ND and Ten Year HS Reunion Trip Complete!

The last two weeks have gone by so quickly! It was a great, relaxing visit. I miss everyone…

 

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Damien is so excited for our adventure!

 

Damien spent a lot of time with Grandpa Hanks this trip and had a lot of fun together 🙂

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Hanging out in the backyard.
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They played all sorts of games!
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Damien playing a song on his new keyboard for us to enjoy 🙂
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Damien also helped Grandpa with the yardwork. He helped rake, pull weeds and pick up debris. What a good helper!
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Eating cherries.

 

Uncle David works the nightshift at his job, but did come over a lot of evenings to hang out with us.

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An odd game of frisbee…
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Having a great time!
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Relaxing.
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Uncle David and Damien 🙂

 

Since Damien and I were leaving on the 4th of July, we decided to set off some fireworks a little early. This was Damien’s first experience with them and he was a little bit nervous at the ones that were loud.

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Damien LOVED those snaps that you throw on the ground and they make a little “pop” sound.
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FIRETRUCK! Probably not worth the money… But still cool.
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The boys hanging out and lighting fireworks. Damien always wants to “help”.
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Sparklers!
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Watching fireworks from the backdoor.

 

As I said, it went by so quickly. I did attend my 10 year high school reunion dinner and it was so great to see people! The attendance wasn’t the best so there were quite a few people I didn’t get to see at all. I’m actually kicking myself for not taking ANY pictures. What’s with that? And speaking of pictures, I also didn’t get a family photo this trip either! I must be slipping…

The trip back home to Virginia went great. The ONLY issue was that Damien’s carseat didn’t come in with our flight so the airline lent us a carseat so that we could drive home. The carseat was then delivered to my home later that evening so it wasn’t too much of a hassle.

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Damien entertaining himself before the last flight home.
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Playing on the airport playground equipment. They should have these in EVERY airport!

 

On Saturday Damien and I picked up Katrina from the Yorktown Pet Lodge where she was staying while we were out of town. The lady there said that Katrina was super friendly and there weren’t any problems. I was a little bit nervous that once we got her home that maybe she would be standoff-ish, but she was completely fine.

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She still loves me 🙂

 

Scott’s Trip to VA

I just can’t believe how quickly the last two weeks have gone by! Scott was pretty tired for the first week trying to adjust to the time difference and Damien was acting up a lot in the first few days.  Scott is at the airport now on his way back to Germany. We did get some grown-up chores done like filing our taxes and taking the car in for preventative maintenance, but overall it was just a very nice, relaxing trip 🙂

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Scott is checking out Damien’s tablet.

Of course we bought Damien some new toys for this summer…

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This kid cannot pedal his new bike. We just have to keep practicing but boy is he frustrating. Oh, and yes he rides it outside with a helmet. This pic is just his first time sitting on it.

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Basketball Superstar with his new hoop!

And we had fun playing in the park near the house…

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We celebrated our 9-year wedding anniversary on the 10th so we could visit Virginia Beach when the weather was nice. If we would have waited until the 15th then it would have been thunderstorming for most of the day.

Our first time at the Cheesecake Factory! Scott had a carrot cake cheesecake while I had a yummy chocolate one.
Our first time at the Cheesecake Factory! Scott had a carrot cake cheesecake while I had a yummy chocolate one.
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I think Scott liked it… 😀
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We’re not the best at taking selfies, but here we are on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach!
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Sarah on the boardwalk
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Scott on the boardwalk
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View of Virginia Beach near the boardwalk.
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Another view of Virginia Beach near the boardwalk.

And that’s about all the highlights. I miss Scott already… Now I need to go get some groceries and start eating better because this vacation has caused me to pack on a few pounds! Totally worth it 🙂

 

 

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Family photo from Scott’s last night with us.

 

To Paris and Back in 24 Hours

Scott and I spent this Saturday in Paris, France! We took a USO tour where we left at 0400 on Saturday and returned at 0430 on Sunday. We had someone watch Damien since the tour was not recommended for children. Due to some miscommunication with the drivers, it took us 7.5 hours to get to Paris when it only should have taken around 5 which then cut some of our time in other areas short. There were lots of tourists and the lines for everything were very long so we just saw everything from the outside. The people were nice and the food was amazing. A diet of breads and pastries? Yes, please! Overall, the trip was awesome!

We stopped for breakfast on the way and it was delicious. We shared a muffin, croissant, brotchen (hard roll), and fresh fruit. A traditional French breakfast is a croissant with jam, a brotchen (hard roll) with butter, orange juice, and coffee.

