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Posts Tagged ‘Travelling’

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

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

This was my view while doing yoga by the beach - it couldn't have been more peaceful.

This was my view while doing yoga by the beach – it couldn’t have been more peaceful.

Happy New Year!

Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017.

A brand new year – new adventures and experiences to look forward to. But first – let’s rewind a little.

Sometimes, you don’t even realize how fast life is moving. The rhythm of everyday life seems to take over, and you find yourself in a routine.

I haven’t been able to write recently because I have been stuck in the monotony of the adult routine. Since I graduated university, my life has been a series of days where I wake up, go to work, come home to relax and sleep – only to repeat the process the next day. And sure, there are weekends and evenings. But when you work a second job (as I currently do), there is not a lot of time left to go on adventures. Or even to catch up with friends.

But I have also been quite lucky.

In the brief term between my two contracts, I was able to go on one bigger adventure.

If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat – any of those social media sites – you probably would have seen my barrage of posts from the beautifully captivating Hawaii.

In October, for 10 days, my family went to Waikiki, Hawaii. I have traveled with my family many times throughout my life, but this trip was special. We also traveled with my aunt, my cousin and his wife, and their 2 kids – all of whom had never been before.

Not the best quality photo, but probably one of few where everyone is in the shot. First day in Hawaii!

Not the best quality photo, but probably one of few where everyone is in the shot. First day in Hawaii!

The pink skies and palm trees were probably the best parts about the evenings in Hawaii. I could get used to seeing this from my window.

The pink skies and palm trees were probably the best parts about the evenings in Hawaii. I could get used to seeing this from my window.

Being a fan of Hawaii Five-O, it was only right that I visited and got a photo at this iconic building! I was like a little kid, smiling ear to ear.

Being a fan of Hawaii Five-O, it was only right that I visited and got a photo at this iconic building!

It was so cool to experience Hawaii again. I absolutely loved it the first time. In all honesty, I had wanted to go somewhere else this trip, like Mexico or Central America, but I’m so glad it was Hawaii. We had such an amazing time!

From relaxing at the beach, to shopping until we dropped; from luaus and the Polynesian Cultural Center, to waterfalls and hiking volcanic craters; from zip lining in the valley, to doing yoga at the beach. Every experience was made far more interesting and enticing with my awesome family.

The sun goes down so fast in Waikiki, but it always beautiful. And sometimes you get amazing shots like this.

The sun goes down so fast in Waikiki, but it always beautiful. And sometimes you get amazing shots like this.

We all had such a great time adventuring together. Levi got to do flips all over the island; Madison and I got to hang out as cousins, chilling in floaties on the ocean, shopping, and zip lining. Everyone had such a great trip (except maybe my brother who was sick with the flu for most of the time – but he still made appearances on outings).

Some highlights, you ask? Well, there were too many good adventures, but I will try to limit it to a few amazing moments.

Our day at Kualoa Ranch was definitely a highlight for everyone. Madison and I went on a zip lining adventure in the valley. We hiked, curled up like coconuts to make it down a line, bet ice cream to drop a kakui nut in a bucket, and made it across a suspension bridge with some difficulties. The rest of the family toured the ranch, seeing numerous filming locations for movies, like Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park, King Kong, 50 First Dates, and soooo many others. It is such a cool place and I highly recommend it! On our way back, we even had time to stop at Waimea Falls for Levi to swim.

We spent an entire day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, learning about all of the Polynesian cultures, watching shows, eating amazing food, and seeing a luau. It was a long day, but fun and interesting! Other days – we hiked Diamond Head, an inactive volcanic crater that was used as a base during the wars; we shopped at Ala Moana mall, an expensive outdoor shopping mall; and we toured Pearl Harbor and hit up the flea market at the stadium.

The others went on an excursion to swim with dolphins and the turtles one day, while my family went on an amazing catamaran boat ride along the southern coast of the island another day. We all got to have our amazing adventures and experiences, enjoying the beaches, the views, and the fun.

There's a funny story here - but essentially this was during our backstage tour at the Polynesian Cultural Center. (And yes, I promise, I am tanned.)

There’s a funny story here – but essentially this was during our backstage tour at the Polynesian Cultural Center. (And yes, I promise, I am tanned.)

The views of the coast and Diamond Head were amazing while we cruised the ocean on the catamaran.

