Day 02, Part 02: Saint-Sulpice

Day 02, Part 02: Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
After visiting that little town center with the church, I began wandering downhill and followed the bus route hoping to catch one somewhere along the way.
Day 02 54Day 02 56 Day 02 57 Day 02 61I was quite distracted by cornfields, wildflowers, and other fields. I was actually bent over photographing the wasp on Queen Anne’s Lace (pictured above) which was right next to the bus stop when the bus zoomed right past me. As the next bus wasn’t expected for another 20 minutes, I continued walking in, what I thought was, the right direction. Thankfully, it was the right direction and I managed to take a bus that dropped me right in the middle of the tiny lakeside town of Saint-Sulpice.
Day 02 63One thing that I loved seeing while wandering through these suburbs, was that each house had taken a thin tube of metal and twisted it into a name that they attached to the front of their house, normally near the front door. A perfect example of this is pictured above: La Petite Maison.
Day 02 66 Day 02 Combo 03Day 02 68 Day 02 69 Day 02 70 Day 02 74Safe to say, I was quite tired after this. I went back to the bus stop and took it down until it met the metro. From there, I took the metro back to the hotel. As the weather was supposed to be a bit more cloudy and sunny the next day, I had plans to spend the day in the center of Lausanne. Next: Day 03: Lausanne.

Day 02, Part 01: Ecublens

Day 02, Part 01: Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
I had the idea to walk south of the university to the coast (as the distance seemed minimal on Google Maps). After walking through the university and several parking lots, making my way around a large field, past a few bus stops… and once through a residential area, I was at the coast.
Day 02 04Day 02 06 Day 02 09Day 02 08After walking through the streets for awhile, I found a few parks, one of which ran right along the edge of the lake. It was essentially a narrow concrete walkway between the end of people’s lakefront properties and the lake itself. Occasionally, there would be a small peninsula with grass and a few benches but for the most part, it was this narrow walkway.
Day 02 18Day 02 15 Day 02 16 Day 02 19Day 02 21 Day 02 26 Day 02 30Day 02 Combo 01After I walked back to the university for lunch, I took the metro North hoping to find a large park that I had seen in Ecublens on GoogleMaps. I neglected to see the large highway on the map and then once I walked around it, I didn’t know where to find the park and everything I walked by was industrial or a giant mall (i.e. boring), so I took a random bus and jumped off when I saw these hay fields.
Day 02 39Day 02 41After wandering through these hay fields for a bit, I walked uphill towards a church steeple. While we’ve been living and traveling in Europe, it’s always been a good rule of thumb that, when in doubt, walk towards a church steeple. More often than not, you’ll find the center of town or an old town.
Day 02 43 Day 02 45 Day 02 46I did find a small town center, although there was nothing particularly exciting there. I was more interested in the unique doors, gardens, archways, architecture, and trees around people’s houses.
Day 02 49 Day 02 51 Day 02 Combo 02After this, I wandered towards the coast again – much farther away than I was expecting. Up next Day 02, Part 02: Saint-Sulpice

Day 01: Lausanne & Thonon-Les-Bains

After a 14 hour bus ride through the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, we finally arrived in Lausanne, Switzerland. Walter was attending the Junior Euromat at the Swiss Tech Convention Center on the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) campus. I was lucky enough to tag along on the bus ride and stay in the hotel with Walter for the week.
_DSC0009Day 01: Monday, July 21, 2014.
The hotel we were staying at provided transportation passes for the city, so on the first day, I went into Lausanne. I immediately went to the port of Ouchy to see about taking the ferry across Lake Geneva to a city in France.
Day 1 Combo 1_DSC0150I had researched taking the ferry across the lake but I just wanted to see how much it cost and how long it would take but I then found myself buying a ticket and getting on the ferry to Thonon-Les-Bains an hour later.
_DSC0163 _DSC0186It was quite cloudy but beautiful. 50 minutes later, I was across the Lake and in the port of Thonon-Les-Bains, France. The other option would have been to go to Evian which apparently only had a casino and some free Evian water as its primary attractions. Thonon-Les-Bains did not have much either but it did have a Chateau and what looked like a nice port. Plus, I couldn’t resist the chance to go to France even if only for a half day.
_DSC0226 _DSC0233Funny enough, France was not that much different from the French-speaking part of Switzerland. People spoke French and their menu items had some amazing sounding cheeses. The primary difference was the currency and the overall prices. 2-3 EUR for a magnet rather than 7-9 CHF.
_DSC0257 Day 1 Combo 2_DSC0281I followed the curve of the port towards where I thought the Château de Ripaille was. I thankfully saw a sign and a few minutes later, I was walking onto the property of the Chateau which was apparently some rich person’s house before some monks took it over and made a bunch of wine.
_DSC0334Regardless of who owned it when, it was a nice, historical place which had a labyrinth of staircases and hidden rooms. I had quite a bit of fun going up and down and around each of the staircases.
Day 1 Combo 3_DSC0357 _DSC0360Day 1 Combo 4After exhausting the entertainment factors of the chateau and surrounding grounds, I started making my way back to the port. Unfortunately (and fortunately), I was five minutes short of making the ferry on time and had to wait an hour for the next one. As it was raining (and all of the benches were wet) and I was tired and hungry, I sat down at a restaurant and ordered toasted bread with fromage blanc and ham but then the waitress told me they were only serving desserts (uh, okay…) so I got an apple tart.
_DSC0428_DSC0432 _DSC0452 _DSC0473After finishing the apple tart, I meandered around the town a bit more and then made my way to the port to take the ferry back to Lausanne. Then I took the Metro Line 2 from Ouchy to Lausanne-Flon and then got on the bus from Lausanne-Flon to UNIL-Dorigny and then got on Metro Line 1 from UNIL-Dorigny to EPFL where I went into our hotel.
_DSC0481End of Day 01. Day 02: Ecublens & Saint-Sulpice up next.

Aux Bonnes Choses: on Pl. de la Navigation near Port Ouchy. I got a tuna sandwich/sub there for 5 CHF. It was not like a Subway sandwich but still filling enough. The woman there was very nice and helpful when I asked questions. This is a good place for a quick lunch or snack.

Ferry from Lausanne to Thonon-Les-Bains: I travelled across the Lake with CGN for 50 CHF. This was a round-trip ticket to use for that day (or whichever day you choose) and I could go and return whenever I wanted on that day. The ferry was virtually empty and there is a lower and upper deck, both inside.

Château de Ripaille: This chateau is a short walk uphill from the port of Thonon-Les-Bains. I looked at many websites that said this chateau is half-way between Thonon-Les-Bains and Evian-Les-Bains which is not true. The cost for entry is 9 EUR and a listening guide is only 1 EUR extra. They have a nice little gift shop and you can sample and purchase wine from their vineyard.

La Commanderie: This is a nice little restaurant. The waitress was lovely and sweet. Very quick service and the prices were good. As I said above, I got an apple tart which was quite large (somewhere between a CD and a frisbee in size) and I believe it was only 4 or 5 EUR.

Carnival Burger Place: I don’t know the name of it but there was this little burger kiosk near a merry-go-round in the port. Cheeseburgers were 6.50 CHF and they had some interesting potato bites for 6 CHF. The burger was pretty good with some nice sauce and the potato bites were odd but interesting.

2nd Wedding Anniversary

This past Saturday was our (my hubs and I) 2 year wedding anniversary. We had specifically decided to go to the zoo and took the prescribed route: red line to Nádraží Holešovice and then stood outside waiting for Bus 112. About 20 seconds after we found the bus stop, another 60 people showed up. The bus was overcrowded as what felt like every person in Prague, their dogs, their children, and their imaginary friends piled on and the 6 stops seemed to take forever because of construction all along the way. When we finally got to the zoo, the line to buy tickets was out to the bus stop. They even had restaurants and concessions along the line where you could buy gelato or sausages.

I don’t do lines (or ques if you’re pretentious or British). I looked across the street and saw the Troja Castle…. so, we crossed the street and wandered through the grounds and gardens…for free!
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Surprise! I didn’t even know this existed. After visiting the bookstore of the chateau/castle and purchasing a commemorative coin, we wandered uphill towards the botanical gardens.
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…up a flight of stairs and then another flight of stairs..and then down a dirt road…

_DSC0527 _DSC0531And for only 50Kc each, we were able to have access to all open-air parts of the botanical gardens which was pretty much everything and the entire garden was huge. Giant. SO much bigger than the one in Amsterdam and well worth the cheap price. Like huge. Really really big.
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I spent a majority of the time sticking my face/lens ridiculously close to swarms of bees while Walter made it his goal to hunt down every bit of shade.

_DSC0593 _DSC0644_DSC0717For awhile we relaxed in this amazing hammock. For the record, we don’t like the heat or the sun or the summer and so we deserve a lot of credit for venturing out in the middle of July. Regardless, we still plopped down in this hammock and opened up my umbrella to shelter us from the sunlight. Also, we’re totally putting one of these in our backyard one day. Walter apparently knows how to make one (like that’s new – he apparently knows exactly what knots are used and what each item on the
 hammock is). _DSC0666 _DSC0698 _DSC0765And after a lovely few hours of getting sunburned and learning that I would be an amazing beekeeper (seriously, that’s going to happen) while Walter should stick to science and knots, we went to Hooters. Don’t judge. They have the cheapest American food in town. Fourth of July hit us hard and we’re missing our home more than ever recently. Hooters weirdly helps.

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One last photo – this was taken from the Botanical Gardens looking down on the Troja Chateau. We actually got lost in that circular (not-a-real-maze) hedge thing.

Southern Bohemia

Our day trip to Southern Bohemia (the SW of the Czech Republic) was more or less planned out beforehand with a little bit of flexibility.

Our first stop? České Budějovice.
2 České Budějovice As we were walking into the town, this old homeless man jumped in front of us and asked for money. Walter and I both sternly said no but, in my surprise, I sucked in the air around me as he jumped in front of us and I spent the next five minutes forcing myself not to throw up in my mouth from the smell….. not. a. good. start.4 České Budějovice

Honestly, we got bored quite easily. This town looked a lot like most other Czech towns: a big square with some kind of church on or near the square with a pretty fountain in the middle and lots of brightly colored, typically Czech buildings surrounding it.
6 České Budějovice

We bought a magnet/postcard per our travel tradition and walked back to the train station. For some reason, I didn’t write down the name of the town we were supposed to travel to next so I had to guess and then write down something wrong and the ticket lady finally guessed the right town and we bought the ticket and she motioned that the train was leaving in 2 minutes. We rain up and scrambled around trying to find the right train… we finally talked to the right person and got on board. All in all, we spent 50 minutes exactly in České Budějovice. After we got on the train, Walter and I talked about how this felt like one of those quintessential European travel moments that people talk about.

10 Train Ride 13 Train RideWe were on our way to Holubov, a small town down the mountain of Klet’. The only reason we were going there is because I read that there was a chairlift that would take you up part of the mountain. I can now tell you that while there was a chairlift but it was no where near the town of Holubov.
16 Holobuv17 HolobuvWe walked through the town towards the mountain. Despite the research I had done prior to our trip, I could not find a map of this town with actual street names and I also could not find a map telling us where the chair lift up the mountain was. Regardless, we continued walking towards the tall mountain in the distance.
18 HolobuvThese fields of flowers are literally everywhere in this part of the Czech Republic. Apparently (upon some research) we discovered that it is rapeseed or canola used for oil. Upon reaching this particular field, we saw a very small green arrow pointing around the field. While walking around this field we heard the sound of a massive number of bees – a literal swarm. There were hundreds (if not thousands) of bees buzzing around the fields we were inches from. 20 HolobuvAs you can see below, we had walked from Holubov (1.5 km, 0.9 mi) and we were walking towards Klet’, another 5 km (3.1 mi) away. In addition, it was part of the plan to walk down the mountain to Český Krumlov which, as you can see, was 13 km (8 mi) away from that spot. And the chairlift was no where in sight….(dramatic music).21 HolobuvWe also had been following these two women for quite awhile hoping that they knew where the chair lift was… they must have thought we were some creeps (see the two dots in the photo below).
23 KleťWe kept on walking uphill…. stalking these women. FINALLY, after climbing up a hill and past a bunch of motorcyclists, and then up another steep hill….we made it to this weird building where the chairlift was. Unfortunately, the chairlift runs once every hour at the top of the hour. Fortunately, we got there at 11:30am – we only had to wait 30 minutes.
24 KleťI was quite nervous when I saw the chairlift. I don’t know if you can see it below but the chair lift is individuals in individual chairs. While it wasn’t so bad once you’re actually in the chair, it looked very intimidating at first. The chair came down the line and then swung around at a pretty fast speed while you were standing on a target with your back to the chair. As you bend over (facing away from it), the chair basically scoops you up and it feels like you sail away.

