NEW YEARS AGAIN // Prague, Czech Republic

I had always planned to revisit my beloved Prague in Summer, but when Chris’ sister asked us to join them there for new years, we were quick to jump at the opportunity.

It was slightly surreal to be back in a city we had been too, and especially on new years eve, which we had celebrated in this very city five years before! We celebrated in the only way I knew how to in Prague – cheap beer, delicious carbs and fireworks from the convenience stores. The below blurry firework photo is one of the only I have of the night – it was too fun!

It was safe to say we were a bit rusty the next morning, but we managed to drag ourselves out of bed eventually to explore the old town.

The above door is one the entrances to my old uni, Charles University!

I played tour guide, and took us through the old town, over Charles Bridge, past the Lennon Wall and up to the castle.

Trdelnik was mandatory.

We had two full days in Prague, so plenty of time to slowly explore the city.

The following day we went up Vysehrad and found my old house!

It was nice to revisit a city that was so special to me, share it with others and not have to rush around.

From Prague it was finally back home to grey old London. It was a wonderful three weeks on the continent, made extra special by sharing it with family and friends!

– Reanna

A BRISK WALK // Bratislava, Slovakia

If we thought we were cold in the morning out at Devin Castle, we were even colder in the afternoon on our free walking tour of Bratislava old town!

We joined the masses of other tourists capitalising on the mulled wine in the city markets. Sure, it was sweet, but it was worth it to cup a warm beverage.

The walking tour was one of the best we had been on in awhile. Bratislava is only a small city, but it has a rich and interesting history and our tour guide was young and enthusiastic to share her views about Slovakia past and present.

As soon as the tour was over (finishing near the above blue church!) we scampered off again to find a bar and warm up, before searching for more delicious carbs for dinner.

In the morning, we had an hour or so to spare for a quick walk up to the Bratislava palace. As we were up early we were treated to empty streets – the buildings of the city were so colourful!

The early morning also meant we had the palace and the views of the city to ourselves.

The palace itself was pretty plain compared to some of the other grand castles we have seen, particularly compared to the monolith in neighbouring Czech Republic!

From the palace we had just enough time to run in to the old town for coffee and to buy a takeaway lunch for the train to the final destination of our winter holiday – another city we had been to before but were excited to return to!

– Reanna

DEVIN CASTLE // Bratislava, Slovakia

From Budapest it was on to a train to another new country for us – Slovakia! We arrived in to Bratislava in the afternoon, leaving us enough time to check in to our Airbnb, have a quick explore of the old town, and eat dinner (more carbs).

For our full day in town, we found a walk from the city to the nearby suburb/town of Devin. The walk was easy to follow through a forest, up a hill, and down to the town itself.

The attraction of the walk was reaching Devin Castle, which sits at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers.

Below was our first glimpse of the castle!

The castle is one of the oldest in Slovakia, offering an outpost to look across the river to neighbouring Austria.

We were treated to yet another day of clear blue skies as we explored the old castle, but the clear weather meant it was extremely cold!

The views across the river to Austria and back to Bratislava were pretty great.

The castle also included a memorial and photo exhibit for the Velvet Revolution. This was interesting to read about – the castles position on the border meant it was an important part of the fall of the East.

From Devin Castle it was an easy bus ride back in to Bratislava, where we hightailed it to a restaurant from some warm food!

– Reanna

PAPRIKA // Budapest, Hungary

Sometimes you visit a new city and it is great and all, but just another city. Budapest, on the other hand, was one of those cities that I absolutely loved during our brief time there.

We arrived late from Geneva and went straight to bed at our little (boat!) hotel on the Danube river, before getting up early the next day for breakfast. Returning to Eastern European prices after Switzerland and France was a welcome relief!

We joined a free walking tour in the morning, which took us through the Pest side of the city over the hillier (and busier!) Buda side.

My camera also decided to give up entirely whilst we were crossing the bridge, so all photos from the remainder of the trip are from my phone!

The tour ended at Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion, where we were treated to views over the city. We were lucky with a clear day but it was so cold!

After the tour Chris and I made our way back along the Danube and over the Pest in search of lunch.

Food in Hungary was amazing. We stumbled in to a restaurant near the central market hall and warmed ourselves up with goulash and cabbage rolls.

The market hall was also worth exploring, though it was extremely busy at lunch time! Paprika everywhere – the main ingredient in Hungarian food!

We made a quick visit to the Jewish Quarter, on our way to another well known area of Budapest.

