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Travel

Paris

I’m in the midst (that’s putting it lightly, since it’s almost been a year) of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here. The first part of this post is lengthy travel troubles, feel free to scroll past to the pretty pictures!

In my last post I discussed that Paris was a complete shit show, and that’s still putting it mildly. The Budapest airport has got to be my least favorite airport of all the airports that I have ever been to. When you walk in there is no direction as to which counter you check-in at. In fact, you are not allowed to check-in until your flight is shown on a big leaderboard. And this leaderboard is not digital, it’s like the old fashion leaderboard where the letters and numbers flip when a change is made. When we first got to the airport we did not see our flight on the board, so we waited, and waited, and waited but every time the board changed our flight still wasn’t listed. It was inching closer, and closer to our boarding time, it became quite clear that our flight was delayed but no one actually communicated that. When all of the other flights leaving Budapest that evening had checked-in, there was a large group of us just waiting in haphazard lines for the airline company to check us in and tell us the gate we would be boarding. At this point at was around 9pm, and I was so over travel.

Finally check-in started, we were told that the flight was delayed by at least an hour. When we made our way to the gate we found that the gate was behind closed doors, with a sign that said– ‘once you leave this gate, you cannot come back in.’ Once boarding began we found that behind the doors was a large garage, and that is where we were boarding our flight. Well we’d actually be boarding out on the tarmac, but we scanned our tickets at this desolate desk out in an airport hangar. Bizarre, but at least we were finally boarding our flight!

Once we were in the air, the pilot came on the speaker, but it was all in French, and I couldn’t understand a single word that was said. Hopefully nothing important! We had some turbulence, which I hate, and get so nervous about. Did I mention I was just so over traveling? But then as we came in for landing I could see the lit up Eiffel Tower and I couldn’t help but smile. It almost felt surreal.

We landed and exited the plane out on the tarmac, then boarded buses to bring us to baggage claim. When we got into the airport I flipped on my wifi so that I could map how to get us to our hotel. It was then that I found out that we were at Charles de Gaulle aiport, when we were originally suppose to be landing at the southern airport, Orly. So that’s what the pilot must have been telling us!

Someone standing next to us said that there were free shuttles since we had to fly into the wrong airport. To find out more about this I talked to a customer service rep, who informed me that Orly airport closes at 12am, which is why we had to fly to Charles de Gaulle. She also told me that there were three shuttles outside, one that was going to Orly, one that was going North of the city, and one that was going into the city, which was the one she advised me to take. She advised that it would be best to shuttle into the center of the city, and just take a cab for less money since taking a cab from the airport would be at least $50+. When we got outside, we asked all the drivers which shuttle was going into the city, but they all denied that they were going into the city. By process of elimination we found the shuttle that we believed we needed to be on, except that the driver was super rude, and kept telling us it was not the right bus, that we should take a cab instead. After slight deliberation we decided to get on the shuttle anyway to see where it would take us.

At this point I was near a nervous breakdown. I was just so worried about where we were going to be dropped off. Both of our phones were dying, and I was having visions of being dropped off at a parking lot, and the driver refusing to bring us back to the airport, so we’d have to beg someone with a car to bring us home with them! Luckily this did not happen. The bus stopped, and the first thing we saw was a drugstore, but of course it was closed. And to top it off, it was raining. All we needed was wifi so that we could call an uber. We huddled underneath the yawning of the drugstore, loosely connected to their wifi with a phone battery at 7%. We called an uberpool, at the time we had no idea what that meant, but we did not care. When the driver pulled up he was dressed in a suit, and was driving a very nice car so automatically I am thinking ‘how much is this going to cost?’ Luckily uberpool just means sharing the car with others, which we didn’t have to do!

We got dropped off down the street from our hotel, so when we walked up to our hotel we found that it was closed and that the doors were locked. There was a buzzer to ring for service, so we kept ringing the damn buzzer, over, and over. I was baffled because I had no idea that hotels could close. No where on their website, or in my reservation confirmation email did it say that we needed to check-in by a certain time. It was still raining and at this point we were soaked, and locked out of our hotel. If I thought I was near a nervous breakdown before, I was wrong. This broke me. I was on my 12th day of travel, and nothing ever felt like it was going right.

We both remembered passing a Holiday Inn, so we walked down the block to look for a place to sleep for the night. The guy at the desk might be possibly be the nicest man we encountered the whole trip. We explained to him what happened and he let us use his phone to call the hotel, just in case we were missing something. He also let us charge our phones, and use their wifi. Maybe these gestures don’t seem that out of the ordinary, but at 1am, when you are in a soaked in a foreign country, locked out of your hotel, it was the grandest gesture anyone could have made. Once we realized we were not going to get into our original hotel we decided to rent a room at this Holiday Inn. Taking a shower, and climbing into that bed has never felt so good.

The next morning we checked out, and made our way back to the original hotel. When we explained what happened to the guy at the front desk he seemed baffled. He asked if we had rung the buzzer, to which we replied ‘for at least 10 minutes.’ He checked us in, and said he would call management. We didn’t spend much time in the room, because we wanted to start out adventure for the day. On our way out, the front desk manager explained to us that the night manager had fallen to sleep, and since it had gotten so late, he assumed we’re weren’t checking in. To comp us for our troubles he offered us a free breakfast, which hardly seemed fair, we insisted we wanted our Holiday Inn room paid for. He needed to talk with management, so we set out for the day.

Of course the first thing I wanted to see was the Eiffel Tower! On the way we stopped at Les Invalides which is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments all relating to the military history of France. Because we were traveling a few months after the Paris attacks there was a strong military presence all over the city, but especially at this establishment. We didn’t go inside, just walked the grounds, and continued on our way.

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And after we left here, we walked a few more blocks and turned a corner and saw the Eiffel Tower. The feeling of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is indescribable. Much like when I was on the plane and saw the tower, all of the traveling stress that I had just experienced completely disintegrated the instant I saw the Eiffel Tower. I really didn’t think I was going to have such a strong reaction to this landmark. Prior to the trip I wasn’t that excited for Paris, it was never really on my top list of places I wanted to go. But standing there starring up at the Eiffel Tower was very surreal for me. Now get ready for a crazy amount of pictures, that will all look very similar.

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Alright. Got that out of the way. I wish I could tell you that these are the only photos of the Eiffel tower, but that would be wrong. There will be more, just wait. There is a water taxi that you can buy a one day ticket for, and ride it around to all of the major sights, hopping on and off whenever. Since I am writing this post almost a year after my trip (god, I suck) I do not remember the price, but I know it was relatively affordable. Plus I love using boats as a mode of transportation!

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We stopped at Notre Dame, which was beautiful. I’ve imagined seeing all of these places so many times, but when I actually saw them, it felt brand new. Does that make sense? Traveling is so surreal. We didn’t climb to the top because the lines were so crazy, but we did find a cafe with macaroons. And I found a street artist that I bought an oil painting from.

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From here we hopped back on the boat taxi and went to the Louvre. Again, we didn’t go inside, partly because we were limited on time. But if I ever get back to Paris, this will be one of my first stops.

