A Travellerspoint blog

New Year in Amsterdam

We spent a lovely new year's eve with a bunch of our friends hosted by Megan and Ian. They really know how to throw a party with decorations, food, and fireworks. Megan likes to get pinspiration (play on words for pinterest for my non internet readers) and did such a fabulous job with the festive decor. Thanks for hosting such a great event!


We had a great time and rang the new year in style. We even had our own private fireworks show and Quinn took a little portrait of all the party goers.


Their snowy German Village.


The next morning we headed off for Amsterdam. It is supposed to be a 3 1/2 hour drive but it took us more like 4 1/2 with a thick German fog. There was sunshine as soon as we crossed over into the Netherlands. It was so beautiful. I really love the scenery and countryside of the Netherlands. We couldn't check into our hotel right away so we had a late lunch in a little breakfast place called bagels and beans. I had no idea how much I missed bagels until I had one. We had a bagel in London but it was with corned beef and dinner time. Breakfast bagels are really something to be appreciated. As I am writing this, I know I probably sound like a weirdo. Living outside of the US for a while is making me nostalgic or something.

Anyhow, after we checked into the hotel we took the city bus into town and queued up for the Anne Frank house. The line.


I had been told that people are sometimes waiting up to 5 hours in line so I guess we were lucky that we only waited two? It was a very cold two hours with the temps in the high 30's. What in the heck am I doing? The Diary of Anne Frank obviously had a big impact on me because I put mind over matter and stood in line waiting for my turn. By the time we got to the front we had a hard time moving our legs. All of these complaints seem very trivial once you tour her hiding place of two years and read the story of her life. The museum is very informative and contains documents, pictures, book excerpts, and videos. For those of you unfamiliar, Anne Frank's father was a Jewish business man and she and her family were born in Germany. They fled to Amsterdam when the Nazi party came into power. Just before the Nazis took over Amsterdam, her family went into hiding in a secret apartment that they prepared in the back of her father's jam making business. There were two families with 8 people in total who went into hiding for 2 years. There were also 4 people who helped them during that time to bring them food and books/magazines. All of the family died in the concentration camps except for the Father, Otto. This past summer, we visited one of the concentration camps where they were taken and eventually put to death. You are able to tour the apartment and even see the pictures that Anne glued on the wall to decorate her tiny room. It is a very moving and eerie experience to actually be where she spent time and wrote in her diary. We couldn't take pictures inside of the building so none to share here.

It is a little tough to transition to another topic after the weight of visiting the Anne Frank house so I will just carry onto our dinner. That night we went out for a typical Indonesian meal. The Netherlands has a long history with the Indonesian islands and many people chose to settle in the Netherlands after they gained their independence. So, eating Indonesian food is kind of a must do while in the Netherlands. We had the "rice table" which is a special meal where they bring you rice and about 8 little side dishes that go with rice. It was so filling and absolutely delicious. We were blown away by the service we received during the meal. Our server took our coats, greeted us like family, joked around with us, and generally made us feel very welcome. After we left and Quinn forgot our camera at the table they were so quick to call us on our cell phone (we left our number when making a reservation).


We woke up bright and early the next morning to make it to the Van Gogh museum. We have learned that when touring museums in Europe, you must beat the crowd or have reservations. This time we only had to wait about 30 minutes. When we left, I am sure the line was at least 2 hours long. Last summer we toured the hospital where Van Gogh stayed in Southern France due to his mental illness. We were able to tour the gardens and room where he lived. It really made seeing the Van Gogh museum more meaningful because we had seen many of the landscapes that he was painting. The museum is very well done with each floor being dedicated to a different period of time in his life. You can really see his work change, progress, and then spiral as his mental illness worsened. There were also exhibits about his family and friends and correspondence between him and other artists of his time. It was super interesting, which says a lot coming from someone with the attention span of a gnat. Again, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum so none to share but here are some pics from around Amsterdam.


It was such a beautiful and sunny day that we rode the tram over to the Amsterdam zoo. I just love zoos. I don't know if this is from the frequenting of zoos as a child with my mom (I think we went twice per week) or if I am missing my calling and should be working with animals. We spent about 4 hours at the zoo until our bones were cold and we couldn't stand outside anymore. The highlight was seeing the chimpanzees being let back into their indoor enclosure after the zookeepers had hid a bunch of snacks for them among their hay and bedding. It was so awesome to see them all lining up and then running around like maniacs foraging for food and hording the chicory and berries and lettuce. Each chimp definitely had their own personality and tastes for what they wanted and one little chimp was an absolute berry maniac!


