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…has been going on for fourteen years, ever since I first walked into the wonderfully aromatic Lush store in Ljubljana. Unable to read Slovenian, I had no idea what I was buying but they did have a few words in English such as “natural ingredients” and “handmade” so I took a chance. After one use, I became a big fan and there are usually 3-4 jars sitting on my bathroom counter at any given time. 

As I was going through photos (an ongoing project), I noticed Lush stores have been a big part of my travels. Anytime we traveled with friends or family we would drag them into a Lush store. Stores didn’t open in the US until the late 2000s so it was a novelty.

Lush in Ljubljana, Slovenia
With sister-in-law and niece in Ljubljana (2004)

Lush in Lake Bled with a good friend.

Lush in Ljubljana with a good friend (2005)

Lush in Quebec City

Lush in Quebec City (2009)

Lush in Amsterdam

Lush in Amsterdam (2004)

Lush in Ottawa

Lush in Ottawa (2007)

Besides the fabulous products which makes my skin feel wonderful, the company is environmentally forward thinking, no animal testing and ethically source their ingredients. They are 100% vegetarian with most being vegan. All their packaging is recycled, recyclable and biodegradable. Lush products don’t contain microbeads which were recently banned in the US by President Obama’s executive order. Every container has an employee’s sticker with their likeness and name. Makes me think it must be a fun place to work.
At the spa – so lovely.

Recently my daughter requested a Lush spa treatment as a reward for a stellar report card. There are only two spa locations in the United  States: New York City and Philadelphia. It was a great excuse to return to Philly for a visit. The spa offers several different themed treatments ~ my daughter got the Validation and loved it. They want it to be an external (glowing and vibrant skin) and internal (relaxing) experience. The estheticians at all Lush spas have been trained at the headquarters in the UK so you can expect consistently fabulous facials at anyone of them. Before the facial begins, you will be taken into the store to handpick your preferred products to be used during the facial.

This is my personal opinion: I don’t know anyone at Lush nor have I received any monetary or product payment for this review. Although I’m sure my husband wishes I did. Just a big fan. 

 

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Lake Bled Castle and swans

Bled, situated in the Julian Alps, has beautiful churches, a castle high on a hill, picturesque mountains, hiking, boating, swimming, delicious restaurants, a casino and a whole lot of history. The first mention of Bled was when Henry II (Holy German Emperor) gifted it the Bishop Brixen in 1004. At that time, there was already a Roman tower on the cliff which is still a part of the castle.

Lake Bled Sunset
Looking out to the Castle and sunset

Bled dinner with a view of the castleEnjoying the view while having a delicious dinner Blejska kremna rezina
Blejska Kremna Rezina (Bled Cream Cake). Ištvan Lukačevič, a pastry chef at Hotel Park, invented the delightful cream cake in the 1950s. When you’re in Bled, always leave a little room for this gem of a dessert.

Lake Bled Castle and ChurchBled Castle Lake Bled Running TrailThere’s a running/walking trail around the entire lake, about 6.7 km. Although it should only take about an hour to walk it, I prefer to stop often, enjoying all the lake has to offer: watching the swan family, running to the top of the bleachers at the rowing center and stopping to enjoy the gorgeous views.

Lake Bled serene settingSerenity in Bled Lake Bled Rower statue Rower Statue. Slovenia’s Olympic rowing team practice at Lake Bled. Bled petting the swan Children attempting to pet the swan, who really only wants some food. The ONLY type of food that should be given to the swans are dandelions. Bled Lake Swans and a babyLake Bled Church
The Church of the Assumption of St Mary on the island at Lake Bled. More about the island in my next post.

If you’re visiting Slovenia, you should definitely spend at least one night in Bled, preferably with a view of the lake.

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Lake Bohinj, nestled in Triglav National Park in the Julian Alps, is crystal clear and a fabulous location to spend a hot summer day. Surrounding the lake are quaint villages, many churches, the mountain peaks, forests, waterfalls and gorges. Hiking and rowing are popular but it was too hot for me to partake in any strenuous activities. It was July and the temperatures hovered around 36°C (over 96°F). Despite the crowds, we were able to enjoy a few times when we were alone by the lakeshore and the only ones in the church.

Logan and Patti at Lake Bohinj SloveniaThe waters of Lake Bohinj felt so refreshing on a scorching summer day.

