Ireland Travel

Dublin for 3 MONTHS!

Yes, you read that correctly.

My dream of living in another country (if only for a short while) has finally come true! I get to be in Dublin, Ireland for THREE WHOLE MONTHS! This time I have an apartment and a car like a real city dweller. I am incredibly nervous to drive! I got my car today, but my driving lesson got moved to tomorrow. I had to drive the car around the block to park it in my garage and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. The driver’s side is on the opposite side AND they drive on the left hand side of the road instead of the right. #firstworldproblems

 

This time I flew to London before getting on a short flight to Dublin. I made some nice friends in the DFW airport in the American Airlines lounge and one at the MAC makeup counter. Everyone was so nice and chatty that day! Since I left on Valentine’s Day there really weren’t that many people at the airport, which made getting through TSA a breeze. There are still no direct flights to Dublin directly from Dallas, but I think I prefer to fly to NYC and then to Dublin rather than London first. If I go to London first then I have to do customs there AND in Dublin. The Heathrow airport is HUGE too, so if you are ever using it for a connecting flight make sure that you allow plenty of time for your layover. I had three hours, which may have been a tad generous, but I could see where on a busier day (it was the 15th by then) where you would need all 3 hours. Also, remind me to not look like a total slob if I ever fly into London again. You should have seen the drastic difference from everyone in the lounge vs me after an 8 hour flight. I was frightening.

After I landed in Dublin I was greeted by Brian from the relocation company who was to collect me from the airport and help me get adjusted. He normally collects people who have never been here before, but I was super easy since I’ve already been here twice. If you’ve never had someone holding a sign for you at an airport, it’s fairly exciting. I’m sure you all know by now how much I like to feel like I’m famous so that only helped my ego, which is totally unnecessary according to some. Brian was super great and didn’t even act phased when I totally tried to get into the driver’s side because I forgot that it wasn’t the passenger side in my jet-lagged haze; not the first time I’ve done that and it probably won’t be the last. Brian had picked up some groceries for me prior to the collection and helped me take them up to my new apartment along with my luggage. He did question my need for 4 suitcases for a 3 month stay… and after unpacking I also have questioned my decisions. I asked for more hangers… I will still need more. #sorrynotsorry

Brian took me on a drive to the office since I generally don’t really pay attention when my cab drives me there at 6:30am. Coffee might have to start becoming part of my daily routine again… I normally don’t have to be at work until 8, but here they start at 7 since traffic can get so bad. We drove all around just getting acquainted with the route and then we walked around city centre getting used to this new location. His son works at Lush, which happens to be one of my major stops every time I’m in town. It’s way cheaper here than in the States and the dollar is almost flat with the Euro (aka I need to shop more). My skin is going to look ah-maze-ing after all of this salmon and skincare.

Every time I visit this city I learn new things. I will be here during several major holidays to include Easter. Back in the states we have Fat Tuesday before Lent, but here they have Pancake Tuesday! All day they eat pancakes! People have tried to pull jokes on me with things like this before (like feeding Leprechauns) so I totally didn’t believe my coworker when she told me about this wonderful day. It is in fact a thing and work is bringing a Crepe truck for lunch that day! (Also, they pronounce them creps, not like grapes with a c instead of a g)

I have just spent the past few days getting used to the time change, arranging my apartment, and getting back into the swing of the city. I still get American holidays so I don’t have to work on Monday for President’s Day, but obviously that’s not a normal holiday here in Ireland. I also have cable TV here, which is a very nice treat since I only use Amazon Prime or Netflix at home.

I do miss little Karma and my friends. I am hoping that people come to visit since I managed to bring a queen sized air mattress with me. Brian and Melissa are coming in mid-April and I am so thrilled to have them! Tara potentially will come for her Spring Break, but has lost her passport… so she’s got to straighten that out. I haven’t planned any weekend trips here yet, but my friends are all very exited to do some little road trips. I am fortunate that I’ve made friends in previous visits who are excited to hang out while I’m in town. Last night I went out with Marie and one of her friends. Last time I was here Marie posted a picture with me and all of her friends were like “Who is your new friend? Why don’t we know her?” which sounds to me like a slew of new friends to be made 🙂

Stay tuned for the rest of the adventures!

-Savvy

Dallas Denton Personal

New Year – New Post

I realize that this is now officially a month late, but trust me life has been HECTIC, which equals more blog content. Christmas and New Year’s went fairly well. Some sad family issues had occurred around those times so that did put a damper on some of the festivities, but life goes on, as you all know.

In early December I had the honor of being in the house party for my friends, Becca and Kent’s wedding. I got to show people where to sit and then dance my face off. It was a little past Fort Worth so my friends and I decided to stay at the Omni Fort Worth since we don’t live super close to the wedding location. You should know by now that crazy things just seem to happen to me. My car’s key fob is broken, but it would sometimes still lock my car. I usually don’t lock it and whenever I give it to valets they apparently don’t either. I think nothing of this and get my car valeted at the Omni. When I made the room reservation and signed up for the rewards program I SWORE that it said that valet was included. I told the front desk this and they immediately comped my parking (which was a ridiculous $32 a night).  My other friends did the self-parking, which was down the street and still $28 a night. Ridiculous. Anyway, we get ready to go to the rehearsal dinner and I text the code to the valet to bring up my car. We head down and they tell us it’s going to be a minute…. 30 minutes later they tell me they can’t find my car. They then realize they know where it is, but they’ve manually locked it and now cannot get it unlocked. However, they feel really bad about this so they offer to comp the parking again, send a cheese plate to the room, and drive me and my friends around in the hotel’s super nice Lincoln Navigator. #designateddriver 

The next day I head down to the valet stand early before we head to the wedding to see if I can get the car unlocked. For whatever reason my actual key cannot unlock the car either so they have to use their unlock kit to get my car open. We go to the wedding, it was beautiful, we did a mannequin challenge, and danced so much. When I get back to the hotel that night I talk to my valet and say “Are you the one parking my car?” He tells me yes and I say “DO NOT LOCK IT”. He says that he has to and I say “NOOOO I’m that girl that has been causing the problems. DO NOT LOCK IT!”. Homeboy totally locks it which I find out the next day at checkout… Guess who made sure to fill out that survey!

