where to sip: Leo’s Beanery

coffee, lifestyle, where to sip

I do not miss job hunting. It took me 3+ months to find work when we moved to Scotland.

It was a discouraging season. We had all the excitement and anticipation of moving but we were blowing through our savings at a rapid rate. My primary job was to look for a job. We decided to combat our discouragement with a little remedy. A nice latte on Friday mornings was our cure for the week.

This was our ritual. For three months. Leo’s Beanery on Friday mornings. Leo’s was our safe place. It was and still is the place that we leave our worries at the door and focus on the good things.

Perhaps you too, have a coffee shop that is more than a coffee shop.

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We LOVE this shop because it is:

  • Cozy
  • Woody + warm
  • Friendly staff
  • Antiquey
  • “Hygge”

I now work on Friday mornings but Leo’s will always be at the top of our day-off list. We cannot get enough of their coffee, GF bagel sandwiches and home-baking. Being in Leo’s cozy basement shop is like the feeling you get while enjoying a relaxing chat and cuppa in someone’s home.

Popular menu picks:

  • Lattes (go vegan with the oat milk, so delicious!)
  • Wide range of loose leaf teas
  • Homemade granola (my mother-in-law was obsessed)
  • Award-winning GF brownies
  • Homemade fruit + savoury scones
  • GF Bagel sandwiches (from the Bearded Baker)
  • Local Scottish produce

Their location on Howe street is wonderfully warm. There are black and white family photos on the walls and glass jars adorning their pantry shelves.  It is hygee, a Danish way of life,  the perfect retreat from the winter blues and the hustle and bustle.

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Locations: The first location is a charming, basement level shop in New Town located at23A Howe St, Edinburgh EH3 6TF.

They have two more locations (posts to follow). A quaint shop with a beautiful rustic/Restoration Hardwood feel at Leo + Teds in Tollcross and the airy and artsy location, Leo’s at Dovecot Studios in Old Town.

Hours: Monday – Friday [8am – 5pm] Saturday  [9-5] + Sunday [10 -6]

If you are staying in or visiting Edinburgh, visit this welcoming family-run cafe. You will not regret it.

Have a great weekend and happy sipping!

x

travel: Lake Geneva, Switzerland

budget trips, holidays, lifestyle, travel

Geneva, the capital of fondue, chocolate, luxury watches, Swiss Army Knives, and world peace.

They all sounds great. But an $8 coffee, not so great. We are budget travelers and our friends lovingly warned us about the prices.

Telling others that you are going to Switzerland on “a budget” just before Christmas, gets you some sympathetic head-nods and half grins. Switzerland is rated the most expensive country in the world to visit, with Geneva being one of the ten most expensive cities in the world to live in!

We really did not want to skip over Switzerland until we were older (aka retired with more money). To our surprise, we found it doable and we were able to enjoy it’s many Christmas charms and festivities.

 

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Do + See

Lake Geneva: Geneva is located on the shores of Western Europe’s largest lake, and surrounded by the magnificent Alps. Unfortunately, the weekend we visited, fog and light rain followed us from Edinburgh. We had lovely views of the Alps from our plane, but not from the shores of the Lake. Glaciers in the French Alps are bright turquoise and flow directly into the deep blue waters of the Rhone River, which is fed by the lake. The two colors mix together and give the lake an extraordinary marbled look!Bike/Jog/Walk/Snack on a bench. Take advantage of the paths surrounding the lake.

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Mount Blanc: From Geneva you can usually see Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. The combined views of lake and alpine mountains, yes please! We opted for a more affordable train ride through the villages that line the shores of Lake Geneva. However, a rental car to Blanc would be the perfect day trip from Geneva, as it is only an hour away.

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St. Peter’s Cathedral: It was here, where John Calvin lead the Protestant Reformation. Inside the church there is still a wooden chair once used by Calvin (yep, Ryan got a picture with it). Get a workout by climbing the towers of the Cathédrale Saint Pierre, where you can enjoy the best view of Geneva. Only 157 steps of the north tower to experience one of the city’s most breathtaking (and oldest) views. Be sure to go to the north tower so you can go outside for an unrestricted view for nice panoramic pictures of the city and Jet d’Eau.

