My Journey Through Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, Venice, Cinque Terre & Paris
I truly can’t believe that the trip is already over. It feels like I was talking about leaving and planning all of the things yesterday, and then now…I’m home, with all of the memories and feelings from traveling lingering in my mind; and I am so excited to share some of them.
This Europe trip was something that Chase and I saved up for for about 6 months. We put money aside from each paycheck, and scheduled activities, travel and stayaways little by little as we had the time and money to do so. We stayed in Airbnb’s most of the time because they were the most affordable, except for a hostel in Amsterdam, which I will mention; and we also purchased the cheapest flights and train tickets that matched the cities that we wanted to see and how long we wanted to spend in them. It wasn’t easy to make this trip happen, but it was incredibly worth it, and every single second of it I felt like I was learning and gaining perspective.
A piece of me wants to break down the entire trip for you guys, because there are so many cool places that we went and things that we did; but I also realize that a blog post containing ALL of the things would take me ~20 pages, so what I want to share, instead, is a recap of my favorites from the trip (activities, restaurants, sights, etc.) and some of the deep realizations that I had while away from home, work, my routine and family. I want to share my thoughts throughout the trip, how I tried to continue living each day in balance, and what I did on my own time to ensure that I was taking care of my mind, body and spirit. So, with that said, let’s DIIIIIVVEEE INNNN!
Flights, Trains & Travel Time
Handling Travel Anxiety
Every time I travel, I’m reminded of what a privilege it is to step onto a plane and then land in another city, country or culture – where customs, body and verbal language, appetites, traditions and viewpoints are so different. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.
BUT, for anyone that has been following me for a while, or knows me personally, you know that I am not a huge fan of flying. There is something about being in the air, unattached to the ground, above the clouds where I cannot see land and feel every pocket of wind that makes me feel uneasy and anxious. Something about being apart from grass, dirt and trees doesn’t feel right to me. Once the plane is above the clouds, I typically have a heavy chest and feel pretty tense.
Because my anxiety picks up when I’m in the air, planes have become a place where I really dive into new podcasts, meditations and books or articles that I’ve been wanting to read. Meditating, listening to a wellness-focused podcast, or reading takes my mind off of my current situational anxiety and puts me into a different headspace.
I listened to a few really fantastic podcasts from my current favorite podcast called Ultimate Health, and also read two great books while traveling from one country to the next during this trip. See below for the list and my thoughts surrounding the content.
The Ultimate Health Podcast – Overcoming Orthorexia; Do Away With Labels; Breaking Vegan with Jordan Younger
*Jordan Younger is the creator behind thebalancedblonde Instagram account; so if you follow her, this podcast episode is worth listening to! I liked hearing Jordan’s story regarding her journey through an eating disorder, veganism, guided fastings and finding true balance.
The Ultimate Health Podcast – WILD Habits; Natural Ways to Calm Your Anxiety; Approaching Gratitude Differently with Tara Mackey
*you guys, I kid you not, while I was listening to Tara Mackey’s story and advice, a literal switch flipped in my brain and a small fire ignited in me. Tara’s story is so interesting, and she has struggled with it ALL. Hearing about her traumatic childhood and adolescence, and then about the personal journey that she had transitioning off of 14 different pharmaceutical medications and into a holistic way of living gave me such an incredible amount of hope it felt silly. She is STRONG, MOTIVATED, and an incredible example of a woman. After listening to this podcast, I knew that it was up to ME to take charge of my mental health, and that I AM strong enough and worthy enough of living the kind of life that I envision for myself. LISTEN to this if you have self-doubt surrounding your anxiety, depression or wellness journey in general. (This podcast FINALLY helped me decide to transition off of my medication and switch to supplements like GABA and 5-HTP.)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
*this is the first fiction book that I’ve read in over 6 months! It was refreshing to fall into a story, instead of reading factual and informational content. Exit West is a wartime love story between two twenty-somethings who are yearning to find a life of safety and happiness in the decade after WWII. Mohsin Hamid is a very poetic writer – so the entire novel kind of pulled at my heart strings.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love)
*THIS.BOOK. Just read it. If you have a creative heart that longs to live fully and enthusiastically, then read this book. I am discovering so much about how I want to live my life and pursue my career in wellness and health. This book ignites your fire for your career and creative expression!
