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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

The University Grad

Gotta love the cap and gown look, standing in front of my school colours and logo!

Gotta love the cap and gown look, standing in front of my school colours and logo!

Yesterday was the culmination of my five years at university: I was finally able to walk across the stage, only worrying about not tripping, and shake the President of UFV’s hand as my name was announced in the endless list of 2016 graduates.

That’s right, after five years of turmoil, sleepless nights, history and English papers, and multitudes of unfinished readings, I graduated university. It was a great moment – even if it only felt like a fleeting five seconds when I crossed the stage.

For some people, this seems a great accomplishment. For others, not so much. But here, let me put it into perspective…

Jumping from elementary to high school, and university immediately following, I have been attending institutionalized schooling for 18 consecutive years. That’s a lot of school! I did not take a year off between high school and university, and no gap years were taken during my degree. I have worked hard to get through university in one go – even if it took me a little longer than the average four years.

On top of all that schooling, I have been working one or two part time jobs since grade 8. Working these jobs, I was able to pay for half of my university schooling, including a semester in Ireland, and with the help of my parents, I am graduating with no debts from school. In today’s world, I feel like that is a huge accomplishment alone.

We were goofy smiles and selfies for our grad day - having survived 18 years of school! ;)

We were goofy smiles and selfies for our grad day – having survived 18 years of school! 😉

In grad attire with one of my best friends, Christy! We have known each other for about 17 years now, practically our entire lives!

In grad attire with one of my best friends, Christy! We have known each other for about 17 years now, practically our entire lives!

My university experience wasn’t like the ones you see in movies or on TV, or probably like many other students you know. I was the student who went to every class, except when extremely ill. I always handed in my assignments on time, I (usually) did my readings, and I wasn’t really involved in clubs or events on campus. My school was more the commuter school – or so I thought.

My semester abroad changed my perspective of who I could be and who I am. I decided that I wanted to meet more people, and become more involved – even if I only had a year left in my degree. So, that’s why I became more involved with study abroad and began writing articles for the school newspaper. It was great to have new experiences, meet other people who had similar interests like me. It was just too little too late! I wish I had found these out when I first started university, having a better opportunity to meet new people instead of striking of conversations with students in classes – students who you might not see again the entirety of your degree.

But to me, that’s not what’s important here. Despite not having the “ultimate university experience,” I still loved my time at university and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yesterday, I was really proud of myself when I got to walk across the stage in front of my family. I was excited to tell them and others that not only was I graduating, but I graduated with distinction (a GPA higher than 3.6) and outstanding achievement. I worked really hard to keep grades that I was proud of through my time at university, just like all my previous school years.

My grandparents came to see me graduate, and brought me beautiful pink roses!

My grandparents came to see me graduate, and brought me beautiful pink roses!

Of course, there are some people I love and miss who couldn’t be here to celebrate with me. My gramma was always proud of me when I brought report cards to her, excited to share my good grades, or to show her the grades I received on papers or midterms in university. I know she would be proud of me, like she always had. And as I went through graduation, I thought of my cousin who was supposed to start university at the same time as me, but never had the chance. And I thought of my great-aunt, who fostered my love of writing by being my pen pal for countless years. I know that they were all there in spirit, with me and watching as I crossed the stage, my inspiration.

Now, the question I find myself facing every time I tell someone I am now a graduate:

So what’s next?” “What are you going to do now?” or some other form of the same words.

The honest answer: I don’t know. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I am not sure what I want to do career-wise. I know what I enjoy, and I know what I’m good at – hopefully I can find something that balances or brings together the two.

I was talking to a friend the other day about having a plan for the future, and wanting something so badly. He was saying that he has a plan to follow to finish school, find the job he wants, and start his life as an adult. It got me thinking about my life and where I am. When I was younger, even through high school, I always knew what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher. Many people always told me that I’d be good at it, too. I did a lot to try to help that plan. Going through university, though, my mind started to consider this plan: was that really what I wanted to do? Almost every class I was in, there were so many students going into the teacher education programs – usually it was more than half the class. How was I ever going to compete with that many people, let alone find a job locally?

Plans have a way of changing – and we all know how change can be terrifying, debilitating. But sometimes, the change is for the better. Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that perhaps the plan that you had made for yourself, isn’t the plan that will play out. Sometimes, God, or the universe, or fate, or whatever other greater forces, have a bigger and better plan for you than you could imagine, and that’s what you need to follow instead. And even though you don’t know what it is or where it could go, you have to give up control and see where it takes you.

The Railway Trail at Hayward Lake. Did this trail a few weeks ago with Brittany to get back outdoors!

The Railway Trail at Hayward Lake. Did this trail a few weeks ago with Brittany to get back outdoors!

