Hello Paris, Goodbye Dublin

France Day 4: We woke up at the crack of dawn and donned our increasingly heavy backpacks to walk across town to the Brest train station. For the last 5 days my feet were hurting so badly that it was a challenge to walk down the street with 40 pounds on my back. But I was determined to get on the train and SLEEP. And sleep I did. I slept for almost the entire 4 hour ride, marking each 45 minute stretch of sleep by which 1D song and album I fell asleep and woke up to. The 1d albums were the soundtrack of my trip and provided endless comfort and energy during our travels. If my sisters are reading this, they are probably thinking “omg Kirsten why are you telling people this”. No shame.

By mid-morning we pulled into Paris, bleary-eyed and directionally challenged. I was finally in the “city of love” but didn’t have enough time or energy to really get excited about being there. All we had time for was to walk a few blocks away from the train station in search of food. After trudging up and down this annoyingly hilly street for way too long, we finally found a little boulangerie where I had a freaky experience that I wrote about in my “Reflections on Europe… how travel heals all wounds” post.

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Basically while we were eating lunch we heard an old man whistling “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” while opening his shop next door. It was my grandpa T’s favorite song and we would dance to it all the time. It was a freaky experience that convinced me that although my grandpas were gone, they were with me during my travels. It definitely made me emotional but I felt at peace now that our journey was at its end.

During lunch Tasha bought us some enormous eclairs to share which were definitely the highlight of Paris. Oh and the fact that I saw the Eiffel Tower for like two seconds as we rode the airport shuttle bus out of the city. Oh well, maybe next time Paris.

After leaving Tasha and Carina, I boarded my flight to Dublin, sad to leave my travel buddies but excited to return to Ireland. Although it would only be for one night, I was determined to make the most of it. As soon as I landed in Dublin I dumped my backpack in the hotel, took the shuttle back to the airport and then the shuttle into the city. Phew! I knew that I wanted to go to the Temple Bar area but was unsure of how to get there. I was also stressing out about how the heck to get back to my hotel. Miraculously I found the first restaurant that Carina and I ate at in Dublin and went inside for another crazy Irish meal and pint of Guinness while watching the World Cup.

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Right as I was about to leave in search of live music, I heard music upstairs. So I followed the music and planted myself at the bar to watch two guys play some Irish music. I ended up chatting with these three cool girls from Canada and America who were actually staying at the same hotel and were on my flight to Toronto! It was a crazy coincidence that put me at ease almost immediately since we decided to share a cab back to the hotel.  There was no need to stress about how to get home. So instead I enjoyed my pint and got lost in the music.

It was a serendipitous ending to a wonderful and crazy journey around Europe. I am so happy I was able to spend another night in Dublin, the place where it all began. Despite being in the same place, I felt like a completely different person, more confident, happy and free. I am so glad Carina and I booked this trip and made it happen despite everything going on at home. This trip took us way out of our comfort zone (waaaaaayyyyyy out there) and pushed us to try new things and meet new people. It helped us to grow. I was almost tempted to stay in Dublin for a little bit longer but I knew that my time there was up. After 3 and half weeks traveling around Europe, I had finally let go of my sorrow. It was serendipity that my last day in Europe included the Paris whistling, stumbling upon our first Dublin restaurant again and meeting people to settle my fears of traveling back home. It was time to close this chapter and open a new page.

I will never forget our Eurotrip of 2014. And Ireland, I will certainly never forget you.

