It has been a VERY busy semester so far – I know that my time over here is flying by and I am quickly realizing that I don’t have enough days to do everything that I want to do. That ~obviously~ just means that I will have to come back to Europe in the future! My top priority is to travel to as many different places as possible in order to experience the most that I can. My country count so far? 1) The Netherlands 2) Germany 3) Belgium 4) Switzerland and 5) France. Not only am I touring a large part of Europe, though, but I have also been doing a lot of exploring just here in the Netherlands. So buckle up and hold on tight, because I am about to take you on a wild (and very condensed) recap of some of the amazing weekend adventures that I have had so far. Sorry in advance, as even with me only sharing the highlighted points of my travels, this post is quite longer than the rest!
So, I already told you guys about my wonderful week spent traveling around Germany back in August – check out my third blog post if you missed it. In early September I was off to Amsterdam for the weekend, which I talked about in my fifth post. Then, the next weekend of travel was to Belgium! It was a wonderful weekend where I gained a MINIMUM of ten pounds from all of the mouth-watering chocolate, waffles, fries, and beer.
My good friend and I took a cheap Flixbus to Brussels Friday night and got into our hostel pretty late, but still headed for drinks at BrewDog brewery in the city center. Saturday we got an early start by enjoying some delicious macaroons and coffee in front of a cathedral. Our big destination for the morning was an antique market in the south of the city, Marolles. It was HUGE and had lots of great finds – I even got a cute jean jacket with embroidered flowers on it for €10. After that, it was time to tour Brasserie Cantillon (lambic beer, hello)! We also stopped at Nanobrasserie de l’Ermitage and the Royal Palace of Brussels before heading to a small Italian restaurant for dinner. Of course, after dinner, we marveled at the twinkling night lights of the Grand-Place of Brussels before heading to the infamous Delirium Café. And our night wouldn’t have been complete without Belgian Frites from a tiny shop! Sunday morning’s breakfast was perfectly cooked Belgian waffles – crispy edges and fluffy insides – with powdered sugar on top. Our rainy last day in the city was filled with way too much chocolate and a quick stop at the botanical gardens, before a very wet and cold Flixbus ride back home. Overall, my stomach was very happy with all of what Bruxelles had to offer! The city had a lot of cute character (not to mention delicious food and drinks), and I would definitely return in a heartbeat.
My next weekend trip was to Texel – the largest of the Dutch Wadden islands. Four of us decided to take the ferry to the island and camp right among the sand dunes on the beach! We rented two tandem bikes for the days we were there, which let me tell you, are a lot harder to use than you would think (we only crashed ONCE, oops). But basically, a large part of our time in Texel was spent having picnics on the beach while we listened to the waves crash around us, drank wine, and watched first-time surfers struggle through the waves. We were blessed with beautiful weather the entire time, and so one afternoon we biked (about thirty kilometers there and back) to the lighthouse at the end of the island and splashed around in the tide pools there. Also, there were SO MANY CUTE DOGS ON THE BEACHES. SO MANY. We explored the adorable village near our campground, which is where we had dinner one night and some gelato for dessert. Overall, this weekend replenished my soul with the nature that I realized I had been missing – sleeping in a tent with nothing but the stars surrounding me (check out my Instagram @bethprochnow for some beautiful pictures of the island). I want to say that this was my favorite trip so far, but I really can’t choose because I have loved them all!
My next weekend adventure was to Switzerland. Let me tell you, it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL but very expensive. I started out on an overnight bus Friday night and arrived at Rhine Falls (Europe’s largest waterfall) at dawn on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was very foggy, so we couldn’t see much. We didn’t stay long and instead hustled to Lucerne – a picture-perfect town where the humbling Lion Monument was our first stop. Lucerne’s bustling Saturday morning market alongside the market was our main attraction after that, where my three friends and I crossed the iconic winding bridge. With snow-capped mountains looming over us, we ate freshly baked pastries and explored old-town. Then, it was time for Zurich.
When we first arrived at the global financial center in the afternoon, we hiked our butts on up to the top of Uetliberg mountain for beautiful panoramic views of Lake Zurich and the town below. After taking the tram back down the mountain my friends and I spent a large part of the afternoon on a boat tour around Lake Zurich, which is a lot more ginormous in size than I expected. We also strolled through Zurich’s Chinese Garden and then went gawking at all of the shops on the ~slightly~ expensive Bahnhofstrasse (one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world). After eating pizza, the four of us climbed Lindenhof hill to watch: a giant game of chess, the sun sink behind the mountains, and the city lights come to life. We finished our time in Switzerland by drinking the most delicious, rich, Swiss hot chocolate at the posh Café Felix before boarding the overnight bus back home. Switzerland was a breathtaking country with amazing views, despite everything being pretty pricey.
Then I had a weekend in Amsterdam again, where two of my friends from back home (but who were studying abroad in the UK) came to visit. Our time was filled with mostly tourist attractions such as the Heineken Experience, a canal boat tour, Dam square, and a visit to the Ice Bar. And despite our first trip to the doctor/pharmacy in a foreign country (which was an interesting adventure all on its own), it was a GREAT time spent laughing and exploring Amsterdam with people that I loved.
The weekend after, I was off to the city of ~loveeeeeee~ to meet my best friend from back home (yes, the same one who was sick the weekend before, but thankfully better now). We began our first day in Paris by buying a baguette and coffee, which we enjoyed on our Metro trip to the Notre Dame Cathedral. After marveling at the BEAUTIFUL stained glass windows and gothic architecture, we decided to use public transportation to head towards the Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately, just as she stepped onto the train the doors closed and I was left standing at the platform all alone :-////. It was quite comical, like a scene from a movie, as she was whisked away and I was left by myself to wait for the next one. After about half an hour (no cell phone service led to a tiny bit of a panic) we finally found each other at a random train station near the river – yay! We ate a delicious lunch at The Frog before heading to the – you guessed it – Eiffel Tower. Of course, nothing is more Parisian than a baguette and wine, so we went to a local shop and purchased both in order to take an artsy picture in front of the Eiffel Tower holding them. As evening approached, we boarded a boat and cruised around the River Seine. When we docked, the Eiffel Tower began sparkling and let me tell ya, it was gorgeoussss. The rest of our night was spent dancing the night away in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris.
The hostel that we stayed at had a really great location, which really helped us in being able to do so much in the city. The next morning, we shared another baguette on the Metro ride to the Louvre. As students, we got into the expansive art museum for free – SCORE! I think the only thing you need to know about the Louvre is that you could literally spend days wandering through it and you still wouldn’t have seen all of it, it’s that huge. We spent a few hours inside before having lunch at a very French cafe. Then, it was off to Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where we wandered past the residence of the president of France and window-shopped. As the sun set, we climbed the Arc de Triomphe. It had an AMAZING 360 view of the city, and the Eiffel Tower stood tall in front of a glowing pink and orange sky. Afterward, we managed to enjoy some crêpes before having to head to the bus station for our overnight buses back. Paris was wonderful, and I think I left part of my heart there. The city has a lot to offer – and we were only able to experience a tiny bit of it – so I can’t wait to visit again sometime in the future!
Although all of this traveling has left my bank account quite unhappy (yikes), I have made memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Being able to visit all of these different places is something that not everybody has the opportunity to do, so I am very grateful. I hope that my summary of the main activities on each of my trips has been comprehensive enough, although it certainly doesn’t include anywhere near to everything I have experienced! With final exams this past week and new classes beginning the next, its time for me to focus a bit more on my academic studies again. Or, at least until my next free weekend when I can explore.