Monday, August 7, 2017

Day 3: Orlando, Florida

I almost feel sick that I am in Orlando and not going to any of the Disney World parks.  We are just here to position for our flight home but seriously, who goes to Orlando and skips Disney World?  We are staying so close too . . . the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is really nice and relaxing . . .
It was a hang out day so made the last minute decision to go to the Disney Water Parks.  We bought tickets and thought we could only visit one of the parks but were told we could visit both parks with our tickets on the same day.  So we loaded up and headed to Blizzard Beach first.  Everyone told us this was the park to go to for the best slides.  I wanted to go because of the winter theme of it being an old snow resort.  It was fun and cool but HOT!  We all had fun riding the chair lift to the slides.
Colin did this really steep slide . . . I thought about it but decided I would probably pass out.
Then we zipped down the road to Typhoon Lagoon.  We had been here a few times before and loved it.  Colin loves the wave pool, and I loved the Shark Reef snorkel pool.  Sadly, the Shark Reef is closed so I was bummed but had fun hanging out.
It was unanimous that we all enjoyed Typhoon Lagoon the best overall but loved the Teamboat Springs family ride at Blizzard Beach.  So it is a draw . . . buy the ticket that allows you to go to both parks . . . during the summer they were open from 10am-8pm and we clocked the full day between both parks!  We are so tired, hungry, and sunburned so back to the hotel we go.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 2: more Daytona Beach, Florida

It was an early wake up, because I really wanted to ride bikes on the beach . . . with a fun new t-shirt!
. . . it was a beautiful morning and the beach was more crowded (and humid) than I expected!
It was really nice to ride on the beach and not as difficult as I thought since the sand was packed and damp.  However, the bikes were crappy!  One thing that annoys me about hotels is the Resort Fee which usually covers activities that no one really uses, but with this fee we could have one hour of free bike rental.  It was great but the bikes were awful and about a foot too short since the seat would not move up due to rust.  I did it and had fun so that is all that matters!  I was soooo hungry and thirsty so went for our free breakfast . . .
The kids were still sleeping so woke them up and headed to the beach for a few hours before leaving town!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Day 1: Daytona Beach, Florida

Summer is winding down, but we have one last trip planned with our friends.  This year we picked Daytona Beach for our beach trip.  I had read mixed reviews about the area but have only great things to say.  A few of our highlights . . .
Look at the big balcony . . .
Time to hit the beach . . .
Where did the time go . . . the kids are growing up so quickly!
. . . and so are the adults too!
Let's drink to that!
It was back to the room to freshen up for dinner and a henna tattoo for Colin . . .
. . . and ice cream for me.  I was excited to debut my first fun t-shirt . . .
. . . which is difficult to read since I am no selfie taker but says The Adventure Begins . . . yes, it does!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 14: back to Texas

As with all things in life this too must end.  I am sad but look forward to my next trip across the pond!  Yes, it is already in the works.  I booked this trip using miles.  If there is one thing I have learned about the flight to Europe it is when you fly to Europe you sleep on the plane because you normally arrive in the early morning and when you fly back to the US you nap a little but mainly stay awake.  So, when I booked my flight I booked Business Class for the flight home!  It was a lot of miles but so worth it.  Since I was in a premium cabin, I knew I would be able to use the fast lane for security and that would save some time and not have to arrive super early.  We also stayed at the Hilton Amsterdam Schiphol which is connected to the airport.  I was up and ready to roll by 8:00am from my 10:20am flight.  Got in line to drop my suitcase and headed up stairs to security.  The agent even reminded me that I could use the express lane once upstairs.  And this is when it all went down hill . . . the man would not let me use the fast lane.  He gave me some story that I had to be top tier no matter what cabin my seat was in . . . I knew I was right as my boarding pass even had it listed on there too but no matter what he refused so I got in line with everyone else.  I was not happy but the line was not that bad, and I had nothing but time.  I went right to the gate, and they were starting the secondary security screening so went ahead and did that and we soon boarded the plane.  My seat was 5J . . .
. . . and then a couple was separated so offered to switch to 7A . . .
It didn't really matter to me as long as I had a cool lay flat seat!  It was time to take off . . . Good Bye Amsterdam . . .
Not too long after we took off the food service started . . . appetizers . . . which were yummy!
The main entree . . . steak with potatoes and the grossest looking spinach . . . my steak was well done but the lady across the aisle had one that was a perfect medium rare . . . I was jealous, and she didn't even eat it all!
The dessert was a sundae of vanilla ice cream with hot caramel, hot fudge, whipped cream, and nuts!
The sundae was really good!  And then I started enjoying my seat by laying flat and taking a nap or two and watching movies.  It was SOOO worth every mile (54,000 if you are curious) and thankfully I still have enough miles to do it a few more times round trip.  Colin has enough miles to make the trip with his own miles too!  Before I knew it 8 hours had passed . . . we are served the hour from landing snack . . . BBQ sandwich, fruit, and sea-salt chocolate mousse . . .
It was a quick process once landed . . . since I have Global Entry it literally took 30 seconds at immigration, waited 10 minutes for my suitcase, and 30 seconds at customs.  I was to my car quickly, and ready to tackle the two hour drive home.  Funny thing is my parking at the DFW airport was triple the cost of my flight.  I laughed.

