Monday, July 27, 2009

Lazy Day Summer Days

I can honestly say that I love summer. I love not having a care in the world. I love getting to sleep in and have no responsibilities except for cleaning and cooking. I can honestly say that I was made to teach... or should I say made to take summers off. I have really enjoyed not having to stress out, and I can just focus on relaxing, my man, and the teens in the youth group. Today I woke up early and worked out with Lantz, then I made us breakfast, I went to my friend's pool to lay out with Lisa and Amber (2 good friends), came home, and ate lunch. Now I think that Lantz and I are going to go to the YMCA to swim some laps. Later tonight I plan on watching the Bachelorette finale.

I'm sorry that I really don't have anything else to blog about.... I really haven't been doing much except for being lazy.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Varsity

Today I was watching the Travel channel (yes, we now have $3 a month basic cable, and this channel comes with it) and they were doing a special on hot dogs. It made me want a hot dog so bad.... they all looked so yummy, and I am not a big hot dog person. Well, then all of the sudden they started talking about the hot dogs at The Varsity in Atlanta. Lantz and I visited Atlanta in January of 2008 and ate at The Varsity. It was so stinking good. I didn't have a hot dog, but I did have an amazing hamburger and some super awesome onion rings. So, needless to say I was so craving The Varsity after they did a little segment on it. If you're ever in Atlanta you so have to go by here and eat at this place. It is the nation's largest fast food restaurant, and it is packed. I think they said that they serve an average of 20,000 people a day, but even though the lines are a bit long, they go by super fast. So yeah... here I am blogging about The Varsity wishing that I was eating there. Oh well, just thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone was planning on going to Atlanta anytime soon. Here are photos from when we visited:


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Drinking Glasses

Well, I finally broke down today and bought some new drinking glasses. Of course before anyone gets married they have a wedding registry. Lantz and I registered for some really cute drinking glasses and we got them at one of our showers. Now, this was close to 5 years ago, and those glasses lasted us a good while, but over the last year we just seem to keep breaking them and breaking them. I think out of 16 glasses we are down to 5: 4 juice glasses and 1 tall glass. So, it was time to break down and get a new set. I'm really excited about our new glasses. I got them at Ross for $12!!!!! What a steal! It's amazing that I got 16 thick, nice drinking glasses for so cheap. I love Ross.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic


Saturday night when Lantz and I got home from Portland we rented the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic. I was so excited, cause Lantz picked the movie out, and I was expecting him to get a boy movie, but he didn't. He knew that I had been wanting to see it, and so he picked it out for me. (How sweet...) Anyways, this was a really cute movie and I really enjoyed it. Of course it was a chick flick and so of course there were super cheesy parts to it, but that's what I love about chick flicks.

But, I also enjoyed this movie because I think that there are alot of spiritual issues that I think it raises. It's a great movie to look at the implications of shopping, materialism, and greed. I watched the movie thinking, "How in the world could someone spend so much money on clothes," and "she really doesn't need that..." But you know even though I don't spend that kind of money on clothes I do buy things all the time that I don't "need." It's amazing how much Satan has a grasp on the little things in our lives, and how he is able to convince us that it's okay. Now, I don't think it's bad to shop, but I do think like anything in our lives it can lead to sin if we place things above our relationship with God- like the girl in the movie- that's all she thought about and wanted to do, and was even willing to lie to herself and others to continue it.

It also raises the topic of where are you finding fulfillment and love in this world. For Becky she was finding it in the clothes that she was able to buy. Even the beginning quote in the movie expressed how she would find joy in her purchases and then they would loose their impact and she would have to buy something else to bring her that joy. At the end she discussed finding a love that would not "decline" her like her credit card. Now, even though she found that love in a relationship with a boy, we as Christians know that the only way to find love without ever being "declined" is through Jesus Christ. What an amazing message: We cannot find fulfillment, love, or acceptance through things, but only through the One that loves us unconditionally.

Anyways, it was a good movie that made me think. If you have not seen it I would recommend it. Lantz even enjoyed it too!
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YouthWAVE Portland '09

Saturday evening we got home from Portland. Last week we took 7 teens to Portland for YouthWAVE (Youth With A Vision for Evangelism), and we had an amazing time! This was our 3rd year to take students to this camp, and we hope to continue to bring students back in the future.

I have been blessed to have had many camp experiences in my life time thus far. I was raised in a very active youth group, went to a Christian college, interned at a church for a summer, and now I am married to a youth minister. If you know me, then you know how much I loved Kadesh at ACU. It was such an amazing camp that challenged me spiritually and helped me to grow into a more meaningful relationship with Christ. I loved Kadesh, and I have not really found anything that compared to it (in my opinion of course).

