Blog - Lassen Peak Photography
  • Wed, 31 Oct 2018 01:39:08 +0000

    Day 21: Last Day in Europe!

    The weather for our final full day dans Paris was very different from our first. We were met with mild temperatures and blues skies when we arrived in Europe…our last day was grey, chilly, windy, and threatened rain.

    Since the Louvre was closed when we first intended to visit almost 3 weeks ago, that was high on the agenda for our final day in Paris. So too was visiting the Eiffel Tower, as we’d been jet-lagged when we first planned to see it and had decided to hold off until the end of our trip.

    First we ate breakfast at a terrific place we found on the way to the Louvre. Here was my delicious vegetarian meal:

    Our girl was inspired by all the pretty coffees we’d been drinking, and poured her melted chocolate into her milk with a flourish:

    And here are photos she took of everyone else’s breakfast:

    We purchased our tickets online for the Louvre while still in the Netherlands and were so glad we had! Even though our entry time was earlier in the day, there was already a long line for those without tickets.

    Here was the famous entrance:

    We spent 4 hours in the Louvre, and barely made a dent in seeing the incredible works of art housed there!

    Our girl was set on seeing the Mona Lisa, so we worked our way through the Greco-Roman sculptures and renaissance paintings first.

    It was extremely dark in some areas and the number of people in the museum kept increasing exponentially, so it was tough getting decent photos of the art. But here are some of the amazing things we saw:

    And can you believe that in addition to the human form, this chaise was also sculpted from marble?

    We saw beautiful ceilings:

    Very interesting paintings, with varied subject matter and techniques used:

    Then we followed the crush of people and waited our turn to see the Mona Lisa:

    We then saw more works by masters from the Greco-Roman period:

    And I think Marc may have some Greco-Roman blood, don’t you? Check out that profile!

    We went downstairs, descending further back in time.

    Our girl said these were the original drafts for our Statue of Liberty:

    I thought the magic talismans were cool:

    And then we explored the Asian art section, complete with the boys’ favorite – sharp pointy objects! As an added bonus, the first photo also includes elephant head gear:

    We really wanted to explore further, but time was not our friend if we wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower.

    Now, when we originally discussed getting tickets to the Louvre, we also considered getting tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower. We (meaning our girl and I) made the unfortunate decision of not getting the tickets, thinking we’d be happy “just” seeing it from the bottom:

    Which was totally amazing. But upon seeing it in-person, our family unanimously decided we had to go to the top. The kids were completely set on it, and a little surprisingly, I think our boy was the most adamant of all.

    I did mention earlier how the weather had shifted, right?

    Well, we spent hours in the miserable windy cold weather to get tickets, and then found we had subsequent lines to wait in while shivering and huddling together to keep warm. I still can’t decide whether it was good or bad that it only threatened to rain. On the one hand, it would’ve been even more miserable. BUT we were all wearing rain coats, and I think the rain might’ve chased some people away.

    Anyhow, we finally shot up the elevator to the 2nd tier, and this view was our reward:

    Oh, and our girl tried to get herself lost at the Eiffel Tower – twice.

    The first time was on the 2nd tier. She saw a sign for a cafe with warm drinks and must’ve been feeling confident since we’d been in Europe for a little while.

    I was taking photos while we were in line for the elevator to the top…and the next thing I knew, she said something to Marc and bounded past me down the stairs!

    I went after her but as Marc likes to put it, I was “too short,” plus I was discombobulated by the mass of people wearing black like she was. So Marc went and found her, saving me from having a serious panic attack!!

    Upside was that they came back with a coffee and a hot cocoa that we shared, while passing them around to warm our hands. I think other people around us wished they’d had her initiative, lol.

    We finally made it to the top, where it was considerably less windy. And these were the incredible views:

    Our boy “hung off the Eiffel Tower” (his words), before getting yelled at in French to knock it off:

    I really, really wish I had a photo from when our girl tried to get herself lost the second time.

    As our giant elevator was descending from the 2nd tier, it paused partway, and I *think* the operator said something in French about getting off if you were staying in a hotel.

    Well, our girl apparently didn’t hear that and went bounding off the elevator, much to the astonishment of everyone inside! I thought she’d take two steps, realize no one was with her, and come back. But no – she kept right on going!

