Our First Year Adventure The Cardenas family in 2016

2016 was a magical year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! We'd love to share with you our highlights from this incredible year - our first year as Mr. and Mrs.

In 2016, we've spent precious moments as husband and wife...

We've also been having a blast being Tia Amanda and Tio Luis to our precious niece Cataleya! This year, she turned one!

We give THANKS for all of our blessings with family, work, and friends!

We were able to see lots of family and friends this year while staying busy at home. Luis' shop Auto Interiors and Design is growing more and more every day while Amanda is continues teaching in West Chicago for the 9th straight year! The commute may be 55 miles one way, but the kids and staff are worth it!

Perhaps the most memorable moments of all were on our Honeymoon Adventure! Three weeks, four countries, six Air BnBs, two hotels, three flights, and four trains: it was the trip of a lifetime!

It all started in Iceland...

Before this trip, we only knew that Iceland existed - not that you could vacation there, meet amazing people, and relax and regenerate your spirit! Iceland was by far the biggest surprise AND the country we most hope to go back and visit again soon. Here were the highlights!

The Blue Lagoon

Arrival in Reykjavik

It was a chilly morning (midnight Chicago time, 6:30am Icelandic time!) and we were ready for adventure! Iceland Air offers a really cool program called the Iceland Stopover. We spent an extended layover on the island and seriously wish it would have been longer...

It was time to start exploring...

We brought the honeymoon bouquet all the way across the world!

In the distance, you can see the heat coming off of the world famous Blue Lagoon Spa and Resort.

All of Iceland's landscape is like this...rocky, mossy, volcanic, and breathtaking.

In fact, the land is so "mystical", rumor has it, elves live in and amongst these mossy rocks causing mischief wherever they go.

In the Icelandic summer, the sun never completely sets.

By midnight, the sun crept closer to the horizon, but it never disappeared into the sea. This is the view from the backyard of our first Air BnB experience with Olafur and Bjorg. On our first night, we took a walking adventure into town.

The Icelandic hot dog was a must-eat...and it was GLORIOUS.
100% pure lamb. Seriously delicious.
And they came from this little shack down the road. Can you believe that we took this picture around 10:30pm?
Sunset over the honeymooners :-)
True peace. Do you see any elves?

Our next day was all about ADVENTURE. We did the Golden Circle tour all around Iceland's greatest hits.

We just can't emphasize enough how magical this place feels!

But before we left, we had one last mission to accomplish. Historically, the people on the island had very little food in the winter time, so they would catch and ferment Greenland shark to eat. We, determined to live a Viking legend, decided to have a try...

Destination #2: London!

It was rainy and cloudy, but it was also beautiful.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

And then, Amanda crossed something BIG off the bucket list: a visit to THE GLOBE and tickets to see A Midsummer Night's Dream!

Experiencing the globe as groundlings
Check! Been there...done that!!
We've been warned!

English gardens for days...

A walking tour through Westminster Abbey...

Finally, we ended with some other final important London landmarks

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

–Ibn Battuta

Then we were off to Destination #3!

A trip on high speed rail from London to Brussels, then from Brussels up to Amsterdam!

We had no idea Amsterdam would be so beautiful...

Over the course of our honeymoon, we stayed at several Air BnBs.

This one was in the backyard of a sweet Dutch couple and they called it, fittingly, "The Little Blue House". It had no AC (which we survived), but it was a sweet and homey place to spend our quick visit to Amsterdam

The canals of Amsterdam

EVERYONE in Amsterdam bikes EVERYWHERE. We were outnumbered!

And finally we were off to Germany!

This is where we spent the most time and had the luxury of car travel. We were worn out from planes and trains. Luis was a little TOO excited to get on the autobahn and drive as fast as he wanted...

One of the best highlights was an overnight trip to a castle...this is a little look around!

First stop...Cologne

Home to this gorgeous cathedral. We were only here for a day to get some rest and pick up our rental car, but Cologne was full of surprises...and a quick laundry stop! How romantic, right?! :-)

Then we were off to the long awaited destination: Castlehotel Auf Schoenberg!

This was our honeymoon highlight for sure! One night in a castle, a five course meal, and a bottle of champagne and a bottle of sherry waiting for us in our room? Oh...and wait until you see the tour of our room!

The grounds were filled with gardens and little paths. We even played life-sized chess!

Our room was EPIC. A bookshelf hid the entrance to the bathroom and every single detail was so beautifully constructed...

As romantic as the castle and driving The Rhine were, we were off to our next adventure: The Black Forest

The Black Forest was pristine

From the quaint villages, waterfalls, cuckoo clocks, and delicious food, we felt right at home in this little nook of the world.

And once again, we were charmed by our beautiful Air BnB accomodations.

This family - seriously - was absolutley wonderful. When we arrived, they had dinner prepared for us: black forest ham, oven baked olive bread, and lots (LOTS) of red wine. They treated us like family! Amanda even got a job offer to come work at their school. If she ever quits teaching at West Chicago...this is probably where she ended up.

Eggs fresh from the family chicken coop
Not to bad of a view out the front window, eh?

After a few days, we hit the road again. We drove through the forest north toward one of the only remaining Medieval towns still standing in Germany.

We arrived in Rothenberg ob de Tauber and were immediately blown away by its charm.

And we finally got to try SNOWBALLS! They were soooo good!!
As we began our road trip around Germany, we kept seeing these blue signs for "Ausfahrt". After wondering WHERE IN THE HECK this crazy town was, we finally realized it was the sign for EXIT. Dumb Americans!
Goulash, spaetzel, and cranberries? Yes, please!
The famous clock tower.
We enjoyed a beautiful evening tour led by the Night Watchman.
He gave us the inside scoop and a thorough history of the town as we wove in and out of the little, cobble stone streets.
Cmon Luis! Take a picture with me!!

The next day, we hopped back in the car and headed south toward the famous Swiss/German Alps. We were in search of the castle that inspired Walt Disney himself: Neuschwanstein

Then we were off to Munich for a few days. Although not an expected honeymoon destination, we decided it was important to visit Dachau - one of the deadliest concentration camps in WW2.

Dachau is now a place where people from any and all faiths can come to worship, pray, and remember their loved ones.

There was another important Munich stop for us to make - Hofbrauhaus!

We love going to the one in Rosemont for pretzels and beer, and that's exactly what we ordered here with some lunch! It was disappointingly touristy, but we still had to go and see the landmark for itself.

Our final adventure from our homebase in Munich was a stop to Eagle's Nest: Hitler's mountain retreat. It was too cloudy to see the views, but it was still a great adventure!

At the top of this photo, you can see the crazy dense fog. Below is the map of what we WOULD have been able to see on a clear day.
The long walk to the Golden Elevator
A little gift for someday-future-baby-Cardenas

And last but not least, a RANDOM stop in a crazy place just south of Berlin.

Welcome to Tropical Islands! A waterpark built inside of an abandoned blimp hangar from WWI. Seriously. This place was AWESOME!

For our second to last night in Germany, we spent our time relaxing in what felt like a real tropical island. It was just crazy!

In Berlin, we rested up, did some final shopping, then got on the plane for our long journey home.

If you fly, I hope you know to never put your seat back. Especially if the people behind you are over six feet tall.
Home safe and sound!

Thanks for watching our story!

We are so grateful to all of our friends and family for being part of this amazing year. Thank you to everyone who has helped us make our first year of marriage so blissful and has blessed us and watched over us along the way.

We hope to see YOU in 2017!

Stay in touch!


Amanda & Luis


All photos taken by Amanda Cardenas

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