A Travellerspoint blog

The Greek Island of Corfu with Mom and Bob

Mom and Bob flew out and joined us for a few hours in Germany before we all boarded a plane for Corfu, Greece. Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian sea. It is much greener than islands in the Aegean because it gets more rain during the winter. In addition to the typical Mediterranean plant life there are also Italian Cyprus trees. There is a Venetian influence in both the architecture and food which adds a fun new element to the typical Grecian vacation.

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Mom and Bob loved it! I think Bob was ready to buy a vacation home to spend half the year in Greece. I knew that he would enjoy the food, people, and sea but I didn't think he would be house hunting on day one! These two nuts even had the fish provide them a pedicure.

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We spent the first couple of days exploring the town of Corfu with its large Venetian buildings and two forts. It seems that every restaurant and cafe has a killer view of either the sea, a cute square, or an ancient fortress.

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Bob was really excited for Corfu, and had done some restaurant research. We set the bar high for our first lunch.

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Two days in Corfu Town went quick, and we loaded up into our tiny Fiat Panda with 4 people and five suitcases plus our 4 day-packs and barely got the back hatch closed. We headed off for the northern part of the island with a pit stop at the end of the runway. This is the runway we flew in on. Pretty dramatic.

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The coastal drive was beautiful and we were happy to arrive just in time for lunch. There were a couple of restaurants within walking distance and we loved the service and views at Oceanis. It became our go-to spot. We spent our day hanging out by the water with a few beverages, followed by a float in the pool, and then dinner. It was a real struggle.

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On our first full day in Barbati we did a little coastal driving tour and stopped at some little fishing villages, toured around the ancient village of Old Perithia and ended at Sidari which is known for its sand carved inlet. Unfortunately, a storm rolled in and sand was whipping around like crazy so we had to cut it short.

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The next day Quinn and I went for a day hike and Mom and Bob tooled around checking out some other little towns. The hike was cut short by a gauntlet of industrious spiders who were blocking most of the path and managed to get one of their webs directly into my eye. AHHHHH. We finished up the evening with an 8 hour cooking course that turned out to be more like a cooking demonstration. It was fun but we would have liked to get our hands a little dirtier. The food was of course, amazing!

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Then we let Bob do what he does best, be Captain for the day. We rented a fine craft named Garlic Prawn who served us well on our voyage up and down the coastline. We even docked for lunch by the water and some refreshing beverages. On the way back we hit up a swimming hole that included a blue cave and a private beach. Who doesn't love a day on the boat!?

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It was time to move South so we packed up into the car again . We stopped along the way at some famous beach spots and a monastery. We also went on another boat ride to some caves and along the coast to see the rock formations. The northwestern coast of Corfu is full of dramatic cliff coastline.

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Our next home in the south proved to be yet another fabulous jumping off point. Our room was less than 500 feet to a sandy beach and the valley we were in was a little agricultural hot spot. It was so relaxing to see both farmland and ocean all from the same balcony. Our property owner kept bringing us stuff he was growing in the garden.

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Our days were filled with trying each of the 4 restaurants in our town, hiking to a secret beach bar up in the next valley, and swimming. Quinn also got really good at making Greek Frappe with an improvised beer can shaker. Quinn and I invented a new sport called bahiking. This is where you rent bikes and then push them up a steep mountain up into an olive grove and then ride them along a ridge line where one would normally go hiking. It is tough work but challenging and beautiful.

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The day we went Bahiking, Mom and Bob enjoyed a day taking a boat to Paxos and AntiPaxos, two neighboring Greek islands.

We only got in the car 1x to show Mom and Bob another neighboring valley that we bahiked to. It was a very fun trip filled with octopus, water, and family time.

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It is always difficult to say bye to these two but I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of them since they will be both be retired VERY soon. Congratulations! Here are some parting shots of the two lovebirds who always look so happy together.

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Posted by trackers 07:34 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Normandy and Brittany

I have been wanting to visit Normandy for about 3 years now and we made it a priority to go. The historical significance of this trip is deep and I am thankful that we did not miss the opportunity to visit the WWII memorials and historical sites that are present here.

