I had debated on whether or not to even visit Belgium with so little time left. I feared that it would be so much like the Netherlands that it would be just like paying for a hostel to stay in the same country in which I had an apartment. I decided to go ahead for 3 days and now I’m really glad I did.

My first stop was Brussels, which is only 2 hours and 23 euros away from Den Haag Holland Spoor. My little research had told me that there was a large, daily flea market called Place de Jeu de Balle in the city until 2 PM every day, so that was my first stop. It was a nice, big market with all sorts of old junk and maybe some treasures. Plus, the surrounding neighborhood is full of antique and vintage shops. Worth checking out if you are there before 2 PM. Next was the Gran Place, which is a very bland name for a big square where the market used to take place. Of course, packed with tourists and commercial chocolate shops. I didn’t stay long. I spent most of the day walking around the city center, which is surprisingly compact and easy to navigate, and eating chocolates and waffles as I came across them.

There are two types of Belgian waffles- the Leige and the Brussels. Leige is sweet, handheld street food that can be topped with various syrups and spreads. The Brussels is usually a more sit-down affair, not sweet in itself but topped with different kinds of sugar, butter, and fruits. Both delicious and worth your time.

Brussels impressed me as elegant and clean. Be aware that, although I think it is in Flemish territory, nearly everyone here speaks French and usually some English. Also, the prices are pretty high, so even though it is cheap to get to Belgium, you can probably expect to spend the same as many other trips. Shopping around a bit for food can bring down your costs, though.

I would also recommend a bar called Delirium. It is near the Gran Place, but you should look it up or plan on asking around to find it- it’s a little hidden. Beer is a big deal in Belgium, and this place stocks over 2,000, so it makes for a fun Belgian experience.

The evening after exploring Brussels I headed to Brugge, an hour away, to check out that small town and because I found a hostel that was half the price of anything Brussels had to offer. Apparently this town wasn’t modified much between 1500 and 1900, so it has a really authentic feel. It is small enough to get a feel for in a day and you can easily see all of the sights in 1 or 2 days.
For me, this place was like a mini-Prague because of the way the entire town was like a single old relic. It was fun just to walk around in the back streets and get lost, since the place is so small and surrounded by a ring of canals. A note: They are speaking Flemish here, so any Dutch will help and their English is good, too.

Gent is between Brugge and Brussels, so I stopped there on my way back to the Netherlands via Brussels. It’s size is also between the two other cities and I think it is less touristic than either. While it has been modified somewhat more than Brugge, it still has a 12th century castle and at least 4 or 5 huge old grand churches. I was only there for about 6 hours, but it was enough time to walk around and look at the major sights and have a meal. If you want to do some more mainstream shopping, I think Gent is the place to be, since it has a good sized shopping street.

In the end, my Belgium trip ended up being a spectrum. Brussels is large, developed, multi-cultural and majestic. Brugge is tiny, quaint, medieval, and feels homey. Gent sits in the middle, with plenty of the old mixed in with some of the new and enough size to get lost but small enough to still walk the whole city. Belgian prices are similar to Dutch ones and the people may speak a similar language, but this place is definitely worth visiting if you have a weekend with no plans.


Still with my mother, we started off for 8 days in Portugal after a brief break in Den Haag. Based on recommendations and flight availability, we would be spending our time in 3 cities all along the west coast- Porto in the north, Lisbon for a day in the center, and then 3 nights in Lagos in the very south.


One of my friends from exchange had visited Porto and highly recommended it, as well as gave me her map marked up with places to eat, drink, and shop. The city is the home of Port wine- a strong and sweet liquor aged a little bit like bourbon, so it has 18 port houses, most of which offer a generous free tasting and tour. The city is very old and has some of its historic relics sprinkled throughout. It is also very hilly and makes for a hard hike with luggage over cobblestone streets. A river splits the city into 2 parts, but it is still welded together by 5 or 6 bridges.

The local dish is called franceshina, which is best described as a modified hot-brown sandwich (wasn’t that invented in Louisville?) and of course lots of port wine. We later learned that green wine comes from this region of the country, but we didn’t hear about it at all in Porto.
Again on a tip, we took a day trip to Aveiro, a better beach town about an hour south by train. It also has some wide canals and for only 5 euro you can get a tour, but no Venetian serenade. If you want some flatter walking and a nice beach, I would recommend Aveiro if you have time. We spent 3 nights in the city and were able to do everything we wanted to, but I think we could have easily hung around a day or two longer just looking around.


The train ride from Porto was about 3.5 hours, so travel took the better part of the day. By the time we checked into our hostel, it was time to search for dinner and hit the sack. Lisbon has a very modern feel compared to Porto, which was a little run-down (in a charming, vintage way). I think Lisbon is to Portugal as Milan is to Italy- more progressive, business focused, paved. Bacaulhao is another Portuguese dish that we tried here. I think it is just cod fish prepared in various ways. Paella is another one that I had, but I’m not sure if it was the traditional version. Rice and seafood are always involved, but mine was creamy, like a really thick gumbo. Delicious.

With only 24 hours or so in Lisbon, we took an open air bus tour around the city to check out its sights. It is a tourist-friendly place with pedestrianized shopping areas, monuments well preserved and some nice parks. One area of interest is called Belem, where a maritime museum, cultural center, and monastery all sit on the river. If you make it down there, ask around for a place to get a Pasteis de Belem- it’s a little like a crème brulee with a crust and is worth a try with some coffee.

A friend told me there wasn’t anything worth doing in Lisbon, so I didn’t book much time there. I wish I had stayed a bit longer to get a feel for the place. I did learn, to my regret, that there are bullfights on Sunday and Thursday nights. We were there on Wednesday. Portuguese bullfighting is different than the Spanish, as the bull isn’t killed. I think that Sunday and Thursday are the set nights, so plan accordingly if you want to experience that.


Lagos is a beach city that you may have unknowingly seen pictures of before. It has brilliant blue water and huge rock outcrops in the ocean. For us, the weather was perfect- 85 or so during the day and 70 at night. If you want a place to hang out on the beach- head here. The seafood is cheap (like the rest of Portugal), the sun is shining and there are quite a few opportunities to have fun. We took a boat tour along the rocky coast and through some of the rock arches for about 40 minutes for 10 euro apiece. I also got to have a full day of surfing lessons for 55 euro. There were sea kayakers and snorkelers along with cliff jumpers and those just lying on the beach.
I ate great seafood, besides the grilled sardines, every night and the sangria flowed freely (well, cheaply) every afternoon. This is the kind of place to have long afternoon siestas, get sunburned, and then go out for drinks with the rest of the tourists (of which there were plenty, but not too many) at night. No museums or grand churches, but still a great time.

Mom and I really enjoyed Portugal. For me, the fine weather and fresh seafood were a big plus, so season may be a factor to think about to travel here. Also, everything was pretty inexpensive (a return to Averio was 9.20) so it was a good place for us to pick up souvenirs. Besides the Port wine, I don’t think that we encountered anything of international fame, but the local dishes, activities, and people provided us with a very relaxing week.

A note on the people: They are friendly and helpful, but don’t count on English, especially when you try the restaurant that the boat driver recommends. We got on fine, but there was plenty of pointing at menus and simplifying vocabulary.

Prague, Czech Republic

I think Prague has been the most talked about destination that I’d never heard about a year ago. Over a dozen exchange students went on their spring break and I’ve constantly heard that it is the prettiest city, most quaint, etc. etc. so I decided it would be a place worth checking out. I was to meet my mother there, and she would travel with me for the next 2 weeks or so. We had 3 and a half days in Prague, so I told her to put together an itinerary (she went out and bought an entire book).

What people said was true- Prague is really majestic and beautiful. A castle looms over the whole city, which is made up of tiled roof homes, and a river splits it into two parts, each one with an old market square and plenty of churches, cobblestones, and statues.