France Day 3: Medieval Towns, Salted Caramels and Biscuits galore

After our wild night dancing the evening away, we woke up bright and early for our last day trip in France. At this point we were exhausted from traveling after epic times in both Ireland and London. So we piled in the car, Carina in the driver’s seat, Tasha as navigator in the passenger seat and me in the back as the personal road-trip DJ. We first drove to Locronan, one of the oldest and best-preserved Medieval towns in France.
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It was a ridiculously beautiful old town that was TOO PRETTY. Everything was gorgeous from the stone cathedral to the adorable shop signs. We had crepes again for lunch at a creperie and went wild with the savory and sweet crepes. Then we wandered into a few shops and sampled  lots of biscuits and caramel au beurre salé (salted caramel), two regional specialties. Like I literally circled around and stuffed biscuits in my mouth for at least an hour. God, I love France.
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There was also a wagon. I took a picture for my mom. She loves flowers. And wagons?
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 Afterwards we drove to Concarneau, a walled fortress town on the water. It was a sunny and hot day but we took our time wandering the narrow streets of this fortressed city. I loved it. We also spent a lot of time deciding between various souvenirs of herbed salts, salted caramels and Breton styled ceramics. It was quite fun. We also enjoyed enormous cups of gelato, just because.
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This is the only picture I have with Tasha. Thanks for being the photographer Carina!

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After leaving the walled city we took a long detour to a beach which was a bit stressful since we were on a time crunch to return the rental car. So we literally parked, ran to the beach, stuck our toes in the ocean and ran back to the car. Haha. We returned the rental car quickly for no apparent reason because you could just park the car at the terminal at any time… so it was kind of a stressful evening for no reason.

But we made up for it by fixing Carina a delicious dinner and relaxing at the apartment… until we had to stress pack all night! We had to wake up early to take the bullet train to the Paris airport. Carina and Tasha were heading off to Turkey and Greece while I was flying back to Dublin for just the night before flying home to the States.

At this point I was ready to go home. I was tired and craving some space which definitely happens when you travel in groups and stay in hostels for so long. But I really loved France, surprisingly so. Brittany is such a beautiful region and I am so thankful that Tasha was willing to share her knowledge with us!

Onward to Paris…

France Day 2: Red Granite Coast and a Night of traditional Breton dancing

We had such a great first day in France that we were excited to get up early the next day and explore something new. We drove to yet another Breton department called la cote de Amor to see the red granite coast. And it did not disappoint.

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After a long drive around some windy roads and very small towns we finally found the proper parking lot in a very unobtrusive spot. I was not that impressed with what I saw but knew Tasha had something up her sleeve with these “red rocks” she kept raving about. We walked up a dirt path and were suddenly hit in the face with an expansive view of the sea and… yes… RED ROCKS.

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I felt like we were in some sort realism painting or Tim Burton movie set. The red rocks were enormous and had a cartoonish quality that made them seem fake. Like those fake boulders actually made from styrofoam. We were in some sort of warped French Disney World complete with a  gaggle of Italian tourists shouting about pizza.

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We took our picnic in the shade of the ginormous rocks and hoped that we weren’t crushed to bits. The sun was white hot but the shaded rock was cool to the touch. Probably anything could have happened and we wouldn’t have noticed, we were too busy devouring more baguettes and soft cheese. God I love France.

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After walking around for a bit we left the magnificent Red Rocks and drove down to Perros-Guerec, a small town on the sea. But hey what am I saying, Brittany is full of picturesque small towns on the sea. It is disgustingly cliche. We snagged some of the last baguette sandwiches from a bakery and took our lunch to the sea. It was actually really cold in the wind but we didn’t mind, we had baguettes nom nom.

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We then stopped at various beachy areas around the coast before driving back to Brest. It was an absolutely stunning day with clear blue skies and even clearer blue water. We kind of just wandered around in awe of the beauty around us. We also tried to find hidden places to pee on the side of mountains while rolling down steep cliffs in flip flops. We definitely have a sense of adventure for a bunch of roadies.

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I’m like… WHAT IS THIS BEAUTY.

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My favorite part of the day was when we found this totally random trail along a beautiful beach. So we started walking with no real agenda or direction in mind. We just wanted to see where it would take us. It took us past many beached French people and some beautiful trees. We eventually ended up at a marina and I found a field of cotton balls. It was glorious.

