Barcelona Dreaming

The calendar tells me it is springtime, but the weather clearly didn’t get the memo. To cope with the lack of spring fever and the threat of snow and cold temps, I can’t help but reminisce about our trip to Barcelona and think warm thoughts. Easily one of the most beautiful cities we’ve visited, I hope it helps you think of warm days ahead too!

 

We rented a flat via airbnb, and after an easy cab ride from the airport, we settled in before exploring. Right next door was a gorgeous farmers market with beautiful flowers, and lots of food. IMG_0947 IMG_1006

Shortly thereafter, we went exploring.


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Barcelona is simply beautiful–all the historical significance of cities like Paris, with a laid back and tropical feel that make it an ideal vacation spot.

During our stay, we joined a bike tour for a city-wide adventure…

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We saw the Palau de la Música Catalana, which was designed by Lluís Domènechi i Montaner. A noteworthy building because it’s quintessential Catalan modernist style makes for a colorful and beautiful display. While most everyone who visits Barcelona associates this with Gaudi, it was refreshing and eye-opening to see how this particular architectural style is not limited to Gaudi creations, but instead exists as a unique feature of gorgeous Catalonian buildings throughout the city.

 

Having said that though, no trip to Barcelona could be complete without at least a little Gaudi, and in particular, La Sagrada Familia

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An unfinished masterpiece, the church is projected for a 2026 completion date, after beginning construction in 1882. Antoni Gaudi, fresh out of school, managed to win the job from the Barcelona council with his innovative design sketches. There were numerous  set-backs in terms of financing and construction, but Gaudi became so popular that he was able to finance the project from his own pocket by building homes for the wealthy all over the city. However, Gaudi faced a major setback when he died in 1926, and work on the project was halted. Thankfully it resumed once again and continues today. It’s a marvelous story when told in better detail and well worth a visit.

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In our ride through the Barri Gotic, we got to see the castle (what’s left of it) where Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain sent Christopher Columbus on his travels. These were the steps where they stood, upon hearing about land overseas.

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Wandering the Gothic Quarter was wonderful, and full of awesome buildings, winding streets, fun shops, and lots of food. I can’t recommend exploring it enough.

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We also visited Barcelona’s Arco del Triunfo, which cuts an impressive figure

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As well as the Parc de la Ciutadella, which is a gorgeous city park.

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Not to mention a visit to Barcelona Cathedral, which is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, a martyr from Roman times.

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We also saw the former Bull-Fighting arena, which is now used for concerts or sports because Bull-Fighting is thankfully outlawed in Barcelona.

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We ended our tour with some more time on Barceloneta beach, soaking up the gorgeous imported sand (long-story) and the sunny rays.

There’s a lot to love about Barcelona, and while its history is a fascinating one, and its architecture is beautiful, no post would be complete without at least a tiny taste of the food that makes up a huge portion of the culture.

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Pitchers of cava sangria became a daily routine during our visit. It was easily the most delicious and refreshing cocktail I’ve ever enjoyed, to date.

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Platefuls of tapas….

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Having fun at a Basque bar, where you get a plate with your drink and fill it up with small bites from a bar. You pay by the toothpick so you can try a lot of delicious bites!

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Of course, paella.

I feel a little sunnier just reminiscing about Barcelona, and I hope mother nature gets with the program soon so I can enjoy the weather here instead of yearning for warmer temps abroad. In the meantime, keep warm and carry on! There may be a post in the near future on cava sangria, which will at least make us all numb to the cold and bubbly!

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Bentley

A pawminent part of my life was briefly hinted at in an earlier post. After seeing that his picture was posted, my four-legged friend informed me that it was rather rude of me not to make proper introductions. So to appease his sensibilities, and to share the joy that he brings to everyone he meets, it seems long overdue that I introduce Bentley.

To sweeten my apology to him, for not making those proper introductions, I decided he needed a little something to remind him how much he’s adored. Big chain pet-stores are great options, but this particular occasion warranted something a little more special, and it was definitely worth the effort.

If there’s a special someone in your life, and you’re looking to really impress them, you should give doggy style a try!

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Inside, the store is full of everything your dog (or cat, if you’re into that) could ever want or need and then some…

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IMG_1408Including an epic wall of toys….

And a huge array of special occasion treats that you should definitely label as being ‘for the dog’ because they might be mistaken for people treats…

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After much debating, it seemed only right to go big…so a large, super-tough, pterodactyl toy was purchased for the four-legged mister.

