adventures in tokyo . . .

“How did you end up in Tokyo,” you asked? Well, we were researching places to travel between Christmas and New Years and found ridiculously low airfares to Tokyo. In Matt and Michelle fashion, we booked. I mean, why not?! It helped that Tokyo is a major city and most things would be open through the Christmas Holiday Season (unlike most of Europe). Since we were leaving on the 31st, we didn’t have to worry about everything shutting down for New Year’s, which is their biggest holiday. It was perfect!

We left Stuttgart early on Christmas Day and landed in Tokyo mid-morning on the 26th.  It was a 3 hour flight to Istanbul, a 5 hour layover (there was a delay), and then as 12 hour flight to Tokyo.  We were in Istanbul for “lunch” on Christmas and managed to find a British pub playing Christmas carols, so we hung out there for most of the delay.

We landed in Narita (the town about an hour away) and took a fast train to our train stop in the city.  Walking out of Shinagawa station and making our way to the hotel was very surreal. We’re used to being tourists, but this experience was completely different.  In Europe, we know enough German to figure out most things, even in other languages, you start getting the hang of what things mean. Here, the characters really threw a wrench into our jet-lagged minds.  We found our hotel easily enough and passed a TGI Friday’s and an Outback on the way.  We knew we’d be fine.

After a much needed nap, we wandered through our neighborhood to get the lay of the land and grab dinner.  We found a restaurant that looked good, from what other people had on the table in front of them, but there was no English on the menu.  I did recognize one thing- Chankonabe. Chankonabe is a Japanese stew traditionally eaten by Sumo Wrestlers on a weight gaining diet.  I mean, on vacation, go big or go home big (that’s how it goes, right?).  It was on the “list” of things to do, it served two people, and it was easy to point to,  so I ordered it.

We waited, feeling a little uncomfortable. The tables were really close together and we couldn’t understand anything. We were also so tired. Two big Kiran beers made it to the table and then the meal- a big bowl of uncooked veggies, raw chicken, some sausage/fat mix, and water. The server left, she didn’t speak English, and Matt and I just looked at each other and laughed. I mean, when do you get raw chicken delivered to your table?  It even crossed my mind, “do we eat this, do they serve raw chicken in Japan?” Finally, the server came back and turned the stove on our table on and mimed what to do. We just nodded as more people sat down closer and closer to us. Between trying to figure out how to cook our dinner and me like a toddler with chopsticks, this was the most hysterical dining experience we have had, ever, by a landslide.

After the jet-lagged-cook-your-own-sumo-dinner we knew what we had to do- and where to get free wifi. Enter, TGI Fridays. Yes, the neon lights served as a beacon home and even managed to come through the rest of Tokyo’s neon.  We sat down, Matt ordered a Guinness, and ordered me a Zima. I mean, ZIMA!  Talk about underage memories.  A friend on Facebook asked, “did you take a plane or a time machine?” It was as good as you remember.

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Thanks to jet-lag, it took about the same number of bottles of this deliciousness to make me ready to pass out. We headed back to the hotel and slept forever.

Our second day in Tokyo was epic. We must have walked a marathon. It was gorgeous, blue skies and weather in the high 40’s-mid-50’s. Just perfect. We walked from our hotel in Shinagawa, up to the Shibuya Crossing, ate breakfast at a 7-11 (don’t knock 7-11 sushi for breakfast in Tokyo unless you’ve tried it) saw the Shrine, and then headed to the Harajuku area to do some shopping.

A little about the Meiji Jingu Shrine, it’s a Shinto shrine dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Emperor Meiji was instrumental in opening Japan to the outside world after a long period of self-imposed isolation. It is Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine. The white cylinders are sake barrels. They are called kazaridaru in Japanese.  These sake barrels are offered every year to the enshrined deities at the Shrine. They have been donated by sake brewers from around Japan to the shrine with the sake being used for shrine ceremonies and festivals. There were even barrels of French wine!

