Monday, January 1, 2018

Our Year in Pictures

2017 has been all kinds of exciting for us. As in previous years, I am gathering a few of our favorite activities that I was able to capture on my instagram account.

In 2018, the husband and I will celebrate a milestone anniversary. We are planning on celebrating with all kinds of fun things. We are hoping to visit some of our very favorite places, as well as discovering new ones and maybe visiting some friends in between. There will be more dispatches from instagram... Stay tuned for more.

A few thoughts on the year that just passed:
  • We discovered 2 new hiking trails in the area, hoping to discover a few more in 2018. The husband and I made it a goal to go hiking once a week and we mostly did it (not during the Summer months). We are lucky that we live close to a great hiking trail. It's our Saturday morning routine. We used it as a way to vent about out week or daydream about our upcoming plans.
  • We did a staycation and ever since then, we have been going into the city more and more. Life in the suburbs is so lame... The city is so much fun.
  • We did our usual pilgrimage to the strawberry and blueberry fields. We literally had to drag the kids with us, I'm afraid this was the last year of that.
  • The kids started middle school and high school this year. I can hardly believe it. V joined the cross-country team and, as afraid as I was that she was going to hate me for the rest of her life for making her do it, she had a great time. She is doing it again next year!
  • Our kiddos are now a teenager and a tween. Our sweet girl now has mood swings and our happy boy... Cannot stop talking... They have both tested our limits this year. Especially when we are traveling and in close confinement. I would not change it for the world, though. I continue believing that we are raising citizens of the world that are respectful of other cultures, religions and customs... We are committed to keep going.
  • This year we went to small towns and big buzzing cities. We visited Muslin countries and deeply Catholic ones. We went to deserts, jungles and mountains. We saw many volcanoes and witnessed the beauty they can create in the US, South America and Europe. Visited museums and enjoyed art for some of the best painters, as well as, stunning street art. We experienced a once-in-a-great-while solar eclipse, once-in-a-while tropical storm and a once-in-a lifetime snow storm. 2017 was not a year that lacked in excitement... That is for sure.
Here is to hoping you had a great year too, wishing you much happiness on 2018.

January - Started the year with a family hike to the Appalachia Trail
February - Celebrated my birthday with a weekend staycation in Atlanta including staying in a fabulous hotel, going to a concert, eating delicious meals in great restaurants, walking around historic Atlanta and the Beltline
March - Went hiking to Raven Cliff Falls on the Chattahoochee National Forest
April - Went to the Balkans from Spring Break (Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro) as documented here and here
May - Went Strawberry picking (our yearly tradition - See pics from our first trip here)
June - Went to Ecuador's Central Sierra and Quito
July - Went to Oregon for lots of hiking and family visiting (see pictures here and here). We also went blueberry picking - another yearly tradition (see pics from our first trip here)
August - It was all about birthdays, cross country meet ups and the solar eclipse
September - Visited family in Kansas
October - Hurricane Nate squashed our plans to go camping at the beach so we stayed around and went hiking, to the museum, to Piedmont Park, walked the Beltline. This month also brought the homecoming dance and more cross-country
November - Went to Sicily and London for Thanksgiving (see pictures here and here)
December - Lots of family visiting us for all over the place so, beside sprinkling holiday activities (parties, cookie baking, ornament making, concert attending) we pretty much stay put. We enjoyed the time with family showing them around our town and taking them to some of our favorite places. It was good to have them all staying with us.
This friends, was a little peek into our life this past year. It was busy and fun and challenging and all the stuff that makes life worth living... Here is to hoping for more of it in the upcoming year. Bring it 2018, we are ready for you!

For previous "Year-in-Pictures", check these out:


To see pictures from our travels go here.
And for {way more} pictures from our family adventures check out my instagram account.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Photo Journal - London

Ah beautiful, gorgeous, expensive London… I've missed you!! Last time there, 2009… It's been too long

Since this was not our first rodeo, we didn’t feel the need to cram a bunch of stuff to do while in London. I did however, want to enjoy our time there with meaningful activities that did not cost a lot of money (because, as I said before, its expensive-even with the favorable exchange rate!).

In the past, when we've been to London, we visited the Tower of London, rode the London Eye, saw the change of the guard, perused the markets (Portobello and Camden), ate our share of pub and Indian food, so this time was more leisurely.

Here is a fun list of things we got to do while in London:

Since we were staying in the Shoreditch district (East London), we started our walk at Brick Lane. This little street is so cool, very diversely ethnic, with markets for foods and unique British knick-knacks (even the husband found himself a bargain)
This street is famous for the gorgeous murals everywhere (I have a thing for murals), so we took them all in. See lots more on instagram

Side note: The whole time I was on this street, all I could think about was the song from The Killers - "All the things that I've done" filmed right on Brick Lane

Brandon Flowers wanna be

We walked by the Tower of London
Cross over the Tower Bridge
Jubilee Walkway

Stopped on Borough Market for some mulled wine for us and hot chocolate for the kids

Gorgeous Millennium Bridge (my favorite bridge… Totally pedestrian)

Saint Paul Cathedral
Busy Fleet Street

And mind the gap...

Covent Garden, Seven Hills, Neal's Yard - We had lunch here and did a little bit of shopping too… I think the Christmas cheer everywhere did it for me

Not sure what was happening here

Victoria Embankment

Something I did not want to compromise on was the museums. We did not get to visit them the last time here… The kids were too small, and the weather was so nice… We wanted to spend it all in the outdoors. But since this time we were in London in the Fall, we thought, this is the time to enjoy the world class (and I really mean, world class) museums that London has to offer. And did I mention that they are free, yes! Free… what a noble concept, top notch art to be enjoyed by all…

The British Library - We did a quick stop here (that's all you need). Friends, don't miss this if you are in London. Think Magna Carta, the Gutenberg's bible, King James Bible, lyrics from the Beatles… And all free! (oh wait, I already said that)

The British Museum and the incredibly impressive collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Assyrian art

Do you want to have the place all to yourself? Get there as soon as it opens… You can take pictures to your heart's desire

The National Gallery - By the time we got here, the kids were begging us to stop…. Here is proof
Nevertheless, we persisted...
Mischievous little boy...

Photographing the Dutch Masters - The Impressionist Hall was our favorite by far

We kept them going with promises of a proper High Tea, ah who am I kidding… I wanted to do it more than them… Yummy treats and cakes and sandwiches and scones and clotted cream… Yes to all! We had ours at the National Cafe. It was lovely. Reservations are recommended, though. We made ours as soon as we arrived at the National Gallery. Took our time at the different halls and then made our way to the cafe... No waiting, easy peasy.

More walking around, at Trafalgar square. Fascinating to see all the action going on… London is great for people watching…
That concludes the great escape of Thanksgiving 2017. We did not miss eating turkey at all… But something I was shocked by, was all the talk of Black Friday sales… Seriously? Europe too? But for all the complaining I did, I took advantage of it… Like I was going to leave Italy without any Italian goods at a bargain price... Yeah right.

Here is a list of our previous trips on Thanksgiving break

2016 Patagonia and Buenos Aires (this time last year we were driving around Palermo in Buenos Aires, this time, we were in Palermo Italy)
2015 Bermuda
2014 Southwest Texas
2013 Mexico City
2012 Arizona

So did the stars align to allow us to get such cheap tickets to London? Or was it all Brexit's doing? I do not know. Who am I to question the travel gods? All I know is that I got a deal that I could not pass up. I am currently on the hunt for more deals. Stay tuned for more travel adventures.

See first leg of the trip here
More pictures from the UK, here
More pictures of our family travels here
And even more pictures on instagram at planandplay