Frankfurt, Germany

Europeans have a wonderful commitment to their heritage.  After so much of Germany was destroyed during WWII, many of the cities, towns and villages vowed to rebuild in the old style.  They used photographs, paintings and what may have been remaining of architectural drawings to recreate their ancient buildings and streets.  The effort to rebuild after such devastation would have been immense to begin with, but to reinvent medieval city centers that effectively embrace a thriving citizenry was herculean!

While in Frankfurt, we enjoyed a huge Christmas Market (with the lights on), Limed our way around (even getting stopped by the German police to make sure we weren’t drinking and scooting – we weren’t, by the way), visited the Frankfurt Zoo and got a real taste of the popularity of the German Christmas Markets!

Here are my favorite pictures!

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Our first booth – classic!

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The main “old” center square – beautifully decorated.

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Christmas trees, anyone?

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A gorgeous two story carousel!

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The top of the main square.

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Sycamore trees line the walk along the Rhine.

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The Frankfurt Zoo was a lovely treat. It was quiet, well established and a fabulous example of an inner city zoo experience.

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Yes, it is a cone of French fries with sauce on top…so American! hahahaha

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The darker it got, the more magical it became.

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I love the classic quality of the Christmas tree.

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Eat, drink (but don’t drive) and be merry!

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 4

Well, we have come to our last day – and I think the timing is just right!  We really did SO much on this trip and it was absolutely amazing!  I think for us, a four day stay was just right – enough to learn how to get around the city, see some major highlights, wander around winding streets and canals, and think about the things we haven’t yet seen.

Today we did our final Rick Steves’ audio tour and this one was about and through the Red Light District.  This is the oldest section of Amsterdam and a place not for the faint of heart.  As Americans, we are often rather sheltered in our everyday lives, and the Red Light District of Amsterdam makes Fremont Street in Las Vegas look like kindergarten!  As this is a family show, I won’t post any pictures or give you many descriptors here, but let’s just say the folks in Amsterdam embrace their ability to live a life less restrained by a government attempting to impose and enforce moral values.  For what it’s worth, it seems to be working in Amsterdam.

We visited the Jordaan neighborhood again today, strolled back and forth, in and out of the Red Light District, “Chinatown”, the old city, the Damstraat area and everywhere in between.  All told today, we took over 18,000 steps!!!  We ate some more of the famous Amsterdam French fries, I tried a waffle with chocolate and “caramel” (but is actually tasted like melted circus peanuts) and enjoyed dinner at a small Pad Thai place.  We even popped into a pub near the Jordaan that had Oriental RUGS on the tables instead of table clothes.  It was different!

We have explored a lot of this really cool city, but there is still a lot to do for another trip!   Until next time, Amsterdam!  Keep doin’ YOU!

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I love the mugs at our hotel!!!

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The architecture is so captivating!!!!

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One of the tidal flow gates – they open and close to allow “fresh” water to clean out the canals and help to control water levels.

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Kelly’s “Polish” smile and my “American” smile at the Anne Frank house.

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The Westerkerk in the distance.

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So many people say, “I don’t want to travel to Europe in the winter because it will be cold”. Well, it was in the 40s and 50s while we were here. There were numerous flowers blooming and plants budding. There were fewer crowds and great prices. Why wouldn’t want to travel to Europe in the winter?

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Classic Amsterdam hooks and pulleys throughout the city – and we even saw some in use during our visit!

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What a view!

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Check out the houseboat roofs! There are some 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam – some are for sale for over a million dollars! WHAT!!!

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I really loved taking pictures of the Westerkerk.

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Here is the pub with the carpets on the table.

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It was a little strange – anyone ever hear of this or seen this before?

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The “best” French fries in the city?? Well, the fires were great but we liked the sauce from another fry place. This one had 24 different options!

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Ah, the Amsterdam waffle – and boy, was it good!!!!

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My favorite traveling companion and I.

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In the old city.

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 3

Today was a bit of a later start – we had a canal cruise dinner scheduled for 7:30pm so we knew it would be too long of a day to hit the pavement at 9am.  This is also the beauty of really diving into one single place for 4 days and not traveling around so much – you can take your time a bit more and have a more relaxed touring schedule.

