Monthly Archives: September 2012

It was nice in Nice

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Welcome back mes amis,

Oh sunshine how I’ve missed you!

Nice Photo Journal

We left Paris behind and took the train down to Nice, not really certain how we were getting to Tubingen since when we booked our tickets there were three different times listed for our connecting train between Nice and Tubingen. Two of the times were fine and life would be dandy, one of the times would leave us in a Paris train station to sleep on a bench, more on this later. We arrived in Nice to a slight drizzle and made our way from the station to the pick up point for the hostel van. We grabbed a pizza from a roadside vendor since we weren’t certain if we wanted to head back out for dinner. Our hostel was perched at the top of the hill in an old converted abbey, and we figured we may as well bring our dinner with us. We arrived checked in and got settled, went downstairs with our pizza and saw the amazing dinner that the hostel cook was turning out of the kitchen, meal planning for the next few days was set since the dinner was also super cheap. We added a huge green salad to our pizza and relaxed and ate.

The next morning we woke up to sunny skies and 80 degree weather, which felt amazing. Instantly the long pants and shirts went away and out came bathing suits, board shorts and tee shirts. Life was good. We went into the old city and walked around the Marche aux fleurs, but don’t be decieved by the name (or too confused by it for the non francophiles out there) the flower market was really a giant outdoor market with everything from flowers, fruits, veggies all local all amazing, all the way to fresh fish and even hand painted water color paintings. It even puts Ballard’s farmers market to shame and I love Ballard’s farmers market.

After this it was decided to try and find some of the really good beaches people had told us about. On the way to the bus we stopped for a local specialty called a pan bagnat, which is tuna, lettuce, tomato, onion, radish, carrots, red pepper, olive, egg, salt and pepper, oil and vinegar. We made it to the right bus and were about to board when the driver noticed that someone had gotten ill on the last ride and so the bus would be delayed until they could clean it…..not acceptable there was sun and beach to be had, so we hopped another bus to another beach and walked around a bit looking for some good beach sitting. When none could be found we decided to instead sit down eat our pan bagnat while watching the mountains play backdrop to a very nice port full of really nice boats. Lunch completed, the pan bagnat was awesome, we decided to continue on to our first choice of beach. We found the bus, headed out and soon were on the beach with an amazing sea and sky stretching out before us. We hopped in the water briefly, it was cold and the wind had picked up cooling down the afternoon. We watched the sun start to set and decided to head back home to the hostel, stopping off at the grocery to get Kailey some soup to go along with her planned giant salad at dinner.

Back at the hostel we showered, got changed and headed downstairs to have an excellent meal from the kitchen. Dinner was again delicious and we chatted with a few people we had met the day before and that night. Emma is from New Zealand and just finished as one of the costume designers on the Hobbit (oohhs and ahhhs go here), while Carly is from Oz and is a massage therapist who gave Sam and Kailey the hard sell on why they should move to Australia and teach there and get a PhD there as well. She should really work for the recruitment office since it was a very good sell :-)!!!

Waking up late the next morning we got our stuff together and made our way back down to the old town for another walk through the market, it really is that good. We could spend weeks here simply going to the market, sitting on the beach and then cooking my finds at home and never have to cook the same meal twice. We picked up a few items, gifts and then headed out to find the place reputed to have the best pan bagnat in town. We grabbed our sandwiches from the recommended beachside stand and headed back to the beach for some much needed sun, rock and sea (note most photos have been cropped since Kailey doesn’t keep an eye out for pg-13 vs R rated photos on French beaches…wooops). After a nice long day of sitting on the beach, hopping in the water, reading Nicholas Sparks books (don’t judge me) we again made our way back to the hostel, since we had to get up early for our day of train riding to Stuttgart (hopefully). Dinner at the hostel did not disappoint and Kailey was even inspired to join in on happy hour (a rare event). We packed up that evening and got ready for our day of travel, after that we fell asleep.

