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Saturday, June 29, 2013

DAY 46 – Everyone's TOP destination in Europe

May 4 – Trains, Plane, Metro – How to Pack Light

We had a full day of traveling from Brugge, Belgium to Rome, Italy.   100% of the hosts we have talked to have said Rome is their favorite city.  We began early by taking a train to Brussels. It was sad that we didn't have time to take in this lovely city. We had found an inexpensive connection to Rome with Ryan Air that left from Brussels, but we didn't have time to visit the city.
  There are some horror stories on the internet about this airline, so we were a bit apprehensive. First of all they have strict rules with carry-ons. Size limit of our packs had to fit in a box - an area 55 x 40 x 20 and it could only be 10 kilo (about 22 pounds). Then there was the rule of nothing else in your hands; no purse, no camera, no water bottle, no food, no computer, no book...nada! 

 So we wore many layers of clothes (and underwear) and stuffed our pockets. We made sure when we figured out our clothing two months ago that our shirts, pants, jackets all had many pockets. We both wore our light jacket and our rain coats. I had on my hat and neck scarf, too, so we were ready. They did look at us funny, though, when we went through the scanner and had to take everything out of our pockets and take our coats off. Then, of course, I had to be “patted down” because of my artificial hips. This is always so fun, but this time I really got patted down everywhere. Mmm.... When we boarded, there was absolutely no weighing of anything or checking of dimensions. All that worrying for nothing, but better to be prepared! We were definitely warm while waiting in the airport! Too bad we didn't take any pictures. HA!

Osprey Kesgtrel 48
What is in my backpack: (I have an Osprey Kestrel 48)

2 pairs of walking/comfortable shoes
1 pair flip flops
2 pair capris
1 pair long black water-proof pants
1 swimsuit
6 short sleeved tops
1 black long sleeve knit top
5 pair Smart Wool socks
5 changes of underwear
2 skirts (one long/one knee length)
neck scarf
knit warm hat
baseball cap
light hoodie jacket with pockets
rain jacket with pockets and hood
Pack-it Cube
Cube with Toiletry items (inc. towel & wash cloth)
Cube with hair items & misc.
Down Pillow
Sleeping Liner
Postcard "Thank-You"s to give to hosts
Few Snack Items
We had our first experience with the metro in Rome – mmm....quite confusing, but we got the hang of it by the 3rd day. We arrived at Paola's flat around 11:30 at night. We felt very lucky that she accepted us as we had many “declines” in Rome. It's the most touristic city in Europe and the hosts there get several requests each day. We thoroughly enjoyed Paola for the next three days.
We loved Paola and her taking time with us and for us!  Thanks Paola!!
  She was busy with some projects for work, but took time for us in the evenings. She cooked us dinner all three nights and we had so many enriching conversations. She lived alone (no animals or anything), so her place was spotless. Here are some photos of the meals she fed us. She taught us to make bruschetta: this is an antipasta dating back to the 15th century.  It consists of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, or cheese.  We put on chopped tomatoes, parsley, and added oilive oil and salt on this one. Bruschetta is usually served as an appetizer.
Bruschetta - a popular appetizer in Italy

We cooked potatoes for her and she made a rice and asparagus dish to go with it.

This was our beautiful couch that we slept on for 4 nights while in Rome.

Paola loved making pasta dishes; this one had peas and mushrooms

This pasta dish had zucchini and onions

UDATE: 101 days up 101 days to go

June 28 – Our ½ -way mark for Europe Trip

What better place to celebrate our ½ way European trip than Salzburg, Austria? Two of Shari's “favorite things” are Mozart and Sound of Music and they are both found here. 
Broadway - 1959 / Film - 1965
Mozart composed his first piece when he was 5 years old
We had a wonderful time going to some of the best places in Salzburg which honor Mozart and Maria (M & M, which also happens to be Shari's favorite candy – plain of course), so you'll have to continue reading the blog posts until we get to day 101 to find out what all we did. 
M & M's - Shari's Favorite Candy - just like Mozart and Maria

 Be assured that music is involved! In fact we even did a couple of short videos. That will be around the first of August, so stay tuned! Have a wonderful 4th of July everyone (for those of you in the United States anyway).  We'll be thinking of the BIG fireworks display at the Idaho Falls green belt while we are in Switzerland.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DAY 44 & 45 What a Quaint Little City Brugge is!

