Sunday, June 27, 2010

Auf Weidersehen Deutschland...Howdy Texas Party

On Friday, June 26th, we hosted a going away party at a local restaurant to say "Tschüss" to all of our Frankfurter friends. A number of Shea's coworkers, friends from church, and German friends we have made along the way, came to wish us farewell and that we all intend to see each other again along the way. We hope that is true, as we have greatly enjoyed all of our time and experiences here. We both feel we have learned a great deal about ourselves and a little bit about the world we all share from our years in Deutschland.

Thank you everyone!

Sailing on the Edersee

Shea and I were invited by one of her co-workers for a day on the Edersee. The Edersee is a lake in a nature preserve about a two hour drive from Frankfurt.

We woke up early and met her co-worker and the captain of the ship at the main train station. From there we all drove together to the lake, where we meet the last of the group and boarded the roughly 30-foot sailboat. We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon enjoying the beautiful landscapes of this pristine area, while letting the wind do all the work. We had a nice time "learning the ropes" and taking our turns at the helm.

We really enjoyed our time on the lake and Shea is now planning to purchase an eye patch and parrot.

Agadir, Morocco for Shea's 30th Birthday!

For our last big trip before heading home and to celebrate Shea's graduation from her wild 20's to her super-wild 30's, we stepped over to a new continent for us...Africa. We caught a flight for a 4 nights stay in Agadir, Morocco at a wonderful beach resort. Usually on our trips we race to see as much as possible, but the vibe on this trip was set to lazy. We ate, drank, and sunbathed to our hearts' content.
Each day we would head down to the beach and get a chuckle out of the diverse cultural differences between the Europeans and their choice of bathing attire (or lack thereof) versus the Moroccans and their beach burqas. Neither influence offending the other.
On Monday, for Shea's big day, we made reservations at a Moroccan restaurant to get an authentic taste of their cuisine. They treated us like kings and made it a very special special evening for Shea, with a bottle of champagne, cake, and an interesting version of "Happy Birthday". Each night we would wander down the boardwalk and try to walk off a bit of our overeating. We weren't successful.
After a couple of days of rest, celebration, and relaxation we bid the resort "adieu" and headed home for our last few weeks in Frankfurt.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Shea and I flew over to Edinburgh, Scotland from Friday, May 21st through Monday, May 24th. We arrived around lunchtime and took a bus from the airport to our B&B hotel near the heart of the city. We dropped off our bags and headed back into the city for a 3:00 walking tour that took you along the famous Royal Mile. They told us a lot about the history of Scotland and Edinburgh as they showed us the Edinburgh Castle, Prince's Street gardens, Greyfriars Cemetary and Greyfriars Bobby, William Wallace and the Stone of Destiny, the home of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and of course for you Harry Potter fans the original Hogwarts.
Known for its bad weather, we were treated to nothing but bright sunny skies and warm temperatures throughout the length of our stay. We thought the city was amazing with beautiful views and wonderful old tenements all leading up to the castle seated atop the hill. After the tour, we headed to a local pub to reward ourselves with some traditional Scotland cuisine...haggis, neeps, and tatties. Haggis is sheep, but I will spare you what parts, neeps being turnips, and tatties are mashed potatoes. We had heard that most Scottish cuisine was based on a dare, but we found the food to be delicious.
After filling our stomachs, we headed back to Maggie Dickson's Pub and sat outside and made our first Scottish friends until it was time to head to bed.
On Saturday, we started the day with a traditional Scottish breakfast...blood pudding, beans, egg, hashbrown, ham, and spam (our arteries will remember this trip longer than we will). We then headed to the Edinburgh castle for a tour of the inside. We arrived as the military was on parade with baggers and kilts everywhere. We took the tour of the castle, which took several hours to complete. Then we walked back down to the other end of the Royal Mile to see the Royal Palace and the new modern Scottish Parliament building. From there, we wandered into the "New City", which is the more modern area of town dating back to the Enlightenment period when Edinburgh became known for its writers, poets, artists, and culture. We were rewarded with some amazing views of the city from here.
That evening we had some dinner, then stopped into a pub to watch the end of the European Soccer Championships. We were quickly adopted by some new Scottish best friends, who proceeded to show us all the best pubs on a makeshift pub crawl. After hours of laughing, drinking, dancing, and trading stories, we headed home for bed in preparation for our Highlands tour the following day.
On Sunday, we woke up early and headed into town to catch a bus for a Scottish Highlands tour. The tour guide drove us into and through the Scottish mountains, with breathtaking views of waterfalls, lakes, and mountain summits. Along the way, we were introduced to some shaggy haired Highland cattle and Shea took the opportunity to feed them while doing her best William Wallace impersonation. The tour then drove us North to the famous Loch (Lake) Ness, where we boarded a boat to do some Nessy hunting. Unfortunately, we didn't get a glimpse of the old girl, but we did get to enjoy some natural splendor and a taste of some local whiskeys. The tour went as far North as Iverness, before we headed back to Edinburgh and over the Firth of Forth, finishing a 12 hour mad dash through the middle of the country.
Monday, before the rain started to come in, we caught our flight back to Frankfurt. We had an absolutely wonderful time in Scotland. The people were out-of-their-way friendly and the landscape was historic and beautiful. We would love to get a chance to go back someday and experience it even more.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Luxembourg & Mosel River Trip

