After crossing the English Channel, we found a rental car and immediately set off for Westvleteren Brewery in Belgium. This brewery produces three beers that are consistently ranked among the best in the world. However, the Trappist monks only produce enough to finance their Abbey so it is difficult to find in the USA. I tried all three.
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London and Dover
As part of her PhD research, Katie submitted a robotics paper to the Hamlyn Symposium in London. We weren’t planning to go back to Europe for a while, but given the opportunity we decided to see parts of continent that had so far evaded us. We started with the London Eye.
This monolithic ferris wheel is in the heart of London and difficult to miss. Although we’d been to here twice before we’d never had an urge to go up. The lines were always long and it just seemed a bit too touristy. We caved and bought tickets – it was neat.
My favorite National Park has always been Canyonlands. Since High School, my friends and I would go on roadtrips during breaks. We’d always drive west and always end at (or near) Canyonlands in southeast Utah. Since moving out here though, I haven’t been back. With Katie’s PhD nearing its end and a departure from Utah on the horizon, we decided that she should see the Moab area.
Napa Valley & San Francisco
Katie’s 27th birthday was approaching and with her PhD work in full swing, we decided a weekend getaway would be a healthy change. The cheapest non-stop flights were to San Francisco and since I had never been, we ventured out there.
Most of our trips involve the usual sightseeing, museums, art, food but we always try to add a small excursion that makes the destination stand out. In Napa, it was hot air balloons.
The other day, Matt turned 30. To help celebrate the occasion and it being a little while since our last trip, we started looking for a nearby destination for revels. Matt’s answer was Cancun and since there were non-stop flights on sale from SLC, Katie and I got onboard.
Let me preface this by saying I really enjoyed the slice of Mexico that we saw, albeit a narrow one. Katie and I hadn’t been past our southern border and we found the weather nice, the people friendly, and the food fantastic. But still, we were miserable almost the entire time.
The trip started smoothly with Katie and I arriving at the resort one day ahead of Lyle and Matt. With the extra time, we immediately took a bus out to nearby Chichen Itza. The bus ride was long and hot, luckily there was a stop for some authentic Mexican cuisine and souvenir shopping. Arriving at the grounds, we made our way to the iconic temple.
Arctic to Trondheim to Amsterdam to Home
Travelling abroad is never easy, but most of the time the return journey home is more difficult. Throughout the trip we are constantly exhausted yet the thrill of being in another country keeps our energy high. As our return flight approaches, the thrill is replaced with fatigue. Additionally, we always book weird flight paths and that doesn’t help.
Since this trip was planned spur-of-the-moment, our return journey home took us first through the small town of Trondheim, Norway. Here we stayed briefly overnight so we could catch an international flight home. We didn’t have time for much, just a good dinner and a stroll around the city in the rain.
Tromso, Senja, and Finland
We awoke in Bergen very early in the morning so we could catch the bus for our 7am flight to Tromso. Tromso lies in the far north region of Norway and is the third largest city in the Arctic Circle. Although remote, this city offers a gateway to the premier Arctic landscape that can’t be seen elsewhere in the world. And we were hoping to catch the Northern Lights on a clear night.
Our ferry from Flam arrived in Bergen late in the evening and we were too tired for nightlife. So we found our condo and took some good pictures of the cityscape from our balcony, before going to sleep. This was the end of the trip for Matt and Chris and a quick stop for all of us. From here, Katie, Lyle, and I were heading up north to the Arctic Circle.
The next morning, we made our way down to the iconic harbor where we got coffee among the smaller shops. We walked along the district before heading to the mountain tram that took us to an overlook of the city.
Flam and Sognefjord
From Oslo, we caught one the rail services westward to the small town of Myrdal. From there, we hopped on a smaller line called Flamsbana. Ever since researching for my first Europe trip, I had heard of this train ride as it is consistently listed as one of the most scenic in the world.
Lyle, Katie, and I woke up in Stockholm at about 4am to catch the first flight to Oslo. We navigated our way to city center on a high speed rail and found our hotel easily enough. After meeting up with Matt and Chris again we decided to start exploring the sights nearby.
Our hotel happened to be next to the Oslo Opera House which was an architectural oddity with massive glass walls and granite exterior. We walked around it with care because an early morning rain made the granite a little slippery.