From the Bronx to Boston on Catch a Ride

Is there anything worse than coming from a lovely, relaxing trip and then getting off the bus in Port Authority and having to schlep all the way back up to the Bronx? Or finagling your way back up from 11th Ave? Finally, there’s an easier way.

A new bus company, Catch a Ride, is here to save the day. With a stop conveniently just outside of Pelham Bay Park, (on the same side as the buses to the beach) it’s never been easier to, well, catch a ride. The service runs from Brooklyn to the Bronx straight to Boston. Seriously, from here in Bedford Park it took me like 25 minutes to get to the stop on the BX12 (that’s including the walk to Fordham.) Plus, the bus has outlets so you can charge your devices while you search for things to add to your itinerary.

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With college starting up (has it started already? It’s been so long. *dramatically places hand on forehead*) it’s the perfect solution for Bronxites that need to get back and forth between here and Boston. Or, simply to go on a quick, weekend trip, which is what Nicole from Bronx Mama and I chose to do.

Neither of us had ever been to Boston, so it was cool for us to embark on this adventure together. We stayed at the Aloft Seaport District hotel, which served as our chic headquarters for the weekend.

The Aloft has a really great view of the city and is a quick Uber ride from the city’s main sights. The staff was really friendly and gave us some great recommendations. They also hosted paint and sip nights, which I’ve never seen at a hotel (in addition to live music events too) so while we didn’t get to try it since we were only in Boston for a short amount of time, it’s definitely something I’d try on a longer stay.

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Just across the street is this really dope public space, the Lawn on D. Featuring glow in the dark swings, lawn games, a bar, and stage for live music, it’s like a giant playground. On Saturday, they even had a movie night.

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On our first night, we checked out the Skywalk Observatory where we got a birds’ eye view of the city. I honestly had no idea Boston had such great architecture. Pro tip: Make sure you look up when sunset is before you visit so you can watch the sun set over the city, it’s gorgeous.

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We also stopped by the Barking Crab for some drinks. Its a popular place, so it gets a little chaotic, but it was nice to have a refreshing drink by the water.

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Saturday, we went on the Boston Harbor Cruises. Fun fact: I am terrified of whales. I’m happy to report that while we did see whales, they were at a reasonable distance and did not eat me. The guide was informative and I actually learned some new things. Did you know that whales breathe through their blowholes? It’s basically their nose.

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We then walked around Little Italy, where we happened upon the Feast of St. Anthony. It was like we stepped into a time machine with all of the winding streets and some old-time storefronts.

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Sunday, after we checked out of the Aloft (which was a breeze, we just dropped off our keys and were on our way!)  we went to the SoWa Open Market for some breakfast and “window” shopping. It was so nice to check out the wares of local farmers, artists, and chefs. I even brought back some muhamara from Samira’s Homemade, which I’d never had before, but now want to put on everything.

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It was easy to get to the Catch a Ride bus stop and then we were off to Bronx. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it was to not have to take the train another hour uptown after my trip. Be sure to check them out the next time (or first time like us!) you want to go to Boston.  And if you need a comfy, modern home base, be sure to check out the Aloft Seaport District.

 

 

We received some accommodations to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are our own.

 

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Travel Tuesday: Day Trips from Prague

As I’ve stated several times over, Prague is beautiful and though I’m obviously biased, it is one my favorite European cities. But, that doesn’t mean that your visit to the Czech Republic should stop there. With just a short bus ride, you can check out some other cities CZ has to offer. I unfortunately only got to visit two of them, but I did have great time visiting both.

Cesky Krumlov 

Approximately a three hour bus ride from Prague, Cesky Krumlov is often described as a “fairy tale” town and is rumored to be the place that inspired the setting of the Disney film Pinocchio. It’s the absolute definition of the word quaint, with its horizon dotted with auburn rooftops on either side of theVltava river that winds through the town. Here’s an abbreviated itinerary of what I did during my trip:

Breakfast at MLS Creperie – It’s a small space, so be prepared to wait a bit! We sipped on some tea and coffee while we waited.

Climb to the top of the castle tower – Weird fact: The castle has bears. Like, roaming around in this trench-like area. Apparently they were initially used as protection, but “aristocrats” have continued to provide the town with bears as a present. (Who are these modern day aristocrats?!) This practice is controversial as some people feel that there is no reason these bears should be kept in captivity for the amusement of tourists and of keeping up this tradition. Anyhow, you can get a pretty good view of them if they decide to come out or just the town in general.