    It took all four of us calling her name for her to turn mid-bounce, halfway down the hall, with a shocked expression. It was that expression that made everyone in the elevator crack up – I’m still laughing as I write this!!

    With that, we walked out of the Eiffel Tower in time to see the running lights turn to solid lights:

    And we topped it all off by making gnocchi and ravioli picked up from the neighborhood market near our place, and fresh baguettes plus a lovely tarte aux pommes from the boulangerie/patisserie.

    Here was the yummy tarte:

    We leave for home tomorrow, and so we now bid adieu to all the amazing places we visited over the past 3 weeks:

    • Paris, France
    • Bruges, Belgium
    • Utrecht, the Netherlands
    • Ribe, Denmark
    • Mondo, Denmark
    • Copenhagen, Denmark
    • Hamburg, Germany
    • Prague, Czech Republic
    • Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

    Plus all the places we stopped along the way! We had the most incredible time together – and we’re already talking about where our next adventure will take us.

    Until then!

  • Sun, 28 Oct 2018 15:59:13 +0000

    Day 20: Luxembourg and on to Paris!

    After an interesting evening that consisted of waking at 4:00am to the Airbnb unit’s radiator springing a leak and dumping water all over the floor, none of us could really get back to sleep. We snacked on baguettes and brie for breakfast, packed up our stuff while dumping water from the pan under the radiator every 30 min, and our girl found us a place to try for lunch.

    We made a reservation at a restaurant called Batucada, which served Brazilian food. It was phenomenal! I had a beautiful vegetarian meal with a great Brazilian sauce, Marc and our girl each had steaks, and our boy had a seafood dish. All of them were delicious.

    Here is a photo of my plate:

    Next up had seemed like a good idea at the time…set our reserved train for early evening so we could have almost 2 whole days in Luxembourg before going back to Paris.

    Well, it was and it wasn’t…in hindsight I should’ve scheduled our train for a few hours earlier, but who knew the Capitol would be mostly shut down on a Sunday?

    After doing the “hop on, hop off” bus tour of Luxembourg to keep warm while killing a few of the hours before our train, we found out why…~90% of the folks who live in Luxembourg are Catholic.

    But the bus tour itself was pretty cool, and we probably wouldn’t have chosen it otherwise. We learned about the Luxembourg financial district, how it’s the financial center of the EU, and got to see other landmarks in the city.

    Here are photos taken from the bus during our tour around Luxembourg City:

    Here is the 4th Eiffel Tower our family has seen, and the 3rd on this adventure:

    And I found out why I hadn’t been able to locate this building in any list of Luxembourg castles. It’s not a castle – it’s actually owned by a bank, along with the similarly styled building across the street:

    Here we were approaching le Gare de Luxembourg:

    And this was inside the station:

    We enjoyed Luxembourg, but now we’re excited for the Louvre tomorrow!

  • Sun, 28 Oct 2018 07:04:56 +0000

    Day 19: Luxembourg!

    Our chilly morning naturally started with a search for hot drinks and nourishment. We were light on agenda, so we wandered the streets of Luxembourg City to find both. Oddly it seemed we were early birds, as the streets were relatively empty until a few hours later.

    Here are a couple of photos from our walk:

    This looked important since there were two soldiers armed with semi-automatic weapons taking turns standing guard and pacing out front. Turns out it was the grand-ducal palace, the town residence of the Grand Duke! The architecture is in the style of the Flemish renaissance and it was built in the 16th century:

    After we found our hot drinks and pastries, we headed to the Bock Casements.

    Along the way we saw the former Castle of the Counts of Luxembourg, with earliest mention in written record calling the castle “Lucilinburhuc,” and dating back to 963 AD. After changing hands many times due to its strategic position, in 1867 Luxembourg was declared “perpetually neutral” by the Congress of London. This included a requirement of dismantling the castle/fortress as much as could be without destroying everything woven into it; the process took more than 16 years to complete.

    Here are photos of the castle ruins and from the area around it:

    Next we explored the casements, which were a network of underground tunnels used in times of war. Much of this network was sealed off after the declaration in 1867, but some pieces remain open to the public. At one time, 35,000 people could shelter below the city!

