Fall wrap-up

Here’s a quick look at recent adventures I’ve been meaning to post about. Thought I’d wrap all of this up so I can get to what I really want to write about: My day at the White House earlier this week.

Besides the marathon, October was full of fun stuff!

I attended the Mount Vernon Wine Festival with Jenny, Tricia, and Tricia’s mom, whom we affectionally call Lulu.

Potomac view from Mt Vernon lawn

Angie invited me to join her at a conference in Las Vegas. I’ve never been there before and enjoyed touring around each day while she worked and then rubbing elbows with notable attorneys (and Joe Theisman!) during the cocktail parties each night.

Bellagio fountain

me, Joe Theismann, and Angie
Hi Gary! (Check out those SuperBowl rings!)

Angie's winnings
Angie had great luck – she won even more after this!

Next up: a trip to New York City and Baltimore with Tricia I dubbed my “Victory Lap” since it was the week of the marathon. What a whirlwind: we attended a taping of Late Night with David Letterman on Halloween. Harrison Ford was one of the guests; he told a joke so inappropriate they had to start over! Afterwards we had dinner with Tricia’s mom and aunt and then we saw the Broadway Show Pippin. It was excellent!

Late Show

skating at Rockefeller Center

9/11 Memorial

Central Park

And the real reason for the trip: a few Matt Nathanson shows! Here’s our Matt-related Instagram Halloween Costume:
Instagram!

He and his band dressed up and performed a few songs as the group Poison:
"Poison"

And when we posted a selfie…
On the train headed home after an awesome adventure. We like that you again liked us liking you, Matt. Rock on!

We toured around DC when our good friend Gary visited. I’m so glad his time here coincided with Veterans Day.

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Arlington Cemetery Amiptheater
The Arlington Cemetery Amphitheater

Earlier today.

November also brought my birthday, and with it: a visit from Rachel and a Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers concert!

Somehow, after last night's birthday shenanigans, we still managed to sip some tequila. #cantinatour13
We attended a Mexican Moonshine tasting (Roger’s tequila) even though we were feeling the effects of some birthday celebrating from the night before.

#cantinatour13

Later in the month, Big D and I took a trip to Oklahoma to visit family and to see the progress on his Shelby Cobra – its a work in progress that’s almost complete.

D and Mark hard at work

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Love this sign.

And before I knew it: Thanksgiving snuck up on us. We celebrated with Big Ds family in Kokomo, Indiana, where we kicked off the holiday morning with a 5K.

David & Kerry finishing

Thanksgiving 5K finishers

If the 20° temperature didn’t keep us from running, it sure wasn’t going to keep us out of the hot tub!
always making me laugh

As usual, there was plenty of card playing, napping, and laughing.
End of a long day.

Kerry, me, Peggy & Richelle

Thanksgiving '13

And that brings us to Christmas! I can’t believe its only a week away. Some sights so far:

Starting to stick!
Our view of last week’s snow (a letdown after what was predicted!)

Surprised myself by finishing the wrapping and packaging. Just need a few things to arrive in the mail - even when I needed to be ready this early in Germany I never was.

Old Town Alexandria hosts a Scottish Walk – its a Very Big Deal (which I did not really know.)

Scottish Walk

Scottish Walk

Stay tuned for a Christmas related post from the most famous house in the country! But for now: holiday wishes from our house to yours!

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My kind of town, Chicago is

My recent long weekend in Chicago was really two adventures: One that was all about eating, drinking, touring, and shopping. And one that was all about rocking.

Angie and I fell in love with the Ruby Red Lemon Drop Martinis at the Grill on the Alley and had (at least) one each day:
Ruby Red Lemon Drop Martinis? Yes, please!

The sunset view at the Signature Lounge was fantastic:
Signature Lounge sunset view

We spent Friday on Bobby’s Bikes, Bites & Brews tour:

Ready...

Gino's East
We had a slice at Gino’s East.

key lime cupcake
Here’s my Key Lime Cupcake at Swirlz, the oldest cupcake only bakery in the city.

