Iceland

Here is a video documenting our trip to the Icelandic island.

Camper Life, A memior by Finn Carpenter

Another school year was out, and my family took a two week stop in Iceland on the way home. While in Iceland we stayed in Reykjavik for the first few days, where we biked around the city and experienced some Icelandic cuisine, such as skyr, yogurt-but-better as a breakfast treat. But after Reykjavik was the part I looked forward to the most — the camper van. This is what really made the trip — living and working in the small enclosed space while driving around the country. I loved it all, and from the day we got our camper van, I was bouncing around. I wanted to see and explore every inch of the thing. There was the eating-living-sleeping space just as we came in, the kitchen to the left, and an L-shaped seat sat on one side of the table while the driver and passenger seats on the other. Past a door in back was a bed with a bathroom and shower on either side right as we walked through. This was the camper; with such tight quarters, we were going to need all the communication and teamwork skills we could muster. This was a new exciting way to live, and I just loved it. Every day in the van was another adventure, a new thing to try, a new way to have fun. I was a mouse poking his little head out into a new world. Living in such a small space brought us together as a family in order to communicate more effectively, cook, eat, brush teeth, stay organized, and not aggravate each other. Living in the camper was like a team building activity: it required more communication than it seemed like it should, and it got everyone up and moving closer to each other than they wanted to.

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In the camper when we woke up, everyone was in one of two places: the bedroom in the back where my parents slept on a mattress with about two inches of space on either side, or where my brother and I slept on a mattress/platform suspended from the ceiling. The bed that we slept on was a twin bed that was on rails that we would slide up and down so that it was either in the ceiling during the day or resting on the backs of the chairs at eye level(at least for me) each night. In our camper every morning we would swing the driver and passenger seats 180 so that we could all sit around the table and eat. When my brother and I woke up, we would sit and slide off the bed – which rested atop the L-shaped chair – into the driver and passenger chairs. Silent arguments took place, furious whispers exchanged, who would deal with the shades that covered all the windows to keep out the midnight sun. Once out of bed, we pull the shades back and clip them into the sides of the window. Since we were in Iceland in the summer the sun went down at 12 and came up at 2. Our shades had to be closed tight or we would be up and rocking at 3 in the morning. We clambered over each other, reaching and grabbing at the thick cloth. Still all is quiet, so far we were being mindful of the noise we were making. With our parents sleeping so close, we had to be all quiet whispers and tip toes then… Bang! Something had slammed or been dropped…so much for mindfulness. After we opened up the shades, the light flooded into the room and I could finally fully wake up and read. Then right when I was starting to relax, it was time for breakfast – the ultimate teamwork game.

Breakfast was always quite a process in the camper. To decide on the food a conversation and debate of needs was necessary. How fast did we need it to be made? Did we have any of that left? Would there be enough for all of us? Then once we had a food chosen, we had to make it. For me, my favorite breakfast was eggs and toast with skyr and fruit. For that to happen one person had to be cutting the bread at the table on the tiny little cutting board because another person would be cooking the eggs and the toast in two different pans on the stove while the sink was being taken up by the fruit washer. However, the fruit washer cannot be in front of the sink because that is where the stove monitor is, the fruit washer has to be in front of the refrigerator. The fourth person, usually me, the least muscular and most acrobatic, ended up getting juice, silverware, and doing the other chores like delivering from person to table and back. Every day in order to even make a simple snack, I needed to squeeze, squish, and contort myself just to get an apple. The amount of teamwork required to accomplish one simple thing was immense. To get one apple was like that one team building activity where you need to guide the other person who is blind folded, and I had to be told, “No the apples aren’t there.Wait! A little to your left.” It was the ultimate way to bring people together while keeping them pleasantly unable to do things effectively.

After breakfast was always hectic: the time when you brush your teeth and get dressed. Every day was a strange game of clambering over other people and arguing about everything. Could you move that over there? Wait, I need to get past you over there! Can you pass me that? No, I took out the trash yesterday! Just to brush my teeth each day, I had to climb over my brother, squeeze past my dad, and negotiate my way through my mom, the kitchen, and the door. Then back through the jungle-gym, with arguments and hostile demands on every side, just to get dressed. In the camper, my brother and I stored our stuff in overhead cabinets and under seats, almost like an airplane. In order to get my clothes, everyone had to stand up and move everything off the seats, then I would remove the cushion and pull up the hatch. I had to argue myself out of taking the trash, and negotiate my way to my seat just so that I could read my book.