Jet d’Eau (Water Jet) Fountain: Geneva’s most famous landmark shooting water 140m into the air. It is Europe’s tallest fountain, which blasts 132 gallons of water. The jet is a prominent feature in Geneva’s skyline. It is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Statue of Liberty, and Big Ben! We even learned that is turned on by hand every morning by a jet caretaker at exactly 9am, according to a precise Swiss watch, of course.

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Old Town + City Centre : The Old Town should be next on any visitors itinerary. A patchwork of pavement cafés, museums, designer retail and art galleries. Geneva’s most famous shopping district is full of designer retail + Switzerland’s famous watchmakers like Rolex and Cartier. Not part of our budget trip, but still really interesting to learn more about the birthplace of watchmaking, the industry + the luxurious window displays.

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Afternoon in Carouge: Carouge is a quiet neighborhood in Geneva with colorful buildings, local cafes, and charming boutiques.It was actually spell-bounding, walking along the streets, the Mediterranean-style houses, a number of gardens and the small artists’ workshops.

Carouge takes you back in time. Many locals would introduce Carouge to you as a “small Italy”. It is one of those areas which immediately stands out from all the rest, absolutely incomparable to the rest of the city. Cool architecture. Cozy cafes. Variety of bistros. Unique antique shops and vendors. We cannot recommend it enough- an afternoon or evening stroll, go for a café or dinner here for sure.

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Montreux Christmas Market:  Christkindlmarkt. Marché de Noël. Weihnachtsmarkt. I am obsessed with them and a bit of a Christmas market ‘junkie’. Most are full of wooden huts, homemade delicious treats, stunning decorations and unique gifts. I love to embrace the festive atmosphere. Slowly strolling. Amazing scents. Herds of jolly market-goers. Regional specialities- completely overwhelmed by auras of waffles, fondue and spices.

We spent a good half day in Montreux. As daylight gently turned to night, Montreux started to sparkle. Before roaming the market we sat on a bench looking at the lake, people watching and soaking it all it. Each little cabin, boutique and restaurant glowing with lights, gave us that warm Christmassy feeling despite the cold weather. We loved indulging in the fragrant cocktail of cinnamon, fruit and spiced wine, treating ourselves to a warming mug of Glühwein. Vin Chaud. Glögg. Mulled Wine … delicious!

The Christmas market at Montreux was highly recommended as an absolute must see. A touch of class and a whole lotta sophistication. If you like dramatic scenery and Christmas ambience mixed with some light shows, pots of fondue + music, then you will love it too!

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Day Trip to Vevey: A charming town on the north shore of Lake Geneva.  This French -speaking town created milk chocolate (1875) and was the final home of Charlie Chaplin. Vevey is known for its outdoor market  on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Buy a glass of wine, listen to brass bands + Swiss folk music, and watch traditional craftsmen at work in the market.

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Eats + Drinks

It is easy to indulge/overindulge in Switzerland. Everywhere you turn there are places to try raclette, fondue, truffles, sausages, chocolate of every variety, wine and pastries. We were surprised by all the international restaurants but I guess it makes sense with Geneva being such an international hub for the UN and where it is located geographically. Like always, we relied on Happy Cow to find good gluten-free options and local coffee joints.

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Geneva was such an unexpected surprise.

There were so many fun things to see and history to learn. We brought home the best souvenirs — fine Swiss chocolates, an antique clock for our mantle and Santa mugs from our mulled wine at the Christmas market.

Have you traveled to other countries during the holidays?

We hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday season celebrating with friends and loved ones, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Blessings and peace as you begin 2017!

x

 

 

travel: Lisbon, Portugal

budget trips, holidays, lifestyle, travel

For my husband’s birthday, I surprised him with a trip to Lisbon, Portugal.

Lucky for us, our wedding anniversary, birthdays and Christmas are within weeks of one another. So, taking a trip is a good way to pack in all of the celebrating.

We thought that anywhere in the world might be dryer, a little brighter and warmer than Edinburgh in December. We were kind of right… Portugal in the winter is still a little brisk

We had some rainy days, soaked socks, but we absolutely made the most of it. We had to buy umbrellas one day, funny joke to us visiting from the UK, but a little rain did not ruin our party!

