Tuscany and Cinque Terre, Italy

I know, I know. I haven’t written about Sri Lanka yet. It was such a long trip, I feel like I’m still digesting it.

Tuscany

Michael and I arrived with a friend, Jesse, to Pisa airport on a Saturday. I’m so glad we chose to rent an automatic car, rather than a stick shift because Tuscany is pretty hilly…who knew? We had a quick lunch at the only cafe open in Pisa before our ~2 hour drive to the organic winery where we were staying. There were absolutely stunning views of the Tuscan hills along the way…hills dotted with olive trees and grape vines. We had dinner at a local place in Radda in Chianti and stopped by the grocery store to stock up on some food essentials (aka cheese, meat, and veggies).

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View from our window at the winery

Sunday we went with ┬áJesse and her parents who joined us the night before to Panzano in Chianti for their famous farmers market. The market itself was much bigger than I expected and sold all types of wares. We bought a TON of sheep cheese (pecorino!) and also some handmade soaps from olive oil. Dinner was at one of the more higher rated restaurants in Radda and I don’t think anyone left disappointed.

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Michael and Stephanie with a gigantic steak for 3

Monday we drove to Castellina in Chianti, a charming little town where we moseyed around before having lunch and then doing a wine/cheese tasting. That night we had a veritable feast of different types of meats/cheeses, and grilled veggies in the comfort of the apartment Jesse and her parents were renting. All in front of a fireplace with some wonderful wine. Such a good night.

Cinque Terre

Tuesday we had one last amazing breakfast at the winery before leaving Jesse and her family to drive back to Pisa, drop the car off, walk to the train station, and then take a train up to Cinque Terre on the coast of Italy.

What a charming group of towns! Cinque Terre is five little towns built into the side of mountains right on the coast and it boasts few cars, lots of steps, and brilliant colors. Definitely one of my favorite places so far that we’ve visited. We hiked from town to town, beautiful views all along the way. We took a boat ride from one end to the other which provided us with a different vantage point with equally breath-taking views. A train connects all five cities and was so easy to use. We laid out on the beach twice, but didn’t go in the still-quite-cold water. Michael got massages both days on the beach, much to his delight. We had gelato, gluten-free pizza, and even found a gluten-free cafe in Corniglia that we frequented more than once. And we saw dolphins off the coast on our last morning!

This trip was definitely filled with more mishaps than we’re used to: 1) There was a scorpion in our room in Tuscany that Michael had to deal with 2) Three sparrows flew into our room in Tuscany as well and I had a minor freak-out 3) We couldn’t use our phones to call the apartment owner and get the key when we first got to Cinque Terre…but there was a kind Italian construction worker who called using his phone 4) The key to the apartment broke inside the lock on our last night 5) Michael left his wallet on the plane once we landed back in the UK…luckily the crew found it and he retrieved it the next day (phew)

The next trip I have planned for us so far is Switzerland in October for some hiking in the Alps. Can’t WAIT for that!

 

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Prague

I’m about a month-and-a-half behind, but better late than never! Michael and I left for Prague two days before Christmas, excited to spend Christmas somewhere beautiful. We landed in Prague, took a bus to New Town, and walked to our hotel. After dropping luggage off, we darted back outside to make it to the Christmas market before things started shutting down for the night. We grabbed some hot mulled wine, did some window shopping at all the market stalls, and admired the astronomical clock.

Christmas Eve was the day I heard that everything in Prague is closed, so I arranged a castle district walking tour for the late afternoon followed by a gluten-free traditional Czech meal. We wandered around the market stalls more during the day and Michael wanted to feed/pet the farm animals, so obviously that happened. We ate hand-spun potato chips (I have no idea how else to describe them) for lunch (and multiple times over the course of this trip) along with kebab for lunch and took refuge from the cold in a church off the main square. St. Vitus Cathedral in the castle district was beautiful and we learned a lot about the Czech Republic’s past on our tour. It ended at an overlook of the city where we bought some hot mulled wine for our long walk back to dinner. Dinner consisted of duck, bread, dumplings, gravy, cooked cabbage, sauerkraut, and Michael got sausage too.

