This past June, my gentleman friend and I planned a very very last minute trip to catch castles and feelings. Okay, the feelings were already there but how can they not grow through a romantic road trip of the most stunning castles, vineyards, and destinations of Germany?
Like all good road trips nothing went to plan because we didn’t really plan anything! Take a look at our tentative destinations we wanted to visit.
What ended up actually happening was that as our day went on we visited destinations at our leisure and just chose what looked the nicest while still heading on our way to the ultimate destination: “The Romantic Road”. The Romantic Road is a tourist trap created after World War Two to drive tourism and income back into the Germany. This road travels from Würzburg, Germany and the heart of the reisling region down south to Neuschwannstein, the castle Disney based Cinderalla’s castle after. Despite being a mainly tourist destination it was a truly stunning region to drive through and explore.
Here is a map of what where drove through and most of places we stopped at, except the grocery stores and tank stations.
Road Trip Itinerary:
Pommern (Mosel), Germany
Pommern (Mosel), Germany
Fortress Marienberg (Würzburg)
Alte Mainbrucke (Würzburg)
Alte Mainmühle (Würzburg)
Landsberg am Lech
Murnau am Staffelsee
On the sixth day we flew back to the states and returned our rented car at the airport. This is just a barebones outline of what our itinerary was. On the google maps you can click through and see what notable places we stopped at and most importantly, keep checking back because this blog will updated with all the details of each stop as the summer winds down! As always all of our excursions were originally captured for youtube so make sure to head over to my channel to watch them all!
Megan is a flight attendant youtuber, expanding to share to the rest of the world what she enjoys; this includes travel but also creating a sustainable lifestyle.
Sometimes a girl just doesn’t want to vlog every single thing. Sometimes a flight attendant’s layover isn’t that glamorous or exciting. Layovers are actually designed not to allow flight attendants to explore their destinations but give them just enough to time to rest before they fly again. Two days ago I flew into Honolulu, Hawaii for the first time and paired with a strict budget and an independent crew it was up to me to figure out to use my time wisely!
Hotel Arrival: 530PM
I had just arrived from Frankfurt, Germany the day before so unlike my trips to Maui before, I stayed in my hotel room to rest. Normally I would watch the sunset on the beach, go to dinner with the crew, or grab a cocktail with a friend. Instead I showered, soaked my feet. Working long haul has made for achy achy feet even on my days off.
Flight attendants are lucky because we are allowed to bring food with us when we travel. I have been semi-successful in eating in a higher fat, lower carb vegan diet and brought along my meals for the next two days.
The view from my hotel was absolutely insane. Being on the 22 floor and watching the sun set over this shockingly urban environment was beautiful! Before this week I had never been to anywhere but Maui in the Hawaiian Islands and Maui is much more suburban than Honolulu; it was a big surprise to see so many skyscrapers leaning into the beach!
The sun wouldn’t rise for another hour and a half and so I decided to get ready (with my man Dr. Phil on in the background) for a morning at the beach. At the recommendation of a fellow stew I decided to grab a Starbucks, since no local roasters were open nearby, and walk to the closest beach to watch the sunrise.
Unfortunately, due to the angle of the beach I missed most of the actual sunrise. I walked to Treasure Island which is a small beach that was surprisingly active for 6AM. The diversity of activity between swimmers, aerobics, paddle boarding, and sleeping was different than my other beach activities. This was more of a locals beach as Waikiki was in walking distance and is the obvious choice for tourists.
Beach Morning: 7AM
Since I am very very pale I prefer to spend the early mornings on the beach when it isn’t so hot and the rays aren’t as powerful. It was such a beautiful way to spend the morning; watching people, nature, and basking in gratitude. There are so many moments that I am frustrated by my circumstances and mornings like these make me feel like it’s all going to be okay.
Over the next few hours I just sipped on my coffee, read my favorite book, and enjoyed my paid vacation!