Calm Meditation App – the 7 Days of Calming Anxiety and 7 Days of Managing Stress meditations
*this app has revolutionized meditation for me. There are so many guided options, and there are also sleep stories and masterclasses available. I recommend this app over any other. I meditated on practically every single flight and train ride that we took.
In addition to using meditation, reading and podcasts to keep my mind off of my anxiety, I also avoided caffeine on the flights and train rides. I am typically pretty sensitive to caffeine anyways, so avoiding it all together while traveling made a difference in how I was feeling.
There is so much downtime while traveling, even if you’re not on the plane, so I had a lot of time during this trip to reflect, dream and ponder. All of the podcasts, readings or meditations above truly did change my perception in a way. To anyone, I would recommend spending time with yourself and something that inspires you while traveling, because there is nothing like traveling from one city to the next with dreams, hopes and ideas swirling around in your head; and feelings of hopefulness or gratitude lingering in your soul after listening to a life-giving podcast!
From One City (or Country) to the Next
The way I would describe Amsterdam is a bit like a decently-sized city, but way more retro and hipster; and there were one zillion bikes and scooters everywhere. I loved this city!
When we landed, we checked into our hostel (which was pretty good by the way – I’d recommend this hostel to someone if that’s the route that they want to go for stayaways) and then headed out for some lunch because we were starving and incredibly tired. We ended up at a place called De Bellie for brunch (see picture below), and I had my first ‘koffee’ in over 6 months (it tasted amazing), along with a vegan steak dish with grilled celeriac, roasted carrots, cream of cauliflower and white beans, sweet potato chips, and pickled beetroots and fennel. It blew me away and I didn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the time we were in Amsterdam.
A few other places that I really enjoyed eating at in Amsterdam included The Blushing, which was a café known for having healthy options. I got a great smoothie here called ‘The Beauty Shake’ and it was satiating and yummy. The Blushing was right by the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, so that was nice because we spent the day exploring both.
I also LOVED a bakery that we went to in the Jordaan neighborhood called Vlaamsch Broodhuys, where I had the best koffee and cinnamon-current sliced bread EVER. I was in heaven the entire time we were there, and when it was time to leave I was sad because it was so cozy and the people working there were so nice!
Chase and I had a blast walking around the city and finding the fun, local things to do. A few activities that I’d recommend if you’re traveling to Amsterdam are listed below (these were my favorite things!)
- Buy some snacks at a market and take them to Vondelpark. Sit in the grass and just enjoy the sunshine and fresh air! When you’re ready to leave, stop by The Blue Teahouse in the middle of the park for a drink or koffee
- Make sure you find and eat a stroopwafel – they are typically filled with caramel or chocolate and are to die for!
- Take a tour of the Red Light District through this offbeat tour company. Our tour guide was hilarious and had zero filter. We learned a lot and it was incredibly interesting!
- Ride bikes! Everyone gets around on bikes.
- Visit the Anne Frank Museum (must buy tickets in ADVANCE - like one month in advance. Chase and I weren't able to go to this museum because we couldn't get tickets, but I SO wish we would have been able to!), Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum
THE SAUSAGES IN PRAGUE THOUGH. I would go back to Prague just to eat them…
We landed in Prague late in the evening, so when we got to our Airbnb (our host and space were AWESOME – stay here if you are going to Prague!) we were hungry and exhausted; but we felt like we needed to rally because we only had so much time in the city! We went to dinner at a courtyard restaurant/beer garden right near our apartment called Vortex Pub (or the courtyard above it). We got sausages with sauerkraut and mustard, and I got a grilled goat cheese salad. It was some of the best food that we’ve ever had.
There were two other places that we ate/drank that I absolutely loved. One was called Black Angel’s, which was an underground speakeasy bar that served incredible cocktails. There was also live music while we were there. The place was a dream!
Additionally, I loved the café called Velkoprevorsky Mlyn near the John Lennon Wall. It had one million hanging plants and greenery, and the entire space was indoor/outdoor. We stopped here for breakfast before hiking in Petrín Park.
On our last night in Prague, we went to a restaurant called U Sedmi Svabu, and although it was quite a hike to get to, it was so cool. The entire restaurant is wooden and candlelit. I was in heaven! I had a giant veggie plate, and Chase got a meat plate. Both were incredible and we had a blast here before ending our night at another cool bar called Hemingway Bar (highly recommend for a nice cocktail – I got a drink that was served on a wooden plank with moss and evergreen.
