Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


From our furry-friended home to yours, we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  As your travels around town, the state, or even the country take you here and fro for the season, we hope this compilation of some of our personal favorite Christmas songs keeps you joyous and comforted.  Just click and play to enjoy, or feel free to enjoy on your own Spotify account!


Monday, April 29, 2013

Rhine Getaway–Cologne!

I cannot express how excited I was that we were headed for Cologne when we cast off from Kinderdijk!  Again, the journey is long, as I showed in the last post, but I definitely had to contain my excitement as not to look too crazy.  I studied abroad in Bonn, Germany (which is a short train ride from Cologne), and I spent a notable amount of time in Cologne while I was there in 2004.  Plus, the added bonus of that short train ride made it possible for me to show Henry…AFTER NINE LONG YEARS…precisely where I was living, walking, studying, and breathing while we had just started dating one month before I left for Europe.  As you can see, there were many reasons I was excited to see the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe as we made a turn along the Rhine River.IMG_4577

The bridge you see is heavily traveled by train, and a train passes by once per minute on average.  Nonetheless, we docked just past this bridge just in sight of the amazing chocolate museum that I remembered visiting so vividly from my last trip.  Even with my love for chocolate, I passed over the option to visit this time since I had already been before.  Mindy and Gordon went though!

What I haven’t shared yet, however, is that I was itching to get off of Tor because of my excitement for Cologne; plus, we’d been onboard since 11:15am the previous morning.  By the time we docked, I was practically at the door waiting for them to tell me it was safe to walk off the ship and venture into the city.  I couldn’t wait to see familiar sites! 

I must give major credit to my awesome husband for a moment though.  In our alone time touring, our time touring with our cruise group, and in our venture to Bonn (still to come), I was so impressed with this photo that he captured of the front of the Cologne cathedral.  I just LOVE it!IMG_4610

Just after he snapped this photo, we ventured to the left of this photo and headed into the train station!  I was DETERMINED to make it to Bonn and back within less to 2-3 hours.

It. Was. Totally. Worth. It.

Take a look at the next photos we snapped.IMG_4612

This would be the house that I lived in for 6 weeks while I studied abroad.  I was disappointed to see that it’s not used for the same purpose anymore, but, all the more, it was exciting to see Henry’s face as he looked at the house, the surrounding area, and visualize FINALLY where I was as I spoke to him all that time ago…when our relationship really grew.  I even was able to take him to a main center of town to show him the Town Hall!  Mom and Dad, just behind me was the store at which I replaced my trust “House!” (aka, my Samsonite).IMG_4620

What was even more exciting for Henry and I is knowing that we were traveling in region of his paternal ancestors and my maternal ancestors.  This day provided us a lot of personal significance.

To add to that personal significance, our AMAZING maître d decided to have the wait staff slightly serenade us for our anniversary.

We made it look really classy…IMG_4655

After dinner, Mindy and I had encouraged the guys to take an optional tour which included …excuse me…FOCUSED on beer!  Well I certainly don’t drink beer (gluten anyone?), and Mindy’s busy growing new life Smile, so we wanted the guys to partake and enjoy!  They certainly enjoyed time with many of the other men onboard, and some other brave ladies, sampling a variety of Kolsch beers.  IMG_0357IMG_0358IMG_0359IMG_0362IMG_0363IMG_0364

At the end of the night, we repeated our activities from the night prior and closed down the lounge/bar with friends/fellow travelers.  This was definitely a highlight day for Henry and me!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rhine Getaway–Kinderdijk!

Well, our last post showed you our arrival into Amsterdam as well as our stay, and now it’s time to tell/show you our embarkation, first night, and first full day onboard! 

First of all, if you hadn’t heard, the four of us were fortunate to sail the maiden voyage of Viking Tor!  It was really exciting as we arrived to the cruise terminal and drove right out to the ship.  It’s incredible to describe in this world of strict security in travel as we are so accustomed to multiple levels of identification, but there’s a home-like feel to the ability to drive right up to the ship, step out of the vehicle, and be invited right onto the ship without any identification!  Perhaps that’s scary, but still.  We knew we were in the right place.


I think we boarded around 4:00pm (we had a long window of opportunity to board when we were ready), so the four of us had a fair chance to unpack and become acquainted with the ship.  Understand, the term ‘ship’ makes this vessel seem large, vast, and bustling with people.  This is not an ocean-going vessel, and the max guest capacity is 190. 

