Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interview: About The Travelers

A few highlights from the "Traveler of The Day" interview:

Tell us a bit about you:

We are The Nomadic Newlyweds – in everyday life we go by Brooke and Wilhelm! We met in 2012 and were married just a year later - we’ve packed every moment of our life together with love and travel! We are everyday people, we have careers to work around and bills to pay but we prioritize travel because it invigorates our spirits and fills us with positive energy!

Are you backpackers (budget traveling) or luxury travelers?

We're both! Our travel accommodation preferences change depending on where we’re off to (and, of course, what the budget is for said adventure!). Whether it be tent, a hostel or a five star hotel we focus on location, location, location! We always choose somewhere that’s in close proximity to a fun walk or a beautiful view.

Where did you go for your first travel experience/holiday?
Within days of meeting one another we were already plotting a California adventure – three months later we hopped on our first flight together! I guess you could say when the love bug bit us, the travel bug did too (Too corny? Sorry!). We spent the mornings strolling Victoria Beach, sharing lattes as the sun rose – and the evenings sipping champagne and dreaming up the life of adventures we were about to set in motion.

Where are you now and where will you go for your next trip?

Currently we are “home” in Des Moines, Iowa! We moved here about six months ago and are enjoying the adventures the beautiful Midwest has to offer! We’ll be making a few journeys that aren’t too terribly far from home in coming months including Wisconsin (mmm, cheese!) and Michigan (swoon-worthy lake views!). 
Key West Florida is on the itinerary again and we’re hoping to visit a few friends in England in the near future as well!

What is your dream destination and why?

We do not have a dream destination, as much as we have a “dream adventure” that we’d like to take. One of our greatest travel goals is to plan an outrageous international trip that includes both of our families – parents (plus one very spontaneous grandma), siblings and spouses! No matter the final locale of this dream trip, the journey will be an unforgettable one if we can round up the whole crew for one big adventure!


What is your favorite travel picture that you took & what is the story behind it?

Our all time favorite travel photo is at a spot many travelers have seen, but maybe not that way that we have. Days after we said “I do” we were blessed to visit the Eternal City for our honeymoon. The weather in Rome turned out to be so unbearable that we hatched a plan to stay up and tour the city by moonlight and sleep the days away under the slight relief of a dilapidated old ceiling fan. Every night after we stuffed our faces with pizza, and wandered through some of the worlds most beautiful history, we let the cobblestone streets lead us to the majestic Trevi Fountain. This photo brings back cherished memories of our first days as Mr. and Mrs.! (Click here to check out the post from this Roman adventure!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Our Story!

What better way to celebrate an anniversary than to tell our lovely followers the story of how we met? 

…After a two year soul searching adventure that took me not only cross country, but around the world – it was time to return home (somewhat begrudgingly, I admit) to the Midwest. Before I gave in and headed back to my hometown, I spent every last dime of my savings on a backpacking trip. I trekked through the mountains, glaciers and volcanoes of the stunning-but-desolate country of Iceland finding adventure and maybe even a little bit of myself.

Once the voyage led me back to my childhood bedroom in Ohio, I needed to get a job! An old friend helped me land an engagement as bartender at a historic mansion (previously a speakeasy and a noted gangster hang-out) turned five-star steak house.

It was my first night training and I should have been paying close attention, as I didn’t know the difference between a Mint Julep and a Screwdriver, but something else had caught my eye and held my interest. 

He looked like Clark Kent and he dressed like Jay Gatsby. 

As he popped a bottle of champagne, laughing jovially, he was full of life – and I, was captivated. Across the high top table sat a beautiful, petite brunette who wore a ponytail, sundress and a noticeably sparkling wedding ring. “Lucky lady,” I thought wistfully. A refreshing thought crossed my mind, “I want to meet a man just like that.”

As fate would have it, I met a man JUST like that. Later the same evening the handsome stranger returned with a friend in tow. This time he took a seat where I couldn’t miss him, at the bar behind which I was working. He ordered a Kettle One martini with bleu cheese olives, but I was so distracted I served him something along the lines of a tequila and tonic (Ew, right?!) but alas, I heard no complaints. 

After a bit of small talk I believed he was simply playing the role of “wingman” to his cute-but-quiet friend. When he, not the friend, asked for my phone number I finally had to say something. “I’m sorry, but weren’t you just here…with your wife?!” I protested confidently. He replied coolly, with a smirk that seemed to say ‘so you noticed me too, eh?’, “Well, you mean my date for dinner?”… “That, was my mother.”