Traveling to Europe in the summer is wonderful but we have learned that winter also has perks. Fewer tourists. Affordable airfare. Available accommodation. Quieter low seasons. And my favorite part, seeing what Christmas looks like in other countries!

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Our adventure started the moment we left the Lisbon airport. We were instructed by our Airbnb host to 1. board the tram to a bus stop 2. walk from the bus stop to the flat.

Directions were a bit vague and by tram we had no idea that she meant super-awesome and rickety-old-trolley. It was dark out, we could not see the street signs, so we got off where it “felt right” and got out our city map. Yep, looking like true tourists, no shame and totally embracing the paper map.

We eventually found our flat and were clueless about the view we would wake up to the next morning. The silver lining of arriving at night… we got a surprise the next morning.

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We stayed in the Alfalma neighborhood. All you need is a short wander to realize how WOW it is.  There are several quaint spots for a romantic sit on a bench. These viewpoints, called miravistas, give you stunning views of the water and buildings stacked on the hills. It is easy to be out on foot for long days and nights exploring the many street-side cafes, live music at hidden bars and beautiful little squares with fairy lights and blankets.

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If you plan on walking and wandering around, plan on bringing a comfortable pair of shoes. Those travel books are not lying when they say there are some good inclines. If you need a break, hop on the trolley system!

We spent our days wandering different neighborhoods, a walk down to the coast, popping into café’s for a coffee and baked good. The Pois Café was our favourite spot, books covering every nook and cranny and a healthy, organic range of food and snacks.

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Eat + Drink

Seafood. Custard tarts. Cheese. Wine. That is all you really need to know.

Portugal has a rich tradition of cheese-making and different regions have their own types, much like Portuguese wine. Portuguese food combines a variety of fresh seafood with the flavours from the hillside. There is a lot to discover in both food and wine.

Frango Piri Piri  (Chicken Piri Piri)

Grilled to perfection with a secret blend of spices, this is one of the most popular dishes for visitors and has to be tried at least once. Served with a fresh salad and home-made chips, affordable dinner winner!

Bacalhau (Salted Cod Fish)

Cod is a staple of Portuguese cuisine and they say there is a different cod recipe for every day of the year. Cod is a very versatile fish and is usually the star of the show on Portugese Christmas dinner tables.

Caldeirada  (Fish Stew)

A mixed fish stew usually containing some shellfish and white fish with potato, tomatoes, peppers and onions as the base. White wine and lots of herbs completes the recipe. They say that the secret to a good Caldeirada, apart from the fish, is the correct layering of the various ingredients so that the flavours mix properly. I would love to make a version of this at home.

Pastel de Nata (Custard pastry)

Portugal’s favorite sweet treat. Small open pastries with a sweet custard filling and a caramelised sugar topping, you can find Pastel de Nata is every coffee shop in the city. They say the pastry should be flakey and light, the filling creamy, eggy and sweet. This was our birthday cake abroad.

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Do + See

Lisbon, Portugal is a cool city.  Artsy. Quaint. Windy roads. Hills. White buildings. Red roofs. Colorful tiles. Cobblestone. Churches. Street art. Seafood. Produce. Vintage markets. Trollies. Cathedrals. Tuk-Tuks. Alleyways. Motorbikes. Street artists and antique vendors. Like I said, cool.

Campo de Santa. Be sure to visit Campo de Santa, a lovely flea market in the old city. Take good carrier bags to stock up on amazing vintage Portuguese kitchenware, decor, and ceramics on sale in little shops for great prices.

Trollies. The trams that trundle up and down the streets are charming. Tram 28 is said to be the best. Begin at Largo Martim Moniz to get a seat in the wood panelled carriage.

Souvenir. One thing everyone will notice about Lisbon are the beautiful ceramic tiles that cover literally every wall, café’s, flats, storefronts, park benches and city fountains. There are brand new varieties you can pick up in a tourist shops but even more charming are the antique and funky varieties you can find in flea markets and vendors. We chose a green and white one from the 1950s, easy to get back home and a totally memorable part about Lisbon.

