April 2014

I’m going to flat out admit right now that I’m addicted to carbs. Pizza is my favorite food, and I would never say no to a plate of pasta. My parents used to call me the “carb queen” when I was younger, thankfully that nickname never stuck. With all of this being said you can imagine how excited I was to jet off to Italy to indulge in all of my favorite foods for a week. It was a quick turn around for me- I came back from Ireland on the Friday night and left Sunday morning for Venice. Thankfully I’ve gotten pretty good at shoving my life into a tiny backpack.
We arrived in Venice around dusk (the best time of day) and after picking our jaws up off the floor and taking 1000000 pictures of the grand canal we set off to find our hotel. Now we were silly travelers and left our bookings too late and so we ended up having to get a hotel off of Priceline for Venice. Unfortunately this was a room for two meaning we were going to try and be sneaky and sneak one of us in each night. Well that genius plan only lasted a night before we got caught, but fortunately the owner let us continue staying there if we just paid for the third person. It was worth a try.
Venice is the actual definition of a labyrinth and so you can easily spend your days walking through the city taking in the sights. I would never allocate more than two days in visiting the city. Venice is also tourist central and so it is for sure a little crowded and a little less authentic than maybe a smaller more unknown city would be. But still so beautiful and so quaint, I loved how there were no cars on the island. The first day we were there it rained which was a little bit of a bummer since the only thing to do in Venice is walk around but we made do. And to make up for it the second day was absolutely stunning. We spent two hours lounging in the sun on the steps of the canal people watching. No complaints from me. On the Wednesday we caught an early (6:30) train to Rome where we were welcomed by more sun and even more heat. Hello dress weather. Right off the bat we recognized that our hostel was probably not going to be our favorite. The guys that work there came off as super creepy, but after a few days we got used to it and were able to laugh with (at) them. They also loved partying which meant music blaring till 12:30 every night, the first night this was a little daunting but we soon realized that if you can’t beat ’em ya join ’em.
Rome is massive and it’s basically one big museum. Which means lots and lots of walking. I feel like in the past five months I have walked more than I have in my entire life. It will be weird being back in Canada and driving everywhere. We spent an afternoon visiting the Vatican and St. Peter’s which was very cool. I saw the infamous Sistine Chapel and was able to sneak a few pics of it. We also spent a day walking through Paletine Hill, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Rome is super fascinating to me because its filled with different archeological sites within the hustle and bustle of a city. Seeing remains from 5BC was a little crazy and its almost hard to understand just how old these artifacts are.
It was a super hot three days and so we often took breaks and lounged in the sun in a park. This led to us all getting sun burns. Summer is here and I am a happy camper.
We filled in the rest of the time doing what we all do best; wandering. Everywhere you turned in Rome there was something beautiful to see so it wasn’t hard finding things to fill our time.
I’ll end off with a few fun/interesting things from the past week in Italy.
1.) I learned in Venice that my Italian accent is FAR better than my French accent. I will attribute this to my dad always throwing around Italian phrases to me at various points and growing up with two Italian best friends.
2.) We were walking through a market in Rome and I stopped to look at rings ( my hands are almost full!) and while I was chatting with the lady she noticed that I had a Laborordite stone on one of my rings. I was shocked this Italian lady knew that what the stone was, but then realized she didn’t know where labordor was. So when I told her that not only was it from Canada which is where I’m also from but that my dad actually got it in Labrodor she was SUPER impressed. She was giddy when I let her try it on and kept explaining how beautiful and pure the stone was. So props to you Daddio on the ring.
3.) On Sunday Rome is cannonizing Pope John Paul II and the city is FILLED with different tour groups and pilgrimages of people from across the world here to be apart of it. When we drove past the Vatican on our last day there were news stations setting up and getting ready all over the block. I’m glad we were here before the weekend and missed the craziness of it all but it was cool to see the beginnings of it. We met a couple from South Carolina who came to see it and they were so excited to meet us. The lady has three daughters and asked to take a picture with us so she could send it to them. Those are the moments that make me fall in love with the world.
4.) As amazing as traveling is it definitely wares on you. I’ve been gone for a week now but before that I was in Northern Ireland for a week so I’ve been on the go for a bit. All of the train rides and flights and switching hostels, and being in tight quarters with people starts to rub you the wrong way after a bit. I’ve been in kind of a slump the past few days because of this so I’m hoping for some good alone time exploring in Greece to get over it. So looking forward to my family visiting in two weeks as well.

