Well, I finally figured out how to blog. All my friends do it, kids or no kids. I have been resistant for a long time. Alas, I find myself in a new country and needing something to do! So I am going to start my first blog with my email update that I sent to all my friends:
Guten Tag Everybody!
Greetings from our new home in Dresden, Germany! In the last 3 weeks, we have traveled from Spain, to Italy, to France, and now to Germany. I think that France was my favorite country by far, although Italy came in a close second because of the magnificent food and yummy cappuccinos! Amazingly, so many people in Europe speak English. That has motivated Don and me to take Spanish classes when we get back to the states (of course, after we have mastered German – such an easy language)!
We started in Madrid, Spain and traveled by bullet train to Malaga, accompanied by my cousin Tricia and her husband Steve. We stayed in a “cozy” suburb Benalmadena near the beach at a place called Pueblo Evita! So many firsts there… our first “real” seafood paella, a bullfight (Tricia and I were all smiles until we realized what actually happens to the bull!), authentic Tappas, exploring the Castillo de Gibralfaro and the Catedral de Malaga, topless beaches (first time for us!), a taste of the Spanish toll roads, and even a random Buddhist Temple!! Did I mention gelato, gelato, gelato?? We had at least one almost everyday! The Spanish schedule was so relaxed! The day started around 10, lunch 12-1, siesta after that, dinner around 9ish, then start the evening! When in Spain, do as the Spaniards, right?? We had so much fun that week, definitely an unforgettable adventure!!!
Our next stop in Marseille wasn’t originally planned but turned out to be a fantastic voyage. Marseille is on the southern coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea (we were on our way to Italy). The people in Marseille were extremely friendly, which surprised us because of what we were told about the French beforehand! Julian, our hotel concierge/front deskman, explained it to us like this, “In Paris, it is cold and they are too busy working so they do not have time… We have more time!” in his wonderful French accent. We enjoyed Bouillabasse, a local seafood stew, and saw the beautiful Cathedral Sainte-Marie-Majeure! Additionally, we took a boat tour to one of the islands off the coast. Don was able to find an abandoned fort and cross a dry moat by rope so he could explore (while I had a heart attack!). Then we took a refreshing dip in the very cool waters of the Mediterranean in a cove all to ourselves. It was delightful!
Next, we headed to Manarola, one of the 5 villages in Cinque Terre, Italy. The train trip was somewhat of a disaster because our 1st train was cancelled, but the all day trip was worth it! We arrived at our hotel La Torretas (their motto “Charm and Relax”) after a little jaunt through a red tunnel from the train to the city. “Charm and relax” was exactly what we did at Cinque Terre. The view of the sea from our hotel room or anywhere from any of the villages was amazing! It was so picturesque. We visited all 5 of the villages either by strolling along the “Walk of Love”, hiking along mountainside trails, or train. Personally, the “Walk of Love” was the least stressful for me because of my fear of heights and phobia of touching anyone/ object on the train with sunblock! We also saw how much the Italians loved to “pray to the sungods” – the smaller the swimsuit, the better (Don and I enjoyed the interesting views). They were the most beautifully bronzed people I have ever seen! Don even joined in some cliff diving with the locals (more heart attack for me). Dinner was always great either because of the view or the freshly made pasta or both!! It is so funny how we discovered Cinque Terre in the first place! We were having dinner at an Italian restaurant the night before Don ran the Austin Marathon. I saw a picture hanging on the wall, and I said, “I want to go there”! The waitress was from Italy and told us where she grew up and where we should go! Crazy!
From Manarola, we took a short train trip to Firenze (Florence), Italy. Let’s just say Don and I were overwhelmed with all the art and culture there. I think it would have taken us weeks-months to explore all the museums, cathedrals, and historic landmarks. We definitely hit the highlights (that we know of) like the Cupola of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistry of San Giovanni. We also saw Donatello’s Mary Magdalen, Michaelangelo’s Pieta and David, and Boticelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus (to name a few)! There were even outdoor museums housing Greek sculptures. What we saw was the tip of the iceberg!
After our art overload, our last destination was Paris, France. We saw the sights AND the shops! They had car dealership boutiques for Don and everything else for me! We visited the Arc de Triomphe (very moving to see the guarded headstone of the unknown soldier), the Notre Dame (our free first guided tour and it was extremely informative), and the Louvre. Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa men have named you…. Of course, we experienced the Eiffel Tower from the top during the day and blinking blue at night! Don emulated racing a Formula 1 car at the Toyota boutique and I payed a visit to the original Chanel (Rue de Cambon) and largest Louis Vuitton boutique in the world (damn my purse obsession)! Our most memorable experience in Paris was the homecoming for the French Olympians. We were on Avenue des Champs Elysees when a police escorted parade of Olympians rode by on the top level of double-decker buses! It was crazy! Don almost got a signed postcard from the handball champion, but it flew in the wrong direction after he signed it. C’est la vie, right?
….Missing all of you! Auf wiedersehen! Sam :o)