Golden Flake Photo Shoot

Earlier this month I collaborated with Golden Flake on a shoot for their social media campaigns. Golden Flake is a famous brand of potato chips and snacks, made right here in beloved Birmingham, and there isn’t a kid in town who didn’t go to a factory field trip in elementary school. Local photographers Noah and Rachel Ray captured the youthful, modern vibe of the shoot just perfectly. I had a blast working with them and hope to be able to again! I also loved working with Golden Flake’s social media gal MaryJane Carney, who sent us off with the BEST parting gifts ever: huge tote bags stuffed full of chips. As far as I’m concerned, GF Dill Pickle and Buffalo Ranch chips might as well be currency.

Here are just a few of my favorite photos from the day! Follow Golden Flake on Instagram and across social media for more (or just because why wouldn’t you follow the South’s best potato chip?) Huge praise-hand emojis to our four models, they were professional and fun and brought our little urban picnic to life. Also have to give some praise-hand emojis to our local West Elm, who let me raid their store for the perfect props. That polka dot picnic blanket and those enamel plates, though.

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{Switzerland} Lausanne

Our last day in amazing, magnificent Switzerland was spent in the French-speaking town of Lausanne. (That’s pronounced lo-ZAHN by the way, and you better make sure you’re saying in right!) We had been planning to go to Bern, but a quick read in Rick Steves’ book made me change my mind at the last minute, the clincher being that THE OLYMPIC MUSEUM IS THERE! Did you know we are Olympic fanatics?!

I spent most of the great train ride through the western Swiss countryside trying to brush up on my conversational French and Zack spent most of his time catching up on Go Call Saul.

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A couple hours later we were stuffing the lockers in the train station with our backpacks and taking the local public transit down to Lake Geneva. Literally, down. Lausanne is a steep lakeside town and once you get on their public transit at the main train station, you are halfway between “uptown” and “downtown.” It’s kind of disorienting to be standing there, because the train is actually on a slant. So weird but very cool! Like most other Swiss cities, your Swiss Pass covers your public transportation.

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We decided to go “down” town and grab a bite before heading to the Museum. The lakeside is just beautiful! Full of skateboarders, people playing on huge chess boards, and little food stands selling gelato and sandwiches. It kind of has a boardwalk feel, but in the way that a town that straddles France and Switzerland only can feel. From what we would tell, the food stands are definitely the cheapest lunch in town, but there is a Co-Op grocery store a block down where you can grab some picnic provisions. We had a couple of Caprese sandwiches and they weren’t too bad at all!

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And there is a countdown clock to the Olympics! Oh my goodness, I can’t wait for Rio!Swiss51

And then: The Olympic MuseumLe Musée Olympique. There was much rejoicing. We. Love. The. Olympics.

Admission to the museum is included in the Swiss Pass, although just walking around the grounds is inspiring enough. The steps and columns are engraved with the city and year of each Olympiad.
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You can even take in some beautiful artwork while trying your hand at the 100-meter dash!
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The statue of Pierre de Coubertin overlooking the eternal Olympic flame and Lake Geneva is pretty awe-inspiring. It was cloudy the day we were there, but on a sunny day, he must have a great view of the French Alps! IMG_8723

To enter, you walk under a high jump bar that is set to the height of the men’s world record.

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The inside is filled with beautifully curated memorabilia, a living history of the games, and even hands-on exhibits and activities.

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Upon seeing the autographed basketball from the 1992 Dream Team, I decided to record the following for hometown celeb Charles Barkley:

Anyway, of course Atlanta was our favorite Olympiad! I was in middle school when the next city over from ours hosted in 1996. I remember taking a field trip to Atlanta in the 6th grade and seeing them finishing up all of the venues. We even went to the Japan-Italy Mens game at Legion Field here in Birmingham, since the soccer games were played here. I also vividly remember a men’s soccer team walking around the Galleria shopping mall one while I was there with my best friends for my 12th birthday. I don’t remember what country they were from, but I remember gaping at them as they walked by and the smiles we got in return. Whew.