I’m now sitting here in Thessaloniki, Greece in our hotel (luxe life) so ready for bed after a long day of travels. We have NO idea what to expect from this city but from what I’ve read it’s pretty cool. PLUS I’m in Macedonia which is pretty flippen cool after growing up surrounded by Macedonians.

Lots of love to all of y’all.

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I need to start off by saying that I know the life I am currently living is ridiculous. I am almost done my exchange here in Europe and so I have been doing a lot of reflecting and am constantly in a state of “I don’t want this to end/ I’m the luckiest girl alive.”
Last week I was lucky enough to visit one of the places that was on my list of ‘must see’s’ while in Europe: Northern Ireland. Working at camp for the past few summers has provided me with a few friends from the land of the Irish. This past summer I got to live with a wonderful gal by the name of Jess who is from Northern Ireland and so I knew while on my exchange I had to make it over to see her.
I flew out on Saturday afternoon from Paris and arrived in Dublin where I was immediately welcomed by the smooth and lovely southern Irish accent. Pretty sure I blushed the entire time I spoke to the border guard. From Dublin I caught a bus to Belfast where Jess met me. So nice visiting people in their home towns and having them show me around. Jess and I drove up towards to the north coast which is where she lives and stopped at a local pub called “bushmills inn” where we met a few of her friends, her brother Niall, and listened to traditional Irish music.
The next morning we got up and headed off to church which I was also super excited for. Jess goes to causeway coast vineyard which is filled with young people and has a really joyful and friendly community. After church we headed out to lunch with her parents and then headed back to Jess’ apartment to relax. That evening I tagged along to Jess and Niall’s cousins engagement party. I have never been surrounded by SO many Irish people in my life- quite the experience and quite overwhelming. But what a great night- a nice break from my backpacking life in hostels.
Jess is a primary school teacher and worked on the Monday and so I took the train bright and early to Derry to visit another one of my Irish friends Sinead. Two summers ago when I volunteered at camp for a week I met Sinead and we clicked instantly; she’s wild and smart and hilarious all at once. She’s also training to become a doctor which is so great for so many reasons. We spent the day walking through Derry and enjoying the sunny weather. We headed south just over the border to the beach near Donegal for the afternoon which was great, being so close to the ocean makes me so happy. I took a train back to Portstewart and Jess that night feeling so happy that I got such a good day with a good friend.
The rest of the week Jess, Niall and I spent wandering through the beautiful north coast which I would like to rename ‘Adventure Isle.’ So many hills and cliffs and trails and all of it is along the ocean. So so beautiful and such a great way to spend a week. We trekked over to Mussedeen Temple one day which had some of the most stunning views I have ever seen; fun fact a lot of ‘Game of Thrones’ shots are filmed near there. Another day Jess and I headed over to the famous ‘Giants Causeway’ which was even more beautiful than I imagined. All of the natural rock formations really looked as if they were man made and hand carved and it constantly blew me away that they weren’t. Walking through the Causeway and the beaches surrounding it I really felt as if I was in the movie ‘PS I Love You’ ya know minus the whole Gerad Butler serenading me thing. Everywhere you look in Ireland is green and full of life and even better is being on the North Coast and having an ocean view as well.
Another special highlight of the week was getting to head down to Belfast on the Wednesday night with my good friend Phil. We have worked at camp together for a few summers and he moved to Canada this past fall! He was home visiting and so we were able to put in some time together. He and I are going to be co-section heads this summer which worked great because we got to go to an international meet and greet for camp on Wednesday night and meet some of our staff! Seeing everyone got me super excited for this summer. I’m also super conscious of how great it is to be so in love with my life at the moment but also so excited for what’s coming up in the future. It’s a good limbo to be in.
Friday morning Jess and I rushed down to Belfast so I could get an hour in exploring the city before my bus. She drove me through the Peace Wall sections of the town which were very surreal to see. The stated purpose of the peace lines is to minimise inter-communal violence between Catholics (most of whom are nationalists who self-identify as Irish) and Protestants (most of whom are unionists who self-identify as British). Being a politics student I’m fascinated by the Troubles in Northern Ireland and this part of Belfast is a very real reminder of them and the continuing battle there is between some Catholic and Protestant communities. All over the country I would notice that in some areas streets were painted with the Union Jack and had those flags flying which meant we were in a very Unionist area and in other areas the tricolour flag would be flying which would mean we were in a very Nationalist area. All of it seemed kind of surreal to me to be honest. It didn’t feel like this would be a reality for a developed, prosperous European country. And yet the divide (while a lot less serious than during the troubles) still remains.
After this quick little tour we made our way to the bus stop for an almost tearful ‘see ya later,’ where I was I was surprised by another Irish friend Paddy who had come to say goodbye. People are too good to me.
It was such a fulfilling week for me. Travelling so much and living away from home has led me to live quite an independent life, which I love, but can get quite tiring at times. Because of this when someone takes the time to take care of me it is such a huge blessing. Jess was such an amazing host and it was such a treat to have someone take care of me like that for a week.
What more can I say- Northern Ireland is a place that truly takes your breath away. I got to spend a week hiking cliffs, walking through coastal towns and having nightly walks on the beach- seriously what more could you ask more… Other than Gerad Butler serenading me.