The old parts of the railway along the trail.

The old parts of the railway along the trail.

Last weekend, Brit and I had an awesome evening in Vancouver - Belgian beer, amazing food, and ice cream! ;)

Last weekend, Brit and I had an awesome evening in Vancouver – Belgian beer, amazing food, and ice cream! 😉

About a month and a half ago, my dad helped me get a job through his company. The day after my last exam, I began work full time as a technical writer. It’s been an interesting change to the type of work I’m used to. I’ve enjoyed learning a new kind of writing and process, and using different computer programs. I’m just not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day…

Basically, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but I don’t think I necessarily need to decide right now. I just want to be happy – and if that means that I need to try out different jobs and careers, then that’s what I’ll do.

Finally, I made it!

Finally, I made it!

Anyways, CONGRATULATIONS to all other graduates of 2016 – whether you are graduating preschool, kindergarten, grade 7, high school, or university! Good luck, go for your dreams, and for fellow university grads, remember: you don’t need to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life in this moment. It’s alright to try different kinds of jobs, have multiple jobs, have non-paying jobs to eventually get to where you need to be – at least, that’s what I tell myself (awkward laughter).

And last update, as mentioned in previous posts, my blog posts might get fewer unless I have more adventures to tell you about in the next little bit. Hopefully some climbing and hiking and things, maybe a little travel like before.

For now,

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

Happy Easter & Update

Happy Easter everyone! 

You would think that not writing on here would be because I have been incredibly busy, and I would have lots to write about. In fact, I have been quite busy – but not with anything too interesting… I have mostly been consumed by work and school.

I want this blog to not just be about my life, but to be about adventures, travel, living life to the fullest. And at this moment, I don’t feel like any of those are my life.

So, for now, I may be away for a little bit. BUT – I am going to be back very soon with some adventures, I hope. I have some plans for some adventures and travels in the near future and I am excited to write about them.

For anyone still even looking at this page, thanks for sticking around and being patient with me. Life has its ups and downs, and after the amazing adventures I had last year, this year has been a little bit of a down so far. It has been an entire year since I was living in Ireland, having perhaps the best 6 months of my life. It’s been hard being home and not going on adventures like before – but I hope that will change very soon…

So for now: May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

P.S. – for anyone interested, I’m going to put a link to the articles I have written for the UFV Cascade under my Links tab! 

Honestly

“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.” – Pinterest

Vancouver Pride at the Whitecaps Soccer (football) match! Not the best game, but we had a great time.

Vancouver Pride at the Whitecaps Soccer (football) match! Not the best game, but we had a great time.

I knew that it would be hard coming home after 7 months away. I always knew. But I wasn’t sure how it would be exactly, just as I hadn’t been sure what it would be like to go abroad.

After being a little too stressed through the first few weeks of school, I made a big decision. Instead of stressing myself out this semester by taking a full course load, I chose, instead, to drop a class. What does this mean? Well, I will now have to take one more semester… I won’t be graduating in December, but in June instead.

And this is okay.

For my own sanity, this was a good move. With my two jobs and the courses I’m already taking, I have been quite busy. But I love my classes and jobs. Coaching again is the best – my athletes are so motivated and I am incredibly excited for this upcoming season! The climbing gym is doing well, with exciting things coming up. And I just published my first official post as editor of the UFV Study Abroad Blog, a post about my adventure. (If you’d like to see the post, click here! I will also be writing stories for other students as well. Check my Facebook or Twitter or something for updates!)

With an extra semester, I will be able to take some more interesting classes hopefully, and sort out exactly what I would like to do after I graduate.

Fun days with friends are the best! Had a blast going through Europe pics with this chica!

Fun days with friends are the best! Had a blast going through Europe pics with this chica!

The other day, I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, in which Rory expertly described what it is like for a student graduating from university: ‘it’s like standing on a cliff, looking into an abyss of fog. You can’t see anything ahead of you and you have no idea where to go. This is the first time in your life that nothing is planned for you and you don’t know what is coming next.’

I know that I am not the only person that feels this way, which makes me feel a thousand times better. Not knowing is terrifying yet exhilarating. You just have to hope that something will come for you, that is just what you’ve been looking for.

Right now I have few goals: to graduate, to find a job that I don’t hate, and to go back to Europe in two years. Keep it simple.

As for all of this political debate happening and the refugee crisis, I am not going to voice my opinion.

Finally, for those of you who know me well, I’ve lost a few people now who were important to me. Four years ago, at the end of September, I lost my cousin. It was incredibly unexpected and she was too young. It was hard on all of our family, but especially my aunt. It still hurts, but we know that she is watching over us, and I know that she was with me on all my adventures in Europe, taking it all in with me. Losing her was really difficult, and I didn’t like to talk about it much. This year, both my Gramma and her sister, my great aunt, passed away. I was close with both of them and it was really hard again. Being home without my Gramma has been really hard – she would have wanted to see everything I brought home, heard all my stories. I am glad that I got to skype with her before she passed, while I was away.