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Then came the most annoying time of day: the passing time. When we were traveling around Iceland, we did not have a set course day by day. That meant my parents and my friend’s parents would sit and talk about different possible schedules and activities. When should we go there? Won’t that take all day? What route should we take to get from A to B? That was the most annoying part of the day because that was when I would just sit. There was not enough time to get out a game, but when I tried to just fill the time with reading, it felt like I would pick up the book then we would leave. No matter what I did, I either had too much time to do nothing, or not enough time to do something. My brother was endlessly trying to get me to do something for him. He would say “We don’t have much time, can you take out the trash?” No, I would not take out the trash today. “We need to get moving can you finish up the dishes?” No, he could finish the dishes in about two minutes. Apparently even arguing about who should do the dull menial tasks takes too little time to be interesting. The way that passing time required communication and teamwork – while still being boring enough that I wanted to do something else – was truly and inspiringly evil.

After the passing time and before we left the camp, was always an interesting time. It was not the passing time after the passing time, it was the grey water time. Anyone who has lived in a camper knows this time, it is when we would stop on the way out of the camp to unload. Every camp had a grey water station to stop by, usually with grates in the ground and a hose. The hose was for the innocent, side, filling up on water, the grates were for the grey water. The grey water was the water in our camper, built up from use of the toilet. My dad would pour it out every day, and we would have to sit and watch it flow from the little box into the grate. As our nostrils filled with the acrid stench of urine, we tried our best to fill the tank and empty the sink water as fast as possible. Once we had all yelled at each other and held our noses sufficiently, we clambered back into the van and were off… time for travel.

Then comes the travel time, the time of day where we drove. We usually drove for around an hour to some activity or another. While we drove, we would have one person hopelessly trying to navigate, my dad driving, and me, playing the audio books. I was great at it, I would pause when we needed to talk about something and start right back up into the story when ready to listen. I was always on the watch. Was there a conversation that needed to be had? A problem that needed ridiculous amounts of teamwork and problem solving? I was the ever present thumb over the pause button, while everyone tried to actually get somewhere even with the pretty scenery. Driving was stunning some days, and utterly boring others. One day, the landscape out the window looked liked rocky cookies and cream ice cream; other days it looked like a flat moon landscape. Driving around Iceland was an adventure no matter what the circumstances.

Arriving at campsites, we always had to dock and hook, or at least that’s what I called it in my head. We would pull in and dad would go investigate. Is there space? Are there plugs? What is the situation? Then, once we had the all clear, we would bump in on a gravel road and find a spot. Finding the perfect spot was more an art than a search. Talking, yelling, and discussions always filled the air when it came to the camping spot. Teamwork and listening to each other were needed even for this insanely simple task. We had to avoid spots that were too tilted, too buggy, too far from the toilet, and too far from the plug. Usually it was hard to get everything, but occasionally we would get that perfect spot; those nights were the best.

Really, all the nights in Iceland were the best. However, the ones in the camper were the best of the best. The camper made Iceland more exciting and more fun, no matter where we went. It continually brought us closer together. Closer emotionally, but also physically, a day did not go by without stepping on someone’s foot, or squishing past them into the kitchen area. Being in the camper was really the most fun part of Iceland, and I think without it, Iceland would not be the same. I look back fondly on the memories of Iceland, while some are not the best, they will always stay with me. They will remind me of my family, my brother, and the good times we had together. Without those memories and experiences, my family would not be the efficiently oiled machine it is and neither would I.

Now for some of our best memories:

We biked all over the Reykjavík area on a cold windy afternoon.

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drying fish racks

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The city was very modern and friendly. We took a walking tour and got to learn about all the different parts of the city and a little bit of Icelandic history.

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Our first day campervanning was a blast; we stopped in a large field of lupine and by an inspiring  waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.

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Our next day we took a walk out to a natural hot spring. It was slimy but warm and surrounded by beautiful hills.

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The Black Sand Beach was geometrically astounding. Paired with a gorgeous gorge I don’t know what would make the scenery better.

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More waterfalls and a glacial hike.

We ticked one off the bucket list visiting a beautiful glacier.