Murphy's Red Hot
We shared a Chicago style dog at Murphy’s Red Hot.
Angie: Can you cut it in half?
Murphy: Do you want me to eat it for you, too?

Gene & Georgetti steak house
Locals recommended Gene & Georgetti, and it did not disappoint.

linguini w/ clams
Yes, I ordered pasta at a steakhouse.

excellent Gene & Georgetti desserts
Shared desserts are the sign of a great evening.

As for the the rocking part of the weekend:
Pearl Jam - Wrigley

me & Frankie before the show

my view w/ no zoom

Pearl Jam - Wrigley

evacuation
A storm moving through the Chicago area interrupted the set after only a few songs and delayed the show nearly three hours. What started at 8pm didn’t end until 2am. The whole thing was… well, read this to get a tiny idea of the huge magic.

Pearl Jam - Wrigley

My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of razzmatazz

The picture of The people during The weekend in The Chicago.

Paris? Oui, s’il vous plaît!

Before we even knew if we were really moving to Europe, I got up in the middle of the night (Florida time) to IM with my pal Ally (who lives in LA) so we could buy tickets to see U2 in Paris the moment they went on sale. That shizz isn’t easy, even when it’s not in French! But it all worked out and in September 2010 I set out on my first trip to the City of Lights.

When I first arrived I stowed my bags at the hotel, grabbed my map and headed to the Champs-Élysées. My first stop? The Virgin Megastore. But that was a happy accident. I strolled to along the Champs, had lunch, and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. And it was there that I had my first ever glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. And I burst into tears. Because, really!?

Suffice it to say, I am really appreciative of the experiences I’m lucky enough to have here in Europe.

atop the Arc

I took a Fat Tire Bike Tour that afternoon, which was fantastic. If you’re ever in Paris, Berlin, London (or Barcelona, which I haven’t visited yet) take one of these tours!! Each has just the right amount of history, architecture, lightheartedness, and beer or wine.

Jardin des Tuileries

Did you know that the tower freaking SPARKLES at the top of every hour? I did not. Imagine my surprise and glee when I was laying in bed, smiling about the day I’d just enjoyed and excited for what was still to come when lo, out of the French Doors (or are they just ‘doors’ if you’re in France?) I saw sparkling and twinkling. I couldn’t believe it!


a video by elysia1 on Flickr.

Basically, the whole trip was magical.

Double rainbow over La Seine

And that’s without evening mentioning crazy things like seeing Roman Polanski pick someone up in his Smart Car. Or you know, the actual reason we were there: U2.

Roman Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner

reunited and it feels so good

360° - Paris

We walked miles and miles over the course of the next two days and saw more things than I could even begin to try to detail here. After we parted ways, my traditional Post Concert Letdown (which I had at Gare de l’Est) was monumental. So big in fact, that I got in my car and drove to Brussels a week later to see U2 with Ally one more time. But that’s a story for another day.

I was THRILLED when Jen & Gary planned New Years in Paris last year. Because of course this meant Big D and I could invite ourselves along – and Angie flew from the States to join, too!! I was able to do things I hadn’t the first time around including touring the Louvre and enjoying a fun night at the Moulin Rouge (where we saw Karl Rove and Harry Whittington, more commonly known as The Guy Dick Cheney Shot in the Face.)

Karl Rove at the Moulin Rouge
You’ll just have to trust us. It really was Karl Rove.

Moulin Rouge

We took the Fat Tire Bike Tour:
me at the Pyramide du Louvre

Eiffel Tower

We turned into the Griswolds:
Griswold family vacation

And we quietly rang in the new year:
hmmm...
Bonne année!

And in March of this year? When I just had to see Snow Patrol on their last European tour date and made a the spur of the moment decision to jump on another train with Tricia? Yep. Paris was the destination. A few years ago, I’d never dream that I’d go to Paris, yet here I was, enjoying a third visit. I still can’t believe it all.

