Tag Archive: travel

Can you believe this was taken on November 1st??!!

Can you believe this was taken on November 1st??!!

We have been to Olympos twice, and it’s one of our favorite getaway places! Our first trip to Olympos was last fall. We discovered that we had a very long weekend, thanks to the national holiday, Republic Day (October 29),which marks the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Friday and Monday were declared school holidays due to the elections on November 1st.  So, we headed for the otogar (bus station) and got into a dolmuş (public transport mini bus) and headed for Olympos. The dolmuşes leave from the far end of the bus station about every 10 minutes, so it is easy to get there via public transport.

An hour and a half later, we were dropped at this cafe, where we had some tea while waiting for another dolmuş to take us down the canyon to Olympos. Not a bad place to wait, eh?

Tea and snacks available while you wait. Lots of vans pull up to drop passengers heading to Olympos.

Tea and snacks available while you wait. Lots of vans pull up to drop passengers heading to Olympos.

Olympos is well known for its rustic charm, with dozens of tree house and cabin pensions. We stayed in Saban’s, recommended by a friend. We loved it!  Half-board was included, and the food was delicious. We had a little one room cabin, surrounded by fruit and pine trees, nestled by the hills. We left our gear and headed out to explore the ruins that everyone comes here to see.

The sound of silence was fabulous to this city-dweller's ears:).

The sound of silence was fabulous to this city-dweller’s ears:).


Saban’s has fruit trees all around; these are pomegranate trees.


This was breakfast! Dinner was a buffet meal of delicious home-cooked Turkish food, including mezes and salad.

Andy first visited Olympos with a friend.  Here’s the tree house he stayed in!

Turkmen's Tree Houses

Turkmen’s Tree Houses


Be sure to try some fresh-squeezed juice!




Kadir’s Tree Houses is said to be the original tree house/bungalow pension.  It has a very artistic, hippie-like feel to their cabins, and it’s still very popular with the younger, backpacking crowd.

From Saban’s it is a ten minute walk to the entry of the ruins.  If you live in Turkey, be sure to get an annual museum pass; you won’t have to pay the 20 TL fee, which also allows you access to the beach. Those  of you don’t live in Turkey can get a pass for 10 entries for 7.5 TL. You need to pass through the ruins to get to the beach.


The ruins to the right of the creek bed are “untamed” but are worth the hike. It’s the “Indiana Jones hike”.

Olympos  was founded during the Hellenistic Period, and became a prominent city of the Lycian League by the second century BC.


The city was built inside the river valley, behind the mountains, to conceal its wealth from pirates.


However, this strategy didn’t work: Olympos was later used as a base by  a powerful group of pirates. There was an infamous pirate called Zeniketos who operated from Olympos.


After the ruins you arrive at the sea!

A Roman commander of Julius Ceasar conquered the city in the first century BC to neutralize the threat from the pirates.


People continued to live in Olympos until its decline in the 1400’s.


This was a lovely October day. Notice my twin on the right.

We returned for a quick weekend trip in May. This time we stayed at Olympos Orange Bungalows, which also was a good place to stay: nice food, clean rooms, and a lovely garden area.


Orange Bungalows garden area

One of the “must-do” things to do near Olympos is something we haven’t done yet: visit the eternal fires of Chimera which are natural gas-fueled flames that are never extinguished. It’s a popular place to hike up to at sunset or after dark.  North American visitors are known to bring marshmallows and other ingredients to make smores:)  We are told it’s easier to get there if you have your own transport, but you still have about a 3 kilometer hike up (then back down) the mountainside (in the dark), so be sure to wear good hiking shoes and bring a flashlight.  So we are told!  Nate has been three times; twice while camping with his class, and once while he was at summer camp.


Instead, we roasted marshmallows by the fire at Orange Bungalows; we substituted graham crackers with tea biscuits (cookies) and it was GOOD!!

Since most of the pensions in Olympos provide half-board (breakfast and dinner) in their rate, it’s fun to try the little restaurants for lunch.  Here’s one of our favorites, not far from the entrance to the ruins:


You said you wanted a close up on our plates? Ok!

So, what are you waiting for? Come and see for yourself why Olympos is a great getaway place!

The Greek island of Kastellorizo, known as Meis in Turkish.

The Greek island of Kastellorizo, known as Meis in Turkish.