Heading out the next morning we made sure to get to the train station early so we could check on the status of the train leaving Paris for Stuttgart. The woman at the counter looked in the computer system and told me that no problem the train was leaving at 8:20 and we would arrive at our station at 7:05! I asked per the advice of the first ticket agent if she could call the station to confirm, she looked a bit confused why I wouldn’t just take her word for it and leave, but still apparently my french was good enough that she humored me. A few moments later she came rushing back to the computer, manager in tow and informed me that, yes I was right the train left way too early 7:11 PM and that they weren’t sure what to do. After a few seconds she looked up and told me that I should simply leave now. My french is decent, but rusty so I thought maybe I misheard her. Now as in???As in 10 minutes from now! What followed was Kailey and my best impression of the Amazing Race “Nice style” as we hauled ass to the train. Luckily we made it just fine and were able to make all of our connections (as I write this in Germany on a train to Tubingen at 7am).

The train ride from Paris to Stuttgart started off a little nerve racking, the sleeper car already had 4 people in it from China on their way to Munich for Octoberfest (Lin, Lin, Li, and Wong). We nervously tried to get all of our stuff and ourselves into this tiny sleeper, without being jerks and taking up too much space. Once settled though things went from nervous quiet to really great hanging out in no time flat. Most of this is due to Kailey, since she is literally a disney character who instantly becomes friends with strangers. By the time I got back from asking the conductor a question we were all trading stories. They were a family of 4 from China, the two younger were students abroad in the UK at the moment and Lin (the daughter) had her parents with her and Li her boyfriend came too. They were traveling around Europe for the next month. I was then treated to a beer as well as some homemade chili sauce that was supposedly hot enough “to burn your asshole” (direct quote from Li). After another round of beers, talking and an invitation to come visit them at home, where her parents could show us why the region was famous for its hot pot, we all got comfy in our beds and fell asleep.

4 am rolled around and the lovely German stewardess woke us up and informed us that we were in Stuttgart and it was time to go. Thinking we only had a matter of moments we rushed out the car saying a hasty good-bye to Lin and her family, hoping that we can actually make it to visit them (bring on the spice and the amazing food I say) we rushed into the hallway where Kailey was told we had plenty of time to get off. We then walked straight into the aftermath of Stuttgart’s Octoberfest as the train station was full of lederhosen, dirndel and beer filled Germans……To Be Continued…..

~ Sam and K

Paris by the dashboard lights

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No, Sam did not drive in Paris thank goodness.

Paris Photo Journal

It was a dark and stormy night in a city that knows how to keep it secrets. We arrived in Paris at 4 PM to a rainstorm, spent some time in the train station trying to sort out train tickets from Paris to Nice and Nice to Tubingen (more on this adventure later). After that we boarded the metro and headed to our hostel, I’ll let Kailey tell you more about that moment later on, but needless to say it was interesting and left quite the impression on my traveling companion.

After a pep talk about the hostel situation over FaceTime from her mom and quick bite to eat at an Indian place nearby that hit the spot, we came back and got ready for bed around 11pm. Our roommate arrived back at 12 and we ended up talking for a while with Mariano who is a microsoftie from Buenos Ares, Argentina. He will actually be visiting Seattle in June so we are going to e-mail suggestions of what to do in the area since his idea of visiting Pizza Hut and Taco Bell simply will not stand. Perhaps we can show him around the area a bit as his opening line was “Do you know of Redmond?” Kailey’s face may have lit up at the point as she exclaimed “That is where I am from :-).

The next day we took our time getting up and out the door. We took the metro over to the Arc Du Triumph and then walked along the Champs D’Elysses through the city all the way to the Louvre and then onto Notre Dame. We stopped for a brief moment and had some lunch in a cafe near the square. After our bite to eat we continued exploring, making our way back to our hostel where we relaxed for a bit, showered, changed and go ready to go searching for a crepe place for dinner.

Sam found a review on yelp that talked about a creperie that used all local sustainable organic ingredients in its cooking and thought this would be a good way to get some delicious crepes for dinner. He was not mistaken as they found the restaurant, Cafe Breizh and had an awesome dinner of savory and sweet crepes along with a local cider that was amazing (See the photos!) After a great dinner we walked slowly back to our hostel. When we arrived back at our hostel our new roommate Erin was getting settled. Erin is a canadian from Manitoba who had been traveling with a tour group around for the last two weeks and was now setting out on her own before ending up in Ireland where she would be nannying for a family there. Aside from bearing an insane resemblance to Emily DeGraaff (Sam’s old roomie) she was a very nice roomate and we got along the next couple of days really well with her.

