December 19, 2010
Our first day in Rome was pretty uneventful. When we arrived at the train station, it was snowing! Francesco, the owner of the B&B that we are staying at, said that it NEVER snows in Rome. The last time it snowed in Rome was last year, then 25 years before that, then 25 years before that. I guess we should feel pretty special (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it). We found where the bus stop was located outside of the train station and went and stood there for a while. No Bus. We waited in the snow for a while and then decided we would look for cover and wait to see the bus. After about 30 minutes, and being propositioned for a cab, a cigarette, and lost of requests for change, we finally got on our bus! We finally got to our B&B and Francesco checked us in. He was very thorough on explaining everything to us, even requested that we practice unlocking the door. He also gave us a map, drew out recommendations for how to get places, restaurants, and what we should do for each of the 3 days that we were staying at the B&B. It was very nice of him!
After we checked in, we walked around for a while. Then it started raining. We bought a couple umbrellas, stopped for Gelato, and continued to walk around until our shoes and pants were wet, then we decided to head back to the room. We stayed in the room for a while then headed down the street to see the Pantheon and some beautiful fountains in the square.
Ryan eating Gelato! Boy, we love out Gelato!
The Pantheon and the beautiful fountains near our first hotel in Rome.
Then we went to dinner at a restaurant recommended by Francesco called Macaronis. The restaurant was vey busy, but they managed to find us a spot next to the door. We ordered another Caprice appetizer, some house wine, and 2 pasta dishes recommended by the waiter. The Caprice was very good, and then waiter placed the pasta dishes in front of us. We both tried our pasta and Ryan gave an unconvincing nod that his dish tasted good. So we tried each other’s pastas and immediately, all I could think was that Ryan’s pasta tasted like vomit! I told him that I thought it tasted weird, but really it was terrible! I took another bite, confirmed that it was the pasta that tasted that way, and then went back to my dish. After a couple minutes I asked Ryan again if he liked his dish, and he was like, ya, eh. Then, I was trying to say something without coming straight out and saying that it tasted like puke, so I said “It kind of tastes a little… acidy?” and Ryan looked right at me and started nodding and said “Yeah.” So I figured that he thought it tasted bad as well but was just trying to stomach it. We left shortly after, and when we got back to the room Ryan came right out and something to the effect of “At least your dinner didn’t taste like puke!” It was terrible! I don’t know how he finished it, but he said that he was just trying to not think about it and finish it. I would have just not eaten it if I had gotten it, but Ryan is a champ.
We saw the movie Gladiator in the shared cabinet in the hotel, and so we popped it into my computer and watched it before we went to bed. It was really good to see, and now we’re even more excited to go to the Coliseum!
We woke up on Saturday and headed over to Vatican City. We walked over to the St. Peter’s Basilica first, waited in a very long line to get through a metal detector/security checkpoint, and then went inside. The Basilica was beautiful! It was the nicest cathedral/basilica that we have been in to date! It was really astounding to see the mosaics, and the altar, smaller chapels, and side transepts were elaborately decorated. Here are some photos!
We exited the Basilica and got in line to walk up the 530 steps to the top. We made the trek and this time was much better than the last climb up St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (my knees and feet feel great)! I even videotaped the whole 2nd half, you’ll see it on YouTube sometime! The view from the top was breathtaking! Here are some photos!
From the top of the Basilica.
We then headed over to the Vatican museum, at which point both of our cameras died, so we have no photos. We were able to see Michelangelo’s paintings on the wall and ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, as well as miles of galleries and other Fresco paintings by Michelangelo, as well as Rafael and his students. I really wish that we had been able to take some photos. We spent about an hour in the Sistine Chapel, and a couple more walking all of the halls of the Vatican museum. It was really something special to see!
We went back to the hotel to rest our feet for a while and then went to dinner at a restaurant called Cul de Sac, recommended by our wine expert friend (Primo) in Florence. The restaurant was tiny, so we were seated at a bench-style table with another couple something that would never have flown in the US, but made for an interesting experience. They were from France and spoke French the whole time so we didn’t really spark up conversation. We ordered wine and Caprice, then a pasta and a meat dish recommended by the server, and split them! Yummy! It was a really unique experience that we both really enjoyed! We went back to the room and fell asleep watching the Davinci Code on the computer.
Today, we went to another soccer match! We learned that soccer in Italian is called Calcio from our friend Primo, the wine bartender. We headed over to the “Stadio Olimpico” (Olympic Statium) where the Olympics were played in 1960. There was a giant Mussolini statue outside of the stadium, which Ryan said made him feel a little weird. We also came across a track field that was lines with about 50 gigantic sculptures of all of the games played in the Olympics. It was great! We snapped a couple photos.
Statues outside of the stadium.
The match was Lazio (the home team) vs. Udinese, and was very exciting! The stadium was giant, so there was no way the stands were going to sell out. We estimated that there were about 20,000 people there. The Lazio “fight song” was hilarious! It’s called “Vola Lazio Vola” (Fly Lazio Fly) and was a slow ballad that every fan knew the words to (in Italian). The mascot is a bald eagle, and they had one flying circles on the field before the match. We got it on video, as well ad the fight song, but you can search for it on YouTube for a giggle.
Ryan and I inside the Stadium.
Lazio scored in the first minute and then there were a ton of chances both ways throughout the half, but no scores. After they scored, fans set off pyrotechnics, including a bright red flair, something that created blue smoke, and then what sounded like a Bomb and scared the s*** out of both of us. No one did anything about it, the security guards were too busy watching the match to take care of the ruckus. We though it was very interesting – the security guards checked our bags and made me leave my water bottle at the gate, but were completely OK with the homemade “bomb” so to speak.
Here is a photo of the field from our seats.
In the second half, Udinese scored a goal very quickly, then each team scored another uneventful goal each. It looked like it was going to end in a draw, but Lazio scored a final goal in the 88th minute! The fans went crazy! It was incredible. Then a series of fake flops began by Lazio to end out the uneventful stoppage time and we headed to the bus! At this point it started raining again, so we hurried out to try to catch the buss! We waited for another half hour and then our bus never came so we faked it on another bus, hopeful that we would make it back. We eventually did, then grabbed some lunch, then took a nap! We finished watching Davinci Code, then made the walk to grab some dinner at a restaurant we found on Trip Advisor. The food was very good, though a little more expensive than other places we’ve been. The atmosphere was fun though, and we didn’t have to share a table, so it worked out just fine! We’re off to bed now, and changing hotels again in the morning.
Final Score of the Udineze/Lazio match.
December 17, 2010
I’m starting to feel better now! And held down a whole meal, thank goodness! Hopefully I don’t have to deal with that any more. After our nap, we walked around our little neighborhood in Florence for a while and went into the Cathedral located near our B&B. It was very different from the other ones we have seen so far, it was renovated several times over the centuries so it had a more modern, and colorful exterior. The flooring on the inside was an elaborate Mable design, very cool to see! We stopped at a Gelato shop for some gelato and cappuccinos! They were delicious! Here is a photo:
A delicious Gelato and Cappuccino in Florence!
