As I sit here procrastinating my work for this new term, I figured I’d make one gigantic update from this past month.
This one is a bit lengthy, but I promise it’s mostly pictures!
I cannot believe that I have been so fortunate to do everything I have done this past month. I never thought I’d be able to say I’ve visited 7 countries in just the short time I’ve been here, 3 of which were just this month!
I began my Christmas break with a short stop to Milan to visit a friend who was kind enough to show me around the city. I picked a pretty convenient weekend because as soon as I arrived, he brought me to a private fashion event where I was able to mingle with local Italians and have authentic Italian cuisine and wine. The next day my friend gave me an extensive tour of the city where I saw the magnificent Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and the Last Supper painting! Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures of the painting, but I did manage to get a few other snapshots along the way.
My next stop was good old New Jersey for a much needed break at home. I didn’t realize how much I missed home and the countryside until I actually arrived. It was a great feeling being able to drive my car again and not be stuck in city traffic. It was also great to see my family after 3 long months. Although short, I’m grateful I was able to come home to see everyone before I came back for another 6 long months.
On December 28th I made the 7 hour flight back to the UK, but this time with someone very special: Joe! I am so incredibly grateful that he could come back with me to spend the rest of my break with me and do some traveling! After 6 long months of planning and excitement it had finally arrived. Now on top of it being our first New Years physically together, who would have thought we would be spending it in London?? I sure didn’t. What a wonderful New Years it was (minus the 5 hours of standing outside by the river pitching our spot for the fireworks). I was so excited to show Joe around my new temporary home and bring him to some of my favorite spots, and even discover new spots of our own!
Our next stop was Munich! I think Joe was most excited for this because we centered this trip around going to Munich to see the BMW Museum. But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Although our first night we were slightly overwhelmed being a city where we didn’t speak a word of the language, it all worked out well because we managed to fit so much into 2 short days! Our first full day we spent just in the Olympic Park area. And to all those planning to go to Munich, I give you this advice: don’t pay for the tram. After 20 long minutes of trying to figure out which ticket to get we gave up and just hopped on, just like it seemed many of the locals did as well. We still aren’t entirely sure if they actually don’t pay or not, but I guess we had to save a few euros somehow. Once we arrived at Olympic Park, Joe was beaming with excitement as we got closer to the BMW complex. Once we arrived, I found myself getting almost as excited as he was (almost). I did enjoy sitting in cars that almost cost more than my education. BMW Welt was actually very impressive and interactive where we could sit in the cars and on the motorcycles without feeling obligated to buy anything. Next stop (where we spent a majority of our day) was the BMW Museum. I got a lot of my enjoyment out of watching Joe get so excited about the original cars and parts that were on display. I’m ashamed to say I actually knew what some of the stuff was also. I guess that’s what I get for dating a BMW enthusiast. He was able to tell me exactly what most of the exhibits were without reading a map or placard. Nonetheless, I did enjoy myself gazing at vehicles I probably will never be able to afford.
While we were in the Olympic Park area, we decided to tour the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Tower. I’m really glad we were able to squeeze these in because it taught us a little about the Olympic history of Munich, and I can now say I’ve been to an Olympic site. The Tower was absolutely breathtaking because we were able to get a panoramic view of the city, and even catch a glimpse of the Bavarian Alps at sunset!
Later that night we decided to participate in a “beer challenge” that our hostel told us about. This may have been Joe’s second favorite part of the whole trip because, well, beer. We went to some authentic biergarten places where Joe felt the need to order a whole liter of beer. I surprisingly also enjoyed myself because I found some beers where I didn’t cringe when they hit my tongue. I guess because I was actually tasting something that wasn’t Natty. However, all in all I did enjoy participating in this as it is the root of Munich’s culture, where the water is more expensive than the beer (and I’m not kidding).
So I went a little overboard on the Munich pictures. However, if you are still reading, thank you because I promise I have more things other than BMW’s and beer!
The next city we chose to visit was the romantic city of Paris. Now, being students we of course were on a budget. At the time of booking it, we both thought it was a wonderful idea, but turned out to be a bit of a stressful idea. We chose to take an overnight bus from Munich to Paris. We were on a bus for 13 hours. 13 long grueling hours. But whatever you have to do to save money I guess. Nevertheless, we arrived and made it to our hostel. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would choose our Paris hostel again. Next time I definitely will put out the extra money to have nicer facilities and a better area. I will spare the details but I’ll just say it did not look like the pictures on their website.
We learned very quickly also that Paris is not a cheap city. Our first night we spend almost 40 euros for dinner on salads and soup. That was a big mistake, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re hungry in Paris. Again, our first night was a little overwhelming since again we did not speak the language at all. However, we did spend a wonderful (and free!) day at Versailles. Let me tell you, Joe and I both agreed that we could never be royalty. This place was huge. We felt lost even with our maps and signs. As beautiful as this place was, we actually couldn’t believe how much money was wasted into making something so extravagant. However, it was still quite a sight to see. (Note to all Paris travelers, the first Sunday of the winter months are free. Completely free. All of it. We saved probably 50 euros each.)
The next day we did all of the usual Paris tourist things: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, cafes, etc. We also made it a point to go to the Love Lock Bridge and put a lock on it and toss the key into the river. We were amazed at how many locks were on this bridge, and how many locks were attached to other locks because they ran out of room. Thankfully, we found a little spot to attach ours to the actual bridge, threw the key over, and each kept a key for ourselves. We also got the chance to meander through the beautiful Notre Dame. The next day we went back just to walk up the 400+ stairs up to the top to get a view of Paris from the center of the city. We also toured the beautiful Sacre Coeur which was thankfully very close to our hostel.
After all these church visits, we decided to make our way to the Pantheon. Here, we saw the burial places of Rousseau, Voltaire, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and many other great French people. After this, we made our way over to see the spectacle of the Arc de Triomphe. However, Joe and I can both agree that the spectacle was not the arc itself, but the mass mayhem of traffic going around it. We concluded our day with a trip up to the middle of the Eiffel Tower at night because unfortunately the top was closed.
Now up to this point we had felt very fortunate that our whole trip had gone smoothly with no delays or mishaps. However, the very last few hours as we were waiting at a cafe across from Gare du Nord, we had the misfortune of getting robbed. Actually robbed. Our best guess is that when a younger French boy came up to us from one side and spoke to us in French, we believe he was posing as a distraction as one of his friends came up and snatched Joe’s whole backpack. We were very thankful that nothing of huge value was in there like our passports or money or credit cards. I felt so bad because there was absolutely nothing we could do about it since our train back to London was about to leave.
Word of caution to all traveling to Paris, or any large tourist city: please please please keep an eye on your stuff at all times. Something simple as this could happen to you. Our biggest surprise was the number of illegal street vendors and criminals merely trying to distract you to take your belongings and run. Do not do not purchase the cheap Eiffel Towers from the men near the big attractions. It is illegal. And the girls who come up to you and ask if you speak English? Walk away. Security guards told us it was a trap. They were planning to distract us and steal our stuff. If anyone at all approaches you, just walk away. I’m just very thankful that we knew most of this beforehand so we were not hurt or targeted like many other tourists were.
Other than this little mishap, we recovered and will eventually replace everything. We did have an absolutely wonderful time other than this. I’m so thankful I was able to spend this time traveling with someone that I know really appreciated it.
(my inner math geek came out when I saw these names on the side of the Eiffel Tower)
Can’t forget the French wine!
After our mini Euro Trip, we trekked back to London to get a few more touristy pictures, and catch a showing of Wicked!
Joe’s first fish and chips!