Last Post for Sleepy Coffee and Fables

I started this blog back at the end of 2014, with only a vague idea that it would be nice to have a place to put my thoughts, sketches and photography. I hadn’t really traveled much at that point, not beyond a couple of small road trips but I had the hope that I would one day soon achieve my dreams of traveling to all the places I had dreamed of and of being able to capture memories of these places either through photographs, words or art. Looking back over the years and posts i’ve made here, I think i’ve achieved many of my most dearly held travel dreams and beyond that, I’ve gotten to a place where I can continue to do so.

So what happened with the blog? I’d always been pretty sporadic with posting, especially since I never wanted to try and make this into something beyond just a quiet repository that I could share with anyone interested- I didn’t want to build it into any more or gain a wide audience and that worked out pretty well for me. But then work life took over a bit more and the careful balance between suddenly being able to travel more and having the time to really appreciate it was something I couldn’t maintain. There came a point last year where I realized I was traveling more because I could then because I really wanted to and it was a startling realization to see how much I allowed myself to change into someone I couldn’t recognize or even like . I had photos from Athens, Barcelona, Cannon Beach Oregon and San Francisco piled up from May 2019-September 2019 and I couldn’t make myself go through them, let along post about these trips.

I could write more about the work i’ve been doing to get to a better, healthier mindset but it’s a bit of a pity party I don’t want to have, especially when there are many more important things to focus time and energy on.

What I did want to say is, i’ve decided to close out this blog. I don’t want to delete, at least not anytime soon, but I did want to place a cap to mark the end of my posting (and also I really didn’t want my last post to be about the British Museum because that feels weird considering how underwhelming it was and how I should have written more in the actual body of the post re: my opinions on items there being given back to their countries/cultures of origin when requested). Traveling is still important to me, in the sense that I think it’s pretty vital to get out of your comfort zone and meet people where they are, to truly learn how small you are in the best way and I hope to find my way back to that original wonder I felt when I first started really exploring but for now, creating art is where i’m focusing the spare time I have. I’ll be starting an instagram under a different name and I don’t really know what i’m expecting to come out of it but, I know i’m excited to begin something new.

Not drowning in my coffee cups yet,
~m

The British Museum and A Walk Around The City- London, England

There’s a lot of cities that have been featured at one time or another at the top of my ever changing bucket list. London has definetly been one of those that has come and gone, never firmly staying on there for long enough to really make the time to visit. Nothing against the city of course, if anything it’s probably a product of knowing too many people from the rest of the UK who have never had much to say in favor of London. An old friend from the south of England just sort of shrugged when I asked if it was worth visiting, another from Manchester advised the Lake District was a much better venture and the most enthusiasm someone living in London itself could give me was “Sure yeah, there’s a bunch to see I guess.”

When we planned out this trip, starting in Sintra and then adding in stops on the way, of cities I’d always dreamed of seeing like Prague and Budapest, we decided to add London as the last stop on the journey, both as a sort of cherry on top of major European cities visited and as a low pressure way to end the trip since neither of us was overly invested in trying to see everything London has to offer.

And London does indeed have plenty to offer. Though I can’t say I fell in love with the it the way I did with Lisbon, there is a vibrancy that is unique to the city and I can easily understand why so many people consider London a personal favorite and visit time and time again.  We spent the most time at the British Museum (because of course we did, if there’s a giant museum around you can bet thats gonna be my first stop of the day) and then we did a self guided walking tour around the most popular sights of London before finishing up at what I think is probably the single most touristy thing we did on the whole trip, the London Eye. We lucked out and happened to ride up just as the sun was setting though so, honestly, it was incredible and one of the highlights of the day. Seeing London spread out below us as the sun set a brilliant orange on the distant horizon? Perfect way to end the day.