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As you can see from the pictures it was already getting dark, so we decided to start heading back towards our hotel. It was New Year’s Eve, but we didn’t have much of a plan. We decided to grab some food and wine from the grocery store, warm up in our hotel, and then head back to the Eiffel Tower. I was getting so sick at this point, that I had considered staying in so that I could sleep. But who does that on New Year’s Eve, in Paris?

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We had heard in past years that there were fireworks at midnight at the tower, but with the recent attacks there probably wouldn’t be. No fireworks was just fine with us, getting to be at the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve is pretty much bucket list worthy. So here are a bunch more pictures of the Eiffel Tower, just now it’s dark. Feel free to skip past these. I really just couldn’t get enough!

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We weren’t the only ones that decided to go to the tower at midnight, there were lots of people, and we made some friends who were American, in the military and stationed in Germany.  There was also lots of military men at the tower with their big riffles in hand. At midnight the tower lit up and a bit of a light show happened. I can’t believe I almost missed this experience because I wanted to sleep! Although I ended up being really sick after this, so sleeping probably would have been the better idea.

After midnight we went out for drinks, and I drank just enough to give me a killer hangover the next morning. It didn’t help that the hotel was still being pretty unaccommodating when it came to refunding us for the night we were locked out. Part of the problem was that we booked through Hotwire, so we needed to contact them. However Hotwire gives no refunds, ever. After this trip I can tell you that I will never be using Hotwire again. So after a lot of back and fourth, they finally refunded us the full amount. We also hadn’t secured our transportation to Amsterdam, so once we checked out of our hotel we had to decide which bus to take. It’s about an 8 hour bus ride. The bus leaving at 4pm was a lot more expensive than the overnight bus, so against my better judgement, we booked the overnight bus. You can add taking overnight buses to the list of things I will never be doing again. There is a train that goes between Paris, and Amsterdam. If you book far enough in advance, it’s not a bad price. I hope the next time I travel I will be able to afford trains!

We thought we would use the day to tour more of Paris, but I was hungover, sick, exhausted and cold. We did see a few more sights, starting with the Luxombourg Gardens, which I am sure are beautiful in the summer!

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From here we went back to Notre Dame, which has a nice little park behind it, with benches to sit and enjoy the area. Since we had some time to kill, we sat for as long as we could handle the cold weather!

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Once we were good and cold we ventured into a cafe to grab coffee and warm up. From here we saw the love lock bridge, which has since been taken down! I am really glad I got to see it when I did! It was a bridge that had a bazillion padlocks attached to it. The idea was that when you’re in love you buy a lock, write your name on it, lock it to the bridge, and throw away the key! It’s sad to think it’s gone, but hopefully the city will figure out a way to do something really cool with the locks!

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After this I felt so wiped. Being sick while traveling is a cruel, cruel joke. Of course it was almost 4 o’clock, and I was kicking myself for not taking the earlier bus. We found a cafe to hide out at, eat dinner, charge our phones, and kill time. I know that killing time in Paris sounds ridiculous, but I was on day 13 of travel, beyond exhausted, sick, and freezing. Someday I will make it back to Paris and really explore the city!

We eventually made our way to the bus station, which was not enclosed, it was raining, and we were early so we found the nearest restaurant which just happened to be a McDonald’s. But a really fancy McDonald’s. I had a really legit salad made fresh upon order. We sat here for about an hour, waiting for the bus. However I don’t think they like people to sit there that long, because they played the same song, on repeat, for an hour. Torturous! The bus finally came, and we were finally off to Amsterdam, the last city on the 16 day European adventure!

Favorite Parts of Paris:

  • The Eiffel Tower, haha, could you tell? I think what I liked most about it is the connection to other people. It’s crazy to think about how many people and world leaders stood where I stood and saw the same tower.
  • How nice everyone was. I had previously heard that French people did not like American tourists, however I found that to be so opposite. We encountered nothing but nice people.
  • The vibe of the city. There is just something so magical about Paris. I can’t describe it, it’s just a feeling.
  • Crepes! Chocolate crepes!

Would I go there again?

  • Yes! Flights from Minneapolis to Paris are relatively cheap, so I’m really hoping to make a return to Paris, but for many more days this time!
Travel

Budapest

I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.

I only have 3 more countries to recap, so if I try really hard, maybe, just maybe I can finish recapping all the trips before the year ends! It’s almost been a full year since I took the trip, so I’m reallllllly staying on top of this whole thing…..

In my last post I discussed traveling around Vienna, and I mentioned that getting train tickets to Budapest was super easy, and it was. We asked the lady working behind the desk for help, and she told us to just buy a general ticket, and that the train runs every hour, so you could chose your time. What she failed to mention was that you should reserve a seat. Since we didn’t know to do this we spent the 3 hour train ride to Budapest being bumped from seat to seat. None of the seats said if they had been reserved, so every stop we made, there was a chance of someone getting on, and kicking you out of their seat, which happened a lot. My travel partner and I did not sit together for most of the trip, but in the last 40 minutes we managed to get a spot next to each other, so we cracked open some wine and enjoyed the ride. Even though I felt the train was disorganized, taking a train was far superior to the bus. After going on this trip I have vowed to myself that I must make enough money in life so that I can always take a train over the bus.

We arrived in Budapest after dark but luckily we already had a hotel booked. We hopped from one train to the next; I found transportation in Budapest to be very easy to use. They had uber, and a great train system. The train was underground, so when we came up the stairs, the first thing we saw was the Liberty Bridge. libertybridge

During this time I was kinda reaching my travel threshold (like most of the trip), and all I wanted to do was shower. The hotel in Vienna just felt dirty to me, so I couldn’t bring myself to shower and use the bathroom. Our hotel in Budapest was lovely, and the shower rejuvenated me. We were spending three nights in Budapest, so we had no plans for the night, we weren’t in a hurry, so getting to just bum around for the night was exactly what I needed.

Across the street from our hotel was a place called Cafe Frei. I will never be able to put into words how much I loved Cafe Frei. They feature coffee drinks from all over the world, each page had a theme; Italian, Latino, French, etc. And probably the best part were the prices. The exchange rate in Hungary is fantastic, everything was so cheap. For a fancy cup of coffee, plus tiramisu, my total was around $4.

cafefrei

After leisurely drinking coffee, we decided to find a place to grab dinner. Once again I’m going to tell you that trying to decide where to eat when there are more than two of you is quite a challenge. We ended up at an Italian restaurant which was delicious, and affordable. I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for ordering wine with dinner. After that we went to another pub for beer. While there we tried a tomato based Hungarian stew, and it was everything.  I quickly learned that Hungarian cuisine was my favorite of all the countries we had visited.

After having a few more beers we headed back to our hotel to crash for the night. I crashed, and I crashed hard. The next morning we went back to Cafe Frei for breakfast (yes, it really was that good), and then packed up to go to our Air B’n’B. We booked two nights in an apartment, and made sure that it had a washing machine so that I could do my laundry. We took a 10 minute uber ride to the apartment, and our driver was just the best. If I could have had him as my driver for my whole stay that would have been great.

