S: European Adventure 2012
FC: European Adventure 2012
2: Mom, Thank you so much for getting us a camera for Christmas! Every picture in this book was taken with it. Thank you most of all for raising me with the courage to adventure. Happy Birthday! Love, Sarah and Andrew
4: LONDON, ENGLAND
6: Andrew Spent the day walking all over the place. Started off with a ride on the Eye of London, then crossed the river to see Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. We then walked past 10 Downing Street to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Globe. While on the way to St. Paul's Cathedral we took a little detour down a tiny alley that had a parking lot full of BMW's, Audi's, Benzes, and an Aston Martin. We then took a bus to Stratford where we saw the Olympic stadiums, but they have most of the area closed off so we just got pictures from a distance.
7: Sarah Best Yet! We walked all over London today and saw all the icons - Big Ben, House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Globe Theatre, 10 Downing Street, St. Paul's, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square. We also did the incredible Eye, ate lunch in Covent Garden, and saw the Olympic Park. Needless to say, we're exhausted!
8: Hampton Court Palace | Sarah Day 2: Amazing. Let's hope this trend continues! We went to Hampton Court Palace today and had some fish and chips. Andrew Spent day 2 at Hampton Court Palace. It was pretty amazing and was routinely used by the royalty for a couple hundred years as a hunting home, but it sounds like they spent a lot of their time there, especially when the plague was in London. The funniest part of the day was the guy walking around with an American flag over his shoulders making sure everyone in London knew it was America's Independence Day. Also, another guy in Hampton Court Palace (which was full of nice/expensive things) told his young son not to go near the guy with the Hokies hat on (I was wearing my VT hat).
9: Hampton Court Palace
10: SOUTHAMPTON | Sarah Day 4: Turn of Events. We packed and traveled to Southampton, UK for the first half of the day. Good thing because asking England not to rain for more than 3 days was apparently too much! We spent the afternoon in the library investigating the Hampton family history. Turns out, Andrew's ancestors were in several Southampton history books! So, instead of visiting Stonehenge tomorrow, we're going to do some more investigating! We already checked out a church from the 15th century where one relative was buried. So exciting!!! Not to mention it feels very "National Treasure" putting all the pieces together. Can't wait for more adventures tomorrow!!! Day 5: Family Tree. We started the day with a guided tour which turned out to be a private tour because no one else was brave enough to face the rain. It was amazing! Southampton has a very old and rich history with surviving landmarks dating back as far as 1170s. Even cooler, we were able to tie Andrew's ancestors to several of them. We researched more in the library and found extremely unique books like one specifically about an almshouse Andrew's family started in 1250. Then we went to see it/the land it was on. So gratifying after only 2 days here!!!
11: Andrew Today we left London to go to Southampton. The bus was fine and the English countryside looks a lot like rural Virginia; it even seems like Maples are the dominant species. After arriving in Southampton, we had a couple hours to burn before our host picked us up, so we went to the visitor's information center which was located in the library. We found out that there was a section of the library which contained books about ancient Southampton and we were able to find out new information about my ancestors. Probably the coolest thing was that one of them was buried in 1383 in St. Michael's Church which was just down the street! We later walked down to St. Michael's, but we weren't able to see the tomb because they recently built a wooden stage over the area discussed in the book. :( However, the little old lady attending the church did share a couple neat facts. St. Michael's is the oldest building in Southampton. Everything else in town was bombed during World War II except St. Michael's because the pilots for both sides used the steeple as a landmark and didn't want to take it out. She said she thought that was an old wives’ tale until she heard an actual pilot confirm it. We were planning on going to Stonehenge tomorrow, but after finding so much promising material at the library today in our quick time there, we plan on going back tomorrow to do more research and doing a tour of historic Southampton. So today was a ton of fun. We got to Southampton later than we expected, so we went straight to the walking tour. It was supposed to be a group tour, but since it was pouring the rain, it was just the tour guide, Sarah, and me. The best part of the tour was The Southampton Bargate which was the main gate into the city from the 1170s until I think WW2 when German bombings made other openings in the walls. Also, there was a room on the second floor which was built a few decades before my ancestor was Sheriff of this county. The room was used as a courthouse and there were cells in the basement. So today I walked through the same gate and stood in the same room as my ancestors did 700 years ago. The other cool thing we found at the library was a book about "God's House" which has been around since 1250 and was founded by my ancestor Gervase Hampton and his brother. The brothers were merchants and lived there, but when they moved they dedicated it to housing people who don't have homes for themselves. It was used for homeless or pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land ever since. Sarah and I walked by the current building and on the property which is still used for that purpose. We didn't have a ton of time at the library though, so we just looked through the indexes of books we had and took a couple hundred pictures of the pages containing references to my ancestors which we'll need to sort through later.
12: Paris, France
13: Andrew So today was mostly travel. We left Southampton at 9:30 and our train arrived in Paris a little after 5:00. The Eurostar train was extremely fast and at top speed, you'd pass telephone poles around every .75 seconds or less, and you could see the clouds move across the sky with a quickness giving you a strange sense of their size and shape. After we arrived in Paris we checked out the map and decided to walk to where we were staying to see a bit of the city. The first thing I noticed was that there is a *ton* of graffiti all over Paris and even on the walls near the train miles before reaching Paris. The second thing I noticed was how scared Sarah was walking through little India. After reaching the place we're staying, we met our hosts, Peggy and Jeff who are both great. Jeff works with tech startups in Paris and it sounds like we share a lot of common interests. A couple times while talking we would nerd out a bit, something our wives will just need to learn to deal with. After getting the rundown from our hosts, Sarah and I went to a great little cafe that was right on the canal near where we are staying. I had a crepe and Sarah had an omelette, which were both good. Sarah Day 6: Bonjour Paris! We spent most of the day traveling, and we have finally arrived in Paris! Our accommodations here are awesome and I'm really looking forward to the week!
15: Andrew So today was pretty awesome. Sarah and I slept in a bit and then went to a shopping mall our hosts told us about that has a cafe on the roof with an incredible view of Paris. We then made our way to the Madeleine Church which looked like an old Greek temple. I went in the first entrance I saw, but it turned out to be the kitchen for a restaurant that was in the basement. We finally made our way into the sanctuary and it was pretty incredible. We then went to Tuileries Garden. It is across the river from the National Assembly, which I’m guessing is where the French laws are written. Then we walked by the Musee d'Orsay, the Louvre, Sainte Chapelle, and Notre Dame. In the middle of that, we had lunch at a neat little cafe. The cafes are really cool here, but ordering has been a bit difficult because of the language barrier and the norms aren't quite the same. I still need to ask our hosts about whether or not we need to seat ourselves, whether we need to ask for a menu, and if the waiter will eventually come to ask us for our order or if we need to flag them down when we're ready to order. Last but not least was the Eiffel Tower. I was expecting it to be one of those things you have to do, but wouldn't be worth the time or money. I couldn't have been more wrong. First, it was only 21 for both of us to go up to the top. Second, we loved it so much we ended up spending several hours there and watching the sunset from the top. We also waited around to see Paris at night which was also amazing. One other thing I thought was pretty neat was that there were hundreds of people on the lawn next to the tower hanging out, talking, drinking, and playing games. Overall, the feel of Paris seems to be much more social/artsy/laid back/hippie/slacker where London had a very professional/ regal feel. If you've read this far, you deserve a cookie. Go on and get one, I'll wait. Back? OK, prepare for the pictures. | Sarah Day 7: J'adore Paris. It's called the city of love for a reason! We had the most romantic day today exploring Paris! I won't go through every stop, but the highlights were the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. The best so far was Eiffel. We didn't wait in line too long, climbed the many stairs, and took a lift to the top just in time to see the sunset over the city. INCREDIBLE!!! We stayed to watch the night line and ran down the steps as it started flashing at 11:00. We're wiped out and happy. :o) Day 8: Comedy of Errors Ends in a Smile. Well, it's a good thing we did two days worth of touring yesterday, because today was fairly unproductive. We may have been walking in circles, but we were in Paris doing it. :o) We got lost a few times and went on a goose chase for Louvre tickets and got separated on the metro. But all's well that ends well, right? We saw tons of amazing famous paintings and sculptures at Musee D'Orsay by my very favorite artists such as Monet, Degas, and Renoir. The best part was the finale in which we were able to have dinner with Jameson Graber, a high school friend.
