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Anoel ([personal profile] anoel) wrote2014-09-19 05:59 pm
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Eurotrip 2013 Report

I'm sorry I'm so late on finally reporting about my Europe trip last November as I started the first half of the report while in Europe but then procrastinated on writing it later until now when I couldn't put it off any longer. It's coming up on almost a year since my trip to Europe last November when I visited London, Ireland, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Brussels, Munich and other places in Europe. I wanted to write down as much as I can so in the future when I start forgetting more details, I could look back and remember from this report. I took a lot of pictures but am putting most of those on Facebook and it'll take too much time to upload them but if anyone who doesn't have me on there wants to see them, just ask. I don't expect most people to read all of this but feel free if you'd like :)

So I left the airport Tuesday evening (October 29) and got to use my new US passport which was fun. I had never been on such a long flight before so I was bit worried on what it would be like but it turns out it was fine. I had lots of reading materiel on my iPhone and iPad and I brought my laptop along as well for vidding, coding and general browsing. I alternated besides doing some reading and watching TV as I was reading a great book called London: The Novel (which I enjoyed a lot-highly recommended!) as well as working on catching up with Deadwood. They served dinner which was cool and it was actually pretty good! I enjoyed the beef lasagna. I had been trying to go to sleep on an earlier schedule so I started trying to go to sleep around 8pm, trying to get comfortable and listening to some potential festivid songs. I managed to get an hour and a half of sleep a little while later and basically for the rest of the trip alternated between that and reading until I was tired again. It wasn't too hard with the lack of a person in the middle seat helping along with my sleep mask but I only managed about 4 hours or so before I woke up for breakfast (less good) and getting excited about arriving in London.

I landed in Heathcliff Airport and first noticed the difference in the nicer bathrooms at the airport. Customs was a bit weird, it was more intense than I thought it'd be with the woman asking a lot of questions and requiring a lot of information but eventually letting me go through without any issue. I made my way to the Tube where I bought my first subway ticket and rode the Tube for the first time to South Kensington where I was staying my first night. It was so cool to step outside the station and see the streets of London for the first time! All the double decker buses were cool :) I forgot to get the exact address so I tried to find a place with WiFi and thankfully walked into a gelato place where the guy there was nice enough to connect me to the internet there. I had a delicious snack and then headed off to my hostel. I got a bit lost but somehow managed to find myself right in front of the Natural History Museum which was amazing! It was so huge and beautiful and a great introduction to London architecture. I decided to go check out the museum but unfortunately I had arrived during a week off school for kids so I had to wait in line since the museum was overcapacity so I decided to go visit a different day and headed off to my hostel. I went the wrong way so walked a bit more than I was supposed to but it was nice getting to see more of London.

I checked into my room and even though it was like 4am Los Angeles time, I was excited enough to be awake to go up to visit the Kensington Gardens. On the way I stopped at the Royal Opera Building and then saw the Albert Memorial at the Gardens. I walked along in the park which was beautiful with the fall leaves and seeing all the runners, dog walkers and kids playing. I went to Round Lake and stopped to see the swans (!!) and ducks which were very cute. Then I went into the Kensington Palace and enjoyed the tour there where I saw some exhibits of past kings and queens who lived there including a fun one about fashion that included Princess Diana. I went back to the hostel to use the internet and find something to do with night as I was trying to delay sleep to try to adjust to the time zone. I found out the Science Museum was having a late night thing so I went to that and waited in line to get in. It was pretty cool with DJs, lights and special programs featuring dinosaurs, robots and even Doctor Who! I mostly looked at the exhibits though including reading about steam engines, James Watts, various inventions, computers and even the iPod! I went back around 9pm and then tried to get some sleep which turned out to be a bit challenging as I woke up around 3am and couldn't get back to sleep till 7am (did some reading in between) when I was able to get a few more hours until I had to check out and go to my Harry Potter Tour.

I was running a bit late but managed to get to the tour location only a few minutes late after running across the London Bridge where I thankfully found the meeting spot pretty easily. Our tour guide was super nice and gave some really fun information about Harry Potter and the movies. [Note: details may not be as good as I wrote this later on] We first walked through the Borough Market (I think that's what it was called?) with lots of people selling food and stuff and walked over to the Chez Michele flower shop where right outside they filmed the scene in the third movie where the bus pulls up to the The Leaky Cauldron. Then we walked under a bridge which lights up and saw The Clink Prison Museum which the prison was part of the inspiration for Azkaban. We walked across a bridge (we could see the Wibbly Wobbly Bridge which can be seen in the sixth movie) and saw Big Ben and I think the place where the royal family lives. We then walked over to the place where they filmed the scene for the seventh book scene where the Trio takes Polyjuice Potion and pretends to be Ministry of Magic employees. At some point we took the subway and saw the place where Arthur Weasley struggles when taking the muggle subway in the movie. I remember in the train cars our tour guide was sorting us into houses based on questions and my answers were all over the place so I end up with choosing Gryffindor because LION. Then we saw an alley that had a lot of shops that was the inspiration for JK Rowling for Diagon Alley. We ended up Leicester Square and it was cool to look around and see all the theater advertisements. All in all, it was super fun and really cool to get to be at the actual places represented in the books and movies and helped make London extra special for me.

Next I looked around to find a restaurant that had WiFi and managed to find one where I got a jacket (basically loaded potato) and caught up with the internetz. I then went back to my next hostel near the Tower of London and then headed across the Tower Bridge to check out the Tower of London. Both were super grand and great to look at and it was cool to see the skylines and Thames River that I had seen in so many TV shows and movies. When trying to buy a ticket, they told me the tour took 3 hours and they closed in a half hour so I decided to do it another day and headed back to the hostel to do some vidding and internet stuff including uploading some of my photos to Facebook. I had the same trouble with sleeping that night too with waking up really early and not being able to sleep till very early in the morning but managed to leave by checkout time. My London book proved to be an excellent way to pass the insomnia/jetlag and I continued to enjoy that in helping me understand the history of the city and care more about what I was seeing.

