Budapest from the eye of an 8 year old

Hey you guys!! Today’s post comes to you from my younger brother Zander!! Thanks for sharing, Zanny!

IMG_0612 The Danube River

A few weeks ago we went to Budapest. We saw old buildings. We crossed a big river. We went to a nice restaurant and I had fish. Everyone else had soup, and there was live folk dancing. And then we went to the Best Western Hotel. In the morning  we had awesome food. At night we saw a performance of Hungarian folk dancing.


It’s All Greek to Me

After Italy, we ventured to Athens, Greece. When we got to the airport, we took a metro to a central square, called Syntagma Square. It’s the most important square in all of modern day Athens. It didn’t look very spectacular, but a lot of protests have happened there. Not far from there we found our hotel. The neighborhood was very lively and touristy with many restaurants and small streets. We climbed up a winding road and found a very nice restaurant where we ate Greek treats: Greek salad, very salty olives, spanakopita, vegetable soup, and fresh fish.


Before we ordered the fish, the very kind waiter took us into the kitchen and showed us all the fish they had. He literally swung open the refrigerator, opened drawers with chopped ice, and lifted out the raw fish (including octopus!) to show us what our choices were. We jumped when he showed us the first fish!

We climbed to the Acropolis. It was a winding path up a hill. With each step we got a better view of Athens and the Aegean sea. The building at the top of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, was smaller than I’d expected it to be. But it’s definitely one of the oldest buildings we’ve seen. It dates back to about 400 BCE. A lot of it has been restored, but it’s still amazing how much has lasted. I really liked the women statues holding up the Erechtheum, which was an ancient chapel.


We also went to the archeological museum in Athens where we saw statues, jewelry, and weaponry from Ancient Greek times. The rest of our time in Greece, we filled our tummies with Greek goodies: plain Greek yogurt drizzled with honey, walnuts and pistachios (both a breakfast and a dessert), baklava, and other pastries.

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“Old Stuff”

For the February vacation, my family and I took a trip looking at ruins and relics of the past. First we flew to Rome where we stayed for two days. We were wandering the long and winding streets of the city at night in a light rain. We turned a corner and all of a sudden we found ourselves in a piazza. There was a beautiful fountain that had many statues of men and fish. Just beyond the fountain we saw a building that had pillars holding it up, kind of like the White House entrance. It took all five of us, with our arms completely stretched out, to hug one of the pillars. The building was the Pantheon.IMG_5730

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the best preserved buildings from ancient Rome. It has been a church and a tomb. It still has an alter and pews inside. When you walk inside, the first thing you notice is how high the ceiling is. It’s domed with a checkered pattern carved into it. The next thing I noticed was the giant hole in the ceiling.


It didn’t take over 2000 years for that hole to appear. It’s been there all along. And I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t rain get in? As a matter of fact, it does. That night it was raining right into the building. I stood under the hole to examine the floor because I’d heard that there are holes hidden in the floor. I found 20-something holes that had been designed in the marble floor where the rain drains away.

After doing some research I found that there is still a real tomb in the Pantheon. As it turns out the tomb is attached to a tragic love story.  

In Rome we also saw the Sistine Chapel. It’s in the building in the Vatican where the Pope lives. The Vatican actually has a large museum with a lot of art. There were a lot of old Christian paintings, and there were modern-day Christian paintings too. There were even some paintings by Chagall. The Sistine Chapel itself is a room where the ceiling has many different parts, almost like looking through a bunch of different windows. Each window tells a story, some from the Old Testament, and some from the New Testament. The entire ceiling was painted by Michelangelo. I got neck cramps from being in there for only ten minutes. I wonder how he felt after painting the entire ceiling. In all, I really enjoyed it, although I must admit I was a little disappointed when I saw the painting of God touching Adam’s hand. I was expecting that image to take up the entire ceiling, but it was only one component of the painting.

Then we took a train to Naples, where we took a rickety commuter train to see Pompeii. Pompeii was an ancient Roman city, but in 79 AD there was a great explosion. Mount Vesuvius erupted, causing the entire city to burn or be covered in ash. The city sat there for a very long time until archeologists came and dug it out. They found it very much preserved.


The bottom halves of buildings are still there. There are streets with big cobblestones. The streets were used for transporting water, so there are enormous stones that allowed people to cross the street without getting their feet wet. If you walk down the street, you can see walls and doorways and some rooms of people’s houses. There’s a bath house and an amphitheater and a temple of Apollo (who by the way is the ancient Roman god of music, theater, the sun, and poetry).


