Foggy London Town

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Last week Adam and I spent a week in England with Adam’s best friend Kyle and his wife Katie. We hadn’t seen them since we attended their wedding last October (in which Adam was best man, ahem) so it was a treat to catch up with them overseas. They are both so funny and easy going, which made traveling fun and low-key. We passed around a bit of a summer cold (that actually knocked me out all this week…), but despite feeling under the weather at some points, we had a great time exploring London and the Cotswolds.

While in London we stayed in an Airbnb in the Notting Hill/Kensington area, which was beautiful and quiet. Our flat was pretty close to Portobello Road with all its markets, shops and restaurants. We did some poking around in the area and had a great meal at e&o on our first night. I’d highly recommend ordering just about everything on the starter menu and the fried brown rice with whatever unique main you choose.

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We also gobbled up very juicy burgers covered in American cheese and something called “freddar” from a chain called Byron. It’s certainly unexpected and not at all sexy to get cheeseburgers in England, but a really good one (washed down with root beer!) is a rarity here so we like to grab one while we’re out of the country. It turned out to be great fuel for moseying around the British Museum in the afternoon where we saw ancient Egyptian artifacts and dozens of very cute little British children in matching uniforms.

Of course no tour of the city is complete without popping into a dark, carpeted pub in the middle of the afternoon. We found a cozy one in the Lamb’s Conduit area and spent an hour there catching up. Resist the urge to sit outside, even if it is lovely. The whole point is to belly up to the old wooden bar or hunker down in a corner booth : )

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We also spent a little time around some of the bigger highlights, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. One could spend a lot more time at these places than we did, but there is just so much to see in that gigantic city and we wanted to keep moving.

I do wish we would have spent more time in the east part of the city, which is apparently “where all the action is”. But we did get an afternoon to walk the streets of Shoreditch and I liked seeing all the people knock off work with a beer and spill out onto the sidewalks during happy hour. We found a lush beer garden through an alley, which proved a popular spot for locals. There are cool boutiques and restaurants in this area and I think it might be a fun place to stay should we visit the city again.

That night we had the best dinner at 8 Hoxton Square and I can’t recommend that place highly enough. It was the perfect evening to sit outside and share some small plates before digging into bowls of pasta, juicy steak and perfectly cooked sea bass over panzanella.

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Our time in London felt very brief and honestly I’d like the chance to return for a longer period of time with a more condensed itinerary. I felt overwhelmed with all there is to do and see!

Have you been? What was your favorite part of the city? And what would you recommend for others planning a trip?

Day Trip to Blausee

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Our friends Claire and Brendan were here for a week and I’ve just recently received confirmation that they are back in the loving arms of their three beautiful, hilarious children. And while that makes me blissfully happy, I do sorta wish they were still here. They are one of my very favorite couples and their bright energy and non-stop laughs make them ideal guests. Claire and B, you are welcome any time.

We dodged a lot of rain while they were here but managed to get out for long walks around the old town, a trip up the Gurten for disc golf and trail walks, bocce in the Rosengarten, many a beer at our favorite local bar, and a couple of day trips, including one to Blausee. It was originally Claire’s suggestion, and Adam and I had never been so it was the perfect place for us all to explore.

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The mineral-rich lake is one hour from Bern, reached via train and bus. You can also drive there easily and park in the big lot in front of the entrance. I think we were all a little surprised to find a turn-style entrance into the lake and forest but it’s become a popular destination, meaning there’s a small CHF 8 entrance fee and opening/closing times you’ll want to be mindful of. Inside the forest you’ll find a restaurant, hotel, and spa, all of which are beautiful. Each summer they hold an open air cinema, which looks like a fun night in the woods.

There’s a local organic trout farm that feeds into the lake, though you can’t fish or swim in it. But you can go out on a glass-bottom boat and see through the crystal clear water nearly to the bottom of the lake.

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We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed sandwiches by the lake before taking off on the connection of trails and pathways. All the walks are very easy and would be fun and suitable for little ones; it took us just over an hour to walk all the trails. We relaxed at the restaurant with some cold drinks and a beautiful view of the lake before catching the bus back to Bern.

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I loved this day! Blausee (which literally translates to “Blue Lake”) is a very easy day trip from Bern and was so relaxing and peaceful. We had perfect weather and great company, making it an afternoon to remember.

A Boat Ride on Thunersee

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Last week I was joking with a friend who lives in LA that we finally reached 70 degrees and people were freaking out. It’s funny because it’s true. Friday through Sunday were blissfully perfect: 72 degrees and sunny. I think we all know by now how fleeting the beautiful weather can be in spring (the foreseeable forecast predicts rain every day for the next ten days and temperatures in the 50s) so we had better enjoy it while we can.

