… to Venice!

I actually slept a full night without interruption and it was golden! It was much needed and perfect because we had to get up extra early to leave for Italy. We had breakfast at 5:30am at the hotel and left Reitdorf (the village) at 6am. For anyone counting, I’m pretty sure I’ve now had more hot breakfasts than ‘cold’ ones and that makes me happy. It was cold and rainy when we left, so we were glad to be moving on.

2016-06-09 05.41.33

I napped quite a bit on the bus! I think I finally found a decent napping position and I actually stayed asleep for more than 30 min. We stopped for a bathroom break and snacks at 9:30am and I slept through most of that too. After the break, Marlene put on”The Sound of Music” since we didn’t finish it earlier and I definitely stayed up to watch it. Obviously.

We had to take a ferry to our first stop: Isolo di Murano (the Murano islands) to watch a glass blowing demonstration. We arrived to the Ferro & Lazzarni factory around noon and received a live demo and fun facts about murano glass. Apparently, nothing has changed in their process in 1000 years except for the type of stove they use (going from a wood burning one to a gas one). There is also no school to learn the techniques; everything is passed down and it takes 15 years to actually master it. They guy doing the demo made a vase in about 10 minutes and a horse in about 2 minutes. It was seriously impressive. Their shop had all sorts of glass decorations and dishware and while it was fun to look at, it was very expensive so I opted out of actually buying anything. I was tempted though!

After the demonstration, we hopped back onto the ferry for another 15 minute ride into Venice! Marlene wanted to celebrate with us so she bought us all Prosecco to share. The weather was chilly and overcast (not surprising given the weather we’ve had everywhere we’ve been) but we were hoping the actual rain would hold off.

We docked around 1:30pm and headed for our gondola rides, walking through St. Mark’s Square on the way. There was a mix up in the schedule so Justin, Greg, Victoria, Heidi, Cassie, and I went to get our first round of Italian gelato and it definitely did not disappoint!

By 2:30pm it was raining so we boarded our gondola in the rain, sitting on the wet seats, under our umbrellas. It was a disaster but I think it makes for a fun story. We were cold, wet, and couldn’t see much because of the umbrellas but hey, it was an experience we shared and now we can say we’ve been on a gondola in Venice! It was actually pretty fun though, even with the crummy weather and circumstances.

After our ride, we were pretty hungry because most of us hadn’t eaten since the 9:30am snack break (or breakfast) and it was already 3pm. We wanted to get pizza but didn’t know where to go so just stopped at the first indoor place we saw, Ristorante Eden. We all ordered pizza and it was… fine. It was good pizza but honestly, a little disappointing. I don’t think pizza was their specialty. We were pretty excited about it too which probably made the let down more difficult. We’ll try another pizza place in Florence and maybe get a better one!

Our lunch was in St. Mark’s Square where just about everything else we wanted to do was so we headed over to the St. Mark’s Campanile Bell Tower to go to the top and see the entire city. For whatever reason, we thought we’d be climbing stairs to the top like we’d done at other places but this was an elevator-only thing which was unfortunate because we were hoping that climbing up stairs would warm us up! It was still really beautiful up there though. The weather made it difficult to see way into the distance but it was still really breathtaking. It was also much colder and windier up there so we didn’t stay long.

Next up was the St. Mark’s Basilica just across the plaza. It was a beautiful church and unlike any church we’ve seen up to this point as far as the artwork and decorations. The architecture was similar but just about everything else was incredibly unique. The church had several small areas and a museum but we didn’t have much time in Venice so we bypassed those and just toured the main hall.

Last on our list was Doge’s Palace. None of us knew anything about it but we decided to visit it anyways, even though tickets were crazy expensive compared to other museums. In my opinion, it was completely worth it. The palace was GORGEOUS and had some of the most stunning paintings, gold work, and wood work I’ve ever seen. Each room impressed me more than the one before it. Plus, it was nice to be warm and dry for a bit! We found an arch somewhere and Justin and I took a great prom-pose picture… now not only do they call me mom, they call him step-dad. It’s ridiculous but entertaining.

Our museum pass was actually a pass to the palace and 3 other museums in the area but by the time we finished, other museums were closing and we had to meet back up with the rest of the group to head to our hotel. We did have just enough time to sneak in another round of gelato (oops), visit the outside of the Bridge of Sighs (we saw the inside from the palace) and stroll around a few alleys though. I really wanted to try and visit the Santa Maria della Salute across the canal but simply didn’t have enough time!

The weather wasn’t great but we made the best of our short time in Venice. No weather compares to what we had to go through on our first day in Paris though so we really shouldn’t complain. My first impression of the city was not great but I warmed up to it. There were a lot of souvenir carts and street hagglers selling random knick knacks, purses, and (smartly) umbrellas so I think that kind of brought the vibe down. I don’t know if it were the gloomy weather, lack of greenery, the street vendors, the old buildings, or a combination of everything but the city just didn’t feel very pretty or exciting. It wasn’t until we went up into the bell tower and got a view of the whole city when I started to change my mind. As the evening went on and vendors started to leave and the rain kept people away, the city really opened up and I enjoyed it much more. I’d love to go back on a normal day though.

We met up with the group around 7:15pm to take the ferry back to the mainland, to get on our bus, to go check into our hotel in Mastre (a city just outside of Venice). On our way to the hotel we finally finished the last bit of “The Sound of Music” too! We checked into the hotel around 8:15pm and spent the evening playing cards with Justin and Greg. There was a small cafe across the street so we even went and got a slice of pizza later and it was cheaper and better than the pizza in Venice!

Tomorrow we leave for Florence where we get more time than we did in Venice. We bought all of our museum tickets while we were in Munich so hopefully we’ll be able to see and do quite a bit!

Until tomorrow,


I’ll leave you with a fun fact from Marlene: Venice has 430 bridges, Amsterdam has 800, and Hamburg (in Germany) has 2800!

… to Austria (day 2)

Last night, after I blogged, I Skyped with my Dad and got to see my sweet Elliott which made me feel better. It was a nice pick-me-up after a rough day. Dad told me that Baba, my grandpa, was working on making me more keychain racks and that was also really exciting. For those that don’t know, I collect keychains from places I’ve been and people usually bring them back for me when they travel. Baba made me one rack a LONG time ago so each hook has anywhere from 5-8 keychains on it. I’ve been begging for another rack for a long time so I am incredibly exciting to come home to FOUR new ones and to load them with all of my new ones from this trip.

So, after the Skype chat and good news, I tried to go back to sleep and did not have any luck. Victoria’s snoring was out of control. Our hotel room has a separate ‘living’ area behind closed doors so I moved my mattress (it’s not REALLY a mattress) to the floor in there to try and drown out the noise. It helped but by then it was so late that I still did not get much sleep. Today was a free day so I could have technically slept in forever but I did not want to waste my time here so I got up early, had breakfast at 8:30am, and got ready for a bike/hike ride. I woke up with a killer headache but nothing some Tylenol couldn’t resolve.

After breakfast, Justin, Greg, Heidi, Anna, and I got our bikes (Heidi and I had to use child ones because the adult ones were mostly gone by the time we got to them) and headed off to find a good hiking trail. We biked about 2 miles to a trail and after battling a language barrier with a local while we asked for directions to the hiking trial, we finally found it.

