Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Lost in Budapest

    What began as an innocent shopping night on the fashion street of Budapest, quickly became a frantic scramble to find my way home.

    After a full day of excursions and many staircases, a cold Starbucks drink and the sale rack of Zara sounded like a perfect way to unwind. The busy fashion district, known as Vaci Utca 6, buzzed with tourists bulldozing their way through the crowds. I decided it was getting late, the sun swiftly setting as I sat down on the tram ride home.

    I woke up forty-five minutes later, dazed and disoriented as the empty tram came to a complete stop in a tram car-wash. The driver, apparently not noticing my existence previously, yelled in Hungarian what I’m assuming could only be “Why are you here, stupid American tourist” before dismissing me into the vacant parking lot. I realized then that I was alone, far from home and hopelessly lost.

   My first plan of action: lose the drunk homeless man tailing my trail. Efforts to avoid or change paths only seemed to anger him more, his temper flaring as he threw harsh words my way. Once I darted away, I had to let my friends know where I was and what was going on.

    Getting me home was a group effort, really. Following a brief panic attack and many tears, I turned on cellular services on my iPhone for the first time on this trip (sorry, Dad). Anxiety clouded my mind, because not once did it occur to me to activate my maps. The GroupMe blew up with friends concerned for my safety.

    So many efforts to get me home were attempted; police were called, multiple taxi services, screenshots of variable bus routes, all fruitless. The numerous public transportation services that passed me by all read the lines “not for service” or “unavailable”, even the Budapest police were unable to help me.

    Finally, I resorted to walking home. Despite my sore feet and empty stomach, I was able to make the trek and find a public bus to take me the rest of the way home.  

    The Starbucks was not worth it.

Prague, Czech Republic

May 24th-29th 
Prague, Czech Republic 

        It was four bags, three airports, three glasses of Chardonnay, 15 flight hours and a lattĂ© before I took my first steps in the city of Prague. One Mercedes Benz bus ride to the hotel, a quick refreshment and I was off to explore the preserved beauty of Prague.  

      The stale scent of European cigarettes and overpriced men’s cologne filled my lungs as I walked around Wenceslas Square. The city burst with life from every corner with food vendors, street performers, musicians, tourists and artwork. Busy cars and trams rush by, never stopping for stray sightseers along the way.

        St. Vitus Cathedral

      The first site-seeing visit was to Saint Vitus's Cathedral, an enormous fortress built to surround the first church of Czech and Prague castle. The entire cathedral was constructed to protect the body of Saint Wenceslas and Charles IV. 

Radio Free Europe with Baylor study abroad group
      I was fortunate enough to be on my second study abroad program with Baylor University. Pictured above are the 14 lovely ladies and one brave gentlemen on the trip, along with our professor. My incredible roommate for the next five weeks, Bailey, is the blonde in the bottom right corner. 

     We are here for 1 week, then moving to Budapest, Hungary for another 4 weeks to study travel journalism (yay!) at Cornivus University. 
Incredible Raspberry Lemonade
      While most countries consider water a free, basic human right at restaurants, water is a luxury for those who can afford it in Prague. Averaging at 55 koruna, or $2.45, water is more expensive to purchase while dining out then most beer (45 koruna, or $2.00).

     Because Prague is a mainly touristy city, cuisine choices range from all regions of the world. One traditional Czech dish is goulash, a beef and vegetable stew, seasoned with paprika and accompanied by baguettes to dip in the sauce. Goulash is originally a medieval Hungarian soup-like meal, but the Czechs adopted the dish and altered the recipe to a stew.

    Another staple to the Czech culture is a trdelnik, a Slovakian dessert that was kept by the Czechs when the divorce was finalized. A trdelnik is a cone of baked dough with cinnamon sugar, filled with ice cream and topped with your choice of whipped cream, strawberries and Nutella. 