Bohinj LakeClean pristine alpine lake

Bohinj lake rowersGreat place to take out a kayak or canoe. The only tour boats allowed on the lake are electric so it’s very quiet. Bohinj goat

Slovenia has a lot of legends and I particularly like the one about Zlatorog (which means Golden horned). The Golden horned goat lived in Mount Triglav, and attended by three virgins, he guarded a vast treasure at the mountaintop. Many men attempted to kill Zlatorog and steal the treasure. One such greedy hunter was able to shoot the goat which caused his blood to run for miles ~ carving out the mountains and lakes surrounding Triglav. At the scene of the crime, the world’s first edelweiss flower sprouted. When Zlatorog ate the blossom, his life was restored. He ran toward the hunter, who was blinded by the sunlight reflecting off the goat’s golden horns. The hunter lost his balance and fell off the mountain to his death. The symbol of the Golden Horned Goat represents a warning against greed. Bohinj view from the boat of St John the Baptist Church

Bohinj lake sitting by the shoreThe goat guards the lake… St John the Baptist Church next to Lake Bohinj in Triglav National Park Gothic styled St John the Baptist Church sits on the eastern bank of Lake Bohinj. It dates to the 15th century (first recorded mention of it was in 1464) but it is thought to be older. The beautiful bell tower was added in the 1700s. St John the Baptist Church Triglav National Park IIIThere are beautiful frescos inside St John the Baptist Church but the church also had some rather morbid looking paintings and displays: St John the Baptist Church with head of St John. Triglav National Park Head of John the Baptist. I realize it’s an accurate depiction but who wants to stare at a head all through church service. Bohinj Outdoor restaurant just up from the lake
A restaurant near the lake. Don’t remember the name ~ they served pizza, beer and the likes.

Triglav National Park Bus StopThe little villages around the lake are so pretty and quaint. Even the bus stops are adorable. Every single one of them had beautiful flowers. Makes me sad to think about our pitiful bus stops (usually just a sign)… Bohinj House on a misty morning
Beautiful house in the mountain mist

Bohinj Flowers in every windowTaken from the car so this is fuzzy. But every house seemed to have flowers in every window. So lovely…

Lake Bled Home with flowers near mountain
Fabulous mountain view!

Mrcina Ranch Lake Bohinj region
Mrcina Ranch. We wanted to get out into the backcountry on horseback but it was too hot for the horses. The ranch has the cutest Icelandic horses but also has other larger horses as well. It’s definitely on our “to do” list for next time.

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My first visit to Ljubljana was in 2002 and, since then, I’ve recommended the capital city and other places in Slovenia to many of my friends. I’m happy to say everyone who visits has had a fabulous time. It’s the one country I don’t have to caveat with any exceptions ~ there is something for everyone.

On my recent return visit (after a 10 year absence), I was thrilled to find this incredibly charming city as I remembered. There are a few more cafes, bars and activities (paddleboard on the river, Segway tours, etc) but the positive vibe and essence of the city is still fantastic.

Cheeky Bar signVegan RestaurantAn especially nice change for the better are the new vegan restaurants located in the city center. We ate at Ajdovo Zrno for lunch and it was delicious. The restaurant is located at Trubarjeva Cesta 7, Ljubljana.

If you decide to visit, here are my suggestions and recommendations: Spend at least 2-3 days in the capital city of Ljubljana. It’s a great place to base from while exploring the rest of Slovenia. From the city, it’s 40 minutes to Lake Bled, 90 minutes to Piran (on the Adriatic coast) and 38 minutes to Postojna (Castle and Caves).

  • Check out the Visit Ljubljana website. Purchase a city card for 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours. It offers admission to over 15 attractions, free travel on city buses, a guided tour of the city, a boat cruise, a free funicular & tourist road train ride to Ljubljana Castle and 24 hour internet access.
  • If the weather is nice, definitely enjoy a stroll along the river and stop off at a cafe along the river and enjoy a coffee, beer or glass of wine. If you’re a foodie or have special dietary needs, check out Ljubljanajam and their food walks.
  • I didn’t get a chance to take one of their walks but it’s at the TOP of my to do list for my next visit.

  • We took the Roman Tour of Emona by Torchlight. It was a very interesting ~ I had no idea about all the roman history of the city. But I admit to refusing to wear the Roman outfit provided by the tour guide. It’s would have been a fashion disaster 😉
  • Slovenia Vignette

    We’ve always driven to Ljubljana and this time was no exception. We flew into Italy and drove to Slovenia the next day. It’s only a two hour drive from Venice to Ljubljana. If you drive, make sure you purchase a Vignette (toll sticker) or else you will be subject to a fine between €300-€800.

