Author Archives: Colossal Dreamer

Becoming a Tourist in my own Town

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I’ve been wanting to take some pretty photographs of Rota to display our first home in the future.  One of my New Year’s resolutions was to go out to the beach at least every other day.  I know, such a difficult task… But really, I noticed that I don’t appreciate it as much as I should now that it is my backyard.  I’ve been a little down in the dumps lately realizing I don’t have much time left here, and I decided to start making the most of every day. Yesterday I headed out right before siesta, which is an early afternoon break when the entire town heads home for lunch and a nap.  The word siesta literally means nap in Spanish.

I think this man found the best place for a siesta in the entire town.

I told you they were serious about their naps!

Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm.  In the past, most people performed hard labor and would tire by the afternoon in such drastic heat.  Most Spaniards no longer have this excuse, but still enjoy taking a long break from work during the afternoon.  This was very frustrating and unusual to an American like me when I first arrived.  Even the lifeguard would close the pool for siesta from two to five; those are prime sun soaking hours! You can forget getting anything at all done during these hours. This also affects the meal hours here in Spain.  The restaurants stay open during siesta because that is when the Spanish eat lunch.  Then, the restaurant workers get their siesta from 5 to around 8 or 9 p.m.  So, you can forget eating lunch anytime before 2, and don’t plan any dinner dates until at least 8.  Actually, Spaniards commonly don’t eat dinner until 10 or 11 p.m. and their meals will last until early in the morning.  I always laugh because a stroll around Rota at one in the morning will display an uncountable number of baby strollers, and even more drunk American Sailors ready for bed.

Maybe we should take up the siesta culture? Everyone is a lot happier and healthier here, it seems.  A Spanish man once joked to me that “they can’t get the women to die here.” Wikipedia says, “the siesta habit has recently been associated with a 37 percent reduction in coronary mortality, possibly due to reduced cardiovascular stress mediated by daytime sleep.”  With some positives, there are always negatives.  Spain’s lackadaisical lifestyle has led to a deep recession threatening economic collapse of the country.

I’m sorry for the rant.  Anyways, I left my house right before siesta for a peaceful paseo (stroll) around the sleepy town.  Casey and I used to take walks downtown almost daily, but this winter we have gotten lazy.  Although the temperature still gets up to sixty on nice winter days in Southern Spain, it can be a bit chilly with the wind blowing off of the water.  Trust me, all of our visitors complain about the “cold” here.  Most Ohioans simply aren’t used to being outside, I’ve realized.  We spend an absurd amount of time indoors. Unless it’s summertime, we’re complaining about the snow, rain, overcast, etc., and most of that intel comes from the internet or a glass window.  However, yesterday was an exception.  I was bundled up in my sweater and vest (proper Spanish attire, ugh) and immediately started sweating.  It was absolutely beautiful out! I knew I had been missing many other days like it by checking my iPhone weather app, and concluding from my couch that fifty degrees wasn’t worth going out.

I began walking the wooded trail along the beach towards downtown.  Everything is so beautiful; I was quickly reminded of my love for this town.  The pastel colors, varied flora, and clean air filled my senses with joy.  I could live here forever if my loved ones joined and Roosters chicken wings could be imported.

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Parque Natural de La Almadraba- This park is situated on the edge of sea and serves as a natural Chameleon reserve. Its pine trees and dunes are one of the most relaxing areas in Rota.

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Sand Dunes

I spent the afternoon capturing pictures of this historic town.  Rota was settled by the Phoenicians around the same time as the nearby town of Cádiz, Europe’s oldest inhabited city.  It was initially named “Astaroth,” after the noise made by the sea on stormy days as it breaks against the rocks of the reef.  Living on the beach, I can attest to that! My brother woke up one morning and swore he heard a whale the night before from his window! Rota was then assumed by the Romans, and passed to the Moors upon their arrival from Africa. It was known as Rabita Rutta “watchtower of Rota,” where its current name derived.  It has also been the center of Spanish Naval forces for many centuries and serves as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean.” Which is what brought me here…