Communism Monument 
     Much about the culture of Prague is still representative of their previous Communist heritage. Though the country is now a proud Republic, the communist roots of Czech still web through architecture, monuments, and lifestyles of the citizens. The preserved architecture of original buildings can be seen on every structure. Original colors, arched entries, statues and gargoyles are maintained regularly by the city in order to protect Czech history and remind the citizens the nation's progress. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Dublin, Ireland

Guinness Brewery 

July 14th-16th
Dublin, Ireland
Temple Bar
      They say the city that never sleeps is the buzzing atmosphere of New York City. The crowds of hurried people all fighting for the same taxi, the endless array of street performers, and the business of Broadway Street lights can make any individual overwhelmed. However; in my opinion, Dublin, Ireland truly epitomizes the meaning of the phrase. 

Dublin Castle
       The streets of Temple Bar District in Dublin are alive like no other area of the world. Continuous street performers, loud and happy bar customers, and celebrating bachelor's parties fill the cobblestoned streets with energy. Along with the people, Dublin is full of rich history! You cannot walk a road without stumbling across a castle or church. 

         If you have any Irish descendants, or if you don't live under a rock, you know the stereotype that Irish people tend to drink a lot of alcohol. I am 75% Irish, so I'm allowed to say this is 100% true. At least in the Temple Bar district, "socially excitable" people litter the streets, laughing with good company and spilling their drinks.  

Jameson Distillery
Something you absolutely must try both Guinness and Jameson. Since they are both brewed in Dublin, they are both traditional and really cheap compared to the United States! 

                   Pizza! Of course. Who would have guessed the American girl would opt for a classic margarita pizza paired with cold coca-cola for her first meal in Ireland? Also, Irish coffee is an absolute must when exploring the streets of Dublin. Your basic Irish coffee consists of black coffee, a teaspoon of brown sugar, Irish whiskey, and whipped heavy cream. A nice jumpstart to your morning! 

St. Paul's Cathedral

Friday, March 23, 2018

England, UK

Snapped a photo with a Palace Guard!

July 5th-28th
 England, United Kingdom

Downtown London
           For a little over three weeks, I had the opportunity to study abroad in London, England. I traveled along the metropolitan area of London with several other communication-major students from my university. I was lucky enough to explore the streets of Bath, Chelsea, Covent Garden, Oxford, Victoria, and many more areas.  During the little time I had in England, I spent my free time cramming in all the tourest-y activities I could find. 

The London Eye
           Of course, the first event on my "To-Do: London" list was riding the London Eye! This magnificent ferris wheel stands 443 feet high, making it one of the tallest structures in the city. The entire ride took 30 minutes to complete one revolution, I took this photo from the top of the rotation. I won't lie, it was pretty nerve-wracking to observe the whole scene: 800 people aboard, a giant wheel weighing 600,000+ pounds, and nothing but glass and a railing keeping me from plummeting to my death! The ride was worth the view, I could see 25 miles away. 

       If you've heard anything about London- it's that it is always raining! The weather is extremely dreary in England, but there is some sun. I was fortunate enough to have a partly-cloudy day to ride the Eye. 

Shakespeare's Globe
         As a student who spent many years forced to read all of Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies(thankfully my books had side-notes), it was no wonder I visited this historic landmark. Shakespeare's Globe, though not the original since it burned down, is still used today for Shakespearian theater productions. When I toured, I was able to score tickets to a viewing of Much Ado About Nothing, a comedy about an Italian family and their love interests. The play was beyond entertaining even though I had a little trouble understanding most of the dialogue. Even if you can't obtain tickets to a show, definitely tour the Globe while in London!

Platform 9.3/4 (Harry Potter)
        It's not well known to my peers, but I am a Harry Potter fan. My father used to read J.K. Rowling's novels to my sister and I as bedtime stories. For those of you who have seen the movies and not read the books; all of England is a visual inspiration for Hogwarts. In Oxford, there are actually a few stores dedicated to the franchise (some scenes were filmed at Oxford University!) So for bragging rights, I walked over 4 miles, waited 45 minutes in line, and purchased merchandise just to take this picture at a train station. 

Java Fit Parfait
Chocolate Mousse Dessert
     Every morning, I ate at this little breakfast nook called CafĂ© Java Nuvo. The manager, Alex, became familiar with my face each day and memorized my order (one English Breakfast tea with milk, and a Java Fit yogurt parfait). I loved it so much, I never went anywhere else to start my day! Except maybe the occasional Starbucks run that just happened to be next door. 

