I haven’t managed to get around Shenzhen as much as I would like but I have definitely managed to hit some of the most famous tourist areas while I’ve been here, one of those being Window of the World! For those not familiar, Window of the World is a tourist spot in Shenzhen where you can walk around and view miniature (though some of the exhibitions are quite large) landmarks from around the world.
At first, I wasn’t sure if the concept was something I’d enjoy, especially for the landmarks that I have actually visited but in fact it was really fun. Not only is it a good walk around the place but if you interested in architecture it is a great way to put together a list of potential places you want to visit while being able to compare architecture across the globe! Also, what monuments are included and how many shows what countries Chinese people are interested in visiting, which I think is really interesting.
Though I should be clear if you are a tourist visiting Shenzhen I don’t know if I’d recommend this, but if you have quite a bit of time in Shenzhen and want a fun half day out then this is it! I would though recommend taking an umbrella for the heat, especially in the summer (though it’s essentially summer all year round here, also always carry an umbrella in South China, as it’s useful for both rain and shine).
Essentially, Window of the World is kind of a big theme park where instead of rides you walk around and look at different cultural monuments across the globe. There are however rides and extra experiences available along the way (along with plenty of restaurants) but these are at an extra cost.
From what I could see there were also golf carts to hire if you didn’t want to/ are not able to walk around the exhibits.
The exhibits are divided by country/ geographical location but there are some sections, such as a garden with lots of renditions of famous statues (which, was really cool) that contain replicas from lots of different cultures. There is also a dinosaur section randomly enough, partly I think because the experience also focuses on history, but also to appeal to children.
A lot of the exhibitions are really impressive and honestly stunning, I was particularly enthused about the Chinese, Korean and Japanese architecture, as they featured places I have not visited but hope to visit in the future.
££ – While the price of the ticket is about average to cheap for a similar experience in the UK for China it is quite expensive. A day ticket worked out at 220 RMB each for Martin and I.
Day ticket cost: 220 RMB
3.5 out of 5
Window of the World (lines 1 and 2) – While in Shenzhen I’d definitely recommend downloading the Metro Shenzhen app (it’s in English and really helpful for planning out metro journeys).
For those who don’t know I’ve moved … to China! For someone who has never been outside of Europe, it has definitely been a shock to my system but in a good way. More than anything I’m excited to share my experiences while I am here so be prepared for a bit of a shift in my blog content.
Although, I did research before coming to China about how vegetarian friendly it is, the results were still a bit of a mixed bag and not what I was expecting. For someone who is used to living in such a veggie friendly place like the UK, not being able to find a vegetarian option all the time came as a surprise (despite knowing this would likely be the case).
If you’re staying long term in China and cooking at home, finding food is not as difficult (as long as you’re a fan of some of the more ‘basic’ meat substitutes like tofu, chickpeas and beans, though I’ve even found mock beef!), as groceries are cheap, especially if you stick to Chinese dishes.
Eating out is where it can get more difficult.
Tofu, for example, is often included in meat dishes in China – when I was eating out the other day, some of my friends in China found pork at the bottom of their tofu dish and from what I’ve heard that’s very common.
It is not all bad news though as although dishes will often be in Chinese, everyone provides pictures and if you stick with just plain vegetables and rice you will usually be ok (though maybe not the most satisfied). As there are vegetarian dishes in China, you just won’t find them labelled as such unless you go to chain restaurants (typically found in malls here). However, be warned there will often be hidden animal-based ingredients in sauces (you have to decide yourself if this is a risk you want to take). It can also be useful to learn how to say I am a vegetarian in Mandarin.
If you want to be 100% sure about what you’re eating when eating out, then my advice is to go to exclusively vegetarian restaurants, which there are more than you might think – at least there are where I am staying in Shenzhen. However, these restaurants will tend to be more expensive to eat out than other places in China.