We decided to pull out another Rick Steves’ audio tour today and did the Amsterdam City Walk.  I love these for the knowledge they provide.  I learned that there are just over 700,000 inhabitants of Amsterdam and pretty much all of them have bikes – or more than one, even!  That is pretty obvious by all the bikes we have seen parked along the streets and the tens of bikers that have nearly killed us zooming by!

During our walking tour, we saw a lot of the south side of the city – the bottom of the “U” shape of the canals, if you will.  We passed by a canal lined with tulip markets and passed hundreds of shops and trinket stores.  We found an amazing Italian restaurant for a late lunch and our eyes were clearly too big for our stomachs!!!  We walked that meal off, winding down the brick lined city streets marveling at the gorgeous architecture and admiring the Amsterdam way of life; an attitude that is straight forward and yet live and let live.

Our canal dinner cruise was absolutely amazing!!!!  It has been the highlight of the trip so far and that is saying a lot since we have had an amazing time!  The whole experience was about 2.5 hours and for that entire time we gawked at the stunning buildings, took pictures of the festive lights (there is a light exhibit going on on the canals until 19 January) and enjoyed a four course meal, wine, water and coffee.  Really, I don’t know how it could’ve been any better!!!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day.

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The Royal Palace – technically, yes – but it used to be Town Hall.

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Canal-side tulip market.

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But do not bring them into the US – they will get taken away from you and you could get a hefty fine!

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Our lunch – all in all we got a caprese salad, a Gorgonzola salad, a vegetarian pizza, mushroom penne and 3 calzones – all for 60 Euros!!

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Oh, the sweets!!!!

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A canal boat awaiting passengers.

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Cheers to the good life!

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Our dinner cruise was magnificent.

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Seven bridges canal!

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The Anne Frank house from the canal.

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Westerkerk from the canal.

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My handsome date for the evening.

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The Basilica of Saint Nicholas.

 

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 2

Today was a gorgeous day!  It was sunny and in the upper 40s – a perfect day to stroll the streets of the Jordaan.

We headed into the city today around 10am by bus, picked up a tram in the city and headed to the DAM area.  Here, we started our first Rick Steves’ walking tour that we downloaded before the trip on the Rick Steves’ Europe Audio APP.  These are fabulous resources at your fingertips for free – Rick Steves’ has been touring Europe (and the world) for 30+ years and has provided many fabulous tour books, audio interviews, TV shows and free “guided” tours for listeners.  We have done his audio walking tours in Florence, Rome and now Amsterdam and love using his tour books as as our go-to before any during all our European trips.  You should check it out!

We strolled along the smaller canals of the Jordaan – a quaint neighborhood west of the larger 3 canal ring.  It was gorgeous!  We had a wonderful lunch near the Westerkerk (Western Church), toured the Anne Frank House, checked out the Cheese Museum, had a drink on a random dock in a random canal, ate some street fries with “Belgium Mayonnaise” (mayo with salt and vinegar), strolled the Red Light District then headed home.  In total, we had over 16,000 steps today and every one of them was awesome!

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During our walking tour, we came across not only beautiful bridges, amazing architecture and small streets, we also met some interesting people!

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At the “Homomonument”.

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A “semi-private” urinal. Interesting!

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These canals are large enough for houseboats – not all are.

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This quaint canal in the Jordaan was absolutely stunning.

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Flowers in January. And people say it’s too cold to travel to Europe in winter!

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A secret garden.

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My favorite neighborhood so far.

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The residents of Amsterdam have a fabulous sense of humor. I am guessing people have been in his boat before without his permission!

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Afternoon pick me up!

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Canal in the Jordaan.

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The Westerkerk at night.

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Who could say no to the cheese museum? And it was free!

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By the way, the gouda here is to die for!!!!

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From our small dock in the small canal. Perfection with a full moon!

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There’s our dockside table outside a Brown Bar – these are OLD neighborhood bars that have been around so long that the walls and ceiling have aged to a warm shade of brown from all the decades of smoking.

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Full moon over Amsterdam.

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Fries with sauce seem to be a popular savory snack here. Right up my alley!

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A little blurry but WOW! It was such a beautiful evening.

