Thursday, April 10, 2014

amsterdam

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We ended our time in Europe with a trip to Amsterdam. This stop was our most anticipated one because my sister, Bekah, and brother-in-law, Clay, and their family are living in the Netherlands for 9 months as part of Clay's PhD program. We took the train from Paris to Amsterdam and then immediately hopped on a train to their city, Kampen, about an hour outside of Amsterdam. There we were reunited with our favorite niece, Ever, and nephew, Owen. Last time we saw Owen he was only a few weeks old, so he was a different kid. It was so fun to be aunt and uncle for a few days. Bekah and Clay are also some of our favorite people in the world, so it was a huge treat to be with them and catch up on life in person. They were wonderful hosts, showing us around both Kampen and Amsterdam. We wish that we had had more time with them and in Amsterdam. We loved the city! The biking culture is phenomenal and it just has such a fun vibe. 

My favorite little guy, who isn't so little anymore.
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My sister and I biking to Ever's ballet class.
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It was really cold and rainy, so we had to stay bundled up.
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Watching Ever's ballet class. She would look at the window every few minutes to make sure we were still there and wave at us.
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After ballet class we walked around the center of town and got gelato and coffee.
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Aunt and uncle happily on duty.
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After our time in Kampen, we took the train back to Amsterdam to spend a day.
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Blake and Clay started the day with the Heineken Brewery Tour.
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While I took my nephew to the red light district as any good aunt would do. 
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We also went to the flower market (on the right side of the canal in this picture).

Bekah and I then grabbed a first lunch (and then ate a second one later with the guys).
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We also toured the Anne Frank house and finally made our way to the I Amsterdam sign. We ended our last night in Europe eating pasta in Amsterdam with family. It was pretty perfect.
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We truly could not have experienced a more perfect anniversary trip. We will be living off the high of this trip for years and years to come. We are eternally grateful for our friends who not only made this possible, but shared in our excitement. Here's to another 15+ years of marriage! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

paris

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Paris. The city I have been dreaming about visiting for as long as I can remember. It didn't disappoint. Architecturally, Paris is the most beautiful city that I have ever laid eyes on. I felt like I was in a movie the whole time that I was there. It was very special to have time together in the City of Love for our 15th wedding anniversary.

After a flight from Rome, we got to Paris in the afternoon and immediately set out for the Eiffel Tour. I was not prepared for how huge the Eiffel Tower actually is. I was amazed. Since the line for climbing the steps of the Tower was significantly shorter than the line for the elevators, we chose the former. Then we paid a little more to take the elevator to the very top. It was magnificent. The Eiffel Tower is just so iconic. Anytime it was in my view I was reminded of the significance of our trip. 

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Our very favorite part of Paris was the 5 hour bike tour that we did with Fat Tire Bike Tours. I cannot recommend it enough. We biked all throughout Paris, seeing all of the big sites. Biking + Paris = Perfection.
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And then Blake got shat on by a bird, so maybe not perfection.
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After the tour we stopped at Luxembourg Gardens, where, unfortunately, it was too cold for anyone to be out doing activities like chess and sailing boats.  
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On Day 2, we started at the Orsay Museum, but it was closed for visiting dignitaries. So we walked over to Napoleon's Tomb and the War Museum. This church was incredibly beautiful and the tomb was so impressive.
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After the tomb, we decided to check out the Orsay Museum again, and thankfully, it was open. It was surreal to be looking at paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.
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Next up was Notre Dame. Obviously, so beautiful also. 
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We ended up using public transportation in all of the cities a lot. It was a fun challenge for us to figure each system out. In Paris, the subway was free for 2 of our days because they were trying to encourage its use.
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That night was went to Sacre Coeur, another favorite. We walked all throughout Montmartre, taking in life on this hill and its markets, restaurants, and shops.
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We ended our walk at the infamous Moulin Rouge.
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Our last day in Paris was spent at Versailles. I am fascinated by the extravagant lifestyle Parisian royalty lived, so I thoroughly enjoyed all of Versailles. 
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As a landscape architect, Blake thoroughly enjoyed the grounds.
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Marie Antoinette had her own fully functioning farm built (among other things), so that she could enjoy village life whenever she so desired. I just can't imagine why the starving public hated her so much.
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My only request for our last dinner in Paris was that we eat somewhere that I could see the Eiffel Tower. I just wanted to take it in one more time.
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Au revoir Paris! Next up for us was the Netherlands where some very special people awaited us!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

