Category Archives: Travel

A treat for all 5 senses

Saw: Sagrada Familia

Heard: street music

Smelled: everything in La Boquería

Tasted: gambas al ajillo, huevos fritos con calamares, From Peru (dessert)

Touched: a borrowed yoga mat in a class taught in Spanish

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Fourth of July, Spanish style

Today: el Prado and the Real Academia Española (couldn’t go inside, but it was beautiful from the outside!).

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This is what I ate for dinner today.

I think that’s pretty self-explanatory, wouldn’t you agree? Pictured: pintxo de pulpo a la gallega, croquetas de bacalao, verdejo. Not pictured: the empty dishes and my satisfied stomach

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5 cities, 10 days, 1 bag

It’s that time of year again, when I pack my bag and go run around another country (or two).Last year’s trip was a lot of fun (if you haven’t been to Mirabell Gardens in the rain or seen Rumpelstiltskin in German in a marionette theater…you’re definitely missing something). This year I’m headed to Spain and Portugal. Madrid to Barcelona to Valencia to Sevilla with a big finish in Lisboa. I have never been so ready to eat, wander around, and practice some foreign language-speaking. Here’s to my first trip as an official polyglot!

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Not a moment wasted in Vienna

As soon as we hopped off the train in Vienna (Wien), we hit the ground running. Arriving at our host’s home, we quickly dropped off our belongings, freshened up (barely) and walked over to the hospital nearby, attached to a convent where I have an aunt who is a nun. She welcomed us, told us about the hospital, and the feeding and watering thus began. We tasted an Austrian soda but decided to stick with water (along with the beer we were given because, according to my aunt, “It is good to drink the beer. It is hot and the beer is cold, you should drink it”). She brought out dal, rice, and vegetables as the rest of the nuns (7 or 8) returned from evening prayer…and proceeded to stare at us. They don’t often get visitors, so they were glad to have us, and we had a lovely time once we felt settled, overeating, having ice cream, and laughing. They were certainly a sassy bunch and we enjoyed the conversation. Once we were much too full we said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed to a wine bar nearby for an evening glass, as I’d heard that Viennese wine is quite good. Lucky for us, there was an elder gentleman nearby who learned that we were from out of town and he gave us suggestions and information about the best wines in the bar. We both got the same thing, a Gelber Muskateller Tement, which was light and fresh, perfect to end our day. Exhausted, we walked home to our ridiculous circular bed to rest before our quick tour de Wien on Monday.
Most of the time, rain can be a great friend when trying to sleep. The rain in Vienna was no such friend, and we woke up tired but ready to hit the pavement. After a small breakfast at Cafe Ministerium, we spent our morning wandering around the First District, stopping in shops, gazing at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, admiring the state hall, and eating the Aida torte and apple strudel at Aida Cafe. Then it was back home to fetch our belongings before the 1 pm check out time so that we could store them in the train station. We had a few hours that we spent going to Belvedere Palace to see the Gustav Klimt exhibition, and enjoy an impressionism exhibit as well. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the palace, though, was not the beautifully landscaped grounds or the marvelous ceilings, but a strange room with large windows and yoga balls covered in burgundy velvet. Sometimes, when life throws you a surprise, instead of asking questions, you just bounce around on a velvet-covered yoga ball until you fall off, which is precisely what I did.
It wasn’t long before we headed back to get lunch and board the train to Salzburg. Luckily, our apartment here is quite close to the train station, and most of our time here is already planned. We are so incredibly excited for our Sound of Music tour tomorrow – stay tuned!

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Asante, Nairobi!

We started our last day in Nairobi in the afternoon, first heading to the Sarusaki Dance Trust to check out an open rehearsal of a dance performance. It was a mix of both African and modern dance, and it felt good to check out some local art. Next stop, Ranalo Foods, a downtown restaurant with authentic Kenyan cuisine where we had a full fried tilapia and greens, and ate with our hands.
Next up, a long drive to the Kazuri bead factory. Our tour guide n told us I was kazuri, which is Swahili for “small and beautiful.” The bead factory employs single mothers to make beautiful handmade beads from clay, and sends them all over the world to fair trade shops to be sold. After some shopping at the bead factory, we went to a Masai market which was also near a bookstore for me to keep with my tradition and purchase a children’s book for my international collection. Our day ended with another visit to thr David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to see the evening elephant feeding and bedtime. The first one in line running for her supper was baby Esampu! I watched her eat and wind down for quite some time, also learning that she is often hungry and also cheeky…not unlike me. We headed back to the hotel to get a couple hours of sleep before the next very long day – flights to Budapest with a layover in Istanbul.
My concluding thoughts about Kenya are that I mostly just can’t believe that we were allowed to be so close to wildlife. That’s something that we never get in the United States, and it was absolutely worth the trip to Africa to touch a baby elephant, see multiple dazzles of zebras, and watch giraffes graze on the side of the road.

