About Stand Where I Stood

My serious travels started in Italy during university, then I moved on to Ethiopia with Peace Corps and have been to over 10 countries since. My newest adventure is Ghana.

Hiking in the Vineyards of Lavaux

This summer we’re back in Leysin and, just like last summer, I’m marvelling at how this is our life. Because, as if spending the summer up in gorgeous Swiss mountains isn’t enough, we also get to go on incredible weekend getaways like hiking through the vineyards of Lavaux.

Last summer we hiked through the vineyards between Sierre & Salgesch and, while the vineyards were stunning, we drank no wine until we finished our nearly three-hour long hike.

This year’s hike was significantly different.

For starters, the terraced vineyards of Lavaux are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is one of the best-known wine producing regions of Switzerland. The vineyards stretch from Montreux to Lausanne, but one of the best known paths runs from St. Saphorin on the lake level and Chexbres in the hills. Another famous path follows Lake Geneva from St. Saphorin to Lutry.

We decided to combine the two for views both at lake-level and up in the hills. The hike up to Chexbres from St. Saphorin is only 30 minutes and from there it’s about two hours to Lutry. Local trains run throughout this area as well, meaning you can hop on and off whenever you want. But with views like these, why would you get on a train?

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And while Google Maps will tell you your hike only takes 2 1/2 hours (and technically they’re correct), the biggest difference between this summer’s hike and last year’s is the wine! Because, along the way you pass through other small towns as well: Epesses, Riex, Villette, and Chatelard.

And each town has its own charm, history, and designated wines.

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Relaxing in Lucerne

I don’t have a lot to say about Lucerne. We didn’t do much there. That was the point.

After two weeks of sightseeing and restaurant hopping in Germany, we needed to rest before Chandler started his final four weeks of grad school.

We spent nearly three days in Lucerne and the list of what we did is pretty short. And most of it was focused around the lake.

Initially, we had this big idea that we’d take the Golden Round Trip up to Mt. Pilatus and spend a day up in the mountains – before reminding ourselves that we’d be in the mountains the whole month we’d be in Leysin.

So we re-evaluated and decided to keep things simple.

First, we spent a decent amount of time in our hotel. One of only two hotels we’re staying at during our European summer (compared to the five Airbnbs), it was really nice and came with a lot of bonuses – gorgeous postcards, free bus passes, free wifi codes in the city center, and this stunning breakfast buffet every morning:

We definitely give Hotel Beau Séjour five out of five stars.

And when we did get out, it was mostly to go on casual strolls. Old Town was charming (even if it was mostly shops), there’s a lovely local basilica, a chocolatier that sells unique flavors and delicious ice creams, tons of wildlife (okay, swans & ducks), shaded benches, and flowered paths around the lake.

There’s a brewery (that serves great wine too! Thanks, Switzerland), and a cheese shop that I no joke bought eight cheeses at.

Relaxation became our middle names.

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And, of course, we did what everyone comes to Lucerne to do…we photographed and crossed the Chapel Bridge. Lovely year round, the photographs don’t do the flower baskets justice.

We also went to the smaller bridge at the end of Old Town, because yes, I’m obsessed with bridges. These did not disappoint.

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Brewhouses in Munich

We all make mistakes, right? Well, after visiting eight museums in Berlin, we were a little museumed out.

However, Munich is home to the Pinakothek der Moderne, one of the world’s largest museums for modern and contemporary art. And since Chandler loves modern art – and we rarely get a chance to see any – it seemed like something we should do.

Also, in Munich, most museums only cost one euro on Sundays and we just happened to be arriving on a Sunday.

The problem is, instead of heading over to the Pinakothek der Moderne, we accidentally made our way to the Neue Pinakothek. We paid our two euros, put our jackets in a cubby, and walked right on up to one of Monet’s Water Lilies.

It didn’t take us much longer to realize we had ended up in the wrong museum. You see, Neue Pinakothek doesn’t house any modern art. Instead, it is one of the most important museums of nineteenth century art in the world.

