Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer 2009 Review

Well our summer of adventure is about to come to an end . . . amazing how fast it was over considering the many hours I slaved away on the computer, read books, and numerous message board reviews so I could plan the perfect trip. Just hard to believe that it is all over . . . and it was worth every penny . . . no regrets at all just great memories . . . and hopefully the beginning of many more adventures. I only wish it could have lasted longer but I am already thinking about December . . . seriously I am working on planning a trip! I am sure you can guess where we will head to again . . .


And while we did not see the world . . . it is a start!

visited 9 countries (4%)
Create your own visited map of The World or Like this? try: Google Position

Friday, July 31, 2009

Scandinavia Trip Review

I had the best time on my trip . . . I really don't know what else to say other than what I have already written . . . so here is a map

I love these maps . . . I am working on doing a review of our entire summer!

My favorites?
1. Norway . . . beautiful beyond words
2. Stockholm . . . city with so much to see and do

If you want scenery then Norway is the place to go . . . if you want a city with museums and night life then Stockholm fits the bill. The downside to both of the above is cost . . . holy smokes I am glad I had no clue what the exchange rate was because I would have so not enjoyed myself . . . while is sounds stupid to not know . . . so glad I was way off but I have no regrets . . . and I would not really do anything differently . . . can't wait to do it again!

***For some reason I can't see the maps ... not sure if it is just my computer but have no clue.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 17: back to Texas

Home . . . what more can I say about a 10 hour flight . . . it is over! Now the fun begins trying to get Colin back on schedule and being at home with me . . . I am certain he will be asking every 10 minutes when he can go back to Papa and Maw's house. I can't wait to do it all again . . . maybe a winter trip with Colin . . . snow required!!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 16: Nurnberg Germany

I love Nurnberg . . . had to have one last day in the town. Since I fly out early, spending the night at the Movenpick . . . so easy to wake up and walk across the street to the terminal. Of course what I really wanted was one last German meal because who knows when I will get back to Germany! I love German food . . . Sauerbrater (roast pork with gingerbread sauce), red cabbage, knodel (potato dumpling), spaetzle (noodles), and a big bottle of mineral water . . . of course had to top it off with two scoops of eis mit sahne (ice cream with whipped cream) . . . chocolate and hazelnut! Oh how my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 15: Germany

Same as yesterday . . . except eating too much, watching movies, and playing catch up on the computer. Oh how real life is knocking on the door . . .

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 14: back in Germany

Just a very low key day . . . nothing like a few days hanging out, washing clothes, and being lazy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 13: so long Scandinavian

As they say . . . all good things must come to an end . . . and just like life it is time for me to get back to reality and day to day life. It has been SO nice to escape the routine of my life . . . while I have missed Colin it was nice to not have to be 'on call' all day, every day. So good-bye to the last of my vacation . . . I do have a few more days once I get back to Germany before flying home . . . always love spending time 'home'.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 12: fjords

It was an early wake up day since we had to catch the fjord cruise at 8am . . . you know the early bird gets the best seats . . . after seeing the massive chaos at the breakfast area we decided to grab something at 7-11; yes a real 7-11 . . . and a yummy mozzarella and tomato panini at 7am! We were the first to arrive at the ferry terminal . . . so hoped to have the pick of the seats. Of course you know how Europeans can be when it comes to these types of things . . . we boarded first and picked seats on the bottom level in the front . . . headed upstairs and found an even better view so staked claim on our space. One last shot as we parted Bergen . . . can you tell how much I loved this row of colorful houses?
So Bergen is proud to only have 60 days of sunshine a year . . . so you can guess how the weather was as we took off . . . raining! The travel book said that Bergen towns people cheerfully remind tourist, "There's no such thing as bad weather -- just inappropriate clothing." Well, so true but we were inside for the cruise so things were fine . . . of course there was no way I was staying inside because I wanted to get outside and see the fjords without staring through glass and smell the fresh air too. So while I spent a lot of time viewing the fjords from this view . . .
. . . nothing compared to being outside and seeing it like this . . . yes, the weather was just like that but you know when you travel and have limited time to see things . . . well the show must go on!
One of the weirdest parts of the trip was doing a transfer in the middle of the fjord . . . our ferry literally pulled up next to a waiting ferry . . . tossed the bags across and the people walked a small bridge . . . we were so close you could almost touch the other people.

