Where Am I?

Well, let me first say that I was obviously not successful in finishing out my trip journal! Fail! Here’s the very shortened version.

Day 26 – Lake Plitvice, Croatia. WOW stunning
Day 27-29 Zadar, Croatia. YES we were in Croatia for the World Cup Final! However, we were unable to stay. That is one of the many occurrences that made our Croatia trip a little underwhelming. It was purely coincidental and poor planning – Croatia is amazing!
Day 30-34 Budapest. Those days just flew by!

So, at this point we’ve been home exactly two weeks. It feels unreal to be back, but the whole trip seems a bit unreal as well, like it took place in an alternate universe or something. I’ve had the usual post-trip lows, combined with getting too stressed about socializing with friends and family, trying to squeeze in my own favorite summer Austin activities, before getting back to the grind of the school year. *Sigh*

Since getting back we spent: one day at home, one day at a family reunion, and then about five days at home before heading to South Padre Island for a friend’s birthday.

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It was lovely, but we were SO happy to be back in our beautiful home on Tuesday. What’s really cool, is that we were able to Airbnb our place during our short trip to the coast – we are really starting to enjoy this whole Airbnb-ing thing. We already a group booked for Labor Day when we’re headed out of town again!

This summer has been one amazing experience after another. I am so grateful. However, there’s always room for emotional baggage to sneak in. 😉

#1: Family. I had big plans to confront my family with some big topics before I left. I had so many reasons to go for it. I wrote a poem that I think really sums up how I felt about laying it all out there. But, when the time came.. I just couldn’t. At first I was incredibly disappointed, but I’ve since learned that it just wasn’t my right time, and that’s okay. However, since there was this big build-up that ended up leading to nothing, I feel a little confused and uncomfortable about when I stand with all of them. I’m working on figuring that out.

#2: Friends/Relationships. One of my friends – let’s call her Mary – went through a really bad break-up this past Spring. I’ve chosen to adjust my life quite a bit to be there for her, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, with that comes the added challenge of maintaining boundaries, which is something I think we all struggle with, especially when we’re really worried about someone we love and care for immensely.

So, during my first week back, I just felt like I HAD to see Mary as much as possible, who had missed me so much while I was gone, AND everyone else. I was extremely stressed and overwhelmed, and didn’t really want to see anyone. I felt like I was letting everyone down by not being social enough. Not wanting to see anyone is pretty typical for me post-trip, but it was worse this time because I felt more obligation.

It took some time and a therapy session to figure out what was going on. You see, with my family,

a lot of my process has been setting boundaries with my mom… and then my dad (unexpectedly) and now, even more unexpectedly, my brother

When this happened with him, I just felt a lot of anger, disappointment and helplessness… as most importantly, responsibility, because I was so worried about him. All of these feelings transferred to Mary, and then onto all of my other friends. I was only allowing myself to see the “burdens” of friendship, not all of the joy I’ve cultivated over the last few years as I’ve build up my friend group and re-learned how to trust friends.

Furthermore, I allowed myself to believe that these burdens were real. I’ve now realized they aren’t. Loyalty, “being there,” helping others, sure it’s all really good, but it’s not a REQUIREMENT of friendship. My therapist asked me two really great questions: What do you think it means to be a great friend? I responded with some variation of the list above. Then she asked, “What do you think your friends would tell you that you need to do in order to be a great friend?” I laughed out loud because I knew right away – they love me just as I am, and they would 100% say, “Just be you, silly!”

Once I realized this, I was able to drop my expectations for myself as a friend a little more easily, which was really good because I still had to make it through the beach trip with five friends. 😉 Sidenote: It is so wonderful to have authentic relationships. I felt so isolated just a few years ago.

#3 My weight: I lot of my thoughts about it can be summed up here. Even though it was almost two months ago that I realized I’ve gained so much weight, I’m only now starting on my weight-loss and overall health reset. I suppose that’s not entirely true – I started doing Yoga With Adriene very regularly while on the trip. I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene because it is just so easy to do it everyday. It’s free, it’s usually only about 20 minutes, and she focuses on self-love and being our true selves, something I know I need to be reminded up everyday.

