This Thursday we’re going for a bit of a Throwback Thursday (is that still even a thing?), as I’m going to reflect back on my travels that I’ve been on. The majority of which happened at the end of my first year of university (over the summer period). Also, a pre-warning to any world travellers out there, my travels are restricted entirely to Europe because I’ve yet to venture outside of there (though I really hope to do so in the future!).
So at the end of my first year of university after being a bit shy for the year and not really engaging in university life despite many opportunities to; I decided that I wanted to go travelling. I loved visiting new places and I felt confident enough to go on my own. I decided on Europe because back then I had only been to a handful of places in Europe and really wanted to visit the capital cities I heard so much about! In the end I decided on Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Berlin and Zurich.
I think when I booked everything I just stayed up late one night and did it all in one night, ensuring I printed everything off for both me and for my mother (as she requested an itinerary, which is fair enough). It didn’t take long and then the trip suddenly came around. On the actual journey there I was excited and ready to go. It wasn’t till I hit Paris and my hostel room when I realised that the excitement had suddenly transformed into nerves.
First of all, I quickly realised that I had made a mistake in booking my first hostel room for my trip and it was a mixed dormitory instead of only females. The reason I’ll be honest I had decided to go with all female rooms was simply because I was more familiar with that atmosphere. The mix up didn’t really bother beyond making me feel slightly nervous about how to navigate the unexpected situation.
However, I was determined to have a good time and decided to continue with my plan to go drink wine and watch the sun set at the top of the Sacre Coeur. But first supplies. I made the trip to the nearest small supermarket picked up some snack bars and lots of water (and importantly some cheap $2 euro white wine because I’m blasphemous). After convincing my roommate that this was a good idea (it was their last night on their European adventure so I think they thought ‘why not?’) we headed up to Sacre Coeur. While, I remember making some attempt to seem less boring than I actually was; I remember at the same time just being myself (not as much as I feel comfortable enough doing now but more than usual).
The lights going down as I drank more and more wine (opened thanks to my companion luckily having a handy bottle opener – which, they later nicely donated to me – a story on that later). Some lovely British students studying in Paris approached us and the next thing I knew I was learning about how sauce Algérienne is great with chips and seeing the inside of their cool, chic apartment (cool because it was Paris – student digs are infinitely more appealing there). Despite, their friendliness and my mild tipsiness I still felt very uncool but I have a great memory of staggering back at 4 in the morning through Montmartre (which also happens to be where all the sex shops are so was slightly concerned but it was thankfully abandoned). Luckily, our roommate who had not been there when we left didn’t mind us quickly getting ready for bed.
My other roommate who remained for the rest of my trip from what I can remember was a character. They were from South America (my apologises to them but I can’t remember specifically were). They had been studying in France and wanted to visit Paris before they left. While there they had met a girl who he was very upset about leaving (he tried to illicit my help in crafting a love letter for her because I told him I studied English Literature, however, I’d also never written or had received a love letter). He was nice and he told me how he just walked all around Paris to explore everything and ended up walking probably about ten miles. He also, asked if he could borrow the room for his last day with the girlfriend, which I obliged (later, realising this was probably a mistake, especially as I had to awkwardly drop off something as it was too heavy to carry).
Paris was a dream. I loved the architecture; the museums (especially D’Orsay) and still want to go back there now I’ve done all the essential tourist parts (like climb all the Arc De Triomphe steps, as well as all the ones possible for the Eiffel Tower and see the Mona Lisa) and explore some of the ‘off the beaten track’ experiences – especially the vintage clothing shops and the Dali museum! I also regret not eating in the Amélie café and not eating enough patisserie.
Another Paris favourite of mine is the love lock bridge where lovers leave a lock on the bridge inscribed with their initials and chuck the key into the water (therefore symbolising that their love is forever). I’m not sure if this is allowed anymore because the bridge became too heavy and was starting to be crushed by the weight of the locks. I also heard they were auctioning off some of the older locks to help the problem. Do compile your own research however. I personally hope that there is a way that the bridge can be kept alive.
