Top Cities to See in Europe
As I leave for Europe in three weeks, three days and six hours, I am getting incredibly excited about my trip and Europe in general. The last few weeks have been a constant of organizing, buying travel supplies and clothes, and talking everything Europe.
So, I thought that for one of my last posts before my trip, I would try writing something different!
Below, in no particular order, are some of my favourite cities that I visited in Europe, and some tips to keep your trip to the city a bit less expensive. Of course I have not been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list!
Where I stayed: I stayed at two different hostels, but would not highly recommend either as they were cheaper options: London Backpackers Hostel (a little far), Smart Hyde Park Inn Hostel.
Day Trips: I didn’t take any while in London, but there are many places that are easy to travel to!
Things to see or do: London Eye; Buckingham Palace; Royal British Museum; parks!
London is an interesting and enticing city! There is so much to do in London, whether you want a tourist or local experience.
One really great thing about the UK is that all museums are free! I really enjoyed wandering the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum. There are so many interesting things to see, and so much history. There are also many parks and markets to wander around for the afternoon. Hyde and Regent’s parks are beautiful to wander on a sunny afternoon, or to have a picnic on the lawns. Also, Camden Market is only a short ride on the tube, where you can see all the shops and buy souvenirs – and, if you have seen the movie, the World’s End pub is located here!
Of course, there are all the usual things to see in London as well: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Shard, Tower Bridge, London Tower, Buckingham Palace, King’s Cross Station, and the well-known London Eye. I have not been inside all of these as it can add up costs quite quickly. If you have never done it, I seriously suggest going on the London Eye, but it is easiest to buy your tickets ahead of time online or in person.
Honestly, my favourite was to simply wander the city and see the sights. You can cross multiple bridges along the Thames, and wander back and forth to different sides of the city. There are parks, chuches, pubs, and beautiful views that you can find simply wandering. On my wanders, I found a poet for hire, a small book sale under a bridge, and Churchill’s childhood home.
London has something to do for everyone, and even though it can be expensive, it is an amazing city to experience.
Where I stayed: HelloBCN Hostel
Day Trips: Montserrat
Things to see or do: La Sagrada Familia; Parc Guell; Barceloneta Beach; Picasso Museum; try tapas!
I have never been to a more vibrant and exciting city than Barcelona. This was my first taste of Spain and it was absolutely amazing!
Barcelona offers so many things to do to immerse yourself in the culture. The artist Gaudi is found everywhere, even just wandering down the street, in his various buildings and architectural designs. Honestly, you don’t need to see the inside of every single one, but pick one for sure. I chose La Sagrada Familia. You can tour the inside, and for not much more, even go to the top of one of the towers to view all of Barcelona – this was probably one of my favourite experiences of the entire trip. (I seriously suggest buying the tickets ahead of time online, though). Parc Guell is beautiful, but I only walked around the outside.
Barceloneta Beach is the famous beach of Barcelona. It is incredibly busy on nice days, so go early if you want to find a spot on the beach and definitely watch anything you bring with you. But it’s a great place to be able to dip your feet in the Mediterranean Sea!
Wandering the city is also a great experience. There are some lesser known places to go around the city, including the amazing and free Picasso Museum. The Mercado de La Boqueria is a massive market place that you can get food at and wander. The fruit and juices are delicious! And, as always, there are many amazing churches and cathedrals to see in the city. My favourite was Catedral del Mar – a cathedral built by sailors who were not allowed in the main cathedral. It is gorgeous, and the stories behind it are very interesting.
My friends and I went on a day trip to the Montserrat monastery. It is an amazing and beautiful monastery on the top of a mountain. You can wander the area and go through the monastery, or you can be adventurous and hike through the surrounding areas. It can get really hot and the hikes can be long, so make sure you’re prepared.
And, of course, the food! Thankfully, if you can find the right areas, food in Barcelona can be quite cheap. My favourite was definitely having tapas! Around the corner from our hostel, there was a street with various tapas restaurants that we ate at many nights in a row.
Barcelona is an amazing city, and I cannot wait to go back there on this trip for new experiences. Our hostel was amazing, however, so I will be staying there again this trip. The people who stayed and worked there were absolutely incredible, and the location was perfect.
Where I stayed: Suite Hostel
Things to see or do: Buda Castle; Great Market Hall; Chain Bridge.
Budapest is a beautiful and interesting city. I knew nothing about this city before travelling to it, but I am so glad that I went there.
This city has incredible history. The Buda Castle is beautiful to walk around. I was too late to go inside, but I am sure there is even more incredible sights inside the castle. I loved the beautiful views of the city from the Castle grounds.
On the other side of the city, the House of Terror Museum shows the history of Budapest through all the terrors of the wars and after, and the Heroes Square has statues of the various heroes in Hungarian history. I found these as really interesting experiences to learn more about the history of Hungary.
The Great Market Hall was very close to our hostel, so we went there a few times. The market is two floors, with lots of food and souvenirs. The building is interesting, and it’s really fun to just wander around the market.
I included Chain Bridge in the list of things to see simply because it is an amazing sight. The bridges to cross the Danube are amazing to walk across for views, but also for the architecture of the bridges themselves.
My favourite experience was the day we took to simply wander the city. Walking along the Danube allows you to see many amazing sights. You can see the castle across the river, and you walk by the incredible Parliament Buildings – the buildings have some of the most interesting and beautiful architecture! There is also a memorial for the Jews and people murdered along the Danube River, a very moving piece of art to remember a tragedy.
Two things that we did miss out on were the ruin bars and thermal spas. I am told that these are great experiences, and I hope to have these experiences this time I go to Budapest.
Prague, Czech Republic
Where I stayed: Santini Hostel
Things to see or do: Old Town Square; Prague Castle; Charles Bridge; Jewish district.
