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
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. 🙂
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]
Epic EuroTrip: The Isles
With the end of one adventure, comes the beginning of another. My brother, Zach, and friend, Kirstin, arrived from Canada for us to set out on an epic adventure of travelling Europe as best we can. First stop: I want to show them a little bit of Ireland. So, after having shown them around Waterford for a day, we headed on a bus to Galway.
We wandered the city, exploring the various spots that I knew of but had not seen. We went inside of Galway Cathedral, marveling at its beauty and learning a little history. The cathedral was built on the grounds of the old jail, bought for a minimal amount even for that time. We also walked through the Spanish Arch and into the Galway Museum. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love museums! So I was excited to check this one out.
Walking through the museum was interesting – the beginnings of Ireland are highlighted, and there are artifacts from thousands of years ago found by archaeologists around Galway and in the River Corrib. It was really interesting to look at the artifacts and see if they had come from places I knew. One part talked about Dun Aengus, the fort that I had been to on Inis Mor of the Aran Islands. For me, though, the most interesting was the exhibit on Ireland and Galway’s part in World War I. I had not realized that they had played such a large part in it, from thousands of volunteers going to the front to their deaths, to a very brave leader who died in a gruesome battle. The exhibit was done extremely well, with stories of people on one side corresponding to an outline of events on the opposite side of the room. I really liked it. We couldn’t finish the museum though, as it closed. So we quickly took some shots out the third floor window of the River Corrib and the views beyond.
We wandered and found a small place to eat for an Irish dinner. The rest of the night was just walking around or relaxing at the hostel. I think we are all a little tired, which does not bode well for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, some nights we will hopefully sleep better than others.
On Zach’s birthday, we had booked a day at the Cliffs on a tour, even though the weather did not look too promising. We were hopeful that it might turn into a better day. The tour was different from the one I took last time – including the weather. It rained and the wind was insane! It was so foggy that we couldn’t even see the cliffs. But, despite the wind blowing us over, it did afford us a view of the cliffs for a short time.
May 28 – after a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived in Dublin. After Zach and I grabbed a quick burrito, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’). There was so much history, it was really interesting! We then learned to pour our own Guinness at the Storehouse, my second time through. It was super cool to get to pour my own though, especially having lived in Ireland and drinking it on tap. 😉 We hung out at the hostel before heading to The Porterhouse, a pub I knew from St. Patrick’s Day. We enjoyed some beers and live music before turning in for the night.
The next morning, we took a walking tour of Dublin to see some of the sights. It was a ton of history packed into a short session. I had already heard a lot of it over the months, but was still overwhelmed by the enormity of everything Ireland had gone through.
After the tour, we headed to the Museum of History and Archaeology- mostly because they had the bog bodies that I had been hearing about for months. Basically, Ireland is known for its bog lands, and years ago, archaeologists began to find things in these bogs from centuries ago. With the acidity of the bogs, many things are well preserved. We got ice cream, and then wandered around St. Stephen’s Green and Dublin. We had some problems finding transport out to the hotel we were switching to for the night.
The next day, May 30, we left Ireland. It was super bittersweet for me, leaving a country that I had loved to call home for 5 months but embarking on an exciting adventure around Europe with awesome people. I took in the sights from the airplane window as we flew to Bristol. We were staying with Kirstin’s friend, Bailey. Bailey was really awesome, and we were very appreciative of her letting us stay in her tiny, British flat. It was a lot of people in a small flat, but it was so nice to be right in the city. We wandered the city that afternoon, cooked dinner together, and went out for the evening.
We ventured to take a train the following day to Cardiff. It was cool to add one more country to our list of many, and it was possible with only a day trip. Kirstin and Bailey went to the Doctor Who museum, the main reason that we had headed to Cardiff. Zach and I decided to tag along to the city, but we decided to explore instead. It was a great day!
Zach and I found Cardiff Castle and Bute Park, where we walked and sat, just chatting and enjoying our time catching up. We wandered the streets of Cardiff, down cute passageways called galleries. These galleries had really cute cafes and shops, and were all over. I absolutely loved them and took far too many pictures! We met up with the girls after, grabbed some dinner, and then headed back for a night in flat.
Our last day in Bristol was specifically for exploring the city itself. Bailey had an exam, so we ventured to explore on our own. We went to St. Nicholas’ Market, where we wandered through the little stalls and we found Zac’s Café where we had a full English breakfast – it was delicious. We tried to find some street art, but ended up in an area that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in, so we went back. Kirstin and I went into Bristol Cathedral – it was beautiful! We went to the Boston Tea Party café for some hot drinks on a cold day before meeting Bailey.