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Explore the Castle Gardens – The spring or summer (or fall like I did!) is the perfect time to take a stroll through the garden’s labyrinth and sit by the fountain. So peaceful.

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Like I said, this is an abbreviated itinerary, if I had the chance to go back, I’d go rafting down the river and check out the museums. All the more reason to return…

Another cool trip (and a shorter ride than Cesky Krumlov), is Karlovy Vary, which is actually a sister city to Carlsbad, CA, which I’ve never been to, but sure. Known as a “spa city” this town is known for hosting visitors who want to relax in the mineral springs and go skiing. (Read: lots of wealthy people).

Sip a cup of tea at Republica Coffee – Or, you know, have a cup of coffee

Buy a souvenir cup and drink up some of the mineral water Karlovy Vary is famous for – It, um, an acquired taste? It’s supposed to have wonderful healing properties, so try it at least once! And if it’s not for you, at least you have a cool shot glass to take home!

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Hike (or take the tram) up to the Diana Observation Tower – With a little bit of sweat and determination (only if you hike, you weirdo), you’ll be rewarded with a sweeping view of the whole city. You’re also in the middle of the forest, so it’s a nice time to take a breath and relax for a bit.

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Relax in a Mineral Bath….If You Show up on a Weekday at Spa 5 *face palm* – Like….who closes of their main attraction on the weekend. So frustrating, but we were determined to make the best of it and utilized their whirlpools and jets. It was a community pool vibe for sure, but lemons into lemonade, right?

Dinner and Drinks at Pepe Lopez – By no means an authentic Mexican dining experience, the staff was really friendly and their drinks were spot on and reasonably priced. Bonus points for iPad menus.

 

This is just the start, people. There are tons of cute Czech towns waiting for you to visit (jk lol probably not, but still go!)

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Tuesday: Vienna

Booked during a night fueled by hard cider and champagne (obviously a winning combination), to say that my trip to Vienna was spontaneous might be an understatement. Literally booked at like 8 pm to leave at 9 am the next morning. (Shout out to friends who will go an adventures like this with you! Hi Lexie!) Such is the beauty of traveling in Europe.

At first, Vienna felt very similar to Berlin. (It could just be the fact that everyone speaks German…) I was not a fan of Berlin, so I was wary. But it was actually really refreshing to be on a trip that wasn’t packed with a full itinerary.

Where We Stayed 

My friend found what I’ll go on record as saying is the hostel with coolest room that I’ve ever stayed in. Our room at Hostel Ruthensteiner was a 6 person dorm that was Sigmund Freud-themed. It was complete with beautifully painted lockers where you could write down your dreams , a chaise lounge for spilling out your innermost thoughts to unsuspecting fellow travelers, and some vintage globes and maps.

The common area had musical instruments for visitors to pick up and play and an assortment of games, which we took advantage of on a chill Saturday evening. Oh and they had, by far, the friendliest staff when we checked in.

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What We Did

Lots and lots of sightseeing. We didn’t pay to go in any of the palaces, but they were nice photo ops:

  • Schönbrunn Palace – Lots of walking to the top, but a nice place to sit and take in the view for a bit.

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  •  Belvedere Palace – There’s a sprawling, intricately decorated garden that was impossible for me to capture it properly on camera, but I can’t even imagine how beautiful it must be in the spring blooming with flowers.

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  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Located in the city center, you can’t miss this towering cathedral. For some reason, we were never around it in the daytime, but it’s architecture is reminiscent of Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest I mentioned in my last post.

Haus der Musik 

A huge, interactive music museum that allows visitors to not only learn about Vienna’s rich history as a home to many talented classic musicians, but also make music of their own. It was a very cool experience, even as someone who isn’t into classical music.

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Hundertwasserhaus 

Super cool building that was designed by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who is well known for using bright colors and rejecting “straight lines” in his work.

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Vienna Nachmarkt

Part flea market, part food market. We had some really great breakfast here. See next section 🙂

Where We Ate (and Drank!)

Travel Shack Vienna

Our first night we decided on a whim to sign up for a pub crawl, which was slated to start at Travel Shack Vienna. Hijinks ensued because the website was very unclear that it would be starting there on this date instead of some other location we went to first. (Read the fine print VERY carefully. Then, read it again!) Anyway, we ended up there, which we were very wary. Let me explain.

