Country Roads

September 29, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | Leave a comment
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Mountain ViewI wanted to do this for a long time: explore Shenandoah National Park. One way to do it is to take a ride on Skyline Drive. For a full experience you actually would have to camp there but some friends and I decided to make a day trip. We definitely planned to go camping but August still was to humid to do this. Beware of the mosquitos. They can drive you crazy. We could only get rid of them after turning on a smoky fire.

The park is perfect for hiking up the mountains to catch breathtaking views of the area. There are multiple paths you can follow. From beginner to expert you should find a trail that suits you well. The park has much more to offer than you can cover in one day. Someday I’ll drive the whole 105 miles of the Skyline Drive. A camping trip is already in planning.

   Shenandoah Valley   Relaxation with a View

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Left my Heart in San Francisco

September 26, 2009 at 10:12 am | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | 2 Comments
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It all started out good when our taxi driver asked us if we knew that we’re staying in a fancy hotel. We actually didn’t know that hotels on Nob Hill are supposed to be swanky. When we decided to go on a trip to San Francisco for a long weekend we found a good deal for a hotel that even had a spa. Well, we didn’t get disappointed. The hotel we stayed in, the Huntington, feels like staying with your rich uncle with a great taste for interior design. Should you plan to stay there don’t miss out on the Espresso Martini in the hotel bar.

Knowing that we just have three days to explore the city we tried to pack as much sightseeing into our day as we could. A must is seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Don’t forget to bring a sweater. It’s always kind of chilly. In this city weather can change fast. We decided to take the boat tour in the bay which also let us see Alcatraz. We tried to avoid setting a foot on the island. There are masses of tourists and I don’t think you actually miss something. While being in the bay area we checked with Giradelli. They give out free samples in their store. Even though the samples are good I still think European chocolate tastes better. Don’t miss out on Lombard Street. Probably the funniest street I’ve ever seen.

Did I already tell you that I love San Francisco? This city really has flair. From great panorama views from up the hill to laid back people. This city is adorable. Personality is everywhere. People keep their architecture and culture intact and maintain it well. Apart from the hiking to get from point a to b it takes time to get around. After a while we actually decided to always take the taxi. Cable Cars are definitely made to entertain tourists but are a rip off. You pay the same price for a ride with a taxi. Because we got so many recommendations from friends for good restaurants and bars we wanted to visit taxis are the way to go.

We got a good impression of San Francisco within three days. If prices for living wouldn’t be that high we would totally consider living there. Sarah and I will go there again. Next up: Making a tour to the wineries and exploring the surrounding area.

Camping trip to Northern Minnesota

October 19, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | Leave a comment
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Four weeks ago we visited Sarah’s family in Minnesota again. Sarah planned to meet up with old friends so my father in law, John, and I decided to go for a camping trip in Northern Minnesota. We had planned to do this for quite a while. This autumn seemed to be the perfect time to go for it. Almost no more mosquitos and pleasant weather. The place we were heading for is north of Grand Marais, one of the last outposts before you enter wilderness, not too far from the Canadian border. Don’t get me wrong but it’s a six hours drive to get there from Minneapolis. After equipping ourselves with camping gear, we also needed to get some alcoholic beverages to survive the upcoming cold weather front. Up there it’s much colder than in Minneapolis. And while it was October what else can you get than Oktoberfest beer.

Driving by Superior Lake is really amazing. You can’t imaging how big that lake actually is. It’s so big that you can’t see the shore on the other side. We found a camping site at Flour Lake. After working long hours it is the perfect place to relax and let your brain calibrate to normal. The air is clean, no sound except for the animals and a perfect clear, starry sky at night. When we arrived it was almost dark and kind of hard to get the campfire going because it started to rain. However, after collecting some wood we could warm up and relax. The night in the tent was cold but not so bad in a good, comfy sleeping bag. We got woken up by chipmunks sliding down our tent. These guys seem to be used to humans and were sitting with us for breakfast.

On the next day we rented a motorized boat to go fishing. This is not exactly what you’d probably think of a typical trip to the wilderness. Man, where’s the canoe? Oh well, I was happy that we didn’t have to paddle all the way on the lake. The one we were on was really huge and it would have taken us all day to make our way to the other side of the lake. We were looking forward to a nice dinner but luck wasn’t on our side. We only caught two fish all day and they were not even very big. Thankfully, we also brought food supplies: Riceronies and some sausages.

The beauty of nature up there is stunning. You hardly see people if you don’t want to. For a more extended trip you should rent a canoe and make your way from one lake to another carrying it from portage to portage. After three days we left the site to drive back to civilization. I was looking forward to take a warm shower.

Cherry Blossom in DC

April 3, 2008 at 8:50 pm | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | Leave a comment
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One of the biggest Spring events in Washington DC is the Cherry Blossom Festival. All around the Tidal Basin cherry trees are in full bloom. The trees were once a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912 to enhance the friendship between the two countries. We caught a nice day last Saturday to walk around the Basin enjoying the exciting colors and the crowd strolling around.

Tidal Basin Entertainment Announcement Strolling Crowd Jefferson Memorial Washington Monument Sarah Cherry Blossom Ben Cherry Blossom

New York, New York

March 28, 2008 at 8:04 pm | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | 2 Comments
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Hey, we finally made it. We made a trip to New York last weekend. The most convenient way to get there from DC is to take the bus. We bought tickets ($40 round-trip) from DC2NY. The bus is equipped with a restroom and wireless internet for free. πŸ™‚ Depending on the traffic you normally need four to five hours to arrive at Penn Station, New York. The timing was perfect because we met up with Andrea and Joachim, friends from Bonn. They’re going stay in the US for three weeks visiting us in Arlington on their way back.

