I got this idea from a blog I follow – Unlocking Kiki (written by Kaelene, who is from the US but now lives in Iceland with her Icelandic boyfriend) – who got it from a blog called We Took the Road Less Traveled. I thought it would be a good way to start making sense of the past six months traveling Europe. Even though I blogged about most of it, it still kind of feels like a blur, and I want to start organizing all my pictures and memories, and I need a reminder course of everything Jeremy and I did.
ABCs of Travel
A) Age you went on your first international trip:
I’d have to ask my parents about this one, they started taking me and my brother to Europe when we were very young. Most of the time, we’d trade houses with a family in Europe, and since the internet didn’t really exist back then, we’d order a catalog where you could see tiny pictures of the outside of people’s houses and a little bit of information about them, then you’d call the ones that wanted to switch houses with someone in your region, and make plans to do the trade at a certain point. It is kind of crazy to think about now. Most of the time we wouldn’t meet the family we were trading houses with. I remember one in France where we had a big lake in the backyard and a bunch of goats, deer, and peacocks roaming around. I thank my parents for taking me on adventures every summer growing up, and instituting a strong desire and love of travel very early on.
Me and my dad hiking in Switzerland in 1993 when I was 8.
B) Best foreign beer you’ve had and where:
This one’s easy. All the beers we had in Germany (especially Bavaria) were delicious, but the one that stands out the most is the beer we had in the Bavarian Alps at a little alpine hut. We had been hiking about an hour and a half and were starving, and the beer and soft pretzel were so fresh and delicious, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything better. We continued hiking to the top of the mountain afterward, and it was just the sustenance we needed to make it.
I’ll never forget you, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse.
C) Cuisine (favorite):
This one’s not as easy. Jeremy and I had some really delicious food over the six months we were abroad, and it’s hard to choose what was best. All I know is that I could eat French cheese (the stinkier the better) with a fresh baguette and a glass of wine every day for my entire life and I’d die happy.
In cheese heaven in Paris.
D) Destinations–favorite, least favorite, and why?:
We’ve been asked this a lot lately and it’s hard to choose, but I think Iceland is still at the top for favorite destination. It was the very beginning of our trip, we had no idea what to expect, and being in Iceland was like being on another planet. The landscape changes as fast as the weather does, and around every corner is one of the most beautiful scenes your eyes have ever seen.
Black beaches mixed with volcanoes and glaciers in Iceland.
As far as least favorite goes, we got lucky and really didn’t have any terrible experiences anywhere, but I think the most not-fun time we had was housesitting outside Geneva. The scenery around the house was beautiful and I got to run through vineyards and nice paths with a view of Mont Blanc, but it was Easter weekend, everything was closed, and even if anything was open we couldn’t really go anywhere. It was isolated, the bus into Geneva was super expensive, and we ran out of food with a couple days left.
E) Event you’ve experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
I have to go back to Iceland for this one. A few things happened there that basically blew my mind (touching a glacier, seeing the Northern Lights, watching a geyser erupt, petting a wild Icelandic pony, etc.), but I think the moment where I was most in awe of the country was when we hiked to the oldest hot springs pool in Iceland. We got changed into our bathing suits in a sheep shed, and sat in the warm pool for a while, and eventually made friends with the other travelers in there.
I never wanted to get out.
The view from inside the water.
F) Favorite mode of transportation:
We mainly walked everywhere once we got to a city (although we became experts at Paris’ metro), but I always loved taking the train to and from different places. The cabins were usually spacious, we brought our own food and wine, and often times we got first class tickets for almost the same price as coach if we bought them early enough. Plus, the train stations were always right in the center of a city, so there was no confusion in finding transportation from the airports that are outside the city. We also got some incredible views.
The view of Lausanne, Switzerland from our train seat.
Favorite mode of transportation runner-up: ski lift. We took a twenty-minute ride up into the mountains in the Bavarian Alps and I never wanted it to end. If I could sit in a ski lift chair and travel around the world, I’d be happy.
G) Greatest feeling while traveling:
Stepping off a plane or train and being in a completely different place with different architecture, customs, language, feel, everything, for the first time. No wonder it’s so addicting. Either that, or sipping a glass of wine at a sunset picnic in a beautiful place.
Sunset on the Seine in Paris.
H) Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to:
We got lucky and didn’t have much extreme heat to deal with, even in Paris in August when it’s normally stifling. Rome was the hottest though, which made walking for hours around the city a little tiring.
Rome was still pretty awesome though.
I) Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?:
Probably the (approximately) seven-course dinner we had with my parents in Turin, Italy. The waiters were super informative and didn’t mind translating the entire menu into English for us. The food was incredible and even though I couldn’t eat all my food because I was too full, everything I tasted was fantastic.
My appetizer at our meal in Turin, Italy.
My pistachio cake dessert.
J) Journey that took the longest:
I’ve taken plenty of 12-hour plane flights in my life (CA –> Europe), but this time around our longest journey was the train ride from Berlin to Amsterdam. It was supposed to take about ten hours, but a couple hours away from Amsterdam, the conductor announced that the train was stopping because some of the cabins didn’t have AC and it was too hot. There were no further instructions on how to actually get to Amsterdam, so after being dropped off in some random town in the middle of the Netherlands, we had to find our way. We ended up taking two more trains and eventually got there, but the whole thing was a confusing ordeal, and then we got lost walking to our Airbnb in Amsterdam and it took an hour longer by foot than it was supposed to. It was a long day.
