Argentina Wrap-Up: Vistas Galore!!!

So, after our few nights in El Calafate (in all it’s glacier & horsey splendor!), we shipped out to El Chalten (via bus) early one morning. I wish I had taken a picture of our walk to the bus station from our hostel because the pre-dawn sky & the early morning bird sounds were all eerily reminiscent of Connor’s & my high school morning commutes…

Anyway, a few hours later, we were pulling into the super tiny town of El Chalten.

We had a lovely view of the mountains surrounding the town.

We had a lovely view of the mountains surrounding the town just outside the visitor center.

After a quick info session from the park rangers (basically telling us the rules of the park & about the trails & how long each of them would take & what hazards we could expect), we quickly found our hostel and unloaded our bags before setting off on a few warm-up hikes :D

Setting out on the Mirador Condor trail

Setting out on the Mirador Condor trail – it was a little chilly…

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Connor sitting atop the Condor trail lookout

Connor sitting atop the Condor trail lookout

Even spotted a condor!

Even spotted a condor!

Continuing on to the next lookout trail...

Continuing on to the next lookout trail…

Made it!

Made it!

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Then we climbed a little higher.

Then we climbed a little higher.

Connor snagged a pic of some large rocks

Connor snagged a pic of some large rocks

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On our way back, we found a little haunted forest-looking area nestled off to the side of the trail...

On our way back, we found a little haunted forest-looking area nestled off to the side of the trail…

So we settled in there for a bit and enjoyed the peace and quiet :D

So we settled in there for a bit and enjoyed the peace and quiet :D

Our first evening in El Chalten, we succeeded in eating a real-deal Argentinian dinner. The first obstacle was finding a restaurant that was even open. I guess the trekking season doesn’t really start for another couple weeks, so most places were still in their refurbishing stages from the off-season. Anyway, we found a lovely little restaurant who took very good care of us :D

I enjoyed their decor - especially the Guinness-esque beer poster for the local Argentinian Quilmes beer :D

I enjoyed their decor – especially the Guinness-esque beer poster for the local Argentinian Quilmes beer :D

Excellent little rolls with salsa!

Excellent little rolls with salsa!

Lovin' us some Malbec!

Lovin’ us some Malbec!

Yay for a real meal out at a real restaurant! (And actually making it past 7pm to eat dinner!)

Yay for a real meal out at a real restaurant! (And actually making it past 7pm to eat dinner!)

The next morning, we got ourselves geared up (mentally & physically) for the 6+ hour hike ahead of us – to Cerro Fitz Roy (a.k.a. the king-ding-a-ling of mountains in El Chalten!) And let me tell you, it was no easy chore! It was long and trying, but the views were well worth it :D

At the first official Cerro Fitz Roy lookout

At the first official Cerro Fitz Roy lookout

The temperature changes were incredible! I was sweating & down to only 2 layers on the first 1 hour or so. Clearly, by this point, I was freezing!

The temperature changes were incredible! I was sweating & down to only 2 layers on the first 1 hour or so. Clearly, by this point, I was freezing!

Hiding.

Hiding.

Connor: "up and up and up..."

Connor: “up and up and up…”

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

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Fearless woodpecker - didn't even flinch as we approached it!

Fearless woodpecker – didn’t even flinch as we approached it!

Finally on our way down...

Finally on our way down…

Only about an hour more to go!

Only about an hour more to go!

The next and final morning in El Chalten, Connor did a little mountain biking:

IMG_2517… and yup, we did some more hiking!

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Mirador de Cerro Torre

Mirador de Cerro Torre

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Yay, we successfully made it back to town! I was a little worried after I agreed to take Connor's sketchy "alternate" route back from the viewpoint...

Yay, we successfully made it back to town! I was a little worried after I agreed to take Connor’s sketchy “alternate” route back from the viewpoint…

Post-hike treats!

Post-hike treats!

Malbec, gnocchi, & butternut squash soup!

Malbec, gnocchi, & butternut squash soup!

After a quick night back in El Calafate, we got up bright and early the next day to head to Chile for Torres del Paine National Park! We were a little worn out from our previous 3 days of hiking in El Chalten, but the views were still excellent!

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We actually saw 3 avalanches in approximately 30 minutes!!

We actually saw 3 avalanches in approximately 30 minutes!!

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Wow.

Wow.

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After our long day touring around Torres del Paine, we were shuttled to Puerto Natales where we checked into our hostel & quickly set out in search of a dinner spot. We were both famished, so when we came upon the family-run local Chilean restaurant right near our hostel, we were thrilled :D

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The next day we were back in El Calafate and finally made it to the hippie, veggie-friendly restaurant we’d been wanting to try since our first day there.

Oddly enough, I ordered the lamb pot-pie :P It was delicious!

Oddly enough, I ordered the lamb pot-pie :P It was delicious!

And to celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary, we hit up an incredible divey burger joint in Buenos Aires :D

Cheers to us :D

Cheers to us :D

To be fair, we actually had a fairly nice anniversary lunch earlier that day, but we botched up the pictures :/ In general, though, we jumped on the foodie bandwagon after getting back from all the hiking in Patagonia and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Argentina far exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to return for another visit :D

 

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El Calafate

It is a totally different world down here! After arriving on Saturday afternoon (3 hour flight from Buenos Aires,) we were shuttled to our hostel in the “downtown” area (I use the term loosely, as this is a really small town). Connor and I were both pleasantly surprised by how nice our room was!

Just a quick shot of our bed - but we even got our own private toilet and shower in our room!

Just a quick shot of our bed – but we even have our own private toilet and shower in our room!

We settled in for a bit and then decided to walk around el centro to check out the area and to find some lunch. Again, it’s a very small town, but there are quite a few artisan shops & lots of restaurants and bars. It’s actually a lot like a ski town. We happened to stumble upon some sort of event involving rally cars…

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We were then shot down by our original lunch spot pick, Pura Vida (evidently it’s only a dinner place), so we settled on local diner-esque spot across the street (we were both pretty hungry & getting desperate). It was a little questionable (& greasy), but it was popular amongst the Calafate locals & I did end up enjoying my burger immensely. Connor’s meal, however, while unique, didn’t quite measure up :/

Some sort of meat dish that's prepared by pounding the meat & wrapping it around vegetables.

Some sort of meat dish that’s prepared by pounding the meat & wrapping it around vegetables.

Since then, we’ve mostly just snacked on cheese, crackers, & veggies from the grocery store. So, tonight, we’re hoping to redeem ourselves with a slightly better dining experience…

Sunday morning we had our first Patagonian excursion :D We were picked up and taken to El Perrito Moreno Glacier about 80 km away from El Calafate. On the way, we enjoyed some amazing scenery:

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First pit-stop for pictures

First pit-stop for pictures

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We then arrived inside the Glacier National Park where the vistas became even more epic:

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And finally, we arrived at El Perrito Moreno Glacier!

We were taken to the south end of the glacier by a catamaran

We were taken to the south end of the glacier by a catamaran

It was incredible!

It was incredible!

We were then driven to the north end of the glacier where we could walk around a few paths to get better views.

We were then driven to the north end of the glacier where we could walk around a few paths to get better views.

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Oh, yeah, and it was cold!

Oh, yeah, and it was cold!

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hunks of ice that have fallen off the glacier

hunks of ice that have fallen off the glacier

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!!!!!!

!!!!!!

As for today, we took our time getting moving this morning, and then we decided to give a little horseback riding a whirl. It’s been years since I’ve ridden a horse and Connor had only gone a couple times, so we thought it might be a worthwhile experience while we were down here…

My horse's name was Fatasma (Ghost in English). Don't be fooled - he's a little snot! (Needless to say, we never quite found our rhythm together on our 2-hour outing :/)

My horse’s name was Fatasma (Ghost in English). Don’t be fooled – he’s a little snot! (Needless to say, we never quite found our rhythm together on our 2-hour outing :/)

Gustavo, our guide, bestowed Connor with the riding whip after seeing his superior skills as a caballero :D

Connor and his horse, Caballo Blanco (“White Horse” in English – creative, huh?), fared much better together! Gustavo, our guide, even bestowed Connor with the riding whip after seeing his superior skills as a caballero :D

Sadly, Fatasma & I never really found our rhythm during our 2 hour outing. He wa

It was a good outing all around :D – I took advantage of Fatasma’s & my putzing along in the rear to chat up the other tour guide in Spanish & pick his brain for his favorite bars in El Calafate :D Now that we’ve cleaned ourselves up & rested a bit, I think Connor and I are gonna head back into town to test out his recommendations :D

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Move Over, Niagara!!

A bit of a “photo-dump” today to get everyone up to speed on our last few days :D Enjoy!

Before we took off for Iguazu Falls, we had another lovely afternoon/evening exploring Buenos Aires:

First, we mistook a children’s orchestra concert venue for the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes…

First, we walked into what we thought was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes...

Totally looks like a fine arts museum, right?!

Instead we had stumbled upon a free children's orchestra concert :P

Aw, well, a happy mistake :D we stuck around for a song or two and then snuck back out…

Connor in front of the mechanical flower that blooms at sunrise and closes at sunset each day.

We found the BsAs mechanical flower – it blooms at sunrise and closes at sunset each day.

Then we found the real fine arts museum!

Then we found the real fine arts museum!

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The next day we geared ourselves up for our 18 hour bus-ride to Iguazu Falls!

Apparently, this is a pretty common form of transportation around Argentina. It was surprisingly comfortable! Reclining chairs, meals & drinks were served, movies were played - I was rather impressed!

Apparently, this is a pretty common form of transportation around Argentina. It was surprisingly comfortable – reclining chairs, meals & drinks were served, movies were played – I was rather impressed!

As nice as that bus was - our hotel room was a sight for sore eyes :D

As nice as that bus was – our hotel room was a sight for sore eyes :D

A terrace facing the falls!!

A terrace facing the falls!!

Alas, this is the last of Connor's free hotel points :(

Alas, this is the last of Connor’s free hotel points :( Gotta get that man back to work and travelling :P

After checking in, we snacked on some of our goodies before setting out for a little bit of hiking...

After checking in, we snacked on some of our goodies before setting out for a little bit of hiking…

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A few muddy spots, aside, it was a very easy, enjoyable hike (good thing, because truth-be-told, we were both exhausted from that bus ride...)

A few muddy spots, aside, it was a very easy, enjoyable hike (good thing, because truth be told, we were both exhausted from that bus ride…)

Some pretty foliage :D

Some pretty foliage :D

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After a solid evening of Netflix binging resting and a great night’s sleep, we set out the next day to check out the real-deal falls:

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Along the "lower trail..."

Along the “lower trail…”

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Connor trying to make friends with the local wildlife (in addition to monkeys, these coaties are really common - they're like raccoons...)

Connor trying to make friends with the local wildlife (in addition to monkeys, these coaties are really common – they’re like raccoons…)

The two of us along the "upper trail..."

The two of us along the “upper trail…”

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After another 18-hour bus ride back to Buenos Aires (this time, it was admittedly harder all around :/), we grabbed some delicious pizza and beer and checked into our next airbnb spot:

Pizza portuguesa & Quilmes beer :D

Pizza portuguesa & Quilmes beer :D

Our airbnb spot in Montserrat BsAs is phenomenal! If only we had been able to book this place for our first week here rather than just the two nights we're spending in BsAs this time around...

Our airbnb spot in Montserrat BsAs is phenomenal! If only we had been able to book this place for our first week here rather than just the two nights we’re spending in BsAs this time around…

Huge terrace!

Huge terrace!

super comfy bed and the bedroom coneects to the terrace too, so there's just generally a ton of sunlight in this place!

Super comfy bed and the bedroom connects to the terrace too, so there’s just generally a ton of sunlight in this place!

Today we’re off to explore San Telmo and get our stuff all in order for our excursion to Patagonia tomorrow!

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Back at It!

So, after a quick 3 week stint back in Cincy (during which we were able to visit family & friends, & I was able to sub a few yoga classes for my mom :D), we hit the road again. First, we drove North to our good friends’ wedding in Columbus :D

20130914-144331.jpgCongrats Molly & Tito!!!

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Then we trekked on up to Canada to spend the week with my husband’s family. There was water skiing (of which I opted out because I’m a wuss it was cold!), board games (Connor succeeded in getting me to not only play, but actually to admit to enjoying a new board game), puzzles, quality girl chat with my mother-in-law & soon-to-be sister-in-law, and lots and lots of delicious food. After about a week in the Great White North, us kids (Connor, his brother, his brother’s fiancée, & I) headed back home to Cincy.

20130914-145330.jpgNot without a quick stop at Niagara Falls first!

20130914-145416.jpgWe are one good-looking bunch :D

So, that gave us one day to re-group (pack our bags, get our Cincy affairs in order, sleeeeep, say “Hi!/Bye!” to my mom and dad, etc.) before taking off on Tuesday afternoon for Buenos Aires. We lucked out and not only got on the flight (we are doing the stand-by bit again), but got upgraded to business class for the 8+ hour flight down to BsAs!!!