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The waterfront and Praça do Comércio square was home to the Royal Ribeira Palace before it was destroyed in 1755. Lots of locals like come out for a stroll, especially in the early evening and lots of Christmas decorations and a small Christmas market to enjoy.

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Day Trip to Sintra. We decided to spend one day on a train going outside of the city. A friend recommended that we visit the nearby village of Sintra. I am so glad we took her advice. Sintra is normally buzzing with tourists, but thanks to the rain, we were two of ten people up there that day. We were soaked but it was well worth it. We visitied the grotto gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira Palace, a 19th century gothic mansion that is surrounded with some of the most elaborate gardens we have ever seen.

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Have you taken a special birthday trip? And what has your experience been traveling in the winter months?

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

peace + grace

month in review

devotionals, lifestyle

Autumn is crisp evenings, a mantle with lit candles, dressing in layers and, best of all, comfort food.

After the trips and activities of summer, I crave the serenity and quiet of fall. We are going into this season incredibly grateful for the friends and family that visited us this summer. Our sweet parents all made the journey to Edinburgh and being able to share our second home with them was more than sweet. There was something so special about taking them to our favourite benches, walking in gardens, tucking into museums and drinking coffee at our kitchen table. A blog post on their trips is to come, but we go into the next months with super full + warm hearts from their visits.

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As the days turn cooler and darker we tend to indulge in lots of reading, catching up with Netflix (on all seven of the shows we have going on…) and entertaining friends with homemade dinners. A simple after-dinner walk along the Water of Leith and smelling that campfirey smell of fall (you know the smell, right?) is delightful.

Latley, I am noticing the vivid changes that occur this time of year. The leaves change color, the sky is darker, the wind a bit chillier. Autumn is a good time to reflect on what was and what will be. This time of year encourages us to sit back and remind ourselves of the simple pleasures in life and to prepare for what is ahead.

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There is beauty in passing from the green and fruitful days of summer into the shadowy hues fall. All things change, somehow. There are lessons to be learned from our times of activity but I have found that I can only find what God is attempting to show us by taking a step back and being still.

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Our lives can be a reflection of the season both secular and sacred. We experience many autumns, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I slide my feet through crunching leaves, small piles of them on my walk to work and take a break from my headphones to listen to the sound. The trees shed their leaves, but only for a time. They rest and wait with hope for what is ahead, preparing for a deeper time of hibernation – winter.  Our lives are like this too and we can take advantage of the season of hibernation as one of contemplation.

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God allows the spiritual seasons of our lives to coincide with the physical seasons. And in that I find great comfort. Autumn brings wisdom, reflection and time to repair and plan. The hope of new chances and life renewed. A time of rest. To plan (or not plan) and letting go of what was. I am encouraged by the words in Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’

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What is your life yielding this autumn? Can you recognise what you have planted and what you have reaped? We need this period of fall – of gathering + remembering – to see where we are and where we are going and to be reminded that God is in all seasons.

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We pray that you are enjoying your start to the season and find time to enjoy the simple things.

With love,

A+R

P.S. Canned pumpkin is very hard to find here + I am eager to use it in every recipe from now until Christmas. If you feel inclined, book a trip to come see us and bring some with you, #jokingnotjoking.

 

 

 

 

 

travel: Paris, France

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

When your best friend/soul sister asks you to go see Beyonce and Jay Z, you do it.

After we moved to Scotland, I needed a familiar face and some much needed girl time. Megan was in England studying abroad for university.  I was job searching and adjusting to new life in Scotland. Beyonce and Jay Z were on tour in Europe. So, we made it happen, obviously.

It was the ultimate girls trip and every time I think of it, my grin goes ear to ear.

If I were a scrap-booker this trip would have its very own album. It would have a bright pink cover with a little leopard print, covered with glittery stickers and have all our tickets, receipts, and random momentos tucked inside the pages.

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Paris is a magical place.

Paris, France was on my travel ‘bucket list’. Like the movies, I pictured myself strolling the streets, gawking over the Eiffel Tower, getting sick from too many macaroons and trying my best to pronounce “merci” and “bonjour”. 

