From Vienna, I took a night train to Cologne, Germany then on to Amsterdam. At the time, I was extremely excited for cooler weather after spending the majority of my trip so far in face melting heat. Amsterdam was the perfect remedy for that because during my time there it was in the low to mid 60’s Fahrenheit.
The first thing I learned about Amsterdam was that it is located in Holland, which is a region in the Netherlands. People often use Holland and the Netherlands interchangeably, so I was confused at first before I was told about this.
Amsterdam is easy to navigate by foot, but also has a great tram system that allowed you to get around the central area quickly and affordably if you buy a multi-day transit pass. It’s also the city famous for its bikes, but be careful because the streets can sometimes be hard to navigate with all the traffic, pedestrians and other bikers.
From Amsterdam I took a day trip to Holland’s countryside and the little towns nearby. Some a major tourist-traps, but my favorite, Marken, which thankfully not over run with tourists and souvenir shops. And the wooden shoes that Holland is famous for aren’t just a souvenir item, people actually use them because of the marshy grounds in the countryside.
If you’ve watched the movie In Bruges before you come here, you’ll constantly be pointing at buildings and attractions saying “Oh, I remember that in the movie!” It’s a gorgeous, well preserved town that has so many treasures. I chose to visit this city instead of the capital of Belgium because I wanted a break from all the big cities I’ve been going to.
It had modern artwork displayed all around the city center. The juxtaposition of the artwork to the centuries old buildings made me appreciate and really notice the beauty of each. It’s like putting two complimentary colors next to each other to make them look more vibrant.
Of course, don’t miss out on the chocolate here!
Or the other tourist favorite, the swans that live in the city and wander around the canals. There’s a fascinating story that goes behind why there are swans here, ask a local or go on a guided tour to find out. Or if you can’t wait, look it up online haha.
It’s a cliché that all women love Paris, sadly I did not break that stereotype. It has so much to offer and in some ways reminds me of New York City with its sprawling arrondissements, similar to New York’s boroughs.
There are tons of iconic buildings and churches, my favorite was the Saint Chappelle. The stain glass windows are breathtaking and awe-inspiring. There are many guides out there trying to help you fit Paris into the X amount of days you’re there. But it’s impossible to see and do and eat everything in Paris in a limited amount of time. It’s the kind of city you’ll want to come back to again and again, I know I do.
I wanted to go to the South of France but couldn’t go too far east because I wanted to go to Spain from there. So I settled on Marseille. It is the second (or third, depending on the year I guess) largest city in France, but felt much smaller in comparison to Paris.
I think it was mostly because there are less tourist attractions that you feel compelled to go to, which was nice after spending a week in a city where I was constantly trying to decide where to go next and which places I’d have to save for another visit in the future.
It also has a large North African population, and walking around some neighborhoods made me feel like I had left France completely.