Monday, March 9, 2015

...sigh...

We sprang forward on Saturday night, which means we will be seeing more of the sun. I know I need to see more of the sun. Why? Because all that glorious vitamin D helps my mood. While I have never been formally diagnosed, I have talked informally to enough professionals to gather that I probably suffer from SAD. SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder.

It is hard to be a teacher, but it is even harder to be a teacher who is suffering from depression. Every morning is a battle to crawl out of bed, get dressed, attempt to look human, and drive to school. It is so hard to be 100% engaged in my lessons and lesson planning, and it is harder still to get the kids excited about learning when I am feeling so blah. Don't even get me started on grading work. I LOVE my job, and I LOVE being able to be part of my students' lives. I HATE feeling so empty and wanting to crawl in bed constantly. I want to be the best teacher I can for my students, and every day I feel miserable and empty, I feel like I fail them. This, of course, does nothing for me feeling better.

Tomorrow is another day. And you can bet I will have the shades open. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Last day in London

Our last full day in London, we slept in. Mostly because we were sandwiched between two early days. After getting around, we had lunch at the hotel (not impressed) and then got on the Tube for Greenwich, which is on the extreme southeast part of London. There, we walked from the train station through a beautiful park, up a hill, and found ourselves on the Prime Meridian. (Well, the marker for it anyways, we already walked over it a few times). After snapping a few photos of the world clock, we paid to enter the Maritime Museum and get in the queue for the Prime Meridian photo spot. During that time, we made several observations that made us both shake our heads. Many Chinese parents allowed their children to run, climb, and do whatever while they waited in line, and then when the parents got close, all the family members who hadn't waited in line came rushing forward! This made the process of the queue progressing go quite a bit slower. Also, multiple times people just pushed past us, regardless of how much space they actually had. This resulted in us getting pushed into other people a few times. Lastly, there were people who clearly skipped the queue, and snuck up behind the global marker for the Prime Meridian to get a photo. (Which, again, made the queue go slower because no one wants a lurker in their photo!) But we finally made it, got our photos (quickly, because we had plenty of time to plot our moves) and then left.

We got back on the train, then took that back to the Tube. After a few transfers (and a stop to reload our Oyster cards), we made it to Upton Park, which is on the extreme east side. We walked through a dodgy bit of town, past the West Ham Football stadium, and then made a left at The Boleyn (which might be tied for first with The Spread Eagle for London pub names). A short walk from there, we arrived at our Graceland, The Who Shop. For those of you who don't know, Preston and I are huge Doctor Who fans, and even had a nod to the show at our reception. We walked around the shop, and then paid for entrance to the shop's museum. To get into the museum, you have to open the TARDIS, which my husband graciously allowed me to do! It wasn't a very large room, but it was packed full of original items from the show's set(s). AWESOME! We also got to meet the owner, Alexandra,and she was very nice. She and her husband Kevan own the shop. After checking out the museum, we walked back into the shop to check it out some more and find some items to purchase. It is definitely a must see for any Whovian!

Afterwards, we walked back to the Tube, and took the very long ride back to Queensgate. We started to gather things, find receipts for Customs, etc. Preston started the daily upload of photos to Dropbox. After the upload was started, we walked down the block to a café. I had an extremely delicious half roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary, roasted garlic, and a side of white mac-n-cheese. Preston had a cheeseburger and fries, and then ordered some mac-n-cheese when he saw how good mine looked (because I wasn't sharing!) We discussed our favorite parts of the trip, things we need to get squared away quickly upon our return to the states, and how ready we were to be home. We paid our bill, returned to the hotel, and began to pack in earnest. We both bathed, and get ready for a short night's sleep, because our alarm was set for 6AM. (yuck!)

This morning we woke up, got dressed, checked out, and got on the Tube for the last time. Getting through security was quick, and then afterwards we stopped to get a snack, and something to drink. From there, we moved towards our gate, when through one more passport check, and relaxed in the boarding house. When we got on the plane and settled, we had one more champagne toast to a fantastic trip, and then got comfy. The food on board was fantastic; it was a four course meal. It was kicked off with smoked salmon capers, followed by a cucumber, tomato, and feta salad. We both chose a beef tenderloin as our main dish, and I had a fruit and cheese plate for dessert while Preston had ice cream. We both got at least two hours of sleep on the plane, and watched several movies throughout our flight.

Arriving back in the US was quite simple (at least from this international traveling novice's view), we stopped at a kiosk to answer a few questions about what we were bringing back, had our photos snapped by the kiosk (the first one for me looked like I was drunk), stopped and spoke with a CBP agent, and moved on. We stopped at a second inspection location, and breezed through that as we had not checked our packs, and then made our way to the bathroom. After that pit stop, we went through security again, and we are now sitting at our gate, A1, in Boston, waiting to board our flight to Detroit before flying back to Cleveland.

My next post, which I will be writing over the course of the next few days, will be reflections on the trip, as well as observations. Right now, I am just happy to be back in the US!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Terminal A,Boston,United States

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Switzerland Days 4-5 & London (Again) Day 1/5

Yesterday we opted to sleep in and be lazy until about noonish, because we had gotten up early the day before for Zermatt, and if you can't sleep in on your own vacation, you're doing it wrong. So once we had gotten up, we snacked on some cheese and crackers, and just enjoyed being outside with the spectacular view. Once we finally got around to going out, we had two destinations: the post, and the castle. After sending off some items to save room in our packs, we went to Chateau de Chillon, a castle that dates back to 1291. Many famous writers and artists have visited the castle throughout the ages, including Lord Byron, Ernest Hemingway, and Leo Tolstoy. It was really neat to explore the castle, check out some the architecture, and be amazed at the extremely large fireplaces (which I probably took 20000 photos of!). After our exploration, we decided to check out downtown Montreux, and we started with a sports shop. Preston found a Swiss futbol jersey, and I found myself a Netherlands jersey, and then we soldiered on. We walked around for a bit, just taking in the views, and then decided to have dinner (again) at Le Metropole, where we had dinner our first night in Montreux. We ended up having the same server, and she remembered our order from our last visit, and ironically, we ended up eating the same things! (Hey, when it's good, it's good, and you don't mess with it!)

Post dinner, we made our way back to the flat to begin packing, and to have a drink with our wonderful host, Pierre-Andre. We sat outside, watching the sun go down and the stars come out. While there was a little bit of a language barrier, we had an app on my phone to turn to when we couldn't figure out what the other was trying to say. Overall, it was a fun night of gestures, trying to think of how to explain things, and learn from our host (such as once you can find the first 9 stars in the sky, you can make a wish). After we depleted our drinks, we headed to bed, where we both crashed.

