Sunday, September 18, 2016

Celebrating 10 years in Europe!

warning: picture overload. long post.

Jeff and I wanted to do something big for our 10 year wedding anniversary. Planning basically started about 15 months ago. We threw around some ideas. We landed on a big grand plan- Europe! We quickly set our locations into place. Then worked on details. The summer flew by and then it was time to go! We were excited, nervous, anxious, ready. Of course, it was so hard to leave the kids but we had no worries as Jeff's parents were in charge.

First Stop: Switzerland

We arrived in Zurich Saturday morning after an overnight flight. We were tired and excited. We took a train from Zurich to Bern. Then from Bern to Kandersteg, arriving around 2pm. We walked through the town of Kandersteg (about 20 minutes) to the gondola. Before we went up gondola to find our hotel we stopped at a little cafe with wifi to check in with the kids. We knew once we went up the gondola we would have no phones or connection to the world until we came back down- for 2 full days. We headed up the mountain with luggage in tow and then we had to walk to our hotel- about a 25 minute walk- thankfully it was downhill and a gorgeous day. We arrived around 3pm.

Our location was incredible, so beautiful. Just like the pictures I had been seeing- only better in real life. We got checked in and found our lakeview room. We both showered- in a shared bathroom! Yikes, this was different- but fine. We had dinner on the patio and then went for an evening walk to try to stay awake as long as we could.

We both crashed at about 8pm to the sound of waterfalls. I woke up to Jeff looking out our window at 1am. I got up to look, too. What a sight. A sky full of stars, shining so bright. We went back to bed and slept until about 8am.

Sunday: We had breakfast and then went out on the lake for a canoe ride. After the canoe ride we went for a hike around the lake and up the mountain to a little restaurant where Jeff had a couple beers. I ordered a strawberry milkshake and I got a nice glass of strawberry milk- not what I was expecting. After we hiked back down the hill we found a little couch on the patio of our hotel. I took a nap and Jeff just hung out. The day drew on and the weather started changing. The clouds rolled in and the rain started. We had dinner inside that evening.

Monday: We woke for breakfast and check out was at 9:30. It was still raining, actually pouring. We had the same 25 minute walk, only up the hill. There was a gondola shuttle starting at 11:30 but we didn't want to wait that long. So we walked. And walked. And walked. We were soaked and I had to stop every couple minutes to take breaks. Quite the adventure. We took the gondola back down to town and walked to the trains station and caught the first train to head to Chur. We arrived in Chur and warmed up and got some wifi and were able to check in with the kids- thankful!

Tuesday: We took the Bernina Train through the Swiss Alps- it was more beauty. Switzerland is so beautiful. We took the train to Torrino, Italy and had to hop on another train to Milan, Italy. We arrived late and had to run our tails to catch another train to Riomaggiore, Italy which was our next destination.

Maggie highlights in Switzerland: the cows and cowbells. waterfalls outside our windows, beautiful scenery.
Jeff's highlights in Switzerland: hiking, the rowboat, Bernina Express.



Kandersteg 
Ice Cream with chocolate sauce. Amazing

heading to the hotel

cows everywhere

view from our room

more cows

incredible

walking

reflection

canoe rider
 
Canoe driver- waterfalls behind him

mmmuuuahhhh!

more views

on our hike

proud of myself

more cows!

Jeff's beer at the top

Chatting with the goat

heading down. more smiles this way 

changing weather

our cold, wet hike up the hill

Kandersteg with the clouds

Bernina Express

Second Stop: Riomaggiore, Italy (Cinque Terre)

Tuesday: We arrived in Riomaggiore right as the sun was setting. We were hungry and ready to get settled. We had to navigate the small village to find our Airbnb as our hosts weren't able to meet us. It took us a little time but we walked into our apartment to find the sun setting into the ocean. It was pretty awesome. We unloaded our stuff and freshened up and headed to town to find some food. We ended up at a little bar and ordered pizza from next door. It was the perfect end to our long travel day. 

Wednesday: We headed to a little cafe for some chocolate cream croissants- yum and to venture around the village. After lunch Jeff had scheduled a private boat for 4 hours to tour the 5 villages along the coast. It was the perfect way to see the area. We did get off at one other village to look around and have ice cream. But, we both agreed the boat was a great way to see the area off the water avoiding the crowds of tourists. That evening we went to the water to watch the amazing sunset. 

Thursday: This morning we had a couple hours before our train so walked a different part of the village before going back to pack our luggage. We had a 3 hour train ride and arrived in Rome for dinner. 

