Archive for the ‘Going Places’ Category

hawaii cruises

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

With one “adult only” vacation under our belt, there have been several dinner table discussions in our home about where our next family vacation should take us. Last year we went to Canada, visiting Toronto, Montreal, and Niagara Falls. Before that it was the mountains of North Carolina, for a week long skiing trip. And before that, it was a cruise to Grand Cayman, Mexico, and Jamaica. The cruise idea has been brought up more than once, and the children are raring to go out onto the seas again. Even Jim is chomping at the bit, which is funny to me, considering I had to practically drag him on our first cruise together back in 2001. He was convinced he’d be bored and wouldn’t enjoy it at all. That’s exactly why I love cruising – you can either have a mellow experience, reading books and relaxing for a few days, or you can take advantage of all of the activities planned on board and go go go for a week straight!

We’ve pretty much exhausted our travel options in the Caribbean, having been to the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Mexico. Or sure, there’s the Southern Caribbean, and the Eastern Caribbean tours, but I’m itching to see something different. We checked into Alaskan cruises, but the idea of a Hawaii travel cruise has my interest piqued as well. There are new cruises which start in Hawaii and end in Hawaii, meaning that you get to see only Hawaii for 7 days of cruise. The other cruise start in the Pacific, so part of your cruise time is spent staring at nothing for several days. The all Hawaii cruises would be my first preference, and they visit Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui. You can even add to your experience by booking a hotel room for before or after your trip.

Sounds like pure heaven…but hey, if Hawaii isn’t your thing, there are any number of vacations to luxury destinations around the world…just pick one and go!

anne frank house

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

While we were in Amsterdam this month, we had the chance to visit the Anne Frank House, or Anne Frank Huis as it’s known in Amsterdam. I’ve always been fascinated with Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and World War II in general, and since I was unable to visit a concentration camp on this trip, I was extremely excited to be able to see the house instead.

I’ve probably fail at putting it into words, but it was definitely one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. Not “getting married” overwhelming, or “having a kid” overwhelming, but overwhelming in the sense that I was standing in the same place where people hid for 2 years in order to save their lives. Standing and walking around in the same place where this girl wrote in her diary, not knowing what would happen to her family. It was an amazing feeling and I felt as if I had stepped back in history.

I can’t share any pictures of the inside of the home unfortunately, because it is a museum now and taking pictures isn’t allowed. I did snap some photos of the outside of the Anne Frank House and they’re on Flickr. The outside is very nondescript, and had it not been marked with a sign and the entrance to a museum, we might have walked on by. We actually had trouble finding it because there was no one outside, waiting in line.

Let me back up though – we left our hotel and walked across town, through Dam Square, and down Raadhuisstraat, which turns into Rozengracht. Once we got to the church at Westermarkt, we turned right and walked down Prinsengracht to the museum, which is located just south of Prinsengracht 263, the address of Anne’s House. The museum foundation has purchased the homes next to Anne’s in order to build a museum and offices in which to run the museum from, but the Frank house remains as it was back in the 1940′s. You enter into a museum display area, and then into the house, walking through the lower levels first, where Otto Frank’s business was run during their time in hiding, and then up the leg breaker of a staircase to a room at the back of the building. There’s a doorway built into the walk, with a bookcase covering it up. This is the doorway to the secret annex.

Now, some of you may have heard this story with a secret attic. The family didn’t really hide in an attic, it was more like an addition at the back of the office building that was only accessible by this staircase. The annex looks just as it did on August 4, 1944, the day the family was taken away by the Gestapo. Anne’s movie star pictures are on the wall, there is one small toilet for 8 people to share, and the windows are covered with heavy blackout curtains. It was literally like stepping back in time. Each of the rooms in the annex and the office is marked, giving information about the people who worked in the offices downstairs, and the people who hid upstairs. Videos play showing the co-conspirators telling their own story of how they helped the 8 in hiding. One in particular, Miep Gies, is still living! She’s going to be 100 years old and she not only provided the family with food during their time in hiding, but she found Anne’s diary when they were taken away and saved it for Otto Frank.

At the end of the tour, you exit the house and enter the museum, where videos are shown of the concentration camps that victims ended up in, and actual records of the Frank family from the camps. As you probably know, Otto Frank is the only one who survived, and he decided to honor Anne’s wishes to become a famous writer by publishing her diary, with minor edits.

When I returned home, I pulled up the official Anne Frank Museum website to show my children the pictures and stories. thema rozengrachtIt was there that I found this picture, taken when Nazi troops entered the city of Amsterdam. It was an eerie feeling to recognize the street in this picture as being one I had just walked down, and as a street just one block away from Prinsengracht 263. The church in the center of the frame, with the tall steeple and trees, is in a photo I took here, behind the flower market. The street looks very much the same today, and never before have I felt such a sense of history as I looked at a photo. Looking at it now almost gives me the shivers, to know that I’ve stood in the places where history happened.

