Inspired by...Bordeaux and San Sebastian!

We were only back in Paris for the evening because we were leaving for Bordeaux bright and early in the morning!  Our train was at 9:00, so we got up early and headed to Montparnasse Station to have a coffee and pain au chocolat before our train.  This ride was longer but we still got in with plenty of the day left ahead of us.  Our hotel was gorgeous and right near the train station so it wasn’t a long walk at all.  Once we were settled, we walked into the centre of the city to explore the markets and beautiful churches surrounding us.

 Right in the centre of the city, we stumbled across a boulangerie, because it had been quite some time since our last pastry, and we were so glad we found this place!  The croissants and pains au chocolat were gorgeous and screaming our names so we bought a few, and the moment we bit into them, we were in pure bliss.  Now, I’ve been living in Europe for quite some time now, but NOTHING I had ever eaten compared to these pastries.  

Every layer was so light and buttery and it was like nothing we had ever tasted before.  In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m dying for one of them right now :)  We strolled around a bit more and soaked up plenty of much-needed sun, before we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit before dinner.  

We got dressed up and had a glass of wine in the hotel bar before we went in search of our meal for the evening.  We found the perfect place that had on the menu something I had been wanting to try ever since I saw the movie Julie and Julia : Sole Meuniere, or sole cooked in a lemon butter sauce.  It’s even more exciting than your usual fish dish because it comes whole and you get to de-bone it before you eat it — fun, right?  After five long years of waiting, I finally got to try sole meuniere and it was AMAZING!  So rich and buttery and I was in heaven.  That, some chocolate profiteroles, and a stroll by the river with the lit-up buildings in the background and it was a beautiful ending to the day.

The next day, we were taking a day trip to San Sebastian, Spain, so we got up super early and made a 6:45am train.  This was a much longer train ride, but it was early, so we just curled up and slept :)  We got to Hendaye, which is a small town on the French-Spanish border, around 10:30 and waited to take the Euskotren to San Sebastian.  This is a tiny commuter train that would take us the rest of the way, by the way.  Finally, we were in San Sebastian, and it was gorgeous!  It was the quintessential Spanish town, with tapas bars everywhere and the beautiful blue ocean just minutes away.  

We got tapas, which are like tiny plates or sandwiches, for lunch since by that point, we were starving.  Then, it was just us and Spain for the rest of the afternoon.  It was a quiet day, mostly, since we just took in the views, poked around shops, and then relaxed on the beach until our return train.  We soaked up plenty of sun and were so relaxed by the time we got on the train to head back to Bordeaux for the evening.  Definitely a perfect little taste of Spain for the day!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Bayeux, Normandy!

I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was by this point in my journey — not only was I with my mother and therefore not completely responsible for myself, I was also staying in a hotel (can you say showers with no flip flops!), and I got to do laundry and have actual clean clothes!  On the day I met my mom (Thursday), we mostly spent the day finding a good laundromat near the hotel in Paris and getting settled in our room before having a nice dinner and catching up.

The next day, we left from St. Lazare station to take the train to Bayeux, Normandy.  I hadn’t realised this before the trip, but Normandy isn’t actually a town — it’s actually a region of France made up of smaller towns, hence the name of our location.  The ride wasn’t very long and was quite scenic, so it was a pleasant journey.  We arrived in Bayeux around 12:30 and walked to the tourist information office so we could find our hotel…which turned out to be a lot closer to the train station than we had thought.  It was such a gorgeous day, and we were dying to see the Normandy beaches, so once we were checked in, we decided to rent bikes (complete with baskets!) and ride to Omaha Beach!

 I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical at first because we only had a map and obviously spoke no French, so a lot of nightmare scenarios were running through my head… We set out and took on the French countryside!  What made it even more French is that I was in a dress (guess who didn’t bring any exercise-esque clothes) :)  The ride to the beach was amazing — the sun was shining, we biked through small country roads, and I had the urge to break out into Do, Re, Mi (because how could I not when wearing a green and white dress and riding through the countryside?).  After about an hour and a half of biking, we made it!  We had officially stormed the beaches!  We stood in the sand for a bit and took in the sea air and the history that could feel seeping in with every wave.  We had a long trek ahead of us, so we got back on our bikes (a little less enthusiastically this time) and began to head back.  By this point, we were quite tired so the ride back was much harder, but we stopped at a cafe we found and replenished with a sweet treat and some water. Let’s just say we were quite relieved when we finally got to the last downhill that would take us into the centre of town :)

That evening, we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant in the centre of town, and I actually forget what I had for an appetiser, and I know the entree was some kind of fish dish, but I do remember the chocolate mousse I had for dessert- YUM.

We slept in the next day, thoroughly exhausted from all of our travels over the past few days, and spent the day exploring Bayeux.  The weather wasn’t as nice that day, so we were glad that we had decided to bike the day before.  For lunch, we had incredible escargot and a cheese platter and it was the perfect way to top off a fun trip.  Our train left that evening, so we walked around some more, explored markets and little shops, and then made our way back to the train station to head back to Paris for the evening!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Prague

Before I get into Prague, let’s talk about the fun journey I had (yes, that was sarcasm).  I left Muenchen at 5:00 and was thrilled with my top deck, plush seat on the train…until I was told that there was construction on the tracks somewhere in Germany, so I would have to get off at the next stop and take a coach bus to the next stop after that where I would board my train to Prague.  That was quite the trek in itself, and then the train from that station was late.  I had a whole compartment to myself until about 9:30 when a nice French woman joined me.  Then, at the stop just before Prague’s main station, we just stopped.  I waited…and waited…and waited…until I was told that the train was having problems so I would have to take the metro into the city centre.  We were already delayed so at that point, it was about 11:30 pm and I was exhausted.  I figured out the metro and finally arrived in the city centre and tried to find my hostel using my map but everything looks different in the dark…and none of the Polizei speak English.  Finally, though, I arrived at Hostel MOJO (love the name!) and got checked in and ready for bed.

I didn’t have Rick Steves’ book for Prague so I was on my own for a walking tour, but I think I did a pretty good job on my own.  I started the day in Wenceslas Square and then the Old Town Square where they have a famous astronomical clock.  I knew I was in the right place because wow was it crowded with tourists!  My mom had been to Prague a few years ago and she loved the clock…even with its rather dark backstory.  The city officials commissioned the clock I think around the 13th century, but because they were so proud of their clock, they blinded the artist who created the clock so he couldn’t make one for someone else.  Charming, right?  Despite that, the clock is beautiful and is fun to watch when it chimes.  At the top of the hour, the 12 apostles parade past the window, while below, the four anxieties of 13th century Prague are animated (Vanity, Greed, Death, and Pagan Invasion) and then the hour is rung after a rooster crows.

 I was in quite a good mood after that, and then I headed to the Charles Bridge which was incredible!  Check (Czech!) out the views from bridge:

Once I was on the other side, I got a coffee and took advantage of some free wifi before I continued on my tour of the city.  From there, I headed to the John Lennon Wall which I had been wanting to see for quite a while.  After Lennon died, fans and students began spray-painting this smallish wall near a church tucked away from the centre.  They included Beatles’ lyrics, political slogans, and a picture of the legend himself, and it’s a rite of passage to see it when you visit Prague:

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After I saw the wall, I went to Petrin Hill which is a park that, at the top, overlooks the city and the Prague Castle.  I first headed to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism which I thought was really well-done.  The memorial looks like a man deteriorating as you move along it, which is supposed to show the effects of communism.  Very powerful, right?

 Then I began a very long trek up the hill so I could see the view from the top.  It was a fun walk since the paths are all windy and lead into each other and it was a beautiful day, so I didn’t mind the huge uphill.  Check out the view!

I spent quite a bit of time in Petrin Hill, but after I left, I went back across the river (different bridge, this time) to the old Jewish Quarter where I saw a synagogue and a memorial to Franz Kafka.  There was a bakeshop that I had heard great things about, so I refreshed with a cup of tea and a piece of white chocolate raspberry cake before I  continued on my way.  I had also heard about an “expat” English-language bookshop somewhat on my way back to the hostel, and I was dying for some English, so I headed there and had some quiet time with books.  I was exhausted by that point, so I went back to the hostel and relaxed for the rest of the evening!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Munich! (Muenchen)

My train to Munich left at 8 am so it wasn’t as early of a wakeup as a few days before.  It was also a much shorter trip.  By the way, Munich is called “Muenchen” in German which is just so much more fun to say :)

I was meeting my friend from high school (the one studying in Florence) for this part of the trip and it was nice to have a familiar face after solo travelling for the past few days.  We were starving but nothing was quite open for lunch yet so we took a walk along the river a little ways north of the city centre.  We came back and had lunch at a lovely healthy cafe near the city centre and started a walking tour of the city from my book.  Like my first day in Salzburg, it rained and poured during the tour, but we didn’t mind too much.  What’s interesting about Munich is that it was completely devastated by the bombing campaigns during the war, but they chose to rebuild exactly the way it was, unlike Berlin which started from scratch and modernised.  My favourite was easily the New Town Hall in Marienplatz which also has a famous glockenspiel.  This one has more movement than the one in Salzburg since it reenacts a wedding scene between a duke and duchess from the 16th century, so it’s fun to watch.  From there, we moved on to St. Peter’s church and climbed 306 steps up to the top which was completely worth the hamstring workout because check out these views!

After climbing up all those steps, we went to the Viktualienmarket where we got a German specialty: giant pretzels!  Nothing makes you feel German like a giant soft pretzel, right? :)  The rest of the walking tour was mostly churches and a huge synagogue, which were gorgeous, and a very strange monument to Michael Jackson.  When Michael Jackson would visit Munich, he would stay at Hotel Bayerischer Hof, and after he died in 2009, some of his fanatics started putting pictures of him and candles below a statue of the composer Orlando di Lasso.  They still maintain it, actually, but Hannah and I thought it was a little weird...

We finished off the day by going to the Hofbrauhaus which is one of the most famous beer halls in Germany.  It seats about 5,000 people and you have to seat yourself, so on a Saturday night before Easter, this was a little tricky.  We eventually found seats and ordered a German classic: Hofbrau beer served a litre-size mug.  WOW, right?  Hannah somehow managed to finish hers and another pretzel, but I couldn’t quite finish my mug — I was already feeling lightheaded haha.  

The next day, we took a day trip out to Bavaria so we could see Neuschwanstein Castle!  This is the castle that inspired the Disney one, as well as the castle from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie (we were both in the musical our junior year so it was a must).  It was a long trip — about 2.5 hours by train — but it was absolutely breathtaking and it was snowing!  Once we got to the site of the castle, we had to walk uphill through the snowy woods for a bit, but it felt quite festive.  We didn’t go inside because we had seen quite a few castles and didn’t feel like paying 12 euro to get in, but we had just as much fun taking pictures on the outside.  We finished off the day with apple strudel and coffee at a nice cafe near the train.

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Hannah left the following morning, so I took a shorter day trip out to see the Dachau concentration camp.  It was a short ride on the S-Bahn and then a 15 minute bus ride.  I didn’t take any pictures since I just couldn’t a) out of respect and b) a picture wouldn’t capture it anyway.  Not only can you walk around the grounds of the camp, but there’s also a very powerful museum that talks about the history of the Third Reich and the people held in the camps.  Dachau was one of the first camps of the Nazi regime and this is what makes it interesting because it served as a model for all of the other camps.  It was mostly a camp for political prisoners, Gypsies/Roma, communists, and a small number of Jews, which I hadn’t known.  There’s memorials from the Jewish, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox faith traditions on the grounds, as well, and it was both peaceful and eerie.  Pretty heavy stuff for my last day, but I’m glad I went.

It was Easter Monday which is actually a big day and not just a Catholic school thing like I had thought, so almost nothing in Munich was open.  I walked around some more and saw the churches again before I headed back to the hostel to get ready to leave.  I had an evening train to Prague and I wanted to be ready!

Inspired to be,

Katherine