CROATIA: A QUICK GUIDE TO THE PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK AND SPLIT

Over our 4th of July weekend Kevin and I visited Croatia with a few of our friends. Prior to the trip, our group got together to do a bit of planning and we all talked about what we wanted to see most. My only input was that I wanted to do a bit of hiking and see some awesome waterfalls! With that in mind we began planning our trip. First stop, was the Plitvice National Park. 

OVERVIEW OF PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK

The easiest way to get to the park is by car. There will be a few signs marking the falls and telling you where to go. You will purchase your ticket and then take a bus up to the lakes. The lakes are divided in half by upper and lower sections. There is a ferry that runs between the upper and lower sections of the lakes. You have the freedom to see only one section of the lakes or both, the choice is up to you. If you are pressed for time and only wish to see one section I would recommend doing the lower lakes. If you are doing half of the park plan on about a 3 hour walk and if you plan to do the whole park it's about a 6 hour day. The walking paths are very easy with hardly any incline or steps. While the path is easy, you should wear comfortable shoes that you don't mind getting wet. There are a few places to get a bite to eat and also a few restrooms along the way as well.  It rained most of the day when we visited. This kind of weather can be common so make sure you bring a water resistant bag or a poncho so your belongings do not get wet. 

SPLIT

We stayed only three days and two nights in Split so we packed in a lot of sightseeing during our stay. Split is one of the most unique cities I have been to in Europe. This is because a large part of the city center is actually an ancient roman palace. Diocletian's Palace is an ancient Roman ruin that is now a busy city center with bars, restaurants and shops. This integration of the old and the new make it Split's most famous attraction (aside from the ULTRA music festival). We were extra lucky as our apartment was inside the palace wall. It was amazing! I would recommend spending one full day exploring the city of Split and then venturing out to do some day trips. We took a trip to the Krka Waterfalls and we spent a day sailing the Adriatic Sea. You can read about both trips below!

WHERE TO EAT

We did not have too much time to dine in Split but we did have a few favorites. If you enjoy wine and pairings I would highly recommend making a reservation at Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar. The cheeses were amazing and they helped us pick out which wines would go best with our assortment of little bites. 

KRKA WATERFALLS

This waterfall is a little more "toursity." It is easy to find by car and there are tons of amenities at the top. You will need to walk down several flights of stairs to reach the falls at the bottom. There are several food stands and bathrooms at the bottom so you only need to bring your towel and a waterproof camera if you want to take pictures. I would recommend wearing water shoes (no flip flops– think Keen or Teva) into the water as the rocks are a bit sharp and the current was surprisingly swift. 

SAIL THE ADRIATIC SEA

On our last full day in Croatia it was hot hot hot in the city. We welcomed the warm sun and set sail on an all day excursion on the Adriatic Sea. The weather could not have been more perfect on the water! We took our tour with John and Lyn from Sunburst Sailing and I would highly recommend them. They met us at the docks just a 10 minute walk from our apartment in the palace. They took us on a tour across the Adriatic with several stops to jump in for a quick swim. We enjoyed an open bar of beer and wine and fabulous food was prepared for us. We felt like celebrities for the day! If you are ever staying in Split, I would make this a top priority.

We had an awesome time and I sure got my wish of seeing some awesome waterfalls in Croatia. 
Where was the most beautiful waterfall you have seen?
xoxo,
-E

BERLIN : Our Travel Itinerary

Happy Spring!! It has FINALLY begun to warm up here in Germany. So for our last holiday weekend we packed up and drove north to Berlin! We have been living in Germany almost two years now and this was our first visit. I know, can you believe it? We absolutely fell in love with this city and we are already planning our next trip! This city is so rich with history, culture, and should I mention the FOOD? Kevin almost had to roll me home! I have written out a rough itinerary of our adventures in the city. I hope you enjoy!

HOW I PLANNED OUR TRIP:

Berlin is a HUGE city with so much to offer. Sometimes visiting large cities can be overwhelming. I tend to get the so-much-to-see-yet-so-little-time feeling. The first thing I do when planing a trip is pull up a map. I pinpoint the sites I want to see and I split up our days of sight seeing geographically. That way, we are utilizing our time best. With Berlin, there is a river that runs almost exactly through the middle so it is already split up quite a bit for you!

WHERE TO STAY:

I booked our stay with Airbnb in Mitte, about one block south of the Berlin Nordbahnhof. I would highly recommend this area. It was quiet yet full of shops and restaurants. The train was close so we were able to hop on and off quickly for exploring. However, I believe there has been some changes with Airbnb since our visit. I don't know if it's possible to get an Airbnb in Berlin presently. From what I read about it, Berlin ran into issues with an excess of vacation rentals resulting in making it hard for locals to afford and find apartments. There are still several hotels and hostels in this area so you are sure to find great lodging choices!!

