Brussels City Guide

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After our quick day and a half in Copenhagen, we hopped on a flight to Brussels. By this point in study abroad, we were SERIOUSLY budgeting, and I think we decided we wanted to spend about $150 or less in Brussels for food, transit, cocktails, and any extra spending (not including our room or flights). With some serious planning, I think I spent approximately $110 for that trip. People always ask what was most expensive or where we spent our money. My response: we would walk everywhere and sleep in ten bed hostel rooms so we could afford a nice dinner or cocktails, priorities people.

When we arrived in the city, we headed straight to Lyly’s Fondue for dinner reservations we had made earlier that day… Fondue, is a freaking treat but surprisingly a lot more affordable than in America. I think here it was about 20 euro a person, so $23ish. It was so much food, and so delicious. After our “splurge” meal, we decided to walk over a mile back to our hostel with our suitcases in hand. I will swallow my pride a lot to save a dollar, but there is something about walking a mile with a suitcase that has a broken wheel you refuse to pay to replace that really humbles you.

If you have been following, you know we stayed in hostels pretty much every time. And if I’m being totally honest, I love them. People at home always ask if it was weird or I felt unsafe, and I can seriously say I never did. We were always traveling in groups so with the exception of my solo trip in Berlin, I was never in them alone. The people that stay in hostels are usually young, like minded travelers. I have made so many friends in hostels and usually we end up going out or doing at least one thing with someone we meet in a hostel for that trip. However, one thing you really forgo is privacy. So when we would come in late at night, we would have to be extremely quiet. Or when I was sleeping and other people where coming in and out it would usually wake me up. And I would always have to confine my stuff to a locker that I would lock when we left.

When we arrived at the Meininger Hostel in Brussels, the person at the front desk informed me I had booked a private room for the three of us and we were FREAKING STOKED!!! After sharing a room for eight or so trips with strangers, we felt like royalty getting to turn the lights on at 12am, not waking up to someone else’s alarm, and having our own bathroom. There is literally a video of Lea and I saying “Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle you got nothing on us.” And the shower… Compared to the tiny 18 inch by 12 inch (literally) corner shower in London, I actually thought I was staying at Buckingham Palace. We usually like to spend very little time in our room because we want to explore, but we all agreed we were sleeping in the next morning.

When we woke up the next morning, we decided to walk to the Comic Strip Wall and checkout the art. While there, we stumbled upon a delicious waffle restaurant called Hashtag. They had a variety of different waffle sandwiches that were a lot different then the vendors on the street, the falafel was a 10/10.

After brunch, we went looking for the three statues of the boy, girl, and dog peeing. I am really not sure what the significance was but when we walked up to Manneken Pis, there was a serious crowd gathered looking at the little boy dressed like the Pope.

Manneken Pis: Little Boy

Jeanneke Pis: Little Girl

Zinneke Pis: Dog

We then stopped in a pub, Delirium Taphous, for a drink and they did not measure the pours here if you are catching my drift. One and a half cocktails deep, I was big boy silly, ha.

So drunk Sam and her trusty pals walked over to the Grand Palace, Mont Des Arts Gardens, and the Royal Palace of Brussels (all extremely close to each other).

Amanda aka Kris Jenner in the background holding our stuff as we take pictures, “you’re doing amazing sweetie.”

Drunk Sam in action

After drunk Sam declared she was “totally underwhelmed” by the gardens (what a brat), and I’m sure very beautiful in the spring/summer when the flowers are in bloom, we took a train to Atomium Park. I really wanted to go to the top of this but it unfortunately closed when we got there, if I could go back I would’ve put it much higher on the list.

We then had dinner at De Monk, and this was one of my favorite meals in Europe. They literally only serve four different types of spaghetti and we all agreed they are masters at their craft. It was totally delicious.

After dinner we walked to a Christmas market, had some waffles, and rode the giant ferris wheel (if you’re catching on, I clearly have to do some sort of bird’s eye escapade every time). Then we called it an early night so we could revel in the glory of our private room and take long, hot showers! It’s really the little things!

Visiting a Belgian chocolate shop is an essential!

The next morning we took an early flight back to London, which concluded my last weekend trip abroad!

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(Den)marks the Spot: Copenhagen Recap

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One of my last weekends abroad, my sister came to visit and we traveled to Copenhagen and Brussels. Copenhagen was our first stop and it was a city I had low expectations for, but easily became one of my favorites. Ironically most of the countries that weren’t high on my list, I ended up enjoying as much or more than the ones I was super eager for. Plus, it was extra special sharing this experience with Amanda, and having Lea there to join us. We only had about 36 hours here and we heard it was a more expensive city, so we were hoping to pack a lot in, but ball on a budget… yes, the funds at the end of the trip were wearing THIN.

