Monday, September 8, 2008

i see london, i see france...

Matt & Nikki at Eiffel TowerMatt and I took an amazing trip to Europe this summer. Our three week adventure took us to London, England; Munich, Germany; Interlaken, Switzerland; Paris, France; and Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. We have wanted to travel to Europe for a long time now, but what a lot of work it is! I can say though, that it was all worth it. Believe me, we were pretty worn out by the time we got back to the states, but we wouldn't trade our experience for anything. We had such a wonderful time and we were exposed to so many beautiful things - it was great! Okay, so there is so much that we want to share, but I warn you we got a bit lengthy! So if you have some time read on, and if not, skip to the end and check out our pictures.

Our first stop was London. we were really fortunate to have great weather in London; in fact, it was probably some of the best weather we experienced on our whole trip. we visited Buckingham Palace and watched the changing of the guards - crazy that they do that every day! We also saw Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral (where Princess Diana and Prince Charles got married), The Tower of London, and the London Eye.

We spent one day on a tour, which took us to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath. Stonehenge was really cool. It is basically just plopped down in the middle of a field. we were told that it took generations of people to create Stonehenge. The creators somehow managed to transport the massive rocks used across hundreds of miles and then without explanation stack them on top of each other.

Salisbury was a beautiful little town. We visited the Salisbury Cathedral while we were there. One thing is for sure, the churches in Europe were absolutely amazing. I have never seen such beautiful architecture. The cathedral was ornate and just gorgeous. It also is the location of the best known copy of the Magna Carta, which we had the chance to see.

Last stop was in Bath, home of the Roman baths. We were able to walk through the Roman Bathhouse, which was kind of cool and kind of gross. Apparently, the water is supposed to have healing powers, but there is no way I would have drank it.

Munich, Germany was our next stop. We only had two days in Munich, so we decided to do two bike tours while we were there so as to get as much out of our time as we could. The tours were probably the highlight of our whole entire trip. the company that we rode with is owned by an American. He is a great guy from New York who moved to Munich almost 15 years ago, fell in love with the city, and decided to stay. His tour guides are all American and they really made the bike trip extra special. the tour took us all over the city and we made countless stops along the way with the tour guides explaining the history behind the city and its buildings. We stopped in a beer garden for lunch. It was so cool. Seriously, the largest mugs of beer that I have ever seen! Only down side was that Munich is not exactly a vegetarian friendly city, oh well! I ate a lot of cheese sandwiches :) Oh, but they do have some amazing chocolate - yum!

Neuschwanstein CastleOur second day in Munich we took another bike tour, but this one took us to Fussen. Fussen is about an hour and a half train ride away from Munich, it sits right at the Germany/Austria border. we had the greatest tour guide too. His name was Brad and he was born in Cape Town, South Africa and has traveled all over the world. He is an adventure junkie and has done some really cool things. We thought the most impressive thing about him was the fact that he has skydived over 700 times - that's just crazy! Anyways... the tour began with a beautiful hike up to an amazing castle - Neuschwanstein Castle. From there we hiked to some alpine slides - so much fun! We ended our day with a bike ride through the countryside.

Mountains beyond Lake BrienzAfter Munich, we moved on to Interlaken, Switzerland was beautiful! There were lush green mountains as far as the eye could see. Lake Brienz runs through Interlaken and it had the prettiest aquamarine water. We visited a town called Lauterbrunnen, where you could stand inone place and see over 10 waterfalls.

Interlaken was pretty relaxed. We spent an afternoon doing a little hiking, went on a beautiful evening dinner cruise, and spent a heavenly afternoon at the spa. Oh, and for some reason while we were there we got a craving for McDonald's. We don't even eat McDonald's in the states! So, to satisfy our cravings, Matt and I each got a fish sandwich combo meal. It was damn good, but the price was insane! Two combo meals cost us a whopping $22.00!

Paris from Notre DameParis, France, where to begin! It is no joke, the French are not fond of us! Matt didn't want to go to Paris in the first place, but I insisted. I felt that Parish was one of those cities that you should see if you have the chance, and so we did, but once was enough for both of us :) Truly, I am happy that we went. There was so much to see and their architecture was so impressive.

Let's see... we visited the Champs Elyseé, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Notre Dame, and of course, the Eiffel Tower. We also took an evening cruise on the River Seine, which was a great way for us to see the whole city lit up.

From Paris, to Barcelona, Spain. Yay for Spain! Barcelona was warm and the sun was shining and the people were so friendly, it was a nice departure from our experience in Paris. Spain allowed Matt to show off his Spanish speaking skills. He acts kind of shy about it, but he did great! I, on the other hand, kept thinking... four years of Spanish down the drain!

Matt & Nikki at the MediterraneanBarcelona is home to a famous architect named, Gaudí. We had opportunity to see several of his creations while we were there. He has such a unique style, he's work is really quite original. One of his masterpieces is a church called the Familía Sagrada. He spent 40 years of his life devoted to its construction. Sadly, he passed away before the church was completed, bu the work goes on today funded by all the people who visit it.

Barcelona had some great street markets. We stopped at a huge food market and enjoyed some fresh coconut. We ate a lot of food in Barcelona, the best being dessert. We had churros con chocolate - so good! Churros are warm donut-like pastries. They are shaped like sticks, perfect for dipping in the cup of hot, melted chocolate that they serve with them. We also caught our first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea.

Plaza de TorosOur trip ended in Madrid. Matt's cousin, Jeff, and his girlfriend, Maria, live in Madrid and offered to host us, which was so wonderful! Thanks Jeff and Maria! They really made our trip to Madrid special. It was great to have locals as our tour guides. They took us all over Madrid and shared the history of the city with us.

The best eating, hands down, was in Madrid. We ate until our hearts and bellies were content - we had tapas and sangria and paella! Oh, and every morning Jeff and Maria would make us fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast - that is something that I could get used to!

Well, there you have it. As I'm sure you can tell, we loved every minute of our trip. We were pretty photograph happy too. I think we took over 700 pictures! We've narrowed them down to about 200 of our favorites, so check them out if you like...