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If you’re anywhere near Lausanne while in Switzerland or the Swiss-French boarder, then GO TO THERE! You will love this charming little lakeside town and all the fun that comes with it being the home of the International Olympic Committee.

Au revoir Olympic Museum, and thanks for a wonderful afternoon! Can’t wait for Rio 2016!Swiss57And au revoir Switzerland!

LS15We took a late train to the Geneva Airport, got there about 11pm, and napped on the floor until 4am when we could check in for our flight to…Marrakesh! “A right bonkers vacation,” as a British lady we met in Morocco who lives in Lausanne told us! (And we’re quite proud of that!) LS8

I also want to give a shout-out to my TOMS Nepal boots, that kept my feet warm and toasty in the Swiss winter weather! (Good travel tip: waterproof your shoes before you go so the snow doesn’t get your feet wet!)

Sadly I have no photos of our time on the floor of the Geneva Airport, but I really wish I did, because it was quite the experience! (To sum it up in case it could be good advice for anyone else: we are pretty rugged and cheap when we travel, often opting for hostels and picnic lunches when we’re abroad. RyanAir had a cheap flight from Geneva to Marrakesh so we knew we were going to fly out of there to get to Morocco, but it left first thing in the morning, and to stay in Geneva for the night would have meant getting an expensive hotel room in France and paying a hefty taxi fee to pick us up around 3:30 am and take us back across the boarder. Not to mention that our rail passes only covered Switzerland, so we would have had to pay for a taxi from Geneva into France late at night too. What’s 4 hours on the floor of an airport when the alternative is 3 hours in an expensive hotel room the next country over? It would have cost us something like $225 when it was all said and done, and we just couldn’t justify that at all! The Geneva Airport is closed from midnight to 4am by the way, so it’s nice and quiet, and filled with other budget backpackers who are doing the same thing. Get there a little before midnight, grab a quick snack, brush your teeth in the bathroom, and a few hours later you can rest up at your next destination!)

Anyway, to wrap it all up, Switzerland was amazing, clean, friendly, filled with wonderful history and beautiful scenery, and worth the expense it costs to stay there, even for a few days. And I hope these blog posts have helped give some ideas on how to save money while you’re there! Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions at all and I’d be so happy to help! And feel free to check out my posts on Zürich, Mürren and Gimmelwald, and Lauterbrunnen,

Icebox Coffee Waffles & Blueberry Topping

It’s getting to the point that I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t live in Birmingham. There is a creative community here that is bursting at the seems with talent, and I’m so happy to be part of Birmingham Bloggers. (Even if WordPress won’t let me add the BB badge over on my sidebar….can someone please help me with that?) And we also have a food scene that rivals any big city. One of my new favorites is Icebox Coffee. I love cold-brewed coffee, and I really love that I can grab a ready-to-drink bottle anytime I’m near Whole Foods or a Piggly Wiggly here in town, or wash down whatever I’m feasting on at Pepper Place with a big cup of it.

Currently Birmingham Bloggers and Icebox Coffee are hosting a recipe contest, and I thought it’d be fun to see what I could come up with. I spent the better part of a week tossing ideas around before finally settling on coffee waffles…because breakfast food is everything to me.

As I was testing the recipe, the first batch, while it had a good coffee bite, didn’t have that rich, breakfast-y flavor that I wanted. So I threw some blueberries that I had in the batter…good flavor but still not quite right. The second batch I made with buttermilk and they turned out great (no surprise I guess), but I still thought it needed a little more of a coffee kick and little more of a breakfast kick. Which is how I came up with the blueberry topping. I really wasn’t sure how that was going to come together, but I ended up loving it. If you’re more into sweet and less into coffee, definitely throw some maple syrup on top :)

Icebox2 copyIcebox Coffee + Buttermilk Waffles
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
½ cup Icebox Cold Brew Coffee
½ cup buttermilk
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste, or scraped vanilla bean, or even a dash of extract will work

Stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and then add the coffee, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.

