And so it began…

With less than a month to go for our European Adventure, my excitement levels are reaching an all-time high! All plane tickets are booked, our apartment is booked, our hotels around Europe are booked and I have finally figured out what I want to do in each city. I’ve always had an intense curiosity for travel, different cultures and history. How did this passion of mine begin?

Until June of 2008, I had only visited two places, Las Vegas and Southern California. I always knew I wanted to see more of the World, but never really knew how. How does one even go about going to another country? At the time, anyone I knew who did go overseas, went with some sort of school, study or tour group. For me, I want to experience the World myself, I want to put myself out there, learn everything on my own and enjoy the adventure. So, in 2008, at the age of 21, I decided it was time to go.  I knew I wanted to see Paris more than anything. I knew it would be an exciting introduction for me to the rest of the World. Go big or stay home, eh? So, I did a little research and booked 8 nights at Hotel Rochester, a charming hotel on a little side road off of Champs-Élysées. (Photos below via Hotel Rochester)HotelRochesterCollageWhen we first arrived in Paris, I had total culture shock. As a young girl who had only seen 2 places her whole life, walking into France was a huge deal. I knew my “Bonjour” and “Merci”, but other than that, I knew no French. When we walked into our hotel, the staff greeted us in French and I literally smiled, turned bright red and looked at Jason. What the hell do I say? You would think it was a huge celebrity that greeted me. I couldn’t even speak my own damn language.I felt sooo nervous in that moment. I had done a lot of research and everyone said “Always start off speaking a little French, never just walk into a building and start speaking English, it’s rude”. It makes sense. Luckily, Jason is not shy whatsoever and never gets embarrassed about totally butchering the pronunciation of any word! Without him, the trip would have consisted of a lot of nods, smiles and Merci Beaucoups. When we first opened the door to our hotel room, I remember Jason saying “Look, the Eiffel Tower!”, holy craaaap. There it was, over charming French rooftops standing in the distance. I remember feeling so completely happy in that moment. A feeling one can only experience through travel. One that I have become addicted to. After years of dreaming, there it was. The World right outside of my window.ParisRoomI could blog all week about my trip to Paris, so I will keep this short. Paris opened my eyes and lit a fire within me that will never go out. It turned me from a 21-year-old girl, who had no idea what she wanted to do in life, to the girl I am now. It truly changed my life and I am so thankful for that. Paris, je t’aime.JessBridgeParis

European Vacation Packing Checklist

Oh, the art of packing. The most stressful part of vacationing, right? In the past, I saved packing for the night before. I have come to the realization that this is not a good idea if you are traveling to another Country. Last year, I packed over the course of 1 week. My satin pink lined suitcase sat open inside of my closet during that time. I added items I needed and subtracted those I didn’t. It definitely takes practice to become a good “packer”. Even with my 1 week long packing extravaganza, I still managed to forget a VERY important item, a frickin’ bra. Maybe if I used one of those cute little packing checklists, I wouldn’t have forgotten this very important item. So, I made my own simple little list! Feel free to save this to your computer and use as well. (PS – I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed something on this checklist. If I did, I am sorry ;)!)TravelChecklist by Jessica Turnbow

 

Churches of the Netherlands (Part I)

The Churches in Europe are amazing to walk through. As soon as you step inside, you feel as though you have jumped in a time machine. The old stone floors and pillars, the colorful stained glass windows, the chandeliers and rows of wooden seats. The huge organs, beautiful ceilings and the echoing sound of your footsteps walking through. It’s always quiet and I especially enjoy escaping the crowds of tourists and stepping inside them for a little history and silence :) When you walk through Churches like these, you might only look up or straight ahead, but don’t forget to look down as well. If you see names, symbols or numbers on the ground below, you are most likely walking over someones grave …Whoa….! In the Netherlands, we visited four Churches; De Nieuwe Kerk, Westerkerk, and The Begijnhof Chapel in Amsterdam and Domkerk in Utrecht. 

