Trip Review: Nashville

Good evening friends! If you follow us on social media, you know that we spent our weekend in Nashville as a bit of a “baby moon” before our son, Roman, arrives to meet us in September. As part of our blog, we want to do a thorough review of all of our trips in case you all decide it sounds like something you’d like to do in the future! In this post, we’re going to go over what all we did, what we enjoyed, and what we would change for next time. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

First: Accomodations.

During our visit to Nashville, we stayed in the Niido apartment complex (extremely AirBnB friendly), just a couple blocks from Broadway Avenue (for our foreign friends, this is the main area that Nashville is famous for). We use AirBnb for almost all of our travels nowadays, so it was a very good fit for us that the Niido building literally said “Powered by AirBnb” (I’m assuming AirBnB has some sort of ownership stake) on the side of it. Everything access related, from entering the parking garage to unlocking/locking your room, was done through Latch, and app that allows you to open doors and elevators through Bluetooth. This is extremely convenient for both owners and visitors, as there’s no need for a lengthy check-in, etc. The other thing that makes this attractive for renters is the fact that the complex will clean the room for you if you’re renting it out on AirBnb. We’re now actually exploring the possibility of renting one of these apartments for that very reason.

Because this apartment actually has a resident (who is currently residing in another state), we won’t post any pictures for privacy sake, but the apartment was about 800 square feet, extremely clean, and simply yet beautifully decorated. It was a one bedroom and one bathroom apartment, so perfect for what we needed for the weekend. Not only was the apartment extremely attractive, but its proximity to the center of downtown really excited us. We will definitely be checking Niido first when looking at future trips to Nashville. The last thing we’ll mention about the accommodations is the price. For this particular trip, we paid just about $70 per night, which is INCREDIBLE for the location and cleanliness of this place; however, this is mainly due to the fact that travel is low right now, and the pricing during other parts of the year are over $200 per night. I still think the place was beautiful, but we may have done some more research for other places had it been at that price point for the time being. All in all, our accommodations get an A!

Next: Activities

Most of you know that I (Madison), and a major foodie, so along with our activities, we’re going to include some of the restaurants we ate at, and which ones we would recommend to you!

Friday…..

We left for Nashville on Friday around 10:00 a.m. and stopped in Germantown, a section of Louisville, KY. I know, this isn’t Nashville, but the placed we stopped for lunch is a MUST HAVE if you pass through there on your way! We ate at a small place called Monnik Beer Company, which specializes in German food (makes sense, being in Germantown…). Rebecca ordered the Reuben, I ordered the Pork Schnitzel, and we split an order of fries that was smothered with gravy and beef that they use for their Sauerbraten. Let me tell you…..I’m a huge fan of German food, and this may have been the best pork schnitzel I’ve had in my life! If you’re ever driving through Louisville and need to stop for lunch, Monnik is an absolute must try!

After we arrived at our room and rested for about an hour, we went to a local restaurant/bar called the Listening Room, where each night, a musician has a private concert for what I’m guessing would be a couple hundred people. With social distancing guidelines and caps on how many people can be in one space, I’d say there were probably 50 people there, all at tables that were well over 6 feet apart. The music was amazing, and I’d invite you to check the artists out on YouTube if you’re able! Their names are Nick Wayne and Hannah Ellis if you’re interested. While the house lager was a great beer at the Listening Room, we went for something a little lighter to eat. We shared a small order of chicken wings and a small order of fries (I said “lighter,” not “light”). The fries were very good, but I do think the wings were pretty underwhelming. Granted, I think the main allure of this place is the live music, but I would definitely order something different next time. After that, we walked over to Broadway Ave. and found a great little dessert shop called Legendairy Milkshake Bar. To give you some perspective, their milkshakes are $14 dollars and are 16 oz, so I’d recommend you go here well after you’ve already had dinner! Our milkshakes were delicious, but neither of us finished half! After drowning ourselves in pure, sugar heaven, we walked back to our room and called it a night.

Saturday…..

We began the day by having breakfast at a local place called Milk and Honey, where Rebecca had the California breakfast sandwich, I had a sourdough breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg, and cheese, and we split a bowl of pineapple. I had to get some fruit in along with all the starch I was having (I had potatoes as my side)!

Rebecca was nice enough to schedule us a tee time at one of the nicest golf courses in Tennessee: The Gaylord Springs Golf Links. This was, by far, the best golf course I’ve ever played on, and while Rebecca wasn’t able to swing more than just a couple swings on the driving range, she had a blast driving the cart around and giving me advice on shots, which of course, I took! Neither of us are great golfers, so our collaboration was more sarcasm than anything else, but it was a great time nonetheless! One of the things we would have done differently is scheduling the tee time earlier. Ours was at 10:10 a.m., so it was extremely hot and muggy around noon. This is a really small thing to complain about, but it’s the only thing we would change about this particular activity. A short mention about lunch; we at lunch at the course (Madison: Grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap, Rebecca: Turkey Sandwich), and while there was nothing particularly special about it, they were just really good, refreshing sandwiches!

