Our Life

Our Europe Trip: Venice Part 2

Day 9: Venice

This was our last day in Europe – very sad. We got up and walked over to St. Mark’s Square where we listened to a Rick Steve’s audio tour. It was super interesting to hear about all the different architecture styles used just in the square. As Venice was the hub for all shipping around the word back in the day, the city incorporated all the different cultures into one place, specifically St. Mark’s Basilica. The square was so cool with all the shops and tourist and live bands. It totally felt like being in downtown Disney.

After we toured the square, we went into St. Mark’s Basilica, which was built in the 1060s! Venice definitely had the oldest things I’ve ever seen in my life and a lot of them. The four original bronze horses that were once on the roof and are now in the museum inside are estimated to be from around 400 B.C. That’s just nuts. And they look totally good.

We listened to another audio tour inside the church. It talked all about the crazy mosaics that blanket the walls, ceiling, and floor. The attention to detail in that church is staggering. It also talked about how the Venetians stole the remains of St. Mark, then lost them, then found them, then buried them under the basilica. And, of course, all of this was depicted in mosaics all over the church. While we were in the church, there was a service going on. It was so weird to hear singing and prayers while the rest of the church was packed with tourists.

After our St. Mark’s excursion, we headed across Venice to get on a Vaporetto (their water tram things) down the Grand Canal. We had another Rick Steve’s audio tour that described all the sites along the Grand Canal.

The more I learned about Venice, the more impossible its existence became. I don’t understand how it was ever built and how it’s still here. While it’s not as vibrant as it used to be, it is still beautiful. The Grand Canal is lined with former palaces that are slowly rotting. It’s crazy to think that Venice was once the wealthiest and most powerful city in the world and now it’s just a tourist town for people to eat gelato and get ripped off by gondoliers. But still, it’s breathtaking.

After our boat tour, we walked out to the tip of Venice to see their only garden in the city. It definitely wasn’t very big, but every European city needs a garden.

Then we were again in search of delicious food. Our concierge recommended a restaurant in our neighborhood that was so cute. We sat outside, but you couldn’t see the sky because there was a ceiling of branches and leaves above us. The food was totally delicious and after our meal they came out with little complementary glasses of wine that they make at the restaurant. I’m sure it was delicious. ☺

After dinner, we got lost in the streets again looking for gelato and souvenirs. We happened upon some little Venetian glass rings. Since Doug lost his super cool wood wedding ring before we left, a 1 euro glass ring seemed like the perfect solution.

We kept walking and found ourselves in St. Mark’s Square again. The square was lit up and there were three different bands playing, fighting for people’s attention. One band was playing “Isn’t it Romantic?” and my heart melted. Doug and I danced in the square. It was a perfectly cheesy moment and I LOVED it. Then a guy tried to sell Doug a rose for me, but he didn’t have any money. After he made fun of Doug, I ended up buying a rose for Doug to give to me. It was probably the most magical night of my life. ☺

Then we went to bed and got millions of mosquito bites. Not as magical.

Day 10: The Trip Home

We woke up at 3 a.m. to catch the 3:45 a.m. Alilaguna boat back to the airport. After over an hour on a boat, we got to wait for our delayed flight to Paris that ended up leaving at 7 a.m. We barely made it to our connecting flight to SLC. Doug and I were able to sleep a little bit on our flight from Venice to Paris, but neither of us could sleep at all on our 12-hour flight from Paris to Salt Lake. It was the longest flight of our lives. About 7 hours in, we started losing our minds. And this was the least fancy of any plane we’d been on. No individual TVs, so we had to watch whatever they put on the aisle TV.

Doug’s dad was nice enough to pick us up from the airport (about 4:30 MST) so we didn’t have to drive home in our condition. It was so weird to talk to someone else after talking only to Doug for 2 weeks.

The next 4 hours are a total blur. Our bodies and brains were so mad at us. We fell asleep for a little bit and decided we should probably have dinner before going to bed. I can just remember being so confused about where I was and what time it was and how painful it was to get to the car to find dinner.

