Monday, June 28, 2010

Dutch Essentials: Cheese & Clogs

On my most recent visit to Amsterdam, we stopped at Amstelveen on the way out of town to visit a cheese and clog farm called Clara Maria. While I thought it would be fun for my younger cousins, I never guessed it would be so much fun for me!

The view was gorgeous! The entrance was free! The cheese tasting was free! Have I convinced you yet?

The owner puts on a cheese-making demonstration (10:30am), as well as a clog-making demonstration. He is a local Dutch man, but speaks great English, which can partly be attributed to his 3-generation American Air Force bride (who was SO friendly, so fun!). The business has been in the family for many generations. Megan, my little cousin, got to help with the clog-making demonstration and made her own clog to bring home! All three of us ate what seemed like 10 pounds of cheese and came home with TOO many souvenirs. Overall, a fabulous afternoon break from the city of Amsterdam.

Clara Maria:

Posing outside the Clara Maria
Megan making a clog.. with a hole in it :)
Emily & I being cautious while Megan made a clog

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Germany: + $360 Alexander: - $360

When someone says 'German Autobahn,' what do you think of? Speed, speed, speed, and more speed. Yes, it's true, many parts of the autobahn have an 'unrestricted' speed limit. BUT this does not hold true for ALL parts of the autobahn.

Alex (and NOT me, thank you very much!) can testify to the speed limits and other related laws (such as no tailgating) do in fact exist on the German Autobahns!

Very rarely will you see a Polizia pull over a car for speeding, or anything else for that matter. BUT you do see cameras set up in random spots along the autobahn to catch you speeding.. and as Alex recently found out, tailgating. Often times, you'll see the camera flash overhead, but apparently, that is not always the case, for Alex recently received not one, but TWO tickets in the mail, and he didn't even notice being 'flashed.' The first was a speeding ticket for 20 km over the speed limit. The much, MUCH more expensive ticket was for tailgating - a series of 8 to 1o up close and personal pictures of A riding on a bumper.

And now, 360 euros later..

Friday, June 25, 2010

Travel Tips: Brugge, Belgium

After just returning from my second trip to Brugge, I thought it about time to write my travel recommendation. Brugge is a great weekend getaway for quiet and relaxation. Granted, there are a ton of travelers in the summer, but with only a few things to see (and it not being a CITY city), it still makes for a great mini-holiday.

First visit, A and I visited in the Fall/Winter. Second visit, I went with family (the Burkes.. now known as the Burke-y’s.. or at least according to the Belgians). Both trips were different and enjoyable.

Hotel: Martin’s Hotel Brugge (a cheap, but actually nice hotel located in the very center of town). Parking is available, but cheaper parking is available down the street in a public garage.

Must-Sees: Micaelangelo’s ‘Madonna and Child’ at Church of Our Lady, Basilica of the Holy Blood (which OCCASIONALLY displays Christ’s blood), the Belfry Tour (300 something stairs to the top for a good view of the city), Market Square, and Burg Square.

Must-Dos: drink Belgian beer (try as MANY as possible!), eat Belgian chocolate (eat lots, you’re on vacay!), eat Belgian waffles (topped with anything/everything), eat Belgian cheese, walk aimlessly through the narrow cobble stoned streets, and take a 30- minute (and cheap) boat ride through the canals.

'Madonna and Child' - Micaelangelo
Canal in Brugge - photo compliment of Emily Burke-y!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Bunch of Hot Air

Last July, when I first moved into the house in Trier (by myself... ahem.. A was in the U.S.), I was sitting in my living room, alone, enjoying the view, when a hot air balloon up and landed in our backyard. No?! Yes! Believe it. I did, because I saw it, but NO ONE ELSE, and I mean no one else believed me! Well, today's the day.. it happened again, and I have the pictures to prove it, so there!
Proof! It was in our yard!
Just landed... IN the backyard
Taking off again
Up, Up, and Away

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daylight Difference

The long you live in Germany, the more you notice major differences between 'home' (the good 'ol US of A) vs. Deutschland. One thing I've come to really enjoy is the length of day time from Spring on in Germany. It's true, in summer time, afternoons are extended everywhere - daylight lasting much longer. But in America, it's a trade off: darker mornings for brighter afternoons/evenings/nights. In Germany, you get the best of both worlds: light at 5am UNTIL 11pm - the whole country (or all of Europe, really) experiencing a maximum of 6 hours of dark per day. Not quite sure how or why this is, but I've come to love it. I find myself feeling much more awake for longer periods of time and spending every possibly second outside in the sunshine. Now, if only Winter could brighten up a little, we'd have perfection!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Amsterdam Expert

Amsterdam is one of those places that gets a bad rap.... Why? 1. Red Light District 2. Legal Marijuana. But Amsterdam has SO much more to offer and is definitely worth visiting. I, having been 3 times already, heading there again Wednesday (for a 4th time), and anticipate multiple other visits (mainly while friends are visiting since it's only a short drive/train ride away), have become quite the Amsterdam expert.

First of all, Amsterdam (rain or shine.. but mainly rain) is gorgeous. The old houses and shops along the canals are picturesque. You are constantly surrounded by the good-looking (and for the most part, English speaking!!!) Dutch riding their bikes. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, the city has so much to offer.

