2 Year Wedding Anniversary

Today marks two years that I’ve been married to my Mingus!

Peep

We’ll be going to dinner in the city tonight, not sure where yet. Then this upcoming weekend we’ll be going to Yosemite National Park. I’m a total fan of the outdoors. For our one year we went glamping (glamorous camping at Costanoa). This year will be a whole new outdoors adventure.

I keep discovering new things every year that I’ve been married. We’ve had a few fights along the way, but we come out stronger and learn more about each other. Here’s just a few things that I’ve come to know in the past year.

1. Marriage is about complimenting one another.

What I mean is that when I’m feeling down, he needs to be my motivator. When he’s feeling stressed, you need to be the comforter. If you’re both having a bad week, go out and celebrate that the week is over and a new one is starting. Focus on the positives.

2. Inspire each other. 

What are your significant other’s strengths? Make sure you encourage those skill sets and continue to be the one to inspire creativity. In the past year that I was a housewife, I started many new hobbies. Not once did MG ever tell me to stick with just one. I picked up the guitar, signed up for a half marathon, started blogging, and decorated the house. When I decided to go back to work, he was there to look over my resumes until I landed a job. This past weekend I even picked up watercolor painting. Hobbies help you to balance your time, cause every once in a while you need some personal rest.

3. Just talk.

Talk about work. Talk about your friends. Talk about TV shows and movies. Talk about what’s bother you, stressing you out, what makes you happy, even the little things that make your day. Talk about everything (yup, even what you had for lunch). Carve out time for one another so that you can have these moments to catch up on each other’s lives. I’ve come to realize that sometimes life just gets busy. You come home from work, cook dinner, eat, shower, watch some TV, go online, then you head to bed. Eventually your spouse becomes just a roommate. It happens, and it’s no one’s fault. So give each other some time every day to talk. But just some advice, your husband might not remember what you talk about right before bed so pick another time to talk. Ha! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

To my MG: To many more escapades with you!

Husbands/Wives, what kinds of things have you learned while being married? Please share some advice!

2 years

Come back on Wednesday for more wedding posts! This time around we’ll discuss venues!
Jay
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All photography by Orange Turtle

  

The Most Important…

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you begin wedding planning? THE DRESS!

You’ve got the ring, now it’s time to start the dress search. It’s every girl’s dream to find the most beautiful, gorgeous-est, amazing dress for the big day. There are shows upon shows of girls looking for their dresses. It’s such a big deal! YAY!

But nope. Not for me. I hate, nay despise, dress shopping. I love normal shopping. I can spend hours. Ask any of my friends, I can shop for 10+ hours and still go on; it’s a talent. But I cannot do dress shopping. The only other time I had to find a fancy dress was prom and that was dreadful. I don’t know what it is, I suppose just having this set expectation but never finding what you really want.

Don’t let me get you down though. That’s only me! Maybe you’ve got some great girlfriends to take you out. My sister and mom lived in a different state, so that took a bunch of excitement out.

Let’s start with the design of the dress. Don’t exclude any ideas! You’d be surprised at what might be a glamorous fit for you.

Take a look at the styles below. I’m a firm believer in wearing whatever makes you happy. Don’t listen to those apple figures means this dress. Full-bodied means this. To me, that’s trash. Try each style on and find out on your own which one makes you feel beautiful.

Wedding dress

Secondly, decide on fabric. I’m no expert at all, but in the end it comes down to, do you want something crisp, satiny, lacy, or with tulle? Having a fabric in mind will help with the search. Obviously there are a bunch of other type of fabrics, but if you wanted something satiny, there are materials like Charmeuse and Organza. This helps narrow down the choice of dresses. Within each category of fabric, there are many other different styles and fabrics.

For me, I looked at styles/designs online. I was drawn to A-Line dresses, and I knew I wanted lace. I went dress shopping with my sister and mom at 3 stores, all in one day during my Christmas holiday. I tried on everything from recycled dresses to boutique ($10k+ for designer). Worst experience… I’m just really picky and have high expectations of myself. Plus, I was looking for something original, which I couldn’t find in stores.

Look at dresses online! Don’t be scared to purchase a dress online. Wedding dress seamstresses can work miracles. If you come across something you can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably it! Just buy it.

I was looking at wedding dresses on Etsy around 2am, even though I had work the next day. I came across one dress, called MG, showed him the pics, and told him I really loved it. Immediately then and there, I purchased it. It was $200 and even if it didn’t work out, there wasn’t much money invested. I had gotten my dress! When I showed other people, all I got was confused looks. They didn’t see it then, but I saw the potential. Like I said, I wanted something original.

il_fullxfull-3

il_fullxfull-1

Look for a highly-recommended wedding dress seamstress! I want to emphasize again, highly-recommended and wedding dress seamstress. Wedding dresses are delicate and detailed. The seamstresses that have expertise with these kinds of materials will be your best friend. 

