Monday, November 18, 2013

North Sea

Time and tenacity have gotten away from me.  Past due on a post and most of all pictures.  It is always the pictures that hold me up!  I've been putting off going through the hundreds we snapped on a two week cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Lines Star around the North Sea that we took the end of September *hurts to admit how long I've been procrastinating*....

This was my first cruise experience and I must admit that I never really thought they were my cup of tea - turns out I was right - however, it was a great way to see some many places that I otherwise probably never would have had the opportunity because of travel logistics, money, time, etc.

The seas were great, the cruise staff very wonderful, the sights amazing and our toddler AWFUL!  For whatever reason Hannah did not eat or sleep well at all, which resulted in me feeling like a zombie.  Many of the young children on the ship were having similar issues.  She was a trooper when we really needed her to be and I am grateful for that much.

So we visited......
Bergen, Ålesund and Oslo Norway; Lerwick, Shetland Islands; Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; Reykjavík, Iceland; Helsingborg, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark.

Never in my life did I think that I'd ever get to see all these places.  I'd really like to return to Denmark and Norway.  All the ports were beautiful and interesting in their own regards.  

Bergen, Norway

Norwegian Wooden Scuplture

Top of the funicular

Bergen Fish Market

Alesund, Norway

Alesund, Norway (monstrosity of a ship to the left)

Canal, Alesund

Fisherman Statue, Alesund

Lerwick, Shetland Islands

Walk to the The Knab, Lerwick

The Knab, Lerwick

Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Torshavn Harbor

Leaving Torshavn 

Cliffs & Clouds

Final Cliffs leaving Faroe Islands

Reykjavik, Iceland

Gullfoss, Iceland

Viking Museum; Oslo, Norway

Sculpture outside Viking Museum

Geyser, Iceland

Volcanic Crater Lake, Iceland

Sculpture in Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, Oslo

Oslo Harbor 
Helsingborg, Sweden
Copenhagen, Denmark

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Search of Water

As I've said before, one of the most difficult facts about living in Frankfurt is the lack of a big clean beautiful body of water specifically Lake Michigan.  So last week we found ourselves two weeks deprived of the lake, checking the weekend weather forecast and booking a hotel near the North Sea.

Finally we narrowed it down to Belgium or The Netherlands, but the reviews of places in the Netherlands won our interest. We finally decided on Vlissingen, Zeeland very near Belgium and not too long of a drive....4 1/2 hours for two nights and one full day by the water - some might think we are crazy, but the added feel of a time crunch to see as much as possible in Europe trumps staying home regardless of the weather.

There is something magical about being by water.  Fresh delicious fish and Belgian beer were other factors in determining our destination.  The friendliness of the Dutch that we've experienced in the past is always a welcomed change.  Everyone speaks English which makes a vacation that much more relaxing and after all that isn't that the point.

Hannah loved playing at the beach which provided endless entertainment if only the weather could have been a little better.  The afternoon was great.  Luckily, she didn't want to play in the water which seemed to have a thriving jellyfish population.

Vlissingen is lovely little seaport.  The people are friendly and we found a great little hotel.  We ate delicious food.  Walked all over the little town and along the beach.  Perfect little weekend getaway.

Thanks for reading :)
Be Well!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Home and Back Again

Nearly two weeks have past since my feet last touched the shores of Lake Michigan and the gypsy life has been rolled up stowed away for another year.  Six weeks of vacation back home has me filled up with all that I miss so much; family, friends, the lake, Mexican food and the confidence that comes with being in your comfort zone of all that is familiar.

After weeks of traveling back and forth between South Haven and Traverse City, visiting with as many loved ones as possible, a wedding, a 60th birthday celebration for my awesome Dad, canoe trip, two great concerts and generally eating too much our life is throttled back to a slower gear here in Frankfurt.  We've returned to a predictable routine anyway - sprinkled with what are starting to become regular tantrums - Hello Toddlerhood!

As hard as it is to say good-bye (and only continues to get more difficult as Hannah grows) it is nice to return once again to our own space.  Living out of a suitcase can be a drag.  Our scenario has its ups and downs, but I must admit that watching my baby point to the phone and say "More!" after talking to my parents or pointing to the computer after Skyping with Nana & Bumpa and saying "Bumpa, more" is a bit heartbreaking.  At least she is learning and talking!