On the other hand, thousands of other people had heard the same good things about Prague. Every attraction was full to the point of annoyance. We finally got away from the crowds when we did some day trips, but the city itself was covered with tourists ( I can’t complain too much, I am one).

We saw a castle a day on each of our full days, per Mom’s plan. She kept saying that she felt like she was in Disneyworld, and I guess I can’t argue that. The huge pastel colored buildings lining narrow streets with horse-drawn carriages on them while the sun goes down behind a castle is a pretty cool thing to experience. For us, this was a sight-seeing place, not one to just walk around and hang out in, but it was perfect for the amount of time we were there.

Stockholm, Sweden

On the advice of a friend who told me Stockholm had been a “surprise favorite” for some of her other friends and my experience in Copenhagen, I decided to go on up to Stockholm for 4 days as the next stop on my trip. Stockholm Skvasta, where the budget airlines fly, is a solid 1.5 hour bus ride outside of the city, if any readers are considering that trip.

Stockholm is built on 14 islands and is close enough to the arctic circle to have around 18 hours of light a day in the summer. That alone made it an interesting place. I went out one night at 11:30 and it was dusk, and by 4 AM, you wouldn’t need your headlights anymore.
One of my major trips was Drottningholm Palace, 45 minutes or so from the city and called the Versailles of the North. It holds true to that name. The massive yellow palace sits on a huge lake and has finely manicured gardens for acres out behind it. If you are in Stockholm, I would really recommend this stop.

My hostel was on Sodermalm Island, which is the hip, young island with lots of independent shops and some flagship stores for brands making their way to the States. Accordingly, it was full of coffee shops and H&Ms (which is a Swedish brand). The Swedes have been called the most image-conscious people in the world, and the most beautiful (I was told that by a Danish woman). They are all really stylized from head to toe, so people watching gets more interesting up here.

Sweden runs on the kroner currency, so it was again difficult to figure what I was really paying for everything, but it was a little high to eat out and go for a drink. A little cooking pasta in the hostel will even everything out, though. Although rain and time kept me from most of it, there are a lot of fun, active things to do in this city, from kayaking the coast to rooftop hiking through the old town, which is one of the older preserved city centers in Europe, I believe.

I really liked Stockholm and Copenhagen. They have a lot different feel than other parts of Europe, the same way the Mediterranean countries do. Nobody talks much about Northern Europe, but I will definitely tell anyone that asks that a full tour of Europe isn’t complete without getting into the Scandinavian area- but don’t try it in the winter!


After a long delayed flight, I made it into Berlin at half past midnight. I’d called the hostel and asked for some advice, and they told me the trains should still run until 1. I made it within 1 connection to my hostel stop before I encountered locked doors at the train station I wanted to be inside. That left me with a hike with my 30+ pound pack through the city at 1:30. Needless to say, I slept late the next day.
A few people told me that Berlin was their favorite city, and I know one guy who has been at least 3 times during his study abroad. My hopes were high for a city with so much history. Unfortunately, my hostel map was about 8X6 inches, they didn’t know where I could get a better one, and the Berlin tourist information website was crashed. That left me with very little idea of what to see or where to go. I did make it to the Berlin Wall remnants, which ended up being my favorite sight of the whole city.

By the end of my 4.5 days in Berlin, I realized that I had probably approached the city all wrong, because it was different than most of the others I’d visited. With over 3 million residents, the city is not walkable. It doesn’t have a real center to see all of the major sights, so I ended up walking miles a day just to see a couple of things. I didn’t particularly get into most of the attractions, either. Alexanderplatz, which is ranked high on many lists, is a TV tower with an expensive (11 Euro?) panoramic view. The bottom line is that, for me, Berlin wasn’t a sight-seeing city, but one with a cool atmosphere. It has an anything-goes attitude and lots of young people and immigrants and the mixed culture that comes with them.

This is one city that I think would be better to do with friends (they are called the electronic music capital and have ample clubs) or with a local or someone who knew the place. I can recommend Kreuzberg as a city district that is eclectic and exciting, but I don’t recommend trying to tackle this entire sprawling metropolitan on foot without a plan- you’ll just end up dead tired and ready to leave.

