#27 – Sevilla, Spain: Flamenco, Tapas and History!

We loved Sevilla!

After Barcelona, we hopped on our first flight within Europe, to Seville. We have been using our Eurorail pass extensively, but struggled with getting necessary seat reservations for Renfe, the Spanish train company, and so it was cheaper to book our flights for this short hop down into southern Spain. We landed and immediately felt the heat! It was much warmer in Seville, but less humid, and we quite enjoyed it. Our hotel was near the old city walls, and had a rooftop pool that we took great advantage of. The daytime highs were always in the upper 30s and we had wonderful weather the whole week.

View of the old city wall from our hotel

We really enjoyed walking around Seville and found it quite easy to navigate the narrow and shady streets. The city was designed to create shade corridors and many streets also had wide canvas covers to give everyone a break from the sun. The city is know for its tapas and flamenco dancers and we got to enjoy both, as well as exploring the central cathedral, and Alacazar palace and gardens. There was also a relatively new structure in the center of the city called the Setas de Sevilla, or “mushrooms”, which showcased a wonderful wood structure that was beautifully lit up at night.

Setas de Sevilla

Caroline had orrganized an intimate Flamenco presentation for us on the other side of the river, in the old town that Flamenco was born. We learned a lot about the history of Flamenco dancing, as well as an hour long dance, with beautiful music and singing. We were so close to the dancers, we could feel her dress as it swept passed our knees! The emotion, the expression, the tempo and the energy of the moments were engaging and impressive. We came out of the small room beaming with excitement and fueled by sangria. It was definitely a highlight of our time in Sevilla.

Ole! Flamenco presentation

We also enjoyed learning about the islamic influences in Seville, where we explored the Alacazar, a Palace with attached gardens that were so beautiful in design and expression. We learned all about the history of the ceramics and tile design that were exported all around the world from this central place. We loved the intricate designs on the ceilings, and in the mosaics and in the layout of the palace and gardens. It was a truly special visit, coupled with the Cathedral de Seville and tower, with its magnificent views of the entire city.

Alacazar Palace ceiling tiles

Below the Alacazar was a bathroom and bathhouse that was cool and refreshing break from the heat outside. It was also a set piece for the Game of Thrones and many other famous movies and tvshows. It was a busy place, but still had lots of little spots to sit and enjoy the ambience, appreciate the history and cool down for a few minutes with a cool drink.

Alacazar Palace basement baths

The Gardens surrounding the Alacazar were truly special and expansive with beautifully landscaped areas, wandering peacocks announcing their presence and refreshing fountains. We strolled through for a couple of hours, appreciating the gardens and gorgeous roses and other flowers punctuating the lush landscape.

Peacock in the Alacazar Gardens

One of our day-trips from Seville was to take a public bus about 10kms away to a little suburb called Santiponce, where there was the ruins from an ancient Roman city called Italica. This exhibit told the story of this ancient city of 20,000 people and how they lived, with bathhouses, arenas, markets and housing. It was very well done and we learned even more about the ways Romans built their citys, provided their citizens with water, food and security, and entertained them. It was also a great lunch when we went to a nearby restaurant and had the seafood fried appetizer platter, with everything on it!

Italica Roman Ruins in Santiponce

Our other day trip was to take the train to Cordoba, which was about 1 hr away. Cordoba also has a lot of fascinating history with Islamic influences and a very famous Cathedral Mosque, and an old roman bridge that crossed the river. The city was easy to explore, and had many interesting sights to check out, unfortunately for us, we went on a Monday when many of them were closed! We did stay cool by enjoying some gelato, and having a nice meal in the El Corte Inglés department store cafeteria, which was delicious, affordable and air-conditioned! It was almost 40 degress celcius that day and we worked hard at staying cool, while also checking out the Cathedral Mosque, and its cool interior. It was an expansive, gigantic space with beautiful arches and an inviting interior that we wandered and appreciated for the afternoon.

Catheral Mosque in Cordoba

One of the most photographed spots in Cordoba is the Calleja de las Flores, a tiny little street covered with flowers and from the right angle, a view of the Cathedral tower. It was a nice little stroll, and Caroline especially appreciated the beautiful flowers.