I learned the hard way… I dislike telling this story. It brings bad memories. I found a designer in Los Angeles who would help me alter the dress to a design I had a mind. I thought she would be awesome (take note, this is in past-tense)! One, she was in LA, a city known for fashion, and for another reason, she was on Project Runway! You have to be great if you’re on Project Runway right? Wrong again. I travelled three times for dress fittings (which all added to the cost of the wedding dress), and when she finally mailed me the dress 1.5 months before my wedding, nothing fit correctly. Everything was lopsided. It was horrible. It was obvious she had never worked with wedding dresses before.

Before
^^^ I looked like a behemoth. My right boob is larger than my left. One cap sleep is longer than the other. My designer had the audacity to say that it was ready for wedding day…

I cried daily trying to figure out what to do before the big day. My parents scolded me for being so confident on one dress and also proposed the idea of purchasing a new dress. But my pride told me that it would come together. I still had hope for this dreaded dress. Then I found a wedding dress seamstress in the Bay Area. And my life changed.

She worked wonders. She created miracles. She made the dress of my dreams come to life. Like I said, a seamstress that has experience with wedding gowns is what you want. Wedding dress fabrics are a whole different beast. Go with someone that has experience. Go with someone that has been referred to by a friend or highly recommended on Yelp. You’ve already paid so much for your dress, another $300-500 for alterations so that your dress fits like a glove is totally worth it.

Found a dress where the style and fit is perfect? But maybe you wanted a different neckline. Perhaps you wanted straps for the dress. Or there’s a layer of fabric that doesn’t tickle your fancy. Guess what? A good wedding seamstress can change it. If you have an idea on how to alter, more than likely they can do it. All options are open when it comes to the dress.

In the end, after 6 design drawings, 3 Los Angeles trips, lots of tears, and fighting for a vision, my dress became the perfect gown. No one has it. No design matches it. And it was exactly what I wanted. 

Side

Cap sleeve

Tiers

Back

Dress

Front

Side

My favorite part about the dress how the tiers of lace flow. When the bustle was put in, the back was still flowing beautifully. I love that there are cap sleeves. I love that there’s a criss-cross braided back to keep it modern. Everything was perfect. Even my veil had a pieces of the lace from the dress.

Veil

Girls, get the veil. It puts the entire dress together! 

I agree that the dress is important but…What matters the most is how you feel when wearing your gown. If you’re concerned/stressing about one part of your dress, it’ll show. People can see through your smile. It’ll be visible in pictures too. Make sure the dress makes you feel like you’re invincible. That’s how you know it’s the right one.

Mrs’ do you have any other advice? What was your dress shopping experience like?

For you Bay Area soon-to-be Mrs’, check out Novella Bridal. They have affordable dresses, and I found my miracle seamstress there.

Happy shopping!
Jay
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Fun fact: MG and I exchanged gifts prior to our ceremony at the first look. I made him a scrapbook of our history, including tickets to movies, plays, and shows, poems we made up for each other, and various other trinkets. He gave me a board of all my dress designs, including the one I chose and a final picture of me in the dress. Looking back at my dress story, it’s a good story to tell isn’t it? I just hope no one has to experience it, ever…

Gift

All wedding day photos by Orange Turtle Photography

  

Wedding Invite Process

Welcome to the first of many posts, in my new wedding series! I aspire to give you key takeaways with every post so that you have some next steps if you’re planning a wedding.

Let’s start with the dreaded wedding invitation process… blegh. It’s a necessary evil step. It’s also the very first step of your wedding planning.

First thing’s first. Write out all the guests that you plan on inviting; family, friends, communities, colleagues. MG and I had a guest list of 250. His dad is one of 10 siblings, and his mom is one of 4. Both my parents have 6 siblings each. Yup, large families!

Once you’ve figured all that out, the 80/20 rule will apply here. An estimated 80% of your invited guests will attend, 20% will not. This will help you give you idea of how many guests will be present and will help you with planning for budget and venue. For us, that meant we would have 200 guest, which narrowed down many venues. Most venues have a max capacity.

Don’t overlook the importance of your save-the-dates and wedding invites! Remember that this is the first item for your guests to receive. Get them excited for the wedding!

We sent save-the-dates via email. Many of our family members are out of the country so we wanted to send them out to give them ample time to book airlines tickets. If possible, send your save-the-date 5-6 months prior to the wedding date.

I designed our save-the-dates with my color scheme (blush and grey tones).

SAVE THE DATE

Once that was sent, it was time to get the invites ready!

MG and I have a fun story. We met while I was doing a National Pageant in 2007. When we first started dating, we did long-distance for 3.5 years (who says that doesn’t work?!?). After college, I moved to San Francisco to start my career in advertising. Then we dated for another 1.5 years before he popped the question! We wanted to let people know about our history, so I put together a storytelling scroll as our invite (you can view our story in detail on our website).

Invite

For family members, I also put together a day-of schedule because we also had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and family photos before the wedding. To get people excited for the wedding, I mailed the scrolls in tubes. We wanted something different than just a regular envelope. It wasn’t the most cost-effective way of sending invites, but this was a fun way to surprise our guests! If you didn’t notice, we also included a QR code for easy RSVPs. My husband is a techie, so it was the perfect way to show his personality.

Invite scroll
We used twine throughout our wedding too!