This morning we woke up early (7:45am UGH) to finish packing, run the dishwasher, and pack up the car. We said goodbye to Pierre-Andre and his girlfriend (not the same woman from the other night....you go Pierre-Andre!), and made our way to Geneva International Airport. Returning the rental was no problem, and making our way to the airport was no problem either. The security line was a little long, but thankfully we got to the airport in enough time that we had time to grab a bite to eat after we got through. After a short time, we made our way to the gate, and played a few games on my ipad (download the red herring game, it's a lot of fun and challenges your noggin!) After we boarded, I fell asleep pretty quickly, but I think Preston was awake the entire time. We were served cheese sandwiches on fresh bread (yum!), a beverage, and Swiss chocolate. Tasty all around. The flight lasted about and hour and fifteen minutes, and we had to circle around Heathrow once. But we landed. After getting through customs, we had to track down our packs (which we had checked in Geneva), and then on to the Tube! After a bit of a delay, we made the 45ish minute journey back into the Center of London, and it turns out, our hotel is right next door to a Tube stop. Perfect!

After checking in, we came upstairs to our room to just relax for a little bit. When we finally mustered up the energy to go out, we headed to St. John's Wood first, because that stop will take you to Abbey Road and Abbey Road Studios. We did not do the cross imitation, because it was rush hour and we refused to hold up traffic. But, we did get pictures, and we did check out all the graffiti on the wall in front of the record company. We found a few scrawlings that had lines from "In My Life" which made me happy; that's the song my dad and I danced to at the wedding a few weeks ago. After Abbey Road, we headed back to the Tube for King's Cross St. Pancras stop, for it was time to get my Harry Potter nerd on. We wondered for a bit, and then found a gaggle of people, mostly small children. A very polite security guard pointed us to a waiting area outside of the station (can't have a mass of people standing around an area, it IS a train station after al!). We ended up being surrounded by small children, which made Preston chuckle about why I insisted on being in the line. After a little more than an hour, we finally made it close to the end of the queue! For our turn, I donned a Ravenclaw scarf, and Preston, a Hufflepuff scarf was originally desired (sigh) but then he said that he could not be caught wearing blue and gold (he had a blue polo on) so he grabbed a Slytherin scarf. We had fun taking a few photos, and then headed over to the shop to check them out and make a purchase. I also found a few postcards, so I was very happy.

After King's Cross, it was time to head on down to Piccadilly Circus, because Preston wanted to stop at LillyWhites. We stopped in, and he found an England jersey to replace his old one, and I found a Liverpool jersey (I blame my sister Aly and her husband Chris for that purchase LOL). From there, we decided to search out some dinner. After a bit of walking, and asking if the kitchen was still open (which was a negative on some fronts), we settled on a place called Garfunkel's. Preston had bangers and mash, and I had cottage pie. It was fantastic (wish I could say the same for the service) and I would eat there again. During dinner, Preston suggested we take the bus back to the hotel instead of the Tube. So we did. It was fun to see London all lit up at night (especially Piccadilly Circus! so many lights!)

On the bus, we rode on the top tier, until it was a few stops before ours. Having never rode the bus, we wanted to make sure we could exit properly. We ended up asking a nice-looking gentleman, and it turns out he's a half-American (dad is from Texas)! He was extremely friendly, as well as helpful, and he wished us a pleasant trip in London. I ended up taking a shower, and Preston is currently passed out. Tomorrow is the last full day of our honeymoon. I know we are both ready to be home, but traveling has been such an amazing experience for us both at the same time.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:London,United Kingdom

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Switzerland Days 1-3

When we departed Munich, we left knowing it would be one of the last train rides we would be taking this trip. A total of about 6.5 hours traveling, and for the first/last time, a transfer. We left Munich and arrived in Stuttgart about 2.5 hours later. And for the record, Germany looks A LOT like Ohio/Pennsylvania (so shocking that many people from the area are of German decent). Our "layover" in Stuttgart was little more than an hour, so during that time Preston and I grabbed some lunch (sandwich for him, vegetarian sushi for me). Our train to Zurich was HOT. In fact, in search of a bistro train (there wasn't one) resulted in me learning that our car was the only one without air conditioning, and the window that Preston had opened before we departed was SHUT (WHAT THE HELL??!?) by the people in that seat. I might add that the window only opened about 3-4 inches at the top, so it's not like it was causing a serious disruption to anyone's hair.

Anyways, we arrived at Zurich's main train station, and after visiting the tourist info center, we headed to the platform that would take us to Zurich Airport (flughafen in German). I bet you're probably wondering why we would take a train to Zurich just to go to the airport....well, that's because we rented a car to travel throughout Switzerland. Preston in particular was looking forward to driving a car (any car really, besides mine) in Switzerland. After navigating the airport and finding the Hertz counter, Preston was informed that the Ford Focus we reserved was not available, so we were receiving a BMW instead. (Yeah, we were REALLY upset about that....) We found our car, ooohhhhed and ahhhhhed, and then plugged in the info into the navi for our hotel. Thankfully, our hotel was close to the airport, because by that point we were both tired of sitting!

We got checked into our room, and upon check in, we were informed that the fireworks sound we had heard on the way in was, in fact, fireworks. August 1st is the celebration of the formation of the country of Switzerland, and many people around the area were shooting off fireworks. And that many people would be out and about the city, so finding a place to eat would be difficult (but not impossible). After dropping our bags off in our room, Preston and I decided to have dinner at the hotel's restaurant, which ended up being an excellent choice. Our waiter, Christoph, was very engaging, and made sure we were happy with our wine selection, as well as our entire meal. Preston ended up having a Swiss burger on a brioche bun and french fries. He said it was tasty, and it definitely looked that way! I had a beef steak, cooked to perfection, with steamed veggies (yum!) and creamed potatoes, and they were to die for. To accompany our dinner, were the fireworks being set off all around the area, which we could watch from the wall of large windows. We decided to finish our dinner with creme brûlée, which also came with a berry sorbet. Both were amazingly delicious, and we both agreed that the meal at the Hilton was one of the best of our trip. After dinner, we cashed in our two free drinks at the bar voucher; I had a cosmopolitan and Preston had a Jack and coke. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that will be seared into my mind for quite some time.

Yesterday, we got around, checked out of the hotel, and headed south from Zurich toward Lake Geneva and a small Swiss mountain village that is one of Preston's favorite place in the entire world - Champéry. The drive was about 2.5 hours, and the views were stunning (when I wasn't taking a nap, that is!) and just gorgeous. We made our way up the side of the mountain, twisting and turning, and discovering that many drivers see the middle of the road a great place to drive. When we exited the car, it was chilly, so we grabbed our long sleeved shirts out of the car, and then just walked about for a little bit. Preston showed me the places he has stayed in the past, and we made our way down to the tram that would take us up to the top. This is where I got nervous, because I absolutely HATE heights. But, I told myself that if I could conquer the Eiffel Tower, I could go up a mountain! Well, I did okay, but had a rough time when I looked down, but made it all the way up! When we disembarked, we let the mud-covered mountain bikers zoom past us, and then slowly started to absorb the absolutely gorgeous view. It was definitely worth the freakout on the tram! It was absolutely amazing, and the French border was so close! It was neat to see so many people out and enjoying the outdoors. Plus, everyone we encountered was friendly, saying "bonjuor" or, in the case of the bikers coming down the hill, "merci!" for moving out of their way! At one point in our walking, we heard the tinkling of bells, and as we walked towards it, discovered a group of cows in a meadow! They were so sweet, just chewing away at the grass, not a care in the world. We definitely got plenty of pictures, and I made the joke the we didn't entirely miss the Medina County Fair (my home county's fair) this week. After a joy-filled visit with the cows, I felt that I had enough courage to ride back down (ah yes, we had to come down at some point....) and return to our car. The ride down wasn't as bad, but we also moved at a faster clip than we did when we went up the mountain. Before we made it back to our car, we stopped at one of the springs in the village that has fresh water pouring through it, and filled up our water bottles. The water was AMAZING! Probably some of the best I have ever had, and I can't bring it home. Sadness. Guess that just means Preston and I will have to make a return visit.

When we arrived at our house, we were greeted by the man who lives in the upstairs portion of the house (our rental is a walk-out basement apartment with fantastic views). His name is Pierre-Andre. And while there was definitely a language barrier, we got along quite well. He welcomed us to eat and drink anything we could find, and even gave me a fresh cut rose from his well-tended garden! Right below our patio is a vinyard, and he has told us that he makes wine out of the grapes in his backyard. He invited us to check out the views from his apartment (even better than ours, believe it or not) and then proceeded to let us know if we needed anything to just "ring bell, and say Pierre-Andre!" which made both Preston and I laugh. After getting settled, we decided to traipse on down to the riverfront with the intent of finding dinner at some point. After walking around the Montreux riverfront for a bit, we settled on an outdoor cafe overlooking the lake for dinner. Preston had a chicken and lemon sauce dish, and I settled on a beef dish with more steamed veggies. For dessert, we split some lime sorbet. The meal was fantastic, but it had nothing on the dinner we had the night before at the Hilton in Zurich! While we were waiting for our food, we happened to spot Pierre-Andre and a beautiful woman walking the riverfront. The woman (quite possibly his significant other?) helped facilitate a conversation for the four of us (her English was a little bit better than Pierre-Andre's), and gave us some recommendations to see while in Switzerland. When we returned from dinner, we started some laundry, goofed around on the internet for a little bit, discussed an alarm time for the following morning, and then passed out.

This morning we woke up around 8, and Preston got up before I did. We checked the weather, and were little bummed that it was supposed to rain and be cloudy almost all day. Our destination today was Zermatt, the small village that would get us to locations to view the Matterhorn. We made the hour and a half drive to Täsch, which included some very interesting curves along the way, ome nasty looks from the Italians in the van who decided to ride our tail, and an extremely long tunnel that would rival the ones on I-71 in Virginia. After finding a parking spot and purchasing our tickets, we then took the train to Zermatt. This is because there are no vehicles allowed in the village. The train ride was about 20-25 minutes, and afforded some spectacular views. One of my favorite parts is viewing the little silver veins that run down the sides of the mountain, because these are fresh water springs, and since it is the summer melt, they are at points, gushing waterfalls. So be prepared for a ton of pictures of the mountains, because I was in charge of the camera today.

After getting off the train, we made a stop into a store that Preston knew, and started to look at Swiss Army knives. After careful deliberation, I made my decision known to the girl behind the counter. She was sad to inform me that they were all out of my selection, as a large group of tourists were in the village over the weekend, and their supplies had not been replenished. So, I settled on my second choice, and had my knife engraved with my name. I was then told by the clerk that in order to let the ink settle into the engraving, that I needed to let the knife sit for a day in the case. Ah! Oh well, it will be worth it. We continued on to a few other shops, and thankfully, we stopped a picked up heavier jackets. (Comparable to North Face jackets, but not; mine feels and looks more like a sweater, and I am VERY happy with my toasty jacket!) We then stopped into a bistro for something to nibble on, because we did not want to head up the mountain on an empty stomach. We shared a meat and cheese platter (tasty!) and Preston had a beer, and I had a glass of wine. We thanked our German-speaking server (who probably thought I was an idiot because I wanted to see the entire wine list just to discover it was only in German and French) and made our way to the a cog train station for a ride up another mountain for what we hoped would be some spectacular views. We purchased our tickets (for both the ride up AND down, it is very important to specify!) and only had to wait a few moments before it was time to leave. Preston handed me the camera, and I made sure to sit next to the window. The climb was extremely steep in some spots, and in others, the hairpin turns seemed nearly impossible. But after about half an hour, we were at the top, destination Gornergrat. While it was still very cloudy at the top, we were rewarded with some amazing views of the glaciers that sit on top of the mountains as well. We climbed to the very top (10,210ish feet above sea level, for those who are curious) and just sat down to take it all in. There were some moments where the clouds drifted by, and we were sitting the clouds! It was very cool (and literally very cool, only around 50 degrees Fahrenheit at best). After a few more photos of our own, we stopped to love on a lazy St. Bernard, whom we learned was named Lucky. Local photographers will bring the dogs to fantastic vantage points for group photos with the Matterhorn in the background - well, when the clouds cooperate that is! Back to Lucky, however - he was a giant teddy bear of a dog and weighed about 170 lbs, which is more than me! After some coaxing by his handler, Dizzy, we were able to get a few photos with Lucky (even with the cloudy views, the photos turned out great). We had a brief conversation with Dizzy, who told us it had snowed about 20 cm on the mountain that morning (!), loved on Lucky some more, and then decided to make the train ride back down.