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We drove back to Brest and enjoyed dinner with Tasha’s roommates before heading to an epic “Fest-nos” at the Tara Inn. Fest nos means “night party” in Breton and is code for traditional Breton dancing! I was scared shitless because I am truly awful at dancing. But Breton dancing is just the kind of white-people dancing that I am actually good at! Each dance basically has 2-5 steps that you just repeat in a kind of line dance for the entire song. It’s brilliant! I felt so skilled and laughed my head off when this French man spun Carina around for about 5 hours. Oh my god I was laughing so hard. Then Tasha’s roommate did this pretty complicated Breton dance with me outside and it was so much fun!! We were a sweaty, giggly mess by the end of the night. Probably my favorite night in France overall.

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Another great day down in the books! Only one more day left in France, a little more dramatic but a whole lot of crepes to come!

2014: My Year in Review

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9 countries. 19 cities. 1 year.

2014 was seriously the year of travel.

I know I said that 2013 was the year of travel, but I lied. This year was bigger. It was actually full of so much traveling that I honestly FORGOT a few trips while making this list. I was lucky enough to visit and explore China, Thailand, Ireland, the UK, France, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. And don’t forget all those lovely cities in the United States including Portland ME, NYC, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Park City and Orlando. Looking back on it all, this year has been full of surprises and so much growth. It was the year of wedding planning joy in the midst of sorrow when both of my grandfather’s passed away within a month’s time. My two big trips to Europe and New Zealand were a blessing disguised as challenging backpacker bus tours that pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I fell face-first into amazing experiences and friendships that I will never forgot. 2014 was the year of taking chances and trying new things while figuring out expat life in China (again) and planning one of the biggest events of my life. I cannot wait to get married to the most amazing man and continue our adventures together in Shanghai and around the world.

Let’s recap 2014!

January

I rang in the new year on St. Pete Beach with my two favorite people in the world, Peter and my bestie Carina. We watched fireworks explode entirely too close to our heads and spent the first day of 2014 nursing wicked hangovers and watching movies all day. Not my best moment but certainly memorable.

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Peter went back to China while I started wedding planning and spending a lot of time on the water in Florida. This was when I said yes to the dress and visited Carina in Orlando for her 26th birthday! The crowning point of this month was when I planned a successful Charity Auction that raised thousands of dollars for charity (which I am planning right now, help me).

February

Thankfully Peter came back to Florida for Chinese New Year and stayed for the entire month! This month was pretty hectic work-wise and wedding planning took things to a whole new level. We took our engagement photos and met with the deacon of our church. I was sad when Peter went back to China but I knew I had to stay for another huge event I had been working on since the beginning of the year.

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March

On March 10th we had a successful Charity Golf Invitational and I finally saw months of my hard work realized. It was career highlight for me and I felt immensely proud of what I had accomplished. We raised thousands of dollars for local charity and it felt absolutely amazing! The rest of March was full of relaxation (finally), hockey games, the Grand Prix, lots of yoga, and planning my return to Asia.

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April

On April 4th, I flew to Shanghai to reunite with my love in the middle of a beautiful China spring. Just a few days later after attending a hilarious Lionel Richie concert, we flew to Chiang Mai, my most favorite city in Thailand EVER, for the epic Songkran Festival. I guess I never blogged about this festival but OH MY GOD. THIS WAS THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING EVER. It was basically a 3-day all-out water fight in the streets. One day we were on the ground, running around with water guns spraying everybody in sight and holing up in a street-side bar absolutely blasting everybody who passed by. The next day we were in a truck bed sitting around in traffic with thousands of people in cars, just having a massive water fight. All day. When we ran out of water we paid people on the streets to fill our trashcan with moat water and a block of ice. We were absolutely drenched from sun-up till sun-down and laughed like crazy people while having random battles with other groups of people. We had some nice locals nicely pour water over our heads for good luck and then we had the crazy backpackers who would shoot you in the face. That is why I got a nasty stye in my eye when some jerk blasted me in the face. Ew. Despite the nasty moat water and the utter exhaustion at the end of this trip, we had a blast with our friends and still got to explore a bit of the city I love. It was an insane festival, one I will NEVER forget.