This guy was looking right at us! large__PIC7051.jpg

This lioness was really hunting this bird. We were all hoping to get a front row view of the attack but no such luck. The bird flew away.


Owls and a penguin picture for my mom. She loves penguins.


So Cute.

Dinner that night was at a quaint Dutch style pub. I hesitate to call it a pub because it was so much cozier and cuter than a pub and the food was wonderful. I had fish and Quinn had steak and he had the realization that he is not such a steak eater anymore and was envious of my fish. My how the times have changed. No pics at this place. Trust me, the food was gorgeous.

We decided that Saturday would be our shopping day to spend some of our birthday and Christmas money. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful. It seems like whenever you have money to spend there is nothing to buy but when you are trying to save a few bucks, everything looks awesome. Oh well, we will call the dinners our birthday treats.

Some more scenes from the city.


Festive bus.


Delicious lunch with mint tea. The open face sanwiches were pumpkin and also mushrooms with white bean paste.


We had one last delicious birthday dinner at a restaurant called Wink. The reviews on trip advisor were absolutely gushing and I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was wrong. Upon arriving, we were welcomed by the host/waiter/maitre d' AND by the cook (who came out of the kitchen with her little dish rag on her head). Each course was described in full detail and the waiter/sommelier paired each course with a wine for us to try. He is a huge wine connoisseur and spends his off time going around to different bio/organic vineyards looking for the best wines to pair. Each course was so incredible and included: sea bass cevice, leaks with egg that I cannot possibly do justice with words alone, a fish kind of like a snapper, and guinea fowl along with the crowing jewel of the most whipped and airy panna cotta I have ever had. When Quinn told the chef it was my birthday and that it was the best birthday dinner we had ever had she gave us the recipe for the panna cotta! Isn't that incredible? Then we spent the next 5 minutes or so chatting about food and traveling. Doesn't this woman have food to cook? How in the world she can cook for an entire restaurant and have time to greet people and give them recipes is completely beyond me! Quinn commented as soon as we sat down about what a relaxing environment was created by the staff greeting us, and the open kitchen allowed us to watch her work.

On our drive home we broke a cardinal rule and ate at McDonald's. For those of you who really know Quinn you have an idea of what kind of insane situation this must have been to get him to agree to even stop at a McDonald's. I won't go into the details but just know that it involved being very HANGRY on my part of Quinn being a peacekeeper. The only reason I am sharing this story is because I was so surprised that McDonald's in the Netherlands gives out Speculoos cookies with their coffee. I couldn't believe it.


So that was our trip to Amsterdam. No red light district. No pot smoking. Just good old fashioned museums, animals, shopping, and eating. It was a great birthday.

My Mom surprised me with one last birthday present. The Savoy cocktail book. I have been talking about this thing ever since our cocktail experience in London where the bartender went on and on about this book published in the 30's in London. It is an awesome book and Quinn had been collecting all of the ingredients to make me a corpse reviver #2. He finally had all of the ingredients after we bought a bottle of small batch gin in Amsterdam. So sweet of them both to go the extra mile to make a girl a birthday cocktail! Love you both!



Posted by trackers 00:11 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas from Paris. Germany pretty much closes up shop for three days around Christmas time so we decided to skedaddle out of there and go to the city of love for our holiday. It is about a 4 hour drive to Paris and it is the first time we have gone somewhere in the car and realized it might have been cheaper to go by train. Even though the train system is very well connected in Europe, it is not so well connected to where we live and the Germany part of it is frequently very expensive. But with the cost of tolls, parking, and gas, this trip might have been slightly cheaper by train. Oh well, Ethan was happier in the car. We drove in on Christmas eve and it was a rainy, cold night and we both had little colds so we didn't venture out of our room the first night. We rented a place with a little kitchenette so we were able to cook some dinner.

Quinn decided to have a criossant every day we were in Paris. Here is number 1.


Across from the bakery we went to, someone got parked in by some trees.


On Christmas day we wandered up to Montmarte hill and had a beautiful view over the Parisian skyline.


Then we sat for a little bit on the steps and listened to what must have been a professional harp player. I don't usually enjoy listening to the harp but this guy rocked it. He got quite the little audience going around him.


Cold dog


We wandered around Paris a bit and checked out a famous cemetary and ran accross some interesting sculptures sticking out from the wall on the way there.


