A bit ago, I wrote a post on my desire to get back on the road. Well, this weekend I will get that chance, though not as I had originally planned.
It’s one on my college friend’s final recital up at Sonoma State University, so this weekend my best friend and I will be taking a familiar 6 hour road trip that I haven’t taken in just over 3 years.
We’ve made this drive many (many!) times, but on each trek I was always the one driving…. faster than I probably should have. But this time around, I’ll be sitting in the passenger seat and doing my very best to stay awake… which is more than my regular passengers can say!
While there are definite must-haves when you decide to take off (your favorite snack foods, drinks in a cooler, you know, sustenance!), there are also things to negotiate between your party. Some of these just deal with cost – who covers gas or food and what your manageable and agreeable budget is – while others are just to make sure you and your companions aren’t bored out of your minds.
So budget is really first since that’s the hardest thing to talk about, and if you don’t have the conversation, one person will always be left holding the bag. You and your companions will have to figure this on your own but you must have this talk before going! Trust me, it will save you many headaches.
While I am a fan of fashion and style, if you are in a car for an extended period of time, fashion should take a back seat. Skinny jeans don’t have great stretch or give and shorts or small skirts make your legs/leg sweat stick to your seats. I’m opting for some easy leggings and a long shirt, throw in some boots and a hoodie of warmth. Again, like prepping for an airplane: easy, comfortable, and movable.
As long as there is more than one person, you should have “games” on hand. I’m not talking games like punch-buggy – I’m not allowed to play this game as I’ve been deemed to competitive and aggressive… – or the license plate game.
My best friend and I are total nerds so we’ve recently gotten to highly academic debates over nerdy topics – the most recent was: which would you rather have the Doctor’s (of BBC’s Doctor Who) TARDIS or psychic paper? Can you guess who won?
I like these fun nerd-offs because you can pull from all over the logical spectrum and note episodes if you want. It not only tests your knowledge but gives you quite the lively conversation as well – this helps with the not falling asleep thing. Also, unlike all the purchasable games available now, debates are free! Just steer clear of topics that will cause animosity more than fun whether this be politics, your favorite Doctor, or Marvel/DC.
The other thing that can help you in the case of falling asleep – or better yet, not falling asleep – is a killer playlist. Just like everything else in this situation – you are trapped in a tiny space with other people with no real way of getting out – music must be a mutual decision. Whether this is a mixed playlist that pulls joint or a few of everyone’s favorites or just a rotation of everyone’s favorite radio stations, keep the tunes peaceable.
Just remember, if you opt for radio, if you are going any sizable distance, the radio will eventually cut out the stations you know and you’ll be flying musically blind! Never fun.
So clothes, games, music, money, and food… so the only thing left to consider (along with money) is planning for sleep on journeys lasting longer than a day. This ends with deciding if you want to plan ahead going from point A to hotel B to motel C and so and so forth, or if you want to go as far as you possibly can in a day and then see what’s around when you are able to stop. Either way, it’s good to talk this all out before leaving home to make sure everyone in your party is comfortable.
That’s all and I can’t wait to feel the wind in my hair!
While I have made it very apparent through many of my posts across this blog that I am an unapologetic nerd when it comes to all things sci-fi (mostly as a Whovian), I hereby admit to being a complete Disney-phile in the same regard.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to all but two Disney parks in my 25 years (just missing Hong Kong and Shanghai parks!) – in my family, we use the term “growing up Disney”.
For most of my childhood, my mom worked for Disney which meant we always had the highly coveted silver pass and free guest passes that pretty much allowed us into any park for free whenever we wanted, plus great discounts on everything from food to gifts and souvenirs.
We lived Disney.
From our huge collection of Disney films to my Eeyore collection, the only downside was not being able to enter any Radio Disney contests – a small price to pay for so many perks!
But coming back to the Disney passes, we would get out of school early on Friday (or other odd days as well), climb in the car only for dad to ask how we’d feel if mom met us down at the park for some dinner and a few rides.
Every few years, we’d get to fly out and run around all the Florida parks for a week or two.
I am not writing any of this to brag – I’m really not! – but to explain the absolute amazing feeling you get as a Disney fan walking through Disneyland, Paris.
First off, getting to the park from the city is really easy – one of the trains ends right by the entrance – and you can (read: should) buy these tickets at least the day before.
There are two parks: Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Paris and both are small and easy enough to get through in a day – two if you have little ones or go in peak seasons.
I don’t need to go into too much detail (if you have been to one park, you’ll understand pretty much all the attractions), but the real highlights were in the aesthetics.
Paris has the most beautiful park. The castle is huge and includes a stained glass, storybook tour of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and a mechanical dragon in the caverns below. The rest of the park has you wandering the world from the American Wild West to the vivid color and futuristic structures of Discoveryland. Even in the Studios park, each land has a huge amount of space which feels like pieces of your favorite Disney films come to life – Ratatouille took my breath away!