DAY ONE : NORTH OF THE RIVER 

  • Berlin Wall Memorial: Our first morning in Berlin we had a brunch reservation that was not until 10:00 a.m. so we got an earlier start and checked out the Berlin Wall memorial. It is one of the best exhibits I have been to in Germany. It is very well done and it's awesome to walk around and explore when the weather is good.
  • Brunch at Alpenstück: After the memorial we made a short walk over to Alpenstück for brunch. In the words of my friend Bethany, "You can't go wrong with a good European breakfast!" They had a simple menu with fabulous presentation. The interior of the restaurant was simple, fresh and light. Also, if you don't have time for a sit down breakfast they have a bakery with a pastry display. You can just get a little something to grab-and-go.
  • New Berlin Synagogue: After brunch we checked out the New Berlin Synagogue. This building was destroyed during the war and was rebuilt in the 80's. It is now used for worship, but it is worth a stop to admire the architecture. It is a B-E-A-utiful building!
  • Currywurst: After checking out the synagogue, we took the train up to catch our tour with Berlin Underworlds. The tour is a little long so we grabbed some famous currywurst before checking in. Berlin is famous for their currywurst and it is a must-try when you are visiting. 
  • Under the Berlin Wall Tour: Our tour of Berlin Underworlds was awesome!! They offer several different tours depending on what you are most interested in. They have World War 2 tours as well as cold war tours. We took the "Under The Berlin Wall" tour and I loved it! I loved hearing about all the escape stories from people trying to escape the west. I would for sure recommend trying to catch a tour when you are in town. 
  • Macarons at Du Bonheur: For those of you who know me, you understand I have an obsession with macarons. If I see a macaron shop, I will stop in and order "The Usual." This consists of a rose flavored macaron and a cup of green tea. It has become a bit of a tradition... and also a little personal quest to find "The Best Macaron Known To Man." We stopped at the cutest little sweet shop called Du Bonheur. The interior was bright and white and the sweet treats really hit the spot. 
  • Shopping in Mitte: Our dinner reservations were not until 9 p.m. so we spent a little time hitting a few shops. Kevin and I are what you might call stationery enthusiasts. Kevin has an obsession with fountain pens and I have an obsession with good letterpress cards. We found a few really great stores if you are interested. Our favs were Luiban Papeterie, R.S.V.P., and Polly Paper. If stationery isn't you thing there are dozens of super cute shops in this area. You are guaranteed to find a unique souvenir to take home!
  • Dinner at Katz Orange: Our dinner reservations were at Katz Orange and it was amazing! The cocktail menu was fabulous and the decor was funky with a little bit of a southwestern twist - this Arizona native was in heaven! You really should make a reservation before hand because this place is PACKED! Tip: you absolutely have to order the "Candy on Bone."

DAY TWO: MUSEUM ISLAND & SOUTH OF THE RIVER:

  • Breakfast at Cafe Bondi: Our Airbnb was situated right above a really great cafe. We stopped in at Bondi Cafe more than once during our stay. Kevin loved that their "Espresso was done right" and I loved that their croissants were homemade. It was one of the best croissants I have had in all of Europe! - and yes,  I have been to Paris...
  • Museum Island: After a quick breakfast we took the train down to museum Island in hopes to check out the Pergamon Art Museum. However, when we got there, it was over a three hour wait just to get in the door!! We ended up not being able to get in. Sooooo.... lesson learned. Buy your tickets online or get there early before it opens if you want to get in. It is the most famous art museum in the entire country! We still had a nice time walking the grounds and enjoying the architecture just the same. 
  • Lunch at Dada Falafel: A little out of the way for our adventures for the day but we just had to stop in. We had the best Falafel of our lives at a place called Dada Falafel. The colorful interior and modern presentation of their dishes was such a fun experience. I recommend getting the sampler to try a little bit of everything!
  • Bebelplatz: With full bellies, we headed back over to the famous square Bebelplatz. A subtle and well designed memorial now marks the location of the famous Nazi book burning. 
  • Ritter Sport Factory: This is famous brand of chocolate here in Germany and it is so good! The best part is their wide variety of flavors. In the factory you can make your own bar if you want! Our friend Ryan made his very own bar with all his favorite toppings. So fun!! So stop in and grab a few gifts for friends back home. 
  • Brandenburg Gate: Munching on our sweet treats from Ritter Sport, we walked over to the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. This area is swarming with tourists, but it's one of those iconic areas of the city so it is a must see. Tip - If you want to go in to see the dome at the Reichstag you have to book online before your visit. So make sure you do this before your trip!
  • Holocaust Memorial: Our last stop of the day was the Holocaust Memorial. This is a rather eerie memorial resembling that of a cemetery to remember the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. 
  • Dinner at Home: Our dinner was spent back our Airbnb. Kev and I will do this occasionally to save a few Euros. Sometimes it's nice to just grab a few things from the grocery store and head home to unwind. If you are looking to eat out I have several more restaurant suggestions at the end of the post.
IMG_5351.jpg

DAY THREE: THE EAST SIDE GALLERY AND KRUETZBERG

  • Breakfast at Distrikt Coffee: First stop is breakfast of course! We went to Distrikt Coffee. I had their banana bread and a boiled egg. This place was bumpin' so get there early!
  • Check Point Charlie: With full bellies we stopped by the check point charlie. This is another tourist trap, but I felt like it was important to see it- Also, I had just seen Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks so I wanted to go see it. It was just as touristy as I had imagined with photo ops with dudes in fake uniforms but it was fun to go take a peek and snap a photo, then move on. 
  • East Side Gallery: We got in our car to head home but stopped to stroll the East Side Gallery. This is one of the highlights of the trip for me. It was so beautiful! I am a huge fan of street art and this well preserved part of the wall did not disappoint. 
  •  Oberbaumbrücke: You can see this bridge from the East side gallery and it is a super cool double decker bridge. We actually drove over it before heading home!
  • Explore Kruetzburg: This area is so rich with history! Take a tour and stay a while to explore. We downloaded an app called "Detour" and downloaded the section of Berlin. Download it and explore. 
  • We headed home after this. I know we hardly scratched the surface when it comes to everything Berlin has to offer. We plan to come back soon! There is still so much to see. I hope to visit several times more!