We started off the trip with a pit stop at Monet's house and gardens in Giverny. This is the famous location from his lily pad paintings. The gardens were beautiful and they did a nice job recreating the artwork and furnishings that were present during Monet's time in this home. As you can see it is a very popular location and well established on the tourist route.

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We met up with Kyle, Julie, and their two boys along with Linda and Jerry in Honfleur with a jaunt to Deauville and Truville. We enjoyed a fun weekend of exploring the town, cooking some delicious food, and spending time with friends. We also stumble across a tapas restaurant and enjoyed some cocktails. You can see Connor honing his skills as a future massage therapist. You can tell from his face how serious he was about his job.

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Honfleur is an old fishing village and is known for its women mussel collectors. It is now a career of the past but they continue to pay tribute to the women mussel collectors with this statue. I have also included a few pictures from the town and port.

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We stayed right next to a beautiful church and bell tower which meant early morning risings thanks to the church bells. The church was unique in that it was made entirely of wood and we were told that it was designed and built by ship builders so if you turned it upside down it would float.

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We made a day trip to Etretat and had to pass through Villanville. I wonder who lives there! Etretat is known for its white cliffs. They were quite impressive.

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We stumbled upon a WWII site.

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Chateau on the way to some place or another.

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Our home in Normandy for 5 days

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Arromanches les Bains is the location of the debarquement museum where the British and Canadian forces landed and built a floating port in the ocean. They towed over special bridges in a flotilla of 6,000 boats from England to build a port and invade the beaches of Normandy on D-day. The scale of the operation is difficult to imagine and included an array of logistics difficult to imagine. This involved combustible hot air balloons floating to protect them from air attack, sinking ships and giant metal containers to create a water break for the ocean, getting floating bridges inline to offload thousands of trucks, ammunition and other equipment, all while under the threat and constant attack of the Germans. The museum does a great job illustrating the effort and some of the water break caissons as well as pieces of the floating bridges remain. It was an unfathomable operation that was developed over 18 months and included such trickery as sinking the caissions in the Thames river so that they would not be spotted from enemy planes when flying over England. There was a second harbor attempted at Utah beach but this was destroyed by bad weather and a variety of other unfortunate events.

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A German gun battery. The cement was 6 feet thick at the top. You could see all of the bombing damage but it remained intact. The Nazis had significant fortifications all along the coast which included quite a few gun batteries. I believe this is one of the most intact examples and the guns remain.

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As it was getting close to D-day during our visit there were many military groups doing joint exercises, touring in uniform as well as people dressed up in period uniforms and driving around in period specific vehicles.

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The American cemetery is the final resting place of over 9,000 military members from WWII and one from WWI. Two sons of President Theodore Roosevelt are buried in the cemetery. One died during WWI and the other during WWII. They placed them together after WWII so they would rest in the same location. The vastness and grandness of the cemetery is overwhelming. The designers and managers of this site did a very nice job of honoring those who lost their lives in the war effort.

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There is also a powerful museum onsite that has audio from people who were part of the war. There is also video and different items from the time but I found the audio recordings to really provide a glimpse into what it must have been like.

As part of the logistics of running a cemetery it was interesting to see that they fabricated a special lawn mower that goes around each of the cross markers without damaging the cross and provides a precision cut. This cemetery is maintained by a special government agency and the main caretaker lives on site in a very lavish house next to the site. The logistics and management of running an overseas cemetery and museum were quite interesting.

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There are also memorials on the beaches and there were planes doing demonstrations as part of the exercises in honor of D Day. This one is from Omaha beach.

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For me, Pont du Hoc was really an amazing spot because they trained 225+ Army Rangers to climb up these incredible cliffs and take control of a gun battery for the upcoming landing on the beaches. In the end only 90 fighting soldiers remained after this invasion. It turned out the gun casements were empty but they were able to take over other guns that were present and complete a roadblock to cut off additional troops and supplies. Specially training troops to climb up rope ladders that were shot up a 100 foot cliff using a specially developed launcher is aboslutely insane. Now add on that they were being shot at from above and the threat of enemy cutting your rope ladder while you are on it. War is unspeakable. I don't have a picture that shows the bomb ridden steep cliffs so I will link to another website here.