While we were extremely tired after golf, we wanted to do a little shopping at the Opry Mills Outlet Mall. I actually slept in the car for about an hour while Rebecca shopped! Yeah, I was that tired. Afterwards, we went back to the apartment for a nice, long, much needed nap! For dinner, Rebecca was really craving pizza, and we wanted to explore Broadway Ave. a little more, so we found a Mellow Mushroom right on the edge of the strip. I’ve had Mellow Mushroom several times before, but Rebecca had never had it, so this was a great choice! If you’ve never been, this is going to be a solid choice for you, day or night. I will add that while we were on the rooftop at Mellow Mushroom, the Black Lives Matter protest, which was labeled “I Will Breathe,” came through Broadway Ave., and Rebecca and I both admired as the group exercised their free speech and protested for justice for the murder of George Floyd. I did not feel it right of us to go through this entire post without mentioning this. We are deeply saddened by this situation, and we know that we can’t possibly understand what our friends of color go through on a daily basis, and we desperately want to raise our sons in a manner that reflects our character; that no matter what color someone is, we love and respect everyone equally, and we promise to take actionable steps to combat racism. Talk is cheap, so we intend to back it up!

Sunday…..

We called it an early night after having pizza for dinner on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we cleaned, packed, and took off, but first, we stopped for brunch at a small diner simply called, “The Diner.” I don’t recall what Rebecca ordered, and she’s asleep next to me as I write, so there’s no WAY I’m going to interrupt that! I, however, remember what I had! This was the first place that I got something native to the city…..Nashville hot chicken! Because it was brunch, I got the Nashville hot chicken Belgian waffles, and my oh my, they were so worth it. I will tell you though…..Nashville hot chicken isn’t for the faint of heart, so if you aren’t into spicy food, steer away! If you’re a spicy eater, however and you like chicken and waffles, this place is a must have on your stay in Nashville!

Last: Wrap-up

In conclusion, we had a successful weekend, and although it was supposed to be a surprise that Rebecca planned out (a notification from Google Calendar popped up the night before we left), we still enjoyed every bit of it! For future reference, the wrap-up section is where I’ll add in anything we would change going forward, and any advice we have for all of you. The obvious thing we would change first and being able to stay there longer. Nashville is an easy 4 and a half hour drive for us, so a weekend trip is definitely worth it, but we just would’ve liked maybe one or two extra days to enjoy the city. The next change we would make is giving ourselves more time to explore Broadway Avenue. There are so many cool shops, restaurants, and bars along this strip that I think having a full day just to visit all of them would definitely be something we do next time. The last thing we would do is take more advantage of the amenities at the apartment complex, but most of them were closed due to the pandemic, which is totally understandable. Our biggest piece of advice to you would be to build in some rest time! While it may seem counter productive to “not be doing something” while on vacation, the couple hours we took to rest on Saturday before dinner were incredibly valuable. The worst thing about a vacation is coming back home and feeling more exhausted and drained than when you left, so build in some time to relax and recharge!

Alright my friends, that’s it for our first ever Trip Review post! I hope this was of some value to you all. We look forward to several more posts like these, as the world continues to heal, and we get to experience the rest of this world piece by piece 馃檪 Love you all! Have a phenomenal rest of your evening!

Blessings,
Madison

Rebecca’s 5 Baby Moon Must Haves

This post contains affiliate links.

This weekend Madison and I will be traveling away for a Baby Moon! Currently, Madison doesn’t know where we are going, but I know he will love it! Below is my list of 5 things I’m most excited about taking along. Check back next week to hear Madison’s take on our surprise destination and traveling during a pandemic!

  1. Weekender Bag
Affiliate Link
Click on picture to shop – Purchased in Navy Blue

What I love:

  • A bottom compartment so my shoes don’t have to mix with my clothes.
  • 7 inside pockets for me to stay organized
  • Can be used with the arm or cross body straps

  1. Maternity Swimsuit
Click on picture to shop –Purchased in color Slate Blue

What I love:

  • Fits true to pre pregnancy size. I am 5′ 7″ and before baby #2 weighed 148lbs and ordered a size medium.
  • At 23 weeks my belly still has room to grow but it doesn’t look like it’s too big.
  • Modesty – with a growing bust I feel secure and covered.

  1. Hairdryer Brush
Click on picture to shop

What I love:

  • I can do my hair in 5 minutes or less!
  • My hair is pretty straight naturally and with this I don’t need to go over my hair with the straightener.
  • No concern about my baby burning himself with this like I have with my straightener.

  1. Summer Dress
Click on picture to shop –Purchased in Color: Z.hunterbr

What I love:

  • Lightweight material is my favorite about this! I’m always hot so I don’t want to sacrifice being hot for being cute.
  • Gathering under the bust dresses up this dress just enough to take from a day of shopping to dinner.
  • So many colors to choose from – I purchased Color: Z.hunterbr.

  1. Comfy Shoes
Click on picture to shop –Purchased color Black 1

What I love:

  • These are so comfortable! They have amazing foot-bed support which allows me to wear them all day long.
  • The leather is so tough and durable I know they will last me a long time.
  • They are very slip resistant which gives this clumsy prego peace of mind.

Bucket List #26: Sydney

Is it weird that the first time I ever wanted to go to Sydney was after watching “Finding Nemo?” Yeah? Okay, fine. Anyways, it’s great to be back behind the keyboard for something other than arranging a spreadsheet! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but with states allowing people to start returning to work, the preparation and training has begun, and along with that comes the mundane tasks like sort spreadsheets, basic cleaning, forecasting, and of course, chatting with vendors to see how the pandemic has affected their companies as well. All in all, being able to connect with all of you on social media and through some of the comments on our posts has been amazing, and it provides such a nice escape! As we’ve plainly stated here and on social media, we’d love to get to a point where we can travel and blog full time, but until then, work must go on! I will be updating you all with a schedule in the coming days so you know when to expect posts! I’m sure it won’t be daily as it was in the beginning of our lockdown, but it will be as frequently as it possibly can under the current circumstances. But with all that being said, I’m really excited to talk about Sydney! I’ve actually had a couple friends from high school that have lived there for an extended amount of time, and I get jealous every time I see them posting photos! Here are the 3 things we want to visit in Sydney, along with some local foods we want to try 馃檪

First: Sydney Opera House.

