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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Top Cities to See in Europe

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

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!


London, England

The London Eye. No caption needed.

The London Eye. No caption needed.

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!

View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

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.


The views from Parc Guell were amazing.

The views from Parc Guell were amazing.

Barcelona, Spain

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!

I absolutely loved this market - the sights and food were amazing!

I absolutely loved this market – the sights and food were amazing!

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.


Chain Bridge in Budapest. So pretty! (I love this picture)

Chain Bridge in Budapest. So pretty! (I love this picture)

Budapest, Hungary

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 Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

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.

The amazing views from the castle grounds in Prague. I fell in love with this city the first night I was there.

The amazing views from the castle grounds in Prague. I fell in love with this city the first night I was there.

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.

The large metronome in Prague. And an electrical line with shoes. It was cool!

The large metronome in Prague. And an electrical line with shoes. It was cool!

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!


Chilling on the 'm' of Amsterdam, one of our last stops. Love that we got a pic of all of us!

Chilling on the ‘m’ of Amsterdam, one of our last stops. Love that we got a pic of all of us!

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.

The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.

The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.

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!


The infamous Temple Bar of Dublin on St. Paddy's.

The infamous Temple Bar of Dublin on St. Paddy’s.

Dublin, Ireland

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 (jail) in Dublin - so full of history!

Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin – so full of history!

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!


There weren't a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can't get more Dutch than that...

There weren’t a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can’t get more Dutch than that…

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

From

JH

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).

Exploring Waterford - JulieHuff.com

Brittany and I wandering Waterford

Standing on the edge of the Cliffs with my amazing friends - too many incredible memories!

Standing on the edge of the Cliffs with my amazing friends – too many incredible memories!

At The Dome! Awesome live music and people. (photo cred: Bert)

At The Dome! Awesome live music and people. (photo cred: Bert)

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

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.

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous - & provided great entertainment!

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous – & provided great entertainment!

Our adventure group for the trip to Montserrat. It was so much fun hanging out with all these guys!

Our adventure group for the trip to Montserrat. It was so much fun hanging out with all these guys!

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Our new friends in Prague! Had so much fun hanging out those days with you guys. Great to meet you!

Our new friends in Prague! Had so much fun hanging out those days with you guys. Great to meet you!

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!

Annual Grey Cup party with the Waterbabies! (Or #WaterBaybees). Missing a few, but an awesome time.

Annual Grey Cup party with the Waterbabies! (Or #WaterBaybees). Missing a few, but an awesome time.

Vancouver Christmas Market with Brit!

Vancouver Christmas Market with Brit!

Stanley Park Bright Nights was amazing. Excited to go back for the Christmas train!

Stanley Park Bright Nights was amazing. Excited to go back for the Christmas train!

The beautiful Christmas lights in Stanley Park. An amazing night.

The beautiful Christmas lights in Stanley Park. An amazing night.

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.

On the ferry to Victoria, we had a nice get away as a family just before Christmas.

On the ferry to Victoria, we had a nice get away as a family just before Christmas.

Braving the cold on the ferry for some fun with my dad!

Braving the cold on the ferry for some fun with my dad!

The Parliament buildings lit up - probably one of my favourite things about Victoria.

The Parliament buildings lit up – probably one of my favourite things about Victoria.

I went skating for the first time in 4 years! Definitely had a great time, and almost got knocked over.

I went skating for the first time in 4 years! Definitely had a great time, and almost got knocked over. Loved skating with my goddaughter!

It's always a great night with these guys! Evidence that siblings can all get along - and that we all kinda suck at bowling.

It’s always a great night with these guys! Evidence that siblings can all get along – and that we all kinda suck at bowling.

Love my goofy family. Would've made a great Christmas card. ;)

Love my goofy family. Would’ve made a great Christmas card. 😉

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.

From

JH

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. 🙂

Epic EuroTrip: Bonjour and Adios

My last post had us on a bus through the night from London to Paris. Well, that was an adventure in itself.

We had thought that the bus would just take us straight there through the night. Unbeknownst to us, we actually had to get up twice on the bus ride. Apparently, you cannot just “sleep” straight through. You have to have a passport check, and then get off the bus for the two hour ferry ride. Needless to say, there were some tired faces and exhausted bodies wandering off the bus the next morning to say ‘bonjour’ to Paris.