BUT.... I truly believe that YouthWAVE is right up there with Kadesh. They are somewhat similar. The mornings are spent in a small group atmosphere with intense spiritual training focused on your personal walk with Christ. The afternoons are spent outward focused (Kadesh= community service/ YouthWAVE= going downtown to communicate and outreach with strangers). Both have amazing, blow you out of the water, praise times in the evening. Both lead up to a touching Thursday activity that challenges you spiritually. So... you can see why I love YouthWAVE and it now holds a special place in my heart next to Kadesh.
Here is our weekly schedule (mostly):
-breakfast
-morning praise
-quiet time
-training (looking at yourself and how to grow in Christ through Peter's story)
-lunch
-"the sending" (preparing to go out into down town Portland)
-Discovery Element (out in Portland, praying over the city & w/people, and listening
to people's story and trying to help people learn God's story if the opportunity
presents itself)
-debriefing (sharing stories from the afternoon)
-dinner
- Celebration (evening praise)
-youth group time

So... above is the gist of the schedule, but there are a few changes here and there. The week builds to Thursday when we write letters to friends back home. Most teens (and even adults) struggle with not being "real" with their friends about their faith. YouthWAVE encourages students to let their friends know about their beliefs and to be honest with their faith and to invite their friends on their faith journey. YouthWAVE's big thing is that it's not about the one week of camp, but about the other 51 weeks of the year and living out your faith every day. It is such an awesome camp and it was great to watch our teens grow and it was great for Lantz and I to grow as well.

Here are our photos from the week:




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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shopping ...

I have not been able to go shopping since before our Europe trip. That's a good thing, cause I don't really neeeeeeed anything, but of course being a girl there are things that I am wanting. We just got a newer, bigger Forever 21, and I've been wanting to go check it out, but I know that it will only tempt me because I can't get anything right now. So, I thought I'd blog about shopping since I can't actually do it until August when we get back on our budget. Here are some things I would go out and buy right now if money was not an issue:
-Real cowboy boots (I've been wanting these for awhile, but they are so expensive)
- some new cute fun summer dresses that I can wear to work and church
-new long jean shorts
- new long necklace
-a hippie head band
-new sunglasses
- a big, chunky, leather watch with a big face
- new black heels

Um... so yeah... I'm sure I could find lots more to buy if I actually had money to shop now, but I don't, and I'm okay with that. There is a time for everything according to Ecclesiastes, and right now is not the time for me to shop. I just recently got to enjoy an amazing vacation, but that wasn't free. So, what would you go and buy if you had some money right now?
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer

So, if you are wondering what I have been doing since I've gotten back from Europe... well, not much. Lets see... humm.... We celebrated the Fourth of July with our church at a park- can't beat a good ol' cook out. I have cleaned the house several times. I went to lunch with my good friend Janis (got a awesome gift card from her and my friend Darla- thanks girls!) and caught up with her. I hung out with my new friend Lisa that just moved to town recently. I have chilled at the house with my sister and husband. I have laid out with my sister. I have worked out to P90X and the new Insanity dvd (crazy hard!). I have gone to church and youth group functions. And.... well... I guess that's about it. So, if you wonder why I kept writing about Europe- now you know. I don't have much else going on to blog about. Yeah for summer nothingness!
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Paris

Well, our night train to Paris was not nearly as enjoyable as our German night train to Italy. Again, I was not impressed with Italy's trains. We payed for a private room, and we were again expecting a bunk bed with a small bathroom. Well, our room seemed dirtier than our first one (holes in our sheets) and we didn't even have a private bathroom. Yuck! What was the point of paying for an upgrade if you're still stuck in a yucky room. Anyways don't get me started on the whole Italy thing.

Again, we had a great hotel room. I loved it because it was so modern and hip. It had Ikea type furniture and it had fuchsia and lime green accents, and the bathroom was super hip and funky.

One of the first things we did was take a Segway tour. This was one of the highlights of our trip. I can't even begin to tell you how much stinking fun that was. You so have to do it if you ever have the opportunity. Some things that we got to see on our included: the Eiffel Tower (which was massive- like 8 times the size of the fake one in Vegas), the military school, harmony square, Tuileries Gardens, the church where Napoleon's tomb is, Musee D'Orsay, Legion of Honor Museum, les Invadides, Grand & Petit Palais, Ecole, Militaire, Place de la concorde, Alexander III Bridge, and Assemble Nationale. It was so much fun more than anything! Oh, my segway's name was Segasaurace and Lantz's segway was Nicolas Segakozy (word play on president of France's name).

We also did a night bike tour that was so cool! My bike's name was "Killah" and Lantz's bikes name was "Monet." It poured rain like the first 30 minutes of our tour, and it was hard and powerful rain. I didn't think that it would stop, but it finally did. We rode all over that city. This was a great bike tour in a sense that we really got to ride the bikes alot over the whole city. We saw so much it is hard to remember it all. Some of the main things we saw were the Louve, Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville, Ile de la Cite, and Musee D'Orsay. We also got to cruise the Seine on a boat and enjoy some French wine while watching the city of Paris light up. Paris at night is the most beautiful sight ever!

We also ate some really great food in Paris, including crepes, pastries, quiche, and creme brulee. Yummy! We found some amazing side walk bakeries that had some amazing sandwiches, and pastries.

We also went to see the Arch of Triumph. Oh, and at night we went up to the top of a sky scrapper, Montparnasse, to see the city at sunset. It was amazing! Anyways, if you are ever in Paris, it is a must!

