Saturday, December 24, 2011

A View from the Top, Day 3

Hot Lava!
Today we took a helicopter ride around the island, talk about seeing some cool stuff. We took off from the Kona Airport and made our way to the other side of the island to view the volcano from above. Since it was spewing a lot of gas there was a 6 mile no fly zone around the crater…boo. But we headed on to see…LAVA!!! We started flying in the area north of where Chain of Craters Road ends and this is where we saw same trees on fire and some lava seeping out of the ground. We also got to see Jack's House, the last surviving house in the Royal Gardens subdivision that was taken over lava from Kilauea (75 homes were destroyed when the eruptions began in 1983). You can tell by the picture that the lava is getting dangerously close to his house. After we saw all this we headed towards Hilo and got to view the coastline and MANY waterfalls! It had rained the night before so the valleys and rivers were flowin'! We made our way to the Kohala Forest and we landed in one of the valleys (our pilot was quite inredible!). We got walk around here and pick some fresh fruit right off the trees. We got back in the helicopter and followed the coastline all the way back to airport, and we got to see our hotel along the way too!
this is Jack's house. The lava has gotten so close but its still standing  in March 2012 Pele destroyed his home

some trees on fire
After we were done with this we decided to rent some snorkel equipment from Snorkel Bob's and head to Kekaha Kai State Park…we drove our rented sports car on an "unimproved" lava road to get there! (Unimproved is the word they used on the sign…why not just say unpaved or something because it looked like there was never any maintenance done to this road.) We stayed there for a few minutes but the waves were pretty strong due to the VERY windy weather that day. So we opted to head to the Mauna Kea resort to see their beach. (Mauna Kea is the sister hotel to ours, Hapuna Prince.) Matt went snorkeling around the rocks while I just relaxed on the beach, I was a little nervous to snorkel without someone making sure we weren’t going too far or if there was a shark or something near..eeekk!) After that we cleaned up and got ready for dinner at Hapuna's Coast Grill. The food was amazing! But what was better was watching the sun set and then see a shooting star while we ate dinner; a truly wonderful night!

no room for error

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Whole Island Drive, Day 2

On our second day we took a drive around the island to see EVERYTHING we possibly could. Our first stop was the Punalu'u Bake Shope (the southernmost bakery in the USA). After we got our treats we walked back to the car and nearby there was a mechanic working on a tour bus. Well for some reason the driver started backing up and ran over the guys leg! My husband ended up having to call 911; thank goodness the fire department was right across the street! After we were able to leave we headed on our way to Punalu'u Beach Park.

This park is famous for its black sands (much more accessible then Pololu) and for the sea turtles that come up on the sand to nap and sun bathe. While we were there we were able to see two turtles on the beach and many playing in the water bobbing their heads up and down. Next we headed to Volcano National Park and man was it cold! We drove around and saw some steam vents and saw lots of smoke coming from the crater. We walked through an old lava tube that was in the now rain forest which was pretty cool and then we drove all the way down to the end of Chain of Craters Road (which use to go all the way through but they stopped repairing it because lava kept covering it up!). While we were down there we saw a lava arch and some amazing cliffs.  After this we left the park and headed to Mauna Loa Macadamia nut factory and Big Island Candies to get some treats. As we continued our was around the island we also stopped at Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. After this we were ready to get back and we headed back to the hotel where we had the most beautiful sunset! what a day!
Lava tube

Sea arch

Rainbow Falls

Akaka Falls

breathtaking sunset

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hawaii, The Big Island

We landed in Kona around 9pm and drove in the darkness, surrounded by lava and water to get to the hotel. Its super dark on all the islands because of the light restrictions they have at night. We made it to our room and were so excited to see what the island looked like the next day!

It's our first full day on Hawaii's Big Island! (we arrived 9:30pm the night before) We can't wait to have a look at our hotel grounds and Hapuna Beach. Once we look around we get in the car and head out for breakfast. We stopped at the Hawaiian Style Café in Waimea…SO good! The food was great, the service was great and fast, and the cost was low! (My three favorite things when we eat out!) I had some biscuits and gravy with hash browns and eggs and my husband some toast, eggs and bacon…yum, yum! It was crazy how cold it got as we drove up into the mountain, 80 degrees by the beach and 65 up where we ate. After eating we took Kohala Mountain Road to Pololu lookout…

warning, warning, warning!
which we then found out had a trail to a black sand beach. We decided we would hike down (without any water) since we drove all that way to see it…p.s. the views are spectacular! We get down there and put our toes in our first black sand beach! Very cool! Now it's time to hike back up…we made it but we were tired and had to ask some people for some water. We took a look around some shops in the area and then headed back to the hotel via the Akoni Pule Hwy along the coast where we were able to see the mountains of Maui. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach and in the sand. I ended up having to take a nap because the jet lag caught up with me. Then we went to a resort neighborhood of Waikoloa and had some dinner and walked around the shops. What a great 1st day!

view from 1/2 way down the hike

toes in the black sand
The Whole Island Drive, Day 2

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Key West: Day 3 & 4

Saturday we had the day to do whatever we want. The hotel had Jet Ski rentals so we decided to rent one and go on a trip around the island. It was really cool! We saw this are where the Navy was carving out a “hide-a-way” base for submarines but since they were doing this during the space race they quickly figured out that you could see these channels from space and that there weren’t so hidden so they scrapped the project. They were about 90ft and now they are about 60ft, freaked me out not going to lie. You can see them from google earth too. Sliding over the crystal clear water was really cool! It was only a few feet deep. Then when we got to the southern tip of the island our guide had us cut the engines and wait and see if some dolphins would show up; and they did!!! After that we went to the pool and had some more drinks…yummy Bahama Mamas! And after eating an early dinner we went for a drive north on Highway 1. We drove all the way to Marathon Key, seeing some funny named Keys, privately owned Keys and seven mile long bridges; of course the top was down! Made our way back and just rested; we surprisingly went to bed really early! But aren’t vacations for relaxing! 

Sunday came and it was time to leave, we made our way to the small airport where I had my 1st slice of key lime pie (haha, I was so full at all the other restaurants)! Then we headed to Tampa (side note, had some Mexican food at the airport there and they didn’t have refried beans! Don’t know what kind of Mexican restaurants they run in Florida but that’s BS!) And then made it home to Houston! Good to be back!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Key West: Day 1 & 2

Since we didn’t have an official honeymoon we kind of count this as it! Six months after our wedding and over the Thanksgiving holiday we decided to go to Key West, Florida. We get onto a little puddle jumper (18 passenger plane) and head for the keys! Since this was our first real vacation together we even rented a red mustang convertible! Ugh, so wonderful! We drove around the island to be familiar with our surroundings and then we headed to the hotel to relax, have some drinks and figure out what we were going to do for Thanksgiving dinner. To our surprise when we got to our room Matt’s parents had sent us a welcome basket with coronas, chips and salsa! So sweet! I had plenty of time to plan this trip so I found tons of coupons online for free drinks and deserts. So we decided to go to Two Friends Patio for dinner. Since it was thanksgiving night the busy part of the island wasn’t so busy; we had a really good dinner and then went across the street for some drinks. I was feeling pretty sleep though so after a few drinks we headed back to the hotel.

The next day before our parasailing trip we had breakfast at the same place we had dinner. Just as good too! The waiter asked, “What can I get you to drink? Orange juice, coffee, one of our grey goose specials?” Matt said, “I didn’t know I had that option!” It was funny. So after that we waited on the pier for our boat to take out into the water for an adventure! Parasailing was so much fun, but if I had to choose between that or sky diving I would do sky diving again….I don’t know, something about the water makes me nervous :P After that we hung around the square for a while and then headed for our next activity. We went sunba diving but since the water was choppy (making the water murky) we couldn’t go to the reef, we should have asked for our money back then and there. Instead we went to this lame area and didn’t see any fish, just other stuff. And the girl that did it didn’t know her job very well b/c she didn’t put enough weight on my weight belt and I kept floating up. So I think it’s safe to say we won’t be doing that again! After we got cleaned up we went to dinner on Mallory Square at Hot Tin Roof. The food was wonderful! And if it hadn’t been cloudy we would have had a perfect view of the sunset, but…you can’t predict the weather. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Headed back to the USA!