The next day, I slept for about 12 hours. It already felt like we hadn’t gone on our trip, like it was just some crazy dream. Doug went to work that day (weirdo), so I started writing things down like crazy because I knew if I didn’t, there would be no way for me to prove the last two weeks actually happened.

Our Europe Trip: Venice Part 1

Day 8: Venice

On Sunday morning, we hopped on our only paid bus trip in Berlin (which I think we could have gotten for free, too). We flew from Berlin to Zurich then to Venice. Zurich looked so beautiful; I wanted to stay. The airport was right in the middle of a cute little village. It was all green with hills everywhere. But Rick Steve’s Best of Europe doesn’t say anything about it, so I guess there are only banks in Zurich.

From the airport in Venice, we had to take a water bus out to the island. We waited in this weird “bus stop” on the water that was being pushed all over by the choppy water, making us sufficiently sick by the time we got on the boat. Our boat/bus trip to the island was about an hour – way too long for me.

It was really foggy that day, so we couldn’t really see anything from the boat except the faint outline of the city.

As we walked to our hotel, it felt like we were taking sketchy back allies, but it turns out that’s how all the streets are in Venice. “Big” streets are about 10 feet wide and the small ones are about 3 feet wide and they’re all cobblestone. Our hotel ended up being in a cute little square, not far from St. Mark’s Square. Our hotel was a newly renovated hotel from the 1600’s – CRAZY! The whole hotel only had six rooms.

After we got over our sea sickness, we hit the streets. As we walked into our first square (not anything special in Venice, mind you), my eyes started welling up. It was so beautiful, my heart couldn’t even handle it. I had a similar experience in Paris, but for some reason, it was way more powerful here.

We walked over the Rialto Bridge and took some pictures. Again, so gorgeous, I can’t even stand thinking about it. After crossing the bridge and finding a cute little neighborhood our concierge suggested, we went on a search for pizza.

We found a cute little restaurant where we were serenaded by a little band with 2 accordions, a violin, and a guitar. It was so magical. Then we had to wander back through the streets to our hotel. We got totally lost, of course. You never know what streets are going to end at a canal or become creepy dead-ends. We made it, though, so don’t worry.

Our Europe Trip: Berlin Part 2

Day 7: Berlin

Saturday morning, we jumped on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour that started in Alexander Platz. This is where the big TV Tower is (that I didn’t know existed until we went there). One of the coolest parts of the tour was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s kind of hard to describe; it was about a city block of cement pillars of different heights. You get lost almost immediately once the pillars are over your head and all you see are people briefly as they walk from pillar to pillar as if they’re ghosts, which was the point. Underneath the monument, there was a museum with statistics, journal entries, and family stories of Jewish victims from WWII. It wasn’t as moving as I thought it would be, but it was still cool.

It was interesting to hear different pieces of the same history we’d heard in both London and Paris. For example, German princes held Versailles for a few months. That was definitely not mentioned in our Versailles tour. Then there were all these stories of different countries stealing monuments after war victories and then the original owner stealing them back after another war. Things were being stolen all over the place, including monuments that are now in Venice (the four bronze horses on St. Mark’s Cathedral).

Our other main stop on the bus tour was Checkpoint Charlie. We didn’t plan our tour very well and the actual museum was closed by the time we got there. Lame. But the whole time, I wished I had research the Berlin Wall and WWII more before our trip. There are so many layers to Berlin’s history and I kept getting them mixed up. And so much its history is dark and sad. That city has been through a lot and it’s miraculously still kickin’.

After our tour, we went to a laundromat to undo the damage of our kitchen sink laundry fiasco. It wasn’t a very wild Saturday night in Berlin, but at least we had clean undies.