Just like Budapest, I knew nothing about Prague when I went there. Of course, lots travel photographers on Instagram have posted beautiful photos of Charles Bridge, enticing me to go there.
Prague is an amazing city – probably one of my very favourite cities that I’ve been to. It is absolutely beautiful! I suggest finding a free walking tour through your accommodations or online, as it is an easy way to see all of the city and hear the amazing history.
Old Town Square is very central to the city, and the place most people know about. In the square, you can see old buildings, cafes, locals and tourists mixing, and the amazing astronomical clock. (I suggest the walking tour or online research to find out all of the interesting information about this really cool clock.) On the same side of the river, you can find the Opera House, the Dancing House, and the Jewish District.
The Jewish District was an extremely interesting experience, especially if you are interested in history. We bought a ticket to have access to the various museums and the cemetery. The one building we went to was a humbling experience, as it had the names of all of the people who died from Budapest in the Holocaust. The cemetery was moving and sad, but an interesting experience – as it’s the only place that Jewish people could be buried, there are multiple graves on top of each other.
Charles Bridge can take you across the river to the other part of Prague. The bridge is famous for being beautiful, and for the numerous buskers that you can meet, day or night, along the bridge. Walking across the bridge during the day time is a completely different experience than wandering it at night. And, as you walk up the hill, you are led straight to Prague Castle. We only wandered the castle and gardens, as the lineups to go inside the cathedral were extremely long.
There are lots of other small things throughout Prague as well, including the Lennon Wall, the Metronome, and many other areas. There is also a park that has the original statues from Charles Bridge (which I unfortunately don’t remember the name of). Under Charles Bridge, on the same side as the castle, was a great little market that I went to last trip. The food was amazing, and not expensive, and there were lots of little vendors and interesting things.
I absolutely loved Prague, as there is so much to do, and cannot wait to go back there again this trip!
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Where I stayed: Airbnb
Things to see or do: Iamsterdam sign; Vondelpark; Anne Frank House; Flower Market; rent bikes; canal cruise; museums!
Originally, Amsterdam wasn’t on my list of places to see, and I definitely did not go there or love it for the reasons that most young people do.
Amsterdam is a beautiful and historic city. I loved wandering this city, seeing the beautiful canals, and the differences between the city center and the outlying buildings. I saw the city three different ways, and seriously recommend any of the three: walking, renting bikes, or going on a canal cruise. The canal cruise is amazing day or night, and shows you a completely different view of the city.
Walking along the canals is an amazing experience. You will probably want to stop and take pictures every few feet with the amazing views across the canals. The Flower Market is a floating market on the canals. If you’re there when the flowers are in season, it is amazing. Even if there aren’t a lot of flowers, the market is still a really cool experience, and a great place to look for some little souvenirs.
Vondelpark is a massive and beautiful park in Amsterdam. I really enjoyed riding a bike through the park, but you can walk around it to see enough as well. Dam Square is the main square in Amsterdam, and there are so many shops, small restaurants and coffee places. You can go to Madame Tussaud’s, or if you go to the top of the department store, there are views across Dam Square.
Of course, as I love history, I had to see the Anne Frank House. I seriously suggest going to see this incredible place of historic importance! Walking through the house was an incredible experience that I am so glad to have had. However, I do want to warn you that the lineups can get very long – you can look online to find the best times of day to have a shorter lineup. I believe that we went around lunch time, but the lineup is usually quite long anyways. If you also like history, I didn’t get to check it out but there is the Dutch Resistance Museum as well, which I heard is really interesting.
Amsterdam is a really pretty city, and there is so much to do!
Day trips: Kilkenny; Galway; Wicklow Mountains; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland.
Things to see or do: Trinity College; Kilmainham Gaol; Guinness Storehouse; National Museum of Ireland.
Of course, having lived in Ireland, Dublin was one of my favourite cities. There are many other cities in Ireland that I love as much or more, but Dublin has something for everyone.
Dublin is a great center to get around to different places in Ireland. Although I didn’t take day trips from there, it is easy to drive or hop on a bus to places all over, including Kilkenny or Waterford, Galway, the Wicklow Mountains, or Belfast and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. For the majority of cities, Ireland is easy to travel around by simply taking buses.
In Dublin, there is just as much to do. If you happen to be there during St. Patrick’s Day, be ready for an unforgettable experience! There are parades, parties, and people out wandering the city.
Trinity College is really cool to walk around, and you can pay to go into the library to see the Book of Kells. Just around the corner from the college is the National Museum of Ireland. I absolutely loved wandering this free museum. There are so many artifacts here for Irish history, and you can see the infamous bog bodies – slightly creepy, but incredibly interesting.
Kilmainham Gaol is a jail that is a large part of Irish history – you can tour the jail for a few euros, and see the places where the leaders of the resistance were kept and executed. It is a very interesting experience! And, not far from the jail, is the Guinness Storehouse. Anyone who loves Guinness must visit the storehouse for a really cool beer experience. Not only can you see everything used to make Guinness, but you can pull your own beer to enjoy in the Sky Top bar – with a view of the entire city. I went here twice and would definitely suggest the experience!
And, like any other great city there are gorgeous parks, like St. Stephen’s Green, and many cathedrals and churches, like Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The churches cost money, but you can wander around the parks and see the churches for a free and interesting afternoon.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a trip to Ireland without checking out the pubs. Temple Bar is the most famous, and you can find many bars along the street. However, it is far better to wander a bit out of Temple Bar to find the true gems of the city. A few that I loved were the Porterhouse, the Market, and O’Neill’s near Trinity College. If you want to say that you’ve had a drink in a church, head to The Church – but be warned that it’s a little pricey.
Dublin is an amazing city full of history and culture, and lots of interesting things to do!
As I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t travelled to a lot of places yet, but these are my favourites out of where I have been. I would also suggest checking out Berlin and Cardiff as well, as they are interesting. If you read my blog posts from my trip, you will also know how much I loved Cinque Terre. BUT – for now, these are my top European cities that I have visited, and hopefully this gave a little insight into some things you can do or see in the cities!
May the road rise up to meet ya
Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017
Happy New Year!
Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017.
A brand new year – new adventures and experiences to look forward to. But first – let’s rewind a little.
Sometimes, you don’t even realize how fast life is moving. The rhythm of everyday life seems to take over, and you find yourself in a routine.
I haven’t been able to write recently because I have been stuck in the monotony of the adult routine. Since I graduated university, my life has been a series of days where I wake up, go to work, come home to relax and sleep – only to repeat the process the next day. And sure, there are weekends and evenings. But when you work a second job (as I currently do), there is not a lot of time left to go on adventures. Or even to catch up with friends.
But I have also been quite lucky.
In the brief term between my two contracts, I was able to go on one bigger adventure.
If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat – any of those social media sites – you probably would have seen my barrage of posts from the beautifully captivating Hawaii.
In October, for 10 days, my family went to Waikiki, Hawaii. I have traveled with my family many times throughout my life, but this trip was special. We also traveled with my aunt, my cousin and his wife, and their 2 kids – all of whom had never been before.
It was so cool to experience Hawaii again. I absolutely loved it the first time. In all honesty, I had wanted to go somewhere else this trip, like Mexico or Central America, but I’m so glad it was Hawaii. We had such an amazing time!
From relaxing at the beach, to shopping until we dropped; from luaus and the Polynesian Cultural Center, to waterfalls and hiking volcanic craters; from zip lining in the valley, to doing yoga at the beach. Every experience was made far more interesting and enticing with my awesome family.
We all had such a great time adventuring together. Levi got to do flips all over the island; Madison and I got to hang out as cousins, chilling in floaties on the ocean, shopping, and zip lining. Everyone had such a great trip (except maybe my brother who was sick with the flu for most of the time – but he still made appearances on outings).
Some highlights, you ask? Well, there were too many good adventures, but I will try to limit it to a few amazing moments.
Our day at Kualoa Ranch was definitely a highlight for everyone. Madison and I went on a zip lining adventure in the valley. We hiked, curled up like coconuts to make it down a line, bet ice cream to drop a kakui nut in a bucket, and made it across a suspension bridge with some difficulties. The rest of the family toured the ranch, seeing numerous filming locations for movies, like Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park, King Kong, 50 First Dates, and soooo many others. It is such a cool place and I highly recommend it! On our way back, we even had time to stop at Waimea Falls for Levi to swim.
We spent an entire day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, learning about all of the Polynesian cultures, watching shows, eating amazing food, and seeing a luau. It was a long day, but fun and interesting! Other days – we hiked Diamond Head, an inactive volcanic crater that was used as a base during the wars; we shopped at Ala Moana mall, an expensive outdoor shopping mall; and we toured Pearl Harbor and hit up the flea market at the stadium.
The others went on an excursion to swim with dolphins and the turtles one day, while my family went on an amazing catamaran boat ride along the southern coast of the island another day. We all got to have our amazing adventures and experiences, enjoying the beaches, the views, and the fun.
Funny enough, we were in Hawaii during Canadian Thanksgiving. While my friends ate turkey dinners at a table with their families, my family sat down to a lovely meal at Cheeseburger in Paradise – yes, that was our Thanksgiving dinner, and it was awesome.
It was a truly awesome trip, and I will cherish the memories forever.
Of course, I tried to have other small adventures after that.
Around Halloween, I went with my brother and friends (the twins) to check out a corn maze that had craft beers! Long story short – there was a really long line-up, but the corn maze had fallen over due to a storm. Somehow, we lucked out and were given tickets to get in for free! It was a pretty fun day.
I went on a “date” with my grandpa to see Mary Poppins when my grandma was sick. Funnily enough, a friend of mine from high school was in the show! It was a fantastic show and a great night. Just before Christmas, I went out on a Friday night to stand in the snow for the CP Holiday Train. Even though I couldn’t feel my feet, and feared losing a toe to frostbite, I got to see Dallas Smith (one of my favourite country artists) live for the second time in 2016. It was a great night (I mean, once I gained feeling in my feet again, haha!).
The holidays came quickly, and for me, they were all about relaxing now that I’m working full time. But that didn’t stop me from a little adventure either.
One of my best friends, Brittany, had never been to Victoria. As it is one of my favourite cities, I decided that I wanted to show her around the amazing city!
For those not from the area, you have to take a ferry to get to Victoria, which is on Vancouver Island. As we had an interesting experience with a ferry ride in Ireland, ferries have become kind of a joke in our group of friends. Nonetheless, we had a great trip over and back, enjoying the views from the ferry.
The two days we spent on the island were perfect. I got to show my best friend all my favourite places to grab sandwiches, get a great shot of the Parliament Buildings or Empress, and my favourite pub to grab a pint to finish a great day. Not to forget walking the breakwater and checking out the little town of Sidney before heading out.
And a sort of precursor to something even bigger.
Again, if you follow me on any social media, you will see that I posted some exciting news not so long ago. Brittany and I are going to be backpacking Europe for 2 months this spring!
I couldn’t be any more excited.
Ever since I left Ireland and Europe two years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been two whole years), all I have been thinking about is going back. There are still so many places to explore, cultures to encounter, so much food to try!
As Brittany didn’t get to do the backpacking thing like I did, we are going to a couple places that I have already been to – but I’m ecstatic! The places I am repeating are some of my favourite cities. Plus, we will be going to many more countries and cities that I have never been to before.