And did you know that Munich is home to a third Pinakothek? The Alte Pinakothek, one of the oldest galleries in the world, it houses one of the most famous collections of Old Master paintings. Confusing, I know.

Chandler was a good sport about it and while we didn’t spend more than half-an-hour at the museum, we did get to see another of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

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Turns out he painted a total of seven vases with sunflowers. One was destroyed by a fire during WWII, leaving six. It didn’t take long to calculate the fact that I’ve already seen three of them.

One at the National Gallery in London, one at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and now one at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. The fourth is owned by a private collector, meaning there are only two left in the world that I haven’t seen. One at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other at the Sompo Japan Museum of Art.

So our mistake of going to the Neue Pinakothek turned into a new life goal: See all of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in person!

This all happened within the first two hours of being in Munich, so we decided to do one thing we couldn’t possibly mess up before going to dinner that night.

We read Atlas Obscura’s “18 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Munich,” and we found ourselves at Umschreibung: The Stairway to Nowhere.

Created in 2004, Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s sculpture is oddly enough located in the courtyard of an office building:

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Metro stops away from anything else worth doing, it was a surprisingly fun thing to do.

The next day we set off to finish our Munich bucket list: Asam Church (another hit from Atlas Obscura), Neues Rathaus (town hall), Marienplatz (central square), St. Peter’s Church (great views), Viktualienmarkt (permanent food market), and Hofbräuhaus (beer hall).

And…we were done by noon.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: Berlin Edition

If you’ve read my last two blogs about Berlin, you might think we spent the whole week eating and looking at art. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But we did have time to toss in a few other interesting activities along the way.

Not quite a museum, the East Side Gallery‘s open-air murals painted along the 1,316 meter remnant of the Berlin Wall are a vivid, yet beautiful reminder of Berlin’s history.

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As you can see, this wall was probably my most photographed attraction in all of Berlin. With over 100 murals in all, it was hard to narrow them down! Fun fact, they consider themselves the only authentic monument of reunification.

This is a great neighborhood because there’s tons of – you guessed it – excellent food nearby. We actually ate twice, once at The Bowl – a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that uses all-natural ingredients – and Markthalle Neun – I highly recommend going on a Thursday afternoon/evening.

There’s also a beautiful bridge at the end of the wall: The Oberbaum Bridge.

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We rounded this day out with a trip to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer. A monument/park that commemorates the division of Berlin and the deaths that occurred at the wall.

A beautiful park, it shares some interesting history with the nearby church/cemetery. The property where the wall was built was taken from the church – when the wall fell, they wanted it back. The city, however, wanted a monument built to memorialize the 136 people who died at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989.

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Other events that we went to were a bit more uplifting. The free lunch concerts at the Berliner Philharmoniker held every Tuesday are a really cool experience. They limit the crowds to 1,500 people, which sounded crazy to me, however, we arrived 20 minutes early and couldn’t find a seat or stair to sit in/on. The place was packed.

Our host Alise came with us this time – she had previously attended a free opera performance. The day we went, a string quartet performed Gottfied von Einem and Franz Schubert for the audience.

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Not all of our days were so cultured. We were in Berlin, so, of course, we had to go vintage shopping. This was a pastime I spent so much free time on during university, but it’s been years since I’ve made it a regular habit.

Let me just start by saying vintage shopping in Berlin is ridiculous. Would you like a track suit? Here’s 50 to choose from. Couldn’t find that black t-shirt you were looking for? Here’s four other racks of black t-shirts. And don’t even get me started on the shoes.

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Going Vegan in Berlin

We might have known that Berlin is a great place to immerse yourself in the arts, but we had no idea how incredible – and how cheap – their food scene is.

Known for the obvious: bratwurst, pretzels, and beer, we were unaware of the variety of markets, fresh produce, and unique restaurants.

