Friday, April 24, 2015

Packing for Asia

I'm packing for my next adventure (16 Days backpacking through Asia) and I'm nowhere near as stressed packing this time around. Maybe because now I consider myself a "veteran" at this backpacking thing after doing 45 days through Europe. But I'm sure all of you are interested to see what I packed so here we go:

Here are a list of my liquids all packed in a Zip-Loc Bag and all under 3.4 fl oz. according to TSA requirements. What did I include? Antibacterial, eye drops, sunscreen, disinfectant, toothpaste, face wash, cologne, body wash, and cream.

 Here are a few handy electronics that came in handy on my last trip that I included for this trip. Bestek mini surge that includes converters to cover the 3 different outlets I'll deal with, a mobile charger with 3300 mAh of charge, and my zilu portable charger with a massive 13,000 mAh of charge.
In terms of clothes I had to account for 2 different climates but I included: 2 pairs of jeans, 3 short sleeve button up shirts, 1 long sleeve button up shirt, 4 t-shirts, 3 shorts, 2 basketball shorts, 1 swimming trunk, 6 white undershirts, 8 boxers, 9 pairs of socks, 1 pair of loafers, 1 pair of running shoes, 1 pair of slippers, 1 thin towel, and of course my BLUE waterproof JACKET!

Roll, roll, roll to make the best use of space!
And we're all packed! Between my big backpack and small daypack I was able to also fit in my iPad, all travel docs, deodorant, medicine, vitamins, digital camera, and selfie stick (hehe).

Lastly, some questions you may have regarding this trip?

Is a US passport all you need to enter any of the countries you're going to (Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, S. Korea and Japan)?
Yes, except Indonesia where I will need a visa. They provide on-site visas right at the airport.

What vaccines should people get?
Tetanus, Typhoid, MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) 

If you have any others feel free to ask!










Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Explore Europe 2 Days at a time Part 1:

Only have 48 hours in one of these European cities? Whether it's a quick stop before your next stop or a long layover use these guides as a quick introduction to each city! From my forthcoming book series called "How to explore Europe 2 days at a time" This first edition includes the cities of Paris, Barcelona, Prague, and Budapest. More to come soon!

Paris:
Currency: Euro
Recommended Walking Tour: Sandeman New Paris Tour (http://www.newparistours.com/ )
Don't listen to the stereotype that French people hate Americans. They don't! At least none of the ones I met. As long as you are respecting of their culture they will be more than happy to help. Most of the sights in Paris are actually very close to each other
Day 1:
-Start your day exploring Notre-Dame Cathedral
-Join the 11 AM Sandeman Walking Tour (get Inga as your tour guide if you can!)
-The tour will end by the Musee Du Louvre, why not knock the museum out?  12 Euros, buy a skip the line ticket online. This ticket price will go up to 15 Euros July 1st.
                Highlights: Mona Lisa
-Love Bridge (overrated and closing soon)
-Arc de Triomphe

Day 2:
-Jump on the RER C and head to Palace of Versailles for half a day (18 euros for the palace, gardens and all other buildings). Make sure you visit the villa of Marie Antoinette also
-Eiffel Tower RER C to Tour Eiffel or 6,8,10 line to La Motte.

Other things to do if you have time:
-Have some Crepes near Montparnasse tower
-Musee d'Orsay
-Evening boat cruise

Key Phrases in French:
Hello: Bonjour
Thank You: Merci
Please: Sil vous plait
Yes: Oui
No: Non
Excuse me: Pardon
Goodbye: Salut
Do you Speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais?
Toilet: toilette

Tips:
-If people come up to you to sign a survey don't stop (pickpocketer)
-Meat is cooked rare unless you specify otherwise
-Eat macaroons, escargot, cheese and bread
-Everyone walks around with a loaf of bread as a snack
-Breakfast is generally light, just a croissant, unless you go to a place serving "American Breakfast"
-Everyone knows English just talk to them in French first