STOLPERSTEINS

While walking around and shopping we came across these small little golden squares. My friend Bethany shrieked!! She had read about them previously, but had never seen them in real life. Created by an artist to recognize victims of the Nazi Party, these small golden cobblestones are laid into the side walk and are inscribed with individual names. These Stolpersteins or "stumbling blocks" are scattered all throughout Europe making it the biggest memorial in the world! I will have to keep my eyes peeled to find more on our future adventures.

EXTRA TIPS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

I have a girlfriend who lived in Berlin for a while. Before visiting Berlin I asked her for a list of her favorite spots in the city. As I said, we did not even scratch the surface when it comes to hitting the highlights. We did not personally visit the following places but my friend says they are noteworthy and are worth a visit!

  • Markthalle Neun- Awesome Thursday night street food
  • Boxhagener Platz Market- Saturday morning market is super cute to walk around.
  • Cafe am Neuen See- Perfect spot to check out in the summer time, you can even rent boats!
  • Burger Meister- Some of the best burgers in town.
  • Salt n Bone - Great meat dishes!
  • Dudu- for good sushi and cocktails at good prices but make reservations!

Have you been to Berlin? What was your favorite experience there?
xoxo,
-E

BARCELONA : A WEEKEND WITH FRIENDS

When we first moved to Germany and started planning trips, my top priority was to visit Spain. This obsession started in design school when I learned about the architect, Antoni Gaudi. We studied his work and I remember being totally swept away by all of the photographs of his work in Barcelona. They looked like they couldn't be real, like something out of a fairytale. That was it, I needed to see these buildings for myself. 

A friend of ours mentioned that he would like to visit Bareclona over Thanksgiving and I blirted out "TAKE ME WITH YOU!" before I had even talked with Kevin about it. I looked to Kevin and he nodded– which to me, meant that the trip was a go! So, for Thanksgiving this year we exchanged our turkey and apple cider for tapas and sangria. We had a heck of a time! I will be back... yes I will!

DAY 1 : SAGRADA FAMILIA, THE MONTJUIC CASTLE & WINE TASTING

First things first, we stopped for breakfast. In Spain, this is usually a small sandwich that consists of various cheeses or meats. I am a big fan of this style of morning snack. Bread and cheese are two of my most favorite things!

Our first stop was the ever-so-famous Sagrada Familia church by Antoni Gaudi. This church was my number one priority to see while in Barcelona and I am so glad we saw it first to kick off an incredible trip of sight seeing. This church was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I have seen dozens of pictures of the church but they don't even begin to capture the intricate detail that this church offers. The interior of this church is flooded with light and stretched stone pillars makes for a dreamy scene. 

We have been living in Europe now for about a  year-and-a-half, and in that time we have come across dozens and dozens of churches.  It sounds really sad but after a while, they tend to kind of all run together. This church however, will always stick out to me. This is the most magnificent stained glass I have ever seen. We visited the church around 11 so the sun was perfectly shining through, filling the church with beautiful shades of red, orange and green.  

After our visit to Sagrada Familia we stopped for lunch! We setteled for a whimsical little joint along the way called Electropikal. The food was delicious and their mojitos were fresh and fabulous. However, whatever you do, DO NOT order the Michelada cocktail! We are always up for trying new things when we travel but this drink was a little too far out there for us to get on board with– think spanish twist on a bloody mary.. something just was not quite right. Ha! 

After visiting the Sagrada Familia we set out to climb the highest hill in Barcelona and watch the sunset. The highest hill is home to the Montjuïc Castle which is kind of cool to see, it's an added bonus to the gorgeous views of the city. You can take a gondola up the hill, or even cheaper, you can take the city bus which will drop you off  right where you want to go. We were wanting to walk off the tapas we had earlier so walked up the hill by foot. We got a little  out of breath but I was glad we did it. (even though I might have complained about it... a little haha) The views were amazing!

After our day of exploring we set out for dinner and stumbled upon a wine tasting on one of the main streets. JACKPOT!! We walked up to the the stand out front, and for five euros we were given a wine glass and unlimited access to taste all different kinds of local wine. The vendors were set up on either side of the street . We just held out our glasses and they filled us up! It was so much fun and so interesting to try loads of local wines.

DAY 2 : PRIVATE TOUR OF MONTSERRAT & PARDAS WINERY

When you have a group of people together it is pretty affordable to schedule your own private tour. We scheduled our private tour and the plan was to first visit the Montserrat Monastery, have lunch at traditional spanish restaurant, and then finish the day with a wine tour. It was a perfect day and because it was a private tour, we were able to move along at our own pace.

IMG_4988.jpg

Our private day took us to visit the Pardas Winery outside of Barcelona. This was a great tour for us because we got to see part of the bottling process which is something I have not seen before. When we visited they were bottling a Rosé which we were able to taste right off of the table. So fun!

DAY 3 : SHOPPING, LA BOQUERIA FOOD MARKET AND FC BARCELONA GAME

Kevin absolutely LOVES european football. He not only just likes watching the games, but he knows all the players and who is being traded to which team. I played a little bit in high school so I enjoy watching games as well. When we booked our tickets to Barcelona our next thing we looked up was wether or not FC Barcelona would be playing a game during our visit. We lucked out and bought some tickets for the home game.  It was a no brainer, we had to see some of the best players in the world kick around a soccer ball!

After the soccer game we spotted the Mountain Dew truck driving down a side street. We started waving our arms and jumping like crazy people. Amazingly enough they honked, pulled over and we scored like 10 free sodas! I LOVE BARCELONA!

DAY 4 : CASA BATLLO

Our flight back home was late in the day which left enough time to visit one more site. We chose to visit another Gaudi attraction– I just can't stay away. I have been waiting to stand in front of this house for almost 4 years now. I remember first seeing it in college during one of my favorite professor's lectures. I remember looking at the pictures in that big lecture hall and thinking that the rooms looked fake. I thought the house looked like something out of a fairytale book. In pictures I'd seen in my textbooks, they showed the rooms as a whole. However when I visited the house, it was the tiny details of the house which impressed me the most. Everything was thoughtfully executed. The handrails and door knobs were custom carved so that they could fit perfectly in the human hand. Gaudi invented a custom typeface for all of the door numbers. There was even an innovative ventilation system carried throughout the house. All of the detail that he went into building this house is just amazing. What is even more amazing– something I still can't wrap my brain around,  was that there there were no plans ever drawn for this house. There was only one sketch of the front of the house and one clay model made to aid in building this house. Antoni himself, would stand across the street and direct the construction workers as they built on site. 

The concept of this house was to make the inhabitants feel as if they were underwater.  As you make your way through the house you find hints of underwater motifs. In addition to the motifs, the color scheme changes. The lower floors start with a darker shade of blue slowly making your way up to the lighter and brighter white that is white washed in the attic. The picture above is of the attic and is just as you walk onto the roof. The walls are pure white and flooded with lights. Beautiful!!

Kev and I loved Spain and we are hoping to head back very soon! There is still so much to see and do!

Have you been to Spain? Do you have any suggestions for planning our return trip? 

XOXO,
-E

PARIS : AN OVERSEAS FAMILY REUNION

Kevin and I have been living in Germany for a little over a year now. Almost all of our family members have come to visit and have explored the surrounding area. So, when Kevin's parents said they were coming to see us again this fall, we decided it would be more fun to meet somewhere in Europe instead of seeing the same sights around our house. This way we could all explore together, and what better city to explore with family than Paris?! It was an absolutely stunning city. Here are a few shots of our trip I hope you enjoy!

DAY 1 - ARC DE TRIOMPHE & THE EIFFEL TOWER

Kevin and I flew into Paris pretty early in the morning so we had a great full day of exploring. We met up with Kevin's parents and wasted no time. We headed for the Champs Elysées. We strolled the street and had fun window shopping until my mother -in-law pulled me into every girl's favorite store, and treated me to a little gift at Tiffany's! She bought us matching Eiffel Tower charms!! It was such a cute gift and I love wearing it and remembering this trip.

I travel quite a bit and I have seen a wide variety of street performers throughout my adventures. This guy, by far, wins as my favorite all time street performer EVER! He didn't have any fancy show or props. It was just him, his guitar, and his cute little Chihuahua that sat on his shoulders and yelped to his tune. Maybe I am bias because I am a big time dog person but this guy wins kudos from me! Soooo cute!!

The Champs Elysées leads straight up to the ever-so-famous Arc de Triomphe. After taking a few obligatory touristy pictures we sat and admired the brave drivers that drove the round-about WITH NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS OR TRAFFIC MARKERS! It was truly amazing!  I kept thinking about how something like this would NEVER work where I am from, talk about a death trap. 

IMG_4395.jpg

After our visit to the Arc de Triomphe we popped into Laduree which has without a doubt the best macaroons I have EVER tasted. If you are ever in Paris I would highly recommend stopping in for some tea and a sweet treat! I ordered an iced coffee and an assortment of macaroons. We had so much fun tasting everyones flavors and I think we decided our favorite was the rose flavor. 

With our bellies full of macaroons and sweet coffee we made our way down to the iconic Eiffel Tower. We had tickets to ride up the elevator and look out of the observatory on the first level. This was perfect timing for us as it was right at sunset and the city just looked magical at that time of night. There is an option to go all the way to the top but really the first tier is really all you need to get the full effect of the city from a birds eye view. So beautiful!

IMG_4457.jpg

DAY 2 - A BUS TOUR & THE CATACOMBS

On our second day in Paris, we started the day out right and went to the place that we were told have the best croissant in all of Paris. As the super duper official taste tester, I can personally say that they were fantastic! After I devoured two croissants we found a cute spot for breakfast Called Strada Cafe. Who counts carbs when you are on vacation, right? We ordered a breakfast sandwich which was killer! I would also recommend their iced coffee! Yummm.

IMG_4486.jpg

We spent the morning on a bus tour that was pretty fun as it was a nice day and the second level of the bus was open. It was nice to see a quick run through of the city and get in a few fun facts that you would not have otherwise learned about. 

After our bus ride we got off and did a bit of walking just to see the Eiffel Tower one more time because you can never get sick of that magnificent landmark! It really was magical for me. It is one of the most iconic structures in the world and its so amazing when you first look at it that it kind of makes you a little giddy. Actually being there standing in front of it was sooooo much better than the pictures – side note, it was crazy huge and so much bigger than I thought it was going to be! This lead us to the catacombs which I heard was a must see and it really was very interesting. We spent a little extra money and did the audio tour which I would recommend because there is quite a bit of history you would miss otherwise.

Jardin de Luxembourg was one of the gems that was not on my list but totally blew me away. The weather was perfect and the flowers were in full bloom. The Garden was filled with locals sharing a bottle on wine and cheese and crackers with friends. It was breathtakingly beautiful. If you ever make it here and the weather is nice. Ditch your dinner reservations and bring your own spread to nibble on while watching the sunset!

DAY 3 - THE LOURVE & WINE TASTING

We slept in this morning and woke up all in a frenzy – jet lag is a real thing my friends! We had such big plans but did not set an alarm and got a bit of a late start. We hurried and got ready to head to the Lourve to see one of the most famous woman in the history of the world! 

