Thursday, November 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday : Thanksgiving in Europe

With today being Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to dedicate a post to something that I'm constantly thankful for- the ability to travel the world.  I've been to so many amazing places, and getting to explore a new country makes me happier than anything else.  Today I'll be sharing some pictures from a trip I took to Budapest, Hungary and Prague, Czech Republic two years ago.

I purchased this trip from Groupon Getaways, through the company Gate 1 Travel.  I get a lot of questions from people about the benefits of going on a Groupon Getaway, so I also want to discuss my personal experience (I also went on a trip to Costa Rica through Groupon, and I purchased both trips on my own).

  • The trips are usually a lot cheaper than purchasing on your own.  For this trip, round-trip airfare was included, as well as transportation between the countries and hotel rooms.  We could add on additional day trips or activities through the company as well.  All together, the trip cost around $2,500 total, which is a huge saving.
  • However, the flights only flew out of Newark and LAX.  We had to schedule our own flight to Newark, which increased the price a bit.
  • A lot of stress was lifted as far as planning, since a lot of big things were taken care of.  The hardest part of trip planning for me is finding a good hotel and scheduling flights.  The company took care of all of that, and the hotels they picked were really great!
  • However, experiences may vary with this.  Most trips tell you what hotels are included, so it's always a good idea to research ahead of time if the hotels are in a good location and have good reviews.  
  • Another downside with this is there isn't as much flexibility.  We only had 3 nights in each city which seemed like a short period of time.  I would have loved to stay longer!  Some people did schedule later flights with the company so that they could visit other cities, but that always comes with extra cost.
Overall, I think that Groupon Getaways are a great deal if you want to visit a new place for cheap, and aren't too picky about accommodations or planning.  They worked great for me because I got to relax and not worry about all the small details, and I saved a ton of money!

Now, let's get into some pictures from each city!


Budapest


Restaurants : Ruszwurm (Cute little cafe near Fisherman's Bastion)
Boom and Brass (Super hip restaurant with reasonable prices and tasty food)
Nad'Or Boutique Bistro (Amazing location with traditional Hungarian food)
New York Cafe (Incredible place for tea- see pictures below!)
Soul Cafe (Great ambiance, very romantic)

Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya) is one of the most unique structures in Budapest.  There are seven towers in the structure, and there are beautiful views of the Danube everywhere you look.  The location is fantastic - centrally located in the castle district and it's something that shouldn't be missed!

So amazing- looks like a sandcastle brought to life!

Heroes Square and City Park (Hősök tere) is a beautiful park at the edge of town.  There's so much to do and see in the park that it's almost worth a full day!  The entrance is the impressive Heroes Square - full of larger than life statues and monuments.  Once you're inside the park, you can go to a zoo, museum, botanical garden, ice skating, castle, and (my favorite) a thermal bath.

Budapest is well known for their thermal baths, so visiting one is a must while you're in the city.  We visited the largest, located in the heart of City Park, called Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool.  The building is full of pools with different temperatures and all different sizes.  The biggest attraction are the huge outdoor pools, which are all heated.  It was definitely an experience to be swimming outside when it was below freezing and snowing!

New York Cafe is an incredibly elaborate place to stop for an afternoon tea.  Everywhere you look are golden details and sculptures.  The building itself was gorgeous with high ceilings and marble floors, but none of my pictures do the decor justice!  It reminded me of being in a museum or castle.  We stopped in for some coffee and desserts, and it was such an experience.  Most restaurants in Europe are very casual, and the waiters are only there to give you food and your bill.  Here, they waited on us hand and foot to make sure we had an amazing experience!

The Central Market (Nagy Vasarcsarnok) is a must-visit for food and souvenirs.  There are all kinds of Hungarian specialties available for cheap, including paprika and palinka.  On the first floor, there are a lot of fresh food vendors, and the second floor has restaurants and gifts. Get here early, because this place gets packed!

One of my favorite things to do was walk around the city after dark.  It's such a romantic place, and all of the beautiful buildings are lit up at night.  The city felt very safe, both the Buda and Pest sides.  I loved seeing all the famous buildings, bridges and monuments, and these are all things that are easily missed if you don't walk around!


Prague

(I also stayed in the Mosaic House in Prague, which is an amazing hostel!)

Restaurants: Zlatý klas (Cheap, authentic Czech food.  Try the Kozel- my favorite beer)
Campanulla Cafe (Recommended by Rick Steves!)
Restaurace U Špirků (fantastic location near Old Town Square and amazing food)
Kolkovna Restaurant (one of my favorite areas of town, and fantastic traditional food)

Petrin Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna) sits atop a large hill near my favorite neighborhood in Prague, Mala Strana (Lesser Town).  The entire area is stunningly gorgeous and full of cute little cafes.  The standout is of course the large lookout tower.  The walk up to the tower and up to the top is tiring, but well worth it for the view.

How incredible is that?  Here you can see the castle district, which I'll talk more about below!

A big tourist attraction in Prague is the Lennon Wall.  The cool thing about this is that it's a living piece of art- it will never look the same if you visit it twice.  Graffiti artists come to spread ideas of love and peace, inspired by lyrics by Lennon and the Beatles.  Last year, it was painted over completely white, with just the words "Wall is Over".  That was later changed to "War is Over" and filled in with more murals, symbols and words.

My favorite part of the Castle District is St. Vitus Cathedral (metropolitní katedrála svatého Víta).  It's one of the most incredible churches that I've ever seen!  The entire castle district is amazing, and I recommend the short trip ticket.  I love to walk around the entire area and seeing the changing of the guards, seeing all the gardens, and looking over the entire city.

The Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj) is one of the most famous structures in Prague.  It's the oldest working astronomical clock in the world, and is located in a clock tower and observation deck.  It's a must- see to watch the hour change and the little show that the clock does.  The entire Old Town Square is such a fun, beautiful area with great shops and restaurants.  It's one of my favorite places in Prague!

Not a bad view of Old Town Square, eh?  You can see the Christmas Markets and trees being set up for the holidays!

Panoramic of Prague from the top of the Clock tower.  The gothic church is called Church of Our Lady Before Týn (Týnský chrám).  Gorgeous!

New York City

During our layover, we stayed a night in New York City and got to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and was larger than life!

I'll leave you with a Spongebob Santa Pants float- my favorite.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

linking up with Amanda, Heather, Mar, Cynthia, Court 

32 comments:

  1. Seriously? You go to the freaking coolest places. I hate you. But I love you. I am a girl divided! Thank you for sharing this so that I could live vicariously :D

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    1. Well I love you Susie, so you can hate me all you want ;) Glad you liked this post!!

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  2. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Lennon wall is EPIC! Budapest looks like a dream. I love that you were able to see all these places! What incredible photos. Have a happy Thanksgiving, Gretch! Much love.

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    1. The wall was seriously incredible! I've never seen anything like it. That's what my google photo is of as well in case you ever see it! Happy Thanksgiving!!

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  3. You do realize you're giving me the BIGGEST case of wanderlust, right? :P It's been a good handful of years since I've been to Europe, and I really miss it. You seriously can't beat the atmosphere and all of the amazing sights.

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    1. Whoops :) I would love to move to Europe some day...

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  4. I want to do all these things! I've never even heard of groupon getaways, but I have such a big itch to travel right now! Do you have your honeymoon planned out? I can't wait to hear about your next adventure!

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    1. You should check out the getaways ASAP! They always have great deals. Honeymoon and wedding are all planned..can't wait to share what we're doing :)

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  5. Sounds like an amazing trip!! I've definiely had the travel bug lately and this is just fueling the fire!

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  6. Wow, Gretchen, these pictures are incredible!! I can't believe you visited these amazing cities in person!! That would definitely be the experience of a lifetime!
    Gina || On the Daily Express

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    1. Thanks Gina! I definitely feel lucky and am so thankful for all my experiences!

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  7. ahh I love reading about all of your travels!! Need to get my butt to Europe!

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  8. We went to Prague a few years back as my husband had a conference there. We were staying at a hotel outside the city & I had to take the subway in.

    I've never been to Budapest, but it looks a lot like Prague, which I suppose isn't so surprising. I went to Petrin Lookout Tower on my own, but I never even heard of the Lennon Wall!

    I got terribly lost in the castle and was seriously considering taking a taxi back to the hotel, but I did finally find my way back.

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    1. Budapest and Prague are really similar! Especially the Buda part. Pest is a bit more hip and has a lot more new looking buildings. It's so gorgeous! The Lennon Wall is kind of hidden and hard to find. I heard about it before but we kind of stumbled on it!

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  9. Looks like a great trip. I love that you all tacked on a day in NYC to see the Parade!

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    1. I couldn't miss that! We also had Thanksgiving dinner at a Cuban restaurant..the only place in our budget that still had reservations!

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  10. I've always thought about those trips - thanks for sharing your experience!

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  11. Your pics are great! How do you document details? Do you keep a travel journal? I always mean to blog about my travels but I don't always get around to it (so many details to write down)! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! :)

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    1. Thank you! I do keep a travel journal! I always write down restaurant names and the sights that we saw so I don't forget when I'm looking at pictures later. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you too!

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  12. Oh my word!! This is SO amazing!! all of these pictures are beyond beautiful!! Prague is so pretty!! ...I really want to go there!! :) Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Thank you Cailee! Prague is amazing (and pretty cheap to visit) so I recommend it!

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  13. Looks like an awesome trip with some very interesting cities! I have never booked off Groupon before but glad to know it is available and legit if i ever want to!

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    1. It's really great! I also went to Costa Rica and Niagara Falls so it is legit. Sometimes not the best deal, so I always do some research before buying!

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  14. Beautiful photos! Both of those cities are simply incredible! I loved the thermal baths in Budapest and St. Vitus in Prague. Did you get to see any of the Christmas markets when you were there? I seriously want to go back now!

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    1. The markets were just going up, so we only got to see a handful. I would love to go back in December to see them all up and running! I bet the markets in Germany are also unbelievable :)

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  15. I am so jealous of your trip! Prague is somewhere I really want to visit sometime. This sounds like so much fun and I never really considered Groupon Getaways before. Loved reading about this!

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    1. Thank you Amanda! I'm so glad this was helpful :) I would definitely recommend visiting Prague. Such an amazing city and surprisingly affordable!

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  16. This sounds great. Last March I did a Groupon to Iceland with Gate 1 travel and had a good experience as well. I did a Groupon trip (not Gate1) to Ireland in 2013 - also good experiences! That one we got to pick our own B&Bs so we did have some choice. Looks like you had a great time!

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    1. I was thinking of getting that Iceland trip as well! Glad to hear your experiences were also positive.

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