{vienna}

The last few days of our trip, we stopped in Vienna on the trip back to Budapest. It was a quick, 1 1/2 day visit, but we managed to include quite a lot of sightseeing aka…walking. I think I need to stress the word A LOT.  Time can numb the pain, so maybe I’ve subconsciously put this off until I can think back on this portion of our trip and not wince. So without further ado, this is the last of our great European adventure…

THE SIGHTS

St. Stephen’s Cathedral – We started off the morning afternoon (see note about hotel below) taking in the beautiful architecture. The sun was pretty hot so we decided to take a look inside. I still can’t get over the intricate details that used to be the norm. While I definitely appreciate modern design, there just isn’t the same craftsmanship involved. And this girl loves her details.

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St. Stephen’s South Tower – This deserves it’s own category as it was 343 steps to the top of the tower. And by steps I mean a tiny concrete spiral staircase with no railings or windows. I’m not claustrophobic, but was close to changing my mind by the time I made it to the top. It wouldn’t be quite so bad except when passing people you just have to pray you don’t fall. I would never have considered stair climbing a feat. St. Stephens changed my mind.

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Yes, I’m proud. Don’t judge. You would be too if you had my coordination. Below is an outside view of the climb and view from the top. Impressed? Please be. I will be taking the shorter tower with the elevator next time.

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Hofburg Palace – As we continued to wander the cobbled streets, we happened upon Hofburg Palace. We didn’t go into the palace, but there was enough architecture to keep me happily occupied outside.

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Austrian National Library – My book loving husband had his eyes set on this library that I personally think is straight out of a scene from Beauty and the Beast. This library rivaled our great find in Budapest at the public library there. I’d say the two would be our “his and her” dream libraries. His is in Vienna and mine is in Budapest. Both are far beyond anything we’ve seen before.

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Schönbrunn Palace – We spent half a day at this palace and it was one of my absolute favorite tours we took. I am fascinated by daily life of ages past. Downton Abbey, anyone?? I wouldn’t consider myself a huge history buff in general, but when they talk about how they ate, slept, and probably all the things that would bore a true history connoisseur, I am fascinated. The audio tour of the palace was filled with all those interesting details about the life of Habsburgs. The grounds were beautiful and very extensive. We got lost just trying to find the shrub maze. I also think the Gloriette reminds me of something out of  a scene from Pride and Prejudice. Love. We really could have spent even more time there, but had to hurry back to catch the train home.

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SOME EYE CANDY

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ACCOMMODATIONS

Le Meridian – This was probably one of my favorite parts. We scored a great price on a 5 star hotel in Vienna. I’ve never stayed in a 5 star hotel and it was worth every star…down to the beautifully designed coasters. No lie. Their coasters were super cute. So was their giant hot pink claw tub. It also happened to be directly across from the State Opera and was walking distance from pretty much everything we wanted to see. The picture below was taken from the center median in front of our hotel. Somehow I missed getting a picture of the front.

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FOOD

Hotel Sacher – We started our day out with a trip to Hotel Sacher. I ended up with the most amazing apple tart, Seth a cake. So our “breakfast” ended up being a little more like dessert, but hey, what are vacations for if not to indulge yourself. Did I mention we did a lot of walking?

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Hidden Miracle – I’ve named this restaurant affectionately, not accurately. I’m not sure exactly what it’s called. We made a 5 mile hike to a restaurant that we thought was only 5 minutes away only to find it closed. Unfamiliar with the area, we were desperate to ease our aching feet and rumbling stomachs. Lo and behold, this cute spot was nestled towards the back of a side street and the patio was perfect for enjoying the now amazing weather. I had to try wiener schnitzel while we were in Austria. Now if only I could say it. For some reason, I get tongue tied by the time I get to the schnitzel.  DSC_0620

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Overall, it was an incredible trip. One I never could have even dreamed up myself! It’s a little sad to end all this trip reminiscing, but I guess that just means we will have to travel somewhere else soon.

Good thing we are headed to Florida next week!

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{salzburg}

We made it to Salzburg a couple times, but didn’t really end up spending much time here either trip. However, we did carve out a few hours to explore a couple landmarks:

The Fortress – I really wanted to explore this as to me it was very different from the palaces we had seen, but along those same lines. Seth’s family jokes about how each member has a certain favorite activity on trips: i.e. photography, shopping, museums, etc. I discovered mine is exploring castles and palaces especially if they give you a feel for how they used to live. Daily life is the part of history I find the most captivating. This landmark was definitely worth the visit. It had a lot of great exhibitions throughout and you got this amazing view of the city. All the weapons of torture did have me a little queasy though.

