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March 2008

PARIS & MADRID - FEBRUARY 08

Two train tickets to Paris......50 euros
Boutique hotel in trendy Paris neighborhood.......200 euros
Waking up knowing you can eat Parisian pastries for breakfast........priceless!

We spent Friday and Saturday in Paris -----  It is the land of the fashionable, beautiful people.  Oh yes, and women with the skinniest legs in the world!  I seriously think my calf is bigger than most of their thighs.  Oh well, pass that pastry anyway!

The weather was unseasonable warm in Paris with sunny skies.  We visited the Orangerie museum (http://www.musee-orangerie.fr) and ate at several good restaurants. 
Unfortunately we do not have any photos because of the malfunction that occurred in Madrid......someone had too many Sangrias and tried to download the photos from the day (which included the Paris photos),
but she deleted them instead.  Yes, the Paris photos and one
day of Madrid - deleted!    She was oh so happy, yet oh so sad.

                                                                     MADRID

We arrived home late Saturday night from Paris and turned around Sunday morning for an early flight out to Madrid, Spain.  Donald was in business, me slumming in the back of the plane.  He was the ONLY one in the first 6 rows.  And they would NOT let me sit with him.  Nor would they let D switch with the man next to me.  But hey, my ticket was only $10!  He was very sweet and shared his breakfast with me ( I did not get any food). 

This is our hotel, Room Mate Laura. 
It was very large (especially for a city) with two bathrooms.  One was up the stairs on the 2nd floor in a glass cube.  The head board was quite unique.  It had a cool lobby as well. 
                                                                  
Cool things about Madrid:

* it is the capital of Spain
* the city never sleeps
* people are very friendly
* great tapas & sangrias
* great art museums
* stores are open on Sunday
* the cherry blossoms were blooming!

We were there for 5 nights and ate at 13 different Tapas bars.  Most restaurants do not open until 9 and people do not eat until 10.  This was too late for us so we ate at the Tapas Bars - hopping from one to another.











The most popular tapas are: grilled or pickled sardines, papas bravas, calamari - grilled, fried or as sandwiches, olives, and the biggest one......Iberico
ham (hanging behind D's head).  We ate at down and dirty dives to upscale Tapas.  We never quite figured out when they were open and closed.  But Sunday was by far the most crowded day.  Unfortunately, Spain is not a smoke free country yet.  We were lucky and were able to find bars that were not too smoky or had their doors open.  About half were standing only - meaning they did not have tables. 

Yes, Tammy, we do spend time doing things other than eating and drinking.  We hit many art museums on this trip.  The Prado Museum,(http://www.museodelprado.es), the ReinaSofia  (http://www.museoreinasofia.es) where there was an excellent Picasso exhibit, and the Thyssen-BorneMisza (http://www.museothyssen.org/thyssen/).  There was a very good exhibit on Modigliana. 

Madrid is not as fashionable or as cosmopolitan as Paris, Rome, or Barcelona, but it did have interesting buildings with very colorful pictures and tiles.



Children peeking through the gate at the royal Palace.

Okay, back to food.  A typical afternoon snack in Spain is very thick hot chocolate and churros.  Need I say more?








And last but not least, we would like to address the question in many of your minds, many of you have even asked.....does donald really work?  He would like everyone to know, that last week, he traveled on a sunday, worked all day monday and tuesday, got off at noon on wednesday, had off on thursday, traveled on Friday...oh yes, and he did take a conference call at 7 pm on Friday night.  Here is a photo of him checking his blackberry in the main square, Plaza Mayor.  So, mystery solved...he works {occassionally}!

We are home this week and off to Amsterdam for 7 days on Sunday!

Almost forgot.....Wednesday, March 5th will be our 6 month anniversary in Brussels.  Hard to believe!  We are going to dinner to celebrate.


SLOVENIA - FEBRUARY 08





Greetings from Ljubljana, Slovenia!

Slovenia is a small country nestled between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. As such, it should be regarded as a central European country and although the population is Slavic, historically it has always seen itself as a part of the 'west'. The population numbers around 2 million, 300,000 of whom live in the capital, Ljubljana.

