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!

upload

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.

Bad pictures of great people

The person most responsible for all of our fantastic European adventures is without a doubt Rick Steves. For three years, I almost never left the house without consulting a blue and yellow book for every imaginable detail for our destinations.

It was a thrill to thank him in person, and snap this photo at the DC Travel & Adventure Show!
Rick Steves

Last week, Tricia and I attended an interview and Q&A session at George Washington University with the one and only Barefoot Contessa: Ina Garten. Here’s a terrible picture of a delightful evening:
Ina

(I told you it was terrible. But I really wanted to document it here!)

Reunited and it feels so good!

One great thing about the Army lifestyle is the friends we meet along the way.  An equally terrible thing is that eventually, we all say good-bye to each other when its time to move to the next duty station.

It seems too good to be true:  our very good friends from Germany just moved less than two miles from us – our new neighborhood is their new neighborhood!

Tricia and I have been to eight countries together in the three years we’ve known each other. I think it’s funny that we just snapped our first photo together in America last week:

Our first time together in America!

She and her husband Lee got here just in time to help me retrieve Fletcher from the vet and kept me company during his first week of recovery from major surgery.

IMG_0070

Last night Big D and I corralled the dog and headed over to their house for dinner. It was just like old times: great food and drinks (potent margaritas, and we had too many!) lots of laughs, and for the first time ever: a total dessert failure!

We were trying to make these:

Things started out as planned:
not our best dessert effort

And it all seemed to be going fine:
not our best dessert effort

But somehow (perhaps the aforementioned drinks?) we ended up with these:
not our best dessert effort

And this:
Not every dessert plan works out.

Messy and ugly, but they tasted great!

not our best dessert effort

Today, while our dudes relaxed (read: slept off the previous night’s drinks) Tricia and I walked a few miles of the Mount Vernon Trail.

Jones Point

Jones Point

Its great to be in the same city with our friends! Who knows what trouble we’ll get into here?

Alexandria

Koninginnedag 2012

The Dutch celebrate an annual orange crush – Queen’s day, or Koninginnedag – a national holiday like no other, on the Queen’s birthday each year. Though, really, they are such considerate people they reschedule her cold, wintery birthdate to April to assure enjoyable weather.

Nobody at last year’s event knew it would be the last regular celebration for quite some time. Beloved Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander today, so it’ll be King’s Day for quite a while.

Backstory and history aside, what an experience!

Tricia and I were armed with a few orange outfits, and lots of smiles:
On the road to Amsterdam

Queen’s Night kicked off the pandemonium and served as a preview of what was to come:
Queen's Night

Queen’s Day started with a nationwide garage sale – I snapped this picture from our hotel room quite early that morning:
Queen's Day

The streets and parks were packed with booths and tables full of folks doing all kinds of things to earn (tax-free) money, like flipping pancakes to fund their upcoming wedding…
Queen's Day

Or letting people throw eggs at their face:
Queen's Day

How’s about a Queen-themed beanbag toss?
Queen's Day game

I loved everyone’s ingenuity and creativeness, and the fact that lots of booths were family affairs – even tiny kids got in on the action. And we could tell the day was full of family traditions.

As the day progressed, so did the party:
Queen's Day

Queen's Day

Queen's Day

Queen's Day

We were lucky enough to meet up with Rachel – it felt like spending time with an old friend since we’ve followed each other online for a few years.
Music brings the people together
Rachel’s the one wearing Orange. Ha! That’s her in the middle.

And it was crazy that we said good-bye, and then ran into her in the crowd again later – considering the masses, what were the chances!?
Queen's Day

Queen's Day on Leidsegracht

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Bulldog (if you’re a tourist, and I am. And no, we didn’t smoke any.)
The Bulldog

We were pretty tired by the end of the day…
Tricia relaxing

And ended the day like Queens.
our Queen's Day finale

Tune in tomorrow – there are lots of tulips, bicycles, and windmills coming up next!

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.

City of Sekt and Roses

Hello from yet another hotel room, this one in the Toronto, Canada suburb of Vaughn. Big D, Fletcher, and I made the trip from Germany to the US, spent 10 days in Virginia, and signed a lease on a townhouse in Old Town, Alexandria. Since our move in date isn’t until the first week of May, Fletcher and I are here in The Great White North with Big D while he takes a class to master yet another aircraft. Stay tuned for details on what will be our new hometown…

But while I’m here, I am really going to try to finish up posting about European adventures.