______________________________________________________________________________

Barcelona:
Welcome to Barcelona the pseudo capital of the independence seeking region of Spain called Catalonia. Many people know Spanish but prefer you speak to them in Catalonia. If you like architecture, good food and just a simple laid back atmosphere Barcelona is the place for you. Be on the lookout for buildings and parks designed by the architect Gaudi.
Currency: Euro
Recommended Walking Tour: Sandeman New Barcelona (http://www.newbarcelona-tours.com/daily-tours/free-tour-of-barcelona.html)
Day 1:
 -La Rambla is the center of tourist trap Barcelona so just take a stroll down this large pedestrian street right off the back.
-St. Joseph's Market (8AM-8:30 PM)
-Pablo Picasso Museum, free on Sundays (no cameras....sigh)
-Ciutadella Park

Day 2: 
-Take a half day to explore the most famous building in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia (if you want to go up a tower pick the Nativity Tower, you can go between the 2 towers). Buy tickets online for 19 euros. This church has been under construction for over 130 years. Don't miss the museum in the basement.
 -Park Güell, have to take a bus here.

Other things to do if you have time:
-Take a stroll up to Montjüic and take the tram down to the beach
-Visit Barcelona's man-made beach
-Go to Mt. Tibidabo for the day

Tips
-Buy a T-10 pass for 10 euros, good for 10 rides should be more than enough. Barcelona's subway is really  good and efficient. Your transfers are always right across the platform no walking over, under streets.
-People eat dinner around 9.
-Enjoy food a tapas bars where each item costs 1 euro
 -Try spanish jamon (as long as you eat pork)
 -If people don't know English, they know Spanish
-If someone pours sauce on you just run away don't let them help you (pickpocketer)

Learn some basic Catalan:
Hello: Hola
Thank you: Gràcies
Please: Sisplau
Yes: Sí
No: No
Excuse me: Excuseu-me
Good Bye: Adéu
Toilet: Serveis
Do you speak English: Parles anglés?
_____________________________________________________________________________

Prague:
Currency: Czech Crown
Recommended Walking Tour:  Sandeman New Prague (http://www.newpraguetours.com/)
Day 1:
-Start at the center of Prague in Old Town and just take the atmosphere in
-Take a look at the Astronomical clock (overrated if you ask me, but if you're there at the top of the hour might as well wait and watch the "show")
-Stroll through the Jewish quarter & take a look at the metronome where the statue of Stalin used to be
-Take a selfie in front of the Dancing House designed by Frank Gehry
Day 2:
-Cross the Charles Bridge over to Prague Castle. This isn't a traditional castle it has open grounds with multiple buildings inside the castle walls. The grounds and St. Vitus cathedral are free to roam the rest of the buildings you will have to get a pass to enter. Do the free stuff, you can skip the rest unless you're really interested.
-Visit the Lenon Wall. It has been painted over many times but each time it is the inspirational quotes come back. Started during the Cold War era.
-Hunt for "interesting statues by David Cerny. On the castle side of the river you'll find: Peeing Guys (they're peeing into a pool shaped like the Czech Republic and if you text a message to them they'll pee out what you send), Crawling Babies. By old town you'll find: Pregnant woman, and man on upside down horse)
Other things to do if you have extra time:
-Catch an opera at the historic estates theater. This is the only remaining building in the world where Mozart actually played.

Tips
-Don't use exchange places. They rip you off! Withdraw from an ATM if you can instead.
-Beer is cheaper than water
-Try some keilbasa and goulash
-Public transit (metro and tram) are very good but Prague can be easily traversed on foot so just get 90 minute passes when you need to use mass transit.

Key Phrases in Czech (written how they are pronounced)
Hello: Ahoy!
Thank You: De-KWEE
Please: Proseem
Yes: Ano
No: No
Excuse Me: Prominte
Do you speak English: Mulvite Anglicky?

