Monday, September 28, 2009

Sweet Home Chicago

Arrived back in Chicago yesterday. After 13 hours of travel, we were exhausted. Gabrielle went to sleep at 7 and I followed at 8 (after watching the Bears beat Seattle!).

Of course everything didn't go completely as planned. We took the Sheraton taxi (which to my surprise was a Mercedes) and got the Prague airport an hour and a half before our flight. Plenty of time right? Only if United properly ticketed you a seat on the Lufthansa plane! UGH, so we spent 15 minutes (at 1.50 a minute) on the phone trying to resolve the problem with United. Finally with 20 minutes to board we got the crucial ticket number Lufthansa needed to get us on the plane. After that everything was pretty smooth.

We arrived in Chicago around 3 and finally got home around 4:30. On the taxi ride home I just rolled down the window and breathed in the sweet Chicago air.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Papal Tease

Today as been pretty busy so far. This morning Gabrielle and I walked to the Prague Castle-- carefully avoiding the Charles Bridge (which was packed with tourists). On our way we passed the Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain and ran into a sea of people. Hundreds of people were lined up and after first thinking this was the line to the castle we soon discovered that the Pope was in town and would be coming this way!

I immediately started thinking about what it would be like to see the Holy Father coming down a street we had just stumbled on. So we waited 15 minutes and then the bells began ringing and the police started pushing people back-- off in the distance we could hear police sirans. This was it!

And then the motorcycles appeared, next a police car, then a black sedan, another black sedan, another black sedan, a van, another van and then...that was it. Police started walking away and a huge groan sounded through the crowd. I just started laughing. How silly to think that we would be so lucky!


We arrived in Prague (Praha) last night. The train ride was long, and though we had first class seats the train itself was old and gray (just what you'd think of if someone asked you to picture a communist made train).

The city however is out of this world. I really had no desire to come here, and after the train ride I was ready to really dislike Prague, but this city is just beautiful.

After checking into the Sheraton (we were upgraded again, and the we went to get some food that Gabrielle could eat. In our Top 10 Prague book it mentioned a place called Jama that server really good Tex-Mex. Since it was close we decided to try it out. Boy was it a good decision. The food was delicious and the atmosphere fun. After we paid, the waitress asked us where we were from and subsequently told us that the Owner was from Chicago too! We ended up talking to Max briefly and he gave us an excellent guide book, Expats Survival Guide. He then recommended that we head to the Old City and walk the Charles Bridge. During the day this area is packed with tourists but at night the traffic is lighter and you can really see why this area is so poetic.

The streets are so narrow and cobbled stoned. The light reflecting off the water and stone buildings was awe inspiring. Unfortunately we are only staying here one day. We will have to come back here for a week

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roll Out The Barrell!

Yesterday was so busy, I had no time to post. First we went to BMW Welt (BMW World). After seeing the new X5 M, M3, X1, and a decked out 7 series, I think I need a new car. :) It was really a neat place. Kirstyn reallz got into the architecture of the building. The building was really cool. Unfortunatelz all the English plant tours were filled. :( Guess we'll just have to come back!

After that our beer/wurst tank was running low, so after we arrived to go to the German Technology museum we stopped for food. Gabrielle was able to get a tuna salad which she had been craving for a while (for some reason all the saugage and meat didn't appeal to her like it did to me).

The tech museum was reallz neat. I got a ton of pictures. You could spend days in the place wandering around.

Today we take a train to Prague at 12:44. We're all packed and ready to go. I reallz wish we could stay longer in Germany though.

Aaron, what beer am I supposed to try in Prague?

Sorry for any mistakes in the post, I'm using a European style keyboard -- driving me crayz!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"You should get lost"

Today we woke up early, 8am, and met up with Mark and Kirtyn and got lost in Munich. It was a lot of fun. We found a wonderful outdoor market, then Gabrielle navigated us to an amazing chocolate shop. Then we went to the Oktoberfest and it was awesome. So much meat and beer. :)

We had a reservation at the Hippodrom. 3 hours later we had finished 7 liters beer and eaten 2 whole chickens.

Now were back at the hotel, I'm using my friend's Mark dell mini computer. I think we're going to head back to our hotel and go to sleep.

Tomorrow we're going to go to the BMW Museum and the German Technology Museum.

PS Mark is also keeping a blog here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Man Heaven

Where can you get sausage, mustard, fried potatoes and sauerkraut? What is Germany.

We were in Cologne yesterday. The Cologne Dom (cathedral) is beautiful! We had a wonderful time, excellent food and beer. unfortunately the museums were closed because it was Monday.

Today we arrived in Munich. After a wonderful 1st class train ride, we met Mark and Kirstyn and went to the Augustiner Keller -- a very nice beer garden for the locals.

The hotel is very nice, and we were upgraded to a suite again. We are located across the street from the train station.

Unfortunately, we only have less than 15 minutes to post this blog for free. Thus, this one is short!