After the Shrine, we headed over to the Harajuku area for a little shopping and to find some of the craft beer bars.  After wandering through the crowded shopping street of Takeshiti-dori, we settled down and found a great bar. It was tucked up in the second story of a building. It had everything Matt and I could have ever wanted while wandering through a big city, it was practically empty, it had great beer, amazing food (the wasabi mashed potatoes were the best thing I’ve ever eaten), and it has sports on the TV!  I mean, it was figure skating, so I was in heaven!

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We tucked in for awhile, and then decided to keep going. I mean, we’d already walked up here, we might was well double it and walk on up to the other major shopping area, Shinjuku, grab dinner, and then have some drinks in Golden Gai. Golden Gai is one of the most interesting little places ever.  We found it through watching Anthony Bourdain- you know it has to be good. It’s basically over 200 shanty-style bars, clubs, and food stands squeezed into an area that has 6 alleys and many other narrower passages.  We found some Aussies and chatted with a local guy who lived in Germany for a while. It was fun!  Since we were miles from home, we hopped on the train to get back to our hotel.

We woke up late the next day, sore, and tired. We opted for an easier walk, or so we thought… it always ends up like that for us.  The first stop we made it to was the Tokyo Tower. The tower is the second largest structure in Japan and it modeled after the Eiffel Tower. We could even see it from our hotel room!

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After the Tower, we walked over to the Zojoji Temple.  This temple is a Buddhist temple and the head of the Jodo sect in the Kanto Region. It dates back to the 14th century. The temple was damaged in WWII so most of the buildings are reconstructions.  It’s surrounded by a forest that is incredibly serene despite being in the heart of the city! This temple has one of the saddest and beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen.  The Unborn Children Garden has rows of beautiful stone statues that represent unborn babies (perhaps miscarried, aborted, or stillborn).  These statues are decorated with baby clothes. The windmills are said to help the children transition to the afterlife.

By the time we finished wandering the temple grounds, it was time for lunch so we walked over to the Roppongi district where I’d seen there was a Cali-Mex restaurant. We walked all the way there and it was closed. Lame. Instead, we ate lunch at another 7-11 and trekked farther down the street to where there was a rumored huge Godzilla statue. We made it down to the alleged garden, and it was nowhere to be found. We looked online and saw where it was supposed to be (based on pictures) but it appears it was just a temporary exhibition. It was getting close to dinnertime, the sun was setting, and it was getting cold. We thought that long walk was for nothing until I turned my head and saw it… the Hard Rock!  Woo hoo!  Hell, we’ve just started embracing it.  We stopped in because we had to. I mean, the Hard Rock Cafe always appears when we need it most. It’s like an oasis for our walking and weather weary feet.  Since we had literally covered 2/3 of the city by foot and wanted to save the Sky Tree for our last day, we found we had an open day. We started scouring the internet for tours that we could hop on the next day.  They were all so expensive. Super-Matt did some research and found we could recreate one of the $100pp tours for $9 and go to Kamakura ourselves.  I was going to get to see the big Buddha. Day=Made. We immediately left and walked back home so we could be up early for the adventures to come.

Tuesday was my favorite day in Tokyo, rather the greater Tokyo region. We hopped on the train and made our way down to Kamakura.  It was only about an hour or so outside the city.  We made our way down the street and found the beach. It was gorgeous. It was still cool outside but there were surfers and beach bars everywhere. It was heaven!

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After taking too many pictures of the beach, we walked over to the Kōtoku-in Temple to see the bronze statue of the Amitabha Buddha. The statues dates from around 1252. It used to be made of wood but was damaged in a storm in 1243. It’s been damaged and rebuilt time after time.  The last time was done in bronze.  The statue is 43.8 ft tall and weighs 93 tons. It’s hollow and you can go inside!