Italy II

After I finished my exams at the end of May, I started on a 23 day, 4 country tour that I had been planning for a month or more. My first stop was Pisa, mostly because of the cheap flight in. My hostel directions were pretty poor, directing me toward unmarked roads and not specifying exactly which direction to turn at each intersection, but I didn’t mind hiking through this city, which was larger than I expected. Since I was only there for a single night, I checked in, dumped my big backpack, and set off toward the tower.

I think I started on one side of the city center and walked to the other for the tower, and it was probably a 20-30 minute hike at a slow pace. There was plenty of gelato to be had at 2 Euros per scoop. I was surprised at the number of other artifacts and sites in the city on the way to the tower, including a very long, high, and old wall that I never got the back-story on. I don’t need to elaborate much on the tower, except that it is expensive to go up into and my greatest entertainment came from watching all of the other tourists do their pose to get the tower pushing picture.

I did get a great dinner of pizza, wine, and dessert for 6.50 on a street that was directly east (I think) of the tower and could see the tower leaning from my outdoor table- the highlight of my evening. I crashed early so that I could get on the train to the Cinque Terre region as early as possible in the morning.

Cinque Terre

The first thing worth mentioning about the Cinque Terre is that it is no longer the hidden gem of the Italian coast that I and many people I know thought that it was. Of course, if the place is widely known among exchange students in Holland, I should have expected that. My first stop was at Manarola, which is the northernmost village of the 5 cities that make up this region. The hiking between the village is the “must-do” activity in the area, so that was the itinerary that I planned to follow. All of the cities are along the rocky coast and terraces with some areas to get down to the water in each city. The hiking was nice, but it wasn’t hiking in the same sense of my Switzerland experience. The entire distance was, according to many sites I looked at, hikable in 5 hours. However, one section of the trail that was marked as 30 minutes or something was closed, and the detour trail was about 2 hours or something. All in all, it would have made a long single day of hiking, or in my case, 2 easy ones.

As far as how strenuous the hike was, I read many accounts that rated it differently. I didn’t find the hike particularly difficult- the trails were pretty well beaten down and had steps carved into it rather than pure incline. Of course, there was some elevation change, so that will always get your heart beating. On the shorter hikes, there are more people who are just out on leisure, so it can get crowded on a narrow path.

The hostel I stayed in first was in Corniglia, then I moved to Riomaggiore after one night, as planned. The Riomaggiore hostel was more like a tiny flat that a man had bought and equipped with bunks. I actually really liked that he just gave me the key to an apartment and then disappeared, leaving me to do as I pleased. The place was called “Cinque Terre Holidays” if you happen to be going there. It was 25 euros per night for me, but the location couldn’t have been better, there were only 4 beds, and a kitchen and shower for maybe 6 or 8 people to share.
Cinque Terre region is beautiful, but there isn’t much to do there besides the hiking and the views. I would give the place 2 days if you want to do the hiking and get traveling on, or 3 days if you really want to take it easy. There aren’t any great beaches there for laying around, and the things can be a little pricey because of the secluded location of the towns.


My entire trip to Florence was built around its history and museums. I’m a fan of the Renaissance era and the Medici, so after I took the 3 hour train ride or so from Pisa, I bought a 72 hour pass for all of the museums and ended up doing 9 or 10 over that time. If you are interested in that time period, I can highly recommend Florence.

The city itself was quite large and very beautiful and historic, but not quite as nice to walk around as Rome. For some reason, there were large dumpsters on the streetside that left a stench in the air. Also, Florence was very hot when I was there, I would guess the upper 80s at the beginning of June. In fact, it was a little bit like Kentucky- hot, humid, with frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon. It was the perfect place to learn the Mediterranean art of the afternoon siesta.