Anne Frank’s House was easily the best thing I saw in Amsterdam, and probably the highlight of all of my travels across the world. If you’re ever in Amsterdam, you can’t miss seeing the house.

vancouver, b.c.

Monday, January 28th, 2008

At dinner earlier this week with the kids, talk turned to planning our next family vacation. Catherine suggested a trip to the British Isles, Grace wants to return to Tennessee, and Matthew would like to go to France. I don’t foresee any overseas travel in our immediate future, and apparently, neither does Jim, because he’s proposed returning to Canada. Since we saw Ontario and Quebec this past summer, he’d like to take a flight to Vancouver and see the Canadian Rockies. He had a friend who went last year and enjoyed it quite a bit. The mountains my kids have seen thus far aren’t anywhere near as big as the Rockies, so I’m sure my little flat landers would be taken with them.

In the winter of course, there’s skiing and other snow sports to keep you busy, and in the summer there’s hiking, biking, boating, and more. Just outside of Vancouver is Hell’s Gate, where you can take an airtram over the white water rapids below. Since Matthew didn’t like the Maid of the Mist at Niagara (too wet) perhaps he’d like a birds eye view of rushing water instead?

amsterdam pictures & potties

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I’ve uploaded all of the photos I took on our trip to Amsterdam, as well as the pictures from our stops in Antwerp, Belgium, and Brussels, Belgium. Everything is in my Amsterdam Flickr set here, cleaned and sanitized for your protection.

By the way, as a person who makes frequent potty stops, the toilets in The Netherlands and Belgium are among the cleanest I’ve EVER seen. We had to pay to use them a few times (like the 30 cents per use at McDonald’s, even though we were customers) but it was well worth it. Even the free toilets and outdoor urinals (as pictured in my Flickr set) were clean! Considering how MANY public restrooms we used on our trip, it was so nice to know that they’d all be clean, and no hovering was needed.

Ooh, that’s another feature we loved. Most of the bathrooms had the option of a seat cover for the toiler, or using sanitizer. There was a sanitizer container in the stall, and you could wipe the toilet seat with toilet paper before or after using it.

Is it sad that I get so excited to see clean toilets?

win a gps from trusted tours

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

On our way to and from Amsterdam this week, we had a short layover at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. I haven’t been to D.C. since I was 12 years old, and now that the kids are a bit older, Jim and I discussed how much I’d love to go back. Jim’s never been, and of course, neither have the kids. We took one of several amazing Washington D.C. tours at night of the city during our week there, and it was very neat to see all of the monuments lit up at night. I think that was probably one of the first sightseeing tours I had ever taken, and it’s probably the reason I love tours so much now. (In fact, we did two this week on vacation – a city tour of Amsterdam and a tour to Brussels.) A tour is a great way to get an overview of the city you’re visiting, learn some facts, see the highlights, and get a feel for things so you won’t get lost on your own later one.

Speaking of getting lost – it’s easy to do when you’re in an unfamiliar place. I’m blessed with a sort of internal compass, and I always take over map reading duties. A GPS is a great way to stay on track at home and away from home, and right now, you can win one from Trusted Tours & Attractions. Enter to win a free handheld GPS when you sign up for the Trusted Tours & Attractions newsletter!

hacking, hookers, and hoofing it

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

We arrived home from Amsterdam (I just outed myself, so no more guesses for the contest!) last night after a VERY long day on trains and planes. By my count, I was up for almost 24 hours with the time change difference, not including the short time I spent dozing on my cross Atlantic flight. Here’s a quick status check for you:

Me: I’m sick. I got a sore throat on Friday in Belgium which progressed to congestion on Saturday and a hacking cough by Tuesday. We’re still at the hacking cough stage now. I loved The Netherlands and Belgium, but I am thoroughly happy to be back in my house, and beyond thrilled to have slept in my own bed last night.

Jim: Is still on vacation, so he’s bustling around the house doing laundry and cleaning up. I’m glad one of us has some energy! He’ll be off to pick up the dogs from the kennel in a bit.

The kids: We talked to them via email quite a bit while we were gone, so the “missing Mommy & Daddy” was kept to a minimum. We even sent them a video postcard from the Van Gogh museum! The girls were still up when we arrived home last night so we got to say hello and tuck them back into bed at my mom’s before proceeding home. I saw Matthew this morning before he went to school.

The job: Cross your fingers for a slow day for me. I’m still on Amsterdam time!

The trip: Amazing. It was dreary, cold, and rainy, but we still had an amazing time. We went to museums and toured Anne Frank’s house and ate in pubs and walked through the Red Light District. We spent our nights in pubs with our friends who went along, Jamie and Ed, and our days walking around the city.