Spray your waffle iron with non-stick spray and spoon in about 1/3 cup of batter. That’s it!

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Coffee-Blueberry Topping
½ cup Icebox Cold Brew Coffee
½ cup fresh blueberries
½ tsp vanilla bean paste or scraped vanilla bean or vanilla extract
½ tsp granulated sugar

Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan. Stir gently while the mixture heats up, but do not let smash the berries or let them burst. Spoon topping over waffles and serve warm.


Thanks Icebox and Birmingham Bloggers for the fun challenge! Next Thursday night there will be a big Icebox-BB party at Innovation Depot at 6:30, I look forward to seeing some of you there!

{Switzerland} Lauterbrunnen

I don’t know how to put the beauty of this place into words, so I’m going to copy and paste this excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Lauterbrunnen:

J. R. R. Tolkien hiked from Interlaken to the Lauterbrunnen Valley while on a trip to the Continent in 1911. The wonderful landscape of the valley later provided the concept and pictorial model for his sketches and watercolors of the fictitious valley of Rivendell, the dwelling place of Elrond Half-elven and his people. Furthermore, Tolkien gave the river flowing through the valley of Rivendell the elvish name Bruinen, meaning ‘Loudwater’.”

Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher have been holding really strong as my favorite place in the world for about 5 years or so now, and I told Zack that being here made me feel like I was cheating on them.

I think this was the first photo in my last post, so sorry if you’re seeing it again, but it bears repeating. This was the view from our hotel room! I was still so jet-lagged the whole time we were there, but seeing the sun rise in the Valley is worth having your internal clock completely reversed.

LB4And speaking of our hotel, we stayed Valley Hostel, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! The guy who works there is so nice, and is so proud his town. (Rightly so, look at this place!) He also runs their Facebook page and posts photos almost daily of the village and surrounding areas, and it’s been so lovely to continue to see this place pop up on my newsfeed since we’ve been gone.

The red-shuttered building on the left is Valley Hostel, and the room on the lower left was ours. The rooms are totally affordable by Swiss standards, and each room gets designated space in the community kitchen for their groceries, which is great since it costs a small fortune to get even a simple lunch in this country! LB1

We spent our second full day in the Valley taking it easy; we had no agenda at all! We slept late and went to Airtime Cafe for breakfast where I sat in the window seat, drank a flat white, ate a homemade muffin that was baked in a flower pot, and translated a German newspaper for the fun of it.

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After breakfast, we went down to the small grocery store in town and loaded up on provisions for our hike to the waterfall and around the valley floor.

When I say “hike,” I mean more “let’s just walk in this direction till we feel like turning around.” This was our relaxing day of our vacation, after all!

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Zack also threw more snowballs at me, because again, we’re Alabamians, and we only get to throw snowballs like once every 3 years. Swiss46

The closest waterfall to Lauterbrunnen, the one we could see from our hotel window, had slowed to a trickle by time we got there. Which really just didn’t take away from the experience at all, because as you can see, this place is heaven on earth.

LB12I also found a cat and had to pet it, because like I said on my last post, this is just what I do when I travel. Full disclosure: this is bad travel advice; I do not suggest petting and/or holding unfamiliar animals while abroad. Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 3.53.58 PMWe liked this car…Swiss48…and this church. Yet another Reformed Protestant Church of Switzerland with an incredibly modest interior! Which after seeing the grand cathedrals of Ireland, England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, and Spain, was still a little weird for us. Gotta love that Swiss Protestant Reformation…I guess?Swiss49

For lunch, we stopped right here in front of the waterfall…

LB2…and feasted on a homemade muesli (made by Danielle at Airtime), fresh bread, and some Alpen Käse that we picked up from a local’s cellar in Gimmelwald the day before. For dessert, a fresh cookie (also made by Danielle) and of course my sweet husband had to grab a chocolate bar at the Co-Op grocery store. We chilled our drinks (another Rugenbrau for him and a can of Prosecco for me) in the snow! We had a late breakfast and had plans for a big dinner, so this little picnic lunch was just the thing.