Then, for you princess inclined little ones (really only princesses except for the odd Robin Hood or Star Wars characters), there are the costumes. The dresses sold in Disneyland Paris are stunning. While you can buy cheaper outfits in the parks and downtown Disney, the costumes sold in the park have no character buttons and are beautifully built – think proper materials and pleating, even petticoats.
I wanted one!
If you do choose to get your little one(s) a dress, I recommend thinking about longevity as well as how cute your tiniest tot will look prancing around like their favorite princess. They do cost a pretty penny so you’ll really want to get some use out of them.
If you do buy one for the day, you’ll find the best selection behind the castle and kitty-corner to the salon which can finish off your princess(es)’ look.
Anyway, I could go on and on about these parks, as I could for most Disney parks, but if you are in Paris and a fan, this is the most beautiful park you’ll probably see with many hidden gems worth the day trip out of the city.
Next time around, I’ll wrap up Paris but until then, fangirl out and travel well.
As I wrap up my nerd-tastic week following Gallifrey One, the annual Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles, I feel it is only fitting to revisit another geek-centric trip I recently conducted: a quick day trip to the Doctor Who mecca: Cardiff, Wales.
If you haven’t been, this is in no way an exaggeration.
The amount of questions which started with “As you may or may not know, Doctor Who fans regularly make pilgrimages to Cardiff…” And if you are a Doctor Who fan, this is a trip you will truly want to make.
A few years ago, during Matt’s time as the eleventh Doctor, I was able to go to BBC’s walk through show and exhibition- The BBC’s Doctor Who Experience – which was great fun for fans of all ages.
But for our older fans (well, fine, the young one’s too), the tour has stepped up its game. As the twelfth Doctor has taken over our screens, Capaldi has taken over Doctor Who Experience, making it a darker and much more sarcastic ride through all your favorite monsters.
I won’t write much more than this here as I don’t want any spoilers slipping out, just get here and trust me.
As a fan of fashion and cosplay, I am also a huge fan of the museum half of the tour which is currently flooded with Clara Oswald costumes. This is the half where you can take as many pictures as you want and get great cosplay ideas – trust me the pictures and first hand viewing helps – for a variety of characters.
And again, for us older fans (and this time I mean it!), find and watch Torchwood then give yourself some time to wander the varied locations across Cardiff Bay, especially Ianto’s memorial wall. This is one stop we hit every visit as the memorial changes constantly – as a fan, it really is quite the experience.
If you are interested in the other Doctor Who experiences – the unofficial kind like filming locations – there are a million and one lists of Who universe locals to search out, however, you will need a car to get to many. For some ideas check out my other Doctor Who posts where I detail other locations.
WARNING: MAJOR FANGIRL ALERT AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
A few weeks back, I was once again so lucky to hit the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studio Tour, which is amazing. I talked about this once before back in June 2014 (after my first visit), but it was a brief mention hidden in my nerd/fandom post about traveling around the fandom-centric sites of the UK.
This post is going to get more specific, but I won’t tell too much and give anything too big away—you’ll have to visit and experience it for yourself!
First to explain where I’m coming from (because, no, Harry Potter is not just for kids, DA’s honor! too far? too far…) :
I’ve grown up with these books, these characters, and this world. We listened to them on cross-country road trips narrated by Jim Dale, I’ve gone to book and film midnight releases dressed in Potter-bound apparel (I’m not a full out costume person), slept curled around the seventh book during my mid read nap so no one in the house could steal it, been to the Los Angeles’ WB Harry Potter/Costume/Lot museum, the London tour twice now, the theme park in Florida and can’t wait for the opening in LA. There are probably more—including the Ravenclaw cardigan I am currently sporting and its Slytherine double hanging back at my flat which have begun to grace my work and everyday wardrobe—but this list feels sufficiently long enough.
I’m technically a Ravenclaw (through and through—thank you, Pottermore), but I have a not so secret desire to fall a bit more on the green side, and that streak is strong. There is a whole theory I have behind this (which doesn’t even touch on my high school feminism and Harry Potter thesis), but alas, I digress (feel free to ask me about it, however!).
Anyway, as one of the cast members explained to a nearby group, where Florida is a theme park, The lot tour in London is a giant museum—and I emphasis giant.
Filling two large sound stages and some of the outdoor space between them, this is really The Harry Potter museum. Each of these sound stages is filled with the real costumes, props, hair pieces, and sets used to film the film adaptations. While you can’t walk onto (most of the sets) you can take as many pictures as you want of everything you see and a few bigger sets even have small interactive aspects.
You are led through the tour by videos playing across screens throughout the tour as well as large information signs, but you can buy (either with your ticket or before entering the tour) a personal media tour guide which will give you more digital commentary on what you are seeing, behind the scenes stories, and image galleries you wouldn’t see otherwise.
My suggestion: if you are a big fan, you’ll want to get the earliest entry time available. We went in at 10 am and left the lot at around 5-5:30 pm; they announced the last tour entry when we still had a few rooms left to go—rooms where we spent the most amount of time as well! This being said, we listened and read absolutely everything, stopped for a quick bite at the midway point, and spent more time than I’d ever considered in the wand room (which I’ll get to in just a minute).