Adam and I have been talking for quite a while about taking a boat ride on the Lake Thun [“Thunersee” in German (pronounced TUNE-er-say). There are lots of different offers, from a Sunday morning brunch cruise to a Friday night fajita fest, but we went for the standard cruise from Thun to Interlaken, a two-hour ride. With a half-fare card the total is CHF 21.50 and if you get in line early enough on these especially lovely days you can snag a table and bring a picnic as long as you sit outside. (You can also reserve a table inside in advance, but you can’t bring your own food or drink.) We packed up bread, meat, cheese, fruit, Cheez-Its (!), and some cold drinks and met our friends Paige, Bryce, and Phil for the ride.

Before that, however, we stopped to walk around Thun, a very quaint city on the edge of the lake. Before moving here 6 years ago, I imagined this is what the scenery would be like: a modern mountain town on a lake, surrounded by snowy peaks.

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Thun is only 20 minutes away by train and it’s almost silly that we don’t come here more often. The old town is charming, and I’ve still never been to the castle, but I’m really interested in finding myself on the lake more often. In fact, if you were daring enough (and many, many people are), you can actually float down the Aare river starting in Thun and find yourself in Bern a few hours later. It’s a very popular summer activity and I won’t be too surprised if it finds its way onto our agenda this year.

And even if it doesn’t, I hope we’ll be back for another cruise.

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What’s a spring activity you’re looking forward to? Adam’s smoked pulled pork and we finally took our boat ride so I’m feeling pretty good so far. I’d love to get to the Rosengarten for a picnic dinner soon and fill up our flower boxes on the balcony!

Easter Weekend in Copenhagen

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Over Easter weekend, Phil, Adam and I, along with our friends Paige and Bryce, went to Copenhagen for the long weekend. Phil was the only person who had been there before so it was a treat for us all to see a new city together. It was cool and modern and bustling compared to Bern. I loved the architecture, those beautiful bike lanes, and the friendly people. Also, we ate such good food while we were there!

You may remember that we went to Amsterdam over Easter weekend two years ago and were pleasantly surprised by how alive the city was during the holiday weekend. Copenhagen was a bit different, and I think we were all surprised to find how seriously they took the religious holiday: stores were closed all day Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (though that’s normal), and though we left on Sunday night, it appeared as if they would be closed on Monday as well. So! That’s all to say, if you’re planning on a religious holiday weekend there, be prepared for a lot to be closed.

IMG_3850IMG_3854IMG_5237IMG_5241IMG_5243After checking into our Airbnb, which was on the border between the Frederiksberg and Nørrebro neighborhoods, we rented bikes and cycled to the Nyhavn port. The beautiful old port house have since been renovated into touristic restaurants and shops, but it’s fun to see some of the old ships lined up. This is also a great spot to start a canal tour if that’s something you’d like to do.

We found a couple of nearby trampolines for a quick bounce before heading to Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous district in the center of the city. Here you will find commune-style living, wooded pathways, cheap beer, and a “green light” district. It’s a quirky (and popular) place to visit during the day.

After a long day of cycling and walking around we had dinner at Thai Pan, a cozy restaurant right around the corner from our apartment. It has a view of the pond and I imagine it would be a great place to sit outside when it’s warm. I can say, however, that their food was excellent if you’re looking for delicious Thai.

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Friday was cool and drizzly so after a slam-dunk brunch at Mirabelle we cycled over to Den Blå Planet, Denmark’s national aquarium to escape the less-than-pleasant weather. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had this exact same idea and the aquarium was absolutely packed. I think we were the only adults there without children, and it was certainly an experience to visit the place during peak hours on a cold and rainy holiday. There were a few tanks of note (I loved watching the sea otters groom themselves), but it was really too crowded to enjoy much.

We headed back into town (note: you can take your bike onto the metro during all hours, except during rush hour, 5-7pm) and landed at Mikkeller for some tasty Danish beers. It’s a very cozy beer bar and brewery and we stayed here, mostly to enjoy an adult-only atmosphere, for a couple of rounds. Øl & Brød, the restaurant by the same group, is located next door and the menu looks fantastic if you’re looking to stay in the neighborhood for dinner.

