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Interlaken! August 13, 2011

Posted by Michael Hodgson in Travel Log.
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The last weekend of the trip and I had the opportunity to spend it in Interlaken, Switzerland.  The first thing to note about Switzerland is the cost – EVERYTHING is expensive.  That said, it was definitely worth all it cost and more.

We started our weekend with a 12-hour journey via 5 trains, 2 buses, and a plane.  Upon arrival, we checked in to the famed Balmer’s Herberge (hostel).  A great location, mountain views from the front door, and a bar in the basement – what could be missing?  After checking in, we went to participate in the first of our planned excursions, a trip to the alpine canyons for canyoning!

After jumping, sliding, and falling through a river-filled canyon for 3 hours, I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing experience.  Little did I know there was one to come the next morning.  We woke up around 7am to catch the van that was picking us up to go hang gliding!  Hang gliding in the alps was one of the single most incredible things I have ever done.  With the beautiful mountains and mountain lakes in all directions, not only could you see all of Interlaken, but also what seemed to be most of Switzerland!

From hang gliding, we hopped on a train and took a short ride up to Grindewald, a small ski-town up in the alps.  There we enjoyed the afternoon and evening basking in the sunlight, hiking in the alps, and enjoying amazing swiss cheese fondue!  A short ride back to town on the train and checking in to the tent we stayed in on night two (that’s right…we went camping in the alps :-) ), and the night was finished.

Except…for the cat that came in to visit us during the storm around 430 in the morning…waking up to a black cat on your bed that you didn’t put there is a bit unnerving to say the least!  But Henry (as we called it) was friendly and seemed to just want warmth and a good ear-scratch before it curled up and slept with me for the rest of the night!

Definitely worth a trip there – might be even better when the ski slopes are open, but to see a glacier in the heart of summer is pretty worthwhile in and of itself, wouldn’t you say?

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Luck of the Irish! August 13, 2011

Posted by Michael Hodgson in Travel Log.
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Hey all!

Been a while since I posted – one thing about traveling abroad is a distinct lack of decent internet and/or the time to use it!

Just got back last weekend from Dublin!  Incredible sights were seen and then we went home.

Nah, I’ll give you a bit more than that! :-)

Took us three trains and a ferry to arrive in Dublin.  Wasn’t expecting a cruise ship to be our ferry – it was cheap for a cruise – only 33 pounds!  Arrived in Dublin and checked into one of the coolest hostels I’ve ever seen.  Paddy’s Palace in Dublin also doubled as the departure center for most of the tours of Ireland! Spent the first day walking around and seeing the city.  Saw the monuments and houses of Oscar Wilde, saw Trinity College and the famous Book of Kells, and finished the day with dinner and a walk through Dublin’s famed Temple Bar district.

Day two started with a little more walking followed by an awesome tour of the old Guinness factory in Dublin, where they still make several hundred thousand gallons of beer every day! We went from there to the old Jameson distillery where they make one of the finest whiskeys in the world. After enjoying a guided tour from Seamus with the really strong Irish accent, we took a walk over to the Brazen head pub, the oldest pub in all of Ireland, for dinner and a drink.

Day three dawned with a tour leaving from our hostel at 730 am! An incredible bus tour of the Irish countryside, seeing everything from a 12th century abbey, to the true Irish farmland, to the Cliffs of Moher. Some of the most incredible vistas the world has to offer! After the full day tour of Ireland, we came back to the hostel, slept for the night, and caught another ferry and 3 trains back to Oxford!

Overall, a very productive and exciting weekend!

Will Venice be the next Atlantis? June 19, 2011

Posted by Michael Hodgson in Travel Log.
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No…seriously…the whole place is sinking…or is the sky rising?  Either way, you should go visit while its still around to see!

Venice is an incredible city – no cars, scooters, or anything else to dodge around.  Streets that dead-end into the water, Bells at all hours and a festival!  The streets are packed with people, headed every which way, and all speaking different languages.  We enjoyed several art museums, including the Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which holds some of the most famous impressionist and futurist paintings including several Picassos and works by Salvador Dali.  A quick trip to St. Mark’s square to play with the pigeons and enjoy the cathedral, and several times of getting lost in the maze of streets concluded the trip to Venice.

On the second night in Venice, we all enjoyed a wonderful Vivaldi concert by the Venezia Interpreti group in one of the local churches.  Not only was the music well-put together, but Chris Kattan was playing the Cello! (see SNL for details)  The beautiful church provided an awesome theatre in which to have the music truly surround and envelop us as we listened and enjoyed.

Turns out our last day in Venezia was a major festival of some sort.  Power boats were prohibited from entering the canals, leading HUNDREDS of canoes, longboats, rowboats, kayaks, and more to fill the canals.  Bells rang constantly all day and singers lined the streets providing a beautiful theme song to a sunny day in Italy.  Next up – Vienna, Austria!!!

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All Roads Lead to… June 19, 2011

Posted by Michael Hodgson in Travel Log.
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Rome!  Yep, cliche, I know – deal with it!

That said, Rome is amazing!  We are staying in a pastel-colored hotel right by the bus station with a quick trip down to the old city.  A few hour walking tour quickly led us through most of the old city, seeing everything from the Roman Forum, to four of the seven founding hills of Rome, to the Colosseum.  There was just so much to see- it seems like every direction you turn there’s something else to see.  We enjoyed the Pantheon and a slew of stunning cathedrals on day 2 in Rome, and the Vatican city on day 3.  The Vatican museum is one of the most elaborate and fantastic museums I’ve ever seen!  With the slow speed of internet around here, I can only upload so much, but to give you some idea, there’s a few pics attached!  We also made it into St. Peter’s Basilica to see one of the wonders of the modern world!

Also, when Dr. Pearsall recommends a hike for the “most amazing view of Rome possible,” take him up on the offer.  It’s one thing to live and sightsee in the city, but to make the hike up to St. Maria’s church on the hills outside Rome provides an awe-inspiring birds-eye view of one of the most incredible cities in the world!  On our last free day in Rome, five of us hopped on a train and headed down to Pompeii to see the city preserved by volcanic ash – definitely a worthwhile trip, including some of the most incredible mountain/country landscapes I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  Next up is Venice!

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Florence! June 13, 2011

Posted by Michael Hodgson in Travel Log.
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Overview of Florence, Italy!

Overview of Florence, Italy!

Bienvenidos a Firenze, Italia!!!  It took nearly 6 days to get an internet that I wasn’t being charged for by the minute…that said, I’ll be trying to catch up in the next few days here in Vienna, Austria.

So, to start, Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it, is a beautiful city.  We enjoyed three days of sunny, hot weather and making new friends.  We saw all sorts of museums, including the Uffizi Gallery, the Barghello, and the Academia and the amazing sculptures and paintings inside each.  The food was amazing with quick lunches and relaxed dinners including some of the best wines in the world!  Also, gelatto is now a staple food of mine…it should possibly be against the law to have a street-front gelatto shop! :-)

The amazing architecture in the old city was everywhere.  From Brunelleschi’s Duomo to the churches on each corner, it was simply an incredible experience.  We rounded out the visit with a trip to the Florencian Theatre and a presentation of Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky’s virtuosic (yes, that’s a vocabulary word for the music class :-) ) ballet.  Overall, an awesome experience that you should definitely take the opportunity to check out on your own!

Keep reading – I’ll be sure to add more tomorrow or later this evening!

PS: Watch for time zone shifts…almost forgot about that one – unexpected jetlag is worse than expected jetlag!

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