Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happenings Before Vacation...

The week before we left for Europe was super busy for us!  We did a lot of fun things that I want to be sure and document.

After working an afternoon at White House, Sier'a and I went out for a glass of wine to celebrate her recent graduation.  This girl is in the process of applying for medical school and I am so excited for her!

I absolutely adore Sier'a!  We had a great time chatting about everything.  

Ken and I went out for Sunday brunch.  We were wanting to go to the Voltaire, which is amazing, but they do not open until 11:00.  We decided to go to the Royale, which is next door, and it was amazing!  They have wonderful bloody Mary's and our food was to die for.

Sunday brunch at the Royale

We celebrated our favorite teenager having a birthday.  Mr. Braeson turned 15 on our anniversary, so we celebrated with an early birthday dinner.

Between the two of us it is a toss up as to who can eat more sweets.

Our friend Jane had us over for dinner a few nights before we left.  She had done a similar trip in the 90's and had us over so we could see her pictures and discuss things she did while in Europe.  She was so sweet and cooked us a German meal complete with dessert.  We had a wonderful evening spending time with her and are very grateful that she is only one mile from our door.

I love that she decorated with German beer steins!

Delicious dessert by Jane!

It seems like it was forever ago, but it was an amazing week with so many different friends!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 15 and 16...Coming Home...

On Friday, June 10th, I woke up and ran around Vienna. We were staying in Old Town, near the Danube River, so I took the opportunity to run on the trail that runs along the river.  It was a well needed run for what I knew was going to be a long day.

As I had mentioned before, we had not had a lot of luck in Hallstatt and Vienna with the locals being all that friendly.  We had a few waiters be very nasty to us and then a Viennese lawyer that Ken spoke to at the bar one evening who was not rude, but certainly was not fond of the United States.  I think the funniest part of the exchange was the man asking Ken his opinion of Vienna and other European cities and then completing dissing Ken's opinion and basically telling him he is an idiot.

Anyway, we did not have a lot of luck in Austria, with the exception of Salzburg.  The morning of our departure, we had the pleasure of being exposed to a few of the nicest people of our trip.  Ken went down to the hotel breakfast area to order lattes for us.  He was chatting with the waitress and she told him thank you for being so kind and did not charge us for the lattes.  Ken said she was so pleasant and he really appreciated talking to her.  We also decided to take a cab to the airport instead of messing with the train and our cab driver was so sweet.

We talked to him about where we had been and the cities we loved.  He was so pleasant to speak with for the 30 minute cab ride.

Security at the airport was simple. We had a short flight from Vienna to London.  Once we arrived to Heathrow, we had lunch and boarded our long flight to Seattle on British Airways.  I had reserved us aisle seats directly across from each other since I definitely did not want a middle seat with all of the rows being three seats wide.

I ended up sitting next to a British couple, Barry and Maureen, that was flying to the US to go to Montana and Yellowstone.  Barry ended up being my BFF by the time the flight was over.  He and I talked for about half of the flight and Ken and I stood at the back of the plane hanging out with the flight attendants for the remainder of the flight.

We arrived in Seattle and were delayed a bit because of an issue in London.  We were also further held up in customs because sadly, Ken got the black X on his customs card.  The customs officers were super nice and got a kick out of my customs card picture only showing half of my face since I am too short for the cameras.

Sadly, we arrived to our connecting flight to Kansas City just as the plane was pushing away from the jetway.  I have never felt such disappointment in my life.  I just wanted to get home.  There may have been a moment in the Seattle airport where Ken and I thought we might kill each other.  Emotions were running high and we could not make a decision about what we were doing.  We were too tired to think.

Alaska Airways booked us on a flight for the morning and Ken and I ended up staying in a hotel that British Airways reimbursed us for.  The biggest issue was that I was worried about getting Kya from daycare since we would not get home until 5:00 pm on Saturday.  Thank goodness for friends like Michelle.  She and Rob picked Kya up for us on Saturday and dropped her off at home.  I felt such relief knowing Kya would be waiting on us!

