Thursday, August 19, 2010

Winding Down

Only one more week left in Germany and I am not wanting to go home! My family left yesterday and is flying home as I type right now.  I did not get much internet access while in hotels so I plan to catch you up now! 

The rest of Paris was an unbelievable thing! We went to see the Louvre with a private tour guide! I imagined the Mona Lisa as much bigger than it really was.  But the things we saw where just breathtaking! We then took the rest of day two to see the gardens at the Louvre and then wander around on our own.  That night, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night and the light show.  The third day, we then saw the Palace of Versailles.  The Hall of Mirrors was my favorite room and the gardens just seemed to go on for forever! We also bought some great macaroons and they were delicious! 

We then flew back to Germany that afternoon and drove to Bonn.  Here, we stayed in a castle.  The castle was so neat and it was cool to look out a window and see another wing of the castle.  That night, we ate at the restaurant in the castle and it was an outstanding meal! I ordered wolf fish and it was sooo good! We then got to wander around the castle the next morning before we left.

That morning after touring the castle, we drove on to Cologne.  Our reason for stopping here was the Cologne Dom and my oh my it was so big! I knew it was the largest church in Germany but I was not expecting just how big it really was.  The architecture on the outside was just magnificent! The inside was just as beautiful too but my favorite part was the outside! We then ate lunch in a restaraunt across the street from the Dom.  Our next and last stop in Cologne was the chocolate museum! It showed how and where chocolate is grown and how it is processed.  We got to see a real production line and watch people make chocolate in front of us! We left the gift shop with too much chocolate that day!

That afternoon we headed to Muden.  Our hotel here was also a winery and it was right on the Mosel River.  Behind the hotel we could see the grape vines and it was such a neat sight. We ate out on the patio that night and tried the wine from their vineyards.  

The next morning, we drove to the castle Burg Eltz.  We decided to park closer and take the "short" walk to the castle.  This walk was supposed to take ten minutes and it ended up more like 30 minutes down and 40 minutes up because of the steep grade of the hill.  It was a hard to walk down at some moments because of how steep it really was.  The castle itself was settled in the middle of all this huge hills and had a moat around it.  The tour guide was very knowledgeable and his English was understandable! 

We then left Burg Eltz to head to Liewen which was on the Mosel River as well.  We stopped at St. Urbans Hof winery for a wine tasting.  Most of their grapes surrounded us while we were in Liewen and each wine we tasted was a Riesling.  I was so surprised at how different each Riesling tasted! Each one had a different scent and aftertaste and they were all so good that we bought 7 bottles to bring home! 

Then we drove to Trier and checked into our hotel for the night.  We saw the Trier museum and the outside of Porta Nigra that night and ate dinner at Krocodile.  I ordered schnitzel caprese and it was schnitzel covered in mozzarella and tomatoes and it was excellent! The next day, we took a tram/train tour of the city.  We got to see the old Roman baths, the city walls, and churches.  We then went into Porta Nigra and walked around the oldest city gate.  

After Trier, we drove to Stuttgart and toured the Porsche museum.  Oh my goodness I have never seen so many Porsches in one place in my life! It was amazing to learn the history of how Porsche began and the history of the racing of some of the cars.  My favorite was the Pink Pig which was a race car that looked like a pig so much that they painted it pink on race day so that it could truly be called the Pink Pig.  We then continued walking around downtown Stuttgart and saw the old and new palaces and ate a fantastic dinner.

The next day, we starting driving through the Black Forest.  It is just so beautiful and unthinkable how big it really is.  Halfway through, we stopped in Triberg.  This town is known for its cuckoo clocks and boy were there tons of them! I did not end up buying a clock, since I got one during my high school trip, but I did end up getting a watch while there!  We then ate lunch at an Italian restaurant and then went to see the largest waterfall in Germany.  

After that, we continued driving on to Fussen.  On the way we saw cows that actually had bells so dad pulled off the road so I could take pictures of them! They were so cute when their bells rang!  We then arrived in Hohenschwangau at our hotel and it was so cool.  From our hotel balcony, we could see the Hohenschwangau Palace and from our dinner table and breakfast table in the restaurant at the hotel, we could see Schloss Neuschwanstein! These castles are just so beautiful! It really is a fairy tale experience and it was just so awesome to see for a second time and with my family.  

After touring both castles the next day and wandering around the small town we left for Munich.  Once in Munich, it took us quite a while to find the hotel.  After getting there, we rested for a while and then made our way to the Marienplatz.  Once there, David came to meet us and go to dinner with us! It was so good to see him after so many months of him being in Germany.  We found our way to the Hofbrauhaus and we all enjoyed a good meal and great liter beers!  Later that night David and I found our way to an Austrailian bar and I enjoyed a Snake Bite beer while we caught up.  

