Our House Hunter's International Episode (Serbia -> Belgium)

Hello blog readers (and family and friends)!
Chris and I hope that you are doing well and thoroughly enjoying 2014! We have been quiet (on our little blog/journal) for a while because life has gotten quite busy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about that at all! In fact, I find that I feel incredible when I am really busy (I'm not speaking for Chris here - just for myself). Maybe I like being busy because I feel ultra productive? Maybe I get more done when I have a strict schedule to follow? Or maybe I am just wired to thrive under a little bit of pressure. In any case, a lot of people have asked if we would ever post our House Hunters International episode online, and after much ado, we finally got around to posting it! 

For those of you who are new here, Chris and I were filmed in April and May of 2013 for House Hunters International. HGTV wanted to document our move from Subotica, Serbia to Belgium, and even though we had already been living in Belgium for a good seven months before filming even started, they wanted to 're-create' our house hunting experience. We agreed to be filmed, and they asked if we could add a _touch_ of drama to our episode. In reality, our house hunting experience was not complicated at all, but for TV, we gave them some of the drama and conflict that they wanted. While Chris and I really loved filming part of our story abroad, this experience made us realize that most things on TV are slightly slanted and embellished. 

So if you are interested, here's our episode! It is fun to have a 20-minute video of a piece of our journey together. One day we can show our children this episode when they want to see where we used to live around the world! 

Feel free to post your thoughts after you watch this, but be nice please! This is a positive space, and I won't post rude or degrading comments. (Why do people even post mean things about people they have never met? Unfortunately it happens a lot)


Dubrovnik, Croatia (Game of Thrones Anyone?!)

I know that everyone is getting sick and tired of winter (especially our friends and readers in America! What a wild winter you have all had!), so summer 2014 holiday plans are hastily being made. 

While Regensburg, Germany has been experiencing a relatively mild winter (knock on wood. There's still time for a blizzard or an ice storm to hit.), Chris and I are already dreaming about lazy summer afternoons spent by the sea. We've been trying to get our travel plans straightened out, and sadly, we've realized that budget flights are not as accessible (or cheap) as they had been in Brussels, Belgium. We're having to get creative with our travel plans. In any case, in an effort to inspire myself, I started looking through photo albums from last summer. We've visited Croatia two summers in a row, and we think we may go back again this year! We just cannot get enough of the incredible beaches, warm locals, fresh seafood, and affordable accommodation. If you're considering a trip to Croatia, this is the year to go! They just received their European Union status, so prices have not had too much time to skyrocket! Croatia is a hidden gem that hopefully stays unspoiled and mysterious. 

Chris and I have documented our Croatia trips to Krk, Hvar, and Plitvica Lakes, and this post contains a few pictures from our time in the walled city of Dubrovnik. If there are any Game of Thrones fans reading this, then you already know that Dubrovnik is the set for King's Landing. We rented kayaks on the beach that Game of Thrones also films on. Chris was totally geeking out. I guess I was too. The city is ancient and perfectly preserved, and no visit is complete without an hour (plus) walk around the thick city walls which were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries to protect the city. If you have time, a kayak adventure will allow you to explore some of the hidden coves surrounding the city. Or rent a little boat and explore that way!

Food Tip: We had an authentic Balkan meal (made us really miss Serbia) at a little place called Dalmatino Knoba. They found out that we could speak a little bit of their language, and they completed our meal with a shot of complementary cherry rakija.  

This is making me want to get back to Dubrovnik! 


When Change is Exciting and Terrifying all at the Same Time

July 2013 - Oh, you sneaky little month, you! I had no idea how drastically our lives would change when you rolled around! 

After a year in Belgium, Chris and I felt 'normal,' and settled, and maybe even a little bit 'local'. We had a great group of friends in Roeselare and in Bruges, we spoke enough Dutch to understand what was happening around us (and when people were talking about us), I had two jobs, and we were celebrating 4 blissful years of marriage by departing on a whirlwind tour through the Mediterranean. For the first time in a long time, I was ready to "be," (I know shocker, eh, Mom?!) and simply enjoy the life that we had worked so hard to establish.

Stay Still - Relax - Enjoy the Season - Rest - Dig Deeper - Invest More - Plant Roots . . .

Who am I kidding?! We signed up for an adventure, and we have gotten more than we could have ever anticipated! It's been a beautiful and terrifying journey that has stretched us and pushed us closer together as a couple. We have learned to rely on each other for just about everything (he is great with directions, and I am not afraid to make linguistic mistakes so I am the mouthpiece when we travel), and through the joy and the tears, we would never rewrite any part of our story. The journey has not been what we expected, but we have been blessed every step of the way. 

Two and a half years ago, we moved to Subotica, Serbia and expected to stay rooted there for three years. We dug in, we made life-long friends, we experienced the beautiful Serbian culture, and we simply fell in love with the country. A year later, Chris' company moved us to Roeselare, Belgium, and while we were excited, we mourned leaving our beautiful Serbian family. Ghhhaa! Moving can be such a wild mix of emotions! Luckily, we loved our new city; I was almost immediately befriended by Niekie, the owner of a darling cafe called the MokkaBar, and Chris met the man of the town, PJ. Niekie and PJ invited us into their lives and introduced us to their friends. We can never express what a difference they made in our experience. I believe that it takes about a year to truly feel comfortable in a new culture. By July 2013, we had lived in Belgium for a year, so naturally, we had gone too long without a major change. 


