Ah Europe. I miss the days I could book a flgiht/buy a train ticket just a couple of days in advance, hop on a plane (or train) on the Friday of that same week, and in 2-3 hours be in a COMPLETELY different city. As I study and scramble to keep head above the water with all the commitments and insane projects, tests, and deadlines I have in school, I find myself constantly reminiscing about the year that just passed. The time I was on my year abroad in London (read my tips on that here). It has only been only 3 and a half months since i've been back in Singapore, and already the memories from my exchange feel so distant.
Europe in a year. What a wonderful year it was.
From my internship in Paris to living for a whole year in London. I thought being away from home for a year would be too long, and that living in Europe for a year would give me sufficient time to explore the continent or learn more about the region, BUT I WAS WRONG. I could live here my whole life and still be fascinated - just like how after 21 years in Asia, I'm still as excited to go out and explore a different part of the region, and there is still SO MUCH I have yet to see!
Anyway, i thought i'd pay homage to my travels in Europe and come up with a list of 5 cities i'd love to revisit again.
I have been asked countless of times which are my favourite cities in Europe, and I never say just 1 city (the list goes on until I'm sort of telling my life story). So, are the 5 cities below, my favourite European cities (that i've travelled to/toured)? Maybe? But I can't say for sure. There were so many beautiful places I visited in Europe (Italy, Barcelona, Scandinavia - see what I mean about going on and on), and so many OTHER places I want to visit.
These 5 cities could be here because
a) I didn't spend enough time when in the city when I was there and had "unfinished business" or
b) I want to experience everything all over again, or probably both. All I know is, I enjoyed myself in these 5 cities, and would steal ANY chance to go back!
O N E: C O R N W A L L
With places like Cornwall, the pictures itself would make anyone want to go there. Seriously though. That gorgeous skies, the beautiful beaches and, cliffs and bluest of water. Everytime I read a cornish blogger's blog, I ask myself "why am I not living in Cornwall?!" Cornwall is so huge it doesnt really classify as one city. I've only been to west Cornwall, and even then I wouldn't mind going back. But i'd love to visit South Cornwall someday, heck maybe i'd jump on a plane, spend a couple of days in London, go to Cornwall and spend 2 weeks there. Someone please buy me an air ticket!
Cornwall is a place I will not hesitate to revisit if I get the chance to be back in the UK.
T W O: B U D A P E S T
If you saw my post titled Not Enough Time in Budapest, you would have guessed this. Budapest is a city I want to revisit just because there is so much to do, and I didnt get to do all that I wanted to. Also, the Daunbe River is but the most gorgeous thing ever. Walking around the river and looking on to the Buda (or Pest) side of it is something I could do over and over and over again.
T H R E E: I N T E R L A K E N
One of my biggest regret after my trip to Interlaken was that I did not get to go up the Swiss Alps.
Touristic or not, everyone has done it, and it has always been my dream to visit a mountain, experience what its like to see the snow caps of the alps. Learning about the mountains and rivers during geography lessons have only fuelled my appreciation and love for all things nature. Sadly, I didn't have that much time in Interlaken and it was rather pricy, somehow the situation led to me not being able to visit the Swiss alps.
I'll definitely have to visit Switzerland again someday - and Interlaken would be a stop in that itinerary!
To be honest though, one can never get enough of Switzerland. Its just incredibly beautiful! The landscapes are PHENOMENAL. Mountains, Greenery, rivers, the blue skies, it doesn't get any better than that!
F O U R: B E R G EN
I don't know why but despite spending the most time in Bergen during my Scandinavian solo trip, but I still want to go back! Visit the neighbouring fjords - another spectacle that one can see over and over again - climb another mountain, I don't have specific reasons why I want to go back, except... I just do? It's a really lovely, chill, city, if it wasn't that cold (and expensive haha!), i'd totally live here!
I must say though, I wouldn't want to go back alone. I'd love it if I had company so that I can try out the different cafés and food options in Bergen!
F I V E: A M S T E R D A M
Amsterdam...The first city I visited with Jerald, the first city I visited as a tourist, the city that made me fall in love with traveling in Europe! Amsterdam was so much fun, windmills, canals, autumn flowers, burgers, cheese markets, I would relive this experience again and again - I actually do, every time I see an image of Amsterdam's canals.