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We hiked back into town and while Zack napped, me and Rick Steves headed back to Airtime to get some tea. At that point we were planning to go to Bern the next day and I hadn’t really read up much on it. While I was there, I struck up a conversation with a nice gentleman from with a British accent. About 30 minutes later I had abandoned Rick completely and we were deep in a conversation about the history of India and how that tied in with British history. Eventually our talk came around to my husband being a youth pastor, and he brightly said, “my friend is becoming a lay minister with the church of England, you have to meet him, he’ll be here in a minute!” About the time his friend joined us, so did Zack, and a few minutes later, Zack and I had an invitation to join them for dinner that night.

This is what we LOVE about travel. The world is full of so many wonderful people just like it’s full of wonderful things to see, and if you don’t get a good ways from home every now and then, you’re going to miss out on what the world has to offer you.

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So for 3 hours that night, we ate a delicious meal that was made from ingredients that Sean (a negotiator with the London Met Police) and Tony (retired IA London Met Police) picked up in France on their drive from London to Lauterbrunnen. Sean bought this little cabin a few years ago from an elderly gentleman and “holidays” 4 times a year to ski and enjoy the amazing scenery. Tony loves to visit the town because his parents brought him there in the 1960s when the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was being filmed at the Schilthorn, and he has fond memories of the one-legged cameraman dangling from a helicopter. We also talked a lot about some of the deep-rooted problems they have experienced in London first-hand as a result of youth crimes and gangs, and you can imagine that with Tony and Zack both being in ministry, there was much to discuss! We also talked about: Tony’s vacation home near Mont St. Michael, Sean’s daily bike commute across London, places we’ve traveled, the differences between the US and England, and what makes good whiskey. (Or maybe Tony just kept pouring good whiskey for Zack more so than talking about it?). It was such a great evening and truly one of the brightest highlights of our entire trip.

We exchanged email addresses and Tony was so nice to share the recipe for what he made us for dinner that night. His wife and daughter are vegetarians and it’s one of their favorite dishes at home. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind one bit if I shared it with you all, it was absolutely wonderful! And a nice break from the carb- and cheese-heavy Swiss cuisine!


Black Eye Bean & Leek Hash
Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 25 mins
Serves 4
Per serving 303 calories

2 tbsp vegetable oil
450g potatoes, cut into small chunks
350g leeks, sliced
400g can black eye beans, drained & rinsed (can use less)
50g grated Cheddar cheese
Seasoning
2 tbsp chopped parsley, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for 10 mins until half-cooked. Add the leeks and continue to cook the mixture for 5 mins, stirring, until the leeks have softened.

Stir in the beans and grated cheese, and cook over a medium heat until a crust forms on the bottom. Stir the mixture to allow the hash to brown throughout.

Turn the hash over and pat it down to form a cake. Cook until a crust forms on the bottom. Sprinkle the hash with parsley and serve straight from the pan. A green salad and tomato ketchup make good accompaniments.


We were so excited to head to the next stop on our trip, but it was genuinely sad to leave this little town. I cannot think of one thing I didn’t love about being there. We took one last trip up to see Danielle at Airtime, as well as some other friends we had made in our short time there. May is an Airtime employee, sweet and cute as she could be, and John is a native Bostonian through-and-through who rides motorcycles across Europe but particularly loved Lauterbrunnen. (Because who doesn’t??)

LB10We also had a good laugh with Danielle about her write-up in Rick Steves’ guidebook. There is a funny story about his visit there, but I promised her I wouldn’t repeat it! After our goodbyes (and me almost leaving my Swisspass in our room), Danielle packed up one of her famous chocolate brownies for us to enjoy as we rode the rails to Lausanne.

AirtimeLauterbrunnenSeriously, please don’t tell Ireland I’m saying any of this: up until our time here, I never thought I’d see a place more beautiful or meet people more friendly than what we experienced in Ireland in 2010. Lauterbrunnen and our time in the Jungfrau Region will forever be some of the best days of my life. Thanks so much to Valley Hostel, Danielle, May and John, and Sean and Tony for showing us a great time!