Yesterday, the family and I went to the top Munich sights.  We saw the Frauenkirche, St. Peters Church,   Heiligiest Church, vitualienmarkt (a market where you could buy practically any food you wish) and the Glockenspiel.  We saw the Glockenspiel play at 11am and it was so neat to see again. After a great lunch at the Marienplatz and more beer, the family drove me to my hotel up in north Munich near David's apartment.  They dropped me off and we all said our goodbyes.  They then headed off to Frankfurt for their flight this morning.  For dinner, I was lucky enough to be invited by David's boss/mentor to his home to join their plans with other students who work at BMW with David.   The night was really awesome and it was interesting to hear the Bavarian dialect in a more personal conversation.  We ate so much and the entire table was full of so much food.  There were sausage balls, potato salad, pasta salad, pork, grilled mozzarella and tomatoes, bread, and a cheese platter. We had beer and wine and it was a great night of conversation! 

Right now I am waiting for David to get off work so we can go sight seeing this afternoon.  David then has the next week off so we can travel to Innsbruck and he can use his vacation days.

While talk again when I have internet! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Paris Day 1

I never imagined that the city of Paris was this big! Big does not even describe Paris precisely!  Today, we had an early start and had a tour of Paris!  It was a tour by van from this private tour company and it was just our family and one other family on the tour.  Our tour guide, Pablo, drove us around to all the top sites within Paris.  We got to stop at the Cathedral of Notre Dame first.  It was such amazing architecture! To see this site in person was just so inspiring! It was just so neat to see in person and not on tv! We then drove around some of the Roman ruins and Roman baths.  From there, we saw so many things, and to be honest, all the French names run together for me.  I am so used to being able to understand at least a word or two here or there and now I just feel completely lost! French words just all sound the same to me.  Our next stop was part of the city at the very top the hill at the top of town.  It was a wonderful site to get a glimpse at just how big the city is.  It had a wonderful artist square in which you could purchase paintings or have a painting done of yourself.  If you think American hagglers are bad though, come to Paris.  I got asked 10 times within 2 minutes if I wanted my picture drawn, all by different artists, and if you don't walk away quick enough then they will start drawing and then charge you.  

Then we headed to see the Louvre from the outside.  We then drove around the Arc de Triumph and got great pictures!   Our last stop was the Eiffel Tower! We had express passes to get to the first floor that included lunch.  We ate at the restaurant on the first level and had formal "picnic lunch".  After the first level, we moved on to the second and then eventually the third level, the very top! The top was well worth the wait! I felt on top of the world looking out at this monstrous city sprawled out in front of me! It was so breathtaking! The photo opportunities were amazing! 

We then took an hour tour by boat on the river! We saw the sites from a different angle from the water.  We rode under 22 bridges and each one was beautiful! The views of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame were amazing from the water.  After this tour, Pablo picked us back up and drove us back to our hotel.  This tour was a great overview of Paris and very time efficient. 

We got back to the hotel around 5:40pm and decided we would rest a little bit before heading out for dinner.  After browsing the local cafes, we finally decided on a restaurant and had a fantastic dinner.  I had a French cheeseburger with local French cheese melted on it and it was amazing! After dinner, we stopped at Haagen Daas and got ice cream that we took back to the hotel to eat! 

I am currently loading my photos from the past two days onto my computer and working on bought internet time so my time to write here is limited! Tomorrow, we start the day off with a private tour of the Louvre and then have the rest of the day to do whatever we saw yesterday that we want to see more in depth or go to more museums.  The day is up in the air and we will figure it out as we go.  We are expecting rain tomorrow so the museums are sounding pretty good! 

Till tomorrow! 

Volkswagen Heaven!

Let me start by saying that my family made it safely to Germany this past Saturday! We went out to a low key dinner Saturday and I showed them Lueneburg on Sunday.  Sunday night we drove about 2 hours to Wolfsburg, Germany.  

Wolfsburg is home to Autostadt (Volkswagen's headquarters and main factories)! This place is a as big as the eye can see! If it helps to imagine how big it is, it has two power plants powering it! The famous towers are a holding area for cars that buyers are going to pick up and it looks like a candy machine.  A lift takes cars up and down to their respective spots within the towers. We got to experience a tour of this and while touring we sat in a glass box that represented a "car" going up into a spot.  It was awesome to see the view of the factory from the top of these towers! 