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Continuing my crazy galavanting across Europe I had the extreme privilege to travel to the Cotswolds of the UK. “This is the area West of London containing the Cotswolds Hills, a range of rolling hills which rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment, known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. The area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone which creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK, and which is quarried for the golden coloured Cotswold Stone.” (According to wikipedia) All I knew was that one of my best friends from Muskoka, whom I literally lived on top of this summer, was going to be visiting her parents who lived in the area and she graciously invited me to come visit. Steph’s parents live in Cheltenham (they work for the Canadian government and have been stationed in the UK for three years) which you will see on the map is West of London and Steph had planned on visiting them for two weeks. 

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I took the overnight bus from Lille to London on Thursday night which is always an adventure. In classic emzups style I was late for my bus and so I ended up sprinting from the metro to the bus which is always fun. The bus journey spans from 12:30 am- 5:30 am and going into the UK you have to get off the bus to go through border crossing before the bus is put into a shipping container on a train to go across the Chunnel (not recommended for the claustrophobic). I got the short end of the stick and got an aisle seat and so not much sleep happened for me. Add in another bus ride to Cheltenham and it was a long night of travel for this guy. None of that mattered as when I saw Steph at the bus station there was nothing but excitement and adrenaline. Steph and I’s relationship is something I can imagine would be quite funny from the outside. We are both blonde, loud, obnoxious, and silly and all that amplifies when we are together. We are siamese twins and even though we hand’t seen each other since the summer as soon as I stepped off the bus our giggles and chat began. Cheltenham is a small town and easily walkable and so it was only a short wok to her parents flat (which was STUNNING). Her Dad was an immediate host offering me anything I needed. After living away from home for so long and traveling, being in the care of adults is always SO nice.