+ The people in Amsterdam are so nice and friendly, and they are EXTREMELY FLUENT in English - Yay to no language barrier.
Rotterdam is another Dutch city I'd love to visit someday, if I ever do, I'd not hesitate to stop by Amsterdam again!
One other country I loved that i'd want to visit again include CROATIA. Croatia is my ULTIMATE FAVOURITE European country. But I couldn't identify ONE city to revisit, plus, if I ever do go back, I would definitely want to see other parts of Croatia that i've never been to! The nature, clear blue waters, food and PRICE POINT is AMAZING in Croatia.
P.S. If you've never been to Croatia - just forget about the cities listen above and just go. Save up and go to Croatia! You wouldn't be disappointed!
Sadly, a return flight ticket to Europe would cost $1000 and my limited university student budget isn't going to cut it, so for now, it's more of exploring the neighbouring cities, seeing more of Asia learning the different cultures, visiting exotic places in South East Asia, and exploring the place I call home. Hopefully soon enough, I can make such a list for Asia!
Ah, selecting pictures for this post got me all nostalgic about my year abroad.
Explore, dream, discover indeed!
29 October 2015 Europe
This post could alternatively be called 48 Hour Guide to Budapest.
But I seldom call my posts guides, because I don't think I have the ability to give travel advice when it comes to visiting a city - especially if I've only been there once. I don't even think I qualify to give advice when it comes to what and where to eat/sleep/do in Paris (and I lived there for 3 months!) Guess this doesn't really make my blog a travel blog now does it?
Regardless, I really do hope you still gain something from reading my posts!
Anyway, since I had only 2 full days, here's how I managed to make full use of my time to see as much as I can in Budapest.
Hopefully you get some tips from this post for when you find yourself in a situation where you don't have enough time in a city and you're suffering from severe fear of missing out!
Tip 1: Check out one full section (attractions etc in the same region) of the city on the first afternoon.
When you don't have enough time, every minute counts, so if I have a 3 hours before dinner time, I immediately bolt out of the hostel and explore the city.
For me, when I arrive mid-afternoon in a Budapest, I didn't sit around planning what to do. I picked an area, head over and spend my evening there. For Budapest, I spent my day exploring the Jewish quarter going around the various bars, peering into the different cafes - all with SPECTACULAR INTERIORS - admiring the architecture of synagogues and the walking down the various graffiti lined streets.
There are plenty of awesome restaurants and cafés in the Jewish quarter. Plus it's a lot more affordable there.
Remember to check out the Szimpla Ruin Bar, Mika Open Bar, the Book Cafés or even the Karaván street food market, they are worth the visit.
Be it the old town, or Jewish quarter, I'd choose an area where food is aplenty that way I dont have to get to somewhere else when the hunger sets in!
I don't think there is a point in sitting around planning when you don't have much time, just choose a decently sized region of the city, grab your camera and go! You can plan for the next day in the night.
Tip 2: Join a free morning walking city tour
I went on a free walking tour in order to visit the major sites in Budapest and learn a bit more about their history, the buildings and the city istelf.
With walking tours, it generally takes about 3 hours depending on how big the city is, and more often than not, you don't get to go in to the specific attractions.
When I have time to explore a city, I'd skip the free walking tours, pick and choose a few attractions I'm interested in and spend more time there. But Budapest is a huge city, so for this trip, I signed up for an free walking tour in the morning (I usually take the morning tours so I have afternoons free).
The tour was average, I've been on better ones, but it did give a good overview and background of the city!
Tip 3: Visit the places not covered in the tour in the afternoon
Another benefit of going for a free walking tour in the morning is you have the whole afternoon to cover other places that aren't considered major tourist attractions.
I wanted to be able to walk down the Danube River, walk to the other bridges (not just the chain bridge) and visit the Great Market Hall.
The walking tour already introduced me to the major sights of city, and explained them in sufficient detail, I didn't feel the need to revisit any of the places again, so after having some awesome beef goulash at Kisharang, I headed for the Parliament House, River and Great Market Hall (places that weren't covered in the Tour).
It's normal to go back to the same places you see in the walking tour to actually enter and spend more time at the attractions. But as you can tell, I always have FOMO and I wanted to visit other places as well! So I didn't see a point in revisiting those attractions.