When we arrived back in Zermatt, we stopped to pick up and pay for our photos, as well as a few postcards (my main choice of souvenir on this trip). After that, we stopped at a chocolatier for a few tasty snacks. Preston let me do most of the picking, which I think was a smart decision on his part. By that point, it began to rain, so we decided to head back to Täsch and then to Montreux. On the way back, we stopped to pick up some pasta, sauce, cheese, and drinks for dinner tonight and snacks for tomorrow. After making dinner, Preston and I threw our jackets back on to watch the sun go down over the lake and behind the mountains. It is definitely a view I am trying to soak up at much as possible, because tomorrow is our last full day. We are planning on staying in Montreux tomorrow, and just relax before we make our way back to London and then on home.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Location:Châbles Planchamp Dessus,Montreux,Switzerland

Friday, August 1, 2014

Munich Day 3 & Travel Day to Zurich

Yesterday in Munich was fantastic. We decided to follow a walking tour on TripAdvisor that covered the highlights of Munich. We stopped at a church, a historic arch (Karlsplatz I think), another church, climbed the tower of St. Peter's (which had fantastic views!) and then ate lunch at a local marketplace. Along the lines somewhere we stopped at a futbol shop as well to check out their wares, and I ended up getting a CCCP throwback jersey. At the market we both had bratwurst, but Preston had kraut (EW!) and I had fried potatoes (yum!) I also picked up a few postcards while we were at the market. Oh! And I picked up a carton of red raspberries before we had our lunch, so they were a nice end to our meal.

After the market, we made our way to the Hofbrauhaus, which can seat up to 1300 people! It is the oldest brewery in Bavaria, and it was so much fun! We ended up talking to a local, Stephan, and it all started with cracking a joke about another local who could not hold his beer. I mean, this other guy was singing, and trying to entice all passersby to sit at his table. And every time someone sat down, we had a good laugh! Stephan was such a regular at the brauhaus that he kept his stein in a locker (this is a very big deal, as the Hofbrauhaus is a somewhat touristic spot, so to be a local is very cool). He told us that he was a historian for the Bavarian state, and he also explained other fun things to us. He kept on apologizing for his English 'being not so good' but we could both understand him perfectly. We also were joined by a mother and daughter team, who were celebrating the mother (Lilly)'s 80-somethingth birthday! So, of course, we shouted "Prost!" and drank to Lilly. Shortly after that, we were joined by an Australian couple, Brooke and Jake, and they were quite fun as well. Without blinking, we spent nearly 3.5 hours at the brauhaus!

At one point in the tablewide conversation, Jake and Brooke invited us to join them for dinner. We stated that we had not gone to see the Munich surfers yet, so they said they would hold down the fort until we returned. So Preston and I departed the brauhaus, and headed north to see the Munich surfers. There is a point in the river where there is a permanent wave, and many locals take to surfing there. It really was a lot of fun to watch them! I don't know if I would be brave enough to tackle a river wave, but there was even a young boy there on the wave.

After sometime of watching the surfers, we decided to head back to the brauhaus, and we were hoping the Jake and Brooke were still there! It turned out, they were, and then the four of us headed to the S-bahn. After a few crazy moments where the boys were trying to figure out the map, we finally ended up at the right platform. We took a couple of stops and ended up back at the main train station in Munich. From there, we caught a bus for a few stops, and ended up at another brauhaus. Preston had pork knuckle (both Brooke and Jake raved about this dish) and I had a cheese spread. It was a fantastic time, and we exchanged information in case the either couple ever decides to make a journey. Preston and I caught a bus back to the train station, and then from there, walked back to our flat. Overall, it was a great day.

This morning, we woke up at leisurely pace, as our train did not leave until around 11:40 am. We got up, packed, I did a few dishes, and sent our host, Sebastian, a quick thank you message. We returned the key to the hotel where we had picked it up, and then walked back to the station. A late breakfast for the two of us consisted of croissants and apple juice, and I picked up some macaroons for the train ride. When it was time, we found our seats, settled in, and took the 2.5 hour trip to Stutgart. There we had a little more than an hour to kill, so we grabbed something to eat, and took our time, just hanging out. The train ride to Zurich was uncomfortable, as it ended up we were in the only non-air conditioned car. The windows that could be opened were not, and the employee who finally wheeled out the trolley zipped right pass us. (I was in some desperate need for some water!!!)

We arrived in Zurich, and after asking a few questions, purchased tram tickets for the airport. Here in Switzerland, we are renting a car. After arriving at the airport and a few moments of "where are we?" we found the rental counter, and everything was smooth sailing. Preston and I had originally selected a Ford Focus for our rental, but when we arrived at the counter, we were told they did not have any Focuses, and we were given a BMW hatchback! After we finally figured out how to start the car (it's got one of those remote thingys, and is an energy efficient car, so it does not roar like the Jeep does) we were on our way to the hotel! We got checked in, and then FaceTimed my sister Charlie, because today (the 1st) is her 18th birthday. We got to talk to her for a few minutes, and that was nice. Afterwards, we headed downstairs for some dinner. The meal was FANTASTIC! Preston had a Swiss burger with potato wedges, and I had a steak with steamed veggies and creamed potatoes. We also split a fantastic dessert of creme brûlée and berry sorbet. The food was fantastic, our server was amazing, and the view was stunning. To top it all of, the 1st of August is also the "birthday" of Switzerland, so many people were shooting off fireworks, and we got to see many of those fireworks from our dinner table. We stopped off at the bar for our free drinks (Preston receives a voucher upon checkin for being a Hilton rewards member) and then finally retired to our room. I took a quick shower and Preston caught up on the news.

It is hard to think that we will be flying home in a week, and then all the crainess of life will happen. Until then, I plan on enjoying Switzerland!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Location:Hohenbühlstrasse,Opfikon,Switzerland

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Munich Days 1&2

The train ride from Berlin to Munich was about 6.5 hours. During that time, we slept, played Bejeweled, and in my case, I read Game of Thrones. Sadly, we will see no more high speed trains on this trip, and let me say, they are sorely missed! We did not receive a meal on this trip, but I had run to the grocery the day before to pick up a few snacks to tide us over on the train. Even so, we arrived in Munich around 4:45pm with stomachs ready for a true meal.

We made the short walk to a hotel near our flat to get our key (left in an envelope by our host, Sebastian, for 'Herr Preston') and then rode the elevator up to the 6th floor "penthouse." Let me say, as far as European standards go, this flat is definitely a penthouse! It is the most spacious place we have stayed in to date. When you walk in, there is a bedroom to your immediate left, then a bathroom with a large tub and washing machine. If you walk straight in from the door, you'd end up in a galley style kitchen, where the dryer resides. (Never in my life did I think I would be that excited to see a clothes dryer!). To the immediate right of the front door is the living room that has a large picnic style table, a sofa, love seat, coffee table, and TV. There is a great balcony that you can access from the living room as well, that overlooks the street.

After exploring all the rooms, we decided to go around the block to a local eatery called Dan & Dean. The restaurant is about eating fresh, sustainable foods. I had a chicken paprika sandwich, and Preston got a HUGE chicken salad. I then went back and got a berry cheesecake snack :) The restaurant also had a wine bar, which was one of those machines where you can pick your wine like it's a soda fountain. After dinner, we stopped at the Penny store (think a Dollar Store equivalent) for some Coca-Cola and beer. When we got back to the flat, we decided to lay low. I took a bath (hey, it was a big bath tub!) and Preston continued his job search/goofed around online. Preston eventually passed out on a couch, and after getting him to get up and go to bed, we both turned in for the night.