We decided to do a day trip to the Greek island of Kastellorizo, just a 30 minute boat ride from

Kaş. Be sure to take your passport with you when you make a reservation.  You have to either leave it with the tour company the night before, or hand it over an hour before the boat leaves, so that it can be processed by the customs office.
There are lots of little restaurant around the small harbor.

There are lots of little restaurant around the small harbor.

We explored the area right around the bay.

The island was taken over by crusading knights in 1306. They restored the castle and used it as a prison for disobedient knights:)


From the 1400’s to the 1800’s the island was occupied by the Sultan of Egypt, the King of Naples, the Ottoman Sultan, the Venetians, the Greeks, and then back to the Ottomans!


In the early 1900’s the Italians, Greeks, French, Brits, and Turks battled over possession of this island. The treaty of Lausanne gave the island to Italy.


The Brits and the Italians battled over the island in 1941. It was occupied by Allied forces in 1943. Kastellorizo became part of Greece in 1948 under the Paris Peace Treaties.

There’s not a lot to do there, which was perfect for us.  We were celebrating Father’s Day…not many guys can say they went to a Greek island for the day!  We relaxed in a lounge chair by the sea, sipping ice coffees and swimming in the lovely bay.
Looks like I'm sitting by the pool, doesn't it?

Looks like I’m sitting by the pool, doesn’t it?

The view:)

The full view:)



We had a great lunch with fresh fish from the sea at a lovely restaurant on the bay.
Fresh fish!

Fresh fish with a glass of wine…life is good!

This is where we had lunch.

This is where we had lunch.

The view from our table.

The view from our table.

After lunch we took some more photos…
Then returned to our lounge chairs and iced coffees:)
Nice way to spend Father's Day, eh?  But we missed our kids!

Nice way to spend Father’s Day, eh? But we missed our kids!

Finally, it was time to head back to Kaş.

Kaş harbor

Kaş harbor

We really enjoyed the day. Definitely consider a day trip to Kastellorizo if you are ever in Kaş!
Kutna Hora!

Kutna Hora: view of St. Barbara’s Cathedral!

We are briefly back in Prague before leaving on our next set of adventures!  This post is especially for future guests arriving soon. Kutná Hora is a lovely day trip from Prague.

If you saw my post on the Bone Church in Kutná Hora, you may be intrigued enough to see it for yourself.  However, even if you think the Bone Church isn’t “your cup of tea” you should still go see Kutná Hora.  The historical town center and St. Barbara’s Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Kutná Hora has not one, but several stunning cathedrals, which more than make up for the gruesome Bone Church!

Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and John the Baptist.

Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and John the Baptist.

The town began in 1142 with the settlement of  Sedlec Monastery, the first Cistercian monastery in Bohemia.

German miners began to mine for silver in the mountain region in 1260, which the miners named Kuttenberg. The mountain was part of the monastery property.

These are the relics of St. Felix, donated by Pope Benedict X!V in 1742 on the occasion of the monastery's 600th anniversary!

These are the relics of St. Felix, donated by Pope Benedict X!V in 1742 on the occasion of the monastery’s 600th anniversary!

Kutná Hora’s wealth was built on mining. There’s a legend that goes like this: when a lazy monk named Anton woke up from a nap in the monastery orchard, he found three pieces of silver sticking out from the ground near his face. Anton laid down his robe (‘Kutna’, in Czech) to mark the place. Anton’s fellow monks investigated further and discovered what was to become the silver mines. Kutná Hora would later become the richest silver mine in the Kingdom of Bohemia.

It was wonderful to wander the streets and see the fine architecture.

It was wonderful to wander the streets and see the fine architecture.

The prosperity of Kutná Hora silver mines reached its climax in the 14th and 15th centuries when the city became one of the richest places in Europe. It was one of the most important political and economic centers of Bohemia at that time, second only to Prague.

I have a weakness for taking photos of cute window boxes:)

My husband will confirm that I have a weakness for taking photos of cute window boxes:)

Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the day to take a tour of the silver mines.  I’ve heard that the tour is very interesting, so we will definitely go back!

It was fun to wander the streets!

St. James’ Church

St. James’ Church is one of Kutná Hora’s famous landmarks. Construction of St. James began in 1330, and was completed in 1420.

This is the Church of St. James, built in the 14th century.

Inside the Church of St. James, built in the 14th century.

Pope Martin VI declared a crusade against the Hussites in 1419, shortly before construction of St. James was completed. The Hussites were followers of Jan Hus, a Czech priest who was considered the first Church reformer because he lived before Luther and Calvin.

