There are endless ways to do a trip to Europe and quite honestly the options were overwhelming. There are so many spectacular places just a quick (and cheap) plane or train ride away – how do you choose where to go?? My parents planned a trip to meet us in Barcelona. Done. We had two weeks to make it from Dubai to Barcelona. Next time we make it to Europe I would love to get a Europass and ride the rails around, but that took far too much planning and instead we are city hopping our way through Europe via low-cost airlines!
So our route turned out to look like this: Prague, Czech Republic–>Amsterdam, The Netherlands–>Lisbon, Portugal–> Barcelona, Spain–>London, England
I split our time in Europe into two blogs posts so it wasn’t outrageously long. I really, really wish we had more time in Europe!
Prague, Czech Republic
This city is a fairytale and I have never been somewhere so spectacular. Winter was in full effect when we arrived with snow covered ground and extremely cold temperatures. We went directly from 90 degrees in the desert to 20 degrees and did not have much in our bags for cold weather (although we do have light down jackets from New Zealand) – it was a bit of a shock to our systems. Our first order of business was to buy new, warm shoes and some socks that could keep our toes from freezing. Although we were freezing the entire time, we think that going in the winter added to the charm of the city, as there was hardly anybody there. I can imagine Prague being overrun in the summer with tourists (it is amazing, I totally get why it would be). We absolutely loved our time in Prague and can’t believe we almost left Europe out of our trip.
Nights Spent: 3
Things We Liked
Czech beer, goulash, snow, reasonably priced everything, cobblestones
Things We Disliked
It. Was. Cold.
No trip to Prague is complete without a visit to Prague Castle. I would agree with this, but we also almost froze in the process. The entire visit took about 2 hours from start to finish and not a single part of it was in a heated environment. At St. Vitus Cathedral no hats were allowed either so we were even colder walking through the Cathedral with bare heads (full disclosure: they let me keep my hat on so only Scott had to suffer in the cold with a bare head).
Old Jewish Town
We were staying in the old Jewish quarter, Josefov, which is one of the most preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. We were able to walk around this area, see a really old Jewish cemetery, and visit several old synagogues, which are now used as museums. This was one of our favorite things we did in Prague!
The Jewish quarter in Prague was not destroyed during World War II like most other Jewish quarters in Europe. Hitler left most of the synagogues and Jewish items in Prague untouched so that after the war there could be a museum to an extinct race. That gives me chill bumps – what a dick!
Prague in Pictures
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I have never had a strong interest in going to Amsterdam…all I have ever heard about is legal weed, the red light district, and other crazy stories involving debauchery. Amsterdam is awesome and I was so wrong. It is one of my favorite cities in the entire world and I could easily live here for a little while. The city is full of cobblestones, bicycles, beautiful architecture, old buildings, canals, and so much history.
Nights Spent: 4
Things we Liked
Food scene (although we did not eat too much Dutch food), legal weed, architecture, bicycle culture, museums, cheese!, stroopwaffles, craft beer, bitterballen (among other fried goodies) and walking around the canals.
We also ran into some of Scott’s friends from Boulder and it was amazing to catch up over a beer or two! I love it when things like that work out.
Things We Disliked
We both got sick in Dubai and were still fighting it off during our time in Prague and in Amsterdam – it was awesome to be able to go to a doctor that spoke English and could send us off with some things to help our sniffling and coughing, but it is never fun to be sick.
We did not try a ton of Dutch food (it just wasn’t that available to us), but our stomachs loved Amsterdam just as much as we did. A favorite spot for us was Foodhallen, an indoor food market with almost infinite options — you could get anything from dim sum to a charcuterie platter. One of our favorites was a sampler of 5 different flavors of bitterballen, a meat-based Dutch snack served molten hot.
Unfortunately, we went to multiple restaurants that happened to be closed for the next few weeks and up to a month. I know it is middle of winter and Europeans love to go on holiday, but it was super inconvenient to make it to a restaurant we had researched only to have it be closed. Fortunately, since so many places were closed upon arrival we discovered some really good Dutch fried food instead that was always open. These places litter the city — they are little shops that have little doors with fried goods behind each door. All you have to do is drop a few coins in the slot next to your food of choice and the door pops open revealing a hot, fried Dutch specialty of some sort. Who would hate that?
Legal weed makes us feel like we are back in Denver again, except for the fact you buy it at certain coffee shops and are encouraged to order a coffee and smoke it right there at the shop. I cannot confirm or deny if I participated, but when in Amsterdam…
Anne Frank House
In elementary school I did a project on the Diary of Anne Frank and I have been enthralled by her and her family’s story ever since. At the time I was just a young girl when I learned her story – but that is why it was so powerful. She was a young girl too, just like me. The only difference was that we were born in different times and that she was Jewish. I never could understand why that mattered. I still don’t.
We visited the house where they hid from the Nazis for two years. You were able to see the pictures on the wall in the bedroom, the bookcase that would close and hide the secret annex away, and the famed red and white-checkered diary that got the world talking. It was humbling to be there and on National Holocaust Remembrance Day no less.
It was especially haunting to learn more about the fact that the Franks were denied a request to be refugees in the USA where they would have been safe, but instead they hid for two years here behind this bookcase before they were found and sent to their deaths. It is all so very relevant to what is happening right now.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank
Portugal was never high on either of our list of places we wanted to go and to be honest we knew very little about it (besides the fact that the weather was way better there than in most of Europe). We thought it would be a nice place to recharge our batteries and try to get healthy since we are both still fighting sicknesses. Unfortunately we are not the best at staying put and instead explored the city as much as we could. Lisbon is very walk able and easy to get around on public transportation – although there are so many hills to navigate! The seafood is abundant, the wine is cheap, and pastry shops are on every corner. It was not a bad place to spend a few days and do our best to learn enough Portuguese to get by (our language skills turns into an ugly mix of English, Spanish and Portuguese).
Nights Spent: 5
Things We Liked
Coffee, cheap and abundant wine, cable cars, seafood, Lisbon Aquarium, castles, and Pasteis de natas
Things We Disliked
Street art is cool, but graffiti and tags are not. Lisbon is full of graffiti and we did not find it to be very appealing.
We had a less than positive experience with Airbnb here — their customer support is the worst and we could not get them to help us in a timely manner and get us moved to a more suitable place.
Palacia de Pena
This place looks like it was created by Walt Disney to put in a theme park – except this one is the real deal. This palace was originally built in the 1800s and it was really cool to check it out.
Pasteis de Nata
We are so addicted to these little egg custards – it was a very unhealthy obsession. A few days of the trip we were on a two or three nata a day habit. They were like crack. These things are just so flaky, sweet, and creamy. We especially liked them when they were fresh out of the oven and sprinkled with some powder sugar and cinnamon on top. I am drooling just thinking about them! We went looking for the best one in town and we decided that our favorite was at a place called Mantegeria.
Lisbon in Pictures
Our time in Lisbon was supposed to be very relaxing. There was not as much to see here as other European cities we had been to and we needed a break. We don’t know concept of rest and instead set out to see as much as we could.
Total Number of Nights: 12
Languages: Czech, Dutch, and Portuguese
Currency: $1 USD = 25.14 Czech Crown = 0.95 Euro
Number of Flights: 3
Number of Miles Traveled: 2,750 miles (including our flight from Dubai)
Number of Miles Walked: 87.3 miles (average of 7.3 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 187,900 steps (average of about 16,656 per day)
Transportation Used: Uber, bus, metro, tram and plane
Type of Accommodations: Airbnb (3) and Hotel (1)
Number of Beds: 4