Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Hello! So I know I promised to add pictures to my posts, put our Europe pictures on Facebook, and make some additional posts reflecting on our trip, but I've been a little busy! The past week has been spent overcoming jet-lag/post trip fatigue and beginning to pack up our apartment in Ann Arbor. Now we're in Oregon for the entire week spending time with our family out here. However, I will make good on my promises and put up our some point...I can't promise when, but I will eventually! However, I just wanted to give a shout-out to my dad for Father's Day!! (Since I know that he regularly reads/sends out the link for this blog!!) I am so fortunate to have a wonderful dad. He has taught me so many things and I am so thankful for his constant love and support. He truly has a servant's heart and has always been there for my sister and I, whether it's making us an omelette or helping us move, I know that I can always count on him. Because he has so many great qualities, it really made me set high standards for the type of man that I would want to marry. I feel very lucky that I found someone who likes to build things, likes to cook, and likes the outdoors, just like my dad. I am really happy that my dad now has Cam as another guy in the family to do things with (aka he can stop asking me to have him help move furniture and other heavy objects around the house). Even though we now have different last names, I'll still always be my dad's little girl, and even though we can't be together today, I wanted to make sure he knows how much I appreciate everything he's done for me! Love you dad! I'm also really thankful that I married into such a wonderful family, and I have really enjoyed celebrating today with my father-in-law! He has done an excellent job raising Cam & his 3 brothers to be great husbands, and just genuinely good guys. It's been a lot of fun to spend the Father's Day out here in Oregon, as Cam's brother is celebrating his first Father's Day this year! Our new 3 week old niece is such a little doll, and it's so nice to be able to spend time with such a precious baby :) To me, nothing is more important than family, and I am really blessed to have an amazing family-both the family I was born into and the family I married into. Fathers are really the foundation of a family, and I am thankful for the wonderful dad that I have, so I hope that my dad and all the other fathers out there had a fantastic day!!

I will attempt to work on getting pictures and posts up this week when I have some downtime, but we're going to be keeping pretty busy visiting with our family out here in Oregon, so they may have to wait a little bit...and then our tentative moving date is July 1st...sooo next week...South Carolina here we come! :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Final stop--Switzerland!!

Hello from the Swiss Alps! We are in the last week of our trip, only a few more days until we fly back to the States! On one hand, I'm really sad to see our trip coming to an end...but on the other hand, we are both SO excited to get home, see our family and friends, and start gearing up for our big move later this summer. I already have some post-trip posts that I am planning on writing when we get back, as well as hopefully adding pictures to my previous posts (as well as putting them up on FB!), so stay tuned for that! But before I get to Switzerland, I have to first talk about where we spent the last 2 days, quite possibly one of the greatest places on the planet--Cinque Terre!!

The morning of our anniversary, we got up early to leave Rome to catch the train to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is actually not a city, but a group of five cities on the Italian Riviera off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The cities that are connected to one another by a trail that goes along the cliffs near the water, and it's a wonderful place to hike, swim, and relax. We arrived mid-morning on Sunday and the weather was beautiful, sunny, and hot! For our first night in Cinque Terre, we stayed in the first of the five towns, Riomaggiore, which was filled with colorful buildings stacking their way up the hillside. We went to check in to our hotel (when I say hotel, that's a bit of a stretch, most of the accommodations in the Cinque Terre are collections of rooms owned by locals that are sometimes spread out individually in different buildings), and ended up getting an AMAZING room with a perfect view of the town and the water, along with a great patio to sit out on and enjoy the view. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly, it was such a beautiful setting to enjoy our anniversary! We ate lunch at a cute little place overlooking the ocean at the start of the trail that connects Riomaggiore to the other towns. We hiked all the way from Riomaggiore to Corniglia, which is the third town of the five. I have never hiked in a more beautiful setting; you are passing through vineyards, lemon trees, colorful plants, and all the while you are on top of cliffs along the sparkling, turquoise Mediterranean Sea while being able to see the colorful, quaint overlooks of the towns. We hiked down from the trail to the water and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and just laying in the sun on the rocks right off the coast. After keeping up a very go-go-go pace this trip, it was so great just to relax in the sun and enjoy each other and the beautiful surroundings. After we went back to our hotel and got dressed for dinner, we went back out onto the first part of the trail going out of Riomaggiore, because it's a section known as the Via Dell'Amore, or "Lover's Lane." This is a very flat, easy section of the trail that's very scenic, and it gets it's name because couples hang locks on the railing along the overlook of the trail to symbolize the bond of their relationship. It's kind of cheesy, but it's also really cute, so being it was our anniversary, we took one of the locks we had brought on the trip and hung it with the hundreds of others. We definitely plan on coming back to Cinque Terre, so I will be interested to see if it is still there! For our anniversary dinner, we ate a lovely place in Riomaggiore called La Lanterna that was right on the water. We had heard that Cinque Terre was famous for their pesto, so for dinner I got spaghetti al pesto--one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. Their pesto was SO good, our waitress was really nice so I asked her how to make and she told me what they put in it...we'll see how it comes out when I try to make it at home! After dinner, we sat by the water and just enjoyed being in Italy and the fact that we have been married for a whole year!! :)

