Pronounced (Boo-da-pesht), this Hungarian capital offers breathtaking views, deliciously cheap food and many sites to explore. Budapest, previously separate the cities of Buda, Óbuda and Pest, later unifying them as one under this new name and new capital. Formerly a dual monarchy, Budapest was part of the Austria-Hungary Empire until 1918. This incredible city was full of life and a highlight of my European adventures.
Below are recommendations for a 5-day trip to Budapest
- The free walking tour with Generation Tours (starts at 10:30 a.m.). Our tour with Régi took us to see:
– St. Stephen’s Basilica — Named after Hungary’s first king, his right mummified hand is housed in a hard-to-view box inside the church. (It says that entry is free, but I was required to give a ‘donation’). Standing at 96 meters, no building is allowed to be higher. You can climb to the top as well.
– Uncle Charlie — They say touching his belly will bring you good luck and touching his mustache will bring you luck with love.
– Elizabeth Square — Named after the queen of England because she gave financial support to the city, this Ferris wheel is an ode to the London Eye.
– Matthias Church — Next to Fisherman’s Bastion, this church was renovated around the mid-1900s as it had been badly damaged during WWII.
– Fisherman’s Bastion — This stunning vantage point next to Matthias Church offers views of the Pest side of the river.
That concludes some of what we visited on the free tour.
- Szimpla Kert ruin bar — Although this is the most well-known of the many ruin bars Budapest has to offer, it doesn’t have the touristy vibe one might expect and is a must-see. This two-story bar features different themed rooms with varying bars (some with food options) everywhere as well as outside seating. You can also wander around inside without paying for a drink.
- Shoes on the Danube Bank — This memorial was created to remember those who were unjustly murdered during WWII. Many Jews were rounded up, lined along the river and shot, falling to their watery grave.
- Ride the oldest metro — To be clear, this is the oldest metro line in the European continent; two older ones can be found in the U.K. In contrast to the modernized metros around Budapest, which were some of the cleanest I’ve ever seen, Metro Line 1 transports you into the past. With it’s golden exterior and old-fashioned design, it truly felt like I wasn’t in 2019 anymore. For those of you accustomed to seeing people dodge buying metro tickets in Paris or elsewhere, this is much more difficult here as they have controllers checking your ticket everywhere.
- Széchenyi Bath — We chose this out of the handful of other baths because of its large size, it being the oldest bath in Pest and was the cheapest. Of the numerous amounts of people there, we were some of the few that didn’t bring our phones outside (I swear, one lady was FaceTiming someone the whole time she was in the water, not actually seeing it with her own eyes). Ticket prices vary but the basic ticket cost was around €15.
- Liberty Monument — Originally this commemorated the Soviets liberating the Hungarians from the Nazis. However, the Soviets stayed for 40 years. So the statues now commemorate those who fought for Hungary. Hike up the hill to these statues just before sunset and remember to turn around while you climb.
- Hungarian National Museum — This museum was extensive of the country’s history with my favorite section being the poster collection. (You have to pay for photos while inside the museum or be sneaky.)
- Terror Museum — Surprisingly, the museum was already pretty crowded by 10:30 a.m., so try to go as early as possible. I spent about two hours wandering some of the halls (some of which were too small for the crowd sizes) and watching short, sad videos about some of the atrocities Hungarians suffered.
- Remember to always wander and get lost! The Jewish Quarter had beautiful street art around every corner.
- Goulash (gulyás) — A traditional Hungarian stew made with beef and other varying ingredients. You’ll find this classic dish at just about every restaurant.
- Paprika — An essential goulash condiment, so make sure to only add it to your stew and not spread on bread (as our waiter discouraged). Don’t forget to buy paprika flavored chips, too.
- Soup and sandwich from Bors and Leves — The line can be insane at Bors but they’re quick and the food was outstanding. Star Wars lovers will especially love their decor. Leves is even smaller than Bors and had the best Thai soup I’ve ever eaten.
- Stuffed cabbage rolls (Töltött Káposzta) and sauerkraut — The Great Market Hall is where you can find some of the cheapest souvenirs and traditional food. The stuffed cabbage rolls were my absolute favorite.
- Lángos (deep-fried dough or “communist pizza”) — This dough traditionally comes with just sour cream and cheese as the topping but many restaurants offer more than the basics. Drum Cafe in the Jewish Quarter with its traditional decor and variety of Langos options/toppings and Hungarian dishes, offers a filling and inexpensive meal.
- Sweet chimney cake (Kürtőskalács) — This cake’s origin dates back centuries, and it is the perfect dessert on a cold Hungarian night. Pro tip: either share with someone or get one when you’re really hungry ’cause these logs are FILLING.
- A cheap three-course meal — At Parisi 6 we ate goulash, chicken paprikash (paprikás csirke) and somloi galouska (chocolate walnut cream on sponge cake) all for only €12.
- Coconut desserts — We noticed that coconut flavored treats were pretty popular here. From chimney cakes to candy bars and cookies, we tried them all and definitely understand why they love coconut so much.
- The Hungarian language is one of the most difficult to learn, being that it is an agglutinative language and has a 44-letter alphabet.
- Contrary to some other European countries, tipping is normal here, but Hungarians do make a living wage (and sometimes the tip is already included in your bill).
- Hungary is home to a few creations/inventions: the Rubik’s Cube, Microsoft Word, Vitamin C and the ballpoint pen.
- Hungary has been an EU member since 2004 but doesn’t use the Euro as they’ve continuously tried to adopt it to no avail.
- Buda means water.
- They’ve lost all of their revolutions.
- When saying “cheers” in Hungarian we were taught that it sounds like “I guess she can drive.”