I headed off to see the Globe theater which was reconstructed to look like the last one and was just in time for a tour of the building. It was great to get a sense of what theater was like back when Shakespeare was around and I enjoyed the exhibit as well in reading more about the Globe theater, Shakespeare and his plays. Next I went to Tate Modern and looked at some of the art inside where I saw some great stuff including a beautiful Monet painting. I went across the Millennium Bridge (the wibbly-wobbly bridge featured in the Harry Potter movies) to St. Paul's Cathedral where I got some pictures before I got a Kiwi Burger from a good burger place. Then I went inside St. Paul's Cathedral which was SO beautiful even if I'm not a religious person. I listened to an audioguide as I explored the cathedral and then I walked up MANY steps to see the Whispering Gallery and then walked up more steps to go all the way to the top of the cathedral and get some beautiful pictures of the London skyline. Then I went to the Waterloo station and walked over to the IMAX there so I could see Thor 2 early for once :) It was enjoyable at least and I did enjoy Thor/Loki, Darcy and all the great shots of London even if I'm still not feeling all the superhero movies.

I went to my next hostel which was one that looked pretty modern and cool and I liked the youth feel to it. I did some internet stuff and then fell asleep and I got great, uninterrupted sleep for the first time :) The hostel was a short walk away from the British Museum so I walked over there and got some picture of the super beautiful architecture especially inside. I looked around at their Egyptian collection featuring the Rosetta Stone and then enjoyed the Greek section as I really love the Classical Greek civilization. I was a bit museumed out at this point so I went back to the hostel to chill out a bit and then headed out to see Ender's Game which I liked but it felt ilke it could have been better. The next day I went back to the British Museum and continued to go through the different collections there including their North and South America, Death and Life and China exhibits. Next I headed out to the Covenant Gardens which was really cool and reminded me of Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica complete with an Apple Store :) There was even a woman singing opera on the street!

I also saw the Royal Opera House and then briefly checked out the Somerset House which was beautiful and walked in the Victoria Embarkment Gardens and then walked across the bridge to go see the London Eye which was beautifully lit up (it was evening by this point) along with the County Hall which I loved the lights on as well. I went to the Aquarium and enjoyed looking at all the animals including the sharks and turtles :) Then I went up in the London Eye and got to see beautiful views of London at night. It was so cool to ride it having seen the London Eye in so many TV and movies! I walked across the bridge to get some good night pictures of the House of Parliament and Big Ben and someone was nice enough to get my picture with the London Eye. I walked over to my next hostel over by Victoria Station and had another issue with waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to sleep which was frustrating. The next morning I walked over to Westminister Abbey which was also beautiful and did an audio tour of that. Unfortunately there was no House of Parliament tours except on the weekends so I just got some pictures of it. I walked over to Piccadily Circle and got to see in person all the cool video ads that I've seen on TV and then went to Tralfagar Square and visited the National Gallery which I enjoyed a LOT. I saw a lot of paintings including some famous artists' ones.

The next day I went to the Natural History Museum which was just as beautiful inside as outside. I first went to the rocks and minerals collection since I looove minerals and started looking at their huge collection. I only went through half before realizing I should probably check out some other things as well. I looked at some of the ecological and geology exhibits as well as a few other ones and then I saw an ad for a brownie sundae at the restaurant in the museum which gave me an intense craving for it so I went over to buy it. When I asked to get one, I was told, I couldn't get it unless I bought an entree as well and I was astounded. I have NEVER been told that in my life and it's not like the restaurant was crowded, it was like 20% full so there was no reason I couldn't just buy a dessert. In disgust, I left the restaurant and museum and went to satisfy my craving somewhere. It turns out the only place I could find that had one was the same gelato place I had been at before so I got one there and it was delicious.

Next I went back to the Tower of London which was so great that it even had statues of lions AND lionesses! I had an extra attachment to the place because of a story I read in my London: The Novel book so I really enjoyed exploring a castle that was actually built like a thousand years ago. I got to see the exhibit there that showed all the armor of the kings and knights as well as see the Royal Jewels which were SO pretty. It was also cool to get to see a place where the past kings used to sleep at night. I had an hour and half before I met up with [ profile] obsessive24 so I walked across the London Bridge to see the Shard and did the View from the Shard where I was super high up and got to see a beautiful night view of London. I then walked back across the Tower Bridge to meetup with Nicky which was great! We went back to her apartment and talked and watched vids and TV (Weeds) and it was wonderful :D So great to see her again since I didn't get to see her at Vividcon.

The next day I was going to go to the zoo but it was raining so I decided to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum instead. I had hoped hanging out with a fangirl would make me feel less lonely but unfortunately I was in kind of a bad mood and sick of hostels so I decided to switch to a cheap hotel for my next two London nights and then went to the museum which was very pretty and I enjoyed seeing some more sculptures and paintings. I then went to the ice rink outside the Natural History Museum and had a lot of fun listening to music while skating around the rink. It improved my mood but I was feeling museumed out so I skipped going back to the Natural History Museum and went back to my hotel room to chill, vid and do some reading which was very relaxing. I had a great night of sleep and the next day went to the zoo which was located in the Regents Park which was really beautiful. The zoo had less big cats than I hoped at first but they had tigers and one was actually moving around which was cool until he disappeared into the tall grass. It was fun petting the goats and sheep at the petting zoo and also they had this cool monkey thing where you walked through and there were monkeys leaping around above your head so they were super close to you. It was fun! I also enjoyed seeing a serval walk around.

