A Travellerspoint blog

The Greek Crisis

We booked a trip with our friends Kevin and Andrea to go rock climbing in Crete. The first day we drove about 3 hours to the south side of the island. The drive was absolutely beautiful with mediterannean landscape and mountains. It was super windy with a bunch of dirt roads and a few goats....okay a ton of goats. The house we rented was on top of a hill with a killer view of the ocean.

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The next day we had planned to go climbing but it rained so we hopped in the car and drove some more winding roads to a town called Matala. This areas is known for caves where a bunch of hippies lived in the 70s. The town has a bunch of artists and painted streets and such, likely the hippie influence.

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Kevin and Andrea enjoying the scenery.

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Kevin before the wave.

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Kevin during the raid.

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We went for a little hike up the mountain to the red beach. I don't know why it is called the red beach since it was yellow. But it was a beautiful hike.

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We ate at a fabulous restaurant with an ocean view. We watched people jump off of rocks and took pictures of people jumping off of rocks, and took pictures of people taking pictures of people jumping off of rocks.

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We rented the house from airbnb.com and the owner, Lior, is also a climber, and adventure guide, so he invited us to tag along with him, which was very convenient because the area was difficult to find. First we met him at his cafe, then we rode in a 4x4 vehicle to the top of the canyon. We hiked in through the narrow canyon and had to jump into water and cross a little river as the water was still running from the winter melt. It was super cool. There were also some goat bones such as the jaw and vertebrae.

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The rock climbing area was absolutely incredible with a bright red wall. Then the canyon opened out onto the beach and there were a few climbs along the beach. We started one and decided it was too tough so we moved to a different one. I tried it and couldn't do one of the moves so Quinn went up to give it a shot.

That brings us to the moment I wish I could change. Quinn was working through the route when all of the sudden I saw him come off the wall in a twisting position. His foot had caught in a crevice and his hand slipped causing him to turn outward and break his leg. It was an open fracture with his bone coming out of the skin. He called down to me to lower him and I brought him down to the ground. He immediately grabbed his foot, pulling it over to close the opening which was almost 180 degrees of his ankle. Then I tied a tourniquet with my shirt and some of our climbing gear. As I mentioned earlier we were in a really remote location, and it was not possible to get Quinn out the way we came in. There are, inconveniently, no helicopters on the island of Crete. Luckily we had Lior with us (who also happens to be former German Armed Forces) and he jumped into action. There were quite a few people in the canyon and everyone worked together to help us. Lior called his mother who coordinated with the local fishermen and ambulance to provide transport. Someone found a chair in a cave (where people live during the summer), then we slung some climbing rope up under the chair and Kevin and Lior muscled Quinn from the climbing area to the beach where a small fishing boat met us. It took about 7 people to stabilize the boat which drove up onto the beach to get Quinn inside. Then it started pouring rain. I laid on top of him to stabilize him and keep him dry while we took the ride around the mountain so that we could meet the ambulance at the dock. When we got to the dock, the ambulance was not there yet, and two other fishermen muscled him out of the boat and into the back of a pick up truck which drove us to a small shipping container type office where the fishermen started a fire to warm/dry us. The ambulance came about 10 minutes later. The whole process up to this point was a little over 1 hour. The ambulance drivers stabilized Quinn's leg in position and then we started the long 2 hour drive across two mountain passes to the north of Crete to the largest hospital on the island in the city of Heraklion. Within about 2 hours of arriving at the hospital Quinn was undergoing emergency surgery to repair the broken bones and close the open wound. He broke both the fibula and tibia and needed a metal plate and 8 screws, one of which will have to be removed in a later surgery.

So, Quinn and I spent 4 days in the hospital while he recovered from surgery and received IV antibiotics. The first three nights we spent in a tiny little hospital bed together and on the 4th night I was able to secure a room at a little inn for family members of people who are at the hospital, with assistance from the owners of the other airbnb place we booked later in our trip. He was given codeine and some other medications so his pain was pretty well controlled. Most of the staff spoke English so we were able to communicate with them about issues/concerns. Of course being in a hospital is very stressful even when you are in your native country but being in a hospital where you are out of your own culture compounds that effect.