20130914-145740.jpgSOOOO happy :) :) :)

20130914-145833.jpgConnor pounced on a few perks :P

We arrived Wednesday morning and made it to our airbnb apartment pretty easily. It’s been a slow start (read: LOTS of sleeping), but we are finally making our way around the city to do some exploring. Thursday afternoon, I took advantage of our airbnb host’s gym’s free trial period (turns out it was only 1 day) & got a little cardio in (it was a good half hour walk each way to & from the gym location, so it was actually a pretty good amount of exercise all around!). I guess that pretty much tapped me out because I didn’t leave the apartment for the rest of the day :/ Yesterday we walked around the Calle Florida shopping area…

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And visited the Recoleta Cemetery…

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Otherwise, we have just been getting ourselves sorted BsAs-style…

20130914-151419.jpg Exchanging US $ for Argentinian pesos…

20130914-151518.jpg Refreshing my memory on how to be a toilet paper/tissue scavenger…

20130914-151610.jpg Acquainting ourselves with the local booze… (Not sure Connor & I are bold enough to try out the egg liquor :/)

20130914-151729.jpg We are both big fans of the Quilmes Bock beer, though!

20130914-151814.jpg And these may just be the most dangerous cookie I’ve ever come into contact with – holy cow, I love me some dulce de leche Jorgitos!!

Next on tap is a short trip to Iguazu Falls on Monday, then a 9 day expedition tour of Patagonia!!

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Ireland (part II) and HOME :D

As you have probably guessed from this post’s title, Connor and I have finally made it home to good ol’ Cincinnati! After a solid 20 hour day of travel last Tuesday, we were absolutely THRILLED to be back. It really took us a good 3 days to successfully make it home as we were flying stand-by. We were originally hoping to make a flight out of Dublin to JFK on Sunday or Monday, but no luck there, and the flights were all overbooked for the next several days, so we decided to purchase a cheap flight to Amsterdam and try our luck with stand-by there. On Tuesday morning our prayers were answered. Not only did we get on a flight headed to the U.S., but we even got business class seats!!! It was glorious :D Eight hours later, we were in Minneapolis trying to get on a flight to Cincy. After 2 failed attempts, we decided to try and get on a flight Columbus and just rent a car to Cincy. Finally, around 7:30pm Wednesday evening, we were pulling into Connor’s parents’ driveway :D

After a total whirlwind of a week/weekend, I’m finally getting around to finishing up a post… So here are our final pictures!

Basically we rounded out our week in Ireland with…. more hiking!

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I really can’t lie, by about the 4th hike, I kinda shut down :/

Frustrated, tired, and none too happy to be getting my picture taken...

Frustrated, tired, and none too happy to be getting my picture taken…

Connor was diggin' it though!

Connor was diggin’ it though!

We drove to Coney Island in Sligo, but the road (which is very sensitive to the incoming tide) was too wet for us to actually drive over, so we kinda skipped it…

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… and did more hiking!

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Our last few days in Ireland were spent in Belfast, which was a fun city – small, but fun (we had great hosts!)

Checking out the Peace Wall, which separates the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods

Checking out the Peace Wall, which separates the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods

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On our drive back to Dublin (in soon-to-be dashed hopes of catching a flight), we took the ferry and enjoyed some nice scenic views…

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Kind of an anti-climatic finish to our trip, but it was really great overall, and we’re already planning our next segment: Argentina for 3 weeks in September!

After we return from Argentina, we will then hopefully be able to begin officially settling into Cincinnati and finding a new apartment where we can hang my new birthday present :D

I was greeted home by this lovely birthday gift from my in-laws!!

I was welcomed home by this lovely birthday gift from my in-laws!!

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London & Ireland (part I)

Time for more pictures! Here’s a little taste from our 4 nights in London:

We took it easy our first day out – had some fish and chips, did a little walking around, and went to bed early (the 1:30am arrival into London the night before didn’t exactly leave us energized…)

The Tower of London in the background

The Tower of London in the background

At the Millenium Bridge

At the Millenium Bridge

Connor posing in one of the various neighborhoods nearby our place

Connor posing in one of the various neighborhoods nearby our place

We got our act together on our second day, though, and made it to Buckingham Palace!

No pictures were allowed inside, so we only got a shot outside from the gardens after the tour...

No pictures were allowed inside, so we only got a shot outside from the gardens after the tour…

Our next stop was for some local British fare (bangers and mash for Connor and chicken and mushroom pie for me :D)

Our next stop was for some local British fare (bangers and mash for Connor and chicken and mushroom pie for me :D)

We even squeezed in a little booze walking one day while touring around the city :D

Connor at Westminster Abbey

Connor at Westminster Abbey

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Outside the Palace of Westminster

Outside the Palace of Westminster

Posing with Big Ben

Posing with Big Ben

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Rainbow!

Rainbow!

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Obligatory phone booth photo...

