I used my Marriott rewards points (thanks to Chris Guillebeau) and stayed in a pretty nice Marriott. With a king sized bed, fresh linens and towels every day, and a BATH TUB. I stayed there two nights but took three baths. Granted it was a little bit outside of the fashionable parts of Paris but it was worth it. Plus it was right down the street from the metro. So I was fine. Plus I got a free glass of wine at the bar. My initial plan was to spend maybe 4 nights in Paris. But I love that city. I love the beautiful streets in the Latin Quarter that just wander. I love the food. I love the Eiffel Tower. So I ended up staying 2 nights in the hotel and booking a hostel for 4 nights. I went back to the Musee D'Orsey, Sacre Coeur, mass at Notre Dame, saw Oscar Wilde's tomb, walked around in the rain a lot, walked with a protest, drank some wine, ate some cheese, loved Paris. One day when it was raining particularly hard I went to the Shakespeare and Friends bookstore and just sat and read all day. There was one clear day and I used that to go to Versailles. Which. Was. Amazing. Clearly I am doing something wrong that my second house doesn't look like that. The gardens, the gold gate, the wall paper. It was overwhelmingly beautiful. And the town of Versailles is worth walking around as well.
Finally I was able to get a train from Paris to Amsterdam. I arranged it so that I could stop over in Brussels. I knew that I didn't want to spend more than a day there. But now I wish I had. It was a fantastic city. With great beer and frites. I saw Mannekin Pis and enjoyed walking around the city. Still, I really wish I had gone on the comic book tour of the city.
Amsterdam: Oh this city. I had to stop telling people that it was one of my favorite cities I went to. Because their first reaction was something to do with smoking pot. Which when you're in the red light district there is the smell of pot everywhere. But, if you leave those few block, there is SO. MUCH. MORE. Again I had a hard time getting from Amsterdam to London and ended up having to stay there over the weekend leading up to Queens Day. Note to self: paying 60 euro for a bed you paid 20 euro for the night before sucks. Big time. The atmosphere of this city is incredible. I loved the eclectic feel of the city. The shopping was amazing. Again, not having the room to bring back many things worked in my favor. And my budgets favor. Even though Dutch is an interesting language to try to figure out, most everyone speaks English. Which was really quite nice. I even saw someone wearing a Washington Caps hat and had to stop and have a drink with them. Probably the best part of Amsterdam was how bikable the city is. Each time you wanted to cross the street you had to look out for cars, trams, and bikes. I even saw a 4 story parking garage: for bikes only. Thousands and thousands of bikes. I was in heaven. So get out of the red light district, go explore the city, go back to the red light district for drinks. If you're lucky you'll meet up with some hilarious Brits on a stag party and be invited to join in. Which only got weird when they wanted to go to the strip club and were promptly kicked out for not giving up their coats.
Bruges was only a couple hours away by train from Amsterdam so I took the opportunity to go visit the city. Apparently they are known for their canals. Which I didn't know until I got there. There is also a huge working nunnery. It was a nice city to visit but I didn't feel a huge pull to it. Worth a day trip and maybe I missed out on some thing magical there.
Finally, I got on the train to London. This was the city I was most looking forward to visiting. I am a huge fan of BBC TV (namely Doctor Who. Do yourself a favor and start watching it. And Sherlock. And Torchwood.) I loved London. I loved that everyone spoke English (obviously, but after so many different languages it was such a relief) and how the city has so much history piled on top of so much modernization. Everyone said that you should get the Oyster card to take the subway. And you should. It's helpful. The tube is fantastic and really will get you where you need to go. But I mostly walked. I ended up meeting a guy from Portland Maine and we walked the city together. It was nice to have someone to tour London with. Highlights were the London Eye, the British Museum, the Tate Britain, the Tower of London (surprisingly worth it. Plus Eric Bana was on my tour), the shopping, Notting Hill, Camden, the Parks, Abbey Road. Ok, I have to stop. I can't wait to go back to London. If I could move there I would in a split second. If I ever get to the point in blogging that I can work remotely, I think London would be the place I would go. I could seriously rave about London for hours. But I won't. Unless you want me to. In which case, call me.
I took a long weekend to Dublin. Which was complete with a Guiness, fish and chips, Irish music. The hostel I stayed at offered a "free" (tips encouraged) walking tour of Dublin. We had a fantastic tour guide who told us some really hilarious stories. And some not so hilarious ones about how birth control was banned until 10 years ago and the morning after pill just became legal last year. It's so interesting to see how different governments work. I even got talked into going on a pub crawl. I made it almost through my whole trip without going on one until almost the end. It was.... interesting. Girls, don't go on one of these alone. Actually people, just don't go on these. But one girl brought some little liquor bottles so we made it fun.
My last stop was back in London. My friend I made in Granada came up to visit her boyfriend there so we got to hang out for an afternoon. Which was really great to see someone I knew. We were looking for this fancy tea shop, but got sidetracked by an "American" restaurant and went in to get burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Delish. Finally it was time to say goodbye to Europe.
Trips like this are life changing. I had read that before I left but didn't know how it was true. And it's hard still to put an exact finger on exactly what changed. But I did. I feel calmer. I feel happier with myself and I know that even though I don't know what I'm going to do next, it will be ok. Something will work out. I know that there are things that I don't "have" to do because I am in a certain place. If I don't want to do something I don't have to. I learned that I have to put my self-interest and self-preservation first. Otherwise putting others first will be an exercise in futility.
I also learned that if you book a frequent flier ticket you have to book round trip. So I'll be headed to Scotland in November.
|Versailles. My summer house. Also, it poured 20 minutes after I took this.|
|My goal in life is to live on a houseboat.|
|Run. Fantastic. Allons-y. Fishfingers and Custard.|
|She was home that day.|
|London Eye see you.|
|Night in London.|
|From the top of the London Eye.|
|Official London 2012 gold medals. Just go ahead and give them all to Michael Phelps.|
|Tower of London.|
|I pity the fool.|
|My metro stop.|
|I see you peaking at me|
|Just a street sign.|
|Some random road. Not famous at all.|
|Streets where the riches of ages are sold. Anything and everything a truck can unload, is sold on the streets of Portobello Road.|
|Longest name I have ever seen.|
|Goodbye. I miss you.|