We had booked an apartment outside of Paris through AirBNB, and so after walking for quite some time, we found the quaint apartment. The woman was so nice, and the place was adorable. After a long siesta, we went into the city and wandered the Louvre for the night. Because it was Friday night, youth could enter for free! And it being Europe, twenty-somethings are still considered youth…

It was interesting to wander the Louvre again. This time, I tried to see some new things. Zach immediately led us to see the Venus de Milo, something I had somehow overlooked last time. And we of course ventured to find the Mona Lisa. I feel like you could go through the Louvre for hours and still not see everything. I’ve been there twice now, and I still haven’t seen a large amount of the enormous collection. I mean, that’s probably because I often get side-tracked looking at the architecture, beautiful ceilings, or amazing views out the windows. All of it is just as good as the artwork, in my opinion.

After the Louvre, we walked around Paris for a little bit. We crossed what used to be the Love Lock Bridge. Now, it is no more. There are merely boards with artwork depicting locks and keys in various and creative ways. It is crazy to think that merely two months before, I walked the same bridge – yet it looked completely different. It scared me a little, as it showed how much can change in such a short period of time.

 
The Louvre with a very dark sky with a very dark sky behind it.

The Louvre with a very dark sky behind it.

 
Selfie with the Mona Lisa

Selfie with the Mona Lisa

 
This is all the remains of the Love Lock Bridge, artwork.

This is all the remains of the Love Lock Bridge, artwork.

 

We wandered along the Seine and ended up in front of Notre Dame. It was pretty late, so the cathedral was closed. But it looked beautiful. We were all pretty tired, so we took the metro back to our little apartment to get some sleep for the next day.

The next morning, it was really hard to get up. But when we did, Kirstin had made eggs for all of us mixed with some peppers. It was delicious. We set out on the metro to see some more sights of Paris. We got some food and ate sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower, feeling pretty cool and like typical tourists with our baguette. Then we stood in line to go up the tower.

We climbed a lot of steps. And I mean a lot. I can’t tell you how many exactly, but it was a lot. Basically, we walked up the steps to the first floor, where we looked around at the amazing views of all of Paris. Then we climbed more stairs to the second level. The view was spectacular! You could even see Sacre Coeur in the distance. It was a little smoggy, but the city looked amazing from up that high. I took a lot of pictures.

 
Posin in front of the Eiffel Tower

Posin in front of the Eiffel Tower

 
Up the Eiffel Tower, such a cool experience.

Up the Eiffel Tower, such a cool experience.

 
 
The Eiffel Tower. For the French Open, there was a giant tennis ball hanging from the center.

The Eiffel Tower. For the French Open, there was a giant tennis ball hanging from the center.

It turned into a really touristy day when we went to the Arc de Triomphe next. We walked underneath it to see the memorial, and then wandered along the Champs Elysees. Last time I walked it, it was late at night and I was crazy tired. It was nice to actually look around and see it this time. We hopped back on the metro and headed to see Sacre Coeur. We didn’t really think it through – to get up to Sacre Coeur, there are a lot of stairs. So we climbed more stairs. Needless to say, our legs were pretty tired by the end and a little sore the next day. Word to the wise: don’t do both the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur in one day…

We were again the typical tourists when we wandered the painter’s market and then grabbed some amazing crepes. Last time Zach came to Paris a few years ago, they actually stayed at Sacre Coeur – so, basically, he knew some great crepe places! I definitely ate a banana and Nutella crepe. We bought some groceries and headed back for a relaxing night of cooking and hanging out in our cozy apartment.

On June 7, we got up, caught the metro, and then went to the train station to head to Versailles. I had not gotten to see it last time, so I was quite excited to visit it now. We had to wait in an extremely long line-up to be able to buy tickets to go. We opted for the cheaper version: only going through the gardens and not the palace.
The gardens were beautiful! The palace is ornate with gold trimmings, and the garden reflected the elegance in a more natural realm. There were a lot of trees and some flowers. Most of it was set up as a maze. We had been told that we should see the fountain show that would come on at 3pm. We were a little disappointed when this “show” turned out to be just the fountains being turned on. It was great to see them on, but it should not be called a show.

 
The gardens of Versailles. Not sure what faces these guys are doing...?

The gardens of Versailles. Not sure what faces these guys are doing…?

 
The fountains of Versailles and the waters beyond.

The fountains of Versailles and the waters beyond.

 
 
The Palace of Versailles - amazing! It was even better when the fountains turned on.

The Palace of Versailles – amazing! It was even better when the fountains turned on.

We had dinner at a cute restaurant in Paris, Le Petit Cler. The food and wine was delicious! We went to a patisserie after for some sweets before wandering Paris at dusk. We waited until it got a little darker so that Kirstin could see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Unfortunately, we were all really tired after a long day, and the wind was blowing colder, so we didn’t stay out late to see it sparkle.

