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May 24, 2016

How I Travel: My 4 Must-Haves

There are certain items that I absolutely must have with me on my travels. These four things are included in my pockets or bag every time I go on anything from a day trip to a month away. When I've forgotten something from this list, it's been top priority to find a version of it locally as soon as I can.

1. Chapstick

I may not wear make-up, but it's impossible for me to "wear my face" without chapstick. Even if my lips aren't actually dry, if I don't have chapstick with me, they begin to feel chapped as soon as I realize it's missing.


I load up on the original vanilla scented Chapstick brand every time I go back to the USA, and I haven't run out yet!

2. Travel-size facial tissue

Between cold weather nose and warm weather allergies, I am always in need of a Kleenex. Aside from the obvious benefits of facial tissue for the face, I've also been fortunate to have tissue with me when cleaning off wet or dirty benches and in bathrooms without toilet paper.


I've never quite gotten on board with carrying cleaning wipes with me, but tissue seems to work for everything just fine.

3. Smart device

This is less about staying in touch with people and more about the GPS maps and taking photos. If I don't have wifi, my iPhone 4 is regulated to camera, calculator, clock, and map. Even without wifi, in a well-connected city my device will find me on Google Maps and I can at least compass my way around via the blue dot.

   

I just happen to have received an old iPhone 4 from my sister and her husband a couple of years ago. If I could choose my Apple device, it would be one of the new iPod Touches or iPad minis.

4. Earbuds

Earbuds solve any hint of boredom, need for noise-canceling, and can create an excellent "Do Not Talk To Me" look. I've mostly employed my earbuds in trains, buses, and planes to drown out loud people. I am typically an open and friendly traveler, but sometimes that creepy guy who might want to sit by you on the train just needs to see you're totally not interested in talking with him. Ever.


I prefer earbuds from Skullcandy; they are the most comfortable and last the longest!


What other items would you include on this list? Any you would omit?


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May 17, 2016

5 French Habits We've Carried to Germany

When you visit another country or cultural area, it's easy to pick up on the differences. But when you live in another country, the differences can end up picking you up into their club!

We knew we had adapted several French idiosyncrasies, but they have only become more evident since moving to Germany. Now that I've been back in Paris for two weeks, our French habits are even more obvious!


1. Bonjour, Merci, Au Revoir


I don't even know for sure if this is not a German thing, but I literally cannot walk into or out of a store without all these salutations. I do it when I visit the USA now, too, and I'm sure people just chalk it up to me being a supremely friendly person.


2. Wine vs. Beer


We. Just. Can't. We fell in love with the sophistication of French wine, but there is nothing sophisticated about pounding back a liter of beer. Sorry. We both don't like the taste, I can't stand anything carbonated, and we know it's just useless carbs when we would prefer to be drinking anything else. When our German friends can't accept that we don't drink beer, we respond, "But that means there's more for you!" And everyone can live with that!


3. Pastry Expectations


I've been moaning about this all year. I returned to Paris and completely confirmed that I wasn't just glorifying the good old days of French bakery delights. This struggle is SO real. It's best explained like this: at a French bakery, 95% of your options are going to taste amazing - even if it's a flavor you may not be particularly fond of (for me: pistachio, almond, raspberry). At a German bakery, 95% of your options look good, but genuinely only 10% actually taste decent. I doubt many Germans or expats living in Germany will agree with me. Unfortunately, that simply means they've never lived in France.


4. Style


There are a thousand different ways I could take this paragraph, but I'm only going to mention two. First, my "au natural" look of no make-up and lazy undone long hair blends much better into the Parisian scene than into the Bavarian one. Second, German men do not wear scarves, but Marc still does...and probably always will. We have a weird style mélange of Californian sporty and Parisian date night. This might be why we seem to fit best in Spain.


5. Vacation


When we first moved to France, we had no idea we would have so many days off. We got four two-week vacations with the school holidays, plus three months of summer! Talk about only working part-time! Our sports jobs in Germany aren't very different, except time off from school doesn't actually mean time away from sports for normal people. We will always value our vacation time dearly as the French do, but we can take it down a few notches for the sake of keeping our German bosses happy.

It makes me wonder what German habits we will end up with in the long run. The pretzels are awesome, there is more general respect for authority, and we have incredible pizza and gelato within ten minutes of where we live. While we may miss a lot of things about France, our German life is a ridiculously happy one in another wonderful part of the world.

What habits have you picked up from places you have lived? Do you have any French or German mindsets?