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However as soon as we got back to Shanghai I found out that my grandpa passed away on our future wedding anniversary. It was a huge shock to my family so I flew home on Easter Sunday to attend the funeral. It was a very bizarre time but I was grateful to be with my family. It was also around this time that I fell deeply into the 1D fandom. Their music helped lift my spirits, the way that music does and I am grateful.

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This month was just a blur. Peter came back to Florida too so we did a bunch of wedding things and made sure to visit my other grandparents. On my 26th birthday I flew to Portland, Maine for a roommate reunion! Carina, Tana and I stayed at The Camp on a beautiful misty lake and basically lazed around all weekend cooking, kayaking and dancing around in our PJs to 1D. It was a wonderful getaway with my favorite girls. Sadly the next weekend my other grandpa passed away after I held his hand in hospice the night before. It was a really hard time. The day after he passed, Peter was in our friend’s wedding and I sang the first dance song with my friend. It was a beautiful wedding but I was just so sad :-(. Immediately after the wedding, Peter flew back to China and I stayed home in preparation for my big trip of the summer, Eurotrip 2014 with Carina! I was so nervous and reluctant to go but knew I had to just do it.

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June

On July 9th, Carina and I flew into Dublin and it was love at first sight!! I stayed in my first hostel, EVER, and surprisingly survived. We then spent 5 amazing days driving from Dublin to Galway and up to Belfast in a big backpacker tour bus with Shamrocker Irish Adventures. Although we were so nervous to be traveling with a big group of people we had the most amazing experience ever. EVER EVER EVER. Seriously. These 5 days in Ireland were life-changing. Go read my blog posts if you have the chance. The day we biked around the Aran Islands was my favorite. And it is true, travel heals all wounds.

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After Ireland we flew to London and lived the posh life in our friend’s Shoreditch apartment. We rested, saw all the touristy spots and partied hard. It was fun but I was glad to move on. France was a challenging part of our trip but absolutely stunning. I will always be grateful for my girls Carina and Tasha and the experiences we shared driving through the countryside. France was unexpectedly beautiful and I was sad to leave. But after 3 and half weeks in Europe, it was time to go home.

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July 

Almost immediately upon returning to the States, I flew out to Park City, Utah to be with my family for the 4th of July. I was jet lagged but had so much fun in the mountains celebrating America. It was a short but sweet trip out west and I am so happy that I decided to go.

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On July 22nd I FINALLY flew out to China to be reunited with my love. We immediately drove south to Zhoushang, China on a team building excursion in the deadly heat of summer. It was yet another bizarre China vacation complete with weird beaches, bumpy bus rides and freakishly hot mountain climbs for no apparent reason. China you keep me on my toes!

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August

This month was blazing hot and I really struggled to stay cool in the city. I was literally sweating EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME. Yikes. We threw a little party at our apartment and it was really nice! Our nice Chinese neighbors loved my egg salad haha. We also spent one day out and about the Bund showing around some visitors from the States. It was a very hot and very long day but I enjoyed seeing the financial district since we don’t visit it very often (we live about 45 minutes away, Shanghai is big!).

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You can’t beat that skyline…

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This month I was also busy planning my next big trip to New Zealand! Peter was already going with his guy friends so I ended up planning a trip with his mother! On August 27th we flew to Auckland and spent one night together as a group before splitting off on our own respective trips. Linda and I stayed in Auckland for 3 days which was wet and miserable! We did go visit some wineries on Waiheke which was nice but other than that I was ready to GO and EXPLORE THE NORTH ISLAND.

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September

On September 2nd I began another big backpacker bus tour, this time with Peter’s mother! What was I thinking! Actually we ended having the most incredible trip EVER, almost rivaling Ireland. Linda and I made some incredible friends on the Stray Bus with these young European backpackers and did some amazing things in the North Island. We drove to Raglan, Mourea, Lake Aniwhenua, Taupo, Whakahoro, National Park and ended up in Wellington. It was a trip of epic proportions and full of epic scenery that you think only exists in your dreams. I was in awe.