So yeah... I guess that's pretty much it. That was our trip to Europe. Thanks to all of you who stuck with it and actually read my posts... and thanks to those of you who just looked at the photos. Anyways, we had a great time, and I'm glad that we planned every bit of it ourselves even if it was stressful at times. I don't think we would have enjoyed it as much if we would have just signed up for a tour. We put alot of sweat and labor into this 5 year anniversary trip, and I praise God that we were able to enjoy it together.

On that note, I guess I'll leave you with our Paris photos.


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Friday, July 10, 2009

Cinque Terre/ Milan

Okay guys, a few more places to tell you about. (If you're not related to us and you're still reading... impressive. Sorry. I want to document all of this.) Anyways, after we left Florence and Pisa we made our way to our relaxing stop of Vernazza. Vernazza is one of the "Cinque Terre" cities. Cinque Terre is 5 different small cities on the coast of Italy. Vernazza was city #4. This is what we call our vacation from our vacation. There was no agenda and nothing that we needed to cross off of our "to do/see" list. We seriously just sat on the beach, ate, walked around, and slept at this stop. There is not much to say except, "Wow." It was so beautiful. If you are ever in Italy you should try to stop here.

Our hotel was right in the little bay, and our window overlooked the cove and the ocean. We were seriously 10 steps from the ocean, and our window had the most amazing view ever. We also went to city #5 and it was equally as beautiful. Anyways, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

After we left Cinque Terre we went to Milan for the afternoon. We spent a little time exploring Milan before we caught our night train to Paris.


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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Florence/Pisa

If I was forced to choose a favorite place on our vacation this one would come in close to the top. (But, I'm not picking a favorite, because I can't commit to that.) I really loved Florence because it was a big city with a small town flair. It was small enough for us to walk from place to place, but big enough that we didn't get to explore everything. This was our longest stop- 2 and 1/2 days. Whoa....

Anyways, just like Rome, I could go on and on about Florence. Again, I'll try to spare you all the details. So, one of the first things we did in Florence- which may have been the highlight of our entire trip- was a Taste of Florence Tour. This tour was a "food" tour, and we love to eat, so this was right up our alley. Toni, our tour guide, was AMAZING. If you go to Florence you have to do this tour. We met Toni, and she first took us to a small bakery to taste some of the best flat bread in the city. Then she took us to the market where she gave us a lesson on olive oil and balsamic vinegar and where we tasted the best of the best. (Who would have guessed that "real"balsamic could be so sweet and yummy.... ah...) We also tasted, pesto, artichoke spread, cheese, jellies, sun dried tomatoes, honey, and wine at the market. It was all super yummy and I could bore you with tons of details, but I won't.

Toni also took us to the best gelato place in town- Perche no Gelateria. Oh my goodness- you haven't had real gelato until you've had this stuff! We got so much gelato on our tour it was crazy. We basically had a small cup in every flavor. My favorite flavors were: apple pie, watermelon, coffee crunch, pistachio, sesame milk, and white chocolate. (Yes, we had even more flavors than that- those were just the best in my opinion!) Toni even taught us how to watch out for "bad" gelato and how to know if you are getting the good stuff. You can be sure that we used those skills the rest of the trip.

Toni then took us to a small wine shop to teach us about wine in Italy. On our way there she pointed out small restaurants that we should try and told us what they specialized in at each place. We got to a small wine shop and went to a back room. There, Toni explained to us the winery process and how to know whether you are getting the "good stuff." We then went on to taste tons of different kinds including some of the best quality stuff and most expensive stuff. It was cool to taste the best of the best as far as wine goes. (I still didn't like it. I'm just not an alcohol fan. It all just burns my throat and is over rated.... even the good stuff. I'll take a sweet tea any day of the week over alcohol.)

Let me just say that thanks to Toni we ate at some amazing restaurants that didn't break the bank but were good quality. We had lots of things that we never would have tried and really enjoyed our "eating" experience while in Florence. It was great that we did this tour the first day because then we knew where to eat the other 2 days we were there.

Day 2 in Florence highlights included: a visit to the Galleria dell' Acadamia to see Michaelangelo's "David," more amazing gelato, a local leather store, a walk up to Piazzale Michaelangelo, and an amazing dinner at La Beppa fioraia. Let me just say that the "David" statue was massive. I couldn't believe how big it was. We also explored a photography exhibit from Robert Mapplethorpe that was at the museum. Piazzale Michaelangelo was a viewing point of the whole city. This place had outstanding city views. It was alot of stairs to take up to the top, but there were no regrets once we made it up. Our dinner was fabulous- of course a place that Toni recommended.

Day 3 in Florence was supposed to be the highlight (we thought) of our trip. We signed up for an amazing 14 mile bike tour through the Tuscan countryside. And it was awesome..... ALL of it, except that 1/2 way through it started pouring rain and there was lightening, and so for safety reasons we could not finish out our tour. Oh well, I'll tell you about what we did get to experience.

We met in town and the Tuscan Bike Tour company drove us in busses about an hour out of town. It just kept getting prettier, and prettier the further we kept driving. We arrived at a castle, Castello di Poppiano where the Dutch and Dutchess Guicciardini live and produce Chianti wine and olive oil. We took a tour of the winery and then went to the top of the tower where I saw some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen in my whole life. (You have to see the photos below.) The Tuscan countryside was amazing. Part of me wished that we had spent a whole week there just exploring all the tiny villages and rolling hills. We then sampled some of the wine and olive oil that the castle produced.

