Zurich then Berlin

I say this about every city I visit abroad but Zurich was absolutely amazing! For those of you who don’t know me, i’ve continually said the past few years that when I’m ready to settle down somewhere I’m going to pick up my stuff and move out west, Colorado, Utah, somewhere where I’m near mountains and skiing. This trip solidified that I’ll be doing that as soon as I’m done traveling. Zurich was everything I dream of in a place to live. 

I arrived in Zurich Saturday midday but was quite tired from my previous adventures that I didn’t do much the first day I was there. I took the day to rest and figure out what I was going to see while I was in town. 

I woke up early for breakfast the following day and then headed into town. To start off the morning I headed to the Zurich main station before taking a tram to Grossmünster, a church with an incredible view. After paying a 4 franc fee, you get to climb up a small tower to a viewing platform. I climbed to the top, took some pictures and headed back down. From there I went to walk around the lake area a bit, visiting a few different parks and landmarks in the process. When I was satisfied with my photos I returned to the hotel for lunch. After relaxing and eating I went out for Uetliberg. For those of you who don’t know, Uetliberg is a mountain where you can either hike to the top or take the train. The mountain has an incredible viewing area. I took the train ride to the top which took about 20 minutes. From there it was another 10 minute walk to the top. The view was incredible. 

I spent about an hour up there before heading back down for dinner. Zurich was absolutely wonderful. Everywhere you look you were surrounded by beautiful views. Another upside, more for those who live there than anything, the town wasn’t covered in tourists. 

The next morning I woke up early for breakfast before heading to the airport to catch my flight to Berlin. 

I arrived in Berlin again around midday on Tuesday and again spent most of the day being lazy and relaxing. During that time I was able to plan out some of the things I was going to do in Berlin. 

The following day I woke up for breakfast, then left for another SANDEMANs tour. I had a bit of trouble and was late. I had to wait another hour for the next tour. I had no issue with this so I snuck into Starbucks for a bit and it was a good thing I did. A few minutes after I walked in it began to downpour. Everyone in the area rushed for cover while I already had a comfy seat. A few moments later it began to hail. Not a few minutes after that it was sunny again. (And people in Ohio say their weather is crazy…) 

At noon I made my way back to the Brandenburg Gate for the tour. My tour guide was a lovely woman from England. On the tour we had the chance to see various monuments and memorials like the holocaust memorial, the Berlin Wall and then checkpoint Charlie. After a break we went over to the opera house as well as babel platz. All of the sights were quite interesting to see. I’ve had the chance to learn about German history over the last few years and seeing it was quite cool. We also talked about what the Germans think now (click here for more on that). 

After my tour I asked my tour guide where she recommended I go next. I headed back over towards the Brandenburg gate and walked to the victory column. At the victory column I paid three euros to head up to the top. I climbed the numerous stairs for some pictures (click here to see my photo from the top). After taking some pretty cool pictures I headed back down. From there I walked around some more and had the chance to see things like the soviet memorial. When I had enough I went to the train station and made my way to the east side gallery. From here I walked up and down the wall for a bit and then made my way back to my hostel. 

The following day, I had a later flight so after checking out of the hostel I began to make my way to the airport. I had to change trains at Alexanderplatz so I decided to leave the train station and explore for a bit. Shopping has never really been my thing so I didn’t last very long. From there I took the airport express to Schönefeld. 

As always you can check out my Instagram posts here! The next stop on my trip is Berlin so from here on out you can expect reflections or advice more so than recaps from my day. 

Madrid y Barcelona 

I got to Madrid late Thursday evening and it was already evident it was a party town. I checked into my hostel, relaxed for about an hour and then went to dinner. After dinner I walked around for some photo opportunities. By this time, the bars were all full and people were partying away! While taking pictures I had the chance to explore a bit as well. Somehow, I ended up in a place where everyone was offering me marijuana. I tried my best to move away from this area and then soon after I headed back to the hostel to go to bed. 

When I arrived back at the hostel I began talking to one of the girls staying in my room. Interestingly enough, it just so happened that we both went to the same high school. This is actually the second time I’ve met an Evanston High School alumni while abroad.

The following day, I started my day with a tour with SANDEMANs. It was a bit later so I had the chance to sleep in. It was quite interesting and my tour guide, Enrique, was excellent. (If you’ve never had a chance to go on a tour with SANDEMANs, I highly recommend it. Click here for my review on the SANDEMANs tours). The tour took us to several different locations, all of which were stunning. After the tour I went to a coffee shop to sit down and relax. Then I went to El Retiro which is a giant park in Madrid, similar to Central Park in New York. From there I went back to the hostel to collect my things and make my way back to the airport. 

This is where things got a little weird. I had planned to take a bus overnight to Barcelona to spend the day there. When I scheduled the bus, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. After waiting for a bit at the airport, I got on the bus. Now I speak Spanish, I have all my life, but this bus driver’s accent was impossible to understand! He began explaining what to do and where to go and I didn’t understand him so I asked again. He again spoke unintelligibly but I was able to guess what he was asking based on his pointing. Once I got on the bus, it was impossible to sleep, which I needed plenty of since I’d be doing this two nights in a row. One reason for my lack of sleep was an incredible thunderstorm. The bus driver seemed to be going a bit too fast for such nasty rain, not to mention the bus was rocking back and forth from the wind. I figured he knew what he was doing, calmed myself down and went to bed. From there on, I woke up just about every hour. At one point when I woke up, the bus driver announced we were stopping, his reasoning not clear. I later figured out it was just a scheduled stop. Regardless he began to say something about how if we were going to Barcelona we should get off. I stayed to watch what everyone else was doing, I eventually realized that he had said if we needed to we could get up and walk around for a bit. I elected to stay put because I did not want to get left behind. I soon fell back asleep. At about 6am we arrived at the bus station in Barcelona.

Since it was so early and the sun was barely up I waited a few hours before leaving the bus station. I wanted to make sure that I would have a place to go if need be. At around 8am I left the bus station for a cafe to get some breakfast. On my way to the cafe I happened to stumble upon La familia sagrada. It was stunning and no one was around at that hour which was perfect for my photos. After taking some photos I sat down for some breakfast and some coffee. From there I went to the 11 o’clock SANDEMANs tour (are you seeing a pattern yet?). The tour lasted just under three hours where we covered things like the Gothic Quarter, Catalonian Architecture and the history of Barcelona. 

After the tour I asked my tour guide where I had to go with only one day in town. He recommended Plaça d’Espanya. I decided to get lunch first but after lunch I thought I’d explore some other places before heading over to the plaza. I first went back to the Parc de la Ciutadella, where we ended our tour. I walked around before stumbling upon a beautiful waterfall. From there I walked along the waterline to try to find the plaza. Two hours later, I realized it probably would have been smarter to take the metro. Regardless the view was absolutely worth it. It was gorgeous and then down the road a bit was a water fountain outside the national museum. It all made for some great photos in the end. I decided to take the metro back to the city center where I went to another cafe to charge my phone and look at my photos before catching another overnight bus back to Madrid for my flight the following morning.

All in all, my time in Spain was packed with fun. Personally, my experience on the overnight bus was a bit off putting but in the end it was definitely worth it as having the opportunity to see Barcelona was priceless. The two biggest issues I think were the language barrier (or in this case the accent barrier) and the fact that I had to do it two nights in a row. If I could change anything it wouldn’t necessarily be the trip but rather I wouldn’t have done the bus two nights in a row. 

As always, check out my Instagram photos from my trip here

Lisboa, Portugal

On Wednesday, I began my short four country tour. My day started early when I caught the 4:30 bus to London Luton. After a three hour flight I arrived in Lisbon around 10am local time. My first stop was the Parque do Eduardo in the center of town. The park has a wonderful view of the city center if you stand at the top of the hill. I took some photos and headed down the hill to my hostel. I hung out at the hostel for a bit, dropped my bag and went out to explore some more. 

This time I headed to the city center down by the coastline. Again, the view was stunning. From here I walked down the coastline to see where I would end up. When I got to a “dead end” I turned around and walked back. I explored the plaza and eventually sat down for lunch. I had a delicious sandwich and then continued along my way. I took the train back to the hostel where I hung out and met some fellow travelers.