Once back in Munich (even the same hotel) we get our room, relax and get ready for our last night in Europe. We head out to this cute restaurant next to a creek and have our farewell dinner with our director and travel mates. Once everybody started drinking things went smoother, there were some older ladies that went and we wish we had had the chance to talk to them sooner since they could easily be me and Ashley 20yrs down the road. It was a really good and filling meal! We went back to the hotel for some sleep.

The next morning we were up and ready to go! We got on the bus that took us to the airport, one bad thing…I felt a cold coming on :-/ oh no!!! By the time we got to the Frankfurt airport I was done for, we got a few more souvenirs and I got some cold meds before we boarded our 10hr flight. The cold meds didn’t work and I wasn’t feeling so good. I was able to ask around and found someone with some American cold medicine and that help tremendously! We made it back to Houston where our men were waiting for us! <3 

<3 So glad to be home <3

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The hills are alive with the Sound of Music

Gardens from The Sound of Music
We only had one night here which is a bummer because it is such a wonderful, quaint little town. We arrive in Salzburg and are greeted by our local city guide. She shows us the city or Mozart’s birthplace and his old home along with some scenes from The Sounds of Music we have some free time to do some shopping and I found this wonderful Christmas store that I had to get something from and I picked up some more art from a street artist (which I was doing in every city). We had some more time to just look around and had a drink at a café before it was time to head to the hotel. The hotel had a WONDERFUL view of the palace up on the hill. But the staff wasn’t that great, oh well, what were we going to do about it. 

Mozart's family home
The next morning we went to see one of Hitler’s Eagle nests. We had to wake up really early before the fog rolled in but we made it. It is crazy to be where someone that caused so much history once stood. The views were breath taking, such a beautiful place in this world. Once we got back to meet the rest of the group that didn’t go on the excursion we had some time to get some food and relax before our bus had to leave. So I went to a grocery store close by to find some Ziploc bags to put the wine I was bringing home in. I knew if I could find ‘Ziploc’ I would be okay (nice to have universal brand)! I did find some and I grabbed some snacks for the road and we were off! Back to Munich we go. 
view from the Eagles Nest

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wien, Austria (Vienna)

We arrive in Vienna, the classical musical capital! We get settled into our hotel and turns out we have a corner room which meant 2 of the “walls” were ceiling to floor windows! We had view of the heart of the new city. Our hotel was right next to a park and in walking distance off all the shopping :D When we get there it is dinner time so we head to this very fun restaurant to have so good fun, entertainment, and homemade peach schnapps! After dinner we are back at the hotel, get ready for bed and watch some BBC soap operas (the only thing in English around these parts).

{Schönbrunn Palace from the back yard}

The next day we are off to the Schönbrunn Palace! (This was one of our excursions) The palace is a 1,400 room estate that was a summer home for the Habsburg monarchs. Maria Theresa of Austria was the only female ruler of the Habsburg’s and the last. She reigned for 40 years and had 16 children! Some of which were: Queen Marie Antoinette of France, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples, Duchess Maria Amalia of Parma and two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold. She was known as the Mother of Europe since so many of her heirs became royalty is other countries. They say the reason why she had so many children is because she truly loved her husband, Francis Stephen, and they had more than just their arranged marriage.  After our trip to the palace we had our guided walk through the imperial city. We saw the Imperial Boulevards and the State Opera and a walk through the oldest part of the city and where we saw some Roman ruins and the place where the Lipizzaner Stallions are trained! (My dad took me to see them when they came to the US!) And we also saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral and finished up with a trip down to the Crypt where the Royal Family rests. After that we had some free time and we went to Ashley’s must go to spot, Swarovski. Man did she enjoy that! After that we went window shopping and found some souvenirs for our family before we headed on a hunt for this shop I saw with the cutest sweater dresses in the window! We finally found it! We go inside and I ask the store clerk if they have any more like the one on the manikin. She said that was her only one because it was handmade and she wanted me to try it on. I asked her how much it was (did want to get in over my head here if it was handmade) and she said it was only 50€!!! What a deal! It looked great and Ashley got it for me as a bridesmaid gift. I also got another short sleeved sweater. Then we headed back up the road for dinner (pizza, yum!) and then back to the hotel for some R&R.