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(Steph’s Parents Flat- they were on the second floor)

Thanks to camp Steph and I have a few international friends, one of them being Em from England. Em is from the North but goes to uni in Bristol which you’ll see isn’t too far from Cheltenham. Steph’s dad offered to drive us there as he was making a trip to the Costco which is also there. (Being in Costco reminded me SO much of home- free samples ftg). Arriving at Em’s flat the giggles only intensified. After a short walk around town Steph being the caretaker she is made me take an hour power nap so I would’t pass out on them later. I woke up to dinner already made (not complaining) and the three of us enjoyed lots of chat and ciders. Seeing as it was Friday we got all dolled up and enjoyed some more drinks and games with Em’s roommates before heading out into town. Around 3:00am is when the exhaustion hit me and so I had to be the party pooper and we all headed home (we stopped for kebabs first obviously). A true mark of Steph and I’s friendship was demonstrated that night when she told me that a way to cure the spins while lying down in bed was to keep one foot on the floor. Well she came back from brushing her teeth and I was fast asleep with both legs swung over the side of the bed, feet planted on the floor. Bind trust in Stephs knowledge.

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After a glorious sleep-in the three of us enjoyed breakfast outside as the weather was nice and warm. I had my first crumpets (amazing) per em’s request and I plan on never eating anything else again. We headed out on the town for some wandering and shopping. Bristol is STUNNING. Very much a student town it is filled with all sorts of hip shops, cafes, and pubs. It is also on the water and very hilly so its a gorgeous place to walk through. It actually reminded me A LOT of Halifax. We spotted a TGI Fridays in the mall and bee-lined straight there. We had to laugh as the night before I had explained to Steph that the thing I miss most about Canada (after the Zupnik’s and Keith’s) was chain restaurants like Applebee’s or TGI Fridays. I have been getting sick of French cafe’s and craving a real American chain restaurants where I can get BIG appetizers, and BIG drinks, for SMALL prices. So you can imagine the smile of my face when I saw TGI Friday’s. After our day of shopping we headed back to Em’s flat where our friend Paddy who lives near Birmingham was waiting. Paddy came down for the evening to take the three of us to dinner which was SO lovely. We went to the most amazing pizza place (I can’t stop its an addiction) and then Paddy drove Steph and I back to Cheltenham (seriously one of the nicest people I know).

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My first full day in Cheltenham Steph and I took to the streets and explored the shops. (I don’t know if you are noticing my shopping habits increasing, I am slowly becoming my mother). Later that night we met her parents at the local wine bar which is a super cute pub that has huge bay windows that overlooks the town for some ciders.

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On the Monday we had quite the surprise when Em took a train to spend the day with us in Cheltenham. Steph’s dad drove us through the country side (SO SO beautiful) and we spent some time in a tiny little town called Bourton-on the- water. We got back to Cheltenham and went for a long dinner and drinks. We actually ended up at the Slug and the Lettuce which is the same chain pub that my sister worked at when she lived in the UK. It was half priced food, and two for one drinks so we ate until we physically could not anymore.

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My final day was spent with Steph doing a little more shopping and enjoying patio beers and burgers in the sun. Tuesday night I caught the bus back to London where I caught another overnight bus back to Lille. This time I thankfully did get some sleep. Going back into France border control could not care less. I didn’t have to get off the bus once, and no one asked to see my passport. ALL ARE WELCOME IN FRANCE YA’LL!

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My extended weekend I spent in England was one of my favourites I have had in Europe thus far. Not only was the scenery and towns absolutely beautiful but spending time with camp friends is always so fulfilling. Spending a summer up North at camp with people creates a friendship so different and so deep, and it is for sure a huge reason why I continue to go back summer after summer. I think I even loved the country-side of England even more than London. You get the UK vibe without the craziness and chaos of London life. Speaking English for five days was also a huge treat. I noticed how much I miss being able to chat to whoever I want. I don’t get the luxury of talking to store clerks or waiters in France- my French only allows the basics haha.

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I will keep enjoying the beautiful spring weather here in Europe for all of you stuck in cold Canada. I hope all of your hearts are as happy as mine!

 

xoxo

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You know those kind of friends that you can hang out with after years apart and chat like nothing has changed? You know the ones; you see each other and suddenly time is just an illusion, you go back to the age you were when you met and its as if the laughs never stopped. One of these very special friends I have is a gal named Rachel. Rachel and I did a leadership program at summer camp together in 2009 and became instant besties. Recently we tried to pinpoint the exact moment we became friends over that month together but we could both only come to the conclusion that it was instant. She was quiet where I was loud, patient where I was impulsive, and easy-going where I was demanding. But together we became a pair of silly, wild, and courageous girls trying to figure out our adolescence. Unfortunately distance and time has separated us and so I was MORE than overjoyed when Rachel, who is studying in Switzerland, announced she was planning to visit Lille to visit me. 