Also, if I remember correctly my period hit for most of my trip to Paris! I don’t have much more to add about that but it felt relevant somehow. The bottle opener I received I had to leave behind in Paris unfortunately for someone else to find and take with them (the person who gave it to me wanted it to travel as far as possible) because I realised on my trip to the airport that I probably couldn’t take it with me as I was only travelling with hand luggage.
Next, came Amsterdam one of my other favourite destinations but also a great revealer of my naivety. One of the girls in my hostel asked if there was any coffee shops nearby, which caused me to foolishly reply that I thought I’d see a Costa at the train station not realising she meant a special kind of coffee shop! The hostel I liked to mention was called Hostelle and was an all female hostel so I didn’t have the opportunity to mess up my room booking there. It was a little outside the main centre of Amsterdam, which was nice for me because I wouldn’t stay out to the latest train back anyway on my own) and it meant the surrounding area was a lot quieter.
Amsterdam is simply beautiful. The flower market, with every kind of bloom you can find, surrounded by cheese shops, which gave out sublime samples of cheese and truffle, was a particular highlight. The Anne Frank museum was as emotional as you can expect – I remember reading her diary when I was younger and thinking about how we shared the same birthday and finding it weird that I shared a connection (however fragile) with someone so brave. The Van Gogh museum was one of my personal favourites because I’ve always wanted to visit and Van Gogh is one of my favourite painters (which, is most definitely the influence of my mother). I was sad that Starry, Starry Night wasn’t there but I loved seeing all the paintings of his I hadn’t seen before. When I think of Van Gogh now I get stupidly emotional though because of the Dr Who episode, as I just think about how his life might have been different if he’d realise the way his paintings are valued now. I would love to actually read more about Van Gogh so you might see a blog post in the future on this biography of Van Gogh when I can afford to buy it (I also think it might better accompany a blog post about the museum/ a trip to Amsterdam).
My first full day in Amsterdam was spent in the company of two lovely women from Australia. It was great to have the company (I was grateful for all the new people I met on my travels). We went on a bus tour of the city together (something, I’d always recommend as it gives you a good idea where all the landmarks are so you can walk to them later) and visited a famous diamond museum (not much fun unless you can afford diamonds). I also had the opportunity to see some windmills but wish I had taken the opportunity to go visit one. We also went to the Hard Rock Café in Amsterdam, which I’d never had the opportunity to visit before. This was a little out of my price range of spending as little as possible each day (ha, ha) but I’d never been before and I had a great time with two lovely people.
(I’ve cropped the lovely lady next to me out of the picture out of respect because they might not want their face shared here!)
Also, for anyone wondering my budget for each day was set at about £20-£25 a day (for food, souvenirs, travel, etc.) and for the most part I stuck to that by prioritising adventures over eating out in restaurants.
I did visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam with some people from the hostel who wanted to go and all I can say is that it is very surreal. I didn’t do the whole stretch because it was too overwhelming after about five minutes but the windows didn’t feel freeing. I understand the benefits of regulating a business by helping workers to have more rights but whether that is being achieved there I can’t say.
After Amsterdam I travelled to Rome and had the worst hostel experience of the trip, but that is a story for my next blog post, as I’ve decided to split this post into two parts! I decided this because I think covering everything would have been way too big of a blog post that no one would want to read. I’m also to be honest struggling to find the motivation to write this week (or do anything) so thought it might be better to split this post up to give me the opportunity to hopefully feel more uplifted next week (the next post will be next Thursday).
That summer I also worked as an Au Pair in Germany and would love to write a blog post on that experience if anyone’s interested – if you are because it’s something you are thinking about doing, let me know in the comments below (or if you’re just generally interested).
I want to also apologise for the lack of photographs of my trip – they got lost with the death of one of my laptops and it’s something I’m still sad about. I looked awful in them and they were not amazing photography but I can see those moments in my mind and I’m sad the physical representation of that is mostly gone.
April (April is the Cruellest Month)
-Blog posts Thursday and Sundays-
P.S. I’m pretty sure my first blog post for this blog was about my travelling experiences but I panicked, deleted it and didn’t touch this blog for a while – look how far I’ve come (ha, ha).