This morning we awoke to a cloudy day, and it was slightly chilly. (As I write this, it is almost 11:30 pm, and it's about 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and the high today was about 67. I know it has been cold and chilly back home as well, and right now in Lodi, Ohio it is 71) So we got up and going, Googled directions for today, and then headed back to the main train station. This is where you, dear reader, is probably like "Wait, you just got to Munich! Why are you leaving?" Well, that is because today we traveled to the nearby location of Dachau, the town where the first concentration camp within the German borders is located. No, concentration camps are usually not a top destination for honeymooners. However, Preston and I are both history nerds, and being this close and NOT going would have been the worse decision, believe it or not. Preston had already been to Dachau twice, when he was traveling with the Ohio Band Ambassadors program, so he knew what to expect. So we made the twenty minute ride on the S-Bahn, and then the approximately 30 minute walk from the train station in Dachau to the camp site. (The official title of the location is The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, but I will be referring to it as the camp).

The closer we got to the camp, the bigger the knot in my stomach grew. As a historian and bibliophile, I have read countless books on WWII and the Nazi concentration camp system. Hell, I've shown "Shindler's List" in my classroom. But walking on the grounds where the history actually HAPPENED, just made me go "woah." Walking through the gate with the door proclaiming "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work sets you free") gave me goosebumps (and the knot in my stomach grew). The roll-call area was so massive, it took my breath away. It was so big, it almost seemed endless. The first thing we did was check out a few of the memorials that have since been installed on the camp site. One included ashes of the Nazi victims, which was something I did not expect. We continued our walk towards the outer reaches of the camp, and observed the barriers that were designed not only to contain the prisoners, but to harass as well. Many chose to walk into these areas, where the punishment was death, instead of continuing their lives as prisoners. We then entered a reconstructed barrack, (there were only two reconstructed barracks on the entire ground, but the stone outlines of the other 30 were just as mind-boggling). These barracks were just as you've seen in books; cramped, harsh, and impersonal. The barracks were designed for holding 200 persons each, but as the Nazis began to retreat, many prisoners were sent on death marches to the Dachau camp, so many buildings had 2,000 people stuffed in each one! Preston and I then walked the main road towards the back of the camp, where a market garden, hutches for rabbit breeding (the fur was used to line officer uniforms), and later on, a disinfection building all once stood. The area is outlined in large, dark, square stones. Today, there are several memorials in this area, including two working churches and a convent.

After checking out the memorials, the churches, and taking a quick peek inside the convent, we made our way to the crematorium. This did not exist inside the camp proper, but just outside of the barbed wire fences. The original crematorium was about the size of a small barn, and took about 11,000 souls. This building soon was not serving the needs of the Nazis, and was quickly replaced by a larger building that had the "showers" in which prisoners were killed by Zyklon-B and then cremated. Some prisoners were hung from beams right in front of the incinerators. There were at least 32,000 deaths recorded at Dachau, but based on other camps, we know that there were many more that were not recorded (for instance, when prisoners were not processed into the camp, but taken directly to the "showers"). Behind the crematorium, there were a few graves of ashes that have been discovered, and are now properly marked. The marker that shook me up the most was the execution wall (that still showed bullet holes) that included a blood ditch.....like what the FUCK? (Sorry, but that is what came to mind when I saw that). So many people were being killed that you needed a ditch to collect the blood that could no longer be absorbed into the ground? Beside this was a (now) marked mass grave were thousands were laid to rest. The last thing we saw on this small path was a stack of large slabs with a marker that indicated a large cache of ashes has been discovered.The wooded area that surrounds all of this is so serene and peaceful, that this contrast made me sick more than anything else I experienced.

Leaving the crematorium area, we stopped to look into a small Russian Orthodox chapel that has been erected in 1995 in remembrance of the Soviet prisoners (most of whom were killed at the above mentioned execution wall) that were murdered at the Dachau camp. From there, we moved on to the museum proper, which served as a maintenance building where the kitchen, clothing store, workshops, and baths were located. This was the first building prisoners were stop at to be processed into the camps. The displays within were great, included many original artifacts from the time of the Nazi camp, and did a great job of explaining details without covering up or sugarcoating items. Afterwards, we exited the maintenance building to the back, were we observed another execution wall and bunker where "special" prisoners such as George Elder (another man who attempted to assassinate Hitler) were kept, and also acted as the camp's prison were serious acts of punishment, such as whippings and pole hangings, were carried out.

Overall, this was an experience I would do again if I were in the same situation. As a historian, I think it's important to honor our past by remembering and learning from it. I ended up getting pictures of many of them, with the goal to someday use them in my classroom or share them with other history teachers. On a side note, I also think that being behind the lens allowed me to remain subjective while in such an emotionally charged location. (It also helped that I have done quite a bit of research on the Soviet GULAG system for Dr. Baranowski's class during my time at UA, so I may be slightly desensitized to mass numbers to murders....)

After our 3.5 hours in the camp, we began our walk back towards the train station, while also on the lookout for food. Along the way, we stopped so that I could take pictures of the markers along the Path of Remembrance (Dachau camp prisoners also labored in the town, so residents were aware of their presence). Preston spotted a grill truck, and so we stopped there. We had schnitzel sandwiches and some of the best German potato salad I think I've ever had. (If you know and see my Aunt Jan, PLEASE don't tell her I said that!) While we were eating, it began to rain, so we waited it out for a little bit, and after it lightened up, we donned our rain jackets and continued on our way. We made it to the station, and after Preston checked the screen, we made our way to the platform, waited a few minutes, and then got back on the S-Bahn. We arrived at the Munich main station about 20 minutes later, picked up some chocolate croissants (we had some for breakfast and wanted some for tomorrow) and then decided to wait, again, for the rain to lighten up. After about 10 minutes, we tucked the croissants in Preston's front jacket pocket, and soldiered on. Our walk back to the flat took about 10 minutes, and when we arrived, I popped across the street for some juice and then we came back "home" to get out of our wet clothes and relax. I ended up falling asleep on the couch (blame Preston he covered me up and made me cozy) and woke up around 9pm. Neither of us were very hungry, so dinner was a slightly soggy chocolate croissant and some juice. We have been just hanging out, letting the rain fall. Around 11, I decided to get some laundry done, and we finally got the German washer figured out. So, after a few stops to deal with the dryer, get out the drying rack, lay out my clothes, and take a few emotional breaks, I begin to wrap this post up. It's currently about 12:40am, and there is someone having a party. The house music is loud, and you can occasionally hear people too. Whoever it is, I hope they're having a good time, and hopefully I can fall back asleep.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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Location:Sandstraße,Munich,Germany

Monday, July 28, 2014

Berlin Day 3

I write this as Preston does the dishes (we have this agreement, I cook, he does the dishes). We had tortellini with an alfredo sauce tonight for dinner, along with the bubbly Isabella left for us. Today was a great day, and it all started out with being quite lazy. We had completed the "we must see this list" of things to do yesterday, so this morning was spent looking at other things to fill our day. I looked to make reservations for dinner in the Sphere restaurant at the top of TV Tower (booked, but open tomorrow), so that was out. Then I found a few memorials to check out. So we got up, got dressed, and got moving.