We had breakfast at the Hilton on Saturday morning, thanks to British Airways and boarded our flight for Kansas City.  We wished we hadn't been so tired so we could have explored Seattle on Friday night, but we were too exhausted.  I am pretty sure we both were asleep by 8:00 pm!  Next time, next time.

We made it home Saturday evening and had three happy hooligans!

Kya was so excited to see her daddy!

These two were thrilled we were home!  Thanks to Scott and our neighbor Laura for checking on these two.

One of my favorite part about visiting Europe is the chocolate and desserts I eat there.  I was so happy to get some of my favorite chocolate bars to bring home.

My loot.  The blue bars on the front our my favorite.  I bought most of this while we were in Lauterbrunnen and I carried it around for the remainder of our trip.  I was happy it all made it home safe and sound.  That is commitment.  

All and all, we had an amazing trip.  We cannot wait until we can make our next trip to Europe.  I wish I could say we knew where, but we just are not sure yet.  I do know one thing for sure, Lauterbrunnen has not seen the last of the Jackson's!  

Thanks for such an amazing trip Ken!  There is no one else I would rather spend two weeks with, wandering around not understanding a word being spoken, and washing my underwear in the sink with on a trip!  Thanks for working so hard and making this trip possible.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 14...The Vienna Zoo and the Heurigers

From the moment I knew we were going to Vienna I was certain of one that we would do, go to the zoo!  I knew that it was the oldest zoo in all of Europe and that they have panda bears.  I like to call that a win, win.

We woke up on Thursday and set out for the zoo.  We stopped for lattes and pastries because you know, we were in Vienna and they are certainly known for lattes and pastries.

My pastry was this delicious chocolate filled piece of Heaven. 

We used the subway to get to the zoo and were greeted with the opportunity to wander around Schonbrunn Palace before going inside the zoo.  I was unaware that the zoo is basically located on the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace.  You can definitely say that I learned a few things on this trip.

We arrived at the zoo and our first stop was to see the panda bears.  There is an adult panda and a younger, more teenager panda.  Sadly for us, the younger panda was napping, but we did get to see the adult panda enjoying a snack!

I was in love with this panda bear!  I had so much fun watching him eat his bamboo.  I kept thinking that he was not real.  He was such a cutie.

My first time to see a panda bear!

Being silly outside the panda exhibit

After our enjoyment of the pandas, we wandered around the rest of the zoo.  We got to see a baby elephant that was up to no good playing in his area.  He was pretty cute.

The darling baby elephant

We visited the monkey house

Before we left the zoo, we stopped back by the pandas to see if maybe the younger panda was a wake.  We were bummed to learn he was still sleeping.  After the animal viewing, we made our way back near the palace for a little lunch.

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace.  This is the view I remember being a pit stop in an episode of the Amazing Race.

After the zoo, we wandered around downtown Vienna and stopped for a drink before heading back to our hotel to relax.  

Downtown Vienna is so unbelievably charming.

After a nap and me venturing out to buy some chocolate, we took the bus North of the city to visit Vienna's wine areas.  Vienna has vineyards within the city limits and they are called heurigens.  These wine gardens have food to choose from and a great selection of white wines.   

The first heurigen we chose to visit was called Weinhof Zimmerman.  First off, I have to give a shout out to Ken for navigating the Vienna bus system.  He did a fabulous job and a sweet lady on the bus verified we were heading in the correct direction.  

Weinhof Zimmerman had views of the vineyards

The building was super charming

Our food we chose, which was delicious.  We have stuffed red peppers with cream cheese, spinach strudel, fried zucchini, potatoes, and a stuffed red pepper.  It was all so wonderful!

The view of the wine garden.  The couple on the right was totally making out when I first walked up there for a picture.  Awkward.  

I wish I had tried the rose!

