“Space A” Adventure, Day 2: Metz, Luxembourg

And so it begins! Our first full day of our spontaneous eurotrip and we have wheels!

Jet lag is a fact, y’all. I made such an effort to combat it with light exposure, wait till sunset to sleep and…4am? Both of us were wide awake. But what better time to explore? We trecked across the base to a pretty sweet gym (Air Force gets all the nice things…) and I watched the sun rise to some rowing and yoga. Just as I was thinking, “wow, traveling with Michael is so healthy and energizing!” we came back to a delicious hefeweizen breakfast. When in Rome? No? Ok.

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Hefeweizen. Breakfast of champions.

So after a real breakfast and a morning prepping we rented this cute little thing (a VW Polo)

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And ventured about an hour and a half away to Metz, France. Interpreting traffic signs in German, then French was fun terrifying but we caught on soon enough (Michael is an amazing adventurous soul) and the view along the way was breathtaking. Rolling hills and fields of bright yellow flowers as far as the eye can see! Traveling by car is such a different experience, and this is the place to do it! We stopped along the way as we saw a road sign for the American cemetery at St. Avond, a somber experience.

As we reached the city Michael braved the spaghetti-like nature of twisting one way lanes and we made our way to the Saint-Étienne de Metz cathedral, a place I’ve longed to see! It was breathtaking beyond my imagination and soared above the surrounding city with its gothic architecture, flying buttresses (that will always make me giggle) and storybook terrifying gargoyles leaping from the sides of the cathedral.

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Saint-Étienne de Metz

Inside I was very pleasantly surprised to find a place of worship, not tourism, the most stunning original and modern stained glass and majestic architecture that literally took my breath away. I only took photos inside with my dslr so you’ll have to check back when I get a chance to upload and post those!

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We wandered through quite a bit of the city and visited the Centre Pompidou, one of the most visited museums of modern art in France and took in some fabulous and humorous modern art, from a very bold Miro (I have no other way to describe it) and the best work by Picasso I’ve ever seen to an ironic exhibit about paparazzi, which seemed to both celebrate and mock Western obsession with celebrity gossip, meanwhile obsessing over those who made it what it is! That, or just another reason for a French museum to display full nudes (Whoah! That’s pixelated in our tabloids! TMI!) Either way I found the whole situation amusing and the structure of the museum alone was worth a visit.  Pictures to come! (of the museum structure, not the exhibit. ha)

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in Luxembourg City

From there we drove to Luxembourg city and Michael’s luck with spontaneity struck again, this time in the form of a bustling open air market spanning countless blocks of the city center. Everything smelled amazing and we followed our noses to a stand selling fresh Belgian waffles. Best lunch ever! I was way too distracted to take a picture.

Michael’s striped shirt made for a great game of where’s Waldo and we (of course) thoroughly enjoyed perusing the antiques and plethora of bird whistles, bird sculptures, and anything else you can imagine.

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Where’s waldo? Open air market/festival in Luxembourg City

I picked up this delftware vase (random, but cute!) and we enjoyed dinner across from the palace at The Chocolate House.  Michael had Black Forest Cake for dinner (can’t blame him) and I had Quiche Lorraine, which I tried to find in the Lorraine region of France (Metz) but as everything but super touristy places were closed for Easter weekend, Quiche Lorraine in Luxembourg was probably more authentic!

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Michael contemplates my treasure.

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Chocolate?!

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Black forest cake for dinner. (can you tell our body clocks are way off?)

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Glimpse of the Grand Ducal Palace, Luxembourg

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The Chocolate House, brilliant.

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Luxembourg City

More pictures and adventures soon to come!

 

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Carolina Cottage

We moved to North Carolina in the spring and discovered our “little cottage in the woods.”

We did a lot of house hunting before we found our gold mine. It’s a classic cape cod style home in our perfect neighborhood, a bajillion trees on a half acre (ok seriously I stopped counting at 70…), and absolutely no decorative updates since 1979. What more could a creative pair of do it yourselfers ask for?

Our first home!

