Budapest Through Photos: The Top Tourist Spots in a Party City

Tbh, I didn’t know much about Budapest before going, I had just heard it was a must. So I took three trains over 18 hours from Rome, and arrived in Budapest, Hungary. I didn’t know what there was to see, but I quickly learned that Budapest has a lot to offer information-hungry visitors (see what I did there? Hehe).

Budapest is definitely a party city. The buildings seem to transform from innocent structures by day to thriving, vibrant hubs of activity at night. So, if you traveled to Budapest to party, you definitely made the right choice… but make sure to plan at least a little time to see the city!

budapest through photos

The city, first of all, is so beautiful.

The buildings are all capped with clay and mint colored shingles. The Danube mightily flows through the center. The city is ripe with history and picturesque views.

IMG_4738

I did a free walking tour of the city the morning after I arrived with a couple girls from my hostel. We walked all through the Jewish Quarter and saw the synagogue, some traditional buildings, and the ruin pubs.

IMG_4705

The Danube is the major river that runs through the heart of Budapest, separating the Buda side from the Pest side (they used to be two separate cities!).

IMG_4719

I think Budapest is one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever been to. I use the word “interesting” here in its true sense–the city really is interesting. It’s full of wacky architecture, graffiti, ruins that have been transformed into hip pubs, and some really important history, especially with regard to World War II.

IMG_4710
Ruin pub by day. So cool by night–a must!

The beautiful Parliament building is also one of Budapest’s main tourist attractions. Impressive and intricate by day, yet strikingly luminescent by night, this magnificent building impressed me from both sides of the river and at all times of day.

IMG_4724
Parliament by day.
5053c152-db09-4707-9c91-f7d00be225dd
Parliament by night.

Heroes’ Square, closing out Andrassy Avenue, is yet another tourist attraction Budapest has to offer. It contains many statues of famous Hungarian politicians, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. If you’re into history and museums, this is definitely something to check out!

IMG_4754
Heroes’ Square.

Budapest is also heavily laced with Holocaust connections. Like many other European cities, there’s a Jewish ghetto, which is absolutely brimming with delicious kosher restaurants and shops and synagogues.There are countless monuments to remember the victims, some marked and some unmarked. One of the most striking and heartbreaking monuments is pictured below. The Nazis would line up their victims on the banks of the Danube River, force them to strip naked, and shoot many of them, their bodies falling into the river. Those they did not shoot would then return to the Jewish ghetto, a mere three blocks away.

IMG_4720
The most heartbreaking bit was seeing the children’s shoes.

After soaking in all the fascinating history Budapest has to offer, you can soak away the afternoon in one of the many famous thermal baths! These babes are so, so awesome. It’s basically like sitting in a hot tub outside, with your skin absorbing all the good chemicals and minerals they have to offer.

ba1e2a55-b3dc-4b70-a74d-1454409531e8

My friends and I visited the Szechenyi Bath, the most famous of the baths. Painted a traditional mustard yellow color, this bath is actually like twenty baths in one. The most picturesque, of course, is the outdoor bath. It’s similar to your local fitness club’s outdoor pool, probably. Picture teenage girls tanning, men standing around drinking beer, and moms dipping their legs in on the edges, gossiping…. and of course, everyone is Instagramming the whole affair! The building, however, also has plenty of indoor baths if chilling outside isn’t your thing. The pools range in temperature from 20-40 degrees Celsius (aka pretty chilly to pretty warm). There’s a bunch of saunas, as well, ranging in temperature, steaminess, visibility, and smells.

2E78188B-FC22-4204-8A02-2EB54523D245

Plan to spend a while at the baths–they’re so relaxing (and a great hangover cure).

And of course, how could we talk about Budapest without mentioning the incredible nightlife?

The girls I met at the hostel and I went on several pub crawls, a champagne boat party, and danced all night every night. Budapest isn’t a city you want to sleep in–it’s the city you go to afterwards where you’ll need a day or two (or a few) to catch up!

c9ddfd2f-3cae-4979-ab82-b5af30a0d716

3c3884b7-5e7b-4545-b968-be00ccad215a

Plus, my friend and I may have gotten matching tattoos after a particularly fun night 😉 What’s a backpacking trip without something crazy to commemorate it?!

IMG_4756

Budapest is a city with a massive heartbeat for fun, history, and intricate architecture. The rumors you’ve heard are right–it’s a must-see when traveling through Europe. I know I’ll be returning in the near future to experience the wonder of it all again.

tess (1)

HOW TO TRAVEL EUROPE FOR THE BEGINNING BACKPACKER: Your Ultimate Guide to Transportation in Europe

I’ve had message upon message about this topic, all saying the same thing: I want to travel Europe, but I’m clueless about how to get around! 

So, I’m here to tell you the unfiltered pros and cons of travel in Europe. I’ve lived through the ups and downs. I’ve slept on buses and trains. I’ve ran to catch a train two minutes before departure. I’ve missed connections. I’ve lost items, accidentally spent unnecessary money, and sweat through all my clothes after a 30+ hours of travel. SO, read on if all that sounds like fun! (Just kidding, mostly….)

(Beware: this post will be significantly longer than others, so feel free to skim to the parts you want to read!)

First things first, you need to know a couple things about backpacking.

1.) You can’t bring a lot with you.

Most planes, trains, buses, and boats have luggage restrictions. Sometimes the restrictions are STRICT–and I’m talking maybe a free personal item, but then there’s a $100 fee for even a carry-on. So: travel light.

2.) Be flexible.

Probably a little over half the time, my train/bus/taxi/plane is late. That means a lot of standing around, sometimes for hours in stations without heat or A/C or benches or anything to eat besides a Kinder bar from a vending machine. That means spending extra money on food while you wait because you get hungry. That means missing your connecting train/bus/etc and having to figure out how to get a refund with a company that doesn’t have an English-speaking representative in the city you’re in, or you don’t get an email response until over a month later, or sometimes you’re just fucked and there’s nothing you can do but buy a new ticket. That means using international calling rates to contact your hostel to let them know you’ll be later than your ETA. Essentially, expect the unexpected. So: be positive and be flexible.

OKAY, now that we have that out of the way….

The ultimate guide on how to get around Europe!

Each option listed below has pros and cons, like most things about travel. All have the possibility of delays, mechanical problems, and unforeseen issues. Before traveling, it’s necessary to have a feel for how much money you’re willing to spend, especially on things like comfort and length of time traveling. (For example: are you willing to sleep on a shitty reclining train seat for twelve hours with five other people sleeping up against you like sardines? Can you sit on a bus for over 24 hours? Yes, I’ve done the former, and I’m planning to do the latter.) So, buckle up, and let’s plan your trip!

 

how to travel europe for the beginning backpacker (2)

If you’re flexible, use the app GoEuro. I’ve never used it personally because I have a train pass, but this fantastic program searches the cheapest, quickest, and easiest routes between two cities. They search through buses, flights, and trains, and it’s a great resource, especially for budget travelers! Once my rail pass expires, I’ll definitely be using this fantastic app.

1.) Take the train.

This is probably the most popular among foreign travelers in Europe. For non-EU citizens, you would want to purchase a Eurail Pass (EU citizens can purchase the Interrail Pass). This is an economical option if you are planning to take more than 2-3 long-distance trains. Without the pass, tickets can be very expensive (my 30 euro ticket from Paris to London would’ve been 250).

The Eurail Pass has a lot of different options for purchase. You can buy 1-, 2-, or 3- month unlimited passes, you can buy a certain number of stops in a certain number of days, you can buy access to trains just one, two, or a few countries. Essentially, you want to have an idea of where you’ll probably be going.

I purchased 10 stops (aka 10 24-hour travel days) in 2 months, and I *really* wish I’d purchased the unlimited pass. I’m traveling a lot more than I anticipated, and I’m spending extra money on other modes of transportation. But live and learn, I suppose!