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/03/the-crater-ridden-cliffs-of-pointe-du.html

Afternoon bike ride
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Airborne Museum

This museum was incredible because it detailed the life of all people and equipment attacking by air. They used so many gliders during the war and they had a glider available to walk though. Trying to imagine being dropped in on one of these gliders is a scary feeling. There were old uniforms, history of women in the war, old toiletries kits and more. There was also a video on Ronald Rhegan and quit a bit of propoganda surrounding his role in the war. It almost seemed like the museum had been funded by his foundation. I did a little digging because I found this to be odd and lo and behold.

http://francerevisited.com/2017/06/normandy-airborne-museum-glorifies-ronald-reagan/

This observation is not to take away from the greatness of the museum. It just seems to be a little too much when there were so many important players in the war to learn about. I really enjoyed this museum and learned about the equipment and also every day life of the soldiers. During the invasion one paratrooper got stuck on the church tower. They still have a statue on the church today to commemorate the event.

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Fun fact: During WWII they used women pilots to move planes around the US because there were a shortage of male pilots.

In Utah Beach they have another debarqument museum. This one is related to the Americans landing during Dday. They had a video explaining the attack which very clearly illustrated the events of the day. This was also the only museum to have Nazi items including a pair of boots made with human hair from prisoners who were killed. They also had planes and information about the work camps that Germans went to after the war. I have never read much about this before so it was quite interesting. One of the most interesting exhibits included information about intelligence gathering. The allies dropped 3000 carrier pigeons by parachute in little cases with instructions on how to fill out a form and attach it to a little tube on the pigeons leg. It also included food for the pigeon and a form to fill out to provide information on the positions and weaponry of the Germans. They dropped these in France hoping to get information from the French farmers and resistance operators. The pigeons could make it back to England in under 2 hours. This whole idea just blew my mind.

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These boats I believe held around 20 people and were the main way they shuttled troops onto land during the attack. They also had different amphibious vehicles although I do not have a picture of those. The landing gear for the amphibious boats was engineered by the great grandson of the engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge. The Roebling family has played quite the role in American history.

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We also visited the German Cemetery. This cemetery is the resting place for more than 21,000 people. We went later in the evening and were almost alone during our time there. There is also a garden of trees surrounding the cemetery that is a peace garden. Many of the gravestones are just labeled, "a German solider" and this cemetery is maintained completely by volunteers and donations. Many of the graves were boys 17-18 years of age.

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The experience of Normandy, its beaches, towns, people, and museums really made a big impact on me. One can just begin to get the sense of the invasion and the area in general. It is just the smallest glimpse into the arduous battles, life lost, and massive impact on the entire continent and world at large. Three years ago we visited the sites of eastern Europe including the Nazi concentration camps and devastation of the cities of Poland. The experience of seeing all of these locations first hand is one I am grateful for because it is a completely different experience than reading it in a book.

Onto a lighter note. This abbey makes it onto almost every "must see" list for European travel and I was determined to visit before we left. We were so lucky to have a bright and shiny day to experience.......drumroll.....Mont Saint Michel

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We walked across the long boardwalk to the hill and it took about 45 minutes one way. Then we played on the sand bars and ate some mussels at a restaurant on the site before making the long trek back. They do have these neat buses and horse drawn carriages but unfortunately for us, no dogs allowed. The walk was beautiful and not too hot so no complaints here.

We ended the trip with a visit to the towns of Dinan and Dinard. We went on some beautiful bike rides including one between the two towns and enjoyed the coast and historic towns as well as the local FREE zoo right in the middle of a city park.

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This was a trip to remember and well worth the 9 hour drive home! We loved Normandy, its cider, crepes, history, historical character, and bike paths.

Posted by trackers 04:15 Comments (0)

New York City

Quinn attended a training in New York City in May, and I used the opportunity to tag along. We spent a week in Manhattan near the Lincoln Tunnel, and each day Quinn went to training and I explored the city. We were on the 24th floor of a high rise building with floor to ceiling windows and views of the amazing traffic jams that are NYC. It has often been the case on these annual work trips that I was able to convince a friend to join me. My girlfriend, Andrea flew out from Denver just as she did to Seattle a couple of years ago. YAY! She is awesome. We had such a fun time touring the city and we also got to hang out with our men in the evening for group dinners and a few drinks.

