6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

Everything right now is about doing things faster, sometimes this includes travel. Everybody tries to find the fastest ways to get to a place and that can mean that you miss out on great experiences! Here is why you should talk the extra hours and drive to your destinations if it is at all possible:

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  1. Things to see and things to do! When you fly, you only see your destination. If you drive to your destination, you can stop in different places and see so many other sights. If you drive through the US, you can see multiple landmarks, instead of just the one you are heading towards. If you drive through different countries you can experiences many different cultures!IMG_5147 2
  2. Food! You have so many more opportunities to try different foods. If you drive through multiple countries on your road trip, you can try food that is native to this country. I found some of the best places when I just did a quick google search of what’s near me. Not to mention all the junk food you can enjoy, because everyone needs fun snacks! 
  3. Spending time with your friends. When you spend hours in the car you get much closer with your friends. You tend to look at your phone less and actually talk to each other. Not to mention all the adorable photos you can take together! Hopefully you won’t get into any fights, otherwise the journey will be really long.
  4. Music. When is the last time you truly listened to music without scrolling through your phone or reading the newest headlines? There is nothing like blasting music with your windows down while driving down an endless road. You can belt out the lyrics and no one will care what you sound like! So make sure to create a fire playlist before setting out on the journey!
  5. Bring more things with you! Whether this is a short trip or a long one, everyone hates weight limits when flying, when you drive there is no weight limit, just a space limit. If you are a good packer this means you can bring LOTS of stuff!
  6. Learn about more cultures. This is even true if you are road tripping through the same country. Each state in the USA has its own culture, you will definitely meet completely different people in California than in a cafe in Boston. If you are driving through different countries, then there is absolutely no doubt that you will come across many diverse cultures.IMG_3637.JPG

Hope this helps you slow down a little and enjoy your trip! There are many benefits to taking your time and driving around while you head to your destination.

 


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Los Angeles -> San Francisco Road Trip

Los Angeles -> San Francisco Road Trip

One weekend me and my friends decided to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, spend one night there and drive back the next day. It was absolutely amazing trip, even though not everything went quite as planned. We found out google lied to us, but we were ok with it. We did so much in these two days, to really take advantage of where we were. Here’s a couple of things we did and what we learned.

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First, we decided to take the PCH and the 101 up. So we drove right along the coast from Santa Monica, to Malibu and Oxnard. Unsurprisingly we were the only people driving up the coast after the “monster storm” that came to LA the day before. And even though it was still raining a little, the view was absolutely amazing and worth it. We had fallen in love with Malibu in the few weeks we have been here, so we enjoyed driving through the town again. The coast is gorgeous and I definitely recommend taking the Pacific Coast Highway for at least this part of the trip.

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Right before we hit Oxnard, we hit a very rural part of California, which actually surprised us. Lots of farms that spanned forever. In Oxnard we got a little lost. We turned off the GPS and assumed we would just continue going straight and we would hit the PCH headed north again. Well, we were wrong. Somehow we ended up heading east through more fields and driving through orange groves. It was gorgeous and worth the extra time. But eventually we turned the GPS back on, now to get on the 101 heading towards Santa Barbara.

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As we drove down the 101 we were constantly in awe. The landscape was surprising to us. We drove through mountains, hills, on cliffs along the coast. It took us a little over 3 hours to get from West Hollywood to Santa Barbara, so the perfect time to stop for a break and some food. Quick suggestion: a small cafe called The Shop Cafe. Amazing brunch food and you get the food pretty quickly, making it a great stop on a long trip. Also the food is AMAZING!

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We hopped back onto the 101 heading north. I don’t know what I imagined the Californian countryside to look like, but I was surprised. The rolling, velvety hills just kept going as we drove north. It was beautiful. Eventually vineyards started popping up and the highway straightened and flattened. At this point we hit a bit of a rough patch. The trip was getting long, we had already driven for 6 hours out of the expected 6.5 and according to Google Maps we had another 3 hours to go. So we ate a lot of snacks and stopped at a rest stop in San Miguel, a really cute town. What also woke us up was a small patch of forest with lots of pine trees, something you would find in the North East.