We hiked the trail for about an hour before heading back. We saw the most amazing views and it made the uncomfortable bike ride (damn those seats), steep climbs, and lack of sleep totally worth it. The mountains and weather were all so amazing. It was also great to get some exercise after the amount of food we’ve had in Europe and breath in some fresh air after all of the time we’ve spent in big cities. It was really surreal (I keep using that word) to be up in those mountains! You can bet that we sang some “Sound of Music” songs! We had a really great time! My camera had a smudge on it so all of my pictures have a small blurry spot directly in the middle. That annoys me but the views stored in my brain cannot be ruined by a smudge!

We had to be back to the hotel by 12:30pm for our white water rafting excursion but we wanted to be back by 11:30am to change into swimsuits, grab lunch, and relax for a second. Lunch wasn’t included today so to avoid spending money, a few of us packed a bagel with meat/cheese to store in our rooms and eat for lunch. It wasn’t the best, but it was cheap and got the job done.

2016-06-08 12.08.50

After lunch, just about the entire group headed out to go white water rafting on the Enns River. It was about a 30 minute bus ride over and for whatever reason, some of the people decided we needed to have a 90s jam session and I was NOT mad about it; it was fun singing along to old songs with the entire bus. As we got to the rafting facility, we saw a dog open a door. No joke. This dog literally walked up some steps to the front door of a house, put his paw up, opened the door, and walked in. It was amazing and I am  glad I am not the only one who saw it happen!

We got suited up at the rafting facility (I didn’t get the name of it and that is annoying!) and took off to the top of our path via bus. The wet suits were HOT and we looked crazy but I was so thankful for them when we got into the COLD river. My boat had Kyle, Trent, Maggie, Hannah, Katherine, Abby, Martin, me, and our guide and we did awesome. We were the second raft to go and we ended up catching up with the first raft and having a little water fight. It was a fun time! The only ‘negative’ feedback was the the course was a level 1 or 2 so it wasn’t as adventurous as most people would have liked. The people that had gone rafting before, which was only a few of us, had done levels 3 or 4 and were expecting more. Either way, we spent about an hour going down the river and enjoying the gorgeous views which made up for the lack of action. Austria really might be the prettiest place I’ve ever been to.

The weather during the rafting was perfect. It was sunny but still cool out which is a great combination. We were lucky too because right when the rafting ended around 3:30pm, the clouds, rain, and cold started to roll in. Unfortunately, Antonio (our awesome bus driver), didn’t know to meet us back at the rafting facility and Marlene had left her phone on the bus so we had no way of contacting him. We had to sit around for over an hour waiting, mostly in the cold. We were able sit in the changing/storage area of the rafting facility but we were all smelly and musty so it wasn’t very comfortable. We made the most of it though: Marlene ordered beers for everyone and we played “Truth or Dare Spin the Bottle” and “Never Have I Ever” so clearly we are all best friends now. Kidding, but those games really do get people to share some crazy things. The bus finally made it back to us and we headed back to the hotel by 5pm.

Dinner wasn’t scheduled until 7:30pm so after a hot shower and fresh clothes, we just lounged around. Victoria and I started a game of Rummy with Justin before I bailed to go Skype with Chris! Skype was not being very cooperative though but it was better than nothing. It was good to finally talk to him!

We had another interesting dinner at the hotel before going back to our room to finish our card game. Greg, Heidi, and Cassie joined us to hang out and Greg jumped in mid-game. I made an epic comeback too! I was in last place, by hundreds of points, before dinner but somehow managed to get the win. The competitive person in me was pretty happy but the competitive person in my male twin, Justin, was not (he was originally in the lead). It was so late though that we were all just happy the game was over!

After dinner, I packed up my suitcase (we were able to do all of our laundry here!) and prepared for our travel day tomorrow to Italy, country #7 and the start of the second leg of our trip. I am sad to be leaving Austria but Italy will be amazing. I am thankful to have had some ‘down time’ (as crazy as that sounds considering all we did today)!

Until tomorrow,


… to Austria!

First, a follow-up to the protest we walked through in Munich: the protesters were farmers and they were protesting the cost of milk; they want more money for it and were threatening to quit production (or something like that). So, we walked through an angry farmer protest in Munich and lived to tell about it! Go team.

Now for today… it was a mostly rough day. I barely slept last night because Victoria was sick and snoring louder than usual. It woke me up and then kept me up which just made for a cranky start to the day. On top of that, I woke up with insanely large blisters on both of my feet. I could tell from the day before that I had blisters forming but it wasn’t until this morning when I realized the severity of them: my right foot had a blister about the size of a quarter and my left foot had one about the size of a nickel. It hurt to even walk. I don’t think you’re supposed to pop blisters normally but I looked it up and the internet (who is always correct, obviously) said that if it is a large/painful one to pop it and cover it, so that is what I did. They felt a little better after that, but still bothered me most of the day. That is what I get for consciously wearing non-walking shoes to a 24-day trip to Europe where we walk EVERY DAY. High five, me.

2016-06-07 07.46.11

Think things couldn’t be worse? Think again. After our breakfast, we headed downstairs to take our things to the bus and I forgot there was a step outside of the elevator. I tripped and luckily caught myself but still managed to roll my ankle. It hurt pretty bad for a few hours but didn’t swell and got better as the day went on. It just was not a good morning for me.

We left for Austria, Marlene’s home country and our 6th country to visit, at 8:45am. It wasn’t a long drive but I did managed to nap some of it. Mostly, I just rested and enjoyed the beautiful drive. Austria is incredibly gorgeous. We saw amazing lakes, mountains, and rivers which may sound ordinary but trust me, they were anything but. I wish I could describe just how beautiful this county is! It was a peaceful and relaxing drive, which was what I needed after my awful morning. As we drove in, Marlene hit us with some fun facts (I love a good fun fact) about the country: 60% of the country is covered in mountains, they believe in free education so even universities come at no cost, they are the home of Red Bull, they are known for their milk chocolate, cheese, bread, and cakes, it is the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger, there are 8.2 million people in the country (which is pretty small), and back-in-the-day the Queen at the time had 18 kids and married them off to emperors of other states/countries which meant Austria had the most control at one point.

Our first stop in Austria was actually NOT in Austria; it was about 3 minutes outside of Austria, back in Germany. We arrived the at Salzburgwerk Berchtesgaden Salt Mines at about 11:45am after a serious ‘toll tag’ issue (or whatever their equivalent is). Our bus apparently didn’t pay enough as we crossed in so we got pulled over by police! It was probably only a 30 minute delay but it felt like forever. Once we finally got there, we suited up in a miner jumpsuit and went on a detailed tour of the salt mines. It was a pretty cool, interactive tour: we rode a cross between a train and a rollercoaster through the mine, went down a crazy wooden slide (twice!), crossed the most crystal-clear lake I’ve ever seen, and tried salt directly from the mine’s wall. There was a sign that said we weren’t allowed to take pictures but Marlene said it was fine so I did… but the tour guide reprimanded me twice: once verbally, once with a disappointed look. I am pretty sure he hated me but I got some good pictures! Overall, it was a really cool experience. We looked ridiculous in the jumpsuits but it was pretty cold in the mine so it actually worked out well.