We grabbed real food at a small restaurant and learned about the “bread and table charges” that they charge you in most of Italy. We also went to see a famous bridge in Florence where the buildings are literally built over the edge of the bridge and held up only by some support beams! The views around this area were beautiful, we wished it was nicer out and we would have climbed up the hills a little way. Here is a photo.
Florence Bridge. Notice the buildings are hanging off of the bridge and supported with a few stakes. Scary!
Views from the Bridge in Florence.
Ryan found a great review of a tiny restaurant, so we went there for dinner. Unfortunately, we were unable to get in because the place had 5 tables and reservations thought 9:30 at night, so we went to another restaurant near by that had a large crowd in it. We ordered a steak by the l’etto (100 grams), which we think they literally cut off of a slab and cooked on a grill for us. The brought it out on a wood board for us. It was really delicious, and everyone in the restaurant seemed to order the same thing!
Thursday, we woke up late and went to the Uffizi Gallery, which is a collection of paintings and sculptures collected by De Medici Family over hundreds of centuries. It was huge, and took us several hours to get through. We stopped by the cafeteria near the end of our visit, and happened upon this beautiful terrace that showed the clear sky and beautiful area surrounding Florence! It was astounding! Here are a couple photos:
From the balcony located outside of the cafeteria in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
For dinner, we tried to go to the tiny restaurant again, but again it was filled. The man that greeted us recognized us from the night before. He felt bad that we were there again and he said to come back in 10 minutes. So we across the street to a wine bar called Dei Frescobaldi’s. We grabbed a quick glass of wine and were severed bread and cheese as well. Everything was amazing! We almost wanted to stay, but we hurried back over to the other restaurant. We waited a little while longer, then were seated right next to the door at a tiny table, smashed up against 2 walls and another table. The server came over and translated the menu for us, then we ordered and ate one of our favorite meals yet! Everything was so fresh, and the portion sizes were perfect! It was a great experience. The server offered to sit us at another table that wasn’t by the door, but we declined and stayed in our seat. When he brought us our very cheap bill, he deducted 5 euro from the total price because we were by the door. We declined his offer, but it was very kind of him.
We went back over to Dei Frescobaldi’s for another drink after dinner, and met the bar tender Primo (who is not the first born... we all had a laugh at his expense about it). He was so nice, and got us tipsy on an over poured wine flight of 3 wines, plus an extra glass. We also had more cheeses and prosciuttos and dried bread crotons, and stayed until they locked the door behind us. Primo was so nice, he made great recommendations for things to do in Rome, and told us about soccer, explained some good local things to do, and practiced his English! We looked him up on Facebook, so hopefully we’ll keep in touch!
Today, we woke up hung over (thank you Primo). We checked out a little late and grabbed some breakfast of pastries and cappuccino from the café next door, and headed to the train station. The train ride was pretty uneventful, but we did break down and buy some French fries at the Mc Donald’s in the train station. We’re cheaters, but I guess that’s what a hangover will do to you!
Leaving for Rome! The train station was completely outdoors, and I was hungover and freezing!
December 15, 2010
Monday, we went to the Louvre! We tried to get tickets to the ballet again before heading over to the Louvre again with no avail! It was very unfortunate that we were unable to get tickets; we really wanted to go! We had a great time at the Louvre and were surprised by how gigantic it was! Ryan commented that we were surprised at how many artifacts there were, on top of the large collection of art. We saw mummies, Egyptian Sarcophagi, and sphinx on top of the expected Mona Lisa and other renaissance masterpieces! Here are a couple photos:
Sevon outside of the Louvre, Paris.
Ryan and the Mona Lisa.
We had dinner in the Latin Quarter and had Fondue! We had walked by a block of fondue restaurants when we were looking for the Shakespeare Bookstore, and decided to give it a shot! We walked up the entire block, and then decided at the last minute on a restaurant across from a theater. We ordered cheese fondue per the servers recommendation, and a Steak Fondue as well, that we cooked in oil. It was a perfect meal! We stopped at a pastry shop on the way home, near our hotel for dessert and coffee. I had a delicious Lemon Morang pie, and Ryan had a chocolate filled croissant. And of course, we had cappuccinos!
Tuesday, we checked out of our hotel and headed to a guided tour shop near the Louvre to board the top level of a double-decker bus and head to Reims for a visit to two Champagne cellars. We first stopped at the MUMM cellars, and took guided tour through the cellars to learn about how the champagne is created and see the bottles of champagne waiting through the aging process. It was pretty incredible, they one wine cellar was over 25KM long! And the factory produced over 25 Million bottle sales all over the world annually. We were given a glass of Mumm Champagne at the end of the tour. I thought it tasted like champagne… lol. Ryan said that he had heard of the company before, and we learned later that that was because they are the official sponsors of Formula1, and a GIANT bottle of champagne is shaken up by all of the Formula1 race winners. We thought that was kind of cool! Here are some photos.
Looking inside the vault in the Mumm Champanery. Several bottles of every reserve bottle of Champagne ever made resides in here, and only one man has the key.
We then went to the city center of Reims, where we took a tour through the largest cathedral in France. We were then on our own for lunch, and headed to a restaurant that the tour guide recommended. It was probably the worst service that we have received at any restaurant, but the servers hardly spoke English and it was difficult to communicate. Not to mention, the restaurant was packed! I asked the server what she had taken to another table, she showed me on the menu and I ordered that. Ryan ordered a hamburger without the bun and with an egg on top. When we got our food, they forgot the egg on Ryan’s “burger” so it was just a patty of hamburger meat, which was kind of funny. Mine was really tasty, but it was full of meat, or which I have no idea what it was.
The Cathedral in Reims -- The largest of all of the Cathedrals built in France throughout the 14-18th Centuries.
We got back into the bus and headed to the next Champagnery – Moet. We took nearly the same tour that we had taken at the last place, and then headed up for another glass of champagne. Here are some photos of the tour:
Both of us with a statue of Dom Perignon outside of the Moet Champagnery. Perignon is the monk that started the development of Champagne in the Champagne region.
Unfortunately, about half way through our schpeal about the champagnes, I started to feel sick. I set down my champagne and rushed to the bathroom, I thought I was going to throw up! But I got to the restroom and willed myself not to. I still didn’t feel well, got on the bus, and asked for a barf bag. I wasn’t sure if it was the motion, or the food, but I was not doing so well. A woman behind me gave me a couple ginger tablets to help me out. I woke up on and off throughout the drive home, but in about an hour and a half we were back! Still not feeling great, we headed to the metro to go to the train station! We were headed to Florence on another overnight train. We got to the train station about 2 hours early. Ryan plopped me down in a warm area, then spent about 1 hour getting our tickets. When he got back I had had a lot of water, but still was not feeling great. Anyway, I vomited up my entire lunch in the train station about 5 minutes before our train arrived, then again about 1 hour into the train ride. Not to gross you our, but it was not so much fun vomiting up an entire casserole of mystery-meat pasta in the most disgusting bathroom I have been in probably in my life! The train was not nearly as nice as the last train we were on, but we finally made it to Florence this morning, and spent about an hour lost before we found our hotel. We checked into our hotel and took a nap! I’m feeling better now, but still a little weary. We are going to head out to try to eat something.
