Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Netherlands

Just a quick turn around from Greece and we were off to the Netherlands the next weekend.  This was a work trip for Michael so we wanted to get as much done over the weekend together as possible.  This trip also started out with some high stress craziness.  We flew into the Netherlands with no problem, thankfully.  But in the morning when Michael went to go get the rental car he needed for work, he realized he left his driver's license in Romania so he wasn't able to rent the car.  That made figuring out how to get him to his site visits that were a couple hours away really interesting but thankfully it didn't ruin our stay!
We went into Amsterdam the first day and enjoyed seeing the canals, the bikes, the museums, and taking a boat tour.
Incredible architecture (and bikes) everywhere!

Laila got some new shoes- they are made out of wood! She loves dancing in them and I cannot wait to bring in some of the Christmas tradition of leaving the wood shoes out for St Nicholas.

We went to the Rijks Museum so that I could cross off some of my high school AP Art History class bucket list items. Totally worth it! 

Harrison loved finding the dogs ("Woof woofs") in the pictures.

Laila loved playing "I Spy" and finding the pretty dresses. Seriously, Dutch Artists and their lace is just incredible!

We loved seeing the city on our Canal Boat tour.  

Building with the black door is Anne Frank's house where she and her family hid. Unfortunately due to crazy lines, cold kids, and timing we didn't get to go through the house and museum this time.  I look forward to coming back and seeing it and the Corrie Ten Boom house as well.

You know with a name like that, you are going to have some good food. ;)  Their hot chocolate didn't disappoint!

If I were ever to rob a building, it would be this one.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the beautiful blue and white Delftware! Don't worry, we purchased everything we got there...this time. ;)

Sunday morning, we were staying in the Hague and so we went to a local ward.  Loved seeing my crew walk to church like this....

It was a beautiful building and there were great speakers.  We were especially grateful for our headsets and our translator.  Laila felt so much peace just by being there, she just rested for the latter part of the meeting....

Sunday afternoon, we went out to Keukenhof and I will tell you right now- IT. IS. MAGICAL! I could fill all the memory of my camera (and almost did) just taking pictures of the gorgeous flowers.  Here are a few...

These two got to enjoy a yummy treat...

...and so did I! YUM!

I LOVED being there with these smiling faces!

Laila even got creative so she could remember how to say Keukenhof.  She put it to music, using the tune of her favorite song, "Shake it Off." Haha!

Even the view from the road is magical!

Seriously, there are so many more pictures I could post but I'm trying to contain myself. *sigh*

After Tulips we got some exercising done on the train back to the hotel. Haha!  Love their happy faces.

The next couple of days, Michael had meetings so I had to put my big girl pants on and explore The Hague with the two kids alone... or stay couped up in the hotel.  Our stir crazy kids helped me decide.  On Monday, we ventured to the Peace Palace.  Unfortunately, it was closed since it was Monday (as well as MANY museums and sites across Europe I'm learning)  But it was still beautiful and also special to be somewhere so powerful with my little peacemaker.  

We also enjoyed some nice lunch dates together.  Fun side note:  I saw the original of the painting in the background at this restaurant when we were in Vienna.  Totally cool!

We did have some nice relaxing time at the hotel too.

How cute is he?

After breakfast in the concierge lounge.  I melt when I see them hugging.

The next day, the kids and I enjoyed the picturesque city and found a fun playground to spend a few hours.  Then we ate outside at a charming cafe.  (Kids choice activity. Moms choice activity. Win win.)

Luckily, we also got to enjoy some time with Michael in the evenings too.  Our last night there we rented some bikes to be just like the Dutch.  It was so fun and we saw so much more than we could have by foot.  It was an incredible trip and a wonderful country!

Photo cred: Laila

Friday, May 13, 2016

It's All Greek to Me

The first week of April was an exciting one for us.  Not only were we starting to settle into our new life in Romania, we set off on our first holiday in Europe- Athens, Greece!