Next, we made our way to the factory tour.  We loaded on to a tram and were driven over to the factory part.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos.  We saw the plant for the VW Golf and Golf Plus.  Seeing the car get put together from the body to the engine was amazingly cool! The marriage was the best part! This is when they take the engine and bottom of the car and attach it to the body! 

After our time in Wolfsburg, we made the 3 hour drive to Frankfurt and caught a flight to Paris! 

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Yesterday I took a day trip to Bremen.  This trip was originally supposed to be a trip organized by my study abroad program but they canceled it last minute.  So I decided to still go since the train ride was free with my student ID.

So I took off around 9am and relaxed on the two hour train ride to Bremen.  Once there I went to the tourist office to get a map of the city and some information on tours and various things to do.  No English tours are given on the weekends so I did a walking tour that my teacher gave me of places to see on your own.  I started by seeing Die Stadtmusikanten (Town Musicians) which portrays the donkey, dog, cat and rooster of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.  

Then I moved onto another statue of the city's protector, Roland, with his view against the Cathedral and bearing Durendart, the "sword of justice" and a shield decorated with an imperial eagle.

Then I moved onto the cathedral which was under construction so you couldn't see most of the detail. I then moved on to the Schnoor quarter.  This was my favorite part of the city.  It is the part of town where the goldsmiths and crafters used to work and live and still have shops.  Some of these streets were so narrow that you had to turn sideways to walk through and people could only go one at a time. These shops were fantastic and I wish some of the things could have been smaller so I could have fit them in my suitcase! I did come across a fantastic Christmas decoration shop and bought the cutest handmade birds for my Christmas tree and mom's.

I then made my way back to the city center for lunch at the Beck's restaurant.  It was only fitting since the Becks brewery is in Bremen.

Bremen was a really cool small town and perfect for a day trip!

SaLu Spa

I decided to indulge myself while in the Salt City capital of Germany! I had heard so many good things about the salt spa in town that I decided to take advantage of a free day and hit up the spa.  Boy am I glad I did!

I made appointments the day before for a massage and a Softpack Thalasso treatment.  When I got there on Friday I decided I wanted to add another treatment, the Flotarium treatment, because how many times am I going to get to come here? So the very nice woman at the desk informed me for twenty dollars less I could get all three treatments, with a longer massage, and a full day ticket to the saunas and the pools, and a ticket for a free lunch at the sauna bar.  I was given a robe and told to go on back to the spa.

I headed back and changed into my spa and put all my belongings in a locker. I walked to the spa area and immediately felt relaxed due to the light music and surroundings.  I was greeted by a receptionist and told to follow her to my massage.  I had a male masseuse and felt very uncomfortable at first being naked in a all nude spa but eventually got used to it.  The massage felt like heaven and I completely understand why some people get them frequently.  I then headed off to the Eucalyptus Sauna.  It had Eucalyptus oil being infused with the steam and the smell assaults you when you first walk in because it is so strong.  After a couple minutes though the smell goes away.  It felt wonderful to sit in the heat! I then showered and made my way to my next treatment which was my Softpack Thalasso treatment.  Boy was this a treat! The woman took a paintbrush and "painted" this detoxifying clay all over my body.  I was then told to lay on this table.  She then covered my from shoulders to feet with a piece of plastic.  Then I was cocooned in more plastic and then again in heavier plastic.  She then asked if I was ready and after I said yes she pushed a button and the bottom of the table dropped out from underneath me.  The "tub" then began to fill with water and I was surrounded by water (the plastic on top of me was part of the bed as well).  It was a weird feeling to be completely weightless  while not touching water.  The water was warm and the clay smelled really good and it was only a matter of time before I fell into a deep relaxation and even fell asleep for a few minutes.  When my 30 minutes were up I washed off the clay and was sad that the treatment was over.

I then treated myself to the free lunch at the sauna bar. I got a salad with lots of veggies and a good vinaigrette dressing and fresh squeezed orange juice.  It felt refreshing to eat a meal without bread included in it.

I then headed to the Bio Sauna which was just as nice as the Eucalyptus sauna.  It had panels of warped blue plastic with blue lights behind it that mimicked a waterfall.  There were also lights on the opposite wall that put colored tints on the sauna.  It changed between blue, red, yellow, and green.  There was also tropical rain forest music playing on the speakers.  It was very relaxing.

Then I headed to my last treatment, the Flotarium.  It was my favorite treatment but they were all so amazing! I was taken to a room with a big sea shell bath tub in it.  It is easier to show you than try to describe this so look below at the picture.

