Tag: winter

U.S.: Part 2

Wednesday was a travel day for us, so we caught a taxi to the Metra stop to downtown Chicago to catch Amtrak’s Empire Builder rail service to Minneapolis. We spent quite a bit of time in the lounge car with its large windows, watching the American landscape pass by. We arrived early, to our surprise, and found the ’89 Oldsmobile our relatives kindly lent us for our northerly trip. We hit a freakish blizzard for the first half of the trip, so we were glad to make it in around 1:30 a.m. Thursday was a light day with a dog walk and errands, ending with a sushi dinner.

We all got up early for mini dog sled races that began at 7 a.m. It was super cute with dogs under 20 lbs. pulling miniature sleds hopefully the twenty or so feet to the finish line. Afterwards, we had a light breakfast and took a walk along the chilly Lake Superior shore filled with broken up ice that made beautiful sounds as the waves moved them. DeWitt Seitz marketplace warmed us back up with some inside shopping, as well as some antique shops across the streets and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (caramel apple, yum!). Across the river, we had lunch with my uncle I haven’t seen in at least five years, then we called it a day to prepare for an evening bonfire. Herr provided some homemade gluewein that went over well.

Lake Superior.

Saturday was a big day. My aunt came up from Minneapolis and joined us for the Cutest Puppy Contest. The venue was quite crowded, however, so we didn’t stay too long. An Alaskan Malamut won (she was very adorable and fluffy), although I voted for a Great Dane puppy (the size of those paws… so cute!). The weather was conducive to a sleigh ride (unlike our wedding), so 16 of us piled on a sleigh way out in the boonies and had fun pushing each other off for near an hour. Pretty exhausting, but it’s all fun. We had a good mix of food and roasted s’mores around a bonfire per tradition.

The Beargrease races started on Sunday, but we were pretty worn out from all those activities and chose to instead go for snowmobile runs. Herr and my father took the sleds out to the Buffalo House, and my mom and I met up with them. It was a good day for it, and Herr hadn’t had a real chance to go sledding before. He seemed to enjoy it well enough!

We had to get ready to head up farther north though, so we packed up and drove to Larsmont Cottages on the North Shore Monday afternoon. We took it easy and swam a bit indoors before heading for the outdoor hot tub. Woo! Nothing like sitting in hot water with below freezing conditions to feel like you’re really in Minnesota.

Tuesday started off well with a lazy morning and a scenic walk on the waterfront outside the cottage. The resort provided complementary snowshoes, which we used around Gooseberry Falls. We stopped at Bettys’ Pies for a quick bite before joining my parent for a yummy meal at the New Scenic Cafe. When we were leaving, I noticed just how bright the stars were so far out of the city. What a sight!

Lake Superior.Lakeshore.Gooseberry Falls.

On Wednesday we celebrated our fourth anniversary by nordic skiing, swimming, taking an hour-long professional massage, and then eating at the Rock Edge Grille located at the resort. I did okay for my first time cross country skiing, but as a beginner, I really do not like turns going down hills. The massages were some of the best we had; I’m sure they helped us recover from our outdoor activities.

It was sad to pack up and head back down. The staff at Larsmont are all friendly, and I was getting used to a whirlpool tub. Alas, we stopped in Duluth to have lunch with my grandma and have a chat with my other grandma before hitting the road for Minneapolis. We stayed with my aunt who then kindly brought us to the airport the next morning for an uneventful flight back to Germany.

U.S.: Part 1

On Wednesday we departed Germany for the States. We took a wide array of transportation: tram, train, bus, plane, then taxi. After arriving at the Frankfurt airport, we learned our flight was cancelled due to a cabin crew strike. We were to connect in Dublin, so the employees rerouted us on a nonstop flight that arrived in New York four hours early. When we went to the new check-in desk, the employee gave us business class seats before realizing the other airline’s code for economy was their code for business class. She tore up the tickets and printed us standard economy but was kind enough to give us all three seats in the middle row. So close to an upgrade but can’t complain.

New York and Chicago
We stayed at the Wellington just two blocks south of Central Park and were given a top floor (27th) room with kitchen and balcony on the roof. We were far above the steady thrum of life on the streets below and had bright yellow sunlight streaming in the large windows in the morning. That evening we visited the New York Public Library and Central Station, having our five or sixth meal (we ultimately stayed up about 23 hours that “day”) at the Oyster Bar. A few blocks away we stopped by Birdland for dessert and live free-form jazz by Dave Murray and his big band.