The people are very friendly throughout the country.  Slovenia is a member state of the EU. Historical and cultural influences are a mixture of Germanic, Italian and Hungarian. The language is Slovene, a Slavic language somewhere between Czech and Serbian. But English was widely spoken.
Saturday was a picture perfect day so we hopped on the bus for an hour ride north of the city to Lake Bled.

 

 

Lake Bled is a popular tourist area for Slovenian and international travelers and was the summer home of former Yugoslav president Josip Tito.

 

The whole area looked like something out of a fairytale. 



Bled Castle, is built on a cliff overlooking the lake, and is one of the oldest castles in Slovenia, dating back to the 11th century. Looking at this - who thinks it looks like it would be impossible to climb the side to get to the top?


NOT donald! Actual photo of me climbing down from a grueling climb UP to the castle.  Note the look on the face.....someone is NOT happy, but looking fashionable for a mountain climb!

 


If you have never seen mistletoe growing live, it grows wild and in balls in trees.

We found a friend in Bled....the cream cake: Kremsnite. Cream cakes are a symbol of Bled cuisine, which have been well-known to visitors for decades.

 

 

 

This light dessert (pictured above) is available in practically every patisserie, coffee house and restaurant. Another friend was the Gibanica, a traditional Slovenian pastry that is either rolled or layered, and can contain a combination of raisins, cottage cheese, poppy seeds, nuts, or apples. Gibanica, or versions of gibanica, are also prepared in other Southeastern European countries like Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We spent the weekend exploring the city.  It had a lot of art Nouveau architecture and interesting sculptures.  This was a door on a church.  The most fascinating door we have ever seen.

Horse is a popular dish here and is served in very fancy restaurants, on pizza and as burgers.  Donald wanted to try it, but per my request, did not.



A few more photos that show the culture and colors of Ljubjana.





   

 

We enjoyed our vist and would like to return and explore different parts of Slovenia.

 


WELCOME TO OUR BLOG - OUR FIRST POST: MARDI GRAS WEEKEND

HAPPY NEW YEAR! We have been dragging our heels on starting a Blog, but after great encouragement from Polt-Erratic (blogger professional), we are going to give it a try. Mainly because we want to share our adventures and photos with our family and friends and sending them in an email is getting to be difficult. Those of you who know us well and love us (which should be anyone reading this) know that D and I are arguing over exactly how many photos to send.....I want lots.....he only wants the best three. Guess who won? : )

January was a quiet month for us. It is hard to believe it is over and we have moved into February. Friday starts our busy spring travel with Slovenia. Over the next few months, we will also travel to Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva and London (humm .....do our hosts know this yet?). Donald's parents arrive in late April for a three week visit. We are really looking forward to this.

But this week is Mardi Gras. Many cities and towns celebrate the last day before the six weeks of Lent. Belgium’s most famous Mardi Gras festival takes place in Binche, a town of about 30,000 people, 34 miles south of Brussels. They say it attracts thousands of visitors annually for this event.



 

So we jumped on the train Sunday morning and headed to Binche to see what this was all about.

On  shrove Sunday, the first of three days of Mardi Gras, the Gilles, and others in peasant, Harlequin and Pierrot costumes, parade through the streets of Binche and dance to music played by brass bands, showing off their dazzling costumes. It began at at 10:00 AM, we arrived around 11:00. Wow, what a sight! It was so festive and they were right, there were thousands of people........

 
It was quite the experience trying to walk through the crowds, let alone take photos! But everyone was very friendly and in a very good mood. Those dressed up loved to pose for the camera, even the children.


 
Ratatouille was one of the themes. For both children and Adults.


Strawberry shortcake another.

 



Confetti was everywhere. The children in the 2nd photo are picking it up off
of the ground so they can throw it again.

 

Not so sure these two were enjoying the day!

 

He was a shy one!


 

The little ladybug. Precious!


Hello Kitty! Dads....would you do this for your daughter?

 


 

 

BINOCHE


Some costumes were very elaborate as you can see from the three men above.


Where's Waldo?


 

This group was from a clockwork orangeEveryone was having fun!


 

 

HAPPY MARDI GRAS TO ALL!

 

{note - if you can not tell, that is confetti I am throwing in your honor!}