Seaside Holiday

Brighton HeaderHere is a photograph of the pavilion on this gorgeous sunny day!

Let’s back track a little bit (or maybe A LOT) . . .  When my Mum came to visit me during Spring time in London, we decided to take a little weekend trip to Brighton to explore the coastal city and catch some rays along the beach. It was a quick and relatively inexpensive train ride from the centre of London and since the city is so walkable, finding our hotel was pretty straight forward. Luckily I had my mother with me who has a much better sense of direction, which if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that wasn’t a trait that was passed on to me haha. From our experience, the people in Brighton were very friendly and some even struck up a random conversation with us as we were walking to our hotel. The beach is really lovely on a sunny afternoon; however, if you are used to the sandy beaches of California, you may be surprised to find that the beach is more pebbly than anything. Being a Pacific Northwest girl this didn’t bother me at all because we’re pretty used to the rocky shoreline. After settling into our hotel, we took a stroll down the street lined with cute cafes and shops towards the Brighton pier which had the classic 1800’s seaside style. There were lots of people and luckily, the weather held up so we could enjoy a nice evening walk. I loved how vibrant the beach life was with tourists looking at the different seaside attractions, people on holiday basking in the sun, and street performers entertaining a crowd.  Continue reading

This is What Dreams are Made of

Rome HeaderThe Altare della Patria.

Well, we finally made it to our last destination on this trip, the lovely city of Rome! As I talked about before in my Florence post, I’ve dreamed about going to Italy for a while, and seeing The Lizzie McGuire movie when I was ten only made my urge to hop on a jet plane to Rome even more intense (as cheesy as that may sound). Continue reading

One Ticket to Florence Please!

Florence header 1Why hello there everyone, or should I say ciao! As a girl with a craving for adventure and travel, Italy has been on the top of my list of places to visit for quite a while, so I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to make it to Florence in Tuscany. I think it’s safe to say that by now, Emma and I were craving some warmer weather coming from some areas that were still in the transition between seasons. Continue reading

Vienna Waits For You

Vienna HeaderHere is a photograph of the Hofburg Imperial Palace exterior just before sunset. Isn’t it just gorgeous!

After saying our goodbyes to the city of Prague, we took the train to Vienna, Austria. Despite the beautiful weather reflected in the photograph above, we stepped off of the train into pouring rain. Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, Emma and I are not strangers to heavy downfalls of rain, the problem was that we yet again had trouble figuring out the right directions to get to our hostel. Getting off the metro line in Vienna, we ended up walking about 20 minutes in the wrong direction, so by the time we arrived at the hostel sopping wet, I don’t think we even needed a shower. Continue reading

Waffles, Chocolate, and Our Encounter with the Manneken Pis . . .

Brussels Blog Post HeaderThe Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium on the first evening of our stay. The lights just add a lovely magical charm don’t you think?

This past month I had a holiday break from University in between Spring and Summer terms, so my best friend from back home Emma (Hello if you are reading this Ems!) and I decided to take a little backpacking trip around Europe. Cliche, I know but hey I figured since I’m so close to many different countries, I might as well take the opportunity to explore other cities out there because who knows when the next time I’ll be able to do that is. . . Before Emma ventured across the pond to come visit me, we had been planning out where we wanted to go that would be realistic to travel to in the three weeks that we’d be away for. Considering our wanderlust, deciding where to go was actually more complicated than we had thought! We decided to get a Eurail pass to save some money on train tickets, which was also a great decision to help us narrow down our options for where we could travel. Although we had originally planned to fly from London to Rome and then make our way back towards the U.K. through other countries our plans were changed when we discovered there was an airline strike occurring on the day we were meant to be traveling. That day seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but sometimes things just don’t work out exactly as you’ve imagined and you just have to roll with the punches. After all people didn’t come up with the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for no reason! I think that part of the adventure of traveling is facing any glitches in the road while remaining positive because at the end of the day, it’s usually a small issue and ultimately makes for a good story! Since we weren’t able to fly out of London that day without paying for another expensive flight, we decided to take the train to mainland Europe and do our trip backwards. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium! We only had two nights in Brussels and we definitely wanted to make the most out of the limited amount of time we had to soak in the city sights. I will admit, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out the transportation system to get us from the train station in Brussels to our hostel in the city centre but we managed to just observe other people and work out how to pay the tram fare. Our hostel was only about a two minute walk to the main square in Brussels pictured above, which was perfect since it made getting to the main parts of the city really easy. IMG_0935The exterior of the  Hostel Grand Place.IMG_0986The seating area at the hostel entrance. (The evergreens on the curtains in the background were a nice reminder of home back in the States)IMG_0987The opposite wall of the seating area.

We stayed in an eight bed room in this hostel and got to meet a fellow traveler from the U.S. who was really nice! Since we arrived in Brussels in the evening we decided to take a walk around the city centre and go out for dinner and drinks with the girl we met. Emma and I always love meeting new people and I think one of the amazing things about staying in hostels (in addition to the fact that they are usually a lot less expensive than a hotel room) is getting to swap stories with people from different parts of the world! Of course on our little walk that evening we just randomly ran in to the infamous statue of a little boy peeing in to a fountain, the Manneken Pis! IMG_0933We had heard that it was small, but we didn’t know that it was going to be that small! I think that’s what made this tourist attraction particularly funny because it isn’t very epic, yet it attracts so many people photographing and giggling at the uneventful sight. The next day we took a trip to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which is a must when you visit a place famous for making the delicious sweets! Although it was a smaller museum, it provided a lot of insight about the trade and history of cocoa as well as how chocolates are made. The end of our visit to the museum even concluded with a demonstration of how different types of fine chocolates are formed today and we even received a complementary piece to eat!IMG_0966The entrance to the Museum.IMG_0956Fashions constructed using chocolate!IMG_0965The chocolatier giving us a demonstration of chocolate making.

