03 May 2017

How to do Europe with a carry-on

The lady checking our passports at Schipol airport in Amsterdam looked at me incredulously:

"That's it for two and a half weeks?" (Mind you, she saw what we packed PLUS souvenirs.)

I reponded:
"I know! I was so proud of myself!"

And I was. When Jay first said we should each only bring a carry-on and a backpack I really wasn't feeling it, but I knew he was right. We were going to take 4 plane flights and countless trains to visit 4 countries and 7 cities in the space of 16 days and it just wasn't going to make life any easier to be lugging around a 40-50lb bag through all of that.

Plus, if you're doing any budget airline travel within Europe, they charge a fortune  for big bags, and you have to pay to check even American sized carry-on bags (their standards and restrictions are different than most US airlines, which is part of why you can fly so cheap) 

So if you are flying into Paris and staying in a hotel for a week and your bag won't move- you probably don't need to listen to anything I say. But if you're packing a lot of destinations into a smallish time frame, listen up.

It's possible. I like shoes as much (or more. probably more) than the next person, and would love to have a full wardrobe at my disposal while gallivanting around Europe. But it's more hassle than it's worth. Here's how I packed a carry-on for two and a half weeks in Europe.

7 pairs of underwear and 7 shirts (long and short sleeved- depends on the time of year and where you go!)
2 pairs of jeans- make sure they are the kind that keep their shape, because you will wear them more than once between washes.
2 pairs of leggings- more on this decision below
1 hiking outfit (stretch zip-up, shorts, tank, sports bra)
7 pairs of socks (you only need maybe half of this if going in warmer months or if you are planning on mostly wearing sandals aka me. I did not need so many socks)
2 lighter jackets- I'm obsessed with the ones I brought. They were perfect. links to those below.
1 sweatshirt
1 baseball cap (Europe isn't super into athleisure, and it wasn't very hot/sunny, so I didn't use this at all)
1 straightening iron (most versatile for my hair, but I would blanket this as just one hair tool of your choice)
1 brush
Laundry detergent (we bought 3 liquid tide packs, I would buy double that since we ended up doing laundry twice)
2 travel size bottles of shampoo and 2 of conditioner- this would have worked if my hair wasn't so insanely thick. I probably needed two more. Luckily one of the places we stayed had a 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner that I made work to stretch out those last 7 days without my own.
Small makeup bag (I only brought foundation, blush, eyeshadow, and mascara)
Camera with two lenses
Selfie stick (tacky but essential!!)
4 books

What would I change? Honestly, especially in Florence and Rome I would have felt severely underdressed if I was wearing stretchy pants or any kind of leggings. I don't wear them very often out in public anyways, so I don't know why I brought two pairs. Bring one- tops, and possibly replace that one with your most comfortable pair of real pants. It honestly depends on what you're comfortable in. I'm a jeans and cute top kind of basics person. If you feel amazing in athletic clothes and wear them all the time, you do you.

If I had room, I would have brought one more pair of shoes. Something like a low rise comfortable leather boot or flat that could handle a lot of walking. I LOVED bringing my ankle strap birkenstocks and wouldn't have changed that, but it was a different/colder climate in Germany and the Netherlands than it was in Italy and it would have been nice to have another option that wasn't a running shoe. I almost NEVER wear running shoes outside of exercising (we did do a fair amount of hiking in CinqueTerre so they were a necessity), so that just wasn't an option for me and consequently  I had colder toes than I would have preferred.

I swear by my kuhl jacket. Lightweight, but warm, machine washable (not dryable), and just the best thing ever. And Birkenstocks really work for my feet. I have wide feet and can't wear flats for the life of me, and they have some support, so I brought these because the ankle strap adds a little extra help and they were the best. I walked 10 miles a day in Rome with them and never had sore feet.

So don't be afraid to edit and use at your leisure! If you're staying longer or going during a time of year that isn't April, you very well may need to tweak this. But if you can- I will always suggest packing carry-on. It was the best.

27 April 2017

Here's to four years!

Some of my favorite memories and photos of one of my favorite days in the entire world. 
Four years ago right this minute I entered the temple and made promises to love and be faithful to my favorite boy. That dimple and those blue eyes became mine forever, and I'm so grateful I made that wonderful, scary, life-changing promise. 

Nobody is perfect and no marriage is perfect but some of my favorite things about Jay and our marriage right now are.

The I love yous. There is never a shortage of I love yous and hugs in our household. 