After the tour, we headed for lunch. What was supposed to be a 30 minute drive to Salzburg (now back in Austria) took over an hour because all of Austria runs off electricity generated by the water instead of using nuclear plants and one of their city buses had come off the line. It created quite the traffic jam! When we finally made it to lunch around 1:30pm, we were all starving. Marlene had been promising us that Austria has the best schnitzel so she took us to a place she knew we would love: a restaurant called Sternbrau. She had talked it up so much and we had waited on that bus in traffic for so long that I had pretty high expectations and let me tell you, that schnitzel did not disappoint. It was amazing. Beyond amazing. So many people on this trip are looking forward to the food in Italy but schnitzel was the highest priority on my list so I was pretty happy to finally have had an authentic one! I also had a salad which was exciting because we are definitely not eating enough vegetables and greens here and I miss them. Lunch was great and totally worth the wait! The weather was great too so it was nice to just sit outside and enjoy the meal. It was another moment like I had in Paris when I had crepes outside the Eiffel Tower… this time, I was eating schnitzel an at outside cafe in Austria. It was a pretty cool moment!

After lunch, Marlene gave us a short walking tour of Salzburg because it is where she grew up and lives when she is not doing these tours! You can definitely tell she loves this place and after walking around, I could see why. Salzburg was amazing*. Jeans might have been a bad idea but it was still great. We got to see several things: the house where Mozart was born, city hall, the tiniest house (now a jewelry store), the Salzburg Cathedral, Fortress Hohensalzburg, and a garden where parts of “The Sound of Music” were filmed. We also stopped to try a genuine Mozartkugel, a small, round ball made of marzipan, nougat, and dark chocolate. It was delicious! There were some other cool things too like a statue in front of a building where as you walked closer to the staute, the crown on the building looked like it was being placed on the statue’s head and a statues/fountain where horses had to be cleaned/rinsed off at before they entered the city. It was a short tour of Salzburg but we managed to see a lot. We were lucky to have a tour guide from there to help us out!


Our tour ended around 5:30pm and we made our way to the Alpine Center. A few of the girls bought “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg so we watched it for the 1.5 hour drive over. Most of the people on the bus hadn’t seen it before, including Marlene, which was surprising to me! I love that movie. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish it but maybe we will watch the rest on our way to Italy on Thursday. The city-less Alpine Center (seriously, apparently it is part of a village and not a city) is a resort with several things to do and see. It is surrounded by mountains and is seriously just the cutest hotel. Our room is huge and even has a balcony with a great view. We arrived just shortly after 7pm and our group dinner was scheduled for 8pm so we only had time to check-in and explore the resort itself before eating. Dinner was great but I was still really full from the un-Godly amount of schnitzel I ate at lunch so I didn’t eat too much of it. The soup is worth mentioning though… and we had access to a salad bar! Hooray for more vegetables. My actual entree didn’t come with vegetables but the other option did and Justin and Heidi didn’t want theirs so I was quick to grab those as well.

After dinner, a few of us sorted out what we wanted to do tomorrow. The resort has hiking and biking trails (among other things) so we wanted to plan out the best options. Tomorrow is technically a free day but we also have our white water rafting excursion down the Enns River and I am really looking forward to that. The hiking and biking will be great exercise too; something I definitely miss and need to be doing more of!

All-in-all, it was a good day. The weather was great and the bus rides were mostly short which allowed for a lot of extra sight seeing.

Our trip is 50% over today and it’s been great so far. I’ve been having a lot of fun and have thoroughly enjoyed everything we’ve done. I am, however, starting to feel really drained. I’m the type of person who can go and go but eventually needs to crash and unfortunately, crashing is not an option on this trip! I also need alone time to sit in silence and recharge and I obviously don’t have many opportunities for that either so I am starting to get irritable. I’m trying to keep it together and I am hopeful tomorrow’s adventurous day outside will help pep me back up. Also, the time difference between me and everyone I know is starting to take a toll on me. I can go for days without talking to people and be just fine but not having the option to just text a friend or someone during a long bus ride to help pass the time kind of sucks. A 7 hour difference is pretty intense and while I like talking to the people in our group, it would be nice to Skype my family or friends (or dog!) every so often… or at least at normal hours. Let’s hope these few days at the resort help me get recharged for the second half of the trip: Italy and Greece!

Until tomorrow,


*I seriously need a new word for amazing; I might be using it too often!

… to Munich (day 2)

The weather was the best it’s been all trip and we really took advantage of it today. I solidified my farmer’s tan too, so I’m going to look real great in Greece (sarcasm).

We had a later start today which was nice because we got to get a little extra sleep. Breakfast was a 8:45am and because it’s the same hotel as our hotel in Heidelberg, it was a similar breakfast with eggs and apples so I was happy. I swiped another apple for the road! Victoria is much more into the hard-boiled eggs and croissants.

We were on the road to the Dachau Concentration Camp by 9:15am and there by 10am. Like I said earlier, the weather was the definition of perfect. The kind of perfect where it’s warm in the sun and cool in the shade but never too hot. It was a somber visit though because of the content. We had an audio tour, which really makes you feel like a tourist, and it was actually great because it gave us so much more information than any of the info boards. It was an intense and educational visit; the site was so well done and the museum was great, even though we didn’t have much time to go completely through it. We did walk the entire site though and watched a very sad, graphic video of the events. I know a lot about the time period and Holocaust but it’s always as sad to see those things. I was surprised though at the number of people who don’t know that much about it. I over heard people talking about how they didn’t know how bad things were and whatnot and I just find that very surprising. I really enjoyed the visit though, as odd as that might sound.

We were back at the hotel by 1pm and headed straight to the Viktualienmarkt, a daily food market in Munich. It was a busy area with a lot of people and several food vendors. I had the most awesome Fish & Chips! I didn’t want to get them because of the fries but then they brought out a fresh batch right before my order and I felt like they were just calling my name. It was delicious. We ate outside, still enjoying the weather, and then made our way to the Englischer Garten (English Gardens), one of Europe’s largest urban parks (larger than NYC’s Central Park too).

On our way to the English Gardens, we passed what we think was some type of protest involving tractors (tractor protest? farming protest?). There were hundreds of tractors lined up and people rallying with picket signs and everything. Based on the body language and behavior, it seemed peaceful but the German language always sounds aggressive so it definitely did not sound peaceful.

The English Gardens were beautiful and the nice weather only added to it. We were only able to walk through a small portion of it (so we could do everything we wanted to do today in enough time) but what we saw was still awesome. The garden was so large that there was no way we would have ever been able to get through it in a reasonable time anyways, but it sure would be nice to visit again. There were so many people out just playing sports, going on jogs/walks, and sunbathing. We even saw some people surfing the river by one of the bridges! The water was coming through the bridge at a fast speed and making waves so it was perfect for surfing. It was really cool to watch! I wish we could have seen more of it and spent more time there but with limited time in Munich, we had to move on.