Overall, my experience has been a struggle and an adjustment while I’ve been here which is why I wanted to share a sample of what I ate in a day in my first week here. At the time I was currently eating out, as I was still staying in a hotel so I didn’t have the facilities to cook but eating out for most meals is common in Shenzhen, as it’s so cheap (though as a vegetarian it will probably work out cheaper for you to cook).
Breakfast: Holiday Inn buffet
The breakfast buffet at my hotel is essentially legend among the English teachers I’ve met here and for good reason, it has great variety and it’s delicious. Although, the dishes aren’t labelled as such, there is a great vegetarian variety from buns to vegetables to noodles and rice.
I typically have been pilling my plate sky high with vegetables, typically with some rice or noodles underneath and accompanying it with some watermelon and a red bean bun (my favourite so far apart from mushroom). For those who haven’t had red bean paste before, it’s a sweet paste that is often used in deserts in China – best served steaming hot!
The breakfast buffet is definitely been responsible for me hitting my 5 a day (I think a lot of the time it’s been even more than that!) while I’ve been there and I 100% miss it whole heartedly!
Price: Complimentary as part of my hotel stay so I’m not sure!
Lunch: Din Tai Fung
I’m not going to lie this restaurant appealed to me largely because it one of the very few places I’ve seen here that had vegetarian dishes actually labelled. It was more however on the pricy side and there still wasn’t a whole lot of options.
I had a stir fried mushroom dish, with some vegetables, which was ok but didn’t quite hit the mark for me (it really was more of a side dish to be honest – which in fairness was what it was but I didn’t have main dish option!) and a red bean steamed bun shaped like a peach!
I really wish I’d got more than one of the buns as it was delicious (honestly, I thought I ordered a few and when only one came out I was devastated).
Overall, the experience was fun, especially the little bibs they gave us but if you wanted a lot of food you’d struggle as a vegetarian and it was a bit pricy!
Price: ££- I spent about 50 RMB here but you could easily spend 100-200.
This is probably one of my favourite places to eat and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Shenzhen, it’s especially a good shout if there is a group of you as then you can share dishes (which, is very common in China).
I was lucky enough to visit here with my boyfriend Martin and two friends I met in China (who I won’t name in case they don’t want to be named!) and it was great. The menu was huge but in the end we decided on a dish each (and we weren’t able to get through it all). I think this might have been because we’d all got used to a lot of vegetables and this was quite mock meat heavy – we wished we had ordered two vegetable dishes instead of one! We also did have rice to accompany this (charged as an extra), as well as some tea.
My favourite had to be the mock chicken skewers (I only wish they’d come with a dipping sauce of some kind) as well as the garlicky vegetables. Overall, I left feeling completely satisfied (especially as mock meat can be harder to come by in China).
Price: £ – Depending what you order you could spend from 30 RMB to 100 upwards here.
So there it is – a glimpse into what I’ve been eating while I’ve been in China. I hope this is useful for my fellow vegetarians. Sorry that I can’t give a lot of info about which products are specifically vegan (if you click on the earlier link about how to say you are vegetarian, it should also cover if you are vegan) but I will have some reviews of places that specifically accommodate vegans coming up, as well as tips for cooking at home.
You can also check out my reviews on Happy Cow here (I’m hoping to update it with lots more content soon).
Hi everyone, I’ve just been on a short trip to Amsterdam and managed to vlog a little for the first time while travelling there. However, I developed a cold on holiday so I filmed a lot of segments when I returned home, and I was also too nervous to vlog in public. I did manage to record some footage of me speaking in my accommodation but I’m still not sure if that will see the light of day!
If you want to see the video I’ve inserted it below. However, if you prefer reading my content to watching it all the information I mention is down below and the photographs are probably a bit clearer too!
But first I’ll just quickly introduce the video and talk a little about the clips you’re going to see. I’ll start by saying that I’ve been to Amsterdam before and one of the things I really missed out on was the food due to my budget. I wanted to focus on the museums at that point but although I did revisit two on this trip because Martin hadn’t seen them; I also wanted to try some more of the food treats I missed.