As first time visitors, we were super touristy and not ashamed. I definitely had the camera out all day (may or may not have hung around my neck), I probably clogged up the sidewalk as we marvelled at all the famous landmarks, and of course, we did not hold back with the food, indulging in all of the Parisian cuisine possible.

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What we did: We hit all the tourist spots. A walk through Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre Museum, walked to Pont Alexandre III bridge, viewed the Arc de Triomphe, the home of Victor Hugo, a picnic in Jardin de Luxembourg, a morning at The Eiffel Tower and … danced the night away at Beyonce! [crepes + coffee weaving throughout]

 

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Where we stayed: We chose to stay in an Airbnb in the Bastille neighborhood. Bastille represents Parisian romance—a very stylish + historical neighbourhood. Its streets are lined with with theatres, cafes, antiques, green spaces + gardens. A great location and easy to navigate.

What we ate: Most people know that France puts out more Michelin starred restaurants and chefs than anywhere in the world. Although we were not able to wine and dine on the five-star cuisine we did have some delicious grub. I was over the moon, taste-buds dancing, the entire trip. No gluten-free croissants, but we DID find the most glorious crepe shop. The BEST red wines, and Megan was thrilled to have a fresh baked baguette and traditional French onion soup. A stop (or two) in LADURÉE proved to be a good choice with their wild selection of macaroons. And we routinely picked up fresh fruit + cheese from outdoor markets and followed the example of Parisians around us: picnic time!

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Trip of a lifetime and September proved to be a lovely time to visit Paris. Have you ever visited? Where have you spent time with your dearest friends?

 

Traveling mercies, friends!

x

travel: Dubrovnik, Croatia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

Have you visited a place that makes your jaw drop? Dubrovnik was this place for us.

Dubrovnik was the final destination on our train trip this summer. We started in Munich, Germany and traveled through Austria, Slovenia and worked our way to the very southern tip of Croatia. It was a grande finale and the perfect way to end the journey. It has taken me a few months to put this post together for a few reasons. Wrapping my mind around it, figuring out how to document it and what to write here is no small task!

We were in awe of the marble streets, baroque buildings, endless shimmer of the Adriatic Sea, and totally inspired as we walked the ancient city walls. We ate. We drank. And our pale Scottish skin got a long awaited sunburn. It. Was. Awesome.

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Do + See

Relax and swim in the Adriatic: When we booked our accommodation, we wanted to stay on a section of beach, or close to it. Swimming in the Adriatic is its own reward. On our first morning in Dubrovnik, Ryan and I woke up at 7am to swim at Banje Beach. Ryan grew up visiting his grandma on the New Jersey shore and is his happiest when he is by the water, or in the water. It was a completely refreshing way to start the day as this beach gets really crowded on a hot summer afternoon.

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Get on the water: Go kayaking or take a boat trip. Lots of people seemed to be enjoying a kayak trip around Lycrum Island. We opted for a boat tour, which is a really great way to spend a morning or afternoon and see the old city from a different perspective.

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We had some lunch at a nearby lagoon and then chose a boat tour at the pier. Oma chose the ‘Pirate-theme’ ship, which was hilarious. But it really was lovely, it took us on a loop around Lycrum Island. There were pockets of white rock cliffs and caverns. People in kayaks, swimmers and sunbathers at a nude beach  (don’t say we didn’t warn ya). I was happy to get off the boat with a sunburn on my shoulders and salty skin.

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Get some views: If you are staying anywhere near the Old City it is only a short walk to the base of the cable car going up Mount Srd. You might want to get up early for sunrise or get up there later for sunset. Round-trip tickets for adults cost 100 kuna ($15 bucks). From the top, we took in the shining sun on red rooftops and the deep blue waters of the Adriatic. The panoramic views from the deck of the cafe were top notch.

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Walking the city walls — A must for every Dubrovnik visitor! Walking the walls costs 100 kuna ($15 USD) and close at 7:00 PM. Our Airbnb host recommended we go at 6:00PM to avoid the crowds and the hot sun.  He was right, this is Dubrovnik’s ‘Golden Hour’. The light was golden, hitting the rooftops and the walls. The city was less crowded as most of the cruise ship visitors were back on the ships. This allowed us to walk at a nice pace and really take in the views. Oma had her knee replaced 8-weeks before the trip, and she walked the entire length of the city walls. She is incredible.