Blushing, but delighted and quite relieved, I scribbled my name and number on a cocktail napkin…and the rest is history.

He recounts falling in love with my sense of adventure and open-mind. I vividly remember being drawn in by his authenticity, confidence and charisma. As we got to know one another we learned we both had led charmed lives – raised on Midwest farms each with two siblings and adoring, hardworking parents, only ten miles from one another. 

A shared love of the luxurious paired with an honest,  down-to-earth appreciation for life was what ultimately bewitched us both. Three days after we met he told me he was falling in love with me and within the year he asked me to be his wife.

After a brief engagement, we said “I do” in a rooftop garden on Marco Island, with waves of the Gulf crashing behind us. Our intimate celebration included our immediate family and our rowdy bridal party. We kicked our shoes off for photos on the beach, ate dinner on a terrace overlooking the water as the sun set before us, and danced the night away in the lounge surrounded by our best friends and our beloved family. To me, it was the perfect pairing of glamour and relaxed charm from the dripping chandeliers to the weathered lanterns.

In the words of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (well, sort of!)…

“Of all the steak joints, in all the towns, in all the world… He walked into mine.”

Wilhelm still has the napkin with my phone number jotted in blue ink. He keeps it in the nightstand on his side of the bed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Top 2 Travel Tips for Couples

We are honored to be among the 4 traveling couples included in the "Travel Tips for Couples" editorial on and we're sharing our TOP 2 TIPS here! Be sure to check out the original post to read all 11 pointers for smooth sailing on your next voyage.

The Nomadic Newlyweds Top 2 Travel Tips for Couples: (say that three times fast, whew!)

1. Schedule Downtime.

Plan out every minute of your adventure…then delete ¼ of the itinerary.  Put RELAX on the calendar…go ahead – write it in! Prioritizing downtime is key to keeping your cool despite the travel blunders that will surely arise. This will help you enjoy your expedition and enable you to savor the company of your travel partner!

2. Be Authentically Spontaneous.

Don’t do it for the photo. Your most beautiful and romantic moments will happen when you aren’t concerned with your social media following.  (That being said – we always have the point-and-shoot camera in an accessible pocket – photos are important, just not more-so than the experience.)  

Keeping these tips in mind truly helps us experience our adventures more fully – here’s hoping they help you, too! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eiffel's “La dame de fer”

I say skip the Eiffel Tower. (If you know your visit to Paris will be a brief one, that is.) 

Why spend your precious hours in line below the tower, when you can enjoy its splendor from various spots around this stunning city?

In the 1890’s a Parisian might have suggested the opposite. In fact, the writer Guy de Maupassant was noted as having spent his lunch hours eating from the restaurant inside the tower…so as to remove the “eyesore” from his view!

The tower, built for the 1889 World’s Fair, celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution and was meant to be standing only temporarily (a two year arrangement and then it was to be disassembled). Clearly though, the Parisians not only became used to the mammoth tower but eventually got in line with the rest of the world who already revered it for its originality and unique beauty. Most importantly, though, it gained recognition for its usefulness as a radiotelegraph station during WWI and again in WWII.

French stories have it that during the German occupation of Paris the resistance fighters cut the tower’s elevator cables, forcing the Nazis to climb the immense stairs.

Today the structure, that took nearly 20,000 pieces of iron and over two million rivets to assemble, employs over 500 workers to upkeep its daily operations! It welcomes 7 million visitors per year, which is more than any other paid tourist attraction in the world.

One of the most notable visitors of all time is Thomas Edison. Reading on the grandeur of the World’s Fair, I revel for a moment imaging this scene:

When Thomas Edison visited Paris to ascend the great iron spectacle, Eiffel invited him to his private apartment within the tower. High above the City of Lights they were serenaded on the piano by the composer of Faust, Charles Gounod, before Edison demonstrated his latest talking phonograph.

As this surreal scene pieces together in my mind, I can’t help but ask a very practical question: “How did they get a piano into this apartment in the sky!?”. After a bit of research, I have found that this piano was lifted by crane and placed within the designer’s home before the completion of its construction!

Once the tallest building in the world (surpassed after 41 years with the erection of the Chrysler Building in  New York City), the Eiffel Tower covers 2.5 acres of land and require 50 tons of paint every seven years. This world famous icon is also referred to as “La dame de fer”, which means The Iron Lady: A fitting name for the strong yet delicate design.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"...thus far, Paris and I have had no chemistry".

In the name of full disclosure, I must tell you: Paris was not included on the original itinerary for our honeymoon.

