I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
Yesterday, I got asked if I wanted to be on a proposal for a national conference alongside someone I highly respect. I, of course, said yes… and then I started thinking about how far I’ve come in the past few years. For some reason, I don’t think I had taken the opportunity to give my last conference acceptance enough appropriate brain space. You see, two weeks ago, I had not one but two proposals accepted into the AP National Conference in Washington, DC this summer.
And yesterday, for the first time, I realized that if my dad was here, I probably could have convinced him to go to the conference. My dad was a much celebrated second career AP history teacher. He spent his summers grading AP exams. He loved to talk history. He loved to teach. He didn’t love (most) teachers though.
But, I like to think he would have gone to the AP conference to see me present.
Confession: When we first flew into Hungary, I wondered what I had gotten us into. By the end of that first night in Budapest, however, I had discovered the best tours in Budapest and I was obsessed. By the end of our second day (and tour), I was hooked on this fantastic city. When we went back in December, I immediately booked more tours and was delighted when our tour guides remembered us from our April trip!
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if you book one of these tours.
This was our first tour of Budapest, and it was a great introduction to the Pest side city. (Buda is better but Pest is best!) George was our guide and he was fantastic! George has a deep knowledge of his city and the events that have shaped the present-day Budapest. He understands much of the history and how it has influenced politics, and he is eager to share his passion. His energy was contagious, he encouraged questions (both of him and those he asked of the group), and he gave us a great overview of the city. The tour started around twilight, and we watched the city come alive as we explored the main historical sites, which were extraordinarily beautiful as evening descended onto Budapest. This tour helped us determine the places we wanted to revisit later on our trip.
We were definitely sad to leave George when we boarded the Danube cruise, but he encouraged us to stop by the shop if we had any questions about what to see. The Danube cruise was beautiful and the video wasn’t nearly as entertaining as George. I even found it distracting with the beautiful sites right outside the window. This tour is a great overview of the city to begin any trip to Budapest and the cruise is a great way to rest your feet after a long day of walking.
When we returned to Budapest with my mom in December, I booked the Danube river cruise independent of the walking tour. This particular cruise leaves from a dock that is quite a bit further down from the main part of the city. It covers the same route, offers outdoor seating, and is generally a good value, though it is approximately a 20 minute walk from public transportation. This boat moved quite a bit faster than the first one we took, so I found it a little difficult to take great shots from the boat, but it’s still a beautiful way to experience the skyline! I would suggest the walking tour and cruise if you have time to better get a sense of the history of Budapest, but this is a great tour if you don’t have much time.
When we walked into the tour office on our second day, George was happy to introduce us to his colleague Tomas. We were the only people on the tour and Tomas really took a lot of time to answer our questions frankly and candidly. He was more than willing to tailor the tour to our specific interests. The tour starts with a surprise and a step back to communist Budapest using primary sources and artifacts! We learned about the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the beginning to the end, Hungary’s role in World War II, and the rise (and fall) of communism in Hungary. Tomas’s passion for Budapest and history was palpable, and there was not a single question that stumped him.
When we finally emerged from communist Budapest, Tomas took us on a walking tour of the city (with different sites from the ones we experienced with George), and he shared more about current events and modern-day Budapest. Our only regret when we finished the tour was that we didn’t have more time in Budapest. I think a visit to the Terror Museum would further underline the concepts covered by Tomas and this tour.
Obviously, this was not one of the tours we took in April, but rather one that we booked when we returned in December. I booked it specifically hoping that Tomas or George would be our guide. Lucky for us, Tomas was waiting for our group and we greeted each other like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in six months. Since we were in a much larger group, we weren’t able to monopolize his time the same way, but he was great. We explored St. Stephen’s Basilica, tried wild boar sausage, warmed up at the delicious Strudel House (try the sour cherry!), enjoyed wine tasting and good conversation, and the headed out to several more markets before finishing up with mulled wine. Tomas did a great job balancing history and culture with the holiday festiveness of the Christmas markets. There was plenty of conversation, lots of laughs, and my mom enjoyed learning from Tomas as much as we did!
This is another great introduction to the city of Budapest if you’re looking for a great way to cover quite a bit of ground with a little bit of history mixed in. I still think the night walking tour and cruise is the best way to familiarize yourself with Budapest, but if you’re looking for holiday cheer, this tour gets it done, too.
If I were to return to Budapest for a third trip, I’d book a market tour (which did but it didn’t work out), head out to Monument Park with a guide, explore Castle Hill and the Buda side of the city, but these are some of the best tours in Budapest for an overall view of the city. You really can’t go wrong. Overall, I can’t tell you enough – don’t skip Budapest. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and I really loved the people we met! It’s worth every adventure.