Some interesting cultural differences in Greek medical care. They took NONE of our information prior to providing care for Quinn. They didn't even have our street address. We could have skeedadled right out of there and no one could have found us. The doctors don't really tell you anything unless you specifically ask. Otherwise they just say, "doing good." Even during rounds you don't get much of an update. EVERYONE at the hospital has a family member staying with them at all times. Due to the Greek financial crisis all government systems (including healthcare) had a 25% budget cut across the board. This means less staff to help. So the family members make up the slack by helping people to the bathroom, pushing wheel chairs, opening doors and so on. We even had someone else's family member help to wheel Quinn down to xray! They don't give you pitchers for water. You must go buy your own bottled water down at the cantina. There is no cafeteria for family or staff. Therefore, a few little restaurants and cantinas have sprung up around the hospital to provide people with a place to eat. Visiting hours are quite lax. Our roommate had visitors until 10:30 one night. Actually, most of the visitors don't even start showing up until 8:00. Boy do people have visitors! Sometimes like 8 at a time. The rooms get packed. Every room has a balcony and you can see tons of visitors all smoking on the balconies and basically having a frat party. I kept joking with Quinn that it was like being at a fraternity house! Here are the balconies and the view from the room.

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Also, there are pictures of religious figures everywhere and even a little altar in each room. I am not sure if you put a statue or a candle or what on this but here it is.

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If you want to watch tv you must pay 2 euros per day. If you don't want to watch tv then they actually take the TV away! Isn't that hilarious?

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Around the rest of the hospital things work in a very different manner than I am accustomed to. Each patient gets a piece of paper for various things that they need, for example, an xray. Then they go over to the xray department and instead of signing in, they just hold their paper and then as soon as the xray tech opens the door, they all rush to him and frantically hand their papers to try and be the next one seen. It is absolute chaos. Same situation in the emergency room. Everyone always has a white paper. Even me! (Lucky us we arrived by ambulance ;))

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The woman that we rented our second room from (through airbnb) helped me to get a room at the family center. They gave me a white paper and I had to run around getting it signed by different people so that I could prove my husband was in the hospital and stay at their family center. Her husband also brought us towels so that we could dry off after a shower. They do not have towels at the hospital in Greece! It was so awesome of them to help us. They even tracked us down at the hospital to see what they could do!

Also, Greek people all talk to each other like they know everyone. For example, they will frequently ask you what happened to you and want to know everything. I had people in line often offering to help translate medical information or personal financial information for me. There is not really the same sense of privacy that we think of. It is kind of refreshing. They are just like, "hey here is your situation and that's it."

Nearly EVERYONE on staff was so helpful and kind. Here is a nurse that even though he didn't have a word of English made us feel so welcome. He made us special tea from the mountains of Crete and joked around with us through gestures and facial expression.

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Quinn in bed.

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We were discharged after 4 days and given all our medical records. One of the attending doctors kept telling us how "perfect" Quinn's surgery was and how well he would heal because his surgery was "perfect."

Pics on the way out from Quinn's point of view.

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We have this insurance service called ADAC. It is kind of like AAA in the States. This service helped us tremendously! They "repatriated" us back to Germany. They had a doctor on staff that communicated with our doctor in the hospital and they booked our flight arrangements, ground transportation, and a hotel for us for two days before we were able to get on a flight. After we were discharged from the hospital they put us up in a five star hotel on the coast. The hotel didn't have a wheel chair so Quinn road the luggage cart up.

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View from the room.

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Pillow menu

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One good thing about the hotel and one bad thing. The concierge was able to secure us crutches within 20 minutes of arriving at the hotel. The home health company delivered them in about 10 minutes. It was amazing. The bad thing was the concierge refused to tell us any place to get food because they have a full restaurant. I think this is really poor business practice because people do not want to always eat in a hotel and to not help your guests is just crap. Especially, if one has a broken leg! I was pissed. Anyway, I wandered around for a while and found the cutest little new restaurant and they made us take out every day for lunch and dinner.

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The trip from the hotel to the airport was by a car and a wheelchair. Everyone at security was very accommodating. We rode on some little strange bus thingy to get us to the airplane and it lifted us up so Quinn could just walk right in with his crutches rather than climb stairs. ADAC booked us 3 seats for Quinn so he could have his leg up and one seat next to him for me. The flight was uncomfortable for him but the staff tried their best to help.