Don’t hate me, but I’ve been and while I think it’s a lovely place, it has simply never spoken to me (more less whispered sweet nothings in my ear the way it surely does to nearly every other human who visits!). 

Paris gets around. She knows many lovers…but, thus far, Paris and I have had no chemistry.

My mother and father-in-law adore the city. They’ve been here a number of times and were crushed that my husband wasn’t going to experience it. So, Paris was added thanks to their loving persuasion…and, I must admit, Paris stepped up its game this time.

I love history and I’m a sucker for a great revolution story – so you’d think this glittering city would have already won my heart, but not until tonight.

Our hotel is just steps away from the famous Tuileries Gardens. Created by Catherine de Medicis, these gardens were private for a century before opening up to the public (just after the French Revolution). Now, in the 21st century: on any given day, these beautiful grounds can be enjoyed by the public for relaxation and socialization. That’s all fine and dandy…but for a few months during the summer, these peaceful gardens are turned into a wonderland that enchants the young and the old alike…

I’m like a moth to the flashing-carnival-light-flame.

I love the cheap games and the bing-bang-cling-clang noises of the rickety old rides. I think ferris wheels are charming, nostalgic and downright romantic. I dig the adrenaline rush of being scared out of my wits by a hideous clown as I get lost in the maze of mirrors in a fun house. So as we stroll out of our hotel in search of food and adventure, I squeal with delight when I spot the high-flyer spinning up above, with the Eiffel Tower twinkling behind it.

A gorgeous twist on the dirty, crowd-ridden fairs we experience each summer in the Midwest (again, not knocking them – I love them, goat auctions and all), this festival is saturated with European class - Stocked with vintage crepe carts and merry-go-rounds adorned with horses dating back to 1900! 

What was meant to be a pit stop before a fancy dinner has turned into an evening of cheap French wine sipped from plastic stemware, hotdogs smothered in spicy mustard, and an array of flavored crepes – (not the least of which is a Grand Marnier crepe that I believe may leave me with a headache tomorrow!)

We throw a few bucks away playing rigged games before we get the nerve to brave the fun house. We scramble as the floor drops from beneath us and we dizzily flop forward from a spinning trap. When our path leads us to a quiet (and, in retrospect, remarkably unstable) ledge atop the fun house, we take a break from the craziness to enjoy the City of Lights lit up in all its glory in the dark night. This vantage point is lovely, we can see the carnival below and the sparking city all around.

The only way down is through a huge, swirling slide. When we emerge from the giant tunnel, laughing hysterically, my hubby points out that the butt of my pristine white slacks is black with fun-house-grunge. 

The absurdity of the evening was well worth the fashion sacrifice.

Paris has won a piece of my heart through this silly festival. I’ve met the low-key, goofy side of the city – and we are getting along swell.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Ham & Cheese Sandwich, in Paris

Our weekend in Paris, France begins ideally as we emerge from the underground subway station…popping up into the hustle and bustle of the city we turn one slight corner and are watching the sun set, right through the glass pyramid of the Louvre.

Having only stood here for roughly 20 years, this clear structure has quickly become an iconic landmark for the City of Lights. Though its striking appearance is an obvious lure, the commissioning of this piece was of a practical nature: The museum’s main entrance could not handle the immense amount of patrons it welcomed each day. Now, the pyramid design allows for visitors to descend into the spacious lobby and then re-ascend into the main buildings – distributing the crowds efficiently throughout the museum. Reading about the Louvre on the train this morning, I learned that the pyramids designer, I. M. Pei, is also credited with having designed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio! Oooh-la-la! Sophisticated Midwest, taking notes from France!

Though we are exhausted from a day of navigating buses, trains and subways, (all in foreign languages, of course) we pull our suitcases along as we grab a seat just before the former royal palace and enjoy our first French sunset.

We don’t have the energy to rove about the city tonight but I am dead set on finding a shop with my favorite sandwich before I will retire. The Croque Madame. I dream of this savory delight. Literally. I wake up salivating, starving for this authentic, French, ham egg and cheese sandwich.

We snag a seat at a quiet café on the walk to our hotel and have our sandwiches delivered in mere moments. Not too shabby for our first day here…  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pool with a view: Spa Day in Switzerland

After our brush with death (Okay, Okay…the nude sauna wasn’t that bad, I’m exaggerating a wee bit) we’re ready to cover up. 

