Friday, April 20, 2012

Southern Ireland (Part 1) 2010


I heard from a friend of mine, who also happens to be my travel agent, that the best way to see Ireland is to plan nothing and just wing it.  So that is exactly what we did. When a travel agent who works on commission tells you not to pre-book something, you know you can trust his advice because now he is losing money.  Best advice ever!  If you ever need a travel agent, let me know and I'll hook you up with a great one!
Who's driving????

We flew into Galway on what Nikkiy refers to as "a toy plane with a lawn mower engine".  The only thing we had planned other than that flight, was a rental car.  No hotels, no mapped out drive, NADA!!  First order of business........pile all 5 people and their luggage into this tiny "SUV" and learn to drive on the wrong side of the road....or at least the airport parking lot!

 After a LOT of screaming and a whole bunch of accidental shrub trimming, we were off.....until we hit the first roundabout!  Galway is a very small town.  Not exactly hard to find your way around in, but poor Nicole had Mike navigating, and three backseat drivers screaming "CURB" for the first 45 minutes of the drive.  I think we got lost at least five times before we found our way to the city center of Galway.  At some point, I stopped watching because being on the wrong side of the road was freaking me out!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2009


We only had one day left of the 2009 trip, and we used it to take a day trip to Amsterdam. One of the great things about Europe is that it is so easy to use train system.  We jumped on one of the early trains in the morning from Brussels and luckily arrived around 10:00 a.m as it was a work day and the train was full of commuters.   It was a very beautiful ride.  As you can see from the photo, the tulip fields were just starting to come into bloom.  
Lucky Windmill Photo!
Before leaving the states for vacation, my friend Didi told me that she and her friends rented bikes when they visited Amsterdam and that it was the best way to get around.  She also proceeded to tell me that all the bikes look the same and that if you do rent a bike, it doesn't really matter what bike you return just as long as you return one.  I thought this might be a little farfetched, but once I arrived, I realized that Didi might be right.....  There were entire parking structures three and four stories tall dedicated to bike parking!
Tulip Fields from the train window

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Brussels Belgium 2009

Thank goodness for my cousins clean socks

With Shannon and Alli in Brussels
When Nicole, Nikkiy and I arrived in Brussels, we were picked up by my cousin Shannon who was living at the time in Brussels with his wife Alli.  This was perfect as they supplied us with not only a place to sleep for two nights, but they also acted as our tour guides.  We were only in Brussels for a day and a half, so we really crammed in our touring.

City Center of Belgium
Jason's bus arrived not long after our train got in, so we picked him up and headed back to Shannon's place to clean up and head out for some touring.  When we got to the apartment and Jason took off his shoes, the dead animal smell came back.  for some reason, he was still working off of the same two pairs of socks, and the sink washings were not helping.  Every time we had been out shopping and playing, the smell was covered by Jason's shoes, so we kept forgetting about needing them.  But after the long shady bus ride from Prague, the socks had to go.  Shannon donated a clean pare to him and we set out to see the sights.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sleeper train ride to Brussels 2009

Time to unpack the luggage!

Nicole, Nikkiy and I traveled by sleeper train to Brussels from Prague.  Jason didn't purchase a ticket to Brussels before he left the United States, so he ended up taking a shady Greyhound-type bus from Prague to Brussels.  That is a conversation for another time. I'm just glad him and his stinky socks made it to Brussels.

As you know from my last post, it's now time to drag Nikkiy's luggage in the reverse direction on the stupid subway to the train station.  But that's really not the worst part of this story.
Looking down from the top bunk.

Once we get to our compartment, we are escorted to our bunks by our steward/butler (honestly, I don't know what to call that dude) who showed us how to turn our chairs into beds and how to go about storing our luggage.  Here we go again.

Nikkiy's bags din't fit in the storage, and the steward/butler couldn't store them anywhere for us, so the only alternative was to empty the stupid bag of the things she needed and shove the empty suitcase to the side for the night.  That smile you see on Nikkiys face in the picture to the right.....I'm almost certain it's fake! ;-)

Prague, Czech Republic 2009

Who decided to bring all this luggage?

Nicole, Nikkiy and I took the train from Berlin to Prague.  Nicole and I have always traveled rather light, and Nikkiy travels light now, however this wasn't always the case.  Sorry Nikkiy!  I have to share the suitcase story to set the tone for this story.

After our train arrived in Prague, we decided that the subway was the best and easiest way into the city.  Prague's subway system is a little older than most subways, and poor Nikkiy had two rather large bags and her purse. The subway platform we needed was on the third level down from the street and there were no elevators or escalators.  Do the math!  This subway decision got ugly quick. When we finally got on the subway, we had to make a train transfer halfway to the city which required more stairs! 

Finally in Prague...waiting for a drink!
We finally arrived in Old Town Prague, and hauled Nikkiy's luggage up to the street level, where we learned that all of the streets were cobblestone.  Now, Nikkiy was already at the point that she wanted to kill Nicole and I for the whole subway decision, so you can imagine how excited she was to haul two bags and a purse around on these old cobblestone streets. Looking back now, a cab ride probably would have been the smart decision at this point, but who wants to see such a beautiful city from a cab.  Nicole and I talked Nikkiy into walking to our hotel.  Little did she know that we would get lost on the way!

Berlin, Germany 2009

Berlin....the second stamp in my Passport! 

Probably the most exciting plane ride of my life!  I actually had my passport for almost 6 years before I actually got a European stamp in it, so Berlin will always be a big deal to me.
Me at the Reichstag Building.

I still remember the layover in Brussels......I couldn't understand a word the flight attendant was saying prior to take off, but more than likely, it was a reminder that I was supposed to save myself before I saved the child next to me!  It didn't matter......I had just woken up for the first time in another country.

I guess that my assumption of my trip to Germany was that I was in trouble because I didn't speak German.  Quite the opposite!  Most Germans speaks some English, so it was a great first country for me to visit.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Where to begin?

I'm a bit new to this whole blog thing.  I travel quite a bit, so I guess I'm doing this mostly so I can remember it, but also so my friends can laugh at me.  I have a few trips coming up that I'll be looking for some advice on....  I love travel, and I'd love to share my experiences as well as welcome the input of others.

Grammar and spelling are not my strong points, and I'm sure I'll make a mess of this, but at least I'll have better system of tracking my trips than the pile of pictures and tickets on the dresser in my bedroom!

I'm trying to post these posts in the order that I traveled them, but some of the stuff from 4 and 5 years ago is a little rusty.  If you see things changing throughout the posts, it is because I've volunteered my travel buddy Nicole to sort through them and help me remember since she has been on almost every single one of these trips. 

Happy Travels!!