Summer 2012 – Rail Passes

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Once Upon A Time…

I would like to share a story with you; my favorite story to look back upon and make me smile on dark days. When told as a series of adventures it has also created my little one’s favorite bed time story she could stay up all night listening to. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and we jumped in and never looked back. While that could be said for our entire Moroccan experience there is no better example than when we locked our front door and walked away for 3 months.

I’ll be telling you this story 2 years after the fact; now that I have time to sit down and compile our journal, notes and photos into one coherent thought. I ask you to join me as I take a trip down memory lane.

The Mission:

Travel through Europe and Turkey over a three month period with a travelling party of a 30-something husband and wife and a 15 month-old toddler. …more

If we don’t have it we don’t need it – Packing

Things are getting exciting, we are getting 3 month Eurail Passes; the number one item on my bucket list since the first time I went to Europe.

New Mission: Packing for 3 months for 2 adults and a toddler in 2 backpacks. …more

Bucket List – 3 months in Europe

And we are off; on foot with two backpacks, a stroller and a 15 month old for 3 months. There was a mix of excitement and wondering if we were crazy as we locked up our front door and walked away from our house knowing we wouldn’t be home for months. …more

June 27th – Barcelona, Spain

On Wednesday June 27th we left our house with two backpacks, a stroller, and a toddler (what were we thinking). Our original schedule didn’t call for us to leave until the next day, but since Rabat was having a heat wave and our bedroom temperatures hadn’t dropped below 92 in days, no one had gotten much sleep. In a last minute decision we decided to wrap everything up that we could and take off early. …more

June 29th – Barcelona, Spain

We hit the ground running at the very Spanish hour of 9:15 A.M. and headed for the Sagrada Familia, which is generally recognized as Gaudi’s masterpiece and is still under construction. …more

June 30th – Barcelona, Spain

We continued our tour of Barcelona starting with Park Guell, designed by Gaudi. We took a beautiful relaxing walk through the lesser known areas of the park and ended with the main entrance …more

July 1st – Madrid, Spain

We made it – out of the hotel, through the metro, to the train station, on the train, off the train, through a new metro, and to our hotel; and we still have all our baggage, our stroller intact and our little one; and spirits are high all around! …more

July 2nd – Madrid, Spain

Today we visited a couple other smaller museums, specifically coordinated with nap time. We started with the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid’s Modern Art Museum, which is housed in a renovated hospital. Between museums we also took in Madrid’s largest and most beautiful park, Parque del Retiro …more

July 3rd – Madrid, Spain

On our second full day in Madrid we headed to the other side of the city to check out The Royal Palace, which formerly housed the King and Queen, who have since moved to (marginally) simpler living. …more

July 4th – Bilbao, Spain

After our visit in Madrid we headed north to the Basque region and the world famous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. We only spent two nights in Bilbao, but it was a beautiful area, a small stone city surround by rolling green hills on all sides. … more

July 5th – Bilbao, Spain

On our first and only full day in Bilbao we started with the Guggenheim, the primary reason for visiting Bilbao. So as our little one went down for her morning nap in the stroller we started our tour of the Museum, both the building and the exhibits. With so much to see and take in though nap time ended with still miles to go. …more

July 6th – Bordeaux, France

We dedicated 6 days to France, two in Bordeaux and four in Paris, and we were very happy with our decision. Our visit to France started with a layover in the French town of Hendaya and we started it right – savory crepes and the house red at a small café in the center of town. After proper fortification, we caught the TGV into Bordeaux. …more

July 8th – Paris, France

Off to Paris – four days to fight the crowds and see the sights in this sprawling metropolis. On our first night in Paris we walked the Champs D’Elysees and had dinner on the famous street. After dinner we continued our walk to the Arc de Triomphe before heading back to the hotel for the night. …more

