Destination California: Santa Monica & Palm Springs

This weekend's post features our latest vacation adventures! Roger and I have always dreamed of driving the California coast in a convertible together. We envisioned warm sun and palm trees and strong margaritas by the pool. Our sights were set on crossing this destination off our bucket list for a while; however, our timeline moved up when we found out some life-changing news: We're having a baby!! We are over-the-moon in love with baby already and I can happily say that our golden state getaway was everything we hoped it would be... minus the margaritas. After three straight months of morning sickness (such a misnomer - more like all-day sickness!) and winter hibernation, I couldn't wait to get some sunshine on my growing belly. This trip was extra special for us because we celebrated our birthdays together in a brand new place (only two days apart!) and we announced our pregnancy news to the world. Where we stayed: - Wyndham Santa Monica (right by the ocean!) - Hard Rock Palm Springs What we drove: - the new Mustang convertible What we explored: - Santa Monica Pier - Third Street Promenade - Mulholland Drive & Hollywood sign - L.A. Farmer's Market - Hollywood Boulevard - Zuma Beach, Malibu - Griffith Observatory - Big Bear Lake - Cabazon Dinosaurs - Palm Springs Tramway What we ate: - so many tacos! - Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica - Hugo's Restaurant in L.A. - allergy friendly everything! - Tyler's Burgers in Palm Springs - Las Casuelas in Palm Springs - Date shakes in Palm Springs - a must! IMG_0735 IMG_0793 IMG_0736 IMG_0745 IMG_0857 IMG_0747 IMG_0769 IMG_0765 IMG_0829 IMG_0756 IMG_0840 IMG_1090 IMG_0794 IMG_0920 IMG_0902 IMG_0919 IMG_0928 IMG_0941 IMG_1050 photo IMG_0984 IMG_1002 IMG_1010 IMG_1008 IMG_1011 IMG_1012 DSC_0965 IMG_0724 Our alcoholic beverage count for the week: TWO. Zero for me, two for Roger. It's kinda funny that I celebrated my "champagne" birthday sans my favourite thing - champagne! We wouldn't have changed a thing.
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Honeymoon Day 7: Neuschwanstein Castle and Munich, Germany

We had to travel back to Munich to drop off our rental car. You would not believe how much you can save by dropping a car off in the same location you picked it up!! Roger was happy because it meant getting to drive on the autobahn again and I was excited to make Neuschwanstein castle a stop along the way. Rainy and early, we took off from Lucerne, Switzerland and cut across Austria to get back into Germany. We were amazed how much time this saved us! We were in Austria for literally 45 minutes and the only way we knew we had crossed country lines was by way of an Austrian flag as we crossed a small bridge. Neuschwanstein Castle is the castle of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, an anti-social king who built his solitary fortress in the more beautiful and habitable than Hohenschwangau Castle below, which had belonged to his father and where he had spent his childhood. Construction began in 1869 and was completed by 1880. Over this time, King Ludwig (who was actually stripped of his army and no longer a sovereign king) became increasingly withdrawn and all the hospitable rooms in the castle (such as the guest rooms and audience room) were replaced by rooms for only himself. He created a fantasy world for himself where he could be a real king. Fun fact: The Disney World Castle is modeled in part after Neuschwanstein Castle, hence why it is such a popular tourist attraction. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in myself for getting caught up in the magic. I much preferred visiting Heidelberg Castle because it was older and more historically significant. That being said, it was nice to get some fresh mountain air and experience the scariest bus ride of our lives: our tour bus driver took us to the peak while singing David Guetta's "Dangerous" in a German accent. He embraced the mountain's curves with zero fear and much gusto. Roger loved every second of it; I held onto him for dear life. DSC_0408 DSC_0351 DSC_0346 DSC_0355 DSC_0356 DSC_0363 DSC_0365 DSC_0394 DSC_0388 DSC_0371 DSC_0378 IMG_3259 We arrived at our lodgings around 6:00pm that night, a room in a home/yoga studio we had scoped out months before our trip. It was actually the first place we reserved during our online planning and the only accommodation we booked through AirBNB. The rest of our stays were either at hotels or resorts. The reason we chose AirBNB was because we knew we would only be there for a short period of time and we didn't want to pay full price for a hotel when we wouldn't even be eating breakfast there. Plus we also wanted to experience local hospitality. This place was close to the Munich airport and had hundreds of positive reviews. The host was a yoga instructor, trained in the US (so we knew she spoke English) and her place was only 20 minutes from the airport. IMG_3281 Her home was something straight outta Pinterest. It had a gated entrance and a large apple orchard out back. You can't see it in the photo, but the left side of