16: Sarah Day 9: The Louvre. We got to the Louvre fairly early and still had to wait for 45 minutes, but the wait was actually one of my favorite things so far. If you have to be waiting in a line, the Pyramid entrance to the Louvre is the place to do it! The sun was shining, the fountains were spewing beautiful arcs, I was listening to music, and I was with my favorite person. It doesn't get much better, unless you count being face to face with the Mona Lisa. :o) My other favorites were the Egyptian sarcophagus and the Code of Hammurabi. Turns out seeing famous things from 1700 BC is pretty amazing! Andrew Today we went to the Louvre. The highlights for me were seeing Hammurabi's Code and the Mona Lisa. After taking the picture of Sarah at Hammurabi’s Code, I didn't move for a bit longer to see how long she would hold the pose. It worked until the lady next to me saw what I was doing and then started laughing. However, actually getting near the Mona Lisa was crazy. Everyone was funneled toward it and it just turned into a crowd of about 200 people jammed in tight trying to get near it. We also got to see hundreds of other pieces that were fantastic as well. There's so much to take in, it's overwhelming. You could probably spend an hour or more in each room and there are probably 75-100 rooms. The Louvre is enormous. | L O U V R E
18: Sarah Day 11: God's Handiwork. For the past week and a half, we have toured England and France admiring man's greatest works, and they were amazing. However, today we were able to see one of God's greatest works and it was A LOT more impressive!!!!! The Alps here in southern Germany are simply beyond words. Okay, rewind. We arrived around 9:00 am and then went exploring through the town. If you have a Heidi image in your mind, then multiply that by 25 and you have a beautiful picture of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It's the outdoor enthusiasts’ heaven, or, as I like to call it, Damascus on steroids. We ate some authentic Bratwurst and Schnitzel for lunch and then hiked beside a gorge and up a mountain. This picture was taken after we stopped for a drink overlooking these Alps. Again, words are not enough to tell you how incredible and awe-inspiring this day has been!!! Day 12: World's Best Playground. Originally, we were going to see Neuschwanstein today. That is the castle that many believe Sleeping Beauty to based on. However, last night I found out that two entire sides of the castle are covered in scaffolding! So we decided to take a cable car to one of the highest peaks in this area. I'm so glad we did! It was breathtaking! There were two planks that jutted out over the cliffs with grated floors so you could see hundreds of feet straight below. It was thrilling! The best part was that it rained and then cleared and there was a rainbow BELOW us!!! Then we hiked about an hour and a half down the Alps and took another cable car. To top it all off, I had some authentic sauerkraut and apple strudel for dinner. Yum! | Garmisch-Partenkirchen
19: Andrew We just arrived in Garmisch and our place is sweet. It's now been almost exactly 24 hours since the start of the craziest day of the trip. Time for a shower and maybe a quick nap. After we got settled in here at Garmisch, we dropped by the tourist information office and went to a gorge that was *incredible*. I can't wait to show off the pictures we took. So today was another great day. We originally planned to go see a castle, but late last night Sarah found that two sides of the castle are covered in scaffolding, so we decided to skip it and instead went to the top of a mountain on a cable car. The view was incredible and there was a deck that went over the edge with a grated floor and it was hundreds of feet down. With the high wind and people walking making the whole deck sway slightly, it was an exciting experience! Afterward, we hiked the Alps for an hour and a half to the next cable car. The views were amazing the whole way and I stole a little bit of the alps to bring home. Tomorrow we say goodbye to Garmisch and hello to Vienna!
22: Andrew We got up early this morning to head out of Garmisch and to Vienna. The train ride was thankfully uneventful, but we did get to sit in the nice first class cabins for most of the trip and the train reached over 125 mph. After arriving in Vienna and finding our place, we walked down through the historic district, got a bite to eat, and listened to some awesome street performances. Fun day in Vienna. After we first arrived, I wasn't sure that I would like it here, but Sarah and I both agree that the longer we are in each city, the more we seem to like them. This morning, we got the trains booked for the next two stops (Venice and Bregenz) and booked a walking tour for tomorrow with the company Trip Advisor has rated the highest in Vienna for tours! On the way to the train station, we walked back through the historic district and then what seems to be the main shopping strip in Vienna. Sarah found a little slice of heaven here on earth: a 3 story shoe store named Humanic. Not only that, in the two miles between here and the train station there were 4 of them along with many other small shoe boutiques. And this still seems extremely fishy to me, but right when we were walking through that strip on the way back, one of Sarah's sandals broke. So we *had* to 1) buy a cheap pair of sandals in the store we were next to and 2) buy another pair of shoes in the next Humanic we came across. Luckily I married a good shopper and the cheap pair were 2 euros and the pair from Humanic was Italian leather and were on sale for 15 euros. Our last big stop for the day was the Albertina Museum where we saw the Monet bís Picasso exhibit. I was really hoping bís was German for "versus" but it just means "to". Although that discovery was a