Sooo I haven’t updated this thing in a long time. Why? Because I have been traveling for a month! I’d basically been gone for 29 days from Manchester. It was long, exhausting, expensive–but so much fun and so worth it. I will try my best to recap what I can, although obviously it will be difficult to remember everything that has happened. I am using the pictures as a narrative. Don’t expect many pictures from nights out (I don’t bring my camera out because I don’t want to lose it) and fake smiles from posed pictures (save for maybe one or two)…I try to just use candids as much as I can. Time to begin with my first stop…
We left March 26th (Friday night) at around 9pm to catch the rail from Manchester to Stansted Airport. Our first stop/travel destination was Stockholm–which was also our only stop in Scandinavia. Sweden is probably most famous for producing blonde people, IKEA, and H&M (so innovative!). It was pretty cold on arrival (rivers were frozen over), but after living in Manchester fora few months, nothing is really “cold” anymore. I think I am pretty used to it.
We also learned pretty quickly that there isn’t really much to do in Stockholm in the 2 days we were there. However, this was a good thing for us because it was our starting destination–nothing too tiring yet. Most of Stockholm is just dedicated to shopping, with the few touristy locations being Old Town and the rivers (Stockholm is composed of a lot of small islands). It’s a pretty small city.
Yummy Swedish pastry
Coolest medicine cabinet ever
Gun-knife. Outside the royal palace.
I got a little too close and the guard yelled at me…
We went to this great place called Herman’s for dinner…it’s basically a vegetarian buffet. You’d think you couldn’t get full on vegetables (well, at least I didn’t) but you really can. Fresh hummus, falafel, rice, bread, potatoes, a good mixture of dishes. Cheap as well from what I remember (and by Scandinavian standards).
The Culture House was pretty cool. A lot of quirky artsy exhibits…the kind that I like.
This entire exhibit was dedicated to the human mind and it’s psychology. Interesting stuff to read and experience.
The little kids were having so much fun on this spinning platform…look at the parents though. Isn’t it interesting how we “grow up”?
There’s a story behind this…don’t you think? I thought it was interesting. They are kids shoes. This trash can was in the museum.
Um, Stephen, what are you trying to make…?
Last shot of Stockholm.
We left Stockholm after 2 days to go to…
Berlin was the city I had been looking forward to the most–a friend of mine from college had traveled there before and he thought that I would love it. We had a 6 am flight, pretty rough…we were SO tired when we got to Berlin. But of course since we got there early our hostel room was not ready yet. So we forced our selves to stay awake and we did a 3 hour free walking tour via Sandeman’s (they give “free” tours, you just give the tip of what you think it is worth).
The first thing I noticed about Berlin was the amazing art scene, which one of the bboys I train with in Manchester had told me about. A lot of the pictures in this post will be of murals and graffiti…
Our tour guide told us this was the hotel that Michael Jackson dangled his baby. Immediately everyone whips out their cameras…including myself.
Memorial for Dead Jewish
There is an opening in the ceiling so when it rains, the lady is crying over the loss of her son.
Currywurst–sausage with curry basically. Supposedly the preferred street food of Berlin. At first when we ordered we just go the roll…we were like “Where is the sausage?”…which we got a minute later.
I really wonder how long this took.
Mmmmmmmm Vietnamese Pho!
Doesn’t that suck?
East Side Gallery was one of my favorite parts of Berlin. It is about a mile long…and consists of a lot of murals by various artists.
Some Rastafarian park near the East Side Gallery.
1UP Crew is ridiculous, I saw so many of their tags in Berlin.
Is this what happens when a man walks into a bar?
Turkish market. I love markets.
Mmmmmm fried plantains!
Ghanian food! My friend Nat was very happy.
We are all just little kids at heart.
Me and Nat
Dinner. Best roasted chicken ever, and very cheap–like 6-7 Euros….
…for a whole chicken, drink, fries, and salad. Yes, I ate it all.
Cool bar we went to–everything is upside down. You can’t see it well but even the writing on the blackboard is upside down. Chairs hang from the ceiling…I wonder how they stick it up there.
You can see a World Cup mural with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho in the background of this cool art village we visted on an “Alternative Tour”.