If you’re familiar with the college bars, Bar None or Continental in the East Village in NYC, it’s that sort of vibe. If you’re not, picture: bras hanging from the rafters, bros ordering pitchers of beers, crowds so thick you can barely move, shots with “risqué” names. Really not my scene. We were almost convinced that the pub crawl was a scam because there wasn’t any clear indicator that anyone was in charge. People we asked looked at us like we were crazy.

Eventually we saw someone with a list and asked if she was with the pub crawl and she said she was. She introduced to the host (who was a super chill guy.) However, as the night wore on, he informed us that not enough people had signed up and we’d have to reschedule or request a refund. At this point, we’d already gotten drinks of our own so we decided that we’d reschedule for the time being. It was disappointing, but the host ended up treating us to a free shot, which was nice of him.

We thought the night might end up being a wash, until they announced that there was karaoke in the next room, which is really just a sign from the universe that we were meant to be there. We were one of the first ones in there, singing from a microphone that came down from the ceiling. Whole room karaoke can be hit or miss, but really everyone who came into the room just ended up being part of one giant musical act. It ended up being a really great time.

Cafe Landtmann

This was a very cute (but not particularly cheap) cafe that apparently Freud used to frequent. We stopped in for some tea and pastries, which was nice, but nothing really breathtaking. I also am not a coffee drinker, so I didn’t partake in the famous Viennese coffee.

Stella (at Naschmarket)

I love breakfast, especially when it comes with a bunch of extras. I ordered the Viennese breakfast, which consisted of: a soft boiled egg, cheese, a croissant, an entire bread basket, and tea. A total carb overload, but lucky for me, I don’t care about shit like that.

I don’t know that I would necessarily return to Vienna any time soon, but I definitely enjoyed my time there.

Side note: I really really miss croissants. Where are the best croissants in the Bronx?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Tuesday: Budapest

Happy Travel Tuesday! This week I’ll tell you about my trip to Budapest, Hungary.

As it turns out, I’m really horrible at geography and I’m even worse at history. (I was asleep a lot…) Teenage Lisa really wasn’t interested in European history and College Lisa decided to take History of New York , so it’s fair to say there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of European history, including the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. When I decided to embark on this journey to Prague, I imagined lots of gray. Just…everywhere. Buildings, clothing, food, whatever. I’d done my research (into brunch spots and coffeeshops, obviously the important stuff) but I figured those were the exceptions. Instead, Prague turned out to be one of the most beautiful cities I visited while in Europe.

Now, Budapest.

Budapest looks the way I thought Prague would. There’s a lot of gray. Where I was traveling, of course. I can’t speak to the entire city, but certainly not as colorful as Prague is. The two cities are often compared and whether that’s fair or not, I can’t say, but Prague was my point of reference, so there it is. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful in its own way, though, quite the opposite. Enough prologue, though, let’s get to it.

Where We Stayed

After my week long solo trip to Spain and Portugal, it was nice to go on this trip with my friends and Husband. We decided to stay at an Airbnb in the Josefov neighborhood. It was a super cozy space and since we were only there for the weekend, it was exactly what we needed.

What We Did 

Parliament

This building is huge! Also, it’s pretty cool to look at, which is really all we could do. We only spent a couple of minutes here.

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Castle Hill

Home to Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the Holy Trinity Column. This is the go-to spot in Budapest for tourists. Be sure to take the funicular for a cutesy (albeit short) experience.

My personal favorite was the Holy Trinity Column. We didn’t go inside, but the colors and architecture of this building were really beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Fisherman’s Bastion is a cool piece of architecture as well, but I was more interested in its maze-like passages that made it seem like I was in some sort of medieval labyrinth.

Buda Castle has the most amazing view of the city. We happened to get there as the sun was setting and the street lights were coming on and it was gorgeous.

Thermal Baths

You can’t come to Budapest and not try at least one thermal bath. We managed to squeeze in visits to two. These thermal baths are said to have healing properties. I can’t say that I necessarily felt healed, but given the fact that it was cold and snowy the entire weekend we were here, it was definitely a welcome reprieve from the weather.

The first one we went to was Gellert Spa and Bath. Simply put, it was a fantastic time. There are different rooms that house different baths of varying temperatures. There are also steam rooms, saunas, and even ice baths. (You have to try it! I’m not saying you’ll like it, but definitely worth trying once in your life.) On top of that, it’s really just beautiful. The green and blue hues and fountains make for a really luxurious time.

