“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” - Jawaharal Nehru

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Final Stop - PARIS

This is a LONG post - a lot happened in Paris! You have been warned :)!

Paris - The City of Lights (i.e. La Ville-Lumière). What a beautiful city - modern with the mix of history.

The first day we arrived in Paris was actually the last day of the Tour de France. Nick was pretty excited about that! Once we got settled into the hotel we hopped on the metro. On a side note - the metro was awesome. The Parisians really have it down to a science. The whole time we were in Paris we never waited on a subway train. Ever. The routes are mapped out perfect for you - you can get to every destination, museum, restaurant that you need on the metro. We spent A LOT of time on it.

Okay back to the tour. We took the metro to the Champs-Elysees and once we walked out of the metro station we were surrounded by race fans. Absolutely TONS of people. Constant smashing and banging into people. We were able to find a nice little restaurant and sit down for a quick bite to eat. By this time the race was still about 3 hours away, but once we finished we went to get in position. We scoped out a few areas and eventually found a pretty decent place. We were only two people back so we were able to see pretty well.

The race was pretty amazing. The racers are going by so fast you only catch a quick glimpse as they go by. We were able to pick out the yellow jersey and we think we saw Lance at some point. All in all a great way to kick off Paris. After that, Nick was in the mood to ride :)!

View from Champs Elysee

Blowup racer - they had a parade of sponsor vehicles before the race

The bikers!

Yellow Jersey!

We purchased a museum pass before our trip so we could skip the lines and avoid the waiting. Very good idea. Especially in Paris. The second day we spent exploring some museums. We first saw the Pompidou which houses modern art. Interesting building. Nick thought the design was ugly, ha! If I am being honest, it just wasn't our taste. We pretty much walked the whole museum in about 15-20 minutes. Oh well...you win some and lose some! Next, we saw the Louvre. Amazing. Massive. Loved it! Now, you definitley couldn't see everything there. It's just way too big. But the museum did have a map that listed some of the sights you should see on each floor. So that's what we did. We obviously saw the Mona Lisa (with the other hundred people surrounding it), Aphrodite, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and many more! We really enjoyed that museum!

The front of the Louvre with the pyramids behind us

Inside the museum

This was also the day we went to the Eiffel Tower. We were walking on this street and then we are about to turn a corner and Nick says to me, "are you ready?" Because right when we turned the corner there was the tower - great view and beautiful. It's something that I have always wanted to see. Amazing that they built that in 1889. There were TONS of people. Like always. The lines for the lift to the top were probably about a 3 hour wait. Yeah, waiting isn't really Nick and mines thing. So, we went to the pretty much empty line to climb the stairs to the second level. About 680 steps later (Nick counted) we made it! Wasn't as bad as we thought - I guess all the stairs we did beforehand prepared us. It was an awesome feeling being up there. Great views of the city. Now, it was pretty high up. I don't think I could have gone to the top. Plus, they squish tons of people into their lift - definitley not my thing. Second level was just perfect for us! After the downward climb we went into the lawn and just relaxed and napped. Very romantic and Parisian!


Amazing View

Us on the second level

The third day we spent the morning at Versailles to see the Palace of Versailles and the gardens. Loved this - just beautiful. We took a train and arrived right at opening time. Yep - again, TONS of people. There was already a long line for the entrance. We had the museum pass so we just hopped in the line (which moved pretty fast). As we got close to the entrance Nick and I had a woman with her daughter approach us. I think they were French, not sure? Definitely had some kind of accent. Well, this is pretty much how our conversation went...

Unknown Woman: "Do you have tickets?"
Nick and I together: "Yes, we have the museum pass. We are waiting to go inside."
Unknown Woman: "Is there only two in your party?"
Nick and I together: "Yes."
Unknown Woman: "Do you think it is possible for us to join your party? We can make four and just join you now?"
Me: Umm, I'm sorry but no. It wouldn't be fair to those people who have and are waiting..."
Unknown Woman: "It's such a long line..."
Me: "I know but we waited."

Then she left. I didn't see where she went but I assume she either tried this again on another group or did end up going to the end of the line. Can you believe that? Nick and I were laughing so hard. There was an Australian couple behind us that couldn't believe that just happened. Crazy.