 

Expedition Amsterdam – Arrival Day

Last May, we saw a great deal on a four night trip to Amsterdam.  As we had never been before, we decided to ask some friends to join us and take on this new adventure!  Here is a glimpse of our trip day by day.

Overnight flights can be rough – but this one was direct and we arrived in Amsterdam at 8:30am local time and hit the ground running.

We took a taxi to our hotel – IBIS Amsterdam City West – checked in (we were fortunate that our rooms were ready so early in the morning) and headed out to explore the city around 12:30pm.

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Our adorable “double” room at the Ibis Amsterdam City West. Comfy and quaint.

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No bells and whistles, but certainly clean and comfortable including a lovely breakfast each morning.

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This bathroom is neat – it is like a bathroom “pod” – it reminded me of a cruise ship bathroom.

We bought a four day transportation pass (24 Euros each) and took the bus into Amsterdam Central (about a 15 minute ride).  From there, we explored the inner canal area, including the Red Light District and surrounding areas.  We ate an early dinner then headed back to our hotel around 6pm.  All and all, it was a bonus day that we enjoyed, getting our bearings, seeing the Red Light District during the day and figuring out the layout of the canal rings.  Tomorrow – the Jordaan District and Anne Frank Museum.

Here is a picture Diary of the day – the PG-13 version!

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Our first photo upon arrival.

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Well, this sums up Amsterdam – a cannabis shop, a snack shop and “Pimp” Steak! All that is missing is a Waffle or Pancake shop!!!

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Truer words were never spoken for me!

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I enjoyed hearing these guys clipping and clopping along during the day.

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Classic canal pic!

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Our first selfie.

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Red Light District – and I thought Vegas was a bit racy:)

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Beautiful architecture.

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I love this.

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I mean, wow!!!

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American tourists!!!

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I can handle snorting chocolate – yes, folks, snorting chocolate! That is right up my alley!

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As evening settles.

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Canal at night.

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Venice of the north!

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Crepe number one in the books!!!!!

Strasbourg, France

I have to admit, I am a Francophile.  I love France and all things French, so when we arrived at our second port of call, Strasbourg, I immediately felt at home!  As this was our only port in France, I really soaked in the French culture, but also admired the unique marriage with German culture presented in Strasbourg.  After all, in 1914 alone, the Alsace region of France changed nationalities eight times!

We enjoyed our Christmas Market touring and also became truly besotted with the charm and enchantment of Strasbourg.  Some would say it is too German to be French, and too French to be German, but I think it is just right!

Here is my photo diary! I hope you enjoy it!!!

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Many of the streets of Strasbourg are lined with beautiful sycamore trees. These nests are for storks!

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The tram system in Strasbourg is pretty special! In many places, it runs on grass to help reduce noise and a couple of the trams have mower blades underneath to keep the grass neatly mowed! Cool!

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How do you deliver packages to the medieval streets of Strasbourg?

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The architecture!!!

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Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg

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The decorations were beautiful and sometimes, a bit outrageous!

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We were in Strasbourg during the day and did not get to see the lights, but I bet it was gorgeous!

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Classic Europe

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The old winding city streets were so charming!

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Vin chaud? White or Red?

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Even early in the day, the Christmas Markets were busy.

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The rivers are the lifeline of Strasbourg.

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Some new friends – swans everywhere!

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I was in France – a banana and Nutella crepe was a MUST!!!

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More bird friends outside my Juliette balcony on board.

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Strasbourg river walk.

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The happy tourists!

Amazing Alps

When we travel, we love day tripping!!!  We have day tripped our way around the French countryside, southern and northern Italy, Scotland, England and now, the Alps!

Day tripping allows for a GLIMPSE of a place.  It is hard to “dive in” when you only have a short amount of time, but when we travel abroad especially, we want to see as much as we can, so the old American pastime is right up our alley!

This trip to Germany, Switzerland and France for our Christmas Market river cruise really lent itself well to a day trip.  While staying in Basel pre-cruise, we took a day and headed to the Alps.  We picked up our rental in Basel early morning, drove about an hour and 45 minutes to Interlaken, and decided to go a bit further, up to Grindewald (elevation 3,392 feet).  There, we parked and bought the world’s most expensive train tickets (about $200 US per person – YIKES) for a 45 minute cog train ride up, up, up to our first train station, Kleine Scheidegg (elevation 6762 feet).

