A Travellerspoint blog

Unexpected Reykjavik and Beautiful Munich

Summer is here! Biking, swimming, history, beer, and more!

large_90_IMG_1050.jpglarge_IMG_1031.jpg

After planning this mega-trip for close to a year, it's almost surreal to be on the actual vacation! So many hours of planning and anticipation went into this trip and we are so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.

We flew from Seattle to Iceland for what was supposed to be a short stopover. Our plane was finally about to land near Reykjavik (500 ft from the ground) when we quickly switched directions and gained elevation. All of a sudden, the flight data screen was listing an entirely different airport on the east side of Iceland. No immediate word from the pilot. I'm a nervous flyer so any deviation from the plan causes me a lot of anxiety. Eventually, the pilot said there wasn't enough visibility to land and we didn't have enough fuel to circle and wait for the fog to lift. So we landed at a dinky little Icelandic airport, refueled, and made our way back to the main Iceland airport. Weather had cleared and I was so happy when the landing gear made contact with the ground! Sadly, we missed our connecting flight to Munich. I was very impressed with Icelandair's service. They rebooked us on a flight 24 hours later and sent us to a nice hotel in Reykjavik with all meals and transportation paid by the airline. We were sad to miss a day in Munich but decided to make the most of the time in Iceland.

IMG_0940.jpg90_IMG_0941.jpgIMG_0937.jpg

We ate an amazing breakfast at the Foss Hotel and promptly crashed for a few hours. Weather wasn't great but we finally did manage a walk around the town. We were particularly impressed with the beautiful and modern concert hall.

large_90_IMG_0957.jpg

The kids enjoyed building rock sculptures.

90_IMG_0965.jpg90_IMG_0966.jpgIMG_0951.jpg

We wandered the main pedestrian street, did a little window shopping (prices are so expensive!), and stopped for a happy hour beer. To give you an idea, the happy hour special was $5 off a beer. I think that still made my beer a whopping $11. We ate dinner, I took another walk, and we called it a day. The three buffet-style meals made me feel like I was on a cruise ship.

large_IMG_0949.jpg90_IMG_0971.jpg

We were transported back to the airport in the evening where we waited for a midnight flight. I fell asleep both on the bus and in the airport. This unexpected layover put a kink in our jet-lag plans. Luckily, the flight to Munich was uneventful.

Munich!

I could live here. For real. There's something so charming, organized, and livable about this city. We checked into Hotel Brack - the same hotel we stayed in three years ago. They scored huge points by having our room ready by 8am. We had a great breakfast before DH and DD#1 took naps while the rest of us wandered around.

IMG_1016.jpg90_IMG_1019.jpg

We took the U-Bahn into the main part of town to explore. We were tired but also so excited to be back in Europe!

large_90_IMG_1010.jpg90_IMG_0986.jpg90_IMG_1021.jpg

We went to the BMW Welt to check-in, have a snack, and check out new cars. Our car will be ready in just two days!

After the Welt, we made our way to the Munich Residenz. We were dragging by this point and wanted to attempt to stay on local time. We thought the Residenz museum might keep us awake. The rooms were beautiful but there were so many of them. Many paintings were absent due to WWII. Much of the palace had been rebuilt. It was very beautiful but we would have appreciated it more if we had been more awake.

90_P1020806.jpgP1020804.jpg90_IMG_1006.jpg90_IMG_1003.jpg

We found a small Augustiner pub for dinner. We all wanted to be sleeping by this point. We made it until 8pm and called it a day.

Biking and Therme Erding

DH and I woke up before 5am. I went for a 5.5 mile run around the Isar River and Marienplatz. It's all so lovely before the crowds hit. After another traditional breakfast, we borrowed bikes from the hotel and rode around the city. DD#2 and I split off from the pack and biked many miles near the Isar River and Englischer Garden. Such a memorable ride! We even stopped into a small biergarten around 10:45am. I looked around and saw many locals having beer. After my run and bike ride, I decided to join them!

large_IMG_1027.jpg90_IMG_1026.jpg90_IMG_1032.jpg90_IMG_1029.jpg

We had separate casual lunches - DD#1 and DH found currywurst while DD#2 and I had doner sandwiches. Yum!

90_IMG_1034.jpg

We took a long S-Bahn train out to Therme Erding. It's a fabulous waterpark with tons of slides. We had such a great time! Some of the slides were unlike ones we had ever been on before.