December 13, 2010
Yesterday I mentioned that it was very warm outside. Well, we saw the sun for about 1 hour when we went out, then all of the sudden it started sprinkling! I guess I cursed it with my enthusiasm. When we left yesterday, I was sure that we had an Internet café right outside of our hotel. We thought we could post photos and eat breakfast/lunch at the same time. Well, I was wrong. We walked up and down the streets around the hotel and could not find one! Completely bizarre! So we brought out computers back to the room and ate at the restaurant just across from the hotel since we were starving!
After lunch, we decided to spend some time in our neighborhood, the Latin Quarter, to check out some of the attractions. We first headed over toward the Jardin du Luxembourg, where the French Parliament is located. It was nice to see, it has a large garden/park around the building that was very lovely, probably would have been nicer to see if the trees weren’t all naked. We snapped a couple photos while we were walking around (in and out of rain).
Me, jumping in front of the Luxembourg Palace.
We then decided to head over to see this famous bookstore called the Shakespeare Bookstore. This bookstore is very old and sells only books written in English. As we headed toward the book store, Ryan mentioned that he found the best coffee he’s ever had at a stand a little out of the way. So we started heading toward the coffee place. Well, apparently the coffee Ryan had was about as close as the Internet café that I had seen, because we never found it! We walked and walked for about 30 minutes and were unsuccessful at finding the coffee stand! So we changed our mind and just went to the bookstore. Again, we could not find the place to save our lives. I think we probably walked around for another hour looking for the bookstore. We eventually did find the bookstore tucked away in the middle of an open busy street. The Latin Quarter is full of tiny streets and tucked away alleys, so it’s easy to get confused, but really, 3 out of 4 of the things we were looking for we could not find? It was a rough day. The bookstore was pretty incredible, and it was packed! It was so tiny, and just covered floor to ceiling with books. There was also an upstairs area that you could do into and just pull a book off the shelf and read for a while. There were chairs, and cushions and all kinds of little nooks for you to get tucked away in with your English book. Here is a photo:
After the bookstore, we finally stopped in a café that overlooked Notre Dame, drank some ridiculously overpriced cappuccinos, and then headed to the metro to get over toward our tour bus for dinner in the Eiffel Tower and a cruise of the Seine River! We checked in at the tour company and then jumped on the bus! It drove us around the city toward the Eiffel Tower and then dropped us off across the street. We received tickets to dinner and got in line for the elevator. The elevator was tilted sideways because it went up one of the legs of the Eiffel Tower. When we got to the first landing, we got off and headed toward the restaurant, 58 Tour Eiffel.
Arrival at the Eiffel Tower!
Getting ready to go up the elevator!
The started was Duck and Foie gras terrine seasonal salad, followed by Roasted chicken breast, parmesan risotto, and a chocolate cake-like Savarin with rum, vanilla cream sauce dessert. Oh, and of course, red wine! It was really good, and so were the views.
At the first level of the Eiffel Tower, looking over the city.
After dinner, we headed back down the elevator to the river cruise! That was a lot of fun as well! We floated past the Louvere, a quarter scale statue of liberty, bridge made out of stones from the Bastille Prison, and of course, the Eiffel Tower! We roughed sitting in the cold for most of it so that we could see everything. We eventually had to get inside the covered part of the boat before we froze. We really enjoyed the experience overall!
On the Seine River Cruise after dinner at the Eiffel Tower!
December 12, 2010
Today is a BEAUTIFUL day in Paris! It is about 8 degrees Celsius (in the low 50’s F), which is the warmest we have seen since we have been to Europe! So warm even, that I am only wearing 1 pair of tights, and not planning on wearing my fleece today!
When we first arrived in Paris, and checked into our hotel, the front desk receptionist was very friendly! He gave us our key and told us to take the lift to the 5th floor, but then take the stairs up one more floor to the 6th floor, that is where our room is located. The lift (elevator) is really scary! It’s barely large enough for 2 people, let alone both of us with our backpacks. Ryan literally had to back into the elevator after I was in it, smashing myself up against the wall as tight as possible! When Ryan stretched around me to push the button, the elevator made a horrible grinding noise before it started moving. When we finally reached the top, there was no gradual stop, no, it jerked harshly to a halt! We safely took the stairs up the last flight to our tiny room, which we were delighted to discover has an amazing view out on the patio! I guess it makes the treacherous hike up worth it! The bathtub, however, is a different story. It is squeezed into the corner of the bathroom, and as Ryan put it “It doesn’t have a shower curtain because there really isn’t anywhere for the water to go!” It’s difficult to explain, so I’ll include a photo. This facility has forced Ryan to take the first bath he has taken in about 10 years! lol.
Photo of Bathtub in our hotel.
The view from our balcony.
We asked the front desk-man for a recommendation for a restaurant and he referred us to the restaurant next door. So we walked next door and got seated (this was around 11:30 PM local. The place was buzzing still! I ordered a pork-chop (which ended up being larger than my face), and Ryan ordered some steak! Several people have told us that Paris is a difficult place to find good food, so I was a little worried, but we were not disappointed! The food was excellent! It was very rich, and my mashed potatoes were covered in butter, but I guess that’s what makes it all the better!
When we woke up on Friday, we decided to make the trek to the Laundromat! I washed all of my tights and undershirts in the sink in the hotel before we went and hung them on a clothesline that Ryan bought before we left. Then we packed all of our clothing into our backpacks and headed toward the metro to a Laundromat a couple metro stops away that Ryan had found on Google. To our relief, we discovered a Laundromat outside of our hotel, 1 block away! So we detoured and went there instead. Overall, the experience was pretty uneventful, except that we discovered 4 extra sock and 2 extra pairs of underwear in our laundry when we were done!
After we dropped off our laundry, we headed to Notre Dame! It was pretty spectacular! Entrance was free but we paid for an audio tour, which was all over the place! There is also a treasury area in the Cathedral that claims to house a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, as well as the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during his crucifixion. It was all very interesting!
We walked around for a while more, then headed back to our room to decide where we were off to next! We headed to the Bastille area to look around and find a place for dinner! We walked for what felt like forever, then saw a small corner café that had a stack of Jazz instruments in the entry way. On the door was a poster stating that they were playing Jazz music that evening, so we decided to stop there. And we are glad that we did! Again, the food was excellent, so was the Crème Brule and French Coffee (Espresso with Cognac and whipped cream), as well as the ambiance! We did see some interesting patrons come into the restaurant while we were there: A man with a dog in a sweater, a woman with a large, very hairy dog, and a man with an accordion.
French Cuisine at a Jazz Cafe!
Sevon, and the Jazz players groovin' behind.
