Tag Archives: Travel

Disneyland Trip: Day 1

I need to post about something that makes me sickeningly happy. Right now, that’s looking back on our trip to Disneyland earlier this summer. I still have many other things to back-post about but for now, I’m going to focus on getting our trip to Disneyland up as quickly as possible.

We were gone a total of 6 days. It was for the most part supposed to be a very laid back (travel-wise) trip with 2 days dedicated solely to travel. That part went perfectly according to plan and I will definitely plan for that dedicated travel time in the future.

We left about 10 or 10:30 once all was said and done on a Sunday morning with our caravan of vehicles (3 in total) and made our way to California. I think we arrived somewhere between 3 and 4 but I can’t remember for sure. The Count and I, as well as our good friends J+J stayed at one hotel together across the street from Disneyland (excellent decision) and our other friends T+T stayed at a more ritzier hotel a mile or so away from the park. I’m happy with where we stayed because we never missed the early entrance to the park and were close enough to walk (and no – not even like this-is-pushing-it-kind-of-walking-distance) so that if needed the kids could nap at the hotel (that never happened).

After we checked in to our hotel which I can’t remember the name of right now because my mind is like a big bowl of mashed potatoes, we walked to Downtown Disney. We ate at this little taco/burrito place, kind of like a Chipotle but I can barely remember anything about it other than that there was hardly any seating because if I can tell you one thing about Downtown Disney, it is effing packed to the brim. It’s like an attraction all on its own, except there’s nothing there except really expensive restaurants. So, it’s kind of baffling really. But the kids found it exciting and it was a good transition to what was to come the next day!

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Chico, California

Finally getting around to posting about our trip to Chico last April for my cousin Tia’s wedding reception. Her and her husband, August, eloped but had a big celebration in town. This was a big trip for us because it was going to be the longest car ride that Finn had ever been on and also the longest that The Count had been apart from Finn, as he wasn’t making the drive with us due to school – he flew out for 2 nights at the end.

Overall the drive went good. For a barely 2 year old to sit in a car for 15 or so hours, it went phenomenal. It started with him vomiting in the car no less than 20 minutes after we left our driveway. And then he continued to several more times. He wasn’t sick, so the only thing we could attest to was that it was the first time he drove with his carseat facing forward and he might have been car sick. We kept him busy with toys, crayons, movies, etc. And we stopped fairly often for diaper changes, vomit clean-up sessions, and for stretching! He was a TROOPER.

The party was amazing. Pinterest Perfect, as I put it. It was like something straight out of Pinterest! My cousin and aunt planned everything to a T and it was absolutely perfect and we were so glad to be a part of it.

There were a couple trips to Sacramento squeezed in to pick up the Count from the airport and drop him off, as well as picking up my grandparents who flew in from Georgia. It was a crazy filled to the brim “vacation”. This was also the first time that my grandparents met Finn. Sadly.. no pics! Or at least that I could find. =/

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We went to my aunt and cousin’s cupcake shop that they own in town called the Cupcake Crusader. Sadly, I didn’t take any pics. We also went to Thursday Market which is a big deal there in town. Vendors selling stuff, mostly farmer’s market foods, and then food trucks galore. My aunt & cousin’s cupcake truck being one of them! We were there to get flowers and strawberries for the wedding shindig. These strawberries were AMAZING and HUGE, and Finn loved them. Sadly, no pictures of him stuffing his face with strawberries, either.

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The next morning was spectacular. Finn slept until 10am for the first time ever. Which means, I slept til 10am for the first time in two years. Well actually, I woke up before him and laid frozen in my bed for fear that I would wake him in the pack-n-play next to me. Finally I woke him up because I knew we had things to do!

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The view from breakfast: my aunt’s backyard, complete with her own pond.chico_7

View from the front yard. Yeah, I could get used to this.

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Their two miniature horses. I believe their names are Mickey and Flip. I could be wrong. Flip is definitely one of them. Don’t know which one.

