A Travellerspoint blog

Thanksgiving in Lyon, France

Quinn has been planning all of our recent trips and they all seem to be to France. Suspicious. Lyon is about a 6 hour drive from where we live and costs about 30 Euro in tolls. Lyon is divided by two major rivers and is situated partly on a giant hill with part of the old town being on top and part on the bottom. We were at the top which means going into town is an easy downhill walk but coming back home at night required some strenuous exercise fueled by butter heavy French dinners.

We enjoyed this particular trip over the Thanksgiving holiday with our friends Elliot and Lisette, pictured below.

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Almost every day of our trip we walked by this building. It had such beautiful colors and looked different in every light. I loved the gritty unpolished facade. Here are a couple pics of it.

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We spent one day wandering around the city on foot and hiking up and down the big hill to get different views.

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Two amphitheaters in one spot. I guess it is just easier to build a new one next door, than demo the old one.

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Photo shoot along the way

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Raised map

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Wouldn't be a European city without a magnificent church.

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One of the oldest Roman aqueducts in the area.

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This is a statue representing someone carrying the weight of themselves and symbolizes taking responsibilty of oneself. It is across the road from the city court office, which I jokingly referred to as the post office.

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Lyon even has its own free city zoo right inside the city limits.

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One unique feature of Lyon is that it has the confluence of two rivers at one end of the city. They have really capitalized on the double river front property by adding nice walking and biking paths along both rivers. They have a city bikeshare program so we spent about 5 hours riding bikes up and down the river through the parks, and down to the confluence.

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This is the amazing building at the confluence. It is a natural history museum.

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Of course, they even had a Christmas market and I really enjoyed this one because it had a lot of hand made items. I bought a pretty shell shaped necklace. I will try and feature it another time. Here are some night shots from our night on the town. Quinn led us in a bar crawl along the city that included a beer hall and also a cocktail bar with some very welcoming bartenders. When we walked into the cocktail bar we were the only ones inside. The bartenders in the back waved at us enthusiastically before we had the chance to get away and treated us to French hand crafted cocktails (one actually used his finger to stir the drink) and entertained us with jokes and cocktail knowledge.

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We even found time to make a Thanksgiving dinner on this trip and enjoy home made breakfasts every morning. Luckily we are all into cooking delicious food so we split up the meal duties and enjoyed yummy treats with only half the work.

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It was a really fun and laid back trip minus the hill climbing, biking for 10+ miles, and walking for hours around the city! No wonder our families are always calling our trips "boot camp." Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and had time for family and friends. This year the family part was accomplished through Skype but maybe next year it will be in person?

Posted by trackers 12:45 Archived in France Comments (1)

Later fall activities including a trip to Lille

Quinn planned a quick weekend away for us on Columbus day weekend to Lille, France. It was a last minute decision but he organized a perfect trip. We stayed in a really cute little studio inside of a historic building. The innkeeper is also a carpenter and he built a secret dry sauna behind what looked like a closet door off the bedroom. It was so fantastic to have warm sauna time at the end of the day to relax. I don't think I have ever slept so deeply in my life. I am a sauna convert.

Lille is a really cute historic town with a beautiful nature park just outside the historic center. We started our trip with a visit to the park and a picnic. I didn't bring a heavy enough coat for the picnic so I used a blanket. Ethan also decided it was a wonderful idea to jump into the lake to chase a bird, no matter that he had his coat on. This park was full of all different bird species. It was beautiful.

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The downtown area of Lille was full of historic buildings with an ornate main square.

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A very skinny house

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On Sunday morning we went to an antique market in Tournai, Belgium. It had some really great finds as well as an amazing historic center. I knew it would have fantastic bargains because most of the shoppers were older folks who seemed like they knew about a good bargain.

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We enjoyed a lunch on the square and I tried to soak in all of the surroundings and the sun. It was a lunch I wanted to keep in my memory. Its not often that one gets to dine in such an historic atmosphere.

More pics from around Lille. One is of the train station. Another is of people riding bikes to power their phones. The bottom two are of Deliveroo which is a bicycle food delivery service. They were EVERYWHERE. We had a fun time predicting and taking guesses about how many Deliveroos we might see on our walks.

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We made one final stop in Roubaix and it turned out not to be a cute town. This building was one pearl among the rest.

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The next weekend we went to Kyle and Julie's house and they surprised Quinn with a birds of prey show at a local wild animal park. There are many animal parks all around Germany and they each have a surprising number of animals. This one was full of magnificent birds.

The birds were sitting on little perches before the show began and we could get surprisingly close. There were no cages in between us and the birds.

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The show began with condors flying back and forth behind the audience. They are so enormous it is a wonder they can even fly.

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During the show the announcer threw up little dead chicks into the air and the birds caught them with their feet. They must have gone through about 200 chicks. It was incredible to see them catch these birds in midair. Many times they dove in from quite a ways away to catch the chicks. They called the American Bald Eagle, Obama.

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I was really stoked to pet the owls.

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Our friend Linda was feeding the horses. She swore that she grew up around horses but she seemed a bit jumpy to me! Just teasing Linda.

