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Travel Guides

48 Hours in Bruges, Belgium

For most people traveling to Belgium, Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp usually top the itinerary. But someone recommended visiting Bruges, so I booked an Airbnb, boarded the Eurostar in London and set off for the “Venice of the North.” The city, known for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings, was an absolute delight.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Market Day

Every Wednesday there is a food market in Market Square from 8a-1:30p. If you’re able to time your visit to be in town on a Wednesday, I would highly recommend a stroll through the market for some delicious, locally sourced food.

With only 48 hours in Bruges, here's how to plan your day: Climb the belfry, visit the Frietmuseum and Choco-Story, eat a waffle and more.

Walking Tour

I had an absolutely amazing experience with Legends Tours. Our guide was entertaining, incredibly informative, and I appreciated his tips on where to take the best photos in Bruges. If you only have 48 hours in Bruges I can’t recommend taking this tour enough. You’ll be able to see all the highlights, learn the history of the city, and get an idea of which places you want to go back and visit later in the day. Without my guide, I might not have found the Rozenhoedkaai quite so quickly. The Rozenhoedkaai is arguably the most picturesque spot for photos in Bruges.

Belgian Waffles

Even if you only have 48 hours in Bruges, I recommend eating Belgian waffles more than once. Because it doesn’t get more authentic than Belgian waffles in Belgium! My first stop was in Burg Square for waffles from the little waffle truck, Arlecchino By John. This might be the best waffle I’ve ever had in my entire life. But one waffle is not enough when you’re in Belgium, so I also stopped by Lizzie’s Wafels. These waffles are known for being extra-large and they come with delicious toppings…like caramel and white chocolate shavings!

Frietmuseum

An entire museum devoted to french fries? Count me in! You might assume french fries were invented in France based on the name, but they were actually invented in Belgium. So a made a visit to the Frietmuseum, complete with a batch of hot, fresh french fries. This is the first and only museum in the world dedicated to potato fries and it was a fascinating look at the history of fries…including the fact that they weren’t actually invented in France!

With only 48 hours in Bruges, here's how to plan your day: Climb the belfry, visit the Frietmuseum and Choco-Story, eat a waffle and more.

That’s Toast

Oh. My. Word. This avocado toast was a culinary delight that I’ve been dreaming of ever since. Breakfast is served all day and this is the perfect way to start a day in Bruges.

Belfry of Bruges

I always recommend climbing to the highest point possible in a city to take in the birds eye view of the city. The Belfry of Bruges houses 47 bells and the 366 steps lead you to the top of the 272 ft tower. The Belfry was built in the Market Square in the 1200’s, which is absolutely mind blowing for this California girl who grew up around buildings that were less than 50 years old.

With only 48 hours in Bruges, here's how to plan your day: Climb the belfry, visit the Frietmuseum and Choco-Story, eat a waffle and more.

Choco-Story

I’m not sure a trip to Europe would be complete without visiting at least one chocolate museum. And when you visit Frietmuseum, you get discounted tickets if you also buy tickets to the Choco-Story. There were chocolate tastings, demonstrations, and a look at the history of chocolate.

Belgian Chocolate

On our walking tour our guide pointed out these little signs indicating which chocolate shops are part of the Bruges Chocolatiers Guild. If a shop doesn’t have this little placard by the door then the chocolate could be imported from anywhere. A resident recommended a stop at Olivier’s for a chocolate tasting and it did not disappoint.

With only 48 hours in Bruges, here's how to plan your day: Climb the belfry, visit the Frietmuseum and Choco-Story, eat a waffle and more.

Travel Tips

If you’re planning to travel internationally without data on your phone, I highly recommend downloading Google Maps before you head to a new destination. The maps will work even when you’re off wi-fi! Downloaded maps helped me navigate

Ask the locals for recommendations. I popped into a shop to buy stamps and asked the clerk for his recommendations of the best things to do with 48 hours in Bruges. He recommended exploring the windmills and this helped me discover parts of the city I didn’t even have on my itinerary.

Literary Connections

Admittedly, there are not many books set in Bruges. However, if you want to read one, Bruges-la-Morte, although a bit dark, is probably your best option.