    Where to Stay:

    Castle View Union HotelGrand Union Hotel located directly behind the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation (the pink church)

  • In the past, we’ve stayed at the Grand Hotel Union during the off season when room rates were lower. It’s a beautiful, historic hotel which dates back 110 years. It’s located a block from Prešeren Square and the triple bridge. Fantastic location and superb service. This time, we opted to stay at Central Hotel which is operated by the same hotel group as the Grand Union. Go to Union Hotels for more information. We booked a family room with 2 bedrooms, one bath with a hearty breakfast included. Best part: it was only 2 blocks away from the Grand Union hotel and the river.
  • I haven’t stayed at either of these hostels but they looked like nice places for those backpacking through the area. Hostel Tresor was a former bank and has rooms in the vault. Hostel Celica is in a former prison. Not sure I’d be brave enough to stay there but it looked nice from the outside.
  • Dotto Trains
    Tourist Train in Ljubljana. Didn’t ride the train. We took the funicular:
    Funicular LjubljanaLjubljana Slovenia street leading to Castle Trail
    Street leading to the castle (it’s a tough climb if the temperatures are high)

    Outdoor cafe with cooling mistersOn a hot summer day, look for one of the cafes with the cooling misters. We had a lovely dinner right by the river ~ all the while staying cool with the water mist Sausage and Beer
    Beer and Sausage ~ my husband was in food heaven

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    Observing people in a city is fascinating to me but I don’t want to be too obtrusive when taking photos. I appreciate those who don’t mind. I once had a woman ask me if I wanted her to walk by again so I could get a better shot (and no, it wasn’t in a sarcastic tone).

    People Woman and bikesBikes are very popular in Ljubljana People watching atPreseren Statue in Ljubljana Slovenia II
    Resting at the Preseren Statue near the Triple Bridge

    People two women and vespaI always say “if you work hard for a rockin body, then by all means show it off” People Smoking
    So pretty but wish she’d lose the cigarettes. Smoking is prevalent at the outdoor bars/cafes

    People Hare KrishnaHare Krishna group chanting along the river People First date
    I’m thinking first date ~

    People alone at the cafeAlone at an outdoor cafe People 4 walking
    Too much concentration going on

    People Music drum and hornsWe came across Brass Against The Machine while walking around Ljubljana. Very entertaining. If you ever get a chance to see them play, go! People Music Festival II
    Brass Against the Machine entertaining the crowd. High energy!

    Only thing better than people watching is: DOG WATCHING. Ljubljana is very dog friendly.

    Dog saying hi to hot dog in bike basket Ljubljana SloveniaDog in Bike Basket Ljubljana Slovenia
    “Hot” dog in a bike basket

    People two men and a dogTwo men and their well-coiffed pup People Ice cream eating dog
    Ice cream eating dog

    People Dog waiting for owner
    Waiting on pizza

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    Standing on a hill overlooking Ljubljana is a beautiful castle, Ljubljanski Grad. The views from the top are fabulous especially from the top of the tower. On previous visits, we hiked to the castle from the Old Square in Ljubljana but it was over 36°C so we rode the funicular.

    Ljubljana Church
    View from the top of the Tower of Ljubljanski Grad

    Ljubljana Slovenia penitentary at the castle
    One of the cells in the penitentary

    Looking in the jail cell at the castle Ljubljana Slovenia Looking out to Ljubljana Slovenia Puppet and Logan at the Castle Ljubljana Slovenia Castle stairs Ljubljana Slovenia
    Stairs leading to Castle Tower

    Castle in Ljubljana
    Castle high on the hill

    For more information about visiting the castle, click here.

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    The dragon on the City of Ljubljana’s coat of arms symbolises strength and courage. The dragon is located on the top of the castle.

    Ljubljana coat of arms

    There are four gorgeous dragons on the Dragon bridge:

    Dragon on Dragon Bridge

    Dragon Ljubljana Slovenia complete statue

    Ljubljana Slovenia Dragon
    Dragon Bridge ~ side view

    Dragon backside Ljubljana Slovenia

    There are several versions of the story of the Ljubljana Dragon:

    The Ljubljana dragon is thought to come from the legend of Greek hero Jason and the Argonauts. Jason and his Argonaut comrades stole a golden fleece, which was the coat of a golden ram, from the King of Colchis who lived on the Black Sea. They fled their pursuers but found themselves at the mouth of the Danube River rather than at the Aegean Sea and their Greek homeland. There was no way for them to go back so they continued up the Danube and eventually made it to the River Ljubljanica.

    After wintering at the mouth of the Ljubljanica, they took their ship, the Argo, apart and carried it on their shoulders to the Adriatic sea, then they put their boat back together again and sailed on ending in Ljubljana. The Argonauts stumbled onto a large lake with a marsh which is where a terrible dragon lived. Jason killed the dragon after a heroic battle. The dragon became known as the Ljubljana dragon. It is said that Jason was the first true citizen of Ljubljana.

    The other version of the Dragon story is taken from St George who is the the patron saint of the Castle Chapel. St. George is often depicted as slaying a dragon. In ancient times, Castle Hill was a sacred place then in the Middle Ages, when the foundation of the castle was laid, the builders dedicated the Castle Chapel to St George. And the dragon comes with St. George.

    The dragon is a part of the coat of arms on numerous buildings owned by the city. After WWII, the dragon has been used by various companies such as the name of a torch company, on cigarette packages, as a fashion award and on beer bottle labels like the Union Beer can:

    Union beer dragon

    Who doesn’t love a dragon…

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