Jul 19, 2010

Nita & Donnie Visit Frankfurt

My aunt and uncle, Nita and Donnie, came to visit Frankfurt for a few days! Unfortunately, they arrived just in time for the hottest days of the year, and with no air conditioners in homes, restaurants or stores, it was quite roasty. But we made the most of it!

On Friday evening, we all went to Atschel's, one of our favorite traditional German restaurants. The four of us shared the Frankfurt platter, which has tons of meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut. Don't forget the fried apples for dessert!

Looks like a Thanksgiving Feast

After dinner, we went for a stroll around the city, enjoying the cool air of the evening. Brian took these really cool pictures of the Romer Platz at sunset.

On Saturday, we went on a boat ride down the Rhine River with some of my coworkers. The sun was out in full force, so it was a warm cruise through the valley, but the blue skies made the scenery quite beautiful!

Me and Donnie on the boat

Fun family!

We saw several castles along the way

And lots of beautiful vineyards

Coolin' off in the shade!

On Sunday, we stayed cool in our apartment through the afternoon. When some clouds moved in, we went for a walk through Grunberg Park, which is just a few blocks from our house. I love that park in the summertime - it's so vibrant and lush! For dinner, Brian grilled some delicious steaks, pineapple, corn, and we even tried grilling avocado! It was quite the grill-tastic feast. Brian has really earned the title of Grill Master :)

Nita and Donnie caught their train to Dresden on Monday, where they will be visiting other relatives till the end of the month. We can't wait to see them in August and hear all about their travels in Germany!

Jul 17, 2010

Normandy with the Wolff's

For 4th of July weekend, Brian and I traveled to Normandy, France to meet up with the Wolff family. Joe, Allison, Mckenzie, and Taylor Wolff are my life-long family friends. They've been my neighbors, vacation buddies, and a huge part of my life, so I was really excited to see them!

On Friday, Brian and I left work a little early and drove to Reams, France, where we were really surprised to find a beautiful, fun city. We picked Reams only because it was a big city half-way between Frankfurt and Normandy, but it turned out to be an excellent destination! Brian and I definitely agreed that we want to go back and spend time there. We got to Reams in time for a delicious dinner at the restaurant pictured below, which was located on the main street where there were plenty of people outside, enjoying the warm weather.

Main street in Reams

After dinner, we wandered around and found the Reams Cathedral, which was one of the more beautiful cathedrals we've seen!

The next morning, we got on the road early to make it to Normandy by mid-morning. When we drove up to our bed and breakfast, Brian's exact words were, "I feel like a princess!" haha! But seriously, it was a gorgeous French chateau. I couldn't believe we got to stay there for the next two nights. The Wolff's had arrived 2 days earlier, and it was so great to see them! Hugs all around! Then Brian and I got the official tour, ooh-ed and ahh-ed over every room, and then it was time for sight-seeing!

The crew in front of our B&B - can't believe we're in France together!

The amazing host and hostess, Iain and Maureen!

The other host, Mosey! "This way to your room!" is what I know he was thinking

The view from our beautiful room on the third floor

The Wolff's had rented a Mercedes hatch-back that had a little more space than our Accord, so we all piled into their car. Allison rode in the trunk so that we could all go together - thanks Ali! Saturday's itinerary was to visit Mont Saint-Michel, a unique island in northern France. It was so beautiful, it looked fake as we drove up.

Is that a cardboard cutout?

Touring around the island was quite a hike - lots of uphill walking! It was so beautiful, though, and so different from anything I've seen before. When the tide is out, the island is surrounded by land, but when the tide comes in, your car better not be parked too close! Unless it's amphibious.

The girls

Throughout our walk, Joe read us lots of interesting facts. The abbey dates back to the 1400s, but as a fortification, the island was an important stronghold in the 6th and 7th centuries!

During our walk around the abbey, I have to admit that we weren't completely focused on the history. It was so fun to catch up with the Wolff's! Mckenzie and Taylor had just finished a trip to Nairobi, and it was great to hear their stories. We definitely heard, "S'il vous plaît!!" from a tour guide, who was trying to get us to be quiet.

After our self-guided tour around the abbey, we stopped at a restaurant with a great view for some refreshing beverages. It was so nice to enjoy the sun and good conversation with great friends.

The view

As we were walking down from the restaurant to our car, we noticed that the tide was starting to come in. I was amazed by how fast the water was moving. As we looked closer, we noticed a ton of fish swimming in the with the water! So we decided to go fishing :) We took off our shoes and started to wade in the ankle to knee deep water, looking for fish.

The hunt

After chasing around a few fish in deeper water, we figured out that the easiest fish to catch had moved a little faster than the water, so they were flopping around in the sand. So, we started grabbing them and throwing them back into deep water. Kind of slimy, but it was a lot of fun!

I'll help you, fishy!

That evening, we enjoyed an incredible dinner back at our B&B. The owner of the chateau, Maureen, joined us for happy hour. She was hysterically funny, and she was so interesting to listen to. "I shopped and shopped for chateau's, and I finally had to convince the previous owner of this one to let me see it by telling him I'd pay cash." Who pays cash for a chateau?? Very fun British lady. Iaian is a Scottish chef who runs the place with Maureen, and he had been preparing our dinner all afternoon. It was one of the best meals I've ever had, hands down - fresh and tasty salad, a steak fillet with foie gras on top, and chocolate mousse for dessert. Yum, yum, yum!

The next day was 4th of July, so we went to visit the D-Day beaches. Our first stop was at Arromanches, where artificial ports had been constructed to aid in logistical movement during the Allied invasion. Parts of the ports still remain, which you can see in the picture below. As you can see, it was a beautiful day!

Then we drove to the Normandy American Cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach. The cemetery and museum were powerful, especially on the 4th of July. We saw lots of Americans dressed in their red, white, and blue! First we went through the museum, which had a lot of personal accounts of young men who had sacrificed their lives on 6 June 1944.

After the museum, we took a tour of the cemetery. The memorial below has the names of over 1,500 men who died, but their bodies could not be found.

Because it was the 4th of July, there was a band at the memorial playing patriotic songs, which definitely added to the atmosphere. The Star Spangled Banner was definitely my favorite, so I videoed that portion of the concert.

We walked down to the water after the tour. It was a gorgeous day with lots of people out enjoying the sun, which made it hard to imagine what our soldiers must have felt when they saw the beach for the first time.

Deauville was next on the agenda, and it has to be the most adorable city in France. I could just imagine a little French kid skipping around singing Frère Jacques. The architecture and landscape were all so...French! It was a great conclusion to the day!

Enjoying ice cream after dinner, Gene Kelly style

On our last day with the Wolff's, we visited the Forbes chateau before we had to get on the road. I wouldn't mind living here, would you?

It was a wonderful vacation, and we were so lucky to get to experience it with the Wolff's! If anyone is looking for a cool place to stay in France, definitely check out the Manoir de la Riviere! It was awesome, and we would highly recommend it!