Sunday, September 13, 2015

Jackson Vacays: OR Coast 2014 to Island Park 2015

In 2014, Josh and I embarked an an awesome family vacation to the OR Coast with Josh's whole family. We all stayed in a beach house in Lincoln City and had a blast. After our week in OR, we all loaded up our cars and Washington for Zuzu's baby blessing. Josh and I made a stop in Astoria to eat at a fish n' chips place that was closed during out honeymoon in WA.

Why did we never blog about this? No idea. But it is never too late!

So...In Mid June we loaded up the little Kia, not having the Taco yet, and headed to OR. After a quick rest stop in Boise to drop off Roo at Grandma and Grandpa's home, we were once again on the road to the coast!

I was incredibly excited to be going because my family use to travel to the OR Coast every summer for several years. And, we were staying right near the beach house my family use to always rent. So many memories to relive, so awesome.

The beach house was located in a cute neighborhood right by the beach.  We made ourselves at home and soon the whole gang had arrived and the festivities began...
I really wish we would have blogged right after the vacay to remember all the laughs, precious moments and new memories. However, all I have is pictures...proof that we were there and had a blast!

The beach/beach house my family use to stay at.
Aquarium shenanigans! The children loved it.

 Gotta love the ocean and sand.
Mo's Seafood Restaurant in Lincoln City. Best clam chowder ever! So happy to return here with my (in-law) family after coming here for years with my family. So delicious.

Josh loves the ocean.


Playing in the (freezing) ocean. Josh and I got SUPER sun-burned that day. Aloe for dayzzzzz.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse (Newport, OR)
Last day at the beach house...about to head to Seattle. 

Waiting in the super long line for fish n' chips...worth it!

crossing the bridge from Astoria into WA.

Baby blessing for ZUZU!!!


Jump ahead almost 1 year....
In mid August of this year we embarked on yet another awesome and relaxing vacation with the Jackson, Burgener, Camberlango clan. However, a lot less driving intensive (for us). I didn't want a repeat of last year...where I forget to blog about voila...and I apologize for the lack of photos.

After work on a Friday, we loaded up the Taco and found ourselves in a beautiful cabin in Island Park. The scenery was breathtaking, the air was fresh, and the nights were very cool. A perfect combination to enjoy with family. 

Josh and I were the first of the children to arrived. We visited with his parents, went to bed, had a lazy morning with a delicious breakfast, and headed to West Yellowstone to explore. The weather was perfect, the other tourists/visitors were not super annoying, and the scenery was, of course, beautiful. The best part? A tour of the Old Faithful Inn, such an amazing structure!

Old Faithful!

 After exploring West Yellowstone for the day, we headed back to the cabin for some grub and to meet up with Josh's sisters and their families. 

The next day we were able to gather as an entire family and have our own family church meeting. Abby, Josh's sister, had a great idea that everyone share an experience of when they have followed the prophet. The spirit was strong and the whole experience was wonderful. I am so grateful we were able to bear testimonies together as a family.
After church and everyone was ready for the day, we headed to the Johnny Sack Cabin. If you haven't been there... click here to learn more. The dude and his cabin were amazing.

Sadly, Josh and I had to head back SLC to work on Monday so we were not able to hang out with the rest of the fam for the rest of the week. However, the weekend getaway was much needed and totally worth it. 

PS. Isn't crazy to see how much Josh and I have changed in a year?! Next family vacay will have a little Baby Boy at the center of attention. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

MadRid, España part II

Day 4: Tuesday: We travel North - Segovia, Oviedo, La Coruna

We woke up nice and early (7am) in order to get on the road and beat rush hour traffic as we headed north. We decided we would head out of town and fill up at a gas station on the way that Auz new about and we could get a breakfast snack there.

However, after filling up and turning on the GPS it was discovered that the gas station was not in any way on our way out of town so we had to drive back through the northeast part of the city to take another exit and get on a different freeway. However, as we tried to leave the area where we filled up with gas we became lost as well. We now had the TomTom gps on, the Van's gps on and Austin's iPhone gps on as he instructed my dad on where to drive. Let's just say the mood got a little tense between passengers of the van and once we were back on the freeway, retracing our tracks, we hit rush hour traffic. The cherry on top.

Eventually we were back on course and heading to our first destination, Segovia. Originally, Segovia was not on our travel plan but President and Sister Jackson insisted we stop there and see the cathedral, aqueduct and castle. We were sold. We drove through a lot of switch back mountain roads and passed through small villages tucked away in the pine trees. Within two hours we arrived and were instantly glad we added this city to our itinerary.