 We spent quite some time here and then walked over to Hase Kannon, which is also another Jodo-shu temple. On the way there, we stopped for one of these most amazing treats ever (cream filled buddha, just, no words).
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 It was breathtaking.
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As if these sights weren’t enough, we passed an “American Beach Bar” on the way back to the train. Sold.
Refreshed after stunning views of the beach, Corona, and some burgers, we were ready to head back to the city.
 Since we’d done a good job of waking up early and getting a head start on the day, we still had plenty of time to see more of the city. We took the train up to the Tsukiji Fish Market. I know, I know, anyone who’s been to Tokyo will say “you should have gone in the morning for the tuna thing and to see all that” but since it was a busy time of year and the New Year was coming, the tuna sale was not open to the public. So, we went in the evening- and it was still interesting. We wandered through the stalls and I had some good sushi from a conveyor belt. It was very fresh.
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Later, we wandered around the Ginza area, found another craft beer bar, and actually found Godzilla.

It was GIANT!
…just kidding…
On Wednesday we had our scheduled tour to go to Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi, and to take a bullet train so we had to make it an early night- although I think we ended up at the Outback for a margarita and more figure skating on TV…
So, I don’t even know how to describe Wednesday so I’ll just lay it all out here and share pics later. Our tour guide picked us up at the hotel and took us to the bus station where we boarded a bus to Mt Fuji. The tour director was hysterical and we were so happy the weather had been good because we got to go all the way to base station 5- which is never usually open in the winter.

For those of you scanning through, you may have missed the roller coaster- yeah- there’s a theme park nearby… so weird to see Mt. Fuji with roller coasters in the foreground!

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After spending 45 minutes at the station, we headed back to the bus to go to Lake Ashi.  I got to play a Taiko Drum video game- I was really good, I know, shocking.

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There was a pirate ship on the lake and the water was so clear you could see the fish.  We went to a resort area and took a cable car up to the top where there was another little temple. We got some beautiful pictures.

On the way back to the city we got to take the Shinkansen- a bullet train. It reaches speeds up to 320 km/hr!! We got back to the city in no time. We even found an oyster bar on the way home and had some of the best oysters of our lives (with an accidental detour through a red-light district- oops, but typical).

Our last day, or so we thought- more on that later- was New Year’s Eve so we saved some “wandering” activities for the day.  We took the train up to see our last Buddhist Temple: sens0-ji. We also planned to walk through the street of plastic food, Kappabashi Street, and the Sky Tree (the tallest structure in Japan). On the way to Senso-Ji I looked at Matt and said, “I smell Burger Ki— NO- WAIT-HARD ROCK” and sure enough, we turned around and saw another Hard Rock. What can I say, I have a rare gift. 

Senso-ji was crowded as it was New Year’s Eve, but it was still beautiful.

 

Kappabashi Street was closed, and we marveled at the Sky Tree from afar…

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We popped into a great place for lunch….

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…and decided that since we were going to be on a plane leaving that night and not landing for quite some time…that we should walk the 8 miles back to Shinigawa. File that under “it sounded good at the time….”.

Actually, it was quite fun!  With so many things closing on NYE, we got to enjoy seeing another part of the city, wandering, stumbling into an Irish Bar for refreshment, and taking our time getting back to the hotel.  We got our bags, took the train to the airport, and then found our our flight was delayed 12 hours.

Yay.

We had a fancy NYE dinner of Kiran and Kit Kats and made our way to some random hotel.

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The next morning we made it to the airport very early where we were 5th in line for the flight debacle. Long story short, 1 hour and 45 minutes later of negotiating millions of ways to NOT have to spend the night sitting on the floor of the Istanbul airport, we were on our way to Stuttgart with another airline. Here’s a big round of applause for Austrian Air. Just sayin’.

All in all, this was a great trip. I’m so glad we did it.  The temples and shrines set in the backdrop of a bustling city was something so awesome to see.  I have to say that the food wasn’t all everyone talked it up to be. I think if we were there with someone who spoke the language or knew places to go that it would have been different, but just as a general traveler, if you’re a foodie, do your research and get reservations for places you want to eat.  Since we’re so wandering based, we frequently ended up in areas where there was no English and, although there was plastic food to point to, it wasn’t easy or intuitive to order. So, if you’re looking for a food-heaven like the famous chefs talk about, PLAN AHEAD, or you end up with raw chicken in front of you and you’re looking at your companion saying “what in the actual f*** do we do with this?” Of course, that’s fun too.