Upon arrival, we headed to our hostel to drop our things off and then we went and got hotdogs at a street stand, apparently Copenhagen is famous for hotdogs so we had to find out for ourselves. For those wondering, they are pretty good but probably not as good as a classic ballpark style one in the States, ha.

After our quick (and cheap) meal, we headed to Freetown Christiania. This community was a former military base that now houses over 900 people in a community free of Danish rules and regulations, the people instead govern themselves. There are lots of little cafes, shops, a skate park, street art, and the famous Green Light District.

After Freetown Christiania, we went to the iconic Nyhaven waterfront canal with all the colorful houses. Here we took a few Instagram photos (typical) and then we wandered around the Christmas market along the water.

 

That night we had dinner at the Tivoli Food Hall (so delicious) before going to the Tivoli Amusement Park. I’m a sucker for a roller coaster, and this amusement park inspired Disney Land and was one of my favorite things I did abroad. They had several entrance options and originally we were just going to walk around and not pay the extra for all the rides. Although there were so many beautiful lights and architecture to look at, we quickly began asking ourselves who the heck goes to an amusement park and doesn’t ride the rides? So we bought the wristbands and made it a legit mission to ride every ride in the place in about two hours so we could get get the full experience, and mainly get our money’s worth. Luckily it wasn’t crowded at all so we pretty much just walked straight on every ride. This place was so cute, and for as old as the park was the rides were surprisingly awesome. Swinging around the top and getting a bird’s eye view of the city at night was another one of those memories I will never forget.

After the amusement park, we went back to our hostel, changed into our pajamas, and naturally went down to the bar… we’ve clearly got a reputation for keeping things classy. A few tequila shots in, I took center stage on the dance floor in my striped pj bottoms to show the Europeans what Wagon Wheel is all about, ha.

The next morning we had brunch at Cafe Flottenhiemer. This was a Pinterest find, and possibly the best brunch of my life. Bold statement, but true. They have a little sampler platter with lots of different brunch items and it was DELICIOUS.

After that we didn’t really have a plan, so we were walking around and stumbled across a spa that have the fish pedicures. After seeing them on tv and hearing about celebrities doing it, we all decided we had to try it. Plus it was on sale for Black Friday (who needs to fight someone for a tv when you can have fish eat your dead skin?) and we only spent about $12 each. This is gross, but after the amount of walking we did in Europe those fish had a freaking feast… and honestly, my feet haven’t felt softer. It tickles at first but once you get used to it it’s pretty relaxing and I actually noticed a huge difference.

After our fish pedicure, we headed to the airport and had sushi from a conveyor belt (it reminded us of the Drake & Josh episode) and waited for our flight to Brussels!

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Ireland Part 2: Cork

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Remember the group of Irish boys we met at our hotel in Ibiza? We stayed in touch with a couple of them and decided to go visit them in Cork, so Saturday afternoon we hopped on a 13 euro bus ride from Dublin so we could bar hop, or in Irish (potentially just tourist) terms “pub crawl,” with them that night.

After checking into our hostel and grabbing dinner, Maggie and I met the boys at a pub down the street. There were two floors of live music (aka heaven for me) and I nailed every line of Ride Sally Ride and Sweet Caroline while trying to follow the choreography of the locals who were twirling us in circles. We hopped to a couple other places before ending at a club-like place where all of us were a year short of the entrance age. In America I thought after turning 21 I was done with that, and in Europe I thought I was three years past it… Finally after convincing the bouncer I was turning 22 in a couple weeks, Maggie blurts out she won’t be 22 until next July… and the kind sir let us in. Thank you Maggie for your honesty, I initially thought you blew it, “and that’s showbiz baby!”

The next day Maggie and I visited Blarney Castle which had a lot of history… and most importantly for my Bachelor fans, it’s where Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jared Haibon had their one on one date, ha.

On a serious note though, the views here were stunning and the town itself was so charming and quaint. At the top of Blarney Castle is the Blarney Stone, which according to legend if you kiss it you are given the “gift of gab.” I’m pretty sure I would talk to a wall if it could talk back so I don’t know how much of an extra boost I needed, but I went ahead and kissed it for good measure.

After the castle we ate at a cute little cafe right outside that happened to be doing its last day of business where I had one of the best pieces of apple pie second only to my grandma’s.

That night Maggie and I stumbled on a little Irish pub where a bunch of local Irish men sat around playing string instruments and singing old songs. We sat by the fireplace and had a drink, and it was honestly one my favorite moments in Ireland. We then walked back to our hostel where the most talented musician was playing an acoustic set, I wish I had caught their name.