This week has been a BEAST. Monday started out good enough, but it went downhill from there. I felt like I couldn’t make any progress. I felt like everything was going wrong. I felt extremely behind. And I was just FRUSTRATED. I felt like I was battling inside my head ALL.WEEK. Butttttt… I made a commitment this month, so let’s skip to the good stuff.
Last week, I shared my professional success in 2017, and that afternoon, I found out that both of my proposals to the AP National Conference were accepted. Washington, DC, here I come with all my favorite people! I’m going to change the narrative around college for low-income/underrepresented students if it kills me. (Speaking of that, here’s a picture of Jocelyn and I… right before presenting at the United Way Ignite for Change event this week. I’m the worst selfie taker ever, but I love this girl. She makes me laugh all the time. We got so lucky when we found her!)
I got to go up to one of our schools this week and talk to a kid about my experience at University of Redlands. It was the highlight of my week. I also got to see my favorite teacher and another sweet kiddo who I’ve been corresponding with via twitter. That amazing kiddo was also admitted ED2 this week to Claremont McKenna. That was a good day.
Glitter shoes have basically become my favorite things ever. They go with jeans. They go with dresses. They go with leggings. They allow me to run all over school without getting blisters. I can wear them almost anywhere without issue. They allow me to feel a little less scruffy. I’m a fan. I’m even more of a fan when they are on sale. I’ll keep you posted on that.
I’m headed to Albion again on Sunday. I’m super excited for the adventures of taking another group of kiddos out of state for the first time. I don’t think there’s going to be any snow to dive face-first into this weekend, but I’m sure there will be more memories to make. I’ve got a specific request from my advisor to take pictures of the kiddos with Ace the mini pony.
We got a new mattress last weekend! It was delivered two days early which caused a lot of stress, but I’m glad that it got done. We were thinking about getting a Sleep Number (super sale right now if you’re interested), but we both realized that we didn’t need to spend that kind of money yet. I’m still getting used to it, but I’m sleeping HARD. That, my friends, is a blessing right now.
Well, now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I can share the surprise on the blog! I surprised my husband with tickets to Europe yesterday for our 3rd annual Italian adventure. We had been going back and forth about going because of the state of world right now, but we both agreed that Italy would be a safe choice. I still wasn’t convinced, but Friday I got a fare alert on a great flight from Dallas to Europe. I put it on hold to think about it a little more. On Saturday, I realized that if I didn’t take the opportunity to relax, recharge, and reconnect with my husband… it was going to be a long year. Self care is real right now, friends. SO. I booked the tickets on Saturday night and had to keep it a secret until yesterday!
I’m still working on these details, but I think we will definitely return to Florence (and stay at the St. Regis Florence). I’ve been toying with the idea of making Florence our home base for a longer period of time and making day trips to some of the smaller Tuscan towns. I’d love to visit Siena, Montepulciano, and get into the hill towns.
We’re definitely going to stay in Cinque Terre again. I’ve been checking out the AirBnB options – has anyone ever used this? Fill me in on everything we need to know if we do! I’d love to go a little further up the coast and visit Portofino.
And, I have yet to experience staying in Venice proper. I’ve stayed on Isole delle Rose, Guidecca, and the mainland… I would love to stay in the heart of Venice and spend a few early mornings and late nights roaming the canals when we feel like we have the streets to ourselves.
Cooking classes. We really loved making pesto in Cinque Terre last year, and my mom and I took a cooking class in Florence in 2010. I’d love to take a few more on this trip.
Wine tasting. Despite studying abroad and three trips to Italy, I’ve never done a wine tour.
Tours. I’ve never taken a proper tour of Florence. This is definitely on my list. There’s also a driving tour into the Tuscan countryside driving a Fiat500. I’d like to do one of the evening tours.
More pictures. I’ve become a lot more critical of my photography and I’m still trying to capture the perfect images of Italy. One of my “bucket list” items is to photograph a city from sunrise to midnight using ambient light. I’d love to do this in Florence, Venice and the Cinque Terre villages.
I LOVE scouring blogs for ideas. Whether it’s restaurants, tours, hotels or things to experience, I love to source my information from other bloggers. Now I’m flipping our Italian adventure planning to you:
Where would you go?
What would you do?
Can you suggest anywhere we should go?
Any place you want to see or know about?
Be sure and check back on Saturday for my Venice Italy photos from our April 2016 adventure. (If I’m being completely honest, editing those pictures probably convinced me to pull the trigger!)