This couldn’t have been a better way to say good-bye to 2015 and welcome 2016! If you go to Tokyo, get out of the city when you can, and for goodness sake, walk everywhere! We saw so much and felt so safe. This city is fantastic!

 

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tromso, trip of a lifetime!

In the Fall we were planning our Holiday trips. We couldn’t settle on a place to go for Thanksgiving. We looked at our travel map and realized that the long weekend would be a perfect time to go to Norway. After more research, we decided to go as far north as we could with the time we had, and we settled on Tromso. Tromso is a city in the Arctic Circle. We found out that the second day we would be there, the sun would never truly rise!  In true Matt and Michelle fashion, we booked flights immediately. Go cold and dark, or go home.

We left on Thanksgiving morning and had Thanksgiving lunch at the Oslo airport with delicious crab and shrimp sandwiches. I knew I was going to love Norway.

We landed around 2:00pm and it was completely dark outside!  That was quite the experience. Not only was it dark, but it was rainy and sleeting.  The roads and sidewalks were complete sheets of ice!

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We had originally booked a Northern Lights Tour for the evening, but the tour company called us and said that the bad weather would make it more difficult to find them. They gave us the offer to go anyway, or try to get on a tour later in the weekend.  Since we saw some really cool bars and restaurants all lit up with Christmas decorations and lights, we decided to cancel our tour and just hit the town.

We slipped and slid a few blocks down the street and settled into the Mack Brewery.  This is a local brewhouse and we enjoyed tasting all of their seasonal and regular beers.  We can’t get stuff like this in Germany so it was quite a treat.  We munched on dried fish…which was …interesting. I don’t recommend fish jerky.

 

The next day, we had a full day to explore Tromso. We woke up early, had a great (and fishy) breakfast at the hotel, and hit the ice. We walked to the Arctic Cathedral and wandered through the main streets.  After the Cathedral, we went to the polar aquarium where we saw all the arctic animals we could want to see!  The bearded seals were adorable.  After the aquarium, we slid back to the polar museum which was all about the history of exploring the Arctic. It was actually quite interesting!  I don’t know how they managed the conditions.

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The highlight of our trip was on Saturday.  We arranged a whale watching tour with a company that specializes in smaller group tours. There were eight people and two guides. They suited us up in warm, waterproof gear, and we got on a boat.  We were told that over the past couple of years, the herring had changed their migration pattern and the whales (Orcas and Humpbacks) followed.  We weren’t on the boat for three minutes before seeing our first humpbacks!  I must confess, the came up behind us and we all just caught a little glimpse. I was disappointed because I thought that was our one chance. Boy, was I wrong.

This happened:

Yeah, we saw over 200 whales.  I know, ridiculous!  Around lunchtime, the captain and guide brought us delicious soup and coffee and we sat on the boat watching the hundreds of whales.  It was one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen.

We heard on the tour that the guides expected a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights that night. We booked another tour leaving from our hotel that evening. Our bus took us about 1.5 hours away, out to another coast. There, we waited. We waited, and waited, and waited. We caught a little glimpse of a greenish smear across the sky, and we were like, “wow, that’s cool!”  We didn’t really expect to see any more than that.  They had a small cabin where we could warm up and get warm drinks so we meandered in and out, and walked around the site for a while.  Then we heard a collective “WOAH” from the group. We looked up and we saw the most amazing display of Northern Lights you could imagine! It was like looking at a postcard.  We don’t have great pictures because you really need a great camera and a timer to get them, but the company took pictures for us.  These are all from Tromso Safari (this company has tours that leave directly from the Raddison Blu).

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We got back, reeling from the sights, well after midnight. It was worth it.