However the best part was definitely the lions. A little history on me: I LOVE lions, as a kid I would stare at the lions at the zoo for hours at a time and not get bored so yes, favorites. At first the lions were all just sleeping although a couple of the lionesses would sometimes look up at me. Just when I was getting ready to go, the lion got up and started to walk around. The lionesses got up as well and then the lion started to harass one of the lionesses who quickly moved away and the other lionesses went to protect her. Then it was nonstop lion awesomeness. The lions were playing with each other, two lionesses came up to the glass and were pacing around and one put a paw up to my face. The lion was roaring a lot and I ran around the enclosure to get good video of all the stuff that was happening. A couple of lionesses went close to the water and three of them were playing with each other for awhile. It was GLORIOUS and the best lion encounter I've ever had. I even stayed after the zoo closed to keep staying with them and no one came to kick me out so I didn't leave for another half hour after the zoo closed and the lions had settled down again. It was a great experience and one of the highlights of the trip :)

After that I headed over to Leicester Square to hang out with [ profile] obsessive24 and her friend and have dinner before we saw Mojo. I knew I had to watch at least one British play with famous British actors and in this one I got to see Q (Ben Whishaw), Merlin (Colin Morgan) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grimes) along with Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) from Downton Abbey. It was really cool to see them live (especially Ben without his shirt off) and although the play was a bit hard to hear/understand, I enjoyed it and it was great to hang out with Nicky some more :) The next day I headed out and after having shepard's pie at a place called The Shakespeare (love it), I visited Buckingham Palace which was epically grand and historically majestic as I like to call the buildings in London. Unfortunately they only do tours during the summer/holidays but it was cool to see it and then I walked in Green Park and after that, Hyde Park. Next I had to go to Harrod's and look at some of the great fashion on display along with some of their great window displays.

After that I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum and got to see Sherlock's apartment at 221b Baker St. It was cool to see the old apartment styles and see some stuff from the cases even though I wish they had more info to read about it. Next I went to King's Cross Station and found the Harry Potter 9 3/4 shop and had my picture taken putting the luggage through the wall. It was very fun :) After that I left to go visit [personal profile] such_heights and her roommates and ended up in the same Starbucks before I knew I was supposed to meet her there :) We then talked and watched the Vidukon vids and it was full of wonderful fangirl chatting. That was a lot of fun and then I went to catch the train to Southend-by-the-Sea but unfortunately got a little lost and missed the last train to it. I went as far east as I could and then had to take a cab as I had a super early flight and needed to be close by for the next morning. Unfortunately I had a hard time getting a cab in the morning from the cheap hotel I was staying at so I missed the flight anyways but thankfully there was another flight leaving to Belfast a few hours later and I was able to take a train and made the flight. That was the first annoying traveling experience I had but I tried to see that it wasn't a big deal as I did make it to Ireland.

I mostly slept on the plane since I only had gotten a few hours the night before and then took the airport express to central Belfast where I walked over to my hostel. I hadn't eaten anything so I went to get something to eat but I wanted to eat somewhere the Game of Thrones actors ate at and found a pic of Lena Headey and a few other cast members eating at The Barking Dog so I headed over there. Unfortunately it was 3:30 and they didn't have any food until 5:30 so I went across the street to a pub and had a salad while watching some Deadwood and doing some reading. I finally went back to The Barking Dog and was a ridiculous fangirl about eating at the same place as Lena Headey but I also had some great food there having an excellent tapa and gnocchi. I went back and after chilling for a bit, went to bed early as I had to get up early for my big Game of Thrones tour. The next morning I took one of the worse showers I had (and every place but the hotel had bad showers) with a window open to freezing temperatures AND the watering being super hot with no way to make it less so but after that I was picked up by the tour van and I got to begin the Game of Thrones tour!!!

It was super awesome! The tour guide was super nice and really knowledgable since he was one of the guys hired to help transport and deal with the extras and even got to be on set in the first two seasons. Plus he was writing a book about Game of Thrones so he had all sorts of interesting theories and knowledge about it. Basically he drove us around throughout Northern Ireland to places where Game of Thrones was filmed and it was helped a lot by the fact that the area is SO PRETTY. It looks beautiful on the show but there was nothing like seeing the green grasses and blue water and other nature in person. He also had clips from the show queued up on an iPad so I could see both the TV version and the real thing. Our first stop was going to the place where they shot the Wall in the pilot, where it opens to the outside and I could see it from the fence outside of the area. Next we drove over to Glenarm Castle which I can't remember whether they filmed there or if it was only inspiration but it was pretty cool to see. Throughout the drive, I was awestruck by the beautiful green fields, hills and forests along with the deep blue of the ocean and at one point, we could see Scotland from across the water. Next we went over to the cave where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow baby and the tour guide presented the spot where it actually happened and shared a few tidbits of the filming. Then we drove over to see some of the dry grasses where they shot some of the Dothraki scenes which I didn't realize some had been filmed in Ireland. At one point we passed the town where Michelle Fairley grew up which was pretty cool to see. Then we went to one of the most famous spots where they filmed Arya leaving King's Landing, the Dark Hedges. I was able to get a photograph taken in the same exact spot where you can see Arya leave on the show which was fun and I hadn't realized that they had CGIed out the fences for the show. In the van, I remember asking about what Lena Headey and Nikolaj were like and he said Lena was always saying funny things and had lots of fun talking with Peter Dinklage and that Nikolaj was more quiet and once he saw him hanging out in Belfast by the train station.