For our second day in Cinque Terre, we had reservations to say in Vernazza, which is the fourth town of the five. When we took the local train from Riomaggiore to Vernazza (the five towns are only a few minutes apart by train, and there are no cars, which makes it a really relaxing place!), and tried to check in to our room we had reserved, there was a little confusion because there was no one at the address that we had on the email confirmation they had sent us...we tried calling, and the woman only spoke Italian (and despite my 3 years of Italian at U of M, I was no help), and there was no where for us to put our huge, we basically walked back into the center of town, and went to the first place that we saw that had a sign that said "air-conditioned rooms." We ended up getting a great room, and were able to go on with our day, problem solved. We walked around Vernazza for awhile, it was very cute, nice little restaurants and stores, and the harbor comes right into the town. We checked out the little castle in Vernazza, then mid-afternoon, we started on our hike from Vernazza to the last town, Montorosso al Mare, which we had heard was the toughest section of the five hikes. It was a fairly intense hike, about 1.5 hrs to get from one town to the other, but the amazing views were totally worth it. We went for a nice swim once we finished, got some granita (Italian slushie), and then ended up getting on the train back to Manerola, the second town of the 5, to go get a piece of pottery that we had seen in a shop the day before. Our second and final night in Cinque Terre, we ate dinner at a restaurant in the castle with great views of the sea. Our waitress was so enthusiastic about the food, and gave us some great recommendations-their stuffed mussels and pesto lasagna were amazing! They had a big selection of homemade dessert cakes, and when Cam and I were having trouble deciding, she cut us each a few small slivers of a few of the different kinds, plus she gave us each a free shot of limoncello to go with our dessert! I kept telling Cam that we should just not go to Switzerland and stay in Cinque Terre for the rest of the trip, it was really that amazing. It had all the relaxing, sun-drenched atmosphere of a resort in Mexico or the Caribbean, but with the wondeful Italian food and culture. We also liked that all the five towns were very authentic and local, there were no chain restaurants or hotels of any kind, and everything was extremely affordable compared to most cities we've been to. For both Cam and I, it was our favorite place on the trip, hands down. Cam and I had heard so many rave reviews about Cinque Terre from people who had been there, and we was worried that it wouldn't live up to our expectations, but it totally exceeded them. We are already thinking about when we can go back, and I would very highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about going to Europe!!