Life is back to park and playground hopping, bike rides, playgroups, trip planning and watching Hannah discover her world.  Her latest "new thing" is mocking us as we walk up six flights of stairs carrying her, as we start breathing heavy she starts blowing air out imitating her out of breath parents - I guess if we can't laugh at that we are really in for it, eh!  She also wants to go up and down the stairs by herself....  Generally, we don't have to be anywhere at a certain time which is good because 84 stairs for 17 month old can be time consuming.  Not to mention every landing has something new to marvel at even on the third pass of the day.

Lilly pad pond at the Palmengarten
The parks are awesome here in Germany.  I hope to go around and take pictures of all and post them.  We have tons of options as far as playgrounds and parks go.

There are also several Floh Markts (flea markets) coming up soon.  My two favorites are the KinderKram in Günthersburg Park on August 24 from 10am-4pm and the Mother's Corner Bazaar September 14 from 11am-1pm at the Bürgerhaus Kirdorf, Stedter Weg 40, 61350 Bad Homburg-Kirdorf.  

We look forward to visitors and trips and all that this next year holds for us.  Still greatly enjoying the adventures of being an expat in Europe and life as parents navigating toddlerhood.  


Monday, June 3, 2013

Lake Constance - The Bodensee

Recently, over a long weekend we decided to travel to Lake Constance, on the Germany Switzerland border called the Bodensee or inland sea.  The pictures that we had seen beforehand had us eager to visit.  We wanted to travel somewhere with nicer weather as the Spring has been dreadful in Frankfurt, but for a long weekend being in the car for more than four hours seemed too much so we gambled on Lake Constance.

Hannah started walking the day before so she was less than keen on being contained in the car, but we made it there with relatively little protest.  Of course, I feel like I am always packing up all of our belongings to go anywhere with "Mom's bag of tricks" which consists of anything that might hold her attention for a few moments.  Bubbles are magic and I learned that from my dear mother-in-law who seems to always have a small bottle of wedding bubbles no matter where she is in the world....Clever!

Sweet hair!
I must interject a bit of praise to the Europeans and their commitment to alternative energy sources.  Germany has more solar panels than I imagined for such a grey landscape, but they are everywhere.  I applaud the efforts and wish Americans would get on board.

Solar barns, houses, and buildings.  
And then there is my favorite Springtime panorama....Mustard fields!  The picture (from a moving car with my phone) does not do justice.  The field are all over and the most incredible color of bright yellow.  As much as I wanted to stop to get a picture, we didn't.  Hopefully next Spring.
Mustard Fields
After about four hours of travel we arrived in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance.  The sun was shining, the cafes on the promenade were filling up, the beer was tasty and the views spectacular.  A whole afternoon could easily be passed people watching and enjoying the local culinary and brewery flavors that is if you don't have a restless toddler eager to move in every direction.

Water, boats and mountains.
On Sunday morning it rained, but we went down to see sailboat races in Langenargen.  Then we headed to the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen which was the same plan as everyone in the town it seemed.  After lunch the sun began to shine and we walked all over the little town and along the lake to the Duke's estate.

Water, boats and mountains....Life doesn't get much better than that and we could have stayed there a long time.

Tasty Zeppelin Beer

View from the Viewpoint Tower

Lake Constance 

The Duke's Palace - at least what can be seen through the gate

Sailboat & Rainbow

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Greece Pictures

Cool as a cucumber!

Greek Memorial - this one is outside of a church, but they were everywhere along the roadside.  
A bit like crosses in the USA.  

This one had interesting tile work.

There are so many pictures that I wish I would have taken.....Lesson learned!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Greece - Sun & Water

Ten days relaxing in Greece resulted in a serious vacation hangover!  Now we are back at it - the daily grind in Frankfurt; learning to walk, coaxing out words ("Mom!") and daily food fights not to mention getting a lot of use out of our new bicycle and loving it.

But, Greece, WOW!  Definitely a place that beckons one to take pause, rest, relax and enjoy the simple things in life.  And to be in awe of the natural world.  On so many of our excursions thus far we are running around, cramming in sites and soaking up history so this trip to Greece was very welcomed for the slow pace, fresh food and expert insider guides (we traveled with friends and stayed with their family).

