2017 Recap & What’s In Store For 2018

Welp, 2018 is officially underway, and it is certain to be one for the books.  I have a lot in store for this year, but I will get to that shortly.  First, a recap of 2017.  2017 was actually a bit of a slower year for European travel, as the hubs went on a TON of work trips and we traveled to the states over the summer.  Here is a peek at what our year looked like…

Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre, Italy

I just love Italy.  A trip to Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre with some family friends was just what the doctor ordered to cure the mid-February winter blues.

 

 

Solo Trip to Toulouse and Carcassonne, France  

I will be writing a blog about this trip shortly, but it was a peaceful and relaxing (albeit wet) weekend away on my own in France.  The quaint, cobbled streets of Toulouse and beautiful walled city in Carcassonne provided a perfect for a little getaway over spring break.

 

 

Three Weeks In the States: Chicago, Milwaukee, Port Clinton, Columbus

Again, I am in the process of writing this post.  We spent three weeks visiting family and friends in the states, including a night in Chicago, a visit to Brandon’s family in Milwaukee, some time on the lake in Port Clinton, Ohio, and about a week in Columbus, Ohio.  It was a fantastic and exhausting “vacation”; it was wonderful to see so many people!

 

 

Jurassic Coast 

While Brandon was back in the states for a work trip, the kids and I spent the weekend with friends at the Jurassic Coast in southern England.  Our day at Durdle’s Door was gorgeous, while our second day was very wet {but what is a trip in the UK without a little rain, right?}

 

 

Childless London

B and I had a quick, childless trip planned to Aalborg, Denmark in September, but then Ryanair had a massive pilot problem and had to cancel a ton of flights.  So our trip was cancelled.  Since we already had babysitters lined up, we decided to take advantage and spend a night in London on our own.  I heart London.

 

 

Failed Trip To The Lake District

Ugh.  The Lake District has been on my UK bucket list since we have been here.  And alas, it still is.  We had a trip to the Lake District planned for a long weekend in November.  First, Brandon didn’t make it back from TDY to join us, which wasn’t a big deal, but still a bummer.  Then, we set off on a Thursday night, planning to stop about halfway in the Peak District to stay the night.  Well, the kiddos and I were almost to the apartment we were staying in when I hear Benjamin say his belly hurt, then promptly throw up down the front of himself.  I guess the winding, hilly roads of the area didn’t agree with him.  Because I knew much of the rest of the drive was going to be the same, we stayed in the Peak District for the night, then headed back home.  We did get a few great views and some yummy breakfast!

 

 

Winter Wonderland/London

Winter Wonderland in London is always a favorite of mine…what could be better than two of my favorite things: London and CHRISTMAS!  Our family friend was in town again in December, so we spent a Saturday and Sunday exploring London and visiting the beautiful Winter Wonderland!

 

 

Algarve, Portugal

We rounded out 2017 with a trip to beautiful, sunny Algarve, Portugal.  I will also be posting about this before too long, but it involved lots of beautiful colors, gorgeous beaches, and fantastic coastlines!

 

Now for some BIG news!  At the end of the year, we also found out that we will be moving to Okinawa, Japan in the summer!  While we were originally really hoping for the base in Italy, we are beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to explore another part of the world.  I’ve heard absolutely brilliant things about Okinawa, and cannot wait for the big move over the summer!  With that in mind, we I have had some serious European travel panic attacks.  There are still so many places to see and things to do!  {I would say that even if I had been everywhere, but it’s so true!}  I have quite a few trips planned before the move, and a hopefully a few more in the works.  As of now, my travel plans for 2018 include:

  • Berlin and Prague (with hubby, sans children!!) in February
  • Moldova in March (girls trip)
  • Croatia over spring break
  • Colmar, France in late April (another girls trip)

We move in August, and we are hoping to have some family visit before we head out.  Hopefully we will get some travel in with them as well– possibilities include Iceland (dreamy!), Scotland, and Germany.  Thinking waaaay ahead, Taipei, Taiwan might be a possibility in the fall/early winter and of course, exploring our new island home of Okinawa!  [If you don’t know anything about Okinawa, just Google it…alllll the heart eyes!]