Untitled

I’ll make at least one more trip there – I haven’t toured the Musée d’Orsay yet, I’d like to see the catacombs… and I’ve never met an escargot (or a glass of champagne) that I didn’t love.

Tons of photos from adventures in Paris on on Flickr.

friends keep the rock rolling

I just spent an hour working on a big, fat post about the amazing concert experiences I’ve had in the 2+ years we’ve been here. And then I deleted the whole damn thing.

Because when it comes down to it, the performances were all great. But it’s the whole package that matters. And what made each and every one special, memorable, and fantastic are my equally special and fantastic friends.

before Snow Patrol
Jen (and some strangers) – Snow Patrol, Glasgow

Jen & me on the outer rail
Jen – U2, Frankfurt

reunited and it feels so good
Ally – U2, Paris

soaked and exhausted, but ecstatic!
Ally – U2, Brussels

look: no scarves!
Jen – Green Day, Mainz

Obligatory Jen & me with beers at a concert photo :)
Jen – Papa Roach, Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden Bowling Green
Tricia – the Eagles, Wiesbaden

me & Barbara in the crowd
Barbara – Bon Jovi, Mannheim

me & Jen
Jen – Lenny Kravitz, Mannheim

Barbara & me ready to rock!
Barbara – Snow Patrol, Frankfurt

queueing for Snow Patrol in the rain
Tricia – Snow Patrol, Paris

pre show self portrait
Rachel – Pearl Jam, Amsterdam

me & Tricia
Tricia – Pearl Jam, Berlin

Hyde Park Opening Ceremony Celebration
Tricia, Jen & Gary – Olympics Opening Celebration, London

pre-show coctkails
Kirsten – Coldplay, Köln

Sad Can’t Catch Me

What follows is a re-post from my private blog. Now it’s out here where people can read it.

I’ve been a Matt Nathanson fan for a long time. If you’re not familiar and you have a few minutes, please watch one of these videos.

For me, the album Some Mad Hope represents a specific few months just before Big D returned from Iraq. I first saw Matt in Jax Beach in 2008 – my love since then has only increased. Thanks to his mailing list, FaceBook posts and frequent tweets, I feel like we’re friends.

When he Tweeted he had big tour news, I replied, he retweeted me, and I felt like a rock star myself.

I was on a train headed to Paris to see Snow Patrol with Tricia when my I got an e-mail from Matt saying he’d be in Frankfurt on May 10th. And without waking Tricia up, I bought our tickets. Later, when she checked her calendar she suggested a trip to Cologne to see him the night before, giving me a second opportunity to rock (she couldn’t be here on the 10th.) And she’s the one who noticed that he was the opener on these dates… for Train. Hmmm.

Fast forward to Wednesday. There were were, in a tiny, tiny Köln bar. We purposely didn’t arrive too early (thus putting us too far forward in the crowd) since I knew that he’s been heading to the merch table to meet fans after his set. So, I thought we’d enjoy the show from afar, meet, shake hands… But I blew it. After his great set that included a hilarious version of Rock You Like a Hurricane that confused the Germans (a set I could hear, but not see – seriously, this club was tiny and the crowd was huge) We headed back to the tiny merch table, Tricia asked if he was around and we found out we’d just missed him.

Thank goodness I had another show the next night to get it all figured out!

So Thursday in Frankfurt… Barbara and I got a sweet, sweet spot in what was a much better club. We were on a step, just behind the sound board. She asked what my plan was and I decided I’d just head out to the merch stand as soon as he was done. The show was great! Thanks to that step, I could see everything! Elle King was the opener (again) and she was really good. It felt like Matt’s set was as bit longer than the night before, but maybe that’s because I was busy trying to memorize every single thing that was happening? I am horrible at show reviews, so I’m not even going to try. But: Holy crap the man can move his hips. Little Red Corvette cover? Don’t even get me started.

I headed out to the merch stand which was in a beer garden(!) and I was the only person there. I meekly approached the merch guy and said, “Hi… I think you were stuck talking to my drunk friend last night?” (since Tricia lingered a while – maybe a few minutes too long?) and he said, “Maybe….” but he didn’t really remember either of us, which I think is a good thing. I said that I am “totally not a stalker” but I thought Matt came out to meet and greet on occasion and did he think that would happen? He told me that Matt travels on his own and had to get on a train to the next show, but that I should “wait right here” for a while. Since I do not have nearly the gift of small talk that Tricia has, I offered to buy him a drink so that I could wait in the drink line a few feet away rather than just standing there being awkward.

When I returned with his soda, he told me that he did not have a radio and he hadn’t seen anyone so I should come behind the table, take his seat, and hang on while he went to see what was happening. WTF? I was manning the Matt Nathanson / Train merchandise table. Alone. Thankfully, Train’s show was starting and nobody even glanced my way. After a little while (that felt like forever) Gav returned and said, “Wait right here. Someone will collect you in about five minutes.” Turns out I can small talk under pressure (he’s from the UK, is a musician himself, and owns Too Many Robots records) and before I knew it, a giant man with a long, red beard came from the backstage door and said, “Are you the girl?”

Sean (Shawn?) took me through a door, up some stairs and…. there in a tiny room with a table for four and a big fruit tray, Matt Nathanson was waiting for me.

Aaron Tapp and Elle King sat at the table and Matt stood up and said, “HI!” as if we were long lost friends. I said “Hi. I bet you’re wondering who the heck I am…. I had no idea when I asked if I could speak with you that it would evolve into this. I am so sorry…” And he COULD NOT have been nicer.

He asked where I’m from – I said Big D is in the Army so we’ve lived all over but we call Jacksonville Beach, Florida, home. I mentioned I’d seen him perform there at the Freebird and we both said “Live Cafe!” in unison. He asked how things really are in Afghanistan, a bit about D’s job, how often he’s away… I mentioned that I am so, so lucky to be in Europe and to be able to travel around and said I was in Amsterdam last week. We talked about Queens Day, traveling by train, and the European countryside.

He told me he saw fantastic artwork in Köln but couldn’t remember the artists name, so he pulled his iPhone out to see what he had saved. He opened his Notes app and said, “Where would you save that if you were me…. all that’s here is lyrics, lyrics, lyrics…” We were standing so close that when we both looked down at his phone our foreheads bumped, and I don’t care if it confirms that I am a 12 year old fan girl at heart: I couldn’t believe it.

Anyway, the artist is Kathe Kollwitz and talking about her and travel led to how much I love Berlin (he was headed there the next day) with it’s outrageous history, architecture, and artwork including large scale outdoor Keith Haring installations.

When the time seemed right I asked if we could snap a photo and while I was fishing my camera out of my purse, I unfolded the extra ticket, on which I printed his retweet. Again declaring I am not a stalker, I asked if he’d sign it…

Nerd alert...

After Shawn/Sean took our picture and Matt tried to get me to take an apple from the fruit tray, it was time to go.

I said something like: “Really, the reason I wanted to speak with you was just to say thank you. I’m really lucky – my husband is a fantastic, hilarious guy and we are really in love. We listen to your music when we cook, when we drive and just… everywhere… And it’s so great to have good, fun songs… So thank you.”

And for once in my life, I did not feel like a giant loser. I had a fantastic opportunity thanks to luck, timing, and a merch guy named Gav. And for those few minutes, everything was perfect.

After my brief bit about love songs, I mentioned that Matt and I sound really good when we sing together in my car, though interestingly, I am a terrible singer and that’s when he opened his arms and we hugged like we are good friends. And I really felt like we were.

Matt Nathanson and me

There’s more to the night’s story – including Barbara and I hanging out and drinking beers in a tiny bar at 1am with the members of Train, but when it all came to a close and I walked out that bar door, I came face to face with Elle King. She was there for the whole exchange with Matt and she recognized me right away.