Obligatory phone booth photo…

Our final day in London was actually my birthday! We didn’t have anything planned and we generally just walked around the city (Covent Garden, Tower of London, art galleries, parks, etc.). Super low key, but it was really nice :D

On the Tower of London

On the Tower of London

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My birthday dinner! Tomato soup, grilled cheese and shiraz :D

My birthday dinner! Tomato soup, grilled cheese and shiraz :D

After my quaint little birthday picnic/dinner, we met an Australian couple from our airbnb hostel spot and hit it off really well with them. We actually ended up going out for drinks in the Brick Lane neighborhood which was close to where we were staying. It was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t exactly peppy the next morning :/ The 7:15am wake-up call to catch our bus to the airport wasn’t pleasant… What’s worse, is we caught our bus and waited in line after line after line at London Stanted airport only to miss our flight! We even ran to the gate from security. Only Ryanair would close the flight 25 minutes before departure.  It was a tad devastating. So, three hours and a hefty fee later, we were booked on the next flight out of London to Dublin. Fortunately, that was our last Ryanair flight of this trip…

We made it to Dublin all in one piece, secured our rental car, and arrived at our airbnb spot in Salthill (Galway) around 8pm. We were exhausted and pretty much said hello to our host and went straight to bed. The next morning we hit the ground running, though, and drove to Doolin to do a little hiking along the Cliffs of Moher. “A little hiking” turned into 16 km! It was well worth it, though.

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WINDY!

WINDY!

Cows along the cliff trail

Cows along the cliff trail

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Connor sitting on the edge of the cliff

Connor sitting on the edge of the cliff

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And yesterday we ended up scaling a mountain! We certainly have had a productive start to our stay in Ireland :D

At the botton - I still hadn't agreed to do anything more than a leisurely walk...

At the bottom – I still hadn’t agreed to do anything more than a leisurely walk…

Connor's still trying to convince me to climb up at this point...

Connor’s still trying to convince me to climb up at this point…

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And it worked.

And it worked.

View from the top

View from the top

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We’re now in Sligo for 2 more nights, then on to Belfast, and finally Dublin!

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Graffiti, Beer, Repeat…

After quite a rough day of travel yesterday (I’m talking 4-5 hours of trains, buses, and airplanes (that left me dehydrated in every way possible and with a touch of nausea – it wasn’t pleasant), we have made it to London :D We didn’t get to our London digs until after 1am last night, and we slept in this morning, so we haven’t gone exploring yet, but I’m really looking forward to it!

First thing’s first, though: Our Week in Berlin…

I suppose I’ll actually begin with our last day in Stockholm, which we spent walking around enjoying the lovely weather (after that freakish cold in Helsinki)!

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And the delicious vegetarian buffets! Seriously, the U.S. needs to get on this fad pronto!

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Ok, so after all that, then we made our way to Berlin where we spent 7 nights. We arrived kinda late on Wednesday night, but we successfully found our airbnb apartment and all was well. The apartment was kinda shabby (total bachelor pad with only the bare essentials – no dishes, questionable towels, and generally kinda “boy dirty”) and had me a little concerned at first, but each day it got a little better and we made do just fine. As for Berlin itself – we were overall a little underwhelmed, but we thoroughly enjoyed the great availability of cheap, tasty German beer (Hefeweizen holla!) and we managed to get in a good amount of exploring around the city :D

We don't know what this was, but we thought it was picture worthy due to its resemblance to the Giant Ball of Twine

We don’t know what this was, but we thought it was picture-worthy due to its resemblance to the Giant Ball of Twine

Inside what I think was a Jewish memorial...

Inside what I think was a Jewish memorial…

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INCREDIBLE nachos! We ate at this restaurant 3 times - really good food and good, cheap beer!

INCREDIBLE nachos! We ate at this restaurant 3 times – really good food and good, cheap beer!

A monument in Viktoriapark

A monument in Viktoriapark

Riding toward the Brandenburg Gate

Riding toward the Brandenburg Gate (Before I almost ran over some poor kid’s toes :/)

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Huge flea market in Mauerpark (it was sweltering that day - definitely over 100 degrees)

Huge flea market in Mauerpark (it was sweltering that day – definitely over 100 degrees)

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Connor got his playground time in...

Connor got his playground time in…

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We FINALLY found a bratwurst for me! And a biergarten :D

We FINALLY found a bratwurst for me (after searching for a good 3 days – sad, I know)! And a biergarten :D

Connor by the East Side Gallery

Connor by the East Side Gallery

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I thought this guy looked like Voldemort :D

I thought this guy looked like Voldemort :D

Batman!

Batman!