Interested in visiting other destinations in Europe? Be sure to head over here to see where else I’ve traveled.

What is your favorite European destination? What is at the top of your European bucket list?

With only 48 hours in Bruges, here's how to plan your day: Climb the belfry, visit the Frietmuseum and Choco-Story, eat a waffle and more.
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24 Hours in Bath, England

The first stop of my Europe 2019 trip was in Bath, England. With only about 24 hours in Bath, I knew I needed to make the most of my time! Fortunately I didn’t really have any jet lag so I could pack in the sights, sounds, and tastes for a memorable 24 hours in Bath, England.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

When I arrived I took a quick walk around town to get a little fresh air after two flights and a bus ride from LA to London. I grabbed a quick dinner at Franco Manca, courtesy of a suggestion from an England based blogger. (Travel Tip: Try to follow some local bloggers while you’re planning your trip for suggestions beyond the typical tourist spots.)

Beechen Cliff

I have learned while traveling that there are quite a few advantages to being an early bird, and gorgeous views without crowds is pretty high on the list. I started my morning with a hike to Alexandra Park and the views from Beechen Cliff. Being able to see the whole city from above, really allowed me to really see the distinctive coloring of the city. This coloring is one of the reasons Bath is a World Heritage City, not just one site being labeled a World Heritage Site, but the whole city collectively labeled a World Heritage City.

Roman Baths

When I think of the Roman Empire I think of the Mediterranean, but I forget that the Romans expanded all the way into the south of England. The Roman Baths are probably the most well-known attraction in Bath, so if you only have 24 hours in Bath, I would highly recommend a visit. Built by 76 AD, the Roman Baths are remarkable when you think about just how long they have been there. And no visit would be complete without tasting the spa water…I can’t say I liked the taste, but I can at least say I’ve tasted the water! One of my favorite views at the Roman Baths was from the corner where you could also see Bath Abbey.

Sally Lunn’s Eating House

I’m not sure a trip to Bath would be complete without eating a world famous Bath Bunn. There are countless blog posts arguing the merits of several different options in town, but I decided to go with Sally Lunn’s Eating House. As one of the oldest houses in Bath I figured this would be a good look at the history of Bath, and I was not disappointed. There are both Sweet and Savoury bunns and I went savoury because my brother would be so disappointed with me if I passed up a chance to have bacon.

Mayor of Bath’s Free Walking Tours

There are two things I like to do whenever I visit a new city, preferably early in my stay…(1) Take a walking tour and (2) climb to the highest point in the city. This plan helps me get the lay of the land, learn history I wouldn’t learn by just walking around on my own, and then seeing the landmarks from a bird’s eye view. Bath is unique in that there is truly a free walking tour available. The Mayor of Bath’s Free Walking Tours depart every day from The Roman Baths and the incredibly knowledgable volunteer guides are a wealth of information. Every tour is just a bit different so I will definitely do this again on future visits but I enjoyed visiting the Royal Crescent, Royal Victoria Park,

Bath Abbey

Climb the 212 steps to the top of the tower of Bath Abbey for an unrivaled view of the city. Throughout the climb we stopped to learn about the history of the tower, sit behind the clock’s face, and learn about the 10 bells in the tower. One of my favorite views at Bath Abbey was the reverse of my favorite view from the Roman Baths. Once you climb the Abbey you can see a great bird’s eye view of the Roman Baths.

With only 24 hours in Bath, here's how to plan your day: Bath Abbey, free walking tour, Roman Bath's, Sally Lunn's Bath Bunn, Royal Crescent and more.

The White Hart Inn

Dinner at The White Hart Inn came at the recommendation of my Airbnb host. I love getting recommendations from locals to help venture outside the tourist part of town. I feel like this gave me a chance to eat with locals instead of other tourists. My goat’s cheese, cheddar and chive souffle with rocket & parmesan salad was absolutely delicious. This salad marked the beginning of my summer-long love affair with rocket & parmesan salad. I also learned that it is easy to find a table without reservations if you are dining solo and willing to eat at 6p. Since I prefer to be up early, instead of out late, eating dinner at 6p works for me! Also, please note the iconic telephone booth…my British loving heart was happy!

