Happy 2012! We have exciting news…

We are back in Amsterdam after a wonderful two week visit in Louisiana and Florida with our family and friends for the Christmas holiday.  Our second year together in
Europe brought many adventures in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, and of course The Netherlands.  And we added a few “new” countries to the list…Scotland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.  It’s really hard to pick a favorite since every destination has been unique in its own way.  Our travels over the last two years have bought us to more places than I ever imagined I’d visit in my entire life.  But we’ve only scratched the surface with all the amazing places yet to be discovered.

Which leads to our latest update:  Another year in Amsterdam!  G is now officially a Dutch employee and we are excited about another year of European Adventures.  Here are a few highlights from 2011…we’ll see where the wind blows us in 2012.

Wishing you and your family good health and happiness in Twenty Twelve!

R&G

Advertisements

Making the Ultimate Sacrifice

With the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday approaching, it is quite fitting that Veteran’s Day is also observed in the same month.  To the thousands of women and men who give and have given so much to their country, I say Thank You.  Especially to my father, my favorite veteran.

Last June, G and I spent a weekend in the Normandy region of France.  Resting on a bluff above the beaches is the Normandy American National Cemetery & Memorial, appropriately the largest American cemetery in Europe.  It cradles the graves of 9,387 American soldiers which include 41 pairs of brothers.  There is also a memorial to 1,557 soldiers who were never found.  Upon entering the cemetery, you are led on a short walk surrounded by trees.  As you round the corner and look to your left, the initial sight of thousands of grave markers stretched out for acres is one of the most sobering feelings I have ever experienced.  Then, it’s hard to compose yourself as you look to your right.  Omaha Beach is serene and the tide quietly laps at the shoreline.  Yet 66 years ago, it was where many gave all.

On the road again…

[July 8, 2011]

Day 1

We have hit the road for our long summer holiday. Long both in length and driving distance. This trip brings us again to a few picturesque areas (with great food and wine of course!) in a country we’ve yet to explore together…Italia! First stop is Lake Como, followed by Florence, and wrapped up with a weekend in Cinque Terre. Fortunately there will be a lot of walking and biking to burn all the wonderful calories we plan to consume.

Friday afternoon began our traffic filled stop-and-go drive to our half-way point:  Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is just over the German border and well known for their Christmas markets. Spending barely over 12 hours in Strasbourg, we managed to squeeze in a great meal, a post dinner walk through the center, and a few winks of sleep.

Hopefully I’ll stay a bit more timely with updates about this trip than I did with our excursion in northern Spain last summer. Here are a few shots from Strasbourg. More to come as we eat our way through Italy!

Ciao,

R&G

Crossing the bridge into "Petite-France"

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg

Walking off dinner

Bonsoir…

We are back in Amsterdam and I am somewhat wishing I was still roaming the late night streets of Paris to feed my foto craving.   Our hotels were nice, but your own bed is always a welcome sight.  The streets last night were quite a buzz in some areas, while silently still in others.  As I head off to bed to catch up on hours lost last night, here are a few images from my trek around during the wee hours…

[click on any image to view larger]

A couple dances in the streets of Montmartre

Quiet steps lead to Sacré-Cœur

Basilica of Sacré-Cœur

Notre Dame still visible from the steps of Sacré-Cœur

Vacant bus stop on Ile de la Cité

Street lamps are still bright at Notre Dame

But the lights on the Cathedral are off for the night

The moon shines brightly on The Seine

Bonjour from France!

We had a fantastic and very moving weekend visiting the Normandy region of France.  It was much colder than we anticipated coupled with an extra 3 hours on the road due to traffic/construction in all three countries of the drive…but G did great and we made it safe and sound.  Kudos to audio books, sweet paprika Doritos, and a no fail Garmin for making the 9 hour drive on Friday a bit easier.  Paris was the next stop on Sunday as G had work meetings for the next three days.  Which meant I had three days to roam the city and shoot away.

Today I hit a huge road block as my camera battery didn’t charge properly and died just minutes after I entered St. Chapelle.  In nine years I’ve been to Paris five times, but never to St. Chapelle.  I waited for the proper sunlight to fully appreciate the windows, stood in line for 45 minutes, and paid my 8 euros.  However, the amazing stained glass windows will remain in my memory until I make it back again.  I did manage to find 2 wonderful photo exhibits at the Hotel de Ville to feed my photo fix in the meantime.

Speaking of photos, I’m having trouble uploading photos here,  but managed to post a few highlights on Facebook…check them out when you get a chance.  Better updates to come when we are back in Amst.

It is nearly 10p here now and still full daylight…being so far north in the summer is fantastic; however, depressing with lack of light come winter.  Hopefully my battery has enough juice now to let me roam the streets and capture an evening Paris during our last night here.

Au revoir mes amis…

Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day)

Netherlands flags wave in the wind

Last night (May 4th) was Dodenherdenking (Remembrance of the Dead) and 2 minutes of silence were observed at 8pm in honor of those who have died in war or peacekeeping missions since WWII.  Thousands of people (including the Queen) filled Dam Square for the annual ceremony at the National Monument.  Sadly, last nights ceremonies were interrupted by panic and chaos due to a screaming man while the silence was being observed.  Click here for the full story.  Fortunately, G & I were at the gym and not in the middle of the chaos.  We did take pause at 8pm with the rest of the gym and respectfully observed silence in honor of those who have fallen.

Today (May 5th) is Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) that marks the end of occupation by Nazi Germany.  It is celebrated by the Dutch every year; however, only observed as an official holiday every 5 years.  The Netherlands was liberated by a mostly Canadian troop with some assistance from the British, American, and French forces.  On May 5th, 1945, an agreement was reached with the German troops in a town called Wageningen which is approximately 90km southeast of Amsterdam.

During our Easter trip to Reims, France, we visited the Surrender Museum (officially known as the Musee de la Reddition German Surrender).  A must see museum even if you are not a war buff!  It is not just another WWII museum, it is THE room where WWII ended.  While this day is officially May 7th, 1945, I thought fitting to include in today’s post.  (Not to mention I haven’t posted anything from our Easter trip to France…yet!)

Left wall in War Room

Center Wall in War Room

Center and Right wall of War Room

The War Room of General Eisenhower occupied a small part of a technical college in Reims centre and remains intact with the original furniture in place and the war maps on the walls.  On May 7th, 1945 at 2.41am the Allied Forces ended WWII by obtaining an unconditional surrender of the Third Reich’s armed forces one week after Hitler’s suicide.  It was pretty amazing to stand in a room and imagine all the activity that once took place…without the convenience of mobile phones, computers, or the internet.  If you are ever in Reims, take a break from the champagne tasting and check out the Surrender Museum.

War Maps

Remains of a tail fin from a fighter aircraft

Museum displays

Of course today is also Cinco de Mayo…so we end the day with a margarita at Los Pilones.

Los Pilones on Kerkstraat