February 21, 2018

My Travel ABC’s

Before Thanksgiving I received an invitation from Katherina  of 1000 Miles Highway to participate in the A to Z survey about travel called The ABC of Travel!

Thanks Katherina for including me!

Now, European Travelista’s ABC’s of Travel.

A: Age you went on your first international trip: At 23 I made my first international trip to Europe which was also my first solo trip and is still my favorite!

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: The best foreign beer I’ve had was at Stiegl Keller in Salzburg.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure why it is my favorite but I think it might have something to do with the amazing views of Salzburg or the fantastic meal I enjoyed. Whatever the reason, it was memorable!Schnitzel at Klosterbrau Bamberg Germany

C: Cuisine (favorite): Mexican Food!  I love it spicy and could eat it for every meal.  While in Europe, my favorite cuisine would have to be German.  Can’t get enough of schnitzel, spatzle, sausage and sauerkraut or goulash soup 🙂

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: Bavaria Germany holds a special place in my heart!  This was my first stop on my first trip and Bavaria just feels so comfy to me.  I can’t seem to get enough of the mountains and tiny Bavarian villages. My least favorite would have to be Budapest which just left me feeling Bleh!  Although I am going to give it another try.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: This summer I had the unexpected opportunity to witness Lederhosen clad goat herders bringing the goats back to the barn! An event I thought only lived on in books.

F: Favorite mode of transportation: Ooh that’s hard.  I actually like all modes of transportation and have used them at different times.  Trains, buses, cars are all amazing and offer different perspectives.  I guess my favorite mode is via an airplane because when I get on an airplane it means I’m going somewhere!

G: Greatest feeling while traveling: The feeling of awe when seeing amazing scenery, experiencing the peace and serenity of mountains, flower bedecked houses or realizing how old the city or building really is.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: Ixtapa, Mexico during July!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Once we were eating at a café in Paris and we had a great waiter.  He would joke with us (yes it was Paris France) and when we asked what type of Dijon mustard they had on the table he gave us a bottle!  It’s the little things that make a difference to me.

J: Journey that took the longest: Driving through Austria and Switzerland during my 2 week honeymoon!

Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

In Front of Kathe Wohlfahrt Rothenburg Germany

K: Keepsake from your travels: I love buying Christmas ornaments from any where I travel because I get to relive my travels while decorating the tree with my family!

L: Let-down sight, why and where: The Terror Museum in Budapest. This museum left me wanting more. . . much more.  Upon entering you hear intimidating music, see an old Soviet tank and busts of some of the more notorious characters of the soviet period in Budapest.  I was expecting many more items of torture and not the narration in Hungarian I got.  The museum was really very stark without many exhibits of actual devices of terror.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: My first trip to Europe in 1981 filled me with a love of Europe that has lasted to this day!  I love traveling anywhere and am the one that does all the research and planning for trips no matter where we are going.

View from room at Palace Hotel Lucerne Switzerland

View from Palace Hotel

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: My personal budget doesn’t include luxury hotels very often but I do enjoy luxury when I get it.  The nicest hotel I have ever stayed in would have to be the Palace Hotel in Lucerne Switzerland!  I had a corner suite which had amazing views of the lake and mountains surrounding this lovely city.  My next choice would have to be the Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California. I love old historic hotels and my room in the old portion of this beauty was perfect.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: I’m not sure I have an obsession but would have to say amazing views usually from or of mountains!

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? Oh if only they consistently stamped my passport!  Many places in Europe including London, Paris, Biarritz, Toulouse, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Zurich and Copenhagen.  Add in Mexico and Tahiti.

Biarritz Seaview France


Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: The Alligator Farm in Buena Park, California.  I loved this spot as a child since those alligators were really scary but alligators right across the street from Knots Berry Farm?!!

R: Recommended sight, event or experience: Spend a day in Auvers sur Oise (outside Paris) reliving Van Gogh’s last days, then visit the Orsay museum to view his art work!  This will make an art lover out of anyone!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: Local food, but not at trendy fashionable restaurants, including beer, wine or local cocktail!

T: Touristy thing you’ve done: A tour including the Changing of the Guard in London.  Couldn’t see a thing but I went back early in April and was able to visit on my own and see the entire procession without any one in my way!

U: Unforgettable travel memory: Visiting Zermatt Switzerland for the first time!  This charming village took my breath away.  Explore the village and mountains during the day and then enjoy an exquisite meal of fondue that night.  It is so warm and comfy!

V: Visas, how many and for where? To date, I haven’t need any visas 🙁

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where? So I don’t remember what type of wine we had  but my husband and I had some great Italian red wine in Stresa overlooking Lago Maggiore!

