A Travellerspoint blog

U.S.A - Arizona

sunny 95 °F

We flew into Phoenix and my girlfriend Sarah wins the award for picking us up and driving us an hour to go get a car. This girl is too nice and I cannot believe we kept her up that late! Thanks friend!

First thing in the morning we started our visiting tour with my Aunt KK and Uncle Randy and met their new dogs. The dogs would not pose for the pic.

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Then we had lunch with my Granny and visited Eldon in the hospital. We had a delicious meal at the Vig and we were once again reminded how amazing customer service is at American restaurants. They gave us free guac just because no one immediately came over to take our order.

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Granny and I had some bonding moments while she shared stories about her childhood and early adult life. She made me promise not to share the conversation that was going on in this picture but believe me it made me laugh so hard I cried!

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To top off the day of visiting, our friends Sarah and Johnny threw us a party!!! It was sooooo generous of them to host this event and make food for everyone and welcome us into their fabulous home. When I say fabulous, I do not use it lightly. They have done the most amazing renovation job that I have ever seen in person. I love it. We had such a wonderful time at this party and I cannot thank them enough for hosting. It was really great to see all of our AZ friends in one spot and to visit and laugh and enjoy time together. I miss all of these friends so much and it is so great to have friends that even after 6 years of being away we still have so much fun together. Lots of funny picture shenanigans ahead!

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The Phoenix restaurant and nightlife sure as changed since we left and there are so many more cool non chain restaurants and indoor/outdoor places to gather. One stop that Johnny and Sarah introduced us to was the yard. It has multiple restaurants, a bar, and lawn games all under a couple of roofs.

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We also got to enjoy a lovely brunch with some equally lovely people!

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And attend Erica's birthday party where we role played her Halloween costume. I absolutely loved that she had a bunch of beer growlers at her party and we got to try a little of each one. Still can't get enough of the USA beer culture. Too bad Germany has those purity laws that only allows 3 ingredients. It takes away all the fun!

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We also got to spend some time with Pat and Maddy and their adorable new baby Cora.

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And their original babies.

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We feel so lucky to have such wonderful lifelong friends in AZ and every time we come to visit I feel so sad to leave and miss out on spending time with them.

We headed down to Tucson on Monday to catch up with my Dad and see all of the renovation work he has been doing in his new house. We ate a ton of good food and also checked out the new cool downtown scene in Tucson. Apparently, adding a street car makes a city become super hip. Good job Tucson city planners.

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This was a bar where I got to sample some cocktails. A few things that I noticed about food on our trip back to America. 1. Apparently brussel sprouts are the new hip food. 2. Swanky coctails all have lavendar and gin in them and it is delicious. 3. Everyone is selling microbrews including gas stations. Here was one such place that emobodied all three American hip dining expectations. large__PIC5656.jpg

We were also able to meet up with Quinn's former college track coach Shane and his wife Anna.

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The next day we hit up the Desert Museum. I think this place has an ambiguous name. It is not really a museum but more of a desert experience. We watched a bird of prey show where they had hawks and owls swooping down right in front of us. We got to see multiple desert animals in their natural habitats (including a few hundred hummingbirds) and there were other fun static exhibits that explained about desert plants and life. I really enjoyed both the drive out there and exploring the park. I will let the pics tell the story here.

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What I would look like with bat ears.

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We had yet another Yokota reunion with our friends Heidi and Felix and their two little ones Isabelle and Christian....they keep multiplying over here! Isabelle dazzled us with her conversational skills. We really enjoyed catching up with them. Quinn hadn't gotten to see them in almost 4 years.

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The next day we checked out Sabino canyon and took a little train into the canyon and walked back out. It is a beautiful spot with a ton of picture taking opportunities. I really had to reign Quinn in.

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It was really tough to say bye to my dad. I miss you!

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Back in Phoenix we got to celebrate Halloween with the cutest bee around, Lydia. Aren't we all so photogenic? This is not easy to do with a 2 year old!