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The massive cat run that my uncle built for their, I don’t know… 9 cats? It’s too dangerous for the cats to be “outside” cats due to the natural wildlife around there, so this is an awesome area for them to hang.

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And because my uncle’s the coolest, bee hives! Save the bees!

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Grandma teaching Finn to play the piano…

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What I did all day the day of the wedding. Made strawberry shortcake biscuits. About 100 of them to be exact.

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The picnic baskets that people would take to the blankets across the property.

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This is where the music, slide show, dancing, and all of the party happened.

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The bride and me (p.s. I miss my long hair so much).

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When it got late, we retired to our room and watched movies. We weren’t out late at the party due to our little guy.

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Deer on the property the day after.

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Breakfast on the last day: one more delicious piece of strawberry shortcake with marscapone whipped cream. Also, Finn tried raw peanuts and had fun cracking them open (seen below) all morning. Which led to the works gastrointestinal situation we could have imagined.

chico_15Parting shot. Every kid is amazed by the windmills. I know I was as a kid.

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And the saddest part of the whole trip. All of the cupcakes that we took home from the Cupcake Crusader cupcake shop… did not make it in that great of condition. Don’t think for a second that we didn’t eat them, though!

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Amsterdam | Keukenhof Gardens: Day 2

So, it feels weird to blog about something two years later but I’m feeling reinspired to document our trip to Europe. And with the recent change to spring I decided what better day to blog about than our day to the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Netherlands.

I must preface this with that it has been a dream of mine to see the tulips of Holland since I was very little. I tried to plan this trip around the tulip season as best I could, but with Dan’s school it just wasn’t possible. I knew we would be getting there at the tail end of the tulip season and so I was prepared not to see the fields and fields of tulips and for most of the tulips in the garden to be mostly cut down. I think we were getting there on one of the last days the garden was open, if not, the last day. But, I had to go. We even arranged to go to Amsterdam after London instead of Paris even though it was a little more expensive just so that we could see Keukenhof!

5/18/11. We slept in this day til about 8:45am and then went down to the lobby of our hotel and had breakfast which was fruit, toast, and sliced meat. We then took the tram down to the station and waited in line to buy our tickets to Keukenhof and took the big train to Schipol Airport where we met a very friendly service person who waited with us for the bus to Keukenhof. He spoke 5 languages which we thought was amazing. Such a departure from us over here in the states! We’re lucky if someone we know speaks a little bit of Spanish. =/

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The bus to Keukenhof was about 30 minutes long and it was packed. There were obviously a lot of people who knew about the gardens, seeing as how it was the world’s largest flower garden. ;) We got there and it was, as you can imagine, beautiful. I won’t narrate the whole garden. I’ll let the pictures do that. The gardens and the indoor displays were just beautiful. But the one thing that the pictures just cannot do justice was the scent. When we were in the indoor displays, it was so overpowering, sometimes you had to go outside just to catch your breath. It smelled beautiful, yes, but very very powerful. I’ve never been around so many flowers in my life. It’s a good thing this allergy and asthma girl had her condition under control and brought her medication with her! You could see people outside rubbing their eyes and you could just feel their pain. But, still, it was amazing. And one of my favorite and most memorable things about the day and experience other than the beautiful colors was hearing all of the birds chirping everywhere you went. I LOVED that. It made my heart sing (video below). :)

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The swans… oh the swans. So beautiful and graceful.

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Black tulips!

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See? We were blown away by the smell right about here… if you have any idea how lillies smell, well then you can imagine how a building filled with nothing but lillies smells.

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My mom loves orchids so I took this picture just for her. <3

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Then we took a break and had lunch in their on-site cafeteria and it was absolutely nothing to write home about. We played with it and made this little croquette man.

