Thursday, December 16, 2010

Montreux Christmas Market, A Little Christmas blog

I find that spending Christmas without my family has been far more difficult than I had imagined back in May when I first came to Europe. I remember thinking that everyone needs to spend at least one Christmas away from their family, to build character. Now, I’m not so sure that still rings true. I doubt it has anything to do with character to be away from one’s family. It just goes to show how much family or friends truly mean to you once you can’t see them at Christmas.

I imagine that it would be much more trying without todays latest communication breakthroughs such as Skype or Facebook. Yet even with them I still long to be home more than I have before. I guess that there comes a time in many young adults lives when the shift from friend importance moves back to family importance. Taking place after those tired years where we depended on the advice and thoughts of our friends more than our family. Now I find that I’m looking more and more to my parents for advice, and actually taking it. Now that I’m starting to grow closer to my family it makes being away from home all the more upsetting.

This could also be a personality test. I’m sure there are many people who have no problem being away from home at Christmas. It allows them the freedom to avoid all the family drama, awkward presents, Aunt Claire’s overwhelming perfume, ect. For some, Christmas might not be much more than opening presents Christmas morning and a fancy dinner, both of which can be done anywhere. For me though I have started to find new importance in Christmas. It’s a time to recognize God’s glory through his sending of Jesus Christ to Earth. The most amazing thing in history happened and Christmas is the time of year to celebrate how much God loves us, how much Jesus sacrificed and how connected we all really are! This connection can only make me think of family and wanting to be near them.

I know that this time next year I will be celebrating at home surrounded by crowds at the mall, traffic, decorations but most of all my closest family and friends, near to me once more. I just have to try and have a merry little Christmas, even while my family is far away.Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Once again as in olden days
happy golden days of your
faithful friends who are dear to us,
will be near to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow

So have yourself a merry little christmas now

- B

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Sometimes I still can't believe that I've been to some of the places that I've traveled to. Rome is certainly one of those places. I traveled to and from solo but while in Rome I was with my good friend Rebecca from college! I haven't seen her since graduation day so I had been looking forward to this trip since I found out she was living in Naples. We met at the train station and went to our small hostel. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of it but it was similar to my Milan hostel, on one floor of a residential building. It was almost like an apartment that they converted into a hostel; very strange. Actually, Italy itself is a little strange. It's not really like the rest of Europe. They're aren't any Sandleman's Free Tours, Starbucks or Chain Hostels. Some people might like that it's resisted globalization in this way but it makes me a bit wary to travel there. Alas, Rome was much better than my first trip to Milan.
As soon as we dropped our things off at the hostel we walked to see the most known of all Roman tourist attractions, the colosseum. We were too late to go inside but got some really beautiful pictures! Next we decided to track down some of the places from Angels and Demons! I had recently finished the book and re-watched the movie so I was a bit of a Dan Brown buff for this trip, much to the baffled amusement of Rebecca who hasn't read the book or seen the movie.
We were able to go to 3 of the 5 places from the book. The Piazza di Navona, The Castle Sant'Angelo and Saint Peter's Square. Everything from the book and movie was described exactly how it is! I was more or less amazed! Seriously, I think I must have said "This is awesome" at least 10 times (Also, I'm sure American's are the only English speaking country who uses the word awesome as frequently as we do). Then we went on a walk next to the river to see the Island in the middle of the river. Then we got there, took some pictures and proceeded to go on a search for food. Unfortunately, I was very unimpressed with the food we had. I had lasagna one night and pizza the next and both were disappointing. I'm sure there's good food in Rome, obviously, but not where we went. The cappuccino on the other hand was awesome, hah. Seriously though, I have never had such a delicious cappuccino in all my life. So frothy, creamy, delicious... I would go back just for cappuccino...
The next day we went to St. Peter's Basilica where we were escorted past the line and given a sweet tour by our very knowledgeable tour guide. I really find the history of Christianity to be fascinating and loved adding to my weak knowledge of Catholicism. After the Basilica we went to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. I even sneaked in a couple pictures (Bottom left) the Sistine Chapel is truly amazing and full of life and detail. I wish I would have had more time to read about it and look at it.
The next day we went to the Roman Forum which is basically just ruins from Ancient Rome. Pretty neat and very impressive to see what was possible in that time. Then I departed back to Geneva and the start of a weeklong snow storm. This was a fantastic trip and one I would certainly recommend!

Next up: Paris and London Part Deux with my Sister!!!

- B

P.S. Sorry this post is so lame, my motivation for anything today is pretty weak.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I would first like to pose a forewarning that aside from my usual travel blog this particular post will hold a deeper more self discovered section. I will put this section at the end for anyone who would like to resign from that kind of material. However, I feel like with travel there comes a certain obligation to find yourself. The quote "I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself." - James Baldwin; specifically seems to capture my thoughts of the subject. However, more on that later.