The second half of the tour is great for anyone interested in the design aspects of film making from prosthetic work to models while CGI falls near the end of the first soundstage. This second half also showcases artists’ renderings and concept art which are so beautiful you’ll want them for your house—again, you can take pictures of all of this!
Before we get to the wand room, as promised, I want to touch on the food situation. This was updated from the first time I’d gone on the tour three years ago, so it’s a fully enclosed area. There are two areas you order from: one is everything (food and drinks) and the other is the Butterbeer stand. The set up gets crowded so if you have a few people, after ordering, leave one or two to grab the food (party size depending), a few to pick up the drinks, and anyone else to grab a table.
This is one of only three places in the world that carry Butterbeer and, if I may say, the taste has definitely improved from my first try. There are different variations depending on where you go—Florida had warm, cold, and frozen when we visited—and here in London the Butterbeer is served cold or in ice cream form. If you just go to the drink stand, you won’t see the ice cream option so be aware it’s there because it is absolutely worth it! (I can’t say the same for the Mac’n’cheese, however, just so you know.)
But onto the Wand room.
My other post touched on the beauty and awe of the large scale castle model—again, I almost burst into tears and probably spent a good hour in this particular room on each of my visits—but I never even considered until this last trip, how long a person could find themselves wandering the wand room—the last room you enter before hitting the gift shop.
This room looks—at a simple glance—like a neater version on Ollivander’s Wand Shop. These wand boxes, however, are not real props and do not contain wands—instead, each box end has a name of a person who worked on the film in some way over the course of the 8 films. this rangers from actors and directors, to prop designers and camera crews; if a person was listed on the workers books, they have a box.
Most visitors fly through this room without a second thought, however, inside this room, there is always a robe employee who you can ask to point out anyone whose box you’d like to see. We spent probably the same amount of time in this room as we did with the castle model, asking the employee about everyone we could possibly think of and she pointed out a few extras we hadn’t even thought to ask about (don’t forget, J.K. Rowling has her own box as well!).
If you are lucky and really give the employee some tough things to remember, they may even give you some extra stories they’ve learned for the sets and about people named in the room. This room was truly so much fun!
Once you are out of the wand room, you enter the most dangerous room in the whole tour: the gift shop. A neat tip we got from the girl in the wand room: You can try on and take pictures with anything without buying it—robes, sorting hat, ect—though I’d note, within reason! This is great if you can’t afford to buy these items but want to instagrm a picture souvenir.
My go to purchases are the house sweaters and cardigans, and this is the place I’d go to buy them because, unlike the shop you will find in King’s Cross station (another thing I missed from fandom locations I’ve visited), these sweaters do not have house logos!
There are pros and cons to this fact, however, both dealing with the fact that they look like normal clothing. This means you can get away with going Potter-bound anywhere and no one is the wiser. It also means that your cosplay is closer to the films where they aren’t patched. Unfortunately, this means that the sweaters look like your everyday, inexpensive sweater, but with a fandom price tag which (at least) doubles the cost.
With that in mind, it’s a tossup. Since I’m not growing anymore, I’m fine with what I have now, but I’d be wary about buying for kids.
Also, make sure you get the washing instructions from the checkout; the sweaters shrink up a lot in the wash so the directions are very important since you are paying so much you don’t want to ruin them!
For all the other logistics from prices to how to get to the lot (plan well ahead for this; if you are late and miss your window, they say you may not be allowed in), check out the site. And a final note from me: be aware of the season and times you are going. Tourist season has heavy traffic through the tour as do various times through the school year (like in September!) when school trips come through!
And with that, I think this post has gone on long enough. If you have anything to add, questions to ask, whatever, comment below!
We’ve all done it; we’ve all been the person trying to hit just the right angle, fighting with the selfie-stick, or searching for a friendly face in the crowd, all in search for some kind of image with us that shows where we are and who we’re with (hopefully) at the same time.
Well, this may not solve all the issues, but while traveling with my mom and sister, I think I have now found my favorite way of avoiding not only the awkward travel selfie, but having to be in my travel pictures at all while still feeling like these are MY travel experience pictures:
Find your double.
Across this post, you’ll find a mix of images from our trip of WB’s Supernatural brothers my family brought to help track their journey.
Also, this can really be anything you are willing to cart around on your back from a childhood toy to these handy figures (from Funko POP Vinyl collections) to your travel book of the moment. The point is to find something that represents you in some small way that is playful and easy.
When it came to us traveling, what I loved was how creative this got. The boys had a twitter feed, some Tumblr posts and more than a few facebook updates via our accounts or their own (run by my sister). I could easily throw some instagram into the mix. Whatever you would normally post with, these can fill in.
This is also great if you are like me and really can’t be bothered to be in (read: actively avoid) your travel pictures, but don’t want your pictures to be just anyone else’s photo album.