We started relaxed on Saturday morning at 10am having breakfast. By the way, the hotel we stayed at had a perfect location (Manhattan, just one block from Ground Zero) and a special offer for the weekend. On our way to Brooklyn Bridge we had a look at Ground Zero. OK, there’s not really a lot to see…just a construction site. Even though I’ve been to this place now the events of 9/11 are still not imaginable. After a stop at Starbucks for filling up caffeine we walked towards Brooklyn Bridge. The steel construction is really amazing and you have a great view on Manhattan and Brooklyn. Don’t miss this spot when you’re going to visit Manhattan. We walked past the City Hall to Chinatown. Chinatown is very crowded and appears to be the primary marketplace for Chinese. You can get any kind of vegetables, fruits and fish. I tried barbecued chicken feet. I won’t comment on that. Let me say it didn’t line up with my western taste of food. After walking past Little Italy we decided to have lunch in nice bar right beside Grand Central Station. Invigorated by burgers and drinks we headed towards Times Square walking past Rockefeller Center. Times Square itself was a massive bombardment of lights, noises, electronic commercials, people and traffic. It was too crazy for me and we left half an hour later. We took the subway to SoHo, a historic district of New York. Over there we settled in a nice restaurant with an attached winter garden for dinner.

Day two gave us less time than Saturday because our bus was already going to leave at 6pm. After sleeping in, having breakfast and checking out at the hotel we took the subway to see the Empire State Building. We had to wait in line for about 1 1/2 hours to buy the tickets ($19 per person) and actually get up to the top. We caught a really nice, sunny day and had a great view over Manhattan. We couldn’t really make Central Park in time so we decided to simply have a late lunch before picking up our luggage and taking the bus.

The trip was definitely worth it. However, to see most of the sights in New York requires a lot more time. However, I got a good impression of New York. It’s very vibrant, feels a little bit European in some places and I will check in again to see more of it.

Andrea, Joachim and Sarah Skyline from Below Ground Zero View from Brooklyn Bridge Brooklyn Bridge China Town New York Church Rockefeller Center Fountain Times Square Times Square Commercials View from Empire State Building Manhattan View

A Walk Through History

June 27, 2007 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | Leave a comment

Gathered around the Washington Memorial, an obelisk about 170 meters high, you’ll find all important memorials. You can buy a ticket to get to the top of the memorial by elevator or stairs. Unfortunately, they were all sold out when I got there. I guess you have to make ticket reservations at least one day in advance. To get your private portion of American history take a five to six kilometers walk. You’ll come by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a wall with all names of soldiers fallen or missed in action during the Vietnam war. Furthermore, you can’t miss the World War II Memorial which is located over the street from the Washington Memorial. Catch a pretty nice view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, Washington Memorial and reflecting pool right in front of the memorial. On the way to the Jefferson Memorial you’ll see the Korean War Veterans Memorial. I would definitely recommend to take pictures of the memorials at night. They look totally impressive.

Washington Memorial from WWII Memorial Washington Memorial from basin World War II Memorial Vietnam Veterans Memorial Lincoln Memorial Washington Memorial and Capitol Lincoln Statue Koean War Veterans Memorial Koean War Veterans Memorial Wall Jefferson Memorial

Where it all ends

June 13, 2007 at 10:46 am | Posted in Over There, Sightseeing | Leave a comment

Many of highly decorated US soldiers find their last home on Arlington cemetery being one of the most frequented touristy places in the DC area. The cemetery already holds graves of 260,000 soldiers increasing steadily by around 20 dead bodies every week. Even the day I visited there were several funerals. If you want to have a look at all the monuments and memorials on the cemetery, you should take into account walking about ten kilometers. Alternatively, you can use one of the Tourmobiles, buses with costs. I preferred to walk and enjoy the sunny day.

Don’t forget to stop by at the Visitors Center to pick up a cemetery map. I made this mistake and wasn’t pleased accidentally getting lost on the wide areal. Located beside the Visitors Center you’ll find a building honoring the women serving in the American army since 1776. Inside you’ll find an exhibition showing the history, uniforms and equipment of female military staff as well as hundreds of pictures of dead American soldiers. Walk up the hills to find the gravesite of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy. A bit of a hike is needed to climb up to the Arlington House and the grave of city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant. You won’t regret it. From there you have a beautiful view on Washington DC. Try to get to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers to a full hour to watch the ritual changing of the guard. I must say that the ritual looked very military but strange to me.

If you still feel in the mood of walking, you might also want to stop by the Marine Corps War Memorial also known as Iwo Jima Memorial located north to the cemetery. It shows five U.S. Marines flying the American flag on top of a mountain after fighting for superior control of the pacific island Iwo Jima in WWII. In fact the three surviving soldiers were used as propaganda tools by the US government to lift the morale of the American people to spend more money on war loans. Interested in learning more about that? Watch the movie Flag of our Fathers produced and directed by Clint Eastwood in 2006. It was nominated for two Academy Awards.

“The movie script for Flags of Our Fathers will try to show the difference between truth and myth, the meaning of being a hero, and the essence of the human experience of war.”

Map of Arlington Cemetery Women in Military Service for America Memorial Arlington Cemetery Memorial Drive Graveyard Kennedy Gravesite Arlington House View over Wasginton DC Tomb of the Unknowns Tomb Theater Graveyard View over Washington DC USMC Memorial

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