The food is international.. and fabulous. With the area being a mix of many different cultures, you can find authentic Bangladesh, Moroccan, Indian, Asian, (and much more) and not to mention, melt-in-your-mouth local cheese!

Museums for all - children to adult. Just to name a few, the Van Gogh museum (a favorite of mine), the Heineken Experience (my other favorite), Rijksmuseum, Anne Franke House, Rembrandt Museum, wind mill museum, and many, many more. While you may get "museumed-out," the Heineken Experience is unlike any other museum you will ever attend, and the Van Gogh is just breath-taking.

Other Amsterdam favorites include canal rides and the floating flower market, but honestly, you can be entertained by simply biking or walking around, night or day, sitting at a cafe, and people watching. The area is gorgeous, the people are gorgeous, the food is wonderful, and it's just an overall relaxing, friendly place.

During my last Amsterdam trip in a GIANT clog

Monday, June 14, 2010

WM Live - Go Deutschland!

Last night was Germany's first World Cup game vs. Austrailia and what a success!! 4-0 Germany! Looks while we'll be one of the teams making it out of the group.

Watching the USA play England was fun because it's always a good time rooting for your country. But let me tell you, watching Germany kick butt in a German city with a ton of Germans who have so much pride in their team and who are SO very into soccer is a very, very good time. Fans were going crazy, extremely loud, and decked in red/blue/yellow!

We went to Cosa Nova (our favorite restaurant in Trier) and watched the game outside on the big screen while enjoying some fabulous food!

At Cosa Nova cheering on Germany!
Limoncello (on the house, of course) with our favorite waiter, Samir

Saturday, June 12, 2010

RIP Beaux

Found out yesterday one of my family's Golden Retrievers died - Beaux. Of course, this was to be expected: he was 14 years old and blind, but still so, so sad. Last time I was home, I knew it was coming. He had trouble getting up, but still happy as could be! I said my goodbyes, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Left and Right

As I'm sure you already know, the English drive on the LEFT (or wrong!) side of the road, while every other European country drives on the RIGHT (or correct!) side of the road. This major difference leads to some major confusion to not only tourists, but the English themselves!

So, the English drive on the left side of the road, but which side of the sidewalk/stairs/escalators do they walk/ride? Left, right? Why not be continue the oddity throughout all forms of transportation. No, that would be too easy. Instead, pedestrians on the sidewalk typically walk on the LEFT side of the road (of course, those are the English pedestrians.. the tourists are all over the place, trying to dodge the other Americans on the right or keep right to fit in with the English). On the escalators, big signs are posted to "KEEP RIGHT!" Why? Why not keep left and pass on the right, keep with the road laws? Same goes with the stairs!

Just to clear up the confusion:
Drive: LEFT
Walk on sidewalks: LEFT
Escalators: RIGHT
Stairs: RIGHT

Also, there must have been some major walkers vs. cars incidents because where the sidewalks intersect with the roads, pedestrians are reminded (with HUGE white letters written on the road) which way to look before crossing.. The road reads either "LOOK LEFT!" or "LOOK RIGHT!"In this case, look both ways before you cross the street does not apply!

While this may not seem like a big deal, I am here to tell you differently. It is extremely frustrating constantly running into people on the sidewalk in an already busy city. Also, it's so dangerous to look the wrong way when crossing the street! Please England, make up your mind, take a stand - are you on the LEFT or RIGHT?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

London, England

Rehearsal for the Queen's Birthday celebration
Old school London telephone booth
The Tower Bridge at night
Met up with my American friend Emily and her British boyfriend James
The London Eye
Big Ben & Parliament
Big Ben
Extremely excited about fish & chips
In front of the Tower Bridge... which of course you can't see.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Frohleichnam/Prozession durch die Stadt

Hard to believe, but today is yet ANOTHER German holiday: Frohleichnam/Prozession durch die Stadt. I'm not sure what the Germans DO on this holiday, but I am sure of what they don't do: work. The church bells have been going crazy all morning!

On a different note, my cousin Brad arrived yesterday and will be here for two weeks. We already introduced him to the wonderfulness of gelato. His response: "what IS this stuff?" me: "Gelato" Brad: "I know, but what IS it?!!" I think it was a hit.

Tonight we head to London for 3 nights (VERY much hoping the Gaza protests are no longer going on). We return on Sunday for a weinfest in Kasel, our village. Next week, we'll hopefully be going to Heidelberg, Brussels, Munich, Bernkasel, and Luxembourg City.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Mosel

Every year, many of the villages along the Mosel River participate in a festival called the Happy Mosel. The town shuts down the main road running right beside the river. On the other side of the river there is also a bike path. The path/road run for 40 km each way. All along the road and path are tents/stations/areas set up by different wine makers where those biking can taste the wines, buy the wines, eat some German food, etc. This was our first year biking it and it was a lot of fun! We went with our friends (pictured below): Brandy, Eric, Jeremy, and Sarah. We had a LOT (let's be honest.. TOO much) of fabulous wine, brats, and pommes. Good food, good drinks, good friends, and a great view of the vineyards and Mosel River.

The group stopped at one of the may weinprobes
Sarah and I on our bikes!
Another weinprobe/rain stop
Posing in front of a giant wein flasche made of wein flaschen