    In the tunnels, there are openings in the walls to allow airflow and provide good vantage/defensive points. Here are photos from the casements:

    And here’s our girl’s selfie (apparently she took it when I asked her to briefly hold my phone, lol):

    After climbing up and down all those stairs in the casements we were hungry. We discovered that Luxembourg was the place I had tried to recall where restaurants shut down between 2pm and 6pm. We were able to find a little shop where we could get paninis to go, however, so we were happy. Our girl was especially happy because she was able to place her order all en francais!

    And we picked up a few fabulous desserts:

    We only walked around a little more before heading back to the Airbnb…the chill in the air had turned biting cold, so we found ingredients for our supper and gave up for the evening. Then Marc made us a delicious meal of fettuccini with bolognese sauce inspired by a cooking show we recently saw…mmm!

    Interestingly, Luxembourg has a different way than Prague does for dealing with aging cobblestone. Prague’s cobblestones are under repair in various places we saw, rather than being paved over like in Luxembourg:

    Our walk back included a monument that was erected in 1923, partially destroyed by the Nazis in 1940, partially rebuilt in 1958, and then fully restored in 1985:

    And last but not least, the booth that both our kids kept referring to as the “Superman Booth” (never mind it’s the wrong color):

    Tomorrow we make our way to Paris for the final stages of our journey. Bon nuit!

  • Sat, 27 Oct 2018 18:36:37 +0000

    Day 18: Travel to Luxembourg!

    I knew before our whole trip started that today would be interesting. And spoiler alert…I don’t have much for photos to share from our long day of traveling from Prague to Luxembourg, since we spent most of the time with the countryside flying by, trying to rearrange travel plans, and making backup plans of backup plans. Our Eurail passes were only good through today and we have separate train tickets from Luxembourg to Paris, so we really needed to get to Luxembourg today or the next day at the latest to keep our plans on track.

    To start off our early morning, we walked almost 2 miles back to the Prague train station with all our gear (as when we arrived), getting there with what should have been plenty of time to catch our first train to Germany.

    But when we didn’t see the train number on the board, I looked closer at the paper reservation sent by mail to us from Eurail (the rest of our reservations I was thankfully able to make online) – and I saw the reservation was actually for a bus, not a train. Um, well, we’d arrived from Germany by train so I just assumed we went back by train.

    Okay, then, so where did we need to catch the bus? Should be a simple answer, right?

    Nope. We must’ve walked the entire station (except where we needed to be) at least 3 times before deciding to ask the information desk for assistance. We only did that because the departure time was quickly approaching and we needed to get to Luxembourg.

    That’s when we discovered the folks who work in the Prague train station are less than entirely unhelpful, quite unlike our experience asking for help in Paris.

    And I can confidently make that generalization, because before we finally left we’d asked two different people who were staffing two different desks in different areas of the station…each of whom had banners right above them, advertising “information” about trains, trams, and buses.

    All we wanted to know was where the buses picked up passengers – neither person would tell us.

    Thankfully I finally located a kiosk set off to the side while Marc waited to talk to the second unhelpful person. While the front side was an advertisement, the back side was – YES!! – a station map! It was not in English, but lo and behold, it made the use of icons and I can recognize the icon of a bus.

    We raced as well as one can race carrying all our gear, and found the bus stop! Just in time, too – we arrived with only 2 minutes to the departure time.

    And just wow, all the buses stop in the same area to pickup passengers, proving it really wasn’t that difficult of a question for the “information” people to answer. Maybe they were expecting a bribe?? I assume they were getting paid to sit there to “help” people all day long…and sadly they fit into the picture our truffle guide painted for us yesterday when she warned us about hailing ANY taxi in Prague (especially from the airport), being careful about which ATMs to use (we’d already noticed a lot of unmarked ATMs in the area), and various other similar things to watch out for.

    But we managed to get ourselves on the bus in time, so we were happy and still on track to meet our reserved train from Nuremberg (where we were currently headed) to Frankfurt.

    We arrived in Nuremberg with 20 minutes before our next train. We felt like we were getting the hang of the train system – we confidently found the platform number for our train and headed up. When we arrived there was a different train at the platform which was also headed to Frankfurt…but it was an earlier time than our train (this train was running late), and not the one we had reservations on. Our train was still listed as coming up so we waited.

    I’d heard rumblings about trains (plural) running late, so I wasn’t surprised when the time for our train changed to 30 minutes later. What did surprise me was when it completely dropped off the board 5 minutes after that! Thinking the platform must’ve changed, our girl and I hurried downstairs to check the departure board. But our train had completely vanished into thin air!!

