Beautiful Portugal

I am writing this post as its snowing outside my window. Oh, how I miss the warm, beachy weather of the Portugal trip Bryan and I took in late August.

From its expansive mountains in the north to the untouched beaches of the south, there are endless places to explore in Portugal. When Bryan and I started planning the trip, we knew we would not have time to do both the northern wine country and the southern beaches, so we chose the southern part of Portugal for this short trip.

Our first stop: the wonderful seaside city of Lisbon. We flew into the city early on Wednesday morning and were greeted with lovely sunshine. Some cities sure know how to show off with the sun’s sparkle, and Lisbon, or Lisboa, is one of them. Amsterdam, take notes please!

After Bryan and I settled into our AirBnb in the Alfima neighborhood, we walked up to the São Jorge Castle taking in the views of the city.

The views from the top were incredible!

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We loved walking around the castle and exploring the castle’s rich history.  Bryan and I met another couple from Texas and chatted with them for a while before we headed back down to Old Town, popping into shops along the way.

On Wednesday evening, we grabbed dinner at a place called Taberna Moderna. It was the kind of restaurant you could sit in for hours gabbing about nothing in particular, but the time seems to pass quickly. Bryan and I agree while the food was delicious, the drinks were the best part of the restaurant. I am not even the biggest G&T gal, but loved their rosemary combination!

IMG_0256The next morning, we grabbed a late breakfast at the Mercado de Ribiera. A huge market with different food stalls and shops, it is a must-do in Lisbon. You must try one of the famous custard pastries while there!

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After we headed to the Jeronimos Monastery outside of Lisbon in the small town of Belem. It is only a short train or taxi away.

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The monastery was started for the Order of Saint Jerome and constructed in 1501. The whole place is incredibly beautiful — especially the intricate architecture . Bryan and I skipped the line by buying the combined pass, which allowed us into the archeological museum next door first.

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On Thursday afternoon, we went on the Taste of Lisboa: Food and Wine tour. With the local guide, we explored nooks and crannies of the city we would never find on our own; plus, we ate until we almost burst.

Here is a short taste of some of the food we consumed:

Cured ham, bread and olive oil, tons of cheese, pork sandwich, canned fish, codfish cake, tomato rice, samosa, custard tart, and wine One of the most interesting and flavorful dishes was the canned fish, which has always been a staple meal for Lisbon locals. I would have likely never tried that on my own — supposedly it is trendy!

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When we walked through the central neighborhoods on the tour, we learned there is a street artist in Graça who paints many of the residents of the community near where they live. I loved this special fun fact!

Thursday evening we were too stuffed for dinner so went on a long walk instead.

Algarve

On Friday morning, we drove down to our beach adventure. Lisbon is located only a couple of hours north of Algarve, so we knew we needed to drive. The main “highway” was more like back roads through rolling desert hills. It was a gorgeous drive.

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On our way down, we stopped at this tiny restaurant/wine shop called Restaurant Venezia. We were the only tourists there and it was perfect.

We asked the owner questions and took a look at their unique Portuguese wines.

During our time at the beach, we did a lot of nothing. 🙂

And two days of relaxing by the beach was exactly what we needed.

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Our special trip highlight, and favorite meal in Algarve, was the restaurant on our final night: Al Quimia. The service was impeccable, and the food knocked our socks off.

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Each dish was like a work of art!

As beach, wine, and culture enthusiasts, I know we will be back to Portugal very soon. Portugal’s beauty captured our hearts! Now, we need to go to the North.

 

Norway with KTP

Kate, or “KTP” as we call her, the 4th Dahl girl, is my nearest and dearest friend. As a teacher, Kate has the summer months off; thus, August was, and is, the perfect time for her to visit. Kate and I have done some extensive traveling together in our lives, but were thrilled to have 1:1 time together–it had been a while!

Kate landed in Amsterdam bright and early on Friday morning and immediately jumped into a schedule of activities. She explored our neighborhood on Friday, joined a big dinner for my friend Melissa’s birthday on Friday night, and then took part in all of the Pride festivities the following day.

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On Sunday, Kate left Amsterdam to join a friend and her family in Sweden for a week of biking. I utilized the opportunity to pop over to Norway the following Saturday, after the biking trip ended, to meet her for some beauty and adventures.