Most of the meals I had equalled about 5-8 euros. I took two water bottles with me and refilled these at our hostel so Ididn’t pay for drinks unless I was eating in. The exception was when I went to the Vegan Junk Food Bar as that was more of a sit down experience and less quick ‘fast’ food.
Despite, getting to try more options while on this trip I still didn’t have the time to go everywhere I wanted to go but I was very happy with the places I got to try! Also, this isn’t EVERYTHING I ate on the trip but just the things I think deserved a shout out.
Without further ado let’s get started and apologises in advance if my pronunciation is terrible (I tried to look everything up but it will still likely be awful). I will have everything linked below and please do correct me on any mistakes I’ve made. Also, if you have any Amsterdam food recommendations do let everyone know in the comments below. I’d love to go back to The Netherlands in the future and see The Hague and Rotterdam so all recommendations are appreciated.
Also, the person in some of the footage is my boyfriend Martin who I went on the trip with who very patiently (well sort of) waited for me to film or take pictures of the food we bought for this vlog. I’d also like to mention apologises if the footage is a bit shaky, I need to invest in a steady cam and couldn’t take my tripod with me due to space. I hope you enjoy this video regardless! But if you’re rather just read continue with reading this post (though you’ll miss out on my mad video skills, ha, ha).
The Happy Pig Pancake shop
The first place I ate at while in Amsterdam was The Happy Pig Pancake shop. I had their vegan pancake with vegan chocolate hazelnut sauce and strawberries. For a vegan pancake it tasted really eggy, which was strange but it was really nice. My only complaint was that after our twelve hour coach ride the portion size wasn’t big enough but if you were a normal amount of hungry it would be!
Martin had their Gouda pancake with chopped up vegetables as he usually prefers savoury pancakes and he said it was really nice as well.
Although, I do like savoury breakfast options I have to say when it comes to pancakes I’ll always go for the sweet option. If I could choose again from the menu I would definitely try the option with Tony’s Chocolate on, which you need to try if you’re vegetarian in Amsterdam, as it’s amazing and incredibly moreish. Martin and I are definitely upset that we polished off our stash on the way home.
If you’re vegan though this place has lot of great options so I’d definitely recommend it!
So don’t laugh when I say this but one of the places we really enjoyed was McDonalds. I’m always fascinated by how the menu changes across the world so make a point to at least check out the differences when I travel. I was not expecting though to find a vegetarian McChicken sandwich! From what I can tell this is fairly new but it took me right back to eating these growing up. The only thing different is the texture of the chicken but because the McDonald’s burger always never tasted as ‘meaty’ to me as say Burger King I don’t notice a massive difference.
I had the a veggie McChicken sandwich and Martin had the McCrispy which the only major difference was that you get cheese, Batavia lettuce instead of iceberg, red onion and a spicy sauce and onion compote.
If you’re a vegetarian who loves fast food definitely check them out. Unforunately for vegans when I looked the burger up the meat substitute is made with dairy so isn’t suitable for a vegan diet.
Also the fritesauce at McDonalds is very good, pay the extra 50 cents and buy it.
Manneken Pis fries
Last time I visited Amsterdam I always saw this place and was jealous of the people walking around holding giant cones of fries. I knew this time I had to try them and they were SO good.
We had ours with ketchup, fritesauce and onion on top. I thought there was an option for curry ketchup but unfortunately it was either ketchup or curry and in a panic we choose ketchup when we should have tried curry! They were still delicious though especially the fritesauce and I actually enjoyed raw onion for once as it balanced against the creaminess of the fritesauce nicely.
We made the mistake (or win depending how you look at it) in ordering a large as we didn’t realize how large it would be! From what we could see, we think a lot of people made this mistake. After just having a burger and sharing half a medium fries at McDonalds, I only managed a quarter and even Martin (who is notoriously an eating machine) had to pause and save some for later. Next time, I think a medium would be more than enough to share between the two of us.
If I tried them again I would also definitely pick up the peanut sauce, mayonnaise and onion option.
I also noticed that they know have vegan mayo too! And I’m sure if you asked you could see what other toppings are vegan (i.e. the curry sauce and ketchup is likely to be!).
The Vegan Junk Food Bar
There’s several branches of this restaurant in Amsterdam but we visited the ones that was closest to Museumplein for us which was the Marie Heinekenplein location. I also choose this one because I believe it serves the whole menu where some other locations do not but please correct me if I’m wrong!
This place was nestled in a ring of restaurants but stood out because of its bold, neon design. We had drawn out cash for the trip so we wouldn’t need to use our cards so we were disappointed to see it was card only there. However, we were hungry and this had been one of the places I really wanted to visit so we took the plunge.
We ordered the Unicorn Bread to start which was blue bread (everyone when they see the picture always assumes its cake!) with pink aioli.
Then, for mains I had the Kapsalon loaded fries, which had vegan cheese, shawarma, jalapeños and loads of great sauces. Martin went with the original VJFB burger and some fries on the side, which he scoffed down in precisely two seconds. He let me try a bit of the burger and it was delicious and a nice chunky burger which you sometimes don’t get with vegan or veggie burgers – I’ve had a lot of very flat burgers in my time.
As you’ve guessed everything on the menu here is completely vegan, and also very delicious. We’d definitely visit again next time we went to Amsterdam. This was also the most expensive of any meal we had as it was more of a sit down experience and came to about 15 euros each.
We actually walked right by this next option because we wasn’t sure at first if it was worth it. I’ve had lots of good (and bad!) falafel in my time so falafel as an option didn’t incite a lot of excitement for me. However, when we was waiting in line for some chips, a couple recommended it to us – so of course we had to try it after their glowing review.
Essentially, what you get is a pitta with some falafel in (I got a regular) and hummus and lettuce in and you get to choose your toppings from a wide range. There was even cous cous and I think for just the pitta it was about 5 euros so you could really pad it out and make it a filling meal with just the falafel wrap.
Martin also tried their fries but he said they don’t compare with the others we tried. The pitta and all the sauces were delicious.
They also had lots of signs with what was vegan there too so I don’t think it’d be hard to make your pitta vegan!
I also want to give a quick shop out to the supermarkets we visited. Albert Heijn appeared to be the most prominent chain when we visited and their location near the Van Gogh museum had a massive vegetarian/ vegan aisle, which I’ll insert a clip of with rows and rows of things like veggie bratwurst to mince and schnitzel.
We also tried the Lays Paprika crisps, which were delicious. I don’t usually venture much out into different flavours of crisps because I’m pretty stubborn but these were delicious.
Another thing we had to try is Hagel-slag which the Dutch put on their toast and essentially it’s just chocolate sprinkles on toast. My friend said that the best way is to let them melt a bit and then spread them on your toast. Definitely a Sunday morning indulgent treat!
The bread and pastries are also on a different level and Martin appreciated the vast variety of Fanta on offer.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you some ideas if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam!
I’ve got another video hopefully coming up soon about my trip to Amsterdam and that’s will be a bit more about my trip in general and my accommodation so if you happened to catch the video to this blog post too be sure to subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss it. If you prefer reading my content don’t worry as they’ll be a blog post to accompany that video as well.
Also, thank you to everyone who has supported this blog and my YouTube channel in the past. I know I took a bit of a hiatus with my channel for a bit but I’m back and raring to go with some great autumn (and Halloween content).
If you didn’t figure it out by the title this is the second in a two part series. Please make sure to read part 1 to this post beforehand if you want to read about the start of my adventures and my experiences in Paris and Amsterdam. Alternatively, if you’re only interested in hearing about Rome, Berlin and Zurich then you should be able to follow this post with not too many problems.