Without knowing how long we’ll live in North Carolina before the army moves us again, buying a home was definitely an adventurous choice. We plan to keep our carolina home (and rent it out if/when necessary) for as long as possible, but we have a shorter timeline than most for DIY projects and updates, so we tackled it with that much more enthusiasm!  Step one: Facelift.

A fresh coat of grey paint for the house and black paint for the shutters

Step 1: Facelift. Check out that brass lamp too…whoah.

It’s amazing how much of a transformation a fresh coat of grey paint can make.  The seller had it painted for us, and even let us choose the shutter color.  Not exactly a DIY project, but trust me, there are plenty more to come.

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All dressed up with new paint and surprise azalea bushes

We’ve done SO many projects to update and design our first real home together and learned so very much along the way.  I can’t wait to share it with you!

Some Happy Things

Fall!  In Georgia! It is real, have you heard?
The weather gets brisk and leaves change colors!  Like, not green to brown, but real colors in between! Small revelation, but hey, that never really happened back in Texas.

Getting to wear leggings every day of the week.
yeah! (this is my dressed up version with real shoes, not moccasins) one of the only benefits of not working ’till we move and Michael not being home to tell me to put on clothes. (miss him)

Brussel Sprouts (Want to get a thousand “Are you Craazy??” looks?
Shop at the Commissary right before Thanksgiving at lunch time carrying one of these.
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Delicious Thanksgiving food! This recipe for Cranberry Orange Almond Bread is beyond delicious.  I brought a loaf of that bread and a punkin’ pie to Thanksgiving dinner with my landlord’s family.  They were soo very sweet and invited me out to their place in Alabama. Their very large family was super welcoming and their Thanksgiving spread was delightfully southern. Deep fried turkey, lima beans, collard greens, 4 kinds of stuffing and macaroni casseroles and oh dear lord…  (Wish I could have non-awkwardly snagged a photo…) Except for this one when I drove up!

Guess I cut out the 10+ cars parked along the driveway! What an awesome family.  I learned that if I’m going to survive in the South I SERIOUSLY need to catch up on Football.  And know the difference between Auburn and “Bama” and for God’s sake never wear the color orange. (Georgia?)

We live literally about a mile from Alabama.  And get there by crossing the good ole Chattahoochee River. For real! It’s usually a great view (esp. of the red fall leaves!) but this is the best I could do with my snapshot out the passenger window while driving skills.

I joined in the Black Friday madness, but late enough that I thought it might be calm…HA!
So instead of crazy awesome doorbusters I just bought happy things like candles and pillows! SO many pillows!

After living out of a carry-on suitcase for 6 weeks the TINY closet Michael and I share suddenly seemed so big! And full! Time for a clean out.

The cleaning frenzy quickly spread.
I put together a few of our more unique decorative pieces by the front door. (Yes, that is a jackalope…we ❤ Texas.) This little arrangement, especially with Michael’s giant axe like weapon thing by the front door (you can see the handle on the left) should easily be able to scare off intruders.

On the same note, my little Christmas tree had no home! I only got it out a few days before Thanksgiving this year…I’m so excited for Christmas! I’ve equated all the anticipation and excitement of holiday festivities with Michael’s homecoming.

So here, it found a home! And the first present is wrapped & under the tree and I should hear from Michael this Sunday (if he’s coming home next week!!) and all is well in the world!

Aside

IBOLC, Ranger School and transitioning into this Army life.

IBOLC Graduation!

Well, with Michael gone to Ranger School for the next 58 days (3 down!) I have just a bit more time on my hands, to say the least, so I might as well throw a little creative energy this way.  Looking back, time absolutely flew through the last four months of Michael’s IBOLC training (Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course) as he was in the field/out of contact every other week and we adjusted to army life.  In theory, I’d be happy to pick up and move cross country for him/for the army every so often and deal with deployments when the time came, but I thought I could feasibly have a very normal civilian life as his support system.

Hahahahahaha…

I have learned so much in these four months.

As I scour the depths of the internet like a depraved soul searching for any morsel of information on his whereabouts, ranger school schedule, and the next time I get to see my soldier, the thought that my civilian life would be at all “normal” is more hilarious than ever.

1. Moving as a kid vs. moving as an adult is a completely different game.  That little word “responsibility” comes to mind.  Though it is a hell of a lot more stressful than I thought, exploring a new part of the country day after day is awesome, I love going on weekend trips with my other half, and it is possible to settle in after just a few months.  Being able to paint the walls in our charming “vintage” rent house really helps.  But the constantly re-nesting part is not too different from moving each year in college. In fact, we inadvertently set up our house like an expanded dorm room 🙂

2. The support system of fellow wives isn’t as forced, or readily available, as I’d been warned, but the fellow IBOLC wives I’ve been blessed to know are awesome.  It’s really cool to see how these guys certainly do attract a “type,” in that the girls I’ve met are not only sweet, but independent and adventurous, which are pretty great qualities in my book. Thanks, girls, for making the “field weeks” infinitely more bearable and making this intro to the army so much smoother.

3. It’s hard to go on his adventure.  By about the second month I was legitimately jealous of his intense body breaking training, camping for a week, and learning new and exciting things! (Ha! I’m such a nerd).  At one point, I was ready to join the army myself.  Michael laughed hysterically. Maybe it’s the tomboy in me, but it’s so hard to hear of all the exciting and meaningful things he’s doing and, as we share our day over dinner, report back that I’d unpacked a few more boxes, ran errands… The fact that we’d always shared our adventures, from college, to home, to travel, to career dreams, made this transition a little more shocking than I could anticipate.

4. Sitting at home is not an option. So I got involved, and got to work.  Maybe this is as much of a college kid/real world transition as it is civilian/army wive, but opportunity doesn’t just happen when you move across the country.  Not all cities offer the same job opportunities and I began to really respect the two army-approved portable career tracks- medical care and teaching.  Just my luck, I’m not cut out for teaching or blood (not that medial care is alll about blood, but that fear of blood can stop a kid pretty quickly in career counseling, just saying) so we’ve had an arduous time brainstorming what I can do with my degree far away from DC, or other big cities with comprable jobs.  So I’m not joining the military after all, (I’m married to it anyway) but I am seriously considering law school.

5. It takes conscious effort, a lot of conscious effort, to be ok with him being gone all the time.  I feel like a sap to miss him so much, but I married him because I couldn’t live without him!  (Didn’t foresee the living without him every other week/2 months bit, eh?) So it does take, and will take a lot of focus on goals and on the future to remember that this life is part of who he is now, and our constant separation makes our time together that much sweeter, our love that much stronger.  With fewer days together, we can’t afford to take any for granted.

6. Goals are important.  And timelines for those goals are even better!  I stayed so very busy throughout Michael’s IBOLC time, I grew a lot, learned a lot, gradually got a lot done, but I think it will be better to have something definitive to show for this next stretch.  I’ve got a start – LSAT prep to photography and yoga, but I’ll develop a list 🙂 Any suggestions are much appreciated!

I got to pin on his blue cord – signifying him as a true infantryman

Ohhh the joys of unpacking

Can you believe our wonderful packers & movers used THIS MUCH packing paper?  ……

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Oh wait, there’s more….

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I got lost!

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Fun stuff.  This is prime for the making of a Texas snowball fight.  I guess that was something silly they taught us in gradeschool PE with clumps of newspapers, but it stuck.

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Whew!

But we sure are enjoying the return of our kitchen and yummy lunches.

I made Spaghetti Carbonara for the first time (mine with fresh swiss chard from the farmer’s market)

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I found the awesome recipe (modified to fit our semi-empty pantry!) here.  Somehow I was not aware that the process of making spaghetti carbonara involves swirling just-drained pasta in raw egg, pepper, and cheese while the egg cooks from the heat of the pasta.  Cool.  It works!

New home!