We made our way back toward the market, this time to St. Peter’s, the oldest church in Munich. A few of us got to climb the 299 narrow and steep steps to the top of the tower (Victoria sat out!) and it was so worth it; the views were amazing. Plus, after climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, 299 steps seemed like no big deal. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle-room up there but I could see the city for miles in all directions. After the climb, the breeze up there was also very appreciated.

Next on our list was the Frauenkirche church to find the Devil’s footprint (spoiler alert: it was not difficult to find). The legend says that the devil tried to ‘stomp’ the chruch down but before he could, he realized there were no windows in the church which meant no people could go in… so he left, leaving just his footprint behind. The church, in fact, DOES have windows but from where he stood, it appeared as if there were none. So, we all stood in the footprint and got to see the windowless view.

We had some time before the Glockenspiel bell show at 5pm so we walked around the Marienplatz, the central square of Munich with several stores and shops, and bought our souvenirs. I had really been wanting to get a duffle bag so we stopped in TkMaxx (like TjMaxx, ha!) and picked one up, too. I still have not found a decently priced straightener yet… and we’re almost halfway through the trip so I might need to just give up. After some shopping, we got ice cream and then watched the Glockenspiel show. It was a cute thing to see but definitely anti-climatic. Now we can say we’ve seen it though, and that counts for something.

On our way back to the hotel to meet up with the group for a big group dinner, we searched for Kinder Eggs (chocolate eggs with a ‘surprise’ toy inside that are apparently banned in the US) and Haribo gummy bears. Luckily we found both at the train station! We the had a little bit of time to relax at the hotel before heading to dinner. Check out Victoria’s awesome sandals sunburn!

Dinner was back toward to the Marienplatz, an area we were all-too familiar with by this point. I won’t even try to spell the name of the restaurant we went to but it was some sort of biergarten with a set menu for us. For the non-vegetation option, we had sauerkraut, pork with a potato dumpling, and apple strudel. The vegetation option was some noodle/cheese dish but instead of sauerkraut they had a salad, and it looked delicious. I definitely had appetizer envy on that one; the idea of eating lettuce was so appealing! Dinner was good but I wasn’t very hungry so I mostly just ate the dessert… shocking.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to re-pack for another travel day tomorrow. We also pre-planned and bought tickets for our free time in Florence to get ahead of the game.

I loved Germany a lot more than I thought I would. It doesn’t come off as exciting as some of the other countries on our list but it definitely was one of the favorites. It’s tough to beat those scenic views and I’m sure finally having decent weather played a part but all-in-all, I really enjoyed it! Tomorrow, we leave Germany and head to Austria for a few days where we have a lot of fun things planned (e.g. white water rafting!). I cannot believe we will be on our 6th country already. Time flies!

Until tomorrow,




… to Munich!

I felt like a brand new person today after the amount of sleep I got last night! I have zero regrets over skipping the fireworks in the rain to catch a couple extra hours of sleep.

We kicked off the day with breakfast at the hotel. Our hotel had a ‘hot’ breakfast with eggs and bacon but the eggs were watery and questionable, at best. The yogurt, however, was amazing AND they had apples. I had apples in the fruit bowl then ate an actual apple… then took another apple for the road. I miss fruit.

The first stop on our list today was Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Castle) which was just a short drive away. I went there as a kid with my family so I was hoping to remember it in any capacity but I definitely did not; it all seemed new to me. We explored the castle and gardens and at one point, a few of us took a turn down some path and ended up taking the most amazing/awful walk through the garden of all time. It was amazing because it had beautiful views and scenery but awful because it was cobblestone and steep hills. On the bright side, it was a good workout. I did not wear the correct shoes for hills and cobblestone but the views made up for it.

We spent about an hour at the castle but then had to get on the road for Rothenburg, another small midevil town that survived the war, famous for nutcrackers, red roofs, and cuckoo clocks. I tried not to fall asleep on the bus but I could not help it; it is seriously almost impossible to stay awake on that thing. It was a rainy drive but by the time we got there it was sunny and nice. It was so great to see and feel the sun again! I chose to wear shorts today, rain or shine/hot or cold, so I am glad the weather cooperated. The nice weather also gave us a chance to see Germany’s gorgeous countryside and landscape. That IS something I remember from visiting in 2000. It was nice to see… when I was awake. We arrived there around noon, after about a 2.5 hour drive.We walked around the town’s market square (Marktplatz) which was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. The buildings were gorgeous and the views were stunning.

We tried Schneeballen which was like a light, balled-up funnel cake dipped in different things. I had the chocolate and powdered sugar ones and they were delicious. I definitely should not have had two because immediately after, we got pretzels from another local bakery (also delicious).

At 1:30pm we all re-grouped and headed to a group lunch. I don’t know how we managed to eat even MORE but we did. It was a fixed menu of bratwurst, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and ice cream. The bratwurst was outstanding and even though I am not a big fan of sauerkraut, I tried it again and it wasn’t half bad. By itself, I did not care for it but mixed with the bratwurst, it was decent. There was also an absurdly large bottle of ketchup on the table which made us all laugh.

With our stomachs stuffed, we got back on the road at 2:45pm and started our way to Munich. I really, really did not want to fall asleep this time so that I would sleep decently tonight so I tried to fight it. Marlene put on a movie for us which I thought would help but it definitely did not. We watched “The Tourist” and I don’t think I could even begin to explain how terrible it was. Part of me wanted to stay awake to watch the train wreck that it was and part of me just wanted to sleep through it. I managed to see most of it and I wish I didn’t. It was SO. TERRIBLE. It did entertain us though so I guess there was a silver lining.


We arrived in Munich, Germany’s 3rd largest city, at around 5:30pm. Our hotel was the same chain as the one in Heidelberg which was not our favorite but when you basically only sleep here, does it really matter? We didn’t have to meet up with the group again until 7:30pm so we took the opportunity to relax and Skype with Victoria’s parents. We also planned out our free day for tomorrow and our upcoming free day in Florence, Italy.

At 7:30pm, we walked over to Hofbrauhaus, a large place to eat and get beer. This place was the definition of my nightmare. It was loud, crowded, disorganized, and everyone was drunk. They only had large, family tables so you have to sit with strangers and the only way to order food is to basically flag someone down. It was a mess. The menu we had was also 100% in German so that was stressful but we did eventually find an English menu. I ordered meat loaf but was told they were out so quickly ordered someone else (because the waiter was waiting on me to make a decision!) and it turned out to essentially be a fancy hotdog. It wasn’t bad… but it was a hot dog. Oh well. Victoria’s potato soup was really good so at least there was a win there! Justin and Heidi both got beer and were a little drunk after it, which made for an entertaining walk back to the hotel afterwards.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed about Germany is that they literally do not cater to English speaking people, at all. In every country we’ve been to so far, there have been English signs and options to some degree (and usually readily available/visible) but Germany just does not care. There is almost no English! What makes it worse is that the language isn’t nearly as predictable as the others; it is a lot more difficult to just ‘pick up on.’ Thank you, again, Google Translate.

We’re in Munich for another day and night before we head to Austria! Tomorrow we visit a concentration camp and then get to explore the city of Munich on our own before having a big, group dinner. We’re exhausted from all of the travel today so staying in the same place two nights in a row is exciting!