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Once we landed in Germany we were transported again by some little wheeled vehicle thing and then to medical transport. It is a two hour drive from Frankfurt airport and we were finally home at 1:30 am. It was a LONG day and Quinn was so tough through the whole thing.

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We saw the German orthopedic surgeon yesterday and he said, "well, I have to say, they did a very good job." So it is nice to have a second opinion and one that is positive. I think this means a lot because anyone who has worked with an orthopedic surgeon knows that they usually think they are the only ones who can do anything right so a compliment from one to another means a lot.

A huge thank you to to all of the people who helped us out of the canyon including Lior, Francy, and Suzy. Also a big thank you to Andrea and Kevin who drove all around to get our stuff and then to come and sit with me during Quinn's surgery and to come and drag me out of the hospital for lunch one day. Also a big thank you to all of our friends who helped prepare our house for arrival and stock our fridge with food (Erin, Cole, Casey). An advanced thank you to Silvan who will be Quinn's PT once he is ready for rehab and again to Andrea who will provide massage to reduce scar tissue.

Emails and messages are welcome but we may not respond to all questions because frankly, it just takes too much time. We don't have much more information about the road ahead. You know pretty much everything we know at this point, but we will share it as we get it. If you would like to be on the update list by email then let me know that in an email and I will add you. I am sending out update emails with more personal details of things than I am posting on this blog. Hope you all are doing well.

Posted by trackers 03:45 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Sicily

What?! It has been a month since I have written anything. Wow! Time flies.

For Valentine's day we took a quick little trip to Trapani, Sicily for a little rock climbing and Vitamin D intake. Check and check. We have this whole Ryan Air deal down to a science. I wait for the checked luggage and Quinn high tails it to the car rental line. There were about 20 people behind him when I showed up with our gear bag and we were on the road to explore an Italian island. We found a grocery store for a picnic lunch because it was about 2:00 and all of Italy closes down between 2:00 until about 6:00. Here was our picnic lunch view with the salt flats. Apparently they harvest/gather/dry? I don't know the correct terminology, here at the flats and under these tile roofs. The windmill's must act as pumps.

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We drove out to San Vito lo Capo, which is a resort area in the summer and completely abandoned in the winter. We could barely find a place to eat. We finally settled on a place right near our hotel which we completely missed during our initial drive to town. We enjoyed a glass of wine and sunset. Oh how I love the sun. You don't realize how much you love it until it isn't around, says the girl who has lived in Arizona, Florida and Hawaii.

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Our inn at Sunset and again in the morning for breakfast. Our hostess put out an incredible spread of food. I think she was trying to feed about 100 people.

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Views on our way out to the climbing area.

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Freshly painted....Well this doesn't happen everyday.

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The climbing here was really incredible. It goes around an entire cape and is a mesa in the middle of the cape. Ocean views from every climbing spot with super sticky rock. It was awesome. They host a big international climbing competition here every year and I can see why! We met up with some couchsurfers that took us to this awesome spot. It involved off roading in our tiny rental car over huge rocks and mud puddles of unknown depths. Quinn's driving skills definitely came in handy.

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This is a "where's Kristen?" photo.

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On the way back, we discovered this!

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That night we drove into Palermo. Along the way we stopped for some cannoli. These were the biggest ones I found along the trip. I may have eaten 7 cannoli in 3 days, no biggie.

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View point on the drive to the next hotel

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We were planning on driving to climb on Sunday to another spot near Palermo, but the traffic was so horrific we couldn't bare to put ourselves in the car again. So we wandered around the city and enjoyed the scenery. I think we were both a little bummed not to climb again but the traffic was just totally insane. I enjoyed the rural areas of Sicily but the cities were not my favorite.

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One thing I really did enjoy was the outdoor market. The vendors were shouting and singing and just generally making a commotion that really added to the atmosphere. They were selling baccala which reminded me of my stepdad, Bob, who nicknamed a couple of his friends the baccala brothers. Based on the smell of this dry, salted fish, he didn't think too highly of these people!

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Not sure if this was special for the day we were there or if Sicilians drag all their crap out onto the street to have one giant yard sale every Sunday but everywhere we turned there was a sale going on.

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More cool stuff around town

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It's not every day that you see a tribute to the fight against the mafia.

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Food glorious food, what is there more handsome?

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This church was super cool because all the of the artwork was made of mosaics. It was so intricate and amazing.

