Budapest Like A Local

This week, I decided to dig deep into my photo archives and revisit destinations I’ve yet to blog about. Though pictures on a screen don’t do Budapest justice, they rekindled that head over heels feeling this city gave me.

Last summer, I spent three nights in Budapest with my dad and brother. From the moment I laid eyes on the Parliament Building, I was in awe. During the day, the contrast of the strong gothic architecture against the serene Danube River was enough to make me swoon, but as the day went on, I fell even more in love with it. Viewing the building from Fisherman’s Bastion (on the Buda side) was one of the highlights of my visit, but seeing it completely lit up in gold at night while birds resembling shooting stars danced above it truly took my breath away.

My time spent in Budapest was hardly enough for me to feel capable of offering advice on “top must-sees,” so I decided to pick my friend @diathesun‘s brain about the place she once called home. Dia lives in NYC, but grew up in Budapest and returns there every summer to attend Sziget Music Festival.

If you aren’t familiar with Budapest, the first thing you should know is that it’s divided by the Danube River into Buda and Pest (pronounced pesht). Some of the more touristy spots I visited and Dia recommends are Buda Castle, Hero’s Square, and the Hungarian State Opera House. All are rich in history, and not too shabby to look at (and by that, I mean not at all).

The National Gallery located inside the Buda Castle has a wonderful collection of Hungarian masterpieces placed in an amazing art deco building. Dia recommends keeping an eye out for their special exhibitions as last summer they had a Picasso and a Modigliani retrospective at the same time. Budapest also has a large Jewish community and is home to Europe’s largest temple, the Dohany Steer Synagogue.

We both agree that a visit to the Széchenyi Baths should be at the top of your list! I ended up getting a full hour body massage for roughly 60 euros (a steal compared to US prices) and it was one of the most heavenly experiences I’ve ever had. Not to mention, Széchenyi is the largest thermal bath in Europe with 20 baths of different sizes and temperatures (both indoor and outdoor), saunas, steam rooms and more. What more could a girl ask for?! Gellért Baths is a good alternative if you’re into having options.

Moving on to food. To be honest, I had a bad stomach bug in Budapest so I didn’t really get to enjoy the cuisine (one of my favorite parts about traveling), so this is where Dia comes in big time! Her favorite restaurant is Rosenstein, known for their selection of wild game and “the best matza ball soup in town.” She also recommends her friend’s restaurant, Keksz, as a locals-only spot to grab a burger and beer.

A must-try Hungarian dish is Lángos, which is basically fried dough. I picked one up at the Great Market Hall, another must-see spot, and tried it with bananas, strawberries and nutella, but you can get just about anything you want as a topping! The Great Market Hall has everything from local cuisine to specialty crafts. Hungary is well-known for its lace, which you’ll notice once you start wandering around the city, so I picked up a piece from a vendor there.

If you’re planning a night out, take advice from a local and head to Belvaros or English Inner City (District V). There are also a ton of pubs all around Wesselenyi street. According to Dia, summer is the best time to visit Budapest because there are so many young people from all over the world. But rest assured, no matter when you visit, you won’t be disappointed. In my opinion, Budapest is definitely one of Europe’s most underrated destinations.

Visiting Budapest? Have a question I didn’t answer? Reach out to me in the comments!

Hero's Square

Hero’s Square
Great Market Hall

Great Market Hall
Langos

Langos
Széchenyi Baths

Széchenyi Baths

Szechenyi baths

Parliament Building

Parliament Building
Parliament building

Fisherman’s Bastion

Hungarian State Opera House

Hungarian State Opera House
Hungarian State Opera House

Danube Bank Architecture

Shoes on the Danube Bank

Shoes on the Danube Bank

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budapest

Moab Memories

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Utah has always been a place I’ve had a soft spot for. My aunt and uncle have lived there since I was little, and as a FL girl I always wanted to visit during the winter to play in the snow and go skiing. But this summer, I got to see a completely different side of Utah — one that completely and utterly took my breath away.

Starved for a change of pace from the demands of city life, I packed my bags, grabbed my favorite gal, and headed out west without the slightest hesitation.

