(Trying to) Journey Home

My final post about our European Adventure!

Since we missed our initial flight to Paris, we had to get up at 3 am for a taxi ride to the airport to catch our new flight.

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Upon landing in Paris we needed had a couple of hours to get to the airport from which we were scheduled to fly home.  However, we got an email saying that due to bad weather in Iceland, our flight home had been cancelled and rescheduled for the next day.  There was also a second email that came in html text and didn’t make much sense. I tried logging onto our flight schedule online, but the website was down. Next we tried to make some calls to the airlines.  However we couldn’t get through and decided just to embrace one more day in Paris!

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We decided to see a slightly different section, so we found ourselves a hotel room and then headed off to see the Bastille monument.

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Close to the base of the monument there was some sort of political rally going on. Note the guys in the flatbed of the truck making speeches!

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More delightful architecture. One of the most special parts about revisiting Paris on our return trip was that it felt “familiar”.  How cool is that??!!!

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The park near Victor Hugo’s home.

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It was free to visit the apartment of Victor Hugo!

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He had highly ornate furniture.

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His writing desk!

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After touring the house, we strolled around that section of Paris.

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There were some interesting shirts for sale!

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And how on earth did we miss the pastries the first time around!  These were out of this world!

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Amazing architecture is everywhere!

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After dinner from street vendors and then our first time ordering cocktails in a restaurant, we headed up to Sacre Coeur Basilica in the Monmartre quarter.

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From it’s steps we had an amazing view of the Eiffel tower lit with its nighttime light show!

When we hit our hotel room again, I logged onto our flight itinerary online just to make sure everything was in order and my stomach churned. According to our online schedule, Iceland Air had transferred us to a flight with British Airways that had left for Seattle about 1 pm in the afternoon – an hour earlier than the original flight we had booked home. We started making calls again, but still couldn’t seem to dial out of France to Iceland, where the airline call center was.  It was nearly midnight and we had been trying for over an hour when I texted my mom out of desperation. It was only 3 pm in Oregon, maybe she could figure out how to call into Iceland.  She was happy to try and about 15 minutes later she had gotten through and made all the arrangements!

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We were booked to fly from Paris to London, transfer and fly home on British Airways. We had an hour to change planes at the London-Heathrow airport. When we landed we discovered we had to go through security again and the line was enormous!  Passengers with our flight number were called out of line and we followed a guide down into the basement and were sent down a long hall to a smaller security area. As we handed them our tickets we were told we had already been taken off the flight.  Back upstairs to book yet another one!  We would actually get to sit next to each other on this flight, so our seating arrangement was an improvement, but  we had four hours to kill at the airport!

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So I browsed the ridiculously expensive clothing!

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The flight home was a definite upgrade from our flight over to Europe!  British Airways served us two meals and kept us well supplied with drinks throughout the flight! We also had movies, socks, blankets, ear plugs and a pillow at our fingertips!

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I’ve really enjoyed doing it slowly over the course of a year and reminding myself of all the lovely places we saw and the adventures we had. It was a truly bonding experience and a great way to start marriage. We made an incredible memory that was only shared by the two of us, which aided us in forming our new identity as a family of our own. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it as much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting it.  I always dreamed of going to Europe, but there was a part of me that doubted such a dream would ever come true. But it did.  Luke and I both hope to go back someday, but maybe we never will.  Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to dream.

 

 

 

 

 

Sun in Spain

Here is the part of our adventure that some people don’t know about….Spain!  We were fortunate enough to be on our honeymoon during an eight month window of time that some friends were living and working in Spain. The reason this visit didn’t get documented? Despite having purchased SIM cards for our phones in London that proceeded to service us throughout every other European country we visited, they simply didn’t work in Spain. Furthermore, we were unable to connect to the wifi at our friends’ apartment. So we had four glorious days of unplugged fun in the sun! Followed by a harrowing adventure when we were trying to leave!

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Chipiona, Spain is generally a resort hub during the summer, but we were there a bit ahead of the rush and the small town had a sleepy feel.

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It wasn’t warm enough to do more than dip our feet in the water, but after a month of wearing coats and hats 70 degrees F felt amazing!

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We tried the local coffee shop where I had a decadent iced coffee and Luke enjoyed a Tinto de Verano, a refreshing  mix of red wine and fanta. We tucked that one away in our minds for future use at home!

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The old castle which stands as one of Chipiona’s historical attractions.

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I guess even in Spain they have to have Guinness!