Yesterday (Saturday) we woke up early, then headed separate ways to do some sight seeing. We needed a break from each other (I’ll be honest) and wanted to do slightly different things (I wanted to stop in the stores and shops along the way and Ryan didn’t). So we both toured around the sights in our own ways! I stopped first at the Palace Garnier Theater to see if I could get tickets to a spectacular Ballet that was occurring in the evening. The box office was closed though, so I didn’t have any luck! It opened at 7 though, 1 hour before the show, so we stopped back by later in the evening. The show was sold out, but we stood in line anyway, and they said that we could give us tickets with zero visibility for 8 Euros. We thought that would just leave us hanging and wanting more, so we didn’t want that option. The other option was that we could stand in another line, take a chance, and if there were an more tickets left at the end of the night, then there was a chance we could get tickets. We decided to take that option, along with about 12 other people. We were the last 2 in line. Everyone in front of us got tickets, but they ran out before the 2 people in front of us got them, so we had to leave. It was very disappointing. We found a movie theater down the street and decided to watch Harry Potter instead (with French Sub-titles). We are going to try again to get tickets at this theater on Monday for an Opera… We’ll see how it goes, I think it’s sold out as well.
Photo of the Garnier Theater.
We grabbed a Panini from a food stand last night at about 12:30, which was delicious, and then headed to bed! Tonight we are headed to the Eiffel Tower for Dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, and a River Cruise through the Seine River! We got ready enough this morning that we don’t have to come back to our hotel before dinner. Ryan looks dapper in his sweater and dress pants! Thank you to the Dixons for getting us this gift from out honeyfund! We are getting very excited!!
December 9, 2010
Tuesday is another very busy day, but one that we are both looking forward to… we rented a car and heading to Bath! The car was comically tiny, it was a Citroen, which is a French brand of car, and all of the steering controls are on the right side of the vehicle. OMG. See the photo below!
Ryan driving, on the wrong side of the road? :)
We stopped at Windsor castle on the way out of town, which again was an incredible experience! The castle was originally built in 11th century, similar to the Towers of London, and also was used as a fortress originally. The difference between Windsor Castle and the Towers of London are that this castle is still used today as a fully functioning castle. The queen stays in the center of the Castle sometimes and a flag is raised when she is in. We also got to tour the grand apartments, which house hundreds of years of artwork, documents, valuables, government issue weaponry, collectible weaponry, almost 1000 years of knights of the garter shields and names, and many other forms of history! It was incredible to see all of these historical valuables collected at this one location. Windsor Castle also houses a church. See photos below!
Windsor Castle from the outside.
Cathedral at Windsor Castle.
I know, I couldn't help myself...
After Windsor Castle, we headed to Stonehenge on our way to Bath. Though Stonehenge has an air of mystery, it was really just a bunch of Rocks out in the middle of nowhere, and no one really knows how it got there or why! We didn’t stay very long, it was very chilly out there, and one of the paths was closed due to ice so we couldn’t see the back side. Here are a couple photos!
Ryan at Stonehenge.
After a stressful remaining piece of the drive (Ryan and I almost killed each other over the stress of finding our hotel while driving on the opposite side of the road and following foreign road signs) we finally made it to Bath! We parked the car and I walked up to the address of our B&B. There was a woman and her 3 children entering what looked like a home. I said, “excuse me, is this a hotel?” and she said “It’s a B&B, are you from San Diego.” Apparently, this B&B is located in the basement of this family’s home! She walked us downstairs and we were very excited to see a single bed, with large pillows and a fluffy down comforter! We threw down our bags, grabbed our swimsuits, and headed down to the Thermae Mineral Spa! This spa was built on the hot spring in Bath, next to the ancient Roman baths created over 1000 years ago (this is how Bath got it’s name). We got the Twilight Package, which offered up a meal and 3 hours and 5 floors of bathing in the mineral baths and steaming in the steam rooms! We had a blast! It was so relaxing, felt amazing on my legs, and was a much needed romantic break for us on our honeymoon! We ate a delicious, healthy dinner in our bathrobes, and had a glass of wine (yes Erin, I know mixing spa and alcohol is a terrible idea)! We unfortunately didn’t get any photos from the spa, just this quick shot snapped on our way out!
Outside of the Thermae (hot spring) Spa after our Twilight spa treatment!
Wednesday, marked the 6th anniversary of our relationship! When we woke up, we went upstairs to have breakfast provided from the home owner of a tower of pastries! We had quiches, croissants, cereal, scones, muffins, moist breads, and these delicious cheesy spongy biscuits that we weren’t really sure what they were, but they were our favorite!, The homeowner had made all of the pastries herself, it was quite a display! We also were offered French-press coffee, which when I called it a French-press, she had no idea what I was talking about! She said that they called it a сafetière and had never heard of a French-press! We also met the other 2 guests of the B&B, these 2 women from the Isle of Wight, which of course, Ryan knew where to find on a map! They were in Bath to shop for Christmas gifts.
After breakfast, we decided to walk around Bath for a while before heading back to London. We stopped at the ancient Roman baths and went on a tour through the ancient Ruins. We were reluctant to spend the money on the tour, but after we were done, we were extremely glad that we did it! Wow! This facility was an engineering feat! The techniques used are still used in modern engineering practices, and made us get a little nerdy over our excitement. The facility is still partially working, however the water is not treated and people are not allowed to enter the water. Check out photos in our gallery!
Ryan outside of the anchient Roman bath.
Flow control point to the baths created by the Romans.
We stopped at a tiny French Restaurant that we had seen packed full the evening before on our walk home from the spa. It’s probably one of my favorite meals that we have had so far (and it was more expensive than we had thought!) We headed back to London, stopping for roadside Starbucks along the way. We are both coffee addicts at this point! After returning the car we headed to our next hotel – the Marriott! That’s right, we decided to splurge on a nice hotel room for our anniversary. When we were planning, we found out that a nice hotel room in London would cost between $450 and $700… ouch! So we used my Marriott points instead… nearly all of them! But it was completely worth it! When we got into our room, there was a bottle of Champagne, strawberries, and chocolates waiting for us for our honeymoon and anniversary! We shared the sweets, finished the bottle of Champagne, and then headed out to watch the Arsenal vs. Partizal Belgrade Futbol match at a pub. We drank too much, took a cab back to the hotel, and crashed! Overall, it was a great anniversary!
Celebrating our honeymoon at the Marriott!
Today marks the 2-month anniversary of our marriage! We had ambitious plans to go to Westminster Abby this morning when we woke up, but we ended up skipping that idea when we saw on the BBC that the students were protesting tuition heights in Westminster right outside of the parliament buildings all day today (and Ryan had a bit of a headache). There were police out everywhere, and the debate and demonstrations started in the morning. The parliament building is just outside of the Abby, and so instead we called for a late checkout, grabbed lunch in the hotel and headed to the high-speed train! We said farewell to London, and took the train to Paris. The train only took 3 hours, and was really comfortable and effortless. We just checked into our hotel in Paris and got onto the internet for the first time in about 6 days! We are sorry if we frightened anyone, we are fine, just disconnected. No worries! We have found the internet! We’re about to head our for dinner (very late) and get some sleep before we get a start on our busy days in Paris! First thing on our list to do though, is Laundry! We stink! Hehe.