    While I was digesting this and trying to use the Eurail app to help us figure out an alternate route, an older woman approached and started asking me questions about her train because it wasn’t on the board either. However, she only spoke German, and I do not know any German. But I pulled up the Eurail app and between the two of us we managed to get her train info…turned out it wasn’t on the board yet only because it was far enough out from the departure time. She was so happy and grateful though, and I was glad I could help even in the midst of our predicament. And I think that gave us a load of good karma, which we sure needed later!

    We waited for the next 2+ hr train to Frankfurt, hoping to keep on our original path, even without our reservation. Everyone from our “ghost” train apparently had the same idea.

    When we first climbed on board, there were no seats available so we camped out between the cars. That’s when our good karma started to pay off – there were two seats open in one of the “quiet” rooms, and instead of taking one, a kind gentleman let us know and offered them to us. Our girl and I went in and sat down, and our train continued on for about 45 min.

    Then we pulled into a train station and the conductor started speaking loudly and harshly over the loudspeaker, repeating the same thing over and over – but only in German. And the train stayed still. One of the German gentlemen in the room turned out to be nice and very helpful. He figured we didn’t understand or know what was going on, so he told us the conductor had stopped the train and was refusing to move until everyone exited who did not have seat reservations…something about getting ready to go through tunnels, and there being too many people on board.

    Of course I was worried since we technically didn’t have reservations for this specific train (just the “ghost” train) and the boys had so far only managed to grab one seat between them. But the gentleman seemed confident we’d be fine if we just waited, and so we did.

    We waited……..and waited……..and occasionally the conductor would repeat his terse statement in German………and we waited……..people gradually left the train, but still we waited……..and eventually our compartment-mates started talking about jumping off and hopping onto the regional train to Frankfurt that pulled up on the opposite track. Thank goodness enough people decided to act on that impulse and our train finally started moving again! We must’ve sat stalled on that track for at least an hour, but at last we were continuing on our way.

    I’d been using the Eurail app during our travels to this point, knowing that it had regular schedules and not current updates, but we’d been limping along with it until now. I previously tried finding out how to get up-to-date information about the trains, but it wasn’t until this trip that I finally found out how – our new German friend gave me the name of the app that he used, called DB Navigator, and I discovered it also has platform departure information! If only we’d known about this sooner!

    Our new friend helped us look at how we might make the rest of our way to Luxembourg, and ended up saying he thought we must have bad train karma that day…a later train we needed to connect from had been cancelled, and no others scheduled after.

    Au contrere! Without his help getting us the app with live info we wouldn’t have know that particular leg was cancelled and would’ve been stuck for sure until the next day.

    Finally we got to Frankfurt.

    Here is the one photo I took today, which I *think* was inside the Frankfurt station (but don’t hold me to it):

    Next step, we caught a train from Frankfurt to Mannheim. There we found a DB counter and grabbed a number for a place in line…I’d found a way to get us to Luxembourg, but the only path left that day included a reservation on a bus after completing one more train leg from Mannheim. After our experience and hearing that the entire train system was going haywire that day (hence our “ghost” train – I’m just glad we weren’t aboard when it disappeared!), I was hesitant to make future reservations dependent on train arrival time.

    Armed with the new app showing that our next train appeared on time, we went for broke and booked the bus. We barely made our connecting train because the lady at the counter accidentally booked us on another bus and had to refund/rebook. Happily we then made it via train from Mannheim to Saarbrucken, Germany!

    Now so close to the end of our travels, we came face-to-face with the problem that started our day – where did the buses pick up passengers?

    After a few attempts at figuring it out ourselves, I blindly focused on any remaining karma we might have from earlier today, and asked a group of what appeared to be college students. One of them felt some sympathy despite the language barrier, and once she realized where we were headed, told us exactly where to catch our bus.

    I can’t tell you how relieved we were to board that final bus. Despite all the craziness, we only got into Luxembourg about 1.5 hrs later than anticipated, and with ~13 hrs travel overall. Without our new German friend, I think we would’ve still made it, but it would’ve taken longer and been more stressful. We also received great tips on places to visit in Germany, along with other pleasant conversation.

    Tomorrow, we see Luxembourg and recover from our long, tough day…

  • Fri, 26 Oct 2018 21:18:26 +0000

    Days 16 and 17: Prague!