After touching down in Salt Lake, we made home in the coziest little RV I’ve ever been in (ok, the only one I’ve been in). The Wildcat was equipped with a bathroom, shower, kitchen and plenty of booze to make my uncle’s signature Moscow mules — glamping at its finest!

After an unbelievably scenic drive, we made it to Moab. It was a bit late for us to take a hike, but our little group couldn’t wait to indulge in the magic of this orange-hued heaven. It was the perfect excuse for a drive through the grounds, including a stop at Park Avenue and Balancing Arch. From the moment we entered Arches National Park, I was in a state of euphoria.

The days that followed consisted of nothing but pure bliss. I walked alongside some of Mother Earth’s greatest masterpieces, let the winds carry me away in a hot air balloon, jetted around on the Colorado River, drove out on pitch black roads to lay under the most gorgeous blanket of stars, and was even convinced by locals to free fall out of a freaking airplane (still can’t believe that happened!).

To be frank, you kind of ruined me, Moab. You showed me a new side of travel that I never knew I would love so much — one completely centered around nature. If you’re at all hesitating whether or not to visit this little adventure town, I offer you a single word of advice: go.

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skydiving

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Pack this:

Don’t miss:
Arches National Park: Delicate Arch, Double Arch, Balancing Arch, Mesa Arch
Canyonlands National Park: Upheaval Dome, Needles
Dead Horse State Park: Dead Horse Point
Canyonlands Ballooning
Colorado River Jet Boat Tour
Skydive Moab
Moab Made

Eat this:
Twisted Sistas
The Blu Pig
Eddie McStiff’s (bison burger!)
Moab Brewery

Good to know:
—Ditch the hotel and shack up in an RV, tent or at Moab Under Canvas
—Download the REI app for info on all of the trails
—Keep an eye out for little stacked rocks that indicate the direction of the trail
—Bathrooms and few and far between– use them when you see them!
—There’s no such thing as having too much water or taking too many pictures

Shout out to my aunt and uncle for the most incredible trip! We’ll never forget it!

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A Love Letter to Brooklyn

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It’s crazy to think my first anniversary of living in New York is already creeping up on me. Trips from Florida to visit my best friend feel like they were just yesterday; my first time walking the Brooklyn Bridge within reach.

In hindsight, I definitely took Brooklyn for face value on our first date. Notable sights like the bridge and promenade lured me in, but I had no idea of the adventures that would soon unfold. I’m still peeling back Brooklyn’s layers to this day, each more intriguing than the last.

I wish I could go back to my first time walking the Brooklyn Bridge and give myself a little preview of the memories I’d make: rooftop sunsets in Williamsburg; eating my weight in ramen burgers at smorgasburg; wandering aimlessly through dumbo and taking home [too many] overpriced succulents from Brooklyn flea; Sunday afternoons lounging in Prospect Park; filling up my camera’s memory card at the botanic garden; solo strolls through Prospect Heights; gazing out over the Hudson with fresh seafood and beers in Red Hook; and waking up in bed with best friends in Buschwick, most notably during blizzard Jonas– which I barely made it back to Manhattan from before all public transportation closed.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of those walks that evokes a sense of both nostalgia and excitement over the unknown every time. What lies on the other side of Manhattan is something special; something worth getting to know. Simply put– I’ve got a soft spot for ya, Brooklyn.

Shoutout to Frank Simmons, (@frankisglobal & @still.cinema) for taking these shots! I’m wearing the Free People Nikita Dress on the Brooklyn Bridge, and Citizen’s Liya Jeans with a black bodysuit in the skyline shot (all linked below!).

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Day Trip to Dia: Beacon

dia: beacon day trip

Living in a city as busy, and sometimes downright exhausting as New York often leaves me itching for a getaway. Working and doing the whole ‘adulting’ thing full-time creates the illusion that I no longer have free time, and lately I’ve been falling into a bit of a routine with a bad case of the travel bug (next Europe trip, where you at?!).