Wondering about the harrowing part?  We were originally scheduled to spend 3 nights with Heather and Nathan, then we had a 3 hour bus ride back to the airport to catch a flight to Paris where we would spend one more night and then fly home.  Remember how I said our phones didn’t work?  Heather discovered about 10 minutes after we left that Luke had forgotten his passport, but she had no way to get a hold of us and we didn’t discover it until we got off the bus 3 hours later. Imagine our alarm! Since our friends didn’t have a car there was nothing we could do but hop on the bus back to Chipiona. We managed to find a new flight that would still get us to Paris in time, meanwhile we had one more evening to spend with our friends!

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With our lovely hosts, Nathan and Heather.  We were absolutely thrilled l that our honeymoon happened to coincide with their time in Spain.

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Fun on the board walk

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Chipiona is a region known for its Muscatel, a sweet, almost syrupy red wine made from grapes that grow in that area. Nathan took us to the best local place to try it!

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Oh, did I mention Heather and Nathan were newlyweds too?!!!

A Little of Rome

Rome, the place I was sick. The upset stomach started as we left Florence and after a miserable train ride to Rome, I barely could walk to our room. The evening brought all the symptoms of food poisoning and I had a miserable night with Luke sweetly caring for me. Yep, in sickness and in health started on our honeymoon in Europe. I spent most of the next day in bed, but fortunately such things are comparatively short lived once one’s stomach is empty, so by evening I was able to walk the five minutes to get my first glimpse of the Colosseum!

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The Triumphal Arch

The following day I was feeling significantly better and determined to at least hit the highlights, Luke and I packed our one remaining day full of some of the most famous sights!

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St. Peter’s Square. Once again, I was looking at a place frequently referenced in history, literature and movies. It is a gigantic plaza which can hold nearly 400,000 people.

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We were able to spend a little time in the Vatican museum.  The walls and ceilings of the museum were amazing in and of themselves!  We enjoyed the tapestry gallery and some ancient maps.  We did get to view the incredible ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but no photos are allowed there!

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However, photos were allowed in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was absolutely stunning!

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That afternoon was one of the mildest I experienced in Europe.  We took a delightful walk along the river!

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In general my impression of Rome was that it was trashy and partially run-down, with scaffolding covering half of the famous sights.  This view was probably augmented by the fact that my stomach still didn’t feel too good and I didn’t have a lot of energy.  Nevertheless, it is incredible to have ancient Roman ruins pop up all over the place.  To stand for a moment and contemplate the gigantic civilization this represents and the incredible impact it had on the western world is awe-inspiring!

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I was desperate to see the Pantheon before heading back to our room….so we headed to where we thought it was on the map.  Apparently we couldn’t read Italian, because this is a far more modern structure!

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However, we did finally manage to find the Pantheon!  We had seen about as much as we possibly could have in one day!  My visit to this ancient city was complete. We had just one more country to visit….

Marble of Many Colors

Wow! It has been nearly a year since Luke and I stepped onto the airplane to go overseas for the biggest adventure of our life!  As we were reflecting on those memories this morning I realized I never finished posting pictures!  The last few days of our trip we were moving quickly through Italy, so I don’t think we even posted much on FaceBook!

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Florence is famous for its cathedrals built of red, green and white/grey marble!  They were stunning!

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The intricacies amazed me!

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We only had half a day to spend in Florence, so we took a guided walking tour of some of the most famous sites!

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We stayed with a lovely elderly lady in Florence who added “a” and “o” onto the end of all the words in her limited English vocabulary. She served us tea on a tray almost exactly like one my grandma had! I don’t remember my grandma talking about where the tray came from, but I wonder if she picked it up in her own Italian travels!

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I was freezing cold and well wrapped up.  Luke thought I looked cute, I think I look a little Russian.

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We want the “kiss & ride” level! (We have know idea if there is any story to that name….)

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Luke and I discovered something about each other in Europe…we both have a weakness for adorable little cars. Mine probably stems from the fact that I’ll always be shopping for a car that also fits a harp, but maybe when we’re retired and can afford extras……

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Our walking tour guide recommended this little restaurant for lunch. We loved the meat and cheese display!

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The ceiling decor was also fun!

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The river that runs through Florence.

 

Chocolate Protein Bars

Someone asked me for my Chocolate Protein Bar recipe, so I thought I would go ahead and post it here. One of the things that surprised me after I got married was how much Luke ate.  I mean, two sandwiches and an apple was not nearly enough food in his lunch! Sometimes I include fruit and yogurt, sometimes hard boiled eggs and sometimes these yummy bars!  They are great for road trips too.