The second one we went to (in the snow) was the Szechenyi Bath. This is one of the famed outdoor baths, with good reason. I was really nervous to go out into the snow in my bikini to make it down the stairs to the pool, but what a unique experience. The bath, of course, is super warm, but with the steam rising from the pool, you’ll quickly forget that it’s freezing outside and just get to relax. Getting out of course, is a mission. Inside, I’ll say that I liked Gellert Spa and Bath’s offerings a bit more, but Szechenyi also had some cool features. In addition to steam rooms and saunas, there was a color room and showers that alternated cold and hot water.  Definitely a can’t miss if you’re in Budapest.

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Where I Ate (and Drank!)

STIKA 

Stika is the sort of place that wouldn’t be out of place in gentrified Brooklyn. Minimalist decor, tons of different coffee options made by the bearded and tattooed barista, etc. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my brunch here, I’m just painting a picture for you. I got my brunch go-to, eggs benedict and chai latte. The eggs benedict were great, the chai latte was just okay. There was a bit of a wait, but not too unbearable. It was a nice start to the day.

Steg Fish Bar

I read about this place on Great Trips’ Instagram and it came in handy when we were starving after visiting Gellert. We wanted to try something Hungarian, but something also a little modern and Steg was the best of both worlds. I ordered  fish soup and a wrap. Both were pretty good, but I think I liked the fish soup more. It was something new and had a nice kick. Bonus points for having games on the tables and for fantastic service.

Szimpla Kert

Budapest is famous for what are known as ruin bars. Started out in abandoned, run down buildings, they’re known for their cheap drinks and quirky decor. Szimpla Kert is credited as being one of the very first ruin bars. It’s really a sight to behold, with art, signs, objects, and lights everywhere – on the walls, ceilings, every single nook and cranny. It’s wild. There are also live performances, but we didn’t get to see any when we were there. We were there on a Saturday night, so it was pretty busy, but not packed to the point where you couldn’t move.

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Budapest was such a fun trip and really took me by surprise. I can’t wait to visit again in the warmer weather.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Tuesday: Lisbon (and Sintra!)

Even though I’m Stateside again (Surprise! Long story, whatever), I  still have a few more fantastic travel tales to share with you guys, so I’ll be sharing them on #traveltuesdays with my recommendations and experiences.

This week in Lisbon. In planning out my trip, everyone I spoke to had nothing but amazing things to say about Lisbon. How beautiful it is, how much fun it is, etc. Something I learned about myself while abroad is managing my expectations. It’s probably something I should’ve done with Lisbon. *hides from angry mob*

Let’s start at the beginning. So, I’d just come from having the time of my life in Madrid (see post here) . I took an overnight bus – worst sleep ever – to arrive bright and early at about 7 and make my way over to my hostel.

Where I Stayed 

If you remember from the Madrid post, I really loved my hostel, Safestay Madrid (also known as Equity Point Lisbon. I dunno.) . I was excited then when I was headed to Safestay Lisbon.  In case you don’t know, Lisbon has a lot of stairs. Like A LOT. I’d just gotten off of this overnight bus and now have to drag myself up all these stairs, I was huffing and puffing like a creeper when the employee got to the door. All I wanted to do was sleep. But check in wasn’t until 2 pm. Any museums I might want to check out didn’t open until 10 am so,  I ended up just hanging out in the common area with my Kindle Fire plugged in watching Netflix.

Once I was checked in (at exactly 2 pm!), I went upstairs to my room (a 12 person mixed dorm) and crashed for a few hours. I do remember hearing some loud banging like construction at some point late at night and may or may not have cursed at my fellow roommates for talking too loud. I don’t remember, so maybe it was a dream?

Gotta say, I think this was my least favorite hostel that I’ve ever stayed in.  It wasn’t terrible, but definitely not on par with their sister hostel Safestay Madrid. For starters, there aren’t outlets located next to every bed. This sounds like a first world problem, and it is, but when you’re traveling, you really need your technology to be charged so you can get from place to place. As a result, everyone is in the common area charging their stuff and not socializing. Which leads to my second point, while the hostel staff was nice when I spoke with them, they don’t actually host any events. It’s all done through another company. So you have to go out of your way to find the group and do your pub crawl or what have you. Ok, for the walking tour someone comes and gets you, but it’s not the same as having someone you may actually see again in the hostel lead you around.

