Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Break

Hello...Anne here. Drew asked me to update his blog about our whirlwind spring break. We went to four countries over the course of 8 days! 

Munich, Germany (Saturday):
Drew and I met at the Munich airport and hopped on the train to visit Dachau, a WWII concentration camp about 20 min outside of Munich. It was chilling to be in the same place where such atrocities had taken place. After Dachau, we went back to Munich and found a biergarten (beer garden), where we ate lunch  and drank a beer. We then had to catch our train to Heidelberg, Germany. 

Heidelberg, Germany (Saturday-Sunday):
We checked into our hostel and then wandered around the old city. It was very quaint and has a huge castle overlooking the town. My one request for our trip was to see a castle, so this stop was our compromise. The castle was lit up at night and very beautiful. We made a friend at dinner and hung out with him for a while. He was an American soldier stationed in Germany. It was good to hear another English voice. After dinner, we wandered around some more and then went to bed early, so I could catch up on my jet lag. The next morning we toured the castle. It has been damaged twice, once from a bombing and once from lightning. There was a pharmacy museum, and Drew took lots of pics for Trish. There was also the world's largest wine vat, which you could climb on top of. We were exploring the castle and got a little lost. We ended up in a place where we weren't supposed to e. Drew wanted to go down a dark staircase, until I showed him a sign written in German. We didn't know what it said, but it had a picture of a mean-looking bat, so we ventured back to safety. We then ate lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the famous "Old Bridge." I really wanted a salad, so I order what I thought to be a cold-cut salad. Well, when it arrived it turned out to be pickles and bologna-type meat all chopped up together. Needless to say "Big Girl" ate it, but it was definitely an interesting meal! After lunch, we went to a next-door beirhaus (a brewery) and hung out for a bit. It was a relaxing day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We caught a train to Frankfurt at 6:30pm for our next location.

Frankfurt, Germany (Sunday):
We were only in Frankfurt for a couple hours, waiting for a bus that would take us overnight to Amsterdam. However, we wanted to see the city so we left the train station and starting looking for a restaurant. However, we walked straight into the sex district. I was very uncomfortable so we turned around and went back inside the train station to waste time until our bus. We went outside to wait for our bus at about 11:45pm and we waited and waited. It finally showed up at 1:30am! We got on and that was the last of Frankfurt. I don't think we'll ever go back.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Monday-Wednesday morning):
We arrived in Amsterdam on our bus at around 6:15 in the morning. We saw a sign for Amsterdam and hopped off the bus. As the bus was driving away, we realized we were on the outskirts of the town, not the main station. We were exhausted and found it hard to function and figure out trains to get to the main station. Drew stepped up and figured everything out and got me safely on the train. About 15 min later, we arrived where we were supposed to be and walked 10 minutes to our houseboat hostel, aka a botel. We were able to check in early and crashed for several hours. We revived around 11am and set off to explore Amsterdam. We grabbed lunch and then headed for Anne Frank's House. It was very well done and interesting to see. I read the book long ago but had forgotten how impactful her story is. My favorite comment of the day: We are ending the tour and get to a room where it has how each person died. Drew looks at me really confused and says: "Anne Frank died?" Haha that boy. After Anne Frank, Drew convinced me to needed to see at least one art museum. I told him I would need a "coke light" and ice cream first . After I got a second wind we went to the Van Gogh museum. "Starry Night" was on exhibit and it was very interesting to see. We then went to the Heineken Experience, which is in the old building where Heineken beer was initially brewed. It was such a cool place, with virtual rides and tastings along the way. After that, we went back to the Vita Nova, our boat, and spruced up. We then walked across the docks to a huge library where there was free internet. I had to look up the information for my "special day" I had planned for Drew for the next day. We then ate at a Chinese restaurant overlooking the water. It was another interesting choice...
The next morning, we hopped on a bus and rode about 30 min outside of the city. Drew had no idea where we were headed. We ended up in a small town called Landsmeer, in a residential neighborhood. I walked up to a house and rang the doorbell, Drew wondering where in the world we were in the meantime. A man answers and leads us to his garages, where when the garage door opens, Drew sees his suprise- SCOOTERS! We were given a map of bike paths and scootered all over the coastal towns of Northern Holland. It was such a neat experience. It was beautiful landscapes and quaint, sweet little towns. It was a little chilly when the sun went behind a cloud, but we stopped and warmed up every couple of towns and it was tolerable. We rode from about 9am to 6pm. We were tired and wind blown but we had so much fun! Along the way we stopped at a shop that showed us hpw to make the wooden clogs and also local cheese. We tasted all the cheese they made and bought several kinds. They were delicious. On the way back to the city, we stopped and got mini wine bottles and had cheese and wine appetizers. We went out that night to an Irish pub because it was St Patricks Day. It was packed out, but very fun. We got a good seat in front of the Irish "band" and enjoyed ourselves. 
The next morning we woke up REALLY early and sprinted to catch our train at 6am to Paris

