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We went to Europe – The Short Version

We went to Europe – The Short Version

Since we were gone for two weeks and went to 3 different countries, the blog posts are long. Add pics in and they get longer. If you don’t feel like reading through the posts and just want to skim the pics, this is your post!

Kelly’s Trip Summary:

JFK was a nightmare coming and going! But the flight to Zurich turned out to not be so bad. Zurich wasn’t my fave. There were tons of fancy cars but they were also loud, and we heard revving engines well into the night. I worried 24 hours in Zurich wouldn’t be enough but I thought it was more than enough.

Lucerne was amazing! It was such a pretty city. I like that it was situated right on the river. Lucerne in the sun was a totally different city than Lucerne with clouds. The mountain views were all around and I loved that! I’m really glad we went to Mt Pilatus! It was a really cool experience and probably the only mountain I will ever climb.

Paris was okay! I really thought I would like it more. I guess my expectations were a little high. I don’t think it helped the park was blocked off. I had visions of drinking champagne in the park under a twinkly Eiffel Tower but that was hard since it didn’t get dark till so late. We only saw the Eiffel Tower lit up once and that was from a cab at 1am. The city itself was pretty and the food was amazing. I think 4 days in Paris was a day too long though.

London was short and sweet! It was great seeing E&T and just hanging out.

Devon was amazing! I would put it at the top of my favorite places (Lucerne was probably 1st). It was just beautiful! And relaxing. It was also great to see the fam.

Reigate was good! We went there for family and we spent tons of time with everyone so that was nice.

All in all, the trip was amazing! I kind of worried that we weren’t spending enough time in places but honestly, I think the time we spent in each place was just right. Since we were gone for two weeks, it was nice to be on the move. It was also a lot though. I was glad to be home!

Also, I read 5 books on the trip and I took over 1500 pictures!  I’ve tried to narrow that down quite a bit!  They also have not been edited at all so… yeah.

Matt’s Trip Summary:

Considering that we’d planned this trip for so long it really seemed to sneak up on us. We got the flights, hotels, and travel booked so far ahead of time we kind of “forgot” about the trip. Wasn’t really until about a week out that it really hit me that it was time to go!

Trip started of very smoothly and got derailed rather quickly once we got to JFK. I didn’t really mind the delay so much, as the plane was broken, but just not being told anything was rather quite annoying. I was thinking to myself that it was a good thing we decided to spend the night in Zurich and didn’t have other travel arrangements that we’d have to change. Once we got underway the flight over was uneventful.

Zurich was a nice way to ease into the trip. I’m glad we got to check it out but I wouldn’t spend anymore than a day there. It would probably be a good home base to do a few day trips to some other places in Switzerland.

Lucerne was beautiful! Glad that we got some nice weather so that Kelly could see just how magical Switzerland is. I kept telling her that it just doesn’t look real and I’m glad that she got to see that. Really do wish that we had better weather when we went up Mt Pilatus so that we could see the mountains. Next time we go I think we’ll head more into the Alps.

I really enjoy the way of life in Paris. Good food. Good wine. Enjoying life. Hard to beat sitting outside at a brasserie and enjoying a nice meal as the world goes by. Was nice to see some of the sights again and to see some new once. Was disappointed that the Champ de Mars was closed for the Euro Fan Zone as it’s one of my favorite places in Paris.

England was really nice. Seeing lots of family and getting to explore some new places was great. I still cannot believe the house Devon. The pictures that we took there really don’t do it justice. Hard to believe that we were in England! It always feels nice and familiar to be in England and it was a nice way to end the trip.

I enjoyed the pace of the trip. Spending a few days somewhere and then moving on to the next place. One little adventure after another. I think we spent just about the right amount of time in each place. Never felt like we didn’t get a chance to do something and never felt bored.

Of course we got to bookend the trip with another travel disaster in JFK. In all of my travels I’ve never had issues like this before. Hopefully we’ve paid our dues and won’t have to experience anything like this again any time soon.
Quick links to each location:

We’re going to Europe!






Road to Reigate


Going Home!

Going Home!

Saturday July 9 – We were up super early to catch our flight from Heathrow to JFK.  J&S drove us to the airport and we arrived around 7:30.  We didn’t know what security in Heathrow would be like so we wanted to make sure we had enough time.  As it turned out, we had PLENTY of time.  Heathrow was a breeze.  It probably took us longer to check in to our flight than to clear security.

Once we were in the terminal, we grabbed some breakfast and then made our way to duty free.  Chocolate and candy were on the list.  We grabbed what we wanted and then waited for our flight.