Bailey took us up a tower in Brandon Hill Park, and despite the wind being like that at the Cliffs of Moher, the views were spectacular. You could see all of Bristol, including Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the weather, we had decided not to walk all the way there. That evening, we went out for traditional fish ‘n chips, and tried to organize the next parts of our trip.
An early morning the next day had us on a bus to London. Our hostel was quite far from the main area of the city, but we made it work! We settled our stuff in and headed out, making our first stop at Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and then walking along the Thames. We took a ton of silly pictures with the lions and telephone boxes before seeing Big Ben and the London Eye.
I think the funniest part of the day was when we ended up at The Maple Leaf, a Canadian bar in Covent Garden, for dinner. It was great! We wandered Covent Market before heading back to the hostel for an earlier night.
June 3, the next day, was pretty grand. We ended up going through the British Museum after we eventually found it. I ended up seeing a lot of the same things, but museums never get old for me. I loved exploring the centuries of history stored within its walls.
My parents had arrived in London that day, so while we waited to hear from them, we wandered through the city. After getting a phone call from them, we went to Hyde Park to kill a little time. Except we couldn’t exactly find it. We ended up in a really ‘posh’ part of London, and accidentally found Churchill’s old house! We walked through Hyde Park and saw Kensington Palace from afar, before walking a long ways to see Buckingham Palace.
We had walked almost to Trafalgar Square, a long trek, before we heard from my parents. Without wifi everywhere, it is very hard when you don’t have international phone plans. We ended up meeting them near their hotel at the other end of London, and going out for a nice dinner. It was really great to see them for the first time in 5 months.
We had to check out of our hostel the next morning, so we completely packed up and brought our giant bags with us into London. We stored them for the day at the train station before heading out to meet my parents for a day around London. We sort of went separate ways for part of the day: Kirstin and I would explore while Zach went on the London Eye with mom and dad.
Kirstin and I headed across London via tube to Tower Hill. We wandered around and crossed Tower Bridge to the other side of the Thames, where we had a great view for some lunch. We walked along to the Globe Theatre, where we both decided to recite our best attempts at Shakespeare monologues. It was quite fun. We did a lot more walking when we headed down to the London Eye and made our way towards the Imperial War Museum, the meeting point with my family.
This museum was somewhere that I really wanted to go. It was actually on my bucket list to see it – and I wasn’t able to last time I was in London. I had enough time to wander through two exhibits: the First World War and the Holocaust. The exhibitions were absolutely brilliant! They had so many primary texts, quotes, footage and so much more. It was amazing. I was in museum-heaven.
We hopped on a double-decker bus into the city, and had dinner at Nando’s. I had wanted to try it, as they were everywhere in London. We then went to see the Thames and views lit up at night. It was beautiful and I seriously love London.
The next part of the trip got a little bumpy when we took our bus to Paris. It was an overnight bus and involved us taking a ferry – meaning we were woken up to provide our passports and board the ferry itself. Needless to say, we did not get a lot of sleep, and Paris started off very interesting.
But I’ll save that for another post.
With wifi being difficult sometimes, it’s hard to say how often I’ll be able to update my blog posts. However, I am posting short summaries with pictures on Instagram each day. Those are being shared on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Signing off for now,
Goodbyes are always hard. But a place is only as good as the people in it.
Well, my time in Waterford has come to an end. I won’t be living in Ireland anymore, within walking distance of all my friends and everything else. No more Irish wind or crazy Irish weather. (Except for when it follows me to other cities and countries.)
These months have flown by, but I think that’s a good thing. Talking to some friends, we agreed that we were busy and (almost) always having a great time. I had so many amazing experiences and I now have memories to last me a lifetime. Not only have I lived halfway across the world from my home, but I have travelled a country as best I could and have even ventured into Europe for my first time.
I have seen castles, cliffs, ancient forts, big and small cities, towns, national parks, amazing coastlines, and famous views and areas. I experienced Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, and the sea of green which consumes it in madness. I’ve tried typical Irish food and have now come to love beer. I spent my birthday away from home for the first time, surrounded by new friends. I travelled to cities in Ireland with people I had known for merely a few weeks.
I experienced the actual European continent for the first time with great friends. I couldn’t have asked for better trip mates or a better trip. We have so many great laughs and memories from that trip, even with the ups and downs of travelling. But, in my opinion, we really grew closer from that adventure and the experiences. I hope to stay in contact and see all of you again very soon.
Of course, my roommate and friend from home definitely helped make things smoother and easier. I can’t imagine how either of us would have survived without the other. There’s always that worry when you are going to be living or travelling with someone you don’t know very well – but we clicked right from the beginning. And I’m so grateful for all of our laughs and talks and walks and trips and 1am too-tired-to-think-so-it-just-becomes-laughing nights. I’m excited for more trips and memories.