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After 9 hours, around 4:30pm, we finally hit San Francisco. We parked the car ($45 overnight parking), checked into our hotel, Union Square Plaza Hotel. After 9 hours in the car, we decided to walk to Fisherman’s Wharf. So up, over the hill and down Powell street we went. And when we reached our destination, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset. We walked along the Wharf popping into different stores. Most importantly we bought a bunch of saltwater taffy, something I have never tried. So worth it, it was amazing! They had many flavours, anything you could think of, from cherry to sangria to pina colada!

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We walked down the road to Ghirardelli Square and started looking for a place to eat dinner. By chance we walked by The Pub BBQ and decided to share a bunch of appetizers and it was an amazing choice. The food was great paired with their drinks, so I definitely recommend! For dessert we went to Ghirardelli and got their famous hot fudge sundaes and sea salt caramel hot chocolate. And it was the best hot chocolate and sundae I have ever had! I will definitely have dreams about them.

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The best part of the trip came next. I finally took the cable car in San Francisco from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market Street! So worth the $7 ticket! It was too cold to hang on to the side of the car, but I will definitely do it in the future! This time we enjoyed the heated cabin.

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The next day we went to one of my favorite brunch places, Honey Honey Cafe and Creperie. Such delicious food and countless options! Just in the line we all changed our mind about what to get three times. One of the reason I like this place so much, other than the food, is that no matter how busy they get, you never feel like they are pressuring you to leave.

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After brunch we found the Painted Ladies, which is a must in San Francisco. They are gorgeous and I would move in, if I could! Naturally, the Fuller House house was next! Another house and neighborhood I loved. So we drove around a little and looked at more houses.

 

Golden Gate Bridge was next. We drove over it, in pouring rain. You could barely see the bridge as we drove over it, but that didn’t matter. We still had the experience and it was great. We drove to Sausalito, which is the most adorable town! There, we stopped for lunch at The Spinnaker, which was quite fancy, but totally worth it. Though the view from the restaurant was non-existent when we got there, soon it stopped raining and the fog cleared up, so we were rewarded with an amazing view of San Francisco! This, of course, meant that when we drove back over the bridge, the experience was even better! The view was beautiful, so we decided to drive through the Presidio, stop for a little and get a few pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge from there.

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After that, it was time to get back onto the highway and head home. We took the I-5 this time, since google promised a shorter amount of time.  Since we drove in the evening and at night, we couldn’t enjoy the view as much. But before it got dark, we got a quick look at Dublin and Pleasanton, where we stopped for gas before the long journey home. They were both really cute towns surrounded by great country. IMG_3904

We ended up getting back to LA at around 11:30pm and decided to get milkshakes as a reward and as a nice cherry on top of the road trip. Mel’s Drive-In was the perfect way to end the road trip, their milkshakes were so delicious as were their fries.


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Apple Picking

It’s the beginning of fall, which in America means it’s prime time for apple picking and other fun fall activities! I’ve never been apple picking and I was told I was definitely missing out on lots of fun. So, on the first fall weekend, we got up bright and early (about 6am) and headed to The Big Apple farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

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It was beautiful weather! It was chilly enough so that you could wear a cute plaid outfit (which we all did, of course), but it was also sunny and the orchard just looked gorgeous. We got to the farm a little before 10 and already there were lots of families with little kids running around, picking apples and taking lots and lots of pictures (as we soon did as well).

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We paid for a small bag, which cost $25, and started walking through, looking for our favorite apples. The Big Apple has a beautiful orchard on top  of a hill, so you are also rewarded with an amazing view.

We managed to fill up our bag fairly quickly (and even snacked on some apples there), so we got back into the car to drive down and visit their store. In the store they have ciders, donuts, caramel apples, honey sticks and, of course, other vegetables and more and more apples! I personally tried the caramel apples and the cider, both of which were absolutely delicious! I also heard the donuts are amazing, so I suggest you try those too!

 

That concluded our trip, but there is more you can do at the farm. I saw they offered hayrides, eventually pumpkin picking and maybe even more! My new American experience was a lot of fun and suggest you try it out as well!