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Just meadering around a nearby bar/restaurant area - we think this is an outdoor nightclub

Just meadering around a nearby bar/restaurant area – we think this is an outdoor nightclub

Connor posing with... oh wait... MORE graffiti!

Connor posing with… oh wait… MORE graffiti!

We made pretty good use of the local bike rental system in Berlin...

We made pretty good use of the local bike rental system in Berlin…

Posing in Potsdamer Platz after visiting the Topography of Terror

Posing in Potsdamer Platz after visiting the Topography of Terror

And that concludes my Berlin recap :D Now, off to give Kate and William my personal congrats :P

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Whirlwind!

Annnnd this was me yesterday morning upon arriving back in Stockholm:

Basically we flew from Amsterdam to Stockholm, stayed in Stockholm for one night before boarding the St. Peter Line cruise ship Friday evening which took us to Tallinn (Estonia) on Saturday, St. Petersburg (Russia) on Sunday, Helsinki (Finland) on Monday, and back to Stockholm yesterday. Neither Connor nor I had been on a cruise before, so we have nothing to compare our experience to, but it’s safe to say this will probably be the one and only cruise we ever take in our lives. It was an experience being able to see so many places in such a short amount of time, but that was also the problem – there really wasn’t enough time to really see each place because so much time was wasted waiting in line to get off the boat, get through passport control, get into the city, and then before you knew it, it was time to return to the boat and wait in line again to get through passport control and in another line to get on the boat. Then, once on the boat, you’re surrounded by overpriced restaurants and shops and sub-par quality all around. Not to mention, sleeping was a real treat…

Suffice to say, I was thrilled to get off that boat in Stockholm and even more thrilled to head straight to our hotel room (Connor scored us a room at the Sheraton with his leftover points he’d accumulated while traveling for work). After a little shut-eye,

some QT with the good ol’ internet,

“Oh, Facebook, Gmail, Words with Friends, BuzzFeed – how I missed you!!!!”

and a little sweat session at the hotel gym,

Seriously, I’d never been so happy to see an elliptical in my life!

I was well on my way to feeling like me again :D

So, without further ado, here are the pictures from the last several days!

Our final days in Amsterdam:

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Picnic in the park!

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I really enjoyed some of the decor in our Amsterdam apartment and wanted to share :D I got a kick out of this knife holder…

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Connor and I both really enjoyed the head scratcher :D

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And I loved this wine bottle holder! Of course, it’s much more attractive when there’s a bottle of wine in it (which there was, but we drank it obviously) :P

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We spent Friday afternoon walking around Stockholm (the cruise ship didn’t depart until 6pm, so we had some time to kill…):

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Aboard the Princess Anastasia:

View from outside the ship.

View from outside the ship.

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In Tallinn, Estonia:

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Inside St. Isaac’s Cathedral

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Outside the Winter Palace

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Inside the Hermitage Museum/Winter Palace

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Helsinki (it was cold – oh so cold!):

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Bottle opener made out of antlers!

Bottle opener made out of antlers!

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Dive bar backgammon session.

Dive bar backgammon session.

And that’ll do it for now! We are in Stockholm until our flight to Berlin tonight at 7pm and then we’ll be staying in an airbnb apartment in Berlin for 7 nights (yay for being able to unpack my backpack!!).

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Who knew!

Turns out Amsterdam is the European ideal I’ve been seeking on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Paris and Madrid and Barcelona (don’t forget Sitges!), but Amsterdam has plain knocked my socks off! The weather has been lovely (progressively warmer and sunnier each day), the canals and parks make for awesome jogging/walking scenery, there are so many vastly different neighborhoods/areas to explore, the food and booze have been quite good, the people are interesting, friendly and super laid-back, and biking around the city is so much fun!

We actually still have a couple more days here, but I just wanted to touch base quickly and share a few pictures we have taken so far:

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At the Van Gogh Museum… Wasn’t quite my cup of tea – they focused too much on stylistic/technical details and didn’t do enough displaying of his works – but still interesting to check out :D

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Enjoying an afternoon beer and snack canal-side

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Wicked Witch of the West?? Nope, just Erin on the bike trail…

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Ironically, I’d been pretty nervous about biking around Amsterdam for fear of crashing into a car, person, or another biker. Turns out just plain walking is what caused me to take a spill…

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That knee scrape along with this bad boy (thanks to an aggressive plank workout…) makes me look like a hot mess :/

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Our only picture from Haarlem…