Beautiful streetview in Cordoba

Overall, we loved the Andalusian region of Spain and its history, culture and food, we became experts in different tapas, Cañas and sangria, as well as flamenco, paella, and ceramics. We have lots of ideas for hosting summer time get togethers at home, and maybe even some tile design for some home decor one day. We appreciated the heat and sun, and are definitely getting a good tan (for Caroline) and no sun burns (for Aaron). Be sure to check out the video below, especially after the credits to see a bit of our Flamenco presentation and for more pictures of this time, see the link below the video.

Adios for now!

Check out our photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/LDgeFgvrRpxU1zUX7

#26 – Barcelona! Tapas, Parks, Churches and Beaches

Sagrada Familia in all its glory

We were both looking forward to Barcelona for our trip, as it was our entry into Spain, and good weather, great food, and amazing culture. I was very excited to return to Barcelona, after coming here 25 years ago, as it was one of the highlights of my backpacking trip a long time ago. We had booked a nice hotel with a small kitchenette in a central neighbourhood, near transit and had lined up a few key sights and activities. The weather looked good, and our Flixbus arrived on time, landing us in the center of this bustling city,

Steps up the Barcelona Botanical Garden

After settling in, doing a small grocery shop, having a few tapas for dinner and getting our bearings, we made our plans for the next few days of what we wanted to see. We also booked some train reservations for later in our trip at the Central Train station, and headed to the “Magic Fountain”, a beautiful water feature near the Barcelona Botantical Gardens and National Art Gallery, that we both enjoyed a lot. We saw lots of beautiful sculptures, masterpieces of art, contemporary exhibits and famous paintings. It is a great gallery, and definitely worth checking out. The park is on a hillside, and had a lot of stairs, and even outdoor escalators to help take us up the mountain.

What you looking at? Manuel Bayeu Painting in the National Gallery of Catalonian Art

When we are in art galleries, we tend to stroll and walk through slowly, admiring the works and sharing our thoughts and observations with each other. We also like to photograph interesting and different examples of Art that we especially appreciate or connect with, and sometimes we even think of potential lesson plans or ideas for back in our classrooms and libraries. This Catalonian National Art Gallery had so many good pieces and examples and we found ourselves appreciating so many that we have lessons and ideas for years to come.

Tapas, Tapas, Tapas.

After all that browsing, we were very hungry and so we found a place for refreshments and tapas! We really enjoyed all the different options and flavours and sharing, as we got to try so many different dishes, styles, flavours and tastes. Almost every place had a Potato Bravas, with slightly different implementations, and they also had so many different meats and cheeses, fried croquettes, tortilla pies, hummus and salads, and delicious treats. We definitely enjoyed the cervasas too!

Still Life Picasso painting “The Dessert” at the Picasso Museum

Another very popular spot in Barcelona was the Picasso Museum, as it is a large collection of his work, spanning many periods of his career and styles. It included many displays of his history, and also scientific studies of his work, with x-rays of special paintings to show the earlier work underneath. We both learned a lot about his life, his history, his influences and enjoyed seeing many of his most famous works. It was a delightful and amusing day.

Park Guell, Gaudi designed plaza

The artistic influnce in Barcelona is not just for the Painters, it is also with the Architects, as the famous Gaudi had a tremendous impact on the city as a whole. He famously designed a impressive outdoor park, as well as the largest and most impressive Church, capturing the love and admiration of the Barcelonians and tourists from around the world. We booked tickets for both the Park Guell, and the Sagrada Familia and spent our time exploring in awe of his vision and work in both environments. It was truly impressive to be in these spaces and to see his vision in person, and to feel the immense spaces.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

When I was a 19 year old, I backpacked around Europe for 5 months with Sam, and when we visited Barcelona, we checked out the Sagrada Familia, then. This Church as been under construction for about 100 years now, and in the 1990s, it was hardly begun still. When we were there, there was no ‘inside’, it was just two entranceways, and 8 towers, and an open space in the middle, and we explored what we could. There was no entrance fee then, and we could just walk up the spiral towers on our own and walk around wherever we wanted. It felt special even back then, but this time, with the Church 90% done, and the inside completed, it was a transformative experience.

Sagrada Familia

The most impressive part of the Church inside is all the colourful light spilling in through the incredible stained glass windows. It was so impressive to be bathed in blues, greens, oranges and reds, all throughout the expansive space. The architecture of the inside highlights these windows allowing the light all throughout the space, and immediately draws your attention up and around. There are symbols and references everywhere and the acoustics were amazing, even with hundreds of other people milling about and chatting. It was very busy while we where there, and probably is busy all the time as it is such a treasure and experience to see. A must if you are ever in Barcelona. I hope to come back again and see it in its completed state, with the final, tallest towers in the middle reaching up into the sky, and dominating the city skyline.

Below is our video of these adventures, with lots more pics and clips of these amazing places and activities. Please, check it out and hear all about what we enjoyed and appreciated and explored. Follow along with our other videos on our youtube channel, subscribe if you like. As well, below the video, is a link to a folder of more pictures of this segment of our trip.

Photos from this City: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YVHobz37RM3kuA3y5

#25 – Nimes, France. Romans, Bulls and Bikes!

Learning about Gladiators in the Nimes Arena

We left the coast of France, and headed back in time! Caroline had done a little research and learned about a cool little city a few hours away by train, full of ancient Roman ruins and lots of history and french culture to explore. Off to Nimes we went! We arrived to great weather and pleasant suprises, as the city was welcoming, not too busy and very easy to navigate. Our AirBnB was about 20 mins walk from the Train station and we had to walk through the center of town to get there. Along the way we discovered the amazing Arena, a cute downtown core, full of shops and restaurants, patios and fountains, and a bustling daily market we enjoyed many times.

Today, the Arena hosts Bull fights and Concerts

The first touristy thing we explored was the impressive Arena, right in the center of town, and imposing over the central square. There was a great audio guide, and it educated us about the history of the Arena, the types of entertainment provided, and the different influences over the years. Currently, the Arena is in great shape, well restored and used often for Bull fights and concerts, as well as city festivals. In the past, it had been taken over with housing, was fallen into disrepair, used as a fortress, as well as its glory days during the Roman times in 70 CE. You can read more about here.

They Romans and later, City Elders built extensive fountains and canals fed by water from the natural spring and Pont du Gard Aqueduct

We also enjoyed the tour around the city on their “train” bus, which gave us a great overview of the highlights, history and places to check out later. Again, it was pleasantly hot, not too busy and easy to get around. We loved learning about the central spring of the city, which fed into these canals, gardens and fountains, as well as supported the textiles industry of the past, which innovated the creation of Denim Jeans, made from “des Nimes”. We walked through the beautiful gardens, saw the central spring, the fallen down Temple of Diana, and the Tower on the hill, all great examples of Roman engineering and civil infrastructure.

Caroline modeling the latest Roman fashion

Across the street from the Arena, was a very modern museum all about the Roman history of Nimes, and an impressive collection of artifacts, exhibits and innovative displays like the picture above, where Caroline is demonstrating the latest in Roman fashion. We had lots of space in the Museum, as they were not many other tourists, and it was very educational, and worthy of a visit when in town. We also enjoyed many tasty and delicous meals around town over a few evenings, enjoying the local specialty, Bull meat, as it is on almost every menu! One of our meals was extra special as we were seated next to a young Scottish couple on a weekend vacation, and we spent the evening chatting and getting to know them and talking all about the similiarities and differences between Canada and Scotland!

medieval Castle in Uzes

One of our big adventures was to take a local bus to the town of Uzes, about 40 mins away, where Caroline had arranged for us to rent some E-bikes to ride out to the Pont du Gard Aqueduct, a truly impressive Roman installation that brought fresh safe water to the people of Nimes from over 50 miles away! The ride was gorgeous, as it was a very nice day, and the bike path was easy and smooth. We rode past a lot of farms and fields and through a couple small villages and enjoyed the ease of our E-bikes, speeding us along the route.

Riding through the countryside to Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard Aqueduct was an amazing feat of Roman engineering and demonstrated their technical abilities and wealth at the time. It is still special today as it is the tallest, best preserved aqueduct left in the modern world and attracts people from all over to spend some time in awe of it. There were tourists from all over the world, as well as school groups, locals and us, enjoying being in the presence of this amazing structure. We walked over it, and explored a viewpoint from the right hand side, as well as went down to the river below. Overall, it was a great day of riding, exploring and learning more about the Romans and their empire.

Bringing water to the people of Nimes in 50 AD. Pont du Gard Aqueduct

Nimes, France should definitely be on your list of places to visit if you are nearby. It has everything you would need, plus much more to make your visit enjoyable and informative. The people were friendly, and they had so much to do and see. We highly enjoyed our time and would love to return again one day. Check out our video below to see how much we enjoyed this area, and the photos are linked below the video. Cheers!

Check out our photos from Nimes here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/pfYZhZAzdGzMXTJH9

#24 – Nice, Monaco and Villefranche Sur Mel and how we got bowled over by a Moped!