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After 7 days of traveling around on a bus and staying in various levels of hostels, we reached the pinnacle of our trip and completed the Tongariro Crossing, a 8-hour trek past Mount Doom. With the aid of helmets and ice picks, we summited that mountain and trudged through endless snow fields to reach the end of the trail. It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done but so incredibly worth it. We felt so accomplished and that beer at the end of the trail was delicious!

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At the end of the bus tour, our group threw me a Bachelorette (Hen) party in Wellington! It was so sweet and it made me so sad to leave all my new friends. I left Linda in Auckland and flew back to China with some serious travel blues. I tried to cure my sadness by joining a ladies choir and taking up boxing lessons! We celebrated our friend’s birthday with a crazy karaoke night, my favorite! On September 27th we left from the port of Shanghai for a 4 day cruise to Japan and South Korea!

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We hung out on the boat eating, drinking and watching all the Chinese people gamble. We stopped in Fukuoka, Japan and Jeju, South Korea! I always love traveling to Japan and it was nice to finally visit South Korea. We didn’t get to see much but we did climb a mountain. It was cool.

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October 

Back in Shanghai we celebrated Golden Week by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and I got super depressed over missing the One Direction concert in Tampa. Sad face. But I resumed boxing lessons and became a dedicated student at my local Will’s gym. You can read the whole update here. I loved my trainer Ares, who spoke no English, and we had fun teaching each other different words while I jumped around and sweated like crazy. Peter and I discovered the bamboo forest and spent a couple of weekends exploring this gorgeous wooded area by our apartment. Then we were robbed and then we both got really bad food poisoning. It was bad. Then we celebrated Halloween at a weird club with our Scottish friends. It was a pretty standard month for us in China. Yup, the crazy life of expats!

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November

We flew home on November 13th and I was so grateful to be home, you have no idea. We did our Pre-Cana weekend and celebrated Peter’s birthday. On November 20th we flew to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for Drew and Julia’s wedding. Their wedding was gorgeous and so much fun, we had an amazing time with our family and friends in one of my favorite cities in the States.

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We took the train to Philadelphia and hung out at my sister’s place before Peter and I took the train to New York City. We visited both of our besties and basically ate at a lot of cool restaurants and saw a cool concert in Brooklyn. Our friends are so cool and trendy!

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Back in St. Pete we celebrated Thanksgiving, attended football parties, and put up the Christmas tree at our house before Peter flew back to China :-(. I always hate it when he leaves.

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December

December was an absolutely crazy month full of so many parties and family gatherings that left me exhausted! It was honestly a blur and I can’t remember everything that happened. All I know is that there was a selfie stick and animal onesies involved at some point. Peter came home right before Christmas and we had our normal Christmas Eve and Day craziness with my family which is always my favorite part of the holidays.

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In December we also solidified a lot of wedding plans which was GREAT but STRESSFUL. By New Years Eve I was so exhausted and just stressed out! We came full circle to ring in the new year back at St. Pete Beach, in almost the same exact spot! It was symbolic in a way to finish 2014 just the way we began. And 2014 was exactly that, a year of endings and year of new beginnings. Despite being a crazy year of work, wedding and travel planning, there are so many things that I did and accomplished. It is good to be reminded of all the good things and people in my life. It is also good to know that Oh yeah! I visited 9 countries this year and did some pretty amazing things! 2014 I pushed myself to grow and be open to new experiences despite any challenges I might face and I think I did just that. 2014, you were pretty great. 

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As for 2015, it will be the year of the wedding and the year of focusing on our life in China. It will also be the year of making new travel plans… I’m already thinking South Island of New Zealand, Ocktoberfest in Germany, and maybe a honeymoon in Norway. We shall see! 

Kicking off 2015 in Maui… Coffee, cats and too much sun

Aloha!

I am back from Hawaii, exhausted but relaxed from a week of chilling out in the sun and drinking a lot of coffee. This vacation was much needed after the holidays which were crazy! Of course I adore all the Christmas parties and family gatherings but they are certainly tiring. Heading out to Maui to visit Peter’s father was the perfect opportunity to relax before wedding craziness sets in (WE GET MARRIED IN 14 WEEKS SAY WHAT).

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This is how I spent most mornings: sitting on the lanai at the Ka’anapali Coffee Farm house, drinking delicious homemade lattes, and watching whales in the distance while reading and answering emails. Maui is a truly beautiful location with amazing weather despite the occasionally frustrating traffic. Upcountry is sunny and dry with chilly winds, the perfect contrast to the warmer beach areas on the water. You get the best of both worlds and this paradise is still in the USA! Wow! I love America ;-).

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We explored Maui quite a bit, marveling at the jagged volcanic coastline and gigantic waves crashing to shore. We also kept an eye out for turtles and sharks among the surfers. Thankfully we only saw several turtles :-).

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We also walked through the lush jungle below some enormous trees to check out a few snorkel spots. I love these trees!

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For Christmas, I got Peter a kiteboarding lesson at one of the windiest harbors in Maui! He was pretty stoked. I had no interest in being dragged around by the wind, so I sunbathed on the beach for like 4 hours, unknowingly roasting in the harsh sun. Peter finished the day as a badass kiteboarder while I ended up as red as a lobster. It was a win-win.

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We spent the rest of our days drinking more coffee, doing some work and cuddling with cats. It’s a rough life. I didn’t take too many photos (all of these are iPhone photos whoops) because I was too busy RELAXING and enjoying the moment. Believe me, it is a hard thing to do, but after a few days I finally got the hang of it.

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One day we drove upcountry to have dinner at a lodge overlooking all of Maui. It was beautiful but cold! It was also a hazy day so you couldn’t see much except the opposing mountain peeking above the clouds. Then we drove down to funky beach town Paia for delicious Nutella crepes. It made me miss France… 

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And like a couple of crazy people, we went on a snorkeling trip to Molokai and Turtle Bay that left at 6AM. We watched the sunrise as we rode the boat to Molokai and OMG it was freezing. We got in the water at 7:45AM before the sun had even risen behind the island and the water was ridiculously chilly. We kicked around like crazy to get warm before settling in to check out the volcanic coral. After 35 minutes, I was DONE. I was cold, hungry and nauseous so we sat back on deck to feel the sun FINALLY break across our faces. We also met a few Chinese people, including a girl who is moving to Shanghai! Yay China friends.

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The next snorkeling location is known as Turtle Bay because.. you guessed it… turtles!! We swam with at least 3 different turtles which was AMAZING! We then had lunch (at 10:30AM lol) while sitting on the sunny deck (thank god).

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On the ride back to port we came across a pod of dueling humpback whales!! Two males were fighting underwater for the female’s attention while she lazily flapped her fin above water. It was incredible to watch. The snorkel trip was worth it just for the whales. I am so glad we got to see them up close!

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On our last day we went back to beach for a final nap in the sun and romp in the rocky waves. The waves in Hawaii are massive so swimming is a little tricky…

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We had a lovely time in Hawaii with Peter’s family, eating a lot of poke (aka raw tuna), sunbathing and walking around the coffee farm and coastline. It was a perfect break before we split our time between Florida and Shanghai like the nomads we are. Now it’s going to be a race to April as I balance wedding planning, a couple trips to and from China, the bachelorette party, wedding showers AND event planning for a charity auction and golf tournament.

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But 2015 is going to be great and I am thankful for all our blessings in 2014. Hopefully I can put together a year-in-review post but god knows what that is going to happen.

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And a big THANK YOU to all of you who read this little blog and enjoy all the travel photography. I am grateful for you and I wish you the all the best in the new year. Cheers!