Anyway, we got back from the beach on August 1, so I started my Whole30 on August 1. I will do this Whole30, reintroduce the foods the right way, and stay on track until I reach my target weight and lifestyle. 🙂 I know I can do this. I know I am capable of change, but that doesn’t mean I don’t spend a lot of my time feeling really down about my body and the journey ahead of me.

Thankfully, I had a really big “aha moment” while doing yoga in Budapest. The AC wasn’t on, so I ended up taking off my shirt and doing yoga in my sports bra. This meant having to see more of my body. Shame instantly came over me… but then I heard my yoga teacher within say, “If you can’t love your body now, how can you expect yourself to treat it better and reach your goals?”

I love the skin I’m in.

Because I love my body, I will treat it well. I will live the healthy lifestyle I deserve.

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Day 25

 

Pécs

A couple of days before this trip, I realized Bartley was running low on Phenobarbital, his seisure medication. This was really disappointing because I counted out his pills before we left, and he had enough. I can only guess that with all the packing/re-packing some of them were lost. Bummer. After much communicating with my vet back home and a vet here, we were closer to having it squared away.

However, we also had to pick up our rental car from the airport at 9 AM, and it was raining. There was a rental car place closer to our apartment, but they didn’t have as many options. So, we took the 40 minute bus ride to the airport, spent a lot of time at Hertz deciding if we wanted the “super coverage,” (we went with yes… The Boyfriend’s family has a bad record for wrecking cars while abroad :D) and an extra driver (we paid for an extra driver but it was completely unnecessary – lucky me!) This is by far the most expensive of our side trips!

We then drove back to the apartment to load up our stuff and Bartley. The Boyfriend was pretty nervous about driving, but got the hang of it pretty quickly. The main difference, is that there are white lines instead of yellow for two-way roads, which was pretty disorienting, and in the city there is SO much more going on: pedestrians, cyclists, trams, buses (with there own lanes), narrow lanes, taxis that drive way to fast, you get the idea. Oh, also, no right turn on red, and all right lanes are considered turning lanes.

By the time we were finished packing up, it was raining really hard. I called the veterinarian to ask if he could write a prescription for Bartley. He said he would rather examine Bartley first. I told him we were heading out-of-town, and told him I knew exactly what Bartley needed, and that he’d been on Phenobarbital for years and had never had any problems. He was kind enough to tell me the name of the medication here, and the size tablets they came in. He said I could simply take Bartley’s old bottle into the pharmacy, and pass along the information he gave, and they would fill it for me. If I had any problems, ask the pharmacist to call him.

Here’s where things got interesting. 🙂 We didn’t want to mess with parking in downtown Budapest, so we found a pharmacy that was on our route to Pécs, just outside of Budapest. I went in, waited in line, while The Boyfriend stayed in the car with Bartley. When it was my turn, I handed the bottle to the pharmacist. She told me I needed a receipt (prescription) from a veterinarian. I told her what the vet had told me, and she – however kindly – insisted that this was not the procedure. She told me of a vet nearby, and recommended that I go there and ask for a prescription. I insisted that the vet told me this would work, and she obliged by calling him.

Turns out there was a misunderstanding. When I had told the vet I had Bartley’s old prescription, he thought I meant that I had the paper from his vet back home, when I actually meant I had the bottle. Therefore, I had no choice but to find the nearby veterinarian’s office. I thought it was much closer than it was, so I told The Boyfriend to wait in the car. It was more like a 15 minute walk. 😐 When I got to the correct street, I was looking for 38A, but the addresses went straight from 38 to 36, 34 and so on. BUT I found another pharmacy, and decided to try there.

She said the same thing, but said that the vet was right around the corner. PHEW. When I got to the building, I rang the buzzer, and absentmindedly started rambling in English when they answered. I was able to find the correct door and I entered a strange waiting room. There was no receptionist or anything, so I walked upstairs. I found what appeared to be a staff lounge. I walked back downstairs and asked the others who were waiting, “Beszél angolul?” (Do you speak English.) None of them did. I opened the door on the other side of the waiting area – WHOOPS that was the examination room.