Already, I happily look back through my journal and pictures to see the many memories and friends I have made. I am the luckiest person to have met these wonderful people, and to have had such amazing experiences. I cannot even begin to describe in words the positive effects this has had on my life. I learned to live on my own, and deal with whatever comes. It was definitely a learning and growing experience not having any kind of safety net nearby. I was able to discover who I truly am and who I want to be. It was a necessary step towards figuring out what I truly want from life – happiness.
I know it might sound odd to some people, but these past 5 months were truly some of the happiest and most memorable of my life. I was able to gain so much from the experience. I was surrounded by different people and cultures who truly affected me, and people who inspired me to examine myself and my life. I had some serious conversations with some people, sharing life stories in a non-judgmental atmosphere, while the majority of time was just experiencing life, new things, and having fun.
So many people asked me “Why Ireland?” and I never had an easy answer. I think after this experience, I can easily say the cheesiest thing that comes to mind: Ireland actually picked me. Ireland and its quirky ways seemed to be exactly what I needed in my life. I didn’t feel stressed at school, I was going out and doing new things constantly – it was a contrast from my life at home. And I loved it. I really hope I don’t lose any of the things Ireland gave me, but I guess it’s an excuse to visit Ireland frequently to maintain them.
To all my fellow international/ERASMUS students from Waterford, it was a pleasure getting to know you and living this adventure with you! I am thankful for the laughs, the parties, the crazy adventures, and the amazing friendships which have formed from this experience. I wish all of you luck in your futures, and cannot wait to see you again – weather it’s in Canada or your home countries, or maybe even Ireland again!
I honestly don’t think there is anything else I can say, but a certain quote comes to mind that completely sums up my mindset at the close of this adventure:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
May the road rise up to meet ya
P.S. – sorry for the very late posts – wifi while travelling Europe can be a tricky situation sometimes.
The Last of Irish Travels
Okay, so I’ve been pretty busy again. Let me mention some noteworthy things that happened a little bit ago, and then I’ll move on to my trips the past week.
– First, I started climbing at a new, local gym a couple months ago, and got to know the people working there. It was small and a fun atmosphere. On May 11, they were having a fundraiser for Nepal. The goal was to climb 8848 meters, the height of Everest – except with everyone donating and contributing laps on the wall. So, I made my donation and for my day of climbing, I did 50 laps to help Nepal (I climbed 350m total). All proceeds went to the Himalayan Stove Project, and the fundraiser was a great success! (The gym is Activate Waterford.)
– Technically, I was still finishing up school. I had my last exam on Wednesday the 13th. It felt great to get it over with, as that was the final I was most stressed about. It feels weird, however, that my semester is officially over.
– That afternoon, to celebrate, Brit and I went to city centre for some fun, before we met some of the others to do a mini pub crawl. We went to some of our favourite pubs, and tried a few new ones. It was great craic! Later we met up with ‘everyone’ as a sort of goodbye party. There have been a lot of goodbyes the past week, and they have been really hard for everyone. Who knew that you could grow so close in just a few months!?
Alright, now you’re caught up.
On May 15th, Brittany and I set out on a mini-trip to check out another area of Ireland we wanted to see. So, we left the Republic and headed to Northern Ireland to spend 2 days in Belfast. It still amazes me that we can take 2 buses, travelling for 4 hours, and cross an entire country, into another. As we all know, 4 hours would not even get you out of British Columbia…
We took a tour with a black taxi cab. It’s a historical and political tour of the city, and although it is a whirlwind of information, it is fascinating! The history is so tumultuous, from the conflicts and divisions, to the acts of violence which were common until merely 7 years ago. You can still feel the instability in some parts of the city. We went around the city seeing murals, memorials, Catholic & Protestant neighbourhoods, and the peace wall. It was truly interesting, and made me curious to know more about Irish history.
Our driver dropped us off at a great place for dinner, and after eating, we wandered the city a little. We found Queen’s University, which we agreed looked like something from Harry Potter, and we quickly walked through the Botanic gardens before they closed.
The next day was the one we most looked forward to – a tour to Giant’s Causeway! Not only did we get to see the natural phenomenon, we also went to Bushmills Distillery for a pit stop, and saw Dunluce Castle from afar. The winds that day were insane, but we were pretty lucky weather-wise. Giant’s Causeway was not what we had expected, but amazing nonetheless. It is seriously busy with tours and tourists, but we had fun walking around and taking pictures, even hiking a trail to get a view from the cliffs above.
Before the tour ended, we stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, where you can cross to a tiny island that used to be used for fishing. Apparently, the fishermen didn’t have to pay taxes on what they caught there – but they had to lug the fish out of the water and across the bridge. To finish off our trip, we went to the infamous Crown Bar for a pint. Belfast was super interesting and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to see it, even for a couple days.