We made it into the Palace. Not our favorite. But I only say that because I don't think we could fully appreciate it. This was really the only stop, during the entire trip, that we were just trying to find the exit. There were way too many people/tour groups trying to squeeze through the rooms. I mean it was like a mosh pit...you could hardly breathe. Nick and I quickly found an exit and made our way into the palace gardens. One of my favorites. Just gorgeous! The gardens were massive! It covers about 800 acres and it is housed with beautiful statues and fountains at every corner. I took tons of pictures and Nick and I wandered around. Nick said that the gardens felt like exactly my type of thing. I asked him what that meant and he just said this feels like you. And I agree. Definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip!

Front of the Palace

Back of the Palace

One of the many fountains

The gardens - the flowers were so pretty!


The afternoon we spent walking around the Moulin Rouge and the Sacre Coeur. Moulin Rouge area was quite interesting. A lot of unique stores are showcased there. A different vibe in that area.... The Sacre Coeur Basillica is at the summit of Montmarte, the highest point in the city. And just like the Eiffel Tower - it offers some amazing views! We headed back home because we had a very nice dinner planned that night. We ate at quaint restaurant that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent. Pretty cool. Dinner was amazing - lobster salad, steak and fries for me, duck for Nick, and a mouth watering desert platter. Yummy!

The windmill!

Sacre Coeur

Street performer - he was absolutely amazing. We took video of him and will have to post at a later time. Quite impressive!

The last day in Paris we spent at a few different sights. First we visited the Museum d'Orsay. It had a lot of artwork by Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. And Nick kept commenting on how this museum was the perfect size, unlike the Louvre. The entire museum is housed in a renovated old train station and was just beautiful!

Next, we went to Saint Chapelle and Notre Dame. Sainte Chapelle was breathtaking. The stained glass that told the story of the creation to redemption was beautiful. Next, we took a stroll through the Notre Dame Cathedral. These churches in Europe are just so massive and impressive. It really is quite the sight to see. Last we ended our day with a visit to the Paris Opera House. We had some time left to spend and I thought it would be fun. The building is really decadent. It was built in 1875 and was home to the Paris opera until 1989. Really was a striking building. It now showcases a lot of ballet routines. I would have liked to have seen a show had we had more time.

Stained glass in Sainte Chapelle

Notre Dame

Inside the Opera House

Paris was just a fantastic way to end our trip. From start to finish this trip has been nothing but fabulous. We both were really able to see and learn a lot. Nick and I have made some wonderful lifetime memories and this really was a trip of a lifetime for us. We could not have been more happy with how it turned out.

It's back home now to start our next adventure. We will be in Dallas for about another week and then we head to our new home - New York City. It's crazy to think that the time to move is already here. Another phase in our life will begin shortly...

Hope you enjoyed our European Adventure!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


We arrived in Lucerne late Thursday night. The train ride was absolutely gorgeous. The train took us up into the mountains and you were able to see some beautiful waterfalls and the typical Swiss house.

Once we got a little closer the weather changed a bit. We definitley felt it drop a couple of degrees and it was raining. So a little hard to see anything. We made it to the hotel and decided we needed to find some dinner. And fast - we were starving. We took a stroll down some street and ended up at a place called Pacifico. And what kind of food did they serve? Yep, Mexican! I know, I know...we are in Switzerland and should be trying their traditional food but we just couldn't pass up some chips-n-dip! It was actually pretty tasty. A little different than what we call Mexican but still tasty!

Well, the weather pretty much was not in our favor in Lucerne. It rained both days we were here. The first day had more of the constant downpours and the second was just overcast. It didn't stop us from getting out and seeing the sights though.

The first day we saw the Chapel Bridge and Water Tower. The bridge had been built during the 13th century and is the oldest wooden bridges in Europe. The bridge also has beautiful paintings on the roof eves that depict the national and local history. There was a fire in 1993 that destroyed part of the bridge and the paintings had to be restored. I think the restoration looks just like the originals.

Chapel Bridge

We also took a walk along the Musegg Wall. It offered great views of the city and we could only imagine how beautiful it would look on a sunny, cloudless day. We didn't spend too much time there because it was actually raining pretty hard. We took and quick break and then headed to the Lion Monument. It was a really moving piece. It was created for the Swiss guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French revolution. Mark Twain described it as, "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." And that's pretty much what it evokes....

The Wall

The View - I bet it looks gorgeous on a sunny, cloudless day

Lion Monument - you really can feel the sadness while looking at it. It was raining so hard at this point. There was hardly anyone around...but this nice family walked up and took the picture for us!

The second day the weather was just slightly better. We were suppose to have taken a full day excursion up Mt. Pilatus but we just didn't see any reason to when we wouldn't be able to see anything. So we ended up at the Gletschergarten Museum. This is a museum that showcases Lucerne's past climate history.