After that, we drove over to the place where they film Pyke and there's even a sign there featuring Theon. It was beautiful to see the ocean right there and climb up on the rocks and see the ocean hit the rocks over and over pretty intensely. Then we drove to the place where Renly's camp was held which was downhill to a large flat land surrounded by three sides of rock and one of ocean and the guide told me a little about filming in the area. Then we walked back up to see the place where they filmed the scenes where Renly and Stannis meet which I find to be one of the most beautiful places in the show with the deep green-blue of the ocean and the green of the grass looking gorgeous together. We were then driven to Giant's Causeway where the tour guide dropped us off and we were able to walk down to see the mostly hexagonal basalt columns that were formed from an ancient volcanic eruption. Even though it wasn't specifically Game of Thrones related (it was a bit too famous for them to put it in the show), it was pretty cool to see the ocean hitting them. Then we walked down to the beach where they filmed the scenes where Melisandre and Stannis burnt down the god statues and it was super pretty there and the tour guide told us a little about the filming for it. Next we drove to a private property place where they filmed and we were able to go in since they were authorized since they worked on the show. We saw something special as there was a big area of snow on flat ground and then snow in the trees and a short tree stump that looked like it was used for a Bran scene in S4 and the tour guide said he hadn't seen that before. Inside the property was also a castle that they didn't use for shooting outside (although Winterfell was inspired by it) but shot some indoor scenes underneath it but unfortunately that was locked so we couldn't go in. The tour guide also talked a little about his theories of the show based on medevial history and I asked what he thought about Jaime dying at the end of the books and he said he thought he was going to live which led me to be less sure of my thoughts of Cersei and Jaime dying together at the end of the books.

By this time, it was getting late and so they had to drop everyone off and since I had to catch a flight, they dropped me off first. I made it to the airport on time and mostly slept on the flight to Paris. Thankfully customs was easier this time as they just stamped my passport and let me through without asking any questions (plus no line that time). I got a ticket from the airport to Gare de Lyons and left for the station without any issues. Once I got there however, I was a bit confused and had a hard time figuring out how to get to my next line and then get a ticket which was frustrating because I couldn't get my debit card to work with it and I had forgotten to get euros out. In my confusion, this French guy started trying to help me getting me a ticket but then began to follow me and started talking about me going to his house or him going my hotel and it was hard to tell him no way in hell since he didn't speak much English at all. Thankfully when I was transferring to another line, I gave him my phone number (no service so joke's on him) and he stopped following me so I was glad to get rid of him. I got to my hotel which was small but nice and near the subway station and across the street from a supermarket which was helpful. I was hungry so I went to get food from a cafe down the street where I ordered a tortilla with chicken which was amazingly good for something so simple. It was my first experience trying to speak French to someone since the guy didn't speak English but thankfully someone was there to help me out a bit.

After that I used my computer a bit and then went to bed before I explored Paris for the first time. The metro was kind of frustrating as the station closest didn't have a way to get paper tickets and then when I walked to the next station to buy a 5 day pass, it didn't work at that station or the next station which was Invalides so I just said fuck it, and was going to just walk over to the Eiffel Tower. But as I was walking I saw the Hotel de Invalides and it was so epically grand that I had to stop and see it properly. I loved seeing all the beautiful manicured trees arranged in such a different style than I was used to and only saw in pictures. It was a nice reminder how amazing it was to be in Paris experiencing such a great culture. I then headed over to the Eiffel Tower and walked past the Champ de Mars which was cool and then as I got close this girl came over asking for a donation for some cause. I was feeling nice so I was giving her something small when she started talking about a minimum donation which I found ridiculous so I asked for my money back since I didn't want to give that much and of course she takes it and takes my picture. Yeah, that was a bit weird but whatever.

There was tons of tourists at the Eiffel Tower which was so cool to see up close and see what an architectural marvel it is. I read a book on my phone while waiting in the long line and then went up in the elevator to the top of the tower and got to get some amazing views of Paris. It was so cool! After that I walked down and walked in the nearby park and looked around to find a place to get lunch. I went into one restaurant and they ignored me for awhile so I left and went somewhere else and got duck confit which was very good. I was tired so I decided to call it a day and went back to my hotel room to vid and chat with a friend which was fun. The next day was raining unfortunately but I went to the Invalides stop again and walked across the Seine River to the Grand Palais and Petit Palais which both looked epically ornately beautiful and then walked down towards the Louvre seeing the Place de la Concorde and Tuileries Garden in the process. The rain annoyingly wouldn't stop but I at least got to see the outside of the Louvre (it was closed that day) and then walked further east to see some of the shopping along the Rue de Rivioli.

I walked over to the Notre Dame Cathedral and was happy they let you take pictures at this church as it was very beautiful and definitely very grand. Next I went over to the Palais de Justice and walked around a bit getting to see the cool French judge outfits and the beautiful insides of it. I didn't realize the Sainte Chappelle was a big deal or I would have checked that out too. After that I went back to my hotel room to do some more vidding and watch some TV. It was really nice having a space for myself to get stuff done which was why I splurged for a hotel (plus hostels were expensive anyways). Wednesday morning I was feeling kind of shitty and lonely and didn't want to get out of bed but thankfully [personal profile] cee_m talked me out of it and connected me with a Paris fangirl which cheered me up a lot. I took the train (my metro ticket finally started working) to the Arc de Triomphe which was a great monument and then walked down the Champs-Élysées which was very cute and Parisean. There was lots of well known stores and name brands there and I checked out a cool H&M and the Disney Store with a little Eiffel Tower inside which was cute. I had a great lunch of an omelette with ratatouille in it and then headed off to the Louvre which I actually got to go inside this time since it was open late.