Since we had nearly 3 days to spend in Budapest we didn’t feel the need to rush around. We were going to spend the day relaxing, and visiting the baths. Anyone who has ever been to Budapest will tell you that you must visit the thermal baths, and they weren’t wrong. We visited Szechenyi Bath, which is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. When you read medicinal bath, this means that the thermal water has minerals such as calcium and magnesium (and many others) that is suppose to be good for your joint health and general well being!

This couldn’t have come at a better time. Most of the trip I felt like a cold was coming on, my immune system just felt super low. I think this was just due to lack of sleep, lack of water, and traveling on planes, trains, and automobiles buses where germs are easily spread. But Budapest was such a healing place for me. Partly because we weren’t rushing around, and partly because we were able to spend time relaxing in the baths. It’s hard to explain what exactly the baths were, and I didn’t get any pictures because you leave your belongings in a locker. It was basically a big, warm pool, with a building surrounding it, so no one on the street can see in. I don’t remember exact pricing, but you pay for like an hour of time in the facility, and you can bop between the baths, and the sauna, which of course we did. I left feeling so rejuvenated.

On our walk home we stopped to watch ice skaters in the city park, Varosligeti Mujegpalya. This was also near Hosok Tere, which is a major landmark in Budapest.

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After we walked home we searched for places to eat that were near us, and we ended up finding an Indian restaurant with fantastic reviews. Though a part of me hated not eating traditional Hungarian food, I will admit that the Indian restaurant was probably the best Indian I’ve ever had. After dinner we stopped to pick up some wine (yes, I had a drink every single day of this trip, judge all you want), and go back to crash. The bed in this apartment was probably the most uncomfortable thing I have ever slept on. I think the floor would have been better. On top of that, the apartment itself smelled like mildew. But remember how I said we booked this for the washing machine? Well Hungarian washing machines are terribly confusing, and I couldn’t figure out how in the hell this thing worked. There were no words, just icons, but icons that made no sense. I googled, and googled, and watched videos, and had no luck. Then I decided to do a trial run with towels instead of my own clothes which was a really good idea since they came out sopping wet. So I had no luck on the laundry front, but needed to wash my clothes, so I washed them all in the sink and hung them out to dry. The one positive thing they had were heated towel dryers, so I could speed up the drying time!

The next morning we set out to meet a fellow traveler, my friend’s friend who happened to be making a stop in Budapest on his way to Berlin. We met him at a cafe for lunch, and I had traditional Hungarian goulash, which was house made noodles, with a beef simmered in a tomato base smothered over the noodles. It was so, so good. I had a spiked coffee with my meal, and my total was still under $10. After lunch we decided to do a boat tour, because 1) I love boats. 2) Budapest is separated by water, technically one side is Buda, and the other side is Pest, so it made sense to see the city in this way. 3) For $13 you got a boat ride, with a guided tour, and a free drink. The only downfall was that you are sitting inside, so you couldn’t get the best pictures, but that was okay by me, because I learned so much about Budapest by listening to the tour.

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As I mentioned, before they merged, the Danube river split Buda from Pest. Buda is the hilly side, that sits up on the hill. So in any photo that is pointing up, that’s Buda, but if it’s pointing down or on even ground, that is overlooking Pest. After the boat ride, we crossed the change bridge from Pest, to walk up to a scenic overlook in Buda.

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Looking at these pictures still takes my breath away. It also really makes me want to travel back to Budapest. Prior to my trip the place people talked about the most was Budapest, everyone kept telling me how much I was going to love it. And I really did. However I can’t fully explain why. It’s just a feeling you get while there. Everyone should go at some point in their life!

To end the night we went to a ruin pub. One of the weirdest, saddest, but coolest parts about Budapest was the ruin pubs. You would be walking down a street and see a pristine, beautiful building, and right next to it would be a broken down, abandoned mansion. Years ago people started fixing these buildings up to be clubs, and bars. We went to the most well known place, Szimpla Kert. Of course my camera had died, so I have zero pictures, but it would have actually been super hard to adequately capture the experience. I linked a google image search of the place to give a better idea. We had dinner here, but there were so many rooms and places to go. There was a smoking room, a wine room, a beer bar, etc. Definitely a must see if you ever go!

The next day was our last day, but we didn’t fly out until like 9pm so we had most of the day to say goodbye to Budapest. We decided to walk over to the Parliament building, and I learned on my boat tour that it is the third largest Parliament building in the world.

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After Parliament, we had our last Hungarian meal, and packed up. Yet again I am going to stress how cheap everything was. I had a stew, with a fancy coffee drink, followed by creme brulee, and my total was around ten dollars. And the quality of everything was always superb!

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We got an uber to take us to the airport, which was super stressful. The airport was a long drive out of town. Our driver did not speak any English (not that he needed to, after all I was the foreigner), but he couldn’t understand where we were trying to go. I typed in airport to google maps, and where it brought us was an old, deserted airport. We stayed in the car, and tried to map it again. Thankfully we found the correct airport, and we were off on our next adventure, Paris. Which was a complete and utter shit show! Stay tuned!

Favorite Parts of Budapest:

  • Transportation was a breeze. Easy trains, loved having access to uber.
  • The food. I know I say that for every post, but Hungarian cuisine was definitely my favorite, especially since it was winter, a warm stew was just the best!
  • How inexpensive everything was, I never felt an ounce of guilt for buying anything. They also accept the euro or their own currency, forint. This was nice because we didn’t have to take out a bunch of forint, we could just use the euro we already had.
  • The scenery. Everything was so beautiful. And the preservation and creativity within the ruin pubs was so outstanding.
  • Cafe Frei, because it deserves it’s own bullet point.

Would I go there again?

  • Absolutely! I look at airfare to Budapest almost weekly. I would love to go in the fall or spring.
Travel

Vienna

I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.

On the morning after Christmas we hopped a bus from Prague to Vienna. This was a pretty short bus ride, and the country side within the Czech Republic was nice to look at. Our bus stop was like a junk yard. For real, we got dropped off in this empty bus lot with chained fences, and run down cars. The only redeeming factor was that this junk yard had wifi! And Vienna had uber, whereas other countries did not have uber as a mode of transportation. We were only staying in Vienna for a night, so we booked our hotel through hotwire. You guys, stay away from hotwire.

The hotel was three stars but it felt like one. The walls were thin, the sheets felt like paper, and the shower looked dirty. However they did advertise free breakfast and by another happy accident the hotel was directly across the street from the train station that we would need the next day for travel to Budapest. We couldn’t check in yet, so we put our stuff in their “luggage closet” which was just a closet in the hallway, not monitored or locked. I made sure to grab all my valuables and we set out for the day to utilize the daylight.

Side note” traveling in the winter months was really hard becasue we only had a small amount of daylight each day, so everyday felt jam packed trying to fit so many sights into a few hours. In the following pictures, you will see that the sun is already going down, and it was only 2 o’clock.

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These photos were taken at the Belvedere is a historic building that now houses Austrian art. It was originally built to be a summer residence of Prince Eugene Savoy, and has two palaces, with a garden in the middle. Vienna had such a royal feel to it. Everything looked pristine, and luxurious. We kept walking, and stumbled upon  the St. Charles Church, which is regarded as one of the city’s greatest buildings.