90_IMG_1038.jpg90_IMG_1037.jpg

After many hours at the park, we made our way back to a biergarten close to our hotel. First liter beers of the trip! The place was packed even at 8:30pm!

90_IMG_1051.jpg

We are still feeling a bit sad that we had one fewer day in Munich due to our flight diversion in Iceland. However, I know we will return to this amazing city in the near future. Munich will always be at the top of my travel list.

Posted by familyineurope 02:22 Tagged munich reykjavik Comments (4)

Back to Europe in a Few Short Weeks!

This is a big one! Nearly six weeks in Germany, France, Spain & Portugal.

In a few short weeks, our family will be heading back to Europe for a much-anticipated trip. Countless hours of reading and preparation have gone into our ambitious itinerary. This time, my mom will be joining us for nearly one month of our journey. Our daughters are now 10 and 12 with their own opinions about travel priorities. I will blog as we travel so here is a little of what is to come:

Munich, Germany - 3 nights at Hotel Brack.

munich-alamy.jpg
We stayed here last time and enjoyed this German-retro place with wonderful breakfasts. I hope to visit the Residenz, ride bikes, visit some beergardens, and Therme Erding waterpark! We will pick up a BMW foreign delivery car on our way out of town.

Bamberg, Germany - 2 nights.

Bamberg_640_22139.jpg
We are staying at a hotel with a beergarden just outside of town. We visited Bamberg two years ago but barely caught a glimpse of the town. This time, we will do a better job exploring the town and its environs. We'll save some time for luging and swimming!

Dornheim, Germany - 4 nights.

photo_2__3_.jpgphoto_1__2_.jpg
We will stay with family in their home outside of Frankfurt. We really enjoy their company and look forward to some excursions in this part of the country including a daytrip to Heidelberg.

Gutach, Germany in the Black Forest - 3 nights.

Hof_Nebeng.jpg
My mom will join us at this point. We are staying in the country at a working farm. The kids are sure to love the animals and space to play. From this point on, every part of our trip will be new to us. We will do more luging, check out an amusement park, explore the town of Frieberg, and go zip-lining!

Amboise, France - 3 nights.

Amboise.png
After a long drive, this will be our view from our apartment! We plan to visit some chateaus and a famous zoo with a panda. Hopefully there will be a chance to bike around a bit and soak up some French culture.

San Sebastian, Spain - 3 nights.

San_sebastian.jpg
We are eager for some beach time in this popular Basque town. San Sebastian is known for its fantastic food, charming city, and beautiful setting. From this point forward, we are using airbnb and homeaway apartments.

Salamanca, Spain - 2 nights.

Salamanca_2008.jpg
Salamanca is a thriving college town with a beautiful town center. It's supposed to be affordable and steeped with history.

Lisbon, Portugal - 4 nights.

lisbon.pngsintra.png
I am especially excited to visit Lisbon. We will take a daytrip to Sintra and look forward to exploring the many neighborhoods in Lisbon. We scored a nice 3 bedroom apartment for a reasonable amount.

Nazare, Portugal - 2 nights.

Nazare2.pngNazare.jpg
I figure we will need a couple nights to just kick back in a beachy town just north of Lisbon. This one supposedly retains its fishing culture from the past.

Segovia, Spain - 3 nights.

segovia.png
We are staying in an apartment just outside of Segovia. The town looks beautiful with its ancient aqueduct, church, and castle that inspired Walt Disney. From experience, I know our pace of travel will be slowing at this point. Our apartment is near a pool and I predict that we will be partaking in the customary siesta by this point in our journey.

Teruel, Spain - 2 nights.

Valderrobr..uel__Spain_.jpgalbarracin.png
We picked this more remote location based on a recommendation from my brother and sister in-law. They loved the desert city of Albarracin which is close to the somewhat larger town of Teruel. This makes a convenient stop-over on our way to Barcelona.

Barcelona, Spain - 4 nights.

Barcelona.png
I might be more excited about Barcelona than any other location on this trip! We already have tickets to see some of Gaudi's architectural masterpieces (Sagrada Familia and Park Guell) as well as a flamenco show at Palau de la Musica and a jazz concert on the rooftop of Casa Mila. We picked an apartment that is centrally located, pre-paid for parking, and hope to celebrate this city and end of our trip. My mom will go home after just two nights in Barcelona.

