Vienna (+ Bratislava)

City: Vienna

How Long: 4 nights

Accommodation:

I stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner Vienna while I was here. The hostel itself is great. Tons of fun people, and there’s a bar within the hostel. There’s a guest kitchen and a 4.5 euro breakfast option. Good security lockers in the room and comfy beds. However, unfortunately it is fairly far from the city center so it takes 40 minutes to get anywhere (walking). I just find that I prefer to be able to walk right from the hostel to where I want to go without using public transit.

Where to Eat:

I ate a delicious traditional Polish dish at a restaurant called Mozart’s Restaurant. It was almost like pasta/dumpling combo with scrambled eggs. Sounds weird, but it was awesome. Otherwise, I chose to buy groceries and cook in the community kitchen with some friends I made.

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While I didn’t eat here, Mozart + Beethoven did! In fact, Mozart’s last performance was here. This place has been opened for over 200 years. Pretty incredible.

What to do:

I visited the Easter markets here as well, but they weren’t as fun as the ones in Krakow I found. I also did a free walking tour with some friends, where we saw some of the old government buildings and some cool churches. I also met two other Americans staying at my hostel and ended up going out on a pub crawl with them which was fun!

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Painted eggs at the Easter Markets!

Unfortunately the next day it rained and even hailed a bit. I chose to spend the day inside and catch up on reading, writing, and editing some videos. While it was nice to have a relaxing day, it meant that I did not get to see the palace or the gardens which I have heard are amazing.

On my last day in Vienna I did a day trip to Bratislava, which is the capital of Slovakia. I took a 5 euro bus ride there in the morning, early enough to catch the free walking tour. I really enjoyed learning about this tiny country that most American’s probably don’t know much about if they have even heard of it. Bratislava looks like it was torn out of the pages of a fairytale. In fact, the famous fairytale writer from Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen, spent time here. He famously said to the citizens of Bratislava, “If you want a fairy tale, look at your city.”

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View of Bratislava from the Castle

We walked around most of the city in about 2.5 hours, as the city is fairly small. We saw the grand castle (although technically a fortress), a blue Church, and adorable cobblestone streets. I learned that Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest capitals in all of Europe, at just 34 miles apart. After spending just 5 hours in this city, I wish I had spent a few days here instead of staying in Vienna. Definitely don’t skip visiting Bratislava, even if it just for a day from Vienna or Budapest.

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Main square in Bratislava

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The Blue Church!

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Bratislava Castle

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Bratislava Castle

Overall Thoughts:

Vienna did not wow me. I am not exactly sure why, but overall it was not my favorite. The city is huge and I have learned that I tend to prefer more manageable cities. It’s also more expensive than some of the other cities I am visiting right now. I wish I had stayed in Bratislava and done a day trip to Vienna, instead of the other way around. I can certainly see why so many people love Vienna (amazing food, beautiful architecture, top-notch museums) but I just don’t think it’s for me.

 

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 😉 ) 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 😉

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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 😉

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 😉 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 español! I can’t wait to practice and improve my Spanish! Les hablo pronto!

 

Berlin

I spent four days in Berlin, and admittedly it was not my favorite. I don’t know if it was because I was just coming off of a great few days with some friends in a city I really enjoyed (Copenhagen) or something else, but I did not fall in love with Berlin.

I arrived at my hostel later in the day and used the afternoon to catch up on some sleep and go grocery shopping so I could cook my own food while I was there. I bought eggs, toast, and stuff to make a spinach salad. It was nice to take a break from eating almost every meal out and make some yummy, healthy food. After putting my food away I went on a nice 7 mile run to Tiergarten, which is a 520 acre park in the middle of Berlin. Although I was enjoying my run, I decided to turn around once I hit an area where about 100 older men were sunbathing naked.

The next day I slept in a bit and then decided to meet up with my friend, Joanna, who I had met in Copenhagen. She was at the Berlin Gay Pride parade, so I took the metro to Tiergarten and fought my way through the crowd to find them. It was awesome to be in Berlin for the parade. Everyone was so nice and happy to be there.

