29 May 2013

Anne Frank House, Rjiksmuseum, & Heineken Experience

DAY ONE: By the time we got to our hotel room, it was time for a quick unpack and then out to dinner we went. The Pancake Bakery, a well known pancake house located on Prisengracht near the Anne Frank House, came highly recommended. Their menu boasted over 75 different kinds of pancakes and omelets. I love breakfast for dinner so this sounded like a great choice. Well, we were quite surprised when we found out the traditional Dutch pancake, pannkoeken, and was essentially a crepe. We were thinking hearty, thick pancakes. Should have researched a bit more! A unique, authentic meal- but a bit overpriced when you're spending 10+ Europe for a glorified crepe. 

After dinner we walked around the beautiful canals along Prisengracht. 
They were some of my favorite in all of Amsterdam. 

DAY TWO: First on the agenda for the day was a visit to the Anne Frank House. The museum opened at 9 am and by 10:30, when we arrived, the line was down the street and around the block. We didn't keep track of time, but it was probably around 30-45 minutes before we got inside the museum. It was well-worth the wait! The Anne Frank House was one of my favorite tours to date. It was an incredibly sobering and very well presented. The tour was self-guided which allowed you to go at your own place. They did an excellent job of preserving the building which allows you to gain a much more realistic understanding of what they went through. Standing inside those small rooms gave incredible insight to the lengths at which the families took to hide out and really made the story come alive. 

After the Anne Frank House we grabbed a quick bite at an Italian restaurant and then headed over to the Rijksmuseum. Another long line which wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't cold and windy that day. Once inside we were able to see the collection of Van Gogh as well as Rembrandt's Night Watch. 

The Heineken Experience was the final item on our list and a great way to close out the day. We took a tour through the brewing process like most places, but truly got the 'Heineken Experience'  with all of their interactive activities. We were able to watch Heineken advertisements in a comfy lounge chair, perfected our technique for achieving the perfect pour, got a history of the company, and of course the most interactive part of all- drank 2 Heineken beers. 

RECAP:: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

  • FLIGHT -- LUFTHANSA :: On Friday afternoon we flew into the Schriphol Airport in Amsterdam. It was our first time flying with Lufthansa and we were definitely impressed. Either Lufthansa keeps their planes in pristine condition Or we had the good fortune of flying on two newer airplanes. Both were so clean! 
  • TRANSPORTATION :: Several friends had recommended the Holland Pass so RC & I purchased our passes in the airport. This was super convenient because one of the tickets covers 24 transportation. Allowing us to take the metro from the Schriphol Airport to Central Station - Then from Central Station to our hotel via the tram. I am so glad we went this route. We both feared a taxi would have been pretty pricey. The public transportation in Amsterdam was fantastic. 
  • HOTEL: BEST WESTERN DELPHI HOTEL :: We had a tram stop less than 200 m from our hotel. The two main lines (5, 24) came to our stop 'Apollolan'. They took us to almost all of the major attractions we wanted to see. The Rijksmuseum and I AMsterdam sign were just 2 stops away. Most of the time we would take the tram to the area we wanted to explore. Then walk around and sightsee. It really cut down on time which allowed us to see so many of the city in the short time we were there. 

Bicycles are everywhere in Amsterdam. It is the main way of transportation for locals. I think I read that somewhere around 60% of people use bikes within the city. There is a special bike lane throughout the city for cyclists. We had seen this in Munich, but not on this level! The bike lanes have their own traffic signals and you better check the bike lane before you decide to cross the street! They fly and you better hope you're not in the way. Normally they'll ring the bell on their bike before they approach an intersection to remind you that they're coming through. 

Somehow I was able to take a picture of an empty street so you could get an idea of what one looks like in Amsterdam. On the far left you have bike lane which is often a different color from the rest of the street. In this case, it's a burnt red. Next is the car lane. Most people do not commute by car as parking is expensive and with so many pedestrian areas it's overall discouraged. You will mostly see taxis in this lane. Across the checkered median to the right is the track for the trams. Bus stops can also be found in this center area. Crossing the checkered median again to the right is another car lane and then bike lane. Finally on the outside you will have the pedestrian area. 

Now fill this street with cyclists, trams, buses, cars, & people and imagine crossing in total about 6 lanes of traffic. At times I felt like it was a human game of Frogger! 

23 May 2013

1-91 CAV Redeployment Ball

One of the many benefits of living overseas is that the your squadron redeployment ball can be held in a ridiculously beautiful venue. The German banquet hall, Regentbau, is located in the spa town of Bad Kissingen. The concert hall located inside is considered among the top concert halls in Europe.  AND THAT is where we had the privilege of eating, drinking, and dancing the night away. I'm sure there won't be many balls that come close to topping this one. 