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In a not so classic Emzups fashion I arrived at the train station fifteen minutes early eagerly anticipating the arrival of Rachel. In classic Emzups fashion I was at the wrong train station and so I found her half an hour later in a bar waiting for me. By the time we got back to my apartment it was around 12:30 and we were both exhausted but we couldn’t stop from chatting and so it was 2:30am before we headed to bed. Our first day together we ventured out to explore the Wazemmes Market. This is a Lille staple and I had yet to visit and so we were both looking forward to going. The sun was shining and we were excited to wander and see another part of town. The Wazemmes Market is located in a very ethnically diverse area and the market products very much reflects that. There were lots of Middle Eastern kebab stands, Turkish sweet stores, and North African spice and clothes shops. The market was filled with locals many of whom are most likely immigrants from the places previously mentioned and so Rache and I definitely stood out (thats something that has been happening a lot which will be another blog I will have to write). After wandering for a bit and getting some baguettes (were in France so duh) we found the flower stand and got some beautiful Spring florals to bring back to my apartment.

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After a brief stop at home we headed off to one of my favourite places in Lille; the Citadel. I have mentioned the Citadel and its history before so I won’t bore you again, but in the warmer months it is something to be seen. The carnival side is swarming with families with kids enjoying the rides, snacks, and each other’s company. Then theres the zoo (which I HATE on principle- animals are not meant to be in cages) but it is an open free zoo so I am not financially supporting it by walking through it. Because Rachel and I spent the majority of our time trying to find a bathroom (we ended up using the bushes because were classy ladies), and then the rest of the time avoiding the flash hail storm and protecting our beloved fries, we ended up being too late to walk into the zoo. No worries we would adventure and see it on our own. Rachel inspires a serious sense of adventure in me and so we climbed up the large hills of the park which were quite muddy and saw parts of the zoo from overhead. Quite frankly I am glad it worked out this way because struggling up and down those hills was one of my highlights of the weekend. After our strenuous efforts we headed to a pub to again avoid more of the flash hail (Lille wtf is this weather). Hands down there is nothing better than catching up with an old friend over a pint…or two. 

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Monday rolled around and I deduced to show Rachel centre ville and all of its splendour. We found our way to a cafe for lunch (because who doesn’t like going out to eat), and then headed off shopping. One of the side effects living abroad has had on me is a newfound love of shopping and fashion. Europe’s made me not want to live in sweats and birks….WHO HAVE I BECOME?! I have learned to love 9 euro overnight busses because that cheap bus means I can shop! So naturally I took Rachel down my favourite shopping street where we found some deals. After exhausting ourselves trying on clothes we decided to continue our relaxing day and went to the movies. Side note: We saw Non-Stop and my review is as follow: super intense, not ideal for someone like me who flies often, and I have learned I am awful at guessing who the bad guy is. We spent the rest of our final night chatting into the wee hours of the night because thats what old friends do right?

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Seeing Rachel off the next morning was a sad sight. I am SO thankful that I got some time with her here in Lille, it was a short trip but such a nice one. It’s a cool thing having bad-ass females in your life and it was awesome seeing one of my favourite B.A chick. 

