Sunday, December 26, 2010

Skype, saving sanity one Christmas at a time!

I needed to share at least one photo - one of the most important photos taken this Christmas. 

Thanks to the wonder of Skype, we were able to spend Christmas Eve "with" Christopher - and thanks to his smiling face, it was a happy christmas, once again.

Merry Christmas, Boy Wonder...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: Oui Oui, Husband & Me

ack, cheesiest title ever, but humor me please! The creative juices are flowing, so I'm going to truck out these Honeymoon posts and have fun remembering the silly, funny moments of our trip!

Day 4 was to begin with Notre Dame and you'd better believe there was quite the agenda planned! Sneakers were a must, and it was time to tackle the metro! First things first, out of the hotel and into John & Stacy's apartment.  This was one of the most wonderful experiences, as their apartment was like a home away from home, with a great guest room and puppy! Oh, and there were trees! The middle of Paris, and we were walking through gardens and trees!

Notre Dame is free to visit, so the line is quite long - we got there about 9am, which was when it opened.  Thank goodness it was a nice day out, as we waited in line for about 30 minutes.  Actually, that is not entirely accurate.  Kevin waited in line, and I took pictures.

Once inside, we caught the beginning of services, which run about every 90 minutes through the tourist season. The amount of history in one building, in addition to the number of people inside, was astounding! More than a dozen stained glass windows allow plenty of light into the church, and attract your eye from all sides! My attempt at an "artsy" photo didn't turn out quite as well as I wanted <----, but, I think I like it! Plans to climb to the top of the church were dashed by the multiple hour long line, and the 10 Euros per person.

Instead, we walked around outside and hopped back on the Yellow line to Invalides!  I couldn't help but think of Christopher for most of the 3 hours we spent at L'Hôtel national des Invalides - it was history geek central! The quantity and beauty of the cannons, tanks, uniforms, and general memorbilia was astounding! And when you were done with the contents of the buildings, the gardens, courtyard, and general construction was beautiful!

Oh, and we weren't done yet! After a quick lunch, we had the afternoon to spend at the Louvre! Even with map in hand, we were hopelessly lost for the better part of an hour.  But what a beautiful place to be lost! We mostly did the "highlights" tour - Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Wedding Feast at Cana, Winged Victory, and Slave by Michelangelo. I had heard before that the Mona Lisa was a bit anti-climactic, and I was very sorry to see that those opinions were correct.  While it is beautiful, the amount of glass and surrounding material takes away from the beauty, and being 5 feet away makes it hard to really enjoy.  I must admit that Winged Victory was my favorite, and you're able to get so close!

...but the day isn't over yet!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: End of Le Tour & Day 3

The stools, as suggested by John & Stacy, were worth their weight in gold by the time the racers came through! Even 3, 4, 5 deep on the sidewalks, there was plenty of opportunity for wonderful photos when you were 2 feet above everyone else's heads! We took turns standing on the stool each lap - and it was worth it!

 After lap 6, we left our spot on the sidewalk and jog/walked to the low end of the Champs for a better vantage point for the final ceremonies! The stage faces one direction, and there is a very very large screen which faces the opposite direction for spectators.  Again, thanks to the stools, I was able to take some photos and really see what was going on!

A wonderful, long day - goodbyes to John & Stacy until the next morning, and Kevin and I were headed back to the hotel! We showered in the odd triangle shower, used the most awful smelling soap, and were starving!!! Dressed up for dinner, we headed back to the Champs to dine outside in Paris.  Nothing more romantic than that, right?

Well... almost.  Romantic to watch the sun set behind the Arc, but the hustle and bustle of the Champs isn't exactly what I had anticipated! Great food, wine, & company more than made up for it though!

Goodnight to Day 3, tomorrow we move to John & Stacy's apartment and start the two days of jam packed sight seeing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: Tour de France

Good Morning Paris! Waking up in this beautiful, bustling city, was so exciting! A short walk to John & Stacy's Apartment was a great way to see a few blocks of the city and wake-up after our late night at the Arc! Oh, and we may have also walked past several team vehicles on our way...

Happy hubby and Team RadioShack's Bus
John & Stacy did Le Tour last year, and were great experienced tour guides.  I never would have imagined that we needed to be on the Champs by 10am, with towels, stools, reading material, and food! Thank goodness for friends, right? We rotated back and forth with John & Stacy, taking turns walking, shopping, getting food for the few hours while there wasn't any action.  Then, about 1pm, the sponsors parade comes through! Sponsors from the teams, best young rider sponsor, king of the mountains, etc all had multiple vehicles come through! I'm sure it's just more exposure for the sponsors, but it was great fun for the spectators as well!

Team Livestrong

Spectators on the Champs Elysees - 2 hours before race time

The racers do 7 laps on the Champs, and we were on the downhill side - about 2 feet from the riders! Oh yes, this was going to be an exciting afternoon.