Until tomorrow,



… to Heidelberg!

It looks like we left Paris just in time because this morning I heard about the flooding and museums shutting down. Thankfully we avoided all of that!

Today, we left Amsterdam at 6am and headed towards Cologne, Germany. We had breakfast on the bus and then I think just about everyone fell asleep for the little over 3 hour drive.

We arrived in Cologne, the 4th largest city in Germany, at 9:30am and visited the Köhler Dom Cathedral. 95% of the city was bombed and destroyed in World War 2 so most of the city is new with the exception of the cathedral, which was still damaged in some capacity. We got to tour the cathedral but didn’t really have much time for anything else in the city as we needed to keep moving to our next stop. It was in Cologne, using the cathedral Wi-Fi, where we learned that Muhammad Ali passed away.

We left Cologne by 10:45am and made our way to Boppard, Germany for a cruise down the Rhine River. It was a short drive as we were there a little after noon. Again, a lot of people slept on the bus, including me, but I tried to stay awake for the pretty views. The roads were winding, steep, hilly roads so it was a little unnerving in a bus but we made it to the river safely. Our cruise wasn’t until 2pm so we walked around the small town’s market. The sun was out for the first time in days so everyone was excited to bask in the sun! It did randomly start raining at one point but it didn’t last long.

A few of us saw this sandwich board with desserts on it and decided to follow it down the alley to a pastry shop. We ordered the “Quarkbällchen” and oh my gosh it was amazing. It was like a bigger, fluffier donut hole crossed with a beinget. It was unbelievably delicious and we had to leave before we ate all of them. 10/10, would recommend.

We boarded our boat to head down the Rhine River. We didn’t have time to eat in Boppard so we ate on the boat. I was finally able to get schnitzel which was exciting but it was boat food so… it was just okay. Victoria gets sea sick so she had taken some medicine which accidentally knocked her out so she slept most of the cruise while a few of us watched from the top deck. It had stopped raining and was actually very, very nice out which made for a good cruising experience.

The cruise lasted about an hour and a half and ended in Sankt Goar. We boarded the bus again and took off to Heidelberg. On our way to Heidelberg, Marlene gave us some more fun facts about Germany: it’s the 5th largest country in Europe in terms of size but the 1st largest in terms of population, it’s known for its bread, pretzels, bratwurst, beer, and Haribo gummy bears, and there are no speed limits. Heidelberg itself is known for philosophers and is a student town.

We were in Heidelberg by 5:15pm and because we didn’t have time to go to the Heidelberg castle as we had planned, we checked into the hotel to get some rest before dinner. It wasn’t much free time but enough time to be able to Skype with Jessica, Justin, Bailey, and Olivia! It was fun to see them and talk to them, even if the girls were in a weird mood.

We walked down the Neckar River to the old part of town where there were plenty of shops and people. It was a pretty crowded area. We stopped for dinner at Strohauer’s Cafe where I ordered schnitzel… again… and homemade potato salad. I was hoping non-boat food would be better and it definitely was. My schnitzel was a little tough but it tasted amazing. Marlene keeps saying the schnitzel is Austria is better so I’m excited to try it there too. Nothing has compared to Oma’s Haus yet though (a German restaurant near San Antonio that closed last year).

Heidi ordered tea and it came with these amazing sugar cubes. I ate almost all of them and I’m not proud of it. I definitely need to be eating more vegetables and fruit… I’ve had way too many carbs on this trip. I’ve walked enough so I don’t feel too terrible about it but I need to start being better about my intake! I can’t undo the last year of hard work and I still need to be ready for my half marathon in September.

2016-06-04 19.35.32

Dinner was over around 9pm and after the long travel day today and another travel day tomorrow, I decided to go back to the hotel and try to get a decent night’s sleep. There was a fireworks show scheduled for 10:15pm nearby but I was okay missing that in favor of sleep. The constant starting/stopping all day with naps on the bus made me feel groggy so maybe the decent sleep will make me feel like a normal person again! Here’s hoping.

Tomorrow we’re visiting the Heidelberg Castle in the morning before heading to Munich with a pit stop for lunch in Rothenburg. I visited the castle with my family when we visited Germany in 2000 so I’m excited to see it again and see what I remember!

Until tomorrow,


… to Amsterdam (day 2)

Y’all, we had a hot breakfast this morning! The hotel (which is already really awesome) had a regular continental breakfast but also eggs and bacon! Protein! It was delicious, even if the eggs were a little runny.

After breakfast we drive about 25 minutes through the Dutch countryside to tour a cheese farm and see how wooden shoes are made. 2 guys were running late and we ended up leaving without them! Yikes. It was overcast again but luckily not raining so driving through the countryside was really nice and a relaxing way to start the day.

We toured the Henri Willig cheese farm and learned about how the various cheeses were made. We got to sample so many different types of cheese; Victoria really enjoyed the pesto cheese and truffle cheese and I liked the garlic herb one. They were all pretty good though! I also had been telling everyone about Stroopwafles and they had samples there so everyone tried those too and loved them, of course. I had to buy them too!

Nearby was the wooden shoe tour where we learned how the shoes were made and had an opportunity to try them on. My favorite were the hand carved ones, mostly because of the romantic story behind them. Back in the day when a guy wanted to propose to a girl, he would hand carve a pair of shoes for a woman and carve his name into them. He’d then place the shoes in front of the girl’s house and if she wore them, it was her way of accepting his proposal! Cute. I got Bailey and Olivia (my nieces) wooden tulips there, too. I think they’ll like those!

Next on our list was a bike ride through Edam, a 13th century Dutch fishing village. Several of us hadn’t ridden a bike in years so we were hoping it would be like… riding a bike… and it would all be okay. It was, and everyone survived. The rain held off and it wasn’t very cold so it was a great ride! We rode through the most amazing scenery in the adorable little city: tree lined paths, cobblestone between cute houses, over the canals, and along the IJssel Lake Beaches. We stopped several time for pictures, once at a windmill house. As we were taking pictures, the woman who lived there came home and wasn’t very happy about it… so we left. We also stopped to get gelato and it was so delicious. I really enjoyed the bike ride and having the wind in my hair. It’s still surreal that I’m here and having these experiences. I love it.

We headed to Volendam, a famous fishing village, for lunch where we had fresh seafood on the village’s shore. The town was pretty busy but it was a fun place to be. There were two dogs playing in the water and on the beach and it was fun to watch them. I went to stand on a rock by the water and slipped and almost fell in and immediately after, Victoria did the same thing except she DID fall in and got her shoes soaking wet. Some lessons are learned the hard way! We all got a good laugh though.

We were back in Amsterdam by 3:30pm but had almost no time to do anything because we had to regroup with Marlene at 5:15pm to go to a group dinner. We walked past the “I Amsterdam” sign but there were so many people climbing on it that it was impossible to get a good picture. We then attempted the Van Gogh Museum but the line to just buy tickets was 45 minutes so we went to the Rijks Museum. By this point, we only had an hour because he museum closed at 5pm so Victoria and I decided to ditch the small group we were with and just wander the Rijks Gardens outside the museum. We relaxed under a canopy by a pond in one of the gardens until it was time to go; it was much needed after the busy day. We had Wi-Fi so I Skyped my dad for a few minutes and just caught up on the news. Apparently a gorilla was shot and Taylor Swift and her boyfriend broke up? Good story, USA.