London: Some of our favourites

One of the best things about being stationed in the UK is being so close to one of the most amazing cities in the world, London.  We are approximately 90 miles away (if we were to drive directly into the city).  To give you an idea of how exciting this is compared to where we used to live, it was approximately 90 miles from Clovis, New Mexico (where we were last stationed) to the closest “big cities” (Lubbock and Amarillo, Texas)–neither of which were exactly tourist traps!  So to have one of the biggest, most captivating cities in the WORLD at our fingertips has been amazing!  Though we could drive into the city of London, we don’t do this for a variety of reasons: parking, congestion charges, traffic, and just general ease of travel.  We typically park at Epping Tube Station, which is about an hour away, which puts us on the Central Line right into London.  We purchase all-day travel cards for myself and B (Benjamin rides for free :)) so that we can hop on and off any of the trains all day.  London is huge, so this is super helpful.  When Benjamin was smaller, wearing him in the Ergo was the easiest way to travel, but now we use our lightweight stroller, and he loves being able to watch everything!  Some of the tube stations have lifts (elevators), but others don’t- in which case B and I haul the stroller up and down the stairs.  We are pretty much pros at it by now, and it doesn’t bother us a bit.  There was one time {and only once with reason} that we took our large jogging stroller and we immediately regretted it, as it is so large and bulky.  Taking the stroller on the actual train is a piece of cake.

Anyway, there is definitely no shortage of things to do in London .  I think anyone and everyone could find something to do there!  Living so close allows us to visit often enough that we don’t feel like we have to rush and see tons of stuff each time we go.  For the most part, we have seen most of the touristy things, even if we haven’t gone inside or done the tours and such (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, etc.)  Eventually, we want to do at least some of these tours, but so far we’ve been pretty content wandering and seeing what we can find.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of B and I’s favorite things to do in London…

**I apologize in advance if you are a Harry Potter fan, I am not {gasp!}, and therefore have no information on anything HP-related in London, though I know there is a lot!  

The British Museum

The British Museum definitely ranks in both of our top five places to visit in London.  First of all, IT’S FREE!  {We always make a donation, but it is not required.}  Second of all, IT’S HUGE!  Seriously, I don’t even think it’s possible to see everything in one day.  B is a huge history nerd, and I just love museums, so we could spend hours here.  I think our favorite exhibits have been the Egyptian displays, including the Rosetta Stone!  A helpful hint: don’t go on Boxing Day {it’s closed, as we found out after walking 2 miles…whoops!}.  Anyway, it’s a must-see if you are any sort of history lover!

Borough Market

B and I try to make it to Borough Market almost every time we travel to London, usually for lunch.  It is located near London Bridge, not to be confused with Tower Bridge.  It is chock-full of produce stalls, vendors, and delicious eateries.  We often stop for a yummy pie from the Pieminister stall and eat it while wandering around or find a seat near Southwark Cathedral to people watch.  The market is a bustling, colorful, exciting place to be, especially on beautiful weekends!

Camden Market

Another market I love (B was not as impressed) is Camden Market.  This area is a relatively large “hipster-y” part of London with tons of shops, restaurants, bars, vendors, etc.  I think I mostly loved the vintage feel of everything in the area, as well as the great photo ops.  You could definitely get lost in this part of town, and spend the whole day there!  After wandering and shopping, we had an amazing lunch at Porky’s, a BBQ joint nearby.  You can pick up some great vintage goods at Camden market and just enjoy the atmosphere and people-watching.

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the centre of it all.  It is a tourist hot-spot with statues, fountains, and many restaurants and museums nearby.  B and I just love the authentic big-city London feel here, and the people-watching is fantastic.  There are often street performers in this area, and sometimes demonstrations or protests.  The National Gallery is located here, which is a huge, free art museum.