The Roman Bath's in Bath

       I had a free weekend, so I took a day trip to the city of Bath, to visit the infamous 2000 year old Roman Bath's. These are naturally filled hot springs that were called the Aquae Sulis, or waters of Sulis. Sulis is the Celtic goddess of healing and fertility. Her shrine is located in the Roman structures because that's where it was believed her powers were the strongest. 

     The baths have been preserved and created into a museum, where guest cannot get in the water. And of course, at the end of the guided walk was a gift shop. I had to buy my mother and sister spa-themed bath salts from England!

Roaming the streets of Bathe
Peggy's Porschen Cupcakes

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Galapagos Islands


 June 6th-11th, 2017

 Galapagos Islands
Up close with a sleepy fur seal!

           I was fortunate enough to explore the Galapagos Islands in June of 2017. Continuing the Southern American journies, my mother, sister and I booked ourselves on a one-week cruise on the Ocean Spray luxury ship. During our days exploring the islands, my family surrounded ourselves amongst hundreds of thousands of birds, sea lions, iguanas, and other native species in the region. On our five day cruise, we visited the islands Baltra, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Genovesa, and Isabela. My personal favorite was Santa Cruz! Our travels were filled with daily snorkeling and island hopping, followed with nightly margaritas with the other fourteen passengers at the ships bar! 

Sally Lightfoot Crabs

Galapagos Penguin
        Something incredible about the islands of the Galapagos is that the entire area is protected by the Galapagos National Park Service. All of the islands are protected by dedicated wildlife and environment enthusiasts. Every day the team works to preserve the islands by collecting trash, surveying animal populations, and aiding the habitat in any way possible. 

        The OceanSpray was devoted to being environment-friendly as well. Everything was bio-degradable or recycled. We even had divers who picked up fallen trash in the ocean!


         Another fascinating fact about the islands is tourists can actually observe wild penguins! These penguins are native to the islands, so they are accustomed to the heat. Scientists believe they wandered over here before the countries drifted apart due to the movement of the tectonic plates.  So now, I do not have to tour the Arctic to see a wild penguin. 

Red-Footed Boobie                                                       
            This is a Red-Footed Boobie! Unfortunately, I was not able to capture any great photos of the bird's famous cousin: the Blue-Footed Boobie. These magnificent creatures native to the islands are known for their clumsiness and colorful bodies. The name comes from European colonists, who used the Spanish word "bobo" which translates to "stupid" probably referring to the bird's ungraceful, flopping-like landing.       

My Sea Lion Friend

                This is my sea-lion friend, that took a nap close to me while everyone else was snorkeling off the beach of Genovesa Island. I'm not much of a snorkeler, so I sat and read my book on the beach when this curious little guy wandered up to me and fell asleep. Our tour guide was very insistent at the beginning of our cruise that male sea-lions are incredibly dangerous, aggressive animals- and that we should do our best to steer clear of them. So, naturally, I was a bit nervous about this young male flopped up to me! But he just fell asleep and minded his own business

My Cabin's Private Deck
Santa Cruz Bar

             Of course, I'll always have time for an island margarita! Our luxury cruise always had a buffet for breakfast and lunch, complimentary with all the indulgences one could ever need! But the dinners were to die for; four-course customary meals for your specific dietary preferences. 
             No pizzas for me on this trip when I was catered with incredible five-star dishes! Each night the passengers were served a craft salad, a soup, an entree and then dessert with cappuccinos. 

Galapagos Tortoise!

            On the Island Santa Cruz, we had the chance to visit the Galapagos National Park headquarters. Native to the Islands, these giant tortoises actually inspired the name "Galapagos Islands". The Spanish word "Galapagos" means tortoise. During our exploration of the islands, my family had the opportunity to walk around on a tortoise conservation farm with this 150-year-old vertebrate. The photo is definitely not to scale, but this particular big boy weighed over 600 pounds!
My Sea-Lion Friend


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