Friday, January 22, 2016

personal | honeymoon part two - st. anton, austria

After those first couple of days in a crowded city, we were more than happy to move on and head deep into the Alps. Our route to Austria would take about three hours where we would eventually land at St. Anton, part of the Arlberg region, and also what inspired this trip as a whole. The train station was somewhat easy to navigate once we figured out those video boards and we hopped aboard the first leg of our journey to Innsbruck.

The ride was incredibly comfortable and it was a beautiful day making for some amazing sightseeing right from the train window. I can honestly say that I’m really impressed with Europe’s whole train situation. Oh, how I long I wish we had that here! The thought of being able to hop on a train and end up somewhere in the mountains is quite romantic to me.

Once arrived in Innsbruck, we got off to wait for our next train, about a 20 minute wait in which we were able to soak in the sights of the towering mountains around. It was at that point that my heart was won over by the Alps! Another 1.5 hour train ride passing through mountain towns and villages surrounded by stunning snow-covered peaks had me swooning. Soon enough we were in St. Anton.

A village just shy of the size of what you would find in Whistler awaited us. We checked into our guest hourse, Hotel Kirchplatz early in the afternoon and were able to spend the rest of the day relaxing (thanks to our hosts for the free champagne!). Dinner was traditional Tyrolean fare and we instantly fell in love with the bacon dumpling soup. (While I’ve since been able to replicate the dumpling back home I’m still not sure how they make such yummy broth!) We ended up spending that night at a Mexican restaurant called Bobo’s that had a DJ and dancing late into the evening. We made friends with a guy named Oliver who was from England and chatted about traveling, skiing, and of course the ultimate question of why Smirnoff Ice was so popular at this particular establishment.

The next day was or first day of riding in St. Anton. The place is just as enormous as it looks on the maze of a trail map, with pistes connecting nearby towns and miles and miles of amazing skiable terrain. While the conditions weren’t ideal, we had an amazing time soaking up the endless views of the snowy mountains and valleys that seem to go on forever. We finished up our day of riding with food and beer at The Krazy Kangaruh, what is typically a crazy happening après ski scene. Unfortunately at that time of year, there wasn’t enough snow to ski right in, thus resulting in an empty restaurant in a place that typically has people hanging off the railings.

The second day of riding in St. Anton resembled much of what we had the disdain of riding last season in the Northwest. Rain at the bottom, snow at the top with some insanely heavy and wet conditions. You couldn’t make one run without feeling like you needed windshield wipers on your goggles. We did end up discovering one somewhat lame piste that took us to one really amazing little spot called St. Cristoph. While there isn’t really much to St. Christoph, maybe a couple of hotels and a hospital, there was Hospiz Alm. The dark little oasis was filled with cozy tables, firepits, and some of the best gluhwein I had the entire trip. We ended up socializing with a group of guys who were there for some sort of brotherhood meeting which was pretty entertaining. After we had enough gluhwein we headed back up the chairlift to make our way back to St. Anton for yet another stop at the Krazy Kangaruh. Not sure if it was the sweet Scottish waitress that kept us going back (refreshing to find someone consistently speaking English!) or the amazing Kasespatzle (like a German mac and cheese), but it definitely was a great little hangout spot.

The final day of riding was back to blue skies! We were pleasantly surprised to find some spectacular snow off of the Schindlergrat chairlift, a little two-seater that creaks its way all the way to the top of a craggy peak. We finally got our first taste of the off-piste riding and took a super soft run down the bowl off of the top. The rest of the day the snow got pretty heavy but the views were seriously hard to beat!

That night was our last night in St. Anton and we finished it off with small appetizers and wine at a little wine bar. This of course was preceded by some time in the sauna that was provided at our guest house. What a great finish to four days in an amazing place we had been dreaming of for years.

Tips on St. Anton:

- December is too early for great snow. Most of the locals told us the best snow is February-March.
- If you go off piste (aka off of the groomed runs), bring your avalanche gear! It seems as if nothing ever gets controlled by the ski patrol there so riding off of the groomed runs is kind of fair game for avalanches. They don’t really have boundaries and gates like we do here in the US. While there wasn’t even enough snow on the ground for avalanches to really exist when we were there, this is definitely something we will keep in mind when we return.
- Always order the bacon dumpling (semmelknoedel) in the beef broth. You will not be disappointed ☺

Here are a few more images I took pre-snowboarding one morning:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

personal | honeymoon part one - munich

Now that all of the holiday rush is over, I can’t help but dream about the time we spent in Europe last month for our honeymoon. Not only was this a trip we had been planning on for many years, but it really was everything I thought it would be and more. David and I have only traveled out of the country together a handful of times and that makes for an adventure in itself. While many of those trips were the obligatory neighboring countries of Mexico and Canada, a trip to Nicaragua back in 2012 definitely left us outside of our comfort zone many times. We’ve been hoping to travel ever since but with a move across the country, those plans were put on hold – until now.

