Winter in Paris

Falling in Love with Paris!
What an immense impression Paris made upon me. 

It is the most extraordinary place in the world! 

-Charles Dickens

- Thanks Mr. Dickens, you explain my sentiments exactly! - 

I knew that winter in Paris would have a completely different vibe than late summer in the same city, but we live so close, so why not experience every season in "The City of Light?!" My hard working husband had Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday off of work, so it was the perfect excuse for his first Parisian adventure. We downloaded a few French podcasts and brushed up on our language skills during the two and a half hour drive. We found a great rate at a four-star hotel right off the freeway called Oceania Hotel, and the location was close to a metro stop with easy 15-minute access into the heart of Paris. (Trip planning note: this hotel is great if you're driving a car because the parking rate is reasonable at 20 Euro a night, and you won't have to deal with the headache of driving your car into the heart of the city.)


- Sneak Peek Paris -

For months, I've been dreaming of a return trip to Paris! My September girl's trip was just picture perfect! The romantic city graced me and Kayla with pleasant weather, tasty wine, balmy evenings in front of the Eiffel Tower, friendly (and super helpful) people and an insatiable itch to return as soon as possible. Chris' office closed over the Thanksgiving holiday, so we went to Paris! My best friend and I jumped into our car and made the two and a half hour drive to "La Ville-Lumiere" ("The City of Light"). 

I'm currently sorting through all of the pictures that we took, but here's a little sneak peek at how we kept ourselves warm in late November. 

There were already so many love locks - so we each took a jumping picture instead of adding to the clutter. 
Chris was trying to look like the Eiffel Tower here. Did he succeed?
"Paris is always a good idea." - Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina


Giving Thanks in Belgium

New friends and cosmos. 
My favorite holiday of the year has come and gone. The day that American families put differences aside to gather together and focus on gratitude and . . . well, football of course. Thanksgiving is more then a giant, turkey dinner for my family; a family of Ukrainian immigrants that worked tirelessly to build a life in America. I grew up hearing stories of how my father's parents miraculously made their way from Ukraine to China to the Philippines to Paraguay and finally to America. My grandfather was orphaned in China at the age of five, and he is immensely thankful for the opportunity that American gave a hardworking, orphan boy. My sweet grandfather tears up when he starts talking about his blessed life. He is a man who chose to live a beautiful life of thankfulness. Because of his example, Thanksgiving is a special time for my family.  

Thanksgiving 2011 found Chris and me around the table with new friends in Serbia, and this year we shared the holiday with three new friends in Belgium. Last year I searched high and low for a Serbian turkey and eventually just had to settle for chicken; but this year, I found a turkey! Well, at least I found part of a turkey. My mom visited Belgium the week before Thanksgiving, so she helped me season the turkey legs. She gave me detailed directions on preparing those legs, but unfortunately we didn't take my European oven into account. I think the oven is actually quite efficient, but the only issue is that all of the directions and prompts are in Dutch. I was scrambling to finish the meal when our three guests arrived baring gifts. They blessed us with Belgian chocolate and beer. Check out the way that the beer is displayed. 


Rodenbach Brewery Roeselare, Belgium

The Rodenbach Brewery logo - Roselare, Belgium
Beer really is not my thing; I typically feel bloated and some 10 pounds heavier after even half a pint of beer. I know, I know, I'm like the worst Belgian expat ever! You beer connoisseurs out there will be pleased to know that I am trying to find some love for Belgium's "water." Since moving to Roselare, Chris has convinced me to take a sip of every new beer he tries. Some Belgians claim that 1500 unique vintages are brewed in this country, and others claim that the number is closer to 2000+. Regardless of the number, there are a lot of very unique beers here. Chris has a whole lot of drinking (and I, a lot of taste-testing) left to do to get through all of them!