We slip on our plush white robes and embroidered spa slippers and follow the steam to the enchanting indoor pool. Though the room is created entirely in a deep slate, the flickering candles lining the indigo rectangle are inviting. The tiny lights reflecting off the still pool water twinkle like constellations even in the midst of the day. Around a sharp corner is a small hot tub which appears ordinary… but this, this is the divine portal

This tiny blue tub is no less than The Wardrobe. It leads to Narnia, plain and simple.

Now bearing bathing suits…not birthday suits, we cast our robes aside as we submerge ourselves into the magical liquid box, dip below a glass window and emerge into a place that can be described only as perfect.

Though we have seen the mountains, dined before them, sipped wine at the foot of them - we have even hiked high into their dense mist…We have never seen them like this. It’s as if we have known them in life and now again in a dream – they are brighter and exude a radiance unlike the times we have met before.

The steam rises around us as we glide through the water, the edge of the pool falls off into the mountainside and the alps rise before us, vivid greens with scattered caps of white, powdery snow. The sound of the rushing spa faucet feeding into the pool pairs with the waterfall in the distance – the marriage of the man-made hardware to the raw nature of this valley is staggering.

As we regard the surreal panorama, mere ants in respect to our surroundings, the trickle from above begins to fall in heavy drops - the soft grey sky is opening up.

It’s been a big day: Hiking in the Alps. Getting naked in public. Crossing over into Narnia...

Having nowhere else to be, we’ll lay back and enjoy the fresh air and the unsurpassed view – rain and all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stark Naked in Switzerland.

After a brisk, (read: FREEZING), sunrise hike in the Bernese Alps we are ready to relax and be rejuvenated - Thankfully the crisp weather isn't the only refreshing thing here in Adelboden. 

The wellness spa welcomes us with warm, open arms (whilst it’s hands are filled with hot herbal tea, mmm!). 

Relatively speaking, we aren’t high maintenance – Here they offer treatments from blackberry wraps to alpine herb massages  - All we want is to warm up…take a dip in the serene, outdoor hot pool all whilst gazing out upon the vast, enchanting mountain range. 

Cool thing is - around here, that isn’t too much to ask!

As we head off to our respective changing rooms, it feels as though the floors, the walls, even the glowing wall sconces have been steeped in lavender and eucalyptus – as if the entire spa were created from an organic matter infused with natural, tranquil scents. 

The calm and quiet spa attendant takes us through the options available to us, recommending that we try the rain shower and the steam bath. She guides us to a beautiful wooden area enclosed by a steamy glass door adorning cautionary labels. She breezes through as if it’s completely commonplace…

“Oh and here, as in all European spas, no clothes are permitted whatsoever….” She goes on to talk about which type of mud-mask she recommends…

In the States, it’s “No shirt. No service.” Up here, we’ve got a sticker on the door of a bra, and one of a pair of men’s shorts…both of which have a “no smoking” style strike through them! Well I’ll be darned - I think I’m Mrs. Adventurous 'til someone says the adventure must be done naked…in a public, co-ed place.

Briefly, I wonder if I’m really just a Midwestern Wallflower after all.

Today, we are proving that ‘Bashful’ is not a part of our vocabularies. I’m not even sure what the intent of a Finnish sauna is, but challenge accepted!    

Off go the robes.    

Right here in the middle of the spa. Folks in the serenity room are in athletic gear, stretching their arms out in yoga-like fashion and those in the rain shower have only left their towels outside and are surely dressed to some degree.

And here we are. Stark naked.

Now, to see your spouse naked is normal and lovely. A perk of the job, one might say. BUT, to see them naked in public is an odd experience. Not good nor bad. Just. Plain. Odd.   

I've impressed even myself with this strange (mis)adventure…and though we are admittedly hoping no one else is within the wooden box as we heedfully inch the door open, we do in fact venture in.

The coast is clear – No nude Europeans frolicking about. Just two crazy Americans.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Swiss Cheese. Swiss Wine. And everything in between.

Busted. Our 6pm request for dinner reservations has surely given away the fact that we are Americans.

As we sit down for dinner we have the entire restaurant all to ourselves! Not until we are served dessert does anyone else join the room to begin their evening. In the mean time, we enjoy the peace and quiet at an unassuming table with an unprecedented view of the snow capped Alps.

This dinner is our big splurge, a gift from my husband’s lovely, wonderful grandparents. Over pasta and wine at their favorite little Italian spot a week before our wedding, they told us the tale of how, at their wedding in 1959, a friend handed them a $50 bill - requesting that they spend it, specifically, on their honeymoon. They told us it made all the difference on their modest trip to Washington DC. Passing on this thoughtful gesture (and then some), they asked us to spend their gift on something special. We promised to pay it forward someday, when we are able to, as well!