I found Berlin to be fascinating! On my first day I went on one of the free tours provided by Sandeman's New European Tours. It was full of history and amusing stories that not only stick with the listener but give them a duty to share the story to others (as I did upon my return). I find it remarkable that only 21 years ago, if I were to have gone to Berlin I would have had to go through a military checkpoint (lower right picture) and would have had to have the correct paperwork to get in and out, that there were people who were prisoners in their own city and that Germany was two separate countries. For the most part, Berlin is rebuilt and has recovered beautifully from that time. My hostel was in East Berlin and at first I was confused because I thought that East Berlin had been the communist part and probably wouldn't look very nice and would be scary to walk around. I even started to think that maybe it was West Berlin that had been the communist part. You really can't tell a difference between the sides now.
After my tour I went to meet up with a girl who I had gone to college with. She showed me around Berlin at night and we saw the festival of lights. Many of the buildings were lit up with pictures or different colors. It was really neat! The next day we met up in the afternoon and did some more sightseeing. She took me to the East Side Gallery, which is the longest standing part of the wall that is covered in political murals (lower left picture). There are so many reminders around the city of everything that has happened in the past. I really feel like this is something every city should have. Reminders that may help us not to repeat the past and to treat everyone the same.

The next day I went to the Pergamon Museum and saw very interesting items from Greek, Islamic or Turkish history. It was very interesting to me and I really wish I knew more about world history. I think it's something I lacked or showed little interest in during grade school. I wish I had explored it more. Actually traveling has really opened my eyes to so much history and I wish I could delve into it all in more detail.

- Self Discovery Corner

Alright, so for those who wish to continue this is now the "Self-Discovery" section of this blog.

One of the nice things about traveling by yourself is that you don't act any different because of the people you're around. If we are all honest with ourselves we can admit that no matter who we are with (except perhaps family) we act a little different due to our surroundings and who's in them. For example, I act very different when I'm teaching or around kids then I do when I'm with a group of friends. Or even when we're in church or when we're at a pub. What surrounds us has a large part of the decisions we make or what we think we want out of life. However when I went on this trip I was surrounded by places I was unfamiliar with, transportation I needed to figure out and an overwhelming ability to do whatever I'd like with them. This realization made me think about who I really am and what I really like to do.

I discovered that since coming to Switzerland I have changed a great deal, certainly more than in years past. A big part of this is because I've found myself spiritually. Switzerland is beautiful and I am constantly surrounded by God's creation. It's so easy to feel his presence and to see his blessings in my life. I've found a great church family and mentors that have helped my faith grow. Many of my friends here are also believers which plays a big role in my own beliefs as well. I feel that I've grown to care more about people. I've become less selfish and have started to think about others at times before myself. When I look at who I used to be or things I used to think about other people I'm repulsed. I could have made stronger friendships or gotten to know more people if only I hadn't been so shallow and selfish before.

Also, I feel like I'm turning into my parents more each day, and I'm not opposed to the idea. I think most people, especially between the ages of 13 and 22 would say that their biggest fear would be to turn into their parents. I noticed yesterday while I was cooking dinner for the family (something I've grown to like a lot) that Felix seemed bored and I almost suggested he go and practice his guitar or piano. This is something my parents would have done with me. Anytime that we seemed bored they'd suggest something more productive that we could do, usually in the form of homework, practicing an instrument, cleaning our rooms, helping with dinner, ect. This made us retreat to our rooms in hopes of not having other things "recommended" for us to do. I now understand why they did that! Now though I think that if I were bored and went to my parents it would be because I'd want to spend time with them. It's actually something that I really enjoy doing and miss a lot. I could spend all morning talking to my parents on skype if they'd let me. I feel so much closer to them even though I'm so far away. Actually I think we probably talk more now than we did when I lived at home. That's just something I took for granted. I'm so glad that I've gotten to know my parents a little more because of this year away and I'm ok with the idea of turning into them :-)

Another thing I realized is how much I enjoy spending time with myself. I certainly have times when I'm craving social contact or a need to speak to someone who speaks English like I do, but honestly I'm fine spending a few days solo with a book, some tea and time to think. I've never appreciated how thought provoking a walk can be, or how nice it is to have time where I'm not moving a mile a minute. I also realized that I'm not as big a party girl as I thought I was. There are so many things I'd rather do then go clubbing or get trashed in a bar. I could stay home and watch a movie, read a book, go to get coffee, write, make food, play a game, go shopping, ect. All of these I'd rather do, or even stay in and have wine while talking about life. (I've also become a huge fan of wine... who knew?)

So, that's pretty much the culmination of my self discovery thus far. I've only been here for half a year and I feel like a new person. I'm renewed, I have purpose and I feel alive. I have 5 more months exactly today to learn more about myself and life. I'm excited to make new discoveries and to strengthen these ones. I'll keep you informed!