That night we had a special dinner at RADIO. It’s a modern and relaxed restaurant located near the Forum metro stop, and three blocks from our apartment. Jesper, the head chef, once worked as a sous-chef for Noma, which was named the best restaurant in the world three years in a row. One can choose either a three- or five-course dinner, with optional wine or juice pairings. The three of us opted for five courses and loved it. I think we all agreed it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had: warm squid and celeriac “pasta”; cod with fried chicken skins, grilled romaine, and lumpfish roe; beetroot with dehydrated olives and smoked cheese; free range pork (so good it will make you weep) with grilled leeks; and carrots with camomile ice cream, caramel and meringues. The menu changes every two weeks so you’re always eating the freshest ingredients and they take such care with it all. It was a gorgeous presentation in a very comfortable restaurant and we’d highly recommend the experience.

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Our friends Paige and Bryce arrived from Geneva on Saturday at noon so we met at Torvehallerne KBH, a giant food hall located just outside the Nørreport metro stop. Inside each of the markets are dozens of food stalls carrying produce and ready-made items you can enjoy on the outdoor seating. Four of us went for Vietnamese, mostly because it’s something that is both delicious and impossible to find in Switzerland, and the bahn mis and steamed buns did not disappoint. Phil got fish and chips, which were just as delicious. We actually ended up here twice and it could easily serve as a meeting place or just a fun spot to relax and sample lots of local fare.

After lunch we walked to Stroget, a neighborhood packed with shops and boutiques. My friend Paige was specifically hoping to visit Royal Copenhagen’s flagship store and we managed to walk around inside and each pick up a matching vase. I had never heard of the gorgeous china before, but I’m happy to have a new, unique pursuit : )

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Lots more cycling ensued over the afternoon–we really earned all those treats– and we ended up at Warpigs Brewpub in the meatpacking district. The pub is a sort of sister restaurant and brewery to Mikkeller, so you’ll find a lot of the same beer flavors and vibes. What is totally unique to this place is their Kansas City barbecue! We sample some ribs and pimento cheese with hushpuppies (damn!), but they had loads of delicious-smelling barbecue on the menu and it would have been so fun to try it all. They have four different sauces–Carolina Gold, Kansas City, Alabama White, and Texas–and we were proud to discover they refill the Kansas City sauce the most. Obviously!

Dinner was just around the corner at Paté Paté and it was another big hit. They specialize in modern European dishes, served in a small-plates, tapas style. We went a little nuts and ordered a bunch of different plates for the table (smoked salmon, turbot, oysters, lamb, Danish mozzarella), yet still managed to finish it all, plus two desserts. Everything was outstanding, but we especially love the vibrant, boisterous atmosphere. It’s hard to find a place in Switzerland (at least in Bern) that has a young, hip energy, where you can be loud and a little ridiculous. It was fun to just have a big night out, which makes us sound like a bunch of old farts, but whatever ; )

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Phil flew out early Sunday morning, so the four of us went to The Standard for a fancy brunch, complete with edible flowers and a view of the canal. Technically we ate at Almanak, one of the four restaurant/bars in The Standard. It had a contemporary and cool interior and great views.

Afterward we walked through the botanical garden and geological museum. As I mentioned earlier, not much was open on Easter Sunday so there were actually quite a lot of people walking through the garden and park, which was nice. We had wanted to go to the Arken Museum of Modern Art, but didn’t budget enough time. We’ll be sure to check it out, as well as the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, on our next visit.

Adam and I flew out that evening and arrived back in Bern around midnight–long day! But, Copenhagen, we loved you! What a fun city with so much to do. I’d love to go back in warmer weather and enjoy sitting outdoors and maybe visiting the seaside.

Have you been? What else would you recommend? It’s such an easy flight from Zurich and I can definitely imagine visiting this city again, perhaps as a part of a larger Scandinavian tour.

A couple of helpful guides:

Hosting a Baby Shower

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This past Saturday I hosted a baby shower for my friend who is due with her first child in just a few weeks. It was my first time hosting such an event so I felt a little nervous going into it, but it turned out to be a lovely, casual day with friends.

Baby showers are actually extremely rare here in Switzerland. People are quite superstitious about celebrating a birth, or even a birthday, before the actual event. So there really isn’t much to go on in terms of traditional decorations, but my friend Nicole and I managed to find a few pieces to help make the apartment look fun and festive. We dotted the buffet table and our sideboard with little wooden animals that we later gave to Julie as a gift; I split up a few bouquets to make several flower arrangements; and we hung bunting and twisted streamers from the tables and shelves.

We kept the menu very simple (and pregnancy friendly!): crostini with fig jam, pear, and camembert; a cheese log with Carr’s crackers (ahem); mixed berries; a veggie platter (with Ranch dip smuggled from the US); mushroom and zucchini quiches; cupcakes; juice; sparkling grape juice and Prosecco; and coffee.

The mama-to-be requested no games or activities (by the way, the games I did look up are mostly horrifying: guess the candy bar in the diaper?! Beyond disgusting) so we ate and socialized, and of course, opened gifts. It was a really sweet afternoon.