Finally we were assigned our bikes. I got "Scooby Doo" and Lantz got "Frank Sinatra." Our guide and part owner of the company Andy looked just like the late Heath Ledger. He was from Scottland and used to be a professional biker- Lantz and him bonded over that issue. Anyways- the countryside was gorgeous, and although biking up all the hills was strenuous, it was worth it. I loved every second of it! We biked to a small village where we stopped and ate lunch at a local restaurant. We got alot of food, and it was yummy. We then proceeded to get back on our bikes, but when we got outside it started pouring. They were going to try to continue the tour, but then it started lightening, so they had to cancel the rest of it. Lantz and I were super bummed out about that. We so wanted to do the rest of it, but safety first. Oh well, what we did get to experience was awesome!

When we got back in town we went to a local little chocolate shop that Toni recommended and ate some fresh home-made Italian chocolate. It was really good, but I'm not a huge chocolate fan. We then ate at another amazing local restaurant! It was a great way to end a fabulous stop.

After leaving Florence the next stop we had planned was Vernazza at Cinque Terre. On our way there we took a small detour to Pisa to see the leaning tower. Since Pisa was not a "real" stop- just a quick one I did not feel the need to document it in it's own blog post, cause there's really nothing to say other than we took a train there and took a bus, and then took some photos at the tower. We also ate a quick picnic lunch that we brought with us at the tower. It was fun, and I'm glad that we stopped and saw it, but you don't need more than a day in Pisa if you ask me. That's why you'll see photos of Pisa below, and I wanted to explain them.

So yeah.... that was Florence! I loved it. It was so beautiful and I'm so glad that it was one of our stops. Enjoy the photos below. Oh, and I can't wait to tell you about our next stop, Cinque Terre ... I think that you'll all want to go there some day! Okay, now to the photos:




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Monday, July 6, 2009

Rome

Sorry, the last post got a little long and out of control. I will try not to write every little detail, and I'll try to just let the pictures do the talking on this one. Anyways, Rome was the next stop on our trip, and it was AMAZING. Lantz and I both really enjoyed Rome, and we both learned alot. We stayed in a really nice bed and breakfast right by the Vatican City called Ancient Romance. Michael, the owner, was really nice, and the place was in a perfect location and it was very new and modern. (See photo of room below.) I recommend it if you ever go to Rome.

We were in Rome for 2 full days, and boy did we pack those days full of sight seeing. There is just so much to see in Rome and it is so full of history. This post could easily get out of control quickly, but I'll try not to let that happen. We booked 3 tours, and did 2 the first day. (There was alot of drama surrounding our first tour, but I won't get into all that.)

On our first tour we saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Titus, the Arch of Constatine, and Palatine Hill. Because I'm not telling you every detail, I'll just say a few things. The Colosseum was so incredible. I couldn't believe it. To hear about how Christians were tormented and ridiculed in the Colosseum and how they lost their lives because they would not renounce Christ strengthened my own faith. It's hard to imagine what they had to endure because of their beliefs, and had it not been for them standing up for Christ then possibly Christianity might not have spread so quickly. I think that everyone should try to go see the Colosseum- it really was incredible. I can't believe that it's so old, and yet it's still standing.

The Roman Forum was probably one of my most favorite things. To be where Paul and Peter preached and to know that they were there proclaiming Christ was so powerful. I can't believe that the ruins of the city are still so in tact. (I mean- it's just "rubble," but it's all still there in the middle of this very modern, big city.) It was also cool to go up onto Palatine Hill and overlook the Roman Forum and the city. It was absolutely breath taking.

Later that night we did another tour in which we saw the Fountain of 4 Rivers, the Trevi, and the Pantheon. The Pantheon was much cooler than I thought it was going to be, and it was so big. Lantz threw a penny in the Trevi Fountain over his left shoulder... I think that means he'll be going back to Rome one day.

The next day before we went to the Vatican City for our 3rd tour we went to see the Spanish Steps. Very cool- but there were alot of people there. We started our tour out in the Vatican Museum. I learned alot of really interesting things about Michaelangelo that I never knew before and tons about art. (I'm not really a museum person, but I did enjoy that day and the stories that our guide shared with us.... again- I won't go into detail.) Of course, we got to see the Sistine chapel, and that was really incredible. I don't think I would have really been able to appreciate it as much as I did if our guide didn't explain so much of the detail to us, but again- I'll spare you.

We also went to the Vatican "square" or courtyard outside of Peter's Basilica. We were going to go in, but they shut it down for church service, and when they had opened it back up there was a HUGE line, and we were both like... "uh.. no thanks..." Peter's Basilica was supposedly where Peter was crucified upside down and buried, and they built the church over it. This is also where the Pope lives. We waved "hello" to him. (No, we didn't really see him. Although we did have a conversation debating on which room was his.)

