Stuttgart + Paris

Our next adventure took us to Stuttgart, Germany. We stayed with Moritz and his family, someone I met because he stayed with my family 5 years ago while he attended IDEO camp with my sister. Last summer, he and a friend visited again while they did a tour of the West Coast of the U.S. So fun to see him again after four years, and when I mentioned I was doing a Europe trip the following summer, he invited me to stay with him for a couple of days. Sabrina also met him last summer when we had a fun dinner at my house.

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Dinner at my house last summer with Moritz (Top right)

Our flight arrived at 10:45pm and Moritz was nice enough to pick us up! We made a pit stop at a view point of the city before heading back to crash after a long day. The next day Moritz had to work (I sorta forgot that people have to go to work ūüėČ ) so Sabrina and I were on our own to explore the city. Moritz’s mom, Sonya, kindly dropped us off in the city center. Sabrina and I headed up the tower at the train station, which gave us a great view of all of the city. Next we wandered around all the shopping streets before finding a yummy salad place for lunch.¬†After we read in¬†Schlossplatz, which is a lovely plaza with benches, fountains, and grass. After 2 hours of lazing around we headed back to Moritz’s house to shower and do some much needed laundry. That night we went to dinner with Moritz and his parents at a delicious Italian place.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast with Moritz, which consisted of fried eggs, fresh croissants, and sourdough bread. It doesn’t get much better than that. Our first stop of the day was the ¬†Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory. We walked through the museum, which explained how the chocolate is made and how the company got started, but obviously the best part was going to their store and buying way too much chocolate!

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Caught in the act

After the chocolate museum we headed to the Mercedes Museum, which was awesome. It mixed history with amazing cars. We had so much fun picking which car was our favorite on each floor (of which there are 7!).

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Early version of the trooper ūüėČ

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Dream car

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Mercedes-Benz 500k Spezial-Roadster

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Fake race track with different models of race cars

Definitely a highlight of our time in Stuttgart! After the museum, we drove back to Moritz’s house to change for our night out. We picked up food from a restaurant owned by a friend of Moritz and went to another friend of Moritz’s house to eat and hang out. After eating, another friend showed up and we began playing drinking games, which is always fun with new people. Once alcohol had been consumed, we took the metro to¬†Schlossplatz, where Sommerfest was taking place. It’s basically an awesome outdoor festival where all of Stuttgart shows up. Tons of good food, music, and of course, alcohol. We meet up with more of Moritz’s friends and drink some more wine. Fairly quickly we head to a club on the plaza and hang there for a couple of hours. It’s always fun to meet locals and find out more about their lives. Around 3:30am we finally take a cab home, and quickly pass out at Moritz’s house. Boy oh boy do I not function well after being out that late. In the morning, Sabrina and I rally to pack our things and Sonya¬†rushes us the train station. Moritz struggles to even get out of bed to say goodbye, so you can imagine the pain Sabrina and I were in getting to the train station. We barely make it on to our train, but alas we were able to crawl on the train at the last minute.

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Everyone out at the club

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A lovely breakfast with Sonja

Off to Paris we go!

Our first night in Paris was spent in the¬†Generator Hostel Paris. It was a little far from everything, but for one night we made do. The main thing we did that night was visit the Eiffel Tower as Sabrina had never been to Paris before! We sat on the lawn and read until the light show went on. It’s so beautiful when it’s all lit up.

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The next morning we went on a free walking tour and saw some of the big attractions in Paris including the Lourve and Notre Dame Cathedral. We also met two teachers from Boston and ended up having lunch with them after the tour. Right after lunch, Sabrina and I rushed back to our hostel to grab our things and head to the center of Paris in the 6th arrondissement where we were meeting Uncle John and Aunt Amy!

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Notre Dame

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The Louvre

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Being a tourist!

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Views during the walking tour

They helped us settle into our (awesome) apartment which is owned by a friend of my uncles before we all had a drink at¬†Freddy’s. Sabrina and I could not be happier about having our own space and our own shower. Such a treat after staying in so many hostels. It was also amazing to see my aunt and uncle. After drinks, we all took a siesta before meeting up for dinner at Semilla, a super nice restaurant that Sabrina and I cannot afford on our travelers budget! We had a spectacular time talking with Amy, but unfortunately someone who knew my uncle sat down with us so my uncle¬†didn’t end up being able to talk with us very much. The food was amazing though, and the wine wasn’t too shabby either ;). Amy, Sabrina and I decided to ditch John and we walked to the Lock bridge to watch the light show on the Eiffel Tower from afar. A wonderful night all in all.

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My great-grandfather Ford Nichols on the menu at Freddy’s (in the middle)

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Food at Semilla

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Melon soup

The next morning Sabrina and I took a train to the Palace of Versailles and met up with the teachers we had met the previous day. After walking around for a bit, we saw that we could rent row boats! We piled in one and took off to explore the palace grounds by water. Super fun!

