I have USAA for my bank account and they are usually absolutely fantastic! ATM fees are waived and I have never had any issues getting out cash. That all changed when I attempted to get out some money for the rest of my trip. I tried 5 different ATMs and they all failed! I googled USAA in Hong Kong and apparently this is a huge problem and the card can’t be read. I wish I knew this BEFORE I left. After a very frustrating conversation with USAA they finally suggested I find a Citibank and thankfully, that worked! From here on out, I will make sure to always have some cash on me to at least exchange at a currency place.
After that little adventure, we headed towards the bus to head to Stanley Market but of course we hit up a few random stores to browse in along the way. I picked up two necklaces since they are small and easy to pack.
The bus was only 7.90 HKD which is about $1 USD. We browsed through the market and stumbled out onto a Christmas Market. There was mulled wine, wine tasting, food tasting and so many cute Christmas trinkets! It made me feel like I was in the holiday spirit. On our way home we stopped at the grocery store so I could make a home cooked meal and just relax.
Sometimes part of the fun of traveling is the journey in between places. I took the bus from London to Paris and we crossed the English Channel by ferry. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the perfect opportunity for a mini photo shoot and a nice break from sitting on the bus for 9 hours.
Each time I go to Paris, I have a different experience and a different reason for being there. This time was to visit a friend I met in Italy and enjoy the delicious Parisian food!
I did take the time to check out Rodin Museum and relax in the gardens and learn a little more about Rodin himself.
I did walk around here and there and visit Montmarte and sit on the steps in front of Sacre-Coeur and people watch.
After almost two weeks in Greece it was time for one final stop in one of the largest cities…Heraklion. After moving around a bit and going out more than usual, I just wanted to relax and recharge my batteries and stay of the sun!
We were staying at a hotel about 30 minutes (by bus) outside of the city and randomly found a family owned restaurant and hotel. This was one of the first times I saw how the economy was playing out for the Greeks. This huge restaurant was completely empty because so many people cancelled their trips afraid of the referendum. We were lucky enough to meet the owners and we were like family. They gave us free raki (it is considered rude if you turn it down) and just embraced us. The next afternoon we walked by to catch the bus and they called us in for a shot of raki and some food before the bus. I bet if we stayed there for a few more days they would have invited us to their house for dinner! It was one of those travel experiences that reinforces why I travel.
Truly, my travel buddy and I spent most the time in cafés and then sitting in our room being silly and listening to music. It was our final few days together and we just wanted to chill.
I arrived to Ten Coins Hostel in Sofia, Bulgaria around 7:00am absolutely exhausted! Why so exhausted? Let me recap the previous 14 hours. Rushed to my bus since I was an idiot and had the wrong time on my computer and barely made it. Took a 12 hour overnight bus from Athens to Sofia that I barely slept on because of a crying child. Found my way to the hostel via the metro…exhausted.
I did not expect a bed to be ready so early in the morning, but I was delighted to be able to drop my luggage and sit. I ended up falling asleep at a kitchen table with my USC hoodie on and my teddy bear as a pillow. The hostel owner woke me up about 10:00am and told me there was an early checkout and he had a bed ready for me. I immediately crawled in with all my clothes on and finally went to bed.
Flash forward to 2:00pm when I woke up and needed to get my day going. I went into the city center and walked around for a bit and had a great lunch (12 USD for two beers, a salad and fish). Then I went on a free walking tour with Free Sofia Tour and took in the sites of the capitol of Bulgaria.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
View down the street
Central public bath house
Creepy empty train station
I also maybe accidentally bought some new shoes. 🙂
Anyhow, fun facts I learned on the tour:
– Sofia s over 6000 years old
– Bulgaria was established in 681 and the name has never changed
– Apparently when Bulgaria joined WWII they declared war against the USA and UK thinking nothing would happen since they were so far away. The US bombed Sofia.
– People from the country still come to Sofia to take a selfie at the communist department store as this was the first place moving stairs were in Sofia
After 6 weeks of working in Rome, it was time to move on and become a backpacker again, and it was time to head to Croatia. A friend of mine and I decided that we would start in Split and then head to Dubrovnik. I must admit, we booked this trip without really knowing anything about the country or the cities we were heading to.
We had a 7:00am flight from Rome to Split and slept the entire way! Once we landed, we went straight to the Beach Hostel and checked in and went directly to the beach. We basically spent the entire day sleeping at the beach. The next two days consisted of the exact same thing!
Due to availability, we had to move hostels and went to the Adria to celebrate the 4th of July. This hostel had a bbq and I gathered the other 3 Americans that were there (and the Canadian I am traveling with) and made some delicious food!
We had to take a 8:00am bus into town to catch a 9:15am bus to Dubrovnik. We missed our stop and ended up having to walk about 15 minutes back to the bus station with our luggage. Needless to say, this was not a good start to the day. We made our bus and we were off for a 4 hour adventure south. What we didn’t know, is that the drive took us into Bosnia for a bit of a pit stop. Of course, we got an ice cream and took a selfie to prove we were there!
The long day of buses and more buses did not stop when we entered Dubrovnik. We had to take a local bus to get to our hostel called Hostel Marker Dubrovnik Old Town and we were greeted by the nicest man ever. We checked in and once again, went straight to the beach. We did a bit of the proper touristy walking around and I must say, Dubrovnik is one of my favorite cities thus far.
We didn’t plan on doing anything but our suite mate let us know that it was his birthday. Obviously, we had to partake in the festivities and keep our first day in Dubrovnik going. We went to an awesome restaurant called MOA and had a wonderful dinner. Then the evening really started. We decided to do our own little bar crawl and went to Nonenina for their specialty drinks, The Gaffe Irish Pub for some beers and then ended the night at Sky Bar for lots and lots of dancing! The day started at 7:30am and ended up 5:00am.
I am usually quite the planner. I like to know where I’m going and how I am getting there and what I am doing when I get there. This trip has made me throw that all right out the window! Now, I really just go with the flow.
Where I have been
My next few stops
For the past few days I have been staying in this great hostel called Alex30. They are located 50m off a bus stop and give you a welcome drink for 1€ upon arrival. The staff was very friendly and the rooms and bathrooms were very clean. I was able to walk to almost everything that I wanted to see, and what I needed a train for was just as easily accessible. If I ever find myself in Stuttgart again, I would absolutely stay at Alex30.
I was very hesitant to buy my bus ticket to Frankfurt on-line but it was 11€ vs 70€ for the train. The website was giving me an error message and then my credit card was not going through. I decided that I would buy it when I got to the bus station. I think I knew deep down that I would almost miss this bus. I had to take the U-Bahn to the S-Bahn to get to the bus station. My S-Bahn was late and had a 10 minute delay on the track. Things were not looking good. I read the signs wrong when I got off the S-Bahn and started walking in the wrong direction for about 5 minutes before realizing I was nowhere near where I needed to be, and turned around and walked as fast as my extra 60 pounds of backpacks would allow me, and begged the ticket counter to sell me a ticket with one minute until departure! I made it, barely, but left my bag of snacks and neck pillow at the ticket counter. This little snail is leaving her trail of things as she travels.