If you didn’t know this would be first, then you DEFINITELY haven’t read any of our posts before! That’s okay, we’ll allow it……this time. The theater is something very dear to my heart, and this is easily one of the most recognizable in the world. We would, without a doubt, be taking the guided tour, as the history is just as cool, to me, as the theater itself. Many a show will be taken in while on our visit to Sydney!

Next: Taronga Zoo.

While almost every place we’ve written about has had a zoo, we haven’t put those in our places to visit yet. However, seeing how much Griffin has loved animals lately (being around dogs and constantly screaming “Birdie!”), and being so intrigued by the Aussie wildlife, this would be a perfect place for our little family to go! With Rebecca being due in September, however, this trip will be one for a couple years down the road, as I would want Roman to be able to experience all of this with us as well 馃檪

Last: Hyde Park

Along with our little family theme of seeing the zoo, Hyde Park is a great place for Rebecca and I to get in some people-watching, and for the family to have a picnic! Hyde Park is also surrounded by beautiful buildings, including a few museums, so I can get my history fix in while we’re there. Fun fact that has absolutely nothing to do with this trip; I had my first ever taste of Wagyu beef at a restaurant near home called Hyde Park. Now that you learned something about me that you’ll literally never need to know, let’s move on to my always-favorite part of my posts: FOOD!

Here are a few things we want to try in Sydney!

  1. Beetroot burger
    • I admit, this sounds incredibly odd…If there’s one thing us Americans can lay claim to, it’s being the burger capital of the world. I can’t say I’ve ever even thought of putting beetroot on a burger, but I’ll never judge until I try! I just hope it doesn’t ruin a perfectly good burger……
  2. Kangaroo
    • To show you how uncultured I am, I literally had no idea that kangaroo was eaten until looking it up for this article! I’m always interested in trying meat other than the traditional beef, poultry, or pork. I sometimes find it difficult to get the “gamey” taste out of my mouth with certain meats, but I’m always down to try a new one!
  3. Fantales
    • Gotta have a sweet treat, right? Nice and simple, this is chewy caramel wrapped in milk chocolate….my favorite kind of chocolate! If it’s got caramel in it, I’ll eat it no questions asked!

That’s all I have for Sydney, my friends! I hope you enjoyed 馃檪 like I said earlier, I’ll lay out a schedule for you in the next couple of days, both so you know when to expect another post, and so I have something to stay accountable to! It’s been easy to let procrastination and “life” get in the way of cutting out time, but it’s a must, especially if we want to do this full time someday! Also, this is the first and only time I’ll mention this, but we added a plugin to all of our pages on the bottom right. It looks like a cup of coffee, and it will ask if you’d like to donate a “cup of coffee” to help keep the site running. We don’t want you to get bombarded with ads, so this is the path we’ve chosen for potentially earning an income through blogging. Like I said, I’ll (probably) never mention it again, but I just wanted anyone that reads this to be aware in case they were feeling extra generous one of these days 馃檪 Thank you so much for reading! Have a wonderful rest of your evening!

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #25: Quebec City

Out of all the posts I’ve written so far, I’ve yet to write about our friends to the North! There are actually a lot of places in Canada that I’d like to visit, so expect more form this beautiful country in the near future! Also, apologies for the length of time it’s taken me to get back on the wagon of writing these daily posts! Our state has opened up at 25% capacity, so we’ve just been getting things ready for an eventual return, and it’s taken a little cut into our time and energy, but I want to get back to a good routine for these posts! After all, there’s no shortage of bucket list destinations I have in store for you 馃檪 so, let’s talk about Quebec City! Here are the 3 things we want to do, and the 3 foods we want to try.

First: La Citadelle de Qu茅bec

Home to the oldest military building in Canada, La Citadelle was built in the 1820s (the modern portion), and was given to the Canadian government by the British in the 1870s. Since then, it’s been used as an active military site, and receives over 200,000 visitors every year. This is another cool place to watch the ceremonial changing of the guard. I’m not sure why I find that so interesting, but I’ve always had such an admiration for those that defend our countries, and this would be no exception!

Next: Observatoire de la Capitale

As the name would imply, this is an observatory that sits on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building. Anywhere I go that has access to a 360 panoramic view, you better believe that I’m going! We’ll also get to experience the interactive exhibits that go through this history of Quebec City, so I’ll get my historical fix as well!

Last: Carnaval de Qu茅bec

We have another Carnaval! I have talked about a carnaval since Rio de Janeiro, so this will be fun, albeit very different! This celebration takes place over two weeks in January and February, and is full of dogsled races, skating, sledding, and…..shiver……snow swimming! I’m assuming this is equivalent of what we call “Polar Bear Plunges,” but nonetheless, this sounds like an amazing celebration that we will attend! That solves our planning of when the trip will occur!

Speaking of which, Rebecca and I are finally planning another trip! While we are supremely aware that the world isn’t out of the woods yet with this crazy situation, we know that in 2021, there will be opportunities to go other places. Seeing how our baby, Roman, will be born in September, we’ll most likely want to keep it short, so I don’t see us leaving the States, but I’ll be sure to keep you all updated!