Scared that I was going to drop my camera (and not thinking of the simple solution of simply putting the camera around my neck), I broke my camera down and put it in Walter’s backpack. Walter, not wanting to risk dropping my camera, did not put my camera back together and take any photos of us on the 15 minute trip up the mountain.
25 KleťWhile we had avoided the rain up to this point, it did rain on us on the way up as well as when we reached the top. This was unfortunate as the view supposedly allowed us to see some of the Swiss Alps in the distance. There was literally no visibility whatsoever and, as the restaurant was packed with no spare seats, we could not wait for the storm to move on.
26 Kleť 27 KleťThe fog was absolutely beautiful though. We did get lost following the wrong trail for 1 km or so but we did make a friend in a snail. I ended up taking photos on my hands and knees while people and bikers passed us.
28 Kleť 31 Kleť35 Kleť 36 Kleť 38 KleťThe fog did clear as we walked down the mountain. I realized about 2 km down the mountain that I had to pee and the sensation continued to increase as we walked down. For the first time ever (which, weirdly, makes my mother proud), I peed outdoors. And that’s all I’ll say.
42 Kleť 43 Kleť 44  KleťThis was a LONG walk down the hill. I mean, it’s like 6 miles from the top of the mountain and we had wandered about lost for about 1 km (o.6 mi) and then walked another 1.5 km (0.9 mi) from Holubov and then more walking all over… we were really really really really tired.
53 Kleť 54 KleťWhat was really strange was that there were no animals anywhere. At all. Absolutely no animals at all. No squirrels. No birds. No chipmunks. No armadillos. No deer. No nothing. It was SO weird. I had heard that the Czech Republic didn’t have many wild animals but it was quite disconcerting.

Finally (finally, finally, finally) we made it to Český Krumlov; A beautiful city that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for very good reason.
59 Český Krumlov 62 Český Krumlov 63 Český KrumlovNow this is what I call a castle. What was so very unfortunate was that we were way too exhausted to do anything in this city whatsoever. We went to a recommended restaurant which was a major letdown and then we walked around until we found a shop where we bought a map. We found out where the bus station was and made our way there after eating some pizza. We ended up leaving 4 hours earlier than planned and fell asleep soon after we got on the bus. It was an exhausting day but it was great. We will definitely be going back to Český Krumlov again when we can spend an entire day enjoying the town. 64 Český Krumlov 65 Český Krumlov 66 Český Krumlov 70 Český Krumlov

 

Modge-Podge of Amsterdam

I don’t know if our last few hours in Amsterdam deems a blog post but I figured I could wrap things up with a random hodge-podge of photos as I did take over 1,200 and it has been well over a month since we were in Amsterdam.