After the Lourve we set out to do a wine tasting with some French wines and it was really fun! I always love doing wine tastings whenever we travel not only to learn about the wine but also you learn a lot about the country and the culture as well. However, My favorite part though was the cheeses and meats... Yummm!

After the wine tasting we only had about an hour before our next stop closed for the day so we quickly made our way to the Musee d'Orsay. I had learned about this museum in school and it was a must see on my list. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to spend as much time there but it was so cool to see it in person – sigh, gives me an excellent excuse for a return visit. 

Day 4

The weather had been so beautiful the whole week, but unfortunately the day we scheduled to go see Versailles was cold and rainy. That did not stop us as we braved the weather, the cold, and the crowds. 

DAY 5 -BREAKFAST & THE FLIGHT HOME

I loved Paris and I hope to be back someday. We sat around on our last morning and laughed that we did not even scratch the surface of everything there is to do in this beautiful city. I hope to back one day. Paris, you're beautiful.

Have you been to Paris? What is your favorite landmark?


xoxo,
-E

AUSTRIA : A ROAD TRIP TO REMEMBER

Hello All! 
Summer is in full swing here in Central Europe. Things are HOT HOT HOT! We do not have air conditioning in our little German house so I am feeling it big time. I swear there is not a store in all of Bavaria that has an extra fan for sale; everyone is sold out! I am by no means complaining. As an Arizona native, I welcome the sunshine with open arms. When the weather is good, it means only one thing for us here... WE ARE GOING ON A TRIP!

This last weekend, Kevin and I drove down to Austria for a tour of all the highlights. We had never been to Vienna and I was excited to see it! I think this city is on my top 5 list so far. With it's multiple gardens, baroque architecture, and classical music it left me simply enchanted. Here are a few shots of our road trip through Austria I hope you enjoy! 

DAY 1 : VIENNA

We booked our stay with Flemings Hotel in the neighborhood of Josephstadt just outside of the city center. This one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in since moving to Europe! This hotel was a little more than we normally spend but well worth it. We felt like royalty! The only downside was that we booked with them because they had parking available yet upon our arrival their lot was full! Major bummer!! So with a 30 Euro parking ticket and 80 Euros worth of parking meters we learned that sometimes you have to pay for convenience.... Ouch!!

Fun little note** Does the bed look a little different to you? It is very common in this area to have two small down comforters instead of one large comforter. The two duvets are folded nicely and laid on either side with no flat sheet. Kevin loves this style of bedding because I tend to be a bit of a blanket thief.

When we arrived in Vienna and I had one of the worst headaches of my life! My head was pounding and the heat was not helping. I felt terrible but I was itching to go exploring so we set out for the city anyways. I was starving but nothing sounded good because my head hurt so bad I couldn't imagine chewing on anything. We ended up stopping at a créperie called Variation,  just down the street from our hotel. Eating at a french restaurant in Austria seems a bit funny but this place had AMAZING crepes and it was just what the doctor ordered. A savory crepe followed by an espresso on ice gave me the pick me up I needed to hit the town. Here is what we saw!

For our first night in Vienna I booked us tickets to go see a Mozart Symphony. We got so caught up in sighseeing that we were late getting back to the hotel to change. Our dinner plans went out the window and we grabbed a bratwurst on the way to the symphony. This is one of those memories we will have forever. All dressed up, speed walking down the streets of Vienna, shoving street food into your mouth as we are on our way to see a classical concert– they were some of the best fries (pommes) I have had in my life. 

DAY 2 : Vienna

Day two in Vienna was just as big for sightseeing. We had plans to make it over to the Schönbrunn Palace but first things first, we had to stop for breakfast. We stopped at a great little bagel spot called Blue Orange. We sat on the patio and did what we do best.. Eat! After breakfast, it was off to the palace.

On our way back from the Schönbrunn palace we stopped at the Naschmarkt for lunch. This is a famous  food market where vendors can sell their goods. They had everything from meats and cheeses to bread and spices. It was all so colorful and beautiful I wish I could have taken it all home with me. Our original plan was to buy a few things and have a picnic. However with the weather being 95F and humid, we settled for lunch at a restaurant with lots on fans and shade.  

We sat down and I ordered a BIG plate of fruit. The waitress thought it was a bit odd for me to order this for lunch but I didn't care.. Look at how fabulous this fruit plate is. One of my favorite things about Europe is their food presentation. They have it figured out. Absolutely beautiful...

IMG_3994.jpg

We stopped in to enjoy some cake and coffee at the famous Central Café. Throughout history this cafe has had many famous regulars– even Adolf Hitler. It closed down after World War Two but has re-opened in a different part of the same building. It has great cake and fabulous live classical piano as ambient music.

We finished our tour of Vienna up above the rooftops for drinks at a bar called Dochboden. We loved the swanky concept of this rooftop bar and the drinks were fun as well. You have to wait a significant amount of time for your drinks but I thought it was worth the wait! All around it was a great way to end our stay in Vienna!

DAY 3 : KONIGSEE LAKE

The heat was record breaking this weekend but that did not stop us. I had read about this lake and knew we had to stop by. We drove from Vienna so we got there in the late afternoon, of course, right in the heat of the day. We sweat our little behinds off but look at these views! It made it all worth it. 

We took a boat out on the lake which was super fun. About halfway to our first stop the guide stopped the boat, took out a trumpet and played for us. He was a great trumpet player and I loved his little tune, but what was most amazing is the echo we could hear coming back to us. I was reminded in the scene in the Grinch when he has a conversation with himself. Kevin and I laughed as we joked about the trumpet players echo reverberating back and messing with him.

