America Trip Part 2: Chicago

The first and only ever time I was in Chicago was with Shane back in 2014, just before we moved to the Netherlands. We were there for our friend Brian’s 30th birthday, and the only thing I really remember is that the famous Bean was right next to our hotel. That, and we all went out for massages. It was my first one ever (at 28 years old), and while everyone else came out relaxed, I was disappointed. I remember sitting there listening to “oh! and when they did this and that!” and thinking “I got none of that!”

Needless to say, I was excited to see Chicago again. Plus, the Wolfpack (Shane, Brian, and me) hadn’t been together in roughly three years.

So, we spent our final few days in America letting Brian and Shannon tour us through some new and some of their favorite spots. I won’t lie, the itinerary was ambitious and involved pre-made Google maps. We didn’t make it all the way through, but we did our best!

first up,

The beach!

To be honest, this lasted for about 10 minutes. It was a beautiful idea, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating. However! Shane and I did put our feet into (very cold) Lake Michigan while Brian and Shannon held down the blankets… literally. It was that windy.

The river!

We walked it. We biked it. We took cute pictures.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery!

Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but Starbucks isn’t my favorite. I would have never thought to visit the roastery. However, if you like coffee, then I would absolutely recommend a visit and a tour! I didn’t realize that Starbucks had a reserve coffee line, and I definitely didn’t realize that there were only six reserve roasteries worldwide!

If you want to just have a coffee and experience the place, then it’s free, but we did a tour of the four-story Starbucks with a coffee tasting that goes in-depth into their coffee process, from beans to brew! You won’t leave un-caffeinated.

Oh, and their espresso martini is not to be missed! Yes, this Starbucks has a bar.

It’s covid-friendly with separate straws, right?

Bikes, baby!

Chicago was a surprisingly bike-friendly city, at least the little bit of biking we did. The biggest difference was the turn signals or the lack thereof. Here, sticking an arm out when you’re turning left or right is engrained, but Shane and I seemed to be the only ones giving turn signals in the city.

We hit the Lakefront Trail towards the end of the day, which had spectacular views! It’s a walking and biking path, so I highly recommend it.

Rooftop bars!

We hit several rooftop bars in between stops for tacos and ice cream. I’m a sucker for a good view. So, my favorites were The Robey (which had the tiniest rooftop pool I’ve ever seen) in Wicker Park and The J. Parker in Lincoln Park (which had a bonus city + lake view)!

Views from The Robey.
Views from the J. Parker.

360 Chicago (the John Hancock Tower)!

If you’re looking for an incredible view, then the 360 Chicago observation deck is the place to be. If you want to enjoy that same incredible view with a semi-overpriced cocktail, then you should check out the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor. I say semi-overpriced because for the price of one admission to the observation deck you can get two fancy cocktails with a great view (although not 360 degrees). Since we went at night, we decided on the cocktail option.


Like I said before, we had an ambitious list that went partially unfulfilled. Guess that means there’s gotta be a next time!

We’re on the final countdown, folks! Two weeks from now, we will be on the way to Ecuador!

Until then, we’re cramming in all the Munich we can handle.

Tschüss,

Whitney

America Trip Part 1: Family & Friends

We made it through the wilderness, yeah we made it throuuuughhh!

Obviously, the wilderness is 7 months of basement lockdown and 2.5 years away from home.

Honestly, traveling during the pandemic wasn’t as bad as I expected. We needed a negative covid test, which is a requirement to enter the United States. Plus, when we left for America, we had both vaccine doses, but it hadn’t been two weeks since the second dose, so we weren’t yet considered “fully vaccinated.” This was no problem since testing is free and on every other corner in Munich. Masks were required, which we expected and, quite frankly, liked. The only noticeable difference was the availability of stuff to do in the airport in Munich (most everything was closed), a long line to get to our gate (an extra check for the negative test and a valid reason to enter the U.S. as tourists are still not allowed), and reduced food and drink service on the flight (only one wine for me).

Overall, it was quite easy!