Behind this historically rich, militarily strategic, impeccably beautiful Spanish town, is me, eager to explore it in more depth.  No one could imagine all of the hardships and plagues Rota has endured walking through its charming streets.  I stopped for a moment inside a tapas bar for some traditional Spanish tapas.  Tapas are a very distinct way of eating that originated in Spain.  They combine various appetizers to make a full meal.  Assorted tapas include goat’s cheese in olive oil, the famous jamón ibérico (don’t get me started on Spanish ham),  gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), or patatas bravas, potatoes in a spicy sauce. I opted for pimientos rellenos con carne and papas con mojo picon, or stuffed peppers and potatoes in a spicy sauce from the Canary Islands. The mojo sauce had hints of garlic, paprika, and cumin; whatever it was, I enjoyed it.  If only America would pick up the tapa gastronomy… Could you imagine being able to choose three to four small entrees in the States? I’ll have cheesy bacon fries, chicken wings, spaghetti, and some lo mein noodles please! Here are a few of the many countless tapa bars in Rota:

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After my quick lunch break, I continued my leisurely stroll around the town.  I ran into a street lined with beautiful orange trees. Spain’s oranges rival Florida’s, they are so juicy and sweet.  It reminds me of when my family was here last month and decided to steal the King’s glorious fruits only to discover they were bitterly unripe.  On the same street are adorable Spanish villas, all brightly colored with hand painted ceramics dotting them.  The uniqueness of Spanish style architecture results from a combination of Moorish and Mediterranean influence.  I may or may not have invaded some personal privacy photographing these gorgeous homes.  Here are a few of my favorites:

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One of the countless Orange trees around southern Spain.

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Wish I could have gotten an image of the whole property. The details are incredible.

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Four rooftop balconies? I adore this one.

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Saved the best for last. Impeccably stylish!

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Traditional Andalusian Patio
-In the Spring they all fully blossom with colorful flowers.

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Azulejos- Ceramic Tile Staircase

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I’m totally adding a staircase like this to my future house in the States.

Heading towards the center of the old town, I ran into a few of the monuments that prove the antiquity of Rota.  First is the Arco de Regla, the ancient gate of Chipiona, also well known as the Door of La Carne, named for the meat and derivatives transactions carried out under the arc.

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You can see the Arco de Regla in the distance.

Next, you walk into the main Plaza, where the cathedral and fortress remain.  La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O, is a temple from the 14th century that was funded by D. Rodrigo Ponce of León, Duke of Arcos.  The church is more modest than many of the surrounding cities’ cathedrals, and its interior stands out as a blend of Gothic, Isabelino, Plateresque, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

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La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la O

El Castillo de Luna (The Castle of the Moon) currently serves as the Town Hall.  It was built in the 8th century atop a fortified Muslim 6th Century convent.  Catholic Royalty lodged within the castle during visits to Rota and Christopher Columbus even stayed inside the fortress before one of his voyages to the New World.

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El Castillo de Luna

I’m embarrassed to say that most of this information I just learned yesterday, after already living here for eight months.  I have travelled to many other cities in Spain to learn of their histories, but never thought much of the small town I live in.

Further down from the plaza I ran into O’Grady’s, our favorite Irish Pub.  The food is a wonderful change of pace from Spanish cuisine, and the owner, Patrick, is one of the best people I’ve met here.

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O’Gradys Irish Pub

Passing up a crisp Strongbow cider, I headed down to the beach.  Here it is evident that Rota relied heavy on fishing for income, before the military base and tourism provided other jobs.  I ended my afternoon at an outdoor café with an old-fashioned glass bottle Coca-Cola and a book, while overlooking the harbor.  I urge you to will away a day to becoming a tourist in your own city.  There is so much to experience and enjoy that can’t be appreciated from a car window.  Maybe you will find a restaurant you never knew existed, meet a new friend, or learn a little history about the place you call home.

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Puerto de Rota

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Spanish Naval Ship in the Harbor

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Las Palmas

I made it back home just in time to enjoy the Sunset on our beach.

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Our Apartment. Can’t wait until the pool opens for Summer!

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Breathtaking!

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Hotel Playa de la Luz Terraza (Terrace)

Throwback Thursday: Better late than never, Honeymoon Style!

