Montpellier, France

I have had a serious case of the travel bug lately.

It’s holiday season here in the Netherlands (aka: vacation season, for all the Americans in the room). It starts around May, when there are a lot of public holidays, and peaks in August. People at work are literally going on their 2nd round of summer holiday and I’m just impatiently waiting – our turn will come.

Case in point – a long weekend spent in beautiful Montpellier, France!

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Shane spent the beginning of the week here for a conference, and I was able to join him when it ended.

One might ask, “What are the things you loved most about Montpellier?”

Well, let me tell you.

Gelato. Everywhere. Even though it’s not Italy.

I lived my best gelato life. I even remembered my lactose pills this time! (hahaaa)

“It doesn’t matter where you go, you always end up somewhere you know.” – Shane

(he’s quite the poet, huh?)

Arc de Triomphe (and no, we’re not in Paris!)
Promenade du Peyrou
Historic city center.
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Statue of Louis XIV

You “wibble wobbled” down the cutest streets.

(wibble wobble: the act of wandering aimlessly until you “end up somwhere you know”.)

Fun fact. Wibbel wobbeling is basically required here because google maps doesn’t work with the public transportation. The tram system is great!… once you figure it out. Which I was not so successful at when I arrived by myself at ~11pm on Wednesday.

Open Google maps. Suggests to walk. Get on tram anyway. Blue dot goes away from city center. Phone battery hits 15%. Shane is in city center. Panicked. Got off in {what felt like} the middle of nowhere. Got back on. Went back to where I came from. Dropped pin. Waited for Shane. Walked 25 min home anyway.

Turns out, tram line went in a circle – should have stayed on in EITHER DIRECTION. Facepalm.

Luckily for us, our Airbnb was in city center. No Google maps, only wibbel wobbeling, required.

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The view from our AirBnb.

There was no shortage of delicious food and rosé.

For instance, the delectable delights found at a restaurant called Playfood. Shane found this place before I arrived, and could not wait to go because of the concept: similar to tapas, small, sharable portions with a variety of flavors (desserts also!). You had “the crab one” and “the zucchini one” and the “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-eating-but-you-better-try-this-before-it’s-gone one”. It was also the type of restaurant where you literally couldn’t have sat inside if you wanted to because all 6 tables for the whole restaurant were outside and the owner was your watier. I always find these places so charming!

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We also decided to expand our eating, drinking, and wibble wobbeling to a new location.

Montpellier is in very close proximity to the beach.

Which can also be accessed by public transportation…without Google maps (Google itself was helpful, just no maps). But we managed, and somehow only paid half of the price we expected for the bus ticket!

We went down the path of least resistance considering we didn’t really have much to go on for directions. The beach we where we ended up was nice, but certainly not the best beach I’ve been to. Lots of places to eat and drink, which was good, and souvenir shops. For those at home, it kind of reminded me of a Myrtle Beach-type beach with clearer water, if I was going to make a comparison.

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Paradon me, I forgot to take off my white bodysuit before I got in the water…
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And lastly, more of a bonus really…

Picasso exhibit at the Musée Fabre!

I will admit I did a pretty poor job at doing any planning before we came. Not that we generally plan every moment of our time somewhere, but we at least have looked up a few priority viewing items. Lucky for us, advertisements for this exhibit were everywhere, and we were happy to have been able to go.

All in all, it was a lovely change of pace from Groningen and work for both Shane and I. (Yes – still working on that thesis. Things always take so much longer than anticipated.)

So, until next time, Montpellier!

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Rome, Italy !

(Ever noticed that all of our post titles end with an exclamation mark? Seems we are easily excited!)

So, as Whitney alluded to in the previous post, we also visited Rome during Sufrinko Fest 2015. I guess I should first apologize for posting this by, what is now, over a week since they left. Sorry for the delay! I know some of you have been anxiously waiting to see the pictures (aka, mom’s & dad’s). What can I say, she is much better at blogging than I am. Anyways, without further ado, I give you ROME!

Now before diving too deeply into the glory that is Rome, allow me to deviate for a moment to share a few lessons we learned during our short visit. I mention these only because they were key fixtures in our Roman experience and could potentially serve useful to anyone else planning a similar trip.

Lesson #1 – Rome is hot. 

And by hot, I mean HOT. Now before I get too many “duh’s” and “way to go genius” remarks, allow me to elaborate. We were fully aware that we were traveling (in the middle of summer no less) to a climate that is famously hot – it is right on the Mediterranean Sea after all.  We also knew that there would be large numbers of tourists and this would most likely mean a lot of waiting in line in said heat. For this we were prepared: sunscreen, light and comfy clothes, sunglasses, etc.  However, what we failed to account for was the fact that we would walk an average of 13 miles a day in the 100+ degree (40+ Celsius) heat. Seriously, the Sufrinkos came complete with FitBits and tracked our daily mileage.  Add to this the fact that Whitney and I live in a very mild location (I wore pants, long sleeves, and a jacket for my bike commute today) and it made for a rough experience.  Nonetheless, we toughed it out, dehydration, sunburn, and all. You will see the effects of this in the majority of pictures – tired, sweaty, hot, etc.

