The First Weekend Back In The States

Happy Monday everybody! We made it back home from Europe last week, and we seriously had the best time! I still can’t believe that our trip that we’ve been planning for over a year and a half is over, but I guess that means that I can start planning our next big trip, right?

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

In true Chris and Ashley fashion, instead of spending our first weekend at home trying to get our lives organized again after our big trip, we decided to head to Canyon Lake with some of our friends! So I’m linking back up with the fabulous Biana to share my lake weekend recap with y’all!

Friday

We’re in the process of converting our accounting system at work again, so it was a pleasant surprise that we got off work a couple of hours early on Friday because of that conversion. So instead of leaving Houston at almost 6, we got out of town a couple of hours early which meant that we got to the lake early!

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

We spent the night hanging out with our friends playing Beanboozled and The 5 Second Game. Beanboozled is a game that has 2 different flavors of jelly beans that look the same but one is a good flavor and the other is a bad flavor. For example buttered popcorn and rotten eggs look the same and you have the same chances of getting either one of those. I hated playing the game because some of the flavors were gross and I don’t even like jelly beans, but it was pretty hilarious to see everybody’s reactions when they got a yucky jelly bean. For example, Chris practically projectiled one of them out of his mouth when he got the rotten cheese one! So pretty much play at your own risk!

Saturday

When we woke up on Saturday we were expecting to have some pretty gross weather and didn’t know if we’d be able to go out on the lake. Luckily for us, the weather ended up clearing up for the most part and we enjoyed a day at the lake hanging out on rafts, talking, fishing, drinking, and just having a great time!

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States
Our major fail at taking a family photo this weekend…

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States
No makeup selfie!

One of the funniest things about our time at the lake was when we took Dart into the lake. It’s so funny because he loves getting in the pool at daycare but he hates being in the water with us! 

Our friends had a huge floating raft in the water, so we got Dart and put him in the water with us. I don’t think that he quite knew what to do with the water because he kept on walking from one edge of the raft to the other. Then I think that a fish came up and scared him because he ran straight off the raft into the water! He swam back but not before we all ended up dying laughing at how funny he was!

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

After lake time, we spent the rest of our evening just relaxing and talking some more. The guys grilled outside while the girls hung inside prepping and talking. The Aggies had a late game against Arkansas Saturday night, and even though I kept on falling asleep during the game, I was so happy that we actually had a good game against Arkansas and beat them pretty handedly! Hopefully we’ll continue to do well, especially when we play Tennessee and Alabama later on in October.

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

Sunday

We spent Sunday relaxing and talking some more before having to pack up and head home. Somehow we managed to bring a ton of food with us and came home with almost as much food as we brought, even though we ate a ton this weekend! The rest of the night we spent relaxing and trying to get things organized at the house.

The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

Overall we had such a great weekend at the lake, and it was the perfect and relaxing weekend to welcome us back home to Texas!

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The Wandering Weekenders- The First Weekend Back In The States

CG Swaps- Books ‘n’ Bloggers Swap Reveal

Happy Saturday everyone! I’m officially back from my European adventure, and slowly starting to get back into the swing of things at home and at work and with blogging! Thanks again to all of the amazing ladies that guest posted for me while I was gone (Kristen from See You In A Porridge, Carolann from Finding Ithaka, Evelina from Fortunate House, Emily from Everyday Accounts, Olya from The Siberian American, and Kathleen from Places I Will Go)! Hopefully I’ll be able to get everything organized and be back up to speed within the next couple of weeks!

Right before I left for Europe I had signed up for The Chaotic Goddesses Books ‘N’ Bloggers Swap where you’re matched up with a fellow blogger and send each other books and other bookish goodies! You’re required to send three books, one book that’s on your partners wish list, one book that you love, and another book that you’ve been wanting to read as well.

I was paired up with Rachel from Dreaming Of The UK, and couldn’t have been more thrilled that we were paired together! She and I are both big historical fiction fans, and we both especially love the Tudor England time period. Check out her post here to see what books I sent her!

The Wandering Weekenders- CG Swaps Books 'n' Bloggers Swap Reveal

I was so excited when I received my packages in the mail from Rachel! I’m a huge Philippa Gregory fan, especially her novels based on Tudor England, so I know that I can’t wait to break into The Taming of The Queen. I hadn’t heard of the Laura Andersen’s trilogy based on what would have happened if Anne Boleyn had a boy, but The Boleyn King sounds like a great book that I think that I’ll love, and probably pick up the rest of the trilogy to read as well!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you probably know how obsessed that I am with WWII fiction, so when Rachel sent me Born Survivors, which is actually a biography based on some Holocaust survivors, When we were in Munich we took a day trip to Dachau to visit the Concentration Camp and Memorial Site that’s still there today. It was such a surreal feeling to visit a place where so many horrible things had happened, and I know that even though Born Survivors will be tough to read, it’ll be a great read.