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In the courtyard outside of the church they were cleaning up a Christmas market. I can’t say that I was upset to miss another market, but I did think it was odd that most of the city was packing up Christmas on the 26th. I feel like here in the U.S. we really try to hold onto the Christmas spirit until at least New Years, but I saw so many people throwing away Christmas trees, and packing up lights. We also later found out that the 26th is a holiday in Vienna, it’s Boxing day also known in Vienna as Stephen’s day or Stefanitag. As St. Stephen is Vienna’s Patron saint, the day is an occasion for more celebrating in the capital. Because of this, a lot of stores were closed! I was really dumb and only brought two pairs of socks with the hopes of rewashing them as I went–remember I was traveling with only a backpack–well I needed more socks. We were not able to find a place to buy socks in Prague, but I had found Vienna had H&M, but it was closed for the holiday. Annoying! This was one of the main streets, super desolate.

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Another side note: the whole trip, in every country we found places to be closed at odd times. I don’t know if this was just a holiday thing, or a Europe thing, but it got super frustrating.

When we set out for the day we didn’t have too much of a direction, just kept heading in the direction toward the river. I had watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain traveling in Vienna, so I had a faint idea of things I wanted to see, and eat. In a happy accident I found the sausage cart that he ate it and it was life changing. It was a cheesewurst placed inside a warm baguette. Seriously, to die for. If there is a reason not to be a vegetarian it’s so that you can eat cheesewurst. And salami. And pepperoni. You get the point.

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Right next to this cart was St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and I think this was my most favorite building to view. It has been restored, and is considered a main landmark in Vienna.

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After eating our cheesewurst, we found the river and walked alongside of it until we reached Prater, which is an amusement park located in the district of Leopoldstadt. While walking along the river there were so many walls filled with graffiti, and I just loved it. I know some people hate graffiti, but I kinda love it. I just think it’s great, free, public art.

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Fun fact: this photo of the Wiener Riesdenrad ferris wheel is one of my most liked photos on my personal instagram. I managed to catch a good photo, right at dusk. We didn’t ride it, but maybe next time!

ferris wheel

While in the amusement park we decided to warm up with some coffee and dessert. Something else that my friend, Anthony Bourdain, told me was to try sachertorte. It is one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties, it even has it’s own day, December 5th. It was pretty delicious, spongy texture, with a rich chocolate flavor.

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After this we decided to make our way back to our room. Because it was a holiday, nothing was open food wise, so we found ourselves the only patrons at a Middle Eastern restaurant a block from our hotel. I didn’t mind though, good, fresh food, with a side of shisha.

The next morning we went down for our complimentary breakfast. It was one of the best continental breakfasts that I have ever had. A great spread of yogurts, meats, cheeses, pastries, and fresh squeezed juices. I was so impressed that this came free with our room. After this we decided to go book our train tickets for Budapest. The lady at the counter was super helpful, she told us that you just buy a ticket, and then get on any train you would like since they left once an hour.

We decided to leave on the 2 o’clock train, so that we could walk around Vienna a little more. We threw our luggage back into that ‘luggage closet’ and then checked-out. Wellllll that breakfast that the hotel website told us was free, was apparently not free if you booked through hotwire (remember when I said to stay away from hotwire?). Did they tell us that before eating the breakfast? No. So we paid $14 a person for that free breakfast. I did say the breakfast was good,  but only when I thought it was free. For $14 each I would have much rather gone to a cafe and chosen something I really wanted. Lesson learn, in Europe, ask before eating the ‘continental breakfast.’

The rest of the day was spent walking around, enjoying the sunlight, and taking pictures. We managed to walk through our last Christmas market of the trip (am I up to 6?) I don’t even remember anymore!

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slight christmas market

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Next stop, Budapest!

Favorite Parts of Vienna:

  • So easy to navigate. The city is broken up into districts, which made looking at a map super easy. I never felt lost.
  • The food. Do I say that in every post? Probably! But seriously everything I ate in this city I just loved. I have dreams about that cheesewurst stuffed in a baguette!
  • The city felt very clean. Overall it is a very pristine, beautiful city.

Would I go there again?

  • Maybe? If I were in a neighboring city, I would take the train over for a day or two. I would definitely avoid it the day after Christmas, haha! But I think it’d be a great place to visit in the fall!

 

Travel

Prague

I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.

While planning this trip I think I was the most excited to visit Prague and Budapest. I had heard such beautiful things about both cities. Prague was the next stop after Dresden. We got to spend two whole days in Prague, which happened to be Christmas eve and Christmas day. The bus ride to Prague wasn’t too bad except for the dirty bathrooms, but that had sadly become the normal for riding on these buses.

We got off the bus, which luckily was also the train station. And this train map was soooooo much easier to navigate than Berlin. There were two train lines, and by total chance our hotel was located on one of the stops. Literally, you got off the train, and walked a few steps to get into the hotel. We didn’t plan this, instead we selected the hotel because it had a pool, and we thought that it’d be fun to have a pool for Christmas.

We stayed about ten minutes outside of the city center, which I didn’t mind because the train system was so easy. Everything I had heard about Prague was correct. It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. I’m mostly going to let the photos speak for this post just because my words are less interesting.

This is the first photo I took upon arriving in the city center, and every time I look at it, I can’t believe that I was there. That I saw this. It’s unreal.

market

In the middle of the city center there was yet another Christmas market. If you are keeping count, this was our fourth market, so I was pretty much over the Christmas spirit, which was a shame because it was Christmas eve! I loved each market for different reasons. Berlin had the best price on things, Dresden was quaint, Groningen was just so pretty because it was set along the water, and Prague had the best food options. On Christmas eve I was casually drinking mulled wine, while sitting next to a castle, was this real life? I’m still not sure.

othershot

Next to the city center is Prague’s astronomical clock, which was built in 1410, making it the third oldest astronomical clock. Definitely worth seeing.

clock

lookingup

nightclock

After walking around the city, we decided to find a nice place to sit down and have dinner. The one thing I am not very good at doing is taking pictures of my food. I’m always just too excited to eat! This was one of my favorite meals, with no picture proof. I started the meal with some wine and sparkling water, followed by creamed spinach and a sheep’s milk gnocchi, with bacon, and peas. It was sooooooo good. My body was craving vegetables, and the spinach hit the spot. Also sparkling water is something I drink everyday, so I was elated to find it everywhere while in Europe!

nightdrinks

nightcatle

The next day we woke up slowly, and drank coffee in the hotel room. It definitely didn’t feel like Christmas morning, but who can complain about sipping coffee and starring out over the city of Prague!

We didn’t have much of an agenda for Christmas, just a few landmarks we wanted to see. The first stop was the Charles Bridge. It’s a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague. It showed up on every must-see tourist list, and I can see why. It’s a beautiful pedestrian bridge, that stretches between Old Town and Lesser Quarter.

beginningbridge

bridge

bridge2

boats

water

dam

Seriously, aren’t these photos so beautiful? As I look at them I am still in total amazement. We crossed the Charles Bridge from the Old Town side, and explored Lesser Quarter for the day. We walked through another Christmas Market (seriously, take a drink every time you read the word Christmas Market), more castles, and a cathedral. This market had amazing food, and it was measured by the pound, so you could try a small taste of a lot of foods! I tried a few different kinds of potatoes, some goulash, some veggies, and breads. Again, I suck at taking photos, so you will just have to trust me when I say it was delicious. Or you will just have to go to Prague and try it for yourself!