Walking around the charming streets in Amsterdam.
K) Keepsake from your travels:
Jeremy and I didn’t start buying souvenirs until we were almost done with our trip since we were worried about luggage space, but I’m glad we finally got some little things to remind us of a few adventures in Europe. We got a little handcrafted spoon in Paris that we want to use for salt when we move into a new apartment. We also got a mini beer mug in Germany, and I have about 20 postcards from various places that I never sent. I think our best keepsakes will be our pictures, which I’m going to work on enlarging and framing soon.
In front of our little house in Iceland.
I had a travel tripod for the first couple months of our trip. This is from our first housesitting experience in Kent, England.
L) Let-down sight, where and why?:
Probably the Trevi Fountain in Rome; I had high expectations, but it was under construction when we found it.
What it’s supposed to look like:
M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling:
Somewhere around this time:
Eight-year-old me in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
N) Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
We didn’t really stay in any nice hotels this time around, mostly just Airbnbs or housesitting homes, but a hotel that sticks out in my mind is The Parker in Palm Springs. Jeremy and I went there last year for a mini-moon the weekend after our wedding, and it’s got to be one of the coolest, most relaxing, awesome places that has ever existed.
Our room at The Parker.
O) Obsession–what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
God, I don’t know, everything? There wasn’t one particular thing I looked for the most, but I guess I have a fondness for taking pictures of places from high up. And sunsets.
View from our rented house in Turin, Italy.
P) Passport stamps-how many and from where?:
Let’s see, since I got my passport in 2008, I have stamps from: Berlin (2008 and 2014), Paris (2008 and 2009), Frankfurt (2008), London (2008, 2009, and 2014), Dublin (2008 and 2014), Reykjavik (2014), Zurich (2014), Bordeaux (2014), United States (2014). That was definitely only fun for me, sorry about that. It makes me realize that I visit a lot of the same places a lot, time to explore more of the world!
Q) Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where?:
Probably Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature) in Paris. It was full of taxidermy animals, extremely old rifles, interesting art (there was one room where the ceiling was covered in feathers and owl heads – that were not real), and there was a special event going on so each room had actors in togas acting out scenes and running around with creepy music.
R) Really Frightening: where’s one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
Jeremy and I got lucky again with that, we never really felt unsafe anywhere, and didn’t ever get pick-pocketed or have anything stolen. We were very aware of people at all times, especially on crowded subways or buses, and I always put my purse across my body and had my hand on the top when we were walking around.
S) Splurge-something you have no problem spending money on while traveling:
Food. As more time went on, we started having more and more incredible dining experiences, especially after we made the decision to go home. Having lunch with my friend Liz and her boyfriend Alain in a medieval village in France called Sarlat will stand out as one of the best meals of our lives.
Jeremy’s foie gras dish in Sarlat. The city is known for having some of the best foie gras in the world.
T) Touristy thing you’ve done:
I think that we visited touristy stuff in every city we went to; we avoided it as much as we could, but sometimes you just have to fight the crowds and see the stuff you’ve heard so much about and seen so many pictures of.
U) Unforgettable travel memory:
The entire six months were unforgettable, and my travel bug is slowly creeping back after looking through all these pictures. Traveling with my parents was also really great and visiting France, Germany and Italy with them were highlights of our trip. I couldn’t possibly choose one travel memory that stands out the most, but visiting monastery breweries in Germany and Austria and drinking beer straight out of the barrel was super cool. And celebrating Jeremy’s birthday at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich with my parents and an oompah band was so fun. And touring the marble quarries in Carrara, Italy. And taking a ferry to the colorful Italian town of Portovenere. And riding an alpine coaster down a mountain after hiking to the top of the Bavarian Alps. And celebrating Jeremy’s and my one-year anniversary at a lakeside restaurant in a pretty village in Bavaria. And visiting the D-Day beaches in Normandy. Okay, I’ll stop.
V) Visas-how many and for where?:
None! We never got any visas, and never felt like we had to. We knew we wouldn’t be in a country for longer than the allowed amount.
W) Wine–best glass while traveling:
We had so much delicious (and inexpensive) wine in France and Italy, and much of it was consumed at a sunset picnic with a nice view, aka my favorite thing to do in the world. The best wine we had though was in Barolo, Italy when my dad took us wine tasting there. One day we’ll have to splurge and buy a bottle of it for a special occasion. It is delicious.
Visiting towns in the Piedmont region of Italy.
X) eXcellent view and from where?:
Without a doubt, at the top of the Bavarian Alps:
Y) Years spent traveling:
Over twenty! Thanks, mom and dad.
Z) Zealous sports fans and where?:
We were in Berlin for the World Cup finale when Germany won, and people were going CRAZY. We are not super into sports, but being in a bar with a huge screen while the game was going on was a lot of fun, and you couldn’t help but get into it too.
Jeremy getting in the World Cup spirit.
Phew, that was a LOT harder than I thought it was going to be. Every time I thought of a memory, a dozen more came pouring in. And going through all my pictures was quite the task, but I’m excited to start making albums and framing some!