Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hungary Eyes: This is how we saw Budapest

For the final leg of our Eastern Europe ice-breaker we're heading to Budapest, Hungary, where the food is supposed to be out of this world and hot springs flow as abundantly as sweet tea and moonshine at a Kentucky family reunion. 

Alan in the rundown Keleti station in Budapest.
Mon., Oct. 15: Today we hopped a late-morning train from Vienna to Budapest. When we finally got situated in our seats, we looked up and ... "Uh-oh," says Alan. "We're on the wrong train." We were headed to Salzburg!

Take two: Today we hopped a mid-afternoon train from Vienna to Budapest. When it dropped us off at our destination — in a little under three hours — we were thrown into a rat race to find the subway we needed to take us to our apartment. People were zooming past us from every direction, and the train station (Keleti), which has definitely seen its better days, was void of any signage that pointed us to the metro. When we finally made it, we couldn't buy a ticket with euros, so we had to run back up to the busy street to search for an ATM (which also wasn't in the train station) that would give us forints. It was a mess, but we finally made it — thanks to a kind old lady who noticed that we looked lost (and frazzled!) and helped us make the right train connections.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Austria Powers: Our groovy trip to Vienna

The Czech Republic was great, but it's time to move on (and further east) to Vienna, where we'll have to stumble through a new language (German) and convert our valuable Czech krona to the dollar-beating euro. This is how we spent our time in Austria's vibrant capital.

The tomb of Queen Maria Theresa and her hubs.
Thu., Oct. 11: Our nifty eight-person shuttle (run by Lobo) from Krumlov to Vienna picked us up at 9 a.m. this morning. On the way — mostly along an interstate — we stopped at a rest area where we had just enough euros from our last trip to Europe to buy a bottle of water and two cappuccinos. #paystothinkahead!

When we arrived in Vienna, we metro'd to the sixth district to check into our apartment — an Airbnb rental just off the hustle-y Mariahilferstrasse. Like most apartments we've rented through Airbnb, this one's decked floor to ceiling in Ikea, but it's one of the most comfortable. It's situated just off a secluded garden courtyard, so it's super quiet, and we're within walking distance to the heart of Vienna — the Ringstrasse (pronounced Ring-strahss-a).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Czech List: Our pit stop in Český Krumlov

Alan and I love small European towns, so we couldn't let this trip go by without passing through at least one. On our way from Prague to Vienna, we decided to make a pit stop in a little nugget of a village called Český Krumlov that sits near the Austrian border. Here's a little glimpse at how we spent our time there. 

The fall foliage really added to Krumlov's already-beautiful landscape.
Tue., Oct.  9: To get to Krumlov, we took a bus run by Student Agency. The trip was a quick three hours and fairly painless. It gave us a chance to check out some of the rolling Czech countryside, which wouldn't be particularly impressive if not for the fall foliage. It's gorgeous, and neat to experience fall in another part of the world.

Those leaves followed us all the way to Český Krumlov, an adorable little town that's zig-zagged by the Vltava River. Its biggest draw is an enormous castle that sits on a hill overlooking the small terra-cotta-roofed village. We're staying in a cottage that's run by one of the many local hostels called Krumlov House. When the front-desk attendant (an art student from New Hampshire!) let us into the cabin, we were greeted by another one of our European firsts — a house kitten that I named Lehky Hlava (her real name's Erma, pronounced "Errrrrma"). It turns out she belongs to a lady who lives around the corner, but she made herself at home in our flat in no time. She's one of the cutest kittens I've ever seen; like a little ragdoll. She'll let you pick her up and flop her around every which way. It broke my heart to put her out when we were ready to go out touring.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Czech List: Our trip to Prague

In March, Alan and I booked tickets for a two-week mini-tour of Eastern Europe. Our interest in this part of the country started when I got the idea to start picking European destinations alphabetically. That led to Albania, which, even though it's shown up on some recent best-new-destinations lists, seemed a little too rough-and-tumble for us to try just yet. But its eastern location prodded us to pick some of the cities in that region-ish we have wanted to visit. The first stop on our itinerary was Prague. Here's a day-by-day look at how we spent our time there.

The John Lennon Wall.
Fri., Oct. 5: Alan and I usually pop sleeping pills when taking long flights, but unfortunately cramped airplane cabins don't always allow us to appropriately sleep the suckers off. On that note, our first day in Prague was experienced through excited but sleepy eyes. We were determined to truck it out until bedtime, though, because we've learned that even the shortest nap can set you on a path straight to Jetlagandia.

We're renting a small apartment in the Little Quarter, something we found through Airbnb. It's a charming little studio decorated with Ikea furniture and several Audrey Hepburn accoutrements. It's ideally located within blocks of the western entrance of the Charles Bridge, but just far enough away to escape all the touristy hub-bub.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Our Return to San Francisco

Hi Bloggy Friends,

When Alan and I moved from San Francisco five years ago, we were ready to scram. Four years of urine stench, chilly temps and being thousands of miles from our families eventually drove us away. But as time went by, our fondness for it began to rebloom, so we decided to mark our half-decade away with a spring trip.

We weren't sure how much the town had changed since we left, but we were happy to see a lot of our old faves still thriving — a welcome sign coming from a city that seems to flip businesses like they're going out of, well, business. There does seem to be a fresher, Upper-West-Side chicness blended into the culture, something we learned is the result of relatively local dotcoms that have blown up in the years since we've been gone. Big-namers like Facebook and Google run shuttle services that cart their employees in and out the Bay Area, a move that's driven up rents and added heft to the commonest of price tags. We even hear the grimy Tenderloin will be spiffing up soon with the arrival of the Instagram headquarters. Oh, snap!

For our trip, we mostly stuck to the areas we knew best, strolling through hoods like the Mission, Haight and Castro, visiting our favorite eateries, and reveling in the departure from reality that comes with being in that crazy-ass city. Here are some quick highlights: