ďI donít like the Ron Paul posts on your blog siteĒ
ďThatís fine. Just go out shopping in Zurich with your worthless American dollars and continue to hate Freedom and Liberty then.Ē
Yep, Shelby has made a second trip out Zurich to hang out and eat as much cheese as humanly possible. Itís been a super-fun time as expected but Iím still not in much of a blogging mood so this post will be short.
The highlight was the weekend trip we made out to Prague. The city was as great as we remembered and the Czech people were as bothered as ever with our tourist presence. Iím sure some people would argue it is a cultural thing but people employed in the service industry in Prague are pretty damn rude. And they hate Americans more than most people we have encountered. Still, the city is so amazing it is easily forgivable.
I was shocked I was able to get a photo of the clock with no other random people in the photo.
This is a much more typical representation on the size of the crowd the clock draws each hour.
Chiz introduced me to this pose and I really enjoying doing it sometimes. Iím sure sheíd be honored if you ever want to give it a try in your picture poses too.
We found ďThe Experienced GuideĒ again and got a personal tour for a couple hours. Immediately after this photo was taken he becomes very upset with himself that he mentioned the architectural use of flying buttresses in the construction of the cathedral but is unable to point one out when pressed by Shelby. This is because he is very knowledgeable about everything Prague and is particularly interested in architecture. If you ever visit Prague and see this guy standing by the clock with his handmade sign I can recommend him as a pretty decent guide. Just be warned that he hates stupid people and he hates that American soldiers never made it all the way to Prague at the end of WWII to fight alongside the citizen uprising. Iím not sure he fully realized there wasnít much the three of us could have done about that.
We also went on a little Pub Tour that ended up just being the three of us and two American gals. The tour guide was some Czech college student who hated Americans as well and especially how we all think we are so great. I tried to probe as to why he even cares about it but one of the other American gals was too busy apologizing for Bush, reinforcing the idea that all American actions reverberate world-wide, and stressing how she is personally solving the problems of the world in her PhD program. Immediately after, the guide declared Czech beer was the best in the world and there was no rational debate to be had about it. But it was all water off a duckís back and we all ended up at a dance club after the official tour concluded where he showed his hatred doesnít run so deep that he would rule out making out on the dance floor with American Imperialist girls.
Charles Bridge. The ladies made several undergarment and wardrobe upgrades on the first day to deal with the very cold temperatures. Here we see a fun little hat atop the head of Chiz.
The closest thing we have ever seen that made Shelby seriously question her strict vegetarian diet. Never gets old.
Another amazing room find by Chiz. The hotel was Metaphorphis and Chiz was taking the concept very literally here.
Anyway, we are having a great time and it was very cool that Shelby could make it out here again.
Chris and Paty have moved out to Galway, Ireland for several months. Like me, Chris is also on the sugar-mama plan with Paty going to work each day as he finds new ways to kill time. During a moment of particular productiveness he hatched the idea to take a weekend trip up to Riga, Latvia and asked if weíd be interested in meeting up there. Weíd never heard of Riga before but we had such a great time in Tallinn last year we figured another visit to a capitol city in the Baltic states in winter would be equally as fun. We were wrong. It was FUNNERIST.
Cast of characters.
Continue reading "Riga"...
Donít be fooled by this empty street. There was a lot going on in Riga.
Weíve been keeping busy this fall season with visitors. J and CM rolled into town from Spain via the Virgin Islands a couple weeks ago and established Zurich as their home base for some more European travels. I presented them with the award for first repeat visitors at the airport. It was a bottle of Rivella. They are a month or so into their world tour which will eventually find them in Asia, Australia, and Hawaii. They were here for a couple weeks but broke it up with a long road trip through Germany and Italy and also flew to Vienna for a couple days. Keep up with them here.
But Chiz and I also managed to take advantage of their being here to eat yet more cheese and to see some sights in Switzerland. They actually know Switzerland better than we do because they like to talk to strangers and pet dogs. We hung around Zurich for a couple days and did the Reinfalls and Rapperswil things.