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There was a petting zoo filled with nothing but mini animals for kids and a little playground, so naturally Dan played on it. And we all enjoyed the animals. :)

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And here’s a view of one of the fields that normally has tulips as far as the eye can see, but as I was already prepared before we got there – it was cut down. :(

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There was a more grown up playground which we played around in, a maze… but it, too was filled with kids.

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My favorite red tulips. :)

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And our parting shot of the gardens we took while playing around with some of the features of our camera.
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We left Keukenhof late in the afternoon, about 5:00 and took the bus back to Schipol where we all tried to catch a little snooze and then the train from Schipol back to Amsterdam. Once we were back to our home away from home we did a little more sight seeing around the city, did some relaxing around Vondelpark, had our first shwarma for dinner which was delicious and enjoyed eachother’s company for the rest of the day.

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The Forgotten City of Pompeii

Dan and I saw many amazing places on our trip to Europe this past summer, and one of our favorites was seeing the ancient ruins of Pompeii. It was truly amazing and we couldn’t believe as we walked along the stone paths that this was once the home to thousands of Romans – until it was destroyed and buried by Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. I am still in disbelief that we got to see it (or ANY of the places we saw on our trip for that matter!), but am even more appreciative. It’s falling apart right before the eyes and one day, not too far from now, it will be gone forever. The Italian archaeological group doesn’t do the best job of maintaining it or excavating it and have mostly taken to exploiting every dollar out of it that they can for tourism. I know they have closed over two thirds of the site since the 60’s, but I believe that it should, if not closed altogether, have tighter restrictions on where tourists can walk/explore or make it more of a guided-tour only thing, like some other places we went on our trip. Just as an effort to help preserve it as much as possible because once it’s gone, it’s gone. Needless to say, it was one of the highlights of our trip and even our lives. Truly remarkable.  I highly recommend it to anybody traveling to/near Rome, even if it is just for a day, it was absolutely worth it to us!

A brief history of Pompeii that I stole from somewhere online:

Pompeii was first occupied in the 8th century BC. The Etruscans soon dominated the region and Pompeii was no exception. The Etruscan occupation lasted throughout the 5th and 6th centuries BC. After the Etruscans came the Saminites. The Saminites turned Pompeii into a pure Greek town. Their reign ended when the Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BC. The Romans retained control over Pompeii until the end… a fateful day in 79 AD when Mt Vesuvius unleashed its fury on the 20,000 inhabitants of this thriving Roman city.

However, as my father is fond of saying, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Although this tragic event ended the lives of 20,000 Pompeian residents, the ash that buried the town served as a sort of mummification for the entire city. The eruption of 79 AD which buried the town in ash actually captured a moment in time. Under the ash everything remained as it was at the time of the eruption. Artwork was preserved. Buildings were preserved. Several important clues were left behind. These clues give us a little glimpse into the past. These clues are the silver lining that can be seen when you visit the ruins at Pompeii.

We woke up really early on our 3rd day in Rome.  I bought our tickets to Naples months in advance and our train departed at 7:39am.  We took public transportation (the Metro) to the train station and were off to Naples.  The ride was about 2 hours long, which we had our own little room with one other Italian girl, so it was pretty relaxing.  Dan did see what looked like a dead body (with police standing around) on the side of the tracks as we were slowly pulling in to Naples which was quite the welcome sight.  We had been told that Naples was very “seedy” and not the safest place, or at least it didn’t make you feel that way immediately.  I can’t really speak for the whole of Naples as we only saw the train station, but we felt more uncomfortable there than any other train station on our entire trip (even the one in Germany which I got stuck at by MYSELF after getting off at the wrong stop at night in the dark).  We got off the train, bought our tickets to the Circumvesuviana commuter train to take us the rest of the way to Pompeii which was another 30 minutes.  This was after our horrible experience of Dan having to use the bathroom so bad and us not having any change to pay for the entrance to the bathroom, so I had to run around the train station to find a place that was willing to break a bigger bill for us (not something they are so willing to do).  Got that taken care of and then we stopped at that same place for some “breakfast” which we ended up finding these disgusting, tiny little worms in our orange juice after we boarded the train had already been drinking it for a while.  Gross!  Also, the Naples train station was full of stray dogs.  Just sleeping along walls, outside of stores, everywhere.  I wanted to take them all home with me and feed & bathe them.  This dog trend continued in Pompeii.