I’m a little sad that my Tinkerbell didn’t make the journey, but I’m sure you’ll be seeing this in the future (though not until next year!).
Again, this is another quick post during my (second round!) of moving this month, but enjoy and let me now how you might avoid the awkward selfie!
Is anyone else worried that the buildings are leaning?
That was one of the first thing we noticed when walking through this stop on our whirlwind tour.
Yes, even the building in this ‘live and let live’ city feel so laid back that, as you wander, you’ll begin to notice buildings that seem to be holding up their neighbors while others have begun to tilt forward or backwards, some to quite an interesting degree. Yet none felt too close to falling over quiet yet, so we just laughed and kept walking on our way.
Still, something fun to keep an eye open for!
But back on track.
After a long morning of travel, we arrived in Amsterdam around mid-afternoon and settled in.
Depending on where you stay here and the surrounding areas, now is the time to warn you: due to the local architecture, the staircases in most of the buildings are narrow and extremely steep.
If you plan on coming with large bags, this will be a truly tying experience. If you have a fear of heights, these stairs may also cause you some serious anxiety—double this if you are going to have to lug luggage up them.
We stayed at Hotel Adolesce which was lovely—minus the stairs (again slightly terrifying)—and I really recommend it. The building sits along one of the canals which are beautiful and inside there are balcony/porch areas where you can sit in the evenings and enjoy the late setting sun, great wifi connection, and a tea and snack area full of cookies and simple sandwich fixings in the lobby which are available 24 hours a day.
Little did we know when we booked, however, was the first site we would see across the canal from our accommodation:
This is Schaduwkade, sometimes translated/ called Shadow Kade, Shadow Quay, or Shadow Walk. This is a unassuming WWII memorial that commemorates the events of—and the lives lost during and due to—May 26, 1943. This street (along with others) was raided by the Nazis and all the Jewish residence taken to various camps. Standing at these memorial plaques, you are able to look out across the canal and see each of the residence buildings—like our hotel—and learn the names, ages, and destinations of these victims which brings a truly unshakable human face to these events.
What was amazing about this site, erected in 2013, is that you could be completely oblivious to it. The street is one of many little canal streets with beautiful views worth strolling down. But once you notice the small plaques, read them, and understand what events you are witnessing all these years later, you can’t escape the fact that you are staying in the shadow of this history—right in the middle of the real world, a world where anyone could – and do – live.
It was truly mind altering, because finding this kind of insight wasn’t something we expected at all.
The next morning, we set out—as most travelers stopping in Amsterdam do—to the Anne Frank House, and if this is your plan, there are a few things to know:
We arrived at around 8 to 8:15 and stood in the 3 hour or so line (which we were fine with), and depending on your plans, this may not work out for everyone. Therefore, if you want to make the most of your time, I’ll lay out some of the advice we learned as the day dragged on:
If you get to this location between 7:30 to 7:45, the wait is generally an hour and a half to an hour-forty-five—although I’m not quite sure if that’s after the doors open or not.
One girl we met recommended coming after 3 pm for about the same wait, but a local vendor swore that if you come at 6pm, you’ll wait about 30 minutes because that’s when people are out doing other activities, such as coming home from work, getting ready for their evening out, eating dinner, ect. If you do go around 6, you’ll still have plenty of time to look around the house and exhibit since they stay open until 9pm regularly—10 during certain points in the summer.
While this is definitely a sight for tourists, I still really recommend spending some time here. Despite the wait, the crowds of (sometimes) really obnoxious tourists, and (again) steep and somewhat challenging stairs, walking through these spaces and listening to the testimonies of people who knew those who lived within the attic, once again humanizes an event which for most of us is a story we either learned in school or through long lost family members who were effected by similar events.
After going through the house, you are led to a room full of excerpts from the diary and more information on Anne. Going through this room more than anything else made me realize how funny, sharp, and clever this girl was—how real. It was also where you can really see her dedication to writing.
One of the reasons for this is you never hear all of the story. I’d never heard that over the radio—which the residence did listen to—there was a call for people to write diaries for publication pertaining to the events of the day—and Anne wanted to do just that; she wanted to be published.
At the end of the tour, there is a room where you can hear more testimonials from visitors, actors, politicians—basically people from all walks of life—talking about Anne, her fellow residence, and the events of the occupation and World War II generally, which I do recommend sitting through.
One quote that really stuck with me was that we have to remember that, while Anne and her story happened, she was not a singular case. We cannot forget all the others who died voiceless; whose stories we don’t know.
Next we wandered over to the Van Gogh Museum and whether you are a fan of art museums or this artist or not, this is a museum that I absolutely loved.
Each level of the building builds on the life of Van Gogh, covering his process, his connections to other artists—including the self-portraits he and his friends sent back and forth in an almost snapchat manner!— an in depth look at his relationship with his brother and brother’s family, and artists inspired by him. I was even able to find new favorites from his work which I had never seen before.
But as someone with a love of language, it was the spattered quotes taken from the artist’s personal letters that really drew me in—I mean, my goodness, this man could write!