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After 4pm: Dubrovnik is growing in popularity and it will never be tourist-free. Most cruise ships dock for a single day and have the same routine: arrive in the old town in the morning and stay until the afternoon. However, in the evening, Dubrovnik becomes a bit quieter. We walked the city walls, ate nice dinners, found charming places for a drink and enjoyed the scene from inviting benches at the pier.

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Eats + Drinks 

A vacation is basically just eating food in new places, am I right? Our favourite part of travel is trying local cuisine and drinks, and Dubrovnik provided that and more! One reason that Croatia is gaining popularity among tourists is that it is considered to be a more affordable alternative to its neighbor, Italy. Croatia and Italy are separated only by the Adriatic Sea and this has created a robust tradition of Italian cuisine and influence in Croatia.

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Gelato— There are loads of places to choose from. But some of our favourite flavours were lavender (very common in this region) and vegan espresso!

Seafood—Fish and seafood is an important part of the Croatian culinary world, particularly along the coast. Although there were plenty of non-fishy options, fresh seafood was everywhere!  We ate seafood everyday. Delicious dinners of grilled sea bass was my highlight and Oma sampled a few seafood risottos.

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Pasta– Pasta is one of the most popular food items in Croatian cuisine, especially in the region of Dalmatia. The other popular sauces include creamy mushroom sauce with truffle and minced meat sauce. Also, potato dough is popular, not only for making njoki (gnocchi), but also for making plum or cheese dumplings which are boiled, and then fried in breadcrumbs and butter. I had gluten envy but Ryan got his fill of delicious pastas.

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Wine— My favourite. Croatia has two main wine regions: Continental (Kontinetalna) and Coastal (Primorska), which includes the islands. We learned that there are more than 300 geographically-defined wine-producing areas in Croatia!  The D’vino Wine Bar had a fabulous selection of Croatian wines and they were really happy to help you find the right local wine.

Burek – Ryan indulged in some homemade burek (spinach + gooey feta cheese pastry puff), lovingly made by our host family.

Karbona Nava– We had a very special dinner at Karbona Nava, our AirBnb host made us a reservation. We ate: shrimp risotto, spaghetti carbonara, grilled sea bass and drank local wines and indulged in blueberry cheesecake. The cook came to our table to check on us and even served us with three glasses of Rajika – a traditional Croatian plum brandy, a gift from the restaurant owner. It was the best authentic dining experience we had on the trip.

The Soul Caffe.– A charming cafe we spent time our last night and I loved the outdoor seating tucked between the old stone walls.There was candlelight, a guitarist playing soft music, a screen showing clips from old black and white films and we sipped on mint and chamomile tea. This vintage-chic cafe and Rajika bar is hidden within the backstreets of the Old City. The musically inspired dim atmosphere offers a great environment for a low-key night out on the town.

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Part of my inspiration for starting a blog when we moved was to document trips. I guess it has become an online journal of sorts for us. If you stuck with me for the entirety of this post, well done, it was a long one. It is just impossible to narrow down the amount of pictures or things to say about a place as wonderful as Dubrovnik.

I would love to hear where you have been in this world and the places you love!

Peace, grace and happy travels!

x

where to sip: Cairngorm Coffee Co

coffee, food & drink, lifestyle, travel

 

I still remember the first time I walked into a coffee shop as a complete newbie. I remember feeling totally dumbfounded as to what to order.

I was a senior in high-school, coffee seemed intimidating, so I ordered hot chocolate and tucked myself into a leathery corner with my latest copy of Seventeen magazine. I continued to order hot-chocolate until my college roommate introduced me to coffeeeeeeeee.

Enter: my love for delicious coffee and aesthetically pleasing spaces: a new series about where to sip in Edinburgh.

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Cairngorm is the least pretentious coffee shop around and you will not feel like 17-year old me. The concept at Cairngorm is simple.