Hohenschwangau Bavarian Castle

View from Hohenschwangau

X: eXcellent view and from where?: Ooh there are a lot of great vantage points.  How about the amazing views from Neuschwanstein castle or the top of Mt. Pilatus?  Or the view of Paris after climbing the stairs at Notre Dame!  Or locally, the view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Y: Years spent traveling?: I have traveled my entire life if you include some vacations.  Unfortunately, my life has not afforded me the opportunity to spend years abroad . . . yet.  That is on the bucket list!

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: I am not a zealous sport fan but my first ice hockey game was very memorable.  My friend got tickets about 4 rows from the glass which makes for an exceptional game.  I didn’t know I had so much testosterone in me!


Well that’s my ABC’s, I would love to read the ABC’s of these fine bloggers:

Inside Journeys
Devour the World
Adventures with Ben
A View to a Thrill

5 things to do in London for less than £5

As I am getting back in the groove after a long week off for Thanksgiving, I thought we should enjoy an awesome guest post about visiting London on a budget.  Enjoy and hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Visiting London can really pull on the purse strings – lots of the famous tourist attractions are very expensive and, if you’re on a budget, it can seem impossible to stick to it! Thankfully we’ve come up with a list of great things for the thrifty traveler to do in London, all for less than five pounds…

Test your brain at a museum

Visiting one of London’s world-famous museums may already be on the top of your list – so you’ll be glad to know that it’s actually the cheapest suggestion here! Many galleries and museums in the UK are ‘not for profit organisations’, which means that they’re absolutely free to visit. Famous attractions include the real life Egyptian mummies at the British Museum and a 26 meter dinosaur at the Natural History Museum. Other smaller, less well known museums, are devoted to everything from design to dentistry – and with over 240 to visit in the capital, there’s sure to be something to suit everyone.

Kings Library British Museum London England

Kings Library by Mujtaba Chohan

Fill up at a farmers market

Borough Market has been trading since 1014, so visiting the famous food stalls near London Bridge isn’t just about filling up on tasty treats -it’s also about experiencing a bit of London’s culinary history. Eating out in London can be very expensive, but farmers markets are a great place to track down good quality traditional British cuisine. You should be able to find a chunky meat pie for under a fiver!

Borough Market London England

Borough Market by Magnus D, on Flickr

Take in some Shakespeare

The Globe was a fantastically ambitious project- to replicate the original Elizabethan theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, by creating an identical structure, built exactly as they would have built it back then. The resulting fully-functional theatre, not only allows people to step inside and experience a piece of London’s history, but also brings the work of one of the most famous playwrights back to life. Taking a tour of the Globe costs £12.50 but, in the summer, you can get standing room at a performance for just five pounds. So, if you can cope with standing up for two hours or more, you can watch some of the best Shakespearean actors for next to nothing – all whilst feeling as though you are actually part of the original Elizabethan audience!

Hop on the back of a Routemaster

Is there anything more ‘London’ than a red, double Decker bus? Seen in countless films, they are true icons of London, along with big tourist attractions like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Very few of the original 1960’s buses survive, however the ‘heritage routes’, otherwise known as London Bus Routes 9 and 15, still use an original red Routemaster. You can hop on the open back of the bus, just like in the movies, and enjoy a very rickety ride past icons like St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square and The Royal Albert Hall. At just £2.20 per journey, it’s a much cheaper alternative to a £25 guided coach tour.

The Routemaster 9 to Aldwych London England

The Routemaster 9 by zawtowers, on Flickr

Boat along the Thames

The Thames River is the second longest river in the UK and, aside from its cultural and historical significance, it’s also a pretty cool way to get around. If you’ve bought a travel card for your duration in the city, you can travel via the Thames Clipper for just £3.70 – and pass by the London Eye, Tower of London, and under Tower Bridge. If you want to incorporate the river into some of your cultural sight-seeing, then traveling from the Tate art gallery to the Tate Modern art gallery by boat costs a mere £5.


Share your favorite ‘budget’ thing to do while in London?


Amy Heritage writes about short break destinations for idealshortbreaks.co.uk which is dedicated to news and ideas for short break holidays!

Thanksgiving in Holland?

This week the US will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a day spent with family and friends celebrating all we are thankful for.

The first Thanksgiving actually combined both European and Native American traditions of celebrating the good harvest. It was this tradition that Pilgrims brought with them to their new land but it was not only the good harvest they celebrated on the first Thanksgiving.  They also were celebrating their safe voyage and peace in their new country.