Now, let’s talk about some food we want to try in Quebec City!

  1. Poutine
    • I’ve had things that are similar to poutine, but never the real deal. Trust me, I will eat every bit of it in sight! Essentially, this dish is a combination of french fries and cheese curds, all covered in gravy. How this isn’t an American popularity is beyond me! My arteries will be disappointed, but my stomach won’t be!
  2. Crepes
    • They’re savory, they’re sweet, they’re basically whatever you want them to be, and we love them! My grandmother actually used to make us “pancakes” when we were younger, but looking back, they were actually very close to being crepes, so I’ve preferred them much more than anything else. I’m weird enough that I might make a day of crepes only out of this vacation. Sweet for breakfast, savory for lunch, and maybe a bit of both for dinner 馃檪
  3. Tim Hortons
    • I know, it isn’t a dish, but Tim Hortons will be a daily stop for us. Whether it’s just what’s sold to us on American t.v., or if Canadians actually love Tim Hortons as much as it’s broadcasted, I know exactly where I’m getting my cup of jo and morning doughnut!

Okay friends, that’s all we have for Quebec City! Like I said, expect more bucket list destinations from our friends to the North in the near future! I hope you all had a wonderful day, and that you have an even better tomorrow 馃檪

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #24: Krak贸w

I’ve been wanting to post about Krak贸w for a few days, but with us skipping bucket list #22, and wanting to spill a little about our quarantine experience, it got pushed to today. I was actually inspired to write about Poland by Rebecca’s sister-in-law, who was actually born in Poland, speaks Polish completely fluently, and has parents in the states that have lived in Poland their whole lives! I foresee another post about Poland in the near future (Warsaw, to be specific), but I want to start with Krak贸w due to the heritage of our sister-in-law! I do also want to address something really quickly. With my return to the office to continue preparing for what seems like a near return in our state, there isn’t nearly as much time to plan posts out or to write the post out, but I am still loving all of the writing. I wouldn’t consider stopping for anything, but I just wanted to make sure there was some context behind why there might not be as much playful banter at the beginning of posts, and why we might start jumping straight into our 3 attractions and 3 dishes. That being said, hopefully we could get to a point where writing would get us to the income level of being able to switch lines of work, but we’ll see what happens! Now, enough of all that, let’s get to the 3 things we wan to do on a trip to Krak贸w!

First: Schindler’s Factory

I’m sure most of us have seen Schindler’s List (we were required to watch it during my senior year of high school), and this is the very factory in which the movie is based. While some of the factory was converted into an art museum, much of it still remains intact from World War 2 times, and there are several pieces on display that were built by the workers and preserved through today. I’m extremely interested in World War 2 history, so this would be a fantastic place to start and learn on our visit to Krak贸w.

Next: Wawel Castle

You know I love a good castle 馃檪 this castle is not only gorgeous, but it was also the 1st ever World Heritage Site named by UNESCO. It was built between the 13th and 14th century, and there are several tours that can be taken through the castle. I’d be most interested in seeing the Royal Private Apartments, where you can see the chambers of former Kings, Queens, and other royalty.

Last: Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka is just outside of Krak贸w, and in this little town is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard of! One thing I learned about Krak贸w is that it’s growth was heavily due to the production and sale of salt, and the Wieliczka Salt Mine was a big factor in that growth. The cool thing, however, is that inside of the mine is a 465 square meter chapel, known as St. Kinga’s Chapel, and it’s made entirely of salt! It’s more than 100 meters underground, and parties/events can be held there holding a maximum of around 400 people. Pretty cool, huh?

Alright, that’s really cool, but what’s even cooler is the amazing food we’re going to try! Here are the 3 foods we want to try while in Krak贸w.

  1. Every single pierogi in Poland
    • Sure, I’ve had some at restaurants, and I’ve even had the frozen ones that you can get at any supermarket, but I NEED some real, authentic pierogies! I’ll be sure to eat enough for both you and me 馃檪
  2. Bigos
    • A traditional holiday stew (again with the soups and stews), this is made with sauerkraut and usually given volume with kielbasa and pork. Can I have 3 bowls? No? Okay…
  3. Paczki
    • I have to throw in a dessert, right? Paczkis are basically the same as American donuts, but lighter, fluffier, and slightly less dense. According to roaduntraveled.com, this is due to the dough containing a tiny bit of grain alcohol so the oil doesn’t absorbed when being cooked. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take one filled with raspberry jam please!

Honorable mention: Beer. That’s all 馃檪 Poland has a very happening beer scene, and as an avid beer drinker, this is my complete list of honorable mentions!

Okay friends, that’s it for Krak贸w! Also, make sure to tune in to tomorrow’s post if you’re interested in hearing about the theme for next week! Hope you all have a great rest of your evening 馃檪

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #23: Natadola Beach, Fiji

I must admit, friends, there has been somewhat of a lack of motivation on my part yesterday and today. It could be the lockdown, it could be the joy of finding out we’re having a baby boy, or it could just be “one of those days.” In any case, I chose to skip yesterday’s post to celebrate us finding out that Griffin will be a big brother in September, and we’ve chosen to name him Roman Ray Foster! If you follow us on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know this already, but we just wanted to share it with those of you that haven’t seen it yet. Today’s post will be slightly different in the sense that I’d like to write about EXACTLY what I want to be doing at this moment. All of my ‘bucket list’ posts are places that I would love to see, but not all of them are things I want to do right this second. I’d like to plan them out and make sure we’re ready for it. For today though, this is what I wish I was doing to decompress from this lockdown. There are so many people that have had it more difficult that we have, and we are so unbelievably blessed to have had good health through this whole situation, but the recent week has become a little draining on our mental state. We’re still staying positive, but this is where I want to be to chill out and let go for a while 馃檪 Here’s what we want to do on a vacation to Natadola Beach in Fiji!