By 9AM I could feel my skin starting to burn and was also starting to get run over by the influx of tourists and joggers on the beach. It had been about 4 hours since I had eaten breakfast and decided to get something cooling and “healthy” to eat. I got lost multiple times but eventually found froyou at the Ala Moana Mall at Pressed Juicery. Ala Moana is an amazing mall with a good deal of high end shopping and some fantastic food! It was such a tempting place to walk through to try and find some frozen yogurt!
Pool Time: 11AM
By 11 I had gone back to room to change into my “tanning bikini” and enjoy the AC. Originally I had planned to take a nap and go back to the pool in the afternoon, until I realized that the pool was completely covered in shadows by 4PM.
By 12PM I had already given up on the sun. There was not enough coconut oil in the world to prevent myself from getting burned. My last trip to Maui I completely destroyed my skin using a natural sunscreen that took about a month to heal from that I wasn’t willing to re-experience.
Have you heard of Bogota? If you’re anything like me then perhaps you’ve been taught from a young age to be afraid of South America, especially Colombia. After what seemed like months of flying domestic I was desperate to see more of the world and decided to pick up a trip to Bogota. When I told my family and friends I was going to Colombia I was told horror story after horror story of why I should hide in my hotel room and never go back. Instead, I asked my fellow flight attendants, natives of Bogota, and of course Pinterest, what I should do during my 24 hours.
When we arrived in Bogota, we were escorted to our hotel which also had armed guards outside. In those early moments I thought perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to Colombia and had listened to all the worry warts. By morning, those worries were gone and replaced with excitement. For some reason, I was vibing, crushing, “feelin” Bogota to the point that I had to see where the energy was coming from.
We, another crew member and I, ordered an Uber from our hotel to the city center of Bolivar Square for about $5USD. Uber is considered the safest form of transportation in Bogota and is extremely affordable. As we drove by on the highways towards the city we could see how crowded and the bus and trains were; if you can, take Uber.
Each time I go on a layover I make a google map for the city. I use these maps because once you save location into maps, you don’t need data to access them! I once lost data in Beijing and was stuck, lost, and alone with only my blue GPS dot and my google maps to get me back to my hotel! My Bogota map is just the places I found most interesting to go visit or take pictures, for each layover I like to stay in one section of the city to save on costs but to maximize time. Unfortunately, Bogota did not have many recommendations by bloggers, pinners, or instagrammers so it was more of an adventure! We decided to stay in the neighborhoods by Bolivar Square using the square, the Presidents home, and a few beautiful cathedrals to be our city markers in case we got lost.
When we arrived to Bolivar Square there was an art exhibit explaining the partnership between Dutch artists and Colombia. This is a vital scene in the geopolitical history of Colombia. In this area you can see the Presidents house but also enjoy the multitude of museums from history of gold to Colombian military. We chose to just explore the city but in this little corner there is much to do and see!
Nearby is a university which is a great meeting place to get coffee at Juan Valdez (a better tasting version of Starbucks), a book store, restaurants, and a convenient ATM. The exchange rate from USD is very generous and while many places accepted card; using cash is my favorite way to spend money on a layover. It’s far easier to budget and universally accepted especially when you want to purchase from local artisans. Unlike many layovers I’ve had in the past where I try to learn about local culture and history, we explored the city on the look out for handicrafts. Along the alleyways you’ll find tons of indigenous artisans making and selling jewelry, paintings, shoes, etc. Most don’t speak much English so we took advantage of google translate this trip. Beware though, as most tried to sell to us at an outrageous markup price point even compared to what the item would cost in the USA. To me money is something meant to be given spread to help others so I don’t have trouble spending a bit more but if you do, haggle with politeness and respect that each and every person deserves.
During the daytime there is nothing to fear in Bogota that you wouldn’t fear in any other city. There are panhandlers, street sellers, protesters, etc. Honestly, it felt safer than downtown Seattle! The highlight of this trip for me was actually just wandering around the back alleys which may be my favorite alleyways of any country. They are bright, colorful, and vibrant with history.
Turns out I didn’t do much this layover except walk around the city center, which I loved, but doesn’t make for the best blog post. I plan to be back in Bogota next month with a clear plan and focus to help others enjoy this beautiful city as much I do!
