Travel At Home to Ireland

In this months installment travel inspired multi media and foods we are going to travel at home to Ireland. A couple years ago now I hiked for a week on the western coast of Ireland and had the absolute best time. In preparation I read as much as I possibly could to try to get my head in the right space to be in a new place. I have included all my favorite books that I read during that time period, as well as movies I love and movies that were filmed where I visited. Ireland History I am not a historian and would never be able to do any place justice by recapping its long and complicated history but somethings to note before you start diving into Ireland multimedia. The first settlers of the area were neolithic people, hunter gatherers who wandered up into land that was newly released from last glacial period. During the Iron Age the Celtic language and culture emerged, though from where and how is still largely debated. Between then and now they were invaded by Vikings, Danish, Romans and the English. Through all the invasions, the brutal political upheavals and oppression they still maintained their Celtics past. In fact even though English is the official language of Ireland, Irish (celtic) is primarily spoken on the western coast of the island. For those folks of the Gaeltacht region English is second language and people from all over Ireland send their children to schools on the west coast for immersion programs to learn the ancient language. Ireland Books Before I left for my trekking trip in Ireland I wanted to get a good sense of the history of the place so I made sure I read Edward Rutherford’s books The Princes of Ireland and Rebels of Ireland. What I learned very quickly was that there hasn’t been a lot of cheery goings on in their history. But what I learned immediately upon entering the country is that despite that fact they are the nicest people on the planet. Needless to say it can be difficult to find books that take place in Ireland that aren’t completely gut wrenching but that’s kind of okay I think. It’s important to understand the struggles of our pasts, so I cannot guarantee any of these books will be tear free. The Yellow House is a novel about politics in Northern Ireland during the 20th century which is only really touched on at the very end of Rebels of Ireland. For something a little lighter Santa Montefiore wrote a series called The Deverill Chronicles which are easy reads but still provide a feeling of being in Ireland. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes was quite popular for a long while. Forever by Peter Hamill takes place mostly in New York but the first bit takes place in Ireland and was a really incredible read. Or you could go classic with James Joyce’s Dubliners. Or if you do not like the sounds of any of my suggestions there are nearly 600 books set in Ireland listed on goodreads to help you find your way. Ireland Movies If you aren’t in the mood for books there are quite a few movies with Ireland scenery or about Ireland. Angela’s Ashes again as the book was made into a movie in the late 90s. Far and Away as well as Ryan’s Daughter were both filmed where I was hiking a couple years ago, as well as scenes from the new Star Wars movies. Braveheart, Enemy at the Gates, Saving Private Ryan and Princess Bride all have scenes filmed in Ireland even though they did not take place there. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Leap Year and Laws of Attraction two very cheesy romantic comedies that are easy watching and oh so happy. I should also mention there is a very lovely youtuber that goes by the name Fairyland Cottage who lives in Ireland and discusses slow living and sustainable choices. She is wonderful and her videos are so relaxing. Ireland Foods I was a little hesitant to try Irish food, by no fault of theirs I was more worried about the English influence. This was before I had spent any time in England and my only experience was terrible airport food during a terrible layover. Turns out Irish food is phenomenal. There is nothing quite like tucking into a good Irish Stew with Soda Bread, it will warm you right up on the coldest winter days. My favorite meal while over there was actually a zucchini soup, topped with cheese toasties. The area of Ireland I was in was especially know of their shellfish, particularly oysters and mussels but I cannot eat them so I never got to experience that part of the cuisine. Fish and chips in all the pubs though were honestly some of the best meals I have ever had. We also saw a lot of oatmeal at breakfast (if you weren’t eating a full Irish) and mushy peas on the side of dinner dishes instead of potatoes. As well as simple tomato and cheese sandwiches which were packed in all our hiking lunches. And you can of course wash it all down with a nice glass of Guinness or Irish Whiskey. Or if you are a lightweight like me a nice hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea. I hope this little snippet of information will help keep you busy in the coming months. And helps inspire you to travel to new places whether that be physically or travel at home to Ireland.
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Naschmarkt Vienna

I love food, it is one of my favorite things about travel. So I am always especially interested in visiting historic markets when visiting new places. Naschmarkt Vienna is definitely worth the visit if you are looking for a local experience. Naschmarkt Vienna We visited Naschmarkt Vienna on Christmas Eve, in researching it seemed like going late morning was the best time. Many locals and local business buy meat and produce here so in the tradition of not being pest, avoiding times popular with locals is best. So please avoid early morning. The market has been operational since the 16th centurty, first mostly selling milk, then eventually produce and now everything from spices to meats and even includes a flea market on Saturdays. It is a sort of two lane walking strip between the streets. One entire side of kilometer and half market is resturants and cafes, the other produce, spice, dried fruits and nuts, pastries, meat, seafood, coffee, tea, you name it they have it. Had I known the volume and variety of food that would be available I probably wouldn’t have bought so much at our neighborhood store, we could have been well stocked over Christmas with high quality food from this market alone. Closed Restaurant Side Late morning it seemed like the majority of the restaurants were closed, though a couple cafes were open and despite the time of day it was still fairly crowded. The market website suggest afternoons as more of the restaurants would be open then. The walkways are not wide and it could definitely be a spot to look out for pickpockets. But like all areas of Vienna it is perfectly safe. Though you will have to fend off the hundreds of market owners trying to get you to try their products, or just given in to the culinary adventure and enjoy all the random offerings. If you like food and you like local experiences I cannot recommend the Naschmarkt Vienna enough.
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The Museum of Military History

The Museum of Military History was the first major stop on our recent trip to Vienna. Though in truth it was the second day of our trip. When we arrived around midday sans-luggage we had to stay on call close by the apartment to await the eventual arrival of our belongings. Anker Clock – By Franz Matsch The majority of that very first day was spent trying to stay awake, walking around the inner city in a haze, eating dinner and playing cards while trying to stay awake for the 10pm baggage drop. We wandered around our neighborhood, past St. Stephens for the first time. Scoped out the local grocery store (Merkur Hoher Markt) which happens to be next to the stunning Anker Clock funded by the Anker Insurance Company in 1914 during the expansion of their offices and designed by Franz Matsch a friend/student of Gustav Klimt. We also ate dinner at Ofenloch which shares the same building as the apartment we stayed in. It was a very delicious traditional Austrian meal. Open on Sunday which is a huge plus as not much is in Austria. Restaurant Ofenloch This while I called the airlines no less than 7 times trying to get a confirmed delivery time, it was…fun (insert eye roll). But lesson learned, and a lesson you do not need to repeat thanks to my mistake, an hour lay over in Amsterdam is enough time to catch your flight (if you run) but not enough time for you luggage to be unloaded off an international jet and sorted to its proper regional carrier. Don’t be like me, give yourself more time for a layover. St. Stephan’s Cathedral The First Full Day of Our Trip So our first full day of the trip started with a trip to Bakeri Grimm (which was repeated most days) as nothing else was open yet and we were all horribly jet lagged and starving. We loaded up on pastries and sandwiches and scarfed those down while we waited for the grocery store to open. Once the grocery opened we stocked up on food to get us through Christmas (everything is closed Christmas Eve through Boxing Day), unloaded our haul and headed out towards The Museum of Military History. This included a walk to the St. Stephens Platz underground stop, buying our weekly transit pass. Not understanding how the weekly transit pass worked and validating them (not needed), shockingly getting on the right train and landing at the Vienna Central Station. Where we bought our train tickets to Budapest since the office one again, would not be open on Christmas Eve through Boxing Day. Sensing a theme yet? We then set off from the central station to The Museum of Military History, on foot, during the worst weather of our entire trip. The Museum of Military History The Museum of Military History was a site that my husband and I had every intention of visiting during our honeymoon but ran out of time. So it was pretty exciting to finally get to visit it. The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum – Militärhistorisches Institut is the leading museum on Austrian Armed Forces. The building itself amazingly was built as a museum by Emperor Franz Joseph with the intention of housing the Imperial Arms Collection and paying memorial to the Imperial Army. The exterior was completed in 1856 but work continued until 1872 on the interior. The front hall housing statues of 56 of Austria’s most memorable field commanders. The museum was nearly entirely destroyed by allied bombs in 1944, but was rebuilt and officially reopened 24 June 1955. The museums consists of 8 different halls, a tank yard and several Artillery Halls. Hall I is called “From the Thirty Years War to Prince Eugene” and it covers history from the 16th and 17th centuries. The highlight, if you can call it that, of this period in Austria was the 30 years war. And this portion of the museum houses suites of armor, weapons and a lot of details on the wars with the Turkish armies. Hall II covers the Spanish War of Succession through the years of Maria Theresa’s reign (Marie Antionette’s mother). Turkish Tent Hall III covers the period of France’s revolution, a time period where much of Europe was going through revolutions. Austria was embroiled first with the last of the Ottoman Wars, and then took to fighting off Napoleons advances across all of Europe. Hall IV is dedicated to Joseph Radetzky Von Radetz, a truly impressive military leader who served for 72 years under 5 emperors. In fact on 31 August 1848, Johann Strauss first performed The Radetzky March a piece of original music in memorial of the famous commander. Hall V covers the assassination of Franz Ferdinand a conflict that continues into Hall VI for WWI and the end of the Hapsburg Monarchy. These halls made the most sense to me as it is a period in Austrian history that I know the most about. I was also really loving all the ornate military uniforms. Hall VII covers the era from 1918 to 1955, and as a military museum focuses mostly on the campaigns and conflicts that occur by the hands of the Austrian people. This is not a Holocaust museum, it by no means glosses over the period in history but if you are looking for in depth information this is not the museum to find it. If you are looking for a Holocaust museum and memorial I would honestly suggest visiting Mauthausen, they have put tremendous effort into the memorial and museum. It will be a very somber visit but if you are interested in the topic it is truly incredible. Most of the information here covers the civil war Austria endured between the world wars, the dissolution of their monarchy, and the assassination of Federal Chancellor Dollfuss which lead to the annexation of Austria by Germany. Hall VIII talks about Austria’s Navel History, which is surprising given it is land locked. But once upon a time Austria was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and had lands stretching down to the Adriatic Sea. This section also touches on patrolling the Danube which connects with Hungry which was once under Ottoman rule. The Tank Yard and Artillery Halls are closed in the winter so we didn’t get to visit those. But there was a small outdoor section with a couple tanks as well as a temporary building full of information on more recent peacekeeping campaigns that the Austrian Military has been involved in. The lobby also has a nice little café and gift shop. We wound up eating here and had a delicious lunch. After we left the museum the weather had cleared up a bit, I had used the museum Wi-Fi to locate the closest transit stop so we didn’t have to walk all the way back. We hopped a very toasty street car over to the Rathaus (city hall) where one of the many Christmas Markets was being held. We spent the rest of the evening doing a little shopping, sipping Glühwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate. But it was very cold and we were still pretty damp from the earlier rain so we grabbed some food to go and went back to the apartment for dinner and cards. This was by far one of our favorite sights in Vienna, it covers a lot of information and it also covers a lot of information from a local perspective which I think is really important if you are interested in studying history. Most of what we are taught is strictly from an American perspective of world history, and it can look very different from the perspective of those on the ground. So to get that insight in things like the Ottoman Conflicts and the Napoleon wars is really fascinating. If you are ever in Vienna and have any interest in history I would highly suggest The Museum of Military History.
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Staying and Getting Around Vienna Austria