Send your invites 2-3 months prior to the wedding (traditionally invites are sent 1.5-2 months prior to the wedding). Don’t forget that it takes extra time for those, who live overseas, to receive your invites! Plan for this. Give yourself enough time to follow up to those who haven’t responded and also to put together the seating arrangements. Get that done and out of the way!

To further go along with the scroll, I designed our website in a scrolling manner. To take a look you can click (www.jamieandmg.com). Fortunately for me, my husband is a web developer. My dream wedding website took fruition.

Website

Believe it or not, MG also built an invitation process website while we were planning for our wedding. On this site, you can send mass emails to collect physical addresses, remind people to respond, and guests can RSVP and revise their RSVP (incase names are spelled incorrectly, change a meal plan, or add a guest’s name). This invitation site allows you to see a quick view of who’s attending, who’s not, and who hasn’t responded. Once you’ve received all your responses, you can even arrange your guests into tables with a widget within the website. There’s a product summary in the image below. In the end, this site was a lifesaver!

Are you interested in using it? We’re in Beta testing right now, so we can allow a few people to try it out. First come, first serve. We’ve had friends use it and have heard good things! Let me know if you want an account!

Invite site

Invite site

Ultimately, your save-the-date and invites should bring excitement and show your personality. Make sure it also gives your invitees a taste of what’s to come, some sneak peaks of what will be part of the big day! 

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Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful for those working on invitations.

  • Check out this iPad app, called Makr. It can help you generate some creative invites
  • Look at Laura Hooper Calligraphy. I’ve been obsessed with her work
  • Etsy has some awesome designs too. Affordable and personalized

Married people, do you have any additional advice? Did most of these tips apply to you too? Let us know!

Get to preppin,
Jay

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Fun fact: The engagement ring on our invite and website is my actual engagement ring

Rings

  

Wedding time!

Wedding season is upon us! June is a month that’s near and dear to me.

MG and I got married on June 30, 2012.

Shoes

Our two year anniversary is almost here! To celebrate and to relive that glorious day, I am going to be on a 5 week blogging theme dedicated to weddings, showing you pictures of my wedding and tips to ensure a smooth planning process (or at least as smooth as can be). I was one of the early ones to get married. I wish I had some wisdom and advice from friends during my engagement on how to plan; it would have been so helpful. So I want to do just that – share some advice. I really hope that you find these posts interesting and that it helps you get creative when planning. If you have questions along the way, ask!

Here’s a few snippets of what’s to come:

  • Tips for the invite process
  • How I shopped for my dress (I designed it)
  • How we picked our venue
  • Scheduling
  • DIY decor
  • Reception table decor
  • Photography expectations
  • A traditional Chinese tea ceremony
  • First look
  • Ceremony and reception
  • Plus, lots of tricks of the trade to have a cost-efficient but gorgeous wedding

Before we begin, know that MG and I wanted to keep our wedding costs to a minimum, while also having the wedding of my dreams. We had about 210 in attendance at our wedding because we both have large families and also both go to church. We found ways to cut costs by purchasing items online and DIY-ed many decoration pieces.

Before you begin the planning process, chew on this:

1. How many guests and what’s your budget? That’s the very first thing to think about!
2. If you like it, purchase it. You’ll rack your brain with wedding things because there’s so much out there!
3. Enjoy the process. Remember that in the end, you’re marrying someone you love. Wedding day is one day but you’re marrying the person for a lifetime.

Tea ceremony

J ready

Getting ready

Table

Decor

Cake

Stay tuned! And if you’re not planning a wedding yet, start your wedding pin board. It’s never too early! Or at least, come check out the pictures.

Happy Monday!
Jay
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All photography by Orange Turtle Photography

  

Paris & London

In my head, Paris and London go together as a pair. For one reason, I’ve been to both in high school during my first Eurotrip. Another reason is that these are the first two cities that pop into my head when I think of Europe – the romantic city of “”Pair-ee” and the royal family in London. During my first trip, I adored Paris but didn’t enjoy London. Wow the tables have turned…

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Paris, but I love London more now. Speak French and I promise your experience would be twenty times better than mine. This was definitely the hardest language during this trip. Italian is similar to Spanish, and Katie knows Spanish. French is a whole different thing with tongue twists and throat gurggles. Haha!

When we arrived at our apartment, we were shocked at how small these units are. Katie and Baldwin slept in a loft room above the kitchen. MG and I shared the small bedroom with one bathroom. By this point, we’re into our third week of vacation, and we were pooped. We took a long nap before going out to dinner. We found a local hotspot called La Tour de Montlhéry ou chez Denise (an Anthony Bourdain recommendation). The food was amazing and a heaping amount! We family-styled the escargots, fois gras, cote de boeuf, and cote d’agneau (snails, duck liver pate, grilled beef, and grilled lamb). We were too chicken to order the lamb brains… When you order house wine, they bring a bottle and only charge you for what you drink. Awesome concept that the States are missing out on! The French know how to eat! After dinner we walked to the Louvre for some night shots. 