Arriving at the Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach for the first time!

After our wonderful time in Italy. we headed west along the top coast of the Mediterranean Sea into France. Caroline had booked us a wonderful little apartment for a week in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a tiny little village inbetween Monaco and Nice. It had a bunch of delicous restaurants, a small beach, a market and a train station! It was warm and sunny and we thoroughly enjoyed our week there, with lots of beach time, hiking and exploring nearby.

Our apartment with our little slice of a view!

Our apartment had a tiny little balcony, and a slice of a view of the bay, just one block away. We were on a pedestrian only little alley with a restaurant right below us, a bakery nearby and small shop for groceries down the block. We also enjoyed the bi-weekly market up the hill for fresh veggies and cheese, olives and little croquettes, a type of roasted cornish hens that we shared for dinner! Our hosts were fantastic, and the apartment had a full kitchen, washing machine, and all the beach equipment we needed.

Enjoying some Poetry at the Fete de Rose

One of our first adventures was to go explore along the side of the bay, and we were not dissappointed! We happend upon the Fete de Roses, an annual weekend festival at the nearby Rothchild’s estate and palatial gardens. It was beautiful and extra special for all the unique presentations and beautiful experiences that were arranged for the visitors. We especially enjoyed lounging on the velour pillows and listening to engaging french poetry all about roses and flowers. It was incredibly relaxing and inspiring! We also got to enjoy a syncronized water display in the fountains, and a ballet presentation before a special ceremony to recognize a retiring gardener with his own named type of Rose plant. Then they released the doves. It was a great day!

The Rothchild’s Villa, Fete de Rose

Our next adventure was to take the train to Monaco, a few bays to the east, where we arrived after a very busy weekend hosting the historical Grand Prix. There were seating stands setup all over the roads and lots of people working hard to clean up after the event. The giant yachts and helicopters were leaving en masse all day as the wealthy spectators were all leaving town. We walked up the hill to visit the Royal Palace and got to see the changing of the Guards, which was interesting, but not as elaborate as the English Royals in London. It was very hot, and we explored the city, harbour and even went to the Monte Carlo Casino, but could not gamble as Caroline did not have any ID with her!

The historical Grand Prix in Monaco

It was incredible to see all the mega yachts, with boats inside of boats and helicopters on the back. We were gobsmacked by the wealth and oppulence of Monaco and felt very out of place. It was busy, but with mostly staff, and workers everywhere, but you could sense the wealth all around us It made us reflect a lot on the inequities of this Principality, especially as our phones would not work here and we could not even use our data to find our way around. I don’t think we will ever be back.

A boat inside your boat, for when you need to go ashore

The changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace was a formal event every couple of hours and we were able to be there when they changed over. The soldiers had pristine white uniforms and heavy automatic weapons. I’m not sure they’ve ever been invaded here, but they certainly are ready for anything.

The guard of the Palace in Monaco

Our next adventure was to go west, to the next bay over to Nice, a much more reasonable city with a long beach and beautiful walkway along the front of the bay. We did a little shopping for some warm summer clothes, as we are now south enough to not need any of our spring clothing. We had a delicous meal, and had a really nice chat with a recently engaged young woman on the beach where we compared teenagers in Canada and France. We also saw the sailing school getting towed out to practice and learn on a beautiful afternoon.

Sailing School in Nice, France

So, you are probably still reading, wondering “how did you get bowled over by a moped? Well, it was when we were in Villefranche-sur-Mer and we were returning from the market with our shopping. We were near our apartment, on a pedestrian only street and our guards were down. We did not really hear the moped coming up behind us, but soon, all we felt was a giant metal object right between us, hurtling towards a store display. We both fell outwards and the moped driver was able to stop before driving right into the shop. Both of us had our arms hit, but nothing too serious, just some light bruising. The moped was a La Poste, mail delivery moped, and the driver was super apologetic, and made sure we were both ok. The entire street of people all stoped to check us out and the shop owner came out to clean up the display. It all worked out fine and we were laughing about it in no time, but we both felt it was only a matter of time before we had a moped issue, as they are everywhere in Europe! We are glad our interaction was so minor and will keep our wits about us in the future!

Moules et Frites

Our last meal in Villefranche-sur-Mer was delicious and we especially enjoyed the Moules et Frites. We look forward to some more excellent meals as we head out to Nimes, France with lots of Roman restorations and then onto Spain next. Below is our video from this part of our trip, and a link to extra pictures below that. Enjoy!