You’re gonna love this……

Are you ready?

Just. Do. Nothing.

Yes, I did realize that that sounds like a cop-out, but I’m saying it anyways! One of the things that’s been difficult about this lockdown is the amount of time we’ve been searching for something to do, without letting ourselves just do nothing for a while. All of the parents will shout “AMEN” when they hear this, but having a toddler that does nothing but go makes it difficult to stop and do nothing at any point in the day, but especially when both mommy and daddy get to be home to play with him all day long! When I first wrote, “Just. Do. Nothing.,” I thought to myself, how does that even make sense right now? We have all day to do that, right? However, I can confidently say that we’re both more mentally drained right now that we’ve ever been.

To be 100% honest with you, when this lockdown first started, I was looking forward to the extra time at home with Rebecca and Griffin. I’d been telling Rebecca lately that I wish I could be home more and that my goal in building our business (and now this blog) was to ultimately free up our location requirements that are attached to our income, that way I can be with them wherever we want and still be able to work. The first few days were magnificent! Obviously, we were devastated at what was happening in the world, and we will never take that lightly, but I was able to be home with that all day long with nowhere else to be, even if it was a governmental mandate. I got to play with Griffin as much as I wanted, which I’m sure was a nice change of pace for momma, and her and I were able to go on walks together and spend much needed time together. However, there came a point, and everyone will know what I mean, when it felt like every day started to blend together: Go to be early because there was nothing to do, wake up late because there was nowhere to be, eat breakfast, play with Griffin, lunch time, nap time, play some more, dinner, and off to bed again.

Let me continue to make this clear….we’re so grateful that we’ve maintained our health so far, and we’ll continue to do what we need to do to make sure that stays the same for us and for those around us. That being said, we know we aren’t the only ones who have struggled with mental health during this situation. Here are a couple reasons why we want to go to the beach and do nothing for a little while:

  1. Mental health status
  2. We’re firm believers in “change is as good as a rest,” so even though we aren’t doing a ton right now, I think doing “not much” somewhere else that’s not home would feel fantastic, and…
  3. We’ve had so many vacation plans ruined over the last two years, we’re just ready for one to work out, even if it means flying somewhere with no agenda! We’ve had plans to go live in Europe for 3 months foiled, a trip to Disney that was interrupted by life, and another trip we were going to do to Disney this fall, which, for obvious reason, won’t be happening.

We just need a win when it comes to the travel department of our lives! Don’t get me wrong, we love being together, we love living in Indiana, and we’re genuinely happy people, but we just want to do life together in a different place sometimes, and that’s where Fiji comes in 馃檪

Natadola Beach is widely regarded as the most beautiful beach in Fiji, so if we’re gonna fly all the way around the world, it might as well be the best! Here’s my ideal beach day:

We wake up, not too late, but not so early that we don’t feel refreshed (maybe 8:30 a.m.). We go grab breakfast, preferably one that includes some orange juice that may or may not be spiked….go out to the beach and toss the football around with Griffin. He can’t play catch quite yet, but he sure loves throwing the ball and going and getting it by himself! Then, we take that perfect Instagram photo, you know, the one where we’re looking out at the water with just our legs visible in the picture to let you know we’re really there? I like to be out in the water with my chair, enough that is brushes up underneath me, but doesn’t take me completely under. After beach time, we go to lunch and take a nap. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, we all need a nap on vacation! After nap time, I’m think some sort of attraction like zip lining in Nadi or taking a Fijan day cruise. I know it’s not “nothing,” but it’s more relaxing and less brain power than taking in a museum (I still love them, I just want to take my ‘nothing’ vacation first!). Afterwards, we go to dinner at one of the local restaurants. I want to go somewhere in Nadi that’s full of authentic Fijan cuisine and not geared for tourists (I’m seeing a restaurant called “Tu’s Place” that’s popping up frequently). After dinner, it’s back to the beach for an hour or two to take in the beautiful sunset. THAT…is my perfect day at Natadola Beach 馃檪

Thank you for reading! Love you all!

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #21: Geneva

Hey friends! I’m excited to be back writing today! It’s always fun to do Friday’s post knowing I have a couple days off from doing another one, but by the time Monday rolls around, I’m ready to get back after it again! As you can see by the title, today is going to be about Geneva, Switzerland! I don’t have a particular theme for this week, so I just want to write about some cool places that have been on my mind. Geneva is particularly at the forefront of my mind right now because I was invited to go there with a friend in the first week of June. We had a trip planned to go back to Ireland and do some mission work in Cork, but that was going to be preceded by a week outside of Geneva, enjoying Switzerland’s beauty. Sadly, the Switzerland part of the trip will be out of the question, as there are just too many unknowns when it comes to whether or not travel restrictions will be lifted, and if there will be any time to make plans once they are. The Ireland part of the trip is a little more likely because it’s a week later, but we also want to respect whatever laws and recommendations are put in place during this time. I hope it works out, but if not, there’s always next time. With all that being said, let’s dive into the 3 things we want to do on a trip to Geneva!