But as I plan and prepare for this amazing trip, I have resolved not to neglect this blog again. Although I might try writing some different kinds of posts – more focused on travel itself instead of simply my travels – I want to continue to write about adventures that I take leading up to my trip and during.
Otherwise, look for me on social media, as I am ever-present in one way or another.
So here’s to the adventures that I will seek in 2017, and I hope you all live the adventure, too.
May the road rise up to meet ya.
2015: A Year in Review
Recently, lots of people have been posting pictures and Facebook statuses to express how they felt about this year. So, why not recap how my year has been?
It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions – I am thankful, remorseful, saddened and happy when looking back on 2015.
The beginning of this year brought me some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. I flew to Ireland, ready for adventure and meeting new people. It’s funny – I went with Brittany, someone I had only met twice before taking a 17 hour journey with. And after that, we became best friends. I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life as my friend, former Ireland roommate, and fellow traveller and adventurer. I think the transition was much easier for both of us, experiencing those first freezing cold nights far from home and having someone – even just a little bit familiar – while meeting so many new people.
And thus began probably the best 6 months of my life. Going to school in Ireland was an adventure in itself. 100% finals, classes cancelled all the time, and having classes only the 2 first days of the week. It was an experience I’m glad to have had. The parties and get-togethers are all so memorable, each one sticking out in my mind for specific reasons – like the time I got locked outside on the roof, or the first international students party, or even the very first party we had at our place (the one that security came to).
I had the best time because of the people I met. I am so thankful to have met incredible, smart, amazing friends from around the world. And honestly, there are too many of you to name – but you guys know who you are, and the hilarious and amazing memories that we have.
Of course, it was because of a lot of these amazing friends that I had incredible adventures. Brittany and I were lucky to travel each weekend with great people – going to Kilkenny, Tramore, Dunmore East, Blarney, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Kerry, Wexford, and so many more. As I wrote in posts earlier this year, I was lucky to travel around Ireland on one of my weeks off from school. We went to so many amazing places, including Cahir, Cashel, Limerick, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, and Inis Mor. Guys, even though we had only known each other for a couple weeks, that trip was amazing!
On my second week off, I travelled with Brittany, Bert and Carlos through 5 European cities, before going to Nice by myself. We had a couple bumps in our travels – almost missing trains, getting a little lost, and I got sick with food poisoning – but it was an incredible adventure! I think it was one of the best trips, as we all got along so well and never had disagreements.
Ireland was one of the greatest experiences of my life – I got to fulfill my dreams of travelling to Europe, living abroad, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. But it definitely had its bumps along the way. The first few days were incredibly hard, as I had no internet and no way to contact my family. However, Brittany was amazing and the people there were super helpful. The hardest moment was when I learned that my Gramma had passed away back home. Before I left, she had been in and out of the hospital with a heart attack and health problems. I knew it was a possibility, and I was scared that it would happen – but she always pushed me to go after my dreams. I was lucky to Skype with her a few times before she passed away. It was definitely hard going through this by myself, missing the funeral and being so far away from all of my family. I tried to stay positive, and a few of my friends were incredibly supportive – I think it would have been much harder without you guys being there for me, making sure I was alright, so thank you.
After my semester ended, my brother, Zach, and my long time best friend, Kirstin, came to meet me. We would start our 6 week adventure in Ireland before travelling to 12 countries, 17 cities, and countless famous landmarks and places. This trip had a few more bumps than previous ones, and I had to learn to travel a little differently. It’s interesting how travel changes when you are travelling with people you haven’t known very long, compared to people you have known your entire life. We had so many hilarious moments and adventures, inside jokes from the trip, and we met so many cool people. I was lucky enough to meet up with many of my friends I had met in Ireland, and I got to introduce them to Zach and Kirstin. I am incredibly grateful to have had the adventure, and to have shared it with so many amazing friends, new and old.
When I got home, I was a part of my cousin’s lovely wedding. I was very lucky to be a part of a huge step into her new life with an amazing person. I am so happy for them. And then, my summer was mostly spent outdoors and with friends. I had multiple days of outdoor climbing and hiking, catching up with amazing friends, and trying to keep up with my friends in Europe and their lives.
Unfortunately, another tragedy occurred. My great aunt, the only remaining sibling from my Gramma’s family, passed away. She had been sick for some time, but it was still hard. My mom had been incredibly close to her when she had lived in Arizona, and their relationship had continued. I had been pen pals with my great aunt since I was little and had visited her in Arizona. I loved writing to her, and she was incredibly supportive and proud of everything I was doing. Her and my uncle were amazingly supportive of my travels and aspirations, and I was so thankful.
For the last few months, my life has been crazy with school and my two jobs – working at the rock climbing gym, and writing a blog about study abroad for the international office at UFV. Starting school again was a little stressful, as it was much more work than I had in Ireland. As I wrote in a previous post, I could have taken four courses and finished my degree. Being too stressed, I decided that I would take another semester. BUT – I did take one leap this semester, and wrote a few articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. It was interesting to branch out to something new, and I really enjoyed it. I hope to write more for it this coming semester!
But I still tried to have a full social life, like I had in Ireland. It definitely wasn’t the same, but I had some great adventures. Especially in the past few weeks, having gone to Stanley Park, Vancouver Christmas Market, Victoria, skating, and bowling. I have gotten to catch up with many amazing friends, and to see my family for Christmas. I have even re-connected with some friends from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years, as we all had a common connection of having studied abroad. It was cathartic and amazing to hear their stories, share experiences, and reminisce on the hilarious adventures we all had since graduating high school!
Now, with New Year’s, I am thinking of what I would like to accomplish over the next year. I am excited to spend New Year’s with my family and great friends. I will then enter my final semester of university – both exciting and terrifying. I went straight from high school to university, and have been studying for 5 years. I am excited to have some time off from school. But I am terrified because I have no idea what I want to do – do I want to travel more? Live abroad again? Find a job around Vancouver? What kind of job do I even want?