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Flying around the world

3 Countries, 1 Day
Friday was a totally exhausting travel day, but it ended up being really enjoyable! Despite the 5 am flight out of Nairobi and the hour in the Turkish customs line, I still enjoyed a full hour to play in Sultanahmet. Surprisingly, there was no line to get into the Aya Sofya, so I spent my hour visiting that old friend, eating simit (a sesame seed-coated bagel-like snack), and wandering around the Arasta Bazaar before heading back to the airport for my flight to Budapest. I had just enough time to find a lovely, quiet café in the airport and eat before the flight. I met my friend in Budapest, and we kicked off our travels with a visit to Szimpla Pub, a quirky ruin pub in the city. It was chock full of both oddities and delights, ranging from a giant kangaroo, a black and white movie screen, and outdoor water misters to an open mic stage and a bathtub to sit in and lounge. We tried palinka, the Hungarian national liquor. Mine was pear flavored and Karli’s was plum flavored. With all due respect, it was vile. Served at room temperature, it was not at all my style. After a drink at the pub, we headed back to our apartment to sleep off our long days of travel.

Buda Day
We started off our 1 full day in Budapest with a slow breakfast across from the Dohany Street Synagogue on the Pest side. We walked to the Könyvudvar book market, which I’d read about but was, sadly, underwhelming. The books weren’t in English, so we cut that visit short and went to the Hungarian National Museum instead, to soak in some information and history about the country we were in. There were a lot of old artifacts there. Highlights for me there were definitely the musical instrument exhibit, Beethoven’s old piano, and the history of Hungary after World War I.
All of that reading made us hungry! We happened upon Budapest Baristas, which boasted creamy lattes, a filling granola bowl with yogurt and an assortment of fruits, and shelter from the rain.
On the way to our next destination, we discovered a most delightful shop with ceramic flowers, which we couldn’t resist, and ended up taking some time to create small bouquets for ourselves.
Onward we went to St. Stephen’s Basilica, where there was a wedding going on! We weren’t able to get a very close look at the dome, but it was nice to see the church in use.
We stopped at home to grab towels and then attempted to take the bus further north to see the Vajdahunyad Castle and go to the Szecheneyi Thermal Baths. I say “attempted” because we saw 1 bus go by as we bought tickets, another that wasn’t clear about which bus it was, and finally made it onto one that ended up kicking us off for some unknown reason, causing us to walk the rest of the way hot, sweaty, and slightly cranky. Luckily, the journey paid off, as the castle grounds were beautiful (another bride!) and there was a man playing a digiridoo to add to the ambiance. The thermal baths were fantastic and exactly what we wanted. One pool had a round portion which caused the water to create a whirlpool if enough people were in it swimming in the same direction. The other that we used (opting out of the lap pool…) was hotter, with steam rising off of it. We lounged for quite some time, watching the beginnings of a setup for a “sparty,” complete with large, inflated mushroom-like tents. Exhausted by the time we got back to our area (luckily our return journey was much easier), we gorged ourselves on salad and delicious pasta, and went right to bed.

Buda and Pest
A nice thing about being somewhere for an extended period of time is finding a place you like and frequenting it. Though our time in Budapest was short, we still managed to go to Budapest Baristas another time for morning lattes and breakfast sandwiches. We walked to the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world (the largest being in New York). It was incredibly beautiful, and certainly one of the most beautiful houses of worship I’ve ever seen. The chandeliers, domed ceiling, and ornate tile came together to make a breathtaking space. The synagogue was a significant place before World War II, during which it was adjacent to the Budapest ghettos. I found a children’s book there, which freed up some time for us to grab our belongings and make it to the Buda side of the Szecheneyi Chain Bridge and cross over the Danube River, taking in views on both sides. We had a light lunch at a restaurant on the river and then off we went again, to hop on the train to Wien (Vienna)!

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