Shakespeare’s Globe

We just recently actually went inside Shakespeare’s Globe and did the tour, which we loved!  One of our friends from the states was in London, so we met up with her and took the tour of the theatre.  There is a museum outlining the history of Shakespeare, and there were actors practicing sword-fighting inside!  Our tour guide was fantastic and hilarious, and gave us some awesome information about the theatre and history.  The open-air theatre was pretty amazing, B and I agreed that it would be cool to see a performance there sometime!  There is so much history in London it just blows my mind.

Winter Wonderland

If you are in London around Christmastime, I highly recommend visiting Hyde Park for Winter Wonderland.  From November through January, Hyde Park is magically transformed into a wonderland full of carnival rides, restaurants, bars, and food vendors, craft stalls, even an ice rink and circus!  We have been twice in the three years we have been here and will probably go back again.  Entrance to the actual park is free, but the various rides and events cost money.  The first year we went, it was just B and I and we ice skated.  It was fun, but I don’t know that it was worth the money we paid for it.  It is cool though, that we can say we have ice skated in Hyde Park in London!  This past year we took Benjamin and went with our friends Lindsay, JD, and their three-year-old.  They ice skated (well, until their little one decided it wasn’t for him) and rode some carnival rides, and we ate lots of yummy food and bought some cool stuff from the craft markets.  We also went to the Zippos Circus.  It ended up being way cooler than I expected, and Benjamin loved it!  Winter Wonderland is definitely not an all-day event, unless you plan on riding lots of rides and doing all of the different activities, but it is a fun-filled few hours!

Street Feast

Ahh, Street Feast.  I almost don’t want to give out this delicious secret.  It is one of B and I’s most favorite {and yummy} things to do in London.  Set in various locations, Street Feast is basically a gathering of street food/drink vendors in warehouse-like areas.  The atmosphere is amazing, the people-watching is fabulous, and the food and drinks are to die for.  We have been a few times and hope to go back many more times!  We love trying different types of foods, as there are always vendors from all kinds of cuisines, from BBQ to South American grub to Asian dishes and everything in between {including delicious desserts!!}.  It is free to get in between 5pm and 7pm, and costs something like £3 after that.  Though it is kid-friendly, if we have Benjamin with us, we usually try to get there relatively early and get out before it gets too rowdy.  I think the first few times we went, we were child-free and though I was pregnant, B thoroughly enjoyed the whiskey roulette bar, where him and some buddies spun a wheel to determine what kinds of shots they had to take.  At one point they came back with empty whiskey bottles, which scared me a little, but it was all in good fun 🙂  I am pretty sure that most of the times we have been I have been pregnant, so I have yet to fully enjoy everything Street Feast has to offer, but you can bet we will be back so I can enjoy some wine and yummy beer!  Check it out if you are in London on a weekend!

Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in London, just a few of our favorites.  I’m sure I will continue to add to this list as we experience more and more there!

A Taste of Dublin, Brugge (again), and Amsterdam

I have been lucky enough to have a few visitors while living overseas, including my sister and her husband last summer.  My sister’s husband’s brother (did you follow that?) is also stationed overseas in Germany, so they made a trip to see us and then meet up with him and spend some time in Germany.  Unfortunately, B was out of town for work while they were here, so he missed out on spending time and traveling with us.

This was Shelby & Uriah’s first time meeting Benjamin as well, so they were super excited!  While in England the four of us made a day trip down to London, checking out the typical sights and doing a lot of walking.  We also rode the London Eye, a first for me.  Benjamin absolutely loved it, but I wasn’t overly impressed for the price.  It was a cool thing to experience and the views were pretty amazing, but the dang thing moves so. darn. slow.  

Anyway, I digress; this post is about Dublin, Brugge, and Amsterdam isn’t it?  After a couple of days in England, we set off.  Our plan was to fly to Dublin for two days, then fly to Brussels, where Aaron (my sister’s husband’s brother) would meet up with us driving and take us to Brugge.  We would spend a night there, then head to Amsterdam for about the same amount of time.  From there, I would head back to London, and the rest of them would make their way back to Germany and do some exploring along the way.