Lets talk about the logistics of staying and getting around Vienna Austria shall we? Because to be honest I have really been struggling with writing up our trip to Austria over Christmas. For one reason only SEO. If you will allow a mini rant, SEO (or search engine optimization) really takes a lot of creativity out of blogging. Basically if you want traffic you have to follow certain rules and formats and the whole thing is a real buzz kill. So I am still wrestling with a way to share the trip with all of you, while also making sure things show up on search engines, but also wanting things to feel organic. You can read about our overnight in Budapest here, and hopefully by next week I will have figured out how to get you the goods. Getting to Vienna Austria If you are coming from the United States, or really anywhere other than mainland Europe it is best to fly into Vienna. The airport is small, easy to navigate and only about 25 minutes from the city. There is public transit from the airport, as well as rental cars and taxis. We organized a car to pick us up from our apartment rental because while you can save a lot of money by taking public transit, after 23 hours of travel we knew we would just want to be there already. One thing I will say about flying into Vienna is don’t repeat our mistakes, unless you like to live on the edge. Many airlines will sell you short layovers at connecting airport like Amsterdam, and yes we did make our connection. But our bags didn’t and the stress of getting through passport control in busy connecting airports is not worth it, in my opinion. If you find yourself in Vienna without your baggage the booth next to the first carousel will be able to handle everything. But if you having a driver waiting for you, send some one out to let them know what is happening. Thankfully ours didn’t leave us, but he did say eventually he would have had to go onto his next pickup. If you are coming from mainland Europe by train you will most likely be headed to the new Central Station located on the boarder between the 4th (Wieden) and 10th (Favoriten) districts. It’s new, its big, it’s glossy and has everything you could possible need including bus transfers (top level), ticketing office (top level), subway connections (basement level), and food (all levels). The kind people at the ticketing office most certainly speak English, and to be frank most people in Vienna do. Getting Around Vienna Austria Absolutely 100% buy some sort of public transit pass. We bought the weekly passes and used them daily. They are about 18 dollars a person, last a week and you can hop on and off any bus, trolley, street car or subway within city limits. The system is incredibly easy to use, with pictures at every station of the entire system, color codded by line, and each station has maps of its own line with every single stop pictured so you know exactly which platform to wait on. Getting lost is nearly impossible as long as you can keep yourself from getting swept up with all the commuters. Passes can be bought in subway stops, though not bus stops or trolley stops. The underground stops are on nearly every street corner it seems like, and the ticket kiosks are in multiple languages including English. I wouldn’t really suggest a car, unless you are staying in an outer district and are planning on taking a lot of day trips (but even then the trains are great) because parking in the city is very limited. I saw one public parking garage in two weeks. Also take advantage of walking, the inner city (district 1) which has an endless amount of activities is very walkable, many sections of the inner city don’t allow cars so it is actually easier to walk than drive. But do download a map to use while you are there, like most European cities the streets evolved over hundreds of years. Roads twist, turn, have multiple point intersections, streets come off spoke like in some areas, and in others in grid like patterns. Staying in Vienna Austria I would highly recommend staying in the inner district (innere stadt) in Vienna simply for the convenience. This is the main tourist area, it can be a little more expensive to stay in this area. But the things to do and number of restaurants is truly endless. Additionally it seems like a lot of the public transit routes either ring the inner district or travel through it. So if you are planning on visiting other areas of town it makes for a great base. We rented an apartment from a company called Elegant Vienna I had originally found the apartment on a vacation rental site but after speaking with the owner Christian I booked directly with them which saved me a lot of money. They have apartments of all sizes, and ones that are multiple bedrooms which can often be hard to find in Europe. So if you are traveling with a large group or want lots of space I would highly suggest giving them a look. Vienna is a huge tourist destination and as such there is no shortage of hotels, rentals and hostels to meet any persons need and budget. The further you get from the inner district the cheaper your accommodations will become. And while some districts may be prettier than others, there are really no unsafe areas of the city. The worst you may encounter, unless you are actively picking fights with people, is you may get pick pocketed. Eating in Vienna Austria Eating in Vienna is probably my favorite past time, the food is so good. No matter what flavor you are looking for they have it, even Mexican food which is so rare this was the first time I had encountered it. Austrian food in delicious but heavy, it is hard to find a fresh salad that is not covered in something pickled. So if you are staying for an extended period of time I would pepper in a few lighter home cooked meals. Grocery stores are easy to come by, though they often don’t resemble grocery stories especially in the older sections of the city. There are three main grocery chains in Vienna, Merkur which is a high end grocery, Billa fairly standard and SPAR a bit more on the budget side. There are also loads of small intendant shops. But don’t forget these aren’t standard American supermarkets. You don’t find toilet paper, cleaning supplies or makeup in them that you have to get at a store called BIPA. And you won’t find medications of any store, that you have to get at an apothecary, which is run by an attendant who you tell your symptoms to and you buy what they give you. For us this included the single most disgusting cold remedy I have ever tried (shame on you Bayer for even inventing something so foul). You will also find bakeries and coffee shops on every single street. Pick any random one you really cannot go wrong. Strock and Anker are common around town. Our favorite was Grimm because it was outside our front door. The most popular is probably Central Bakery due to its famous former patrons and the interior is spectacular. But if you want the experience, get there before they open and be the first in the door, otherwise you are in for a very long wait. Staying and Getting Around Vienna Austria I hope this helped answer some of your logistical questions. Next week I will be starting the series on the trip even if I can’t figure out how best to organize and appease the SEO gods. Thanks for tuning in for staying and getting around Vienna Austria.
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48 Hours in Budapest