This month has been crazy but the worst has been the planning for my German friends to come visit! They booked their trip to Chicago to visit me exactly one day before my company transferred me to Dallas. What was originally a trip to visit my home turned into a big ordeal as we all had to book hotels and book additional flights. I was incredibly nervous since it has been years since I have seen my friends but also because paying to fly to the US is no small trip. They are spending two weeks touring the American Northeast and the first stop was me!
After two days of Pinterest, blogs, and manic Google maps lists I finally settled on an itinerary for our small group! It should be noted that as a former resident and social media obsessive I planned things that were a bit “local” and would provide stunning photos.
Day 1: Afternoon Arrival:
3pm Transportation: the L “CTA trains”
Cost: $5 to leave airport
I flew in from Dallas around 1:30pm and arranged and planned all transportation to and from the hotel. There is nothing that gives me more panic, other than an empty bank account, is getting lost when I have to lead others! At this time the train between terminals at O’Hare is being renovated; that means busses from Terminal 5 to all other terminals was required and added about 30min to our travel plans. From Terminal 5, International Arrivals, to downtown Chicago took about 1 hour and 30 minutes and cost $5 each. My friends actually took advantage of the 3 day pass which you can purchase at the airport (and at any CTA station) for $20.
Hotel: Congress Hotel
It’s central location made it a great choice for visitors wanting to stay in the city. One of the oldest hotels in the city it has a lot of vintage charm including plush carpet, ornate decor, and small rooms.
This is one of many downtown hostels and is located close to the Magic Mile and heart of downtown shopping and restaurants. I’ll make another post in depth but for a bed in a 4 girl room cost $50 a night, came with breakfast and lots of quirk. To me it a perfect mix of old and new Chicago vibes.
Evening Dinner: Lou Malnatis
Activity: Magic Mile and River Walk
After airplane and airport food for 16 hours I knew that the first stop would have to be food. When in Chicago you have to have a Chicago dog or deep dish pizza. Coming from a land with epic sausage, I felt pizza was truly a more iconic start to Chicago (both had no idea what deep dish was so perhaps not as iconic to non-Americans). Lou’s was my choice purely because location. To a Chicago native this might sound sacrilegious but I have no deep dish preference so Lou’s, Giodarnos, or somewhere else. When they saw the pizza Fabian said, “Isn’t this a normal American pizza?”. In Germany the pizzas are extremely thin compared to the US. Their tourist rating was, 4 stars. My friends found it delicious and typically American, what more could you want when you come to the US?
After so much pizza we chose to walk it off. They are the real champs because if it had been me, I would have gone to bed then! We took the blue line up to the start of the Magic Mile to see downtown Chicago by night. It was stunning. With empty streets and night lights all of us can say that it was a superior experience compared to daytime. By night we were able to take some great pictures without too much tourist interference and we’re also able to communicate clearly because noise levels were light. We ended walking about 2 miles from the water tower to the hotel in a perfectly lovely summer evening. On my return trip I saw some stereotypes of my former home as young men waited outside my train station to hassle others and tons of homeless people getting ready to sleep for the night. The police were even called to remove someone from my train in the 4 stops it took from their hotel to my hostel. That being said, all of the negatives were truly harmless and I never felt unsafe.
Bongo Room : 9AM brunch
After living in Chicago and walking around Wicker Park for almost 2 years I still had not had brunch in the Bongo Room. I am game for anything tiki and since this trip was for my friends to see the city but also my lifestyle I had to take them to one of the top 10 brunch spots in the city.
Wicker Park is also one of the coolest places to in Chicago if you’re into the hipster lifestyle. There are quirky bars, artisanal icecreams, and bookstores that sell cocktails here. If you want quirk, this is the easiest place to find your niche. After a huge brunch and maybe 10 cups of coffee (free refills are an amazing thing about American diners) I took them on a walk throughout the neighborhood. Unfortunately, my friends were being very budget conscious and decided not to enter any shops and they were more in the mood to run through the city to see it all! In turn I took them through a walk starting in Wicker Park and north to the Chicago Mural. On this walk there is tons of fantastic street art which makes it the perfect walk for your social media conscious friends.