Thanks again to the lovely ladies at CG Swaps for hosting this great linkup, and to Rachel for sending me such fun books! I can’t wait to read them!

5 First-Time Traveler Tips For Europe

One of the things that I’ve loved the most about blogging is getting to know so many wonderful women, but what’s even better than that is getting to meet some of them in person! Earlier this year, I got to meet a fellow blogger in Houston after finding her blog while she was planning and going on a fabulous trip to Europe last summer. Kathleen from Places I Will Go has become a real life friend, and I’m so excited to have her guest post today with some of her tips for first time travelers to Europe!


Hello Wandering Weekender readers!  Oh my gosh I am so excited to be guest posting for Ashley while she and her hubby are gallivanting through Europe!  I went on my own European vacation two summers ago and had a blast, as I’m sure are Ashley and Chris. So when Ashley asked me to guest post for her I immediately said yes!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two summers since I went on my trip.  My best friend and I decided we wanted to take a trip to Europe in September of 2014.  And it took us about a month to finally settle on destinations.  Yep, you read that right, destinations, as in plural.  We figured that if we were going to head across the pond for the first time we wanted to see as much as we could.  And so the planning began.  I had a great time planning our trip.  I put a ton of time and energy into the planning because I wanted to make sure we had the best time ever!

So in honor of my own trip to Europe and of the trip Ashley is currently on, I’m going to share 5 Euro-trip planning tips for the first time traveler!

1.  Do your research.  I feel like this is probably the most important part of the planning process.  You have to know exactly where you want to go and what you want to do.  It is super easy to country hop in Europe.  And when we first started discussing going there, we decided that if we were going to go we weren’t just going to see one or two places.  We wanted to see as many as we could, within the budget we had agreed on.  So we narrowed it down to 4 different countries: England, France, Germany and Italy.  And then we figured out which cities in those countries we most wanted to visit.  I used Pinterest for a lot of my planning, as well as travel blogs!

Tower Bridge, London, England
 
Platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross Station, London
 
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

  
2.  If planning overwhelms you, it’s ok to look into tour packages.  When I first started planning our trip, I very quickly became overwhelmed with the planning.  I had started researching flight prices, hotel prices, train prices, attraction prices…..the whole shebang.  It was just so much!  And was looking to be a super expensive trip.  So then Jenny suggested using a travel company.  Oh my gosh y’all, it was the best decision ever.  Especially since it was the first time either of us would be traveling abroad.  Now I would be 100% comfortable booking everything myself.  But since it was our first time going to Europe, it was really nice to have them take care of the flights, the hotels, the transportation, and some of the attractions.  We research a ton of different tour companies and ultimately decided that Go Ahead Tours was the perfect match.

Our top 4 countries were hit and we got the added bonus of visiting Switzerland and The Netherlands too.  We agreed that the price for the tour was doable for us.  One of the best parts about Go Ahead is that they allow you to pay for your trip in payments.  And as long as you have the trip paid by the date they provide you’re good to go! You can read all about my thoughts on Go Head specifically here!

Royal Palace Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
(I was jumping and this random guy wanted to jump too.)

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

3. Book what you can in advance.  Once you’ve figured out where your going and when, I highly recommend booking any attractions you can in advance.  This worked in our favor in London and Amsterdam.  I bought our tickets for the London Eye in advance and we didn’t have to wait in line and I also bought our tickets for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam in advance and we literally walked right in.  The wait for the Anne Frank House can be as long as 5 hours!  If you travel with a tour company they will most likely have a few of the major attractions booked with private tours attached and you can even add on excursions to certain places in each country.  But there will also be days or half days you have one your own.  And booking the attractions that are on your list in advance will really help with time!

Now you do need to be mindful that if you’re traveling with a tour company travel times might be longer then you expect. This happened to us in Paris.  I had purchased tickets in advance for the Louvre and sadly by the time we had arrived at our hotel and set out to pick up our tickets, we were told that the Louvre was closed.  I had a small mental breakdown about it but once I cried it out I was fine.

The Crying Lion (Monument honoring the Swiss Guards), Lucerne, Switzerland

Lake Como, Italy

4. Go Big or Go Home.  Here’s the thing.  It’s your first time in Europe, go big or go home y’all.  You don’t want to get over there and have to miss out on something because your on a super tight budget.  At least that’s not what we wanted to do.  So I basically lived on ramen noodles and beans from about October to May because I wanted to save as much money as possible for my trip.  I had designated months where I wasn’t allowed to spend any extra money at all, save for the things I needed to, you know, live.  I named them “No-tober, “No-uary”, and “No-pril.”  It really paid off for me because I didn’t have to worry at all about how much I was spending and could just enjoy myself.

