Archive for travel

Our First Day in Brussels

Nov 23, 2008

We made it to Brussels this morning, somewhat rested after our red-eye (except for Kyle since he decided it would be a good idea to stay up all night watching movies).

We took the metro (a favorite activity of mine!) to our hotel and after getting off the metro, we stood around with our maps and tried to figure out which direction our hotel was in.  We debated which way was the best way to start walking, and even thought about going into the hotel right in front of us to ask for directions.  After several minutes of this, Josh finally looked up and bothered to read the sign for this hotel right in front of us.  And yes, you guessed it!  It was the hotel we were looking for!

Once we put our luggage in the room and freshened up a bit, we were ready to explore Brussels! 
wandering the streets

We first headed toward the main square, in search of delicious waffles and the statue of the peeing boy.

take your waffles elsewhere!
Apparently waffles are a bit of a nuisance in Brussels :)

sponge bob square waffle?

yum!

waffles!
One Belgian treasure found, one to go!

The Grand Place was pretty, but not as grand as the pictures show.  It seems much smaller in real life.  It looked like they were just setting up for Christmas in the square.  A huge tree was set up in the center of the square, but no decorations were on it yet.  Kyle spotted the beer museum there, and convinced us to join him on the 3 minute beer tour.  The upside was the beer we got to drink at the end.

at the beer museum

Next we continued through the square to find Manneken Pis.  Again, he was smaller than we expected, and I found it weird that people travel from all over to take their picture with the peeing boy.  But, like the obidient tourist I am, I jumped right in on the strange fun!

manneken pis

It was finally time for the Belgian Comic Strip Center!
kyle looking in the cartoon mirror

We sure did have a smurfy good time there :)

an original smurf comic strip

We were pretty hungry after learning all about the history of the smurfs as well as other less internationally known Belgian comics. So we went to the Horta Cafe in the museum. Kyle was disappointed in his incorrect order of fried goat cheese salad, but he survived.

After dinner we treked through the snow back to the hotel.

kyle hates snow

By 6pm the guys were already in bed for the night. I fell asleep not too long after, but Tweeny stayed up later than all of us to read her teenage vampire book :)

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Mendocino Getaway

A few weekends ago Kyle and I went road tripping up north to Mendocino. Mapquest says Mendocino is 540 miles away and the drive time is 9 hours. But when we typed in the exact address into the GPS, our destination was actually 580 miles away with a drive time of just over 11 hours! Who knew Mendocino was a huge county and Fort Bragg could only be reached by long and windy roads?

Kyle had reserved a Bed & Breakfast that I couldn’t wait to see! I just love the charm and comfort of a B&B, and this one in particular had a gourmet restaurant that was ranked number one in Mendocino County by Zagat. So you can imagine our disappointment when we drove up (after 11 hours…13 hours if you include the oil change stop) and saw a run down house with a random bathtub by the back porch to greet us.

the spectacular rendezvous inn

And then when we found out that we couldn’t eat dinner at their fancy pants restaurant because they were all booked, it seemed that this B&B was turning out to be a disaster. We went up to see our room, and even with our now lowered expectations, it was still able to disappoint.

where east meets west

The decor was hideous. The home itself is French Country but the sparse decorations in the room were all Japanese. The furniture was old. The bathroom was aching for remodeling. After absorbing all of this, Kyle went to ask if they could squeeze us in at dinner since the gourmet restaurant was the main reason we had come here…and apparently it is the only reason anyone should ever go there. They were nice enough to make room for us, and that was when the trip started to turn around.

Dinner was delicious, but since we’ve been spoiled by Sona, Providence, and Melisse the past few months, we couldn’t claim that it was the best we’ve ever had. Still, we were full and happy and able to sleep peacefully in the quiet B&B.

The next day (Saturday August 2nd) started off with another gourmet meal, which was tasty, but we were still full from the dinner the night before. I scarfed mine down anyway and then we headed off to Pacific Star Winery, just 12 miles north of Fort Bragg.

pacific star wine glass

This is the most beautiful winery I’ve ever visited. Even though it doesn’t have a vineyard to accompany it, the coastal cliffs more than made up for that. We tasted several wines and then we even got a full glass of wine to take out to the picnic tables and enjoy the view. Aahhh!

me and kyle at pacific star winery

After admiring the view from Pacific Star, it was time to get ready for Mike and Allison’s wedding – the reason why we had road tripped to Fort Bragg in the first place. They were getting married at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens that afternoon. It was such a beautiful wedding!

just married!

After the ceremony we got a chance to wander around the gardens. Every corner we turned had another gorgeous view.

me and kyle at the mendocino botanical gardens

The reception was held in a tent right there at the Botanical Gardens. We had a fabulous time dancing to the tunes of Mendo’s finest DJ…as you can see in the pics below…

the bride and groom

honky tonkin’ in mendo

On Sunday we woke up early to pack up and head out of Fort Bragg so that we could be at the Albertina Vineyard in Hopland by 10am for our tour and tasting with the owner, Fred Zmarzly. A couple of years ago at the L.A. Wine Fest I tasted the Albertina 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and it was instantly my favorite. Kyle was thoughtful enough to set up a tour of the vineyard to top off our Mendocino getaway.

kyle and fred on the albertina vineyard tour

The tour was extensive, and Fred was super informative and generous with his time and wine! We walked throughout the lower vineyard, and Fred taught us about pruning, his trellis system, the irrigation system he designed himself, the difference in the leaf shapes of different varietals, what verasion is (when the grapes turn from green to purple), and that global warming (which isn’t really happening at such an alarming rate to begin with) isn’t caused by carbon emissions. No, that last thing does not have anything to do with grapes or wine, but Fred could tell you all about it, with Nasa facts to back up his arguments.

grapes at the start of verasion

After sipping wine and shooting the breeze with Fred at the Albertina picnic table for about an hour, we decided it was time to head back to the car for the long drive home. I just loved this vineyard tour…it was the grape on top of this Mendocino sundae. :)

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