1. De Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam)

NieuweKerk - JESSICA TURNBOWJason and I loved this Church. We ended up staying here for over an hour. Jason talked the ear off of one of the employees there, asking out about the history of the church. I especially loved looking at the burialsBURIALcopyright NieuweKerkJESSICATURNBOWThe beautiful gold details of the church really stood out, especially the Choir gateNieuweKerkJessicaTurnbowCRJessica Turnbow PhotographyNieuweKerkJessicaTurnbowAnd, it’s beautiful at night!JessicaTurnbowCopyright

2. Westerkerk (Amsterdam)

Our Apartment this Spring is sitting right in front of Westerkerk. This is the Church Anne Frank spoke of the bells ringing in her Diary. It has the highest church tower in Amsterdam, standing at 279 feet tall. At the top of the steeple is the Austrian Imperial Crown, which is part of the Amsterdam Shield.AmsNightJessicaTurnbowRembrandt was buried here!RembrandtWesterkerkJessicaTurnbowand lots of other people were buried here too (See the graves below the chairs?)JessicaTurnbowWesterkerk9 JessicaTurnbowWesterkerk10Westerkerk has a lot of beautifully carved woodWesterkerkWoodJessicaTurnbowJessicaTurnbowWesterkerk8and a lot of beautiful light…WesterkerkDetailsJessicaTurnbowCollageWesterkerkWhite

3. The Begijnhof Chapel (Amsterdam)

This was such a surprise! We were wandering around the Begijnhof and really didn’t know what to expect of this little gem of a courtyard. We saw a chapel and decided to check it out. Beautiful blue beams, fresh flowers, unique iron chandeliers…JessicaTurnbowChapel7 JessicaTurnbowChapel6JessicaTurnbowChapel5This is definitely a must see if you are wandering around the BegijnhofWoodBegCollage

4. Domkerk (Utrecht)

This is hard to miss when you are in Utrecht. The Dom Tower stands so beautifully over the CityDomkerk1The huge and beautiful ceilings…Domkerk3The way the light came inDomkerk4more graves!Domkerk10 Domkerk7check it out if you are in Utrecht!DomkerkCollageJessicaTurnbow

I am so excited to explore more Churches this Spring! Be on the lookout for Part II later this year.

Best European Travel Movies

Well, hello strangers! I have not been on in ages. Life has been busy so I haven’t had the time to blog :(. I will be better about it this year, especially since I have a lot of fun stuff to blog about! The most exciting news? We are going to Europe for 1 month this Spring. I don’t think there are any words that can accurately describe my excitement. I’m ALWAYS overly excited about travel, but this time is different. This time, we will finally see more of Europe!

With that said, I have been watching a lot of travel movies lately. It’s always fun to watch movies that take place in locations you want to visit or plan on visiting. Below is a list of my favorite travel movies (yes, mostly in order…which was really hard to do). If you are planning on making a trip to Europe, I highly recommend watching these before you go, it adds to the excitement of planning!

15 European Travel Movies by Jessica Turnbow

1. Midnight in Paris

The name itself caught my attention. One of my favorite things about Europe is walking around late at night, when everyone has returned home and to their hotel rooms. The streets are quiet, dimly lit windows illuminate the cobblestone streets, the canals and bridges are empty. “Midnight in Paris” did an excellent job of showing the magic of Paris at night. MidnightinParisAND…Owen Wilson was the perfect person to play Gil!The movie was shot in what appears to be a creamy yellow filter, giving it a warm, summer vibe, which I LOVE and reminds me of my own Paris Photography.MidnightinParis2The music was fitting, the history so beautiful. The plot the most charming I have ever seen in a movie. It’s romantic, uplifting and just plain sweet. Even if you are not a Paris fan, it is a must-see. There is no way it won’t charm you!CollageMIP

2. Marie Antoinette

This has been a favorite of mine since our trip to Paris in 2008. I don’t think there has ever been a more beautiful movie created, scratch that. There has never been a more beautiful movie created, period. The colors, the costumes, the food, the events. The mix of old and new. MarieMovie3The BEAUTIFUL footage of Versailles and its GardensMarieMovie2 MAmovie1The drama, the history MarieMovie1

3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

There are so many things to love about this movie. It’s beautiful, romantic, sexy. It has no agenda. Everyone is living in the momentVCBCollageVCBAfter watching this movie, Barcelona will be added to your bucket list.