My most distinct memory of Rome was that it was hot. Also, the driving of everyone there made me fear for my life. At the airport I arrived at it was about an hours drive into the city from what I remember, which was actually quite nice as it meant I got to see a bit more of Italy than what I might have done. However, I just had to not pay too much attention to the other cars (in fairness to the coach driver from what I remember his driving wasn’t too bad). After arriving I spent about an hour in the heat (I am a very pale, freckled person so this didn’t go well) trying to find my hostel, despite it only being about 5 minutes from where I was dropped off. There definitely need to be a more distinct sign for the hostel to say the least – no one I asked seemed to know where it was either. At one point I fully just gave up and bought a giant bottle of water and sat with that thinking about what to do.
Part of me however kind of wish I hadn’t found it. It was a strange place to say the least. The different rooms (which, were gender split) were split only be a curtain. I don’t care about this in terms of gender but it meant that if one room was still talking the other was still disturbed. It was also boiling. I remember there being little to no air conditioning. Generally, the entire vibe of the hostel was just a little off and I was glad I was only staying there for one night until my mum arrived (as I was then moving into a hotel with her).
After picking up my mum from the airport (on my birthday) and settling into the simple, but much more safe feeling hotel; my mum and I decided to explore Rome a bit more. I had explored a little the night before but had left the majority of my sightseeing for when my mum arrived.
Despite, having gone on the tour bus the day before (I mentioned in my last post how I like to do this when possible to get the lay of a city); my mum made me go on it again as our way of getting around. The most memorable places we visited had to be the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain though I was disappointed that it was closed so we kind of had to throw a coin in from afar (therefore running my Lizzie McGuire movie moment). We also went to Vatican City because we wanted to see the Sistine Chapel but the tour guides there told us to visit there we had to visit the Museum and St Peters Basilica as well. I wouldn’t have minded this but that would cost 50 euros each, which we didn’t have budget for! We’d prioritised the Sistine Chapel because me and my mum had really wanted to see Michelangelo’s infamous artwork in person. In the end we didn’t end up seeing anything, which is probably one of my biggest regrets of the trip! I definitely plan to visit Rome in the future again to rectify this.
Food wise unfortunately the one time we had a proper sit down meal I wasn’t that impressed with the pizza (I think we made the mistake of going to a tourist trap!) but I loved all the fresh fruit that was available. I also had some amazing strawberry gelato near where we stayed and we also went to the magnum shop where you can make a customisable ice cream, which was super fun and delicious (and I think was one of my mum’s highlights).
Another thing to note as well in Rome is that when I was in a church there (I’m pretty sure it was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore); I was wearing a strappy top because of the heat and was asked to cover up with a shawl, which they provided. I’ll be honest the feeling was strange but I respected the wishes of the church as I was a visitor and complied. I just wanted to flag to people who present as female that may be asked to do this.
After Rome I said goodbye to my mum and headed to Berlin. I was lucky there that on my first day I met a friend who visited some of the attractions with me. Not only did we explore the artwork on the Berlin Wall, which was one of my favourite things to visit in Berlin because of the inventive ways artists used the wall for social commentary but also because of how something they transformed something that tore a city apart. We also visited several of the museums that explained more about the history of the wall. As I’d studied the wall partly during my A levels the history fanatic of me loved this part of the trip. Food wise I didn’t have a ton of luck from what I remember this day as the restaurant we visited didn’t really have a vegetarian option! However, I did have a beer, which was a mistake because we then went up the Berlin TV tower Fernsehturm, which if I remember correctly has one of (if not) the fastest elevator in Europe. I probably should have listened when my server asked if I was sure if I wanted a beer without any food!
I did have some pictures of this day and the tower but they sadly as far as I can see have been lost! I remember distinctively though wearing my Nishe navy dress, which I’d worn my first time at a nightclub at University (and was probably my fanciest dress at the time).