For NYE my friends and I went to Beats and Bubbly at the Perot Museum in Dallas.

I got my dress from Rent the Runway and LOVED it! It was long, sparkly, and totally worthy of a fancy New Year’s Eve. If you’ve never heard of Rent the Runway let me break it down: basically, you have some event that you need to attend whether it be a bridal shower, Christmas party, wedding, birthday… anything where you would normally need to go buy a dress. Instead of spending potentially hundreds of dollars for these events to have dresses you might only wear once or twice, instead you can rent an even nicer dress for a fraction of the cost! The dress I rented was designer and normally retailed for $750; I rented it for under $100! You get 20% off of your first order and if you use the code in my link above then I also get a $30 credit 🙂 #treatyoself

This was actually my second order from RTR. For my company Christmas party a few weeks prior I also ordered a similar, but shorter dress and had an awesome experience. Everyone complimented me all night and now I think I should buy that dress lol. However, it also retails for several hundred dollars so I will just rent it whenever I really need it. Some other great perks: not only do you get your size, BUT you can also have a backup size for free in case the original size doesn’t work out , if you join Pro then you get a free birthday rental (plus some other perks), there are tons of reviews on all of the dresses so you can make a really informed decision on fit and how to style the dress.

Honestly, I wish I would have started using this sooner:

  • You don’t have to get the dress dry-cleaned since it’s included in the price.
  • They send it to you in this cool, zip-up garment bag with a pre-paid return slip.
  • You can get the dress for either 4 or 8 days.
  • Just drop it all off at a UPS store by the designated date.
  • If you have any issues just message the company and they will make it right 🙂

For my dad’s Christmas present I got him a cooking class from Sur La Table in Southlake. We learned how to make several different types of dumplings: pirogies, gnocchi, and su mai (not sure how that is spelled). It was a really nice day and the only other people in our class were another father/daughter duo where she had also given him the class as his Christmas present! Our instructor was super nice and was able to accommodate us since apparently I had not actually completed the class sign up online (oops!). However, there was more than enough food and plenty to keep us all busy. Always a good experience!

 

Life started to get a little bit crazier after that (if you can believe it):

  • My tax return was apparently also filed by someone else pretending to be me.
  • The IRS told me I wouldn’t get my refund until APRIL (spoiler: just got it yesterday).
  • I reported my doctor to the Medical Board of Texas and will potentially be suing them.
  • I got stuck in an elevator at work for an hour… alone.
  • My phone broke two days before I was supposed to leave the country for three months.

So that’s been my past two weeks… Fortunately everything else is working out really well now (knock on wood) and I have just started my newest Ireland journey! I will be staying in Dublin for the next three months for work and am looking forward to this next adventure 🙂

Stay tuned!

-Savvy

Dallas Denton Personal

Fall Activities 2016

After coming back from Ireland I was immediately thrown back into the swing of parties, weddings, and dinners. I got back a Thursday, had Friday off, went to a birthday party on Saturday, and had a wedding shower on Sunday. Never a dull moment!

My friend Blake was turning 26 and his girlfriend Kyla suggested we all go to The Deep Ellum Brewing Company to celebrate! They have this really cool deal on Saturdays: they close down the brew house and host tours. You pay $15 and get a souvenir glass and three beers of your choice. Pretty good deal and I don’t even like beer!

I had actually never been on a brewery tour so this was pretty exciting. I do prefer winery tours, but learning new things whilst drinking with your friends is usually a good time. The weather was really nice, the company ideal, and it was essentially just an enjoyable afternoon.

Cheers to Blake's Birthday! #deepellumbrewery

A post shared by Ky (@kylaoropeza) on

The next day I went to a wedding shower for my friend, Becca. Sadly, the only downside to my Europe trip was that I had to miss her Bachelorette Party 🙁 Her shower was a ton of fun. Her Maid-of-Honor and my friend Melissa’s mom makes cakes and certainly delivered for the shower! She also made her wedding cake a few weeks later and of course I devoured my piece in mere seconds (but that is for another post).

Halloween was slightly less than enthusiastic this year, but we still had fun nonetheless. I was Ginger Spice/Baby Spice and Karma was a Beer frau. Basically, we were Europe. If I had been thinking about it more then I could have been #Brexit. Tara was Sailor Moon and we went to this little block party in Denton for about five seconds before leaving to get Thai and go home.

As per tradition, my friend, Danielle, hosted Friendsgiving 2016 in her new apartment. I made Macaroni with a Beer Cheese sauce in the crockpot. Easy and delicious! There was wayyy too much food, a mannequin challenge, and free flowing wine.

Ignore the fact that the video doesn’t have Black Beetles playing. The struggle was real to just upload it.

 

On November 23rd I finally made one of my personal dreams come true……

I MET GOOD CHARLOTTE!!!!

