One Crazy Summer

Good grief, what a summer! We had a lot planned, and fit most of it in with a few twists.

My elderly mom, who lives in Arizona, was hospitalized and eventually transitioned into an Assisted Living Facility. So far, I’ve made two unexpected (both very stressful) week-long trips to the surface of the sun.

She's shrinking, and I'm exhausted. But here's a snap before we said farewell this morning.

One more.

Big Ds cousin and his wife visited for a long weekend:
Cousins.

Big Ds brother dropped in for a fast overnight visit:
And away they go...

There was BIG excitement here when Germany won the World Cup.

Here we go!!

Big D’s sister and our niece visited for a long weekend – we had a blast hitting some tourist sites I hadn’t yet explored, including Madame Tussaud’s:
We tried to warn Abe...

Jen, my BFF from Germany, made two visits. During the first, we ran a fun 5K, and toured around (so if you’re keeping track, I visited the Lincoln Memorial every Sunday for a month!)

We're ready to run!

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Somehow, I squished in a trip to Raleigh, NC to see a Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw concert with our other BFFs (and even managed to stay an extra day.)
pre-show selfie

And we got to meet Matt after the show:
Carey, Matt, Jym & me

I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Matt in Frankfurt a few years ago, and he was just as kind and hilarious when Carey, Jym and I met up with him this time around.

Last weekend our whole Germany gang and our constant travel companion Angie were reunited for the first time in years. Thanks to the Army, our time together was far too brief, but it was great to be together!
the whole gang

Big D is talking, not frowning. But this is the only non-blurry photo snapped at Bryan HQ.

Jen, me, Tricia & Angie

And to cap it all off: Jen, Tricia, and I trekked to Baltimore where more fun (and many beers) were had. Yes, this was my third concert in a week.

Gavin DeGraw

Tricia, Matt & me
Tricia finally got to meet Matt, too!

And now, our house is so quiet that its eerie. I’m looking forward to our first weekend in ages (nine weeks?) without a single plan.  As always, tons more pictures than you’ll probably care to see from everything I mentioned are over on my Flickr page.

I need a nap.

Zum Wohl!

Considering Big D and I have resided at 16 addresses in 19 years, its no wonder Wiesbaden feels like “home.” We’ve lived there longer than anywhere else. Our three years in Germany were one long vacation with a whole lot of real life mixed in. And our actual vacation there recently was great – I shouldn’t have worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories and expectations.

Our visit was cram-packed with delicious food and wine, beautiful sights, and most importantly: fantastic friends.

We made a beeline for our favorite bar, the Bäckerbrunnen, and spent lots of quality time there throughout the week with the owner, our good friend Chris.
One of my very, very favorite places anywhere.

Prost!

Despite the calendar, it snowed here in Virginia while we were away. Thankfully: the German Spring was in full swing:
Hotel Nassauer Hof

My dear friend Barbara adjusted her schedule, juggled her family responsibilities, hauled me all over the place, and opened her home to us throughout the week. She and equally dear Kirsten hosted a Wine Tasting Luncheon for me which was just lovely!

That was one tasty afternoon!
We enjoyed selections from Winegut Bieber (no relation) – and yes, the wines named Beast and Xanadu are inspired by Iron Maiden and Rush!

There’s nothing quite like having a friend you can spend time with from breakfast, luncheon, sunset, dinner, through to couch time with the family, and then ask for a pair of socks before getting a ride home!

Evening on the Rhein.
The Rhein view from Barbara’s balcony is as beautiful as she is.

We did some wacky things like blending in with a football crowd in the city of Mainz, and for the first time in ages: we were out past 2am dancing at a club!

blending into Mainz HbF football crowd
Go team!

at Park Café
The Rays, Slys, and Nicoli during a very late night at Park Café

It felt great to wander through the market, parks, and wine stands I know so well.

Wiesbaden Market
Wiesbaden Market

Jam on it.

Kurhaus Wiesbaden
Kurhaus Wiesbaden

Kurhaus park
Kurhaus park

Zum Wohl, indeed! Loving this evening on the Rhein.
Hattenheim Wine Stand

Wiesbadener Marktkirche
Wiesbadener Marktkirche – for perspective, look for the person in a red jacket at lower left.

The adventures of the upcoming week on the European road were the only thing that made departing Wiesbaden bearable. Stay tuned!