With only 24 hours in Bath, here's how to plan your day: Bath Abbey, free walking tour, Roman Bath's, Sally Lunn's Bath Bunn, Royal Crescent and more.

Literary Connections

Frankenstein was written in Bath in 1816-1817 by Mary Shelley.

For fans of Jane Austen, Bath is a must-visit. The Jane Austen Centre is a small museum where you can learn all about the life of Jane Austen. For the full English experience, you can also stop for tea in the Regency Tea Room.

To see more of my European adventures head HERE and I’d love to hear…have you been to Bath? If you’ve never been, what looks most interesting to you? Have you visited a city similar to Bath that you’d recommend?

With only 24 hours in Bath, here's how to plan your day: Bath Abbey, free walking tour, Roman Bath's, Sally Lunn's Bath Bunn, Royal Crescent and more.
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What To Do in Solvang: 24-Hour Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Southern California can be overwhelming because there are endless options. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of Southern California I’d recommend hitting the pause button and venturing out to Solvang. You’ll be able to experience Danish culture and because everything is centralized in downtown Solvang you won’t need to use your car once you arrive. Here’s a look at what to do in Solvang when you visit to fully experience the Danish culture offered.

Little Mermaid Statue

The Little Mermaid Statue is located at the corner of Mission Drive & Alisal Road. The statue is a ½ bronze replica of the one that has been a fixture in Copenhagen Harbor since 1913. The Solvang version of the statue is the only one the heirs of sculptor Edvard Eriksen, who created the original, have authorized.

If you’re planning a trip to Southern California I recommend spending 24 hours in Solvang CA. Here’s your guide for what to do in Solvang!

Elverhøj Museum

You’ll only need to walk a couple blocks off the main downtown area of Solvang to experience the Elverhøj Museum. Their mission is to “ collect, preserve and exhibit the history and Danish culture of Solvang and to promote the arts.” The staff and volunteers do an outstanding job of accomplishing their mission! The Elverhøj Museum is located in the former residence of one of Solvang’s most artistic families so you feel as though you are walking through a home from the past. When I visited I was fortunate enough to not only observe a lace bobbin demonstration, but give it a try myself!

If you’re planning a trip to Southern California I recommend spending 24 hours in Solvang CA. Here’s your guide for what to do in Solvang!

The Book Loft with Hans Christian Andersen Museum

Be prepared to extend your trip beyond 24 hours with the next stop! It is quite easy to get lost browsing in The Book Loft. But trust me, it’s worth the stop! Downstairs in The Book Loft you’re able to browse and purchase new books. Then you can venture upstairs to browse their used book selection. And then you can take a walk around the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Known as the, “Father of the Fairytale,” Andersen is a Danish author known for classics such as The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen (better known today as Disney’s Frozen), The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Pastries and Windmills

Within a five block radius there are four large wooden windmills and five authentic Danish bakeries! So lace up your walking shoes and head out to explore and enjoy a pastry or two along the way.

If you’re planning a trip to Southern California I recommend spending 24 hours in Solvang CA. Here’s your guide for what to do in Solvang!

Old Mission Santa Ines

Established as the 19th of 21 missions along the El Camino Real, Old Mission Santa Ines offers stunning panoramic views. The mission is not a part of the Danish culture, but it is a part of California’s history and so well worth a visit.

Bonus Tip

If you have a little bit of extra time on your trip, make a quick stop at Ostrichland USA. Located just five minutes out of town, the ostriches are a unique stop. You can feed the ostriches and there are fresh ostrich eggs available all year-round!

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Road Trip Guide: Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Most Southern Californians, and visitors to the Golden State, think of the drive to Las Vegas as a boring trip through the desert. But, did you know there are actually a lot of things to do between Los Angeles and Las Vegas? If you’re planning a road trip from LA to Vegas, then this is your ultimate guide of what to see and do along the way!

How Far is Vegas from LA?

The drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is just under 300 miles and without traffic is a 4-hour drive. But since this is Southern California, unless you’re leaving at 10p, you’ll most likely hit traffic along the way! This guide has some great stops to help you break up the drive or to help you make the journey your trip.

