Hey everyone! Another day, another trip.
I graduated from my master’s program in May and was fortunate enough to go on a trip to five European cities in June. The first two weeks were spent with my aunt, who has never been to Europe besides the U.K. (if that’s considered Europe, since I know some Brits are picky about that), and the last week was with my boyfriend.
I went to London, Amsterdam, Paris, Budapest, and Berlin. Interesting enough, I’ve been to all of these cities before, but it was really cool to view them through the eyes of first-timers.
I don’t know why, but I’ve never had a big desire to go to London. I like it when I’m there, but when I leave I don’t feel pressure to return. I definitely want to go back to the U.K. and see the countryside, but this stop was mainly for my aunt. We stayed in Stratford, an area towards northeast London where you’ll find the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. By chance, our hotel was right by a Westfield shopping mall, so combined with the amount of diversity I saw while walking around, I felt like I was back in the States.
The biggest sight-seeing we did was a visit to the Tower of London, which I remember walking past in 2014, but I was too much of a poor college student to actually go inside. We took a free walking tour with a “beefeater”—or a member of the Queen’s Yeoman Warders (a part of her royal bodyguard who watch over the complex; the title is very misleading). The history of the tower dates back to the 11th century with multiple construction projects, so it was very interesting to hear about all the people who were imprisoned and beheaded. This includes the well-known second wife of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn.
There is also a collection of medieval torture devices.
I most enjoyed seeing the collection of royal jewels, as well as crowns, swords, and ornamental pieces of the British royal family, although you couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibit.
Another thing on my bucket list was to experience an English teatime. However, there was a problem: a really good teatime is expensive. From my research, I saw shops that charged thirty to forty pounds for tea and pastries. I love a tea parlor as much as the next person (or do we not all love that?), but I really didn’t want to pay that. We ended up finding a really cute shop called Highness Café and Tea Room, and I was able to fulfill my dream of eating cake and drinking tea out of adorable china.
My aunt told me she liked Amsterdam the best, and it’s easy to see why. The city has a lot to offer in a concentrated area. The people we interreacted with were very friendly and helpful. Our Airbnb was a bit out from the city center (we used the tram a lot), but now I know that brown people live in Amsterdam! The neighborhood was full of Muslims and even had a Turkish cultural center. People spoke Dutch to me, and it was flattering, but thankfully most people knew English.
For art lovers out there, I recommend the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. I went to the former four years ago and the latter during this trip. The Rijksmuseum covers Dutch art and history of the last 800 years, with multiple works by Rembrandt and Vermeer and all the 17th century Dutch portraiture you could ever want.
The Van Gogh museum is more self-explanatory. Even though I’ve seen so many of his works, this museum was the best experience because it showed his background—his family life, upbringing, and first foray into the art world—and chronicled his works through his depression and self-imposed rehab, friendship and drama with French painter Paul Gauguin, and eventual suicide. It also has a collection of letter exchanges with his brother Theo. (Something I didn’t know: Van Gogh had other siblings! I feel like everyone only hears about Theo though, and Theo actually died not too long after Vincent did.)
We also visited Hortus Botanicus, the city’s botanical garden that was founded in 1638 and is now probably one of my favorite places in Amsterdam, and took a canal boat cruise. The boat cruise is a great way to view the city because there’s no need to worry about getting run over by cars or buses or trams or cyclists or… whatever else has wheels. (I’ve never had to look both ways before crossing the street as much in my life!)
I can talk about Paris for days, so I won’t get into too much depth. Suffice it to say, I did my best to be a tour guide and take my aunt around as much as I could. Every time I go back to Paris, my experience is different, and this was no exception. We went to Disneyland, which was a lot more fun than I anticipated, ate delicious crêpes, and took a river boat tour.
That’s all for now! The second part of this recap will about Budapest and Berlin with my boyfriend.