Our first stop on the tour was the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes when you see a monument in real life, it tends to be smaller than what you pictured in your mind. Not in this case–the Eiffel Tower is HUGE. It was built in 1889 and is around 1,000 feet tall. We only had enough time here for a couple of photos.

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The Eiffel Tower!
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Sarah at the Eiffel Tower
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Scott with the Eiffel Tower
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You can see people walking up the stairs inside one of its legs.
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From the underside of the Eiffel Tower. You can see where some of the elevators go up and down.

Next, we were back on the bus for a bus tour of the city. Scott and I were sitting at the back of the bus so we weren’t able to see the buildings at the time that the tour guide was talking about them. These next photos were taken from the bus.

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Les Invalides–home of Napoleon’s Tomb
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Musee de l’Armee (Army Museum)
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The backside of “The Thinker”
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They were setting up TONS of bleachers for the Tour de France.
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The Louvre–This tour was too short to go inside 🙁 The museum contains 35,000+ works of art.
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I don’t know what these buildings are…but they look important.

Next, we headed over to the Arc of Triomphe area for some shopping and lunch. The arch is to honor those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

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Sarah at the Arc de Triomphe
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Scott at the Arc de Triomphe
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Two of my favorite things–sandwiches and desserts for lunch!

After lunch, we bus’d over to the Notre Dame de Paris for some more free time to wonder.

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Outside the front of the Notre Dame
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Sarah at the Notre Dame
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You can see people standing on the balcony next to the famous gargoyles. We didn’t want to wait in the long lines to get up top.
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Trying a Nutella and banana crepe! Yum!
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Sarah with the Notre Dame
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Side view of the Notre Dame
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A “love locks” bridge. Couples write their names on a padlock and then lock it on the bridge as a symbol of their undying love.
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Scott looking at all the old locks.
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Buildings around the Seine River. Lots of little shops with what I’m assuming are apartments and hotels above.
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The streets and buildings have lots of character.
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There were tons of little food places in which people sat outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and people-watch.
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Fontaine Saint-Michel
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Buildings along the Seine River
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More buildings across the Seine River
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Just liked this photo
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The Castle Conciergerie

After a couple hours of walking around, it was time for dinner. We got to choose an item from each course. There was also a “cheese” course, but we needed to save room for dessert!

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I order “shrimp cocktail” for a starter…I didn’t care for it.
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Scott enjoying his French Onion Soup
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Scott had the chicken and I had the turkey for the main course. Both were very good–very flavorful. Scott is taking advantage of the all-you-can-drink wine.
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I chose the apple tart for dessert!

After dinner, we took a boat cruise along the Seine River. The weather was PERFECT!

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Sarah and Scott with the Eiffel Tower on the boat cruise.
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The Palais Bourbon — for the French National Assembly
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I think this is the Institute of France
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Apparently the French love to spend their Saturday nights hanging out along the Seine River waving to the passengers on the boats. There were people up and down both sides for the whole hour-long cruise.
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The sun setting on the buildings of Paris
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Musee d’Orsay
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Pont Alexandre III Bridge
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The front/center of the Pont Alexandre III Bridge
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Scott with the Eiffel Tower at night
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Sarah with the Eiffel Tower at night
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This picture is going in the Paris picture frame I bought on the trip 🙂

The boat cruise was the end of our journey in Paris. I really enjoyed it. We took the bus back to Germany which goes surprisingly fast when you’re sleeping.

We picked up Damien the next morning and he was pretty docile the rest of the day. In fact, he fell asleep at the grocery store lol. The person who watched Damien has two young boys, one of which is only a few months younger than Damien. Apparently, they kept each other riled up the whole time.

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My sleepy boys

Potential Trip Dates

So…we’re flying out of Germany on 22 July.  The plan as it sits right now will be to stay in Maine from 22-29 July and then head over to North Dakota from 29 July-5 August. Then after we’re done visiting family, Scott and I will be heading for Virginia to get me all set up while Damien stays with his Grandma and Grandpa Hanks. I don’t know anymore details right now because I’m waiting for Scott to return to Germany next week and then we’re working on getting plane tickets purchased. It’s exciting, but also rather stressful too. Scott won’t be able to fly with me to Baltimore–long story. Anyways, more details to follow in the next couple weeks!

Italy Trip – Day 6

Day 6 was our final day in Italy and our return to Germany. We stopped by to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and ate lunch. I didn’t know this before getting there, but you can actually go inside of it. They only allow about 20 people inside at a time for obvious reasons.

Leading into the Field of Miracles

There were TONS of people. Our tour guide said in her 28 years as a guide that she’s never seen it so busy.