Otherwise it has been a busy couple of weeks here lately. I applied for a position in a freelance network and decided to completely redo my résumé, which consumed several days. Have you done this? It’s exhausting! Then, my brother Matt came in town for a few days after some business in London and I was busy catching up with him and showing him around Bern (in the snow, rain, sleet, and cold 🙂 Thanks for pardoning me during that long radio silence.

I hope you’ve had a lovely couple of weeks! I’ll be back to posting regularly now xo

Skiing in Innsbruck

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We did it! We survived skiing! There were no wipeouts or tears, no blown-out knees, no hard feelings. There is still some lingering soreness, however, and we crashed hard after our day of skiing. Did anyone realize how much work skiing is?! ; )

Overall, we had a great trip to Innsbruck, Austria–though technically we stayed in a nearby suburb, Hall. Our hotel was very comfortable and had an amazing spa that was included in the stay. It had multiple saunas, steam rooms, aromatic showers, and relaxation rooms. My favorite room had four lounge chairs suspended from the ceilings, creating the most comfortable swing you can imagine. We opted to get massages on Saturday afternoon and they were just we needed to work out all the junk from skiing the day before.

(A word on European spa etiquette: it’s customary to visit these co-ed spas completely nude for sanitary and practical reasons, though that may sound counterintuitive to our American sensibilities. Since we were with friends, we decided to don our swimsuits, but don’t be shy to do as the locals do and go bare.)

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Our friends Nat and Nicole are expert skiers and they were incredibly patient with Adam and me. They reminded us of a few techniques and waited for us while we got our sea legs back, so to speak. The mountain had really good snow and the pistes were just right for our ability. And with cooperating weather, we really had the perfect day on the slopes.

But after a few hours we were beat. By mid-afternoon it got really crowded and I think we all started to get anxious with how many skiers were out there. We relaxed at one of the mountain restaurants with a couple of much-deserved après-ski treats (specifically big beers and Germknödel).

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Nat skied on Saturday but the three of us, and their young daughter Cora, walked around Innsbruck and enjoyed a big, delicious lunch at Stiftskeller, a beer hall serving hearty Austrian and German fare.

After our decadent spa afternoon we walked to Goldener Löwe, a restaurant in Hall’s old town. We would recommend this place for dinner, and encourage you to ask for the cozy booth in the corner.

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We got back on Sunday afternoon and after unpacking I got started on my new Sunday ritual. There were just enough chocolate chips for one big batch of my cookies, lucky us! I have to say, it was nice to have the apartment smell so delicious, and the cookies themselves turned out pretty darn tasty. They were the perfect end to a very fun weekend.

Is it cheesy to say that I’m proud of us? Regardless, I am. I’m glad we got up on skis and did something that made us both a little nervous. Everything—the weather, our energy level, our enthusiasm—coalesced into a feeling much like fun. I’m not making any promises, but I might not wait five years to try it again : )

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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IMG_6715I’m calling it! Obviously, it’s pretty early for most people to be talking about taking off for a Christmas break, but I’m beat and I’m calling it. Today I am headed to the US for the next two weeks and all I can think about is spending some serious quality time with my family and friends and staying far away from the computer and internet. Isn’t it time for a break?

This has been quite the year. I know that nothing will really change come January first, but I can’t help but anticipate that new year, new me feeling. It’s always invigorating, at least for me. For now I’ll be reflecting on all we have to be thankful for this year, especially my father-in-law’s incredible, miraculous recovery. On my gratitude list you’ll also find my beautiful family, of course, my loving husband, loyal friends, good health, macaroni and cheese, warm coffee (with frothed milk!), an intriguing book, an adventurous spirit, red wine, a long summer and mild fall, my comfortable bed, cozy socks, and Skype.

Do you have exciting plans for the holidays? Will you be traveling? Staying cozy at home and receiving loved ones? I have plans to watch a million movies with my sister, catch up with my mom over coffee, play with the triplets, see all my siblings and their sweet families, attend a plaid-themed party, decorate cookies with friends, playing mystery beers with Courtney, Jared, and Adam, have a girls night or two, and eat my face off while lounging on the couch at Adam’s house. It is the best time of year.

I’ll be taking at least the next two weeks off, if not more; though I’d like to get a little recap post up here before the end of the year. I want to be able to devote as much time to all the good parts about being home, so this space will be quiet. But, my guess is between parties, shopping, cuddling, caroling, eating and drinking, you probably won’t have much time for the internet either. Thank goodness!

Wishing you and yours a lovely, magical Christmas and holiday season. Until then!