Paris, Budapest, and Beyond: Do It For You

Lizzie Hjelle NUI Galway, Ireland


April 20, 2016

The end of April marks the end of my classes here in Ireland. I had my last lecture on Thursday the 14th, and now only a handful of final papers stand between me and the end of my semester here at NUIG. I had already finished two of my classes earlier in the month, meaning I suddenly found myself with much more free time on my hands. I decided to take full advantage of my extra days off and join in on my friend’s trip to Paris and then take my first trip alone to Budapest. I booked through a student travel company for both trips, so I met up with a small group of other students studying abroad and a local guide once I arrived at my destination. If you’re like me and a little hesitant about spending a weekend in a city where you don’t speak the language, I definitely recommend booking through a company like I did. It will save you from a ton of stress. It also gives you a chance to make friends with other students studying abroad all over Europe!  

The first of my journeys took me to Paris, France with my good friend Alexis, another student studying abroad with Arcadia. She had studied French for years and had always dreamed of going to Paris, and I didn’t hesitate at all when she asked me to join her. It’s Paris, after all! Who would say no? We got to Paris pretty late on Thursday night and managed to navigate the Parisian metro and get to our hostel safely. If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want to use public transport (which will save you a TON of time and money) you should consider downloading the Paris Metro app on your smartphone. It helps you plan your route and estimates how long it will take you to get to your destination. Some highlights from our time in Paris included going on a bicycle tour of the city, trying duck at a traditional French restaurant, visiting the Louvre, tasting macaroons from Ladureé, seeing Versailles, and getting pizza from our tour guide’s favorite hipster pizza place in town. Paris was absolutely gorgeous and I’m so glad I decided to visit.

As anyone who has read my previous blog posts is aware, travelling alone makes me very nervous. So, when I decided to embark on a solo journey to Budapest I began to question my own sanity. Once my plane landed and I saw the wonderful city before me, any doubts I had melted away. My trip alone to Budapest is easily my favorite trip to date. One of my favorite parts about going alone was that I could do whatever I wanted without really worrying about what anyone else wanted to do. It also gave me the chance to form some really great connections with the other students on the trip, as I didn’t have a travelling companion to use as a safety blanket. Some of my absolute favorite memories from Budapest include visiting the Széchenyi thermal baths Friday afternoon (and again on Saturday night for their infamous Sparty), climbing to the Citadel at night for the best view of the city, exploring their massive and numerous markets, going caving in the extensive caves that run under the city, going on a ruin pub crawl (there are actual pubs built in the ruins from WWII in the old Jewish quarter), and getting to see the Jewish quarter and the memorials there. If you love hearty food, Budapest is the city for you. I’m a total foodie and the Hungarian food I had in Budapest is the best food I have had while here in Europe.

If you take anything from this post, I hope it is that you shouldn’t give up on going somewhere you’ve always wanted to go because you’re scared of going alone. Go anyways. Do it for you. It may very well turn out to be the best trip of your life. And if that place happens to be Budapest, let me know. I would do it all again any time.