Our boat stopped and we got off at the St. Bartholomew Church. This is an iconic building that you always see with any picture of Konigsee lake. We toured the church and then sat down for a bite while taking in the fabulous views. It was quite the afternoon!

After our afternoon at Konigsee lake we drove up to Salzburg which was only about a 30 minute drive. We spent the evening strolling the streets of Salzburg and grabbing a bite for dinner. I was not expecting Salzburg to be so small. I loved its charm and quaint little alley ways.

DAY 4 : THE  EAGLE'S NEST 

We drove back from Salzburg to the Eagle's Nest in the morning and I am so glad we did. We had to decide between this site and the famous Salt Mines of Salzburg. Ahhhh the ever torturous saying "so much to see, so little time"...

We got up to the site and took a tour for only 5 Euros. I think this is the best deal we have ever scored in Europe so far. The tour was fantastic! I learned so much not only about some of Hitler's personal life but also the amazing construction process of the actual site. This is a photo of the tunnel you must enter to take the elevator up to the site. Yes, the site has been converted and is now just a privately owned restaurant BUT I did learn that some of the ticket costs goes to charity so I did feel a little better about that. All around it was very interesting but would have been a worthless trip had we not gone on a tour. 

After we visited the Eagle's Nest there was one more stop that Kevin wanted to make before we started the trek back home. The mountain that the Eagle's Nest sits on is full of secret bunkers and tunnels. We ventured a little further down the mountain and under what is now Hotel zum Türken is a massive tunnel system that you can still go down and see. The bunker had a VERY eery feel to it but it was interesting to see how the tunnels were fortified and to see quarters of the soldiers who manned these posts. The temperature dropped 20 degrees and the floor was over an inch in water in some places– not so fun for this genius who wore her flip flops! This picture below is the tunnel that would lead up to Hitler's old house on the mountain. 

This is by far the prettiest road trip I have ever been on. Despite the heat we had a fabulous time. A little heat can't phase these two Arizona natives. I hope to return one day to Austria. I feel as though there is still so much to see! Austria, you're beautiful!

What is your favorite city in Austria? 

xoxo,
-E

If you would like to read more on my trip to Austria, I have written a guest blog about how to spend 5 days traveling through the country. You can read more about it by clicking here.

ITALY : THE GANG GOES TO FLORENCE

Well friends, I am finally home from being away for almost a month. It feels so good to be back home with my boys. Now that I am home, I have had a chance to upload pictures from our latest trips!!

A few weeks ago Kevin and I moseyed on down to Florence with 8 of our friends. We made the trip short and sweet but I felt like it was the perfect amount of time to explore the area. We had a blast just hangin' out with our friends. All I can say is that there are few places on earth more beautiful than Tuscany. Am I right?? Here are a few shots of our travels!!

DAY 1 - WINE TOUR DISASTER

Come on a bike tour they said... It will be fun they said... I'd like to think of myself as a fairly athletic person. I try to stay active and I work out from time to time. So when our friends proposed a biking wine tour I said I would love to go. What could be more perfect than leisurely pedaling through the rolling hills of the beautiful tuscany? Apparently this is where I so awfully mistaken. We had no idea that I had just signed up for Italy's own version of the Tour de France!! We huffed and puffed on our bikes FOR OVER 6 HOURS uphill in the hot sun! By the end of the 35 mile bike ride we were so exhausted and sunburnt we couldn't even think about tasting wine! It was a miserable travel day and an experience that I think will be a funny story to share much much much later.

Despite the fact that the biking tour was horrible, our lunch spot was the exact opposite. We biked up to Fattoria di Lamole which is a cute little restaurant situated up on this hill. We had a private room and a series of meats and cheeses for lunch. It was a fabulous spot for lunch and I would definitely recommend it. I will warn you that it was a bit difficult to get into contact with them. Also, if you do visit Fattoria di Lamole I strongly suggest that you explore by car and not by bike!

DAY 2 - DAY TRIP TO PISA

We rented this great apartment from Apartments Florence that amazingly slept all 10 of us! The apartment was nice and clean but what was even better about the apartment was it's location. It was just down the street for the best little breakfast spot called Le Vespe Cafe. We stopped there every morning before starting our day. If you ever make it to Florence you have to stop by and have one of their fabulous smoothies! Everyone knows I always love a good frozen drink...

The gang took a day trip out to Pisa just to see the main attraction and have a bite to eat for lunch. In my opinion, it was VERY touristy and perhaps not worth the long ride in a hot train car. However, I feel like the people watching was just as entertaining as the monument itself! I was so amused by every single person desperately trying to situate their bodies in order to get the iconic "I'm holding up the Tower of Pisa" picture. It was all quite comical.

DAY 3 - EXPLORING FLORENCE

I think one of the dining highlights of the trip was our wine tasting/lunch at Enoteca Pitti Gola E Cantina. Our group was so large that they made a table for us in the wine cellar which was totally cool! The food was delicious, the wine was tasty and the staff was very friendly. It was an all around five stars in our book.

I think one of my favorite thing about Florence is all of the street artists!! On all of the trips we take I usually try and find a unique piece to bring home. Florence made it easy for me to find the perfect little souvenir to take home. I can't wait to get this little water color home and frame it!

Kevin and I LOVED Florence! We fell in love with the city's vibe and all the charm it had to offer. Hopefully one day we will return. Ciao!
xoxo,
-E

ENGLAND : HOW WE SPENT OUR WEEKEND

It has been an amazing whirlwind of trips lately and I feel like I am on a plane every other day! It has been so crazy, I am just now getting these pictures up and organized. Two weekends ago, Kev and I flew to London with a few friends. Kevin had been to London previously but this was my first adventure in this country and I had a blast. I thought the long weekend would be plenty of time to see everything on our list but boy was I wrong! There is so much to see and do in this energetic city. We are already planning our next trip! Here is a recap of our weekend, I hope you enjoy!