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Another long drive and we arrived at a secluded campsite. We hated to leave but after almost half a day of games and sun we had to move on.

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As we approached the North we had to speed our journey a bit to make it back in time for our flights. We still had time to stop in a few important places like these natural geysers.

One of our main destination on this leg of the journey was a whale watching trip.

We took an short walk with a difficult climb to get a nice view of a interesting lava rock park.

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We warmed and refreshed in a geothermal lagoon that smelled bad but was warm and fun.

Leaving the kids to play games in the van, Maureen and Paul luxuriated in a beer spa where the hot tubs are actually filled with warmed beer.

Our next stop was a bumpy horse ride in the mountains. We learned about sheep herding and Icelandic law regarding livestock importations. The puppies were cute.

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We visited a very interesting herring museum and learned quite a lot of the history of fishing in Iceland. The town of Siglufjörður was spectacular.

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The last thing we did before we left was visit the puffin island and hang out in yet another astounding campsite at Drangeyjarferðir with a 41 degree Celsius hot tub.

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Closing remarks:

The trip was astounding. The topography and natural flora created a inspiring and dynamic landscape we will remember forever. The Turke family was a great travel team for us, and we had a blast hanging out. Hiking, diving, learning, or sailing, we always were blown away by this great island. I would say this is one of our most successful trips to date. – North

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Montenegro

After a short summer in Minnesota (due to a wonderfully long 15 days in Iceland), we were up for a simple trip for our October break. When we learned that there was a direct flight to Tivat, Montenegro, we decided this might be just what we need.

Tivat is a very small village in Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea. Because it was off season, we got a great deal at a wonderful hotel right on the water. It is a popular destination for Russians, but October is not a popular time of the year, so we had the hotel virtually to ourselves.

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After a relaxing first day eating and strolling along the pier, we took in the Hammam and hot tub before settling in.

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Entering the RED ZONE!

Our first adventure day was spent about 15 miles from Tivat in a city called Kotor. It has a medieval old town and St. John’s Fortress which is a hike up part of a mountain. The map of the hike said there was a green (easy), yellow (medium), and red zone (risky) that you had to walk in order to reach the top. It was all fairly easy and the views along the way made it a spectacular hike.

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Walking in the old city of Kotor.

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After exploring Kotor, the next day we headed to a small town, Perast. It is also a coastal city, as is most of Montenegro. We spent a bit of time wondering the old city and then drove the coast to ride the ferry back across the bay to Tivat.

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Investigating Perast, another little coastal village in Montenegro.

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We also spent a day in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We crossed the border  (they even let Finn through) and drove straight to the old city. Similar to Kotor, Dubrovnik has an old city surrounded by a fortress wall, but it is 4 times the size and much more spectacular. The walls and grounds are covered in the same stone and over time have become smooth and shiny. DSC06359.jpgWe spent the day walking the outer walls, having a drink at Buza (a bar built right into the rocks), and eating dinner in the narrow alleyways. We read wikipedia articles and Rick Steves to gain some insight into the city and fortress.

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The rooftops of the 40,000 inhabitants of Dubrovnik.

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Our final day we drove up some very sketchy roads to take in some spectacular views.

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Playing cards while looking out at Albania and Croatia.

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Innsbruck, Österreich

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For our February ski break, we again traveled to Innsbruck, Austria. We skied, breathed in beautiful nature, and ate great food.

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Even on the slopes there was delicious food and thirst-quenching drinks. Every day we enjoyed an authentic Austrian meal of Käsespätzle.

Both times we have stayed in the city of Innsbruck, we rented an apartment at Kasperhof, which has been lovely location. One year we stayed in the small village of Jesdorf in the mountains and rented a little chalet.

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Finn in his superman robe(supplied by the apartment) getting ready for the hot tub.
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After long days of slope riding, we returned home to a hot tub on the deck.

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An original Austrian rodelban (tobogganing) has become one of our favorite activities on these trips. This video is from another year in Austria, but it provides a good sense of what it is like to be an Austrian on your toboggan.

 

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Our fun on the glaciers of the alps also displayed a jaw dropping view.