My favorite (and new life philosophy)?
“For one must spoil as many canvases as one succeeds with when one mounts the breach each morning…” –Van Gogh, Letter 823 from 26 November 1889
I won’t lie, Doctor Who’s representation already made me have some serious feels for this artist, but reading his words, seeing his life work and all the ripples that have happened because of it: this is easily my favorite art museum—and I’ve been to many.
I did not use an audio tour, but I will definitely be back, and all reports have said that the guide is well worth it.
We ended the day taking a tour of the Heineken Factory—we were lucky to get into the last grouping—which includes a small glass to taste test during the tour and two free drinks in the bar after the tour. If you like these kind of events, look them up because they do shut down earlier than you may expect!
The tour was pretty standard for a beer factory and everyone working there has a great sense of humor so they make it enjoyable as well. overall, I was most impressed with how much I learned! Like why the foam is so important and how to actually taste beer—CLUE: full drink, no wine sips at the foam!—and the best way to help make the foam and flavor last (I still am not a fan, but I love learning!).
We spent a little while in the bar with our free drinks and talking to other friendly tourists and playing with many of the interactive games and screens—seriously this place is a little like an arcade as you head from the main tour to the bar.
So only slightly bubbly from the drinks—some more than others—we ended out final day in Amsterdam wandering, and only a little lost, around the city and its various canals. The city is lovely, so well worth the wander.
So yes, more like a day and a half, but I think two days would have been perfect (at least!) for a city like this with a whole lot of diverse experiences to be had!
But alas, this was a whirlwind adventure! So next time we’ll be all cheese and windmills—any guesses where?
We went from our hard day out to a day of hard climbs and more Disney views—which basically means we shipped out of Munich on our last day in Germany to go explore the Bavarian Mountains and two of King Ludwig II’s castles, Neuschwanstein and Linderhof.
We took a ten and a half hour tour (who’s itinerary you can see here) in order to see more areas than we originally had planned if we’d stuck to our self planned, single day trip. However, this tour was bigger than all of our other excursions, which meant it was a lot less intimate and much more rigorously scheduled.
But here’s some background to the man and his castles:
King Ludwig is known as the fairytale king, but not because his kingdom was fairytale happy when he was in power, but because he was a king in love with fairy-stories. And because of this love, he basically went bankrupt trying to build the castles he imagined and designed.
The first visit on the tour is to Linderhof Castle—a French rococo-style castle inspired by France’s Versailles, surrounded by immaculately manicured gardens. Because that is another thing that our boy Ludwig loved: French royalty, especially King Louis IX, a king with absolute power who ruled his kingdom the way Ludwig wanted but was never able to do.
There is really nothing much to say except that Ludwig was a Fanboy (major capital “F” here) to an extent all other fans wish they could be.
If you have been to Versailles, seeing the tiny palace of Linderhof will definitely have you feeling déjà vu.
The interior of the palace is basically a replica of France’s premier palace down to portraits of French royalty adorning the walls. In fact, there are very few spots where you can tell that this is Ludwig’s at all, mostly in the form of the family crest.
What makes this a fan’s dream for me, is that Ludwig was very detailed in his recreation but did not skimp on any modern convenience. My favorite was the table that could be lowered to and raised from the kitchens to quickly and efficiently get food to the king’s rooms.
The palace is surrounded by a great expanse of gardens that I would have loved to explore. However, do to the tours set up, you have no time to explore the grounds. Rather there is a swan pond you get to look at briefly on your walk to and from the palace and the fountains out front, but going up into any of the green spaces is impossible with your time limit.
While the tour is nice for travel convenience, this is one stop I wish we had had more time in and I would have visited by myself for longer, if not hindered by time limits.
Between castles, you get to stop in this tiny village, Oberammergau, for half an hour—this is not a stop for eating!—where you can wander, stretch, take a few pictures, and get an ice cream form on of the many shops. If you are on the tour, quickly head over—first stop—to the shop recommended; delicious, quality, light but large scoops for cheap.
This village is nice for a stroll as long as you eat and walk and keep an eye on your time, but what makes it fitting for this fairytale ride is painted across the town buildings: fairytale murals.
Still, this isn’t what the town is famous for: In the time of the black plague, the town prayed and made an oath that they would put on the Passion Play every 10 years if the town was spared from the sickness. The next performance is in 2020 and if you are planning to travel near that time: BEWARE! All rooms are booked way in advance—like years—and basically everything around it get crazy. However, this is something you may want to check out and, if you are interested, just do your research and no last minute planning.
The last stop is the main point of our day: Neuschwanstein Castle.
The bus gets into the town near the base of the climb at around 1:00 p.m and you have approximately four hours to explore the castle and the surrounding areas.
This is the castle which inspired the animator’s and designers of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, but, for me, it is more reminiscent of the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast. If you decide to hike up the mountain—it’s a good hike up so be prepared with proper shoes— you will get some great shots as you climb. You can also take a horse buggy or a van up. The buggy, however, doesn’t take you the whole way so you still have a bit of a climb, and the van drops you off a bit above the castle entrance so you have to walk back down to it. Both of these options cost you a little bit as well, and, after sitting on the bus all day, the climb felt nice.