Not only did I get to see them at Edgefest 2016 (RIP 102.1), but I also got to meet them IN THE FLESH because your girl shelled out for VIPPPPPP! I HAD to! I met each and every one of them, gushed a little bit, gave them thank you notes, and basically fan-girled. To make the long story very short, I was running REALLY late to their concert and thought I would miss the Meet and Greet before the show. I happened to get there just in the nick of time and was the last person to see them before the Meet and Greet was over. Did that give me the chance to leave a lasting impression? I sure as heck hope so! They liked my outfit and my cat shoes. I basically dressed exactly like I did in 8th grade and it worked out. I am now blonde and decided to add glitter roots, but other than that it was basically the same. They had 3 openers, which I considered excessive and helped solidify the reality that I am in fact too old to be in the pit for punk shows. #dontpushmebro 

They finally took the stage before my stamina and bladder gave out and you know I was in the front row singing along with all of their songs, crying my little eyes out. My friends were a little drunk and FaceTimed me right when they were singing Hold On. It was perfection.

The next day was Thanksgiving. We weren’t meeting up with the fam until later so my sister and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather to take Christmas pictures with Karma. There is a little park down the street from my house. We were hoping to be able to put her in a baby swing, but this park didn’t have a swing set. It did have a baby slide so that became the next best thing. Karma’s face is priceless in these next few pictures.

Disclaimer: she wasn’t hurt in the taking of these pictures. It was a baby slide and Tara was waiting at the bottom to catch her.

Whew! That was a lot of activity for basically just one month. I’ll leave December to it’s own devices.

Sneak peak into what’s next: two weddings, a car adventure, birthday parties, company Christmas party, friends, food, Christmas, Hanukkah, and probably New Year’s Eve. It looks like it’s going to be another exciting month!

-Savvy

 

Ireland Travel

Last Leg of Europe 2016 – One Night in Dublin

I am never excited to leave somewhere. I have always had separation anxiety and I don’t handle goodbyes well. When I was little and my mom would tuck me into bed I would make her stay with me for FOREVER even though I knew she would be in the next room and I would see her later when I woke up. I try to handle this better as an adult, but leaving somewhere is still really hard for me.

After Berlin I flew back to Dublin to pick up the majority of my stuff from work (and a few things left at the hotel… oops!) I stayed in a really cool Air Bnb near the Kilmainham Jail…. not exactly right next to the heart of Temple Bar as advertised, but it was nice anyway. I met up with some of the girls from work for one last dinner. We went to Elephant and Castle, which is right next to one of my other favorites, Boxty. I had never been, but was very happy with the choice.! If you happen to go there I recommend the wings. I also finally rode the Luas (their rail system)!

I had to get to the airport pretty early, but with my new Global Entry customs pass getting through the lines was a breeze! I should have invested in it a long time ago. As mentioned previously in my post last year, Dublin Airport is one of the few airports in the world that let Americans go through customs before actually going back to America if you are flying directly to the US. It saves sooo much time! It’s also probably the #1 reason I don’t take a detour through Heathrow before coming home. If you went Dublin to London to Dallas then you would have to do customs back in the US. It’s all you own personal preference, but now that I know how easy Global Entry makes the customs process I may chose the London route next time.

If we can avoid another Chicago Disaster of 2015 then life is good. I made all of my flights, nothing was delayed, and all my luggage made it home with me safe and sound. Couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

I have been back for a few weeks now and I still speak as if I was just there. Dublin has quickly become one of my favorite places and I hope to be able to visit again in 2017.

I hope you enjoyed my European Adventure for 2016. Stay tuned to see what 2017 brings!

-Savvy

Travel

Leg Four of Europe 2016 – Berlin

Guten tag from Berlin!

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On Sunday I left Amsterdam for Berlin, Germany. The nice thing about my Air Bnb in Amsterdam was that it was fairly close to the airport. Schipol is apparently the fourth busiest airport in all of Europe. It was rather large, but everything was run very efficiently. I flew KLM, which is very popular here, but not as popular in Texas. My flight was only just over an hour, but they gave out free sandwiches! It was a full flight and I had the middle seat, but no one came for the window so I just scooted right on over 🙂 The flight was uneventful other than that, which is exactly what you want to hear; traveling with only a carry-on has greatly helped in that regard. I think I am a converted traveler after not checking a bag this entire trip (except for the very first leg to Dublin and on the way home in a few days).

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I took a taxi from the Berlin airport to my Air Bnb here in Berlin, which is in Marlene Dietrich‘s old apartment building! I thought that was pretty cool in itself, but my apartment is also super awesome. It’s really artsy and well thought out for a flat. It’s basically one medium-sized room broken up into sections. The bathroom is right next to kitchen, which is a little odd, but works for this space. The bed is on a platform with a closet and underneath the platform is another bed as well as a printer. I could totally see myself living in a place like this if I could bring myself to purge about 80% of my belongings 🙂 My host is also suuuuper awesome. Even though there is a printer it wasn’t working with my laptop and if you fly Ryanair you have to print your own boarding pass or pay a $50 fee… I asked him if he knew a internet cafe nearby so I could print my boarding pass back to Dublin and he just had me email the boarding pass PDF to him and brought it over to me! He is totally going to get a glowing recommendation for sure. 🙂

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I got here on a Sunday and fortunately the weather was very lovely. My Airbnb host also told me about this cool bar that is on top the 25 Hours Hotel near the Berlin Mall called The Monkey Bar. The bar overlooks the Berlin Zoo’s monkey enclosure. Due to the language barrier, my understanding was that you could drink with monkeys so I was off! I was sadly mistaken that you could only view the monkeys, not actually drink with them, so after a quick self-guided tour, I moved on down the block. I walked so much that first day and ended up seeing a few sights that were actually going to be on my tour the next day (that seems to be a theme with me). I’m glad I did a ton of walking to orient myself that day with the nice weather though since the next two days proved to be fairly miserable with rain.

