Spellbinding Sintra (Part I)

Lisbon was a wonderful city, but it was time to move on and explore more of Portugal. Sintra, which is a relatively quick train or bus ride away, was our next destination on our girls trip. Dani and I (mostly me!) were a little hungover from the night before, but it was so worth it. We slowly got around, packed up a little bit, sent a good morning photo to our new friends Max and Julian, then ventured in the city center to find some breakfast. Our original plan was to grab a “traditional American breakfast” consisting of more than pastries, but they were packed – which is to be expected. Plan B was still great because we had some great beverages and a big, filling breakfast. The best part? We saw the most adorable dogs walking by! How much better could it get?

After breakfast, we checked out of our favorite Airbnb and headed to the train station. Something about the train station in Lisbon reminded me of my first out-of-country travel experience: Hamburg, Germany in 2012. It was a very deja vu moment, but it sent me into nostalgia and comfort. Dani and I sat on the ground and talked about some of our favorite TV shows as we waited for the first train to Sintra. Maybe it’s all the train rides between Michigan and Chicago, Illinois when I was a kid, but I’ve always loved the train and it’s my favorite way to travel. We boarded the train early, got settled in, and arrived in Sintra about an hour afterward. Downtown Sintra was so cute and we were gushing at how adorable the city was. Dani lost her train ticket, which we needed to exit the station, so we both had to book it through one, timed gate with her luggage and mine. She went ahead of me and we booked it, but the gate automatically closed on my backpack! Thank goodness it didn’t crush me because that would’ve hurt!

Once we arrived to our next Airbnb, we were truly in awe. It looked like a mini castle! The architecture was stunning, the flowers and greenery around the yard were adorable and we instantly felt like we were in a quaint, English countryside home. The inside was also decorated with nice bedding and unique designs accompanied by a map where we could pin our home locations and a guest book to sign. Dani and I had been sharing a bed during our nights in Lisbon, and it was weird to have two separate bedrooms this time! But it was also nice because we had a lot of room for each of us to freshen up, jam out to some Britney Spears (#freebritney) and put on some dresses to visit the castle.

Stay tuned for castle photos, history and anecdotes!

Photos taken on Sunday, September 19, 2021

Enjoyed Lisbon a little longer

The blessing for someone like me is that travel plans can always change – oftentimes for the better. When traveling, especially internationally, adaptability and spontaneity are crucial when you want to have a good time. Luckily, Sarah (our Airbnb host) picked us up and allowed us to store our luggage in her laundromat, and shared that we needed to scrap our day two plans, and stay in Lisbon another night. Dani and I quickly agreed that was the right move to make, so I quickly cancelled our Airbnb in Obidos and booked another night in central Lisboa. All I have to say is that Sarah is an incredibly kind, adventurous soul and more people need to be like her!

Once we dropped our luggage, we grabbed a quick bite and wandered to the flea market – the largest one I’ve ever seen (even compared to the one on Le Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence, France). The vendors were smiling, organizing their stations and even creating art on-demand. Dani and I fell in love with these gorgeous dresses: hers was long, navy and a unique brown/rust color, and mine was a burgundy/purple masterpiece. We obviously had to buy them! Rather than the typical “tourist traps,” try finding places like this because you’ll come home with the most authentic gifts – for you and your loved ones.

After meandering the cobblestone streets of central Lisbon, we ventured to the sea for some air and a great view. We walked along the ocean on a walking and bike path to a cute glass pop-up restaurant for some chips and guac before we had to meet our next Airbnb host. Little did we know that our next Airbnb would be the best, most amazing one I’ve probably ever stayed in – especially considering how last-minute it was. Kids, sometimes it pays to travel without a plan!

All I can say is… wow. THIS place was truly perfect. The view. The space. The furniture. The central location. The surrounding architecture. The sounds of the people and the city. It was *perfection.* We were like little kids on Christmas morning! Dani and I relaxed, took photos on the balcony, and even walked around all the rooms to admire our amazing, rare find (and dare I say channeled our inner photographers and models!).

Little did we know our time in Lisbon would only get better…

Despite the fact that we wanted to keep soaking in the sun and wonderful views from Carlos’s apartment, we dressed up and got ready for an evening stroll and one of the best dinners of my life (no exaggeration!). We dined at a local hotspot (shout-out to Sarah for the great recommendation) where we could see a beautiful sunset on the ocean. I chowed down on some sweet potato, beets and zucchini with arugula salad (and fries!) and enjoyed a dry, red, full-bodied Portuguese wine. Dani ordered some dessert, which led us into one of the best nights of our trip.