The next morning we are off to Salzburg, the home of The Sound of Music. We first make a stop in Krems to catch a ferry to enjoy the Danube Valley. While on the cruse we see a beautiful monastery in Melk and nearby Melk is the remains of an old castle where King Richard the Lion Hearted was held prisoner, pretty cool!

Gardens at Schönbrunn

the beautiful church on the Danube

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Buda and Pest become one to make Budapest!


Budapest was originally two cities divided by the River Danube; Buda, the hilly side (I remember that by hills = Buda belly, haha) and Pest, the flat side. We came in on the Buda side and went over the river to our hotel on the Pest side. That night we had an excursion, a night dinner river cruise on the Danube! It was amazing! They had such good food and it was so neat to see the city by night! We saw the bridges, Fishermen’s Bastion and Parliament all lit up and it was so pretty! Then we went back to the hotel to get some rest before tomorrow’s adventure!

The next day was jammed packed with stuff! We met with our local city guide and she was so wonderful! We really liked her! And she took us to the great Synagogue and walked us through Old Buda to the Fisherman’s Bastion where we got a bird’s eye view of the Danube, Pest and Parliament. What was so crazy about this city is that not a lot of repairs had been made since WWII (keep in mind the Communists had only been out of this area for about 10yrs). A lot of the buildings on the main roads had their facades redone but not the other three sides of the buildings. Then we had some free time and Ashley and I went to the “prettiest” McDonalds ever (so our tour director said) and walked the streets; she needed an extra bag and I wanted to get some ‘Bulls Blood’ red wine for my husband. Then we went to this nice little local restaurant and had more of that yummy Budapest food! They had some gypsy music there so that made the night fun too! The next morning as we headed out of Budapest we stopped at the Gundel and had a wonderfully delicious chocolate pastry!  

{Fisherman's Bastion}

{Treats from the Gundel}

Saturday, September 24, 2011


On our drive to Budapest we stopped in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava. Out tour director gave us some history about it and we had some free time. We HAD to stop at the Mayer Café since I was still legally a Mayer. And then it happened…it started to rain! And hard! We held up in a little shop across from the café but the rain wasn’t going to let up. Ashley said she wasn’t going to let some rain stop her from seeing at least some of the city so we rolled our pants up and headed out. We were able to get some pictures but didn’t get to explore too much (dang umbrella was in my suitcase). I was kind of disappointed because it did look like a quaint little town. We headed back to our meeting point and loaded the bus for Budapest!

had a yummy treat here!

we both just loved the black and white facade of this building! 

And I saw this article that Slovakia is one of the hidden treasures of Europe! It really is a pretty little town, wish we could have spent more time there. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Prague, the city of hundred spires

{Prague Castle}

Prague is where I had planned to meet my two lovely Norwegian ladies Kjersti and Cecilie! We got there and I immediately called them and we planned to meet after dinner since we had already paid for it in our tour price. And we took the subway into the heart of the city and saw the Astronomical Clock and had a MASSIVE mojito! So big we all shared it! Then the next day on our tour we went to St. Vitus Cathedral which is located in the Prague Castle, it was very beautiful! We did an excursion to see the insides of some of the famous homes and see where Mozart had once preformed. On our way back to the town center to meet up with the girls were we passed Prague Fashion Week which was kind of neat and then we did a little walking around and a little shopping. We headed across Charles Bridge to get these really yummy treats called trdelnik! They were worth the long walk! We had had lunch/dinner in a British Pub and by night time we were hanging out at the hotel and having some drinks. Then we had to say our goodbyes :( it was sad but I was so happy that I got to see them!

{Huge Mojito!}

{yummy trdelnik!}

On a side note, every time we made a pit stop on while traveling we always stopped at a McDonald's! This really made me and Ashley mad because we didn't come all this way to have McDonald's. Well we asked the reason for this and our tour guide told us that since the Communist had moved out (about 10yrs ago) the only people willing to build there was McDonald's so we had no other choice for breaks…ugh, okay I guess.