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I was also very excited to get my hands on some authentic German food since I had such fond memories of being in Mannheim 10 years ago and eating so much good food. Apparently, Berlin German food is very different than Mannheim/Frankfurt/Heidelberg German food  AKA no spatzel! 🙁 You don’t even know my level of disappointment. I had to drown in in making up for it with schnitzel and strudel, which were both still very tasty, yet not spatzel…

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The next day I had booked a walking tour throughout many famous Berlin sites from World War II and The Cold War. Everyone always tells me how FUN Berlin is…. not going to lie, this portion of the trip was rather depressing. I totally have to come back and only do fun things because I definitely got all of the sad parts out of the way right off the bat. I do feel that I learned so much though in these past two days and from really knowledgable sources. My tour guide through the actual city was a lady named Merren from Australia, but is of German descent. She has her master’s in history and came to Berlin four years ago. She had some great insights and managed to walk us briskly through the cold all while being several months pregnant! Fortunately the rain stayed away until right after the tour was over, but it was significantly colder than the day prior.

Sights Seen in Berlin:

  1. A portion of the Berlin Wall

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2. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: a very controversial memorial since there is no set meaning to the art piece, there are no descriptions on the slabs identifying that this is for the Jewish people, and the company who produced the chemical that is coating the concrete slabs to protect them from graffiti is the same company that provided concentration camps with the chemicals for the gas chambers. Here is the wikipedia article to give you some more information. It was very erie to walk through and actually experience.

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  1. Checkpoint Charlie

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  1. Museum Island

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  1. The Brandenburg Gate (in the daytime and I had accidentally already visited the previous night)

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  1. The site of the Berlin German book burning in front of the Bebelplatz. There is a clear window into the ground into a room with enough blank bookcases to hold the amount of books burned that night.

  2. The statue of “Mother Holding Her Dead Son

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8. Topography of Terror: a museum where the SS offices used to be.

  1. The car parking lot over where Hitler’s bunker used to be. Only a small signs marks this spot so as not to make it a memorial for Nazi sympathizers. The sign is a recent addition from the last time the World Cup was held in Germany (2006).

  2. The hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his infant son, Blanket, out of the window. (not WW2 related, just interesting and happens to be right next to the Brandenburg gate)

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Germany has made many of these sites free to the public as part of their “penance” for so much of the wrong that was done to so many different people groups. They want everyone to be able to view these sites without having to worry about cost since it is such an important part of all of our histories.

After this very intense day of sight seeing I went back to a biergarden with some others from the tour. Although I do not like the taste of beer (they didn’t have cider) I had to take a picture with one of the traditional glasses.

As if one day of intense images wasn’t enough, the next day I went to a concentration camp just outside Berlin called Sachsenhausen. Ironically, it was also my half birthday; what a way to celebrate…. If you are a new reader to this blog let me just let you know now that I am Jewish.

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Fortunately, most of my relatives (to my knowledge) managed to escape the majority of WW2 terrors. My great-grandfather actually escaped from a concentration camp and made his way to America. It was incredibly sobering to be in a place that was dedicated to the cause of wiping out entire people groups: Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Homosexuals, etc… Even though I am not full-blooded Jew, just being partial would have been enough for the Gestapo to arrest me and send me to die in a place like Sachsenhausen.

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My guide today also had his master’s in history: specifically in how Germany treated public school history textbooks post-WW2. Apparently, they initially basically cut out everything after the 1860s. Up until 1960 this was happening until the young adults realized what had happened and started the movement to add it back into the textbooks so future generations would know so it would not be repeated. During this time period that age group felt a tremendous amount of guilt for what had happened, even though they had not even been born during that time period. Now the country is trying to reach a medium where they are not racked with guilt for something they personally did not do, but are not having “amnesia” about the events since it did in fact happen in their country.

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The concentration camp was eventually taken over by the Red Army who tore down parts of the camp in an attempt to show this as a victory for the Soviets and a place to come revel in that victory. Portions of the buildings still exist and most have had to go through major restorations. In the 1990s a small group of Ne0-Nazis tried to burn down some of the buildings; you can still see their efforts in one of the barracks where the ceilings and walls are charred from the fire. Several buildings remain as well as part of the gas chambers and the crematoriums. There are several marked sites over the grounds to show where the ashes of the burned prisoners were dumped once the trays were full.

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It was a very serious day and sort of a sad way to basically end my trip. I am very glad I went and thankful I was afforded the opportunity to pay my respects in this way. I am not sure how many of my other family members have visited other concentration camps, if any. My mother came to Berlin back in the late 70s/early 80s when the Wall was still up. She was able to visit East Berlin on a bus, but was not allowed to get off of the bus to walk around and explore. The answer when people ask how old Berlin is is basically “26” since that’s when the Wall came down. Berlin is still in a huge state of change and will probably be totally different by the next time I visit. There are construction cranes everywhere you look trying to build more apartments and bring in more tourism so the city can continue to rebuild and have a positive future.

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Tomorrow I head back to Dublin for a night then it’s back to the good ol’ USA after being gone for almost an entire month. As much as I love traveling/being on vacation, I do enjoy my routines and am eager to see my sweet little puppy. I am getting back right in time for a birthday party, Halloween, and a wedding shower so there is still no slowing down for awhile, but that’s the way my life always goes and I enjoy it.

Stick around!

-Savvy

Personal Travel Uncategorized

Leg Three of Europe 2016 – Amsterdam

Hello from Amsterdam! 

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Leaving Paris was bittersweet for me since I never want to leave, but at the same time I was so excited to go into the unknown once again. Dublin, London, and Paris, while not quite home, are familiar. It’s been several years since I’ve truly been immersed in another totally foreign culture. I have never been to Amsterdam, I don’t speak the language, know the transit system, etc. so it was a new and exciting challenge.