December 6, 2010
After a tiring day of futbol and moving, we got a late start on Sunday! When we finally got moving, we purchased Oyster Cards at the Tube station. These are pay as you go metro passes (instead of paying up front for a certain period of time, it save us money and make it easier to get on and off of metros and busses). The underground system is a bit more complicated than most of the other metro systems that I have ever been on! There are so many trains and stops and each line has a name and a color, and it’s a lot! Our lovely “Beaver Hotel” is located just off of the Earls Court stop. At least almost everything is color-coded! It has started to get a little easier though, now that we spent a little time on these trains. We even ventured out to try the buses! We thought it would be better to stay above ground so that we could at least see the sights as we drove by.
Since Prague, my left knee has been really bothering me. I think it’s probably from all of the walking, and it seems to get worse when I go out into the cold! It’s making me walk slowly, and on the way down stairs I have to take one at a time. Ryan has been making fun of me, calling me a grandma, getting frustrated when I can’t keep up, and laughing when I am moving at the same speed as elderly folks with canes! Jerk. I reminded him of his little accident last year, and that pretty much has shut him up! Again, jerk…
Back to Sunday, we went into town to pick up our London City Passes newr Trafalgar Square! They are passes that get us into 55 London museums and other attractions for free! They were a gift for our wedding from Rob, thanks! In Trafalgar square, we saw a fountain with beautiful carved statues, and these gigantic metal lions! We had to take a photo with them, see below.
Sevon with the Lion.
Ryan with the Lion.
They were really high up, Ryan had to help me up, and help me keep my dress down on the way back down. It was comical…. But I was terrified! On the way down from the statue, I some how cut my finger! Uhh, knee, finger, I just can’t catch a break. There was absolutely nothing that I could have but my finger on this huge statue, but I managed to cut it anyway… uhhhh. I’m a walking disaster! Ryan said that I probably just split my finger from it being so cold and dry.
My poor cut finger. One of many of my ailments...
We went to the London National Gallery first. It was quite spectacular! We saw additional Van Goghs, including his Sunflower painting, and Rembrants, including 2 self-portraits, and Monet, Renoirs, and Gauguin works as well. It’s been nice to learn a bit about each of the artists at each stop that we have made, it’s interesting to piece together information that we hear at each museum to come up with a fuller understanding of each of the artists!
After the National gallery, we hurried over to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. This was a building that was used during WWII for Winston Churchill and his Cabinet to plan most of England’s efforts in the 2nd World War! It was very interesting! The tour took us through the bunkers, and showed us maps, phone lines, documents, housing, kitchens, and all of the facilities and the setup from the 40s! It was cool and we really enjoyed it! If we had had more time we probably would have stayed longer to learn more about Churchill, but we were cut short on time.
For dinner, we stopped at Piccadilly Circus, which reminded us of Times Square in New York City! There was a man in the middle of the street beat-boxing with only his mouth! It was pretty incredible! We then went to an Indian food restaurant and ordered Curry, which was excellent! We ate a ton, it was flavorful and spicy! It had nothing on Plano's Curry....
Indian food in London, We both ordered different types of Curry, Nan, and Indian Rice!
Monday was a ridiculously busy day! We got a really early start and headed over to check out the Buckingham palace! We saw our first guard with his huge hat, coat, and bayonet, and felt the first sense of the Royalty in the UK. We were lucky to happen to see them stretching the queen’s horses out in the morning down the busy streets (see photo below).
Outside of Buckingham palace.
Royal horses being exercised outside of the palace.
Saint Paul’s Cathedral! Wow! This place was incredible! The ceiling was soooo high, (365 feet) and giant! It is where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married in the 80s (I remember her lengthy train following her up the aisle at the wedding). There are 5 levels of the Cathedral, the Crypt (underground), street level, the Whispering Gallery (at 259 steps), the Stone Gallery (at 376 steps) and the Golden Gallery (at 528 steps). Of course, we decided that we HAD to climb up! We went up to the first level with almost no problem. The spiral staircase up was pretty wide, and the steps were small. After spending some time there, we decided to push a little further and go to the Stone Gallery! This was a narrow spiral staircase that spun around very tightly, and the steps were larger. After looking over London from this level, we decided we made it this far, we might as well go all the way! So we climbed the additional 152 steps up to the top level, the Golden Galery! This was a set of narrow metal, sparse, spiral stair cases separated by small landings. OMG. All I could think was keep looking up the whole time! When we finally reached the top, winded, the view was incredible! We could see all of London, took some photos and video and took a small rest. Unfortunately, up to this point, I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to get down. If you remember, my knee had been hurting quite badly for about 3 days now, going down stairs is one of the more complicated efforts I have with my bum knee, oh, and I am terrified of heights! Well, this made the 530 steps down quite an adventure.
The first 150 down were definitely the most stressful since I could see all the way down to the bottom through the gaps in the stairs and over the railing. After that, I thought it would be fine, until my knee really started to kick into pain mode, for the next 380 steps. When we finally reached the bottom, I was in real pain. I almost could walk. And our day was just started! Here are some photos that we took at the cathedral, even though we weren’t supposed it! It was just so beautiful, we couldn’t resist.
Ceiling in Saint Paul's Cathedral (snapped from my coat pocket).
Photo from the Whispering Gallery (looking down on the nave of the cathedral through the bars).
Ryan at the Stone Gallery Level.
Sevon at the Golden Gallery Level! All the way at the top of the Cathedral, looking over London.
Next, we stopped at an English Pub, more of a commercialized English pub, which was unfortunate, and ate fish and chips and pies (pot pies). They were great, but we had issues paying with our credit card. We had to pay cash. Later, I called from a pay phone (no, we did not stage this...) to make sure that our card was alright! Everything was fine, it was just a glitch at the restaurant.
We then headed over to the Tower of London! This is an old fortress from the 11th Century. We were both awed by the size of this place! It was gigantic! There were prison cells, arrow shooting posts, portcullis gates, outer barrier walls, and the lot! It was really magnificent! The fortress is also where they store the crown jewels! We got to see video of all of the traditions and uses of the scepters, crows, and orbs that the Royal family owns! I want one of these crowns! Ya right. Here are a couple photos:
Tower of London!
At this point, I had been waling on my toe for the entire day compensating for my knee pains, and now my foot was really starting to hurt! Ryan had to put his arm under mine and we walked at a snails pace from place to place. I was in some real pain! Despite that, we headed over to West Minster Abby and discovered that it closed much earlier, to our dismay. We then decided to stop for coffee and chocolates at a chocolate shop while we waited for our London Show: Billy Elliot! The Thomans gifted tickets to a show to us for our wedding! Thank you very much! Tommy and I had tried to get tickets on Broadway while I was in NYC earlier this year, but we were unable to because it was so popular. This show was also sold out on a Monday, which was pretty ridiculous! The our seats and the show were incredible! I see why it swept the Tony’s last year! Ryan and I both walked away from the 3 ½ hour musical wishing that we were that passionate about something! The plot was inspiring. We also thought it was fun to leave the musical with individuals talking in the same English accent that the actors used in the show! Here is a very dark photo of the Victoria Palace Theater that we were in.