My first ever visit to Burgundy was when Beaune’s streets were full of food, wine and people during the Hospice de Beaune Wine Auction event in mid November of 2017. After visiting Beaune and Dijon, I knew I would be back. I have been fortunate enough to call Dijon (yes, like the mustard — insert eye roll) my home from September 2018 until April 2019. During my time here, I was an English assistant in a little town called Brochon.
And while this, not too small yet not too large, town does have outstanding mustard, there is much more to do beyond waking up your sinuses on this spicy condiment.
Below are recommendations for dining options, night life, activities, coffee shops and more.
Things to Do
- Touch La Chouette (owl) — You’ll notice little golden triangle plaques on the ground around Dijon with La Chouette on them, leading to many interesting monuments. This owl on the Notre Dame church dates back to the 15th century and has become an iconic symbol of Dijon.
- Tour Philippe Le Bon — This 5 euro, 45-minute visit of the tower provides some of the best views of Dijon.
- Musée Rude — Here you’ll find a showcase to Dijon sculpture François Rude with its most impressive piece: a gigantic statue replica of the North facade from the Arc de Triomphe.
- Les Halles Market — Occurring Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, this market has local produce ranging from fruits and veggies to meats, cheeses and much more. If it’s one of those chill Saturdays, sit at La Buvette bar where you can enjoy a little picnic accompanied by Burgundy wines.
- Wander around town — Keep your eyes peeled for these stunning roofs around Dijon and Burgundy.
- Parc de la Colombière — Rent a Divia bike (you’ll see these all around town) and make your way to this stunning park, which is perfect for children to play at or for a picnic; there is even a mini zoo inside.
- Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne — While this museum is only in French, it is free for everyone and gives you an insight into what Dijon used to be like.
- Théâtre Dijon Bourgogne — For those who can speak French, the theater is a great way to experience French culture.
- Mustard tasting — Go try a variety of interesting flavors at these two locations: Edmond Fallot and Maille. Pro tip: Try (and buy) the Maille black truffle mustard. It is out-of-this-world good (and depressingly expensive).
- Language café — Where you can go work on your language skills for a couple of hours. The attendees are alway changing, so any number of languages can be spoken each night!
- Concerts at La Peniche and La Vapeur — Both locations offer great concerts, with La Peniche ones being free or cheap, and La Vapeur ones usually being more well-known artists. Pro tip: Use Jondi.fr to find out what’s going on in Dijon.
- Pro tip: Find some stellar Dijon postcards and old-style French posters (that are cheap) at the store next to this Dr. Wine Shop.
- La Causerie des Mondes — You’ll find a small, daily handwritten (and vegetarian friendly) menu, which makes choosing easier. This is easily one of my fave Dijon restos. The organic dishes come in large portions; you can taste the love put into them.
- La Maharaja — I’ve been obsessed with Indian food lately, and this resto hits the spot while not breaking the bank. I opted for chicken tikka masala with cheesy naan bread. (They even have Époisses naan bread!!!)
- Gril’Laure — While this resto is quite fancy inside, I would recommend ordering a pizza to go and heading over to Flannery’s just across the street to enjoy a Triple Karmeliet beer while watching the latest sports game. Pro tip: Get the chèvre et miel (goat cheese and honey) pizza.
- Crêperie La Licorne — Fulfill your savory AND sweet crêpe fix at this cute resto (don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll only get one).
- SO — If you’re willing to splurge, then this is the place. Their outstanding wine list, coupled with their decadent French food, makes for a delectable multi-course meal. Ours ended with chocolate crème brûlée topped with lavender ice cream (this needs to be in my life more often). Pro tip: If they have pintade, GET IT.
- Aki — For a change from French food, this tiny resto has some BOMB ramen (you may want to make a reservation, as it gets busy).
- Marco Polo — Their chèvre chaud salad (aka the best French salad ever) is incredible. You’ll find tasty pizzas, tartiflette and more as well.
Burgundian Must-Try Specialties
- Oeufs en meurette (eggs in red wine sauce) — It’s like a stew with a soft boiled egg on top. It seems strange, but it truly is delightful.
- Boeuf Bourguignon — L’Epicerie et Cie does a tremendous one and has an old France vibe. You can also make it yourself with produce from the market if you have the right kind of pot.
- CHEESE — My fave shops are Le Chalet Comtois and Fromagerie Porcheret.
- Époisses — This pungent, melty cheese is my absolute favorite and originates from Burgundy. It is much more expensive than my normal go-to 2 euro camembert, but you can find cheaper options at the weekly markets.
- Delice de Bourgogne — A stark contrast to the strong Époisses, this milder cheese is lightly pungent and especially creamy. Pro tip: Skip paying for wine and cheese at a resto and instead eat and drink at chez-toi (your house)!
- Escargot (snails) — My least fave of all French food, but you have to try it at least once.
- Cuisse de Grenouille (Frog Legs) — *I have not yet tried these.* Apparently there is a season (end of winter/beginning of spring) for them.
- Gougères — These balls of fluff are a savory treat found at most bakeries. A sweet version can sometimes be found as well.
Kir and kir royal drinks — Kir is chardonnay with a little bit of crème de cassis added, whereas a kir royal uses Champagne or crémant de Bourgogne (another must try drink — it’s similar to Champagne but cheaper). As crème de cassis originates from Burgundy, you’ll have no trouble finding a kir on the menu.
If you know me, then you know that I’m a baguette snob and that I love a quality, freshly baked pastry made with that wonderful French butter. The French always say that the best boulangerie is just around the corner from their house, but here is a list of my favorites.
- Maison LOUOT Claude — A bit spendy but worth it, is their abricot et chocolat macaron (best macaron I’ve ever consumed). Their baguettes are also divine. Pro tip: Get a baguette tradition because it’s le meilleur (the best).
- Boulangerie Pâtisserie Fremont — Fulfilling my need for heart-shaped bread for Valentine’s Day, this bakery frequently makes seasonal treats and always has a vast selection of yummy treats (I wish I had tried more).
