Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flowers in Amsterdam

Having upload issues with pics, so there may not be so many while we are in Amsterdam...very slow connection here at our hotel.

So....we left Germany by train on Tuesday, and got into Amsterdam around 330pm. This city is beautiful, but very crowded right now, because of the upcoming Queens Day celebrations. They have a massive carnival, complete with ferris wheel and other rides set righ in Dam Square, one of the main open squares in the city. The whole city is being decorated in orange, and crowns are showing up everywhere--even on the steeple of Westerkirk church.

Our hotel has the steepest stairs I have ever seen. Feels like climbing a ladder. We are going to get a video climbing up them to show how very steep they are. Our room is teeny, but the bed is comfortable and the location is awesome.

Our first day, we went to a Rick Steves recommended Italian restaurant, and had AWESOME food. No pictures, but it was delicious. Then we wandered around a bit, and eventually headed to Leidesplein; a great area with lots of bars and restaurants and a big courtyard with all sorts of street artists and people wandering about. We had a few adult beverages, then headed back to our room to call it a night.

On Wednesday, I got up and headed out to see the Keukenhof gardens. Massive flower overload. *I* was sick of flowers when I left there, and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing in Holland. I took a billion pictures, and will attempt to upload some eventually. I just get pissy when I upload pics, then after a million hours of waiting, it freezes and times out and I lose it all. Very annoying.

After I got back from my flower escapades, Ethan and I headed out for a late lunch, then windowshopped unil it was time to go to a show--Boom Chicago; an improv show. Very funny. After all that, it was back to the room for the night.

Ethan and I on the Rhine river...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

For Sabrina........some of our food (did I mention that we LOVE schnitzels???), and the view from the window in our room.

Off to Amsterdam after breakfast!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The teeny bed for two in the nobles' bedroom

Ethan helped out by modelling the older version of a knight's helmet. Heavy!!!

View from the Castle

The castle's 'keep'--the very last line of defense

Our tour guide explaining the evolution of cannons

Germany Day 3

Today, we took a train to the nearby town of St Goar, then a 5 minute ferry across to St Goarshausen, where we had lunch...then another train to Braubach, were we went to get a tour of Marksburg castle, the one un-ruined castle on the Rhine river. Never defeated, never conquered. This is where we learned how cool it is to have a tour guide explaining things to you.

Germany-Day 2 (again)

Once we actually got to Boppard, I drug Ethan to the Sesselbahn, which is a sort of chair lift that takes you up a massive hill/cliff overlooking the water and town. Beautiful view, WINDY weather, and a lovely glass of raspberry wine at the top. And sunburn. Did I mention the fact that I am now purple?? The wind blew away the heat, so I didn't notice the sun, and am now purple. Enough that I now know the German word for sunscreen. Sonnenschlotz. Maybe spelled differently....but I did have to go to the pharmacy (apotheke) to get some sunscreen. And aloe. Lots of aloe. Anyway, I digress...

We saw the lovely view, then returned to the town and caught a 2.5 hour river cruise back to our hometown of Bacharach. Lovely castles everywhere, Mister Rogers' neighborhood houses, just picture perfect. Feels like a storybook.

Germany Day 2

Today, we took a train to the nearby town of Boppard. We got off on wrong stop (due to the entirely forgivable fact that there were TWO Boppard-slash town names before the actual Boppard town--we got off at Boppard-Bad Salzig)

Bad Salzig is not a tourist town. Here is the main church. It was Sunday, so everyone in town was here. We assume. We saw no one in the hour we spent wandering the town before our next train came to take us on to Boppard....

A few pictures from day 1 in Bacharach, Germany

Ethan in front of the high-water marks for Bacharach, during Rhine flooding in the past.

And, our hotel, Pension im Malerwinkel

After check in, we headed to the nearby town of St Goar, where we visited the Rhienfels castle ruins. Lesson learned: ruins are much more interesting when you know what you are looking at. Lesson two: Rick Steves is not the best at giving directions. We did wander around and see some cool things, but really feel that we would have gotten a lot more out of it if there had been a tour guide pointing things out for us.