Budapest is without a doubt one of my favorite European cities. And honestly it is hard to articulate why. It just feels different, it feels like something is waiting to be discovered. And while it is a rather large city which you could spend months exploring (someday I plan to do just that) you can easily get a good feel of the place in a short amount of time. So here is what you need to know in order to spend 48 hours in Budapest. Getting There – 48 Hours in Budapest Last week I wrote about everything you need to know about taking a train to Budapest. But obviously there are other ways to get there. The airport commonly known as Ferihegy (officially Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport) is a 24 min drive to the city center. The airport website suggesting taking a taxi, you could also rent a car for a quick trip. Public transit looks possible, thought not without at least one exchange. If you aren’t in for flying or taking the train into the city. You can also drive, hotels appeared to have parking available, though there was not a lot of public parking in the city. Or you could take FlixBus which was suggested to me by a couple European acquaintances. Staying – 48 Hours in Budapest We stayed at the Danubius Hotel Astoria, I had stayed here before and knew it was a clean safe hotel in a central location. I wrote about the hotel and my first experience in Budapest here. The second stay at the hotel was just as fun. The hotel has an excellent breakfast service and the rooms are well furnished and clean. With the exception of the toilet door handle, which fell off in my hand while my husband was out of the room. It took me nearly half an hour to catch the outside portion of the handle and free myself from the tiny room. I had to laugh since in high school we were all convinced the hotel was haunted and then this happened. Don’t worry the hotel is not haunted and is in no way creepy. There appeared to be quite a few youth hostels in the area, many in what I would consider safe parts of town. If you are of the age and looking for cheaper accommodations this could be a great option. Or if you are planning a longer stay the selection of vacation rentals look really fantastic. Things To Do – 48 Hours in Budapest The main tourist attraction to the city seems to be the Buda side waterfront which is home to Gellert Hill, Buda Castle and The Fisherman’s Bastion. You can easily see all of this if you don’t enter any of the museums on this side of the river. They are quite large (and amazing) but take up a lot of time. If you have more than 48 hours do them all, we wished we could have gone into the Citadel and the Military Museum but as we were there on boxing day everything was closed. I would suggest starting with a walk across the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság Híd in Hungarian), hike up the trails on Gellert Hill, and enjoy the views from the top, the fort at the top was shelled during the war and you can see quite a bit of damage in the walls still. From there walk back down the park toward Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) named after Empress of Austria Elizabeth, Franz Joseph’s wife. She was instrumental in encouraging Hungarian home rule in 1867, she spent a lot of time in Hungry staying away from court life as much as possible. There is also rumor she was having an affair with a Hungarian Statesman. Once you get to the bottom walk under the bridge along the water to Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthais Church. Then cross back over the river at the Széchenyi Chain Bridge built in 1849 the bridge was considered an engineering marvel, honestly it is phenomenal still. On the Pest side of the river you can find the Parliament Building, the Opera House and the Market Hall. If you are just in it for the walk and seeing the outdoors, once you cross the bridge take a left and walk along the water, you can’t miss the parliament building, from here walk away from the river to see the opera house, or catch the street car which runs along the river back toward the Liberty Bridge, ticking kiosk is across the street from the stop outside parliament. The Market Hall is probably the only thing in town best visited in the afternoon. Since this is the main source of shopping for a lot of restaurants and locals, it calms down later in the day. One of the main things I wish we had time to do was visit a bath house, they seem especially fantastic in the winter months. Because of the Roman and Turkish influence on the history and architecture of the city there are more than a couple throughout the city. The most well known is probably Széchenyi Thermal Bath and is one where woman are allowed in (not the case at every one). I had thoughts of taking everyone early on but due to timing had to trim it out. My research suggested that you bring your own towel(s) which posed a bit of a barrier for us, taking a train 3 hours with a bag of wet towels didn’t sound fun. But the bath house shares a rather large park with Vajdahunyad Castle and the Museum of fine arts so this would be a really great way to spend a day if your preferences lean this way. Eating – 48 Hours in Budapest Since we were there at Christmas we ate our main meal at the Christmas Market on Vörösmarty tér. It was exactly the eating experience I wanted and loved every second of selecting from a giant booth the Hungarian favorites I wanted to eat and then sitting outside with locals all doing the same. Goulash in a bread bowl was the favorite amongst our group but I really loved the cabbage roll with sauerkraut, sausage and a large piece of fried dough (they called it a pancake I am still searching for exactly what it was). We also ate at the Market hall for lunch which has quite a few options on the upper floor. It was suggested to me to eat at the restaurant at the Fisherman’s Bastion, but honestly it was just too crowded for us. Though if it is less crowded or if you don’t mind crowds the views are incredible. I also really wanted to try the New York Palace Cafe which is fairly close to the train station but since we were only there for one dinner we had to skip it. The main shopping areas near the river are also filled with restaurants of all flavors I doubt you will have any problem finding something delicious. Tips – 48 Hours in Budapest My biggest tip to visiting Budapest is pick the things that mean the most to you and go early. 20 years has changed the level of tourism quite a bit and it can get crowded, but getting up early allows you the chance to experience things with out the crowds of selfie takers. If you are planning on visiting Parliament, or the Opera House get tickets online and reserve a time. We didn’t know this as the website says just go to the entrance and buy a ticket, thus we didn’t get to tour, by the time we got there every tour in every language was sold out for the entire day. I would also suggest avoiding the night life. My husband ran across some articles that would suggest while locals don’t mind the flocks of tourists in their city, they do mind the partying, late nights, hubbub on the streets and general nonsense that is escalated by out of towners in their bars and clubs. We also hear a fair amount of fighting on the streets overnight which even if you aren’t involved is always best to avoid. I always like to ensure I am not a pest when I travel and this includes staying out of the way of locals and not causing trouble. Additionally avoiding public transit during commuting hours, coffee shops and lunch stops during times that would be rushed with locals as well as making sure to learn a few pleasantries in the local language. This is especially important in a country where English is not as prevalent. You really can’t go wrong this any amount of time in Budapest and what I have learned from both my visits is you will always find more to do, and always be tempted to come back for longer next time. That being said due to how the city is laid out you can see quite a bit in a short amount of time and have a really great 48 hours in Budapest.  
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Everything You Need to Know About Taking a Train to Budapest

