Back at the center after a crazy last two weeks spent traveling all over Europe! We started in Venice with our class and then I chose to spend my fall break in Paris, Amsterdam and London traveling with 4 other friends. The trip was exhausting but so much fun! Of course two weeks of traveling planned out by a couple of 20 year olds in new countries is going to have its fair share of road blocks but wheres the fun in a perfect trip??? In the end everything worked out great, we rolled with the punches (including 12 hours spend in the Venice airport and having a passenger jump off of our moving train… more of that later :P) and had a blast!
Stop one of our journey was Venice! We got there by taking a regional train from Castiglion Fiorentino to Florence, and then a bullet train from Florence to Venice. after walking out of the train station right next to the water I knew that this was going to be such a unique city! There really are no cars, everything is done by boats… taxis, water buses, trash boats… everything! It was definitely cool to see. Venice also has a problem with the sea levels rising and has flooding quite frequently. One of the mornings that we were in Saint Marks square we got to see a mild flooding but we thought it was exciting that we got to walk on the platforms that they put up so you can still walk around. Highlights of our three days here included touring the Doges Palace, riding on a gondola, a Vivaldi concert in an old church, and touring the islands of Murano and Burano which are famous for their glass products and very colorful buildings. On Friday morning we got up, checked out of our Hotel on the Island of Lido and were excited to head to the airport and to arrive in Paris… little did we know that we had a 8+ hour delay waiting for us due to a country wide Italian transportation strike. The delay went by faster than expected and we were given a free lunch and free dinner (3 courses each and SO much better than American airport food!). We finally took off around 1130pm and landed in Paris around 130am. A taxi to our hostel, showers and off to bed by 330am… we were exhausted but so thankful that we weren’t one of the dozens of flights that got cancelled that day!
Day 1 in Paris was great but because our time there got cut short, we were on a mission to see everything that we could in only 2 days and I think we ended up doing pretty well! Our first stop was the Louvre which was great, the entrance designed by the famous architect I.M.Pei was so cool to see. Inside I was underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa (actually pretty small) but the other works of art were amazing to see. Some of my favorites were a room filled with artifacts that used to be in Napoleons home, a room full of beautiful tile work and wood pieces from all around the mediterranean, an african room and a room full of impressive sculptures. Without a doubt it was the best museum that I have ever been to… and trust me on this trip I’ve been to a lot! 😛
After the Louvre we walked to the nearby park and grabbed a quick lunch, the flowers were beautiful and the leaves on many of the trees had started to switch colors, I could have sat there for hours! Then we walked a ways along the river all the way to the Eiffel Tower. Its hard to believe that they originally intended to take the structure down after the world fair, it was so cool to see up close and is HUGE! After the Eiffel Tower we walked to the Arch de Triumph and then took the metro to the P. Des Arts Bridge, also known as the “love lock bridge”. Here there are thousands and thousands of locks representing the love of couples from all around the world, it was so sweet to see! Luckily I had an extra lock and a sharpie and got to add one and throw the key in the water right at sunset, it was so pretty! After that we went and saw the Notre Dame, had dinner and went back to the hostel around 10pm… I was so tired from being out all day! Day two in Paris was spent wandering around, hanging out in the park eating macaroons from the famous Laudree, having a great lunch (chicken and potatoes in a bag) that a local helped us order from a street vendor and dinner in Momarte and the beautiful Sacred Heart Church.
On Monday morning we woke up and headed to the train station to take a 3 1/2 hour fast train to Holland! Seeing the country side from the train was beautiful. There was some excitement when our train alarm started going off and we stopped in the middle of the tracks. They came on the announcements and told us that a passenger had jumped off so there would be a delay of at least an hour why emergency crews were on the track. After that the train continued to Brussels as planned where the Police boarded and went through every bag on the train to make sure there were no bombs or anything suspicious left behind. From there we continued onto Amsterdam and arrived (about two hours later than planned) without any other problems! The train station was gorgeous and when we walked out the doors I was so pleasantly surprised with what I saw, Amsterdam was beautiful!!!
We stayed at a great hotel in the Museum District (nice break from hostels and bunk beds :P) and were pretty much within walking distance of most things. When something was to far we were able to jump on a local tram, I have mastered public transportation here! Some of the highlights of our 2 days in Amsterdam were the Anne Frank Museum which is in the house that her and her family hid in for over two years, the Van Gogh Museum, going to a microbrewery in a windmill, touring the Heineken Experience, meeting up with some friends currently studying abroad in Barcelona, and just hanging out enjoying the wonderful fall weather in a beautiful city!
On Wednesday we left Amsterdam around 6pm to take a couple of trains (taking about 2 hours) to the Hook of Holland where we caught an over night ferry to the coast of England, about an hour train ride outside of London! I have never been on a cruise before but thats what this “ferry” felt like, the boat was huge, cabins were great and it was definitely a fun and unique way to travel. We also got our passports stamped for the first time when leaving the Netherlands and entering England so everyone was pretty excited about that 😛
On Thursday morning we got off of the ferry and caught the train to Liverpool Station. From there we took the connecting tube to Swiss Cottage where our hostel was, it was my favorite one yet! After checking in we went out to explore and saw the tower bride area. Then we came back to the hostel, grabbed our jackets, and took the train north to see the sets of Harry Potter at Warner Brothers Studios. We spent about two and a half hours going through the warehouse seeing props, costumes, sets, and other things used in the actual making of the movies, it was a really cool experience!!
Day two in London was spent riding the eye, seeing big bend, Westminster Abby Church, eating fish and chips, Buckingham Palace, Coffee in Green Park, a trip to Camden town, and an Irish pub in the “China Town” at Piccadilly Circus. Such a great day and hearing everyone speaking english was such a nice change! Before heading to the airport on day three we explored the Oxford Street area and walked around the lake in Hyde Park. Then caught a bus to the airport and our plane to Rome actually took off on time! Since our flight landed after the trains had stopped running we spend the night at a hostel in Rome and then took the train back to the center early Sunday morning tired and ready for a nap and a shower!
Looking back it is amazing to think about all of the things I was blessed to see in only 12 short days. Fall break was such a great experience and if study abroad hadn’t already sparked a love and itch to travel more and more that last two weeks definitely did. In addition to seeing the famous sights, I loved talking to all of the locals and other travelers that we would meet along the way. I know that I will never be able to see the whole world but I hope that as I get older I am able to find the opportunities to see more of it. I thought I had seen a lot of places before this semester with my family but I am constantly being exposed to new experiences here and can’t get enough of it!!!
Coming up I am excited about working on my studio project and drawings, taking trips to Siena, Rome and Florence again and going to a professional soccer game in Rome next weekend! love all of you guys and can’t wait to see my parents and the Blantons in just 12 short days, remember my instagram (abbeemerson) and Facebook are the best places to get updates and to see what I’ve been working on day to day.
Until next time, Ciao!