We ate some awesome food in Rome! One place we ate at was Latavennella. It was sooooo yummy. Lantz and I both enjoyed our meal here. We had to wait until like 7:30, because that is when all the "good" restaurants open. We learned that "good" and "authentic" restaurants don't stay open between lunch and dinner and that they yummy places don't open until later- 7:30 and the earliest. (Don't people have to get up and go to work?) Lantz had a tomato based pasta and I had a egg based pasta. Very different- it was like hard boiled eggs mushed up with different things over pasta... it was so rich, but super yummy. It was of course what the waiter recommended. We also both had brushetta with tomato, garlic, and olive oil.... heavenly!

We also took photos of the Colosseum and the Vatican at night. They were both very pretty, and it was cool to get to experience these things at night and not just during the day.

There... that wasn't so bad. I did good keeping it to a minimum, but I'll warn you that there are lots of photos in the slide show. Enjoy!




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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Venice

In Munich we got on a night train to Venice. This was our first night train experience, and it was really cool. We payed for a first class ticket and so we had a cabin all to ourself. We had bunk beds and our own little bathroom. Our bathroom was smaller than a cruise bathroom.... itty- bitty. But it was great cause we had it all to ourself. We took some dramamine to knock us out, and then we awoke to an amazing breakfast laid out for us next door. We were really impressed with our German night train. You should totally take a nigh train in Germany....but Italy- that's another story, but we'll get to that.

Anyways, we got to Venice about 6:30 in the morning and we were so excited to have the whole day in Venice. We found a place at the train stations to store our bags for the day so that we didn't have to worry about our big packs all day since we were not staying the night in Venice and didn't have a hotel to store it in. Our plan that day was to kayak through Venice, and so we left everything of value in our packs- including our camera. (We did have a water camera that we bought at Walmart before or trip specifically for this day.) So, FYI when you look at our photo slide show below there are not many photos. Our water camera is at Sams Club getting processed.

Anyways, we set off to locate the place we were supposed to meet our kayaking tour. The guy told us that we could walk from the train station to the location, but we kept walking and walking, and walking and we were no where near where we were supposed to be. No one spoke English that we tried to ask, and so it was very confusing. Also, there were hardly any street signs. Well, we finally figured out that Lido (where we were supposed to meet our kayaking people) was an island, and that there is no way to walk there. So, we had to get a water taxi- which was really frustrating because we had walked for like an hour and a half, and they charged us 13 Euros for the two of us to take like a 10 minute "taxi" ride. That was alot of money for that stupid thing.

Well, when we got to Lido we started looking for the place that we were supposed to meet, and to make a long story short- we got lost for a long time, we found the place, no one was there, and so we gave up and tried to find internet to see if we were at the wrong spot or at the wrong time or something. Again, no one spoke English so it was difficult to find internet. We finally found a Best Western and they spoke English and we payed them for internet. Long story short again- the kayak people had emailed us and changed the location of the meeting point, and so of course we didn't make it. It was a good thing that we did not pre-pay for this tour. But then, that left us on Lido, and the only way back over to the main island was back on the stupid water taxi- so another 13 Euros later we were back to the main island.... Ugh... so we spent 26 Euros that day on stupid water taxis. It was so frustrating!

We got over to the main plaza at San Marco and there were a ZILLION people everywhere. Tourists just elbow to elbow. It was miserable. We could barely move in the main plaza, and so we decided to get off the main plaza and walk some of the small side streets and mosey around the town for the rest of the day since we missed our tour. Well, there were still people everywhere, and it was just annoying. We walked and walked, and finally decided that we needed to eat something, and so we found a small side-walk cafe to eat some pizza at. It was okay- nothing great- which was disappointing. (We later found out from our taste tour in Florence that if you eat a decent meal in Venice you are lucky. Supposedly there are not many good places to eat there and it's all over priced.) And, you don't even want to know about the bathroom I used there... yuck.... supposedly all public bathrooms in Venice were like the one I used, and if that's the case- if you go to Venice, you better hold it girls if you gotta go potty. It was just a big pot that you had to straddle and try to go.... but add to that the stinkiest smell and the dirtiest closet-sized room- and that was the bathroom in Venice. I almost threw up cause it was so absolutely disgusting. Ugh.....

So, we continued to walk around and tried to enjoy Venice, but it was just frustrating. So, we decided that maybe we'd head back to the train station and see if we could get an earlier train to Rome. Well, then things just got worse. Remember how I said 1/2 the streets were missing signs? Yeah... we got lost. We tried to ask people, but again- hardly anyone spoke English, and the way they sent us just tended to get us more lost and confused. We were just so annoyed and sick of the city. We finally got back to the train station 2 hours later. 2 HOURS... Ahh... it was so annoying.

We figured out what train to take to Rome, but we had an hour and a 1/2 we could have still explored before our train, but we didn't want to. We didn't want to get lost again, and we just weren't feeling Venice.... we just wanted to leave. We did take some photos outside the train station, not far off the beaten path with our digital camera- so that's why we have the ones below. Sorry I don't have our water camera ones.

Funny story about that water camera- we were just snapping away with our dinky little water camera all day. All these people had their big nice cameras and we had our dinky water camera cause we thought we'd be kayaking... yah- we didn't kayak, but we had that water camera.... I think you had to be there though, cause every time Lantz and I would pull out the dinky water camera to snap a photo we'd just start laughing.