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The theme of exchange is travel as much as you can and so after only five days home from being on my Spring break Sam and I (Blondes do Paris) left for a weekend in Paris. We left Friday afternoon and arrived around 4- perfect time for some dinner outside. The first time I was in Paris the weather was absolutely dreadful and I spent the weekend FREEZING, so I was overjoyed that this time it was sunny and warm. After grabbing some dinner (we got Subway because we are travelling students) we found a spot not he Eiffel Tower lawns and enjoyed the view. Paris honestly kills it for the people watching. Sam and I sat under the fading sun for about two hours watching Parisian life. Although we were right on Champs de Mars and so it was really more like tourist life we were watching. Sam and I spent the rest of the night in a cafe enjoying our ridiculous life.
The next morning we ventured over to Montmare which is the artists corner side of Paris. We had planned on a walking tour but were also not the best with time so we missed that one. So onto Plan B. We did our own tour and explored the area famous for the Moulin Rouge ( disappointing in person ) and the beautiful Sacre Coeur. We spent a few hours wandering around it under the prettiest blue sky.
That night I was lucky enough to go see the six nations final between France and Ireland at the Stade de France. I love sports (live sports are even better), I love rugby, and I love beer. So I was a pretty happy camper. Surrounded by Irish die hard fans it wasn’t hard to get into the spirit. It was such a panic inducing game, so close- too close- for too long. Literally in the last minute France scored a winning try and you could honestly hear hearts breaking all around me. Thankfully the try was a forward pass and called back and Ireland was able to hold onto the win. Vive le vert! 🍀 My Irish friend Paddy who took me to the game looked like a kid on Christmas morning. What a night to experience.
The next morning the three of us ventured over to Versailles. There was WAY too many people there for my liking, but the palace was beautiful and so grand. I can’t even imagine how that was someone’s reality. The gardens were my favourite part, I would love to see them in the summer in their full glory.
It’s been such a cool experience living in Lille and having the opportunity to venture to places on a whim. Paris has such weight attached to its name and it’s been a treat breaking through that and getting to explore that.
The next time ill be there will be with my parents and sister which makes me so so excited!!!!

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The last stop of the #blondesonbreak tour was Budapest, Hungary. On Thursday (March 6th) Sam and I hopped aboard a mini bus that held about ten people and headed East. After about three hours we had a quick pit stop at another bus station to stretch our legs. Turns out this bus stop was in Slovakia, so I can cross that one off my list! We arrived in Budapest pretty late so after navigating our way to our hostel we hit the hay. We opted to stay in a private room in Budapest for a bit of luxury and we are SO glad we did because that meant we got to see what apartment life is like in the city. Our hostels private rooms are located in an apartment building which is very reflective of the communist architecture of the city. These apartment buildings are oval shaped with a kind of open centre. The open style apartment buildings that are very reflective of communism architechture The building in which our private rooms from our hostel were located

Our first full day in Budapest was spent walking the city- we literally walked from 10:00-7:00. My feet were hating me after that day but I learned a lot so it was worth it. In the morning we did just a general walking tour so we could get our bearings on the city and on it we ended up meeting six girls who are all also studying in France on exchange and who all go to Queens! I instantly knew they were Canadian by all of their Aritzia jackets haha. It was a stunning day and so walking all over the city was a treat and we found some places with gorgeous views that the blue sky made even better!view of the Pest side Hanging out at the top of the Fisherman's Bastion

After an amazing Italian lunch with our new friends Sam and I headed off on our SECOND walking tour of the day this one was specifically focused on the country’s communism history. Even though I study politics I know VERY little about communism and even less about its story in Hungary so this tour was super interesting for me. What really excites me is learning and so I was like a kid in a candy shop during this tour. We focused on Hungary’s communist history in three parts: early communism, happy communism, and post-communism. The early communism was very much based on Stalinism which in itself should tell you that this was a hard time. Work was made mandatory and the hours were long, there were informers and secret police crawling throughout the city, and the only way to survive was to keep your mouth shut. Thousands were arrested, imprisoned, and killed in Budapest’s infamous Andrássy út 60 which we visited later in the week. An estimated 2,000 people were executed and over 100,000 were imprisoned. Some 44,000 ended up in forced-labor camps, where many died due to horrible work conditions, poor food and practically no medical care. Another 15,000 people, mostly former aristocrats, industrialists, military generals and other upper-class people were deported from the capital and other cities to countryside villages where they were forced to do hard agricultural labor.  After this awful period the country moved into an era named “happy communism.” The political leaders realized that the happier citizens are the less likely they are to rise up and so the government spent lots of money trying to keep the people happy, and most importantly quiet. Vacations, flats, and cars were all paid for as long as you were a good communist. This era ended when the money ran out and that is when communism fell in Eastern Europe in ’89. The city was in 90% debt at this point and is still in such debt that it is unable to join the EU’s Eurozone and possess the euro. Communism has left a HUGE mark on Budapest and the cities buildings still bear the consequences of it. I would say around 70% of the cities buildings are in need of serious renovations and many of them look abandoned. People could simply not afford to buy any of these properties and so many of them have been left as is. We even saw a few buildings that still have bullet holes decorating its walls.