Carcassonne, France - 2 nights.

carcassonne.png
I have always wanted to see this lovely walled city. I know it will be touristy but hopefully it will help to stay a couple of nights to see the site after the day-trippers have left.

Geneva, Switzerland, 1 night.

After one final long drive, we will drop off our car and fly to Dulles, Virginia to see friends for 1 night. Then, we will fly to Fargo, ND for a family reunion before heading home to Oregon. What a journey!

I can hardly wait for this adventure to begin!

Posted by familyineurope 21:46 Comments (1)

Hua Hin Beach, Bangkok (again), and HOME!

Last days blur together... Love Thailand but ready for Oregon!

large_P1020225.jpglarge_IMG_8544.jpg

These last 4-5 days in Thailand are a complete blur. While at our beach resort in Hua Hin, we found ourselves completely in vacation mode. We were tired, a little homesick, and perfectly relaxed swimming and hunting for shells on the beach. Our resort was very isolated from the city. It was a $6 taxi ride to get into the town of Hua Hin. By this point, we were not feeling very motivated to do much of anything. We ate at the same great restaurant 5 out of 6 nights! Chef Cha was pretty good. He even came and said hi to us on the 4th night and remarked that we were sitting at the same table each time. The menu had a good selection of Thai and Western foods. DD#1 was pretty happy with a burger by this point.

IMG_8570.jpgP1020217.jpg

We happily spent hours hunting for shells at the beach. It was obvious that different critters occupied these waters.

C2DC829394EFDDD774D576D98FCDE43B.jpgP1020287.jpgP1020269.jpgP1020268.jpgP1020241.jpgP1020237.jpgC33491BCB0F2048CFB244EA8AC5D59B9.jpglarge_P1020229.jpg

We had laundry done for the last time. Receiving my laundry folded, clean, and wrapped like a present might be the thing I miss most about Thailand. (Kidding. But it is pretty fantastic!)

P1020223.jpg

The girls and I headed to a nearby waterpark for one of our day's activities. Black Mountain Waterpark was so much fun! There were no lines and we spent hours rocketing down a variety of slides. DH stayed back at the resort and used the fitness facilities at the nearby Sheraton Hotel.

IMG_8531.jpgIMG_8532.jpgIMG_8537.jpgIMG_8542.jpg

One night, we worked up the energy to head to the Cicada Market just south of Hua Hin. It was a great market full of authentic souvenirs. I bought a handmade wooden piano clock that I just love! The girls were happy to have their nails painted at the market. A 25 minute manicure cost about $1.50 plus tip.

IMG_8548.jpgIMG_8549.jpgIMG_8551.jpgP1020243.jpgP1020245.jpg

Each evening, the clouds rolled in sometimes bringing a little rain. Usually, we could see an electrical storm off in the distance. DH tried to take pictures of the storm.

P1020259.jpg

One morning, we found a special café for yummy smoothies, Thai iced tea, cake, and this marvelous red velvet waffle creation. Dessert for breakfast!

P1020265.jpg

One of the many interesting snack foods in a Thai market.

90_P1020295.jpg90_P1020296.jpg

We have all gotten used to special smoothies and iced drinks.

IMG_8530.jpg

After many more kilometers logged around our resort's pool, it was time to head north to Bangkok for one last night. We checked into a different hotel, Bann Glang Soi, and explored yet another neighborhood. We did a little last-minute shopping at the massive MBK mall, ate one last yummy Thai dinner, and called it a trip! (Notice the no alcohol sign in the picture. We ended our trip on the holiday just before Buddhist Lent.)

IMG_8572.jpg

We managed our nearly 15 hours of flying to get to Seattle. Ugghh. We flew EVA airlines and connected through Taipei. We stayed the night in Seattle with our wonderful family before heading south to Oregon.

I am so happy that we got to experience Thailand. It was a vacation that we will never forget! The food, traffic, history, weather, people, shopping, and pure adventure of it all will never be forgotten. I think we are all going to miss those $1 fresh fruit smoothies! But there's nothing like landing in the Pacific Northwest and seeing the mountains in the distance, the giant trees, and never-ending green. One of the best things about travelling is the reminder that there's no place like home.

So until summer 2017 (Europe again!) familyineurope bids farewell. Thanks for reading!

Posted by familyineurope 10:19 Comments (1)

Ayutthaya and Hua Hin

More old ruins, biking, a boat ride, and paradise!