___________________________________________________________________________

Budapest
Budapest is one of my favorite cities, and it may be my favorite European city. I want you to visit and I want you to enjoy it so I will teach you everything you need to know! Budapest is the combination of two former cities, Buda and Pest. When pronouncing Budapest say it like this Buda-Pesht. Pest is a bad word in Hungarian. Cost of living is very cheap in Budapest and meals can easily be had for less that $4 USD. Budapest is easily traversed by foot, no need to get a Metro pass. I made the mistake of getting a 72 hour pass without realizing I could easily walk everywhere. Also, the metro system isn't so reliable, their  longest line catches fire everyday so it was replaced by a bus temporarily. Rent a bike for 500 forints (about $2) a day.
Currency: Hungarian Forints
 Recommended Walking Tour: Free Budapest Walking Tours (http://www.triptobudapest.hu/)
Day 1:
-St. Stephen's Basilica
-Cross the Chain bridge over to Buda and visit Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion.
-Eat, drink and shop in the Jewish Quarter. It is away from the tourist district  where the locals go and shop owners don't dare try to overcharge locals. You can trust the shops here and there are always police around. It is also where the majority of ruin bars are including the most famous, Szimpla Kert. 
Day 2:
-Visit the Central Market (closes at 3 PM)
-Head to City park and quickly stroll through Hero's Square
-Visit Vajdahunyad Castle
-When in Budapest you must visit a thermal bath house. Since you're already in City park go to the most famous one, Széchenyi Thermal Bath for about $15 USD for the day.
Other Things to do if you have extra time:
-Visit Parliament
-Visit Budapest Castle in Buda
-Visit the house of terror by the Oktogon 

Tips
-Stay on the Pest side of the Danube river.
-Vorosmarty Square is the center of the tourist district. Don't go there. Ok, maybe visit once, but DO NOT spend any money there. Everything is unnecessarily overpriced. 
-Don't want to pay for a sightseeing cruise? Instead take the 2 line on the metro which runs up and down the side of the Danube river to get great views of Buda!
- Hungarians may seem offputting at first but trust me if you make the initial effort they totally appreciate you trying to speak Hungarian. Then they're so welcoming and friendly and you can get to know typical sarcastic Hungarian humor. Also, they will make sure you do not go hungry!
-Forget about your diets and try Hungarian food! Hungarian food is heavy and fatty but delicious. Essentially food is lard and meat, if there's a lot of water it's a soup and less water it's a stew. Everything has paprika in it. Locals say if you don't feel like you can't move at the end of your meal then your meal wasn't good. 
-Know what you should be paying for stuff, the extra zeros in the currency may confuse tourists and shop owners can use that to their advantage. Always have the menu with you and if you are getting overcharged say you'll call the police. You should not be paying 6,000 forints for a beer!
-Pálinka is the national drink in Hungary for those interested in having a drink, it can contain anywhere from 37 to 60% alcohol.
-Still water has pink caps! Unless you want seltzer water which has blue caps
-Unlike the rest of Europe, you should tip at least 10% in Hungary, also say thank you after you get your change back otherwise they will keep your change as tip if you say thank you.

Learn some basic Hungarian:
Hello: Szia
Thank You: köszönöm
Yes: Igen
No: nem
English?: Angolul?


Friday, March 27, 2015

List of Expenses and Itinerary from Europe

Here it is, what you've all been waiting for "The Golden Nugget"

My grand total for 45 days in Europe.....$4900. Don't believe me? Take a look below. You'll find my list of expenses and also the list of things I did each day. If you would like even more details like where I stayed, what I ate, etc feel free to contact me.
Still too expensive? That's fine because here are a few tips to reduce costs: Do NOT go to Switzerland, fly Mondays Tuesdays and Wednesdays, walk in smaller cities instead of using the metro, don't be intimidated by hostels; hostel culture is big now and they all compete pricewise and are very clean, travel with a student ID for reduced and free admission.
 In the next few weeks I will also be providing guidebooks to most of the cities I visited as part of my book series "How To Experience Europe 2 Days At A Time".  Stay tuned and Enjoy!