We left the next day and couldn’t believe our good fortune with seeing the whales and the lights in one day. It was phenomenal to experience two major nature events all in one day- overwhelming, to say the least.  If you get a chance, I can’t recommend Tromso enough. You don’t need a long time, three days was plenty.  I also say to go in winter when the sun doesn’t rise (you do get hours of twilight-ish) because that’s when the herring are running for the whales and you can see the Northern Lights.

nocti vagus: dining in the dark

One Monday earlier last month, Matt and I both had a particularly  terrible case of the Mondays. We knew there was only one solution. We had to blind book. Most of the regular readers know that blind booking is a feature through German Wings where you select your dates, pay, and then see where you’re going. It’s a fabulous adventure!

Anyway, Matt and I got Berlin. Since we’ve been to Berlin before and only had one night we decided we needed to get a little more off the beaten path. We booked our rooms at Propeller Island, an unusual (and awesome) hotel where you can select your room based on the theme you’d like. Click here to see some of the options. We stayed in “The Table” room. It was fabulous! Other choices include “nudes” “space cube” “coffin” and “cages.” Yeah, we didn’t go for the coffin option.

Since we had our rooms, it was time to look for things to do in the evening. My friend, Kristine, recommended Nocti Vagus. She hadn’t been before but had heard about it.

Nocti Vagus is a restaurant where you dine in the complete dark.  You also experience a show (in the dark).  The entire waitstaff is blind or severely visually impaired and the website will tell you, “a reversal of roles takes place here: here, the seeing need help from the blind.” They couldn’t be more accurate.

We entered the restaurant and were met by a host (not blind) in a lit room. We sat down at a small table where he shared what we could expect for the evening, made sure our phones and watches were off and put away, and took our drink order.  There are three options for the menu. You can get the Gourmet Menu (more traditionally German), the Vegetarian Menu, or the Surprise Menu.  Both the Gourmet and Vegetarian Menus looked really good but we figured “go big or go home” and both ordered the Surprise Menu.

After we ordered, the host took us down to the completely black restaurant and helped us meet our waiter, Wolfgang. We were instructed that if we needed to leave, or needed anything, all we needed to do was yell for Wolfgang. Wolfgang took my hand and instructed Matt to take my shoulder and we were led to our table. They are not kidding. It is completely black inside the restaurant. We could not see anything!  Matt and I managed to fumble around to find our seats (not our waiter’s fault, he led us perfectly, but we were so awkward without our sight).  We were sitting next to each other with a wall behind us and two place settings in front of us where people would join us later. We sat there giggling nervously and feeling like time was passing slow or fast, we couldn’t tell.

Wolfgang brought us our wine and water and told us how to pour it so we wouldn’t spill (put your finger in the glass). Yes, we had to pour our own drinks! At first we were really scared (especially clumsy me) but doing it ourselves made us much more self-sufficient as we prepared for an entire meal in the dark! He also brought bread and butter. Matt and I had to agree on where to put the bread basket and I managed to dip my entire hand in the butter a few times. Oops!

I don’t know if it was 10 minutes or 2 hours later but Matt and I managed bread and wine with no spills. We talked a lot and were surprised with how loud the restaurant was. Everyone was chatting and laughing. It was incredibly festive. The other very interesting thing was that all the waiters had special signals, calls, or whistles that they used at they walked through the restaurant to alert the other servers as to their location. It was so fascinating.

Wolfgang came back with our first plate. We sat there and felt our way to our plates. My fingers rested on a tomato and I realized it was a salad. I tried to use silverware but, well, it’s hard enough to eat a salad with a fork, so I went at it with my fingers and my fork in some sort of combo.  Then came the adventure, “WHAT ARE WE EATING?!” We both swore it was salmon with some potato salad on the side. It was great! Then Wolfgang came back to clear our plates and told us what we ate. It was smoked duck and the mash was peas and other vegetables. Oops. Ha!  Normally, I’m not a huge fan of duck, but it was really good. This was the first moment where I realized just how much we rely on our sight and previous notions of things as means of pre-judgement. More on that, later.