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The gardens

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Sabrina rows us around the canal

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On the boat with Jackie and Valerie

Next, the four of us took the train back to Paris where we had cider and crepes! So delicious! We said bye to Jackie and Valerie and headed home to nap before meeting my aunt, uncle and two of my uncle’s life long friends for drinks and dinner. Always fun to see “Grapp” and Craig. In case anyone was worried, there was plenty of food and alcohol to go around that night ūüėČ

The next day was filled with pampering! Amy took Sabrina and me to get a mani/pedi, and boy were we excited! Our nails did not look our best after 2 months of traveling… not that we were complaining! After nails we went to a delicious falafel restaurant and Amy treated us to lunch. Sabrina and I took off for a long run before meeting Amy for popcorn and a movie! We saw Bad Moms and we all thought it was hilarious. It was nice to do something so familiar. It was almost as if we were back in the US for a couple of hours.

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Our run took us to Luxembourg Gardens

Our fourth day Sabrina decided to venture out on her own and meet up with her cousin so I spent the day with my aunt and uncle. We started the day with pho along with Grapp and Craig. The tres amigos were nursing big hangovers because they had had a big night and the only thing my uncle was willing to get out of bed for was pho. After some filling food, Amy and I set off for Sacra-Coeur Basilica in the Montmartre area, which is known for its many artists who have been populated the areas since 1880. We walked up the hill to the Basilica and then found a cafe to sit and people watch. Overall a lovely afternoon.

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View of Paris from Montmartre

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Sacra-Coeur Basilica

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Walking around Paris

That night¬†the 6 of us all had plans to get dinner so we met at John and Amy’s hotel and headed to the restaurant. Another delicious meal filled with all different types of food, good wine, and fun conversation. Craig kept saying “I am my own brand. I control the content” and Grapp said “put that on the blog” every 15 minutes. There were definitely wise guys ūüėČ Unfortunately the four of them were off the next morning so we had to say our goodbyes then. It was so much fun to see some family after being gone for 2.5 months so I was sad to see them go.

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Last moments with John and Amy

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A cheers with Grapp

Sabrina and I spent our¬†last day each going on a run. I did a nice 6 miles running to the Eiffel Tower and back! Next on the agenda was walking over to Paris’ beach¬†(!). Every year for about 3 weeks in late summer, Paris brings in sand and creates a faux beach along the Seine. We brought along our books and enjoyed some time in the sun. We decided to visit¬†Luxembourg Gardens¬†one last time before we were both leaving. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are in Paris. Lastly, we took a nice bottle of champagne and took a river cruise during sunset. Couldn’t ask for a better way to end our time in Paris.

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Paris beach

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Eiffel Tower

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Champagne on the Seine

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Sunset on the boat

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Sunset on the Seine

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Sunset on the Seine

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Can’t get enough of the sunset

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A beautiful end to my time in Paris

The next morning I left at 6:30am to catch my train to Barcelona! I spent two nights in the hostel I stayed in last summer, which I absolutely loved! I didn’t do much sight seeing as I knew I would be here for 2 months and would have plenty of time to explore. I did go to the beach because I missed the ocean though! Unfortunately, I¬†felt a little run down so I didn’t go out either night, but I did play drinking games with everyone before they¬†went out.

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Barcelona beach

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Drinking games at the hostel

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Competition in high swing

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yummy strawberry + banana + chia seed smoothie

Now I am off to begin my real adventure in Barcelona: Studying espa√Īol! I can’t wait to practice and improve my Spanish! Les hablo pronto!

 

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Prague + Budapest

I had never been to Eastern Europe before but after Prague and Budapest, I can’t wait to explore more of it. I started off in Prague where I was supposed to meet Sabrina, one of my best friends from home. BUT… she took the wrong bus in Rome and ended up at the wrong airport. Which meant she missed her flight. Which meant spending 24 hours in the airport waiting for the next flight to Prague. Luckily she met a couple of Aussies who were also stuck waiting for a flight so she had people to hang with. Meanwhile after arriving at my hostel, I spent my free day catching up on sleep (as I always seem to do) and going for a run. Finally Sabrina arrived in the afternoon. We went for a quick drink at the bar in the hostel and then walked to a fun restaurant for dinner. I had a yummy salmon dish, while Sabrina had a spicy, chicken dish. Because of the ordeal Sabrina had just gone through, we decided to make it an early night.

The next morning we went on a walking tour of Prague. Tons a cool architecture and fun shops. We also saw Europe’s oldest active synagogue. We also managed to make friends with four different Aussies during the tour, and we all decided to get lunch after the tour. After lunch, we walked around and got a¬†tredlynik, a pastry filled with Nutella and vanilla ice cream. We meandered our way to the John Lennon wall, which was pretty cool. Our last stop was the Prague Castle. It offered awesome views over the city.

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Walking around Prague

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Oldest active synagogue in Europe

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Trying to avoid getting lost with our Aussie friends

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A close up of the tredlynik

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John Lennon Wall

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Views from Prague Castle

After getting back to the hostel, we took a quick power nap before heading down to the hostel bar to get some drinks. Sabrina hadn’t had cider before, and it became one of her new favorite drinks! We met some cool British girls and soon there were about 8 of us going out to find a club nearby… unfortunately we didn’t end up being able to find it so Sabrina and I bailed to head back to the hostel, while the rest of the group took cabs to another club. We found a falafel place and had a late night snack before passing out in our beds.

