Friday, May 30, 2008

Bye-Bye Budapest, Hello Vienna!

I have had a great week in Budapest! Agnes, a very special friend who I work with and adore, is Hungarian but lives in New Jersey! She was assigned to this audit so she had the opportunity to come back to Hungary after 20 years! She took vacation time before the audit and is staying another week after we are done to spend time with her family, who still lives in Hungary! It has been so great having her here....especially with her language skills and seeing her in her element! I miss you, Agnes! Agnes, Me, and Laurence

I am off tonight to Vienna by train! This is my first trip to travel alone. I am a little excited about it because I can do exactly what I want, see exactly what I want to see, spend as much or as little time seeing it, and go to bed when I want to go to bed! HA!! Not that I have not loved my other travel companions, but it is always nice to be able to do your own thing in your own time! I am sure I will be a bit lonely when it is lunch or dinner time when I am at a table by myself! No worries...I will be just fine!

I have tickets to the Spanish Riding School where I will see the 'dancing horses'! I am really excited about that! I am also going to the Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Belvedere Palace, and Hofburg. I hope to catch a performance of the Vienna Boy's Choir, but I have not bought tickets for that just yet.

So, all in all, I am sure it will be a great weekend! I will share the stories and adventure when I get back to Brussels Sunday night!

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I am off this evening to Budapest, Hungary for work and then Vienna, Austria next weekend for play! After this trip, the real fun begins!

My family (Mom, Dad, and Angie) will be in Europe starting June 19th! I am SOOOO excited to see them! I have not seem them since Christmas and it has been too long! We will be going to London, Paris, Brussels (of course) and maybe some day trips around Belgium, Amsterdam, and Germany. I can't wait!

Then, at the end of August, my friend Jennie will make her second appearance in Europe! We will jet-set to Spain and tour Madrid and Barcelona!

So a very fun summer is in the works! Anyone coming this fall?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Putting on the "Ritz"

On Monday, Julie and I decided to take advantage of the ESPA Spa at the Ritz! Wow, it was incredible! The pretreatment process was my favorite! It went a little something like this...

We started with a swim in this incredible pool!
Then, on to the pretreatment room. We started with a dip in the thermal bath!
On to the steam room.
Then into the sauna (not pictured).

Next, we needed a break and had some water and strawberries!
Then to the tropical shower (not pictured)!

Finally, to the ICE! Yes, that is what I said. We were instructed to apply a handful of ice to our heart area first, then start with the legs and apply ice all the way up!
After the ice, we were to relax in the warm tiled chairs.
Finally, once all the pretreatment was finished, we were off to the serenity room. We did not have a chance to use the serenity room before our treatments, but we did afterwards. See why we spent probably 3 hours relaxing (and napping) and not wanting to move??!!
P.S. There was no one but Julie and I at the spa this particular that is how we got the pictures.

Ahhh, thanks ESPA Spa for a perfect day!

Waterford, Ireland

On Sunday, Julie and I headed out to the countryside of Ireland. We wanted to see the Waterford Crystal factory so that was our first destination. Waterford is located in the south of Ireland, so we decided to make that our first stop!

The tour of how the Waterford Crystal is made was fascinating! The amount of lead in Waterford is what makes it so special and so sparkly!!

Waterford crystal products are made by a strict process of mixing, blowing, cutting and polishing. It is more labor intensive than I ever wonder it is so dang expensive!!! Chemicals are mixed to create a unique formula that gives Waterford crystal its special sparkle and light refractive qualities. It is then heated to 1400 degrees centigrade in a natural gas fired furnace for at least 36 hours to produce molten crystal. A blower, using the traditional tools and techniques as in the 18th century, gathers a quantity of crystal from the furnace on the end of a blowing iron with a twisting motion. This is then smoothed with a wooden block that has been soaked in water and resembles the shape of the desired item.

The craftsman then blows the piece, either by machine or by mouth, to its full shape. Crystal pieces are similarly cut to its unique pattern by either machine or by hand. Those crystal pieces that are mouth blown and hand cut have the highest quality of all crystal products. No other crystal is cut as deeply as Waterford’s. Some of the company’s core competencies are its crystal’s sparkle of light refractive qualities and unique 18th century designs.