I said I hoped it was all okay, that I hope I didn’t come off like a loser, etc. She was quick to say “No, no! Matt loves stuff like that.”

“As a matter of fact” she added, “He loved you.”

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The London 2012 Olympic Ticket application process was long, confusing and included tedious tasks like changing our Visa Card information to our German addresses.  Jen and I submitted separate applications on April 13, 2011 hoping for seats at the Opening Ceremony along with Swimming, Tennis and Football events totaling £2,042 (about $4,000!) Requesting those tickets meant committing to paying for them, should we win the lotteries. I was fairly certain we wouldn’t be quite that lucky but was prepared to say, “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!” if we were. We kept a close eye on our Visa statements and when in June 2011 we were both charged less than $300 we correctly deduced we were both allotted four seats for football. I was secretly a bit disappointed but mostly thrilled that we’d be making the trip and seeing at least one event.

We booked our flights and hotel accommodations in February. When the Football Draws were announced in May we learned we’d see Uruguay vs. Senegal and Great Britian vs. the UAE. This was great news since Jen and I became big Uruguay fans during the 2010 World Cup (see also: Diego Forlán – we’re Team Headband!) and we were thrilled we’d be seeing the home team, Great Britian, too. Sadly, Diego and David Beckham were deemed too old/slow/whatever and weren’t selected to play on their teams.

was SO excited to finally get these in the mail

After almost 16 months of planning and anticipation I can honestly say our time in London last weekend far exceeded my expectations!

As usual, Big D is away (this time in the States for training and a few days vacation with his family) so Tricia was my partner in crime and Gary was a saint to travel with three excited, wacky girls.

We made our way from Frankfurt to London on Thursday and were surprised at the speed and organization of the immigration process at Heathrow. We were through passport control, had our luggage, were greeted by a brass band and were in a black cab headed to the hotel less than 90 minutes after we landed. We were also surprised to discover our hotel was hosting the Badminton World Federation officials.

Tricia and I shared a room that had a fantastic view of Wembley:

View from our hotel room

We headed to Trafalgar Square to find some lunch and while we were there, Gary read something on his iPhone that tipped us off – Prince William & Kate and Prince Harry would be receiving the Olympic Torch at Buckingham Palace later that afternoon! We finished our fish & chips and Pimms and headed over to the torch route, walking past the Horse Guard Parade, 10 Downing Street, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and other famous sights on the way.

The two hour wait gave us time to wander around the fountain snapping photos, to make friends with fellow tourists and to buy Union Jack flags.

peeking through Buckingham fence

Jen, Gary, me & Tricia

The Olympians that stood with the royals blocked our view for almost the whole (very fast) event but we got a few good glimpses.

best photo of William I was able to snap Kate and Harry

Though we were in town less than five hours and had three full days still to come, we already declared our trip a success! A walk across the bridge, by the Eye and along the river to dinner at a Greek restaurant (not easy to find a place to dine during such a busy time) rounded out the night.

Friday morning found us up and out the door early, heading to the Olympic Park to get a lay of the land and see what we could find. Even though we basically spent a decent part of the day at a mall, palpable excitement abounded. We shopped, shopped, shopped, tried to peek into the park, and had lunch at a fun Brazilian steakhouse that felt more like a party than a restaurant. The British ladies at the table next to us chatted about their Opening Ceremony tickets. The Australian guys at the table behind us (affiliated with their swimming team) gave us tastes of their appetizers. Everyone was jovial!

We tried our best with a sign at the park, on the tube, and while walking, walking, walking many miles through the city:

trying...

We made our way back to Hyde Park that evening and attended the BT London Live Opening Ceremony Celebration featuring one band from each of the British Isles: Paolo Nutini from Scotland, Duran Duran from England, Stereophonics from Wales and Snow Patrol from Northern Ireland. What a party! The Red Arrows flew overhead and giant TV screens showed the first hour or so of the ceremony – the crowd went crazy during the James Bond / Queen Elizabeth grand entrance, we mumbled along to what what we know as My Country ’tis of Thee singing the only line we know, “God Save the Queen!”  and Snow Patrol finished just in time for us to watch the athletes light the flame.

