Category Archives: Europe

Having Fun, Despite My Inevitable Loss!

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It doesn’t look like I’ll be winning that week long stay in a luxury suite at the Hilton Union Square in San Francisco! I’m in close 2nd, only about 350 “likes” behind the 1st place person, ha haa!

If you missed that write up, here it is again, CLICK HERE

The contest ends tonight, Friday, at Midnight PST, so it’s not too late to help me out ūüôā

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a moment of crazy fun with you that helped lift my spirits!

In case you couldn’t guess, I’m the crazy in the pink tutu!

I may not be headed to San Francisco any time soon at the rate this contest is going but I AM still headed to EUROPE for two weeks in May so life is good, real good! I am blessed to be living and having fun!

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Super Easy to use!

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I have been researching my train options for booking the night train from Paris to Barcelona in May of this year. I always begin my travel searches at Trip Advisor, as I have been a loyal member of theirs for years.

While on TA, I came across another website that specializes in Rail Travel just about ANYWHERE! The Man in Seat 61 was unlike any other travel site I have ever been on! It really gave me a complete understanding on the European rail system with all of its complexities. For example, in booking my segment from Paris to Barcelona, I would never have guessed that using the Spanish Rail system as opposed to the French rail system made the most sense for me. The Renfe site allows users to print their tickets at home, whereas the French site won’t.

Also, some companies accept bookings 92 days out, some are at 90 days out, some are at 60 days out…it can all get very confusing quickly! One of the tips I was given was to definitely call your credit card company in advance so that any foreign rail charges don’t get rejected. American Express was very helpful with this and I experienced no problems whatsoever when I booked by German Rail segment thru the DB Bahn site. Ulm to Paris for two costs 138 Euro plus the 8 Euro reservation fee. Their site also has the print at home option.

The support team at Man in Seat 61 also suggested that if I DID experience a glitch while attempting to pay at the RENFE web site, that there was a US Based Spanish Travel agency that accepted rail reservations for RENFE. PETRABAX became my back up plan!

Sure enough, this morning, the RENFE site kept showing techinical errors with the American Express payment and were very clear in stating that it was not their problem but a problem with the credit card company, who kept assuring me that they did not have a hold on the account.

I turned to Petrabax, where a very friendly agent named Jose, was kind enough to walk me thru their on line reservation process. They do have a slight mark up but it was nominal and worth my peace of mind in knowing that my reservation was in place. They also allow the print at home option. I browsed thru their website, they have a full range of tours & lodging available all through Spain & Portugal. I am definitely going to keep them on my radar for future travel needs!

Don‚Äôt Speak the Language? Here‚Äôs How

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I will definitely need to add some of these before our trip next spring but am also hoping that the new Rosetta Stone I just bought my husband will be life saver for the Spanish part of our travels!

Don’t Pretzel my buttons!

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I giggled out loud as I typed this title because it just makes me chuckle each time I say it! If you are a fan of “OPI Nail polish”, you’ll relate to the title a bit! It’s from their their fall collection of German inspired names! “Dont Pretzel my buttons” was my favorite but it’s so hard to choose just one with funny names like these:

DON’T PRETZEL MY BUTTONS, ¬†MY VERY FIRST KOCKWURST, ¬†BERLIN THERE DONE THAT, ¬†DON’T TALK BACK TO ME NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!, ¬†OK FINE UNFOR-GRETA-BLY BLUE, ¬†EVERY MONTH IS OKTOBERFEST , ¬†SUZI & THE 7 DUSSELDORFS, ¬† DUETSCH YOU WANT ME BABY?, ¬†DANKE-SHINY RED GERMAN-ICURE, ¬†SCHNAPPS OUT OF IT !

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Also funny, this apron my sister sent to us along with this Pretzel maker! I guess you can take the girl out of Germany but can’t get the German out of the girl!! I’m ok with that!

Click HERE for OPI polish shopping! Be sure to check out their “Skyfall” collection too!

It started with a Kiwi Bird!

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One little Ornament! That’s how it began! A gift from my good friend Julie who had moved back to her native New Zealand. She sent me an adorable little Kiwi Bird ornament that still adornes our tree 20 years later.

