Spring Break Trip to Tennessee: Memphis

As we mentioned in prior posts, we’ve had a recent addition to the family and we’ve learned a lot about how to travel with a baby! We are attempting to visit US states that we haven’t yet been to. So, for spring break we decided to do a bit of a Tennessee/Kentucky road trip, starting in Memphis. We were joined on this trip by Della’s parents Peggy and Wayne.

Packing for a trip with a baby is more arduous than just packing for ourselves and we often end up having a lot more stuff! With this trip, because we weren’t meeting anyone we knew there, we brought a light umbrella stroller, an infant carseat, a hook-on highchair, and a pack n play. It was a short trip, so were able to pack all of our clothes in one large checked bag. It definitely helped having Peggy and Wayne there for carrying all the stuff though.

We followed all our tips for flying and the flight went smoothly! Kiddo slept for only about an hour, but enjoyed looking out the window for the rest of the time. We rented a car (it was cheaper at a location outside the airport so Eric and Wayne took a Lyft over to get it while Della, Peggy, and Kiddo played on the stairs in the airport). We were, it turns out, very lucky to get upgraded to a minivan for free. This ended up making us much more comfortable on all of our drives throughout the trip!

For accommodations, since there were four of us we thought it would be best to book a place through Airbnb. We were able to find a nice two-bedroom house about 10 minutes away from downtown. Having our own kitchen, dining area, and bedrooms separate from the living space were all helpful for making the stay with Kiddo easier.

What We Did

March of the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel – There is a fountain in the lobby of this hotel which features live ducks swimming around. This tradition began in the 1930s and continues to this day.  The story goes that, in 1940, a bellman who was a former circus animal trainer named Edward Pembroke taught them to march into the pool and out each day! The ducks live in the penthouse of the hotel and visitors can watch them make the march to and from the elevator at 11 am and 5 pm each day. It was incredibly crowded so we only go small glimpses of the the ducks, but it was still kind of fun! Kiddo is currently duck obsessed, so we think he liked it!

Explore Beale Street – We spent one evening soaking up the sights and sounds of this historic avenue. This is one time where having Kiddo join us did cramp our style a little. We didn’t eat at the restaurants because of the longer wait and didn’t really go inside any other music venues. But the general feel, murals, and statues were still fun.

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel – We felt lucky that Wayne agreed to stay back at the Airbnb with Kiddo so the rest of us could really enjoy this museum. We found the museum, located at the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., very engrossing with moving exhibits and information about the Civil Rights movement.  The exhibitions were in good chronological order so for those of us who weren’t alive during the time period, it gave us a lot of good context and made us feel the emotions of the time. We found the whole experience quite powerful. 

Rock N Soul Museum – This museum takes you through the musical history of Memphis. It was done via guided audio tour which was pretty cool because there were many snippets of music to listen to. It was really neat to read a bit of history and then be able to listen to songs by the artists described. There was a tremendous amount of information and music and Kiddo was unfortunately getting pretty fussy so we didn’t get to do as much there as we would have liked. This was when we really wished we had made a better stroller choice (see tip 9.)

Pedestrian Bridge Over the Mississippi River – This bridge is apparently the longest pedestrian bridge in the country at almost a mile long! We didn’t go the whole way though. We took a very pleasant walk out to the approximate middle where there is a line to show that you’re crossing into Arkansas. This was a fun place to straddle the border of two states! Kiddo was just learning to walk with support and enjoyed his time on the bridge. It offers some good views of Memphis as well.

Dinner in Mississippi – We mentioned before that we are trying to capture US states that we haven’t been to. At the pedestrian bridge, we realized that we were only about a 15 minute drive from the border of Mississippi. Given we’d never been and weren’t entirely sure when we might be back, we decided to cross the border for dinner! We found a little place pretty close to the state line called Crawfish Haven where we shared jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, and shrimp and grits. Then we headed back to Memphis after the sun went down!

Where We Ate

Rendezvous BBQ – This is a Memphis tradition. It is the birthplace of an entire style of BBQ: Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs. However, we ultimately weren’t too impressed. It was quite crowded and we had to wait for a table. This might not have been too bad because there’s a bar area upstairs with tables where you can drink while you wait, though Kiddo wasn’t really having it. We also found the food only OK. We actually found the brisket to be the most interesting!

Central BBQ – We actually picked up some BBQ to go from here and ate it back at our AirBnB. We enjoyed everything we got here!

Traveling with Kiddo (lessons learned)

Kiddo was about 13 months old and about a week away from walking! His biggest challenge at the beginning of this trip was sleep. For some reason, he went crazy the first several times we put him in the pack n play. If we were doing it again, we probably would have had him sleep in the pack n play several times in the days/nights leading up to the trip so he was more familiar with it.

Bringing our hook-on high chair was great for several meals, both out at restaurants and in the Airbnb!

 

 

Budapest, Hungary

After saying goodbye to Slovakia, we headed south to Hungary. Our first stop was the capital city of Budapest.