We LOVE this shop because it is:

  • Bright + Airy
  • Scandi-decor
  • Friendly
  • Fun menu
  • Bold in flavour
  • You can count on a fab playlist
  • Seriously delicious

We cannot get enough of their coffee, treats, perfect work spaces and natural light. This shop has everything to love, including avocado toast and their famous grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Popular menu picks:

  • Guest filter coffee
  • Craft espresso
  • V60
  • Iced brew
  • Homemade granola
  • Grilled Cheese – [I.J. Mellis cheese + chilli jam]
  • Avocado Toast

The space is versatile. It can be a place for boss-lady business or a coffee date with someone dear. The set up makes for a productive environment to spread out that morning paper or linger with a novel. It is our special weekend retreat and really any moment we are not at work.

 

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Locations: The first location is a cosy, basement level shop in New Town located at 41A Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EP. The second shop is in Edinburgh’s West End at 1 Melville Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7PR.

Hours: Monday – Friday [8am – 6pm] Saturday + Sunday [9am -6pm]

If you are staying in or visiting Edinburgh, visit this gem. You won’t regret it.

Have a great weekend!

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month in review

devotionals, lifestyle

Summer is the best. Ryan being home from Tubingen is the best.

We’ve been making up our lost time in cafes, hill walking, playing tennis and going for bike rides. If the weather is dry in Scotland, we better take advantage of it and get outside. The dark/windy/rainy days are ahead.

We are approaching our two year mark in Edinburgh.

Hard to believe. I talk about it a lot, but I remember leaving Colorado and it was heartbreaking but really dang exciting to do something new. And again, we find ourselves in a similar situation.  As we start our third year here, there is a cloud of sadness already setting in as we think of approaching the ‘end’. But we are also met with great anticipation for what lies ahead.

The challenges of moving half-way around the world–visas, jobs, a place to live, not knowing anyone, away from all things familiar–were all stacked against us. At the time, there were three solid options on the table:  freak out, ignore it or pray for it. Well, those are generally my three reactions, and maybe you can relate. Most of the time I do not know what to ask for in prayer. But the beauty of it is that God knows. He knows what we need before we ask.

He knows what we need better than we ever could. The Holy Spirit comforts us in our weakness.  Our prayers are not powerful because we ourselves are powerful. The power of prayer lies in the power of God.

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Our flat. Our jobs. Our community. Our friends. Our new familiar. God surprised us (and continues to do so) because He provides for us in ways that we did not even know were possible.

He provided us with a flat that is a retreat. We find comfort, rest and healing under its roof. He turned the faces of strangers into a reliable community. We break bread, we pray, we let our guard down with our friends.  He transformed our ‘foreignness’ into quiet confidence. We started off lonely but now we find solidarity with other New College students and families. Our joy in Edinburgh now has deeper roots than the day we moved.

I pray that we can be intentional about the way we do this year, as it could be our last. We want to wholeheartedly invest in the people, the spaces and the communities that have made our time here so full and encouraging. To travel and experience places and cultures that will be soon too far away to see. To finish our work strong, to be diligent and do well.

But for now, August is here. Here’s to enjoying the long daylight, fresh fruit and all the many festivals + street performers here this month! I hope your summer is all you hoped it would be.

Love to you. Peace in your heart. And the grace to live fully, today.

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travel: Split, Croatia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

Croatia is the place to vacation in Europe these days.

 It is gaining popularity because…

  1. It is beautiful/amazing/warm/ and full of history 
  2. Affordable alternative to Italy: the Adriatic Sea, islands + strong exchange rate
  3. For all of you fans, Game of Thrones is filmed here  
  4. The list goes on and on 

The train ride into Split was very scenic. I spent time reading about the 1991 Yugoslavia War and independence of Croatia. Evidence of the war still lingers in the tiny villages along the train tracks but it is easy to see how resilient the people are here, how communities have been restored and that the area is thriving. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking in parts- rivers that we could see from the train going through Plitvice Lakes National Park  were absolutely crystal clear and bright turquoise. Green, lush, jungly trees. White cliffs. Stone bridges. Rolling hills. Tree covered mountains.

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Arriving into Split, we were ready to explore and indulge. Old town is full of romantic outdoor cafes. We found a beautiful garden restaurant in an old white building, with ivy growing up the walls, garden lights and green shutters on the windows. The currency exchange is almost 9:1 [Croatian Kuna to British Pound]. This made it affordable for us to eat out and treat ourselves to wines, seafood, and I even splurged on trying mussels for the first time!

