Monday, December 24, 2012
Two days after arriving home from 40 days in Europe, Heidi and I were married at our house in Oregon on November 11. In celebration of our legal union, it seemed like a fun idea to start the tradition of designing a holiday art card each year to send to family and friends.
This year’s Cavalier holiday card is based on my ongoing Mascot Mashup 8-bit pixel art project. In fact, Heidi and I are Mascot Mashup characters #404 and #365, respectively. (By the way, today’s 8-bit character is the Christmas devil Krampus, who is #553 in the series. Yes, I’ve drawn over 500 of these primitive pixel art characters.) Also portrayed on the holiday card below are our three cats: The King, Eli and Tanuki.
In related news, I recently updated my portfolio with more design and illustration work.
Happy Holidays! Now that the Maya apocalypse is out of the way: Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Festivus and Happy New Year!
Saturday, November 10, 2012
This is a continuation of 40 days in Europe: Days 23-31, a blog post about the adventures of Heidi and me on our travels through Europe from October 1 to November 9, 2012. (Want to start from the beginning?)
Thursday, November 1: Rome/Lucera – Day 32
- In the morning, we ate some food at our Rome hotel’s not-so-good breakfast buffet and then did some sightseeing around Rome (it’s not raining) before our afternoon train journey
- Visited Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome
- Colosseum and Arch of Constantine
- Visited Palatine Hill (Palatino) and sat down to rest in the middle of Circus Maximus, which was an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium
- On the way back to our hotel to retrieve our checked backpacks, we wandered through a park and more endless Roman ruins, and grabbed takeaway lunches from an unexpectedly expensive deli
- Departed Rome at 2:45 PM on Le Frecce 9355 train and arrived in Foggia at 5:41 PM. We were picked up by my cousins at the Foggia train station and driven to Lucera
- In Lucera, we met more cousins, compared/merged our family trees and talked genealogy and they fed us a large, multi-course dinner
- After dinner, we took a walk around Lucera at night. We visited the Sanctuary of San Francesco, which was built in the early 1300s and incorporates materials from the city’s ancient Roman amphitheater
- We also walked through a park on the edge of the city and my cousins pointed out surrounding villages, such as Biccari, by their lights on the nearby hillsides
- Today was All Saints’ Day. In Italy, All Saints’ Day is known as Tutti i Santi Ognissnati. The Catholic holiday commemorates the saint martyrs
- Stayed with my cousins in Lucera, Italy
Thursday, November 1, 2012
This is a continuation of 40 days in Europe: Days 12-22, a blog post about the adventures of Heidi and me on our travels through Europe from October 1 to November 9, 2012. (Want to start from the beginning?)
Tuesday, October 23: Lausanne/La Gruyère – Day 23
- Took SBB trains from Lausanne to Palézieux to Gruyères
- Gruyères is a stunning medieval village. We also walked through Pringy, a neighboring village
- Toured Museum HR Giger, which happens to be in Gruyères
- Ate lunch at HR Giger Bar, where we had pizza and I drank a flaming glass of absinthe
- Castle of Gruyères
- Villars Larmes d’Absinthe (absinthe liquor-filled dark chocolates made in Switzerland) are ridiculously delicious. We bought a few bars at a shop in Gruyères. I checked the Villars website and am sad to report that they do not ship to the United States
- We decided not to bother visiting the Maison Cailler chocolate factory after all (even though we we’re quite close to Broc by train) since we’ve both been to chocolate factories before, and Nestlé owns this one
- Took SBB trains from Gruyères to Montbovon to Montreux to Lausanne (which is part of the GoldenPass scenic train ride). Though we also rode the GoldenPass for a few extra stops in the wrong direction and saw additional views of the Alps
- Back in Lausanne, Heidi rested while I visited the Gothic Cathedral de Lausanne and the forest of Sauvabelin, which has the panoramic Sauvabelin Tower. I may or may not have ascended the closed tower by shimmying underneath the locked revolving gate and dashing up the dangerous spiral staircase in the dark, thus continuing my apparent practice of trespassing every time Heidi stays behind to rest at our hotel. Lausanne might be my favorite city we’ve visited
- Room 301 at Hôtel Résidence du Boulevard ($139), Lausanne, Switzerland
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
This is a continuation of 40 days in Europe: Days 1-11, a blog post about the adventures of Heidi and me on our travels through Europe from October 1 to November 9, 2012. (Want to start from the beginning?)