The Louvre was super beautiful on the inside as well and felt majestic just walking down the corridors. I did the Mona Lisa first and it was SO COOL to see it in person. It's different to get that little smile in person :) I really liked looking at all the paintings there and I saw a TON of French paintings (which does make sense) along with checking out some Italian, Holland and German ones. I also went to see the Code of Hammarai, saw some French sculptures and also saw the Venus de Milo sculpture which was very pretty. After four hours I was museumed out and went home to sleep. The next day, I had some time before I met up with [personal profile] greedy_dancer so I went to the Palais Garnier and then walked a little around that area. I then visited the Place de Bastille and then walked over to the Place des Vosges before I walked over to the Centre Pompidou museum to meet up with [personal profile] greedy_dancer. We met up at a Starbucks and then walked around looking for a cheap dinner which proved to be a bit difficult but we finally found something that worked for us.

It was really great getting to talk in English with a fellow fangirl and get to talk about our different fandoms. I ordered a cheese crepe which was good although the kind of cheese wasn't my favorite. It was a lot of fun and I was really glad to get a chance to meet her. Then I went into the museum where I looked at some surrealist art, modern art and some contemporary art. That kind of art can be hit or miss with me but I found some pieces I really enjoyed and it opened my mind up a bit so I really enjoyed myself. I was going to go to the Musee de Orsay next but it was late by then and I wanted to go eat at a fancy restaurant that was open to people with no reservation after 9. The restaurant was called Le Chateaubriand and I found it in this world's top 50 restaurant list at #18 so I was excited to try and figured Paris was the perfect city to have amazing food in. I was able to get a seat at the bar fairly fast and then was treated to an excellent, six course (there was a lot of courses) with cheese puffs, soups, lots of fish dishes and two desserts. It was very delicious! I loved getting to try unique food and it made me miss Top Chef a lot so when I got home I downloaded some of that to watch. It wasn't as amazing as the food I've had at Michael Voltaggio's Ink restaurant in LA but I still really liked it and it wasn't too expensive for that kind of meal either.

The next day was another sluggish morning (especially since I had 2 Parks and Recreation and Glee to watch) but I managed to force myself out of bed finally to see the Sacre-Cour. It was really beautiful in person and I even saw two cats there which made me miss my cats a lot. I just sat for awhile to watch them because they were sooo cute. There was also some great views of Paris once you climbed the steps up to it. Next I went to the Place du Trocadero as I had seen it from the Eiffel Tower and thought it looked cool. When I got there, I enjoyed seeing the majestic, grand looking buildings and the beautiful fountain below it where it shot out water from cannon statues. It was very pretty with the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Then I took the train over the Saint-Michael/Notre Dame area to go to this cool geek bar that [personal profile] cee_m showed me an article about it. It was really cool with geek memorabilia everywhere and geeky named drinks. One of them was even called the Lannister!!! I had to get that which was pretty good even if it wasn't quite my kind of drink. Then I went home to watch some Top Chef and then saw the final two episodes of Sex and the City which are set in Paris. Funny enough, Carrie's experience actually reminded me of my own with feeling lonely and wishing I had someone to see the city with and feeling a bit isolated not knowing the language even if you love seeing some of the great Paris sights. Then I watched Midnight in Paris to get a perspective on the city from someone who really loved it.

The next morning I woke up early to go visit [ profile] buffyann down in the south of France. Unfortunately I woke up a little late, then it took forever to print my train ticket and then I got the wrong station and took a slow route which finally ended up to me missing my train by 5 minutes. I was really frustrated but had a nice meal at Starbucks while letting [ profile] buffyann know I'd be late but thankfully there was another train down in two hours. I mostly slept on the train but did get to see a little of the French country side. Finally I made it to the train station and got to see [ profile] buffyann again after a little over 2 years away :) We stopped at a chocolate shop and got some delicious chocolate and then went back to her home where we just talked about everything and anything, vidding, TV, France vs. America, various issues and lots of other things. It was absolutely wonderful to get to talk to her and I had an amaaazing time. Plus she cooked a delicious meal of vegetables with a yummy cream sauce and some apple pie and I loved it :) It was totally worth it to get a chance to talk to her again! She made sure I made it back to my train in time and our talk convinced me to work on finishing up a vid I've been avoiding so it was fun to vid that on the train. After catching up on the internet, I went to the bed relatively early so I could catch up on my sleep.

Then Sunday morning I woke up and got my stuff together as I checked out of the hotel and went to catch my flight. Of course I got the wrong airport so I went to the wrong station to catch the train to it so I just caught a cab to the airport as I was running late but thankfully it wasn't too expensive (although they didn't take cards and I was lucky to have cash on me) and I made my flight on time. Then I flew off to Berlin where I was surprised they didn't even check/stamp my passport although maybe that's a EU thing? Then I took the train (which was a bit confusing at first) to central Berlin where thankfully hostels are much cheaper than in Paris and checked in to the hostel. Then I started typing up this trip report and then went to dinner at a nice restaurant where I got a German sausage plate. It's was kind of cool to be in Germany, being (almost) half German and I appreciate that it seems to be more English friendly than France. (Note: this is where I left off so expect details to be lighter from now on). I only had a day in Berlin so I decided to do the historical Berlin tour that was advertised in the hotel and we started out at the Brandenburg Gate where we had a tour guide who led us through the city and talked about the history of the city especially during and after WWII. I remember we walked through the Holocaust Memorial and then discussed our reactions to it. We also saw the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag (where the parlimentary is held), the place over Hitler's Bunker, 17 June Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Humboldt University, the TV Tower, Neus Wache (memorial to victims of war), Museum Island (museums were unfortunately closed that day) and various other places in Berlin. The architecture around Berlin was interesting as it was a mix of modern (I loved that), plain looking kind of concrete looking style and more historic European looking structures. I really enjoyed the tour as our tour guide was really friendly and knowledgable and it was good to learn more about the history of the city and landmarks. I remember it was a cold day so after the tour, I stopped at H&M to get some leggings to help keep my legs warm under my pants and saw a bunch of well known stores in the area. On the way back to my hostel, I walked past more of the Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery) and saw all the cool graffiti people had drawn and also saw the Mercedes Benz building. I ate a schnitzel for dinner and then chilled out in the hostel for an hour or so finishing up my Paris book.

