Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving at the beach!

We spent turkey day on the beach off the coast of Africa in the Canary Islands.  We had a great time!  Great weather, great food, and a great find of an apartment by yours truly!  This picture is of the pool area at our place.  We spent the days at the beach and then the later afternoons early evenings enjoying the warm pool water.  We played mini golf one night after dinner and enjoyed a nice walk along the ocean every night back up to our resort.  I highly recommend visiting if you want nothing to do besides beaching it!  :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Favorite Trips and Cities

Many people ask us what our favorite trip has been.  I have favorite trips and then favorite cities.  I've shared them here in case you're's hard to narrow it down!
Favorite Cities
1. Paris, France- it's so romantic and I love the eiffel tower and French food
2. London, GB- love the different areas and seeing and hearing English is really nice too!
3. Krakow, Poland- so much to do, cheap shopping, and yummy food!
4. Vilnius, Lithuania- not touristy, quaint and romantic, super cheap to travel there
5. Venice, Italy- love Venice as it's so different and lovely!
Favorite Trips
1. Istanbul, Turkey April 2010- This was my first experience with middle eastern food, culture, people, etc.  Fascinating place!
2. Fez, Morocco Dec. 2010- Fez is unlike anywhere I have ever been.  Magical!
3. Two week long driving trip around Northern Italy Dec. 2009- The driving in Italy is an experience itself.  We visited so many cities on this trip packed into the MINI with the two dogs.  Fun!
4. Greek Isles Aug.2008- Lovely trip, lovely places, love Greece!
5.  Scandinavian/Russian Cruise July 2011- I had always wanted to go on this cruise.  Very cool to visit Russia and I loved Finland especially.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Trips in June 2011-June 2012

Because I arrived here in June of 2008, I typically plan our trips from June to June.  We started the traveling season this year with a Scandinavian cruise to Latvia, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.  In August, we drove down to Italy to celebrate our 4th anniversary in the Cinque Terre Region.  The Fall brought trips to Edinburgh, Scotland; Nancy, France; and Vilnius, Lithuania.  We'll be spending Thanksgiving in the Canary Islands and Christmas in Egypt.  For the second time, I'll ring in a birthday in Paris, France.  Right now, trips for Feb-June 2012 are still in the early planning stages.  Our baby is due in April, so I'm not quite sure where we'll go once we're a party of three.  We are planning a trip to the States in late June..will this be the baby's first trip?  Who knows!  As it is, our lucky little fetus will have been to at least seven different countries traveling in the comfort of my growing belly!  Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, and Normandy are all relatively close by cities that are high on my list to visit.  Trips to Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Southern Ireland are also on my little time, so much to see!

Lithuania? Why not!

Vilnius, Lithuania.  I found a cheap flight here for Veteran's Day Weekend and asked Brian what he thought.  He was up for it, so after finding an apartment to rent, we were all set.  After being in Vilnius for about 3 hours, we had declared it to be on both of our top 5 favorite cities list.  We had originally decided to take the train to another city in Lithuania, but after falling so hard for Vilnius, we cancelled that hotel room and decided to spend the whole time in this quaint, romantic city.  We had our own apartment, right downtown in the old city center.  It was a perfect location and for 30 Euros a night, I couldn't have found a better deal!!  We spent the days shopping, eating, walking around.  

Ducking into cathedrals and just getting lost (Brian of course knew right where we were!) in the windy neighborhoods.  Vilnius was like what we expected Prague to be, but better.  It had parts of what we loved about Kraków as well.  The old town, the weaving streets, the old worldliness to it all.  All in all, Vilnius is now one of our top favorites.  If you have the chance to visit this city, please do!  If you fly into Kaunas (whcih was the other city we were going to stay in), you can just take the Airport Shuttle bus to Vilnius.  It takes about 1.5 hours and cost about 8 Euros per person.  Don't bother going downtown, just go right from the airport.  We went to dinner at some great restaurants, so check out the Trip Planner section before you go.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Girls' Weekend!