No...this was not the was the cathedral.
 The Segovia Cathedral was one of the last gothic cathedrals built in Spain. The artwork housed within its walls, including paintings and tapestries, were incredible. The cathedral's archives are said to have one the first printed books published in Spain.

Onward to the castle... 

The Alcazar of Segovia - home to many royals and the first Royal Artillery School in 1762 (founded by King Charles III). It is said that this castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle. Can ya tell...

(photo cred: google)
View from the castle

Sister Jackson recommended we do the extended tour pass to hike up the spiral staircase of the tallest tower. So worth it even though my legs were killing me!

View from the top!

We had to somewhat rush through Segovia to stay on track. After grabbing lunch to-go from Burger King (yes, we know, how unoriginal) we were en route to Oviedo! We drove through beautiful country side and gorgeous mountains more commonly knowns as "the Spanish Alps." Tensions from being lost had worn off and full stomachs made everyone more enjoyable. We shared some great laughs and took naps when possible.

A quick pit stop at a gas station with the attached restaurant - The Drunken Duck

As you can see...we ran into some pretty dense fog winding through the mountains and it would progressively become worse, with wind and rain, the closer we came to Oviedo. 
The main reason we were visiting Oviedo was to see the statue of Christ on top of the mountain Monte Naranco and to see the clam shell mall. The fog, wind, and rain/sleet intensified as we climbed up the mountain in the van. We could not see the beautiful city view below or the giant statue above us. We could hardly see 5 feet in front of us. 
Eventually we found our way to the statue...

What we expected...(photo cred: google)
What actually happened...

 Austin and Branden ran around was hilarious. 

After the statue we headed to the mall to see its very abstract architectural design and to grab some lunch. However, we soon realized that lunch would be hard to come by in the mall and decided to hold off a couple more hours until we arrived at our final destination for the day, La Coruña
Again, too foggy for an original picture (photo cred: google)
As we drove to La Coruña tensions began to run high again as we became lost for a minute and then realized that someone did not calculate the distance correctly and La Coruña was actually 2 additional hours farther away than expected. Through an extraordinary effort, Dad was able to shave off about an hour and a half while driving, making us all very grateful for the lack of speed sensing cameras on the northern highway rim.  We resigned to snacking on food for lunch and would eat a very late dinner upon our arrival at the hotel.

Around 11pm we finally arrived at our hotel in La Coruña and mom and Branden started fighting with umbrellas in the van while Austin and dad went to check us in. Eventually Josh and I kicked everyone, including Grandma, out of the van to stretch and get some fresh air. Mom and dad spoiled us by picking a beach front hotel and it was awesome! We stayed at the Hotel Melia Maria Pita. We truly were spoiled during this trip. 
(photo cred: google)

As for dinner, the hotel's restaurant had just closed so we asked the front desk for suggestions. We were led directly to the coolest restaurant of the trip...

Adega O Bebedeiro (or simply, El Bebedeiro)

(loosely in English - the watering trough - the base of the fireplace in the photo below is actually made of an old watering trough)
Check out more about this place here. It's pretty awesome.

The food was absolutely delicious (and very Galician)! Branden and I ordered the Scampi frito tres salsas (fried scampi - we were not disappointed); Mom, Grandma and Austin ordered Racatuli de verduras y langostinos (a seafood, tomato, lasagna dish that was delicious); Josh and Dad both ordered different steak meals (Josh- Entrecotte de ternera gallega grantinado con queso de cabra y cebolla caramelizada; Dad- Solomillo de buey gallego con pina asadad, Foie y salsa de Pedro Ximenez)... and for once Josh ordered rare and was given a very rare steak. Everyone was extremely happy with their meal and the bottomless Spanish bread. 

 Day 5: Wednesday: The North & Back to Madrid - La Coruna and Santiago 

After a decent night's rest in a fabulous hotel we woke up refreshed and ready to continue our northern exploration.

 Views from the hotel.

Since we were directly across the street from the ocean and beach Josh, of course, woke up early to do some exploring of his own. Sam, of course, stayed in bed and slept more.

After Josh's return we joined Auz and B for some delicious breakfast at the hotel (no improvement on the scrambled eggs sadly). The orange juice was absolutely fantastic! The rest of the food was pretty good as well. Once breakfast was done we all headed to the beach to collect sea shells and feel the cold Atlantic waters on our toes.