Illusion–it looks 3D. But the building part in the middle is actualy painted (although this picture doesn’t show it as well because of the angle)
Mint tea! You are actually supposed to squeeze all the leaves in the w.ater though, we later learned. After drinking it.
Best falafel ever
A car dealership is located near this piece. At night, there is some beacon of light from somewhere that shines at one of the flags at the car dealership. So it looks like the astronaut is holding a waving flag at night.
Another artist, “Just”
Ask me about this story.
This man lives in a tree. In a city square. LEGALLY. Another cool story…
Skate park we went to at the end of the tour…great tour. I recommend the Free Alternative Tour (not Sandeman’s) if you ever go to Berlin. Best tour I have ever been on.
For dinner later that night I had a craaaaaaazy meal. Its 1KG (2.2. pounds) of roasted pork knuckle, sauerkraut, mashed chickpeas, a potato, a pint of beer and a shot. For like 10 Euro. And yes, I finished this too…
And that was it for Berlin! We filled our bags with food and headed on the train to…
Budapest would be the easternmost part of Europe that we would go to. We met up with our friend Piers (who we had met in Prague), who is a freelance Australian model traveling for over a year around the globe. Off of his modeling money. Crazy huh? A few of our exchange friends were there as well–Wong and Jeannette.
I don’t have any pictures of the first night, but basically we got there late and we went to this place called Trofea, where it is all you can eat and drink for 15 euros. Except drink actually means drink, as they offer red wine, white wine, beer, champagne, etc. And the food is actually like, real food…cabbage dumplings, steak tartare, goulash, blackened catfish, etc. It was a lot of fun.
View from our hostel
Piers and Joyce
Danube River, dividing Budapest into Buda and Pest
We climbed up to the highest point in Budapest to get a great view of the city.
Bad one-handed airbaby overlooking Budapest
Nat tries his luck at archery…he did a lot better than the other people we saw!
Special funnel cake
Dish in foreground is rooster testicles…disgusting.
Probs my favorite park of Budapest. We spent a lot of time here and in the park.
Old wise Hungarian men play chess.
Joyce is happy.
We decided to not stay in a hostel for the last night of Budapest…and sleep in the airport. Off to Milan at 6 in the morning!
We got their Easter sunday. Rainy day. So everything was closed and it was dark and pouring outside…yeah real great. Anyways, the first night we went to seek aperitivo, which is sort of like Italian happy hour. The drinks are more marked up though (Joyce’s Sprite cost 8 euros). But along with that drink you can eat all the Italian food you want (although it’s supposed to be more of a snack than a meal…but hey, I’m American.
…and that’s all we did on Easter Sunday. The next day, however was very sunny. So we walked to the city center.
This is what happened to MC Hammer. He ends up in a flea market in Milan.
Huge shopping area in Milan, with stores like LV, Gucci, Prada, etc.
over 1000 Euros for those shoes!
A homeless man sleeps outside the Alexander McQueen store. So much contrast.
Asians start their habits early…
And that was it for Milan! Pretty much just shopping, rich people, good food, etc. It was what I expected. It was actually more of a pitstop to our next location…
Why Genoa? Well, our friend Nat who I was traveling with is on the soccer team at William and Mary. He’s originally from Ghana and some of his childhood friends play soccer elsewhere…like in Genoa. For CFC Genoa, the professional soccer team. So we got to hang out with them! It was a great “vacation” from our vacation. Genoa was very relaxed. I also got to learn a lot about the lifestyle of these European soccer players. Ask me in person.
Not our hotel, but a joke most of my friends would get…
View from the front of our hotel
Mmmm durum kebab
Nat clutching on to his favorite drink, Fanta
Nat’s childhood friend, Isaac
Life felt sooooo good at this point.
Me with some of the guys from CFC Genoa–Mas, Robert, Isaac, and Richmond
Gelato! If you read my earlier post about eating a french fry for the first time…the same goes with ice cream. I hadn’t had ice cream like 5-6 years…but apparently it’s different from gelato. Gelato was oh so good though, I think this one had cookies and cream and nutella scoops?
The aquarium in Genoa is the second biggest in Europe
Genoa is also the city that invented Pesto. Pesto Pasta is one of my favorite foods…so this Pesto Gnochhi was very very good!