<3 J

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: To Paris!

A busy and event filled day in Amsterdam was a wonderful prelude to a relaxing train ride to Paris. We decided to take the TGV because it was fastest means of transportation, and also didn't require us figuring out how to rent a car in Europe. 

We loaded up on the TGV, said goodbye to Anneke and Peter, and enjoyed First Class seats.  Believe me, I wouldn't spring for First Class on a regular basis, but this was our honeymoon!

Anneke, Peter, KG, Me
It's only about a 3 hour trip from Amsterdam Central to Paris Nord, and we were charged up and ready to go by the time we got off the train! The only problem was, I wasn't so keen on using the bathroom on the moving train, and once we got to Paris, it was going to cost me a Euro.  It really wasn't how much it cost, it was just a matter that I needed to pay for it! So, you'd better believe I was going to take a picture of it.

Welcome to Paris, here's the bathroom in the train station.  Yep, my husband thought I was crazy.  Oh well, he was bound to find out my secrets, sometime, right? Onward and more exciting - finding our way out of the train station, and to a taxi.  Absolutely overpaid for the taxi to our hotel, which was directly across the street from Starbucks.  Right, we're in Paris and so far all I've seen is a bathroom and Starbucks, really?

I am admittedly a hotel snob, and the Renaissance in Amsterdam was great, so 123 Elysees had a lot to live up to.  An itty bitty elevator and/or 4 flights of circular stairs stood between us and our room.  Yep, the pink room.
 Quick luggage drop, an awesome map from the concierge, and a two block walk.  Wait, we're two blocks from the Champs, man I did good! And at 11 o'clock at night, there was no shortage of people walking, eating, shopping, getting pepper sprayed (I'll come back to this). 

The good news is, the city of Paris installed some wonderful stairs and tunnels to access the Arc de Triomphe, so people don't need to run across 8 lanes of traffic.  Although, you'd just get a ticket, if you even survived the crossing.  A quick chat with another couple, an exchange of cameras, and the Arc!

We needed a good night's sleep before we moved on to the rest of the agenda on honeymoon day 3.

<3 J

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon: Canals, Churches, Chocolate!

Anneke & Peter are friends of my family, and we've known them for more than 20 years.  They come to visit once or twice a year, and while we couldn't go up to their home in Tilburg, it was exciting to have them meet us in Amsterdam and give us a view of the city from their perspective!

Narrow Bridge
 The canal tour boats barely fit through this bridge, but when the pull up the drawbridge sites, it is so pretty!

This boat was one of my favorite of the whole trip! Lots of the people in Amsterdam (a few thousand) live on houseboats, and this was their small rowboat to get around and run errands! How cool is that?!
North Church
This is North Church, which is centrally located in Amsterdam, just about 3 blocks from the Anne Frank House.  The brick and all of the windows are gorgeous!
Narrow House
The white bay window that you see in the middle of the photo - that is the width of this entire house! It is the narrowest home in the world, or so the owner's claim! There is a spiral staircase at the back of the home, and I can't imagine how complicated it must be to live here!

After the canal cruise we had lunch, a few drinks, some AWESOME ICE CREAM (which is really cream, and so filling, but usually "unflavored"). 

It was a short afternoon, and Kevin and I were on the TGV to Paris by 4pm! Next up, some history, hours of walking, some romance, and lots of cyclists!

<3 J

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon - The sun goes down &

....The lights come on!  Yes, I mean "those" lights.  It started out as a convenient location search, and ended with me being the coolest wife ever when I booked our hotel in Red Light District. 

Renaissance Amsterdam
After dinner, we ventured out of the touristy neighborhood and found the real "Red Light District"
The curtains are closed when the ladies are not there, or when they are "occupied".  During the day, most of the windows are closed, and they gradually open and the lights come on after 6 or 7pm.  Thanks to a Dutchie who had been to a few too many "coffee shops", Kevin and I leared about the different light colors.

Red Lights - Ladies
Blue Lights - Transsexual

Definetly helpful information, well if you're interested in the ladies, that is.  We did see one man who was extremely embarassed after he attempted to visit with a blue light!

It was so easy to stay up too late, since it was very light out until around 10pm, and we had taken a serious nap.  But, we made ourselves sleep because we were meeting up with Anneke & Peter (some of our Dutchie friends) on Saturday!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Delayed Honeymoon - Amsterdam

Kevin and I knew that if we were going to take a honeymoon, there was no way it could be right after our wedding (thank you West Chester University).  And if we were going to delay our honeymoon, we wanted it to be worth the wait. 

We ended up with the following timeline for our trip:
Thursday - Leave PHL
Friday & Saturday - Amsterdam
Sunday to Wednesday - Paris
Thursday to Sunday - Mougins/Cannes

I'm not going to lie and say it was a perfect trip, but we'll hit those bumps as we review the trip.  So, let's start with Day 0 and Day 1.