Our last day in Paris was a ‘do-what-you-want’ kind of day. Basically, Zach and I ventured to find a café from a movie I had recently watched, a movie that Carlos had recommended to me. There are three movies: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. It’s about a man and woman who meet on a train and spend one night wandering a city. I actually loved the movies. In the second one, they are in Paris. I couldn’t find the café, but I was able to find somewhere I had wanted to see anyways: Shakespeare and Company bookstore. It was amazing! I was so excited to finally see a place I had always wanted to visit.

 
The Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris. Beautiful.

The Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris. Beautiful.

 
 
The tea shop in Paris was so quaint and nice. Everyone should go here!

The tea shop in Paris was so quaint and nice. Everyone should go here!

The Eiffel Tower at dusk is amazing. I would argue it's just as pretty as at night.

The Eiffel Tower at dusk is amazing. I would argue it’s just as pretty as at night.

 

We went to meet Kirstin at a tea shop, one that my friend’s parents own. My friend, Emilie, couldn’t make it to meet us, but her parents were so kind! They were very welcoming and told us about many things we should see in Paris for our last day. I bought some tea from their shop that I cannot wait to try. We wandered some shops, went to the top of a department store for an amazing view of Paris, and headed back to our apartment for some dinner. Paris was definitely different for me this time, giving me a completely different view.

We ended up having a stressful evening when we realized we had no way to get to the airport. Basically, we had to call a cab to take us to the bus station since the metro wasn’t running early enough. So flash forward to a 5am wake-up call, a taxi ride, bus ride, and a flight later until we were finally in Barcelona! We had to take a train and the metro to be able to get to our hostel – basically we took almost all kinds of transportation in one day. I was very excited to be surrounded by Spanish and to start using my minimal knowledge of the language.

 
Walking the harbour on our first evening in Barcelona.

Walking the harbour on our first evening in Barcelona.

 
The Barcelona harbour was actually quite pretty - and there were so many boats!

The Barcelona harbour was actually quite pretty – and there were so many boats!

 

We hung out at the hostel, checked in, found some free food in the kitchen, and then I took a siesta. It had been a long day, and I ended up starting properly in Spain. We then decided that we would walk around for a little while, get a feel of the city. We saw our first glimpse of Gaudi with Palau Guell, walked part of La Rambla, and then strolled along the harbor before grabbing some food.

June 10 was the first of a few great days in Spain. We got up and went straight to La Sagrada Familia. I was super excited, as it was the one place I really wanted to visit in Barcelona. The church was like nothing I had ever seen before – the towers and architecture are so unique, with intricate details and special designs. We wandered the outside and sat inside, marveling at the beauty. And waiting until our time to go up the tower.

 
 
At the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. So beautiful and amazing!

At the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. So beautiful and amazing!

The inside of the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi designed it to be like a forest inside, and it definitely feels like a beautiful forest.

The inside of the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi designed it to be like a forest inside, and it definitely feels like a beautiful forest.

 
 
Selfies in La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Amazing. Looked like a forest.

Selfies in La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Amazing. Looked like a forest.

Yes, we climbed up one of the towers of La Sagrada Familia. We rode in an elevator to the top of the Nativity Tower, and stopped to take in the amazing views as we climbed the stairs down. You could see all of Barcelona, from the hills to the sea. And I was in love with it already.

We decided to head to Parc Guell next, making it a Gaudi day. It was also one of the only other things that was far outside the city. After a lot of escalators and stairs, we finally made it to the top. Again, we had amazing views of the entire city. We didn’t want to pay to enter the other parts of the park, so we wandered around the free areas and died in the afternoon sun. We had lunch before climbing all the stairs to the bottom of the hill.

 
 
Beautiful Parc Guell in Barcelona. So many escalators, but amazing views.

Beautiful Parc Guell in Barcelona. So many escalators, but amazing views.

The views from Parc Guell were amazing.

The views from Parc Guell were amazing.

 

On our way back through Barcelona to the hostel, we decided to stop at a Gaudi House, La Pedrera, as we would pass right by it anyways. We walked the rest of the way back to the hostel, even seeing another Gaudi work along the way, and we got to walk all of La Rambla. We relaxed at the hostel for a bit, with Kirstin and I drinking sangria and all of us making new friends. We went for tapas, a Spanish food. Basically, it is small-ish foods that you eat while drinking late at night. It works slightly different in the various regions of Spain, but it was delicious!

The next day was the one I had most been looking forward to. I headed down to breakfast, and even though I had been expecting him, Carlos was able to surprise me. It was so great to see him again, and I was super thankful that he had made the long train ride to hang out with us in Barcelona! We got some groceries, Carlos dropped off all of his stuff, and then we headed out.