Make sure to get here early as it’s actually a parking lot! We were very fortunate that the only car parked there left as soon as we arrived. It was actually my first time to see this mural up close and is definitely a must have photo for those who probably won’t be returning to the city any time soon.
Lincoln Park Zoo:
I am in general against zoos but the Lincoln Park Zoo is free and is actually a perfect location to see some natural beauty of Chicago. From the Chicago Mural, I ordered us an uber (approx $10) to head over to Lincoln Park Zoo. We could have taken public transportation but I believe it was a 3 transfer trip and over an hour and uber was just more efficient. The drive there you can see typical Chicago architecture in the residential areas which my tourists thoroughly enjoyed as it is a very American look.
Lincoln Park Zoo is surrounded by statues, tons of park land, walking trails and nature which means it’s a great destination to get some fresh air. Personally, I prefer going to the arboretum which I believe is a free but donations requested. My friends decided to steamroll through the zoo to get to the other side which is what we were actually there for. At the opposite side of the zoo is a view of the city which may be my favorite view of anywhere.
After a mini photoshoot, it was a bit of walk through the park towards the beach. That’s right Chicago has beaches! Lake Michigan is a highlight for locals and tourists a like as it is huge, sandy, and provides tons of family friendly activities. Personally, I was raised not to trust freshwater bodies but my friends adored a beach walk and left with them with a positive impression of the city.
Top 10 National Starbucks:
By mid-afternoon we hadn’t eaten anything and had walked about 5 miles. Luckily, the whole city is very connected and from the beach is was a direct walk to the Magic Mile and to whatever we wanted to see in the city. At this point I gave my friends a choice of the Signature Room on 95th or Starbucks. The Signature Room is known for having the best view of the city in the women’s restrooms! For budgetary reasons we chose to head towards Starbucks in Uniqlo because it is ranked as one of the most beautiful Starbucks in the nation. Personally the view and décor of this Starbucks is one my favorites in the world.
Magic Mile + Millennium Park:
After a short coffee break and once again enjoying the American spirit of free refills we headed back out to go shopping. As with anywhere in the world, American goods are cheaper here stateside, so we took advantage of a few shops in the neighborhood. We took the same walk as the night before up the Magic Mile towards Millennium Park. In the daytime the Magic Mile was packed and even had protesters which lead my friends to prefer it at night time than day.
Millennium Park is a must see for any tourist. It has the iconic bean, outdoor eateries, an outdoor amphitheater, museums, etc. This park could be used as a quick see all if you don’t want to explore the harder to find spots in the city.
Unfortunately at this time one of my friends wasn’t feeling well so despite many evening plans we decided to call it quits after walking to Buckingham Fountain. Oddly enough, Buckingham Fountain was on my friends “must see” list and I had never heard of it; it was apparently in an old American sitcom and left a big impression. At Buckingham Fountain it is clear why Chicago is seen as an architectural wonder!
Before I headed back to my hostel we headed to Epic Burger. This burger joint is not any “must see lists” but on google maps it was top rated in the neighborhood. I cannot recommend this enough! Epic Burger is a very simple burger joint where you can literally point at the menu (with pictures) to create your dream burger. I enjoyed a Beyond Meat burger (VEGAN) and fries and it was the general conclusion that is a perfect American meal.
Day 3: Airport
The very last night in Chicago I spent hours on the phone trying to rebook my friends on American because of the hurricane going through Charlotte which would have left my friends trapped in a foreign city in the middle of a hurricane. Luckily I was able to get the rebooked to a direct flight to DC, their next destination.
The trip to O’hare cost $2.50 to O’hare and took about an hour with one transfer from Red to Blue line from the Congress Hotel. The blue line ends at O’hare which is efficient and straightforward when going to and from the airport. We finished with breakfasts from the Great American Bagel Shop which is my top cheap breakfast choice at the airport other than Burrito Beach. Stick with Dunkin’ for quick coffee!