What I Did

Fado at Tasca do Chico

There happened to be a flier in the hostel advertising this venue for Portugal’s famous style of music. I still had some energy after dinner and this place wasn’t too far of a walk. I felt a little awkward when I came in since someone was already singing and there was  sit, so I just stood by the doorway until the singer finished. Some other people had come in too and we were invited to come further into the venue. It’s such an intimate event, it’s really like being at someone’s family gathering, and all of their family members happened to be super talented singers and all have cds for sale. It was pretty cool to experience, even with not understanding a single word of Portuguese.

Museu Colecau Berardo 

This was actually my favorite museum that I went to in Europe. (Yes, including Academy…. in Florence) Turns out I really like contemporary art. Lots of Warhol, pop art,  and some other super cool experimental art. I spent hours here.

Day Trip to Sintra

To be honest, I think my trip to Sintra is what really made my trip to Portugal. It’s maybe an hour or so outside of Lisbon, on a train similar to Metro North. Sintra is a cute little town that’s home to Peña Palace, the Moorish Castle, and the National Palace. I did this the very day I was to fly back out to Prague so I was on a bit of a time crunch and I definitely could’ve spent more time here, but it was beautiful and I was really glad I went. Peña Palace is just so breathtaking, with its striking colors and details. I didn’t love the Moorish Castle as much, there were beautiful views, but I think I’m kind of over castles. (And yes, I realize how ridiculously arrogant that sounds. ) I didn’t go inside the National Palace, but I did sit outside and soaked up the sun – in December!!! – with a pasteis de belem and pasteis de nata in hand. It was glorious.

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Where I Ate

Time Out Market

This is a huge food market, with loads of different vendors, similar to Chelsea Market downtown. I was a little hesitant to go here because I thought it might be too hipster-y or not “local” enough. But after reading up on it a bit and seeing that there’s space for real local vendors as well, I was persuaded to check it out. I tried some Stone Soup and some bacalao, both were delicious and reasonably priced.

Oficina do Duque

I found this cozy little restaurant on Yelp and decided to check it out. The service was great and the food was even better. I ordered lamb, which I never do since I’m not really a fan, but people had raved about it online so I figured it was worth a shot. It came with this mint sorbet on top and was just sooooo good. Such an unexpected, but delicious combination.

Ne Ne Restaurante 

This place was actually recommended by the walking tour guide. I sat inside and he helped me order from the daily menu (always handwritten and apparently the best deal). In addition to a full lunch, my meal also came with some tea, which if you know anything about me, you know I appreciate a nice cup of tea, especially if it’s included. It’s right by some of the more touristy sights, but the food was good and service was efficient and friendly.

Cafe Saudade

 After a packed morning seeing all of Sintra’s main attractions, I stopped here for lunch as recommended by one of my friends. For starters, the service was fantastic. So friendly and helpful (and nonjudgmental as I definitely downed that entire bottle of vinho verde by myself. Whatever. Vacation Mode.) The eclectic decor and inviting staff definitely made for a cozy atmosphere. Oh and the food was great too. It was a great place to check out right before I hopped on the train.

 

While I didn’t love Lisbon as much as Madrid, it was still a cool trip. I’d definitely love to go back in the summer some time.  Check out some more pictures below (including some really dope street art that was up by my hostel!)

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The Prague Socialite: Madrid

As a proud New Yorker (and Bronxite obvs), I really love visiting other cities. I’m not the kind of person that necessarily wants to escape city life when I travel. Sometimes I’m not really that impressed because I’m constantly comparing it to NYC, but other times, I just fall in love with a city’s energy, and that was my experience during my recent trip to Madrid.

I originally wanted to go to Barcelona, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in the midst of all the stuff happening with the possible Brexit-like situation. Plus, I knew I wanted to go to Lisbon and it was simply easier (read: cheaper) to do so from Madrid. Basically, I went in with zero expectations.

Where I Stayed

I stayed in a 12 person mixed dorm at Safestay Madrid. By far, this has to be one of my best hostel experiences thus far. As a solo traveler, and one who can be particularly hesitant to socialize with others, sometimes you want to link up with someone else to check out somewhere cool, go to a bar, or just take lots of cute pictures of you as proof that you were actually there. This hostel just had a really great vibe that allowed people to meet and socialize. A huge plus for me, which I think made a huge difference, is that the events they run are hosted by the hostel employees. So you get to see them again and meet people who are actually staying at your hostel.

What I Did

Even though I was on vacation, I was still on a pretty tight budget, so I looked up free things to do in Madrid and came across this really great Time Out article that was pretty much my guide for the entire trip. My timing was actually pretty perfect because I got to visit the major museums for free.