After our first cocktail hour and welcome briefing, we were so excited to experience our first dinner onboard in the dining room!IMG_4442IMG_4441

We were split up the first night simply because we did not make it down to the dining room right away, but we were completely fine with that.  It allowed us the opportunity to meet some other guests onboard!  Oh, and the food was UH-MAZE-ING!!!!!  By all means, please sign me up for Champagne Risotto, Creamy Spinach Soup, Roast Lamb Chops, and Walnut Ice Cream.  YEEEESSSSSS!!!!IMG_4444IMG_4445IMG_4447IMG_4451IMG_4452

By now, I know someone is bound to be wondering.  To answer your question; yes, I ate gluten free the entire trip, and O.M.G. I ate WELL and gluten free!!!!  More to come later on how Viking accommodated my gluten free need.

I show you the next picture, not really because I’m in it, but because the view in the picture gives a really great glimpse of the main entry onto the ship.IMG_4454

After our delightful meal, we decided to go to bed early seeing as how we had tired ourselves out in Amsterdam.  We would be sailing all through the night to make it to Kinderdijk which is a Unesco World Heritage Site because of the 19 windmills that still stand in this river town.  When we awoke the next morning, we were already docked in Kinderdijk, and it was an early morning to visit these incredible structures.  Henry really enjoyed seeing how the historical engineering of moving the water throughout the lands of the Netherlands has transitioned into the modern day engineering.IMG_4466

By the way, yes that would be my American husband wearing a US Customs and Border Patrol beanie…while visiting Europe.  Oh my.

Anyway, the sight of this stop on our voyage was certainly spectacular.    P.S. It was COLD this morning!  I believe 28 degrees was the accurate temp, and there was ice in the water below.IMG_4470IMG_4472IMG_4481IMG_4509IMG_4510IMG_4511IMG_4514

The last few pictures are in front of the working windmill that we actually had the opportunity to enter and walk through, even up to the top!  It was interesting to see how these really operate and move and fair amount of water.

The video is sideways, but you can see the main piece of wood running down the center of the windmill being turning by the wind outside!

After we enjoyed the views of Kinderdijk, we boarded Viking Tor around 11:15am as we began our trek to Cologne, Germany.  There was a significant amount of river to cover in order to make it to Cologne.  After all, look at the difference from this map!  The teal pin is precisely where we embarked our cruise, the pink pin is exactly where we docked in Kinderdijk, and the green pin shows where we docked in Cologne.  It’s pretty far, and it’s not a direct route after all (it’s a river).Kinderdijk Sail

During our sail time, we saw a few interesting things, and I caught a couple of realistic lifestyle moments while sailing.  Remember, we wanted this voyage to be a relaxing one Smile


If you have heard of the guy building Noah’s Ark, it’s true.  We totally sailed by it!  The thing is MASSIVE!


We thought this was a very interesting …vessel.


Our true welcome dinner was the second night, which we enjoyed after a long nap that afternoon Smile  We spent a tad more time getting ready for this dinner, but it honestly is still fairly casual.  No one dresses even in cocktail attire really, which is another reason we liked this option for our vacay!  As the sun began to set, we took some pictures out on the Aquavit outdoor terrace.IMG_4525IMG_4527

Dinner was AGAIN amazing, which you’ll see more pictures of in the video below.  We also took some time to take pics with friends we made onboard, including some trip highlight pictures of the men indulging in a particular adult beverage.  You’ll have to see the video to know what I mean.  Carolyn, Lane…as I know you’ll read this…I can’t help but think about how hard we were laughing at that moment in the lounge!

Enjoy the video, and I can’t wait to share our day in Cologne with you!  It was the destination I was most excited about before embarking!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rhine Getaway–Amsterdam!

We are so excited to share our fabulous getaway with everyone!  It was well worth the planning, the saving, and the excitement.  Honestly, I really don’t think we had much stress involved at all that I can recall.  I’ll share …as best I can…day by day because it’s going to be the best way to describe it all.

We started our journey on Friday at IAH, and, after we were graciously dropped off at the airport by my Mom, we found our way through the check-in process.  After check-in, we made our way to Terminal E to meet our glowing travel partners, Mindy and Gordon!  Glowing meaning they are expecting a sweet baby girl in September!  As they were departing just a bit before us, we had just a little while to chat with them in Pappadeaux’s before making our way to our lovely Economy Comfort seats on KLM!  Of course, that was not until Henry had made the comments he could expunge regarding “how it usually goes in business class.”  Yes, please proceed with crying him a river. Winking smile  We had a great flight on KLM (LOVE their service!), and we hit the ground running when we arrived in Amsterdam! 