Friday, October 12: Strasbourg/Baden-Baden/Stuttgart – Day 12
- In the morning, we checked out of our hotel and walked down to the Strasbourg train station to rent a car from Hertz. They gave us a silver Ford Fiesta. I was a little bummed to get a Ford as our rental car in France. I thought driving a Peugeot or a Citroën would be fun. I really like the way little Peugeot 107 hatchbacks look, particularly from the front. They always seem so happy
- We got a GPS with our vehicle, which immediately seemed like a third entity in the car with us. TomTom GPS, which has an American woman’s voice, tells us where to go and scolds us when we decide to navigate differently. She’s our bossy robot pet
- Using our GPS, we navigated our way to Baden-Baden and wandered through the town for a couple of hours, including near the Friedrichsbad Roman-Irish Bath
- I ate a sweet German bread boy with raisins for his eyes and buttons (typically known as a Weckmann, I guess)
- We found a grocery store in Baden-Baden that had a crazy variety of fruit from the Amazon/Andes, including granadillas and dragonfruit. We got confused and thought we were in Peru. The store also had several varieties of figs
- We drove by Karlsruhe, which Washington, D.C. was supposedly based on, on the way to Stuttgart
- On the autobahn, it became clear that our Ford Fiesta was woefully underpowered. At speeds above 90 MPH, the engine sounded like it might explode. The car would surely have redlined (hit 6000 RPMs) at speeds not much above 110 MPH. I didn’t dare push the little rental car that far
- We saw Fernsehturm Stuttgart, which is Stuttgart’s version of the Space Needle – or rather, the 711-foot TV tower that inspired the Space Needle – as we drove into town
- We checked into our hotel room (on the third floor, which broke our streak of staying on first and fourth floors), parked our car in the garage under the hotel and took the U1 train from Vaihingen Bf to Mercedesstr. to reach Cannstatter Wasen in Bad Cannstatt
- We reached the 167th Cannstatter Volksfest/Stuttgart Beer Festival at nightfall. At the enormous (and I can’t emphasize enormous enough) carnival, we shared a bratwurst and a chocolate-covered banana on a stick and some pizza
- Room 393 at arcona MO.HOTEL ($107), Stuttgart, Germany
Friday, October 12, 2012
This is a continuation of 40 days in Europe, a blog post about the adventures of Heidi and me on our travels through Europe from October 1 to November 9, 2012.
Monday, October 1: Oregon/Seattle/Stratosphere – Day 1
- Departed Portland, Oregon (PDX) at 2 PM on Alaska Airlines AS2026 to Seattle (SEA). Departed SEA at 4:30 PM on Icelandair FI680, which flew directly to Iceland (KEF) overnight. Most of the night was spent flying over Canada, frigid salt water and the barren hellscape of Greenland. Time zone change of +7 hours
Tuesday, October 2: Iceland – Day 2
- Arrived in Keflavík International Airport (KEF), which is 31 miles from Reykjavík, on Icelandair FI680 at 6:30 AM. We are now 64 degrees north (almost in the Arctic Circle)
- Departed Keflavík for Reykjavík on an Airport Express bus at 7:15 AM. We arrived in Reykjavík, the northernmost capital city in the world, at around 8 AM
- Had breakfast at Prikid, a 1950s-era dive bar that is apparently also the oldest restaurant in Iceland. It was one of the few places open near our hotel at that early hour
- Unable to check-in to our hotel until 11:30 AM, we lugged our tired selves and our backpacks to the cold, windy top of the Church of Hallgrímur (Hallgrímskirkja), which offered nice views of Reykjavík and its rooftops of many colors by the sea. Then we collapsed inside the church like homeless people with nowhere else to go, continuing the centuries-old practice of using churches as refuge
- To show our gratitude to the church gift shop, we bought a print of Abraham Ortelius’s decorative map of Islandia (Iceland) from the year 1590
- We checked into our hotel and engaged in several hours of desperate but regretful napping. Out bodies have no idea what time it is now
- Then we showered in the warm, sulfur-rich city water and walked back out into the chilly Reykjavík city center to sightsee
- There are 66 Degrees North outdoor clothing billboards with bearded Viking hipsters on every street corner
- For dinner, we ate coconut noodle (Thai) soups at the noodle bar Núðluskálin, and we bought some snacks at a nearby market to stock our hotel room
- The northern lights forecast isn’t looking good for us yet, due to clouds or low solar activity or both
- Studio 102 (Orange Room) at Luna Hotel Apartments ($74), Reykjavík, Iceland
Monday, October 1, 2012
This is a running blog post about the adventures of Heidi and me on our travels through Europe from October 1 to November 9, 2012. And it’s encouragement for us to record an ongoing outline of our experiences for posterity. I have dreamt of backpacking across Europe with a Eurail Pass since I was a teenager. To actually get to take a trip like this is pretty surreal. But figuring out the logistics of everything has been rather complicated.
We’re going to visit 10 countries (Iceland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Vatican City). I built a rough, interactive map of the sequence of our projected European destinations (not counting Iceland at the beginning) using Google Maps. (Note: I would have included a more comprehensive path of cities if I hadn’t maxed out Google Maps with directions to 25 destinations. Thus, the map might load slowly.)
Lodging in the Old World
We have opted to avoid couch-surfing/hostels/shared bathrooms on this trip (think of it as a honeymoon), but we’re definitely attempting to choose the most affordable budget hotels that have decent ratings and reviews on Expedia/TripAdvisor. There is apparently no escaping $150+ nights in Paris in October, unless we want to sleep in remote (or terrible) locations and waste time and money on extra transportation. Amsterdam and Switzerland are expectedly pricey too. Zurich is so expensive that we decided to skip staying there altogether.
Our $30/night budget for Peru hostels and hotels doesn’t cut it in the Old World. I have resigned to accept that averaging $100/night for our 38 nights of lodging in these expensive European cities is actually pretty good. Especially if the hotels are near train stations and even have clean beds and functional bathrooms. I will now light my bank account on fire.
Six weeks of itineraries
Now that our trip is over, the itinerary and travel commentary portion of this blog post has been broken into four parts. Also, since my mom requested that I buy her a postcard from each of the 10 countries we visited, I have scanned her postcards into these blog posts, as well as some additional documents I brought back with me.
- Days 1-11: Iceland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France
- Days 12-22: France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland
- Days 23-31: Switzerland, Italy
- Days 32-40: Italy, Vatican City, France
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