That night we headed out with our new friends to one of Buddapest’s finest gems; the ruins bars. Because so many buildings were left abandoned and gone decrepit within the city there was lots of empty space within these massive old apartment buildings. So in the late ’90’s an entrepreneur had the idea to turn these abandoned buildings into bars. They are literally built within the ruins of the buildings hence the name “ruin bars”. These bars are some of the coolest places I have been filled with lots of different rooms and knick knacks, we saw tree’s, disco balls, flying rabbits, and movie screens, and that was only in the first bar. These bars had such a cool vibe and I would LOVE if some were to pop in Toronto but I have a feeling it wouldn’t work quite the same as they do in Buddapest.

The ruins bars Ruins bars

The next day we enjoyed a morning of walking around and made a visit to the Terror Museum located on the infamous Andrássy út 60. This museum is dedicated to the terrors Budapest experienced throughout the 20th century and was super fascinating- unfortunately a lot of it was in Hungarian which made things a little bit difficult. The second half of our day was spent in the absolute best way possible- AT THE SPA. One of the reasons the Romans first colonized the area immediately to the west of the River Danube is so that they could utilize and enjoy the thermal springs. Today that translates into lots of thermal spas all over the city. Sam and I headed to the biggest one Szechenyi Furdo where we met up with the girls we had met the day before. The baths were unlike anything I had ever seen before- I felt like a Queen.  There are three large outdoor pools (which are pretty hot) and inside there are 18 pools and baths and different steam rooms and saunas. We all started at one outdoor pool and then made our way through the ones inside. Some of the baths have medicinal treatments and my favourite one was mint scented which was amazing. We finished in the last outdoor pool around 6pm and when we got outside it had started drizzling making the pool look even more steamy and mystical. Sitting in the hot water having the cool raindrops hit me was such a cool experience. It was one of those “is this really my life” kind of moments. Pictures do not do it justice but thankfully my camera is waterproof so I took a few videos that I will upload soon! That night we went to an amazing buffet dinner with the girls- spending a whole day in the baths wrecks ya!

The Baths Budapest Baths with our new friends! The baths at night DSC00515

The next day was a very special one- MY 21ST BIRTHDAY!!! I woke up to an amazing surprise. Mercedes (one of my oldest friends) had made a birthday video for me with all of my friends and family wishing me well and sending their love. There were tears at 8am that is for sure. Cedes had me feeling SO loved sitting in my hostel room in Budapest- best present. Sam and I were overjoyed to see the sun was out and so we were eager to get outside. We ran some errands in the morning and then headed to the main square for lunch and birthday beers. I had a burger and beer for my birthday lunch- how predictable can I get. We spent the rest of our day with one of our new friends wandering the city and shopping (also predictable.) The three of us headed out for cocktails and pizzas (seriously I’m nothing but consistent) later on that night and then hung around at one of the ruins bars. Great night however Sam and I had to haul ass back to our hostel at 3am to grab our bags and catch a cab to the airport to catch our 6am flight. Not the most enjoyable morning but a memorable one for sure.

Birthday motto...jk mom Birthday cake! 21! Birthday Ruins bar birthday friends! Watching the sunrise as we board our plane back to France

My spring break in Eastern Europe was something I will never forget- so many beautiful sites, lots of learning, and lots of amazing connections made. Also 21 in Budapest- not ever going to top that eh?!

 

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