Since being home people keep asking me what my favorite country was and Ireland is definitely a contender! I cannot wait to go back!

As always, thanks for reading! I promise to finish up the rest of my travel posts… eventually, ha! I cannot believe how many people have been following along. I say it every time but I really do mean it, all the kind comments and support means so much and has made sharing this experience so worth it. So seriously, thank you!

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Trip Recap: Dublin, Galway, and Cliffs of Moher

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A couple weekends ago I visited Ireland… a place that wasn’t high on my list, but turned out to be one of my favorite countries so far. The scenery is beautiful, the people are kind, and the Jameson whiskey is my new drink of choice.

Maggie and I did our first trip just the two of us and although Lea and Traci were missed, it was one for the books. We flew into Dublin on a Thursday and checked into Generator hostel. This was one of the cleanest hostels we stayed at, was in a central location, and had very friendly staff. After putting our stuff in the room, we were hungry, so we walked to some traditional, Irish… barbecue, ha. Lately I’ve been getting a bit tired of eating the same traditional foods over here so to have something that tasted like home was amazing. And honestly, this was some of the best barbecue I’ve had. Maybe because I haven’t had it in a while or maybe because it really was that good, either way, I’d highly recommend The Meat Wagon.

After eating some good southern comfort food, we went to the Dublin Castle. I’m going to be honest, compared to some of the other castles I’ve been to, this one wasn’t my favorite. We did learn quite a bit about Irish history, but other than that we would only recommend this place if you have some extra time or are a major history buff.

After the castle we headed to Jameson Whiskey Distillery. We were hoping to do a tour of the place but unfortunately it was too late, but we did have a drink at the bar and Ireland has officially turned me into a whiskey girl. Jameson, ginger, and lime y’all, YOU HAVE TO TRY IT!

That night we went on a pub crawl organized by our hostel. It went to a bunch of different pubs in Temple Bar, which we later learned is a huge tourist trap and locals aren’t caught dead there… but us Americans thought it was pretty dang fun.

The next day we did an organized bus tour of Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. After a three hour bus ride, the tour started in Galway, where a tour guide shared a bit of history before we had some time to ourselves. Galway is known to be much richer in history and more local than Dublin and we had the opportunity to walk around and admire the architecture, pop into some of the shops, and have a pint at a local pub.

After Galway, we were driven to the Cliffs of Moher and wow, they were stunning. This should be an absolute must on any Ireland trip.

Our tour also took us to the Burren where we were able to watch the sunset before returning to Dublin.

For dinner, we stopped at a local Irish pub where Maggie and I were asked to be wedding dates for a couple guys at the bar. If we didn’t have to take a tour bus three hours back to Dublin, you can bet your bottom dollar we would’ve went. Not because we were interested in the dudes (sorry boys) but because I was suddenly so curious to see what an Irish wedding was like… I’m going to go on a limb here and say its the best drunk party ever.

The next day we had a few hours in the morning before leaving for Cork, Ireland for the second half of our trip. We started at Kilmainham Gaol Museum, which is an old prison (four euros, buy tickets ahead). This was my favorite museum we did in Ireland.

 

We also visited the National Gallery of Ireland (free), which hosts work by Picasso and Monet and we walked across the Ha Penny Bridge before loading a bus for Cork!

Dublin and Galway are both cities I hope I have the opportunity to travel back to, they are such parties!

As always, thanks for following!

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12.11.19 Life Update

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Okay friends, I’m super behind on posting because I’ve finally had some homework due. I’m sure you’re as unsympathetic reading this as my mom was on the phone when I complained. In true Melanie fashion as she sips from a “Spread Kindness Like Confetti” mug, I got an “oh you have to stop partying and traveling for a few days to do some homework—what you’re actually there for, must be tough. You better get your a** going.” I can always count on her to inspire and motivate, ha!

I do plan to finish up writing about the rest of my travels and do an entire series on my time here in London specifically. I was looking back at some of my posts from the beginning of the semester and I’m so glad I have all these memories to reflect on. It seems like just yesterday that my mom and I were stuffing my suitcases with all the shoes I INSISTED on bringing. An update on the 15 pairs: we walk at least 5 miles a day usually—heeled booties, platform sandals, and strappy heels are NOT a necessity.