Photo outside of Victoria Palace Theater.
Inside of the Victoria Palace Theater!
After 4 hours of resting my poor leg, I was feeling good enough to walk an extra few blocks to the drug store. We bought “dinner” (Pringles, a Lunchable, Nutrigrain bars, water, and some Ritz crackers), ibuprofen, and some UK version of icy hot. When we walked back to the hotel, I asked the receptionist for some ice, iced my foot, applied the icy-hot, and hit the hay! Hopefully in the morning, I will feel better and be able to walk again!
December 4, 2010
We woke up on the morning of December 3rd, had breakfast, and rested in our hotel room until it was time to brave the cold and head to the airport. Once we were all packed up, we headed to the metro station and took it until the line ended, where we waited outside for a bus that would take us the rest of the way. There were quite a few other people waiting and the bus was full after we all got on. The ride was fairly non-eventful until we were about a mile from the airport, stopped at a stoplight. When the driver hit the accelerator, the bus lurched and it sounded like we hit a snow bank. But we could tell that it was something more serious when we started to smell oil and the driver called into his home base. Our bus had broken down! We had left with plenty of time to spare to catch our flight, but there were a few people that looked a little stressed about this inconvenience. We all filed out of the bus and waited on the street until the next bus came. We had to stand on the actual street because the snow on the side of the road was at least 6” deep. Anyway, it all worked out because a few minutes later, another bus came, and we all squeezed on (literally).
The bus broken down on the side of the road on the way to the airport in Prague.
Our time at Ruzyne Airport went smoothly – security is set up a bit differently there than in the States but probably just as strict. The airplane came a bit late and we ended up leaving about a half hour later than expected. Other than that, there were no issues and we arrived at London Stansted. It is quite a relief to deal with people that speak English, after spending a few days in Prague where it was sometimes difficult to communicate. Once we got our bags, we hopped on a bus and rode for an hour to get to Livepool St Station in central London.
Once we got to the station, we jumped onto the tube and rode until our stop which was only a few blocks from our hotel for the night. It was a Premier Inn, which seems like the Holiday Inn of the UK. It was in a cool location right next to the London Eye, on the south side of the Thames, and after we dropped our bags off we walked along the river and ate dinner.
With our Tickets to the Everton/Chelsea Game in our first hotel in London (Premier Inn).
The next day we woke up, had an awesome breakfast (best one so far on the trip, it had everything!), packed up our stuff and took the underground again to the hotel we’d be staying at for the next few days. It was on the west side of town, near the Earl’s Court underground station in Chelsea/Kensington. We were really excited at this point, because it was Saturday, time to go to the Everton – Chelsea football match! It was a really nice day, sunny, and a little warmer than the previous few days. Luckily, the stadium was within walking distance, and although we accidentally took the long route to get there, we still had time to have a beer and get some scarves before the match. We had to pretend we were Chelsea fans so that we could get into the pub and so that we didn’t get thrown out of the game – Everton fans only got a small section in the corner of the stadium. Before the match we tried to make friends with some people in the pub but didn’t have any luck. People weren’t mean, but they didn’t really care to talk to us. Maybe they could sense that we were fake Chelsea fans... Anyway, we filed into the stadium shortly before the game, and got to see some of the warm-ups. Our seats were awesome, only 5 rows behind one of the goals, and the match itself was incredible. It ended up being a 1-1 draw, but it was very exciting and there were a bunch of scoring chances right in front of us. The fans (they say “supporters” instead of fans) were quite a bit more vulgar than fans in the US, and it was funny to hear them yelling at the opposing players and singing their songs. When Everton tied the score at 1, we wanted to cheer so badly but had to keep a straight face. We didn’t want to get punched in the face or thrown out!
In the pub pre-gaming with our new scarves!
Tim Howard! The American goalie for Everton! Our seats were right behind he goal.
Our seats and the Chelsea Stadium.
After the game, we took the underground to a random stop and found a place to eat dinner. We were tired after the game, so once we were done with dinner, we called it a night.
December 2, 2010
We are still in Prague! If we had to summarize our trip in Prague is would be easy: Let it Snow! It has been a cold, blizzardy, white, sloppy few days since we have been here. Yesterday we checked out of our 1st Prague hotel. We stored our bags in a room at the hotel and headed over to the Jewish district. We went to see a WWII Holocaust Victim Memorial where the names and birth and death dates of all of the Czechoslovakian Jews were written on the walls. It was quite overwhelming. The room was 2 stories, and the names basically went floor to ceiling (see photos).
A small section of the names of the Czech victims of the Holocast.
We then toured the Jewish Cemetery (which houses over 12,000 tombstones, and far more than that many bodies) and learned about jewish death traditions (I know, dark). It was very interesting though! We then went to a Spanish-style Synagog and another museum. We both agree that the most interesting thing that we learned about was the tradition of being Kosher! Below is photos of the Synagog and Tombstones.
Tombstones in the Jewish Cemetery.
Spanish-style Synagog in Prague's Jewish district. The walls and ceiling were delicately hand painted. See Photo Gallery for more photos of our tour!
We changed hotels again, this time heading to a quieter part of town. We decided to try to take the Metro this time with our backpacks... that was an adventure! We had to get off of the first train because we couldn't both fit with our huge bags, then had to get onto the next Metro and push our way inside! When we exited the Metro station, you could say that we were in a snow storm. We hiked about 5 blocks to our hotel in the snow flurry, checked in, found a restaurant across the street to eat at, and then went to bed! It was SO cold! Luckily, this hotel room is HUGE compared to the other ones that we have been in. It has an entire front room as well as the bedroom, and a large bathroom as well.
This photo was taken from one room into the other room! This is by far the largest hotel room that we've stayed in since we've been in Europe!
Today, we shopped for a Christmas ornament (the item we are going to get at each of our stops). We took the Metro some more since it was so cold and since our new hotel is a little further out of the way. We found a cute local restaurant to eat at, in which Ryan ordered Goulosh, and I ordered a potato-pasta dish with sheep-cheese sauce and the soup of the day. We said today that we have both really enjoyed the Czech food that we have eaten since we have been here!
After a late lunch, we went to the hotel room to collect items that we wanted to sent home and headed to the post office. Our first attempt was unsuccessful, no one spoke english and they couldn't help us! We then went to the main post office to attempt to send out ornaments and a couple other items. When we arrived, again, no one spoke any English! This was our first encounter without being able to communicate at all! I went to the first window, and managed to get this woman to understand that we needed a box, and got the word "8" out of her, and her finger pointing to the left. Ryan found a place where you have to pick a number, and the category that he picked from was #8. We then waited for our number to be called, then headed to another window... no English. We held up our bags and made a square motion with our hands. She figured out what we needed and brought us out one - it cost 24 Korunas. She then held up the number 4 and again pointed toward the direction of the machine to pull another number. We packed the box and wrote our address in the to box. When our number was called, we went to the window and again, no English. She told us in Czech to write out a return address, and somehow managed to communicate to her that we didn't have one, that is was the same as the "to" address. I don't know how we figured this out, but apparently, you have to have a Czech address in the return address, and we didn't have one at all! Not even a business card for the hotel or anything. I pulled out my US passport, and she called over someone, and after a discussion we didn't understand she pointed to the "to" address and the return address and we wrote the same address. Hopefully it makes it! We will find out when we get home! Though we did not understand a word what was being said, and neither did the individuals that were helping us, they were still so gracious and patient, we really appreciated it! It reminded me of a time before at a post office in the US where the postal worker was yelling at a foreigner... as though yelling louder was going to make him understand. It made me sad, and grateful that our experience didn't end like that.