Prague is an incredible city to explore! There are quite a few things on my ‘favorites’ list that I would recommend to you if you’re visiting.
- Walk around Old Town and spend time studying/looking at the gorgeous architecture
- Hike Petrín Park (but don’t climb the tower at the top of the hill – instead, walk through the gardens and stop in the planetarium!)
- Eat all of the sausages that you can because you truly won’t have anything like them in the USA!
- Walk through the Havel Market and get breakfast! I actually found a Matcha latte at one of the stands; and although it was incredibly sweet and barely had any caffeine, I was happy to be holding my green morning beverage again
- Visit Charles Bridge; take pictures, sit and look out onto the river, and DEFINITELY visit it a second time in the evening when the sun is setting
- Visit the Prague Castle and Saint George’s Basilica
- If you are visiting during the time of Letenské Sady Beer Festival – GO! But, recognize that you will have to pay for everything that you consume at the END when you’re exiting the festival. You don’t pay as you go like we typically do in the US.
- Eat a Trdelník donut filled with Nutella or chocolate (Chase and I called these 'turtlenecks' because we couldn't get the pronunciation right..HAHA)
We took the train from Prague to Budapest – so easy and met some cool people on the way!
Budapest is an interesting city. Overall, I didn’t love our stay here. We didn’t have a good Airbnb experience (bed was broken and someone tried to get into our apartment in the middle of the night), and the Hungarian people didn’t seem to be very welcoming. Although we went to some really cool restaurants and did some fun things, we didn’t absolutely love Budapest, and speaking English created a barrier between us and the locals.
The city had a lot of great hummus plates, meats and veggie dishes. There were a ton of vegetarian options here! A few of my favorite restaurants that we visited included Vintage Garden, where we got a huge charcuterie board to share and I had a salmon salad. The place was decorated like a fairytale – strung lights, fake cherry blossom trees inside the restaurant, white wood, candles and an open skylight. Two nights in a row, we ended the evening at Szimpla Kert, a ruins bar district (MUST GO).
The second night we went to a super cool restaurant called Mazel Tov. I loved the vibe here, and the food was incredible! We shared a hummus plate and then both had main dishes – I had a great salad. Everything was FIRE at Mazel Tov – drinks, appetizers, main dishes. I don’t think we could have ordered something that we didn’t like even if we tried.
Lastly, the Karavan street food district is such a great place to drink, hangout and get dinner. Chase and I walked by this area on our way to dinner the first night and we knew we had to visit. Walk by each truck and see what there is to offer; Chase and I tried a variety of things!
In regards to activities and other things to do in Budapest – here were some of my favorites!
- Walk to Castle Hill and explore the entire area! Chase and I spent ~3 hours just walking around, getting coffee and seeing the inside of the church. Go to the café by the castle wall and get a coffee or dessert while enjoying the view of Budapest.
- Order a hummus plate – anywhere! They are so good here
- Visit the House of Terror – history of Hungary during communist/Nazi rule; incredibly interesting, but also a very emotional experience
- Bring wine to City Park and lay in the grass and enjoy sunshine + fresh air
- Visit the Szenchensky Thermal Bath within City Park just to see and experience it (they are actually quite dirty and gross, but worth seeing and doing)
- If you get into Budapest before your Airbnb, hotel or hostel is available for check-in, you MUST stop at Lion’s Locker for daytime storage! This place is a gem. I even wrote a raving review on Trip Advisor for them because the people were so nice and welcoming; and it was great not having to worry about our luggage for the day while exploring!
- Visit Great Market Hall (giant indoor market) and get a donut from one of the upstairs vendors. We had one drenched in Nutella…wow is all I can say.
- If you can, make a reservation for dinner at Dobrumba – this place is DOPE and has a lot of healthy options! Beware, though, reservations are hard to snag – try and reserve a week in advance!
Landing in Italy was so exciting, and it was super fun taking a water taxi for the first time around the city to our Airbnb, which was FANTASTIC – our host was incredibly kind and gave us so many ideas for places to eat and see. The apartment was also right in the heart of everything, so we we’re in a perfect location.