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Then we got to meet up with our AZ friends who now live in Chicago, Marc and Val! Thanks for timing your trip to coincide with ours. We went out to a fancy pants dinner in Scottsdale and had a great night out.

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With a little planning we were able to coordinate the schedules of some busy ladies and had a little Phoenix Children's Hospital SLP reunion. It was so fun to catch up with these gals and have some speechie talk, meet/see their kiddies, and just enjoy some girl time. This group of coworkers and mentors will always be special to me!

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This is a little out of order but we were able to see Eldon after he got out of the hospital and help him celebrate his 94th birthday. Eldon has been in our family for nearly 35 years and he has been around my whole life. He has always been very special to my grandmother and I have enjoyed many a dinner and laugh with him over the years. About one week after we got home from our USA trip, he passed away. I am so thankful that I got to see him before he passed and that I have many wonderful memories of him from over the years. As you can see in this picture he really loved my grandmother and he wanted to hold her hand the entire time we were there. Everytime he looked at her he had such a big smile on his face.

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Posted by trackers 09:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

U.S.A. - Florida

We only had 3 days turn around time from our Spain trip and it was time for a trip back to the motherland. We flew into West Palm Beach and after about 18 hours of traveling were greeted by almost my entire extended family in Florida. It was so awesome to see all of my cousins but we completely forgot to take a family photo. I am super bummed about this but sometimes it happens. We ate a delicious Italian meal prepared by my wonderful Italian mama and had a TON of laughs. And I really mean a ton! I think my cousins should start a comedy act because they really know how to keep the laughs going.

Blending in with the locals.

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One weekend on the Balaeric sea and the next on the Atlantic Ocean.

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Less than 12 hours in the US, we jumped in the car and drove north to Saint Augustine, Florida. There I was surprised by my cousins who live near Tampa. The last time we were all together was in Budapest, Hungary so it was fun to see them on home soil. My mom rented a place on homeaway.com and my cousins Melissa and Steve were already waiting inside. So when I opened the door....Surprise. It is pretty tough to surprise me so nice work everyone! Our little home in Saint Augustine.

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We wandered around Saint Augustine for a couple of days and one of the highlights was the Distillery. It has only been open for 7 months but they have already won awards in blind taste tests as well as for their reuse of this old ice factory as their distillery. It is a well redesigned space that is retro while also incorporating new green standards. They try to use all local ingredients and this is very much a Florida farmer operation. I loved the gin which had citrus taste to it and worked very well in the little cocktails that came along with the tour.

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Of course, you can't do the Distillery without also checking out the winery. The winery needs to step it up a bit with their tour because it feels a little hokey and old fashioned in comparison with the new, cool distillery. We enjoyed the wine, nonetheless.

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Saint Augustine was developed by Henry Flagler as a tourist destination when he built the train line coming into the town. He built or had a hand in building pretty much everything in the whole town including multiple churches. We did the little train tour with the descriptions of all the buildings and the fort that you will see in the pictures below. We had such gorgeous weather, so it was really nice to be out in the open air train touring around and seeing the Spanish and British style buildings.

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We did not go on a horse ride because I just feel too sad for the horses no matter how much my mother tried to convince me that the horses liked it!

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My cousin Melissa and I hanging out at the entrance of a bustling pedestrian street.

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Outside of Florida's oldest jail.

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We also did a haunted pub crawl. This turned out to be a lot of fun with stories that had a supernatural twist and a drink in between each one.

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Some delicious food. We always have a lot of good food when Melissa and Steve are around. Thank you so much for driving over to spend the weekend with us. See you in Germany?

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Beach pit stop on the way back south.

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Once back home, we spent a day exploring Miami and checking out the warehouse district. This district is a graffiti lover's paradise and turned what once was a boring bunch of big block buildings into huge amazing canvasses.

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Cool small business idea, a rolling car detailing bike!

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We also enjoyed a meal in little Havana.

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And another walk along the beach with a new development that will probably ruin the quaintness of the Hollywood, Florida strip. Come on city planners! Get on it!

