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Europe Trip 2011

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1: Traveling to Europe has been a life-long dream for me. Ever since I began studying art history under Mrs. Kuschak, History under Mr. Cicigoi, and English with Mr. Storm, Mrs. Charlton, Ms. Sukalo, and Mrs. Parker - teachers and mentors from my years in high school -- I dreamed of traveling around the continent that had captivated my imagination and peaked my intrigue. I feel so blessed to have found a partner in life, a loving husband, who was willing to help make this dream come true and embark on this great adventure with me. I hope you enjoy our photos. Sylvia

2: This is the route that our tour traveled through Europe. As a bonus, we added one additional night in London and two additional nights in Paris.

3: Day 1: London | Kensington Palace | After flying overnight, we checked into our hotel, the Hilton Olympia, showered and changed, then hit the streets of London! Not wanting to venture too far from our hotel, we started by checking out the borough of Kensington. | Kensington Park | Sylvia didn't actually go into the phone booth... It smelled like a public urinal!

4: We found a really great pub on Kensington High Street named Balans where we spent a couple hours eating and relaxing while trying to figure out what to see in London. | We came across a Whole Foods Market where they sold eggs individually! Ostrich eggs too (each egg equals 24 regular eggs)!

5: Day 2: London | From our hotel, we found the nearest bus stop and took a red double-decker bus. A little hesitant as to what stop to get off at, we got out at Piccadilly Circus, which allowed us to stumble across the Canadian embassy before arriving at Trafalgar Square.

6: 'The London Eye' is a giant 135-metre (443 ft) tall Ferris wheel situated on the banks of the River Thames. From the Eye, we could see London sights such as Big Ben, the buildings of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and even St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance.

7: Mind the Gap! | We couldn't resist checking out the street artists at the base of the Eye. We then took the tube up to Soho, where we ate some pretty amazing burgers at 'gourmet burger kitchen' - a New Zealand burger chain.

8: Late in the afternoon, we took the tube to the trendy neighbourhood of Nottinghill.

9: Day 3: London | The Albert Memorial, in Kensington Gardens, was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, who died of typhoid in 1861. | We took two bus tours to see the sights of London. Driving through different parts of the city, we were able to get some good photos of Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings from different vantage points. | Westminster Abbey - where Prince William & Kate were married!

10: The Victoria Memorial - dedicated to Queen Victoria is found in front of Buckingham. | The Canada Gate was presented to London by Canada as part of a memorial dedicated to Queen Victoria who died in 1901. | Buckingham Palace We walked to the front of the palace to watch the 'changing of the guard', but we left a little disappointed. According to our tour guide, the proceedings happened completely different than every other day - the guards were late, and they went into the palace through a different gate.

11: In the afternoon, our second bus tour brought us to St. Paul's Cathedral. This cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in London, with its dome one of the highest in the world. This was also the chosen location where Prince Charles married Diana.

12: Often mistaken as 'London Bridge', this bridge over the River Thames is actually called Tower Bridge, named for its close proximity to the Tower of London.

13: The Tower of London originally served as the royal residence, but was later used primarily as the prison. Queen Elizabeth I was held here before taking her place on the throne. The Tower is now known for housing the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

14: Day 4: London to Amsterdam | Our tour group assembled from three different hotels, and together we made our way to the train station. We took the Eurostar Train, which travels at 300 km/hour, from London to Brussels. We also went through the "Chunnel", the Channel Tunnel that runs under the English Channel. Once in Brussels, we boarded our coach bus and made our way to Amsterdam!

15: We were given some free time to walk around Amsterdam and take in the sights. It was then that we started to feel like we were in Europe - the architecture was so different than what we are used to seeing!

16: After walking around the Red Light district with our tour group, we went on our own and found ourselves a Coffee Shop. | As the saying goes: "When in Rome..." | We completed the day in 'the Mother Land' by joining our tour group on a dinner cruise through the canals.

17: Day 5: Amsterdam to Frankfurt | Our first stop was in the city of Cologne, Germany. The Cologne Cathedral is one of the world's largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. | Construction of the cathedral began in 1284 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete. Thankfully, after 70 aerial hits during WWII, the cathedral stood tall in spite of the flattened surroundings. The most celebrated relic in the church is the golden sarcophagus that is said to contain the remains of the Biblical three wise men.