We headed out towards the Brandenburg Gate (which, in case you're wondering, is neighbors with the US Embassy) and turned left after we crossed through the gate. Preston pointed out that the wall ran through where the street now is, so that was pretty neat. We crossed one more street, and found ourselves at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was a large area, slightly hilly, and full of slabs of stone at differing heights. Apparently, this is on purpose, to create an uneasy, tense feeling. As a person who is passionate about history, it upset me that so many people were lounging on the slabs, as if they were designed for comfort! After taking several photos, and discovering that the information center was closed on Mondays, we crossed the street into former West Berlin. There was a memorial for the homosexuals that Germany persecuted during the Nazi's height of power. The memorial itself was boxed shaped, but there was a small cut out hole. When you peered in, there was a film playing.

We continued on through Tiergarden, which was lovely, further west. Crossing a few streets, we came upon Stauffenbergstrasse. As in Carl von Stauffenberg, the man who was the lynchpin in Operation Valkyrie-an attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. The German Resistance Memorial is the courtyard where von Stauffenberg and the rest of the conspirators of the coup were executed just before midnight on the 20th. There is a free (yay!) museum in the building that makes up part of the courtyard, and within this building is where von Stauffenberg's office was located. The museum itself is laid out pretty nicely, and does a great job laying out the many people who resisted Hitler and the rest of the Nazi Party.

From there, Preston and I headed back east, towards our flat. We decided to make dinner this evening, and needed to make sure we got to the grocery near our place before the madhouse hit (like it did in Paris). Along the way however, we stopped in front of an apartment complex's parking lot. The parking lot stood where the Führerbunker once was. It was a surreal experience, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in that apartment complex knowing that your parking lot was once Hitler's bunker....

So we soldiered on, back to the flat. On the way back, I needed to restock some of my travel necessities, and thanks to Google, discovered a Lush Cosmetics store about 5 minutes from our flat. (I'm slightly obsessed with this store, it's all natural made products that are good for you and the environment. I've been using their solid soaps for our trip; expect a more detailed blogpost on what I've loved and learned on this trip) Anyways, I found a wonderful employee there who not only spoke English, but was originally from the southeastern part of England, and was a very cool dude. He helped me find what I needed, including replacements for products Lush no longer carried, and offered a tin swap so my newly purchased products would travel easier. (This meant Preston graciously went back to our flat to get said tin for me to swap, what a great husband). The employee and I chatted about all things Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and AirBNB related while Preston was en route. When Preston returned, we chatted for a few more minutes, and before leaving, the guy tossed in a few free full product samples. So sad we never got his name, but he was AWESOME.

We then stopped at the grocery for dinner implements before returning to our apartment. We both took showers (have I mentioned how much I've sweated over here? I'm curious to see how much I weigh when we return to the States) and then I made dinner. After dinner, we both agreed that some snacks for the train ride tomorrow would be better than paying for food in the bistro car, so I popped back downstairs and around the apartment. Before stopping in the grocery though, I stopped in the clothing boutique beside the store. They were having a sale, and had several skirts I had looked at earlier. (I packed nothing but pants, and a skirt is something I would pack if we ever come back to Europe) I ended up purchasing a skirt and tank, and then went to the grocery. When I returned, Preston commented that it took me quite awhile for snacks, and then laughed when I showed him what took me so long.

We spent the evening relaxing, packing, and looking at houses on Zillow (because if we are going to be spending a ton of money on rent, might as well put it into a house where we get something back if we ever decide to move). Tomorrow we head off to Munich, and after 3 more days in Germany, it's off to Switzerland! I'm off to read more Game of Thrones until I pass out. Cheers!

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Location:Rochstraße,Berlin,Germany

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Berlin Days 1 & 2

Our train ride from Amsterdam included all sorts of weather: rain, sun, clouds. However, lunch was not included on this six hour journey, so after we entered Germany around 11:30 I found myself walking to the bistro car for something to nosh on. I had penne and tomato sauce, and considering it was microwave food, it wasn't too bad. We made several stops along the way, and the countryside about an hour out from Berlin looks creepily similar to northeast Ohio. It made me a little homesick, but in a good way. When we finally arrived at the Berlin Central Station, we found tons of unhelpful people (information desk, woman at the ticket counter for the S-bahn, employee for the S-bahn on the platform).....we finally figured out that our train that we purchased tickets for to get to the flat would be about an hour's wait. Because we had our host's husband waiting for us at the flat, we just decided to make the 1.5 mile hike. Normally, walking a mile and a half is no big deal, but when you're weighed down by a pack, it can be daunting. But we walked along the river, and eventually made it. Hans, Isabella's husband, met us at our 16th floor flat, and warmly greeted us. We were also greeted with two adorable pictures made by Hans & Isabella's two daughters to wish us a happy honeymoon. (I've posted a picture of it on Facebook if you want to check it out). Hans & Isabella also graciously purchased us a bottle of bubbly to celebrate as well.

As has become our custom on traveling days, we took a few hours to relax after arriving. After we refreshed ourselves, we decided to go on the prowl for some food. We found a market area right across from our flat, and settled on a place called BBQ Kitchen. It was FANTASTIC. I had a quarter of duck with a semi-sweet BBQ sauce, and some young Yukon potatoes cooked in butter (sigh) and herbs. Preston had half a chicken with a smoke sauce and french fries. It was a delicious meal (I would totally eat there again!) and eating outside on the regular is something I could totally see us doing when we get back home. During dinner, we both admitted to being slightly homesick, but it has not taken away from our enjoyment of the trip. Mostly we are exhausted from the moving around, but we both knew that's what we would be doing when we planned this trip! Also during dinner, we were between two restaurants that had live music going, which created quite a cacophony at times!