The Statue of David, unlike many famous art works I’ve seen, was actually worth the entrance fee. I think it stands between 16 and 17 feet high, so it is incredibly imposing. Add to that the fine detail of the work and it was my favorite work of the city. Florence is worth a visit if you like the Renaissance and art, but overall it doesn’t quite match Rome.

I had a cheap flight to Berlin out of Milan, so I stayed one night in the city and had maybe 10 waking hours there. That was about all that I needed. The Duomo is a very large church and the Golden Rectangle is a very expensive shopping district. It is a much more modern place than some of the other Italian cities and not bad for a layover night, but nothing too special for me. A caveat for anyone traveling from Milan Malpensa- it was a 1.5 hour bus ride from the city to the airport for me, so plan accordingly.

Copenhagen, Denmark

For me, Copenhagen was that random trip that everyone talks about. I had a 5 day break from school and was debating London or Stockholm when a Greek friend told me about her plans to go to Denmark. 100 euro tickets, cheap hostel, I was in. Denmark is one of those places you never hear about, but it ended up being one of my favorite trips. I invited another American guy, and so it was 2 Greeks and 2 Americans for Easter weekend in Copenhagen. Once we arrived, we found out why our tickets were probably so cheap- Copenhagen is shut down for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. So, even though it has the longest shopping street in Europe (or something like that), it was no use to us. The city was anything but crowded, the weather was great, and we were a good travel group, so we had a great time.

Tivoli amusement park, which supposedly inspired a young Walt Disney on a trip there, is located in Copenhagen and easy to visit. There is also a distinct section of the town called Christiania, which is known for its hippie population and generally relaxed policies. The Danish are called snobby or snooty by some people, but I think their culture is just more reserved than some others to the south. Everyone that we encountered spoke flawless English, even though some told me that they rarely practice it.

On 3 nights, we went out for drinks around town and each time we were welcomed by locals to join them at their already crowded tables. Many of them told us that after a drink or two, the Danish lose much inhibition and love to meet new people. They were definitely neck and neck with the Irish for pub and bar friendliness.

I think Copenhagen was pretty expensive. It was difficult for me to tell because they use the Kroner, which converts to the Euro at about 7.25 to 1 or something. Then, converting Euro to USD at 1.45, it got pretty tricky to figure out.

The most advertised attraction of Copenhagen is probably The Little Mermaid statue, but it is not too old (20th century I think), not very big (slightly bigger than life size), and the sculpture itself isn’t all that impressive. Many of the locals I talked with joked with me about their main attraction, but it gave us a walk through a park one afternoon.

We found ourselves with plenty of time in Copenhagen with 5 days there, so we would sometimes just buy a grocery store beer and head to a park to hang out in the 70 degree sun. The Danes are in the running for the most beautiful people in Europe by some accounts, so lounging on the grass with a beer and watching people and hot air balloons go by filled our afternoons.

Although there weren’t many key sights in Copenhagen, it was a beautiful and fun city just to hang out in in good company. We enjoyed the people, the food ( I had at least 5 Danish danish), the weather and the city. Northern Europe is underrated in my opinion, and this trip inspired me to go to Stockholm for sure later in the year.

Interlaken, Switzerland

Being in the International Business Management Studies Program (IBMS) put me in classes with probably 10% of the exchange students- the rest are in the European Studies program. This gave me a long weekend break at the end of March that many of my companions didn’t have. Since my general travel strategy was to follow the action, I decided to try to catch the end of the ski season in the Swiss Alps alone for a few days. After some research, Interlaken, Switzerland became my destination. It has some of the higher peaks in the Alps (or at least the area) where I hoped to catch some snow. Again, I was plagued with naysayers who told me how expensive Switzerland is and so on, but I booked my flight anyway.

It was exciting to be traveling alone, since I heard it was a totally different experience. I landed in Basel in the north and took a long train ride south towards Interlaken. It’s name is pretty explanatory. This little town of 5,000 is nestled between two lakes with some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen. On the other two sides of the town lie mountains- still snowcapped, to my liking. I didn’t really know what to do in this place, but I had packed my outdoor gear and so I started inquiring at the hostel about hiking and skiing. The first afternoon, I bought some water and chocolate at the super market and headed up an old logging road for an hour or more. I will admit that the groceries were expensive, but a little difficult to compare to Holland because of the Swiss Franc exchanging closer to the dollar.