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Christmas Market potatoes!

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St. Vitus Cathedral

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Awesome Czech meal

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Feeding the goats!

Christmas Day we walked across the Charles bridge, sat and watched people feed swans in the river, and had a night walking tour of the city followed by a cruise along the Vltava. We also wandered around the Jewish Quarter and found a little coffee shop for a delicious lunch and coffee break.

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Mulled wine with the river behind us

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View of the Castle District from the Charles bridge

Saturday we ventured to the Museum of Communism which is a little gem of a museum tucked away inside of a casino. It was like walking back into time and definitely a highlight of the trip. We walked around the castle district again and ended up having dinner at a Latin American restaurant where we had awesome tacos!! (Something we haven’t had since being back home…)

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Michael in the Communism museum

Sunday was our last day and the day we took a trip to the Terezin concentration camp just outside of Prague. A very humbling experience to learn about this camp where many people were later moved to the more well known concentration camps.

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Terezin

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View of the river

We leave for Sri Lanka on Thursday for 12 days…and we’re very excited to get some sun!!

Bruges in Brief and Rome

Bruges

A few ladies and I decided to take a trip to Bruges, Belgium the second weekend in November. I always love looking back and noting how we got from point A to point B: I got dropped off by Michael at Ashley’s house, where we got picked up by a taxi and driven to London’s St. Pancreas train station, where we took the Eurostar to Brussels, where we switched to a local train that took us to Bruges, where some of us walked and some of us took a taxi to the hotel. Phew. Settled in and got ready for dinner at The Olive Tree. Had a wonderful Mediterranean dinner which was followed up by dancing at a nearby club. It did not matter that we were the ONLY people there at 10pm and that the bouncer said we should come back at 1am. We danced and had a good time anyways.

Saturday was spent wandering the lovely city of Bruges and checking out the cute shops and buying lots of chocolate! We had lunch at a great little restaurant where the chef was only 24 years old. Everything we ate was spectacular. Afterwards, some chose nap time and I got to enjoy some frites and found a free art exhibit to peruse. Dinner was a long drawn out affair, but still very good. Hit the hay early so we could wander around a little bit in the morning before our train. All in all, a great trip and I know I’ll have to go back with Michael since he would love it.

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Houses along the canal

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Dinner at the Olive Tree

Rome

Michael and I went to Rome a few days before Thanksgiving with the goal of eating some gluten-free pizza on Thanksgiving day. Goal met! We flew in from Heathrow on Wednesday night, took a train to the center of Rome, and then walked to our hotel from there. Woke up early the next morning for a segway tour of Ancient Rome. Michael got the hang of it right away (of course!) while I was a little shaky and took my time getting comfortable with this new mode of transportation. Our tour guide was obviously very passionate about her city and gave us good tips on where to go next and where to find good food. We met a very friendly Canadian mother/daughter duo…and come to find out the daughter lives in Liverpool. We got to commiserate over living in England together which was fun. After the tour we headed to the Jewish quarter to a restaurant our guide had mentioned was her favorite. Lo and behold our Canadian neighbors were there, so we joined them for a wonderful lunch of Jewish-style artichoke and other delights. We parted ways after lunch (but would still see them again nearby the Spanish steps!) and headed to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Tempio Adriano, and the Spanish steps. Did a little window shopping and ended the day with finding a cute organic grocery store on the way to dinner at a gluten-free restaurant, Il Vaggio.

Thursday we woke up and walked through the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill before finding a kebab lunch nearby the Colosseum. After lunch, we toured the Colosseum (still impressive the third time around) and had a little siesta back at the hotel. Who knew traveling could be tiring? Walked a bit to find our gluten-free pizza Thanksgiving dinner , complete with chianti!