Etville is one of the first little towns we explored in the Rheingau and it quickly became a favorite. We included stops there whenever we hosted out of towners, we attended plenty of fests hosted by the town, and when I needed a pick-me-up because one of Big D’s deployments was extended, Tricia knew a stroll there was just what I needed.

Eltville celebrates 22,000 examples of 350 different species during its Rose Festival each June.

Rosenstadt Eltville

Rosenstadt Eltville

Eltville

In 2010, we celebrated Tricia’s birthday at Piccolo Mondo – a restaurant frequented by Sean Connery when he stayed in the town while filming in In the Name of the Rose.

Tricia & Big D

Eltville

Later in 2010, I was lucky enough to pick grapes during the harvest at Weingut Eberbacher Hof:
Weingut Eberbacher Hof

Team Virginia-Straße

a small part of our harvest

Even when the roses are gone, Eltville is beautiful:
Eltville

In spring 2011, we enjoyed a guided walking tour of the town:
oldest cobblestones in Eltville, Germany

Eltville, Germany

Crooked little house in Eltville, Germany

We were back again that fall with Big D’s mom:
the Rhine in Eltville

And in the spring of last year? You guessed it: more roses!
Eltville

I’m not going to say things at the Eltville Sekt Fest got a little wacky, but….
me & Grayson Barbara

Michael me & Grayson

I think its fitting that I took this photo in the Hattenheim neighborhood on my last visit to the area:
Ahhhhhh!

Heaps of Sheep

I started this blog intending to recap our European adventures before we moved back to the States. I can’t believe we only have about 50 days remaining here! Looks like I’ll do some reminiscing from the other side of the pond.

And speaking of reminiscing…

Big D and I tagged along on a trip to Killarney, Ireland with Tricia and Lee over MLK weekend in 2011. We arrived early on a Friday morning and headed right to a pub for breakfast. And then we spent the day driving around the Dingle Peninsula:

me & Tricia on Inch Beach
Tricia and me at Inch Beach

Dingle Marina
Dingle Marina

Guinness is good for you!
I looked like this during most meals

Big D and Lee were quite patient and stopped our rental SUV every time Tricia and I wanted to take a million photos, which was every few kilometers. But it was worth all of that pausing!
Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

Slea Head
Slea Head

I was especially excited to visit the Gallarus Observatory, one of my sister Kara’s favorite places:
Gallarus Oratory

The next day was rainy, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the Ring of Kerry:
Ring of Kerry Ladies view
Ladies View

Big D at Staigue Ring Fort
Big D at the Staigue Ring Fort

On Sunday, we trekked to Blarney and Kinsale:

Blarney Castle
I had no idea that the Blarney Stone is located at the top of the tower. And there was another new bit of information: kissing the stone doesn’t give you luck – it grants the gift of conversation. I think everyone would agree that I do not need any help in that area. Good thing, as there was no way in hell I was going to lay down to hang my head backwards so I could kiss a dirty rock. (Did I mention I expected it to be a beautiful emerald? Guess I should have done my homework…)

The town of Kinsale is beautiful and dinner there at a delightful restaurant called Fishy Fishy Cafe was so fantastic we bought their cookbook on our way out.
Kinsale Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club

We spent our final day driving through the Gap of Dunloe and hiking to a waterfall in Killarney National Park:

Gap of Dunloe
Gap of Dunloe

It was fun to see the same view from a few days prior, this time with great weather:
Ladies View
Ladies View

Killarney National Park
Killarney National Park

Lee, me & Big D
Lee, me and Big D at the Torc Waterfall

We spent a lot of time laughing on this trip, and I kept notes on my iPhone. These may not make sense to you, but I’m going to post them for Big D, Tricia & Lee’s benefit:

  • Those are pretty small sheep. They must be for kid sized sweaters.
  • It’s hard to make a living if you’ve only got a dozen sheep. You must just stand there saying “grow” to them all day.
  • In order not to delete any of the heaps of sheeps, there’s a hedge at the edge of the ledge.
  • What if we saw a llama wearing a yarlmuke?
  • You want to sit on my lap and talk about… Wait, did he just say poptarts?
  • At the last pub I had the pope staring at me. Here it’s Jesus…
  • She’s 101 years old. So she’s not on Facebook? Nope, but she tweets like a MF’er…
  • *scrape* *scratch* “It’s a rental!”
  • Nope. That’s Scottish.

More photos from our fun weekend are over on Flickr.