If you have time before or after your tour of the castle, there is another vantage point about fifteen minutes above the castle which is spectacular.
We climbed straight to this point, but I’m going to give you the warnings and descriptions we were not told to stop anyone who can’t make it, either because of the time and/or effort to get here.
The vantage point is beautiful, there is no doubt about it, but for anyone who is sketchy about heights, big warning. The vantage point is a bridge over a river and waterfalls which—because tourists are stupid—gets a little shaky. The walkway is made of wood planks which wobble except for the center one, but this isn’t the tricky part. The problem is that people do not walk far enough out, so getting on the bridge and off again is a fight through people who are either oblivious to you or freaked about the heights and bridge shaking, but determined to push and shove for a picture but without going far enough onto the bridge.
My sister is afraid of heights but she came out with us and according to her, if you stay on the center plank and get past the nasty crowd of people, the view is worth it. But, when I say getting that far on the bridge is a fight, please, don’t take it lightly! It was insane.
If you can’t do the bridge, there is a stop along the walk to this point that is a great picture vantage point, so if you only make it here, you will be a happy photographer.
If you look around the castle courtyard, this feels more Sleeping Beauty but, if you are a fan of castles (and Disney inspiring one’s at that), the 4 hours is an amazing chance to wander along with touring the inside. We were lucky enough to have the last tour time for our tour so we were able to really explore everything.
Basically, this was a long day out with a whole lot to do but it was a great tour. If you have multiple days to dedicate to these castles, going off by yourself to each location is worth looking into to explore everything to your liking.
But, that’s all for now as we through a little more Disney into our adventure, so until next time:
In fact, one of the things that Salzburg is famous for is being the home of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and, as you wander the city, you are bound to run into his image as well as places he grew up. As one of the major draws, these locals get busy during travel season and they do charge admission.
Mozart, however, did not compose the melodies that dragged the Gallagher Girls to this great and historical city.
No, it was Rodgers and Hammerstein and the “Sound of Music,” the heroic tale of love, music, and trials based on the lives and goings on of the Family Trapp who resided here.
Salzburg is a beautiful city and, the truth of the matter is, you can’t wander through the city proper without running into an area that was glimpsed in the film, especially in the overview of the city and jump scenes during “Do-Re-Mi.” But we’ll hit more of that later.
While Salzburg proper houses many locations to peruse, to hit many of the main hubs, you really have to get out of the city—like hours outside. But fear not! Tours from many companies will take you to these scattered locations so there are plenty of options for you to shop around with.
We used the same company as we had the day before (Viator’s Super Saver) and, just like that tour, I could really recommend this one.
Where we didn’t hit as many sights as I had thought we would—this is a half day tour—we hit the big stops that we could, were highly entertained between stops (beware there are long periods spent on the coach!), and very educated on both the film, issues of adaptation, and the true history behind the Trapp’s story.
WARNING (this is one of the things we were told on the tour as well): there are a lot of people who are hung up on the idea that the events of this musical are facts, or at least, close enough to fact to accept them as life affirming truths. If you think I’m exaggerating, the tour guide explained that he has been told on multiple accounts that he had “ruined” people’s lives by talking about these changes, so again, be warned.
If you realized that the story changed (after all, this is Hollywood and based on an extravagant musical—neither of these forms take accuracy over flash and story potential, nor should they necessarily!). But alas, to the tour.
There are three major stops on this tour as well as an optional quick stop after the drop off if you are so inclined, and going back by yourself is an option I wish we’d had time to consider.
Our first stop—in the rain, obviously, was the backyard of the von Trap house where many scenes were shot, but, most famously, the capsized boat scene and, just down the road, the children playing in trees. This stop is actually not at the house—buses and the like aren’t allowed in, however, you can apparently walk or bike in and take a look around—but across the water from it. This gives you a great look at this famous spot and is great for photos if only show how beautiful it is, if not for cinematic reasons.
But now onto some Hollywood trickery: this house is the backyard and river front of the house, however, that’s all it is. A different house is used for the actual house front and back (you can imagine how many scenes had to be done over and over in multiple locations!) because they couldn’t get permissions in time to use any of the actual house. But you’d never know watching the film, would you? Oh, the magic of Hollywood!
After this stop, you clamber back on the bus to head out to Schloss Hellbrunn which was built as the summer day palace of Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. We had visited this site earlier in the trip and, Sound of Music fan or not, it’s a spot you can’t miss and will have to stop back at.
The major draw of this sight is the water gardens. You see, the archbishop was a tricky fellow with a very interesting sense of humor. He’d have high class friends come over for food or events in all their finery and the turn up the taps in these trick fountains. This is really notable in the chairs set up around the outdoor table all of which (except the Dukes, of course) have water capabilities which shoot out the middle of the chairs seat. And, remember, you couldn’t stand if the Duke wasn’t standing, so you can imagine that party…
All in all, take a tour of the gardens when you go back without the tour, but stay alert and be prepared to get a little bit wet!