I have never been one to have a goal or anything for the New Year. I never found them helpful. So I am going to pick broad ones: in 2016, I want to be happy and to find what I want to do. Hopefully this will include some more travels, meeting new people and experiencing new things, and staying in contact with the amazing friends I have now. But for now, I’m going to have a little fun to finish off a great year.
Lastly, though, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has read this blog over the last year. I appreciate your support through my travels and with my attempt to navigate the blogosphere. I apologize that it wasn’t very interesting sometimes – my life does that once in a while – and that I wasn’t very organized with my uploads. I would love to say that 2016 will be different, but there are no guarantees in life. And no matter how hard I try, my everyday life is not always an exciting adventure. But bear with me – I will still be posting on Instagram, Twitter and occasionally Facebook, and I hope to find more opportunities to write articles and blogs online. Thanks for the support and patience, and hopefully for sticking with me in the future!
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I was also excited to try something new this past semester. I wrote two articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. I will put links to the articles here and here, just in case you would like to peruse them. 🙂
Home and Hikes
It’s funny. When you’re young, you don’t realize how quickly things in your life can change. Opinions, situations, events, even people are all subject to the ultimatum of change.
Coming home, I had thought I knew what to expect. After all my time away, I was definitely excited to be stationary again, see all of my friends and family who I had missed for six and a half months. I was interested in sharing my adventures and stories, and many people wanted to hear them. And so, after all my time away, I am safely at home.
I am so lucky to have experienced and seen so many amazing things. I lived in another country, on another continent. I travelled through 12 countries, multiple cities, and have seen many famous sites. I am even more grateful that I met and experienced all of these things with such amazing people.
I already wrote about everyone that I met in Ireland. I am thankful to now have these amazing people in my life, and hopefully we will stay in touch (sorry, it’s a fear of mine). But I know that I will see them again. And then there was my trip with my brother and Kirstin. Of course we had our ups and downs, but we had such a great time. We have so many hilarious stories and memories from the great places we traveled to and the wonderful people we met!
But to be honest, being home is quite different from what I expected.
Everyone has been very kind, asking me questions about my trips and experiences. It has been fun telling my stories and adventures. I think people don’t realize sometimes though, that it is hard to explain exactly how study abroad can change your life when you haven’t experienced it. Sometimes, it feels like people expect me to be the same person, other times they tell me how much they see that I’ve changed. It’s interesting to see different reactions.
And again, being honest, it is hard to come home to the exact same situation you left when you are no longer the same. How could I be the same person after these amazing experiences?
Since being home, I have tried to stay busy. Staying home gives you far too much time to think.
Upon arriving home, my cousin was going to be married – and I was a bridesmaid in the wedding! It was a very nice wedding, and I had a lot of fun. Riding in a limo with my cousins and their friends, taking a million pictures in the ridiculous heat, dancing to great and terrible songs with friends and family, and just having a pretty fun night! It was nice to see two people I have known for so long, completely happy and ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Congrats Brent and Vee, I wish you tons of happiness in your new life and home!
Last week, I tried to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors of my home province! I met up with Brit for a day of hiking in Cypress Provincial Park. We had a great time hiking, catching up. Even though the view was completely covered by clouds and fog, it was a really fun hike! We got to catch a great view on the way down the mountain as well. We went into Vancouver to have dinner and walk along the inlet. It was such a great day!
With one day in between, I went hiking again! This time, I went hiking closer to my home, in Golden Ears Provincial Park. I went with my friend, Christy, who I have been friends with for basically my entire life. It was great to be able to spend so much time outdoors these past two weeks, as I had definitely missed my mountains in the time I was gone.
We had an amazing time catching up, and hiking through our beautiful rain forests and mountains. And the rain forest was in full swing that day, as it was absolutely pouring rain while we hiked. By the end of the day, we were completely soaked through! Of course, this meant a stop at probably one of our favourite food enterprises, the classic Canadian Tim Hortons! I was glad to go back to my Timmies hot chocolate – typically Canadian, right!?
Two other exciting things that have happened: I spent a day outdoor climbing with Christy in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs, and I went to the Imagine Dragons concert. The climbing day was perfect, as my first outdoor day of the season. We got in some great climbs, new ones to both of us, and I scraped up my knuckles like a true climber. (The photos are Christy’s.) The concert was absolutely amazing! Definitely one of the top concerts that I have been to (which are few in numbers…). Christy, Zach and I had a great time, rocking out to the songs and yelling along at the top of our lungs. If you’re a fan of the band, definitely see them in concert!
Work and plans have thankfully kept me busy, and the wonderful technology of today’s century has allowed me to keep in touch with my amazing friends who are now so far away. With one semester left to go in my degree, I know that I will stay quite busy for the upcoming months. After that, who knows! I am constantly asked what I plan to do with my degree and future, but I am still kind of unsure. I have a lot to think about and plan.
Over the next little while, I will stay put in my hometown, working and finishing my degree. Once I’m done, who knows where I’ll be! I definitely hope to have more amazing adventures and travels to be able to write about, hopefully sooner than later. For now, there’s no place like home!
“Actually, the best thing you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
EuroTrip: The Final Stretch Home
Here it is. My final post from my trip, exploring my last adventures in Europe. The story I shall begin with is called “Helltrain,” as named by a few of us who were trapped on this train for many hours.
We boarded a train from Berlin to Amsterdam, excited for the next adventure. We were expecting a six and a half hour journey, our longest train ride yet. We were actually excited, settling in for the long journey. After a couple hours of relaxing, the journey quickly went downhill.
The air conditioning broke in our train car, causing a significant climate change within the very full car. After passing out some free water, we were notified that we should move to another part of the train. So, we crammed into another train car with multiple people – only for that air conditioning to break as well and we were forced to move yet again.
