My Weekend in Brussels 

Hi, friends! As you can see from my pictures on my social media accounts, I spent my weekend in Brussels about a month ago! It was a wild little ride and a lovely solo trip after a long week. After a bus and an adventure to my next station in Paris, I was finally on my way to Belgium!

I got in at around 11:00pm on Friday night, and, luckily, was only a short one-minute walk down the street from the station to my hostel. I checked in quickly and was ready for bed in a jiffy!

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I woke up and was ready to get going. I walked the thirty minutes into the center of the city – the hostel might have been a short walk from the bus, but it was much further from the real attractions. Happily, this gave me a great chance to take in the stunning architecture along the way. I met for the start of the walking tour at the Great Market. Our delightful guide brought us all around the city, and challenged me to a game where everyone wins. He found me a beer. It was wonderful. It was a delicious cherry beer that tasted exactly like sour patch kids. Overall it was such a fantastic way to see the city, so thank you Sandman’s!

After the fun tour where I learned about the city and its history, I headed to go find fries. As potatoes are one of my favorite foods and God’s gift to humanity, this mission was of utmost importance to me. I made my way to Fritland and hopped in the long line to my destiny, only to find out that they only accepted cash and that yours truly did not have cash. So I went on a hunt around the block to find an ATM: mission accomplished. And those kind pals at Fritland let me cut to the front of the line. I then indulged in a huge pile of fries stacked on top of a baguette covered in house made tartar sauce. It was so disgustingly delicious that I don’t even know how to describe it. Not to mention, it was gigantic and I couldn’t finish it. After chowing down, it was time to walk off all of those calories. So of course I went straight to the chocolate museum.

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I had a fun hour walking around and learning about the production and marketing of chocolate…oh yeah, and the demonstration and tasting at the end. We ate truffles and even biscuits covered in chocolate from a chocolate fountain. Bonus: they even have a student discount! After munching on my chocolate, I headed to a Starbucks and got to work on writing a paper for school. My life is pretty exciting, huh?

So after, a fun, relaxing, informative, and delicious day, I headed back to the hostel where I promptly found that I lost my key. So after some panicking, I paid the 10 euros and got a new key. Then I went to sleep just about immediately.

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The next morning, I headed down to the cathedral to sit in on a service. It was an amazing experience and it was translated into French and Dutch! After enjoying that for a while, I went to spend the rest of my time split between the large beautiful park (before I got harassed by some dude who wanted to know my life story) and sitting on the steps overlooking the city. When it was time to head out, I began to walk towards the bus station, about a 20-minute walk. Not, of course, before grabbing a waffle for the road. Then I got lost. Of course. I wandered and panicked and couldn’t find my way around. I asked so many different people for directions, all of who were so kind and helpful. I was apparently just too dumb to follow directions that day and couldn’t find a cab.

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Well, I was in luck because after enough anxiety I called a cab and he rushed as fast as he could, weaving through markets and Sunday afternoon traffic, to get to the station. Where I found out I didn’t have any cash on me except for Canadian cash… But he took it, so we’re good? Oh well, on the bright side, I made it to the bus station, back to Paris, and back home to Caen. What a crazy weekend!

Leah

Food in Budapest

I will not claim to be an expert of food in Budapest as I did not have many meals here. That being said, I do have a few must-try places that you should add to your list! So without further ado, here is a short list of restaurants and bars that no itinerary would be complete without!

 1. Fanki Donuts

A chocolate lover’s heaven!


What better way to start your day or rest your tired feet than with donuts? Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with donuts (and treats in general…). And, if you need any further convincing, just look at these pictures! Basically a chocolate lover’s heaven. The hot chocolate was very different as well with a very intense cocoa flavor.

2. Nagyi Palacsintázója

Delicious pancakes and potatoes with dill and ewe cheese!


This delicious pancake place is exactly what you need after a long day of walking in Budapest. It was recommended to us by the sweet woman who worked at our hostel. When she was younger, she and her friends used to go here on late nights out as it is open 24 hours a day. I recommend both sweet and salty pancakes…and those delicious potatoes!

3. Ice Bar Budapest


Admittedly this is a bit of a tourist trap, but it was so fun (and cool, badum-tiss) that it deserves a mention. When you walk in you are immediately handed a menu and you can choose from an array of alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages. Then, you don on your giant poncho and head into the ice chamber! It is full of beautiful ice sculptures and everything is made of ice-including the glasses.

4. Ruin Bar


And finally, one more bar. The Simpla Bar is absolutely a must see. Think of Ariel’s treasure trove from The Little Mermaid as you walk in. It is filled with the most quirky and random items, surely you’ll be charmed-and maybe a bit confused- by this 2 story bar. It also has many bars that serve alcohol and non alcoholic beverages alike, hookah and food!