4. European Vacation

This has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. My Dad was a HUGE fan of all National Lampoon’s Vacation movies. This one was my favorite and is still one of my all time favorite movies. It’s hilarious and overall a fun movie to watch with anyone.I especially love the 1980’s footage of Europe!EVCOLLAGE

5. Under the Tuscan Sun

Who doesn’t dream of living in Tuscany and renovating a villa, while mingling with the locals and eating delicious food?  It’s a movie about a woman finding herself in Tuscany. It’s definitely the quintessential “Tuscany” movie!CollageUTTS

6. Copenhagen

I am Danish and recently started reading my Great Great Grandmother’s Autobiography. She came here from Copenhagen, Denmark. While researching online, I came across this movie. I had no idea it was going to be as good as it was! Both Jason and I have watched it a few times now and love it more each timeCollageCopenhThe idea of this Danish girl, helping this American-Danish guy find his way around Copenhagen and links to his family, is so sweet. It shows the beauty of the City that I am proud to know I have roots in. CollageCopen

7. French Kiss

Another favorite for many years now. A must for all francophiles! I have always loved Meg Ryan. This is a fun adventure through France and another romantic story that will make you smileCollageFK

8. Leap Year

Ireland is SO so dreamy. There is just something about Irish culture and landscapes. LeapCollageThis movie may be a little on the cheesy side, but to me, it doesn’t matter. It makes up for it in the beautiful scenery and adorable plot.Film Title: Leap Year

9. Roman Holiday

I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan. This has been a favorite movie of mine since I was a little girl. RomanHolidayCollageIt’s a timeless love story and travel movie. It will never get old and will always be a favorite! A must for those who love Rome!

10. Girl with a Pearl Earring

If you love Art History, especially the Golden Age and the Art of Vermeer, you will love this movie. It takes place in Vermeer’s hometown of Delft in the Netherlands. Not much is known about the life of Vermeer, or the Girl with a Pearl Earring. This movie is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier. I love the color tones of the movie and the overall calmness and mystery. It really makes you wonder who the Girl with a Pearl Earring was. It also makes you want to jump into a time machine and visit the Netherlands in the 17th Century!CollageGWAPE

11. A Good Year

This is one of those movies that makes you think about life and what is important. The movie is filmed at a beautiful Vineyard in Provence. CollageAGY

12. Chocolat

Chocolat is the story of a woman and her Chocolate shop in a French Village, set in the 1950’s. I am a sucker for these little villages, so I adore this movie! I also like the unique plot and that it’s focused on none other than….chocolat!CollageChocolat

13. In Bruges

This movie has the most stunning footage of Bruges! It was filmed in the Winter and is the interesting story of two men, spending 2 weeks in Bruges. As soon as I saw the movie, I said “I want to go there some day and stay in a hotel similar to that one” Little did I know, that wish was going to come true. We will be staying in the hotel from the movie this year! We had no idea until after we booked it, it was meant to be. Gah, I can’t wait!CollageIB In Bruges (2008) UK, Belgium

14. A Good Woman

This movie shows the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy. It is based on a play by Oscar Wilde and set in the 1930’s. It’s full of surprises. I love this movie!CollageAGWscarlett-johansson-a-good-woman-04

15. P.S. I Love You

While this movie makes me cry every time, I LOVE it. I love the story and I love the scenery of Ireland. PS-I-Love-You-Main-ReviewCollagePSILY

I hope you watch them all and love them as much as I do! If not, your loss! 😛

Zaandam, the Netherlands

While in the Netherlands, Jason and I enjoyed hopping on the train and going to other cities. I had seen pictures of Zaanse Schans, and knew I wanted to go. To get there, we took the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Zaandam. Zaanse Schans was supposed to be a short walk from the train station, or so we thought…:P