On my pass, I write the date I’m traveling and all the connections in between (ex: London –> Brussels –> Amsterdam counts as one travel day as long as you’re traveling within 24 hours, but you still have to write all the connections in between). Once I’m on the train, the train manager will come around and check everyone’s passes/tickets/etc and stamp them with the date.

The Pass also has first and second class. There are obvious differences between the two classes: first obviously has comfier, bigger seats; it’s probably quieter; sometimes there’s free Wifi if it’s not offered to the entire train; and sometimes there’s food/drink service for free or for discounted purchase. While I did consider purchasing a first class ticket because the prices aren’t that much higher, I’m glad I didn’t. My impression of first class is that it’s mostly for citizens traveling for business. I haven’t met any other backpackers who purchased the first class pass. Second class is just fine, and is actually pretty luxurious. (Especially to us Americans who have most likely never traveled via train before–I was surprised at the quality of most of the trains I’ve taken!) And remember: if you have the first class pass, you’ll also have to pay more for a first-class ticket on a train (unless you want to take second-class, which of course is allowed). Also, if you find others to travel with, it’s unlikely they’ll have the first-class pass.

IMG_3750
An example of a train in Eastern Europe.

I have the Rail Planner App that comes free with a Eurail purchase, and it’s so ridiculously easy to use. You just type in the city you’re departing from, the destination city, and the date/time you’re hoping to leave. The app will then spit out a range of different routes, connections, and times. It’ll tell you right there if a reservation is required and for what trains. It sounds complicated, but it’s so easy.

C7DfCaEWcAAzUZt
An example of a Thalys train, a company that works in Western Europe.

Big train stations are a lot like airports, fully equipped with cafes and shopping centers and a board reading all the departure times and the platform number the train will be at, as well as the sops along the way (most of the time). If you get confused, there’s always an information desk or phone, where you can speak with someone about your train and get all the info. This makes train travel really accessible and comfortable, even for rail newbies.

IMG_3213
Train station in Budapest.

Pros:

  • Comfort. Trains have seats that are larger and more spacious than airplane seats, and sometimes there’s a little desk in front of you (not like airplane desks–this is like a little table, sort of).
  • You get to see the parts of Europe not always discovered–from the countryside to the Alps to the tiny train stations in the middle of nowhere.
  • Speed. Some trains are high-speed (Paris to London was 2.5 hours for 453 km), others are slow (my train from Budapest to Prague on Wednesday morning was be 6.5 hours for 525 km).
  • You can take overnight trains to avoid paying for accommodation for one night. I’ve done this a couple times! Just make sure you’re taking an overnight train (you can see this if you expand the details in the Rail Planner App). I once had a four-hour layover from 1-5 am, and I planned to sleep at the station… except the station closed from midnight to five am and I was stuck with either sleeping outside or paying for a hotel room.
  • Luggage: you can bring on two large bags and a personal item, I believe. I’ve never had an issue with my 40L backpack, duffle bag, and large purse.
  • There are often restaurants on trains to purchase food and drinks on long-haul trips.
eurostar-pininfarina-redesign-criticised-nick-vinson-lisa-armstrong-_dezeen_1568_0
Seats in a Eurostar, a train company based in the UK. Photo credit: https://www.dezeen.com/2014/11/13/eurostar-launches-new-fleet-pininfarina-redesign-20th-anniversary/

Cons:

  • If you lose your physical pass, you’re fucked. You don’t get another one.
  • It’s the most expensive mode of transportation.
  • You still have to buy train tickets sometimes.
    • Your pass gives you a hefty discount (see above with my ticket from Paris to London), but sometimes you still have to pay a bit, especially with high-speed trains. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly how much train tickets cost without the pass, but I know the pass is worth it if you want to travel via train. I’ve paid anywhere from 356 Serbian diners (less than $4) and as much as 45 euros ($60).
    • You oftentimes have to make a reservation. You can do this on the Eurail app for some trains, and other trains must be reserved at the station. It’ll tell you on the app if you can make the reservation right there. If you’re planning more than like two months in advance, I believe you can call to reserve your train and they’ll send you a paper ticket in the mail, but I wouldn’t recommend this because it doesn’t give you the flexibility of just traveling on a whim. I extended my stay in Munich because I liked it, for example–I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I had planned so far in advance! I usually make a reservation anywhere from 4 days before I plan to take a train up until the day of, typically reserving it the day prior.
    • Many trains, especially in Eastern Europe, are free with the pass and you can just hop on without a reservation. I’ve taken plenty of trains like that.
  • Sometimes, you have to take like five trains over a period of like 18-24 hours. It’s just the way it is.
  • If you don’t leave your luggage by your seat, there’s the possibility that you could get robbed. This can easily be solved by purchasing a small lock for your zippers and a lock with a long neck to attach your items to the shelves they rest on, however.

2.) Fly.

To be honest, I haven’t flown in Europe, so this is all based on research and what other travelers have shared with me.

Flying by plane in Europe can be massively cheap. I’ve seen tickets for as low as 10 euros, and that’s not even really uncommon. A common airline is Ryanair (Europe’s version of Spirit Airlines, for my fellow Americans). I use the app Skyscanner when I want to find a cheap flight.

Pros:

  • Can be very cheap.
  • Quickest mode of transport, especially to countries that are a bit out of the way, like Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Greece, etc.
  • Familiarity. We are used to flying! It’s comfortable and we know how to do it easily, especially as foreigners.
  • There’s also almost always public transportation to airports, and many hostels will provide airport transport for a fee.
  • Employees of airlines and airports most likely speak English, so it’s a bit easier to get around.

Cons:

  • BAG RESTRICTIONS. You cannot fly with lots of luggage in Europe for cheap. It just can’t be done unless you have some kind of crazy miles racked up or something. On the flight, you might get a backpack for free. I’m talking like a literal backpack (not like a nice backpacking backpack, but like a school backpack). You must be a super-minimalist, stringent backpacker to fly through Europe, or you’ll be paying a lot at the gate.
  • While tickets to fly in Europe are cheat as dirt, you’re paying for basically nothing. When I flew from New York to Barcelona, I paid $189, but I didn’t even get water on the flight, and I was slapped with a $65 fee for a bag (see point above).
  • Sometimes if you don’t check-in online prior to arrival at the airport, you have to pay a fee just to check-in in person.

Basically, if you’re going to fly, you better be good at researching requirements prior to airport arrival and bag restrictions. Bring your own food and water onto the plane.

3.) Take buses.

I’ve done this a few times now, and I plan to keep doing it! A very popular company used by locals and backpackers alike is called Flixbus. They go all over (excluding islands–obviously–and a few select countries). I use their app to quickly see connections, and I’ve been pretty pleased so far. Flixbus is also an eco-conscious company, and when booking a ticket, you have the option to help pay for the CO2 emissions.

IMG_2848
The view from my Flixbus from Florence to Rome, taken on my iPhone.

Pros:

  • Similar to trains: you can see the countryside! When I took a Flixbus from Florence to Rome, we drove through the hills of Tuscany at sunset and it was literally. breathtaking.
  • I find them more comfortable than trains, but I’m also small. Trains have more legroom, but Flixbus seats themselves are more designed for the human body, imo.
  • Price. Flixbuses (and buses in general) are hella cheap. The longest bus I’ve taken so far was around 8.5 hours, and I believe I paid 12 euros. I’ve seen more expensive prices (anywhere from 40-100 euros) only on long buses over 12ish+ hours.
  • Ease of booking: you can book your bus right on the free app, and you can save your e-ticket to your smartphone wallet or iBooks, if you have an iPhone.
  • Luggage: I can easily store my duffle bag and backpack under the bus, and bring on my large purse with me. Once, when traveling to Serbia, I had to pay 1 euro for my bags (God forbid!).
IMG_2910
The bathroom on a Flixbus.

