Dec 19, 2014

FRESH FACE FRIDAY [& Blog Hop!]: Meet Lucy & Jenny

Excuse me, but how in the world are we now entering the week of Christmas? I feel like I blinked and it was here. I also feel like I say that every year. It sneaks up on us all. Thankfully, all my shopping is done and half the gifts wrapped...so I'm ahead of schedule for once! I have to say, even though I miss our Germany Christmas so much, it's been such a breeze making Christmas happen now that we're back stateside. My online shopping has been limited, haven't had to battle the post office nearly as much, and I've had access to every single gift I needed to buy (no more "we can't ship that to you, sorry!"). No pressing timeline to get things mailed by a certain date, either. It's been a whole lot less stressful, if that can even be said about the holiday season? Not to mention, I've spent the entire month of December with my family in NC. So lovely. Although I have been missing my dear husband, as he's been in Alabama the last 5 weeks for another Air Force training. Happy to report he's now graduated and on his way home for Christmas in just a few days! The holidays are shaping up to be quite nice thus far. Just need to make me a pot of gluhwein and I'll be smooth sailing 'till Santa.

In other news, the new travel agent biz is moving along swimmingly! So far it's been quite fun...and I'm slowly but surely figuring out how I'd like to run things. Always a work in progress, though! BIG THANKS to all you lovely people for your kind words, encouragement, and the amazing support you've shown since I launched Road Less Traveled Vacations. My heart as been so full (and so busy!!). I'm really looking forward to all the fun travel planning and business growing that is to come in the new year! Please keep me in mind for any winter getaways you might like to book in 2015. Lots of "beat the freeze" deals coming out for cruise lines and all-inclusives, so email me at casey@destinationstoexplore.com for more info or a FREE quote!

Enough biz talk...it's time for the Fresh Face Friday Blog Hop! Meet the two lovely ladies below and spend some time linking up and hopping around blog world today. No better way to start your Friday! Cheers to a lovely Christmas week for all! May all your holiday shopping be done lickety split! Until next week...

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Old soul, daydreamer, beautiful photographer...Lucy is the author of the charming lifestyle and travel blog, The Road is Long, and so much more. Over on her creative space, you'll read stories of her travels, musings on life (an lovely writer, she is), and insights as she shares her love of living holistically...AND her gallery of Bali photos has me drooling for a Balinese getaway this instant! GORGEOUS! Get lost in Lucy's blog today and make a new travel-loving friend!

Lucy's Favorite Posts:

My Favorite Posts:
Moving Country? What to Expect
Bali and Me
Just Living


 BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | BLOGLOVIN' | PINTEREST | YOUTUBE | INSTAGRAM

Friends, meet Jenny! She's the blogger over at the UK lifestyle blog, Sunny Sweet Pea! Miss Jenny has a cute pup named Pip (LOVE!), is an extrovert with introvert tendencies (you and me both, girl!), and loves to write about all things books, recipes, & living life in Norfolk. She's also got a snazzy eye for photo styling. I've so enjoyed wandering around her space this week. Want a new blog to fall in love with? Sunny Sweet Pea is a winner!

Jenny's Favorite Posts:
Ruins
Burnham Market: The Loveliest Village in Norfolk
Houghton Mill

My Favorite Posts:
Beside the Seaside
Lemon Drizzle Cake with Edible Flowers
30 Things in 30 Years

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Welcome to the
FRESH FACE FRIDAY BLOG HOP!
No prompt, just fun!

Hosted by: Casey @ We Took the Road Less Traveled

Rules for hopping:
1| Follow your host & co-hosts (first 3 links), pretty please! 
2| Link up your blog's homepage or Bloglovin' page.
3| Hop around, meet new bloggers, and leave them love!
4| Have fun? Spread the word and share this blog hop with your friends!
5| Want to be a co-host? Click here for more info! 

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Dec 15, 2014

Valkenburg, Netherlands: Christmas in a Cave


One of the best things about being in Europe during Christmastime is the exciting abundance of Christmas markets all across the continent. The lights, the music, the stalls filled with handicrafts, sweets, and the ever-popular gluhwein...there's no better way to get into the holiday spirit than a wander around a European Christmas market. Many people think of Germany when they hear of Christmas markets (as they should, it holds many of the world's most beautiful markets!), but some of the most unique ones I've been to are just across the border in countries like Belgium, France, and in today's post, the Netherlands!

One foggy (and incredibly chilly) December Sunday, we hopped into a car with two dear friends and made the 2.5 hour drive from Wiesbaden to Valkenburg, Netherlands...home of the famous Valkenburg Caves. We'd heard Valkenburg held their annual Christmas market inside the network of underground caves that run throughout the city, so we knew we had to see this unique market set-up for ourselves. Upon to arriving in Valkenburg, we realized the town had split their Christmas market between two different cave areas; one called Gemeente Grot and one named Fluweelen Grot. Each cost us roughly 4-5 euros to enter, or you could purchase a 10 euro ticket to wander through both (if memory serves). The lines were long to enter Gemeente Grot, the largest underground cave market of the two, likely because only so many people are allowed into the caves at one time. We waited roughly 15 minutes before we were allowed to enter, so not too shabby.


Once inside, Christmas began to unfold before our eyes. The caves were dark, but lit brightly and festively by dozens of twinkle lights, glowing Santas, and Christmassy displays of elves, polar bears, and nativity scenes around every turn. Along many of the cave walls, you could see historic markings and drawings, just adding to the uniqueness of the experience. Being inside a cave was definitely the coolest part of the whole market. The let down? The market vendors. Much of the market stalls were filled with Dollar Tree-type junk and not the adorable local handicrafts and holiday gifts that most Christmas markets pride themselves on showcasing. Additionally, the crowds got a bit claustrophobic in certain areas, which made it hard to enjoy what little shopping we did try to do. If you go visit the Valkenburg cave markets, I suggest you come for the cave experience & history, not so much for the shopping. And maybe choose only one of the caves to pay to wander through, no need to see both (they house almost identical stalls). Just my traveler two cents.

Now, if you're thinking you could care less about the markets if there's not any great shopping, you might want to reconsider. The town of Valkenburg is quite cute to explore. All decked out in garland and lights, a stroll at dusk helped restore our Christmas spirit after battling the cave crowds. We also ate some lovely stew at one of the quaint restaurants just off the market square...worth spending time in the town for, just wish I could remember the name of the restaurant! Sorry. After dinner, we walked to another part of the town and found ourselves an small outdoor Christmas market called Santa's Village. It was much more like the Christmas markets we were used to in Germany, with gluhwein and gingerbread in abundance.


After all was said and done, would I recommend a visit to the Valkenburg cave markets? Ehhh, like I said, the caves were neat, the shopping was not. Maybe explore the caves apart from Christmas market season? I would have loved to do that. That being said, the town itself was festive and adorable, so if only for that reason, I'd go back again. It was definitely an market experience to remember!
 
For more recaps of Christmas Markets around Europe, click here!
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