Sitting in a car completely packed with people, we began chatting with some guys sitting and standing near us. Brandon and Levi, who were from Texas. Brandon spoke German and began to translate for us. It was extremely helpful, seen as the people decided that the tourists might not need to understand anything they were saying over the speakers. In short, they told everyone to get off the train. While we were not near our stop. In some random area.
After finding out that we were actually in Rheine, we ventured to find someone who could help us figure out how to get to our final destination of Amsterdam. We hung out with Brandon and Levi, and got new information for which train to get on. We would have to take a train back in the direction we came from in order to catch another train to Amsterdam.
So, taking two more trains with free water, heat, and good conversation, we finally arrived in Amsterdam. What should have taken six and a half hours, turned into a more than ten hour day with a great story. You know, after we survived it and began to create great jokes about it. We left the guys at the station for all of us to find our accommodations.
Our apartment was only a few minutes’ walk from the station, and was also quite close to Dam Square and multiple other places. With a very steep staircase, we got to our room. It was quite nice and comfortable! We loved our location. But to be honest, we were so exhausted that we all had showers and fell asleep early.
The next morning was our first full day in Amsterdam. We got up, had a quick bite to eat, and headed to our first destination: renting bikes! We rented bikes and headed out on our adventure. I was very excited to be doing something so stereotypical and touristy.
I led Zach and Kirstin to Vondelpark, and we rode our bikes around the beautiful park. It took so much less time riding our bikes than when I walked it last time! I was so excited to be in Amsterdam again, as I had loved the city the first time, too.
We continued down to Museumplein, stopping at the iconic ‘iamsterdam’ sign, and looking at the amazing buildings for the museums. We then stopped to wander around the Flower Market before deciding that we were all quite tired from the previous day. So, we went back to the apartment and had a siesta for a bit.
Upon waking up refreshed, we contacted our new friends and decided to meet for dinner. We also invited another new friend, Josue. We had met him in Prague, and had ended up in the same cities since. He brought his brother, Juan, and another friend along. With a big group, we had a great dinner at a kitschy little restaurant and drank some beers. It was fun!
Kirstin and some others wanted to see the Red Light District, so we walked to the other side of the city to see it at night. It is exactly what you would expect – super crowded with drunken people everywhere, red lights and girls, and lots of coffee shops. After wandering through the insane crowds and having a lot of laughs at the ridiculous stag parties, we headed to another area to hang out at a bar. We had some drinks, some laughs, and then laughed even harder when we realized we had forgotten that it was Canada Day. Suffice to say, we did not really celebrate, but it was great fun.
The next day, I got up early and headed to the train station to meet my friend Bert. We hadn’t seen each other in over a month and I was excited! It was crazy to hang out in Amsterdam without our other travel buddies though. 😉
After getting Zach and Kirstin, we went out for brunch to try pannekoeken, Dutch pancakes. I ate one with apples and syrup, and it was delicious! It was a great start to our day. We wandered around Dam Square and saw the Red Light District in the day time. It was kinda gross, just in the way that there was garbage everywhere. We went back to the Flower Market, wandering through and buying souvenirs.
We walked to the other side of the city again – this seems like a common act in Amsterdam – and found a short line for the Anne Frank House. I was ecstatic and made everyone wait in line right away. Usually, the line is longer than 2 hours, but we only had to wait for 45 minutes.
The experience was extremely interesting and moving. I had always wanted to be able to walk through the Anne Frank House. It was amazing. We walked through the various rooms that they hid in, saw multiple artifacts. I was able to see the pictures that Ms. Frank herself had posted on the wall of her shared room, and the numerous versions of her diary in original handwriting. It was amazing to see that these had survived through so many terrible things. It was an incredible experience.
After the Anne Frank House, we grabbed something to eat before beginning some more wandering. Our last adventure of the day was to go on a canal cruise, similar to the one I had taken the previous time in Amsterdam. It was a lot of fun, to see it when the sun was setting. We also learned a lot about Amsterdam and the canals, and I listened to part of it this time – mostly because it was coming from a speaker instead of an older gentleman with a raspy voice. We grabbed a drink and then decided to turn in for the night, as we were all quite tired.
The next morning, we all headed to the train station. We said goodbye to Bert and boarded our train. It was hard to yet again say goodbye to another one of my great friends from Ireland. It was even harder when it became a repeat of saying goodbye to Carlos, and Bert boarded the train on the track beside us. Thanks, Bert, for making the trek to hang out with us for a day. It was a lot of fun!
We got to Sloterdijk station where we would catch our bus. And another snag in our travels occurred. I began to stress out a bit as I couldn’t access our bus tickets electronically on my phone. The bus had not arrived yet (it ended up being quite late), so I could not speak to the bus driver about it either. A kind older gentleman who was working at the station saw that I was stressed. He offered to let me print the tickets from their computer. Fearing for myself a little, I followed him through a few key-activated doors and down a hallway where he set me up at a computer in their break room. I was incredibly thankful for the kindness of allowing me to print the tickets that I had messed up on.
Our bus ride wasn’t too bad, and we arrived in Brussels. Again on familiar turf, I led Zach and Kirstin to the hostel we would be staying in. Which, funnily enough, turned out to be under construction. I guess that was a great culmination of our entire trip. Many sites had been under construction, so it was a little funny when our final hostel was the construction site. Something, probably a roof shingle, even fell from above. It was some great irony for one of the last cities of our trip.
We checked into our hostel, and set out to explore Brussels for our only partial day in the city. I led them to Grand Place, the main square. It was just as pretty as I remembered. Except it was louder this time, with a handball game occurring in the middle of the square. It was entertaining! It was also fun to see if they could pick out the building that is unsymmetrical. We found Mannekin Pis in the rain, ate frites and waffles, bought chocolates, and wandered the great city to see the cathedral and pretty views. It was a lot of fun to hang out in our last city of our travels.