I couldn’t resist…

Grandma is front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Grandma and I

Another view of the Field of Miracles

After Pisa we endured the long path back through Switzerland to Germany. We arrived just after midnight. At least the tour guide played movies for us on the bus to make the time go by a little faster.

Some other pieces I forgot to mention from the Italy trip–almost all of the public restrooms in Italy didn’t have toilet seats. Also, Italian drivers are insane. I even got to witness some ANGRY Italian drivers. I am 100% happy that I was stationed in Germany over Italy. Italy was actually number one on my list and Germany was second.

By the time this is getting posted, my Grandma is already back safe and sound in the States. Thank you so much to my Grandma for making the trip out here, for helping me with the move, for my gifts and meals, and for the memories. Awesome trip. And a special thank you to Scott who stayed home and took great care of my sweet, lil’ baby Damien while my Grandma and I experienced Italy. Much appreciated.

Italy Trip – Day 5

On Day 5, we left Rome for Florence which I believe was a 5-6 hour bus ride. Grandma and I were rather exhausted by this point in the trip and ended up doing some shopping while looking around the sights in Florence.

El Duomo– this was Grandma’s favorite looking church

The front of El Duomo

Street view in Florence

Another street view in Florence

Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza Signoria

Close up of the fountain

Replica of David. There was a large line to see the real one from Michelangelo.

Perseus holding Medusa’s head in the Piazza

We just saw this while walking. It looked awesome.

After sightseeing and shopping, we went to a Tuscan dinner with our tour group. It was definitely the best meal and we had a lot of fun…it was also all you can drink wine. The strawberry wine was DELICIOUS!

Pre-dinner drink. It was peach flavored.

Grandma and I at the Tuscan dinner with our strawberry wine.

Not a very good photo. The meat was on fire, but it didn’t really translate.

Italy Trip – Day 4

Day 4 contained both my favorite and at least activities of the whole trip. First, we took the bus about 4 hours down to Pompeii. Pompeii was hands down my FAVORITE part. It was just so interesting to hear about how they lived 2,000 years ago and how similar things are today. Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Our tour guide for Pompeii was Francesco. If I could create a person who embodied all Italian stereotypes from appearance to speech, it was Francesco. Grandma thought he was funny, I thought he was rather annoying. Still, he gave us great information.

View of the unburied city of Pompeii

The amphitheater. That is Francesco with the sunflower umbrella.

This was on a wall. It’s stating that a certain politician funded the construction of a roof. Basically, a way to remind people of his importance and to give him credit. Has much changed?

The city is very grid-like and uses the north/south/east/west for its roads. It has a street for the chariots and sidewalks for pedestrians. You’ll notice large blocks going across the street. That’s a cross walk so pedestrians can walk without getting wet if there’s water in the street. The stones are measured for chariots to drive through.

A home, I believe

The name on the home is original.

Inside a home of a wealthy person. I guess it’s like their entryway. I noticed most of their walls used to be red.

Wealthy homes had a garden in the middle.

These buildings were stores for shopping much like what you see today.

This was a bakery.

Streetview

I don’t think you can see it very well in this picture, but there’s a shape on the street in a specific shape which lets men know where the brothels are…

This is inside a brothel. There are pictures on the wall to show the various “options”. Pictures were used in case the person couldn’t read.

A stone bed inside the brothel.

A real person preserved from the eruption.

This is inside a bath house. They LOVED their baths. The cubbies on the walls are storage lockers.

In the bath houses, they had heated floors.

This is in their main square area outside.

Main square again

Me, again

Grandma in the main square.

After a great tour of Pompeii, we jumped on the bus over to Sorrento. It’s a very cute place and they’re known for their lemons in this area. The lemons though are very sour so they use them for an alcoholic beverage known as limoncello. I bought some for Scott 🙂

Scenic view from the bus to Sorrento.

Another scenic view from the bus.

In Sorrento

Street view of Sorrento

In Sorrento, waiting for the boat.

After Sorrento, we took a boat ride to Naples. This was the worst part of the entire trip. Our boat had mechanical issues so we had to take a different boat which lengthened our time on the boat by about an hour. I’m sure the view of the Mediterranean Sea would have been lovely, only Grandma and I couldn’t enjoy it because the boat was rocking way too much and we would have been sick. The whole journey we spent inside sleeping through the misery. Once we arrived in Naples, all we did was jump on the bus for a 4 hour drive back to the hotel in Rome. Not too fun. Oh, and something interesting about Naples, don’t ever go there! lol. The city is full of unemployed and the crime rate is outrageous. It wasn’t too pretty either.  

