Switzerland

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My Favorite things about Switzerland:

  • The Chocolate. Let’s be honest it’s the best in Europe, maybe the world. I guess I need to travel the world and eat chocolate to confirm that. Regardless, Bradley and I have a mound of chocolate bars for souvenirs.
  • The Cow Bells. I step off the train in the small mountainous town of Grindewald and hear a chorus of bells. All the cows wear cow bells so that the owners know where they are. Awww, the constant distant chiming made Switzerland magical.
  • The Trains. I trained from Paris to Zurich and met up with Bradley. Over the weekend we trained our way through the country to Lucerne, and Grindelwald. Let me emphasize that the train system is incredible. The Swiss built a cogwheel track that leaves from Grindelwald and climbs over 6,000 feet. Then the Jungfrau railway takes you to Eiger Glacier station which includes a famous restaurant that overlooks the North Face. From there the train carves THROUGH the mountain and takes you to the top of Europe, aka Jungfraujoch at 11,000 feet. This railway was built ages ago for no purpose other than pleasure. Just because. Incredible, right?
  • The Mountains. Swiss Alps? Eiger’s North Face? It almost goes without saying that Switzerland has stunning mountains. They are so picturesque that I was expecting “Heidi” to come frolicking down the mountainside. In Lucerne we met an Australian skydiver in our hostel that hoped to make a jump the following day in Interlaken. He about had us sold when he explained you would be skydiving over the swiss alps, overseeing several countries, and viewing perfectly situated glacier lakes and valleys the whole way down. But he lost us when he mentioned it would be our most expensive dive. Switzerland is expensive. Even though we didn’t get the bird’s eye view we loved looking up at the mountains in Grindelwald. Our Hostel had a perfect view of Eiger’s North Face. The North face has been described as a sick man’s concaved chest. It attracts experienced climbers all over the world and has taken too many lives to not draw attention. Bradley showed me a BBC documentary on Eiger that was thrilling. I highly recommend it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEYiSeDr1UE

Bretagne and Normandie

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One of Europe’s many charms is the ability to arrive in a new region within a few hours whether it’s by planes, trains, or automobiles. This time we chose automobile and explored the Normandie, and Bretagne region. Bradley and I are getting pretty good at our roles. Bradley being driver and me navigator. We can’t decide which one is harder. Both skills were truly put to the test in Italy and Ireland. Italy, Bradley drove like he was playing Mario Kart and I attempted to read Italien directions and guess when we should turn. Italiens don’t believe in street signs and when they do they prefer graffiti over them. Ireland puts the driver on the right side of the car on the left side of the street. My role in Ireland was to say “drifting, drifting, DRIFTING” whenever I felt too close to the ancient rock barriers on my left. Who am I kidding, we love the thrill of driving in Europe when we get the chance.

Needless to say, driving France’s countryside was cake. We wandered along the coast with our first pit stop being Mont Saint Michel. It was first a small, humble church in 709 and has grown in decadence every century. The monastery has been shaped by France’s history. War like provisions were made during the Hundred years war and it was used as a prison during the French revolution. We loved wandering the medieval village surrounding the Abbey and eating our crepes.

We had heard about a town called Dinan and made our way over to explore it. It was a quaint medieval town perfectly situated off a deep inlet. Our hostel plans were complicated by a popular run happening the next day but we eventually found a place. Two thumbs up for spontaneity!

This was just a weekend trip but the rest of our time consisted of winding along the coast and stopping when we wanted to. Which leads me to finding some of our most treasured purchases. Sunday I told Bradley to pull over becuase the small town we were passing through had a little flea market happening. Weaving through the market both of us stopped at an old bell with a rooster on top of it. (Not a real rooster) WE loved it but kept walking. As if we hadn’t been tempted enough we saw another gem which was a lantern off of an old Dutch schooner ready and wired for our future home light fixture needs. Now we had a situation. Two beautiful items, that confirmed we married the right person, but were clunky and random. To make a long story short I negotiated the prices down, which I can only blame/attribute to my Dutch mother, and loaded our loot in our rented car. Thank goodness we chose automobile for the weekend.

Ireland

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Nobody from my team lives in Paris. They are scattered throughout Europe, which A) makes for a unique work style and B) makes for some good traveling. I was able to go to Dublin for a face-to-face meeting with my manager, and given that Mallory has always wanted to visit Ireland I extended the work trip out a few days early so we could explore the Island.

We arrived in Dublin on Friday, spent the day at the office (props to Mallory for hanging out at the office while I worked), grabbed a rental car (somebody failed to mention that people in Ireland drive on the wrong side of the road), and headed across the island to the Dingle Peninsula.