Walking out of the train station, my mouth dropped. Some of the most amazing architecture I have ever seen stood majestically in front of me, in beautiful shades of green and blue. I had seen pictures of the famous Inntel Hotel, but had no idea it was in Zaandam. Some of the buildings across from the Hotel looked like buildings out of Minecraft or a video game, they were so unique.Zaan3JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan9JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan12JessicaTurnbowCopyright Zaan11JessicaTurnbowCopyright Zaan7JessicaTurnbowCopyright Zaan6JessicaTurnbowCopyright Zaan5JessicaTurnbowCopyright Zaan10JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan2JessicaTurnbowCopyright Zaan1JessicaTurnbowCopyrightIt quickly went from a sunny day, to a cold, overcast windy day with light rain. So as we were walking through the charming shopping street of Zaandam, we stopped into a beautiful bakery, Patisserie Chocolaterie Buter Zaandam to get some treats. We got butter cookies, and an assortment of goodies. We continued to walk in the direction we thought Zaanse Schans would be. Walking through Zaandam, we noticed a strong aroma of milk chocolate, everywhere. It smelled heavenly. We tried to see where it was coming from and found out there is a Chocolate factory in Zaandam. Not only that, we found out that Claude Monet lived in Zaandam for about 6 months, where he found inspiration and painted 25 pieces. Say what?! What a unique city! I had no idea how special it was. I just thought it was the place we were stopping through to get to Zaanse Schans, I was so wrong. That’s the thing with travel, you have to get out and explore…there is always something special to be found. After walking until our feet could no longer take it, we sat down and thought over what we should do. The wind and rain was starting to get worse. We could not see Zaanse Schans anywhere. It isn’t a place with a lot of people around, so there wasn’t really anyone to ask. What a bummer. This trip, we didn’t make it to Zaanse Schans. Instead, we turned around, walked through Zaandam and headed back to the train station and back to Amsterdam.Zaan13JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan17JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan15JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan14JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan16JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan18JessicaTurnbowCopyrightZaan19JessicaTurnbowCopyright

Grandma’s Diary

Grandma Milly…how I love you so and always will. It’s been 2 years since you passed away, but I feel you with me every day.

Before my Grandma passed away, she asked me to find her diary. It’s something she insisted on me keeping. After she passed away, I asked my Mom to find it for me. Today, I finally got the diary! My Grandma couldn’t have left me with a more precious gift. They are words from her heart. The diary was written from the years 1946 through 1947, when she was just 16 and 17 years old. She talks about going to school, sleepovers, eating marshmallows, boys putting their arms around her, laughing with friends and spending time with family. I feel like I am getting to know my Grandma on a whole new level. How special this is, getting to know my Grandma when she was 16 and 17 years old. Diary1Diary2Diary5 Diary4 Diary6 Her last entry “I made him his coffee. He went home and I went to bed.” Rest in Peace Grandma Milly  [1930 – 2012]MomGrandma

Keukenhof

Keukenhof, the World’s 2nd largest garden and one of the most beautiful in the World, is located in Lisse, the Netherlands. More than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are planted in beautiful rows throughout the 80 acres of land it sits on. We took the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Leiden, after we arrived in Leiden, we headed over to a local tourist shop, where we purchased our Keukenhof tickets. We then took a bus from Leiden to Lisse, and arrived at the gates of Keukenhof 30 minutes later. It was the last week before the gardens closed for the year, so we were there at the very end of tulip season! The tulips were massive, about the size of my 2 hands placed together. The tulips were so heavy, many of them were leaning over, some unfortunately becoming trampled by the crowds of people walking by. The sun was shining bright this day, so we relaxed in grassy areas together and watched the wind blow through the tulips. We also got our first FRESH stroopwafel. OMG…delicious. (My mouth is watering thinking about it) While eating our hot stroopwafel, we walked up the windmill and looked over the garden. Outside of Keukenhof were massive farm lands, which I realized were actually tulip fields. Unfortunately, since it was way past tulip time, there were no tulips there. I knew in that instant that this was not my last trip here, I had to come back when the tulips were at their prime…2015, here we come! Keuk14blogKeuk12blogKeuk29blogKeuk18blog Keuk17blog Keuk40blog KeukenhofCollage2Keuk45blogKeuk36blogKeuk34blogKeuk35blogKeuk28blogKeuk27blogKeuk20blogKeuk21blogKeuk22blogKeuk24blogKeuk15blogKeukenhofCollage3Keuk13blogKeuk11blog Keuk10blog Keuk1blog Keuk5blog Keuk2blogKeukenhofCollage1 Keuk39blog