I seriously can still taste this fluffy-dough amazingness pizza that I had for lunch at a restaurant called Rossopomodoro, and the truffle ravioli that Chase and I shared at al Portego (great local spot to enjoy a spritz and then have dinner). Of course, there was also a gelato place that we couldn’t get enough of – Suso – a MUST visit. Mostly, what I loved so much about Italian food was how it was served, and the dining experience. We lingered during dinners and took our time drinking, eating and talking. No waitress or café owner was ever in a hurry for us to leave the table and get going. It was nice to take our time, eat slowly and just enjoy.
Although the city of Venezia is quite small in comparison to others, there is so much to do there! We wish that we would have had another day to explore, because there were so many more things that we wanted to do and see. Here are some of my highlights though:
- Walk through Doge’s Palace (SO MUCH GOLD) and Basilica di San Marco (we didn’t walk inside of this because the line was so ridiculously long, but seeing it from the outside was still incredible!)
- Visit San Marco Square (during the day and during the night!)
- Eat lunch at a restaurant or café by the water on Fondamenta Zattere Al Gesuati
- Hangout in the market square past the Rialto Bridge (Campo San Giacomo di Rialto) We had a spritz here in both the afternoon and the night both days we were in Venice because it was always bustling with people! So much fun.
- Get lost! Walk around. This is the best way to get to know Venice according to our Airbnb hostess. You are never too far from your stayaway because the city isn’t that big!
- Eat the pizza, stop in the hole-in-the-wall cafés, and don’t turn down live music when you pass it
Cinque Terre, Monterosso
Holy tits. This is the most beautiful place that I’ve ever been, hands down. Although we didn’t have too much time here (only two nights and one full day), we made the most of it by eating a lot and adventuring as much as we could!
There is a wine and tapas bar called Enoteca Internazionale that I loved. Chase and I tried a few different wines here and shared an incredible charcuterie board. We ended up getting to know the owner a bit too! It’s definitely a hot spot for locals.
We also visited a boutique winery that I will forever remember. Buranco – it’s located up the hill from the town and has the most incredible view of the vineyard and hills of Monterosso. Chase and I did a wine tasting that included homemade breads with meats, olive and pesto spreads and a lemon cake to pair with the winery’s Limoncello. Incredible service, wine and experience. I hope I can go back one day!
If you have a few days in the Cinque Terre area, lucky you! Because we had such a short stay, we weren’t able to see all 5 of the towns, but we did make the most of our time and did some things that I would definitely recommend doing if you’re visiting!
- Sit by the water in Monterosso or Vernazza and drink wine or picnic
- Hike from one town to the next, or hike all of the towns! We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza and it was PHENOMENAL. Quite hard to our surprise, but so incredibly beautiful and worth every single step.
- If you can snag a reservation at L'Ancora della Tortuga, do it! Chase and I tried to get in but there was no availability while we were there. Also, they’re closed on Mondays, so take that into consideration. Most incredible views and really romantic!
- Walk around and adventure through the towns. All of the alleys and walkways are full of character!
I am so glad that we ended our trip here. Initially, we weren’t going to go to Paris, but we ended up getting an affordable flight out of the city so we decided to spend a day or so there!
Our Airbnb was KICK. ASS. Seriously. I took notes on the furniture and décor because it was such a cool space. Also, the couple that hosted us was incredibly nice and gave us awesome recco’s for places to eat and see! If I’m ever back in Paris, I’ll hope to stay at this apartment.
We packed a ton into the day and a half that we were in Paris! Even though we didn’t have that much time in the city, we saw the Louvre (didn’t go inside of it but laid in the gardens and people watched), went to the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed macaroons and champagne, bought new books at a cool bookstore, visited a cheese shop and ate cheese, crackers and dark chocolate at a nearby park, saw the Notre Dame Cathedral, walked alongside the river, went to two different neighborhoods for dinners, and more. With only a limited amount of hours in Paris, we had FUN!
Here are some of my favorite ideas for a short time in Paris:
- Lay in the Louvre gardens and read a book or people watch (go inside if you want!)
- Stop into a local bakery and buy macaroons and/or pastries, then stop into a liquor store and buy champagne or prosecco, and take those things to the Eiffel Tower lawn!!