And if you're anything like me, going on a walking tour = no need for navigating around the city on your own = more time saved on reading maps and figuring out where you are (which BTW looking at the Hungarian language is SO NOT EASY)!
The 2nd day I found myself having dinner and a cup of beer alone AGAIN (happened a number of times considering I was traveling alone and staying in a really really small hostel) at Karaván. I kept going back to the Jewish Quarter for food. This seldom happens when I'm traveling as I really like exploring new places and having different types food, but somehow, I kept gravitating back to the Jewish quarter in Budapest. I'm pretty sure it's one of my favorite jewish quarters. It has a different vibe in the day (party atmosphere at night) but I'm pretty sure one would enjoy it anyway.
Yes, I went back to another restaurant in the area for breakfast the next day! Thankfully I didn't stay too far from the Jewish quarter!
If you happen to plan more time in Budapest (please do!!) they have a lot of independent boutique stalls, selling lovely jewelry and clothes, I wish I had the time to explore - there is even a map and route to these boutique stalls!! My hostel reception gave one to me because he thought I'd be interested. I was, but time was sadly, not on my side.
I definitely have to visit Budapest again some day. If I've to choose the cities i'd visit again in Europe, Budapest will no doubt be on the list!
18 July 2015 Budapest, Hungary
I love reading little excerpts of other people's trips, a nice summary of what they thought or love about a city. This was why I wrote my first 5 fun facts posts. (Remember when I did the 5 fun facts post on Scandinavia? I think it was the most well received post among all my other scandinavian posts) Im not sure why I don't do it more often, but here's to hoping I do!
Since Budapest was probably my favourite destination of my last solo trip, I decided to do one for it!
I hope this could be a regular thing with my future travel destinations. Its nice to read fun facts about a city with stuff you might or might not get to know from guide books. Mostly, I think its just a nice way of rounding up a trip :)
Here goes 5 fun facts I discovered whilst in Budapest!
ONE: The servers are all guys. AND BLOODY GOODLOOKING.
Somehow all the restaurants I went to, the cafés, etc. the servers were all (or mostly) guys. Imagine stepping in to a café and being greeted by 3 super fine looking baristas, one of them then proceeds to make you about the best morning coffee. What a good start to the day right?
TWO: They have the most interesting bars and cafés
Open air concepts, ruin bars, lovely interiors, cafés with windows the size of humans, I absolutely adored the design of EVERY eating place I went to .
The whole time I was walking in the Jewish quarter I was thinking "I want another stomach so I can eat all these food"! Mostly because I wanted to go into the cafés and bars to take photographs of the places.
Speaking of cafés and bars, my other café related discovery was: You can just walk in and take a seat when it's not rush hour. I kept getting weird looks whenever I waited at the door to be seated... Guess it's not common practice? I don't know. I was literally #thatconfusedasiangirl.
THREE: They have statues with no significance
All Around Budapest there were several statues that were erected when the country was liberated from the soviets rule. One example is the little girl in the picture below. According to my walking tour guide, there are quite a number of such statues all around for the sole purpose of beautifying the city. Apparently under the communist rule, every statue had to have a meaning or be tied to some communist ideology, so the symbol of a "meaningless" statue (erected just because they wanted it and it looks nice) is like a sign a of liberation.
I guess that gives meaning to the statue now. Anyway they are really cute looking statues!
FOUR: The language
Yeah. 46 letters, and just wow. Words that have no way of being pronounced. I attempted to learn hello, Thankyou and good bye. I sat at my bed repeating the words on this infosheet from the hostel, the next day I was like.. "What was it? Kuh-suh-nuh something?!" I learned a couple of words while I was there, I don't remember a syllabus of anything! And I thought learning French was hard.
FIVE: I WISH I HAD MORE TIME THERE!
I was suffering from severe FOMO the whole time I was there. I thought I had 3 days in budapest, turns out, cutting the travel time to budapest and to the airport, I had just under 2 days! BARELY SUFFICIENT. Even getting out and about before 9 didn't cut it. I was dead beat by evening time, and my stomach would be aching - a thing I experienced a fair bit on this trip and couldn't seem to quite figure out why.
Regardless, I loved my time in Budapest so much. I really really really wish I had more time to explore, visit different areas, and enjoy everything the city had to offer.