Wanderings & Ramblings

EuroTrip Pt. 1

So, after two weeks of travels and adventures, I am back in my cold room in Waterford. I have experienced so many things, and I am excited to attempt to retell my stories here on my blog. For some things, though, words will not suffice to portray the reality of my feelings or experiences. But, alas, I will do my best. Prepare yourself for a long’un – I’ve tried to condense but there’s too much to say!

Just over two weeks ago, I set out to conquer 4 countries and 6 cities with some great friends. Of course these friends would include my flatmate, Brittany, our Spanish friend, Carlos, and our Dutch friend, Bert. We had all become quite good friends over the months, and were excited to set out on an adventure!

Saturday March 28, 2015

This was the beginning of our journey. Bursting with excitement, I honestly didn’t sleep very much the night before. Getting up decently early, we caught a bus to Dublin and waved goodbye to Waterford with weary limbs.

Arriving at the airport, we attempted to figure out our next step. Because Brittany and I are living here on Visas, we have to get a ‘Visa check’ each time we fly – leading to an extra line-up that we could otherwise pass if we actually lived here – which is basically just a stamp or a person writing “VISA OK” across our boarding passes. Slightly frustrating, but I guess necessary. After security and waiting around, we were on our way to London!

Now, for those of you who know me, I have always wanted to go to London. It was basically #1 on my list of places to go since forever. So, I was beyond ecstatic to be finally travelling to my dream destination. After another bus ride from the airport and our first ride on the underground, we were finally there…

Getting in later in the afternoon, we checked into our hostel and decided to wander the city at night – the perfect decision! Wandering aimlessly through the streets, and turning towards the infamous Thames, we stumbled on an amazing view across the river of the iconic London symbols. Big Ben and the London Eye loomed in front of us, and it felt like something out of a dream. At first, I didn’t even know what I was looking at, mistaking the London Eye for ‘some big red tower…’ (Embarrassing when you’ve only ever wanted to go there…).

 
Our first night, stumbling upon this view, took our words and breath away.
Our first night, stumbling upon this view, took our words and breath away.
 
Typical tourist photo with the infamous telephone box.
Typical tourist photo with the infamous telephone box.
 
Piccadilly Circus and a station to the underground.
Piccadilly Circus and a station to the underground.

The whole time we walked along the Thames, we were all at a loss for words, constantly looking at each other with huge grins on our faces and trying to fathom that we were actually there. We took a million pictures before walking closer and finding dinner, and quickly taking a look at Piccadilly Circus lit up at night. We could honestly not have asked for a better first night in London.

Sunday March 29, 2015

A perfect day in London. I was very excited to see all of the sights in the daytime, those structures standing out along the London skyline. We ventured another trip on the underground, and I found that I was quite good at navigating it and where we needed to go. I was quite proud of myself!

We headed to the Westminster area, and wandered around taking pictures and goofing off, surrounded once again by Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey. We took a stroll through St. James’ Park before coming to Buckingham Palace. As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards. It was pretty cool actually! We took some pictures and hung out before moving onwards.

 
 
You can't really see Westminster Abbey, but it's a great pic of us our first full day in London.
You can’t really see Westminster Abbey, but it’s a great pic of us our first full day in London.
 
London was amazing.
London was amazing.
We found a piece of home at Canada Gate near Buckingham Palace! Had to get a picture.
We found a piece of home at Canada Gate near Buckingham Palace! Had to get a picture.

 

During this day, a joke began that would run for the rest of the trip. My friend, Carlos, has a serious camera for taking pictures, a DSLR that I am super jealous of. We decided that we wanted a group photo in front of [insert name of whatever close by structure or building we would be standing in front of in each city], so Carlos would venture to ask someone to take a picture of us. Well, he ended up asking someone who turned out to be Spanish the first time – so it became a joke that he would try to find Spanish people to take our picture. In London, it worked almost every time without fail! We had a lot of laughs about that.

We found some cool monuments and the Hard Rock Café, before catching the tube to Camden Market. It was really neat! We wandered the streets looking for souvenirs for ourselves and people back home, and we even stumbled on The World’s End pub (you’ll get it if you know of the movie, but we didn’t end up going in).

That night was probably the best part of London though – we headed back to the center to go on the London Eye itself! It was so amazing. Even with the rain and some clouds, you could see the entire city as you slowly went higher into the sky. We had tons of fun taking pictures and pointing out all the different sights. It was great to see the lights come on as well.

 
 
Selfie on the London Eye!
Selfie on the London Eye!
 
The London Eye lit up on a rainy evening.
The London Eye lit up on a rainy evening.
View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.
View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

We walked through Covent Garden before heading back to our hostel to crash. It was a great day.

Monday March 30, 2015

Our last day in London – so I skipped breakfast and caught up on some sleep! I wanted to make sure to really enjoy the day on a full 8 hours.

We headed to the British Museum to see the wonders kept inside. We had briefly wandered through the Museum of Natural History the previous day, and had been slightly underwhelmed. But the British Museum definitely did not disappoint – it was huge! There were so many different sections to look through: Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, Asia, North America, and so much more. For a history nut like me, it was Heaven. I could have wandered for a long time. But, we had split up with the guys and not having cell service, it became imperative and difficult to find them once again. And I was starving by this point, having only snacked on granola bars.

 
Outside the Tower of London. (Yes, we took an 'us-ie' at a place where someone was beheaded)
Outside the Tower of London. (Yes, we took an ‘us-ie’ at a place where someone was beheaded)

 

 
Tower Bridge, London. We walked across afterwards, to explore the other side of the Thames.
Tower Bridge, London. We walked across afterwards, to explore the other side of the Thames.