The British Museum

Trafalgar Square

Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

Palace of Westminster

View of River Thames

View from the London Eye

All in all London was a perfectly satisfying way to end the trip and while i’m not sure if we’ll ever visit the city again given all the other places i’d dearly love to venture to, it definetly held it’s own place as one of the great cities of Europe.
~m

Ruin Bars, a Chain Bridge, and Chimney Cakes- Budapest, Hungary

We took the train from Prague to Budapest, out of a bit of a romantic notion of getting to travel across the countryside and while the ride was decidedly long it was still much more enjoyable than stuffing ourselves into tiny budget airline seats (especially when sometimes it feels like the crew might just push the plane off the runway in an attempt to save some fuel).

It was well into the evening when we arrived and after doing a quick currency exchange (from Czech koruna to Hungarian forint) we caught a taxi to the Airbnb we would be staying at on the Buda side of town, just across the river from the beautiful parliament building.  We could see it shimmered a brilliant gold above the dark waters of the Danube and even though it was freezing we huddled out on the apartment balcony taking in the view. Finally though, it was time for rest as we had an early morning planned the next day, a one on one tour of the city with a local.

The next day Brian and I bundled up and got ourselves ready for 4 hours of walking around and exploring the multifaceted history of Budapest. We met up with our WithLocals guide Andras the next morning at Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square), which was honestly a pretty perfect place to start a tour. Andras was an incredible guide, both for his knowledge of the city’s history and his insight into more modern topics- as a local journalist it was fascinating to get his opinions on local politics and some of the governments most recent controversial laws that had been passed (less than a week after we had visited, massive protests brought much of the Pest side of the city to a standstill).

Andras took us to countless places, starting on the busy metropolitan side of Pest and then over to the more quiet Buda side where we parted ways near Matthias Church.

Hősök tere  (Heroes’ Square)

Interior Details of the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

 Interior Detail of the Hungarian State Opera

Ruin Bar (near Dohány Street Synagogue)

View from across the river of Buda Castle

Várnegyed (Castle Quarter)

Mátyás-templom (Matthias Church)

The Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion)

The sun was setting by the time we parted ways with Andras, with him wishing us the best of luck on the rest of our trip and us thanking him for a lovely time. I can honestly say we wouldn’t have seen half of all the places he took us to and it was invaluable to get the opportunity to explore the city with a knowledgable local, so thank you Andras! After saying good bye, Brian and I stayed in the area a little longer just enjoying the amazing view over the city and wishing we had more time to spend here.

After heading back to our Airbnb apartment to drop off the bag of souvenirs I had picked up and also some groceries, we took a breather and then decided to head back out into the city again, crossing the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge for the second time that day, back over to the Pest side of the city to do some utterly touristy things like ride the Budapest Eye, check out the Christmas market by the incredible St. Stephen’s Basilica and share a yummy kürtőskalács (chimney cake).

Eventually even the temporary sugar high wore off though, and our sore feet reminded us we’d basically spent the whole day walking. We had plans to wake up early the next day to head to Vienna for a day trip so it was definetly prudent to head back and get some rest but we did get some lovely views of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge as we walked across it one last time and in the near distance, the positively glowing Parliament building.

An almost completely perfect day in Budapest even if our feet were pretty much killing us by the time we made it back to our apartment. There is a mysteriousness and almost dark elegance to Budapest that’s hard to describe but, I can honestly say I don’t think any city has enthralled me more. All it’s hidden areas, the deep history steeped into it’s buildings, the unexpected Art Nouveau touches in the architecture amid the more gothic of structures, the modern clash of political turmoil atop the ancient history of this city by the Danube… even just the intensely different vibe from one side of the city to the other, it would be hard for anyone not to fall in love with Budapest, even just a little.

~m

If you’re interested in having your own local guide when you visit Budapest, this is the WithLocals link you can use to get $15 off any private tour you book through them. And nope i’m not sponsored by them, I just honestly loved being able to use them and legit can’t praise the guides I had enough.

Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral- Prague, Czech Republic

There was an excellent crispness to the air that morning, something due to both the winter season and something that was unique to Prague. The Airbnb apartment we were staying in was up high enough that when I woke up that morning I had a chance to pop open the bedroom window to peek out over the red-orange rooftops around us and just take a moment to let it sink in that we were really in Prague. Just a moment, and then I was closing the window so I wouldn’t catch a chill leaning out in just my sleep shirt and then it was a rush to get ready, prepare a quick breakfast  and call for an ride to take us to the Prague Castle complex.

Known as one of the largest ancient castles in the world, it makes sense that its also one of the most popular places in Prague to visit and as such we probably should have shown up earlier to  beat the crowds but honestly, though it was certainly the most crowded place we visited on the whole trip, it wasn’t too bad and we really enjoyed our time here. Though by this point in the trip I’d been to more than a few castles, palaces and grand estates, visiting this castle was definitely a highlight of the trip, both for its unique structure and the many many interesting buildings open to visit inside.

You could probably spend the whole day visiting inside the complex, especially with the Christmas market they set up inside the courtyard by the Golden Lane where you can grab a cup of hot cider to warm up your chilly hands (it was so so so very cold being high up on the hill, even dressed in warm layers).  We didn’t visit every single building and area but we did get the Circuit A ticket which allowed us access to most all areas so if you have the time, I would definetly recommend getting that one.

(Ticket info here )

St. Vitus Cathedral

St George’s Basilica

Old Royal Palace

Golden Lane

Rosenberg Palace

I think we probably the most time in St. Vitus Cathedral and St. George’s Basilica but thats to be expected given how my interests lean towards the gothic and divine. Everywhere else was really interesting to visit though and for the most part, much less crowded as I think the majority of people only really visit the cathedral and the Golden Lane. All in all we spent about 4 hours here before we finally decided it was probably time to exit and head on down to explore the rest of this side of the river before heading back into the old town.
~m

Old Town Square Christmas Market- Prague, Czech Republic

My time in Prague began with a 6 hour stay at the airport while I waited for Brian’s flight to get in but as there’s not anything very interesting about that (apart from a VERY large and tasty cup of coffee from Costa ) I’ll start with our visit to the old town Christmas market instead. Neither one of us had been to one before so this was a new experience for both of us and it was the perfect start to our 3 day stay in the city.

To say it was a magical experience would almost be an understatement and even now Brian still talks about visiting other Christmas markets in Europe since he enjoyed this one so much.

The Old Town Square Christmas market (Staroměstské náměstí) runs from late November to early January, open from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. with the food stands open 10 a.m. – midnight. There’s plenty of other Christmas markets around town but since we were staying at an Airbnb just a few blocks away from the old town we figured we would see this one first. Though there’s plenty to buy here, from delicate glass ornaments to puppets and embroidered lace we mainly focused on the food stalls while we took in the lovely experience of being surrounded by the gorgeous old town buildings and twinkling lights everywhere.

We grabbed cups of hot cider and mulled wine, tried a taste of almost everything the stalls had to offer and managed to snag one of the coveted standing tables posted around to pause for a moment and eat. Be prepared for random strangers to come by to share the table with you as there are many more stalls selling food than there are available places to enjoy said food, but everyone keeps it friendly so its just an added part of the experience. After we’d had our fill of snacks and treats (roasted chestnuts!) we wandered down the streets and headed towards the Vltava river. We stopped by Mánes Bridge first, looking out towards Prague Castle before heading to the famous Charles Bridge.

The beautiful stone gothic bridge has been on my list of most highly anticipated places to visit since I first began dreaming of visiting Europe and though it was certainly crowded, it was a highlight of the visit for us. We couldn’t stay too long as it started sprinkling rain and neither one of us had brought umbrellas but as we had an early start planned for the next day we didn’t mind heading back to our apartment, crossing back through the Christmas market one more time.

Altogether, a pretty perfect December night in Prague.

~m