The fjords are something that I have always wanted to see and now that I have had a small taste, well it is something I want to explore more . . . Norway is the most beautiful place I have seen . . . not to mention the most expensive too . . . so have not even looked at my online banking because I just know it will shock me, LOL! Oh well, it was vacation and one that I thoroughly enjoyed so I can always make more money.

As the ferry ended in Flam we caught the Flamsbana (train) to Myrdal. By this time the weather had cleared a bit and the views were again amazing . . . really it was that beautiful. This section of the trip was pretty interesting. It was only a 12 mile trip but took an hour . . . we started in Flam at sea level (0) and ended in Myrdal which is 2,800 feet above sea level. At one point the train stopped so we could get off and take photos of this waterfall . . .

At another point we had to stop so the reverse route train could pass . . . only one section has double tracks. We noticed a girl jump off the train and manually switch the tracks so the other train could pass . . . notice the waterfall above us . . . a lot of that in Norway and tons of bridges too.

Hmmmmm, the thought of a train full of several hundred tourist getting off to snap a photo and get back on in 5 minutes sounded sort of nightmarish but surprisingly it worked.

It was time to head back to Oslo so we could catch our flight back to Germany in the morning . . . hard to believe the trip was coming to an end. Glad I went and have no regrets!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 11: Bergen Norway

We only had one full day to explore Bergen so we headed out early . . . okay so 10 isn't early but nothing really opens until then so why get up early? Of course our hotel was full of those organized groups who were like scavengers at the breakfast buffet . . . I hate when people are like vultures at those things . . . by the way breakfast wasn't all that probably at the bottom of the list for the entire trip . . . but Stockholm had a great breakfast! Anyway . . .

Bergen is a small harbor town with very little to do but so full of tourist because it is where most of the fjords tours begin but there are several museums that we wanted to check out and were really good. One thing I really enjoyed doing was walking through the fish market in an area called Bryggen.

The first stop of the morning was the Mount Floyen funicular to get a bird's eye view of the city! After major renovations it just opened back up in May of this year and it was nice! Again my photos do little justice . . . hmmmm, think I need to buy a new camera!

It was so calming and peaceful to just sit around the harbor . . . watching people, great conversation, and seeing all the boats coming and going along the water.

Oh and if you are wondering, Bergen does have a TGI Friday's and of course for the fifth time we had to stop, LOL . . . come on one of us had a total craving for a little taste of America. And dinner was so good last night we made a reservation and had yet another amazing steak and real baked potato . . . with bacon bits and sour cream; hmmm, maybe this was a trip all about food.

Tomorrow the best part of the trip is waiting . . . I have it so built up in my mind so I hope I am not disappointed . . . hoping for decent weather.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 10: to Bergen Norway

This is the one leg of the trip that I have been most excited about . . . heading to Bergen, Norway which is considered the 'base' for most fjords tours. The train ride from Oslo to Bergen is suppose to be one of the most beautiful according to most travel books . . . well, they were right on target! A few shots through the train window . . .

Just beautiful and did I mention the weather is so cold compared to Texas . . . I am so loving wearing long sleeves and a jacket in the middle of July! Yes, that is snow in the photo above . . . it was part of a glacier . . . can't recall the name but the cold, brisk air was great.

The train ride can be summed up as waterfalls, glaciers, snow, rocks, valleys, fjords, very few cars; just amazingly beautiful and breath taking.

We finally arrived in Bergen a small harbor town; picturesque . . . can't wait to explore more tomorrow!

