Admit it… you sang the title in your head, complete with the voice raising on the “and-a I”…
I love to cruise. Jen loves to cruise. And now… Julia absolutely loves to cruise. We have very few experiences aboard cruise ships, but each time we’ve been on one of these massive floating hotels (or mini-floating city’s… I couldn’t choose between adjectives – you pick your favorite), we feel like royalty. We know that we will chose this method of vacation many more times in our lives. Cruising requires little planning and you are always rewarded with the very best customer service, the opportunity to see many more cities than you normally could in a given time period, endless activities aboard the ship, wonderful food, the benefit of unpacking only once and perhaps best of all – a very affordable vacation (you can get very good deals if you hawk the last-minute deal sites).
Our ship – Holland America’s MS Nieuw Amsterdam
The first time that Jen and I took a cruise was on our honeymoon. We spent three weeks sailing around South America (from Buenos Aires, Argentina all the way around Cape Horn and on to Santiago, Chile). I chose Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for our first cruise, primarily because the itinerary was perfect and I found it to be reasonably priced. I wasn’t nearly the internet-nerd I am today and so I did little research beyond that. We had a wonderful vacation, ate way too much food, enjoyed some lovely scenery (I have thousands of pictures to prove it) and had an absolute blast. However, I had no idea how amazing cruising could really be until we recently boarded Holland America’s, MS Nieuw Amsterdam (pronounced, n-e-w); one of the newer ships in their fleet.
I’ve always been amazed by my father’s dad, even though I have very few memories spending time with him. My “Poppy” was a career photographer for National Geographic. He was born before the turn of the century (February 24, 1898… have you ever known anyone from the 1800’s?!) in a rural town in Delaware that even today only boasts a few hundred residents. He raised his family in Washington DC and got to travel the world for his work (long before traveling the world was something you actually did). These are all things that I find particularly fascinating and I have discovered we even have a few parallels in our lives. Except, he was a rather short man and I’m basically what you call basketball height (5’9″ is about the tallest you’ll see on the court, right?).
A scene along Lago di Maggiore
Of all those attributes, his long-standing career with National Geographic is probably the most interesting to me (and one I’m happy to brag about). On a whim one day (several years ago), my sister-in-law, Jessica googled his name and was surprised at the results. Over 400 of his images appeared on websites like art.com and others (I’m still researching how I can lay claim to the royalties… lawyers feel free to message me). Jessica conspired with Jen and they surprised me with an huge print of one of his 1950’s Washington DC images (I was living downtown at the time). Since Jen’s parents, Dominic and Diane had just purchased their condo in the Lake Como, Jessica and Diane also purchased one of his more famous 1950’s lake images in order to surprise me twice, as well as Jen. When the gifts were presented, my dad, beaming with pride ran out of the room for a moment and came back with the two original copies of National Geographic magazines that contained those exact images. I kept one magazine with my image at my home in Washington DC, and we took the other magazine to Dominic and Diane’s condo in Italy to be with the print that now hangs above our bed.
My grandfather’s photo that appeared in the August 1950 issue of National Geographic
Jen and I recently went to Scotland with her family (HERE) and had a fabulous time exploring the Scottish Highlands. We saw Aberdeen and quite a bit of the Scottish countryside. Next on the agenda was a trip to the country’s capital, Edinburgh. The original plan was to make it a day-trip, but we felt that there was too much to see and do in just one day (not to mention a two hour drive each way), so we planned an overnight stay.
Country road in Ballater
These dry stone walls have been used as field boundaries for well over a thousand years in Scotland
We set out early in the morning from our cottage in the charming town of Ballater, and headed south (still on the wrong side of the road) toward Edinburgh. I was simply amazed to see how the landscape could change so quickly from one part of the country to the another (the colors went from a lush, fertile green to a more rustic, almost coarse landscape – beautiful in it’s own right). Continue reading Make My Order Of Haggis a Double, Please→
No, I didn’t wear one myself, but only because we were already half-way through our trip before I came across a store that sold them. Real men also eat haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs encased in it’s own stomach) – I did do that! Of course, so did my two-year old daughter… and she probably had more than all of us combined.
A scenic shot of the River Dee in the Scottish Highlands
Since living abroad, we’ve been able to get in touch with most of Jen’s roots. Her father is Italian (hence us living in Italy) and we’ve gone to many of the places where he has or had family. Since he grew up in Africa, we still have that left to do. Jen’s mother grew up in Ohio, and having crossed that off the list multiple times – it was time to go a bit further. Diane’s lineage is a mixture of Irish (we went to Dublin in March, HERE) and Scottish. Now, it was finally time to go to Scotland! And since Jen’s parents and sister were here visiting us, we would all embark on this adventure together. Continue reading Scotland – Where Real Men Wear Skirts→
Since I’ll never be a movie producer, I finally have another outlet to satisfy my life-long dream to wrap something up with the simple phrase…
I think this is a fitting title to end our trip in France, which you can read about HERE, HERE and HERE.