I rushed home to show him his pressie and he was waiting eagerly to see what exactly mom had procured to apologize for neglecting to introduce him earlier….

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and it was love at first sight…or bite….

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Bentley romped for a while before settling down to thank me properly, and remind me that a photo shoot was still in order. How could I say no?

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In case you couldn’t tell, Bentley is right at home in front of a camera. This isn’t news though, all his life my big guy has been quite the camera hog! I can’t resist sharing some of his cutest moments….

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Posing for the camera and for ME Photography

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Most likely posing for a treat…

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The day we brought him home….150730_3200233412470_1638048201_n 603832_10200112646526655_1184609543_n 525553_3204019707125_393709137_n 380318_3204068548346_418462492_n

So you can appreciate his growth in the first few weeks…needless to say I won’t be carrying him again any time soon.

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So now that my dearest canine friend has been appeased, he informed me that he’s very happy you can all now appreciate his cuteness, and suggests you pick up anything at Doggy Style for your friends, to remind them how much you appreciate their unconditional love!

Also, puppies running:

Get Cooking

As a product of my generation, it’s safe to assume that I am dependent on the internet for a lot of information. There is just no substitute for the google machine. Despite the awesome powers of the world wide web, sometimes you really can’t beat the feel and experience of a good, old-fashioned, paper-and-ink, tangible, book. This applies to the heaping piles of  books I’ve read and enjoyed over the years and refuse to get rid of–our movers can testify to the truth in that statement. However, everyone has different taste in literature, so I’m not sure it’s my place to dictate what novels or biographies you should delve into and add to your shelves. Conveniently though, we all do have tastebuds, which means we can all enjoy a good cookbook or twelve. Get Cooking
Cookbooks make a great addition to your recipe repertoire, as well as to stylish bookshelves, counter-tops, and coffee tables everywhere. I picked the books shown above based on certain criteria:
  1. Accessibility: By this I mean you have a fighting chance of finding the ingredients near you. This seems like a low bar to set the standard for cookbooks, but check out The French Laundry Cookbook for a head-scratching experience. Also, the skill-level required to make these recipes is not unrealistic.
  2. Deliciousness: All the books listed offer truly epic recipes on a scale of one to omnomnomnomnomnomnom.
  3. Photography: A good cookbook needs to have pretty pictures, even if you can’t replicate the product perfectly, it’s inspiring to see how beautiful food can look!
  4. Informative: You can learn a lot from these cookbooks. Jason Vale is the master of juices and offers a ton of advice regarding nutrition and overall wellness, while Jose Garces gives a history of Spanish cuisine as well as meal planning advice to appreciate the flavors of various Spanish cultures.
I hope you invest in some of these books, I know I love Garces’s recipe for yuca bread and can’t wait to make all the juice recipes from Vale’s book. Not to mention all the desserts in the Bouchon bakery cookbook! So in the spirit of learning and eating, pick up a book and page through until you land on a picture of something truly wonderful looking, and get cooking!
P.S. Not everything you read on the internet (or in books, admittedly) is true (SURPRISE!), but at least you have a fighting chance of honest writing with cookbooks. An editor, or two, did have to page through those recipes before publication. Plus, let’s be honest, there is no such guarantee with Pinterest recipes.

Paris Part II

My initial post on Paris is certainly a hard one to beat, but that was only day one in the city, so it feels irresponsible not to share the rest of our fun. If you’re not up to speed though, you’re encouraged to check out the first part of our Paris fun here.

After we said our goodbyes to Brian we found ourselves by the Eiffel Tower, a bit frigid, and extremely excited. So we set about finding a café to collect ourselves in, and start celebrating. Fortunately for us, Paris is littered with options so we ducked into the first one we saw, grabbed some champagne and tucked into some macarons because, Paris.

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We then wandered around the city as it went from noon to night, and watched as places started to light up in preparation.

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We ended up at a tiny moroccan restaurant by our hotel in the latin quarter, before retiring from a very exciting day.
The following morning we got up and got to exploring.

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We managed a quick visit to Notre Dame
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And then headed over to the Louvre to actually go inside this time. IMG_0084IMG_0192 IMG_0210IMG_0200 IMG_0175 IMG_0174 IMG_0173 IMG_0206
Afterwards, there was more walking. IMG_0219 IMG_0212 IMG_0228 IMG_0227 IMG_0220IMG_0060 IMG_0229IMG_0059IMG_0246IMG_0247Fun fact: walking all day will give anyone an appetite, and we were no exception. After a real lunch at a bar on the Champs-Élysées we got our priorities in order and sought out dessert.

