Friday, March 18, 2016

No Rest in Budapest

Hi there!

A few weeks ago I travelled with my friends to Budapest, Hungary! The trip started off pretty rough. It was definitely our toughest trip yet. We decided to take an overnight bus from late Thursday night into early Friday morning in order to make the most of our day. However, over the course of Friday we ended up walking a total of around 11 miles on little to no sleep, which made us exhausted, sore, and cranky. Definitely wouldn't recommend an overnight bus to anyone. 

However, despite this, we did actually see everything we wanted to. We go off the bus around 6 am and made our way to the chain bridge. Budapest was definitely less English-friendly than the other places we had visited, so we had  a bit of a tough time with the subway, but a friendly stranger helped us out and we made it eventually. We made it to the bridge just in time to see the sunrise. Throughout Friday, we saw St. Parliament, St. Stephen's Basilica, the Dohány Street Synagogue, ate pita and hummus sandwiches (A+), walked across the chain bridge, took the funicular up the mountain, saw Fisherman's Bastion, and walked all the way back to our hostel, collapsing there around 3 pm. We were so exhausted that we napped for 4 hours before getting dinner at a pizza place a few blocks away, finally collapsing again around 10 pm.

The next day was much chiller. We had french toast for breakfast (not the same as in the US evidently), and walked from our hostel to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, which is in the City Park. We ended up staying at the baths for around 3 hours because it was just so incredibly relaxing. Part of the bath has a natural whirlpool which is really fun, and there are also chess tables and jacuzzi jets around the baths. After our insane day before, it was a much needed break. After the baths, we stayed in the park, getting some lunch at a burger place and exploring the castle that's there. Around mid-afternoon, we took the subway back to the bus and went home!

Budapest was definitely our toughest physical trip yet, but so worth it! The baths especially were amazing.

xo, Sophie 


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Amsterdam, 2016


Hi there!

So I think I officially need to own a house in Amsterdam when I'm older. I have totally fallen in love with this city. 

I went to Amsterdam a few weekends ago with three of my friends. We took a plane there which was so convenient because it was only an hour long flight. We got there mid-afternoon on Friday, and decided to take a canal tour because it was supposed to rain the rest of the weekend. We bought an I Amsterdam card so that we could be admitted to most museums for free/use unlimited public transport, and the card also came with a canal tour. I think the boat we chose was called the Holland International, and it left really conveniently from right outside the central train station (which is the prettiest train station I have ever seen by the way). The tour lasted about an hour and pointed out some of the main attractions along the canal, like the Anne Frank House and the National Opera and Ballet theater. After the tour, we went to the Van Gogh museum since it stayed open pretty late. It has some of his most famous works, like Almond Blossoms and The Potato Eaters. We stayed at the museum until around 8 or 9 pm and then got a super late dinner at a restaurant down the block called George WPA, which was absolutely gorgeous. 

The next day, we woke up early to wait in line for the Anne Frank House. Even though we got there before the museum opened, we still had to wait for about 2 hours before getting in. It was so so so cold, but we bought some souvenirs while we waited and read about the museum's history. The museum itself is set up beautifully, and really details the family's experiences well. Going up some of the tiny staircases was a little bit scary, but the wait and everything was worth it. Seeing where they lived and the actual diary was amazing. Where it is located is also a really beautiful area, so after we left we searched for a place to find traditional Dutch pancakes. We ended up going to a place called the Happy Pig (insanely delicious) but of course I had to impulse shop and bought a silver ring from an appropriately titled store, 'Pretty Rings.' 

After lunch we walked around the area a bit more and took the tram to the I Amsterdam sign, which is right in front of the Rijksmuseum. Taking the tram everywhere was a great way to see a lot of the city, and I'm pretty proud of us for actually figuring out all the routes. The I Amsterdam letters are actually much harder to climb than I expected, as they are massive and very slippery. Not to easy for short people! I managed to climb onto the E after a ton of struggling. Avi and Tara made it to the top of the T which seemed incredibly scary. Just as we finished taking pictures, it started raining. We were fairly prepared, so we decided to walk around anyway. We walked passed Vondelpark to one of the main shopping areas and went to a gourmet popcorn shop (basically my version of heaven). Since it was raining pretty bad, after that we got on a random tram and rode around for a while just staring out the windows. 

We eventually decided to go to the Rembrandt House, which was awesome. The museum was pretty empty since they were close to closing, and they gave us free audio tour guides which was surprisingly helpful to the experience. The tour lead us through the different rooms in Rembrandt's house and ended in a gallery of some of his and his students' work. It was the perfect museum to go to for just an hour of wandering. 

After that, we went to dinner at a place called Amstelhoeck, which was just down the block. I was so happy because they had really awesome chicken (something I have been struggling to find across Europe) and also really large bottles of water (also hard to find). Dinner was really great overall, and it had actually stopped raining so we were able to walk around after. We walked to the Red Light District, which was only about 10 minutes away. It seemed like one of those things you have to see in Amsterdam, and I was actually surprised how crowded with tourists it was. It was pretty hilarious. We spent a while in a cafe before heading back for the night.

On Sunday, we started off going to the Dutch Resistance Museum, which chronicles life during the Nazi invasion in Amsterdam. For me, there was just an overwhelming amount of information, so I didn't find this museum as great as some others. It was also a little bit more difficult to get to. Afterwards, we took a tram back to one of the main shopping areas and walked around for a while. We went to a cheese shop (which had free samples which was pretty great) and also found a Kit Kat store, which was weird and random. We also went to a makeup store called Kiko which I had heard great things about but only exists in Europe. We all bought some makeup and I am so excited to try it out. 

After that we walked to our lunch reservation, which was at a restaurant called 33&5. Out of all the food we ate during the trip, this was by far the best. It was rated the best brunch in Amsterdam, and it did not disappoint. We had eggs benedict, poached egg with avocado on toast, and roasted chicken and potatoes. We also had probably one of the best hot chocolates I have ever tasted. The atmosphere is really cool and cozy and we spent a few hours just relaxing there, as we were completely exhausted at this point. After lunch, we went back to the airport and home to Prague. We all fell in love with the city, and I would absolutely love to go back during the spring and visit some of the windmills and flower fields. 

xx, Sophie