    I love Prague.

    That’s all, end of blog.

    Ha, just kidding about that second statement! But seriously, our whole family loved our 2 days in Prague – we all wished we could extend our time there, and decided we must go back!

    Day 16

    We stayed in a roomy Airbnb just up the street from the Italian and Romanian embassies, and right above the Prague Visitor Center:

    We started our first day with hot drinks and pastries. While the temperature in Prague was similar to back home, there was much greater humidity and a biting wind began blowing in the afternoon, so it definitely wasn’t warm! Our down vests given to us by my parents really came in handy, as did the advice from a friend to bring layers.

    Our drinks were works of art:

    Afterward, we explored the nearby streets as our laundry ran through the wash back at the apartment.

    The buildings in the area had such amazing architecture. The variety of styles and building materials were incredible, as well as the level of craftsmanship.

    Here are a few things we saw:

    Our guy found what I thought was a great hat, though he opted to leave it behind:

    Next, we headed for Prague Castle, which dates back to the 9th century AD. Photos definitely do not do it justice – standing near the castle and looking up, you feel a wave of awe that’s impossible to describe. We were there as daylight was fading, so we were able to see the castle as it gradually was lit for the evening:

    After that experience, we made our way down the streets of Prague in search of traditional Czech food. As we did, we suddenly saw the most incredible moonrise – it was huge, and had a crazy orange/red hue!

    My iPhone was utterly incapable, but here’s a rough idea of what it looked like:

    Here are a few photos taken during our search for food:

    We found a place that served great food:

    Here’s our boy with two spoons to rival those we’ve seen used for meals:

    Day 17

    Today our agenda was to learn about truffles. In Prague, you might ask?

    Actually, yes! We met up with Nela, the truffle hunting dog, and one of her team of hunters – coincidentally also named Nela. We learned many, many things over the course of our 3 hour private tour and lunch with them. Did I mention that this team supplies truffles to all the Czech Michelin-starred restaurants?

    We met at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, which was where I felt we really started learning about the Czech people. Our guide told us about why the memorial was there, about the famous Czech artist who designed it, and how it isn’t completely bleak – that the memorial was designed to be followed in both directions, showing that humanity can be reclaimed, and that there is always hope.

    This was the memorial:

    Next we were brought to a beautiful area where 5 different parks coalesced. Our guide told us about Nela’s training, and explained how it differed from traditional training of dogs for truffle hunting. She said dogs are traditionally trained to look for truffles by getting them to associate truffles with food to fill their bellies, and then are kept deliberately hungry for motivation to hunt. She talked about the pros/cons of this method.

    We then learned that the Czech Republic is very well-regarded for dog training, and the hunting team was trained by a great dog trainer, and then the team trained Nela – using positive behavior reinforcement and clicker training. We learned about the details of truffle hunting, where they do and do not like to hunt (and why), and much more. We also saw Nela in action, and she was amazing doing her job!

    We saw breathtaking views of Prague, and the tour ended with a fabulous meal at a restaurant the team supplies truffles to. We were able to taste both white and black truffles – I found the white more aromatic, but the Black had a deeper flavor. Even our girl (who despises mushrooms) tried them…ironically (and happily!) she’s also the one who found this great tour for us.

    Here are photos taken during our tour:

    Lastly, we walked back to our place over the Charles bridge…it was much less crowded than when we saw it earlier in the day, but there were still a ton of people.

    Here are more photos from our walk across the Charles Bridge and around Prague:

    Here are a few of the beautiful cobblestone patterns around Prague:

    Oh, and we’re barely missing the big celebration – this weekend the Czech Republic is celebrating 100 years!

    We were sad to leave Prague, but onward we must go…next stop, Luxembourg!

  • Wed, 24 Oct 2018 07:34:21 +0000

    Day 15: Travel Day 2 to Prague!

    It was a 6.5 hr train ride to get from Hamburg to Prague. Before we left, we grabbed lunch with a last nod to Germany. I had my stuffed potato and our boy had his second hamburger in Hamburg:

    We boarded our train, *finally* making sure we looked for the car number before finding our reserved seats. We had a couple of hiccups with this on our prior reserved segments, but we’re getting the hang of it!

