Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir

DAY 22

It was rise and shine very early this morn to head on over to gay Paris. Of course pronounced Pair-E! Duh. Almost the entire day was a travel day and my allergies/sinuses are really starting to bother me. I don't know if it was the horses yesterday or a coincidence, but with the hot/cold temps in Switzerland yesterday and lack of sleep, I'm not surprised I am feeling some kind of unwell. I'm just glad it's not my stomach. Knock on wood. I've been so lucky! 

 About three hours (and one nap) into the drive we stopped at our first French comfort stop. It was by far the nicest truck stop we have been to all trip and had free bathroom. Score. I got a pain au chocolate which I was unimpressed with, but had wanted to try. I had never had one before and this one looked way better than it tasted. That usually seems to case with pastries. This stop also had a mini mart just like all the other stops in the other countries. I love looking at all the local snacks (chips and candy) at these. This one had a of cookies and chips I wanted to try, but I refrained. Perhaps the most interesting chips I saw were Cheeseburger Lays potato chips and Roasted Chicken Lays potato chips. They were both large bags so I didn't buy them. One surprise here was that I finally spotted Vitamin Water, but no Vitamin Water Zero. Bummer. In a few more days I can drink as much as I want!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Cowbell Please

DAY 21

I slept like a baby last night and woke up to a rainy Lucerne. I ate breakfast and then the bus headed to Mt. Pilatus. This mountain sits 7000 feet above sea level, so it now beats out the Eagle's Nest as the highest I've ever been. (Mountain wise that is. Nudge, nudge.) We took a cog train up the mountain and got spectacular views along the way, until we started getting to the very top. On the way up we saw cows on the mountain too. And, they had cow bells on. We heard them! Real cow bells. On real cows. Woohoo. It was awesome to hear cow bells in their real setting and not just "fake ones" along a race course which I love hearing also. Of course all I could think of when hearing these bells was Christopher Walken on an old famous SNL sketch saying he had a fever and the only prescription was more cowbell. Love it!

As we got further up the mountain the clouds got thicker and thicker and the views hazier and hazier. By the time we reached the top of the mountain we were smack in the middle of a cloud. My head was literally in the clouds. As cool as that sounds and actually was, there was no view from the top of the mountain. This was a slight bummer but you can't win them all and it was still awesome to be up there. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rain rain go away!

DAY 20

OMG. Have I really been traveling Europe for 20 days now? I can't believe it.  20 amazing days. With four more to go, I don't want this trip to end. With Switzerland today and tomorrow, then Paris for two days, then back to London for one day, I am going to continue to take it all in and enjoy every minute of it. 

This morning we were up pretty early again because today was mostly a travel day. I am so glad we are leaving Nice today because it was stormy.  (What's interesting is that yesterday, our tour guide told us Nice gets as much rain as London. However, it rains more often in London with less accumulation. In Nice it doesn't rain that often, but when it does, it really comes down.) When I woke up the sky was dark, the trees were swaying, and I knew a storm was-a-coming. By the time breakfast was over, it was torrentially pouring. Or more like monsooning. If that happened yesterday I would have been so upset, but it didn't, so booyah! I got my incredible beach day on the French Riviera and am so grateful to have had it. What a difference a day makes. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm getting spoiled

DAY 19

After sleeping like shit after drinking way too much last night, I surprised myself by getting up at eight, (we had no wake-up call this morn for the first time all trip!) and getting ready for my run along the promenade of the French Riviera. Hangover or no hangover, (no hangover thank you very much!) I was not missing this opportunity to run along the Mediterranean. First things first though, water, water, and more water. I was def still dehydrated. Then I had to go ahead and re-check what I wrote last night at the end of yesterday's post. I had written 90 percent of it before I started drinking, but decided it would be okay to finish before going to bed. Turns out, I'm an okay drunk writer. I didn't have to fix anything. Alrighty. Since I didn't eat dinner last night, I knew I had to eat something for breakfast before my run. And because I am in France, I had a croissant. But of course. And a piece of cheese. Look how French I am! Both were fabulous. Then I drank some more water and headed out for my run. Our hotel is literally across the street from the Mediterranean Sea and the Riviera promenade. There was no shade or water to be found along the way, but the scenery was unreal. It put my gorgeous Hudson River runs to shame. I am getting spoiled here. 

