Adventures in Mazatlán: Europe Edition (finally!)
So it’s taken me a while to get to this post – trip was in Sept/Oct so I’m a little behind! Here goes!
I’d never been to Europe, but I like a good airfare deal and a new discount air website I signed up on (http://www.secretflying.com) had tickets from Boston to Paris for under $300. I had plenty of airline miles, so getting to Boston wasn’t a problem. Staying in Hostels saved me about 1/2 of what hotels would have been, especially since most of the hostels were in really good locations. Using trains/public transportation saved me a few more dollars over flying and taking cabs.
Originally I’d planned on going to six cities in the two weeks I was there, but I decided that I would drop Vienna and Brussels and spend a few extra days in Budapest. So the deal was set. Fly into Paris and stay a couple of days, then train to Amsterdam, stay a couple of days, train to Munich and stay one day, then train to Budapest where I stayed for 5 full days. Fly back to Paris and catch the flight home (no fast train from Budapest to Paris, and the flight wasn’t much). I wish I’d spent another day in Munich, and one less in Budapest – but overall I’m happy with the itinerary.
I also made use of the hop-on hop-off buses in each city, except Munich. This gave me an overview of the cities, while hitting the tourist spots. I was able to see where I wanted to go during the rest of the time in each place. Worked out really well. Only one day in Munich so I just wandered; mostly to restaurants!
Paris: I have preconceptions about Paris that interfered with me enjoying the city. It’s the standard years of hearing “Parisians hate Americans” thing, and I did encounter the dreaded snooty waiter while there. If the cheap flights flew into/out of other cities I’d not have gone, and wouldn’t go back specifically for Paris. Prices were high, and I was extremely disappointed in The Louvre. As far as museums go, The Louvre was nice enough – and it’s huge. My problem lies in a good 80% of the items on display being of religious origin (i.e. Christian). Also, a large number of items either said they were from graveyards, or that they were reproductions. So a huge number of items pilfered from graveyards, where I could have gone instead and had a much more interesting time had the artifacts been left there; and another large assortment of items that were copies. In addition there were the massive collection of Christs-on-a-cross, Scary looking religious folk (both sculptures and paintings), and tons of the Christian God’s warrior caste – Angels. Mmmm. Not so much to my liking. Out of the items left were nice things like the Mona Lisa, and Winged Victory of Samothrace – which I would have gone there to see even if I’d known beforehand that the bulk were items I have no interest in.
Amsterdam: Absolutely BEAUTIFUL city. Still pricy. Almost as much as Paris. Lots of Chinese restaurants that had decent Chinese food. Too many party boys (and girls) for my taste – but the city really was absolutely stunning. And the hop-on hop-off tour I took was via boat, so I saw a lot of the canals. And the Bulldog hostel is in a great area – just a little bit from Dam Square. Took a Red Light District tour, but the ladies don’t like photos taken (I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you paid them) – so no pics, sorry! Overall, food was good and the architecture amazing. Glad I went!
Munich: This was just going to be a stop for dinner and to say I’d been somewhere in Germany. Having been there now, I wish I’d had more time. The food was amazing. I can still close my eyes and taste the pork knuckle! And the beer was cheap, cold, and just as good as the food! I was there at the beginning of Octoberfest. I didn’t go to any of the organized celebrations, but there were LOTS of people in town wearing lederhosen and beer was flowing pretty well everywhere I did go! If you go to Germany, I’d recommend three days in Munich. Just for the food and beer! Prices were reasonable, even during Octoberfest.
Budapest: On the recommendation from a [now former] friend, I stayed in The Hive Party Hostel. She swore to me that the rooms were quiet. Um, not so much. Music started around 7:30 pm and didn’t stop until 5 am. The first set was always live euro-pop, and when they were done it moved to a dj playing 80’s disco. I like both, and sleep to either a radio or television, so I had no problem. People who don’t like noise when they sleep definitely should find another place to stay! Budapest food was not as good as Munich, but it was VERY close. Prices were better than Munich so in the end the food aspect was a tie. So many things to see in the city, and I splurged with the hop-on hop-off bus tour and got the 3 day package that included a boat ride on the Danube river. I usually enjoy public markets, but the central market here has the same type of shops repeating over and over. Not too much variation. Food, upstairs, was really good though, even if I had to sit in the stairway. Castle area had many interesting things to see, and the boat ride on the Danube gave a special view of the city. My paternal heritage is most recently from Hungary, so this is why I stayed 5 days. Next time I’d either make it 4, or I’d do a day trip or two outside the city.
Boston: My hostel, the HI Hostel Boston, was the best hostel I’ve been in yet, as far as amenities go. They had everything from free breakfast to a coin-op laundry. In the future, I’ll definitely book Hostel International places above others whenever possible. I discovered the hostel was just a couple of blocks from Boston’s Chinatown, so while I do have photos – I don’t have that many that aren’t of Chinese dim-sum 🙂 I’ll just say that if you haven’t been to Boston, the hop-on hop-off buses are an excellent way to see the city. And food in Boston’s Chinatown is extremely tasty!