We got off on our stop, Pompei Scavi and walked a short distance to the entrance of the ruins.  There were plenty of other people doing the same so we never felt lost or anything.  Outside of Pompeii are a bunch of merchants set up under tents selling food and wares.  It was really overcast and seemed like it was going to rain, so we contemplated buying an umbrella, but ultimately decided against it (woops!).  We bought our tickets to Pompeii, turned on Rick Steves’ guide on the iPod and were off!

The first part of Pompeii that you see as you walk in is just indescribable.  Like we took a huge step back in time and were in with all of the hustle and the bustle of the city life.  The entrance is right where the main portion of the city was with all the looming columns, stunning frescoes, former food stands & counters (where they had olives and other produce for sale), ovens, and fountains.  It was brilliant!  We were just in awe.  This was all we had planned for the day so we knew we could just take it all in slowly until our train left that afternoon at 5:17pm.  I can’t even put into any more words how much I enjoyed our day in Pompeii and what seeing it meant to me.  This place was huge, so other than the main area when you first walk in, we were almost always alone (other than the stray dogs everywhere) and could explore at our will.  It did start pouring (HUGE raindrops, just like the ones we experienced in Cinque Terre earlier in the week – something I had never felt at home before) and we would have gotten soaked if we hadn’t ducked into the only food place on the premises (the same chain we had gotten our disastrous breakfast from that morning, so we were NOT thrilled).  I can’t even remember what I ate there as it was unsatisfying, again.  But we bought an umbrella for €10 which we were able to use for maybe 30 minutes afterwards and then it stopped raining for the rest of the day.  Oh well, isn’t that how it usually works? =/

I won’t narrate the entire rest of the day as it could get very lengthy.  We basically just explored every place that we could, checked out all the casts of bodies, both human and dog, marveled at all the pots that have survived 2000 years, spent many moments sitting on a bench pinching ourselves, being amazed at the beautiful paintings, frescoes, and mosaics that covered the place, people and dog watching, and just really appreciating everything about the place.  We left later that afternoon, we most definitely could have used more time, as in days, to explore the entire city (plus Mount Vesuvius), but we didn’t feel like we were super rushed doing it in a day and saw a fair amount of the place.  Rick Steves’ audio guide was just perfect for this, as it was for most of our trip!  We got back to Rome at 7:21pm and had dinner at this little restaurant that was around the corner from the Roman apartment that we stayed at.  A tiring but unforgettable day!

And here’s a highlight of pictures that we snapped of that day:

Amsterdam: Day 1 *Warning: NSFW*

***Just warning you ahead of time… we went to the Sexmuseum in Amsterdam and yes, I am sharing everything from our trip, this included.  Don’t click on this link if you don’t want to see a few penises and vaginas, often times very near to each other.***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s us, pregnant with baggage and what we looked like everytime we traveled.

Our brief glimpse of Belgium

Our first day started out extremely early (I think we woke up at 5am) as we had to check out of our hotel in London, walk to the tube station, get to St. Pancras station to take the Eurostar to Brussels and then finally to our destination, Amsterdam!  When we first exited the train station, it seemed extremely chaotic.  Like, trams, people, bikes, cars, taxis, everywhere!  All four of us were really intimidated by not knowing where to go, what kind of transportation to purchase, which tram to take (they all seemed to go to our hotel which was what was so confusing), and what to do once we were on the tram!  I eventually found a tourist office, got in line, asked my questions, got my answers, bought my passes, and we headed for the tram.  Once we were on, after maybe our 2nd trip we got the hang of it and everything was a-okay.