But now I have three people watching over me, with my Papa who was already gone. And I know that they are all proud of me.

And now this post got a lot more serious than I had planned. Hopefully, though, you know me a little better now. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But I’m moving forward.

Happy to be home with my pup! He's so big and hyper now, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy to be home with my pup! He’s so big and hyper now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My amazing family, who I love. Most of the time. (jkjk ;) )

My amazing family, who I love. Most of the time. (jkjk 😉 )

“Time won’t make you forget, it’ll make you grow and understand things…” – Pinterest

May the road rise up to meet ya

Cheers

JH

Home and Hikes

Reunited and it feels so good

Reunited and it feels so good <3

It’s funny. When you’re young, you don’t realize how quickly things in your life can change. Opinions, situations, events, even people are all subject to the ultimatum of change.

Coming home, I had thought I knew what to expect. After all my time away, I was definitely excited to be stationary again, see all of my friends and family who I had missed for six and a half months. I was interested in sharing my adventures and stories, and many people wanted to hear them. And so, after all my time away, I am safely at home.

I am so lucky to have experienced and seen so many amazing things. I lived in another country, on another continent. I travelled through 12 countries, multiple cities, and have seen many famous sites. I am even more grateful that I met and experienced all of these things with such amazing people.

I already wrote about everyone that I met in Ireland. I am thankful to now have these amazing people in my life, and hopefully we will stay in touch (sorry, it’s a fear of mine). But I know that I will see them again. And then there was my trip with my brother and Kirstin. Of course we had our ups and downs, but we had such a great time. We have so many hilarious stories and memories from the great places we traveled to and the wonderful people we met!

But to be honest, being home is quite different from what I expected.

Everyone has been very kind, asking me questions about my trips and experiences. It has been fun telling my stories and adventures. I think people don’t realize sometimes though, that it is hard to explain exactly how study abroad can change your life when you haven’t experienced it. Sometimes, it feels like people expect me to be the same person, other times they tell me how much they see that I’ve changed. It’s interesting to see different reactions.

And again, being honest, it is hard to come home to the exact same situation you left when you are no longer the same. How could I be the same person after these amazing experiences?

Since being home, I have tried to stay busy. Staying home gives you far too much time to think.

 

Limo selfie before the wedding!

Limo selfie before the wedding!

The happy couple in the limo, going to reception. Congratulations guys!

The happy couple in the limo, going to reception. Congratulations guys!

Selfie hiking in Cypress with this girl!

Selfie hiking in Cypress with this girl!

Yup, this is the view we got at St. Mark's Summit. So great, right!? Can you see the water?

Yup, this is the view we got at St. Mark’s Summit. So great, right!? Can you see the water?

Upon arriving home, my cousin was going to be married – and I was a bridesmaid in the wedding! It was a very nice wedding, and I had a lot of fun. Riding in a limo with my cousins and their friends, taking a million pictures in the ridiculous heat, dancing to great and terrible songs with friends and family, and just having a pretty fun night! It was nice to see two people I have known for so long, completely happy and ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Congrats Brent and Vee, I wish you tons of happiness in your new life and home!

Last week, I tried to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors of my home province! I met up with Brit for a day of hiking in Cypress Provincial Park. We had a great time hiking, catching up. Even though the view was completely covered by clouds and fog, it was a really fun hike! We got to catch a great view on the way down the mountain as well. We went into Vancouver to have dinner and walk along the inlet. It was such a great day!

 

It cleared a little on the way down and we got an amazing view of Howe Sound!

It cleared a little on the way down and we got an amazing view of Howe Sound!

We stopped for dinner and a 'pint' at the Craft Brew House in Vancity. So good!

We stopped for dinner and a ‘pint’ at the Craft Brew House in Vancity. So good!

The inlet of Vancity. So pretty at sunset!

The inlet of Vancity. So pretty at sunset!

With one day in between, I went hiking again! This time, I went hiking closer to my home, in Golden Ears Provincial Park. I went with my friend, Christy, who I have been friends with for basically my entire life. It was great to be able to spend so much time outdoors these past two weeks, as I had definitely missed my mountains in the time I was gone.

 

Hiking in Golden Ears. Beautiful sights.

Hiking in Golden Ears. Beautiful sights.

Selfie hiking in the pouring rain! Such a fun day with ma gurl!

Selfie hiking in the pouring rain! Such a fun day with ma gurl!

