Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Jerome and I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year to come! We've been very fortunate and had a wonderful year. We hope to have more fun travel and culinary adventures to share with you in the year to come! Thanks for taking the time to read our posts and for all the lovely comments we get! We were lucky to have a week visiting in New York City just before Christmas, and are currently enjoying spending the holidays with our families in Ottawa. We're looking forward to posting about that soon!

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sweden, London and Home Again!!

Finally we have arrived at the final post about our trip last year. It seems to have taken me almost exactly a year since we returned to get them all done. But I hope you've enjoyed them despite the lag. I sometimes still can't believe that we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on such a grand adventure. Almost everyday I remember some part of it, and cherish the memories. We got to see so many interesting places, and meet up with friends and family along the way! Thanks to all of you who gave us encouragement, suggestions, a place to stay, or met up with us!

We left off in Barcelona, where we caught a flight to Sweden. It wasn't on our original itinerary, but while we were in Morocco, we got an email from Kim, telling us that she would be arriving to live in Sweden about a week before our flights home.  So we flew from Barcelona to Stockholm on November 1st of last year, arriving at the airport only and hour after Kim! Aaron had already been there for a while, and so picked us all up and took us to the apartment, where much catching up and eating and merriment began. 

The next day after an excellent homemade breakfast, Aaron took us all on a tour of Uppsala where they are living. We visited a really interesting church which had a unique Scandinavian feel to it. There was wall paper, sculptures, logs of carved wood, and ornate crests like this one. 

The town was really interesting, with lots of neat little shops and stuff. We picked up food for dinner at a farmer's market, had an afternoon snack and coffee at a little shop, and then had our mental clocks thrown into confusion when the sun started setting around 3:30 in the afternoon! 

That evening we had another great meal of reindeer sliders and a veggie mix from the farmer's market. We tried Fishshot (a liquor that tastes like menthol), which I did not enjoy at all... And we spent the evening in the apartment's sauna, experiencing the fun that has to offer, over beers and tales of our adventures. 

The next morning we took a train to Stockholm to stay for a few days. We played many games of Tichu on the train. We arrived at a little hotel just outside of the city, dropped our stuff off, and took another train into Stockholm itself. 

On the recommendation of one of Kim and Aaron's friends we had dinner at Bla Dorren, which was really tasty and fun. They had homemade schnapps there in lots of different flavours which was really cool. We tried quite a few of them, my favourite being the horseradish one, that I was jokingly dared to try! The downside, was that the price ended up being by the ounce, not the glass as we had thought, so they weren't quite as awesomely cheap as we originally thought. The food was great too, we all had tasty things, Jerome opted for the very traditional Swedish meatballs with lingonberries! 

The following day we explored some more, and went to the Vasa Museum. It was really interesting. It contains a ship that sank in the 1600's on her maiden voyage, but that was preserved because of the salt water and cold temperature. They were able to salvage it in immaculate condition, and study why it sank so quickly. One of the interesting things about it, was that the two halves of the ship were made by different groups, who each had a slightly different measuring system, so the two halves were different lengths! If you're in Stockholm it is worth the trip. It is one of the few museums I've gone to where I've read every single panel of text because it was so well put together, and the story was told in such an interesting way. 

For dinner we went to a bar recommended to us by the bartender the night before. They had a huge beer selection. We were lucky and got the last table for dinner! We tried all sorts of beers, and they had excellent buckets of mussels. We were about to head out, when we realized the stage was all set up for live music, and so decided to see what it was all about. Turns out Chip Taylor was playing. We weren't really sure who he was at first, but turns out he wrote Angel of the Morning, and Wild Thing, so it was pretty cool. 

 The next day we headed back to Uppsala, and just hung out with Sven the cat, made and ate some food and played games. Much fun was had by all. Jerome also made a friend out of Tomtar!

We said our goodbyes to Kim and Aaron and headed back to London for a few days before flying home.  And we had to take a picture of the giant Ikea we saw on the way to the airport. 

We arrived in London, and made our way to our Airbnb place. It was a room in an interesting housing complex known as Peabody houses. Our host was very nice, and gave us a cup of tea upon arriving. We had made arrangements to meet up with some of my friends from school, so we headed out, taking a bunch of cool night shots of the City along the way. 

