Tag Archive: vacation


The Hoffbrauhaus

When people think of Munich, they think of Oktoberfest.  So, when we told friends that we were going to Munich during our October break, they naturally assumed we were going for Oktoberfest. However, did you know that Oktoberfest actually starts in September, and is usually over by the beginning of October?  It was over by the time we got there in mid October. Nevertheless, we went to the Hofbräuhaus: the most famous beer hall in the world! There was still plenty of beer, and plenty of people to enjoy it:)


1 liter of beer!!

The first Oktoberfest was held in October 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. The festivities were closed with a horse race, a tradition which was continued and later developed into what is now known as Oktoberfest.


Sausage…the perfect accompaniment to beer!

I had thought that the Hofbräuhaus would be a touristy place, with the waiters wearing the traditional lederhosen and waitresses decked out in the traditional Bavarian dresses (dirndl).  Although there were plenty of tourists there, I was surprised to discover the place packed with locals, many of whom were dressed in the traditional Bavarian costume. The Hofbräuhaus has the most wonderful, jolly atmosphere, with spontaneous singing breaking out from the people at the tables.


Notice that the men have their own steins, not the big glass one like Andy’s.

The Hofbräuhaus has some pretty interesting history that goes back to 1589, when Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria and the city council decided to start their own brewery because they weren’t happy with the local beer brewed in Munich. Apparently their beer became so popular that they couldn’t keep up with the demand of 38,000 gallons, and so they decided to build the new Hofbräuhaus at “Platzl” in 1607, the site of the current Hofbräuhaus.

private beer

Apparently you can lock up your private stein here, when you are done drinking!

Around 1614 a stronger beer called “Maibock” was brewed, and it later saved the city of Munich during the Thirty Years War.  When the Swedes occupied Munich in 1632, they agreed to not pillage and plunder the city in exchange for 1,000 buckets of beer!


The photo is a little blurry, but it shows the traditional Bavarian costume.

Tourism was on the rise in Munich in the late 1800’s. The old brewery was torn down, and the new Hofbräuhaus was built on the same site.  It opened for business in September 1897.

Sadly, the Hofbräuhaus was almost completely demolished by Allied bombs in April 1944. By May 1945, only a small section of the main beer hall was still usable.

Notice the ceiling!

Notice the ceiling!

In 1958 the Hofbräuhaus new Festival Hall reopened, just in time for Munich’s 800th anniversary.  It has been going strong ever since!  Be sure to stop by if you are in Munich!

Sunset on the Holy Land!

The end of our first day!

The end of our first day!

We arrived in Israel with our friends and their family at 3:15am.  I think Nate was the only one who got a semi decent night’s sleep.  So we picked up our rental cars, drove to the home we are staying at, and crashed for several hours.

We woke up, had a late lunch, and headed off to the beach… just a five minute drive away. We were shown the way to this particular beach by the house sitter of the people whose home we are staying in.  There was hardly anyone there!

The water was about 80 degrees Farenheit!

The water was about 75 degrees Farenheit!

This kid LOVES the water!

This kid LOVES the water!

So does this BIG kid...he's doing the Gangnam style dance out there!

So does this BIG kid…he’s doing the Gangnam style dance out there! Bet you didn’t know that Andy can dance on water!

This pooch was thoroughly enjoying the water as well and swam with us the whole time we were there.

This pooch was thoroughly enjoying the water as well and swam with us the whole time we were there.

The sun started making its way down...

The sun started making its way down…

Time to get out and dry off...

Time to get out and dry off…

Praise God, we are in the Holy Land!

Praise God, we are in the Holy Land!

I got the whole group to pose like this, but instead of a "Praise God!" photo it looks more like "Stop, don't shoot!"

I got the whole group to pose like this, but instead of a “Praise God!” moment, it looks more like “Stop, don’t shoot!”

Then we watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean.

Then we watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean.

Cute kid!

Cute kid!

It was a lovely secluded beach. We were shown it by a local:)

It was a lovely secluded beach.

I think I must have touched the camera lense with a wet finger, because there’s a red circle on some of the photos, but they are still amazing shots to capture the lovely sunset.







It was a wonderful end to our first day in the Holy Land! Many more great days have followed since then.  We’ve been to the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth,  as well as three days in Jerusalem. It’s amazing to see the city of David, to see where Jesus walked and taught, and to experience the sights and sounds of this fascinating country!