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And we got to go up to the look out tower and see some hundreds of year old graffitti!

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This face totally creeped me out.

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Quinn parked like an Italian, right in front of the church! He demanded a picture to commemorate this event.

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Another cool drive back to the airport. Happy to leave the city. Sad to leave the countryside.

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Found this super cute stray dog along the way. I wanted to bring her home so bad.

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Then we stopped in the town of Marsala. This also reminded me of Bob because he taught me to cook mushrooms with Marsala wine. Now I have been to the home of Marsala. It was super cute and we were sad we didn't have more time there. If we go back for another rock climbing trip, this town will be on the list of must sees.

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It is really nice to get out of the cold even if it is just for the weekend.

Posted by trackers 13:07 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Porto: Tapas, Tawny, Tiles

Another Ryanair trip is in the books. This one was with our awesome friends Kate and TW and Casey. What a fun group of people. Sometimes, all the pieces are right for a great trip.

It is only fitting that we start this blog out with a train ride picture because we spent a lot of time with Kate and TW on the trains in Japan. This was a train from the airport into the city and only cost about 3 bucks for a 30 minute ride. That's cheap.

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First building out of the subway. Just a sign of things to come. I couldn't get enough of these blue tiles.

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Stopped at a corner store to fill up on supplies for the apartment. We didn't know it at the time, but the bottle with the yellow label would be one of our favorite wines and was a bit of foreshadowing for one of our best meals ever.

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Breakfast the next morning. Quinn is a carbaholic, so he was pumped about finding this place.

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Street Scenes

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Photo Bombs

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There was a really awesome bridge connecting the cities across the river. There was an upper and lower bridge. I loved the views.

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Porto is known for its Port wine. There are a bunch of wineries along the river. We stopped to partake in some wine tasting. It was a blast. Did a little photo shoot as well. You may also notice the boats in the background. There were so many forms of transportation in Porto from boats to gondolas, to tuk tuks to trolley cars, to trains. I could go on and on. Here are some river shots and also transportation shots.

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Tuk-tuk
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Funicular
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Port wine tasting

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Sommelier
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Trolley Car
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Photo shoot

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Lovin the tile

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That night we had some difficulties finding dinner. It turned out to be a crazy busy dinner night and every place was totally booked. Thanks to Kate's ingenuity we were able to find a pizza joint so we didn't starve. Europe tends to only do one sitting at a restaurant, so when you go out for the night you may see plenty of empty tables in a restaurant, but it may be reserved for a dinner party at 9 p.m. Nevermind that it is only 7. You won't get the table.

Then we hit up, "The Gin House." I have to admit that I was less than enthused to go to a Gin bar but the bartender was amazing and convinced me that I really wanted a 12 dollar gin and tonic even though I don't like Gin. Every single drink used a different kind of gin and had different garnishes. The making of the drink was quite a process and super fun to watch. They even froze the glass and ice cubes with a special machine. It was worth some of the money just to watch him make the drink. Turns out, this guy can make a Gin and Tonic that even I like! Swanky.

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The next morning we ate at one of the restaurants where we had tried to eat dinner. It was basically brunch time so we were able to get a table for lunch. It was a super cool library/restaurant where they brought you a menu in a book. Here were the delicious dishes that followed.

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This was the best sponge cake I've ever had. I'm not sure I know what sponge cake is, or that I have ever had it before, but it was good.

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Checked out a church and some tombs inside the basement with actual bones.

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Walked up this tower.

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This city really has character. It is unpolished and earthy and artsy and beautiful.

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Another church.

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Me enjoying the sun.

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More street shots

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I cannot get enough of this tile.

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TW and Casey really wanted to check out a winery called, "Cockburns." No, I am not making this up. So we trekked up a big hill to the winery and much to our dismay, it was closed! Stupid Sundays! Anyway, we were able to find a strange park with an abandoned building in the center. Photo shoot.

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No surprise Quinn was a runner.

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The creepiest chimney ever.

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After the park, we had to at least have a picture with the sign of the winery.

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Me waiting for these yahoos who are taking pictures of people taking pictures.

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Can you see a common theme here with all of the picture taking? Quinn and Kate were out of control. I loved all the photoshoots but I am telling you, it made writing this blog a long task when I had to wade through 700 pictures for a 3 day weekend!

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Crochet?

