Amy and the Great World.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Welcome to Amy and the Great World! I'm Amy, the girl behind the blog. I have taught English and traveled as much as possible for the past few years, and I'm currently teaching first grade in Budapest, Hungary. At Amy and the Great World, I strive to provide travel tips, photos that will inspire wanderlust, and a snapshot into my life as an expat.
This was a year full of travel, despite the fact that I essentially stopped said traveling this autumn as I neared my due date. Also, since I got pregnant in early February, most of this year was spent, well, pregnant. Still, I managed to have some amazing times on the road anyway (although, this year pales in comparison to the travels of 2016, and 2015!)
Read on for some of my best travels from 2017.
Our first trip of the year was one of my favorites, because it was a return trip to Scandinavia–and our first stop in Sweden! Highlights of this trip were Gamla Stan (the old town), an epic dinner at Djuret, amazing burgers at Barrels and Burgers, and the Vasa Museum.
In February, I found out my friend had decided to take a last-minute trip from New York to England, and I couldn’t miss the chance to meet her in Europe! She was going to be in Brighton, on the sea, when I was available to go, and I went for it. I’d never really considered a visit to Brighton before, but it’s beautiful and we had so much fun!
We went to Belgrade (via a night train) with our friends from Budapest (now they live in Spain–follow along with Ash and her adventures on her blog!). Belgrade is an up-and-coming spot in Europe for good reason. We had a great time exploring the Orthodox churches, wandering the streets, and eating things like cheese pie.
For my spring break, E and I took advantage of very cheap tickets to Macedonia. We spent most of our time in the gorgeous Lake Ohrid, and although I found out I was pregnant right before we went–and so was suffering from morning sickness all day–it was still such an interesting country to visit.
My sister came to visit (!!!) and after showing off Budapest, we traveled to London for a long weekend. Although cramming London into two days is not something I would necessarily recommend, I absolutely loved showing her the sites!
My brother and my parents came to Budapest in June and after a few days of exploring, we headed off on a road trip through Slovakia to Poland! We all immediately fell in love with Poland. It’s inexpensive, with delicious food, the cream of the crop when it comes to Airbnb, fun tours, serious history and lovely architecture.
Who can resist taking advantage of the awesome layover program with IcelandAir?? Not us. Although we’ve only seen Iceland during layovers so far–and trust me, it deserves more time!–each trip has been awesome.
Thanks to my pregnancy/health issues, we ended up back in America sooner than I’d hoped–i.e., before my 30th birthday. BUT, since we had some airline vouchers that were about to expire, we grabbed a nearly-free flight to Charleston, South Carolina. The heat was a bit much, but the food, the beach and charm more than made up for it. Seriously, you guys…THE FOOD.
It’s that time of year again! A new year, aka the time where I bombard you with memories from the past year. Since I’ve had my baby, the blog has kind of petered out (HOW do people keep up such intense blogging schedules with a newborn?!), but hopefully that will change in the new year.
And it wouldn’t feel like a new year with my annual collages full of my favorite moments!
28-32: Spring break in Macedonia // 33-35: My sister visits Budapest!!! // 36: Vienna with my little sis
37-39: London with my sister!! // 40-45: Saying farewell to Budapest and some of our favorite friends
46: My brother came to visit!! // 47: And then my parents did too! First stop, Vienna // 48: My brother’s birthday in Budapest // 49: Food tour in Krakow // 50: Warsaw // 51-52: Gnome-hunting and coffee in Wroclaw // 53: Exploring Krakow // 54: One last trip selfie!
55-63: E’s 30th birthday in Scotland! Highlights include Isle of Mull, Isle of Skye, Eileen Donan, Plockton, Applecross, and everything we ate.
64-72: Two great layovers: Amsterdam and Iceland!
73- 79: Catching up with family (and dogs) all over the United States // 80-81: Baking for the Bake Off Bake Along!
82-90: My 30th birthday in charming Charleston–and the Isle of Palms!
109: Adelie Laine, born on November 26 // 110-112: The first week of her life was spent in the hospital (for me), not ideal but we still had some good bonding time // 113-117: Finally bringing her home and getting into a groove!
118: Adelie’s first holiday season! // 119: Meeting her aunt and grandma // 120: Walking in the snow // 121-123: Her first Christmas // 124: Meeting her cousin // 125: Four generations // 126: New Year’s Eve baptism.
What a year! Hope your 2018 is off to a wonderful start.
On November 26, one day after her due date, my little daughter came into this world at 11:28 p.m. after 24 hours of labor, 3 1/2 hours of pushing, and one emergency c-section.
Before she even officially entered the world, our little Adelie was surprising us and proving that you can’t plan much when it comes to parenthood. Her birth, and the first few days of her life, did not go at all as I had hoped. On the other hand, though, she surprised us in so many good ways. She has these amazing dimples that come out when she cries (and although she’s not quite there yet, they will come out when she smiles, too!). Seriously. Cry dimples! Who even knew that was a thing? They are ridiculously adorable.
After a rough start, now that Adelie is a month old and I’ve had a chance to (mostly) recover, I absolutely love being her mother–way, way more than I ever thought I would!–and we have settled into more of a groove. You guys, parenthood is fun. Sure, I’m more tired than before, and sometimes this little human is a baffling puzzle that is screaming for no reason I can figure out, but truly, it is a joy. She is a joy!
So, welcome to the world, Adelie Laine! We are so happy you’re here.
Here in the United States, it’s usually accepted in most circles (except in the retail world) to wait for everything Christmas until after Thanksgiving, at the end of November.
Christmas in Europe, however, doesn’t have this rule. In addition, in case you haven’t heard, Christmas in Europe is completely magical. The only thing missing tends to be snow, depending on where you are (my hometown in Montana definitely wins on the snow front!). But, Europe has Christmas markets so…maybe it still wins ;).
I’ve been lucky enough to spend several Christmases in Europe, and very spoiled to visit quite a few markets over those years. Here are a few of my favorites!
I had to give a shout out to my former home, of course! There are markets all over the city, some catered more to tourists, and some catered more to locals.
Cologne, and Germany in general, might be the king of Christmas markets. There are no less than seven markets scattered throughout the city, each with a different theme. My favorite was the gnome-themed market, but the one by the famous Cologne Cathedral is a must-see, too!
I couldn’t make this list without including Prague, of course! Prague is even more fairy tale-esque at Christmas, if you can imagine. There are a few Christmas markets scattered across the city, but my favorite is the one in Old Town Square, because you just can’t beat that ambiance!
We met our friends last year in Frankfurt and I didn’t have very high hopes for some reason–but the Christmas market we went to there, in the old square, was delightful!
Nuremberg might be one of Germany’s most famous, and while it isn’t my favorite, the city is pretty much taken over by Christmas and it’s so fun to visit!
Brussels also has quite a few markets scattered over the city, but really the best part is the light show in the Grand-Place, if you ask me! And watching with a waffle in hand…even better.
This week was also the final week of the Bake Along Bake Off with Amanda! I used this chance to….make more bread. Surprise! I didn’t have a really good bread bake this year, although this week was okay, and the signature challenge for the final week was three different types of rolls.
I’m going to play the pregnancy card (again) and let you know that I only made one type of roll. I mean, I’m nine months pregnant here!
The rolls I did make, though, using this recipe, Braided Brioche Rolls, were amazing!
And absolutely, totally informal, as Mary Berry would say.
I think it was cold in our house because they didn’t rise very much–until they exploded in the oven that is!
One (out of six…) of the rolls turned out fairly neatly, and became the star of the show. Still, the rest were equally delicious!
The best thing about the baking challenge is getting back in the kitchen–baking is so relaxing and creative. Also, it’s been my major form of nesting–our freezer is stuffed with baked goods for after baby ;).