July 10th – Paris, France

Versailles, Versailles, Versailles – Day 2. After exiting the hotel 30 minutes later that we had hoped and the train taking more than 30 minutes longer than expected we arrived at Versailles over an hour after opening; (with all the people from the Eiffel Tower and everyone they had ever met). …more

July 11th – Paris, France

On our last day in Paris, and France, we didn’t want to miss a thing. The day’s activities had all been grouped together for their lack of stroller friendliness, so we headed out with our little one in a carrier along with a backpack for necessities and sundries. …more

July 12th – Brussels, Belgium

We arrived in Brussels late morning and were greeted at the train station by a friend of ours whom we would be staying with during our visit there. After a morning nap for our little one followed by lunch and an introduction to Belgian beer we embarked on the Great Walking Tour of Brussels. …more

July 14th – Berlin, Germany

Off to Berlin we went, with the rain hot on our heels. We had lucked out so far with many days having the threat of rain, but very few actually raining. It looked like our good luck and 60 degree weather was going to end at any time. …more

July 16th – Berlin, Germany

Day 2 in Berlin started off with some sun which was refreshing. This was to be our museum day, so we headed towards Museum Island for our little ones nap. A little overwhelmed by all the museums and knowing we would be lucky to make it through only one we went to Neues (New) Museum, which had just recently reopened after renovation. …more

July 17th – Berlin, Germany

Day 3, our bike tour of Berlin had a rocky beginning. To start it was raining – so after much consideration we skipped the bike ride and headed off to a Museum in Architecture, getting only slightly lost on the way there and finally making our way to the entrance to find the museum closed and the sun coming out. …more

July 18th – Berlin, Germany

The next morning actually turned out wonderfully. With 8:15 reservations to the Reichstag we had to get up and out early, but with a noon check out time we didn’t have to worry about packing our luggage until we returned. In the drizzle we made our way to the Reichstag by 8:00 and were let right in without waiting. …more

July 18th – Prague, Czech Republic

We had a late arrival in Prague due to our Reichstag tour and subsequent long train ride, but we successfully checked into the Marriot Apartments (on the same street as go-go bars… coincidentally) and headed out for a traditional Prague dinner at a restaurant recommended by the hotel along the main pedestrian walkway. …more

July 20th – Prague, Czech Republic

Since Prague was such a big city and our next, destination, Brno, was a smaller city, we decided to spend the morning in Prague and take a late train to Brno. We wandered into the old town and checked out their market, which was more chochkies than fun, but we did pick up a wooden alphabet puzzle game for only 3 American dollars – Success! …more

July 21st – Brno, Czech Republic

Brno was a singular event stop for us – the Villa Tugendhat, which was designed by famed Bauhaus architect Miles van der Rohe – and was the first private home to use structural steel. Recently opened for viewing after extensive renovations, we arrived in Brno to learn that tours, which started in April, regularly book up 2-3 months in advance. These are some of the important details you miss while trying to plan a 3 month trip. …more

July 22nd – Budapest, Hungry

Budapest marked the beginning of our most concentrated visits with friends, where we stayed with a friends at every other location all the way into Turkey. Our Budapest hosts started us off in grand style; they met us at the train station and escorted us back to their apartment in central Budapest. …more

July 24th – Vienna, Austria

First of all, we continued our love of train travel during the trip from Budapest to Vienna. Our little one slept THE WHOLE WAY, which was amazing!!!!! We were able to alternate reading our Kindles next to her stroller while she napped and writing about our travels on the laptop, which was the best of both worlds. Unfortunately in Vienna the weather caught up with us …more

July 26th – Ljubljana, Slovenia

A hidden gem in Eastern Europe: Slovenia!
We arrived at the Ljubljana train station and were met by friends – but by the time we arrived at the train station we had already started our love affair with this tiny country!!!! …more