There are quite a few Thanksgiving celebrations held in Europe but I found one that has special ties to the Pilgrims and where you can still enjoy a celebration of Thanksgiving!

Leiden harbour Holland

Leiden harbour by Qiou87, on Flickr

A village about 25 miles from Amsterdam was home to many of the Pilgrims for a few years before they set sail for what is now the US.  Leiden Holland is where many of the Pilgrims who came to the New World were from and to this day there is a non-denominational service held in Pieterskerk the morning of the US Thanksgiving commemorating the Pilgrims and the role Leiden played in their lives.

East Gate in Lieden Holland by Erik Zachte

East Gate by Erik Zachte

The Pilgrims, or Separatists as they were known back in the early 1600’s, fled England for religious freedom.  They settled in Leiden before returning to England and boarding the Mayflower for America.  It is said that some of the values the Pilgrims cherished, free-market capitalism, civil marriage and separation of church and state, came from their time in Holland.

Rhine in Leiden Holland

Rhine in Leiden by Erik Zachte

Located near the mouth of the Rhine River, Leiden is full of canals, old wooden bridges, windmills, churches, and many museums.  It is also the birthplace of Rembrandt!  Situated in the middle of beautiful meadows and little villages, Leiden is also a great place to rent a bike for a ride among the famous flower fields.

Windmill Museum in Leiden Holland

Windmill in Leiden by Erik Zachte

Among the museums in this University town are the National Museum of Antiquities, National Museum of Ethnology and the National History Museum whose collection includes bones from a Dodo.  The American Pilgrim Museum may be of interest to those from the US as it is dedicated to the Pilgrims.  Set in a house built from 1365-1370, it is furnished in the style that was common to the Pilgrim era.

West Gate Leiden Holland by Erik Zachte

West Gate by Erik Zachte

Pieterskerk, named after the patron saint of the city, was built in the late-Gothic style and is associated with the Pilgrim father’s.  Some of the pilgrims are buried here and there is an exhibition on the Pilgrims from Leiden.

Yes this village has a link to the US and I am sure it would be a great place to celebrate Thanksgiving if you can not be at home. But I think it has a lot to offer at other times of year too!


What do you think; would you enjoy spending Thanksgiving in Leiden?

Happy Thanksgiving to you all where ever you are in the world!!!

Nagy: A Hungarian Hero in Budapest

There are a lot of statues in Budapest.  One day I was roaming around and stumbled upon this very unique statue.

Even though I didn’t know who it was, I was really drawn to it. The setting is actually very beautiful and I was drawn to the look on his face.

This is Imre Nagy who was Prime Minister of Hungary twice.  Even though he was a communist he promoted a “new course” in socialism which caused him to fall out of favor with the Russians.  They fired him but he was put in place again by public demand during the 1956 revolt against Soviet imposed policies.Imre Nagy statue in Budapest Hungary

His reformist ideas meant that his new government was not supported by the Russians and when the revolt failed, Nagy was captured and eventually executed for treason.

Despite his political agreement with Communism, his role in the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 brought him admiration among  Hungarians and he died a martyr.

His name was not allowed to be uttered after the revolt but once the communists were expelled, he was buried as a hero and this statue was built in 1996.

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.
Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.



Worlds 2nd Largest Tomb is in Innsbruck!

If you were of nobility how would you design your memorial? Would you opt for something regal but understated?  A beautiful place where people could come and remember you surrounded by beautiful gardens?  Or would you opt for a grand tomb in the center of a magnificent church surrounded by larger than life statues of your family members and ancestors?

Hofkirche Innsbruck Austria

from wikimedia

Well if you were Maximilian I of Innsbruck your tomb you be the grand scale of the last option.  In actuality, he didn’t make this decision but his Grandson Ferdinand I did.

Statue Hofkirche Innsbruck AustriaStatue Hofkirche Innsbruck Austria











Ferdinand designed and had built what is today the 2nd largest tomb in the world (the first being in Xian) which is located in the Hofkirche (Court Church) in Innsbruck.

Marble relief on tomb in Hofkirche Innsbruck Austria

from wikimedia

The highlight of the Gothic church is the giant marble tomb of Emperor Maximilian.  The tomb contains 24 marble reliefs depicting the Emperor’s accomplishments.

Hofkirche with embellishments Innsbruck Austria

from wikimedia

Embellishments were added in 1584 and include the wrought iron grille surrounding the tomb plus the kneeling emperor and the four virtues adorning the top.