Here’s to more baking the rest of this year, and next year!
The closer I get to my due date (3 weeks!), the harder it’s been for me to blog. I was sure that I would be super productive during this supposed “nesting” phase, and I figured that would include blogging. So far, I’m definitely not that productive–my version of “nesting” mostly includes a lot of baking and laundry and buying too many baby clothes.
Here’s more of life lately!
// An old friend and her sister threw me a wonderful baby shower! Since we’ve been living all over the place, and are living in Montana temporarily, I did not expect a baby shower at all. It was so amazing–and our little babe got totally spoiled.
We all decorated onesies and people got quite creative…
and I put on normal clothes and took off my glasses for the occasion (although I couldn’t mask the fact that I’m puffing like a marshmallow, am about the size of the moon, and always look tired nowadays).
// I’ve been hanging out with my parents’ dogs, as usual! Their little faces always cheer me up.
// I celebrated Halloween–my first in the United States for a long time!–by wearing a shirt with a pumpkin, passing out candy to cute littles, and carving a pumpkin!
// The day after Halloween, winter officially arrived with about a foot of snow! Since we didn’t get much snow these past few years in Europe, E and I are loving this weather. Although it does make driving more interesting.
// We’ve been slowly getting ready for the baby. I feel like we’ll never truly be ready, which is stressful, but part of that is because we have no idea what we’re doing. And, can you ever really be ready for such a huge life change?
Although I am thoroughly sick of being pregnant, I’m also pretty nervous about the next part. E and I are trying to soak up all the just-the-two-of-us time we can! Can any other pregnant ladies or moms out there relate to the sadness I feel saying goodbye to this just-the-two-of-us life?? Not to say I’m totally unhappy–the baby is on track and looking good still, and that makes me over the moon!
I made these Caramel Apple Cream Puffs (it was Halloween when I made them, so they needed to be somewhat on theme and appropriately autumnal!), and they were very delicious.
However, as it was my first foray into choux buns, I was mostly proud of the buns themselves! You just never know how these things will turn out in high altitude.
But they puffed so beautifully.
The recipe calls for this caramel sauce, and at first I was hesitant. They already were plenty sweet with just the apples and the cream filling, and I was worried the caramel sauce would make them sickly.
However, it was Halloween, and in the United States, that means sugar and decadence so eventually I ended up covering them in the caramel. It didn’t make them sickly–just more delicious, as salted caramel sauce is wont to do–but it did make them a bit harder to eat.
But that didn’t stop us from eating them up!
What’s life look like for you lately? Did you celebrate Halloween where you are?
It’s autumn and a girl’s fancy turns to…Slovenia! (At least in my case).
Slovenia is so magical that it is definitely becoming a travel hotspot. And pretty much everyone who is going to this awesome country is also going to Lake Bled.
I mean, can you blame them?
However, there is more to see and do in the area besides just stare, transfixed, at the lake (although no judgement if that’s all you want to do, everyone will understand). Many people visit Lake Bled in one day, as it’s an easy trip from the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. We spent three days there, though, and found plenty to do–here are a few ideas!
Lake Bled trail/road
Obviously, if you’re coming to Lake Bled, you’re going to see the lake. We both drove and walked around the lake–either of which I highly recommend! Who doesn’t want to see this gorgeous place from all different angles? I’ve also heard there are some good hikes in the area, that can give you a view from above.
A short (and beautiful!) drive from Lake Bled is Lake Bohinj, which some people say is more beautiful than Lake Bled. I’m not about to start any debates on this here blog, but I will say that it is more than worth the drive. The drive itself gave us some of the best foliage of the trip, and a view of rural Slovenia.
Nearby Lake Bled is a little (and well-discovered) hike into the beautiful Vintgar Gorge. Beware, there will be crowds, at least in the autumn, but if you keep walking a little ways, you should leave most of them behind. The color of the water is almost unnaturally green, and it’s an easy walk into a lovely spot of this amazing country.