It was interesting because you could kind of imagine what a city looked like 2000 years ago. At the same time, it was hard to imagine people in it and what their daily lives were like. Thanks to the archeological museum in Naples, I was able to sort of imagine the way the inside of houses looked a long time ago because we were able to see things like murals and art that had been taken off the preserved walls.


Pastry Chef in Training

Pastry shops (called patisseries) all over France make meringues. Two days ago I made them too. I was inspired to make them when I found a handtool in our kitchen that can beat eggs into a froth. The tool has a long handle with a coiled, springy wire spiral on the end. I’ve never seen a tool like it before, and my mom and I can’t seem to find it in the stores. I found my recipe on multiple websites. I got the idea of what I needed from one site, and then I got the details from another one. There was a video about how to make them on My meringues turned out pretty good. Half of them were perfect. They had a hardened outside, and when you tapped them on the underside they sounded hollow. But the rest of them were kind of undercooked. They were nice and crispy on the outside, but the insides stayed gooey and the bottoms stuck to the parchment paper. You want the meringue, when it’s cooling, to peel right off the paper. I used two different kinds of pans, a glass pan and a metal pan, and the ones on the metal pan turned out better. Eating an undercooked meringue is still really good, though, because the inside is soft, and awesome, and sticky, like a marshmellow, and sticks to your teeth. IMG_5542 WHAT YOU NEED -4 egg whites at room temperature  -a pinch of salt -one cup of caster sugar (200g) -half a teaspoon of vanilla essence WHAT YOU NEED TO DO Step 1: Preheat oven to 120 degrees C (that’s 248 F) Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Step 2: Use an electric mixer to whisk egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking well between each addition until sugar is dissolved. Step 3: Whisk for another 3 minutes. Whisk in vanilla essence. Step 4: Use 2 teaspoons to scoop mixture onto the two trays, reduce oven temperature to 90 degrees C (that’s 194 F) Step 5: Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes; turn oven off and leave meringues in oven to cool. Tip: Make sure you don’t add too much vanilla unless you like the lasting taste of vanilla in your mouth.

Feliz Navidad, Felices Fiestas y un increíble 2015 a ustedes

Over Christmas break my family and I went to Spain. To get there we first took a train to Barcelona (or as the Spanish call it: Barthalona). There we stayed in a nice apartment only a few blocks away from the Sagrada Familia. IMG_5028

It’s a big building designed by Antoni Gaudi. FUN FACT: Gaudi died in 1926, before the building was finished. And it will still be another 50 years before the building is actually finished!!

Gaudi is a well-known architect in Barcelona. There are many of his buildings scattered around the town. His works are interesting because of their unique forms. They’re kind of wavy and drunk-looking. They look like he took half of a building from medieval times and a quarter of a building from the Roman empire and another quarter from modern day architecture. The combination doesn’t look like it fits together, but it kind of does. The buildings are weird but the weirdness mixes in a good way.


Gaudi used a lot of mosaics in his works. The mosaics were everywhere, including Park Guell, which was an entire park with different places to hang out. There was one part that made of stone but looked like a wave.


Another part was a plaza that was supposed to have been a market place that was called 100 columns. There were mosaics on the columns and the ceiling. There was also an open area with benches that were made of mosaic. We also saw the famous mosaic lizard.

In Barcelona, my brothers and I took two classes. One was pottery, and we learned how to use the wheel. Here are two of my first bowls on the wheel. I put them together to make a chip-n-dip platter.


Then we took a mosaic class. We got to break our own glass with a glass breaking tool. Then we glued the glass pieces onto a cardboard base. I chose the shape of a dolphin. I learned that mosaic is a lot harder than it seems. It was like doing a puzzle, and you had to find the right sized piece to fit in each space and the right angles to stick in the form. The part that was different from doing a puzzle was that you didn’t know if you were actually going to find a piece that fit!! IMG_5231

Chocolate, Wine, Cheese and More Chocolate!!


Cookies! Cookies! (Well really they’re macarons)

Don’t be mistaken by their skinny figures. The French love food. We went to a French cultural festival at the convention center in Marseille, called Parc Chanot. Wine, cheese and chocolate makers from all over France came to introduce their products to the people of Marseille. It was indoors and when you walked inside there were rows and rows and rows of stands. It was very crowded with people and it was hard to get from one stand to the next. At first all I saw were cheese and wine stands. Being an 11 year old American who hasn’t really been introduced to cheese, I was very bored at first. Then I found my way to the chocolate stands, and that’s when it got interesting…


The stands for chocolate and cookies were MAGNIFICENT. They usually all had samples, so even though we didn’t buy…

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