This time, we had about 3.5 weeks at home, split between both families and friends. From this point, this post is basically just a bunch of pictures.


Part 1: The Crosson Crew

The Crosson/Christopoulos crew met us full force as soon as we stepped off the plane… all 15 of them! It was a lovely (albeit slightly overwhelming, no offense, of course 🤪) start to our trip, and they were a great welcome home gang!

After that, we went to a baseball game, tried new restaurants, played on the lake, and basically fit in as much as we could while we could.

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Part 2: The Wrights

As usual on trips home, Shane and I were only together for about a week, and he’s really bad at taking pictures. So, it’s a good thing my mother-in-law arranged for some family photos.


Part 3: Friends

As expected, there’s never enough time at home, but we were lucky to be able to fit in a few friend trips.

East Carolina guys (+ a new addition).

Like most, the pandemic gave us time to do a lot (too much?) thinking. We’ve always justified living abroad because “we’re only a flight away.” For over a year, the pandemic dictated otherwise, which made us particularly appreciative of our time at home and the friends and family who made the effort to come to see us or check-in while we were in America.

What have we learned? While we love living abroad, two years away is too long. 💗


Up next? Chicago!… where we spent our final few days in America.

Tschüss,

Whitney

Groningen Round-Up 3 (Plus Some Extra)

So, remember that time we went home for Christmas?

…probably not, because I never actually blogged about it! (facepalm)

In short:

We flew home – we had Christmas with our families – we celebrated New Year’s Eve – I turned 32 (not too keen on seeing that in writing) – we saw as many friends as we could – Shane got to see some of his nephew’s swim meets – time went way too fast – we came back to the Netherlands!

I’ll let the pictures show the details. Presented in chronological order.

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Shane was a mattress shopping assistant.
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Star Wars.
curious kitten. Muffin wouldn't let me get any pictures this trip.
Curious kitten, Abby.
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Birthday!
Birthday, again!

Since we’ve been back, we’ve been laying low. Shane is officially in the final stretch of Ph.D. so there is a lot of writing going on in our house at the moment. There have been a few new developments though.

1. We booked our next trip! We will be heading to Livigno, Italy for a week of snowboarding in March.

2. We checked something off our Groningen bucket list! We FINALLY made it to an FC Groningen match. The best part? The tickets were free (thanks to our insurance ‘healthy points’ rewards program) and we ended up being 4 rows from the field! The match ended in a tie, but it was so nice to go to a live sporting event.

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3. I started a Dutch course! For two hours every Tuesday and Thursday night, I’ll be in class. The group is 16 people, and the people are from all over. Mexico, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, Poland, Bosnia and America (me), to be exact. I think it’s so cool for such a diverse group of people to be united over a common goal of learning Dutch. Supposedly, when I complete the course I’ll be halfway to ‘B2’ level, which would be advanced-intermediate. I should be able to have conversations and more clearly express opinions in Dutch without problems. I’ll report back on how it goes.

4. We are fully on the climbing train. Right now, we’ve been going to the climbing gym about twice a week. Our gym does mostly top-rope climbing and has a very small (indoor) bouldering room. We recently found out about a fairly new bouldering gym here in Groningen, so we decided to check it out. Lots of fun!

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5. And most importantly, Meatball got a house for Christmas (had to get the XL version…). Toooooo cute!

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So, I think that’s about all! More to come after snowboarding. 🙂

Tot ziens,

Whitney

A Shwitastic Party !

Hi Everyone!

I’m finally back with part two of our wedding adventure in Banner Elk, NC at the Cornerstone Cabins.

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First, we’ve said it before, but we’re saying it again! HUGE thank you to my mom and sister who were the creative geniuses behind this. Shane and I said we wanted an ‘outdoor, cookout, tailgate-feel party with BBQ’ and they more than delivered.

We would also like to say thank you again to my Dad, Shane’s parents, and the rest of the family who helped execute the vision! We know there was a lot of coordination to make this happen, and we can’t thank you enough for it!