Since the Rodenbach Brewery is in Roeselare, I figured we should check it out as a future "show-and-tell" destination when we have visitors. It is pretty difficult to set up a brewery tour for a small group, but my friend, Ben, and I were lucky to join a tour that was being given to an Italian group. Unfortunately, my hubby had to work, but he'll eventually get a chance to visit the brewery.


Cologne, Germany

Inside the Cologne Cathedral (Kolner Dom in Cologne, Germany)

Cologne, Germany truly took my breath away, and we even visited too early to experience the Christmas markets - which I hear are some of the most magical ones around. (I am dreaming about a Cologne-trip-round-2 sometime this December. *Hint Hint* Hubby!) It was so much fun to explore a new European city with my college friend, Jesse, her boyfriend, Reece, and my wonderful husband. Our hotel was a bit out of the center of the city, but in late October, we were blessed with warm, "walkable" weather. In t-shirts and light cardigans, we started exploring the new city. As the four of us made our way into the center, we stopped for Italian pizza on a cozy terrace. It seemed that every terrace was packed with tourists and locals alike simply taking in the warmth and beauty of Cologne. 

As I mentioned here, you really cannot miss the spectacular Cologne Cathedral (or Kolner Dom). It is an impressive and massive structure that holds a prominent spot in the center of the city. The Cathedral is under construction, but for some reason, the scaffolding didn't take away from the grandeur of the Gothic landmark. One thing I really wanted to do was climb the tower for a panoramic view of the city, but unfortunately we arrived just as the observation tower was closing. Tourist fail! Apparently, you have you arrive before 5pm, get in line, pay three Euros, climb 500+ steps to the top, and get tons of awesome pictures. Sounded awesome to me, and I really hope to get back some day and tackle that winding staircase!


- Sneak Peek Cologne -

Stolen kisses at the Cologne Cathedral (Kolner Dom) in Cologne, Germany
Cologne, Germany was absolutely stunning! The weather was perfectly crisp and the city felt so young and alive. We meandered through busy shopping streets, enjoyed casual conversations with our best friends, stopped for pizza at a small Italian eatery and actually enjoyed outdoor seating in the middle of October! We eventually found ourselves here - at the Cologne Cathedral (or Kolner Dom) - and it is quite impressive! It doesn't hold the title of "Germany's most visited landmark" for nothing! It's pretty hard to miss this 515 foot tall (157 m) cathedral, and even in the midst of major renovations, the Cologne Cathedral is a marvelous gothic construction.

Of course, I took a million pictures, and I'll get around to posting them. . .

For now, I am busy taking care of my best friend. Chris came home from his last trip with a nasty cough. Sad days. I suppose we can count it a blessing that this is the first time one of the McCoy's have been sick since leaving America 15 months ago, but of course that "blessing" does not make Chris feel any better right now. I'm doing my best to find home remedies, and also taking my first trips to the Apotheke (pharmacy) in Belgium. I just hate seeing him so miserable! It's times like this that make me miss the familiar sights, sounds and drug stores of home. A little homesick - but this too shall pass!

Thanks for reading - and have a lovely day!


Bruges in Autumn Hues.

Me and Jesse taking in the beauty of Autumn in Bruges. 
This is my amazing, encouraging, consistent and beautiful friend, Jesse! She came to Belgium! Jesse really came to see us in Belgium!! Yippie! 

Jesse and I met (almost) ten years ago in the small college town of Wilmore, KY. It was in that small, Kentucky town that five impressionable, freshman girls - from very different places and very different stories - found in each other a family away from home. To this day, they are still my best friends; as a group, we've gone through ups and down, great joy and deep sorrow, boyfriend interviews and wedding proposals, bachelorette parties and bridesmaid dresses, new careers and huge life changes. Each of them have impacted my story. Jesse is one of those girls, and she showed me that it is far better to invest in a few deep friendships rather than spread yourself thin trying to "know" everyone. She is one of the most loyal friends that I have, and for that reason, I figured Jesse wasn't paying me lip service when she mentioned she wanted to hop on over to Europe.