Travels in Transylvania

Kat: I recently spoke to my sister on Skype, who couldn’t believe I was actually in Transylvania. “Is that really a place?” she asked. I’d forgive anyone for thinking Transylvania was made up; the land of Count Dracula has been fictionalised in countless movies and books, until it’s become the clichéd setting for a horror movie. Yet it does exist in the northern part of modern Romania, amidst the Carpathian mountains. It retains the tall pine trees and striking cliff faces, yet these are the only similarities between that and 1950s vampire films.

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Champagne lifestyle on a Budapest budget

Kat: In the past week I’ve dined at the Hilton, been pampered at a thermal spa and seen George Clooney (albeit in a film, but I’ll take what I can get). You may wonder how can we afford this luxurious lifestyle, but Eastern Europe is a budget tourist playground. Tea and cake at the Hilton: $5. George Clooney: $5. He’s rather cheap.

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The Wurst of Europe: Germany, Austria and Slovakia

Kat: With intrepid Monkey #2 down with the flu, this week’s blog is up to me! He’s been out for the count since Munich, snotting his way through public and international transport. I’ve been discovering the joys of Middle Europe, which unlike Middle Earth, has no volcanoes whatsoever. Although currywurst provides explosions of another kind… enough about that!

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Ciao bella! Rome and Vatican City

Kat: Rome. A city full of history from Emperors to Popes. A city with notoriously lax attitudes to time. A city where the vocal volume goes to eleven. Love it or leave it, Rome is one of the great cities of the world. And we spent the last week powering through the great landmarks of Rome and Vatican City with my parents in what is now known as hardcore tourism. None of this softy-soft wishy-washy let’s take a break and relax crap. Just keep tourin’ until your knees bleed with pain and the tingling sensation in your feet turns to numbness.

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venice

Driving from Venice to Vesuvius

Justin: “Ahhhhhh…Venice” to quote Indiana Jones in the third installment of the intrepid adventure archaeologist. And this is exactly what this leg of the trip was about – adventure culminating in one of the greatest archaeological finds known to man. We are in Italy and boy is it good to be here. I found out in New Jersey that I have a great-grandmother apparently from the Mediterranean region, this explained why I have a blood condition called Thalassemia minor, an abnormality in the red blood cells, normally found in people of the Mediterranean region. So in some distant way I am going back to some roots here. Italians are not that dissimilar to Hungarians, a little quirky, a little hot-blooded and have the tendency to do things their own way. Italians have serious style too, it’s obvious why the titans of fashion labels come from the topographical boot. Everyone in their own way looks a little ruffled modelish and all the cops are sporting my style of authority sunglasses.

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Nice is noice: Provence and the Cote D’Azur

Kat: The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The glamour. The glitz. The celebrity holidays. Yes, the monkeys have made it to the South of France, home of all that is expensive, luxurious and chic. You may be wondering why we’re even in this neck of the woods in our matching fleeces and hiking pants. But we’ve been overtaken in the style stakes by my infamously more fashionable father, Gary.

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Paris, it’s french for yum.

Kat: On the eve of the last year of the world, according to the Mayans and Roland Emmerich, I’m sitting in a Paris apartment blowing my nose and watching the fog roll on and off the Eiffel Tower. There will be no fireworks this year due to austerity measures, a small note the French forgot to mention to all the tourists when they booked holidays in Paris over New Year. However, as the French bureaucracy is not always to be believed, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a light show anyway.

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Christmas lights in Europe

It’s a beautiful night in Paris, lights are sparkling, the Eiffel Tower is all aglow and only a few hours until Christmas morning. While most of our lovely readers will already be celebrating Christmas down under, I’ve put together a selection of Christmassy images for your delight as my way of saying thanks for reading this past year. I’ve just got back from the Christmas markets on the Champs Elysees, a beautiful spot for last-minute shopping. And what could be more French than watching sunset over the Eiffel Tower atop the Galeries Lafayette? Amidst this assortment you’ll find some beautiful Christmas lights in Europe, with Christmas trees from London and Dublin alike.

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