For starters, this shop (below picture) claimed to be “the only Russian giftshop in Holland”. You can actually see those exact words on the blue sign on either side of the shop. My first question: How on earth do you confirm something like that?
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Street_DSC0052_DSC0055_DSC0059Pictured below is the Rembrandt Square (Rembrandtplein). The gold statue is one of Rembrandt, thoughtfully looking down on passersby. In 2006, in celebration of the famous artist’s 400th birthday (which is weird because I thought he was dead), a bronze-cast representation was made of his most famous painting Night Watch. I’m surprised I managed to get a decent photo of it with only one tourist because each time we passed this, there were kids hanging off the swords or climbing on the backs and tourists taking pictures of each other doing weird things with the statues.
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_DSC0091SteakhouseOkay, I don’t know if I’ve talked enough about the Argentinean Steakhouses. They are everywhere. There are at least 2 on every street, probably more. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time speculating and researching. We hypothesized that a wealthy Argentine rancher traveled to Amsterdam and decided to bring all of his cows with him.

Someone apparently asked the question I was thinking on a TripAdvisor forum (What’s up with all the Argentine steakhouses in Amsterdam) and someone from Amsterdam said, “We love meat.” Like that was an explanation for anything. Upon further research, one particular traveler started asking around and found that most people who owned these restaurants are Egyptian and they open these places because it’s popular and cheap to run. While they charge expensive rates for the steaks, they buy them frozen which is actually quite cheap.

While all of this was interesting and explains why there are so many now, it still didn’t answer my question of how this phenomena even started. Looking deeper still, I found another blog post written by a woman who is married to a man who migrated to Canada from The Netherlands and they are now retired in Argentina. They spent 3 weeks in Amsterdam and whenever they mentioned Argentina, the Dutch would smile because (here’s the kicker) the heir to the Dutch throne married an Argentine princess in 2002 – which would inevitably increase the ease of trade between the two countries as well as the popularity of all things Argentine. Read more of this well-written blog post here.

While this is not a full in-depth explanation, it is enough to satisfy my curiosity and give a decent enough explanation other than the fact that the people of Amsterdam love meat. Whoever thought that was a decent explanation has never eaten bacon. I did not see copious amounts of bacon being sold or really any other kind of meat. Regardless, I am happy to give you and the curious people of the world some satisfaction.
_DSC0209The story behind the photo below is quite amusing. We heard the story while on the canal cruise but I wasn’t able to take a good photo until our last day in Amsterdam. In order to build the Victoria Hotel in such a strategic location (directly across from the train station), the architect and others had to purchase many houses along this corner. The woman who owned the two houses below was so stubborn, that she refused to sell her two houses for anything less than a largely outrageous sum. The architect didn’t think it worthwhile or couldn’t afford it, so they simply built the hotel around these two houses. Moral of the story: Don’t you mess with a stubborn old lady. _DSC0216The train station is pictured below. We took a train in from the airport (and back out again to leave) and this is also where we caught a train to Zaanse Schons. _DSC0217Finally, here we are on the flight back home. It was a weird relief to re-enter Prague. We were happy for the familiar but, at the same time, it still doesn’t feel like home.
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Botanical Garden

We had a hard time finding the botanical garden, We actually ended up walking around the entire thing before finding the entrance. It was like the Secret Garden and I wish I had a ladder so that I could just climb over the wall because the secret entrance was really secret…. (Man, now I want to watch that movie).
_DSC0112Sadly, even after we did find the entrance, the Botanical garden was kind of a let down… for me at least. I was expecting it to be much larger with fields of tulips and other flowers. The cafe and gift shop took up more space than any other one thing. And most everything else was housed in different greenhouses.
_DSC0108Regardless of my expectations, the flowers and plants were beautiful. I enjoyed taking macro photos of the flowers, seeing the wide variety of tulips, and experiencing different climates in the greenhouses.
_DSC0114 _DSC0116 _DSC0129_DSC0131 _DSC0133 _DSC0136I noticed that I hate dry heat (there was a greenhouse with a desert climate) but as soon as we entered the rain forest climate (humid heat), I felt total relief. Walter, on the other hand, preferred the dry heat and literally ran awayto get out of the rain forest greenhouse.
_DSC0148 _DSC0149_DSC0151 _DSC0166 _DSC0170 _DSC0171 _DSC0178 _DSC0188All in all, I think we were in and out of the Botantical Museum in 30-45 minutes. There was a butterfly house but Walter sternly shook his head no (again, he doesn’t like the wet heat), and we made for the exit through the gift shop.