As the summer was coming to an end, it was time to make a short stop in Prague to get ready for our trip to Asia. But taking the shortest way would be boring and too easy, right? Well, our oldest one desperately needed to visit Paris and we had a translators’ powwow in Hungary. So there you go! 😆
As Paris is not too far from Amsterdam, we could easily drive there in one stretch. But our friends from the US recently moved to Brussels and we wanted to see them, even if it was for just one night. After all, it’s on the way.
The most reasonable place (price vs location) we could find was a family room in the Generation Europe Hostel. Although our previous experience hasn’t been extremely positive, this time, we were pleasantly surprised. It was clean, with friendly staff and good breakfast and also close to the center. Plus, they had a ping pong table. Beat that! 🙂
As we only had a few hours, there was no time to waste. We quickly prepared our room (the only downside of a hostel is that you need to put the sheets on the bed by yourself), got the scooters out for kids and headed to the center. The scooters turned out to be a great idea, as there was little to no traffic and a big chunk of the city center is a pedestrian zone. Our first stop was the Grand Place which, to our surprise, was covered with a flower carpet of over 600,000 flowers.
Although it’s a big square, with this many flowers and approximately the same number of people standing in awe, there was barely any space left for us. But that didn’t spoil our day and after a few snapshots we quickly opened our geocaching app and found a really interesting sight-seeing multi-cache to follow. The first few stops were in the Coudenberg neighborhood where the Brussels Summer Festival was taking place. Many of the roads were closed but that didn’t spoil our day either. It just meant more side streets and hidden corners for us! When we finally found the cache (and it was a tricky one!), it was time for dinner. We ate wonderful Vietnamese food, said goodbye to our friend(s) and went to bed.
Before heading to Paris, we decided to check out the “other” Sacré-Cœur so that we can compare them later. This one was not only monumental and magnificent but also free of tourists (something the one in Paris can only dream of!). We were so blown away that we decided to walk all the way to the top. The view was completely worth it!
Well, this capital was on our itinerary right after Portugal. Unfortunately, Parisians did everything they could NOT to rent us their apartments (like, why do you put “family friendly” in your description when you don’t want any kids in your place, why do you say “sleeps 5” when you only have one bed, why do you offer your place when it’s not available, etc.). Those willing to do so were just way too expensive or we found out that their garage would not fit our sweet little car with the roof box and bike racks. To make long story short, our beloved Airbnb completely let us down and we had to postpone the visit – until now! 🙂
This time, we were smart about it. We traveled light (no roof boxes or bike racks) and we didn’t mention children right in the first sentence. And voilà… We found this amazing place (paying €363 for three nights left us bleeding, but what the heck!) and were able to make Lilly’s dream come true.
What did we do there?
Well, guess! As we are just way too cool for following guides, once again, we opened the geocaching app and found this amazing multi-cache that would walk us through the heart of Paris. So on our second day, the subway took us to the Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre (very impressive!) where the first stage was. We were blown away by the courtyard of this world-known museum but didn’t stay long. We probably spent more time explaining Lilly why we were not going to see Mona Lisa – or, precisely speaking, why we were not willing to wait in the line whose end was nowhere to be seen, then squeeze through the crowd of millions of people just to realize that we cannot get close enough to see the tiny painting on the wall. Thank goodness, she’s still of the age when ice cream can fix everything and we were able to continue our little tour. We crossed many bridges, saw Notre Dame, the French Sacré-Cœur (the Belgian one is a winner for us), visited the Wall of love and finished off with visiting the very famous windmill – Moulin Rouge.
Our third day in Paris was dedicated to exercising as we decided to walk up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, we had to somehow make sure the kiddos would remember this short trip and the climb seemed like a good way (pain is hard to forget!). 😀 We got up early in the morning to beat the crowds. So even though they didn’t open till 9am, we were in front of the gate at 8:20am. Oh, and it was a good move! Although not the first people there, we were the first ones (for that day) on the stairs. Making our way up through those almost 700 steps was not as difficult as many of the YouTube videos want you to believe. I mean, even our 3-year-old Maya managed every single one of them on her own! To be absolutely honest, our expectations were not high. But this monumental 324m tall tower just took our breath away. The second floor offers extraordinary views of the city but the first floor is where you want to spend most of your time. It has an interesting exhibit where you learn all the important facts. Make sure to visit the “movie theater” next to the bathrooms. The movie is only like 10 minutes long but really nice. Also, don’t miss the glass floor view which is towards the middle of the tower.
Since everyone was tired, we decided to exercise a bit more (makes sense, right?!). Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe which was only a few kilometers away. We made a little detour through the one and only Avenue des Champs-Élysées and after a short line walked up another almost 300 steps to the top of the monument. 😇 This view has one big advantage over the view from the Eiffel Tower – you get to see the tower itself from here!
Austria + Hungary
Our time in Paris was up and we had to make our way to a gorgeous little Hungarian town of Salföld where our dear friend Ellen (you might remember her name from our last post) was having a little get together for fellow translators. As the drive was really long we made a stop in Salzburg. After such a positive hostel experience in Brussels, we decided to once again stay in one. Well, this time, we weren’t that lucky – the Eduard-Heinrich-Haus was everything but attractive but the main problem was their non-functional Wi-Fi. But hey, it was just one night and we were supper excited about what was ahead of us for the next morning. We were going to meet a super nice travel-loving family which we met through Facebook. Kiddos were thrilled to play with other children and the grownups enjoyed delicious coffee and the talk. The rest of the way was spent driving through amazing Austrian and Hungarian countryside.
The original plan was to spend at least a week in Hungary but because of unexpected family request we had to change it completely and only spent two days there. Although short, the visit was extremely pleasant and it was really nice to see all our friends. We also enjoyed the Dutch-Hungarian hospitality and did as little as possible. After all the zigzagging through Europe, we simply needed a break.
Before returning to Prague, we attended a “small” family get together in Vižňov.
The week there went by really fast and we finally arrived in Prague to recuperate for our trip to Southeast Asia and to take care of all the things. But you will have to wait a bit to read about that. 😏