While an elaborate getaway isn’t in the cards for me this year, I still can’t shake the desire to get out and see new places in the world. Though wandering through NYC never really gets old, I decided to switch things up and head out to one of the most esteemed art establishments in the great state of New York.

With my camera, some cash, and my go-to adventure gal in tow (hey, The Artfulist!), I boarded a train at Grand Central and headed to Dia:Beacon.

In just 90 minutes, I went from a city full of skyscrapers and roughly 8.5 million residents to a quaint town (population 14,389) full of winding hills and lush mountains in the distance. Beacon offered a refreshing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city, leaving me feeling refreshed and inspired.

Side note: when purchasing train tickets, be sure to select the Dia:Beacon package deal which includes a round-trip ticket plus museum entry for $32 with a student ID (which nobody asked to see). A steal!

Dia:Beacon is essentially an instagrammers paradise without the overcrowded feeling most NYC galleries give off. Its high ceilings and extensive amount of square footage made me feel like I could breathe, like really breathe– a concept practically unheard of in the city.

Around every corner, a new installation was waiting– from neon lights that beg for a photo to natural elements like glass and dirt masterfully placed in piles that you can walk within inches from.

dia: beacon day trip
dia: beacon day trip
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dia: beacon day trip
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dia: beacon

After checking out the eerie basement floor, we decided to rest our feet on the huge piles of foam covered with sheets (not really sure what else to call it, but definitely a cozy communal space!), then we made our way outside for a walk through the garden.

Post museum, a stroll down Main Street was a no-brainer. The summer heat made a compelling case for us to duck into every vintage and antique shop we could find. Upon recommendation from a local, we eventually landed at an adorable cheese and charcuterie shop called Beacon Pantry for lunch (the goat cheese salad is to die for!).

dia: beacon
dia: beacon

For anyone who feels like they don’t have time for exploration, I promise you that day trips like these are beyond seamless. Spending the day in Beacon was like hitting the reset button, and it definitely satisfied my craving for a little adventure. If you’re new to the 9-5 work grind like me, trust me when I say that no matter how burned out you feel, you should always find time feed your soul.

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Dia:Beacon Outfit Inspiration:

Flatiron Feels

Flatiron building NYC

My first encounter with the Flatiron building was a brief stint during one of my summer visits in college. It stuck out at me, warranted a photo or two, and then I was on my way, not giving it another thought until instagramming it that evening and soon after letting it fade from my memory until my next NYC trip.

Today, this building means so much more to me than I could’ve imagined. Not because of its beauty, obscure shape or notoriety,  but because it symbolizes a new chapter in my life– one full of every emotion imaginable.

I moved to the city just one day prior to starting my first full time job, and barely got to see the light of day after moving into my apartment. The next morning, I woke excited– anxious, really. I mapped out my walk to work with plenty of time to account for getting lost, and finally spotted the Flatiron building, from which my office is only a few short steps away. I remember looking up at it with the most ambivalent feeling. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. It was the most alive I’d felt in a while.

Since that day, I’ve watched this building take on a new persona with every season. From the colorful leaves that whip around its base during the fall; to the stormy winter days that offer a sublime grey backdrop; and now perhaps my favorite of all, the blue skies and budding flowers that cascade around its triangular body, creating a new image with each step.

Flatiron is like a friend that I don’t always have to acknowledge to know it’s there. It’s a familiar face that greets me on my way to and from work, and while some days I hardly notice it, on others, I look up at it in awe. It reminds me of why I came to the city, offering up nostalgia and curiosity all in one. It reminds me that I’m here– in New York City– living out my dreams.

Flatiron building summer

Summer

Flatiron building fall

Fall

Flatiron building winter

Winter

Flatiron building spring

Spring

 

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Get Lost in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

plitvicka jezera

Having visited 16 countries, people often ask me what my favorite place is. It’s tough to choose, but there’s one place that pops into my head every time, and that’s Plitvice Lakes National Park.

This past summer, I traveled to this world-renowned national park in Croatia. Despite my pleas to go to the ever-popular Krka, my brother insisted on Plitvice. Well, I can whole-heatedly tell you I’m glad he persuaded me. Not that Krka isn’t beautiful, but Plitvice is entirely more epic in my opinion. The only con is you can’t swim at Plitvice like you can at Krka, but once you get there, you’ll appreciate the undisturbed beauty.

Plitvice Lakes is something out of a movie. Every step feels like some sort of dream, with seemingly endless waterfalls cascading in every direction you look, even around your feet. This type of natural beautiful is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else, and for that reason, Croatia will always hold a special place in my heart.

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A little background on the park

Plitvice Lakes (pronounced PLEET-veet-seh) is made up of 16 pristine lakes that weave together to form the most idyllic waterfalls and streams, all stitched together by wooden pathway and limestone rock formations.

The recommended starting point is Entrance 2. If you’re like me and want to stop for photo ops (quite often, might I add), plan to spend several hours hiking. For the most part, the trails are very leisurely. There were only a few steep areas, but the paths are extremely well groomed. If you want to cover ground quickly, there is a free boat that takes you across Kozjak, the park’s biggest lake, as well as multiple buses that run regularly.

croatia lakes

croatia national park

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croatia waterfall

Getting to the park

My family and I headed to Plitvice Lakes by car from Dubrovnik, and I’ll admit that I slept for most of the ride despite the breathtaking views. The drive took a little over five hours with stops. Shoutout to my brother for driving the entire way. You’re the real MVP.

The low-down on accommodations

If you want to get the most out of your Plitvice experience, I highly recommend staying in the park overnight. My family and I actually stayed within the park for three nights, but 1-2 will suffice if you’re limited on time. You’ll definitely want a full two days of hiking as there are many different trails and so much to see.

We ended up staying at an adorable little B&B called House Nina (pronounced Nay-Nah). I truly can’t say enough great things about this adorable little house, particularly about Nina herself. First of all, it was a great deal. Be sure to call her directly to book a room as it’s cheaper than booking through Trip Adviser or another site. (Actually, you should always call directly, especially in Europe!) It was a bit tough to find, but once we arrived, we were ecstatic to learn that it’s just a five minute walk to the tallest waterfall in the park (and in Croatia!), Veliki Slap.

plitvice

waterfall plitvice

Nina’s place was quaint with a garden where she grows vegetables, raises her sheep, and has countless kittens running around. She actually grew up in the house, and when she was young, she would swim and fish in the lakes before it was prohibited. Our stay with Nina was the finale of our month-long trip through Europe, and she made us feel completely at home. This isn’t a place you visit for an upscale, flashy experience. It’s a place where you come to throw on a t-shirt, go for a hike, chill out by a fire, get a home cooked meal and spend quality time with loved ones. Some of my favorites memories include Nina making us breakfast every morning and hanging out by a bonfire on our last night with a couple of beers.

croatia kittens

The food situation

The food options are very limited within the park. I’m pretty sure we had our choice of a cheeseburger, chicken sandwich and possibly a salad of some sorts. If you’re a picky eater, I recommend packing your lunch. This may or may not be illegal, so don’t tell the park ranger, but the blackberries in the park were perfectly ripe, so of course we had to indulge and try a few… (Completely just solidified the American stereotype right there, didn’t I?)

wildflowers

blackberries

wild blackberries

What to bring

If you’re traveling during the warmer months, I recommend tank tops, athletic shorts and a t-shirt or two. I’d also throw in a cardigan or denim shirt as it cools off quite a bit in the evening— even during summer. Obviously, lather on the sunscreen, toss on your sunnies and be sure to throw a reusable water bottle and your camera in a backpack to capture the moment. I brought my DSLR out one day, and my GoPro the next. Comfortable shoes are also a must! I lived in my birkenstocks and sneakers.

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Plitvice lakes

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Plitvice Lakes is truly unlike any other place I’ve visited in Europe. While it was still heavily saturated by visitors, it felt intimate– and beyond that– authentic. With no tourist traps, gift shops or manmade attractions, Croatia opened my eyes to a new kind of European experience that allowed me to get in touch with nature.

Have you ever visited a destination in Europe that took you by surprise?

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Travel Guide to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.