France Day 1: At the End of the Earth

It’s about time!!! I have been so busy with work, and it’s only going to get worse so I thought I might as well start posting the final photos from our Eurotrip 2014. Um so it is DECEMBER and these photos are from JUNE. SAY WHAT. As a brief refresher… in June C and I spent a week in Ireland on the Shamrockers Bus Tour and then 5 days in London before traveling to France to meet up with Tasha.

After an awesome last day in London at Tower of London and Street Feast, we woke up Saturday morning for our flight to France! We took the train to Southend Airport and after a short plane ride arrived in Rennes, where Tasha awaited us with open arms! After picking up the rental car we drove 2.5 hours to Brest, the department of Finistere, which means “end of the earth” in Latin/French.

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As soon as we arrived, we joined the crowds flooding the city for the annual festival, “La fete de la musique” which takes place on the summer solstice every year all over France. We ordered enormous and insanely delicious Moroccan style kebabs and devoured them while overlooking the harbor from our vantage point on the main street in town. Later in the evening we went out to support Tasha’s roommate who was DJing at a bar across from the University building. It was an exciting and fully immersive evening in France and was just a teaser for what was to come!

The next morning we bought food at the local farmer’s market before embarking on our first day trip in our spiffy rental car. A big shout out to Carina for being the designated driver and driving like a boss all over France. YOU ROCK.

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France tried to confuse us with the Welcome to Florida signs. We were like psshhh please. We are actually Floridians and this is definitely not Florida. Silly French.

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First, we drove to La presque ile de Crozon, the almost island or peninsula of Crozon. We were confronted with stunning cliffs and jagged rocks basking in the warm sun and the bluest blue water of the ocean. It was STUNNING. This is France??? I love France.

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We made sure to sit down for a real French picnic. Good thing we came prepared! We had a rocking spread of cheese, strawberries, pate, a baguette and Nutella. It doesn’t get more French than that! We had to fend off a gigantic seagull from our stash but it was worth it.

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In the afternoon we drove to a picturesque town on the sea called Camaret-sur-Mer. If you googled “charming French village on the sea”, Camaret-sur-Mer would come up. It was quite charming.

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Besides a bizarre graveyard of boats, we experienced another surprising French phenomenon: old French mean wearing nothing but jorts. I swear, it was a thing. We saw at least 5 alarmingly tan old French men wearing the exact same thing. Jorts. Oh dear. Can you spot it?

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Check out our adorable rental car! This baby went through A LOT. I think Carina both loved and hated this car by the end of the trip lol.

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We drove out to a few lookout points so we could see Brest from across the water. We also visited a few old fortresses? I don’t really know what they were or why they were there, but it was cool!

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Thank god I had to go to the bathroom because if not I would have never had discovered these amazing caverns from my precarious vantage point on the side of the cliff. It was quite the view!
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We finished off the day with a crepe dinner at a small town called Morgat. We started with savory buckwheat galettes and finished with white flour desert crepes. Mine had plenty of chocolate of course. God FRENCH FOOD IS SO GOOD. Better than English food…

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It was a lovely first day in France that completely surpassed all my expectations. Honestly my expectations of France were low… and I was blown away by the beauty of this region. And this was just the first day!

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And I would like to thank Tasha and Carina for being such lovely travel buddies and for helping me piece together this leg of the trip and for taking some of the photos you see here. You girls are the best! Much love xoxo

Bamboo Forest, Karaoke and Halloween in Shanghai

Greetings from Florida! Yes, it is winter I swear…

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Well it has certainly been awhile since I last blogged! And wow, I have missed writing so much. But more than anything I have missed taking and editing photos! This last month and a half I have felt… incomplete. It is interesting to go without something you take for granted in order to rediscover what exactly makes it so important and how it fits in your life. That is basically what living in China does. You go without so many things that you become immensely grateful for the littlest things.