Then we cruised over to the Jewish quarter to get some lunch. The Jewish quarter was the happening place to be (yay for diversity and different holidays) and there was a band playing everything from Christmas music to Hava Nagila. They were really awesome with 8 different instruments including a stand up bass, accordion, trumpet, violin and some others. I googled them because I didn't get a video since my hands were full of a delectable falafel sandwich and low and behold....someone else got a video of them. So enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqv7_DEaCCs. More about this sandwich.....we had to wait in a huge line to go up to a little window to collect our sandwich and this place has 3 guys outside, taking orders, directing traffic and making different lines. It is quite the operation.


Really cool green wall near our apartment and also some graffiti.


We went back to the room and relaxed a bit with a hot chocolate. Quinn went for a Christmas run and I took a nap. We were really trying to kick these colds. We made crab legs in our little apartment for Christmas dinner.


Then we went out for a boat cruise on the Seine River. It was really beautiful with all of the buildings lit up at night. We went past all the biggies including Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, and about 8 million bridges. We sipped on some vin chaud (hot spiced wine) to keep us warm and of course brought along the Christmas hat.


Chasing birds along the river bank.


On Friday we went on our own walking tour to see all the must do's of Paris. On the way from our little Parisian apartment we ran into this beauty.

No idea what it is called. Next up we cruised past the Louvre, then onto Notre Dame. This church really is incredible and absolutely gigantic with a lot of stained glass windows. They actually had a mass going on while we toured around.




Notice the statue that is holding his own head.


Next we walked to Champs Elysees and they had a Christmas market going on. Quinn got a waffle with speculoos (cookie butter) on it and I had a prosciutto sandwich with raclette cheese. Here is a pic of the stand making them.


Famous lock bridge. As some of you may know, this bridge was on the verge of collapse and part of the railing did collapse under the weight of all of the locks. They are still trying to figure out a way for people to enjoy the bridge and have a romantic moment without destroying the structural integrity. So far, they have figured out this really creative and beautiful piece of plywood covering as a means to keep people from adding additional locks.


Another neat pedestrian and motor vehicle bridge, along with a street performer, and a dog.


Then we kept on trucking all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. It really is a triumphant masterpiece. I would have really liked to climb up to the top but we had the dog today.


Next up, Eifel tower. We found a little park which was a great viewing and picture spot and we found someone who could actually work our camera to take a photo! Yay! Good job.


After a day of walking we took the subway back to our place to relax a bit. We had dinner down in Tokyo town at an udon shop. I miss Tokyo. Then we went for an after dinner drink at Candelaria which is a bar we went to last time we were in Paris. You have to enter through a tiny taqueria and then queue for quite a bit to get a drink but they have fabulous margaritas. After that it was bedtime.


Criossant number 3. Didn't get a picture of number 2.


All of the fruit and vegetable stores looked so delicious. They really know how to display fruit here!


We made some rookie traveller mistakes on Saturday. The first was to get a late start and show up at the Louvre at almost 12:00 on a rainy day with no tickets. The line was almost two hours long! After realizing that we didn't want to wait in the cold for two hours we trucked over to the Arc de Triomphe. I had really wanted to climb to the top after seeing it from the day before and the view was absolutely spectacular. I really enjoyed seeing how all the streets led up to the Arc from all sides. It would make a really cool panoramic or aerial photo. I am sure there is one online somewhere.


After we climbed down we picked up some tickets for the Louvre at a shop down the street and headed off to find some food. I was very hangry (hungry and angry) so it was a mad dash to find someplace. I peeked into the window of a Japanese restaurant and it transported me back to Japan. This placed looked legit. Even though we had Japanese food the night before, we went for it. We found a gem. It had delectable ramen (Lamen in France) noodles, chicken katsu, and gyoza. Yum Yum. Funny thing....I used my Japanese there because I knew how to ask for the check and water better in Japanese than I know how to in French. Silly, I know.


Then we finally got into the Louvre. Thank goodness, because Quinn would have been so disappointed. It is just an absolute terror of people. You can hardly get a little space to yourself to enjoy anything. I really did not enjoy the crowd but they have an incredible number of items squished into that place and the architecture of the building itself is just mind boggling. To think that it used to be a palace!!!!!! This was my favorite picture because it just looked so real. Quinn didn't take pictures of his favorites but he did take a picture of this set of figurines and one gigantic painting. Turns out the Louvre is full of these.


After the museum we met up with some friends of ours, Dave and Sarah who also happened to be in Paris. We enjoyed a delicious dinner with fantastic service. Our server was full of jokes and even gave us a little tour of the cellar. I really enjoyed my appetizers and dessert but the main course was a little weak.