Cons:

  • Obviously, you’ll be on a bus for several hours at once. While the bus stops every few hours at a convenience store to allow time for stretching, use of bathroom (although there is one on every bus), you’re still on a cramped bus for several hours.
  • On a train, if it’s loud in your car, you can go sit in another one if there are empty seats. Trains also often have designated cars for families (i.e. screaming babies and children bored out of their minds). On a bus, you’re stuck with the screaming baby and bored-shitless children.

4.) Rent a car.

I’ve also never done this, mostly because of my age (21) and the price (similar to other options listed above). I’ve met a couple people who did rent cars either internationally or domestically in one country, to provide them with more freedom. Many cities have cheap car rentals for 12 or 24 hours, but if you fancy having your own car for the duration of your trip, here are some things to consider (research sources: The Savvy Backpacker, stories I’ve heard while traveling).

Pros:

  • Freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Everything is on your own schedule.
  • American licenses often work to rent a car in Europe.
  • More luggage space.
  • Privacy! You don’t have to share your space with people, and it’s as loud or as quiet as you want.
  • There’s also the rosy idea of road-tripping that somehow makes long car rides worth it, ya know?

Cons:

  • You have to find hostels or hotels with parking (I’ve only stayed in one hostel with parking, and I was pretty far out of the city centre).
  • You have to pay for parking and gas, not to mention tolls, in addition to the cost of renting the car.
  • You have to be at least 25 years old to rent a car without additional fees (as it is in the US, as well).
  • Driving in Europe varies as much as it does in the States with regard to aggression, traffic laws, etc. Also, remember: sometimes people drive on the other side of the road in certain countries!

Like I said above, I’ve never rented a car, in America or abroad. I’m not yet 25 years old, I want to meet people, it’s not environmental-friendly, etc. However, this might be a great option for you! If you are interested in learning more about this, here are some great resources:

The Savvy Backpacker

Rick Stevens

The Budget-Minded Traveler

AutoEurope

OKAY, we’ve covered all the ways to get around Europe like a pro! While it might seem a bit complicated, I promise you: it’s not. Most of the time. There are English-speakers pretty much everywhere, especially the employees of train stations. Other passengers are always willing to help you.

IMG_3756

Happy backpacking!!

tess (1)

The 8 Greatest Things to do in Munich Under 5 Euros

Helloooooo, fellow budget travelers! We all know Europe (especially Western Europe) is a doozy when it comes to price. From hostels to public transportation, food to souvenirs, travel can really drain your bank account if you don’t pay attention (or even if you do, tbh). I went to Munich for a week and found the 8 things to do, all under just FIVE EUROS.

the 8 greatest things to do in munich under 5 euros

1.Do a free walking tour.

I’ve written about this in like, every post I’ve published since I embarked on this great European adventure. But really, there’s a reason… did ya see the word FREE?

So yeah, there’s this company that basically does free walking tours all over Europe. They’re rated crazy high on Trip Advisor, Yelp, and like every other travel website. They last 2-3 hours, and you get to see most the famous monuments, places, and Googleable things in that time.

IMG_4069
A monument we saw on the tour in Odeonplatz.
IMG_4066
A monument you might just walk past if you didn’t know better. The gold stripe on the ground here indicates a path the Nazi resistors would walk down in order to avoid Nazis, therefore avoiding the recitation of the national anthem that was compulsory when passing a Nazi. The resistors created an entirely new way to walk through the city so they would never have to pass a Nazi.
IMG_4057
A statue of Juliet, from Romeo and Juliet. If you touch her gold breast, you receive 24 hours of good luck in your current romantic relationship!

You also get free tips from the local tour guides, who, in my experience, have been nothing less than hilarious and friendly. They’ll tell you all the great local spots to avoid the tourist traps (hellooo, sustainable tourism!!). It’s great.

This is the link to their website.

(There’s also regular walking tours in every city everywhere, but I’ve found this company to be the best of any I’ve done!)