Seth convinced me that this scary thing is how they used to give shots. Gullible maybe, but I was am freaked out!

Residenzplatz – We really just walked through this area on our way to the Fortress, but it was still a landmark so I say it counts. It was so fun. I love places where you are free to walk around and don’t have to worry about cars running you over. We ended up getting a great little ink print from a vendor on the street. They also had some great street performers and this one guy who could make a quick silhouette like nobody’s business.

{munich: take two}

So for our second visit to Munich, preaching #2, we finally got a chance to explore the city and a couple of the surrounding suburbs. We stayed with some family friends who in my opinion have the whole hospitality thing down. They had this great balance of being flexible with when you came and went, but also kept you well fed. There was always food waiting on the table when we got back. They even made dinner for us one night…when they were dining out. That pretty much blew me away. If we stayed here too long, I think we would have gained some major weight. Maybe we did…but the great thing about any European adventure is you are bound to walk off any extra calories by just exploring the city. So without further ado, here’s what we saw:

THE SIGHTS

Glockenspiel – Definitely a classic. It was a great introduction to Germany, and we timed it perfect for the chimes to begin. It was quite the highlight as a crowd of people gathered all around and stared up at the clock tower. However, it was pretty entertaining for what I imagined as we waited for it to begin. Don’t worry I won’t include spoilers, but the end of the little show includes a fun surprise.

Viktualienmarkt – I really enjoy markets. I find them so interesting to just walk through and observe. This was a fruit and vegetable market, but we also were able to see some local dancing. I’m not sure the official type of dancing, but for the sake of documenting something, I’ll call it boot-slap dancing. They were all dressed up in lederhosen and dirndl. You can buy these at a lot of different stores, well the modern take…so black and hot pink. Seth tried to convince to me to wear one, but I wasn’t so easily persuaded.

St. Peters – We quickly ducked into a church to get a feel for what is typical in Germany. After my initial awe at the intricate details and expansive arches, I noticed one side wall contained altars for the dead. The altars contained skeletons amidst the decoration and I won’t lie, it creeped me out a bit, especially since they were a foot away. They were blocked off so you wouldn’t disturb the dead, but just an interesting display if you ask me.

Residenz – This was like a flashback to History of Interiors in school…only way cooler! The palace was massive and extremely confusing to wander around. It took us like 30 minutes to just find the ticket counter. That should have been a sign. While I really enjoyed seeing so many rooms, and especially loved that I could take pictures, there really was not as many rooms and furniture as I was hoping. Although, maybe we just never found them… Also, should I ever decide to go back: DO NOT use the audio guide! The tour will last 8 hours if you do.

The English Garden – It was a rainy day and the clouds were coming, so we didn’t stay in this area long, but we got to experience beautifully manicured lawns and a large expansive park within a few minutes’ walk of each other. I really think this would be a great place to have a picnic, play Frisbee, etc. Lots of people were just lying around outside. It’d be my “Shelby Farms”.

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FOOD

We didn’t eat any meals out in Munich, but we did get the best ice cream I’d ever had at Amorino.

Day 1!

…And 2 days in row!!

Aren’t they pretty though?! I know, I know…I am obsessed!!

Gauteng – We were also able to visit a couple suburbs of Munich while there. Gauting is the area of Munich that Seth grew up in. I don’t know if I was more excited than him, but we went in search of his old house. We had vague directions, Seth’s distant memory, and…yep that’s all we had. Luckily, Seth quickly picked up on several landmarks that led us in the right direction, past his Kindergarten, pool, and finally to his house.

We also explored the area behind where he lived and it was gorgeous! This was a fun little detour to take.

Sternberg – The other suburb we went back to was actually the location of our first trip to Munich. We wanted to observe a bit more of the surroundings and get a better feel for the area. I probably over documented this trip, but here’s a quick glimpse into this area. It’s adjacent to a beautiful lake and really is such a gorgeous little area. It didn’t hurt that we had amazing weather.

And just for fun, I secretly shot this photo, as the culture just had me cracking up. Totally normal for two grannies to be out with their steins of beer, but not quite what you’d see a Southern grandmother doing. Sometimes you just have to giggle about cultural differences…or discreetly take their photo.

{st.gilgan: the most beautiful place on earth}

While we were dating, Seth raved about this place he went several years before called St. Gilgan. RAVED. He talked about how it was the most beautiful place he has ever been. How he and his good friends climbed this mountain and kept thinking it could not get even more amazing, but it did. He built and built and built this place up that I HAD to go. So I actually began to get a little nervous that when I finally was going to get the chance, it wouldn’t be as beautiful as I had pictured. However, it turns out I had nothing to worry about. It was not perfection, only heaven’s got that going on, but it was the closest thing I’ve seen so far. (Although the heat and sweat were great reality checks) This spot won as my favorite getaway location. I could be holed up here for weeks and be blissfully content. It’s got water, mountains, cafes…I could go on and on. But rather than ramble on, the pictures speak for themselves. We spent just part of a day here, and Seth had to tear me away when it was time to head on to Munich.

{budapest}

Ok, so that was three months ago. But they say these memories last for a lifetime…therefore, it’s only logical to conclude I am way ahead of the game.

After London, we headed to Munich where I got to hear Seth preach for the very first time! Hard to believe considering how long I have known him, but I never had the privilege of watching his seminary videos pre-marriage. They were always mysteriously misplaced, not convenient, etc. Purposefully done if you ask me! Not that I’d like to re-watch my Oral Communications videos either. But needless to say, it was about time! I was so excited…and probably more nervous than he was that morning! Considering it would be slightly awkward, not to mention my husband would kill me, no pictures or videos were taken from that short trip to Munich.

So we found ourselves back in Budapest with Seth’s parents for our first real stretch of time. Considering they have lived there for almost 10 years, I didn’t bother doing any research. I knew we would have the best tour guides! Over the three weeks we were gone, we spent a good portion of our trip in Budapest. It was our home base, resting place…and most importantly, laundry base! Can’t have stinky socks around the in-laws. I still have a decent amount of pictures from Budapest, but we did a lot of other low key, family things that I didn’t photograph. Don’t worry as I’ll be sure to allude to at least a few.

THE SIGHTS

Castle Hill – This was the first place we ventured. We just walked the grounds of this castle which was breathtaking in and of itself. There were beautiful views of the river and lots of interesting statues and buildings around.

Covered Market – Seth and I explored this market on one of our last days in Budapest. It was interesting to see what sort of items they specialized in selling. They had really nice leather bags, beautiful linens, and tons of food items. I didn’t walk away with anything as I’d already grabbed a few souvies the day before, but it was still fun to walk through.

Boat Tour – We covered a lot of the major buildings by heading out on a boat tour. This was a really fun a.k.a lazy way to tour the city. Considering we had walked pretty much everywhere on our trip so far, it was really nice to just sit and still feel like you were exploring the city. We went under four of the major bridges of the city…bridges that combined the Buda and Pest side. We were also able to take in some of the major architectural buildings like the Parliament.

City Park – This was one of the coolest places I saw. It had all kinds of architectural styles going on and some really unique features. It was adjacent to a park and lake and would be the perfect place to mill about. I know I would love just spending a day outside near this area.

Hungarian National Gallery – One of the highlights of our time in Budapest was having Seth’s mom give us a tour of the art gallery where she volunteers. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a guide for an art gallery and this was a life-changing thing. I always appreciate art, but don’t have a very long attention span in museums. However, this definitely changes if I have someone telling me interesting facts about the artists and paintings. Her tour was so interesting and brought back so many terms I hadn’t heard since the beginning of college. She really was the best tour guide…and not just at the museum!

SOME EYE CANDY

Budapest had LOTS of sculptures. Here’s just a small sampling of the many we saw…

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

By far, my absolute favorite place we went was really a surprise to me. I was really excited about London and all those places that I’d heard about for so many years, but the public library in Budapest, yeah, definitely not on my list. However, Seth’s mom had stumbled across it a couple weeks earlier and said that it was beautiful. So Seth, my lovable bibliophile, and I decided to search for it one day when we were in the city. When we found it, we were extremely confused because it looked just like any other library in the States that was built in the 70’s. After a little exploring, we finally found the area that his mom had described. AMAZING! It was exactly like so many castles that we had explored, but with no rope, no crowds, and you could just sit and take in the intricate surroundings. Cameras weren’t allowed but Seth managed to snap a couple quick shots before we realized this. I could have spent all day there! It was so inspiring and beautiful…and I’ll stop because I really could go on and on about it.