There were sort of Boy Scouts camping out at the camp, which must have been awesome for them....but took away somewhat from our visit. Oh, well. Still an awesome view from the castle, and pretty extensive ruins to wander through.


We just figured out this morning that we could get internet in our room here (actually, last night, but the front desk closes at 6pm)...

So here is our update for Germany.

Good times.

Our hotel, Pension im Malerwinkel, is awesome. See the picture taken from our window?? Malwerinkel means 'painters corner', because the area where our hotel is is.....gorgeous, and people want to paint it. Check in was easy, and we were on our way.

We made it!

Flight took off and landed just as it should have. We are here and we are having a blast. A couple pics to tide you over....will update again with an actual post this evening (it is currently 1130am here)

Pics taken during our river cruise down the Rhine. Not edited because I am on vacation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A final post from stateside

My bags are (partially) packed, and we are (fairly) ready to go. A little more running around tonight (gotta purchase Avatar and bring it with us to watch on the plane or in our hotel the first night if we totally crap out), and we are all good. I have my carry-on bag all set, just need to pack my actual backpack.

Jobie has kindly agreed to feed and water my cats...and is also open to addressing the litter box, which will surely need addressing before we return.

I came home from work the other day to find that Ethan had scrubbed the 3 bathrooms and the kitchen from top to bottom. I am sure the cats will appreciate it while we are gone. They tend to fling litter around in theirs.

Anyway...we are off to the airport tomorrow morning (after I rush down to Enumclaw to retrieve my camera from Jobie). We are going to try out the new light rail from downtown to the airport--supposed to be a 30-minute ride altogether.

I am not sure if we have internet access in Bacharach...but I know we do in Amsterdam, so look for my updates!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The very last planning travel post for Europe

I can do nothing about the volcano. I realize that. So I am finishing up my planning and preparations, and I share my finished results here today.

I drew out some maps for my stay in Paris, to help me figure out the logistics of what to do when; which things I could group together on a certain day because of their proximity. I am not bringing these with me, but they really helped me figure out my itinerary. It is hard to see, but I color coded metro travel, walking travel, etc.

I also have some more examples of my personal travel guide/bible that I put together. Maps copied out of Rick Steves books or google maps; miniaturized train tickets and tour confirmations. I have everything here.

I also put together these little envelopes--one for each country (color coded...except they only had 3 different colors, so Germany gets stuck in a clear ziploc bag. My bad). In them, I put things that are specific to that country, things that I would not need until I am there.

For example, I have the appropriate language translator guides for each (cut apart from a German/Italian/French combo language book), the train or flight tickets to leave that particular country, and sections of the Rick Steves books I had that pertain to specific things we will see in that country (for places that do not have audio guides that we are planning to rent)

We bought two cheapie mp3 players, and I have downloaded a bunch of audioguides to take with us, so we will better understand the things we are seeing (the Pantheon, Notre Dame, St Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel), in areas where we don't have a tour guide or a rented audioguide. Does me no good to be somewhere awesome and see something beautiful if I don't know what it is or the stories behind it. Ethan was not a big fan of being tied to Tobias when they shared audioguides on his last Europe trip, so we got separate players. No short leash to tie us together!

Anyway. I have planned. I have thought carefully. All contingencies were deliberated upon. Except volcanic ash. We shall see. An Atlantic storm on Weds/Thurs may push things northward and save the day.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Europe, here we come!

Hotels and Airfare: Booked

Trains: Booked

€uros: Purchased (well, at least enough to pay for our hotels and Germany portion of the trip. May need to get some more....)

Research: Never ending. But I *love* it, so it is all good...

Planning: Quite possibly the most fun thing of all. See 'Research'

Travel info/map book: Paris and Rome portions are complete, still working on Amsterdam and Germany, but those two areas are much lower key with less actual planning needed. Which stresses me out, to be honest. I don't *know* what I will do...I have options to choose from. Lots of options.

Excitement: Ramping up!!

Getting down to the nitty gritty here! I am still working on my book, which is truly a labor of love. I used to carry it in my bag to work, so I could add to it while here, but now I am worried that something could happen and it could get stolen, and that would so much I leave it at home. Gotta get over that. It will be awesome and useful and all that. I need to find a large rubberband to help keep it closed, though. Too much paper added inside of it, the magnet can't quite reach to keep it closed very securely.