I believe this is Gold Creek, coming down from the mountains. Pretty views!

I believe this is Gold Creek, coming down from the mountains. Pretty views!

We had an amazing time catching up, and hiking through our beautiful rain forests and mountains. And the rain forest was in full swing that day, as it was absolutely pouring rain while we hiked. By the end of the day, we were completely soaked through! Of course, this meant a stop at probably one of our favourite food enterprises, the classic Canadian Tim Hortons! I was glad to go back to my Timmies hot chocolate – typically Canadian, right!?

Two other exciting things that have happened: I spent a day outdoor climbing with Christy in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs, and I went to the Imagine Dragons concert. The climbing day was perfect, as my first outdoor day of the season. We got in some great climbs, new ones to both of us, and I scraped up my knuckles like a true climber. (The photos are Christy’s.) The concert was absolutely amazing! Definitely one of the top concerts that I have been to (which are few in numbers…). Christy, Zach and I had a great time, rocking out to the songs and yelling along at the top of our lungs. If you’re a fan of the band, definitely see them in concert!

 

Hiking to our climbing walls, we stopped for a photo with our fave - the Chief!

Hiking to our climbing walls, we stopped for a photo with our fave – the Chief!

Getting ready to rappell down a wall in Squamish's Smoke Bluffs.

Getting ready to rappell down a wall in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs.

Rappelling in Squamish with the beautiful Chief in the background!

Rappelling in Squamish with the beautiful Chief in the background!

Last climb of the day on Easter Island! Loved this climb.

Last climb of the day on Easter Island! Loved this climb.

Work and plans have thankfully kept me busy, and the wonderful technology of today’s century has allowed me to keep in touch with my amazing friends who are now so far away. With one semester left to go in my degree, I know that I will stay quite busy for the upcoming months. After that, who knows! I am constantly asked what I plan to do with my degree and future, but I am still kind of unsure. I have a lot to think about and plan.

Over the next little while, I will stay put in my hometown, working and finishing my degree. Once I’m done, who knows where I’ll be! I definitely hope to have more amazing adventures and travels to be able to write about, hopefully sooner than later. For now, there’s no place like home!

 

Imagine Dragons in concert are absolutely amazing!

Imagine Dragons in concert are absolutely amazing!

The encore of the show, complete with confetti raining down. Amazing show!

The encore of the show, complete with confetti raining down. Amazing show!

“Actually, the best thing you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

From

JH

Epic EuroTrip: Old Friends and New

So, with one last flight for a little while, we left the beautiful land of Italy and headed to Budapest, Hungary! We were all super excited to begin our explorations of some of the countries that we didn’t know as much about. And as I mentioned in my last post, I was extremely excited to meet my friend Kitty!

We caught a bus and then a metro into the city from the airport, and I was overwhelmed with excitement when I got off the metro and spotted Kitty! It was great to see her again after a month. She came with us to check into our hostel, we all settled our stuff in, and then we set out to explore with our very own Hungarian guide.

First stop: a tradition of the youth of Budapest – to drink in the park at Daag Square! We grabbed some beers and champagne, and found a spot on the grass. It was crazy to be drinking in public, but it is legal there. It was kind of fun to have that experience, as the only other place I had done that was in Belgium. We walked through the city to the beautiful Danube River, or Duma in Hungarian. It was beautiful, and it was just turning to dusk, so the sun was low on the horizon and the sky looked amazing.

 
Hanging out at Daag Square, our first Hungarian experience!

Hanging out at Daag Square, our first Hungarian experience!

 
The stairs to enter our hostel were so cool! Loved walking the spiral steps.

The stairs to enter our hostel were so cool! Loved walking the spiral steps.

 
Budapest at sunset is brilliantly amazing. A must see. This was looking across the Danube at the palace.

Budapest at sunset is brilliantly amazing. A must see. This was looking across the Danube at the palace.

 

We walked across Chain Bridge – the English translation of a Hungarian name that I cannot spell or pronounce – and headed up a very large hill to the palace grounds above. From there, we had an amazing view of the Danube and the city of Budapest beyond. I was overwhelmed and fell in love with the city immediately. It quickly continued to climb the charts as one of my favourite cities that we visited!

Continuing along, Kitty led us to a beautiful church on the hill, and the famous Fisherman’s Tower that also overlooked the city. We went onto the walls connecting to the tower, and got to see the city come to life at night. It was stunning. Budapest lit up at night would rival Paris in my books, as the bridges along the Danube are lit up and look amazing!

After walking back down the hill, Kitty had to catch a train home – but not before she dropped us off at an amazing restaurant! We got to have a great, traditional Hungarian meal for our first night in Budapest. The food was delicious and we all got to try something different. I ate a bean soup, some salad and a pork dish before having a coffee.

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

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

 
Fisherman's Tower and the spires of the cathedral.

Fisherman’s Tower and the spires of the cathedral.

 

The next day, June 20th, we took Kitty’s advice and checked out some places in Budapest that had to do with Hungarian history. I was quite interested, as I honestly did not know a lot about Budapest’s history. Our education started the previous night, with Kitty showing us around and explaining some of the history of the kings and important people. It continued when we visited the House of Terror. The museum explained Hungarian history in reference to the Communist influence. Terrible events happened within Budapest, specifically within the building of the museum. It was humbling to read through the various tragedies that had taken place, learning how greatly Hungary had been affected by the atrocities as well.

Our next step was to visit Heroes Square, where countless statues had been erected to commemorate various kings and leaders in Hungary. We honestly didn’t know who any of them were, and so we decided to have a little fun by posing like some of the statues. Later, Kitty told us who they were and why they were important to the Hungarian people. It was very interesting! We wandered a park, and even found a castle.

 
Heroes Square, Budapest. Love it. Every statue represented something.

Heroes Square, Budapest. Love it. Every statue represented something.

 
This castle in Budapest was actually pretty cool! We wandered around the grounds.

This castle in Budapest was actually pretty cool! We wandered around the grounds.

 
Our amazing dinner at the Ronyai's restaurant. Such an awesome night, with amazing food, entertainment and company!

Our amazing dinner at the Ronyai’s restaurant. Such an awesome night, with amazing food, entertainment and company!

 

We went back to our hostel to relax for a little bit before catching a train out to one of the islands of Budapest. In short, Kitty’s dad owns a restaurant, and we were invited to go there for dinner. It was amazing! We got to experience true Hungarian culture through traditional music, folk dancing, and a traditional 3-course meal. And we got to experience it all with Kitty and her boyfriend, Attila. It was a lot of fun, and we all had a great time. The food was amazing and the show was brilliant! Thank you to the Ronyais for the amazing experience – we are very grateful and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, learning more about your culture!

The following day, we decided to first explore a market that was very close to our hostel. We had been to markets in a few other cities, but this one was very different. It was indoors, two floors, and was massive. We couldn’t believe how much was inside this building, and we took our time looking through and buying a few souvenirs. The food was delicious as well, whether dessert or savory.

We walked along the Danube, as it was a beautiful day. The views across the river were stunning, and we were slightly jealous of the many people on boats. We decided to walk down to the Parliament buildings, and stumbled on the memorial for Jews along the river. On the edge of the river, there are various sculpted shoes which are a reminder and memorial to the Jews who were shot into the Danube during the Holocaust. It was humbling to see, specifically the little baby shoes. There is something unsettling about abandoned shoes sometimes, especially in this scenario.

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

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

View across the Danube to the beautiful buildings of the palace and towers.

View across the Danube to the beautiful buildings of the palace and towers.

 
Memorial to the Murdered Jews along the Danube. Very moving.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews along the Danube. Very moving.

 
 
The baby shoes were startling but moving as a part of the memorial.

The baby shoes were startling but moving as a part of the memorial.

We made it to the Parliament buildings and took pictures of them in the daylight. They were quite beautiful. We hopped on a random tram to take us into the city, and got off at a random stop. We found a street food which Kitty had stressed that we must try – called Kurtoskalacs. There are many accents that are supposed to be on that word, and I would never attempt to try to say it, but the food itself was delicious! Basically, it is a spiral breaded dessert covered in cinnamon or other things.

That night we were meeting up with Kitty and Attila one last time, to go out for another Hungarian dinner. Unfortunately, the place that we had wanted to go to was full, so we found another place called the Trofea Grill. It is a genius place – you pay the equivalent of 20 euros (except in the Hungarian currency of Forent) and you can eat and drink as much as you like! We got to have traditional Hungarian foods again, plus we could pick and choose other things as well. We had a lot of fun, all getting to talk and know each other better. It was a great night – and I was super sad to say goodbye to Kitty at the end. Thank you so much for everything! You were an amazing tour guide, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you and Attila. Again, thank you!

 
The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

The Parliament building architecture was really interesting!

 
Selfies in Budapest!

Selfies in Budapest!

 
The dessert that we had to try in Budapest - Kurtoskalacs.

The dessert that we had to try in Budapest – Kurtoskalacs.

 
Dinner with Kitty and Attila in Budapest! Such a fun night.

Dinner with Kitty and Attila in Budapest! Such a fun night.

 

Our last day in Budapest turned a little odd. Zach really wasn’t feeling well, so he decided to stay in for the day. We had planned to go to an exit game, what we call an escape room at home. They are extremely popular in Hungary (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they originated there?). But, with him not feeling well, we didn’t want to chance it. Kirstin met some people in the hostel that she wanted to hang out with, while I wanted to explore a little on my own.