California Citrus State Historic Park

The California Citrus State Historic Park is an open-air museum that is part of the California state park system. A stop at the visitor center will provide the background of how the citrus industry played a role in the history and development of California. It is a smaller museum so you don’t need to budget a significant amount of time for this stop. As an added bonus, a stop at the citrus groves won’t break the bank since you only have to pay parking…and that’s only $5! I highly recommend timing your stop to join one of the scheduled tours because otherwise you’ll just be wandering through the citrus groves. Just don’t pick any oranges…it’s an expensive fine!!

Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe

Step back in time with a visit to Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe where they’ve been serving hungry Route-66 travelers since 1947. Reasonable prices and delicious meals make this is a must-stop. But it’s not open all day so plan on having breakfast or lunch when you visit and be sure to take a pic of the Route-66 sign!

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

Quite possibly the only way to describe Bottle Tree Ranch is a forest of bottle trees between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. You can see the bottle trees from the road 24-hours a day, but it is open to explore from sunrise to sunset. The bottle trees are such a unique and beautiful form of art that it is well worth a stop…and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to chat with Elmer!

If you're planning a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas use this road trip guide to plan what to see and do from LA to Vegas.

Calico Ghost Town

Admittedly, Calico Ghost Town is quite touristy, but it’s a fun step back in time on your way from LA to Vegas. There are a couple of great lookout spots for scenic views of the desert, you can pan for gold, tour a mine, take a train ride and wander through an old western town.

If you're planning a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas use this road trip guide to plan what to see and do from LA to Vegas.

EddieWorld

Stop for gas and you’ll walk away with all different kinds of snacks and candy! You won’t be able to miss EddieWorld because it is marked by a giant ice cream sundae. Once inside you’ll fully understand the expression, “like a kid in a candy store.” EddieWorld has row after row of every type of kind you can imagine!

Zzyzx Road

A quick picture with this road sign is sure to help you win any game of the Road Trip Alphabet Game! And quick confession…I still don’t know how to pronounce this road!

World’s Tallest Thermometer

Coming in at 134 feet tall, this thermometer marks the 134° F record temperatures in nearby Death Valley. When I was little this was just a really tall thermometer…now there is a little gift shop/info center accompanying the thermometer so you’ll want to pop in and learn a bit more about the thermometer. Fun Fact: The thermometer weighs 76,812 pounds!

If you're planning a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas use this road trip guide to plan what to see and do from LA to Vegas.

Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains could also be referred to as Seven Neon Rock Piles. My first time visiting was right after this art exhibit opened and there were practically no other people around. Now you’re likely to encounter a decent number of people which can make it harder to capture the perfect photo for Instagram, but it’s still a fun stop. The contrast of these seven, giant, neon rock piles in the middle of the desert is a sight to behold.

Next time you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, enjoy one or more of these stops along the way!

If you're planning a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas use this road trip guide to plan what to see and do from LA to Vegas.
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Orange County Christmas Bucket List

After publishing a much loved Orange County Bucket List (seriously y’all…I love seeing your posts checking things off the list!) I decided it only made sense to create an Orange County CHRISTMAS Bucket List!! I am obsessed with the holidays and I love everything about the entire months of November and December. And Orange County has a lot to offer during the Christmas season…surfing Santas, tree lightings, ice skating, sledding, boat parades and the list goes on! So without further ado, the Orange County Christmas Bucket List…

November

Explore the Winter Wonderland of the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy (Laguna Beach, tickets required, five weekends beginning in November)

Santa watching at the Surfing Santa Competition (Laguna Niguel, FREE, mid-November)

Attend Fashion Island’s Holiday Tree Lighting (Newport Beach, FREE, mid-November)

December

Attend the Seal Beach Christmas Parade (Seal Beach, FREE, early-December)

Go sledding at the Christmas at the Mission (San Juan Capistrano, tickets required, early-December)

Take a candlelight walk at Heritage Hill Historical Park (Lake Forest, tickets required, mid-December)

Head out on the water for the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Cruise of Lights (Huntington Beach, tickets required, mid-December)