This was Benjamin’s first flight– he was about seven months old at the time.  For anyone interested in how I travel with my little guy, I am a babywearing mama and used a K’tan carrier when he was itty bitty (which I LOVED), then switched to an Ergo original when he had good head control and was a bit bigger.  So, for traveling, the Ergo is/was my savior–when he was little I typically didn’t even bring a stroller or carseat on trips when I didn’t have to.  This trip was a bit tricky though; I knew I would have help carrying stuff during most of the trip, but coming back to the UK was going to be difficult since I would be by myself with Benjamin.  Also, because Aaron was driving from Germany, I knew I would have to bring a carseat.  This was my packing strategy: I had Benjamin’s diaper bag (using a backpack is a thousand times easier than a traditional diaper bag for us), my carry-on (which is what I packed both Benjamin and my clothes in), Benjamin’s carseat (which was checked for free), and I carried him in the Ergo.  [On the return trip, I managed by wearing Benjamin in the Ergo on my front, wearing the backpack on my back, and carrying the carseat and my bag together.  It was a little bit of a pain, but definitely doable.]

Again, I digress.

Dublin, Ireland…. We left London the morning of June 23 and arrived in Dublin around 9:30.  Because I had the carseat, we decided it would be easiest to take a cab to our hotel.  We stayed in a triple room at the Clifden House, which was beautiful, clean, and comfortable.  It was a little bit of a walk from the centre of the city, but definitely doable!  After we dropped our bags and the carseat, we headed out to explore.  Ironically, one of my sister’s high school friends was in Dublin at the same time, so we met up with her for brunch.  She introduced us to the delicious Queen of Tarts.  {I think we ate here both mornings we were there *AND* I took B there when we went back to Dublin in August…so yummy!}

Our first tourist stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It was, like most cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe, beautiful.  I am always in awe of the architecture and stained glass windows.

After wandering the streets a bit, we rested at the apartment, then headed out again for the afternoon/evening.  We took the tram toward the Guinness Storehouse, but we had heard that the tour there wasn’t as good as the Old Jameson Distillery, so we just peeked in before moving along.

*Sidenote: After returning to Dublin with B, I wholeheartedly disagree with that opinion–I absolutely loved the Guinness Storehouse tour and would do it again in the heartbeat!  I will write about that in my next Dublin/Northern Ireland post*

Dublin is a really interesting mix of old and new, quaint and not-so-quaint, beautiful yet also kind of dirty and gross.  I liked it, but not as much as I expected to.

We ate at the famous Temple Bar for dinner, and it did not disappoint!  My sandwich was phenomenal, the Guinness was incredible (and I am not even much of a Guinness drinker), and the atmosphere was fantastic!  I am always a little bit hesitant to go to the “hot spot” touristy places, but I was really glad we went!

After a few beers a nearby pub, we called it a night.  Oh right, and some gelato.  For some reason, I just love eating gelato wherever we go 🙂

Dublin is kind of like Brugge in that you can pretty much see the main highlights in a day or two, so we decided to start the next day with a little morning trip out to Dún Laoghaire (pronounced “Dun Leery”), a nearby seaside town.  We hopped on the DART train and took a pretty 20 minute ride to the harbor area.  It was nice to get out of the city for a few hours; it was quiet and the water was beautiful.

Coming back from Dún Laoghaire, we decided to get off the train at Grand Canal Dock Station, which looked pretty trendy and cool in pictures, but was actually fairly disappointing.  We found an Irish pub for lunch {I had some traditional Irish stew; yummy but nothing to write home about} and then made our way back toward city centre.  We stopped for a beer and to listen to some live music, which was one of the things I loved most about Dublin.  I am all for a good pint and some good tunes!