Statues Hofkirche Innsbruck AustriaStatue Hofkirche Innsbruck Austria










Surrounding the marble tomb are 28 larger than life statues of Maximilian’s relatives including legendary King Arthur.Statue of King Arthur Hofkirche Innsbruck Austria

Alas, after all the expense and effort Maximilian’s remains were never moved here.  They are still in their original burial site in Wiener Neustadt, which is south of Vienna.


So what type of memorial do you want?

European Villages Discovered – Giethoorn

In European Villages Discovered-Kuressaare we discovered a small but amazing village in Estonia.  I thought it was time to discover another gem Europe has to offer us.

Today’s excursion takes us to the northwest portion of Holland where we encounter an extremely lovely village that only has canals for roads.

Beautiful and Picturesque Giethoorn Holland

Giethoorn by --{@rwen, on Flickr

There are many reasons to visit Holland – Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam or the cheese and tulips are just a few of the joys waiting for you.  Venturing out from these more well known reasons to visit Holland is a small village that is charming, picturesque and waiting for you to discover it!

House along Canal in Giethoorn Holland

Giethoorn House by Bj.schoenmakers

Sitting about an hour from Amsterdam lies Giethoorn. Known as the “Venice of the Netherlands”, Giethoorn has over 5 miles of canals running through the little village of approximately 2,600 people.

Punts lining the Canal in Giethoorn Holland

Punters by Michel Ehrenhard

Founded by fugitives from the Mediterranean region in 1230, today there are no roads within this old villageWhere did the canals come from?  Peat.

Peat was a big commodity of centuries past and it was the digging of the peat that formed the many small lakes in the area.  The canals were made to transport the peat out to market.

Lovely Thatched Roof House in Giethoorn Holland

Lovely Thatched Roof House by Huji

Today you can enjoy the wonderful canals either by taking a guided canal tour, renting your own “whisper boat” or canoe, or by walking the many paths sprinkled through the village and along the canals.

Bridge over Canal in Giethoorn Holland

Bridge of Giethoorn by CrazyPhunk

Floating the canals will introduce you to the many wooden bridges spanning the canals and the 18th & 19th century thatched roofed houses hiding between the trees. Many of the homes are only reachable via the canals or by crossing one of the many bridges dotting the village.  How cool would it be to arrive home in this manner?

I think this would be one of the most relaxing and wonderful ways to spend a few hours or a day.  Picnic anyone?

Giethoorn Holland

giethoorn by sara_vh, on Flickr

Geithoorn is a wonderful little village that is full of unparalleled beauty. The beautiful and peaceful atmosphere of this village is  calling me to visit.

Does it call you?  Do you have a favorite small European village to share?

Armored Schloss Ambras

Sitting a little above Innsbruck is Schloss Ambras, one of the historic sights in Innsbruck that is best known for its Renaissance art collection and gallery full of Hapsburg family portraits.

Austrian history is deeply seated with the Hapsburg Empire. Sitting on the land now occupied by Ambras was a medieval fortress.  Upon being named ruler of Tirol, Ferdinand had the fortress renovated to a Renaissance castle for his commoner wife, Philippine Welser.  Archduke Ferdinand II used the castle as his residence from 1563-1595.

Today Schloss Ambras is a very popular sight when visiting Innsbruck.  One afternoon, with my Innsbruck Card in hand, I took the bus to visit the castle. What I found were beautiful grounds, hiking trails, magnificent art and stunning Hapsburg portraits.

But my favorite was the collection of armor Ferdinand amassed.Armored Army Schloss Ambras Innsbruck AustriaArmored riders Schloss Ambras Innsbruck AustriaArmor and Weapons Schloss Ambras Innsbruck AustriaJousting Schloss Ambras Innsbruck Austria

These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday!  For more great pictures,make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

The Bizarre World of Swarovski

Swarovski Kristallwelten is a place you just have to see to believe!

Before leaving for Europe, I knew I wanted to visit Swarovski Kristallwelten while in Innsbruck Austria.

I’ll admit I am a huge fan of jewels and have spent a fair amount of time visiting the crown jewels in more than one city! So it was with great anticipation that I set out to discover more about crystal making and to feast my eyes on some beautiful gems! I was expecting a display much like the gems section of the National History Museum in Washington DC or the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London or even the Bavarian Crown Jewels housed in the Treasury of the Residenz in Munich Germany .

Crown from India by googlisti, on Flickr

Boy was I wrong!

On my first day, I hopped on the bus to the Crystal World in Wattens, which is about a 20 minute ride from Innsbruck.