This morning we just relaxed in bed, catching up with the news (both globally and back home) as well as social media. We both commented that it looked like our Brothers and Sisters of KKPsi and TBS had a wonderful time in Stillwater this past weekend. After getting ourselves together, I insisted we had something to eat before doing our sightseeing for the day. We stopped at a place called Palm Beach Café, but don't be confused into thinking it was a beach inspired menu. It was mostly burgers, pizza, and pasta. But the decor was beachy, and that's (I guess?) what counted. I had spaghetti with meat sauce, and Preston had a crunchy chicken sandwich and fries. After we paid our bill, we proceeded to the DDR (East Germany) Museum. It was probably one of the most interactive museums I've been to. The problem though was there were a ton of people there, and when you're short, you can't always see. But the museum was great; there were entire rooms reassembled as if it were a flat of the average DDR citizen. All the little details were great, which meant I was always lagging behind Preston, because I was trying to read everything.

After the DDR Museum, we decided to walk down to the Brandenburg Gate. Much like Mt. Rushmore, the Brandenburg Gate is bigger in your mind's eye. But that did not take away from the enjoyment of seeing it in person! We took photos from both sides, and then decided to find somewhere with cold drinks and a bathroom. That place ended up being Dunkin Donuts. We ordered our drinks, and it was after we were done with our transaction that I discovered it was 70 cents Euro to use the bathroom! There was a woman there attending the restrooms, and it was not until she said you could go in that you could go. It was an experience that's for sure.

We then decided to make the hike to Checkpoint Charlie, and on the way, walked past several embassies (Great Britain, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria if I remember correctly). We also passed some parts of the wall that are now art installations in the city, which was pretty neat to see. When we arrived at the checkpoint, we saw a sign informing us we were entering into the American sector, as well as a place where passports used to be inspected. We had our picture taken with guys dressed up like American GI's (hey, it's all part of the experience, right?) Then we went to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, and I am glad we paid the extra 2 Euros for photography permission. The museum was a bit cramped as far as placards goes, but that is because everything was in four languages (German, French, English & Russian). There were some neat ways to see how people escaped, including two suit cases carried side by side to carry out individual people, and forged US and Soviet uniforms for easy movement across the sectors.

By the end of the museum, we were ready to head back to the flat. Our feet were sore, we were extremely sweaty, and starting to get hungry. All the grocery stores we passed on the way back were closed, but thankfully a café and bakery was open on the block next to our flat. We picked up some sandwiches and sodas, and returned to our home for the evening. We took showers, I did some laundry, and I am pretty sure that at different times in the 6-7 o'clock hours, we both passed out. I woke up around 8:30, and turned on the Indians game (we love our MLB.TV subscription!) and have just been relaxing. We both are hurting as far as our feet go, and my knees today swelled up pretty badly. But live and let live. We have one more full day in Berlin tomorrow, so I can't wait to see what we do next!

Now that I know the Indians won (10-3 against the Royals) and I have wrapped up the last two days, it is time for bed. Gute Nacht aus Berlin!

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Location:Rochstraße,Berlin,Germany

Friday, July 25, 2014

Amsterdam Day 3

Today was our last day in Amsterdam, and tomorrow morning we will be departing for Berlin. It's crazy to think that this adventure is halfway over, but it has been a blast!

Today we made the ten minute walk from our flat to the Anne Frank Huis, and decided no matter how long the queue, to stick it out. Thankfully, the weather was much cooler today, which made standing outside for around an hour and a half much easier. At one point, it even rained lightly. We also got to chat with our queue neighbors, an American who currently lives in Germany and who was visiting his mom in Amsterdam, two Irish girls on holiday, and another American from the Rochester (New York) area. If you're going to be stuck in a queue for awhile, you might as well make friends! The New Yorker told us about the tilting of the houses in Amsterdam; before the supports were truly supportive, houses used to lean, and also the Dutch are very conservative people, so they continued to tilt their houses in order for the rain water to wash right off and therefore less money on paint would be wasted. Definitely something I want to look more into, because the architecture around the city is absolutely stunning.

The Anne Frank Huis itself I found to be surreal. Here is the place that I have read about the countless times I read the famous diary. When we passed through the secret doorway, I got goosebumps. This was the same place that eight people hid, and several people risked their lives to hide those eight people. The rooms were very tiny, and surprisingly, left unfurnished (a wish of Otto Frank's) which I felt helped you understand how very cramped their living quarters were. After the Annex proper, there were several examples of Anne's writing, as well as the original deportation roster that lists the Frank family. Needless to say, after our visit to the Anne Frank Huis, we were both in a subdued mood.

We stopped to have lunch at a place on a little side street called The Original California Burrito. They weren't quite Chipolte, but Preston was craving a taste of the states. The food was delicious, and the staff were extremely friendly. If you're in Amsterdam, look the place up.

After lunch, we trekked to the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum). It was a great place, and we spent about 2 hours there. Mostly because I like toa read the placards that go along with the displays. Thankfully I married a patient man who knows I like to take my time in a museum! It was not until we came to Amsterdam that I realized just how severe the Nazis were with their stripping of bikes from Dutch Jews. Bikes are everywhere here in Amsterdam, and to take those away would be extremely detrimental to a large portion of the population. The one thing I truly enjoyed about the museum was it address the issue that many had to face during the rise of Nazism: collaborate, tolerate, or resist? Many articles displayed in the museum did a nice job of discussing one or more of these options. There was also a temporary exhibit on the Dutch children of the Holocaust. Many of the children that kept diaries during their time in camps specific for children, and some had very interesting outlooks, as well as physical mementos from the time period.

After the museum, we decided to come back to the flat and just lay low for a bit. It was a rainy day, and both of us were hurting from walking. I eventually took a small nap on the couch, and at one point Preston went up the street for the grocery store for some Coke. He came back soaked to the core, as it had apparently rained while I napped! We just relaxed, had dinner of cheese and this mozzarella bread, which I think is called foccina or something like that.
We finally made an effort to look presentable, and went out for a few drinks. A corner bar near one of the main streets that leads to the Red Light District is where we found our spot. It was a perfect people watching spot. Preston did make an observation after several close run-ins of people, bikers, scooters, and cars that it's a miracle we haven't seen any wrecks. It is almost an instinct to those on bikes especially to be ready to brake or change direction at a moment's notice. Like I said, it was good people watching. After a few drinks, we returned to our flat to finish up some laundry, and pack up our things. Our train for Berlin leaves at 9 in the morning, so I am going to wrap this up and hit the hay!


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Location:Spuistraat,Amsterdam,The Netherlands

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Amsterdam Days 1&2

I've come to recognize a pattern in our travel: on our travel days, we will find our flat, possibly run out to the local grocery for some snacks and sodas, and take a nap. So that, of course, is what we did upon our arrival to Amsterdam.