Don't forget -- the German food is AWESOME.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I AMsterdam

This morning we woke up a little later than usual and, because we were trying to meet Mark and Kirstyn, we didn't get a chance to work out.

We first took the trolley to the Van Gogh Museum campus. We found a nice place to eat breakfast outside. I had ham filled pannenkoeken, which was delicious, and Gabrielle had a fruit bowl.

We then went to the museum which was amazing. We got the audio tour tape and that helped alot. We even bought a print to bring home.

Next we went to the Heineken Experience which was quite neat. We learned all about how the beer was made. I asked a guy about Heineken Light, and he told me that it all gets shipped to the US--"Nobody drinks that here."

Then we got dinner at another horrible Mexican restaurant. If you're in Amsterdam, avoid mexican food--they don't seem to know how to make it here.

Finally we just got done with a very nice wine and cheese evening boat cruise. The weather is cooling down but it was still fun to be on the water. We are both exhausted and ready for a good night's sleep.

Tomorrow we leave for Cologne, Germany at 10:30. I am excited to head into Germany!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Space Cakes

Today we got up at 7:30 and went to the gym. Feeling better from the mexican pinata party that was in my stomach. I ran for 20 minutes.

We got a call from Mark and Kirstyn around 9:15. We met them at the Dam Square and then proceeded to get some coffee, beer and enjoy the canals and warm weather. The weather has been very nice the past couple days.

After getting some lunch, Gabrielle and Kirstyn went to the Handbag and Purse museum while Mark napped and I grabbed a snack. After that, we picked up Mark and quickly realized the day was getting late. We ran over to the Heineken Experience, however we were too late for the last tour of the day. We will try again tomorrow. We are also planning to see the Van Gogh museuem tomorrow. Then perhaps a boat tour through the canals over dinner.

We concluded the day with a thai dinner. All of us were ready to fall asleep at the dinner table (lots of walking, etc. today). Heading to bed now. I'm sure I will sleep very well tonight.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 2

We had a wonderful breakfast at Cafe Nielsen. I orderd a fried egg with bacon and toast. I'm not usually a fan of fried eggs but the waiter recommended it. It was actually delicious! They first put the toast down, then the bacon, then the friend egg on top of that, and finally covered it in cheese. I'll be making this at home.

I noticed in my last post I forgot to mention that I had a beer for dinner. Well, I actually had 3. I forgot the name of it, but it was good. From now on if it is not mentioned, just assume that I'm drinking. X-)

Today we got up late and worked out in the gym. We then went to breakfast and then headed to the flower market. The market was very pretty and I got a lot of pictures. We then walked through the shopping disctrict to Anne Frank's house.

The tour took about half an hour and put us in a somber mood. After watching so many History Channel specials on the WW2 its a little shocking to actually find yourself in such a historical location.

Afterwards we got a recommendation for dinner, however Gabrielle wasn't fond of the menu so we wandered around and found a Mexican restaurant. It was good for her because there was food she could eat, however I thought the food was pretty bad and now my stomach is not feeling well. We had a much easier time finding gluten free food in London (albeit not good food). All menu items were marked whether they were gluten-free, veggie, etc. The wait staff in London was also understanding. Here they are not as knowledgable and it has taken time to explain the allegery to them.

After dinner we found a gluten-free grocery store, BioMarkt. We stocked up on bread, chocolate spread and cookies--obviously for breakfast.

Tomorrow our friends Mark and Kirstyn arrive at 8am. We are excited to see them and wish them safe travels!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Amsterdam is absolutely beautiful. After arriving we took the quietest train we've every ridden into the center of the city and then took a taxi to our hotel, The Pulitzer. The staff was very helpful and due to Gabrielle's super-duper-elite-diamond-platinum-celebrity status we were upgraded to a executive suite! (Speaking of her elite status--I am now beginning to understand why she doesn't want to quit traveling. The threat of losing her status would be absolutely devastating. How in the world do normal people do it??? We had royal treatment at the Heathrow airport lounge--invitation only-- too! I'm likin' it.) Of course this is the only way I roll.

We just got back from a wonderful dinner at De Proeverij. I had a wonderful steak with shitaki mushrooms and onions. Gabrielle had delicious duck with peanut sauce. For desert I had an amazing chocolate cake and Gabrielle had some vanilla ice cream. The portions were not American style, however I appreciate the fact that my pants still seem to fit. :)

Compared to London which was dirty, loud, and rude -- Amsterdam has been beautiful, welcoming and relaxing. Tomorrow we plan to tour the Flower Market and the Anne Frank house (which is just a block from our hotel). Gabrielle is also trying to convince me to go for a run. I think I'd rather find a coffee shop.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clean shave

After posting the last entry, we discovered the hotel Club Lounge with internet access. Sooo, here's another entry for your entertainment.

