holidays

I like Paris- Part Deux

So, after a quick snack at the Eiffel Tower, we headed to the Arc de Triomphe.

It a bit cold and windy, but still neat to see.   It was also fun to watch random tourists trying to dodge the traffic circling the Arc- and the police directing them to the underground tunnel for when they cross back.

A quick walk down the Champs Elysees and then we hopped on the metro to another highlight of Paris: Angelina’s.

Li looks happy about being in the shopping epicenter of France, doesn’t she?

My father had emphasized the need to go to Angelina’s at least once while we were in Paris.  It didn’t disappoint.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge chocolate fan- but they had the best hot chocolate I ever tasted.   I wish I had the recipe- I could definitely imagine waking up each morning of a cup of Angelina’s hot chocolate.  Their pastries are also delicious, but pale in comparison to the chocolate.

After, we cut through the Louvre’s grounds, and Li insisted on a break from walking…and soon our arms also needed a break.

The next morning, after Li found her Easter basket in our tiny room, we strolled over to the Louvre.  And… I might have lost it a bit at the length of the line.  It looked like it was miles long…I couldn’t see the end of it. 

 

Photo taken about 15 minutes into our wait- the entrance is on the other side of the pyramid…See the tiny people in the distance?  I did get a kick at all the people posing in front of it while we waited though.

It was EASTER- why weren’t all those people at Notre Dame or something!?!  Probably for the same reason we weren’t, huh?

I also like the faint halo that some drew on the sign…

The line went pretty fast though- and next thing I knew, we were staring at priceless works of art.   While I enjoy a good painting as much as the next girl, I realized from my pictures that I’m more of a sculpture type of girl.  🙂

   

 

 

That afternoon led us to another church- Saint Chapelle.   The church is tiny, and the pictures can’t do it justice.  It takes your breath away when you enter.   

The next morning, after a quick pain au chocolate, we headed home.   It was a wonderful trip- but we were exhausted.  

There were so many things we still didn’t get to see – but we’ll just have to hit them when we return.

Categories: deployment, holidays, Li, Paris, photography, travel | 1 Comment

I like Paris in the springtime….

…Otherwise known as the post of a thousand pictures. 

We’re down to two weeks before we head back to the states- and it seems we’ve saved our most extensive travel for our last two weekends.   We drove to Paris for the Easter weekend- it was about a four-hour car drive- and we’ll be heading to Switzerland in a few days.

I feel like a broken record- I keep talking about how beautiful all these European cities are- but Paris really was beautiful.  It seems like the entire city was designed to be pretty.   That being said, I don’t think Paris is the best choice if you have toddler.  Li was pretty good, all things considered, but there were a lot of lines, crowds of people, and a fair share of toddler meltdowns.  Paris is all about the cafe culture- which doesn’t always accommodate children.  Brisket and I have already decided to go back someday- but maybe without children the next time.

The weather started off great- but turned cloudy and rainy our two following days.  We made the best of it though, and managed to see most of our top sites without too much trouble.  As usual though, we forgot a hat for Li.  Luckily, there were plenty of options.   Doesn’t she look Parisian?

Our hotel was tiny, but had a nice balconey, and was only a five minute walk from Notre Dame

We headed to Notre Dame first.  Like many of the places we’ve been on the trip, it’s surreal being someplace you’ve studied in history classes for most of your life!

Did I mention it was a bit windy?

The pedestrian bridge to Notre Dame is covered with locks-  the tradition is to buy a lock, sign your and your significant other’s name, and throw the key into the Seine.  Pretty romantic. 🙂

 

 

We then picked up some Croque Madames (ham sandwiches with egg) at a little shop to eat along the Seine.  My French is still horrible, but the little old man behind the counter understood me enough!

We also indulged in a few of my favorite things- we stopped at Berthillion’s, Paris’s most famous ice cream shop, and headed to Shakespeare and Company, Paris’s most famous English bookstore.

The next day we headed to the Eiffel Tower.  One word: Amazing.

 

 

While I marveled over the architecture, Li loved the playground.

  

Up Next: The Arc De Triomphe, the Louvre, and the best hot chocolate in Paris…

Categories: architecture, deployment, holidays, Li, OMG, Paris, photography, travel | 2 Comments

One Final Christmas Market- Rudesheim am Rhein

It’s a little hard to believe we’ve been here over a month…It’s also a little hard to believe that tomorrow is Christmas. 