- Aux Délices de la Chouette — One of my all-time favorite pastries is croisant aux amandes. I won’t even describe to you how wonderful it is; just got to get it.
Coffee / Hot Chocolate / Tea
- Le Comptoir des Colonies — With teas ranging from India to China, good luck making a choice. Pro tip: Head there after 15h to be seated on their fancy second floor (or, as the French say: premier étage).
- Espresso-t — Where you’ll find the best chai latte EVER.
- La Comedie – Their hot chocolate is the best I’ve had so far, but was not a true French hot chocolate.
- JSB — New to Dijon, their tea is wonderful as well as their chocolate chip cookies. Make sure to get a comfy seat with a great view on their classy, chandelier-decorated second floor.
- Cafe de L’Industrie — Surrounded by historic images of Dijon, you can enjoy budget-friendly drinks.
- BerThoM — For all you beer lovers, this is an ideal happy hour bar with cheap La Chouffe (less than 5 euros) and usually has a younger crowd.
- Flannery’s — If you love to play darts, then you’ve come to the right place. Try their cider as well.
- Monsieur Moutarde — Looking for a fancier night? Head over to this centrally located bar. The decor is divine, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try their mustard cocktail that comes in a mustard jar!
Wine / Vineyards / Wineries
Burgundy is an internationally renowned wine region, so expect a stupefying amount of wine selection. In France, you can find cheap, good wine, but don’t be afraid to splurge for some quality vintages.
Many wine tastings will offer only Pinot noir and chardonnay. My love for stainless steel, unoaked chardonnays began in Burgundy where I discovered that not all chardonnays tasted like the oaked Californian brands.
My ride to work is through La Côte d’Or, where I was able to see first-hand this fall why its name means the Golden Coast. All of the vineyards’ leaves turned golden yellow that could be seen for miles. To get to smaller wineries along La Côte d’Or take the MobiGo bus line 113 or 114.
- Au Vieux Millésime — As a wine store and wine bar, this a perfect place to try wines and take some home with you. Go hungry so that you can get the meat and cheese platter, too.
- Domaine Gille — A friend from university (the power of a small college) works here and gave us a sit-down tasting of many of their wines. Many smaller producers offer tastings in a more intimate setting, just make sure to call ahead.
- La Pharmacy cave and wine bar — Not only can you have a nice glass of wine here but also you can buy an older vintage for just 10 euros. (The wines may have been compromised, so you may find a gem or a dud — use it for Boeuf Bourguignon for the latter.)
- Domaine Chanson wine tasting in Beaune — For 15 euros you can taste four wines: two whites and two reds.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
· Ne rêve pas ta vie, vis tes rêves ·
Iceland is known for its Northern Lights, harsh winters, majestic waterfalls and stunning landscapes (and its exorbitantly high prices). For all these reasons and more, my family thought Iceland would be a great choice for our first winter family vacation.
Planning our days was a bit more complicated than normal because of the daylight hour time constraints (sunrise around 11:30 and sunset around 15:30). Often times, we never saw the sun during these hours because of cloud coverage. To make the most of your short stay, I would recommend renting a car so that you’ll have more flexibility with your itinerary.
Below is our week-long itinerary with trip tips and Icelandic food recommendations
Day 1 – December 28 – Thursday
After arriving in the afternoon, checking into our AirBnB in Hafnarfjörður (it was about a 20 minute drive from Reykjavik), grabbing some Thai food at Ban Kúnn, we headed out to hunt down some Northern Lights.
On our first night we were lucky enough to spot the dancing green lights in multiple locations. We headed about 20 minutes south from Hafnarfjörður toward Lake Kleifarvatn (which we couldn’t see at all), where we pulled over at the Icelandic Soup Wagon to see the faint green lights in the distant sky.
- Tip: Download My Aurora Forecast & Alerts application to best track these unpredictable lights.
Day 2 – December 29 – Friday
Our trip began along the Golden Circle, first stopping at Strokkur Geyser to see it erupt, then heading to Gullfoss waterfall where we would rendez-vous for our snowmobiling tour.
Our Arctic Adventures tour was supposed to leave at 2 p.m. but ended up being pushed back due to whiteout weather conditions. This was worrying at first because it would be dark soon, but with these weather conditions we wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway.
This out-and-back tour allowed us to ride on Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull, and see an ice cave inside the glacier. It was a bit freaky riding into the darkness not being able to see too far in front of us.
Day 3 – December 30 – Sunday
The goal of this day-long outing was to see Kirkjufell Mountain; however, we found ourselves in a snowstorm, preventing us from seeing even the slightest part of it. The route to the mountain has some other interesting stops along the way, such as hot springs and smaller waterfalls (we just looked on GoogleMaps for the camera icons).
- Tip: Plan an extra day into your trip if possible, that way if you have a bad weather day and aren’t able to see something (ie: a whole mountain) you can try another day.
We also had a fun time off-roading (on accident). I would consider my father to be an excellent driver, so you know the roads were bad if he managed to do this.
- Tip: Be careful of the strong winds as they can break your car door off :D.
Day 4 – December 31 – Monday/New Year’s Eve!!!
The last day of 2018 was in part spent at the Blue Lagoon, but first we began by wandering in between two continental plates: North America and Europe, at the Bridge Between Continents.
Our tickets for the lagoon were booked a couple months in advance. We choose the 2 p.m. time slot, which wasn’t too crowded, and the weather was perfect (still extremely cold but no rain or snow). The lagoon closes at 5 p.m. and the ticket includes a towel, one drink and a silica mud mask.
In a country that is painfully cold, it’s a good idea to start the night off on a hot note with a NYE traditional Icelandic bonfire. Of the many offered around Reykjavik, we chose the Geirsnef Park fire because we knew it would be huge, and it also offered a 360-degree view of fireworks around us. The bonfires are from 8:30 – 10:30 p.m., then Icelanders go home to watch Áramótaskaupið for an hour before the REAL firework show begins.