This past weekend, four of my friends and I headed to Nancy, France.  This pretty city is just about 3 hours away from Stuttgart.  Although we got stuck in some awful traffic on the way there, yummy treats, fun conversations, and just being with friends helped the four plus hour drive go by quickly.  Our hotel, although budget, was in a great location.  We went out to dinner for our first night at a brasserie I had found online.  I had salmon because I love the way the French cook salmon.  I was not disappointed.  Crème brûlée for dessert and dinner was a success!  The next morning after breakfast, we walked around the city.  The center of Nancy is said to be the most beautiful in all of Europe.  It was lovely.  We had found a spa right around the corner from our hotel and booked treatments before our arrival.  I had a prenatal skin treatment/massage.  It was amazing.  We had dinner at a bistro, very yummy, and headed home the following morning.  The weekend was just perfect, fun time spent with friends, good food, and an afternoon spent at the spa!  Thanks Kristen, Stacie, Jennifer, and Lindsey for a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


The view of the city from the Castle
This Columbus Day weekend, we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland.  What an amazing city!  The people were so friendly and I loved the ease that comes when traveling in an English speaking country.  Of course, I could still barely understand what they were saying, with their Scottish accents and all!  Their trams are nonexistent, but they have a great bus system.  The people were just so friendly and helpful.  Each time they saw us with a map or my guide book, they would stop and ask us if we needed directions or help.  Most of the time, I was just looking up where to eat!  :)
Street performer on the Royal Mile
Our B&B was quaint, serving a lovely Scottish breakfast to us each morning, complete with decaf Scottish tea...I couldn't have been more happy!  I chose our B&B based on the fact that the reviews said that Jill, the owner, made fresh scones for breakfast.  She did and they were amazing!  We spent the first night just wandering around the city and stumbling upon the most amazing restaurant..I had mussels and a rhubarb something for dessert.  HEAVEN, I tell you!  The next day, we toured the castle, complete with a live guide for the first part.  Bagpipes playing, rain sprinkling, it was a great day.  We also toured the Britannia, the royal yacht.  Very exciting for me, but I'm sure Brian was not as into it as I was!  The next day we decided to do some bus tours, with live guides, they were awesome!  We did some shopping and more eating of course!  I've listed restaurants and the B&B info in the Travel Planner section, so be sure to check those out if you find yourself on the way to this wonderful city! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Celebrating our 4th anniversary on the Italian Riviera

This year for our anniversary we headed south for a week on the Italian Riviera.  We stayed high in the hills in a small town called Uscio.  Every morning we would take the bus down the long winding road to the bottom of the hills by the sea.  We spent a few days on different beaches swimming in the Ligurian Sea.  Although their beaches are nothing like the ones in New England, we enjoyed our time in the sunshine!  We sunbathed on big flat rocks jutting out into the sea and could jump in and out of the water quite easily.  I had gone grocery shopping before our long drive to Italy and so we were able to bring a little piece of home with us..what's better than eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the beach!  Especially in a country where you can't find peanut butter!  One morning, we decided to take the ferry boat to a secluded cove called San Fruttuoso.  There's not much there, but an abbey, but it was a great way to spend the day.  

Cinque Terre
One day we took the train to the explore the Cinque Terre.  We did some hiking of course, along the coast, a must if you find yourself in this area.  Now, Brian and I have been to the Amalfi Coast south of Naples, and we did find that to be much prettier..although people do really rave about the Cinque Terre, we prefer Amalfi.  Having said that, we did enjoy the lovely towns and 
the harbors in each of the five lands.  We took the train home to our B&B after a long day.

We also took a day to explore Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure.  We caught a boat from  the port near us and took a lovely ride on the water to both of these towns, getting off at each and walking around.  Some gelato and shopping and seafood later, we hopped on the train for the short ride back.  Then onto the bus for the zig zagging ride up the hills to our little B&B!

The dogs enjoyed their time in Italy as well.  The B&B had a nice little garden that they could play in while we ate dinner.  We chose to grill here a few nights and opted for pizza in the little town a couple nights as well.  There was a really nice couple from Sweden staying at the B&B the time we were and we spent almost every day together, going to the beach and exploring the area.  They left Italy a day before us and along their drive up to Sweden, they drove through Germany and came to stay with us for a night.  We had a fun time going out to dinner at our favorite German restaurant!  