We woke up the following morning and made our way to deal with the crowds at the Louvre. Sam had been there before and this being Kailey’s first time there we stood in the line and eventually made our way into the Louvre. We really only had to wait about 20 minutes to get in which was nice. This place is a mad house, it’s a massive building holding some of the most amazing examples of art, sculpture and artifact on the planet and the crowds reflect that. The Mona Lisa is a pretty good example of what the overall experience at the Louvre is like on a crowded day (I took photos of the view out from the painting). We walked around for several hours before getting an acute case of claustrophobia and needing to get away from the massive crowds and windowless hallways into some fresh air. We took our exploration outside and explored the neighborhood around the Louvre. Realizing we were hungry we took a suggestion from Emma (T-S), and went into the Jewish quarter and found L’as du Falafel with a line down the street. We placed our take away order and the line actually moved fairly swiftly as we ended up with two giant falafel sandwiches in no time. After some delicious falafel we stopped into a bakery, grabbed a fresh loaf of challah and continued exploring. We then headed back to our hostel a little before dinner, stopping at a grocery to pick up some fixings for making a good dinner in the hostel kitchen. We have been getting sick of eating out all the time. After a great dinner we happily went back upstairs to update some photos and sleep. We also had the joy of watching as the group of Canadians, one of who was a rapper, his manager, childhood friend/promoter and a few others whose roles in the band was unclear, proceeded to use the hostel lounge as the release party for some of their newest tracks. Fear not people of the world, the suburbs of Canada are protecting the legacy of Thug Life for the rest of us.

That night after a somewhat noisy evening, we woke up got out the door and just wandered around Montmarte and eventually decided to take the RER (train subway system) out of the city to the suburbs to see what was what. We found a large mall and outlet mall and walked around there for a bit, we wanted to pick up a pair of headphones/mic for the iPad and also there was a supposed aquarium there that on paper looked interesting. Wandering around the outdoor outlet mall after finding said headphones was a nice way to relax and be amused by the high end shopping outlet section (if you can think of it they had it…) We didn’t stay long, just long enough for some coffee and lunch and then headed back to see the Eiffel Tower at night.

We took the metro and arrived at the Eiffel Tower just as it was getting dark outside. We found a good spot on the lawn in front of the tower and waited. Sure enough at 8pm the lights came on and the tower started twinkling, photos were snapped and we sat and watched the twinkling tower. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel again stopping on the way to pick up some delicious components for another dinner a la ourselves. We headed to bed a bit early that evening since we were waking up early to go to Versailles the next day.

Daylight arrived and we headed out the door, grabbing a quick croissant and coffee on our way to the RER. We arrived at the station and boarded the train to Versailles, the train arrived we departed and proceeded to walk around Versailles for the rest of the day. To be fair we didn’t spend that much time in the actual palace since that was a nightmare of people, flashes from cameras and crowding. Moving through there was like swimming with salmon, salmon that like to stop in the middle of the tiny hallway and stare out a random window. We made a pretty quick exit out into the gardens of Versailles and spent the afternoon wandering the massive gardens and listening to the classical music that is pumped throughout the gardens. The property that Versailles sits on is probably around 3 central parks big, and is super impressive. After touring the gardens we then headed out to Marie Antoinette’s farm, which Kailey had heard from Anneka was pretty neat. We walked out there and spent even more time out on the farm looking at the animals and realizing just how huge the entire estates, gardens and mini palaces out past the gardens were. There was even a small rowing club it looked like on the canals near the main gardens. We watched as a few groups of school kids tried out rowing while a very oversized adult coxswain yelled directions. It was amusing to watch the exchange in French after experiencing it so often in English.