- B

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Copenhagen was one of those places that I had seen a picture of on a poster advertising a hostel and decided I had to go. It was another city with Canals and water with beautiful buildings and parks. This all proved to be true. It’s also where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote and where the famous “Little Mermaid” statue is. Unfortunately, she took a year-long vacation to China so I just got to see a screen with a picture on it of her. Oh well.

When I got to Copenhagen I checked into my hostel and then went exploring. I walked through a park and saw some of the city. Then I didn’t know what else to do. I was meeting a friend later in the day but didn’t know what to do with the time so I did the ultimate touristy thing... got on one of the “Hop on Hop off” buses. Eventually I got to a stop that my friend and I had planned to meet so I hoped off. This was the “postcard” perfect place that I had been looking for. It’s funny whenever I go to a new place I always have an idea of what it should look like or what I’ve seen of it before. I then try to find that place to get some pictures. Ex: Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, The corner Canal thing in Bruges, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Eiffel Tower in Paris ect.

After meeting with my friend we went to a museum. It was pretty neat but afterwards I decided to go back to my hostel and do some rather epic relaxing. The next day nothing special happened. I went on two more bus tours with the ticket I had purchased the previous day and then headed back to my hostel. I was really broke for this trip so I didn’t have much money to do well, anything. So I spent the rest of the evening in my hostel on my computer or reading. It was actually nice just to hang out and be by myself. I will say that this trip was really helping me become comfortable in my own skin.

- B

Friday, October 29, 2010


Bruges / Brussels

I’m beginning to feel quite proud of my travel skills. Prior to this trip I was feeling the old pre-trip anxieties that used to have me second guess how important traveling is to me. Even this morning as I was walking to the train station, at 4:30am, I was still a little anxious. However, now that I’ve made it to the airport, in plenty of time and am now waiting for my flight to Copenhagen, I feel empowered. As lame as it sounds I almost feel like this trip is my “coming of age” trip. I’m learning how to travel by myself and am relying on any life skills I may have picked up along the way. So far it’s going quite well.

After leaving Geneva at 6:50am (I prefer to take really early flights so that I can sleep on the plane, get there when things are open and the sun is out), arriving in Brussels at 8am, taking a train to the city at 9:15, then taking a train to Bruges at 10:24 I finally arrived in Bruges at 11:30am. As most travelers will tell you, the thing that takes up the most time is traveling itself. I now had the rest of the day to discover the medieval city. After dropping my luggage off at my hostel I went to grab lunch. I found a cozy burger place and got a burger and fries. Belgium is actually where fries originated. They call them french fries because of the way they’re cut (same with french cut green beans). They were decent but I’ve had better.

After getting the key to my room I then spent the rest of the afternoon walking as much of the city as I could. I walked around most of the canals and the outskirts of the city. I got to see the canal that surrounds the city and some of the windmills that are next to it. I even walked down the main shopping street and didn’t buy anything! Huge success! I grabbed a tea and waffle for dinner at a cute tea room. Then I went back to my hostel and spent a lovely evening avec moi and went to bed early.

The next morning I woke up early and had breakfast at my hostel before returning to the train station to go to Brussels. I was fortunate enough to grab a train right when I got to the station! An hour later and I was back in the Capital of Europe. I went right to my hostel and once again dropped off my luggage. Then I commenced on the longest walking tour (and most painful) ever (well perhaps not ever, but it was long)!

The map I had had 3 different walking tours that locals recommended. I decided to combine all three plus take out or add to things I didn’t/wanted to see. I started off at the Botanical Gardens. Then I saw a church that could be pretty, so I walked about 10 minutes down to see it. It turned out to be quite small and not as nice as I thought so I took a photo and then turned around and walked back. Then I commenced down the street to find a monument of sorts, a farmer’s market (where I got a waffle for .50 Euro!), another church, European Parliament, Museums, a lot of parks, more fries, the Royal Palace, the Judicial Building, a great view, more tea, a very long road and more. It took me about 5 hours but I got to see quite a lot of the city. There was certainly more to be seen but I don’t think I would have wanted to stay more than a day. It’s definitely more of a business city then touristy. I actually didn’t see a single tourist shop all day and had to wait to buy my postcard (I buy one everywhere I go) at the airport.

Then I went back to my hostel, chilled out a little bit and then went to the train station to buy my ticket for this morning and check departure times.

Afterwards I went back and had another wonderful early evening curled in bed. I thought that it was pretty funny that there were people just getting to the hostel at 3am when I had to wake up at 4. I actually overheard someone saying to another person in the room they were from Pennsylvania at 3:30am so I asked where at in PA and she’s from Upper Dublin, about an hour from me. I never did meet her though since I had to leave in an hour. Small world.