Everything You Need to Know About Taking a Train to Budapest I have been to Budapest before, but it was 20 years ago on a school trip. We flew into the airport were picked up by a van and taken to our hotel. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. This year I was taking my three favorite people in the world by train and there weren’t a lot of internet resources. So here is everything you need to know about taking a train to Budapest. But First, Something Completely Different While we imagine Europe always existing exactly how it does today, this is quite untrue. Especially when thinking about countries from the axis powers during WWII and those behind the Iron Curtain up until 1989. Hungry is one of these countries. World War I ended the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and World War II began it’s life as a Soviet Satellite state. While this meant the end of communism, elections went the way of socialism and many years of political and economic upheaval. They joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, meaning the country as we know it today is ultimately less than 20 years old. This makes it look and feel quite a bit different than other countries, which I love. But can also make for a trickier trip. This explanation will make more sense as you read on, I promise. Train Tickets to Budapest In the hours and hours of research I did to figure out how best to purchase tickets to get from Vienna to Budapest the one thing that seemed unanimous was that the Hungarian Rail Service would not accept home printed train tickets. That being said to save money I would highly suggest buying tickets a couple months in advance to save money. Then even though you have your home printed or phone tickets, take that information to your departing train station ticketing booth and have them print you physical tickets. You don’t want to get chucked off a train in the middle of nowhere for having insufficient proof of travel. If you are buying tickets last minuet and you are leaving from Vienna, you can buy tickets at the central train station at either a kiosk or at the ticket counter upstairs. Everyone at the ticket counter is incredibly nice and speaks English very well. However, they may tell you that you can hop any train during the day of your ticket, and while that may be true of the OEBB (Vienna National Rail), it is not true of the Hungarian Rail Service, your train time is your train time no amount of haggling or extra fees will get that time switched. Train Stations in Budapest There are two train stations in Budapest, Keleti and Kelenfold. They are both on the same line, Keleti being on the end of the line. If you are coming from Vienna you will pass through Kelenfold before you reach Keleti, and unless your accommodations are in the suburbs you will want to make sure you stay on until the last stop. Not all trains pass through Kelenfold though if coming from the north often trains go straight to Keleti, never passing through the south western suburb of Kelenfold. Keleti Train Station The Keleti station is a gorgeous station, perched right in the center of downtown at the top of Rakoczi street. This makes for incredibly easy access to most sights in town. To make matters even easier, easy access public transit. Just walk outside the station you will see stairs leading below ground and ticket kiosks at the ready. These do have English options, it is my understanding this a new feature and quite the blessing. International ticketing can be found on the top level in the vestibule between the outside and inside of the main station, it is not obvious and there are no signs. When you walk into the main doors of the station veer left, go about halfway down the platform and walk left through a large doorway, and then take another left into the vestibule. You will have to tell the door attendant what you need, he will give you a ticket, which will in no way be in order compared to the other numbers on the call board. You will get served quickly, it is just a very odd process. Everyone in this area of the station did appear to speak English. Folks working at the regional desk decidedly less so. Regional ticketing is at the basement level below the reader boards. This desk would handle any ticketing related to traveling within Hungarian boarders. There is also an information booth to the right of the main doors, folks here also appeared to be well versed in English though not what we Americans would consider overly friendly. Please don’t take offense to the chilliness, I found this relevantly common and not because they are rude. They are not rude, everyone I spoke to was incredibly helpful, just perhaps more reserved than we are used to. Killing Time Near Keleti Station If you time your arrival at Keleti well before your departing time as we did there are quite a few restaurants and shops in the area to keep you busy while you wait. Up Kerepesi street there is a shopping mall, and tucked back a block on Mosonyi is a police museum. If the weather is nice enough there is a rather large park just up Fiumei street. On the other side of the train station there is a fair amount of recognizable American fast food chains, including a Starbucks which has free Wi-Fi and nice bathrooms. As well as two grocery stores Coop ABC and City SPAR. Our train into Budapest did not have a dining car, though departing it did. If you have a long onward train ride I wouldn’t count on one, on our ride in there was a woman pacing the train asking for sips of peoples drinks, she wanted our coffee. Don’t be like her, stock up on essentials might before making the journey. In summary there are some tricky things about getting into and out of Budapest by train. But I think this post should help eliminate some of the confusion. It is at the very least everything you need to known about taking a train to Budapest, tried and proven to work.
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Travel At Home to Barcelona