    And I’m realizing that “reservation required” doesn’t seem to mean that literally, at least not for Europeans riding the trains. I’ve had to (nicely) kick people out of our reserved seats (once we figured out where they were) – on multiple trains. Sometimes the people in your seats pretend they don’t know you’re talking to them, hoping you’ll get confused and leave them be. Umm, obviously they don’t know that doesn’t work with me, lol! Especially when we’re going to be on that train for 6.5 hrs! Funniest part is the conductors on those trains appear very efficient at checking everyone’s reservations and tickets once on board…I’ve seen them kick whole groups of people out of our car, though I’ve yet to see what happens next. Do some get kicked off the train entirely? Or do they just wander the train and find another seat that isn’t theirs until caught again?

    Anyway, the ride to Prague was lovely, with fall in high swing in the forests along the way. Considering our train was going speeds of up to 140 km/hr (87 mph!), I didn’t get good photos of our trek. But here are a few somewhat decent ones I managed to get:

    Check out the castle on the cliff!

    And this must be important, since it was lit up:

    Here was a cool bridge:

    And we made it!!

    Tomorrow we explore Prague.

  • Tue, 23 Oct 2018 08:28:19 +0000

    Day 14: Travel Day 1 to Prague!

    Blog posts for today and tomorrow will be a little slimmer, since the trek from Copenhagen to Prague is a total of 487 miles (by car).

    We decided to break up the journey a bit, and made our way to Hamburg, Germany for the evening. I thought we were going back to Hamburg the same route we’d gone when heading out to Ribe, so I was quite surprised when it turned out our train car would be taking a ferry for a good portion of the trip!

    Here I have to give a nod to the French folks. I’ve (yet) to see why Americans have perpetuated stereotypes about the French being less helpful than anyone else. As a matter of fact, a Frenchman on this train from Denmark to Germany helped us understand what was going on with the ferry, including that ALL train passengers were required to disembark while leaving our luggage behind. I’d understood the latter part from what I pieced together from the instructions over the loudspeaker, but couldn’t wrap my head around what that had to do with a ferry!

    Here are photos from the ferry (below our deck are two decks of parked cars, then a third deck containing our train car):

    At the Hamburg station there was a photo booth, which our guy got a kick out of using:

    Then we dropped our bags off at the hotel:

    …and went looking for traditional German food. We found a place right down the street. Service was interesting…as in, we waited close to a half hour before the waitress remembered we were there and took our order. But we had nowhere in particular to be, and it turned out the food was good.

    I had the wild boar, Marc had mixed meats, our girl had traditional Wiener schnitzel (with veal), and our boy had venison.

    These were my and Marc’s dishes:

    Then us girls went to visit the Hachez Chocolate Museum.

    Here is what we saw along our walk:

    (The photo of the hamburger sign was taken because there’s a running argument between the kids about whether hamburgers originated in Hamburg. That being said, it was our girl’s idea to bring back burgers from Burger King, just so the boys could say they ate hamburgers in Hamburg. Lol!)

    The chocolate museum tour made for an interesting observation of a culture shift from what we’d experienced in the other countries we visited so far.

    In France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark, tour guides we encountered either presented their information in their native tongue plus English, assumed everyone spoke at least English and presented only in that language, or asked the group to find out which major language(s) would be needed so they could include as many people as possible.

    That was handled very differently at the chocolate museum in Germany. There, the 90 minute tour was conducted 99% in German, with fully a quarter of the people in the room fluent in English and not German. This wasn’t because our guide wasn’t fluent in English, because she clearly was. The other English speakers besides my girl and myself appeared to be British and possibly Greek. Before the tour, the English speakers were handed a flimsy guidebook that we were apologetically told by the girl at the ticket desk required a deposit of 2.5 euros. And I guess they sometimes do English language tours; she seemed hesitant about our taking the German tour, which I didn’t understand until after we’d gone through it!

    The guidebook was supposed to be exactly what was being verbalized in German, but clearly wasn’t as the information didn’t match what we saw in the rooms we were brought through. The worst part, though, was when the guide would completely ignore my girl when handing out the different stages of chocolate for tasting. I had to keep nudging her to insist on being included, which no German speaking person had to do. Our experience on the trains bound to/from/within Germany were very similar in terms of language – information was given by the engineer in German only or *maybe* German plus a condensed English version. Hence our friendly Frenchman helping us understand about the train ferry!

