The Palace of Versailles & a Defense of Marie Antoinette

At the top of my Dream Destinations list since I first saw Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette, I absolutely loved wandering through the Palace of Versailles. The French government allowed Coppola to film on location and I hoped one day to visit not just the Palace, but more importantly (for me) the grounds, and the Queen’s Hamlet.

Marie Antoinette (2006).

An all-day adventure, I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit Versailles last summer. It was super-busy inside, but we spent a majority of our time wandering the grounds rather than touring the buildings. This isn’t the best plan for everyone, but I’m glad this was the route we chose.

Walking up to the palace from the subway station.

A beautiful day spent away from the city, definitely visit the Palace of Versailles if you find yourself in Paris.

Palace gates.

Get ready for a little French history, too many pictures, a vehement defense of Coppola’s film, and a discussion on the politics and sexist treatment of Marie Antoinette.

Where are we?

With only a long weekend in Paris, we dedicated an entire day to the Palace of Versailles and the decision was absolutely worth it. We traveled from our apartment in Montmartre to Versailles–about an hour commute by metro–and even glimpsed a view of the Eiffel Tower as we switched train lines. Taking the metro was definitely the cheapest and preferred method of travel, even if the journey was a little longer than if we would have gone by car.

We also booked our tickets wayyyyy in advance, which I recommend as they sell out–especially in the summer–and as we purchased prior, were able to skip (the very long) entrance queue. For us, touring the Palace was nice, but so crowded that it made even the largest indoor spaces feel claustrophobic; I much preferred walking the grounds and seeing the gardens, Hamlet, and the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. Pro tips: You can spend all day here, so pack snacks, sunscreen, and have a travel plan! There’s a lot to see and time can move quickly as you walk the grounds.

The Palace of Versailles:

The Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles):

Originally a hunting lodge, Louis XIII decided to expand the area in 1661. The grounds were also developed by landscape architect André Le Nôtre to include fountains and gardens.
The Palace was further enlarged from 1678-1715.
The first Chateau, built by Louis Le Vau (1661-1968) was further embellished by Hardouin-Mansart (1679-1681).
King Louis XV moved his residence and the French government to Versailles when he became of age (after originally taking the throne at five years old) where it was also the home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette until the revolution in 1789.
Princess Adélaïde’s bedroom.
The Palace was the location for the signing of the three Peace of Paris treaties (1783) where the United Kingdom recognized United States sovereignty.
Following the siege of the Palace, the grounds were closed and all works of art were transferred to the Louvre. In 1793, the royal property that remained was sold at auction.
The Fountain of Latona.

The Hamlet of Marie Antoinette (Hameau de la Reine):

Built for Marie Antoinette in 1783, the Queen’s Hamlet is located near the Petit Trianon and was used as a retreat. The Hamlet aligned more with the Austrian court, which valued privacy, a direct opposition to French traditions. This caused a lot of issues for Marie as many felt she was snubbing the French.
The retreat includes a number of buildings, gardens, lakes, and even a mill on a pond. This mini village produced milk and eggs for the Queen and her friends.
The mill.
Cottage garden.
While seen as expensive, the cost for Marie’s Hamlet was actually less than many other royal retreats of the time.
A hidden grotto.
The flowers were beautiful.

The Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon:

The Petit Trianon was created from 1763-1768 by Ange-Jacues Gabriel for Louis XV. Each side of the building is different.
Louis XVI gifted the Petit Trianon to his wife, Marie Antoinette.
The French Gardens of the Petit Trainon (Jardin Français du Petit Trianon).
Another view of the Petit Trianon.
Marie Antoinette commissioned the Temple of Love (the rotunda seen here) in 1777.
The ceiling of the Temple of Love.
Located in the northwestern part of grounds, the Grand Trianon was built as a retreat for Louis XIV in 1670.
During 1663 and 1665, Louis XIV purchased a hamlet at the edge of Versailles and commissioned Louis Le Vau to design a pavilion at the space.
Originally made of porcelain, Louis XIV ordered the pavilion to be demolished in 1686. New construction started in 1687 and was completed in 1688.
The Grand Trianon was abandoned during the French Revolution; the space was later occupied by Napoleon.

A Defense of the film Marie Antoinette (2006) and the last Queen of France:

“With its commentaries on gender, women’s agency, reproduction and female friendships, Marie Antoinette is surprisingly deeper and more feminist than many realize. Sofia Coppola created a lush and sumptuous indulgence for the eyes. More importantly, by humanizing the doomed queen and adding modern touches, Coppola reminds us of the gender constraints women throughout history and today continually endure.”

Kearns, Megan. 2012. “In Defense of ‘Marie Antoinette’: Sofia Coppola’s Re-Imagining Surprisingly Feminist.” The Opinioness. Available here.

I first saw Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in 2006 and immediately fell in love with the music, costumes, and story of France’s last queen. The film was met with mixed reviews–including an entire booing of the movie by French critics when it debuted at Cannes–and people both loved and hated the 80s-inspired-occasionally-true-take on Marie’s life.

Like many movies drenched in pink and/or including songs by Bow Wow Wow, but definitely most stories about the lives of teenage women, the film was largely written off as superficial and cliche. Critics of Marie Antoinette complained about the lack of substance in Coppola’s film:

“The politics of Marie Antoinette have to be read through the costumes, through the fascination with the objects, because it’s about a woman being turned into an object that is traded among this hierarchical, patriarchal society, and this very strange world she’s thrown into. She’s a child, and completely unequipped to deal with these things. I think Coppola’s fascination with adolescence in transition moments obviously drew her to this story. But it was infuriating to see that all people could say about it was it was this frivolous, ridiculous, MTV/New Romantics-style music video that was modeled on Coppola’s own life. It was pathetic! Is that the best you can do as a critical reading? It deserved more.”

Aylmer, Olivia Lindsay. 2019. “Reevaluating the Gross Misunderstanding of Sofia Coppola’s Cinematic Oeuvre.” Dazed. Available here.

As flashy as the movie can be–and it is almost on that Baz Luhrmann Moulin Rouge level–the underlying complexity of the characters, their modern-ish costumes, and contemporary music allow viewers to connect more with the historically-adjacent story, rather than if the plot was purely historical.

Marie Antoinette is the story of both a woman denied a voice—as evidenced by the fact Antoinette (played with a cheerful determination by Kirsten Dunst) doesn’t have a substantial line until nearly 40 minutes into the film—and those okay with maintaining the status quo. (See: Louis XVI, played with perfect distraction by Jason Schwartzman, who rather played with keys than be bothered to engage with his wife.)

‘This is ridiculous,’ Antoinette tells her attendees during a protracted morning dressing ceremony that requires the highest-ranking royal in the room to help her dress. ‘This, madam, is Versailles,’ she’s informed.

Even when an angry mob forces her family to flee Versailles (they would be become the figureheads for France’s debut and social problems and were eventually executed in 1793), Coppola shows Antoinette as woman who has earned her place in the royal hierarchy, but is still not understood or fully valued.”

Studarus, Laura. 2018. “Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is a Tragic Feminist Hero.” CR Fashion Book. Available here.

For me, the simple dialogue portrays the struggle of a person as conflicting and controversial as Marie Antoinette. On one hand, she is the privileged queen of France, with more wealth and perceived freedom than any other woman in the country. However, she is also held to the same stifling standard as other Frenchwomen of the time, albeit with the most publicity. Her purpose is to have children and society requires her to be passive with a reliance on men, as well as an expectation of dependence and maintaining the status quo of this role she often resented.

“As feminist historians have been persuasively insisting for years now, the queen met with this fate because she was a foreign woman who repeatedly overstepped the boundaries circumscribing French royal—and feminine—behavior.”

Weber, Caroline. 2006. “I Don’t Want Candy: The Uses and Abuses of Marie Antoinette. The George Washington University: Columbian College of Arts & Sciences. Available here.

Here’s the thing: Marie Antoinette’s story can be seen as just another poor-little-rich-girl tragedy, but honestly should we feel sorry for a queen that seemingly ignored the famine and injustice that gave rise to the unrest ultimately ending with her execution?

Yes and no.

Like most women during this time, Marie was valued for her body and what her body could produce: an heir to the throne. She was publicly blamed for the seven years it took to consummate her marriage, while her husband, Louis XVI–more concerned with hunting and making keys–largely escaped accountability for the couple’s failure to have sex. Under pressure from her family and the court to adhere to the standards of the day, Marie mostly conformed to the ridiculous expectations set for her as Queen: accept the status quo, look pretty, and have children. She also pushed those same boundaries, ultimately leading to further vilification by the press.

While her cage was gilded and her life privileged, Marie Antoinette suffered the same restrictions as other women during her time. Sexism in pre-revolution France was as much a part of society as most places across the world. Seen as “passive citizens” women could not vote, hold political office, and were dependent on men to make decisions “in their best interests”; their roles were focused squarely in the home and banned from the political sphere. Even greater pressure was put on the Queen–who was already deemed untrustworthy because she wasn’t French–to uphold that expectation.

“’She was a girl surrounded by grown-ups who wanted things from her and judged her, and she didn’t exactly know what people expected from her,’ Ms. Dunst said during a lunch break, in sweats and her pink-cheeked Marie Antoinette makeup and giant hair. ‘I could relate to that kind of loneliness.'”

Hohenadel, Kristin. 2006. “French Royalty as Seen by Hollywood Royalty.” The New York Times. Available here.

The film is largely apolitical–meant more as a look into the life of a queen at Versailles–but Coppola does use the minimal discussions on politics to her advantage. Louis XVI casually continues to provide funds to the Americans for their revolution as a way to stick it to the British but at the expense of his own treasury and citizens. France continued to hemorrhage funds to support the American Revolution–raising taxes on the poor as the church and nobility were exempt from these increases–and Marie’s perceived extravagant spending was seen as the cause of starvation in the country. As the French Revolution loomed, blame was largely (and unfairly) placed on Marie as the source for a majority of the country’s problems: debt, famine, and the privileges enjoyed by the elite at the expense of the poorer classes.

Falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette, the “let them eat cake” response to the shortage of bread in France furthered the disdain for the Queen.