After my run, I did a quick hand wash of some clothes and then headed out to the beach. Although the hotel has a great roof deck pool, I wanted to hit the beach and take full advantage of being here. How could I not? I  could have either lied on the rocks on a towel (um...yeah...no thanks!) or rent a chair with a cushion and an umbrella for 19 euro. (For the record, in South Beach its $10 to rent a cushioned chair and an extra $15 for an umbrella so this wasn't bad at all. Especially because my mom and I buy the chairs for the day in SoBe every time we go.) I know it's sounds a little expensive but I am on vacay! And besides the additional excursions I have paid for, I have spent very little money thus far. A majority the money spent has been on meals. And a girl's gotta eat. Especially this girl! So I went for the chair!! I got out there at 10:15 and had to leave around 1:30 (since we are leaving for an excursion at 2:00) so it was worth it to me. In case anyone doesn't know me well, I LOVE the beach so I couldn't not do this. I passed up the opportunity to go into town to just chill at the beach all day. My first relaxing day all trip and I welcomed it. It was heaven. I had a solid three hours out there and loved every minute of it. And as long as I was treating myself to the beach day, I ordered lunch too delivered right to my beach chair (Beef carpaccio with pesto and parmesan cheese hunks. Ummm, yum!). Living it up a bit today. If not today, then when? You know? That's why I went on this trip after all; to do things I haven't ever done or wouldn't necessarily normally do. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I need to marry rich

DAY 18

Today we woke up the earliest we have in a while to hit the road to The French Riviera. We will be making stops in three different countries today which is pretty cool, if I do say so myself.And today, it finally happened... I had to repeat an outfit. After 18 days, it was time to re-wear a dress. Aaaahhhh! Oh the humanity!  I actually have a few others I haven't worn yet, but they are nicer and I don't want to stretch or sweat through them so repeating is my option. I think I'll survive though. At least they are clean from laundry. 

After breakfast, (yummy fresh ricotta for me again) we headed out to Pisa. We got there pretty early to beat the crowds and headed over to their Duomo and the famous Leaning Tower. It was pretty incredible to see in person. What wasn't so incredible was trying to get the perfect picture there. The sun was out right over the tower which made it rather difficult to get a non-dark photo. Eventually the sun got behind the tower and we were able to get some decent pics. It was extremely hard to get the perfect angle for the cliche holding-the-tower pic. After many many takes, I finally got one. Nothing great, but it'll do. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Under the Tuscan Sun

DAY 17

Today is one of the days I was most excited about since the start of this trip. Tuscany. All I could think about was the movie Under the Tuscan Sun and how I wanted to see that beautiful countryside and eat that delicious food.

I slept a full eight hours last night which was the most sleep I have gotten all trip. For breakfast this morn there was fresh ricotta cheese. I ate it plain and it was so good! A great start to the day. Some fuel in this engine. Then it was on to bus on our way to the hilltop Tuscan town of San Gimignano. On our way there we stopped at a viewpoint of the Florentine skyline called Piazzale Michelangelo. As I've previously stated, I am a sucker for an aerial view and this didn't disappoint. It was really clear out and I could see all the major sites of Florence from up there. Stunning. Then it was off to San Gimignano. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Big hands does not equal you know what...

DAY 16

Off to Florence we go! On our way to Florence we basically backtracked a bit the way we came into Rome. We made our usual coffee/bathroom break. This one had free bathrooms and no toilet seats. However, this was the first place this entire trip that finally had a zero calorie beverage besides Diet Coke and water. They had Powerade Zero! I was so excited to see it that I bought two. Apparently zero calorie juices don't exist here and it's been pretty irritating for me. Sometimes I just want something besides water (Like Vitamin Water Zero) to drink and I hate drinking my calories (unless its alcohol. Duh). On a trip like this too, where I am eating so much, I like to save any calories I can. So basically, this was a treat. 