Two men sitting next to us eyed our dessert and asked what we ordered. Max and Julian, a couple from Germany, immediately fit into our conversation as though the universe wanted us to meet. We told them to slide their table and chairs over, which led to sharing sangria and several hours of laughs and profound conversation. We talked about love, friendship, traveling, and laughed about so many little things in between. Max and Julian truly wanted to get to know us, and vice versa. It was probably my favorite interaction with strangers while traveling that I’ve had in a long time, and maybe ever. It reminded me why I love travel as much as I do (especially solo travel). You never know who you’re going to meet and how much of an impact they’ll have on you 🙂

The four of us didn’t want our night to end, so we headed downstairs for more drinks at the bar. I think Max and I both had about five or six drinks that night, and not did I pay for it the next day! But nevertheless it was worth it. Julian is half Portuguese, making our drink orders significantly less complicated. I wish I lived closer to max and Julian, and hope to see them again sometime. It was around 2:30am when we finally decided to head home. Dani and I strolled back to our Airbnb sad that we had to say goodbye, but blessed to have spent such an incredible evening with even better friends. We talked for another hour or so, sat on the patio to soak in the sounds of Lisbon at night, and went straight to bed.

I absolutely loved Lisbon!

My vacation in Portugal came at a weird time: we were about to move out of state, my role suddenly became busier at work and certain relationships remained in a strange place. Despite the chaos that was September and some mishaps while traveling, I was very excited to go on an international adventure again. My last trip outside the US was in 2019 when Juan and I explored Ecuador and Chile together, and I appreciated every moment of my time in Europe.

After a full day of train rides and an overnight flight from Chicago to Toronto and finally Lisbon, my friend Dani and I arrived first thing in the morning. Our incredibly gracious Airbnb host, Sarah, picked us up from the airport and gave us a brief tour of the city. She even offered to stop for some amazing views and took a few photos of us. Although we were both exhausted and I seriously wanted to put some makeup on, this was such a kind gesture and these are some of my favorite photos from the trip.

Prior to our check in at Sarah’s Airbnb, Dani and I stored our luggage at her laundromat and shared a lovely afternoon in the city center. We admired the cobblestone streets, winding roads, quintessential Portuguese architecture and laid back demeanor of the locals. Dani and I sat in the park on the grass – and soaked up some sun and good conversation. As simple as this moment sounds, it was probably one of my favorite memories from our girls trip. We shared some laughs and enjoyed beautiful landscapes and playful dogs around us… until a dog who was chained to a chair took off, was running in circles with the chair behind him, and headed toward us! Dani was unfortunately in the chair’s direction, and was hit in the side! I can’t even begin to explain how or why this happened, but this would only happen to her. Despite this “incident” for the lack of a better word, we laughed and it became one of many inside jokes from our vacation.

Late afternoon was filled with some logistics: heading to the Airbnb, receiving the luggage from Sarah’s husband, unpacking and freshening up before dinner. Taking that first shower made me feel like a new person, and I was ready to take on the evening. We ventured back into the city center at a slightly slower pace than we anticipated; one of our bus drivers didn’t stop for us when we were at the stop! Travel mishaps like this are supposed to happen, and that’s when you laugh it off and enjoy the slower pace that is Europe – something I’ve been craving for a very long time.

Our first dinner in Lisboa was spent outside at smaller, cute tables with some cocktails and Latin food. I had a wonderful pisco sour and some vegan tacos. Although messy, they were SO worth it. Dinners are served later and slower in Europe, but I actually prefer meals that way, so I soaked it in and felt right at home. Dani and I strolled around and saw some fun street performers and other diners smiling, living in the moment. We took a bus and walked back to our Airbnb, had some difficulty with our door and asked some neighbors for help and were excited for the rest of our time together.

Photos taken Friday, September 17, 2021

New season of life

On Friday, September 24 we said hello to our Chicago home. And on Sunday, September 26 we said goodbye to our first home. What an emotional “changing seasons of life!” Seeing it empty reminded us of our first time viewing 747, and made us realize all the memories shared over the past two years. Saying hello and goodbye simultaneously is never easy, but the memories will always be cherished and it’s not a goodbye to our neighbors: simply a “see you later.” Wherever the three of us go, the house will always become a home 🏡❤️

A spectacular September in Michigan

As my last couple of weeks in the mitten come to a close, I move into my new season of life with a full heart. I was able to spend time with my best friends and although no time spent is ever enough, I’m heading to my new home with happiness and peace in my decisions. I could think that my time in Michigan was filled with “lasts,” but I’m truly elated for all of the upcoming “firsts” to be experienced with my small family unit 😌

September 1 – spending the evening with an old neighbor/friend, and our dogs

September 2 – celebrating a friend’s birthday with sushi and cocktails in Ann Arbor

September 3 – a long overdue phone call with one of my best friends from Asheville

September 4 – all-day quality time with one of my best friends and our dogs, filled with much needed conversations and exploring

September 5 – breakfast with a dear friend who instantly makes me feel at home, and floating in Ann Arbor with two friends and Linley

September 6 – a morning walk along the river

September 7 – floating down some rapids with one of my best friends, right before the storm

September 8 – spending nearly all day on the couch with Juan, watching Never Have I Ever while I worked

September 9 – Linley’s “Gotcha Day!” festivities

September 10 – we received an offer on our house and took Linley on a nice afternoon walk

September 11 – Linley’s third Doggie Splash and dinner with good friends

September 12 – our last hike at the arboretum

September 13 – morning snuggles with Juan and Linley before work and a much-needed phone call with a dear friend

September 14 – a night on the town, all on my friend Donna

September 15 – another great night with a friend in Detroit, and watching Lin run and play with his friends

Linley’s Gotcha Day

Four years ago, I saw Lin’s sweet face on PetFinder and we rescued each other. The poor fella was abused, abandoned and had two days until euthanasia in Texas. He has been through so much, and I’ve been trying to make his life a brighter place ever since September 9, 2017.