St. James was the principal parish church of medieval Kutna Hora.

St. James was the principal parish church of medieval Kutna Hora.

In 1420 Emperor Sigismund used Kutna Hora as the base for his unsuccessful attack on the Taborites (considered heretics by the Catholic Church) during the Hussite Wars…leading to the Battle of Kutna Hora. In that battle, the Taborites were encircled by the superior forces of Sigusmund; however, under the leadership of famous Czech general Jan Zizka they were able to break through the lines and escape.

St. Barbara's Cathedral in the background.

Thanks, Elsa, for these photographs!

According to Wikipedia, Jan Zizka is considered to be among the greatest military leaders and innovators of all time. He is one of six commanders in history who never lost a battle . There is an enormous statue of him in Prague, which can be seen from miles away. The surrounding area is called Zizkov!

All these photos came from Elsa's camera, since we forgot to recharge our camera before coming to KH.

On the way to St. Barbara’s Cathedral.

St. Barbara’s Cathedral was founded in the late 1300s by the rich mine owners of Kutná Hora. They were trying to compete with the grandeur of Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. Building plans were interrupted by the Hussite battles, so construction didn’t resume until 1482.

The stained glass windows are stunning!

The stained glass windows are stunning!

Kutna Hora passed to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. Things went downhill after that…the mines were flooded, insurrection against the Holy Roman Emperor brought harsh punishment, followed by plague and the Thirty Years War.  The city  was devastated by fire  in 1770. The mines were abandoned not long after.

The view from the balcony.

The view from the balcony.

Kutna Hora remained part of the Austrian Empire under the Hapsburgs during the 1800’s. It became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The fun angels:)

The fun angels on top of the organ!

For more information about Kutna Hora, including how to get there from Prague, look here:



So, if you are in Prague for more than a few days, definitely make a trip to Kutna Hora…you won’t regret it!

What? Bones in a church??

What? Bones in a church??

Last September we visited the “Bone Church” in Kutna Hora with my friend, Elsa.  It was such a strange, creepy place!

Ahhh, another quaint European church...not!!

Ahhh, another quaint European church…not!!

Looks can be deceiving. It looks picturesque and peaceful from the outside.  But on the inside it is no ordinary church.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

The graveyard on the church grounds.

It looks as if the Adams Family decorated the church! All of the decorations inside the church are made from human bones. Seriously??  Seriously!!

The next logical question is: Where did the bones come from?


The chandelier contains every bone in the human body!

The bones come from the victims of plague in the 14th century, and from victims of the Hussite wars in the 15th century. Thousands were killed in these events; apparently they were buried in mass graves on the church property.

This is the coat of arms of the Swarzenburger family.

This is the coat of arms of the Schwarzenburg family, who used to own the church.


Close up of the coat of arms above: worthy of Pirates of the Caribbean!

Why so many bones in one place, you ask??

The legend goes that the abbot of Sedlec monastery, known as Jindrich, brought back a handful of soil from his travels to Palestine, and sprinkled it on the cemetery. This made it a popular burial site for the nobility of Central Europe.



The number of burials outgrew the available space during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. So they began to dig up the older remains and stored the bones in the chapel.

The decorations came from the bones of 40,000 people.

It is estimated that the chapel contains the bones of 40,000 people!

There’s an urban legend  that a monk went crazy and made things from the bones. Another legend is that the bones were first piled in geometric shapes by partially blind monks who were taking care of the chapel. Sounds like an answer my nephew Aaron would make up while playing the game Balderdash (a game where you make up crazy answers to questions and try to get the other players to believe you)!!


The Schwarzenberg family bought the monastery in 1870, and they commissioned a local carver, František Rint,  to  get creative with the bones…as “a reminder of the importance of human life and inescapable death.”

Am I really posing next to a chandelier of human bones? Odd!!

Smile for the camera while we pose next to a chalice made of bones surrounded by skulls: STRANGE!!

You can find out how to get to Kutna Hora from Prague here:


A big thank you to my friend Elsa, for these photos. My camera battery had died on the way.

After you leave the church, shake off the creepy feeling, and walk on to the picturesque town of Kutna Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I’ll write another post to show the “lovely side” of Kutna Hora!

While doing research for this post, I found this awesome quote by Greg, writer of  Outside Prague, a great website about the lesser known towns and cities of the Czech Republic.