Our hotel, our room was the window on the right, on the 4th floor.  Up 64 steps to the top I believe, no lift.

 

 

 

 

 

Me climbing the steps to the top and our views from our window.

After settling in, we set out and wandered around the town for a few hours with no real plans for the day other than a canal cruise later that night.  We passed many canals and interesting gabled buildings with neatly decorated tiles across the front, flower and produce stands, and bike after bike after bike!

Our first meal in Amsterdam was pancakes!  Something I had read about online for a while before embarking on our trip and they had my mouth watering as soon as I read about them, until I finally got to try them at Sarah’s Pancake House, a place that was recommended online:

 

A pannekoek is thinner and larger than a pancake, thicker and larger than a crêpe. Although the batter is strictly the same in both versions, pannekoeken can be salty or sweet depending on what comes over them. The most classic recipes are ham, cheese or both. We’ll also find cheese-pineapple, cheese-ginger, bacon-cheese and many more. On the sweet side, traditional pannekoeken are apple-sugar-cinnamon, raisins-sugar, powder sugar or sugar syrup and sugar. Here again, the recipes are endless. Although many regular restaurants serve Dutch pancakes, the ideal place to enjoy authentic pannekoeken is definitely the pannekoekenhuis (pancake house). There you will find a larger selection, sugar syrup and powder sugar on each table and the mouth-watering smell of freshly made pancakes in the air. Dutch people eat pannekoeken for lunch or dinner. But be aware, as the Dutch usually dine around 6pm, most of the pancake restaurants close no later than 8 or 9pm. It’s a common thing to eat one or two sweet pancakes for dinner. As pannekoeken tend to be served in large portions, you may want to order 1 for 2 people or 2 for 3. This way you’ll be guaranteed to have enough space for a sweet taste. Besides it’s more gezellig (cosy, friendly, hearty) as the Dutch love to call it. Depending on the restaurant and the pancake itself, the price of a pannekoek usually ranges from 5 to 10 €.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, this place is their big fast food restaurant, but their sole item on the menu are french fries.  And the traditional way to enjoy these french fries is in a paper cone slathered with mayonnaise.  Gross.  Dan tried it, I stuck with ketchup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a picture of this miniature (on the left) for my mom who so loves miniatures, not sure it was quite the kind she likes.  ;)  And here’s me surrounding by old pornographic pictures.

How would you like this bird bath/fountain in your front yard?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s me, Julie, and Dan trying out this penis bench that vibrated when you sat on it.  Very interesting place to say the least!  But hey— that’s Amsterdam!

And this?  Yeah that pair of cheeks hanging there with the 2 eyes farts on you with real air as you walk by.  Quite a surprise.  Sound effects and all!

Okay, so moving on with this post to our final event of the night.  We took an evening cruise of the canals in Amsterdam.  It started at 10pm and it was still light outside!  I couldn’t get over how late the sun set here and London.

The only shot we got of us sort of near the Red Light District.  It’s illegal to take pictures there so we played it safe and took this last parting shot before we tucked our camera away while we walked past all the windows of ‘tutes trying to seduce you.  Really a crazy place!

And finally we got home at about 2am to rest our weary eyes and rest up for our big day to Keukenhof Gardens!