After laundry, we went to dinner near our hotel/hostel. It was very German. Everything tasted a little off, especially the water. But it was a fun cultural experience trying to understand a German menu. I think that was the hardest part for me. No German words looked familiar (let’s be serious, those words are just too long) and our waitress seemed to be the only Berliner who wasn’t fluent in English. Doug kept trying to convince me that German is super close to English, but I don’t believe it.

Oh, and the weather was totally perfect in Berlin; blue skies all day and a light-jacket weather at night.

Our Europe Trip: Berlin Part 1

Day 6: Berlin

Berlin was way different than everywhere else we went. Everything in London and Paris could be dated back at least a couple hundred years, but Berlin was mostly new. With WWI, WWII, and the Cold War, most of Berlin had been destroyed.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with Berlin when we first got there. We had just left

Paris, which was breathtaking at every turn. Then we show up in Berlin, which seems to be trying to put itself back together.

It was super interesting to see what they decided to rebuild and what still shows evidence of war. They’ve rebuilt the palace, which is on Museum Island, across the street from the Berlin Cathedral, which has either been blackened by war or pollution. Either way, it’s super dirty. But the palace can’t be compaired to any of the other palaces we saw in Paris or London. Everything was way more toned down and practical. I guess Germans don’t want to be too showy.

When we first got to the airport, we were super confused. There was no security, no customs, and seemed mostly disorganized. We knew what bus we had to take into town – Alexander Platz – but had no idea how to buy tickets. We went to the info window where the worker, obviously annoyed, told us to get tickets on the bus. We quickly hopped on a bus only to find there was nowhere to pay for a ticket and none of the other riders seemed to be concerned about this. So we rode for free and continued to ride for free on all the buses and trams while in Berlin, until our final tram ride back to the airport when we happened to get on a tram that had a ticket machine. We’ll just say that Berlin has free public transportation.

Our first day there, we did our usual trick of just walking around they city. Berlin slowly started to grow on me (Doug was in love the whole time – he said it was the one city we visited where he could see himself living). We found our way to the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz. There was a light show happening all over the city, so the Brandenburg Gate and other buildings in the square had different images and video projected on them. It was super cool. Pariser Platz has such a cool vibe, both at night and during the day. It was always full of people and lively. On our [free] bus ride home, we were able to see the festival of lights taking place throughout the city. Very cool.

Our Europe Trip: Paris – Versailles

Day 5: Paris/Versailles

Despite everything I knew about Versailles, I was not prepared for how huge it was. The palace itself was remarkable, but the gardens were absolutely unbelievable. The craziest part about Versailles is that it was built as their country home to get away from the bustle of Paris and the Louvre. And then they built other palaces and a little farm community within the gardens to get away from the bustle of Versailles. Again, it’s obvious why there were 2 revolutions.

I was super excited to see the hall of mirrors, but the tourists everywhere made it a little less spectacular. And we went in the off season, so I can’t imagine how crowded it would have been during the summer.

Being there kept reminding me of Vegas – excess for excess’ sake. All these palaces were all about looking awesome. For the most part, there was no practical use for anything. It was all there just to impress. This became more evident as we learned about Louis XIV’s daily scheduled, which consisted of audiences sitting and watching him wake up, eat meals, “rule,” and hang out. But I was super impressed. So, mission accomplished, Louis!

Versailles took most most of the day, so by the time we got back to Paris, we were on a search for dinner and the Moulin Rouge. Since our hotel was pretty much in the red light district, the Moulin Rouge wasn’t too hard to find. It was probably ¾ of a mile from our hotel in Blanche Square. We thought we would try to eat there, but at 200 euro a person, we had to pass. It was cool to see the windmill, though. ☺

We went across the square to eat at an American-themed restaurant, comparable to Texas Roadhouse. I would have been upset about eating at an American restaurant in France, but it turned out to be quite the education on how the rest of the world does American food. They were pretty close, but it was definitely weird. For example, I ordered a dessert called fromage blanc, which looked like it was going to be some kind of panna cotta with fruit topping. Turned out it was unsweetened yogurt with some unsweetened fruit junk on top. It was not dessert, nor fromage.