Brisket and I both had Friday off, so to bookend the Christmas season, we headed to one more Christmas market.  Basil kicked off the season for us, Rudesheim am Rhein finished it up.

Rudesheim is a small city on the Rhein (obviously) and is famous in the area for the wine they produce.  The folklore says that the best grapes grow on south-facing slopes, and all of Rudesheim is south-facing- as you can see by all the grapevines.

To get to Rudesheim from the South though, which we did, you need to take a ferry across the Rhein.   The closest bridge to Rudesheim is about 45 minutes away- and it seems the area has built up a pretty good system (some might say “scam”) to get people across on the ferry.   The ferry for our car cost about 5 Euro each way- and was a ten minute ride- but saved us an hour and a half of driving.

It’s pretty much a wine-lover’s town, with lots of little wine shops and a wine museum (closed the day we went…).  Unfortunately, Brisket is a beer lover, while I prefer a good Pepsi, so that aspect was kind of wasted on us.

Bottom line roughly translated: “…to grasp it in the bottle, oh bliss in the glass.”

Yeah, they like wine.

The city though was very hilly, with lots of winding alleys and interesting wood-carved buildings.   The Christmas market spread out through the old town, which made wandering fun- especially with a steaming mug of Gluhwein and a kasewurst in my stomach.

The biggest surprise?  All the tourists!   We heard English spoken by almost all the other tourists around us.  I even saw a guy in a Green Bay Packer hat.   We didn’t know if maybe there was a USO tour to the area, or if was just that much of a tourist attraction, but it felt odd understanding all the conversations around us for once.

Nutella Crepes- universal in any language.

I guess Brisket, Li and I are starting to look a bit more like locals though- we saw a group taking a family picture and asked (in English) if they wanted us to take it.   We were thanked extensively in German by them- only to find out they were also American.  I also played translator for an American tourist at the food stalls- so I guess my German is improving…

So, you tell me- are we looking more German?

Merry Christmas from the Cotterpin House!  

Categories: Germany, holidays, Hus (Brisket), Li, me, travel | 3 Comments

Christmas Decorations- College Style

There are certain advantages to moving into a furnished apartment- you don’t have to worry about furniture (mostly), lighting, or many of the little things that you need to get when moving out on your own for the first time.   I have also heard rumors that Germans take the entire kitchen when they move- everything.  Cabinets.  Sinks.  The faucets…can anyone confirm?

So finding a place that keeps us from having to buy all that?  An advantage, no doubt.

The disadvantage is that I’m tempted to fill the apartment with our own stuff- to make it home.  The problem is that we only have 130 extra pounds of goods to ship home this summer, so we’ll need to make sure our souveniers of the 6 months remain relatively light.  

I come from a Christmas family.  It was the biggest holiday we celebrated- and as I’ve mentioned before- remains my favorite holiday.   Decorating is part of the tradition- and can take a solid couple of hours.   I have to be careful here though- while they have tons of appropriate Christmas decorations- I’ll be forced to ship them back or throw them out due to space constrictions.  My solution has been to resort back to my cheap-o college days- and divert some of Li’s boundless energy into easily recycled Christmas crafts.

Exhibit #1- Two feet of plastic.

Our cheap mini-Christmas tree- bought at the Airforce PX for only $10.   We’ll be able to ship this home and use it elsewhere next year.  The ornaments were a craft project Li and I did one rainy morning…a paint-splattered rainy morning.

 Exhibit #2- The stocking were hung by the media center with care…

It was either this, or hanging up our actual socks…And, no, just no…Li had fun coloring the stockings- but ran out of steam with the red one. (Scrap paper= free)

Exhibit #3- Holiday wishes.

Yes, we only have one Christmas card so far (and that one is the sample I made of our OWN Christmas card) but I’m expecting more at any minute (hint, hint!)…Otherwise I guess I can hang candy canes  on it too…

Exhibit #4- When in doubt- throw a holiday colored blanket on the couch, and wrap something up! 

In this case the table.   Taken directly out of my college playbook- I think my roommate and I wrapped a desk once. (The cost to this one is the cost of wrapping paper- so?  Like a buck?)