  • B

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This past weekend I went on another trip with Link (the aupair connection group in Geneva). We traveled to Zermatt, the number one tourist attraction in Switzerland! At 7:30am all 45 of us hoped on the bus excited for a weekend of hiking, bonding and exploring the country we all live in. Once we got there we were all enamored by the natural beauty of the mountains. There is something so spiritual about the mountains that make me truly feel God's presence. Among other things, my own spiritual growth and development has really blossomed in Switzerland. I'm able to walk with God daily and learn more about him and myself while being surrounded by his beautiful creation. I have been so blessed to have this time to grow and explore this part of myself.
The first day we did a short hike to a small village called Zmutt. We all had apple strudel, although it was certainly not as good as the one in Munich. Then I went with two friends on a short hike back down to Zermatt. After a delicious dinner in the hostel we played some cards and then I decided to get a shower and hop into bed to work on my French homework. Most of the girls ended up going out to the clubs in the area but I was really glad to get some time to study and sleep before the next day. Call me lame, but perhaps I'm just maturing... oh dear...
The next day we took a train to the top of one of the mountains. We had an excellent view of the Matterhorn from there! We were around 10,000 feet, the highest I've ever been while remaining on land! The next 4 hours were spent hiking all the way back down to the town. We had a few short breaks but for the most part hiked the whole way down continuously. It was quite strenuous but I'm really glad that although I'm not in fantastic shape I can still push my body to achieve really great things. Our ride home was quite uneventful as we were all exhausted. It's been 3 days since the hike and it still hurts to walk down stairs or hills. It was still completely worth it and I'm so glad to have gone!

I have a lot planned for the upcoming months! In two weeks I will be going to Brussels, Bruges, Copenhagen and Berlin as a solo trip for a week! Then I'm planning a trip to either Rome or Prague in November and then in December I'm going back to Paris and meeting my sister for New Years! From there we will go to London to see Wicked. I'm a combination of excited and anxious for these trips! Can't wait to let you all know how they go!

- B

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I believe that I've wanted to go to Oktoberfest ever since the first time I saw an "Oktoberfest" tent in the U.S. I remember my dad telling me about it in Germany. Finally on the weekend of September 24 - 26 I got my chance! I traveled with 5 girls first to Zurich to spend the night and then on to Munich early friday morning.

I was still tired and had planned to sleep for the 4 hour train ride to Munich but everyone else had a different plan... start drinking! Unfortunately, we had all booked our train tickets individually so I wasn't sitting near my friends, I was sitting near a group of rowdy French (or Swiss French) teenagers. It made for a rather unenjoyable train ride due to their drinking, yelling and general obnoxious behavior.

Eventually we arrived in Munich! The train station was full of what we would be surrounded by all weekend, beer, pretzels, chocolate, souvenirs, bread and other carb-filled goodies! And thus we started our quest to find our camp site. When we arrived we staked our claim on a spot to call home the next two nights. We were surrounded by tents, RV's caravans and other people there to party! We set up camp in the beautiful warm weather and then headed to the festival!

We were told to just "follow the crowd" and then we discovered why. There are millions of people at Oktoberfest, enough to have a constant mob going to and from the festival grounds. We were just in our jeans and T-shirts but that seemed out of place. Most people donned the traditional German lederhosen and dirndls. After purchasing our first Bratwurst we checked out the rides and got into the festive mood! No dark clouds looming in the distance could ruin our high spirits!

Unfortunately, a positive outlook does not an umbrella make and the rain and cold settled in on Oktoberfest... and us. A few of us got ponchos but others sported their wet clothes proudly. Eventually, we did go back to our tents to join in the festivities there.

After a long, cold wet night, we woke up early and landed a spot in line for one of the famous beer tents! We were there by 8:30 and got a seat and beer by 9:30. I must say that first thing in the morning I was not feeling like a beer but eventually the peer pressure and general joviality encouraged us all to enjoy a beer or two. We met some wonderful new friends and had a fantastic time singing, dancing, walking on tables or benches and taking pictures!

The next day we checked out of our campsite and went into Munich to see some of the actual city. We found a cozy cafe (aka McDonald's) and had a delicious breakfast. Then we went to see some of the sites thankful that the rain had stopped. Tired and Sick we finally got on our train back home. 5 best friends, 4 new Facebook friends, 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 2 train changes and 1 Nicolas Sparks book later we were back in Geneva. The experiences and memories that we were all so fortunate to have discovered will last a lifetime!

For a video of our adventure click HERE. Chelsie was so kind to put our experience on youtube!

- B

Friday, September 17, 2010

Paris and Versailles

The greatest thing about my location here is how central I am to the rest of Europe. It gives me the opportunity to say, take a short train to Paris if I feel like it. So, that is what I did. On a Weds afternoon I hoped on a train for Paris to stay until Saturday evening. It was a wonderful amount of time to spend in what is now my favorite city.
When I arrived in Paris I went to my hostel and then to bed. My travel buddy, Annie, was coming the next afternoon so I was still on my own and exhausted. The next morning I made plans to go to the Louvre.