the house wrapped around and boasted a huge yoga studio with beautiful rugs and big glass windows. My heart yearned to practice there, but unfortunately she didn't have an evening class that night. IMG_3280 To make things even better, the homeowner had the best cat! I'm more of a dog person on account of having a moody and disinterested cat as a child, but this cat was the sweetest. It didn't purr--it squeaked. It had 7 toes on each paw. It greeted you at the door and nuzzled up to you and followed you up the stairs. It didn't try to bite you when you pet it. I am now officially a believer in cats... or maybe just polydactyl German ones. IMG_9526 This was our very last night in Germany before our cruise adventure and even though we were exhausted from driving through three countries (Switzerland, Austria, and Germany), we wanted to make the most of our last evening there. Our host suggested we dine at a small Bavarian restaurant just down the road from her place. IMG_9499 The place was empty; however, that didn't bother us considering it was a Wednesday. Even though the choice of decor was questionable, I found it quite charming, inviting, and warm. The waitress offered us translated menus and all the entrees looked amazing! IMG_9503 Roger ordered pork Schnitzel and fried potatoes with an impressive salad and I went with chicken Schnitzel with sweet potato fries. We were craving something hearty. It was almost as good as the Schnitzel my Opa makes! Almost. You'll notice in Germany mayonnaise on fries is a common occurrence--they had squeezable Heinz mayo for just that purpose. IMG_9514 Despite having the most gracious host and the comfiest bed, I had the worst sleep that night. Call me crazy but I just couldn't shake the idea of someone maliciously sneaking into our bedroom. The rational side of me felt completely safe having done a ton of research on where we were staying, but a small part of my brain was going bonkers--what if these people have a crazy neighbour? What kind of security system is in place? What if the apples were poisoned? Why didn't we just stay someplace traditional like a hotel with doors that lock? All my irrational thoughts kept me awake until 5am-- the precise time we had to be up for our flight from Munich to Rome. Yes, Roger thought I was silly... he slept like a baby in this beautiful home. I think I would have felt more comfortable if we had spent the day there and gotten to know our surroundings better before spending the night. I would have LOVED to do a yoga session, had a tea on the veranda, and perused the house a little more. Today we fly to Rome and board our cruise ship for a tour of the Mediterranean Sea!
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Honeymoon Day 6: Lauterbrunnen & Lucerne, Switzerland

DSC_0203 Our friends had suggested that we stop in Lauterbrunnen on our way to Lucerne and we're SO happy that we took their advice! It's a ski and extreme sports village up in the mountains and it's a beautiful spot for adventurists and tourists alike. Our drive up to the village was pretty exhilarating--we went up and around several large mountains, through tunnels, and past crystal-clear lakes--I hyperventilated again when looking out the passenger window and seeing nothing but a straight drop below. Luckily I trust Roger's driving skills. We saw base-jumpers and wing-suit enthusiasts in action and marveled at waterfalls coming down off of the cliffs. Roger really wanted to take a gondola ride up to the apex of the mountain; however, it was too cloudy of a day. We instead swung on swing-sets and had tea in a cafe. It would have been so cool to stay the night--I imagine the people staying there would have interesting stories to tell. We were totally out of place in our everyday clothes--almost everyone else was either wearing hiking boots, backpacks, windbreakers, or all three. DSC_0259 DSC_0263 My favourite part was seeing all the flowerbeds on the windowsills. It didn't matter what kind of building it was--homes, shoppes, hotels... they all had geraniums on display. So pretty! DSC_0295 DSC_0270 IMG_3207 IMG_3208 DSC_0290 As you can see, the locals were very accommodating to English-speaking visitors. IMG_3209 And there was plenty of beer and cheese to go around. DSC_0293 Now I can say I have driven in a foreign country! IMG_3203 DSC_0311 IMG_3196 I believe this was Roger's 22nd croissant, 7th by the lakeside. He was just warming up for France. IMG_3195 After experiencing some fresh mountain air, we were ready to venture back into the city. We arrived at our hotel in Lucerne around 7:00pm and decided to go to a highly-rated dive bar for dinner. Fried potatoes and onions and tomatoes with cheese sauce... I just had to order it! Roger ordered some kind of Schnitzel, but he didn't get to eat it. We had to send it back because the restaurant only took cash! We didn't bring enough with us and they didn't accept Canadian credit cards. Boo. Life tip: ALWAYS carry cash. IMG_9443 Yogurt, cottage cheese, swiss cheese, brie cheese... we are getting very used to this! IMG_3227 Today we head back to Germany to drop off our rental car!