All in all, it was a great way to celebrate our 4 years of marriage and 13 years together!  It appears celebrating our anniversary in Italy is getting to be a tradition..three of the four have been in Italy!  Perhaps Sicily next year?  :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


 We ended our cruise here in Stockholm.  So we hopped on a bus from the port and made our way to the City Bus Terminal downtown.  We found a locker, stored our suitcases, and then went out to see the sites!  We stopped in a few churches, of course.  We saw the Royal Palace and explored the old town.  We ate lunch at the most amazing little place right outside the Nobel Museum.  If you visit Stockholm, it's the little restaurant on the corner.  There's not much seating inside, but tables aplenty outside.  I think I had the most amazing dessert I've ever eaten in my life here.  It was made out of caramel and hazelnuts..that's it..what else do you need/?  We took a guided tour of the City Hall, where the Nobel Prize dinners are held.  Definitely worth a stop!
The City Hall, the room where the Nobel Prize Dinners are held.
The City Hall


The full moon rises on one side of the ship..

We enjoyed the land of the White Nights while we sailed through the Baltic Sea.
While the sun sets on the other side..

Helsinki was another favorite city of ours!  We spent the day here walking around the small, beautiful city.  We did take the bus to the Church in the Rock.  This was worth a stop.  Then we went to see the Lutheran Church as well as the lovely Finnish Orthodox church.  Both of these were great, but the Finnish church was amazing.  Finland is known for their coffee apparently, so we had to partake.  We found a great little coffee shop where we sat, read books, and drank the best cappuccino ever!  We stumbled upon an open air market selling not only great looking produce, but fur hats too!  Now, I have wanted a fur hat for some time and didn't really like the ones we saw in Russia.  But here, I found a beautiful black rabbit hat!  I can't wait for winter!

St. Petersburg

St. Isaac's Cathedral
In order to get past border control, you must either secure your own visa prior to visiting or be part of a tour that has your visa as part of the tour price.  We chose a tour that would give us a city tour in the morning and then we visited St. Isaac's Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world.  It was amazing inside.  Then we went to the Hermatage Museum, which is the largest museum in the world! It's made up of four buildings, one being the Winter Palace.  That one was my favorite.
Hermatage Museum



Riga was one of those places I couldn't picture in my mind.  I was so excited to visit this part of Europe though.  We spent the morning visiting all the must do's in Riga.  That took about 2 hours to do.  :)  We then headed to the shops where I picked up a really pretty bracelet.  We stopped for coffee and enjoyed some people watching.  The people here speak better English than where we live in Germany.  And credit cards are excepted everywhere, which is nice since a lot of places where we live do not accept them and we are not cash carrying types of people!  I was just glad we    
                                                                                       didn't have to exchange money!
The view from the top of the church


Copenhagen was one of our favorite cities!  We took the Hop On, Hop Off Bus so we could see all the sites the city had to offer.  We also took a boat ride, which was really great.  The picture is taken on the famous street there, right across from Hans Christian Andersen's house.  The city had a Newport, RI kind of vibe, which reminded us of home of course.  We stopped here to hear a band and have a beer.  What an expensive city!  The beer cost us something like $16!  Now, here in Germany beer cost less than a soda..everywhere!  Copenhagen would be a perfect chill weekend, just to walk around, catch a boat ride, and enjoy the scenery.


Inside City Hall
The city hall is supposed to the thing to see in Oslo.  It was beautiful inside.  We spent an arm and a leg on a taxi from the bus station to the port to meet our cruise and asked him to wait while we ran, literally, into city hall, snapped some pictures and then took off for the pier.  Oslo looked like any other big city.  We weren't hugely impressed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Madrid in May

Toledo, Spain
We spent Memorial Day Weekend 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  We took the train to Toledo one day and spent our time wandering around this hilly town, shopping, and visiting the most beautiful cathedral in all of Spain.  In Madrid, we toured the Palacio Real de Madrid (The Royal Palace of Madrid).  If you visit the palace, avoid Wednesdays, as it's free for locals on that day.  We also spent time at the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art.  Entrance is free on most days at certain times, so check a guide book first.  We were there during the San Isidro Festival and were able to get tickets to see a bull fight.  Although I don't think I would be interested in seeing another one, I am glad I got to experience this.  Our favorite part of Madrid though, was the eating and drinking!  We went to a number of fantastic restaurants and bars.  The sangria there is the best I've had and the tapas were amazing.  We spent almost $45 on a plate of Jamón and it was worth every penny!  