We believe they’d appreciate that we have decided to spend it on the experience of a decadent dinner…Swiss cheese, Swiss wine, and any other delightful tastes this town has to offer!

The menu proclaims an array of dishes classified as “New Alpine” cuisine and each beautiful plate is designed around ingredients sourced from within a few miles of the restaurant. Eying the extensive wine list, it is difficult to choose - we decide to take advantage of the sommelier’s vast knowledge; she’ll pair them with our meal choices - which, of course, we cannot decide on either! Too many wonderful options. So, eight different courses for the table it is then. We’ll take a bit of it all!

Wilhelm begins with hors d’oeuvres of duck liver, accented with an apple coriander gel. Meanwhile, I delve into my first, and favorite, dish of the evening; an elegant cauliflower mousse paired with olive oil drizzled, chive covered bread chips. The following two courses include delight in the forms of savory white wine risotto (made with Adelboden Hobel cheese) and light, puff pastry encased vegetables (resting on mushrooms and potato sauce).

Though the accommodating and attentive staff keep the table spotless, and ever-ready for the endless parade of courses, our table still rapidly fills with glasses of pinot noir and chasselas based wines as we move on to our entrees. A rosemary accented veal shoulder and a juicy Irish filet find their way to us and we savor every morsel. Our night concludes with our overindulging (read: ‘stuffing ourselves’) on currant sorbet, berries and a king’s size selection of local cheeses.

Planning out this night we could never have anticipated how this simple restaurant would prove to be the most rewarding culinary experience we have had to date – it has been an absolute highlight of our honeymoon! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Arriving in Adelboden

The train comes to a halt in Spiez, Switzerland and we haven’t the slightest idea what is in store for us…

Not only does the crisp air shock our lungs but the sights surrounding the train station are, quite literally, breath taking. Down the hill we see the mismatched rooftops and perfectly kept back yard gardens of the cottages overlooking the icy blue, sparkling lake below.

I’m fearful the location of our hotel may be a letdown considering the immense beauty that has met us here in Spiez. As the bus rests, releasing a long hot breath as it draws open its heavy door, it expels us onto the street.

We are instantaneously in love with this town.

At an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet, the streets are pristine and charming. We’re surrounded by shops and restaurants, abundant with locally grown goods and produce. The cool air bites at us as we walk; a welcome guest on this leg of our journey!

Entering the Cambrian Hotel we are greeted by an eclectic but warm atmosphere. With rich grey walls and exposed slate, the place gives off a chic vibe…but the cow skin rugs and crackling fireplaces lend a country feel. The people here are just the same - fashionable yet delightfully down to earth.

The view from our room, though northward facing, does not disappoint – When in Switzerland, there is not a bad seat in the house! The sights, though alluring, still can’t keep my mind off of a long, cozy nap and I plunge into the pure white, divine and oh-so-fluffy duvet, snuggle beneath the sumptuous linens of the freshly dressed bed I’m out, like a light.

Refreshed from our long mid-day snooze, my husband drags the modern-yet-comfy love seat up to the open French doors. We watch the sky drizzle lightly on the lush mountains before us. The distinct Swiss flag flips gently back and forth as we discuss our dinner plans in the cool, thin, afternoon air...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunset Gondola - Quintessential Venice

Having saved the best for last, we embark up on our final Venetian adventure this evening. Though it will undoubtedly be thrice the cost of a day time ride – we have been instructed (by my ever-wise mother and father) that the only way to experience all that a moored gondola has to offer, we must start our trip at sunset.

Also a tip from my mom: We packed our own bottle of wine and even snuck a few wine glasses from our cozy B&B. I mean, nothing says romance like a Solo cup…but we’re opting for the real deal tonight!

The waterways are tranquil and still as we glide past stunning buildings unreachable but by boat. Now and again a window is open and we can hear the chatter of a family cooking supper or the notes of a song which we do not know.

As the water slips quickly from minty green into a truly colorless black, I rest my head against my husband’s shoulder, snuggling up, enjoying our final night in Italy.

After our peaceful gondola ride has ended, we still aren’t ready to call it a night…

As a light breeze sneaks through the windy streets, we are invited to drift closer and closer to the main body of water. What was a parking spot for a gargantuan private yacht just hours before is now all ours. A dock, stretched out into the darkness of the Veneto Lagoon and a seat just two feet above the water calls our names.  

Uncorking our second bottle of white wine (we may have over-prepared for the gondola trip..) we drain the last bit of battery from my archaic phone to play a few of our favorite songs...dangling our feet and bobbing our heads, we sing allowed the words from the song that played during our first dance as husband and wife.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Oltriel Reale (Beyond the Real). Art in Venice, Italy.

Exiting the Doges Palace this afternoon, we stumble upon an exhibition that captures our attention. Situated in the Foscari Loggia, overlooking the Square of St. Mark’s and the Veneto Lagoon, the collection of works crafted by Italian artist Carlo Guarienti is innovative and absolutely alluring.

Guarienti, now 90 years old, delves into mixed media like no other artist I have seen. Expressive and vibrant, his unconventional spirit spews forth from not only his animated sculpture, but from his paintings as well. 

While he practices the tried and true practices of Lost Wax casting, he combines these traditional elements with twists of combusted papier-mache and turns of polystyrene resin soaked surfaces.

Emotionally evoking and ascetically lovely, these beautifully painted and uniquely textured works are like no others. Only in a city such as Venice will one stumble, blindly, upon such a treasure.

Friday, May 2, 2014

St. Mark's & The Doges Palace

While much of the mysterious romance of the of Venice fades as the morning approaches, the culture and history are revealed in the presence of the brazen sun. High above, resting atop a pillar, we can see St. Mark’s winged lion watching us amongst the crowds. 

Ahead of us is the Veneto Lagoon and to our left is the grand entrance of St. Mark’s Cathedral. The marble columns that flank the face of the cathedral range from an olive green to a deep rose – History claims the colorful, mismatched marble was stolen from Egypt! Not only that, but the body of St. Mark himself was not originally laid to rest here in Venice…his body was stolen from Alexandria - smuggled out wrapped in pork! After which, this area became named for the relic of his tomb.

The 6 bronze horses that stand guard are actually replicas as the originals that once stood here. The horses were (yet again) initially stolen by the Italians, and later from them by the French, and finally they were returned to Venice only recently! The originals are inside for safe keeping and preservation.

Moving toward the lagoon we arrive at a building made up of stunning ivory and pale pink stones, it is known as the Palazzo Ducale, or the Doges Palace. Upon entering, we arrive quickly at the airy courtyards within where the lack of fortification (of such a political building, specifically) speaks volumes to the power the Venetians once held. It appears as though they had no one to fear!

Walking through the palace we find that much of the stunning art could go unnoticed if one were to keep their eyes fixed too low – many of the beautiful painting and carvings are among the ceilings and domes overhead. I find it difficult to keep my eyes and mind still as I’m overwhelmed approaching the Grand Council Chambers – Shall I focus on the grandeur of the room itself with the carefully carved wooden chairs? The phenomenal view it affords me now (as it once did for the thousands of ruling elite that met here)? Or, do I allow my eyes to focus upon Tintoretto’s breathtaking, full-wall, “Paradise”? This bright and captivating 74 x 30ft canvas oil painting vies for my eyes to dwell on it. It begs me to stand before it in awe. 

This is no mere structure. It is a living, changing piece of art. It is as if its right arm holds us in the palace, and its left drags us onward to the dungeon below – we are torn between the light and the darkness, and alas its mystery pulls us away.

Examining empty cells we imagine the prisoners who once lay, striped in the same dim light shining through the bars that we are now. Following the damp corridors up a narrow staircase that beckons us across the canal – away from the lavish beauty of the palace and into the mouth of the new (relatively speaking) prison. 

Tiptoeing across this bridge, the infamous ‘Bridge of Sighs’, on feels just a minuscule bit of the despair the condemned felt as they took their last look at the free world. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Date Night: Venice, Italy

What started as a home for Roman refugees fleeing the barbarian invasions later became a major maritime power and a flourishing European trade center. The town of Venice is actually built on 118 different flat islands which contributes greatly to the cities’ uniquely vibrant culture. As the train spills us mere steps from a water taxi station our excitement builds – we cannot wait to explore the charming Queen of the Adriatic!

The water taxi ride is a distinct method of travel and proves to be a wonderful sightseeing tool - on the ride to our darling Bed & Breakfast alone we spot St. Mark’s Square, the Doges Palace and Santa Maria della Salute. Our accommodations are off the beaten path, away from the crowds in a quiet piazza yet still only a short walk from St. Mark’s Square. Today is the first time we've had air conditioning in a week and we are truly grateful for it – the moment we get settled in, we crank the AC up high and catch a quick cat-nap in our lavishly decorated room before getting back to exploring!