After a very long day at Versailles we headed back to the hostel and cooked another dinner which was really good and then settled into our SEPARATE rooms for the night. Was Kailey so mad at Sam that she demanded her own room? No sadly we just ended up with a crappy hostel that had a policy that they just take reservations willy nilly and then play musical chairs with people to fill the rooms in the hostel. We initially booked 3 days in a 3 person dorm and 1 day in a 4 since that was what showed as open on the site. Apparently the site is more of a guide then any actual representation of beds available. So when I booked 2 beds in a room apparently that did not mean 2 beds in the same room, just any room with 2 beds. A fun fact that no one mentioned when we first checked into our room. This is why Kailey was in one room with lovely roommates, while Sam ended up in a room with 3 insane people from Scotland, who were hell bent of drinking every last bit of alcohol in all of Paris. I think they would have succeeded save for one of them ending up near dead the night before, his head it turns out is not stronger than iron bars, and only regaining consciousness when Sam arrived close to 8 that night.

After a night with no sleep for Sam, we headed out to Nice and boarded a train with the hope of seeing sunshine and beaches and warm weather in the days ahead.

Until next time…

~Kailey and Sam

Beer, Belgium and Brands

“There are great brands and great beers”- Caesar

I will allow that to be the take away from the beer tour I did in Brussels (Photos here). The beer tour we did in Brussels through http://www.brusselsbeertours.com started out at 2 PM in the afternoon in front of the tourist office at the Grand Place. Kailey and I showed up and double checked to make sure we were in the right place, I wasn’t about to miss this tour for anything. Sure enough in a few moments we were joined by our guide and the other 5 Americans desperate for a beer education.

Caesar introduced himself and then polled the group on our love of beer. He asked if there were any beer geeks, nope, any brewers…I raised my hand. He asked how I was a brewer but not a geek, I explained that with only a few batches brewed I didn’t yet consider myself good enough to call myself a geek yet. With that we discussed craft brews and microbrews vs brands, he pointed out the headquarters for IGN a massive multinational that owns more beers brands than anyone has a right to. Their headquarters in One Grand Place Brussels, which if you look at the photos is a pretty awesome place to call the office.

From the Grand Place we made a straight b-line to “The Good Ole Times” bar, which has been around for a few hundred years. There we had a true Trappist ale, just fyi the bright red elephant that we get in the states, Delirium, will condemn you to beer hell for drinking it. We learned a bit about true Trappist ales and what is required to be a true Trappist ale (whole foods you can expect an inspection of your beer section upon my return). This was also the point at which Caesar was introduced to Kailey who would be the antagonist for this short play. Caesar did his best to get her a beer that she might enjoy and a Framboise was soon sitting on our table for her “enjoyment”, enjoyed it was not and undeterred Caesar said this was good news since that drink was a crime against beer and it was good she did not like it. My heart soared at the news that my wife might walk away from this experience appreciating the frosty brew.

We then left and continued on our walk over to the Cantillon Brewery which is the last functioning Brussels brewery. The brewery closed at the turn of the century and was then opened again as a museum that actually bottles and produces classic Brussels Lambic (No not that bubbly stuff you get at whole foods). This is flat, interesting, complex and delicious. We toured the brewery and got to know the process and the craft that goes into the classic Lambic. At the end of the tour we tasted a few versions of the Lambics and then Caesar pointed out that they had the Grand Cru Lambic which takes three years to age and isn’t always made, naturally I bought a bottle and added a bottle of elderflower lambic for good measure. I will need Mark and Basti to help me with these for sure.

After we had a better understanding of the process it was time for some serious tasting. We headed to the Moder Lambic bar. This is a great bar that has excellent examples of Belgian beer with some other guest beers from around Europe. There are no brands on the menu, only types of beer that you buy based on your mood. We got to hang out there drinking and talking with the group, after a few beers the tour had to end and sadly we all had to go our separate ways. Kailey and I were sorely tempted to stay and grab a few more drinks with a couple from Colorado, but sadly we had to make it to a grocery store to pick up a treat for a friend to mail the next day.

The tour was awesome and will definitely be a highlight of the trip, and will sadly for Kailey, fuel my brewing hobby for quite some time to come. One note about taking beer tours with Kailey is that you drink double since she never finishes more than a sip….I was in quite good spirits upon completion of the tour. So now we enjoy Paris and the sights, until we get to Germany where perhaps I can take in a bit of Oktoberfest and then luckily Rae shows up so I can taste my way through Italian wines.

-Sam

Where are the Toms?

Hi All,

So when packing I was excited to bring my grey pair of Toms with me to Europe and then I would possibly be a hip with the times fashionista as I traveled the world. I did not purchase my Toms, but were given them as an awesome birthday present and I have worn them a lot since then. My plan was to bring them and then if they wore out as they are wearing at the toes a bit then I would discard them in what ever country we were in and get a new pair. Four countries down and countless feet studied, I have yet to see a respective countryman/woman in Iceland, England, Belgium or France wearing Toms. HMMMMMMM… perhaps this is just an American fashion thing as many people I know have multiple pairs of the shoe.

In Paris I got super excited as I glimpsed a pair of bright red Toms, but it turns out they were worn by another American tourist ahead of me in line boo(See Photo).

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So my quest continues to solve this mystery, perhaps when I am in Germany in a few days I will be able to communicate with my German family and get to the bottom of why I am not seeing Toms in Europe thus far. Stay tuned for further updates 🙂
~ K.

Not all Hostels and Subway/Tram Systems are Created Equal

Hello All,

Two weeks in to our adventure and we have of course discovered this out. We of course were not expecting that everything would all be the same, but there are definitely differences and Sam and I definitely have different “quality” standards especially when it comes to places to sleep and put our stuff down. It is definitely something that we are learning about each other :-), but we are glad we are learning it now instead of 10 years down the road when we are traveling. By then I am sure our tastes will have changed again. We will try to keep updating this post as we go along in our journey and stay in various places.

We are traveling with two backpacks, one that is a DSLR camera bag and pack combined and two rolling duffel bags….

You don’t get to pick your roommates…

Beds you actually sleep on vary a lot as well as the cleanliness of sheets and blankets. I have been grateful for my sleeping bag at times.

For the most part we have stayed in hostels on our trip. Some hostels have been excellent, even when sharing a room with 4-6 people while others have not been. So here is a Hostel by hostel redux of our experiences. First thing to note… all those ratings on websites (hostelworld.com, trip advisor, and in travel books) are not quite accurate at times.

Iceland: Our House
Wifi: yes
Breakfast: yes (lots of decent options including a fancy coffee maker)
This has been the best hostel thus far we have stayed in. It was a cozy iceland home that had been converted into a Hostel. Bedda the owner/operator totally makes you feel like home as well as the other guests. She even gives out hugs of welcome and goodbye. A perk at this hostel was free laundry and a sauna which was awesome to go in at 2am when we were freezing from our excellent northern lights tour. I would also like to note that this hostel probably sleeps 20ish people and there are only 2 showers and 2 toilets but it all works out just fine and everyone is happy.

England: Palmers Lodge @ Swiss cottage
Wifi: yes
Breakfast: yes (breakfast of carbs: smashed croissants, bread, cornflakes and ghetto super sweet “juice”)
Palmers Lodge was our first voyage into a big hostel and overall it was decent stay. There were dorm like showers/toilets (female only and co-ed) and our narrow twin beds were decent to sleep on. It was nice that they had curtains you could draw around them so you could make it dark when needed. We had big wooden bins to lock our stuff in under our bunks provided you had a lock (which we did) and our roommates for fortunately older than 25 so our room of 5 that could sleep 6 got along well. This hostel houses many age groups from younger teen touring groups to older people.

England: Travel Joy at Chelsea
Wifi: yes
Breakfest: yes (of mainly white things, but there were also warm hard boiledish eggs and muesli and healthier juice)
After being spoiled staying in the countryside at my friends home for the night, this hostel came as a shock. First off, you may have booked beds in a multi story hostel, but that doesn’t mean there is an elevator or decent sized hallways to go up and through. We arrived in the evening and only were staying a night as we were departing the next afternoon to Belgium. When we checked in we were greeted by a worker whose English was rather rough and we were just trying to convey that we were checking in, we were also handed concert style wrist bands to wear so we could get drinks in the morning with our breakfast. We just thanked the worker and put them in our pockets for the morning. Our room was a 6 person dorm, made maybe for 4. The beds were jammed together so tightly that I am sure that if there was an emergency we would have trouble getting out. The door barely opened wide enough and our stuff barely fit through it and between the beds. There are two small lockers to store things in, in the bedroom and then the other 4 lockers are in the bathroom as that is where they would only fit, but it makes it really hard to get to your stuff if someone is in the bathroom. Sam and I actually resorted to just sleeping in our clothes, brushing our teeth quickly and heading to bed. We were getting up early to return the rental car and see a few sights of London before we departed.

Belgium: Churchhill B& B

Our Sanctuary…

France: Le Village

France: Villa Saint Exbury

Germany: Gasthaus Bailer-Genther

Austria: YOHO Youth Hostel Salzburg

Did we sleep in a Belgium train station?

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Almost…. 🙂

Link to Belgian photo journal

Day One:

After realizing that we could not keep up the crazy travel pace we started with we decided that a place with a room just for us was needed. So we went B&B shopping for a place in Brussels. We booked a place, a nice room with a double bed and a private bathroom. Aaaahhhh peace, quiet, sleep, sanity finally. Upon booking though we realized that there was some small text at the bottom that said the landlord could cancel our request. Ummmm what does this mean and does that really happen? We should be fine right? So we get to the train station in London only to discover that our request was denied as the room was already booked, but you don’t get to see that when you put in your request. It was now a scramble at the station to find a new place and to hope that there would not be another cancelation of our request. Oh, and the train does not have Internet so we would not know until we arrived in Brussels where and if we had somewhere to stay.

So we put in our request and boarded the train, fingers crossed that it would all work out and that Kailey would not throw her husband if front of the next arriving train in Brussels. Well we arrived and after a fair bit of internet snooping called the B&B company and found out they had sent a confirmation minutes after booking, but it had gone straight to spam (thanks Gmail). So we headed out to our B&B, got slightly lost along the way and arrived around 7 PM. The B&B owner was a very nice man named Phillipe Mission, who greeted us and helped us get settled. He showed us a couple very nice restaurants in the area and we headed out for dinner. Dinner was at a nice Belgian bistro, Kailey ordered a salmon dish that had a salad, eggs, toast and “smoked” salmon. The “smoked” salmon was not quite the equivalent of lox and was a little more than Kailey bargained for. Sam had oxtail pasta which was very good. We then ordered a creme brûlée and ended the night on a very tasty sweet note. That night we passed out and had a very quiet, very long sleep without the distractions of a hostel.

Day Two:

The next morning we slowly made our way into the city center via a nice bistro for breakfast. We sat down in a really great organic prepared food store called Exki and had some really good fruit and sandwiches. There we caught up on photo editing, blogging and planning as well as figured out the plan for the next few days. We then walked around the city for a while, stopping by the tourist center and planned out which tours and sights we wanted to see. Later that evening we stopped by a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant and had a really good dinner, complete with a mesmerizing butterfly cut from a carrot which had Kailey enthralled for most of the evening. After dinner, we took a happy walk back to the B&B and chatted with the owner for a bit. He suggested that the next day we head to Bruges since it was a short train ride away and very nice. He said that the weather would be good and that Bruges being the “Venice of the north” was worth seeing. We agreed this would be a good idea and fell asleep. If you haven’t seen the movie En Brouges with Colin Ferrell and some other actor then I highly recommend it, its pretty funny.

Day Three:

We woke up feeling really refreshed and headed out the door, grabbed breakfast at Exki and ate it on the train ride to Bruges. Once in Bruges we walked from the train station to the city center, making a quick stop at H&M since Kailey was freezing cold. We picked up a scarf in order to keep her from getting frostbite and continued on. We then popped into a bank to change out the last of our British pounds for some more euros. I started speaking French to the bank teller who then informed me that I was in the part of Belgium that does not speak French, and that it was ridiculous for me to speak French. He equated it to me speaking French in Toronto, which I then informed him would be completely normal since most people do speak both French and English in Toronto. Undeterred he told me not to bother speaking French in Bruge. After changing some money, we then headed back out into the city to walk around the canals and explore the Markt which is the huge square at the center of town. I remembered reading in our guide book that a great way to explore Bruges was through the Canals and we headed to a dock to hop on one of the many boats that allows you to tour the city from the Canals. The boat tour was a really great way to explore the city and though a bit cold, we really got to see a lot of the city which was great. After the tour we grabbed a Belgian waffle (when in Rome…) and a hot coco and headed back to the train station. That night we went to the area that was supposedly the best for seafood and got our fix for Moules Frites (for Sam) and a great Sea Bass (for Kailey). Kailey said it was the best meal she had so far on the trip. We then headed back to the B&B for some more sleep, but not before reserving a spot on a beer tour the following day.

Day Four:

Waking up again at a reasonable hour we headed out, walked around the city picking up some souvenirs, chocolates and breakfast again at Exki. We then met our beer tour guide Ceasar in front of the tourist office and proceeded off on what should have been a 3 hour tour. 5 hours later we were happily sitting eating dinner, Sam was slightly intoxicated and the details of the last 5 hours will be dealt with in a separate blog to be written tonight by Sam. After a good dinner we headed back through the city at night to the B&B for our last sleep in Belgium.

Day Five:

Today we got up, packed our things and said goodbye to Phillipe who had been an amazing host for the last 4 days. His B&B was in the perfect location and allowed us to relax and catch our breath before heading out on what should be a pretty fast paced next month as we head to France, Germany and Italy before arriving in Russia. We had tea with Phillipe and talked about our stay, before grabbing our bags and heading to catch our train to Paris, which is where I am right now. High speed trains are really pretty amazing and I would give anything to have them in the US. As I’ve written this blog we are now about 15 minutes outside of Paris. Downside of this is that the train is so fast there hasn’t been any time to catch the usual Kailey passed out during transit photo…Luckily we have plenty more chances for that to occur. In addition we also discovered that at speeds over 200 mph Kailey tends to toe the line of motion sickness. I’ll post the photo journal along with the beer blog later tonight.

~ Sam & K

London and Wiltshire Redux

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Hello from jolly old England,

First off here is a link to our latest photo journal, if you are looking for Harry Potter pictures check out Kailey’s blog on the day.

Now on to the 4 day whirlwind that was England.

Lesson number one: Sam is not 22 anymore and cannot sustain 3 days in a place and then hop on a train to a new location. Kailey has no interest in trying to sustain this pace either, she would go into a catatonic state.

We arrived in London on Thursday evening at 9pm and had a quick bite to eat at an airport restaurant. We then caught the Underground, minded the gap and made the journey to our hostel, The Palmer Lodge at Swiss Cottage. We made it into our room, met the Korean, Irish and Aussie roomates and then passed out till the next morning.

After a good amount of sleep and a breakfast of bread, croissants and cereal (breakfast of white things) we headed out. We needed to rent a car, get a simcard for our phone and buy a travel towel after realizing that many hostels do not provide them and we did not bring any. We also picked up a guidebook for Europe since we are old fashioned that way, and the pdf on the ipad is nice but not as good. We then headed to the meeting point for the Harry Potter tour and got on the bus just in time, on the way Sam got his first real Cornish Pasty. We then sat in London traffic for an hour and a half on our way to the studio (to read about that head over to Kailey’s blog on the experience).

Skip to eight hours later we returned to London and walked over to Wagamama’s for some excellent asian noodles and rice. We then headed back to the Hostel while visions of Hogwarts and Harry Potter danced through our heads, Sam had terror dreams about crashing and dying on the London Streets. To recap we arrived at 11 pm woke up and went, then we woke up early and left got home at 12 am and went to sleep, woke up early and left again. We are the greatest hostel roomates ever known to this planet.

That morning began Sam’s quest, if you haven’t read that blog go ahead and realize that is my poor attempt at putting into words an experience that will haunt me for years. Now to the great part, we drove out to Stonehenge and got to walk around on a really nice sunny afternoon looking at something that was built 5000 years ago. Then we drove up the road to Chippenham to visit Kailey’s friend Anneka who she met on San Juan Island 11 years ago and visited the next year. 10 years later we show up to say hello, and it was an awesome time. We arrived at the house around 5 pm and were met by Anneka, her mom Carol and Badger the dog. We sat down in the conservatory and had some tea. After getting settled and the blood returning to Sam’s hands and face we made our way down to the village pub, The George. The dinner was excellent, we started with some polenta fries and homemade bread with various dips. I had an excellent local cider and then the meal was for Sam and great steak and chips, and for Kailey a great silver mullet dish. Carol had a fish pie which was at first a little cold, but then they took care of that by turning it into lava. For dessert upon Anneka and Carol’s recommendation I had the sticky toffee pudding which was amazing while Kailey tutored the waitress in the ways of the chai latte.

That night we returned home and proceeded to happily pass out into a food coma until 8 am the next morning. Upon opening the door we found a very polite Badger lying there staring at the door awaiting our awakening. We then headed downstairs where Anneka made an amazing English breakfast of: English muffins, crumpets, English bacon, strawberries that we got from a farmer outside of stonehenge, proper scrambled eggs, orange juice and a PROPER cup of English tea for Sam and some green tea for Kailey.

After breakfast we got together and spent the morning in Bath at the Roman ruins and baths. After walking around Bath and procuring some delightful fudge and coffees we hit the road again to visit with Anneka’s sister Sharon, brother-in-law Oliver and baby Edward. Sharon and Oliver had all just moved into their “new” house. I amend new since the house is actually around 500 years old. The house is a traditional English tudor farmhouse that used to be a cider farm. The farm then went on to host sheep, and eventually cattle for dairy. Sharon and Oliver have been working around the clock for the last year getting it to the point of being restored and ready to live in, a work in progress puts it mildly. That being said it was a beautiful piece of property and an amazing house! Kailey and I were very jealous and extremely impressed by the amazing work they have done so far in restoring the place. The twenty acres they have is full of rolling hills and pasture land that was beautiful in the afternoon sun.

We then realized it was getting late and sadly had to head back to the big city. We headed back to Anneka’s and said our goodbyes. Sam got back in the driver’s seat and back out on the road to London we went. On the way back we discussed that the next time we come to England (two years perhaps? Anneka said we were invited to her masquerade birthday that year, so it’s too late to take that back we already looked at tickets!) we are renting a car at the airport and driving the opposite way from the city. Who knows maybe Oliver and Sharon would like some live-in help for a bit, Kailey can watch Edward and Sam can do some fence mending for a while?

Back on the highway, happy from a great visit with old/new friends we stared down a sea of brake lights on the M4. After sitting in traffic from a crash for an hour or so we made it back to the Hostel. Let’s talk about hostels for a moment, some are great and some are not. This is how you can get such cheap prices, they house a lot of people in one building with various services. Some are downright terrifying and others are amazing how they take you in and make you feel at home. Bedda at the Our House Hostel is a great example of an amazing hostel, Tavel Joy Chelsea (where we stayed that night) is a great example of a terrible hostel. I’ll save the more scathing language for the hostelworld review I am about to write, but this place is where dreams go to die. The room that had 6 beds was so packed with the beds that most of the lockers were in the bathroom. I won’t go through all the horrific details but needless to say a good nights sleep was not had. At least we didn’t have to wake up super early to beat traffic to return the car….oh wait that’s exactly what the next morning was.

Sam woke up, ran down to the car and actually had a very pleasant drive to return the car! No honking, no stalling, no dead pedestrians. Sam then returned to save Kailey from the room and out we went into the London morning fresh air. We made it over to Buckinham Palace and did some sight seeing before returning to the hostel, grabbing our luggage and hopping a taxi to the train station. We then made our way down to the train, boarded and rolled out into the English country side with Belgium in our sights. Minor detail was that we had no confirmation of where we were sleeping that night, but hey that’s part of the fun eh? Tune in next time to see if Sam made Kailey sleep in a train station or not….

~S & K