Years ago we had picked up a snowboarding magazine and read an article about the Arlberg region in Austria. We vowed then that we would go but it took us about five years to make it happen. Once we got engaged, I set the wheels in motion and began planning the trip and conveniently called it our honeymoon. Of the two of us, I am definitely the planner when it comes to vacations. While I’m not always a fan of having a set itinerary, it seemed fairly necessary for Europe and spending time in tiny mountain towns around Christmas. So our trip went a little like this – fly into Munich, sightsee there for a day, take the train to Austria and spend three days snowboarding in the Arlberg region, then take the train to Switzerland and find a resort that we thought would fit our snowboarding style for another three days of riding, followed by a day of sightseeing in Zurich where we would fly home from. The trip was a little under two weeks and went exactly as planned.

In order to break this up a bit, I’ll start with Germany. We flew Lufthansa from Seattle all the way to Frankfurt, Germany, a 10-hour flight that we definitely should have been sleeping on. If you ever have the choice to take Lufthansa or an American airline, go Lufthansa! Seriously they were around what seemed like every five minutes with FREE wine, cocktails, coffee, food, whatever our hearts desired. Plus there were a zillion awesome free movies to watch. Ultimately it was the superb service that probably kept us from sleeping, but hey, it sure felt good to feel wined and dined on an airplane. Upon arriving in Frankfurt, we went through customs and sat in a daze for about two hours before our connecting flight to Munich. Once in Munich, we had to conquer our first hurdle of trying to take a train from the airport to downtown where we were staying, about a 40 minute ride. It didn’t take too long to figure out that we needed to find the S-Bahn and off we were. For the one night in Munich I had booked a little hotel just 10 minutes walking from the Marienplatz (main square where all the action was) called Hotel Blauer Bock. Check-in was pretty seamless and we were able to store our absolutely massive snowboard bag in their luggage room (thank God) instead of having it take up space in our main room.

With about 40 hours of sleep under our belts in the last 48 hours we were ready to head out and explore Munich. I had only planned this one evening for us there, as we are not huge fans of sightseeing in big cities. If you ask either of us what our ideal vacation is the answer will likely involve snowboarding, surfing, or basically anything active. Therefore, we don’t spend much time in big cities when we travel. Our first (and pretty much only) stop in Munich was visiting the Marienplatz Christmas Market. We had heard from a good friend what a blast these things are and this one sure lived up to the hype. Basically you walk into the square and it’s surrounded by glittering lights, incredibly ornate architecture, hundreds of stands selling Christmas garb like ornaments, gingerbread, décor, and best of all, gluhwein. This hot-spiced wine is basically the perfect beverage for a winter evening. You find a stand, put down a deposit for the little ceramic mug, and can continue getting refills throughout the evening. You can get your deposit back at the end or you can keep the mug as a souvenir. Pretty awesome, right? That and there were giant Bavarian pretzels that were bigger than my head. In case you didn’t know, pretzels are definitely on my list of favorite foods. It was heaven. As we perused through, admiring the twinkling lights and blundering through some German trying to buy trinkets, the lack of sleep started to set in with force. By the time we were actually hungry for dinner – which I’m not even sure what meal it was for us at that time – we were totally exhausted. I think I had some sort of pork and dumpling dish, but that whole evening was basically a blur of being slightly buzzed from the gluhwein and extreme lack of sleep. We headed back to the hotel for an 8:00 bedtime.

After a night of tossing and turning we awoke to a new day. I wouldn’t say we were well rested that day but we were definitely functioning.  We spent the morning perusing the shops and snapping photos. It was pretty relaxing and a nice way to say goodbye to our time in Munich. Later in the morning, it was off to Austria!

A few quick tips about traveling on trains:

1.     The screens are where it’s at. We had purchased our tickets in advance on RailEurope, which was just one less step for the train station. After wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes in the station we realized that all we had to do was look at the big video screens for when our train was departing and what platform we had to be on. Your ticket will also tell you what class you’re in and the sign will give you letters that will tell you which is first and which is second class. When in doubt and you’re in second class, just walk to the back of the platform.
2.     The trains we were on were labeled “reservations recommended” so we made them. Our next few destinations were high in the mountains so it seemed logical to do so. That being said, none of our trains were full so it didn’t really matter.
3.     Bringing ski and snowboard gear – ugh! If you bring it, be prepared to lug it. We had one giant snowboard bag that held both of our boards, both of our boots, both helmets, and was padded by our outerwear. The thing weighed about 50 lbs. It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend bringing your own gear but I think if we went again we would probably just bring our own boots and rent the boards to save space. There also isn’t a ton of room to put such a sizable bag on a train except for taking up a ton of space in the overhead storage. I also couldn’t imagine taking a taxi with that bag so luckily we were staying hotels that were short walks from each train station we traveled through. Also picture yourself dragging it around on cobblestones and think about what that will be like as most of the stations are in the middle of cities and most roads are cobblestone.

Stay tuned for the next segment – snowboarding in Austria!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

seattle maternity photos | new for 2016

New year, new offers. I had the pleasure of working with a few wonderful expecting couples this past year and will now be regularly offering maternity sessions. Our sessions are light-hearted, full of love, and will capture the very special time between you and your loved one before adding a new little one to your family. We are open for sessions at all times of year (including in the snow!). For more information on booking a session email