Newspapers published false stories of the Queen’s affairs with her closest friends and attributed her “deviant” behavior as stemming from her German background. During the Women’s March of 7,000 people to Versailles, many of the protesters discussed bringing the King to his rightful home in Paris, while calling for the execution of the Queen.

“When money is tight, they don’t stop spending. And yet Marie Antoinette is the ‘Queen of Debt.’ It’s easier to blame the woman you’ve told to be dripping in diamonds for dripping in diamonds when the coffers are dry…

Marie Antoinette becomes what she was always going to become: a spoiled rich woman with no sense of how the world worked outside her palace.”

Saxena, Jaya. 2018. “Does Marie Antoinette Hold Up?” GQ. Available here.

Following her capture and trial, Marie Antoinette was pronounced guilty of depleting the treasury and treasonous behavior of working with the enemy. The charges of engaging in orgies at the palace were dropped. Polite to the very end, her last words were to the executioner: “Pardon me, sir, I did not do it on purpose,” as she accidentally stepped on his shoe.

Marie Antoinette is a conflicting figure. While she saw charity work as vital, she overlooked and was ignorant to the oppression of her people. Like every other royal of the time, Marie Antoinette was extravagant, privileged, and wealthy. She did not want to lose her position or yield to the demands of the revolution. But she was also cast as a villain: she refused to tolerate many of the traditions of the royal family in France, was seen as a foreign spy by the citizens of her country, and displayed her own independence through fashion, building her own space in Versailles, and taking on a bigger role in government, much to the disdain of both the court and citizens of France. She was a child bride used as a pawn for peace among bitter rivals and was unfairly demonized for stepping outside of society’s predetermined role of mother and wife by continuously speaking up to various councils as her husband failed to act.

“The whole point of the French Revolution was that no one in Versailles knew what the hell was going on outside of Versailles. It’s not just a story about a beautiful queen, but the way we trap women with our expectations, and punish them when they live up to them.

I’m no Marie Antoinette apologist. We should still eat the rich.”

“Saxena, Jaya. 2018. “Does Marie Antoinette Hold Up?” GQ. Available here.

Obviously Marie Antoinette had many shortcomings; we shouldn’t forget the level of entitlement possessed by the Queen of France. However, like many women in positions of power even today, she was unfairly demonized by those who saw an independent woman operating outside of society’s predetermined role and expectations of her as a threat. Feminism, particularly white feminism, fails to address the intersectionality of race, class, and ability. I do not mean to over-represent the struggle of a rich, white woman as the face of feminism here, but merely to show how history–as defined by patriarchal powers–unfairly represents women during their time and the impact of that narrative today.

It should also be noted that the French Revolution failed to implement any policies that protected women’s rights; equality was denied by the ruling party–the Jacobin Club–that rejected social reform for women in large part due to the perceived meddling of Marie Antoinette in political affairs. Male supremacy continued and was further perpetrated by the Napoleonic Code.

At the same time, the newly independent United States of America was codifying sexism and racism in the Constitution.

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Currently:
Listening: Floodlines (The Atlantic)
Reading: Sun and Rain (Ana Ros)
Watching: Mrs. America (Hulu)

“Victory is Equality”: Paris, France

View in Montmarte

Last summer Chris and I spent a long weekend in Paris for the World Cup (USA vs. Chile). We had fun exploring the city while also attending our first women’s soccer football match.

 Hôtel de Ville is the home of the city’s local administration and was completed in 1357.

This was my first time in Paris–only my second time in France–and because of our limited time in the city I was forced to narrow down what we could see on our visit. With a day spent in Versailles and a second at the match, we were pretty limited with what we could fit into our remaining day and a half in the city. Sadly, the catacombs were closed on our only available day for a tour, so that will have to be scheduled for our next trip to France’s capital.

The Pantheon (“Temple of the “Republic”) was built in 1791 and was originally a church.
Latin Quarter

I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to not only visit, but also see the US women play in person. Paris is beautiful (no shocker there) and I was admittedly a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and all there it is to do. Here’s the thing: You can definitely feel the pressure to “check items off the list” but my recommendation is to pick what is both feasible and interesting for you and go that route!

Also an excuse to post Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge gifs.

Where are we?

The largest and most populous city in France, Paris is known for its architecture and art, along with being one of the most expensive cities in the world (second only to Singapore in 2018). There is so much to see and do! We used the subway system as much as possible not only to save money but also sustainability things; opened in 1900, the metro is the second busiest in the world with over five million passengers daily.

Porte Saint Denis was built in 1672 and is 24 meters (80 feet) tall.

Known as “the City of Light” for both the role the city played in the Age of Enlightenment and literally as one of the first European locations to use gas lighting on a large scale, the area of Paris was first inhabited by the Parisil, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones around 3rd century BC and was first named Lutetua.

In 1901, the city’s population grew to over two million inhabitants including a number of artists from around the world–painter Pablo Picasso and author Marcel Proust–and after WWI, the city continued to be a mecca for artists: Josephine Baker, Allen Ginsberg, and Ernest Hemingway, among so many others. African American artists including Baker and acclaimed author James Baldwin found Paris to be an escape from the segregation and injustice they faced in America during this time.

On June 14th, 1920, the Nazis marched into Paris and ordered French police to arrest the city’s Jewish population. 12,844 people were detained (including over four thousand children) for five days before being sent to Auschwitz; none of the children survived. Today France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, although with growing anti-Semitic violence in the country, many have relocated to other countries in the past five years.

Tour Saint-Jacques (Saint-Jacques Tower) is the only remaining building of the Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. Built in 1509 and demolished in 1797 during the French Revolution, the tower is 52 meters (171 feet) tall.

With over 1803 monuments, 173 museums, and 450 gardens and parks throughout the city, Paris offers something for any visitor. Thankfully, we saw a couple of monuments, gardens, and of course cemeteries, while in the city. Paris is first in the world for number of libraries–830!–but unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit any; add it to the list for our next visit!

One of the best aspects of visiting Paris was merely wandering around the city, of course my favorite pastime. Meandering the beautiful streets, armed with coffee and a list of eventual destinations, I loved spending our long weekend here.

The Sites:

Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Garden):

Luxembourg Palace was built from 1615-1645, originally as the royal residence for regent Marie de’ Medici, the mother of King Louis XIII, but now is the seat of the Senate of the Fifth Republic (since 1958).
Marie’s palace was inspired by her native Florence. Today the gardens contain 23 hectares and includes a number of statues, fountains, and pathways.
View of the Panthéon from the garden.
We walked the gardens on a beautiful summer day (so thankful for the lovely weather) right after brunch. Much needed after treating ourselves to southern food!

Shakespeare and Company:

Shakespeare and Company was at the top of my must-visit list. First opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919, the store was known as the center for American literature and culture in Paris. Closed in December 1941 as the Germans occupied France–supposedly because Beach refused to give a German officer her last copy of Finnegans Wake, a true queen–this location never re-opened, even after the war ended.
George Whitman opened the new Shakespeare and Company in 1951 on the site of a 16th century monastery. James Baldwin, Allen Ginsburg, William S. Burroughs, and many other literary icons spent time here. A “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore”, the gorgeous shop also includes beds for aspiring writers. Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia (named after Sylvia Beach) currently runs the store. Henry Miller called Shakespeare and Company “a wonderland of books” and I have to agree; I loved this place.
The epitome of a Parisian bookstore.
(Via Gavin Ford)

Place Josephine Baker:

In 2000 this square was named for American Josephine Baker, a performer and spy during WWII. Known for her dancing, Baker called France her second home.

The Moulin Rouge:

The famous red mill of the Moulin Rouge was co-founded by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller and is known as the birthplace of the can-can dance.
Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, John Leguizamo, AND Jim Broadbent?! Truly this film did what the others COULDN’T do.

Notre-Dame de Paris:

The Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire less than a month before we traveled to France. Constructed between 1163-1345, the building was badly damaged when the roof and spire were destroyed in 2019.
The cathedral is currently closed and under renovation with an expected completion date of 2024, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Paris.
One of the larger concerns with the Notre-Dame fire is health impact of the toxic dust created by the burning of the lead used in the cathedral’s roof and spire. 250 tons of lead were burned during the fifteen hour-long blaze.
Teams of scientists are currently working inside of the cathedral: restoring artifacts, attempting to safely remove burned scaffolding, and addressing contamination from the lead.

The Eiffel Tower:

We didn’t actively seek out the Eiffel Tower as I have zero interest in heights whatsoever, but happily we saw Paris’s tallest structure in a number of places. This is the view from the metro station on our way to Versailles.
The “cultural icon” of Paris opened in 1889 and is the most-visited paid monument in the world.
View of the Tower during our walk home from the World Cup.

Cimetière de Montmartre (Montmarte Cemetery):

The third largest necropolis in Paris, the Montmarte Cemetery was opened on January 1st, 1825.
The cemetery is located on an abandoned gypsum quarry that was used as a mass grave during the French Revolution.
Many famous artists are buried here including Emile Zola and Francois Truffant.
Our walk through the cemetery was a nice break from the busy city.
The cemetery is located under the busy Rue Caulaincourt.
Dozens of cats live here! We saw a couple sunning themselves on mausoleums.

View from the Seine:

Other Sites:

Saint Joseph des Carmes was constructed from 1613-1620.
The College of Sorbonne was founded in 1253.
The Paris Opera was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV.
Les Grands Boulevards
Nicolas Flamel’s former house is the oldest stone home in the city of Paris and was built in 1407. Legend holds that Flamel discovered the Philosopher’s Stone and was the inspiration behind the first Harry Potter novel that featured the Stone’s Elixer of Life.
59 Rivoli is a must-visit! It was unfortunately closed while we were in Paris, but we saw how the famous “artist-squat” was decorated for the World Cup: a banner stating “la victoire est l’égalité” meaning “victory is equality”.
59 Rivoli was renovated by the city and reopened in 2009 . The building includes six stories of artist studios and is known for its changing facade.