More History

large_90_IMG_8489.jpg

And Paradise

large_P1020184.jpg

The last few days have been quite different. We have gone from historical sights to a beach resort. Here's a brief summary.

We took a train from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya - about 3.5 hours. The train still uses tracks that were laid in the late 1800s. It was very bumpy and a little scary (for me). If you come to Thailand, do yourself a favor and don't google things like "train derailments in Thailand" or "Thailand tour bus accidents". It makes travel a lot scarier! Transportation has been my biggest surprise and source of anxiety on this trip.

Once we arrived in Ayutthaya, we made our way to a teak Thai guesthouse called Luang Chumni Village. The place was unique! The small door led to an all wood interior complete with mosquito nets. The small guesthouse complex was surrounded by a moat. The bathrooms were below the bedrooms (inconvenient) and the mattresses were on the floor. I thought it was cozy and felt a little like a cabin.

P1020047.jpg270_P1020049.jpg90_IMG_8468.jpg

We found great street food that evening settled in for the night. A street food dinner for our family is around $7. It was delicious!

90_IMG_8470.jpg

The next day, we were offered a nice breakfast once again. Most breakfasts consist of a plate of fresh fruit as well as eggs made to order, French toast, crepes, toast, etc... Pretty normal breakfasts. We rented bikes from the guesthouse and set off to discover more historical sites.

IMG_8477.jpg90_IMG_8490.jpglarge_90_P1010999.jpgP1020024.jpg270_P1020033.jpgP1020036.jpgP1020042.jpgP1020015.jpg

This is the most photographed sight in Ayutthaya. It is still a mystery as to how the Buddha head ended up intertwined with these roots. There is a guard near the head to remind tourists to kneel to stay lower than the head. Staying below the Buddha's head is a sign of respect.

large_P1010995.jpg

It was incredibly hot in Ayutthaya - probably our hottest day yet. We took breaks for beverages and rode slowly. The kids were happy with Ayutthaya's most popular snack. It's a sweet crepe filled with cotton candy floss.

90_IMG_8484.jpg

We rode back to the guesthouse and had a few snacks before hiring a small private boat to take us around the river that surrounds Ayutthaya's old town. For about $20, we took a tuk-tuk to the dock, hopped aboard a small boat, and saw the city from a different angle. The driver stopped at four different sights.

IMG_8518.jpgP1020078.jpgP1020060.jpgP1020106.jpgP1020109.jpgP1020070.jpg

The most interesting part of the ride was going through these crazy rootless plants that take over the river. No kidding! We just blazed straight through them. We also saw three monitor lizards. Yuck,

large_P1020062.jpg

She finally got her coconut.

P1020087.jpgP1020111.jpg

We were very hot by the end of the boat ride and asked the tuk-tuk driver to take us to a place with cold drinks. The heavy rains were coming so we set out for a nearby night market for dinner. Tasty again! Well, except for the weird fishy flavored donuts that everyone seemed to be buying. At least we found mango sticky rice again for dessert. We didn't try the fried bugs and larvae. Here are a few market scenes:

P1020126.jpgP1020127.jpg180_IMG_8463.jpgIMG_8462.jpg270_P1020132.jpg

An entire section of MSG. What?

IMG_8519.jpg

The next day, we splurged and hired a private van to take us the 3.5 hours down south to Hua Hin. Hua Hin is a beach resort about 2.5 hours south of Bangkok. This last stretch of our Thailand journey is a vacation from our vacation! We were more than happy with the great airbnb condo we booked months ago.

P1020190.jpgP1020148.jpgP1020150.jpgP1020152.jpg

The kind condo owner welcomed us with an excellent fruit tray.

large_P1020159.jpg

The best part is the pool that wraps around the complex for one kilometer. It takes a long time to swim one kilometer!

P1020186.jpgP1020176.jpgP1020172.jpg

We spent our first day at the resort alternating between the pool and walking along the beach. Check out the size of this jellyfish!

P1020207.jpgP1020198.jpg

The condo complex is like a ghost town. Almost all of the units have been unoccupied. We are wondering if lots of Bangkok residents will head down here for the Thailand holiday weekend. We are here five more nights. Tomorrow might involve a waterpark. We shall see....