18: In the afternoon, we enjoyed a leisurely cruise on the Rhine river - a place with a highly concentrated population of Medieval castles and wineries. While taking in the amazing views, we enjoyed some of the local wine! The cruise also allowed us to get to know the other two young couples on the tour with us - Chau & Darren and Carl & Whitney.

20: Day 6: Frankfurt, Germany to Engelberg, Switzerland | We had a quick coffee break in Heidelberg, Germany, which allowed us to take pictures of the romantic and picturesque cityscape.

21: We stopped in Strasbourg, which is just within the borders of France, in the Germanic-influenced province of Alsace. We sat down at a French restaurant attended by the locals (promising an authentic experience). We ate from the set 3-course fish menu - salmon pate, daurade (bream - a European fresh water fish) in a tomato sauce with eggplant & caviar, and to finish - vanilla bean ice cream and strawberries.

22: In Engelberg, we stayed in the Hotel Waldegg - which was an upgrade from the hotel usually used by the tour company. Although the hotel was old with outdated furnishings, the view was absolutely stunning.

23: Day 7: Lucerne, Switzerland | Our day started out with a boat cruise on Lake Lucerne. Unfortunately, the mountains were shrouded with a low cloud cover, but we enjoyed seeing the hillside villages around the lake.

24: The Lion Monument commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. Swiss mercenaries, under the employment of King Louis XVI of France, were loyal to the Royal Family even when the French people turned on their monarchy. However, 700 Swiss Guards died protecting the King, Marie-Antoinette, and their children, not realizing that the Royal Family had already fled the palace. | Our day in Switzerland was mostly spent in the town of Lucerne. We first set out to see the Jesuit Church, a church built in the Baroque style of architecture.

25: Located on Lake Lucerne in the heart of the Alps - Lucerne is lovely. Medieval winding streets, cobbled squares and liberally frescoed ancient buildings blend in with the modern buildings, making Lucerne one of the most beautiful cities we visited. Too bad the clouds, mist, and rain prohibited us from seeing much of the surrounding mountains.

26: The most famous bridge in Lucerne is Chapel Bridge, a 204 m (669 ft) long wooden bridge originally built in 1333, although much of it had to be replaced after a fire in 1993. Part way across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower, a fortification from the 13th century.

27: We booked an excursion to go up one of the mountains to see the view. We took a train car halfway up the mountain and a cable car the rest of the way to the top. However, we were extremely disappointed that once we made it to the chalet, visibility was 20 feet at most. We can say that we experienced every sort of weather on our trip because it was sleeting at the top! We made the best of it though - and continued to get to know our new friends.

28: On our way down the mountain, we enjoyed the fields and quaint farmhouses and barns, part of what makes Switzerland so simplistically charming.

29: Day 8: Engelberg, Switzerland to Innsbruck, Austria | We woke up to clear skies and breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains.

31: Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36: 5-7

32: In Liechtenstein, the smallest German-speaking country in the world and the only country to lie entirely within the Alps, we stopped for a cappuccino and apple strudel. Steve bought stamps to add to his collection, and on our way back to the bus, we picked up some tasty strawberries at the local outdoor market.

33: The Cathedral of St. James is an 18th-century Baroque cathedral in Innsbruck, Austria. The church suffered heavy damage in World War II, but was later restored. We found the inside of the cathedral very elaborate.

34: Located in the heart of Innsbuck's Old Town, The Golden Roof was built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the beginning of the 15th century. Made with 2,600 gold-plated copper tiles, it was built for Roman Emperor Maximilian I to serve as a royal box where he could sit in luxury and enjoy tournaments in the square below. | The Triumphal Arch Maria Theresia is modeled after those in Rome. Empress Maria Theresia commissioned it in 1765 to honour the marriage of her son, the Duke of Tuscany, later Emperor Leopold II, to Maria Ludovica from Spain, and to mourn the death of her beloved husband, who died during the celebrations. One side of the arch symbolizes the joyful aspect of the event, the other side the sadness.