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One of the buses in the parade

After Pride I went home and made a spinach salad in the communal kitchen and met an Australian girl. Her dad was an Australian ambassador so she had moved 15 times in her life. Crazy! After dinner we went up to the rooftop bar for a drink.

My third day in Berlin started at the East Side Gallery, which is an open air gallery made from the Berlin wall and is over one kilometer long. In addition to the street art on the walls, there was an exhibition on the war in Syria, which was excellent, but also devastating to read about. I definitely got emotional reading about the injuries innocent children and citizens face from the bombings and shootings in the war.

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Berlin Wall

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Close up of some of the street art on the Berlin Wall

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After a quick rest back in the hostel, I went out to meet Jack Montgomery for dinner. Funnily enough, the day before I had received a Facebook notification that “Jack is also traveling in Berlin” so I decided to reach out to see if he was free to catch up! Luckily he was and after not seeing each other for a couple of years, we made it happen across the globe in Berlin. I had so much fun seeing him, and hearing all about what he had been up to. He brought his girlfriend, who was awesome, and we managed to spend 5 hours at the restaurant before they finally said, “we are closing, but feel free to stay sitting at the tables outside.” We decided it might be time to call it a night.

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With Jack after dinner

My last full day in Berlin was filled primarily with a free walking tour. Once again, it was a great way to see a lot of the important sites in a major city. While I had been to a lot of the places we went on the tour, it was nice to hear the historical significance of each place. Also, I met an awesome girl from Texas, Leighton, who I spent most of the tour with. Always fun to experience a tour with someone. On the tour we went to the Holocaust memorial and the place where Hitler got married, and then 24 hours later committed suicide. It was surreal to be right where so much horrific history took place.

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Victory Column Siegessäule

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Berliner Com, 1800’s cathedral

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Reichstagsgebäude, a parliament building

After the tour, Leighton and I decided to meet up later and make dinner together! We were both craving some healthy home-cooked food. It was delicious.

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Chicken, peach, & avocado, spinach and peach salad.

After we went up the rooftop bar and met two Aussie guys (AUSTRALIANS ARE EVERYWHERE) and had a relaxing evening just hanging and talking with them. Knowing I had an early train the next morning I called it a night and say goodbye to them.

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With Leighton up at the bar

Overall, while I can see why so many people like Berlin, I didn’t end up liking it all that much. It was so big and it felt like a hassle to go any where. I’ve decided I like smaller, more manageable cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Now off to Prague to meet up with Sabrina!!

 

 

Amsterdam + (Latvia)

Wow, oh, wow! Amsterdam was fabulous! It also marked the last of my solo travels. Megan, who I became friends with at Tufts this past year, joined me in Amsterdam after she attended a 6-week long study abroad program in Talloires, which is put on through the Tufts European Center. We met at the at soccer tryouts last fall (for the Tufts club team) when everyone at tryouts was going around saying their name, where they were from, and what position they play. It came my turn and I said “Meg, from Palo Alto (because no one knows Los Altos!!), and defense. After five others had gone, I was surprised to hear a new face say the exact same thing. I mean literally the exact same answer. Her name was Meg. She grew up in Palo Alto. She plays defense. It was hilarious. She later told me that she thought it was a prank and that all the seniors had figured out where different freshmen were from and pretended to have their name and be from their hometown. But obviously that wasn’t the case. Ever since bonding over our shared traits, we have been friends. We have been to concerts, done half marathons, and are now traveling Europe together!

Amsterdam is the first city of six cities we will be doing together- and it was a great one to start with, although it did start a bit rocky as Megan took the wrong train from the airport and ended up in the countryside in a town called Hilversum before she was able to get off and board the right train back to Amsterdam. She did eventually make it to the hostel and we had some delicious Asian fusion for a late dinner.