(I can’t get over the fact that I just created a blog post that was NSFW… hehehe)

First and Last Impressions of Amsterdam

My first impression of Amsterdam was that it was dirty.  As with most cities on this trip, my first impression was pretty solid to the last impression.  Amsterdam was an interesting city and I’m so glad that I saw it because now that itch is gone.  We spent 2.5 days there and I’d say it was just enough as one of the days was spent outside of the city at the Keukenhof Gardens.  Amsterdam was our first introduction to a place that didn’t speak English and I will say that it was a pretty soft introduction since most people there did speak English, as was our experience all over Europe.  Here’s what stuck out at me about this city:

  • It was dirty and seedy, there’s no doubt.  Trash everywhere.  In some places the ground was littered with so much white paper debris that you couldn’t see the pavement.  Mind you, this was in places that were a lot closer to the Red Light District.  However, with as dirty as it was, and even with all the stuff that Amsterdam is known for, like sex and drugs, it did not feel at all unsafe to me (that feeling belonged to Naples).  We could be walking around at 1am and we still felt just as safe as we did walking around at 9am.  Especially in the Red Light District which was really just another tourist attraction, only free, unless you partake in any extra-curricular activities.  ;)
  • Amsterdam was such a wonderful blend of new and old monuments and architecture.  You can see it had many historical influences but also many modern ones.  I never knew that Amsterdam had such a rich architectural history, as it is the birthplace for modern architecture.  They even have their own very famous style of architecture called Amsterdamse School that arose in the early 1900’s and examples of it were seen all over the city on our trip.  The thing I found most striking about Amsterdam was that you could see all the different periods of time in this one little city.  Cities like Paris had one typical type of architecture and they were really all about preserving their old buildings to keep the same feel it had back then.  Amsterdam you could tell rebuilt itself a lot.  There were the few wooden structures left from the 13th century, which were then razed and rebuilt with brick ones (and the many gabled roofs) in the 16th century, developing its own Renaissance architecture, then in the 17th century it was the Baroque architecture which clashed a bit with Amsterdam’s Golden Age, then in the 18th century they were very influenced by French culture, but instead of straight up Gothic architecture, they spearheaded the neo-Gothic,  and then in the 19th century it was the Art Noveau, and as I mentioned above, their very own style of architecture.  Such a rich and beautiful history which were ALL seen throughout the city.
  • There was a LOT of graffiti in Amsterdam.  There was a lot throughout Europe, but coming from London, it was a bit of a shock to see all the graffiti there.  That eventually leveled out as we went throughout our entire trip realizing that graffiti was just a way of life over there and such a beautiful and neat way for people to express themselves.  Yeah, I said beautiful.  Dan and I loved the graffiti, he took pictures of it throughout.
  • Many buildings lean in Amsterdam.  Some on purpose and some due to that the wooden pillars, driving into the sandy soil until they rest on a layer of rock — have started to rot, perhaps due to receding ground water.  Very interesting to see.
  • Not as maintained as London or Paris.  I guess that allows it to keep its old feeling as much as possible.
  • There are bicycles everywhere.  Literally.  To give you an idea of the massive scale of bikes vs. people, there are 750,000 people in Amsterdam and over 1,000,000 bikes.  Also interesting to note that 30,000 bicycles end up in the canals every year.  You literally can not turn around for one second and not see a bike.  They are like cockroaches or rats in NYC (ok I’ve never been there so I’m going off of what I heard).  Also, word of advice if you go there, if you hear a *beep*, that means GET OUT OF THE WAY.
  • We found the people to be WONDERFUL. Everywhere they were friendly and welcoming and many times they would offer their help without us even having to ask.  We were on the tram once trying to figure out which stop was ours and if we had to connect to get to where we were going next and this guy just starts guiding us, even asking the tram operator questions, without us even having to ask. It was noticeable that even taxi drivers (I learnt something – they have blue number plates) were meticulous in making sure that they gave way to cyclists, and cyclists gave way to pedestrians with a smile, even when they were wandering around without a clue as to where they were.
  • They have a great transportation system once you learn how to use it!  Our first hour in Amsterdam was a little tense and frustrating due to us not having a clue how it worked, but once we got to know it, we were pros and got around easily.  On that note, I’ll also say that Amsterdam is a lot bigger than you think!  We definitely made use of the public transportation on many occasions when our little feets just couldn’t carry us any longer because something ended up being a lot farther than expected.  Vondelpark, anyone?
  • We were most unfamiliar with the language here than any other place we went, and believe it or not we found it to be the, how else do I put this, ugliest of the languages?  When they spoke English (which everybody did), it was harsher sounding than any other person that had a different native language on our travels.  We were expecting German to be the most brute sounding but were pleasantly surprise that it was not (more on that later), that title belonged to the Dutch language in our opinion.  Sorry beautiful Dutch peoples!
  • They don’t take American credit cards, basically, ANYWHERE in Amsterdam, so bring lots of cash!
  • The people there were real laid back, busy, but never too busy to help one of the thousands of tourists roaming their streets who was lost crossing one too many canals, and they were never uptight!