Photos from this part of our trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Kog6zR6mkHvExoNbA

#23 – Vienna, Florence and Genoa! Pizza, Beaches and Sun!

St Stephen’s Cathedral Vienna, Austria

What a busy week we had in Vienna, Florence and Genoa! These three cities were each super beautiful, fun, and extremely busy! We started off in Vienna at a hip hotel, near the central train station, and were able to slowly explore this historic town. Transit there is easy, and we were able to explore the center tourist district on foot, walking along the river, and checking out the many Hapsburg palaces and gardens. It was pleasant, warm weather and we enjoyed the chance to learn a bit more about this fantastic wealthy city,

Hundertwasser House, Vienna, Austria

One of the highlights was the Hundertwasser house and museum! This inspirational architect designed new forms and structures that were not rigid, but flowing, full of nature intertwined within and without. They are definitely unique and I wish that more architecture around the world would adopt some of these ideas. It was so inviting and engaging to see and explore and I recommend it as a must see if you are ever in Vienna. We also enjoyed walking around the pemanant amusement park, the Prater, and seeing all the teenagers skipping school to go on the rides around the park.

Nightrain to Florence

We had our first overnight train from Vienna to Florence! It was on the Austrian rail line, OBB and their Nightjet service. The cars were a little older, but it worked out great. We shared our booth with a Ukrainian couple who were emigrating to Canada. It was so special to be able to meet them, answer all their questions about Canada and to become friends for when we are back home. The car was a little loud and rattling through the night, so not our best sleep, but we were happy to arrive in Florence in the morning.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence was a treat! It was warm, sunny and busy, with lots to see and eat while there. We really enjoyed how walkable the city was, and the beauty around almost every corner. We explored the traditional Cathedrals, squares and markets, as well as crossed over the river many times to see the views, parks and flowers on the other side. We especially enjoyed the sculptures and frescos all around the city and the tiny alleyways interconnecting all our walks. We shopped, ate, and lounged for three days and really enjoyed our time there. It was busy with lots of English tourists, as well as Stag and Stagette parties, and there should be lots of weddings coming up this summer!

Florence Sculptures

The artwork, history and culture in Florence was unbeliveable, with so many incredible works on display. The food and people were fantastic, as we had delicious meals and met many nice Italians. Our hotel was very close to the center of the city. We were able to do some laundry, and because we had our own apartment with a kitchen, we cooked some meals on our own at home, and shopped at the wonderful Mercato Centrale. The only annoying part of staying in Florence was the mosquitos! A total suprise to find out that we had them all over our apartment in the evening. It required a special bed time routine each night to get rid of them all before sleeping.

Mpvie Prop ship from “Pirates” by Roman Polanski

The train from Florence to Genoa was quite special. First we had to transfer in Pisa, and then take the coast all the way up and around to Genoa. We got a few nice views, but much of the journey was through long tunnels. We did get to see some cruise ships and some nice beaches along the way. Once we arrived in Genoa, we got checked into our hotel, and began exploring this ancient and vibrant port city. One of the coolest things in the Harbour was a giant Pirate ship “prop” built for the Roman Polanski movie “Pirates”. Everything on the ship was fake, but it was still able to sail!

Boccadasse Bay, Genoa Italy

Our hotel was very near a tiny little bay outside Genoa, called Boccadasse Bay, or “Donkey’s mouth” as it was translated. It was super cute, and a little less busy with lots of nice patios and spots to sit and enjoy the sun and the breeze. I enjoyed a delicious “suprise” pizza at a restaurant nearby and we came down each night for some Gelato and to see the sunset. The staff at our hotel were wonderful and very helpful with all sorts of tips and advice for our time in Genoa. We also enjoyed taking a city bus east along the coast to explore some more gorgous bays, beaches and tiny villages while we were there. Genoa was a great place for us and we hope to be back on day!

Below is the video for this segment of our trip and it showcases some of the best of our time there, so check it out. For many more pictures of these cities, see the link below the video! We are now off to Villefranche Sur Mel, near Nice, France!

Photos for this post: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6vu6e2ZHdZdu3Zzv5

#22 – A full head of Steam in Dresden, Germany!

The Moritzburg Castle on a sunny morning

We just had an amazing week near Dresden, Germany visiting with my family, and exploring all that Saxon Switzerland had to offer! Our week also included a ton of fun activities with Steam: Steam Train ride to Radeburg and a Steam Boat cruise up the Elbe to the Königstein Fortress. We ended our week with a wonderful picnic watching the Steam Paddleboat fleet on parade for May 1st!

