Thursday, July 31, 2008

Moving to California!

Kristen and I are just about ready to make the big trip out to California before our wedding in 8 days. Some funny things come from the future mother-in-law who just so happens to be a 1st grade teacher. The new school year is just around the corner and the creativity level is at a peak!
Uhaul! It has been several years since I towed one of these big guys and I am not looking forward to our 35 hour drive pulling this thing. Empty.................
The future newlyweds are all set. We will accept any prayers from family and friends as we embark on our new lives over there in Napa Valley. For everyone joining us at our wedding, bon journey. Also, congrats to my cousin Brent and his future-wife Melissa who we will be celebrating with in Lincoln, NE on August 2nd. Just look for this Uhaul out in the parking lot!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Berlin, Germany!

No trip to Berlin is complete without some World War history. Here is the famous and controversial monument that is a tribute to those who suffered persecution in Nazi concentration camps. Located in the heart of downtown Berlin, this monument is a painful reminder of the history of Germany, that most Germans prefer to forget.
Another interesting monument is the "mother holding her injured child" which pays tribute to the innocent civilians and soldiers that suffered during the great World War.
Changing subjects, I became fascinated with the food of Berlin. Not to be associated with all of Germany, Berlin has its own specialities that are hard to find perfected outside of the city. The classic Weinerschnitzel can be made with pork or veal and is breaded and fried. Some restaurants proudly display the prominence of their Weinerschnitzel by actually making it larger than the plate that they serve it on!
Kebab stands are all over Europe, but the original Döner Kebab was invented in Berlin and no kebab I tried compared to these guys. Crunchy pita-style brick-oven bread with red cabbage, tomatoes, and some fricassee lettuce, and don't forget that spicy garlic sauce! Bon Appetite!
My old Toulouse roommate Peter was not only our tour guide for this leg of the trip, but he was also our Gastronomy coordinator. After wonderful dishes of Weinerschnitzel, Currywurst, or a Döner kebab, we would wash it down with an incredible Eiskaffee (ice cream coffee). Consider it to be a Root Beer Float, with Coffee substituted instead of Root Beer. Starbucks Frappacino isn't quite the same.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I miss France :(

France or USA Meat case?
France or USA Meat case?
France or USA Bakery shop?

France of USA Bakery shop? I can't complain too much cause I like the air conditioning here in America, the fact that I have a car, and that whole fiance/marriage thing is pretty cool too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

1/2 Day in Strasbourg, France!

Here is the famous Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg. There is a history lesson behind it, but all I can tell you is that it was quite pretty. We only spent half the day in Strasbourg, as we headed up to Berlin, Germany on a night train.
The main highlight was our dinner at Saint Martin restaurant on the river that ran through the center of the Petite French Quarter. Look it up next time you are in Strasbourg.
Flammekueche or flambé tart. The classic dish of the region, a thin pastry covered with cream, onions and bacon pieces. Add some vegetables and you have a nice little snack.
Coquelet au Riesling et spatzel. Chicken leg and wings in a Riesling cream sauce with a side of spatzel. Spatzel is my new favorite pasta dish. It is classicly made with eggs and served with melted butter. Off to Berlin..........

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bordeaux, Wine, Dine, Festival!

We made it over to St. Emilion for our first adventure in Bordeaux.
I took in a little Sensory Science at a wine museaum. Pick that smell and guess correctly, and you get a free wine tasting. Like taking candy from a baby!
It just so happened the International Bordeaux Wine Festival was going on the same weekend we were in Bordeaux. I swear we didn't even plan it, but partake we did. Cheers!
A friend of mine from the lab in Toulouse's father owned a bakery in Bordeaux and we finally found the bakery of Didier Moreau. Thanks for the 2 free loaves of bread Mr. Moreau!
No trip to the Atlantic is complete without a little Escargot! Cook these guys in some butter and parsley and they are ready to go....................................into my stomach!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bienvenue a America!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Viva la Tour! Stage 10: Pau-->Hautacam

After a night in Lourdes visiting my roomate Jean-Michael and family, Kristen and I headed out (6:30 a.m.) with Jean-Michael's neighbor and his buddy Dominick to take in Stage 10 of the TOUR with the summit finish of the mighty Hautacam mountain (1520 meters)! This would be the first epic stage of the Tour with a pass over the Col d'Tourmalet and then a finish on top of the Hautacam. We parked at the bottom and began the 3.5 hour walk up the mountain, fully loaded with a picnic and some fresh baguettes! Gosh, I love the French way of life.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, finally! Only 1 kilometer left to go. What a view! If you can climb up a mountain, you can do just about anything else in your life.
I finally got one of the super cool Skoda caps that I tried to get from the caravan after two days of following the TOUR. The crowd slowly made its way up the mountain througout the day and pretty soon, the crowd would swell to 1000's of people on the summit. Not to forget the tens of thousands all the way down to the bottom. Celebrity sightings included TOUR hero Miguel Indurain and once again Phil Ligget. We camped out right in front of the big screen at the 30 meter mark, had a classic French picnic with pate, jambon sandwiches, pomme frites (french fries), Tomme de Pyrenees (cheese), Bordeaux Rose and Red wine, and water from the famous grote (mountain spring) in Lourdes.
I got a cool video of Leonardo Piepoli and Jose Cobo sprinting past us for the stage victory and caught this awesome pic of American podium placer Christian Vandevelde leading the contenders to the finish line. I was never more amazed at how fast these guys go up the slopes of these mountains and am fully committed to never trying to be a professional athlete after seeing it live in person. Still wonder about those Saunier Duval guys as they got kicked out of the TOUR 3-days later for Ricardo Ricco getting busted for EPO. This drug use sure does lesson the experience as hero's in this sport are more villians than victors some times.
Kim Kirchen fought valliantly, but lost his yellow jersey and that cool painted Giant with matching bar tape. I was very sad for Frank Schleck as the results showed that he was 1 second from the yellow jersey which passed over to Cadel Evans. On the flight home, we met a CSC-Saxo Bank Team PR-representative who was riding in one of the team cars this day. He said that Frank was almost in tears as his chance to wear the Yellow jersey slipped through his fingers. He also said to watch out cause the team has some big plans set for the Alps and you are going to see CSC-Saxo Bank tear this TOUR apart in the second part of the TOUR. Can't wait to see it back in America listening to my new friends, Phil Sherwen and Paul Ligget on Versus.

Viva la Tour! Stage 8: Figeac-->Toulouse

The TOUR brought us home from our Eurpean adventure and no one was happier to be home for this experience than me! What a spectacle that can't be explained by watching Versus TV. The caravane alone was worth the 5 hour wait in the rain right on the 50 meter to the finish line.
The Arkansas flag made its way to the TOUR and got a few cheers from the locals. Frankie Andreau even waved to us after I screamed out his name and told us our flag was cool :) I realize that I am kind of a cycling stalker as I could pick out random TOUR celebrities in the crowd. The night before, we were hanging out in Place St. George in Toulouse when I looked over at a local cafe and saw Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen finishing up a couple-seven beers and enjoying some people watching time. Then Sunday morning, I walked right past the legendary Michael "The Boogie Man" Bogard walking down the sidewalk near Capitole.Back to the TOUR, at 50 meters to the finish line, we had great seats for the action.
There goes Mark Cavendish after a perfect leadout from Gerald Ciolek for an easy victory on the boulevard Jean-Jaures.
The end would be near for Kim Kirchen, but take that yellow jersey when you can get it. Kristen and I were now off to Lourdes in the Pyrenees to watch Stage 10, with the mighty Tourmalet and the Hautacam mountain finish.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back to America!!!

So, after Kristen came we took off on our European adventure. We started off with the Bordeaux Wine Festival, then Strasborg, France. We then jumped the border to Berlin to visit my old roommate Peter and we also stayed with his family in Sauren, Germany. From there down to Dresden, Germany for two days before crossing over to Prutz, Austria to visit the original Walnofer's. After two days, we continued down to Italy and went to Venice and Genova. Soon we were back in France to see Monti-Carlo, Monaco, and Nice, France, and Avignon, France. Back to Toulouse to see the Tour de France on the boulevard Jean Jaures, then we train hopped over to Lourdes, France to visit my other roomate Jean-Michel and caught the mountain stage of the TOUR on the famous Hautacam climb (Congrats Piepoli!). After 25 kilometers of mountain climbing and descending (by foot), and the coolest experience of my cycling life, we returned to pack our bags in Toulouse. See everybody back in Arkansas at 7:35pm on Wednesday! The France adventure is over, but the new America adventures await. Come back and read all the updates on Europe soon! Au revoir France, Bienvenue America!