P1020211.jpg

Posted by familyineurope 18:52 Comments (0)

Sukhothai

Historical ruins, bike riding, and one awful bus ride.

large_P1010911.jpg

We have had a relaxing three nights in the quiet town of Sukhothai. With just 39000 people, it's been a big change from Thailand's busy cities. We have a weak internet connection here so uploading pictures is time consuming.

Our travel to Sukhothai was quite a challenge. We bought 2nd class tickets on a bus which seemed perfectly fine for the first two hours.

P1010862.jpgP1010866.jpg

About two hours into the ride, the bus driver must have been in a hurry because he sped up to over 70 mph on Thailand's bumpy freeways. He was passing huge trucks on the right and on the left. DH and I lost our cool when the bus took a corner too fast and the left side of the bus scraped bottom. I'm pretty sure that the wheels on the right-hand side of the bus were airborne. We could smell the burning metal from inside the bus. The bus swayed back and forth before the driver was able to regain control. Not good. By this point, I was sitting at the edge of my seat with white knuckles. DH was sitting in front of me and was just as aware and concerned. The kids were aware but were in the middle of a movie and less afraid. After the near-accident, the driver seemed to slow down a bit. About 15 minutes later, he was back up to 70 mph around some mountainous terrain. DH made the decision to get off the bus! Luckily, the bus made periodic stops in little towns to pick up or drop off passengers. We opted to get off in some tiny little town. Phew! There were other passengers on board who must be accustomed to crazy drivers. Not us. I was never so relieved to get off a bus! There was a kind man sitting at the small bus stop who witnessed our distress. Even though he didn't speak English, DH was able to use the man's cell phone to talk to his manager in English. The kind man offered to drive us the remaining 2.5-3 hours to Sukhothai in his pick-up truck. We were a tight fit but it felt so much safer than the crazy out of control bus.

We were never so happy to arrive at Baan Georges - literally a mansion with a pool. Ahhh!

P1010962.jpg90_IMG_8416.jpg

We walked to the nearby Poo Restaurant. Of course the kids needed a picture with that sign!

P1010873.jpg

The next day, we enjoyed the relaxed rooftop breakfast and fabulous pool. We swam both in the morning and in the afternoon.

P1010875.jpg

We took a slow open-air bus about 20 minutes to Sukhothai Historical Park where we rented bikes for less than $1 per person. It was relaxing to ride around the park full of historic ruins. We took so many pictures! At one point, we stopped for Thai iced tea. It's our new favorite! We had an easy Thai lunch near the historical park.

large_P1010885.jpgP1010883.jpgP1010881.jpglarge_270_P1010880.jpgP1010903.jpgP1010902.jpgP1010895.jpgP1010921.jpgP1010947.jpgP1010939.jpg90_IMG_8433.jpgIMG_8437.jpglarge_90_IMG_8441.jpg

DH got a laugh at the men's bathroom signs.

P1010927.jpgP1010929.jpg

We made our way back to the hotel for more swimming and relaxing. DD#2 and I walked around the workaday town and were most amazed at the local food market. An older Thai lady was killing fish with what looked like a baseball bat and then hacking them into little pieces with a huge cleaver knife. We were completely mesmerized. We continued through the meat and produce sections of the market. Many people stopped to stare, smile, point, or say hello in English or Thai. They aren't used to tourists wandering through the maze of their market.

We found a local pizza place for dinner! Yay for pizza and cheese. A welcome break from noodles and rice.

We had one more day in Sukhothai with little on the agenda. After breakfast and more swimming, we hired a tuk-tuk to take us to a large Casino supermarket complex. We stocked up on snacks, random toiletries we were running low on, and browsed the aisles. We had Thai food for lunch and came home to swim some more. Not a bad day. We walked around Sukhothai a bit more before returning for more pizza! The place was really good and cheap. We've played many games today and are mostly enjoying our time together. The kids are already planning their play-dates with friends upon our return.

large_P1010968_-_Copy.jpg90_IMG_8452.jpg90_IMG_8455.jpgP1010972_-_Copy.jpgP1010976.jpg

Tomorrow, we are planning to take the train to Ayutthaya - a town about 75 kilometers north of Bangkok. We've tried to buy our train tickets online and at a local travel agent with no luck. Today is Sunday and many things are closed. Keep your fingers crossed that we get out of Sukhothai without riding on a crazy bus! I think I'm scarred for life.

Posted by familyineurope 07:48 Comments (2)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 54) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »