’m not very good about packing light when it comes to electronics, but that’s ok. I am willing to carry them around with me. While packing, I lay all my tech out and make sure the corresponding chargers come along.

A note on workout things: this makes me exercise more often while traveling. It isn’t a surefire solution, but it definitely helps. I was excited to bring my Fitbit for days when all we do is walk and explore, and my GPS watch + heart rate monitor for running.

Mini Medicine Cabinet

I got really sick when we were in Japan earlier this year. It was miserable when I ran through our medicine stash. I don’t plan on needing these things, but better safe than sorry!


  • Toothbrush + toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Razor + blades
  • Contact solution
  • Spare contacts
  • Q-tips
  • Lavender towelettes
  • Compact mirror
  • Nail polish remover pads
  • Nail file + clipper
  • Hair ties
  • Bobby pins
  • Wide tooth comb
  • Round brush
  • Curling iron
  • Hair products
  • Makeup bag
  • Rollerball perfume

As I mentioned in my packing tips for multipurpose trips, I collect sample sizes of my beauty products. I do not pack shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or a blowdryer since hotels usually have those for guests. My “liquid bag” is always busting at the seams, so I ask my Mister to carry the toothpaste and contact solution in his.

Jewelry + Accessories

  • Silver clutch
  • Small tan purse
  • Statement necklace
  • Everyday necklace
  • Nice watch
  • Earrings (5 pairs)
  • Black scarf
  • Blush infinity scarf
  • Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses

I just bought my first-ever statement necklace and am in love! It was a must-bring item, along with several pairs of earrings, and two scarves. These little things help keep me from feeling like I’m wearing the same outfit over and over.


  • Nice long sleeve dress
  • Nice black sleeveless dress
  • Cranberry sweater
  • Black sweater
  • Two-in-one top
  • Cream blouse
  • Casual sweatshirt dress
  • Long sleeve pullover
  • Grey v-neck t-shirt
  • Black t-shirt
  • 2 black + 2 white tank tops
  • Exercise tank
  • 2 pairs of leggings + 2 pairs of jeans: one dressy, one casual each
  • Pajama/sweatpants
  • Underwear (6 pairs)
  • 2 everyday bras + 1 sports bra
  • Socks (2 running, 3 everyday)
  • Black tights
  • Black leather jacket
  • Olive green jacket

I really cannot imagine bringing any more clothes. In my first round of packing, I did not include the nice black sleeveless dress, exercise tank, or the extra pair of leggings. Those were impulse additions to my bag, but I’m hoping they will prove to be useful. There’s nothing worse that bringing something around with you to five cities and not wearing it, so I am planning to keep track of how well I’m rotating my outfits. Also, we are planning to do laundry a few times during the trip!


  • Black boots
  • Black flats
  • Running shoes
  • Grey TOMS

I tossed my TOMS in at the last minute. They pack flat and are comfortable walking shoes. My boots and flats are brand-new for the trip… so, I should have broken them in before leaving. Guess that’s why I brought band-aids. Also, this is the blister cure we swear by. Ha!


  • Water bottle
  • Yoga mat
  • Pages from my day planner
  • Notebook
  • Pens
  • Wite-out
  • Headphones
  • Lip balm

This is my collection of creature comforts that, for the most part, I would not travel without. This water bottle is very light and it filters the water as you drink it. This yoga mat folds up and fits nicely in the front zipper section of my luggage.

Taking a few pages from my day planner is more practical than bringing the whole thing. I just hold what I need together with a binder clip, then tuck it away in a small notebook. This pouch holds my pens, whiteout, lip balm, lavender towelettes, headphones (cord-wrangled with one of these), plus one packet of Emergen-C and EBOOST.

That’s everything!

Creating a packing list for 21-days in Europe is no small feat. I might have brought slightly more than I will need, but that’s hard to tell at this point. My bags are heavy to carry, especially upstairs and through uneven sidewalks, but I can manage it all on my own and it’s comfortably under the airline weight limits.

I hope this provides you with some inspiration and helpful information for your next trip… whether you are leaving for a few days or going on a long, faraway journey! Let me know in the comments, what are your top must-pack items?

Image via Unsplash

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Heading Back to North Carolina

We're Heading to North Carolina - image via Death to the Stock Photo |

Unless you move, the place where you are is the place where you will always be.
(Ashleigh Brilliant)

Hello, sweet friends! I hope you are having a delightful week.

It feels like my Mister and I just got back from our trip to NYC + Philly, and today we are traveling to North Carolina. We will be in Raleigh for a few days to visit with friends, then we’re heading to Lake Norman for time with family, and then off to Charlotte for my Mister’s 30th birthday weekend!

It will be a full and fun trip, but I have plans for productivity too. Our wedding is inching closer (3 months and 16 days now) and I’ve been working hard to slim down & get stronger for the big day. In hopes to not lose my ground, I am planning to make healthy eating choices while also mindfully indulging in some vacation fun. One of my intentions for August is to exercise daily (even if just for a short while), so I packed my running shoes, heart rate monitor, and GPS watch. Of course, I’ll be wearing my Fitbit to encourage extra steps!

In addition to health-related aspirations, I would like to finishing planning my 2014 editorial calendar for this blog and Happy Living. Knowing where the blogs are heading helps me stay focused and enjoy writing more. I downloaded some great resources from CoSchedule and The B Bar to inspire and guide me on this project. I am also pushing myself to write, write, write, and write some more. The next few months are going to be busy, so I would love to have a few weeks of content drafted and ready to go.

We haven’t been back to Raleigh since last winter, so I am eager to visit a few of our favorite restaurants, and catch up with old friends. I am especially excited to hang out with all three of my younger siblings for a week. It will also be nice to escape from the 100° Texas heat!

Do you have any final summer trips planned? Let me know if you have any tips or tricks to staying productive when you’re not in your normal routine!

Image via Death to the Stock Photo

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