Zum Wohl from the Wine Stand!
Zum Wohl!

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

Untitled

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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City of…snails

After just a few more posts I’ll be all caught up on our European adventures and can get on with more current activities – it’s bittersweet.

As our time in Germany got short we felt pressure to do, see, eat, etc. everything. But at the same time, traveling is really tiring (I know, I know – it’s a First World Problem if ever there was one.)

I spent a lot of time conducting research before each trip so that we knew exactly where to go, how to get there, and what to do once we arrived. Most of our trips had a specific goal and usually a corresponding schedule. I think we selected this destination because as snotty as it sounds, traveling to Paris was easy. We knew where to stay, how to maneuver the city, what we wanted to eat, and come on: it’s Paris for goodness sake!

Cafe Central
We checked in to our hotel and then practically sprinted to Cafe Central for their fantastic hamburger sauce.

We stayed just off the Rue Cler and I love everything about that little street:
Rue Cler

Flower shop on Rue Cler

We spent the first day wandering aimlessly from landmark to landmark, stopping for wine along the way.

We're here!

Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

Louis Vuitton on Champs-Elysées
Louis Vuitton

Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées
Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées

Les Invalides
Les Invalides

The next day we ventured to Versailles and toured casually – we used the audio guides but really just stopped whenever something seemed interesting rather than trying to see every single thing (which isn’t possible anyway, right?)
Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles

Jardins du château de Versailles

And when we got hungry? We decided maybe someday we’d return…and we left. Here’s to us for being carefree! We ate at Helio’s Pub, a cute little place that let Big D order items not on the menu. I had my first of many escargot servings:
They were so delicious I ate mine and most of D's.

That evening we wandered around the Latin Quarter and unintentionally strolled all the way back to our hotel – about four miles.

Art Nouveau Metro sign

Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre

Musée d'Orsay
Musée d’Orsay

Big D and the Tour Eiffel

We decided to spend Sunday morning at the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen – a flea market we briefly visited on a previous trip – and the afternoon/evening at the Orsay. I even bought tickets for the museum online so we wouldn’t have to wait in line. It turned out we only saw a tiny fraction of the market on our first visit and had no idea the maze of stores and stalls is HUGE. We spent most of the day there and rather than rushing, we never did use those museum tickets. They’re valid for a year so if you’re headed to Paris, I’ll send them to you! (Photography is generally prohibited at the market, so all I have is what’s in my mind’s eye.)

We filled the free time that afternoon with… escargot of course! And wine. And cheese. And whatever these are.
Big Ds "snack."

And then we roamed around the First Arrondissement with a stop at my personal mecca, Goyard – closed on Sunday.

my Mecca

This guy got a ticket from policemen on Rollerblades. How embarrassing!
Definition of embarrassing: Getting a ticket in your Smart Car from policemen on rollerblades!!

Tour Eiffel

Monday brought our trip to a close. We checked out of our tiny hotel and dragged our bags to the Trocadéro just so I could try to get the photo below, which required sneaking my glass out of the restaurant, across a few busy lanes of traffic, and into the center of a roundabout. Big D said I looked like I was playing a game of human Frogger.

not exactly what I was aiming for

This photo didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped. But really, I can not complain.

More photos from our final trip to Paris are over on Flickr.

Merci pour les souvenirs, Paris!

Berchtesgaden

Big D and I spent a weekend in the German Alps last September – visiting The Eagles Nest was our primary goal. We even watched the final few Band of Brothers episodes to brush up on history (as seen through the eyes of Tom Hanks, anyway…)

The drive south included a few miles in Austria (adding another country to Fletcher’s doggie passport) and was slow thanks to rain and terrible traffic.

stuck in traffic

We took an informative, guided tour the first day featuring a museum, Third Reich sites in the area, an elaborate bunker system, and a trip to Kehlsteinhaus – the Eagle’s Nest.

bunker

5 May 1945 French Army graffiti in a bunker
5 May 1945 French Army graffiti in a bunker

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
This fireplace was a birthday gift to Hitler from Mussolini

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
I’m sorry, I ordered the large??