La Tour de Montlhéry ou chez Denise

Louvre at night

Louvre at night

The next day was a rainy one. To get out of the storm, we decided to go to the Musée du Louvre, one of the world’s largest museums. Remember when I said we were not museum people? I wasn’t joking… This day consisted of posing like statues and being silly. The museum is so big that we basically just hit up the most famous artwork. In the middle of walking around, we had to take a break so we ended up at McDonald’s for a meal. Then we got back into the museum and finally got to see the Mona Lisa. Don’t even get me started on the Mona Lisa… Baldwin and Kay almost got into an argument with someone standing behind us making rude comments at us to get out of the way! The crowds, the protective glass… can you even see the details on her? Ugh… We were at the Louvre for 5 hours (including the 45 mins at McDonald’s), and we saw like 10 famous pieces of work. Re-enforcing, we are not museum people. Haha!

Louvre

Napoleon's Dining
Napoleon’s quarters – fancy huh?

Louvre

McDonald'sMcDonald’s macrons, not too shabby!

FYI, your museum ticket serves as a day pass so you can re-enter all day. Also remember that there are multiple entrances. You don’t have to wait in the loooong line at the main entrance.

Funny story, we finally decided to purchase an umbrella because we were getting soaked. It’s rained in every city that we visited, and we were able to hold out. But now on the last leg, we couldn’t do it anymore. We purchased 2 umbrellas for 7 euros from a street vendor. Mistake… MG crossed the street, opened his umbrella, and it broke apart. We were still able to make it last through the day and once more in London! Pretty good for 7 euros!

We then went to Notre Dame, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, and Pont de l’Archevêché, where the infamous love lock bridge is located. The tradition is to hook a lock onto the bridge with your loved one and throw the keys in the river so they are never found. A week after we got home, we found out a portion of the bridge broke because of the weight of the locks. Hopefully that wasn’t where we put it! We spent a lot of time looking for a place that was memorable in case we ever went back to look for our lock (which I think will never happen… muahah).

Notre Dame

Pont de l'Archevêché

Lock Bridge

The rain finally stopped so we made our way over to the Arc de Triomphe, only to find the all the subway exits were closed off. What the damn hell? When we finally found a way out, there was a commemoration for the 70th anniversary of D-day, celebrating the liberation of Europe in WWII. It was really cool to stumble upon something like this so we stayed a while.. and unbeknownst to us, the Queen of England showed up! So we’ve seen the Pope on this trip and now we bumped into the Queen. Can’t ask for much more than that, amirite?

Queen
Look how cute she is in pink!

We walked around Champs-Élysées for a while and got macrons, from the best macron place in the world, Laduree. I kid you not. Amazing! Afterwards, MG had to pee and restrooms are hard to come by. We found a large shopping center so that he could whiz. At this time, I found out that Longchamp purses are about $60 cheaper in Paris than in the States. Baldwin’s cousins wanted a few and me too! I ended up charging my card for 5 Longchamps. When MG went to find us, I had spent over $500. Surprise!!! Only one for me anyway, giggles.

Lauduree

Shopping

The next day was the biggie that never gets old, the Eiffel Tower. We took it to the top, and for lunch we found a nearby Korean restaurant. I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle since we know how to order our favorite Korean dishes. I couldn’t be more wrong! The Korean is translated in French, duh… I used the little Korean I had to translate certain dishes and the waitress would nod. That’s how we ordered! Gyozas are called raviolis and tempura is a beignet. What?!? We bought some desserts at a bakery then laid out on the lawn to eat. We spent about 4 hours in the presence of the Eiffel Tower. After a long day of walking the city, we went to a grocery store and cooked a nice meal consisting of a cucumber/tomato salad, duck pate (you can buy this at the grocery store!!!) and bread, lamb chops, and final course, cheese burgers. Don’t you want to travel with me?

Top of Eiffel

Top

Lounging

Eiffel

Dinner

We visit the Arc de Triomphe one more time for a night view, finally able to stand underneath. It’s glorious. It was around 11:30 when we realized that the Eiffel Tower stops its twinkling light show around midnight, and it only twinkles every hour on the hour. Whoops… We hauled ass over to the Eiffel Tower, ran down the Subway hallways, and only had 2 mins to spare. We caught the beautiful show! It’s always the highlight of Paris!

France

Arc de Triomphe

Eiffel at night

Twinkling

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Next and final stop, London!

Really pro tip here so take note. If you’re traveling by train from Paris to London, you will probably have to go through security and customs. We didn’t know until about 40 minutes before our train left. Thankfully they are efficient workers and got us through quickly. Don’t make that mistake! We made it though! Travel with me and you’ll always have an adventure, wink!

We arrived at King’s Cross in London. Anyone? Anyone? This happened:

Platform 9 3/4

Before dinner we walked the London Bridge and then the Tower Bridge. For those that don’t know, Tower bridge is the one that’s in all the postcards! We ate a place called Picture and really enjoyed our dinner. Wow, we really missed ordering dinner in an English speaking restaurant! Whew that was easy.

London Bridge

Tower Bridge

Walking

I have a confession. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 4 years now, and I have never walked the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge. But in London, I walked both London and Tower Bridge in a day!