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May 13, 2016

Pack & Plan: Sevilla & Algarve

Pack & Plan: Sevilla, Spain & the Algarve, Portugal


13 days days, 12 nights in May
Transport: plane, bus, car
Lodging: AirBnB, hostel
Trip type: with husband


The Pack


Bag: shoulder book bag
Tops: 1 tank top
Bottoms: 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of leggings
Other: 1 bathing suit, 1 dress, 1 romper
Outerwear: 1 windbreaker, 1 scarf
Shoes: 1 pair of Nike walking shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops
Personal items for 4 days


The Plan


Seville: plazas, tapas, walking

Algarve: beach, beach, beach
Paddle boarding, Mexican food, picnics, no wifi.
Return to paradise!!!


Have you been to Seville or the Algarve? Do you have any restaurant recommendations? Is there anything else I should add to the itinerary?


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May 10, 2016

Prague in Photos


You can read about how I packed and planned for Prague here. The weather was all over the place while we were in town: warm sunshine one minute and actual snow flurries and dark clouds the next!

One of the highlights for me was meeting up with my very first European roommate, Martina, and her family (the picture with more than two people).

My best friend, Tanya, and I got up early everyday and wandered our way around Prague. This is how our trip looked; enjoy!













Wander Mum


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May 3, 2016

Regi Takes Me to Regensburg

How often do you have an awesome friend who lives in a city that's practically named after her?!

I spent a beautiful sunny day with my Estonian/German friend and teammate, Regi, as she tour-guided me all over her city, Regensburg. Her full name of Regina is Latin for "queen," and the Romans originally chose Castra Regina* as the name for Regensburg. Therefore, Regensburg is Regi's Fortress.

(*Technically, this means "fortress by the river Regen." This is irrelevant to this post.)


You may remember Regensburg from my German Christmas market round-up back in December. This time around it was a lot warmer and that made it even better!

We started our day by walking into the center to have an incredible brunch at Hemingway's. I had a cappuccino. This serves as the excuse for all of my hyperactive expressions in the rest of these photos.


It was only right that we continued our meal by stopping into Cupcakery, and enjoyed our delicious desserts on the steps of Dom St. Peter.


We walked along the Danube, Regi highlighting the oldest sausage stand in Germany, Historische Wurstküche, the magnificent Swarovski-enhanced Kristallkönigin ship, and eventually made our way to the 0941 Beach Bar.


I would have never found these places if it hadn't been for Regi, a true local who really loves her city.

Regensburg is easy to love, though, when you get taken to a sunny beach bar and feel like you're in Spain instead of Germany!


Regi drove me all over her hometown of nearby Neutraubling, and we finished the day on the sun-soaked stones of the Walhalla.

Just imagine an enormous Greek/Roman-like temple on a hilltop overlooking the Danube valley, and you've got the Walhalla. It's peaceful, it's relaxing, and it's one of those giant places that makes you feel happy and small at the same time.


Nothing else matters on the Walhalla; it's just you, maybe a friend or two, your silent thoughts and quiet words, and the seemingly endless possibilities of earth and life stretching out before your eyes.

I'm so thankful to Regi for showing me her side of Regensburg. She wasn't just sharing her city; she was sharing her world with me, and it was an absolutely magnificent day full of good food, grand conversation, and great laughter.

Wander Mum


A Hole In My Shoe
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May 1, 2016

GPS My Posts with GPSMYCITY

Now several of my blog posts are linked to maps within the GPSmyCity apps! The posts themselves are free to download and keep on your smart device, then linking to the map portion of the app is a $0.99 fee.

The blog post integration is currently only available for Apple devices, but will be expanding to the Android platform soon (but you can download the GPSmyCity app to Android already). I will also be uploading various new city articles to this list, so feel free to check back for updates every now and then.


Whether you download none, all, or some, it's just great to be "inside" an app and able to share some of my fun travel experiences through GPSmyCity!

You can check out all of my linked posts here: Christy Swagerty.

Paris

Madrid

Munich

Berlin

Milan

Vienna

London

The Hague

GPSmyCity is not sponsoring this post, however, I will receive about half of the commission from these blog post in-app purchases. 
Thanks for reading and sharing!

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April 30, 2016

Pack & Plan: Paris & Discount!

It's been way too long.

322 days, to be exact.

Granted, I could have planned a trip to Paris earlier this year instead of all the other places I went to instead. But, to me, a weekend in Paris is frustrating. I wanted more time. So, I waited. I waited for the end of my volleyball season to open up my free time and go back to work as an English tutor for a few weeks at the beginning of May and beginning of June.

Now I'll have nearly four weeks of a working holiday with Paris at my doorstep. I've been talking about this trip since the fall, and I cannot wait to delight in all things Parisian once again!

Because of my return to Paris, I am offering a limited time discount through Gumroad on my eBook, Four Years in Paris

Use code "swags2paris" to get your own copy for just $0.99!

Normally, FYIP is priced at $2.99, and it hasn't been priced this low since pre-orders last August. The code is only good until I go back to Germany on June 7th: please spread it around and take advantage of this deal while it lasts!