You'd think that seeing some of the world's most inspiring works of art would change your life in some way. Or perhaps allow you an intimate moment to look into the Mona Lisa's eyes and say "It's been so long" but you get there and it's crowded with people and that intimate moment you had hoped for turns into a crappy picture and a shove from the other people trying to get their own crappy pictures.

This seems to be a very recurring thought on many of my travels. That seeing the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or other European culture trademarks will have a profound effect on one's life. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened (excluding the Cliffs of Moher) for me. Don't get me wrong it's really great to go and see such wonderful creations but you see them and although I did gasp at the Eiffel Tower, it didn't change my life in a profound way at all. You go, you see that it's real, perhaps have lunch in the view of it take a couple pictures (or more than a couple) and that's it, you return home and you can now say you've seen it but your life isn't any different because of it. I find your life is different because of the people you meet or the stories you can tell, not because of the objects themselves.

Annie came later that afternoon and we met up and went to the hostel. On the way to the hostel we discovered the bakery right at the metro station by the hostel. This bakery would be the reason I was able to save a lot of money on food this trip. I would recommend that if you are tight on cash and trying to save money food is the best way! I brought a bag of apples, bread, peanut butter and jelly and granola bars that lasted me the whole trip. We only grabbed lunch out once because we got caught in a rainstorm. I don't think I spent more than 20 Euro in the 3 days I was there on food. :-)

The next day I went on a day trip to Versailles to see where Louis 14th decided to set up shop. It was very impressive and remarkable (although not life changing) and I'm really glad I went. It was a beautiful day to go as well! The sky was a brilliant blue dotted with puffy clouds that made my pictures quite lovely. I learned a lot about the history of Versailles and the French monarchy. One of my favorite things about traveling is learning about these cities and European history. I feel like I'm in European History 301, "The experience" and the money I pay for these trips is merely tuition.
The next day was our last day so we went on the free tour. It was mostly things that we had already walked around to see but now were able to learn more about them. I felt that in the short time I was there I saw quite a lot of the city, from the Latin Quarter to Mont Martre and most in between. Paris is such a beautiful city and was my favorite so far because of how much space there is. There are also beautiful buildings around every corner and the view of the Eiffel Tower shooting above changing leaves is truly breath-taking. I'm so excited to go back for New Years and show the city to my sister and friend. It will be wonderful!

Next up is Oktoberfest! I'll be traveling there Sept. 24 - 26, then Zermatt October 2 and 3 and then a week long trip October 20 - 26 to go to Belgium (Brussels and Bruges), Copenhagen and Berlin. I'm pretty excited to see all of these places and learn about their cultures. This will be a solo trip so we will see how that goes! Probably many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be had :-)

- B

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yvoire, France

A Sunday without something to do is a wonderful thing. Especially in Switzerland where you can plan a day trip somewhere at the drop of a hat. As much as I love planning huge trips with everything worked out there is certainly something to be said for spontaneous trips as well! On this particular Sunday 3 of my friends and I decided to meet in Yvoire, France, a medieval village not too far from where I live. They took the boat over from Nyon and I rode my bike. It ended up taking me an hour but should have only taken around 40 minutes. Once we found each other we went on a search for Pizza. I ordered a Vegetarian pizza that was beyond delicious. After lunch we walked around, stopped and got Mars bar / Brownie Gelato and looked in some of the little shops that dot the tiny streets. I'm so excited to go back to this village before the holidays and do some gift shopping!
After touring the village we got back on the boat and went to Nyon. The boat was so crowded and it didn't help that we had to tote my bike around too. It was a very pleasant afternoon and a relatively cheap trip! I'm so lucky to live in such a great area that offers day trips to such wonderful places!

- B

Friday, August 27, 2010


After a relatively cold week in Geneva 3 of my friends and I embarked on a 3 day weekend trip to Barcelona! We hopped on an Easyjet flight Friday night and were in Barcelona in a couple of hours. First thing we did was go to our hostel, sign in and meet our fellow "flat-mates" for the weekend. It was a bunch of guys from England touring Europe on holiday. They told us about a club crawl that the hostel hosted. It was free so we decided to go. Although, I was a bit disappointed about the "crawl" part of it because we only stayed at one club. It ended up being a fun night with lots of dancing, running away from creepy guys, and free drinks!
The next day we headed to the beach! I'm pretty sure I didn't get any more tan than I already was since I put sunscreen on like a junkie. We got massages on the beach though and I'm pretty sure that's why I've been so relaxed and have a "go with the flow" attitude. Later that night we went Salsa dancing! It was SO much fun and has given me inspiration to go out and find a salsa class in Geneva. Hopefully I can find one. The seed has been planted!

The following day we split into two groups, one group to go see the city by foot and another to go and see it by bike! I went on the bike tour with my friend Emma. It was a perfect day for a bike tour. It was hot so we were able to produce our own breeze upon our trusted steeds. The bikes were actually really comfortable and easy to ride! We saw most of the city and still had time for some Sangria and sandwiches on the beach!