Hard to believe that we were in Athens after only a three hour flight - pinch me!  From there we headed to Sounio where we stayed at a very chic resort, Cape Sounio Grecotel, my first time at a place of this kind.  Luckily it is not high tourism season so the rates were reasonable.  These are not the places we normally stay, but they sure are conducive to relaxation.

View from our hotel room.

Waiting for sunset at the ruins.
 The resort offered a grand view of the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, which were breathtaking to see up close and in person.  It is not everyday that one can stand so close to ancient history.  And at sunset, well, there are no words, but I did feel enchanted and at peace.

Fresh food.  I must admit that I didn't know what to expect, whether I would like the food or not was a big question for me leading up to our departure.  Everyone was quoting "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when John Corbett's character is offered lamb because he is a vegetarian.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the very fresh and local food.
Ruins of the Temple of Poseidon

The ruins and a lone olive tree.


Good night to the beautiful sun.  

After three nights in Sounio we headed to Volos to our friend's parents home.  The family was wonderful and welcoming and great cooks too.  They had a great little plot of land on the mountain side city where they grew so many things.  I found myself wandering around admiring their gardens, studying the hens in the chicken coop and pining for my own plot of land and little farm.

We visited several little beaches and towns during our stay in Volos.  Everywhere we went the water was insanely blue, the food was fresh and delicious and the views were unreal.  Speaking of food...I was adventurous, so adventurous I surprised myself, but when in know.  Well when in Greece, I tried (and liked) octopus, mussels and the rice served with them was the best thing ever and we ate a ton of fresh fish.  I know, I said I was a vegetarian - technically if you like labels I think you'd call me an ovo-lacto Pescetarian.  I ate fresh and local and that is what is important to me.  But octopus!!!  Still surprised by that leap into the culinary unknown.  

Road trip!

One day we drove over Mount Pilion - a healthy verdant ecosystem - to the Aegean Sea side in a small village called Agios Ioannis (I still can not pronounce this correctly).  We spent time at the beach and eating at a little seaside Tabepna (pronounced Taverna, yes like a tavern).  The food was quite possibly the best of all the restaurants we ate at the whole trip.  Simply blissful!
Bridge to paradise....maybe

Agios Ioannis on the Aegean Sea.  Beach.  Love it.  
We did find that relaxing at the beach and sun bathing are quite impossible with a toddler especially one who likes to eat rocks!

Taste testing the rocks of Agios Ioannis.

We spent an afternoon walking around the isolated mountain town of Makrinitsa.  Locals call this special village "The Balcony of Volos" because of the spectacular views over Volos.
View from Makrinitsa - "The Balcony of Volos" 

Crazy roads - there are few if any cars and only on some of the roads.

Water running to the left is part of an intricate and interesting irrigation system.
We were in Greece over Greek Orthodox Easter, which is a very big deal and loaded with tradition.  Travis and I both participated in our own regard.  On their 'Good Friday' night I joined in on the procession from the village church up the hill to another church and back down again.  The procession is symbolic of the death of Jesus so it was like funeral procession.  It was dark out and everyone was carrying long beeswax candle sticks - the experience was pretty cool and felt unifying even though I did not understand what people around me were talking about - I was happy to just be a part of the tradition.  Then on Easter Sunday - we ate hard boiled eggs with the shells dyed red - only red in Greek Orthodox tradition.  For the main event on Sunday the family was roasting a goat - ugh! - poor thing was...well, hard to look at so I tried to avoid it.  My loving husband reassured me that the goat tasted like he lived a happy life.  Well, Travis thoroughly enjoyed his Greek Easter participation followed by an afternoon siesta.

Our last full day of vacation we spent time in Afissos to celebrate our friend Jorgo's name day.  In Greece rather than celebrate your birthday they celebrate your name day - what a great idea and you don't have to remember birth dates.  The beach in Afissos is lovely.

Happy baby!


Feeling filled up with gratitude for all these amazing travel opportunities, wonderful people we've met along the way and for Hannah being such a flexible happy traveler.