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Our last night we ate at an INCREDIBLE tapas restaurant. Unfortunately, we only took a picture of the cheese. I think after the first course we were so busy eating we forgot to take more pics. Remember that yellow bottle of wine? The waiter recommended it at this place, and we had 3 bottles of it. Imagine our surprise when we got back to the room, and discovered we had a fourth in the fridge. What a great night.

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Okay, I cannot help it, one more tiled building.

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To bring this blog full circle, here we are on the train with yet another photobomb! TW and Quinn had a very tough trip to the airport. Apparently they were over hydrated.

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I just cannot express how much fun this trip was. This group of people really know how to have a good time together. It is not often that you can travel so seamlessly with a group of 5 and just really relax and have a great time. I CANNOT WAIT for the next trip.

Posted by trackers 13:38 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Mom and Bob visit Germany and France, and Belgium

My real Christmas present arrived the day after Christmas, my mom and Bob! Quinn and I picked them up from the airport in Luxembourg.

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It was so awesome to see them after a year and a half! That was way too long of a stretch. We cannot let that happen again. I started the trip off right by sending my mother directly into the kitchen to make me a pot of her delicious pasta sauce. You cannot let an Italian mother's fabulous cooking skills go to waste! We celebrated Christmas with more gifts than necessary. I had to open Ethan's gifts for him since he doesn't have any opposable thumbs, but boy was he excited.

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He was not so excited about his new coat.

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Smiles all around. The gifts were great but the company was better. This is the first Christmas we have celebrated together in 6 or 7 years.

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I am good at wrapping little presents.

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This present was AMAZING! It is a collage of pictures from all the trips my mom, Bob, Quinn and I have spent together.

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Unbelievable! My mom and I both ordered the same photo print for each other!

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Bob gave me a beautiful antique pin.

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Christmas dinner.

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After dinner snooze. Ethan was obsessed with this pajama that my mom got for me. It is so soft. He started by just putting his head on it. Then somehow he crept up to get his whole body touching it. Before I knew it, he had crawled inside with just his head poking out of the bottom. This dog is spoiled!

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After dinner drink with one skull ice cube. We judged some of the wines based on how many skulls they need. This is all thanks to the skull ice cube mold that our buddy Wade got us!

We spent one day roaming around Wittlich and showing them our little town. They saw my work, the coffee shops, the little streets, the local vineyards, and had a tour of the base. We took it easy this day because the next day started the whirlwind of travel. We were up bright and early for our drive to Strasbourg, France. We spent the next two days wandering around Strasbourg, checking out the Christmas markets and enjoying delicious food.

Strasbourg it known for its Christmas market and instead of being in just one main square, as they often are in Germany, it wound throughout the whole city! All of the buildings were decorated, even down to the tiniest little window box. There were rides for kids, drinks for adults, food for everyone, and just an overall amazing atmosphere.

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She's telling me a secret.

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Hehe....not telling

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This is the largest "cup" of hot chocolate I have EVER seen. Soup on the left, hot chocolate on the right. They were actually about the same size.

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Brie, honey and walnut sandwich. Yum

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Christmas market decorations galore. They even join the horses in on the event by shaving designs into their hair.

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Brewery pit stop! Bob was obsessed with all of the Christmas beer specialties. Good thing he got there after Christmas or he might have run them out of beer before Christmas got here!

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The last time we were in Strasbourg we tried to eat at a restaurant called La Cuiller a Pot but they informed us that it was about a month before we could get a reservation. Well, this time we were prepared and we reserved about 6 weeks in advance. Unfortunately, Bob was not feeling well this evening so we had to forge on without him. The owners of the restaurant were kind enough to send us home with some bullion and bread for Bob. I feel bad writing this since Bob missed out but this was by far the BEST meal of the trip and in my top 3 best meals of all time.

We started off with a white bean soup with a quail egg. Then we had risotto with shrimp and a hint of truffle.

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Then we shared the following meals: veal, white fish in a puff pastry, and castrated rooster. What?! Why in the world is this necessary? I have no idea who came up with this idea, but it was a fabulous one. Apparently, castrating a rooster makes it taste about one million times more delicious than normal. We just each ate a few bites from each plate and then rotated them clockwise until it was gone.

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Dessert was not only delicious but beautiful too. This mousse was amazing.

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No! Its cold, don't make me get up.