We went to a Classical Music Concert tonight after the Post office debacle. It was in another famous, old theater in Prague. The hall was almost empty, which made us glad that we didn't spend another $1 on the overpriced tickets than we did because we could have sat in the front row if we wanted! The musicians were pretty amazing, but the overall experience was sub-par. Here is a photo of the venue!
The Smetana Hall during a classical music recital by the Royal Prague Orchestra.
Tomorrow evening we head to London! London is pretty jam-packed full or activity, we will try to keep up with our posts!
November 30, 2010
This morning, we grabbed breakfast from the hotel (which actually included eggs, sausage, and milk this time), saw that it was still snowing, and came back up to bed! We slept in, read, and looked up stuff on the Internet before heading out later in the morning. We walked back over to Charles Bridge because by the time we left the sky was blue and the day much clearer than yesterday! We then walked around some of the shopping areas around town and grabbed a Czech-Phrases book from a book store. We then found a hidden away wood-fire pizza restaurant, where our large, gourmet meal (Cheese Soup, really delicious Bruchetta, and a wood-fire Prosciutto Pizza) with drinks (a generously poured glass of wine and a large local beer) cost $19 US including tip. I’d say it is a steal!
This evening we went to the see the Prague National Theatre Ballet at the Estate Theater (called Stavovske Divadlo in Czech) to watch a modern rendition of the classical ballet “Faust.” It was spectacular! The theater is famous because it is the theater that Mozart conducted the premiere of his symphony “Don Giovanni” in 1787. It was beautifully decorated in Blue and Gold coloring, had Cherub figures on the walls and ceiling, a large chandelier in the middle of the ceiling, and one of the best show sets on a giant rotating turn table that I have ever seen! The “modern” interpretation of Faust based the ballet around WWII. It covered Hitler coming into power, persecution of Jews, concentration camps, post-war negotiations and alliances, and even the rise of Stalin. And of course, a love tragedy (no ballet would be complete without it!) The dancers were also amazing! And for both of our tickets on the terrace, we also paid about $21.
We went back to the square that we went to last night and grabbed a bite and some more hot wine (I also discovered mulled-hot wine today… yummier than regular hot wine) before coming back to our room to defrost and hit the sack! I should have gotten a photo of Ryan with the gigantic sausage on a baguette that he had for dinner… it was ridiculous, and I need to think quicker on my feet!
Photos to come!
November 29, 2010
Yesterday, we checked out of Hans Brinker Hostel with 200 law student (or friends of law students) on a school trip from Wales University. It was quite hectic, we were sleep deprived, and I haven’t quite figured out how to repack my backpack in a hurry so we were feeling a bit rushed at the end! We knew the information about the other residents because we met 2 students the night before during hostel happy hour. James, 19 year old law student, and Natalie, also 19 but studying Physics. They taught us about Rugby rules, the education system in UK, various UK accents (specifically the Welch accent), and of course, the most important topic of under age drinking! James and Natalie have been going out since they were 15-16 years old! They introduced us to Sambucca and we introduced them to Jagermeister and we chatted until about eleven when they decided to go find their friends (the ones that weren’t too old for them…) and go out in the Red Light District… oh to be 19! We grabbed a late dinner and headed to bed where our American/Louisianan roommate (who we only saw once) was already asleep. After we had just dosed off, our 4th roommate (who had removed her mattress from the top bunk and moved it into the room next door) came home from a night out drinking and decided to come into our room to “see if anyone wanted hang out”. She and her 2 French friends came up the hallway yelling and running into things, fumbled with the keys to get in the door, walked in screaming, and turned on all the lights! Then she busted up laughing uncontrollably and ran out. The 3 girls went into their room next door and laughed for about 2 more hours! They were so loud; I don’t think I got more than 2 straight hours of sleep the whole night.
After checkout, we went to the Reijks Museum to learn about the history of the Netherlands and Rembrandt. We decided to get the Audio tour again since it went so well at Van Gough, but we were slightly underwhelmed. We both said that we really appreciated how well done the Van Gogh museum done after seeing the next one, but learned a lot about Rembrandt and the complicated Dutch history that we didn’t know before! For example, at the end of Rembrandt’s very successful career, he went bankrupt! Which seems odd since he was so successful and very well compensated for his work! We stopped in a small café in Rembrandt Square and had lunch and lattes and then headed for the train station!
We took an overnight train to Prague last night, which was quite an experience! We went to our “seats” (small benches stacked 3 high on each wall of the car) and we told that our compartment was going to be full for the night… we later found out we were the only full compartment, several other’s only had a couple, or zero people in it. It made for a tight squeeze, but we were with good company! A German engineering student got on the train with us, he was headed home after traveling to Amsterdam for the weekend to see his long-distance girlfriend/fiancé (I’m not exactly sure which). He was on his way to Berlin, which was timed for arrival at about 5am. Then at the next stop an older English man (who we never talked to) and a younger Italian girl who was off to a small city south of Prague for a month to study Genealogy of Insects (her area of study) at the local college joined our car. Two stops later, our last compartment-mate arrived, she was a self-proclaimed half-German, half-Canadian Artist who was on her way to the Berlin-area as well to substitute a 5th grade class for a teacher who broke his Jaw in an accident. Luckily for us, everyone spoke English, which made for an interesting ride of accents and stories! The Canadian/German girl shared with us a paper that one of her students had written about “Matter.” She said “I’m not really sure how to grade this one,” as she handed it to me and I read it to everyone in the car. It went like this:
“Matter is important because it matters. Everything is made of matter, like my pencil, and my sister, and my butt!!!! That’s gross. Even water H2O is made of matter, it is made of Hydrogen and Oxygen.”
We all erupted in laughter, and then shortly after fell asleep. Ryan said that he had a difficult night’s sleep because we kept stopping and starting and people were stirring about in our car for most of the night. I, on the other hand, slept like a rock! I didn’t wake up until everyone was gone, it was a much better night’s sleep than the night before with the French girls in Hans Brinker!. Everyone got off at the earlier stops except the Italian girl, who we learned was named Lucia! She was so nice and we exchanged information so that she can look us up on Facebook!
Ryan, Sevon and our Italian friend Lucia in the train car.
Upon arrival to Prague, the snow was a couple inches thick on the ground and coming down! We decided to hail a cab since we had all of out stuff and the snow. The cab driver took advantage of us and charged us 450 Korouna, which was about $25 for our 5-minute cab ride! Jerk. We walked across the Karluv Most (Charles) Bridge to the West side of the River. We then went on a tour of the Prague Castle, which was quite amazing! It was built over about 600 years and changed over time. We also learned about the Czech crown jewels, which are locked away in a safe with 7 locks, and 7 politicians have the keys (president, etc.). They had a replica out on display and our guide said that the Jewels have only been out about 7 times in the last 95 years! She said that the last time they were out there were huge lines to see it, and it was quite spectacular.