Not ones to leave food up to chance – it’s hard to be foodies in Accra – Chandler made a list of restaurants we might want to check out during our week in Berlin. That, along with some great tips (and meals) from our host, Alise, made the food scene in Berlin unforgettable.

I’d like to break these restaurants down by neighborhood, but Chandler’s the one who’s good with maps, and now that we’re in Leysin for the summer, he’s a bit busy with his grad school classes. I’ll do my best : )

Berlin, honestly, is an incredibly accessible city. For only 30 euros, you can access all public transportation in Berlin for seven days. Which meant it didn’t really matter where the restaurants were located, because we were able to hop on the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, and trams and nothing was ever more than 20 minutes away (which in both Accra or Dallas-Fort Worth time, is amazing).

To narrow our list from the crazy amount of well-reviewed restaurants in Berlin, Chandler only looked up vegan/vegetarian restaurants. Of course, though we can usually find something to eat on any menu, it was amazing be able to eat anything on the menu. And those “anythings” were incredible:

Our first meal out (and one of the highlights of the trip), was dumplings at Momos. With six speciality dumplings to choose from (four vegan, two vegetarian), we couldn’t decide and so we sampled a little bit of everything – some steamed and some fried. The fresh cheese-potato and pumpkin-chickpeas dumplings were the stars.

We also went to Daluma and drank some of the best juice I have encountered in my entire life: The Equalizer with passion fruit, basil, active water kefir, caju, agave, and lemon. The food was equally fresh and impressive. While my Oriental Study was fun, Chandler’s Green See Ramen with vegetable-kelp-dashi, baby pak choi, edamame, corn, spring onions, ginger, sesame, soy sprouts, and noodles stole the show.

Another memorable meal was at The Bowl, an incredible vegetarian restaurant located upstairs from Veganz (the first vegan supermarket chain in Europe) – we did some grocery shopping afterward : ) The blueberry lemonade I could do without – Berlin in general likes to make their lemonade sparkling, but the food was delicious. Mine was a little pretentious, they called french fries & sweet potato fries, “roasted root vegetables,” but it was amazing to be able to eat a caesar salad without anchovies in the sauce! And Chandler’s raw watermelon salad looked incredibly fresh.

Sometimes, you don’t want your meal to try so hard, and we got an amazing halloumi burger at Kreuzburger – though I don’t recommend the regular veggie burger, that was a little mushy.

We also had some delicious phở at Monsieur Vuong (try the mango/coconut milk smoothie!). And fresh bibimbap at Wawa. Vaust, a vegan wine bar, had the most unusual menu we came across, but we loved their specials! At Hammers Weinkostbar we got to sample some German white wines (the Riesling Mosel being my favorite) and some new cheeses (Beaufort and Tome des Bauges – both French).

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And while each of these places had lovely atmospheres – especially The Bowl – we found some other venues to love for their ambience.

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Museums of Berlin

When we were planning our trip to Berlin, we had, of course, heard about Museum Island. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is home to five museums showcasing some seriously impressive artwork.

But it took going to Berlin to discover many of the other wonderful museums – over 200 in total – and we spent an amazing week in their hallowed halls.

We arrived in Berlin on a Monday morning and were fortunate enough to have some incredible friends who let us crash with them. It’s always nice to have someone in the city with recommendations on what to do – and not to do!

Our first museum wasn’t on Museum Island, but since our host, Alise, was interested in revisiting the Gemäldegalerie, we started our tour with a collection of paintings ranging from the 13th to 18th centuries. Initially high on my list, after about an hour weaving in and out of an unsurprisingly lot of religious paintings, the only thing that really caught my attention was this half of Jean Fouquet’s Melun Diptych:

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I loved the vivid colors and the story behind painting Mary’s breast and Jesus’ genitals – making her more maternal, him less formal and more relatable. Having gone to museums in nearly every country I’ve visited, Germany was the first place I really got into audio guides – it certainly helped that they were free! But without it, I probably would’ve spent even less time in this museum.