From the comfort stop, it was about another hour to Florence and we were ready to start the day. When we got to our drop off point, Santa Croce Basilica, we were introduced to some local specialities. Since Florence is known for its gold and its leather, we got orientations on both of them at two local stores. Similar to Rome, Florence also has a lot of work by Michelangelo. Dude got around! This afternoon we had three hours of free time to do our own thing. Of course I wanted to explore and sight see on my own. I had my map and list of places I wanted to see so I went in my merry way. Florence isn't a very big city so I didn't have too much ground to cover or even that many places to see. But first things first, I had to grab lunch. I once again didn't want to waste time at a sit down place so I grabbed a tomato and mozzarella sandwich on focaccia and ate it on the go. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No lines, No problem

DAY 15

Good morning Rome. Today I got to hang with three out of four of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Well not really, but I got to see the work of their namesakes. And man, that Michelangelo fellow sure got shit done around here. Although I slept like crap, I had a pretty good breakfast at the hotel. I had some fruit and this Nutella filled, cinnamon sugar coated mini donut. Heaven. Our first trip this morning was to the Vatican City. We were told last night that we need to have our knees and shoulders covered. Um, none of my dresses go below my knees. I have a pashmina for my shoulders so no big deal but I figured I'd be okay with my longest dress. As soon as I got down to breakfast, about four women asked me if I had anything longer and offered to lend me leggings. All the mommies were so worried for me. I told them I'm sure it would be fine but I'd grab my yoga capris just in case. As soon as I went down to the bus, our leader Andi gave me a look immediately and I knew I had to put on the capris. Fine fine. I just looked a bit tacky but it wasn't for too long so I survived. 

For part of our included tour package for this trip, we got to use a separate private priority entrance (no line to wait in) to the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica,  a private tour, and access to the Bramante Staircase (which is not open to the public). The Pope was not in town today so there was not a chance of a sighting, but it also made the Vatican a little less crowded. A little. It was still a zoo. Our tour guide moved kind of slow and it was pretty annoying. When I go to places like that I like to move at my own pace and sometimes guided tours are too slow for me. For the average person I'm sure it's totally normal, but for ADD me, not okay.  However, to not have to wait in the long ass lines to enter made it worth it. The most impressive part of the Vatican tour was obviously The Sistene Chapel. It's pretty amazing to think how old it was, how long it took, all the details put into it, and how it was actually physically done. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

That's one big Salami

DAY 14

Everyday this trip, when wanting to do, eat, or, buy something I've been thinking to myself and sometimes saying out loud "When in Rome..." Today I could say it and really mean it! But it took a few hours to get there. We left Venice bright and early. A water taxi picked us up at the hotel after breakfast to take us off the island and to the bus. On the water taxi, as we pulled into the main dock, we saw all the boats loading up on produce, drinks, kegs, laundry and so much more. What a way of life! I can't even imagine. It's a lot of manual labor and to-and-froms. I guess if you are used to it, it's normal, but as beautiful as Venice is, I don't think I could live there. 

Along the way to Rome we made our usual morning comfort stop and a lunch stop. They both had free bathrooms, and for the second time in Italy, the toilet didn't have a seat. This must be decently common here but I just can't get on board with it. Its too low, and call me crazy, but I like the extra layer of seat between me and the bowl. At the second stop, we most def we were in Italy because of the ridic amount of Ferraris in the parking lot. Hot damn those cars are sexy. I want one. Or a Range Rover. Or both. K? Thanks!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bring on more tan Italian Men

DAY 13

My first night sleep in Italy wasn't great but my first Italian breakfast tasted quite yummy. I had little mozzarella balls (bocconcinni), tomato, and some prosciutto for breakfast. Oh Italy, the way to my heart is definitely through my stomach. And your men. Your very tan, very handsome men. Sigh. I love a man with a tan and bright blue eyes. Now if only they spoke English. But really, who needs to speak anyway when you look that good? Kidding. Well...half kidding. 

After breakfast, we boarded a private boat over to St. Marks Square again. It was great seeing it not crowded again, but this time in the daylight. There was scaffolding on St. Marks Basilica which was kind of a bummer, but still awesome to finally see in person. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

But it's On Water. Water.

