Vienna for a day: dog friendly things to see and do

One of the best things about European cities is that they are all dog friendly. With the exception of grocery stores and some restaurants, dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere. On Sunday, we took the train to Vienna and spent the day wandering the streets.

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Trains allow dogs; the rules seem a bit confusing because it says that you need to get permission of everyone in your car, and they need a muzzle. My puppy was okay without a muzzle but she’s also 12 weeks old and harmless, I bought tickets the night before and double checked with the lady about that. I had to pay for a ticket for her, which would have been half price if she was going to ride in a crate. Since she’s an absolute nightmare in her crate, I opted against that.

Upon arrival to Vienna, we bought metro tickets and went to Cafe Central. Dog friendly, of course. She just slept on the floor in my jacket as I drank my cappuccino and had my apple strudel. The line here will go quickly, and I thought it was worth it.

Next, we just walked around. It was a Sunday so many stores were closed but that’s okay. After looking at St. Stephen’s Cathedral and walking around the museums, we went to Schönbrunn Palace. Obviously, dogs aren’t welcome in the actual palace, but they are in the gardens. It was cold and the flowers were not in bloom but it was still pretty.

st stephensdemel konditoreivienna statuevienna streetvienna

For dinner, we just went to one of the first restaurants we could find. They brought water for the dog and didn’t mind that she was laying on the booth. She was so tired at this point that she just fell asleep.

If you’re hoping to go into a lot of museums, horse carriages, Opera, or go inside the church, maybe leave your dog in the hotel or get someone to take of them. Otherwise, there is a lot to do while bringing your dog, and everyone is very nice about it.

vienna horsespalacepalace garden

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One night in Prague: making the most of a short trip

One of the great things about Budapest is the ability to hop on a train, bus, or rent a car and be in a different city quite quickly. We hopped on a night bus and headed to Prague just for a couple days. You know those cities that you walk around and say to yourself fairly quickly that you think you could live there? Yeah, Prague was one of those. It was clean, walkable, but transit seemed great. There were lots of things to see in the short amount of time we were there, and the vibe of the city was overall great.

First of all, the night bus was no where near as bad as I expected. I slept most of the way which was quite impressive for me considering I’m one of those weirdos that struggles sleeping in cars or on planes. It went much faster than I thought, and I fell asleep to a Joe Rogan podcast. Am I the only one who finds those weirdly relaxing? Upon arrival at around 6am, we grabbed a coffee at Starbucks and sat there for a few to figure out our next move and charge our phones. Our check in wasn’t till later so we had lots of time.

Tip: instead of buying transit tickets through the machine that require change, just download the PID Litacka app, and buy them through there

Because it was so early, we got to cross Charles Bridge before the hoards of tourists were there, and caught the sunrise. As we were walking through the streets, we found a bagel place for breakfast so we ate there. After, we made our way to the Prague Castle, looked at the St. Vitus Cathedral, and walked around up there.

Tip: wear sensible footwear, I didn’t and almost broke my ankle approximately 12 times

We checked into our hotel and then had a nap because we were exhausted, and at this time, the Christmas Market was still up so we went there. We also went to the mall, and just walked, a lot. For dinner, I got the Czech version of my fav Hungarian dish, Svíčková, and R got a pork knuckle. Typical. We then went to an Irish bar, also very typical, and got chips from the market after, bought champagne and orange juice, and made mimosa’s in the hotel room.

The next morning we went for breakfast at a cute little cafe and got bagels, again, and carrot cake to go to eat on the bus. We went on a search for Buchty, but it was the Czech Independence Day and everywhere was closed so we didn’t luck out there.

By then, we had to go back to the bus station to get home. This time felt 10x longer than the night bus to me but we returned to Budapest in the evening.

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10 reasons to visit Oslo, Norway

I know I said I hated this city. I don’t think it’s the city itself that I hated, but other factors that just happened while I was there; the reasons I needed out were not the city’s fault. There’s good in everything, and there’s good in this city. I should give it some credit.

In no particular order, here are some things that would be worth going back for.

1. Smoky BBQ Fajita Seasoning

We brought a bunch of taco and fajita seasoning with us because we weren’t sure if it would be easy to find in Norway, but every grocery store had a massive Mexican section. This kind was SO GOOD. I’ve never seen it in Canada or any other grocery stores. Fajita bowls were a staple meal for me in Norway thanks to this seasoning.

2. It’s pretty

The buildings are a mix of modern and old, and I love architecture. The Opera House, the pier, the view from my bedroom, the Barcode area, there’s something nice to look at anywhere you go. It really is a gorgeous city, and clean too.

barcode

Oslo Barcode

3. I felt safe

I didn’t feel unsafe here when by myself, even at night, and I don’t think I can say that about a lot of places.

4. Everyone speaks English

I wasn’t expecting this, and it made life a lot easier here because I didn’t need to struggle with the language barrier.

5. Lots of things to do

From outdoor activities, museums, and shopping, this city has you covered. I did almost every tourist activity there was to do in my time there.

 

Holmenkollen

Holmenkollen

Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park

Opera House

Opera House

6. Lots of dogs

So many dogs and they were allowed on public transit and in most stores. This made me happy because I missed my dog. Why isn’t Vancouver more dog friendly?

7. Nature

You’re really close to nature everywhere you go. A short train, ferry, or bus ride, and you’ll find a hike or some type of view to look at. It reminded me of Vancouver in this way.

Hovedøya

Hovedøya

Hovedøya

Hovedøya

8. The police ride horses

I don’t know why, but I love this.

9. People don’t smoke

One thing I hate about Europe is that everyone smokes and it’s hard to avoid the smell of it on patios and crowded streets. Chew is way more popular in Norway so this isn’t an issue here.

10. Most people were friendly

I’ve been places where locals have been rude to those who don’t speak their language. Most people were nice and happy to speak English, and we met some great people.

Oslo has some great things to offer if you were to visit for a few days, or even a week. I have a couple posts in previous months about all of the touristy things Oslo has to offer. I’m a bit upset I didn’t stick around long enough to watch ski jumping or take the train to Bergen, but hey, I can always go back.

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A guide to the Hungarian Christmas Markets

I love Christmas, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. I was lucky enough to get to experience the markets in Budapest this year, and I think it will have to be a yearly occurrence.

budapest market

I found myself overwhelmed at the market even considering I’ve already tried a lot of traditional Hungarian food. I also have a real live Hungarian who will refuse to buy certain things at the market (I’m looking at you, chimney cakes and pork knuckles), because it’s so much more expensive than what you can get elsewhere. I’ve made a list of my favourite things you can find at the market, although the market isn’t where I’ve tried most of them.

pork knuckles

Mulled wine (Foralt Bor)– If I could make myself a perfume in the scent of mulled wine, I would. Why don’t you just drown me in it? You can make this at home easily. Just heat up a dry red wine (a sweet wine will turn bitter when heated up), add rum, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, anise, sliced up orange and apple, and you’ll have happiness in a cup. You can buy (or make) this with white wine or rose, but I like red the best.

Chimney Cake (Kürtőskalács)– I’m so in love with these. It’s a sweet yeast dough rolled on a wooden roller, coated in sugar, baked over charcoal or in the oven, and then rolled in the topping (cinnamon, walnut, vanilla, etc.) I asked if I could buy the stick they make it on, but they said no.

Tip: If you’re at the Vörösmarty tér market, the Deák tér subway station right outside of the Starbucks on Fashion Street sells them for 350HUF (around $1.50CAN) instead of the 2000HUF (around $10CAN) they’re sold for at the market.

Goulash- One of the most popular Hungarian dishes, and for a good reason. It’s like a hug in a bowl. I mean, you can get this at almost every restaurant in the country, but they serve it in bread bowls at the market, and who doesn’t love bread bowls?

goulash

Lángos- This grew on me the second time I had it. It’s a must try. Fried dough covered in sour cream, cheese, and garlic. Health.

Tip: The cheapest and best place to get lángos is the Central Market Hall.

Kemencés Lángos- This is almost like pizza but it’s made of the lángos dough and baked. I only had a bite of this, but I think I like it better than the regular lángos.

Túrós Csusza– Another weird Hungarian food that I ended up liking; these guys have the best food, I swear. This is pasta or noodles with sour cream, Hungarian cheese (almost like cottage cheese), and bacon- it’s worth the calories.

Cabbage Rolls- These are my favourite. At the market, they’re served on top of a giant hashbrown, yay for carbs!

Tip: Don’t buy these at the market, find them at a restaurant because no singular cabbage roll is worth 3000HUF (around $15CAN) in my books.