After walking around Central Park and back down Madison Avenue in the morning, we caught a cab to Penn Station for our Lakeshore Limited overnight train trip. New York to Chicago is a 19-hour trip, so we went all out for a first class sleeper room with private bath (meals included in the dining car). We only arrived an hour late, possibly due to snow on the tracks. From the station, we crossed to catch a Metra (the local train) out to the suburbs. Other members of the family arrived later, and we all went out to eat at a good restaurant with live music (a tad too loud for us to talk).

Central Park.
Central Park.

On Saturday we celebrated two birthdays. Herr’s niece just turned two and his grandfather 84. We had a large family gathering with entertainment from the little one banging on her new toys. Everyone was heading back to their homes by Sunday afternoon, leaving the four of us to take in a play at the Steppenwolf Theatre called Sex with Strangers. It was a literary play that everyone seemed to enjoy, with a hibachi (Japanese) meal to follow.

Herr’s mother had to work the rest of the time we were visiting, so his father chauffeured us around Chicago to see the Shedd Aquarium (I think the amount of time spent photographing fish tested his patience), and then we stopped by the Field Museum to check out the new Gold exhibit. I want a gold-leaf room now… We visited the Egypt exhibit as well before hopping back in the car to make some paella.

The next day we returned to downtown Chicago to investigate the Art Institute of Chicago. The museums offered free days on Monday and Tuesday so we were able to take advantage of this deal and see some pretty amazing exhibits. We started in the Thorne rooms, known for its miniature models of interior design over the centuries. Needless to say I acquired a few ideas of my own.

Yellow frog.Jellyfish.Jellyfish.

After seeing all the miniature architecture, I suggested we go to the architecture exhibit. It’s contents were primarily conceptual. I found several of these thought provoking, especially an augmented (hyper) reality presentation. After a brief lunch in the new wing, we made a short stop in the modern art section. I believe Herr’s father is glad we left as we both were making several somewhat insulting comments about splotches as art (some days I am just not that interpretive…).


Overall the Institute had some fabulous artwork including Saurat’s stippling masterpiece, several Georgia O’Keefe pieces (I really like her technique but could do without the sexual undertones – or overtones in most cases), Edward Hopper, and a couple Monet, Picassos, a Carravaggio… well, they have some good art. I had determined that morning that I did not have enough outfits to make the trip comfortable, so we walked to Macy’s department store and picked up two in maybe 40 minutes? It was a very quick trip for me. We joined up with Herr’s mother for dinner at Noodles and Co. and watched the State of the Union Address.


For our anniversary, we took a weekend trip to Dresden, a place Herr has been very interested in visiting. We rented a car (we were upgraded to an Audi when the car rental learned it was our anniversary), and drove through a snow storm to get to the Schloss Hotel in Dresden – Pillnitz. We had the second best room in the palace (the first was already booked), but it was really nice. 🙂 Because we got in fairly late, we ate dinner at one of the two restaurants. The food was fantastic, and we had the whole place to ourselves. 😛

Schloss hotel.
Elbe sunrise.

We started the full day tour of Dresden at the Frauenkirche. The church was just rebuilt in 2005 after being bombed in the second World War. We did not go in immediately, but rather ran into a little pub and drank some hot chocolate (tea for Herr) to warm up for the strong bitter wind blowing through the platz.


Once warm again, we walked south passing the Kreuzkirche and catching a tram to the main train station. Then we returned to the Frauenkirche to tour the interior, and paid extra to go to the rotunda for a blustery yet clear view of the city.


We ate at a small sushi restaurant before making our way to the Semperoper opera house. They had an english tour that we joined an hour later, after visiting the Zwinger. I really want to go back to Dresden this spring now to see the grotto with the fountains on. 🙂 The Zwinger is mostly a big open courtyard encompassed by a museum. We hung around there until the tour was ready to leave at the opera house.


The opera house was interesting enough, although we were unable to see a performance there due to conflicting schedules with the ticket offices… but we did stop by the Residence Palace to see some of the state treasures. This building is easy to spot at a bird’s eye view due to its massive puffy looking glass dome. 😛

The Residence Schloss was another building razed and recently rebuilt to house the remaining artifacts of the Green Vault (and other museum collections). In order to enter the Green Vault, one must enter at a specific time through an electric airlock after depositing just about everything except your underwear in a locker. Once inside, however, you get to experience how the pieces of art were originally displayed, not the modern style of separating each onto a pedestal with five feet of clearing space.