    Here are photos from the chocolate museum:

    Germans apparently feel very differently from Belgians about whether white chocolate should be considered “chocolate”. When we toured the chocolate factory in Belgium, the chocolatier there was quite passionate about the matter, saying that it IS chocolate because it contains cocoa butter. Germans, however, say it isn’t:

    I found it rather amusing that the founder of this particular German chocolate company was a Belgian with a French name…they tried brushing this off by saying his name may sound French, but he was German. Even more entertaining was their rationale for his spelling of the word chocolate:

    Here are the dark chocolate bars my girl and I decorated. Mine had rosa pepper, coffee bean, cinnamon, and salt. Hers had coconut, chili powder, and cinnamon.

    Then we headed back to the hotel, with some excitement on the way back. Besides loads of “very interesting people” (our kids’ new term), we encountered a guy openly peeing on the street, without bothering to do it near the buildings as you might see in San Francisco.

    More exciting though were the multiple police cars that went screaming by in the roundabout, and of course stopped up the street in the direction we were going. I looked around and saw there was a decent sized group of people just ahead of us, also going that way, so we sped up and mingled with them. As we approached, I could see at least two men in the car, passenger window down, and easily 9 officers surrounding the car with hands on the butt of their revolvers. Needless to say, I gently nudged my girl and told her to move quickly past!

    All in all, Hamburg was an experience I’m glad we had. Our limited time in Germany may not be entirely indicative of German culture, but it didn’t make me sad we had such a short time here. On to Prague!!

  • Sun, 21 Oct 2018 19:29:47 +0000

    Day 13: Copenhagen, Part II!

    We started this morning off by snacking on an incredible strawberry tart we picked up from a local bakery the night before. It was so beautiful, all we could think about was eating it…and we forgot to photograph it! (hangs head in shame)

    We did spy a Google Street View car outside the hostel, which was kind of cool:

    We then hopped on the metro and headed toward the National Aquarium of Denmark, which boasts of being Northern Europe’s largest aquarium.

    But first we stopped for coffee and lunch at a fun little place called Next Door Cafe. I had a latte and a yummy black bean and tomato sandwich:

    Then off to the Aquarium! It was well setup, with great exhibits, healthy looking animals, and loads of good information about each species and the oceans. My daughter and I could’ve easily spent two whole days here! It was a little like the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, though I don’t think it was quite as large.

    Here is the outside of the Aquarium, which our son said reminded him of “Star Labs” from DC Comics:

    Here are a few photos from inside the Aquarium:

    They had piranhas!! And arapaimas!! And evil looking catfish!

    Other cool stuff we saw were schools of tetras:

    Pufferfish:

    I forget what this horned fish was called:

    Then we saw what I thought looked like prehistoric fish…reading the info about it, it turns out I was right. They’re sturgeon, and haven’t changed much since scientists know they were around 245 million years ago!

    We also saw a school of herring, fitting for a Denmark Aquarium:

    And adorable sea otters!

    Next we headed for the Royal Palace, called Amalienborg. We’d had so much fun at the Aquarium that we were too late to go inside, but we did get to see the square and the lovely palaces surrounding it. The flag atop the main palace means the Royal Family is in residence!

    Here are photos from on the way to Amalienborg:

    And here are photos from outside the Royal Palaces!

    Here are random photos from our trek to our dinner spot this evening:

    We ate dinner at a place with great atmosphere, called Mamma Rosa. My dinner was soooooo good! I chose the red tuna, with veggies and amazing mashed potatoes.

    Here was our dinner spot, along with the cute otter we had to bring with us from the Aquarium:

    We saw this place down the street…sound appetizing??

    The kids picked up ice cream on the way back to our hostel (can’t imagine how they could eat it, as it was CHILLY!).

    Here’s the place they got ice cream from:

    We are headed to Hamburg, Germany early tomorrow for a brief one-night stopover on our way to Prague. We’re packing our backpacks tonight so we can just get up and leave in the morning. We are very glad we decided to travel lightly with only a backpack each (plus my camera bag, lol!) as it is making our travel easier overall. Good night, everyone!

  • Sat, 20 Oct 2018 22:53:56 +0000

    Day 12: Copenhagen, Part I!

    Today had us seeing the history of the Danish Royals up close.

    We visited the Rosenborg Castle, which was built in the early 1600s. We saw gilded walls, ornate ceilings, and watched the artistic and societal progression from one period to the next through portraits of the Royal Family.

