Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Budapest, Hungary

Drew has been bugging me to put up this post. I don't have an excuse other than I've been lazy. Which is perfectly fine because I am on summer break and allowed to be lazy! :)

In July of 2013 we took our first our of the country trip to Budapest. We took our first trip with United European Airlines. We heard about it from a random solider who was passing through the Graf area. Drew and I were having lunch at the Korean restaurant and we just started talking about travel places and he suggested this company that him and his wife used and after checking out their site we decided to book a trip for the next month. I guess it pays to be friendly! Haha
Our trip to Budapest cost us 179 euros a person, which included, transportation, lodging, and a guide! It was a fantastic deal.
We left Grafenwoehr at Midnight on Wednesday night, or Thursday morning. The 4-day was Thursday-Sunday. Usually it is from Friday-Monday so it kinda threw our days off.
I like bus tours for the price. I'm not a fan of bus tours, I think I mentioned that once or twice in my post about Normandy. But to be able to go to sleep in Germany and wake up in another country is a great way to travel.
After stopping for breakfast, we made our way to the city of Budapest to pick up our guide.

Our tour started at Hero's Square, it is located at the end of Andrássy Avenue and next to City Park, Heroes’ Square is one of the most visited sights in Budapest. Surrounded by two important buildings, Museum of Fine Arts on the left and Kunsthalle (Hall of Art) on the right, Heroes’ Square is also a station of the Millennium Underground.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cruising: What to Bring?

I've seen so many people asking what they have to bring when they're on a cruise, I am definitely not a pro at cruising, but I decided to put together a list just for future reference because like many others I love cruises, I think it's the best way to see a lot of places in a short amount of time.

  • Itinerary/Tour Plans for Port
  • Passport/Orders/Important Documents & Extra Copies (I put it in a different place from the originals)
  • Hand Sanitizer (Stations are all over the ship but when you're off the ship it's great to have)
  • Travel Clock
  • Travel Books (I love Rick Steve's books)
  • Rain Coat/ Umbrella/Ponchos (Weather is so unpredictable)
  • Sun Hat
  • Swim Suit
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera/Batteries/SD Card
  • Phone /Chargers (Free WiFi at port, it's a thing)
  • Tide Pen (For the little stains)
  • Mini bags Powder Detergent (in case you want to do some laundry for those longer cruises)
  • Electronics & Chargers/Books to read (For those days at sea, you need something to keep yourself occupied)
  • Power Strips (If you have lots of electronics this would be great for you)
  • Refillable Water bottle (When you're at port, fill up your bottle with ice and you'll have water off the ship)
  • Travel Tissues 
  • Ziplock Bags/ Plastic forks and paper napkins too (If you wanna take some food from the Buffet off ship)
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera / Lotion
  • Dry Snacks (For when you're at port and need a boost)
  • Medication: (Nausea, Ibuprofen, Pepto, Eye Drops, Chapstick  etc.)
  • Toiletries: 
    • Tooth brush & Paste
    • Hair/ Body Wash (They provide it on the ship but it dries your skin out)
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Socks
  • Extra Underwear (You can never have too much)
  • Dressy Clothing/Shoes, for Formal night (It's always nice to dress up)
  • Females:
    • Make-up Bag
    • Feminine Products (You never know!)
    • Little Purse
  • Other Interesting Suggestions:
    • Travel Mug
    • Post It Notes / Dry Erase Marker /Painters Tape (To leave family members notes)
    • Over the door Shoe holder
    • Outlet covers (For those with little ones)
    • Lanyard (To carry your cruise card)
    • Toilet Seat Covers
    • Mini First-Aid Kit
*These are just some ideas, it isn't necessary to pack everything on this list. Make sure to leave room for some souvenirs too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deployment, Round 2

For those that don't know my husband is deployed, again. The Army I tell ya, they're not happy unless we're a part. 

We're about a month in and compared to last deployment this has been a breeze! Don't get me wrong it still sucks that he's gone. But in all honesty some time a part does us good. Maybe it's just a military thing, I've had this conversation with so many of my friends who's husbands are in the military and they understand, but trying to explain the "good" in being away from one another to someone who doesn't always have to do it is pretty difficult. Since we're so used to spending so much time away from one another, when we spend more than the usual time together, things don't get pleasant. I think it's because we start to take each other for granted, I know I'm guilty of this.
Since Seamus passed, our house has felt pretty empty, and then after Drew left, it got even emptier. 
But thankfully I have Rylie. She's a handful on her own. Last deployment Rylie was 2 months old and needed my constant attention. She is 3 years old now and although she still needs my constant attention having a new puppy as opposed to a dog who is potty trained is different. Still we've kept busy.
I'm off of work for the summer. I feel like I have nothing to do since now I have 9 extra hours of free time. But keeping busy is the most important part. I'm thankful like last time I have a great group of friends. Although this time it's different since their husbands aren't deployed.