Saturday, March 21, 2015

Days 44 & 45: Headed Home

Over the last 45 days I have been to 20 cities, at least 15 museums, cooking classes, the opera, countless churches & historical sites in 12 countries. All while learning basic communication in 9 new languages. Most importantly I have made some great lifelong friends from all over the world. This trip was a life changing experience and I learned a lot about the world and myself. But the time has come for me to come home. More on that in just a second. Because I started the day in Stockholm witnessing a pretty rare solar phenomena, a solar eclipse. This is when the moon goes in between the Earth and the Sun and temporarily blocks out light. I have seen lunar eclipses before but never a solar eclipse and this is the last one for 19 years. So even though I missed out on the Northern lights this was my consolation prize.

I tried to keep my return date on the down low as I thought it would be fun to surprise my parents. Though I am returning, it does not mean the end of this blog. I want to help others plan and do similar trips, experience the world and feel free to pluck my brain for ideas and suggestions! I would love to help! Yes, the updates may not be as frequent but there will be a few major ones in the coming days including: my list of expenses (How much did all this cost me? Not much considering everything I did!), my daily itinerary, and my tips on what I would have done differently and what I think you should do. Also, I am planning another trip (yes I have the itch already) in the coming weeks so tune in for updates! 

If I could go back would I change anything about this trip? Nothing at all! It was the best experience of my life. A few months ago if you told me I would do something like this I would have laughed in your face. I used to have to plan everything, have to have a regimen, have to have everything planned out. But I learned sometimes you have to enjoy the moment for what it is and just go with it. Just going from city to city, not knowing the language and learning to rely on my instincts to know where to go or what to eat was a growing experience. I am happy I did it alone, I had to do it alone. When you travel alone you are forced to be vulnerable to your surroundings which helps you better immerse yourself in your surroundings so you can get the maximum experience. Many cities I arrived without a plan and each time someone said "Hey Dennis, why don't I help you by telling you some places to go see and some places to eat". Each time I worried about being lonely I met a group of people that made me feel like I was right at home amongst my peers. I may have been halfway across the world but I was never alone. My advice for everyone, things of this world won't always go according to your plans. But control what you can which is how you spend your time. Spend it in joy whether it is with your family or doing your hobbies. I choose to enjoy my time traveling, it has become a passion of mine to go and explore the world that I was placed in because I realized how small a place I occupy in it and there is so much to explore and learn. Also be nice to others, care for each other. That energy helps feeds others and just caring for each other does make a difference I promise!

I want especially thank God for giving me this opportunity to just go, explore and learn. All while running into no major problems at all. I was always safe, always healthy, always cared for and that is truly a blessing. During the turmoil of the last few months my faith never faltered and that was easy because I worship, trust and love an awesome God who always provides. Romans 12:12(Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer) has been the theme of this season for me. I never had to be scared because I was always provided with genuine people that took care of me wherever I was. I know I have said this before but there is a sort of kinship among travelers and backpackers and we always look out for each other. Whether it is putting together a group to travel together or giving tips out or even hosting and giving tours in our cities when another traveler is around. I also want to thank all my friends and family back home for supporting me during this time. I know many of you may have saw this trip as a quarter life crisis, haha. But it was never about that. This was something I needed to do for myself, to be completely selfish for once so that I could learn and grow. That is one of the things I learned, being selfish sometimes isn't a bad thing because sometimes you have to fight for yourself to remind yourself that there are things in this world worth fighting for like your own passions and dreams. I want to thank all the wonderful friends I gained on this trip. When you meet people while traveling you know your time is limited and you open up fairly easily and you bond over a lifetime of stories sometimes in the span of hours. I met some great people that I feel like have been my friends for a lifetime and we will still keep in touch with each other. Whenever you're in my city I'll show you around!

I do also want to take some time to thank some corporations that made this trip possible. Sandeman New Europe tours, who showed me around and taught me about most of the cities I was in, all for free! They conduct free walking tours (tips suggested) and I enjoyed their brand so much that I would seek out only the Sandeman tours whenever I was in a city. Skysanner, for helping me find the best option for my flights whether it was last minute or to random cities they always helped me pick the best route, time and country to travel to maximize my time. Hostelworld, for helping me search and book hostels, they are the premier site and I highly recommend them because they haven't steered me wrong. Charles Schwabb, for letting me withdraw money from any ATM without charging me any fees, they put money in my pocket and you need one thing to do go on a trip like this. Yeah nothing cliché, you need cash that's about it, anyone can do this trip as long as you have some money. T-mobile, though I am a Verizon customer, their international plan options were simply horrible so T-mobile was able to provide me with a temporary SIM while I was stateside that I could use in any country and have access to data anywhere for no extra charge. Chase, though I am a big proponent of AMEX, paying foreign transactions fees is a waste of money and Chase's Sapphire card let me swipe anywhere without any such fees. Norwegian Air, for flying to and from Europe for prices that were so affordable that it would have been stupid not to go. Scandanavia is the place to fly in and out of for affordable fares now!

Thank you so much for reading and being part of this journey with me. There were some nights I didn't want to write anything but knowing that all of you were reading to check up on me kept me going! Check back soon! Or subscribe for updates!





Friday, March 20, 2015

Days 42 & 43: Stockholm

I arrived in Stockholm closer to the evening so I knew I would not get any sight seeing done in the dark. Instead I chose to sign up for a cooking class at the hostel to learn how to make Swedish meatballs. We went through the whole process: what meat to choose, what spices to add and how to prepare and fry them. Really fun class!
The next day I set out for a walking tour. I did 2 walking tours with Free Tour Stockholm, the city waking tour and the old town tour (Gamla Stan). I don't know if it was the tour guides fault or if it was just that Stockholm does not have too many sights to see compared to all the cities I've been to in Europe but these were not my favorite tours. Stockholm as a city itself is very nice and very clean and this was the first time I did not even try to learn the language because people in Sweden really enjoy speaking English. Stockholm is a very walkable city.

Stockholm is a nice stop over city. I would not say to spend too much time here as you can run out of things to do but it is a good place to stop for a day or 2 on your way to somewhere else. Especially because Scandanavia is the cheapest place to fly in and out of from the US. Also a tip for a cheap art tour: ride their subway! Every station has a unique design and theme.

The best part of Stockholm had to definitely be the people I met. I was still pretty bummed about leaving London so I wasn't as social as I usually was here. But then 2 of my roommates and I got to talking and we ended up talking all night. Gas, who's a doctor in his residency from the UK and Michelle, who just finished her masters in Bioinformatics and has been hunting for the Northern Lights through Scandanavia. She had some great pictures! We ended up having some of the most thought provoking conversations I have had in a long time. We talked about our career paths and since we all come from the medical field we talked about how the systems in the US and Europe differ. We also talked about just how to deal with people in our lives and how we should be a little selfish when it comes to important things like our career and relationships because if you don't stand up for yourself, who else will? It's just funny how even the days where I didn't want to socialize I end up making some great friends that I will definitely keep in touch with after Stockholm. 

During my stay in Stockholm I have been staying at City Backpackers Hostel. This also has to be one of the best hostels I have stayed in. Everything was very clean and you had a lot of space in the rooms. I definitely give this place a thumbs up as it is close to everything you need (attractions, subway, and main bus/train terminal). Also don't forget, NO SHOES, according to Swedish customs no shoes inside. 




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Days 39-41: London

I have been in London for the last 3 days and I knew whenever I would get to London that I would be busy. The great thing about traveling through Europe is that as you meet people they always take care of you when you get to their city. My friend Vanessa has been great showing me around London the last few days. She made a whole itinerary for me which included places to eat! The first day we explored all over Central London. It felt good to finally be in a city where all the signs were in English and everyone spoke English naturally! It was nice to take a break from trying to learn languages for a little. The one thing I won't get used to is the cars being on the other side of the road. Yes I am not driving here but when you cross a street it makes a difference because naturally I look to the left to see if a car is coming where here you're supposed to look to the right. I've had a couple close calls almost getting hit by a car! The amount of effort Britain uses to remind people to look right by writing it on the ground at every intersection you'd think they'd just use it to put everything the CORRECT way.