Red Arrows flyover

Hyde Park Opening Ceremony Celebration

Duran Duran

Getting home through the crowd and after a few large beers was challenging (have I mentioned that Gary is a saint?) We were exhausted, yet it was so difficult to turn my brain off even though it was 3am!

Saturday had us up early and on our way back to the park, determined to get tickets to anything so we could experience it all… Armed with giant Starbucks coffees, adrenaline, and a new sign (“We want tickets to ANYTHING in the park”) we weren’t optimistic (others had signs) but waited just 10 or 15 minutes when a lovely Canadian gentlemen approached us and offered us swimming tickets for the following morning!

Jen: How much?
Canadian: £270.
Jen: Each? (starts counting money)
Canadian: Uh, no for all four.
Jen and me: (jumping up and down and acting crazy)

To say we were thrilled is a ridiculous understatement. At the end of our trip, when Tricia asked what my favorite part of our whole adventure was, I called it a tie between that moment, walking into the park, and actually attending the event. But that moment has an edge.

Saturday afternoon was relaxed and fun. Our ticket buying woes were over, we did some sightseeing, and we even sold our extra football tickets to some Americans we met at lunch.

with Mandeville near Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

We were up early yet again Sunday and took our now familiar route to Olympic Park, but this time, we got to go in!

Good morning from Olympic Park!

The Orbit

We saw Lochte set a World Record in his 200 meter freestyle heat.
(here he is in lane 5):

Lochte in lane 5

Grevers leading in Lane 5

After a rainy walk to the (closed on weekends) Today Show set and a final glimpse of the stadium, it was time for lunch and to make our way across town. (I wish we knew the milage we walked and rode – I’m sure its more impressive than I can even guess.)

Today Show Olympic Park set

Olympic Stadium

And after finding the right entrance and becoming accustomed to FIFA stadium rules (no drinks at your seats!) we were ready for some football.

UAE vs GB

Uruguay vs. Senegal

We finished our adventure in style, and lingered in the stadium to soak it all in.

finishing up in style

Wembley Stadium

Goodnight, Wembley

Wembley crowd departing

After waiting out the crowd, we had a final Pimms at (of all places) TGI Fridays, where we met friendly locals who were Civil Engineers involved in Olympic Park construction.

A few final thoughts:

– Thanks to our Badminton friends at the hotel, we worked the word Shuttlecock into conversation each day and giggled like little kids.

– I can not express enough how happy and friendly the crowds were! If only everyday encounters were always like that – smiling, asking where everyone is from, making light conversation, and offering to snap photos of each other.

– I hope the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee is watching! London could NOT have been more prepared. EVERYTHING throughout the city was clean and had a fresh coat of paint. The walking routes were organized and officials kept massive crowds moving together (left stairs up, right stars down, etc.) There were Olympic signs, employees and volunteers every few feet. Some were directing the crowds with giant foam fingers, all were cheerful, helpful, and friendly. Though we spoke the language (and what a treat that was for a few days!) things occasionally got confusing and there was ALWAYS someone to help. Really, London couldn’t have done it any better.

I was so sad to leave, but more than anything I was so very, very thankful for what was such a fantastic experience. Tons of  London 2012 photos are on my Flickr page.

Best weekend ever?

We’ve had a fantastic 4th of July weekend each year we’ve been here, but the first in 2010 is impossible to top.

Thursday, July 1st

Jen & Gary and I saw Green Day in Mainz, where we ran into a bunch of people from the unit. The show was fun, and the trip home was memorable as it was a total cluster. Eventually, we got on a bus that took us to the train station. And then we were stopped by officials for being on a First Class train but played the ‘dumb American’ card and received a warning rather than a fine.