Our Europe Trip: Paris Part 2

Day 4: Paris

In the morning, we were picked up from our hotel for our “bus” tour around Paris. We were expecting another tour like the one we had in London, but it ended up being a 10-passenger van with a tour guide and 8 tourists. Once we started driving around Paris, it made sense why we couldn’t be in a full-size van; Paris streets were not made or big buses.

Our first stop on the tour was Montmartre, where we were able to get out and walk around. It was so beautiful and has a great view of the city. We walked through the basilica at the top of the hill, la Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. It was kind of rainy that day, which might have bummed me out, but Paris is so gorgeous in the rain with the water reflecting off the cobblestone.

Our tour guide was brilliant. She would transition between fluent French, English, and Spanish without any hesitation. I’ve decided that Europeans are way smarter than us because everyone is fluent in at least 3 languages and they don’t think anything of it.

Oh, our tour guide (Sophia) was probably the craziest driver I’ve ever seen in my life. And I say this after hanging out in cabs in NYC. But then again, I think that’s just the way you have to drive in Paris. In the giant round about circling the Arc de Triomphe, she was cruising in the innermost lane (Why would there ever be 5 lanes in a roundabout?), saw that we were across from our exit, and proceeded to drive perpendicular to traffic in order to make the exit. Considering that nobody was really trying to stay in their lane and the rain on the cobblestones made it almost impossible to see the lines, none of the other drivers seemed to be surprised by her maneuver. Who needs lanes, anyway?

Speaking of the arc, it was WAY bigger than I thought it would be. It’s safe to say that everything is Paris is totally overwhelming. Notre Dame was totally beautiful on the outside with insane detail on the façade and those flying buttresses … crazy! However, the inside was pretty dirty. There were cardboard boxes all over the place and everything was very dark and dingy. Maybe we went on an off day.

On the tour, we also drove by the Luxembourg Palace, which, of course, was built because the queen didn’t like the Louvre. The more palaces we saw, the more understandable it become that the French had 2 revolutions. At least they made all their palaces well so I could hang out in them, though.

The tour ended at the Eiffel Tower, so we were able to snap a couple pictures of it during the day. Then our tour guide dropped us off at the Arc de Triomphe. We had big plans to go to the top, but it was pretty rainy and miserable, so we just took a bunch of pictures from the ground.

Then we battled the subway to go to Musée d’Orsay. Unlike the Louvre, which is a converted palace, Musée d’Orsay is a converted train station, so there is one main gallery with smaller rooms surrounding it. Again, so cool. The art there is mostly French art from 1848 to 1915, while the Louvre only houses art from the 17th and 18th centuries. I swear, between New York musuems, the National Art Gallery in London, and Musée d’Orsay, Doug and I have seen every Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, and Picasso piece.

Our feet and legs were mostly broken after Musée d’Orsay, so we went back to the hotel to do some laundry. We were so excited to be super ghetto and do our laundry in our fancy kitchen sink. Welp, it didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped. Our hanging clothes refused to dry and when they finally did, they smelled all mildew-y. Word to the wise, just go to a laundromat.

After our laundry attempt, we walked to the Louvre (only because we couldn’t find a metro station on the way). Since we got there later than we planned, we were only able to be in the Louvre for about an hour and a half before it closed. We were able to see the most important thing – The Mona Lisa. Everyone I talked to said it was way smaller than they expected, which made it bigger than I expected; pretty good trick. Of course, the Mona Lisa was cool, but nobody told me about the TONS of other priceless art hanging in the same room as the Mona Lisa or covering every inch of the halls. It was totally overwhelming.

P.S. The Louvre has 11 miles of wall space completely covered with art. So when Doug says Paris is greedy, that’s why.

Our Europe Trip: Paris Part 1

Day 3: Paris

Paris is absolutely magical! After taking the Chunnel from London, I was still trying to recover from whatever I sickness I had. So, we just napped in our hotel for a while.