The flight from Heathrow to JFK was pretty easy, I had hopes of reading but reading was making me sleepy so I ended up watching 3 movies on the plane, “Daddy’s Home” “Point Break” (the new one) and “Sisters”.

We landed at JFK around 1:00 pm local time.  We then had to go through customs and clear security, again…. Once we were finally back through, we headed for our terminal.  I was pretty excited there was a Shake Shack in our terminal so that’s what we had for lunch.

Our flight time kept changing and finally around 4:00 pm we were able to board.  We sat at the gate for a good 20 mins before the pilot came on to say we were waiting for the catering truck to come.  About 10 mins later, they’d come and gone and we were still waiting.  At this point, the pilot comes back on and tells us the airport was requiring them to open the door.  Lots of grumbles later, the door was opened and we were told we could deplane if we wanted.  Apparently there is some rule that you can’t sit on the tarmac for more than 3 hours but we’d only been on the plane about an hour.  The pilot seemed pretty frustrated we had to open the door and said Delta was on the phone “giving them a strong talking to”.

Finally we were allowed to push away from the gate and make our way to the take off queue.  We were like 12th in line but the pilot said it normally was pretty quick and he was right.  But by the time we got in the air, we should have been landing in Raleigh.  It was very frustrating.  We were allowed to take the “short cut” to Raleigh, which saved us a few mins then, I guess.  We landed at RDU around 7:00 pm.

Then we were headed home!  We finally got home around 9:00 pm, cuddled some kitties and went to bed!



Thursday July 7 – We woke up and headed to Matt’s grandmother, Beryl’s,  house to hang out with the fam.  Several of his cousins were stopping by with their kids and then we were going to take Beryl out to lunch for her birthday.  She turned 90 on the 16th.

While we were there, I got a message from my mom saying my grandmother had passed away.  We were prepared for this and I figured it would probably happen while we were on our trip.  Matt and I took a little walk around the neighborhood so I could chat with mom and get a few more details and collect myself.  While I wasn’t close to my grandmother, not in recent years, I was still sad.

Once we got back to the house, it was about time to head to lunch so we took Beryl to one of her favorite restaurants, the Black Horse.

While we were in Reigate, I asked if we could check out a few antique stores.  I figured I could find something much cooler than your average tourist souvenir.  So after lunch we drove over to Dorking to check out the antiques.  While I didn’t see anything crazy, I did find some old glass picture slides so I bought a few of those.  I figured they were small and would be easy to carry on.

Friday July 8 – We went to Heaver Castle for the day.  This was the childhood home of Ann Boleyn.  The grounds were beautiful, it was a nice place to spend the day.  While I spent most of my time with my eye in my camera, Matt spent most of his day looking up.  Situated near Heathrow and Gatwick, tons of planes were flying over.





Taking pics of Malcolm and Steve taking pics.





Flowers for the wedding that was in the afternoon.



Beryl and Jill
Beryl and Matt
Beryl and Vala


Scared kitty!
Matt, Beryl, and Me (photo courtesy of Steve Edwards)
Michael, Steve, Jill, Beryl, Matt (photo bombing 😉 ) Me, Vala, Malcolm (photo courtesy of Steve Edwards)

The castle itself was interesting but you couldn’t take pics of the inside!  Finally it was time to head back.  As we were pulling out of our parking spot, we backed into another car.  Haha, whoops.  No real damage and everyone was fine.

That night we had dinner at the Black Horse again, to celebrate Beryl’s birthday.  It was also our last night to see everyone.  We had an early flight out of Heathrow and needed to be up around 5:00 am.

Matt helping Beryl and Jill take a selfie.
Road to Reigate

Road to Reigate

Wednesday July 6 – The final leg of our trip started as we left the beach house and headed to see the rest of the family in Reigate.

On the way, we drove through Dartmoor National Park.  This place was amazing.  Almost as soon as you drive across the cattle grates, you see animals on the sides of the road.  There were cows, sheep, horses.  I had no clue what to expect so I was pretty surprised to see all the animals.  We decided to stop and check out the horses.  I was able to pet a few of them.  It. Was. So. Cool!  Unfortunately, no one (ahem Matt) got a pic of me petting a wild horse!

The park was pretty big so we were constantly in and out of it with animals all around.

This was the first horse I petted. He wasn’t super friendly.






We stopped for a quick coffee break and a few bathroom breaks on our way to Stonehenge.  Matt was super excited to go, haha, not!  But it was on the way so we stopped.  Apparently, you used to be able to just stop on the side of the road and walk to it, but now they had a visitor center and bus shuttles to the actual site.  Oh and did I mention it was pricey?  *thumbs down*  Anyway, we hopped on a bus to check it out.  I have to say, it was pretty cool.  Not quite what I was expecting but I’m glad we went.  I would probably be with Matt on not going again though.







After Stonehenge, we headed for the small town of Winchester for dinner.  One of the largest cathedrals in Europe was there and we were trying to make it before it closed.  Unfortunately, you had to pay to go in so we just walked around outside and took pics there.  Then we headed over to find dinner.







We stopped at an Italian place, which was good because we were starving at this point.

We still had another hours drive to get to Reigate and pulled into our hotel a little after 8:00 pm.  The hotel was well……it had seen better days.  We got our bags settled before heading to Matt’s other grandmothers house to say hi.



Sunday July 3 – Matt and I woke up early to catch our train to Devon, a 4 hour train ride.  Joy!  Since the train station wasn’t all that close to our hotel we decided to grab a taxi again.

At the train station we grabbed some lunch while we waited for the 1:00 train.  The train ride was pretty uneventful but we did follow the coast for a little while and that was nice though mostly I just read.

Jill and Steve picked us up from the train station and we headed to the beach house.  It was only 15 – 20 mins from the train station.

Matt’s grandmother and aunt have rented this house before, and while we’d seen pics, the view was even better in person!  The house was very nice and situated at the top of a hill.  We had panoramic views all around.



We got to the house and got settled before taking a quick walk around to check things out.  I probably took the most pics of any one place while we were at the beach house!  The place was absolutely stunning.









I’m not sure what this is but I WANT one at our house! It was in the yard at the beach house.



Monday July 4 – We woke up to find we were fogged in.  The fog lasted till around noon before finally burning off and producing another beautiful day.  We took another walk down to the beach with Matt’s aunt and uncle.  I was like a little kid and finally said we needed to go because my pockets were full of shells and rocks.  hehe


I have no clue what this was but the leaves were HUGE! I wish I’d made Matt go stand beside it for comparison.







One of several frigates we saw going in and out of the harbor.


My haul from the beach.

Tuesday July 5 – We decided to go to Plymouth, which was about 10 minutes away, to take a look around.  This is the  Plymouth, where the Pilgrams set sail from.  It was a cute little coastal town and we even saw where they think the Pilgrims left from. 😉

Right here! This is where they think the steps to the Mayflower probably were. Matt and his mom.










The time at the beach house was mostly spent enjoying the views or hiking around the house.  It was a nice relaxing time.

Jamaica – Friday May 9th

Jamaica – Friday May 9th

Friday morning Matt and I got up at our usual early time and headed to Eleanor’s for breakfast.  This was the only other restaurant that had breakfast however this was a sit down, order from the menu place.  We snagged a nice table outside.  The service wasn’t great, considering I ordered 4 mimosas and only ended up with 1.  Anyway, the food was really good.  While we were eating there were a few birds scoping us out from a few feet away.  When we finally finished one of them hopped over to our table.  Of course, Matt and I are laughing.  We want to see how brazen the bird would be.  He did not disappoint, within a minute or so he quickly grabbed an item off my plate.  We thought this was hilarious and I even took pics while it was happening. 🙂

When we got to our chairs, L & C were already there waiting on us.  We all laid on the beach for awhile.  Around lunch we headed back to the main plaza.  And on the way there I stopped to buy a cute giraffe statue.  (I knew the vendors were set up so I had run to the room and grabbed some money.  We’d seen them the first afternoon but they weren’t there on Thursday so I was really excited to finally get my giraffe.)  We decided on Neptunes for lunch.  This was an open air type pavilion and turned out to be a nice place for lunch.

We went back to the beach for a while and finally a dark cloud appeared so Matt and I decided to go in for a nap.  After our nap we got ready for dinner.  Jill and Steve really enjoyed their candlelit dinner while in St Lucia so they set this up for us as an anniversary gift.  🙂  We got to our table a few minutes early and ended up having an impromptu photo shoot with one of the resort photographers.  Clearly Matt and I had done this before so our expectations were pretty low but what the heck!

Finally our server grabbed us for dinner.  The photo took a few more pics while we were sitting and was sent on his way.  The table was set up really pretty.  White chair covers with hot pink bows.  There were several of the beautiful pink and white hibiscus on the table around the candles.  Matt and I decided to each get different items to take full advantage of the menu.  For the most part we each really enjoyed our food, though his soup was much better than mine.  I wished I had had the same.  We also got a personalized menu with our dinner choices.  The outside had our names and date.  We opened them only to realize instead of putting Matt on the inside they put Phil!  We had a good laugh over this.  First Sandals tries to get me to marry Matthew Spencer and now I’m supposed to have dinner with Phil?  😀  Nice to see they were at least consistent.  Anyway, the meal was very nice and sweet.  We really enjoyed the experience.

After dinner we headed to the main pavilion.  We ended up at the Neptune’s bar chatting with a couple for Cali.  They were nice enough, but thankfully they were leaving the next day.  After a few drinks we headed back to the room for the night.


Scarpetta Anniversary Dinner

Scarpetta Anniversary Dinner


Since we decided that we would come up to NYC for our anniversary the one thing that I really wanted to do was try Scott Conant’s spaghetti dish at Scarpetta.  It seems like everyone just raves about this dish and I’m always seeing it come up on the Food Network.  So I figured this would be a good place to go for our Anniversary dinner so I made a reservation, a month in advance!

We made our way to the restaurant from our hotel via the subway and got there a little bit early for our reservation so we sat at the bar and enjoyed a nice drink.  After 10 or 15 minutes we were shown to our table and had one of the best meals of our lives.  Not only was the food excelent but the service was out of this world.  We will be back again.  But enough about that, onto the food porn!


Matt’s Meal:

Braised Short Ribs of Beef – vegetable & farro risotto

Spaghetti – tomato & basil

Dry Aged Sirloin – baby vegetables, potatoes & pickled shallots

Amedei Chocolate Cake – salted caramel gelato & chocolate butterscotch


Kelly’s Meal:

Raw Yellowtail – olio di zenzero & flaked sea salt

Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli – marsala reduction

Halibut – spring vegetables, preserved lemon & almond broth

Coconut Panna Cotta – guava sauce & caramelized pineapple

They also sent us a nice surprise dessert!


After all of that we were totally miserable, but in a very very good way!  Thank you Scarpetta for a great meal and making our 1st anniversary meal one we’ll never forget!

Last Day at Sea

Last Day at Sea

Well today was the last day on our cruise and it was a day at sea as we make our way back to Tampa. There really isn’t much to do on board on the days at sea other than hanging out by the pool so we decided to have a nice lazy day today. We didn’t actually wake up until about 9am and the met up with the fam for breakfast. We found a nice spot outside and sat there for a few hours before we headed back to the room to get changed and head back to the pool. We spent most of the day at the pool but then when the steel drums came out we decided that was our queue to leave, so we headed to the crows nest bar to hang out. They happened to be doing the trivia contest so we grabbed a sheet and quickly realized how little we knew, least we didn’t score the fewest points!

As we were sitting there we started to notice that we were sailing towards an object in the water but we couldn’t make out what it was. As we got closer we decided to head outside for a better look and then we realized it was a boat, or at least part of one.

The Captain came on the intercom and said there was a de-masted ship and we were going to check it out. We got right up next to it and it appeared to be part of a catamaran, there was no sign of anyone though. The Captain said he reported it to the coast guard and that we would be on our way. Later in the day he announced that the boat that the part came from had crashed in the middle of the Atlantic in 2010 and had drifted all the way there. The three people who were on board were also rescued. So in the end just a floating piece of trash really.

After that excitement Kelly headed back to the room for a nap while Patrick and I went to the bar to watch the game. We only lasted a half then we decided it was nap time too. We all met up again for a pre dinner drink and then had our last dinner in the dining room. Dinner has really been a lot of fun because of the staff that has waited on us this trip. Dodi, Daniel, and Ronald are a lot of fun and very nice people. We were all glad that we got to meet them. The highlight of dinner tonight was dessert, baked Alaska. While it was quite good the best part was that Dodi gave us each half of a dessert that must have been meant for 4 at the minimum. It was quite funny to have this giant pile of ice cream and meringue in front of you.

After dinner we came back to the room to pack as we needed to have our bags outside of the room by midnight. I also have an early morning tomorrow as all non US citizens have to meet up at 6:30am for some reason. Awesome! We are now all packed up and just getting ready for bed. We get to leave the boat about 8am and our flight home isn’t till 5pm tomorrow so we’ve got some time to kill in Tampa tomorrow, maybe we’ll find something fun to do, or just play on the Internet all day as we’ve been without it for 7 day, oh the horror!

Roatan – Mahogany Bay, Honduras

Roatan – Mahogany Bay, Honduras

……….or not.

Last night the captain came on and said that we would be getting into port at about 5am this morning in Roatan. Kelly and I both woke up around 6:30am and looked out the window and we were still at sea but not moving. After a bit we got up and walked out to the deck to see that we were just off shore and there were two other ships around us. We didnt think much of it and went back to the room. As we got back the phone rang and it was dad who said he talked with someone and there was some problem and we might not make port at all, that’s not good. We decided to just get ready and go to breakfast as planned and go from there. As we were eating the captain came on and said that the winds and current were very bad and that the ship was unable to make it to the port safely, but that another ship, a more powerful one, was going to give it a go and then he would decide. Once we were done eating and checking email he came back on to say that the other ship made it but that conditions were still too bad and we would not be making port today, booooooo! Seems weird to not be able to make it into port on a perfectly sunny day but I guess they have to be safe. This port also requires the boats to back in so that might have contributed to the decision. So since we couldn’t get off the boat we just hung out around the pool today as the captain took us the long slow way to our next port, Costa Maya.

Today was Kelly’s birthday so we celebrated by having a nice dinner at the Pinnacle Grill which became Le Cirque for tonight only. We had an amazing meal there.

Hopefully we are able to make it to port tomorrow and enjoy our day on the beach!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

We woke up this morning and noticed that we could see lights on the horizon which meant our first land sighting since we left Tampa on Sunday. We were due in port today in Cozumel, Mexico at 8am so we knew we must be close. The plan for today was to see the Mayan ruins of Coba. We got ready and met up with everyone for breakfast at 7:30 while we arrived in the Port of San Miguel.

Once we were docked we made our way down to the gangway and waited for them to let us off the ship. After a few minutes of waiting we were off and walking down the pier to meet the boat that would take us to the mainland since Cozumel is an island. The water taxi took us to Playa del Carman where we would get the bus to the ruins. First thing that we noticed was how amazing the water looked. I just wanted to jump in and spend the day there. We will have to come back.

A short walk through the town and we were at the bus. “Someone” had to go to the bathroom so everyone else in the group got on the bus first and when we finally got on there were not two seats together, so Kelly was in the back, and I was up front. The guide Carlos started going through his spiel and told us about the Mayans. The ride to the site was almost two hours and it was broken up by a quick stop to get our lunch, a sandwich and such that I didn’t eat, and a bathroom stop at a gift shop. Kelly bought a “souvenir” but there wasn’t much of anything there that looked interesting.

Once we finally got to the site it became apparent that this was going to be rushed. We had to leave the site at 2pm (ship time) in order to get back in time for the 5pm departure and it was already 1pm, so we would only have two hours there. I wasn’t too worried about this but then the other guide Tony started talking and kept going and going and going. We started to walk around some while he was still talking just so we could actually see the ruins. After about a half an hour he was finally done and we started to move, slowly. The ruins were really interesting to see and hear about but I had my sites set on getting to the top of the Nohock Mul, the largest temple there.

About 1:30 we finally made it to the Nohock Mul and I handed my bag to Kelly to start my climb, her and Patrick chickened out. There are 120 steps to the top and it is quite steep and very uneven so I decided just to go fast and not stop. I basically crawled up to the top, but I made it.

It was the highest point that I could see all around. It looked to be the only thing taller than the trees as far as you could see. After taking a few pictures I turned around to see that Dad had made it up to the top too.

We took a couple more pictures then had to kind of rushed back down to we could get back to the bus. We celebrated making it back down as it was much harder than going up, the rope there to help was useless.

We then started the 1.5km walk back to the bus. I was hot before the climb but after I was absolutely drenched in sweat, it wasn’t a pleasant walk back. The bus ride back was uneventful, but I was nice and cool and that’s all that mattered.

We got back to Playa del Carmen at 3:45 and were quickly lead to the water taxi that was waiting to take us back to the dock in Cozumel. The water was quite rough and we bobbed all over the place the whole way, enough for someone to lose their lunch. I thought the guy next to me was going to fall over on me as apparently he couldn’t stay awake at all and was bobbing along with the boat. We made it back just in time and were back in the ship by 4:30, just!

Once back on board we made a beeline to find food and find it fast. Burgers were in order so we scarfed them down on the back deck as we pulled away from the dock. Next thing on order were some drinks which we enjoyed as we started on our way to Belize. Once we finished them we headed back to our cabin for a nap, but I was just so disgusting from the day that I had to shower first. Best shower ever! Then I napped.

Got up and met up for dinner and we are now just relaxing in the cabin. The water is quite rough tonight so we are rocking quite a bit. Hopefully it wont bother Kelly. Tomorrow we’ll be in Belize where we are going to take a catamaran to a barrier reef to go snorkeling in the morning. We then have the afternoon to do whatever we want. Probably explore the port area some. Hopefully a much more relaxing day, today wore us all out!