Then Quinn and I went to a cocktail bar that is a "speakeasy" kind of place. We had such a good time at the cocktail bars in England that we decided to try one out in Paris. It turned out to be just as fun of an experience, going down into a little basement and trying special concoctions including gin and cognac.

The next day we woke up early to get into the Musee D'Orsay. We learned our lesson with the Louvre and got there before it even opened. This strategy worked but we were not alone in our thinking. We still had to wait about 30 minutes. I enjoyed this museum much more and the exhibits were so well put together and the whole building is much more manageable in scale. I loved all of the pointillists and impressionism.....see all my new art vocabulary?! I am so sophisticated after attending these two museums. Our time in France came to an end and we skedaddled back to Germany. Loved Paris. Still love France.


Posted by trackers 12:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

We went to London for the sun and we got it!

I know. Who goes to London for sun? People from Germany. It has been raining here for what feels like the last month and we have had very little sun. So for Quinn's birthday we took a trip to London. Our friend Casey came along and we met up with one if his friends who lives in London, Trent. It is only an hour long flight and we left Saturday morning at 6am. That left us a full Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to explore. We stayed in the east end which is apparently the hip place to stay.

Street art.

We kicked off the trip in the traditional way with a full English breakfast. I know you are drooling, Dave!


Our airbnb host greeted us in the traditional English way.....sometimes stereotypes are funny!


Speaking of stereotypes.....there is a lot going on here and I don't get it.


We scoped out a few markets around that area and tasted a bunch of different foods including my first time ever trying food from Ghana.


Casey and I enjoying the sampling platter!


A little stroll along the river. All of the houseboats in Europe are cool. That would be a fun way to spend a year.


Quinn taking another picture of Casey and I enjoying a local treat, salt beef on a bagel. Someone on the street asked me if it was as good as NY...I haven't tried this delicacy in NY. Guess I will add it to the list. Don't wory, we shared all of these treats with Quinn when he wasn't playing photographer.


We split up from Casey for a while when he went to meet up with his friend and we toured around some of the touristy places. We crossed the Thames on the Tower bridge and cruised along the canal. It was around sunset and was such a beautiful time of day. I have really missed seeing the sun and the resulting sunset!


We went to a food truck gathering for dinner with about 30 options of different food trucks. It was sooooo awesome. I just love food trucks. I wish we had food trucks around us! We sampled some burritos, pad thai noodes, pulled pork sandwiches, halumi cheese burger, 3 kinds of cocktails, and some desserts. Yummy!!! Sorry, no food porn this time.

The next morning, Quinn and I played tourists again and checked out all of the official must see places. This artist has been busy!


Obligatory tourist photos, turn taking, and then together.


Selfie with Paddington bear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Buckingham Palace gardens. There were so many really interesting birds. They even showed off for us a little.


American Embassy in London. Speaking of stereotypes we really love Eagles, don't we.


Quinn loves cars.


Really cool shop with an amazing staircase.


China town....I got to drink a bubble tea! Yay!


We went on a little bar crawl on Sunday night. We hit up some awesome cocktail bars with really knowledgeable bar tenders. I had a drink called the corpse reviver #2. Try asking for that at a bar next time you go and let me know if they are able to make one. It was a delicious gin drink. London has some amazing night life and unfortunately we only had a little time to explore the very surface of it.

Monday was another day of touring. Since it was Quinn's birthday, I begrudgingly agreed to going to some museums. First we went to the British Museum and then the National Gallery. I have to say, I really enjoyed the British museum. We got to see the Rosetta stone! That was super cool. We also got to see some really incredible artifacts from Egypt.

Me checking out the Rosetta stone


Quinn really enjoyed the National Gallery. It is kind of weird to take pictures of pictures....but here is one.


We flew out on Monday night and I would have to call the Birthday weekend a success. I really enjoyed London and celebrating another year with Quinn! I will leave you with another stereotypical British picture. (I really got a kick out of riding on the top of the bus)


Posted by trackers 02:31 Archived in England Comments (1)

Chamonix Thanksgiving

We were fortunate to celebrate another Thanksgiving in the mountains of Europe in a beautiful chalet. This year the location was Chamonix, France, which resides in the eastern part of the country near the borders of Italy and Switzerland. We had a group of 12 people to share this 7 bedroom 3 1/2 bathroom place complete with fireplace, hot tub, and chef's kitchen.


The centerpiece of the area is certainly Mont Blanc, a 15,780 foot mountain sitting on the border with Italy, but the entire range is quite dramatic. We drove in at night and woke to a fantastic view out our window in the morning.