This brings up a few tips for next time:

  1. Try to book your accommodations as close to the city centre as possible. This will generally save you transit money (and confusion) even if it costs a little bit more per night. Trust me, when you don’t remember if your train stop is Waterlooplein, Weesperplin, or Wilbaustrautt and it’s getting late you will thank me.
  2. Learn a few key phrases in the local language
  3. Have the address of your hotel/hostel/Air BnB saved into your phone where it doesn’t require wifi or data to access it
  4. Download/Screenshot a map of the area
  5. Try to rely on wifi/data as few times as possible. Even if a country is in the EU that doesn’t mean that your data will transfer from one country to another. If you have a US data plan be prepared to pay a huge fee when you get home too…. #DreadingThatSprintBill

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The people in Amsterdam are very friendly, super chill (probably from the weed), and generally have a great grasp on English so this isn’t an incredible culture shock. The worst part was just remembering the train/bus stops. There are easily more bicycles here than cars (at least near the canals), but unless your GPS is working incredibly well I probably wouldn’t try to get in the fast lane with the more experienced cyclists. After breaking my tailbone in sixth grade, I generally avoid riding bicycles if at all possible so I was not eager to hop on for this trip. If I had a guide to show me where I was going then I would be more apt to rent one for the weekend. Side note: how they remember where they “parked” their bicycle is a mystery to me. There will be MASSIVE racks of bicycles that basically all look the same. There must be some trade secret that I am just not privy to to explain this situation.

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Marijuana and prostitutes are legal here and don’t have the same stigma as they do in the states. I did have to walk through the famous Red Light District just to see it for myself. It really is as easy as walking up to the door where the girl or guy is and hopping into the rented room. One prostitute thought I was there with someone else as a couple and I quickly managed to get myself out of that situation. There are tons of “cafes” where you can purchase all manner of weed varieties as well as edibles and mushrooms, but in most of them you cannot also get liquor, only beer or wine. However, Stoopwaffles are available everywhere and only contain fat and sugar 🙂 Illegal on my real life diet, but totally legal on my vacation diet!

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I also finally got to cross something off my bucket list: visiting the Anne Frank Museum. Unfortunately, they do not allow you to take pictures of the inside, but I got the see the actual red-checkered diary in which she started writing down her novel. If you do go, I suggest booking your tickets online in advance through the museum website. It’s around $12, but you also pick your time slot for the museum so you are guaranteed entrance. I am visiting in off-season and it was still packed. Make sure you do carve out at least an hour for it since there is a lot of reading involved and people in front of you may move slowly. Everything is in Dutch as well as English and you get to see the real rooms and the bookcase that covered the secret entrance to their annex.

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On Day 2 of the trip I went on another Viator tour to Zaanse Schans, which is about 30 minutes away from central Amsterdam. It is a historic town with a ton of old, restored windmills that are actually working to this day. Each windmill works for a specific purpose: one mills wood, another grinds the pigment for the paint used in the town, another made mustard! It was really cool to walk through them and see the people who are so dedicated to preserving their heritage. (again, not sponsored)

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After the windmills we were then transported to another village where we watched a cheese making demonstration. I have a great love of cheese and I was excited to find out that:

A.) They were making Gouda

B.) I CAN TAKE IT IN MY CARRY ON!!

I bought a regular wheel as well as an Italian herb one so invite me to ALL the cocktail parties! 🙂

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After the cheese demonstration we got lunch at a local restaurant. I got fried mussels, which were very tasty. I had previously mistakenly gotten the wrong type of waffle recommended to me by my friend Julia, but the correct type of waffle was being made right next door so I managed to snag one for dessert. True to form, they were tasty, but how can you go wrong with dough and nutella??

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Once the time in that village was complete we were herded onto this river cruise, which normally I would think would be delightful, but it was FREEZING. Of course by the time I got onto the boat all of the inside seats were taken so I froze outside about 80% of the time until I couldn’t handle it anymore and just stood inside to thaw out. Once the ice boat ride was complete we finally got to go to another little village that makes the traditional wooden shoes you always associate with Holland. Back in the day it would take 3 hours to make one shoe; now with “modern” machinery it takes 5 minutes per shoe. I succumbed to my inner tourist and bought a pair…. they are supposed to be water proof so maybe I’ll wear them around in the garden? Orrrrr just put them in a place of honor on my travel wall…..

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It was an action-packed day and a great way to end my time in Amsterdam. Next time I come I’m definitely staying closer to the city centre to take more advantage of the nightlife. Living so far away kinda put a damper on that idea for this go around. Not a problem though since I will most definitely be back and I really could use the down time in a very comfy bed 🙂

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I am now back in my Air BnB taking advantage of the fact that there is a washer and dryer available for my use since all I brought was a carry-on and we are now 7 days into the trip. I am fairly proud of the choices I made in my small carry-on, but I will make a mental note to bring fewer leggings, fewer shoes, and more shirts next time. I feel like traveling by carry-on would have been much easier in warmer weather. It is steadily getting colder and I know that I am going to probably need to buy a scarf in Berlin if this keeps up. #moresouvenirs 

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Tomorrow I head to Berlin for my last real stop on my European tour! After Berlin I’m back in Dublin for a night to pick up the rest of my luggage and then head on back to Dallas. There are still no direct flights to Dallas from Dublin (weird, I know) so I will have to make the journey back through… dun dun dunnnn CHICAGO. I swear to God, if I get stuck there again for another three days it will NOT be good. (if you are confused about to what I am referring, please read this post for context.)

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Leave me some love in the comments and stay posted for the rest of my trip!

Savvy

Personal Travel

Leg Two of Europe 2016 – Paris/Normandy

As sad as I was to leave London, the upcoming rest of the trip was still very exciting. Paris is a city I have visited twice previously. Once on that same London trip when I was 13 and once for a day on a Germany trip when I was 15. I’ve always have a love for Paris and even decorated my childhood bedroom in all of my souvenirs (i.e. useful postcards because I don’t do trinkets) from my first trip. I’ve never bothered to change it so when I visit my room at my parent’s house I get to relive that trip over and over again. Both of my previous trips were in July so it was really cool to see how the city changes in the autumn weather.