Our main course came next and the plate was much bigger. Matt managed to find the steak right away whereas my fingers, I mean fork, made their way directly to the vegetables. Not surprising. I took my first bite, chewed, tasted, and decided that it was amazing. Matt asked what I was eating, and we figured out it was a carrot. Um, I hate cooked carrots. What is this insanity?! Turns out, if I don’t know I’m eating them, I like them quite a lot. I guess parents have been doing this to their children for years and it worked on me. The main course was quite good and we were correct about what we were eating (mashed pumpkin and squash, vegetables, and steak).

As we were waiting for the show to begin, two women from France sat down in front of us. Wolfgang talked to them for a moment and left to get their drinks. One woman asked if there was someone else at the table and I answered, “yes.” Then Matt spoke up and I guess the woman across from him didn’t know someone was there and she let out the loudest blood-curdling scream I’ve ever heard! The ENTIRE RESTAURANT went dead silent for an eternity, I’m sure. One of the waiters said some sort of joke (in German) and everyone laughed and started eating again. Matt and I were like, “no, it’s ok. I’m Michelle and he’s Matt. We’re from America!” I started rambling on and on and we pretended that nothing happened. That moment will forever be burned into my memory. The women were young (just out of college) and very kind. We talked a bit about traveling and things we’d seen, then Matt and I started talking between ourselves and they resumed their conversation in French, I’m assuming talking about how much we scared the shit out of them. ;-)

Then it was time for the show.  There are a variety of shows (horror, history, music, erotic, etc…) and we opted for the music show. By then, we were full and had been up for hours. We heard a little Mack the Knife and a few songs in German. After being in the dark that long, full, and tired, I leaned my head back on the wall behind the table and …I’m not proud to say this- but I fell asleep. I couldn’t help it! Matt must have sensed it because he kept leaning over to me and asking “are you asleep?!” I woke up when Madonna’s Like a Virgin played. Well played, Nocti Vagus. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t boring at all, it was just dark and anyone who really knows me knows that I go to bed shortly after dark. I just can’t stay awake when there’s no light. Turns out, I can’t do it at a restaurant, either. At least no one could see me!

The last course came out and it was dessert. Again, we had no idea what we would eat. Matt thought it would be something lemon and I thought it would be something apple. Out came pie and ice cream! It was apple pie and it tasted like a lemon ice cream or sorbet. We were positive that we nailed it. Nope. Wolfgang came out and told us it was some apple and something else in the pie and that the ice cream was guava. I’d have never guessed!

After dessert, it was time to go. Since our companions weren’t done eating (they arrived a good 2 hours after us), I had to yell for Wolfgang. I felt so rude but that’s what you’re supposed to do! I yelled, “Wolfgang!” and blushed beyond belief (I’m so glad the restaurant was dark) and he came to take us back out to the lit area to pay.

On our way out, Wolfgang asked us about our experience and as our eyes adjusted, we were overwhelmed. We told the truth, it was amazing. As uncomfortable as it was, it was such an exercise in senses, being open to new ideas, being open to new tastes and textures, and in some cases being open to tastes and textures that we may have been previously closed off to. Matt and I must have talked for another two hours that night about all the crazy things we noticed. I mean, we both were talking with our hands, orienting ourselves to the sounds, agreeing on common places to put water, bread, and silverware, and even learning to sit and be next to someone without talking or seeing. We both couldn’t believe that it had been 4 hours by the time we left. Sometimes it felt like that much time had passed, but most of the time, it didn’t. If you ever get the chance to try something like this, it’s well worth the experience. If anything, it gives you a great opportunity to experience what it might be like to not be able to use your eyesight. I told Kristine (my friend and yoga teacher I mentioned above) that nothing is more yogic than eating in the dark. :-)

Hell, I might even decide to try cooked carrots again!

 

 

forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. it’s been nearly 3 months since my last post…

Even though it’s been quiet over here on the blog, things at the Berra’s European Beach House have been going nonstop.  Most of you know that I went back to full time teaching this year and that’s put a bit of a kink into my blogging time. Don’t even ask how #NanoWriMo is going…but that’s a story for another time.