Chocolate Protein Bars

1 c. peanut butter

1/2 c. honey

1/2 c. coconut oil or butter

2 c. old fashioned oats

1 c. shredded coconut

1 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

1/2 c. dried fruit, raisins or nuts

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 scoops protein powder, optional

Melt peanut butter, coconut oil and honey together in a pan. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, mixing well until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and refrigerate until firm.  Remove and cut into bars. Enjoy!

 

Away Down South

A few weeks ago I took a memorial trip to North Carolina to bury my grandma in the family plot.  It was a bittersweet journey.  She passed away a year ago, so for the most part we held her memory warmly and without sadness as we journeyed through the land of her youth.

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Luke and I flew in to Nashville to meet the rest of my family who had been road-tripping it back east. We enjoyed touring the amazing Opryland Hotel with its indoor gardens and river!

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It was great to meet up with my sisters again!

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I saw a cardinal for the first time!

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We rented a house in the Great Smoky mountains and spent a few days hiking and relaxing.  I loved this waterfall!

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Noah was happy to have another guy adventuring with him

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The Great Smokies really did look hazy most of the time…possibly due to humidity?

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We enjoyed heading down to the valley and visiting Bryson City….until we had our first fight as a married couple. jk

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I remember my grandma had a coffee table book of the Biltmore Estate. It was amazing to visit it in person!  We spent four hours wandering through 44 of the 250 rooms and then another 4 hours going through the gardens and village.  There was so much to see! Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside, so you’ll just have to go there yourself someday!

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Some of the beautiful gardens

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Noah meets Charlotte

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My sister Krista ❤

We had a great time touring the city and meeting many of our southern cousins for the first time

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Then we headed to the Outer Banks where mom taught us to body surf.  The water was absolutely amazing at 75 degrees F.!

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We visited Colonial Williamsburg, a place I had wanted to see ever since my mom brought home a video about it from the library when I was eight or so.

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I tried Chick-fil-A for the first time.  I wish we had them on the west coast!

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We got up early one morning to watch the sunrise. It is amazing how much there is to see when you take time to be still, the sun slowly coming up from behind the water, a few dolphins swimming buy and a sand crab digging a hole made for a lot to watch at once!

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Can you believe the size of this whale skull?!!

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Our feast the final day at the cabin.  Hey! We are just trying to use up the leftovers!

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Luke and I flew out of Norfolk, Virginia.  My family dropped us off in the city several hours before we had to be at the airport, so we decided to take a historic walking tour.  It felt like being in Europe again!  Here is a cannon ball that lodged into this church wall during the Revolutionary War.

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The General MacArthur memorial

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In front of one of the last great warships America built. It almost looks like a painted backdrop, doesn’t it?!!

Streets of Water

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I was surprised by the peace and romanticism that surrounded Venice in the dark.  Open, clean streets with bright shops and crowds of people reminded me of an open air mall. After having been on trains all day, we were glad to be walking in the almost balmy evening. The water gently lapped and motor boats hummed, but no motorized street vehicles are allowed on the streets.  I even saw the sturdy Italian garbage man come around pulling a cart!

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The famous Rialto bridge

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Venice by morning!

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The smaller canals were adorable!

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Venice is notoriously difficult to navigate.  The streets are narrow and only go for short lengths before turning right or left at a building.  We walked in a complete circle once!  They also dead-end into canals quite frequently!  Above is one of the larger waterways that divides two sections of Venice.

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There was no bridge over this canal, but our host had advised us that this was a good place to to experience a gondola ride by taking a gondola “taxi” for 3 euros to get to the other side!  It was fun to have the quintessential Venetian experience!

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The doorway to the Basilica of St. Mary

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St. Mark’s Square – remember reading the Lion of St. Mark by G. A. Henty? Now I’ve been there!

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Around the square was a lovely pillared walkway of shops.  Venice is famous for their masks!  I wished there was a masquerade ball coming up so I could pick one out, but I couldn’t quite see buying one with no prospect of wearing it in the near future.  Instead Luke found me a lovely earring and necklace set made of Venetian glass.

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The incredible Byzantine cathedral, St. Mark’s Basilica. I wish I could have gotten better close-ups of all the little scenes in the upper arches.

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We stopped by crowded local restaurant that our host recommended.  We pointed to different things in the case of ready-made food, hoping we picked something good.  It was all delicious, especially the lasagna!

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Luke in front of our apartment entrance. Since no motorized vehicles are allowed, residential streets are extremely narrow and can look alarming in the dark! However, Venice is reportedly a very safe town – criminals can’t run very far without falling into the water!

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Farewell Venice!  The peaceful sound of your lapping waters is forever impressed on my memory…and heart!