Anyways, we sat in front of the train station for over an hour waiting to get out of Venice. At that point, we were practically running for the train cause we wanted to get out of there. Well, that's where we learned another tough lesson. In Italy even if you have your Euro-rail pass you have to make reservations for all the trains. So stupid. So, we get on a first class train- cause our Euro-rail is first class, and people were like.. uh, you're in my seat... and we were like what? Evidently all the seats are assigned in Italy cause you have to buy that stupid reservation. Well, the guy let us buy tickets for the train, but we didn't have reservations, so at every stop we had to get up and move cause we were evidently always in other people's seats. It was so emabarassing. I felt like a stow away. People kept staring at us like we were so dumb. We didn't know. Anyways, we eventually ended up on the ground in the area between cabs. We just gave up on seats. The whole train was packed and there was no way we were getting a seat. We just wanted to get to Rome.

Lantz and I were so frustrated about the train thing cause Lantz was on the phone for hours with a Euro rail guy before we bought our tickets months before we left. The EuroRail guy said that we could get on any train in any part that we were traveling through with this main pass. He failed to leave out the fact that in Italy you have to have reservations. So yeah, we learned our lesson. All the other trains in Italy we took we made sure to have reservations so that we could have seats. It was a stupid expense that we were not expecting to pay.

So, in case you were wondering the one place that I didn't like- this was it. I hated Venice. I know 1/2 of the reasons I didn't like it were circumstantial, but still... it was just over-rated. If you've seen a picture of it- that's all you need. And, it's known for being a city on water, but every city were were in had rivers flowing through it... and Amsterdam was basically all on water. It's just so small and compact and so people can't really spread out, and so it's just packed with people. And, everyone was lost. No one knew their way around and everyone was walking around with maps just trying to figure out where they were at. (Notice photo of random girl holding a map in the slide show... yeah... that was Venice.) I just felt that Venice was not worth it. It wasn't what I had expected. I'm glad we only had one day planned there- I think if we would have planned on staying more than one day we would have been irritated the whole time. We were lucky that it wasn't sunny, cause we heard that if it's sunny it's super stinky. So that was good that we didn't have to deal with major stink.

Anyways, if you ask me I'd tell you to skip Venice. Someone else may tell you it was amazing and that they loved it, but for me- I did not like it at all. We have some good photos, but I wouldn't go back. It wasn't worth it at all in my opinion.




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Friday, July 3, 2009

Birthday

*WARNING* This is not a Europe post.

Yesterday, July 2nd, I turned the BIG 26! I can't believe that I am in my upper 20s now.... whoa! Isn't it funny how time just flies? Anyways, I had a great day yesterday. After I finally got out of bed Heather made us all breakfast. That was great, because I normally make breakfast and I didn't have to. Always good to be a little spoiled! Then I just laid around yesterday, worked out, cleaned up some... not much of anything specific- which was a treat because I feel like I have been doing errands every day since we've returned from Europe.

Lantz came home for lunch and surprised me with a Retro Bakery cupcake. Yummo! Retro bakery is the yummiest little place here in town that sells gourmet cupcakes. He got me a Apple Cider one, because I had never had that flavor before. It was soooooo good, but very rich. I had to split it with Lantz cause I couldn't eat it all. He then gave me my present. He got me some new perfume- DKNY's Green Apple Delicious. I have been wanting it for a few months now, so it was fun to get it and put it on. He also got me a massage for when we get back from our mission trip. I can't wait! I love, love, love professional massages... actually any massages.... I just really enjoy having my back rubbed. I am so looking forward to this.

I got some great stuff in the mail too! I got a way cute white purse and some blinged- out white flip-flops, some cute new bangle bracelets, a new pair of earings, some cash, and of course some amazingly sweet cards. Thanks mom, dad, Aunt Darla, Babab & Ooh-Daddy, and Momma Jean & Poppa. I loved it all!

Heather worked yesterday and then went to the airport to pick up her boyfriend, Ellis. He's in for a few days to visit. When she got home she gave me her gift. She got me a super cute blue button down shirt with little buttons on the side. I really like it. She also put a pair of her sandals that I've been admiring in the bag. She told me that she'd take me to get a pair of my own in my size and the color of my choice. I can't wait! Yeah for new shoes!

Then, last night we (Lantz,Heather, Ellis, & me) went to dinner with some of our awesome friends, Steve and Vanessa, from church. We went to the Cheesecake Factory- one of my favorites. I of course had to get my favorite cheesecake- the coconut chocolate one. Ahhh.... so good. If you have never had the coconut chocolate cheesecake from there then you are really missing out. Thanks again Steve & Vanessa!

Here is Heather and her boyfriend, Ellis:
Here is my sister and me:
All of my awesome gifts:
All of my awesome cards:

So, of course I had an amazing birthday. The Lord has truly blessed me with awesome family and friends.