For dinner, we went to the fancier restaurant at the palace where Herr ordered a full five course French cuisine (we were given a sixth, complimentary of the chef). Admittedly, I was falling asleep watching him eat so much while I only ordered a main course, but the food at both restaurants was excellent. 🙂 We had live music, a fire, and only a few other couples to enjoy the evening.

In the morning, we decided to go to Leipzig for Herr to railfan a bit (at Europe’s largest train station)… yes, it was his idea. 😛 The city was kind of scary though, with parts of it in disrepair. Herr enjoyed a nice romp in the Audi at 230 kph (roughly 140 mph) before we hit another snow storm on our drive back.

Switzerland: Part 2

1 January 2010

New Years Day was slated for a full day in Zurich. However, when we got downtown, it was more like a ghost town. Everything was closed (they even had posters everywhere stating it). It made me horribly depressed; it looked like it would have been a lot of fun to spend a day hanging around the shops. Herr attempted to cheer me up by walking around the lake, but it was such a dreary grey and windy day, we ended up back at the hotel two hours later.

So the first day of the new year, I spent watching movies on the tv and just relaxing. Herr left for a few hours to take photos of trains and visit the empty campus of ETH (where Einstein went to school), and later we went for another swim up in the pool (did I mention the views?). All in all, it was best for me to have a day of relaxing, and even though I was still sad about everything being closed, I felt a lot better.

2 January 2010

Herr really wanted to go to Konstanz, and I wanted to go to Rhine Falls, so our goal was to get them both in today. It took us a while to find Lake Konstanz, but when we did it was great. The sky had cleared up, and it was a true port area with port entries and docks with boats. We couldn’t find the catamaran that was still in service at first, but as soon as we sat down at a fantastic restaurant on the pier we spotted one coming in.

The restaurant had fantastic Mediterannean/Asian cuisine; I had a potato pear soup and Herr enjoyed a delicious Asain noodle dish (I helped him with it :P). We hopped on the catamaran for a 50 minute trip to the other side of the lake where the Zeppelin Museum is. We walked inside a Hindenburg replica and saw other aircraft/blimp/car related Zeppelin things but just missed the trip back we were supposed to take to Konstanz.

We ended up stopping by an ice cream shop and having a fancy kiwi sundae as we waited for the next catamaran, but it was already getting too dark to go to the falls. We just headed back to the hotel and planned to see the falls the next day.

3 January 2010

Our last day in Switzerland, Herr had originally planned to drive three hours south to go up the mountain to Zermatt, where the Matterhorn is visible. The skies were bright and sunny, and at the last minute, instead of taking it easy and swinging by the falls, we turned around to the mountains. Unfortunately, the farther south we went, the cloudier it got.

Zig zagging through the mountains, the directions read to get on a train then continue driving for a few more miles. This really confused us until we came to an auto train, where you actually drive your car onto the train, and wait in the car as the train takes you by rail through a very long tunnel. That was an interesting and dark experience (the tunnel is not lighted). 😛

We eventually found the base of the peak with another pseudo rack railway that could take us to Zermatt. Now, I should say, none of this was free; going up a mountain is horribly expensive. So I was pretty grumpy when we got on the train. Zermatt is an interesting town in that no personal vehicles exist. There are mini hotel vehicle things, but you really just walk everywhere. Even as far up in the mountains as we were, the Matterhorn disappeared into foggy clouds. We saw the base of the craggy peak, but not the entire mountain. It was a bit disheartening.

As we waited for the train to take us back down the mountain, we stopped for a bit of cheese fondue. It seemed fitting to have our last meal be cheesy. 😉 The drive back (thank goodness the auto train was still operating at 6 p.m. on a Sunday!) took about five hours. In hindsight, we really should have gone to the falls, or just one of the mountain peaks. We are planning a trip to Austria later this year and have agreed we’d take the long way home through Switzerland so I can see the falls, and maybe even the ice caves (or regular caves), the two things I really wanted to do in Switzerland.

I do feel much better having gotten a break, but I was pretty stressed out for other reasons because of it as well. It is now the most expensive trip we have made in Europe, and it is making me wary about taking another trip anytime soon. We’ll see though, because we are finding ourselves more and more busy with the local theatre. But the views in Switzerland are definitely to die for. 🙂