J participating in Rapperswil (a neighboring town to Zurich at the end of the lake).
J and CM participating at Reinfalls.
Chizzy faking participation on a boat?
Thatís how you do it.
But the weekend into the Alps was the travel highlight.
Chizzy and I would like to give a big thanks to Nick and Shelby for traveling out here to hang out for a week. It was a trip few others have dared to take before them. It was a trip that produced moments such as this.
But it wasnít all about immersing in the break-neck lifestyle of Chizzy and Bryan. There was so much moreÖ
We took advantage of yet another Monday holiday here to take a weekend trip and add a new entry to our list of places visited. Chizzy had been to the Netherlands a couple times before but this was my first time to the country. We had an especially good trip because we had a personal tour guide thanks to a friend of Chizzyís that she has known since her study abroad trip to Finland and Russia back in the day. Some of you may remember Richard from a few years back when he and a friend visited Seattle. He was the one who got into the Karaoke mood at Ozzieís. We knew we were in for the full star treatment when he and his boyfriend, Ronnie, actually picked us up from the airport in Amsterdam. The first stop was Amsterdam city center to check into our hotel and see a bit of the sights that first evening.
A view from the fifth floor of Richardís hotel. Chizzy and I were staying around the corner at a different place (with no view).
A bicycle parking garage near the main train station. Everybody owns a bike in the Netherlands. Seriously. It is amazing.
Friday night around 10pm in Amsterdam.
Fun fact: In the Netherlands, even cats and dogs are required to use wooden shoes.
Continue reading "Holland"...
Burgers from a vending machine anyone?
We just got back from Turin where we were showing our Olympic spirit. We didnít show true American spirit because we didnít actually buy a flag to wave around or paint our faces, but we did cheer for them and punch people from Norway. No, thatís a lie. No punching. It was an exhausting long weekend, but we got some good memories out of it.
Continue reading "Hop Suisse"...
Here are some outtakes from our October trip to Zermatt. If you only like travel stories and pictures presented in a timely fashion, you can just stop reading right now.
Our story picks up at the apartment we rented for the weekend. Zermatt is located in southern Switzerland right on the Italian border so there was a train ride involved here, but I canít find a single picture from the train ride. This was a Friday and Chiz didnít get the day off work so we had to book down there in the morning and she had to work all day long over dial-up. She was a total stress case and not much fun at all during this phase of the trip. Look at her working on vacation.
But you can see she once again came through huge on the accommodations. Nice two bedroom pad. One for us and one for CM and J who we were on their way. I left her alone to work and got some pictures of the area
There is the Matterhorn. I guess you have to get a bit closer to see the rollercoaster tracks that run around and through it. Still, it was pretty cool sitting right there daring you to mock it.
Condo-alley. Just an idea of the little streets and quaint nature of this little mountain town. They do not allow any cars here and all the local transportation are these little battery powered shuttles. We did see some gas vehicles though that were being used for construction. Cheaters.
Late October turned out to be a fantastic time to visit. The colors in the trees and hills were amazing.
Continue reading "Zermatt"...
I was thinking more about it and it seems like a reasonable top 10 list to pull together would be to rank some of the cities we were lucky to have visited in 2005. We actually were able to hit a fair number of places this past year and my memory is fading fast so Iíd better get this recorded before I forget whether I liked a place or not. You will be able to tell from this list that Chizzy and I are strictly tourism travelers and we havenít strayed outside the safety of Europe yet. We were not roughing it in any sense of the word so you wonít see any tucked away secluded villages on here. Many of these cities we just hit on a weekend jaunt so my ranking is mainly just a Ďfirst impressioní kind of thing. These are my rankings in a countdown, excitement-building format. Iím sure Chiz would have a different list.
10 - London
I like big cities in general. The crowds and activity just suck you in. It is great to stand on a street corner and have all four directions look like they hold something interesting. I was really looking forward to England because we wouldnít have any language concerns, but ironically most people in the service industry didnít seem to understand me or speak good English at all. Might have ranked higher if our hotel room wasnít disgusting.
