Next stop, Barcelona

September 29th 2014

While we thought a 10am flight would mean plenty of time to sleep in before heading out the door, we clearly were not thinking about the time on public transportation to get to the airport. As with most European cities the airports are located on the far outskirts of town and there is usually just one our two lines that head to the airports which translates to, multiple transfers. For us this meant taking a 6:40am train to make it to the airport at 8.

It was a quick flight and we were in Barcelona before lunch. We decided to take the train to the metro which was the longer but cheaper route to our Barcelona home. And when we arrived in the city our phone ran out of minutes as we tried to answer a call from our host. We easy found the place, but in our fog from the last few days (aka hangover) we didn’t realized the apartment number was in our email. It only took us about 15minutes of standing in front of the building and trying to think of what to do next with no cell service or wifi for us to realize we had all the info we needed. At that point I think our host thought we were probably silly Americans who could not read an address. We settled in quickly and began making plans for our short stay in the city. We booked ourselves an evening tour at the Sagrada Família. This would be my third visit and Adam’s second to the ever evolving and still under construction church. The church should be completed in 2026; just 144 years after construction began. And now it is a basilica as the Pope gave this once cathedral this title about a two months after our last visit here. As we walked in we found ourselves pointing out all the things that had changed and all the new details. For the first time it looked and felt like a church and not just a construction site. The architecture is like no other building, let alone church, making it one of our favorite places to visit. Even though the prices to enter continue to rise, it is well worth every penny. And with the evening entry, just before we were about to leave we realized we were just one a handful of people inside so we took that opportunity to just enjoy the silence and find new details in the building.

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It had been a long day so we decided to keep it local for dinner. Lucky for us we had picked a home that was just around the corner from a handful of tapas bars so we headed to la tasqueta de blai for a great selection of tasty tapas. And while I had sworn off alcohol just a few hours earlier, I couldn’t pass up a glass of cava.

Today’s Travel: The early morning train from Watcherhof to the airport where we hopped on Veuling Flight #VY1813 to Barcelona where we caught the train then transferred to the metro to Parallel before walking up the street

Accommodations: Airbnb.  This was a perfect spot for our short stay in Barcelona. To stay within our budget we went with the private room option on AirBnB which meant we had the downstairs extra bed and bathroom of a lovely couple. We could spend a sunny afternoon or late evening out on the terrace is a great way to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. Plus you are just a few steps away from some of the best tapas in the city, a short walk to the beach, the gothic quarter, and the metro line is at the corner for trips across the city. But it really is hosts like Alba and Gian who make Airbnb a great choice when traveling. From the moment we booked we had instant information on how to get to their home, a response to my questions within moments and upon arrival in the city it felt like we had local tour guides. They provided information on places to see outside of the ‘must-see,’ gave recommendations on places to eat and treated us like old friends as we traded travel stories. Next time we are in Barcelona we will be back!

Oktoberfest: round 2

28 September 2014

We initially hadn’t planned on going to Oktoberfest for a second day, but with the slightest bit of arm twisting we were making our way back to the festival grounds to the Augustiner-Festhalle tent. With this being a Saturday the tents get extremely crowded so we set our alarm for 6:00am so that we’d be able to make it to the beer tent nice and early to be sure we would get a seat (nothing like starting your beer drinking before 10:00am).

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We entered the beer hall which was already packed and managed to find some seats next to some friendly canucknucks and ordered up some beer. Unlike the last beer hall this one was family friendly. There were strollers and babies everywhere and the crowd was fairly reserved.

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And when the few that tried to chug their beers stood up on a bench to show their talents to the world they were quickly pulled down by security. There were just a few that were positioned far away from security to chug their whole liter. This time we were smart enough to have more than just oatmeal for breakfast so we weren’t so inebriated after our liters. The best laugh of the day came when everyone discovered that I may have a little bit of difficulty with being able to wink and everyone proceeded to have a good laugh mocking my lack of winking skills.

The closest to a wink I've ever achieved.

The closest to a wink I’ve ever achieved.

Explaining that I can't wink

Explaining that I can’t wink

How I normally wink

How I normally wink

And now the mocking begins

And now the mocking begins

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We hung out in the beer tent through the early afternoon before we made our way out into the sunlight to wander around the festival gardens before heading downtown to stroll around for a while and grab some dinner.

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Today’s Travel: The train from Watcherhof to Munich central and a walk to Oktoberfest

Accommodations: Airbnb.

Cinderella, Cinderella….

27 September 2014

Needless to say, we had a slow morning and didn’t get going until late morning. Today was the day we were taking our day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle and it was also the day that public transportation was not on our side. We missed the train at Watcherhof by only a few seconds, our tickets were printing as the train arrived and the process was completed as the train pulled away. Since we had to transfer this missed train now meant we added about an hour on to our already long travel day.

As we headed out of the main station we were soon greeted by corn fields, cute community gardens, suburban homes, more rolling foothills and fields and then suddenly the foothills became the Bavarian Alps.

After about four hours, on trains, buses and a few short walks, we finally arrived at King Ludwig II famous Neuschwanstein Castle.

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The plus side of the long journey was that all the walking and travel in the fresh mountain air did make us feel like a human again, that and the mid-afternoon brat we picked up for a snack.

