{Bruges, Belgium: Part I}

Last week my sister Anna came to Amsterdam to visit us! Having family in town is the greatest. Her trip was pretty quick – too quick (she arrived Wednesday evening and left this morning) – but we managed to take a fun excursion to Bruges on Friday. It’s a 4 hour train ride from Amsterdam (which includes switching trains in Antwerp) and it is completely worth the journey. 

Bruges is pretty much a smaller, cleaner, more fairy-tale-like version of Amsterdam. It is speckled with adorable canals, quaint cobblestone streets and stunning architecture. And don’t even get me started on the waffles, chocolates, frites and beer! So many ways to indulge in Bruges! I know it’s not Paris, but if you have the chance to visit someday, I know you wouldn’t regret it! 
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Back to Reality}

…yeah, you can say that again! Corey and I got home from Santorini Sunday night only for me to get deathly ill!
I’ve been home from work the last couple days trying to recuperate. Ugh. 
I have so much to say about Greece. And so much to show you…
What I’ll say for now is it was the most luxurious, indulgent, romantic, magical, awe-inspiring vacation we’ve ever been on. Not exaggerating one bit.
I thought Positano was it
And then Greece happened. 
sigh
We will definitely be returning!
Here are some iPhone snaps to hold you over (even some non-instagrams!)
Captions at the end!
2. our hotel room
3 & 4. our private terrace. i know.
5. view (to the right) from our private terrace
6. our first santorini sunset
7. hangin’ by the pool, admiring the stunning view
8. watching the sunset from our private hot tub!
9. walk from Imerovigli to Fira
10. mad about this guy
11. picture perfect sunset in Oia
12. sending postcards & drinking coffee on our terrace our last morning in Greece

{Capri, Italy}

The forecast the day before we left for Positano was actually comical. Rain. Every.Single.Day. The forecast for Amsterdam? 75 and sunny every day. Would you believe it? I mean, since when does gloomy Amsterdam have a better forecast than southern Italy?! For a nanosecond I seriously considered booking us a different vacation – I so didn’t want to spend six days in the rain! But we decided to stick it out since the forecast had been so temperamental –changing from sun to rain from hour to hour. Luckily for us we had gorgeous weather… Well, all but one day. And it happened to be the one day we were on a boat. Oops.

We started our  journey to Capri in cloudy, chilly weather. We were able to see all the grottos before it started to pour. From that point on it was a serious torrential downpour the entire time we were on the island. I was not dressed for a storm and was freezing and wet and uncomfortable.  Instead of exploring we opted for a 3 hour lunch instead, then took the first available boat back to Positano. So yeah, we definitely need to go back someday and explore Capri, but we were just happy to have part of the journey be dry and to be able to see the famous Blue Grotto 🙂


A few things that were super fun and unexpected on our boat trip.. Jelly fish! There was one grotto that was FULL of jelly fish – it was so crazy! I had never seen so many in my life. They were a lot smaller than I imagined, and absolutely beautiful. It was thrilling to be so close to them, but safe in our boat! Also, I had no idea you had to get off your boat and get into smaller row boats to actually see the Blue Grotto (and wait in line with a bunch of other boats!). The entrance is so small, you have to duck down into your boat, almost laying flat. Once you get in it’s a rush of darkness and you see nothing but black. Then you turn around and you see it.. That incredible blue water. It truly looks fake, but that is the natural color of the water! There’s some kind of science behind why it is so bright blue. I’m not sure about all that, but what I do know is that it was really gorgeous. I purposefully didn’t enhance the photos at all. That is the real color! I highly recommend you check them out if you ever find yourself on the Amalfi Coast.

{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{A Relaxing Day in Positano}

Vacations to the south of Italy should be all about relaxation. We put it at the top of our list.
Our favorite way to relax in Positano was to rent lounge beds on the beach (10 EUR/each for the day – worth every penny!) and just lay in the sun for hours.
It didn’t hurt that our view was the gorgeous cliffside hotels and residences of Positano – stunning!
We laid there for hours, only getting up to break for lunch.
There are a few cute and yummy places right in Spiaggia Grande (the beach), but on this day we decided we wanted to lunch with a view (so spoiled we are!), so we hiked up the hill 15 minutes or so to Cafe Positano.
It provided stunning views for a leisurely lunch.
Then we headed back down to our sunbeds that were waiting patiently for us.
Ah, take me back!

{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Amalfi Coast: Path of the Gods}

One of the things I miss most about Portland is hiking. We had so many awesome hikes within an hour and a half of our city – from coastal hikes to gorgeous Columbia River Gorge hikes. The Netherlands is super flat (which is great for biking), so we haven’t been on a hike in ages. When we read about the Path of the Gods in our guide book we knew we had to do it.
Our B&B was located in Nocelle, right on the path, so it was super easy to just walk out our door and get going. The entire hike actually takes you from Positano to Praiano, but it takes 6 hours, and let’s be honest, we were still on vacation so I wasn’t interested in that extensive of a workout! 🙂
The walk took us about 2.5 hours from our doorstep in Nocelle to Praiano (another gorgeous, quieter coastal town on the Amalfi Coast). It had the most breathtaking views that for some reason I could not capture with my camera! I hesitated even posting photos, as they really do not do the views justice at all. Around every corner the view got better and better and I was just in complete awe. My heart was so happy. I was smiling the entire 2.5 hours and squealing with excitement! At one point we ran into a herd of sheep and mountain goats! They were maneuvering the cliffs so well – I was so impressed! It was such a fun and unexpected sight.
Once we got down into Nocelle we walked 20 more minutes to the tiny marina in town for a long, lazy lunch right on the water – but more on that another day. 