Day 0: Our flight left PHL at 6pm, and we were at the airport at 3pm.  Hello 3 hours at Chickie & Pete's.  Thank you stool-neighbor for those shots of Jager! Flight was fine, they fed us, I got to sit next to Kevin, but I did not sleep.  I was not a beautiful sight by the time we made it to Amsterdam, after something like 27 hours with no sleep. 

Day 1: After our night with no sleep, landing in Amsterdam started Day 1.  Thanks to the train, we hopped right from the airport to Central Station.  There were a few lost blocks, but we finally found the Renaissance.  Except, our room wasn't ready. So, off to the Heineken Experience we went! Yes, no sleep and beer - this was bound to be a wonderful idea, right?

Bright and early, but hubby is happy! We had purchased tickets in advance, and thank goodness that this was at least easy to find, and there wasn't any line! The introduction video was quite informative, and gave me a much better understanding of where we were spending our day!

The tasting part was obviously the most fun, and the guys showing us the proper way to pour a Heineken was also pretty fun.  I will admit, the most enjoyable part of the entire experience was the store at the end.  If you can make it, they'll print Heineken on it (example of my husband below):

It was somewhere around 2pm by the time we finished, so we hiked back across Amsterdam, and found our way back to the Renaissance, where we promptly passed out for a nap! 

Naptime over, we woke up in time to visit the Anne Frank House. Thank god for the fact that we bought timed tickets online, because the line was somewhere around an hour along (no thank you. I hate lines anyway, and a cranky Jess, no way Jose). The house is so educational, and was even interesting for Kevin. I can't say I agree with one thing though. Anne's father decided not to return any of the furniture to the apartment after it was all taken when the family was removed. It allows for more space for tourists, but I would have loved to have seen the actual furniture that they lived with.

Please ignore the sun - To the right (where all the glass is) is the actual tourist center.  The home in front of the man in the blue shirt (third house in from the right) is where the Frank family lived. 

Dinner Friday night was relatively low-key, and I was happy to relax with Kevin and enjoy some great food. Oh, and something very American followed us over -

I'll save Friday evening's walk around the city for the next post - this one involves red, blue, and purple lights - so stay tuned :)

<3 J

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lead the Way

Proud - adj., proud·er, proud·est.
1.Feeling pleasurable satisfaction over an act, possession, quality, or relationship by which one measures one's stature or self-worth: proud of one's child; proud to serve one's country.

The Moyer/Bookheimer Family
(July 5, 2010)
I don't feel that the statement "I am proud of Christopher" at all adequately conveys my feelings.  Larger than the devistation, heart ache, tears, and sadness for missing him while he's in Korea is the pride and gratitude for his sacrifice for his country.
When Christopher told us he was joining the Army, I was happy for him, but nervous. 
When he left for basic training, I was nervous for him, and scared for the unknown.
When he left for Korea, I was terrified for him, and heartbroken for those of us here at home.  And about a month after he left, I realized that I was being selfish, and how fair is that?  He is the one putting himself in harms way, sacrificing a year of his life for our country, and I was the one safe at home with my family, crying myself to sleep. 
So rather than dwell on the sad, I'm reminding myself to be proud. Not everyone can do the things Christopher can.  Not everyone would have such pride for their country, to leave home, drive a Bradley, and drink rice liquor in a country where you can't find a Yuengling.  Thank you to Christopher (and Jon Giorgio) for protecting us, and thank you to all other soldiers as well. 
Half of my heart may be in Korea, and I hope Christopher knows we are proud of him everyday, and think of him always.  This year (actually, 10 months left) can't go fast enough!
Lead the Way, Boy Wonder

Saturday, September 18, 2010

...My online journal

I always thought about a blog as a place where people just talked about themselves, and maybe that's why I always steared away from embracing them.  Or maybe it's because I spend enough time on the computer and didn't feel the need to be attached to my laptop at home as well.

Well, for better or worse, I'm rethinking that view.  I found 3 journals from high school while clearing out boxes from the loft.  Some of what I said was crazy, and boy I was quite the drama queen when it came to my friends and "boyfriends".  Yes, this requires quotes, because there were all kinds of "boys" involved.  Anyway, back to the online part - it was nice to be able to read what I thought, the things that I was concerned about, and the things that changed. 

So, plan for this blog, is to make it my online journal.  It may not always be exciting, and there will probably be several posts about our wedding, which now happened a year ago (OMG), our wonderful delayed honeymoon in France (where I took 2,000 photos), the half-marathon I am running in October, my wonderful husband, my interesting job, and any other randomness that may occur in my life.

I can't promise to post everyday, or every week, but let's see how it goes!

<3 J