Our final stop in Dublin was the The Old Jameson Distillery.  My sister and her husband are both whiskey fans, so they were especially excited about this!  While I do enjoy whiskey every now and then, I am definitely no connoisseur!  The tour was really informative and our guide was hilarious!  I felt incredibly odd bringing a 7-month-old into the distillery, but he slept in the carrier the entire time {baby carriers have magical sleepy dust, I swear!}!  The tour guided us through the different stages of Jameson production, and at the end there was a tasting that included a scotch, Jameson, and American whiskey.  Uriah was a champ and took them all; Shelby and I both took some sips but weren’t tough enough to finish them all!

Overall, I liked Dublin, but didn’t fall in love with it, like I had other places.  I think seeing places in such a short timeframe is also hard because I love to wander, explore, and get lost in cities.  Onto Brugge…

Brugge, Belgium….  Early Thursday morning (June 25), we hopped on a flight from Dublin to Brussels, Belgium.  As I said, Aaron drove from Germany to pick us up and take us to Brugge.  The drive was quite the adventure in itself.  There were lots of delays on the highway, so we ended up taking all kinds of random roads, including backroads *literally* through farms as well as crazy city streets through Ghent.  Ghent looked really cool- if I ever make it back to Belgium, I think I want to take some time to see it!

Anyway, we made it to our apartment mid-afternoon, much later than we had hoped.  The apartment was fantastic!  It was spacious, clean, and really reasonably priced.  It was located right outside of the city centre, about a 10-15 minute walk.  Our first stop, of course, was a waffle!  Then we wandered around, enjoying the beautiful summer day.  My sister, Benjamin, and I took a canal tour (the same one I had done with L on my girls day) while the boys found a pub.  Benjamin was definitely a crowd pleaser on the boat- he even got a picture with our driver!

Afterward, we joined the boys for a few beers, then headed to The Church of Our Lady (again, the same church I visited with L).  Aaron is an art history buff, so we all paid to go see the Michelangelo sculpture housed there, Madonna of Brugge.  It was pretty impressive to see something that old and well-known!  It was a long day of travel, so we made it an early night after dinner.

The next morning, we had an absolutely fabulous breakfast at Detavernier/ “Carpe Diem” tearoom.  Shelby, her hubby, and Aaron all were hoping to climb the Belfry before we headed to Amsterdam, but when we arrived, there was a huuuuuge group of kiddos on a field trip there ahead of them, which was taking foreverrrrrrr.  So they decided against the climb and we got on the road to Amsterdam around midday.

Amsterdam, Netherlands….     

The drive from Brugge to Amsterdam was about 3-3.5 hours (and much less eventful than our drive from Brussels to Brugge, thank goodness!).  The AirBnB apartment we stayed at was smack dab in the middle of the city, so we had to find a parking garage.  I would suggest to anyone visiting Amsterdam not to drive, or to find a park and ride outside of the city, as driving there is a little crazy and parking is pretty pricey.  Getting our bags to  the apartment was a bit of a hassle too; the narrow cobblestone streets and crowds did not mix well with Shelby & Uriah’s roller suitcase (they had a bigger bag since they were staying in Europe longer…).  The apartment was a bit tricky to find, as it was situated over a cute little jewelry/gifts shop.  It was adorable though–very small and cozy, but cute nonetheless.  The owners were great too!  We had a great view of the neighborhood.  **If you have big luggage and stay here, take caution, as the staircase was spiral and very narrow!  The price was a bit steep too, but from what I’ve seen and heard, Amsterdam is just a more expensive city to stay in.

Amsterdam is gorgeous.  It has a similar look to Brugge with the canals, cobblestone, architecture, and old-Europe feel, but you can tell its bigger, busier, and more culturally diverse.  It is known for its bikes- and even though I knew this before getting there, I was completely unprepared for the actual sheer volume of bikes I saw!  It seemed as if everyone was on a bike!  While we were there, we learned that there are approximately 700,000 people in Amsterdam, but over a million bikes!  and they have to fish 25,000+ out of the canals each year.  After dropping our bags off, we wandered around and just explored the sights and sounds of Amsterdam.  Dinner was okay, but nothing to write home about….HOWEVER….our dessert for the evening…OUT.OF.THIS.WORLD.  We had Poffertjes from a local little shop, and they were ah.ma.zing.  Seriously, getcha some.  We picked up some wine and beer to enjoy in the apartment and relaxed the rest of the evening.