This morning, we left Cinque Terre (tear) and took the train to Switzerland. After two days in paradise, I almost feel like it's not fair to Switzerland to even compare it, since Cinque Terre is such a tough act to follow. However, after our first day here, I do really like it Switzerland so far, the Alps here are much more dramatic then in Germany and it's very beautiful. Tonight we are staying in Interlaken, which is Berner Oberland region of the Alps. We've got a great hostel (with internet, yay!!), but then tomorrow night we are going to be staying in Lauterbrunnen, which is further up into the valley between all these huge mountains. For our final night in Switzerland, we're going to be staying even further up into the Alps, in a little town called Gimmelwald. Cam saw Gimmelwald featured in an episode of Rick Steves' Europe months ago and has been dead set on us staying there ever since. It's basically a super small town (like less than 200 people) on the side of the Alps where they still do everything very traditionally, but the views are supposed to be like heaven on earth. As for our day today, it took awhile for us to get from Cinque Terre to Interlaken, so we didn't get settled into our hostel until mid-day. Switzerland is definitely a blend of French, German, Austrian, and Italian culture, and Interlaken is a great town. I was surprised by how many tourists there are from India here; apparently it's monsoon season there, so many people from that part of the world come here on vacation so their kids can see snow. After walking around the town this afternoon, Cam and I decided to go on a hike before dinner. The map of the hiking trails we had said this particular hike was 2 hours from the center of town to a restaurant on the top of one of the mountains, so we went for it. It wasn't all that hot today, but it was muggy, and about 15 minutes in to our hike we were both dripping in sweat. About 30 minutes in to our hike, Cam was shirtless and I was practically shirtless-it was the most intense trail I have ever hiked as far as rise in elevation over such a short distance, we were literally walking straight up the entire time. And then about 20 minutes from the top, it started pouring rain, and all Cam and I could do was laugh because it honestly has rained in just about every city we have been to this trip. When we finally reached the restaurant, we were pretty disappointed because we could tell there would have been a great view based on the sign on the balcony that showed all the names of the mountains you were supposed to be able to see. Since we couldn't see anything except rain, fog, and lightening, we ended up just taking the funicular back to town. However, on our 20 minute ride back down from the top of the mountain to Interlaken, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and there was a huge rainbow over the town which we were able to see perfectly from the funicular. So even though things didn't work out exactly like we planned, it was still a great first day in Switzerland, and if you want the rainbows, you've gotta put up with the rain I suppose! We got dinner at a traditional Swiss chalet-style restaurant where we had delicious cheese fondue, which was great after our hike. At the restaurant, there was a traditional Swiss musical group yodeling and playing the accordion- they even let Cam and I try playing the alpenhorn (that really long wooden curved horn) which was really fun, and overall, a great first day in Switzerland. However, since the places we are staying the next two nights are much more rural, I most likely won't have internet, so this is probably my last European blog post! As for the remaining days of our trip, we planning on doing some more hiking (but bringing an umbrella!) and then Cam is trying to talk me into going canyoning, so we'll see if that happens. After we get back to the US this weekend, I plan on putting up some more posts about the trip/pictures, so check back for those! I hope that you have enjoyed these updates about our time in Europe, thanks for reading (if anyone has been haha, and sorry for my overuse of exclamation points!), and see you soon!! :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy Anniversary to us (tomorrow)!

Just doing a quick email check before we leave Rome for Cinque Terre tomorrow, and I can't believe that Cameron and I will have been married for one year tomorrow! Last year at this time, we were in Ann Arbor with our families gettting ready for our rehersal dinner. Today we are in Italy, and tomorrow morning we'll be hiking by the Mediterranean Sea. I am a lucky girl, that is for sure! This trip is really the cherry on top of what has been a wonderful first year of marriage. Over the past few weeks of this trip, Cam and I have really had the opportunity to reflect on our first year of married life, to think about what we want for the future of our marriage, and to really just enjoy one another's company and reconnect with each other on a deeper level. Even though we've been on this trip for over a month now and have literally spent every second together, we aren't tired of each other at all-in fact, we were just talking about how we are looking forward to getting home next week, we are both going to be sad not to be able to spend so much time together once we get back and Cam starts work. I am so thankful that I have been blessed with such a wonderful husband, and this trip has an unbelievable way to end our year by allowing us to spend time together and see the world! So happy 1st anniversary to us, and thank you SO much to all our family and friends who have supported us during this first year of married life :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Munich, Venice, and Rome, oh my!

Hi everyone! It's hard to believe that we only have a little over a week left of our trip! In a way it seems like the time has gone by really fast, and then on the other hand we are definitely really excited to be coming home! We are having a great time, but after all this traveling from city to city, we're definitely looking forward to coming home and sleeping in our own bed! We haven't had a lot of time to go online in the past few days, and then for the next week, we probably are not going to have consistent internet, with that being the case, I thought I'd do a super fast run down of the last 3 places we've goes!