We met with Christianne and Dave at the Anchor and Hope and had a great dinner with them, catching up on old times, and their adventures living in London for a year.

The next day we spent buying tea. We went back to Twinings and Harrods to get tea that we'd made notes we liked 3 months ago. That night we had an exciting event that we'd been looking forward to for weeks. Jerome happened to find a dinner experience based on Fawlty Towers which is one of our favourite shows. It was amazing and hilarious! Three actors portrayed Basil, Cybil and Manuel, and they recreated the highlights of the show while interacting with all the diners. The lady next to us got false teeth in her soup, and Manuel's "pet hamster" got away in the room. It was quite wonderful. Here's the link to the video Jerome took of part of it.

The next day we turned in our Oyster cards, took a last look around London and grabbed a train to visit and stay over at Jerome's cousins house. His Aunt Kat and Uncle John picked us up and brought us to their daughter Joelle's house. I got to meet Joelle and her sister Lisa and all their children for the first time. We had a great dinner all together and had lots of fun playing with Susie, Paige and Lukas and got to briefly say hi to Emily who was off to Brownies. It was a bit of a whirlwind stay as we had to leave the next morning. But it was wonderful for me to meet all these cousins I'd heard so much about and for Jerome to get to see them again. In the morning we said goodbye to everyone, Kat and John took us to the airport which was fairly nearby. On the way though, they took us to get a famous British Christmas Pudding to bring home for Christmas! 

The flight home was long, but direct. We took an interesting arc over the Greenland and the Canadian Arctic and saw some interesting scenery there. We spent the flight making our last journal entries, and talking about what our favourite things were. Our path took us right over the Golden Gate Bridge, so we snagged this one last picture just before we landed. We arrived home on Friday afternoon, spent the weekend unpacking and recuperating, and then headed back to work and reality on Monday! I really hope you've enjoyed hearing about our great adventure, we've appreciated all the comments and encouragement we've gotten along the way and enjoyed sharing it with you. 

View Jerome and Laura's Trip to Europe in a larger map

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


We arrived in Spain early in morning of October 28th (last year). Our total mileage driving in Spain was 2576km!! !We dropped off our rental car, and had a few hours to kill before we could get into our Airbnb Apartment.  Our hosts had emailed us some restaurant recommendations, and so we walked to one of the places, called Cafe Federale. There was a line outside, but we decided to go for it, and we happened to get the last table for two! The food was great, Jerome had a breakfast burger and I had breakfast tacos! After that we headed to our apartment, and met up with the nice guy who was running the airbnb. The cleaning person hadn't come, so he let us in, and set to cleaning while we went out to explore. We spent the day wandering around the city. We walked down to the waterfront and through the gothic quarter.  

We found the Cerveseria Moritz and decided it would be a great place for dinner. They had really good and interesting beer selections, and excellent food and mussels. We had a lovely evening at the brewery! The next day we slept in, did some laundry and relaxed a bit in the morning. We found an Indian restaurant for lunch with a really tasty lunch special. We walked all the way to the Sagrada Familia, but found out they were sold out of tickets for the day so decided to go back tomorrow. We went to Olympic Park right on the water, and wandered around for the rest of the afternoon. We enjoyed the Moritz brewery so much, we went back for dinner again! 

The next morning we got up and walked all the way to the Sagrada Familia. But the lines were very long, and we found out we could pre-buy tickets online and print them the next day, so we opted to go back yet again tomorrow. Instead we decided to see another of Gaudi's works - Casa Batllo. It is a really cool building in the middle of a block of regular buildings, that Gaudi designed for a family who lived there in 1904. It really stands out! 

There is hardly a straight line in the entire building! The windows, walls, ceilings, everything is curved. He even designed and built furniture to match it. The upper floor is all built with Gaudi's Catalan arches. You could even go up to the roof which looks a bit like a dragon with scales (see first picture at the top). It was really interesting seeing such a different kind of architecture. Just after we left, we got caught in a crazy rain storm. The rain was coming down the hardest I think I ever remember seeing! We ran into a little bar and waited it out for a while with a drink, then headed for a typical Barcelona dinner at Senyor Parellada, of fish stew and paella. We then walked home in the much softer rain, and had to dry our clothes!