World Cup Match:

Attending a World Cup match was an absolute dream come true. I still can’t believe we were lucky enough to see the US women play in person.
Again, so thankful for this opportunity and the gorgeous weather. We traveled to the match by metro but walked home, using the crowded public transportation as an excuse to see more of the city.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Soul Kitchen:

Soul Kitchen offered the space I was looking for while in Paris–a bistro table on the sidewalk complete with great coffee and a beautiful view of the city. The restaurant’s interior is absolutely adorable with a ton of great brunch options and a menu written on a door that is brought to you when you order.

Break Time:

Ah, kebabs. Thankfully there were two kebeb restaurants near our hotel and Break Time was an inexpensive and convenient stop for a quick meal. They offered kebabs in cheese naan bread (!!) that was awesome.

Treize au Jardin:

My famous number one brunch of 2019 was enjoyed at Treize au Jardin. I essentially planned our trip around brunch and soccer, obviously.
Southern brunch is one of the things I miss most about living in Charleston. Treize au Jarden did not disappoint with their version of tomato pie (my all-time favorite breakfast food) and pimento cheese biscuits.
Still dreaming of this adorable cafe. AN ABSOLUTE MUST-VISIT. Take my word on this.

La Recyclerie:

I absolutely loved La Recyclerie! Located in Montmartre, this former train station turned restaurant/cafe/work-space takes sustainability seriously. The space includes DIY workshops, seed swaps, and while we were there, a community activism discussion. Reused mismatched furniture and a view of the restaurant’s garden and chickens made this a cozy spot for coffee (only a Euro a cup! In Paris!).
Not to mention their affordable cocktails.
The restaurant’s menu changes daily based on the availability of their urban farm. I had a lovely vegetable pasta our last night in the city.

🤍Paris

Currently:
Reading: Busted in New York and Other Essays (Darryl Pinckney)
Listening: Blunderbuss (Third Man Records)

Heights & Ice Cream: Esztergom, Hungary

View of the Esztergom Basilica and Castle from the Danube.

This spring a couple of friends and I traveled to the Hungarian city of Esztergom. Known for its history and beautiful architecture, we had a fun afternoon exploring the old buildings and enjoying delicious food.

From left to right: Casey, Heather, me (and ice cream ha), and Kristin. Casey and Kristin moved back to the states a little after this trip so I’m thankful to have the opportunity to spend the day with them in this beautiful place.

Esztergom is known for its Basilica, which is both the largest church and tallest building in Hungary; this last piece of information was unbeknownst to me when I enthusiastically agreed to a mid-week adventure.

Here’s the thing: my fear of heights has caused me to bail many a staircase in Europe.

Me, realizing that we are in fact climbing this thing.

While there were a couple of tricky, anxiety-inducing moments, I not only climbed the Basilica, but even completed the outdoor walkway around the dome–a huge accomplishment for me! It helps to have supportive friends encouraging you to work through your fears.

That being said, I literally never want to be that high, walking around a huge dome on a narrow, outdoor path, absolutely ever again.

Backpack club!
📷: Casey

Esztergom is a lovely city with beautiful views of the Danube. We only visited for a couple of hours–plenty of time to walk through the Basilica, castle ruins, and grab lunch– but you could definitely spend the whole day exploring this city, one of the oldest in Hungary.

Where are we?

Settlements in the area have been dated back to the end of the Ice Age (!!!), about 20,000 years ago. In 901, the Magyars conquered the Pannonian Basin and the (mostly Slavic) people who lived there. The ruling prince of the Hungarians then named Esztergom his chosen home. Esztergom Castle was built and became the only royal palace in Hungary until the Mongol siege of the city in 1241. During this time, Esztergom was the center for the Hungarian state and religion. Over time the ruling of this area changed hands, although the city remained an important place for commerce and Catholicism.

The Sites:

Basilica of Esztergom:

The Basilica is the largest church in Hungary; its dome reaches the height of 118 meters, making it the tallest building in the country.
Construction on the Basilica started in 1822 and was completed in 1869.
Hungary’s first cathedral was founded at this spot by King Stephen I, who was also crowned here around the year 1000.
View from the Danube. See that little walkway around the tallest dome? I can’t believe I completed that entire route! Believe me, the handrail is not in the most put-your-mind-at-ease-that-you-won’t-fall-off condition.
Me, mentally preparing to climb these open stairs before the dome. YIKES. We climbed a total of 360 steps to reach the top.
📷: Casey

Castle Hill:

Built on the remains of a Roman Castrum, Esztergom Castle was commissioned by Geza I of Hungary and finished in the 1070s.
View from Esztergom Castle.
Whole portions of the Castle were destroyed during the Turkish Wars.

Bakócz Chapel:

The Bakócz Chapel (built in 1507) was only partially destroyed by the Turks. It is one of the most significant Renaissance buildings in Hungary.

Basilica Entrance:

Entrance to the Basilica

Mária Valéria Bridge & Víziváros:

Víziváros (Watertown) was built on the banks of the Kis and Nagy Duna (Small and Great Danube) and includes a number of historical sites including the Christian Museum and Balassa Bálint Museum.
The Mária Valéria Bridge connects the Hungarian city of Esztergom and the Slovakian city of Štúrovo across the River Danube. Named for Archduchess Mária Valéria of Austria, the bridge originally opened in 1895 but was destroyed both in 1919 and 1944.
The bridge was not rebuilt until 2001 due to issues between the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian governments. The European Union covered half of the costs through a 10 million Euro grant as a way to assist countries preparing to join the EU.
📷 : Heather
On the bridge!
📷 : Heather and Kristin
View of the Esztergom Basilica and Castle from the Mária Valéria bridge.

Restaurants:

Esztergomi Prímási Pincerendszer:

Prímás Pince is a gorgeous restaurant and wine cellar near the Basilica. We were able to order lunch without a reservation and the menu had options for vegetarians and meat-eaters. We shared the strawberry dessert and it was delicious.

Easy Living:

I completely forgot to take pictures of our ice cream, but Easy Living is a great little shop right on the Danube and next to a beautiful park. Our ice cream server took pity on our sorry Hungarian pronunciations.
📷 : Heather

This was a lovely trip to see more of Hungary and I’m so glad we had a chance to visit before Kristin and Casey moved back the US.

View from Esztergom Castle
Backpack crew ❤
📷 : Heather

Read more about Casey’s amazing travel adventures here. Kristin’s beautiful photography portfolio can be seen on her site.
Stay tuned for the Heather and Ashlyn podcast coming soon 😉

Currently:


Reading: Shut Up You’re Pretty (Tea Mutonji)
Watching: Unbelievable (Netflix)
Listening: Buried Truths Season 2 (WABE Atlanta)

Library, Pub, & Gymnastics: Stuttgart, Germany

Hi beautiful place.

This spring we traveled to Stuttgart, Germany to attend the FIG World Cup for my birthday. My first time in Stuttgart, the trip included three of my travel favorites: library, pubs, and a cemetery (plus bonus this time–my first elite gymnastics competition). I saw the queens of the sport (Simone Biles AND Aliya Mustafina) along with wandering this beautiful city.

Simone being a badass as always.

We stayed a little outside the very center of Stuttgart and I preferred that location over the touristy area of Schlossplatz. Our street had so many adorable restaurants and shops–definitely recommend staying near the Lehen neighborhood if you don’t mind putting in the extra steps on your Fitbit.

We loved our Airbnb! Woke up to fresh flowers each day.

Pro tip: Stuttgart (and Germany in general) has great public transport available and journeys are MUCH cheaper than an Uber ride (save that money for extra spätzle!) Our way home was pure Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: bus to the train station, train to the airport, plane to Vienna, car from Vienna to Hungary. All a part of the lovely adventure.

Hard to choose just one gif from this iconic film.

Where are we?

The sixth largest city in Germany, the area of Stuttgart is spread across a number of hills. Commonly described as “zwischen Wald und Reben” (“between forest and vines”) due to the close proximity of the Black Forest and the city’s numerous wineries, Stuttgart is definitely a walkable city with some elevation–getting those calf muscles working!

The Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church)

Stuttgart was founded in 950 AD by Duke Liudolf of Swabia (the root of the name derives from the Swabian word Stuotgarten meaning “stud farm”) for the purpose of breeding warhorses. Swabians are Germanic peoples native to the Swabian region of Germany, an area that is now present-day Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

Like most German cities, the population and physical landscape drastically changed during WWII. In 1933 the Gestapo occupied Hotel Silber, a site used to torture, detain, and transport political prisoners. The Old Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) and in 1934, the Nazis began to arrest members of the Jewish population of Stuttgart; many were deported to the prison camp in Welzheim or to the Dachau concentration camp. From 1941-1945, more than 2,000 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Riga, and Izbica; only 180 survived the war.

Stuttgart was heavily bombed by Allied forces throughout the war. On September 12th, 1944, the Royal Air Force dropped over 184,000 bombs on the city. The attack completely destroyed Stuttgart’s center and killed 957 people. Overall, the city was hit by 53 bombing raids, which leveled nearly sixty percent of the city and killed 4,477 of Stuttgart’s inhabitants. Following the end of the war, the rubble in the city was used to build Birkenhopf, an artificial hill that is now the highest point in Stuttgart and a memorial to those who died during WWII.

We we only had a weekend in Stuttgart, but I think you could spend at least a week in the city and still not see everything on your list. I was bummed to miss the botanical gardens in Wilhema and the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace, but incredibly thankful for the opportunity to see all we did during our visit.

The Sites:

Public Library:

The cube building created for Stuttgart’s Municipal Library was absolutely intentional: “the dimensioning and positioning, detached from their urban context, are a symbol of the significance of the library as a new intellectual and cultural center”. The nine story building was designed by Eun Young Yi and was completed in 2011.
The space is breathtaking to see in person! This is a shot of the “heart” a representation of the meditative center point.
I love this quote from the city: “In earlier years, it was a church or palace that marked the centre point of a town. But in a modern society, it is the significance of a place for individual knowledge and enrichment of experience that takes centre stage. And that is how the library gains more and more significance for society. “
Photo via Totems

Schlossgarten:

Loved taking a walk through this beautiful park in the center of the city! Definitely has some GoT Kingsroad vibes.

Schlossplatz:

Schlossplatz (Palace Square)
Neue Schloss (New Palace) was completed in 1807.
Charles Eugene moved the seat of power back to Stuttgart when he assumed the throne in 1744. The palace was built near the old castle in Schlossplatz.
Allied forces almost completely burned Neue Schloss to the ground in 1944, leaving only the facade. Reconstruction on the building began in 1958 and is currently used by the state government to house the State Ministries of Finance and Education.
Kunstgebäude Gallery featuring the the stag–the state symbol of Württemberg.
View from the Old Palace. Today the area is central to shopping, bars, and restaurants.

Pragfriedhof:

Pragfriedhof is the third largest cemetery in Stuttgart and opened in 1873. We walked the quiet area for about an hour.
The Jewish Cemetery is separate from the larger cemetery (on the outside portion of the fence above). In 1873, following the influx of the Jewish population in Stuttgart, the community was forced to find additional space after the Hoppenlau cemetery was full.
A quiet moment from the busy city, Pragfriedhof is a beautiful place for a break and learn more about the people who once lived here.

Stiftskirche:

Remains of a Romanesque church dating all the way back to the 10th century are currently the structures of the Stitskirche (Collegiate Church). Over time, the building changed and grew; following the end of WWII, the church was rebuilt after it was heavily damaged by bombing raids.

Karlshöhe:

The Karlshöhe area includes a large and beautiful park, along with coffee shops, restaurants, and historical buildings. St. Maria Church is one the highlights of this part of the city.
St. Maria Church was built in 1879. The towers barely survived WWII and were rebuilt in 1949.
Translates to “What’s happening?”
The Stadtlücken initiative is an awesome project by a couple of non-profits in Stuttgart that encourage citizens to be more active in “shaping spaces” within the city as the “city belongs to the people”. This underpass was the site of a couple of different workshops and street art displays while we visited Stuttgart. From their site: “It is a place of coexistence, exchange, culture and conviviality – a place for all, where everyone can contribute, use and shape. ” ❤ ❤ ❤

Restaurants & Pubs:

Kraftpaule:

Stuttgart’s first craft beer bar, Kraftpaule, has a huge selection of their own brews along with beer from all of the world. Their bar is modern and cozy, and includes a solid pub menu featuring nachos and sandwiches.

Ribingurūmu:

A little difficult to find initially, Ribingurūmu is an awesome ruin-bar-esque pub located a short walk from Schlossplatz. The interior is your grandad’s den meets sewing shop/library—obviously my aesthetic.
Photo via Geheimtipp Stuttgart
Also, pomegranates in a vodka/soda? Be still my heart!

Paul & George:

I love finding secret speakeasies! Paul & George is a gorgeous must-visit in Stuttgart. As always, the entrance is a little difficult to find, but worth the extra sleuthing. We both had the espresso martini (inching up the list to become one of my favorite cocktails lately) and one of their specials.
Photo via Julia
Nice to have a little fancy cocktail every so often!

Mata Hari:

Mata Hari is a spacious pub located in the center of Stuttgart. The interior has that same grandad den feel (you’re seeing a pattern here, I’m a old man at heart, clearly) but with a secret skateboard mini ramp in the basement. With both indoor and outdoor space, Mata Hara is a good location for late night (it does fill up quickly) and boasts a solid menu with both meat and veg options.
Photo via Yelp

Misch Misch Coffee:

Hailed as one of the best locations for coffee, we spent a few hours at Misch Misch for breakfast and to get a little work finished. The cafe is gorgeous and their coffee was great. On the smaller side, know you might have to wait for a seat, but with the motto of “let’s fill this town with good coffee” you can’t miss it.

Brauhaus Schönbuch:

Located right on the Palace Square, Brauhaus Schönbuch is a great stop for a solid German lunch or dinner. I ordered spätzle (of course) and Chris had the pork schnitzel.

Kleinigkeit:

We LOVED Kleinigkeit! This adorable cafe offers a small, but awesome breakfast menu (we both ordered eggs benedict) with really great service. They were booked with reservations when we arrived, but allowed us to sit outside and have breakfast. They fill up fast, so make a reservation if you can!

List Cafe:

List Cafe was our final breakfast stop before leaving Stuttgart. A nice cafe with both a German and English menu, we ordered eggs (mine with onion, Chris with ham) and salad. Both were great! Our server was so sweet and gave us extra chocolate “for the trip home” when she saw our bags.

Little Italy Stuttgart:

Hi, can I live here?
I know, I know, Italian food while you’re in Germany? But we couldn’t say no to our Airbnb host’s recommendation of two of her favorite restaurants: Little Italy and Sultan Suray (below).
We don’t have many authentic pizza options in Hungary so this was an awesome treat. Chris and I ordered bruschetta (the best) and pizzas. Best part? Our server wrapped our leftovers for our trip the following day. Loved this place and pizza for the plane.

Sultan Saray:

Here’s the thing: Chris and I absolutely love Turkish food, especially late night Turkish food. We actually had dinner at Sultan Saray twice #sorrynotsorry while in Stuttgart–the dishes are THAT good. They serve authentic Turkish options and a couple of international favorites as well; lots of dishes for vegetarians too!
Photo via Sultan Saray

Shops:

Leckerli Stuttgart:

We happened to randomly walk past Leckerli Stuttgart on our way into the center center. This adorable pet shop has everything from organic pet food and homemade treats to pet beds and bandannas. I picked up a couple of dog suckers, which Porkchop promptly devoured and Arya held onto for dear life.
Arya: “What is this treat and how do I keep my big brother from stealing it?”

Cosima Chiton:

I absolutely adored this little fabric and stationary shop! Cosima Chiton is located in the south of Stuttgart and sells unique sewing supplies, postcards, and writing accessories.
Photo via Prinz Stuttgart

Bonus: Stuttgart World Cup

We attended my first ever elite competition while in Stuttgart (best birthday present ever, Chris!) The World Cup was AMAZING and our seats were great. Unfortunately, my camera is terrible, so these potato-quality photos don’t really do the event justice. In an effort to practice mindfulness and being present, I also only took a a few photos. I’m always trying to document everything, so I tried my best to relax and enjoy the event in real time. I’m.so.glad.I.did.

The competitors included Simone Biles (USA), Ana Padurariu (Canada), Elisabeth Seitz (Germany), Lorette Charpy (France), Aliya Mustafina (Russia), Hitomi Hatakeda (Japan), Kim Bui (Germany), Zsofia Kovacs (Hungary), and Carolyne Pedro (Brazil).

Warm-ups prior to the start of the competition. Simone Biles (in blue) next to one of her coaches, Laurent Landi, Kim Bui (in red and white) with her back to the picture, Aliya Mustafina (in red, speaking to her coach), and Lorette Charpy (in blue) taking a turn on vault.

This competition was so fun to experience in person! Of course it was amazing to see Olympic champions Biles and Mustafina compete–Simone literally tumbles feet higher than anyone else and Aliya’s bars are one of the prettiest routines in the world–but also so cool to see athletes newer to the scene (Padurariu’s beam was fantastic and she looked as if she was having the time of her life, Charpy’s beam and bars were awesome, and the powerful Pedro finished her day with a great floor performance).

Biles (in blue) warms up on bars alongside 2016 Olympian Zsofia Kovacs (Hungary).

For me, I loved seeing the German athletes compete in their home country. Two-time Olympian Bui is still competing (and looking amazing, especially on bars) at AGE THIRTY. She is currently earning her Master’s Thesis in–wait for it–immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients, specifically engineering protein cells to combat the disease (!!). Elisabeth Seitz, a two time Olympian herself, rocked the arena on both bars and floor to take the bronze medal.

I’m also so thankful for the opportunity to see Kovacs compete in person. The sole Hungarian Olympian for Women’s Gymnastics in 2016, I watched her compete in Rio my very first week in Hungary (thankfully, the hotel we were living in was playing the Olympic Games). She’s had a couple of unfortunate injuries, but hoping to try to help secure a full team for Hungary for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the upcoming World Championships this October.
Aliya, the two time Olympic Champion on bars, gave birth to a baby girl in 2017. She is currently making her elite comeback and looking AMAZING. Her bars are all the heart in the eyes emojis.

❤ Stuttgart. So, so thankful.

The Neckar River
❤ ❤ ❤

Currently:

Reading: Every Day is for the Thief
(Teju Cole)
Watching: The Case Against Adnan Syed
(HBO)
Listening: Reveal: Lasting Impact
(Center for Investigative Reporting)

“A Life Less Ordinary”: Glasgow, Scotland

View from the Glasgow Necropolis

I LOVE GLASGOW. This January we traveled to Scotland’s most populous city to fulfill our teenage dream of seeing Cake play a live show. Wintertime Scotland may sound intimidating, but so worth it.

Pro tip: If you’re cheap like me, traveling off-season is a great way to save money on transportation and accommodations (flights and apartments are usually a lot less expensive) meaning more funds for whiskey and postcards. We’re walkers–our favorite way to travel around a new city is on foot–so we definitely packed our winter-wear for this trip. For me, this meant double leg warmers and wearing something other than flats.

This is a really long post but Glasgow is too amazing to not discuss #allthethings. Get ready for a an extra intense history overview and too many cemetery pictures.

Why “a life less ordinary”? This quote was written on the floor of the entrance to Hillhead Bookclub, where we had dinner our last night in Glasgow. Is this also an excuse to reference Danny Boyle’s 1997 film starring Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, and Holly Hunter? Am I pressuring you to listen to the soundtrack that includes the best version of REM’s Leave? Yes to all those things.

Ewan McGregor is Scottish so I feel like this fits the overall theme.

Where are we?

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland and known for its industrial landscape. While the origin of the name is under debate, it is believed that Glasgow is derived from Middle Gaelic, meaning “green basin”. The city has the largest percentage of Gaelic speakers outside of the Highlands and Islands. Although the indigenous language is not recognized by the United Kingdom or European Union, Gaelic is an important part of Scottish culture and history.

Alexander’s School was built in 1858. I just love the building.

A great source of fishing, the River Clyde and the surrounding areas were settled by many different communities near Glasgow. In the 6th century, Christian missionary Saint Mungo (you know, THE St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries in Harry Potter) established a church where the current Glasgow Cathedral stands.

The Gallery of Modern Art building was previously the mansion of slave owner William Cunninghame. He owned 300 slaves.

Walking through the Merchant City area, I was surprised to see a sign for Virginia Street; ever the pochemuchka (the Russian word for the one who asks too many questions) I had to learn more about the connection between the American south and Glasgow.

Many of the streets and buildings still bear the names of the Tobacco Lords, the group of merchants that made the most profits from transatlantic trade (and some owned plantations in the New World too) although there have been calls to hang plaques to tell the full story.

Buchanan Street, one of Glasgow’s most famous areas, is named for Andrew Buchanan, a Tobacco Lord during the 1700s.

Glasgow became a central trading port following the Acts of Union in 1707–the treaty that combined the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland–and played a large role in transatlantic trade and slavery. A central part of the triangular route, much of Glasgow’s wealth was derived from slave labor:

“There are 19 recorded slave voyages which left from Glasgow’s satellite ports of Greenock and Port Glasgow over a sixty year period from 1706 and 1766 – with these direct voyages estimated to have carried around 2 to 3,000 people directly into slavery.

Yet Glasgow was far, far from being an innocent bystander in the slave trade.

The very reason the Tobacco Lords became successful – and why the city prospered as a result – was because they were able to monopolise the produce grown by slaves on the plantations of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, namely tobacco and sugar. So much so, in fact, that for 50 years from 1740 to 1790, Glasgow became the hub for the world’s tobacco – at times trading more than all the English ports put together.

A trade built almost exclusively on forced slave labour. ”

Williams, Craig. 2018. “The History of Glasgow and its Relationship with the Slave Trade.” Glasgow Live. Available here.
A store front in Merchant City, Glasgow. The “Tobacco Lords” built the area as a testament to their wealth.

While the city profited from slave labor in the New World, many Scots and the University of Glasgow played a large role in the abolitionist movement. Following American independence, Glasgow continued to grow during the Industrialized Revolution, which saw steel making, shipyards, and heavy industry further the development of the city. After WWII, economic decline led to de-industrialization of the city.

Glasgow is known for its architecture; there are a large number of historically and culturally important buildings throughout the city. During the Industrial Revolution, many of Glasgow’s red and blonde sandstone buildings were covered with a black layer of soot from industrial pollution and furnaces. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 and many of the city’s 1,800 buildings were restored to their original appearance.

In 2013 “People Make Glasgow” became the official motto for the city.

The Sites:

University of Glasgow:

Glasgow University Union. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world.
The University is taking steps to reconcile its connection to slavery. They published the Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report in 2018.
It took me a while to find the Cloisters (we actually stumbled upon them after leaving the Hunterian Museum). University of Glasgow graduations are held here.
The Cloisters can be seen in a number of TV shows and movies including Outlander and Cloud Atlas. I actually just saw Cloud Atlas for the first time this summer–thanks Bri!

The People’s Palace:

I loved visiting the People’s Palace! The palace was opened in 1898 in an overly crowded part of the city with the intent of providing a cultural center its inhabitants. The site features a museum and gallery of the social history of Glasgow.
Smudge, the celebrity cat of the palace, was “employed” in 1979 by the museum to control the rat population. In the 1980s, following NALGO’s (National and Local Government Officers’ Association) denial of her admission as a blue collar worker, she was granted membership to the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Trade Union. She passed away in 2000, but lives on through the plaque dedicated to her services.

George Square:

George Square was named after King George III and developed around 1790.
Originally a pasture and unpaved road used to bring cattle for milking, the area grew rapidly during the 1750s from the influx of wealth from cotton, sugar, and tobacco from the New World. It is now the principle civic square for the city.

Glasgow Cathedral:

The Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis are absolute must-sees if you’re planning a trip to Glasgow.

The Glasgow Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow.
The University of Glasgow held classes at the Cathedral before it was established in 1451.

Glasgow Necropolis:

I know its incredibly morbid but I love visiting cemeteries. The Glasgow Necropolis is one of the city’s most famous sites. Between 1831-1851 over 50,000 people were buried here.
The Victorian Glasgow Necropolis opened in 1833 as an interdenominational burial ground.
The first person buried here was Joseph Levi, a Jewish jeweler.
Me right before I slipped and fell 100% in the mud. Classic Ashlyn.
Architectural historian and architect James Stevens Curl described the Necropolis as “literally a city of the dead”.
In typical Victorian style, the layout of the Necropolis is similar to a park, with multiple paths and 3,500 statues and sculptures.
The view from the Necropolis includes the Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Ashton Lane:

Absolutely beautiful Ashton Lane! The street is lined with a number of great bars and restaurants including Brel, Innis & Gunn, and Ubiquitous Chip.

Glasgow Botanical Gardens:

One of my favorite places in Glasgow! The Botanical Gardens are over 200 years old and were established by Thomas Hopkirk, a Glasgow botanist.
Jurassic Park vibes.

More Beautiful Places:

Bath Street
Woodlands Methodist Church
View from Kelvingrove Park
St. George’s Place

Restaurants & Pubs:

Drygate Brewing:

Located right next to the Glasgow Necropolis, Drygate Brewing is a great spot for a beer after a day of exploring (or drying off if you fall in the mud and are covered in muck from head to toe like I was).
We had the Seven Peaks (IPA) and the Disco Forklift Truck (pale ale).

Innis and Gunn:

We loved Innis and Gunn! They had a great menu with a ton of vegetarian and meat options, plus good beer too. Chris ordered the burger (of course).
Halloumi fries with peanut sauce—so good! I love halloumi anything but this was the first time I had the option of this salty cheese in fry form (highly recommend). This is probably my second favorite Halloumi dish after I ordered a vegetarian kebab in Prague that included both halloumi AND falafel.
Thai fried cauliflower
Halloumi flatbread (you’re sensing a theme now right?).

Chinaski’s:

An amazing secret speakeasy in Glasgow, Chinaski’s is named for Charles Bukowski’s alter ego and the space is a small homage to the American writer. We LOVED this spot and had to order their truffle fries and macaroni and cheese along with our cocktails. Absolutely highly recommend!

Akbar’s Glasgow:

Akbar’s is a huge restaurant with an enormous menu. We stopped for dinner with the intention of heading out after but were so filled with good food (garlic and cheese naan bread?!) that we ended up calling it a night because nothing could top dinner. This (horrible) picture is their palak and paneer dish with a side of the amazing naan bread. SO GOOD.

Hillhead Bookclub:

The description for Hillhead Bookclub is one of the best you’ll find: a licensed land of milk & honey where the ping-pong is plentiful, the computer games are retro, the cocktails arrive in gramophones and the strawberry mojitos cost nought but 3 pounds. We went for dinner on our last night (sad face) and ordered sandwiches (amazing).
With double floors (including a top floor of just vintage games and pool), I really loved Hillhead Bookclub. I wish we could have tried their brunch but alas left before the weekend.

McCune Smith:

Named for James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a medical degree (he graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1837), this small cafe was established by two brothers near the “old college” to showcase local and sustainably grown Scottish ingredients .
Chris and I ordered matching sandwiches: the Scottish take on a Reuben (mine veg and his with meat). So good! The ladies behind the counter were also arguing whether or not Merissa from the OC was a tragic figure and I almost just asked for a job application right then.
I just loved the atmosphere of this cafe. “A little history in every bite” is definitely a motto I can live by.

Artisan Roast:

Artisan Roast was our first coffee stop in Glasgow. The barista gave me a confused look when I ordered cold brew in January, but I wanted something cold after walking in my sweater+leg warmers+extra socks+boots. Their coffee was great and we loved the laid back vibe of the area too. They also plated “Cannonball” by the Breeders; a song I haven’t heard since roughly 1999.

Papercup Coffee Company:

Genuinely great coffee and an awesome brunch menu, we walked a solid mile and a half to Papercup because I read how they serve some of the best coffee in Glasgow. They were also playing the Juno soundtrack so extra bonus points for them! It’s a small space but totally worth the trek and waiting for a table.

++Special shout out to the Old Ship Bank pub in Glasgow too! We stopped by to use the bathroom and ended up hanging out with an older gentleman named James, a native of Glasgow, for hours. He told us about the history of the area, current politics, and his excitement for a date he had scheduled for the next day. The pub was awesome and just felt so Glasgow… that’s the only way I can explain the atmosphere. The entire space was filled with people who just returned from a funeral and, according to James, this is “typical” for natives of Glasgow.

Bookstores:

Voltaire and Rousseau:

Voltaire & Rousseau is located on the small street of Otago Lane, hidden behind old bicycles near the entrance. I. Love. This. Shop. While there may have been some kind organization when Voltaire & Rousseau originally opened, as owner David Yeats says, “things fall apart.” Virtually impossible to find a title you’re looking for, but I think the point of the shop is to feel like you’re actually swimming in a sea of books, an experience I can get behind.

I ❤ Glasgow

Moulin Rouge vibes

Don’t forget that you can download the MWA Map and have all of my food/pub/sites/bookstore recommendations with you whenever you travel.

Currently:
Reading: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay)
Watching: Big Little Lies Season 2 (HBO)
Listening: Burn it all Down

Oranges and Palaces: Seville, Spain

Royal Alcázar of Seville.

Our December adventure continued as we flew from Lisbon to Seville. Lonely Planet’s Top City of 2018, we wanted a warm, relaxing place to visit between the blizzards in Ohio (where we were prior to Portugal) and the cold weather in Hungary. This was my first trip to Spain and I LOVED so many things that Seville has to offer: beautiful architecture, good food, a ton of walkable green spaces, and the site for Game of Thrones‘s Dorne.

Get ready for all the GoT gifs.

Where are we?

Located in southern Spain, Seville (pronounced Suh-vee-yah) is known for its well preserved historical sites and streets lined with beautiful trees filled with bitter oranges. The city is over 2,200 years old (!!) and the landscape shows the impacts of the many cultures that have influenced the development of the city over time. The earliest signs of humans living in the area dates all the way back to 8th century BC when Seville was still an island (geology that I am not even going to try to explain #knowyourlimitations).

Las Setas (The Mushrooms) was constructed in 2004 and is the largest timber framed structure in the world.

Originally founded by the Romans (and named Hispalis) the area was renamed Ishbiliyya following the Muslim conquest in 712. Muslim rule ended in 1248 after the area was taken over by the Christian Kingdom of Castile under Ferdinand III. The transitions between cultures and religions can be seen in a number of buildings throughout the city.

In 1478, the first tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition took place in Seville. Following Columbus’s expedition to the New World, Spain became a political powerhouse. Due largely to its location on the Quadalquivir River, in 1503 Seville was the only city given the monopoly for trade with the Spanish colonies and taxation of goods (and people) through the port. This was the “Golden Age” for Seville as the economy grew due to the the imports from the Spanish colonies, particularly gold and silver. By the 16th century a number of factors ended Seville’s Golden Age: the Great Plague of Seville killed nearly half of the city’s now booming population, the New World port monopoly was broken when the city of Cadiz was also given access, and the loss of the Spanish colonies in America.

I wanted to share the lesser-known story of the people that were forcibly sent from America to Europe and sold into bondage. The first victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were brought from Cuba and sold in Seville: the indigenous Taíno were not only the first New World natives to meet Christopher Columbus, but also the first of the Caribbean indigenous groups sold as slaves in Seville. The colonization (and resulting genocide) of the New World was profitable for Spain (and Seville).

I know, I know, this is a pretty heavy history introduction. I promise this post has a lot of fun information too, but I also wanted to include these important historical stories as well. They’re important and they matter.

Unofficial fact: Sevillanos and I have the same color–mustard yellow.

Seville’s official motto is N08DO: “No me ha dejado“, which translates to “She (Seville) will not abandon me.” You can see the sentiment across the city.

The Sites:

Canal Walk Near Arsenal:

This beautiful day we walked alongside the canal near the Arsenal neighborhood.
Triana Bridge
Canal de Alfonso XIII
Love this beautiful place! Can you spot the mustard yellow??

Torre del Oro:

The Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) was built in 1200 by Abu Elda.

Parque de María Luisa:

Again, one of these places where photos simply can’t do enough justice for how gorgeous the landscape is in real life.
The park is Seville’s principal green area and is a short walk from the Guadalquivir River.
The grounds were donated by the Duchess of Montpensier in 1893.
Chris and Karl: “When is Super Smash Brothers being released in Spain? Is there a kebab stand in this park?”

Plaza de España:

I think Heather and I could have spent hours here. Absolutely breathtaking!
Located in Parque de María Louisa, the Plaza was built in 1928.
The Plaza is a mix of Art Deco, Spanish Renaissance Revival, Spanish Baroque Revival, and Neo-Mudéjar architecture.
The walls of the Plaza have tiled alcoves, each representative of different Spanish provinces. These alcoves also contain bookshelves with books on that particular region. Visitors are encouraged to take a book and leave one of their own, so these “free little libraries” continuously change!
The Plaza was also the site for Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Forever one of the best gifs on the internet.

Seville Cathedral:

Seville Cathedral is the largest church in the world. Technically by size it is ranked third, but because the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida (Brazil) and St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City) are not seats of bishops, Seville Cathedral tops the list.
The cathedral was first built as a mosque prior to the Christian conquest of Seville. Construction on the grand mosque started by Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Ysuf in 1172 and was completed in 1198.
Ferdinand III converted Yaqub Yusuf’s mosque into the cathedral for the city.
In 1401, Christian leaders decided to build a bigger cathedral on the site: “Hagamos una Iglesia tan hermosa y tan grandiosa que los que la vieren labrada nos tengan por locos” (“Let us build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will take us for mad”).
Construction on the site was delayed until 1434 and finished in 1506.
The La Giralda (bell tower) was previously the main minaret for the mosque. It was converted to the cathedral in 1248 but still maintains many of its Moorish features.

Alcázar de Seville:

The term “Alcázarderives from the Arabic word al-qaṣr” meaning “the castle”. The palace is absolutely beautiful and you can spend hours walking the gardens.
Also the site for Dorne, one of the seven kingdoms of Westeros in HBO’s Game of Thrones. So excited to tour this beautiful site (and let’s be honest, an excuse to find the best Ellaria Sand gifs).
The Christian basilica of Saint Vincent was first built on the plot.
In 712, the Umayyad Caliphate took over Seville and destroyed the basilica to use the site for military work. During the 12th century, under Abbadid rule, the area became the site of Al-Muwarak, a large palace the doubled the size of the space.
Then, under the Almohads, new buildings were constructed on the space for the now residence of the Caliph and the court.
Pictures just don’t do this beautiful place justice.
Following the Castilian conquest of Seville, the Abbadid fortress was destroyed and the palace was for Christian king Peter of Castile built in its place.
The palace and gardens have Christian, Muslim, and Jewish influences.
Today Reales Alcázares de Sevilla is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe; the royal family still uses the top levels as their official residence.
One of my favorite locations I’ve experienced in Europe.
Okay last GoT reference, I promise.

Restaurants & Pubs:

Taqueria La Lupe:

Fresh jalapenos! What a treat after living in eastern Europe for so long.
Homemade tortillas, fresh ingredients, and a solid carnivore and vegetarian menu, Taqueria La Lupe is a great taco spot.

La Jeronima:

A spot for brunch, books, and craft beer! What else do you need in the world?
La Jeronima famously made the top three of my favorite brunches of 2018 list. Stuffed croissant for me and a ham toastie for Chris.

La Tradizionale Pizza:

Great for a late night slice of pizza or empanada, La Tradizionale is an awesome spot for a post dinner snack. Be warned, the lady at the counter will not be easy on your spotty Spanish skills.

Taberna del Dragón Verde:

A bar specializing in all things dragons and swords, we went to Taberna del Dragón Verde after dinner (based solely on the name, obviously) and had a lot of fun.

And, of course, ice cream:

A Heather and Ashlyn staple

Highly recommend Seville! We had so much fun wandering the city and snacking on churros (just don’t eat the oranges!).

That amazing mustard yellow though…

Currently:

Reading: Malawi’s Sisters (Melanie Hatter)

Watching: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Pastries All Day: Lisbon, Portugal

View of Lisbon from the castle.

Last winter we had the amazing opportunity to travel with our two favorite exploring friends, Heather and Karl, on our now annual European trip. Chris and I had just spent nearly a month in the US and were able to tack on (always the planner!) a short trip to Portugal and Spain before heading home. Our vacations together are very much walk around+drink wine +play cards+make fun of Philip Rivers and this was no exception.

Loved this weather after weeks in gray Ohio.

Lisbon is a beautiful city to just simply walk through. I like to think of myself as a constant wanderer with an eventual destination. Thankfully, Heather is also in a similar mindset (typical conversation: “what kind of succulents are these? Do you think there is gelato nearby? Wonder what kind of recycling streams they have here?”) much to the chagrin of Chris and Karl, who as Heather says, are always in a hurry to get nowhere.

Pastéis da nata! These pastries were developed in 1837 and remain a staple in Lisbon. For us (minus Chris) these pastries were consumed throughout the day: breakfast, after bus snack, post-dinner snack, random do-you-smell-that-bakery-snack.

Where are we?

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and archeological artifacts show that tribes from all the back to the Neolithic period inhabited the area. The history of the city is absolutely incredible. While Lisbon is recognized as the capital, this designation has never been confirmed officially; its simply the “de-facto” capital of Portugal as the designation was formed through constitutional convention, rather than written form (any other Poli Sci nerds out there fascinated by this? Just me?).

View from our apartment.

Located right at the mouth of the Tagus River, Lisbon is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country. During WWII, as Portugal remained neutral, the country’s dictator, António Salazar, allowed spies from both the Nazis and Allies in Lisbon. The connection supposedly inspired Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond series. The capital also houses the world’s smallest bookstore, although I missed that when I was there.

View of the city from the castle.

The Sites:

First Soccer Match:

Our first match ever! The hometown team Benefica scored four goals on Feirense for the win! The atmosphere was AMAZING and the crowd was awesome. We had great seats (thanks Karl!) and a rowdy group in front of us actually broke a few of the seats on accident. You can watch the highlights and look for us here!

Wandering this Beautiful City:

We stayed in the historic district of Alfama which is absolutely beautiful but also meant we were working those calves climbing up all the narrow streets (worth it!).
View from our street.
I love the holidays in Europe. Every street was decorated and bright.

The Waterfront:

Wandering aimlessly. I loved living near the coast for ten years and I really miss views like this now that I live in a landlocked country.
Tagus River.
Love these painted and stacked rocks.
Chris: “Where are they? When are we playing Borderlands?”

Praça do Comércio:

The Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is located on the river. On the right is the Statue of King José I that was finished in 1775.
Special holiday edition of the plaza.
A closeup of the Rua Augusta Arch that was completed in 1873.

Rua Nova do Carvalho:

Rua Nova do Carvalho (Pink Street) was previously the Red Light District in Lisbon. Now home to a ton of popular bars and shops, we walked along the Pink Street on our way from lunch.
Photo Credit: Heather

National Azulejo Museum:

National Azulejo Museum (National Tile Museum) was a beautiful stop and a great way to learn more about the tile that is used across the city landscape.
The museum is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus (1509) and became a national museum in 1980.
The museum includes exhibits from the 15th century to present-day.

Speaking of Tile:

The blue tile used across Lisbon is incredibly beautiful.

Castelo de S. Jorge:

Originally built as a citadel, the castle’s walls and towers can seen from the city below.
Archeologists have found evidence humans lived here in the second century BC and some type of fortification was built as far back as 48 BC.
Hi Lisbon, I love you.

Random Sites:

Stay mindful.
A reminder (graffiti at the LX Factory).

Restaurants:

Copenhagen Coffee Lab:

We were super lucky to have Copenhagen Coffee Lab up the street from our apartment and we stopped by for breakfast on our way to Spain. If you remember, this breakfast made my highly prestigious “Best Brunches of 2018” list.
Chris: “Seriously can I just eat my breakfast sandwich?” Karl literally ordered this for second breakfast after he saw how good it looked.
Heather and I both ordered this avocado toast + egg combination along with sweets for the flight because great minds and all that.

The Time Out Market:

The Time Out Market is a giant cafeteria-esque building that has over 40 restaurants to choose from for all of your lunch needs. Seafood, burgers, dessert, and wine were all represented. I was mostly focused on this gorgeous pudding and now realize I should have documented everyone’s Portuguese seafood dishes.

The Saj Bakery:

We stopped at the Saj Bakery on our way to lunch (#vacation) and grabbed a spicy wrap to go. I was really excited about this spot because I LOVE Lebanese food and I don’t often have the chance to eat a vegetarian wrap in Hungary. All the heart in eyes emojis.

The LX Factory:

Or as Karl referred to it, the FX Factory (which ended up sticking in my head even as I went through my pictures looking for this post. Blame it on Archer).
Located in the Alcântara neighborhood, the LX Factory is a converted 1846 fabric production plant that now has over 200 business–markets, restaurants and shops.
Hi, I’m here to buy all the meat, cheese, wine, and honey. We stocked up for our infamous card games. Sadly, I was caught attempting to smuggle the honey to Spain where my “But is honey truly a liquid?” argument was not met with amusement from the airport security staff.
Heather and I stopped at this adorable food truck for sangria.
How beautiful are these cabbages?

Primo Basilico:

This. Pizza. Though. Primo Basilico serves pizza “al taglio” (by the cut) and they have options for everyone. We stopped by after our day trip to Peniche and each ate about half a pizza. It was sooooo good.

Giallo:

In classic Heather and Ashlyn fashion, we had to find the best gelato in all of Lisbon. Giallo definitely meets the requirement. Located in the Alfama neighborhood, they had a variety of super cool and interesting flavors, plus breakfast! What else do you need in this world?
My apology for the shaky picture; I only had gelato on the brain. I ordered the pistachio and mascarpone/strawberry.

So happy to experience this amazing place with awesome friends.

Friendly Reminder: You can see all my favorite travel spots on the fully downloadable Middle World Adventures Map.

Cheers!

Currently–

Reading: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Isabel Wilkerson)

Watching: Game of Thrones Season 5 (HBO)

“And Here Sweet Wine Makes, Once Again, Sad Eyes and Hearts Recover”: Bled, Slovenia

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Last year Chris and I spent our 11th wedding anniversary in the absolutely breathtaking city of Bled, Slovenia. Once again, I never thought that Slovenia would be at the top of my list of travel destinations, but the country is so beautiful and fun that I would recommend planning a trip here ASAP. We randomly stayed in Bled the weekend of Bled Days, the most famous event for the city.

Where are we?

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History of Lake Bled: 

The city of Bled is located on Lake Bled, situated in the northwestern corner of Slovenia, 30 miles from the capital Ljubljana, and south of the Kawawanks mountains. The lake has a really interesting geological history (nerd alert) and was formed by both tectonic and glacial movements. During the Pleistocene Era (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago), the Bohinj glacier developed the landscape around Bled, while the tectonic activity formed the valley for the location of the lake. Erosion caused the softer ground to be worn away, leaving behind the topsoil that now holds the lake’s island and castle.

 

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Earliest human activity near the lake can be traced back to the Bronze Age; Old-Slavic settlers arrived in 7th century. The first written mention of the town occurred in 1004 (!!) when the German King Henry II gave the land to the Bishop of Brixen for their assistance with the Church; Bled remained under the lordship for 800 years until the settlement fell under Austrian rule in 1808.

Passed back and forth between Brixen and the Austrians (and following the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918), the settlement and the castle were given to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Tito, the Yugoslav king (and later president) used the castle as his home. In 1919 the castle and lake were sold to hotel owner Ivan Kenda, which marked the first time the settlement was officially owned by a Slovenian. The Germans annexed this portion of Slovenia during WWII and following the war, Bled became an official town in 1960.

The Sights:

Bled Castle:

I’m pretty meh about castles (I know, I know) but Bled Castle was a beautiful sight to visit. Pro tip: Make a reservation with the castle restaurant (more on that later!) and you can tour the castle and museum for free. It’s a steep hike up to Bled Castle, so dress like you’re going on a hike, not like you are attending an anniversary dinner at a castle (me).

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The castle was first mentioned in 1011 and is the oldest castle in Slovenia.

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While the Bishop of Brixen technically owned the estate, they hardly ever inhabited the castle. Instead, Bled Castle was managed by a staff of people according to feudal order.

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The Bishops decided to lease the property and the first official inhabitant was Konrad von Kreigh, whose family occupied the castle for 200 years.

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Herbard Auersperg of Turjak then took over the lease of the castle and attempted to purchase the land, but was unsuccessful. Under Herbard Auersperg, the castle became a Protestant stronghold for the region and the leader of the Slovenian Protestant Movement (Primož Trubar) visited the castle in 1561.

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View from a castle window

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The Bled estate was nationalized in 1803 and even briefly the home of Napolean Bonaparte, before passing multiple hands and ownership over the next 150 years.

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Renovations on the castle took place in 1961 and the museum (a must see!) was completed in 2008.

 

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You can also swim at the base of the castle for a couple of Euros. Even me, who refuses to swim in any body of water, couldn’t pass this up.

Bled Days:

Bled Days includes handmade arts and crafts ( ❤ ), street food vendors ( ❤ ), music ( ❤ ), and a finale where they release over 15,000 candle eggs onto the lake ( ❤ ❤ not sure how that works waste-wise but it was beautiful to see). The event happens each year at the end of July and is definitely worth the extra cost and tourists! They also put in a lot of effort to make Bled Days a zero-waste event, which was really interesting and cool to see.

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A demonstration on how old-timey firefighters used the lake to put out flames.

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The finale which includes 15,000 candles released onto the lake and a beautiful firework display.

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Arts and crafts, drink and food vendors (Via Bled.Si). I wish I had taken more pictures but I was too excited about everything!

Church of the Assumption:

Originally a temple for the Slavic Goddess of Love Živa, the pagan population was forced to replace Živa with the Virgin Mary when the community inhabiting the Bled area converted to Christianity in 745. The Slavic temple was replaced, and in 1465, the Gothic Church and Tower were built on the tiny island.

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View of the Church from Bled Castle

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View of the Church from our Pletna boat.

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The Church also boasts a 99 step staircase. Tradition holds that the husband of the couple married in the church must carry his wife up all 99 steps.

The Bell Tower and the Ringing of the Bell hold a special legend for the Church:

Once upon a time there lived a young widow in the castle of Bled. Her husband was killed by robbers and his body was thrown into the lake. She was so inconsolable that she gathered all her gold and silver and cast a bell for the chapel on the island, in memory to her husband. But the bell didn’t arrive there. The bell, the boat and boatmen sank during a terrible storm. The desperate widow sold all her property after this accident. She offered the proceeds for the construction of a new church on the island. She left Bled and lived the rest of her life in Rome as a nun. After her death the Pope had heard of her misfortune and of her good deeds during her life as a nun, so in memory to her he decide to make a new bell. He said that anyone that rings the bell three times and believes in God, his or her wish would come true.

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The Bell Tower stands at 52 meters high.

Restaurants and Pubs:

Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen:

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Chris and I both agreed that this hummus was amazzzinnnnggg.

While I’m not vegan, when I saw this amazing menu from Public Bar and Vegan Kitchen, I knew I wanted to stop by for lunch. I don’t have a lot of vegetarian options here, so it’s nice to find a spot with a couple of veg menu items. Chris and I shared the house burger and it was too much to eat between the two of us.

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Bled Castle:

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I also discovered my love for Hugo cocktails (Prosecco+elderflower syrup+mint+lime+sparkling water), which were available everywhere in the summer heat.

Absolutely one of my favorite meals in Europe, Bled Castle has a great (and seasonal) menu with affordable prices. They also had an extensive variety of local wine and beer, not to mention a view that overlooks the entire lake.

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Slovenia is known for their white wines, which was a perfect choice for this particularly warm day.

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Poor kid has the sun in his eyes! Chris liked the HumanFish Slovenian IPA.

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Okarina:

We stumbled on Okarina our first night in Bled. They were nice enough to seat us less than an hour before closing (ugh I hate being that person) and we enjoyed our dinners. They have a diverse menu–so there is something for everyone–and a really nice atmosphere that was needed after walking the lake’s super-busy edge.

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Red n Black Bled:

Located right next to our Air BnB, we stopped by Red n Black Bled for a quick breakfast of coffee and toasties our first morning in the city and ended up coming back each morning! Our server was AMAZING. She was incredibly kind and their ridiculously simple menu of either make-your-own porridge or toasted bread with veggies or meat was totally fine with us.

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We ended up hanging out to watch the FINA Summer Games (ironically being held in Budapest). Sometimes you just need a good old pub in your life.

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Their “Kremsnita” (Bled Cream Cake) was all the heart-in-the-eyes-emojis delicious (picture via their Facebook because I was too excited to take a picture!)

Troha Pub Bled:

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(Via Trip Advisor)

We stopped at Troha Pub Bled after our Pletna tour of the island. The pub has a gorgeous view of the lake and the castle, along with reasonable prices. Their menu also includes an impressive 3-liter mojito, although we didn’t try it. Apparently, Troha is THE nightclub of Bled but it was a super chill spot when we stopped by in the afternoon.

Kult Klub:

 

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(via SlovenianHolidays.com)

 

Considering it was right next to the edge of the lake, Kult Klub was one of our first stops in Bled. They had a great selection of Slovenian craft beer and the outside seating was great as the sun was setting. We, unfortunately, weren’t there when they had live music, but we enjoyed hanging out listening to the crazy pop star Bled Days had performing that night.

Shops:

Trešpank:

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Trešpank is a super cool shop located near Red n Black. The owner repurposes bicycle parts into new things (including belts!) and sells a ton of different handmade products including postcards, pottery, clothing, and jewelry. I stocked up on a stack of crazy postcards before making the trek up to Bled Castle.

Galerija Mikame:

 

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(Via Trip Advisor)

Galerija Mikame is a super cute store on the edge of Lake Bled that boasts a ton of different art, jewelry, pottery, and postcards from Slovenian independent designers. The guy working in the shop was amazing and he told us a ton of fun facts about Slovenia.  I asked why he thought Ohio had the greatest population of Slovenians outside of the country and he responded: “I think it’s because we only like farming and working in factories, you know?” I picked up a reclaimed wooden ring from Brlogarka, a beautiful Bled painting by Ajda Primožič Lima, and a couple of hilarious CartsyFartsy greeting cards.