Day 1:

First I rented one of the little Citi bikes that allow people to commute around the city on short trips. There is a greenway that goes around Manhattan and is completely protected from cars. I rode that down and around to Battery park and up to Wall Street for my free walking tour. I took a free walking tour of midtown Manhattan which included Wall St, a bit of the 911 memorial, China town, Little Italy, and SoHo. My guide was a former history teacher for NY public schools for 30 years. He was very entertaining and included just the right amount of history, quirky stories and personal experience to make the 3 hour walking tour entertaining. It was interesting to hear the history of the Dutch and English in New York. I also spent about an hour staring out of the window watching the scenes below our apartment. Our room was on the 24th floor of an all glass building. We had floor to ceiling windows which afforded about 240 degree views of the city skyline. I met Quinn and his coworker Ryan and his classmate Bon for dinner. Bon took us along Highline park and into the meatpacking district for dinner. We opted for fish instead of packed meat. It was a fun evening and ended with Margaritas and a brisk walk back to our apartment. Love city living!\

From Highline park, not the best pictures but it's what I have

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The pics below are from the 9/11 memorial, One World Trade Center, and the Oculous. Quinn had a private tour as part of his conference by one of the landscape architects in charge of the memorial.

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Day 2:

Andrea and I set out to explore. We walked about 8 miles and saw Times Square, the Empire State building, the Chrysler building, Radio City music hall, and Central Park. It was a beautiful sunny day and Andrea was our official photographer. It was fun to have a double date with with Andrea and Ralph. We all went out for dinner at a swanky little restaurant and I already have forgotten the name. NYC prices are quite high for not only housing but food as well.

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Day 3:

Rain, rain go away. There were flash flood warnings all morning so we hit up the Natural History Museum. I really enjoyed the exhibits with the extinct animals but not so much the stuffed animals. That was a little creepy. We called it an early night and all ordered in Thai food to our place. First time in a while that we have had Thai food delivered. What a treat!

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Day 4:

We spent the morning at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I really enjoyed the exhibits about the folks who landed in the early 1900s. The exhibits walks you through the process that each immigrant went through and there are images showing the dress and belonging that people carried on their journeys. I highly recommend visiting the museum. The audio tour of the Statue of Liberty was also interesting and contained some fun facts about the history and construction of the statue. We had beautiful weather and were able to snap some good pictures.

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Hmmmm....current event or from the past?

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Andrea's pics from Ellis Island

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Quinn's classmate Bon met up with us to show us his stomping grounds of Jersey city and also to take us on a great bike ride along the shoreline and also to a little creepy master planned community for the ultra rich on the Jersey side of the river. I really enjoyed the bike ride and the history of the area. That park and bike trail are a great city amenity. We also went on a pub crawl to all of Bon's favorite places in his hood. I really liked Jersey city and could definitely see myself living there and riding the subway into Manhattan. Now to find jobs and cheap rent! Ha good luck.

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Day 5:

I was back on my own this day and I went on a walking tour that included the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and "DUMBO" which is an acronym for down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. The tour guide was a retired defense attorney who claimed to have been paid mostly by drug dealers in cash but tired of this job after 12 years and now gives walking tours of Brooklyn. He was equipped with a Brooklyn accent as thick as they come and the regular dash of Brooklynease and bluntness characteristic of the area. I REALLY enjoyed his tour and he was full of information about the history of Brooklyn and also sprinklings of pop culture about the area. He also explained the history of Jehovah's Witnesses in the area of Brookyln which I found fascinating. After the tour, I took a ferry over to what is now considered hipsterville, Williamsburg. This is an area known for both its Hasidic Jewish population as well as its newfound residents, hipsters. It was a fun juxtaposition and made for a great afternoon of walking. I finally took the subway home and then it was off to dinner with a friend of Quinn's named Aaron. He is also Quinn's doppelganger. We went out for dinner and some drinks and enjoyed another fun evening in the city.