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Once we had wandered around the castle for a while we of course we had to make our way to Marienbrücke (St Mary’s Bridge) to snap our own pinterest worthy shots of the castle.

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While on the bridge we did a quick time check and realized that we would need to make our way back to the bus stop to catch the 5:05 train. And to continue with our not so great travel luck for the day, we missed the bus by three minutes, so being the first in line we noticed that the next bus would not arrive for another hour so we decided to set out on the 3km walk back to Fussen. Well I think it was more like 4km which meant that we arrived after the 5:50 train so we had to wait until the next train.

We finally arrived back home, exhausted around 8:30 and our plans to meet up with friends went out the window. Tomorrow we were crazy enough to head back to Oktoberfest so we were at least smart enough to make sure we got some sleep.

Today’s Travel: On the train from Watcherhof to Munich central to Fussen then on the bus to the bottom of the hill and a walk up to Neuschwanstein Castle

Accommodations: Airbnb.

With love, from Oktoberfest

26 September 2014

While I have read that the traditional anniversary gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is wood or maybe a modern day gift of silverware, or hey if you are a traveler maybe an airline ticket or a cruise. Well I am here to say that the new trend that we have started is a celebration with a few thousand strangers (plus one of your bridesmaids) in a beer hall drinking a few liters of beer at Oktoberfest in Munich.

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Not only did we get to celebrate at Hackerbräu-Festzelt we were able to meet up with one my best friends and one of my bridesmaids, Diana so it was just like a mini-wedding celebration! While D and her friends arrived around 9am to check out the sites and get us a table when the halls which opened at 10, we arrived at the beer hall about 11:30am, which we soon realized was a little late as the place was already packed. Thanks friends for still not adjusting to your new time zone! We quickly joined in the fun and one liter of beer soon turned to three.

Reunited and feels so good

Reunited and feels so good

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Hmmm....delicious

Mmm….delicious

And when we just had a small bowl of haferflocken (oatmeal) the beer goes straight to the brain. We were smart enough to order some brats after liter number two, but that didn’t help too much.

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Soon enough we were being kicked out of our seats as the group that had reserved them for the four o’clock time frame had arrived.

We left the hall, made a quick tour of the carnival rides and headed to Karlsplatz U-bahn to grab a doner before heading on the train back home. I got us to the train station and on the right train and Adam got us off the train and home. This is what happens when one person drinks faster than the other. And clearly it worked well for us. Somehow we made it back home!

Today’s Travel: From Watcherhof to Oktoberfest

Accommodations: Airbnb.

Das good, back to Deutschland

25 September 2014

Waking up before the sunrise and pulling into a raining Munich train station I was ready for a nap before the day was even beginning. However we had planned to hit the ground running with a full day of wandering around the city before we made it to our home. The weather on the other hand didn’t want to cooperate with our sight-seeing adventures so our first few hours were spent in the train station. It did provide some excellent people watching of the people drinking off yesterday’s hangover in their lederhosen or passed out on the staircase. We ventured outside a few times hoping the weather would clear, but it wasn’t until 8am that the rain turned to an on and off again drizzle that we began our tour.

We were both tired so inevitably it took only ten minutes before we were arguing over directions.  Just to prove a point we walked all the way back to the train station to follow the signs which took us back in the same direction, this time however I was put in charge which took us by St. Paul’s church. The weather wasn’t so great we decided to take a quick tour to get out of the rain before making it to Oktoberfest (the next day we realized we walked almost to the next station when we got lost on our first attempt). While the ride operators and food vendors were just arriving to work, there were plenty of attendees beginning to line up to get into the various beer halls. To me it looked like one giant fair with lots beer hall tents. I guess I never realized that there was more to it then just beer. There were more rides and food options than I have ever seen at any US fair, plus the food actually smelled good.

After our short visit there we headed off to the main tourist center, Marienplatz. As with any city’s pathway towards the main tourists’ destination, the streets are lined with shops. There was everything from the Apple store (and yes we did stop in to see the new iPhone 6) to the Gap.

Continuing on with our aimless path we arrived at Viktualienmarkt. There we laughed at the crazy prices for fruit juice drinks, looked at the shops and let our nose take us to a small stand where we bought a sausage and potato plate.

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After our morning in the city we made our way out of the city center to the suburbs. Within twenty minutes the landscape had changed to cornfields and wide open spaces. When we got off at our station we were surrounded by a wooded forest and farmlands. After making ourselves at home we headed out for the evening to Watcherhof which was a twenty minute walk past cornfields and horse stables. While there were a few Italian restaurants, we decided to go with the local beer hall for warm and hearty meal. Just half way thru my meal, I could feel the meat sweats starting. But I would expect nothing less from a traditional German meal.

Today’s Travel: From Munich HBF, walking around sites downtown and out to Watcherhof

Accommodations: Airbnb. We continue to have great luck with our Airbnb rentals. Our home in Hohenbrunn about 30 minutes outside of Munich was perfect for short stay. The walk to the train station was only 10 minutes and the efficiencies of the trains here it really made it nice have the city and countryside experience. The apartment had everything we needed; a comfortable bed (even though it was a futon the cushions were great), a washing machine, a kitchen, a big bathroom and plenty of storage for all of our stuff. And our host was very accommodating giving us info on places to eat and accommodating any of our requests.