Thanks for tuning in! Where would you like to go? Anything you would add to the list?

Etretat 

Hi y’all! Welcome to my very first photo blog post! I’m clearly not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination. However, I wanted to give you all a glimpse of my time in Etretat and Honfleur. These French cities are simply too lovely and charming not to share photos from!

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Sorry mom, I definitely had to pass the guardrail for this shot!

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If you’re looking for a sandy beach, this is not your destination. However the large rocks are surprisingly comfortable to sprawl out on!

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My wild hair sure loved the wind on top of the cliff.

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What other places would you like to see photo posts from?

Leah

 

10 Things to do in Brussels 

So you’re heading to Belgium for the weekend or a layover and need to know how to spend your precious time? Well, I am here to help! Thanks to a lot of searching and talking to guides, I have a lovely little guide for you to use and adapt to your needs!

1. Get a Guide

 The city is small and the must-see tourist attractions are in easy walking distance of each other. Brussels is a city full of history and this is a great way to learn about them! Click here for the company I used-I LOVED the tour and highly recommend it! 

2. Food and Drink 

This is easy: drink one of the many Belgian beers, eat a waffle, and chow down on those fries!

Sampling Cherry Beer


3. Chocolate Museum 

If you have an extra 45 minutes to an hour to kill then please go here. I had a blast learning about the history and production of chocolate. Oh, and tasting it along the way! The tour ends with a demonstration, and a tasting. What more could we ask for? Bonus: 6€ for adults and only 5€ for students!

4. Les Galleries Royales

Personally, I couldn’t spend too much time here, but it’s worth a mention because it is so. beautiful. It is also a shopping center, but don’t get too distracted by the many chocolatiers!


5. Manneken Pis

Probably the most disappointing tourist attraction ever – other than the Mona Lisa, sorry- but when in Brussels. Fun fact: they have no idea how it got there and anyone who tells you differently is lying. 

6. Mont des Arts

This is simply a gorgeous view of the city. It is near the park and the Place Royal, and an easy way back into the city. It is also great to check out during the day and around sunset. 


7. Brussels Park

This park is so large and beautiful. It is a great space to relax in the sun! There are paths, sculptures, benches so you can enjoy the nature in any way you’d like!

8. Grand Market

This is arguably the most beautiful place in Brussels. The magnificent buildings resemble nothing of its namesake as a past market. Not to mention, one of Victor Hugo’s homes is here to see. Another fun fact: the city hall isn’t symmetrical because they made it up as they went along. #Inspiration 


9. Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

This beautiful cathedral is in honor of the city’s two patron saints- St. Michael and St. Gudula. The second has such a lovely story of service. As the story goes, each morning she went out with a lantern before sunrise and each morning the devil blew out her candle, but she always relit the candle and dedicated her life to service. Well, at least she got to share the name of a beautiful church? 

10. Royal Place of Brussels 

Just on the opposite side of the park is the Royal Place. While you cannot go inside, the architecture is simply stunning, and it is definitely worth a visit!
What would you add to the list?

Leah 

Surviving an early morning in Reykjavik 

As most people who have taken an Icelandair flights from the United States will know, you get into Reykjavik at a miserable hour of the morning. Flights will often get in at around 6am Icelandic time. This is way too early for me, but if I can do it then so can you! Our flight from Minneapolis left at 6pm, lasted six hours, and then we got in at 6am. So, here is my recommended itinerary for surviving early morning arrivals. It worked wonderfully for us, so I’m here to share it with you!

6AM: Arrival. Get your sleepy self out to the baggage claim! Before you go, make sure book the Flybus for the morning of your arrival! The bus ride into the city is just under and hour, and we were dropped off at a bus station just outside of the city. There, we rented lockers for our baggage and walked into the city. Kaelyn guided us with a map into the city center (20 minute walk): thanks Kaelyn!

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8AM: By this the time you make your way to the center of town, it should be near or after 8AM. But either way, start your walk over to the Laundromat cafe. This eclectic cafe is the perfect place to start off your morning! It is the funkiest theme of washing machines and laundromats and maps. The food is also incredibly fresh and delicious. If you’re a little adventurous, open the drawers at tables, you will not be disappointed. This place is also kid friendly, so don’t be afraid to bring your little ones there.

10:30AM: Do a free walking tour of the city! Book your tour here. It is the perfect way to wake up and get acclimated with the city. The best part is that you pay what you think the tour was worth. We had an amazing experience with a wonderful guide who was very entertaining, funny, and informational.

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12:30-1PM: Around this time, or thereabout, you will finish your tour and will probably be getting hungry again. For the meat eaters out there, this is a great time to test out the famous hot dogs! For others, there are many more quick and delicious options all throughout the city.