Red-faced, impatient, and frustrated, I sat with the others. After about 15 minutes, it was my turn. I attempted to explain what I needed in Hungarian. I was almost successful! But, they brought out an English speaking vet tech who could help me, and within no time, I had the prescription and was on my way back to the pharmacy! Mission accomplished. Bartley is one lucky dog!

Around 1:00, we were finally en route to Pécs! This was okay, because we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3:00 anyway. When we arrived, we spent a little bit of time relaxing. The morning had been pretty busy and stressful.

By the time we got out and about, it was already close to 6:00, and one of the places we wanted to see closed at 6:00, so we decided to drive. Pécs is a lovely, ancient town, close to the Croatian boarder. It has a very interesting history: it was originally settled by Romans in the 2nd century, the first Hungarian Univ ersity was esablished there in the 14th Century, and it has a major Turkish influence from the 150 year period that it was under Ottoman rule.

 

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Around 7:30, we were getting pretty hungry. We decided to take the car back to our Airbnb and experience walking through town to find somewhere to eat. We were a little worried because there was rain in the forecast, but decided to risk it and bring Bartley with us too. We are so glad we did, because not only did it not rain at all, but there were plenty of places to eat outside and still have shelter from the rain.

At this point, we were totally enamored with Pécs. What a lovely little town with an incredible history, beautiful architechture, and relaxing pace.

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We really struggled to find a place to eat because each place seemed even better than the last as we walked through downtown. We finally settled on Korhely Etterem, and are so happy we did. We were super hungry, so we got two small appetizers: chips and salsa (super weird, lol) and onion rings with fresh herbs and tomatoes on top. Yum!

After dinner, we just went and sat in the middle of the square, enjoying the cool evening, our surroundings, and the street music. It was pretty romantic, and oh-so-relaxing.

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We had to make it an early night, because we planned to leave the next morning at 7 AM so we could have ample time to explore the incredible Plitvice Lakes on our way to Zadar.

Day 22-24

Budapest

Day 22

We woke up surprisingly early considering how late we stayed out, and decided to take Kasey to Két Szerecsen. With a third person, we got to try more food = win!

After brunch, we basically just came back to the apartment and somewhat helped Kasey plan for her trip to Bratislava, helped her find what train to take, etc.

After she left around 2:30 it was time to relax! We were still pretty exhausted from so much travel the day before, and I’m an introvert, so I was also tired simply from being social. 😀

I think the rest of the day (I’m actually updating the blog about a week after the actually events – whoops!) was spent doing laundry, and updating the blog.

Day 23

I discovered Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube and I’m super happy. I did a little yoga in the morning, when Bart and I were the only ones up, and decided to start a 30 day challenge.

When The Boyfriend woke up, we walked to down to Mozsar Kavezo for breakfast and so Bartley could get in his morning walk. Then, it was time to accomplish two errands.

1. Go to the mall and buy some Crocs because Kasey showed me how amazing they are. 😀 I seriously always thought they were just the goofy slip-ons with the holes in them. I’m sure those are super comfortable too… but I found some Croc sandals that are AMAZING and match everything. They are so comfortable, I may not wear a single other shoe all summer. We enjoyed walking around the mall, but we were anxious to accomplish out next task…

2. Go to Hertz to reserve our car for our upcoming trip to Pécs, Hungary and Zadar, Croatia! That’s right – time for a road trip. There are plenty of trains to Pécs, but getting from Pécs to Zadar is another story. There were some bus options, but they more than doubled our travel time, and didn’t allow dogs, (rude) which left us with option Road Trip! When we got to Hertz, the quotes seemed much more expensive than what we had found online. The customer service rep was super helpful, and was honest when we said it seemed much more expensive than online: he agreed with us, and advised that we book online. Ha!

We went back to the apartment, booked our car, gulped at how expensive it was but decided it would be worth it (fingers crossed) and decided to head down to Deak ter to enjoy the beautiful weather, read, and message with friends back home.