2. Go up the elevator in Marienplatz.

Marienplatz is the main square in Munich, off of which are a significant portion of the tourist sights. I think this cost 3 euros. You basically locate this random elevator under the main gothic-style building in Marienplatz (aka the new city hall), and go up to the fourth floor. The receptionist will take your money and send you on your way up to the ninth floor. When you get off, you’ll be on the top tower of the new city hall, out in the open with the wind whipping on your face and the freezing wind blinding you.

IMG_4107
It was a bit cloudy the day I went, but it was still a breathtaking view

But the #VIEWS, friends. Omg.

IMG_4117

Need I say more?

IMG_4112

Moving on.

3. Shop around the Viktualienmarkt.

This is a little (well, not so little) market right next to the city centre, Marienplatz. In the market, you can find everything from local meats to unique souvenir shops. There’s flower shops and fruits and spices. It’s really a local spot turned tourist. It’s free to walk around and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the city!

IMG_4083

Fun fact: there’s also a May Pole here. Apparently there’s a local tradition where you try to steal other town’s May Poles and demand beer and food as ransom.

IMG_4056

4. Grab an espresso, a small glass of wine, or a slice of cake, and people-watch.

This, you can probably do in any city. But it’s one of my favorite things to do (and I have done it in every city I’ve been to so far).

You can so easily pass the time by observing how people do life in the city, people-watching, eavesdropping (does it really count if you can’t understand the seemingly endless conversations happening around you–you just want to listen to the intricacies that come with a foreign language?), or even reading, journaling, or just enjoying the moment.

This is what they mean by “stopping to smell the roses”.

Take a breather! Let yourself rest for a minute (or three hours) and watch the city. Take it all in. It’s a fantastic way to really feel a city.

Plus, a couple times when I’ve done this, locals have asked me for directions. So there’s that.

5. Explore the churches.

There are like a billion churches in Munich, and they are all so different.

St. Peter’s is right next to Marienplatz, and its incredible ornate gold touches contrasted with the white and black interior is so worth the visit. I actually went twice, because I loved it so much.

IMG_4106

The gothic Cathedral Church of Our Lady is a beautiful church on the opposite end of Marienplatz. It is absolutely full of history and beauty.

IMG_4100

Asam church is maybe a five minute walk from Marienplatz (closer to Sendlinger Straße, if you’re coming via metro or bus), but it is absolutely. worth. it. This is probably hands-down one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever been to, like, ever. It was made by the Asam brothers, for the Asam brothers, but the church was made available to the public when there was some protesting. It’s not the biggest church in the world, but it’s *literally* breathtaking.

IMG_4121IMG_4124

6. If you’re a history buff, visit the NS Documentation Museum.

I believe the ticket entry price was 5 euros for adults, 2.5 euros for students, and the price includes an audio guide. I spent around 2.5 hours here, but I easily could’ve doubled that. The exhibition begins on the fourth floor, and you work your way back down to the first.

Basically, the museum is a deconstructed textbook. It’s brimming with historical videos and photographs and text about World War II–everything there is to know about it.

IMG_1997
A photograph of the rules and restrictions placed upon Jews during the rise of Nazi Germany, as seen in the NS Documentation Museum.

This museum is not for people who don’t have an interest in WWII, Nazi Germany, or anything having to do with those two topics. It’s mostly reading about dense, sensitive topics, but it’s important and I’m really glad I visited.

7. Visit the English Garden.

I only spent about thirty minutes walking around the English Garden (Englischer Garten, in German) because it was so bitterly cold the day I went, but it was beautiful anyway! The garden was full of trees and fields and gazebos and little cafes, and the snow-capped pine trees were really lovely to wander about.

IMG_4094

8. Eat a huge pretzel or split a pint.

Of course, a trip to Munich wouldn’t be a trip to Munich without visiting the famous Hoffbrauhaus. It’s where Oktoberfest happens! Hoffbrauhaus is this gigantic, traditional beer hall, serving all kinds of beer, food, and other delicacies. There’s a traditional German musician group playing at all hours of the day, and the waitstaff wears traditional garb. The pints are not pints, either–they’re, like bigger than the size of my head! The beer ranges in price, but the pretzels were 3,80 euros, if my memory serves me correctly. I spent two nights here with friends, and we easily stayed for three hours without growing bored. It was rowdy, traditional, and lovely all at the same time, if that’s possible.