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Day 6:

I rented a Citi bike again and rode through Central Park and up into Harlem. It was a nice ride and I was able to see even more of Manhattan. I really enjoy seeing a city by bicycle. Unfortunately, I did not carry the camera because it was just too big to lug around on the bicycle. In the afternoon we meet with Quinn's former co-worker from Japan, Yamanaka-San and his wife. We had such a fun time catching up with them and feeling like we were back in Japan for an evening. I spent most of the evening with a smile ear to ear listening to them speak in Japanese and chat with us about Japan all while enjoying some delicious Gin and Tonics.

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Europe or NYC?

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Day 7: Poor Quinn was working almost the whole trip so he didn't get to see many of the city icons. So I took him on a whirlwind trip around to the biggest stops.

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Then we boarded a train for upstate New York/Vermont. We were greeted at the station by Quinn's cousin Ben and his wife Jaya. They have come to visit us at most of our stops and we were happy to finally get to come and visit them.

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Day 8: On the first day, Jaya showed us around Vermont while Ben worked. We explored Lake George, Saratoga Springs, and a farmer's market. I feel embarrassed how little remembered about the French and Indian war. There were plenty of monuments and signs to remind us but I feel like I need to brush up on my history some.

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Day 9: Quinn and I dropped Ben off at work and got a tour of his campus. It was fun to see him in his element and see where the magic happens.

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Then we set off to hike up a mountain. With a few stops along the way including a few country stores we finally made it up. I am a huge fan of the country store. They usually include a sandwich shop, cake shop, random home items, homemade jams and such, and more. It is a really fun concept and they are all unique. It would be fun to make a website with a directory about each country store in the area.

Country stores pics

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Hiking photos.

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Day 10: Ben and Jaya were off of work and we all set off to check out a Zen Garden/State park. It was a private estate that allowed visitors up until a few years ago when the owner passed and donated the land to the state. It has a few trails through the property and a very large Zen garden that we couldn't access on our visit due to "mud season." They are not lying about mud season. You could very easily get your car or leg stuck in the mountains of mud. It was a really fun day to hang around with them and then enjoy a soft serve ice cream. Upstate New York is full of soft serve and we took full advantage.

Ben and Jaya have an amazing magical window from their sitting room that looks out onto their yard full of of colorful birds, turkeys, fox, and deer. It was so enjoyable to watch nature from the comfort of their couch. I really enjoyed cooking with them in the evening and having a relaxing night by the fire followed by animal watching in the morning. It was great spending time with them.

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Day 11: back to Germany. Ben was kind enough to drive us to the airport and we headed off for another trip over the Atlantic. You would think that we were pros at this now but it seems long every time. It was great catching up with friends and visiting one of the most iconic cities in America.

Posted by trackers 11:13 Comments (0)

And the friends go marching on

Jeff and Sydney are really fun traveling partners and we have crashed at their place on numerous occasions. We were finally able to return their hospitality when they came up to our town for a visit. They brought along the newest member of their family, Milo, who is absolutely adorable and a HUGE puppy. He is only 4 months old and already weighs 50 pounds! He is going to be gigantic. We took them on a hike through the vineyards and enjoyed some beverages at our town park. Then we had a fancy dinner and a fancy homemade breakfast. It was really fun catching up with them and we sure are going to miss them once we move. I hope our paths will cross again in the future.

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The next weekend we went to Belgium to see our friends Pieter, Liesbeth their daughter Isolde and meet the newest member of their family, Ron. Ethan greeted Ron with a sweet little sniff. Ron was so good with him and gentle. Isolde and I had a great time teaching each other the colors in Dutch and English. For the first day she thought something was wrong with us and we couldn't speak properly because she kept correcting our terrible Dutch accents. By the second day she realized we were speaking a different language and it was adorable to hear her repeating the colors I labeled in English. She would make a great speech therapist because she never ran out of enthusiasm modeling and correcting my pronunciation of all words Dutch. She is a trip and a super fun little girl. As always, catching up with Pieter and Liesbeth was a blast. They took us to an incredible park near their house that has a dozen play grounds, swimming lakes, water playgrounds and a climbing wall where kids can learn to do via ferrata. These Europeans have it figured out. They teach the kids at a very young age to learn safe climbing practices. We enjoyed getting to meet more of their friends and our visits with them always seem too short. I hope they can make the trip out to America to visit us in the future.