Hooray! We found a home!
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We moved to Georgia for Michael’s infantry officer training (IBOLC) and other fun schools like airborne and ranger school. Infantry officers in particular spend so much time in training that the army permanently moves them and their spouse (PCS) before they go to their actual duty station.

So, this is temporary, but still home!

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We found a duplex near the lake bottom area/parks. More pictures of that to come.

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Unpacking is a feat. Ridiculous. We had the luxury of professional packers and movers but they pretty much killed a forest to move our goods! This much paper is from ONE box!

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I think we’re going to move ourselves next time so we don’t have to ridiculously protect things from brutal movers (michael’s tv and various furniture that wasn’t wrapped to oblivion died in the process…)
But we are making this time in Georgia as fun and fulfilling as humanly possible! And cherishing every bit of time we get together.

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Moving (through) New Orleans

We have had SO much fun moving. Really, the outlook of a military paid road trip transformed our 26 hours of driving from crazy close confinement to a gypsy wagon adventure…kinda…

We drove through the swamps of Louisiana,

Saw a LIVE TIGER!! At the tiger truck stop. (the tiger was sleeping, sorry, we tried to provoke him…)

And Michael demolished what the travel channel claims is the “world’s best fried chicken” at Willie May’s in New Orleans

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Michael grew up in Chalmette, which is just east of the heart of the city and a lot closer to “real” New Orleans than he remembered as a kid! We visited his childhood home, in a neighborhood speckled with empty plots of grass where houses once stood. It’s funny how our memory reconciles with reality years later from a different perspective.

As a kid, Michael and his brother used to ride bikes to the Chalmette battlefield, ride up to the gigantic plantation home and admire its grandeur!! No wonder he’s always wanted a home with huge huge columns. We’ll see 🙂

Other great New Orleans experiences:
Bourbon street, beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, a super quick tour of Harrah’s Casino (in which Michael made $21 at roulette) and a surprise jazz concert in the park next to our hotel!

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honeymoon in rome

just a few random favorite snapshots of our beautiful adventure!

We ventured out of the city to the Borghese gallery. It’s AMAZING!  I didn’t visit on my previous trip to Italy (backpacking) because of the moderate entry and reservation fee.  Not to mention, making online reservations from an iphone while backpacking? forget it.  But I’m soo glad Michael researched the Borghese and put it #1 on our list.

The 17th century villa once housed the personal collections of the Borghese family, featuring many works by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, and Rubens, but much of the collection was sold to Napoleon in 1808 (and thus ended up in the Louvre).  We unwittingly stumbled upon the most amazing exhibit…the Borghese collection from the Louvre was on loan to be placed in its original home!  This may not seem incredibly special, but every room of the Villa was designed around key sculptures and paintings, with elaborate paintings on the ceiling to echo the theme.  So….if you’re going to Rome in the near future, go see it!  If not…hop on a plane, go to Italy and see it right now!

Oh so this picture is of me trying to find the place. (therefore relevant…)

The two middle images are of a glimpse of the Capitoline museum and the beautiful sculptures that fill its rooms…busts lined the walls of the blue room, which were grouped according to the emperors they were said to depict.  The variation in features of what was supposedly the same Roman emperor was amusing, but gives a great deal of credit to the artistic license granted to artists who sculpted many of their subjects centuries later.

This is from the Galeria Corsini – tucked away and nestled between elegant government buildings.  I wish we could’ve taken photos inside! Ah it was stunning.  But the building it’s housed in?  Creepy but fascinating.  We explored its vacant corridors up to the fourth floor before a man appeared out of a hidden stairway and told us to get lost.  eeeek!  so fun. Before he caught us I snapped this: 

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Southern + Sicilian?

“are you calling me unsophisticated…?”
A little blend of our heritage, Michael and I (mostly Michael with the deep fryer tonight) made flaky fried Chicken Parmesan with Italian style tomatoes and fried okra- my favorite!

The potatoes are inspired by his adorable Sicilian grandmother’s fried potato slices with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and (our version) whatever Italian seasonings fall out of the cabinet first.

In spite of my recent health kick, fried food hit the spot perfectly tonight.