 

HUNGARIAN CUISINE

While I was there, I got to experience an authentic Hungarian meal. It was served family style and the one thing I learned while there was that they really love paprika! It’s always fun trying the food from various places…or maybe I just like eating…

And who can resist a Kodak cheesy moment like this…

FAMILY TIME

Budapest was most exciting because we got to spend more time with Seth’s parents. It’s hard to believe I can count on my hands the number of times they’ve visited since I’ve known him. While we are more blessed than many, I really appreciate the time we get to spend with his parents. It was fun to see their house, their church, etc. I’d missed seeing that side to Seth while we were dating. One day, I finally got to pour over Seth’s baby pictures and family videos. Seth had an unfair advantage on me for the longest time, but now I’ve seen all his embarrassing stuff (like dressing up with his sisters…shhh don’t tell him!), so we’re even. The rest of our free time there was spent relaxing, eating, and watching Wooster and Jeeves. If you haven’t seen it, that show is amazing!

{london: well hello mate}

Without further delay, here is the beginning of our “little” travel log of our trip…just so we won’t forget any of the fun things we did or make the same mistakes! Since it was such a LONG trip, I’m breaking it up for your viewing pleasure and my sanity. Consider it part one of…a lot.

18 hours. 5260 miles. 12 hours in Budapest. 929 more miles and we made it to London. Whew. It is even exhausting typing that out. Not the most efficient way to get there, but we arrived nonetheless. The next 72  hours were the most jam packed, non-stop, wonderful hours I had. Looking back, London was my favorite place to go. It was the place I could see myself actually living, and one I would most definitely love to go back and visit. This was my first taste of Europe so I greedily grabbed my camera and snapped away, not paying any attention to the quality of my photos. Really just too excited to stay still for long. Let’s just say there was a lot of filtering through for these pictures. So without further ado, here’s a list of what we did, saw, ate, and discovered:

Hello Mate! As trip preparation, my friend greeted me with “hello mate!” for the few weeks preceding our trip. While this little ritual was fun, I never once got to use the phrase while actually in London. It might have had the same effects as me shouting “howdy” at the rodeo in Texas. So yeah…probably better left alone.

LODGING

We stayed in a cozy little village called Etchingham. It is an hour outside London and it is the cutest place ever. Bunnies hopping all over the place, cute. For real. We stayed with the Riggs family which basically just made me want to raise my kids in England. At least if they would turn out as adorable as their boys. I couldn’t stop grinning they were so cute. Finding Neverland anyone? Talk about random reference, but the cute kids in it are literally all I remember about that movie. Since our time was so short, it was nice to get a glimpse outside of London.

We could walk to the train station and even took the little path below one day. A 6 year old was our guide as we went traipsing through the brush. He warned me about nettle…which was good because I had no idea. So much to learn.

THE SIGHTS

Once in the city, we were bombarded with so many things to do and see. This just confirmed to me how much I love cities! Especially with the Olympics only a week away, the place was crawling with videographers and tents and chaos. Here’s where we ended up exploring:

Westminster Abbey – We took a tour for this one and really enjoyed it. By the end of my trip I was so thankful for the free audio guide trend! It certainly made a difference in staying engaged for a couple hours. Or maybe everyone else has a longer attention span than me. It is amazing the history involved in this place and how many people are actually buried there. While my husband was taking in the rich history, I was totally visualizing I was a part of the Royal wedding.

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National Gallery – I don’t know if I can fully count this one as something we did considering we only spent an hour in this massive museum, but I loved the parts I did see. I would really like to go back and take a tour of it all. However, I saw my favorite: Van Gogh. And we purchased our first real “art piece” in the gift shop – The Boulevard at Montmarte at Night by Pissarro. This was such an achievement considering we have such different taste in art.

Kensington Palace – Since Buckingham Palace was closed while we were there, I wanted to still get a taste of British Palace life. In retrospect I liked a lot of the other palaces we saw in other places more. The building was beautiful, especially the grounds, but I wasn’t a huge fan of a few of their exhibitions. The “dress collection” sounded better than it actually was. I was hoping for more dresses and less photos.