Next stop: Lausanne!

National Donut Day!

Donut shops across the country are giving out free donuts, and it’s good day to be an American.

Last summer, my grandmother gave these little wooden wheels to Evie; in their plain unpainted form, they ended up in her play kitchen as everything from cookies to donuts to tiny pizzas. I decided it was time to bust out the ever-trusty acrylic paints and honor National Donut Day with some crafting.

They’re so easy. Just gather with these wooden wheels, a pretty color scheme, and some brushes. 
donutcraft1 Paint your frosting.donutcraft2 And add sprinkles and drizzles!
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May 2015 West Elm Craft Night Recap

Another great West Elm Craft Night in the books!

Girls from allover town came together last Thursday night to sip wine, eat cupcakes, make crafts, and have fun meeting each other and creating. We set up right in the front of the store, and personally, just being in the midst of West Elm makes me feel so inspired. I value this partnership with West Elm in so many ways, and am so appreciative for their support of the Birmingham creative community; thanks Jeannie, Elda, and the rest of the staff for all that you do!

The 6:00 session got right to work, and I loved hanging out with these awesome ladies. Sandy, Amanda, Tara, Erin, Jennifer, and Beth were some clever little crafters!

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Everyone snacked on red velvet and cheesecake-stuffed chocolate cupcakes and strawberry-mint water. I love the mid-century rolling bar cart they were served on, and that silver star sculpture is perfectly atomic and goes with the rest of that space-era furniture, don’t you think? After running around all afternoon getting everything ready, I was absolutely parched. Lucky for me, my friend Beth hopped over the weekly Farmers Market that is at the Summit each Thursday in the summer, and came back with the Watermelon Lemon cold press from Sprout & Pour. Amazing!WECN1

Abby, Caroline, Casey, and Allison crafted with us during the 7:30 session, and these girls had me laughing from the second they sat down at the craft table. Abby is fellow India-mama; I always love hanging with her and talking all things adoption and India. I’m also hoping I can sneak out to Edgewood one night for Caroline and Casey’s Barre class, it sounds like so much fun! (And how cute is Allison’s shirt?)

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Look at these gorgeous luggage tags everyone made! I love them! Great job ladies!

WECN4Thanks West Elm and all the crafty gals who hung out with us last week! We are working on another Craft Night with some other Summit friends for July, so I hope you’ll stayed tuned for more info :)

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{Switzerland} Mürren and Gimmelwald

After a good night’s sleep in Zurich, we hopped aboard the Swiss rail system and went from Zurich to Bern, Bern to Interlaken, and then took a regional train up the mountain to our home base of Lauterbrunnen. The town of Lauterbrunnen is situated in a valley of the Swiss Alps, surrounded by the peaks of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch (Young Woman, Ogre, and Monk) on one side, and the beautiful towns of Murren and Gimmelwald high above on the other. When you look down through the valley, you see beautiful waterfalls made from the melting Alpine snow. Honestly, look at this place:

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We’ll come back to the Valley in the next post! Our first priority was to eat as fast as we could and then head up the town of Mürren. We used the Swiss Flexi Pass to get around Switzerland, which was good for any 3 days over a 4-day period. Since we activated our passes that morning in Zürich, we wanted to take advantage of that day of travel to take the cable car up to Grütschalp and then the train over to Mürren. (Just a travel tip for those planning to go to Switzerland: I never could quite get my head around the Swiss rail system till we were there and actually using it. You hop on and off whatever train you need, and on your first trip the day you use it, you write in what day it is, and that activates it for the day. A person then comes around and checks your pass to make sure your date is written on there.)