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The city of Innsbruck is quaint. Surrounded by mountains, the view between the tall colorful buildings is breathtaking. We have made several trips to Innsbruck over February break, so we have gotten to know this small walkable city and its restaurants.
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There is so much to love about Austria. We appreciate that skiing is part of the culture here. It is a family event where you see grandparents and wee ones on the slopes at any time, and the cost is quite reasonable compared to skiing in the U.S.. There are loads of different areas to choose from on any given day, making it definitely one of our favorite ski vacation spots.

sLOVEnia

Our trip started out on a rough note, as we boarded our plane at 6:30 a.m. and were asked to deplane due to a fuel line problem. The next two hours were just short of “slow wi-fi” painful according to my boys. After a chaotic mob at passport control, a massive line at the airline counter, and a trip back across Moscow to have lunch and a nap, we ended up on a flight at 5:30 p.m. and thus had lost our first day in Slovenia.

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Eventually we arrived at the wonderful city of Ljubljana. Quaint and full of a culture reminiscent of Austria with a bit of Italy, this was exactly the kind of break we needed from our crowded city of 15 million.

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From a lovely apartment just a block off the river, we could walk to all the sites as well as choose from a variety of great restaurants along the river or up cobblestoned alleys. We started our days at the fantastic Le Petit Cafe.

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One of our first visits was to Ljubljana Castle. We enjoyed learning about its 11th Century origins and vast history, of course, via an audio tour.  While the history was interesting the view was even more spectacular, with mountains and beautiful trees everywhere we were tempted to just stand and look.

As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a chocolate market. North and Finn gobbled up waffles on a stick as well as one of their favorites from Austria, spiral kartoffeln on a stick.

After a few days in Ljubljana we headed to the lake area where we rented a cozy cottage in the village of Polje. We spent time hiking around Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, and the surrounding mountains. When at the cottage we spent the days eating, reading, playing board games, and going on long hikes.

We also visited Predjama Castle in the southwest region of Slovenia.

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The drive took us through parts of Italy where we stopped and enjoyed some wine and cheese while taking in the stunning colors of the vineyards. A lovely glass of the house red wine cost just 1.80 €.

Most of all, we enjoyed spending time in small villages and outdoors hiking. We ate well, laughed a lot, and appreciated the leisurely pace that we miss in our everyday lives.

Saint Petersburg

After 5 years in Moscow, we decided that it was time to check out St. Petersburg during our spring break. The Sapsan fast train is quite comfortable and conveniently arrives in downtown St. Pete’s. We stayed at Hotel Indigo and were very pleasantly surprised with super comfy rooms and an interior glass-covered courtyard with terrific breakfasts.

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Canals throughout St. Petersburg

People say that St. Pete’s feels like a European city, such as Amsterdam, due to the canals and the walkability compared to Moscow. We found this somewhat true, so Peter the Great did achieve a portion of his goal of modernizing Russia. It is certainly smaller than Moscow and most places that we visited could be reached on foot (perhaps with a little help from the metro) fairly easily. However, we tried biking and definitely did not feel safe. And despite the canals and some picturesque buildings, there is still a distinctly brusk Russian vibe, not the more liberal, lively, people-centered feel that we experience in most European cities.

Our first easy walk was to the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, which is quite gorgeous inside…

…and looks a bit like St. Basel’s in Moscow on the outside.

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We spent just one day at the Hermitage, moving fairly quickly through some of the historical areas…

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…so that we could enjoy more modern works, especially Maureen’s favorite, the Impressionists. While not everyone in our family loves art, nobody could say it wasn’t interesting.

We also went to the Catherine Palace. The first time we took a train, but it wasn’t open so we returned the next day and took the audio tour. It was very glam. We saw the golden, mirrored ballroom and the famous amber room. It was full of history, art, and stories.

On another day, we discovered a traveling exhibit of the works of Frida Kahlo at the Faberge Musuem.

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Somehow we also heard about a mini model of Russia, called Grand Maket Russia. It is huge and amazing, filling a large building with model trains, landscapes, cities, countryside, moving cars and trucks, lights on the ceiling to simulate day-night transitions, and a control center with multiple computers and screens monitoring the programming of the entire thing. We enjoyed noticing little details in everything and were fascinated by moving hang gliders, submarines, skiers, and more. It was amazing, and so was the break.

 

A new continent, a new adventure!