May 2 & 3 – Typical Living with a Flemish Family

Jos and Natasja had told us to make sure we tried some Shrimp Coquettes in Brugge after they dropped us off, so after we found our host family, we set off for a quick trip to the old city in Brugge and to buy some quick dinner.  We ate part of them before remembering to take a picture, but you get the idea....kind of like a chiken nugget, but with shrimp.  quite tasty!
Our first "fast food" in Europe
Before we totally leave Holland, I have to show you my two favorite cookies ever...I wish I could bring some home with me.  They were so good.
One was an Almond Dutch Windmill cookie.  I remember having something like this when I was a child.  The other was a Struppe Waffle Cooky with syrup amazing!
Brugge is the capital and largest city in West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium.  We spent both days in the historic city amazing!  When we walked into the first square area, I just couldn't believe my eyes.  It was really breath taking - magnificent structures in grandeur and in size.
City Hall

The Church of Our Lady
The Old Belfry

The architecture of Brugge, from the Middle Ages until modern times, is principally characterized by brick Gothic, and particularly by a style of construction known as travĂ©e brugeoise . This type of construction was well established in the early 16th century and, with some later variations, it was maintained until the 17th century. It also became the main inspiration for 19th-century restorations.  Enjoy a tour of historic Brugge!

Entrance into Historic Brugge from one of the Gates

Cute little Gazebo and Garden

There were swans galore and beautiful ponds and canals

We watched this swan make her nest by bringing over small piece of twigs and then dragging over larger ones.  then she snuggled into it....she definitely has nesting instincts.
View from Rozenhoedkaai

Lookin' a little cooky in my hat that Ingrid gave me (I lost my NYC hat)  :(

So many doors with ornate decor over them

Is this trimmed in real gold?

The Nunnery in the 17th century

Posing by one of many canals in the area

There seem to be plenty of "statues" to entertain the tourists

Panoramic view of one of the Squares.  There were several throughout the city.
Brugge is famous for lace-making.  Lace blossomed in Flanders in the 16th century. Needlepoint lace, which developed in Italy, was predominantly made in Brussels while bobbin lace is believed to have originated in Brugge. The latter requires thousands of painstaking and meticulous movements of bobbins and pins. Each lace-maker had her own patterns, which stayed in the family and were handed down through generations.

Belgium is famous for its chocolate, too.  YUM!!
Guy & Marjan ready to bake (can't remember what it was called)
 Our host family had a beautiful 3 level home which was decorated so beautiful.  We had our own large room and the bathroom was great! (Hot water, not just warm!)  They had a large back yard, huge kitchen, family room, computer area, laundry room, huge attic area that was a flat in itself. 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
This was our "couch"...a real Queen-sized bed

Annabelle & Sam (2 young adults and VERY smart) with their mom and dad - Guy & Marjan

Monday, June 24, 2013

Days 42 & 43 - Last Host for Holland then on to Belgium

April 30 & May 1 - Lisse Couch Surf Hosts

How can we leave Holland without telling you about our wonderful hosts - Natasja and Jos?

Our hosts in Lisse, Netherlands

Keukenhof with its beautiful flowers is a very touristic sight as you can imagine and they get several requests every day for people to stay with them.  We were very lucky that they chose us.  They were so kind and their two cats (which we never got a picture of) were like children.  These two picked us up from the train station, fed us, talked philosophy, gave us insights to so much about their culture, and brought us back down to earth with their simple life.  Their house was very old, with a garden, an upstairs with one bedroom, an office, a sewing room, and a bathroom.  Downstairs had a nice country kitchen and large family/dining area.  I was so sad that I didn't take but just a few pictures.

They put down a mattress for us in Natasja's sewing/craft room.
The shower was unique - we have actually seen several like this since.

They had fun serving us some lovely Dutch food.

We were surprised as to how many dishes they could present without meat

These are vegetarian sausages that were really good & greens from their garden

Please sir....may I have more? 

Nasaja made a really rich chocolate dessert that two us two days to finish (except Rich)

Keukenhof is situated close to Lisse, a town in southern Netherlands.

Lisse, southern town in the Netherlands

 It celebrated its 800-year anniversary in 1998, although there is an indication that there was already a settlement there in the 10th century.  In the Middle Ages, Lisse was small; there were only 50 houses in 1500.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, Lisse was home to many estates of rich merchants and nobility. Yet in the following centuries, every one of these estates (except Keukenhof) was removed to make way for the cultivation of bulb flowers.
 The sandy soil in Lisse's surroundings were highly suitable for its growth provided the soil was fertilized. The nearby dunes were excavated and forests cut down progressively over time for more fields for the flower business. This brought employment and prosperity to this area.  In the 20th century, the bulb flower business continued to boom, resulting in the establishment of auction and trading houses, large-scale cultivators and cooperatives.
Their home was similar to this - in a complex with other homes.

Today, Lisse exports bulb flowers in large quantities to over a hundred countries worldwide.

Natsja and Jos drove us to our next destination:  Brugge, Belgium.  We paid them in gas money instead of taking the train, which was so much more enjoyable.  They were happy to visit one of their favorite cities.
Ok Dave & Phil - what kind of car is this one?
Dike System in the North Sea
Many cities in the Netherlands are built on dikes. In the decades that followed the deadly flood of 1953, Dutch engineers set out to build a new kind of barrier against the sea. They steadily replaced the old dike system, which had been in place since the medieval ages, and created 3­50 miles of what many consider the safest levee system in the world.

These photos show boats coming through the locks across the sea.  Sometimes the cars would have to wait for hours for the boats to go through.