And my complaint of the day . . . we arrived at our hotel at 6:30pm only to be told the room was not clean and ready yet . . . they did have a higher grade room available be we only booked a lower category room so they could not give us those rooms. We were told to come back in 30-60 minutes and it should be ready. Now, I know this is Europe but if the clean room was not booked by 6:30pm then it more than likely was not going to be booked that night and management should have stepped up and given us a room that was ready . . . I mean it was over 3 hours after the published check-in time. We were hungry so headed here for dinner. YUMMY! We gave the hotel 2 hours and our room was ready when we returned . . . still was angry but said nothing, but I am so going to fill out a customer comment card.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 9: to Oslo Norway

We took a quick flight from Stockholm to Oslo. The best part was both bags arrived . . . YEAH!! I had my doubts and was beginning to think I was jinxed but hey third time is a charm. After hopping the high speed train from the airport to central station, we decided to make it a low key day. So where do we head? Just a few doors down to TGI Friday's! Hmmm, are you sensing some sort of pattern yet? LOL! After a couple hours of eating and watching people we headed to the harbor area to enjoy the fresh, crisp air.

And guess what we stumbled across later in the afternoon? You got it another TGI Friday's so we could not pass up a chance to sit and watch more people . . . and this one had a great view of the harbor area with many boats coming and going. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped and had an amazing piece of turtle cake, yummy! The hotel we stayed in was a beautiful, historic building right in the city center but the atmosphere inside was a little too formal and stuffy . . . oh but it was a great price.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 8: Stockholm again

Another busy day in Stockholm . . . it is our last full day so had to take full advantage of our Stockholm Card and hit a few more museums. A few highlights from the day . . .

-yummy ice cream in freshly made waffle cone
-Stockholm Palace
-city hall . . . Nobel Peace Prize banquet hall
-Nobel Museum (wasted time)
-Royal Apartments
-Stockholm City Museum
-Crown Jewels
-Old Castle ruins
-yummy hot dog lunch in the park
-no TGI Friday's; too crowded
-dinner at Irish Pub . . . fish and chips
-oh and quesadillas with the best guacamole!

I guess it was a yummy day . . . hey food can be a highlight for the day.

View of the city . . . just beautiful city!

Riddarholmen . . . with the most beautiful iron spire

City Hall . . . where the Nobel Peace Prize banquet is held each year.

Tomorrow we change locations . . . still heading west!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 7: Stockholm Sweden

It was a beautiful day in Stockholm . . . sunny with a nice breeze. After another tasty breakfast, we caught the ferry to see the VasaBulleted List Museum . . . WOW, it is definitely a must see museum and the most visited Scandinavian attraction. We ended up spending 2 hours watching every video clip, reading every sign, and just looking in amazement at the detailed carvings of the actual ship. It is amazing that it was under water for over 300 years . . . and so much of it is original. Of course no picture I took can do it any justice . . . it is just that amazing.

A small reproduction model of what the ship probably looked like when it set sail back in the 17th century . . . very colorful.

And today after restoration . . . to show what was not original the replaced new boards are smooth and a little lighter in color . . . very few of them. This is the back view, same as above in the photos.

Of course we had yet another visit to TGI Friday's for wings; oh stop laughing! Before heading to dinner a quick visit to the Ice Bar . . . it was cold but nice to escape the warm afternoon for a little bit.

A view of my favorite part of the city from our hotel . . . taken through the window.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 6: Stockholm Wake-Up

Our ferry arrived early this morning. We set the alarm clock so we could be on deck early to watch this . . .

This is exactly what I thought Scandinavia would look like. We were at breakfast when it opened and back outside on deck . . . really beautiful and so peaceful too. Water always makes me relax and sort of realize that I sometimes take life a little too seriously. After arriving and being totally ripped off by a taxi driver, we dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out to explore the city. Stockholm is much prettier than Helsinki and much more traditional Europe with beautiful architecture. Oh and it was HOT . . . okay so not as hot at Texas but by Europe standards it was toasty! After a few hours of walking we ended up at TGI Fridays . . . okay so totally not Europe. We were going to just have a drink until we saw the Bacon Cheeseburger . . . oh and add in some wings and mozzarella sticks too; YUM!!! Finally made our way back to the hotel to check in and relax . . . nothing like an escape to a little air conditioning and snacks at the executive lounge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 5: Helsinki Finland

Today was the only full day in Helsinki . . . I will say I was a bit disappointed. It is a nice city but just that . . . of course it is a capital city so I guess I should not be that surprised but walking around I really did see little that made me go WOW . . . of course these two churches were pretty amazing and totally different . . .