Once everyone got their ocean fix we loaded up the van and drove up the coastal street a few minutes until we arrived at the Tower of Hercules. Austin visited La Coruña when he was an Assistant and was dying to show us this national monument. The lighthouse is the oldest Roman lighthouse in use today and the second tallest in Spain. It was built almost 2000 years ago and considered to be the oldest existing lighthouse in the world.

According to Wikipedia:
"Through the millennia many mythical stories of its origin have been told. According to a myth that blends Celtic and Greco-Roman elements, the heroHercules slew the giant tyrant Geryon after three days and three nights of continuous battle. Hercules then—in a Celtic gesture— buried the head of Geryon with his weapons and ordered that a city be built on the site. The lighthouse atop a skull and crossbones representing the buried head of Hercules’ slain enemy appears in the coat-of-arms of the city of Corunna.
Another legend embodied in the 11th-century Irish compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn— the "Book of Invasions"— King Breogán, the founding father of the Galician Celtic nation, constructed here a massive tower of such a grand height that his sons could see a distant green shore from its top. The glimpse of that distant green land lured them to sail north to Ireland. According to the legend, these Breogán's descendants who stayed in Ireland and their followers are the Celtic ancestors of the current Irish people. A colossal statue of Breogán has been erected near the Tower."

 Statue of Breogan...The wind was incredibly strong that day and we feel that is why Broegan's hair was styled the way it was. And the reason we posed the way we did. 

Josh REALLy wanted to see that large horn

Auz filmed this video of Josh's hair blowing in the wind in slow motion and every time we watch it I crack up. The birds flying by make it so much more epic. 

 Auz, B and Josh playing "explorers"

After our adventures at the incredibly windy Tower of Hercules it was lunch time. Auz took us to a restaurant that serves authentic Spanish food and is where he ate when he visited this town. The signature dish of this town is the Galician style octopus...everyone tried some, including Branden. Our meal also consisted of Spanish empanadas (much different from Rosa's but still yummy), the octopus with potatoes, pizza, and croquettes.

With our bellies full we headed to our final northern destination, Santiago, to visit the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

While Auz was serving his mission our Uncle Matt recommended my family watch the movie, The Way. The movie is about a father who fulfills his late son's mission to complete the historical pilgrimage "The Way of St. James" AKA Camino de Santiago. During his journey, the father meets other pilgrims from around the world, and learns "what it means to be a citizen of the world again."
(photo cred: google)
Camino de Santiago sign
The entire movie was filmed along the actual Camino de Santiago. We would see signs along the highway marking the trail on our way up north and once we arrived in Santiago we saw many pilgrims/trekkers/backpackers amongst the crowds of tourists and residents.

Med school???

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.
It is said that the cathedral is the burial place of St. James, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and has been a place of pilgrimage since the early middle ages. Within the cathedral there is a place where you can walk by, stop and pray if you feel inclined, a silver coffin said to hold some of the bones of St. James. There was also a very long line where people waited to embrace a gold statue of St. James. Auz stood in the line and poked the statue has he walked by.

What we saw
What it looks like when not undergoing restoration (photo cred: google)

Since we also got lost in Santiago, and my mom suggested we get a map for the thousandth time (angering my dad and Auz), the boys decided to take a picture of a map.
Finally, our northern adventure had ended and it was time to return to Madrid - a delightful 5 hour car ride home. Once back in Madrid we were starving and decided to walk up the street to a Kebab restaurant. Auz said these places are frequented by the missionaries. The Kebab itself is a Turkish meet sandwich that is very similar to a Greek gyro. It was very good, our bellies were full, and we were ready for bed.

Cool street art

Day 6: Thursday: Toledo, The Prado Museum, and Dominga

Since we didn't spend enough time in the van the two previous days we loaded up once again Thursday morning to make a quick trip 1 hour south to Toledo. Or as Auz refers to it, the place where they make the swords.

After entering the original kingdom walls, Alcazar of Toledo, and finding parking we began to explore this extremely old and amazing city. And lucky for us, the weather was overcast, and very delightful. Although there seemed to be a million tourists, the city charmed us and we loved every narrow street, building, and even the swords.

The stone fortified Alcazar of Toledo (photo cred: wiki)

While admiring the Toledo cathedral a man approached us that recognized Austin from when he visited the city on his mission. He works at one of the many local shops within the town but a perk to his shop was that they were opened early and actually let you watch them make the world famous Damascene jewelry. Auz said he was legit so we went along with it no problem.