SOUTH AFRICA 

 

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Finn’s Christmas Holiday

By Finn – WRITTEN FOR A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT (IN THIRD PERSON)

Finally Finn’s escape from school! And it was Christmas break 2014! Finn and his family went to South Africa. The journey was soooo looooooong that Finn had to stay overnight in Dubai! (Thats a long time! But it was worth it.)

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Finn and his family stayed with their friends the Langlands (who also taught at and attended the same school in Surabaya, Indonesia). They stayed there for two days; those two days consisted of Finn playing nerf with his brother and the two Langland kids. They also did some swimming in their pool. On the third day at the Langlands’ house everyone woke up early. They were going on a safari in a nature reserve! But they had to drive for 6 hours until they got to the nature reserve, 2 hours past and they thought they were lost. It turned out they were actually on track and kept on driving for about four hours before they got there.

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STOP! Before I write anything else I need to explain to you what a nature reserve is; a reserve is a HUGE closed off area surrounded by fence and inside the fence you can find wildlife. Finn, his family, and the Langlands family stayed in a house that was placed inside the fenced area inside the animal park. We had 3 cleaning/cooking ladies; we brought the food, they cooked. After we got there and unpacked, we got in a special jeep and went into the wildlife on our first safari! On that safari Finn saw; Impala, an Elephant, a rhino, some water buffalo, a dung beetle, and a hungry pride of lions that walked less than two meters away from the jeep! After all the fun they got back to their house, ate, then went to bed.

 

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The next day before breakfast both families went on another safari and saw a leopard and impala. Finn played in the pool and downloaded a cool app called Pocket Planes where you own an airline. At 6:00 Finn, his family and the Langlands family went on another safari. This time they saw two giraffes, more impala, the same pride of still hungry lions with the daddy male, a baby leopard and at least 100 vultures eating a dead buffalo! The Carpenter family (Finn’s family)and the Langlands went on two more safaris and they saw three Zebras, a lot of hippos, 3 more leopards, and 3 cheetah brothers!

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The Apartheid Museum

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After that big trip Finn went back to the Langlands’ house until New Years. Before New Years the Carpenters went by themselves to the apartheid museum. At the apartheid museum there were many moving things like a plaque that said “Humanity was born in Africa. All people, ultimately, are African.”, or pictures of modern descendants of the first non-Africans in Africa. In Johannesburg the Carpenters also took a tour Soweto where a lot of not as fortunate people live but also where Nelson Mandela’s house is. There is the biggest hospital in Africa in Soweto, which is where the first heart transplant was performed.

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On his first day of 2015 Finn and his family flew to Cape Town. Finn went to the most southern point of Africa called Cape of Good Hope where they had a piece of cake from a fantastic restaurant called Tasha’s. The Carpenters went to their favorite beach and Finn dug a BIG hole in the ground with his bear hands!

The Carpenters also went to the Cape Town botanical gardens and saw some really cool plants as well as a rock concert. Finn, in addition to seeing animals on the safari, saw penguins called South African penguins (very creative name, I know). Those penguins are lucky, they have their own beach! On their last day in Cape town the Carpenters went to a winery that had a bird park and it was cool they saw vultures, owls, falcons, peregrine falcons (the fastest animal in the world), and a porcupine.

Overall Finn and his Family had a great break. They had a bountiful safari and lots of fun!  Happy 2015!

“My break was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

-Finn Carpenter

Our Travels In Rome

Rome

More photos at:https://www.flickr.com/photos/pjcarp/sets/72157648673842459/

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outside the door to our apartment

For the Sackcarps’ October break we went to Rome. Finn, North, Maureen, Paul, Grandma Kathy, and Uncle Matt all went on the trip. We had a great time in our apartment, wandering around the Vatican, eating fantastic food, ogling at the colosseum, walking the Roman forums, marveling at the Pantheon, and strolling through Pompeii.

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watching the Packers with breakfast

Our apartment was in a convenient, energetic area of town. We had local restaurants around and a bus stop just a few blocks away. Our three story apartment had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and one hot tub. We had lots of down time, and it was a calm place to relax or watch a Packer  game. Every day we woke up, hung out, and started our day of travel; whether to the Vatican or Pantheon our apartment was a great starting point.

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at St. Peter’s

On our first day in Rome we saw the pope speak. First someone draped a red cloth over the window sill that the pope talked from. Then the pope walked to the window and spoke in Italian. After his speech we settled down for a delicious bite to eat in our neighborhood before returning to rest to prepare for the long tour day at the Vatican to come.