Round boulders and deep potholes with strange rock formations were discovered in 1872. And what was this from? They determined it was actually remnants of Lucerne during the Ice Age. Lucerne was completely covered in glaciers. Yes, dad you would have loved this museum! It also proved how, before the Ice Age, Lucerne was actually a tropical environment. Pretty neat. We learned about the history of Lucerne as well. Just a really amazing museum. Nick and I were really impressed.

This picture shows the large boulders that were carried by the glaciers from the Swiss Alps

We eneded it with a climb up the tower for some more views of the city and into the Hall of Mirrors. It was the maze of mirrors...much like the type you went in when you were a kid at amusment parks. It was actually pretty fun. You had to be really careful because it was quite easy to walk right into one. Nick and I luckily didn't but we did see some people who easily banged into them. You just heard a big thud! Pretty funny.

Nick and I at the top of a tower in the museum - the town is so beautiful (even in the rain)

Hall of Mirrors...way better than the amusement park!

Despite the weather we had a great time. It would have been nice to see the sun...it really is a cute little town. It was actually a place Nick and I said we could see us living in. It just so quaint and charming. And the Swiss houses are adorable!

We were walking home from dinner and the skies just started to clear up...

It's nearing the end. We head to Paris for our last stop on this European adventure. Nick's pretty excited because we arrive the last day of the Tour de France! Hopefully we will get there in time to see some bikes!

Friday, July 23, 2010


I think I have fallen in love with Italy...Venice is AMAZING! I.absolutely.love.it. Not much else to say. I should just post tons of pictures!! It is by far my favorite city in Italy.

We stayed at the wonderful Hilton Molino Stucky (thanks to Priceline). It was off the main island so the hotel had a shuttle that would take us over into San Marco Square. It was really nice to get away from the main island and all the people. It also had a Skyline Bar where you could have drinks looking towards the Grand Canal and San Marco. Nick and I both had a great sangria (thanks to Adean :) - who had one while she was there and said it was a must). And I agree.

View from the bar

The first day we spent seeing the normal tourist spots. We went to the Rialto Bridge and took some pictures. Spent some time in San Marco square. It was really, really crowded...apparently there were two cruise ships docked that day and it just added to the masses of people. We also went inside the Palazzo Ducale (i.e. Doge's Palace)...the residence to the doge of Venice. Impressive building. Extremely large and decadant. Nick and I both agreed that we liked the inside of Doge's Palace the best but still liked the outside of Madrid's Royal Palace - both impressive buildings in their own way.

On the Rialto Bridge

Typical view in Venice

Inside Doge's Palace

Really neat picture with the shadow of the buildings

We took a stroll down the waterway where we saw all the gondolas. Nick and I, for some reason, had no interest in taking one. They were way overpriced anyways! Before we started the trip I knew my souvenirs would be artwork - it's just what I wanted. The best gift Nick ever gave me was a watercolor painting from Venice. It's just really breathtaking - you feel like you are in Venice when looking at it. So I knew when I went to Venice I wanted another painting. I even thought it would be pretty cool if we found the same artist. Not likely considering that was 5 years ago...

Would you know - we did! Can you believe it?! We were walking down the waterway looking at all of the artist paintings and came across this one stand with beautiful watercolor paintings. Nick and took a closer look and realized that one of his paintings looked an awful lot like the one I had. And then Nick says, "he looks really familiar - I think that's him." And it was. Unbelievable! His paintings are gorgeous and he is just the nicest man. He has been in Venice selling his artwork for 37 years! We told him our story and he actually said that the same thing had happened twice that day. He has a following that's for sure. We ended up taking a look at the paintings for a while and walked away with TWO! Nick keeps saying he has no idea where we are going to put all this artwork in our tiny NYC apartment...but I will find a way!

Picture with the artist (will have to post the photo Nick has with him 5 years ago as well as the paintings when we get home)

The next day we had a tour with a American guide, Mike, who took us on a "Backstreet Tour" of Venice. It really was a great tour. It got you off the tourist path and into everyday Venetian life. Which was practically deserted...there were hardly any people on the streets. But the streets were beautiful and all the bridges/waterways were fascinating. It really is hard to believe there are no cars, bikes, roller blades, scooters, etc. It's all boats/gondolas. A really different way of living.

One of the many cute streets in Venice - beautiful wood bridge that led to a private home

Another great picture...