A friend we had met at the hostel, Shane, was coming with us on our adventure as well. He was from Ireland (Cork), and we had all had great craic (fun) talking about Ireland and my experiences there the previous night in the hostel. So, we headed out for our day: we were going to take a train out of Barcelona to Montserrat.

After taking a gondola up the mountain, we wandered the basilica and then ventured up the mountain. None of us were super prepared for hiking, but we decided to do it anyways. Again, it turned out to be the hottest part of the day, and there were so many stairs! Needless to say, we ended up turning back before we made it the entire way. But before we did, we got to see some amazing views, and I even saw some climbers.

 
Our adventure group for the trip to Montserrat. It was so much fun hanging out with all these guys!

Our adventure group for the trip to Montserrat. It was so much fun hanging out with all these guys!

 
Awesome day of hanging out with beautiful sights!

Awesome day of hanging out with beautiful sights!

 
 
At Barceloneta Beach before the storm came in full force.

At Barceloneta Beach before the storm came in full force.

We went back into Barcelona and parted ways with Shane. The four of us headed into the city, finding ourselves at Barceloneta beach – only for a storm to blow in! I put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea, the guys got their shorts soaked from a giant wave, and then it started to pour buckets of rain on us. We ran from the beach to find a metro, but it didn’t really help, as we were completely soaked through. We also saw a man get hit by a car when he slipped on the road. It was quite scary and we were all pretty cautious for a while after that. We grabbed some tapas and beers, and headed to bed after a great day.

Our last day was probably my favourite day. Essentially, we spent the entire day just wandering the city with Carlos playing tour guide. We went to St. Joseph’s Market off of La Rambla. It was so cool! There was delicious-looking food everywhere you turned, and we all ended up buying something to do with fruit. We headed farther into the city and ended up at the Picasso Museum. Now, as I’ve already said, I am not the biggest fan of art. But the museum was really interesting! Carlos knew a lot about many of the pieces of art, and we even got to see an exhibition that showed the relationship between Dali and Picasso. I actually enjoyed it – even if I couldn’t tell what any of the paintings were of at some points, or why someone would paint a picture with twenty pigeons in it.

We stopped at the beautiful Catedral Del Mar. Carlos told us that the cathedral had been built by sailors, as they could not afford to enter the other church in the city. It took them eighty years to build the church, carrying the stones from Montjuic hill across the city. I loved the story and the church was stunning. (I didn’t double check the story, I trust Carlos – he’s an engineer, after all.) We went out for lunch at a tapas place – I tried seafood paella (with a shrimp that I had to take apart and cooked rabbit), some kind of fish, and then a cooked apple for dessert. We also drank wine with carbonated water – it was all delicious, the wine almost made better!

 
 
I absolutely loved this market - the sights and food were amazing!

I absolutely loved this market – the sights and food were amazing!

Catedral del Mar in Barcelona - a must see. Amazing.

Catedral del Mar in Barcelona – a must see. Amazing.

 
Carlos had no story for this fountain, but it didn't need one - it was beautiful!

Carlos had no story for this fountain, but it didn’t need one – it was beautiful!

 
Beautiful fountains!

Beautiful fountains!

 

We wandered the city some more, seeing the Spanish version of the Arc de Triomph, walking through a few parks, and seeing a beautiful fountain. It was so cool to have Carlos tell us about everything that we saw, or order food for us in Spanish. We went back to the beach, hoping that the weather would be nicer. Kirstin was the only one who went in the water, and Carlos and I laughed from the shore as she got knocked over by a wave and was given back her flip-flop by some kind woman. It’s okay, she wasn’t hurt.

We went back to the hostel and hung out for a bit, trying wine mixed with Coke. Apparently this is something that they do in Spain and some other parts of Europe. It was actually quite good! We met up with Shane and Adam, from San Diego, and we all went to see the Magic Fountain. It was pretty cool! It is basically a fountain that is lit up and does different motions set to music. We ate churros and all hung out together. The top of the hill gave a great view of the city at night, and we had another great panoramic position when we went to the top of a shopping center.

All of us went for drinks and tapas after, staying out late and just having fun. It was such a great day. It was so great of Carlos to come and meet us to show us an amazing city. Barcelona is probably one of my favourite cities thus far, definitely making the top three. Carlos – you were an amazing tour guide, even though we got lost a few times, and you are an even better friend. Thanks so much for making the journey out to show us around an amazing city that I know you love. I’m gonna miss you a ton, but we will all see each other again soon.