This is the St. Vitus Cathedral. I’m sure Adam got so sick of me because every time we’d see big, beautiful architecture like this I would say “can you imagine how long this took to build?” Or “I can’t believe people could create something this beautiful without  technology.”

othercastle

cathedral

anothercastle

As we walked away from the cathedral, these are some of the views looking in the direction of Old Town, and the city of Prague.

city

prague

After this we walked over to, or really I should say we walked up to the Prague Metronome. Of course I didn’t get any pictures of the metronome, just views from up top. This was seriously a hike, lots of stairs, but so worth it. Plus I enjoyed any bit of exercise I could get.

overlook2

overlook3

me

In some of these photos it looks like I photo shopped in all the clouds, but I promise that I am not that crafty with photo shop! The one thing that was hard for me in Europe was how overcast it was. Out of 16 days, I think I saw the sun maybe 5 days? I may live in the tundra that is Minnesota, but we do get quite a few sunny days, even in the winter!

After this we grabbed some snacks, and headed back to the hotel so that we could go swimming and just enjoy some downtime on Christmas. This trip was go, go, go. I’m glad I got to see so much, but it was also exhausting. Do you remember when I told you that we booked the hotel specifically for the pool? Well what the hotel (or rather hotwire) failed to mention is that you pay extra to use the pool. For $28 you could get access to the pool and gym, or just $14 for the gym. Adam and Sahar didn’t feel like spending this, but I really, really needed some time to myself. I bit the bullet and spent $14 to use the gym. And it was probably the best money I spent on the entire trip.  Even though we walked an average of 7 miles everyday, using weights felt amazing. I spent two hours working out, and I felt so rejuvenated afterwards. It’s crazy what alone time, and endorphins can do for the soul.

After I was done with my workout, we headed to the casino next to the hotel, Adam wanted to spend the last of his czech koruna, since we would not be using this currency the rest of the trip. This was quite the experience. The casino was in a dark, closed strip mall. We had to take a small little elevator to the top floor, it felt a little like we were being kidnapped. Once inside we had to check our jackets, show them our passports, and get out pictures taken as proof that we had been there. We probably looked like we were up to no good because we stayed for maybe 5 minutes, but we just didn’t have that much money to gamble!

Then it was time to pack, and go to bed. Since we had two whole days in Prague, I washed some things in the sink so that I would have a few clean items. We booked a room in Budapest that had a washing machine, and I was already looking forward to it. Traveling with a backpack was smart since I was on the move so much, but I was already sick of everything I had packed.

We woke up early the next morning to board our bus to Vienna. I was about halfway through my trip at this point. At times I wondered how I was going to survive 4 more destinations, and at other times I felt that I could have traveled forever.

Favorite Parts of Prague:

  • Transportation! So, so easy. And brought you everywhere you needed to go.
  • The food. Very starched base, not as much emphasis on sweets, so be prepared to fill up on carbs!
  • The architecture- very gothic, and well preserved, or at least felt well preserved.
  • The leisurely pace. It never felt like anyone was in a hurry. In Germany I always felt like we were being rushed to leave places, but in Prague everything felt relaxed.
  • The scenery. You saw the pictures, so beautiful. I could have spent a whole day just sitting on a bench taking in the scenery.

Would I go there again?

  • Yes! I really hope to go to Prague again someday. However it was super touristy. I know other seasons and parts of Prague probably aren’t so touristy, so I would plan accordingly. By the end I got really sick of how many people were coming up to me trying to sell some sort of tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel

Dresden

I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.

For me, one of the hardest parts about this whole trip was lack of wifi. Not because I wanted to instagram and tinder, but because I wanted to be able to map things easier. And google. If I had a dollar for every time we had the following conversation: “What do you think that building is?” “I don’t know, google it when we get back to the room.”

In Berlin, I pre-mapped out our route to the bus stop, which was going to be about 60 minutes by train. Well we came out of the hotel and I took a right instead of a left, which threw off everything. Their train system is super intricate, and not English friendly.

berlin-s-bahn-map

We were already running late, and could not figure out which train we needed to get us to our bus stop. I asked 3 people, none of which spoke or English. Adam finally picked a train that was going in the general direction that we needed, we took it a few stops, got off and searched for a cab. We made our bus to Dresden with maybe 3 minutes to spare. I had such an extreme amount of adrenaline running through my body, I vowed to plan better, and leave earlier for the rest of our trip.

The bus to Dresden wasn’t so bad. It was only about a 3 hour trip, and I listened to Serial season two the whole time. Once we got to Dresden we got off at the first train station stop, which had wifi for us to scout out our airbnb, which luckily enough turned out to be really close. We decided to walk it, which was maybe a bit ambitious with all of our stuff, but we made it just fine!

Once we arrived, the lady showing us the space only spoke German and was shocked to see that there were two of us staying the night. It was a small space, with a tiny futon, but we made it work. The downfall- no wifi. Soooo with no idea of what to see or which direction to go, we set out toward what we figured was the city center.

Dresden is a much smaller city, so figuring out transportation was a breeze. Our first stop was Zwinger, which is a museum complex with a nice courtyard in the middle. The architecture was so beautiful, and there were mythological female statues placed all over the property.

 

zwinger2

zwinger3

zwinger4

zwinger5

This was Hotel Taschenberpalais which was across the street from Zwinger. If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would have stayed in a hotel in the city, rather than an airbnb that was further out.

zwinger

After Zwinger we walked to a Christmas market, which is actually why we chose to make a stop in Dresden. Partly we chose it because it was on the way to Prague, a nice way to break up such a long bus ride. But also Dresden was rated highly in terms of their Christmas markets, which did not disappoint. They had a few markets, and I think we walked through all of them.

market

market2

One of my favorite things about Christmas time is eggnog. Judge all you want, but I really love the stuff. I could drink it all year round. In one of the markets I found something that looked to resemble eggnog, but without speaking German or having wifi I really could not be sure, I went for it anyway. It’s called eierpunsch, and it is not the eggnog that I know and love. It is a warm alcoholic egg based drink, but it’s not as creamy as the eggnog we have here. But traveling is made for new adventures, right?

eggnog

punsch

After my eierpunsch I got some gluehwein, which is a hot wine punch, similar to a mulled wine. If you remember I also had some gluehwein in Groningen but that time it was cold from the bottle, whereas this time it was warm from the pot. For an extra euro you could get it jazzed up with a shot of rum or whiskey, which seemed like a no brainer. Right next to this market was a mall, which also had a grocery store inside. It’s a very bizarre notion compared to the U.S. but it came in pretty handy when trying to save money on drinks. You could carry around a drink, or beer within the market, which just feels like such a luxury. The U.S., and Minnesota in particular is so strict with their drinking laws, so I’m always pretty tickled when I can carry around a drink in public. Dresden was probably the coldest location that we had been to thus far, so drinking really seemed to be like the best idea to stay warm.

Once it got dark we decided to walk back toward our airbnb, and of course we ran into another market. At most of the markets were booths selling a thing called currywurst. It’s basically a sausage covered with a curry ketchup, but the one I decided to get was covered in a spicy cheese sauce. I loved it.

Before ending the evening we decided to buy some wine at the pharmacy, and sit next to a fire within the market. I lied before when I said that Groningen was the last time I felt like I was on vacation. The entire trip was a dream. I don’t know if I will ever have another time in my life when I will have weeks upon weeks to soak up other cultures.

nightmarket

When we finally made our way back to the airbnb, Adam passed out hard. But I have the curse of troubled sleeping, so without wifi, and no book I was wide awake. I turned on the TV and watched a German movie to try and help me sleep. This didn’t work, and I ended up listening to Serial, same episodes I had already listened to. This actually helped me sleep quite well. So I guess you can already tell my feelings about this season of Serial…

Remember when we first got to Dresden and we were so excited about how close the bus stop was to our place? Wellllll we got off at the wrong stop, so we had no clue where the stop was the we needed to catch our next bus from. And without wifi we decided it would be best to walk back to the original bus stop (which had wifi), to map our route. Upon arrival to the train station/bus station Adam realized he left 100 euro in the room, and had no way of getting back in. He messaged the owner in hopes of possibly getting it back, and she promised to send it. I’ve never actually heard if he got that back or not. While he was dealing with that,  I decided to get some breakfast, which in Germany is more sausage. No joke, this is a breakfast croissant around a sausage.

sausage crossiant

We figured out that we needed to take a train to the other bus stop. Side note, I really loved train stations in Europe. We just don’t use trains in the same way here in the U.S. Once we hopped the train, we had to scramble to find the unlabeled bus stop. The buses we were taking are exactly like the mega buses here. You don’t have an assigned seat, there is no clear bus stop, you don’t know if the bus is going to be on time, or how many people are already going to be on the bus. It’s realllllllly fun.

train station

But we boarded the bus, and we were on the way to Prague! Prague for two whole days!

Favorite Parts of Dresden:

  • It was such a cute, quaint little town
  • Not super touristy
  • The architecture
  • Easy transportation
  • Sausages!

Would I go there again?

  • I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to go here again.
Travel

Berlin

I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.

At about 11pm we hopped an overnight bus from Groningen to Berlin. When planning the trip, an overnight bus seemed like a really, really great idea. That way we wouldn’t waste 8 hours sitting on the bus during the day, plus we could sleep on the bus, and save ourselves the price of a hotel room. Once executed, this was not a really, really great idea. I can barely sleep while laying down in my own comfy bed, I don’t know why I thought I would be able to sleep sitting up, on a bus. I am going to be real vague when I tell you I took something to help me pass out that ended up having the opposite effect. I was wired, paranoid, and exhausted all at the same time.

Once we hit the German border, the bus stopped and German guards came on to check everyone’s passports. This ended up delaying our travel time. What should have been an 8 hour bus ride turned into 9 and a half. When we got off the bus I felt like I hadn’t slept at all, but I was so excited to be getting off the damn bus. I hate sitting still so travel isn’t ideal. At the bus station we were really hoping for wifi so that we could route our way to the hotel, but no such luck. We tried to find the train station and after a few minutes of feeling super flustered, we made a rookie mistake and got a cab. Whatever, sometimes paying more is worth it for sanity sake.

Our hotel ended up being quite a long distance from the train station, so I was happy to be in a cab, and not on a train. We gave the cab driver the name of our hotel and he insisted that he knew where to take us. Well he didn’t, he took us past the destination, got huffy, turned off his meter but eventually got us to our hotel.

We walked in, and I was told I had no reservation. I must have looked real exasperated at this point because the woman working was extremely helpful. She told me that I must have booked it at their sister hotel which luckily was only a 10 minute walk away, and she drew me a map! We stayed in the Checkpoint Charlie area of Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie was a checkpoint along the Berlin Wall passing between East and West Berlin.

We finally made it to our hotel, dropped our luggage with the concierge, brushed our teeth and set out for the day. We had less than 24 hours in Berlin, so we wanted to see as much as we possibly could! A friend recommended for us to see the Reichstag dome, which is a glass dome built to signify the reunification of Germany. The dome is set on top of the Reichstag building to symbolize that now the people are above the government.

index

dome

dome2

dome3

After the dome we made our way over to the Holocaust Memorial, which is a site in remembrance of the Jewish victims of the holocaust. It’s made up of 2,711 concrete slabs set up in a grid pattern. Even though the number of slabs don’t have a symbolic representation, it was a really powerful thing to see. All throughout Europe are these little brass tiles called stolperstein embedded into the sidewalk, they were created to commemorate victims of Nazi oppression. I forgot to get a picture of them, but it was horrifying to see how many people were ripped out of their homes due to Nazism.

holocaust

The memorial is really close to the Brandenburg Gate, which was a former city gate that was restored after World War II. Now it serves as a symbol for the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also signifies peace and unity. Overall Berlin was rich in World War II and Holocaust history. Germans don’t run from their past, instead they feel it’s very important to remember what happened, and move forward in a positive way.

bradenburg

brandenburg

After this we walked toward a Christmas market for snacks, and drinks. At most of the Christmas markets you could find this sugar bread that they roll around a tube, roasting it above a fire. It wasn’t as good as it sounded. It cooled down pretty quickly, and then was just really flaky and messy. But I really look to be enjoying it, huh?

Our final destination was the Berlin Cathedral, which was gorgeous.

bread

market

cathedral

cathedral2

church

We sure piled on the miles during this trip. After all the sight seeing we stopped by a grocery store and picked up dinner. I was in desperate need for some vegetables. My stomach was yearning for something green. So I bought a salad, and some kefir. Germany was all about the kefir, there we so many options, and it was super cheap. At this point I felt like a zombie, so we headed back to the hotel room, and I passed out cold. The next morning we were heading to Dresden, on yet another bus. Let me tell you how much I loved bus rides after this trip…..

Favorite Parts of Berlin:

  • The kefir
  • The history. Sometimes I found it grim, but it was incredible to see.
  • It was easy to walk around to a lot of the main tourist spots

Would I go there again?

  • Yes, even though it wasn’t my favorite place, I think spending more time there would allow me to see more, and enjoy more.
Travel

Groningen

I’m in the midst of recapping my trip to Europe, you can play catch up here.

When I finally decided that I was going to travel to Europe, I was lucky enough to find a cost effective direct flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam. If I could give any piece of travel advice, it would be to fly direct. At first I was  a little worried about sitting on a plane for almost 8 hours, I thought a layover would help to break up the time. Plus people thought it was a good idea to tell me that sitting still for too long can cause blood clots which could result in death. But the 8 hours really wasn’t that bad, and I did not get blood clots, or die, so that’s a win. You have a monitor in front of you with an endless supply of movies, TV shows, and podcasts. Plus the flight attendants come around with enough snacks, beverages, and meals that the time actually flies by.

