12 Days in Europe: Berlin

After a short train ride from Hamburg, we arrived at the final stop of our trip, Berlin. Our first day there, we took another free walking tour of the city. It was a great tour that helped us get oriented in the city and see some of the major sites, including the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Bradenburg Gate.

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The second day was a Monday, so all of the museums in the city were closed. Instead of seeing more of the city, we decided to take a tour of the nearby concentration camp, Saxenhausen. It was a good, but hard day. I’m glad that I was able to visit a camp in person and learn more about what happened during the holocaust.

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And then, all too soon, our time in Germany came to close. We ended the trip in Reims. I showed Ben the cathedral, my school, and we went champagne tasting at Taittinger. It was the a great, and relaxing, end to our trip. 🙂

Did you miss any of the posts about our trip? Catch up here!

Itinerary: https://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/12-days-in-europe-itinerary/ 

Parishttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/12-days-in-europe-paris/ 

Brusselshttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/12-days-in-europe-brussels/ 

Amsterdamhttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/12-days-in-europe-amsterdam/ 

Hamburghttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/12-days-in-europe-hamburg/ 

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12 Days in Europe: Hamburg

The final leg of my trip with Ben was 4 days in Germany, starting with 2 days in Hamburg. When we arrived in Hamburg after an early flight from Amsterdam, we were exhausted. After checking into our hotel, grabbing lunch, and getting coffee, we hopped on a bus tour of the city. It was a great way to see the city while sitting down and staying out of the drizzling rain that had started up. The bus tour ended in the early afternoon and we promptly headed back to our hotel for a nap and a lazy afternoon.

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Hamburg was Ben’s first real taste of the language barrier. In Paris and Brussels, I could speak French, and in English is widely spoken in Amsterdam. But once we got to Hamburg, our combined knowledge of 10 German words didn’t help us out that much. However, English is the international travel language, so we didn’t have much trouble, but I did end up accidentally ordering an appetizer at dinner.

After having a day of rest, we set out to see as much of Hamburg as we could in the time we had left. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy, but we made the best of the situation. First, we headed to St. Michaels church and climbed to the top to get an amazing view of the city. Next, we headed to the Miniature World Exhibit. It is home to the world’s largest model railway and is absolutely amazing. We spent a good 3 hours there but you could easily spend an entire day there looking at the exhibit. The attention to detail and the massive scale of the exhibit is astounding. If you ever find yourself in Hamburg, I definitely recommend visiting!

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We wandered around the city some more in the afternoon, grabbed dinner, and had another early night to make sure that we were well rested for our last few days of travel. Next stop: Berlin.

10 Things I Miss About America

I have officially lived in France for 18 months now and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. I love living in France, but there are definitely things I miss about the states. And I’ve been reminiscing a bit about life in the states this week, so here’s a list of the 10 things I miss the most about the USA (besides family and friends, of course!).

1. Sweet Tea. Southern sweet tea. It’s more than just sugar in iced tea, it’s a lifestyle.

2. 24 hour Library. Neoma’s library closes by 10pm daily, earlier on Saturdays, and is closed on Sundays. During finals week, the library is typically open fewer hours instead having extended hours. Especially now that I’m elbow deep in thesis work, I miss having access to the library 24/7 and only having to walk 10 minutes to get there.

3. Band. And having a variety of activities in general. In college in the US, being well-rounded and involved in campus life is really important. However, in France, as a student, your job is to study and go to class. There are a few sports teams and a student association, but that’s about it. I miss the diversity of activities that the US colleges offer, especially band.

4. Having a Consistent Schedule. After 3 semesters of crazy schedules and 3-hour long classes, you think that I would be used to it now. And I am, well, sort of. I have learned how to work well in the French school system and class schedule, but I don’t like it. I’m looking forward to having a fairly consistent work schedule after school.

5. Wearing sweats to class. While at Elon, I wore a t-shirt and jeans to class most days, but didn’t take enough advantage of the acceptability of wearing sweats or pajamas to class. Here’s to the days of wearing a t-shirt, hoodie, and sweat pants to class.

6. Food. Mac ‘n Cheese, canned black beans, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms, bagels, the list of American foods I miss goes on and on. I haven’t found it hard to be a vegetarian in France, but there are definitely some things that I miss: soy bacon, tofurkey, veggie burgers. Yummm. And don’t get me started on restaurants. I have a long list of places I miss (Panera Bread, Chipotle, The Root, Cookout…).

7. Shopping Hours. Almost everything closes for lunch and Sundays. While I have adopted to and appreciate the more “relaxed” lifestyle here, sometimes I just want to do my grocery shopping on Sunday and go to the bank during my lunch break.

8. Peanut Butter.  Technically peanut butter exists in France, but it’s definitely not the same here. I’m the only person I know who brings PB&J or PB, honey and banana sandwiches to school. Peanut butter in France comes in teeny, tiny, expensive jars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are nowhere to be found. Here’s to hoping my peanut butter stash lasts through the end of the semester.

9. Iced Coffee. I’ve gotten fairly used to not having ice in my drinks in restaurants, but I definitely miss having iced coffee in the summer.