little disappointing, it was interesting to see the transition of art from something that makes sense (paintings of people/places/things) to something that doesn't make sense (precursor to modern art, aka paintings of feeling painted entirely in the dark, paintings that are "given meaning precisely because they have no meaning", etc.). After that we stopped by to get Sarah a hot dog from one of the many hot dog kiosks in the area and then we got ice cream from one of the many Italian gelaterias in the the area and then came back to crash. Today we got started with a walking tour of Vienna and it was great! The city has a lot of history and was once the capital of a Germanic kingdom that stretched across most of central and eastern Europe. We also learned that St. Stephen’s Cathedral gets black from the iron in the stone oxidizing and that there are 12 stonemasons permanently on the staff of the church who have scaffolding up on some section of the church at all times and work their way around the church cleaning and repairing it. After the tour we picked up some lunch, did some shopping, and then went to the Belvedere Palace and hung out there for a couple hours. We then decided to come back to the apartment early and rest since we have to get up early for the train tomorrow. Overall, Vienna was really nice. Based on the store counts, I think people from Vienna (or maybe just the tourists) like antiques, Italian gelato, bratwurst, lingerie, and most of all, shoes. | Vienna, Austria
23: Sarah Day 13: Traveling to Vienna. Today was mostly spent traveling first class on a high speed train. We arrived in Vienna around 4:30 and spent the evening walking it's beautiful streets. I must say, though, anything after the Alps is a little lackluster. However, Vienna has a lot to offer as a city rich in the arts. Unfortunately, the national ballet is off season. :o( The best part of the day was listening to street musicians while strolling in the historic district. This picture is of Stephansdom, a famous cathedral where we visited the evening service. Day 14: Time Flies... You know the old adage, "Time flies when you're having fun!" It has certainly proven true! I can't believe it has already been two weeks since we left VA. Today was a blast, too! We (mostly me) shopped in several boutiques and I got a pair of beautiful Italian leather shoes!!! Then we spent hours in the Albertina which is half palace, half art museum. If I didn't get enough Impressionism at Musee d'Orsay, I got my fill today including a very famous Renoir, Degas, and of course, Monet. I amend my list of favorites to include Matisse. And, there was Picasso after Picasso after Picasso spanning his early to late works on various media. Very cool! We topped the day off with a Viennese hot dog from a street vendor and Italian gelato afterward. I could definitely get used to Italian gelato after dinner... Day 15: Touring Vienna. We started out the day with a walking tour of the city. Then, we visited a Pastry Shop that made incredible desserts for eating or admiring. Look at the wedding dress made of cake on my other pictures! Later, we did some more shopping and ended our day by resting and reading in the Belvedere Palace gardens. Excellent day! Venice tomorrow.
25: Venice, Italy
26: Venice | Italy | Andrew Today we left Vienna and arrived in Venice. The train ride was nice and our first few hours in Venice were fantastic. It seems like no matter where you look, you could take a beautiful picture. Today was pretty relaxed. We rode water taxis around for a lot of the day checking out a couple islands nearby Venice known for their linen and glassware. Spent the day exploring Venice. Saw the Piazza San Marco and a bunch of canals. Sarah and I then took a gondola ride that was a lot of fun. Our "driver" was talkative and loved to sing bits of songs off key. One of the other gondola "drivers" told him if he was going to sing, it had to sound good. We also found the work of this neat artist who paints scenes using numbers painted in different shapes and colors to illustrate the scene. Needless to say, Sarah was an instant fan and picked up a book of his work.
27: Sarah Day 16: I ALREADY LOVE VENICE! We traveled most of the day through beautiful country which was a treat in itself. When we arrived in Venice, our host had planned a possible itinerary for each day we will be here. We took his advice for this evening and I'm so glad we did! We viewed the city by water taxi and walking, ate Italian Italian gelato, and had a very romantic dinner beside the canal by candlelight complete with an accordion in the background! Everywhere you look is a perfect place for a picture. Venice gets an early decision 5 stars!!! Day 17: Shopping in Venice. Today we explored three neighboring islands. The first is well-known for glass-blown items. The second's specialty is linens. The third was not very developed and had some nice countryside and history. The best part was that we shopped all day. :o) Every island is picturesque and I'm still loving this stop! Day 18: Gondola. Today we explored the eastern part of Venice which is said to be a truer part of the city since it is more residential and less tourist oriented. We also visited the market section and did a little more shopping. I found an awesome book for my classroom that has pictures from an artist who paints using numbers and math symbols. How neat! The best part of the day was taking a gondola ride. I wouldn't say it was as romantic as candlelight dinner by the canal, but it was very fun and the guy sang to us, however badly. It made us smile and created a great memory! He is a fifth generation gondolier and told us each gondola costs $40,000! He also showed us the houses of Casanova, Marco Polo, and Casino Royale. Off to new adventures tomorrow, but Venice will be missed!