 
So glad I got to spend more time with this guy!

So glad I got to spend more time with this guy!

 
Carlos was such a great tour guide through Barcelona. And it helps that it's such an amazing city. ;)

Carlos was such a great tour guide through Barcelona. And it helps that it’s such an amazing city. 😉

 

Adios!

From

JH

“Life is about moments: don’t wait for them, create them.” [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.

When these two arrived in Waterford, lost and tired!

When these two arrived in Waterford, lost and tired!

 
 
I went for one last walk to Kilbarry, showing Kirstin one of my favourite spots in Waterford.

I went for one last walk to Kilbarry, showing Kirstin one of my favourite spots in Waterford.

 
In Galway, at the River Corrib

In Galway, at the River Corrib

The Galway Cathedral across the River Corrib. Actually got to go inside this time!

The Galway Cathedral across the River Corrib. Actually got to go inside this time!

 

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.

 
 
Galway Girls - the beautiful River Corrib!

Galway Girls – the beautiful River Corrib!

Cool tomb in Co. Clare. Saw it both times I went to the cliffs.

Cool tomb in Co. Clare. Saw it both times I went to the cliffs.

 
The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous - & provided great entertainment!

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous – & provided great entertainment!

 
At the Cliffs of Moher!

At the Cliffs of Moher!

 

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.

 
Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin - so full of history!

Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin – so full of history!

 
"It's a lovely day for a Guinness!" Got to pull our own pints.

“It’s a lovely day for a Guinness!” Got to pull our own pints.

 
 
These are what the bog bodies look like (Ireland).

These are what the bog bodies look like (Ireland).

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.

 
 
On the train to Cardiff with Bailey! This was Kirstin's first ever train - cool experience!

On the train to Cardiff with Bailey! This was Kirstin’s first ever train – cool experience!

Some random stonehenge in Bute Park, Cardiff.

Some random stonehenge in Bute Park, Cardiff.

 
I loved the little arcades down the streets of Cardiff, with cute stores and cafes lining them.

I loved the little arcades down the streets of Cardiff, with cute stores and cafes lining them.

 

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.

 
 
Climbed a tower in Bristol for some amazing views & crazy wind! We brought the Irish weather with us...

Climbed a tower in Bristol for some amazing views & crazy wind! We brought the Irish weather with us…

View from the top of the tower in Bristol.

View from the top of the tower in Bristol.

 

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.

 
London was calling - & we answered!

London was calling – & we answered!

 
 
Canadian pub in London! (yes, we ate here)

Canadian pub in London! (yes, we ate here)

Beautiful walk in Hyde Park of London

Beautiful walk in Hyde Park of London

 
No, we didn't climb onto the lions. But I love this picture.

No, we didn’t climb onto the lions. But I love this picture.

 

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.

 
 
One of my loves: Big Ben

One of my loves: Big Ben

The London Eye. No caption needed.

The London Eye. No caption needed.

 
After 5 months, it was nice to reunite the family - although on another continent, halfway from home!

After 5 months, it was nice to reunite the family – although on another continent, halfway from home!

 

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,

From

JH

Irish Goodbyes

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.

 
Waiting for the parade in Dublin the girls.

Waiting for the parade in Dublin with the girls.

 
ERASMUS students!

ERASMUS students!
Photo cred: Brownes Photography.

 
Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

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.

On the bus to Kilkenny - JulieHuff.com

On the bus to Kilkenny, with Brit, Sarah, Hubert, Carlos, and Bert (and Bruna and Evelyn behind)

 
Selfie on the London Eye!

Selfie on the London Eye!

 
Selfie at the Giant's Causeway cliffs.

Selfie at the Giant’s Causeway cliffs.

 

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 went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

 
 
The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

 
Inch Beach - far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

Inch Beach – far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

 
I got to fulfill my bucket list - walking through a random field in Ireland. I'm pretty sure it wasn't trespassing.

I got to fulfill my bucket list – walking through a random field in Ireland. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t trespassing.

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

From

JH

P.S. – sorry for the very late posts – wifi while travelling Europe can be a tricky situation sometimes.

EuroTrip Pt. 2

Let’s just pick up where we left off, shall we? (Warning: this is a long’un, but there are lots of pictures!)

Thursday April 2, 2015

Amsterdam had been an amazing city, but it was time to move on. After attempting to wake up early (which didn’t necessarily happen), we caught a tram and metro to arrive to catch our bus.

We arrived to our next stop, Brussels, Belgium with excitement for another country – only to be slightly disappointed by the huge modern buildings we found surrounding us! We had been looking forward to the old, the history. We walked to our hostel (which turned out to be really cool actually) before wandering the city.