As with all of our trips thus far, Ireland was beautiful. The small towns, farms, landscape, and unbelievably friendly people made for a fantastic trip. I need to emphasize the friendliness of the Irish. We pulled into Dingle around 11PM to grab some food and the only place open was a local pub. Some young chaps were loitering outside the door, which can make you a bit nervous, but as soon as we stepped outside the car we were overwhelmed by how nice they were. They started asking about the car we were driving (guess it’s the new hot car around), where we were from, gave us food recommendations, travel tips for the next day, etc. And we found this wherever we went.

Mallory had found us a great hostel our first night for €10/person. We woke up early the next morning and started our adventure along the west side of the island. I will spare the step-by-step details of our 600 mile trip and just let you check out the beautiful pictures.

The highlights of the trip were…

  • The people
  • The extreme greenery across the whole island
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • B&B in Spiddal
  • Swimming in the freezing water
  • Clifden
  • Clicking our heels all too often
  • And everything in between

If you have any questions we’d be more than happy to elaborate.

Bradley’s Trip to Iceland

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On my way over to Paris I was able to book my flight with a full-day layover in Iceland. As soon as I landed, I grabbed a rental car and a map, only got lost once on my way out of the city, and was soon driving the roads of Iceland.

As you can see from the pictures Iceland is gorgeous, but what made the trip so much fun was picking up and hanging out with hitchhikers. To give some background, people will spend up to 2 weeks hitchhiking all over the Iceland. They carry huge packs which include their tent, sleeping bag, plenty of rain gear, and anything else they would need. As I was driving and taking pictures I soon spotted 2 hitchhikers huddled behind a sign trying to take refuge from the rain and wind. I pulled over, offered them a ride, and next thing I know two Frenchmen (Thomas and Louis) and I are headed to Vik, the southernmost village in Iceland. Once we arrived, Thomas and Louis continued eastward on their adventure and I went in search for some puffins.

From Vik I traveled over to one Iceland’s most famous waterfalls the Skogafoss. This is where I picked up two Italian hitchhikers (Tellie and Franchesco). From the falls I was planning on heading back to Reykjavik to explore the city, but as my two Italian friends and I were driving we started talking about some waterfalls up north called Gullfoss waterfalls. I mentioned I had wanted to see the falls but ran out of time. They assured me we would be able to make it before sundown, and that they were also wanting to see the falls. So off we headed to see the Gullfoss falls.

Now these waterfalls are amazing! You can get right up to the falls as they plunge 105ft into a narrow crevice. It was definitely worth the visit and made for a fun adventure with Tellie and Franchesco.

Iceland was so beautiful and I would love come back again, especially if I could pull off the two-week hitching hiking trip. There is so much I wasn’t able to see, that spending a few weeks is the way to go.

A)     Reykjavik (Start)

B)      Pick up Thomas and Louis

C)      Vik

D)     Puffins

E)      Skogafoss, and pick up Tellie and Franchesco

F)      Gullfoss

G)     Geysir

H)     Reykjavik (End)

Total of 306 miles

Gardens of Versailles

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We took a trip to the Gardens of Versailles and spent the whole day wandering the grounds, trying to embody the frivolous lifestyle of old Versailles. We had a picnic, took a nap, followed all of the water shows, and cooled off with some ice cream. Rough, I know. It was such a beautiful day ended perfectly with the movie Marie Antoinette…an accurate depiction of day to day life in Versailles. I think I could get used to it.

Giverny

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Giverny, Giverny, Giverny. This is Claude Monet’s home and inspiration for his impressionistic paintings. Needless to say it was inspiring and breath taking. Bradley and I took a train to Vernon (about an hour outside of Paris) and then walked to Giverny (about three miles from Vernon.) The whole day was serene. Absolutely serene.

Bois de Boulogne and Parc des Buttes Chaumont

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Bois de Boulogne is Paris’ largest park and it’s two blocks away from us. We rented bikes from Velib. Paris has bikes all over the city that you can rent by scanning your metro card. Lucky for us Velib has a collection of bikes right in front of our apartment. First half hour is free!

Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a gorgeous park that overlooks Paris…which is rare because Paris is so flat. Parc des Buttes Chaumont was constructed in the 1860s. It was the perfect park for a picnic…cliffs, waterfall, gazebo, and lake! I would say the baguette, cheese, and Apricot juice were my favorite part of the afternoon.

Americans in Paris

Our latest adventure, moving to Paris! We are thrilled to be here for the next six months devouring everything French. It’s a bit of a dream being here, although some minor realities have surfaced. One, we don’t speak French. Two, we don’t know the language. And three, we don’t read French. But let’s put a giant YET at the end of each of those phrases. Right now I feel very American. I feel American when I ask at checkout if what I’m holding is in fact butter or but-AIR. When I walk around armed with Harraps pocket French and English Dictionary, a map, and my camera. And when I stop and admire every Macaron I see in the Patisserie windows. Patisserie: a pastry, cake; cake shop. All that said, I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity. Bradley and I are new to blogging and will do our best to keep you all updated! Au revoir!