For our second day in Amsterdam, we were planning on renting bikes and braving the crazy, narrow streets of the city.  However, I got a migraine early, so I knew I couldn’t go (so, so bummed 😦 ).  The rest of the group decided not to go either {which I still feel horrible about!}.  We ate some breakfast, then began to explore again.  The boys wanted to go to a sporting good store, so Shelby, Benjamin, and I explored a church, had a light lunch, and just relaxed by the canals for a bit.  I was finally starting to feel better, so once we reconvened, we took a canal boat tour.  It was incredibly informative {even though one of the guides was a bit of a blonde…} and, like Brugge, a great way to see the many different areas of the city.  We boated under lots and lots of bridges, alongside many houseboats, and through the famous Red Light District.  That area isn’t really my “thing”, but I think if I went back without Benjamin it would be interesting to explore.

After the tour, Benjamin snuck in a nap while we chilled out by the canals, and the other three climbed the bell tower in the church.  It was getting later in the afternoon, and I had to head to Eindhoven, where I would stay the night and fly out early the next morning, and the others had to begin their journey back toward Germany.  Aaron drove Benjamin and I to our hotel, and we all had an overpriced, unimpressive dinner at the hotel before they headed out.  It was really bittersweet saying goodbye to them, as I knew it would probably be quite awhile until I’d see them next.  It was so, so good to be able to spend time and travel with them though!

So, my overall thoughts on Amsterdam:  It’s kind of hard to say because I feel like I didn’t really get the “full experience” between the short stay, having a 7-month-old,  and my horrible migraine.  It was such a gorgeous, exciting city with so much to do, but I feel like I didn’t do a lot.  I did like the laid back vibe and thoroughly enjoyed the people watching there!  If I were to go back to the Netherlands/Amsterdam, I definitely would want to rent bikes, see the Anne Frank House (the line was outrageous when we went by; I’ve heard it’s  best to get tickets well in advance), explore the Red Light District a bit, and see the countryside some too!

Dublin/Brugge/Amsterdam Travel Journal

 

Happy New Year {and Groundhog’s Day while I’m at it :)}

Today is February 1, 2014 (in case you couldn’t read the date next to this).  I can’t believe it is already the second month of this new year!  We shall, as always, play catch up…hopefully with some pictures this time!!

Christmas was different this year.  This was my first Christmas spent away from my family and friends in Ohio.  Even when I lived in Atlanta and New Mexico, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel “home” to Ohio for Christmas to be with my family.  (Being a teacher certainly has its perks…and I am talking about the time off, not the *baller* paychecks that afford me to travel, haha)  Anyway, this was, like I said, my first Christmas away from my family in Ohio.  This was also my first Christmas as a married woman, and the first Christmas Day I have spent with Brandon, who is now my official family too.  So lots of change, but not all bad.  My last post was about being thankful, so to add to that, I am thankful for such an amazing, understanding family.  They have not once made me feel guilty about being so far away, and have been nothing but supportive.  We are a super tight-knit family, but we are not phone-talkers or skypers, so we texted our Merry Christmases and such, and sent love in our own way.  B and I received a package from my sister and her husband filled with some awesome goodies they got for us in Hawaii, and just recently, my parents sent a package with some of our wedding gifts and surprise Christmas gifts 🙂  {by the way mom & dad, your package is still sitting in my car ready for the post office….this week, I promise!}  It was perfect.  Brandon and I had some people over Christmas Eve for dinner, drinks and relaxing, then spent Christmas morning opening a few gifts for each other.  We have decided we would rather put our money into traveling here, so we are cutting down on how much we spend on each other (VERY difficult for B, he loves to buy me things!!).  The rest of the day was spent at one of B’s coworkers house, chock full of delicious food.  Like seriously, more food than you could imagine, especially for a bunch of single airmen!!  It was nice to be around lots of people on a day usually filled with family and excitement, so I am glad we’ve made some good friends here.  We made it an early night, because we were heading to London the next morning.