During the walking tour, I had signed up for a pub crawl at night as I had heard good things about Berlin's nightlife and I hadn't done any barhopping or clubbing in London or Paris so I wanted to try it in one city at least. I almost didn't go as I was enjoying reading and was a little afraid of what would happen. But I told myself YOLO and forced myself to go out and look for the starting point of the pub crawl while listening to A Little Party Never Killed Nobody to psych myself up. Of course I couldn't find the starting place and started freaking out that I would miss it before they moved onto the next bar. Luckily I was able to find it and I went down to the first bar where I got my first free Jagermeister shot. A couple other people in the pub crawl invited me to sit with them and so I joined them and we started talking about where we were from (a couple Americans, a Canadian, a Brazillian, others I'm forgetting?) and everyone wa really nice and it was a nice mixed group of men and women. There I talked a little with a guy named Brad who was from Florida and was pretty nice to talk to. After that we went to the next bar where there was a buy one get one free deal so I got two fruit alcohol shots and later someone gave me there free one as well. There I talked to a couple other people including two girls from Brazil and they were telling me about the different culture there and the differences they noticed. Then we went to another bar where I got another free shot and talked to one of the Brazillian girls and an American girl who was living in Prague and she loved the city so she was selling us on going to visit there. Next we went to another bar that had a dancefloor but it was pretty empty so we mostly hung around drinking and talking our travels.

Finally we went to the place I was really looking forward to - the club. On the way there, a bunch of the people in the group started drunkenly singing and it was a very fun moment that I managed to get a little on video. When we walked into the club, the very first song that they played was A Little Party Never Killed Nobody which was a perfect moment of karmic destiny that immediately succeeded in getting me straight to the dancefloor to start dancing. It was my favorite club I've ever been to (although the Abbey in West Hollywood is pretty close for the atmosphere) as the DJ was AMAZING, at least for me as they played so many of my favorite songs and best of all, he only played about half of each song which I preferred as it allowed me to dance to more songs and not get sick of dancing to the ones I was listening to. Plus he played a great mix of genres mostly of pop, hip hop and nostalgic favorites including some great transitions such as from Empire State of Mind to NY, NY (funny hearing it in a German club) and the club was crowded but with plenty of room to dance. I danced with a group of people from the pub crawl especially the two Brazillian girs, another guy and Brad and I was pretty drunk but not overly so which it made it a lot of fun. Eventually the two Brazillian girls left and the other guy started dancing with a girl he met so it left Brad and me dancing together. Brad said he liked how free I was in my dancing and after a bit during a slower song, pulled me close and we started dancing together. He was pretty cute and nice so I was cool with it and after some close dancing, he kissed me and we started making out :) It was really fun, it was like one of those idyllic crazy internation dancing nights out where I just got to kiss and grind with a stranger and it was totally free and fun. After awhile, he went to get a drink and I danced a little longer and then it was about 4am at this point so when he got back, I told him I was going to go and it was fun dancing with him. I stumbled out of the club (more out of tiredness than drunkeness at this point) and got a cab back to my hostel where I got about 2 hours of sleep before my train in the morning. But I didn't mind because I had an AMAZING, super fun night. I remember playing Ellie Goulding's Anything Can Happen at this point because I was in such a good mood and it fit my situation.

I woke up at 7 to get on a train to a small city in south Germany where I was visiting [ profile] caesaria who was kind enough to invite me to come visit her since I had been feeling pretty lonely and wanted to spend more time with her. I slept a little on the train for obvious reasons and then got breakfast before I went to look for [ profile] caesaria who had made a lovely name board for me as well as a pretty flower making me feel extra special. It was SO GREAT to get to meet her in person for the first time as we had first met online back around 2008 and had been friends ever since and it's always fun to meet online friends for the first time. We took a bus back to her apartment and talked for a bit before we went to the grocery store to get some groceries. It was cool walking around a less big city place and more of a locals only place and seeing what Germany looked like on that side of things. We walked back to the apartment and I shared some stories about my travels and [ profile] caesaria made us some yummy pasta. Then we started watching various media together, mainly The Voice as we're both big fans of the show and especially Michelle Chamuel so we watched a bunch of her performances and squeed together. I remember we also watched the gay clips of Richard Madden from that one show he was on and the gay clips from The Following which convinced me to give the show another chance. We watched an episode of something as well but I forget exactly what it was. I had two more days before I had to meet my friend in Belgium so I had to figure out what was the last thing I was going to do in Europe and Rome was my top choice but I also wanted to squeeze in Venice. Unfortunately after looking it up, I couldn't find any transportation options from where I was to Venice to Rome that was short enough so I had to decide to just fly to Rome from Munich which was what I ended up buying that night. At some point, we were both tired and decided to go to bed. The next morning I went to the train station with [ profile] caesaria and we waited for my train to Munich before we parted ways (for now! we would meet again...).

I arrived in Rome in the evening when it was dark out and I remember it being a pain to find the bus shuttle station that would take me to downtown Rome where my hostel was. I was also starting to get annoyed by all the transporting from one point to another at this point but put up with it because ROME! It was dark when I got to the central part of Rome and was a bit confused looking at my phone map but I finally figured out the way to where I was staying. Along the way, I stopped for some gelato as since I had limited meals in Rome, I wanted to make sure I got to eat different authentic Italian food. The hostel was a little weird getting in but once I was it was fine although the electrical outlets didn't work in the bedrooms so I had to charge my tech stuff while sitting outside in the halls (this was a like a small apartment turned into a hostel type place). But I was able to get good sleep and wake up ready to experience Rome. Just from walking down the street (even with light rain), I could tell I would love Rome as I loved the architecture which felt completely European in the stereotyped idyllic way mixed with classical architecture touches that I love. I stopped at a cafe to charge my phone and computer and got a small fruit tart. While I was in there, it started HAILING for like five minutes, it was super weird. But then it stopped and was sunny again so I hoped that'd continue for the rest of the day. My first stop was the Coliseum as I wanted to get to all the important stuff first as I only had until 5 since I had to make my flight later in the evening. I walked over to pass by some cool historical stuff like fountains and old churches and continued to fall in love with the scenery along the way.