But the reason we mention this stop on the “Sound of Music” Tour is this is the current location of the official gazebo replica featured in both “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “Something Good.” The fact is, you can’t see the original—it’s gone—so this is a great substitute. Unfortunately, after an incident with a woman in her 80s trying to recreate “sixteen”’s more challenging dance steps which ended in injury, you can no longer go inside the gazebo, but seeing the size of it is worth it for a fan of the film.
One other extra, if you take the bus to the end of the line away from Salzburg from this point, you’ll be able to take a cable car up to Untersbergbahn which is the mountain that Maria claims to have grown up on and, therefore, where she could never get lost. The views are great (when it’s clear!) from the top and, if it’s a little gloomy, the views from the cable car will help rectify that loss. This isn’t the mountain where the scene is filmed—you can apparently take private tours to that location and run around singing, however—but another bit of Hollywood magic happens here which isn’t hard to track: Maria really couldn’t have heard the bells and run from the mountain tops to the abbey in Salzburg in the course of the song—in my judgement, that would have been almost a day’s trek, but, for cinematic and tonal reasons, this all make sense.
The last major stop is to Saint Michael’s church where Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer “married” in the film. This, however, is not the real location of the Abbey or where Maria and the Captain were wed. Once again, the Hollywood crew was not given permission for those locations, so the movie simply made do. The strange thing about this location was the sense of size. To me, the church and the central aisle felt so much smaller than it appeared in the movie which was disorienting. Still, this is a lovely location and you can take pictures inside of the church at least when service is not ongoing.
Once you are dropped off, you have the option of going across the street with the tour guide to Mirabell Gardens where much of “Do-Re-Mi” sequence was filmed from the ivy archway to dwarf statue to the stairs where the song finishes. But beyond the park, there are many view and filming spots to be accounted for just wandering the city, but to give you a better idea of what to look for here is a list of locations.
If you love the Sound of Music and want to learn more of its history and stories around the adaptation process, this is a great tour. But one last warning, you will have this soundtrack stuck in your head for days to come, so make sure you can live with that!
This morning, I dropped my family off at the train station where they began making their way back to the states to finish the last weeks of travel without me, while I returned to the reality of my slowly falling apart flat in London (no internet connection or air conditioning, along with other continuing problems, is really not helping my mood), and I can’t believe how quickly this month has flown by!
And I’ve only written about my first few days traveling!
So, while I stew in a little bit of post-family homesickness before starting back to my routines tomorrow, telling you all about our big adventure in Switzerland and a little bit of our Frozen themed family love and singing on top of snowy Jungfrau seems like just the ticket.
For this stop, we stayed in a great hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland with views which my sister just kept describing as simply “not real.” It’s really true. Everything on this trip looked more like paintings than actual places, which explains the continued Disney soundtrack that also seemed to follow us around.
While Arendelle is not a kingdom in Switzerland, this was definitely the music that followed us up the picturesque mountain to the Top of Europe…
Or more like inside it…
If you decide to go up this mountain, I advise checking the weather.
Why do I advise this? We didn’t.
The round trip ticket to get you up the mountain isn’t cheap (prices vary depending on ticket packages, ages, ect.) and time varies up and down depending on which path(s) you take (averages 50 minutes up and 40ish down, but you can choose different paths up and down the mountain if you want to see more). On each leg of the journey, you stop at about three viewing points where you are allotted time to jump out of the train and take a few pictures, as well as slowly acclimate to the elevation (3,454 meters/11,332 feet at the final rail station).
Each of these stops, I’m sure, has a great vantages of the valley and surrounding Alps, but I wouldn’t really know: we pretty much just got grey fog!
This isn’t to say that even in less than ideal weather a trip up isn’t worth the money or time—simply, if you have the wiggle room in your schedule, plan with the weather in mind.
Like I said, if all you see out is grey, your trip isn’t a waste.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, there are plenty of things to run around and do from seeing the chocolate exhibit (free samples in the shop where you may end up with multiples if you hang around long enough!), visiting the Ice Palace, the viewing station, and taking a jaunt outside, just to name my highlights.
Just like the mid-mountain viewing platforms, we couldn’t see much at the top either. Well, except that it was starting to snow. Luckily, there are pictures and paintings all over the station which show you what the views should look like on a clear day so you aren’t completely without a clue as to what you climbed up to see. My mom took a picture of each of these walls to coincide with the grey clouds we were actually seeing, just for comparison.
Even in cloudy weather, sunglasses are a must—it’s bright up there and glasses also keep the elements from attacking your eyes.
My two favorite parts were the Ice Palace and walking around on the actual mountain (in the outside activity area). Can you guess what this fangirl was doing during both of these parts?
Yes, singing Let It Go under my breath, but I’ll have you know I passes many others doing the same thing and a few Do You Wanna Build a Snowman’s to boot.