We only had one full day in London. Today was the day; we woke early and set out to Buckingham Palace in the rain to see the changing of the guards. That didn’t happen though… Instead we were lucky enough to see all the guards out, parading on horses and playing music. They were rehearsing for a special event that happened the week after we were to leave. Pretty neat! How does one wear a uniform, ride a horse, and play music at the same time, all in the rain? Impressive.

Buckingham Palace

Palace

Cute guardKay and I found a cute officer to take pics with! Kay thinks he might bite…

We walked to Big Ben and Trafalgar Square for some pictures. And we ended up in a neighborhood called Covent Gardens (stay here! awesome place! really fun!). We loved it! Lots to eat. Many marketplaces. Lots of shopping. It’s so hoppin’ here (dang, I sound old).

Big Ben

Big Ben with Kay and Balds

Climbing^^^ Getting up on this platform was terrifying! It was slippery, and I couldn’t get a good grip. I saw kids just jumping off like it’s nothing… So brave those little ones. Catching Baldwin making sure MG’s butt was safe was pretty funny. The scary climb was worth the picture!

Trafalgar Square

Covent Gardens
Look at those batches of paella!

Lauduree
Laduree in London because this is Katie’s favorite thing in the world

We knew that Harrod’s closes at 8pm so got there at 6, thinking it was more than enough time. If I was wrong before, this is worse… I lost Baldwin probably on the first floor when we were looking at skincare. Then we went to toy kingdom, and we basically parted ways. I got a glitter tattoo and one nail painted like a strawberry. MG was lost looking at remote-controlled cars that can drive on ceilings. Baldwin and Katie… who knows? We spent a good hour here just looking at toys. At some point, I had to yell “Baldwin, come here! Katie, stay with me! MG, get back here!” We had to leave some time for dinner at Harrod’s. As we were going down the escalators, we came across the spy gear section. The boys were lost again. Please, someone tell me how to contain kids and keep them by your side! Then the food section at Harrod’s… what department store has their own grocery market, sweets market, and snacks?!? We parted ways yet again. The store eventually closed, and we still needed to find dinner. We settled on a random Mediterranean restaurant in a super rich neighborhood (GTRs, Porsche, and other fancy cars parked on the street).

Harrod's

We left the next morning, bright and early, rolling our suitcases to the Tube, only to find out the Tube doesn’t open until late morning on the weekends. Fortunately, we hailed the one and only cabbie driving down the street, and he took us to the airport. Dang that was an expensive ride, 70 euros. Ouch. Transportation in London is expensive! Be prepared if you’re going so you don’t have sticker shock!

Cab

Almost two weeks since I’ve been back. I was homesick towards the end of the trip, especially missing my Chubalee. But now that I’m two weeks home and back at work, I have to get started planning my next vacation. Where next?

Oh, and this guy is in a cone because he’s been chewing his foot. Thought it might make you smile. He’s so sad right now, but he just so cute to me. He somehow found out how to bite his foot even with the cone on. We had to makeshift a taller cone with paper plates… He’s such a goofball now.

Conehead

Are you planning a trip to Europe any time soon? Where are you visiting?

Have a fantastic weekend!
Jay

  

Spain & Ireland

Today’s post is a big one! I’m combining my trip to Barcelona and Dublin into one big post!

To be totally honest, I had high hopes for Barcelona. Everyone has told me that it’s a great place. I was also looking forward to relaxing on the beach (spent weeks upon weeks looking for a cute swimsuit for this leg of the trip but no avail). Barca wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t my favorite place. Plus, Barcelona happened after a wonderland called Venice. It’s your typical city with shopping, markets, and a beach. The rain probably didn’t help Barcelona’s cause. I had a good vacation here, and I ate some delicious foods, but it simply wasn’t my favorite vacation spot.

My favorite thing here would, hands down, be La Boqueria. This market has lots and lots of delicious treats! For a person who considers food as her passion (tehehe fatty at heart), this place is something like heaven! Fruit, candies, and juice galore! Mmmmm nom nom noms… Now be prepared for a color overload!

La Boqueria

Chocolates

Juice

SeafoodThis market is one of the main attractions of Barcelona. That doesn’t say much about a city… just saying. Dang, I’m a hater!

I must say though, shopping was great here! I bought a new jacket from Massimo Dutti (see my new jacket in my Dublin pics) and check out my new sunnies! No tax means let’s spend some $$$. Great shops near Plaça de Catalunya! 

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We also went to Park Güell to see beautiful views of the city. Many buildings are designed by an architect by the name of Gaudí. He used a lot of mosaic tiling, ceramics, and stained glass. Buildings with these details can be found all over the city.  

Park Guell

City viewThe clouds look so ominous

Guell

You’re probably here reading to find out what restaurants we ate at, am I right to assume? I will say that I had some of the best food in Barcelona. I’m a huge seafood person so this city was on point when it came to food!

If you’re ever there, do yourself a favor and check out La Bombeta for tapas. When there’s a line of locals waiting to dine here, you know your stomach will be happy. Even the sangria is delicious! Can Majó is a noteworthy mention too. It has one Michelin star, which is well deserved for price and quality. Very fresh seafood and one of my favorite things I ate on this trip, a noodle paella. Seriously check these places out!