Refreshed, we head out to see the Grand Canal at night – battling only a bit of the dwindling crowds along the route. The sky is a deep indigo as we reach the Rialto Bridge and the city is illuminated only by moonlight as we finally sit down to dinner. When we arrived in Venice in the heat of the day, amidst the hordes of tourists I had a quick ponder over whether or not this city was going to be the romantic adventure the world had promised us. As I sit, enjoying a delectable dish of gnocchi bolognese while gazing across the candle-lit table at my loving, handsome husband with the quiet Rialto Bridge in the background, I have to say – tonight, this city is absolutely enchanting.

To top off the most lovely of nights, we make a visit to St. Mark’s Square on our way home. The square is still – no tour groups, no winding entrance lines and no cameras. The only sound comes from the back corner…away from the Basilica and the Palace, a small niche is lit brightly showcasing a small black-tie clad ensemble. The pianist plays quietly as the saxophonist takes the lead, playfully engaging the small crowd with his sparkling solo. Selecting a seat on the outskirts of the area, we stay for a while - enjoying the warm evening and soothing music before turning in for the night.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Banana Beer & Religious Relics in Germany's oldest City

Guten Morgen aus Trier, Germany! 
(In case your German is even weaker than mine...'Good Morning, from Trier!')

We have plans to meet below the Porta Nigra to begin our day with Wilhelm’s Tante (aunt) Elisabeth and her husband, Albert. (To clarify, Albert is, in fact, Wilhelm’s uncle. It's just that Elisabeth is always referred to as “Tante Elisabeth” and Albert is always, simply, Albert.) Due to health complications they were unable to make it to the states for our wedding, and I have been dying to meet them! Every story involving these two is always larger than life; they are two of the most beloved relatives I’ve ever heard spoken of!

As we wait, Wilhelm explains this fortress-wall type structure that we’re standing below - the Porta Nigra. He tells me the city of Trier was once a colony of Rome and was protected by great stone walls. This ‘Porta’, or gate, was built around 180 AD. It is the only part of the wall that remains as the rest was pillaged for materials. The Black Gate (so-called due to it’s dark colored stone) also served as a monastery and as a church before being deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As Wilhelm finishes gushing stories about the Roman Trier, I look up and see just what we’ve come here to find..

I would know that smile anywhere. Though I’ve never met Tante Elisabeth I see her coming from a mile away. She’s got a stunning, mega-watt smile. Just like my father- in-law and just like my handsome husband! She is a glowing, vibrant woman full of life and excitement. She has a contagious, beautiful spirit about her. Albert is nothing short of charming. He doesn’t speak a lick of English but his cheery smile and big hugs speak volumes!

After an exchange of “hellos” & “guten tags”, Elisabeth asks if we’d like to stop and get some wine - for breakfast. My kind of lady. 

We head from the Porta Nigra to the ‘Hauptmarkt’, the market square. There are people buzzing about, the shops are open, the bakeries are packed and the lovely smell of flowers floats through this open space with the breeze. In the center of it all are kiosks of sorts – some of which are wine kiosks. They have industrial wine coolers inside and modern glass racks hanging above. We order four glasses of Riesling, of course. It’s handed over in delicate stemware for us to enjoy as we stand in the middle of the town, chatting and laughing. When we’re finished we return the glasses to the counter and go about our day. Brilliant!  

Next, we’re on to see the city. Elisabeth comes to Trier often to shop and happens to know all of the ins and outs – she’s offered to show us the highlights and we are thrilled! 

If you read yesterday’s post you’ll know a bit of history on the Trier Dom (also known as St. Peter’s Cathedral). Today, as I’m walking into this medieval structure I find it more beautiful and full of mystery than I could have expected. The first things I notice are the black imported marble accents - I’ve never seen anything like them. Next on the standout list is the organ – it sits high in the rafters and looks as if it’s floating. Elisabeth explains it is a swallow’s nest organ and she remarks on how stunning it is, as well.

We are able to see the famous nail, rumored to have been used in the crucifixion, but no such luck on the holy tunic of Jesus. About twenty feet ahead of us.. up some stairs.. on an altar and through some glass we can see.. the box which holds the holy robe. A few times year they do have it open and the tunic itself on display - which is when Christians make pilgrimages to view this piece of holy history. Though I’m innately skeptical of the authenticity of the relic, I find myself quite disappointed that I’m unable to get a look at it!

After seeing the Church, Cathedral and even the archbishops’ tombs beneath them, we rove about the city talking with Elisabeth and joking with Albert. Humor, apparently, has no language barrier. He keeps us (me, at least) cracking up! I am incapable of putting into words how darling of a man he is - an absolute gem.

