Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Travels in Europe (August 2011 - Present)


Brussels, Belgium – August 8.  Saw the Atomium (made for one of the worlds' fairs back in 19..something.  It's basically a huge atom as a building that you can go inside and travel up some trippy escalators. 

Loire Valley, France - August 12-14.  Visited three great Chateaux with the Bells in the Loire Valley in France (Chambord, Chenonceau and Villandry).  Villandry has amazing gardens.  Chambord was supposedly designed by Da Vinci and the staircases were epic.  Chenonceau is built over the water and was my favorite of those we visited.  We also visited another one that was supposed to be the castle Snow White’s story is based on. 

Stuttgart, Trier & Frankfurt, Germany - August 19-21.  Visited Stuttgart in Germany as well as Trier (Europe's oldest city with Roman ruins and this crazy black gate from like a thousand years ago). Visited Frankfurt and had the best Bratwurst of my life and saw some amazing views. 
Bunol, Valencia & Madrid, Spain.  August 23-28.  Went to the Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain (basically the world’s biggest food fight), and had Paella on the beach in Valencia and saw the city of Valencia and hung out at the topless beach. Saw Madrid and partied with some friends there just before going back home.

Paris, France.  September  16-18. Visited Paris for a weekend (I have a friend I met in Columbia who is actually a Parisian so we have a free place to stay!) and saw all the sites:  the Eiffel Tower, the Boulevard St. Germain, the Seine, Notre Dame, the outside of the Louvre, the beautiful parks.  We saw the sunset one day from the Eiffel tower and the next day from Sacre Couer in Montmartre on a hilly lawn with tons of other people.

Faro, Sintra & Porto, Portugal.  October 1-7.  Went to Portugal to pick up a car and drive it back.  We saw a bit of Faro and learned how to say Abrigado.  We spent a day in Sintra, this town with mountains, a view of the ocean, these old moorish ruins on the hillside, an old royal palace on the mountain top and the most amazing nude beach tucked in between gorgeous rock formations.  Spent a day in Porto and had breakfast at a cute college cafe and learned that the freshmen wear Harry Potter-esque robes as a hazing ritual.  Just wandered the streets there and got a great view from a bridge. 

Bordeaux, France – October 8.  Spent the day in Bordeaux on the way back walking around by the river watching school kids playing, had lunch at this place that looked like it was falling down and was also an antique shop, saw well dressed ladies pawing through just piles of clothes these vendors throw on the ground to sell. 

London, England – October 15-17.  Took a trip to London so I could take my nursing boards.  Saw a bunch of stuff in London where we constantly looked at each other and said "That looks like a famous thing,  what is that?  I don't know,  but yeah,  it's definitely something famous." Visited Hampton Palace, the last of Henry VIII's palaces.  It had beautiful gardens and a maze and the world's largest grape vine.  We stopped in Canterbury on the way back which has got to be one of the quaintest towns I've ever seen in my life.  We found this beautiful church which had really old ruins around it and we were exploring it at dusk and a storm was brewing.  And from inside we heard this ghostly, classic sounding choir rehearsing.  We got to take the Dover-Calais ferry there and back and saw the white cliffs of Dover going both ways.

Koln, Germany – November 6.  Did a half marathon in Koln, Germany.  Unfortunately it wasn't around the city it was in circles around a park.

Grimbergen, Belgium – November 13.  Paul has taken me to two different spas.  One after we ran our first half marathon on base in October and the second one just last month for Valentine’s day (and us being together for six months).  Everybody is naked and it’s totally normal.  You go from hot tub to pool to sauna (there are several different ones of each) and get good nosh and drink wine.  It's pretty much fabulous.  At the first one we got massages as well. 

Rochester, England - December 1.  Went for a day for the Charles Dicken's Christmas festival and market. 

Heidelberg, Germany – December 12-16.  I went for training for my job and got to see the Christmas market there which was amazing and got to see a little bit of the city which I really want to go back to. 
Bruges, Belgium – December 20.  I got to go to Bruges while they were doing the Disney Ice Festival.  They had an ice slide!  Got to wander around Bruges as well.  They have some really cool canals. 

Garmisch, Germany – December 29-31.  Went skiing for a day in Garmisch with Paul’s family and stayed in a cute little town in Germany and saw the city of Garmisch and had some amazing German food.  On the slopes there was this gorgeous lake that we stopped by a few times to eat snow. :)  Saw Neuschwanstein (the castle disney bases theirs off of).  Unfortunately when we got there it was both closed and under construction so really we just saw the area around it.  There was this absolutely gorgeous lake with the prettiest ducks you ever saw and the clearest water.  We had a fun snowball fight by that. 