Later that night we brought Chelsie and Bree and went on a night bike tour! This was a very worthwhile adventure! We saw the other half of the city and learned more about it's history. One of my favorite things about touring cities is how much history I've been learning. European history doesn't get very far in the U.S so it's nice getting a first hand look at the history I missed out on in school.

We saved the shopping for last and spent our final morning touring the shops of Barcelona. This was quite a success as well. I found a wonderful winter coat (I know it's not for a while, but it's cheaper in Spain than anywhere in Switzerland). It's black and a waterproof material sorta... but has a removable vest and hood with a very soft warm red and black plaid lining. I'm very excited about it!

Also, for the sake of completing my European to-do list I did go on a date with a European. It went really well and I'm glad I've made a new friend! We're helping each other on French / English. It's so funny to try to explain what things when one doesn't know the word for it. It's like playing Charades for an entire evening haha.

Next up in Paris Sept 8 - 11 and then Oktoberfest Sept 24 - 26 :-) Oh Europe...

- B

Friday, August 13, 2010


So in hopes of seeing a beautiful Mediterranean city with beaches and more Italian food I went to Genoa... and it was less than what I'd hoped for. It's more of a port than a beach so I could only see the sea from afar and didn't get any beach time. Instead I hoped on one of the annoying tourist trains in hopes of dodging some creepy street vendors who were harassing me. This worked for a bit but then I decided to go on a walk to either find a shop or some good food. There are some lovely sights in Genoa but the "city" is mostly alleys and many creepy people trying to sell you things. Being by myself was pretty scary here, especially when I decided to take the "scenic" route back to the bus stop and happened to be on a road on the outside of the city that was more industrial then scenic. It made me nervous not to be around people since I was the only one walking on this road...
Eventually I did find a bench and read my book for a couple of hours. This was after yet another pizza and some more Gelato. To make myself even more nervous my bus was 20 minutes late to pick me up, the only person who had gotten on or off at this stop. I really wish I had gone to Verona instead because it was about the same distance away but Italy isn't all that far from me so maybe I'll just go for a weekend trip one day. Overall impression though was that if you're going to Italy there are so many nicer places to go so I'd leave this one off your list.

So that covers my 2 week Holiday! Next up Barcelona August 20 - 23!

- B


A few days after returning to Geneva for some much needed rest I departed on my first solo adventure to Milan! I took the train for a 5 hour trip to Italy. It ended up being an hour late getting me into town around 1230am so instead of walking to my hostel I got a cab. Once I reached my hostel (and after a rather confusing conversation with the receptionist) I set my alarm and went to sleep. Unfortunately, my alarm was still on London time so I woke up 55 minutes after I would have liked. This was very unfortunate since I had to be at my tour in 50 minutes and didn't know exactly where it was. So after quickly getting ready I rushed to the metro in hopes of getting on the right one. Unfortunately my hopes didn't help in navigating and I got on a train instead of a metro and had to try to find someone who spoke English to navigate me back to where I needed to go. Eventually I got to the right place but now I had to find my tour group and hope (since I was 10 minutes late) that they hadn't left already. After asking another person where a certain street was I was able to quickly find my group and hop on the bus 2 minutes before they departed. Relief does not fully describe how I felt since it was an expensive tour and I wouldn't know what to do that morning had I missed it.Our first stop was La Scala, the Milan Opera house. It was a beautiful building where many Italian opera composers have stepped foot in and had their operas performed. It was truly great to be in the same place as composers such as Verdi, Rossini and Bellini.
The next stop was the Duomo which is the 3rd largest Cathedral in the world! The other two are in Rome and Spain. It was such a magnificent building to see! It took 600 years to build! Can you imagine building it and knowing that your grandchildren wouldn't even be alive to see the finished building! It was surely the most detailed Cathedral I have ever seen with a statue or carved picture in every corner!
Next we went to see the Castello Sforzesco, which is a large Palace where many of Leonardo Da Vince's paintings are housed. Speaking of Da Vince, after the Palace we went to where the Last Supper is painted! This was what I had been looking forward to all day! Only half of our group could be let in at once so I waited for the second group. Once I first saw the painting it was truly breathtaking. It gives one a whole new appreciation for art and the presence of God. The church it's painted in is very plain and modest but it fits with the painting somehow. Each disciple in the painting had it's own personality and details that made the painting so lifelike! It was truly wonderful seeing this painting and if you ever have the opportunity I recommend going to see it!
After the tour I went out to lunch with a girl I met on my tour. We both got pizza... and I ate it all. It was delicious! Then we went and got gelato which was quite possibly the best I have had! After doing some wonderful shopping (I got a new dress, sweatpants, tank top, long sleeve shirt and my usual postcards) I went back to my hostel to shower before going out to dinner.
I ended up going to dinner by myself which was actually quite wonderful. I started off with some Bruschetta and wine and then asked the waiter what he recommended for dinner. I had a pasta with mushrooms and a delicious creamy red sauce. I did bring a book and read it for quite a while to let my dinner settle in before dessert :-) I ended up getting a cream ice gelato with fruit on top that was sooo good. :-) It was a nice evening alone and I realized that traveling by ones self isn't really all that lonely since one can do as she pleases and with someone who knows everything about you, yourself. The next day I planned to go to Genoa to see the Mediterranean for the first time!

