Wednesday, July 23, 2008
When we got in we were starving so we headed straight to the closest authentic Bavarian restaurant. Luckily most everyone in Germany speaks English so they were able to help translate the menu because German is not the easiest language to sound out or guess the words (although I got a little better at the end of the stay J ) We had our favorite meal this night since we had been in Europe. First of all the beers they serve are HUGE and are all locally brewed in Munich, they are wonderful. Trevor and I both had schnitzels (mine turkey) and they both came with different types of potatoes… to die for!
The next morning we explored the city around Marianplatz (central square in the town). The hotel we stayed at (my favorite hotel) was only about a 5 minute subway ride from Marianplatz so very easy to get to. Lots of shopping, a large open-aired market, restaurants, Beer Gardens, churches, and museums. We decided to do a 3 hour walking tour which ended up to be amazing. We both learned so much about the history of Germany, Munich, Beer Halls, the town being destroyed in WW1 and WW11, Hitler forming the Nazi party, bullet holes in the cement that missed Hitler, etc. Traditionally the Germans do not like to speak of Hitler but as the tour guide said, that was a part of Germany’s history and shows how far the country and people have come. It is also illegal to do the Hitler “sign” and we heard on the news of a man getting prison time for repeatedly showing the sign.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
We spent the weekend in Venice and I would have to start by saying it was by far my favorite place we have been to so far. The beautiful sparkling water, small winding streets, and endless canals made this unique Italian city unbelievably beautiful. Despite that it is SO very “touristy” but the beauty of the town explains why. We arrived into Venice from Nice late Thursday night and had to take a taxi cab to the water-taxi station. This taxi was the first car I had rode in since being in Europe. Needless to say it was a crazy high-speed race just like the taxis in Mexico. We then took a water taxi (sort of a small ferry) for about 40 minutes to the main area in Venice. We were so lucky as our hotel was right on the water and right across the street from the water taxi station. Venice is built on canals so there are absolutely no vehicles whatsoever in the town. This made the city even more charming.
When we woke up Friday morning I was actually able to see the town in the daylight and it was POURING down rain. I had heard from a few people that Venice is known for flooding so I thought to myself “oh no” but luckily the rained cleared out by around 3pm. The Paganelli Hotel we stayed at was such a perfect spot. We had several restaurants and cafes right on the water steps outside our door, tons of vendors, gondolas galore, and just minutes from the famous St. Marks Square.
We walked around all day Friday getting lost in the maze of streets. Venice is definitely a tourist trap as there are shops upon shops of the same souvenirs. My favorite stores were the jewelry shops with Murano glass bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc. Italy is known for their glass and had some of the most beautiful glass sculptures I have ever seen. Everyone has different prices so it was fun to shop around for the best deals. Other street vendors abundant in Venice are the men from Africa selling the knock-off Gucci, Prada, Coach, etc. bags and wallets. They are so funny as there are about 10 of them lined up in a row with a blanket filled with their merchandise. When you walk by them they say “Lady, Lady, which one you like?” and they are on you like a leech if you stop for a second. I was browsing them and did not think I had any cash but found 5 Euros so I pulled it out to see what they would give me for it. I ended up getting a cute “Gucci” wallet for only 5 Euros. Fake Gucci or Kmart special a cute wallet for around 8 bucks is hard to come by. The funniest part of the purse vendors is that it is illegal to sell the purses on the streets in Venice like they do. There are cops walking around everywhere (big old machine guns in hand) and when one vendors spots one coming their way they yell to the others and they will wrap the purses in the blanket and all run in a pack out of sight. It is extremely humorous to witness!
Venice is also famous for the amount of pigeons that reside there. I read online something like 5,000. The locals despise the dirty birds but it is again a tourist trap as all of the vendor kiosks sell bags of seeds for about 1 Euro for people to feed the birds with. Several people held the seed in their hand and let 5 or more pigeons crawl all over them. I found this disgusting as I know they are full of disease. On Saturday we woke up to hot weather around 90 degrees and a bit humid. It was a big day in Venice as it is the Redentore Celebration which is celebrating those who survived the plague back in the day. It is a huge celebration and HUGE party (similar to a 4th of July). We then did the famous gondola ride for about 45 minutes. It was so fun and peaceful gliding through the canals and under bridges as you will see in the video.
