Sunday, July 05, 2015

Blessings

We have been blessed beyond measure. 
We returned home after a memorable two week trip in Europe. We took trains between countries and went in the chunnel, across the French countryside and through Switzerland. We ate local foods, walked over 100 miles, met many friendly people, saw amazing sights, and had a wonderful time together.
My favorite part was meeting up with my sister and her family. They were so welcoming, so kind, and so funny. It was hard to leave them!
I spoke with all my sibling this week. It was great to hear their voices and tell them about my trip.
We had a fun Fourth of July. The weather held out and we saw a brilliant fireworks display.
Allie's boyfriend sent us a Louisiana care package. We tried Gator-Tators Chips from Zapps, which combine dill with Cajun seasoning. They were delicious.
We went to dinner with good friends and planned another one at a new restaurant for next week. More laughs are guaranteed. 
We had great tennis with some friends when we returned. I love to play outside with fun people. I'm grateful for my partner, too.


Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Fourth


"Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. 
We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should."
Ronald Reagan 1981


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Tiptoeing Through Europe: Packing

When we planned our trip, the girls wanted to do a lot of traveling and see as much of Europe as possible. We had to whittle their destinations down to six:
Madrid, Spain
Brussels, Belgium
London, England
Paris, France
Bern, Switzerland
Italy
We chose those cities based on affection for the various places: Ashley and Allie studied Spanish in school. They love Belgium waffles and wanted to try authentic ones. Paris and London are iconic and have so many things to do. Bern is the capital of Switzerland, (which I didn't know until this trip) and has a Bear Park and Rose Garden. My dear sister lives in Italy and we wouldn't even think of heading to Europe without visiting her family. 
We had an itinerary.
The next step was deciding what to pack and how much. Since we had plans to dart around, we didn't want to risk dragging heavy luggage or gasp! losing it while traveling. We wanted to figure out a way to bring what we needed into a carry-on and small bag. The expected temperatures of our destinations  varied from high 80 degrees days to the coolest 50 degree evenings. We had to plan for rain in London (which didn't happen, but torrential rains hit us in Paris!). We also planned to walk as much as we could, which requires a change of shoes.
We planned to do laundry as needed on our trip and purchase whatever incidentals we couldn't bring with us (shaving cream, etc).
What I brought that I NEEDED or what was most valuable to me:
Light Trench Coat - I bought one from Scottvest in red and it was not only stylish, but fabulous. It was warm, but lightweight. It had plenty of pockets for my wallet, water bottle, tickets, passport, lip balm, currency. It folded up and took up little space when I didn't need it. It was excellent in the rain as well as the cool night air in London. I loved it.
Comfortable Shoes - Many websites discouraged wearing sneakers as they scream "tourist". Truth is, I don't find other shoes comfortable for walking miles at a time. And, let's face it, I am a tourist. I saw plenty of people wearing sneakers, or "athletic shoes". As long as they are in good shape, I don't think they look bad. I even wore them with skirts.
Comfortable Dress Shoes - I wore black wedges for going to dinner and high tea. I wanted to have an outfit where I felt stylish.
Sandals - Since we were traveling in June, sandals were small enough to tuck in my carry-on and perfect for the really warm weather.
Spare Tank Tops - I packed six tank tops and they were a great layering piece, took up little room and allowed me to change into something fresh. They are also small enough to dry quickly.
Two polyester tailored shirts - I bought mine from Express and they were a lifesaver. They were easy to layer over tanks. I could wear them with skirts, pants, or over a dress as a jacket. They were lightweight and they washed and dried very easily. Ashley wore one by day and washed it in the sink at night. It dried by morning and she always looked great.
Ash and her Portofino shirt
My art journal so I could sketch in the day's activities at night. I also brought a few pencils, a small travel watercolor palette, and a water brush.
My cell phone to take photos, keep notes, and use a phone.
My watch because it allowed me track our milage and keep track of the time change.
A water bottle with a filter. I used the one made by Brita and was able to fill it up with tap water.
A scarf - Most European women wear a scarf around their necks. They frequently move it to cover their shoulders when it gets cool, cover their head before entering a cathedral, or using it to stay warm. 

What I brought that I DIDN'T NEED:
A camera. My cell phone was better suited for taking photos. It was easy to carry and carrying the camera made me nervous. I wish I left it at home.
A book to read. I love to read, but I didn't have time to read it! I journaled in my down time.
A hat - I brought a hat, but didn't use it. I love to wear hats, but didn't this time. Instead, I transported it around Europe.

What I DIDN'T bring that I needed:
Blister pads for my feet, but were easily found at a pharmacy
Extra socks - I forgot that even though I needed a change of shoes, I also needed to change socks more often than normal.

We made it the two weeks with only one stop at a laundromat in Paris. It was easy enough to do and I think it was a good plan to carry just a carry-on and one bag.
I was glad that we didn't have more things to drag around, or heavier suitcases.
Jon translating the sign at the laundromat

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Tiptoeing Through Europe

We took a once-in-a lifetime vacation to Europe for Allie's graduation. We visited six countries in two weeks. The four of us. The weather didn't always cooperate, we were exhausted from our travels, at time we bickered, we didn't speak the languages, and we only brought carry-on luggage. But, it was FANTASTIC!
Ashley plotted out our routes and together we booked hotels. Ashley is highly organized and orderly and did a fantastic job booking trains, figuring out the metro systems of Paris and London, and navigating us through unfamiliar grounds. We walked over 100 miles in two weeks, tried new foods, people watched, studied history, and had a marvelous time together.

Here is a sneak peek of our adventures. I'll go into more detail over the next few days.
Waffles in Belgium 
Chorizo in Madrid
The Tower Bridge in London
Teas in London before a jaunt to Buckingham Palace
An angel falling asleep in his father's arms
 
Gelato in Italy
Cutie Pies in Paris