- B

Thursday, August 12, 2010


After a sleepless night in Dublin, Chelsie and I gathered our bags and prepared for our final plane together. We were headed towards Scotland, land of bag pipes, whiskey, and beautiful castles! Once we got to Edinburgh we once again figured out the public transportation and got on a bus to Edinburgh, although we ended up on two different buses. I was waiting on the bus for Chelsie to finish her coffee and as she was walking back from the trashcan the bus pulled away. So she waited for the next one and I waited for her at the last stop. Once we were both together again we lugged of stuff up the hill to our hostel. We stayed in the Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel which was a great hostel and if anyone happens to be going to Edinburgh I HIGHLY recommend you stay there. It was clean, friendly, and right in the middle of town! Once we got there at 8 or 9am we couldn't check into our room until 1 so we did what any tired traveller does, found a couple of couches and crashed until 1am. Once we woke, showered and ate we went on a tour of Edinburgh! We totally lucked out and got the cute tour guide! Although, I'm certainly more in love with the Irish accent then the Scottish, Chelsie was the opposite so that worked out well hah. We got to learn quite a lot about the city and get some excellent photos. After the tour we went to dinner and met an Australian couple who told us about a pork sandwich restaurant that we went to the next day. It. was. the. best. pork. sandwich. I. have. ever. had. (Including North Carolina style...)
After dinner we walked around a bit and then decided to go on a pub crawl! It was pretty fun, got to meet some interesting characters at least.
The next day we did a lot of walking around and touring on our own. In the evening Chelsie went on a hike and I stayed and I read my book / napped. When Chelsie didn't come back I met some guys from France and sorta practiced my French. We then went to a small Scottish pub where there was live traditional music and good beer. I also tried some Scottish whiskey although I'm afraid I'm not really that much of a fan. I do love how much music is a part of the lives of the Irish and the Scottish. I wish that it were more like this in the US. It was wonderful to go out and hear live music at most of the places we went to. Perhaps I'll just have to make my own shop with live music in the evenings :-) The plan has already begun...
- B

Thursday, August 5, 2010


If I'd have to guess, I'd say that about 9% of the world's alcohol and bars are in Dublin... When it comes to drinking Dublin is pretty intense. I must say I loved all of the pubs and alcohol advertisements. They're all very colorful and fun and brighten up the city. It really adds something to the atmosphere! Perhaps it's just that it livens things up a bit and reminds you not to take life too seriously.
When Chelsie and I first arrived in Dublin I will admit that I was not a fan. We were both a little bit grumpy (those whole 2 hours of sleep really weren't helping) and we had to try and find out where our hosts lived. We went to a pretty shady looking part of town and were able to meet one of our hosts, "Jon". After chatting for a bit, starting some laundry, taking a shower and trying to wake up we went on a quest to find our football playing Brazilian host Athos. Unfortunately by the time we got to his football match it was already over and we missed him. So, we decided to go watch The Karate Kid and get some food. Eventually, we went back to the house and met Athos and his other 5 other flatmates (6 if you include Jon). We then went to a house party followed by the Temple Bar area of Dublin. We had fun getting to know our hosts and their friends while we danced and laughed the night away.
The next morning we went on a wonderful tour of Dublin and then quickly went to the Guinness factory to do the tour! We were just in time to get in and run up to the top and get our complimentary (Or 11 Euro) pint of Guinness. The Guinness in Ireland is THE BEST beer ever! I don't think I'll be able to drink it anywhere but Ireland now. :-(
After the tour we went to grab some food. Athos meet us for dinner where I had Fish and Chips (for maybe the 3rd time on this trip). Chelsie and I then split a fried Mars Bar (fried Oreos take that...) and an apple pie. Then we made plans to go back to the house for an early evening before waking up for our flight to Edinburgh the next day. Well we did stop and get some mixings for a Brazilian Cocktail!