Green Day

1st MI rocks to Green Day

on the bus ride home

Saturday, July 3

Thanks to the constant deployment schedule it’s a rare occurrence to have all of our dudes in town at the same time. Seven of our core 8 people were here to enjoy a cruise on the River Rhein for Rhein in Flammen – illuminated ships sail the river in a convoy, passengers see firework displays at castles along the river.

We may or may not have been reprimanded for trying to sit on the bow of our cruise ship (okay, we were.) And Jen may or may not have mistaken a big scoop of butter for what she thought was yogurt (okay, she did.) Need I mention we had quite a bit of wine on the cruise? Ahem…

Virginia Straße gals and Germany kids
The World Cup was underway – these kids were handing out advertisements for public viewings.

Rhein A'Flame

blurry, but you get the idea

Sunday, July 4

Big D and I made our way to Trier to tour the city and see the Porta Nigra, which the Romans built in 180 A.D.  I was surprised we were able to walk through it – I thought we’d just look at it from outside.

Porta Nigra

Porta Nigra

smooch

From Trier, we drove to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. We blended in with a guided tour to hear tons of fascinating information, and our timing was great: The group rushed out to get to their next stop, leaving us alone in the cemetery for Taps and Retreat. We spoke with the Superintendent quite a while on our way out – we’ll never forget it.

Here’s Big D at GEN Paton’s grave:
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

We spent that night in Luxembourg City, which has an interesting mix of ancient and modern architecture.
Luxembourg City

Monday, July 5

If you haven’t seen Band of Brothers…. well, you must.  Touring the Bastogne Historical Center in Belgium was on our bucket list and if time permits, we’ll go back again.

Bastogne Historical Center

Bastogne Historical Center

After a morning full of U.S. and WWII history, we were off to meet up with Jen & Gary for Stage Two of the 97th Tour de France. We were trying to make our way to the town of Spa for the finish line, but traffic and road closures instead had us in the town of Wanne. Little more than a crossroads, we could not have ended up in a better spot if we tried. The locals were super friendly! Nobody spoke English, but we somehow became part of their little town’s big party, enjoying lots of beer and barbecue at a tent set up in the yard of their tiny museum.

Seniors & Nicoli

We didn’t let the rapidly changing weather dampen our sprits.
new umbrella purchase

Having never experienced the TdF, it was all new and exciting. Each sponsor drives through and tosses promotional items to the crowd. We left with all kinds of new hats, keychains and baubles.

Big D rocking his Skoda cap
So after a long day of waiting, the peleton flew by us (we did not know a huge crash occurred on the course before the riders arrived at our location) and the whole thing was over in less than about 20 seconds. That’s Tour leader Fabian Cancellara wearing the Yellow Jersey just to the left of the sign below.
Untitled

le Tour de France 2010 Stage 2

Later we made our way to Spa for drinks and shopping and then on to Vielsalm for a wonderful steak dinner during which we decided we had so much fun that we should do it all again tomorrow…

Tuesday, July 6

The day had a rough start: I got stuck in a minuscule elevator, a hotel employee yelled at me in Flemish, we thought we were skipping out on our hotel bill since we don’t have an EC card, and we lost our GPS (Note: our Amex, which we used to guarantee our reservation, was finally charged about three months later. Fshew! We’re still welcome in Belgium!) Finally, we arrived in Wanze and the start line village.

Nicoli and Seniors at the Stage 3 start area

Riders at the Stage 3 start line

And we even (briefly) saw Lance Armstrong:
Lance Armstrong

Thankfully, a stop for sandwiches revealed that I had tucked the GPS inside a ziplock surrounded by napkins(!?) and we made it home in time to watch the completion of the stage on television. Just like that, it was all over…

Six days, three countries, a concert, a boat cruise, two stages of le Tour de France, and so much more. When considering everything we’ve done in Europe, Big D says that afternoon in the tiny, rainy town of Wanne waiting for the race to pass us by is his favorite adventure.

Life is good – and it can’t always be planned. Hang on and enjoy the ride!

Tons of photos from this adventure are on Flickr.