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Travel

European/UK Sabbatical 2019

I love traveling. Partly because I love learning about new cultures and meeting new people who are very different from me while in all the ways that matter, the exact same as me. My love for travel also satisfies my constant need for new things. I feel unsettled in being too settled. Traveling is my outlet for that. While I’m not traveling, I can fill that space with planning my next trip. I feel very lucky to have met someone who also loves to travel and together we happily explore different parts of the world. I’m not sure our 4 year old son feels the same affinity for travel but he’s a good sport about it so we tote him along on most of our trips.

When one of Paul’s coworkers took off for a world-tour while working part-time, you could two light bulbs turn on above both our heads. After surprising little discussion or debate, we decided we’d be crazy not to do it. With some persistence on Paul’s end, his work agreed to let him work part-time remotely too. So within the span of a few months, we got rid of all our stuff (thank you Free Craigslist) and sold our house in a weekend (thank you Portland housing market) we were off.

To keep cost down, we chose one specific area, instead of the entire world. We would stay in and around Europe for 6-9 months (it ended up being 9 months on the dot). We had the first two months planned out and then after that was just lists of cool sounding places. Our flight was to Rome with a long layover in Philadelphia. I had a whole list of things to do and see but the place that stands out most to me was a cute little cafe called High Street on Market. I had an amazing mushroom breakfast sandwich with house-made hot sauce. Yes, we saw the Liberty Bell and the waterfront and other historical landmarks, but that sandwich will always jump into my mind at the mention of Philadelphia. *A quick note about the Liberty Bell: if you find yourself in the Philadelphia airport without a long layover, there is a Lego version of the bell that I think is even cooler than the real one (well the replica of the real one).

After an overnight flight, we landed in Rome, with heavy bags and low blood sugar. We only had three days in Rome before heading further east so we were aiming to cram in a lot food and sights, but not before a very long nap. Bleary eyed and dazed from travel, we staggered down the street to find the first pizza of many that three day trip. Besides being with a pizza-loving little boy, I was on a mission to find the best pizza in Rome. I’m sad to report that I don’t think I found it. We sought out small places without lots of tourists but were met with run-of-the-mill pizza every time. I’m not giving up, but I don’t have a definitive answer to best pizza in Rome question. I also don’t have an answer to the best gelato, but found that every place we had gelato was amazing so you can’t go wrong there.

We wondered into Colline Emilane without a reservation and got lucky with the last free table. We ordered Tortellini di zucca and pasta carbonara, both of which amazing. The house made pasta was perfectly toothsome and fillings were comforting and warm from the cold winter’s night outside.

We were in Rome a couple weeks before Christmas, which is a wonderful time to be anywhere in Europe. The streets are bustling with cheery people. Smells from the roasting chestnuts drift through the air. Lights strung up across buildings twinkling in the night sky. It is, in a word, magical.

And of course there are the beautiful, breathtaking sights of Rome, anytime of year.

After our whirlwind trip in Rome, we headed east for Vienna. We’d heard so much about the Christmas Markets, we wanted to spend the holiday there. We were met with heavy, icy cold rain but that didn’t stop us. We just added on layers and stayed warm with hot mugs of mulled wine, spiked cider and Christmas Punch (not sure the exact contents of this but it’s warm and boozy and comes in a cheery cup). The markets were lined with stalls selling cute ornaments, woolen mittens, and lots and lots of sweet treats, of which I tried all of them.

More shots from the dreamy Christmas Markets.

Vienna is known for their sausages, which Paul and Felix said were very good. Since I don’t eat meat, I stuck to large wheels of Raclette melted over sourdough. (Looking back on it, this could be where my lactose intolerance started – overdose on cheese!)

Vienna as a city is absolutely beautiful. The architecture is so dramatic and intricate. The streets are free of garbage. And people there are so nice.

Plus their walk signs look like this:

From Vienna, we boarded a train to Budapest, a few days after Christmas. Most of the time, there is no need to book seats on the trains but given that Budapest is a New Year’s Eve party destination, the train was packed! There were people standing in the aisles and sitting in the stair wells the entire 3 hour ride. We got lucky when a family invited us to sit with them in the dining car. The vibe in Budapest is a lot different from Vienna. It felt like everything was under construction when we were there. And what wasn’t under construction looked worn down compared to pristine Vienna. Like Vienna though, Budapest had amazing architecture.

In addition to impressive architecture, Budapest also had some fantastic restaurants. Hungarian cuisine is very meat heavy but I managed to try some of the vegetarian specialties, like langos (which is deep fried dough topped with any number of things).