Stella Wren – The Growing Pains of Being (Almost) 2 Months Old

Everyone says having a baby changes your life and I’m a total believer now.  Stella has been the best thing to ever happen to us, but also the most difficult endeavor we’ve ever taken on. I thought that the actual birth process was hard, but in comparison to the next (now almost) 8 weeks, the birth was a piece of cake…. [Read More]

Springtime in Seattle

Downtown Seattle from Kerry Park

I feel fortunate to live in a place with such beauty.  Upon moving to Seattle in late winter, I was really eager to get out and begin exploring my adopted city, especially when the weather started changing for the better.  I started first in my neighborhood – West Seattle / Alki Beach – and then moved on to other famous landmarks and neighborhoods – Pike Place Market / Seattle waterfront, Kerry Park / Queen Anne, Green Lake and the U district to name a few.  Of course I chronicled my findings (although mostly with my iPhone, so the photos aren’t of highest quality) and I figured now is as good as time as ever to showcase my new home.  I feel like I’m finally getting my bearings straight and can navigate about 70% of the time without directions, so at least I’m heading in the right direction…. [Read More]

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

This was my favorite grouping of colors.

Two years ago, Bobby and I traveled to The Netherlands specifically to see the famed tulip festival.  Unfortunately, we were a little trigger happy and showed up a bit too early to see any blooms.  Today, we made up for our disappointment by visiting the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival near Mount Vernon, Washington, about an hour and 20 minutes north of Seattle.  While I am sad that Bobby couldn’t join me, both of my parents are in town and we thoroughly enjoyed the tulips together…. [Read More]

The Southwest’s Best – Upper Antelope Slot Canyon and Zion National Park

Upper Antelope Canyon

We spent our last weekend before “the great move north” (AKA Seattle, the final leg of this tortuous PCS) on the Northern Arizona/Southern Utah border.  We planned to go to Page, Arizona to tour the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon, probably the most famous slot canyon in the world, but decided to tack on Zion National Park when we heard it would be in the 70s.  Most of the time the peaks of Zion are covered in snow/ice in the winter and hiking is iffy at best, but not with global climate change.  People were hiking shirtless!  (Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this when the east coast is currently buried under feet of snow.)… [Read More]

Tour de (Southern) France

Someone lost their shoes

I haven’t blogged much lately because Bobby and I have been spending most of our last few months of our Olmsted journey here in Firenze.  We officially have just 4 weeks left.  Yikes! Last week, however, we took our last “international trip,” a five-day trek through southern France.  Initially, I wasn’t very excited about traveling again (I’ll admit, I’m a little traveled out), but looking back, I’m thoroughly glad we decided to go through with it.  We had previously driven through southern France three times without ever stopping to take in the sites, so it was nice to finally get to see the area.  We started out in Nimes, visited the Pont du Gard (a dream of mine ever since architecture school), and then stayed a few days in Aix-en-Provence.  We then traveled along the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) back to Italy, which I’ll blog about in the next segment, so stay tuned!

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Greece Sailing Trip 2014

The dinner setting.  How cool is the canopy structure?

We returned to Greece to sail the Dodecanese Islands for the second time.  This summer, however, we took off from the port of Kos (instead of Rodos), and traveled north to the islands of Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos, and Lipsi.  We took the “road” a little less traveled this year and ended up with a very different experience – it was a little more relaxed, more rustic, and definitely more windy with rougher seas.  Our captain was also younger and drank a little (lot!) less, which made us all feel a little safer aboard. :)    Overall, Greece never disappoints, and I am happy to say my skin is no longer translucent, but instead a speckled light tan color.

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The Croatian Coast

And we even found someone to take a photo of us

After Bobby took over duties for the last few blogs, I figured I should get back to my normal blogging routine (although he is a better writer than me)!  Last week, we took a ten day trip down the coast of Croatia, through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then back to Italy.  It ended up being quite a bit of driving, but well worth it.  It’s no wonder that Croatia has been on Nat Geo’s list of places to visit the last couple of years.  We started out in Zadar (after a short pit-stop in the Italian city of Aquileia), traveled through Split and Trogir, and then ended our Adriatic coast trip in Dubrovnik.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp

Train tracks dead-end in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Where to start?  Last year, Bobby and I visited Dachau Concentration Camp and it was a sobering experience.  However, our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau was even more horrifying. It is commonly said, due to the robust rail network built by Nazi Germany, “all roads led to Auschwitz.” It became the number one extermination camp for Jews, Poles, the Roma community, homosexuals, the elderly, young children, and political prisoners during World War II.  The Third Reich shipped the Jewish population, specifically, to Auschwitz from as far south as Corfu, Greece and as far north as Oslo, Norway.  80-100 prisoners were put on each boxcar with little room to sit, next-to-no food, and just a bucket to use the bathroom, for sometimes up to three weeks before reaching their final destination.  Many passengers died during the hellish journey.  For those that lived, the second they stepped off the train they were met by the head SS doctor.  In an interview lasting four seconds, he would give a simple “left” or “right” with the turn of his thumb, effectively granting life or death.  Those directed to the left were immediately put in the gas chamber.  Those put to the right, the “lucky” ones, were condemned to hard labor, until they were no longer fit or worked to death.  In all, 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz from 1940-1945; 1.1 million were Jews, 140-150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet POWs, and 25,000 prisoners from other ethnic groups.  An estimated 1.1 out of the 1.3 million people who entered Auschwitz died inside the gates and approximately 90% belonged to the Jewish community.  … [Read More]

Reykjavic Adventures – Whale Watching & The Blue Lagoon

More jumping

We’ve officially made it to Iceland, our 30th country since this Olmsted Scholar experience began (almost) two years ago.  It’s been quite an incredible journey.  After leaving our car in Oslo, we booked a late flight into Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.  Our first day, we took a tour with Elding Whale Watching, the oldest company of its kind in the city.  We changed our 10.00 reservation to 14.00 after suffering an unexpectedly acute case of jet lag and the weather was nearly perfect. We had clear skies and although it was a bit (a lot!) brisk, the whale guide commented it was the most active the dolphins and whales had been in some time.  We lucked out!  Unfortunately, our second day in Iceland turned out to be pretty crappy weather-wise.  In order to make up for this, we took the bus (which Bobby was amazed was equipped with wifi) to the Blue Lagoon, where the water is warm, no matter the temperature outside.

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D-Day in Normandy

View to Omaha Beach

Being an American, and especially an American who has a family member in the military, there are several historical/military sites that are sacred.  These places give us perspective, give us a better understanding of our past, and allow us to be thankful to live in the best country in the world.  One is the Normandy region of France.  (Others on my list include Pearl Harbor, Arlington National Cemetery, Ground Zero, etc.)   Spending a few days in Normandy was well worth the out-of-the-way travel.  We had the opportunity to see several WWII battle sites: Pont du Hoc (the site where the Army Rangers first took the French coastline), Omaha Beach (the famous beach where 3,600 Americans were killed), Longues-sur-Mer Battery (an essential site for German artillery), the American Cemetery and Memorial, and the German Cemetery.

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