Hungarian Sausage- I feel dumb writing these sometimes. How can I explain that sausage is good and convince you to try it? I can’t, it’s obvious. It’s not as important as trying the chimney cakes, but it’s up there. You can get them on buns or by themselves, but either way, they won’t disappoint.

sausage

Roasted Chestnuts- If I’m being honest I never got around to trying these. I just think it’s worth noting that their sold here. The song “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” always runs through my head when I see these vendors. You can only buy them ten at a time when I only want two. I google searched “how to eat roasted chestnuts,” in attempts to prepare myself, and am still unsure of whether you have to crack them or just eat them how they are. If anyone knows.. Let me know..

I’ll end this blog post with a piece of advice. Try everything you possibly can. Unless you’re vegan, you will like all the food here, except DO NOT TRY THE PALINKA. I am serious, no matter what anyone tells you, it’s not good. If it’s offered for free, say no. Don’t look at it, don’t smell it, don’t consume it. You can try the Unicum, it just tastes like medicine, but under no circumstances should you ever think putting Palinka in your body is a good idea.

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christmas market

Roadtrip to Rouen and Normandy, France

What do you do when it’s a Tuesday, but your flight out of Paris isn’t until Friday, and your hotel has no more space? Drive up north! We rented a car and drove from Paris to Rouen. It was absolutely terrifying driving in the city, but we made it out alive. Rouen is only an hour and a half drive from Paris, and it’s the most enchanting little town.

cathedral

We spent the first night wandering around. Somehow, we always end up staying in the sketchiest part of town. Another thing that sucks about travelling mid November is that they start decorating for Christmas and setting up the markets, but they’re not actually open yet.

cathedral

this town has an abundance of fancy churches

The streets were beautiful with wood houses, cute bakeries, and tons of boutiques with nice clothes and jewelry.

I think I could live here. It’s not a far drive from Paris, and has everything you could need. It’s not too busy but also not a ghost town. It looks like the type of town fairytales were written about. We weren’t sure if it was worth the hassle of renting a car to come here, but I’m so glad we did. The vanilla tart pictured above is also one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. On our last day we went back in search of the tart but the bakery was already closed. Sad was an understatement.

On the second day, we drove up to the beaches of Normandy, and that was one of the most eye opening days I’ve experienced. These beautiful beaches are where the Allies finally gained foothold in France on June 6th, 1944. The beaches are littered with museums, monuments, cemeteries, and battle remains from D-Day. This area of France is absolutely gorgeous. The beaches go on forever; these little towns surrounding them look like they thrive in the summer with carousels and ice cream stands, but nearly 20,000 people died on these beaches.

We got off to an early start and drove to Sword beach first. This was probably the shortest stop of the day.

Juno beach was next. Taking Juno was the responsibility of the Canadian Army- their WWII museum is here.

Juno Beach

Gold beach still has the remains of the artificial dock they built after taking the beach.

We kept driving and reached Omaha Beach. This is where the US memorial and cemetery is; we spent quite a bit of time here.

Omaha BeachOmaha BeachOmaha BeachUS CemeteryUS Cemetery

Between Omaha and Utah is Pointe du Hoc. It’s the highest point between the two beaches. Here, there are craters in the ground from bombs, bunkers, and the Ranger Monument. US Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops at Omaha and Utah beaches.

Pointe du Hoc

The most eye opening part of this day for me was the US cemetery. All of these white crosses seemed to go on forever- and they were only US men, killed only on D-Day and the days following.

If you have extra time in Paris, you should definitely consider going here. Normandy is more than WWII history. It’s rich in French culture, art, and the region has over 30 Michelin-starred chefs. There are lots of other things to see, but exploring this area filled with history was both powerful and heartbreaking.

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rouen

What to do in Paris, France

J’adore Paris!! I never want to leave. Our start was a bit rough, but things improved. Less than 24 hours before we were supposed to be in Paris, our Airbnb host cancelled on us. This left us panicking to find another place to stay close to the city and also in our price range, and we found one, but then actually didn’t. We accidentally ended up in a fake taxi drivers car, but didn’t end up being kidnapped or robbed, and then had our new Airbnb host refuse to answer any calls or messages, so we stood in front of the building for over an hour. The owners of the grocery store below were very helpful, gave us espresso and cookies, and drove us to the hotel that we managed to find. They were by far the nicest people I’ve experienced in Paris (they weren’t even French, they were Turkish).

This will mainly be photos because a picture speaks a thousand words, right?

We got into the hotel very late since we had that two hour detour with our living arrangements. I was so grumpy and tired I didn’t want to leave the room, but we went for a walk to Moulin Rouge and up to Sacré Coeur.

The next morning we walked around the Eiffel Tower, to the Arc du Triomphe, and down the Champs Élysées. We window shopped, and went into the most extravagant Abercrombie and Fitch I’ve ever seen.

Eiffel Tower

We mostly just went to all the “must see” places, as it was my first time here. Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, walked around the Eiffel Tower at night, the Louvre, the Orsay Museum, and got caught in a massive hail storm.

 

umbrella

Very thankful I bought this umbrella in Oslo

The Louvre

There was SO MUCH Van Gogh at the Orsay Museum. He is my absolute favourite. There was also lots of Monet, and the building itself was gorgeous, so was the Louvre. I will never stop saying how much I love architecture, and European cities are the best for that.

Orsay Museum

Orsay Museum

We attempted to go to the Chateau de Versailles, but it was closed on Mondays. I could only frolic in front of the fancy golden gates.

The Gardens of Versailles look so much better when it’s not November (google it).

We wanted to go to the Catacombs, but they are also closed on Mondays. Super disappointing, but I guess that’s what you get for not planning your trips carefully and ahead of time.

Galeries Lafayette was a stop that had to be made, it’s like the Harrod’s of Paris. This mall is beautiful. I was blown away by the view from the balcony on top.

Galeries Lafayette

It’s Christmas!

I’m so in love with this city, it’s stolen my heart. Some things I would recommend are not travelling in November, not using Airbnb unless it’s a whole apartment being rented, and trying to plan ahead more than I did. Every main attraction I’ve tried to see has been under construction (Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, the pyramid at the Louvre, the Chateau de Versailles), and it was fairly disappointing to take a train to Versailles to have the castle closed. Also be very careful crossing the road, because French drivers are aggressive and don’t give a shit.

I want to live in Paris, and definitely do not want to leave tomorrow, I feel like there are so many things I haven’t seen still. There are also so many things here that I haven’t eaten in this city, but more about that later..

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(More) Things to do in Oslo, Norway

I can now say that I have done pretty much every tourist activity in this city. I’m lucky it’s been really sunny the past few days or else these activities would have sucked.

The Vigeland Park, is the world’s largest sculpture park made by one artist, Gustav Vigeland. There are more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron, and I couldn’t even count how many dogs I saw here. It was magical, and also free. I will not lie, these sculptures made me a bit uncomfortable. Art is weird, but this park was a nice place to waste an afternoon.

After that, we got a pastry so I could stuff my face with while waiting for the ferry. Very typical.

pastry

Skoleboller

We went to Hovedøya Island, a short ferry ride from Aker Brygge. We got off the ferry and realized we had no idea what was on this island, and I was yet again wearing impractical footwear. Looking around at everyone getting off the boat, they were all wearing hiking boots or runners. I couldn’t help but feel judged for my (really cute) wedge boots. This island has forests, two beaches, and ruins of a Cistercian Monastery from 1147. There are two cannon batteries from 1808 and two gunpowder depots from when the island belonged to the Norwegian army. History is fun!!

Ruins

This would be a nice spot to go for a run, except for the ferry you have to take to get there. It’s too bad there wasn’t somewhere you could get a coffee on this island, because a girl can only walk around on uneven trails for so long in heels. We left after a half an hour or so.

And then onto the museums…

We went to the Viking Ship Museum first, and the tickets to that give you free entry to the Historical Museum within 48 hours. Score!! I liked the Viking Museum a lot, I went to a viking settlement in Newfoundland a few years ago and this was quite different, but pretty interesting. They were just really good at carving things out of wood.

After that, we went to the Armed Forces Museum, which was free. This museum is awesome and massive. I had a hard time getting my history nerd boyfriend out of here.

The Historical Museum had something for everyone. There were mummies, cool rocks, everything! There were even some Native American things from Vancouver. If you go to the Vikings, you may as well go to this one too.

We went to the National Art Gallery and saw the Scream painting… Go through this gallery in order, we went through it backwards, then realized we missed the Scream, and had to go hunt for it.

the scream

Scream

And last was City Hall, not really a museum, but I was blown away by the inside of this building.

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We went to an antique store to find cool things, but didn’t have much luck. There’s tons of museums in this city we haven’t made it to yet, but I think I’ve had enough museums for the next little while, I didn’t realize how exhausting they were.

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Budapest: daydreamin’ about goulash

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I fell in love with Budapest last summer, and kind of want to transfer to Corvinus and finish my degree there. I just loved everything about that city, from the bars, all the bridges (I love bridges), the food, the history, the $8 pedicures, and kebabs. Robi was trying to talk me out of it when I was whining about not finding work yet in Oslo where everyone speaks English; few people speak English in Hungary.  Maybe he’s right (never) and living there is not a good idea, but I’ve been reminiscing about that city a lot lately. Flights aren’t even that expensive in December to fly from Oslo… Rob if you’re reading this, it’s around $200 and I’ll 200% come back with a puppy and be 200 degrees happier.

I’ve compiled a list of things to see and do. I’m missing some because I don’t remember what things are called; those “Learn the Hungarian Language” tapes that were given to me only went so far.

Things to do:

  • Ruin Bars- These are old buildings that have been transformed into strange bars. They’re all really unique and it should be noted that a beer is between two and three dollars there.
  • Central Market Hall- You can get fried dough here. It’s also next to a pretty bridge and my hopefully future university.
  • Thermal Baths- I don’t know why I’m putting this here. I went in the summer, it was hot outside, and it was described to me as “old people soup.” But maybe in the winter it would be worth it.
  • Fisherman’s Bastion- Mostly a viewing platform for the Danube. Super pretty.
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica- The big church, you can’t miss it. I got yelled at for not wearing enough clothing inside. You can go to the top and see the whole city.
  • Margaret Island- You can run around this if you’re into running. The water polo stadium, a small zoo, a park, and a hotel are on this island.
  • Hero’s Square- It’s what the Art Gallery is to Vancouver, almost, if that makes sense.

Things to eat:

  • Fried dough- JUST DO IT. It’s covered in sour cream and garlic.
  • Krémes- My favourite cake ever. Pastry and custard, two of my favourite things combined.
  • Somlói Galuska- Chocolate and walnuts and sponge cake and everything good in life.
  • Kürtőskalács-  It’s like a cinnamon bread cone. You can find them filled with ice cream too.
  • Kebabs- I know these are Turkish but they are so good.
  • Goulash- Duh.

I promise I ate more than cake and ice cream while there. I don’t think there is a type of Hungarian food I have tried and not liked including the strange-ish things Robi has made for me. I’m talking about the boiled meat, bread dumplings, and pureed vegetables that is somehow delicious despite what it looks like. Everything else is meat and potatoes.

I feel like lots of people don’t think of Hungary when travelling Europe, I definitely didn’t. There’s so much to do and so many things to see that it should be on everyone’s list of places to go. Also, those “48 hours in Budapest” posts you see on Pinterest are false advertising, it’s no where near enough time.

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Things I’ve noticed after one month in Norway

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This country is lovely, the people are lovely, it’s beautiful here, but it is weird. I talked about some strange things I noticed in my first week here, but I’ve experienced more of the culture, and met more people, and noticed some things that I’ve never noticed at home.

Not finishing highschool

This is so weird to me. Highschool is so easy, everyone finishes highschool at home. It’s not a question. It’s very very common for people to not have their diploma here though.

Runners

Okay, maybe this is coming from the boot obsession I have, but everyone wears running shoes. Even when they’re dressed up, they’ll wear an otherwise fine looking outfit and then throw on a dirty pair of running shoes that look seven years old. Even men who are wearing suits toss on a pair of running shoes with it. Comfort first I guess? I will not be falling into this trend, I can tell you that for free.

Waffles

Instead of popcorn and hot dogs at the rink, they serve waffles that you put jam on, fold in half, and eat with your hands. I can get on board with this one.

Chew

Everyone chews- even girls- I’m judging them.

Nothing happens quickly or on time

Four weeks to get an appointment to pickup the Visa that took four weeks to get approved for. Ten days to get a tax number that you can only get when you have a work contract. Four to six weeks to get a bank account that you can only do online and after you get the tax number. Busses are either early or late. Really annoying for someone as impatient as me.

Vegetables

Two parts to this: A- it’s hard to find decent produce. B- everything’s individually wrapped in plastic, dumb.

I’m curious as to what weird things people notice about Canada when they visit. I mean, there’s gotta be a few things I don’t realize since I live there.