28: Bregenz Austria
29: Sarah Day 19: Bregenz, Austria. Today we mostly travelled again. I really like high speed trains! The views were still incredible as we passed back into the Alps. I think Andrew and I have decided that they are our favorite part of the trip so far. When we arrived in Bregenz, I was struck by how cool the flat is. Our host is an architect and she designed it! Every room has her style. It's very white and airy without feeling blank. She recommended a place for dinner that was excellent as well. I'm becoming very spoiled with this five week date I'm on! Not sure what I'll do when I have to share Andrew with the rest of the world again! (Not to mention his computer or 360...) Day 20: The Opera. Today was mostly a day of rest true to its intention. We explored Bregenz a little and took a walk in the park by Lake Constance. If I'm not mistaken, you can stand in Bregenz (Austria) and see both Germany and Switzerland. At 9:00 pm, we went to the Bregenzer Festspiele to see the opera, Andre Chenier. The set was so elaborate and huge! The picture doesn't do the size justice. Actors were doing flips into the lake from the stage and scaling down the side. It was really neat! The best part was that it started as the sun set over the lake and finished as the stars twinkled above. I joked with Andrew that we had experienced a truly multicultural event since it was an Italian opera about the French Revolution and we were watching it in Austria where they speak German and we couldn't understand any of it because we only speak English! Ha! Day 21: Bregenz and Lindau. Today was such a fun and relaxing day. We slept in and then had lunch at a great little Italian place. By the way, the food in Europe is way better in general. (Not better than Darlene's of course, but what is?) Very little is pre-packaged so most everything is fresh. For example, I ordered take away pasta in the train the other day and the lady actually boiled the noodles and made it right then! It seems that fruits and veggies are cheaper here, too. I digress. After lunch, we took a ten minute train to the island of Lindau, Germany. What a cute town! There are neat old buildings beside beautiful Lake Constance with sailboats and windsurfers. The shopping district was my favorite and had the facade of any adorable Alpine street. When we returned to Bregenz, we checked out the "old town" here. The old city walls and gate were neat and reminded me of our tour in Southampton. We capped off the day in the park where we watched two guys play an intense game of chess with giant pieces (about 3 ft tall) and then played a crazy game of putt putt in which I lost substantially. 5 stars. :-) | Andrew Yesterday was mostly train travel from Venice to Bregenz. After making it here, we just grabbed dinner then crashed. It turns out there doesn't seem to be a ton to do in bregenz, and what things there are to do are closed on Sundays. So today we walked around town for an hour or so, then came back to the apartment and had a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sarah napped and read on and off and I listened to an audiobook while playing a game. This evening though, we went to the opera which was pretty amazing. The only downside was that it was in Italian, so we weren't too sure what was going on. Sarah joked that it was a real multicultural experience since we were in Austria, which speaks German, watching an opera sung in Italian that takes place in France, and we only speak English. Today we explored Bregenz a bit more, an island across the lake in Germany, and wrapped up the day by watching some guys play a game of chess on a giant board and then putt putt. A relaxing day overall which it seems the rest of this trip will have a lot of.
30: Castello Malaspina | di Fosdinovo | ITALY
31: BONDI BEACH is one of Australia's most famous beaches and among the world's most well-known beaches. The beach is roughly a kilometer long and is located on the east coast of Australia and is a suburb of the city of Sydney.
32: To get routed back to our destination, we had to add several train hops to our trip, and there was a switch where we only had 15 minutes to make in Milan that the worker told us would be difficult because of the size of that train station. We were on track and everything was fine again, until our train to Milan left the station 4 minutes late. Over the next 2 hours, at every stop we would hear an update about how late the train was and it increased every time. We finally arrived at Milan 18 minutes late and our connecting train had already left. We then found out that no more trains would be running to our final destination, so we could only get as close as 40 km to where we needed to be and we wouldn't be arriving there until midnight. Luckily, our gracious host said that we should just stay there for the night and he wouldn't charge us. We found a room close to the train station and then made our way to the castle this morning. The castle has been amazing so far. The coolest thing is that we're allowed to go anywhere that's not locked or marked "Privato", so we basically have free reign (ha! See what I did there? Reign, castle, ha!). Also, the lady that works here has been extremely helpful and has treated us like royalty (ha! I did it again!). Here's the view from our window where you can see the Mediterranean Sea. Today was a nice but relaxing day spent lounging around the castle. I was awake from 8:30 on, but I didn't get out of bed until almost noon except to grab breakfast. We then walked through Fosdinovo to find lunch, and then had a very unusual experience I think I have to wait a few days to tell for security reasons (seriously, but remind me in a couple days and I'll tell the story). We then lounged around for the rest of the afternoon until we went out to get dinner. After dinner, we hung out on one of the defensive structures of the castle and watched the sun set. Great day. | Andrew What a crazy day! We got up and started on our journey to Italy in the morning and everything was going well until we had a train switch in Switzerland. Apparently the trains were running late, but but we didn't see anything posted about that anywhere. So when the train pulled up 10 minutes before ours was supposed to depart, we hopped on and found a seat. But when the conductor came by to check our tickets, he informed us that we were on the wrong train. :( We then had a long layover where we decided to grab a bite to eat at the Burger King in the train station. Not knowing the conversion rate between Swiss francs and US dollars, we paid about 30 francs for 2 combo meals. We later found out that due to people moving money out of euros and into francs, the value of the franc recently has spiked meaning the conversion rate was nearly 1:1 leaving us with a fast food meal that was as or more expensive than most of the meals we've had at most restaurants here in Europe.