Koln, Germany – January 2.  We took a second trip up to Koln while Paul's family was here and we saw the Dome (the only church I've been really impressed by.  It's just gigantic and beautiful inside and out).  They do this thing where lovers put locks on the bridge.  Paul got one for us for christmas and we found a spot for it on the bridge.  :) 

Chatel, France – January 21-29.  Spent a full 8 days in Chatel, France in this gorgeous, huge cabin.  It came with a sauna and a hot tub and more than enough space for the six of us that stayed there.  I learned how to snowboard by falling a lot and hurting myself.  We drank Gluhwein at the bottom of the slopes and spent one day traversing from France to Switzerland by snowboard.  This was a rather miserable experience for me being a brand new snowboarder but I'm glad I did it.  We spent some time walking around the cute little town as well but spent most of our nights drinking and recovering in the hot tub. 

Geneva, Switzerland – January 29.  On the way back from Chatel we stopped at Geneva, Switzerland to snap a few pictures and check out the lake and the pier. 

Vianden, Beaufort & Esch-sur-sul, Luxembourg – February 18.  We took a day trip to Luxembourg to see a chateaux and a couple of ruins.  We saw Chateaux Vianden, the ruins at Beaufort and the ruins of Esch-sur-sul.  Esch-sur-sul was at the top of this little town surrounded on three sides by a winding river.  At the places with the ruins we mostly just ran around outdoors and did some hiking on the grounds. 

Maredsous, Belgium – March 3.  We went to the Maredsous abbey and had some delicious beer and cheese and then did minor amounts of gambling at the casino nearby.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands – March 17-18.   We went to Amsterdam for St. Patrick's Day and saw everything I think you need to see.  Everybody on bikes, we smoked at "coffee shops" and saw the ladies in the windows.  They rent out these windows and have a room in the back and their unionized.  Crazy, right? 

Paradisio, Belgium.  March 31.  Paul & I went to Park Paradisio, the local zoo.  It was amazing!  With a playground for adults, elephants, lemurs, and giraffes and tons of space to explore. 

Brussels, Belgium.  April 21. Our friend yannick visited us the third weekend of April, and we went to the water park in Brussels.  It was cold, and some of it was outside, but the water was warm.  I almost drowned in the wave pool!

Stuttgart, Germany – May 4-6.  Fruehlingsfest - with Tim & Elisa.  Friday night we had a couple drinks with Charlotte and Nick.  Saturday morning I woke up and ran hills through the forest nearby.  We went to the Fruehlingsfest test around noon and made some good German friends and danced and drank until 10 PM.  Met Ben as well.  On Sunday I managed to get to the train and back to Nick and Charlotte’s to pick up the car.  The four of us had a delicious brunch in Stuttgart and then headed back. 

Oberstdorf, Germany.  May 18-20. We drove in Friday night and stayed at Pension Katarina, owned by this very friendly Dutch guy.  Had some drinks with him and some Brits and went to bed.  On Saturday morning we went to Neuschwanstein and hiked around the area.  We went to the bridge behind it and saw some amazing views.  We finally got to go inside the castle.  It was pretty warm, so I put my feet in the lake.  Some little kids were jumping in it!  We found a place where you take a ski lift up, and a crazy homemade rollercoaster back down the mountain.  At the top there was a long line so we hiked further up the mountain to where the snow was and had a bit of a snowball fight and found a cool spot hidden among the trees.  We had an amazing German dinner and good beer at this local Brauerie.  Very festive atmosphere and the best food.  Saturday morning we went to the half marathon location and got ready.  The run was through the mountains, with 350 m of ascent.  It went by beautiful rivers and lakes, through bike paths and B&Bs off the trail and ended where it began.  It was very difficult but I PR’d with a time of 1:49:55 and got second in my age class.  We hung around there for a while and they gave me a handpainted vase sort of thing and we both got participation shirts.  We went to their local spa afterwards and then drove home. 

Villers La Ville Abbey, Belgium – June 2.  This is just 40 minutes away from where we live and is the ruins of an old abbey, completely overgrown with ivy and greenery.  We went with the bits folks and had a nice leisurely time walking around, and then had beers across the street.

Mons, Belgium DouDou Fest – June 3.  Viewed the fest from the second floor of Steak on a Rock.  Those guys stayed all day.  I went and did a play performance and came back and drank with them later on. 