Everyone met up a little after 5:15pm and we walked over to Bojo, and Indonesian restaurant. We had a “mini rice table” with a mix of different types of food. It was pretty good. Some of it was not my favorite but some of it was pretty spot on.

After dinner we boarded a boat for a canal cruise through the Amsterdam canals. The tour gave us some great history of the canals and the buildings and it was very interesting to hear, even though most people were not listening. Apparently Amsterdam really has their act together with water control because the city wouldn’t exist without the canals. Plus, they are the only city who is actually prepared for when the sea level rises. I really enjoyed the boat ride and took a lot of pictures. My favorite spot was the “Seven Bridges” spot where we got a glimpse of 7 of the old arc bridges in a row. Shout out to the boat captain for slowing down for me to get some pictures (I think he knew I was one of the few paying attention AND the only one taking photos).

The cruise ended around 8:30pm and because we were so exhausted, Victoria and I headed back to the hotel. We got to experience the Amsterdam Tram (we had only ridden the train up that point) so that was a new thing too! Once back at the hotel (which we love, by the way), we Skyped, uploaded pictures, blogged/journaled, and got ready for another long travel day tomorrow! I got to see my sweet puppy and talk to Chris so it was definitely a good day followed by a good evening!

Amsterdam was great! I loved the city; it gives me good vibes and I really enjoyed just strolling around. The weather actually cooperated all day too and we even saw the sun and blue skies after dinner!

Tomorrow we head to Germany!

Until then,


… to Amsterdam!

Today was another big travel day as we made our way to the Netherlands with a pit stop in Belgium. We kicked it off with breakfast at the hotel and were on the road by 7:30am. We stayed up late last night talking, loading pictures, and Skyping people so only really got about 3-4 hours of sleep… a 6:00am wake up time was not fun.

2016-06-02 07.01.19

The bus ride to Brussels was just over 4 hours long and I slept almost the entire time. Most everyone did; we were exhausted. After doing so much in Paris for 2 days, it was nice to relax and get some rest. Shout out to my ridiculous neck pillow that I almost didn’t bring and to the random blankets Victoria bought in Dover for making it a decent sleep, too. We made a bathroom/snack pit stop a few hours in but several people slept through it, including me. Oops. Marlene put on Ocean’s Twelve for us to help pass the time; I slept through most of that as well.

We arrived in Belgium around 11:30am and made to Brussels a little after 12pm. The weather was still overcast and a little rainy but overall not too bad. It was warmer than Paris so even if we still didn’t get to see the sun, at least we weren’t freezing anymore. This city was again, completely different than anywhere we’d been so far. The buildings are a mix of modern and historic but there were more homeless people and trash on the streets than anywhere else. I was surprised at the number of women begging with their children, too.

Because Brussels was just a pit stop on our way to Amsterdam, we only had enough time to visit the Grand Place and Manneken Pis. The Grand Place was very… grand. I’m not even sure what the buildings are used for these days but it was very cool to see. It was also very crowded! The Manneken Pis was down the street, tucked away in the corner. Apparently sometimes they dress the statue up so today he was dressed as a doctor for heart disease awareness. The weirdest thing about the statue is that the town clearly takes advantage of its popularity so they make chocolate replicas and put him on souvenirs. The statue is of a naked toddler boy… making a wine bottles opener of him and making the corkscrew part of it as the toddler’s “piece” is just weird! And who is actually comfortable eating a chocolate toddler penis? So weird.

We also tried all of the notorious Belgium food such as waffles, frites, and chocolate. The frites (fries) were great but in effort to not over eat, Victoria and I split those. We had dessert waffles (similar to what we had in London) and they were of course great. I added strawberries to make me feel like I was being somewhat healthy but I don’t think it works that way. I couldn’t even finish it. They also served it to us with the smallest forks any of us have ever seen and they were so difficult to eat with. I’m convinced they do it just to screw with us tourists! Then we started walking into various chocolate stores and trying samples; we all eventually bought something of course. They bought things to take home to family and friends but I didn’t… apologies to my family and friends but I have no self-control to carry around chocolate for 2.5 more weeks. After trying so many sweet things though, Justin and I decided to split a “croc waf” which was essentially a ham and cheese grilled sandwich but with waffles instead of bread and it was delicious. We needed some protein!

As we drove in and out of the city we passed other things that looked cool but with tight schedule, we just didn’t have time. Marlene gave us some history of the city and shared some fun facts with us: all of the highways are lit up and you can see them from space, they are the headquarters of the European Union, and they were the second country to legalize gay marriage.

We were on the road again by 3pm for the last leg of the drive. I fell asleep again but woke up a lot because I felt like we were starting and stopping a lot; I later found out we had just been in a lot of traffic. We made it to Holland around 4:30pm for another quick break. I had some Wi-Fi so I was able to catch up on emails and social media (I have a 55 day snap-streak I don’t plan on breaking!)… priorities. Can you believe we’re already in country #4 of the trip? Time flies. After today, we’re 25% through the tour which seriously blows my mind.

As we continued our drive to Amsterdam, Marlene shared some more fun facts. I love a good fun fact! One of the rivers (don’t ask me which one, it’s not easy to hear her sometimes!) gets higher throughout the year because people throw unlocked bicycles into it and the city has to fish them out regularly. They were also the first country to legalize gay marriage. It is very popular to ride bikes and most people ride, on average, 1.8km a day. The Dutch are also the biggest beer drinkers in Europe; so much so that in the 1970s, they served light beer in schools!

My friend and co-worker, Sjoerd, lives in Amsterdam so I thought it would be cool to text him and see if he wanted to meet up with some of us for dinner when we got into town and then show us around but it turned out he was vacationing in Spain! What are the odds? It would’ve been cool to see him!

We arrived at the hotel around 6:45pm, dropped our bags, and headed directly to the Anne Frank house with a group of people. We don’t have much free time tomorrow so we wanted to utilize our time wisely today! We are actually staying slightly outside of the city so we had to take a train in and that system was a little different then what we were used to but we figured it out. It was fun to walk through the city and see the canals and different buildings on our way. It was cold and a little misty but still nice enough. Victoria slipped and fell and her phone was inches away from falling into the canal; luckily, it didn’t.

I’ve visited the Anne Frank House before with my family in 2000 and actually still remembered it pretty well. It was cool to see it again and the line wasn’t too long so that was nice. It was still just as powerful as it was back then.

After the museum, Victoria and I split from the group and hauled over to Cau, Gary’s (her dad’s) favorite restaurant just outside of Dam Square. Her phone would only give driving directions so she accidentally led us the long way so we were walking FAST to get there in enough time before it closed. We made it and got to eat some amazing steak! Victoria got a rib-eye, I got a sirloin, and we shared chunky triple fried fries, truffle Mac and Cheese, and an amazing grilled chicken salad. it was so worth the extra walking! Thanks for treating us, Gary! We really enjoyed it.