DAY 12

Off to Italy we go. I think Italy is the country I was most excited about from the start. Mostly for the food (have we met before?) but also for the sites and sounds. We were up bright and early (when are we not?) for our long drive to Venice. Almost the entire day today was a travel day. It was by far the most time spent on the bus thus far. And by far the most I have ever napped before. 

About an hour into the drive we stopped in the small Austrian town of Kindberg. This town is apparently known for their may poles. I am not totally clear on what that means because I was dozing in and out, but I think I caught it had to do with fertility and dancing around a pole to get pregnant. Not quite sure though. I totally just could have made that up. Because it was like nine in the morning on a Sunday, the town was pretty dead. I used the free bathrooms twice, and walked around the very small area before just sitting down at a cafe and taking in the view. Then we hit the road again for almost two more hours before we made our lunch stop near the Austrian border. I refrained from Burger King again and got some of the local food. It was meh but the scenery over Worthsee, a gorgeous blue lake with the mountains in their background, enhanced the experience. It was the best comfort stop view I've ever seen. And, wait for it, it was FREE to pee at this comfort stop. Such a treat. Then back on the road over the Italian border for another few hours, some more napping, and another comfort stop. And another free bathroom. Then more driving. Seeing a pattern here? 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I NEED my own Palace!

DAY 11

When I think of Austria, the first thing that comes to mind is Arnold Schwartzenagger ("It's not a tumor!") followed closely by Hans and Frans from very old SNL skits. ("I am Hans. And I am Frans. And we are here to pump. you. up." Anyone else remember this?) I was also reminded that Sigmound Freud is a very famous Austrian. I am sad to say that most of the little knowledge I have about him comes from Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure. However, now after spending a few days here in Austria, I know it is a very regal city with many enormous palaces and churches. This is now what I will think of when I think of Austria. Okay, okay, that's after I think of Arnold. 

Our day today began with a local tour guide meeting us at the hotel after breakfast. Our first destination was to Schonbrunn Palace where we were given a tour of this palatial estate. The palace is the summer palace, (not to be confused with the separate winter palace) of Empress Maria Theresa. We were given a tour of just a few of the 1441 rooms of the palace. (What does one do with that many rooms? And how long does it take to clean and dust? Oy.) The unique decor of the palace was incredible. The ornate detail to the wallpaper, chandeliers, and crown molding was definitely special. In the back of the palace were the Imperial Gardens. The landscaping of this enormous space was immaculate. I could easily see myself living there. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Another bidet!!

DAY 10

Last night was not only the best shower I've had on the trip so far but the best night's sleep so far. A full 7.5 hours. At home, on the reg, that would certainly not be enough for me, but here, that seems to be a full night's sleep. Because it gets dark so late here, it's easy to lose track of time at night and it not to feel late.  After breakfast we boarded the bus and a local tour guy got on with us. We stopped at another Sound of Music locale which has zero significance to me but everyone else was excited about so I assume at least my mom or grandma will appreciate the pics I snapped there. Perhaps I should watch this when I get back? 

Our last stop in Salzburg, even though it wasn't really Salzburg (it's Germany) was Kehlsteinhaus, better known in English as the Eagle's Nest. This was a residence of Hitler and was actually given to him as a gift for his 50th birthday by the National Socialist Party. He didn't actually live there but had a mistress there and held many "business" meetings there.  I had never heard of this place before is trip but was looking forward to learning about it and seeing it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I wish I had a bigger bladder!

DAY 9

After getting a pretty good night's sleep, I had breakfast, and then we were on the road to Munich, our first big city in Germany. On the ride there we were given the list of all the additional excursions for the rest of the trip. There were a number of different options, many of which I opted for and a few I didn't. Since I have never been to any of these countries/cities before, these additional excursions, although when added up are a hefty sum, will  probably enhance this experience even more and show me things I would otherwise not see or experience.  (But I did make sure that I would have enough solo time too.) Its a good thing I haven't spent that much money while here and that I have some spin teaching gigs lined up back when I get to NYC,  but once again, as Andi keeps reminding us "You don't go on holiday to save money or lose weight." Truth. (I am doing neither for the record. As to be expected.) The reason I did do a tour trip like this, hitting up so many locations, was to see as much as I can and then, hopefully in the future go back to my favorites to do and see more. Doing some of these additional experiences will help me  get more out of this trip. I just know After this I will want to hit up more new countries and cities. Spain. Greece.  Prague. Australia. Thailand. (Just for starters...) Any takers??? 