Restored Steam Engine that goes from Radebeul to Radeburg every day

Our visit to Dresden was primarily to visit with my Uncle and his family and we really enjoyed all that we were able to do with them. My Uncle toured us around to see Morritzburg, Meissen, Pilna, Radeburg, Radebeul and all around this whole region, including the Czech Republic! He was such a great tour guide! We got to see the Bastei ancient fortress in the mountains, and his old shop and favourite spots for coffee and cake!

Bastei Bridge to the old fortress
Blowing off some Steam on the Elbe river!
Felt like we were being watched! Meissen, Germany

We really enjoyed the time we had with family, exploring the region, catching up and connecting after a long time! Our personalized tours were the best, and my Uncle, who knew the whole area so well, told us fascinating bits of history and knowledge with every town. We truly appreciated all this time he spent with us and how much he was able to show us.

Beautiful views in Meissen

Learning about time in the GDR, from my family was very powerful. Because of the split in Germany after World War 2, half my family was back in East Germany and my father’s family emigrated to Canada and there was not a lot of connection for many years. It was really good to spend time, to picnic, to explore and to hear about all the events and things we missed. My Uncle and his family were so gracious and made our stay so very special and unique! We got to see so many special spots away from the tourists and busy spots. Thank you Gerhard, Petra, Eike, Stephan and Linnea!

Enjoying the May 1st Paddlewheel Steam Boat Parade!

While we were in Dresden, we also got to explore and see all that the downtown, historic city center had to offer! We especially enjoyed all the restored architecture and modern developments, the parks and the Green Vault, the collection of the most valuable and precious artifacts from the Saxon lords of the last many centuries. It was truly impressive, but no pictures allowed!

Going for a drive in my Uncle’s fully restored 1938 Mercedes Benz convertable

A highlight for me was to be able to go for a drive with my Uncle in his fully restored 1938 Mercedes Benz! This has been a project of his for over 6 years and it was an amazing experience to enjoy driving with him around Dresden on a sunny day! Of course this car got so many looks and admirers everywhere we went and I am so impressed with his work and abilities to bring this car back to glory. It was a special treat and a wonderful time!

Overall, our stay in Dresden was amazing! We loved it and would come back any chance we get. It was sad when we had to leave and we wish we had more time to spend with our amazing family there. The whole of Saxon Switzerland was incredible, the history, the Steam trains, Steam Boats and old cars, the food, beer and views all made this week a big highlight for both of us. We will definitel be back on day soon!

Below is our exciting and fun video from this visit, and below that, a link to some indivudual photos and videos. Please enjoy!

Photos from this part of our trip! https://photos.app.goo.gl/iKMazhLxaHAUQEtp8

#21 – Berlin – Trains, Museums and Schnitzel

Brandenburg Gate

We arrived in Berlin on Easter Sunday, after a long train ride from Amsterdam. It was a nice train, and we got to experience first class seats, and met a very nice German couple from Hannover, who shared our compartment with us. Our close friend Jula, met us at the Berlin Spandau train station as she was graciously letting us stay at her apartment for the week. She guided us to her apartment, showed us the basics and left us to settle in. The first day in Berlin, we headed into town on the S3 S-Bahn train and transfered to the U-Bahn to go to Alexanderplatz and catch a Hop on / Hop off bus to explore and get our bearings around this huge city!

The Richstag with the covered dome that you can walk around.

The tour was great and gave us a good sense of where things were and what we wanted to check out next. We spent a bit of time at Checkpoint Charlie, and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, before heading back and doing a little grocery shopping for the week. It was a good day to start our adventures and plan out the rest of our week.

A mural along the East Side Gallery

We expored the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that is still standing that is covered with powerful murals and art depicting the time when Berlin, and Germany, was divided. It was an amazing experience and showcased the many ways, forms and messages that art can provide about this difficult division. We also explored the Science and Technology museum, a highlight for all its displays, information and collection, especially the giant boats, planes and trains from throughout German modern history.