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We wandered around Strasbourg a little more and then drove to Colmar, France. They are also known for their Christmas markets as well as their Alsatian wine. This region of France is known as Alsace. If you check out your local wine market, most likely you can find some Alsatian wine.

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Now on to pictures of Colmar.

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Really cool rides for kids

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Another great dinner. The dinners around this area seem to take anywhere from 2-4 hours. Its an experience.

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The next couple of days we spent driving around and walking around little towns that surround Colmar. I am not even going to pretend that I can keep straight which pictures are from which towns because they were all so picturesque and cute they began to blend together. In case you are planning a trip, the names of the towns are Turckheim, Niedermorschwihr, Ribeauville, Riquewihr, and Kaysersburg.

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Wine tasting in Turckheim.

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Really cool tiles roofs.

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Famous dessert of the region.

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Pretzels...This area has a German influence with the food and architecture because historically, it has been a part of France and Germany.

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This Christmas decorating is just out of control. Who is paying for all this? Is there some sort of special city tax or are individuals putting all this together??
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The Alsatian region is also known for Storks. There are stork nests everywhere, statues of storks, pictures of storks, hats of storks....you get the idea. But check out this Christmas tribute to storks.

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A closer look

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Creepy baby huh?

Stork nest. Not sure if you can get a feel for the scale. These nests are gigantic.

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More pics

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Is this too many photos? I am starting to feel like this is too many photos. Okay, well a couple more.

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Quinn has gotten so into photography now, that I have to wade through about 1000 photos from every trip and it starts to get hard to narrow them down. Especially when the places are so beautiful.

Every place wanted about a million dollars to eat for New Year's eve so we had a picnic in the room.

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Bottle of Champagne from Champagne....Check

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Excited yet slightly evil look while opening said Champagne....Check.

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Happy New year! This is the only picture I have of all 4 of us. I am sad and cannot believe that we didn't take more!

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On the way home, we stopped by a castle.

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The next day Quinn had to work so the rest of us set out to see another castle. This one is our local castle!

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It is still privately owned by a family and is not available for tours in the winter. Are they wintering in Germany?

We also mosied along the Mosel river and did some wine and schnaaps tasting.

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The next day we went to Brussels, Belgium. It was a trip for my birthday and we enjoyed some beers at the bar Delirium. This bar is famous for having over 2000 beers on tap! We ate some awesome cheese made by monks, drank beer made by monks, and also drank beer not made by monks. Ethan curled up on a barrel and went to sleep, as he was cold and no one offered him a beer. For some reason, we didn't take any other pics at the bar. It is probably better that way.

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We wandered around and saw some really cool street art.

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More cool stuff along the way.

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At night, in the center of town they had a light show timed to music that encompassed the entire square. It was so cool. It is really hard to capture these types of events but it was awesome enough for my Floridian mother to stand around in 40 degree weather with wind to watch the production. That will give you an idea of its entertainment value.

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The next day we checked out this church.

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Inside, they had a really cool exhibition where church groups made nativities representative of their country. This one is from Haiti and is pretty powerful. We took a picture for our friend Meredith who is living in Haiti, cannot wait to hear her impressions.

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This piece of art made sounds like a glacier as you walked through. Super cool.

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Then we stumbled across the most amazing merry go round of all time. It was something that Tim Burton would dream up and Johnny Depp would ride around on!

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Of course, one cannot go to Brussels without checking out Mannekin Pis. Apparently, this little guy has some 800+ outfits that are all displayed in a museum in Brussels.

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You can't go to Brussels and not have some mussels. Here we are on the street corner getting an amazing seafood lunch.

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Well, that about sums it up and this blog is too long already so I will not go on and on. Of course, there were sad goodbyes, and we hope that we don't have to wait another year to do this again. Love you mom and Bob! Another great trip!

Posted by trackers 08:18 Archived in France Comments (2)

Christmas 2013

My German Christmas Observations:

1. There are tons of Christmas markets. Everywhere you turn, there is a Christmas market. The main foods at these markets are: potato pancakes, lentil or potato soup, all different types of sausages and of course, spiced wine AKA Gluhwein
2. Most Germans open their presents on Christmas Eve. All the stores are only open for a half day on Christmas Eve so everything is a madhouse on the day before Christmas eve.
3. People don't decorate the outsides of their houses with lights.
4. Most people put up their Christmas trees only 1 or 2 days before Christmas. Good luck finding a Christmas tree to buy a few weeks before Christmas.
5. The advent calendar is everywhere. Many of the towns have the advent calendar on a building and every day they open the shutters to reveal a new picture and story that goes with it. You can buy all types of advent calendars to decorate your house.

