Brooks and I traveled around Europe for two weeks and then I spent a third week in Florida with my mother. I’m going to quickly tell you about each place and get this over with.
First, Brooks and I went to Iceland for two nights, taking advantage of Icelandair’s free stopover program. The weather was cold and rainy with biting winds the majority of the time, and we still left loving the place. It’s like Hawaii and Scotland had a baby. It’s unique and eccentric. Our Airbnb apartment was great and perfectly located. I was able to find good food that didn’t destroy my stomach. The only con is that everything is expensive.
We went on a tour of a 2000-year-old lava cave (pictured above). It’s as old as Jesus. It wasn’t a typical, over-safe, American tour. Our guide worked especially hard to set the expectations for us since Americans struggle the most with common sense and self accountability. There are no installed lights, ramps, rails, or signs. A good portion of the tour involved crouching, crawling, or rolling through small passages. It was also raining that day and lava rock is very porous so it was raining inside the cave as well.
We absolutely loved it and did not hurt ourselves in the least. It was a very Indiana Jones-like adventure. Most importantly, I learned a lot about lava rock, which will be a big help when I write the journey through the Sidian Lava Lands in the next Alchemist’s Theorem book, Mendel’s Inheritance!
We stayed with my sister Elizabeth (pictured far left above) and her husband Adam (pictured far right above) in Germany (they live/work there). My niece Grace (pictured in the middle) is staying with them for three months before going to college. They were all so much effin’ fun. And Germany was charming, cool, and not too expensive, but the food is mostly terrible. We did find a really cool old-time cafe that served fresh fruit and eggs, though.
Bethie took us to a town called Rüdesheim on the Rhine River (pictured above). It’s covered in Riesling grape fields. The small town is made up of charming, winding, pedestrian streets that look like Diagon Alley. We took a gondola to the top of a hill and walked back down through the fields. It was stupid romantic.
After a day of relaxing with Bethie’s cats, we drove to the Netherlands. Brooks and I went all the way to Amsterdam with Bethie and Grace, but only stayed for lunch. I wasn’t excited about Amsterdam. It was too crowded. After our meal, Brooks and I took an hour train ride to Rotterdam.
We stayed on a boat on one of the canals. It was super cozy. After telling Brooks not to make a mess, he replied that he’d just clean up his mess if he made one. The above right pictured happened immediately after this exchange. We stayed two nights and I got land sick after the first, so no more staying on adorable boats.
We do love the city, though. It’s not touristy but a college town. And it has a lot of great sites. Brooks’ friend took us on a tour of the city’s great architecture. Rotterdam was leveled during the war, and then in the fifties while it was being rebuilt the architects embraced modernism. One building was a horseshoe of apartments built around a giant indoor market. The apartment windows looked down into the market. And the food there was the best out of everywhere we traveled.
Next, Brooks went to Gouda (where the cheese is made) and did a bike tour of the lovely, medieval town. And I went to Trapani Sicily with Bethie and Grace and ate the world’s best tomatoes. Seriously, nice beaches and beautiful pedestrian areas, but you should go there for the damn tomatoes. In America, after GMO, early harvesting and shipping into the country, and refrigeration, our tomatoes shouldn’t even be called tomatoes. They should be called tomato-like vegetables or fruits or whatever. The tomatoes in Sicily are a dark, deep red, super juicy but they don’t fall apart or disintegrate, and they are full of intense tomato flavor. I couldn’t get enough of them.
The weather was gorgeous and I loved the town of Tranpani, too. It’s pretty cheap and not touristy or crowded like Palermo (which we drove to accidentally, and by the way, driving in Sicily is complete anarchy). Bethie spent most of the time playing Pokemon Go. Brooks got back to the apartment in Germany before us and looked after the cats. He also temporarily lost them, but that was the only trip disaster.
After Europe, Brooks went home and I traveled to Florida for a week to watch my nephew Brayden (pictured above), my mom’s house, and their dog while she and my step-dad Jim went on a short cruise. I hadn’t seen them in over a year so it was great to spend some much needed time with everyone. My mom is a special kind of crazy that I can’t help loving. My nephew Brayden is fun to talk to. I found the dog tolerable.
And now I am home, recovering. I lost six pounds but did better than I thought. I thought that traveling around Europe would kill me, so it didn’t take much to exceed my expectations. I would like to brag that I traveled for three weeks with just my backpack, though I did stay in two places with free laundry and I made Brooks carry a couple items for me.
OK, that’s enough of that.