Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh the Waterfalls!

Since returning from block leave, we have had few weekends at home. We’ve been taking full advantage of 3- and 4-day weekends throughout May and June and have visited some amazing places!  The first weekend in May we finally made it to Plitvice National Park in Croatia, a place we’ve been planning to visit since we first discovered the beauty of Croatia last year.  This park did not disappoint!  Situated in the mountains with 16 lakes sprawled across the park, connected by large and small waterfalls, it was absolutely breathtaking.  We enjoyed taking in the landscape from above, as we hiked a perimeter trail high on the hillside, and then from the surface as we took a short boat ride back across the lake after a leisurely lunch and (for the guys) naps in the grass. 

Nap time in the grass for the guys

We got to appreciate even more of Croatia’s outdoor area by declining to sleep in a hotel or B&B (though there were many) and choosing to break in our new tent and camp.  Our good friend Chris joined us for this wonderful trip and we had a great time “roughing it” and of course roasting marshmallows for s’mores! Now, when I say roughing it, I do not mean the American version of the term, where a bathroom is a bed of pine needles behind a tree are, stars shine bright without the lights of the city, and neighboring campsites are beyond earshot.  We’ve had a hard time finding anywhere in Europe that allows true camping as we know it in the states.  Instead, there are camp “resorts” with assigned campsites with plug-ins, community toilets, showers, a cafĂ© and restaurant, and many other amenities (more like a trailer park in the states).  Though we couldn’t even build a true campfire, and it wasn’t quite the outdoor experience we were seeking, we had a great time and enjoyed seeing another beautiful part of Croatia.
Proud of his new tent... just fit the two of us

S'mores and beer... ahhhh camping :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Block Leave Vacation!

I would apologize for the huge lapse in time from our last blog, but the truth is we've been taking full advantage of our time together and here in Italy by traveling like crazy!  We have so many places to fill you in on, there is no way I will be able to cover it all in this post.  The two weeks after Nate returned from his rotation in Germany, were the busiest weeks we've had.  Nate was not only trying to reset from the rotation, but also trying to get a grasp on his new company command and organize his soldiers.  In the meantime, with everyone back, the FRG was kicked into high gear and I was busy trying to recruit volunteers, organize company rosters, attend trainings, and organize a company family BBQ.  All the while, I was eager to spend some much missed time with my husband, which was just not happening.  I was not a happy camper.  Fortunately, after those two weeks, Nate had two weeks of block leave so we finally got some much needed R&R and quality time.

We set off on an amazingly relaxing vacation to Mauritius, a small island off the northeastern coast of Madagascar.  For 6 days we soaked up the sun, swam with dolphins, ate amazing food, and enjoyed getting to know each other again.  No cell phones, no internet, no tv... it was wonderful!!!!!  I don't think I've ever been on a more relaxing vacation.  The color of the water, as you can see, was breathtaking and the mountain peaks toward the central part of the island were also impressive.  We had great weather, despite the forecast calling for thunderstorms the entire trip, with occasional light afternoon showers which were a welcomed relief from the heat.  One of the highlights was a day trip out to swim with dolphins and see other parts of the island.  Though there are no pictures, we did get to swim alongside a small pod of dolphins.  We had hoped to see one of the larger pods, but it was a cool experience none-the-less.  After snorkeling around for a bit, we were taken to rural part of the island, where a lunch of grilled fish, lobster, chicken and plantains was prepared for us- and Nate's favorite, beer was served!  To reach this section of the island, the boat had to anchor a long way out because of the shallow water.  We walked the length of at least two football fields into shore and the water never came above our knees!
The only downside of our trip was our 9 hour layover in Dubai on the way back.  A very cool airport, but not for nine hours at 3 in the morning!

The walk from our boat into the island.... water never got deeper than our knees!


Heading out to swim with dolphins
Back in Vicenza, we had a few days to hang out at home, do some wine tasting, and repack for our trip to Garmisch, Germany for the Brigade Ball.  We love Garmisch, a cute, quaint German town settled in the mountains and a beautiful venue for such an event!  We lucked out and had perfect weather the day of the ball, making for excellent pictures of everyone in their uniforms and gowns. However, the weather turned for the drive home and by the next day we were facing sleet and heavy snow the whole way through Germany and Austria.  What a change from the beach and sun a week before!!!!  We had a great time at the ball, eating an authentic German meal, dancing, and mingling with friends and General Hertling, the US Army Europe Commanding General, who spoke during the formal portion and then cut loose on the dance floor with the rest of us.

It was a wonderful two weeks and we returned feeling rested and gearing up for more deployment preparations and weekend travels.  More to come on those travels to Plitvice National Park in Croatia, Cinque Terre, Italy, Barcelona, Spain, and London, England!  Ciao for now!!!