At the bull fight

Friday, February 25, 2011

Champagne Tasting- Reims and Epernay

We spent a long weekend in the Champagne Region of France.  I had planned this trip out pretty well before we left.  Having the trip during their off season posed some need for setting up appointments prior to arriving in the towns and just stopping in for tours/tastings.  We drove to Reims first.  The champagne houses are spread out in Reims, which means you need a car to get around.  I had made reservations for us at Martel, G.H. Mumm on our first day.  We loved Martel.  It's a smaller champagne house and perhaps it was because it was our first that we loved it so much.  A short tour and tasting later, I was at the register buying our first of many bottles that weekend!  The tour at Mumm was great, although we didn't particularly love the tasting.  You may think the tours get old, but they don't.  They are pretty different and although they explain the same process of champagne making, it's still interesting..especially if you weren't aware of the process before hand.  On the second day, we tasted at Pommery.  LOVED the caves and the tastings.  This was our favorite tour and because we were in the off was a private tour.  Just us and the guide which is great for getting your questions answered.  While in Reims, we visited the Reims Cathedral.  So worth a visit.  We also visited the Porte de Mars, which is right next to the train station.  It's the old entry gate to the city and was built in the 2nd Century AD.  On our last day in Reims, we stopped by the Musee de la Reddition, the historic room where the Germans signed the surrender document of WWII.  I'm really glad we made this stop.  It cost 3 euros to get in and actually has passes to five other museaums, including the planatarium.  You may want to check out the other options if you are into museaums, have kids, or maybe not so much into Champagne.
We spent another night in Epernay, which was much prettier and fancier than Reims..thus my favorite of the two.  The champagne houses in Epernay are all conviently located on Avenue de Champagne.  We had a scheduled tour at Mercier.  This tour was very cool because it was a little train that brought you for a ride through the caves along with an audio guide in your language.  The tasting was nice, not my favorite, but of course we ended up buying some.  We also stopped at some houses randomly for tastings, which was fun too.  The tastings can get expensive, but we would choose different champanges to taste and double our tastings that way!  On the way back to Germany, we stopped in a town called Dizy and drove up to the Hautvillers (High Village) atop the vineyards.  What a view!  What a town!  Of course we stopped at a place to taste called G.Tribaut, which I would recommend if you find yourself in Dizy.  It's all local and probably doesn't get shipped out of Epernay, but it was good.  If you're there, try the Ratafia (it's special to just this champagne house and has a whopping 18% alcohol level).  Yeah, I got this and could barely see straight walking back to the car..not the first time this weekend to be drunk by noon. :)  Although we didn't buy any Ratafia for home, we did come back with over 10 bottles of Champagne.
I've added our hotels and the restaurants in the Trip Planner section if interested.
Some tips:  First, you will hit many tolls (I think we counted 4 from Stuttgart each way).  However, stay on the autobahn.  Although it cost money in tolls, it's better than doing the back roads and they do take credit cards at the toll booths.  This was a tip given to me from someone who used to live in the area.  Second, fill up your gas tanks at stations part of super markets, ex. Cora.  They tend to be cheaper than gas stations by themselves.  Brian brought along a filled contatiner of gas that he got on base, so that saved up quite some money on gas as well.  I wasn't a huge fan of driving all that way with my pups and a filled gas contatiner in the back, but it ended up being fine and a good choice for using gas money on more champagne!
Also, the last Esso station in Germany is located at Haupstrasse 46, 76461 Muggensturm for those of you wanting to use your esso card. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm in Africa! Ringing in the New Year in Morocco!

I still can't believe how lucky I am to have just taken a trip to Africa!  Morocco was amazing.  Our riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard, was absolutely amazing.  We had dinner there almost every night and I swear it was the best food I have ever eaten!  The location was perfect, right inside the medina.  
A medina is typically walled, contains many narrow and maze-like streets, and was built by Arabs as far back as the 9th century.  The medina in Fez is believed to be the world's largest contiguous car-free urban area.
On our first day, we decided to hire a guide to give us a tour of the medina.  We visited the tanneries and had one of the workers give us an overview of what they were doing.  Very cool!
The following day, Brian and I, well, who am I kidding, Brian felt comfortable navigating through the medina on our own.  We explored all day, getting lost and finding our way again, doing some shopping..Brian is quite the haggler and got us a beautiful mirror inlaid with camel bone for a 1/4 of the asking price.  Awesome!  On our third day in Fez, we decided to explore the country side and hired another tour guide, this time, with a car.  He was fantastic and brought us to the mountains where we fed wild monkeys and had tea with a 100 year old Berber woman.  Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley.  And on our last day, we took a tour of the ceramics factory.  Truly a memorable trip.