Paris, France – June 16-17.  We drove up Saturday morning to see Versailles.  We got a couple of cappuccinos and then went in the main Chateaux and did the tour there.  The rain lightened up after we had a delicious lunch nearby (I had white wine and a croque madame).  Then we went to see the gardens and wandered around through them and went on to see the Grande Trianon and the Petite Trianon and its gardens until they closed.  In the Petite Trianon gardens there is the Queen’s Hamlet, which is basically just the most quaint looking little uninhabited village you could ever imagine.  It was my favorite.  All around these gardens there were paths, and a farm and trails and we ran through a bunch of them and found great marble statues all over.  We finally left when it was closed.  Then we went to Vanves and had drinks and dinner with Yannick’s brother, Gael.  In the morning we had a simple breakfast and left for Giverny.  It was nice and warm and we enjoyed the city and the flowers all over.  We went and saw Monet’s house and garden and took pictures and saw artists drawing in the garden.  We went back into Paris and had lunch at a café at a sunny place by a fountain outside and watched the city go by.  I had some more white wine and lox and cream cheese bagel.   Then we went and walked through Pere Lachaise, the cemetery where Jim Morrison and other famous people are buried.  It was beautiful just to walk around, and we did that until they closed.  We stopped at a cute little bakery and got a cookie for the road and drove home. 

Barcelona, Spain – June 22-24.  We flew in for the weekend with the Bells.   We spent all day Saturday lounging on the beach and soaking up the sun and the Mediterranean.  On Sunday we saw the famous Gaudi church as well as the Gaudi park.  Just walking around we saw a couple of his houses as well.  His architecture is like something from a Dr. Suess dream.  It’s otherworldly. 

North Miami, Florida - June 30 – July 8.  Spent the week hanging out with dad and the pups in Miami.  Went for a few long runs together and did some kayaking and swimming and beer drinking.  For the fourth of July we kayaked out to an island in the Biscayne and saw a bunch of different fireworks displays all around us, best 4th of July ever!  For my birthday he knew me best and got me a fruit/chocolate covered fruit arrangement fake cake. 

Bluefields Bay, Jamaica – July 15-23.  Paul’s family reunion, amazingly paid for in full by his generous uncle.  We were catered to like kings for every meal, stayed in luxury colonial houses and had a staff making us frozen drinks constantly!  We went kayaking, went snorkeling (Paul even speared a lobster, which they cooked up for him!),  and went to a beautiful waterfall where we swam underneath it and jumped off a rock high up into a waterfall on a rope swing!  We went hiking in the forest the second day we were there and our guide cut down coconuts for us and we drank the fresh coconut juice.  He also taught us about local plant medicine – so cool! Paul’s family was so much fun – I love them! 

Koblenz, Germany - Rhine River Tour – August 3-5.  In the morning I woke up early and went on a 15 mile run around Koblenz and along the Rhine.  I got to see the Deutsches Eck all by myself in the early dawn.  Went on a Rhine river tour with the Bells, the Kammers and Missy/Mike.  Spent all day sunning ourselves on the top deck.  At night we were dropped off at a local wine festival and then on our way back there were incredible fireworks!  The next day we went on a hike with the Bells, Missy/Mike and Ben Battin and were introduced to CrossFit.  We were super active and had a ton of fun! 

Monschau Marathon, Germany – August 11-12.  Saw the beautiful town of Monschau with Paul on Saturday and met up with Ben that night for dinner.   The boys walked the marathon the next morning and I ran it.  It was my first marathon and I got a time of 4:06.  There was a lot of elevation, and it was a hot day, but it was beautiful running in the mountains and running through the quaint German town. 

Brussels, Belgium – July 18. Went up to Brussels for the day to see the Brussels Flower Carpet, which unfortunately had all but wilted away by the time we got there.  We went to the newly opened Hard Rock Café for burgers with my friend Stefan, who had recently moved from Columbia to Brussels.  We also found some Westvleteren 12 at a local bar there and went to the movies!

Athens, Delphi & Santorini, Greece – August 31 – September 9. Spent a few days in Athens and saw the Acropolis, the Agora and the surrounding area.  We had amazing local food and saw an Aristophanes play at the outdoor theatre (built in 100 AD by the Romans) that was actually in Greek.  We spent one evening walking along the water and had a great fish dinner with a view of the sea.  We went to Delphi for a day and saw the temple of Apollo.  Delphi was just incredibly stunning, tucked into the mountain range with a view of the sea.  We hiked to the Korykian cave about a 20 mile round trip, which was just beautiful.  We then headed to Santorini where we rented a car to go see the ancient Greek ruins and the red sand beach.  Our hotel was a five minute walk from a black sand beach.  We went on a cruise from Fira out to the volcano (which we hiked up), to the hot springs close by, and had lunch at an island fishing village.  We even walked all the way up the stairs amidst the donkeys on our way back.  Greece was just spectacular all in all, probably my favorite trip so far!

SHAPE Oktoberfest – September 21.  Our local Germans know how to throw an Oktoberfest!  Went out with the Bells and Gateleys and even wore Lederhosen…well, something like it anyway. 