The next day, we caught a train to the airport and got checked in for our flight. Not very long, a little bumpy on landing, and an hour time change later, we were landed back safely in my beautiful Ireland. Kirstin and I walked to pick up my giant suitcase that had been stored at a hotel in Dublin. The man scared me when he began to use his Irish sarcasm to joke that my suitcase was not there. After collecting it and meeting back up with Zach, we caught a bus into Dublin. Kirstin’s dad had been generous enough to use some Honour points to give us a night at the Hilton for the last stay of our trip. It was incredibly nice and we were extremely thankful to be able to stay in a nice room, with comfortable beds, and somewhere that we could print off all the tickets for our flights (plus free hot cookies upon arrival – yum!).
From the hotel, we set out to spend our last night in the city. We walked to Temple Bar, where we picked up a few more souvenirs and ate some delicious burritos at Pablo Picante. We met up with my friend, Raul, to go to a few pubs to finish the trip right. Raul had been living in Dublin and led us easily through the streets and across the Liffey to a really cool pub – The Church. Yes, you read that right. It is a church that was converted into a pub. There is a bar in the middle, and a pipe organ at the back. It was such a cool place to be!
Our next stop was The Porterhouse. Probably one of my favourite pubs that I have ever been to. There was an awesome live band, yet again, and we got to have one last, Irish craft brew on tap. We had a lot of fun before moving on to our last destination, THE Temple Bar.
Somehow, I had not been to The Temple Bar itself, only in the area multiple times. So, for my final Guinness, on tap in Ireland, I went to the most famous pub in Dublin. I was not disappointed, as I found music, a fun atmosphere, and great company to hang out with. My only dislike of the bar: it was all tourists. I think the only Irish person was the guy working the bar that I ordered my pint from.
I said goodbye to Raul and thanked him for spending the last night of our trip with us. It was great to see him before going home! I wish him luck as he stays in Ireland, working and travelling Europe, and safe travels home! We walked back to the hotel and crashed into our amazingly comfortable beds.
The next morning, we caught a bus to the airport. We had to split up, as we were all taking different flights to get to Heathrow to fly home. So, while Zach and Kirstin got dropped off at one terminal, I went to another. We all made it through security and waited for our flights. Zach was first to leave, followed by me, and Kirstin last. My flight was wonderfully comfortable. However, I do have to admit that as I looked out the window and saw the coast of England, I teared up a little, knowing that my trip and time in Ireland were both over.
After a little trouble, Zach and I made it through security in London and set out to find Kirstin. Panicking, as our flight got closer to departure, we headed to the gate to see if she was there. The panic grew as boarding was starting and we couldn’t find her anywhere. Because her phone had broken, we had no way of getting a hold on her. Luckily, the universe was on our side, and she showed up just in time. We boarded the plane and began our journey home… after an hour delay on the runway.
The flight was 9 hours long. Thankfully, there were movies and shows to keep us occupied as we were sitting in different parts of the plane – Zach just behind me, and Kirstin on the opposite side of the plane. The two people I was between were friendly, and we talked for a while, passing the time. I also watched Into the Woods, and tried to watch the final Hobbit movie, but fell asleep merely ten minutes in. In my defense, I was very tired. And oddly enough, the food was pretty good!
We had a great landing, despite the recent forest fires in the area. Thankfully, the airport is close to the coast and the smoke is mostly cleared away there. After quickly finding our bags, it was time to be reunited with our families. There were lots of hugs and hellos, quick anecdotes about the crazy travel day, and I had to get my Tim Hortons Iced Cappuccino before we piled into the car. Despite it technically being far too early in the morning for us in European time, we had to stay awake to adjust our clocks. At home, I unpacked some things and talked to my parents for a bit, before crashing and sleeping for twelve amazing hours.
I have now been home for over a week, and it is definitely weird. I had expected to have culture shock, but perhaps the truth is I am experiencing reverse culture shock. Soon, I will write a post about it.
And there you have it. My entire trip has been put into words for you, in an attempt to document for myself and anyone who might read this. It has definitely been a moving and interesting journey, from living in Ireland to backpacking Europe for the first time. I am incredibly grateful for these amazing experiences and know that they have helped shape who I am now. And I apologize for the multiple references to pubs and alcohols. It’s a different culture towards alcohol in Europe from here.
As for this blog, I plan to continue it in any way that I can. Although my adventures at home may never be as grand as those abroad, I am not going to let that stop me from finding new adventures here. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m excited.
“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” [Pinterest]
Eurotrip: the New and the Old
After a bus for a few hours, we arrived in Prague. Budapest and Vienna had both surprised us, and Prague was destined to do the same. We all knew very little about Prague. I had learned a little through a class about dictatorships, reading a biography in class that had an impact on me. (If you’re into history, it is called Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly. Her story is extremely moving.)
Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect from Prague. It surprised me and quickly topped my list of favourite cities.
The first day, we got in to Prague in the afternoon. We checked into our amazing hostel. It was a 17th century palace that had been converted into a hostel, and is a UNESCO protected site. It was great – the bathroom was huge, and the room was comfortable! Zach wanted to rest, but Kirstin and I decided to explore.
We walked down close to the river and found the Lennon Wall. It was really interesting to see the artwork and graffiti that covers the wall, with most of it relating to the Beatles. There are quotes, song lyrics, drawings and more. It was fun to take pictures in front of! We then stopped at a little market area for some amazing local food. It was a fun area to wander!
After dropping off some food for Zach, we ventured up the large hill to get amazing views of the city. We then tried to find the castle – only to find a lot of construction across the entire front of it. We wandered the grounds, and got to see the outside of the beautiful cathedral. And of course, the views of Prague below were spectacular. We knew that this would be yet another city that we would love.