And that’s when it got much, much better. We had Belgian waffles with chocolate sauce, and stopped to get “frites” or ‘fries.’ Fries are actually not French, for those who do not know – they were invented in Belgium, and are probably the best fries I have ever had in my life!

 
 
Delicious Belgian waffle with chocolate in Brussels!

Delicious Belgian waffle with chocolate in Brussels!

 
Mannekin Pis in Brussels is a lot smaller than you would think. And he's the 3rd famous statue in the world...

Mannekin Pis in Brussels is a lot smaller than you would think. And he’s the 3rd famous statue in the world…

Grand Place, Brussels. That building isn't symmetrical, but if you don't know that then it's beautiful.

Grand Place, Brussels. That building isn’t symmetrical, but if you don’t know that then it’s beautiful.

 

We went on a walking tour around the city with SANDEMANs New European Tours (I’d recommend). Our tour guide turned out to be Irish – what are the odds!? We leave Ireland to find an Irishman. We had a good laugh with him over that one. Walking around the city, we saw amazing sights and learned so much history. The history of Belgium is actually quite interesting, and I can’t wait to look into it some more. We saw Mannekin Pis, Grand Place, Royal Park, cathedrals and more! I drank a Belgian beer, and we met some people on the tour from other places – I ended up talking to a guy from Melbourne, Australia, and another from Galway, Ireland. They were really cool!

After the tour, we wandered some more, bought some Belgian chocolate (of course), and then tried to find some late dinner. We ended up eating Italian (a recurring theme on this trip), and talked for a long time. It was a lot of fun! But we ran out of time to go and see Atomium, a giant metal atom structure close to Brussels. So we explored the city at night and went to the Statue of the Unknown Soldier, a sight I had wanted to see. It was very cool to see at night, and especially interesting to see for me, the history student.

 
 
Grand Place, Brussels lit up at night.

Grand Place, Brussels lit up at night.

Buying some Belgian chocolate in Brussels!

Buying some Belgian chocolate in Brussels!

 

The Statue of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels. With anniversaries of the wars, there was a torch lit.

The Statue of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels. With anniversaries of the wars, there was a torch lit.

 

Friday April 3, 2015

Again, we got up late and ended up taking a later train than planned. But, we were on our way to our next city – Bruges! (or Brugge in Dutch)

The city didn’t look too exciting when we arrived, but we took a bus farther in and found it had a lot to offer. “The buildings were old, streets narrow, and it seemed to be older Brussels on a smaller scale” (journal entry). One difference – it had little canals, similar to those of Amsterdam. Talking about it after, I decided that the city, to me, was exactly that: a mixture between Amsterdam and Brussels.

We explored the city for a while, eating more waffles and fries (we all really like food, okay?). We found some windmills, walked through the streets, and took a lot of pictures. I even stole Carlos’ camera for a bit and had some fun taking artsy photos. Brittany bought some new shoes, as hers were literally falling apart. We went back to our hostel (which was literally a part of a bar) to go on a walking tour through the city at night.

 
 
We finally saw some windmills when we got to Bruges!

We finally saw some windmills when we got to Bruges!

My attempt at artsy photography on Carlos' camera - a pathway in Bruges.

My attempt at artsy photography on Carlos’ camera – a pathway in Bruges.

 

More artsy shots - a dog in the streets of Bruges. Which then barked viciously as we walked by...

More artsy shots – a dog in the streets of Bruges. Which then barked viciously as we walked by…

 

Now, we had taken the amazing free tour the day before, and we had gone on a free walking tour previously in Galway as well. This tour, however, was nothing like we could have imagined… but not in a good way. This tour included a tour guide with some of the crudest and inappropriate jokes I have ever heard, and facts that we later found out were from a movie. Yes, we got to see the city, the sights, the beauty of it at night – but we all agreed that it would have been best to simply wander by ourselves. I think the tour put a tinged feeling on the whole city for us.

We wandered the streets a bit more after the tour, trying to get a better feel for the city. We found a little bridge that the guide had mentioned: when you crossed the bridge, the next person you made eye contact with would be the one you married. We had a lot of fun and jokes with that one! From Brittany and I finding no one on the other side, to us joking about the guys crossing the bridge together.

 
Group selfie wandering Bruges!

Group selfie wandering Bruges!

 

The canals in Bruges. Apparently this is the most photographed spot!

The canals in Bruges. Apparently this is the most photographed spot!

 

We found dinner, and went back to our hostel, ready to move onto Paris. It was interesting: everyone had told us that Bruges was amazing while Brussels was boring. Our experience, however, was the complete opposite.