Anyway, once again on the way to Munich (which is part of Bavaria), we stopped at another Superloo. It was .70 euro to get through the turnstile to pee and we received a .50 euro coupon with this pee purchase. With my coupon, I purchased cola flavored Mentos. I do not think this flavor is available in the US, but they should be. They tasted exactly like Coke.  Since I haven't had pop in over eight years, this tasted incredible to me. As we headed to Munich we learned some history about the beer halls in Munich and the importance of beer in their culture. It's as important as food to them. They believe women should drink at least half a liter a day and men at least a liter. Geez. 

Schmuck!!

DAY 8

I began this morning with breakfast al fresco along the Rhine river. I love eating outside, it just makes any meal so much more enjoyable. Especially along a body of water. Made my bacon taste that much better, if that's even possible!

Our first stop on our second day in Germany was Heidelberg. I participated in an additional excursion of a castle tour with the rest of the group. There we were met with a tour guide to take us up to the castle. (But not before paying to pee again; .30 euro this time. (I need to start keeping tabs how much money my small bladder is costing me here although I feel I have done a good job on my own of finding free restrooms as well.)  The castle we visited was one of the largest castle ruins in Germany and was fascinating to see (although there was a lot of scaffolding for ongoing construction). Kind of annoying when trying to take good pictures but nothing we can do. The castle sits upon a mountain along the Necar river and the views from above were gorge. On this tour, I learned about how Victoria's Secret got its name too.  Apparently the Queen Victoria from Germany invented underwear because before then, no one ever worn any undergarments and she was sick of riding a horse without them, so she invented some. And that is how Victoria's Secret got its name. Mind blown right there. I never knew that!! (And conveniently enough, I had on a pair of Victoria's Secret undies at the time.) 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beer and Brats...yum!


DAY 7


Guten Morgen! This morning we had to be on the bus by 8:15 to head on the road to Germany. I am a little nervous now trekking into countries where there isn't much English spoken. So far we have been lucky with London and Amsterdam where everyone speaks English. Andi taught us some German words and phrases on the bus this morning because she told us that trying a little to use the native language is appreciated by the Germans. 

For breakfast I had the mini Dutch pancakes again which were so yummy and a great way to start the day. Then it was on the bus and on our way. Even though I slept pretty well last night, I still managed to fall asleep a bit on the bus like twenty minutes into the ride and felt very refreshed after. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

No dutch oven In Holland! :(

DAY 6

This morning started with a solo breakfast and then I met up with the group. For breakfast I had quite a few mini dutch pancakes called pannenkoeken. They were d-freaking-licious. I could have eaten many more, but refrained. There's always tomorrow morning. ;)

Our first tour agenda item today was a bus tour of the city of Amsterdam. I received a ton of history about the city; almost all of it was stuff I most certainly don't have the patience to read in any travel book so I was grateful for the info. It also gave me also more of the idea of the way this city is shaped with all it's horseshoe shaped canals. Very cool. 

After that, we headed to the Dutch countryside, to the town (fishing village) of Volendam. On the way there we got some more Dutch history from our tour guide Andi, including that of the lakes and dikes of the area. Because I am an immature jackass, I consistently giggled to myself whenever Andi said dike. Especially when she started telling us the story of Peter, the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike. I mean, c'mon now. I held it together even when she said the dike was leaking. Oh boy.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

And the tour has offish begun!!

DAY 5

Up and at 'em at 4:15 in the morning for the second time this week. Brutal, but oh-so- worth it. I got ready fairly quickly and headed down to breakfast. Two lovely Australian women I met yesterday (Sue and Jeanie) invited me to eat with them so I did. They were about my parents age and  had children my age (like almost everyone in my group).  We finally departed London and headed to Amsterdam. Its not a straight shot there so we drove to Dover first to catch a ferry across the English Channel to Calais, France. We then continued through France, through Belgium, and then Netherlands. Wahoo. (Each new country we reached my phone so nicely let me know with a free texts on the new country's rates. It was kind of neat to get that at each border.)  It was also super nice having only 20 people in our group; our bus was like half full, which was awesome. And our tour guide Andi, who is with us the whole trip, is so knowledgable. 

