I took over 1500 pictures on my trip to Europe in July, so it has taken me two months to go through them all and put up my favorites in my Flickr album. My mom let me borrow her point and shoot camera for the trip (no way I was hauling around my bulky DSLR). I was impressed by the quality of pictures I was able to take with her camera.
I had a blast during the trip, but I also learned my travel limits. Twenty-eight days is a long time to be away from home, especially for somebody like me. I went on the trip with my friend Vince, who pretty much let me plan out the entire thing. I wanted to see as many sights as possible, so I planned 2-4 days in each city. By our third day in London, I could barely walk. Turns out my knee problems are a lot worse than I thought. This was extremely frustrating for me. I should be too young for this crap! I'm 22, and I've been having issues with my knees for three years now. Watch out, punk rock kids, those fun times in the circle pit might catch up to you earlier than you expect!
Another surprising thing on the trip was the weather. It rained nearly every day! Even in Italy! I actually checked the average rainfall days in my Europe guidebook, but ignored what it said because I'm an idiot. It literally does not rain in Sacramento in the summer, so at this point in my life the idea of rain in July is absurd. We went through several umbrellas. Now I know to bring a decent coat if I ever go back to Europe, and to believe what the damn guidebook tells me!
So, back to the pictures. I got more and more picture crazy in each city we were in. That's why I only have 15 London pictures posted and almost 200 from Italy. Our trip was planned according to when some of our friends in Europe could hang out with us, so the order of the cities that we went to was a kind of random and not planned very well.
I became a travel guidebook nerd while I was planning the trip. I ended up buying four different Rick Steves books, including one on the history, art, and architecture of Europe. One of these days I might read that book again just to see what I can remember. Planning the trip out was a lot of fun.
If you want to look at all the pictures from a certain city, just click on one of the links below and then click on the "next" button once you get to the Flickr page.
Our trip started in London.We were there for almost four full days and managed to see almost all of the major sights. I loved it, even though at some times I had the bizarre feeling that I was surrounded by people who I could barely understand even though we speak the same language. (It was weird to realize that 99% of the English accents I have heard in my lifetome have been in movies!) On our last night, we stayed out late at a pub near our hostel and hung out with some other travelers. We had to wake up at 5am the next day for our train to Belgium, and our hostel room had 26 other people in it, so I gave up on getting any sleep that night. I was worried that I would end up having problems falling asleep for the rest of the trip, but I luckily it didn't take long to get used to the noisy and crowded hostel rooms.
We stayed in a very weird variety of places over the course of the trip. Our sleeping accommodations ranged from a private room to a tent with 30 different people. Quite an adventure!
We were only in Brussels for one afternoon, so we didn't see much of it. I loved the town square with all the old buildings. Otherwise, the capitol of the EU seemed like a relatively boring place.
Bruges was adorable. Go watch the movie In Bruges and you'll know what I mean. It's one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe, and since it's in Belgium there aren't too many tourists. We missed out on the canal boat tour because of the rain, and didn't manage to climb the tower in the town square because of my knees, but we made up for it by having some pretty awesome meals and beers.
Rain. Nothing but rain! The red light district was interesting. We drank lots of beer and hung out with my friend Kate, who was working as an au pair in the nearby town of Utrecht. I loved the canals and the gabled buildings in Amsterdam. Not so interested in the legal drugs, though. Here in Sacramento I live around the corner from a weed shop and a place to go to get a weed prescription, so I really have no interest in smoking the stuff, even for the novelty value. We did spend a bit of time in a coffeeshop, though. I was almost surprised at how cliche the atmosphere was: reggae, overpriced munchies, and dreadlocks. I get enough of that in my hometown, dammit!
We stayed two nights in Kate's host family's house in Utrecht. It seemed like a less-touristy version of Amsterdam, and for once the weather was perfect! I don't remember too much of our first night there, which might be a good thing. On our 2nd night, I hauled my hungover ass off the couch and we went to see the 7th Harry Potter movie. With Dutch subtitles. And intermission. (Weird!) The house that we stayed in was probably the most modern and expensive house I have ever been in. I'm pretty sure that their house is the exact opposite of the shithole that I live in. I'm also pretty sure that one of their bathrooms was bigger than any bedroom I've lived in.
After Utrecht, we went to visit our friend Kian in Germany. She was also working as an au pair, in a house that was much more cozy and normal than the Utrecht house. We stayed there for three nights. She showed us around the town and took us to some of her favorite bars. Nuremberg is a pretty town with a lot of history. Our stay here felt more relaxed than in the other towns.
