For my last entry in my “travelogue”, I wanted to talk about my time spent traveling with my family in Ireland and Scotland. I first arrived in Dublin a few days before my family with my refrigerator in tow – that is, my 60 pound suitcase which I had used to travel to Europe with in the first place. You see, after my original three-week trip in which I traveled to Spain, France, and Italy, I returned to Holland to say my last goodbyes, visit the tulip fields, and of course, reclaim the frig. Obviously, it would have been burdensome, not to mention expensive, to haul that around during my travel time so I was lucky enough to store it at my friend’s place for the time. However, I was flying back home straight from Dublin so I had to take it with me, which led to a near-breakdown at the airport and a fun experience hauling it through UCD’s campus in 75-degree weather (long stories for another time). Eventually, however, I made it to Dublin intact.
Continuing on my previous post, I wanted to continue my travel tales with places I visited after my semester ended. Technically a trimester, I finished in mid-March and then spent about three weeks traveling with friends and occasionally alone. During this period I visited Spain, France and Italy. As before, I want to briefly describe my experience with a few of the places I visited and my thoughts about them.
Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid; Spain
I realized that while I have mentioned some of the traveling I did in past blog posts, I haven’t actually gone into much detail about any of these places (besides the food, at least). So I figured I would dedicate a blog to try to sum up my feelings about some of the countries and cities I was lucky enough to visit.
Now that my time abroad is over, here is the Sparknotes version of my completed travelogue: the Netherlands (Rotterdam, Amsterdam, the Hague); Belgium (Antwerp, Ghent); Germany (Berlin); Czech Republic (Prague); Hungary (Budapest); Spain (Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid); France (Paris, Lyon); Italy (Rome); Ireland (Dublin and various short stops); Scotland (Edinburgh, Isle of Skye). Phew!
Before coming here, I had really not done a lot of international traveling. I have visited several islands in the Caribbean, and outside of that the farthest I had been (in terms of both physical distance and distance outside my comfort zone) had been a trip to Peru after I graduated high school. That was the last time I had left the country, and the only time I had ever left the continent before studying abroad. However, I have long dreamed of traveling the world and studying abroad presented the perfect opportunity to do just that.
I have been on several trips since my last post and I wanted to talk about one of them in particular. I went to Barcelona last weekend and it turned out to be one of my favorite European cities. In this post I will touch on some of the different activities I was able to do in Barcelona, and the cultural vibes throughout the city.
Up until the past weekend, my large travels have consisted of Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. Each one beautiful in its own unique way. Each one part of a developed economy.
So many students choose Europe to study abroad for the ample and cheap travel opportunities. We all form a bucket list of the major cities we need to see before we leave, forgetting the likelihood that we will return to Europe again in our lifetime. Each major European city has a unique culture and landscape, but when you look deeper, these cities are not all that different from their US counterparts. All have tall, skyscrapers where large companies reside. Most have some sort of river running through the middle. Each has large parks, specialty food, and big shopping brands.
I just spent four days in Amsterdam, exploring the city and celebrating Queen’s Day. Queen’s Day is a holiday to celebrate the queen’s birthday on April 30. This date is actually the queen’s mother’s birthday, but she kept the holiday in April because her birthday is during the winter and the weather is nicer in the spring for the outdoor celebration. This Queen’s Day was special because it was the last Queen’s Day, for Queen Beatrix stepped down from the throne and her son ascended the monarchy. Thus, next year will be King’s Day, on his birthday, April 27. Queen’s Day differed this year because it included the king’s coronation. I saw the royal family (the House of Orange, which is why everyone wears orange on this day) enter the New Church for the ceremony. Very cool! Then I celebrated with the locals. The festivities reminded me of a mix between Foxfield and Greek philanthropy events in the spring, but on a city-wide scale. All the streets and stores were shut down as people ate cheap yet delicious food and sang and dance to loud and energetic music. It is a day to have fun and celebrate the royal family. Queen’s Day is the only day when locals can sell their belongings garage sale style, so many street vendors sell clothes and goods. Children also sold goods at a local park! They are businessmen in the making.
So when I said in my last post in Budapest that I would be writing about Vienna in a few days…I lied. Traveling and soaking everything up here in Copenhagen leaves little time for much else, particularly blogging. So now, a month after my trip to Vienna, I’m finally sitting down to write about it. It’s funny though how all it takes is a song and a couple memories for everything to come flooding back. The clear choice in this case was to listen to Billy Joel’s song, Vienna, a few times just to get the blood flowing. Considering my home town is Vienna, VA and I’ve got a real soft spot for Billy Joel, that song in particular has always been a go-to. Different lyrics and instrumental parts always stand out to me, however this time being “so ambitious for a juvenile” struck a chord. The trip I’m talking about right now was an 8-day trek through Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. Factoring in all the traveling to and from Copenhagen and in between the cities, this was a very ambitious trip. In every city we had to pick and choose what sites to see, but generally we tried to do it all. So, given that we spent three days each in Budapest and Prague, that left two in Vienna, the first of which was a day essentially wasted traveling. Doing an entire city in one day was certainly ambitious, but given what we accomplished, apparently we were up to the task.
After a pretty amazing first month in Italy this February, it its safe to say that March has surpassed it and it’s not even over yet. Here’s a quick recap of the travels this month: (I’ll add pictures as soon as my IPhoto starts working again!)
London to visit my Uncle
This morning I woke up with the sunrise in Budapest. I looked out my window and watched the sky turn shades of pink and purple against the unique skyline that includes the towers from the Catholic Church and Jewish Synagogue. I honestly can’t believe that this is real life. I almost had to pinch myself to realize that it all isn’t just a dream. I can’t believe that I am this lucky.