Around the Coliseum, it's pretty normal looking with grassy parks and houses and such but once you get close, the area is full of people checking out the sights. I waited in line briefly and then was able to walk around the Coliseum. It's hard to describe, you really have to be there to experience the grandness and history of it all, that thousands of years ago, there was gladiators and so many Roman people watching things here and it's still standing. I read some of the historical plaques and checked out some of the smaller perserved stuff as well as seeing outside at the parts of Rome you can see up high in the Coliseum. But the real best part was walking around the inner circle, taking lots of pictures and just feeling the gravity of where I was standing. So many things were so intricately and beautifully built and it was amazing at how long everything lasted. Next I walked a few minutes over to the Roman forum which was a nice walk downwards to see a lot of historical remains of the forum, where Romans used to meet for elections, trials and commercial affairs. My favorite things were all the great classical architecture (I love those pillars) and the beautiful scupture around especially surrounded by the grassy areas around it. There was even a kitty I saw walking around! It was really cool to be surrounded by so many important historical remains and there was some helpful signs that I could read to learn more about what I was seeing. Of course, right as I reached the end, the clear skies turned cloudy and it started pouring rain as I raced up the steps to the street to take cover under a building. It stopped after 15 minutes or so and at the top of the stairs I found a museum, the Musei Capitolini which was beautiful. I went down the steps towards the city and when they had these beautiful, majestic statures of horses and people making it look even more grand. Plus they had a LION statue which was my favorite thing :)

It started raining again and I needed to charge my phone so I went to go eat lunch. I had AMAZING spagetti that tasted super good and I was happy to have my first authentic Italian pasta. After that, I walked over to the Altar of the Fatherland/National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II which blew me away with it's grandiose, majestic, gorgeous architecture that I had never seen before. I loved the classical style of it with the white pillars, griffins, horse riding warrior and goddess sculptures and they even had actual fires burning. I was awed by the bigness of it and spent a lot of time taking pictures of all of it and then going inside it was just as beautiful. I went up to the top of the monument and was able to take some beautiful shots of the city as a whole and even got a picture of a rainbow with the city. Next I walked over to the Pantheon and just walking around was fun as the architecture was simply beautiful everywhere I looked and there was all these little alleys I would walk down that were the classic cobblestone with no cars allowed. The Pantheon had beautiful classical structure inside and out and was filled with beautiful paintings and scultures. After that, I went to Piazza Navona which was like out of a European fantasy, it was a big open area with beautiful fountains with statues and people selling art and playing music all over. I immediately wished I could stay in Rome for three months, rent a place overlooking the piazza and just reading and chilling in the area. Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of time so I had to leave quickly and walked over to the Trevi Fountain which was absolutely stunning with a huge fountain, beautiful statues of gods and people and a beautiful classical, huge building in the background. It's hard to describe the feeling I got from being there, even with all the other tourists around, it was just magical.

It was starting to get dark so I headed back into the city to catch the subway which was a bit confusing but I managed to get back to Circus Maximus which I couldn't really see in the dark. Then I took the subway to the airport and I got on my flight to Rome which I mostly slept on. I don't really remember much here, I know I flew to Brussels, Belgium and got in around 10:30pm and managed to take transportation to the hostel I was staying at for the night. Then the next day I took a train from Brussels to Ghent and got there around 2:30 where I was able to find [ profile] indybaggins who it was super nice to see after not seeing her in person for four years or so. We walked over to her apartment where I got to meet her super cute cats and we had sandwiches for lunch and talked about our lives and my travels. We then walked over to the local theater which was showing a special double feature of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (premiere) that we had tickets to. It was interesting to see the differences between Belgian theaters and American ones mostly the different snacks available, paying for restrooms (!!) and the subtitles for at least the first film since Belgian has three major languages. Indy and I talked a bit waiting for the movie and then I enjoyed getting a chance to see the first movie again which was just as great as I remembered. It was my first time seeing Catching Fire and for the most part I loved it, although a couple of casting and storyline decisions didn't quite work for me. We then walked back to Indy's place as she was kind enough to let me sleep on her couch. The next day we both went into Brussels as Indy had a tattoo appointment and I was going to spend the day hanging out with [ profile] aurora_84 who gave me an excellent tour of the city. Belgian architecture was very interesting as it looks very European without specifically reminding me of anything (except being kind of medieval) while having a specific style from the other cities I had been to, definitely a lot more gold plated things. In any case, I enjoyed it and there was the beginnings of Christmas decorations like these beautiful big ornaments that were hanging where some of the major shops were. I saw landmarks like Grand Place, the peeing child fountain, the Brussels Stock Exchange, the Atomium, various government buildings, received free hot chocalate while looking at a scenic view of the city, old churches, Palace of Justice, the Royal Palace (where the king lives) and other cool stuff that [ profile] aurora_84 told me about.