By this time the pouring rain was seriously irritating me. We were in Munich for three whole days, which was lucky because the weather wasn't nice until the 3rd day. We also took a side trip to Neuschwanstein castle, which was fun. On the last day we went to a lot of beer gardens and I made sure to get one of the full liters of beer. Those things are huge! We made it back to the Munich train station by about 10pm to catch our night train to Paris.
I was able to sleep pretty well on the train, but Vince wasn't. I had booked the cheapest possible seats (of course, haha) so we were very lucky to get an entire train compartment to ourselves. We were able to stretch out (somewhat uncomfortably) on the rows of seats rather than share a cramped compartment with four other people. If I ever take a Europe night train again, I'd probably spend the extra money for a car with an actual bed. I felt very well-rested once we arrived in Paris at 9am, but Vince wasn't so lucky.
This was my second time in Paris. My first time was back in 2002 with my family. What can I really say about Paris that nobody has heard before? We saw all the famous sights. Hid out under a bridge during a crazy thunderstorm. Had some nice cheese and wine and baguettes. We stayed in a super cheap hotel just outside all the main arrondissements. (Which means that we stayed just outside the main highway that encircles all the old parts of the city.) The subway train we took to our stop was almost always packed with an uncomfortable amount of people. We had a 10 minute walk to our hotel after the subway stop. It was nice to see the non-tourist area of Paris. Each day we stopped at what seemed like the Paris version of the Grocery Outlet near the subway station and bought cheap snacks for the day. Vince said that Paris was different than what he expected. Even though people like to call it the most romantic city in the world, it's really just a big, old, smelly city. It's charming, but it's not perfect. That was what I remembered from my first trip to Paris. So many awesome old buildings! And interesting smells, haha.
By this time we were accustomed to the language barrier, and I was wishing that I had studied some French before leaving. I took two years of French in high school, so I kept hearing and seeing words that I recognized, but I had no idea what they meant.
This was also our first room with a TV. We watched some French news and French stoner TV. It was bizarre to see news coverage of the attacks in Norway, because we could tell that something horrible had happened but couldn't understand any of the details. It wasn't hard to understand the Amy Winehouse broadcasts, though.
The Cinque Terre is a set of five towns within about five miles on the coast of Italy. I'm a sucker for a good view, so I took way too many pictures here. The towns are accessible by train or by several hikes of varying difficulty. I was finally used to my knee problems by this time, so I was able to do a lot of walking without too much pain. (So many stairs!) The descriptions I put under the Flickr pictures will explain pretty much everything we saw in the Cinque Terre.
Rome was amazing. Fucking amazing. And it was the only town we stayed in that didn't rain!
One of the first things we did in Rome was visit the Vatican. I'm not religious, but I love historical sites and old art and architecture. We didn't make time to go to very many museums on our trip, but I'm glad that we made it to the Vatican museum. The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica: need I say more?
I think the only unpleasant part about our time in Rome was the bus trip to our campsite. It was the only bus that ran to a huge campsite, so it was always crowded. I've used public transportation for almost my entire life, but I have never been in a bus that got as crowded as our bus in Rome. It was so bad that the back doors couldn't swing open, because too many people were in the doorway. I know that public transportation gets a lot more crowded in certain Asian countries, but still, I was claustrophobic as hell!
Anyways, I loved Rome. My pictures probably say it all.
I don't want to talk about too many details of our long, fucked up journey home because I'd rather force it out of my mind forever. (Admittedly, I will never forget that 10 hour layover in Chicago O'Hare. Yuck. Stupid thunderstorms.)
We flew out of Zurich (don't ask, like I said our city route was not planned too well) and I took a few cool pictures of the train ride from Rome to Zurich. Even though it should not have been necessary for us to ride through the Alps for a second time during our trip, the views were really beautiful. It was also Swiss National Day (August 1st) so every once in a while we saw fireworks go off in the distance over the towns and lakes that we were passing through. Even though the trip home put us into travel purgatory (or perhaps travel hell at times), the train to Switzerland was really nice.
I might write a second blog post about Europe with some travel tips that I learned, including tips about traveling on a tiny budget. This was the first big trip I've taken that wasn't planned by somebody else, and I learned a lot. Vince helped out a bit during the planning stage, and definitely helped me keep my head on straight while we were navigating our way around every new city and train station. I don't do too well when I'm thrown into new situations. Maybe I'm too absent-minded? Whatever it is, I tend to ignore this fact while I plan my life. Which is a good thing!