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IMG_0237Truly, there was only one place to go: Ladurée. The luxury pâtisserie was established in 1862. They rose to immense popularity when they took two macaron shells and sandwiched various fillings between them, as we now enjoy today. That, and the tearoom they added, made them enormously popular. Today they sell roughly 15,000 macarons a day  which I understand because I could probably eat them by the dozen, around the clock.  We happily got into the rather crowded line and set about making an educated decision about which macarons to indulge in. However, everything at Ladurée is tantalizingly beautiful and delicious looking. IMG_0240 IMG_0239It would be a mistake though, to visit and not get macarons. So we did.
They were insanely delicious–easily the best macarons I’ve ever had. While there are numerous other respected pâtisseries in Paris turning out these colorful delights, I’d venture a guess that Ladurée trumps them all. So much so that we bought a bigger box of them to take back to Germany with us.

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In a nutshell, Paris was beautiful, exciting, and endlessly entertaining. I hope we can go back one day, after we check some other places off the bucket list, because there’s still plenty more to see and do! But for now, Paris was a memorable and beautiful vacation I won’t soon forget.

P.S. If you haven’t yet already, feel free to ‘like’ pride and polka dots on facebook to get regular, un-obnoxious updates on blog posts in your newsfeed!

One Year Ago, in Paris

One year ago today, I got to go to Paris with Jordan. It was spring break for me and in addition to a visit to Germany, we decided to take a long weekend in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Please believe me when I say I had one intense to-do list for our visit. There were places to go (many, many many) shops to visit, and (many, many, many) things to eat. We landed, we dropped our bags, and ran out the door of the hotel to start our weekend, after getting directions from a nice Parisian man. I was practically jumping out of my skin, I was so excited to be in Paris. 

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We walked past the Louvre and decided on lunch and coffee before delving into art and history.

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Nourished and caffeinated, I was more than ready to commit to the Louvre. However, Jordan insisted on exploring the pyramid courtyard a bit more before ducking inside for what could be hours, and I begrudgingly agreed.

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Finally, Jordan settled on “one more hallway” before we got to go inside, get warm, and finally see the damn art. Except…French Grey Photography by Brian Wright for French Grey Photography by Brian Wright for Jordan 004

Clearly Jordan had much bigger plans for Paris, and who was I to refuse them? So one year ago today, I said yes to I do, and had the most memorable and beautiful weekend in Paris with my best friend and the love of my life.

Jordan and my mom had coordinated with Brian (standing to the left in my hallway photograph) at French Grey Photography to capture our engagement and their efforts (thank you!) make it easier to share that wonderful day now.

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To suggest that I was anything other than surprised and overjoyed would be an understatement.

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I’ll share the rest of our Parisian adventures another day, because nothing can top the best surprise proposal from the best guy in the world.  Stay tuned for Paris, and here’s to saying I do in May!

Medieval Roamings in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Last night Jordan and I started to idly chat about where we might like to take our friends and family when they visit later this year and next. At the risk of ruining the surprise for all our potential house guests (sorry, I’m not sorry), one of the places that we absolutely plan to take everyone is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. If you need convincing that this little medieval city is worth the trek then stay tuned as I try earnestly to persuade everyone.

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These were the sights that greeted us upon arriving at Rothenburg. The city dates back until around 950, and was officially founded in 1170, so we’re talking about a very old part of the world. Not to veer too far into history nerdom, but the city became a Free Imperial City in the 1200s, which meant this place was happening.

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We were there in early March, and despite the lingering cold from winter, the town was buzzing and signs of spring were starting to pop up. I desperately want to go back in late spring, when everything is in full bloom, and then during the Christmas market season because something tells me Rothenburg knows how to do a proper Christmas market….

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Gives new life to the term sausage-fest, no?

In case you’re still not sold, a veritable host of filmmakers have found the city so beautiful and picturesque that it has been used for scenes in Pinnocchio, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Wonderful World of the Brother’s Grimm, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1. 