10. Dryers. Folding laundry from a drying rack just isn’t the same as folding clothes fresh from the dryer.

12 Days in Europe: Amsterdam

After another very early 6am train, we made it safely to Amsterdam. If I had to choose my favorite city on this trip, I would pick Amsterdam. It’s one thing to hear about and see pictures of the canals and the rows of houses, and another to see them in person. The city is gorgeous and around every corner is another cute side street or another beautiful view of a canal.

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There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam. However, since it was February when we visited, we opted not to ride bikes due to the cold weather. But, even if the weather was warmer, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to ride. The traffic is crazy and my sense of direction isn’t great when walking around, let alone while on a bike trying to navigate unfamiliar the streets. I was very proud that we managed to avoid getting hit by the bikes, trams, and cars during our time there.

Our first day there, we took a free walking tour to help us get oriented before getting settled in our hostel and taking a late afternoon canal tour. I am a huge fan of boat tours – they are a great way to see a city from a new perspective while getting off your feet for a bit.

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After a relaxing evening and a good nights sleep, we were off to tackle our last day in Amsterdam. First stop: the Anne Frank House. We planned on getting there a little bit before it opened at 9 because we heard that the line to get in can be long. We had a slow start to the morning and got there right around 9 and ended up having to wait in line for 1.5 hours to get in. The Anne Frank House is a must see Amsterdam for a reason and is definitely worth the long wait to get into. Our last few hours were filled with a trip to the Heineken Experience, another fun thing to do in the city, followed some shopping to pick up a few more souvenirs. We definitely had a fun 2 days in Amsterdam!

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12 Days in Europe: Brussels

Next up on our travels was Brussels. It was here that Ben first learned that I am not great with directions. I can get around, it just takes some trial and error first. He was lulled into a false sense of security in Paris, where I already knew my way around, so I think that the 45 minutes it took us to find our hotel (instead of the 10-15 minutes) was a bit of a shock. But, in my defense, I had not had any coffee yet and we had woken up super early to catch our 6am train

After dropping our bags off at the hotel, finding breakfast, and fueling up on coffee, we headed out to explore the city. And, after wandering for a while and just following the steeple in the distance, we made it to downtown and were greeted with the spectacular view that is the Grand Palace. First up on our agenda was a walking tour of the city with Sandeman’s New Europe Tours. Sandeman’s has tours all over Europe and I’ve always had great experiences with them. It’s a great way to get oriented with a town and learn about it’s history, all while sticking to your budget.

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During the rest of our time in Brussels, we stuffed our faces with waffles, tasted Belgian beers, saw the European Parliament building, visited an instrument museum (which I highly recommend), and got lost wandering the winding streets. I loved stumbling comic murals through the town. Brussels is known for it’s comics and has created comic book route to celebrate this history. The last day we were there, we splurged on a fancy meal at a restaurant with the best view in the city. It was a great way to relax before moving on to our next stop: Amsterdam.

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12 Days in Europe: Paris

After a long flight, Ben arrived safely in Paris. I met him at the airport and after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we wandered off to see the city. Paris was a great place for us to start our trip because I already know the city well. It easy for us to get around and see the major sites in our limited time and gave Ben some rest time to get over jet lag. Also, since there is so much to do in Paris, there were new things for me to do and explore as well. We went up the l’arc de triomphe.  I had visited it multiple times in the past, but had never taken the time to climb the stairs and see the view before.

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And, if you’re looking for inspiration for your next trip to Paris, here are some of my favorite things to do:

  • Le Marais, the jewish quater. This quarter is filled with cute little coffee shops and the best falafel of your life. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Visit museums! You could easily spend your whole Paris trip in museums (there are 100+ museums in the city). My favorites are the musée Rodin and the musée Marmottan Monet.
  • Shakespeare and Company, my favorite bookstore, conveniently located right by the Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Eat traditional French food without breaking the bank at the Bouillon Chartier
  • Get a birds-eye view of the city! You can choose to go up the Eiffel Tower, L’arc de triomphe, Montparnasse, or  look out from outside the Sacre Coeur.
  • Take a boat tour. It’s a great way to relax and sit down after a long day of walking, all while getting a new perspective of the city.

Happy travels!

Chasing the Sun

The trip around Europe with Ben was a success, but tiring. I may have forgotten include any rest days in our itinerary…whoops. I definitely learned my lesson and will build in a few relaxing days on my next trip. I’ll update soon with stories of our adventures, but until then, here are a few photos from the trip. 🙂

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Ben flew home Thursday and I have spent the last few days relaxing, ignoring my growing to do list and enjoying the last few days of vacation before classes start back up. This time tomorrow, I’ll be busy with classes and thesis work. Tomorrow I start my first of 4 “elective” classes. They are exactly the same as the “major” classes I took earlier in the semester, just a little bit shorter (lasting 2 weeks each instead of 3 weeks). I will be taking one class at a time and usually have 6 hour blocks of class a few days a week. These long days, combined with the inconsistent French class schedule, and the fact that one of my classes only meets for a week means that I don’t have many days of classes left before graduation. 23 days of class to be exact. Where did time go?!?!

But, fear not. I will still be very busy, despite having a lighter class schedule–my senior thesis needs to be written. And I have made the ambitious, but necessary, goal of having a draft of my thesis done by Easter weekend…which is only 34 days away. So, I’m off to enjoy my last day of vacation before classes and thesis work resume tomorrow.