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1:30-2PM: Another short city walk! Now is the time to hit the sites that you saw, but didn’t get enough time to explore. This is also a perfect time to take all of the gorgeous monuments, streets, and nature. (We took a long time doing that.) Next stop is to the giant church! Trust me, pay that fee and go to the top. It is incredible and has some of the best views in town. You will get some great shots here, so take your time, take it in, and take pictures to your heart’s content!

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3-4PM: Walk back to the bus station and taxi back to your hostel. As tempting as it is, resist the urge to take a nap. This will help you better acclimate to the time difference for the rest of your trip. Instead, use this time to unpack, read, write, listen to music, and relax. Once you’ve reached an appropriate dinner time, make your way to the harbor for dinner! Either go grocery shopping, or stop at one of the trendy restaurants in this area teeming with locals.

By this time, it will probably be close enough to a nice early bedtime to get rested for your next day in Iceland!

What other suggestions do you have for spending the day in Reykjavik?

Leah

Eat like a Local in Prague

One thing we can all agree on, an issue that crosses all differences, is that deciding where and what to eat can be one of the hardest decisions of the day. If you don’t do your research ahead of time while traveling – and sometimes even if you do – this can still consume much of your time that could be spent taking in a monument or hiking a new trail. While traveling, I know another concept that can be perplexing is trying to find the local spots with traditional food.

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We were lucky enough to have two beautiful guides, Jana and Vendula, while in Prague to show us some places that I’m going to pass on to you! Here are three places to help you get started.

 

  1. Moment

This beautiful place is a vegan paradise satisfying enough for even the most fierce meat eater. This was confirmed by my very hungry pal, don’t worry. They have a large selection of food ranging from breakfast to dinner and omelets to burgers. I had the omelet and I would recommend that to anyone. It was delicious and so filling that I couldn’t even finish it. The atmosphere was lively with fun music and an eclectic vibe. Oh yeah, and their chocolate cake was a dream, so try to save room for one of their many desserts! If you go here, go on a very empty stomach!

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  1. Lidová Jídelna Tišnov

You are probably in the same boat as us and have no idea what that says. Lucky for all of us, Jana translated and told us that it was the working person’s eatery. She brought us here after requesting traditional Czech food, and she did not disappoint. It is a small restaurant, only open for lunch, with a big line. On the bright side, it is a cafeteria style restaurant so the tables turn quickly and you have the chance to sit with – and sometimes chat with – locals and regulars. Jana told us that this food is what most of them grow up eating and I am jealous. For an extremely reasonable price, I had a filling meal of potatoes, fried cheese (trust me, it might sound weird, but just go with it), and veggies. All of this, followed by a plate of raspberry dumplings. If you’re not sold after that, I don’t know what else I can do!

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  1. Trdelník

This one is just kind of a bonus because you can find it’s the name of a traditional Czech dessert (that many countries also have their own version of), and it is absolutely a can’t-miss. You’ll find stands all throughout Prague offering these twisted pieces of fried dough covered in sugar. Traditionally, it doesn’t have ice cream, but go big or go home, right? So I got ice cream.

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Have you been to Prague? What would you add to the list?

Eat like a local

Bayeux & Normandy 

It was a cold and rainy morning in Normandy when I went to Bayeux and the Beaches of Normandy. Not atypical to the region. We hopped on a bus and made our way over to Bayeux to first see the tapestry. Fun fact: it’s not actually a tapestry, it’s an embroidery! This ancient tapestry is incredibly long and stretched throughout a dark room on display. 


The tapestry is beautiful and the audioguide helps you to understand what you’re actually looking at beyond the fact that it’s something old and lovely. After the length of the embroidery, we were guided to the museum area to learn more about the history of this ancient object. In afdition to the museum itself, there was a small theatre within to describe, in even greater detail, the story and time period.
Afterwards, we walked around in the drizzle to admire the charming town and its grand cathedral. Note: they have great sandwiches there. It’s a fact, so please try one. 


We then made our way to the beaches of Normandy. Most of our time was spent traipsing along the beaches themselves. At other times, we explored the old bunkers abandoned in the hills.


Finally, we boarded the smelly, damp bus, and made our way to the American Cemetery. There are many elements to take into account when visiting here, but I’ll keep it simple for the moment. If you are going here in search of someone, go to the museum first. I would suggest going to the museum first in general, but especially if you’re looking for a specific person. They have databases to tell you exactly where to find their plot in the cemetery. There are several monuments within the cemetery itself and they are beautiful and worth checking out. Many of them also contain maps to get your history lesson in for the day. 


This area itself is gorgeous and very ready for a picnic, so if you’re planning on making a day of it, a picnic by the sea could be a lovely break! 

Paris Nightmare Part 2

I’m sure you’re dying to hear the other part of my story, so here you go! 