So, our experience at the Weinhof Zimmerman ended on a bad note.  You order and pay for food inside, but the wine is brought to your table by a waiter.  Well, this guy did not like us.  Our bill was 5.60 euros and apparently, he thought we were going to leave him a 5 euro tip.  The funny thing is that no one around us was tipping.  We watch for those kinds of things when traveling because in Switzerland and Germany, you do not tip.  Basically, he called us a bunch of jerks in front of all of the other patrons.  He did not say anything to the Austrians, just us Americans.  We were pretty disappointed with the service we received in Austria as a whole.

We walked back to the bus stop and decided to visit another heuriger that was on the main road where the bus ran.  We did not eat at this one, but received much better service and was not instantly disliked for being American.

I know he likes beer more, but he enjoyed his white wine in Vienna.

A cute heurigen that I forgot the name of.

We wrapped up our evening running back to our hotel from the train station since it started raining on us.  We enjoyed our short time in Vienna so much, despite some people not being so nice to us.

I loved our morning at the Vienna zoo!

Up next, we travel home and it ended up being a two day adventure.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 13...Vienna...

I woke up on Wednesday an ran around Hallstatt.  Hallstatt is not that big, but I managed to get a four mile run in.  We packed up and made our way to the ferry to get to the train station to go to Vienna!

Early morning view from our balcony

Saying good-bye to beautiful Hallstatt!

When we boarded the ferry, we were the only non-Asian people on the ferry and it was quite crowded.  All of the other passengers had huge wheely bags and were packed in there.  Ken and I decided to wait until the very last minute to board the ferry, since being trampled by a group of Asian tourists with wheely bags is a real fear that we have.  In that moment, it seemed possible!

Anyway, the ferry driver did not like Ken and me and ended up mumbling "Stupid American" to Ken.  I pretty much lost my shit on him.  Ken had no clue what was going on and thought I was picking a fight with the Asians.  It was a pretty funny situation, but the ferry worker was completely out of line for no reason.  Honestly, we blamed Fritz at the bike rental for wishing bad karma on us.  In other news, the second ferry worker was super nice and talked to us all about the places we had traveled and asked us questions about the United States.

Alas, we were aboard a the train to Vienna.  The ride from Hallstatt to Vienna was about three and half hours and we both took little cat naps.

We arrived to Vienna and figured out how to get to the downtown/Old Town and checked into our room.  We quickly realized that Vienna is absolutely gorgeous!  It is the most beautiful city we have ever visited.

Downtown Vienna

St. Stephen's Cathedral

We really just ended up wandering around Vienna our first day.  We stopped for lunch and topped it off with an amazing gelato sundae.  We later learned that we were staying right by all of the gelato hot spots that were famous in Vienna for gelato.  I have never seen so many people eat ice cream!  It seems as though the Viennese love gelato, wine, and coffee, three of my favorite things!.  I told Ken that I am definitely Viennese at heart.  

Vienna is known for white wine.  

Ken enjoying his wine and the sunshine in Vienna

We had a beautiful blue sky day to sit outside and enjoy wine while we were people watching.

Downtown Vienna.  I really liked the architecture of the buildings with all of the detail.  

Downtown Vienna

After a few glasses of wine, we wandered over to the Hofburg Imperial Palace and gardens.  

Hofburg Palace.  It was stunning from the outside and quite huge.  We did not go inside, but enjoyed wandering around the gardens.

There was a dog park on the grounds and we stopped to watch the dogs play.  This guy here is getting in a lot of trouble and we watched him get a stern talking to.  It really made me miss Kya!  

Enjoying the gardens at Hofburg Palace

The Volksgarten

We found a cute place for dinner and wandered around Vienna a little more.  We were not ready to go to bed yet, so we found a place with outdoor seating to enjoy some more wine.  

It was a lovely evening in Vienna!

The Opera House sets up a TV to show the Opera to people on the streets.  We sat for a few moments and watched, but since we do not know much German, we did not stay long.  It was really cool to see the production that was going on inside the building.