IMG_2006
Pretzels are only 3,80 and the pints range in price. Look at the size!!

IMG_2015

There you have it! Of course, there are countless other amazing things to do in Munich, but they’ll take just a little more of your wallet (and are totally, completely worth the price).

What are your favorite things to do in this lovely town?

tess (1)

8 Tips for Being a Successful and Respectful French Tourist

Bonjour de Paris! I’ve been here for just about five days, and it really is the City of Love. I love the beautiful architecture here. The restaurants are so quaint, the people so lovely.

So, you want to be a true Parisienne? Well, you’re in luck! I’ve learned several things about how to successfully (and *respectfully*) navigate French culture, Paris as a city, and how to live life in Europe.

8 Tips for Being a Successful and Respectful French Tourist

  1. Say “Bonjour” to restaurant workers before anything else. Americans have a stereotype about the French: we think, for some reason, that the French are rude. However, in America, we can just walk into a restaurant or bar and begin asking for what we want without saying hello (we might be a little rude for doing so, but it’s really nbd). In France, however, a greeting is the required opener for any conversation. Walk into the restaurant/bar, say Bonjour! to an employee, and you’ll be happily served. Really, isn’t this the way we ought to address one another, anyway?
  2. Prepare to spend at least 1.5 hours on restaurant meals/meals in general. This goes for all of Europe, in my experience. Eating meals is an experience in Europe… it’s . not just to refuel your body. No one uses their phone, everyone is talking to each other, and the entire thing lasts a long time. In addition, people often sit outside underneath or next to heaters. This is probably because a lot of Europeans smoke cigarettes, but I think it’s also because there’s a different attitude toward mealtime in general: it’s to enjoy. Enjoy the air, the food, the time together.
  3. For buying bread: buy something called a “traditional”. It’s exactly like a baguette, but it’s more of a ~local~ thing.
  4. For buying wine: 10 euros will get you a great bottle of wine. Seriously. At any grocery store. Look for “aop” on menus and on bottles–this means it’s locally sourced and probably really good.
  5. Be a money-smart tourist: Instead of paying 25 euros to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, pay 11 euros to go up Montparnasse. It’s a big business building across the street, and they have an Empire-State-Building-esque lookout. This way, you can also see Paris from above including the Eiffel, and it’s half the price.
  6. Take the metro! They have Uber here in Paris, and sometimes that’s nice when you’re returning from partying really early in the morning or you need to be somewhere quickly, but the metro is the cheapest way to get around. Not to mention it’s how to locals travel!
  7. But be conscious of time. Tn Paris, there’s the regular metro (1,90 euros for a one-way ticket), and there’s the RER. The RER is some kind of ~fancy~ train that’s a lot more expensive to use. BUT…it’s worth it to go pay for the RER train to Versailles if you want to see it. Trust me on this one. Versailles Palace was intentionally built way outside of Paris, so it’s not like super easy to get to. The RER may be 14.99 euros (as compared to the 3.80 euro round-trip ticket for the regular metro); but it takes four metros, a 6 euro Uber ride (or a 2 mile walk from the final metro station), and 2.5 hours to get there otherwise. See if perhaps your hostel or hotel provides a shuttle–that would be another relatively inexpensive and quicker option.
  8. Be prepared to spend a lot of money. Paris is expensive. This is a general rule for everywhere, but the father away from tourist attractions you can get, the cheaper things will be. For example, the cafes around the Eiffel Tower are like 14,50 euros for a salad (maybe $19-20 USD equivalent). It’s worth the walk, in my opinion!

Paris has been a dream of mine for most of my life. I can’t believe I have spent this amazing week here. Stay tuned for a play-by-play.