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Casey and I went on our “honeymoon” back in October for a few weeks and I never got around to starting my blog until now.  This post was written a few months ago so I apologize for any confusion.  It was fun for me to relive these treasured memories and hopefully you will enjoy reading about our adventures too!

We just got back two nights ago from the most amazing trip of our lives! Truly looking at the pictures is like a reality check for me that this is MY life. I love pictures, as most of my Facebook friends are readily aware. Our first stop of the 17-day dream vaca was Venice, Italy.  We left our little Spanish apartment around 7 pm for our train to Sevilla.  We arrived to the Sevilla airport around midnight and thus began the wait for our 7 AM flight.  After a quick layover nap in Barcelona, we found ourselves in Venice looking for a vaporetto, or waterbus, to our hotel.  Pleasantly surprised, we entered our hotel at Locanda Antica and were greeted by the sweetest Venetian man and an adorable room.

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Our Venetian style Locanda

All I have to say is WOW! Going places without preconceived notions is truly a blessing.  The most I knew about Venice was from Angelina Jolie and hottie Jonny Depp’s “The Tourist.” The canals, the buildings, and the overall atmosphere of the ancient city are breathtaking, unlike any other city I have ever been to! Our first pit stop was a tourist trap right along the Grand Canal.  I don’t remember the food being anything special, but the view was certainly worth the 50-euro charge.  I do remember the waiter being especially rude and not allowing us to split a pizza.

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My sweetie enjoying our first meal in Italia!

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Lunch on the Grand Canal

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  The weather was a bit dreary but certainly something we were able to look past being in such a beautiful city! We didn’t end up indulging ourselves in the 100 euro Gondola ride, but to me that is a perfect reason for a return trip.

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Next, we took an elevator (pleasant surprise) to the top of the bell tower for heart stopping views of the city 70% under water; here are a few of the pictures we snapped.

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View from the bell tower. Public executions were performed between the pillars.

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Venice is beautiful!

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The pigeons made for an adorable picture, but they gross me out otherwise. yuck!

We strolled around the city awhile longer and came across a Hard Rock Café, which has provided us the only real American food in our tummies since moving to Europe.  We snagged a quick 13-euro (yikes) magnet for our collection and headed to find some yummy Italian food instead! Dinner on the Grand Canal: pasta and a bottle of Venice’s fine Prosecco wine! I couldn’t believe we stayed up all day after not sleeping the night before, but we slept great in the hotel that night.

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Grand canal at night.

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Fabulous dinner on the canal!

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Next morning, breakfast in bed arrived as a wake up call. We did a little more exploring, hit the famous Rialto food market, had the best pizza (or so we thought) of our lives with a little house prosecco (I’m so hooked), and then boarded the Norwegian Jade!! And that was all in a little over than 24 hours folks. 16 more days of bliss to go!

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Breakfast wake up call.

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Mercato di Rialto: This marketplace has functioned as a center for exchanges of all sorts – economic, informational, social — for centuries.

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Aboard the Norwegian Jade!

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The beautiful Adriatic Sea!

Embarking onto the Norwegian Jade was something I will never forget! Dragging a ridiculous amount of luggage around Venice’s canals during a downpour was certainly the lowlight of our journey.  Truth is, we regretted traveling so heavy the moment we left our apartment.  However, once we dropped off our luggage and went through security, we were blown away by the Jade!  This being our first cruise, we truly didn’t know what to expect.  The luxury of the ship and friendliness of the employees was immediately apparent.  We first checked out our stateroom and I found my first sweet honeymoon surprise from Casey! He ordered us the honeymoon romance package, which came with delicious chocolate covered strawberries, a bottle of my newfound favorite Prosecco wine, and a dozen red roses!