I learned that in Switzerland, you rent your skis, poles, and boots in the town and then haul them up the mountain with you. You can’t purchase anything on the mountain, not even the lift pass. Even though I was in the German-speaking part of the country (the Swiss don’t have their own language), everyone I spoke with at the hostel, tourist office, and ski shop had great English skills. That evening, I rented my gear and lift pass for the Matterhorn Mountain and got some rest so I could get up early to ski while the snow was still good.

The train ride up through the glacier-cut valley to the mountain was really spectacular. The valley, called Lauterbrunnen, is probably a quarter mile across at some parts and lined by cliffs hundreds of feet high on the sides. In the valley itself, though, there is green grass, waterfalls coming off the cliffs to form little brooks, and picturesque Swiss chalets lining the narrow asphalt road.

My plan for the next day was to hike in the Lautrebrunnen Valley that had so impressed me the day before. Without much idea of what kind of trails it offered, I bought a light lunch outside the Lauterbrunnen train station and set off walking, hoping to find something nice. A small sign led me through someone’s backyard and up the beginning of a path crisscrossing a mountainside. The trail had no name, no length, and no destination, but it said “experienced hikers only”. To make a long story short, my hike turned into about a 6 hour trek during which I encountered only 2 people, a couple of lone houses, a waterfall, and some of the best mountain views I’ve ever seen. By the time I made it back down the mountain to the train station, I was really tired but hugely satisfied with my day. I ended the day with a fondue pot, which I learned has Swiss origin. It is about what it seems- melted cheese and bread for somewhere around 24 Euro. Terribly expensive for what you got, but when in Switzerland…

The next day, I had a later flight out from Basel, so I had a half day or so to hike around. I flirted with the idea of kayaking or canoeing on the lakes, which was reasonably cheap, but decided the water was a bit too cold and my time a bit short to bother. I walked around the town, picked up some fine Swiss chocolates, and then waited for my long train ride back out. If any readers are outdoor adventure fans, I can’t recommend any place I know of more than Interlaken. They have skiing (in the Alps!), glacier hiking, and snowshoe hikes in the winter, and skydiving, hanggliding, bungy jumping, canoeing, kayaking, and a strange sport called zorbing in the warmer seasons. Yes, the place is expensive, but it has got it all.

Travelling alone was a different experience, but one I was really glad to have. For this particular trip, it would have been really difficult for me to find someone on exchange who was up for the kind of experience I knew I wanted: sleeping early, getting up early, and going outdoors nonstop for 3 days straight. Sure, I wouldn’t have minded some company for mealtimes and a beer after a long day, but I was really glad that I didn’t let my want for company keep me from this great trip.


St.Patrick’s Day in Dublin was the goal. Unfortunately, it was the goal of lots of other people from around the world, and they planned it out better than I did. There were no hostels in the city that had vacancy for the 3 nights of the weekend, and the ones that had partial vacancy were priced high, even three weeks before the event. After a failed couchsurfing attempt, I posted to “The Hague 2011 Exchange” facebook page to see if anyone else was trying the same thing, and I found that two American girls had already booked a hotel room and would let me crash on the couch (not really crash, I had to pay my third) for the 2 nights they were going to be there. Since I had waited so long to book everything though, I ended up paying 50 euros more for my plane ticket, so that was a mistake that I won’t make again.

As it turned out, our hotel was really something like 7 miles outside of the Dublin center and a little hike from the nearest bus stop. Since Dublin busses only take exact change and the fares are strange (2.40, 2.65, etc.), it ended up being a big and expensive hassle to be that far away and riding the bus back and forth maybe twice a day, not to mention the time spent each way. This is where I learned that, all other things equal, location is the most important factor for me in hostel picking.