Thursday, May 13th, was a holiday here, so we took the long weekend opportunity to rent a car and drive to Luxembourg and through the western wine district of Germany.
Shea tells a story about a map project she did in elementary school and how she always remembered thinking that Luxembourg was soooo small and that it was funny that its capital city and country shared the same name...well, you made it to see with your own two eyes kid.
We drove in our rented Fiat Panda to Luxembourg city and toured around the beautiful city for the afternoon. We then headed over to the WWII American Military cemetery, which is home to over 5 thousand fallen American soldiers including the famous General George S. Patton. From there we headed back into Germany, where we checked into our hotel in Trier...the oldest city in Germany dating back to the Roman era over 2000 years ago. We visited the ancient Roman coliseum, toll gate (Porta Nigra), Constantine Basilica, and the birthplace of Karl Marx...quite a history for this little city.
We headed out in the Panda alongside the Mosel River to drive from Trier to Koblenz, Germany on the Weinstrasse (or Wine Road). The road follows along the river with steep hills/mountains on both sides that are used as the vineyards for the famous Riesling wines. Every several kilometers you enter a small quaint village with not much more than a couple of vineyard B&B's, a few restaurants, a beautiful old church, and a castle just up the river.
Shea and I took our time stopping in several small villages along the way. We hiked up a couple mountains and through the vineyards to visit a few castles to try some wine while taking in the wonderful views. We stopped for the night in a small village called Ernst, where we checked into a small B&B. We were walking through the village when an elderly man peeked his head out of his vineyard barn and invited us in for a taste test of his personal vintage. We sat around his wooden table with another couple from Belgium and listened to his life stories while he poured glass after glass of delicious wine and practiced our German. Before we knew it...we had been there for hours and knew it was time for dinner.
The next day we finished our drive up the Mosel to the city of Koblenz, where the Mosel and Rhine Rivers meet. We then crossed the Rhine and followed it south back toward home while making a few more village stops along the way.
We had a really nice driving trip over the 3 days and got to take in some amazing scenery, castles, and delicious wines. It's a place you feel lucky for having gotten to visit.


To complete our busy April travel schedule we popped over to Prague, Czech Republic, on Friday, April 30th for a three day stay. We had heard amazing things about Prague (being very pretty, relatively inexpensive, great beer, etc.) and were really excited to check it out for ourselves.
Known as the city of a thousand spires, we arrived in Prague late on Friday night and got to bed for our early tour of the Stare Mestro (Old Town) on Saturday morning. The tour started in the old town square at the famous astronomical clock, the Kinsky Palace, The Church of Our Lady before Tyn, and St. Nicholas Church. Our guide did his best to narrate the Prague history associated with this public square and its status amongst medieval Bohemia, the Roman Empire, the Nazi, and the Communists.
From there we headed to the Estates' Theater where Mozart famously premiered Don Giovanni in 1787. The city still takes great pride in that fact, and visitors can still catch shows at several theaters around town. Afterward we visited Wenceslas Square and learned more about the Communist occupation of Prague. From the square you can see the expansive National Museum, where several student protesters martyred themselves in the 1960's against the Communist regime. Today, the Czech's treat these students as national heroes, and their memorials were definitely worth a visit.
Next, we swung by the Powder Tower (old fortification that used to hold all the gun powder) on our way to the Jewish district. Here we stopped to learn about the Czech Jews and their fates during WWII, before heading over to the famous Charles Bridge and a beautiful view of the Prague Castle.
From here Shea and I took the opportunity to walk over the Charles Bridge to the New Town, located at the foot of the Prague Castle. We had some afternoon snacks and enjoyed our first taste of the some local beers. We decided to take another tour for the Castle and New Town on Sunday, so we headed back to the Old Town to inspect some sights more closely. We toured some of the churches and wandered through the quaint streets and learned about a 20 year Independence celebration concert that night. We decided to attend after some local specialties for dinner, which included goulash for me and Shea with some wild game...both of which were really good. We then headed over to the concert and partied with the Prague-ians.
On Sunday, we headed back to the Astronomical Clock tower and watched the centuries old top of the hour trumpeting. We then headed to the top to get a view of the city from up above...and were treated to a spot to take some really great pics.
Next we headed over to our New Town tour where we were shown the world's largest medieval castle that has ruled over Prague since the 9th century. We visited the palace just a few weeks after Barack was here to sign the nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. We went to the Strahov monastery and brewery, where both Shea and I agree we had maybe the best beer ever...too bad that is the only place you can get it. We were shown the "garden of eden", the Black Tower, Mozart's house, and lots of other interesting spots.
From there we headed back to collect our belongings and then headed on to the airport.
We really did enjoy our weekend in Prague and would rate it toward the top of the list of the trips we've taken. The people, the scenery, the history, the food, and the beer (and the prices!) add up to one great trip.