St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

5. Enjoy every single moment.  After all your hard work in planning and saving, savor every single moment you’re there, because it will be over before you know it.  We were in Europe for two whole weeks and when it was time to come home I was not at all ready too.  I honestly could have gone on for another week if I could have.  I still love going through all my photos because they bring back such amazing memories from our trip.  So savor it!

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican, Italy

Well there ya have it.  Hopefully those tips are helpful.  I highly highly recommend using a travel company for your first trip across the pond.  It really does relieve so much of the planning stress.  Some companies are pricier than others, so you just need to find one that works best for you.

Thank you so much Ashley for allowing me to take over your little space of the inter webs! Hope you’re having so much fun in Europe! Can’t wait to follow all your snaps! 🙂

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The Wandering Weekenders- 5 First Time Traveler Tips for Europe

5 Things You Must Do In Prague

One of the first blogs that I found when I first started blogging was Olya’s blog: The Siberian American. I loved getting to know her and learning all about her Russian heritage and traditions, but what I loved even more than that was the fact that we were both Texans and that we were both avid travelers. Olya has been all over the world, and I always love getting to see beautiful parts of the world from her eyes, so I was so excited that she agreed to write a post about one of the places that we were visiting on our European adventure. So here’s Olya talk about 5 things that you must do in Prague!


Hi, The Wandering Weekenders readers! My name is Olya, and I blog about travel and life in Texas at The Siberian American. I was so excited when Ashley asked me to post about Prague today because it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe, and I can’t wait for her to explore it! Plus, the timing is crazy because my little brother just told me he is studying abroad in Prague in February!

It’s impossible to pick a favorite city in Europe, but if I had to, Prague would be one of the cities on the top of my list. I am a huge fan of architecture, and the blend of old architecture with the new in Prague is truly breathtaking. I loved so much about the city, so today I thought it would be fun to share five things you must do in Prague!

Sandeman’s New Europe Tour

I highly recommend doing a Sandeman’s New Europe tour in every city they’re offered. The tours are such a great way to get an overview of the city and learn about its history, especially if you are on a time crunch. It’s a “free” tour in that you pay what you think it was worth at the end. We have done five of these tours all around Europe, and they never disappoint. The tour in Prague was one of my favorites.

A Cruise on the Vltava River

If you know me, you know I love any excuse to get on the water. In our year living in Chicago, we did six boat cruises. Of course, I also had to do a cruise on the Vltava River! I absolutely loved seeing the Charles Bridge and Prague’s gorgeous architecture from the water. Even if you’re not a water lover like me, the views are worth it.

Astronomical Clock

Yes, it’s touristy, but you have to go see the oldest operating astronomical clock in the world. It was first installed in 1410 and still announces every hour with a procession of the Apostles. There is always a crowd, so get there as early in the morning as you can!

Old Town Square

The Astronomical Clock is located in Old Town Square, but the square is also a great example of Prague’s unique architecture. I love both the Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church. Their style is so different, but everything somehow looks so cohesive.

Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral

If you want to see practically every architectural style from the last thousand years, visit the Prague Castle complex. My favorite was the St. Vitus Cathedral for its stunning gothic architecture. Plus, the whole complex is on a hill, so you are treated to beautiful views of the city!

Writing this post has made me miss Prague so much! Hope you are having the best time, Ashley!

Have you been to Prague? What was your favorite thing to do?


8 Things To Do With One Day In Venice

One of the things that I’ve loved about blogging is that I’ve been able to find some pretty amazing women that I have a lot in common with! Today one of those women is guest posting for me: Emily from Everyday Accounts. Not only do we both happen to be accountants, but we also have a deep love for traveling and are both Texans!

I’m so glad that I found her blog last year, and I’ve loved being able to follow along on all of our travels inside and outside of Texas, including a 2.5 month trip to Europe that she took with her husband earlier this year! Thank you so much Emily for writing this guest post for me about one of the beautiful cities that we’ll be visiting!


- Everyday Accounts Blog - emilyabernathy.com
Hello there, Wandering Weekenders readers! I’m Emily, and you can find me at my blog Everyday Accounts. Ashley and I have so many things in common: we both live in the great state of Texas, work as accountants, and love travel and adventure. Needless to say, I was very excited when Ashley asked me to guest post while she is exploring Europe!