Bedtime! Guys, I love bed. And I love sleep. And I love cuddling in for the night at 9 o'clock and talking about our days...and being old people that go to sleep early. It's always been my dream. Ask my college roommates who sabotaged my early-bedtime attempts.

Our home! I love our house and our yard and our roses and our kitchen...just everything about it. 

I love watching Jay be a dad. Not that I haven't loved that for the last almost 2 years, but Rory is a full blown toddler these days, and it's totally Jay's jam. There's wrestling and pillow fights and funny voices and a lot of laughing. 

26 April 2017

Why we left our baby (and why you should too)

We thought long and hard about bringing Rory on this trip.
We are fully and unabashedly obsessed with her, and honestly I was sick just thinking about leaving her for so long. Our life is better and more complete with her in it, so why didn't we take her? After all, it's trendy to vacation with your kids these days. I feel like every famous blogger is constantly taking their kids on trips around the world... am I wrong?

But here's why I think you should take a trip just the two of you. Not every trip you ever go on, but at least a good solid once every year or two.

I think life itself is a process of change and rediscovery, and so our marriages (being a union of two lives) must be thus. So, especially after you have kids and get into the throws of life, do you know who you are as a couple? Not who you were when you got married, not who you are at the end of a long day when you're exhausted and fall into routine, but who you are when you get to just be....you?

I'm glad we didn't take Rory on this trip because it was fun for me to rediscover  Jaylor.
Who have we become as a couple 4 years post-matrimony and 2 years post-kid?

We are:
Dog lovers. We are the people who oogle over every shaggy, sweet dog being taken for a walk. And guys, who knew?! There are dogs EVERYWHERE in Europe. In restaurants, on trains, walking the streets. Everywhere. I had no idea we were (I for sure didn't realize I was) those kind of people. I don't think we ever even looked twice at a dog before getting our own and accidentally becoming dog people in the process and now we are slightly ridiculous.

Foodies. Food was more of a priority than museums in most every city, and thank the high heavens because I don't do well without good, full meals. Also ice cream. Gelato was a priority for us both, and gosh if Jay asking me if I want another gelato doesn't make me swoon.

Hand holders. I remember loving when we were dating that Jay always held my hand. We haven't done a ton of that lately, because when does that happen when you're wrangling a cat... I mean two year old? Grateful that part of us hasn't changed.

Serious talkers. Jay and I aren't chit chatters, necessarily. Jay is my quiet place, and always has been. And I am a big fan of quiet places. But when it comes to talking about stuff that matters (I mean, like relationship stuff, because isn't that what matters the very most?) we don't wait, and we get to the bottom of it. I like that about us. We fix anything that needs fixing. Immediately. And we can talk about hard things, which is a big big deal for me. I don't care if we aren't professional mindless chatterers as long as we can talk when it does matter.

Small town people, through and through. My handle for most social media is smalltowntaylor, and I did it because it's kind of clever... but OH MY GOSH IT'S SO TRUE. You guys, I wanted to die being surrounded by 5000 tourists and signs telling you to watch your back for pick-pockets. It's draining and emotionally exhausting for me, and I hate it. The museums are cool and everything but more often than not I'm just as happy to sit and enjoy God's creations. Roses, beautiful hillsides, the sunset, etc. We both enjoy solitude rather than crowds. Win.

There's lots more, but these were some of my favorites. I told Jay several times on this trip "I like us", and it's true. It's so good (and necessary) to be in love, but it's so fun to be in like too and I think sometimes that's harder to hold onto. I want to always genuinely like Jay and who we are/are becoming together. And if you go on a trip together and don't like who you right now, it's good to figure that out! Use it as a reason to open a conversation, and work toward something you can build on and grow old together with. Grateful for my forever person.

I like Jaylor.

24 April 2017

Cinque Terre

Oh, Cinque Terre. The five cities by the sea.
I will bless Jay's college study abroad forever for taking him here,
and giving him the desire to take me back.

We stayed in Corniglia, which next to Manarola is the quietest of the five cities, and the furthest from the ocean. But you can't beat the views, and waking up to the sound of waves and birds chirping instead of human commotion is the best thing. If you are coming with kids or want to have easy access to the beach, Corniglia probably wouldn't be your best bet but it was perfect for us. (Our second favorite is probably Vernazza, which has a great little cove area perfect for water play!)