The last day we took a tour of the clock tower - really neat. The clock tower showed the time, date, and the moon phase. We were actually inside when it changed times and were able to see the gears shifting. Pretty cool. And there was a great view from the top of San Marco square and the Grand Canal.

Clock Tower

The mechanics of the Clock Tower

At the top of the Clock Tower (with the Bell Tower in the background)

We also spent some time on the outer islands of Venice - Burano and Murano. Both amazing in their own right. We first visited Burano - all the wonderful colored houses. Quite the picturesque town. We were able to get some great photos of the town. It's also where the Italian lace is made. You could watch the old ladies sitting in their chair outside the shop just knitting away. We took a bus over to Murano and saw all the hand blown glass. Quite impressive what they can do with that. Some beautiful pieces. Nick and I just spent and hour or two walking around the town visiting all the shops.

Loved all the colorful houses!

Aren't we cute :)!

Murano glass - pretty amazing

Venice was everything we could have asked for. It really was the highlight in Italy for us. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Definitely a place we will be back to visit again!

Italy is now completed...we had a great time! There have been some wonderful memories made. Now it's on to the next country....Switzerland. Somewhere Nick hasn't been. We are both really excited because we have heard great things about Lucerne.

The trip is nearing it's end so we are just trying to enjoy every minute we can!

VERONA ( with a stop at the FERRARI MUSEUM)

We left Florence behind to head to Verona - the city of Romeo and Juliet and the opera! We only had one day/night in Verona (which was the perfect amount of time for us). Along the way we did make a stop in Maranello, Italy because one of Nick's "places to visit" was the Ferrari Museum.

Well, let's just say the Ferrari Museum was a REALLY great stop...in more than one way. But, I will get to that in a minute - well, I will let Nick tell explain....

I guess that's my cue to write a few lines in Jenna's vacation book. She's right though - Maranello was a great stop, and this was by far my favorite day of the trip so far. After about an hour drive from Florence with a lot of little back roads and not so many little street signs, we made it to Disneyland for Grownups. It was awesome. The people at the museum didn't speak great English, so we ended up on the guided tour somehow. Either way, it was an amazing museum - from the first Ferrari ever built:

to the brand new Ferrari 458 Italia:

A $1mm+ Ferrari Enzo:

A Ferrari 350 Can-Am (one of only 2 in existence - estimated value of $15mm):

Oh yeah, and a few of their recent formula 1 cars

Enough about the museum though, the highlight of the day actually came afterward, where they offered test drives. So about 30 minutes and $100 later, I got to drive around Italy for 10 minutes in this:

That's a ~$240,000 2009 Ferrari F430 Scuderia (The race version of the already fast F430). 510 horsepower and less than 3000 pounds. 0 to 60 takes about 3.5 seconds, and the sounds are just awesome. There's a video of me driving it, too big to post here, for those that are interested. So we'll stick with this one that Jenna took from the parking lot. Fun times!

(Video will be re-posted shortly)

Handing this back to Jenna - hope to see you all soon.

After the museum and the amazing experience of Nick driving a FERRARI...we headed to Verona. Verona is a really neat city. We didn't see too much but we definitley still felt we got a good feel for the city. We did visit the infamous Juliet balcony and the Capulet house. Lots of history there - and who doesn't love the story of Romeo and Juliet! I was excited but let's just say Nick still had the "Ferrari" experience on his mind!

On the Juliet's balcony

Apparently you are suppose to help rub the bronze off her breast - it signifies being "lucky in love."

We walked around for a bit and ate at a cafe on the square before the opera. We were seeing Aida. Apparently Nick had seen this opera before but couldn't remember anything but the spinning pyramid. The opera was really interesting - I had never been to an one before. The singers are amazing - their voices are really unbelievable. We met a couple from Arizona who sat next to us. The husband was actually a teacher/opera singer and had performed in Aida back in the U.S. Nick and I really had no idea what Aida was about or what was going on. So we got the cliff notes version from the husband between each act. It really helped us understand the story - and it was a beautiful story about love and dying for that love.

Inside the arena

Aida - in the middle of the 2nd act...pretty amazing!

We sat at the top of the arena - "cheap seats" is what I like to call them. We pretty much sat on stone like they did all those years ago. Now, we did buy two cushions but this opera was from 9:30pm until 1am. Even with cushions your butt starts to hurt after just one hour of sitting there. So, we thoroughly enjoyed the opera but next time might consider upgrading the seats!

And that was pretty much Verona - quick but very enjoyable!

Next stop - one of the places that I have been waiting to visit for a long time... VENICE!