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The crew before we left the hostel bar

After sleeping in, we took a tram to the downtown area where we walked around the Jewish quarter and old town. We went across the Charles Bridge and also caught the astronomical clock show, which while the show isn’t anything special, the actual clock itself is a technological feat.¬†The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

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Charles Bridge

After the show, we hung around Old Town Square and read for a bit on a bench.

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Reading in Old Town Square

With our stomachs grumbling, we grabbed some gelato and headed back to the hostel. We quickly changed for the night and went back to the restaurant we went the first night. After all it was so good and cheap. Dinner was about 7$ each. After dinner we decided once again to call it an early night because we were leaving for Budapest the next day.

Overall I think Sabrina and I really enjoyed Prague, but we wished we had been able to see more of the night life. Also I wished we had stayed in a hostel a bit closer to the downtown. Although our downtown was easily accessible by tram, I always like being able to get by with just walking.

 

As soon we arrived in Budapest I knew I would like it. The city seemed walkable (!) and the weather was nice. There were restaurants and shops everywhere and everyone was super friendly. Also, to top it off, our hostel was amazing!! If you ever go to Budapest, please stay there. The hostel had 4 sister hostels around the city and there were activities at them every night. One night was beer olympics, one night was Karaoke, one night was a pub crawl. There was always something to do! Also our hostel was small– about 22 people– but it made it super homey and you really got to know everyone staying there.

The first night I went out with some guys from the hostel to one of the sister hostel’s bar, while Sabrina took a nap. She eventually walked around the city with some girls who were in our room.

The next morning Sabrina and I walked around for a bit before meeting up with two girls in our room to go a thermal bath house, which are common in Budapest. We went to Gellert Baths, which is not the biggest, but it is one of the prettier bath houses. 70 million liters of 21-78 Celsius warm thermal water spring forth daily from its 118 natural thermal springs. Gellert Baths opened in 1918. We had a lovely, relaxing time moving from bath to bath.

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Sabrina = Buddha

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Elodie, Me, Claire, & Sabrina

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Having fun with the gopro

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Inside the baths

We spent about 2 hours at the baths before heading back to the hostel. Sabrina and I decided to buy food at the grocery store for the week to save money and also be able to eat a bit healthier, which meant as soon as we got back from the baths we got to work on dinner. After dinner, Elodie and Claire, the two Aussies we went to the baths with, and Louise (another Aussie in our room) went to Szimpla Kurt, which is an awesome, funky ruin bar. Highly recommend!

The next day Louise, Sabrina, and I went to get Thai massages because they are so goddamn cheap! It was about 17$ for 30 minutes. My only regret is not doing an hour. Funnily enough, after getting super relaxed, the three of us headed out to do something not so relaxing: Caving! With a guide, we were taken 150 feet below ground in 40 million year old caves!!! There were even sea shells stuck in the caves from 40 million years ago. It was definitely a highlight for I think both me and Sabrina.

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Before caving

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Getting safety instructions

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In the caves

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Sea shell preserved inside the caves

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Sabrina

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Happy faces post-caving

Despite an exhausting day, we had signed up to go on a boat party that evening with 400 other young travelers. Apparently it is the 3rd largest part boat in Europe. Essentially we paid 30$ and then there is unlimited free drinking for the first 2 hours of the boat trip. It was a really fun experience, but I am not sure I need to do it again (haha).

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Views from the river

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Parliament from the boat

The next day we decided to go to the biggest baths in Budapest because everyone recommended it. It’s called Szechenyi Baths and Pool. After bouncing around between all the pools, Sabrina and I, along with the 3 Scottish girls we came with, all sat out in the sun and read our books. Quite a relaxing afternoon.

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Entrance to the baths

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Sabrina and me with our Scottish friends

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Szechenyi Baths and Pool

On the way back to the hostel, we tried Langos, which is a Hungarian food speciality consisting of fried bread and cheese with a few options for additional toppings. I decided to try it with everything on it, so it had cheese, ham, garlic, and sour cream. It was delicious, but quite heavy. I definitely didn’t need dinner after eating it!

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Sabrina with her Langos

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Katrin, Alice, and Carly with their langos

That night we didn’t go out because the previous night had taken it’s toll on us. We did however watch the season finale of the Bachelorette! ūüôā

Our flight was around 9pm so we had most of the day to still explore Budapest. Sabrina and I took off walking around and she bought a new bag. After we headed to a famous panini restaurant started by two michelin star chefs! It’s called Bors GasztroBar.¬†We had huge paninins for about 3$. It was unreal.

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Lastly we hiked to what used to be a citadel on Gellért Hill. It had awesome views of Budapest and the river.

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Views of Budapest

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At the top of Gellért Hill

After getting back to the hostel we quickly showered and left for the airport. We are now on our way to Stuttgart, Germany!