We ate lunch (thank goodness) before catching the tube to go to the other areas of London we hadn’t seen. Wandering along the other end of the Thames, we found the London Fire memorial, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the London Shard in the distance. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much history and so many iconic buildings. I was in awe.

But the best part was yet to come, as we walked along the opposite side of the river. We found a cute pub and stopped for afternoon tea – something we all wanted to partake in while there. Brittany and I shared a treacle sponge with our tea, apparently a typical English dessert served with cream. It was delicious!

Continuing on, we eventually found Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I was so excited, and could not stop looking at it, staring in awe. If I go back, it would be amazing to see a play performed there. We settled for sitting on the wall along the Thames, staring at the historic building, as I quoted my favourite quotes from various plays.

 
Cuppa afternoon tea and some treacle sponge for the sweet tooth.
Cuppa afternoon tea and some treacle sponge for the sweet tooth.

 

Shakespeare's one and only Globe Theatre! (This picture was actually hard to get...)
Shakespeare’s one and only Globe Theatre! (This picture was actually hard to get…)

 

 
Here, we are on Millennium Bridge, and you can see St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance behind us.
Here, we are on Millennium Bridge, and you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance behind us.

We walked across Millennium Bridge (yes, the one from Harry Potter) and saw St. Paul’s Cathedral before heading back to our hostel for dinner. It was such an amazing end to our adventures in London. I had high expectations that London definitely lived up to!

Tuesday March 31, 2015

“3:15am came incredibly early this morning… None of us could really get out of bed – but we had to catch a taxi to the bus station” to fly to Eindhoven! (quote from my journal that day).

It took us a while to figure out where to go, but we finally arrived at the airport. We waited in lots of line-ups (again having to do a Visa check before security), and then relaxed before the flight. Now, even though the flight was only 40min, and I have taken many flights before, this was actually the WORST flight of my life. Take-off was bumpy because there was some wind in London, and then it was smooth sailing the whole time we were in the air.

But the landing – Oh. My. Goodness. See, there was a storm in the Netherlands the two days we were there; the winds were incredibly strong (and cold) as our plane tried to land. Brittany and I were freaking out as the plane experienced turbulence and possibly even flew sideways for a bit. It was not enjoyable, but we had a safe landing! Bert, who had only flown a couple times before this, was eerily the epitome of calm between all of us. Thanks for lending some of your calmness, Bert! Hahaha.

Anyways, I digress. We took a bus to catch our first European train (and Brittany’s first ever train)! It was a smooth, short ride into Amsterdam. At the station, we immediately tried some Dutch food thanks to our own personal tour guide and friend, Bert. It was called frikandel. Don’t ask me exactly what it is – I’ve learned not to ask that question with some foods in Europe… Basically it was something like a hot dog or sausage (but not quite) with curry, mayonnaise and onions on it. Previously, I would never have eaten that – but it was actually really, really good!

 
Vondelpark, Amsterdam - the famous, huge park. There were so many people! (Not sarcasm, I swear there were...)
Vondelpark, Amsterdam – the famous, huge park. There were so many people! (Not sarcasm, I swear there were…)

 

Standing in front of the iconic sign.
Standing in front of the iconic sign.

 

 
The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.
The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.
 
The canals were lit up very pretty at night. The bikes did not glow, though - random cool effect from my camera.
The canals were lit up very pretty at night. The bikes did not glow, though – random cool effect from my camera.

We took a tram to the hostel, adding one more type of transportation to our day, and hung out for a little while (either taking siestas, reading or relaxing). Brittany and I decided to wander Vondelpark before accidentally stumbling on the “iamsterdam” sign. We went back with the guys to take a ton of pictures, before wandering all over the city, exploring Dam Square and seeing the many canals.

We ate some dinner, and then met up with some of Carlos’ friends from Spain. We all went out to a pub and had a round of beers. It was a lot of fun! The guys decided to stay out while Brittany and I walked back, stopping at a little bakery to grab some sweets. The city was amazing at night and felt pretty safe.

Amsterdam really surprised me. I hadn’t been as excited for it as some of the other cities, but it ended up being one of my favourite cities that we visited. The canals were beautiful and it was a great city to explore!

Wednesday April 1, 2015

After waking up way later than we had all planned, we grabbed some breakfast from the grocery store (frikandel brootje – similar to what we had the day before, but in a breakfast pastry), and headed out for the day.

We met up with Bert’s twin sister and their friend and began our explorations of the city once again. The plan was to go to the Anne Frank House, but the line-up was over 2 hours long! We decided that two hours, standing in the cold wind wasn’t worth it. So we took some pictures and headed to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum instead. It was a ton of fun!

 
Trying to escape Madame Tussaud's to take E.T. home...
Trying to escape Madame Tussaud’s to take E.T. home…

 

Dam Square, the large main square of the city of Amsterdam. (View from Madame Tussauds)
Dam Square, the large main square of the city of Amsterdam. (View from Madame Tussauds)

 

 
There weren't a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can't get more Dutch than that...
There weren’t a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can’t get more Dutch than that…

We got food, bought souvenirs, and said goodbye to Bert’s sister and friend. That night, we went on a canal cruise of the city, being shown the beautiful canals and city sights at night. It really was an amazing experience.

Before crashing at the hostel, we found the “iamsterdam” sign at night, and with no one on it we had fun taking pictures and climbing all over (also, Brittany and I frolicked on the lawn in front of it, cause why not?).

Amsterdam was truly amazing.

——

This post is getting long, so I will stop there. Perhaps I will include less detail in the next post, seen as I have to fit in 4 cities. This trip was truly amazing and honestly, I’m not even including everything that happened nor all the pictures and jokes. Stay tuned for the next post, that will include Belgium and France.

“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – my motto for this trip [Pinterest, of course]

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