Sadly, the weather that day was not cooperative:
Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

We were shocked when we awoke the next morning and saw the view of Kehlsteinhaus from our hotel room!
Eagle's Nest view from our room

Our tour guide told us how to hike from our hotel to Hitler’s actual summer house (he never resided at the nest) via an unassuming, unmarked path. We took her advice and also took advantage of the great weather:

driveway to Berghof

Berghof foundation remains
remains of the Berghof foundation

To deter tourists, sight-seers, and neo-Nazis, the Bavarian government blew up the ruins of the Berghof on 30 April 1952, the anniversary of Hitler’s death.

self timed at Berghof foundation remains
using the self timer

And then we put the top down on my car, drove around, and really enjoyed the day, which included an electric boat ride on the Königssee, which was breathtaking!

Berchtesgaden

Königssee
For scale, note the church on the lower left.

Königssee

Königssee

And then we ventured back to the Eagle’s Nest, and oh what a difference a day makes!

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

berchtesgaden view from Kehstein

at Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)

Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest)
Enjoying a Hofbrau above the clouds

Our evening walk included a stop at Hotel Zum Türken, one of only 3 remaining buildings on the Platterhof – and former SS Headquarters.

Hotel Zum Türken
Photography forbidden? Whoops.

And after a cocktail to round out the evening and a short walk downtown the next morning, our trip came to a close.

relaixng at our hotel

Königliches Schloss Berchtesgaden

More photos from our adventures in the Bavarian Alps are over on Flickr.

Tulips, Bicycles, Windmills

When the Queen’s Day celebrations concluded, Tricia and I packed up our orange gear and headed to the Keukenhof to see the tulips:

Lisse, Netherlands tulip fields

farmers fields

Keukenhof

Tricia

Keukenhof

Tricia & me at the Keukenhof

After tiptoeing through all of those beautiful tulips, we drove across the countryside, took an unexpected ferry ride, and stayed at an adorable B&B near the Kinderdijk.

Our days there were full of bike rides and windmills:

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Such a beautiful, relaxing getaway. Even sorting through the photos makes me say Ahhhhhh….Tons more photos of the Netherlands are over on my Flickr page.

Ich bin ein Berliner

When friends ask, “What’s the best city you’ve visited?” I always reply the same way. Other than our German hometown, Wiesbaden, it’s a tie between Paris and Berlin.

Memorial Day 2011 found Big D and I exploring the city where old and new are truly meshed as one:

Locals call her "Chick on a Stick"
The Berlin Victory Column, or Siegessäule, is affectionately referred to as The Chick on a Stick – I immediately recognized it from the U2 Stay video.

Faraway, So Close

Statue of Victoria

The view from the top provided a fantastic preview of what we’d see throughout the course of the weekend:
view from the Victory Column

Day two started with one of my very favorite things: Keith Haring artwork!
Haring sculpture at Potsdamer Platz

Anhalter Bahnhof
We strolled by the Anhalter Bahnhof without knowing what it is and later learned that not only was this where Mussolini would arrive by rail, but it was also used as a deportation station for Holocaust victims. All that remains is the façade – a soccer (or football, depending on where you’re from) field is behind it.

I'm in the West, Big D is in East Germany
Big D stands in the former East Germany, I’m in the West.

Checkpoint Charlie and an iPad2 ad
I loved the juxtaposition of Checkpoint Charlie and the iPad 2 advertisement.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is plain, moving – and controversial. Read more about it here.

We saw a lot of these sights while we took the Fat Tire Bike Tour. I’ve done the tour in all of their cities (Paris, London, Berlin and Barcelona) and Berlin is my favorite.

Fat Tire Bike Tour

Reistag Building
Reistag – capitol building

Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom

If you’ve been following this blog for even a small amount of time the following phrase won’t surprise you a bit… We visited the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum to see their Keith Haring collection and (here it comes…) I walked into this room and I burst into tears.
I was overwhelmed!

Big D was so patient as I wandered through the museum gasping at each piece even though he doesn’t really appreciate this particular kind of art at all.

Haring Mask

I was lucky enough to be back in Berlin last July with Tricia. Our visit was part of a whirlwind trip (Köln on July 4 to see Snow Patrol, Berlin on July 5 to see Pearl Jam, and back at our respective homes on July 7 – that’s more than 900 miles by train in 4 days!)

Fat Tire Bike Tour
We took the Fat Tire tour with friends we met at the show – and I’m looking forward to seeing some of them in Chicago for more Pearl Jamming this summer!

Checkpoint Charlie

Tricia

me with a piece of the wall

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

Keith & me
Berlin! Someday I’ll return, if only to stand here one more time.