One of the highlights of the night for me was the guest speaker, Major General James C. Boozer. As you look at his rank, award decorations, and position as former Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, it's not hard to tell that he is well-respected man. But when we met at the receiving line and I found out he was a native of Charleston, SC I knew he was a GREAT man. :) His speech was one of the most spirited speeches I've ever heard. 

The formal portion of the night was brought to a close when Maj. Gen. Boozer announced that jackets were to come off and he revealed his fire blazing sleeves and "GIDDY UP" embroidering on the back of his dress shirt. It was hilarious and the guys went wild. At this point he challenged someone to bring him the largest beer they could find which he proceeded to chug. Then he stepped off the stage and walked up & down the aisles challenging each troop to yell at the top of their lungs "GIDDY UP". It definitely started the party portion of the night off right. I'm sure I will remember that moment for many years to come. The guys definitely deserved a night like that after 9 long months in Afghanistan.

All of the incredible pictures above are courtesy of Susanna Avery-Lynch. You can visit her Facebook page here for more incredible pictures of military families and her travels abroad. I'm so glad there were such a fabulous photographer because I was so concerned with having a good time that I barely took any pictures. MAJOR FAIL. 

The lone picture I have of the two of us.

15 May 2013

Happy Anniversary

Almost 5,000 miles traveled in two years.
1 Trans-Atlantic move. 1 deployment. 1 reintegration.
There is no one else I would rather be on this adventure with than you. 
I am so looking forward to our third year of marriage. 
To have you in my arms. To see what kind of memories we make. To see where we travel. 
I'm looking forward to making up for those 9 months we were apart. 
We have been given a blessed life and I love living it with you. 

I'm so glad we said "I Do".  :)

08 May 2013

Block Leave Trip 2013

Well block leave is officially over and I've finally gotten around to uploading pictures and recapping our trip. The stars perfectly aligned when my brother's wedding date and the start of RC's block leave happened to fall within 2 days of each other. We were able to fly back in time to be there for the rehearsal dinner and wedding. It was a beautiful weekend. These two are surrounded by a lot of love! I'm so glad to have Brittany as part of the family and I love how happy she makes my brother. Aren't they a beautiful couple? :) 

Since we were coming back to the States for my brother's wedding we decided to extended our stay. When you're going to battle with jet lag you might as well stay a couple weeks. We decided to go on a 7 day cruise with Royal Caribbean. It was sort of like a second honeymoon for us. :) Our ship was the Freedom of the Seas and our ports were Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. 

Labadee, Haiti
Labadee is a private island off the coast of Haiti that Royal Caribbean owns. Do you get to truly experience Haiti? Definitely not, but it is tailored to absolutely be the most relaxing day. Beach chairs in the shade of palm trees, floating mats for the crystal clear waters, food catered on-site, and drinks galore. 

That night on the ship was also formal night. We didn't originally plan on going to the formal night (lack of room in suitcases for formal wear), but we managed to scrounge up some clothes that look appropriate enough and off we went. :) Handsome hubby + Amazing food = Great night.  

Falmouth, Jamaica
Our excursion in Jamaica was a private beach party about 40 minutes from port. Usually when you first get off the ship there's about a mile or two of just stores & shopping. Most ports do not have direct access to the beach. Hence our reason for purchasing a private beach party instead of taking a cab to try and find a local beach. We had a great time at the private beach. We got off the bus early enough to have the perfect set up- two chairs & an umbrella just a couple feet from the water. No one in front of us, just crystal clear water. We lounged. We read. We ate. We drank. We goofed off & did some handstands. All in all another great day.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman
This was our last port where we got off the ship. We decided to be a little more adventurous and chose Royal Caribbean's Cheeseburger Reef Kayak & Snorkel excursion. It was a blast! We were the perfect kayaking team and won the spontaneous race that broke out with the other kayakers. The snorkeling part was made even better by the power snorkels that we were given. The self-propelled snorkels pulled us along and made it much easier to cover more ground. Around Cheeseburger Reef there were tons of fish. Since they were so used to people feeding them over the years the fish were never scared away. Not far from Cheeseburger Reef was the Wreck of the Cali. The legend goes that the Cali was taken closer to shore because it was starting to collect water. Apparently it was full of rice and as the ship collected water the rice expanded and the eventually exploded & sunk the ship. Who knows if the story is true, but the wreckage is located in fairly shadow waters so it was pretty easy to see.