Apr
24

One Of Our Best Travel Days Ever

We specifically chose to come to Hungary because of our ancestry. Or rather, Mike’s ancestry, although I am equally as interested. You see, Mike’s father was in born in Hungary and he immigrated to Canada when he was 25 years old. We were keen to come to Hungary to see where Mike’s father was born and to get a feel for the country he grew up in.

Now, being that Mike’s father was an only child, we did not have too much family to visit. There are a few cousins we knew we would get in touch with but none of them speak English which meant that communication was going to be difficult. Mike also had a Facebook friend named Zoltan in Hungary whom he had friended years ago but did not have much contact with. We share the same last name so we knew we were related to him but we did not know how we were related.

That is where things start to get interesting. When we announced our next stop on our European itinerary was Hungary, Zoltan asked us if we would like to get together while we were here. Of course we said yes! Zoltan and his wife took the train from where they live to Budapest and we spent the day together trying to figure out how we were related. After much searching on Zoltan’s part through old family trees and talking to relatives in Hungary, Zoltan has traced our routes back to the 1700’s when two brothers came from Poland to Hungary to the small village of Madarász where they worked to build a church. They stayed in Hungary and started families. We are the descendants. Zoltan figured out that we are actually 5th cousins!

Even before we knew for sure how we are related, in a shining example of Hungarian hospitality, Zoltan invited our family to our ancestral village of Madarász to his Grandmother’s house for an Easter lunch. The whole family was there to celebrate Easter together and we were invited into their family home with open arms and open hearts. I don’t know that I have ever felt so welcomed or so loved by strangers!

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Apr
16

Visiting the Vatican Museum (Without buying tickets online)

OK, OK, you have heard me tell you this before. We are cheap thrifty. We are here in Europe for three and a half months and we need to be careful with our Euros! That is why, against all online advice, we decided to not pre-purchase our tickets for the Vatican Museum in Rome. In what seems to me to be a ridiculous money grab, if you purchase your tickets in advance to avoid the huge lines you have to pay an extra 4€ per ticket for an online ticketing fee. That is 16€ for our family of four so we decided to take our chances and wait in line onsite for our tickets.

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Yes, there were long lines as you can see above but it wasn’t too big a deal for us. We decided to go after lunch so that our bellies would be full and there would be less of a rush to finish (visiting anywhere on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster). We waited in line for almost exactly one hour. Or you could say we paid ourselves 16€ to stand around for an hour. Well worth our time in my books. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr
10

Visiting the Colosseum on Free Day

We were a little nervous to visit the Colosseum on their monthly free day. The Colosseum is the most popular tourist attraction in Rome and it is busy on any given day. Were we crazy for trying to visit it on the first Sunday of the month when all visits were free? Maybe, but it would save us a pretty penny and we are trying so hard to stay on budget in Europe!

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Apr
08

Wandering Rome With Rick Steve’s Audio Guides

When I posted in a traveling family Facebook group asking for advice on what to do in Rome, I was told about the free Rick Steve’s audio guide walking tours. Oh my, I wish we would have known about these in Barcelona! We downloaded all of the guides for Rome and we did almost every single walking tour available. Our kids loved learning about the history and Rick presents in such an easy going and funny way that the guides kept us all engaged. We saw things that we probably would have missed without the guides and we learned so much from them. I highly recommend them if you are coming to Europe and they are available for many of the main European cities.

Rome was made for wandering. Little alleys that open up to stunning piazzas.  Hole in the wall restaurants, sandwich shops, and gelaterias are tucked around every corner. Thousand-year-old buildings, opulent churches, and stunning statues await to be discovered. Four of our seven days in Rome were spent just wandering and those days were made more interesting with Rick Steve’s audio guides.

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Apr
03

The Cost Of Food In Barcelona

In order to make a three and a half month trip to Europe affordable, we have decided to only choose a few destinations and rent apartments on Airbnb for between one week to one month at a time. This allows us to save a HUGE amount on accommodation (we are averaging just over $50 CAD per night) and allows us to cook our own food in our apartments. Slow travel is a great fit for our family. We like to travel deep instead of wide. Slow traveling allows us to visit countries we might not be able to afford otherwise.

Our family of four is staying in Barcelona for an entire month. We have rented an apartment here for about a 60% discount over the nightly rate because we are staying so long. The neighborhood we are in is well outside the tourist zones which means it has a lovely local feel and local prices.