We hiked the five cities (the walk of love on the south end is closed maybe indefinitely, which makes it a tougher hike, but so worth it) and I'm so glad we did. With the longer hike up through the mountains instead of the original path, it takes a very full day. You may think about breaking it into two. Regardless. Pictures never do justice to God's creations, but I'm getting better behind the lens to at least give you an idea. Holy moly. Because the last time Jay did this hike it was a lot easier and shorter, we didn't understand the need to hustle our way through the cities and may have been the very last insane people on the trail after dark.

Crystal blue water, tiny, wandering streets and stairways, lemon and olive trees on terraced hillsides,  and pizza by the ocean.

Recommendations: "Happy breakfast" at Matteo's in Corniglia. The fresh squeezed juice and hot chocolate are amazing, and it's the closest thing to an American breakfast you'll get all over Europe.

The pizza place right on the water in Vernazza. We got ours to go and ate it with our feet in the water.

Fried seafood cones in Riomaggiore. I'll crave that for forever.

20 April 2017

Europe: the much requested itinerary!

We found flights last fall for less than $1300 round trip for both of us (including taxes and insurance) and booked them on a whim.

I give (rightfully) all credit to Jay for everything about this trip. He booked the tickets, calmed my frugal mind while we worked out a functional budget, religiously researched the best food establishments in every area, worshipped Rick Steve's like the quirky awkward travel-idol he is, and made this time together a priority. (Go Jay!) All I did was pick up some of his chores while he planned (a much better trade in my opinion- travel that requires too much thought is not my idea of fun), and booked most of our accommodations through Airbnb.

Day 1 and 2: Delft, Netherlands YOU GUYS. Delft is a literal dream. Our host (Hey, Hessel!) said they call it little Amsterdam, and it has ALL the charm without the drugs and penis shaped everything (he may have also mentioned the lack of hordes of Asian tourists). I would take it over Amsterdam any day. Everyone rides bikes, it's clean and magical and the birthplace of Delftware (the beautiful hand painted blue and white porcelain) and has canals running through the city and floor to ceiling windows in basically every home and shop. (run on sentences are my weakness...)

Day 3: Fly to Nice, France. I'm going to be honest-uhh we didn't love Nice. Part of that is because we don't love big cities in general, but part of that was another two-fold issue. We had terrible weather while we were there. Nice is a beach town, and it was plain freezing. I think warm weather would cover a lot of ill in that regard. And second, it was dirty. Ugh, I can't stand the grossness of big cities. We literally encountered HUMAN FECES on the sidewalk outside the train station. I could see how it could be charming on the beach in the summer, but that didn't happen to be our experience.

Day 4: Train to Cinque Terre Italy.
Day 5, 6: I can't say enough good things about Cinque Terre. If you are a museum lover/city dweller, it may not be your cup of tea. It's quiet and gorgeous and right on the Mediterranean. Not a ton to do outside of hiking and eating, but those are kind of my favorite things.... so.

Day 7: Train to Florence
Day 8, 9,10: There is so much to see in Florence that even with 4 solid days you couldn't pack everything in. I will say at some point you just have to walk to the south side of the Arno River where it's a little less crowded. There's an unbelievable rose garden and cemetery and old churches with organists playing and old men making sure you have your shoulders and knees covered.

Day 10: Train to Rome, Sightsee.
Day 11: Rome. We only spent one full day in Rome because of our aforementioned aversion to crowds and cities, plus it's just pretty sketchy. Regardless, I'm glad we did it. There's just SO much to see. The Roman Forum was my favorite.

Day 12: Fly to Cologne, Germany. Rent a car, stay in quaint neighborhood in Waldesch.
Day 13, 14, 15: Explore the tiny, magical towns on the Rhine. Castles, tiny German grandmas making your Schnitzel, and a day to drive to/tour Rothenburg which was magical and 100% worth it.

Day 16: Train to Amsterdam, sightsee/try to avoid all things red light district (impossible. there are nasty trinkets and weed in the FLOWER MARKET- I just wanted tulips and waffles!), get SO EXCITED TO SEE YOUR BABY.

Day 17: Fly home and SEE YOUR BABYYYYYY!

There is SO much to say and share about each place and the things we loved, so for the sake of not making this the longest post in history, I'll break them up individually and link them back here when I'm done in the next few days!

For now, here's a series I call "Jay in Europe". While getting the settings just right on my camera I would just take pictures of Jay (without his knowledge most of the time), and I kind of love them all.