Epernay, France (Wednesday):
We arrived in Paris at the Nord train station and walked to the Est station to catch our next train.  We grabbed lunch and then waited on our train to head to the Champagne region of France, which was the special day Drew planned for me. However, it never left. We saw lots of people getting off the train and we finally followed suit. We couldn't understand what everyone what saying, because it was in French, but evidently the train was broken or something. We had to wait until the next train came 2 hours later. This was a litle frustrating because our schedule was planned so exactly. However, we finally got to Epernay and sprinted to our first cellar tour. We walked straight to Moet et Chandon, the maker of Dom Perignon. We toured the breathtaking cellars, and saw thousands and thousands of champagne bottles. We wanted to purchase a bottle, but it was a bit out of our price range. We had a tasting at the end and tried 2 types of their champagne. We then walked down the Avenue of Champagne to find another champagne house to tour. We went to Castellane, but their last tour had already ended. We were able to go through their museum and then climb to the top of their tour and look over the town of Epernay. It was very picturesque. The grapevines weren't green yet but it was easy to imagine how pretty they could be. We also had a tasting of this champagne. We then went to a champagne bar, where we looked through their cellars and chose several champagnes to sample. It was a very cool location. We then checked into our lodgings, very conveniently situated on the Avenue of Champagne. We went to dinner at a brasserie, where Drew ordered an escargot soup appetizer, which a snail shaped croissant! The meal was absolutely delicious! We wondered around the town a little bit more and then went to bed. It was such a pretty place. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Look forward to a guest columnist entry this weekend about a whirled-wind spring break trip through Europe.   It was a blast.  I will be traveling to meet the family in Milan on Saturday. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

By now you have probably have given up on checking my blog.  I have a terrible time trying to keep up with all that we do.  Since I last posted about Rome and Siena we have covered a lot of ground so I am going to just try to give you a brief summary of the last couple of weeks so that I can feel caught up.

The weekend after the ten day trip the villa hosted a wine and cheese tasting.  Not knowing anything about wine I was very interested in what our instructor had to say.  Basically it was a quick over view of what you want to look for in wines and how to distinguish one from another.  It really enjoyed it and hope we get a chance to do it again before the semester is over.  The one thing that I took away from the tasting is the strong difference in what I had been buying at the local store (cheapest they have) and what she offered us to taste.  She also warned us against this practice because she said that cheap wines are unhealthy for you.  

That next Saturday morning we loaded up on a train to Nice, France.  Nice is located on the French Riveria.  It is actually only about a 2 1/2 hour train ride to such a wonderful place.  We were lucky enough to be going the same weekend as Nice's Carnival, which is Europe's equivalent to Mardi Gras.  This was a really fun weekend.  I had never seen so many people and live music in one place before in my life.  There were people dancing everywhere and they all were dressed up in this elaborate costumes. 

The next weekend was our four day "blitzkrieg" of four countries in four days.  We left the villa right after our Friday class on a modern architectural tour of Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and France.   We were separated into 3 rental cars that students drove.  Luckily I didn't have to drive as we had a couple of minor bump ins. The first night we traveled all the way through Switzerland stopping along the way to look at different types of architecture and structural bridges.  Switzerland was actually my favorite country on the tour because of the beautiful scenery that we passed along the way.  The Swiss alps are amazing.  My most favorite place we visited we couldn't really see it because it was almost dark.  But this site was on a small narrow country road covered in snow.  It was so quite and peaceful there.  It was here that we had a bump in with one of the vans.  It started sliding back on the slope and ran into a fence post and busted out a tail light.  And then our professor who was in a hurry to go the next stop back into the other rental car at the same time.  I thought that it was hilarious but he sure didn't.  
The next day we had a stop in Bregens, Austria and then on to Germany for two nights.  In Germany we visited Munich and Stuttgart.  I was very impressed with Germany also.  The food and German beer was really good.  On Monday, we left Germany going through Ron Champs, France, which was a small town hit hard by WWII.  After that we were on the road for most of the day and night until we returned to Genova.  It was a face paced tour but I still enjoyed it.

I know that it is vague but thats probably how it is going to be until I get home and can sit down with pictures. Today we are exactly half way through the semester.  We have only two more months to go.  I know it is going to fly by because every week until mid April someone has either family or friends coming to visit. We also have spring break coming up and another ten day trip throughout Italy.  I think I am going to need to rest when I get home.  

Lastly we did have a mid-term last week and a major project due next week.  I just wanted to say that we are having some school work during all this. (ha, ha)