After you’ve sufficiently warmed up, drive over to the unique Hallgrímskirkja Church for a spectacular show put on by the Icelandic public. Coming from a country where the Fourth of July is celebrated with an insane amount of fireworks, we were all impressed with how long this display lasted (more than an hour – the longest I’ve ever seen and also the most dangerous as many went off on the ground).
Day 5 – January 1 – Tuesday
2019 began with staring up at the Northern Lights and brilliant stars around 2 a.m. After sleeping in, we were off to Þingvellir National Park, which is where a scene of Game of Thrones was filmed.
Day 6 – January 2 – Wednesday
Our last full day was filled with waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is a fall that you can walk behind. We weren’t prepared for how wet we would get.
- Tip: Bring warm waterproof shoes, warm hats, serious snow gloves, wool socks and many layers. I wore two pairs of warm yoga pants each day and would have preferred to have snow/waterproof pants as well.
After admiring the falls, make your way to Sólheimasandur to view this black sand beach plane crash. Weirdly, the sign said it would take three to four hours to do, which was deterring, but, in reality, it only took less than two hours.
The last stop of the outing was the remarkable Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, home to these stunning basalt rock formations. What surprised us about this beach was the sneaker waves. After being near the water to get up-close pics of these magnificent rocks, a huge wave, unlike the previous calm ones, ‘snuck up’ on us and had us running for our lives.
Foods to Try
- Isey Skyr yogurt – I’ve tried a fair amount of different types of yogurt, but this brand was by far the most unique. It’s much thicker and has an insane amount of protein.
- Kjötsúpa (Icelandic Meat Soup) – My fave Icelandic food. You’ll find a hearty bowl to warm you up at Loki, accompanied by a stunning view of Hallgrímskirkja Church. If you’re really hungry, head to Icelandic Street Food for unlimited soup.
Harðfiskur (dried fish) – This jerky of the sea, viking snack, or whatever you want to call it, I was not a fan of; it was too dry and fishy.
- Kleinur (Icelandic donut) – I loved the cute shape, but these have nothing on Voodoo Doughnuts.
- Rúgbrauð (Rye bread) – I’m obsessed; it takes almost like cake. Get it whenever you can with a healthy smear of butter.
Snúðar (Cinnamon rolls) – Brikk in Reykjavik has some heavenly baked goods and an Instagram worthy ascetic.
- (Pylsur) Hot dogs – Baejarins Beztu Pylsur sells these cheap dogs at their tiny stand in Reykjavik. Make sure to get one (or two) with everything on it.
- Íslandsplatti (taste of Iceland plate) – The jar above the rye bread contained fermented shark (hákarl) – the smell was far worse than the taste. You can find this board at Geysir Bistro in Reykjavik. Their lobster soup with a side of rye bread is also fabulous.
- Holiday malt & appelsín drink – This seasonal drink came in a couple different flavors.
- Svart lakkrìs (black licorice) – If you’re one of the strange people that likes this candy then you’re in the right place. Much of their candy and even chocolate has licorice inside.
- Bánh mì sandwich – While not traditional Icelandic food, this sandwich was outstanding. Hlemmur Mathöll is a more affordable place for dinner and has a variety of options that will please even the pickiest of eaters.
- Vanilla Kremkec (Vanilla Cookies) – If you’re a cookie monster like my whole family is, try these.
Hope you enjoy your Icelandic adventure as much as we did and for more pictures check out Iceland Images! Skàl!
“You’re going to love Corsica,” is what every Frenchie said when I told them of my vacation plans; of course, they were right.
I became friends with another American assistant last year, Laine, who is doing the same English teaching program in Bastia, Corsica. So, naturally, I had to visit her and see the island during the Toussaint break.
There are two ways to get to this Mediterranean island: by ferry or by plane. Planning this trip late resulted in higher ferry prices, so I instead opted to take a flight from Marseille to save time (a 12 hour ferry versus a 50 minute plane ride) while paying a little bit more for convenience.
Since my friend fortunately had a car, we were able to road trip around the island while needing to make minimal plans ahead of time. Some of the best trips are done this way! If you don’t know someone living in Corsica, I would recommend renting a car.
The melange of French, Italian and Corsican culture is evident everywhere. Street signs are in French and Corsican with Italian proper names mixed in, while restaurant food is usually typical French cuisine, but you’ll find some Italian restaurants as well.
Below are some recommendations of activities to do in Bastia, Aljaccio, Bonnifacio and Cap Corse.
- Start your time in Bastia by walking around the city center and along the water. Wander through back alleys and small, narrow streets. The style of buildings and port in Bastia felt like a combination of Nice and Manarola.
- Picnic in the small park overlooking the water next to Cathedrale Sainte-Marie de l’Assomption. Make sure to try Corsican wine. The grape varieties tend to be more Italian than French, some of which I had never even heard of, and were a little bit more expensive than wine in France proper.
- Corsica is also well known for their cheese and dried meats as well as Pietra beer – I prefer the amber. You’ll find these staples in most grocery stores; for example, Monoprix had a special section that showcased Corsican meat.
- Grab some pizza at Museum Café. Some days you just need some comforting Italian wood-fired pizza. Their chorizo and peppers pizza hit the spot.
If traversing public transportation in a foreign language and culture is difficult, then you may especially struggle in Bastia as the buses have no schedules and few marked stops. The center of town is walkable but getting from the airport or ferry to where you’ll be staying will surely require public transport or possibly an Uber.
This town was a quick stop on our way from Bastia to Bonifacio. As the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, Ajaccio’s town centre is scattered with Napoleon-named buildings, paintings and memorabilia.