Tante Elisabeth knows not only which boutiques are fashion hotspots here in Trier, but she knows all the intriguing history of this town, too..

Legend has it that Trier was founded in 2000 BC! According to this local lore, Trier is over 4,000 years old. To put that in perspective…Trier would have been inhabited during the time of Abraham and Noah! For the record, though: Trier was (officially) founded by Augustus in 16 BC – and even by this measure, is still likely the oldest city in Germany!

We round the day off with a hearty German meal and a new (to me) German beverage. I enjoy the worlds creamiest, most indulgent tomato soup with a freshly made, giant pretzel dunked in spicy mustard. The rest of the crew (clearly more German than I) enjoy potato salad and enormous beef roasts - flavored with caraway and complimented by sour cream and tomato sauce.  I do join in on the cultural experience by ordering a Bananenwiezen..

Yep! You read that right. Banana. Beer. Banana nectar added to hefe wiezen (wheat beer), served in a tall wiezen glass is the perfect cold drink for a warm day. Perfectly sweet and refreshing!

As we chow down and drink up, we also enjoy an album of old photographs Tante Elisabeth has saved of her adored godchild - she's made us a book of these memories to take home! Hearing childhood stories and seeing photos of W as a chubby little tot in lederhosen melts my heart. I’m one happy newlywed and I am feeling particularly blessed to have gained Elisabeth and Albert as family.

Prost (cheers), to adventures! Especially to those involving beautiful, historic European cities, with delightful, European relatives! 

First Taste of Germany - The Mosel Valley & Trier

My first view of Germany is that of the stunningly steep, cliff-side vineyards lining the Mosel River. Some 5,000 winemakers take advantage of the ideal sun exposure and intensified heat provided by the cliffs and the water’s reflection. These beautiful, unique vineyards characterize the Mosel region and boast world renowned grapes.

The Riesling wines cultivated along the Mosel are rich in minerals and delicately fruity – they are unlike any other, the epitome of their kind. The grapes that thrive in this warm zone are late ripening and must be manually harvested due to the precarious placement of the vines. The extra effort put into these grapes is well worth it. They consistently produce wines with low alcohol content and exceptionally elegant flavors - perfect for regular enjoyment.

Need I say more?
Our destination, Trier, is the perfect place to sip my first taste of Deutschland.

The Mosel Valley is the cradle of German wine culture and I, for one, am ready to dive right in! After dropping our bags by the apartment we’ve reserved here in Trier, we head straight to the town center where just around a quiet corner we find a bustling wine pub – the Weinstube Kesselstatt.

This weinstube is nestled into what was once a manor of the palace that stood on this square – with exposed beams, cozy seating and eclectic décor it is a busy but inviting scene. It’s a self service pub and as we approach the counter I’ve apparently forgotten that weinstubes are outlets of individual wineries. I try to order a “House Riesling”. The attendant gestures to a full-wall chalkboard with white scribbles from ceiling to floor - They are all house Rieslings.

Every wine on this extensive list is a product of the Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate! The excitement of so many incredible options trumps the brief feeling of stupidity that has washed over me.

Wilhelm and I enjoy a bottle of the perfectly crisp, yet sweet, ‘Sommerpalais’, and then another. We order “Das Beste der Region” in hopes of getting a good, local snack - a wooden board full of fresh, regional cheeses, breads and hams finds its way to our table. We eat, we drink and we even make a few friends (or at least we think so - our German is sub-par, after all!). All of this whilst sitting on the terrace under the emerging stars, staring up at some of Trier’s most beautiful and mysterious attractions.

Before us sit the Dom zu Trier (Saint Peter’s Cathedral) and the Liebfrauenkirche (The Church of Our Lady).

Not only is Trier Dom the oldest church in Germany but it is also home a few significant Christian relics. According to legend, Saint Helena returned from a trip to Jerusalem, in the 4th century, with the robe Jesus wore at the crucifixion. She also brought back a nail that is believed by many to have been used in the crucifixion of Christ as well. Mention of the robe was discovered in historical documents in the 12th century at which point the cathedral altar was opened up in search of the holy relic. The robe was found, and remains, in Trier where Christians from all corners of the world still come to view it.

^ Regardless of your religious affiliation, this is certainly an interesting bit of history that Trier lays claim to!

The Dom and its neighboring Liebfrauenkirche are on the itinerary for tomorrow. For now, we head back to rest up for a true-Trier-tour, given by none other than Tante Elisabeth – Wilhelm’s beloved aunt and godmother!