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Inside the Colosseum

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Outside the Pantheon

Friday was our guided tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We took the heavily guarded metro and met our tour guide nearby the Vatican museums. No lines! No crowds! It was amazing. Still awed by the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s dedication. Walked to the nearby Castle St. Angelo afterwards and then onto ANOTHER organic grocery store and gluten-free lunch at La Soffitta. Took the metro back near to our hotel and walked to the Capuchin church which has 11 rooms decorated with the bones of hundreds of Capuchin monks. A bit morbid, but really fascinating. Did a little shopping afterwards and got to see a BEAUTIFUL sunset as we walked out into an unknown plaza and see hundreds of starlings (?) in beautiful murmuration. (Google it!) Ended the day with a brief burger and salad at Ciao Checca which Michael supplemented with a half-chicken and fries on the walk home.

Our final day in Rome began with the most delicious affogato (espresso poured over ice cream) at Giolitti’s. Sauntered to the open market in Campo di Fiori where we bought a few leather goods and balsamic vinegar. Walked to the Trastevere area of Rome which was really cute with it’s narrow cobblestone streets and boutique shops. Had lunch there at Mama eat! where Michael had the most delicious calzone and I had amazing meatballs. Walked across the island in the middle of the Tevere river back to the Jewish quarter and slowly made our way back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head to the airport. I haven’t mentioned the Trevi fountain because we saw it pretty much every day. It was right near our hotel and ALWAYS crowded, except in the early morning. Anyhow, we took the metro to the train station and hopped on a train and boarded a plane and drove home making it back around half past midnight.

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Affogato! With caramel ice cream

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Trevi fountain

No more trips until Prague for Christmas!

Bordeaux part deux and Tenerife

Bordeaux Part Deux

A little over two weeks ago I traveled back to Bordeaux with a friend, Jesse, from work. Our plane was delayed so we landed in Bordeaux around 11 or 11:30 pm and took a cab into town driven by a lovely older woman and her tiny Yorkie. We rushed to a restaurant nearby our AirBnB flat where the owner was to have left the keys (we were afraid the place might have closed for the night.) But we were in luck. Walked up a flight of smelly stairs to a cute, newly Ikea-renovated flat perfect for two.

The next morning we woke and walked to a highly rated breakfast spot which served of all things, Full English Breakfasts. Oh well, our first meal in France was British but good. We spent the majority of the day wondering around old town buying awesome things we didn’t really need. Jesse located one of the natural, organic grocery stores where we stocked up for breakfasts for our remaining three mornings and mid-day snacks. Late lunch was around 3pm and consisted of Andouille sausage for me (aka pig intestines) and salmon for Jesse. More wandering until dinnertime where we ate at the restaurant we picked our keys up from the night before. Pleasantly surprised with a delicious meal!

Saturday morning we made breakfast before heading out to the Capucin market aka super-great food market in Bordeaux. It’s in a covered area and vendors sell produce, meat, cheese, wine, and prepared foods. We purchased some cheese, sausage, and fig jam to have an al fresco lunch by the river. Lunch was nicknamed “fignic” because fig jam is pretty much the best thing in the world and tastes good on anything. We hung around the river for a bit people watching and then finally watched an outdoor zumba class that began nearby. Afterwards we wandered around the city shopping some more and explored more of the Capucin market we missed earlier in the day before eating dinner at Belle Campagne…the restaurant Michael and I found on our first trip to Bordeaux that sources everything locally.

Sunday morning we walked along the river to the outdoor “organic” market where we people watched and eventually ate a DELICIOUS lunch of herb potatoes, duck sausage, and chicken/pepper/onion skewers. Throw in some plantain and it was probably our best meal of the trip. Headed towards the Tourism office afterwards to meet up for a chateau tasting and tour of St. Emillion. Took a short ride out with a few other tourists to two chateaus in the St. Emillion region where we sampled wine and took a short tour of the St. Emillion village. We asked our tour guide, Marie, for her recommendation of some good French food to find on a Sunday night. Sadly, her recommendation was horrible and our last meal in France was flavorless, tourist food that left us both in a foul mood.

Monday morning we woke up early and took an hour-long bus ride to the airport and made the journey back home.