It was quite the adventure to start. We were scheduled to fly out on a Thursday and found out on Wednesday that our flights had been cancelled due to a scheduled strike on Thursday.  So we quickly rebooked some flights for that very night.  Michael got us a hotel room near the airport for the night and then we would continue on with our already planned trip on Thursday.  After we landed, we were told we just missed the hotel shuttle but that we could hop on certain city busses and they would take us right to the hotel.  So we caught one of the numbers we were told and off we went trying to keep our tired kids (and selves) calm.  Meanwhile, we realize as we are looking at the map that we are not headed in the right direction and we kept getting further and further from our hotel and closer to downtown Athens.   We got off at a stop that looked safer than some of the other ones we were stopping at.  Michael quickly got to calling hotels figuring out what would be our best option.  I took Laila into a hotel to go potty (always a fun predicament to be in when we are already frazzled.) Thankfully, that hotel called a taxi for us and we changed hotel reservations to one that was closer to where we were, rather than going all the way back to the airport area.  It was far from the fanciest or most comfortable hotel ever, but it was decently priced and it was clean.  So it worked for us that night.  What a day!
Thursday was amazing.  We checked into the Hilton Hotel with points that we had and were upgraded to a beautiful view of the Acropolis.  (Too bad there was also a giant crane in our view but the Acropolis was still cool.)

She makes the view even better!

Due to the previously mentioned strike, the Acropolis and a few other sites were closed but that didn't stop us from visiting the Acropolis Museum and other parts of Athens.  It was so exciting to be somewhere that I have learned about my whole life.  We would literally be walking in areas that were modern buildings with busy traffic on one side of the sidewalk and on the other side there would be ancient moments like this...

The Acropolis Museum had lots of glass sidewalks on top of ancient ruins like these.

Michael had some meetings so the kids and I went swimming at the hotel's indoor pool.  Caps required.  Love that girl!

Friday we got on our two day tour to Delphi.  Our kids are great travelers and for the long bus ride, we get creative on how to keep ourselves occupied....

There's more where that came from...

The beautiful view at Delphi.  SOOO cool to be somewhere that has influenced so many different parts of our culture- art, literature,  theater, and more.

We were then dropped off at our hotel in the quaint little Delphi Town so that we could eat lunch and explore the picturesque area.  They kept calling it New Town- I guess compared to 5 BC it is new.

How beautiful is this church? I loved how Delphi is built into the mountainside with amazing views over the valley below.  It was so peaceful and beautiful.

The next morning, we took a local bus to a town called Arachova.  We drove through it on our way to Delphi and we could not get it out of our minds. I mean look how breathtaking it is...

It's a little ski town but we loved the hillside green with the lovely red roof buildings.  Every picture we took there was so incredible and still couldn't even do it justice!

Every day that we were in Greece, we had gyros for one meal because they are amazing.  Right before we left Arachova, we had probably the best I have ever had in my life from a darling little shop.  Everything was so fresh and delicious.  I still day dream about these!

That afternoon, we got back on the tour bus and went back to Athens for the night.  We then took a city bus the next morning out to Corinth for a nice day activity.  I keep talking about how incredible it was to be somewhere with so much history and influence.  Corinth was no exception as we thought a lot about the book of Corinthians in the bible.  Michael also made it a very memorable site for us by bungee jumping off of this...

The Corinth Canal

I cannot begin to tell you how steep those walls are or how high the bridge is or how blue the water was.  But take a look at the boat coming through.  It was not a little boat.  It was a huge vessel! 
I hope this movie works! Wow! What a venue!

After that adrenaline rush, we slowed the pace a bit by hiking up to the fortress in Corinth.  So many unbelievable views! We were glad to have Daddy with us safe and sound!

Before we left Corinth, we had our daily fix of Gyro.  This one had some seasoning like my beloved BC Chicken in Kaysville.  I think we need to start the catch phrase: A gyro a day keeps the hangry away.  Who's with me?

We got back into Athens with enough time to explore the Acropolis and oh! How I loved exploring the Acropolis!  I loved having my family with me!  I would have been ok if it had just been us and without all the scaffolding they have everywhere.  But I won't be picky. :) Needless to say, I was really excited to finally be there so bear with me through lots of pictures...

Look at that ceiling!

So many pictures, she just needed a minute. Haha!  Lots of other tourists took this photo too.

For our last morning in Athens, we took a hike up Mt. Lycabettus.  It is the tallest hill in Athens and has a beautiful little church at the top and not to mention the most amazing view of the city....  

Bell Tower

Church at the top

This little boy was very talented on the Ukelele type instrument and very talented at getting all the tourists to swoon.  After playing for us he serenaded this group who easily handed over some more money...

On our way back to the hotel we just stopped at a few more sites...

Peek-a-boo Acropolis

Government Building

THE Olympic Stadium! I wish we could have seen the starting of the passing of the flame to Rio!

My little Olympic travel companion...

...and his super strong sister!  Oh how I love them!

View from Mt. Lycabettus. 

It was an epic journey as you can tell by this lengthy post! Greece has definitely made quite the impression on us!  What an adventure!