Overall, Amsterdam was a wonderful and unique city and I’m so glad I saw it.  I probably won’t need to go back to Amsterdam itself, but definitely would love to explore the rest of Holland, the countryside, the windmills, the North Sea, the tulip fields, and absolutely MUST go back to Keukenhof a month earlier so that I can see all of the tulips before they die.  That was my only disappointment – that all the tulips were already cut down, but I knew that was a possibility going so late in the season, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise.

Food: England

Here’s the post you’ve all been waiting for: FOOD.  I really tried to document our food since it was such an important aspect of the trip.  We had a lot of delicious food.  I think in my jetlagged haze the past few days since getting home, I forgot about all the delicious food we had and may have talked down our food experiences quite a bit.  Yeah, we expected more on our trip because I think food is obviously really hyped up, but really helps if you know where to go.  Thank goodness for pictures because after going through ours I am reminded of the many delicious things we ate along the way!  Here’s what we are in our 4 days in England:

 

Oxford/Cotswolds: Day 4 Pt. 2

The second half of our day to Oxford was spent on a lovely tour of the Cotswolds, which are a range of hills in west-central England popular with both the English themselves and visitors from all over the world.  The Cotswolds are well-known for gentle hillsides (‘wolds’), their sheep (used to make a huge part of their living by selling wool made products), sleepy villages and for being so ‘typically English’.  And boy were they!  Our first stop was to Minster Lovell, an enchanting stone and thatch village, and home to Francis Lovell, an English nobleman and life long friend and ally of King Richard III.

Here there was a 15th century manor house belonging to Lord Lovell, an old Saxon minster (church) from the 11th century (later rebuilt in the 15th century), a cemetery, and a mystical hall, and a dovecote (used to house pigeons or doves), which sat right on the River Windrush.  We learned that the name, Decimus, seen on the tombstone above came from being born the 10th child to a family.

Our tour guide, Philip, from Cotswold Roaming, was absolutely wonderful.  He told us a fairy tale like story about how Francis Lovell, the loyal friend and ally to King Richard III (mentioned above) fought in the Yorkist rebellion against the House of Tudor, but surrendered during the Battle of Stoke Field.  It was widely theorized that he went into hiding in a cellar under his mansion in Minster Lovell, where his loyal servants kept him hidden for years until they were eventually tortured by King Henry VIII on his whereabouts.  They never told and so Francis supposedly starved to death with his dog by his side.  I’ve since discovered that this is most likely very false, but it was a great story nonetheless!

After Minster Lovell, we drove through the Windrush Valley past lots of sheep, horses, and cows, and through many rolling hills and beautiful green pastures.  This area was just gorgeous!

I know *somebody* who might appreciate this picture (Ahem, Christa?)!

The thatched roof is something very characteristic of the Cotswold Villages.  We learned that back then these were considered very low class and something only peasants would have on their homes.  It’s taken a 180 degree spin as the homes with these now are only afforded by the rich as the thatched roofs have to be replaced ever 3-5 years and cost £20-25,000.  Yowza!