Imperial War Museum – Ladies, your husbands will love you forever if you take them here. At least mine did, this was one of his highlights for our whole three week long trip. They have real tanks and war machines on the first floor. I’ll admit, I’m not a history buff, but thought this was a pretty cool museum. Did I mention it’s free??

London Eye – One word: expensive. But when you are dropping pounds like you wish you were in real life, it’s a great one to add on. It’s only 30 minutes, but I love views. I’ve realized this is one of my favorite activities to do on trips.

SOME EYE CANDY

We also saw so many landmarks and beautiful streets. Below is a quick glimpse at my faves.

 
 
 
 

Side note: The photo above was actually Ben Franklin’s hood back in the day. Not 2 seconds after I said I wanted to live on this street, I saw the plaque with Ben’s info on it. Crazy! We could have been neighbors.

GRUB (& A PUB)

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the places we ate along the way, because what is a vacation without food?! We really didn’t eat out a lot in London because we also had access to the most amazing home cooked food, but here are a few places we did try:

Busaba came recommended in a tour book as a great, lesser expensive option. So on our first day, we scoured the streets to find it and were definitely not disappointed. I think it’s a great choice representing modern London. And whatever you do, don’t forget to order their lemongrass tea!

We had “high tea” at The Orangery which was right next to Kensington Palace. It was a high tea in which we didn’t need reservations or fancy dress. Just the way I like it. This was my highlight of the WHOLE trip!

“Non descript Pub” because I don’t remember the name. We were hungry, it was busy, we ate. We ordered a Pimm’s & fish and chips. The Pimms was better than the fish.

Pret a Manger was our go-to “we are hungry and don’t have a lot of time” stop. Good stuff. Nothing fancy, but it was food. It was fun to take our little sandwiches and eat on the steps of church…at least when it wasn’t raining.

And last, but surely not least, I had lots of tea. Whether we were in a train station, at a restaurant, walking along. Whenever the whim hit, I got it. And it was totally normal to add milk! This was my paradise, especially compared to the rest of “coffee only” Europe.

SHOPPING

The first half day we were in London, we hit up some shopping. It was easy to fit in that day, since we were still figuring out our way around the city. My favorite item I got was a pretty little tea tin from Fortnum & Mason. LOVE!

Liberty was pretty amazing. This picture shows it in the far background. I loved browsing the various floors and especially loved their little housewares section. They had handbags I’d die for. This one was window shopping for me, but definite worth a look. And of course you can’t forget their iconic fabric they used for loads of great gifts and goodies.

Oxford Street had tons of shops and we went in and out…as many as my dear husband would patiently wander through. He really is the best about shopping, but I just feel so guilty. However, we made it in Topshop and a few other classics.

Harrods. You can’t go to London and not make it into Harrods. Or can you? We actually had to choose between this and the War Museum for times sake, and went with the latter. I got in a lot of shopping so the hubs won. However, I did stand outside it. And drool.

Fortnum & Mason is actually where I bought a lot of gifts and tea. They had tons of the Queen’s Jubilee items which made for more fun gifts. I am still wishing I had bought shortbread though. I ended up having some in Munich…go figure, and had to enlist serious self control to keep from eating the entire tin. It was amazing!

And no trip is complete without some: CHEESY TOURISTY STUFF! I just had to get a picture in a phone booth. I look just like a local, right?!

HELPFUL HINTS

And just in case, fingers crossed, there is a next time:

  1. We purchased a Travelcard for each day which enabled us to get anywhere in the city as much as we wanted. For two travelers with a whim…this was amazing! Note to girls: do not place your Travelcard near any magnet (aka purse clasp). Finally figured this out on the last day when my card kept getting deactivated. You can still travel around, but it is such a hassle! And we had train tickets attached to our cards, so they couldn’t just reissue mine when it stopped working.
  2. Staying outside the city, we actually used “left luggage” to take care of our bags while we traveled around on our first day. This may not be useful if you are staying in the city, but for us…it was amazing. Although seriously expensive! Not every underground station had them, but most of the larger ones did.
  3. Make sure you have loose change because for a concept foreign to me…you actually have to pay for public restrooms!! Note: if you can plan your natural urges for restaurant and museum times, you are golden.