Brussels- Our 5th Anniversary

Mussels in Brussels: check
Belgian Beer: check (with Shea tending bar)
Belgian Chocolate: check
Belgian Waffles: check

For our 5th anniversary, we headed over to Brussels, Belgium. We arrived on Friday, April 9th (our anniversary) and stayed through Sunday night. After checking into the hotel, we headed over for some massages that Shea had set up. We both really enjoyed being pampered and then we headed back to the room to freshen up before walking to a very nice French restaurant for dinner. We celebrated reaching 5 years and talked about all our experiences and then wondered about what the future has in store for us...good times, of that we are sure.
On Saturday, we headed into the heart of Brussels. It is an interesting city, balancing both centuries old history and traditions with the future as the headquarters of the European Union. We started our tour with a visit to the Royal Palace. From there we walked through gardens to the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, which could better be described as an old European shopping mall. After some window shopping, we headed into the Grand Place. The Grand Place is the old main square in town (a portion seen above). On one side is the impressive municipal building and across is the Musee de la Ville de Bruxelles (Museum of Brussels). The square is completed by a grand hotel and across from it centuries old homes with splendidly decorated facades. After taking in its sights, we walked the few blocks to see the well-known water fountain known as Manneken-Pis. It is, as you see above, a toddler doing his thing. Belgian humor.
We then headed into a Belgian Beer Brewers Museum, where we learned about the evolution of Belgian beer making. Of course there is no better way to end a museum tour than with a beer. They teach you how to properly pour a Belgian beer, and of course Shea volunteered to play barkeep after her instruction.
From the museum, we headed over to St. Micheal's Cathedral. We wandered around inside then came out to find a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce calling our names. We answered. Delicious.
Next we headed into another area of town where we found the Belgian war memorial, dedicated to the soldiers killed in WWII. Located just down the street from this monument is the European Union headquarters building with its grand fountains and surrounding Parc de Bruxelles. We walked through the park back to the elegant Royal Palace. We then headed over to the Notre Dame du Sablon chapel and toured around inside. After the visit, we stopped in and bought a box of Belgian chocolates to keep us company for the rest of the evening. Also delicious. Our final tourist stop for the day was the Justice Palace seated atop a hill looking over the city.
After a full day of walking we decided it time to eat some dinner. So, when in Brussels it's time to devour some mussels...and as you can see above we did exactly that.
After a night cap at a Belgian bar sipping on some Belgian beer we headed for Belgian bed.
On Sunday, we woke up, put our bags together, and started back into the city. Along the way while changing trains on the subway, a woman stopped us and told us our backpack was opened...uh,oh. We'd been Belgian burgled. They got away with Shea's wallet when we weren't looking. So, we quickly called and cancelled our credit cards and bank cards, and fortunately (thus far) have had no problems. We did actually get the final laugh though because Shea had exactly 10 cents in her wallet. They probably thought they were getting some rich tourists and haha...10 cents- suckers.
After a couple hours of getting that all cleared up, we toured some other areas of the city we had yet to see. We then headed on to the airport and caught our flight back to Frankfurt.
Even though we had a bit of bad luck on Sunday, overall, we had a great trip and really enjoyed our little Belgian celebration. 5 years long and going strong!
(How many times did I use "Belgian" in the post? First, correct answer gets a Belgian beer on us...)