Hopefully the next blog will be about our first night train and Venice, Italy.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Munich, Germany

The next stop on our trip was Munich, Germany. We took a train from Bacharach to Mainz where we got on a connecting train to Munich. I will admit that I did not have a good first impression of Munich, because it just seemed like a big, modern city. It was however one of my favorite stops. I really enjoyed Munich alot. It is a city of history with a modern flair.

For those of you who don't know- I teach a Holocaust unit, and so I am a bit of a Holocaust/ World War II junky. This city was very interesting for me to be in because this was where Hitler got his start. It was weird to be in all of these places that Hitler had been in, and to see so much of the history that he had a hand in establishing.

Our hotel in Munich was awesome! (We did most of our booking through Priceline and got amazing deals on 4 and 5 star hotels.) We stayed at a newly remodeled Marriott by Olymic Park. This room and our Paris room were the best that we stayed in. Our bed was so amazingly comfortable- which is a big deal when you are on vacation. Although this hotel did not offer free breakfast, they did always have fresh green apples sitting out for you to take and big soft pretzels for guests in the afternoon. (Side note- I had no idea that huge soft pretzels were such a big deal in Germany.... they were everywhere!) This hotel also had a super nice pool, hot tub, and steam bath that we took advantage of several different times.

Anyways, after we arrived in Munich and checked into our hotel we went to a recommended outdoor cafe called Zum Brunnward. (Have you noticed a trend? Eating outdoors is like a mandatory... everywhere...) The food was sooooooo good. It may have been my favorite meal. I had a very tender pork with sauce over it and a potato dumpling with a sauteed red cabbage, and Lantz had a different cut of pork with fried potatoes, fried onion strings, and bacon all in a cast iron dish mixed together. His was super yummy!

The next day we headed down to Marenplatz (city center) to do a bike tour. We had originally planned on doing a Mike's Bike tour like we did in Amsterdam. We really enjoyed the tour there, and thought that it would be a good idea to do one in Munich. Well, we got down to the city center right about when the big clock started going off. At a certain time this huge clock on one of the main buildings starts dinging and all these little puppet people/ dolls start twirling out and around. (see photo below) It was funny to watch so many people watch this clock going off.

Anyways, back to the bike tour. We ended up not doing Mike's Bike tour, but instead we decided to give this Free Bike tour a try. They were walking around asking people to join the tour and told us that they only work for tips, and we only had to tip what we felt they deserved at the end. This was a great idea! We ended up going to every place that we would have with Mike's Bike tour, and how do I know this... well... we saw that tour group at every stop that we made. Our tour guide Aaron from Canada was really great. He gave us so much information, and we were able to see things that we wouldn't have even known to look for. Oh, also it rained for part of tour... of course.

One example: Aaron pointed out a gold line painted down the ground of one of the side streets. This street evidently was used by people who did not agree with the Nazis. You see, there was this one main street that everyone who walked down had to stop and do the "Heil Hitler" thing to one of the swatstika flags hanging on one of the buildings. There were Nazi soldiers that stood guard there to make sure each person saluted while walking by. If you didn't salute you'd be in major trouble. Anyways, so people who were anti-Nazis took this side street to dodge the Nazis and having to salute the Nazi flag. So, the street with the gold line was the street that people used to dodge the Nazis, and the gold line was painted on to represent the path that they took. Cool huh? (See photo of gold lined street below.)

On top of seeing lots of historical sights, we also got to ride through the English Garden. That place was so big and it was so pretty. We stopped at what the Germans call a Beer Garden for lunch. I don't know why they call it that, but basically it's like an out door eating area where they sell food- sandwiches, salads, brats, pretzels, and of course beer. (Side note- beer in Germany is a staple. It is totally a cultural thing. To see people drinking beers is like we would see people in America drinking water, or Italians drinking wine... that's just literally what people drink every day at all times. It's not uncommon to see people drinking beer with their breakfast. It's not like drinking here. They are not getting wasted, and it's not a socially un-approved thing- it's just normal. It was different to see that.) Aaron our tour guide also showed us a small river in the middle of town that people would surf on because there was an undercurrent there that made a wave. Our tour lasted 4 and 1/2 hours, and I would totally recommend it to anyone. It was not a hard or strenuous ride at all.

After our bike tour we went up into the Old St. Peter's church bell tower as recommended by our tour guide. It was only 1.50 Euros per person. You climb to the top of this bell tower by steps (306 steps) and then you have the most beautiful view of the city. You could see all of Munich... very cool!

After the bell tower we ate at the infamous Hofbrauhaus. That place is massive!!! I couldn't believe how big it was. I could see why Hitler would hold political rallies and speeches there. Not your typical restaurant. The only thing bad about the Hofbrauhaus was that there were some dumb American party boys there just drinking away. We were sitting on a huge outdoor patio by a fountain and they were sitting a few tables away. These guys were just downing the beer left and right.... gross. Then all the sudden one of them just started puking his brains out on the cobblestone. It was one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. Nasty... yuck. He just kept barfing, and barfing and barfing. There was no telling how much that guy had to drink. Stupid.

On our way home from the hotel we had some amazing ice cream with a fresh cherry pie filling like thing on top. It was melt in your mouth amazing!

