Sunday, October 12, 2014

An Amsterdam Ending

We had a nice flight from Prague to Amsterdam and arrived Sunday afternoon.  Our friends Brian and Shawn headed back home, but we continued our journey for just a few more days.  We checked into the hotel first, the Waldorf Astoria, which was gorgeous!!  Turns out Lady Gaga had stayed there the night before we arrived.  This location had just opened in May, so it was all brand new.  We stayed in the loft style room which added so much character with the beautiful beams, plus the nice view out the window of the canal.
Flying in
We are here!

Once settling in, we headed out to check out the local area.  We walked a few blocks over towards Rembrandt Square.  There were tons of people everywhere.  After our walk, we stopped for dinner and then back to call it an early night.
Will's steak (looks tiny by the fries!)
My Chicken Schnitzel 
On Monday, we got up early to head to the Anne Frank House.  I tried to reserve tickets online, but they were already sold out so we had to wait in line :(  It took about an hour and a half to get in the house/museum.  And it was worth it!!  We couldn't take any pictures inside, but it was surreal to see the hiding place of the Frank family (and friends).  We walked through the actual bookcase doorway that hid their living quarters.  I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in school, so seeing the actual place where she lived was amazing and heartbreaking.  The exterior of the house was being restored, so I wasn't able to get a good picture of anything other than the door.
Waiting in line  
The clock they could hear while in hiding is behind us 
The front door of the Frank families hiding quarters
To lighten the mood after such an emotional journey, we took a canal ride.  It was an hour ride that carried us through the main canals and bay.  We went right past our hotel and the Anne Frank House.
The Anne Frank House is the one coved in white tarps

The Waldorf!
That evening was a quiet dinner and drinks back at the hotel.  A part of the now Waldorf used to be a bank.  They left the original vault there and it is now a bar.  Its pretty awesome in there.  The bar itself has old safety deposit boxes as the backdrop.
The Vault Bar

Tuesday was nice and relaxing.  We woke up and headed down to the spa for some pampering.  We both got massages and relaxed a bit around the spa pool.  We got dressed to have lunch and venture to the Heineken Experience.  A short walk from the hotel, we got a tour of the facility and some freshly brewed beer!
Almost to the brewery
The beautiful Heineken horses
We concluded our trip with a highly recommended steak house, Toro Dorado.  It was pretty tasty!  After we went back to the Vault Bar at the Waldorf for a night cap and headed to bed as the morning would be very early!
Date Night
Our farewell Amsterdam dinner
Delicious drinks!
We were up well before the sun on Wednesday to head back home!  We caught the sun coming up just before boarding our flight.  After the 9+ hour flight back home, I was thrilled to be back in the USA!!  We had a layover in Atlanta and coincidentally, my Dad was there too!  So we got to catch up for a little bit.  We also scarfed down some Five Guys - we sure missed greasy, unhealthy American food!!  Plus, I got a bag of Sour Patch Kids...I missed them something terrible!!  I looked everywhere and didn't see any :(

Sunrise in Amsterdam
Dad & me :)
We enjoyed our time in Amsterdam, but it was my least favorite city to visit.  Hotel wise - it was great!!  But the city itself is kind of dirty.  There are cigarette butts EVERYWHERE...and trash.  Plus the smoking was on a whole new level, plus the aroma of other "stuff".  I know its legal to use marijuana there, but I was still rather surprised the amount of people I saw smoking pot and sitting on park benches rolling one.  I know I'm a prude when it comes to smoking...but I like my little smoke free bubble :)  I told Will one night that I just wanted to take a big deep breath of fresh air, but it did not exist in Amsterdam :(  My lungs hated it there...I actually coughed a little bit during the night.  So, the 3 day visit was just enough.

The city has a lot of character with the canals - I love the lay out...that was probably my favorite city based on that.  People ride bikes there too, but its totally different than Munich.  It's crazy!!  I felt like I was risking my life crossing the street.  The bikes come zooming by...they are worse than cars there.

Our 12 day trip was amazing!!!  We are so blessed to be able to take the time away to explore other parts of the world.  We had no worries about our bully babies back at home - our wonderful friends, Megan and David, took excellent care of them.  Its such a relief to know they are in good hands while we are away!!