What we thought would be an early night turned into an all night get to know you session with our hosts! Since we had to get ready at 4:45am anyway we decided to just stay up all night! We passed around a Brazilian cocktail, played youtube videos and music, played get to know you games, had a dance party, and then at 5:15am left our new Best Friends for Scotland. It was such a great last night in Ireland and although we were SO exhausted for Scotland I don't regret those times one bit!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cork aka Kinsale, Blarney, and The Cliffs of Moher

Ireland! Land of Leprechauns, Gold, Cute Accents, Friendly People, Cloudy skies, and Guinness, oh how I love you. After our London ridiculousness we hoped on a plane to the green hills of Cork. Even the border check guy was friendly! We grabbed a bus to the city center and met our wonderful host Paul! Our first day in Cork was quite relaxing. We went and had breakfast with Paul and then walked around the city a bit. Although, I wouldn't say I consider Cork a "city" but more a large town. I preferred this actually. After our tour we went and took a nap since we hadn't slept much in London.
That evening we went and saw Reggie Watts perform. He's an amazing musician / comedian (He's on youtube). It was SO much fun! After the concert we went to another bar with live music and got to watch people dance and just hang out with a lot of cool people! We also got to meet Reggie and hang out with him for much of the night! (He's the one with the afro in the picture above) (Our host Paul is in the picture below)
The next day Chelsie and I made plans to go to another Irish town and then make our way to Blarney. Above are some pictures from Kinsale. It's a little town on the South Western part of Ireland near a Bay that connects to the Ocean. It's a beautiful town with a lot of Spanish influence. We walked around and took many pictures. Then we caught the next bus back to Cork so that we would have time to visit Blarney in the same day! One thing I loved about Cork was how easy it was to just get a bus to almost anywhere in Ireland!
So we went back to Cork and hoped on a bus to Blarney, home of the Blarney Stone!
It turns out that the Blarney Stone is in Blarney Castle which sits on a beautiful piece of land full of parks, creeks, witches and folklore! First thing we did was climb to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. We didn't realize that in order to kiss the stone you have to lay on your back and grab onto some iron bars to lean back down and kiss the bottom of this stone that's part of the castle. With the help of the charming old Blarney Stone worker guy we were both able to kiss the stone! The picture is above in black and white!
After kissing the stone (which gives you the gift of eloquence or gab as they say) we decided to roam the lands in search of witches, wishes and whatnot. We found many enchanted things suck as a rock you could walk under for luck, stairs you had to walk up and down with your eyes closed in order for a wish to come true (mine did...), a sacrificial stone and a witches kitchen. What a fun place for a couple of aupairs to act like a kid :-) The next day we went on a full day adventure to "That place with the cliffs that are on the discovery channel"
The Cliffs of Moher can now be called my favorite place in the world! It's a mixture of danger and beauty, green and blue and rock and sea. It was a cool, cloudy day but it didn't stop many people from walking on top of the beautiful cliffs that allow you to see the Atlantic Ocean in a way I never have! I even waved to the U.S since it's just across the way :-) If there was a place I would recommend going to anyone this would be it!
After we returned to Cork we had to say our farewells to Paul and Cork. It was a bitter-sweet farewell for me since Cork was one of my favorite places and made me feel so at home. Good thing we weren't leaving Ireland yet because we were heading off to Dublin!

- B

Thursday, July 29, 2010


It was such an unfortunate time when we realized we had forgotten our eye patches, large ear rings, and pet parrots for our trip to London because our lovely couch surfing host Leigh had forgotten to mention that the "Boat party" he was taking us to was a PIRATE BOAT PARTY on the Thames, with a DJ, alcohol and a bunch of Australians!!! See one of the things I am beginning to realize is that Europeans (or Aussies hah) know how to have a party. Even through my time here I've been to a party in the woods, party in the streets, party on the lake, party in a bar, party in an alley, ect... and London was not an exception.
We met SO many new and exciting people! Most of whom were in their pirate best! This is the thing I like best about couch surfing, you get to do things you wouldn't have known about as a tourist. We also got to stay in Wimbledon which if we stayed in a hostel we wouldn't have seen. Although, it really isn't as posh as we would have thought being the site of the Tennis World Matches and whatnot. I was able to get so many great pictures on the boat cruise because we were able to see things like the Tower Bridge, London Eye, Parliament and the Clock Tower from the middle of the river instead of some road in London. This party started the first of many sleepless nights due to late nights and early mornings.
The next day we went on a tour of London and saw great things such as • Hyde Park Corner • Buckingham Palace • The Changing of the Guard (most days)* • Churchill’s War Cabinet Bunker • The Houses of Parliament • St. Martin-in-the-Fields • Westminster Abbey • Trafalgar Square • Nelson’s Column • Wellington Arch • St. James’s Park • 10 Downing St. • Horseguards • Whitehall • Big Ben There are just so many stories from London and so much that we did although it did seem like most of our travels in London were spent on the Tube.
We also saw the Old City (the actual city of London). It's the only place in London that the Queen can not go without permission of the Mayor of the City of London. Then there's this big ceremony where he passes her a big golden stick and then will wait for her to finish her time in the city and then get the stick back from her. London is full of very strange rules, laws or traditions. Quite strange hah.
London was great to visit but I think Chelsie and I both agreed that it was not how we imagined it would be (although it was very nice) and we wouldn't want to live there. Although speaking of places I'd like to live, my next blog is some place I am seriously considering moving. :-)