WHERE WE STAYED

We booked our stay at the Hotel Z Victoria in London and I would highly recommend it.  The price was reasonable, the staff was friendly and they had breakfast for the mornings when we needed to get up and at em'. The rooms were very small but it had everything we needed. Plus, it was super cute. Here are some quick shots I took of the place!

DAY 1 - STONEHENGE & BATH

Our first day in London our group went out on a day trip to see Stonehenge and the city of Bath. We booked a private tour with Premier Tours and everything was excellent. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the van was super comfortable. Plus, the van had wifi which is always such a help when your traveling. If I were honest, this was too much driving for one day but these were things on my bucket-list and I am glad that we made the trip. 

The city of Bath was really cute and had a great vibe. It is most well known for their spas and hot springs so it's a great place to stay a while and have a R&R weekend. We were only staying for the day so we just toured the city and visited the Roman Baths. After all of our exploring we grabbed lunch at a cute pub called The Crystal Palace where I had the best pimms of my life!!

It was a looooooong drive back to London and there is nothing like a good car ride to put me right to sleep. We had gotten in late from the airport the night before and I was dog tired. When we arrived back at the hotel after my power nap, I was feeling refreshed so we went back out into the city. We set back out and visited Buckingham Palace. Did anyone else think Buckingham Palace would be bigger? It was so much smaller than I imagined.

DAY 2 - BIG BEN & GREENWICH

We started the day off at The Regency Cafe where we had a traditional English Breakfast. Kevin and I fell in love with the casual diner atmosphere and even more with their baked beans!! After breakfast we headed out to explore the iconic sights of London. It was supposed to rain all day but thankfully it held out until later that evening.. However, I always bring my explorer hat just in case.

DAY 3 - HILLSONGS CHURCH & THE LONDON TOWER

We started out our Sunday morning with breakfast at Grand Caffe Concerto. We were on our way to church at Hillsongs London and were looking for something on the way. I was so excited to be able to attend a Hillsongs service as it had been on my wishlist for quite a while. There is something about praising Jesus with people from the other side of the world that was just so cool!

IMG_7865.jpg

After church, we headed over to the The London Tower. We had plans to explore the tower and see The Crown Jewels but we stopped for tea first! Going to afternoon tea was something I desperately wanted to do while in London. We stopped at this funky little spot called The Kitchen @ Tower and ordered there tea for two. Such fun!

We were super hungry after exploring the Tower because of all the carbs we had for lunch, so we went around the corner to Hung Drawn & Quartered for the best fresh made pie ever! I was in love with the unique pub restaurant concept and kevin was obsessed with all the great beer! It was a win win.

I loved England and it was even more spectacular than I imagined it would be. We are already planning another trip. I cannot wait to come back! ...Until next time...
xoxo,
-E

SWITZERLAND : A TRAVEL GUIDE

We made it to Switzerland!! My parents came to visit this month and  they rented a car with a plan to meet us in Stuttgart. Kevin and I live more west and we were planning on driving a couple hours to arrive at our rendezvous spot. I was sitting in our office planning the trip, staring at my giant Europe map on the wall (stay tuned for a home tour very soon) and I thought that we could swing by and see Zürich before meeting up with my folks. It was sort of an impromptu trip so I didn't do as much planning as I normally do. In this post, I will tell you what we did along with what I think we could have done differently. I hope you enjoy!

ZÜRICH

The heart of Zürich was surprisingly smaller than I was expecting. Since the old town was so small, you can easily see everything you would like to see in about a day. We based our visit out of Zürich and then and then planned day trips to Interlaken and Lucerne. However If I were to do it over again, I probably would have stayed only one night in Zürich, and then moved over and stayed in Interlaken. That would have probably have saved us on travel time which is always precious when on trips.  Over all Zürich was fabulous and even prettier than I imagined. We left with full hearts and empty wallets, which is always a sign of a great trip.

 

Where we stayed:

We booked our stay with Hotel Florhof and I would highly recommend it! This hotel was a little more than Kevin and I normally like to spend, but it's Zürich and everyone knows things are a little more expensive when it comes to Switzerland. In former times, Hotel Florhof was a home to a well-off family and has now been newly renovated to be a quaint boutique hotel. The  hotel  is located right in the heart of Zürich which was great for us who prefer to walk. Plus, breakfast was included which Kevin and I love because we like to grab a bite and get out exploring. 

WHAT WE DID:

As I said before, you can probably explore old town Zürich for about a day and then you might want to venture out and see some other stuff. Here are a few things we fit into while in Zürich:

  • Eat Swiss Chocolate truffle
  • Visit Grossmünster Church
  • Window Shopping in Neumarkt
  • Enjoy the view from Lindenhof Park, we even saw a group of guys playing life-size chess it was so cute!!

Where we ate:

  • Holy Cow: They have great burgers and their own beer! We loved the casual atmosphere and it was a little less expensive which was nice too.
  • Wystube Isebaehnli: Hold on to your hats because this place will blow you away with the quality of service, quality of food, and quality of wine. It is pricey but well worth it in my opinion. 
  • Aeschback Chocolatier: It is super cute on the inside and they have several pre-packaged gifts to send your loved ones back home! 
  • Schipfe 16: The food was pretty good but the best part about this place is the spectacular view!! It is right on the water!!