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Mürren is quite the hub for winter sports, and when I tell you we were the only people not in ski gear, I’m not joking. Many people take another cable car all the way up the Schilthorn where there are some great winter sport parks, or up to the Piz Gloria rotating restaurant that is famous for the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Given our news of adoption and the resulting tight budget, we opted to not shell out all the extra cash that a ride up there would require. But it’s ok, because staying down in Mürren was plenty spectacular! Here I am posing with my new friends Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

photo 2We loved just walking through the streets of Mürren. It was also our starting point for our hike down to Gimmelwald. We stopped at this little fountain and refilled our water bottles with some ice cold Alpine water, something that costs like $3 a bottle back in the States. You’ve got nothing on this, bottled Evian.
Swiss22 These signs were all around town; they pointed you toward various areas and gave you an estimated walking time. The local senior citizens walk these trails and their time is used as a gauge for how long it takes to get from point to point. Swiss23 These next few photos are ones we snapped as we walked down the streets of Mürren to get to the trail to Gimmelwald:Swiss24 Swiss25We don’t get a lot of snow in Alabama, and we had a lot of fun throwing snow balls at each other. Swiss26Sing it with me: “Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me. Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me…”
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Swiss32 I love this photo of the bright red wooden shoes hanging on the side of this house. My friend Tara told me that traditionally there is one for each family member. Love that.Swiss29 The hike from Mürren to Gimmelwald was one of the most spectacular things we have ever seen with our own eyes. 
Swiss31 Swiss33photo 1Swiss30As we approached the village, it honestly looked like something from folklore. There are only 130 residents who live here, and it is not accessible by roads. There are only 2 ways to get here, by either taking the train to Lauterbrunnen, the bus to Stechelburg, and then the cable car up to where it sits at 4,500 feet. OR, take the cable car from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp, the train to Mürren, and then the 45 minute hike down to here.
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I of course have the tendency to pet random animals on each and every trip we take, so when we met these friends as we entered Gimmelwald, I had to say hello!
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This little guy is an award-winner, and its owners even posted information about him. Or her. I don’t remember, but if you happen to find this post and know its name because you’ve been to Gimmelwald, can you post it in the comments?photo 3 I don’t know if this is just Bernese tradition, or if it’s leftover from Christmas, but most of the homes in the region had their windowsills decorated with pine boughs and cones, candles, and gnomes. Which is incredibly charming, you know?Swiss35When I wake up in the morning and look outside, I see 3 empty lots. When the 130 people who live here wake up in the morning and look outside, they see this. I guess the view makes up for how remote it is! Swiss37 These are about half of the houses. Each one holds two families (they are divided right down the middle), and they are only allowed to paint their shutters brown or green to maintain the traditional look of the village.Swiss38Hiking down the Alps makes ya thirsty. Pension Gimmelwald is a great place to stay if you are sleeping in town, but it’s got a great little restaurant too. We were the only people there that day (and not just at the restaurant…the English ex-pat who was working there for the season was the only other person we saw in the whole town), and we had this little perch all to ourself.
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A hot chocolate for me…photo 4And a cold glass of Rugenbräu for Zack. I mean, can you believe this place? Swiss40

And we could connect to their free Wifi and FaceTime with our Li’l Bit! Oh my gosh, we missed this little goose so much.

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As I said above, we were pretty much the only people in town that day. The people who live here work hard in the fields, preserving their very traditional way of life. Since they spend their days farming, a daily commute to Gimmelwald isn’t very practical, and the residents are smart enough to see how catering to tourists can be incredibly lucrative, The Honestly Shop was created! It’s the first unattended self-service shop in Europe. It’s filled with Swiss flags, locally made goods, even a few antiques! To purchase something…Swiss91You take an envelope and write down the items you’re buying, then leave your money inside. I love that Zack felt he should take advantage of the “comments” section. And I also love that the envelopes are stamped instead of printed. Honest to goodness, this is the most charming place on the planet of Earth. I totally get why Rick Steves is obsessed with this place. Swiss90A little more of Gimmelwald…
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photo 3I can’t suggest these two little places on the map enough! If you’re using Lauterbrunnen as base like we did, it’s a really amazing half-day or so. I hope and pray we have the opportunity to return, it is without a doubt one of most incredible places we will ever see.

Next post: our time in Lauterbrunnen, and more specifically, the wonderful people we met there!