I remember I was SO nervous to come here, I had said from the beginning I was sure I’d have a major anxiety attack on the plane. And then I boarded the plane, watched a couple movies, and I was at my flat before I even had time to be scared. I arrived around 9 am and Traci and her dad were already there. We spent the day finding the nearest grocery store, touring the university, and getting the slightest glimpse of London. In one day I knew this place was home. As cheesy as it sounds, I LOVE this city. I love the way everyone is always hustling and working hard, there’s opportunity for everyone out there willing to find it. I love the public transit. I love that everyday we discover a new bar or cafe or restaurant and it’s just as cool as the last. I love the amount of diversity here, everyday I meet someone new and they always have a different story. I think the people are so nice here (for the most part, ha). I love that there’s always a show or museum or event to go to—I haven’t been bored once. And I love that generally speaking, I’ve felt extremely safe here. The only negative things I can come up with about this place are it’s freaking EXPENSIVE, and the rats on the tube at night creep me out.

To put it lightly, if I had my way I wouldn’t be leaving next week. I hope this isn’t the last of my time in London. Some people have asked about how I feel being so far from home/my family. This experience has shown me that this really is a small world and with technology it’s so easy to stay in touch. My mom and I have a relationship where we talk everyday and I know she’s my best friend no matter where I am in the world. And I talk to my dad and sister regularly too, so it’s been way easier than I thought to feel close to home.

I don’t think it’s this way for everyone but I had a pretty freaking awesome experience in that my roommates (who I didn’t know before coming here), and I became instant best friends. I truly felt like I had a family here the whole time and instantly the conversations we had were so much more than surface level breaking the ice. We were instantly sharing bucket list experiences, talking about self growth, and our goals for life. And of all the experiences we’ve had, some of my favorite memories are of us goofing off in the kitchen. To have friends that are genuinely excited for you and are there to share such amazing memories is such a special thing and I know these girls are friends for life. We’re already talking about visiting each other once we have a few dollars to our names again, ha.

Ironically, I think leaving here is going to be harder to adjust to than coming here. I think an experience like this changes you, and when we came here we were coming to the unknown. But we’re all going home to a place we know, only we aren’t really the same. Hopefully it’s changed us for the better. I know I’m way more independent and confident and I have the attitude that if I can’t find someone to do something with me, I’ll do it myself. I’ve learned to take more risks over here and not let fear/anxiety keep me from something I really want. I learned that I don’t need to go to the mall every time I’m bored and traveling isn’t as expensive or far out of reach then I thought. If I could save enough money in less then a year to go abroad for three months on a part time job and nannying gig, I can afford to travel the rest of my life. I’ve seen how far small acts of kindness, like the taxi driver in Iceland, can go. I’ve seen firsthand different governments and naturally my opinion on American politics have changed. I’ve had real conversations with all kinds of people, who I will probably never see again, but have gone beyond the basic “what’s your name and what do you do?”

I see a lot of sarcastic social media posts about how all study abroad kids want to talk about is study abroad. But if I’m being honest, if those people experienced something like this they’d probably talk about it all the time too. Maggie said she thinks they should talk about it more because she had no idea how amazing this would be and if she did she wouldn’t have thought twice about coming.

To anyone that’s been following along, if you have the opportunity to travel, even for the weekend—go see the freaking world. Be open minded, explore, step out of your comfort zone.

So now… if you’re wondering what’s next for me, I’m wondering the same dang thing. I return to the US with my bachelor’s degree and I don’t have a plan. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared so it sounds like I need to go back and read what I just wrote and take some of my own advice, ha. I know I’m going to spend a couple weeks in Chicago, see my favorite kids I nannied for this summer. I’m going to spend a couple weeks at home and enjoy my mom’s cooking and watch the new season of Schitt’s Creek with her. My sister and I are going to go on some back road drives and we already have a concert planned. I’m going to introduce my dad to my new favorite drink: Jameson whiskey, ginger, and lime. And I’ll be making at least one trip to St. Louis to see all my sweet friends and cheer fam that I miss so much.

Hopefully in that time, I’ll find a job and then I’m off to the next. I’ve said since high school that New York has been calling my name and if I can make it happen, that’s where I’d love to be. But I’m open to some other cities too, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m going to finish up sharing my trips to Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, and my favorite place of them all… London.

Thanks for following friends, your support really means the world!

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Amsterdam City Guide Part 2

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We kicked off Amsterdam day 2 at the A’dam tower. This was one of my favorite things we did in Amsterdam. The ticket package allowed us to take a couple pictures in front of their green screen, and two free drinks. We sat in the bar for a while and admired the views. Maggie’s friend, Bella, met us up there. She is studying in Italy and was so cool, she’s coming to visit London in a couple weeks and we can’t wait to show her around! The A’dam tower had an indoor bar, and then access to the roof. It was very targeted at people like me who are suckers for a photo op. They had tons of places set up for pictures, and a swing that went over the edge of the building. Obviously, we had to try it out and it was so awesome.

