Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tramore, Ireland

Dana, Kayleigh, Karen, Mark, and Steve
Dana getting ready for some painting
Steve driving a right wheel car!
Dana and Karen on the Copper Coast

We took another two trains to get to Waterford, then took a public bus into Tramore. We walked into the residential area of Meadowbrook and found Karen and her daughter Kayleigh watching t.v. Karen is very involved with couchsurfing, but we found her through help exchange. Karen and Kayleigh are both very friendly and welcoming. Karen showed us around Tramore, and also took us along the copper coast to the many beaches. She organized a pot luck with a couple of friends one night, then we headed out to the pub to have a drink as well. Two more times we went to the pub to listen to traditional Irish music called trad. The last time we went Steve sang a song, and Dana danced with a much older man (Steve kept his eye on him).
While we were at Karen's we patched and painted a room on the main floor, we tackled Kayleigh's room so that she could once again function in it and find things. Steve put up a curtain for the closet in her room, and Dana cleaned the main floor. Steve also fixed the leaf in the dinning room table. We just had a great time relaxing and chatting with Karen, she is very easy to talk to. She even let us use her car to drive to the Dunmore caves, and the town of Kilkenny. Steve drove the right wheeled vehicle without any "issues" ! It was really neat inside the cave, we got our own private tour for 2 euro ! Unfortunately we didn't get to see any bats, they were still hibernating! We got great tips from Karen about couchsurfing and are excited to host when we get back home. Actually as of today, it is just under 6 weeks until we fly back to Toronto. We are now heading back to Dublin for a few days before flying to Scotland!

Friday, January 29, 2010


Baby calf born two days after we arrived
Looking into the backyard of Claire and Gerard's farm
On our bike ride in Killarney
Ross Castle in Killarney National Park
Baby Lan
Anna and Francis
Us at the top of the mountain

We arrived in Dublin, Ireland in the afternoon, and hung around just for two days. And we will get to that a little later, fast forward to our next help exchange. We took a four hour train ride from Dublin down to Tralee; a small town in the south west of Ireland. Claire greeted us at the train station and took us back to the house to meet the rest of the family. Her husband Gerard and her live on a dairy farm with about 70 cows, and 100 chickens. They have three adopted Vietnamese daughters, Anna (7), Francis (5), and Lan (11 months). It is not a busy time with the cows at the moment, most of them start giving birth in February (Although one birth happened while we were there).

We did a variety of things while we were there; stain a table and benches, help organize the garage, put up shelves, clean windows, pick sea-weed from the beach and bring it back for fertilizer in their green houses. We also collected eggs, helped milk the cows, give teenager cows medicine, Dana tried to consolidate two address books into one and Steve fixed a bunch of things around the house! We even babysat the kids in the evening twice just so Claire and Gerard could have a night out together to celebrate their birthdays before things get really busy on the farm. On one of our days off we went with Claire and the girls to the local church for mass, then we went hiking with Gerard and his two friends up a mountain in Kerry county. It was actually a tough climb, but very enjoyable. On our other day off we took bikes and hopped on the train to Killarney. There we tried biking on the Kerry Ring road, but were pressed for time. So we took a detour and went into the National Park and rode to Ross Castle. The area was quite wet in parts and we had to bike very slowly through some flooded paths. It took us only half and hour to get down to the train station, and 2 hours to get back up the hill to the farm in the dark on a country road with no lights! We are definitely not in as good shape as we wish we were! Claire, Gerard and the girls were great hosts and we were sad we were only staying for one week, but Friday morning we said good-bye and took our next set of trains to the south east corner of Ireland to Waterford. Then we caught a 40 minute bus ride to the town of Tramore to go to our next help exchange with Karen and her daughter Kayleigh!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Looking down the original wall
Us infront of the Brandenburg Gate
I think it's pretty obvious
Dana in front of the church which was bombed during WWII

Now that we have peeked your interest, and also haven't blogged for awhile, we share about Berlin. We arrived in Berlin in the evening and found our host Claudia not far from the S-bahn (inter-city train) stop. She had a large comfy couch for us to crash on, along with her two cats. It was a little cool in Berlin, minus five, but it was nice to have snow. Friday night we did something a little different, we went to a sauna with a group of other couch surfers. The difference is that when you go to a sauna in Germany, you are naked! It was very strange at first, but once you see everyone else finds it normal, you are able to relax, mostly! The facility is in three enclosed boats that are on the river; with a pool and two saunas and a bunch of lounge chairs. (where you cover up with a towel)
Saturday morning we had a traditional German breakfast with Claudia, then headed out to do some shopping and joined a free walking tour around Berlin. It started blowing snow during the tour, so we took off and did some window shopping. Steve went to a bar later that evening to watch an NFL playoff game with a couple of couch surfers. Next day we checked out an open market, then went to the berlin wall documentation centre, and then saw 1.6 km of the original wall, which had been repainted by the original artisits 10 years ago. We also visited a church which has been preserved in its shattered state as a reminder of WWII. We also saw Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg gate. We have now run into a problem with how long we have been in the Shengan Area so.... we have changed our plans a bit and are now going to fly to Ireland!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ringing in the New Year in Austria !

