Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We’ll Be Home for Christmas [and New Years!]

It’s 7 am in Spain, and I’m up with the intention of getting in some type of exercise/movement before sitting in a plane for 11.5 hours, though at this point I’m still enjoying my coffee on the couch. Oops!

We still need to pack our carry-on and make a  couple of last minute purchases just before we leave for the airport, but other than that we’re ready and so excited!

We can’t wait to meet our new niece and nephew (Clara & Carver), to welcome another sweet niece into the world (any day now Miss Molly!) and to soak up all the family time and Americanism that we can. I’ll be back here in 2013 (given the Mayans were wrong and really just got tired of calendar making or simply ran out of room on the rock they were carving.) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zurich & Munich: Brought to You by the Letter “C”

C is for Cold. No matter how you look at it, Celsius or Fahrenheit, it was literally freezing. Snow was blanketing the ground, disguising rooftops, flocking trees and even falling from the sky at times! Sitting in a restaurant or bar, Luke and I kept feeling like we were in a ski resort; people would walk in, shake off snow and immediately start unzipping coats and shedding layers.  Luckily, we were smart enough to pack layers as well. So between that and the gluhwein (hot, spiced wine), we managed the cold pretty well (most of the time).


Walking in a winter wonderland.


Don’t let the sun fool you; it was frigid!


Warming up with gluhwein.


Maybe this human charger will heat me up?


It must be a hassle to get those babies all bundled up, but they sure did look nice and cozy! This cutie was brave enough to expose his face (and I was weird enough to snap a pic.)

C is for Crystal. We saw the famous Swarovski Crystal Christmas tree in the train station in Zurich, which is where they hold their annual Christmas market. Despite how it looks, there were no Christmas lights on this tree. It’s trimmed solely in crystal!



Don’t mind the winter hat hair.

C is for Christmas. Despite the cold (or maybe in part due to the cold), it certainly felt like Christmas in Switzerland and Germany. We strolled through the famous Christmas markets of Munich, bought gluhwein from Santa in Zurich and saw Christmas trees, décor and lights everywhere. What a festive time of year to visit!


The New Town Hall in Munich.


Everybody wants some gluhwein in Munich!


Munich Christmas market at night.


The vendors at the daily Viktualienmarkt in Munich were festive too.


Santa serving up the cheery beverage in Zurich.


A naturally flocked Christmas tree in Zurich.


Christmas wreaths and other décor brightened the city!


The living Christmas tree in Zurich.

C is for Concentration Camp. That’s a shocking switch, I’m sure, but there was no way around it.  On our second and final day in Munich, we took a tour of the Dachau concentration camp, which was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany. It’s hard to describe this tour. It wasn’t neat. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t exciting. But it was informative and some what eye opening to see buildings, grounds, even gas chambers and ovens, from that part of history.  It was also cold, like miserably cold. With no trees nor buildings to block the wind, it was downright frigid and noticeably colder than in the city (which is why I needed the “most of the time” caveat above). It certainly made us wonder how the people who were held there survived the winters when they were forced to work and sleep in those conditions.


The saying across the entrance gate at Dachau means “Work sets you free.” Put there in order to make the victims believe that the harder they worked, the more likely they would be released.


Roll-Call Square



A replica of how the sleeping quarters looked near the end of the war. I can’t recall exact figures, but they would stuff more than 10x capacity into a room like this.




The gas chamber was made to seem like a true shower so that the victims wouldn’t put up a fight. The word above the entrace is “Showers,” and there were even fake shower heads on the inside.

C is for Cerveza and Carbs. It wasn’t Oktoberfest, but we made sure to sample plenty of the famous German beer and pretzels. Our own personal beer house tour included stops at Lowenbrau, Augustiner, Der Pschorr, Paulaner, Schneider-Weiss, and the most famous Hofbrauhaus. When in Munich, drink (and eat) as the Germans do!


Pretzels and beer at Lowenbrau (aka lunch).


So many of the beers were only sold in “Mass,” which is a full liter.


