Roaring Along the CountrySide… to Zermatt!

After our Paris Extravaganza and a long restless night due to a girl in the group getting her passport stolen (NEVER wear back packs when transiting the Paris subway system) 3 of us got up the next morning and headed to the train station, we were off to Zermatt! Now one thing I would have never thought of but M did (Thanks!) was to do some extra research ahead of time and hire a shuttle service to pick us up and take us to the train station. It was extremely convenient and WAY cheaper than taking a taxi. It was also a large van so it would have been able to fit 5 people and all of our luggage including skiing equipment if we would have all been traveling together.

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We arrived at the train station 45 minutes early, plenty of time to find our train line, get our luggage carried over, a Starbucks latte, and to get settled in. The train came right as scheduled and I checked the track lines every few minutes because I almost missed a train in London once because it switched tracks at the last minute and I almost didn’t notice.

We boarded the train in a complete rush because although we were there very early it only stopped at the station for a few minutes and we had some serious luggage, I had my skii’s for goodness sakes! Then there was the trouble of finding our assigned seats. Again thanks to M we got such a great deal. She called the Euro Train Lines 3 different times and they ended up giving her a great price for the tickets. We were in second class and it only cost us about $130 which normally it would have been nearly $400 when traveling through the Xmas season.

Once we were settled in we were all exhausted! I think each us had only slept for about an hour the whole night. M & E fell asleep right away but I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the scenery so I stayed up for quite some time enjoying it. The landscape was so lovely and the farmlands were a familiar welcome to my small home town back in the states.

I started filling out my Paris postcards because I send postcards from everywhere I go. I have a pen pal back in the states 😉 and I send about 16 from every country I visit. Finally my eyes started drooping and I just passed out. It was about a 5.5 hour ride from Gar de Leon (Paris Central) station to Tasch where we had a connect on the Glacier Express.

When we arrived at the station we could see a train on the other tracks and the flashing light for Zermatt. We all took off at a spring, skii’s and all. My legs and arms were burning because we had to run down through a tunnel and then up and out the other end. We reached the train just in time not knowing that there would be anohter one just an hour later. haha. It was sweat and tears that got us there but we settled in easily. We sat by a Japanese man and I told him I live in Japan. He was extremely surprised! We talked about the food and where he was from in Osaka. He gave us charms from his town. He told us he has traveled the world to go skiing and loves Zermatt very much. It just fed to our anticipation.

As our train climbed steeply up the mountain none of us slept on this ride. It was only about an hour and a half to Zermatt Central station and we were all eyes the entire ride. I actually felt like I was on the Polar Express chugging up into the hills. The tracks passed dangerously close to huge ice drop offs and it was some of the most beautiful winter landscapes I have ever seen. I felt like a little kid. I smiled so big the whole way up!

Randa was a small small small town 2 stops away from the main station and that was where we would be staying. We took the train all the way to Zermatt because we wanted to buy some groceries for dinner and we didn’t even know where to go in Randa. At the main station I was so excited. They actually had horse and buggies waiting to take people to some of the hotels. The main street of Zermatt is so quaint. It was just perfect. Everything I could have dreamed up and more. I came pretty close to just lying down right there and thanking the lord with a look of stupor on my face. It was truly gorgeous.

We bought some groceries and a week ticket to ride the train from Randa to Zermatt unlimited, that only cost about 68 Francs, not bad for a 10 day pass. Once we got to Randa we had no idea how to get to our apartment so we stopped at the first place we saw to ask. Of course everyone knows everyone so the person at that place called the woman from the place we were going to and they came down and picked us and our stuff up in a car. This we were very thankful for. The place we were staying in was quaint and perfect. It had a fire place for us to make a fire in nightly, which of course we did. It even had a loft to sleep in. LOVE.

They left us bottles of wine and some candy bars which we of course scarfed down because we were starving. We decided to go to Zermatt to have dinner so we got dressed up and jumped on the train which goes through the station hourly and took it back to Zermatt Central. We found a restaurant just a few feet away from the station and decided it looked delicious so we went in and took a seat. I immediately tried the Switzerland pale ale, it was delicious. We ordered meat and potato dishes and it was just what we needed to warm our cold and stiff bodies. The more we ate, the more we drank, the more we drank, the happy we got. It was a grand night.

After dinner we walked up the street and checked out what all there was. We also did a little after hours window shopping in preparation for the shopping we would be able do throughout the week. After a couple more drinks and a lively bunch at one of the bars up the road we headed back to Randa so we could collapse into our beds. There was much to do and we needed some rest. Just wait for our next adventure!

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“When Good Americans Die, they go to Paris” –Oscar Wilde

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HOW to travel PARIS in a day with no tour guide:

Well first things first… start off with a mimosa in your hotel lobby… or three because they are delicious and you are in Paris. Oui Oui.

After meeting up with everyone the night before and touring the Eiffel Tower in style it was time to travel the city and see the other exciting sights Paris has to offer.

We got ourselves a map and started our journey using the subway system. We were staying in St. Dennis so it wasn’t far and very easy to figure out once we asked the hotel front desk which stops all of the major scenery was located.

We wanted to tour the Louvre first so we took the subway to that stop and headed the rest of the way on foot. As soon as we exited the subway terminal it was a site to behold. It was so french, probably because we were in France but the only other place I have to compare is England. I just love taking in all of the sites I can so we took pictures, stopped in a few side shops, and stopped in a cafe for some coffee and begets before heading into the center of the Louvre structure.

The line was quite long for the museum but it went very quickly especially since we were laughing and taking many different pictures. I think a few people thought we were crazy.

Once inside we waited in another line to pay and then we headed toward the Mona Lisa because they did in fact have it there. I’ve never been big on the Mona Lisa but my sister had a Mona Lisa snow globe when we were growing up and when you would wind it, it would sing the Mona Lisa song by Nat King Cole which I thought was lovely and catchy too. Of course the room holding her was the most crowded of them all so I squeezed my way up for a quick pic and then was on my way. I had to drag the others away.

After some serious examination (just one small side because is HUGE and you could wonder around for days in there) of the Louvre, we walked back outside and walked through an archway towards the ferris wheel. Once we got to the road We happened upon the Paris Obelisk which is the oldest statue in Paris but was not placed there until 1833.

We bought a few snacks at a road side stand and then hailed a taxi to take us to the Sacre Coeur which is a cathedral that sits above the city and when you walk to it you can look out over Paris. Its quite a stunning view. The walk up was very nice with all kinds of little shops. I tried chocolate dipped marshmallows. yummy. We toured inside the cathedral and took pictures outside then we walked back and headed down to the city to find a place for dinner. While walking on our way we found an area where people were selling paintings and both my sister and I bought one because they were beautiful.

We ate an Italian dinner with good wine and grabbed a taxi afterwards to take us to the Palace of Versailles. The palace is a little bit outside of the city so we zipped along and when we pulled up we had just missed the entry time so we took pictures outside and headed back to Paris to see the Notre Dame.

By this time sunset had already occurred, so we saw the Notre Dame at night which I thought was magnificent. We stopped for a few more drinks then took the subway back to our hotel to rest up because we would be heading towards Zermatt tomorrow and that was the most exciting part!

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Oui Oui, la tour Eiffel la nuit!

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M and I!

Back on December 9th 2012, I was one night away from pulling into Norfolk VA from my first 7 month deployment and my new duty station assignment came in. I remember it well because we were having quite an intense BINGO game going on and I was right in the middle of trying to win a 50″ television when the captain came down and told me my orders were in and would I like to know where I was going?

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He was a bold man that first ate an Oyster!–> Kashima Oyster Festival!!

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OYSHI OYSHI! Meaning delicious in Japan also explains how amazing the Oyster festival is! How often are you able to buy a huge bag of oysters, some rice triangles, hot dogs, and corn on the cob to grill for yourself for less than 20 bucks? The oysters themselves would be almost $40 in the U.S. Out here in Japan they are collected by the bucket load so no need to worry.

At the Kashima harbor park we bought our oysters, some beer, and the other foods mentioned above and we had ourselves a delightful afternoon cooking oysters on the grill, listening while they sizzle and when they finally pop they are ready to be pried open and eaten. I was wearing protective gloves because the coals become very hot and oyster shells are no joke in the heat. We munched for a good two hours on oysters, corn, and rice triangles. The Japanese were loving it! The oyster festival lasts the entire month of November in Sasebo and we had been so busy we barely made it the last weekend they were holding it. Lucky us! If I’m in town next year I’ll be back and that’s a fact.

So Good!

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Touring the Ramparts– Seoul, Korea

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Since my sister was coming to live with me in Japan I decided to do something nice, such as buying us tickets to Korea for a four-day weekend! I submitted a chit and once that was approved, I bought the tickets and sprung the surprise on her 2 weeks after she had arrived!

Two of my friends were traveling with us and one of them travels to Korea as often as possible, works with a missionary there and is pretty knowledgeable about where to go and what to do. We packed our small bags the night before and the next day as soon as work was over, we were on our way to the airport to catch our 45 minute flight to Pusan.

We flew with Korean air which was an excellent experience (I love all international airlines), we received a full meal during the 45 minute flight and we even got two free Kirin’s (beers) to drink. My sister and I were in the last two seats on the plane. It was great!