The ruin bars!

The ruin bars are former abandoned apartment buildings that have been turned in to eccentric bars, filled with all manner of furniture and decoration. We went to Szimpla Kert, one of the biggest and well known bars. It was so much fun to explore all the different rooms.

In the evening we walked back to our hotel along the Danube and saw the city in a different light.

The next morning we were up early to head over to the famous Budapest baths. We went to Szechenyi, the largest outdoor baths in Europe, and they lived up to the hype. We got their early and it was worth it to beat the crowds.

From the baths we went to catch a train at a very Soviet looking old train station! But at least the trains were cheap (again, thank you Eastern Europe!).

After having visited Budapest I would love to come back and explore more of Hungary, particularly the countryside.

– Reanna

RETURN TO THE LAKE // Geneva, Switzerland

From Chamonix we all had to make our way back down to Geneva for onward travel – some family back to Australia, and others to further European destinations. Chris and I had a flight from Geneva to Budapest, but it was not until the evening, so we decided the make the most of a travel day and spend a few hours exploring Geneva.

We had visited Geneva five years ago during our first European stint, so we were happy to just wander the beautiful city for a few hours during the day.

Oh, and avoid spending any money – Switzerland is expensive!

We wandered through the streets of the old town, and through a Christmas market in Parc des Bastions.

No trip to Geneva would be complete without of course paying a visit to the iconic Jet D’eau.

It was a cloudy day with rain constantly threatening, meaning we did not have the views of mountains surrounding Geneva. However the city was still beautiful despite the weather.

One of my favourite sites in the city is the Mont Blanc bridge, lined with regional flags and providing views across Lake Geneva.

We also paid a quick visit to the United Nations headquarters. We did a guided tour of the building last time we were in the city and it was definitely a highlight.

But after exploring Geneva it was time to head on to a new city and country for us – Budapest, Hungary!

– Reanna

SEA OF ICE // Chamonix, France

Our spectacular morning up Aiguille du Midi was topped off by an equally as stunning afternoon in the French Alps. Further along the valley in Chamonix we jumped on the Montenvers train, a little red cable car that slowly made its way up through the forest to a hotel, cafe and glacier.

Being slightly higher up than Chamonix, the snow up around Montenvers was far fresher and softer, keeping us entertained before lunch.

After a bite to eat it was time to explore the main feature of the valley – the amazing Mer de Glace (sea of ice), a massive glacier on the valley floor.

Small cable cars take visitors down to visit an ice cave in the glacier below. We were initially unsure about going due to the line, but we ended up not having to wait too long and it was definitely worth it.

Visiting the glacier and ice cave was a surreal experience. On the one hand it was absolutely beautiful, but on the other it was along a morbid reminder of the impact of climate change on the environment. As we walked down the stairs to the glacier, plaques marked out the previous height of the glacier. It had melted a lot in the last 30 years…

The ice cave itself was a claustrophobic and strange experience!

The remainder of our time in Chamonix was spent hanging out with family, as a lot of them were off home to Australia after our time in the alps.

As a final treat, on our final morning in Chamonix we woke up to fresh snow falling! Basically the dream of every Aussie.

In between packing we all managed to spend some time outside running around in the falling snow, making snowmen, and throwing snowballs… all the things we could think of! It was a magical send off from our little white Christmas.

3842 METRES // Chamonix, France

Some places just warrant an entire blog post to themselves, and our morning visit up Aiguille du Midi from Chamonix was one of them!

After a relaxing Christmas day, a few of us got up early to head to the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi, a 3842m high peak in the alps next to Chamonix. Getting up early was 100% worth it – we walked straight up to the ticket counter and on to a cable car, and by the time we walked by later in the afternoon there were hundreds of people in line!

The cable car up to the peak was an experience. Well, it was totally fine, I was just terrified!

If we thought it was cold down in Chamonix, we were in for a shock – it was -13 degrees celsius at the top! We were also hit by the change in altitude. None of us had ever really been this high in elevation and we were all feeling a bit woozy and out of breath by the end of our time at the top.

The buildings at the top of the peak were amazing – like some kind of futuristic space station built in to a mountain!

Mont Blanc herself!

Chamonix was a long way down…

There isn’t much more to say about being at the top of Aiguille du Midi – the photos speak for themselves!

Some visitors were brave enough to grab their skis and head back down to town.

We spent about an hour at the top before the altitude and the cold got to us, but it was more than enough time to take in the magic of the mountains around us.

– Reanna