Also went to the national museum which was nice . . . final walk through a local market before off to board this . . .

. . . and head to Stockholm, Sweden. I love these overnight ferries!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 4: Tallinn Estonia

The bags arrive in the early morning hours, YEAH! For the first time in all my travels my shampoo busted and greeted me with a nice mess . . . nothing like brushing your teeth and tasting shampoo, yuck! I watched the weather and was happy to see no rain only to open the curtain to see tons of rain; great! Oh well the show must go on . . . had a nice breakfast and geared up for a long day in the rain. We found a ferry line and bought tickets for the 150 minute trip to Tallinn. We walked up to ask what time the next one left . . . she said 20 minutes and when we told her we wanted two tickets her eyes started to pop. Yes, another country to check off the list. The ferry ride was great . . . the pub had great music but changed over to karaoke . . . oh these Europeans were running to grab the books to sing . . . some were good but most not so much.

Tallinn was a great city . . . spent about 3 hours walking the entire city . . . great walled city with beautiful buildings and architecture . . . so love the eastern European feel . . . think Prague but way fewer people. The rain stopped so walking around was really nice . . . cooler than Texas but really nice . . . pants, shirt, and light jacket . . . love it!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 3: Hello Helsinki

Well the first leg of the trip started today . . . first stop was Helsinki. Yes, another new country!! So in less than 48 hours both of my suitcases have once again been left behind . . . can you believe that? They were stuck in Frankfurt first and now Amsterdam . . . and the kicker was the layover was over 90 minutes and just a few gates down from where we made the connection. I swear it drives me crazy but they were tracked and should be here early tomorrow morning . . . I hate not having my stuff. It did feel odd to leave the airport with NOTHING! After we arrived we spent the early evening just walking around the city . . . a major detour landed us on Embassy row but finally found a nice area for dinner. The restaurant was called Texas and the food was pretty good. The thing that I am having a hard time adjusting is that at 11 it is just getting dark. My first impression of Helsinki is so not what I thought but maybe my thoughts will change before we head to our next stop?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 2: planning

Today we spent the day mapping out where we were going and making reservations . . . nothing like waiting until the day before you plan to fly to do this but it has all worked out so far . . . tomorrow the real travel fun begins.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 1: arrived

I have never been to glad to reach my final destination . . . well not my final, final destination but the first leg and where I meet up with my travel partner. Due to the crazy unboarding of the Lufthansa flight, I barely made my connection . . . of course those who had later connections were in absolute no hurry to get on the buses . . . yes, over 200 folks onto buses to ride to the terminal. I was totally sweating it because we had not made the best of plans on how we were going to link up at the airport. So I literally ran through the airport and arrived as they were calling final boarding . . . did not see my friend so hope they made the earlier flight . . . again the not knowing was killing me.

Of course due to the short connection time, I had no luggage but was fine because I knew there were 3 more flights arriving later today. My friend was there and it was so nice that we both arrived on the same day within 2 hours . . . how is that for timing? So off to the train station we went . . . it was nice to just kick back and relax . . . so tired that I went to bed way too early and now am up in the middle of the night . . . in a few days I know I will be back on track. And just before heading to bed my luggage arrived.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 0: flying solo

So I am about to set off on my own little adventure . . . nervous about flying alone but very excited that I am not going to be traveling alone. Here I sit at DFW waiting for Lufthansa to open so I can check in and grab something for lunch. Oh and I swear the shuttle driver from my town totally scared me to death with his driving . . . and I am worried about the flight across the pond. Hope to update at some point BUT really just going to enjoy my time traveling and having company too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Euro Trip Review

We have been home for a week . . . where did that week go? I have had time to get settled and really reflect on the trip. WOW, just had the best time and never imagined we would do so much in 5 short weeks . . . always more but hey we did cover pretty good ground.