First: Temple de Saint-Pierre

If you’ve followed this blog for any period of time, you know by now that historical Roman Catholic churches are one of my favorite pieces are architecture. Because Europe is so rich in these kinds of buildings, I almost make it a point to seek out the most famous one in each destination I write about, and Saint-Pierre is no exception. It was built in the mid 1100s as a cathedral, and was changed into a protestant church during the Reformation. It’s also noted that the chairs used by John Calvin still exist inside the Temple, as much of the original altars and paintings were removed by Calvin’s followers.

Next: Palais des Nations

This beautiful complex of buildings is the home of the European headquarters for the U.N, and is also the 2nd largest U.N. building in the world, behind that of New York City. Fun fact for how busy this place is: In 2012, this building hosted over 10,000 transnational meetings! As a mecca of world communication, this would definitely be somewhere we’d want to take a guided tour! On their website, it says you can take a guided tour that will last about an hour, so this is a must-do for us!

Last: Bask in the beauty of Lake Geneva

Every single picture I’ve ever seen of Lake Geneva is simply stunning. While I don’t know if this necessarily counts as an “attraction,” I very much believe that enjoying the beauty of another country fully satisfies that requirement. With an amazing view of the Alps, this would be a spot to take some amazing pictures to last a lifetime!

Hey, I did a post without a museum! Don’t worry, they’re still in my honorable mentions 馃檪 I’d love to visit the Ariana Museum and the Patek Philippe Museum to learn more about the making of beautiful Swiss timepieces!

Alright, now let’s move on to the food! Here are 3 foods we’re going to have while we’re in Switzerland!

  1. Raclette
    • This has easily been the most common one I’ve seen while researching. Basically, this dish is a raclette cheese wheel that’s served with the purpose of melting it to scrape the cheese onto your plate/whatever food you’re pairing it with. Most traditionally, it’s served with potatoes, pickles, and dried meats like salami.
  2. All the Swiss Chocolate I can get my hands on
    • I promise I’m not being lazy, this literally just doesn’t need any further explaining
  3. 脛lplermagronen
    • This is basically the same things as potatoes au gratin, except under the gratin includes macaroni, onions, cream, and addition cheese, all served with a side of stewed apples. I can’t say I’ve thought of stewed apples as a side, but it sure sounds great!

Alright you awesome people! That’s all I have for Geneva! Again, I’m super bummed that it won’t work out for me to be able to go, but I’m excited to go some day when I can take the whole family and not just go with my friend 馃檪 I hope you all had a great start to your week! Have a great rest of your evening!

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #4: Cardiff

Yes, I’m staying in the United Kingdom with today’s post, and yes, I will venture out into other parts of the world. This, however, is my obsession at the moment! I imagine that Rebecca and I will eventually take Griffin (and baby #2) on a big trip to Europe at some point. I honestly feel like I could move to the UK for a little while to get ingrained in a culture other than the U.S. (I love the States, but I just think it would be super fun to live somewhere else for a while). The trouble with that is how much Rebecca and I want want Griffin to have a great relationship with his grandparents and cousins that are all within 45 minutes of us. For now, I’ll settle for small chunks of time. Today, I’m going to be talking about Cardiff, Wales, a place that I didn’t know much about until a few months ago. During the fall of 2019, Rebecca and I decided that we really wanted to go on a long vacation. Meaning, we wanted to be away for a month or so. I don’t know what really got us to that point, but we just wanted to get away. We began looking for destinations, from South American places like Buenos Aires, to many different European places like London, Rome, Brussels, and Copenhagen. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an opportunity to do this because of normal life circumstances, but the one place that we both seemed to like while doing some research was Cardiff. It’s difficult to explain why, but Cardiff didn’t seem like the place someone would think of when planning a trip to Europe. That made it more exciting because it wasn’t really a mainstream destination. However, when comparing the costs, along with the fact that we had Griffin going with us, this seemed like a nice place to take a family. Here’s my top places I would HAVE to go to if and when we visit Cardiff!

First: Cardiff Castle.

Are you noticing the same thing I am with all these places in Europe? Castles! They’re freaking amazing! I’m so mesmerized by the history behind these castles; how old they are, who once lived here, the wars that took place around them, everything about them! The Cardiff Castle is the top rated destination in Cardiff on several websites I visited, and I couldn’t be more excited to visit when we go! From what I’ve been reading, this castle was built in the 11th century (which is insanely old in it’s own right), and the land it was built on was a 3rd century Roman fort! I’m nerding out so hard right now. I still can’t believe how much I love history compared to when I was in school. I used to dread it. Now, I can’t wait to dig deeper on a particular landmark and find out not only what, but also, who, when, and why! If you like history at all, I implore you to research this castle! Even if it’s just on Wikipedia or something like that. This castle has been through almost 1,000 years of history. It’s crazy to me how old we think people are that are 100, and all the history that they’ve been through. This place has been here for almost 10x that!

Next: Principality Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium.

I told you, I’m a sports nut! Principality is where the Welsh rugby team plays, and boy do the Welsh take rugby seriously! Also, fun fact, I had no idea that the people of Wales were referred to as Welsh until Rebecca and I researched this trip. Then we have Cardiff City Stadium, where Cardiff City FC of the English Football League Championship (one step below the top league in association football) plays its home matches. About a year ago, I would turn on the tv on Saturdays before college football would start. During that time, other than listening to previews for the day’s games, the only sport on would be rugby from the Six Nations Championship (a rugby league in which the national teams from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, England, and Italy play each other). I became fascinated because the object of the game seemed so simple, although I’m sure it’s much more complex. I really enjoyed these parts of my morning because I was able to watch something that most Americans don’t really care about unless they’re from another country. The Welsh rugby team is the current champions of the Six Nations Championship, and they have the most overall titles out of the six nations that compete. How’s that for intense?! Another thing I’d love to take in is a football/soccer match from Cardiff City FC. What would be even more amazing is to see a match between Cardiff City and Swansea City, their biggest rival located about an hour west of Cardiff, and the 2nd largest city in the country.