Pack & Plan: Paris, France


15 days, 14 nights in May; 11 days, 10 nights in June
Transport: plane
Lodging: with friends
Trip type: work holiday


The Pack


Bag: rolling backpack (45cm x 40cm x 25cm)
Tops: 2 shirts, 2 tank tops, 1 long sleeve 
Bottoms: 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt, 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of leggings
Other: 2 dresses, 3 volleyball practice outfits
Outerwear: 1 jacket, 1 sweatshirt, 1 pair of gloves, 1 scarf
Shoes: 1 pair of flip-flops, 1 pair of Nike walking shoes,
1 pair of Toms slip-ons, 1 pair of old volleyball shoes to throw away
Personal items for 5 days


The Plan


Tutor English
Speak French when out and about
Play volleyball with former teammates
Sit at the Eiffel Tower for hours
Eat a pain au chocolat everyday
Musée Marmottan Monet
Musée Galliera
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Merci Cafe
Louis Vuitton building
Climb Notre Dame
Rue des Thermopyles
La Creperie in Melun with Monique
A French/American Wedding


For more on my Parisian experiences, 
use code "swags2paris" to check out Four Years in Paris!

Lou Messugo
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April 26, 2016

8 Treasures Hiding in Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a hidden treasure in and of itself. It seems like everything we found in this charming Slovenian capital city had been a secret at some point.

My Swiss teammate, Julia, and I ventured to Ljubljana last weekend.

Why?

Apparently, that's a popular question.

Our German friends, my American friends, her Swiss friends, and even the people we met in Slovenia asked us, "Ljubljana? Why?"

We were like, "Why not?!"


We knew we wanted to take a trip together after the season was over. I sent Julia a list of possible destinations that included Hallstatt and Innsbruck, Austria, then Lake Bled and Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Her response: "Ljubljana! I have been dreaming of going there for such a long time!"

For some magical reason, a thirty-year-old American and an eighteen-year-old Swiss had both been wanting to go to Ljubljana for the past few years.

Our destination decided, we combined our general ideas of what to do, I convinced her staying in a coed hostel was actually an amazing idea, and we even tied a few hours in Salzburg into the deal.

I haven't heard anyone say that Ljubljana is a bad idea. It's just an overlooked city in an overlooked country. I bet most of my fellow Americans may not even know that Slovenia and Slovakia are two different places, let alone be able to point them out on a map!

There are hundreds of treasures to be found in Ljubljana, and I am sure thousands more in the rest of Slovenia. These are the eight treasures that I found most rewarding, and they are more than enough reasons for me to return someday again to beautiful Ljubljana.

8 Treasures Hiding in Ljubljana


The Drive

While not technically IN Ljubljana, half the adventure is just getting there, right? I had no idea that I would have so much trouble sleeping on the trains and buses because the scenery was unbelievable!


Both of our routes (from Salzburg to Ljubljana, and from Ljubljana to Munich) were out of this world because we were driving through one of the more beautiful countries ever: Austria! Soaring snow-capped mountains, nestled wooden chalets, vibrant green valleys: the drive was straight from a fairy tale. It prepared me to have high expectations, and I was not disappointed!

Hot Chocolate

Yes, I am obsessed. I'll even drink it happily when it's just the cocoa powder in hot water. Ljubljana cafes offer the cheap cocoa in water drink, but they also offer a true hot chocolate, melted and steamed to perfection. Then they offer it to be flavored - and not with artificial syrup flavors, but with the actual ingredient (think real cinnamon and real shredded coconut). Oh, and do you want whipped cream?


Everywhere we went, it was delicious, but our favorite breakfast spot was at an adorable cafe around the corner from our hostel. I can't find the name of the cafe anywhere, but there is a Julius Meinl sign on the outside of it, and it's right by the Mexican food joint mentioned below.

Castle Hike

Maybe the only thing better than a castle is a castle on top of a mountain. The hike was more like a steep walk, and I was able to do it in a pair of slip-on shoes. The castle was wonderful, of course, and we spent a few hours drinking more hot chocolate and taking in the sunshine outside the cafe in the courtyard.


The coolest thing about going up to the castle, though, was the views. We could see the entire center, the river, and way beyond all the way to the mountains. We really felt like we were on top of the world!

Treasures of Slovenia

This obviously must make a treasure list. I only find a shop I really love ever so often (like in Milan) because I'm usually really turned off by overly touristy stores just looking to make a buck. This place is definitely looking to make a buck, don't get me wrong, but they do it by giving you access to a ton of free samples first!


Don't believe me? You could actually get buzzed in this store if you take advantage of all the free alcohol just asking to be tried! To me, this is good business: convince your customers they need your inventory by letting them try it for themselves. Julia and I both walked out of there with the blueberry liqueur and loads of chocolate.


The rest of the treasures are detailed in the second half of this post here

Funky Alleys

Open Kitchen

Mexican Food

Nightlife



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