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Our first morning in Split, we woke up extra early and went for a walk along the promenade (the ‘Riva’) curious to check out a hill on the other side of old town. We walked to the top of Marajan Hill  where we stood in awe for quite some time. What struck me was the change of scenery from the dear UK. The leaves of the palm trees, looking up and seeing them on a backdrop of clear blue, bright skies. Not a cloud to be seen.

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The morning sun was shining on the Roman ruins walking back through Old Town. Split is lovely with all its alleyways, hidden courtyards and ivy covered walls. It was early yet, so the streets were quiet. On our way back to the flat, we picked up coffees (note: coffee and cream is coffee and ice-cream, fun little surprise) and fresh juices. Ryan picked up a delicious smelling apple-baklava-filo-pastry goodie from a street vendor called, strudel od jakuba. Most places in this region have their own variation of a strudel, and Ryan was happy to try each one in search of ‘the best.’

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We enjoyed our goodies on the steps of Diocletian’s Palace, definitely the number one thing to see in Split. The ruins of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, date back to the late 3rd to early 4th century A.D. I love history and this was making my head spin a little because I think it is the oldest place that I have physically been in. There is a sphinx here that Diocletian himself had built and is part of the original palace, 2,000 years old! 
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The outdoor open market was another highlight for me – it was full of fruit, cheese, antiques, dried fruits, nuts, fresh lavender and flower vendors. Such a cultural experience! We bought some fresh goat cheese, dried apricots, almonds and juicy peaches. 
We finished our day in good style – enjoying life’s simple pleasures (gelato and coffee) in a city that does such a wonder job of  weaving the past and present.
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If we had a bit more time it would have been fun to swim at the beach or take a boat trip out to one of the nearby islands. Our time was lovely in Split and we eagerly boarded our bus for the our next stop, Dubrovnik!

Currently, there is also no train line between Split and Dubrovnik so this meant the end of our Eurail pass. This might change as Dubrovnik is becoming such a popular travel destination. For now, buses are the best way to get there. The journey to Dubrovnik is 4 hours with some fun along the way. We saw an incredible place called Fortress of Klis, baby donkeys (yes, baby donkeys!), more turquoise rivers and even made a rest stop in Bosnia – one of my favourite stamps in the passport because it is so random.

 

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 Up next: Dubrovnik, Croatia 

 

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travel: Zagreb, Croatia

budget trips, lifestyle, travel

 

The landlocked capital of Croatia is, quite possibly, the country’s most underrated destination.

According to Rick Steves, you cannot get a complete picture of modern Croatia without a visit here. Zagreb is away from the coastal villages and touristy resorts. Off the map a bit but a great way to experience some culture, in the “lively and livable” city that is home to one out of every six Croatians.

Our afternoon layover in Zagreb was a nice opportunity to stretch our legs, take in the city and get a bite to eat. We were sure to see the Zagreb Cathedral, Jelačić Square and Tkalciceva Road, such a thriving cafe culture and streets lined with rows and rows of places to sip and eat.

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We had a delicious lunch at ‘Trattoria Leonardo’s’. There is a big Italian influence in the cuisine here, which is good for Ryan because pizza is his favorite food group.  Oma and Ryan also indulged in their favorite beer, Radler lemon (lemon beer) and I had plenty of chilled white wine!

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There were not many tourist here which was a nice way to see the local culture and artistic enthusiasm of residents. The central park, located across from the train station, was hosting a large festival. There were food vendors, games for kids, live music and street artists that were covering the sidewalks in beautiful-vibrant chalk murals.

Ryan found some Croatian-donut ball-treasures, Najbolje Fritule, drizzled with Nutella and powdered sugar! I talk about gluten-envy a lot but that was over the top. So, before getting on the train,  I bought a small crate of strawberries from a sweet vendor outside of the train station and imagined they were donut balls. A girl can dream.

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We feel like we made the most of our afternoon in Zagreb and would definitely recommend putting it on your Croatia itinerary. If we had more time I would have liked to check out some of their museums and art galleries.
Up next: Split, Croatia
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