Day 24

Like I said – I’m updating this about a week after.. so I can’t remember much about this day other than we packed and planned some for our upcoming trip, spent some time in the sun again down by Deak Ter. For dinner, we went to The Boyfriend’s favorite spot, Bors. It is QUITE delicious! Since Bors doesn’t have seating, we ordered it to-go and went to Racskert, the little food truck court near our apartment. Unfortunately, they were screening the World Cup, so it was super packed and loud. We ate our food and headed back to the apartment, to pack and plan some more.

Day 20-21

Day 20 – Lake Bled

So, the earliest bus we could catch was 9:30. Not too bad! It started raining en route, but it was quite light so we weren’t too worried. We got there close to 11:00, due to some traffic, and we decided to stop for a cappuccino so I could change out of my shorts into pants. By this point, it was much cooler and raining. We were glad to have brought jackets and umbrellas, and for me – longer pants. This was the view from the cafe!

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The rest of the day was truly unreal. We walked all the way around the lake, and just could not stop taking photos. It felt like we were in a fairytale… each view seemed more perfect than the last.

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Bartley made us laugh – he wanted to enjoy the view as well!

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We stopped at a pretty crappy, over-priced place for food, but we needed food, and Bart needed rest, so it was worth it. Afterward, we started our trek up to Bled Castle, but thankfully an Australian couple informed us it would be 12 Euro to actually go behind the castle walls and up the tower to see the view. After all the beauty we’d taken in, we didn’t think we needed to spend the extra money, hike the extra hike, and take the extra time… considering we still needed to take the hour-long bus back to Ljubljana to explore more there.

Once back at the apartment, we showered and RESTED. We had taken 18,000 steps… much more for little Bartleboo. We posted some of our photos to various social media, The Boyfriend took a nap, and I drank wine on the balcony with Bart.

A little after 9:00, we headed back to Luda for more of that incredible dessert, and the mysterious Orange Wine. Due to being out of ice cream, they had to make the Nutella dessert a bit differently, and for that it was on the house – lucky us! From there, we just went to the nearest bar, had a quick drink, and went home to collapse. Our plan was to hike up to Ljubljana Castle in the morning, since our train back to Budapest wouldn’t depart until 10:50.

Day 21 – Ljubljana

We woke up at 8:30, packed super fast, and headed to Ljubljana Castle. It was good to get some exercise before our 11 hours of travel back to Budapest.

After the castle, we headed to the train station, stopping for some to-go breakfast along the way. The rest of the day was four train transfers, 11 hours of travel, but overall, very smooth.

Day 21 addendum

Okay, so after the 11 hours of travel, we actually met up with my friend Kasey. I think I said in a previous post that she would be staying in our apartment while we were in Vienna and Ljubljana. It worked out perfectly, because when she came back to let us in the apartment, The Boyfriend and I were starving, and she really wanted to finish watching the game,  (I think this was Croatia v. Russia) so we agreed to meet up after.

Around 10 PM, she came back to the apartment, and we decided to go out for a drink, even though we were both really tired. I’m so happy we did! We went to Kőleves (the same place where the choir sang), but it was a different story on a Saturday night! Wow, was that place packed. In fact, all of the streets throughout the Jewish quarter were basically pedestrian zones at this point.

We each had a shot of palinka, and a tall glass of wine. I normally avoid palinka at all costs, but I had to help Kasey partake in her first try! It was really good to get to know Kasey better. We worked together the last few years, but I don’t actually know her super well, so there was lots to talk about. Also, no offense to The Boyfriend, but it was really good to talk to someone else for a change! 😉

We headed back towards my apartment, hoping to grab one more drink at Kiadó Kocsma, but surprisingly, it was already shutting down! We decided to take advantage of one of the special freedoms we have while here in Hungary: grabbing beer from a 24 hour shop, and drinking in the street. We found a bench, and enjoyed hanging out until 2 or 3 in the morning. The people-watching was incredibly entertaining, and having some overdue girl time was super fun.

Day 19

Ljubljana

Vienna to Ljubljana is pretty far, 238 miles. (I can’t remember why we decided to do them in one trip…) BUT, it was four train rides through some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen!

