Not Your Typical Spring Break (Part 2)
Dear Closest Confidants,
I know you all have been waiting more than a week to see where the riveting adventure led us after Prague, Munich, and Vienna, so I am here to provide.
After Vienna, Ryan and I caught a train to Budapest!
We arrived in Budapest without much of an idea what Budapest was all about. I didn’t know what the city was known for, what people did for fun, or even currency they used. Upon arrival, I was shocked to learn that Budapest was actually a combination of two cities of opposite sides of the Danube River, Buda and Pest. Now looking back, I can say that Budapest was fantastic! I don’t want to pick a favorite city from this tour of Europe because every city is now like a little child to me, but if I had to, there’s a good chance I’d pick Budapest. Now for the journey…
We took the cheapest possible train from Vienna to Budapest and arrived at a derelict train station on the outskirts of town. I was frightened that Budapest may not be as glorious as I had been told. We had no idea where to go, but eventually found the Danube and made our way to our temporary residence from there.We were staying in an AirBnb as usual, but this time was a little different. Our host, Zoltan, used an excessive amount of winky faces during our previous communication so we were ready for anything. It turns out Zoltan was a pretty great dude and the apartment was probably the best so far, smack dab in the middle of Pest. Below our apartment was a restaurant that served traditional Hungarian food at a reasonable price. Needless to say, I had goulash from there on three separate occasions.
After settling into our place, we headed to Margaret Island, an island in between Buda and Pest, and filled with a giant park and most of Budapest’s athletic venues, including the national pool. I had to get my water polo fix in while in one of the main water polo hotspots in the world (yes, they exist) so we headed to the pool. There was a match between kids who looked to be about 14, but dang it was some good polo. And get this, I actually saw a water polo advertisement on a city bus!
We spent the next day on the Buda side, which is filled with notable historical landmarks like Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. We spent some time in the Hungarian Military History Museum where a guide proudly told us about Hungary’s three navy boats. It was certainly eye opening to visit the military history museum of a country other than the USA.
On our final day in Budapest, we spent some time at Hungarian Parliament, which is an absolutely stunning building (included in all of the postcards) settled on the banks of the Pest side of the Danube. After some more sightseeing, we headed to what I had been looking forward to during my whole time in Budapest, Szechenyi Baths. The city has an extensive underground thermal cave system and the warm, clean (hopefully) water is used to supply many public bathhouses. We did our research and decided to visit the best of them all, and it exceeded my sky-high expectations. There were three large outdoor pools, and over fifteen smaller indoor pools (no chlorine, woohoo!) of various temperatures that you could just soak up at will depending on what temperature you were looking for. There were also aroma-saunas (yes, that’s a thing), light-saunas, and a plethora of other amenities. I left feeling like I was in a whole new dimension of relaxation.
The next day, we hopped on a flight to Madrid!
Wow, Madrid, finally a city where I could utilize my exquisite Spanish speaking ability! We elected to stay in our only hostel of the trip while in Madrid because we were only staying there for one night. We arrived and the weather was warm and my Spanish was flowing.
After dropping off our backpacks at the hostel, we went to a restaurant called El Tigre that was famous for its tapas. I walked in and immediately knew that we had found the right place by the sight of huge dried animal parts covering almost every inch of wall space. We ordered beverages and then they just started bringing us plates of delicious food, we were slightly confused but willingly accepted the heaping plates of food. After some time, we realized the tapas were free and we only had to pay for our beverages. EL TIGRE ROCKS. After that, we strolled through Buen Retiro Park, a beautiful park right in the middle of the city, and visited the Prado, an art museum with many paintings that I didn’t understand – a certain indication that it was a reputable art museum. After that, Ryan and I returned to our hostel to properly celebrate my 21st birthday with some new friends we had met there.
The next day (my actual birthday) had a pretty tough beginning, but we made it out of the hostel with ample time to check out some other sights we wanted to see before heading to the airport. We saw the Royal Palace of Madrid, an Egyptian temple, some other cool stuff, and then made our way to the airport to fly to Barcelona. Overall, Madrid was lovely. It was warm, inviting, and interesting. I could definitely see myself returning to Madrid for a more extended stay.
Barcelona (Locals seem to call it Barthalona and we like to call it Boatcelona)
We arrived in Barcelona at night (still my birthday) and went to Port Olimpic, the port that harbored the yacht we would be sleeping on for the next four nights. That’s right, a yacht, and it was all ours. Okay, maybe using the word “yacht” is a bit of a stretch, but it was boat (that was floating) and it was all ours thanks to AirBnb. The fact that “the yacht” was even cheaper than a hostel made our stay even better. My first night sleeping on a boat was awesome.
I woke up the next day feeling under the weather (I know what you’re all thinking and the answer is no, I was ACTUALLY sick) so poor little ol’ me just had to lay around the boat in sunny Barcelona all day.
On day two in Barcelona, I mustered up the strength to check out La Sagrada Famila, an amazing church designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1882 and still under construction today. It looked gloriously similar to a drip sand castle that I would make on the beach later that afternoon. We toured a bit more of Barcelona, but were in a bit of a rush, for we had strict plans to take siestas on the yacht at 2:30PM sharp- they take their siestas (naps) seriously in Spain. I forgot I had been in Scotland the past three months and foolishly slept in the sun without protection. I woke up looking like part tourist, part crazed buffoon, part lobster. Then we hit the beach to watch some windsurfers and enjoyed a majestic sunset.
The next day, I was lucky enough to enjoy the best weather I had been in since I left San Diego. We spent some more time on the beach (which was about a five minute walk from our yacht in Port Olimpic) and walked/hiked up a hill to one of the highest points in Barcelona to enjoy another great sunset and wrap up our unforgettable Spring Break trip.
We woke up around 6AM on the final morning of our trip to the sound of crazy Spaniards still partying at the clubs near our boat and sadly walked past them to head back to Scotland. It was an incredible journey and I don’t think I would have done a single thing differently, but it was also so wonderful to get back home to Scotland. I felt a rush of Scottish pride as we landed on the runway in Edinburgh.
Overall, Spring Break 2015 was a ravishing success. If that rendition of our travels wasn’t enough to convince you, here is a video to prove it.