Coming back to Waterford, there were more goodbyes and parties. Again, it was really hard to say goodbye to people we had grown close to over the past few months.
Lastly, was the trip I just came back from – Brittany and I went to Killarney for a few days. It was more bus rides, and 4 hours (again) to get there, but it brought us to the southwest of Ireland, a part we had yet to see. The bus ride into the city was beautiful, and the town of Killarney itself was cute – like a mix between Waterford and the town of Kilkenny. We took a short walk through Killarney National Park, as it began to pour rain on us, and looked around town before heading to the hostel to make dinner. We ended up sharing a room with 2 girls from Alberta – a whole room of Canadians, eh?
On Tuesday, we got up for what we had been looking forward to – a tour. We found out we would be touring the Dingle Peninsula that day, the Ring of Kerry the next. Weather-wise, we had wanted it the other way around, but it actually worked quite well! It didn’t rain on us either day and we were afforded spectacular views (of course).
The Dingle Peninsula Tour took us to so many amazing places. First stop: Inch Beach. The sun was shining and the views were spectacular as you looked down the far-stretching beach. The tide was out, so you could walk pretty far too. It was a great first stop. We made multiple other stops along the way at viewpoints overlooking beautiful beaches, the ocean, castle ruins, hillsides, the Blasket Islands, and we walked to the smallest church in Ireland. It was so adorably small!
Part way through the day, we stopped at the town of Dingle. It was a place I had really wanted to go, and I was ecstatic to have some time to spend there! We wandered through shops and along the harbor, taking pictures. We got ice cream from Murphy’s, an amazing place! I had Irish coffee ice cream (yes, it had Jameson whiskey in it), and chocolate. We continued our walk and took pictures with the statue of the famous dolphin – Fungie!
Back in Killarney, we went for a walk to Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, as the sun was still shining and it was a gorgeous day out. To finish off the night, we had a quick pint at a little pub, where I got to try a beer brewed locally in Dingle. I’m loving trying new beers now, trying to find new ones I like, and trying local ones whenever I can. Thanks to the guys for making me try new beers all the time – now I find them on my own!
Wednesday led us to our tour of the Ring of Kerry. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to see on this tour other than the landscapes of Ireland from a bus. I actually had no idea what the Ring of Kerry was. Anyways, the tour started off slow and was sort of a letdown in the beginning after we had just experienced the stunning Dingle Peninsula. The first stop was just a viewpoint of the peninsula from the opposite side of the valley, and the second stop was a tourist trap – pay to watch a mini show. We opted out and had lunch instead. Only to find that the next stop was at a single place for lunch. We walked a little to get a better view of castle ruins far down in the valley – apparently a filming site for a movie I love, Leap Year!
Then it only got better. The sights became even prettier as we ventured further into the valley and weaved through the mountains. We made multiple stops at viewpoints, including Ladies’ View, where the Queen (I don’t remember which one) saw the mountains and lakes of Killarney. It was beautiful.
After the tour, we decided to wander Killarney National Park since it had become such an amazing day. We ended up finding an open field and taking tons of pictures of the amazing views: fields, mountains, lakes, and just nature. And deer. Weirdly, I became obsessed with the fact that there was technically no proper fence up, and there was a massive herd of deer in the center of the area we were walking. And I became fascinated watching them as they attempted to ‘escape’ their enclosure – literally just stepping over the fallen fence. But one deer left and multiple others followed. And I got to fulfill a wish of mine for Ireland: walking through a wide open field. It probably wasn’t illegally trespassing, as I’m pretty sure it was somehow part of the park…
To end off a great day, we had dinner at a restaurant called Failte, the Irish word for ‘welcome.’ It was great! But the best was yet to come – we walked around the corner to The Shire, a Lord of the Rings themed pub. Yes, it was amazing! We walked into Mordor, and I ordered a tankard of Gandalf’s Ale. We met some Americans, listened to live music, and had a great night!
I’m so glad that we got to have these last trips to explore the other areas of Ireland. It’s such a beautiful country, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to travel around it in my time here. I cannot wait to come back to explore some more.
This weekend, I get to see some familiar faces – my brother, and friend Kirstin are coming to Ireland so we can begin our epic European adventure. The 3 of us, one month, 11 countries, 17 cities, friends along the way, and multiple stories. It’s going to be legen- wait for it -dary. Legendary. 😉
Now, I had to say some more goodbyes the other day, and many more are coming. I am going to save these for one post – when I leave Ireland. So get ready guys, it’ll be a sad one.
“Travelling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Hoeg
May the road rise up to meet ya
P.S. – Sorry for the lack of pictures of Belfast… I actually lost all of the pictures from that trip from my camera. And my videos. I’m super bummed about it. But at least I had pictures from my phone and the memories!