Row a boat to the island
Perhaps this may seem like a cliché thing to do–but it’s so fun! We also went on a morning that was…kind of perfect. The lake was like glass, the sky was clear, and the island sent bells ringing through the still air from its tiny little church. We didn’t actually stop at the island–just circled around it–but you could if you wanted to!
….Okay, I have a confession to make–mostly I just wanted to dump more photos of this beautiful country on ya. Just can’t resist! Here’s a few more, because I just can’t choose.
One of the best things about my life is all of the travel I’ve been able to do with my ultimate travel partner, my husband, E.
Of course it’s not the only thing we do together–but it’s definitely our favorite pastime and one of the biggest things that has formed our relationship.
I will cherish the memories we’ve made together forever–from scooting around Croatia, to scuba diving in Mexico, to zip lining in Costa Rica, to hiking in Scotland, to road tripping in Romania, to getting lost in Iceland, to teaching in Prague, to moving to Budapest, to whale watching in Washington, to camping in Colorado, and so much more!
But the next best thing might just be the fact that am I currently making our baby. And that said baby has been to (in utero, of course) England–twice!, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Poland, Croatia, the Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, and to six states in the United States.
This little one is already such a good travel partner, and I can’t wait to go to more places with the wee babe in tow! It’s already added a new, different, and sometimes disconcerting dimension to our travels…and it will be so interesting to see what will change when baby is actually here!
And yes, part of me is scared out of my mind to be a parent, much less to travel as a parent, but the rest of me says…
This time of year, my favorite, also makes me nostalgic for various other autumns I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Funny how seasons work like that, right?
As you may have read, I am currently in my hometown in Montana, which has a pretty nice fall, really. Although it has already snowed…but I don’t care because that means the weather has been nice and chill!
Still, I can’t help but reminisce about some of my favorite autumn moments during my last few years in Europe.
There was the perfectly gloomy autumn in Prague.
Wine tasting in Czech wine country.
The colors of Hallstatt, more majestic against the beauty of the Austrian Alps.
I could never forget Oktoberfest in Munich–a different type of local color to see.
The mind-blowing colors of Slovakia.
The most perfect fall ever in Slovenia, at Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj.
More wine tasting in the Brda wine region of Slovenia.
Oh, and of course…my former home of Budapest, and that castle in the park!
This past week was caramel week–apparently a bake-off first–and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it. I honestly just wished for another bread week!
The challenges, however, were interesting–millionaire’s shortbread, Dutch stroopwaffels, or a caramel cake showpiece with spun sugar. Since I wanted to do something truly autumnal–and I didn’t have a waffle maker for the waffles–I decided to make an apple spice cake!
(I thought about pumpkin, but it is only September…don’t want to pumpkin myself out!)
I am nowhere near a good enough baker to make up my own recipes–but I did tweak this one slightly. I always have to in some way, due to the high altitude. Usually I add more liquid and remove some of the sugar and baking powder. I also increase the temperature.
In addition to the above, for this recipe I doubled the spices and used a more basic vanilla buttercream.
I also experimented with some spun-sugar nests for the top, since that was a requirement for the showstopper described above. I used good old Martha Stewart to guide me.
Again, rather rustic. Apparently “rustic” is my theme this year.
But just look at that spun sugar nest! My first time ever delving into the spun-sugar world–it was actually fun and I love how it turned out.
The other best thing about this recipe is the caramel sauce. It was perfect and surprisingly easy. You can find the recipe here!
can you spy a couple of little pups??
Of course, the cake itself is also lovely–it incorporates applesauce which is such a great way to use less sugar, and also give it that coveted fall-flavor.
But really, can we just take a moment to appreciate my nest again? I’m just too proud.
Question: do you enjoy baking in the autumn? Do you feel nostalgic for past autumns?