Vienna at night

Us with St. Stephen's Cathedral

Vienna was a welcomed change of pace for us after all of the outdoorsy stuff we had been doing.  We went to bed very grateful to get to see such a beautiful city.

Up Next, another day in Vienna!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 12...All Around Hallstatt...

We had a few different hikes in mind for our day on Tuesday, knowing that we needed to get away from the village of Hallstatt.  We had a fairly bad experience at breakfast with other guests staying at the hotel and we knew we would be in for a long day if we did not venture out.  Ultimately, we decided to ride the ferry across the lake to Obertraun so we could rent bikes for the day!

We rode the ferry and walked the 20-30 minutes to Obertraun.  As soon as we saw Obertraun, we knew that was where we should have stayed!  We really liked Hallstatt, BUT it was quite crowded.  I will elaborate more later.

Hallstatt from across the lake

We arrived in Obertraun and really liked the vibe the village had.  We rented our bikes and were on our way!  We were not entirely sure how far we were going to ride, so we paid for a half a day which required us to be back by 1:00 pm.  The lady that rented us the bikes, told us if we wanted to stay out longer, we could and that we could settle up on any overage later.  She told us she wanted us to enjoy the beautiful day and sunshine.

Our bikes and Hallstatt

Ken also bought a Stiegl Radler to enjoy during our ride.  I loved drinking the Stiegl Radlers so much that we have found them at one liquor store here at home to enjoy.

We rode our bikes along the path that went along Lake Hallstatt

We had originally thought that we would ride to Steeg and turn around, but we ended up riding all the way to Bad Goisern, a village North of Lake Hallstatt.  We left Bad Goisern and rode back to Steeg to stop for a drink.

Enjoying the sunshine and warm weather

On our ride out, we had noticed a little restaurant along the lake and made a mental note of it for the ride back.  We stopped and had a little lunch and enjoyed the scenery.

The pefect lunch view

We arrived back to Obertraun at 2:00.  We were fully prepared to pay for the extra hour of use of our bikes, but the girl at the front desk was not going to charge us.  The keeper of the bikes, Fritz, had a different idea and was yelling at the girl saying that we were late, in German of course.  She told us what he said and still said she was not making us pay.  Ken told her to tell Fritz that the handle bars on his bike were messed up and he really paid for a working bike.  It was a pretty fun situation.  Ironically enough, it really set the tone of many of our dealings for the remainder of our time in Austria, by Austrian men.

We bought a few Radlers and enjoyed them along the lake before we figured out what we were going to do for the rest of the day.

We heart Radlers!

Enjoying the view 

We decided that we would walk to the cable car to take us up to the Five Fingers viewing area and go up for the view and walk around a bit.  On the far end of Obertraun, we saw an restaurant and decided to stop for ice cream.  It was pretty hot out so an ice cream break was important.

This was one of the best ice cream sundaes I have ever had.

Everyone loves Stiegl!

A view of the valley

Some of the beautiful scenery we saw along the way.

Once we made it to the cable cars, we learned that the last cable car would come down at 5:00 pm.  It was 4:00 pm at the time, so it would only give us about 30 minutes to wander around on the mountain.  We decided to skip it since it was not a lot of time to enjoy the view.  We walked back to Hallstatt since the bus was not going to run for another hour or so.  Ken was not exactly thrilled with all of the walking we did that day after riding our bikes 20 miles!  Between all of our walking and biking riding, there was only one small section of the lake that we did not see.  I thought it was pretty funny because we were planning on a lighter day, ha, ha!

After our long day of bike riding and walking all around the lake, we decided we would get pizza to go and enjoy it on our balcony.  We love pizza and wine nights at home, so this was such a great thing for us to do!

Pizza and wine in Hallstatt on our last night.  It was amazing.

A fun day exploring Lake Hallstatt!

Up next, we travel to Vienna Austria!