Hello everyone! I am back from my backpacking-across-Europe solo week, and on the whole, I’d say it was a success. I did manage to break the zipper on the only pair of shoes I brought the first night, and I had some inordinately rude hostel-mates (and got to experience the apparently quite common event of having someone have sex in your hostel room while you are also there), but other than that, I had a lot of fun. I didn’t even spend too much money!
Monday morning I flew into Amsterdam, then after making it to the central train station spent about an hour wandering around lost/exploring Amsterdam before making it to my hostel. Then I went to the main tourist strip, went to the Sex Museum (of course, it’s Amsterdam), a couple of shops and Dam Square before it went crazy for Queensday the next day. Next I headed over to the Anne Frank House (fascinating but rather miserably depressing) and on my way back to the center of town found a random Rembrandt art exhibition that I went through. Then I went on a canal cruise/tour to see the rest of the sites, had dinner, and headed back to the hostel. That night I went to an outdoor concert/festival thing I had seen setting up earlier in the day, which was pretty fun.
Tuesday was Queensday, and not just any Queensday. It was inauguration day for the new King Willem-Alexander, the first king the Netherlands has had in over a hundred years. It was a complete zoo out, and people were being really mean and pushy, but I still made it to Dam Square to see the new king and queen come out to meet their subjects. Then I spent quite a few hours just wandering–on Queensday, literally the entirety of Amsterdam becomes a giant street market where anyone can sell whatever they want on any street. It’s kind of epic. After getting suitably lost and walking way farther than I wanted to (while toting all of my luggage because I had checked out of the hostel already and the train station’s luggage lockers were closed for security reasons), I managed to find Vondel Park and then the Rijksmuseum, from which I have way too many photos. I went and watched a rather awful concert outside the Museumplein in which they seemed to only play American music in an attempt to rest my aching legs, then headed to the bus station for my overnight bus to Paris.
After a nap at the hostel and a free breakfast of unlimited croissants, French bread and hot chocolate (uh oh), I headed out for the day. May Day is essentially Labour Day for continental Europe, so not much indoor stuff was open. I went to Sacre Coeur and then took the train out to Versailles, where the gardens were still open and more than enough to look at on their own. I made it back to Paris, saw the Jardin du Luxembourg, found several famous churches while trying to locate a Metro station, and went back to the area near the hostel for dinner. By this point I had realised that continental Europe doesn’t really believe in vegetarians, and I needed to eat as much as I could whenever I could just to keep from passing out. It was an interesting change in how I approach food.
Thursday was the big tourist day in Paris. I took the metro down to the Arc de Triomphe, shopped my way down the Champs Elysees (and bought a new bikini!) and made it to the Louvre, where I spent most of the rest of the day. After that, I hit a few more odd palaces and monuments, waited for dark to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, and went home for the evening.
Friday morning my adventure was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the largest green area in Paris which has hundreds of famous people buried in it, including Moliere, Edith Piaf, Balzac and tons of others. The place is a complete maze, and you just pick up a map and find all the graves you can. Then I headed to the train station to get my TGV to Marseille, again spending way too long wandering around lost when my hostel was within sight of the train station, and headed down to the Vieux Port, the downtown area of Marseille. There was this big art installation thing that involved a lot of fire going on, and I took a lot of pictures. Then I headed home for the evening.
Saturday I took another train to Montpeller to visit my friend Julia who has been living there all year, and is actually leaving to go back to the States tomorrow. She showed me all the famous buildings and monuments, though I didn’t take any pictures, and then took me to a bunch of fantastic food places for crepes, gelato and real French macaroons. The place is gorgeous, a typical sleepy French town, though I think I’d go insane spending more than a couple of days there. But, to each their own. I took the train back to Marseille and decided to climb up to Notre Dame de la Garde, the cathedral at the highest point in Marseille. It took ages and was a real workout, but I got there right at sunset and the view is amazing.
Sunday I had planned to be my beach day, but of course, after two days of amazing weather, it was overcast all day. I wandered around town a bit more and then headed down to the beach anyway, though I didn’t spend too long there. But I made it to the beach in the south of France, waded in the ocean in my new bikini I bought in Paris and read for a little while. Then came the long trek back home to London.
I’m leaving London in barely more than two weeks, and it’s finally starting to sink in. My trip was rather nice and I am very happy to be heading home, but there’s still so much more to see! Still, a few more quick adventures and one exam, and I’ll be headed back home, the adventure over. It’s been one wild ride.
Update: Photos have now been captioned! Thank you for your patience.