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One thing I don't have a picture of is all the different places we went for micro brews and cocktails. I cannot believe how much microbrew has taken over south Florida.

We couldn't get enough of the warm weather and sunshine so we went on a little boat ride along the intracoastal. Quinn could not get over the monstrosity of the houses.

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Coming in hot!

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Then my niece Jessie came over and we caught sea creatures that were unlucky enough to be in the canal and within arms reach of Quinn.

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Obligatory selfie.

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Hanging with Tracey and my cousins in their new house on wheels.

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One last deliciuos Florida meal courtesy of my Auntie Cheryl.

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Thank you for such a wonderful trip Mama. I know you put a lot of work into it and we had a blast.

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Posted by trackers 06:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Mallorca, Spain

We went to Mallorca, Spain in the beginning of October as a make up trip that we were supposed to take back in May. We had already purchased the tickets so we decided to squeeze it in during the end of Mallorca's season. So many places in Europe are seasonal and when you go out of season prices are cheaper but most restaurants are closed and it can sometimes be difficult to find inexpensive lodging because many of the smaller hotel owners close up shop.

It was about a 2 hour plane ride and we rented a car from the airport. The lady at the front counter was so surprised to see that Quinn's driver's license is from Hawaii and spent the next 20 minutes gushing about how it was her dream to visit Hawaii. We were pretty surprised by this since Mallorca is an island off the coast of Spain and seems like it would be pretty similar to Hawaii. We spent the next three days comparing Mallorca to Hawaii and we noticed quite a few parallels. For those who have lived or traveled in Hawaii I will list them here and you can tell me what you think.

We stayed in a little town called Santa Maria del Cami and on the first day we went in to Palma to check out the main city. This city is the Honolulu of Mallorca. It has most of the shops and restaurants and all the shopping one could desire. One thing it has that Oahu does not is an incredible old church and other historic buildings.

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Really cool old olive tree and some unusual statues in a state building.

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Looks like they were renovating a building and were saving the facade. This is a big endeavor.

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We got some awesome sausages and cheese from this shop that had some very photogenic peppers.

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Graffiti in Spain is definitely better than graffiti in Hawaii.

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I do have to say, we couldn't find any amazing Japanese or other asian cuisine that one can find in Hawaii and flip flops or "slippas" were not nearly as prevalent!

Next up we drove to the little mountain towns of Deia and Valldemossa. They were both so picturesque and had such a quaint ambiance. It was so nice and sunny the whole time we were there. It just made everything look so warm and inviting.

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Paella and soup in a mug that looked like hot chocolate!

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This cat was practicing his moves for cirque du soleil or he just really likes to live on the edge.

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We hit up one of the wineries in our town after a long search through the town to find it. It was actually a very cool winery and you could even tour the areas where they do the "science stuff" of wine.

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That afternoon we checked out of our hotel and went to the east side of the island. We scored an amazing beachfront room with a kitchenette and bedroom/living room for less than 30 bucks a night. YES!! This was the view from our balcony.

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We spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing and then walked around town that night. We ate at a delicious Indian restaurant. Cafe Maharani anyone? The next day we went to a market which turned out to be a tourist bust but we had an amazing Spanish style lunch eating at around 2:00. The daily rhythm of life is so much different in Spain. Lunch is somewhere between 2:00 and 4:00 and dinner doesn't really even start until about 9:00. This took some major getting used to but we did it. We didn't bring the camera that day but you can trust me that the food looked and tasted delicious.

The last day we had a lot of time to cruise around the island before our 9 pm flight. We checked out a really cool cliff that reminded me of a cross between Laie point and Halona blow hole, in that you drove through a community and popped out at an ocean cliff with a beautiful view.

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We also checked out another cool beach. Watch out for trees while you are driving.

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With just a few hours left we squeezed in one more adventure to some underground caves. It was about a 1 hour walk through the caves and I couldn't believe all of the rock stalactites and stalagmites. They were really incredible.