We have the option of three grocery stores in our immediate vicinity, two fruit and vegetable stores, countless bakeries, and a few butcher shops. These are all within a five-minute walk of us. Shopping for groceries in a foreign country is super fun and we love the mom-and-pop feel of all of the specialty stores in Barcelona. We can pop out our door to fulfill our cravings of croissants and fruit or hit up the patisserie for a fresh baguette to make our picnic lunches.

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Mar
30

The Graffiti of Barcelona

When we first got to Barcelona, we started to wonder if our neighborhood was a bit rough. Graffiti was EVERYWHERE. I’m not talking a little bit on abandoned buildings and under bridges, I am talking on almost every single building. We soon realized that the graffiti was not limited to our neighborhood, it is all over the city. Nothing is out of bounds, including the beautiful old doors and buildings, delivery trucks, street signs, and anything else within easy reach. And while some of the graffiti I would consider art work, most of it is vandalism in my books.IMG_0773 DSC_0233 DSC_0220 DSC_0214 DSC_0208 IMG_0443

Have you been to Barcelona? Did you notice all the graffiti?

Mar
26

Four Awesome Day Trips From Barcelona

After spending three of our four weeks in Barcelona, we decided it was time to get outside the city and see what we could get up to in a day trip. We soon realized that, because we are a family of four, it would actually be cheaper to rent a car for four days than it would to take public transport to see the sights on our list.  So we researched our prices and got a great deal on a little car from Enterprise. We rented the car on the website doyouspain.com which was actually about 20€ cheaper than anywhere else on the web.

The four destinations we chose were all about our passion for history. We have two boys who love Medieval Times as well as all things Roman, so instead of hitting up the beach towns or the hillside monastery of Montserrat, we went to the Medieval walled cities of Tossa De Mar, Pal, and Girona, and the Roman ruins at Tarragona. We absolutely loved all of these day trips and we highly recommend all of them. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar
24

The Stunning Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudi’s buildings and I would hazard to guess one of the most famous basilicas in the world. It is pretty much the top attraction in Barcelona and for good reason. After three weeks in Barcelona, we decided we had better go see what all the fuss was about. 🙂

Construction on this monstrous Catholic church began in 1882 and IT IS NOT YET FINISHED! Think on that! Completion is estimated in 2028.

As with all Gaudi buildings, it is whimsical, intricate and kind of over the top. Every inch is detailed. Some of it we found beautiful, some of it we found gaudy (and no, gaudy did not come from Gaudi…we checked.)

The Outside

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Yes, that is a night throwing babies to their deaths. Hrrmmm.

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The Inside

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Gaudi modeled these columns from trees. They do look like trees, don’t you think?

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We loved all the light dancing in the stained glass windows.

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We spent a long time looking UP!

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Tips

  • Buy your tickets online. Otherwise, you will waste your day in line.
  • Kids 10 and under are free. Bonus!
  • Be prepared to spend at least an hour here.

Mar
21

Parc del Guinardó, Barcelona

We have been trying to intersperse our Barcelona city explorations with days at parks. While our family really enjoys visiting cities, we are not city people. To maintain a healthy balance for our one-month stay in Barcelona we have been seeking out areas of the city where we can get a dose of nature and fresh air (well, as fresh as you can get when inside a major city).

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Barcelona is a port city that is surrounded by hills. On one of those hills lies Parc del Guinardó. We spent a day wandering up the many paths in this park, slowly making our way to the top where we were rewarded with an amazing vantage point over the city of Barcelona. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar
19

Montjuïc Cemetery, Barcelona

When figuring out our activities for the day we decided to check out Montjuïc Fountain. When looking on Google Maps I noticed that it seemed quite close to Montjuïc Cemetary. After a quick google search which showed beautiful sculptures at the cemetery we decided to combine the fountain with a side trip to the cemetery.

Our day soon turned comical as we tried to navigate our way over the hill from the fountain, through the eerily abandoned Olympic village, and then up a hill that at one time must have been beautifully manicured but now lays in neglect with overgrown pathways and dead ends. My advice to you is to come to the cemetery from the front side instead of the back. If you come from the back, like we did, you may be greeted with a slightly eery feeling of being in an abandoned area where the locals don’t seem to venture. Indeed, we were beginning to wonder if we had stepped into the twilight zone!

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