Wine tasting with appetizers

Wine tasting with appetizers

Vineyard at second chateau

Vineyard at second chateau

Wine cellar at first chateau

Wine cellar at first chateau

Vineyard at first chateau

Vineyard at first chateau

Jesse and I along the river with main square behind us

Jesse and I along the river with main square behind us

Tenerife

I had one full day at home before Michael and I joined two couples from work who each have a one-year-old for a trip to the Canary Islands. We had perfect weather in the low 80s and only a few short showers our whole stay. The resort we stayed at had everything we needed and we only left once. That day we took a shuttle to Playa de las Americas and spent a few hours on a sandy beach in the ocean where most of our crew also indulged in some beach massages. There was a nature reserve connected with this resort and one afternoon Michael and I ventured out and were happily surprised with what we saw. Tenerife is a volcanic island and actually looks very much like a desert. Part of the nature reserve was lush and green and threw us for a loop. After 5 days of water aerobics, stretching, kayaking, and buffet eating, we left relaxed and ready to come home.

Michael pulling a boat along the green lake. Which we probably weren't supposed to do...

Michael pulling a boat along the green lake. Which we probably weren’t supposed to do…

Crazy green lake and foliage in the middle of a desert

Crazy green lake and foliage in the middle of a desert

"Pebble" beach near our resort

“Pebble” beach near our resort

Babies!

Babies!

Playa de las Americas

Playa de las Americas

Enjoying some sun and sangria

Enjoying some sun and sangria

Boys having kayaking fun

Boys having kayaking fun

Next adventure planned is a “ladies weekend” in Bruges, Belgium!

Germany!

It’s been almost a week since we got back from Germany. And I already want to go back! Michael and I took a separate flight from our friends, Douglas, Danielle, and baby Daudi, to Munich. Once we landed, we caught the underground to the regional train and had a stunning hour and 20 minute ride south to Garmisch. Caught a taxi from the train station to the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, nestled within the Bavarian Alps. Had a buffet style Bavarian “feast” for dinner and hopped in the hot tub to prep for Oktoberfest the next morning.

Met up with D^3 for breakfast before hopping on the Lodge provided bus transport to Munich for the fest. Much to many people’s dismay, I have to say that we only spent just under two hours at actual Oktoberfest. We walked basically the whole grounds and had some awesome currywurst. Michael was the only one in our crew who got an alcoholic drink. And he got a Caipirinha (a rum based mixed drink). We went into the Augstiner tent to see what all the hub-bub was about, but apparently we were too late to grab a table anyways. We left to explore the rest of Munich by foot. Eventually found a little park to take some respite in and headed back to the bus.

Inside the Augustiner tent.

Inside the Augustiner tent.

Prior to buying the only alcoholic drink imbibed at Oktoberfest.

Prior to buying the only alcoholic drink imbibed at Oktoberfest.

Us and D^3 with the exit to Oktoberfest in the background.

Us and D^3 with the exit to Oktoberfest in the background.

Our third day in Garmisch was spent exactly how I wanted it to be: hiking! We met up with D^3 for breakfast before splitting off from them. Michael and I started off on our adventure to find Partnach Gorge sans phone data. I mistakenly began our journey from the wrong Olympic stadium (hockey instead of skiing) and we subsequently turned an easy 2 hour hike into a 4+ hour hike…literally over a mountain. Ah well. We got some good views and met some lovers of travel on the top of the mountain who pointed us in the right direction of the gorge. The gorge itself was pretty cool…basically a river that cut itself through a mountain. We walked right next to the river and got a tiny bit wet (after being well warned). Afterwards, we dried off and had lunch at the Olympic Ski Stadium and made our way back to the Lodge…where we hot-tubbed before meeting up with D^3 for dinner. Played a little “Heads Up” after dinner to the delight of Daudi.

At the top of our mountain.

At the top of our mountain.

View on our walk back home to the Lodge.

View on our walk back home to the Lodge.

Inside Partnach Gorge.

Inside Partnach Gorge.