My husband and I have made travel and adventure a top priority throughout our first five years of marriage despite both holding full-time jobs. On my blog, I share about our travels, and I’m always sharing about our everyday lives at home in Austin. Currently, I’m writing up mini travel guides on the cities we visited on an extended trip around Western Europe.

2016-03-01 11.34.50We didn’t know what to expect out of Venice because we had heard mixed reviews from our friends and family – some thought it was wonderful, while some didn’t enjoy it at all. Because we weren’t certain, we only booked two nights there, and we ended up wishing we had had more time to explore the “City of Water”. Although we know there is plenty for us to discover still, we left feeling like we had done the best we could to get to know Venice on such a short trip. That’s why, while I recommend booking more time, in today’s post I’m sharing my recommendations for the traveler who only has one day in Venice.

1. Take the morning tour with Venice Free Walking Tours.

This tour group prides itself on taking tourists “off the beaten path” in the city while still giving a thorough overview of Venetian history and culture. They do fantastic at both goals – just check out the TripAdvisor reviews! All of the guides are locals and know many details about the city that you won’t find in a guidebook. Interestingly, you can’t know your tour route beforehand because each guide takes a different route based on their favorite parts of the city. Although Daniel and I are planners, we didn’t mind this method – after all, Venice is the perfect city to simply wander and explore in.

2016-03-01 13.18.45None of the guides take their groups to visit St. Mark’s Square or the Realto Bridge because they focus on the local heart of the city, but they still share some history and facts about those areas. At the end of the tour, we were provided with a very helpful list of suggestions for dining and exploring. I recommend signing up ahead of time – our group was full when we went in March, so they weren’t accepting anyone who hadn’t booked ahead. Also, bring some cash to tip your guide at the end. They offer afternoon tours as well, but with only one day in Venice, you’ll want to take the morning tour to get a feel for the city before you start your own exploring.

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2. Stop in the Libreria Acqua Alta.

If you like unique bookstores, you will love Libreria Acqua Alta. This bookstore has tons of used and new books scattered all over the place. You will find books sitting in gondolas and bathtubs and more. The best part is the back of the shop where you will find a staircase made of books that you can climb for a gorgeous view of the canal!

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3. Check out the Venetian mask shops.

Venice celebrates the Carnival of Venice each year, and it is perhaps most famous for the iconic Venetian masks people wear during the festival. There are shops all over the city where you can peek in and look at the handmade masks.

20160301_145919 2016-03-01 14.59.14

4. Eat gelato.

This suggestion speaks for itself. You cannot go to Venice and not get a gelato to have in hand while exploring. We enjoyed Suso Gelato which is close to the Rialto Bridge.

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5. Visit Realto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square.

These two attractions are about 8 minutes apart and by far the most touristy parts of the city. They are great places to people watch, and you have to see them both at least once.

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6. Peek into the stunning St. Mary of the Friars church.

Known as Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Italy, the church as it stands today was completed in 1396. Don’t let the plain exterior keep you out – the inside is an absolute treasure.

While one day in Venice doesn’t allow enough time to visit one of their world-class museums, this church is a museum in and of itself. It holds many Venetian Renaissance art pieces and monuments to famous artists and sculptors.

The entrance fee is about $15 per person, and the church closes at 6pm each day and is closed on Sunday mornings. Don’t miss this!

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7. Have dinner at Osteria alla Staffa…

…or one of the other authentic, family-owned Venetian restaurants outside of the touristy area.

Book a table or arrive right at 7pm! Italians don’t eat dinner until at least 9pm, but based on our experience, they tend to book tables ahead of time. When we walked in at 7pm, we were only able to be seated without a reservation if we agreed to be finished by 9pm.

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8. Get lost!

Venice is known as a place to wander without a destination, and I cannot recommend doing that enough. We did this once during the evening and once during the day – both are very different and very wonderful experiences.

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Those of you planning a trip to Venice may notice that we didn’t do a few of the more popular Venice activities such as riding a gondola or going over to the Murano or Burano islands. While we would have loved to go to the islands, one day in Venice did not allow enough time to explore both the main part of Venice and the islands. After discussing the gondola ride with our Airbnb host, we decided against it. He explained that they are very expensive and not as romantic or charming as they seem (he gave us the image of a gondolier chatting on the cell phone while kicking walls to propel the gondola). We ended up being happy with our decision: it didn’t quite fit in our budget, and it gave us more time to spend exploring the city by land.

Those are my recommendations for one day in Venice! I hope that most travelers have more than one day in this beautiful city, but as you can see, it is possible to have a wonderful time in Venice with just 24 hours. Happy travels!

One Day in Venice - Everyday Accounts - emilyabernathy.com - Pinterest

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