It was incredible to see how many chocolate shops there were around the city. Perhaps this is because we were staying in a fairly touristy area, but still you didn’t have to look far to find a sweet treat to eat! Brussels definitely knows how to attract fellow people like me who have a sweet tooth. Following our trip to the Museum of Chocolate we stopped by the Maison du Roi or The King’s House to have a look around the museum which just so happened to be free on the day we were visiting! IMG_0968Stained glass windows by the staircase to the top floor of the museum.IMG_0972A view from the top floor.

 Although we didn’t have the ideal weather during our brief stay in Brussels (We like to joke that the rain just followed us wherever we went on our trip) this didn’t stop the city from really coming alive at night. If the main square didn’t seem buzzing with tourists before, we really got a sense of community during the evenings when people would just find a place in the city centre to sit in a circle with their friends and party it up! I really enjoyed our time in Brussels, but I will have to say it wasn’t the cleanest city we traveled to, even our Belgian friends that we met at a hostel in Prague filled us in on their opinion of that. Next stop on our journey was Berlin, a vibrant city with an enormous amount of history . . .

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Until next time,New blog signature 2

It Will Rain . . . and We’ll Eat Pancakes

IMG_0273Of course as tourists, we had to pay the “I amsterdam” sign a visit! From left to right: Christian, Katelyn, Emily, and Alex hiding in front.

During the second day we spent in Amsterdam, we had a couple of things on our list that we wanted to see since it was our first time visiting the city. However, the autumn season meant that it was quite rainy and chilly, so we decided to opt for some touristy things to do inside. Since we hadn’t had time to pick up groceries the previous evening, we were determined to find a cute pancake place to get some breakfast to fuel us for the day. One of the employees at our hostel was very helpful at giving us a couple of suggestions and recommended a place called The Carousel, and with that we were off!IMG_0280Walking to the pancake house!

 By the time that we reached the restaurant, we were all sopping wet from the free shower that we’d received from our walk through the rainy city so it was a relief to sit down in a warm building. There were so many options on the menu and being the indecisive person that I am, it was really difficult to choose, but I settled on an apple, cinnamon and butter pancake. The combination of the apples and cinnamon were lovely and the powdered sugar added a nice sweetness without overpowering the rest of the flavors. Ahhh, just writing about this is making me hungry!IMG_0282Here is my pancake before . . .IMG_0286 . . . and after. Yes that’s right, I devoured it!IMG_0291Here is a photo of the carousel in the center of the restaurant, which by the way, was located in a beautiful park.

After filling our stomachs with the joy of pancakes, we made our way over to pay this guy’s art a little visit.IMG_0303 Yes you guessed it, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum! On the way, we walked past the iconic “I amsterdam” sign, so naturally, I had to get a picture.IMG_0295Such a beautiful view! (And no, I’m not even being sarcastic! I think I’m one of those few people who looks at gray rainy weather and still thinks sights like this are beautiful haha)

The Van Gogh museum was another thing on the top of my list of things to do while visiting the city, and although it was a bit expensive, it was worth every Euro! Plus, it was a really great place to visit on a gray and rainy day.IMG_0320View of the museum exterior.IMG_0299Here is my ticket to the museum with the famous sunflowers!IMG_0309Alex and Katelyn at the entrance to the first exhibit in the museum.IMG_0301A timeline of events during Van Gogh’s life at the beginning of the museum.

The first floor of the museum focused on aspects of Van Gogh’s art and painting techniques, including color and application using different signature paintings as examples of his style. To the left you can see one of the artists’ paint palettes, and to the right is a painting used to showcase how color plays a major role in his artwork.

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IMG_0344We then made our way upstairs and worked our way down through the rest of the exhibits.IMG_0310A view from the top!IMG_0351One of the portions of the museum. I really enjoyed the layout and wall color choices to make the paintings stand out. IMG_0337Mesmerized by the paintings (and possibly the bright yellow back drop).IMG_0322Emily looking fascinated by this portrait.IMG_0329A wall of the museum showing how researchers can analyze the paintings in-depth and discover previous works of art that have been painted over. Apparently Van Gogh used to use canvases that he had already painted to create new works of art!

If you are ever in Amsterdam and have the patience or interest to view some incredible and iconic art, I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Van Gogh museum. It was definitely more of an interactive experience than I expected, which I really enjoyed because sometimes art museums can get a bit monotonous, but this one seemed to attract a wide range of ages. Throughout the museum there were different artifacts, sketches and letters that Van Gogh had in his possessions during his lifetime, as well as computer stations that allowed visitors to take a look at his painting techniques and use of perspective instruments. I have to admit, I didn’t know a lot about Van Gogh beforehand other than the fact that he is infamous for cutting off his ear, ouch! Through this museum experience, I was able to acquire a lot more information about his journey as an artist including his early struggles with perspective and honing his skills during art school. I suppose that Macklemore was right in his song when he said “the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great cause they paint a lot.” Once someone successful has reached their destination it is difficult to ever imagine their struggles and life before their fame. It is reassuring to have the reinforcement that if you continue to practice your passions, there is a chance that you can potentially make a living doing what you love! The rest of the day was pretty simple. We went to a local supermarket to pick up some food for dinner and left to go cook our meal at the hostel. Well, that concludes day two in Amsterdam!IMG_0319

Until next time,New blog signature 2