{me and my Norsk friends!}

Monday, September 5, 2011

Willkommen to Munich, Germany

{Glockenspiel clock}

So while back when my husband was still my boyfriend we went to an authentic German restaurant and they had this fun couple that played the crazy instruments and yodeled. Well they offered this tour trip to Germany and Austria and it got my travel bug moving again! So I asked him if he wanted to go, I would pay for us to go, and he said no (I’m sure every man knows why, ‘you don’t want to let your girlfriend pay for you’ silly!). So I said fine, and I offered to repay Ashley and her family by taking her on a Trafalgar trip! So we researched which trip we wanted to go on and picked the right dates and in October of 2009 our trip for Europe in September of 2010 was planned! You know me; I plan in advance…WAY in advance! A lot happened in between then and the trip. My boyfriend and I got engaged and then married and 11 days after that he donated a kidney to his dad. So in reality this trip, if he had let me pay, would have made a wonderful honeymoon but that’s not how the story goes…and Ashley’s wedding was just a month and half after we would get back.

After a long flight we land in Germany an hour before our plane was due! I give big props to our pilots! But the Trafalgar bus was to be there 2hrs after our original landing time was suppose to be, so now we have 3hrs till the bus comes. We decide to bit the bullet and pay the 60€ taxi ride to our hotel. Luckily our room was ready and we had time to take a nap before our tour meets for the first time. We got some rest and freshened up and headed down to meet our group, we then got on the bus for our drive around Munich. We really didn’t get to see much, we went to Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel clock and we decided to grab some food here since there weren’t any places that looked interesting near our hotel. We just had some pasta because it was cheap and looked pretty good and we stood to eat, I guess they don’t want people lingering in the restaurant for too long (thanks for the hint). Then we met up with our group and headed back to the hotel for our official “meet and greet” and our free German beer!

{on the road again}

The next day was the same; we drove around and saw the Olympic park and BMW headquarters and then we were off into the country side headed for Prague, Czech Republic. On our drive there we saw many hops farms and we stopped in the town of Nuremberg where we walked around the market that was going on and we bought our first real souvenirs (a floral wreath and other small things). And there was Schöner Brunnen (English: Beautiful Fountain) next to the Frauenkirche at Hauptmarkt, legend says if you touch the gold ring on it then you will be blessed with fertility! HAHAHA, I told Ashley that I wasn’t going to touch it because the last time I touched something in Europe (Verona) I found what it said I would find! :P

{Schöner Brunnen}

Friday, August 26, 2011

Way up North

this is love: a few days after surgery
Why would you want to spend your official honeymoon in Minnesota you ask? Well my husband was donating a kidney to his father 11 days after our wedding. What a wonderful man I have chosen. Some background here, in the fall of 2009 my husband found out that he was finally going to be able to help his dad by donating a kidney. And before this was going to happen he said he wanted to get married just in case the worst happened (which has never happened at the Mayo Clinic by the way). 

So after our May 2010 wedding we headed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for the operation. What a nice little town! We enjoyed all the sights they had there and once his dad was feeling up to it we took a trip to La Cross, Wisconsin where we took a ride on the mighty Mississippi! This ride was a big deal for me; I got to see Bald Eagles in their natural habitat! I had never seen them in the wild before! It was quite nice, we packed a picnic lunch and then found a homemade ice cream shop with homemade everything…even soda (not as good as coca cola). Had lunch and desert on the Mississippi and watched the barges and tug boats go by. And on the drive back to MN I had to drive in this awful storm, honestly some of the most intense driving I have ever had to drive through. While we were there we stayed at The Gift of Life House where you have to be either donating or receiving to stay there. What a place to recover! So peaceful and clean and for only $25 a night. We left about a week after surgery, I was so glad to be home and have my little Lola (dog) back home with us too!

my eagle!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Another Alien on Broadway