The Vatican was a very impressive sight for all of us. A HUGE museum that took us a whole day to cover even with audioguides. With 13 miles of art to see, we just strolled though the recommended highlights. We saw many great works of art and relics from long ago, some of which you can see below.

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piazza near our apartment
strolling the streets in our neighborhood

After all that fun at the  we went to the backstreets near our house for a delicious meal. In Rome, eat as the Romans eat, therefore we had a delicious meal of pizza and pasta most nights. We ate at several different restaurants around the square (^above^)during our time in Rome.

After a filling meal and some good sleep, we headed out to one of Rome’s most iconic locations, the Colosseum.

under a Colosseum archway

 

Huge, seating thousands, sometimes killing thousands, the Colosseums was staggeringly large and full of great history. (For more go to http://www.the-colosseum.net/idx-en.htm) We took a guided tour, enjoying the sites and learning about the rich history surrounding us. This marvelous building could only be topped by the colossal ruins from the beginning of Rome, the Roman Forums.

inside the Colosseum

When we went to the Roman forum, we listened to an audioguide by Rick Steves.

listening to Rick Steves

North And Finn raced ahead as always, and they listened to the whole audioguide before Maureen or anyone else on the trip had gotten to the halfway point. When Finn and North were finished, they had fun reenacting some scenes with uncle Matt and Paul. Although some parts of the forum were under construction, the forums were still a fascinating place to visit.

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Brutus and others stabbing Julius Caesar near the spot where it happened!
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a choir performing in the Pantheon

The Pantheon is a marvel of Roman technology. Its soaring dome inspired many a church and immediately drew our eyes to it. In ancient times most of the light came from a hole in the roof. It survived due to its being turned into a Catholic church after the fall of the Roman pagan gods. It was filled with paintings and sculptures that you would expect to find in a church. Luckily enough for us there was a choir performing. We got to see the Pantheon and we got to listen to quite amazing music. After all this wonder and travel Grandma Kathy and Maureen decided to take a day off as the guys (us) went to Pompeii.

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in the streets of Pompeii

Pompeii was very amazing to see; all the buildings and roads were still intact. The audioguide showed us the baths, ancient fast food markets and water towers. In the picture above North and Finn are standing on crosswalks that allowed people to walk across the street when ancient water works poured water around to clean the streets. If you look carefully you can actually see the indents that the carts and chariots made in the road! We found Pompeii highly interesting and a bit creepy, as we got to see dead bodies frozen in plaster. This brought us almost to the end of our adventure, but Pompeii is still an amazing place.

a citizen of Pompeii

This paragraph marks the end of our Roman expedition. We all had fun in Rome seeing all the amazing sights. We had lots of delicious food and lots of fun. I can’t wait to go on the SackCarps’ next adventure. See you in South Africa!

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testing our truthfulness in the Bocca della Verità

 

London 2.0

In October 2015, we returned to London. This time we had some new experiences, repeated some oldies but goodies, and had an additional travel buddy, Uncle Matt, aka: UM.

Our first few days with just the family was spent with Harry Potter.

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the cupboard under the stairs

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This was the small version of Hogwarts used in filming.


Once Uncle Matt joined us, we took in all the iconic sites. The last time we were in London was about 5 years prior, so North and Finn did not remember much. It was fun to revisit and remember.

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in 2015
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in 2010

Hampton Court

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outside the palace
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in 2015
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in 2010
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Peek!

The Tower of London

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Inside the fortress the Beefeater leads the tour… North and Finn loved the humor, as well as the many facts about blood and deaths.

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Inside the tower there was plenty to see and learn.

The National Gallery

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Hmmmmm…

The EYE

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Until next time!

Viva la France!

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For the spring holidays our family went to Paris, France. We visited all the major places in Paris: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, as well as many other sites. We explored the nooks and crannies of the city on a bike tour, we saw The Thinker, and we saw rows upon rows of hundreds upon thousands of bones and skulls of the people of Paris in the Catacombs. By the end of this trip our family learned that Paris is an august, delectable, Brobdingnagian, dynamic, and lavish city.