Barcelona, what can one possibly say about Barcelona and do it any sort of justice. The city is a city apart in Spain, the capital seat of the region of Catalonia which if you have ever met a Catalan, they will tell you they are not Spanish nor a part of Spain. Here are some of my favorite books, movies and foods to help you get the flavor of the gorgeous city so that you can travel at home to Barcelona. Barcelona Spain History of Barcelona The city is quite old, not much is know of the early settlements but according to legends in the 3rd century BC a settlement in the area was named Barcino by Hannibal’s father Hamilcar Barca. If you aren’t looking for legends but known facts, in 15BC Roman troops created a camp in the area which was later conquered by the Visigoths in the early 8th century. The are was then united with all of Spain when Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabelle Castile married creating the boundaries of what we know as Spain today (mostly). They are known perhaps best for the Spanish Inquisition, it was politically a move consolidate power under the new monarchs and all the people as Roman Catholics. It effectively drove out the Islamic Moors who had long lived in the southern parts of the country. Though largely what we hear of the Spanish Inquisition is actually rhetoric from the French and an overstatement of brutality. Don’t get me wrong I have no doubt it was a terrible thing to live though, but the French certainly had their reasons to exaggerate. They are also known for their particularly bloody civil war, their fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Their alleged neutrality during WWII but historians still debate which side they helped more. But of course Spain and specifically Barcelona is probably best known for Antoni Gaudi whose architecture is ever present in the ancient city. Barcelona Books My trip to Barcelona actually started with a book. I don’t know how my step-dad wound up with the book. But he read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz-Zafon, and then my mom did and then I did. And before I knew it we were planning our first international family Christmas trip to Barcelona Spain. When we read the Shadow of the Wind it was one book, many years later it is now four total books which make of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The books focus mostly around the early 20th century. If you are looking for fiction that takes place closer to the unification of Spain then The Queen’s Vow by C.W Gortner is quite good. I have never been a big fan of Hemingway but I always did love For Whom The Bell Tolls, it is a terribly depressing novel but if you are interested in the era around the Spanish Civil War it would be a good read. And if you are looking for something a little more on the medieval side of things Cathedral of the Sea is a really incredible book. If you are looking for nonfiction, Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City’s Past provides a really thorough explanation of the conflict between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. For a personal and detailed account of the Spanish Civil War you could pick up George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia which is his personal experiences fighting against Franco’s Fascists. Or of a similar name Homage to Barcelona which details the personal account of author Colm Toibin’s life living there. Barcelona Movies If you are more of a movie watcher than a reader then I would first and foremost recommend Viki Christina Barcelona. I know that Woody Allen isn’t for everyone but the movie actually does a really nice job of making you feel like you are in Barcelona, with gorgeous street scenes, it is a very slow paced romance/comedy but not a romantic comedy you will see why when you watch it. Todo Sobre Mi Madre by Pedro Almodovar starts in Madrid but very shortly moves on to Barcelona where you get the joys seeing the true spirit of the city. Land and Freedom directed by Ken Loach is actually an homage to the previously mentioned Orwell book, while you don’t get a lot of Barcelona scenery in the movie, you do get a very visceral idea of what the Spanish Civil War was like to live through. Movies you don’t expect to have been filmed in Barcelona, would be titles such as The Machinist, Perfume, The Gunman, Grand Piano and perhaps the most surprising Beyond Re-Animator the third in the Re-Animator horror trilogy. Barcelona Foods To complete the at home travel experience try adding in some Catalan dishes to your kitchen. Tapas are an easy commitment free way to try new dishes, small and usually made from only a few ingredients you will get all the flavors and none of the fuss. For a great at home Tapas recipe book a local Portland restaurant called Toro Bravo put together this gem a few years also. You could go simple with a bottle of Tempranillo and some Imberico Ham and Manchego cheese for a snack. Or if you are feeling something sweet Churros and Chocolate are always a favorite with my family. Whether you are looking for travel inspiration or looking for a way to experience another culture without leaving your home I hope this post finds you well. And perhaps this winter you will be able to travel at home to Barcelona even if its just for one meal or one book.
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2019 Wrap Up