 The Damascene art style was introduced to the people of Spain by the Arabs during the Renaissance era. Toledo is currently the largest producer in the world for this type of jewelry. Gold and silver foils are hammered into iron metal pieces, put through a kiln, and made into seriously beautiful creations. The very cool thing about this shop? Much of the product was handmade instead of machine made and he showed us, with actual examples, on how they differed (handmade is most definitely better in style and finished product). The man in the the plaid button shirt is who recognized Austin and he explained much of this to us. Obviously, the whole ordeal was a great sales ploy and we were not the only people brought into the shop, but he was a great salesman and we were sold!

Although I am not a huge jewelry person, it really was beautiful. 

Besides the more Arabic styled pieces there are pieces with birds and flowers. The sales guy explained that this 'newer' style represented rebirth and hope. 

Josh loved this Arabic styled plate - however the $400 price tag was not to our liking so we took a photo instead. 
Once everyone made their purchases we decided to tour one last cathedral, and it was stunning. 

Before saying goodbye to Toledo, we had to find Auz and B a sword to take home. Luckily, they both found daggers in the second store we passed. And just like that we were headed back to Madrid. We still needed to finish souvenir shopping and visit the world famous Prado Museum all before having to be at one last ward member's home for FHE and dinner. 

We ventured back onto the metro to head back out to Sol so we could see Plaza Mayor, shop for souvenirs, the boys could visit the Nike store and Real Adidas store. When everyone was satisfied with their purchases we hopped onto the metro and headed to The Prado. Josh and I bought a red onesie with a black bull on it for Baby Boy Jackson since he technically came to Spain as well. It is freaking awesome. 

The Plaza Mayor is a well known central plaza and a host for multiple different events. The likes of which I will not list because I do not know. Josh said they hold New Years celebrations here.
First, a quick bite to eat at Subway. Yes, we know, very unoriginal of us.

Next up: The Museo Nacional del Prado. 
It was incredible. 
We only had 2ish hours to explore and gawk and it wasn't even close to enough time! 

It was seriously an incredible experience to witness so many beautiful and historic pieces of art. I think every single person enjoyed it, to some extent. However, Auz and B did make a game out of who could take a pic of the marble bust with the funniest face without getting caught by security. Not sure who won that one. 

Austin's contribution to the competition
The current exhibit featured work from Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1399-1464). You can read more about it here.

At 6pm we all met outside the front of the museum. Auz, B, and I were the first of the group and we were somewhat entertained by a very drunk man who sang us the Real Madrid fight song among many other things. Luckily, Auz was able to get him to leave. After reaching the hotel we jumped back into the good ole van and made one last venture to visit another spunky and vibrant member named Dominga for FHE and dinner. 

Upon our arrival we were greeted by Dominga (who absolutely loved grandma. She told us she loves grandmothers in general. It was so sweet), two missionaries (both of whom served with Auz), a very new convert name Christian, and Segundo (who helped prepare the meal as well). The missionaries offered  a short a beautiful message from 1 Nephi 18:2-4 and they challenged us to replace the word 'ship' with 'my life' and apply it. After the message both Segundo and Dominga shared their beautiful testimonies about the gospel and mom shared how grateful she was for so many people loving and taking care of her son and opening up their homes to us.

Auz offered the closing prayer and blessing on the food and finally it was dinner time! Dominga, who is from the Dominican Republic, made a D.R. tradition meal with baked chicken, rice, and salad. It was absolutely delicious! I think Auz, B, and Josh each had 3 helpings. The juice she offered us was also really good.

We learned that FHE is generally held on Thursday night at Dominga's and a ward FHE is held on Friday nights because that is when most people are available. The missionaries told us that Austin is known as "Anderson AP" due to the of 'Elder Anderson's" in the mission; and for being one of the best American Spanish-speakers in the mission.

After dinner the missionaries left and we visited with Dominga and Segundo. We learned that Dominga has 4 sons, two who still live in the Dominican Republic and two who live in Spain. One is actually a really good basketball player. She has a very quick wit, fabulous personality, and infectious laugh. Her generosity was simply amazing and her spirit was so strong. As we left her apartment building Auz buzzed up to her home again and after she answered he yelled, "Hasta luego Glaucia." She laughed hard and scolded him for calling her that. Apparently Dominicans are all known by a nickname, not their given name. So when Auz and his companions would ask her Dominican neighbors where she was they had to ask for Glaucia because no Dominican knew Dominga. However, she much prefers to be called Dominga.