Probably one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had. The players of CFC Genoa often eat at a local place called San Lucia, and this is their San Lucia special–prosciutto pizza with an egg in the middle. SO GOOD!
The four days we spent in Genoa were wondrous. We were supposed to take a pit stop in Pisa actually…but we were too lazy and didn’t feel like traveling there just to take one of those goofy tower pictures. Next stop…
Def the most touristy city EVER…just droves of school groups, Americans, Asian tourists, etc. So we spent our three days just seeing the obvious Rome sites. Still very magnificent though. Makes you understand why they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Spillproof cups at a restaurant…or is it just Joyce’s magical powers?
The following pictures = a bunch of Rome’s monuments.
Trevi fountain by night…imagine it by day. So crowded!
So imposing at night!
The Vatican, probably my favorite part of Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica
On the way to the Sistine Chapel…
The next two pictures are of the Sistine Chapel. Now, you aren’t supposed to take any pictures in the Chapel, but everyone does anyways…flash even, people aren’t really inconspicuous about it. Security guards just yell and tell everyone not to talk (you’re supposed to be quiet), but no one really listens. Including myself. So I’m just snapping away, and a guard yells a general warning. I take some more…boom. Guard comes to me, starts yelling at me in Italian, saying “Preggo, preggo” to the exit (as in please, please exit now…) and follows me all the way there. So I was in the Chapel for about a good two seconds. At least the shots were worth it…and it SORTA feels cool to say I got kicked out of the Sistine Chapel?
Really good Italian soda…tastes sorta like Vanilla Coke
LOTUS SHOULDER FREEZE BOOM!
The three of us in the Colloseum
Who knew Ferrari made elevators?
Joyce and me waiting at the Vatican for our friends. My good friend Cory is studying abroad in Rome so I got to see him!
I like this picture…it’s just a bunch of nuns eating gelato. I just think it shows the simple pleasures in life…no matter what lifestyle you live.
And with that we were done with Rome. Took a two hour flight (well, three, cause we were with RyanAir and it was hands down the worst flight I’d ever been on–bad takeoff, not on time, bad landing, too much talking) and we went to:
Sevilla is a really small city in the Southwest of Spain. We decided to go there because a lot of our friends from W&M are studying there–like 20 something? It’s the most popular abroad destination for W&M.
Tapas at colonial…I shudder to think of what the full size rations are
Our first night we went to go see Flamenco. I will never understand Flamenco. Seems like passionate stuff though, and I’ll appreciate that…
Next day just walked around Sevilla (pretty sure I walked around the city like 32423423 times the 3 days we were there). Another “life is good” moment–drinking an ice cold Frappacino in the 75F degree weather in Spain.
Cathedral, probably Sevilla’s main attraction
I thought this looked a lot like a Nutter Butter. It is supposed to be a walkway though…a really fancy one for Sevillans.
Because of the way the bars are looped, connected, and threaded (if you examine closely), it is impossible to figure out how it was created. So it’s called the Devil’s…window or something.
More tapas. This restaurant was a bit fancier. Sesame shrimp carpaccio.
Dope record store I found…all the records are expensive in Europe though, so America is def the place to crate dig.
Worst beer. Ever. Gross. Unsmooth. It’s like the hometown beer of Sevilla. Couldn’t even chug it when I wanted to get rid of it…no wonder it’s only .60 Euro!
Some nice graff over near the river:
We went to another tapas place (surprise, we like food!) where everything, including drinks, was only ONE EURO! The sandwiches were crazy good, I had a really good smoked salmon one. The drink in the picture is Tinto de Verano, a mixture of red wine and soda, very good but very dangerous because it just tastes so good.
Last night–me and Nat with our friend Jess from W&M!
At laaaaaaaaaaaast we head off to our last stop…
I was pretty excited for Barcelona too. Not only cause I thought it would be a great city but because it was our last stop…and traveling gets mad tired so you just wanna head home. We met up with our friends Stephen, Gavin, Jen, Pansy, Dan, Neeta, Sadaf, and Sadaf’s sister. We were all in the same hostel.