9 - Munich
Iíve wanted to check out Germany since sixth grade when I chose it as the topic of my country report. As with most of these European cities, the history is what makes them interesting and the WWII connection here was the highlight. We also got to see a fair number of traditionally dressed Bavarians drinking from enormous steins so we got our stereotypical view as well. Aside from a few bits of history and men in short pants, this pretty much could have been any medium/large US city.
8 - Vienna
Had high hopes for this city when we put it on the travel agenda for my folks visit. It certainly had the great feel of a European city with the outdoor dining and old buildings, but it was all just a bit too spread out and the amount of construction (while probably a great economic indicator) sucks for sight seeing. If you are into museums, opera, and classical music youíd probably find this place more interesting.
7 - Bern
Just a short train ride away from our home base here you will find number 7 on my list. The capitol of Switzerland. You probably couldnít even kill a weekend here, but this city is just unlike anything I have seen before. The geography of the town is really unique with the river and although the main street is high above the water, you feel like you are walking through a valley with the unending wall of shops. At first, I thought it was a bummer that the trams just barrel down that main street, but after a couple more visits I think it really adds to the uniqueness.
6 - Tallinn
Our most recent destination. This city just came out of nowhere from my perspective. Chiz had visited here many years ago and though it would be a bit of a unique place to spend our first anniversary. It didnít disappoint.
5 - Brussels
This was one of the very first cities we decided to visit which might be why it sticks out as so great. It was the first place that I realized the whole European feel of sidewalk cafes, narrow and winding cobblestone streets, and sweet looking old buildings were really a lot of fun. We worked the food correctly here too. The mussels in Brussels are amazing.
4 - Zermatt
Another Swiss city. More like a village really. A mountain village. A ski village. A ton of fun with J and CM here. And the Matterhorn? Come on! The Matterhorn! I owe a proper post on this place.
3 - Stockholm
Stockholm is fantastic. Itís got everything. Old city. New city. Fresh water. Salt water. Islands. Amusement park. Pippi Longstocking. It was great.
2 - Rome
Major debate between Rome and number 1 for top honors. Hands down, this city is far and away the best place I have ever been in terms of seeing some incredible sights. Absolutely incredible.
1 - Paris
Also some incredible sights to be seen here, but Paris wins out mainly because it is a city you feel like you could spend a lot of time in. In fact, weíve been to Paris more than any other city on this list and I canít wait to go back. Itís huge and crowded and very spread out, but it just doesnít seem to matter here. You can just walk around and get lost and always feel like you are having a great time. I wanted to hate Paris, but itís just not possibleÖ itís the winner.
Chizzy was able to take a Friday and a Monday off so that we could get away for a long weekend to celebrate out first year of marriage. Hooray for us. What tropical and romantic environment did we choose to visit you askÖ?
Welcome to Tallinn, Estonia.
Even though that photo was intended to be funny, we really did go to Tallinn for the weekend and despite the freezing temperatures it was truly a great place and a great weekend. As some of you may know, Chizzy is a bit drawn to Eastern Europe having spent time in Russia back in the day and Estonia was a perfect place for us to combine a bit of the old Soviet in a city that is very accessible to tourists like ourselves. The photo above shows a concrete monstrosity called Linnahall that was built for the regatta events for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. I couldnít find anything that explained why Moscow games choose Tallinn as the location for this (besides the fact that it is on the water and Moscow isnít), but everybody does agree it is complete eyesore. It is still in use, though, because a steady stream of old people was heading in while we were there checking it out.
This is actually more representative of what Tallinn is bringing.
Continue reading "Anniversary Trip"...
This afternoon our visitor left for home. This person does not want me to reveal his name or link to his travel site. What I can tell you is that he and his wife were on a European vacation and spent a fair amount of that vacation in Switzerland. They pretty much saw the entire country. He ended up extending his trip almost a week longer than planned and we took a quick jaunt out to Lugano for the weekend. Itís a nice little city in the southern Italian-speaking area of Switzerland. Unfortunately, his wife had to return home at the scheduled time for work related reasons. It was great having these guys around for a week or so. They were our first friend visitors. Here are a few pictures of our trip this weekend.