Greg writes:

“Visitors to the bone church often describe it as macabre, eerie or creepy and I once asked the lady at the desk if she ever felt bothered to be working there. She flipped her hand in a dismissive way and said “Pfft! They’re only bones, they won’t hurt you; it’s the living who scare me”.

Good point.”

Plaza de Espana, Seville

Plaza de Espana, Seville

We had a wonderful eleven-day vacation in Spain last month.  We visited Seville, Cordoba and Granada.  Usually we use public transport when traveling, but discovered going by train within Spain is very expensive.  We stayed with friends in Seville and Granada, but the location in Granada was outside the city, so we needed to rent a car.

Since I am the family travel agent, I went online to research car costs, and was delighted to find a compact car that cost about $34 a day with insurance included.

The Alcazar gardens in Seville.

The Alcazar gardens in Seville.

When it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t good or true!  Here are our lessons learned:

Tip #1: Go with a well-known, proven agency and read the fine print in the offer.

I didn’t.  I LOATHE reading fine print! We booked with Marbesol. Marbesol?? When we arrived to pick up our car, we discovered that we had a “meet and greet: pick up with a full tank and bring it back empty”.  Sounded good to me when I booked, but I didn’t read that “the company may charge you for gas”.  We were told that we would have to pay 108 Euros for the privilege of bringing the car back empty (no refund for a partially full tank) AND we’d have to pay an 800 Euro deposit because the insurance didn’t cover everything. The car was tiny, and we knew a tank of gas would be much less than 108 Euros. Our other choice was to pay 129 Euros, which included full coverage, but we had to bring the car back with a full tank.  So, we chose the second plan. Our good deal was now a not-so-good deal.


The Albayzin in Granada

Tip #2: Read the contract carefully before you purchase.

Full coverage may not be full coverage!  When we returned our car, the couple ahead of us had the misfortune to have a fender bender.  Nothing serious, but they were relieved that they had purchased full insurance. The agent congratulated them on having full coverage and said they only had to pay 245 Euros for the time the car would be out of commission for repair work.  They argued that they had full coverage; but the agent said it didn’t cover the days the car would be out of commission.  ARRRGGHHH!

The Albayzin; the Moorish quarter of Granada.  Notice the Alhambra in the background!

The Albayzin; the Moorish quarter of Granada. Notice the Alhambra in the background!

Tip 3: Don’t pay for insurance with a third party company when you book the car online.

The few times that we have done this, the “independent party insurance” never covers enough, so you end up purchasing additional insurance from the car rental company.

We got to see an authentic flamenco concert. We were the only tourists there!

We got to see an authentic flamenco concert. We were the only tourists there!

Tip #4: If you are going to a major European city, don’t rent a car!!

Even if you park it and use public transport, parking fees are 15+ Euros a day. Public transport is usually much more efficient and cost effective.


The amazing Mezquita Mosque-Church in Cordoba.

Tip #5: If you do rent a car, rent the smallest possible car that will fit you and your baggage.

Our car was tiny, but driving in Granada was very stressful because there were dozens of tiny one-way streets that would be more aptly called alleys.  They had treacherous two foot metal posts about six inches on either side of the car that lined the alleys (to prevent parking).  The street/alleys were so narrow that Andy sometimes had to do a three or four point turn just to make a right or left turn!

Parking garages often have insanely small parking spaces, with only about eight-foot aisle between the front of your car and the car opposite.  We spent almost thirty minutes trying to get our tiny car into a tiny parking space!


That’s how close another car parked to ours!

Tip #6:Update your GPS!

Our Garmin is two years old, and as we were driving to the airport there was a split in the road in real life, but only one road on our Garmin.  Then our Garmin told us we were driving on unpaved roads and wanted us to turn around, when in reality we were on a newly built highway.  Fortunately we eventually found our way to the rental agency, but there were a few stressful moments!

We will do another car rental for a Germany-Italy-France trip in the summer, and we will hopefully learn from our own mistakes.  We hope you can learn from our mistakes as well!  Do you have any tips for us?

The Alhambra!

The Alhambra!

We recently went to Spain for our Easter holidays.  After visiting Sevilla we went to Granada. The Alhambra is amazing!  Enjoy the photo essay:)

Tip #1:  Book your tickets to the Alhambra as soon as possible; it gets booked up well in advance. You will be given a morning or afternoon or evening time, with a specific time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

Tip #2:  Try to see all of the rest of the Alhambra complex before your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

You enter and can stroll through the Alhambra complex until it's your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

You enter here and can stroll through the Alhambra complex until it’s your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

Granada is the capital of the province of Granada, in the region of Andalusia, Spain.