After the tower, we got some pastries at a food truck and headed to the Amsterdam Dungeon. I definitely recommend trying a strawberry waffle in Amsterdam, it was delicious.

The Amsterdam Dungeon is an interactive experience that takes you through horror stories of Amsterdam. I think its meant to be scary, but it was more funny than anything else. There was this one couple who were cracking up the whole time and we though seemed so fun. I walked up and asked where they were from and the woman held her fur coat open and said with an attitude “Milan can’t you tell” and then when I looked at her bag she said “its Prada do you want a picture.” In that moment I decided if thats the attitude money gives you, I’d rather be poor, geez. But everyone else there was really nice!:)

That night, we went to the Red Light District. This is literally a street where prostitutes stand in the windows to attract potential clients. I didn’t take any photos out of respect for the women, but it was definitely an experience. We went through a museum and did some research, and some women find it powerful. To them, more power to em. But unfortunately, a local told us over 60% of the women are trafficked. We went through the Museum of Prostitution that had a lot more information on it. I won’t spoil much, but it isn’t uncommon for women to get wrapped into it by boyfriends or “lover boys” who are basically pimps forcing them into it and taking their money. The Museum of Prostitution was actually audio guided by one of Amsterdam’s top prostitutes which was really interesting.

Saturday we visited the Food Hallen for lunch and it was delicious. I went to three different vendors, but only snapped two pictures because it was just too good. They also had clothing vendors, one specifically was a denim store that had designers in house creating new pieces and up cycling old. This was my favorite, and if I could’ve afforded it, I would’ve bought several things. There was also a closet sale for an influencer from Amsterdam, Diipa Khosla. I couldn’t resist a couple of her items, but I also had the opportunity to meet her and she was incredibly kind.

After the market we had a bit more time to explore the streets of Amsterdam and we got to try the famous Van Wonderen Stroopwaffels and Henry Williams Cheese.

That evening we had tickets to a canal cruise, and the Amsterdam Ice Bar. We were trying to find the canal cruise along the side of the canal, and there were so many boats we weren’t sure which was ours. It was cold, and getting dark, and we realized our boat was heading to a dock on the opposite side of the canal, so we sprinted to the other side just in time to catch it. We were all giggling and winded when we hopped on, and then we basically crashed on the boat and didn’t pay much attention, ha. The glimpses of Amsterdam I did see were beautiful, but I slept most of the time.

After our recharge on the river cruise, we headed back to the hostel to change and eat dinner. We had Chinese delivered to our place, and sat at the bar doing shots with the bartenders, and passing our boxes of Chinese back and forth (bartenders included) sharing our dinner. It’s so funny, we go on these trips and meet people, and it’s like we’re all instant friends. We all agree, maybe one day when we have more money, or boyfriends/husbands, staying in a nice hotel with some privacy would be fun. But at the point we are in our lives, to have the opportunity to travel cheaply and meet like minded people, these hostels are where we make some of the best memories. 

After dinner, we headed to the Ice Bar. This was one of my favorite parts of Amsterdam. You walk in, they give you some gloves and jackets, and head into a ice room where everything down to your drink glass is made of ice. It was cold, and silly, and the bartenders were hitting on us (and giving us free drinks, ha) and it was just SO FUN.

After that, we bar hopped to a karaoke bar and unfortunately, the Dutch DO NOT have “Baby” by Justin Bieber on their machines. When we walked in, the bouncer gave us strict instructions to “not dance on the table,” not sure if that was written on my forehead but it is my go-to. Between our dance moves, and our song choices, I think they were ready for us to leave, ha.

A promoter gave us free cover to the club Escape Amsterdam. Maggie describes our experience better than me. Apparently, we walked in and I looked at the VIP stage and said “we are going up there.” So I walked straight through the crowd towards the stage, went to the corner, looked at two dudes and next thing I know, they lifted us all up into their section. We got some bad gin and tonics and danced like maniacs before getting kicked out of the area for not having bracelets. Around this time, it was 1:30am and we needed to leave for the airport by 3am to catch our 6am flight. We headed back to our hostel, took thirty minute naps, and then I literally had to drag the girls out of bed to the airport. We got to the airport looking absolutely disheveled and the security dudes laughed at us the whole way. It wasn’t our classiest moment, but something we will laugh about forever.

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Good Food and a Good Mood-Amsterdam City Guide Part 1

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Usually, everywhere we go, we always love it but agree London is home. I still think London is my favorite, but Amsterdam is the first place that gives it a run for it’s money. Amsterdam is beautiful, the people are so kind, and it just feels so laid back and safe. Maggie said it felt like a Disney movie and she was waiting for an animal to come out and talk to us, ha.

