Sunday, March 1, 2015

European Escape: Reading Week Edition

The halfway point for my term in Canterbury has come and gone, which is quite upsetting at the thought of all the things and places I have yet to see and do here. However, last week gave me an opportunity to see so much of the things I have long desired to visit. At Christ Church University--and I presume other universities in the UK--they give students a reading week, or "self-directed study week" in the middle of the term. As much as I would love to be a good student and say I got a lot of studying done during those ten days, I used the opportunity as a chance to see parts of Europe about which I had always dreamed.

On February 12th, two of my flatmates and I began our long-anticipated journey at 4:30 a.m. We took a train to Ashford, which is not far from Canterbury, and then caught the Eurostar train to one of the most glamorized cities in the world: Paris! It was crazy to think that it took almost the same amount of time to get from Canterbury to Paris as it does for me to get from college to home back in the States. The size of these countries--which are comparable to the size of some U.S. states--still astounds me. 

We arrived at Paris Nord around 9 in the morning, and our adventure began! Due to the confusing streets (Paris is not on a grid AT ALL), it took us a little over an hour to find our hostel. Though it was a hike from the station, we were staying right next to the Louvre! The location was also right between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, so we could pick a way to walk and go see whatever we desired. We spent four days in Paris, which was the perfect amount of time to spend in such a city. We took in the main sights, the tucked away cafes, amazing food, and relaxed vibe of Paris.

To be honest, I was braced to be disappointed by Paris. Every time I talked to someone about Paris, they complained about the smell, the people, the traffic, the everything. They all told me that French people would be rather rude because I'm American. While I'm sure people have experienced such things in Paris, I was really lucky. Everyone my friends and I interacted with, from waiters to locals on the street, were incredibly friendly and helpful. There were three instances where we could not find where we were going and a local Parisian approached us to offer help. It was comforting to know that people wouldn't just scowl at us tourists, but instead lend a helping hand. My advice to future travelers is to always go to a city with an open mind; don't put your expectations too high or too low. Just go in willing to embrace the city and culture, and let it show you what it's all about. And the best way to do that is follow the locals, and find out what you really should see. Don't rush yourself; just enjoy the opportunity.
Donnie and I at the Eiffel Tower!

Notre Dame!

Up close and personal with Mona Lisa!

A beautiful sight at night.
On the 16th of February, we woke bright  and early to make our way to Adventure #2: Amsterdam! Amsterdam is the most culturally-intriguing city I have ever visited, and also one of the most beautiful. The canals everywhere were picture-perfect, and the amount of bikes was INSANE. It was really neat to see a place where cars were the underdogs of transportation, and it was also kind of scary trying not to get hit by the millions of bikers that flew down the cobble-stone and brick streets. We went on a canal tour, which showed us so much of the city. It was crazy to see just how many canals there were. We also went to the Anne Frank House, which was one of the most humbling experiences one can have. The profound words of a young girl going through such a painful time were really powerful, and I was so grateful we got the chance to see the house and hear/read stories about the Frank family and others going through the same hardships. Trying to gain the whole Amsterdam experience, my friends and I rented bikes and took a ferry just north of the city to a place I cannot pronounce. We rode around the quiet streets and bike trails along the canals before getting dinner overlooking the water as the sun set. It was an amazing trip.
City of canals (and bikes)

Anne Frank House!

Bikes: the best way to see Amsterdam.

The famous I Amsterdam sign in front of Rijksmuseum.
Three days later, we made our way to Schiphol Airport for our last stop: Copenhagen, Denmark! While there had been a lot of fear in the media surrounding Copenhagen after some attacks, we were still stoked to see the city. On our first day, we walked around and saw some the picturesque sites Copenhagen is known for, such as colorful buildings lining the canals at Nyhavn. It was simply a gorgeous city. We also took the train to Frederiksborg Slot, the largest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia and home to the National History Museum. It was so incredible and gorgeous that we didn't mind the snow and rain coming down on us as we walked up to it. The castle was huge and had some of the most amazing rooms in it. While the weather did not permit us to ride bikes like we had hoped, we still managed to see what we wanted to see. We went to the Royal Library, which was incredible. It's called the Black Diamond because the entire exterior is black-tinted glass and it's one of the most beautiful libraries I've seen, with green-lamped reading rooms and windows overlooking the water. Copenhagen was also home to The Little Mermaid author, Hans Christian Andersen, so we visited the famous statue of Ariel on Copenhagen Harbor that was placed there in 1913.

Frederiksborg Castle and National History Museum!

The amazing, colorful, rainy city of Copenhagen!
After a few glorious but rainy days in Denmark, we flew back to London and caught a coach back home to Canterbury. It's funny how, though I've only lived in Canterbury for just shy of two months, I really missed it while I was away. However, the 10-day journey through Europe was amazing, and I am so happy we were given the chance to travel--and study, of course. :)

0 Responses

Post a Comment

Subscribe to our feed