Easter break has officially come to an end, and over the past 11 days I have accumulated a million new memories, so much knowledge on the three countries I have visited, a couple new articles of clothing, smelly shoes, a dent in my bank account, and 457 new photos on my camera roll. I still can’t believe I am in Europe touring, and it has been so amazing to experience for myself the different cultures I have been placed in. This includes the languages, the kinds of people, and even the rainy climate. In addition to Slovenia that I travelled to in the beginning of the break, over the past few days, I left Wiener Neustadt to add England, Belgium, and The Netherlands to my list of countries visited.
London, England was first on my itinerary, spending six nights there. I was looking forward to London especially because I knew I was going to meet up with a couple of friendly faces from home. I stayed with a family friend, Jessica, and was joined by a friend I met in Wiener Neustadt. Having a tour guide made the trip much more enjoyable and I learned a ton about London that I never would have learned if I was just touring by myself or with another friend. Jessica made sure we never missed a beat and showed us everything there is to see in London. We covered, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, China Town, Piccadilly Circus, Borough Market, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, The Canadian Embassy, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and experienced the Camden Market. Yeah, you could say I was exhausted after those six days. On the first full day, we did the London Dungeons. If you ever go to London, I suggest devoting some time to go to it. We had the opportunity to experience the history of London firsthand, while we walked through the “dungeon” and actors told the whole story. On the same day, I went to my first high tea with cute little sandwiches, scones, pastries, and of course tea of your choice. Go with an empty tummy, especially for the unlimited sparkling wine that comes with it all. On the next day Borough Market stole my heart and my hunger with endless samples of amazing foods that were made fresh by the locals. From cheese, to dips, and hummus, and deserts, and even the mulled wine that I tried, which is like hot wine with a sweet kick. The London Tower was amazing too, and the hour wait to see the Crown Jewels was worth it. On the following day, we saw the changing of the guards, which made the visit to Buckingham Palace that much more royal. On the same day, I fell in love with the Canadian Embassy. It was stunning and made me feel at home, especially with it being Easter Sunday and not being at home with my family. Although later that night, we had a Sunday roast, which is a popular thing to do in England, and it felt like I was having a homemade Easter dinner. Still not the same as dinner at Nana’s, but it did the trick. Later during my stay, Jessica and I met up with another friend from home, and we all went to the Maple Leaf pub where we could all be Canadian together. I finally got to order the Caesar I’ve been craving. It was insanely spicy and there was no pickle in it, but the Clamato juice flavour satisfied my craving for now. My stay in London ended with a cozy stay at Jessica’s, fitting in three Harry Potter movies. After all these years, I have finally watched it, and being in London, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. So, my stay came to an end, it was a full few days and London is now a place I can recommend to others, even knowing that it burns a hole in your wallet. Next stop, Brussels, Belgium.
Next on my itinerary was a short plane ride to Brussels, Belgium where I met up with my friend Helen from Wiener Neustadt. She lives in the Netherlands and took a road trip to come meet with me to tour Brussels. We ended up staying in an Airbnb which was a house owned by a wealthy couple outside of Brussels, and the bed, let me tell you was the most comfortable bed I have slept in in months! We were originally supposed to stay in another Airbnb, but while I was in London, we realized that we booked the wrong days that we were supposed to be staying in Brussels. We ended up losing some cash, but we also gained a lesson learned, and a story to tell, right? Yeah, when booking places to stay, triple check your information. Once everything was in order, we made our way to sight see, and aside from getting completely hailed on in the first 10 minutes of our journey, it was truly a breathtaking place to visit. We made our way right to the city square which was beautiful both during the day, and ever more at night. In addition, we located the cute little Mannekin Pis (the little fountain with the peeing man), the Royal Palace, Brussels Town Hall, Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudala, Mont des Arts, and Brussels Park. We weren’t in Brussels for very long, so for the time that we were there, I’d say we covered some ground. We finally got our Belgium Waffles, and mine was covered with bananas, strawberries, and a generous amount of Nutella. It was everything I had dreamed of from the moment my flight to Brussels was booked. The next day we covered the Atomium and took a journey through Mini-Europe. So, if you want to tour Europe and don’t have the time to cover it all, just book a flight to Belgium and you can see it all in about an hour. After Mini-Europe, it was off to the next stop, The Netherlands.
Since Helen had drove to me, that meant we got to take a road trip back to The Netherlands together. Being someone that takes road trips from Sault Ste. Marie quite often, this was a fun way to travel through Europe, especially having Helen as an excellent singing partner. I had the opportunity to see where she lives and take in a bit of what it is like to live in the Netherlands. After making that stop, we picked up our friends Brayden and Garin at the airport so Helen could drop us off at our Airbnb just outside of Amsterdam. That evening and the following day was spent touring Amsterdam, and we even met up again with our friend Jonna. It was nice to have our little squad gradually reunite. As far as Amsterdam, the canal and the architecture was quite lovely, especially with the sun out, and out boat tour was a fun time. However, this city was not for me. There were many aspects of the culture that made me feel very out of place, and although Amsterdam was a great experience, I was happy to leave there. The next day however was spent in Utrecht, Netherlands which wasn’t very far away by train. Utrecht was a similar, yet smaller, cuter, and much cleaner version of Amsterdam. It was much more my style, and for my friends as well. We enjoyed eating lunch by the canal, walking around, and laying on a dock to take in the sun (finally something other than rain). It was a relaxing end to Easter break. From there, it was back to Wiener Neustadt.
All in all, Easter break was filled with so many new experiences, and I am so thankful to have these new memories. However, I am even more thankful to be back in Wiener Neustadt. By the end of my travels, homesickness was kicking in again, but not as much homesickness from Sault Ste. Marie, but homesickness from my home here in Wiener Neustadt. It is a relief to get back to my routine, my roommate Sofi, and our little life here in Austria. With the summer weather hitting us, I have no doubt that the second half of my study abroad journey is going to be one for the books to add to an already life changing experience.
P.S. I started watching Gilmore Girls, and I highly recommend downloading some episodes for your future travels.