London, England – September 28-30.  Saw Wicked, thus making six years of dreams into a reality.  We also got to see the Lion King.  Two Broadway plays in one weekend, how spoiled am I?  We also went to see the Harry Potter Studios, which was also a dream come true.  I almost cried – this is where they actually filmed the movie, and these were the actual sets they used, unchanged from filming.  I stood in the Great Hall, saw the Gryffindor common room, the Potions classroom, Dumbledore’s office, the Weasley’s kitchen – amazing!  Then we had a butterbeer (so ridiculously good) outside number 4 Privet Drive and next to the Knight Bus.   Then it was on to the concept art and animatronic critters!  Finally, there was the huge model of Hogwarts that they used for shots in the movie.  It was so beautiful, so detailed, so perfect.  I told Paul, “See, I knew Hogwarts existed, and I found it.”  The final night in London we went to see David Sedaris.  I actually met him, talked to him and had him sign a copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day for me and one for Sarah.  His show was incredible.  This weekend pretty much fulfilled all of the dreams I’ve ever had. 

Koln, Germany – Koln Marathon – October 14.  Drove up to Koln the day of the marathon.  I ran my ass off and got a 3:42:34 to show for it – almost a minute/mile better than Monschau!  I don’t remember much of the city, I was pretty focused. 

Westvleteren, Belgium – October 20.  Went to the restaurant near the abbey and had beer ice cream as well as Westvleteren 12s on tap!  They were even selling it so we got to take a couple of sixers home. 

Durbuy, Belgium – October 21.  Durbuy challenge ropes course with Tim and Elisa.  Went to a very picturesque town nearby afterwards. 

SHAPE Half Marathon, Belgium – October 27.  When I got to the race I thought, “You know what, I might be able to win this,” and I did.  I got first place among females and my fastest half marathon time (by 12 minutes) at 1:35.  I was neck in neck with this other girl, but I got her in the end.  Winning was an incredible feeling! 

Hurghada, Egypt – Scuba Trip – November 22 – December 1.  Went to the Dusseldorf Christmas Market with the Bells before our flight left.  Spent 5 days out on the boat doing two dives a day, and even did a night dive!  On one dive we saw a sea turtle and a mother dolphin and her baby.  They swam right by us – it was incredible!  We stayed in this awesome, beautiful 5 star resort.   The last day I took the trip to Luxor and Karnak and saw the epic temples there and floated across the Nile!

Wiesbaden, Germany – December 15-16. Went up to Wiesbaden to hang out with Ben.  We went to the Wiesbaden Christmas Market Saturday evening and went out for a delicious sushi dinner.  Drank a ton of Gluhwein at the market and then proceeded to go to an American bar and drink, which was just ridiculous.  In the morning Ben and I got up and went for a run down by the Rhine, then we all went to a delicious brunch - even got a bloody mary! 

Istanbul, Turkey – December 21-25.  Saw the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cisterna, a mosaic museum, Topkapi palace and even took a cruise on the Bosphorous.  We met an American couple and their kids on Christmas Eve and had drinks, and then they took the same cruise as us on the Bosphorous.  We went to dinner with them afterwards, so we got to have Christmas dinner with some other Americans.  Didn’t make it over to Asia, but I did see the Asian continent for the first time!

Cairo & Alexandria, Egypt – December 26 – January 1.  The first day we got in we went to see the Bazaar of Khan-el-Khallili – it was a wild, crazy mess of a market.  On the second day we went and saw the stepped pyramid of Djoser, the Red and Bent Pyramids at Dashur and the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza.  We went inside the red pyramid, crazy to think how much weight and history is around you when you’re in there!   We took a camel ride out into the desert, so we got to see the less touristy side.   The second day we went around the city and saw Coptic Cairo, the Citadel, the City of the Dead and the tomb of Mohammed Ali’s family.  We had our driver drop us off in Zamalek and found a very first world coffee shop with the best whipped cream in the world.  We spent one day up in Alexandria where we saw their new library, a beautiful mosque that looked like it was made of lace, the Citadel alongside the ocean (apparently the site of the Alexandria lighthouse, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world) and hiked along a rocky beach and had a lovely seaside lunch as well as an amazing espresso!  Our last day, New Years Eve, we went to the Egyptian museum and saw incredible statues as well as the Tutankhamon exhibit.  We were about a block away from Tahrir square and saw the tents of the protestors.  For the evening, we went out by the pyramids and the sphinx again, and took a horse ride into the desert behind the pyramids. 

Prague, Czech Republic – January 19-21.  With Eric & Erin. 
Chatel, France – January 26 – February 3. With Bells, Gateleys, Sheys, Pomponio and Ben. 
Oberammergau/Garmisch, Germany – February 18-24. 
Avett Brothers in Koln, Germany – March 11.
Rome, Italy – Rome Marathon – March 16-17.

No comments:

Post a Comment