33: Sarah Day 22: Trouble in Paradise. Yesterday was a total disaster! (Mind you it could have been a lot worse since we are unharmed and not even out much money.) To make a long story short, one wrong train, one late train, one missed connection, one layover in Lucerne, one $30 Burger King stop, one layover in Milan, and four more trains later, we still weren't where we needed to be and unable to get there without a 40 minute taxi ride at midnight. Fortunately, our host kindly told us to get a hotel where we ended and finish the journey the next day without charging us for the night we missed. That thankfully concluded yesterday! Day 23: Simply Paradise. Today has gone much better! We finished our journey and arrived at the incredible castle WHERE WE'RE STAYING! It's so awesome to be here and have access to almost everything. A few rooms are private because the Marquis and his family are here, but everywhere else in the castle and grounds is fair game. We did a self-guided tour and explored the village of Fosdinovo, Italy. We are in the northwest corner of Tuscany and we have a fabulous view of the village extending to the Mediterranean Sea from our window. What a way to spend our five year anniversary in a few days! More pictures of the castle and grounds in the next few days. Day 24: Chilling at the Castle. Today has been very relaxing and a welcome change of pace. We basically just ate, slept, and read. Three of my favorite things! The best part of the day was watching the sunset from a tower. It doesn't get much better than this. :o)
34: Sarah Day 25: Pisa. Today we took a day trip to Pisa. While there's not a lot there except the cathedral, of which the leaning tower is a part, we really enjoyed the visit. The bus ride down from the castle to Sarzana started the day on a high note. Instead of everyone having headphones and quietly minding their own, the riders were talking and laughing and having a great time together. It was marvelous! The only scary part was that the bus driver was just as much a part and didn't always seem to have the greatest attention on the winding roads! After we got to Pisa, we did the obligatory photos, and then explored the cathedral before climbing the tower. Super fun! We relaxed in the castle this afternoon, and we are heading to a contemporary dance production in the Great Hall downstairs now. I can't tell you the coolest part yet, but hopefully I can tell you soon! I'll just say this - staying in a castle is straight awesome!!! | Pisa | Andrew Today Sarah and I got up early and took a day trip down to Pisa to see the leaning tower. It was very neat and we got to climb the 300+ stairs to the top as well as see the massive cathedral next door. After getting back to the castle, we found out there was a contemporary dance performance tonight at the castle. We attended | and it was really weird. I told Sarah the same thing as what I said after we left the opera that was in Italian, I wish they had English subtitles so I knew what was going on.
36: Sarah Day 26: Anniversary. We hung out around the castle for the first half of the day. Then we enjoyed a sunset aperitif that I assumed would be private. Turns out, several people joined our aperitif, but I'm so glad they did! Two were the owners of the castle and their granddaughter and two were two of the most warm people I've ever met. We enjoyed our delicious appetizer and then dinner at a wonderful restaurant. It was a fantastic evening! Hopefully we'll be able to wake up on time tomorrow to head to Barcelona! Oh well if not. It was worth it! I told Andrew it was too bad we peaked at 28 (because what could be better than a 5 week dream vacation?), but he smiled and said that this was just the crescendo to act two. So here's to our five year crescendo and to all the future acts to come! Happy Anniversary to us!!!
