ericaamber

Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

The World According to Margit

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 1:34 am

Called ‘Margaret Island’ by the English speaking word, Margit Island, in Budapest, Hungary, is a magical island of pure awesomeness.

From the ruins of a church and Dominican convent, in use from the 13th to 16th centuries where St. Margaret of Hungary lived, and children now frolic, to a 5.5km running track around the outside, Margit island is spectacular. The island even has its own hotel, zoo, and a recreation area that includes pools, mini golf, workout machines, water slides, trampolines and food service areas. Add to that an athletics complex with diving, soccer and who knows what other facilities.

On a night walk we even discovered a casino! I spent a good chunk of my time in Hungary exploring this amazing island and each time I found something new. On one visit, we marveled at the musical water fountain which features jets of water shooting in the air to the time of the music being played, while various spotlights change color.

My morning runs were ever so much more entertaining here, although they had to be early, as temperatures soared up to the high 30s, even hitting 40 one day (degrees celsius!!) The edges of the island are peppered with sun worshippers working on their tans while small passenger boats and river cruise ships motor slowly alongside.

At night, we stood on Margit Bridge, one of the 9 bridges along the Danube in Budapest. From there you can see the beautiful Chain Bridge and the lights of the Parliament as well as those from the castle district. My dear friend Andi is a wealth of knowledge about Hungarian history and I was eager to learn, asking to hear the stories that went along with each monument, building, or statue.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with Budapest from my first visit to this wonderful island. I will most certainly be back!!

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The Day of Three Cities

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2014 at 3:49 am

One of the most memorable days on this trip has to be a day that we shall call ‘The Day of Three Cities’. When we booked the trip, we knew we wanted to see Florence, but we also knew it was very expensive to stay there, so we decided to leave Venice early in the morning, catch the train to Florence, spend the day there, and take a night train to Caserta where we would meet my lovely friend Marco who I hadn’t seen since my first shipboard contract. Whilst I was booking the trains, I realized that we would have 2 hours in the Pisa Centrale train station before the long train ride to Caserta. I recalled from my time on the Legend that the leaning tower of Pisa was not too far from the train station, so we could see the tower at night then catch our train. I ran this by the girls, they agreed, trains were booked, we were happy. To be honest I might not have ran it by them and just booked it, but…well…details.

Our last morning in Venice arrived; we got up and onto the train and off we went. Arriving in Florence, we found a place to check our bags (platform 16!!!! A stoic Italian gentleman informed us) and away we went to explore. Florence is truly a beautiful city, and having the whole day to explore it, we wandered up and down streets, into gelato shops and across bridges. We wandered up to the highest vantage points, introduced ourselves to the statue of David, and spent some time in the church at the top. Finding a fabulous restaurant at the bottom of the hill, we had some lunch with wine and enjoyed each others company.

While up at the top wandering around, we noticed a plethora of photographers and videographers and wondered what it could be. It was only later on after we had connected to wifi that we discovered it was in fact the paparazzi getting ready for the wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, festivities which we could see from a distance later on in the evening.

Returning to the train station, we caught our train to Pisa, which was…let’s just say….not the fanciest of trains that we caught during our trip. However we called it our midnight train and randomly broke into verses of Journey’s ‘Midnight Train’ and that made everything better. As we arrived into Pisa, my heart sank as it had been almost a year since I’d been to Pisa and at that time we had arrived on a different side of the city and walked towards the central station. AKA….I wasn’t sure what we were doing. We all had massive backpacks on and it was 1am…but our spirits of adventure persevered and off we went into the night. I won’t bore you with the arduous journey of three girls in the night searching for a leaning tower….let’s just cut to the chase. We found the leaning tower and it is just as brilliant at night as it is in the daytime!! We had the entire place to ourselves other than some mischievous Italian youths and we had a great time taking the traditional tourist pictures holding the tower….or pushing it over!

Success put a swing in our steps on the way back. Except for Saffie who had recently broken her foot and also packed quite heavily. But what couldn’t lift her feet still lifted her spirits and we made the short trek back to the train station, stopping only to get Emma a Nutella crepe…which was entirely necessary.

Our train from Pisa to Caserta looked as though it were one of those cool sleeper trains that you see in movies.

It was not.

Upon entering the cars, they looked quite like the Hogwart’s Express from the Harry Potter books, however once we got going, it was more like the train from the movie Eurotrip. Foreign strangers with less than pleasant odors and no English skills made for a very interesting train ride, one which only Emma managed to sleep on, and only because she covered her entire head and shoulders in her jacket. Saffie and I huddled away from our stinky bench companion and tried to sleep, however were often awakened and weren’t particularly comfortable. But it certainly was an adventure, one which I would never take back, as it is hilarious to think about now.

Finally, we arrived in Caserta, at 8:30am that morning, bedraggled and sleep deprived, however we had successful been in three cities that day!! From Venice to Florence to Pisa, and good times were had by all.

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So heavy!!!!

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Us ladies having a lovely time in Florence

Good Morning Italy

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2014 at 6:25 am

I must preface this post by saying that it’s not current even though it says ‘yesterday’ in there as if it’s current. It was current when I wrote it, and I did have every intention of posting it immediately so as to be the kind of blogger who is very up to date with everything. However, as it does, life got in the way and I am now one of those bloggers who is apologizing for the delay and getting around to posting it a week later. In my defense, life is a grand adventure and the first rule of adventures is that they can be very distracting.* That being said, I quite enjoy a cheeky blog post written in first person present so I’m not changing it….I hope you enjoy a small tale of Italy….

As our train gently whirrs through the Italian countryside, I’m overwhelmed with waves of nostalgia as memories from the Legend Europe season come flooding into my brain. Arriving into Milan yesterday was hectic, finding our hostel stressful, and we really just focused on getting ready for today. When we booked the trip, it was hundreds of euros cheaper to fly into Milan, which is why we did, it was really only a stopover point. Arriving to a taxi strike meant lots of wandering, trams, trains, me speaking pieces of broken Italian, and by the time we got to the hostel we didn’t have much interest in exploring the city itself. Sorry Milan, I’m sure you’re lovely, I’ll have to give you another chance next time. We did, however, see a crazy massive cemetery and the beautiful architecture of the train station, so there’s that.

Up this morning at the crack of dawn, still exhausted from the calamity of Amsterdam, we arrived at Milano Centrale and located our train after several delicious Italian coffees (and a tea for Emma, she’s jolly well British that one is). Snuggled in my cosy Trenitalia seat, gazing out the window, I’m feeling particularly thoughtful. I am so excited to experience Venice again and in a whole new way. I can’t wait to see the city anew through the eyes of my friends and to remember old adventures. I think that has been one of my favorite parts of this trip so far, not only seeing new things myself, but watching my friends discover parts of the world that I already love. Their excitement makes me excited all over again, as though I’m seeing things for the first time as well.

That brings us here, to the train, still whirring along. I almost feel as though someone hit the pause button, and I have a small window of time with my thoughts. The girls are sleeping like angels, and the rest of the people in our car are eerily quiet, as if they know I need this time to myself. Looks like I still have time to catch a wee nap before we arrive. Dearest Venice, I can’t wait to see you again!! Ciao!!!!

*The second rule of adventures is to wear layers, because you never know!

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