Our next museum was visited because we still had 30 minutes to kill before heading over to the free Tuesday concert at the Berliner Philharmonie. We had purchased the Museum Pass Berlin, which for 29 euros, gives you access to over 30 museums in the city. Without that pass, and Alise’s recommendation, we never would have heard of this museum: Kunstgewerbemuseum or Museum of Decorative Arts.

Chandler really went to look at their selection of chairs, but we had a fun time looking through their entire furniture collection. There’s also a fashion gallery with costumes from the 18th to 20th centuries that we wanted to go back for, but never had the time. Another really random, but memorable part of the museum is their current exhibition on the food revolution. It doesn’t sound like it should all belong in one museum, but somehow it all worked.

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The next day – because you can only do so many museums in one day – we made our way to Museum Island and the famed Pergamon Museum. Worried about crowds, we made a quick stop at the Brandenburg Gate, before arriving at the museum shortly after it opened.

We needn’t have worried. For whatever reason – construction, difficulty finding the entrance, etc. we had no problems getting in. In fact, we were concerned the museum was closed as we breezed past the “Two hour wait,” “One hour wait,” and “You’re almost there,” line signs. The only people at the door were two security guards who ushered us in.

The first thing you see when you walk up into the museum itself is the Ishtar Gate:

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Way larger than I could have expected, that seemed to be the theme of the museum: larger than life. Because not only was there the Ishtar Gate, but the Pergamon Museum is also home to the Roman Market Gate of Miletus, as well as the Mshatta Façade – each towering over the visitor. I’ve never seen pieces of this size put together in a museum before.

The well-known Pergamon Alter is unavailable until 2023, with construction in the museum (they’re adding a fourth wing) to be completed in 2025. We were more than happy with what we saw. We also loved the collection of Islamic Art – that being our highlight the last time we went to the Louvre and for our stopover in Qatar.

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At this point, we were getting ready for lunch, but we didn’t want to leave Museum Island without a look at the Bust of Nefertiti. So we quickly stopped inside the Neues Museum. Other than the bust, we didn’t have a strong desire to look at more Egyptian artifacts, having spent our winter holiday in Egypt.

Photographs aren’t allowed inside the room where the bust is kept, but it was pretty hilarious watching people queue up behind a line in the neighboring room for a shot through the glass encasing.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: Galway Edition

For a city so small – population 80,000 – Galway has a lot to recommend it. Nothing more so than their restaurant/pub scene. Everyone I talked to said I’d love eating in Ireland – and I wasn’t disappointed.

As vegetarians, a lot of the menu items were off limits to us (though I can’t say I wasn’t tempted by the Guinness beef stew!), but what we did eat was incredibly fresh and wonderfully made.

Most of our eating took place in the Latin Quarter. We may have missed the Galway Food Festival by just one day, but we certainly didn’t miss out on great food.

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Specialty pies at the Pie Maker (aubergine, kale, & goat’s cheese and curried butternut squash & carrot), Spanish tapas at Cava Bodega, fresh tacos and Corona at Tuco’s Taqueria, grilled halloumi bap at the Quay Street Kitchen, and a deliciously relaxing brunch at McCambridges.

We were only in Galway for four nights, but we got in as much food as possible. Not to mention the full bag of specialty cheeses I walked away with from Sheridans Cheesemongers! And all the ciders sampled at establishments such as the Crane Bar, the King’s Head, and Tigh Neachtain. Each with its own unique atmosphere, from the quiet Crane Bar (until the live music starts up, I’m sure!), the never-ending space at King’s Head, and the forever busy Tigh Neachtain.

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But Galway wasn’t just a city to eat in. We also did plenty of window browsing in the Latin Quarter, eventually purchasing scarves, local jewellery (ok, made by an Australian while she was living in Ireland!), postcards, and wonderfully calming wooden children’s toys at Wooden Heart.

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