Here is a guy blowing the crystal. This guy is applying the handle on a crystal pitcher.
This guy is cutting the scallops on this crystal bowl. These guys are paid only for the products that pass quality control so they obviously take their work seriously and get an enormous amount of training.
The story behind the Waterford trophies was so interesting. For each trophy, 3 are made (1 for the winner, 1 sent to the event just in case something happens to the original one for the winner, and 1 is kept in Ireland in the archives). If the trophy requires engraving, then an engraver (usually from Ireland) is sent with the trophy.

I left the Waterford factory with an incredible vase that can only be purchased in Ireland as well as a Christmas ornament! I love it! Believe me, I could have brought home the whole shop, but I do have to eat over the next year!!

After leaving Waterford, we headed through the countryside and to the farthest south we could go in Ireland. It was to the Hook Head where the oldest lighthouse tower in Ireland and one of the oldest lighthouses in the world is still in operation.

Jack (my GPS) took us on a little adventure getting to southern Ireland! Luckily, there was a ferry waiting on us, otherwise I thought he was going to make us swim!!
Hook Head Lighthouse!!
It took us longer than anticipated to get to the lighthouse, so by the time we made it there, it was getting dark and we had quite a drive ahead of us! Our day did not take us up the coastal drive like we I guess that is left for my next trip to Ireland!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Entertainer!

This week has been very busy as we have had some colleagues from Memphis in town! It is always nice to see familiar faces!! We worked a lot, but also made time for fun, as well!

Last night, I had the group over to my apartment for pizza and beer. I told them I do not cook (especially for 11 people who all have different food palates), but I do have Pizza Hut on speed-dial! So it was a very nice casual evening hanging out on my patio and garden!

I love entertaining and I have not done much of it since living in Brussels. I used to have people over all the time when I lived in Memphis so I miss the fun of parties!! It was so nice to pull out all of the serving dishes, platters, etc that have been neglected for the past year!

So, maybe this has reignited the spark to entertain. Now, I just need to get to planning our next party....after I finish posting about my trip to Ireland (which, I promise to finish the weekend)!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dublin, Ireland (Part 1)

The next stop on my adventures in the month of May was Dublin, Ireland! I have to say, I did very little research for this trip. I did this for a couple of reasons...1) Time; 2) Only having 2 1/2 days in Ireland so I knew it would be a good overview trip; and 3) Sometimes it is best to just forget the guide book and see where the adventure takes you!

Julie and I left on Saturday morning for Dublin. As soon as we arrived, our first stop was the Guinness tour! This definitely did not disappoint!! We had such a great time going through how the brew is made, having a little taste, and buying a few souvenirs! It is a very well done tour and a must-see on any trip to Dublin!

Did you know the color of Guinness is really ruby-red and not black?
Water is one of the 4 ingredients in Guinness. Do you know the other 3??
Passport Duck had a little too much fun sampling the Guinness.
After we left Guinness, we headed to the Temple Bar area where we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral and thanked him for making the St. Patrick's Day celebrations so much dang fun all of these years!

After walking around the Temple Bar area and having a little snack, we visited the Dublin Castle, which was not all that exciting. It was then we realized, Dublin was not really all that exciting either. Now, I have to say, we really did not give it much of a chance. However, looking back on it now, we enjoyed the next couple of days outside the city and in the countryside and coast a lot better.
I do not want to be a huge downer on the city of Dublin, but there is really not that much to see. It could have been that we were tired (which is very true) and not all that interested in walking around...who knows.

However, I think it may have had something to do with wanting to get to our hotel as soon as we could. See, Julie found an incredible rate at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt. Ok, to be honest, I really do not frequent the Ritz very often, but I have to say this property was incredible. The property was located in the countryside just outside Dublin and was absolutely beautiful! Check out this link and you will see why we loved it so much!

So, this is probably why we did not stick around Dublin too long! I will be posting more from our little tour of Ireland and the spa day we had at the stay tuned!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Pics!

I added more pictures to my Amalfi Coast album on Shutterfly! Check it out when you get a chance!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer Arrived!!

I am almost caught up with uploading my Dublin pictures, so stay tuned for those and stories from Ireland!!

