Normandy, France – Day Two

The cloudy morning turned to sunshine as we had reached our first destination of the day, Pointe Du Hoc. Free to get in we walked past through to the viewpoints of the bunkers and monument. Amazing to see the view and how far along the coast you can see, how the Germans positioned themselves during the war. Here you could also experience the damaged bunkers (could go in a few) and the massive holes in the ground left behind from the bombs.

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We took the drive from Pointe Du Hoc to Carentan, in search of a place for lunch and our next destination the La Combe German Cemetery. It wasn’t very advertised with road signs so we had to use the sat nav and address, obviously not a place the French like to advertise. How strange it was to be walking among 22,000 graves of German soldiers, many of them aged between 16 to 22. Most graves consisted of two people, with too many that were unknown with no name.

Keeping other cemeteries in mind, we headed next to the American Cemetery & Memorial, which was the complete opposite of the German cemetery. This place seemed the busiest out of all of our chosen museums and places we visited during the weekend. The American cemetery is close to Omaha beach where most American soldiers lost their lives. The cemetery is filled with perfectly lined white crosses with one grave per soldier. It was all very touching with different graves having flowers placed in respect.

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DSC_2010The last museum on our list was the Overlord Museum. Greeted with original tanks situated outside we went in and looked at the big collection of items from June 6th, 1944. There was some interesting personal items and stories of witnesses and soldiers throughout the museum and compelling to see items like a tank full of bullet holes.

We finished the day with a dinner in Bayeux followed by a long walk around the beautiful city. Couldn’t resist a nutella pancake for pudding too!

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Check out Day Three here!

Budapest, Hungary 2013

Arriving by Budapest with the night train from Prague was much better than we expected, not being woken once from noise, obviously too cosy under the clean fresh bunkbed sheets. What was good was that you needed your sleep cabin key to get into the toilet provided, so you didn’t need to worry about lack of toilet paper or it getting too disgusting from everyone like guests who had not booked a sleeping cabin.

Day One

The first day included buying a public transport card, as the city is so big compared to Prague there was no way we could walk to everything during our 3 day stay. We stayed at the Friends Hostel Budapest where we booked our own little apartment with kitchen, perfect for eating cheap on vacation. For starters, we had to get used to the change in currency, that made us feel rich! The currency EUR to HUF was €1 to 310 at the time, so for a 10,000 HUF note it was only about €32.

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Stepping on the metro we headed first to the Szechenyi Baths, one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe. The weather was so hot the day we visited, making it rather busy, but still perfect to enjoy the outside pools and the inside spas.

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2013-08-15 14.16.53Seeing as we spent most of the day here, we felt so refreshed afterwards that we took a stroll back through the park to the Millenniumi emlékmű monument and towards Parliament, saw the shoes on the Danube bank and further for a walk around the bridges.

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Arriving at the Buda Hill Funicular was our next stop to get to the top of Buda Castle. A beautifully well kept castle with many viewpoints, gardens and museums within.

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Ending the day was with a free 3 hour walking tour of the city and night time walk to the fortress and Liberty Statue for fantastic views over the city. Definitely a highlight!

2013-08-16 21.42.51.jpgDay Three

Started the day by visiting the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian Technical and Transportation Museum and the Central Market Hall.

But the best museum we found impressive was the House of Terror Museum. This museum tells the story of the secret police and suffering endured by the Hungarian people under the Nazis and Hungarian Arrow Cross Nazi party in 1944 and the communist brutality after the war. There is also a section which pays special honour to the Freedom Fighters in 1956. Amazingly, both eras occurred in the same building, hence the museum name House of Terror.

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Finishing our trip with a Transavia flight back to the Netherlands ended our 10 day holiday to Prague and Budapest. It was fun, hot, and we had plenty of time to visit what we needed.

Prague, Czech Republic 2013

Our vacation to Prague started at the train station. We had booked ourselves on an overnight train from Amsterdam. Something completely new for us, but it was much cheaper than flying and we wanted a new experience!

We were lucky, since we didn’t book a private sleeping cabin but just chose two chairs due to our budget and we were placed in a cabin with 6 chairs in total. The lucky part was that only one other person joined us in this 6 chair cabin, meaning we could all lay down during the journey. Not that it was very comfy but we survived it fine.

Our first day in the city consisted of checking in at the Travellers Hostel which had a lovely breakfast included. Their breakfast room was situated perfect for the sunrise in the mornings. Good working wifi and perfect location to the city.

We picked up the free map provided and had a plan to visit the KGB Museum first.

This museum, which is more like a private collection, is situated in a small 3/4 room building run by a very enthusiastic Russian old man who has collected many unique World War II and Soviet Era artifacts on display, all related to covert operations and espionage. Maybe even ex-KBG himself? But highly recommended if you are interested and understand English well as his Russian accent was strong!

2013-08-12 14.08.32Of course no trip to Prague would be complete without walking over Charles Bridge. A very buzzing touristic spot filled with painters, jewellery sellers and live music. We stayed listening to the music for a while, some street performers really are good!

2013-08-14 14.31.52From here we walked up the St. Vitus Cathedral at the top of the hill. Below is the one photo I have that doesn’t show construction or scaffolding that was there for restoration.

2013-08-12 11.07.23We never went in, as it really was busy the weekend we had visited, but we enjoyed the atmosphere of the tourists and listened in on some of the walking tour guides close by to hear some of the history. In most cities we try and do a free walking tour but due to the short time planned we decided to explore on our own to the highlights we wanted to see.

Once you are at St. Vitus Cathedral you should take the paths all the way to the Petrin Hill & Observation Tower. There are some beautiful viewpoints along the way and all we could hear were birds singing to each other. The tower you can also go to the top with some pretty views towards the city. We decided for more exercise by walking up the 299 steps in the tower! 2013-08-12 11.43.07

2013-08-12 12.05.09We decided against using the funicular railway to the city below as the weather was beautiful, and walked down the path ending the night with some dinner and a beautiful walk across the Charles Bridge again and local area.

Day Two

Our second day included visiting the Army Museum Zizkov Museum and the Museum of Communism – both worth visiting with lots of information! From here we ended up walking to the John Lennon Wall

2013-08-14 15.22.14 2013-08-14 15.21.18We ended our second day with a delicious meal out in the city center for only €22.00 with drinks! We also visit to the top of the Old Town Hall for the views of Prague during sunset. A VERY popular thing to do, so some waiting was needed. This building also has Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock that can be special to watch (we missed it a few times before finally getting to see it between the many flocks of groups on walking tours). 2013-08-14 17.04.25

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It was the perfect evening to end our few days here. Prague, you were beautiful! One day we will be back to enjoy you again.

Unlike the overnight train from Amsterdam to Prague, we booked a proper sleeping cabin for our night train to Budapest as we wanted a decent nights sleep to explore the next day. You can check out our time in Budapest in my separate blog post here!

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Barcelona, Spain 2015

My flight was on time and I arrived in sunny Barcelona excited to see Lennart, who was already in Barcelona for work, so it was a perfect idea to join him for a cheap long weekend.

We had booked ourselves into the Hotel Acta Atrium Palace which is perfect walking distance from the Plaça de Catalunya square. Great hotel with comfy clean beds and very spacious. We tried the pool and jacuzzi during our stay which was relaxing but could of been a little warmer. We didn’t try the breakfast as we prefer going straight into the city and finding a bakery.

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We had a rough idea of attractions we wanted to see, however there was also many attractions that we were personally not interested in. For the first day we decided to just go for a walk, and check out the city and the atmosphere. Since Lennart had already been there for a couple of days he had a good sense of where things were, and took me on a route to the harbour. Las Rambles is definitely the busiest street in Barcelona, even for November! All the tourists were found here. We enjoyed the warm 22c degrees walking with our sunglasses on and a bottle of water in my hand.

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We planned the next day to visit the Montjuïc castle by getting to the top with the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable car. We got there fairly early (plus it wasn’t busy at all for November), resulting in us having our own cable car carriage to ourselves! We had a good clear sunny day so the views were good.

The castle was pretty simple, paying only €3 to get in and walk around to the top. There was no café and we had no drinks, so we decided to walk around the castle and walk back down into the city to find some refreshments. Behind the castle we found a hidden family café who only took cash, which we luckily had €5 left, just enough for two cold drinks. If we had more we would have tucked into a delicious pancake or something fresh from their BBQ.

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The following day we headed to Park Guell for a relaxing walk on the hillside through the ruins and gardens. We decided not to go into the paid part of the park, as we had read that its rather expensive and not really so much to see. Plus this was also a popular place for all the tourists so we didn’t want to queue up and wait to get in. We could see parts of the beautiful architecture from our walk around it and really enjoyed our morning here.