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After the market closed…

I will admit, we have a pretty pitiful showing of pictures so far for how much we love it here, but it’s simply because we have been too absorbed to remember to look for photo ops! We will try a little harder in the next couple days… We still have the Anne Frank House and more biking on the agenda :)

In other random news:
- Connor has come down with a bit of a cold since we arrived in Amsterdam. He’s been a trooper, though, and still makes it out for all the traipsing around town :D
- I’ve learned I’m apparently allergic to apples and any other juicy fruits (plums, peaches, etc.) I took a small bite of Connor’s apple the other night and my throat literally began to swell up! A slightly itchy throat had followed eating a plum in Morocco but I figured it had to do with eating produce in Africa or something. I thought for sure I’d be fine here! Admittedly my fruit intake has been drastically reduced since embarking upon this trip (I usually opt for veggies when buying produce hoping to get a greater vitamin benefit), but I’m just blown away to have seemingly developed a random allergy to something I frequently ate a mere 3 months ago! Weird…
- Connor and I may be returning to Cincinnati a couple weeks earlier than we had planned. My mom will be having surgery and she has asked if I could sub a few of her yoga classes while she’s recovering. The teaching opportunity would be great! Not to mention, I’d be able visit my brother before he leaves for school in North Carolina, visit my grandma while she’s in town helping out my mom, and of course get some QT in with my mom while she’s healing :) Connor and I both feel we will be about ready to return home by then, so it really should work out well…

Til next time!

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Transylvania

Thanks to many, many train rides over the past week or so, Connor and I have finally finished our tour of Transylvania.

First stop was Timisoara (Summary: 2 nights – nice plazas and a pretty cool dive bar/restaurant with an awesome tuna salad and karaoke. Overall, though, it felt small and we kinda hit a wall upon arriving so we probably didn’t explore as much as we could/should have…)

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The Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden

Next was Sibiu (Summary: lots of construction outside of the Old Town area, which sort of took away from what could have been its town “charm.” However, thanks to a bit more sleep and an enjoyable train ride into Sibiu, we were able to enjoy the city via cafes and lots of walking around the Old Town as well as outside the center in a couple parks and surrounding city areas.)

A pedestrian bridge in the old town

A pedestrian bridge in the old town

Finally back to hefeweizens! Enjoying beers and food at a cafe in the Old Town

Finally back to hefeweizens! Enjoying beers and food at a cafe in the Old Town

Two of the randiest dogs I've ever seen!

Two of the randiest dogs I’ve ever seen!

Delicious crepe stop on our way out of the city center to go exploring

Delicious crepe stop on our way out of the city center to go exploring

Connor forcing photo ops on our rainy way out of Sibiu (on our way to catch our train...)

Connor forcing photo ops on our rainy way out of Sibiu (on our way to catch our train…)

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Connor wanted to ham it up too :P

Connor wanted to ham it up too :P

After Sibiu, we proceeded to our highlight Romanian destination: Brasov. From here we took advantage of some hiking, vampire folklore, stunning castles, and lovely cafe/bar atmosphere :D

Beginning our trek up the "Seven Steps."

Beginning our trek up the “Seven Steps.” Completely unaware of the awaiting muddy ascent :/

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Scaffolding through the canyon which we supposedly could have climbed up last year (according to our Macedonian friend/fellow hiker) before they closed it off (probably smart...)

Scaffolding through the canyon which we supposedly could have climbed up last year (according to our Macedonian friend/fellow hiker) before they closed it off (probably smart…)

My balance beam routine :P

My balance beam routine.

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Just a bit past this point is where I refused to fight the mud any longer and we turned back :D

Just a bit past this point is where I refused to fight the mud any longer and we turned back :D

My mood has improved a bit now that the muddy hikes are behind me and beers are in my near future :D

My mood has improved a bit now that the muddy hikes are behind me and beers are in my near future :D

Except Connor weaseled in another hike up a mountain (Grrrr.) A view and a beer were to be had from my efforts, though :D

Except Connor weaseled in another hike up a mountain (Grrrr.) A view and a beer were to be had from my efforts, though :D

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Connor said "let's get Irish coffees!" to which I eagerly replied "ok!" Not what I had in mind... (espresso shots & blk licorice liquor shots!)

Connor said “let’s get Irish coffees!” to which I eagerly replied “Ok!” Not what I had in mind… (espresso shots & blk licorice liquor shots!)

We made a day of visiting castles too! Namely, Bran Castle (to get our Dracula fix – sadly, though, neither Dracula nor Vlad the Impaler ever lived at Bran Castle. For some reason, Bran Castle just scored major points for looking like what Dracula’s Castle should be :/) and Peles castle…

From Brasov, we made our way to Bran to visit Dracula's castle and apparently so Connor could eat minced meat sausages...