{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Corey’s 30th Birthday in Italy}

A little disclaimer on this post. This blog is just as much for me as it is for all of my lovely readers, so on special occasions such as my husband’s 30th birthday, there are memories I want recorded. I’m aware this post is wayyy too long for most of you, so feel free to just skim over to the photos – no hard feelings. The writing is mostly for me to remember this special day 🙂
—————–
Corey and I met when he was 25. At the time, I was 21 and still in college, so 25 to me seemed really mature and old. Well, not old, but definitely older than me. For some reason, shortly after we started dating, and I was sure Corey was the one, I started obsessing over his 30th birthday. I love celebrations and I love any excuse to go big for them. So in the years since meeting, I’ve had many ideas for his 30th ranging anywhere from a trip to Mexico to a big surprise bash.
When we decided we’d be moving to Europe last summer, I realized all my plans for Corey’s 30th would have to change. The thing that made me the saddest was knowing that his family and friends wouldn’t be able to share in this milestone birthday with him. So, I did two things: One, I planned an awesome trip to Italy for him (who can be sad & homesick when they’re in Italy?!), and two, I got his family and friends involved, from an ocean and continent away. Here’s how it all went down…
The morning of Corey’s birthday we woke up bright and early (4:30AM) to catch a luxurious cab ride (we normally bike to the train station and take the train to the airport) to catch our 7AM flight to Naples, Italy. From Naples we took a series of buses and trains to get to our final destination: Positano, Italy. I’d be lying if I said the journey wasn’t quite a long and tedious one. We touched down in Naples around 9AM and didn’t get to our B&B until 2PM. There were times I started feeling like maybe this was a bad idea – all this traveling on his actual birthday, that’s no way to spend your 30th! …
…Fortunately, the second we stepped into our room at the B&B and saw our gorgeous terrace overlooking the sea I knew this was going to be a very special birthday and it was worth the journey there. There was cake (traditional Italian cake of chocolate & almonds – so yummy!) and wine waiting for us in the room (I called ahead :), so we quickly uncorked the wine, poured two glasses, got into our bathing suits and plopped down on the two sun loungers on our deck. Not two minutes later I sprung out of my chair and announced to Corey that he will now be receiving his gift…
…I disappeared into our room and came back out with a single letter. From me to him. It was more like a novella of sorts, filled with lots of loving words, birthday wishes, and other fun mushy stuff! Also in my letter I informed him that I wanted to get his friends and family to help him celebrate this special birthday, so they all wrote cards and letters for him*. I once again disappeared into our room and this time came out with a big stack of letters. We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking wine, eating cake, staring out at the gorgeous view and reading touching and hilarious letters from his wonderful friends and family. Corey is an incredible son, brother, friend, husband and so much more, and it was so clear in these letters how loved he is by so many people in his life. He makes us all better people and he is always there for us, through thick and thin. And best of all, the guys knows how to make you laugh 🙂 The best quality in a man, I must say!
Before we knew it, we’d gone through all the letters, our skin was rosy from the delicious rays of sun and it was nearing time for dinner. We took a quick scenic walk around our B&B and then came back, got ready and headed out for one of the best meals of our lives at La Tagliata.
La Tagliata is a traditional Italian eatery run by an incredibly sweet family. It’s located in the hills above Positano, so it has a breathtaking view of the city below. The second you arrive you are given a bottle of amazing house wine, a bottle of water, and for us, two glasses of champagne to celebrate the occasion. Shortly after, you start getting plates and plates of food. We never saw a menu – and realized about 20 minutes in there wasn’t a menu! They serve what Mama made that day and let me tell you, Mama knows how to cook! We were stuffed silly by the time dinner was over. The meal ended with glasses of limoncello and the entire restaurant singing “Happy Birthday” loudly to Corey. He was mortified, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
I knew the years of planning had all paid off when Corey smiled that adorable smile of his and told me “This was the best birthday I’ve ever had”. It’s a day I don’t think we’ll ever forget. One of the best days ever.

{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}
*I got this amazing idea from Sarah Tucker, of course! 🙂

{Was It Just a Dream?}

We got back from Italy on Wednesday morning… 
I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the absolute best vacations we’ve ever taken together.
We truly felt like we escaped our everyday lives & stresses.
We got to soak up sunshine and just love on each other for six days straight.
That’s my idea of heaven.
And now we’re back…
And I’m feeling like it was all just a dream… A very, very good dream. 
I finally uploaded the 700+ photos I took and I can’t wait to share them with you.
For now… One of my favorites of the trip. Hope you have a fabulous weekend!
{Photo ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Seville: Day 1}

Where We Stayed: While in Seville, we stayed at the Hotel Rey Alfonso X. It had a great central location, the rooms were modern and had a good amount of space and the staff was very friendly. The only con was that the walls are paper thin and we could hear EVERYTHING going on in the hallway. Kind of annoying when the maids are chatting away at 8 in the morning! At 75 EUR/night we were pretty happy with our choice.
The view from our room (definitely suggest getting a room that faces this back courtyard as opposed to the busy street out front):
Our first day in Seville we didn’t have much of an agenda. We dropped our bags upon arrival and quickly made our way to the main plaza by the Cathedral. We met up with Nicole and plopped down in the sun where we caught up over tapas and Sangria. It was the perfect introduction to the city. We then just wandered around the city and made our way down to the river to watch the sunset. It was incredible how many people were out enjoying the day. They just sit right down on the riverbank, bring their own food and beverages and lounge. 
We were just completely smitten with the cobblestone streets, rows of orange trees, the horse-drawn carriages and the crowds of people on every street and corner, living in the moment and enjoying the good life. I could really get used to the laid-back Spanish lifestyle! 
On our walk back to our hotel we stumbled upon this processional happening in the streets. We couldn’t figure out what was going on and felt rude asking. Any ideas?
MUCH more to come on our trip to Seville! 
{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}