My flight was a Friday afternoon which meant the bulk of my flight was in the dark. I tried so hard to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening. The trip there was very smooth, only a little bit of turbulence, and a great landing. I am a verrrrryyy nervous flier, but with the free booze, and some anxiety meds, I did just fine! We landed in Amsterdam at 6:30am, and I had to wait about an hour to catch a two hour train to Groningen.

You may be asking yourself, why travel to Groningen? Or if you’re like me, you’re wondering how to pronounce Groningen. I had a friend who was there studying abroad for fall semester. And no matter how hard I try I will never, ever be able to correctly pronounce Groningen. So if you’re really curious, I’d recommend googling that pronunciation.

The train ride there was pretty terrible. I was tired, the lights were bright. I wanted to sleep. But traveling by train is definitely the way to go. I wish the US would upgrade their travel systems. When I finally made it to my friend’s house, I laid down for about 20 minutes before being convinced that staying up all day would help beat the jet lag. I was awake for about thirty hours by the end of the day, but the travel adrenaline took over and we set out into the town square of Groningen.

Since it was so close to Christmas, we stumbled upon a Christmas market that was located along the canals. The booths ranged from selling sugary treats, smoked meats, homemade goods, and leather products. Along the canal, some of the boats opened up to serve mulled wine, and other hot beverages.

canal

market

boat

After we drank our two dollar mulled wine, we headed back into the town square to meet with a friend of Adam’s (the guy who I was traveling with). We decided to buy some beer, hit a pipe store (when in Rome Holland), and watch some movies at Sahar’s (the friend) place. Nighttime was beautiful, all the cobble stone streets were covered in Christmas lights.  At this point I had been awake for far too long. I was ready to go home and pass out. Did we do that? No, of course not. We stopped at a dive bar that was close to Adam’s house. It was great, live music, and cheap beer. I found it so fascinating that everywhere in Europe you heard English sung music. Finally after sharing a few beers it was finally time to pass out.

lights

In the above picture is Sahar walking alongside her huge bike. Seriously she was so small, and her bike was so tall. She was nice enough to borrow me her bike for the next two days I was going to spend in Groningen. Biking is the main mode of transportation in Groningen, and I loved it. All of the stop lights have bike lights that tell you when to stop and go, ya know, like a stop light. Jesus, sorry if some of this seems to common sense.

When I woke up the next morning I felt like a new person. Adam gave me a cup of coffee and a stroopwaffel, which was probably my favorite sweet treat from the whole trip. But maybe don’t hold me to that, because as I write about each country I am sure everything will be my favorite. You set it on top of the coffee to help heat up the middle.I have found stroopwaffel in some stores around Minneapolis, but they’re not as good.

stroopwaffle

We set out for the day on our bikes, and biked over to the cutest little cafe because they had the best bitterballen. Bitterballen is a dutch delicacy, it’s basically deep fried gravy nuggets, dipped in mustard. We also got an order of goat cheese bitterballen, which was dangerously good.

pondAt the end of this pond is the cafe.

cutestcafe

bitterballen

coffee

Coffee pretty much defined my whole trip. Most of our days revolved around touring architecture and finding coffee shops. After we left this cafe, we biked out to Reitdiephaven, which is a neighborhood that sits on the water, and has a much more vibrant feel to it.

colorhouses

rein

blueboat

houseboat

This was a houseboat floating on the water, but built into the banks.

After this we biked back into the town square and climbed up the Martinitoren, which is a bell tower in the center of the city. The climb up was quite intense, and not for those who are claustrophobic. The top was super windy, but had some really great views.

martinitoren

stairs

views

clock

After all this unintentional exercise, I decided it was time to consume back some of those calories. We headed to Three Sisters cafe that had a great outdoor patio. It was about 50 degrees, you may think that’s not patio weather but last weekend it was 50 degrees in Minneapolis, and I saw people in shorts! Plus the patio had heater lamps. Here we consumed spiked lattes, and enjoyed having nothing left on the agenda. This was the only part of my trip that actually felt like a vacation. We had what felt like endless hours to just chat, drink, and enjoy the environment.

boozecoffee

We ended the evening by sitting in the middle of town square admiring the large Christmas tree while drinking a bottle of gluehwein that we bought for three dollars, it was suppose to be heated, but we just drank straight from the bottle. Class acts.

christmas tree

tree

The following day was my last day in Groningen. We did a final walk around the city, got some coffee, ate some smoked fish, and Chinese food. The Chinese was the worst I have ever, ever had. But the smoked fish was the best! That night we had to catch an overnight bus for Berlin. Prior to getting home we had to return the bike to Sahar, and then walk back to his house to pack. Of course we got caught in the rain on the walk home, so everything was soaked. My shoes, my coat, my hat, my clothes, everything. And in Europe drying machines aren’t really a thing. So I had to pack a bunch of wet stuff into my small backpack, and go sit on a double decker bus for 8 hours.

Favorite Parts of Groningen:

  • The bike culture
  • The canals
  • Getting a cookie with every coffee
  • Stroopwaffel
  • How small yet big it was
  • The people are so friendly
  • The sense of community
  • It wasn’t a tourist location

Would I go there again?

  • Yes!
Travel

I went to Europe.

I have two regrets from college; 1) I never lived in the dorms. 2) I never studied abroad. Granted both of these regrets have led me to have a very small amount of student debt, so I should probably stop regretting them, and feel really fortunate to be ahead of the financial curve. But I had always wished to go abroad, and experience a different way of life.

Sometimes I feel lesser because people my age love traveling, and if there is anything that they love more than traveling it’s talking about their love for traveling. I no longer have to feel any lesser because I have been abroad. I have traveled. I have seen a lot. And I have done so much. Side note: I was totally getting inside my own head. No one should ever feel lesser, everything we do in life is part of our own journey. Everyone prioritizes how they want to spend their money, and their time.

Over Christmas time I spent 16 days traveling around Europe. I toured 6 countries, and 8 cities. I had a friend studying abroad in the Netherlands, so he would be my travel partner. And until that trip, I never knew how many emotions you can feel at one time. Every single day I felt energized, exhausted, liberated, humbled, independent, needy, but most of all I felt lucky beyond belief.

Because we were going to be moving around almost everyday, I was convinced by others that I should not bring a suitcase, but instead pack 16 days into a backpack. Without a doubt, I am an over packer. I want to have more outfits than I’ll ever wear, and I want all my beauty supplies on hand. Rarely do I ever wear half the clothes I bring, nor do I ever put on a full face of make-up. But I just like having these things on hand.

I finally saw the logic in being able to carry a small pack on my back, instead of roll a bag behind me. In the end, I am glad I didn’t over pack. But lemme tell ya, I was realllllll sick of that backpack by the end. I was sick of dirty clothes, and washing things in the sink. I was sick of having to unpack and pack everything into that small little bag everyday. But I survived, and I probably saved money because I had no room for souvenirs!

backpack

My Travel Itinerary:

Groningen, Netherlands

Berlin, Germany

Dresden, Germany

Prague, Czech Republic

Vienna, Austria

Budapest, Hungary

Paris, France

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Travel

Tips for Las Vegas

I made it back safely from Las Vegas! The trip was fantastic, but not at all what I expected. I imagined Vegas to be completely out of control 24/7. Prior to going I kept telling people that I wasn’t much into gambling and that I probably wouldn’t spend too much time on the slots. I also said that I didn’t see myself becoming a Vegas lifer.