Instead of flying to Paris it was significantly easier to just take the train. Previously, on my first trip my family and I also took the train so this wasn’t my first rodeo. However again… that was 12 years ago and I wasn’t in charge that time. I managed to get from the train station to my Air BnB unscathed and was pleasantly surprised to find that the location was as close to the Eiffel Tower as previously described. I was literally across the bridge from the tower and could see it from around the corner of my apartment. This was super convenient especially giving that my grasp of the French language was way stronger in my head than in real life. My French Rosetta Stone computer program is still collecting dust on my bookshelf…. #goals

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I managed to avoid the Metro by being this close to all of the major sites, which from my memory, saved me from some smells I would rather not ever smell again if I can help it. I did notice that in the past 10-12 years Paris does seem a lot cleaner. Maybe that’s just my memory or maybe it was because both previous times were during the height of tourist season and the city just couldn’t keep up with the demands of the people. I really enjoyed exploring the city without the previous hustle and bustle that can occur during the summer months. Either way I wasn’t about to chance it for the smell and for the fact that I most likely was going to get myself lost. If I was here for a week or so, not a problem. Three days is not enough time to salvage time from being lost. I know, I know, “getting lost is part of the adventure“! I’ll save that adventure for my fourth trip to Paris, thank you very much.

The first day was basically just getting to my apartment and walking around the neighborhood a bit. I of course had to visit the Tower several times and Day 1 was no exception. Traveling as an adult who needs to actually be in charge in a new place is way more exhausting than I remember as a teenager who just needed to follow a group. Couple that with anxiety and just getting to my next destination is already enough struggle for most of the day. I managed to get to my destinations and that was basically all I could handle for that day. I have consistently been going to bed super early mainly due from exhaustion and from the paranoia of going out at night in a new city where I don’t know where things are. My love for adventure sometimes takes a back seat to my personal fears and capacities, but that is probably what has kept me safe many a time. If you’re reading this looking for wild stories, then this is probably not the trip for you (but stay posted for other trips with more people and when I’m not in charge). 😉

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The next day was some more low-key sightseeing, which totally needed to include a trip to the Champs-Élysées! Since I had already done my major purchase in Dublin for LV, I just needed a quick run-through of the flagship store in Paris. If I hadn’t already looked at my credit card statement I might have been tempted to buy another addition to my now growing collection. I reigned it in for a few more stores, but then I ran across Longchamp. In my extensive research of what to buy in Paris I discovered than not only LV, but also Longchamp bags were significantly cheaper. They are also a great travel bag since they fold up fairly small and are made from nylon which is more water resistant than the calf-hair MK crossover I had been carrying. Yet another useful souvenir was purchased 🙂 Between the two bags I have probably saved over $500 dollars that I would have spent at some point. I already have been wanting them for a long time so it just makes logical sense to buy them both now at the cheapest I’ll ever get them rather than waiting until I’m back in the states. If I ever get the opportunity, there is also a Burberry outlet in London I discovered for the next trip! I may like to shop, but I am not into paying more than I have to for anything.

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After Longchamp the Ladurée macaron store was calling my name. I would have brought back some for others, but as I am not checking a bag that would prove difficult and they do not travel well. Let me just tell you that they were every bit as delicious as I imagined. Dublin and Harrod’s in London actually have their stores as well, but I decided to wait until Paris to get some for the real experience. I only got 4 for a little snick-snack. Coconut, pistachio, coffee, and salted caramel; all of them delicious. This one also had a little cafe inside, which I probably should have visited, but alas, there were sights to see! Someday when I am rich and famous I will spend more time on this street and the cafe will be my headquarters.

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I walked down the entire district and ended up at the Louvre glass pyramids. I had been previously had spent the better part of four hours in there the last time so I decided to skip it for this trip. However, it did remind me of the time when I went with my parents and sister. My parents left me in charge of 10-year-old Tara (who looked 7) while they went to figure out tickets for our next attraction. All around the glass pyramids there are ponds with ducks. Anyone who has met or knows of my sister probably knows about her love of animals. There are ducks everywhere on the ponds so she was just minding her own business looking at the ducks when all of a sudden an Asian family swooped in a scooped her up and started walking away with my baby sister! Thirteen year old, gothic Savannah was not as assertive as you might think and I was stumped on what to do. I sort of followed them at a concerned pace until I realized they thought she was a cute, french child that would be perfect for their family portrait. They sat her in their family picture, put her down, and walked away without a word. I was never more scared/amused in my life. Fortunately, Marc and Sarah soon returned and I did not get into trouble (my main concern). Tara and I have laughed about that for years. I can just imagine a gigantic blow up of this picture on some random family’s wall hanging there for the past 12 years.

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I like to book tours especially when I’ve already seen most main sites and want a different perspective from an insider. They also take the pressure off of me trying to figure out where I am going for the day/driving. God knows I avoid driving in foreign countries at all costs. I just get flashbacks to watching my parent’s honeymoon video of my dad driving around the Arc de Triumph, videotaping with one of those gigantic 80’s film cameras, narrating, and my mom screaming bloody murder. You need dramamine just to watch the tape. I will not be a part of any driving accident abroad if I can help it. It also doesn’t help that my manual transmission driving skills leave a lot to be desired. Marc took it upon himself to teach me in his Z06 Corvette around the North Texas Motor Speedway a few years ago… let’s just say it didn’t end with flying colors on my part.

