The Chocolate Line

While in Belgium, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop into one of Bruges most popular chocolate stores, The Chocolate Line! 😍

They offer the most unique and most incredible flavors, it’s literally just a treat to walk in and window shop!

Of course, I couldn’t resist buying yet another box of chocolates! Take all my money chocolate stores!! 🤑😆

The best thing about Belgium is that there’s practically a chocolate store on every corner and they’re all delightfully delicious in their own way. 🤗 However, I believe Mary in Brussels will always be my absolute 100% favorite chocolate shop of all time. ❤️🍫

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop into The Chocolate Line, though, this place was absolutely devine, quirky and so much fun! The smell of chocolates hits you from the front door steps. I mean, who would try to avoid that?! 🤤

Enjoy the slideshow of photos below to see just how unique the flavors are and stay tuned for more posts about our Thanksgiving weekend in Belgium!

PS- If you’re unable to see the slideshow, then be sure to check out my website from the desktop site. It’s magical, I promise. 😘

❤️ nae

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There’s Something About Mary

Today I had the most insanely delicious Belgium chocolates at Mary’s in Brussels. Handmade chocolates made fresh daily (since 1919).

Mary is also the number one supplier of chocolates for the Belgium Royal family.

Now that’s some fancy chocolate! 😍

Click through the slideshow below to see some of the most divine chocolates that ever existed.

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❤️ nae

 

Canstatter Volksfest

The Canstatter Volksfest is our favorite favorite favorite fest here in Germany.❤ It’s located in Stuttgart and is considered the SECOND largest fest in Germany, with Munich coming in first.

Can you believe the very first Canstatter Volksfest was held in the year 1818!?

I love all the fests here in Germany but this one, so far, is my absolute favorite. 😍 My second favorite would probably be the Wilhelmstraßenfest (click here to read my post about it) but again, it’s so so sooooo hard to choose.

Fests here in Germany are absolutely incredible. This particular fest has every kind of carnival ride you could ever imagine, including a haunted house and even a fun house. I think one of the biggest differences we have noticed with the carnival rides here (other than the fact that they are absolutely WILD, CRAZY, and FUN), is that there seems to be no safety gates or guidelines like we are used to in the states. For example, with the bumper cars, everyone kind of just runs right up to the little cars from all sides, as if it was first come first serve. Once we saw a man jump straight onto the back of a car while the ride was in motion from the sidelines. It should be noted that no one got hurt and everyone had an amazing time, because that’s just how they do here in Germany. 😉😁

Another thing that we have noticed is that the graphics and cartoons drawn on the rides are often a little explicit and not censored, not even a little bit (see photos below). When we first moved here, this was quite shocking, but now, we are completely used to it. 😆😅

But anyway, let’s not forget the MAIN reason I go to all these fests in the first place, for all the incredible foods and sweet treats. 🤤😍

They sell these yummy little pork chop sandwiches on the freshest brotchen ever and I look for them any time I see food stands out. I seriously act like a kid in a candy store whenever I see them. 😵🤪🤑🤩 OH! and my newest favorite thing is fresh hot pommes frites covered in MAYO. 😍 They are OMGeee YUUUUM. I also look for anything smothered in Nutella, especially fresh off the griddle crepes and waffles. 🤤🤤🤤🤤🤪

Check out the slideshow below for my 2017-2018 Canstatter Volksfest highlights. 🤗

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Burg Eltz

Burg Eltz is as magnificent and magical as it sounds.

This gorgeous medieval castle is secluded in the woods and sits above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier, Germany.

Being that this little gem was less than an hour away from our home, we definitely had to go check it out.

The castles here in Europe are absolutely stunning, from the way they’re built to the way they make you feel once you are surrounded by their massive presence.

The Eltz Castle tour is definitely worth the trip. The tour guides were well informed about the castle and its original inhabitants too, probably because it is surprisingly still owned by the same family that lived there in the 12th century. We were told that they don’t actually live there anymore but they do have a family member come out to check on the grounds every Thursday.

The tour took us through most of the castle. It is divided into three main living areas, as the siblings each had their own separate homes within the castle. Today, you can tour two of these three main areas as the third one is blocked off and kept private for the family.