Out in the harbor hundreds and hundreds of boats started to emerge for the big celebration and fireworks display. Everyone decorated their boat, had music blaring, were dancing and having a great time. We got the perfect table right on the water at a café by our hotel. We sat there for about 4 hours until the fireworks started at 11:30. We enjoyed Italian wine, cheeses, bread, and of course had pasta for dinner. The fireworks display was beautiful (not as big as the Disneyland one but very close) and lasted for an hour.
We took our water taxi back to the train station today and when we were walking I all of a sudden felt what I thought was warm water being poured on me. Unfortunately this was not the case. A bird released a gallon of it’s nastiness all down my arm and ALL over my luggage. I stood there in disbelief when I realized what happened. Trevor ran to get napkins and the nice water taxi man came to help. He said the bird must have been an eagle because he had never seen that much crap before. The smell was horrid and after getting it off my arm we tried for my bag but the stench and residue would not come off. LUCKILY right next to us was a clothing boutique and they sold luggage there. Trevor went and dropped my old luggage off in an alley and I bought a new one. At least it wasn’t all over my clothes and hair I guess. We are now on the train to Munich ,Germany (6 hour ride). Trevor just got fined 50 Euros for not having the date written on his Eurail pass (Train ticket) but it actually was a miscommunication. Still they do not care, they took his visa right here sitting on the train.
Italy overall was so much more friendly than France. I love the Italian language (similar to Spanish), they love to sing and we heard people singing all of the time, and for the most part everyone is very nice, relaxed, and helpful. I would definitely come back and highly recommend it to anyone for a vacation suggestion. The landscape is going to be very different in Germany and I am excited to experience that. We are already passing through large rolling hills, fields of corn and grapes, and castles as we are passing through Austria.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Our hotel in Nice was “nice” and had a large balcony. The “lift” to get up to the 3rd floor was an old-style pulley system elevator that you would imagine in an old ancient house. I was hesitant to get on it but it worked out ok. We immediately went to the beach and there was miles and miles of shore with hotels, restaurants and shops. We witnessed several speedos and topless women. People were swimming, para-sailing, intertubing, boating and soaking up the sun. I dipped my toes into the Mediterranean but that is as far as it went as it felt cold to me!
We saw a little open-air street train cruising around and decided to catch the next one for a tour. The train drove around in the city past several old architectural buildings and streets. The city of Nice is very old and has several very cool narrow streets with big tall European style buildings enclosing the street. The train then made its way to the top of Castle Hill. It was such a beautiful lookout onto the beach and city of Nice. There was a little restaurant and gift shop at the top of the hill and we wondered around for about a half an hour before getting back on the next train.
We decided to have something different than the usual salad or sandwich for dinner and went to a little Mexican restaurant (I called it a Frexican restaurant). The owner was very nice and was from San Diego and the food was definitely not bad. It was different than Mexican food at home but we had chips and salsa, guacamole, and shared chicken fajitas. Needless to say it was a good change and we both had been craving Mexican food. After dinner we went back to the hotel so we could get an early start the next day. Luckily this room had a few more English speaking channels rather than just CNN and we were able to choose from a few different shows.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
We then made our way to the “red light” district of Paris which is where the original Moulin Rouge is. We weren’t able to make a show but I think that the outside windmill is very historic and famous when imagining Paris so it was definitely worth the trip down there. Sunday we went to the Louvre Museum (I read it is the largest museum in the world). This museum, as I mentioned before, is the home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s original Mona Lisa painting as well as where a majority of The movie the Da Vinci Code takes place. I was so excited to actually see the Mona Lisa in person as I believe it to be one of the most classic and most globally-recognized paintings in history. Of course there were several guards around it and you could not go within about 10 feet of it, but I was able to get some great pictures.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
We finally navigated to our first hotel, La Fleche d’ Or, which was a hotel we just booked online the night before. We were not sure of the area but wanted to get something reserved and then figure out a better hotel to stay at. The La Fleche d’ Or was decent and just a place to sleep as we were out exploring Paris until late that night. We ate our first meal in France and it just so happened we sat next to a nice lady who spoke English and who’s brother lives in Seattle. She was able to help us order as our server did not speak any English. I asked for tap water (which as I mentioned before is not common in Europe) and apparently the server was upset as she wanted to sell us a 6 dollar bottle of water. I got a toasted sandwich with cheese and chicken, and Trevor got a ham and cheese with an egg on top of his. (Eggs on the top of a toasted sandwich are very popular and delicious!)