Each Gotcha Day (birthday for rescue pups) I’ve tried extra hard to make his day even more special. This year, we kicked off our day with an hour-long hike in the woods. He enjoyed marking his territory, and we even saw some deer!

While I worked, we spent the entire day snuggling on the couch – which is one of our favorite pastimes 💛

After work, Juan and I took him to one of our favorite downtown areas and strolled along the river. Per usual, we had a great walk as a family.

We wrapped up our lovely celebration by running around with puppers at the dog park, treating Lin to some ice cream, and snuggles before bedtime ☺️

I can only hope that Linley is as happy as he’s made us throughout these past four years 🐶

Swanky Speakeasy

One if my favorite spots in my tiny hometown of Fenton, Michigan is the Relief and Resource Co. – a speakeasy with amazing cocktails, great eats and superb service. The ambiance and artwork are bar none! My friend Donna and I enjoyed gin cocktails and charcuterie here this week, and had a wonderful time per usual.

The only thing that would’ve made it better is if Linley could’ve joined us 😌

Photos taken August 31, 2021

August Gratitude

August was, admittedly, a month full of turbulence, and was my last full month in Michigan. Despite all of this, there’s always light in the darkness. Here are some highlights that made me smile 😌

August 1 – kayaking, hiking and dining in Ann Arbor with Juan and Linley

Hiking at Gallup Park

August 2 – dinner and hot coco with my favorite cousin who visited from New York

Reunited with Katy

August 3 – an evening on the lake with one of my best friends

August 4 – Linley enjoying himself at Home Depot (and loving all the attention!)

August 5 – back to Home Depot!

August 6 – a good night with a great friend

August 7 – profound conversations

August 8 – checking out the Chicago home

Wrigleyville here we come!

August 12 – a night out with an old friend, and some new ones

August 13 – meeting Mindy, Tom and Autumn at the dog park

Lin’s favorite spot

August 14 – heading to Detroit’s infamous Eastern Market with one of my best friends, and being a friend’s plus one to the greatest wedding I’ve ever attended

August 15 – lots of small pups for Lin to play with at the dog park

August 18 – Linley getting Bark to School photos taken at camp, and playing with his friends at the dog park (again!)

August 19 – a dear friend taking my late-night phone call, and making my evening brighter

August 20 – a fun night in downtown Detroit

August 21 – Linley finally cooperating for a bike ride

August 22 – an afternoon at Belle Isle and eating ice cream

August 23 – getting to know my friend’s new boyfriend and having a little too much to drink on a Monday evening

August 25 – dinner and drinks with a bestie

August 26 – a best friend being a great listener

August 27 – celebrating Juan’s “big promotion” at our favorite jazz club

August 28 – reuniting with two of my best friends and spending the day together

Gonna miss Rochester Brunch House!

August 29 – family bonding in Ann Arbor

August 30 – seeing Lin run around with his friends at the dog park

August 31 – dinner and drinks at my favorite speakeasy with one of my closest friends

Speakeasy in my hometown

And, Lin was just grumpy all month long 😂

Cliff Bells

With heaviness in my heart, I reminisce about my times at my favorite Detroit jazz club. After moving to the Detroit area a few years ago, Cliff Bells instantly pulled me in with its allure and 1950s Art Deco. Now that we’re moving to Chicago next month, we won’t have the luxury of visiting every so often. I wish I could bring Cliff Bells with us, as selfish as that sounds…

Juan and I almost got married here.

Some of the better moments with my parents were shared over dinner and drinks here.

The best live music I’ve ever heard was played here.

Milestones were celebrated here.

Here, I laughed more than I’ve ever laughed in my life.

Here, I truly felt alive.

How can anywhere else compete with all that this jazz club has given me? Has given us?

I am beyond grateful for this incredible place, and hope to find something similar (not a replacement!) in Chicagoland 🥲

Throwback Thursday: my month in Thailand

I have one month left before I leave my home state of Michigan. Wow. It’s exciting and emotional all in one. In times like these, I often reflect on parallel experiences that brought me to a similar state of mind, and for me, this is primarily my month volunteering in Thailand.

My time in the northern part of this beautiful country was exactly what I needed at that time in my life; I was in desperate need of an adventure and a positive change to get me through. My move to Chicago will open new, exciting opportunities and will allow me to explore common territory in a different way. I’m very much looking forward to pursuing my career aspirations, desired lifestyle and newness the same way I did in Thailand not too long ago.