It is officially nearing the end of 2019 and the blog is taking a much needed vacation. We are off to Austria for Christmas with family and so I leave you with one final post, a 2019 Wrap Up of all that has happened this year. Winter 2019 Wrap Up The year opened with me deciding I should get off the pot and turn this blog into a business so I did all the necessary paperwork and started consulting for Beautycounter until I can start making revenue in other ways. 2019 Wrap Up Uncle Sam only lets business not make money for so long before you get shut down and I wanted to start out on the right foot. So if you have any interest in safer skin care products let me know. You can also support this effort by buying prints of my travel photos or my packing guide on my shop page. Below is one such photo which I took in January 2019 in Seaside Oregon during an unexpected snow storm. Seaside Oregon 2019 Spring 2019 Wrap Up In March In March 2019 we visited Silverton Oregon for a quick little local adventure to break up the winter blues. We tried to go hiking at Silver Falls but we were bested by the late snow fall. Silver Falls Oregon We instead toured the Gordon House which is the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oregon. And while it was unseasonably cold we did manage to keep our selves warm at the Oregon Garden Hotel. Gordon House Silverton Oregon In April we took a short trip down to Ojai California for a family event and got to stay at the gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn. We wound up going back to Ojai in October to visit family and spend a more relaxed time there. One goal in 2020 is to do a full round up of all our favorite spots in Ojai. Ojai Valley Inn The big trip for the year up until this point was a week in England. We had grand plans that had to be paired down since we were only there for a week. But we go to explore a good deal and I entirely fell in love in England. Bath England For all the BBC shows I watch and historical fiction I read England had never been at the top of my list but it took no less than 3 hours for me to be entirely smitten and I was extremely sad to leave. We spent the majority of our time in Bath, where I finally got to see the Royal Crescent. Royal Crescent England We toured the Costwolds and it was every bit as gorgeous as is shown in shows. I could have scooped up any one of the small cottages in any random village out there and been perfectly happy. And perfectly poor, it is incredibly expensive to live in England. Costwolds England We also visited Bristol for a day, and I got to see a Banksy Mural in the place that the man is allegedly from. Banksy’s Girl With the Pearl Earing We made a cross country train trek to Dover and while it is a little rough around the edges I very much loved that town too, the castle was incredible and walking the White Cliffs of Dover was a dream come true. White Cliffs of Dover Our last day in England was spent at the Kew Gardens, a must see when in England and also a perfect location for our last night as the taxi ride to the airport is cheap and quick. No missing planes for us, though I wouldn’t have been too sad to have stayed another night or two. Kew Gardens England Summer 2019 Wrap Up Summer was a bit slower after a very busy spring. We visited family in Southern Oregon and I finally got to visit and shop at the darling town of Jacksonville. Jacksonville Oregon In June I celebrated by birthday with a live showing of my favorite podcast and a overnight shopping trip in downtown Portland. Crystal Hotel Portland Oregon I went on a quick road trip to South Eastern Oregon to finally experience some of the more remote features of this rather large state I live in. The high desert in Eastern Oregon is truly stunning and towns like Burns the heart and soul of rural Oregon. Due to the late snow we didn’t get to hike the Steens Mountain as planed but we did get to stay at the Frenchglen Hotel and see the Alvord Desert. Alvord Desert On the same trip we drove up into the Owyhee Mountains and spent the night entirely off grid in a ghost town. The drive was entirely worth the experience and going back for more than one night is the top of the list for next year. Silver City Idaho Fall 2019 Wrap Up The only trip we took in the fall of 2019 was back down to California to Visit family. We mostly spent the week relaxing in Ojai or hiking in the hills. Which as I mentioned will be a post coming next year. We did get visit Disneyland while we were down there which is always a family favorite. I hope you enjoyed this 2019 Wrap Up. And with that I wish you and yours a very merry holiday season. I will be back next year with updates from our time off.
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Jacksonville Oregon