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Honeymoon Package for two, please! 🙂

Eager to explore the gigantic ship, we followed our ears to Bernie Martini’s first show of the cruise, a Michael Buble tribute.  We spent many more nights sailing the Mediterranean and enjoying his jazz entertainment.  There aren’t enough words to describe how wonderful the Norwegian Jade was.  I knew that food was included, but I assumed it would be a buffet style, similar to my college cafeteria… However, when we made reservations at Grand Pacific, I quickly realized that it was a four course lavish restaurant! It felt a bit weird to just get up and leave after our meal without asking for the check.  The entertainment aboard the ship was also extremely impressive! I felt like I was at the Broadway theatre each night, and of course there was no cover charge.  Okay, enough about the beautiful ship, it was now time to get a good nights rest because we had already crossed the Adriatic sea and would be in Corfu, Greece early the next morning! My lifelong dream location was just a slumber away…

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We looked forward to these adorable towel animals every night.

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The shows on the cruise were a blast!

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We were way too ecstatic to discover a Hibachi restaurant on the ship! It rivaled our favorite back home in Ohio.

Have any of you been to Venice or any other areas in Northern Italy? I would love to visit one of the vineyards in the area.

Southern Spain’s Winter Wonderland

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Quickly realizing how much we steal from the Spanish language. Nevada= Snowfall; Montaña= Mountain

This weekend the hubby & I decided to leave Sunny Spain and head up to the lookalike “Swiss village” of Sierra Nevada! Okay, so you might be confused because Sierra Nevada is still in Spain, but no one would guess once they’re up there! From Granada, we began our ascent up the mountains.

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Crazy to think we would be way up in those mountains in less than an hour.

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Easily one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken.

The change of scenery (and temperatures) throughout a mere 29 kilometers was delightful.  From the bottom it is dry and arid, then turns into a lush green, and finally a winter wonderland! We had plans to hike around the mountains but when we reached the Sierra Nevada ski resort, we had no intentions of going elsewhere.  After almost a year away from home, this was as close as we could get! The snow made us nostalgic.  We bundled up like Eskimos just the way our parents taught us our whole lives. We tucked in our shirts tight, added a few itchy scarves, and layered up to the point of suffocation.  Let me remind you that it was about 30 degrees. That’s nothing for an Ohio winter, but about all we could bare after the Costa de la luz lifestyle we have been used to.  After haggling some Wi-Fi we booked a small studio apartment on booking.com for the night and quickly checked into our room at “Inside Plaza Apartamentos.”  It was located right in Plaza de Andalucía, the main square. 

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Plaza de Andalusia- the most liveliest area in the town.

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Beautiful views from the ski lifts.

Tip: when traveling Europe, don’t ever accept the rate given at the reception counter.  Nine times out of ten you can go to booking.com and get it at least 30% cheaper!

We spent our first day frolicking in the snow, blasting each other with snowballs, and people watching from the warmth of a Spanish café.  For dinner we chose an Italian Restaurant, Ci’vediamo.  It was a beautiful and quaint restaurant where we thoroughly enjoyed our candlelit dinner.  I chose spaghetti arrabiata, which is a spicy tomato sauce, and Casey had the pesto with linguini. Italian food is usually poor in Spain, and we were so impressed we asked our camarero (waiter) if the cook was Italian.  His response: “No he is from Malaga, but he is almost Italian.” Whatever that means… he still gets an applause from us! After dinner we trekked out into the blizzard and made our way to a beautiful lodge for a few copas de vino (cups of wine).  The next day we woke up hoping to see the beautiful mountains outside of our balcony.  However, all we saw for the next 24 hours was white due to the crazy blizzard.  We decided to brave it out and go skiing for the first time.

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The view from our hotel on day 1.

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Having a blast in the snow. It reminded me of when we used to go sledding on snow days in high school together. 🙂

I guess all of our lives in Ohio we never considered the snow to be anything pleasant.  Snow conjures images of shovels, gray slush, and windshield spatulas for most of us in the Midwest.  We quickly realized we had been missing out on a lot during those long dreary winters of our childhood! Although certainly not an easy (or cheap) activity, skiing is a blast once you’re actually going down the mountain.  After a few meters off the lift, Casey and I both tumbled on top of each other and laughed hysterically for a few minutes.  About fifteen more tumbles later we found ourselves at the bottom of the hill.  We probably should have taken lessons but anyone who knows me knows I am a bit stubborn and persistent.  I found the “pizza” method from Youtube to be the most effective.  That is, making a bigger pizza slice with your skis slows you down, while a small piece speeds you up.  I may or may not have been yelling at myself “BIG PIZZA JULIA, BIGGER PIZZA” the whole way down. Cheesy, greasy, warm pizza was an easy focus point up on those freezing mountains.  Naturally we headed back to the same Italian restaurant for a fresh Caprese salad and a Margherita pizza before heading back home.  I won’t get into the drive home.  I will just say it renewed our appreciation to be living in Sunny Spain this year.  Although, Spaniards aren’t used to driving in snow, so you can only imagine… Overall, we had a blast and will definitely be back to tackle the Sierra Nevada Mountains again!