Instead of a lot of chit-chat, I’m going to let the photos do the talking.

The Venue
Our suprise bluegrass band!

Our Surprise Ceremony!

Yep, you read correctly! We know we were a little untraditional, having the wedding just the two of us in Croatia. While Croatia was absolutley perfect, we decided that it would also be a fun idea to share this with the friends and family who traveled to celebrate with us.

We made the announcement about the ceremony, Shane and I ran inside to change & our guests were entertained with bubbly!

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The ceremony was written and officiated by my one and only sister! Sis couldn’t have written a more perfect ceremony. It was a fantasitc balance of thoughtful and funny… particularly when she had me quoting Taylor Swift to Shane as part of my vows.

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Many thanks to my awesome cousin, Linsdey Milani, who took pictures during the party, ceremony & all the group family shots!  Love ya cousin! 🙂

Let the Party Begin!

The ECU crew.

The Family Photos

The Wright Gang 

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The Crosson and Christopoulos Crew

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All in all, we could not have asked for anything better! We went back to Holland looking for excuses to have ‘A Shwitastic Party 2.0’.

Thanks to everyone who celebrated with us in person, and in spirit! We love you all!

Tot ziens,

The Shwits

p.s.- we’re still waiting on the professional pictures from Croatia. Once we have them then we will share! 🙂 ❤

Oh America, how we missed you… Special Events Edition !

as promised…

Special Event #1:

We’re Engaged!!!

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to be married of course!

Shane mentioned in the previous post that we spent some time back in Pittsburgh visiting friends. What he didn’t tell you was that he proposed while we were there!

It’s New Year’s Eve, and he wakes me up at 5:30am. “Get up, let’s go somewhere!”

How did he get me out the door that early with no questions asked?

The promise of coffee and that he wanted to steal a moment for just us in our old city. Logical explanation.

Why did it have to be at 5:30 in the morning?

We may or may not have had a FaceTime date with Meatball at 8am…

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Anyway! Off we go, up to Mt. Washington. If you’ve ever been to Pittsburgh then you know why it would be our favorite spot in the city. The view there is incredible. Even in the dark & cold.

A little back story. We basically live our lives by the TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’. It’s the best. In the very first episode, Ted (the main character) steals a blue french horn for Robin as a romantic gesture for screwing up the first date, and the blue french horn remains a theme throughout the entire series.

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Shane didn’t screw up any first dates, but he did give me a blue french horn the morning he proposed on top of Mt. Washington. 🙂

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And my friends even threw me a mini-bachelorette party (while in North Carolina)!

December 31st was full of reasons to celebrate: New Year’s eve itself, the engagement, and my birthday!

Speaking of birthdays…

Special Event #2:

Harry Potter World!

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For my 30th my parents and sis surprised me with a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!

Sis and I have only talked about wanting to go since before it opened. I don’t know how many years ago that was but it’s too damn long. But don’t worry.

OUR DREAMS CAME TRUE!

(even though sis missed the ‘we’re making an exaggerated excited face’ memo)

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This place is magical.

LITERALLY! (get it?!?!)

We started the day in Hogsmeade where we sipped butter beer, toured Hogwarts & checked out the shops. The Hogwarts ride is probably one of the best rides I’ve ever been on. It’s a blend of roller coaster and 3D. One minute you’re riding your broom around the castle with Harry and Ron, and the next minute you’re zooming down the track escaping a dragon! It’s fantastic.

Naturally, we couldn’t stay in Hogsmeade all day so we hopped the Hogwarts Express to head into London & Diagon Alley.

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When we got there, we were in awe!

Diagon Alley did not disappoint. We saw the Daily Prophet, The Weasleys’ Wizard Weezes, Gringots, Knocturn Alley, and ate lunch at The Leaky Cauldron.

Oh, and took a few goblin selfies.

Thanks again, family, for the perfect present!

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Well, I think this about sums up our American adventures!

We’re heading to Prague in a few weeks, so stay tuned!

Tot ziens,

Whitney