Vicenza! Look for the close up in the next photo.

Most people skip this beautiful town as they race around to northern Italy’s bigger attractions such as Venice and Verona.  But we were so glad that we didn’t! There were stunning architectural masterpieces scattered throughout the city…as you can see in the photos below.

Amazing detail!

Amazing detail!

The photos above, and the next seven that follow, were taken at Pizza dei Signori, which is the big central square of Vicenza.  It was the center of social and political life since the Roman Era!


Can you find Nate and me at the base of the monuments? Look for the close ups in the next three photos.

Vicenza was founded by the ancient Venetos, then it passed to the Romans.

Goofing around:)

It was invaded by Barbarians (the real ones, not small children like this one who frequently forget their table manners) in late Roman times!


It became a Dukedom under the Lombards, and later a County under the Franks.

Playing steal the hat and run!

Playing steal the hat and run!

It became a Free City-State in the 12th century.

More goofing around...

More goofing around…check out the close up in the next photo.

The tower is 230ft high. The basement was built in the 12th century, whereas the upper part of the tower was added in the 14th century.

Every self respecting European town seems to have a picturesque clock tower....although Prague's is the best of all!

Every self-respecting European town seems to have a picturesque clock tower….although Prague’s clock tower is the best of all!

Vicenza voluntarily came under the dominion of the  Republic of Venice in the early 15th century, and then enjoyed a long period of prosperity.

The architecture around the city was stunning!

The architecture around the city was stunning!

In the 16th century the architect Andrea Palladio turned Vicenza into a treasure of Renaissance architecture. His name is everywhere in the city!

You can see the Venetian influence.

You can see the Venetian influence.

So picturesque!

In the late 18th century Vicenza passed under Napoleanic rule.

This window box made my A list:)

Later, Vicenza passed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Nikolas delighted this street performer by insisting that we give him a coin!

Nate delighted this street performer by insisting that we give him a coin!

In the 19th century Vicenza joined the Kingdom of Italy.

There were pallazos (palacial mansions belonging to the nobility) scattered throughout the city...this is one of them.

There were pallazos (palacial mansions belonging to the nobility) scattered throughout the city…this is one of them.

I hope this post will inspire anyone traveling in this area to make time to see this beautiful city…I’m glad we did!

The Austrian Alps!

The Austrian Alps!

We have often found that the best and most memorable part of a holiday isn’t the places you see, but the people you meet. On Wednesday morning we packed up and said our good-byes to our Airbnb hosts.  It was our first time to use Airbnb, and we had a wonderful experience.  Out of respect for our hosts’ privacy I won’t post photos or use their  names.  However, I want to describe our experience with them, because staying in their home made our time in Bavaria exceptional!

When we arrived Monday evening after getting lost on the Romantic Road, they greeted us like friends.  They have a lovely home in a quiet, picturesque Bavarian village.  We had our own private bedroom and bathroom. Every morning our host provided us with a breakfast feast that would rival anything you’d find in a four star hotel! Our hosts are an expat family living in Bavaria.  They have three boys around Nate’s age.  When we arrived home after our day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle, Nate ran off with the boys to play in the backyard…on the trampoline and in the woods surrounding the house. We had a great time getting to know this wonderful family, and greatly appreciate their fantastic hospitality!

We left late on Wednesday morning for our next destination….Verona, Italy! We passed through the stunning Austrian Alps.

We stopped here to snap a few quick photos.  Notice the camping photos at the

We stopped here to snap a few quick photos. Notice the camping photos at the bottom of the sign.

I want to camp here!

I want to camp here!

I call dibs on these chairs!

I call dibs on these chairs!

Not a bad way to get a little exercise before returning to the chairs.

Not a bad way to get a little exercise before returning to the chairs.

See what you would miss if you just speed by in your car?

See what you would miss if you just speed by in your car?

You could stop here for a bite to eat...but we didn't.

You could stop here for a bite to eat…but we didn’t.

Photos couldn't capture the beauty of the Alps!

Photos couldn’t capture the beauty of the Alps!

We drove past Innsbruck, Austria into the Piccole Dolomites…the mountain range located between the provinces of Trentino, Verona and Vicenza, in Northern Italy.  They were beautiful; different from the Austrian Alps because there were many terraced vineyards. We didn’t stop for photos as we were ready to get to Verona.

So, now I’m writing from the roof top terrace of our flat on the outskirts of Verona, complete with a view of the river.  Life is good!

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.