The Ohioan came out in us on the drive home.  That Audi took an hour to drive 9 kilometers (approx. 6 miles).

The Ohioan came out in us on the drive home. That Audi took an hour to drive 9 kilometers (approx. 6 miles).

Undying Love

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Undying Love

I wrote my first blog four months ago and have finally mustered the courage to post it. Attempting to put such strong feelings into words was a challenge.

After living what most would say is a “fairytale life” for the last four months, I only felt it right to start a blog to remember this magical time in my life! My cousin, also known as my cousin’s husband, came to visit Casey, my sweet husband, and I last week.  You may ask why my cousin, who is more my sister and very best friend, didn’t join him.  Well, last year (September 7, 2012) she died in a tragic accident.  I can honestly attribute the leap of faith to drop out of Pharmacy School and join my high school sweetheart across the world to her vivacious living.  Losing someone so close to you truly revolutionizes your outlook on life.  Life is over in a blink of an eye, and I decided to take this once in a lifetime opportunity because of her… and my Aunt Cheryl.  Her mother, beyond grief-stricken, died nineteen days after her in a terrible car accident.  That month of my life felt like a scary movie, and no words can describe the pain.  These two women were the happiest, loving, and most genuine people I have ever known.  You will understand why this introduction was necessary once I start my blog from this weekend’s events.

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My Cousin Brittanie, Aunt Cheryl, and I after my high school graduation.

My cousin Josh and I  went to Paris, France for the 1st Brittanie Michelle Pederson Annual Trip.  Although she never made it out of the U.S., she constantly dreamed of visiting the entire world.  In particular, she was obsessed with France and the French language.  We felt her with us the entire trip.  We discovered the most wonderful tribute for the first anniversary of their passing: LOVER’S BRIDGE PARIS. Legend says to write your lover’s name on a padlock and lock it onto one of the bridges. Then throw the key into the Seine River as a symbol of your undying love.

Lover's Bridge, Paris

Lover’s Bridge, Paris

“Undying love,” these words stuck with me.  The only thing you have once someone leaves this world is the love they added to your life.  My Cousin and Aunt always went out of their way for anyone and everyone to make them feel loved and special.  Their unique and unconditional love is something that simply could never die.  I will carry it on in my heart, in my smile, and in my soul for the rest of time.  The evening in Paris was beautiful and was such a special memorial for them.  The moment we stepped out of the taxi onto the bridge it felt just right.  The sun was just setting and the weather was perfect, absolutely serene. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Josh getting ready to throw his key into the Seine River.

Josh getting ready to throw his key into the Seine River.

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I’m so lucky to have him. He loved and adored Brittanie and Cheryl and I know he will help me keep their memories alive forever.

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Throwing the key to Aunt Cheryl’s lock in the river.

As soon as we left the bridge a beautiful rainbow appeared, although there had been zero rain the entire day.  I didn’t even make it across the street to photograph it before it disappeared; we took it as a sign from Brittanie. So touching.

You can barely see the fleeting rainbow on the right.

You can barely see the fleeting rainbow on the right.

That night we drank entirely too much (for Britt, we tell ourselves).  At 15 euro (roughly 20$) a drink, we racked up quite a bill that night.  We tried to “bar hop” but literally ended up at the same bar three times in a row.  We met this lovely bartender named James who travels the entire world; he definitely gave us the travel bug if we hadn’t caught it before.  There we decided we would take a trip for Brittanie every year to commemorate her.  There will never be a moment that I don’t miss my dear best friend, but at least I know the Parisian legend will hold true in my heart.  Her love will live on forever.

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