Ah….NYC! One of my study abroad mates was doing a semester internship at company in NYC.  So naturally Amanda and I had to plan a trip! The perfect time to go? Labor Day (2009) weekend and Amanda’s birthday. So we book the flights and to save some money we stay at a hostel. Charlotte had taken an internship in the city so we planned a little trip, Lene decided to start her American vacation then too! We got there and made it to our hostel, settled in and headed to Charlotte’s work to have some lunch and wonder around the city (she didn’t get off till later). So we went to Central Park and walked around there a lot and took little breaks to enjoy the view. We thought about going into the zoo but we are glad we didn’t because you know they had in there…cows and horses…we see that stuff all the time here in Texas, not impressed New York. We met up with Charlotte and went to Time Square to see the night life. We went to a hotel that had a spinning restaurant on top so we could see the entire city. We had some drinks and snacks before heading back.

The next day we went to Rockefeller Plaza to go to the “Top of the Rock”, Lene couldn’t come because she was sick (maybe a little hung over but she ended up getting really sick). We walked down to Wall Street and Ground Zero, walked to the harbor to see the view of the Statue of Liberty, and then we took the subway to Hoboken, New Jersey. Hoboken is the home of Carlo’s Bakery (TLC’s Cake Boss) OMG their treats were so good! We each got a little box of goodies and sat outside on a bench to enjoy our treats. We headed back to the city that never sleeps and got ready for dinner. We went to this super cute Norwegian inspired restaurant in SoHo and Lene came too even though she was feeling under the weather. YUM!

And then….we go out on the town! We are literally walking the streets looking for an acceptable bar for us to go to and we run into some guys from Flushing, Queens (yes, like in The Nanny haha). They take us to a club which costs $20 for us to get in, at a discount *rolling my eyes* whatever, discount my ass. Anyway, we go in there and they are buying us drinks and shots but all I do is sit and text my boyfriend at home (you know you’re in love when you’re in a NYC night club and all you do is text your bf :) *romantic sigh*). Amanda ends up making out with one of these guys and gets his number….unfortunately we need to head home because…well someone had a little too much fun. 

We are getting into a cab some other guys start hitting on us and we turn them down so they decide to call us hookers and open the cab door! HOLY SHIT!!!! SO the taxi driver gets out and gets them away and locks our doors and takes us back to our hostel…crazy night!

Sunday night we don’t really have any plans so we walk to Charlotte’s new apartment for the fall and walk around the park some more and walk into the National Museum of History (Night at the Museum).  Grab some lunch and head back to change for dinner. We had planned to go to Serendipity’s for dinner but nobody wanted to leave super early and the line was 2hrs long so we went to this Italian place across the street. Then we went to Dylan’s Candy Bar and had some ice cream and candies. Charlotte, Lene and I decided that we just wanted to stay in tonight since we had a flight back to Houston and Charlotte was moving into her new place; so I bought some magazines on the way home for us to read and gossip about. 

Bon Voyage New York! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The end of a Roman Holiday

On the drive back to Rome we make a quick stop in Siena for some lunch and to take in some sights. We didn’t venture too far b/c we were only there for an hour or so. I do remember that our meeting point was right next to a mental health facility and I wasn’t too comfortable with that, LOL. This was also the place where we walked into a bathroom to find a toilet and chair! Just in case you need moral support or something??? Then we were back on the bus headed for Rome.
goodbye Rome! goodbye Italy!

We stayed closer the airport this time but drove back into the city for our arrivederci dinner and wine. It was full of fun and laughter. It was also New Years Eve! All of us “younger” people (the 20 somethings) wanted to go back into Rome to a club but since we all had to be at the airport very early to catch our flights and the taxi ride alone was going to cost 50€ a person it was just too much…so we partied in the hotel. And boy did we party :) 

Welcome 2009!

We didn’t get much sleep but we made it to the airport with PLENTY of spare time and I needed some crackers (I wasn't feeling too good) but we couldn’t find any. So Ashley found me some cookies that read ‘digestive’ I was like, “what the hell?” lol but it was the only thing she could find so I had that and some water.
We got on the plane and headed home to Houston! We met her parents at the airport and hit the closet Whataburger and then made the drive back to Spring Branch/Bulverde….ah what memories!

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