Paella - Can Majó

The next day we went to take pictures at Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic church also designed by Gaudí. Construction of this church began in 1882 and will be completed in 2026. We didn’t buy tour tickets, and I’m starting to regret that… But that just means I’ll have to return.

Sagrada Família

We had a bit of sun peak through the clouds so we were able to spend a few hours on the beach! Not sunny enough to tan but warm enough to enjoy the view (of naked people!!!)

IMG_5700

For our last meal in Barcelona, we bought food at La Boqueria. Mussles and sea snails in a wine broth, pan-fried fish fillets, and razor clams. I’ve never had razor clams before… Why! I’ve been missing out. These things are so sweet.

Seafood dinner

Dinner part 2

Then we headed over to watch the Magic Fountain. The fountain has a music/light show at night.

Magic Fountain Show

Magic Fountain

Fountain
We spent a good amount of time trying to do this ^^^

We had some time before getting on a plane to Dublin so we walked to Parc de la Ciutadella to hang out.

Parc de la Ciutadella

Near Parc de la CiutadellaIt’s near the zoo, hence this behemoth 

Arc de Triomf
^^^ Arc de Triomf in Barcelona

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Then we made our way over to Dublin, Ireland. Most people are surprised to find out that I have relatives here!

My sweet Aunt Kathy bought us some musical tickets for our first day. We watched “Singing in the Rain,” and it was amazing! Katie and I love musicals, and this was one of our top favorite shows.

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DSC07447^ Family selfie after the show

The next day we headed out to see Trim Castle. To be honest, I don’t know much of European history… but there are a few things I remember. Trim is a large Norman castle, it is three stories high, and it’s uniquely shaped like a cross. Coolest thing? All of Braveheart was filmed here. The movie used different angles of the castle. I haven’t seen Braveheart so it’s just kinda cool to me. Perhaps watching the film makes it a better fact. Heheh

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The boys… I kinda love this shot!

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Oh you know… just pondering about life in his castle…

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Are you even allowed to climb these rocks?

DSC07534^^^ Richie, Jay, and Fay Kay

DSC07566It’s so beautiful 

Another really awesome place we toured, the Guinness Storehouse!  You learn how this dark beer is brewed, how to master pouring yourself a pint, and there’s a 360° viewing room to enjoy your beer. 

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DSC07646^^^ Beer staches!

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DSC07666She actually finished her pint!

We also met my cousin Richard’s girlfriend at a cute teppanyaki restaurant called Chai Yo. This place blows Benihana out of the water… It’s an interactive restaurant. They call on you to perform tricks! Our waiter even memorized all our names. I tried to catch an egg on my spatula; caught it but it cracked. MG was to catch an egg in his hat and he did it! So impressed by my man. The guy at the table next to us didn’t catch his egg, and it cracked on his back. Yikes. Not impressed but hilarious! Really random dinner but so much fun.

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Okay, okay. I’m done! I thought that Barcelona and Dublin could be in one post because there wasn’t much that went on. Going through pictures and this post, I was wrong. There was a lot that happened!

Have you travelled to these cities? How was your experience in Barcelona? How did you like Dublin? Are you interested in these cities? If so, why?

Paris and London to come soon…
Jay

  

Venezia

Let me first start off by saying that these pictures do not do Venice justice. This city is overly beautiful and jaw droppingly amazing.

Gorgeous

One thing I remember most about this trip is when we got off the train and left the building. As we walked out, I stopped and literally gasped at the beautiful scenery. There’s no place like Venice. I’m not an avid traveller, but I’ve been to some pretty neat places. Venice, by far, is one that takes my breath away. Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by bridges and canals. It’s a city that relies on water transportation; no trucks and no cars. That alone is impressive.

Pretty

We got into our apartment late in the evening. We found dinner and saw the Rialto Bridge at night. Ended the night early to wake up for a full day of sight-seeing.

Rialto Bridge

For our first full day, we took some pictures at Piazza San Marco. This is where the famous Church of St. Mark and the clock tower can be found. Nearby also houses the Palazzo Ducale, also known as Doge’s Palace, where the supreme authority of Venice resided.

Church of St. Mark

Palazzo Ducale

We wandered over Ponte dell’Accademia to the Basilica de Santa Maria della Salute to sit on the steps and just gaze. This was our rest stop.

Lock bridge

Ponte dell'Accademia
^^^ Family selfie again!

Basilica de Santa Marina della Salute
I love this candid shot of the gang!

Venice
We look like a painting, right?

After a new change of clothes, we went on a gondola ride! While planning for this trip, people told us to skip the gondola because it’s expensive. But I totally think it’s worth it to ride a gondola. When you tell people that you went to Venice, you already know the first question that will be asked, “Did you ride a gondola?” Fortunately for me, my answer is yes! For 60 euro, the boat ride is about 30 minutes for up to 6 people. Since we had the maximum amount of riders, it was definitely worth it for us!

Gondola

Bridge

Gondola

Venice is an expensive place to eat. To save money, we decided to cook at home. Sadly, the fish market is closed on Mondays. We then went to to the local grocery store to pick something up. Whole chickens were on sale, so we picked up two for under 10 euros and took them home to make rotisserie chicken (my recipe here). Ohhh yeahhh! For our first course, I made a creamy ravioli with bacon (refrigerated pasta is even amazing!). Then we had roasted chicken, cauliflower, and risotto for our main course. All this to feed 6 for under 30 euros. We did good!

Homemade

The next morning we were leaving for Barcelona in the afternoon, which meant we had a bit of time in the morning. We visited Venice’s famous fish market. So much to look at! If only we had another night to make a seafood meal. Guess that will have to wait for my next visit!

Seafood market

Tip: Trip guides mention that a vaporetto boat (water bus) is the best and cheapest way to get around. I think walking is the most ideal way to really see the city and alley ways. It’s really easy to get lost because there are few main sidewalks so bring a map! Google maps actually failed us here because buildings are so tall and old so reception is limited. We went old school way!

Just a funny pic. MG and I slept on the pull out couch in the living room. Since there wasn’t a door, we made one out of pillows. Hey, it worked!

Makeshift door

I really enjoyed Venice and would recommend this city as a must-visit in your travel bucket list. Have you been to Venice before and what was your favorite part about the city? Were you as amazed as me? If you haven’t been before, would you go and why?

Happy Monday! Stay tuned for Barcelona and Dublin in one post!
Jay
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Just a reminder, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll get some extra pics that are not on the blog.

  

Firenze

Our next stop, Florence!

I love this little city. It was one of my favorite cities that we travelled to because of the relaxing environment. After so much sight-seeing in Rome, it was nice to take things slow. A huge plus, this city is small enough that you can walk to everything. It made this portion of the trip really easy to plan. The highlight of this trip? Easy, gelato! Keep reading to find out more.

We arrived late in the afternoon and settled into our apartment. This was the only apartment where we had 1.5 bathrooms! Can you believe we had 1 bathroom for 6 people in all the other cities? It’s do-able, though there is a lot of holding in things and screaming at another person to get out. I currently live in a townhouse with 3 full baths, can you blame me?!?

We walked around the city and looked for a restaurant called Osteria Santo Spirito, recommended by our apartment host. BEST PASTA EVAR! By the way, any place you eat at in Italy, they pretty much hate tourists. Expect longgg dinners because they make you wait for a table and you’re ignored by your waiter most times. The waitress told me there was no table, and when I asked again, she told me I could reserve a table for 2 hours later. I think she expected me to leave but I said ok. During the wait, we discovered the best gelato at La Carraia! We ate dessert before dinner! 

La Carraia

Gelato

When we were brought to our table 2 hours later, we were seated in an empty upstairs eating area that could hold at least 20 people. Ugh. The pasta made up for it though! The highlight? Truffled gnocchi. Yummm!

Pasta

The next morning, MG and I got up early to check out All’Antico Vinaio, a well-known place for sandwiches (#1 on TripAdvisor). The sandwich master sings songs while putting together his recommendations of things that are fresh day-of. Really great place for yummy sandwiches!

All'Antico Vinaio

We set out to Pisa via train. I wasn’t excited to take an hour train ride outside of Florence, but I’m glad this decision was made. The Leaning Tower of Pisa really exceeded my expectations! Beautiful structure, and the surrounding area was so nice to lay out in the sun and enjoy some sammiches.

Pisa Gif

Selfie
^^^ There’s that family selfie again!

Pisa cake
No regrets… we had to do the cheesy Pisa shots. My Pisa cakeeeee!!!!

Pisa
Just lounging on the lawn ^^^

We traveled to Lucca afterwards. It’s a small Tuscan city with beautiful landscapes. Cute place to bike around (we regretted not doing this as we left the city)!

Le mura di Lucca
^^^ The famous Le mura di Lucca

Lucca

Lucca
Every setting is picture perfect!

Once we got back to Florence, we went to La Prosciutteria for meat and cheese (#2 on TripAdvisor). Then we walked around Vecchio Bridge for a nighttime view.

La Prosciutteria

Vecchio Bridge Night

Early to bed, early to rise… for the Statue of David! Get to the Accademia Gallery early so that the line isn’t as long. The museum allows a set number of visitors so only a few groups go in at a time. This museum is totally worth it. I was awestruck at the beauty of David. Speechless. I’m not a museum person; I’m the girl that reenacts all the statues, but wow David is a whole different form of artwork. The details of this piece is spectacular!

Statue of David

We also walked to the Florence cathedral, also known as the Duomo. This is one of Italy’s largest cathedrals and holds the world’s largest dome. We didn’t take the tour, but we did marvel at  the exterior of this church. Beautiful.

Duomo

We also walked the Vecchio Bridge one more time to get a day view and see the shops on the bridge. Jewelry, trinkets, and leather goods galore here! We went to a nearby local market and picked up some steaks and potatoes for dinner. How American are we? Second portion of the trip and we already needed our meat and potatoes. I don’t know what it is about Europe, but their groceries are all so flavorful. Steaks have a meaty taste. Oranges are sweet. Eggs are fresh. What’s going on here and how come we don’t have foods on par?

Vecchio bridge
^^^ Another reoccurring theme during this trip – my crazy hair. I can’t tame it, and I’ve given up!

Steaks

Of course, we went back out for gelato at night. This time we went to Vivoli. During our three day stay in Florence, we ate gelato 5 times. 4 times at the same shop, at La Carraia. By far the best gelato of my life!

Vivoli

Florence, you beautiful city, you. I’ll probably be back again one day!

Have you been to Florence before? If so, what were your favorite things to do? If not, do you think you’ll go and what draws you there?

Next post… Venice. Oh my!
Jay
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BTW follow me on Instagram if you want some additional pictures of my trip!

  

Roma, Italia

I’m back from summer vacay! To say the trip was fun is an understatement! So many great memories and laughs! I’m coming home with ~2,500 pictures!

I didn’t expect much from this trip because Europe has always been one of those vacations that consists of a lot of walking, sight-seeing, and not too much food because it’s so expensive. I’m a beach girl. Yes to the walking and sight-seeing, but now that I make money, we ate ourselves silly! Next go around, I want to bring a pedometer to measure walking distance. I’m estimating 3-5 miles a day, which I hope walked off all the bread, butter, and pasta we ate.

For the next two weeks, I will be posting about my Eurotrip. Today I’ll feature Rome. Following that will be Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London. I’ll show the sights we visited, and some tips that helped get us through the trip. The activities we did is not a definitive list. These are the things we had time for, but each city has so much more to offer. Keep in mind we had 2-3 days in each city, which isn’t enough time to explore everything!

One big tip: Check out Airbnb and VRBO to book apartments for Europe. I suggest apartments because it’s more cost efficient and convenient. We cooked breakfast to start the days and cooked dinners in every city so that we could get a feel for the local groceries/markets and taste the food. That’s a big saver in money, especially in our case for 6 people. We all brought small suitcases that could be used for carry-ons so a laundry machine was to our advantage.

So Roma! We arrived in Rome on 5/19 in the evening. We basically checked into our apartment and then found a place to dinner. We were so amazed at all the street views. It’s your typical movie set with colored buildings, open window panels/panes, and cobblestone streets. Everything looked like a poster!

The next day was a big one. We walked to the Colosseum first thing in the morning. This thing is massive! It’s the largest amphitheatre in the world and was built in 80 AD. The Colosseum ticket also gets you into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum^^^ family selfie! you’ll see this throughout our trip! 

Palatine Hil

Forum

Then we headed over to the Pantheon. This building had me awestruck. It was built in 126 AD. and is one of the best preserved buildings in from Ancient Rome. Just beautiful. The center is an open dome with streams of sunlight lighting up the interior. To think that this was built without technology and all by hand… just utterly amazing.

Pantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon

My mom’s favorite sight was the Trevi Fountain. It’s the largest fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Tradition has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, right hand over left shoulder with your back against the fountain, it will ensure a return trip back to Rome; second coin for romance, third coin for marriage. Believe what you want!

Trevi

Trevi Fountain

Gelato

More importantly, we were able to rest our feet and eat gelato at the fountain!

Our last stop was the Spanish steps. This is the widest set of steps in Europe and a great place to sit and just people watch.

Spanish Steps

Parents^^^ My mama and babi. This pic melts my heart 

After the first day, I showered, laid my head down onto the pillow, and immediately fell asleep. No dreams. Just zzz’s.

Our last day in Rome, we were blessed by Papa Francesco! We had previously reserved papal audience tickets to see the Pope. Pretty funny watching people throw their kids at the pope for a kiss! We also toured the Vatican museum and saw the Sistine Chapel, which houses the famous Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, among other Renaissance painters. Wow!

Vatican CityMasses of people! No pun intended… Tehehe

Pope Gif
“Hai! I bless you and you and you!”

Sistine ChapelNo pics allowed but I snuck one in. I do what I want!

For dinner we bought groceries at Mercato Trionfale – entrees included cioppino, steak, and pan-fried mackerel. Dinner for under 50 euros for a party of 6. Perfecto!

Rome meal

At night we went out for dessert and came across Piazza Navona. There are many street vendors that sell a hodge podge of stuff. We ended up purchasing these plastic helicopter toys that can fly up to over 10 stories high. We played with them until late into the night. Sometimes I think we’re five, and that’s okay in my book!

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Rome was the highlight of the trip if you’re measuring the city according to sight-seeing. There’s so much history!

Another useful tip: Circle all the sight-seeing spots you want to visit on a map (or for you techie people, pin each spot on Google Maps). This helps to plan out the day and figure out which sites to visit sequentially according to proximity. It’s how we were able to go to 6 sites on one day!

Have you been to Rome? If so, what did you do? Which are your favorite tourist activities? If you haven’t been, what’s the most intriguing?

Stay tuned for my Florence post,
Jay
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Typically I post by midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As you can see, I’m a bit late with this post. Due to my work schedule, I’ll be posting when I get a chance. I will continue to do my best to stay on schedule! Thanks for following along.