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Grindelwald, Switzerland

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Grindewald from the window of the train.

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The cogs! The lifeline!

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This teepee is at the Kleine Scheidegg station. I do not know why!

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Time to change trains!  And yes, it was snowing.

Here, we checked out the place, and boarded the Jungfrau train – another cog that brought us THROUGH the mountains to the highest train station in Europe (which happened to be IN the mountain) – Junfraujoch, elevation 11,333 feet!!

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One of the small settlements on the way up to Jungfrau (young girl). Do you see the glaciers in the background? Amazing!!!

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The train station in the mountain.

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Outside the observatory. It was cold and windy!

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In the ice castle IN the mountain!!!

We explored but it was snowed in – but we wouldn’t have changed that experience for anything!  It was so cool!!!!!

After we got back down from Kleine Scheidegg, we drove to Lauterbrunnen, explored briefly at dusk, went to a pizza place (yeah, seriously) and then drove back to Basel.  This was a fabulous day trip and we took SO many gorgeous pictures.

Here are the rest of our favorites!!!!

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Looking back as we journey towards Klein Scheidegg.

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. We had spent much of the day in Grindelwald and climbing Jungfrau (by cog railway), then decided to take another small mountain pass at dusk and were treated to this delight!

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This gorgeous waterfall is the first thing you see when you enter this valley. Absolutely stunning!

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If a cemetery can be pretty, this one fits the bill.

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Well, you have to have beer with pizza!

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Any European road trip must include a stop at the Autogrill. The rest stations in Germany (just like Italy) did NOT disappoint – adorable trinkets, great food options, but expensive water – you should buy it in town at the local corner store – not here – oh, and if you need to use a bathroom – bring along a Euro!

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My German isn’t that great, but the word for “exit” is kinda funny! And I feel like a 10 year old when I say it:)

Basel, Switzerland

As with many flights to Europe from the east cost of the US, ours was an overnight affair.  We departed Boston Friday evening, arrived in Munich, Germany mid morning Saturday, then flew to Basel, Switzerland – arriving early afternoon.  We flew Lufthansa as it was the best price (paid to pick our seats and for stowed luggage) and while we were a bit cramped, we had a fine flight.  Great in-flight entertainment and the service was just fine.

We arrived easily in Basel, picked up our luggage, and sought to navigate the public transportation to our hotel in the Old Town area.  This was free (it seems that all hotels in Basel offer guests a “Basel Card” that gives them free access to public transportation – buses, trams and the like) and we are pretty adventurous, so we took on the challenge.

Public transportation is big in Europe – especially the cities where parking is at a premium – it is not unlike the US, but Europeans embrace this opportunity to take the bus, ride a bike or scooter, or walk.  Finding our bus stop at the airport was easy, thanks to the clear and helpful directions from our hotel, and while we had to figure out the switching of bus lines once, it was easy and the bus literally dropped us off outside our hotel!

Our hotel was Hotel D and the location was fabulous!  I paid $149.00 per night, which for Switzerland is a deal!  Our room was small (typical for Europe) but very comfortable and quiet.  The bathroom was great as well and we were very happy.  Our hotel stay did NOT include breakfast, so we winged it each day and were very happy with that. Breakfast at Hotel D was continental style and cost 26SF (Swiss Francs) per person – um, no thanks!  Have I told you yet that Switzerland is expensive!!!

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Outside our hotel window….

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Where do you keep your liquor cold?

Our first night we roamed, explored the walk along the Rhine, got my hubby set up with LIME (the best thing EVER), scooted and walked around a small portion of the Old City and enjoyed a most fabulous al fresco dinner (Europeans eat outside all year long….with those big propane heaters and a blanket – it was awesome!).

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Warm goat cheese salad! Heaven!

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White wine, beer and pumpkin soup!

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LIMES!  You download the app, scan your ride and off you go!  We LOVE these!!!  In Switzerland it was 1 SF to unlock it then .35cents per minute.

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People….the sweets were AMAZING!