rome

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I don't even know where to begin with our trip to Europe. I guess I should share that it has been my dream since high school to visit Europe. While everyone takes Spanish in high school, I took French because I was going to live in France one day (in retrospect this wasn't the best choice since I now live in a Spanish speaking country). My only true regret in my life has been that I didn't travel more before I had kids. It has been a longing that got pushed aside when I became a mom at 22 years old. But I've never stopped dreaming of going to Europe. 

Enter sweet, sweet friends of ours who wanted to bless us with a gift at Christmas. Blake told them of my dream to go to Europe and they enthusiastically replied that YES! That is what they wanted us to be able to experience. Blake then delivered to me the biggest surprise of my life- a 10 day trip to wherever I wanted to go in Europe to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. We are still in awe of our friends' generosity and joy from our joy. They have big hearts and we are blessed to partner with them in ministry and life.

Once I started breathing again and it sunk in that we were truly going to Europe, I began planning our trip. Our first stop was Rome where we spent three amazing days. I have to admit that ultimately Rome was our favorite city. I loved the vibe of the city, the history, the gelato, the pasta, the art, and the people. To us, Rome felt peaceful, yet exciting. I am dreaming of ways to one day be able to live there. It was our first taste of Europe and we fell in love.

Our first stop was the Colosseum. The history of this building (and everything we saw in Rome) overwhelmed me. I couldn't believe that I was actually walking among these ancient buildings. 
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Our first meal in Europe. It didn't disappoint. (I mean, what the what, I AM EATING LUNCH ON A SIDEWALK IN ROME!)
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Beginning of the Forum. My favorite site on the whole trip. To think of the historical figures that walked this road and stood in these spots 2,000 years ago was mind-blowing. And, of course, the grandeur of the ruins left me speechless.
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The only original bronze door still left in the Forum.
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The Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina has 50 foot columns, each made of one piece of stone!
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After the Forum we visited the Capitoline Museums. I could not get over the intricacy and beauty of Roman sculptures. This used to be a piece of stone!
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Dinner: more pasta on the sidewalks of Rome. Perfection. We also went to Palatine Hill and San Pietro in Vincoli church (where Peter's chains, Michelangelo's Moses and the unfinished tomb of Pope Julius II all reside). I'm not sure we could have fit more beauty in one day and I think this was my favorite day of all.
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Day two in Rome took us to the Vatican and its museum.
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No pictures are allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but we're rebels.
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Good gosh, St. Peter's Basilica is beautiful and grand. This picture doesn't even do justice to the size of this altar.
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We climbed to the top of the dome which not only gave us a great view of the church, but also...
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all of the Vatican.
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Gelato and pasta. Italy, you have my heart.
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Our last day in Rome (sniff, sniff). We spent the morning at the Borghese Gallery (where no pictures are allowed) and then we climbed the Spanish steps.
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And then we went to another one of my favorite sites, Trevi Fountain.
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And of course, the Pantheon. Another favorite. 
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As we were walking around that day, we saw lots of people from England in rugby jerseys. Blake obviously had to find out what was going on and much to his excitement found out that there was a rugby game that day between Italy and England. I sent him on to the game, while I strolled more of Rome and saw some last sites that where on my to-see list (Campo de' Fiori, Piazza Navona).
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The next day we were truly so sad to leave Rome, but found comfort in the fact that we were headed to Paris!