36: For dinner, we went to a restaurant that provided traditional Tyrolean cuisine - bland vegetable soup (instead of the bland 'pancake soup'), schnitzel, and strudel for dessert. Afterwards, we were entertained with somewhat stereotypical, although very entertaining, Austrian singers, dancers, and performers!

37: Day 9: Innsbruck to Venice | We left Austria and crossed over the border into Italy. We soon noticed the change in the Alps - they were no longer jagged and snow peaked, but appeared older and worn. We also started to drive past the infamous Italian wineries.

38: Welcome to Venice - one of the highlights of our trip! Upon arriving, we went on a private boat tour. The pictures we've taken only capture a fraction of the beauty of this surreal city!

39: One of the architectural icons of Venice, the Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge to cross the Grand Canal. | For centuries, gondolas were the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice.

41: A quick photo-op with Chau & Darren and Jan & Phil!

42: What trip to Venice would be complete without a ride in a traditional Venetian gondola?!

43: After our gondola ride, we stopped for authentic Italian coffee - an espresso and a cappuccino. We then had our first opportunity to walk around Venice on our own.

44: Day 10: Venice | In 828 AD a group of Venetian merchants were visiting Alexandria, where rested the bones of Mark the Gospel writer. This was the era when relic hunters set out to acquire bits of bone from 'Saints', so the merchants decided to steal the entire body of St. Mark. According to legend, the merchants exhumed Mark's remains and smuggled them out in and amongst pork meat, cleverly understanding that Muslim proscription against even touching pork would help them slip through Muslim inspections. The merchants returned home and the city promptly set about building an appropriately extravagant church to house the remains. The result: St. Mark's Basilica

45: styles have left their mark as well over six centuries of expansion and decoration. The atrium, ceilings, walls, and multiple domes are all encrusted with over 40,000 square feet of gold-backed mosaics. | Built in the 11th century, St. Mark's guiding principle in architecture and decoration is Byzantine, but Romanesque and Gothic

46: The Doge's Palace The Doge's Palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice - the leader of the Republic of Venice. Its principal function was to provide a space for the government to carry out its civic responsibilities to its people. The doge did, in fact, reside in the palace, however, he held no real power and was a representative figurehead for the Republic.

47: The Bridge of Sighs Built in 1602, The Bridge of Sighs is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars.It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. | The bridge's name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

50: With our entire tour group we went to the Island of Burano for dinner. We found the island very charming - it was simpler in architecture than the main island, but very colourful!

52: Day 11: Venice to Rome | Upon arriving in Rome, we did a walking tour with our tour group. The first sight was the Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world. We also participated in the tradition of throwing a coin into the fountain - legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a future return to Rome.

53: From the fountain, we quickly came across the site Sylvia was most excited to see in Rome - the Pantheon. The pictures we took don't even begin to convey how impressive it is. Walking inside, your eye is immediately drawn up to the domed ceiling and the oculus that lights the entire ancient temple. We were also surprised to find out that the temple also houses Raphael's tomb.

54: We finished our walking tour at the Piazza Navona, where we ate the most delicious pizza! Steve and Darren also ordered "birra grande"!

55: After dinner, we enjoyed some gelato while checking out the local artists. The Piazza Navona was built in the 15th century on the former Domitian's stadium, originally built by emperor Domitian in 86 AD, hence the long, oval shape of the square.

56: Day 12: Rome & the Vatican | A Photo Op with our entire Tour Group (starting from left to right) Carl & Whitney, Charles & Betty, Rob & Di, Col & Judy, Phil & Jan, Ray & Connie, Benny & Mala, Lee & NG, Dennis & Susan, Allan & Guylaine, Darren & Chau, Tony & Sue, Steve & Sylvia, Gary & Marlene, Greg & Maureen, and finally the infamous Victor - our tour guide.

57: The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever to be built during the Roman empire. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The outer wall is estimated to have required over 100,000 cubic metres of travertine stone which were set without mortar held together by 300 tons of iron clamps. | However, it has suffered extensive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes.

59: In the afternoon, we headed over to the Vatican. We toured the Papal museums before entering the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling, painted by Michelangelo, is as mesmerizing and fantastic as we expected it to be (unfortunately we were not permitted to take pictures of it).