It was past 11pm by the time we left – what a long day. The two of us were alone, navigating the streets of Amsterdam at night was a little nerve wracking but we made it back to the train station safely and coincidentally ran into the rest of our group from earlier and we all traveled back together. What are the odds??

Tomorrow we have a long planned day but luckily we have a semi late start. Let’s hope the weather holds off (well, the rain at least) so we can enjoy our time in the Dutch countryside!

Until tomorrow,


… to Paris (day 3)

Today was our last day in Paris and luckily the weather cooperated a little bit more and we were able to get a LOT accomplished. Reflecting on the last 2 days, it’s amazing how much we were able to see and do in Paris in the 2 days we had. We walked 14 miles and 61 floors today alone!

We started the day at 8am with a quick breakfast. Continental breakfasts will always be disappointing to me; I cannot do it. The croissants are delicious, I’ll give them that, but I just cannot.

2016-06-01 08.02.05

After breakfast, Victoria, Greg, Justin, Heidi and I headed straight to the Musee Du Louvre to be there when it opened and miss the lines. It was our first time navigating the Paris subways and we did a decent job as we arrived safely at the correct place! Several other members of our group had the same idea and arrived shortly after us. It was pretty easy but I made a pretty silly mistake once we got in… I misread the Hall/Room Number for the Mona Lisa (obviously our first stop to avoid crowds) and we hauled butt to the WRONG place. Once I realized my mistake, we hauled even more butt to the correct place. Cue the Aggie jokes. Either way, we made it and didn’t have to wait long to see her. It was cool to see but at the end of the day, just a painting. The hype is a little confusing! We took some pictures and then moved on to other parts of the museum. The Louvre is huge (and the building itself is so beautiful) so there was no way we would be able to see everything there AND do all of the other things on our list so we left shortly after and kept on with our schedule.

My good friend, Dionne, recommended “Angelina’s” cafe to us and because it was near the Louvre, we visited it next. Dionne said their hot chocolate was the best. We were freezing so it was not difficult to convince everyone to make a pit stop. A few of us got the hot chocolate and all of us got macaroons and let me just say, Dionne was not wrong. That hot chocolate was to die for. It was so rich and creamy; it was basically a melted chocolate bar. The macaroons were equally amazing. Victoria didn’t care for the hot chocolate that much so she gave it to Justin and he agreed with me; it was delicious.

We enjoyed our hot chocolate and macaroons as we strolled through the Jardin Des Tuileries. It was a surreal moment to just be strolling through a garden in Paris, with the cool weather and our hot chocolate and macaroons.

On the other side of the garden was the Musee National de L’Orangerie where we got to see some of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series. I had seen some of them at the MOMA in NYC but it was equally as amazing to see them in Paris. The paintings are so large and just very impressive!

We then walked through the Place de la Concorde and past the Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor bridge where people are now placing their “love locks” (the old bridge that housed them had the locks removed a few years ago so people have taken to putting locks elsewhere). We obviously had to stop and 4 of us bought and put locks on the bridge: Victoria did one for her and her boyfriend, Greg did one for him and his girlfriend, Heidi did one for her and her boyfriend… and I did one for me and Elliott. That is PEAK crazy-dog-lady stuff right there and I am not even a little sorry about it. Heidi even suggested I put the other key that I didn’t throw into the river on Elliott’s collar which I thought was a FABULOUS idea. Jillian and Elliott forever.

The next museum on our list was the Musee D’Orsay. The building used to be a train station back-in-the-day so it was very large and very decorated. It housed a lot of unique paintings, sculptures, and furniture and we somehow managed to get through most of it. Again, the building was one of my more favorite parts about it but it was nice to see several of the famous paintings such as Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Self Portrait’ and ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone.’

After the D’Orsay, we took the subway again to head towards the Centre Pompidou – Musee National D’Art Moderne. This subway ride was not near as easy as our first one earlier in the morning and we had to wait 20 minutes for a train. During that time, I took the opportunity to practice a little yoga to stretch out – my body needs some serious stretching. After the subway debacle, we made it to the correct side of town and started our hunt for a quick lunch. We have noticed that European restaurants are in no hurry whatsoever so every time we go to a sit-down place, we are there for an unreasonably long time. Because we wanted to be able to do a lot today, we decided to look for a quick ‘take away’ place on the street and we found a great sandwich shop called “La Mie Caline.” They had cheap pre-made sandwiches that while simple, were so delicious. The bread in Paris makes everything better. The cafe also had wi-fi so we sat there for a few extra minutes and during that time, my dad and I got to chat via Facebook Messenger. I didn’t know they had wi-fi calling so that was pretty cool. He gave me an update on Elliott too, and I love a good Elliott update!

After lunch we continued our walk to the Pompidou and spent about a little over an hour touring it. It’s their modern art museum so it had some very interesting pieces but also some that were… well, questionable at best. I think this was Victoria and Justin’s favorite museum we visited as they both took several pictures. It was the most unique building I had seen in Paris so of course it had to house some unique art! The best: watching ice melt. Seriously, there was a piece that had 3 blocks of ice on it and as the ice melted, it routed through carved out tunnels in the table into 4 buckets on the floor. What the what?!

Justin wasn’t feeling well so he left us after the Pompidou and the 4 of us continued on to the Eiffel Tower. When we got to the subway, there were a few people struggling to buy tickets and they asked us for help. I showed them how and gave them the rundown on how to get around (it’s weird how quickly you can become familiar with an area, I felt like a pro!) and we talked to them for a bit. They were from California and were on a European adventure as well, with one of the couples celebrating their 30 year wedding anniversary. They were also headed toward the Eiffel Tower so we suggested they tag along and we got to know them really well. They were AWESOME people and we had so much fun hanging out with them. Together, now 8 of us, we made it to the tower and all of us hiked the 671 steps up to the second level. The weather was foggy and overcast still but it was such a beautiful view. I loved every second we were up there and just felt so happy! We ran into another guy from our tour and the now 9 of us took the elevator up to the third level, a.k.a the very top. What an experience… there are just no words to describe the feelings I had up there. How lucky were we to be in Paris… at the top of the Eiffel Tower?! I texted some friends and my family and said hello to them all from up there, too! We took several pictures and turned into icicles so we headed back down to the lawn to take some classic/typical Eiffel Tower pictures (and a few selfies with our new friends). There was a Crepe Cafe on the side of the lawn so we finally got to eat our crepes. The guy made fun of how I said Crepes and Chocolate Noir (the kind I ordered) which was not cool but hey, at least I tried. The crepes were amazing; I ate all of mine and half of Victoria’s! Yikes. It was at this point, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower eating a chocolate crepe, where I had this overwhelming “Oh my God” feeling: I was eating crepes… in front of the Eiffel Tower… in Paris, France! Just, what? What is my life? How did I get here? How lucky am I? It was just amazing.

The next and final item on our list for the day was re-visiting the Arc de Triomphe. We had only seen it so far from the bus so we wanted to at least stop by and take some photos. Our new California friends had the same plans so we stuck together and braved the subway again to head North. We took some photos in front of the Arc but did not go under it. It had started to sprinkle a little bit and by this point it was late and we wanted to start heading back toward the hotel.