Where We Stayed

Paprika Hostel – For our first few nights, we picked out this hostel online because the reviews made it seem like a low-key place (unlike a lot of other places in Budapest, who seem to be advertising how crazy they will be). We booked in a four-bed dorm room and shared with just one other person all three nights. The facilities were nice except another toilet would have been great), but we never quite clicked with the rest of the people staying here.

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Pal’s Hostel – For our last two nights, we decided we wanted the comfort and privacy of our own room, so we found a private room in this place. Even though it calls itself a hostel, it actually feels more like small apartments. We had to share bathroom and kitchen facilities, but only with one other couple. We really enjoyed our stay in this spacious room – and the location right next to the main basilica was amazing as well!

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What We Did

Budapest Free Walking Tour – It’s basically become our standard practice to take a free walking tour of a city on our first day there to get a feel for it. In Budapest, there were a few different companies, but we went with the one that had the best reviews. This overview tour started on the Pest side (Budapest is actually the union of Buda on the west of the Danube and Pest on the east), where we saw a few different squares and the beautiful St. Stephen’s Basilica. We then crossed the Chain Bridge over into Buda. We climbed up the steps to the Royal Palace, and then the tour finished at Matthias Church. From here, we walked down on our own through the Fisherman’s Bastion scenic overlook and back over into Pest (where our hostel was).

Free Pub Tour – Budapest is known for its nightlife, so we decided to get a little crazy and join a tour of some of the different watering holes. The free walking tour company offers a free pub tour – they make sure to emphasize that it is a tour, and not a pub crawl where the point is just to get drunk. A guide led us to three different places, and at each one we got a free shot! The last stop on the tour was one of Budapest’s famous “ruin bars” – an abandoned building that has been turned into a large bar (and usually with random decorations). We had so much fun that after the our was over, some of the group even went on to another ruin bar!

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Szimpla Ruin Bar

Free Communism Walking Tour – We definitely love our free walking tours! The tour company also offered a special tour that was a little different than the overview. It was less about seeing sights and more about hearing the stories of what life was like in Budapest during the Communist regime (with appropriate backdrops). We felt like we learned a lot and would highly recommend this!

 

Margaret Island Fountain Show – Our hostel gave us a tip that every night at 9, the big fountain on the southern end of Margaret Island puts on a light, music and water show. We grabbed a bottle of wine and headed over there. We were definitely impressed with the hour-long spectacle. This also gave us a good view point of the Parliament and Castle by night!

 

Watching the Cowboys Game

Central Market Hall – On our own, we walked down to this giant market housed in a pretty old building. The market was closing, so we didn’t have time to do much shopping, but we did manage to grab a lángos, which is basically just fried dough topped with a variety of things. We overheard someone say that the traditional topping was just cheese and sour cream, so we went with that.

Walk Around Parliament – Also on our own, we walked around the massive and impressive Hungarian Parliament building. We had thought about doing a tour of the inside, but it is actually pretty expensive. Also near the Parliament on the Danube we found a memorial to the Jews who in 1944-45 were killed on that spot so that their bodies would be washed away in the river. The shoes symbolize the fact that they were often ordered to take off their shoes beforehand.

Szechenyi Baths – One other thing that Budapest is known for is its baths. There are many springs in the area surrounding Budapest, and these are often used to create public baths. We went to the largest at Szechenyi. We spent a whole day exploring the different thermal pools, saunas and outdoor pools. Definitely very relaxing!

Where We Ate

Compared to other cities we have been to, we actually found it quite hard to find traditional local food in this city! Most of our meals were not Hungarian. We had Thai food, Turkish kebabs, and even Mexican food! On our last night we did finally eat at one place that offered a multi-course menu of Hungarian specialties.

Final Thoughts

We enjoyed our time in Budapest. There are a lot of different sights to see, and certainly a lot of different ways to have fun. A little more touristy than Krakow and Bratislava, but not as bad as Prague. We’d recommend a visit!

Sports Fan Abroad: NFL Opening Week in Budapest

As you may know, Eric is a pretty big sports fan. He knew that coming on this trip would limit his ability to follow his favorite teams back in the US, but he still would like to try when possible.

Eric’s favorite sport to watch is football, and his favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys. We were in Budapest on the first Sunday of NFL games, so he researched where it might be possible to watch the game. We were on our way to a British pub that might have the game on when we stumbled onto something even better: a Hungarian American sports bar! We knew we were in the right place when  we saw that it was called “The Endzone” and that there were people in NFL jerseys outside. Here’s a website for the bar (in Hungarian): http://www.endzonebbqpub.hu/

It wasn’t just Americans in the bar either… we did meet one, but there were quite a few fans speaking Hungarian as well. The favorite team of the bar seemed to be the Giants. Maybe it is because Europeans seem to really like New York.

We ended up leaving at halftime because it was after midnight, and the Cowboys were playing terribly. It was still a fun first experience of watching the NFL in a foreign country!

The American flag was a hint that we were in the right place

The American flag was a hint that we were in the right place

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You can kinda see a Broncos pennant up there.

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Notice the Giants Helmet