Will and I were talking about of favorite parts of the trip, and we both agreed that Munich was our favorite city and we are DEFINITELY going back...especially to Oktoberfest! I am excited already for whenever that may be.  I will make sure I pack several bags of Sour Patch Kids with me on the next journey :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Praha

After 3 full days in Munich, then a trip to Salzburg, it was time to move our adventures to another city.  I was so excited to get back to Prague.  I was fortunate to have spent some time there in May 2004 for a study abroad trip in college.  I had talked about this great city for 10 years, so I was thrilled to get to bring Will back with me.

We decided to add some extra fun to our trip and went to Prague by train.  I found a train that went straight there, thankfully.  There were some that had various stops where we would need to change trains.  But, being our first train ride together and having all our was best!  It took a little over 6 hours.  The train wasn't impressive...just seats and it didn't have a food car - boo!  Thankfully, we had some snacks in our bags so we didn't starve.  We did get to see some beautiful countryside on our journey!  Once we arrived at the train station, we had to take a cab to our hotel.

Our crappy train
Cabbing it to the hotel
We got checked in at the Unitas hotel.  Our travel buddies, Brian and Shawn were flying to Prague, so while waiting on them, Will and I went exploring to find beer and a snack.  Once our friends arrived, we went for a late dinner, then headed to bed early.

On Friday morning, the four of us went to explore.  We took a tram up to the Prague Castle and the Strahov Monastery.  There were gorgeous views and pretty awesome structures.  We continued with our walking journey towards the Charles Bridge.  Just before the bridge, we stopped for a bite to eat then continued on.  We made sure to hit all the landmarks on the bridge that you are supposed to rub for various reasons, but most of all the statue of St. John of Nepomuk.  The saint was thrown to his death on the bridge and by rubbing this part of the statue is said to bring good fortune and ensure that you return to Prague one day (it must work as I rubbed it 10 years ago!).

Blurry, but the tram ride
In the Monastery

Castle in the distance
Cathedral in the Prague Castle  
Charles Bridge in the distance

Group selfie on the Charles Bridge ;)
We didn't stop walking there and ventured into the Old Town Square.  We enjoyed the scenery and relaxed to have a beer (surprise, surprise).  Then, we headed to the Jewish quarter to see the old cemetery, synagog, and museum.  Unfortunately, due to the Jewish holiday, it was closed.  So, we peaked through what cracks we could.
Enjoying Old Town Square
We ran into a section of town with street vendors and stopped for a snack and another drink.  It had cooled off some, so I enjoyed a hot chocolate and some candy : )

No sour patch kids :(
Saturday morning lead us to Terezin.  We hired a private guide to take the 4 of us from the hotel to the concentration camp for a tour.  I visited Terezin on my last trip and wanted everyone to see and share in this piece of history.  It's a humbling experience to visit a concentration camp...don't really have the words to explain it.  Our tour guide was phenomenal and full of knowledge.  We learned a lot!
The cemetery 

In the small fortress

Afterwards, we relaxed a bit and walked back to Charles Bridge to get some more pictures and soak up more of Prague.  That night we headed out for our farewell dinner as we were all leaving in the morning.

The fabulous four
The beautiful Charles Bridge with the Prague Castle in the background.
My was so good I had to include a picture :)
This was the view out our hotel window.

Overall, it was great to be back in Prague.  The city has so much character - old buildings, cobblestone streets, just awesome.  Unfortunately, the smoking issue exists there too.  The service at restaurants is pretty much horrible!! Its almost like you are an inconvenience to the server to be there...and heaven forbid if you have a question about something on the menu.  Not using the Euro is confusing...they use crown.  A meal can be 300 crown which sounds expensive, but its really around $13.  So, the math is a bit harder to do in your head.

Our hotel was AWESOME!!!  It was very clean and spacious.  We had a sitting room in addition to the bedroom and bathroom.  So, it was nice to be able to spread out a bit.  They also provided a continental breakfast each morning.  My favorite part was the cute tea pot that I enjoyed green tea in every morning and the omelets.  The ladies working in the breakfast room were very kind and helpful.  I highly recommend Unitas and would want to stay there on our next visit.
My morning tea ;)

Unfortunately, I got out of rhythm and didn't us my HTS while we were there - oops : (

Off to our last stop...Amsterdam!!

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