The next day, we got up and rented a car (about $100USD for the day) and drove to the Alps (about 1.45 hours away) and spent the day fulfilling a dream!!!  That post will be coming up soon – it deserves its own!

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The Rhine River at around 7:15am.  Stunning!

We wrapped up Basel with a lot more walking around, getting breakfast and lunch from one of the many local corner stores (I HIGHLY recommend this because restaurants are SUPER expensive in Switzerland) and having a picnic lunch by the river.  It was everything I wanted it to be!!!!

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Look at the detail on the soffit of this roof!! Amazing!

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Many European cities have free flowing fountains perfect for drinking! They are functional AND beautiful!

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Gorgeous post structured home.

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The “munster” in Basel.

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Another gorgeous fountain.

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(Free) public bathrooms! Gotta love the Swiss – they aren’t uptight about life!

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Look closely at the AGE of these homes.

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The detailing of this home is amazing.

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Our stash from the corner store – about 20 Swiss Francs total!

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Best bite in the city!

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Market Joy

You know, sometimes you have an opportunity to take a trip that resets your soul.  Just over Thanksgiving, I had that opportunity!

If you follow my business Facebook page, Live It Well Travel, you will have seen some of the highlights of the fabulous Christmas Market river cruise my husband and I took over Thanksgiving.  It was everything I believed it would be and more!

Let me give you and overview of our trip here and post some of my favorite pictures, then I will dive deeper into my river cruising experience, each of our destinations and then some fun facts and finds from our trip!  It promises to be a cool series to wrap up this years’ blogging adventures!

We departed the Friday before Thanksgiving and arrived in Basel, Switzerland the following day.  We got settled in our hotel, and attempted to stave off the effects of jet-lag by taking a wonderful walk around the old city of Basel.  We enjoyed a wondrous walk, an alfresco meal and a great first night’s sleep!

The next morning (Sunday) we awoke and walked to a nearby hotel where we picked up a car we had rented for the day.  We drove to the Alps and took the cog train to the highest train station in Europe!

Monday we walked around Basel some more (and Limed, too), checked out, then boarded our river cruise, the Monarch Countess.  This was our first river cruising experience and to say we loved it is an understatement!

Over the next 6 days, we visited Strasbourg, France, Frankfurt, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg, Germany.  We visited Christmas Markets and wandered ancient streets.  We sipped wine on the Main River and traversed 52 locks between Basel and Nuremberg.  We met people from all over the US and made friends with so many more.  We learned some German, practiced our French and broadened our perspective.

It was splendid!  Here are few of my highlight photos!  Be on the lookout for posts to follow!

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. We had spent much of the day in Grindelwald and climbing Jungfrau (by cog railway), then decided to take another small mountain pass at dusk and were treated to this delight!

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Strasbourg, France. Some of my new friends – I made a LOT of feathered friends on this trip!!!

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Our home for the week docked in Frankfurt. This is the beautiful Monarch Countess.

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Christmas Market at Frankfurt, Germany.

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An evening toast to the good life. We are standing on the Old Stone Bridge in Wurzburg, Germany, marveling at the fortification in the background and enjoying a common daily activity.

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Early morning sun on the Main River between Wurzburg and Bamberg.

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Bamberg, Germany. Photo taken of one of the seven hills that make up the city. The colors are breathtaking!

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Bamberg, Germany

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Main Christmas Market, Nuremberg, Germany.

 

My Yearly Travels as seen through my Ornaments

I used to find it really hard to choose a special keepsake from each of our trips.  I loved so many cool “things”, but it just isn’t reasonable to get them all!  So a while back, I decided to get an ornament from each of our trips.

Every year, when we put up our tree, it is a wonderful opportunity to remember our travels and stories as a family.  It is something I treasure and our tree is really full of US.

Here are the ornaments I got this year.

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Paris. January 2019

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Disneyland Paris. January 2019

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Symphony of the Seas. February 2019

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February 2019

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Disney World. February 2019

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Tuscon Arizona. April 2019

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Tombstone, Arizona. April 2019

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Bearizona. April 2019

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Las Vegas, Nevada. April 2019

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O’hau, Hawai’i. October 2019.

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Strasbourg, France. November 2019

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Switzerland 2019