Holidays Around the World (Costa Mesa, mid-December)

Watch the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade (Huntington Beach, FREE, mid-December)

Attend the Golden West College Nutcracker Performance (Huntington Beach, tickets required, mid-December)

Snoopy House (Costa Mesa, FREE, mid-December)

Travel the world at the International Celebration of Christmas (Huntington Beach, FREE, mid-December)

Watch the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights (Newport Beach, FREE, mid-December)

Drive through the Living Nativity Drive-thru at First Christian Church (Huntington Beach, FREE, mid-December)

All Season Long

Drive through Christmas lights displays (Throughout Orange County, FREE)

Go ice skating at the Downtown Disney Winter Village (Anaheim, village is FREE, ice skating requires tickets)

Enjoy the falling snow at Knott’s Merry Farm (Buena Park, tickets required)

Visit the Joyeux Noël Christmas Boutique at Roger’s Garden (Corona del Mar, FREE)

Sledding at Winterfest OC (Costa Mesa, tickets required)

Visit The North Pole at South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, combination of FREE and tickets required)

Watch A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, tickets required)

Experience the Magical Flurries snow shows at Bella Terra (Huntington Beach, FREE)

Visit the Gingerbread Extravaganza at the Ritz Carlton (Laguna Niguel, FREE)

Have a cup of tea at Yuletide Tea at The Resort at Pelican Hill (Newport Beach, tickets required)

Ride the train at Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train (Orange, tickets required)

Explore the Science of Gingerbread exhibit at the Discovery Cube (Santa Ana, tickets required)

An Orange County Christmas Bucket List for the season! Boat parades, tree lightings, festivals and more ways to celebrate Christmas in Orange County
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Mission San Juan Capistrano

When I published my Orange County Bucket List and began making plans for how I could start crossing things off my bucket list, I knew one thing with certainty.  I had to begin at Mission San Juan Capistrano.  This mission is considered the birthplace of Orange County so it seemed fitting.  The Mission was the 7th of 21 missions and was founded on November 1, 1776 and is considered the Jewel of the Missions.

As with most of my posts, this post may contain affiliate or referral links.

I have vague recollections of visiting a couple of missions in 4th grade as we studied California’s history but don’t recall visiting many missions since then.  Now I regret this and I realized I should be planning a road trip to visit all of the missions.  One of the biggest things I walked away with after my time at the mission is the importance of studying history.  And not just from a textbook where I’m absorbing facts I can find in any number of books.  But actually exploring history and studying the people and places of our past.

The stories of the passion and conviction of the priests in their missionary work.

The stories of the way of life for the Acjachemen people.

The stories of how the priests and Acjachemen people co-existed.

These stories helped me understand a piece of California’s history and I think when we take the time to truly study history we’re able to build connections between what was, what is, and what can be.  And those connections are what help us learn from past mistakes, repeat past successes and gain a better understanding of people and culture.

Whether you're a 4th grader studying California's history or if you're planning a trip to California, here's planning tips for Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Whether you are a 4th grader (or the family of a 4th grader) working on a project about the California missions or just planning a trip to Southern California, I would highly recommend a trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Tips for planning a trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano

*Go early.  I was there right when Mission San Juan Capistrano opened and it allowed me to enjoy the first hour or so in peace.  I could spend as long as I wanted at each exhibit and never felt crowded.  And I could capture pictures without other people in them.  This is especially valuable if you’re working on a mission project for school!

*Take advantage of the resources.  There is a complimentary audio tour available and there were docents throughout the mission.  Both were an excellent source of information and provided stories I would not have heard had I only explored the mission on my own.

*Plan your trip.  Head online before you go to the Mission San Juan Capistrano website and browse the schedule of tours, exhibits and hands-on opportunities.  There are days when you can pan for gold, try your hand at basket weaving, hear from descendants of the Acjachemen people and more.  So if you’re able to plan your trip around things that are interesting to you, I’d highly recommend it!

*See the swallows.  If you’re able to time your visit to go in March during the Swallows Day Parade you’ll be in for a treat as you learn about the legend of the swallows.

Have you ever been to any of the missions in California?  What is your favorite? GOTM post signature