Home is always good but my heart is still in Europe!


Trip Stats
number of flights:  5
total miles traveled:  13,665 miles (plane, train, ferry, bus)    
calories consumed:  too many
photos taken:  495  
miles walked:  68.4 miles
memories:  PRICELESS

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Day 13: Stockholm, Sweden

Today is a sad day.  It is the last full day of my most relaxing vacation ever so going to make the most of the day.  Hard to believe I call a vacation with so much movement relaxing but you know what it really was great.  I only had two things on my to do list today . . . ABBA:  The Museum . . . first we took a water taxi to the area where several museums are located.  It was the first museum that was cash only.  They did not take any other form of payment except credit card which was interesting.  I always worry that my cards will work overseas but no problems.  I also bought a postcard and two bottles of water and had to use a card too.  It was just weird to me but as we entered I became a Dancing Queen with a bounce in my step and constant singing along in my head with the music that was a constant!
Oh my I felt so happy and cheery and while it was very expensive ($30 per person), I am glad we went.  I didn't know a lot about ABBA excepts some of the songs so was good to walk around and read about their early days.  Who doesn't like ABBA?  It was nice outside so decided to just walk to the park and fulfill our second must do of the day . . . Swedish Hot Dog in the park . . .
I know, I know what's so different?  Well the bun is hollowed out and they put the mustard in side the bun and then insert the hot dog.  It was yummy!  Of course we stopped at a park very close to Bakfickan that had the most awesome meal yesterday and was soooo tempted but kept with the plan.  And just like that it was time to head to the Stockholm airport to catch our flight back to Amsterdam so I could pre position myself for my long flight home in the morning . . . it was yet another low cost airline, Norwegian Air . . .
. . . but we made it back and on time so it's all good!  Yes, life is good and look forward to the future!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 12: Stockholm, Sweden

. . . and wake up as we arrive in the Stockholm archipelago.  Hello Sweden . . . almost 8 years to the day I was doing this exact thing . . . arriving on a ferry to Stockholm.  It is the best to stand on deck and watch as you enter the Stockholm archipelago.  It was a bit rainy and dark so photos aren't that great but trust me it is beautiful . . .
Last time we did this we were totally scammed by a taxi taking us to our hotel so this time we were going to be smart.  So smart that both of us totally forgot to get Swedish Krona to pay for the cab fare even though we had mentioned it at least ten times.  Thankfully they took credit card and it was a flat fee unlike last time it was metered and went the longest way possible.  We arrived at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen and no rooms were available which was a total bummer because taking a shower on the ferry was not the best and I just wanted to shower and put on fresh clothes.  We did get to go to the executive lounge for a coffee before we set out to explore a city we both really love.  I wanted to have meatballs and had a list of a couple options.
Let me just say these were the best.  Of course the closest thing I had ever had was from IKEA so there really was no comparison.  Oh and those whipped potatoes were to die for . . . it was like two forks fighting to get a bite.  They were like fluffy whipped cream . . . I should have asked how they made them because they were that good.  So Bakficken was a hit . . . I mean I would eat here again like later tonight if possible.  It was warm out so we hit the ground walking and just soaking it all up on this beautiful day even if it is a bit warm . . .
. . . but you know what I really needed?  Iced Tea . . . Starbucks to the rescue.  While it wasn't Texas Sweet Tea it was good and cold and refreshing.  After a bit of walking we decided it was time to try to check in . . . which really meant I was tired and wanted to take a shower and thankfully our room was ready.  The view was nice . . .
. . . but the shower and bed were the best!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 11: Latvia to Sweden