A tram to Wollersdorf, a small village outside Berlin

We also got to enjoy a few delicious meals out and lots of amazing coffee. Jula took us to a fancy Sushi restauraunt (Sushi is fun!) and a traditional Schnitzel place (SchnitzelSei) that prepared one of the best Schnitzels I’ve ever had. We also really enjoyed her coffee from Nano Coffee, a wonderful coffee shop she works with that is super delicious! A highlight for us was the chance to go outside of the city and visit with her family, where we took a 100 year old tram through the forest to her Grandparents place, where we had a very pleasant walk and visit and got to know her Oma and Opa.

The Karl Marx Grand Alllee looking at the Berlin TV Tower

We also had the opportunity to visit the DDR Musuem, an engaging look at life in East Germany during the division. It was fascinating to learn about the jobs, people, homes, schools, products, government and challenges during this time, and how everyone lived when the Russians controlled this half of Germany. Seeing this, exploring the east side of Berlin and talking with Jula’s family provided us with a lot more knowledge and understanding of what life was like then and we greatly appreciated that opportunity.

Saying goodbye at the Haufbanhof

Our week was not long enough! We got to see one more museum before we left, the Jewish History, Culture and Holocaust museum and it was another powerful opportunity for us to learn more about their struggles, challenges and people in Germany from the middle ages until present day. The museum, from its architecture, to its displays was very emotionally evocative and incredible engaging, allowing us to learn more about what trauma and persecution they experienced. It is highly recommended for any visitor.

Below is our video from this week, with some of our experiences, meals, sights and learning. Below that is a link to some more pictures if you would like to see more of our time. We are currently in Dresden now, and enjoying all the Steam trains, Boats, Castles and Fortresses as well as visiting with my family.

Pictures from Berlin: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MHF9NMCNCpPyHYZz6

#20 – Amsterdam! Exploring Canals, Tulips, Museums and more!

All the Dutch things!

We left Paris on a high speed train, which topped out at almost 300km/hr! It was a beautiful and fast ride with comfortable seats. We arrived in Amsterdam to a sunny afternoon, and caught our first Streetcar Tram to our apartment. Caroline’s cousin arranged a private apartment for us to rent for the week, and it was perfect! Just a little bit out of the center, we easily could walk, bike, or take transit to anywehere in the city in less than 30mins.

Keukenhof Tulip Festival

One of our hightlights was the Keukenhof Tulip Festival, about 40 min drive outside of the city. This famous festival and display only lasts a few weeks each spring, and is a very popular place. It reminded us a lot of Butchart Gardens, back near our home in Victoria, BC. There were millions of tulips at their peak of dozens of colours and shades. The displays were incredible, including a Ukraine display to show care and compassion for the people of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Display

We mostly walked around Amsterdam, exploring different neighbourhoods, areas and canals. During our stay, we had beautiful spring weather, with sunshine and warmth bringing out a lot of flowers and other tourists! The Netherlands had removed most restrictions of Covid, and it felt a little strange to be around so many other tourists and locals with not much distance. We felt a little safer with our masks on during our transit rides, museum explorations and tight quarters.

Interesting boats in the Canal

There were so many interesting things to see in Amsterdam, from this incredible boat car that we happened to catch, to the infamous Red Light District. We did a little shopping, we got lost, we ate some delicous fries and schwarma and we hung out and people watched everyday. We also really enjoyed visiting with Caroline’s cousin and her family, and they introduced us to some local friends, took us out to a yummy dinner at the Vegannes restaurant and toured us through local markets and shops.

Gorgeous Canal Sunset

We also took advantage of the amazing art and history in Amsterdam, exploring the Rijksmuseum and enjoyed all the modern, traditional and historical art that was on display. It was an incredible collection that spanned thousands of years and we both really enjoyed it. Caroline’s cousin also took us to the KunstRAI, a modern art showcase that was very interesting with so many beautiful works of many different mediums and styles. It was eye-opening and very engaging. There was also a lot of street art, sculptures, and displays as we walked and explored the city.

What are you looking at? Rijksmuseum

One of the best parts of Amsterdam, was how close everything was, and yet, we continued to find beautiful little corners, canals, streets and shops to get lost in. We loved every minute of our week there and can’t wait to come back again one day. Spending time with Caroline’s family gave us a much more local feel and experience and we truly appreciated that. It also happened to be Easter weekend while we were there and so we got to experience all the tulips, chocolates and celebrations that come with a holiday weekend.

Perfect evening for a stroll along the canals

Below is our video for Amsterdam, and below that is a link to some of our best pictures. After the credits of the video, we have a time-lapse of our Canal boat tour that is really interesting. If you want to see what the city looks like from the water, stick around to check it out. We are off to Berlin next, to visit with a good friend and explore a lot of German food and history!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/uk66K7oMNkpzFF1QA

#19 – Paris, France – Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triumph. Bikes, Cafes and Museums.