I’d like to finish this blog with links to my google maps I used to list my favorite ideas. I have raved over and over again how vital google maps are to my travels and I won’t stop. The two lists I used were “Chicago Visit” and “Chicago Murals” to try and meet any needs that might need to be met.
Here is a list of what didn’t make the cut on my itinerary and why:
Signature Room on 95th – This was denied due to dress code, cost, and the view being in the ladies room.
BomboBar – This decadent desert spot was determined to be too much sweets.
Palmer House – Has the original brownie of the USA but, once again, too much sweets.
None of my murals…. – They don’t really do social media so cool mural shots weren’t even on my friends radars!
There quite a few other places that were ignored only because we walked most of the city and they weren’t in direct route with the other must see places.
It’s fall which means winter is coming to Canada! Like many, I just adore Canada in the winter; images of Anne of Green Gables, peaceful isolation amongst falling snow, and cozy cuddling in front of the fire. So enthralled with this image I planned a romantic vacation through Calgary and then to Banff. Though the romance didn’t last I still list it as one of my favorite vacations I’ve been to. This blog will go over what we planned, how it went, and how we attempted to stay on a tight budget!
We flew from Chicago to Dallas then to Calgary. There are two options when flying to Banff: Vancouver (YVR) or Calgary (YYC). Since I had airline passes, we chose the long route to Calgary through Dallas. That being said tickets to Calgary are cheaper in the winter because winter is actually off season for Banff!
Day 1: Arrive into Calgary
Day 2: Rent car and drive to Banff
Day 3: Banff Sightseeing
Day 4: Banff Sightseeing
Day 5: Drive to Calgary + Fly Home
On our first day we chose to stay the night in Calgary due to the timing of flights and being tired. After 8 hours of flying, which my guy wasn’t used to, a night in an airbnb for the night was perfect. We rented a 1 bedroom apartment right on the river and just walked around the city for a bit. To save on costs we bought most of our food for the trip at the grocery store and didn’t buy anything that required a microwave.
The rental car and our hotel stays in Banff were the biggest costs because even though the car and hotel room itself was budget friendly, we used airline discounts, in Canada the “insurance” or “down payment” in the event of an accident was $100 per night on the room and almost $300 for the car. This was a huge budgetary surprise that actually totaled our spending for the rest of the vacation.
Don’t be surprised, if you have an extra $500 for deposits for your stay.
The drive to Banff from Calgary was gorgeous and nothing could have prepared us for the snowcapped mountains and lazy winding roads.
We stayed at the Inns of Banff which was a cozy “cottage” style motel that ran closer to hostel than hotel. Despite being a budget hotel the view from our room was spectacular! Once you are in Banff, everything is no more than an hour by car away. If you chose to take a shuttle from the airport to Banff, no worries! There is very easy access to public transportation once you are in this cute ski town. Many activities also include a pick-up and drop-off service for those staying in the resort areas.
Mt. Norquay Lookout
Banff Surprise Corner
Fairmont Springs + Lake Louise
Here are some other great photo spots we didn’t get to!
Cave and Basin Historic Site
Bow Falls View Point
Vermillion Lakes View Point
Of course throughout our drive through Alberta we stopped and took tons of photos and had romantic pauses in the snow. Out of respect for our relationship being done, I won’t post any of our pictures together but let me tell you they are stunning, so bring your tripod!
There are few foods that are must haves in Canada, one is poutine which you can find multiple shops of in the main streets of Banff. For our romantic night out we ate at the Saltlik, a typical upscale steak eatery. Finally Canadian desert, beaver tails! Beaver tails are like the American style elephant ears of every state fair. These long fried pieces of dough are covered in your choice of topping from nutella to maple butter (my choice). It was a perfect finish to a very Canadian trip!
Overall if you’re looking for a budget friendly winter vacation Banff makes it possible! Just make sure to pre-book all adventures and know what your deposits are in advance. Since it took us by surprise here are few activities we didn’t do but are still budget friendly!
Sledding on Mt. Norquay
Park Distillery Tour
Banff Upper Hot Springs (the gondola is not budget friendly though iconic)