Looking out over the Albayzin, the Moorish Quarter.

Did you know…….?

The view from the Alhambra, looking over the Albaicin, the old Moorish Quarter.

Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains by the Darro and Genil rivers.

This is the palace of Charles V, Grandson of Isabelle and Ferdinand.

This is the palace of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand.

You can read more about Charles V here:


Now we are in the Nasrid Palace.

This was the view from the Nasrid palace for the sultans of Granada, and later for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and their descendants.


The rooms, courtyards, and gardens inside the Nasrid palace are stunning!


The city has been inhabited since the dawn of history; first by Ibero-Celts, then by Greeks, followed by Romans and Visigoths.


Moorish forces under Tariq ibn-Ziyad first took the city in 711.


Granada was a Muslim kingdom for almost 800 years.

It became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

It became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

The ambitious Ibn al-Ahmar established the longest lasting Muslim dynasty in Spain : the Nasrids.

The ambitious Ibn al-Ahmar established the longest lasting Muslim dynasty in Spain : the Nasrids.

The Nasrids aligned themselves with Ferdinand III of Castile in 1238, and became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile for 250 years.

The Nasrids aligned themselves with Ferdinand III of Castile in 1238, and became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile for 250 years.

The Nasrid sultans were responsible for building most of the palaces in the Alhambra.

The Nasrid sultans were responsible for building most of the palaces in the Alhambra.

In 1492 Muhammad XII (known as Boabdil to the Spanish) surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, after a long siege.

In 1492  Boabdil  surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, after a long siege.

The 1492 Alhambra decree forced the predominantly Muslim population to convert to Roman Catholicism or face death.

The 1492 Alhambra decree forced the predominantly Muslim population to convert to Roman Catholicism or face death.

Many fled the inquisition to their ancestral lands in North Africa.

Note the intricacy of the work behind Andy.

The gardens were lovely!

Many Muslims fled the inquisition to their ancestral lands in North Africa. The Jews were also expelled after the Alhambra decree.

The fall of Granada ended the eight hundred year long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

The fall of Granada ended the eight hundred year long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

Isabella's prodigy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, leading to the Spanish Empire, one of the largest world empires for hundreds of years to come.

Isabella’s prodigy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, leading to the Spanish Empire, one of the largest world empires for hundreds of years to come.

Tip #3:  Get the following historical novels  to learn more about these fascinating people and the amazing Alhambra:

I read an excellent book, The Queen’s Vow , by C. Gortner.  It was a historical novel about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.  It made the Alhambra, Granada, and Seville come alive for me. Gortner’s second book, The The Last Queen: A Novel, was about Isabella and Ferdinand’s daughter, known as Juana the Mad, was also excellent.

Did you know that Isabella and Ferdinand’s youngest daughter, know to history as Katherine of Aragorn, was the first wife of Henry VII?  Phillipa Gregory’s The Constant Princess  is a great book about Katherine’s(born Catalina) life, including her early years spent in the Alhambra, after the conquest.

We also got the Kindle Edition of Rick Steve’s Spain 2013 and really liked it.  I usually prefer Lonely Planet guide books, but I had read bad reviews about how their ebook functions.

So, that’s the Alhambra! What do you think of it?

My Amazing Year!

My name is  Nate  and I’m seven years old.  Tomorrow I start the new school year.  I’m excited to go back to school!  But first I want to tell you about my amazing year.

It started during the big winter storm in February 2011.  My mom and dad told me we were moving to Prague! My dad got a teaching job there. We had a big garage sale, sold our house, and  then flew to Prague in July 2011.

Now I live near a castle!  I go to a great school with great teachers.  We get lots of breaks during the school year.

View of Prague Castle

During the October mid-term break we went to Barcelona, Spain. It was just 2 1/2 hours to fly there.  I got to see Park Guell, designed by Gaudi.  Mom says he is a famous architect. I think he was inspired by Dr. Seuss!

Parc Guell, Barcelona.  Missing my two front teeth!

The Sanctuary of Sagrada Familia by Gaudi
What’s with the umbrella??!!

If Dr. Seuss went to church, this would be it!

In February we took the night train to Krakow, Poland.  It was so fun!

This was our sleeping compartment! It had three bunkbeds and a sink.