    Here is what the castle looked like from the outside:

    And here was some of the amazing artwork from the first floor:

    This was the bathroom, with each tile hand-painted:

    Here is a close-up of the intricate detail on the ceilings:

    This delicate filigree appeared to be a table decoration, covered with glass for protection:

    And here were a few other rooms we saw:

    We got to see many smaller pieces belonging to the Royal Family:

    And many beautiful paintings. These were two of my favorites:

    Then, of course, there was the gilded birdcage that also served to tell time:

    Next was the throne room. Regrettably I only took a photo of the “informal” throne with my phone, but did get the formal one with my camera to share later.

    Here were the Great Hall and informal throne, complete with gorgeous tapestries and a “secret” door in the antechamber:

    As if that wasn’t enough, we then descended into the vault of the castle! There, we viewed all the truly valuable treasures on display – including the Crown Jewels of Denmark! We also saw ornate swords, bottles of wine from 1691 (would those actually taste good??), and enough objects made from gold and ivory to make your head spin.

    Here are some of the weapons we saw:

    Here were the nods to war strategy…perhaps the first set is an early form of the game “Risk”?

    And here was some of the wine, vintage 1691:

    And here were the Crown Jewels, along with the Ceremonial Sword:

    After seeing the breathtaking splendor inside, we walked through the King’s Gardens to our next destination. The gardens were very pretty:

    Next up was the Rundetaarn, or Round Tower! Also built in the 1600s, it was commissioned to be an astronomical observatory by Christian IV. They’ve tried creating a sort of choose-your-own-adventure story for the attraction, which didn’t really work, but they get kudos for the attempt.

    Anyway, the tower was pretty interesting to visit, especially seeing the old library space turned into a modern art gallery. It was also something to read about the core of the tower being hollow all the way down, and about a Nielsen boy falling in while playing hide-and-seek…thankfully he was found the next day, relatively unscathed. They had to create an opening near the bottom of the tower to get him out!

    Here was the Round Tower:

    Views of Copenhagen from the top of the tower:

    The kids both thought it’d be fun to kayak down the corkscrew slope of the tower…this is what gave them the idea:

    This was our view while eating traditional Danish sausages, as recommended (two of us had the goat sausage):

    To “round” out this post, here are a few random photos from our walk around Copenhagen today.

    We found Hermès randomly atop a building:

    The cobblestones on one of the streets had a not-so-hidden path to follow:

    Look at this!!! An actual brick-and-mortar camera shop!!

    Thought this was amusing, particularly the “All Meat!” pronouncement:

    Why would a place called “Creme Fraiche” not be a food establishment??

    Pretty fountain in the square:

    That’s it for now. More Copenhagen to come tomorrow!

  • Fri, 19 Oct 2018 19:13:50 +0000

    Day 11: Travel to Copenhagen!

    We traveled from Ribe to Copenhagen today, which was quite a shift from quaint Ribe to the bustling streets of Copenhagen.

    Our travel took approximately 3.5 hrs by train. At the Copenhagen station, there was an interesting shop combination, made more stark because just yesterday we’d been reading about how early physicians dealt with medicines for healing, but barbers were the surgeons.

    Here was the odd, albeit benign, combination at the station: Shoes and Keyservice.

    This was the outside of the Copenhagen station:

    And here was part of the interior:

    We then walked through the streets, eating lunch in a food court on our way to the Steel House, which is a hostel/hotel in downtown Copenhagen.

    There were so many people!! This is what we saw along the way:

    Our room at the hostel has 4 bunkbeds and a locker for each:

    Our original plan had us visiting another museum this afternoon, but we decided instead to take a canal tour and see the city from the water. It was beautiful, and the sun was just going down, so we also saw a gorgeous sunset.

    Here is our selfie, with our boy purposefully posing himself to look like he’s eating his sister’s head:

    And here are the pretty sights we saw from the water:

    Then we wandered the (chilly!) streets and found a great Shwarma restaurant, with me getting the vegetarian plate with falafel, hummus, pita, tabbouleh, and dolma. Everyone else got plates with various types of meat.

    Mmmmm….

    We then headed back to the Steel House as darkness fell:

    Marc wanted to know if the Irish and English ever have a spat later in the evening:

    We’re looking forward to exploring Copenhagen more over the next couple of days!

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