The ice palace is nothing like a castle; instead, we referred to it as the catacombs under Elsa’s Ice Palace. Almost everything here is ice from the floor to roof to walls. There are multiple passageways, ice sculptures, and alcoves to explore and it’s not hard to find yourself skating along in your shoes. This said, it’s all ice so everything is slippery with kids and adults alike moving at different speeds and levels of coordination: wear good shoes and keep your eyes peeled!
This area, because of a few tighter corridors and various structural space necessities, tends to get especially crowded and (because of a few reasons like those listed above) passing people to get around can be more than a little hazardous. If you get anxious easily or crowds freak you out, this may be an issue. Still, approach with caution, but I still recommend it—even if you aren’t a Disney/Frozen fangirl about it.
While everything else, except the uppermost platform, is located within the mountain top station, there is an area where you get to go out onto the actual mountain either for a quick stroll or picture, or one of the family friendly activities offered (ie sledding—however, this seems to be weather permitting, obviously).
While the gloom and light snow meant no sledding for us, my fellow adventurers and I definitely had a blast running and rolling around in the snow, attempting to take pictures with our selfie stick, dancing and singing, as well as a good measure of shivering from the cold and wet. We loved every minute of it. (As a bonus, three cheers for mom for not falling once!)
A few pieces of advice for a day like this, just to wrap up: patience is key and go early as possible (on a regular ticket).
Jungfrau seems to always be crowded as they are a huge draw for individual tourist, tour groups, as well as those who want to get away from the world for a while. Getting in early and hitting the popular areas, like the Ice Palace, will let you do more with less people hanging around or jumping in front of your pictures. This means you probably won’t get clear pictures on the way up the mountain but hopefully the gloom burns off on your stops down!
There are early bird tickets that help save you money, but they do restrict how much time you have up on the mountain. We spent more time on the mountain that these tickets allot you on a hazy day, so I can only imagine the time you might spend out there on a good one (especially with outdoor activities open)!
So, that’s the top of the world. Not sure if I’d have done it alone, but with a few loved ones, you are sure to have some fun!
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.
ps. Any Harry Potter fans, one of the paths up or down the mountain stops at a sweet little spot called Grindelwald. We passed through for the sign but on my next path, I’ll definitely be stopping by for a wander!
The phrase “this isn’t real” seems to have become the catchphrase to this trip and for me this really started upon first setting eyes on the fairytale setting of Mont St. Michele.
This place looks so much like Disney’s Tangled’s kingdom of Corona that it almost stopped this fangirl’s heart—later my older sister explained that this was, in fact, the animators’ inspiration, so the comparison makes sense.
As I wrote last week, we took the Bayeux shuttle here thinking we’d get some historical and interesting information of the day’s sights. Instead, I got to nap in and out for an hour and forty-five minutes, give or take. Nice for me, but, for the amount of money we put in, this just didn’t seem worth it.
To reiterate, nice driver, but shop around for sure.
But, back to the beautiful world that is Mont St. Michele.
It’s easy to see how Disney animator’s would be inspired by this place. Between the winding streets, panoramic views and castle like features that make up the abbey, you’ll be singing a happy tune and thinking about braiding flowers into your hair as well.
This isn’t to say that only us Disney-philes will fall in love with this floating city. The abbey is rich with local history, religious iconography and sights any enthusiast would die for. And for any hiker or exercise lovers out there, climbing around the keep will definitely help meet you calorie burn quotas!
Truly a place for all types of travelers.
But getting down to a few more details:
When you get past the parking lots you’ll have two choices: a cramped bus with two stops including getting to the final destination, or a thirty to forty-five minute brisk walk with tons of varied sites (we did the walk on the way back to the bus and it really was lovely!).
Mont St. Michele really doesn’t seem that big of a place—you can do a quick run through in probably two hours if you really push it and if you don’t want to do anything extra. We were there for two and a half hours and were able to wander the town a little, walk the ramparts, and tour the abbey with the audio guides.
So, what is it that we didn’t get to do?
There was no time to sit and eat a meal, we moved from one place to another for that whole period and we did not get to wander around the mountain city (If you can call it that) and that is actually one of the activities available.
When I get back here (and trust me, a full day is definitely in my future), I’ll be using both the walking options.
This abbey and city/town/whatever you wish to call it, it situated on a mountain surrounded by water at high tide. Throughout a good chunk of the day, however, it sits amid various streams, puddles, and sand which you are able to walk on. The “easy” walk is around the base of the mountain which is 960 meters/3.150 feet around and you don’t need any tour guide for this. however, you have to be very aware of the tides and it’s best to still check in with information just to find out the specific rules. You will need a guide if you choose to venture further out on the sands like older pilgrims (as well as more recent one’s) have, as there are some treacherous areas and features to watch out for, including quicksand.
In my next visit, I’d love to stay nearer this site (or take the train instead of a tour with a time limit) if only to see the water rise at high tide. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring a lantern and sing a little song! What can I say? I’m a Disney girl through and through. Trust me, there will be more to come!