Heidi's Favorite Things
1. Jungfraujoch . . . Top of Europe
2. canals of Amsterdam
3. train through Switzerland
4. ferry to Sardinia; sunshine too
5. seeing friends . . . the best!

Okay so that about covers the entire trip doesn't it . . . guess those are pretty generic but really is hard to pick only 5 specific things . . . I can't wait to have another adventure and next time we are spending the entire summer! The final shot of my favorite place . . . a photo that was 'stitched' together using several shots . . .

Now brace yourself . . . here is the list of the 5 year old . . . get ready to laugh!

Colin's Favorite Things
1. train
2. plane and airport
3. mountain
4. dog sled
5. emergency vehicles

I think I see a theme here . . . can you figure it out? The boy loves modes of transportation.

And a final map of where we went over the last 32 days . . .

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 33: HOME

What more can one say? The trip is over but hopefully in the next few days I can write all about my favorites!

Day 32: heading out

So long Germany . . . hope to see you soon.

I am so not ready to head back to Texas . . . not to mention how hot it is there right now . . . I really had a great time the last 32 days and can't wait to be back . . . we will so do this again only different places of course . . . it has only reaffirmed what I have always known deep down inside . . . I love to travel!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 31: super long morning

view from the ferry room . . .

Our ferry left the port on time but for some reason we arrived an hour late . . . which meant we arrived in a town at 10:35 PM last night and without a hotel reservation or any knowledge of a hotel . . . bad planning on our part. So what were we to do? Get in the car and drive back to Germany . . . sounds easy doesn't it? Well, what was suppose to be a 5 hour drive turned into over 7. Needless to say we were exhausted when we arrived home and poor Alex drove the entire way. Colin was a real trooper since I know sleeping in a booster seat is not very comfortable . . . only one 'moment' where he needed some love and back on the road we went. At one point we spent an hour going through major road construction and took the exact same wrong turn twice and almost three times . . . I tell you when you are driving that late and with that many trucks on the road you make silly mistakes.

Along the way we realized that between the two of us we had less than 15 euro and still had to pay the Italy tolls which would be about 35 euro . . . hmmm, so not easy to find a cash machine in the middle of the night and we debated if they would take credit card. After making three unsuccessful detours, we held out that they would take credit cards . . . Alex was much more optimistic than me and she was right. We laughed about it and knew that both of our parents would be less than thrilled that we set out with that little cash. Yes, I know . . . lesson learned!

The rest of the day I spent packing and getting ready to head to the hotel for the night . . . we fly tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn so wish us luck that the return flight will be as easy as the departure and that Colin will be just as good . . . I know he is SO ready to see Papa!

Guess I need to get some sleep . . . have only had 4 hours in the last 36 hours and a super long day ahead of us tomorrow . . . see you on the other side of the pond!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 30: good-bye Sardinia

Today is our last day in Sardinia . . . while I did enjoy myself, it is not a place that I have a desire to return . . . okay so I would but would go to a different part of the island. We loaded up the car and headed back to the port in Olbia to board the ferry back to Italy.

Old church in the middle of nowhere/somewhere . . . it was really beautiful inside and it always amazes me how Europe has such beautiful churches.

waiting to board the ferry . . . this one was HUGE compared to the ferry we took over to Sardinia and this time we have a room with a window!

Good-Bye Sardinia . . .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 29: more beach

We came up with a plan with Colin . . . one girl activity and one boy activity . . . it really did work well. This morning we spent some time in Alghero visiting the sights and shopping (girl activity) and the afternoon at the beach, mini golf, and pool (boy activity). It was by far the nicest beach and clearest water we had seen this trip but it was windy and a little cold for me but you know kids and water! Oh and it did not help when I was helping build a sandcastle that Colin dumped a big bucket of ice cold water down my back . . . I mean talk about take your breath away. By the end of the day Colin had purple lips and was way tired.