Exhibit #5- It’s snowing!

Well…according to our landlord, it probably won’t snow by Christmas- which ironically enough, is the only time of year I actually like snow…

Exhibit #6- Anyone know what that bushy plant is over our door?

Yup, that’s authentic mistletoe.  We got it at our little town’s Christmas market (for approximately $2.50), where I had the pleasure (?) of tasting my first wild boar sausage, and drinking some of the local schnapps. 

Me, next to the mistletoe- Doesn’t the back of my head look happy?

There you have it- 6 ways (yes, kind of lame ways) to decorate- all for under $15 bucks!   Now just pop on some Christmas music, and you’ll be set. 🙂

 

Categories: deployment, German differences, holidays, ideas, Li, me | 3 Comments

Basel, Switzerland- The Old, the Cold, and the Expensive (but Delicious)

So, how was your Thanksgiving?

For the first time, we spent Thanksgiving on our own- which was a bit sad.   I did make a mini-Thanksgiving dinner on our European stove (i.e. in Celsius)- which was an adventure in itself.

We tried to make the most of the holiday though by taking advantage of the four-day weekend with a three-day trip to Basel, Switzerland.

Why Basel?   Because it’s only a three and a half hour car ride from our apartment, and because it has one of the largest Christmas celebrations that kicks off the weekend of Thanksgiving.   Christmas is my favorite holiday, so it seemed like a natural fit!

Our hotel was the Hotel au Violon– and a perfect choice for the Weinachtsmarket (Christmas market).   It was about a block away from the center of the market, and had an amazing view (above).   It was originally built in 1462 as part of a monastery attached to a church- but then used as a prison (until 1995!) before being converted to a hotel.  Yes…they housed the prison next to a church…maybe they reformed all the prisoners and no longer needed it?

Regardless, it made the perfect spot for exploring the old town of Basel.  With its sloped ceilings and wood floors, it had just enough of the old world charm I constantly crave.  Brisket also enjoys good old world charm, but I seriously think he could sleep in a cave as long as there was a good pub nearby.

Basel was a nice town for getting our feet wet- it was easily walkable, and had all the hallmarks of a Swiss town- including crazy steep hills, cobblestones, and all the cheese you can eat (not pictured- all the cheese we ate).

It also had a lovely city hall- with great frescos and statues, and a beautiful river.

Overall, the Christmas market and the town were a lot of fun- but it was COLD.  Emphasis on the COLD.  I just wasn’t prepared – for Switzerland in November…I know, I know…but I had, crazily enough, believed the weather report of a 55 degree weekend.

It was not that warm.

Not even close.

Luckily the Christmas market delivered- and I picked up a stylish new hat to help keep warm.

Li also stayed warm by using us as pack mules…

Switzerland, though, is expensive.  Especially coming from a U.S. perspective…The few souvenirs we got were reasonable enough- but food seemed to take up the largest amount of our budget.   The dinner in the picture below, essentially eaten at an outdoor festival, cost about $60 US.

Yup, you read that right.

It was delicious though.

So, our overall grade for Basel?   A solid B.   Basel was easily walkable, even with a toddler, and has a good transit system- but it is expensive (as is most of Switzerland).  While we didn’t get to see the world-class museums due to a young member of our traveling party, it was a great place to explore on a long weekend- and you can’t beat Swiss chocolate and cheese.

Li particularly liked the cheese…

Categories: Basel, holidays, Li, photography, Switzerland, travel | 2 Comments

Picture of the Week 4-24

Categories: holidays, photography | 1 Comment

St. Pat’s

One of my first thoughts this morning.  ”I’ve never had a green beer.”

Don’t ask me why I was thinking about drinking first thing in the morning…

Second thought: “Do I really want to drink green-colored light beer?  When I could have a Guinness?”

No choice.  Guinness every time*.  And while I don’t have any Irish ancestry that I’m aware of- I truly believe everyone is a little Irish today.

So go raise a pint of the green stuff for me. 🙂

Image from Gigfy.com–  prints of this (and other great Guinness posters) available for sale there!

*In fact, one of my favorite alcoholic drinks is called the Lady Guinness.  It’s a half pint of Guinness beer and a shot of Chambord Raspberry liqueur.  Simple and delicious!

Categories: Guinness, holidays | 2 Comments

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