I went to Margaret Island, looking at the park and walking along the Danube from a different angle. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed the walk! I met up with Kirstin after, and we decided to walk around the city for a while. We went to the basilica and the Jewish synagogue. The basilica was beautiful both inside and out, but we didn’t want to pay to go inside the synagogue. It has been very interesting to me, travelling through Europe, that to enter some churches you must pay.

We went back to the hostel and made an odd dinner for ourselves. Somehow we were able to cook a breakfast-for-dinner with merely a pot and microwave. So, we had eggs, beans, and toast. And palinka – an alcohol made only in Hungary. It was definitely not a good combination, but it was our last night and we were not going to leave Hungary without trying it.

 
These bricks are in various cities, remembering people who died in the Holocaust. Found the first one in Budapest.

These bricks are in various cities, remembering people who died in the Holocaust. Found the first one in Budapest.

The next day, we rushed to the bus to get to Vienna, scared that we were about to miss it. It was extremely hard to find where we were meant to catch it. After finally finding the area, we were told that our bus had broken down before it got to us, and we wouldn’t be leaving until 3pm. So, left with an extra 4 hours in Budapest, we shed our heavy backpacks and headed back into the city.

We ended up wandering a mall for a while, and then going back to the market because we had enjoyed it so much. We bought some last minute souvenirs for ourselves and friends before catching our bus. The bus was honestly the nicest one I have ever been on in my life – there were tv screens in the seats which let you watch movies, and free tea and coffee were offered…! The time passed quickly with me finishing two movies. Honestly, that night we didn’t really do anything.

We got up the next morning ready to explore Vienna. We headed out and ended up at some church simply because we had seen a dome rising above the other buildings. We were pointed to the concert hall and Opera buildings. Vienna is a center in Europe for classical music, so it was very interesting seeing all the buildings and areas that incorporated it.

 
Cafe Central in Vienna.

Cafe Central in Vienna.

 
The crossings in Vienna were so cute! Saw this one & one with 2 women - making a statement! Loved it.

The crossings in Vienna were so cute! Saw this one & one with 2 women – making a statement! Loved it.

 

We got lost a few times in Vienna, even though we had maps. Streets were just difficult to find or were not on our map and it got frustrating at times – but never as bad as Venice! Cafes of Vienna are famous and a large part of the culture. Certain cafes even have history. We eventually found Café Central, reported to have been visited by Lenin and Trotsky. We couldn’t even get in the door because it was so crowded and packed with tourists.

Kirstin wanted to go to a museum, so we split up. Zach and I went exploring through the city, shopping and looking at various things. We also found Café Hawelka, a place my friend had recommended. It was rumoured to have been visited by Hitler himself. We didn’t actually venture inside, as we didn’t have time, but it was interesting to see. That night we all met up and had dinner close to our hostel, in the Nasch Markt. It wasn’t typical Viennese food, but it was delicious!

Our last day in Vienna, June 24th, was probably my favourite day. We met up with a friend of Zach’s, Johanna, and her roommate, Claudia. They both live just outside of Vienna and were nice enough to come into the city to show us around! The first place we went to was the Haus of Meeres – it was an aquarium! It was so cool, with it being 11 stories! I had never been in an aquarium like that before. We saw so many different kinds of fish, monkeys and birds, and had a great time. It was nice to do something that was just fun! And we got a great view of Vienna from the top of the building.

 
The view was amazing.

The view was amazing.

 
View of Vienna from the top of the Haus of Meeres. Stunning.

View of Vienna from the top of the Haus of Meeres. Stunning.

 
Selfie with a view of the entire city of Vienna, and the amazing girls who showed us around!

Selfie with a view of the entire city of Vienna, and the amazing girls who showed us around!

 

We stopped for lunch in Nasch Markt, and Zach and I got to try bratwurst. The girls said it wasn’t the best, but we enjoyed it, not really knowing different! We bought a few things in the market, and then hopped on the metro to head out of the city.

Just outside of the city is the amazing Schloss Shoenbrunn, a beautiful palace. We arrived and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the grounds and building. The inside was just as grand. We wandered around inside using an audio guide to tell us the history. It was a lot at once and honestly I don’t remember most of it. There were very rich and important people who lived there, and the rooms had names that told you exactly how they looked: the mirror room, the red room, etc.

 
View of Schoenbrunn from the opposing hillside of the grounds. And some cool people, too!

View of Schoenbrunn from the opposing hillside of the grounds. And some cool people, too!

 
Schoenbrunn Palace was beautiful and it was a lot of fun.

Schoenbrunn Palace was beautiful and it was a lot of fun.