Most of today was set traveling which wasn't so awesome but you gotta get to where you're going somehow. It's gotta be done. On the positive side, you get to see all the different landscapes and scenery along the way. I enjoy that! (And it gives me time to begin writing this truly amazing blog you all love to read so much. Sure. Sure.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oh hey Richard!



DAY 4


Well today was the day the official tour was supposed to begin. I barely slept last night out of excitement and anxiousness. This is becoming a pattern here in Europe. I woke up and I started the day with some English breakfast in the hotel. Blah. Up until this point I had been eating the Lara and Cliff bars I brought but since breakfast is now included, I will eat it at the hotels. The bacon here in London is apparently like Canadian bacon which we all know isn't bacon at all, but ham. What a sham. But there were mini Nutella containers which of course I swiped for later. I love Nutella. Who doesn't?!?

I then met up with what I thought was my group but it was just me and a family of four from Canada. I was confused. I thought everyone was staying at our hotel. Weird. We then went to two other hotels to pick up some more people. After speaking with a few of these people I am pretty sure they are just on diff tours with my company and are not the group I will be traveling with (except the fam, who were suuuuper nice btw. And they thought I was like 23 years old which made me like them even more. Booyah.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

London, Baby


DAY 3

I still really can't believe I am in Europe. I know people travel here all the time but I am still so excited and grateful to be here and really can't believe I am. But three days in, this is my current reality and I am truly so lucky!

With that being said, London is a pretty great city. I like the vibe; its very similar to NYC in many ways. A similar mixture of locals and tourists, but not as fast paced. (But where else is?) It's interesting to see which areas are "touristy" and which are more local.  I do know one thing though, while here, whenever I pass any of the carts selling touristy things here (like I heart London tees) I think to myself "London, baby!" a la Joey Tribiani in Friends. It's the episode when they all go to London for Ross' wedding to Emily and Joey buys all the tourist paraphernalia. Too funny! (Please know what I'm talking about.) I seriously have laughed out loud to myself on more then one occasion thinking about it while walking past these stands. Additionally and seriously, my British accent is on point. I mean, it's legit. I could prob fool someone that I was a local if I actually knew where I was going. Can't win 'em all though. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bidets and Prince Alberts make me giggle

DAY 2


After only like five and a half hours of sleep after a full day of travel yesterday, I woke up actually ready to go take on London this morning. Alone. Me and my trusty map headed out. I was oozing with a tourist vibe. Map in one hand, phone and camera in the other. Whatever. I should have just gone all out and wore socks and sandals and a fanny pack, but I do have some fashion standards when traveling. Some. I am going to be in pics after all. 

I decided to write today's blog a little differently since I had a lot to say and really can't say all I want to about each place and experience because I covered so much ground and wanted to give a semi- abbreviated version. This would go on forever if that wasn't the case. So here it goes...


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Here We Go...


DAY 1

So here we go... My European summer vacation has officially begun. Deep breaths. I have such a mixture of excitement and nervousness, but am as ready as I am going to be. I'm sure I am overpacked (I have to have options, naturally!) and over prepared (do you not know me?)  but hey, that's par for the course.

Although I have traveled on my own before to Chicago and Florida (is that really it?), I have not flown internationally by myself.  I have been to Mexico with my parents on numerous occasions, Israel with my brother, and Mexico with friends, but never just me leaving the country. It just feels so grown up. Look at me now! The whole thing with filling out the customs forms and going through customs solo made me want my mom and dad.  But I survived. Being so damn far away and alone immersed in so many different cultures for so long is a little overwhelming, but I know I can handle it. You'd think being so far from my family and essentially being alone in New York for all these years would make me a bit used to it, but nope. This is totally different for me and I know it will be a tremendous learning process in so many different ways.