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We also got to see a quartet perform on these little rowboats as they were rowed across an underground lake. There was a piano, a violin, a cello, and a viola. The boats were lighted and it was absolutely amazing to see them row across the lake and hear the beautiful music. We then took the little rowboat back across the lake. No pictures allowed during the music. Guess you will have to see it for yourself.

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One last meal of paella and some delicious chicken with a creamy almond sauce up in Soller which reminded me of the North Shore. It is actually located in the northern part of the island and has a much more laid back almost hippy vibe.

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Posted by trackers 03:44 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Munich Oktoberfest

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Way back when we lived in Japan we used to go to the Yokohama Oktoberfest every year. It was a bigger and bigger group each year and it got to be more and more fun. So, when Kate and TW told us that our friends Chelsea and Rob were flying in from Texas to do Oktoberfest, we knew it would be a blast. Kate and TW live about an hour away so we all converged upon Munich for this event. Unfortunately, Quinn and I got stuck in some mega traffic due to an accident and literally sat in the same spot on the highway for 2 hours, but we made it. We had some intel on the best beer tent in Munich. (There are 10+). Each one is owned by a different brewery and serves its own beer and food. To get reservations is nearly impossible and typically has to be done a year in advance with a hefty fee. So we banked on getting there right as it opened (11 am) on Thursday and staking out an unreserved table. Initially, this seemed like an insane plan to me since the music and party don't really get going until 3 or 4 but Kate had the down low on all this and she was right. We got one of the last tables and everyone in the tent pretty much stayed until the end. That's right folks, we sat at a table and drank beer from large one liter glasses for nearly 12 hours. We did manage to order some food during that time. It was so cool to have another Yokota reunion. That place is almost like a little college campus or something, it binds friends for life.

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The next day we went back to the fair grounds because we really didn't get to explore it much on the first day since we were so focused on getting a table and consuming some of the local drink.

Historically, every morning the horses bring in the first barrels of beer. This is now just a symbolic gesture but it was beautiful to see all of the horses dressed up with their fancy tac and wagons.

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Each tent is decorated differently.

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The outsides of the tents aren't too shabby either.

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Our tent from the night before.

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The sheer monstrosity of this event is just unbelievable. There are just rows and rows of food and beer stands. I can't even imagine how they get all of the products here every day to sell. Look at all the chickens....and this was a tiny stand.

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Things I learned about Oktoberfest:

1. During the week is the best time to go. For unreserved tables on the weekend, people start to line up outside the fairgrounds at 7am!!
2. Most everyone wears the traditional clothing but you can find good deals on the clothes all around the stores or on the streets in Munich.
3. The servers will knock you over if you get in their way.
4. TW, Kate, Rob, Chelsea, and Quinn are the best Oktoberfest partners!

For us, it is only possible to do Oktoberfest for one day, though we met people who spent 3 days in a row celebrating. We chose to spend the next day touring around Munich a bit but we really only made a small dent in seeing the city. So far, I think Munich is the most beautiful German city we have been to. The architecture is gorgeous and there are a lot of green spaces. It was also cool to see all of the stores with window displays of traditional clothing. At this high end store the complete outfit runs about 3000 dollars!!!

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Cruising around Munich.

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We also checked out the Hofbrauhaus. This is the original beer hall in Munich. Kate went on a guided tour of Munich prior to our arrival and shared some stories about it with us. This beer hall was the original meeting place for all of the different political parties that eventually formed the Nazi party. On the ceiling were paintings of the Nazi swastica that have now been painted over but with a little imagination you can still sort of see where they might have been.

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There are groups of people that have a standing reservation at this beer hall. In order to get a standing reservation you have to come every week or every month for 3 years without EVER missing. After that time, they will decide if you can have a standing reservation. If you are inducted, you get to keep your own beer stein in a locked case along the wall and perhaps even have a picture of your group on the wall. This place is absolutely enormous with 3 levels and probably thousands of seats.