Saturday April 4, 2015

Our last day of travel as a group. We headed to the train station for a complicated day of switching trains, and long travel time. After a few hours, we arrived in Paris.

Our view of Paris was immediately skewed when some man tried to basically con us in the metro station. He claimed that he worked there and would help us buy tickets. The whole situation seemed sketchy, and we agreed that it wasn’t right – so we lied and told him we had changed our minds, we’d buy tickets the next day. After he walked off somewhat miffed, we headed to the tourist office, bought our tickets, and were on our way to our amazing hostel in the Montmartre district (Le Montclair Hostel, I would recommend it).

We got in sort of late, so by the time we were settled, it was already dark. We knew that one sight was close to our hostel, so we headed there. The beautiful church and basilica, Sacre Coeur, is really a sight to see at night. Lit up with all the lights of Paris below it, there is a magnificence. Especially if you can get past all the people trying to sell you trinkets on the street and walkways in front.

Sacre Coeur on our first night in Paris.

Sacre Coeur on our first night in Paris.

We ventured inside the church to find ourselves in the midst of a service. In all our travelling, we had temporarily forgotten that it was Good Friday, with Easter Sunday just around the corner. It was amazing to see the service for a few moments.

We went around the corner, possibly to an area we weren’t supposed to be in, and found an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from very, very far away. We took many pictures of it lit up at night, we waited for it to sparkle, and then we headed back to our hostel to crash after a long day.

Sunday April 5, 2015

We woke up and had breakfast at the hostel, hoping that our second day in Paris would be much better. The first impression of Paris had left us a little weary, but we were ready to give it another chance!

We took the metro into Paris, getting off somewhere in the center. We walked along the streets, marveling at the different architecture. Walking along, we found the Louvre. (I think the guys knew where we were, but for me, it was even sweeter coming up to the building not knowing what it was.)

 
The Louvre in Paris was amazing - and we got nice weather for lining up!

The Louvre in Paris was amazing – and we got nice weather for lining up!

 

 
Waiting in line for the Louvre on a beautiful day!

Waiting in line for the Louvre on a beautiful day!

Apparently, on the first Sunday of the month, the Louvre is supposed to be free. Now, for students of the European Union, it is technically free the majority of the time. We didn’t want to take a chance for Brittany and I though, so we decided to go on the Sunday – and got in no problem!

The Louvre is amazing. If you have never been, you need to go there. Even if you don’t like art. The ceilings and rooms are masterpieces themselves. I found myself continually looking up at the beautiful ceilings, only to remember I was supposed to be looking at the art on the walls. We wandered for probably two hours. We found the Mona Lisa, a lot of Biblical paintings, and the enormous Egyptian section. I also took one selfie that I am particularly proud of in the area for art from Holland and Flanders.

 
Selfie wandering the Louvre!

Selfie wandering the Louvre!

 

 
This is the one I am proud of - my amazing Louvre selfie! :)

This is the one I am proud of – my amazing Louvre selfie! 🙂

 
Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Upon leaving the Louvre, we ventured to walk some more. We crossed the love lock bridge, marveling at the sheer number of locks along the way, and wondering how many of these couples were still together. We continued on to encounter Notre Dame. It loomed over that part of the city. All I could think of was the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame – and yes, I sang some of the songs in my head. We waited in a decently short line and entered the cathedral. It was beautiful. The stained glass alone had me awed, but the number of people and candles, and the structure – it was amazing.

We wandered the streets along the Seine after, trying to find something to eat. We found a place that sold crepes, so we stopped. It was delicious, but just as good as the crepes my flatmate has made! Carlos was upset when he found out that his coffee cost him 4 euros. It became a sore spot but also a great joke.

 
 
The love lock bridge

The love lock bridge

Selfie in front of Notre Dame

Selfie in front of Notre Dame

 

 
Notre Dame from across the Seine.

Notre Dame from across the Seine.

The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night.

The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night.

 

Later, we met up with our friend, Hubert. He was visiting Paris with his girlfriend, so we all went out for dinner together. Following a pretty great dinner, we hopped on the metro to stroll underneath the Eiffel Tower at night and walk the Champs Elysees. The Eiffel Tower up close at night is beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pictures – which may have annoyed some of the others…

After a lot of walking and a great day, we all headed back to our accommodations with tired limbs, saying goodbye until we were once again in Waterford.

Monday April 6, 2015

We got up, ate breakfast, and headed to Sacre Coeur, so we could see it in the daytime. There was a group performing there that were amazing, and we stopped to listen for a while (the guys even bought cds). We wandered through souvenir stores and around a painter’s market, where beautiful paintings and drawings were being sold by local artists. We grabbed some baguettes for lunch and relaxed in the shade.