 
Awesome picture of us at Schoenbrunn! (Thanks, Johanna! :))

Awesome picture of us at Schoenbrunn! (Thanks, Johanna! :))

 

Back in the heart of Vienna, we went shopping! My shoes had broken in the back, and I was in a lot of pain wearing them. So, long story short, I ended up buying a new pair of shoes. We spent some time trying to find a souvenir shop, and then couldn’t find somewhere to eat. We ended up finding a good place for traditional food, getting to try schnitzel and a drink called hugo. It was all delicious!

We said goodbye to Johanna and Claudia, and headed back to our hostel, as we had an early train the next morning. Thank you so much girls for coming to meet us and showing us around the city. We had such a great time and are very thankful for the experience!

My amazing friend who was our tour guide for the evening - love this girl and her amazing knowledge!

My amazing friend who was our tour guide for the evening – love this girl and her amazing knowledge!

Thank you to everyone who has met us on our travels! You made our experiences so much better.

Next stop: Prague! But this post is long now, so I’ll save some stories for later.

Bye for now

From

JH

Epic EuroTrip: Ciao Italy

After saying goodbye to a great friend and an amazing city, we moved on to our next adventure in another country: Italy!

Our first stop after a flight was the city of Pisa. We knew that there wasn’t a ton to do in Pisa, other than take tourist photos with the tower. Basically, it was just going to be a stopover for us to get to Cinque Terre the next day. However, Pisa turned out to be pretty fun – if only for an evening.

After we checked into our hostel, we headed out into the streets of Pisa. Wandering was pretty cool actually – we found street vendors with very unique items for sale, and we even ran into a street procession with a band and everything. It was a ton of fun! And of course, we got gelato for our first evening in Italy.

We headed straight for the Piazza dei Miercoli to see the church and the torre, or ‘leaning tower.’ Many people had told us not to take the ‘typical leaning poses,’ so we went for other poses instead… and making subtle fun of some other people taking the photos as well. We had a lot of laughs and fun. Then we went for pizza at a local restaurant after – and it was probably one of the best pizzas I have ever had before. It was massive and delicious.

 
The iconic tower of Pisa!

The iconic tower of Pisa!

 
Pisa Torre. So cool.

Pisa Torre. So cool.

 
 
Our first gelato in Italy, in Pisa!

Our first gelato in Italy, in Pisa!

 
Kirstin tried to push the tower onto us... it was quite terrifying...

Kirstin tried to push the tower onto us… it was quite terrifying…

The next morning, we hopped on a train to La Spezia, where we transferred to another train to get to the town we would stay in Cinque Terre, Corniglia. The weather looked gross, as we knew a storm was blowing in. We had actually seen rain and lightning on our train ride to La Spezia. But we crossed our fingers for better weather.

Which didn’t happen. We got to Corniglia and had to wait to check in. We went to a little restaurant for a great lunch and coffee (yes, I have taken to drinking espresso for some reason. This was the first of a few through Eastern Europe), and the woman told us to move inside because the sky looked so dark. Well, that’s what we got from the broken English and hand gestures as we all tried to communicate. But it was a good thing that we did move – as soon as we got inside, it started to absolutely pour buckets down. Needless to say, we took our time eating lunch.

That afternoon, it cleared up, so we decided that we would take the shorter hike along the hills to one of the other towns. So, we took a train one town over, to Manarola, and we hiked to Riomaggiore. Matt, a guy staying in the same room as Zach, had done the hikes earlier that day. But, being that he had just met us and we all got along well, he decided to come to do the hike with us! We all had a great time, even with the hike being almost an eighty degree angle for the whole hour and a half. And the towns and views were so amazing!!! Of course, we got some gelato again, because Italy. We went back to shower and hang out for a bit, before we all went out for dinner together in Corniglia. It was a great day and start to our time in Cinque Terre.

 
All of the buildings in Cinque Terre were beautiful colours!

All of the buildings in Cinque Terre were beautiful colours!

 
Hiking in Cinque Terre with Kirstin, Zach and Matt!

Hiking in Cinque Terre with Kirstin, Zach and Matt!

 
I loved the colourful houses of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

I loved the colourful houses of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

 
 
Beautiful views along our hike.

Beautiful views along our hike.

The next day was the serious hiking day! We were going to do the coastal hikes from our town, Corniglia, to Vernazza and then Monterosso. It was going to take basically the whole day, a good chunk of hours. And it was definitely hot out. Matt accompanied us on the first leg, to Vernazza, and then we went our separate ways. It was tough going at a few points – there are a lot of stairs, ups and downs, and the heat is impeccable – but the views were amazing and the towns were worth it alone. Vernazza was so pretty, with the harbor and the boats. I think I enjoyed Vernazza and Manarola the most. We hung out in Monterosso before heading back to Corniglia.