But unlike last time I am able to talk to Drew almost every night. It's way different then last time when I spent a whole month not hearing from him. -_-

Otherwise, I'm doing great. Keeping my head up. Rylie and I go for nightly bike ride when mother-nature agrees with us. I've caught up on most of 2014's adventures and my brother's are coming to visit next month and I've got lots planned when they're here! And hopefully before I know it Drew will be back and we'll have even more adventures to share. :D

Monday, June 22, 2015

MSC Sinfonia: Athens, Greece

I'm jumping a head of myself with these cruise blogs, this was our second cruise in 2014, Eastern Mediterranean. I finally finished editing the pictures and got inspired to write the post.

Athens was the 3rd stop on our Christmas Cruise through the Mediterranean in December 2014.
This was the first stop that we booked an excursion with MSC. Usually we follow the Rick Steves book (this time I remembered the books!) but since MSC was having a special and Drew's always trying to talk me into "going with the flow", we decided to splurge (it actually saved us money) and do a tour with the company.

We started off at the Port of Piraeus, which is outside of the Athens, got on the bus and headed the the most famous point in all of Greece, the Parthenon.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Till this day Lake Bled is still one of my absolute favorite places in all of Europe! 
In October 2013 we headed down to Croatia for a weekend getaway. On our way back from Croatia we stopped off in Bled, Slovenia for the night to break up the drive. Slovenia, is a little land locked country that often gets confused with Slovakia. I know when I was planning the trip Drew kept asking me why we were going all the way to Slovakia from Croatia, it was crazy to do that in a weekend. I had to explain many times the differences between Slovenia and Slovakia, but eventually he got it.
We left Croatia in the afternoon after an exciting day at Plitvice National Park, we drove 5 hours to Lake Bled. Slovenia is a beautiful country. The Slovenian Alps are considered to be one of the best, and highly underrated part of the Alps. One day we'll go skiing there.
When we finally arrived at our hotel it was dusk. Gotta love the fall. We stayed at the Hotel Astoria for 80 euros a night. It included WiFi, Parking and Breakfast. The reason I booked it was because of it's proximity to Lake Bled. It was a 5-minute walk to the lake. Our room also had an amazing view of the Bled Castle! It was a great little hotel, if it accepted pets I would go back in a heartbeat!

Our View for the night
After checking into our hotel we decided to get some dinner. We plugged in food to our GPS and got rerouted in circles around Lake Bled for 15 minutes. It got to the point where we were both frustrated because once we finally found a place, it was closed! I can't remember how we stumbled upon the little pizza place, but we found a place to eat, and it was open. That was all that mattered to us. I wish I had taken a picture of the size of the pizza they gave us. We ordered a medium size pizza each, when the waiter told us how big a pizza was he said we would be able to eat one each. He was wrong. One of the things I will remember most about Slovenia is their portion sizes. Its huge! Drew and I could've split a pizza and still had leftovers. The prices were really cheap too. For our pizzas and drinks, plus tip we spent less than 20 euros!
Since it was dark when we arrived we didn't check out the sites, we decided to get a good night sleep and wake up early so we could check everything out.

The first thing we wanted to do was check out the famous Lake Bled. We got up early and headed down to the lake. I guess Slovenian's sleep in because there was hardly anyone out. We found the TI and they told us that since we only had one day here we should either rent a boat and row to the little island (Drew would've been rowing, I would be supervising) or we could hire someone to go with. We wanted to optimize our time in Bled, so we chose to find one of the motorized boats. Only, since we were the only ones up, the company wanted to wait an extra 20 minutes to see if anyone else was interested in going. We took advantage of it and found some of the souvenir shops and scouted out prices.

When we arrived back at the harbor, there were 4 other people waiting to head to the island. They were English speakers too! Come to find out they were from NY and they were vacationing in Europe. Maybe it was our age, I still say it's Drew, but they instantly knew he was military. I tell Drew all the time he looks like someone in the military. Haha.
In the middle of Lake Bled is Bled Island, (They're so imaginative with their names). On Bled Island, there is a church, actually the whole island is basically the church, it is called The Church of the Assumption.

On the platform at the peak of the island, there is an older medieval branch with Baroque alterations with a separate bell tower and a Baroque crown along with some secondary buildings . The office of the provost stood on the island already in the 17th century, the vicarage a hundred years later. The stone staircase with 99 stairs, which was formed in Baroque period on the south side of the island, is especially famous. We paid 3 euros each to climb the 99 steps, I counted there are exactly 99 steps. I wouldn't suggest doing it. We thought we were going to get some great views of the island and lake, and yes there were some pretty nice views, but we weren't able to take any pictures of it because of the mesh surrounding the windows! So to me it wasn't worth it because we couldn't get any pictures. Plus there really is nothing to do while you're up there.

99 Steps!

The Sidles' @ Bled Lake

So we headed off into the church, there were groups of people standing in line in front of the altar, waiting patiently to be able to ring the bell. At the time we had no idea what was so special about it, so I didn't ring the bell, Drew did. On our way back to the mainland, the boat driver told us that their is a legend that the bell would grant wishes. A Japanese Princess was having troubles getting pregnant, so they traveled all the way to Slovenia to ring the bell, and a month after she returned to Japan she was pregnant. Looking back I guess I should have rung the bell.