The tub is filled up with salt water that is saltier than the Dead Sea.  The top of the sea shell closes when you get in.  You feel like you are in a different world once the stars lights are turned on on the lid of the shell.  You could not sink even if you wanted to which made the experience so delightful.  There was no effort to stay afloat and the underwater music was very soothing while looking at the stars.  This treatment last 30 minutes as well and time went by way too fast!

After all my treatments I headed over to the outdoor pool to soak in some sun.  After that my day at the spa was completed and I headed home very relaxed!!!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hamburger Kunsthalle

Today I had a fieldtrip to Hamburg to visit their art museum.  For my Survey of Art class I had to pick an era of art that I wanted to learn more about and give a presentation on it.  I choose Expressionism and did my presentation in class this past Monday.  Today we went to the Kunsthalle (art museum) to see the works of artists that we have been talking about for the past few weeks in class.  We saw everything from early Romanticism to Impressionism, Realism, Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Neo-Classicism.  It was a wonderful experience.

I have absolutely fallen in love with the Expressionist works of art.  They are so vivid and emotionally challenging.  They dare the viewer to come up with their own story behind to picture or images.

I am lucky enough to say I got to see artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh today!

Here is an early Van Gogh:

The next two pieces are by my favorite expressionist painter, Edward Munch:

Here is a painting by Picasso (my favorite of his several pieces of work on display today):

And here is a sculpture by Picasso:

This was a great experience and I am glad I got to see these painters works! I am even more excited for the Louvre in France now to see some more popular works!


Fellow followers:

I want to apologize for the lack of blog posts lately! With homework and exploring I have been so busy that the blog took the back burner to everything else.

This past weekend I took a wonderful trip to London! It was such a beautiful sight and the history was awesome! We visited the Tower of London, London Bridge, Big Ben, the parliament buildings, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, The National Gallery, and The Museum of Natural History.  Getting to all of these places via the London Tube was an interesting experience.  The Tube consisted of what felt like millions of stairs and escalators that never ended! Needless to say this caused foot pain in both me and my fellow travelers! 

When Amanda and I first arrived in London we met up with Nate, who had already been in London for a day, and tried to find the hostel.  Even though we were back in our native language, we were so confused by the maps and roads that it took us two hours to find the hostel!  We took a short nap since we woke up at 4am to fly to London and then were on our way! The first day we mainly walked around looking at sights.  First up was Big Ben and then it was followed by Parliament and Westminster Abbey from the outside.  Then, we made our way to the National Gallery and saw the great works of Ruebens and Van Gogh among other artists.  This was a great break from being outside in the sun and gave us a chance to see some absolutely amazing art work!  After this, we decided to head over to river to see all the monuments lit up at night.  It was amazing to see Big Ben lit up! 

The second day, we all toured the Tower of London and learned the history of the castle.  We also got to see the Crown Jewels exhibit of all of the jewels of the royal families throughout the years and then got to see an exhibit named Fit for a King which showed us all the types of armor that knights wore. Then, Amanda and I headed to Westminster Abbey to take a tour.  Nate did this the day before so he did his own thing while we were there.  I really wish I could have taken photos so that I could show you all how absolutely wonderful it was on the inside.  It was breathtakingly stunning and there was so much history there! I never knew that great writers and artists were buried here, such as Shakespeare and Bach. The ornateness of the pillars and the ceilings were so pretty I could only just stand and stare in awe of the beauty.  We then moved on to the London Eye where we took a 30 minute ride on the huge ferris wheel like machine.  I got amazing panoramic photos of the monuments below and enjoyed the relaxing ride.  

The last day, Amanda and I headed for Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard.  I was kind of disappointed with the changing of the guard just because there were hundreds of thousands of people there to see it and we couldn't see anything.  We could hear the band and catch a glimpse of the guards every now and then but only from a camera raised above everyone else's heads.  We also couldn't tour the Palace due to construction while the Queen is gone.  We then headed over to a shopping area and got to visit the famous Harrod's department store.  It was full of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Jimmy Choo and so many other brands I couldn't even afford to try on! So we left there and shopped the much cheaper yet stores. Due to tired feet we actually took a break and went to see a movie while in London.  We saw Robin Hood and enjoyed every minute of it! It was a much needed break for our feet.

We then stayed at a hotel by the airport overnight and were up bright and early at 4am again to catch our flight home on Monday morning.  

The trip was an amazing opportunity and I am very grateful for being able to go! I can now say that I've "minded the gap" and had a pint in London!