- Stroll though the town center, taking a look at the waterfront, then make your way to Delissimo gelato shop. This shop has special Corsican flavors, so I opted for Panna figue (the fig flavor was weak) and Cédrat Corse – described as a strong lemon flavor by an employee. (I’m obsessed with lemon-flavored desserts right now, and this did not disappoint.)
- If you have more time, visit the Bonaparte Museum to see his former home.
Green, luscious trees surrounded us as we traversed the couple hour drive through windy roads and tiny villages on our way to Bonifacio. According to Laine, some students often say they’re going to ‘the village’ for the weekend to visit family, but won’t say the actual name. (Also, be prepared for quite aggressive drivers honking at you to pass).
- Stay: Camping la Trinité is open for camping until the end of October. Finding open camp sites can be fairly difficult this time of year as the weather tends to get ugly, making many of Corsica’s outside activities less appealing. This campsite had the basics like toilets, showers and sinks, but remember to bring soap and toilet paper!
- Cost: 17 euros per person for two nights with one car and one tent.
- Drive away from the town center up the hill to see these jaw-dropping cliffs. It’s no wonder this town is called the “Citadel of Cliffs.”
- From the cliffs wander down the road to the lighthouse behind you.
- There’s a path near the lighthouse to hike down to the beach where, if you’re ill-equipped like we were in the swimsuit department, you can choose to go skinny dipping because it’s France! (Be prepared to see naked men and women if you’re at a beach.) I chose to take a nap under the sun – I could not believe how warm it was at the end of October.
- Walk through the city town center, picnic on the dock, in the oldest city in Corsica.
- Climb up the almost vertical, daunting amount of stairs to the citadel where you’ll discover a little town filled with narrow windy streets and cute little restaurants.
- Grab a Pietra Corsican beer at a restaurant or café.
I would recommend not doing a day trip to Bonifacio as you’re able to see and do more with at least a full day.
- Hike to the Tower of Santa Maria. This took about 4 hours roundtrip from Macinaggio. This hike is easily modifiable to make the route longer or shorter depending on your fitness level. Most of the hike was stunning views along the water. If you want to continue past the tower to the end of the hike, it would take about 7 hours. (Because we didn’t know the mileage, our original plan was to do this until we asked some locals at the grocery store who advised us to turn around at the tower – and I’m glad they did.)
Overall, Corsica was an incredibly gorgeous island. Its natural beauty reminded me of road tripping through Costa Rica with my family, and this Corsican trip is yet another great road trip for the books. I promise; you’re going to love Corsica.
Summer 2018 was spent having the time of my life working in the tasting room where I had interned my senior year at Linfield. I was not only able to connect with customers from around the world but also worked on small projects, such as bottle photography and an end of summer event.
New to our wine lineup this year, our single block series showcases wine that’s made at the smallest level of production possible: a single barrel, single block and single clone.
One of our owners, Nancy McClintock, won Duchess at her high school very year, ergo the latest Vista rosé.
My end of the summer/job project: Fête de fromage. Being the Francophile and cheese lover that I am, this event couldn’t have been more perfect.
Being the incredibly dynamic city it is, Paris effectively maintains its historical roots while offering ever-changing events. Having done the typical tourist attractions numerous times, I strive to discover something new each time I return. Below is a compilation of some of my favorite activities as well as recommendations from Frenchies.
- Musée de Cluny – Currently has an exhibit on unicorns running until Feb. 25, 2019. The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries dating back to the Middle Ages were magnificent.
- Musée de l’Orangerie – For the fine art lovers, impressionist and post-impressionist artwork is abundant. Some of my favorite pieces are showcased here, but what really stands out are Monet’s lengthy water lily paintings wrapped around custom-made walls designed.
- Musée Européenne de la Photographie – The JR exhibition running until Feb. 10, 2019 was stunning, demonstrating incredible creativity by the photographer through his black and white work.
- Foundation Louise Vuitton – Even though the lines can be quite extensive, and this will also be found at the top of tourist to-do lists, the exhibits here are constantly changing, and the building architecture is exquisite.
- L’Atelier des Lumières – This exposition has been extended until Jan. 6, 2019. SO GO ASAP. The creativity was awe inspiring; I’ve never seen anything like it. It was enjoyable just sitting on the ground and watching the projections of art by Gustav Klimt and other Viennese artists constantly change. Make sure to book your tickets ahead of time because it always sells out.
- As a big Amelie fan, seeing the café where she worked in the film was a must for me. You’ll find this petit café in Montmartre.
- Le Social Bar does record nights occasionally as well as Blind Test, (a game where you guess song names and artists) so be sure to check out their schedule. I have yet to visit this bar, but this is one of the first places I’ll be heading to when I’m back in Paris (because old French music has a special place in my heart).
- La Ruée vers l’Orge – If you love beer and want a variety of options from all over France and other countries, head to this bar.
- Rue Crémieux – While you’ll probably find this on other tourist recommendations, I happily found it on accident just wondering around Gare de Lyon.
- Studi 28 Cinema – Sometimes it can be quite difficult to find quality French movies. I was looking for an authentic French cinema experience and found Studio 28, offering different French movies weekly.
- Le mur des je t’aime – If you’re in the 18e arrondissement, make a quick stop as this wall.
- Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a perfect example of a Parisian park. Parisians flock to parks when the sun is even slightly out, and it’s la verité that they’ll bring wine and chips for an aperitif. Since I’ve been trying to assimilate to French culture as best as possible, I did the same.
- Go thrift shopping. Friperies (thrift shops) in les marais offer incredible deals. My friend found two jackets in the one euro bins. I found a cute winter jacket for only 30 euros that would normally cost at least 100 euros at a store like MANGO. There are many kilo shops as well where the price is determined by how much the clothing weighs.
- Picnic along the Seine River. Save some money by heading to the nearest Casino (grocery store chain, not an American Casino) to grab picnic supplies (don’t forget Spéculoos or a baguette), and enjoy the scenery along the Seine.
- Run a race. If you’re into running, plan your trip around the Paris half or full marathon (they’re on different weekends in the spring). Runners race through Parisian streets and along the Seine River. The half marathon doesn’t include a view of the Eiffel Tower but is still just as exhilarating. Pro tip: listen to some French music during the race for the best experience.
- Play games with Frenchies. If you have some French friends, be sure to ask them to bring some games they typically play or find a pétanque court – it might be hogged by old men though.
- Walk around Paris. Not many things make me as happy as walking along Paris’ cobbled streets when the sun is out and the bakeries are emitting that freshly baked bread aroma. Paris is such a walkable and stunning city, so much so, that I can’t emphasize enough how incredible it is to walk instead of talking the metro whenever possible.
Go get lost to find something you didn’t put on your itinerary.
Other places to visit:
- Le Marché aux Puces Vanves
- Parc Monceau
- Musée Carnavalet
- Musée Édith Piaf
- Place Dauphine
- Le Jardin Albert Kahn
- Fountain Bleu
- La Recyclerie
- La Félicita – Finding something to do other than musuem hopping on Sunday can be difficult sometimes. If you are looking for some stellar food/drinks, head to this grand place with amazing ambiance.
- La Parisienne by Gare de Lyon – French bakeries are the way to my heart; they don’t hurt my budget either. Not only can you grab a freshly baked baguette as well pastries but also most shops have sandwiches and items for breakfast, lunch AND dinner.
- Fermier Gourmet – If you’re looking for some outstanding duck as well as to-go options, Fermier Gourmet has reasonably priced canard and delicious sides.
- Café Chez Prosper in the Nation arrondissement, you’ll find some typical French dishes that pair perfectly with the classic French ambiance. Order their margaret de canard, which comes with a side of excellent ratatouille. And don’t pass on dessert; in fact, go with as many friends as possible so that you can try more than just one dessert. My friend and I ordered French classics, chocolate mousse and ile flottante (floating island), which is merengue floating on creme anglais.
- La Cerise sur La Pizza. The Belleville neighborhood is well-know for its asian food, but my Parisian friend adores this pizza restaurant, La Cerise sur La Pizza. You’ll find a variety of typical French and Italian pizzas with toppings such as duck, spicy sausage, reblochon cheese and goat cheese.
- Belleville is not only well-know for its asian food scene but also graffiti art.
- Chez Marianne – This Mediterranean food was recommend by a friend. It’s a nice change from normal Parisian food.
Most of you probably know this, but avoid getting food by the Eiffel Tower (especially don’t eat a crepe) – I never thought crepes could be bad, but this one was the worst I’ve ever had.
For the best up-to-date recommendations, go to Anne Ditmeyer’s website, follow her on Instagram and subscribe to her newsletter. She’s an American who became French and is currently living her best life in Paris.
Everyone’s TAPIF experience is going to be different, but it helps to get a better understanding of what to expect before arriving in France.
With my situation, I was placed at only one large high school. my teachers were open to whatever I wished to teach/do with my students. While the freedom is exciting, it also leaves almost too much room to be creative and is quite vague, especially so, because in the beginning you don’t know really have an understanding of where the students’ levels and comprehension is at.
Because I didn’t know their levels, I often asked the teachers for subject suggestions or what they’re currently doing it class.
Then, at the end of class if I have extra time, I often asked my students about their interests. (This could be turned into multiple lessons, honestly.) This also facilitates them to talk much more about the things they love. My students always got the most excited talking about music, television shows and movies. Their faces especially lit up when I shared similar same interests.
After learning what shows they like, I was able to craft lessons using images and video excerpts. They then had an easier time describing what was happening and forming sentences as well as learning new vocabulary. For example, use Harry Potter images from movies and have the students describe the situation.
I have noticed that students easily mess up the tense conjugations, so practicing past tense, present and future is always good
Holiday lessons are probably the most fun because they’re the easiest to talk about. Another easy subject, and one that can be turned into a multitude of lessons, is differences between the United States and France. This is something students often have questions about and usually have stereotypical ideas in their head of Americans that may not always be true. One of my favorite lessons was the difference between American and French food.
- 20 Questions – Great to see if they have learned the vocab words you’ve taught them. Students get 20 questions to ask yes or no questions about either a person, place or thing you’ve chosen in your head.
- Never Have I Ever – Have each student say something that they have never done. If other students have done this thing then they need to put a finger down. The person with their last finger up wins.
- Two Truths and a Lie – Students need to say two truths and lie about themselves while their classmates guess which of the three statements is a lie. This can be good for students to write down their three sentences so that they aren’t doing a long pause on the lie, giving it away.
- Hot Seat – One student comes up to sit in the hot seat facing the class. Their team has to give them clues so that they can guess what is written on the board.
- Guess Who (Devine tete) – Write a famous person on the board, have one student come up with their back to the board, then they start asking questions about him/her while their team replies with only yes or no.
Dealing with misbehaving students
I was told that if any students misbehave, then I have the permission to send them back to class with their teacher, and they won’t get the privilege of coming back to my class again.
The reward systems usually works pretty well to get students behaving correctly. Telling them that they get to play a fun game at the end of the lesson if they’re on their best behavior and participate often quiets them down.
Communication is key. Talk to your coworkers as much as possible because you never know what you might learn or get the opportunity to do.
Auschwitz — everyone has heard of it and knows about the atrocities that took place here, but seeing first hand where they took place impacts how you view the world. I genuinely believe the world would be a better place if everyone were able to visit.
My guide, Pawel, significantly impacted my visit. When I asked him how he and his colleagues were able to do this on a daily basis, he responded that he’s doing his little part to make a difference in the world; he is happy to see people come back and say their lives have been changed because of coming here.