Our boat driver told us that we needed to try the Bled cream cake, A cream slice made of leaves of dough, fi lled with vanilla and sweet cream that was invented after the Second World War. We had no idea what was so special about it. Bled is famous for it and people come from all over the world to try it. Of course we had to try it too. The cake did not disapoint. Drew and I split one, we learned from the night before how big their portions were, and I'm glad we ended up splitting one. I know I wouldn't have been able to eat one on my own.

After filling up on Cream cake, we headed to Bled Castle. From the Lake you can walk to the castle. It is do-able. But it is all uphill. If you have a car, I would suggest driving to the top. There is free parking. I'm glad we thought of doing it. The castle was going to be the last stop before we headed home.

Bled Castle had the best views of the Lake. Actually I think it had the best views period. There is a small fee to get in, but in my opinion it was worth it. We explored the castle on our own getting the best views of the town. We even got to watch as people made their own wine! I wish we would've stayed and made some wine our selves, but I was anxious to get on the road and there was a long line of people, so we promised that we would be back and decided to head home.
All in all it was a great little stop over. Like I said Slovenia is a country I would go back to in a heartbeat!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

MSC Orchestra: Gdańsk, Poland

Our second stop on our anniversary cruise was to Gdynia, Poland. To us this stop was the most pathetic, (no offense to anyone who lives or loves it.) The only reason I can assume MSC actually ports there is because it's cheap. At the port, there is nothing beside rude cab drivers that don't want to take couples anywhere. We were told by MULTIPLE cab drivers that they would only take us somewhere if we found other people to go with. Isn't that their job? This part of the trip was stressful. If a cab driver actually pays attention to you all they want to do is take you to Gdańsk, which is an hour away! After our annoyance with the cab drivers we followed a crowd of people which took us to where a HOHO Bus was. We had the choice to either take the bus to HOHO Gdynia or take it further into Gdańsk.
I briefly looked over my Rick Steves book and I remember that their was nothing to do in  Gdynia so when the bus offered to take us to Gdansk we jumped at the chance. We got to see Gdynia on our way back to the ship and wished we would've hung out in town. I'm jumping a head of myself.
We boarded the bus with a bunch of other people and headed down to the Old town of Gdańsk. Gdańsk is the historical capital of Gdańsk Pomerania and the largest city of Kashubia. The city was close to the former late medieval boundary between West Slavic and Germanic seized lands and it has a complex political history with periods of Polish rule, periods of German rule, and extensive self-rule, with two spells as a free city. Between the World Wars, the Free City of Danzig was in a customs union with Poland and was located between German East Prussia and the "Polish corridor" to the sea where the harbor of Gdynia grew up. Gdańsk has been part of modern Poland since 1945.
The tour bus dropped us off at the side of the road in Gdańsk, the drivers said that that part of the town was in that direction, he then pointed in the direction of town and said that he would be back at 6:00pm to pick us up.

So we headed off into town. We found the main part and made our way down the street. The main street was closed to cars because they were having a market, usually the HOHO Bus would've taken us around the city, but we got to explore on our own.

Our first mission was the find a Pharmacy, the week before when I was working at the CDC there was Pink Eye going around and guess who was the lucky adult who got pink eye? ME! I had finished off my antibiotics and thought I was clear to go but maybe my eye wasn't ready? Or maybe I was just over cautious because after I got the eye drops I was fine.
Look at all the pretty colors on the buildings!

We walked around the town for a little bit finding the cutest shops. On the main strip of town there was even a Hard Rock Cafe! You know Drew loves them, so of course we had to stop and let him get a quick picture.
HRC are Everywhere!!

There were a lot of jewelry stores on the main street. It was pretty in expensive. The famous gem in the Baltic's was Amber. Baltic amber is an organic substance, a “fossil resin” produced by pine trees which grew in Northern Europe. My favorite Gem stone is a Sapphire, I think it has mostly to do with the fact that I am born in September. But I absolutely loved the Amber stones. I ended up dragging Drew to one of the many jewelry stands "just to browse". I ended up finding Owl ear-rings with Green Amber stones that I loved for 12 euros! I just had to have them. Gotta love the conversion rate. Drew also found an Amber Charm that would fit on my Charm Bracelet and insisted on buying it, I didn't put up a fight.

The main town was packed, but we made our way through it. There was a lot of construction going on. Maybe this place would've been nicer at another season?

Some famous churches in the town.

We did find some cool little land marks, and a Pirate ship! It was across from the restaurant where we had dinner.  I had Perogies for the first time! Drew actually ate the Perogies, I had a traditional Polish dish of Fried Pork and Potatoes. It was a great meal, we were both stuffed!

We walked around town for a little bit. We found the famous landmarks in town, but didn't venture out too far. We though Gdansk was an hour a head of Germany and thought we were going to run out of time to see everything. But to be honest, I wasn't impressed with the city. Our time there was eh. Drew and I both said that if we never went back to Poland it would be fine with us, but of course we went back to Poland, it's only 3.5 hours to the boarder, besides Polish food is amazing!
To me Gdańsk, wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I'm glad we were able to go and see it, I can say don't make it a must on your list of places to go and see.