Before we move to our next country, we have the morning to enjoy Riga so out we went to just walk around the beautiful city center.
We did go to the Riga City Museum which was the first museum we had to actually pay as the rest were all free!  We walked by this place called, Rigensis at least a dozen times and every time I would comment on how yummy the cake looked so today I am stopping!  I ordered some vanilla cake with berries and a cappuccino . . .
Yes, it was good and wish would have stopped yesterday!  One thing we continued to read about was a liquor called black balsam so stopped at a store when I saw a small bottle.  We did not taste it and it sits on my kitchen cabinet waiting to be opened.

We headed back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the ferry terminal . . . yes the ferry.  We will board the Tallink Romantika Ferry from Riga, Latvia to Stockholm Sweden.  I guess I could have named this post crossing the Baltic Sea . . . it sounds so much more exciting.  We did the ferry 8 years ago from Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden and had a blast!  So today going to give it a try from Riga.  The ferry is much smaller than the previous ferry trip but still big.  So here is our inside cabin for two people . . .
Yikes it was super small but workable.  The sofa on the left pulls down to a bed and on the right another bed flips down too.  There is a super small bathroom behind me . . . like so small you could sit on the toilet, brush your teeth, wash your body with the hand held shower nozzle, and then squeegee the floor dry.  No joke!  It was almost comical but worked just fine.  It was up on deck to see Riga fade away . . .
. . .and then to the pub to enjoy some music!  They guy was really fun and once he realized we were from the US and Texas no less he loved me!  No joke it felt as if at times we were part of his show.  It was all fun and had a lot of fun playing along!  So the ferry journey is about 16 hours which means we go to bed somewhere in the middle of the Baltic sea and . . .

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 10: Riga, Latvia

I think I finally have my sleep all worked out!  Today is our only full day to explore Riga, Latvia so we set out to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.  Now, I am no history buff and know very little about Latvia so this was a learning experience for me.  Latvia is a relativity new country.  It had been controlled by USSR, the Nazis and again by the USSR.  It surprised me that there was so much back and forth before gaining full freedom in 1991.  The museum gave a great overview of the history of Latvia . . . the museum is currently in a temporary building due to renovations.  A walk by The Freedom Monument that is always guarded . . .
We walked back towards our hotel and went to the Central Market which was amazing!  
This also happens to be across the street from the bus station we arrived at yesterday.  It was large, beautiful, and very busy.  We walked into one area and you were hit with the smell of dill and garlic so we bought a pickle that was crisp and yummy too.
We did not give the fish a taste though.  It was that time of day again . . . spa was calling.  So off we went back to the hotel.
As you can see it is not near as nice as the previous hotel but relaxing and that is what mattered the most!  We found ourselves back out and about exploring the town and happened on the Powder Tower and inside was the Latvia War Museum.
It was still open so went inside; very nicely done with high quality displays.  The one thing that caught my attention were these wooden shoes . . .
Pretty smart to use them to keep the soldier's feet and boots dry in the snow.  We literally shut down the museum as they started turning off the lights so knew that was our sign to exit.  I enjoyed both museums today but it was a lot of reading, and I get bored easily.  It was back outside, and I could spend hours just walking around . . .
Snack time was calling so found a nice outside place to relax and enjoy the beautiful day.  I found my new favorite drink, espresso martini . . . oh my was it amazing!
. . . and add some fried bread and life was good!
We decided to try another place for dinner but it was packed so just had a beer and cider and returned to the place we had our snack.  Oh yes I ordered another espresso martini and this too . . .
I forget what it was called but had all sorts of grilled meat and vegetables which were good.  We ate it all but the blood sausage.  To celebrate the end of the day and a birthday we grabbed an ice cream and headed back to the hotel.