Eiffel Tower

Our grand adventure continues! After a brief stint back at home where we completed some home renos, we are now back out travelling across Europe for the next 10 weeks. This was always a major goal of our sabbatical year, and we are so glad that we are able to make it happen. We flew into Paris and landed during a major rain storm, but for the rest of our visit, we had beautiful weather to explore the city of love.

Great views of the city

Our first exploration was to the Eiffel Tower, where we hiked up many stairs to get to the second level, and enjoyed the amazing views of the city. The sun came out and we were able to see far and wide across this historical cityscape. We enjoyed many meals, museums, bike rides and art over the next 4 days as we stayed with family and got to know many parts of the city.

The Louvre

The Louvre is always a highlight for any visitor, and we especially enjoyed the Napolean Apartments, and the northern Europe paintings, as well as the classical Greek statues. It was quite busy, especially around the Mona Lisa, which we enjoyed from far away

The Mona Lisa
Cathedral de Notre Dame

We also walked past the Cathedral de Notre Dame, and were able to check out the progress on the repairs since the devastating fires a few years ago. We could not get that close, but you could learn all about the repair process and procedures they were using. I hope to see it returned to its full glory next time we come to Paris.

Below is our video for Paris, with lots of great clips of our explorations and adventures of this beautiful city. We will be flying back out of Paris on our way back home, and hope to have a few more days to take it all in. Below the video is a link to some of our favourite photos from these last few days.

Photos from this visit: https://photos.app.goo.gl/cgu18VmgAv4s3bnj9

#18 – Bucerias Mexico: Iguanas, Beaches and Sun

Bucerias main square

After spending the holidays back at home, visiting with family and riding out the last Omicron wave, we completed a few home renovations (new flooring, and bathroom refresh). We started to see some improvement and felt safer to get out travelling again. One of our wishes was to spend some time in Mexico and we went for a two-week all- inclusive vacation to Bucerias, Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta at a well known resort, the Royal Decameron

The resort had many Iguanas just hanging around with the guests

This resort caters to many Canadians and Mexicans and was super friendly, accessible and welcoming. We had wonderful weather while we were there, with 27c our average afternoon temperature! The beaches are beautiful, with lots of whale watching this time of year, as the Grey whales spend time in the bay with the babies teaching them how to feed, breach and have fun! We saw whales everyday, splashing their tales and fins, and leaping out of the water for huge splashes!

Another beautiful sunset

The staff at the resort made us feel very safe with lots of extra cleaning and masking protocols. We spent almost all of our time outside, eating, lounging, swimming, walking and biking. We explored the local market, ate at a delicous restaurant off the resort, and rode some bikes all the way from the marina in the south, to La Cruz in the north. It is one giant bay that Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias and La Cruz all share.

Each evening the sun set a little further up the coast

We met many Canadians, Americans and Mexicans during our stay and they were all super friendly, fun and interesting to get to know. We practiced our spanish a little bit, tried a lot of new foods and stayed healthy and well for our entire two weeks. The resort also put on a lot of excellent entertainment with a dance/music show every evening that was top notch, to activities, contests, tours and more for us to take advantage of.

Elvis rocking out!

The local community of Bucerias was amazing. It was a quaint little town that had a more authentic Mexican vibe, with friendly locals. Caroline enjoyed a massage from a nearby spa, as well as some tasty tacos at a local farmer’s market on Wednesday mornings. The town is going through a transformation however, with over a dozen new buildings going up and lots of contruction. We really enjoyed all the beautiful artwork, murals and galleries around town.

One of many amazing murals around Bucerias

This was a great rest and recharge for us after a couple of months back at home working hard on our home renos. We installed over a 1000sqft of new flooring, painted two rooms, installed new light fixtures around the house, and redid our main bath with new flooring, paint, toilet, vanity and mirror. We felt good about staying home while things were flaring up, but now that the world is opening back up slowly, we are hopeful to get our sabbatical trip going again. Our hope is to fly to Europe for 10 weeks starting in April, but we are waiting to see how things with Ukraine are going first.

Watching for whales

Below is a video of our adventures for this chapter of our sabbatical year. There is also a link to a google photos folder for many of our best pics. We hope you enjoy both!

Photos from this trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aUdiyXSdiGvF2cDMA