Museo del Prado is free from 5-7 pm. You have to wait in line (I was on line for at least a half hour) because people line up very early, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s a huge museum with many classic paintings, you could definitely visit more than once to really see and appreciate everything.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (free from 7-9 pm and from 3-7 on Sundays), which had some pieces from Dali and Picasso, as well as some really cool experimental art by William Kentridge.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (free on Mondays from 12-4pm) had a mix of classic art and contemporary art. They also had a really great gift shop.

El Templo de Debod -An actual ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and gifted to Spain as a thank you for their help in saving the Abu Simbel temples (or so Wikipedia tells me). Do yourself a favor and go at sunset. It was beautiful!

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Palacio de Cristal – located in the famous Retiro Park, which is beautiful in and of itself, the palace is this beautiful, structure tucked away in a quiet location in the park. I opted not to go inside, but I think it’s even better to just appreciate it from the outside. That or I’m just a cheap bastard. Whatever.

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Retiro Park – A huge park with all kinds of different amenities and things to do, kind of like our Pelham Bay Park (except, to be honest even more beautiful, but I mean there’s a palace in it!)

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Where I Ate 

Alhambra – I found this place on Yelp after discussing with my new friends I met at the hostel how we all wanted to try paella during our time in Spain. In addition to the paella, the three of us decided to split a grilled meat platter for two. Oh, and a pitcher of sangria of course. Everything was soooo good, but there was so much of it, we had to take it to go.  Right when we thought we were ready to pack up and go, the waitress brought over three extra glasses of sangria for free! This is something I could definitely get used to.

El Tigre – One of my friends (Shout out to Cindy!) recommended this place and it’s where I had my final meal in Madrid before heading out to Lisbon. For the price of one drink, you’re served up a huge plate of tapas. The catch is that you don’t get to choose, but it didn’t matter. It was all delicious. Another cool thing is that the plates vary from person to person. I was served potatoes, bread and cheese, croquettes, and once I finished that, I was given a plate of stuffed mushrooms. Spain just really knows how to do hospitality. It totally changed my view on tapas.

La Campana – Just off of Plaza Mayor is a small, almost hole in the wall type of place.  The  tour guide of the walking tour I took recommended it for their squid sandwiches. It’s really just calamari on a baguette-type of bread, but it was a fresh, cheap, and filling lunch.

 

All in all, I think Madrid has been one of my favorite trips to date. Definitely my best solo trip thus far. Below are some other cool pictures I took while I was there. Enjoy!

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The Prague Socialite: Ciao! Milan & Florence

A couple weeks ago, I got to visit Milan and Florence for my friend Elisha’s birthday.  Obviously, I was excited to celebrate her birthday, but also of course to stuff my face with delicious Italian food and drink allllll the wine.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who say that Florence is one their favorite cities. It’s not hard to see why – the architecture is gorgeous, the food is amazing, and you can walk everywhere.

We only spent a few hours in Milan and we saw the Duomo and walked around a bit to see some of the shopping. It was okay.  It’s very much a shopping city, and everyone is so well dressed, but since I wasn’t there to shop for luxury brand name items, there wasn’t a whole lot for us to do.

Florence

Where I Stayed:

We stayed at the Locanda Daniel hostel, which is just a short walk from the train station. It’s a small hostel, and you get that cozy feeling as though you’re staying at someone’s house. They also had probably the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on at a hostel. It’s a no frills kind of place, but it was perfect for the three nights we stayed there.

What I Did: 

We saw the Duomo, (whose detail is absolutely mind-blowing), the lush Giardino di Boboli, and of course stopped by the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the statue of David. Despite seeing pictures of the statue of David throughout my life, it was actually really impressive to see in real life. Unlike, the  Mona Lisa, which was really underwhelming when I saw it in person (like 1,000 feet away -_-).

One of my favorite things we did was actually just watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo while drinking a bottle of wine we’d brought with us.

What I Ate:

I ate so much pizza and pasta, I definitely can’t name all of the places I went to, but I’d say the best pizza I had was at a cute little restaurant called Simbiosi. It was not too far from our hostel and had a really cozy ambience. Another plus is that their ingredients were organic, which was a nice bonus (considering that when I’m eating pizza, I am really not concerned about my health!)

We also stopped by the central market for breakfast. Actually, it was only breakfast in name, being the first meal of the day in the morning. I went straight for a cannoli and some lemon gelato. It was amazing.

To be totally honest, Italy hasn’t ever been high on my list of places to go, but of course I’m so glad I went.

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