My tour for that random site-seeing day was dinner at the Eiffel Tower followed by a show at the Moulin Rouge! I was pretty hyped since this was my first “adult” thing to do in Paris since both previous trips I was barely in high school. Let me save you the trip: it’s basically a dated Vegas show with nothing you haven’t already seen. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be really cool to say I went, actually going is a different story. Save your money. Dinner at the Eiffel Tower was also pretty cool, but I think I would rather book it on my own next time now that I’ve done it. I had read a lot of travel blogs who hyped it up a lot so I had one image in my mind, but it was actually very different. Because it was a tour and we are on a time schedule there was just a set menu that everyone got (which was good, don’t get me wrong), but probably wasn’t what I would order if I was there as just a normal patron. I will put it on my list to return next time, but it will most likely be for lunch and not on a tour.  The tour was fun though and it was nice being taken all of these places on a comfortable coach bus and skipping lines. You know how much I love living the VIP life.

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The next morning came very early for my Normandy tour. Fortunately, the meet-up spot was right down the street from my apartment, which made my early morning, anxiety-ridden walk that much easier. Our tour guide, Felix, was a very friendly and knowledgable former history teacher from Croatia. I enjoy having tour guides who aren’t from the actual city since they are most of the time not biased the way nationals would be. That being said nationals/locals should know the area really well in their own way and can offer different insights. I have been very fortunate to have really awesome tour guides most of the time so I could myself lucky. I usually book all of my tours through Viator. They have the best deals and always a wide selection to chose from. I’ve had issues with tours not being available on the dates that I want, but that’s usually my fault for looking last minute. (again: not sponsored)

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We left Paris for Normandy around 7am. I am pretty good about sleeping anywhere and everywhere so I slept the majority of the way to our first site, which was the farthest away. The bus was fairly small and didn’t have Wi-Fi (my major complaint) so sleeping was my best alternative. I do have data for some reason in all of these places, which I am sure my cell phone company is going to remind me about on my next bill even though I am on an international plan. I tried to get a portable Wi-Fi device, but even if a country is in the EU that doesn’t mean that their data plans transfer from country to country. That makes no sense to me and in this day and age with international travel being so prevalent this needs to change steps off soap box.

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Our first stop was a gas (petrol) station for breakfast and a leg stretch. We hopped back on and pretty soon were at our first site, Utah Beach. Not going to lie, I am not the biggest history buff. All of my family, that I know of, survived WW2 and no one was stationed in France so I have no personal ties to these historical sites in that way even though I did have several serve in other capacities. We did have one veteran on the trip (he hates Trump) so that was interesting especially since Felix was a history professor so he had his own personal questions, which made for a lively discussion on the bus during our “down time”. After Utah Beach we drove past a German cemetery where all of the graves were buried vertically to save space since it was such a small cemetery. After this we went to a Cidery (my favorite part) and learned about the history of the Cidery and the plans for the future. The owner just got FDA approval to sell in the US so I didn’t feel too bad that I couldn’t buy any at the moment #carryonproblems 

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After the Cidery we went to lunch in a nearby fishing village at a Michelin starred restaurant. I had probably the best Haddock I’ve ever had in my life and I am so glad I took a picture of the restaurant. I sat next to a father/son duo from Minnesota so we chatted about that for a bit since I had visited briefly in college at the Mall of America. I also discovered that there were two other Texan groups on the trip: one from Houston and the other from Forney (near Dallas)! Again, such a small world.

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After lunch we went to Pont du Hoc, which was not that far away, then to an American cemetery for their closing ceremonies where Teddy Roosevelt was buried, and then Omaha beach. We had a long drive back, but managed to stop back just in time for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle at 10pm. It was a great way to end the last night in Paris. 🙂

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Stay tuned for the rest of Europe!

-Savvy

Ireland Personal Travel

Leg One of Europe 2016 – London

After Dublin the plan is: London – Paris – Amsterdam – Berlin – Back to Dublin for a night – Texas. 

London: my parents took me here when I was 13, but that was 12 years ago. A lot can change in 12 years! I decided to do a highlights tour as well as hit up some of my favorites sites from last time. I had also never been to Buckingham Palace so this time I made up for it by accidentally going twice…

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Getting to London from Dublin COULD NOT BE EASIER. Ryanair is basically the European version of Spirit airlines (aka budget) and if you book your trip in advance (and on their app) the flight is 20 EURO…. Obviously I would be going EVERYWHERE if I lived here. That’s cheaper than a tank of gas just getting me around Dallas! The seats don’t go back, but the flight is 45 minutes; a small price to pay for such a deal! I will be using them later in the trip from Berlin to Dublin so stay posted on my feelings after a 3 hour flight…. The only issue is that Ryanair doesn’t fly into Heathrow, it flies into Gatwick. All you do is take a train from the airport into Victoria Station and then take either the Tube or a Taxi to wherever you need to go.

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I stayed in the Hampton Inn in Waterloo (thank you, Hilton points and Gold status!). Honestly, it was way nicer than I thought it was going to be. Also, the included breakfast was probably one of the best free breakfasts that I have ever had at a hotel, domestic or foreign. I would totally stay here again (not a sponsored post btw). It was really close to the Waterloo Tube station as well as most major sites. I totally did my fair share of walking, but I appreciated being so central to everything.

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I visited Harrods, Buckingham Palace (2x), the London Tower, London Bridge AND Tower Bridge (not the same thing!), a few cathedrals, saw some Roman ruins, had a wonderfully colorful British tour guide, and ended up getting to hang out with one of my friends from college! London was the shortest leg of the trip, but I made sure to pack in as much as I could.