37: Sarah Day 27: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles...No, Wait...Just Trains, Trains, and More Trains! Before I start the journal entry, I think it's safe to tell you the secret now. The KING AND QUEEN OF BELGIUM were in the castle! We never actually met them because security was intense, but it was super neat that they were staying a few hundred feet from us! Okay, back to the day. On day 27 we did A LOT of train travel including one sketchy night train with reclining chairs. The great news was that we had a four hour layover in Nice and were able to walk along the beach. Beautiful!!! Actually, most of the train rides had spectacular views as we basically followed the coast through Italy and France. We are still loving our adventure! The bad news - my phone stopped working, the beginnings of homesickness are setting in, and Andrew is getting a cold. :o( I guess we need some troubles to ground us. After all, the return to reality is only a week away! The best part of the day today was passing fields and fields of sunflowers at sunrise. :-) | Andrew Four hour layover in Nice so Sarah and I walked down to the Mediterranean Sea to eat at a cafe overlooking the sea where the Olympics are being played on four tvs in English. Today is a good day.
38: BARCELONA, SPAIN
39: Sarah Day 28: Barcelona. Today we concluded the 30 hour journey from Fosdinovo to Barcelona. Whew! It was a fitting travel time since the last train we took was also #30. Eurail passes for this length of time are the way to go! I have no doubt we have gotten our money's worth. We haven't really seen Barcelona yet, because we came straight to the apartment and Andrew has been sleeping off his cold and the creepy train ever since. Meanwhile, I have completed my nesting routine that accompanies every relocation. It's funny how I've created habits to restore some sense of belonging and normalcy. Our room is a little microcosm of our home in VA. I unpack all my things and hang up certain items and organize my bathroom stuff every time. Andrew lives out of his suitcase as far as clothes are concerned, but his space is marked with multiple tech devices and power cords. Sound familiar? Day 29: Solitary Confinement. Andrew is sick. He has a really bad cold and has been out of bed a combined total of an hour over the past day and a half. While he's been contaminating the bedroom, I've been reading, cooking, and trying not to think of home. Without the distraction of exciting sights or Andrew's company, I've struggled more with homesickness. I went out to grab dinner last night, but being a blatant tourist and lone woman made me feel pretty vulnerable a block off La Ramblas. So, that's why today has felt like solitary confinement. Overall, still not a bad day. There is an awesome terrace at the apartment that has become my little niche, and I have really enjoyed our host's company. The weather has been beautiful but HOT. (No AC in the apartment either.) Andrew says we're going out tomorrow no matter what. We'll see if he's whistling the same tune in the morning. Buenas noches!
40: Sarah Day 30: Barcelona Bonita. True to his word, Andrew was ready to adventure into the city this morning. Thank you to all those who sent prayers his way. They helped! Touring this beautiful city was just what I needed to switch back into adventure traveling mode as well. We started off the day exploring independently and walked past Casa Batllo and Sagrada Familia by Gaudi. Wow, wow, wow! What incredible architecture! Then we took a great walking tour through many cool places from almost 2000 year old sites to the modern harbor. Our guide had a nice mixture of history and humor and the 2 1/2 hours passed very quickly. My favorite part of the tour was learning that the school of architecture, in the midst of some of the best architecture in the world, is housed in a very ugly and bland 1970s high rise. Oh the irony! Overall, Barcelona has exceeded my expectations. I might even go so far as to say it's the prettiest city we've seen, though the merits of all the others make it hard-pressed to be called favorite. After the walking tour, we signed up for a cooking class that will teach us how to make paella tomorrow. I'm very excited! We are back in the apartment now and are planning to make dinner with our hosts. Hooray for properly enjoying Barcelona bonita! | Andrew Back to adventuring today! We walked all around Barcelona today. In the morning we walked by Casa Batllo and Sagrada Familia (if you haven't seen them before, go look up images for them now... I'll wait. .. Back? Ok) This afternoon, we went on a walking tour of the Gothic quarter. It was led by an Aussie, which I was a little concerned about, but he turned out to be a fantastic tour guide. We saw the castle and steps where Christopher Columbus came back to see the King and Queen of Spain after his first trip to the new world, the plaza where they do the human pyramids every year that reach 50+ feet high, where the red light District had been for centuries until it was outlawed last year (yes, last year) which is also where the main art school is where Picasso's father taught and Picasso would hang out in the courtyard in front of the building waiting for him, Roman columns from around 300 AD, Plaza de George Orwell, which is also known as Plaza Trippy by the locals because of what can be bought there after hours, several famous cathedrals, and heard a lot about the history of Barcelona. Great day and Barcelona is a very nice city even though we've heard pickpockets are rampant.
