I have been away from my computer for over two weeks so I was not able to update this blog for some time. The explanation? Europe.
Mike and I took a tour of Europe, hitting the most famous of cities in Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, France, and England. Our course was locked into a bus trip to Dublin, a flight to Rome, and train to Venice, a train to Geneva, a train to Paris, an UNDERWATER train to London, and a flight back to good ole’ Belfast.
Many will ask me, “How was your tour of Europe?” To that I will respond, “Well now… That is a very big question.” Here I will briefly ATTEMPT to describe my travels with the use of some pictures (each = 1000 words, right?)
We were actually only in Dublin for a few hours. We went into a Burger King for a quick, cheap bite (as all backpackers become accustom to). We quickly came to find ALL fast food restaurants are much cleaner and nicer than USA’s version. Any way, this is a picture of the Dublin Spire. It marks the center of Dublin and was what we looked to to find our way to the airport. We began our 2.5 hour walk to the airport and were able to see many typical Dublin parks, neighborhoods, and locals.
Rome was incredible. We arrived in the dead of night and struggled finding our hostel because the street signs were barely readable. We quickly came to find that 95% of Rome has not been renovated, that the city takes pride in its antiquity. EVERYTHING is Rome in picturesque. I had to limit the amount of pictures I took because every corner we turned was another beautiful garden, building, back alley, quaint cafe, or enormous iconic ruins… like the Colosseum.
Mike and I indulged in the local cuisine at every meal, as it was the cheapest and the most delicious: pizza and pasta. These are two of my favorite foods, as most college students can attest to, but the Italians make them 10 times better than I have ever tasted.
We were able to see the Colosseum, gardens, ruins, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and much MUCH more in Rome. A note about the Sistine Chapel: it is jaw dropping, ceilings much higher than anticipated, colors more vibrant and well preserved than ever seen before, an experience I will never forget.
“The City of Water” is much smaller than I expected. This is a good thing. We could see the entirety of the island in one day, and we never got lost because every street eventually led back to the Grand Canal which winds its way throughout the city.
This city is rich with culture, friendly people and atmosphere, and glorious weather. Though there is not many “historic monuments” in the city, we found PLENTY to do. We took boat rides around the Grand Canal, ate tons of pasta and pizza and gelato, and witnessed TONS of street musicians. As a musician, I always gave them a euro or two. Street musicians are the BEST musicians. They are forced to play well because they need to to survive day to day, and in Venice there is so much competition that EVERY street musician was worth stopping and listening to.
Because Venice is such a secluded city, being that it is an island, it was very comfortable. We felt very much at home, never feeling in harm’s way at all, and welcomed by all locals. The man we stayed with, being that the hostel we stayed in was simply a man’s house that he rented out, was incredibly nice and was a pleasure talking to.
Geneva… let’s just say we used it as a place to rest up from our first week of travels, and were HAPPY to move on to our next stop.
Geneva was only on our list of places to go because it was a good half way point between Venice and Paris, and Switzerland just sounded like a cool place to go.
Geneva is nice. It is clean. It is not a crazy city with cars trying to run you off the road. There is nothing to do or see in Geneva. The exchange rate is 1:1 with the American dollar… but everything is TWICE as expensive. McDonald’s cheeseburger, small fry, small drink = 13 swiss francs. All in all, it was small and quaint. Looking for a place to relax and spend twice as much as you would anywhere else? Geneva is the place for you!
Paris was AWESOME. Though we missed out on the Louvre because it was closed on the day we planned to go… our last day in Paris… (worst tourists ever).
Besides missing out on the Louvre, we were able to do many things in Paris. The first day we just kind of roamed around the area around our hostel. Ate at little cafes that were wide open for the ease of smoking inside, on the porch, or out on the patio. EVERYONE in Paris smokes. EVERYONE in Paris drinks wine outside, facing the streets (to blatantly people watch I suppose?) There were little cafes everywhere for these types of activities. We also climbed the Eiffel Tour by stairs, made it half way to the top and were warned to exit the building because it was NOT SAFE AT THIS TIME. Needless to say, we got the heck out of there as quick as possible.
We took a FREE 3 hour tour of Paris on the second day. It was a great experience, learning so much about the history of Paris, starting from Henry IV through the Louis’, and up to Nazi occupied Paris. We went to the Notre Dame, the “Latin Quarter” which is the original city of Paris before its expansion, found the market place and the steps from “Midnight in Paris,” and accidentally ran into the Moulin Rouge (yes, we are terrible tourists).
London is HUGE. There is SO MUCH to do and see in London. We were there for two and a half days, were out for 14 hours a day, and probably only saw and did 2% of what there is actually to do and see in London. There are two things London has a TON of… pubs and theaters. There must have been a pub every thirty feet. Posters for different theatre shows everywhere. We decided to eat cheap in London because we were feeling very poor at this point and the only “English cuisine” is tea and toast…
Our first day was spent seeing many historic sites such as Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the London Eye, and so on. Our second day was spent searching for Harry Potter filming locations such as platform 9 and 3/4, the Leaky Cauldron, Millenium Bridge, Diagon Alley, Piccadilly Circus, and London Bridge. We also went to the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221 b Baker Street (the actual address of the fictional Londoner), TOWER Bridge (which is the one pictured above), and Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.
We spent our final day in London eating. We found a HUGE fresh food market selling cheeses, breads, pastries, meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, wines, juices, sandwiches, and much more. Everything there was cheap as well. We tried everything we could until we could hardly stand from food coma!
(Mike and I… exhausted)
Finally, we made it back to Belfast at 11:30pm, two weeks later. Though this post is extremely long, there is so so so much more to say about this incredible experience. For more pictures and videos (street performers), check out my Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/evan.flemming.3
To actually understand these experiences, you really need to experience it for yourself. I highly recommend that anyone that has the means to travel, travel. This experience will be with me for the rest of my life and I will tell my grandchildren about how I backpacked through Europe as a college student!
Thats all for now!