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In the evening we headed to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, which was nice to see but after 5 minutes it wasn’t gonna get any more spectacular. They did use some of the latest music which entertained the crowd though. Even in November it was good to get early if you wanted to sit but we ended up standing and leaving before it was ended.

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By the third day we visited the Mercat de Sant Josep. A very colourful place with a large variety of delicious things to eat. We enjoyed walking around it, but didn’t stay long as we were off on another walk around new areas of Barcelona.

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A recommendation of dinner, even though you should be eating some of the delicious Spanish cuisine, we found ourselves a unique indian restaurant near our hotel called the Surya Barcelona. Every chair and table was different with the bar in the shape of a bus. Friendly staff and great service. We must of only spent about €30 in total for our corona beers, the curry’s and a warm nutella pancake for desert. Gezellig!

Our long weekend had come to an end and we were satisfied with all we had seen. However it’s a place we wouldn’t return to so fast due to the lack of attractions.

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Our flight back home was rather rough, with turbulence most of the journey. When it came to landing, the strong winds that had been battering the Netherlands were giving the plane some troubles. We ended up landing with one wheel on the runway, cruising sideways for a good part of it before landing the other wheel and breaking. We always seem to be on the flights that have problems landing. Check out our vacation to Dordogne, where we so close to landing before the pilot took us back up to try again!

Rome, Italy 2015

Rome was at the top of our list to visit for a long while. But we knew this would be a little more expensive than our usual city trips, due to the amount of attractions in Rome that we really wanted to visit. Plus, we couldn’t go to Rome without at least a day trip to Pompeii for the ancient ruins of the Lost City and to climb the top of Mount Vesuvius volcano, so we were pushing out our usual budget.

As soon as we arrived we were hit with the 36°c degree heat and we were prepared with our sunglasses and suncream. We stayed at the Four Seasons Hostel, which was great location from the train and metro stop plus cheap to sleep there, however overall rather dirty and it’s definitely not a place we will return to. But seeing as we spent the whole day and evenings in the city it was fine just to sleep and shower there.

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We were a little in doubt to queue up and visit the Colosseum inside, as we could see how crazy it was to wait in line up to 4 hours! And we are definitely not the type that like queuing! We took a chance and got up on our 3rd day at 7am, which was hard to do after going to bed so late, and took the metro to the colosseum to see if we had a chance to get to the front of the line. Surprisingly, it was the best time and idea we had on our vacation. We must of been within the first 100 people, so once the Colosseum was open we went straight in!

We found it stunning to see, and to learn the history of how it would of been. We wanted to book the underground tour as it was highly recommended and definitely something we would enjoy, but unfortunately it was sold out online months before we actually arrived! When we return in the future, we will keep this in mind and book in advance.

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With the same ticket you had entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which was also at the top of our list to visit. We took a side entrance that was rumoured to be less popular for the tourists, and with our curiosity we got there and could walk straight in, instead of queuing at the main entrance for minimum an hour.

Once again Rome took our breath away as we tried taking in all the information and history, how life would of been and how amazing it is to walk around freely in such a preserved area. Again we didn’t go with a tour so we could take our time and explore at our own pace, but we would of benefited from a guide to learn better about what some of the ruins were.

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With one of our free afternoons we decided to travel out of the non-stop city with the metro to the famous aqua ducts. I personally didn’t know much about them, so Lennart became my tour guide. He had a good place in mind that he had researched where there were still parts of the aqua ducts standing that would have carried water towards Rome.

IMG_8726Was beautiful to just walk through the fields, with no other people in sight. We followed the dried up path, with the wild flowers and a little stream nearby. It didn’t feel like we were only 20 minutes from the center of Rome. We could of spent hours there but once the sun was setting we headed towards the city for dinner and prepare ourselves for our excursion trip to the Lost City of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius the following day (and our last full day in Italy).

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IMG_8738Here Lennart is photographed with a section of the original stoned road to Rome.

Some things we missed were the Pantheon and the Appian Way so they will be on our list next time our travels take us to Rome! There is just so much to see and take in it was hard to fit everything in on a 5 day visit! Would definitely recommend at least 7 days if your planning your visit to Rome.