Our new friends were on the same subway line back East as us so we got to visit with them a little bit longer. We really had a blast with them! One of the guys even wants to join Kelsey, John, and me for our half marathon in September. The other couple offered us a place to stay in LA should we need it. I mean, we really bonded with them… can you tell?! They were calling us their kids and we all just really enjoyed each others company. Don’t worry, we’re already Facebook friends!

With our new friends gone and 2 of our group separating to go shopping, it was down to just Victoria, Greg, and me. We headed back to the hotel and after taking the wrong turn outside, walked the wrong direction for about a mile (the subway issue at the Arc was MY fault, this one was definitely Greg’s fault!). We corrected our mistake and headed in the CORRECT direction to the hotel, picking up our final meal in Paris on the way: McDonald’s. Think we’re crazy? It was past 9pm and as I said earlier, all restaurants take forever. We had no shame in our game though! The McDonald’s had a self-ordering machine (awesome) and special french fry sauce (also awesome) so it was still a unique experience! Also, my apple juice from my kid’s meal tasted like applesauce. Paris does not know how to juice.

I ended the day with a Skype call from my friend, Chris! It was a blurry call but it was nice to see and talk to someone from home. The whole time zone thing is so crazy but we all adjust!

I will miss Paris; it was amazing. Our Paris Museum Pass (included in our trip package) helped us get into every museum for free and skip most lines so we were able to get so much accomplished.

2016-06-01 21.38.23

Today was our last day in Paris as we leave at 7:15am tomorrow to head to Amsterdam with a lunch stop in Brussels! It is our longest travel day on the trip so I am hopeful we’ll be able to get plenty of sleep on the bus.

Until tomorrow!


… to Paris (day 2)

Today was such a busy, cold, wet day but we managed to do and see a LOT of Paris. It was definitely an adventure. I also made a conscious decision to wear a dress even though it was 50 degrees outside… I only half regretted it. I was also really happy I packed an umbrella.

We started off with a hotel continental breakfast. I already miss the eggs and bacon from our London hotel! It was nice to have fruit again though.

2016-05-31 08.09.58

Our day officially kicked off at the Musee du Parfume for Fragonard. We learned about the history of perfume, how it is made, the different notes and what they mean, and how to wear it. Things I did not know: it is important to keep perfume in the original bottle AND box because light impacts the smell, it is important to keep it out of your bathroom because humidity and heat impact the smell, perfume changes smells throughout the day when you spray it on your skin so it is better to spray it on your hair and clothes, and you can ‘clean’ your nose of smells NOT by using coffee beans but by smelling your own skin and clothes because your nose already knows the scent. Something I thought was really cute was when she explained that women wear perfume in places (e.g. ears, neck, back of knees) to say “follow me” to men and mean wear perfume in places (e.g. chest, arms) to say “stay with me.” I don’t know if that is true but I liked it!

After the perfume tour, we met up with our city guide Janice and took a bus tour around the city. She was quite the hoot and taught us a lot about the city. By this point it was raining so it was nice to be on the bus but unfortunately it didn’t allow us to take many pictures. We saw so many things that I would never be able to list them all as she also talked really fast and trying to remember names of places in a foreign language is not easy. We made 2 pit stops though and were able to get off the bus and take a ‘click clack Kodak’ as she put it (LOVE that phrase): the Eiffel Tower and Dome des Invalides. As a reminder, it was 50 degrees and raining and I was IN A DRESS so these were short stops for us.

We ended our tour at the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris and officially had the remainder of the afternoon to ourselves. Almost the entire group (everyone except Victoria, me, and our new friends Justin and Greg) took a trip out to Versailles but the four of us decided to stay in town, bear the weather, and see as much of Paris as we could which, looking back, I think was the best decision we’ve made so far.

The 4 of us had lunch at a cafe outside of the Notre Dame called Le Notre Dame (original) where I tried Escargot! It was actually pretty decent and I am glad I tried it. The cafe was definitely all-French so translating the menu was interesting (thank you Google Translate though). The waiter spoke some English so that helped too.

After lunch we headed across the street and toured the Cathedrale. The inside of that church was so beautiful and it was nice to be warm for a little while. We also climbed to the very top in some very narrow staircases and got the most amazing views of the city. It was so worth the wait in the line outside and the 387 steps to the top. If it had not been so overcast, we would have been able to see the Eiffel Tower but even without it, the view was unbelievable. I was so glad we stayed back from the rest of the group and got to do that.

While we were in the area, we visited Crypte Archeologique and saw the history of Paris and in particular, coin making and ruins. It was a small museum but very interesting. The large boards had English translations but none of the item-descriptions in the cases did so it was pretty difficult to know what we were looking at. Not knowing the language is a bummer sometimes.

Next up was Sainte Chapelle. Again, another small museum but it was the first thing that literally, LITERALLY took my breath away and left me speechless. The church is known for its stained-glass windows so when we walked in, I was expecting some pretty cool mosaics and there definitely were but… it wasn’t until we went upstairs and I saw the most amazing windows I’ve ever seen. We rounded that corner and I don’t know what I was expecting to see but it just left me speechless. It was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen. As we left, I stepped in a muddy puddle. That’s not important but it did make us all laugh.

The Conciergerie museum was nearby so we visited that next. It is essentially a prison museum so that was strange but it was a really beautiful building. We saw where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned so that was cool. We didn’t spend much time there as again, it was another small museum!

By this point it was nearly 6pm and everything was shutting down so we mostly did a walking tour of other areas. We passed Saint Jacques, Archives Nationale, Pompidou, and Bastille among other things. I really enjoyed just walking through the city; I’ve literally never seen anything like it. The shops are so small and all of the restaurants are mostly outside which would probably be awesome if the weather was better. It was just really cool to stroll through the streets. I definitely felt like a tourist and felt like people were not fond of us.

We were close to the hotel at this point and with our long night approaching, we decided to just head back, get warm and dry, and get ready for our dinner and show. The show was our first optional excursion and only 6 of us signed up so at 9pm, the 6 of us headed out to dinner at Deux Moulins. As usual, I ate way too much.

After dinner we made our way to the Moulin Rouge. None of us really knew what to expect but it was quite the show! The dancing, acrobats, costumes, and everything was so over the top. There was a rollerskating routine that literally made all of us gasp because it was so terrifying. I couldn’t even begin to explain the other acts. It was mostly in French so we didn’t quite know the plotline but based on the dances… I don’t think there really was one. It was tough to tell! We shared about 2.5 bottles of champagne too, which is always fun but I think it made some of us tired; it was a long day!

Wednesday will be another full free day and we have so much we want to see so we’re hoping the weather keeps people inside and makes room for us and the tourist spots. Marlene said EuroDisney is actually the #1 tourist spot in France so maybe that will help keep the lines clear for us. She also said the French are known to strike and protest and apparently there is one planned for Thursday that will shut down all of the subways; let’s hope that doesn’t start early! We have a lot to see and still a lot to eat (crepes!)!

It’s after 2am and it’s been a long day… until tomorrow!


PS – my straightener broke… that took all of 5 days! 😦