We bought these hats, with the intention of being space cowboys for Halloween with some colored wigs. The costumes never happened, they don’t really dress up in Amsterdam, but we wore them on the airplane and thought we were so funny. This was our first time flying Veuling, and they shot straight to the top of my favorite airline list. They allowed a trolley bag and personal item to carry on, and our flight was pretty much empty so we each got our own row to sit in.

We arrived in Amsterdam late Wednesday night and checked into our hostel, The Flying Pig Uptown. I think this is my favorite hostel yet, and you know I’ve loved them all. The staff here were the absolute friendliest and gave the best recommendations.

Thursday morning, we visited the Anne Frank House. This was by far the most interesting and my personal favorite museum I’ve done. We booked our tickets over a month ahead of time and barely got in, so definitely book this as soon as you book your trip. It is so worth it! I remember reading the Anne Frank diaries in school, but now having visited a concentration camp, just being older, and understanding the history a lot more made being inside the house so much more real. I would really like to reread the book now because I will likely get a lot more out of it.

“How wonderful is it that no one has to wait even a minute to start gradually changing the world”-Anne Frank

After the Anne Frank House, we walked next door to Pancake Amsterdam. I saw Dutch pancakes on the menu and got so excited. In America, my favorite place is the Iron Whisk (Cobden people, you already know) and the Dutch Baby is always my FAVORITE… Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Iron Whisk does Dutch pancakes better than the Dutch, ha. Tara, if you happen to be reading this, I have been eyeing the Cookie Monster for weeks now. Please, please, please have it on the specials board in December when I come home!;)

We then started walking to the Van Gogh museum. On the way we wandered into the House Boat Museum (4.50 euro), and the Kernel De Vreedy art gallery. The House Boat museum was actually so cool. There are 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam and rent is actually cheaper on the water, but insurance is higher. The structure of the museum was an actual houseboat so we were able to picture what life would be like.

 

The Kernel De Vreedy art gallery was also quite cool. The artist’s daughter was working and she explained that her mother makes all the pieces with only her hands. And the first picture, is the most famous piece of work which many have offered to buy but they decided it was too special and they wanted to share it in an art gallery.

We finally made it to the Van Gogh museum and decided to spring for the five euro audioguides. This is a “luxury” I usually forego but we actually agreed it was totally worth it here and the information was really good. I thought the famous painting, Starry Night, would be there but unfortunately it is displayed in New York. But the other works of art were quite interesting and hearing the audioguide explain the meaning and how they were created definitely added to the experience.

We also visited the Bloemenmarkt which is the only floating flower market in the world.

We didn’t have any other plans for the night and we walked by a movie theatre that happened to be playing the Joker in fifteen minutes so we decided that would be a fun way to relax for a bit. The theatre itself was like a nice theatre for plays in the United States and the architecture was beautiful. Unfortunately, they don’t butter the popcorn in Europe (at least we haven’t found it), but they do salt the popcorn in Amsterdam (unlike London), so we were excited to have a bit of a taste of home. The Joker was soooooo good. I won’t post any spoilers, but if you’ve seen the movie, slide in my dms and let me know what you think of the ending because we’ve had several long debates about it and I have a lot of thoughts!;)

After the movie, we went to the restaurant Fondue & Fondue for dinner. The restaurant was full when we got there so he told us to come back in a couple hours and they would seat us. We were close to our hostel so we went there to freshen up, then when we returned they were still full. The people in Amsterdam are seriously so nice, he told us to go next door to the bar and have a beer (cider in my case, ha) and he would come over and get us when a table opened up. So we went next door for a drink, and came back for a delicious three course fondue dinner (27.50 euro special).  We agreed, the experience at the Parisian fondue place was better, but we think the food and staff were better here. We started with a shrimp appetizer. Then we had bread and salad before a spread of truffle cheese fondue, vegetables, more bread, four types of meat, and oil to cook it in. It was FANTASTIC. For dessert we split chocolate fondue, fruit, marshmallows, and cheesecake.

To finish the night, we went to Maxim Piano Bar. I have always wanted to visit a piano bar, and I love to dance to some classic rock (shoutout mom and dad for keeping me cultured on your songs) so this was totally my scene. I was talking to the manager and he explained that this bar brings in pianists from all over the world, and the night we were there the artist was from Australia. He played Elton John, Dolly Parton and Van Halen and I LOVED it.