After taking the wrong train (we somehow ended up on an express that went straight to La Spezia), and showering, we met up with Matt to head out for a night of dinner. We met a few other girls staying in our room, and invited them along. Annie was from the US, while Megan was from Australia. They were really nice, and again, everyone got along great! We took the train to Monterosso, had a great dinner (after we finally found a place to eat), and then ate gelato by the beach. It was an amazing evening with some great people.

 
The beautiful town of Vernazza on our hike through Cinque Terre.

The beautiful town of Vernazza on our hike through Cinque Terre.

 
 
Hiking through the towns, on our way to Vernazza!

Hiking through the towns, on our way to Vernazza!

 
The beautiful town of Vernazza.

The beautiful town of Vernazza.

The beaches of Monterosso were really nice - loved the colourful umbrellas!

The beaches of Monterosso were really nice – loved the colourful umbrellas!

 

We had another panicky night when we found out that the next morning, there was going to be a rail strike in the area. No one could tell us if it would merely be a regional strike or a country-wide one. We wouldn’t find out until morning. So, we had to attempt to get out of Cinque Terre at least before the strike began at 9. Flash forward to a 5:30am morning, catching a train, and then paying a lot to be able to take 2 trains to Venice.

Once in Venice, we were utterly exhausted. We found our bus to the area we would be staying – a campground outside of the city where we were staying in a cabin. We got on the bus, got to the cabin, were slightly disappointed, ate pizza, and then just hung out in the cabin before crashing. It was an odd day. We didn’t even want to attempt to explore the city yet.

The next day, June 17, was our day to explore the entirety of Venice. And it was our only day. So, we planned to make the best of it! We planned to head out early – but ended up running late and almost missing our bus. This somehow turned into a regular thing for buses, which became sort of annoying…

None of us really knew any of the places that we were supposed to visit in Venice, and maps cost money, so we just set out exploring on foot and following signs. We made our way to Piazza San Marco, the one place Kirstin had knew of. It was cool, but there was scaffolding and tons of pigeons! It was also very crowded, which made it difficult to maneuver and slightly claustrophobic. BUT – it was pretty and super Italian. We wandered along and went to the Grand Canal, a place that we definitely had heard of. The water was gorgeous and there were boats everywhere!

 
 
The gondolas in Venice, along the canals.

The gondolas in Venice, along the canals.

Piazza San Marco in Venice. Super crowded, but quite beautiful.

Piazza San Marco in Venice. Super crowded, but quite beautiful.

 
Selfie in Piazza San Marco with the scaffolding...

Selfie in Piazza San Marco with the scaffolding…

 
 
The gondolas along the Grand Canal of Venice.

The gondolas along the Grand Canal of Venice.

We walked a lot, found some gelato, got into some arguments about what we wanted to do, and decided that it would be best to split up. Kirstin wanted to go and explore more of Venice. Zach and I really wanted to ride a boat. We didn’t want to pay the insane amount of money to ride a gondola, so we decided to catch a vaporetto, a ferry-type boat, to the other island of Murano.

Murano is the glass-blowing island, so there were multiple shops with beautiful glass-blown artwork. The island itself, or at least the area we ended up in, was quiet and quaint. It was a nice break from the crowded and busy streets of Venice. There was room to breathe and relax, with walking space. So we tried to spend a little extra time there. We stopped at a little café to grab a drink. I tried an Aperol Spritzer – basically sparkling water mixed with an alcohol called Aperol. We believe that you can only get it in Europe. It was pretty good! We caught the boat back to Venice, and ended up getting very lost trying to find Kirstin again. I definitely suggest getting a map on your phone or buying one if you can. Venice is quite confusing.

 
Riding the vaporetto to the island of Murano.

Riding the vaporetto to the island of Murano.

 
The beautiful and quaint island of Murano.

The beautiful and quaint island of Murano.

 
Standing on a pier in Murano.

Standing on a pier in Murano.

 

We got some dinner at a little restaurant along one of the main streets. The waiters were hilarious, offering pizza to random people walking by or asking them to pay someone’s bill. We had some good laughs with them. We wandered a little more to see the canal at night, and grabbed some dessert. I had a great chocolate mousse! We caught the bus back to our accommodations.

The next day would be a travel day to yet another city and country – Budapest, Hungary. I was very excited to see my friend, Kitty. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time. But that’s for the next post.

Bye for now

From

JH

P.S. – sorry I am a little behind on the blog posts. I actually just wrote and uploaded this post from Prague, basically a week after I had left Italy. However, I am trying to keep everyone updated through my other social media when I have wifi, with pictures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.