That night we took the train from Pusan to Seoul, barely catching the last one there and headed to our hotel which was located in Gangnam Korea, if you know Gangnam Style, then you will know that this suburb of Seoul is very up scale, even though we are not very upscale people. haha.

The next morning we woke up and met with a friend of our friend who would be giving us a walking tour of Korea! He was the nicest man named Tae Wook Kim and he was giving us a trekking tour for free except for our food expenses. What we didn’t realize was that trekking was more like hiking and we were definitely not prepared for that. My only saving grace is that I had decided to wear tenner shoes. Thank God!

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We stopped at the Korean National Theater for a brief on the plan, were given maps, and then we set off on our journey. Boy did we see Seoul in a day! We walked all over the place. Probably around 7 miles. We walked along the ramparts of Korea, which is like a mini great wall of China and we hiked up this huge mountain to see all of Seoul from the top. It was magnificent. We took many pictures and one of the hardest parts was choosing the pictures to show here.

We climbed straight down the mountain on the other side and walked to the Blue House which is equivalent to the White House in America. We went into the information center and took green screen photos with the President Lee Myung-Bak and his wife and we also sat at “his desk” and took photos there.

As the sun was setting we walked through the lover’s area where I learned an interesting fact about South Korea. Normally, men and women in Korea do not marry until they are in there late twenties early thirties, which means they start dating later as well. Which means South Korean’s are very romantic people and they go on my dates to catch up for lost time. It was very cute seeing all of the older couples in this area. We tried all sorts of new foods, our favorite being dough filled with cinnamon and flatted like a pancake on grease. Those were great!

This was the end of our tour.

The next day we went to a Korean Temple and Namdaemun a BIGG outdoor shopping center that sells everything and anything. It was great! I got part of my Halloween costume here (since I was being PSY) and we shopped all morning. We also bought the softest blankets ever.

Ben took us for an authentic Korean meal with Kimchi (picked cabbage) and a few other popular items and then we were flying back so we said our good byes to our friend and I headed to the airport. If given the chance I would definitely go back to Korea. It was a great experience!

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Japanese Major League Baseball Game!

Its time to revert back to my American Roots! It’s a great thing that Japanese people looooove baseball. My sister decided that she was going to come live with me this past spring and I couldn’t have been more excited! She’s coming on a temporary visa with high hopes of getting a job and staying for a couple of years. We have been planning this for the past couple of months and before I even realized it the time had come for her to arrive. It was very exciting. I drove to the airport which is about 2 hours away with a friend from work and we had a grand time. When we arrived at the airport I ran to check the flights and we waited patiently for hers, it was delayed by 15 minutes. I thought for sure I would see her walking down the glassed ramp and it’s not very hard to spot an american among many Japanese people but she surprised me by coming out from another area and getting her luggage before I spotted her.

Her first meal in Japan was Coco Curries and she picked the quail eggs dish. She’s very adventurous. We ended up getting quite lost on the way home but I’m never surprised when that happens as it occurs quite frequently.. I feel like I’m always lost here!

The best part is that she arrived on the weekend and I had the weekend off so I made her go straight to bed when we got home and the next morning I woke her up and we were off to go to a Japanese Major League Baseball Game! The Softbank Hawks were playing and we wanted to see. We bought a shopping bag full of Chu-hi’s (best alcoholic beverage ever) jumped on the train and off we were zipping through the countryside with 8 people who I work with. It was a very enjoyable ride. I love trains.

We arrived back in the same town as the airport and after a subway ride and a short walk, we were there. Walking into the stadium I saw a monkey wearing a Softbank Hawk Jersey doing tricks. It was very interesting. Once we got our seats the game began and it was very fun. Our favorite part is during the seventh inning the away team and the home team blow up these balloons that look very funny and you don’t tie them off. The away team does it first and they sing their song for their team and then they release the balloons up into the air and let them fly around and fall down onto the field. Then the home team does it and we had a grand time. Watch the video below to see what I am talking about.

During the game I tried all of the different foods they sell at the stadium, noodle dishes, rice wrapped in seaweed, yakitori (meet on a stick), but nothing beats a hot dog and cracker jacks at a baseball game and I’m sticking to that story, It’s the first time I’ve really missed American food all at once.

After the game we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe Japan which is right next to the stadium and then we got back onto the train and headed back to our town. It was a very exciting and exhausting day.

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Gangnam Style. HEYYYYY SEXY LADIES!

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The balloons in question

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Balloons everywhere!

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Away Team

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Chu-Hi’s Galore. Sooo Good.

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Beer Girl.

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Monkey!

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