That night, the hostel hosted a family dinner and karaoke night. For 5€ you got a vegetarian dinner. The hostel hosted these family dinners every night but that night it was rice and curry. After dinner we had karaoke night. While I didn’t participate it was fun to watch and hang out. The hostel I stayed at was called the Urban Garden Hostel. If you’re in the Lisbon area and looking for a place to stay I highly recommend it. It was an incredibly welcoming environment. 

The next morning I had some time before I had to be at the airport so I asked the hostel manager where he recommended I go in my short amount of time. I started by heading back to the Parque do Eduardo so that I could take some more pictures. From there I headed back down towards the city center this time taking an old road recommended by the hostel manager. When I got down towards the city center I looked up and to my left for a beautiful view of the castle! 

Overall the city was gorgeous and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. I hope to have the opportunity to go back sometime! To check out my Instagram posts from Lisbon, click here! The next stop on my trip is Spain where I’ll spend a day in Madrid and a day in Barcelona! Check back soon to see what I’m up to! 

Amster(damn).

Last Saturday my family and I traveled to Amsterdam for a half marathon as well as a softball tournament.  We arrived Saturday afternoon at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.  From the airport we took a train and a bus to our hotel in Leiden, South Holland where we would be staying for the next few days.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we learned that there were twice as many bikes in the country as there were cars so naturally we rented bikes for the duration of our trip.  That evening, we explored the town a bit on our bikes.  It was a cute little town, but I must say I felt like they had a bit of a stigma against tourists (especially Americans — but who doesn’t these days?).

Overall the trip was incredible! We visited three different towns: Leiden (where we stayed), The Hague (den Haag) and Amsterdam.  Leiden was a small university town about 40 minutes (by train) outside of Amsterdam.  It was much more rural than the other two locations we visited but had a nice little downtown area.  The next location, den Haag, was about twenty minutes from us.  We only briefly visited the downtown area of den Haag though.

Lastly, Amsterdam was a city of rich culture! I enjoyed touring the city very much.  After dinner we decided to tour the Red Light District.  While it was interesting to see, I felt like it was a little sad seeing women on display just waiting to be bid on.  I learned that in Amsterdam it is a legitimate profession though with health benefits and a retirement plan, much different than in the States.

Overall the trip was wonderful! My family did quite well in the Leiden Half Marathon and my cousin played well in her softball tournament!  It was definitely a successful trip.

Check out my Instagram posts from the trip here! Below are some more photos from the trip!

Adventures in Iceland

I arrived in Iceland at Keflavik Airport around 7:00am with an entire day ahead of me for exploring.

From the airport I took a FlyBus into the town of Reykjavik.  The FlyBus was $45 for a round trip.  This seemed like the best deal as I was told taxis in Iceland were rather expensive.  Reykjavik’s economy is based almost entirely off of tourism so everything there was a bit on the expensive side.

I got to downtown Reykjavík around 8:30 that morning.  I walked up and down the coastline for an hour or so before heading back to the town square.  The view along the coastline was absolutely breathtaking.  At ten I met with a group for a tour with CityWalk. The tour was very informative and fun as well as free!  I learned quite a bit about Iceland, including that it is the most inclusive country in terms of gender and sexual orientation along with the fact that the Icelandic language has not changed in years and has not been influenced by any other languages since it’s original Danish influence.  I was quite intrigued by some of the facts that I learned during the tour.

I was especially intrigued by the language while I was there.  People tried to speak to me in Icelandic a few times however I could not understand them.  I decided that in my day there I wanted to learn how to speak Icelandic.  I was able to pick up on a few different things but most were just simple phrases.

At the end of the tour I headed back to the bus terminal to catch my bus back to the airport.  Although the day was a bit rainy and cold, it was an amazing city and I would love to go back for a longer visit someday!

Below are some pictures from my trip.  In addition, you can check out my Instagram post from Iceland here!

Hello!

Well the time has come! I’m off to travel the world! First stop? Iceland for the day! 

On my blog you will find stories about my adventures as well as some helpful tips and tricks I’ve found along the way in case one day you decide to follow in my footsteps. 

Come back soon for updates!

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