The views of the coast and Diamond Head were amazing while we cruised the ocean on the catamaran.

One of my favourites of my photos - surfboards galore!

One of my favourites of my photos – surfboards galore!

You can only get these in Hawaii - so my last few days, I had to have a few!

You can only get these in Hawaii – so my last few days, I had to have a few!

Funny enough, we were in Hawaii during Canadian Thanksgiving. While my friends ate turkey dinners at a table with their families, my family sat down to a lovely meal at Cheeseburger in Paradise – yes, that was our Thanksgiving dinner, and it was awesome.

It was a truly awesome trip, and I will cherish the memories forever.

Of course, I tried to have other small adventures after that.

Around Halloween, I went with my brother and friends (the twins) to check out a corn maze that had craft beers! Long story short – there was a really long line-up, but the corn maze had fallen over due to a storm. Somehow, we lucked out and were given tickets to get in for free! It was a pretty fun day.

I went on a “date” with my grandpa to see Mary Poppins when my grandma was sick. Funnily enough, a friend of mine from high school was in the show! It was a fantastic show and a great night. Just before Christmas, I went out on a Friday night to stand in the snow for the CP Holiday Train. Even though I couldn’t feel my feet, and feared losing a toe to frostbite, I got to see Dallas Smith (one of my favourite country artists) live for the second time in 2016. It was a great night (I mean, once I gained feeling in my feet again, haha!).

The holidays came quickly, and for me, they were all about relaxing now that I’m working full time. But that didn’t stop me from a little adventure either.

One of my best friends, Brittany, had never been to Victoria. As it is one of my favourite cities, I decided that I wanted to show her around the amazing city!

Just chilling in an unsquished section of a very sad corn maze.

Just chilling in an unsquished section of a very sad corn maze.

The gorgeous sunrise from the ferry. Even though we were exhausted from a 5.30am wake-up call, the sunrise was totally worth it.

The gorgeous sunrise from the ferry. Even though we were exhausted from a 5.30am wake-up call, the sunrise was totally worth it.

The Parliament Buildings in Victoria look so pretty lit up at Christmas!

The Parliament Buildings in Victoria look so pretty lit up at Christmas!

For those not from the area, you have to take a ferry to get to Victoria, which is on Vancouver Island. As we had an interesting experience with a ferry ride in Ireland, ferries have become kind of a joke in our group of friends. Nonetheless, we had a great trip over and back, enjoying the views from the ferry.

The two days we spent on the island were perfect. I got to show my best friend all my favourite places to grab sandwiches, get a great shot of the Parliament Buildings or Empress, and my favourite pub to grab a pint to finish a great day. Not to forget walking the breakwater and checking out the little town of Sidney before heading out.

Because on cold days, you just have to drink warm, delicious tea out of dainty tea cups. And people watch.

Because on cold days, you just have to drink warm, delicious tea out of dainty tea cups. And people watch.

The sun setting behind the beautiful Parliament Buildings.

The sun setting behind the beautiful Parliament Buildings.

This is Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown, Victoria, and it is the narrowest street in Canada. It is really cool!

This is Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown, Victoria, and it is the narrowest street in Canada. It is really cool!

And a sort of precursor to something even bigger.

Again, if you follow me on any social media, you will see that I posted some exciting news not so long ago. Brittany and I are going to be backpacking Europe for 2 months this spring!

I couldn’t be any more excited.

Ever since I left Ireland and Europe two years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been two whole years), all I have been thinking about is going back. There are still so many places to explore, cultures to encounter, so much food to try!

As Brittany didn’t get to do the backpacking thing like I did, we are going to a couple places that I have already been to – but I’m ecstatic! The places I am repeating are some of my favourite cities. Plus, we will be going to many more countries and cities that I have never been to before.

Selfies with the Christmas-y Parliament buildings!

Selfies with the Christmas-y Parliament buildings!

But as I plan and prepare for this amazing trip, I have resolved not to neglect this blog again. Although I might try writing some different kinds of posts – more focused on travel itself instead of simply my travels – I want to continue to write about adventures that I take leading up to my trip and during.

Otherwise, look for me on social media, as I am ever-present in one way or another.

So here’s to the adventures that I will seek in 2017, and I hope you all live the adventure, too.

May the road rise up to meet ya.

From

JH

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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