Last: EVERY OTHER CASTLE!

I know, this feels like a cop-out answer, but I genuinely want to visit so many of the castles in or near Cardiff. I read that Wales has the highest concentration of castled in the UK, and there are dozens of castles within an hour drive of Cardiff. How amazing! I can’t write in detail about all of the castles, but here are the ones that make my list! 1) Caerphilly Castle, built in the 1600s and only 15 minutes from Cardiff. 2) Castell Coch, built in the 1800s on a site that had originally built a castle in the 1000s, and only a 20 minutes drive from Cardiff. 3) Ogmore Castle, built in the 1100s and just over 30 minutes from Cardiff. 4) Raglan Castle, built in the 1400s and about 40 minutes from Cardiff. And lastly, 5) Chepstow Castle, one of the the oldest castles in Great Britain, built in 1067, and less than 40 minutes from Cardiff! I seriously think I could take a trip to Wales and do nothing but castle-hop the entire time. What amazing works of art and centers of history.

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #3: Belfast

I admit, right now, I’m obsessed with Europe. Most of the travel bloggers I follow have an affinity towards tropical places, which is totally fine! As I’m able to get out and see more, I’m sure my taste in destinations will evolve as well. For now, however, I’m stuck on Europe! The idea to write about Belfast comes from my trip to Ireland. While I was at the Summerfire Conference in Cork, Ireland, there was a family from Belfast that our group got to know. They were extremely kind, and the way they described Belfast made me want to go so badly! One thing that still baffles me is how close most places are in Europe. While in Cork, we were only about 4 hours from Belfast. It would take me longer to get from Indianapolis to Canton, OH where we visit family 3 or 4 times a year. Anyways, let’s talk about Belfast!

First: Titanic Belfast.

Other than having seen the movie, Titanic, I literally knew nothing about it until going to Ireland in 2018. It was here that I learned the Titanic was built in Belfast, and that it’s final docking location was Cobh. I’d never really equated the movie to real life places until I saw the exhibit in Cobh. At Titanic Belfast, there are guided tours that take you around the dock, the slipway, and there’s also admission to the SS Nomadic, which was the Titanic’s tender. I actually had to do a fair amount of research on ship terminology while preparing to write today (mostly because I’ve never been around ships before, other than taking one little ferry from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas). A ship’s tender refers to a larger boat that’s responsible for transport people and supplies to and from the shore/other boats to this particular ship. This being said, by boarding the SS Nomadic, you’re boarding the ship that actually took passengers and their luggage to and from the Titanic. This ship has a very long and colorful history, but it’s relationship to the Titanic definitely gives it it’s allure.

Next: Crumlin Road Gaol and Ulster Museum.

Yes, these are two different places, but I lumped them into one point because I have the same goal with each: learning more about “The Troubles.” If you aren’t familiar with The Troubles, this is a conflict that took place from the 1960s to the late 1990s with the primary problem being that one side wanted to separate from the UK, and the other side didn’t. This sometimes gets labeled a religious war because one side was predominantly Protestant, and the other was predominantly Catholic, but the religious aspect wasn’t the primary reason for fighting. This is my understanding on the conflict from my research and from a couple conversations I had with people during my time in Ireland. If I’m in any way wrong about my claims above, please call me on it by dropping a comment below! The two places I referenced above as destinations are listed as opportune places to visit if you’re interested in learning more about The Troubles, which I most certainly am. The Crumlin Road Gaol (aka, the Crum) is a Victorian Era prison that was closed from holding prisoners in 1996, but holds a ton of historical value. What I’d be interested in is a tour called the Crumlin Road Gaol Troubles Tour (learn more about it as this link: https://www.inyourpocket.com/belfast/crumlin-road-gaol-visitor-attraction-conference_27950v). The Ulster Museum is another great place to go to learn about The Troubles. This museum, however, also has a number of great things, including fine art, sculptures, and a 2500 year old mummy. On Friday, March 20th, 2018 (20 year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, effectively ending the Troubles), the Ulster Museum opened a new gallery called “The Troubles and Beyond,” providing images, objects, and perspective into what happened in those three decades, and how the country has moved past it into the present day.

Last: The Parliament Buildings.

The Parliament Buildings in Northern Ireland are gorgeous. They’re located on the Stormont Estate, which is home to the Stormont Castle, Stormont House, Parliament Buildings, Dundonald House, and a few other government buildings. The property as a whole is astonishing. The Parliament Buildings are revered as somewhat controversial, however. Sinn Fein, a political party in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, claimed that the building was too closely associated with Unionist rule (political party that professed loyalty to the United Kingdom). From what I’ve read, they were the only party concerned with this, so the call for a new parliament building diminished. My interest in visiting the Parliament Buildings comes from a renewed political interest that I’ve discovered in the last 3-4 months. I have my views on politics, but I’d like to think of myself as a very open-minded person that’s willing to have a conversation and learn. This drives me to learn more about the government and political systems of other countries from a non-judgmental perspective. Almost every system has its good and bad, so this would be a deeper dive into the political climate of Northern Ireland that I would find extremely enjoyable.