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Honeymoon Day 4 & 5: Versoix and Geneva, Switzerland

We arrived in Versoix, Switzerland just before sunset. Versoix is a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Geneva and as you can see by the picture, it's very beautiful. Most people speak French in this region of Switzerland and the currency used is the Swiss Franc, which we quickly discovered had the most expensive conversion rate to the Canadian dollar. Hello, $12 Starbucks grande  lattes! Our hotel was nestled right on Lake Geneva and was known to host diplomats from all over the world. Little did we know that its popularity came from being on the number one flight path for all incoming air traffic to Geneva. I'm terrified of hearing planes overhead, so needless to say I freaked out a little every time a plane landed, which I kid you not, was every 5 minutes!! The in-house restaurant was even called "O'Five", named after the  famous flight path. We ended up eating at the hotel for dinner after spending a good half hour trying to find another restaurant in close proximity. I'm telling you... these European cities really shut down in the evenings during the work-week. We were tempted to eat chocolate for dinner because a delicious-smelling chocolate factory was the only building that showed any sort of life after 7pm. I believe we spent $128 Canadian on a set of hamburgers and fries that night, simply due to extreme hunger and lack of choice. Ohmygosh, they were the best burgers ever! We were on our honeymoon, so we threw caution to the wind and told ourselves we would have a budget-friendly breakfast to make up for it. IMG_9401 And we did! Roger went out in the morning and picked for us a traditional German breakfast feast, which we surprisingly missed very much even though we had it one day prior. Salami and yogurt and brie cheese and fruit... that is all you need! He also bought wine and potato chips. Also very essential. IMG_9392 While he was tackling the Swiss grocery store, I decided to be one with the mountains and attempt my best Heidi-esque braid. Ta-da! I think I did it! IMG_9400 Here is a view of Lake Geneva before we headed into Geneva by car. This is the world's tallest water fountain. Has anyone read Frankenstein? Can't you just feel the narrative by looking at this picture? I thought so especially on this dreary day. DSC_0134 Our first stop in Geneva was to visit the UN headquarters. We only had a few short hours to explore the city, so we chose not to go inside. DSC_0110 DSC_0106 I am happy to announce that there is no shortage of nature around the streets of Geneva. We were pleasantly surprised to find a meadow of sheep directly across from the UN Headquarters. And no, it wasn't a zoo. I'm not really sure why there were sheep in the city, but I was pleased to see them happily grazing away. DSC_0118 I realize now that I took a LOT of pictures of chocolate and candy and baked goods on our trip. ALL I wanted was a dainty petit-four or a handcrafted macaron; however, all the good desserts were made with wheat and all the wheat-free desserts were made with nuts. Roger had to do all the taste-testing alone and all I have are these pictures to prove that I sorely missed out! Stupid allergies. IMG_9409 IMG_9407 I did get the most expensive Starbucks chai latte in all of Europe (not fact-checked so correct me if I'm wrong), so I wasn't completely sugar-deprived. IMG_9406 I would love to go back to Geneva one day to SHOP! There were designer stores on every corner and I fell in love with more shoes than I could count. The city definitely gave off a high-society vibe: there were Bentleys with drivers and well-dressed individuals speaking all kinds of different languages going in and out of Rolex stores. We looked up real estate prices just for fun and were blown away. It's neat - Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland and only 180,000 people live there! The largest city is Zurich with 340,000. The rest of the population is spread out throughout the countryside. How wonderful is that? DSC_0159 And then we saw a floating kiddie pool. IMG_3186 And some flags. DSC_0172 Some fellow lovebirds took our photo and we hit the road again for Lucerne. DSC_0151  
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