Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Northeast adventures

August to December 2013

After the midwest it was time to hit the northeast, getting closer to New York! Next state, Pennsylvania! Our first main stop was French creek state park, were we camped and hiked some of the trails. This place is really beautiful, it has a lot to offer too, from swimming, nature walks and canoeing. After a couple of days in nature, next stop was Philadelphia. Philly is a very charming city, with great historical significance. The independence national historical park, the liberty bell center and independence hall is a must see.

A stroll down market street towards the water  was a treat, especially with a stop at The Franklin Fountain for the most delicious milkshake! Penns landing at the water front is another must see. We also explored the south street and experience the memorable magic gardens, this place is amazing! It was in Philadelphia where we witnessed out first baseball game, Mets Vs Phillies at the Citizens Bank Park. Another place we visited in Pennsylvania was New Hope. A very charming, historic town located on the Delaware river. A beautiful town to walk around.

 Next State, New Jersey. We explored the stunning town of Princeton and walked the grounds of the famous Ivy league Princeton University, the campus grounds are precious. Atlantic city was another place we visited in New Jersey. Not my favorite place but it was nice to be on the beach.

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Munich

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The capital of Bavaria

A modern cosmopolitan city with a touch of traditions, and home to the most famous beer festival!

The pretty city, Munich is the third largest city in Germany and is the capital city of Bavaria. Bavaria is the largest (land) state and is located in the southeastern section of Germany. Often described as a fairytale city, with the numerous castles, views of the Alps and strong traditions still present. Munich is located on the banks of the river Isar, north of the gorgeous Bavarian alps.

 The city is absolutely stunning, rich in history with ties to royal Bavarian heritage. Munich showcases stunning architecture, beautiful galleries and museums, fine dinning and breathtaking views of the alps. Munich is a cosmopolitan city, however the traditions are still very present  and with a touch of medieval vibes. A great place to explore history (both good and bad), and to absorb German culture.

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Seven days in Munich

Our first visit to Germany, was to visit this beautiful city! Again, we found really cheap flights. From London to Munich the cost of the flight was around $15 usd), so perfect. We brought the tickets and then went to search for a cheap hostel to stay in……we did not realize that we were arriving when the world’s largest Volksfeast would be  happening. We could not find any accommodation! All that was left was a bed in a dorm room going for thousands of dollars, ah no thanks. We had nearly given up on looking for accommodation and had decided to just camp, however I stumbled across a local website where people rented out their apartment (this was not airbnb). So we were able to book a great one bedroom apartment located in the city center, we couldn’t believe our luck. This worked out perfectly, we could cook in the apartment (saving money on eating out), we were able to walk  nearly everywhere in the city and now we could even enjoy the Volksfest, you can read about our time at Oktoberfest here. 

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Highlights and must sees

  • Nymphenburg Palace: We spent a good portion of the day visiting this beautiful regal 18th century palace. Wandering around the well kept gardens is so dreamy.
  • Englishcher garden: A large and lush garden, with its own beer garden!
  • Marienplatz: Described as the heart of the city. This square is very popular and has a range of restaurants, shops and street performances.
  • Viktualiemarkt: A vibrant farmers market and is the cities oldest market.
  • St. Peter’s church: A stunning church and Munich’s oldest place of worship.
  • Residenzmuseum:  This hall is one of the most important palace museums in Europe.
  • Hofbrauhaus Muchen: This well known beer hall was founded in the 16th century!
  • Linderhof Palace: Stunning palace and is the smallest of the palaces built by king Ludwig the second second of Bavaria.

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Dachau concentration camp

One of the first concentration camps to open in Nazi Germany. It is now a memorial site, a place to reflect on the past and to mourn the victims.

Located 10 miles north of Munich, we took the train for a day trip to visit the Dachau concentration camp. Walking through the site was very confronting, eerie and heartbreaking. However it is important to step out of our comfort zones to acknowledge what happened, we cannot ignore the ugly past. If visiting Munich, I do recommend a visit to this memorial site to pay  respect to the victims.

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Munchen

Rich in history, Bavarian culture, stunning architecture, beautiful green scenery, fairy tale palaces and alp views, Munich has something for everyone. Our trip was very enjoyable and insightful. We learnt a lot about the location and experienced some great German culture. I would return, and I would also love to explore more of the state of Bavaria and the surrounding countries.

 

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Me in munich

Hoi An

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Hoi An ancient town

The old town of Hoi An is a well preserved example of an old port. During the 15th to the 19th century, Hoi An was an major trading port. Hoi An has over 2,000 years of history. Hoi An was also a principal port of the Cham kingdom. This kingdom controlled the spice trade with Indonesia from the 7th to the 10th century.  As a result the culture and history of Hoi An is strongly influenced by the Cham people.  The second major influence of this charming town is from the Chinese. The buildings represent a unique blend of style from both foreign and local influencers. Hoi An old town is listed as UNESCO world heritage site and is well worth a visit.  The old town is so charming to walk around and to explore the rich history. The greenery that is covering the ruins is also so impressive, and makes the place so much more magical.

Hoi An is located in central Vietnam, in the Quang Nam province.  This area is a popular tourist attraction. People visit to see the charm of the old city and to relax at the beaches nearby. From Hue we travelled by bus for three hours to Hoi An, we stayed at a hostel at a nearby beach.

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An bang beach

As we were craving the sun and beach, we decided that we would stay at a beach close to the old town of Hoi An. We stayed at a backpackers hostel along the An Bang beach.The hostel was great and we met up with some other backpackers, and enjoyed the nightlife with them. Hoi An old town was easily accessible from this beach town, so we were able to make the most of visiting the ancient ruins and enjoying some time in the sun. You can also catch a glimpse of the Cham Islands from the beach!

Next stop on our backpacking journey through Vietnam is further South, the coastal resort city Nha Trang

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Hue

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Ancient city

After exploring the north of Vietnam, we departed Hanoi by train, and travelled south. Next stop, Hue which is described as the most royal city in Vietnam! Hue is located 700km (430m) south of Hanoi, in the Thua Thein Hue province, in central Vietnam. Hue was once the capital of Vietnam, founded in 1802 by Gia Long who was the first king of the Nguyen dynasty empire. Hue remained the capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. This powerful family ruled the then capital from 1802-1945. To this day the influence of a royal lifestyle and royal customs have had a huge impact on the characteristics of the people in Hue.

The city has a rich and interesting history,  with the affects of war still very present today. Visiting the city was very enriching and very different from other parts of the country that we visited.

We stayed at a guest house for two nights and three days, exploring the ancient ruins during the day and  then enjoying the Hue nightlife.

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Highlights and must sees

The Perfume river

This ancient city lies on the banks of the Perfume river. So beautiful to see on a clear and sunny day. The Perfume river is surrounded by the ancient sights of Hue. It is also perfect for people watching, taking in the river life of the people who live here. We were also grateful to witness a stunning sunset over the ancient capital, while sitting at the banks of the river.

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The Tomb of Khai Dinh

This tomb was built for the twelfth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, Khai Dinh. The tomb is located in Chau Chu mountain, on a steep hill near the city of Hue. The architecture is a mix of western and eastern influence and took eleven years to build!

Thien Mu Pagoda

Translates to the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady and is considered to be the unofficial landmark of the city, with its iconic seven story pagoda. In addition to its rich history, the Pagoda also looks out to the gorgeous Perfume river.

The Mieu

A place to worship ten of the Nguyen dynasty kings. The Mieu is an ancestral temple to Vietnams emperors.

Imperial city (The Citadel)

The former residence of the royal family. Now, listed as an UNESCO world heritage site. This site is a large complex of hundreds of monuments and ruins. Rich in history and devastated by the Vietnam war, this former site of the old capital has a moat and ten ornate gates guarding the palace, temples and tombs.

Hue, was much different from the rest of our backpacking journey through Vietnam. I enjoyed the history and culture of this ancient city. The next stop after Hue, is further south – Hoi An

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Amsterdam

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Beautiful canals, stunning architecture and an impressive art scene.

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, located in the southeastern section of the  providence of north Holland. The official language is Dutch, although the majority of residents do speak English. The Euro is the currency. Peak tourist season is during July and August (Summer). The name Amsterdam comes from the cities origins, as Dam of river “Amstel”. It is  easy to get around Amsterdam, the city is walkable and it is very easy to rent a bike and explore the city this way. The Public transport system is great and includes, the metro, buses, trams and ferries. Amsterdam, a city full of life, culture and a rich history. Beautiful buildings, picturesque scenery and a stunning canal.

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A visit to the Netherlands

I have visited this wonderful city, twice. Both times I stayed in a backpackers located near the center of the city. Once in the autumn (fall) and again during the winter period. Both times were very fulfilling and an enriching backpacking experience.  Autumn provided us with nice weather, enabling us to make the most of the parks and outdoor scenery, even renting a bike to experience the craze of the bicycle capital! A must do! Heineken beer, cheese tasting, exploring the red light district  and experiencing the famous coffee shops I would definitely return to this wonderful city for a third time!

 

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Highlights and must-sees of Amsterdam

  • Walking tour of the city: It is free and great way to get your bearings whilst learning about the history of the city.
  • Anne Frank house: The house where Anne Frank hid during world war two and wrote her diary. A very rewarding visit.
  • Oldest pub: Cafe Karpershoek claims to be the oldest pub in the city. Opening in 1606! So why not enjoy a drink whilst sitting in history!
  • Coffee shops: In the Netherlands, coffee shops are defined as alcohol free, but where cannabis is sold and consumed. There are approximately 200 coffee shops in Amsterdam.
  • Van Gogh Museum: The worlds largest collection of beautiful artwork from Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Vondelpark: I love the outdoors, and this urban park is a great way to spend a day outdoors.
  • Jordaan: A beautiful neighbourhood to walk around and immerse yourself into the Dutch lifestyle.
  • Rembrandt House Museum: Historic house and art museum.
  • Dam square: The heart of the city. Located in the historical center of Amsterdam.
  • Royal Palace of Amsterdam: Still used by the royal family. Rich in history and stunning architecture.
  • Science center NEMO: I love science and this is a great interactive museum to explore and discover science and technology.
  • Leidseplein: Great place to sit back, relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.
  • Venustemple sex museum: Worlds first and oldest sex museum.
  • Red light district: Window parlours, sex shops, brothels and even museums, the infamous attraction of Amsterdam is worth the visit.

 

 

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