I wish I could have taken pictures inside but sadly they did not allow video recording or photographs. Fortunately for you though, I found a YouTube video from about four years ago that provides a look inside the castle. It’s all in German but if you’re just looking to take a peak inside (or you speak German), click here.

Check out the slideshow below for more pics.

❤️ nae

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Prague, as Promised.

Prague.

A must.

Things to do in Prague? SO so much.

I definitely want to go back.

So to save you from a heavily worded post about every little thing that we did and didn’t do, here are my Top Ten Favorite things about Prague (so far) in no particular order.

1. The Charles Bridge. It was gorgeous. We skipped the fancy tours and just strolled along taking in all the sights and sounds and it was absolutely amazing.

2. The Cat Cafe. It was adorable. Don’t go in the summer though, there’s no air conditioning and it gets pretty stuffy in there. Other than that, the concept was cute, and the cats, even cuter. We did wish that they had a full service type menu to order from though. Instead, they had free-to-grab snacks and juices included in the price (per hour). For our very first Cat Cafe, it satisfied our needs to cuddle with kitties in a Cafe.

3. Angelato’s. OMG. Eat gelato here. PLEASE. I had pistachio & stracciatella in a cup and it did not disappoint.

4. The Astronomical Clock. It was closed and under repair but from what I saw, it was absolutely amazing. I cannot wait to go back and actually get a closer look.

5. Las Adelitas. Fantastic street tacos. Best birthday dinner, EVER.

6. Old Town Square. Just breathtaking. From the street food to the street performers, this is the place to be.

7. Pizzeria Kmotra. Cheap and delicious wood fired pizza. Did I mention cheap? and delicious?

8. Prague Zoo. Okay, we didn’t get to go here due to time restrictions but it was on our list and it had amazing reviews. So next time, this is our first stop.

9. Dyzajn Market. Loved every little thing about this little market. Great finds, good food, and live music.

10. The variety of things to do. So many restaurants, so many tours, so much to see and do. Definitely one of my favorite places I’ve visited in Europe so far.

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Adventures In Prague

This video was taken in July of a street performer we came across in Prague. I loved every moment of this encounter and was so excited to be at the right place at the right time. This guy was truly inspirational. He had me mesmerized with every step he took; from his performance down to his music choice, I thought he did an amazing job.

This guy definitely made me think though… am I capable of more? Definitely, YES.

And on that note, I really need to get this blog in order and figure out how to fine tune everything. I also probably need to post the rest of my Prague photos.

In the meantime, enjoy the video!

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

I’ve done a good deal of traveling this past year but I can’t believe I hadn’t been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber much sooner, especially because it was just a mere two and a half hour drive from our home.

This town had been described as a fairy-tale like town with a romantic vibe, and it truly was just that. I felt compelled to take photos with each and every step, so badly in fact, that I had to remind myself to put away my camera and fully embrace the moment I was living in. I just couldn’t believe that a place like this actually existed and even more that people really lived in this little town.

The town is home to an imperial castle that dates back as far as 1142 and during the Middle Ages, the Market Square, in the heart of Rothenburg, was a place that held events like markets, meetings, and even executions. However, scattered across this charming little town, you can take in the most breathtaking architecture, which includes the most beautifully colored buildings I’ve ever seen.

One of the most interesting things you can do while in Rothenburg ob de Tauber, is visit the Medieval Crime Museum. The museum is home to exhibits ranging from the most bizarre shame masks to sinister looking iron torture chambers. Without a doubt, Rothenburg’s Medieval Crime Museum has got to be one of Germany’s most unique stops. Not only do they have a creepy line-up of punishment and torture devices on display but they also posses public records regarding some of Bavaria’s most notorious criminals, who took part in scandalous matters from treason, murder, and even witchcraft. Needless to say, a visit to this museum is certainly one to remember.

To lighten up the atmosphere after a visit to the Mittelalter Kriminalmuseum, you can walk on down to the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop. Käthe Wohlfahrt is a famous Christmas shop that you can find in many locations worldwide, however, Rothenburg ob de Tauber, is host to its main head office so you’ll be sure to find one of a kind gifts and souvenirs in all shapes and sizes. After you wrap up your Christmas shopping, stop in to check out the German Christmas Museum which houses an array of Christmas themed items, including ornaments dating back to the 1870’s.

While there are many things to see and do while in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it’s worth mentioning that there are a variety of wonderful restaurants and cafe’s to choose from too. We ate an amazing little pizza cafe called, Eiscafe-Pizzeria Romathat had the most amazing pizza and chicken cordon bleu that I’ve ever tasted. Next time we go, we were urged to try, Zur Höll, an authentic little German restaurant apparently worth every penny. Speaking of pennies, most (not all) shops and restaurants only take cash, so be sure to have pockets full of euro so you can indulge in all the town’s specialties.

Also noteworthy, we had the opportunity to try Schneeballs while in town. Rothenburg’s (very popular) unique fried pastry dessert that tourists seem to flock to. Unfortunately, we didn’t keep a good eye on time so it was a little after 6pm before we had the chance to try these famous snowballs, which meant that all the little bakeries that sold them were closed (this was a Saturday too). Defeated, we ended up trying some at a local coffee shop and sadly they seemed a bit too dry for our taste, the coffee, however, was amazing. I don’t want to give up on these famous little Schneeballs though, so next time we go I’ll be sure to make it a priority on my list.

While Schneeballs will be high on the list the next time I visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the main thing that I will definitely be taking part in while we’re there (that was highly recommended) is the Night Watchman’s Tour. It’s an entertaining hour long walking tour about the history of the town and starts around 8pm, so if you have the time to stay the night, supposedly, this tour is worth the extra time.

 

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Amsterdam Adventures

A couple weeks ago, on a whim, we decided that it was time to go see what Amsterdam was all about. The four hour drive was perfect for an adventure packed weekend getaway. We decided to stay in a little town called Leiden (pronounced lay-den), about 40 minutes from Amsterdam. If we ever go back to Amsterdam (and we will), we’d definitely stay at the Holiday Inn in Leiden, Netherlands again. The staff was extremely friendly and the hotel offered air conditioning and a large breakfast buffet (if you’ve read some of my past posts, you’ll know that air conditioning is definitely considered a luxury here).

Amsterdam was truly amazing. As a matter of fact, we found so many family friendly activities to do that we couldn’t do them all in one weekend; which is why we will definitely have to go back. I’d love to hit the ARTIS Royal Zoo, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, and the SkyView Pier in The Hague. We actually tried to go to the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House but lets all note right here, right now that you have to purchase your tickets online in advance or you won’t be able to go (like us). So next time, we’ll (all) know. I’m also hoping the next time we go, it will be tulip season and we’ll get to go to Keukenhof to see the tulip gardens. 

Our favorite things (so far) in Amsterdam were the Moco Museum which held a variety of interesting graffiti art pieces by the one and only Banksy (separate post to follow) and The Pancake Bakery which served us up some mouth watering dutch pancakes that were fabulous in every way imaginable.

Amsterdam had so much life and character to it that it was almost impossible for me to put my camera down. We knew that Amsterdam was known as a biketown but nothing could prepare us for the massive amounts of bikes and bicyclists that flooded the city’s every corner. It was an absolutely stunning sight to see especially for someone who is obsessed with snapping photos of bicycles (proven below). Amsterdam had a pretty incredible city life but there were also many nearby towns that offered many wonderful things to see and do. While visiting, we had the opportunity to check out the amazing Noordwijk Beach area and also see some pretty breathtaking views of the historic windmills in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.

I’d say, without a doubt, our weekend trip was extremely successful and I’m definitely looking forward to going back again.

 

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Hotels in Europe do what?

We haven’t lived here in Germany for long so we really haven’t had many hotel experiences but I have gathered some pretty important notes from our past vacations that I will definitely be keeping in mind for our future stays. Most hotels here are really wonderful to be honest but they truly do things a bit differently than what we are accustomed to back “home”. For example, making sure they all have air conditioning listed as an accommodation is something that is very new to us.

So what else have I learned? First off, because we are a family of five, it’s very hard to find rooms here, especially on the cheap. The hotels we look for must have “family rooms” available because anything beyond four guests apparently requires additional space and additional beds (no sharing allowed). Often times, the hotels here would rather you purchase a second room simply due to the fact that we have one extra person too many. In the states, we would get the room with the two queen beds option and they would allow us to stay in the room with all of our kids in tow. That’s not really the case here. As a matter of fact, most hotels here don’t even have “queen” sized beds. They mostly have twins or double beds available so even if we tried to get into one of the rooms with double beds, we really don’t all fit.