At one end of Partnach Gorge.

At one end of Partnach Gorge.

The river herself.

The river herself.

Before our flight this final evening, Michael and I had two more adventures. The first was planned and expected. The second wasn’t. The first was a tour provided by the Lodge to Highline 179 aka the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world which just opened up last November. It’s 375 feet off the ground between two fort-topped mountains. And very shaky. With a grated bottom you can see through. I was pretty scared when we first stepped onto the bridge. But Michael was behind me and encouraged me to cross. It took an agonizing 3-4 minutes, at least. Once on the other side, we explored that fort and then it was time to cross back and get to the bus. Well this time, Michael was the one who was scared. And I had to encourage him on and remind both of us to just focus on our goal (solid ground on the other side.) The adrenaline rush was good and we’re both glad we decided to do this tour. Our second adventure involved getting to the airport. We took the public bus from the Lodge which was fine. But our coach to the airport was 30 minutes late. And we ran into traffic on the way up to Munich. I joke that I almost had a couple of mental breakdowns on that bus. We pulled up to Terminal 2 exactly a half an hour before our flight we due to leave. Too bad our flight was in Terminal 1. Cue Michael and I running frantically through the airport yelling “WHERE’S TERMINAL 1?!?!” to anyone who looked official. Then we begged the “fast track” customs person to let us in the fast line because our flight was due to take off in 15 minutes. “It’s delayed” he says, but let’s us through. We come through customs and security to our gate where D^3 are waiting and wondering where we were. Thank goodness our flight was delayed. Neither of us have missed a plane before and I REALLY hope it doesn’t happen in the future.

At one of the forts on either side of Highline 179.

At one of the forts on either side of Highline 179.

Highline 179.

Highline 179.

Garmisch was spectacular and everyone we interacted with in Germany was super friendly. I’m hoping to return next year, maybe at the beginning of September and do some serious hiking. We shall see!

Paris, Vienna, and UK/Ireland Coach Tour

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated. Too long. But I’ve good reason: Three trips in the last six weeks. Three planned for the next five weeks. (I swear next year we’ll slow down. Focusing on UK travel…)

PARIS

Michael and I took our first Eurostar Rail trip from London to Paris to meet our houseguest, Christina, and her friend Jamie. Arrived late on a Thursday, meeting them in the lobby of our hotel in the Saint Georges area. Unbeknownst to me, much of Paris (France? Europe? Everyone but the U.S.?) takes off the month of August, so many of the restaurants I had looked up to try were sadly closed. We found a lovely place open nearby, however, and I had my first duck confit of the trip.

Friday we somehow managed to figure out how to get to Versailles ourselves, taking the underground to a regional train station. Following the crowds with our already online purchased tickets, we stood in awe of the massive line to get through security. I’ll say it was interesting to people watch while we waited outside for one and a half hours plus. We FINALLY made it in and started shuffling along with the crowds from room to room, ogling the opulence that is Versailles. This was my second trip to Versailles, but the only room I really remembered was the hall of mirrors. The gardens are definitely the best part, and I think we all agreed with that. Too bad we were all pretty pooped by the time we got outside to enjoy them. We took the train/underground back to our hotel area and hiked up to the nearby basilica, Sacre Coeur, for incredible views of the city and another duck confit for me! This was when I tried escargo, as well. Buttery, pesto flavored, and delicious.

Saturday was dedicated to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We each chose something we especially wanted to see so we could have some sort of plan, because, surprise! The Louvre is humongous. Mona Lisa, Winged Victory (my favorite), The Turkish Bath, Napoleon’s Apartments, and the Egyptian exhibit all made the list. Afterwards, we had to wander a bit, finally settling on a place for lunch (duck confit #3!) Walked to the Luxembourg gardens and enjoyed some sunshine while watching locals and tourists sail little boats in the fountain. We had a quick dinner before meeting our guide for a small group, no line waiting, all the way up to the top Eiffel Tower grand tour. I’m very glad I was able to go all the way up to the top because the last time I was there in high school, for some odd reason I only went to the second level. We were able to watch the sunset from the tower and then get back down to the ground to watch it light up at 10pm. A magical moment.