60: As the end of our guided tour of the Vatican, we visited St. Peter's Basilica, where the apostle Peter is said to be buried beneath the alter. Here we saw Michelangelo's marble sculpture "Pieta" and Bernini's "Throne of St. Peter".

61: Instead of joining our tour group for dinner, we decided to head out on our own. We found ourselves a taxi stand, and took a very bumpy ride back to the Piazza Navona. SInce we had very little free time the night before, we decided to start our own walking tour from there. | We grabbed a bite to eat (unfortunately it wasn't as good as the night before), then leisurely walked around the square. We enjoyed looking at all the local artists, and eventually found a few pieces we decided to buy as souvenirs.

62: From the Piazza Navona, we started to walk in the direction of our hotel with the intention of walking by as many Roman monuments and ruins as possible. This was one of the best nights of our trip - we really enjoyed discovering Rome on our own at our own pace.

63: Day 13: Rome to Sorrento (with an excursion to Capri) | From Rome, we headed to the port in Naples and got on a ferry to Capri, a small island off the Sorrentine Peninsula.

64: We took a private boat cruise partially around the island where we enjoyed different views of the island and the blue water that draws tourists to Capri.

65: The boat took us to the infamous Faraglioni rocks. As the boat passed beneath them, we were told to kiss because legend holds that kissing under the rocks brings a couple good luck and everlasting love.

66: As an added excursion to our tour, we went to Anacapri. The Ancient Greek prefix ana means "up" or "above", signifying that Anacapri is located at a higher elevation on the island than Capri. At the top, we ate at one of the local restaurants, then had some free time to shop and take pictures of the amazing scenery.

67: Late in the afternoon, we took the ferry back to the mainland, docking in Sorrento where we were staying for the night. We took a bus up the narrow switchbacks from the docks to our hotel. We quickly freshened up, wanting to take advantage of a couple hours of free time before dinner by strolling the streets of this gorgeous seaside town.

68: In Sorrento, we started to experience a more authentic side of Italy compared to Venice and Rome. Although the streets were filled with tourists, we enjoyed Sorrento's character and charm.

69: Day 14: Sorrento to Assisi (with a stop in Pompeii)

70: The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman city near modern Naples. Pompeii was destroyed during a catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days in the year AD 79. The eruption buried Pompeii under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1749. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire.

71: Along with daily household items such as pottery and coins, during early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was soon realized that these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so began the technique of | injecting plaster into them to perfectly recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims. What resulted were highly accurate and eerie forms of the doomed Pompeiani who failed to escape, in their last moment of life, with the expression of terror often quite clearly visible.

72: Just before we left the ruins, we stopped to take pictures of the Temple of Apollo. In the distance we could see Vesuvius looming on the horizon, which made the tragedy of Pompeii seem all the more real.

73: We made it to Assisi by mid-afternoon, checked out the Basilica, and then walked the cobblestone streets further into Assisi for some coffee and gelato. | The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of Saint Francis are buried. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters, including Giotto.

74: We soon left the tourist filled streets and fell in love with the rustic quaint streets and alleys.

76: Our hotel, a remodeled nunnery, overlooked the charming and scenic fields of Umbria.

77: Day15: Assisi to Florence

78: In Florence, we decided to head over to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's "David". We had actually turned down the opportunity to visit the gallery with our tour group - but spontaneously decided to check it out. We are so glad we did - "David" is spectacular. The picture to the right is a replica of the original - we were not allowed to take pictures in the gallery.

79: That evening, on our way to our formal dinner with the group, we made a stop at a lookout that gave a panoramic view of Florence.

80: Upon arriving to dinner, we were escorted into a lavishly decorated dining room, which we learned had been the bed chamber of Napoleon's sister.

81: Day 16: Florence, Italy to Nice, France (stops in Pisa & Monaco) | Our first stop was in Pisa. Construction of the "Leaning Tower of Pisa" occurred in three stages across 177 years. The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is actually curved.