Kate and I joke all the time, neither of us have a good sense of direction, so we are both wary about car navigation. When I say neither of us can navigate, I mean we are terrible navigators and have gotten lost together more times than I can count.

So, we knew renting a car and driving through the Norway fjords would be a challenge. But, one we were willing to take!

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Before I go any further, let me just say, I am proud of us for accomplishing this task and living to tell the tale! 🙂

Anyway, I met Kate at the Bergen airport and we jumped into the rental car for our Norway adventure. I will say, neither of us were fully prepared for the weather. August in Norway is still pretty cold, and I’m not talkin’ about bare-legs and a light jacket chilly, I’m talkin’ about jeans and a light puff jacket cold. It doesn’t help that we both are California girls at heart ;). Although it was cold, the sun was out most of our trip!

We set off from the Bergen airport and drove right into the town of Bergen, located on the southwest coast of the country. If you want to see the fjords, Bergen is the best place to start. Side note: if you are wondering what a fjord is, here is the definition: “a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley.” We chose to stay in Bergen for its central location within the fjords and gorgeous scenery.

Bergen did not disappoint. We spent the afternoon walking around the town and exploring the lovely shops and fish market.

We ate a scrumptious dinner at Bare Vestland on Saturday evening and then took the tram up to the top of the Bergen mountain to watch the sunset over the water.

On Sunday morning, we woke up early to drive to a hike near the Stalheim hotel.

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We plotted an intermediate route and made our way towards a beautiful overlook.

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We saw some cute sheep along the way too.

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By the time we finished our hike, it was late afternoon, and we were starving! Luckily, the hike finished at the Stalheim hotel, so we stopped in for some pizza. They were playing scores from famous movies in the restaurant so Kate and I played a game of guessing all of the music. After lunch, we made our way back to Bergen.

We loved dinner at the Spiesekroken restaurant because we were surrounded by locals and we had the most delicious food.

On Monday, we drove further into the Fjords to stay at the Thon Hotel Sandven. The tiny town immediately stole our hearts because it was charming and peaceful! We dropped our bags and rented kayaks for the afternoon.

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We could not stop taking pictures + the pictures do not do it justice!

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The only difficult part of the adventure was kayaking back. We kayaked out so far; the return against the wind, proved treacherous.

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This day, with its vast beauty, and still moments, will be etched on my heart forever. Kate and I spent the day chatting about our goals, sharing our dreams, praying and worshipping.

The final morning we went on a small hike around the town and enjoyed the town’s famous waterfall.

Kate came to Amsterdam with me for a night before she headed back to LA.

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The only picture with Bryan! 

I can easily see why Norway was recommended by so many friends. The mountainous fishing towns and dramatic fjords were beyond picturesque, the seafood was delicious, and the people were incredibly friendly. I cannot wait to return to Norway.

xx,

Hila

 

Picking Up Right Where We Left Off

I love those friendships where no matter how much time passes or how much life happens in between, your friendship will pick up exactly where it left off. My DC friendships are like that for me. The year after we graduated from different universities, 7 friends moved to Washington D.C. for our first jobs. Our friend Kendall was the common thread, uniting the group together through camp, Dallas, and Furman.

Several of those D.C friends came to visit together in July: Caroline Bergan, Camie Carlock, and my DC roomie, Rebecca Jones.

The girls landed around the same time and we immediately met for coffee on my way to work. They explored that day while I was working and we met back up for dinner at my favorite Pizza place in Amsterdam called La Perla. We gabbed for hours and could have stayed there the whole night catching up!

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Love the long summer days. This was after dinner!

The next day, Camie, Caroline and Rebecca explored by themselves while I had to work. (unfortunately!).

IMG_0973We had a shared thread and so I could follow where they were from the office!

On Friday night, we grabbed dinner and drinks in Amsterdam. Bryan was happy to have some time with the DC gals too.

Caroline, Rebecca, Camie and I took the train to Antwerp on Saturday morning for a quick overnight trip to Belgium. We chose Antwerp because it was a place that none of us had ever been!

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At lunch before the best mussels, frites, and belgium beers

Antwerp’s architecture reminded me a lot of Amsterdam and it was neat to see differences between the two. We loved exploring Antwerp’s large squares, walking into some churches, and eating all the mussels and frites we possibly could.

On Saturday afternoon, we visited Antwerp’s famous craft brewery, dekoninck.

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The next morning, we went to a place called Wasbar for a fantastic brunch. Camie was especially obsessed with the interior of the place and took a TON of pictures.