I am also bringing a phrase book with German/French/Italian in it. I am going to cut it up into sections (by language) and separate it out and bring it. The most important parts are the menu decoders. I am learning how to ask if there is seafood in a dish in three languages. Go, me!!

Other than the phrase book and my own personal travel bible, we are bringing a street map of Paris, and either an iPod touch or cheapo mp3 player. I reallyreallyreally want an iPod touch, but was planning to sell my wedding dress to finance it, and that hasn't happened yet. I dropped the price on the dress by $40 today, so we will see if that sweetens the pot enough. Fingers crossed!!

The mp3 player will be for downloaded podcasts to take with us in areas that we are not paying for a tour guide--(still determining which areas those will be...)the colosseum and Vatican in Rome, etc, etc. Better to have info on what exactly it is you are looking at, rather than just looking and not understanding.


The iPod touch would also download podcasts, but also maps and apps for the Paris transit system (even though I have already looked up which exact trains and which exact stops I need to be using...more info NEVER hurts...), and lots of other useful travel gadgets. And music, stuff like that. We are bringing the laptop with us, both for photo dumping off the memory cards, and also to keep in touch with work (Ethan) and blog (alyca). Ethan has a messenger bag that the laptop fits into for travel, then we will leave it in our hotel rooms and take the messenger bag as a day-bag for our whirlwind touring.

I still need to figure out what exactly we are doing in Germany--definitely a few castles, maybe a chairlift/viewpoint hike, wine and cheese tasting, etc. Gotta sort that out.

Amsterdam, I know WHAT we are doing, but not WHEN. We will do the Dutch Resistance Museum (WWII), Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum (Ethan says it was cool), Keukenhof gardens (half-day or more trip for a billion picture opportunities), 22-mile bike ride along canals and windmills (Ethan did it a couple years ago and LOVED it), and random relaxation. Except for April 30, which is Queen's Day, a national holiday and celebration where an additional 1 million people pour into Amsterdam and party like it's 1999 for the day. Old people, young people, etc, etc. Music galore, yard sales by little kids. Craziness. No public transportation available, and nothing will be we will have to see how that day shapes up. Probably not our most awesome, but I am told it is a 'must do' at least once. But we (Ethan) are not crowd people, so I am not sure how fun it will truly be. But, I have my orange shirt all prepared, and I am ready to give it my all!!

Paris, we do the Sacre Coeur church and Opera Garnier the first day, followed by an evening bike tour of all the sites lit up at night, and a boat cruise afterwards. The next day, it is off to the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb, then the Rodin Museum gardens (to see the Thinker). Then over to the Arc de Triomphe (may go to a nearby hotel with a fabulous 35th floor bar with billion dollar views first...), walk down the Champs Elysees, then view the Petit and Grand Palais', over to l'Orangerrie museum to see Monet's water lilies, then back to the hotel to crash....and up again to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

Our last full day in Paris involves Notre Dame, St Chapelle, Cluny Museum (to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries), then the Pantheon, Luxembourg gardens, Church of St Sulpice, and St Germain des Pres for dinner and mimes and street artists.

A very full city.

In Rome the next morning, we tour several churches, the Cappucin crypt, National Museum of Rome, then walk the Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazzas Colonna and Navona, Campo di Fiori, and the Pantheon. Hopefully at sunset when these are all lit up. I am unsure how this will all work, since I want to see the Pantheon during the day, and the other sites at night. And some nearby churches, too. Amazingly beautifullness is inside.

Next day, we do the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill, then Capitol Hill, Capitoline Museums, and Largo Argentina (cat sanctuary).

Our last full day is reserved for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and Castel St Angelo.

Then we come home and deal with insomnia and look forward to going back to work. Actually, we come home and I disappear into my scrapbook room until I have photos edited and beautified.

After all this, our next vacation: Heading to Florida in September to watch the last space shuttle launch. A must see, in our opinions. Last chance, too. I just hope weather cooperates and we are actually able to watch!! You better believe we will photograph the heck out of that.