Our hotel, by the way, was so cool and bizarre. It was this little turn-of-the-century hotel with Barbies hanging in the lobby window. You could tell they built it before elevators were a thing, because the staircase barely wrapped around this tinsy elevator that barely fit two people (without luggage). And the staircase was pretty skinny and sketchy to begin with. But we had a kitchen in our room. That does not happen in Paris.

Once we mustered our strength, we started walking. We stopped at a little pastry shop by our hotel (which we later found out our hotel was pretty much in the red light district … haha) and I was so excited to use some of my French. The lady behind the counter was the first person we heard speak French and I was like a deer in headlights. All my words were gone, so Doug stepped in to answer he question with “si” … hahaha! It was a total mess. So, we stumbled through our order and I’m shocked we were able to get out of there with our baguette and doughnuts.

Then we just walked and walked down every street, each one more beautiful than the last. I wanted to take a picture of EVERY street we went down; they all looked like postcards. I couldn’t believe that Paris really looked the way I always imagined it.

After walking for a while, we found ourselves at the Louvre. It was also incredibly beautiful and gigantic (11 miles of museum wall space). And we couldn’t believe how quickly we were able to walk from our hotel (near Montmartre) to the Seine. Paris seemed so small.

We crossed the Seine and had dinner in a cute little bistro. Then we walked to the Eiffel Tower to go up to the top. I was worried it wouldn’t be as magnificent as I thought it would be, but I was not disappointed. It was totally beautiful and amazing. I’ve decided it was impossible for people to make the Eiffel Tower in 1899. It is just too big and crazy – giant, steel beams going all over the place and somehow not collapsing at 1,000 feet. Nope, it’s impossible.

The night we went up wasn’t super cold, but once we got to the first stop on the tower, it got really cold. It was so windy, I was ready to go back to the bottom, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t power through. And it was worth it. Seeing the light of Paris from above the city should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Our next challenge was to find our way home. That’s when we realized how annoying Paris metro can be. They don’t have good signage and random stops don’t have places to buy tickets. It was a big contrast from the luxury of the Tube. Needless to say, we didn’t pay for every subway ride. Yep, we were the kids hopping over turnstiles (look, we couldn’t figure out how to pay and it was way too late to be walking all over Paris to find a metro station with a ticket machine). ☺

Our Europe Trip: London

It’s been about six months since Doug and I went to Europe, and I have been shirking my blogging responsibilities. So, to all five of you, I apologize. Warning: All these posts are going to be pretty long, so hold onto your butts … or just look at the pictures. Here’s how it went down …

Day 1: London

We took the redeye from JFK and got to Heathrow at 9:30 a.m. on October 14. I slept about 3 hours on the plane; Doug didn’t sleep at all, so we were off to a good start. By the time we got to our hotel, they informed us we weren’t able to get into our room until 2 p.m., despite the fact that I called and told them we needed an early check in. Not cool.

The nice people at the front desk (not very nice) suggested we walk down the street and check out the museums. So we took a short jaunt down the street to the Natural History Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum.

Even though we were so tired and miserable, both museums were totally amazing; huge with tons of detail. It’s crazy to think about what would have been required to create such intricate buildings in the 1800s.

The best part about the museums: They were FREE. I kept looking for signs to tell me what I had to pay, but it turns out London loves culture. And there were kids EVERYWHERE. I don’t know if it was because it was a Sunday or if parents just take their kids to museums all the time, but there were a ton that day. British kids with little accents are pretty stinking cute.

After being in New York for a few days, London was so clean. There were cool, tiny street sweepers on the sidewalks. I even saw a dude with a spray bottle cleaning light poles. Who does that?

And let me tell you, the traffic was tripping me out. Luckily, there were directions on the ground at intersections to tell you which way to look before crossing; otherwise we would have been in trouble. Thanks, London, for being nice to foreigners.