Sunday we woke and basically had to catch the train first thing. Said goodbye to Christina and Jamie in London and headed back home.

Inside the Louvre

Inside the Louvre

VIENNA

Just two weeks later was a short trip to Vienna where we got to meet up with friends from back home, Mike and Jenn. We flew out of Heathrow on British Air and I must say, what a treat after RyanAir and Easy Jet! Got into Vienna and took a bus to the center of town where we still had a 25 minute walk to our hotel. No worries though! We found an organic market of all places! Sat down and enjoyed some blood sausage, kraut, potatoes, and onions. Probably best meal of the trip. Checked into our hotel nearby the Museum quarter and sprinted to a nearby art gallery for a quick viewing before it closed. Afterwards, we went to find the start of our evening walking tour of the city. I think Michael and I really enjoy trying to do a walking tour our first day in a city to get some history and a feel of the place.

Saturday we woke early and headed to Belvedere Palace for some more art viewing (you’ll find a theme this trip) and to admire the gardens. Visited the┬áKunsthistorisches Museum for MORE art while some crazy end of August party was going on outside which shook the walls of the museum. Met up with Mike and Jenn for dinner which was a nice catch up and good conversation.

Sunday we basically spent all day at the Schonbrunn Palace, which is a huge place, with massive gardens. Took a nap in the gardens, had lunch in the gardens, read a book in the gardens. Then we took the subway back towards city center for dinner at a well-reviewed gluten free restaurant before returning to the palace for an evening of music, song, and dance. Too bad I was super tired and we left at intermission. Lovely orchestra and singing, though. The main opera theater in Vienna is closed in August since there’s no air conditioning.

Monday we had a lovely breakfast (as we did every morning in Vienna…I did my research on the best breakfasts in town!) and did a little shopping before making out way to the airport.

Before performance at Schonbrunn Palace

Before performance at Schonbrunn Palace

UK/IRELAND COACH TOUR

Two days after we got back from Vienna, Michael’s parents and brother came to stay with us for two nights before our ten day tour of the UK/Ireland began in London. Day 1 was London and we did a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to get it all in. I feel like at the end of three years, I STILL won’t have seen all of London I want to. Included in the tour was a nice cruise up the River Thames. Day 2 was Stratford-upon-Avon and York. We were able to see where Shakespeare is buried at the local church and the house where he was born and school he attended. York is a cool looking city Michael and I will have to return to and wander the narrow streets.

Day 3 was the Lake District where we took a steam engine ride to a cruise on lake Windemere. Very peaceful and lots of good photo opportunities. Later, our poor coach got a flat tired, so we were out a couple of hours to spend in Glasgow sadly. We had a delicious Thai dinner, though, and chatted with the owner.

Day 4 was Edinburgh, Michael and my third time to the city. He and I had an amazing lunch in the Grassmarket area at a French restaurant and then went to the pharmacy to get motion sickness medication in preparation for our ferry crossing the next day.

Day 5 was said ferry crossing and Belfast. Michael and I were able to meet up with a college friend of mine, Jenn, for lunch. She was able to correct some of the things our English tour guide said about the city and give us a super quick tour.

Day 6 was Glendalough and Dublin. Glendalough is a lovely place up in the mountains, beautiful and peaceful and I’d love to go back. Dublin is a fun place and we went to see the “bog bodies” in a local museum and did a little shopping in the Temple Bar quarter.

Day 7 was Kilkenny Castle and Waterford. Got to ogle at the expensive Waterford crystal and enjoy an evening of good ol’ Irish craic at a pub on the beach. Great singing and storytelling! I felt like I was in a movie almost. Michael even volunteered for some dance lessons. (Yes, the whole thing exists on my phone’s memory card!)

Day 8 was another ferry and Cardiff. Didn’t spend much time in Cardiff, sadly. We basically just saw the castle…which was actually a pretty cool castle with a horrible introductory movie that I will never understand why they make people watch.