What are your best tourist tips? Leave them in the comments below–I’d love to hear your thoughts!

tess (1)

 

EUROPE PART ONE (& a bit of nyc)

Hello readers!! I am writing to you from the Newark Airport in New Jersey. My flight for Barcelona departs in three hours! I have been waiting eleven months for this day, and it has finally arrives *heart eye emoji*.

I realized the other day, however, that I never wrote about my Europe trip on this blog.

Why am I going? What am I doing? Why on earth would I buy a one-way ticket to a different continent… alone… with only two carry-ons?

europe part one (& a bit of nyc)

Well, friends, let me tell you!

Last year, I transferred universities. I wrote a lot about this. I wrote about how I was still feeling stuck, uninspired, unsure, and doubtful. In short, I was confused and bothered.

I loved my school, my friends, my major. Why wasn’t I loving the experience of it all?

Why wasn’t I loving the experience of it all?

I knew I loved to travel. I loved traveling throughout the USA as a child, and I had been to Guatemala three times. I had a trip planned to India in August. So, why not take some time to travel?

I knew I had the option of studying abroad at some point in my undergrad career. But I wanted to be able to travel without bounds, without homework and studying, just with myself and my ideas and my wishes. I didn’t want to go to class in Italy, I wanted to travel Italy. I didn’t want to do homework in Tokyo, I wanted to explore Tokyo.

So, I almost half-jokingly put on Facebook in March 2017: “Who wants to drop out of school and travel with me?” A few girls responded, but throughout the year, other life opportunities arose for them, so I decided to go alone.

Which might end up being, like, the most amazing, most radical act of self-care I’ve ever done. Or I might end up totally crashing and burning and running home with my tail between my legs.

We’ll see. 😉

I dropped out of university (I’ll go back at some point, grandma and mom and dad and professors and teachers and every other person who has made sure I know I need a degree). I quit my job. I sold and/or got rid of a LOT of my things.

I decided upon Europe as my first solo travel excursion because I’ve never been , I have a lot of friends there, it’s a relatively easy area to travel around (especially if you’re American–no visa requirements!), and it’s so rich in history and culture and excitement. I eventually want to see all of the world, but I have to start somewhere!

So! Here I am, at the Newark Airport, about to depart for Barcelona. Basically, I bought a one-way ticket, travel insurance, and ten stops in two months with a Eurail pass.

With no real plans.

I’m starting off staying with one of my best friends (from India!!) in Barcelona, and our mutual friend is coming from Moscow to meet us! Then I have a ticket to see Bon Iver in London. After that, I have no solid plans. I have some hopes and some places I’d looove to see, though!

IMG_8266 2
left to right: mireia (lives in barcelona), me, lera (lives in moscow). this photo was taken in august 2017 at the red fort in delhi, india.
IMG_8173 2
mireia and me on the banks of the river behind the taj mahal, at sunset, august 2017.

I’ve spent six months–essentially, since I returned from India–working my ass off and saving and planning my solo trip. I’m planning to write a fully detailed financials blog post about how I’m funding my trip. (assuming all goes well, lol. Maybe I’ll run out of al my money in three weeks because I drastically underprepared.)

Right now? I’m feeling kinda… steady? I am excited and nervous and unsure. But I think I’m feeling confident… I think? I’m wondering if I should have planned a little more. I’m nervous for the flight (I have flight anxiety, in case y’all didn’t know). I’m exhausted from spending two jam-packed days in NYC.

My mom and I spent the last two days hanging around Manhattan together! I originally booked my ticket out of Newark because it was SO much less expensive than flying out of Minneapolis or even Chicago. We stayed in an awesome Airbnb, where the host was the manager of an amaaaaazing Italian restaurant literally BELOW the apartment. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Jazz at the Kitano, and shopped around 5th, Madison, the Rockefeller, and Park Avenue. We also ate SOOOO much good food and drank a lot of wine. Check out the photos below; I’ve heard my mom is like, my twin or something? 🙂 Each of the photos has an individual caption if you click on them.

I hope to be writing two times a week, and I cannot wait to share this experience with you all. Be blessed, loves.

tess (1)