I don’t have any pictures of the first night…but we went to a club called Shoko RIGHT BY THE BARCELONA BEACH. It was pretty good, I liked it a lot, very chill atmosphere, not too crowded, good music, etc. My friends always like to see me dance (not to brag) so right before we decided to go they just wanted to see me jam out to one song. So I did…then a girl comes in the circle and starts doing some stuff too. So you know, gotta hold it down–we go back and forth. Then she starts b-girling! So we got into a mini freestyle battle. It was a lot of fun. Turns out the B-Girl had been dancing for 6 years and was from France. She was real good. She says I won, I say she won…anyways shoutouts to Bgirl Lise.
There aren’t many pictures from Barcelona cause we were really tired. Our days weren’t really spent sightseeing as much as they were spent shopping eating and sleeping. In fact, one day in Barcelona I was probably awake for 4 hours. I woke up and I was REALLY COLD and felt weak, so I basically slept on a couch for like 10 hours during the day. I could not eat anything and eventually just threw up whatever I did…went to bed super early that night. It was probably just because of travel exhaustion, because after all that sleep I felt a lot better the next day.
Shrimp from some Japanese place we went to:
Tapas…again…even though Barcelona isn’t supposed to be known for them. The reason they are on a napkin and not a place is cause the plates were reallly dirty. The tapas were good nonetheless.
Barcelona food market
Soo much fresh seafood…like all of them were still moving on the ice.
“Orgasmic Paella”–must be pretty good
Some yummy fruit juices. The prices of them go down as the day goes on and vendors try and get rid of them.
Cutest thing ever (not to be a simp), but there was a street band performing and this couple decided to dance with each other in the city square.
We went and saw the dancing fountain at night…it’s basically a fountain that goes on for 20 minutes “dancing” to popular music…awesome show!
Me doing a headstand freeze and Gavin doing a baby (I taught him that, hehehe!)
Barcelona night skyline.
Nat shows us some tricks in the metro
Cool building…yeah I don’t really know any of the names of the buildings in Barcelona
Remember the tinto in Sevilla? We brewed our own. I added a secret special touch to it and all my friends liked it…thus they started to call it the “Noly Poly”. Gonna have to bring that back to the states.
Dan, Sadaf, Neeta, Nat, and I
Well, that was it for Barcelona…right? NOOOOOOOO!!! We got screwed by the volcano in Iceland called Eyjafjallajokull. Try saying that five times fast. Basically, the volcano erupted and ash plumes were traveling over the UK, banning all flights and entry into the UK airspace. So we can’t get home. So we have to overstay our Barcelona trip for a night or two…and find a way to get back. Our exchange friends who are traveling around Europe are panicking as well. How is one to get back to the UK from say Greece? Without air? Ferry takes forever. One of our friends told us about a bus though that goes to London…from Madrid. So we decided to take that up…because it’s our only option. Train in Spain is super expensive. Eurostar ferries from France to England are expensive because everyone wants to go back to the UK. Everyone is basically left stranded. All of our friend’s flights are canceled. The following is a picture of the volcano from space radar (courtesy of Getty Images)…isn’t that crazy? As one news article puts it… “Meanwhile, a radar image of the volcanic crater appears to show a nightmarish face, which is reminscent of Edvard Munch’s painting ‘The Scream.’ Coincidentally, it is thought that the masterpiece was inspired by the blood red skies caused by the powerful volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.”
We waited at the hot Barcelona bus station, Nords, for an hour or two to get our bus tickets. Slowest thing ever. Here is all our money…over 1000 Euros total. It hurt.
Nat trying to laugh off our sorrows
We walk back from the bus station via the Arc de Triomf park in the Barcelona sunset. We also don’t even have our bus tickets. Apparently the printer system jammed, making them unable to print them out. So after paying 1000 euros we are told we are to come back tomorrow. We don’t even have a receipt. The teller just like gives us a piece of paper with a stamp saying that we own the tickets. Can you imagine how worried we were…just paid 1000 euros for nothing, with your only chance of getting home being tossed up in the air?
Made lunch at the hostel
We went back to the Market and got more juice. I got the blackberry/coconut. Very seedy. But good.
Gavin didn’t like his so much…
Nope, not at all hahahahaha
Head chef Neeta
Dinner with our Irish friends
In my last day in Barcelona I decided to actually walk around and explore the city…so I walked for a good 3 hours. No map, just wandering. Went to the beach side and all that.