Our first full day in Amsterdam was sunny and warm! A nice reprieve from the cloudiness and rain I experienced in the U.K. We started our day with a walking tour around the city and walked past the narrowest house in Amsterdam! The reason houses in Amsterdam are so tall, but narrow is that back in the day taxes were determined by how wide your house was! So if you wanted to show off your wealth, you would build a particularly wide house. If you were stingy (like my dad 😉 ), then you built as narrow a house as you could!

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Narrowest house in Amsterdam

We then had lunch at Il Panorama. We sat outside on a canal and had amazing focaccia with grilled vegetables as a starter! Next we were off to the I AMSTERDAM sign. Don’t worry, we took a lot of pictures 🙂

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M is for Meg!

 

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Meg + Megan

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Megan

After some wandering around, we arrived at Foodhallen for some dinner. Foodhallen is a food hall with upscale eateries inside. It seemed to be where a lot of working professionals went after work. To finish off the day, we had some delicious Belgium waffles!

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Meg with her sushi at Foodhallen

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Strawberries + Nutella

The next day was primarily spent on a bike tour of the countryside! We got on our bikes and rode like locals… or like a group of herded tourists in matching ponchos. Although we hit some rain, we still had so much fun. We stopped at a windmill and a farm that makes cheese and carves clogs. He was one of three traditional clog makers left in The Netherlands.

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After the bike tour we took a few hours to rest before heading out on a tour of the Red Light District. It was fascinating to learn the history of the area, along with how it has evolved into a legitimate and legal business. We heard about the tax, health, and safety implications of being a sex worker. Women have to apply for their business license at the county hall, just like every other person applying for a business license. Altogether, it was cool to understand how the business actually works.

The next day we took a train to a town called Utrecht. We had heard from a few locals that it was a cute town so we decided to check it out. It was definitely worth it if you have a few days while in Amsterdam. It’s only about 20 min. away by train so it’s easy to visit for the morning and lunch, which is exactly what we did! We walked around the town, which isn’t too large, and then found a nice Italian restaurant next to one of their canals to eat lunch. Overall, a really fun town to visit for a couple of hours.

To finish off the day, we went to dinner with two Canadians and a brother and sister from Alabama where we watched Portugal play Wales in the semi-finals of Euro Cup. We both enjoyed hanging with the four of them, although it got a bit awkward when the Canadians brought up Trump… Luckily, the topic switched quite quickly.  Unfortunately, Wales lost 2-0 and Portugal advanced to the final. After the game, we all headed back to the hostel and Megan and I packed up our stuff as we were leaving at 7am the next morning.

Amsterdam was definitely one of my favorite stops so far (along with Galway and Edinburgh). Meg and I dubbed it “one of the most Instagrammable cities” we had each been too. The canals made for a beautiful backdrop around every single corner. Some examples:Processed with VSCO with g3 presetIMG_7135IMG_6991IMG_7134

Also, neither of us smoke weed so we decided to focus on other things Amsterdam had to offer, but we did see the first Coffee Shop and some other fun weed related things!

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First coffee shop!

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For all you cannabis lovers out there!!!

 

After Amsterdam, our next stop was Stockholm… but the cheapest way to get there was to have a layover in Riga, Latvia. We embraced this by leaving the airport and spending the afternoon exploring this Baltic country (about 5 hours).

First stop was Centraltrigus, a food market that occupies 72.3 thousand square metres of space and has over 3000 trade stands. We walked around and snacked on some fresh raspberries for about 1.50$. SO CHEAP!!

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After walking around the market and the rest of town, we found a delicious lunch place called Street Fries Kitchen. It was sooo good! Megan had lentil and avocado salad and I had a ham, cheese, and egg crepe. Definitely one of our favorite meals so far!

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Lastly, we meandered back to the bus stop by walking in a park along the canal.

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Riga!

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Megan frolicking through the park!

We took the bus back to the airport and despite Megan setting off the metal detector for the 3rd time (!!!), we made it through to the plane!

Now off to Sweden 🙂

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