After that, Any time I went anywhere, I sought out an ornament as a keepsake. In addition to that, another good friend & I shared the memories we created on a Euro trip as students back in ’86. Since then, we try to swap unique gifts that remind us of our adventures there. It’s not always an ornament, sometimes it’s European Chocolates or tea or anything else we come across. This ornament in the photograph is one of my all time favorites that she sent me! Every time I look at it, I think of the two of us taking cover from the rain with locals under an Arc. Someone had a bottle of wine, someone else had bread, we had the chocolate…we had an impromtu picnic with complete strangers in the downpour of Paris

As I was putting up the ornaments this year w/ my family, I noticed that I have enough travel related ornaments to do a themed little tree if I wanted to. Now I’ll be on the hunt for clever DIY ideas to help bring it all together so I can make it happen in 2013! Any ideas?

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Happy St. Nikolaus Tag!

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st_ nick shoesWhere I grew up, December 6th was a BIG deal! It was almost like a day of reckoning for children! That was the day it was made clear whether you were going to have a good Christmas or a bad one! It was a day that clearly marked whether your sins of the past year were remembered, forgotten, or forgiven! In my child’s mind, that is how I saw St. Nikolaus Day!

I remember being nervous all day hoping I did not find twigs, stone, fake candy, or a lump of coal in my shoe! Being one of six kids, it was inevitable that ONE of us might find that!

When I became a parent, I was sure to continue many of my German traditions to my children. All 3 loved the “pre-check” of St. Nick coming. They are now 24, 21, & 14 and guess what? They will be putting their shoes outside tonight with anticipation! I think I would get a stink eye if St. Nick didn’t visit!

Many of my friends with young kids are currently doing the “Elf on the Shelf” to help keep their kids in check before Christmas & build some family traditions along the way. While I think it’s cute, I like that St. Nick is an old world tradition passed down in my family for many generations.

Elephants in Kenya

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A few years ago, a good friend of mine was taken on quite a vacation by her in-laws. They invited their adult children, their spouses¬†& grandchildren on an African Safari over Christmas time. They visited several countries, did a few safari’s, mingled with the Masi, & had the family vacation of a lifetime.¬† The pictures she shared with me were truly amazing! This is just one of many & was taken in Kenya.

click here to see one of the lodges they stayed at.

There are so many beautiful places to see on this planet & Africa is just one of many on my list! It’s prioritizing the list that brings me anxiety! How to choose what’s next is always¬† when the boxing gloves come off at my house, the art of compromise comes into full play! Africa will have to wait a little longer since next year’s trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary has been booked! We will be Europe bound, not quite as wild as seeing Elephants at play in their natural habitats but still full of culture & adventures for those seeking it.

A good read that takes you to Italy

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The Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary SeductionThe Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary Seduction by Anthony Capella
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I could see this definitely being on the big-screen someday! What an eloquently written book! The language was delicious & it just flowed so nicely. I enjoy WWII stories & this one has been one of my favorites. Amazing how people’s expectations of themselves and others are changed when in survival mode! Naturally, it made me hungry for Italian food! I enjoyed his writing so much, I’m half way thru his Coffee novel!

View all my reviews

Picture is worth a 1000 words!

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looks like harmless fun!

As soon as I saw this beautiful picture, I was flooded with childhood memories from Germany. I lived there for my first 10 yrs. & one of the events I looked forward to most as a child was the day the traveling carnival came to town!

I thought it was such an exciting life to roam from city to city & set up “home” for two weeks at a time. The carnivals were filled with gypsies & they didn’t seem to mind 8 yr. old girls lingering around and watching the rides go up. My sister & I spent hours petting horses & getting excited about opening day!

The big swing was always my favorite ride hands down. I would ride it each day as if the occasion was the first! Always exhilerating with just the right amount of butterflies in my belly!

Fast forward 11 years. I was on a student EF tour of Europe. I had just celebrated my 19th b-day the night before in Prague.
The next day, I was quite hung over & was laying low. Our tour stopped in Vienna. Much to my delight, we found a carnival that had the large swing ride I had such fond memories of as a child. Naturally, I wanted to ride it & forgot all about my fragile state. My friends & I hopped on! BIG mistake!

The ride was everything I wanted it to be when it was going forward! The ride operator however, decided that he wanted to put the ride in reverse and extend our experience by another 10 minutes! To my complete & utter horror, my childhood memories of my favorite carnival ride were tarnished by the hangover that now raged for release from my body!

How I managed to hold on & not vomit all over the city of Vienna, I will never know! I did make it off the ride looking very very green & with the most quesy stomach ever! I left my friends, managed to make my way back to our hotel & did not resurface from my room for the next 48 hours!

It’s taken years for me to be able to look at a swing without feeling nauseated immediately! I’ve managed to hold on to the childhood memory instead of my more reckless young adult memory!