While strolling this afternoon, we ran into a gentlemen's shaving shop. I experienced my first straight-edge razor shave and it was fantastic!!! I ended up buying some India Lime aftershave that Gabrielle is going crazy over.

Next stop: Brick Street to check out the Indian restaurants that truly are supposed to be delicious.


Yesterday we took a bus into London. Our hotel is near Picadilly Circus. It reminds me of time square in New York. Unfortunately it rained all day, so it was very difficult to do any sight seeing. We found a neighborhood that we were told had great \indian food--but wound up being very disappointed in the restaurant we chose. Sigh. Later, we found a nice restaurant called Wolsely for tea. Gabrielle was happy because they had gluten free poppy seed cake! Apparently it was good (she didn't share!). We went to the hotel bar for some late night drinks. Came across an old Scottish man that talked our ears off! We needed another drink after he left so we could unwind.

Today Gabrielle and I did quite a bit of walking. We saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard. We just got done eating some authentic British food (fish and chips, and Chicken Tikka Masala). It was mediocre at best. The beer however has been good. :)

Right now we are at an internet cafe across the street from Nelson's Column. We are planning on doing some shopping and more strolling around.

Tomorrow we leave for Amsterdam at 3. The trip has been exciting so far, can't wait for the next leg of our adventure.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Greene King

Because of logistical reasons we were unable to make it to Bath today. Instead we headed back
into Oxford where Joel showed us around some more.

We also stopped by some pubs and drank plenty of good English Ale. I bought some Greene King from the grocery store and am enjoying it now. We then road a double decker bus home which was fun.

When we got back to Tanya and Joel's house, Tanya's friend Ulrike was visiting. Ulrike grew up in Lemgo, the town in Germany where Gabrielle was a foreign exchange student. They seemed to enjoy talking to each other and reminiscing about the goings-on of Lemgo.

Tomorrow Gabrielle and I head into London, which should be exciting.

Alright, my youngest nephew is forcing everyone into a game of Apples to Apples, cheers!

---Okay, Apples to Apples is over. Eli won and is very happy about it. :) After the boys went to bed, Tanya, Joel, Gabrielle and I played Euchre for a couple hours. We had a great time, but the teams were set up wrong. Gabrielle and Joel played against Tanya and me. Joel and Gabrielle kicked our butts in both the games we played!! They tried to be gracious winners, but they weren't--in fact, Gabrielle is requiring me to post this important part of our trip so I won't forget it. What are you gonna do? :(

Sunday, September 13, 2009


So we woke up at noon. :) We slept very well. After a shower and some coffee Joel and Tanya took us to the Cotswolds. A picturesque English village. The buildings and land were absolutely beautiful. We had lunch at a little pub and had some wonderful English ale. Right now we are home and getting ready for dinner. Tomorrow we plan on taking a trip to Bath to see some old Roman bath houses. All-in-all, a very relaxing and fun day!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jet lag

This morning (9-12) at 8am we arrived safely at Heathrow airport. I was a bit stressed out about the flight since I haven't flown in a while. Gabrielle on the other-hand was in her element and even said "I really miss being in airports."

Getting through security was a breeze--the TSA was actually helpful and good humored, unfortunately I can't say so much about the United flight attendants. The cabin in economy was pretty gross. A passenger behind us had a broken chair. The metal arm that held up my video display was broken (a previous passenger had tried to fix it with a rolled up M&M wrapper to no avail), and the movie was stop and go. Southwest is such a better airline, I really wish they flew international.

Anyway, when we arrived my brother-in-law, Joel, was there to pick us. The whole driving on the left hand side is pretty freaky. I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to it. The drive was very nice, this area is very green with lots of rolling meadows and trees.

When we got to the house, we immediately took a nap. Joel and Tonya, my sister-in-law, said that we would not want to get up but it was important to do so to get through the jet lag. Boy was she right, after a two hour nap I had no desire to get up! However after a very warm shower and breakfast I was feeling pretty good.

We then went into Oxford and got a walking tour of the campus. Oxford is beautiful and it felt really good to walk around and breath in the fresh air--especially after 8 hours in a plane! I bought 2 post cards and took a lot of pictures.

We are now back at home making gluten free pizza. I'm drinking a Carlsberg ("Probably the best beer in the world" - their slogan) and relaxing. I think we will sleep very well tonight.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Europe here we come!

Gabrielle just finished packing all of our clothes in to two carry on suitecases. I can't believe everything fit. Somehow by rolling everything up we were able to pack all our clothes and still have room!

I ended up calling Verizon global service to get my Blackberry World Phone unlocked. We have a Verizon sim card but would like the option of using a European sim card if we need to. The process was pretty straight forward but did require that I use our existing sim card to access a few of the menus the technician walked me through. Can't wait to see if it really works. I also found out that by owning a World Phone I could receive a free simcard from Verizon. Will have to pick that up after our trip though.

Well by this time tomorrow we'll be high over the Atlantic, Cheers!