There was though some really nice food options in Berlin. Walking around the main tourist bits without looking up where to eat I did struggle a little to find meat free options that weren’t sweet. However, near where my hostel was a small Turkish takeaway that served me the best falafel wrap I’ve ever eaten. I’ve actually had Turkish food in Germany since then and seriously its so nice there! I also enjoyed devouring all the bread I could find, specifically the Bretzels. I did also keep eyeing this cheesecake in the local supermarket to me but never bought it because I’d have to ask at the counter and was scared about my pronunciation – this is something I really regret. You can only improve by trying and if you don’t try you might miss out on some great experiences. I also didn’t realise when I went how many vegan places there are in Berlin (though not sure if this was as much the case then though I did spot one vegan place that served ice cream).
Also, I had my hostel room to myself for pretty much the whole trip because no one else stayed there while I was there. Before, I forget I wanted to mention for those new to hostels, please make sure you read all their terms and conditions as some hotels charge a little more for the bedding/ towels (I took a towel with me on the trip but only took a small suitcase so couldn’t take anymore) so this may increase the price of your trip. Some places also charge a tourist tax (usually a few euros a day) – this only happened in Italy for me however. Some hostels as well like to hold onto a piece of ID for insurance or a security deposit so keep this in mind too!
Other highlights for me included visiting Charlottenburg palace, which was a little surreal compared to parts of Berlin I walked through. It was beautiful though and I loved walking around the grounds – I regretted not bringing my running gear as it would have been a lovely run. Also, this trip reminded me that a lot of public toilets in Europe charge (at least in the big cities) or have a toilet attendant where it is good practice to leave a small tip. So try to make sure you keep a bit of change with you as it can be a difficult otherwise when you’re out all day. In Amsterdam I was able to go to a toilet in a cafe for free when I was really desperate but please be aware!
After Berlin was onto Switzerland and Zurich (which, is on the side closer to Germany of Switzerland, however, the German spoken there is a strange mixture of German and French so if you understand a little of both you can piece it together). Zurich was one of my favourites to visit simply because I loved hiking up Uetilburg. This was despite not having the right shoes or clothes. I saw some people run up and it was steep enough that I thought they were insane.
The air was just so fresh and the water from the water pumps, which I used to refill my water bottle, was amazing. I hiked to the top and also visited the restaurant at the top there and had so very expensive chips but I had to eat because I was starving from the walk and had only brought some snacks so it was worth it in the end. At the top you can climb up a tower where you can look at the view (there were love locks there too- see my previous blog post, ha, ha). It was bit windy so it was a little terrifying but breath taking.
I decided to walk past this point and down to the fields past the top. Despite, getting throughly lost and it starting to get late in the day I loved the experience. Probably because I managed to find my way back in the end by looking for the tower and literally walking towards it.
Zurich itself also has some beautiful sites and I’d definitely recommend walking around the city (it’s very small so very achievable). However, a lot of what I noticed was very expensive shops so this is definitely a place for if you have some money spare! I didn’t try fondue because fondue for one felt a little lonely (don’t be me if you go though eat your fondue for one!) but I did consume a lot of Lindt because it was relatively cheap and there was so much of it (Lindt is probably my favourite chocolate)!
Another thing I found strange was how giving change for large notes was expected there. I actually had asked the people at the hostel if they could change a note and they said not to worry about it as the people in the local shops would have no issue changing it.
I also visited Rhein Falls, which is a short train journey away on my last day and I wish I’d had the time to visit the other side of the waterfall. I had some great photographs from this, which are sadly lost and it was so beautiful. I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to stand on the plinth in the middle of the waterfall and had it past me (as I can’t swim) but I would have loved to have spent the day there).
So, that was my trip to Europe. It was short and sweet but made me feel like a world traveller and ignited my passion for travelling to new places. I would say overall what I learnt from the trip was simply just do it! Don’t be afraid to pronounce things. Don’t let silly reasons get in the way of you trying things. You may never visit somewhere again so make sure you have that experience. I managed to go see lots of things on my bucket list but there were still lots of places or things I regretted not doing. The only things I honestly regretted not buying wasn’t things but experiences!
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.