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I had messaged my friend Alex about a month prior to the trip and asked for some recommendations. We met at Liberty in the HR cognant, both were in SHRM, and both worked at J. Crew. He has been living in London for the past few years and I caught him just in time since he is about to move back to the States! It worked out that he was free one of the nights I was going to be in town and asked me to go with him to the London outpost of Hillsong. I had actually never been to a Hillsong service even though they visit the Dallas area fairly often and I was actually in the Hillsong “neighborhood” back in the day on my Australian trip (never actually saw the campus though). It was such a great service and I was really happy I went. The guy speaking we are pretty sure spoke at Liberty our Sophomore year (I still need to verify the speaker schedule) and he also played the saxophone! He played “What a Wonderful World” and Justin Beiber’s song “Let Me Love You” (which my new little friend group and I continued to sing the rest of the night). After the service I was invited to tag along for dinner with Alex’s friends aka my new friends. We went to this Brazilian restaurant and stayed for a super long time just laughing and talking. Almost everyone wasn’t from London and I actually met someone who went to the same high school as my cousin! It truly is a small world. If I ever get to come back to Dublin/London I know who to call 🙂

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London was a great couple of days and, per usual, I wish I could stay longer. I could totally see myself living in London, especially once I figure out the Tube system!

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Stay tuned for the rest of Europe!

-Savvy

Ireland Travel

Solo Travel – Dublin Wrap Up

Hello again!

Last year when I came to Ireland I didn’t know a soul. I managed to make quite a few friends in my month here and develop a sort of routine. This time I am coming into these few weeks with a roster of ready-made friends, but these people all have lives too. I cannot solely depend on others to keep me entertained and that’s a bad habit to have anyway. Always be as self-sufficient as possible. #lifemotto

Tips for times like these:

  • Be flexible if possible – make a list prior to the trip of places that you would like to see, but don’t necessarily have to stick to a strict schedule.
  • Download some books (or bring some along if space/weight isn’t an issue)
  • Always have pen and paper (or the electronic equivalent)
  • Comfy shoes – exploring on your own might entail getting a tad “lost”.  Always count on walking more than initially intended
  • Bring cash/currency, but not too much at one time

Here are some pictures  places I’ve been in the past few days. I of course had to spend a leisurely afternoon in St. Stephen’s Green park, which is handily across the street from my hotel. I have had the good fortune of nice weather this trip and that day was the perfect day for a stroll in the park.

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I also checked an item off of my personal bucket list: buying my first Louis Vuitton Neverfull (on my own!). Please spare me your arguments on how these are overpriced la la la… I wanted one, did my research, and discovered that Europe is the cheapest place to buy them due to the imports and how well the US dollar is doing against the Euro. Ideally, I would have liked to buy this in Paris, but since I am not checking a bag all of the money I saved by buying it in Europe instead of in Dallas would have been diminished. I can get it hot stamped back in Dallas so that’s not a problem. I don’t like to get the normal souvenirs. I want mine to be useful and what could be more useful than a designer bag? 😉

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Solo travel is going to become more a part of my life as my friends start to pair off and my sister is still in college (aka broke) so it’s either deal with being alone or don’t go at all. Not going at all and missing out on all of the opportunities that come up is a sad way to live. That being said, even if a travel partner becomes available they may not be the best fit for your type of travel, so choose wisely. Sometimes being alone is better than being with the wrong person (true in travel life and real life).

Here is an actual picture of my hotel from the outside and my room. I was pretty pleased with my stay at The Shelbourne. I think there are some updates still being made to the hotel so if I ever get the opportunity to stay here again my next room might look a bit different. I loved the location and how close it was to Grafton. The food here was also great, which is incredibly convenient when it is a typical rainy Dublin night and you just don’t have the energy to find a new restaurant.

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I also FINALLY made it into Copper’s! For those of you who don’t know, Copper Face Jack’s is the #1 most profitable nightclub in all of Europe. I thought it was fairly packed, but apparently it wasn’t even the busiest evening since you were still able to move around a bit. They play “cheesy music” (aka 90’s and early 2000’s pop – Spice Girls, B*Witched, etc…) and it’s basically a great time. This is a place where you end the night, so you can’t get there too early (or too sober). The Dubs definitely have a different way of dancing than we do in the States; cue to me being the only one fist pumping….. The funny thing too is that if you passed it on the street you probably wouldn’t even know it was a club. This one as well as another called Dicey’s (which I went to last time) are both located next to business offices in historic Georgian buildings. I totally passed here in my cab probably 20 times before I even noticed the fairly non-descript sign outside the door.

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And with that, my posts about Dublin are over for the moment and the rest of my vacation can begin! I apologize about the posts being so spread apart, but I was pretty busy during my time in Dublin. I will be back for a night in a week so I may have some more to add later. Keep on the lookout for the rest of my posts from other parts of Europe!

-Savvy

Ireland Travel

Back in the Craic!

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Judging from the title you might think I mean drugs if you have not been following me very long. I actually mean that I am back in Dublin, Ireland! Craic is an Irish word and it basically translates to “fun” or “what’s up” as in “what’s the craic”?

I will be here for two weeks and then I am jetting off to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin! It’s going to be a whirlwind month so I am going to try to take it easy this time in Dublin since I am just getting over tonsillitis.

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If you are a new reader, welcome, enjoy, and go read my previous post on getting to Dublin last year for some context on the rest of my travel postings.

Now that that’s out of the way you will be very happy (I assume) to hear that this adventure has been smooth thus far. I made it to all of my flights, they all left on time (or early!), and none of my luggage was lost in the process. I am now sitting in the lobby of the Shelbourne Hotel since my room is not yet ready. I did request early check in (since I arrived at 8am), but they were fully booked the night before so my room could potentially not be ready until 3pm…. I really should have just booked a room for last night, but oh well.

#currentlydying

#firstworldproblems

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This is not quite how I was greeted, but I’ll keep that for the comment card (jk)

I will try to stay up to date with the posts this time. I feel that I set the bar rather high last time, however have fallen short in the past few months so here’s to trying! 🙂

Cheers!

-Savvy

 

**This is not a sponsored post or endorsement for any certain company. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way.