The final leg of our journey took us from Innsbruck to Munich. Once again, we chose an amazing scenic route, this time through the Alps over Fernpass to two castles, Hohenschwangau castle and Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the most famous castles in Europe and the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney Resorts (and many other fictional castles since). From there, we drove the “Romantic Road” to Landsberg am Lech, a small town on the Lech River, where we had a quick lunch before heading to our final destination, Munich. Once there, we explored the central city and Old Town, including our last Christmas market and a huge Winter Festival, held on the same festival grounds as the famous Oktoberfest, and had our last authentic German meals (one more schnitzel and bratwurst!).
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We left Zürich and drove the A3 motorway to Innsbruck, Austria. We chose the scenic route, but we had no idea just how scenic it would end up being. It was probably the most beautiful drive we’ve ever done, it seemed like another picture postcard view was around every corner…at least when we weren’t in a tunnel. We stopped for pictures at Sargans, Switzerland, where the Schloss Sargans (Sargans Castle) has a commanding view of the Alps the entire valley. From there, we continued on to Innsbruck, which is tucked into a valley surrounded on all sides by towering peaks. We were able to board a funicular directly across the street from our hotel, ride up to the Hungerberg neighborhood, catch a cable car up to Seegrube and then another up to Hafelekar, which is almost 8,000 feet above the city. In all, it took less than 30 minutes and virtually no hiking to be on top of a mountain peak with a panoramic view. We also explored the city, especially the Old Town and, of course, the Christmas market. We were even able to see the ski jump hill from the 1964 and 1976 Olympics, which was just barely on the edge of town. We both fell in love with Innsbruck, without a doubt one of the most scenic cities we’ve ever visited.
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After our trip through Germany, we drove to Switzerland for a two-day stay in Zürich. We got lucky on our first day, as we arrived just before sunset on a very clear day, so we were able to enjoy a beautiful view of the Alps from the shores of Lake Zürich, just two blocks from our hotel. We visited yet another Christmas market, before retiring for the night. The next day, we weren’t quite so lucky with the weather, but we explored the city center and the Old Town across the river. This definitely wasn’t Tracey’s favorite city, and it was by far the most expensive place we visited since leaving Iceland, but we still had a great time, especially since we had two free nights in a five-star hotel that would have cost us about $1200 if we actually paid for it (when we tell you guys to take advantage of credit card bonuses, this is what we are talking about!).
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We left Brussels on another high-speed train to Cologne, Germany, where we made a quick stop to visit the awesome Cologne Cathedral and the surrounding Christmas market. In Cologne, we picked up our rental car so we could explore Germany at our own speed. We followed the Rhine River through the middle Rhine valley, where we saw one amazing castle after another, some over a thousand years old. In fact, we even spent the night in one! We also saw more vineyards than you can imagine, it seemed like every hillside was covered in grapevines.
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After three days in Amsterdam, we took a high-speed train to Brussels, where we stayed downtown near a huge Christmas market (the first of several on our trip). Brussels is not quite as charming as Amsterdam, but there are a lot of beautiful buildings and the market was fantastic. There were also two different light shows that totally made the trip worth it (we’ll post some videos of those later). We also took a day trip to Bruges, a smaller city about an hour away from Brussels. Bruges has a well-preserved town center that was really fun to explore, and we bought some of the best chocolate we’ve ever had.
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Our first stop in mainland Europe (after an incredible four days in Iceland) was Amsterdam. Without a doubt, it is one of the most charming and beautiful cities in the world. We walked all over the city, logging over 30 miles during our time there. We spent most of our time wandering around and exploring the streets, but we had time to do visit some of the attractions. One of the highlights was visiting the Rijksmuseum, one of the best collections of art in all of Europe, and getting to see paintings by artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh. On our last night, we took a cold but very interesting boat tour of the canals, a great way to say good-bye to one of our new favorite cities in the world. We will definitely be back some day!
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The first stop on our honeymoon was Iceland, and it was unforgettable. The weather was beautiful and not nearly as cold as we thought it would be. We flew into Keflavik around 7am, rented a car and drove into Reykjavik. After a quick nap, we explored the city and enjoyed an excellent dinner. The next day, we drove the Golden Circle tour route on the way to our cottage in Vik, visiting Gullfoss (huge waterfall) and Geysir, the first geyser discovered by Europeans and the origin of the English word “geyser”. We also visited the wreckage of a Navy airplane from 1973 on the coast. After a good night’s sleep, we drove on to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon on the southern coast. It was absolutely amazing, but the best was yet to come. After returning to our cottage, we saw that the Aurora forecast was the highest it had been since our arrival. We stepped outside and, sure enough, we were treated to nature’s most incredible light show. Finally, we headed back to Keflavik for our next flight, but not before enjoying a long swim at the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal seawater pool. Our time in Iceland was fantastic, and would have been a perfect honeymoon all by itself. But we still had over 2 weeks to go, so we hopped on a plane and headed to Amsterdam.
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It had been over six months since Tracey’s last work trip, but in September she was asked to visit Bogotà, Colombia to help with an audit. I was able to tag along, and we spent two weeks working and exploring the city. Bogotà is a wonderful city, with excellent restaurants and tons of history. We stayed in the Usaquén neighborhood, but we also had some time on the weekends to visit La Candelaria, Monserratte and Parqué 93. It was a great visit and I have a whole new appreciation for Colombia.
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With the wedding approaching fast, we realized we could only squeeze in one more camping trip before the big day. We wanted to continue our impromptu 2016 National Park tour, so we headed to Mt. Rainier. It was too late find reservations for a camping spot in the park, but we found a nice place about an hour south of the mountain next to Riffe Lake in Taidnapam Park. Saturday morning, we drove up to Sunrise Visitor Center and did the Burroughs Mountain Hike, visiting the highest point in the park that you can reach on a maintained trail. The views of the mountain’s glaciers and the White River Valley were unbelievable. (The pictures don’t do justice to just how huge the mountain is. We hiked to around 7460 feet and the summit was still about 7000 feet over our heads.)
Continue reading “Mt. Rainier National Park – August 2016”