Ashlyn (2)

Currently watching: Big Little Lies (directed by Jean-Marc Vallée)

Currently reading: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Currently listening: Live in Detroit by The White Stripes

Amsterdam & The Hague

This spring Chris and I spent a couple of days visiting our lovely and amazing friend Kelsey in The Hague, Netherlands. We also traveled to Amsterdam to see one of our favorite bands, Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three. Chris had visited Eindhoven before, but this was my first trip; it was great seeing Kelsey for the first time since New Years!

Where are we?

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We flew from Budapest to Eindhoven, then took the train to The Hague. The public transportation was awesome; the trains and buses were super clean and organized. SO MANY BIKES EVERYWHERE. It was awesome to see infrastructure that promoted walking, biking, and public transport over driving.

The Cities

The Hague: The third largest city and the capital of South Holland, The Hague (Den Haag) is located near the coast. First mentioned in 1230, the city was heavily damaged during WWII and was largely rebuilt after the War. The Hague is also known as the “International City of Peace and Justice” due to the city’s hosting of multiple peace talks and conferences since the late 1800s.

Located north of The Hague, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital and largest city. Originally a small fishing village established around a dam on the Amstel River in the 1100s, the city soon became one of the most important trading ports for the kingdom. Amsterdam has 165 canals (combined has a length of over sixty miles!) and 1,281 bridges throughout the city.

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The Hague: Walking to the beach

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The Hague: View from Kelsey’s townhouse

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The Hague: Mauritshuis Art Museum (established in 1822)

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The Hague: Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) was completed in the 1200s (!!).

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The Hague

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The Hague

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam: Royal Palace (1648)

 

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Amsterdam: Ann Frank’s House. The Secret Annex that hid her family before they were betrayed to the Nazis is located in the back of the building.

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam: Paradiso (1968) is a converted church that is now used as a music and arts venue

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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam: Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the city’s oldest oldest building and church (1213!)

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Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three

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Our fourth time seeing the band. We’ve been to shows on the Ohio River, Cleveland OH, Asheville NC, and Atlanta GA.

Bonus video of Ryan Koening playing the hell out of the spoons.

Restaurants & Food

The Hague: Beachclub Indigo

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We had an amazing brunch at Beachclub Indigo. A gorgeous walk down the beach, the restaurant had a ton of burger options and seating right on the water. My first 2017 beach trip!

Amsterdam: Pancakes Amsterdam 

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Chris had ham and cheese while chose the goat cheese option.

After our train ride to Amsterdam all I wanted in my life was Dutch pancakes. We stopped at Pancakes Amsterdam before wandering around the city and loved it. They had a variety of sweet and savory options, as well as a cute atmosphere to escape the rain (because of course it was raining).

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Mint tea: My new favorite

Kelsey introduced me to mint tea and I am officially a fan. Rather than using a tea bag, you place a ton of fresh mint leaves into a glass of hot water and let them steep for a couple of minutes. So good.

The Hague: Kelsey’s House

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Our all time best meal in the Netherlands was hosted by Kelsey’s roommate. Raising money for a non-profit (she was in this super cool non-profit certification program) her roommate hosted a home-cooked five course (TWO DESSERTS) meal for a dozen people in their apartment. WOW. It was absolutely amazing. Lovely wine, out-of-control cooking, and wonderful people–what else can you ask for? I wish I had taken pictures of the food but I was too busy being the emoji-with-hearts-for-eyes brought to life.

Breweries & Pubs

Amsterdam: Cafe ‘t Smalle

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Our lovely friend in Pápa, who spent a summer in Amsterdam a few years ago, recommended Cafe ‘t Smalle as a place to stop right on the water for a quick drink and snack. She mentioned that she had always wanted to visit the small cafe but never had the chance during the summer she was abroad. Thankfully we were able to visit while in Amsterdam! It was so lovely and right on the canal.

Amsterdam: De Prael Brewery

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Having a friend who works at a brewery definitely has its perks, among them being great recommendations for craft beer in the Netherlands. We LOVED De Prael and ended up trying a couple of their beers while in Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam: The Beer Temple

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Whoa, the Beer Temple was such a great place to stop on our way to the show. Their selection is enormous, with beer even from South Carolina! We overheard a group talking about beer from Mt. Pleasant, SC and were both thinking “wait, whaaa?” before realizing they also carried Westbrook as well. I don’t even know the last time I had their Gosa, so it was an unexpected surprise.

The Hague: Kompaan

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I can not say enough amazing things about Kompaan. They have great beer, amazing food, and an awesome atmosphere. This was probably the best beer we’ve had since moving abroad and it was really special to share this with Kelsey. The atmosphere reminded us both so much of Holy City Brewing, which made me a little homesick, but so cool to see what other countries are doing in terms of developing new beer. From the clever names, to the genuineness of the staff, and the quality of the food and beer, Kompaan is a must.

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I love all the things.

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Solid advice

The Hague: Huppel de Pub

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Huppel de Pub was a solid post-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2 viewing stop. They had a ton of great options (including Kompaan) and a really comfortable atmosphere.

Honorable Mentions:

The Hague: Instock

Sadly we weren’t able to eat at Instock while visiting, but I wanted to mention the super cool work they’re doing in the area of food waste. Their chefs use food surpluses that would otherwise be taken to the landfill and make amazing meals from them. They source mostly from grocery stores that don’t sell their “ugly” produce, which is fruit and veg that is perfectly fine but not the prettiest of the bunch (think tomatoes that aren’t cute enough for a BLT but just fine for sauce or a banana too bruised for purchasing but perfect for banana bread). Their  menu changes with what’s available and they serve breakfast, lunch, and (four course) dinners. When one third of food is wasted, operations like these help break this linear cycle. SUPERMARKT_en-603x180@2x.pngThe Hague: Zaal 3

We visited Zaal 3 for a super cool event they were hosting that combined local beer and used records. I scored Buddy Holly and Elvis records (I finally have Suspicious Minds! My favorite as a kid!) while enjoying beer sourced from the area.

-Ashlyn

Ashlyn (2)

Watching: The Next Food Network Star Season 12

Listening: It’s Blitz! by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

 

Prague: Malá Strana & the Left Bank of the Vltava

This March we spent a few days in Prague, Czech Republic and we had such a great time (read: I took too many pictures) that I thought it might be best to split this adventure up into two separate posts. We spent our first day in Malá Strana and wandering around the left side of the Vltava River.

Where are we?

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The capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, Prague is about a four and a half hour drive for us. Having been in existence for over a thousand years, the city is known for its many historical and cultural sites, as well as an expanding food and beer scene. Germanic tribes replaced the Celtics living in modern-day Prague around 100 BC. In 400 AD the fall of the Roman Empire caused most of these Germanic peoples to move west to Germany; Slavic tribes from Russia and Asia replaced them by the end of the sixth century.

Prague was officially founded by Princess Libuše, an ancestor of the Přemyslid dynasty and the Czech people. The youngest and wisest of three sisters, she became queen after their father died. She held the gift of foreseeing the future, legend states that upon seeing the Vltava River from a cliff, Libuše prophesied:

“I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.”

She then ordered the castle to be built overlooking the river. Construction started in the late 8th century and you can still read some of the masonry under the castle dating back to 885. Another fun Libuše legend I wanted to share: When the male leaders of her tribe were unhappy with a woman ruling, they demanded she marry. Libuše, already in love with a plowman named Přemysl, claimed to have a vision of a farmer with one broken sandal plowing a field. The councilmen found Přemysl in nearby Stadice just as she said; the two were married and had three sons.

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“I just might be the next ruler in the making.” #slay

The city is divided by the Vlata River. This first post I’ll just concentrate on our time in Malá Strana and the left bank of the river.

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The Sights:

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Kostel svateho Josefa built by the Carmelite sisters in 1686-1686.

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View from the Castle

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Entrance to the castle. The compound is the largest ancient castle in the world.

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Prague Castle

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The compound (larger than seven football fields) includes the St. Vitus Cathedral.

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Mala Strana District

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Mala Strana District

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Church of Saint Nicholas was built between 1704-1755 on the same site where a 13th century church stood before plans to rebuild the church began.

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Prague Castle at night.

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St. Charles Bridge

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Czech scuplter David Cerny is known for his “tongue and cheek” pieces including this one called “Piss.” We saw more of his work in Old Town.

 

Restaurants:

Malostranská Pivnice:

After wandering around Malá Strana looking for a couple of bars that were only open in the summer (damn seasonality!) we found Malostranská Pivnice on our way back to the apartment. Apparently the pub is located on a former hangman’s house built in 1664 and was opened as a bar in 2002.

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Too cute not to snap a picture

I wish I had taken more photos but I was wayyyyy too distracted by the amazing accordion player who was taking folk requests from a group of Russians in the pub. I uploaded these amazing jams here and here.

Cafe Lounge:

Cafe Lounge had an amazing breakfast and coffee menu. The restaurant had a really cool art-deco Great Gatsby vibe that was super cute.

I was overenthusiastic about sitting outside (in March) and the barista kindly reminded us that no normal person wants to enjoy their brunch outdoors during this time of the year. Inside it is!

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The Farm Letna: Urban Kitchen & Coffee:

Breakfast all day, changing menu each week, and bike rentals, what else do you need in life? We had lunch at Farm Letna our last morning in Prague.

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The restaurant concentrates on using locally sourced produce, meat, and coffee. Shockingly, I chose lunch over breakfast (I know!) because that day they had a soup special that sounded great.

I had the best beet-based veggie burger of my life and Chris had the club sandwich, which was a perfect opportunity to state all of the Lion King “cub” sandwich puns from the elephant graveyard scene.

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Random:

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View from the Airbnb

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Obligatory Prague Castle Selfie

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My favorite house

 

Up Next: Prague Part 2 including Old Town, Beer Museums, and the quest for Jurassic Park arcade games.

Currently:

Ashlyn (2)

Watching: Master of None Season 2

Listening: Team Fortress 2 Fight Songs Soundtrack

Reading: Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

Mood:

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❤ Ashlyn