The second day I was able to  museum hop while there was some rain in the forecast. I started off at the National Gallery, then I headed to the British Museum. These are 2 of the top museums in the world on the same level as the Louvre in Paris and the MET in New York.  Next up I headed to Regents Park, which is really nice park and I think it would look fantastic in the spring when all the flowers are blooming. Lastly I headed to the Victoria and Albert are musuem. By this time I saw enough Greek and Roman art so I headed to the different sections like Ceramics and I also spent a bunch of time in a room with huge paintings by Raphael. The great part about London museums are they are all free so you are free to explore at your own pace and come back whenever. 

In the evening I was able to meet up with Caitlyn and Emily who I met in Paris on day 3 of my travels and here we were in London on day 40. It's crazy to think how much time has passed and to realize that we've all survived. We were able to exchange stories about our experiences in Europe and I was able to share some stories about places they should visit.
It's my last full day in London and Vanessa and I headed out to do all the typical touristy things. We started the day off by going to see Big Ben and Westminister Abbey. Of course we had to take a bunch of selfies which included me in a typical London phone booth. Next up we headed to the house of Parliament to watch the guards set up for the change. Then we did the Queens walk along the River Thames to the London Bridge passed St. Paul's Cathedral to board a double decker bus to Brick Lane!


If you are unfamiliar with Brick Lane it is a street in London with all these little food places. Delicious! We had our famous London bagel with pastrami from Beigel Bake. Then we headed over to Tower Bridge and ended off sightseeing at Buckhingham Palace!

I really enjoyed my time in London. It reminded me a lot of home. Just the way the city works, how the people are and of course the language. I'm glad I have met some great people during my travels and that is the thing I will always cherish most about this trip. Next up is Stockholm, Sweden tomorrow!

Feel free to look at the rest of my London pictures:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.669894983284.1073741852.36301177&type=1&l=fd681b3189

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 36-38: Portugal

Lisbon reminds me a lot of San Francisco. It has hills and tourists filled trolleys. It also has a bridge called the Golden Gate Bridge that looks just like the Golden Gate Bridge. You may have noticed that I haven't updated in a few days and simply put that is because I really have enjoyed Portugal a lot, so much so that it has become my favorite country that I have visited during this trip. Many people have not thought to visit Portugal but I definitely recommed it. There is something for everyone: stuff for the history buffs, urban life for the city dwellers, great hikes and bike trails for the outdoorsy person and the Atlantic ocean for the surfers. Best of all...everything is really cheap! The girls at reception at my hostel were so nice, they sat with me and helped me plan out what I should do in Lisbon and what I should eat which was really helpful because now I realized 2 full days was not enough and I had to pick and chose what to do. But we covered the most important stuff which was what to eat!

During my first full day in Lisbon I attended a Sandeman tour and as expected it did not disappoint. But this was definitely the best one yet. The tour guide Yuri was so energetic, he read ous poetry from Fernado Pesso and was so passionate about his city that he made us fall in love with it too. He gave us tips like do not pay any more than 5 Euros for food, which is true! He showed us around the historic city and told us a lot about rich Portuguese history. During the tour I met 2 girls, Liza and Vanessa and we started chatting, they were Americans who were teaching English in Ibiza in Spain. I introduce them because we're going to meet them again later in this story, so mental note!
Since I knew I was only going to have the one day to explore Lisbon, while the next day I would venture to other towns, I decided to stay with Yuri for his afternoon tour of Alfama. Since this group was smaller we got to bond with Yuri a bit and learn more about him. We actually became friends and exchanged contact info incase we bumped into eachother in our travels again. I definitely recommed doing any tour with Yuri if you are ever in Lisbon, which you should totally visit! We strolled through the old streets and alleys of Alfama. The place where the water source was and where the old city was built. We were able to stop into some tiny little mom and pop shops also and get some real Portuguese pastries. If you didn't know. The Portuguese are big on their pasteries, there is a pastery bar on literally every corner. Yuri also mentioned that good wine in Portugal costs only $4 a bottle!