Our second (and last) high-speed train was Paris to Amsterdam. We awoke Wednesday morning in Paris, trekked our way to the Metro, fought rush-hour traffic on the Metro, and then finally made it to Gare de Nord (the train station). We got there early (didn't and/or need a repeat of London!) and hung out in a cozy little corner. I spent most of my time agonizing and getting angry over some of my favorite characters dying in Game of Thrones.

The train ride was fine, and I was happy to have a seat that reclined. Two interesting things happened while we were on the train. 1) An (obviously) American couple were not ticketed passengers, and were told they could ride all the way to Amsterdam and pay the penalty fare of 400 Euros or get off at the next station and ride a train back to Paris. That could argued with the train manager because they thought they were on the Metro that they shouldn't have to pay. UGH, people, be heads up, ask questions, and don't be an asshole to the train manager! Sorry to be harsh, but it's the truth. 2) When offered lunch service, we had the option of codfish (no thanks) or chicory. I had heard the attendant explain what it was to the seats ahead of us, and she looked a little relieved that she didn't have to explain it again so quickly. So that was my selection, and then I hear Preston say "I'll have the same." What is chicory, you ask? It's a caramelized onion cake. And it looks just like it sounds. That onion cake is then placed on a veggie-cookie type thing. Our meal also came with a soft boiled egg, green beans, a small tomato, and rice. There was also this extremely spiced cauliflower and raisin side, but it was too spicy for either of our palates. So that was an adventure!

When we arrived in Amsterdam, it was a neat experience. The central train station opens up on a canal, and there are so many ships there! Oh and bikes, there are BIKES FOR DAYS in Amsterdam. After accepting a map from a group of information people at the front of the station, we were off to find our apartment! We watched several people almost get destroyed by a cyclist, which was slightly amusing. At our flat, we were met not by our host Christopher, but a friend of his, Angelo. Angelo showed us around the place, apologized for towels still running in the dryer, and also pointed out some major attractions on the map on the counter.

So while I got my laundry started (ever tried to run a Dutch washing machine? Nope? Okay, well it's a trip!), Preston ran to the grocery. When he returned, he informed me that the store next to us was a gay sex shop. Our first "welcome to Amsterdam" moment! Shortly after he came back, I laid down on the hardwood floor in the living room. I wanted to try and get some yoga poses in that would help my back. Soon, I was lightly sleeping, and finally Preston convinced me that I would probably be more comfortable on the bed. Well, it didn't take long to convince me! We both ended up taking naps that afternoon, and did not get around to going out until about 8pm.

When we assembled ourselves well enough to leave the apartment, we just decided to go walk and check out the neighborhood. The intent to eat was also there, as Preston had just picked up some snacky items at the grocery. Opening our front door, we looked across the street and noticed that we were looking into one of the infamous red windows, and that we were living across from the very outskirts of the Red Light District! We walked with the first intent of finding an ATM (for dinner, not engaging in debauchery!), and when we got to the closest one, there was mass of people, wearing mostly white, and many carrying white balloons all walking in one direction. At one point, we had considered following the group, but we eventually decided against it. However, we saw that group again in a few blocks walk, because they were assembling in Dam Square, which Preston and I needed to walk past in order to find some food. The gathering ended up being a memorial walk for the Dutch victims of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 that had crashed last week in eastern Ukraine. We quickly moved on, as to not be gawking tourists over the gathering. We walked around the District for a few minutes (at one point we walked by a little alley way, and it was lit up with all sorts of red lights-Preston called it the "Diagon Alley for sex and weed" LOL), and then began to look for a place to eat. For those of you who may not know, but there are different types of establishments in Amsterdam. Cafés and restaurants serve food and possibly beer, bars will serve alcohol and possibly food, coffeeshops are where people can purchase cannibis, and a koffie huis is where you can purchase coffee. Talk about confusing! We finally settled on an Argentinain steak house, and had some fantastic food and drink there. We actually shut the place down! We then walked back home, and quickly went to bed. Well, I did at least. Preston did his laundry (we didn't have much space to hang things to dry in Paris, and we knew we were going to have a washer and dryer here in Amsterdam).

This morning, we had a glorious lie-in. I didn't wake up until about 10, but snoozed off and on until about 11:30. Preston and I decided to walk over to the Anne Frank Huis, because it's only a few blocks from our flat. The queue was extremely long, and the wait was nearly two hours. So we decided to go back tomorrow, and try to wake up early. We had passed a pancake place on the way to the Anne Frank Huis, and retraced our steps to the Pancake Bakery (pancakes are kinda a big deal in Amsterdam-we even saw a boat tour that included all you can eat pancakes during the 75 minute tour!) So glad we stopped, it was totally delicious. Preston had a pancake with vanilla ice cream, strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings. I had a pancake with ham, pineapple, bacon, and cheese. Those things were HUGE! Preston ate all of his, and I had about 2/3 of mine. Extremely tasty but filling! After our meal, we stopped in at the free Cheese Museum of Amsterdam. It was a cheese shop specializing in gouda *sigh* on the first floor, and the basement was a museum focusing on how to make cheese and about the family who runs the shop. Oh man, all that cheese. And they ship internationally too....

After existing my personal heaven, we spotted a sign for canal tours and thought "why not?" We paid 30 Euros for two tickets for a 75 minute tour, and walked around the corner for the canal boat to swing by. Let me say, I am so glad we did that tour. It was neat to see Amsterdam via the canals. I took tons of pictures too! When we sadly had to leave the boat (our captain was a funny guy) we headed to the grocery to pick up some items for dinner. On the way, we spotted a store called "Football Temple" and I know my sister Aly and brother-in-law Chris would have died and gone to heaven! We popped in, and drooled over all the orange colored gear for The Netherlands national team. At the grocery we picked up some dinner items, and then headed home.

We spent some time just hanging out and relaxing. I think we both really needed some down time, especially because we were constantly on the go in London and Paris. After awhile, I started dinner (Yukon gold potatoes, green beans, and corn on the cob) and tried to get our wifi to work earlier. We turned to the news while eating dinner, because there have been several international incidents we have been staying current on in regards to our travels. After dinner, we decided to head back over to the Red Light District to truly take a look at what all the fuss is about. We sat down by the canals for awhile and just watched the boats go by, we walked by some more of the red windows, and got a chuckle out a few of the names of places, such as "Banana Club." It was fun to look around, but we definitely did not want to get caught up in partaking of anything! (Side note, don't get your camera out while in the District; apparently some of the girls will harass you and/or chase you down!)

Overall, I am liking Amsterdam over Paris. People are more laid back here, but just as friendly as (most) of the Parisians we interacted with. Can't wait to see what all day 3 has to offer us!!


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Location:Spuistraat,Amsterdam,The Netherlands