We stayed at a friend’s home and took care of their turtle.

I got to feed the turtle every day.

The salt mines were so cool!  We walked 65 flights of steps down into the earth.  Here’s what we saw:

We were thankful that we could take an elevator back to the top!

The miners needed a place to go to church. Sometimes they stayed underground for days!

One day we went to Nowa Huta.  It was built in the 1950’s as an example of a perfect Communist city.

After Communism fell, this is what they named their main street:

Yes, it’s Ronald Reagan Square!

In April we flew to Venice for Easter break.  I got to see St. Marco’s Square.

I love chasing pigeons!

I went on a gondola ride!

Then we took the train to Florence.  We saw the Duomo, Florence’s famous cathedral.  We spent Easter morning watching the exploding fireworks cart.  It’s a tradition that comes from the  1500’s. We went to lots of art museums.  My favorite part of Florence was eating gelato ice cream every day!

Dad and me in front of the Duomo.

We saw lots of cool statues, including Michaelangelo’s David!

Italian gelato ice cream rocks!

In May we drove for the day to Herrnhut, Germany with our friends.  That’s the place where modern missions started.  We went with friends.  It was a 2 ½ hour drive.

Suzanne, Moriah, Kelsie, me.

Moravian Christians fled persecution and settled here in the 1700’s.

This is the “Prayer Tower” where there were always people praying, 24/7.

In June the Zidek family came to visit us.  We went on a dinner cruise on the Vltava river.

Mom and Vicki being silly on the boat!

We took the train to Pilsen with the Zidek family to see the Pilsner Brewery.

Dad says Czech beer is the best in the world!

In late June my Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us.  It was so fun to show them Prague!  Here’s Grandma and me at the entrance of Prague Castle.

Is the coast clear?

We were celebrating Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary!

We went to an opera called Carmen at the Prague State Opera House. We also went to an organ and violin concert at St. Salvatore Church. We heard the music of Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, and Handel.

St. Salvatore Church, near Charles Bridge.

Mom said I was an angel!

We took the train to Vienna and stayed with good friends at their hotel.  We saw Schonbrunn (summer palace of the Hapsburgs), St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Mozart’s house, and had lunch in a café.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built in the 1200’s!

Grandpa was speechless!

We took the train to Dresden.  Then we drove to Wittenburg.  Here’s Castle Church where Martin Luther posted his 95 theses!

This is “THE” door!

Marin Luther preached here!

Next we went to Leipzig, home of Bach, who is one of my Grandma’s favorite composers. Here’s Tomaskirche, where Bach was Cantor. We also got to see the Bach Museum.

We went to a service here where the Tomaskirche Boys’ Choir sang.

The singing was amazing!

After Grandma and Grandpa left we went to Czech Switzerland, on the border with Germany.  We went hiking with our friends to Pravcicka Brana, the biggest natural land bridge in Europe.

Narnia was filmed here!

We hiked 10 miles that day.   Mom and Dad said I was a real trooper!

The view from the to

We stopped for lunch and to play.

At the end of July we flew to Paris.  My big sister Sam met us there!  We had so much fun!

The Eiffel Tower!

My wacky Mom with the Arc de Triomphe!


Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

Then we stayed 12 days in the French countryside, near Blois.  We saw  several chateaux.  Chateaux really look more like palaces than what you’d think a chateau would look like.

Chateau of Blois: Joan of Arc was here in 1429! We stayed in a quiet little village outside this town.

Chateau of Clos Luce: This was Leonardo da Vinci’s bed! He lived in Amboise the last six years of his life.

Chateau of Chenonceau.

Sam and Me at Chateau of Cheverny. This is Captain Haddock’s Castle. There was a Tintin Exhibition here!

We saw other cool places in the Loire Valley.  We went to Chartres to see it’s amazing cathedral.  We saw the Castle of Chinon.  We saw the city of Orleans, where Joan of Arc lifted the siege of the English during the 100 years war in the 1400’s.

Inside the Cathedral of Chartres. Joan of Arc is honored in the stain glass. It tells her story.

The Castle of Chinon, started in the 900’s and added to by Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Abby of Fontevraud: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son Richard the Lionheart are buried here!

The Cathedral of Orleans.

The inside of the cathedral honored Joan of Arc.

We think this place was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion!

Then we flew home to Prague.  We have been enjoying the last lazy days of summer before school starts tomorrow.

I wonder what adventures I’ll have this year?



Arc de Triomphe!