The first night we were there was actually St.Patrick’s, so we changed and went immediately to town, arriving around 9. The next hours were spent in the Temple Bar area, which was packed with people, green, decorations, and beer glasses. It was a blast. Dublin really enjoys its major holiday as one big family. It was a comfortable place to be because we could speak the same language to anyone. At the end of the night, we had to take a cab home because the busses weren’t running. The bad location bit us again .

The next day, I saw most of the standard sights of Dublin- Trinity College, the shopping areas, etc. My favorite things by far were the full Irish Breakfast (great after a night of Guinness) and St. Michun’s Church, which I found out about on a youtube video. The place isn’t touristic at all, so you don’t have to pay to check it out. The main attraction is in the cellars, which have the right humidity and temperature to have preserved some mummies all the way back from the Crusades. The most surprising thing was that they will let you go right in among the coffins and touch them! There is a soldier mummy who, if you touch his index finger, will supposedly pass on good luck to you. That off-the-path stop was my favorite.

Fish and chips, a Guinness at Dublin’s oldest pub, and a pub crawl that night basically finished up our time in Dublin. Some Irish guys on the pub crawl were telling us that because Ireland hasn’t had much immigration over the centuries, the culture is still pretty homogenous and that’s why it has the feeling of being a big family. All of the people we met were great and the attitude (at least for that weekend) was that everyone should have a good time. Definitely a holiday worth celebrating at its source.

The next day we had an afternoon flight, so I took a train to a little coastal city called Malahide to see Ireland in a little different light. There are small beaches lining a harbor that is filled with small colorful sailboats. I hung out for a while on the beach even though it was much too cool for sunbathing or swimming.

Back to the airport and on the plane home. The short time we were there, the late booking, and the high cost of partying and entertainment added up quickly to cost me over 200 euros per day, counting the flights and accommodation, but it was a worthwhile splurge.
Dublin was great for me because it was just a really relaxed atmosphere, we could talk with anybody, order familiar food and have a great idea of where to have fun in the city. Although it is a big place, the central area was easy to navigate on foot and all of the main sites of the city can be seen in 2 or 3 days at a leisurely pace.


At the end of February my Dad came to visit me. We spent about 4 or 5 days in the Netherlands and then headed down to Italy for 6 days. First we flew to Rome for 4 days, then the majority of a day on a train to Venice, where we spent one night and flew out at the end of the following day.

In Rome, we saw all of the classic sights including the Coliseum, Palantine Hill, the Vatican, St. Peter’s, and the Pantheon. There isn’t much that I can add to the literature on those places, so I won’t try. We also gorged ourselves on pizza (sold by weight), tiramisu, cannolis and pasta, washed down with chianti or espresso, depending on time of day.

I must say that, so far, Italy has been the country that has most fulfilled the image of Europe placed in my mind from years and years of media. The people talking with their hands flying through the air, relaxing with a glass of wine at any time of day, and drinking their espresso standing up are all perfectly true stereotypes of Italy. The pizza and pasta were fantastic and the entire city is littered with beautiful monuments, statues, and buildings older than our country. If I had to recommend a single city for the classic European experience, I would recommend Rome.

Venice is, well, Venice. We spent only about 24 hours there and that was actually enough for me. The main attraction is the city itself, with no cars, narrow winding alleys, and footbridges every block. Although we visited St. Mark’s Square and the Accademia, my favorite thing to do was just to wander around, pausing every hour or two for a snack, pastry, or drink in the small shops. Cicchetti is a local kind of sampler dish that consists of small open-faced sandwiches with various toppings- I would definitely recommend hunting some down.

A note: Neither Rome nor Venice was as hard on my wallet as many people had made me think it would be. In Rome, we had a delicious 3 course meal at a budget restaurant for 10 euro, and 1 euro gets you 75 minutes of public transportation on any of the city’s busses. In Venice, Dad and I had a large plate of various cicchetti and champagne for something around 10 euros apiece. It was more affordable than the Netherlands!