After a catered breakfast from the host, we set to walking about town. The shops were all still in the process of preparing for the winter hoards and many were closed for the only break they get until the close of the season in April. Here are some pics of graffiti, cool houses on the way into town and a lifelike 3D painting on one of the buildings.


Everyone took part in preparing an excellent dinner, and Quinn deep fried two turkeys. As always, they were a hit. We had an entirely new group of revelers this year than past years, most of whom we didn't know until this weekend. They proved to be a great group, and we had a lot of laughs.


Friday morning, I prepared an egg bake for breakfast (thank you Emily for the recipe) and then the entire group set off on a 4 hour hike. I can't believe all 12 people agreed to go and were out the door within 30 minutes of finishing breakfast. After some trouble finding the starting point, we were treated to amazing scenery and mild weather before arriving at a glacier. Unfortunately we didn't have time to hike down, but it is possible to check out some caves in the leading edge of the ice. Total results for the day were 7 miles and 800 meters of ascent. You can also take this cool train up and down the mountain but the rewards are so much better when you walk it


When the group got back to the house, we enjoyed Thanksgiving leftovers, beer, a hot tub and naps before heading out to a wine tasting at a local shop called Cha.Cha.Cha.


On Saturday, it wasn't possible to get the group to hike with us again, so we decided to tackle a hike to Le Lac Blanc on our own. There was some confusion about whether the hike was 3 hours or 6 hours, and it turns out both were correct. This time of year the cable car is not running to the normal starting point, so we had to hike that part as well. We estimate we did about 10 miles of hiking and 1300 meters of ascent. Our legs were burning by the end, but it was well worth it. We were able to see the entire Mont Blanc range and the area we hiked the previous day. It was really awesome, and pictures probably do not do it justice. We saw 4 glaciers, some Chamois (fancy French goats), two frozen lakes, two unfrozen lakes, and a mountain chalet.


We returned to Cha.Cha.Cha for a whisky tasting and then retreated to the house where a chef was making dinner for us in our chalet. We had a 3 course meal with a chocolate cake finale that finished the trip off nicely. So great to have an amazing dinner and then just roll onto the couch in front of a fire!


We were quite spent after our two days of hiking and didn't take part in the activities this night. Sunday morning we had to get up early and get home so Quinn could get off to a work trip to Belgium. Thank you Sarah for preparing cinnamon rolls Saturday night and the great idea for smoked salmon sandwiches. That started us off right.

No way of knowing where we will be next year for Thanksgiving, but it will be pretty hard to beat the scenery and hiking in Chamonix.

Posted by trackers 01:06 Archived in France Comments (0)

U.S.A. - Wisconsin

Our trip to Wisconsin was much less celebratory and initially not part of the itinerary. My (Quinn's) Grandma, Doris, passed away in Wisconsin while we were spending our last day in Phoenix, and we made quick arrangements to change our plans to be there for the funeral. A special thank you to those who came out to Scottsdale to provide support and be good friends. The Gin Old Fashioned experience was quite memorable.

Rather than dwell on the obvious, it should be said that Doris was a very inspiring woman who lived a wonderful life and instilled happiness in all those around her, especially her family. There isn't a grandchild among us who didn't compete better when Doris was there to watch us in sports, and there wasn't a joke told that wasn't better when she laughed at it. She reached a very respectable age of 94 years old, and was fortunate to spend her life on the farm where she was happiest. Her final days were spent with family at her side. Regardless of the situation, it was really good to see the family, and they made sure to let us know how happy they were that we were able to be there. There were not many pictures taken, but there are a few with my niece and nephews and the family did take the obligatory group shot. The one of the 9 cousins is a great reminder of how much I love all you guys.




We took many opportunities to celebrate her life, and we spent a lot of time with the family sharing memories. What a great group of people.


As you can expect, we also needed some time to unwind, and we had a really nice day to take a walk along Lake Mendota in Madison.


On another joyous note, (Quinn's) cousin Melanie qualified for the state finals in cross country in Illinois. We decided it was appropriate for a road trip, and went to support her. It provided some great bonding time for my cousins and I, and I was really excited to watch her race. Great job Mel and congratulations on such a fantastic running career in Henry. Best of luck in track in the spring.


We'll leave you with some pictures of Doris that will maybe give some idea of what a wonderful and happy lady she was. We love you and miss you Grandma Doris. Our world will never be the same without you.


Posted by trackers 11:10 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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