From Brasov, we made our way to Bran to visit Dracula’s castle and apparently so Connor could eat minced meat sausages…

Up the "secret passage" in Bran castle

Up the “secret passage” in Bran castle

Looking down said "secret passage"

Looking down said “secret passage”

View into the courtyard of Bran castle

View into the courtyard of Bran castle

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Dipping my hand into the holy water well (it was empty, so a lot of good it did me :/)

Dipping my hand into the holy water well (it was empty, so a lot of good it did me :/)

Inside the king's quarters

Inside the king’s quarters

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View outside Bran Castle

View outside Bran Castle

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Walking up to Peles Castle in Sinai

Walking up to Peles Castle in Sinai

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The king of Romania still owns this palace!

The king of Romania still owns this palace!

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GORGEOUS Castle!!!

GORGEOUS Castle!!!

And then Connor snuck in MORE hiking!

And then Connor snuck in MORE hiking!

Next was Sighisoara. Vlad the Impaler was actually born here, but we didn’t get around to visiting his birth site or anything – this may have been, in part, due to the fact that I crashed at 7pm for the night, annnnnd we only had one night in Sighisoara. Fortunately it is a super small village, so we managed to see a decent amount in what little time we had…

First on the agenda was lunch - I've decided this will be the last meat platter I allow Connor to talk me into...

First on the agenda was lunch – I’ve decided this will be the last meat platter I allow Connor to talk me into…

Our surprisingly super quaint hotel in Sighisoara!

Our surprisingly super quaint hotel in Sighisoara!

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Posing with Vlad ;)

Posing with Vlad ;)

I just liked the building...

I just liked the building…

I liked this one too and made Connor stand in front of it :D

I liked this one too and made Connor stand in front of it :D

Walking up the "covered stairs..."

Walking up the “covered stairs…”

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Connor really liked this cemetery

Connor really liked this cemetery

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Two snails getting very well acquainted...

Two snails getting very well acquainted…

Walking down the "covered stairs..."

Walking down the “covered stairs…”

IMG_1749Our final stop in Transylvania was Cluj, which turned out to be much more interesting than we anticipated. Unfortunately, we only had one night to spend there, so we had to make due with a bit less than we would have liked of that lovely city…

We found a kick-ass bar called "Insomnia" with great music, a super chill atmosphere, and cheap beers...

We found a kick-ass bar called “Insomnia” with great music, a super chill atmosphere, and cheap beers…

Interesting decor - vintage typewriter, term paper pages taped along the walls, etc.

Interesting decor – vintage typewriter, term paper pages taped along the walls, etc.

Our cheap beers (more hefeweizen for me :D :D) and take out sandwiches for dinner

Our cheap beers (more hefeweizen for me :D :D) and take-out sandwiches for dinner

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After our bar crawl, we spotted a KFC that just tickled Connor pink, sooooo we have a picture now...

After our bar crawl, we spotted a KFC that just tickled Connor pink, sooooo we have a picture now…

The next morning, we had some time to kill before our flight and I had some extra energy, so I convinced Connor to take a walk with me...

The next morning, we had some time to kill before our flight and I had some extra energy, so I convinced Connor to take a walk with me…

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View of Cluj

View of Cluj

chirp, chirp...

chirp, chirp…

And that about covers our tour of Romania (Transylvania)… Really great sights and hiking and exploring, but after a week or so of 1-2 nights max. in each city, we are stoked to have a “home” for a few days… After 8 hours of traveling (bus, plane, train, train, tram, walking) today, we made it to our super sweet digs in Amsterdam!!!!

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Not only is it just a wonderfully bright, open apartment….

There's a stocked fridge!! (Note the beer, wine, condiments, meat, cheese, etc, etc, etc)

There’s a stocked fridge!! (Note the beer, wine, condiments, meat, cheese, etc, etc, etc)

PLUS a nice bottle of red wine!

PLUS a nice bottle of red wine!

Extensive selection of DVDs and CDs!! Nevermind that there's no DVD player or TV (and we can't even play the DVDs on my mini laptop) - it's that there's a selection at all!!!

Extensive selection of DVDs and CDs!! Nevermind that there’s no DVD player or TV (and we can’t even play the DVDs on my mini laptop) – it’s that there’s a selection at all!!!

 

And no more Danielle Steele for this gal! (Not that I got past page 15 anyway...)

And no more Danielle Steele for this gal! (Not that I got past page 15 anyway…)

We’re here for EIGHT nights!!!!

 

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