The four of us had pre-arranged a private transfer in Amsterdam upon arrival, so, after finding our driver, he took us the scenic route to our hotel, the Doubletree Centraal Station which is just walking distance from one of the river cruise terminals in Amsterdam.  Each of us was thrilled that the Doubletree allowed us to check in so early!  After refreshing from the flight, we set out to walk around Amsterdam.  We found an interesting bar/café to stop at for a late breakfast to enjoy a much needed meal.  IMG_4400Our concierge also set us up for a cheese and wine tasting for the afternoon, and we were all impressed!  We weren’t expecting the class to be so professional and detailed.  They definitely make tasty cheese at Reypenaer Cheese in Amsterdam!IMG_4418IMG_4419IMG_4417

Each of us knows much more about aging cheese now.  Haha!

After a necessary nap and recharge time, we headed out on the canals again for dinner.  We honestly had not done very much research, even though I probably should have due to my dietary needs.  That said, I’d seen a few positive things about a certain Dutch restaurant.  We discussed and decided we would try it out.  After searching and searching to find the location, we went in to find a very…shall I say AUTHENTIC…Dutch restaurant.  Our American minds expected to just ask for a table to sit down.  It turns out, they almost didn’t seat us because we didn’t have a reservation.  Wow!  Please don’t send us out in the cold again to try to find another place to eat!!!  Thank the good Lord, they found us a table.  After Henry ordered his first beer to celebrate the finale of the Lent season (this was the thing he gave up), he was certainly not going anywhere Smile  He loved the beer!Haesje Claes Amsterdam We were each in for the dinner of a lifetime, and we didn’t even know it yet.  This was certainly a feast, and it was one that we all deem a winner, or in the top 3, for the entire trip.  Without a doubt, if you are in Amsterdam, you must must must visit Haesje Claes for one of your meals!Haesje Claes AmsterdamAs if our starters and main entrees weren’t large enough, we still opted for dessert.  I’m SO GLAD I did!  My gluten free pancake with made-from-scratch vanilla bean ice cream was the BEST DESSERT I think I encountered the entire trip. I cannot begin to describe the tastiness of this dessert!Haesje Claes Amsterdam

After we rolled ourselves back to the hotel for the night, we enjoyed a great night’s sleep before Henry and I arose early for breakfast at the hotel (AMAZING selection by the way!  Bravo Doubletree Centraal Station!).  We then started our journey through the canals of Amsterdam after a lively Saturday evening still lingered in the streets of Amsterdam.  Mind you, this Sunday morning is also Easter Sunday AND they had Daylight Savings overnight!  Nevertheless, we made it to the Anne Frank House line TWO minutes before they opened, and we were surprised that we made it inside the museum within about 15 minutes.  This was my second time to the museum (once in 2004), and I knew improvements and additions had been made. I’m so glad that we were able to see this, and, as with anything, I was happy to learn new information about the life of Anne Frank, her family, and the war beyond what I learned via second hand info as our theatre department worked through the play and heavy research when I was in high school.  I’d have to say waking up early, even after a long flight the day prior, was worth the visit.

After our return to the hotel, we ate lunch in the Sky Lounge on the top floor of our hotel, and we then made our way to our BRAND NEW Viking River cruise ship!  There’s more to come on that, but I’d like to try to give an accurate description of the prominence of river cruising…just on the Rhine; this doesn’t even count the many other rivers which have river cruising available across Europe and other countries.  From the top terrace of our hotel, we were able to count ELEVEN (11) ships that we were able to see.  As we traveled to our ship for embarkation, we quickly learned of several others meaning there were 15-20 ships awaiting embarkation the same day as us.  Understand there are many cruise lines, not all one, but I hope this accurately shows just how popular this form of travel has become!Rhine River Amsterdam Cruise ShipRhine River Amsterdam Cruise ShipRhine River Amsterdam Cruise Ship

In this last picture, you can see two river cruise ships in the center of the photo with a tug boat near the end of the ship most near the middle of the river.  That specific ship is ours!!!  More to come on our exciting river cruise!

Take a look at all of the pictures we took during our two days in Amsterdam!  It’s less than 2 minutes, I promise Smile