82: Monaco is the second smallest country (by size) in the world; only the Vatican City is smaller. Monaco's main source of income is tourism; each year many are attracted to its casinos and pleasant climate. | Late in the afternoon, we stopped in Monaco. Since we don't gamble, we first found a place to buy stamps for Steve's collection, then made our way down to the beach so we could say that we touched the Mediterranean Ocean.

83: Day 17: Nice | Our day in Nice was lovely. Since Sylvia had come down with a cold, we slept in, enjoyed a tasty French breakfast in our hotel, then set out to explore the city on our own. We walked the streets for a few hours, ate crepes and strolled along the boardwalk.

84: On our way to dinner that evening, we drove along the scenic Riviera Corniche Roads, enjoying spectacular views along the most beautiful coast in Europe. The views of the ocean were breathtaking - again, these photos cannot do the scenery justice.

86: At dinner, we enjoyed some fantastic French cuisine. We found out that the restaurant was close to a distillery that made gooseberry moonshine. The shots burned as they went down, but that didn't stop Steve, Darren, and Carl from doing more than a few.

87: Day 18: Nice to Lyon | We stopped in Avignon for lunch - we ate with Carl & Whitney at a restaurant in the main courtyard, and then tried to find a pharmacy to get sinus cold medicine.

88: We finally made it to Lyon and spent a little time walking around the town with the group. That evening, we enjoyed amazing authentic French food and wine at a local restaurant.

89: Day ??: Lyon to Paris | Day 19: Lyon to Paris

90: We arrived at the Palace of Versailles by mid-afternoon. The day originally promised to be warmer, but unfortunately there was a cold breeze, which made for an uncomfortable walk around Versailles' immaculately landscaped gardens.

91: Versailles became the home of the French nobility and the location of the royal court – thus becoming the centre of French government. There were government offices here, as well as the homes of thousands of courtiers. By requiring that nobles of a certain rank and position spend time each year at Versailles, Louis prevented them from developing their own regional power at the expense of his own, and kept them from countering his efforts to centralize the French government in an absolute monarchy. | While walking around Versailles, we couldn't help but keep looking up at the detailed painted ceilings and impressively large chandeliers.

92: As huge as Versailles is, we only were able to see a fraction of it. The gloriously ornate Hall of Mirrors, the bedroom of the king (which seemed more like a stage rather than a bed chamber), and also the bedroom of Marie Antoinette, the last and perhaps the most infamous of French royalty.

93: Our day concluded with an evening boat tour up and down the Seine River in Paris. It was very chilly sitting on the upper deck, but it allowed us to enjoy the architecture of Paris, and catch our first glimpse of many Parisian landmarks, like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.

94: At the end of our boat tour, we were told to keep our eyes on the Eiffel Tower for a 'surprise'. At the top of the hour, after the sun had set, the Tower exploded in sparkling lights for a few minutes. It was magical, and very romantic.

95: Day 20: Paris | We started our day by ascending to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building.

97: In the afternoon, while some in our tour group were touring the Louvre, we took off on our own and headed in the direction of Notre Dame.

98: Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe. Since studying the cathedral in Art class in high school, it was a huge dream for Sylvia to see the cathedral in person.

99: That evening, we dressed up for our last evening together as a group and went for dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge. We even put our own dancing skills to use since there was a live band during dinner.

100: Day 21: Paris | This was our first day in Paris completely on our own. Steve was now sick with a cold, so we had a later start than we originally anticipated. Our goal for the day was to explore the Louvre. We didn't realize until later that the Louvre was the palace of the French royalty before they moved to Versailles.

101: The Louvre has a huge collection of art ranging from Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities to Medieval and Renaissance sculpture and paintings.

102: We were also able to see the infamous 'Mona Lisa' (once we were able to break through the annoying Asian tourists crowding it), the Venus de Milo, and "La Grand Odalisque", just to name a few.

103: On recommendation from Victor, we met Chau and Darren at the top of Montparnasse, a 210-metre (689 ft) tall office skyscraper. It is the tallest skyscraper in France, offering amazing views of the city below. | We had one more day in Paris, where we went to the Musee D'Orsay. That evening, we finished off our trip by checking out a highly rated Parisian vegetarian restaurant. (We didn't take any pictures on our last day, hence the lack of photos!) | We hope you enjoyed our photos!

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