AN UNFORGETTABLE BIKE RIDE: PART II

We came across so many beautiful scenes while lost on our bike ride in the Netherlands. We also encountered so many nice people who tried their best to help us find our way. Unfortunately, before we left, we didn’t nail down the pronunciation of “Muiderslot”, so it made sense when the people we asked gave us a confusing stare when we said “MooEEdurrslot, Mirrorslot, Mooderslot?” Finally, a woman figured us out and said “Ah, ‘maowderslot’!” She pointed ahead, made a little looping notion and we went on our way. About 30 minutes later, we arrived in Muiden.

Muiden is amazing. Beautiful old shops and houses, people walking around eating ice cream, boats in the harbor and a stunning castle as the backdrop. Something out of a fairytale! We walked around the Castle, sat in the picnic tables outside of it and relaxed. At this point, we were exhausted and burnt (did I mention, we forgot to put on sunscreen?) and knew we had a long journey ahead of us, so we stayed for about an hour before we decided to head back. This time, we were going to follow the signs to the nearest train station in Weesp and try to catch the train back. But of course, that didn’t work! When we got there, the ticket machine was only accepting coins, which we did not have. It was also Sunday, no one was working. How are we going to get back? It’s starting to get darker, are we going to be stuck in darkness in the middle of nowhere? Crap! So we hopped on our bikes and hoped for the best. We found ourselves riding along a long river, with huge trees lining it on both sides. The wind was blowing and the sun was starting to go down…it was gorgeous and we knew we were on track. A few hours later, we arrived in Amsterdam. What a relief! We immediately went to our favorite coffeeshop, downed a bunch of water and ordered ourselves burgers, fries, hummus, pita bread and fruity drinks. We sat there and laughed. Did we really just do that? Yep!Muider22Muider7Muider38 Muider3 Muider27 Muider25Muider6 Muider9 Muider8 Muider12 Muider19 Muider15 Muider17 Muider20 Muider23 Muider24 Muider26 Muider30 Muider29 Muider4 Muider2 Muider5 Weesp33 Weesp32

An Unforgettable Bike Ride: Part I

Jason and I share a love for biking. We dreamed of the day we would be able to ride bikes in the Netherlands. This year was finally the time! So, after renting our bikes at rentabike.nl (a fantastic place, friendly people and lots o’ bikes. A big thank you to these guys for finding me the ONE bike that wasn’t a kids bike, that fit my short legs, lol!) we decided to take these bikes out on an adventure. But, where to? Muiden of course! The home of the beautiful Muiderslot Castle. After looking at our map of the Netherlands and talking to some locals, we decided we would just wing it and ride there without a map, without a phone, without any GPS at all. After all, the greatest kind of adventure is the kind that just happens. No plans, no idea of what to expect…just throwing yourself out there. That is exactly what we did!

We knew we needed to stay near the water…as it turns out, this was NOT easy to do. We ended up running into construction, A LOT. Construction signs in a language we did not know, pointing us in crazy directions, which eventually led us way too far south, rather than east like we had planned. After riding through miles of quiet countryside trying to find a sign or business where we could at least find out where we were, we stopped on this beautiful little road. This was one of the most charming roads I have ever seen! Horses and sheep were feeding and playing, all with a majestic windmill behind them, surrounded by lush, old trees and beautiful yellow wildflowers. We stopped on this road, guzzled down a bunch of water and admired the beauty surrounding us in what was a scene out of our dreams. BikeRideCollageWeesp22Weesp29Weesp24Weesp25Weesp13Weesp9Weesp3Weesp5Weesp16Weesp4