The grounds of the Swarovski Kristallwelten are beautiful and include a very nice park with playground equipment for children plus awesome views.  Upon arriving you will be greeted by a giant complete with crystal eyes and a waterfall flowing out its mouth.Giant at Swarovski Innsbruck Austria

Swarovski Crystal World is free with the Innsbruck Card, so I was able to pass through the turnstiles entering the giant’s world and embark on my journey through the universe of crystals.

Instead of a grand display I found flying mannequins, strange art, legs suspended from a device while tap dancing and a mechanical theater hosting a very strange fashion show. I actually felt that I was in the middle of a Tim Burton movie! The displays and art were created or inspired by artists including Brian Eno and Andy Warhol, which should have been my first hint that this was notgoing to be what I was expecting.

Cone head dress Swarovski Innsbruck Austria











To be fair, not all of the sculptures, jewelry, dresses and other crystal inspired exhibitions were strange.  Some were actually quite beautiful.Octopus Swarovski Innsbruck AustriaBeautiful Horse Swarovski Innsbruck AustriaChandelier Swarovski Innsbruck Austria











What you will find at Swarovski Kirstallwelten is a mixture of art, music and magic that is supposed to trigger all your senses.  If you like modern art, this may be the place for you.  To me it was just bizarre.


Is Swarovski Kristallwelten a place you would like to visit?

Innsbruck You Captivated Me!

In Cities that leaves you Bleh, I told you about my impression of Budapest.  I thought it was time I told you about a city that captivated me. . . Innsbruck!

What can I tell you about Innsbruck? It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It feels peaceful.  It feels comfortable.  It is surrounded by magnificent mountains.  It is full of tradition. It has culture. It has history.  It felt like home.

In short, I loved it!

Upon arriving in Innsbruck I felt like I had arrived at place I didn’t want to leave.

Mountain above Innsbruck Austria with snow

Mountains above Innsbruck

The beauty of Innsbruck starts with the mountains that ring this glorious city. Whether you are in the city or up on the mountain, every way you look is glistening with church spires, domes, beautifully painted houses and crooked narrow streets begging you to stroll.Innsbruck Austria in Altstadt

Innsbruck’s story back to medieval times and includes the dominant Hapsburg Empire. Emperor Maximillian I adored Innsbruck and it was the Hapsburg’s capital of Tirol.  Everywhere you look you can find remnants of the Hapsburgs from the Hofkirche, Goldenes Dachl, Hofberg (Imperial Palace) to Schloss Ambras.   The medieval center, the Altstadt, is perfect for strolling the winding narrow cobblestoned streets. If the boutiques don’t draw you in, the wonderful smelling bakeries or coffee shops certainly will!

Innsbruck Austria Arch

Innsbruck by Olivier Bruchez, on Flickr

This wonderful Austrian city also has its fair share of cultural activities including performing arts, orchestra, an opera house, art galleries and many museums.Innsbruck Austria view across River Inn

Innsbruck offers a city and location that is for those that enjoy the outdoors! Whether you like bike riding or mountain bike riding, walking or mountain climbing, rivers or lakes, driving trips or train trips, it is all waiting for you in Innsbruck. Oh and don’t forget about the multitude of winter activities in the area! Innsbruck did host the winter Olympics twice!  There is truly something for everyone all year round.

As I traveled around the city and to its outskirts I knew I would come back and explore in depth the city and  surroundings.  Somehow it fit like a glove.  This was a place I could stay. . . I think I could live here (as long as this California girl could get through the winter!).


Tell me about a city you immediately fell in love with.

Musical Mirabell Gardens

Traveling through Europe I am always amazed at the abundance of spectacular gardens there are to wander.  They are a great place to rest for a bit or just wander aimlessly admiring the beautiful flowers and plants.Mirabell Gardens with view of Hohensalzburg Salzburg

It is hard to find a garden that can beat Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg.Hedges in Mirabell Gardens Salzburg Austria

This beautiful and peaceful oasis is tucked between Mirabell Palace and Mozarteum University and is home to beautiful flower beds, hedges, fountains and statues that are sprinkled throughout the garden.  The aisles and arbors are great for strolling or finding a bit respite from the sun!Statues in Mirabell Gardens Salzburg Austria

Easily accessible from the Altstadt, Mirabell Gardens offers great views of Hohensalzburg Fortress off in the distance.Tree in Mirabell Gardens Salzburg Austria

And for you Sound of Music fans, yes this is also a spot where Maria and the children frolicked and sang! The afternoon I was wandering Mirabell, I was lucky to run into a local youth band playing. Take a listen to this short video – they were actually very good!

What is your favorite Garden?


For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.
Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.