Hey there, I'm Kelly! I'm a professional portrait photographer located in the Stuttgart, Germany area, specializing in children, families and high school seniors. Kelly Holder Photography was established in 2007 and has clients all over the world. I am a military wife with two boys and one baby girl.
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The Parker family wanted something Christmasy for their holiday photos, so what better way to scream “It’s Christmas Time in Germany!” than to head down to the beautiful Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt for our photo session? We arrived early on a perfect winter morning and it was already bustling with shoppers and holiday merriment. There is nothing better than to head to a German Christmas Market to get you in the holiday spirit. It has been my most loved German experience.
You’d think three years living in Germany would be enough to see all you want in Europe. Well, it’s just not. There are just too many amazing things to see and too little time to get it all in…not to mention funding it. I had always cringed at the thought of a cruise, mostly because I get motion sick very easily. After chatting with others and finding an amazing deal, we decided to give cruising a try. We used Military Cruise Deals to find an MSC cruise going to Genoa, Italy, Marseille, France, Barcelona, Spain, Tunis, Tunisia, Palermo, Italy, and Rome. We invited our friends, the Nordans, to take this adventure with us. For those of you who are considering a cruise like this, here are a few things we learned along the way:
The cost of the cruise was great and the all-you-can-drink drink package was definitely worth it for our family because all drinks on the ship are expensive. After all is said and done and your children have played video games in the arcade, you’ve signed up for excursions at the port or even just the shuttle bus to take you into town, you’ve been charged the daily service charge (for tips), and you might have treated yourself to a massage, you will end up spending about what you paid for the cost of the cruise. For us, we still felt like this was a good deal considering we were being tranported to six different cities (four countries and two continents), had wonderful “hotel” accommodations and were being fed wonderful meals at any and all times of the day. We would definitely do it again–and no, I did not have any problems with sea sickness. I wore a Sea Band when I was on the ship and only took Dramamine once or twice. Not bad at all.
I’ve created some slideshows of our photos (most will only be enjoyed by family who want to see my kids) :) and I’ll comment a little bit on each of the cities we visited.
Marseille, France and Barcelona, Spain
Marseille was our first stop on the cruise. Our ship “parked” in an industrial port so we took the shuttle to Marseille’s Old Port where there was a small Christmas Market and a ferris wheel. We walked around a bit and then headed for a monument on the top of a hill which gave us a beautiful view of the city. Everything was closed because it was a Sunday so that’s about all we did in Marseille. The shuttle that took us back to the ship went through some pretty shady areas of town (including a tent city) that kinda left a bad taste in your mouth.
Barcelona, Spain was amazing! It was beautiful weather, clean, friendly–we all loved it there. We walked Las Ramblas and visited La Boqueria, a large market. After that, we decided to walk to Sagrada Familia, described on TripAdvisor as “a masterpiece of modernist architecture, built by Antoni Gaudi, pushes the gothic style to the extreme”. Let’s just say that I now know where the term “Gaudi” comes from. It was interesting but kinda horrendous for a church. We also passed by another of Gaudi’s buildings on the long walk over, Casa Mila.
Genoa and Palermo Italy
We didn’t tour around Genoa at all except for explore a pirate ship that was outside of our hotel. Genoa seemed dirty and mean to me. The amount of vespas and scooters in town was crazy…and apparently, Italy does not have any rules for driving, or at least not any that anyone follows. The night we drove in, the roads were crazy curvy which caused Lily to get car sick and then we had to drive around for another 45 minutes figuring where to park to get to our hotel. The night ended well though as we found an amazing pizza/seafood place to eat (weird combination, I know).
Palermo was interesting–pretty much what I expected. We sampled the cannolis (oh my, sooo good) and just kind of walked around and took it all in. Here is where I will tell you my sad story. I almost always take too much camera gear when I visit new places. I don’t ever want to be without what I need to capture the perfect photo. For this trip, I decided that I would take my big bad boy camera and also my smaller DSLR camera with a pop up flash (for evenings on the ship). Very last minute I ordered a new lens, one that would be able to capture it all. It went extremely wide (18mm) and had a great zoom as well (250mm). This was going to be the perfect travel lens. It arrived on time but I didn’t bother trying it out on my camera until the day before we left. Sadly I realized that I had ordered a DX lens (for crop sensors) and I have a FX (full frame) camera. Long story short, it would have to be returned and I would have to take my 28-80 mm kit lens instead. It’s old and not great but would basically do the job. I decided not to bring another lens with me–just one lens, but two cameras. Let’s just guess what happened. Yep, I broke it. First day on the ship I noticed that it wasn’t fitting on the camera correctly. I literally had to hold it on to shoot all of these photos that you’ve seen. Well, Palermo was the last straw for this poor little lens. I dropped it in the street and that was all she wrote. I was heartbroken, not because I’d lost a great lens but because I was stupid enough to only bring ONE. I shopped for a new lens in every city we visited (as well as the camera shop on the ship) and no one had a Nikon wide lens. It was crazy…I felt like I truly was not meant to buy another lens. I finally broke down in Palermo and bought a little Nikon point and shoot. Sadly, all of my Rome photos are with the P&S and many great photos in Palermo did not get taken. Lesson learned.
(this slideshow will have photos from the ship as well)
We were a little nervous about visiting Tunis. We had heard that it might not be safe for Americans. Then a trusted source said that if we took a guided tour group we would be fine. Our tour was Cultural and Historical Tunis and it was great. We visited the ruins of Carthage, the ruins of a Roman bath and an interesting village where we were harrassed endlessly by shop owners to buy something. Cody’s highlight of the trip was riding the camel
We had the least amount of time to explore that largest amount of stuff here in Rome. The port is 1.5 hours outside of Rome so once you get there, it’s already 10:00 and we had a pick-up time of 3:30. The one thing I learned about Rome is that I definitely want to go back. We spent the majority of our time at the Colosseum where we took a guided tour and then had just enough time to explore the immediate area around it. Oh, and we ate the best pizza EVER.
We had a lovely, whirlwind trip that I would definitely do again. It was a great experience for the kids and a lot of fun to go with friends. The last photo is what we drove through on our way home. Thankfully we had none of that on our trip!
Jasmin and Jason are a lovely German/American couple engaged to be married. They picked a spot for our photo session in Stuttgart that I’d never explored before. It was so gorgeous in all of it’s fall colors with vineyards, statues, winding pathways, and a biergarten with a fantastic view of the city. The weather was perfect and these guys were so much fun. Couldn’t have asked for a better day! Best wishes to you, Jasmin and Jason, for a long and happy marriage!
This mom contacted me several months ago saying that she was taking her sons on vacation in Germany and wanted to have a photo session done during their trip. Coolest vacation idea ever! Seriously, how brilliant is this? We met in my favorite walled German town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and we met early, which was lovely as we had the city to ourselves most of the time. A perfect way to end a trip to Germany!
And if you’d like to see more of this beautiful city, here is a slideshow of the trip my family took last summer.