Boy was I wrong! I have spent the last few days feverishly looking at Vegas airfare, and trying to build up my MLife (casino/gambling rewards card) points for discounts and room comps. I have never simultaneously loved and hated someplace so much in my life. I would love to go back simply because now I am armed with knowledge. I would know what to do, and where to put my time, money, and energy.

nyny

Things that surprised me about Vegas:

The number of children and families. I would say 50% of the tourist clientele were families. I always imagined Las Vegas to be a very adult location, after all they do sell planned-B pills at the checkout line in Walgreens. Surprisingly there is actually a lot to do in Vegas apart from gambling, drinking, drugs, and prostitution. I am just not interested in doing anything outside of the above list.

The volume of UK residents. British accents were everywhere! I have never felt so turned on in my entire life. I may need to consider moving to the UK just so I can find myself a nice British lad to settle down with. But seriously, I never realized that Las Vegas was such a popular destination for people from other countries.

How easy it was to get a drink while gambling. This is the whole reason why I ended up spending every single day gambling. Some casinos were better than others, but for the most part if you sat down at a slot machine you were served a free cocktail within 10 minutes. And you could drink whatever you wanted! Some guy ordered a crown with coke and it was free! Some of my favorites were baileys with coffee, a pina colada, and a corona with a lime.

losing
I was losing money at this point, but at least the beer was free

 

Not many people drinking. You can carry a drink anywhere in Vegas except for Walgreens, and the pool. We weren’t allowed to carry in our own beverages to our pool, instead they offered you a mojito for $14. You can get a cocktail in glassware from one casino, walk out and then carry it on the street. If you want to drink faster than the waitresses are serving you in the casino you can bring a 6 pack right on in. One day I bought a 4 Loko (classy) and drank it on the street. This blew my mind! Maybe I am just so used to how conservative Minnesota is with their drinking laws, but seriously, you can carry a drink everywhere! I was shocked at how many people were not taking advantage of this.

In-n-Out Burger was overrated. The Midwest doesn’t have an In-n-Out Burger, so this was on our list of food to try. In all fairness I am a vegetarian. However my cheeseburger loving obsessed friend said that it wasn’t all that great. And I was so excited to get my fries made animal style (covered in cheese, thousand island dressing, and caramelized onions) but they were so dry, and boring.

innoutNot super rowdy. I am sure certain clubs can get wild, but overall we did not witness a lot of shenanigans. I was kinda surprised at how mellow a lot of places were. Next time I will be sure to find and partake in many more shenanigans.

Things that did not surprise me:

It was a tourist hell trap. Seriously. The streets were crowded and unpleasant. Walking the strip was overwhelming because you were constantly bumping into people, or being stopped to receive naked lady cards, bar coupons or free club entrance.

I brought too many shoes. I brought 5 pairs of shoes, complete overkill. But I had no idea how much walking we would do, or what would give me blisters. Next time I will plan much better.

I am not a club type of gal. Vegas clubs were exactly as I imagined them to be, super pretentious. VIP bottle service separated by ropes and gates, guys in full suits, and $16 for a cocktail is not necessarily bad, just not really my scene. I am much more of a dive bar and beer type of gal.

Things I would do differently:

No buffets. Our lunch buffet was $20/person, and I sure did not eat $20 worth of quality food. Food in general was not worth the money. I am sure there are some fantastic restaurants in Vegas, but they are probably out of my travel price range. My best meal was either from sbarro, or a pretzel at happy hour. I am pretty simple to please.

Bring booze with me. As I mentioned, you can carry a drink anywhere. And I did for the most part, but I never packed enough roadies. Sometimes I would get impatient if the waitress wasn’t fast enough, so in times like this I wish I would have kept a few beers in my purse.

packingAsk for a damn humidifier. One of the things that I love about Minnesota summer is the humidity. I am one of the few people who doesn’t bitch about a day being humid, in fact I rarely notice. Well that changed after Vegas. It was soooooo dry there, my lips were chapped, my feet were dry, and I hate using lotion so I just dealt with the dryness. On our last day we saw a staff person with a humidifier, next time I will be sure to request!

Slushie drinks not worth it . My very first drink was the classic Vegas tourist cup. For $20 I got 50 ounces of blended pina colada spruced up with 3 shots of Malibu plus this fantastic tourist cup (that I lost, of course). Totally not worth the $20. Too sweet, and not nearly boozy enough.

fatbarThe flight:

And in case you were wondering about how I did with the flight, I had consumed 5 cocktails by the time we had landed at 9 am so I would say it went pretty well. I don’t know if it was the liquid courage, but it was a pretty smooth flight. On the return flight I opted not to drink, this was a mistake. We had a few moments of turbulence and I immediately started sweating from the stress. Live and learn I suppose.

So this is my guide to Vegas. I definitely have a travel bug after this trip. Where can I go next? Vegas again? Okay! But to tide me over I am going to the exotic location of Madison, Wisconsin this weekend….

Travel

Traveling

I leave for Vegas in 3 days! And as I mentioned in yesterdays post, I am a bit of a nervous flyer. I hate taking off, and I hate turbulence. A friend once told me that she thinks of turbulence as a fun ride. Yeah, if you are on the roller coaster to death. I am already having visions of our plane going down, being stuck in the middle of the ocean, washing up on an island, forever to be missing. We are flying over the dessert, so you can see that I am very rational when it comes to travel.

planeI have now made it a habit to consume a few cocktails before, and while flying. It calms all most of my nerves. My most prized piece of knowledge in life is that you can bring your own mini bottles through security. The minute I pull out my ziplock bag full of party bottles TSA knows that I mean business. And this time they will just think that I am a rowdy hooligan since I am flying to Vegas. And they just might be right.

This photo was taken at 5am, prior to my trip to St. Thomas USVI. It’s never too early for a beer when traveling!

drinking

If we ignore the fact that I sweat profusely during take off, I am a pretty great travel partner. I am always on time for my flight, maybe even a bit neurotic since I still believe in getting there at least two hours prior to take off.

I never have too big of a carry on. I am willing to share my mini bottles. I always listen to the flight attendants, and if the plane goes down I will know where our exits are located. But if the plane goes down I am getting myself out of that damn thing, you are on your own.

I obsessively research the destination for weeks and weeks prior to departure. Currently I could tell you the walking distance to just about every attraction in Vegas. And since you can drink on the street (or so I am told) I can tell you about how many beers away the destination is. — Oh we want to walk to the Bellagio? That’s about a beer and a half or tall boy away from our hotel.

I am also pretty passive, which can be good and bad. Get too many passive people in a group and no one can make a damn decision. But if you like leading the pack, then I am the perfect person to tag along. –You want to go to an all-you-can-eat rib buffet? Well that’s fine, I am sure I can find something to eat. — It probably helps that I am a very laid back vegetarian.

3 more days people! 3 more days and I will be living in sin! I am not huge into gambling, but I am a big fan of free drinks in the casino, so in about 4 days this will probably be me:

gamblingWish me luck!