Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm currently in the Amsterdam airport, on a layover heading to visit the lovely Kat in Gothenburg! She is a good friend of mine from my time living in Saigon. She is back home now and it will be my first time to Sweden.

I saw two students from school in the Linate airport in Milan... and then sat right next to one on my first flight! Small world. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Below is my last post about the long weekend I spent in Budapest. ...What a great city!

Carrie noticed this man walking while pulling two huge sacks of potatoes along behind him (picture above). A bit further on... we saw more people doing the same thing. THEN... our walking tour stopped by a semi truck that was unloading these sacks and handing them out. We asked the tour guide and she said that it was political -- the local government gives out potatoes.

Some gorgeous views around the city:


Friday, November 20, 2015


The Flipper Pinball Museum is GREAT. Especially for an activity to do on a rainy day, which is exactly what Carrie and I ended up with during our weekend in Budapest. Carrie read about this interactive museum on our flight from Milan to Budapest... at first I laughed... but the more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to visit!

You pay an entrance fee of about $10 or so and then it is unlimited play. YEAH!

There are 130 machines -- new, old, and in between. My favorite pinball game was probably The Hulk. I was even able to play a Pac-Man game that mixed pinball and the original joystick game on a screen.

We stayed and played for about an hour and then decided to go. It was a lot of fun and definitely worth the entrance price - but also quite noisy with so many machines going at once!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More from Budapest

I must say, I definitely enjoyed being able to get a pumpkin spice latte while in Budapest! Mmmmm

We found the most amazing gelato place in Budapest! They 'scoop' the ice cream into the cone in the shape of a rose. It's amazing, gorgeous, and artistic. On top of that... the gelato was some of the best I've ever had! If you ever find yourself in Budapest, I highly recommend Gelarto Rosa, address: Szent Istvan ter 3, District 5 - near the Basilica.

There are a few Alexandra Bookstores throughout Budapest... but only one (that I know of) that has this goooogeous bookcafe! Address: Andrassy ut 39, Pest, District 6
Funny enough, right after I took this photo, the power went out! Carrie and I were going to stay for a snack but we were told that they were having power issues and only the packaged, cold beverages and food were available. We were happy to have been able to get a glance at the lovely bookcafe and its ceiling/chandeliers lit up!

We went to a little pho place for lunch. It was delicious. I've missed pho and fresh spring rolls from my time living in Vietnam. Funky Pho, address: Mozsar u. 7

We had to go back again!

The flavors above are pumpkin and oreo. Oreo was my favorite... and pumpkin -- well, I just had to try it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Szechenyi Thermal Bath - Budapest

There are a number of thermal baths throughout Budapest. The one that seemed to keep coming up as the top recommendation was the Szechenyi Thermal Bath. Carrie and I went there... and loved it! What an experience.

Szechenyi has the most indoor and outdoor pools out of all the baths and spas in Budapest. The pools range in temperature - there is usually a sign posted nearby letting you know the temperature before you get in. The sign often even tells you a time range of how long to stay in.

Our tour guide the day before on the walking tour said that people can get a prescription from their doctor for the baths and then get a large discount on the entry fee!

I read a bit about visiting the baths before going on the weekend trip. I'm glad that I packed a camping towel and flip flops (as well as, of course, a swimsuit). My favorite were definitely the outdoor pools.

The buildings were stunning. I love the yellow buildings with while columns against the blue/green water.

The pool shown below even had a whirlpool built in!

A couple of the indoor pools are shown below. Each room was different.

Hungarian Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building is stunning. It sits along the Danube, is huge, ornate, and definitely impressive looking!

Very grey days when I visited but still gorgeous.
I took the photo below while walking across the chain bridge:

A panoramic photo taken from the back:

I mean, WOW!

This statue is in an open area to the side of the parliament building.
I loved the way it was reflected on the wet ground:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

BUDAPEST - Free Walking Tour

We had a long weekend in October and I went with Carrie, a teacher from school, to Budapest. It was a great trip! I enjoyed exploring the city even though the weather wasn't the greatest. We were actually lucky that it turned out to be not quite as rainy as predicted.

We arrived to the airport close to midnight on Friday. The next morning, we got up and started with a free walking tour of the city. Carrie and I went on the same type of free walking tour in Barcelona two years ago! I love the concept -- the tour is free and you can just walk up to join at the meeting spot each day. You are then asked to tip whatever you think the tour was worth at the end. I enjoyed the tour in Barcelona a bit more but this one was still a great way to see the city and get a general concept of the layout.

This bronze Little Princess Statue is along the Danube Promenade.
You can rub her knee as you pass by for good luck. 

There was another well-known statue in the city is the portly policeman seen below: 
You can rub his belly to supposedly be lucky in love (but our tour guide said that the little princess is the most photographed statue in Hungary).

Standing on the Pest side of the city looking at the more hilly Buda side:

We walked from the Pest side to the Buda side along the chain bridge seen below:

A lovely view of the Parliament building:

Matthias Church is in the Castle District of the Buda side of the city. 
We ended the tour near the beautiful church.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Handmade Ziplining, Corn, and a Castle

Our head guide, Gunther, told us that we would be making a zipline one day during the week. I wasn't sure what he meant. I figured that we might 'make' a zipline and then take it down, not really using it.

In the end, we walked along here:

...Played some team games in the forest:

...And went to a lovely spot in front of a waterfall TO BUILD A ZIPLINE!

I am still amazed that this worked and we were actually able to use it. Gunther had a group of students on each side of the river and he bounced back and forth, helping set up ropes with carabiners. That was really it -- ropes and carabiners. (Thankfully, a helmet was also involved.)

I wasn't sure the first student would make it across! The kids were great -- they took turns up top being the 'brake' while a student zipped across and others caught the student at the other end, pulling his/her feet up to a large boulder to climb down from. It was GREAT fun! Overall, it sounded like this ziplining activity and the mountain biking were the kids favorite parts of the week.

A lovely castle:

All the churches in this area have red steeples like this one:

Out of 39 students, 3 did not know how to ride a bicycle. Since my knee was hurt from the long hike a couple days before, I stayed with them while the rest of the group went mountain biking. Part of me would have loved to have gone on the ride but it all worked out and we still had fun.

We took a walk through the cornfields and the town and... sang about corn. It was quite hilarious. What started as a joke kept going and we all sang about corn. We still do when we see each other in the hallway at school!

One of my favorite photos from the week and my non-biking buddies:


The longest hike I've ever done

Once the sun was up and we had a clear blue sky, we set off on the day-hike. I knew I had a lot ahead of me... but even when we stopped for lunch and I asked how much further we had to go, I was surprised when the guide said we were (only!) about halfway. Yikes!

Thankfully, the new hiking boots I bought for the big day were comfortable enough. Since we had taken two chairlifts UP the mountain, most of the hike was downhill. I hurt my knee throughout the day and it bothered me quite a bit for the next two weeks. Now (over 5 weeks later) it's fine.

I'm glad I did the hike... but I'm not really yearning to do it again anytime soon. I usually enjoy a 3-hour hike or so, not really 10 hours! Troppo! (Too much!)

39 ninth graders and a 10-hike... GO!

One of the guides taking a group photo of us (his photo is the one after):

The group!
Not sure if you can see it in the photo above but atop each mountain peak, there is a cross. Each cross is different and even made of different materials. We took the photo standing around the cross.

Below, we are marching to our lunch spot. Top of a mountain, 360-degree view!
(We may have been the group of stragglers and Gunther, in the middle, was pulling us all along the final steps!)

I had a bad cold all week and was really feeling it the day of the hike.
It was tough to keep the kids going while I wasn't feeling up to par myself.
I took a much needed nap after eating lunch.   :P

Just. Stunning.
(Ok, maybe I would do this hike again. Ha!)

Almost to the refugio! (There are refuges along hikes, where you can get a bike to eat, sit and rest, and even spend the night at some.) We enjoyed a rest and some snacks before the final decent to get to the bus.

We did it! We were all exhausted by the end of the day. Some students soaked their feet into the cold water of a stream while waiting for the bus. They were already worried (and complaining) about the "Night Hike" scheduled for the next evening. I felt the same! Haha. In the end, it was worth it and we all bonded along the way.