Having finally got our tickets, we were up early the next morning to walk back to Sagrada Familia and finally got to see it all! It was a beautiful day, and the cathedral is spectacular! It's been in the works for over 100 years, and still has at least 10 left before it is done. It is gorgeous though. Each face of it, is a different style and represents something different. We spent 6 hours just walking around, looking at everything, taking tons of pictures. You can see all the rest of the photos here.

The interior was just as spectacular as the outside, with crazy mathematically designed arches that branch out from themselves, and amazing stained glass work. We also got to go up one of the towers and got a great view of the city, and the building from up top. 

One of my favourite things was the display in the basement of all the design drawings and models that were done and built to figure out how to build it and make it look. It was really neat seeing initial sketches and then being able to see the finished sculpture up on the wall. 

By the time we were done, it was almost dark, so we grabbed a coffee and waited for the sun to set the rest of the way, and then spent some time doing some night photography of the Sagrada Familia. They do a great job of lighting it up at night, so it was really fun. 

We headed back to the Gothic quarter to find some dinner, and got drawn in by what sounded like fireworks going off. We followed our ears, and were treated to an amazing show for the evening. It was October 31 and All Hallow's Eve. A big group of adults and children were all dressed up in yellow or red and black tunics. Each person carried a stick with a nail and a clothespin on it. One of the adults would put a firecracker on the nail and then the clothespin on top to stop it from flying off. Another adult would then light the crackers one by one, as groups of children and adults skipped down the street waving and twirling their sticks. It looked like so much fun! We took a bunch of videos trying to capture it all. This one is pretty representative of the chaos and fun! It was an amazing end to our stay in Barcelona. The next morning we headed off to Sweden! But more of that in the next post.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Carcassonne and Figueres

We left San Sebastian and headed into France to a vineyard B&B near Carcassonne. On the way we stopped at several really pretty little towns in southern France like St. Lizier,  Foie and Mirepoix. The scenery was amazing and each of the small towns had really interesting features like a castle on a hill in the middle of it, an old fashioned town square, and a tasty place for lunch! 

We found a interesting sounding place to stay online while we were in San Sebastian and booked ahead at O'Vineyards. It is a small B&B and winery run by a couple. Liz does all the amazing cooking, and Joe does most of the work in the winery. We arrived and were met with a wine tasting, and chat before Liz's great dinner which included Coquilles St. Jacques, Sausages, Ginger and Salmon Salad and a banana coconut tart with homemade caramel sauce. All accompanied by their own wine of course! 

In the morning we got a short tour of the winery and the vineyard and then headed out for our day in Carcassonne. Liz called ahead to a restaurant on the way that had a great fixed price lunch menu where we stopped for a great lunch. Click here to see food pictures. We definitely ate well in Southern France! 

We spent the whole afternoon in Carcassonne exploring the old walled city and castle. It was super interesting. We walked along all the walls and explored all the little roads and nooks and crannies that we could get into. We also took a ton of pictures!

Jerome even found a cool little alcove which he closed me into while I was exploring!

We had Crêpes for dinner in the new part of the city while waiting for it to be dark, so that we could try our hands at some interesting night castle photography. 

The next morning we said goodbye to Liz and Joe and took off for Figueres, Spain. And we nearly did take off! The wind was crazy that day, and we heard after we arrived safely at our hotel, that the winds had been gusting up to 200km/h!!! The highways are all very well marked for such occasions with warnings on billboards and windsocks along the way. 

We stayed in Figueres for just one night, so that we could go to it's famous landmark - the Salvador Dali Museum. He lived in this town and designed and built most of the museum himself. It was very interesting and different as you'd expect! There were giant paintings, pieces of art that were coin operated, and all sorts of bizarre and amazing things. 

One of the really neat things at the museum, was something we'd never heard of. At some point Dali was commissioned to make a whole series of jewels. They have characteristic Dali-esque shapes and themes, but are made from precious stones and metals. There was even a tiny heart that beat with a minuscule mechanism inside it. The whole exhibit was very impressive! 

View Jerome and Laura's Trip to Europe in a larger map

You can see our foray into France here on the map. We stayed at the hotel after seeing the Dali museum and then took a very early start to head to Barcelona for the last of our adventures in Spain! We had to have the car there by 11am to drop it off. Conveniently for us it was Daylight Savings day that day, so we got to sleep a bit extra and got there no problem. But the rest of that story will be told in the next installment!

Click here to see our entire Carcassonne and Figueres album