Not sure if I have mentioned this on another blog but we have been shopping at a little Farm store near our house for all of our produce and dairy. You can get fresh Gouda cheese, milk straight from the bulk tank, and also sometimes chickens and beef that were raised on this farm. It is a Demeter farm similar to the one featured in "The Omnivore's Dilemma" for those of you who are familiar with that book. Europe has different levels of what we call organic and the highest level is "Demeter." It is a type of biodynamic farming. You can read more about it here http://www.demeter.net/what-is-demeter/this-is-demeter. Basically, it is about environmentally sustainable farming and they are our local little farm so we enjoy supporting them. The reason I mention this is because for Christmas they gave us a gift of spiced apple cider. Call me a sucker but it is really nice to get a gift from where you buy your food. No supermarket has ever given me a gift before (the one near our house didn't even want to refund us for bad fish recently). I will try and take pictures next time I go to the farm so you can get a better feel. Anyway, here was our food and cider.

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Speaking of Christmas markets, we went to one in Trier. This city is known for being the oldest city in Germany and was settled by the Romans. There is even still an old Roman gate called the Porta Nigra. Check it out.

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This was our second time going to this specific Christmas market. Why did we go to the same Christmas market twice in one year? Well, some very special folks that we were friends with in Japan recently moved to Germany!!!! Kate and TW!! We are so excited to have them close by again. So we met up with them here.

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The cathedral looked so beautiful at night.

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Apparently, it is a tradition in Wittlich that the town orchestra performs on Christmas Eve. So, we bundled up and walked into town with our neighbors to watch the performance. It was a little odd for me because everyone seemed rather somber and they played all very stoic and slow Christmas music. I kept joking with my neighbor asking "when will they play Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?" I put in my requests with the music committee for next year! There are always interesting experiences like this when living in another country. It was really fun to be part of our community event and actually see people we know from around town. A couple of people even came up to us and wished us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We are becoming locals!

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This is the first Christmas we have been home for in 5 years. We put up a tree, decorated the house, and hosted dinner.

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Well, not just dinner. We served brunch, snacks and dinner. Shout out to my friend Emily for her awesome chile relleno egg bake recipe. Also a big shout out to my mom who put me in charge of the shrimp cabbage head since I was a little girl. Important life skill!

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We hosted a get together for our friends KJ, Kate and TW. Our friends Erin and Cole also dropped in for a visit.

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Earrings were clearly the popular gift.

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ok....KJ didn't get earrings. Those are a little tool to help you get a tire off of a bike rim. Quinn is giving out more life skills for Christmas. Everyone should know how to change their bike tire!

The photographer with her work of art.

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Christmas Dinner. Another shout out to our friends Gabe and Melinda who turned us onto the raclette years ago and we still think of them every time we do it.

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The best way to describe raclette, it a self made fancy baked potato. Everyone gets a little tray where they heat up their cheese and spices and other ingredients and then they can also grill on the top of the machine. Then the delicious concoction goes on top of the baked potato. Yummy!

One of the highlights of the evening was have a Yokota Skype reunion with our bestest buds, Kyle and Julie. We forced Julie to wake up Kyle (although in reality she didn't put up much of a fuss because she knows how persistent I can be) and we had a little Christmas celebration. Kyle didn't bother to get out of bed and Julie had to sneak her head into the frame while we bunched around the camera but we made it work. Sure do miss eating dinner with these guys 3-7 nights per week.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you had a great one.

Oh, BTW, my 4 favorite Christmas presents. A blanket from my mom with pictures on it from all of our travels together, an antique style pin from my stepdad Bob, and a photograph from my friends Jensie, Rene, Sarah, and Johnny at Las Noches de Las Luminarias. (one of the things I miss most about Arizona, friends and the desert!) oh yeah! and Chu-Hi all the way from Japan that was stowed safely away for a 11,600+ mile trek across the globe from our friends Kate and TW! Thanks everyone!

Posted by trackers 00:46 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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