Catching the metro, we headed to the center of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. This was our first instance of seeing the Eiffel Tower up close in daylight. It was really exciting. We spent a couple hours relaxing on the grass, taking silly pictures, and just basking in the sight.

 
We wandered to see the Moulin Rouge theatre!

We wandered to see the Moulin Rouge theatre!

 

It's so cool to just walk around it, dwarfed in size.

It’s so cool to just walk around it, dwarfed in size.

 

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

 

We took a “stroll along the Seine” (yes, that is a Disney reference), and ended up in a Spring Market – so Brittany and I bought macarons, while the guys went for crepes and cotton candy. We walked through the grounds of the Army museum before finding somewhere to eat.

For our last night, we went to the 56th floor of Montparnasse, a very tall building. Unfortunately, tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower had been sold out, so we went here instead. It was great! We went close to dusk so that we got to see all the lights of the city come on, including the sparkling Eiffel Tower. We went back to the hostel after to relax and hang out for our last night together on the trip.

 
Eiffel Tower, Paris. It was a beautiful day! (Thanks for the pic, Carlos)

Eiffel Tower, Paris. It was a beautiful day! (Thanks for the pic, Carlos)

 

Parisian macarons under the Eiffel Tower - that's where it's at!

Parisian macarons under the Eiffel Tower – that’s where it’s at!

 

Paris at night from the top of Montparnasse.

Paris at night from the top of Montparnasse.

 

Thursday April 9, 2015

Now, you may wonder why I skipped a few days here. Let me briefly explain.

Basically, on our last night in Paris, I somehow got food poisoning. It was not pretty. I was up most of the night. In the morning, I said goodbye to the others, waving them out the door. I felt super ill, and ended up missing my train to Nice. Commence some problems, but I got it figured out – stayed an extra night in the hostel, and had a ticket bought for me for a train the next day (thanks Carlos!). I still wanted to go to Nice, and that’s where I was flying home from. So, after a 5.5 hour train ride, and some issues trying to find my hostel in the dark, I was finally settled in. And this is the day I walked Nice.

Nice was beautiful.

I ended up exploring with a girl from my hostel room. Her name was Kate and she was from Melbourne, Australia. We had a great day just wandering the city, and getting lost. We found a harbor and the coastline which was beautiful. There was a lot of stairs in a cliff that we decided to climb. We ended up in Chateau de Nice Ville, affording an amazing panoramic view of all of the city below.

 
The harbour in Nice was so quaint, and the boats were so colourful!

The harbour in Nice was so quaint, and the boats were so colourful!

 

The city of Nice from Chateau de Nice Ville. The stairs were worth the view!

The city of Nice from Chateau de Nice Ville. The stairs were worth the view!

 

Beautiful waterfall at Chateau de Nice Ville.

Beautiful waterfall at Chateau de Nice Ville.

 

We stopped for a bite to eat before walking the boardwalk and eating gelato by a fountain. It felt sort of Italian to me, but it is very close to the border. Then we got lost trying to find our way back.

Even though I only had one day in Nice (and didn’t get to go to Monaco), it was a great experience. I learned that I am not particularly a fan of travelling by myself, that I can get myself through bad situations travelling, and that no matter what happens you just have to roll with it. Plus, I discovered that after you have been to the sandy beaches of Hawaii and Mexico, the rocky beaches of Nice are nice, but definitely not for laying on a beach.

 
 
Gelato and fountains in Nice - felt like Italy!?

Gelato and fountains in Nice – felt like Italy!?

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

 

 
The view of Nice from the airplane was beautiful!

The view of Nice from the airplane was beautiful!

That evening I had some stress with my flight possibly being cancelled due to a flight strike. But it wasn’t, thankfully. The next day I spent in the airport, just in case. France was not very good to me. And yet I plan to go back! I also found it interesting how excited I was flying into Ireland. The trip had been amazing, and it was exciting to see mountains in France and Nice, but the green of Ireland was a beautiful sight. It felt like coming home. I’m going to miss this place a lot.

Well, there you have it. My entire two week trip condensed into two blog posts. Obviously a lot more than this happened, and there are tons of pictures. I am trying to upload some to Facebook, but with internet here, it may take a while.

For those wondering, I am fine now and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. I am so lucky to have met these amazing people that I can travel with for two weeks and we all don’t want to kill each other by the end of it. Actually, I missed them after they left. I don’t even want to think about the end of the semester…

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

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