Cinque Terre highlights for Maggie: boat ride, scenery, swimming.
Cinque Terre highlights for Jeff: boat ride, calamari, stairs. 

view of the sea

Jeff and his calamari

wine on the boat

checking out Vernazza, a different village

Ice cream in Vernazza

waiting for our taxi

That white boat in front is called "Anna"

great day!

stairs down to the sea

amazing views

Jeff and I

Amazing sunset

Riomaggiore

pretty views

Jeff tackling the stairs

Local kids playing

Third Stop: Rome

Friday: We woke up in Rome Friday morning anxious for a big day. We started the day with a tour of the Colosseum. We did the underground and third ring tour. It was pretty incredible. So much history. After the Colosseum tour we headed over to the Basilica for our tour of St Peter's. The tour was pretty incredible. Following a tour of the church we walked to the top of the dome- 300 steps. It was hot, small, and bendy. It was worth it. Once we got to the top we had amazing views of the city. It did start raining, though. I got a little nervous being on the tallest dome in the world during a thunderstorm and the only way down was all those steps. There were a lot of people up there, too. We waited our turn and headed down and out. Our final tour of the day was the Sistine Chapel. We did an evening tour which was pretty cool. It took over 2 hours and Jeff and I were both completely spent by the end and just wanted to go to bed. 

Saturday: We had scheduled a tour of Rome on scooters planned for this day! It was a 4 hour tour. Just Jeff, Giovanni and myself. It was a fun, relaxing way to see more sights and get more info on top of all we learned the day before. It was a great follow up after being so busy and walking over 20,000 steps the day before. After the tour we were heading out to check out a few more things and then go back to our room and freshen up for dinner. However, that all changed. While we were walking the streets a storm rolled in. We went to hide under a tree for a few minutes and then the tree didn't even help and we were getting soaked! We ran across the street to a little bar and had a couple drinks to let the storm pass. The thunder was so loud. Pretty incredible. Once we finally got back to our room to dry off and chill we did decide to walk to dinner. Giovanni gave us a recommendation that Jeff wanted to try so we hit the streets- more walking! We walked along the Tiber River and through some neighborhoods to find this spot. It was worth it- amazing food. 

Maggie highlights in Rome: Colosseum tour, view from the top of the Dome, scooter tour, getting caught in the rain, our Airbnb.

Jeff highlights in Rome: Vespa tour, Colosseum tour, lighting on top of the Dome, carbonara. 

Colosseum (selfie stick in hand)

incredible

more Colosseum

Sending kids postcards from the Vatican

St Peter's Basilica

view from the top of the dome

selfie

Guard at the Basilica 

St Peter's Basiclica

Pyramid in Rome
selfie on the scooter

Scooter tour

wine and cake during the thunderstorm

Jeff's soaked and drinking

getting dry

the wall in our AirBNB

Tiber River

Jeff and his clean plate

Trevi Fountain


Fourth stop: Venice

Sunday: We woke up early to catch the train to arrive in Venice around noon. We had some issues with our place to stay but everything worked out. We got settled and then walked to meet Suzie and Dave in St Mark's Square as they met us for our final 2 days before they went off to France for a week. They had just gotten off the plane and had all their luggage. We went back to the room to unpack and let them freshen up. Once we were ready we headed out to get a drink by the Grand Canal. We spent a while there then we wondered around and ended up back in St Mark's Square. We were making our next plans for the evening and in an instant all the evening lights came on. We didn't even plan it. We just happened to be there at that moment. We went to dinner near our hotel room and then had some wine outside by the canal near our room. We spent hours down there. It was fun, to say the least.

Monday: We all slept in. Once we got up and moving we had lunch by the Academia Bridge. We did some shopping- kind of fun shopping. We went into different high end top designers stores to try on some bold clothes/shoes. We all got a laugh out of it. We spent the day exploring the city on the water. We had ice cream, got some souvenirs for the kids, stopped for some pictures and handstands in St Mark's Square. On our last evening we also went for a gondola ride, which was pretty magical. We finished our evening with dinner and dessert. We went back early so we could all get packed up as Jeff and I were heading home in the morning and Suzie and Dave had to catch the train.

Maggie Venice highlights: St Mark's square when the lights came on, our first evening together, gondola ride, shopping.
Jeff Venice highlights: Drinking by the canal, shots honoring his friend on 9/11, St Mark's Square, hanging with the pigeons.

Rialto Bridge

Drinks on the canal

St Mark's Square

Late night drinks on the canal

St Mark's Square

Suz and I

Ice cream break

the streets of Venice where the locals live.
Notice the clothes line above

Gondolas lined up

pigeons!



St Mark's Square at night

gondola ride

Taking in the views

gondola ride

handstand in St Mark's Square
The bar Jeff and Dave visited

Venice love. 

 It was simply amazing.

The kids came to get us from the airport. It was the best reunion. I was emotional and so so happy. They were so happy to see us and couldn't wait to tell us all about their time with grandma and grandpa.

Thanks to our parents and friends who helped with the kids. We are so grateful .