- Eat lunch at Marché des Enfants Rouges (MUST get a sandwich from Chez Alain Miam Miam)
- Visit Fromagerie Laurent Dubois for fresh cheeses and samples!
- Patrick Roger is a chocolate shop that honestly feels like a high-end jewelry store. It’s an experience! The chocolate is incredible and worth trying.
- Rue des Petites-Ecuries is a street that we went to for dinner and tapas. There are a lot of restaurants and places to grab drinks! Fun vibe here.
- Walk alongside the river, across the bridges and by Notre Dame Cathedral – beautiful areas with street performers, fun restaurants and cafés!
How I Managed My Healthy Lifestyle
Ultimately, I didn’t live according to my routine and lifestyle at home, and it was a bit hard at times. I ate the bread, drank the wine, tried the pastas and desserts, and enjoyed the different meats. My body felt pretty different by the end of the trip, and my digestion was off pretty much the entire time, BUT, I wouldn’t have done it any differently because it was such an incredible experience.
There are a few things, however, that I did in order to maintain a somewhat steady digestive state and healthy environment for my brain and body.
- I drank the coffee and really enjoyed the espressos, but there was only one day that I had more than one. I wanted to make sure that I was maintaining a healthy mental state because coffee typically gives me anxiety. Limiting my caffeine intake for a majority of the trip helped me steer clear of anxieties that I could have experienced from being out of my routine, etc.
- We ate the desserts, but we didn’t have them everywhere we went. There were so many bakeries and pastry shops that we could have stopped in at any moment during our days in Europe, but we tried to be conscious of when we decided to enjoy them, etc.
- I made sure to meditate every time we were on a train, plane or long subway ride. This just helped me stay grounded and relaxed during travel.
- I took digestive enzymes to help my body digest things that it wasn’t used to digesting (red meat, chicken, legumes, gluten and dairy). I really love the Essential Enzymes brand – it’s one that has worked well for me and it’s available on Amazon!
- I hydrated as much as I could. Chase brought a collapsible water bottle for us, so we carried it around everywhere and tried to keep ourselves hydrated. It really helped maintain good energy for me, and it also helped with any brain fog that I was experiencing in the mornings after the previous night’s dinner and wine.
- I brought Smooth Move along with me because, frankly, it was extremely helpful when things really weren’t moving along. It wasn’t ideal, but it really helped if I drank it at night before bed. I also brought my sleepytime tea because it reminded me of home!
- We drank the wine and had some great cocktails, but we didn’t over-consume. Not being hungover made a HUGE difference in the next day! Without a hangover, we were able to get up earlier and get on our feet and out into the city!
- I stuck to mostly salad and veggie dishes for entrees when I could – mostly because that’s what I genuinely enjoy! Surprisingly, there were great options, even in Italy!
- We walked EVERYWHERE! Even when we knew the local metro was available, we didn’t take it more than 3 or so times throughout the entire trip. Walking was such great exercise that when I came back to cycling after 2 weeks of not touching the bike – I surprisingly felt GREAT.
Although I didn’t feel quite like myself physically during the trip, it was eye-opening for me to step out of my routine and into the life of travel. During travel time, I had time to think and dream, while also learning from podcasts and books that I was reading; and I gained SO much from slowing down and doing this. When we were exploring, my heart and mind were opened to different cultures and languages, and it was particularly cool to see how other people interact with one another in different parts of the world. Love is love people; and human interaction is COOL to observe.
While traveling Europe, I learned that I don’t have to be doing ‘me’ all the time in order to ENJOY this life. I didn’t touch the gym or a ripe piece of organic fruit for 2 weeks, and I still had the best time ever exploring, eating, trying and learning. Traveling challenges you to find the beauty in all of the situations around you, because they are all SO different. It was such an important experience for my self-growth.
I’m incredibly thankful that Chase and I were able to make this trip happen. It was hard to save up, but it was so incredibly worth it! If you are someone that is thinking about traveling to Europe, New York or even the next city over from you, I think you should save up and make it happen. There is so much that you can experience even just by spending time in a different neighborhood. Immersing ourselves in different cultures and environments with different kinds of people, languages and/or traditions is overwhelming and awesome at the same time.
Have you gone to Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, Venice, Cinque Terre or Paris? What were your fave restaurants and things that you did?!