A scene from the Opera
Just hanging out with Pinocio (no idea if its spelled right)
Dana infront of St. Stephan's Church
In the Opera house
Fireworks at New Years Eve

Happy New Year to everyone! Ours started out in a cloud of smoke and lights flashing everywhere. We ended up getting off the metro in Vienna, Austria 3 minutes before midnight, and found pepole setting off fireworks and firecrackers EVERYWHERE!! We just stopped and watched for a good ten minutes. A group of people beside us even gave us some champagne to toast to the new year! The fireworks did not stop until two am. Actually to be more accurate, they continued on for about three more days, just a little more sparatic. The crazy thing is that everyone is lighting off fireworks in the streets (its illegal but they get to do it once a year, so everyone takes full advantage of it) We did another help exchange in Vienna, with a host who was not even home! One of his renters Keith was there to give us instruction on what took us a total of 3 hours to clean up a demolitioned room. The rest of the time was ours with a free place to stay for the week. We actually became pretty lazy with staying up late, sleeping in late, and just taking a few short walks around the area.
When we did head out we checked out the Opera house and actually went to see Die Fleidermouse (the bat), for 4 euro each. They were standing room only tickets we bought 2 hours before the show, but they were dead center facing the stage in the back, so they were fabulous! This is actually the first ever opera we saw back in Winnipeg with Grandma and Grandpa Rempel, so this made us think of them! There was a little Austrian woman who put up a good fight to get a front row spot, she came with elbows flying and several women got an elbow in the back as she went by! We ended up standing for 5 hours including waiting in line, but it was worth it. Oh yah, the Opera house is very elegant and fancy. Many people were dressed up, and drinking champagne during the intermission. Needless to say we were completely under dressed. So as I reflect on this week in our trip, I realize we did not do too many things in Vienna, but we enjoyed the slower pace it provided. Thursday morning we packed up and caught a train to Berlin, Germany. 10 hours on a train, here we come!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Munich, Germany

Me, Johannes, and Jens catching up
Main gates into Dachau concentration camp "work will set you free"
Us, Dennis, and the girls studying in France
Close up of Glockenspiel
Dana in front of the Glockenspiel
We left Paris on the 26th in the afternoon and arrived in Munich by 10pm. We were supposed to stop in Stuttgart first but plans changed, so we found ourselves in Munich and finding a hostel. In Germany just about everything is closed on Sunday; so we walked around the city and took in a modern art museum for one euro each! On monday we did a free walking tour for the first time. Our guide Ricky is from Canada, he is studying German history in Munich so he was quite informative and funny. We met another canadian couple on the walking tour and exchanged traveling tips as we walked. That night we stayed with Dennis, (couch surfing host) and his two friends who are studying in France. The next day we went and visited Dachau concentration camp. It was quite amazing to see the buildings, the living conditions the prisoners endured, and to hear and read all of the information. We watched a 20 minute video of old footage from the start to the end of the camp. It was a lot fo take in, but we were both happy we did. We were supposed to leave Stuttgart after we got back from Dachau, but our plans fell through again. So Dennis very graciously let us stay two more nights. We all went out for German food that night, and stayed in and made supper the next. We took a day trip to Augsburg the next day, but it rained the whole time. We just walked around until we were pretty wet and then got back on the train and returned to Munich. On New Years eve we said goodbye to our new friends and finally headed to Stuttgart to meet some of Steve's friends from bible school in Sweden. (Not before missing the first train there!) It was a great time catching up and sharing a few memories. We said goodbye after a few hours in starbucks and caught our two trains that took us to Vienna, Austria. We got off the metro 3 minutes before midnight and were greated with fireworks going off in every direction. There was a haze of smoke because of all the fireworks. A group of people we were standing by even gave us some champaigne to toast to the new year! We walked a few blocks after inhaling enough smoke and found our next exchange place!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

PARIS !!!!!!

A civilized shot with the Eiffel Tower
Take that Eiffel !!
Notre Dame Cathedral
Us outside the Louvre
Dana and Moulin Rouge
Us and the Arc de Triumph

The rain, not snow was waiting for us in Paris. We walked around to see a few things and then went to meet Karine, who we were staying with. Karine is the god-sister of our friend Rachelle. We met her and her boyfriend and spent a little time with them that night; Karine even made us dinner. After sleeping in, we headed out sight seeing. We started off at the Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge. Then made our way down to the Arc de Triumph along Champs Elysees. (there were huge christmas market all along the streets) After the the Arc we started making our way back. We had a relaxing night to ourselves. The next day we tackled the Louvre! We saw 95% of it, but there was only so much museum we could handle. The Napolean apartments were one of our favourties. We went for a walk through the Tuileries Garden by the Louvre and then crossed the river and walked down St. Germain to see the church and what did we find.... another Christmas market! After that we had to walk all the way back to Karine's (35 min) and then we left to stay with Arno another couch surfing host. He was very welcoming and even added some salmon to our pasta dinner. We hung out and talked before heading to bed. The following morning we walked to Notre Dame Cathedral, Palace of Justice, and the Pantheon. Arno wasn't around when we returned to get our bags, so we had to leave without saying goodbye. We got a hotel room for two nights as our christmas present to each other, it was in an area close to the Eiffel Tower. We found our bed sloped backwards when we got there, so we think they upgraded us when they gave us a new room which was nice of them. Since it was the 24th of December and nothing was opened on the 25th, we did some grocery shopping for the next two days before heading out to the Eiffel Tower. It wasn't ideal weather to go up, but we figured we had put it off long enough. It started raining and was hazzy when we got there, but we found out it was opened Christmas day, so we just bought tickets for the the next day and headed back to go for dinner. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant followed by dessert and french moives backi n the hotel. We both would agree that is didn't feel like Christmas (a little snow might have helped). We slept in and Dana made a very nice breakfast for us. We finally headed out to the Eiffel tower around 3pm. It was a good thing we bought tickets the day before because the line up was huge when we arrived. Today the weather was much better, and we picked a great time to go, we got sunset pictures from the top of the tower, and then night shots from the second and first levels. We headed to a Christmas market on the other side of the river and walked around before heading back to the hotel where Dana put together a wonderful Christmas dinner after we had called our families to wish them a Merry Christmas. The next day we checked out at noon and caught our train at 3pm for Munich, Germany!!