The next day, we got up to go on a walking tour of the city. We overheard some other people in our hostel discussing how they were all going on the tour as well. We all started talking and went to the tour together. Hector and Sofia were cousins from Mexico, and Denise was studying abroad from Hong Kong.
The walking tour was great – we saw so many different parts of the city! The astronomical clock, the Jewish museum and cemetery, the castle (from afar), statues and buildings. There is so much history within the city. It was made even better by our hilarious Czech guide. We also made another friend on the tour – Jamie from England. We now had a large group of us, and we all decided to hang out after the tour as well.
We all went to the Jewish museum and cemetery. It was extremely interesting. Within one of the buildings, there are all of the names of the Jews who were persecuted in the Holocaust, including their homes, families, and any dates known. Like the multitude of tombstones within the enormous cemetery, it was overwhelming, yet moving. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to walk through and take in all of it.
Being hungry, we ended up at the market that Kirstin and I had eaten at the previous night. We all grabbed various foods, before walking to a park around the corner. We sat in the grass, relaxing and chatting. It was great fun to just hang out with new people, getting to know each other. We decided to keep hanging out.
We found a restaurant to eat at after a lot of indecision. The food was delicious, and the company was great. We had fun hanging out and chatting. After dinner, we decided to venture into a well-known club in Prague – Karlovy Lazne Club. Basically, it is a five-story club with each level being a different kind of music. It was definitely an adventure! We all had a great night, dancing and shouting out old and new songs at the top of our lungs.
We had a little bit of a late start the next morning. We all ended up meeting again to explore more of Prague together. Our first stop was the castle, to see the grounds and the amazing views. We took a ton of pictures and marvelled at the amazing cathedral. Kirstin and I led the others to the Lennon Wall, where we took some amazing pictures and goofed off for a while. We then crossed the river for gelato and exploration of the city. We found a cool candy shop, and stopped in multiple souvenir stores. We just had fun exploring.
Another site we found was the metronome on the edge of the river. It is a massive metronome. I’m not sure if there is really a point to it. But, from the top of the hill it stands on, there is also an amazing view of the city. We had so many great views and pictures in one day, so many memories and moments captured. It was such a great day.
After splitting up for a bit, we reconnected to find the “dancing building” that Kirstin had wanted to see. It is an abstract building that is supposed to look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing. I think we saw it? I’m not too great with the abstract – haha! It started to rain on us, so we decided to take the metro a little more than before. We were going to go out for dinner, but decided instead to make dinner at the hostel. It was fun to relax and hang out before saying goodbye to some great new friends.
The following day, we boarded a train to Berlin. I was very excited for Berlin! There are so many sights to see for someone who loves history. But, our very first day we arrived late. After checking into our hostel and having a short siesta, we had to do some laundry – last laundry stop for the final stretch home! We then turned in early that night.
For our first day in Berlin, I was somehow given the task of picking which sights would be our first stops in Berlin. I was so excited. I decided that we should head to the main area of history. So, we took the S-Bahn train to Brandenburg Gate, where we saw the gate and the Reichstag itself. I wish we could have gone into the Reichstag! But it was great to see it from the outside even, as I was able to see something I had studied and heard about for so long. If you do not know, the top of the Reichstag is a glass dome, symbolizing the openness of the past and current government – that there are no secrets, everything is out in the open. It basically represents the opposite of the past regimes of Germany.
Our next stop was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Personally, pictures had never done this monument justice, and I do not believe they can. The feeling of standing within these variously sized cement blocks is indescribable – to go from blocks that look like benches to being dwarfed by the height of your surroundings, feeling trapped. It is truly amazing and humbling.
We also found the memorial to the murdered homosexuals and gypsies. It is so important to remember that Jews were not the only people persecuted in the Holocaust, there were so many others who were singled out because of one aspect of who they were. We walked to the site of the Fuhrerbunker, and wandered Tiergarten to find the monument to the Russian soldiers. We found a mall and ended up in a square where a small section of the wall remains as a memory.
I then was able to visit the Topography of Terror, an outdoor museum that I had heard of from a history professor. Along a piece of the wall and remains of buildings used by the Gestapo and SS (secret police forces), history, pictures, and propaganda are displayed for people to learn the truth of the events which occurred with the city of Berlin and all of Germany itself. We also saw Checkpoint Charlie, one of the remaining checkpoints for crossing between East and West Berlin. Before turning in, after a long day of exploring, we stopped for “currywurst” and walked to the TV Tower.
For our second day in Berlin, we ended up splitting up. Zach and I headed out of the center of Berlin to a surrounding area while Kirstin stayed in the city. Zach and I wanted to have the full history experience, so we left the main city center to visit the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. It was a moving experience that I am grateful for. We saw the barracks where the people were held, the memorial to those who died, the remains of the buildings, and the pit where many were executed. This camp was also used during the Communist regime, as a ‘special camp’ for prisoners of the SS. It was an incredible experience for someone who has studied these events and places for so long.
For our final day, we walked the entirety of the East Side Gallery – the longest section of the Berlin Wall that remains. The artwork was amazing. I wondered how old some of it was, and I was sad to see that others had put graffiti overtop of it. The history was amazing. We also wandered across a bridge to see the Molecule Man. I’m still not entirely sure what it is or what the point was, but apparently it was on a list of things we should see in Berlin.
We basically just wandered the city after that before doing a little shopping and meeting some friends for drinks. We had made some friends in Prague – two French girls and Josue from the USA. We had a night out at the Hard Rock Cafe, after finding it in so many cities for Zach to collect souvenirs. We had a great night!
The next morning was the start of a long day. I think I will leave that for the next post though, as it will probably be a long story.
Ich ben ein Berliner! 😉