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This trip was much smoother than from Budapest to Vienna, except that we missed our last train. We only had 5 minutes, and we went to the correct train, but the wrong direction. We actually got ON the train, but thankfully, I asked the man in the next carriage if we were on the right train and he confirmed that we were NOT. So, we hurried off the train, but by the time we got to the correct platform, it was long gone. It wasn’t a huge deal though, another one came 30 minutes later, we had a couple from South Africa to keep us company, and oh yeah… this was our view!

IMG_9595When we got to Ljubljana around 4:30 PM, it was really hard not to stop and take pictures! But we needed to get to the apartment, as our host was waiting for us and we were late.

We asked our host what she recommended for dinner, and she recommended Luda, a restaurant where you can get a four course tasting menu for $35 Euro. We knew this would be a splurge, and we were hungry… so we went for it. We are SO glad we did! In addition to the four courses, we also got bread with homemade butter, and a pre-appetizer I suppose? of roasted tomatoes, yogurt, and I don’t know what other deliciousness. Oh, and we got to experience Orange Wine for the first time. It’s like white wine, but with even more crisp flavor – a perfect summer drink.

For the rest of the evening, we just sort of walked around, amazed at how lively the city was for a Thursday night. We were pretty flabbergasted. We enjoyed our walk, and wound up at a bar next to our apartment for a quick glass of wine and a beer. Then it was back to the apartment for an early-ish night, since we wanted to get to Lake Bled as early as possible in the morning, due to expected rain in the afternoon.

We didn’t get going as early as we’d hoped, because when we got back to the apartment, a lovely summer thunder and lighting storm had started. We just wanted to sit on the balcony and enjoy the storm. We propped Bartley up on a pillow on the patio table (what a prince!) and drank wine (courtesy for our awesome host) and took in the rain and lightning. It was really quite magical.

 

 

Day 18

Our train was scheduled to leave for Vienna at 8:40. At around 7:40, we noticed that it would be leaving from Keleti train station, not Nyugati. This made things extra stressful, and we were already running late. So, we decided to take a taxi. We got to Keleti at around 8:25, thinking were good to go. No. There was a super long line getting tickets – we couldn’t use the kiosks for international travel AND the tickets ended up being way more expensive than we thought they would be at 21,000 HUF – about $75 to go 2.5 hours. OUCH.

Don’t worry. It get’s worse. We were running to our train just in the nic of time. Bartley wasn’t even in his travel kennel yet. We were sweating. The train was PACKED. The Boyfriend had to search and search for places for all of our luggage, but we did finally find a place for everything, and miraculously, two seats together.

Or so we thought. Until about 30 minutes later, when a lovely, elderly Spanish-speaking couple kindly told us that, actually, the seats were reserved for them. By the way, there was no way (as far as The Boyfriend and I could tell) to know that the seats were reserved ahead of time. Of course we could tell by looking at their tickets, so we had no choice but to vacate the seats… and go where?

That’s right, standing room only. We went to the space in between train cars, because that’s what was left. For $75. To go 2.5 hours. When the ticket controller came by, we asked him what the deal was.  How can we not be guaranteed a seat if we bought a ticket? And he said basically, if you don’t reserve a seat, you are guaranteed the ride, not the seat. Thus far, we’ve just been lucky.

Thankfully, this was only our situation for another 30 minutes. Then, we were able to find seats further in the back, in the carriage section of the train.

We thought the “excitement” was over. Nope. When we arrived in Vienna at 11:19, we knew we were on a bit of a time crunch to get to our Airbnb, because the host had graciously agreed to let us check in early IF we could get there at exactly 12:00 PM. We decided we’d better take a taxi, because public transportation showed a 40 minute estimated travel time, and we didn’t want to risk running late. We found a taxi easy enough, and I noted the credit card machine on his dashboard. Excellent, since we hadn’t had time to take our euros yet.

The taxi driver seemed to enjoy Bartley’s company, and The Boyfriend and I were enjoying the beautiful architecture of Vienna, but when we got to our stop and I pulled out the credit card… the taxi driver informed us that his taxi was cash only! The credit card machine I saw was actually a receipt printer. At the same time, our host was impatiently waiting at the entrance to the apartment, because this was his lunch break and it was 11:59. We needed to check in fast. So, The Boyfriend had to rush off in search of an ATM, and I had to check in our bags and get the tour of the apartment, and the taxi driver, unfortunately, was left to wait. Thankfully, he wasn’t too upset about it, and I told him we would of course pay him extra for waiting.