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The view from the animal park was beautiful and they even had a little carved bench with the name of the park, Potzberg. Unfortunately, we didn't get a group picture. The birds were the star of this show. Thanks Kyle and Julie for a fun day out.

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Last weekend our friends from Belgium, Liesbeth and Pieter came for a visit. This time we took them on a little hike through our village vineyards and enjoyed happy hour with a view. We also had a bonfire in the backyard and stayed up chatting past our bedtime. Shout out and thanks to Andrea and Kevin for this Norwegian fire log. It was super cool. If you don't know about these, do a google search.

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Liesbeth and Pieter also brought me a fun Sinterklaas gift. This holiday has a very interesting history which you can google and read about some of the controversy with Santa's helpers.

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We took them to Luxembourg and it seemed like the whole city changed. We walked around the town in the bottom of the ravine and the different angle made it seem like an entirely new place. It was a nice sunny day and the company was so great. It is always fun to spend a weekend hanging around with these guys.

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It is always nice to have guests and we are already planning our next trip to Ghent to hang around with these guys and meet the newest member of their family. Thanks again.

Posted by trackers 05:25 Comments (0)

Friends and Fall Travels

After we returned from Italy we had one more set of visitors, Quinn's childhood friend Jeremy and Jeremy's Dad, Tom. They were quite the pair and did a fantastic driving trip around Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and even into Lichtenstein and Luxembourg. They managed to squeeze in a few days to hang around with us during the whirlwind European tour. We showed them the Eifel way of life including a few wine fests, a bike ride down to the river, and some walking paths around our town. I'm pretty sure we ended every evening with an ice cream for us and a walk for Ethan. It was really fun to have them as our guests and it was even more fun that they were willing to eat whatever dishe I put in front of them. They were such easy guests and I learned a ton about construction and cars/trucks during their visit.

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We attended a few classic fall events such as visiting a pumpkin patch. The one we chose was no regular ole patch. They turned all of the pumpkins into works of art by stacking them up into the shapes of dinosaurs. This little farm was so cute with their activities which included rowing 400 pound carved pumpkins in a lake for boat races and sipping on sparkling pumpkin wine while relaxing in bean bag chairs on their property. It was a great outing.

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We followed that up with a trip to Vogelsang. This is a very interesting historical site turned recreational area. Vogelsang is a former Nazi training camp that was taken by the British and later the Belgians and used as a military base. It 1996 the Belgians gave back the base to the Germans who have turned it into a historical site as well as an outdoor recreation mecca. Some of the buildings that remain are restored and are functioning as museums or tourist facilities. Others are vacant relics of a time past. There are miles of bike paths coupled with the Nazi indoor training swimming pool and outdoor track. There are propaganda sculptures that remain including a statue of 4 men that were considered the perfect human species. These statues are riddled with bullets from when the allies invaded and took over the camp. It is an eerie place mixed with dense forest and natural beauty. It is definitely worth a day trip.

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We even got to see some old timer planes flying overhead.

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Another weekend we hiked a portion of the Mullterthal trail with our friends Elliot and Lissett. This trail is a 70 mile trail in total and we did about an 8 mile portion. It is beautiful because it goes through a bunch of canyons including a slot canyon. It was a beautiful day and Quinn decided to extend his hike by running back about 2 miles to find his favorite shirt that he dropped. He is a really good trail runner thank goodness.

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For those who don't know, we haven't had a real bed in quite some time because one of my art projects went array. So, after much hunting for beds at antique markets I finally went the route of a pinterest inspired bed with some free apple crates that we discovered on a bike ride. A local farmer was burning hundreds of these crates and we asked him for a few. He obliged and voila.....new bed.

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Alright. You are caught up on most of our travels for now. I do have one more post about France that I need to put up soon. Hope that fall is treating you well. This week is already feeling like winter in Germany.

Posted by trackers 04:07 Comments (0)

Our first garden

After two years of composting and about that long thinking about starting a garden, we decided this was the year. I didn't want to invest too much money in this endeavor since I wasn't sure how successful it would be, so I started with seeds in some boxes that we had rather than buying a bunch of those little starter pots. I started all of the seeds in the house and then moved them to the wintergarden once it was warm enough.

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We did rent a rototiller to both remove the grass and mix in the compost into our soil. Quinn muscled that thing around like a champ. Originally I was just going to plant a small plot but as my seedlings grew and grew and grew, we began to realize that we were going to need quite a big space.

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I transplanted my seedlings in different batches based on what I read online. However, mother nature did not cooperate and we ended up having 3 unseasonably late freezes. I had to start all over again with some of the seeds while I tried to make the best of it with others. The corn plants and green zucchini were casualties of the frost. After the frosts, about 2 weeks later we had a flood! The river behind our house broke its banks and almost came into the house. This was the first such flood in at least 25 years. I couldn't believe my luck that we would have a flood the year that I planted a garden. The neighbors joked with me that next year they would prefer to buy me some vegetables rather than me start another garden because clearly I brought on the bad weather. Despite the challenges, it really started growing after some time.