And that was FINALLY it for Barcelona. I think I stayed 5 nights there. Wayyy too long. Dan had spent something like 2 weeks or some ridiculous stay. Now were off…
We basically went to Madrid to catch that London bus. However, the bus would not be leaving until Friday (we left for Madrid on a Tuesday night) meaning that we would have to stay in Madrid for a couple nights. We took a 6.5 hour bus right to Madrid. There was a baby on board. Smelly…
Joyce ponders how we are going to get home
Nat looks pretty good in a beanie
Tired, we finally arrive in Madrid
We got a chance to meet up with our Australian male model friend Piers again! We all had dinner together at this place where 3 courses and a drink were only 9 Euro.
After dinner I went to have tea with Aditi, who is studying abroad in Madrid
She says she hates posed pictures though (so do I) so I had to try and sneak a candid.
We had paella (rice + chicken + seafood cooked together) the next day. We’d been waiting to have this for soo long. We wanted to have it in Sevilla and Barcelona but we were always too lazy to get it proper. To be honest though, I was a little disappointed. I think I like Mexican paella more.
Soccer ball trap
On our way back from shopping…we saw a communist rally?
Finally we are done with Madrid. I don’t have any pictures from our nights out, but first night we went bar hopping with Piers, which was fun, and the second night we went to this craaaazy club in Madrid called Kapital. 15 Euro cover with free drink…and the club is 7 floors. We stayed there until 5 AM.
On the metro to the bus station…
Finally on the bus to London! This bus was supposed to take about 24 hours. Yep.
Happy to make a stop…but we were only 3 hours in!
Another food stop. Omelette type sandwiches.
We made it to France the next morning. French sunset. On a bus.
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY I WAS TO SEE THIS SIGN
Made it to the port! Joyce is happy.
Our ferry. It was huge.
Our friends found some Smirnoff handles at the duty free store on the ferry (1.5 hour ride). The thing is these handles have iPod speakers that you can hook up to them…so they all bought one haha.
A souvenir Jen bought from Rome…reminds me of my friend Cory (in a good way–he is Catholic).
FINALLY WE CAN SEE THE UK YAY WE ARE BASICALLY HOME!
And here we are. LONDON VICTORIA COACH STATION. “Please Wait Here”…”and have positive thoughts”. What a fitting end to this journey.
And there it was. My Euroganza trip. So basically, a summary:
- Left March 26th, got back April 24th (supposed to have gotten back the 19th)
- Total countries visited: UK, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Vatican City, Spain, stopped in France, UK again
- Cities visited (like, actually stayed a night in): Stockholm, Berlin, Budapest, Milan, Genoa, Rome, Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid
- Missed more classes due to volcano (eight in one week) than I probably have in college altogether (because a. I always feel guilty for skipping and b. I feel like I would be wasting my parent’s tuition money if I skipped and c. I am a goodie goodie). Luckily I filled out an absence form with the school and it is OK.
- Traveled around Hungary with an Australian freelance model (yeah, even though he was a guy…)
- Hung out with a professional soccer team in Italy
- Got kicked out of the Sistine Chapel
- Got into a dance battle with a French female breaker at a beachside Barcelona club
- Got stranded in Spain thanks to an Icelandic volcano named Eyjafjallajokull
- Danced in a 7 floor nightclub in Madrid until 5AM
- Took a 36 hour journey home (6.5 hour bus from Barcelona to Madrid, 25 hours from Madrid to London (including ferry), 4.5 hours London to Manchester)
- Had the most epic month (well, this has been the most epic semester of my life) traveling around Europe with friends, and financed it solely by myself.
The thing is I am sure there stories I am missing. There are also plenty of pictures I did not post (I took around 1500 over the trip), and the ones here are just a simple outline to my travels. I could have wrote a LOT more to each city. So I guess if you want my full personal opinion on things, you’ll just have to ask me yourself. I get back to the states June 13th 🙂
On a somber note, I would like to dedicate this blog to my friend Ian Smith-Christmas. He was one of my best friends from home and he passed away last weekend. I remember two summers ago that my friends David and Kevin and Ian and I were planning an epic month around Europe over the summer. Unfortunately it never materialized–finances, scheduling, jobs, life, etc. I never did get to go on that trip with Ian, so I hope these memories and pictures will suffice. Requiescat in pace.
Thank you for reading.