Day 9 was Bath, Windsor, and London. Love Bath every time I go. Went into the abbey then wandered to a market and back to the bus. Didn’t have much time in Windsor, either. Michael and I had lunch at a local burger place and then our time was up. Got back to London later that day and I dragged Michael and his bro out to Portobello Market.

Day 10 was the end. Had breakfast with the family one last time before we ordered an uber to take us to Paddington.

Stonehenge! Day before tour officially began

Stonehenge! Day before tour officially began

All in all, great trips. I got sick on this last bit and am still in the healing stages. Hopefully I’ll be right as rain for Munich/Oktoberfest this weekend!

Bordeaux

France has made such a positive impression on me after our visit to Bordeaux. I have always had the mindset of fancy, unapproachable food and rude people since my trip to Paris in high school. In retrospect, I fear it was my high school tour group inviting the wrath of the French in our loud, disrespectful demeanor and my picky eating habits at the time which formed my opinions.

We flew on a Thursday afternoon via EasyJet (another budget airline which both Michael and I enjoy vastly over RyanAir) from Bristol. Leaving a drizzly, cool England, we arrived in Bordeaux to sun and lovely mid-80s temps. We checked into our hotel and went exploring in “old town” before walking to a Caribbean restaurant I had found which was rated highly. I think the French eat even later than the British, so of course we were the only ones in the restaurant at 6pm. Ate some delicious food, spoke with the chef who was from Grenada, and won a free round of rum punches by correctly guessing 7 out of the 9 ingredients used (shout out to Pampa Campbell!).

Friday we ventured on the public bus to the train and took the train 50 minutes to the coast, a city called Arcachon. Spent a few hours on the beach and dipped into the calm, cool bay of Arcachon. We found dinner at another highly rated restaurant (our taxi driver from the airport assured us we would eat so well in Bordeaux with it’s many good restaurants) outside of old town. We opened the place up at 730 and the owner even printed us a menu translated into English and recommended a lovely Bordeaux wine to accompany our meal. (Michael got quail, and he thoroughly enjoyed every bite.)

On the streets of old town Bordeaux.

On the streets of old town Bordeaux.

Normal fountain picture.

Normal fountain picture.

Jumping fountain picture.

Jumping fountain picture.

Best meal yet! Chorizo, tomatoes and eggplant, egg soup, green tomatoes, french fries, and pork spare rib.

Best meal yet! Chorizo, tomatoes and eggplant, egg soup, green tomatoes, french fries, and pork spare rib.

Reflecting pool in the King's Square.

Reflecting pool in the King’s Square.

St. Michael's Basilica.

St. Michael’s Basilica.

Tiny (they say) two person car you can rent.

Tiny (they say) two person car you can rent.

Saturday started with a small group wine tasting at 1030. We met a lovely couple from San Francisco, Idaho, and a mother/daughter duo from Texas. Learned all about Bordeaux wines and other wine regions in France. Had a quiz at the end where we had to guess where each of four wines were from in France, and then also which area in Bordeaux the Bordeaux blend was from. After our tour, we ate lunch in old town, wandered around a bit, and took a short siesta before dinner and a walking tour at 830pm. Dinner was at a restaurant that sourced all it’s food from 250km away or less. Everything was absolutely delicious and I think this has probably been our favorite meal yet.

Sunday, much like Saturday, started with a wine tasting…although this time it was on a cruise. Sadly, the entire cruise was in French, but we were able to taste some more Bordeaux wines and relax on the boat. Most stores/restaurants are closed on Sunday, so we went to a large outdoor farmers market and an outdoor mall along the river which seemed to be the only things open. We ended the trip with a bus ride to the airport and delayed flight, but Bordeaux will always hold a special place in my heart. (In fact, I’m already planning another trip there with a friend…)

Next on the travel list is Paris in a couple of weeks with a friend who will be visiting. Then possibly Edinburgh, again. And a Thanksgiving trip to Rome is in the works as we speak!