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At Wasbar, you can do your laundry and eat breakfast/ study! It was a cute concept.

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On Sunday, we came back to Amsterdam and Bryan lovingly drove us around on the boat!

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Before their Amsterdam visit, I had not seen Camie, Caroline, and Rebecca since my wedding! It was really special having them in Amsterdam and I am looking forward to many more reunions to come.

Dublin with Kat and Zach

I just wrote about fun adventures with Kathleen and Zach in Germany, and now I will briefly share about our weekend before Germany we spent in Dublin. Zach had never been to Europe, thus we wanted to plan as much as possible! They came to Amsterdam for the first night and then we all flew to Dublin on Saturday morning for a quick weekend trip.

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One of the highlights of our time in Dublin was the bike tour we did on Saturday. It was an all-day tour with multiple stops in between. We loved seeing the whole city, venturing to parts off of the beaten path, and being active.

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Bryan: workin’ hard and lookin’ fresh

Social media is a beautiful thing  because through Instagram, my friend Hunter, figured out I was in Dublin and then sent a message to our mutual friend from Furman, True, who was there for the night as well (thanks hunter!). True happened to be studying art in London for the summer and was traveling to Dublin for the weekend. It is such a small world!

After we made the connection, True joined us for a late dinner on Saturday night.

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After dinner, we went to two trendy bars in the city and also met up with one of Bryan’s former co-workers, Nate and his wife. He is working with PwC in Dublin!

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On Sunday, Kathleen and Zach went to see the Cliffs of Moher, and so Bryan, True and I explored a nearby village, Dalkey. I have an Amsterdam friend from there and she gave us great recommendations for lunch spots. It was only 25 minutes away from Dublin by train and is absolutely worth the trip. It is gorgeous!

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Kathleen and Zach spent the week exploring Amsterdam while Bryan and I worked. It was so special having them here to see our home and life.

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Black Forest Adventures

The black forest of  Germany is filled with magical rivers and waterfalls amidst tall trees and picturesque towns nestled among cascading hills. After our trip, I understand why many fairy tales and children’s stories are set within the black forest: this region is extraordinary.

On the first day, Kathleen, Zach, Bryan and I flew to Stuttgart, Germany and quickly drove to our first stop: Triberg, Germany.

The lovely, quant town, Triberg is — in addition to its stunning scenery — home to the famous Cuckoo-clocks. I have to say, Bryan has a slight obsession with all things “clock”, so it was a “must-see” for the four of us. The most famous cuckoo-clock shop in Triberg is called Oli Schnitzstube. This shop is special because they employ 5 master carvers who design and carve all of the intricate cuckoo-clocks by hand. They did not allow pictures within their shop, but check out their site to see how amazing these clocks are! We did not buy one while there, but planning to order one online one day.

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After seeing all of the cuckoo clocks, we also went on an easy hike to see the Triberg waterfall before lunch.

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Notice the loafers on the hike! Ha

After the hike and popping into some additional shops, we stopped and had lunch, ice cream and german beers.

Next stop: Baden-Baden — the charming spa town north of Triberg on the Rhine river. Baden-Baden felt like the European version of the highlands, North Carolina. It is sensationally beautiful and green, there are fabulous restaurants,  and plenty of great outdoor activities.

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The theme of our Germany trip was hiking and exploring. We walked everywhere! We loved the fact that there was nothing specific on our agenda besides dinner reservations.

Speaking of dinner, if you find yourself in Baden-Baden, you must go to Baldreit for dinner. Right by the town theater, Baldreit had a refreshingly different menu and the ambiance is wonderful — we sat in the courtyard for hours.

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We veered off the Rhine river trek the next day to visit Heidelberg, Germany. Heidelberg is on the Neckar river and is quite charming. It is a special place because it is where Pop Solomon was stationed during his time in the Army.

It was during the drive from Baden-Baden to Heidelberg that I received the news about Melissa’s effective treatment. With the beauty of the drive, and the sweet relief, there were definitely overwhelming tears of joy! 🙂 Praises all around.

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We hit the ground running when we arrived in Heidelberg. Kathleen, Zach, Bryan and I hiked to the Castle ruins, which overlook the city, and explored the surrounding grounds. To me, walking through the castle is not necessary, as the grounds and ruins are fascinating.