Best thing I saw: Anne Frank’s house. Since I wasn’t able to get to a concentration camp on this trip (the closest one to Amsterdam, Westerbork, was closed this month) I spent a good long time at Anne Frank’s house, taking it all in. More on that later.

Worst thing I saw: The chubby hooker in the red light district wearing a thong two sizes too small. My eyes, they are bleeding.

if it’s 1pm here…

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

…then it’s 7am at home. No wonder I’m so tired! Our hotel let us check in as soon as we arrived, so we were in our room and taking a nap by 8am local time. I’m currently using the slowest internet connection in the city to post this entry and check my email, while we wait for a tour we’re taking. The computer I’m using in the tour office has no shift keys on the keyboard either, so each time I need to type an uppercase letter I have to turn caps lock on and then off. It’s a testament to my love for you that I DIDN’T TYPE THIS ENTRY BLOG ENTRY LIKE THIS. Because I know you deserve better than that!

I am predicting an early bedtime tonight…say 6pm?

where in the world…did you guess?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I’m off to the first of three airports I’ll be going through in the next 24 hours. If you’ve been playing along in my contest, you’ve seen all 14 clues, and you probably know exactly where I’m headed. If not, keep guessing, and you can find out if you were right when I return, which is when the winners will be announced.

See you next week!

clue #14 – where in the world is colleen?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

witwic

It’s a bittersweet day. On one hand, it’s the end of the contest clues. LaDonna has clue #14 over at her blog. You’ll notice that the clues have gotten really easy over the past few days. Anyone can figure out where I’m going now, especially if you use Google. So stop guessing Mexico and Spain, LOL!

As for the sweet part of “bittersweet”, well, vacation is tomorrow! What’s not to love about that?

Here are all of the clues so far:

Clue #1
Clue #2
Clue #3
Clue #4
Clue #5
Clue #6
Clue #7
Clue #8
Clue #9
Clue #10
Clue #11
Clue #12
Clue #13
Clue #14

The prizes:

1st Prize – a $50 Travelocity Gift Card, and a souvenir from my trip!
2nd Prize – a $25 Travelocity Gift Card, and a souvenir from my trip!
3rd, 4th, and 5th Prize – a souvenir from my trip!

The rules:

  • Check for a new clue (or a link to a clue) to be posted here daily.
  • When you think you know where I’m going (I’m looking for the city, not just a country!) just shoot me an email with your guess!
  • Send your email to: colleen_ccATyahooDOTcom
  • Subject Line: Where In The World Is Colleen?
  • Please do NOT use the comments on the blog to make your guess!
  • I’ll compile the correct guesses and do a random drawing (after my return) to select the winners.
  • The clues given each day will get progressively easier, so by the end of the contest, the answer will be obvious if you’ve played along!
  • If you’ve guessed already, and then decide to guess again, you’re more than welcome to – but only CORRECT guesses get you an entry!
  • Your correct answer, sent to me by email, gives you ONE entry into the drawing for a prize.
  • If you’d like to blog about the contest, and link back to my blog, I’ll give you 10 entries – no correct answer needed! That means you can earn up to 11 entries if you figure out where I’m going and blog about the contest.

clue #13 – where in the world is colleen?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

witwic

My favorite Mr. Fab has a clue for you today, and the clue is a quote from one of my favorite movies. It’s one of Jim’s favorite movies too. I should have known a warped bastard like Mr. Fab would enjoy it. Curious? Visit his blog for lucky clue #13!

One more clue to go! If you’re still stumped, here are the clues so far:

Clue #1
Clue #2
Clue #3
Clue #4
Clue #5
Clue #6
Clue #7
Clue #8
Clue #9
Clue #10
Clue #11
Clue #12
Clue #13

The prizes:

1st Prize – a $50 Travelocity Gift Card, and a souvenir from my trip!
2nd Prize – a $25 Travelocity Gift Card, and a souvenir from my trip!
3rd, 4th, and 5th Prize – a souvenir from my trip!

The rules:

  • Check for a new clue (or a link to a clue) to be posted here daily.
  • When you think you know where I’m going (I’m looking for the city, not just a country!) just shoot me an email with your guess!
  • Send your email to: colleen_ccATyahooDOTcom
  • Subject Line: Where In The World Is Colleen?
  • Please do NOT use the comments on the blog to make your guess!
  • I’ll compile the correct guesses and do a random drawing (after my return) to select the winners.
  • The clues given each day will get progressively easier, so by the end of the contest, the answer will be obvious if you’ve played along!
  • If you’ve guessed already, and then decide to guess again, you’re more than welcome to – but only CORRECT guesses get you an entry!
  • Your correct answer, sent to me by email, gives you ONE entry into the drawing for a prize.
  • If you’d like to blog about the contest, and link back to my blog, I’ll give you 10 entries – no correct answer needed! That means you can earn up to 11 entries if you figure out where I’m going and blog about the contest.