We have found that using Airbnb is often a cheaper option for our large crew rather than booking a hotel. However, some Airbnb’s don’t offer one night stays and there’s also often large deposits and cleaning fees attached to them so it really puts us in a situation of carefully planning and calculating when we are trying to schedule a simple overnight weekend trip. Booking.com has become a go-to website to book large family rooms and small apartments.

Speaking of fees, there are almost always additional fees that most hotels charge that are due before or at checkout depending on their policy and these charges are not included in the original price. For instance, one of the fees that we see pretty often is called a “tourist tax” fee. I have seen this charge cost anywhere from 1 euro to 11 euros per person staying in the room. In addition to that, some of the hotels here do not include housekeeping (so you really have to check for this in the fine print). At these particular hotels, if you require housekeeping to come to your room at any moment during your stay, that means you’ll be charged additional fees. If your hotel does not include housekeeping, this also means that you should probably bring extra towels because if you need any more towels than what was provided in the room, you will have to pay additional fees per towel. These additional fees are generally paid separately in cash (euro) at the time of check out.

We have definitely learned to read over the fine print of each hotel we decide to book with and we have also learned to bring more supplies. Sometimes, wifi is offered at an additional fee as well and sometimes it is not offered at all so it’s important not to assume that wifi will always be available. As a matter of fact, our last hotel had no wifi options at all (and that was a Disney resort in Paris). The same goes with breakfast, it is often offered as an optional fee if they even offer it at all. Breakfast can range anywhere from 5 euro per person to 15 euro per person.

Another thing that came as a surprise to us was to learn that we should definitely ask for the rules of the pool. In some hotels, it is against the rules for men/boys to wear swim shorts. The rules generally state that they must wear speedos as to avoid certain health risks. I believe the idea behind this is that swim shorts look too much like regular shorts and so people are prone to wear swim shorts out in town all day long and jump into the pool with them on too and vice versa. Whereas, not too many people want to walk around in a speedo all day. Luckily for my boys, we have only used one pool area here in Germany and it allowed any type of swim gear.

One of the biggest shock factors for us though has been bathrooms that have windows for walls… aka, no privacy at all. For the most part, this hasn’t been true for the majority of the hotels we’ve stayed in, however, one of our stays provided us with the experience of full exposure. We’ve definitely learned to make sure bathrooms are listed in the accommodations section of the hotel websites as, “Private Bathroom”. Needless to say, there are some things we will just never get used to.

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Hotel we stayed at that had a big window looking into the bathroom. You can see the shower area and top of the toilet from this view. Yes, you could see everything happening from both sides.
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Hotel with “family room” options in France. It provided two additional twin bunk beds on the other side of the room for our older children.

 

The Great Smoky Mountains

Last summer we went to visit some of my family who happen to live near The Great Smoky Mountains. One of our favorite family road trips involves hopping in the car and driving the scenic route to The Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Once we arrive, we usually stop and take in the sights and then eventually make our way over towards the trail that leads up to Clingmans Dome. The Dome is actually located in part of Tennessee and part of North Carolina and is considered the highest point in Tennessee. The hike up towards the observation tower is about a half mile but it’s mostly uphill so it’s literally quite breath-taking. However, the incredible views once you make it to the top make the strenuous hike well worth the efforts. Oh, and not only can you hike your way up towards the Dome but you can also wander off and hike part of The Appalachian Trail too.

If you ever plan a trip out to Clingmans Dome here are some helpful tips to help make your day run smoothly:

  • Wear comfortable shoes for an uphill climb
  • Pace yourself
  • Bring a small bottle of water or have bottled water ready for you in your car once you return
  • Remember, there are bears out there so be alert (we saw a bear cub once)
  • If you are bringing anyone with health conditions, be sure to check with a doctor and/or take it nice and slow (last time we were there an ambulance was called half way up the trail to bring down an elderly gentleman)
  • Be prepared for the air to be much cooler the closer you get to the top, bring a jacket or sweater.
  • Take lots of pictures and enjoy the views

I’d highly recommend taking a trip out to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The views are incredible and there is plenty to do for tourists of all ages, such as The Ripley’s Aquarium, a Titanic Museum, and so much more. You can even rent a log cabin to make your stay feel more at home in the mountains.

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