July 29th – Salzburg, Austria

After visiting Slovenia we took a VERY LONG train from Ljubljana to Salzburg, Austria (land of the Sound of Music). We were AMAZINGLY GRATEFUL that our little one was not old enough to properly appreciate this singular musical, and we were spared the four hour Sound of Music Bus tour complete with sing-a-longs and a trip to the famous Gazebo. Instead we traveled to Fortress Hohensalzburg by way of the funicular train …more

July 31th – Munich, Germany

From Salzburg we took the very easy train to Munich which our little one slept through beautifully. Upon arrival at the Munich train station a friend met us on the platform with bus tickets in hand. We exited and were on the bus in a matter of minutes. Among the many reasons we were excited to visit Munich was to see our friends who also had two young children, (almost 5 and 3). …more

July 31th – Munich, Germany

From Salzburg we took the very easy train to Munich which our little one slept through beautifully. Upon arrival at the Munich train station a friend met us on the platform with bus tickets in hand. We exited and were on the bus in a matter of minutes. Among the many reasons we were excited to visit Munich was to see our friends who also had two young children, (almost 5 and 3). It has been very nice when our little one gets some playmates …more

August 1st – Basel, Switzerland

Much to our surprise we were scheduled to arrive in Basel, Switzerland on Switzerland’s National Day. Yes, completely by accident. The driving factor was a cheap flight from Basel, Switzerland to Istanbul, Turkey on August 3, so when you back that up 2 nights that puts us in Basel on August 1, National Day; aren’t we good. …more

August 2nd – Basel, Switzerland

The following day after overcoming our disappointment we set out for our full day in Basel and quickly realized that we had seen most of it the night before. The tourist information office was open though and we were able to get a map and spent the day following a couple recommended walks. …more

August 3rd – Istanbul, Turkey

On Friday, 3 August we left Europe behind and flew into Turkey. This was a section of the trip that we had really been looking forward to. As a secular Muslim country with a moderate Islamist party leading the government, there seemed to be many connections with our adopted country of Morocco. We were to find that our initial observation was both right and wrong. …more

August 4th – Istanbul, Turkey

We stayed with friends in their amazing place, but it was a good hike to downtown historic Istanbul, which gave us the opportunity to experience all facets of Turkish public transportation! All in all we experienced bus, train, funicular, tram, taxi and ferry as well as lots of walking. We started with a walk down Istiqlal (Independence) Street which is a main thoroughfare in upper Istanbul with stops along the way to see an Orthodox church, sample some Turkish delight, and have a savory Turkish nosh. …more

August 5th – Istanbul, Turkey

On Sunday we travelled to Topkapi Palace which was the primary residence of the Ottoman Empire rulers and a sprawling complex. Having come from the land of castles and palaces (Europe) Topkapi was not a disappointment, but it did not stand out as the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque had on the previous day. …more

August 6th – Cappadocia, Turkey

On Monday August 6th we headed out way too earlier to be up, again and had a smooth ride to the Istanbul airport for a flight to Cappadocia. The Cappadocia area of Turkey is known for its underground cities carved into the rook and its vertical rock formations known as fairy chimneys. We were very excited to see and explore the area. …more

August 7th – Cappadocia, Turkey

A great day! After a nice breakfast at our hotel we tentatively headed out on a full day tour. We signed up for the tour the day before once arriving in Urgup. The tour was run through the local travel office, Red Valley. They had several tours all of which seemed well put together and planned. Our uncertainly came from doing a full day group tour with a 16 month old. …more

August 8th – Cappadocia, Turkey

Today we decided to head out on our own. We had loved our tour the day before and had been very happy with the tour company, but we wanted to do a full day of underground cities and then visit another local town we were not staying in. There are lots of tours that visit one city or the other but for both we ventured out on our own …more

Don’t worry we made it home safely…

August 8th – Cappadocia, Turkey

August 7th – Cappadocia, Turkey

August 6th – Cappadocia, Turkey

August 5th – Istanbul, Turkey

August 4th – Istanbul, Turkey

August 3rd – Istanbul, Turkey

August 2nd – Basel, Switzerland

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