The Karluv Most Bridge (Charles Bridge). You can barely see the wall around the castle in the distance on toward the right.
Inside the Prague Castle! See more photos of Prague Castle in our Photo Gallery.
After a challenging trek down an icy staircase, we stopped for some cappuccino to warm up and headed back to the East side of the river. There we discovered an adorable square where there was a large decorated tree, loud Christmas music, and had several booths set up. We ate a cinnamon pastry called Tradelnik (Tra-del-nick). Which we will be going back for more of and I drank a hot wine!
Sharing the last piece of the Tradelnik Pastry...
November 27, 2010
The last couple days have been packed full of activities and great food! When we left off, we had just gotten back from exploring a part of the city and the Anne Frank Museum. That evening (Thanksgiving) we looked up a good local restaurant on Trip Advisor and had an “authentic” Dutch meal. When we asked the lady at the front desk of the Nadia Hotel what was a Dutch good restaurant, she said “Dutch food is not good, it’s just mashed potatoes!” Well, she was wrong! We found the ‘Tomaz’ restaurant in an alleyway off of a big street. It seemed to take forever to find, and thankfully we found it when we did because we were about to give up and stop at another restaurant. We sat in the bar, ordered a glass of wine, and Ryan ordered the mashed potatoes, with sauerkraut and sausage, and I ordered the masked potatoes with fried Cod and veggies! It was soooooooo delicious! The Cod was not breaded, but very moist, and we both cleared our plates! We also ordered Crème Brule and apple pie for dessert, and 2 more glasses of wine. The restaurant had an assortment of board games, so we decided to play backgammon (I taught Ryan how to play for the first time). We shut the place down and were offered more wine on the house from Thomas, the very friendly and accommodating restaurant owner, server, and bartender. We also befriended his cat, Rose, who looks a lot like Cami! We finally left at about 12:30 and came across an Irish Pub celebrating Thanksgiving and playing the Cowboys/Saints game. We stopped in for a beer and watched a while leading up to halftime.
Yesterday, we overslept from too much wine and late dinner, and we missed check out by 20 minutes! We put our bags in storage and decided to venture a little into the countryside. We hopped on a bus toward Monicandam, a small town right on the water. We took the bus to a tiny island called Marken where we saw some local folk handing out their laundry, walking their pets, gardening, and biking around. There was also an old 18th century town center in the middle of the island. The homes are very tiny and the space between them was so small as well. These homes are still lived in today, however they have combined 2 or more of them to make enough room for modern accommodation. Here are some photos of these tiny homes!
The Countryside of the Netherlands from the Bus.
Look sideways - this is between the tiny buildings in Markin.
We then went up to Volendam where we had our new favorite cheap lunch “Toasties” (Cheese and a slice of ham on pieces of bread and grilled). This was our second day in a row eating Toasties. We then discovered my new favorite food group – Dutch doughnuts! Yum! They’re like regular doughnuts, but without the hole and fresh out of the fryer and covered in powdered sugar, which then proceeds to cover me!
Notice the white powdered sugar all over the front of my jacket and scarf...
We came back to Amsterdam and changed from out “lush” tiny hotel to the Hans Brinker Hotel/Hostel. We read a review online about this place and how has the nickname “Hans Stinker” and they are right! Luckily not on our floor, but as you walk down the stairs there are certainly floors that smell terrible! We went out to dinner last night at a restaurant we walked by earlier called Morlang. We sat in the basement and ate Beef Wellington and a Scallop Salad. Both tasted great! We spent the rest of the evening walking the city and called it an early evening!
Today, we woke to a snowey morning! It was very cold, but it was cool to see the city covered in snow. We went to breakfast at a pancake house and ate the largest crepe-style pancakes that I have ever seen! I got a ham and cheese pancake and Ryan of course decided to order a pancake covered in chocolate sauce, ice cream, and whip cream. See photos below!
Ryan, 1/2 way through his Ice Cream/Whip cream/chocolate Dutch Pancake!
We then went to the Van Gogh museum, an amazing experience. We decided to get the Audio tour and spent over 4 hours admiring art and listening to stories about Van Gogh and letters written by him. His story is truly amazing, we both found it so interesting that he only painted for about 10 years of his short 37-year life! He moved around Europe quite a bit during his life, and his artwork changed pretty drastically as he moved from location to location. The museum was broken up by city that he lived in and it was interesting to see his work progress over time. Photography wasn’t allowed, but I snapped this one from inside my bag anyway!
We ate pizzas (like no pizza I’ve ever had before) and drank Cassis soda (it reminds me of drinking sprite and cranberry juice) at an Italian restaurant. On impulse, we jumped on a canal boat tour, which was interesting as well. The most interesting part was coming across the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, which was giant! I fell asleep for about 10 minutes, but I am feeling refreshed now! After the cruise, we decided to come back to our room to grab our computers. Ryan took a quick nap while I wrote this blog! We’re off to do some more eating and exploring now…
Please check out our gallery for more photos! Click Here: Photo Gallery
November 25, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving! Oh, what? They don't celebrate that in the Netherlands? Laaaaaaaaaaaame!
We are in Amsterdam and having a great time so far! Getting here was a bit difficult, however. We got delayed leaving San Diego, and missed our next flight in Phoenix, so we had to spend a day in good old Sky Harbor. But we ended up on a nicer plane, flying direct from Phoenix to London Heathrow, and then on to a connecting flight to Amsterdam, which landed around 7pm local time. One of our first attempts to communicate with a local was at the train ticket counter. I was nervous, so I asked the agent if he spoke English, and he replied, "No" with a straight face. I'm pretty sure we are best friends now. Anyway, we took the train to Centraal Station, in the middle of town, and then took a cab to our hotel since it was raining. By the time we got in, it was pretty dark, but we decided to drop our luggage off, then head out to explore and get some dinner. We found a decent Italian place to eat, then walked around a little while longer, but we were cold and tired, so we decided to call it a night.
Our room is pretty small, but still has a toilet, shower, fridge, TV, and safe. The people at the front desk are very nice and we are happy with it so far. The breakfast they served this morning wasn't much more than slices of bread and cheese, but I think that is common with small hotels like this. The stairs to get up to the hotel are very steep, so getting up to the room is kinda fun. We'll have to take a picture and post it later.
Today, we went to the Anne Frank museum, walked around a lot, and did a cheese tasting at the storefront of a local cheese company. After that we did some more exploring and then decided to rest for a few minutes at the hotel. The views along the canals here are amazing!
Anne Frank Huis
Check out the photo gallery for more of the pictures we've taken...
November 23 - Travel
November 24-28 - Amsterdam
November 29-December 3 - Prague
December 3-9 - London
December 9-14 - Paris
December 15-17 - Florence
December 17-22 - Rome