European Adventure Part VI: Day 2

We took sometime and slept in this morning – what a gamechanger! The weather so beautiful it Budapest, and we spent in walking around and soaking in the city. 

A WALKING TOUR 

For the second time, I went on a free walking tour in Budapest, and for the second time it was amazing. The tour leaves from Vörösmarty square which is lovely. Last time I was here it was decorated with an Easter market, and this time around it was a spring market. There was food that smelled amazing, and so many cute little treats and trinkets. I was a little sad that we couldn’t spend more time before the tour got started.

I learned even more about the city and Hungary as a whole on the tour the second time. Last time we went it was so windy and cold! I didn’t take as many pictures because of it, but believe me, I made up for this time. The tour starts in Pest and ends up in Buda. I should say, on Buda Hill. This means that we had to climb some pretty steep steps to make it up the hill, but the view was so worth it!

EXPLORING & LUNCH 

After the tour we went and explored the first of two old churches that we’d see today. The first one was Matthias Church, a late-Gothic Catholic Church. The roof top was these amazing yellow, green, and red tiles. The inside was a little dark and heavy but it was a beautiful nonetheless. Next we had lunch inside Fishermans Bastion. Fishermans Bastion is this amazing terrace that was opened in 1902 that has this stunning views across the Danube river into Pest. It looks like a castle. They have especially amazing views of the Hungarian Parliament building. The sun was shining and it was the perfect time to soak in the weather and the view. For lunch I had a caesar salad and a delicious elderflower lemonade. Oh, so good!

BACK ACROSS THE DANUBE 

We took the bus back across the Chain Bridge to go explore St. Stephens Basilica . This was simply stunning. Just the dome alone! There was this beautiful choir singing that made it feel like you were sitting right in the presence of God. They sounded like angels. We went to the top of the basilica and were treated to even more amazing views of Budapest. I’m so struck once again by what a beautiful city it is. It’s such an interesting mix of beautiful romantic style architecture from the Hapsburgs, and the Soviet Union to occupied the city after World War II.

I love how much charm and character the city has. There are so many squares and green spaces where the Budapesti were enjoying the weather. We came across this lovely beer garden that was so colorful and full of life.

The Beer Garden

After that we went to the grocery store where I picked up some delicious Hungarian wine. The super sweet, but delicious Tokaji white wine, and the strong and spicy red called Bull’s Blood. I stopped by this market to get the most tasty chicken burger I’ve ever had in my life.

DINNER & A RUINPUB 

For dinner we went back to one of my favorites in the Jewish Quarter – Koleves. This time we sat in the outdoor garden which has so much personality. I tried the goulash! So flavorful. Then we went to the most popular of the ruinpubs, Szimpla Kert. It’s such a funky looking place, but the vibe there is so cool.

UP NEXT: The morning will be spent at the baths! Then we’ll say goodbye to Hungary and be on our way to our next stop – Denmark! 

Some photos!

European Adventure Part VI: Day 1

After months of planning it was finally time to pack my bags and hit the road! I can admit to you guys that I came into this vacation much more stressed than I usually am. I was so ready to take a break and go explore! This year we’re going to three countries I’ve been to before: Hungary, France, and the United Kingdom, and I’m visiting a new one – Denmark! 

First stop: Hungary! 

LONGEST. LINE. EVER. 

What a long day yesterday was! After putting in a half day of work, I hauled it home to gather my things and head to the airport. For once I didn’t get to the airport late! In fact, I got there mad early, by no choice of my own, but that’s a whole other story. I decided to go and grab a drink, and start to decompress a little bit before boarding the plane. Soon my friend Kristin was with me, and we were sharing our excitement for this upcoming adventure.

We boarded the plane with no issues and before I knew it we were landing into Heathrow! The view outside the window was dreary and I must say that I’m glad we weren’t heading into the city today. Instead we made our connection to Hungary!

I was knocked out on that flight and opened my eyes to sunshine! It was a beautiful, and warm day in Budapest! We hopped off the airplane ready to grab our baggage, get into the central part of the city and start exploring! Alas, that is not in fact, what we would do because we ran into a line of a few hundred people waiting to go through passport control. We stood in that line for over a long, exhausted, frustrating hour. There were five border control agents for ALL of the flights coming in. I could have gotten upset, but I just decided to relax, put my planned schedule aside, and just get through it. Soon enough we were in the car headed to our apartment.

LANGOS!! 

After taking some time to freshen up, we grabbed the trolley and rolled our way to the Central Market. This is the beautiful market that I went to last time, but my sole goal in going was to get some langos. It’s a Hungarian dish and it’s deep fried dough with whatever toppings you want. I just got cheese on cheese on cheese. YUM!

After that meal, we needed to walk off the langos, so we walked across the Danube river to Buda and walked along the river. It’s about 70 degrees here and my body was not ready for that. It was lovely though, and the Hungarians were out enjoying the weather.

DINNER & BILLIE HOLIDAY

Next we headed to the ruinpub Mazel Tov. It was such a fun atmosphere and the food was delicious. I knew it was going to be a good place when we hear Billie Holiday over the speakers. The drink menu looked amazing. Yes, I flew all the way to Hungary to have a drink with bourbon in it, but it was so, so good! Ruinpubs are basically old warehouse or building, likely from the USSR days, that they’ve turned into a kind of night club or restaurant. The ruinpubs that I went to last time were much more lounge-like than Mazel Tov, but I like the vibe a little bit more.

Then we closed out the day by walking back to our flat, completely exhausted, but satisfied, and so ready to take on the following day.

UP NEXT: Free walking tour and exploring Buda!

 

London Mini Break Part II: Day 1

We’re back in London! Sorry this post is a bit late, yesterday was amazing but exhausting! It’s so fun to be in London again and it’s even more fun to to taking our mother who has never been here before! 

SURPRISE! 

Beginning in January Nick and I began to plot what we could to make our mother’s birthday special. We decided to take her to New York. Then British Airways (which I stalk on a weekly basis) was having an amazing sale and I figured why not trade New York for London as it has been a dream of my mother’s to be in the British capital. We told her about four hours before we were leaving for the airport and she was genuinely shocked!

Judgement-free Boarding Process 

As you may remember I’ve had some issues with getting to the gate in time in the past. I was determined that this go-round we’d not have that issue. We got to the airport with plenty of time, checked our bags, then headed to the gate. I noticed that the gate was still full so I decided that we should go get some dinner…

…and the restaurant took forever! So while we weren’t exactly running to the gate, for once, we were still walking very quickly. I saw the British Airways woman who in 2015 said “are you Nicholas and Jessica Pinkston” and I’m pretty sure she recognized us.

The ride on the airbus 380 wasn’t bad until we hit the Atlantic Ocean and were overrun with turbulence. I managed to sleep through much of it but it was a very bumpy ride.

Welcome to London! 

We landed and went through UK Border Control with no attitude or issues. The border control agent was so nice and didn’t ask us too many questions because we’d told him that we were taking our Mom to London for the first time and still had some surprises in store.

We picked up our luggage and soon found ourselves on the Tube! The Tube has a certain smell, not necessarily a good smell but also not Paris, and whenever I smell it I know I’m back in London.

There was an issue on the Tube, however, about 15 minutes into our 45 minute ride we were offloaded. It reminded me so much of a morning going to work in Washington that I just to laugh. As a result we had to wait for a train that had enough space and then cram our way onto it for the remaining half an hour of the ride. Nothing like being smushed on the train to make you feel like you’re at home.

IMG_2756

Time to Explore! 

Our flat this time is in the West End of London, very close to Earl’s Court. The original flat that Nick and I stay at has closed but we were able to find one nearby. We’re staying in a new neighborhood which is exciting as I love exploring new cities on this level.

After dropping our bags and taking a quick nap, we were on the Tube to Green Park. We got off on Piccadilly and took Mom to Patisserie Valerie for a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and two rashers of crispy bacon. There was something so lovely about being back in London again at one of my favorite restaurants. And the tea was so delicious and restorative!

We then took her down New Bond Street for some window shopping and through Burlington Arcade. Next we went to Fortnum & Mason which is a department store in London that was founded in 1707. They have tea! I started my tea collection early and with the good stuff. I really had to restrain myself since it was the first place that we’d shopped and I didn’t want to over do it. Especially since next on the list was the Waterstone’s bookshop where I spent 40 minutes finding some new classics to bring home!

Next we walked through Chinatown to Covent Garden where we got to hear some live music and explore the shops. After that walked to Embankment so that Mom could get the full view of London on the river. We walked along the Thames to Westminster Bridge so that she could see Big Ben.

Dinner Time 

We then tubed to Earl’s Court and had dinner at Zizzi. While so delicious, I always manage to forget how terribly slow the service is there. We still had to stop by the grocery store before heading back to the flat.

It was a lovely day, and so nice to be back in London!

UP NEXT: We’re headed to East London for the markets! Then we’re having dinner a delicious and posh place for the official birthday celebration 

 

A Few Days in: London

I love London! If you’ve been on my blog for more than two minutes you may have already discovered this. Below are some of my favorite things to do. This will not necessarily include the classic tourist stops that people often make on trips to the city, I figure there are blogs aplenty for that. 

Markets 

In my opinion some of the best and most affordable shopping in the city can be found in the markets. Amazingly, I’ve never made it up to Camden Market because I keep getting distracted over in the City of London. There are several markets within walking distance of the Liverpool Street Tube Station. Old Spitalfields Market, Petticoat Lane Market, and on varying days of the week the Sunday Up Market, the Vintage Market, to name a few of my favorites.

I also love crossing the river and heading to the Greenwich Market. Greenwich itself it is a small piece of magic. You can visit the Cutty Sark which is an old British clipper that was built in 1869. There’s also the Old Royal Naval College including the Painted Hall which is quite lovely and where several movies and television shows have been filmed. I’m sure that anyone who’s visited London would tell you that you must also go to the Royal Observatory. Well, I’ve never been there so I can’t tell you about it. It looks like quite lovely from the bottom of the hill, and considering that it’s literally where time begins I can definitely see how it could be something that you wouldn’t want to pass up!

Book Stores

I love reading. Maybe that’s also the reason why I love writing so much. There are no shortage bookstores in London, something that I cannot say living in Washington, D.C. My favorite chain is Waterstones. For some reason Foyles just doesn’t do it for me. If you want to be sure that you’re going to find the book that you’re absolutely looking for, stop by the Waterstones in Piccadilly, but fair warning that it may at times be overrun with tourists. Otherwise, I really love the one on Kensington High Street. It’s a nice size, and it’s generally pretty quiet. I have yet to find a Waterstones that I didn’t want to spend hours in though.

If you don’t want a big commercial chain, I recommend Daunt Books. I love the ambiance of this store, and it looks a bit like something you’d see in a Harry Potter novel. In addition to books. I love the stationary that I’ve found in this store.

Museums

I’m not too much of a museum person when it comes to traveling overseas, but there are two museums that I really enjoy. The first is the Tate Modern which is overlooking the Thames, and I also love the Wallace Collection. I love the gift shops in both museums, and I love the Wallace Restaurant for a cup of tea. Having grown up in Washington, DC, I really struggle with going to museums where you have to pay, so I’m happy to see that both of these recommendations are free!

Bridges 

I love being near the water, even a river. Every time I go to London I don’t feel like I’m actually there until I’ve walked across one of the bridges, stood in the middle, and looked out on London. My favorites are Westminster Bridge (even with all of the tourists), or the London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge). It’s a great place for photos and to just soak in the city.

I could write forever about things to do in London, and go forever and a day if we’re talking about day trips from London, but what I recommend above are some of the things that I love doing the most in London. I hope that you will enjoy them too!

A Few Days in Vienna

I find Vienna, Austria to be one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Even more romantic than Paris. There I said it. Between the romantic architecture, the cozy cafes, and the sprawling historic homes, whether you are alone, with your sweetie, or exploring with friends, here are my tips for what to see in city, especially while on a budget. 

Vienna Post | Schonbrunn

The Gloriette in the gardens of Schönbrunn

HISTORIC HOMES 

As you may know, one of my favorite things to see whenever I travel are historic homes. Due to the fact that Vienna used to be the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there are several former imperial homes that are now open to the public. The largest and most grand  is Schönbrunn Palace, located about a fifteen minute ride outside of central Vienna on the U-bahn.

The house is lovely inside, and when you go on the tour you do get to get to see a good portion of its 1,441 rooms. However, I fell in love with the gardens. I’ve spent hours roaming through the gardens and still have not seen all of it. It’s free to move through the gardens, and due to its size you you can find a quiet space even when it’s overcrowded with a concert. The gardens include a zoo, maze, and lovely fountains. There are often concerts and other activities at the palace that only serve to enhance the experience.

If you’re looking for a few less tourists that I’d recommend Belvedere. This complex consists of two baroque buildings, Upper and Lower Belvedere with a beautiful garden in between. It’s now a museum which houses an extensive Gustav Klimt collection. If you want to see The Kiss, this is the place to go. The painting is even more overwhelming at full size.

If you don’t want to leave central Vienna, you can check out the city home of the Habsburg at Hofburg. I have a thing for extensive grounds so I didn’t find this quite as enjoyable when compared to Schoenbrunn, but the buildings around it are beautiful.

COFFEEHOUSES

Getting coffee in Vienna is quite the experience. Historic coffee shops are housed in elegant settings. In addition to delicious coffee they also serve pastries, and other classic Viennese options. Coffeehouses are elegant places to rest your feet after a long day of exploring. My favorites are Cafe Landmann for the view of the Rathaus and Cafe Mozart. In most of the coffeehouses unless there’s reserved sign on the table, feel free to go in and seat yourself. Service during dinner might differ a bit.

WALKS

Vienna is great city to just take a long walk. The Ringtrasse is a circular road that goes around many of the historic sights in the central part of the city. Grab a cup of tea and your camera and soak the three and a half mile walk in. Along the Ringtrasse you will see the Austrian Library, the Austrian Parliament Building, the incredibly beautiful Rathaus (Town Hall), the Vienna State Opera, the volksgarten, and the natural history museum, just to name a few! If you get tired half way through, there is a trolley that will take you back to where you started.

MUSIC 

You can’t talk Vienna without mentioning classical music. The City of Music is where the waltz came into popularity as well as where several operas came from. In or around the city you can visit Mozart and Beethoven’s graves, just to mention a few classic composers. You can take in a show at the State Opera, but you can also walk along the street at any point and hear the most beautiful classical musician playing. For me, it only adds to the romantic aspects of the city.

OTHER FAVORITES

If you like to stroll through bookstores I definitely recommend that you stop by the Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Vienna. It’s a tiny little place but I never seem to leave there without some kind of small treasure.

For food, when in Vienna you must try the wiener schnitzel which is thin, breaded pan fried veal. If veal is not your jam that also have pork, and sometimes chicken schnitzel. For other classy Viennese classics make sure to visit Plachutta. I do recommend that you make reservations. The portion sizes are perfect and the service is stellar.

Vienna tourism site is full of great information about visiting the city if you’re looking for additional information travel to the city. I did find the the tourist card the Wien Karte did end up saving money for the activities that we were participating in.

Have other questions about the city like where to stay? Feel free to email me at jessicapinkston@msn.com.

European Misadventure

Brandenburg Gate Front

This time last week I was in Germany running around the Tegel airport in Berlin in a frantic state. That’s not a good combination: frantic in a foreign country.

An event that I was working on in Germany meant that I got a chance to spend a few days overseas. My heart ached a little that I was so close to Scotland and not able to visit. After a redeye on Friday night, connecting through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport I landed in Berlin exhausted. For some reason Germany doesn’t like my baggage. Myself and half of the plane had their luggage missing for about 45 minutes. I was trying not to sit down, thinking that as soon as I slowed down I’d go to sleep but eventually I gave up, dropped my backpack and sat down on my carry on luggage. I never take two suitcases because even though I’m famous for bring back so much loot from my European Adventures, I draw the line at more than one piece of luggage.

As soon as my luggage came I was so relieved. I had been feeling tired but as soon as I got in the cab I started to feel renewed. I was in Europe! After I did some work I’d be free to go wandering around in a new city for a few hours, one of my favorite things to do in the entire world. I got to the hotel and checked in and reached down to pick up my backpack….that wasn’t there.

In baggage claim I’d been so relieved to see my large luggage come with all of the event stuff in it that I’d just grabbed my luggage and purse and walked out right of the airport. My backpack had my laptop, iPad, iPod, and expensive camera in it. I was understandably distraught. In the car ride back to the airport God assured me that everything was going to be fine, the backpack was still in the airport.

Two hours later I walked out of the airport with my backpack, having spent a total of three hours in the airport. I had kept running into walls in the airport, and had to be really tenacious, but by God’s amazing grace I was able to get it back with everything in it. My Saturday evening was shot, so I grabbed some dinner and went directly to bed.

On Sunday evening I got to spend sometime walking around Berlin and was rewarded with some pretty awesome pictures. I also had a chance to go to an amazing church, where just like in London, the first thing I saw was a sign that said Welcome Home.

Through the experience I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm that everything was under God’s control and He was going to work out everything for my betterment, as He always does. What an awesome God I serve.