Here’s are some honorable mentions that I’d certainly like to visit when we visit Belfast, but I just didn’t include them on my three writing topics!

The Belfast Castle, Grand Opera House, St. George’s Market, and again, having as much food as possible that’s more native to Northern Ireland! I hope you enjoyed today’s post, have a great rest of your day!

Blessings,
Madison

Bucket List #2: Paris

As much fun as I had writing about Rome yesterday, I’m even more excited to write about Paris! I feel like I’m getting all the traditional American cliches out of the way early, but this is definitely somewhere I’ve always dreamed of taking the love of my life! I don’t know about you, but I feel like ‘romance’ or ‘romantic’ is almost synonymous with Paris, at least in the eyes of most Americans. Similar to yesterdays post, I’ll take you through three places in Paris that I’d love to visit WHEN I go. Also, hold me accountable to using the word “if” when speaking about the places I’m going to go. I’m going to speak it into existence by saying “when” instead of “if.” Cheesy, I know, but it’s gonna happen! Anyways, I know there’s no possible way I can cover all I want to do in Paris, so this would also need to be a multi-week trip. I feel like I’m going to say that about everywhere I choose to write about! If you’ve ever been there and have some insight as to what our family should do, shoot me a comment on here or on social media!

First: Eiffel Tower (Duh).

Would this be anywhere but first on my list? Until researching about Paris (and France as a whole), I really didn’t know much about it other than the Eiffel Tower! When researching it some more, however, I learned some truly fascinating things about this tower! The idea was for the tower to be designed to serve as an entrance into the World Fair. This tower was only supposed to last for 20 years, and was widely criticized as a “monstrosity” (planetware.com) when it was first constructed. This, however, became the most recognized structure on the Paris skyline, so naturally, it was left to bask in its beauty. Along with visiting the tower comes my desire to sample as much French cuisine as possible, and this would be a perfect place to visit Le Jules Verne restaurant. This Michelin-starred restaurant sits on the 2nd level of the tower, and has a panoramic view of the Paris architecture. Trust me, when we go to Paris, this will be a no-brainer (and I’ll even take lots of pictures for you all, now that I actually remember)! I did read that the restaurant does not oblige its guests to wear suits or ties, but that casual wear like shorts and t-shirts would not be acceptable, so this would be an amazing place to get a phenomenal, formal meal with Rebecca, and to view the gorgeous skyline.

Next: The Louvre.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that my feelings for fine art were really discovered, and even then, those feelings would put on hold for four years while I played baseball in college. After being out of college, I’ve rediscovered the love I have for almost all fine arts, and that’s why the Louvre is on my ‘must-do’ list when I visit Paris. As I’ve already discussed, I’ve also become somewhat of a history junkie in the last few months, so seeing sculptures and paintings dating back to the 17th century would just be incredible. The thought of standing in front of a creation that someone actually made over 400 years ago gives me chills just thinking about it. I can’t imagine actually seeing it up close and personally. I do admit, as a newly found history buff, things like this elicit an emotional response inside of me that I didn’t know existed for a long time. Of course, the Mona Lisa, would have to be at the top of my list, but I have been reading that the process for actually seeing the piece is excruciatingly inefficient. From what I can tell, the closest anyone can get is about 12 feet, and that the room where it’s exhibited is suffocating when at capacity, as it usually is. I’ve never been, so I can’t make any judgment, but this will be one thing I keep in mind when the family goes. Even if it’s annoying, I can’t not see arguably the most famous work of art in world history. For you major art fans, don’t judge me for saying that. I’m just an average and ordinary person, and I’d bet 4/5 average people like me would say Mona Lisa if you asked them to name a work of art off the top of their head. If I’m wrong about that, let me know in the comments 馃檪 .

Last: A football match at Le Parc des Princes (home stadium of Paris Saint-Germain).

I know it seems odd that I’d put this ahead of other amazing things to do in Paris, but above all, I’m a gigantic sports fan! PSG’s stadium holds about 50,000 people, and as amazing of an environment it was to see an MLS match in Cincinnati, I can’t imagine what it’s like watching one in Europe! Ultimately, I want to see some Premier League matches, but I’ll save those for future posts! PSG is one of the most well known clubs in the world, and is by far and away the best team in the French league right now. They’ve won 2 league titles in a row, and 6 of the last 7. I know it’s beginning to sound like I’m making things up, but being a soccer fan (sorry, as an American, it’s confusing on whether or not I should say soccer or football!) is something that really started about 2 years ago. I went to some obligatory matches in college because my then-girlfriend was on the school team, but I never got into it as an actual fan. Sure, me and my roommates played FIFA all the time in our apartments, but I would never go out of my way to watch a match on TV. That changed about 3 years ago, but this year in particular, I would literally wake up early on Sunday mornings to watch the matches going on in the English Premier League before we went to church (or after, depending on which service we went to). Back to PSG; the stadium looks immaculate from the pictures I’ve seen, and this would be an absolute thrill to see one of the best clubs in the world up close!

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there are other things that will 100% be done on this trip, for example: The Notre Dame cathedral, Palais Garnier, Luxembourg Gardens, and like I said earlier, as many cafes and bistros as possible! I get so excited when writing about this stuff that I think we just need to move our family to Europe for a couple years (shh, don’t tell Rebecca, I have to work my way into that one!). Anyways, thank you so much for reading! As always, comment here or on social media about your experiences in Paris! I’d love to learn from every one of you 馃檪

Blessings,
Madison