Having my laptop stolen was a wakeup call in so many ways. First of all, it was a reminder to LOCK YOUR DOORS. HIDE YOUR KIDS HIDE YOUR WIFE. But mostly it was a reminder that material possessions are replaceable. At the end of the day what matters most is the fact that you are safe, healthy and surrounded by the people you love the most.

For the last couple of weeks I have been back in the States attending weddings, stuffing myself with pie on Thanksgiving and visiting friends and family. Peter has already returned to Shanghai to work until Christmas while I am still in Florida, working in the office and setting up meetings for wedding planning stuff. So far so good! I miss Peter so much but it is nice to be home.

Let’s catch up with photos from my last few months in China shall we? I think last time I posted about our cruise to Japan and Korea in late September. God and don’t even get me started on France and New Zealand. Those photos are burning a hole in my brain and I am just happy to work on them again in Photoshop. So expect a travel photo dump soon. NOT ENOUGH TIME, TOO MANY PHOTOS. SORRY I’M NOT SORRY. And sorry for these all caps sentences. I’m just super enthused about photos YAY. Ok back to China!!

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In Shanghai we live in Jiuting which is a bit far away from the center of the city. However our neighborhood is still developed, crowded and very Chinese. One weekend Peter’s friend from work invited us to visit a church in the Songjiang District. Turns out we live just one subway stop away from Sheshan National Forest Park, a beautiful forested area with several churches, temples and trails! Like what??? We were SHOCKED. A mountain in Shanghai? Let’s go!

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For two weekends in a row we met up with friends on the mountain to just walk around and enjoy the scenery. However, this is still Shanghai so we had to look our very best among the crowds of people walking about in their designer jeans and high heels. You can never really avoid people in China, you learn this quickly. Peter wore his very “urban Chinese” best (which I love).

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We climbed to top of the mountain to Sheshan Basilica where we witnessed a massive group wedding. I mean like we actually sat down in the pews and watched 6 couples get married at the same time. It was bizarre! The ladies all wore these elaborate gowns with enormous tulle skirts and sequined bodices. It was fabulous. And weird. Definitely not like my wedding will be.

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Our favorite area on the mountain is a hidden gem, the Bamboo Forest. Below the Basilica and off the main path is an unusually quiet section of the forest filled with enormous bamboos (that sounds so silly). The trees are huge and you can actually hear the quiet enveloping you. It is a magical sensation in one of the loudest cities in the world. We love it! The bamboo is also fun to climb. Although I wouldn’t recommend it. I ruined my shirt when I ascended bamboo marked up with ink. Sweet.

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Let’s see what else? Oh we had an awesome karaoke night for our friend’s birthday. We started with a huge Japanese hibachi dinner and followed with hours of fun in a private karaoke room. My friend Lisa and I killed it on countless songs by Adele and One Direction while the boys tried to keep up. It was a blast as always! I love our American and Scottish friends.

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For Halloween we dressed up and went to a club hosting a weird Circus-themed Halloween party. I went as Rosie the Riveter and Peter as Jackie Chan which was all in vain since nobody in China dresses up. There were some people in costume at the club but other than that… nope. I was stuck in the rain trying to catch a cab for half and hour and people were staring at me like I was some weirdo. I mean doesn’t everybody wear jean on jean? The club was actually really fun and they played some great music from the 80s! The only good picture is this half-assed selfie from earlier in the day. YOU CAN DO IT.

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And finally, if you recall I was taking boxing lessons at my local gym. In the middle of my sessions I switched trainers and was coached by Ares, a sweet 19 year-old kid who laughed at me more times than not. He made me run laps and sprint and kick him for hours on end. It was so much fun! I learned so much and laughed a lot. I taught Ares some English words (including most curse words lol) and he taught me how to count in Chinese! This is just proof that language doesn’t have to be a barrier to friendship. I really am going to miss boxing and all my trainer friends at the gym…

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And that’s all folks! Soon there will be an update on our time here in Florida. But for now I will be outside enjoying the sunshine!