Jacksonville Oregon is a small historic town just a little under 48 miles north of the California border. Situated near enough to Ashland and Grants pass that you could make a nice weekend visiting some charming old southern Oregon towns, or make it a longer trip and drive up to Crater Lake which is only a two hour drive. History of Jacksonville Oregon Jacksonville Oregon was officially founded by 1852, a small settlement that quickly boomed when gold was discovered in the area. It was also home the Oregon’s first Chinatown, populated with former residents of San Francisco who had moved up to the area following the prospects of gold. Sadly like most of Oregon’s historic towns, the mines ran out, and the gorgeous town centers that were built are left behind when the trains stop running. In the case of Jacksonville in 1884 the train bypassed the town entirely. Supplies were too difficult to bring in, and without the mining income most residents left. Jacksonville Oregon Today Luckily for us fans of historic buildings the town was never entirely abandoned. In 1963 a Portland Orchestra  Conductor was visiting the area in the hopes of locating a place to play music in the summer. A site was selected, on the land of former resident Peter Britt, for it acoustic qualities and beautiful surroundings. Ever since then the British Arts and Music festival or Britt Fest is held in the small town, brining some world class music to the small southern Oregon community. Visiting Jacksonville Oregon When I visited it was only for an afternoon and not during Britt Fest. I was there for lunch and to check out some of the superb shopping that the town has managed to maintain thanks to its appeal to the tourist types that like charming old buildings and quaint little shops. There isn’t a lot of parking in the small downtown, but plenty in the residential parts of town. There is also a historic trolley that will pick you up from the public parking lot and take you all over town. We strolled the town, went into every shop and had a nice lunch before taking off right around the time it got really busy. Just perfect for me. Since Jacksonville Oregon is such a small town it isn’t necessarily a destination on its own, especially if making the 6 hour drive from the Portland area, but is a must see if already in the area and will nicely round out a wine or hiking trip what ever flavor suits you best.
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Hot Lake Hotel

The last stop on our summer road trip through Eastern Oregon was Hot Lake Hotel. We didn’t stay there, though I know people who have. I just wanted to tour it now,  in the off chance the rumors of changing owners came true. I am so glad I did as the owner was lovely and accommodating, for a small fee which came with unlimited coffee we got a grand tour of the once hospital turned resort.  It gives off serious Miss Havisham vibes in the best possible way (if you don’t know who that is you best go read Charles Dickens novels now).

History of Hot Lake Hotel
Well before any modern day structure existed on this spot of land just outside La Grande, Oregon the native people of the area were well acquainted with the  spot which is known for its mineral hot springs. The area was well documented by Washington Irving in his recordings of the Astor expedition in 1812.  And for many years leading up to the building of the hotel it was used as a trading post between natives and recent settlers and those passing through in search of gold. The trading post still exists on the grounds today and is included in the tour. 

The first incarnation of the Hot Lake Hotel was built in 1864 in the Colonial Revival style. At the time of the original construction the hotel operated as a multi business complex complete with post office, blacksmith, barber shop, spa, bathhouse as well as other small businesses.

In 1904 the original structure was demolished and John V Bennes (whose name is also attributed to the Geiser Grand Hotel) started construction of the Georgian style structure you mostly see today. With 105 guest rooms, 60 surgical bed and a 1,500 person ballroom.

When Hot Lake Hotel opened it opened as a luxury resort and sanitarium, advertising the healing properties of the sulfur rich water to cure what ever ails you. Unfortunately in 1934 half the hotel burned. The glorious beginnings of this luxury spa were not seen again as it was used as a retirement home, asylum and a nurses training station during WWII. The building was abandoned in 1991, even though it had been added to the National Registered of Historic Places in 1979.

In 2003 the building was purchased by David Manuel a rather well known bronze statue artist in the Pacific North West. He and his family worked for two years in order to open it back up to the public, and continue to work on it now. Today it operates as a bed and breakfast, spa and restaurant as well as a museum of native and munitions artifacts which is the private collection of Mr. Manuel.
Experiencing Hot Lake Hotel
It is important to remember when visiting Hot Lake Hotel where it started when it was last bought, and that the restoration work was done with private funds. This is not a billion dollar restoration project done by a team of professionals. This was a restoration project done with money raised privately and done as a family because they loved the building so much. As such you will see it is an eclectic mix of furnishings and styles.

As a part of a the tour or as a paying guest of the hotel you will be offered the chance to view a video put together by the owners detailing some history of the building but more importantly the history of the family and the work they put into the restoration. I would highly suggest taking them up on the viewing.

There are several floors of rooms, and each floor as seating areas both inside and outside. There are also several museum type rooms in the guest room section of the building that provide information regarding the surgical suites and exercise facilities that used to be on site. And of course there is the onsite spa, both indoor and outdoor pools offer up a cooler version of the mineral waters that exist in the area for your soaking pleasure. The cooler part is important to note as the small lake in front of the hotel that is fed directly from the underground hot sprints is so hot it will disintegrate bone, best not go swimming in it directly.

There have been rumors of hauntings, though I did not experience anything odd while there. The owners are reluctant to say much about it, but that isn’t surprising when you meet them. They just aren’t the type to suffer that type of rumor or gossip.  I did not stay at the hotel myself, it was just a stop off on the way home. But if I was out in the area for a night I most certainly would spend the night at Hot Lake Hotel. I do not mind the slightly rambling and mismatched décor. I am quite frankly never looking for a 5 start resort. Just a clean place to stay with nice folks running the place. The interesting history is of course a huge bonus.

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