The Augustiner was festively decorated as well.


Weissbier at Der Pschorr.


Paulaner, which to us was the most recognizable of the German beers.


Dinner (and more beer) at Schneider-Weisse.


His and hers at the most famous Munich beer hall, Hofbrauhaus.

And finally, C is for Calling those hogs! Well, we didn’t really call the hogs, but we couldn’t contain our excitement when we stumbled upon this Razorback right in the center of Munich!



Apparently, we show our excitement differently.

We had a cool time (pun intended), checked two more countries off our list (although we’d like to visit additional cities in each), and definitely left full of the Christmas spirit! Since then I’ve been searching for Christmas gifts, jammin’ to my Spotify holiday playlist and getting anxious for our trip back to the states for Navidad!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eat. Drink. Be Merry.

Last night, I hosted a little Christmas party for several of the Americanas here in Madrid. With sugar cookies and Gingerbread men to decorate, Christmas songs playing in the background and spiced wine simmering on the stove, I think we all felt a bit more in the Christmas spirit before going on our merry ways.

As always, it was so nice to talk to other American girls living in Spain. It’s interesting to hear different perspectives on the pros/cons between Spain and the US, to discuss travel plans and to learn tips for navigating this foreign place through other people’s experiences. And honestly, it’s just plain good for the soul to sympathize over the lack of readily available baking goods, to vent over some of the cultural differences that we just don’t quite (and may not ever) understand and to engage in some good old fashion girl talk.


And, whether it’s a helpful tip, funny tidbit or just plain weird, I always learn something new. Last night, I learned that:

1) I have to check out Mercadona,  which is apparently one of the best grocery stores in the center and not too terribly far from our apartment.

2) the recipes on Martha Stewart are always tweaked just a bit to ensure that your cookies or breads never turn out quite as perfectly as Martha’s. Que sneaky!

3) Elf on the Shelf is not new! Apparently, Super Moms in Ohio have been doing this for ages under a different alias!

4) Some Spaniards (and possibly their American girlfriends) believe that if you cut up an onion and sleep with it near you when you’re sick and coughing, you’ll wake up better (albeit smelly) the next day!

5) I love playing hostess! It’s so fun planning what to make, gathering all the things we’ll need and coming up with creative ideas. I have to admit I was quite proud of myself for repurposing mini gift bows as wine glass markers when I couldn’t find my wine charms. (Without the help of Pinterest, I might add.) I also enjoy making our home ready and, hopefully, welcoming. It’s not magazine worthy nor furnished by Pottery Barn, but I’ve put quite a bit of time and thought into making our home cozy and comfortable for us. It’s nice being able to share that with others.

6) Gingerbread men are almost too cute to eat!


I said, Almost.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bruges, Belgium

After our stay in Amsterdam, we took a train South and a little bit West to Bruges, Belgium.  The train ride took a little bit longer than we had originally anticipated, but other than a visit to the local brewery, we were still able to do all we wanted in Bruges. Belgian waffles, mussels & French fries, plenty of fine Belgian beer, too much chocolate, a picturesque horse-drawn carriage ride through the old town, and dinner with two of Luke’s fellow EY-ers, we crammed a lot into our quick 12 hour stay. Just like our time in Bruges, I'll be brief and let the pictures do the rest. Enjoy!

As in Amsterdam, the beautiful Fall color continued to amaze us.
Vibrant trees were peaking out everywhere.
Couples pic on one of the canals in Bruge.
Chocoholic. Enough said.


One of the main streets leading to the Plaza.
The main plaza was lined with cute restaurants and was bustling day and night.
Luke with our horse on the snack break.
We threw a coin in the Lake of Love for good luck. :)
Thank you, horsey, for a carriage well pulled.
A wall of Belgian beer.
Warming up with coffee in front of the hotel's fireplace before dinner.
Luke met these two friends from South Africa during his training, and we met up for dinner in Belgium.
And French fries. A local favorite.
Perfectly content with coffee and the I-Pad on the train ride back to AMS.