INTERLAKEN

About an hour and a half drive outside of Zürich lies this city lodged in-between two beautiful lakes. The drive alone makes it worth it. The views are incredible and driving through The Alps was a crazy once-in-a-lifetime experience. I only had one thought driving that day, and it was "why am I the one driving again?" The pictures below gives you an idea of what it was like. 

WHAT WE DID: 

Interlaken is known for it's killer outdoor activities. This makes it an awesome destination for most thrill seekers and nature lovers. Unfortunately for us, the weather was bad the day we visited this beautiful city. Our original plan was to go zip-lining on the Jungefrau Mountain but the weather was so bad that most of the activities on the mountain were closed. This is where I would have done things differently and really checked the weather because we would have switched our sightseeing days around. If I had cross checked a few different weather sites, we would have been able to get more out of this city. I was slightly devastated but we managed to save the day by visiting Trümmelbach Falls which was totally cool (and it didn't matter that it was raining because you get wet anyway!) This is a waterfall rumbling through a mountain so fast that the ground beneath your feet is shaking. It is sites like these that are totally humbling in showing you just how small you are in the grand scheme of things. Amazing!! 

LUCERNE

We only stayed for the afternoon as we had to meet with my parents later that day but It was a fabulous city to spend the afternoon. It's one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Maybe it was the romantic swans or the perfect weather, but it was a combination for a perfect day! Hope you enjoy the shots!

WHERE WE ATE:

  • Rathaus Brauerei: I am not much of a beer drinker but their lager was AMAZING!
  • Mamma Leone: Great spot to sit outside and have some amazing Italian food!

Switzerland was the perfect little weekend getaway for us. Hopefully one day I will return and fulfill my dream of zip-lining in the The Alps. Until next time!
Switzerland, you're beautiful!

xoxo,
-E

AMSTERDAM : A TRAVEL GUIDE

It's FINALLY springtime! Was it just me, or did this winter seem to drag on forever? I have been feeling down and uninspired lately so I do what I always do when I need a pick me up I started browsing Pintrest. On rainy cold days I always find my self looking at fabulous, warm, colorful destinations and it always has a way of making me feel a little better. I came across a few pictures of the Keukenhof Gardens. The colors were so vibrant that they instantly caught my attention. I called Kevin and he said that he was in! So I booked our tickets to Amsterdam and I am so glad that we did. It's true what they say, nothing quite like Amsterdam in the spring. 

Where To Stay:

Kevin and I are always looking to save a penny when we can and when it comes to hotels it can be tricky. We always like to enjoy our stay but we also don't want to break the bank. There are so many great options in Amsterdam so we had to really do our homework. We finally decided to book our stay at Hotel V Frederiksplein and I would definitely recommend it. It was affordable and had a fun yet quirky design concept. Breakfast was included with the price of the room which was an added plus because most of the time we want to eat quick and then get out and explore. The best part is when you have eaten and are ready to go explore, the tram stop is right across the street.

Where To Eat:

Kevin and I are big foodies when we travel - trust me, this girl can eat! Amsterdam did not disappoint in the dining category. The entire trip I felt like we would eat just to walk across the street to eat again. Oh well, I just use my favorite phrase... "Meh, I am on vacation!" I wanted to share a few of our favorite places with you. 

  • MAZZO : Kevin was in heaven with this great pizza joint that used Buffalo Mozzarella (the best quality cheese in the world!)  
  • BURGERMEESTER : Nothing like a big burger after a long morning of riding your bike around the city!
  • DE LAATSTE KRUIMEL : Great spot to pop in for a pastry or sit and stay for lunch. Be sure and try one of their fresh juices!
  • LOVERS DINNER CRUISE : A unique way to see the city. All the lights were so magical when we were on the water. Plus, the food was actually pretty good!
  • O MAI : Kevin had a craving and this place certainly delivered!
  • BAGLES & BEANS : It's a chain, but their bagel combinations are crazy good!

 

Things we did : 

There are numerous fun things to do in Amsterdam. Wether you are staying for a whole week or just for the weekend you are sure to have an action packed time. Kevin and I made our little adventure into a long weekend which was perfect for us because we mainly stayed in the city and didn't venture too far. If you are planning to seeing more of the surrounding area I would suggest in making your trip a bit longer... So much to see, so little time! Anyways, here are a few of the highlights of our weekend:

  • Rent A Bike : Experience Amsterdam like a local and rent a bike. I think this was my favorite part of the trip! I
  • Enjoy A Dinner Cruise : We flew into Amsterdam in the late afternoon so I booked this dinner as our first little adventure. It is super touristy but it was a great way to sort of get an overview of the city and we loved to see the city all lit up.  
  • Tour The Red Light District : We decided to take a guided tour of this area and I would recommend it. It was informative and very interesting!
  • Van Gogh Museum :  Check the weather forecast for your visit. If it is supposed to rain one of the days, that's okay, Amsterdam has several great museums. Bring your sight seeing indoors and check out some great art!
  • Keukenhof Gardens : This is a great little day trip out of the city and well worth the drive. Try to schedule your visit on a week day to avoid crowds as it is a VERY popular attraction. Also, Kevin and I took a bus from Amsterdam which I would highly recommend because then we didn't have to worry about parking!
  • The Anne Frank House :  All I can say is get there early! People line up around the block to visit the home of this young girl and her inspiring words. It's a must see!

Amsterdam blew us away! We loved the city so much that by the end of the weekend we were dreaming up ways to pick up and move there! We had a whole life dreamed up and even had fun choosing which bikes we would drive should we ever make the big move. Anyways, it's back to reality now. We had such a blast! Amsterdam, you're beautiful!

xoxo,
-E