 


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Prague Zoo

The Prague zoo has had some pretty exciting news as of late and so we decided to pay it a visit this week. A few weeks ago, a baby elephant was born, making it the first elephant to be both bred and born here. And a little while after, a surprise baby gorilla was born. Surprise  because nobody knew the adult gorilla was pregnant. And yes it would be easy to blame the caretakers for not knowing, but if you factor in the fact that the gorilla was old, had been treated with hormones in the past and was never able to carry a baby to term, it makes it for a highly unlikely event. Alas, the baby was born and is now one of the Prague zoo’s prized possessions. And we just couldn’t pass up all the cuteness.IMG_8963

We decided to go on a work day to try to avoid crowds – and we partially succeeded. When we walked into the zoo, there were only about 3500 people. We immediately made our way up the hill, into the upper portion of the zoo and towards the elephant enclosure. On our way, we stopped by in one of the newer and cooler pavilions – the Indonesian jungle. You walk in and you’re transported into a jungle – you see the monkeys, walk through a path between ponds and around tree trunks. The walk ends with a walk through a darkened “cave” where they have bats flying freely.

Between the Indonesian jungle and the elephant enclosure, we stopped by to see polar bears. First, we saw two, who were just lying there, one using the other as a pillow. We honestly had doubts whether or not they’re alive, but then they shifted slightly. Around the corner was a third polar bear was significantly more active. It was swimming around, then pacing. We were surprised how crazy fast its fur dried.

We then finally made it to the elephants, where it was crazy busy.  We managed to snag a pretty good spot to watch the baby frolic around its mother. It’s still too small to go off on its own, but it definitely wants to. We stayed there quite a while, watching.

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From here, we went across a bridge, towards the giraffes and meerkats. The giraffe viewing area was crowded, so we continued along the path to the meerkat enclosure. It’s open on top and glass all around, so you can see the meerkat’s clearly. Since it’s definitely a favorite of the little kids, the open top makes it nice for adults to look over and see things nicely. We couldn’t tear ourselves away because the most recent additions to the meerkat family were born on April 1st, so they were still tiny and cute. We then slowly made our way back around the giraffes and elephants and stopped by for food.

Right next to the elephant enclosure is a restaurant with outdoor seating. You go up to the counter, order and pay and then carry your food to a designated table. They have a great selection of food, so even we, both picky eaters, were able to chose something. They have european, middle eastern, and typical Czech food. A tip for non-Czech speakers – the boards on top of the counter are written in Czech, but they have english menus near the register, so keep an eye out for those. We got an order of fried cheese and fries (a staple in Czech food establishments) and gyros and were pleasantly surprised at how good both meals were. Finally, if you have more people in your party, decide on your orders and have some people stand in line, while other scout for a table. We were there on a weekday off-season and had trouble finding an open table outside (there were tables inside, but we didn’t want to sit there).

 

FullSizeRender 2Tip # 2: Go for the draft drinks – beer, Kofola or Malinovka (a local raspberry flavored soda).

 

From here, we continued to circle the elephants and make our way towards the lonely big cats in the back. Warning – there are two locations for the big cats, so keep an eye out on where you’re going. The zoo is pretty big so you might have to make choices on what you see and what you skip. We saw the leopards and tiger (which was far) and walked back past the wolves and other animals.

We then took the cableway down and didn’t have to stand in line (since most people prefer to take it up and walk down). It can be a bit daunting if you have a problem with heights, but it’s completely safe.

FullSizeRender 6The lower part of the zoo seems smaller, with everything closer together. We saw monkeys (where we stopped by for quite a bit, watching them climb trees and seeing how far up they can go).

When we finally made it to the big cats, it was feeding time. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t feel too well watching the tiger devour the giant piece of meat he was given. In a separate enclosure was a different tiger, who received food last and you could tell how nervous he was by his fast pacing and general reactions to the people watching him. I normally like big cats, but this was too much – I preferred the snakes and lizards on the other side of the building.

