I had the most amazing Christmas Break ever. Damian flew in to Paris and arrived by train to Strasbourg as I anxiously waited. He surprised me by getting an earlier ticket and I was even a few minutes late to the station picking him up! After almost 4 months apart it was such a sweet moment being with each other again. The whole bus ride to my apartment I couldn’t stop smiling! We stayed here in Strasbourg a few days during which I got to show him my city and he got to see the Christmas Market on the last day before it closed. We then took a 9hr (turned 10hr) bus ride with FlixBus to Amsterdam, Netherlands where we began our travels.
Maybe I’m stating the obvious but Netherlands and Holland are the same thing. Europe is so confusing having so many names for the same places!
Anyway, we spent our New Year’s in Amsterdam. We stayed in Harleem which is a little far away from Amsterdam Central but it was honestly better that way. The city is so hectic and although it was a great visit, I feel under different conditions we would have enjoyed it more. There were tons of people. However, we got this Amsterdam CityPass that allowed us to use public transportation and free entrance in several museums. We visited the Van Gogh Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the Dutch Resistance Museum, Tulip Museum, and Botanical Garden. My favorite parts were seeing the canals at night and definitely the Jewish Quarter near the botanical garden. We also had an amazing dinner at this Indonesian Restaurant called IndraPura. It was an awesome treat. To save money we went to the grocery store and cooked a lot of our other meals. For New Year’s from our AirBnB we had the most amazing few of the fireworks and we were pretty far outside of the city, we stayed in and cooked dinner since we had a very early flight the next morning (I’m not sure who’s idea that was). However, something to note is that I had read that if you wanted to know what a war zone was like you should visit Amsterdam for New Year’s, I’ve never experienced a war zone, but there were explosions and fireworks going off since the day we arrived all day long! Not as much as at midnight but I was amazed at how many fireworks were being set-off. People were throwing them out of there 2nd story window into the street and it was honestly a little scary. Walking home after a trip to the grocery store you couldn’t even see there was so much smoke. Aside from the things we saw, Amsterdam was miserably cold, windy, and wet. I’m glad we went but I’m sure in Spring and Summer it would be so much better!
The next place we visited was Rovaniemi, Finand. If you weren’t aware, this is near Lapland, the Arctic Circle, and SANTA CLAUS’ official hometown. We got to meet him, see his reindeer, visit the North Pole and it was the coolest thing ever! If I had to pick a favorite destination out of the places we visited, Finland was definitely my favorite. I would assume it’s because it’s so out of the ordinary for me to see that kind of scenery. This was Winter Wonderland straight from your wildest dreams. Not to mention, I think the best part of our stay was that our AirBnB host was the best ever! We stayed in this little cabin connected to his house that had a sauna, the Finnish love saunas, pronounced “SO – nah”, not “Saw nah”. He also had a snow mound in his front yard for sledding, cross-country ski tracks in his neighborhood, along with an area to go ice-skating! It was amazing. Although we didn’t see the Northern Lights we did see an igloo, went ice-climbing, snow-mobiling, and on a sleigh-ride with huskies. We also drank lots of Hot Berry Juice, our 1st time trying it was by mistake where we bought a concentrated version from the supermarket thinking it was normal juice that you were actually supposed to dilute with water and heat up. This idea is genius and so simple. Just heat up juice next time and it’s sooo good!
Finland, is definitely a place I’d love to go back to. My only regret is that I didn’t go prepared enough. Had I purchased a base layer like Damian had brought and boots I think I would have been able to enjoy exploring much more because we could have hiked and ventured around. We were a little limited by our clothing, well maybe it was just me. I even had a near catastrophe when my coat sleeve randomly had an 8in rip. Of course it happened on a day when it seemed like everything was going on, so there was a minor freakout that afternoon but I managed to mend it and all was right with the world again after that. Ultimately, I loved seeing the snow, and experiencing life in the Arctic! Plus, it wasn’t as cold as you think. It wasn’t unbearable to go outside, the only thing that was strange was that there were VERY FEW hours of daylight. Starting at around 3pm it began to get dark. I could go on about Finland and how amazing all of the things we did were but I hope the pictures speak for themselves. It was such a blast!
After Finland we had a little mishap trying to get to Paris and had to stay a night in Copenhagen,Denmark due to a missed flight so we can cross that of our list.
As pretty as the Scandinavian countries are the only downfall is how expensive it is to travel there. We managed but we ate MAMA noodles and oatmeal a majority of the time we were there.
…can you believe in the middle of no where in the Arctic they have MAMA noodles??!!!
Anyway, Paris was lovely as always. This was more of a destination to unwind from our adventures. We stayed pretty close to our AirBnB and went to see the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight one evening, we also got to see the Palace of Versailles, it was on my list after having visited a few times and never making my way there. The palace itself was cool but what I really loved was seeing the estate and the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon which is where Marie-Antoinette had a “private home”. I can only imagine what it looked like in the summer. Visiting these places, and Europe in general makes me want to have a garden sooooo bad!
Traveling with Damian was amazing, and it was one of the most fun trips of my life. Everything we saw it was for the first time together, getting to fly together and navigate public transportation was pretty cool too. I will say I do stress when things don’t go according to plan and Damian lives by the words, “I’m just gonna wing it”. So with that being said, I did snap a few times, but all of our mishaps ending up being great memories we’ll laugh about for a long time.
Leaving Damian in the airport was so hard and very emotional but, this time around we won’t be apart for so long! He comes back in a month to start his adventure for the semester studying in Italy! I’m so excited for him and the fact I’ll have an excuse to escape to Italy for the weekend!
After Damian left it wasn’t the end of my trip. Damian and I went to the airport at the same time and shortly after his flight left I got on a flight to Budapest, Hungary to meet my Swedish friend Mimie.
**Quick fact, Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube River and they mashed these two areas together to create the city Budapest! I didn’t know that.
In Budapest we saw Buda Castle, the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the Parliament Building, the famous shoes on the Danube and so many other beautiful buildings and attractions. One of the best was that by chance walking up to Buda Castle we got to see the changing of the guard!
Budapest is known for not being expensive so we feasted the entire time we were there. It was a foodie’s dream. We ate at the best restaurants and it was amazing! Budapest was such an awesome city, and it wasn’t too crowded. There was so much to see and so many places to go. We stayed in the Jewish Quarter and our location was prime! We were right by two of the most popular ruin bars which are just bars that they’ve opened in abandoned buildings. The interior are decorated in a fun way and they have a lot of character. Mimie and I had a blast, played Havana by Camilla Cabello one to many times, got fish pedicures, and ate til our bellies were full everyday. It was the perfect last getaway before coming home to Strasbourg for the start of the semester!
Each place I visited was so much fun and again, I can’t stress enough how much more I could say but I’d rather just show you because the pictures capture how amazing the trip was.
Aside from this being an amazing trip, what made it so much more special was that I could to experience it with my best friend and we started 2018 off in the most magical way. I love New Year’s, and I think this was a great beginning to an even better year. I have one semester left here in Europe and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of the things I’ve gotten to see and experience. The world is a very big place y’all.
Some things I’ve learned on this trip:
- You can wear the same outfit multiple times. IT IS TOTALLY POSSIBLE TO TRAVEL IN A CARRY-ON and only need 1 PAIR OF SHOES.
- If you travel in the Winter you’ll wear a coat to cover the outfit anyway
2. You can cook bacon in the microwave
3. Gloves where you can use your phone are essential
4. A scarf makes a difference
5. Always carry an umbrella with you
6. Always carry a portable charger with you
I have a soccer game tomorrow and I start school on Monday! Good luck to everyone this semester back home!
P.S. I was notified that crawfish season has begun, and I’m so upset I can’t partake in feasting on the best thing Louisiana has to offer. Please eat so much of them for me guys!
Long posts like this make it hard to sound eloquent because my thoughts are so jumbled, especially considering I’m still trying to process the things I got to see and experience myself. I hope the pictures give you some eye-candy to enjoy of our adventure this break! Cheers and missing you all so much back home! Be prepared for me to bug you to come to Europe!