In the meantime, we just experienced our 2 weeks of summer in Brussels!! Seriously, we had about 10-14 straight days of sunny skies and temps in the high 70s / low 80s. It has been really nice! Unfortunately, I was out of town for the 2 nice weekends, but nonetheless, it was nice to be out soaking up the sun! Now, the rain and cooler temps are back....glad I enjoyed it while I could!

Summer brought my roses to full bloom in my garden! I am so happy I did not kill them last year!!! Check out these pics!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Amalfi Coast - Positano, Italy

Back in November 2005, I spent 5 wonderful weeks in Italy. It was then that I fell in love with this country, but I also discovered Heaven on Earth - The Amalfi Coast.

The Amalfi Coast is located south of Rome right on the Mediterranean Sea. In 2005, we only drove along the coast, but did not actually stay and explore the towns. This trip was my opportunity to see, explore, and fall in love.

May 1 & 2 were holidays in Europe, so we flew into Rome Wednesday night and drove down to the coast on Thursday. The drive was uneventful until we arrived on the coast. The roads are VERY curvy and narrow. I had my GPS with me (nicknamed "Jack") and Jack did great most of the time; however, he thought we needed to take the scenic route at times as well. Julie has those pictures, so I will have to add those soon!

We finally arrived at our hotel and knew this was going to be a fantastic trip. We stayed at the Villa Rosa (thanks Lindsay) and had an incredible room with a terrace overlooking the sea. The weather was PERFECT the entire weekend! It was a little too cool to get into the water, but otherwise, it was incredible.

Check out our view!!

Breakfast was served on the terrace every morning!

On Friday, we took a private boat tour of the coast. We met the boat at 9AM and headed out with about 20 other people on-board. It was so nice to be on the water and looking at the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen. I laughed so hard (secretly) at this little Italian family on-board with us. Check out these typical Italian guys (men in the making).

Loved the collar and the sunglasses!!
This was hysterical...check out the swimsuit!
Julie and I enjoying the beauty of the coast!

Along our little boat ride, we stopped off on the Island of Capri. Wow!! What a beautiful place. We had about 4 1/2 hours to walk around and explore this island. Every direction you walked, incredible views were everywhere! We explored, shopped, had gelato quite a few times and soaked up the sun and nice weather!

After we left Capri, we headed for the Blue Grotto. All I could say was, "oh my goodness, oh my goodness...look at that, Julie, look over there, look at that water, look, look"!!! It was honestly so gorgeous that it took your breath away. I have never seen water so incredibly blue! The pictures do not begin to show you how awesome it really was. We also passed through the Green Grotto which, compared to the Blue Grotto, was very disappointing.

Depending upon the tide and the size of the swells pounding the entrance to the grotto, the guides will ask you to lie down while they pull the boat into the grotto with a chain permanently attached to the cave entrance. Inside the grotto the sea seems to be lit from underwater. It is a magnificent blue color, hence its name. This is due to another opening to the grotto, completely submerged, and the limestone bottom. It allows in sunlight to light the water from below. It was gorgeous!!

After the tour of grottos, we sailed around the coast and just enjoyed the day, the view, had some champagne and snacks, and arrived back to Positano around 6PM! I could not have asked for a more perfect day!

Well, maybe I could....

We chose Saturday to be our relaxing day. I really wanted a day to do absolutely nothing but look out at the view and sit and absorb some sun! That is exactly what we did! The beaches were a bit crowded so we decided to stay on the terrace and take it all in! We read, napped, ordered in lunch, and enjoyed every single minute of it. We did get out for a nice dinner....we were not lazy bums all day!
Julie and I at Cafe Positano!
In order to get such incredible views, you must have elevation, which means lots and lots and LOTS of stairs! We certainly got our workout on this trip! That is how we justified all the gelato and pasta!!

Positano was incredible and we could not have asked for better weather! We had to leave our little paradise and head back to Brussels on Sunday...oh well, back to reality! However, May is a month full of holidays and I am off to Dublin, Ireland this coming weekend!

More adventures coming soon!

Click here for my pictures:

Monday, May 5, 2008

Heaven on Earth!

I just got back from an incredible weekend!! My friend, Julie, and I went to Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy! I will tell you all about the trip within the next couple of days but I wanted to give you a sneak peak!

Picture taken in November 2005! See why I had to return!!!