Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 - A Year in Review

It's hard to believe that in 12 months, we've been to 128 cities in 17 countries. We rang in 2009 watching fireworks over the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens, Greece and will be ringing in 2010 in Dublin, Ireland.

From Beautiful Budapest to Incredible Italia to Perfect Paris to Magnificent Madrid, we've seen some of the best that Europe (and the world) has to offer.

By the numbers...

3 continents
17 countries
128 cities
151 nights away from home (hotels/rental homes)
61,155 actual miles flown (by me)
17 kilometers (about 10 miles) driven in a single tunnel (in Switzerland)
46 AA batteries my camera 'ate' this year
16,067 kilometers (about 9,983 miles) driven this year
15,000+ digital photos taken

Enjoy the recap (click on the picture below to launch the slideshow).

2009 recap

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another day, another country

We're off on another adventure.

This time, the destination is Ireland.

Neither one of us have been to Ireland, so we're excited to see what the country has to offer. And, who can pass up New Year's Eve in Dublin?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from our little corner of the world

Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas! May your holidays be filled with laughter and happiness no matter where your travels may take you!

This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays! --D.M. Dellinger

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You'd think all of Europe was on sale

I purposely told Chuck's mom that her packing limit was 40 pounds, when it was really 50 pounds per suitcase. It's a good thing, too.

You would have thought that Europe was on sale with all the stuff she bought. Actually, it might have something to do with the monopoly money she was playing with....pounds, euros, and kroner.

Check out all the stuff she bought...

Weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Chuck's great, great, (great) grandparents hail from the Netherlands, so we decided to take a trip to the homeland while Chuck's mom was visiting us.

We spent a few days in Amsterdam and then stopped at the Zaanse-schans for a couple of hours.

Chuck and I visited Amsterdam, Alkmaar, and the Keukenhof last April, so it was a welcomed return to a city we enjoyed. For a chilly weekend in December, the city was bustling with activity.

Rather than check into a hotel, I found a B&B that had two bedrooms. We stayed at the Dumas and Considine Bed and Breakfast, which was a nice alternative to a hotel. I'll post more about the lodging later.

Some of the highlights:
  • Coffee at CafĂ© Thijssen while Chuck's mom explored the flower market
  • Finding a great little cheese store tucked in a little corner of the flower market
  • Taking a river cruise
  • Heineken Brewery tour
  • A trip to the ER
  • Watching the ice skaters
  • Noshing on a warm chocolate dipped waffle
A few pictures.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam

About 20 minutes north of Amsterdam is the Zaanse Schans in the town of Zaandam, Netherlands. The Zaanse Schans is basically a dutch park with windmills, a museum, cheese shops, wooden shoe shops, and other souvenier shops.

The park is free to enter, with the exception of a few windmills (3Euro per person), the museum (7.5Euro per person), and parking (7Euros for the day).

As Chuck and his mom wandered around taking pictures, I was busy shopping. Sadly, I didn't find anything in the diamond center, but I did find some shoes and a few paintings. No, I didn't buy those crazy wooden shoes!

Oh, and who can pass up some good cheese from the Netherlands? Yummy!

A few pictures.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Market in Bremen, Germany

In a word....fabulous!

Four hours just isn't enough time to spend at the Bremen Christmas Market. Chuck and I visited Bremen in August for his birthday and really enjoyed spending time in this great city along the river. On our way to Amsterdam, I thought it would be nice to stop in, once again, for a few hours to see their Christmas market.

Bremen did not disappoint!

Some how I missed Bottcherstrasse in August. Well, I found it in December. I probably dropped about 200Euro on this short little street. Bottcherstrass has some great shops with unique glassware, teas, and other Bremen related items. I also stumbled upon the Bremen Bonbon shop where you can watch them make lollipops and candies from scratch.

The Christmas market was spectacular. There are really 3 sections. One in the square in front of the Rathaus, one between the Rathaus and the information center and one near St. Peter's Cathedral. I found just about everything I was looking for in Bremen...and then some.

A few pictures...

Christmas market with St. Peter's Cathedral in the background.

Christmas market with Bremen Town Hall (Rathaus) in the background.

Yummy marshmallow filled chocolate domes.

Mother in law, Sue, buying some mind twisting games.

Chuck and his mom at the Town Musicians statue

Whirlwind tour of London

We had a visitor for the past 10 days. Chuck's mom flew over from the US. Because it was her first time outside the USA, I made sure to schedule a ton of things for her to do.

We went to 3 Christmas Markets in Germany (Flensburg, Lubeck and Bremen), flew to London and visited all the major sites and went to Windsor Castle, drove to Amsterdam and visited all the major sites including a stop at the Zaanse-schans.

Back to London.

We took a quick Ryanair flight from Billund over to Stansted and then the train into town. I think Sue was on stimulation overload with all the things to see and do in London.

The first day we spent touring Windsor Castle. I had never been there before, so it was great to pick up the audio guide and roam around the grounds for a few hours. Windsor Castle is amazing, impressive, over the top, oppulent, magnificent....need I say more?

Some of the highlights...

  • Taking the underground during rush hour and packing into the tube on the picadilly line.
  • ...and having my MIL get scolded by the London bobby for taking pictures in the underground (with the flash) after I told her not to.
  • Wandering through St. Paul's cathedral and the crypt
  • Listening to one of the beefeaters at the Tower of London
  • Seeing the crown jewels
  • River cruise from Tower Bridge to Westminster
  • Shopping at Harrods
  • Shopping with the hoards of people on Regent Street - Hamley's and Liberty were complete chaos.
  • Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe - sometimes it's the little things and when you've lived in Europe for 2 years the comforts of a (semi) American meal are welcomed!
  • Simply Food's death by chocolate dessert - simply divine.
  • Staying at the Rembrant hotel - lovely.

A few pictures.

St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle

Interior courtyard at Windsor Castle

Mother in law, Sue at Windsor Castle

Beefeater at Tower of London

Tower of London

me with long curly hair, oh my!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Market in Lubeck, Germany

Going to the Christmas Market in Lubeck, Germany wasn't exactly an original idea as it seems all of northern Germany was there!

We arrived around 11:30, only to sit in traffic for another 30 minutes, crawling along trying to park. The goal was to be up and in Lubeck by 10am or so (the market opens at 11). This way we could get a parking spot, see some of the sites, and shop a bit before the hoards of people descended upon Lubeck. We didn't leave until 9:30, so getting there by 10 wasn't going to happen.

  1. Get there early! 10am is best. If you get there later in the day, park just outside of the walled city area and walk the 5-10 minutes to get to the market. It will save 30 minutes of waiting in traffic to find a parking space.
  2. Get there early! There are hoards of people mulling around. If you want to spend some time browsing the shops, get there early because shopping body to body is difficult. And, if you pass up an item you want, turning around to get it is virtually impossible.
  3. Enjoy the hot mulled wine, bratwurst, gingerbread, large pretzels, and great confections. Yummy way to eat your way through the market.
  4. Stop in the Marienkirche and browse through the Church. It's a good place to take a break from all the people and it has a great story, so pick up the English brochure at the door near the donation box.
  5. Check out the arts and crafts at St. Petri Church. There's a 2 Euro entrance fee, but the wares are worth a look.
  6. Skip the Niederegger (marzipan store) unless you enjoy being bumped and grinded (is that the right word?) by old men and ladies fighting to get a look at the latest Christmas marzipan candies. Wowee. It was intense. I'll buy my confections at Cittipark.