Pic of Naples from the bus

City of Naples from the bus. Couldn’t Naples leave fast enough 🙂

Italy Trip – Day 3

Day 3 was definitely the most tiring day. We spent the whole day in Rome. The city of Rome is covered in more graffiti than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was too hard to get pictures from the bus though. I did take tons of pictures, but most weren’t worth posting. There was so much information about art and our tour guide for the day spoke with a thick Italian accent. We had to use an earpiece/radio device so we could hear what the tour guide was saying because it was so loud where we were going. The Vatican museum was probably the most unexciting thing on the trip. While everything was visually interesting, it was a little bit overwhelming and I couldn’t hear most of what was being said about it. We also went inside the Sistine Chapel, but photos aren’t allowed so I don’t have any.

Outside the Vatican. Can you guess who’s hat that is? lol

St. Peter’s Square

Different view of outside

You can see St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome.

Some courtyard area

Courtyard area from a different view.

The Egyptian things seemed interesting.

Sculptures

More Sculptures

Ceiling in one of the rooms

Close up view of same ceiling

A room with tapestries on the walls. Grandma stands out 🙂

A close up of one of the tapestries

Another room in the museum with maps painted on the walls

Close up of what was painted beside one of the maps

Ceiling in the map room

Close up of the ceiling

The eyes were gems…which have since been removed. Maybe stolen?

Close up of more art

Painted on a ceiling. This is more what I expect from the Catholics lol

Holy door-opened once every 25 years

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica

Mary holding Jesus in this sculpture. I remember the tour guide saying how there were complaints when it was done that Mary looked too young. I think this was done by Michelangelo

More inside St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope John XXIII, I think

If you look closely, you’ll see people on a balcony underneath the windows. Notice the size of the people compared to the size of the letters.

Grandma in St. Peter’s Basilica

Colosseum. Fun fact, the holes that look like spots all over the Colosseum are because of a metal storage at one point in time, so they just stole it from here.

Me

Grandma in front of a Roman gate at the Colosseum

Going inside the Colosseum

Great view of the inside arena

Grandma and I!

Trevi Fountain

Another view of the Trevi Fountain

Grandma throwing a coin in the fountain. It’s tradition to throw the coin with your right arm over your left shoulder while standing backwards.

The Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon

The ceiling in the Pantheon. It’s completely open at the top. There are holes in the floor below in case of rain.

Grandma outside the Pantheon

Street view of Rome

Grandma and I resting after a long day. She’s people-watching.

After a full day of sightseeing in Rome, we went to a family style Roman dinner. They had Opera singers for entertainment and I witnessed Grandma enthusiastically singing along to the songs after drinking some wine.

Italy Trip – Day 2

Day 2 Grandma and I spent in Venice, Italy.

Boat we took to get to Venice

Glass-blowing demonstration

Final product…created in about 10 min. This skill takes 15-20 years to master, they said.

Notice the amount of people…Can you spot Grandma?

Venice

St. Marc’s Square, aka Piazza San Marco

Another view of St. Marc’s Square

Yet another view of St. Marc’s Square

View from the water. Don’t remember name of the building.

St. Marc’s Basilica

Grandma in front of St. Marc’s Basilica

Gondola ride, anyone?

It was hard to take photos of ourselves in the gondola, but you get the idea.

Street view from the gondola

Beautiful!

Going under another bridge…

Notice a tower is leaning??

Venice, a strange and beautiful place

Me with my newly purchased jacket–go Italia!

After sightseeing in Venice, we then took a 6 hour bus ride to Rome, Italy.

Italy Trip – Day 1

For all those wondering, Grandma and I returned from our Italy trip late last night. Overall, it was AMAZING, but definitely exhausting. With over 2,000 miles traveled and 741 photos taken in 6 days/5 nights, we are satisfied that we saw everything there was to see in Italy. Our driver and tour guide were the best you could ask for.

Below is a snapshot of the events from Day 1. We got on our bus at about 0530 and didn’t arrive to our hotel in Venice until around 2300 (11pm). It was a brand new bus so it was very nice.

Border between Germany and Switzerland

Grandma bought us wine to celebrate the transition into Switzerland

Grandma on the bus going into Switzerland

Swiss landscape

Swiss Alps

Scenery from our rest stop in Switzerland

We made a two hour dinner stop at Lake Garda in Italy.  Very pretty place.

Our first taste of TRUE Italian pizza–Hawaiian style

First taste of real Italian gelato. Don’t be fooled by Grandma’s expression, she likes gelato.

Lake Garda

Lake Garda

At Lake Garda

 Day 1 was long, but we made it to Venice! More pictures to come over the next few days.