So, that is just barely scraping the surface of Munich but that is all we had time for on this trip. Other friends of ours from Japan now live in Germany in Stuttgart. They have only been in Germany a few months and we have really been looking forward to visiting them and hearing stories about their 2 year stint in Haiti. So we jumped in the car and headed over to Stuttgart which is conveniently, halfway between Munich and home.

They live right in the center of downtown and there was a street festival happening to celebrate the new opening of a mall next to their house.
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We celebrated the new mall by eating from the Dunkin Donuts there! Yay! Real donuts.

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I know this sounds ridiculous but German donuts don't have anything on American donuts! They are so close to so many good restaurants and shops, and beautiful historic buildings and downtown. I was really jealous. I enjoy the countryside but sometimes it would be nice to live in a city, especially if one wants good Thai food. Meredith took us to her local Thai restaurant and I was transported back to Thailand!

They also have a really great forest by their house up on a hill. So the dogs got to have some really good playtime. This is their Haitian dog, Tread.

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Later on a walk, Meredith and Quinn found baby volls. I am so glad they decided not to keep them.

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It was really fun catching up with Meredith and Richter and hearing all of their amazing stories. We spent a lot of Friday nights with them in Japan listening to stories over a happy hour beer. and I always have enjoyed hearing their take on situations. See you guys at Christmas?!

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Posted by trackers 10:46 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Sam visits Germany and France and the Netherlands

My girlfriend and travel buddy, Sam, came for a visit in September. We have now travelled on 3 different continents together.....if only central America were a different continent it would be 4. Anyway, she arrived in the evening and we took her up to a scenic hill by our house to let her have a peek at the vineyards and an overview of our town. We also cracked a German beer to celebrate her arrival.

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Quinn had to work on Friday, boo, so Sam and I enjoyed some Chai lattes in town and I played tour guide around our 'hood.

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Then we took the bus down to Bernkastel Kues and wandered around town. We took one of my beloved Mosel boat rides over to Traben Trarbach where Quinn was so kind as to pick us up. The boat goes through a lock which is pretty cool and Sam and I know that we will never be engineers because we couldn't even fathom how the lock operated.

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We checked out a little winery with a beautiful garden and an interesting statue.

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We also enjoyed some Federweisser (young wine) and zwiebelkuchen (onion cake).

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I had to work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday so Sam headed off on an adventure to Paris. She had her first couch surfing experience there which is totally awesome. She came back plus one when her friend, Chris, from Chicago surprised her when he landed in Paris!

I picked them up at the train station in Trier and we spent a day being tourists. I actually saw some new stuff in Tier including the gardens and the roman amphitheater and baths.

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We took advantage of the beautiful Saturday weather and checked out downtown Luxembourg. They always have a really fun bustling Saturday market and the high vantage points never get old. We relaxed by the river in the gorge and enjoyed a picnic lunch.

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That night marked the annual Wolf weinfest. This is my favorite winefest of the year. This year once again did not disappoint. There were 16 stands with 16 different food stands, tons of bands, and lots of fun. It rained almost the entire fest but that did not stop us from having a blast. We rocked the night with the band and even created a little hand tunnel for people to walk through as they walked in and out of the tent. Unfortunately, all the water equaled not too many pictures, but at least we have one.

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Everything in Germany is closed on Sunday so we went to the Netherlands. This time we hit up the adorable town of Vulkanburg and also checked out a castle. Along the way, we even found a surprise castle. These sorts of things happen in Europe.

Vulkanburg

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Outdoor amphitheater

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Planned castle and unplanned oldtimer car fest

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Ethan picking a fight with a sheep. It headbutted him.

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Unplanned castle

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Dinners and fun at home

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Quinn had to work on Monday but we all checked out Burg Eltz castle. No pictures inside the castle. This is one of my favorite castles in Germany.

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Sam and Chris enjoyed a bike ride on their last day but we had to get back to our real lives of work so we didn't get to explore with them. It was a great time to see them and have new adventures. Looking forward to the next trip. South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia?

Posted by trackers 12:08 Comments (0)

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