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Au Revoir: Paris City Guide Part 3

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We started our last full day in Paris by taking the train to the Palace of Versailles. We have toured a lot of extravagant buildings in our time here, but this one was by far the best I’ve ever seen. It is absolutely huge, and the architecture, art work, and design is incredible. I love to walk around and imagine what the people living there would’ve talked about, or done for fun and what it was like to have that much money and status… They used to have 10,000 servants that lived on the property, I can only imagine some of the ridiculous requests.

After Versailles we visited the Louis Vuitton Foundation. I was stoked because Paris is so known for fashion. We walked a street that had Chanel, Chloe, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and so any more designers. You name it, it was there. We merely window shopped, I figured if I walked in they would smell “poor college student who stays in budget hostels and uses coupon apps at restaurants” from a mile away. Anyways, we went to the Louis Vuitton foundation and we got totally cat fished. There was not a single bag, shoe, or dress in sight. We didn’t stay long but its a space to promote young artists. If modern art is your scene, this is the place for you. However, if you’re expecting a collection of clothes and accessories, you will be disappointed.

We were walking back to our hostel, and we passed the Palace Royal. This was on my list but I didn’t think we would be able to fit it in. I mainly just wanted to take pictures on the striped columns so we peeped in so I could get the shot and headed back.

That night, we had a river cruise booked. Remember in Ibiza when we bought cheap airport liquor? Well that turned out to be a pretty dang good idea, so before our cruise we popped into a supermarket and grabbed some gin, sprite, and plastic cups. We ever so classily mixed our concoctions on the street and boarded the cruise. We hopped on just in time to see the Eiffel Tower glow, and if I thought it was impressive before it was even more amazing lighting the sky at night. Cruising down the canal, giggling about our weekend, and just gazing at Paris was another highlight moment of my travels.

The next morning we grabbed brunch and headed to Montmarte, a little neighborhood with shops and cafes, to explore before we had to catch our flight.

Traci, Lea, Maggie and I have all been reflecting on how this experience has been so far. We are doing so many amazing things and learning so much about culture and history, but I think the biggest lesson of this experience has been that I am a lot more capable than anything I thought of. This is another post where I’m keeping it real. This experience has been so amazing, and if you follow me on social media or read this blog, its mostly a highlight reel of all the amazing things I’ve been doing here. But that’s not real, and life isn’t always perfect.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, traveling can be hard. Each time though, we have to problem solve and come up with a solution. From figuring out little things like public transit, language barriers, and budgeting to big things like missing a flight, scheduling a wrong flight, or falling off a bunk bed and spraining my ankle, we are totally doing it on our own here.

In the last hour we were in Paris, I opened my bag to grab my wallet and it wasn’t there. We had ridden the underground to Montmarte. The last place I could remember having it was when I retrieved our train tickets in the station. It’s likely in between the shuffle of scanning tickets and getting on the train, I stuck it in my jacket pocket or bag and someone reached in and grabbed it. We had made several transfers since then and I knew that it was a long shot that if I actually did lose it and it wasn’t stolen, someone actually returned it. We backtracked with no luck finding it, but we did find someone else’s empty wallet in a trash can (I guess they were having some bad luck too). Shoutout to the girls as they were so patient in backtracking for an hour, keeping a positive attitude, and assuring me they would do anything to help me. They are some real friends. Ironically, in Barcelona, someone we met had their wallet stolen so I had taken pretty much everything out of mine except my expired drivers license, my debit card, and some cash.

This was one of those times where I had to remind myself that things could be way worse and there are much worse problems. Luckily the lost/stolen wallet is about a 100 euro cash loss, and a pain in the butt trying to get a new id and cards across the pond. My friends kept joking that they couldn’t believe how calm I was and I was like, “well freaking out isn’t going to fix find it.” I told my mom that and she’s like, “maybe the new you, but the old you wouldn’t have felt that way.” Maybe it takes spending 3 months in a foreign country at the ripe age of 21 and having a few bumps in the road, or maybe it takes something else, but this is one of those times where I had to realize I need to take a breath and figure it out. I’m not grateful my wallet was stolen but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here. It’s hard to even be that upset when I have something like this happen because I’m in Paris doing things that people dream of and at the end of the day I can have a lost wallet here, car problems at home, or another thing happen. Life isn’t perfect, traveling isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect.

One of my favorite quotes by a traveling family on YouTube, The Bucket List Family, “Rich” is a relative and opinion-based adjective which is mostly based on each individuals level of gratitude towards life.” I am certainly not rich, actually I’m operating on a strict budget here. But as my sister said “I’m a poor girl doing rich girl things.”  I’m not talking about rich monetarily though, I’m talking about rich in experiences and my gratitude for life.