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We loved all the places we ate on the trip, but our restaurant in Heidelberg was our favorite. You must go to Snitzelbank if you are there!

The next morning, we shopped, further explored, and then headed to Frankfurt to fly out the next morning.

This trip to Germany reminded me of the importance of going off the beaten path. It was authentic and we left feeling full. We loved our Germany trip with Kathleen and Zach.

 

 

 

A quick trip to Haarlem, NL with Clare

 

Gosh, I am so behind on blogging. To kick-off our summer of visitors, our fun-loving and adventurous friend, Clare Lundy, came to visit at the end of June.

It was clear through all of our conversations pre-trip, Clare thrives in Europe. And this trip was no exception. Clare made her way to Amsterdam after a couple of days in London — probably becoming the queen’s best friend!

Bryan and I needed to work while she was here, so we utilized our time through dinners and the weekend days.

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On Saturday, we took Clare to our go-to brunch spot, Los Feliz

A highlight of our time together was the day trip we took to a little town called Haarlem on Sunday. Fun Fact: Harlem, NYC is named after this quaint village located 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam. With its similar canals, curving cobblestone streets, and lovely shopping and restaurants, Haarlem is the perfect day trip.

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It was drizzling when we arrived, so we headed to the Jopenkerk brewery and sat and chatted for a while. If wandering and eating are accomplishments, than we accomplished a ton. It was a “no-itinerary” kind of day and I think we all enjoyed it immensely.

We headed back Sunday evening and took clare to our favorite hotdog restaurant for hot dogs and shakes, called bulls and dogs.

I love when dear friends visit because it is like a slice of home. We loved having Clare!

Until next time,

Hila

 

 

 

Scotland on Par

I did not mention in my last blog post my cousin Brittany and Aunt Kim came to Amsterdam in May! We had fantastic time being with them and enjoying wonderful dinners together. We worked while they explored Amsterdam during the days.

After Amsterdam, they went off to London and Belgium! I wish they could have stayed longer because they are the kind of house guests you dream about having on a weekly basis.

 

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Bryan and I loved everything about our trip to Scotland in June. From the rolling green hills to the lovely accents and charming city streets, what’s not to love? We landed in Edinburgh on Friday morning, June 16th, and drove the beautiful 1 hour and a half drive to St. Andrews.

When signing Bryan up for golf,  two was the minimum, so guess who had to play?

You guessed it.

I had never played a full 18 holes before, so naturally the best time to try was on one of the most famous courses in the world! Ha.

Bryan and I played the Jubilee course. Challenging and beautiful, the link course stretched in front of the town near the sea.

We laughed and joked with our caddies the whole time. Even though I shanked a ton, it did not matter at all, it is all about the experience. And, St. Andrews golf was an experience — it really is the home of golf. I was in over my head, but had the best time.

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For Scotland, the weather was incredible — partly cloudy and pretty warm. We played in the afternoon and then headed to an easy dinner. We desired authentic fish and chips, and found it at the Tailend restaurant. I highly recommend it!

The next morning, Bryan and I explored St. Andrews. First stop: the ruins of the beautiful St. Andrews Cathedral. It was built in 1158, but was ruined after Scotland outlawed Catholicism during the 16th-century Scottish Reformation.

Stop 2: St. Andrews University and the surrounding town. It was breathtaking!

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We drove back to Edinburgh in the afternoon. Side note: Bryan drove stick,  and on the other side of the road during this trip with no difficulty. He was a champ.

I have to mention the air BnB we stayed in during our time in Edinburgh because we loved it so much. Our host bob was fantastic! Impeccably clean, the little apartment was a 15 minute walk from the center of the city. We loved that it was in the Stockbridge neighborhood and in a quiet neighborhood. It was not only out of the hustle and bustle, but also near everything.

After we dropped our bags at the air BnB, we hiked to Arthur’s seat. Edinburgh climbed up to one of my top European cities after this climb because the views from the top of Arthur’s seat are indescribable.

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This activity is a must-do if you are traveling to Edinburgh because the views are sensational. Although we hiked a longer path than planned, we saw more and it was worth it.

On Saturday night, Bryan and I went to a fabulous restaurant called forage and chatter. I also highly recommend this dinner spot!

The next morning, we explored the castle and Edinburgh city center.

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Our flight left in the afternoon and we were not ready to leave! We left the weekend full in every way. Scotland, see you soon!