Our little family recently journeyed into France for a visit with some wonderful friends, Michel and Shirley (read his blog HERE). We spent a few days with them in their home in Sablet, France. They were wonderful tour guides, packing in many activities that they knew we would enjoy. After a day spent touring some of the most beautiful villages in France, we had a serious thirst to quench. So the next day, we took advantage of our prime location in the Côté du Rhône region of France (arguably one of the most well-known wine producing regions in the world) and drank our way throughout the area.
Our good friends Michel and Shirley have a wonderful home in a small village in the Côtes du Rhône region of France. They invited us to join them for a few days recently, an invitation we were happy to accept. Google maps told me that the journey from our home to theirs was approximately six hours and so we decided a stopover at the beach for a night would break up the drive nicely (read about it HERE). After a relaxing night in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, we headed north to Sablet, France so that we could savor an enjoyable visit with good friends.
We arrived in Sablet as scheduled, late in the afternoon. However, I had misplaced all the phone numbers to reach Michel and so I wasn’t quite sure exactly where to go upon arriving in the village. Michel gave me specific instructions not to attempt a drive directly to his home. “The roads are far too narrow – many cars scrape on either side. Don’t attempt it – park at the local bakery and head by foot”. I only had his home address plugged into the GPS and admittedly, I had the words of Barney Stinson ringing in my head “I shouldn’t attempt the drive… challenge ACCEPTED!” After creeping up, up, up, slowly, slowly, slowly – I made it to their home. Luckily I made it with all car paint intact – but it was close. I had been far too cocky and got lucky – I literally had centimeters on either side of my car at times. We found their home and discovered they were just out at the local market, preparing for our arrival. Continue reading Trois Villages in Une Day→
It’s been a long time since I completed a blog post. So long, that for some reason – I’m a bit nervous (strange, my friends will tell you that I love to talk about myself). So I’ve been procrastinating. I have organized my DVD drawer. I carefully tended to the plants (I’ve discovered I love gardening…in small doses). And the past few days, I have been playing Mr. Mom while Jen is in California for work. I have done just about everything to avoid writing on the blog for the past month… and the only thing I’ve come to realize is that I now have a mountain of work ahead of me.
A mountain in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, not completely unlike my mountain of work
It’s not that I’ve just been procrastinating. We’ve been busy. I mean, very busy. Albeit, busy doing more of the same (traveling, eating, drinking, etc.) – but still always experiencing something new. So, please grant me the excuse of allowing the experience to get in the way of the blog – just this one time! In the coming days and weeks, you will hear of our wonderful trip to visit our good friends in France; the visit from Jen’s family and the upcoming visit with my parents. I’ll toss in a few food posts and hopefully a feature on where we’ve been living (which has been in the pipeline since I started this blog). So let’s get this party started… no more delays. And so, it begins with a trip to France… Continue reading What’s the French Riviera Without a Gold Yacht?→
Two posts about the Dolomites and now four posts about Austria… will the posts about this road trip ever end?! I promise, I’ll wrap it up here… I think I’m spending as much time writing as I did enjoying the trip!
An unfortunate haze covers a beautiful city
You may have gathered (HERE) that we instantly fell in love with Salzburg and extended our trip by an extra day/night to see more. We started day one with a visit to a castle, Hohenwerfen Fortress and so I thought starting our second day with a visit to it’s sister castle, Festung Hohensalzburg would be appropriate. Continue reading How Do You Say, "The End" in German?→
Apparently I’m the only person in the world to forget that, “The Sound of Music” took place in Salzburg, Austria. I base this observation on the countless number of tour operators and tourists we observed visiting and posing at key movie locations. However, thanks to a quick iTunes movie download in the hotel, we were quickly singing our doe-ray-me’s along with the rest of the cheese balls.
Not only was this classic movie set and shot here, but a fairly famous musician was also born and raised in the city. Perhaps you’ve heard of him… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg is an amazing city filled with a rich history and jaw-dropping beauty. We left northern Italy for Austria on a whim two days prior. We continued riding that whim and drove further into Austria to see Salzburg on the suggestion of family. Since our expectations of the city were nonexistent, they were easy to surpass – but I would think this city could have easily leapt the most lofty of them all.
I did it! I saw my first castle. It was wonderful – so tender and caring. And it lasted all morning! A first I’ll never forget!
When we drove into Austria, the hardest part after visiting Innsbruck (read about it HERE) was choosing which castle to visit. We had already planned on visiting Salzburg next, so I carefully chose among the four major castles near the city. I settled on Hohenwerfen Fortress about 40 km southeast of Salzburg. The plan was simple – leave Innsbruck early and drive straight to the castle. We would spend an hour or so at Hohenwerfen Fortress and then head to our hotel in Salzburg. My plan was solid – but I underestimated how much fun we’d have at the castle, and we ended up staying nearly four hours. Continue reading A Castle? OK… I’ll Take Two!→