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A France-y Toruist in a France-y City: Paris City Guide Part 2

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The second day in Paris we tried to hit all the big touristy things (part 1 here). We started at the Sacer Coer. This is a stunning church on the top of a hill with breathtaking views of Paris. There were so many stairs, and every few minutes I would turn around to look at the city and it was more incredible with each step. The architecture inside of the church was also amazing.

After the church, we took a pit stop for some macaroons and than headed to the Arc De Triomphe. We went to the top to soak up the views, ten euros with a student ID. We were able to see the Eiffel Tower from this angle, and each time I saw it I was equally impressed. Traci and I decided to do handstands on the top. Seconds after kicking up I was scolded by a security guard, lesson learned.

To finish our touristy day, we headed to the Lourve. With a student id, its free to get in. This was by far the most impressive art museum I have ever been to, and is home to the most famous, Mona Lisa and the Venus De Milo. We went later in the day, but if we had went earlier and weren’t as tired we agreed we could’ve spent hours there, it is HUGE. You enter in through the famous glass pyramid, and the buildings themselves were literally art.

 

 

We finished the day with possibly my favorite meal EVER tied only with an Argentinian restaurant in Paducah, Kentucky of all places (shoutout to the Reach’s I still think about that meal). Les Refuge Des Fondue is a little hole in the wall in Paris that literally only has two rows of tables and you have to climb over them to sit down. They serve wine in baby bottles because people kept spilling, they have the best cheese fondue, and meat to cook in oil. It was DELICIOUS and if were up to me I would’ve eaten there for every other meal. We tried to go the night before but they were so busy we had to make reservations but it was totally worth it. Plus it was only 25 euros total for an appetizer, the fondue, meat, and two glasses of wine.

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Eiffel For Paris: Paris City Guide Part 1

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Paris was number one on my list of places I HAD to visit while in Europe. We arrived Thursday morning and checked into our hostel. As usual, we stayed at another St. Christopher’s Inn right on the canal, then we immediately took public transit to the Eiffel Tower. We were super impressed by the Paris underground, it was super similar to London’s and very easy to navigate. Use the Google maps app for specific instructions on stops, and buy the booklets of ten or twenty train tickets to save some money. We were given specific instructions to take either the M6 or the M9 to the Tracadero stop and get off there for the BEST first impression of the Eiffel Tower.

This sounds extremely cheesy, but every week I have these moments of feeling so much joy like I will never be this young, free, and happy again, and I almost get scared like there’s no way life can get this good again… and then somehow each week here, it does. We exited the train, rounded the corner, and there was the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. My jaw honestly hit the floor. I have literally dreamed of seeing it for so long and couldn’t believe I was actually in Paris, with some of the best girls, staring at the Eiffel Tower. It was everything I thought it would be and probably one of, if not my actual favorite moment of this trip, competing only with seeing the Northern Lights.

As we were walking closer we were literally bombarded with tons of merchants. The first one we met, was calling us sexy fruits (I was a kiwi) and we thought it was so funny. He gave us some free Eiffel Towers, we offered to pay him and he told us they were worth six euros. We didn’t have much cash so we gave him the little we had, maybe six euros total. Then we kept walking… and ALL the merchants kept calling us fruits, Beyonce, Shakira, and Lady Gaga. We quickly realized we weren’t special, the trinkets (that we didn’t even really want) were being sold five for one euro, and it got kind of annoying. So anyone reading this, just walk on by or prepare to get ripped off. Rookie mistake.

Back to the Eiffel Tower though, wow! In true millennial, Instagram, basic girl fashion… we took a ton of pictures. We were going to go up it, but the lines were so long we decided to skip it. Plus, we figured if we did a rooftop thing on another building, we would have views of the Eiffel Tower, which is the highlight anyways. It’s definitely on my list for next time though.

After the Eiffel Tower, we headed to the catacombs. Over six million people were buried underground here to save space in cemeteries. The history here was amazing, and we kept trying to figure out how they got so many bodies down there, or even how they built the channel itself? Especially so many years ago without the technology we have now. The line here was extremely long too, so if visiting I would suggest trying to buy tickets online or getting there earlier in the day. Maggie had been to the catacombs in Rome and she said the Paris ones were better so we absolutely recommend visiting.

That night we went to a little Parisian restaurant and tried escargot. One of my favorite things to do is try new food, and these snails did not disappoint. We all thought they were delicious.

After dinner we walked over to see the Moulin Rouge. I would’ve loved to see a show but the cheapest tickets were 97 euros so we skipped it. The street that it was on was definitely an experience to walk on at night though. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I would describe it as a rated R version of the strip. I’ll leave it to your imagination what we saw.

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