After the tour I took a train to Belem which is about 10 minutes west of Lisbon. Why am I going to Belem? Well the famous pastry of Portugal is the pasteis de nata, these custard tarts. But the most famous ones are the pasteis de belem, so secretive is the recipe that only 3 people know it at a time and they are never allowed to travel together incase they all get killed. I walked around Belem for a little bit, took some pictures, but it was time, yes it was time to fill that burning desire in my stomach. Yuri had me try a nata earlier and I savored it so I can't imagine how much better this one was. He promised that it was at least 5 times better haha. So I ordered my natas and as I was walking over to sit down, who do I bump in to? Long and behold it was Liza and Maggie from earlier (remember when I said mental not earlier, yes this is what it's refering to, see how I did that? ;)). One thing I have learned on this trip is. Every time I am worried about being alone I have always met some really great people to hang out with and enjoy a city. It has gotten to the point that I don't even stress about it anymore because I know wherever I go I am going to meet some really cool people. We talked about how over here travelers look out for eachother and there is always a sense of kinship whenever travelers see eachother and we always offer eachother help when we can. We each had stories of how we were in some random city and a friend we met in our earlier travels always came to our need whether it was to offer a place to stay or just to show us around and give us tips. The backpacking experience has taught me the just GO and let the rest work itself out.

So we exchanged plans for the next day and since we had some overlap we decided to just stick together for our last day in Portugal. In the morning we headed to Cascais, a beach resort town on the coast that looks oddly like California, to rent bicycles and bike along the water. This was the perfect way to start out the morning. We wished we had a whole day to spend in Cascais but as we were limited in time we did a short loop and returned our bikes to head to Sintra. 


We boarded a bus to Sintra, where there a bunch of old castles. We knew we wouldn't be able to see all of them so we decided on going to to just one and pass by the others. Boy did we make the right call, we headed to the Palace of Pena and the best way to describe it is unique. I've seen so many castles on this trip but I have never seen anything like this one. Each section of the castle was a different color. It was the type of castle you would design as a kid in your coloring book. 
Afterwards we headed down to the historic town to explore a little and there was of course another famous pastry we had to try. We headed to piriquita which was jammed with locals to try some traesseiros. Yum, yum and more yum the best way to describe it is its kind of like an apple pie but it's not? I don't know guys it's hard to describe how good these pastries are. The simple solution is go to the airport, board a plane, come here and try them! Also another thing about Sintra, they have these cherry chocolate shots all over the place. It's a shot in a chocolate glass and after you drink it you eat the cup. Since I don't drink I just made the girls drink my shot so I could eat the chocolate cup haha.

Well after our long day we absolutely had to make one more stop. Yup you guessed it! We headed to Belem to have another round (which ended up being a few rounds but I won't say how many to save ourselves from embarassment) of pasteis de belem. And with that came the close of our time in Portugal. We each felt the same way, there is so much of Portugal to explore, Porto in the north and the coast in the south. It is definitely an underrated country that everyone should make some time to visit. It is very affordable and the people are so nice. One thing to note is that even though the words look like Spanish, don't pronounce it like Spanish. For a Spanish speaker that is hard and I even found myself pronouncing words as they would be in Spanish. But Portuguese people get offended when you do that so I would say make the effort to pronounce words correctly, it is pretty easy to pick up. There's just more shhhs and grrrs than Spanish. 

Take a look at the rest of my pictures from wonderful Portugal:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.669539755164.1073741851.36301177&type=1&l=86b9ea8e71

Lastly, I stayed at Lost inn Lisbon right near the Cais do Sodre train station. This may have been the best hostel I have stayed out. It was very clean, great location, and it was very spaceous and modern looking. Everything was accesed with key card. The staff was so helpful. They went out of their way to make sure I got a real experience of Portugal by helping me plan my days. Also the free breakfast here was definitely a step up compared to just toast in other hostels. There was ham, eggs, fruits, a whole bunch of stuff. Also every evening they have Sangria tastings.  The one negative I had about this place was they did not have good internet, which is another reason why it was hard for me to post daily.