We then went looking around near all the restaurants and shops to find a place to eat and finally settled on a place where I had goulash and split REAL Belgian waffles. They had an option for fire waffles but I decided not to go for that. It was an amazing dinner as we both share a lot of TV shows in common and we talked about our fannish history and lives. After that I went back to the train station and was able to successfully find my way back to [ profile] indybaggins's apartment in Ghent. The next day I remember watching the Doctor Who special with Indy (although I was doing other stuff as well because I loathe Matt Smith as the Doctor) and working on my Spanish with the Duolingo app as being surrounded by other languages made me want to learn a language more. I was able to successfully get the Spanish version of Harry Potter book one onto my iPad and load a Spanish-English dictionary on my Kindle app so I could successfully translate it and learn the language better. Then Indy and I walked around Ghent and she talked to me about the city which was very beautiful with canals, pretty architecture and lots of historical sites. One of the highlights was seeing a castle that Indy told me a story about and it felt very Game of Thrones :) She also took me to her favorite chocolate store and I had delicious chocolate fondue with fruit, yummm. After that I said goodbye to Indy and her cute cats and left to take a train back to Brussels where I took a flight to Munich which was the last city on my Eurotrip. I stayed overnight at a hostel and the next morning, I went to the train station to meet [ profile] caesaria who was going to explore the city with me.

I remember we went walking down the wrong direction at first but managed to find our way back to the Christmas market which I lucked out on as it was starting on the day we both were in town. The Christmas market not only had Christmas decorations but was filled with people selling both holiday and non-holiday themed items but what I mostly remember was the delicious hot chocolate [ profile] caesaria and I had (it was a cold day). Munich was kind of similar to Berlin but had more historical architecture, for example this cool arch that looked similar to a castle arch. After walking around for awhile, we went inside a gigantic bookstore to get warm and it was really fun to see all the books written in German and see all the English books relegated to the different language section. We had fun looking at the fantasy section and sharing the books we had found; it was so much fun hanging out with [ profile] caesaria! Then we walked around some more before I got cold again and we hung out in an old church and talked about, what else, [ profile] caesaria's favorite gay movies and other fandom topics. [ profile] caesaria is really good with English so I remember asking her if she has to translate everything from German to English and was surprised she said yes because she's so fast at it. Then we walked around a little more before heading back to my hostel where we watched some of Amanda Brown's performances from The Voice S3 as she hadn't seen that season very much and I was adament that she HAD to see Amanda's Dream On performance which is amaaaazing as well as other ones. After a few hours, she had to leave to catch her train so we hugged goodbye and she left :( But we still see each other online on Twitter ;) After that, I was hungry and craving, I think pizza so I went out in the coooold and of course then it started snowing and I had to run to not freeze. But I managed to find a place and bought some calzones which I brought back to eat at the hotel. [ profile] caesaria had told me she had translated a lot of Lady Gaga's songs to Game of Thrones so I remember listening to her songs on my way to get food which was fun as I hadn't listened to them in awhile.

The next day I woke up to see snow lying on the ground :( I had hoped I would get by without snow but of course on my last day in Europe, I saw some. But it was only a light coating. I made my way to the Munich airport where I went through the long process of going through not one but TWO security stations because America has extra regulations ugh. But I had been sure to get there extra early and got on my flight where of course I sat next to an Italian guy who made me miss Rome. But I promised myself I'd be back to take a longer Italy trip and I was ready to go back to LA if only for a couple days, I really did miss it. At this point, I was really sick of traveling to lots of different cities and was ready to settle down in one place for awhile. But my saga was not over. I landed in San Francisco around 9pm and went to switch flights to go back to LA...only to find I couldn't get my ticket for the flight. I had to call United who told me because I hadn't taken my first flight from America to Europe the last week (because I had bought another plane ticket as it was cheaper because I was going for a month not a week), they had canceled my ticket and given it to someone else WITHOUT TELLING ME! I was furious and of course every United flight to LA that night was booked full. I was super enraged but looked to find another flight back home to LA as I really needed to be back in my city for the short time I'd have there and didn't feel like spending the night in SF. Luckily I was able to find a relatively cheap flight from Virgin so I did that and had just enough time to grab a Pinkberry before I got on the flight. This was my first time on a Virgin flight and I LOVED the design of the airplane with the cool purple lighting and it was probably the best airline I've flown with Southwest a close second for the good service. I did finally make it back home to LA and was sooo happy to see those LAX palm trees again and took public transportation back to Downtown LA where I finally got to go back to [personal profile] jetpack_monkey's apartment and see him and the kitties again :) I did a load of laundry where I stupidly forgot to take my passport out of my coat but whatever I was back home in LA and I was happy. The next day, I remember going on a run to Elysian Park in the morning where I fell in love with the warmth and beauty of LA all over again and then had a delicious breakfast.

Overall I had an amazing trip and I'm so happy I had the oppurtunity to go to Europe and experience it for myself. I've wanted to see Europe and experience another part of the world for a long time and the trip was super helpful in helping me stop feel the intense wanderlust I had been feeling for 7 years or so even as it made me want to explore other countries as well as go back to Europe in the future. It was a learning experience for me to deal with being in unfamiliar countries with languages I didn't know and to have to get from one place to another by myself for a month. There was definitely some lonely moments and it helped make me realize I like traveling with other people for trips longer than a week but it also gave me a chance to reconnect with friends who live in other countries. It was super great to finally see so many big landmarks that I had seen in the media for years and get a chance to see them in person as well as falling in love with the city of Rome. Being away from everything and having so much alone time also helped me question what I want to do with my life and who I am and helped make me even more purposeful in wanting to leave a big career impact in the world. It gave me a stronger love of Europe that made it even easier for me to get into the World Cup this summer while at the same time giving me an appreciation for things I love about living in America. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that changed my life and I'm glad I was finally able to travel the world and have an ultimately satisfying trip. If anyone else is thinking about traveling, I highly recommend it!
grammarwoman: (Default)

[personal profile] grammarwoman 2014-09-21 07:23 pm (UTC)(link)
That sounds like an absolutely fantastic adventure! Kudos to you for planning it all and having such a great experience. :)