Since I’ve last written, we’ve had a whirlwind of adventure!

It started in late August when we went to Seeg (a little town in our favorite region of Germany, the Allgau) to see the cows come home…literally.  The cows actually come down from the Alps and back home. It’s a real thing with real cowbells and real flowers. It’s really amazing!

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In early September, Matt surprised me with a trip to France (swoon). I know, it won’t get better than this, so I’ll take it. We went to Strasbourg, a town we love, and Matt booked us on a first class train. We stayed for the long weekend, drinking wine, eating delicious French food, and watching the 1000 year celebration of the Cathedral. They had an incredible light show on the Church each night which showed the history. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  For a surprise, Matt treated me to a tour of some local wineries which don’t sell wine in the stores. It was lovely!

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We even saw the oldest bottle of wine in the world… yep- that’s a real date…

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Then there were fests…

Volksfest:

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posing for the annual family  fest selfie...hahah!

posing for the annual family fest selfie…hahah!

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and pumpkinfest

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Oh, and we went back to the States!  I got to visit my family for a while and then we celebrated Mike and Taryn’s Wedding!  2015-10-06 20.32.57 20151004_092024 20151004_150803 20151004_151051 20151010_205442 20151011_220306 FB_IMG_1444517150196 FB_IMG_1444517189976

Talk about a fun-hangover…

So, that should get you up to speed, for the most part. We were in Berlin this past weekend and had a very unusual and memorable experience Dining in the Dark, which I’ll share with you later this week!

In the meantime, happy fall from Germany! <3 <3

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megan and travis, the sequel . . .

My favorite part of every summer is when Megan and Travis visit.  It started back when we lived in Miami and as thankfully continued as we’ve moved to Europe. We always have such an awesome time!  This year was particularly special because they are expecting! Can you say babymoon?  Since they visited last summer we had done a lot of the “must do” things around the area. This year, we took it off the beaten path and it was amazing.

Early into their trip, we visited the adorable town of Tubingen which isn’t far from here. We spent the day wandering the streets and eating local food. Travis spotted a sign to take us up a hill (this is why Matt and Travis get along) so, up we went, and we were rewarded with beautiful views from the castle courtyard.

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The next day, we headed down to Switzerland in hopes of giving them a glimpse of the Swiss Alps. Sadly, it was pouring rain and gray but we did get a fun boat ride around Zurich out of it!

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Towards the end of the week was where the long weekend of fun began. We went down to the Allgau region to the town of Nesselwang in order to give the Jesters a little glimpse of the German Alps. Matt and I stumbled upon this town last August when we ran our Alpine Half Marathon. We knew we had to come back  We stayed for two nights. We spent two days hiking different trails up and around the mountain and waking up to the sound of cowbells, from actual cows, outside. This is what you think of when you think of Germany. It was perfection.

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One highlight of the trip was stopping at Highline 179.  It is the world’s longest Tibetan style suspension bridge. It was terrifying. I don’t have a problem with heights (remember that time I jumped off the Stratosphere in Vegas) but even I was pretty shaken up on this journey.  We all stepped onto the bridge and all we could see was the swinging of the ropes from side to side.  Travis and I forged ahead while Megan and Matt turned around. It was such a windy day and the bridge was crowded and swinging side to side.  I thought I was going to have to turn around, too!  Pure stubbornness kept me going. All of these pictures were taken by me trying not to throw my phone down and hold on for dear life.

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this is my “scared and faking a smile” face

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The bridge didn’t take too long so we all hiked around to all the ruins.  It was easy to spend an entire day in the area!

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Our trip ended in the Austrian Alps, in Innsbruck. It was gorgeous!  We wandered and we went up mountain. Megan and Travis are truly wonderful travel companions. We are so lucky to have friends who not only “get” us but also like the same things as us!

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family photo!

Also, I must say that my best friend is an absolute rock star. She hiked 11 miles one day, yeah, 19 weeks pregnant. Rock.Star. Three countries, seven days, and mountains upon mountains…I bet the baby enjoyed all that mountain air!