DSC_0011

 

DSC_0040

DSC_0201

Boxing Day (12.26) was spent in London, exploring the city and Winter Wonderland.  We booked a day trip through ITT (travel group on base), so we got on a bus early that morning and headed down.  Taking a bus from base had its pros and cons, but overall it was fairly convenient.  It dropped us off right at Hyde Park, in the middle of London, where the Winter Wonderland was located.  The Wonderland was basically just a big area in Hyde Park blocked off for food vendors, shops, lots of beer & mulled wine vendors, carnival rides, and various winter activities.  It was super cute, but definitely geared more for kiddos and/or people planning to get proper snockered.  In the morning, we headed away from Hyde Park with the intention of going to the British Museum.  After walking over two miles, we arrived at the museum to find that it is closed on Boxing Day [duh, something we should’ve checked before!]. We decided on a British pub for beers and chips instead.  We were happy to just walk around London and sightsee, as the last time we were there it was pouring!  Seeing London all decorated for Christmas was gorgeous– lights, wreaths, and trees everywhere!  This year, I want to go back and stay the night during the holiday season to see it all lit up at night!  In the early afternoon we headed back to the Winter Wonderland to ice skate.  We found a pretty cool war memorial on our way back, and of course, took some pictures.  Once we were back, B and I both discovered that we are pretty awesome at ice skating, especially compared to some of the klutzes we ran into (quite literally) in the rink.  I’m not sure that the hour of skating we paid for was worth the exorbitant amount of money we shelled out, but hey, we can say we ice skated in Hyde Park in London now 🙂

DSC_0148

 

DSC_0209

DSC_0206

DSC_0195

 

We wrapped our day in London up with a German beer from one of the vendors, and headed back to the bus for our ride back to base.  Overall, it was a lovely day 🙂

Somewhere in the mix of December, we also went to Windsor Castle.  Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.  The Queen resides and entertains here during different parts of the year.  There is more info here:

http://www.windsor.gov.uk/things-to-do/windsor-castle-p43983

The castle is about 45 minutes outside of London, and about 2 hours from where we live.  It’s crazy because it is basically situated in the middle of a town, and is massive.  We did an audio guide {hence the sweet headphones in the pics below}, and learned a ton about the castle, both historically and how it is used today.  The sheer size and grandiosity of it left me speechless, let alone the incredibly over-the-top decor.  Many of the rooms in the castle are still used today when the Queen is there and is entertaining.  The elaborate, ornate furniture and authentic, famous paintings blew me away!  It boggles my mind that someone actually lives  in such a place!  We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the castle, so these are only from the grounds:

IMG_0677

IMG_0694

IMG_0674

The castle was also all done up for Christmas, with HUGE Christmas trees in many of the rooms!  Gorgeous!

So those were our exciting outings for December.  We had a relatively quiet New Year’s Eve, hanging out with [very drunk] people that B work with.  Since the new year, I have just been working, trying to get back into a gym routine, and trying to do better at meal planning.  This week I will be starting a long-term subbing position at the same school I currently work at, which I am looking forward to.  I will be teaching SureStart, which is a preschool program.  The teacher retired in December, and there was a long term sub in there until this past Friday, but she PCSed (moved), so they needed a certified teacher to sub until the permanent replacement comes.  As of now, I have no idea how long I will be in the classroom, but I am excited to have a little more responsibility and hopefully get some experience and get my foot in the DoDs school system door a little more 🙂

B was also gone for work for about a week and a half in early January, which seemed super long.  At the moment, we are planning a trip to Edinburgh for my spring break, a possible weekend trip down to Bath and Cardiff toward the end of April, and a summer trip to Brugge, Brussels, and Amsterdam.  We are also expecting some visitors in both April and May, which is exciting!  I suppose that is enough of me rambling, hope y’all enjoyed!