42: Barceloneta Beach | Sarah Day 31: Barceloneta. Early this morning we made our last move of the trip to a place about a block from Barceloneta Beach. The condo is really nice, and I'm looking forward to spending part of our last days on the sand. We spent a little time there today before going to the cooking class. That was a blast and well worth the money! They first took us to the boqueria, a giant fresh market, to buy the ingredients. They had some standard fare, but there were also some surprises like hooves, hearts, congealed blood, kidneys, eyes, stomach lining, and a host of other disgusting looking things. Fortunately none of those were part of the paella! After the market, we learned to make a few tapas, sangria, and the paella. The tapas and sangria were easy, but the paella had about 20 ingredients and a complex cooking strategy, and I'm pretty sure I can't repeat it. I should probably learn to cook American first anyway. :-) I'm looking forward to seeing my first European futbol game tomorrow night! Andrew Today we moved to Barceloneta which is just a few blocks away from where we were staying before, but it's a few hundred feet away from the beach! After getting here Sarah and I rested for a while then went to the beach for a couple hours. There are many palm trees and a large beach right here in town, but yesterday on the tour we learned that the beach is actually man made with the sand coming from Egypt, and that most of the palm trees are from Hawaii. Also, the palm trees weren't purchased from Hawaii, but leased. Since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the city has been leasing the palm trees in five year intervals. Also, the beach gets washed out every winter during the storms, so they go out and dredge the sand out of the ocean and rebuild the beach every spring. Sarah and I then went to the cooking tour/class and learned to make a spanish dish called paella which is similar to jambalaya but not as spicy. We also got tickets for a football (aka soccer) game and made the hour long trip out to the stadium only to realize the game is tomorrow, not tonight. Fun day!
44: Andrew Sarah and I slept in, then hung out on the beach for a couple hours like a proper vacation. We then went to a football (aka soccer) game last night that was great fun even though it wasn't a packed house like I was hoping for. Sarah Day 32: Espanyol!!! Today was all relaxation. We woke up late, went to the beach, chilled in the apt, and then went to watch Espanyol v. Montpellier. Even though the stadium wasn't very crowded, the atmosphere was incredibly fun! They had so many songs, and chants, and claps. And oh my when they scored! It was awesome to be a part of it. European futbol has definitely gotten me geared up for Hokie season. I can't believe we're leaving in a few days. It has been unbelievable! I'm ready to see my friends and family, though. We may have cheered, "Espanyol" tonight, but my heart still beats, "USA, USA!" | ESPANYOL!
45: Sarah Day 33: Sagrada Familia. Breathtaking! That's how I would describe this basilica. It's enormous and thoughtfully ornate. I appreciate Guadi's inclusion of nature and geometry in his architecture. He has a subtle and ingenious way of referencing nature that nods to the Creator. I also love how he employs curves in his designs without resembling bad Art Deco furniture. The result, even unfinished, is stunning!!! I will find a way back to Barcelona when it's complete. I would say that our field trip today earned a top five finish in the favorites section. After Sagrada, I had my last shopping fix of the vacation. Vintage dress? Yes please! For the record, I'm coming back three pairs of shoes happier. :o) | Andrew Today we spent several hours at La Sagrada Familia which was stunning and my favorite cathedral of the trip. We then walked around Barcelona's old town and wrapped up the shopping for the trip. We got a couple last souvenirs, Sarah got a pair of shoes, and I got a new hat that I later realized may get confused with a Boston Red Sox hat with the B on the front. Hopefully that won't be a problem, but oh well. Tomorrow will be our last day before we head back to the States on Monday. This has been an amazing trip which I've enjoyed every bit of. Sarah has been an incredible travel partner and marrying her 5 years ago was literally one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. Seriously. Like top 3 for sure.
46: Andrew And so it ends. Tomorrow we leave at 10am to go back to the States. These past 5 weeks in Europe have some of the best I can remember. I'm glad to know I'll be back with family and friends soon, but I'm sad to see the end of this adventure.
47: Sarah Day 34: The Final Crescendo. Today was the last day of our five week adventure. We chilled on the beach, went out with our host and his friends to a local place, ate at a tapas bar, and did a final stroll through Barceloneta. On the stroll, we were able to peek through a restaurant window and watch a Flamenco dancer! Today was a great way to wrap things up. As homesick as I am, I am grieving the end of sightseeing, travelling, and spending constant time with Andrew. At the beginning, I was worried about being lonely or wanting to kill him. Nothing could be farther from reality! We have spent 34 days in the comfortable companionship that five years of awesome marriage brings. What a blessing! This trip has been everything I hoped for and more. We have enjoyed every second from the London Eye to the Eiffel Tower to the Alps to the canals of Venice to Sagrada Familia. Now we point our compass toward my favorite place of all - home.