We got to the elegant market town of Burford, with its wide main street where we had some free time to roam around.  We saw this shop called “Jayne’s” which we had to take a picture of as that’s Dan’s mom’s name, and we almost never see it spelled the same way as hers!  We stopped in a delicious pastry shop called Huffkin’s where I had a homemade chocolate eclair and Dan had an apple strudel type thing.  They were both delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Burford we went to The Cotswold Woollen Weavers at Filkins which gave an insight into the traditional cloth making methods of the Cotswolds.

We got to see a traditional cloth weaver, and take a peek into a wagon that a shepherd would live in while tending to the sheep out in the fields.

We drove through some more green fields, quaint villages, and along the way saw this mansion which is now a B&B.  Dan and I would love to come back here one day, take a step back in time and spend a few days nestled in these wonderful villages.

Our final stop was Bibury, where we got to see the famous Arlington Row, a group of weaver’s cottages, and Bibury’s clear trout-filled stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the whole gang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our tour we were dropped back off in Oxford where we had dinner at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and had probably the best Italian food of the trip, in my opinion.  Delicious bruschetta and yummy pasta!

Some of My Travel Realizations

Taking a little break from the day to day blogging…

I had many realizations on my trip but my biggest was that traveling makes you really understand what you’ve already learned but never really experienced. Traveling is all about the people and the cultures, not the places and things. Having that moment where you realize what you already know (and how little it truly is) and what else is out there waiting for you to discover was very humbling and exciting all at the same time. I had that on this trip. There are people in this world that travel with blinders on and never shift their perspective and so they’ll never truly experience the benefits of traveling because their minds are so closed off. I am so very thankful for what I was able to take from my experiences on this trip and how I am allowing them to change me. I need to work on letting go of some of the control in my life and knowing that in the end, everything WILL work out (something I really had to trust many times on this trip). That and I also got a serious case of the “travel bug”. Not real soon though. I need to unpack and wash my clothes first.  ;)

And so it begins…

Oxford/Cotswolds: Day 4

Oxford was probably my absolute favorite city in England that we saw and the Cotswolds were absolutely magical.  Like we stepped into a Disney movie.  I was waiting for the birds to start whistling and a princess to step out and break into song.  It was such a great day.  I would love to go back and spend more time seeing the other colleges in Oxford and stay in a cottage in the Cotswolds for a weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the train to Oxford and arrived about 10am.  Walked through the town and saw so many interesting historical buildings lining every street.  And students!  Lots and lots of students walking around as it was a Monday morning.  So cool.

We ran right into the Radcliffe Camera, while walking through one of the University of Oxford’s many campuses.  This was the earliest example of a circular library in England and built during the 17th century, funded by James Radcliffe, physician to the royal family.  Very cool building indeed, and huge!  Interesting enough, the current library keeper still receives part of their salary from the Radcliffe legacy.

We then walked a little further through the city past a few more colleges until we got to Christ Church.  This was on our “must do” list as the dining hall here is where they filmed the dining hall scenes at Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter movies.  So cool!

The grounds of this church were beautiful.  It was also very cool seeing the groundskeepers lovingly seeing to the flower beds and other plants.  Something quite different from what I see around my neighborhood in Arizona.  ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then after that we took pictures in the quad area and visited the church’s abbey.  Seriously loved this campus and I even bought a Christmas ornament and a magnet from the gift shop because I loved it so very much.

We then headed up the street to the Covered Market for some delicious lunch and to wait for our tour to the Cotswolds (coming up in another post!).

Here you see why it is called ‘Covered Market’.  It had mostly butcher shops, lots of produce stands, little specialty shops that had things like pasta, olive oil, shoe shops, and some cafes and little stands that you can eat at.  We ate some pot pies.  Mmmm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A random cemetery between two roads.  Different.  And all the tombstones were very old, so I don’t think it was still used.  From 1700’s and 1800’s.  A little piece of history between two modern busy streets.

And a regular sight, vines growing on buildings.  These vines were cut at the bottom, so they all died, but gave this building the most eerie effect.  On to the Cotswolds!