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In another bout of history nerdom, Rothenburg was declared the ‘most ideal German city’ by the Nazis in the years leading up to, and during, World War II. Once the United States entered the war though, and started bombing German cities, U.S. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy urged U.S. Generals not to use heavy artillery to take the city because of its historical significance, and its beauty. The Germans defending Rothenburg surrendered the city peacefully in order to preserve it, an act that went against the wishes of Adolf Hitler for what it’s worth. Tourism has since flourished and it seems those Germans made a wise decision, because Rothenburg makes for quite a visit.

Jordan and I spent an entire day wandering, with no particular itinerary, which was an exceedingly nice change of pace. I was especially giddy during our trip, but more on that in a few days…2013-03-07 18.22.322013-03-07 18.22.292013-03-07 19.04.23 Of course, no trip to any German city is complete without sampling the local beer and food. 2013-03-07 19.07.052013-03-07 19.19.13 Which includes Sauerbraten. Which is delicious.

After lunch we decided to venture into one of the city’s museums, the Kriminalmuseum or…Criminal Museum. I was studying law, punishment, and witchcraft in early modern Europe at the time, and this museum had a noteworthy collection of documents and artifacts on the subject. I won’t spoil the fun inside though–even if you’re not studying the subject matter, it was an entertaining, slightly gruesome, and worthwhile visit!

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Another important feature of any Rothenburg trip are the Schneeballen, or snowballs. They’re the authentic dessert of Rothenburg: egg dough fried and then covered in sugar and/or chocolate.

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Finally, make sure you take some time to walk along the city walls. They’re the hallmark of a medieval city after all!

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So for everyone coming to visit, I hope you’re okay with one of our day trips, and for everyone else, I hope you have the chance to explore Rothenburg ob der Tauber too!

Picture Perfect in Zurich

Before the long weekend I gave everyone a peek into my luggage, so it seems only fair that I offer a much prettier picture–or twenty–of Zurich. We did plenty of walking, saw the major sites and ate our fair share of delicious food. I’ll try to keep the commentary to a bare minimum and let the pictures do most of the talking.

IMG_1110Here’s our first glimpse of Zurich, with the Grossmünster to the left, and the Alps hanging out prettily in the background. We ended up indulging in some fantastic Valentine’s day eats after this early evening stroll. In my opinion, my dinner choice was by far the best:

1901609_10201673129457753_1121773056_nthat (not so little) little beauty is a generous tub of cheesy goodness. Specifically, a mixture of four different cheeses and prosecco. It came with all the usual fixings, as well as pears, to submerge in a cheese bath. So my night pretty much consisted of spear, dunk, eat, and repeat. I don’t hate it one bite…I mean bit.

On day two we got down to business and explored Zurich properly. IMG_1156IMG_1159

Views from atop the Grossmünster, definitely worth the climb.

IMG_1185Another guy with the right idea–look at that view!

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However, after plenty of exploring we once again found ourselves with grumbling stomachs and found a farmers market just in the nick of time. After carefully scoping out the vendors, we went with bread and cheese as the perfect midday snack. IMG_1183IMG_1193

We followed that up with some more exploring around and on Lake Zurich…

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IMG_1245IMG_1256 By which point, it was definitely time for dessert.

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Normally I don’t get as excited about cake as other people (most normal, rational, human beings). However, some places are just too damn cute. Case in point? Cupcake Affair. They have the most beautiful cupcakes and cupcake towers on display…

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IMG_1206Naturally, we got some of the miniatures to sample their wares. I have to admit that even I was very impressed. I had the mango passionfruit and Jordan indulged in the chocolate raspberry. There was much mmmmmming to go around.

After cupcakes though, we embraced another petite dessert that is near and dear to my heart.

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IMG_1195French macarons really do take first place for me. Our box had something for everyone in it…chocolate, fleur de sel caramel, vanilla bean,  and chocolate banana for him. Meanwhile I went right for the lumiscent, gold colored champagne morsel pictured above. It was incredible. Then, since the box does instruct you to eat these particular macarons immediately, I happily devoured the raspberry, lemon, pistachio, and so on. You can find these bad boys, along with countless other desserts, at Sprüngli Zurich on Bahnhofstrasse.

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I hope that virtual ‘taste’ of Zurich was almost as enjoyable for you as it was for me, and after a few days at the gym I’m feeling a little less guilty about all those tastes myself. If you do ever have the chance to visit, find a few hours to stroll about and take a boat ride on Lake Zurich. Then grab a few treats, bread, and some cheese and you’ll feel very good about life–guaranteed!