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It was really exciting to have the first visit from another family member. Morgan is Quinn's second cousin and we've been pestering her for years to come for a visit. Now that she is all grown and employed, she was able to catch us before we leave Germany. The first night she arrived we didn't waste any time and threw her in the car and swept her off to Trier. It was fun to see the city through the eyes of a new visitor because it makes you appreciate all of the amazing places and things that you start to take for granted or normal.

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On Saturday, we went on a bike ride to the Mosel river and enjoyed some time sipping drinks at a cute little cafe along the river. It was such a beautiful day and I was happy Morgan got an opportunity to enjoy some beautiful weather and scenery. We also were able to tour around the city of Bernkastel-Kues and enjoyed some modern German cuisine. It was a fantastic day.

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On Sunday, we went Luxembourg and saw a whole bunch of new places we had never seen before. I don't know how in the world we are still able to see new places in Luxembourg but it is such a unique city. There are nooks and crannies with parks and cafes. There are few things better than Luxembourg on a sunny day.

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It was a real treat for me (Kristen) to have some one on one time with Morgan and to get to know her better. Quinn was super excited to have the "younger generation" of cousins come to visit.

Posted by trackers 11:42 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

A tale of two islands: Sardinia and Corsica

Quinn's childhood friend Jeremy, joined us for a hiking adventure on the Italian island of Sardinia and the French island of Corsica. It was a trip filled with sunshine, seafood, hiking and driving.

Day 1: Jeremy arrived in Luxembourg and then we all flew together on Ryanair to Alghero. We rented a car and drove to Stintino arriving around midnight. It was quite the day of travel for Jeremy.

Day 2: Checked out Stintino and La Pelosa beach. Drove over to Santa Teresa di Gallura with a quick stop in Costa Paradiso.

Photos from around Stintino

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Bank with laundry above it!

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Creepy eyeless statue

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models

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Photos from La Pelosa beach

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Day 3: Hung around Santa Teresa di Gallura and enjoyed a nice walk along the coast of Capo Testa and some delicious food with oceanside views. We started it all off with breakfast on the patio.

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Day 4: Took a ferry to Bonifacio in Corsica. Enjoyed some beverages on the pier. Suffered a curvy road up to Ajaccio

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Day 5: Walked around the city of Ajaccio and also out to the Pointe de la Parata.

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Day 6: Hiked the English Forest trail. Had some nice views and saw a ton of wildflowers.

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Day 7: Drove to Corte. Stopped midway on the drive to see the Cascade de Anglais.

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Standing on a cool bridge looking at a train bridge with a cool bridge under it!

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Day 8: Our home in Corte

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We did a long day hike to a church. We started from the town of Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco.

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There ended up being snow on the route and we dug in up to our waist sometimes. Oops!

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We met two Canadian gals on our hike up at the church (in the picture above). We ended up running into them in town that night and had a really fun time having dinner with them. Then we ended up meeting them unplanned at the trail head of our hike the next day. Our paths were meant to cross. They were super fun hiking buddies and we all enjoyed a bunch of laughs over a Corsican dinner together. Sometimes in our travels we run across people that have a special impact on us. Annie-Kim and Mathilde were two wonderful people who we wish we had known earlier and hope we have the good fortune to come across again.

Day 9: Long day hike to Gorges de Tavignano, starting with a picture of Corte.

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Cows on our trail!!!!

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Day 10: Long day and drive back south to Bonifacio and ferry back to Sardinia followed by another drive to Alghero. Who the heck came up with this plan?

There was a rally car race going on during our time on the island. We stopped at Porto Vecchio on our way back to Bonifacio and were able to join in a bit of the rally car fun. By the end of the day, we felt like we had done a rally car race.

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One last look at Bonifacio on the ferry ride. Also, a wild pair of shoes.

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Day 11: Day in Alghero

This turned out to be the most quaint and adorable town of the whole trip. I wish we had more time there.

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End of Day 11: Flew back to Germany.

Posted by trackers 13:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

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