After a wonderful day spent roaming the louvre and wandering Montmartre, it was time to head back to Caen. We had ended our time in the center of Montmartre at a small restaurant overlooking the square of artists. We checked the time as we finished our crepes and found that we had an hour until our bus left. Our naive selves thought this was plenty of time. We paid quickly and left the building. We realized that we had no idea where the nearest metro stop was and it turned into quite an endeavor filled with many stairs and many cars nearly crashing into us before we finally made it. We found our metro and to our dismay it was clear that this was going to be a long ride. However we didn’t start worrying until we realized that our bus left five minutes sooner than we originally thought. Frantically we looked back and forth between the metro stops and the time. It wasn’t long before we knew we weren’t going to make it. After what felt like the longest metro ride of my life, we got off with only ten minutes until our bus left. And we had no idea where the bus station was located inside the bustling metro station. We ran up and down to different floors and across the building a couple times – I realized that I needed to work out more – before we finally made it to the correct bus stop with a minute before the bus departed. There was no bus. About three minutes later, a bus pulled up next to us…as it turned out, the bus was late, not us! Finally we were able to settle in, hearts still racing, and go home to Caen. 


But the story doesn’t end there. When we returned we had to wait for about 15 minutes for the next tram. So we waited. And by the time the next one came, one of my travel pals felt too uncomfortable about getting on this bus and wanted to wait for the next one-in forty minutes. So we went to a kebab place and got some french fries as we waited. Eventually it was time to go back out, but when we got to the stop, a few guys started harassing us. I spoke german to get them to leave and eventually we just walked back anyway. So, at long last, we all made it home safely. 
Do you have any ridiculous travel stories? Share them in the comments!

Paris Transportation Nightmare Part 1

Let this story be your warning that, while booking last minute can work out fantastically and save a lot of money, use caution when you decide to do last minute trips. It was one of my first weekends of my study abroad experience and I wanted to travel. Rounding up any new friends I could, I tried to plan a trip to Brussels, but alas, by the time people committed it was simply too late.


Eventually, we decided that Paris would be just fine the day before we left. So, I booked the bus tickets mere hours before we left. Oh, and I couldn’t book a hostel or AirB&B, so a friend ended up booking us a hotel before just before we left.


We got to the bus station without a hitch and prepared for our three hour bus ride. Eventually we arrived in Paris! Unfortunately it was farther away than where we anticipated. We bought metro tickets and tried to get on. Until a man told us that it wasn’t going to work until the following morning. So we gave up and got a taxi.


I struck up a conversation with the man, and we had a great chat! He warned us that the area of our hotel wasn’t very safe and to be careful because we were nice girls. As it turns out we were in the red light district right near Moulin Rouge.

We went to the hotel and found out that it was fully booked and that our American credit card payments didn’t go through over the phone. So this man told us that his was the only safe hotel in the area, and to take the metro to Gare du Nord to get a hotel there as it was close to 1am at this point. After much insisting he still wouldn’t call us a taxi, and we ended up walking until we found one.


We ended up in Gare du Nord where we got french fries, and then walked around until we got a hotel. It was there that our guardian angel hooked us up with a great room and a great deal.

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Leah

 

Why You Need to Visit the Secret Lagoon

I see the Blue Lagoon spa in Iceland on nearly every travel bucket list, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous, relaxing, and fun! It is a great option for short layovers, like when I went, because of its close proximity to the airport. For a longer trip, though, you have some other options that are not quite as publicized or as expensive.


Going to these pools is actually a very common cultural part of Icelandic life and many pools are free! There are multiple throughout Reykjavik teeming with locals, if you’re feeling adventurous enough to make friends. Be aware that most of these require you to get fully naked to shower before entering the pristine water. There will be people there ensuring that you are thouroughly clean. It’s only as weird as you make it, but remember this is normal!

This brings us to the Secret Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland dating back to the early 1900’s where children learned to swim. It is indeed a secret as it is located deep into the arctic circle. There is a small lodge where you can warm up and cafe where you can purchase drinks and some food. There is a lovely changing area complete with showers and hair dryers (and no one to supervise your shower if that was an uncomfortable prospect).


When Kaelyn and I went, we were terrified of the cold and I had to give Kaelyn a pep talk to even get out of the little lodge. We ran out screaming, like the Americans we are, not realizing everyone was staring at us until we were safely out of the cold and in the steaming pool. The other pool goers continued to stare at us for about 10 minutes whilst in the water, but honestly I don’t blame them. We then witnessed others gracefully and silently making their way into the pool, glasses of wine and beer in hand. Far more sophisticated than we will ever be, so just know that this place includes everyone!

This was the perfect place to end our tiring day around the golden circle! What pools have you been to in Iceland?