My family and I just had a wonderful six days in Paris.  We got to see most of the important sights, but not all.  There is always more to see of Paris, for the next trip!  So here are some things we learned, to pass on to other travelers who visit this lovely city. Mind you, these tips are for travelers on a budget.  We are teachers, so we travel in comfort, but not in luxury!

1.    Don’t book pre-packaged tours!

There is no need for tours, not even the “Hop-on, hop-off” bus.  Paris’ metro system is excellent.  There is a metro stop close to all of the famous (and not so famous) sights of Paris.  You just need to spend a little time to figure out the metro map.


No caption needed:)

2.    Buy an unlimited public transportation travel pass (a car in Paris is NOT recommended)!

They are good for metro, buses and RER network trains.

There are four choices: Navigo Decouverte Pass, Paris Visite Pass, and a carnet (book) of ten tickets, or single tickets for 1 Euro 50.

The Navigo Decouverte is the least expensive.  The catch is that it starts on Monday and ends at midnight on Sunday.  It makes financial sense if you arrive between Monday and Wednesday, but not if you arrive in the second half of the week.  You will need a 1 X 1.2” passport style photo (can be purchased at the airport or most metro stations in one of the automated booths for 5 Euros).  Then you go to the ticket window and purchase the pass (5 Euros) and load it with a week of credit.  The pass is good for ten years, so if you return to Paris you can add more credit on it and go.  Be sure to ask for a Navigo Decouverte, not just a “Navigo” pass.  The “Navigo” pass is only for residents, whereas the Navigo Decouverte is for any adult.  If you are traveling with children, you will need to buy them a child’s Paris Visite card.


If you plan to use public transport to and from the airport, and if you plan to visit Versailles, it is best to purchase the Navigo Decouverte that covers zones 1-5.  Round trip to the airport (20 Euros) and to Versailles (12 Euros), and the pass is only 33 Euros.

The Paris Visite Card can be purchased for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days. The price varies depending on how many zones you want.  If you want it to cover Versailles and the airport, it is best to get zones 1-5.



Montmartre, my favorite area of Paris!

3.    Pack a picnic lunch.

Eating out in Paris is expensive, especially for those who earn in dollars or other non-euro currencies. Stop at the local market to buy a fresh baguette, cheese, sandwich meat, fruit, and a bottle of water. Bring along a knife of some sort to slice the cheese and fruit.  There are dozens of lovely places for a picnic in Paris!


My French friend Nathalie showed us around on our first evening in Paris. Yes, that’s the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

4.    See the Louvre for free or for a discounted price.

The Louvre is free the first Sunday of the month. It is discounted for adults, and free for anyone under age 26 on Friday evenings after 6pm.



The Louvre (yes, it’s my photo)!

5.    MUST SEE: Paris by night on a cruise on the River Seine!

Our eighteen year old daughter, Samantha, offered to babysit her seven year old brother, and we took her up on it! We arrived at Bateaux Mouches around 10:30pm (It doesn’t get dark until 10 pm in the summer).  Paris by night is magical!! There was commentary in six languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. We got to see many of the places we hadn’t been able to see yet.  In retrospect I would do the cruise at the beginning of our stay, because you cruise past amazing sights you could plan to go see in the following days.



Paris by night!

6.    Avoid Versailles on the weekends!

We didn’t, and it was horribly crowded.  Take the RER train: it is a short, pleasant ten-minute walk to the palace from the train station.  Once you arrive, divide and conquer, if you have two or more in your party.  Send one person to stand in the massive line to buy tickets (or better yet, buy them online ahead of time, or at the ticket shop across from the train station).  The other person can wait in the massive line to get into the palace.


The Hall of Mirrors!

7.    HIDDEN GEM: Take a day trip to Chartres! 

I am a Lonely Planet Guidebook junkie, but all it told me that was worth seeing was the magnificent 13th century cathedral.  Wrong!  Chartres is a lovely medieval city, perfect for strolling the quiet streets and it is oh-so photogenic.  Go to the tourism office and ask for their free city map: it has an easy-to-follow walking tour.  Discover more medieval churches, quaint houses with flower boxes, a canal, and more! Best of all, it wasn’t mobbed with tourists.  We found a great place to eat with reasonable prices, right opposite the cathedral (thanks Lonely Planet).  It is called Café Serpente.



The lovely town of Chartres!

Enjoy your stay in this wonderful city!


Place du Tertre in Montmartre.