By the time The Boyfriend came back, I was fully checked in, we were both anxious to pay the taxi driver and get inside. What a relief it was to be in our beautiful Airbnb at noon, rather than at 3:00 or 4:00, as is typically our Airbnb check in time. We rested, showered, and mapped out our walking tour for the evening.

What I love about traveling with The Boyfriend, is that even though we “plan,” we always let ourselves get off track if we see something interesting.

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Votivkirche Church

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Sigmund Freud Park

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Burgtheater

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Michaelskirche

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Hofburg Palace

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St. Michael’s Cathedral

The last stop we made before taking Bartley back to feed him and leave him in the apartment to rest, was to get a Sacher Cake at Hotel Sacher, a recommendation from our dear friend Lucy. We basically had dessert for dinner. WOWZ.

We left the apartment a little after 9:00, en route for the Belvedere Palace. We hadn’t had enough time to go to the even more famous Schönbrunn Palace Palace, so we wanted to prioritize this Palace, that was slightly closer to our Airbnb. Unfortunately, it was completely closed, but I was able to snap this one photo through the gate so our 40 minute trek wasn’t completely unnecessary. Vienna is SO spread out! How can it be? Isn’t it an old city? It’s just HUGE, and SO spread out.

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Belvedere Castle

But, following this little mishap brings me to the BEST part of the evening. We knew we wanted to head back towards the City Hall, where so many trendy food stalls were set up earlier in the evening. Thankfully they were all still open. When we first arrived we noticed – wow, they’re playing classical music! How cool! As we continued to walk though, we noticed they were screening a recording of a live oratory – DIE SCHÖPFUNG – LA FURA DELS BAUS – against the breathtaking city hall…. for FREE. Many people were enjoying food and drink, but hundreds were seated in front of the screen hanging in front of the beautiful City Hall, fully enthralled with the music.

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It was a truly special moment for me, because it was so unexpected. It reminds me of when I went to Paris by myself in 2008. I was nervous traveling alone, but I knew I had to see the Eiffel Tower at night. I took the metro, well after dark, which surprisingly doesn’t stop directly in front of the Eiffel Tower. I was having some trouble finding it (if you can imagine!) and all at once I came out from being a tall building, and I was underneath it. It was such a surprise, so incredible, I was awestruck. This lovely opera, in this beautiful, unexpected setting, with some many appreciative listeners, affected me similarly.

We enjoyed wienerschnitzel – the traditional veal for The Boyfriend, pork for me – and Vienna Sausage, and headed on back to the apartment close to midnight, knowing we had to catch a tram at 9:58 to Ljubljana, Slovenia.

 

Day 17

Budapest

Today was not a super eventful day. We wanted to take it easy in preparation for our next excursion, which starts tomorrow.

I woke up a little earlier than The Boyfriend and went and got a bagel with Bartley. We stayed at the cafe for a while, just reading and internetting.

When I got back to the apartment, we did some cleaning and laundry because a friend of mine is staying in our apartment while we’re in Vienna and Ljubljana. Then, we decided to splurge and go get a Thai massage! It is way more affordable here, and was just a nice way to spend our last low-key day before our travels.

Afterwards, we stopped for a burger at Deep Burger, just around the corner from our apartment. Don’t go. The food was good, but the service was really bad. The one waitress was hardly ever even at the counter, and always made it seem like a huge deal if we came up to order more, and got our order wrong each time we ordered another drink. Also, at the end when we wanted to pay, she asked me to use cash even though I could clearly see a credit card machine. This was the worst food experience we’ve had throughout the whole trip.

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful: we went home, I worked on the blog, we packed for our trip, I did yoga, Skyped with my dad, took Bartley on a long walk and HAD CHIMNEY CAKE FOR THE FIRST TIME.  Photo credit from here.

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