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On our first day in Paris we went to the Eiffel tower, we waited in line for about 30 minutes to walk up the tower. On the way up we were not scared, even given the fact that there was only one plate of steel preventing us from falling. Well, some of us weren’t scared, North was scared as he always is in high places. When we got to the mid-way point in the eiffel tower (which is where it starts coming together into the tower) we looked out over the Brobdingnagian city of Paris.

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On our second day in paris we had breakfast at a wonderful restaurant called Le Pain. After we had breakfast we proceeded to go on a walk around Paris. On our walk we visited a very large church with lots of buttresses and colored windows. Next on our walk we strolled around a garden with statues and playgrounds. By then it was lunch time, and we ate at a burger restaurant which had surprisingly good burgers. Then it was time for a stroll through the streets of the delectable Brobdingnagian city of Paris.

mass in Notre Dame

On the Sunday of our visit in Paris we first went to mass at Notre Dame. Finn thought that Notre Dame is very BIG church with a very big organ. Half-way through the mass the organ slammed really loud almost like the person playing had just woke up. Even though we couldn’t understand the words (the mass was in French) the experience was amazing. By the end of the mass the we knew that Paris is, was, and will always be the august delectable Brobdingnagian city it is.

After our mass we went to our pre-booked bike tour. This was indeed one of our favorite things as we managed to get around Paris and see many things. We visited the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore (one of the oldest in the city), a coffee shop that supposedly Ben Franklin had visited, The Rose Line church featured in the Da Vinci Code, The king’s old palace which has now been turned into a public garden, and an ancient roman colosseum that had been buried for many hundreds of years under the city of Paris. Our informative ride helped us learn that Paris is an august delectable Brobdingnagian Dynamic city.

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Our last adventure in Paris was our inspiring trip to the Palace of Versi one of the most lavish mansions in the world. Our tour took us through the construction, rebellions, courtly events, chambers, and most importantly food of the palace. We wandered the gardens and biked around the entire lake in the garden of Virsi. It was an awe inspiring site. This peruvian mansion opened us to yet unheard of plains of beauty and gave us a glimpse into the august, delectable, Brobdingnagian, dynamic, and lavish city know today as Paris France.

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Frohe Weinachten!

Merry Christmas!

24 of the things we did in Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich

Written by: North and Finn

1.Finn was locked in the bathroom stall at Vapiano, one of our favorite restaurants. It wasn’t actually that scary; Finn just couldn’t open the door so he asked for help.

with pretzels to fuel us on the hike up

2.We went to Neuschwanstein, the castle Disney was modeled after. Our         family found Neuschwanstein had a very interesting story about the king that built the castle. Begun by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, it was never finished and it was the place of the king’s arrest for being mentally unstable. It is a short and easy trip  to the castle although there is a bit of a hike.

a gigantic cuckoo clock!

3. At 5 minutes past 12:00 in Munich we witnessed the Glockenspiel, a famous cuckoo clock. It has a series of characters that move around.  It is a little disappointing but is not that long and was interesting to think of its historical aspects such as how people would have thought of it when it was first built. (THE characters MOVE THEIR ARMS UP AND DOWN!!!!!!)

in front of Schonbrunn, home of the Hapsburgs

4. We spent almost an entire day at the Shonbrunn Palace and its Christmas markets.

chilly but warm with holiday spirit

We really like the German word for palace: schloss.

more pretzels

Many kings and queens lived in this summer residence.

a schloss surrounded by square miles of park, forest, and trails

Some of Austria’s most important people visited or lived in this palace, including Mozart.

5. At Dachau, the concentration camp, we learned about what happened in these camps such as torture and violence.

a powerful commemoration

It improved our knowledge of World War Two.

6.We visited various Christmas markets like the one near Shonbrunn Palace and  The Rathaus in Vienna.

market in front of Salzburger Dom

We enjoyed lots of good food and shopping.

cheesy spaetzel, spiral kartoffen, and gluhwein
candied apple
wooden ornaments
mouth blown, hand painted

7.On Christmas day we went to mass at the Salzburger Dom Cathedral. They had a full professional orchestra and choir.

a furtively shot selfy during the Christmas mass inside the ornate Dom

We mostly listened to the wonderful music because the priest was speaking German.

8.We went to Hohensalzburg Castle and listened to audio guides.

gorgeous views from the fortress

The tour wasn’t actually that long but it contained a great deal about the rulers and wealth of Salzburg.

the Salzburg Fortress at night with the cathedral and royal residence below

9.We went to art museums like the Albertina and the Neue Pinakothek.

Monet really liked his pond.

We saw many famous works of art such as The Sunflowers by Van Gogh. 

Van Gogh painted these to decorate a bedroom for the visit of his friend and fellow painter, Paul Gauguin. Finn danced before it.

10. After our initial stay in Vienna, Dad got a car.

Bavarian graffiti

From then on we drove from city to city and had fun in the car looking at the scenery and listening to audiobooks — see #11.

11.On the road trips we listened to three audiobooks. All were very good:

  •  Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
  • Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne
  • Theodore Boone, by John Grishman (read them, they are good books!)

12.Salzburg gets its name from its salt mine which we visited. First, we had to put on special clothing. Next we got on a train-like thing that had no roof and no walls; it was just a metal bench on wheels.

packed together on the train

The train took us to a room where we watched a movie that helped us realize how important salt was in history. In fact, salz in German means salt; therefor the name Salzburg translates into “salt town”. Then we went down a type of slide that miners used to get to deeper parts of the mine. Next we tasted salt water. To me it didn’t even slightly taste like water.

We actually crossed from Austria into Bavaria under ground.

After that we went on a boat that crossed a salt lake. Then we saw how some of the salt miners got buried under rocks and salt. Finally we learned that the miners shaped the salt but when they brought the salt above ground it crumbled into piles of salt. When we left, the museum workers gave us small cans of salt.

13.On our last day, in Vienna, we went to the Vienna Library\State Hall.

quite a library

Very old books lined the shelves of this gargantuan rococo-style library.

bigger books at the bottom, smaller on top

The main attraction to the library, though, was the exhibit including pictures of children throughout Austria’s history.

14.Our family stepped into the movie theater, waited 15min, and the Hobbit 2 began!!!!

in 3-D!

Can’t wait for the Hobbit 3!(if you want spoilers watched it yourself!

15. After a long hike to the top of Hohensalzburg Castle, we needed a drink so we went to the Stiegl Brewery.

We all had a beverage and hung out inside on the stools and outside on the lovely deck with trees growing on it.

16. While we were in Vienna, we went to an interesting museum that showed the city’s history. It was not boring like some other history museums that we have been to, in fact it consisted of two short 5d movies, a realistic World War II bomb bunker, and robot statues that talk. It is not an ordinary museum. In fact I wouldn’t even call it a museum because it is under ground.

17. Daddy, North, and I went to the Deutches Science Museum while mom was shopping. It was a very exciting museum. With no one to guide us we roamed free throughout the mining section, the boats section, the aircraft section, and the modern technology section. I’d say you should spend one day there if you want to look at everything.

18. While we were in Salzburg we went to The Sound of Music fountain and we acted out what they did in the movie.  We also saw the house of the Von Trapps.

the house where Sound of Music was filmed

Later on our trip, when we were in the State Hall Library in Vienna, we saw a real picture of the Von Trapp family.

19.While we were going to the Neuschwanstein Castle we saw a band dressed in lederhosen with their instruments.

We actually spotted a number of groups like this in little mountain towns.

20. Rathaus was one of our favorite places to see because there were decorations in the trees, such as light up cellos.

snowmen, hearts, and cellos iilluminating the trees
cellos (maybe violins, but that’s not we think)

We had a good time going around this Christmas market even though it was packed. This sight also was were Finn and I were separated from Mom and Dad.

chestnuts roasting…

We did find each other, but it is was a little scary.

21.St.Steven’s Cathedral is an amazing gothic church.

St. Stephensplatz on a foggy night

There were many designs and sculptures on the outside while on the inside there were amazing carvings and arches.

22.We got separated twice. Once North and I were separated from mom and dad in a Christmas market. The second time Finn and Mom were separated from North and dad and we all went to the hotel eventually.

naughty or nice?

23.We went to Milka Land and for those who don’t know, Milka is a good chocolate company. There was Milka everything! Milka skis, Milka coats, and every type of Milka chocolate you could think of.

a bit of waltzing in the Albertina Palace

24.On our last day in Munich we went on a very nice walk in the English Gardens. On the way back, we came across a man sitting on a high webbing strap that was over a raging river. At first I was amazed but then he retuned to safety.