 

 

Because the weather was nice, the lions were in the outside portion of the pavilion. The lion and two lionesses were clearly done with lunch by the time we got there, so they were significantly calmer than the other cats. The lion was asleep and while the lionesses were awake, they were just sitting there, watching the goings on.IMG_9088

After a short break by the lions, we went to the gorilla pavilion, which has a restricted entrance right now because of a recently born baby. One of the gorillas gave birth a couple weeks ago without anyone knowing she had been pregnant (due to old age, past fertility issues and her being overweight). There was a ZOO employee at the entrance, letting in groups of five or so at a time, warning visitors to be quiet and telling everybody to move on if they lingered too long. So we only stayed for a little bit, but still saw the baby and it’s mother, which was adorable.

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From there, we walked through the water world and monkey gardens, where you walk on wooden paths between ponds and see stuff like ducks and flamingos and everything else that lives in or around water. This is great for kids because they can run around and have fun. You can also go inside a small pavilion and see gavials, which were scary looking.

If you have kids, there’s a petting zoo nearby, which we decided to avoid, but it should be worth visiting.

Our last animal viewing stop was for the penguins, which were being their adorable selves. You can watch the time lapse Pav took to see their shenanigans. Unfortunately, the seals weren’t in their enclosure due to cleaning, but normally they’re great to sit down and watch.

 

We were then in desperate need for refreshments, so on our way out, we stopped by a food stand, where we got iced coffee and ice cream, which was a perfect way to end the day. We rested our feet a little, went up to see how many visitors there now were (at that point 6624) and headed out to the bus. Warning! The exit is near the entrance, but not exactly in the same spot, so watch the arrows pointing you there, you can’t leave through the entrance. A great thing is that the buses are outside the zoo, between the entrance and the exit, so you don’t have to walk far.

We definitely had a great day at the Prague zoo and recommend it to anyone who’s visiting Prague, it’s no surprise it’s been ranked 4th best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor.

Final tip: it’s better to take public transportation than to drive to the ZOO, the traffic gets pretty crazy and you have to walk pretty far.

 


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Czech Traditions: April 30th


Czech traditions: April 30

Today’s post will divert from the recent reviews and trip tips and go into the Czech culture a little bit. April 30th and May 1st are traditionally significant dates here in the Czech Republic…and you’re about to find out why.

So, what’s the deal with April 30th? Well, it is the night of the burning of the witches., one of the oldest Czech traditions. The closest thing you can equate it to in the English speaking world is Halloween, I guess (even though we also have a version of Halloween in the fall, go figure). But take away the kids in cute Disney masks and add witches being burned at the stake. Quite literally, although not to worry – the witches are made of hay and twigs.

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This night is an old pagan holiday that became ingrained into the Czech lifestyle. It’s the celebration of the beginning of spring (Maypoles sometimes make an appearance). The night between April 30th and May 1st has always been considered to be magical and there are many myths about it. People believed that on this night, witches would fly on their broomsticks to gather and perform rituals. And so to protect against these witches (ghosts and demons also), people would set fires on hills. Eventually, people added “witches” – the aforementioned puppets or broomsticks – on top of the fires to see the witches burn. During this night, people also took precautions to protect themselves, their fields and their cattle with special twigs and holy chalk.

Nowadays, the spiritual reasons for the holiday have long been (mostly) forgotten, save scary stories by the fire, but the tradition remains. While we no longer carry around holy items for protection, we still gather and make bonfires and “burn witches.”

IMG_8928After being gone on this day for quite a few years in a row, Pav and I decided to rediscover the holiday this year and go see a bonfire in a small Czech town. We arrived after the fire had been started (although we did see preparations earlier in the day) and watched. First of all, there were a lot more people than we anticipated. Second, it’s interesting how this night has evolved into something more resembling a music festival, rather than a pagan holiday. There were stands with beer and food, even a small stage with a folk band. It was a great gathering – what seemed like the entire town was there: little kids running around in witch costumes and with broomsticks, their parents drinking beer, teenagers pretending to be too cool to take part, yet sitting on the sidelines and the ever vigilant local firemen, watching to make sure nothing happens. Yet there were still aspects of the holiday that remained intact. And that’s what matters.

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If you watch Gilmore Girls, this event would be right out of the Stars Hollow book and I believe even Taylor would approve. So what do you think? Would you want to come and witness this?


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