Day 2: London

We took a bus tour of the royal sites. It was super cool to see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, and Big Ben. It kept weirding me out to think that people still live in Buckingham Palace and all the other surrounding palaces. Royalty … silly, am I right? The Brits don’t seem to mind, though. That day was kind of rainy and chilly, so it was nice to be in a bus – not double-decker. Sorry to disappoint.

After our tour, we went to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. That place is way legit (and free). Again, there were tons of kids and students all over the place. Most of them were in groups, getting art instruction in front of the most famous paintings by Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, etc. You know, just a regular day at school.

Later that day, we went on a tour of the Tower of London. This was probably our favorite part of London. It was cool (and gross and creepy) to hear about all the crazy things that happened there. The weirdest part was that our guide (a beefeater) told all these sketchy stories totally unapologetically. “Yep, tons of people were killed and a lot of them were innocent … check out the crown jewels!”

The crown jewels are RIDICULOUS. There was a gold punch bowl the size of a bathtub. And one of the millions of scepters had a diamond that was 500 carats. It was insane.

But let’s just talk about the Tube for a second. It’s the best. We loved it (especially after gross NYC subways). The whole system is so simple and the stops and cars are so clean. And padded seats? Yes, please!

That night, I ended up getting pretty sick. I was up most of the night hoping to puke, but nothing happened. Luckily, I was able to get ready and get to our train and continued to feel pukey on the Chunnel.

Our First 10 Months

I can’t believe Doug and I have been married for 10 months. It’s gone by super fast and it’s crazy to look back at all the things we have been able to do in that time. We went on our honeymoon, I got laid off two days later, I made a lot of crafts, Doug was a rock during my unemployment ventures, we learned how to make dinners other than nachos, I got a new job, we planted a garden, and all while learning how to be married.

Without further ado, here is a quick look at what we’ve been up to as The Thompsons:

The Honeymoon: Bahamas Cruise

One of the stops on our cruise was Nassau, which is where the Atlantis resort is. It was super cool. Sorry, we didn’t go on the big slide, but Doug went nuts for their aquariums.

Doug and Cari on the cruise deck

Cari and Doug on the deck in the sunset

Atlantis Resort

Cari and Doug at Atlantis Resort

Doug looking at the rays in the aquarium

Doug looking at a huge fish in the aquarium

The beach at the Atlantis Resort

Cari and Doug on the beach

Cheesey silhouette of Doug and Cari kissing

 

Snowboarding

Doug was so nice and took me snowboarding for my birthday. It was our one snowboarding trip of the season; bitter sweet.

 

Lexington, Kentucky

In the middle of May, two of Doug’s friends from law school were getting married, which created a great excuse for us to take a trip out there. It was so beautiful and green and full of Southern accents.

 Horses on a Lexington horse farm

Cows gathered in the shade of a tree

Doug sitting at a lunch table in Lexington

Doug and Cari dressed up for the wedding

Cari, Doug, and Charlie before the wedding

The Shins Concert

Doug and I had been to other concerts. All of which had varying degrees of enthusiasm from each of us. For example, I had already made Doug go to a Kenny Loggins concert. Needless to say, Doug was not as excited as I to be there. However, he seemed willing enough to take the highway to the Danger Zone.

Due to our previous concert experiences, we were especially excited to hear The Shins were coming to SLC in May as we both have a deep and abiding love for them. (I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons Doug married me.)

Cari and Doug and The Shins Concert in Salt Lake

 James Mercer singing In Salt Lake City

Lake Powell

Lake Powell is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We were so lucky this year to go on a family trip with my fantastic Uncle Rich and Aunt Dallas. We had the best time ever hanging out with friends and family, eating delicious food, and wakeboarding and wakesurfing. This was the first time Doug ever wakesurfed EVER and he was a total stud, so I had to include video. AMAZING!

 

 Doug and Cari on the back of the houseboat

 Everyone tired on the boat at Lake Powell

Doug giving Cari a piggyback ride

Cari, Doug, Eddie, and Linz on the ski boat in Lake Powell