Day 7: Friday: Home

We woke up Friday morning, finished last minute packing, ate our last Spanish breakfast at the hotel, battled rush hour traffic in the van to the airport and began our long journey home. 
Amongst the chaos Auz forgot he put his sword in his carry on and had to hurry to check his bag under my name so that it wouldn't cost anything (since he already checked a bag and Josh checked ours). Once through security we found a little shop where those who didn't eat at the hotel could have breakfast. Before entering in the wing designated for Delta gates we had to pass through another security/passport check. We all lined up but I was told to go to another line because I lacked a sticker on my passport that everyone else received when they checked their bags. Auz was the lucky one randomly picked for the complete security check so he had to go in another line where they completely patted him down and emptied all the contents of his backpack. The line I had to stand in was long and took forever. When it was finally my turn I handed my passport to the lady and she asked if I was from Spain or transitioning between connecting flights. I told her I was just visiting Spain and leaving to go home today. With that she took my passport to do whatever they were doing. When she returned she asked what my purpose in Spain was. I told her I was vacationing and she was confused because I only hand my purse and backpack with me. I went on to explain that my husband checked our large bag and that most of my family already went through this security check. Once she finally understood what I was saying she asked if I had any cream/lotion, food, laptop, or weapons (yes, weapons) in my carry on bags. Obviously the answer was 'NO' to all of these and she finally let me through. Then Josh and I waited for Auz and his in depth security check. I guess they ran his backpack through once when it was full then once when it was completely empty. When he returned to the Delta security check point no one from the other line escorted him so he had to explain to them that he was just checked out and cleared. FINALLY we all made it to our gate only to learn our flight was delayed. 

Once on board we took off for JFK. The meals were once again mediocre but appreciated. Josh slept for a good majority and I watched a movie and read a book. 

At JFK we had to go through customs. So awesome it hurts. After we all checked in at the little kiosk stations, Josh and I were the only ones that had an 'x' on our receipts so we had to go into a different line than the rest of the family. Everyone else just walked up to a security guard who checked their photos and stamped their passports. In our line, people had to have pictures retaken, finger prints checked, etc. Luckily for us, the guy just asked how our trip was while he looked both of us up on his computer. Apparently everything was in order and we joined the family to retrieve our bags and recheck them. So ridiculous. 
Then, we had to go through yet another security check where they reviewed our passports, once again ran our carry on luggage through scanners, and had us walk through scanners as well. The main guy in charge was awesome. He was funny, took charge, and helped everything run as smoothly as possible. However, B's carry on was flagged because he didn't take out his laptop. He didn't remove the laptop from his bag because it was a pre-check and he was told he didn't need to take it out. The lady who searched his bag said that laptops are not pre-check approved so he had to have his bag run through the scanner again. 

Finally, we were on our way to our gate, pressed for time, and made it just as they started boarding. Once settled on the plane, we were informed that animals in the cargo hold from the previous flight made a bathroom mess and we had to wait for the biohazard team to come out and clean things up before they could load our luggage. After about 45 minutes we were finally in line to take off. Hallelujah! 

Once in SLC, Josh and I were finally home and my family didn't have any more security checks to go through so they could eat and relax while they waited for the last leg of their flight to Boise. We hugged tight and said our goodbyes. 
Our dear friend Ryan picked us up from the airport and before long we were being bombarded with love from our dearly missed puppy. Then we hit the sack. 

Top 5 favorite things about our trip (in no particular order):

1. Meeting the people Austin served
2. The dog friendliness of the city
3. Adega Restaurante O Bebedeiro 
4. The Prado
5. Toledo and Segovia are a tie 

Top 5 least favorite things (in no particular order):

1. Lack of time at The Prado
2. Not eating more authentic Spanish food
3. Being in a car for several hours (even though it was worth it)
4. The traffic
5. Not having Josh the first 2 days

Top 5 most surprising things (in no particular order):

1. The dog friendliness of the city
2. If your hazard lights are on you can double park literally anywhere, even if it means taking up a lane of actual traffic
3. The respect friends and strangers alike showed Grandma. 
4. The willingness of people to give Grandma and myself their subway seats
5. The feeling that we did not stand out as tourists nearly as bad as when we visit Central America.

Would we return? Yes. Absolutely.