This person I can show you because she doesn't read this site.
Continue reading "Lugano"...
The weather wasn't that great this weekend. It rained a bit and the hills were in the fog the entire time.
This is a long overdue post and I probably forgot about some of the stuff we did, but here is my recollection of our last visit to Paris during my folkís trip out here.
What can we say? Itís a great place. A nice set of circumstances allowed us to forgo another tiny European hotel room and instead stay in an apartment of one of Chizzyís coworkers who was out of town for the weekend. We were debating the train vs. taxi for the airport to city leg until the final minute, but finally decided on booking a ride with the company Chizzy has used before for work traveling. The train can be worth taking for the experience if you donít have a ton of bags, but it was nice to travel in comfort into Paris this time. The apartment was in the Trocadero area which left us a bit outside the action, but a quick stop at a Metro ticket booth (and a fine display of Chizzyís French skills) solved that problem. The trains seemed much cleaner to me on this trip. I donít know if it was my imagination but I thought it maybe had something to do with the Olympic selection committee recently having been in town. Who knows? The one thing I freely admit though is that the Metro/RER system confuses me quite a bit. And forget about taking a bus unless you have explicit directions, because the maps and timetables at the stops themselves are impossible to decipher. So, we werenít riding the system like veterans, but it certainly got us to where we needed to be. First stop, Arc de Triomphe. We actually hit it at a time where we could climb the mug.
Continue reading "Paris Revisited"...
The next stop on our tour was Vienna. Thatís Austria. More than one person has made the mistake of thinking Venice when Vienna was mentioned. I was even one of them. While in a bookstore in Rome, I was looking for a book on Vienna and almost bought one for Venice.
This was a middle of the week trip, which means we had to go without Chizzy. So the folks and I hopped the one hour flight with our only plan being that we had a hotel room waiting for us. They have a great underground system there and we quickly made it to the heart of the city where we were staying only a couple blocks from the Stephandsdom cathedral. Itís an amazing Gothic-style spectacle. Again, I have made a photoblog post of Vienna that you can check out with the post below. The hotel was nice, but has gained the distinction of having the smallest bathroom any of us had ever seen. They come pretty small in general, but this one was comical.
I am not sure what caused me to think Vienna would feel so much older than it did. Some maps include Austria as part of Eastern Europe and Vienna is situated in the East of the country. It is kind of a gateway city between east and west and for some reason I associate Eastern Europe with images I have seen from the Soviet Union. Donít get me wrong. Vienna has a long history and some amazing sights, but the Ďold cityí wasnít the car-less, narrow cobblestone maze I had pictured in my head. However, the more I came to terms with the city not being what I expected it to be, the more appreciation I had for what the city actually was.
Continue reading "Vienna"...
Iíd say Rome was the highlight city for me on our recent tour. I think I like Paris better to hang out in, but Iíd never been to Italy before and Rome is simply amazing when it comes to sightseeing. I use the word Ďsightseeingí deliberately here. My parents will back me up on this one; this didnít end up being a vacation. There wasnít much relaxing happening over the course of the 2+ weeks. Of course, both my parents are retired so it isnít like they were looking to get away from tough days at the office.
This post is mostly just my account of the trip. We got some good pictures, but Iím going to post the bulk of them in photoblogs. For example, the post right before this one shows some sights to be found in and around Vatican City.
Chiz and I hadnít experienced a single instance of theft, fraud, shady characters, or any other ĎAmerican touristí incident before we got to Rome. I think we were becoming a bit lax in that department. Every travel book is going to have that section to scare you into being prepared, so having read several to gear up for the trip my parents were better prepared for something to happen. However, it still wasnít enough to prevent us from being taken for 40 Euro within an hour of landing in the city.