To properly visit Auschwitz, I recommend staying in Krakow and taking a guided tour from there to the camp (you can’t visit the camp without a guide). I used SeeKrakow tour that drove us to the camp, then the first part of the tour was 2 hours long and then we were taken to Birkenhau for 45 minutes. While touring the buildings can feel a bit rushed, it was understandable because of how many people enter each day.
This horrific chapter in history was taught to us in high school but seeing it in person was sickening. The victims’ hair was cut and sold and sometimes burned, so one room (the only one where you can’t take photos) that you enter during the tour is filled with human hair, as 4,000 pounds of human hair was found when the camp was liberated.
Among other things found after liberation were various belongings. Many Jews packed their whole lives in 25 kilo sacs thinking they were just being relocated. Some of the items brought by these families were later examined, revealing secret compartments that hid expensive valuables.
The dehumanization, appalling conditions and how much these innocent people suffered is unimaginable. Our guide said that if a prisoner escaped then the guards would kill ten people as punishment. The end of the tour showed the bunks where they were stuffed into (400 – 500 people per horse stable) and the carving and drawings they made.
Walking the same road these people did fewer than 100 years ago was surreal and terribly sad to remember the devastation that this caused to so many people, some who are still affected today.
Warsaw, Poland’s capital, was the second stop on my Polish adventure. Being a solo traveler in this foreign city, I decided to go on a guided tour in hopes of seeing as much as possible during my short stay.
Warsaw wasn’t always Poland’s capital. Krakow was the original capital until 1596, when the king moved it to Warsaw because it was a good trading area and the royal castle in Krakow had burned down.
Downtown Warsaw was a stark contrast to Old Town in terms of architecture. This is because about 90 percent of Warsaw was destroyed during World War II. Socialist realism came into play, influencing the building structure to include skyscrapers and more modern buildings, which was more similar to that of the USSR.
Ubers, as with everything else in this country, were insanely cheap, so I mostly used that as my means of transportation. I did, however, take the metro once. Tickets work with the metro, bus and tram. Woo!
The Warsaw Downtown Hostel (about 10 euros a night) was insanely cheap, a short Uber ride away from where the Flixbus from Krakow dropped me off and close to where I was picked up for the tour. However, it was fairly far away from the old part of town (40 minute walk or 20 minutes by public transport).
The Get Your Guide Warsaw Ultimate Day Tour (37 euros) gave me a better understanding of Warsaw’s history and culture during the 3-hour tour while also getting to interact with other tourists from around the world. The tour commenced at Lazienki Park, Warsaw’s largest park. Numerous structures are spread throughout the park with my favorite being the building next to the canal, the orangeries and the Myślewice Palace.
One of my favorite comments from this tour group was from a Portuguese lady who said that the ice cream was better here than Italian gelato. I was somewhat offended for Italy, but then I realized I hadn’t yet tried Polish ice cream.
Much of the tour recanted melancholic history, often focusing on the persecution of Jews.
These immaculately decorated buildings were restored afte the 1950’s. Many of the buildings were badly destroyed from the war while the basements were well preserved.
The tour ended in Old Town where we were encompassed by these magnificent buildings.
After the tour, I went to the The Warsaw Uprising Museum. There you’ll find powerful imagery that gave the perspective of everyday Polish people.
The uprising occurred because the Poles wanted to expel the Germans from Warsaw, but their efforts were not successful, unfortunately. Make sure to see the 3D movie showing what the city looked like after the war.
It’s obligatory for me to try as many typical dishes as I can on a trip; Poland was no exception.
- Cabbage rolls for lunch at cute Polish resto.
- Pig knuckle is a must. Naturally, it freaked me out a little, but the meat was so tender and fell right off the bone.
- I, of course, got ice cream after that tourist’s comment.
Warsaw made for a stellar photography subject and made me realize that I take much more photos when I travel alone.
Poland had unjustly been overlooked as a bucket list country and was one that I knew very little about. Now, I tell every person I meet to TRAVEL TO POLAND. This country is incredibly inexpensive and extremely gorgeous.
Krakow, followed by Warsaw and Gdansk, was the first stop on my week-long Poland trip.
While these beautiful Polish towns made for incredible sites to see, they held a much darker and somber history – one that unfortunately was less than 100 years ago. The Jewish population suffered immensely in this country.
Krakow is often said to be prettier than Warsaw because Warsaw took most of the bombings during WWII; I tend to agree. Krakow was absolutely gorgeous and had less modernized buildings outside of the Old Town (Stare Miasto).
Take the Flixbus when you can while in Poland, you get to see the picturesque countryside and can use wifi. These buses come often, which is nice when I accidentally booked my bus from Krakow to Warsaw at 4 a.m. and miss it thinking that it was at 4 p.m. (This silly American forgot it should have said 16).
The planning of this trip was hastily done, so I ended up in Poland during their week of holidays at the beginning of May. May 1 is Labor Day/May Day, and May 3 is Constitution Day. Fortunately, these holidays didn’t impact my travels too much.
Where to stay:
Sometimes not doing any research results in the best surprises. Case and point – staying at Greg and Tom Beer Hostel – aka the best hostel I have ever stayed in. I cannot give them enough praise.
Not only were the prices inexpensive but also the location was central and felt safe. They offered free breakfast where you could take a sandwich, resulting in free lunch, AND they offered free dinner with FREE beer (make sure to sign up for this as soon as you arrive).
The staff members were incredibly nice and everything was clean. I went early in the week not expecting anyone to be at this party hostel but with the lack of research, I soon realized I was there during some of Poland’s national holidays, making this hostel quite full and lively. No complaints. GO book your stay now.
What to do :
- Walk or ride around Old Town and other quarters. With limited time to walk everywhere, which I normally enjoy doing, I hopped on Krakow City Tour (there are go-carts spread around town) by myself for a tour of the city. It cost 200 PLN (about $50) for two hours. The tour offers the choice of different Krakow quarters, so I chose a tour of Old Town and the Jewish Ghetto, skipping the Jewish Quarter. The driver mentioned different aspects of this country’s history, told short stories and gave restaurant recommendations, which was then accompanied by a recorded audio guide that delves into Poland’s dark past.
- Every hour you can witness the St. Mary’s Trumpet Call in the Old Town Square. The trumpeter plays in each cardinal direction and waves at the crowds below when he’s finished. Make sure to wave back at him for good luck.
- Take a day tour to Auschwitz. Many of these tours will depart from Krakow.
- Get scared by a Night Ghost Tour. This is with the Yellow Umbrella Tour, which is free – you just tip at the end. Beginning at 9 p.m. the tour took us to different buildings around Old Town while the guide told creepy stories of what used to happen in these places. It was entertaining and a different activity to do at night. Some of the places we walked by had waiters wearing traditional clothing and were playing traditional music while customers danced.
- Go lick some salt at the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Get there for the earliest tour at 8 a.m. to maximize your day, have a smaller tour group and a less crowded mine tour. After taking the train to get to the mines, there weirdly wasn’t another train until much later in the day, so I took the 304 bus back into town. Make sure to check the times for the tours because they will change depending on the season. I was able to book my tour the day of, but I would recommend booking online if possible.
- Stop by Schindler’s Factory. Though I was only able to see the exterior and due to time constraints not visit this museum, I would recommend going. I was advised to watch the Schindler’s List movie beforehand, too.
What to eat:
- Eat as many pierogis as possible. You’ll find these at most restaurants. The filling options of these dumplings are endless (there are even dessert pierogis), but you’ll find Polish classics everywhere. I asked for a traditional pierogi from Przypiecek, which was filled with sausage, cabbage and a light sauce.
- Ariel – The Krakow City Tour guide said it was the best Jewish restaurant ever.
- Somewhat similar to bagels, this obwarzanek krakowski Polish snack can be found in Old Town from the blue cart street vendors.
- Jabikowa Kruszynka was delightful. This was like an apple streusel, and it wasn’t too sweet.
- Zapiekanka is popular street food you’ll find all over. It’s a half baguette with varying toppings like cheese, meat and ketchup.
Unfortunately, this list is definitely missing quite a few things that I wasn’t able to complete. Krakow was one of my most favorite cities I’ve ever been to, and I deeply regret not spending more time there. Looks like I’ll just have to return soon.
Helpful Polish Vocab
Chestch – Hello
Jenwinkya – Thank you
Nasterovia – Cheers
When I left Aix-en-Provence in 2015, I was ready to go home but was sad to be leaving France. I remember telling my host mom how much I was going to miss it, and her reply was, “You’ll be back.” I thought yes, eventually, but I never imagined I would return so soon.
These last seven months in Bourges have been absolutely parfait. So much so, that I have now changed my mind on possibly returning to France another time. I was just accepted to this same program in the Dijon academy for next year, so I have some decisions to make.
Here is some advice and takeaways from my time in France:
TRAVEL. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to travel. Traveling and living in another country has changed me in more ways than I thought possible; ways that will continue to shape me in all that I do.
Learn a different language. Just knowing one other language opens countless doors. It truly feels special and more genuine being able to communicate with someone in their native tongue.
Talk to strangers. Having always considered myself as a shy person, I often find myself self-reflecting and realize that I’m extremely outgoing. Throughout these seven months, 98 percent of the people I’ve hung out with have been strangers (I met up with some friends from university and saw my brother for two weeks) and most of them have become close friends.
Get out of your comfort zone. This relates back to talking with strangers but can be done in other ways as well, such as trying new foods you think you don’t like. I thought I would never enjoy eating curry, and now I am obsessed.
Cherish your time with special people. The group of friends I made in Bourges could not have been more spectacular. Our semi-weekly dinner parties were legend, wait for it… DARY (I’m not sure anything will compare). They truly made me a better person and pushed me on a daily basis to just LEARN. So, make sure to prioritize your time with friends. The other things you need to get done really aren’t that important when you look back. You won’t remember that presentation you did a mediocre job on, but rather those special memories you made that night.
It may not seem like it, but there were downsides to this séjour. I got lonely, but the good thing that came out of this is I learned that I never want to live by myself again.
My schedule was always changing and while that kept things from getting mundane, it was hard not having a consistency.
My French improved significantly. I now have more than 400 french songs on my Spotify playlist. I have all the seasons of Fais Pas Çi, Fais Pas Ça, so I can watch them forever (heart eyes).
I met people from around the world and traveled to new places with new people – this was one of my biggest and most challenging goals.
My love for travel is even greater. Plans are already in the works to see new parts of the world.
I now have this feeling of needing to know the language and culture for every country I want to visit because I don’t want to be just another dumb tourist, and I feel bad speaking English.
Other than eating dinner at 8 p.m. most nights, I’ve become fairly assimilated to French culture – something I worked very hard at. In fact, I might even experience culture shock once I’m back in the United States.
With fewer chances of running into frenchies in the Pacific Northwest than in Europe, I will be looking into French organizations to keep up my language skills.
I have l’envie to use French words when I speak in English, such as profite bien. It’s something I’ll try to get my friends to catch on to. Pourquoi pas is already in some of their vocabulary.
I plan to read more books rather than spending hours watching Netflix and pointless shows.
College instilled a love of learning in me, but it always came with stress as well. Now that I’m in the real world, that love has manifested so much that I’ve actually considered going back to school in the future. I will be looking into all of my options on how to come back to France – grad school may be one of the easiest ones.
I left a part of my heart in Bourges, and I hope to return one day
The most important takeaway – always say pourquoi pas.