Lesson #2 – Selfie sticks are single-handedly leading to the decay of society as we know it.

A bit of an exaggeration you say? Perhaps. But these things are terrible. Now as above, allow me to explain quickly: I completely understand why these things were invented (genius idea by the way) and why they are so popular. To reinforce this, I give you exhibit A below:

I will be the first to admit that this picture would be much better without my arm extending out.  In fact, since Whitney and I often travel alone and want to get nice pictures, we even debated buying one.  That, however, was before we went to Rome. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere you turn, all you see is these stupid sticks. People are literally walking down the street, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are in Rome, staring only through their phones at the end of a meter long pole (as if walking with your head glued to your phone wasn’t dangerous enough already).  Want to get a nice picture of a cool Roman memorial? Too bad, there are 13 phones hovering above everyone’s head directly in the way. To make matters worse, there are hundreds of guys throughout the city selling these stupid things for a few bucks.  The few moments of selfie stick peace one gets walking away from a famous site is quickly interrupted by a cheap knock-off shoved in your face only to be removed once you have successfully made it out of arms reach.  These things are awful. For those of you that own and use them (to each their own), prepare to be disgusted: you will be seeing a lot of my outstretched arm.

Quiz: How many guys do you see selling selfie sticks? Answer: 5

Ok, enough messing around.  Onto the fun stuff, Rome! For the remainder of the post, I’ll be light on the text and heavy on the pictures.  We took hundreds of pictures and can’t possibly share them all. However, there are lots of good ones.  I’ll do my best to give details of what things are.


Day 1

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Whereas we were originally scheduled to have a full first day, a flight delay resulted in us getting to Rome later than expected. Nonetheless, we made the most of it. Conveniently enough, the apartment we rented was only a 3-4 minute walk from the Pantheon. So, to the Pantheon we went, with a quick stop for some gelato of course.

Following the Pantheon, some aimless city wandering found us in the Piazza Navona – a common stop on our walk to and from ‘home’, as well as an excellent place to by local art (we all came home with some). I’ve included some pictures from a later night visit for full effect.

Additional wanderings lead us all over the city (again we walked 13+ miles every day), with us ending the day having drinks next to the Tiber River.  Not too shabby for day 1.


Day 2

“When in Rome…”

Whereas day 1 consisted mostly of wandering around and exploring the city with no real destination in mind, day 2 kicked off with goals in mind. Stop #1 of the day, the Colosseum!

I could easily spend the entire post talking about the Colosseum alone (we certainly have enough pictures to fill a whole post) but I’ll keep it short.  Colosseum = amazing.

Stop #2 for the day, the Roman Forum.

As a quick note, the Forum is massive.  It would take a full day (and maybe more) to really go through it all. Being that we went following the Colosseum, we did not have the luxury of spending too much time there. As is the common theme to our Rome adventure, it was brutally hot. We saw as much as would could of the Forum.

Following a quick lunch, we were able to visit two more major Rome landmarks: Trevi Fountain & the Spanish Steps. Sadly, Trevi Fountain was under construction so there wasn’t much to see.

Now as great as day 2 had been thus far, the most exciting part of the day was Alicia’s birthday! How often do people get to celebrate their 30th birthday in Rome? Well, I guess if you really think about it, a lot. I assume everyone who lives in Rome turns 30 at some point…..but that’s not the point here. We were able to celebrate Alicia’s 30th birthday in Rome! Drinks at a swanky rooftop terrace overlooking the city followed by dinner at a real (non-tourist) Italian restaurant.


Day 3

“…do as the Romans do”

Day 3 started with only one real goal in mind: go see the Vatican. Lucky for us, tour guide Whitney (I say that not as a joke – she is really good at trip planning) had done some research and figured out that we needed to buy tickets ahead of time for the Vatican Museum. The result, we walked straight in without having to wait in line at all.

The Vatican Museum was both amazing and overwhelming. Aside from the heat (thousands of people packed into narrow halls without air conditioning when its 100+ outside), the sheer volume of art/statues/tapestries/murals is just too much to take in. Over three hours of such detailed work and it all starts to blend together.  It’s a shame to say, but it’s really hard to appreciate what you are actually seeing. Nonetheless, we were all able to pull it together for the Sistine Chapel (no pictures were allowed in the Sistine Chapel so you’ll just have to take my word that we saw it).

Despite the fact that there is lots more to see of Vatican City, we called it quits after the museum. Turns out there was a very large worship service going on outside which meant thousands of people in addition to the normal tourist crowd.  Too many people = time to leave.

The rest of the day consisted of getting some final tastes of Rome (wine, gelato, prosciutto, gnocchi) and staying out of the sun as much as possible.  Great thing about Rome, great food/drinks are on every street corner.

And so that brings to a close our Roman adventure.  The following morning (what would have been day 4), saw us leaving bright and early to fly back to Amsterdam.  For that story, I refer you back to Whitney’s previous post.

Thanks again to the Sufrinkos for coming to visit! To everyone else saying they “should” or “would like to” visit, do it.  We have lots more of Europe to see and would love company while doing it!

Until next time,

Shane