Did you know Stockholm, Sweden is situated on 14 islands? I only found that out this weekend when Chizzy and I took advantage of a Whitmonday weekend to head up to the Nordic city. Actually, that whole eastern coast region is one of the larges archipelagos in the world with some 25,000 islands. It is an absolutely beautiful city and everything about it was fantastic from a US tourist perspective. The prices there are very comparable to prices in the US and is considered a very safe city. English is far and away the most predominate language spoken after Swedish and everybody we spoke with sounded like they could have been from the Midwest. Chizzy thinks it is because they donít overdub the American television shows that seem to be playing non-stop on the TV. They just subtitle them with Swedish. Weíve pretty much been off TV since we got here since we canít understand it so it was refreshing to catch a CSI: Miami in our hotel at night. It was only dark from about 11 at night to around 3:30 in the morning while we were there. Iíve never been that far north, so it was a cool experience for me. Chizzy has been to Alaska and Finland before so it was something she has seen before. We were very lucky to have two crystal clear days with plenty of sun and we actually came back pretty red.
It seemed like every corner we turned and bridge we crossed in Stockholm had a photo worthy sight and we took tons of pictures. However, bad luck finally hit us on the last couple hours of our trip while in the very cool Vasa Museum. The digital camera died. The zoom lens just got stuck in the out position and nothing would display on the LCD screen. If our new camera canít extract all the photos from the Compact Flash card that was in the old camera when it broke, we will be super-bummed.
So, Iím just going to cut this post short and hopefully we can do a more detailed post with pictures very soon.
Last weekend we took the long overdue step and spent more than a few hours in Paris. We found a nice little hotel online and booked two nights near the Eiffel Tower. We knew it wasnít going to be a real central location to some of the more active areas but we knew we would hit them all. The Hotel Eber Mars was very close to Rue Cler which is a famous little market street and we stopped there for a drink the first night and a crepe the morning we left. Of the areas we hit, we both agree St. Germain (Latin quarter) and the Marais were the two coolest areas. We never did get up to Montparnasse area.
The churches are very cool. Notre Dame and St. Sulpice were highlights with their amazing architecture, displays of stained glass and eerie crypts. St. Sulpice actually had a written clarification about the line running across the floor. I guess the book The Da Vinci Code took some liberties about the history of the church and they didnít seem too pleased about it. We paid the modest fare to climb the tight spiral staircase at Notre Dame to hang out amongst the gargoyles. That was very cool. Never eat at the cafes across the street from Notre Dame unless you enjoy paying $10 for a pint of Carlsberg or $6 for a little glass of iced tea.
Back of Notre Dame
Continue reading "Weekend in Paris"...
From the moment we saw the layout of northern France and surrounding areas we thought Brussels would be a perfect first weekend car trip outside of France. It is only a three hour drive from Paris and wasnít a location high on our list of places to visit after we leave France. Iíve added a photoblog entry of the trip if you just want to see some of the sites and skip the blow by blow.
Chiz and I got up early this morning and drove into Saint-Germain-en-Laye (10 minutes) to catch the RER into Paris. Saint-Germain-en-Laye is really cool. Like a lot of things I see around here it is hard to describe. Probably the best word I could use is 'old'. Pictures will be up soon. Turned out we actually got up too early (which is an entirely different jet lag story). We knew that Sundays are pretty quiet, but even Saturdays get off to a very slow start around here apparently. It was good to avoid the pickpocket that prefers the crowed trams, but not so great for people watching on our trek from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. Although, as Chiz can attest to, I found tons of things to gawk at and she spent most of her time trying to make sure I didn't get ran over by a Smart Car. Amazing city.
From there we headed into the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighboorhood of Paris (not to be confused with Saint-Germain-en-Laye). It is a big shopping district with lots of fancy-poo-shmancy stores but we were checking it out because we might want to live in that area. Bought a couple ham and cheese crepes from a street vendor for a snack. Chiz rocks when it comes to getting around and talking to people. I need to get some confidence to use my limited skills. It shouldn't be too hard since everybody has been very eager to help us out and we haven't ran into anybody who doesn't speak english.
Signing off for now as I am about to watch the Seahawks playoff game via this dial-up connection.