The next day we went to a German grocery store and bought some things for food that day. We spend 12 Euros and it lasted us all day. We got a freshly baked loaf of wheat bread, some peppered turkey meat, some veggie cheese, 2 lbs of cherries, Nutella, and Haribo gummy bears. We also got a few green apples from the lobby of the hotel. We had a great brunch with all of our yummy buys.

After our brunch we caught a subway out to Dachau. Dachau is a small suburban town of Munich. When you say Dachau though, it is immediately associated with the concentration camp. One of the main reasons we stopped in Munich was so that we could visit the Dachau concentration camp and pay our respects to the people who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Going to Dachau was a very moving experience for me.

When we walked through the entrance that said, "Arbet Macht Frie" I can't explain what I felt. It was creepy. The camp grounds were so big. I don't know what I was expecting because I have taught about what took place there and studied it over and over. I had also seen lots of pictures, but seeing it in person was so different. We walked through the few barracks that remained there, we walked through the huge processing building which has been turned into a museum, we walked through the creamatoriums, gas chambers, and then finally we walked through the different memorials that are on the grounds. We also walked through the bunker which was the solitary confinement building. That was the spookiest thing ever. It was cold and dark and drab in there. For some reason when we walked through it there weren't any other tourists around. Lantz and I both got creeped out and walked through the whole place quickly so that we could get back out into the open.

It was hard for me to be at Dachau. I could not wrap my brain around it. It's really hard to put words to what I felt there, and to even explain how I feel about it now. It was very surreal to walk around the place where 30,000 prisoners were held. To know what happened there, and then to think of all the lives lost there was very upsetting. If you ever go to Europe I think that you should make a trip to a concentration camp to really see for yourself. (There are lot of photos from Dachau in the slide show below.)

After Dachau we went to Olympic Park for a little while and then over to the BMW museum. Lantz loved the BMW museum even though we didn't get to stay very long. Lantz and I both picked out our dream car and took pictures by it.

That pretty much sums up Munich. Sorry this post was so long, but I really loved Munich. It was hard to summarize our time there. If you are ever in Germany I would say that Munich is a must see.




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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bacharach, Germany

Our second stop on our trip was Bacharach, Germany- which is a recommendation of Rick Steves. We took several trains into Germany and then eventually made our way to the small town of St. Goar off of the Rhine River. When we got off the train there was no one around and the town was so small. My first thought was that I want to get back on the train and go where the people are. Well, Lantz was like.... uh, let's walk this way. And, so we started to head down a street and eventually we encountered lots of people. It was a cute little town with small streets, and it had lots of shops and restaurants. We ate at a little down town cafe and enjoyed just chilling without a huge agenda.

After lunch we walked down to the river and got on a boat cruise. We took a boat down the Rhine river to Bacharach. The cruise down the river was one of the highlights of the trip. Germany's countryside is so beautiful, and there are castles atop every hill along the river. It was so neat to pass all these little villages along the river.... and everything was so stinking green.

When we arrived in Bacharach, we set off to find our little bed and breakfast. Being that Bacharach was so tiny it was easy to locate. We checked into Pension Lettie (random side note- the owner of the b&b actually also owns a house down the street from us in Las Vegas- we didn't know that until the next morning before we checked out). Then we explored the city. Bacharach is a very quaint town. It is very old and you are immediately transported back in time.

We walked the streets and then got off the beaten path a bit to walk up to one of the medieval castles. The stairs were really steep, but it was worth it to explore Stahleck Castle. It was funny... when we got up there there was a big gamers festival thing and they had an actual full pig roasting (see photo in slide show). Funny. The views from the castle were incredibly stunning. I could have sat there and starred down to the Rhine river for hours. Awesome!

After exploring the castle we went to a little mom and pop outdoor cafe to have dinner. We both had very traditional German dinners- sausage and potatoes. (Oh, p.s. on my "Generals" blog 2 days ago I should have mentioned that in each place we tried to eat what was cultural for each location. At almost every place we asked our waiter/waitress what they would recommend, and then ordered exactly that. Every time we did that, we got something that we wouldn't have gotten. It was cool to eat what the locals would eat! I so recommend doing this. Yeah, you'll get some stuff that's different, but it's all an experience.)

After dinner we took a walk beside the river. We found a children's park and swung in this big, bowl, basket-type swing. It was very relaxing, and I actually fell asleep for a little while. Lantz found an un-opened German candy bar called "Nuts" sitting on a bench, and he ate it! It could have been poisoned, but he's still alive, so I guess not. (The candy bar wasn't that good.... I tasted it. Not bad, but there were lots more I would have picked over it.)

After the park we went back to our B&B and crashed. We got up early before the city woke up and went on a run. It was such a nice run. I don't think I have ever described a run as "nice," but it was. It was cool to take a run on old cobblestones. The breakfast at Pension Lettie was probably the best breakfast.... no I take that back... it was the best breakfast that we had in Europe. Lettie (the owner) had: waffles, eggs, sausage, fruit, granola cereal, yogurt, fresh juice, and coffee for us. Yummy!

So, we were only in Bacharach for one day, but it was a GREAT day. If you ever get a chance to go to this city, or another one off of the Rhine river- I would totally recommend it. Very, very, very beautiful! Enjoy the photos:




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