Munich: We got in on the night of 5/28 from Salzburg, and luckily our hostel was relatively close to the train station near a bunch of other hostels. It was a little transition from our nice hotel room in Berchtesgaden, as in Munich we were in a 12 person room...a little chaotic, but overall it was fine, plus the hostel had a huge breakfast buffet every morning which was awesome! For our first full day in Munich, we took a walking tour of the city, ate lunch in the beer garden in the center of Munich's market, and went to the BMW Museum, which Cam really enjoyed! That night, we went on this tour called the Beer Challenge offered by the company we had done the walking tour with that morning. They took us around to 3 different beer gardens around Munich which were cool to see, and we met a ton of really nice people. After basically just talking to each other the whole trip, it was a lot of fun to socialize with other people and hear their stories about traveling through Europe! The next day we took the train out to Neuschwanstein Castle, the elaborate castle of King Ludwig II that inspired Walt Disney's castles. Set up in the mountains, the exterior of the castle is stunning, but the interior is even more amazing, as the castle uis just decked out and completely over the top. You could definitely see where Walt Disney got his inspiration! Our last day in Munich was rainy, but we still walked around a lot of the city to do some shopping! That evening we hopped on the night train to...

Venice! It's so exciting to be back in Italy and have Cam with me this time! We got in at around 7 am, and the city was so pretty in the morning while things were still quiet! It was a beautiful, sunny morning so we just walked around the winding streets looking at the canals and waiting for things to open! It wasn't long before the city started to get busy, but we were able to get in and see St. Mark's cathedral with out too much of a wait. We also saw the Doge's Palace and the Correr Museum in St. Mark's Square. After having sandwiches by the canal and getting some gelato, we visited a few of Venice's many churches. We also walked along the big touristy market along the Rialto Bridge and checked out all the different glass art they had for sale. We went back to our hotel, which was very charming and cute, and got ready for dinner. We had dinner at a great little Italian restaurant right next to the canal, and had a really lovely time. Afterwards, we went back to St. Mark's Square to see it all lit up at night and it was beautiful! All the tour groups were gone, so it was very peaceful and picturesque. We listened to some of the different dueling orchestras that we're playing on the square and just enjoyed being in Italy...and I'd be lying if I said we didn't get more gelato :) The next morning we were up bright and early to head to...

Rome! That's where we are right now, we're actually at this combo laundry place/internet cafe, which is a fantastic idea in my opinion! We got in the day before yesterday and headed straight to the Vatican after checking in to our hostel. We were able to get right in to the Vatican Museum without waiting which was awesome! We saw the majority of the museum and the Sistine Chapel, and even though I had seen it before, it's still so amazing the level of detail that Michaelangelo used! We saw St. Peter's Basillica, then walked by the Castelo St. Angelo near Vatican City. We had dinner at a great little mom and pop type place, then followed it up with some amazing gelato, a great first day in Rome! Yesterday, we toured all the Roman sights including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. We had dinner at this great place, recommend by Rick Steve's of course, where there was no menu at all, basically they have a different five course meal that they make each night, and that's what they serve to everyone. All the food was delicious (especially the carbonara!) and it was definitely very authentic Italian! After dinner, we walked by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps at night...while eating gelato of course! (Gelato is one of my favorite foods, and I am taking full advantage of the abundance of it here in Italia!) Today, the weather was beautiful-hot and sunny! We basically have spent the entire day walking around the city visiting all the different sights we hadn't seen the first two days like the Pantheon and the area where the Roman Baths used to be. After walking around in the heat all day, we decided to cool off by getting some laundry done, but we're about to head out for dinner, and I am definitely not sick of pasta (or gelato) yet! Tomorrow, we are taking a day trip out to Pompei which should be a lot of fun! Then on Sunday, we take a train to Cinque Terre. During this trip, we have heard so many great things about Cinque Terre, and everyone I know who has ever been there has loved it, so we are both looking forward to 2 days of hiking and sunshine! Also, Sunday is our 1 year wedding anniversary, so I couldn't think of a more perfect place to celebrate! Then it's off to Switzerland, then we head for home! Hopefully I'll get to post one more time, but ciao for now!


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