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Here is some of the harvest.

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The yield from the pumpkin patch.

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A list of things I grew and actually was able to eat/enjoy- sunflowers, tomatoes, hot peppers, Swiss Chard, very deformed carrots (too much clay in the area where I planted them), eight ball summer squash, bush beans, and a few eggplants. I also had a little herb garden with chives, basil, mint, rosemary.

Things I attempted to grow but didn't work out: green zucchini, sweet corn, spinach. soy beans.

Successes:

1. Swiss Chard is super hardy and produces for a long period of time.

2. Squash is fun to grow because it produces and produces and produces.

3. I enjoy mystery bags of seeds or mix packs and seeing what happens. I had a mix pack of pumpkins and seeing all the different kinds of pumpkins popping up was a fun surprise.

4. If it doesn't work the first time, try try again.

Lessons learned:

1. Air flow is important for seedlings to avoid mold overgrowth. A fan was helpful in circulating air but I probably should have planted less items in each box so that it could dry out better.

2. Its probably best to leave plants to grow in the wintergarden while longer than to get a head start on putting them outside due to frost.

3. Floods are bad.

4. Tomatoes do better indoors in Germany because it is so wet and doesn't get hot enough. I should have grown them in the wintergarden.

5. My spinach went to seed right away in the garden. I tried starting it inside from seedlings and also growing it from seed right in the garden but both times it bolted right away. Anyone have any tips to prevent this?

6. Use heavier stakes for bean plants. They grow like crazy.

We really enjoyed working in the garden and watching the plants grow. It was such a fun little side experiment and I definitely look forward to having a garden again.

Posted by trackers 07:16 Comments (0)

Dolomites round 2

I wasn’t sure that we would have any more visitors this year and then low and behold 3 different friends all wanted to come at the same time. After much deliberation we decided on a group trip to the mountains in Italy, the Dolomites. We went in September last year and it was such a fun time I had really wanted to get back.

Quinn’s cousin Spud from Minnesota and our friends Greg and Stacy from California all met us in San Martino di Castrozza to start our hiking adventure. This was another hut to hut hiking experience with some Via ferrata in between.

We arrived in the night and awoke to this the next morning out of our window.

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Heading up the mountain in a cable car. We decided to cheat on the first day so we could have more alpine time rather than spending most of the day hiking up.

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View from the cable car of people bringing their cattle down. They had 3 dogs with them leading the way.

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Up at the top of the mountain at the start of the hike we were already above the treeline so it looked a little like the moon. We hiked for about 5 hours the first day. We had absolutely amazing weather for the entire weekend. It was dry, sunny, and with very little clouds or fog covering the rock formations. I couldn't believe we had such fantastic weather so late in the season. All of the Refugio were set to close up shop the next weekend because the hiking season is over. Usually they have some snow at this time of the year. Here are some pics from throughout the day.

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Very well marked paths. There are so many different options to choose from. Some people do 2 or 3 week hiking adventures.

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I guess I undersold the "huts" because everyone was very impressed with the mountain top accommodations.

The first view of our Refugio (hut).

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After we checked into the rifugio we went out for another hiking loop to test our via ferrata gear. We did a beginner via ferrata course to let everyone get comfortable with using the new gear. You can see a really cool hiking switchback in this next picture.

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At night everyone sits around the tables and chats, plays cards, and has snacks before dinner. They serve dinner family style with everyone eating at once. The food was delicious as always. Of course it helps when you are starving from a day of hiking. We were the only non-Italians staying at the hut and quite a few people wanted to chat with us and hear how we ended up in the Dolomites. We met an amazing climber guy who was in his 70's and he told us about the evolution of climbing gear and safety. It was incredible to hear that they used to climb with just a rope tied around the waist, no harness, no belay device, nothing. He said his friend has a shirt that says, "I remember when sex was safe and rock climbing was dangerous." This guy was not only a master rock climber but also a historian and follower of politics. He was telling us all about the articles he writes for various news outlets regarding American politics and their effect on world economies and politics. He was a very interesting fellow.

On Sunday we hiked for another 5-6 hours and did some more serious via ferrata. This was more technical than our last trip and involved quite a bit of vertical ascent.

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This is a picture of the cable car station that receives the goods for the rifugio. It also takes out the trash from the mountain.

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Pics from our second rifugio.

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On Monday we went down the mountain and did about 3 hours of hiking. No via ferrata this day.

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Trail marker

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We rounded a corner on the gravel path we were following down the mountain and low and behold we saw this beautiful pasture.

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Back in town

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We had one last delicious Italian meal together and said good bye to our friends and family as they went off to Venice and we went to Treviso. We had a few hours until our flight took off so we toured around the city. The pictures of the characters are for my cousin Daylin because they reminded me of her.

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I may have gotten a little overheated. This German weather has really made me intolerant to any kind of heat. It is sad.

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Quinn got some more cool night shots. We were able to enjoy a fantastic dinner with local fare including pasta with anchovies.

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Here are a few last pictures from Spud's camera. The Dolomites are incredible.

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Posted by trackers 02:25 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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