We are on House Hunter's International Tonight!

Loving the beauty of Bruges, Belgium
Checking out some scenery in Roeselare, Belgium with the HHI film crew
We made them do our signature pose
Tonight is the night!

Chris and I had such a great time (such fun) filming a House Hunter's International episode detailing our move from Serbia to Belgium and our apartment hunting experience. We filmed for four full days in between Serbia and Belgium, and we were able to involve so many of the amazing friends that we have made along the way. We can't wait to see our friend's faces on TV! This episode was filmed quite a while ago, so it will be interesting to see the finished product. 

Anyway, on the west coast, HGTV will show our episode at 7:30pm and 10:30pm tonight. In Kentucky, our mugs will be on TV at 10:30pm and again at 1:30am. Get all of the exact information here. Feel free to tune in!! You may be seeing the episode before we do since we have to record it and watch it on Thursday morning. 

The Statesman Journal in my hometown of Salem, Oregon also wrote a piece on us. Read that article here if ya want. 

Thanks for reading (and watching). 
Lana and Chris McCoy

Want to see the episode? I posted it here


{Sneak Peek Istanbul}

Hagia Sophia at night
I turned 30! 

Actually, I hit the big 3-0 at the end of September, but this season in our lives has been a whirlwind that seems to finally be calming down. Sort of. It is just starting to sink in that I've hit that age when most women freak out about wrinkles, job security, settling down and babies. I have the wrinkles, but the other things are so far from my mind these days! Chris and I had been planning a birthday trip to Istanbul with two of our dear friends from Belgium since sometime in June. All of a sudden, we were thrown a curve ball when the opportunity to move to Regensburg, Germany popped up. It was not an easy decision, and we talked it over and over together. After a couple weeks of weighing the pros and the cons, Chris accepted and started the new job a week before our scheduled trip. Needless to say, instead of spending my time researching restaurants and scenic look-out spots in Istanbul, I was frantically packing, and cleaning, and turning off utilities and breaking the apartment lease. 
There never is a dull moment for this little expat family!


Doesn't Mallorca Sound Wonderful About Now?

Towards the end of May, we booked a spur of the moment (stupid cheap) Ryan Air flight to Mallorca, Spain. I told Chris that it would be a delayed present for his 28th birthday; but let's be honest, it was more of an excuse to escape a miserably long Belgian cold spell. Spain had also claimed a special place in our hearts and a prominent spot on our travel calendar after a trip to Barcelona (If you're interested, find some of our Barcelona info here, and here). 

I think there was still snow on the ground as we boarded a flight bound for Spain's largest island. I had heard about the neighboring party island (Ibiza), but the only reason we chose Mallorca was because there was a direct flight from Brussels to Mallorca for less than an Italian dinner for two (Italian is about the cheapest sit down dinner option you'll find in Europe). My type A-must-research-every-detail-of-a-trip-to-a-new-city-personality sort of took a vacation, and I threw planning out the window! I mean, how hard could it be for us to get down to a beach, lay out our towels, and relax on the warm sand?!

I learned my lesson (again), because what we wanted and what we walked into were so completely far off from each other!

 At the airport, we caught the local bus #21, and within ten minutes we were walking into the lobby of Java Hotel. Our accommodation was right in the middle of Playa de Palma, and while the hotel itself was newly remodeled and reasonably priced, the long stretch of beach outside of the hotel was less than relaxing! What we had wanted was a slow couple of days sprawled out on the sand followed by seafood dinners at beach front restaurants. What we actually got was this:


Antwerp(en), Belgium

Antwerpen has the prettiest train station that I think I have seen in Europe!
We always get asked what our favorite cities are in Belgium, and the answer always starts out the same. First and foremost, we are in love with Bruges. The preserved medieval city seems almost too beautiful to be real life; it feels more like a movie set than a place people actually call "home." As soon as I saw Her, I knew that I wanted to live close to Bruges (check out Bruges herehere, and here). So, yeah, Bruges would be our #1 place to visit in Belgium, but then of course there are other fantastic cities like Ghent and Antwerp that cannot be missed when visiting the land of strong beer and rich chocolate. 

Antwerp (English) - Antwerpen (Dutch) - Anvers (French)

When visiting Antwerp, it's not uncommon to see the city spelled all three different ways, but the most often used version is the Dutch one. According to legend, Antwerpen got Her name after the mighty giant who used to demand a toll for passage into the port city. Those who refused to cough up the money would pay by having their hand cut off and thrown into the river. Eventually the money-hungry giant was killed and his own giant hand cut off and thrown into the river, thus giving the city the name "hand-werpen" ("to throw" in Old English). Eventually that evolved into the modern day name of Antwerpen. You'll see hand statues and hand illustrations all around the city if you keep your eyes open for them.

Chris and I enjoyed a lovely weekend in Antwerpen checking out a few local restaurants, meandering through annual fall festivals, sipping sangria at the city "beach," and getting acquainted with Belgium's second largest city. While Antwerpen is not as visually stunning as Bruges and Ghent, it does have an artistic vibe that invites one to stop, relax, and stay a while. 

Planning a trip to Antwerpen? Here are some of our city notes: