Reflections on our Euro Trip

Trip Start May 20, 2011
Trip End Jun 04, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Indiana
Sunday, June 5, 2011

I thought I'd take a moment to write some reflections that I have about our two week trek in Europe.

First and foremost, I want to start by saying that I will value and cherish this experience for the rest of my life.  Not many people get the opportunity to do what Tina and I have done.  It costs money, with which most people do not want to spend on this type of thing.  We are also both lucky to have jobs that allow us to do a trip of this length; Tina is a teacher of course, so had her summer vacation. 
The experience was truly eye-opening and fantastic for both of us.  We saw so much history, so much culture in two weeks time. 

Secondly, I want to say that I could not have asked for a better travel partner.  Truly, I knew a year ago that Tina was the perfect choice.  And I couldn't have been more correct.  She and I had ZERO fights, ZERO disagreements, and were absolutely not sick of one another at the end of the trip.  She was the yin to my yang; the easygoing-ness to my anal-ness.  I like to be in control, to be in charge of the map and the itinerary; she dislikes having that responsibility.  It worked out perfectly and I can't thank her enough for being the best companion I could have asked for.  She's a person I will cherish for life, no doubt.

Now....onto my afterthoughts:

I will never do two weeks again.  It was too long.  Both of us are exhausted and THRILLED to be back home, with no remorseful, melancholy thoughts of the vacation's end.  I am actually anxious to go to work tomorrow, to spend time with my boyfriend, and to see my friends.  I know Tina feels the same way.  Being gone and doing that much traveling for two straight weeks is exhausting and we are just over it.  One week or ten days would have been more than enough.  I don't know how people do a month or longer.  Not to mention - living out of a stuffed backpack, wearing the same clothes over and gets old real fast.

I will also never stay in hostels again.  Granted, we did have a couple of good ones (Rome, Paris) that we'd stay at again if given the chance.  And they were super-duper cheap, which was the whole reason for doing the "backpacker trip" to begin with.  But having our own hotel room would have been wonderful in many ways.  As we went along, the hostels happened to get bigger, smellier, and more chaotic.  London's was absolutely abysmal and disgusting, to the point where we were DYING to get on a 7 hour flight in tiny airplane seats so we could sleep.  That's pretty sad.  I've written TripAdvisor reviews of our first three (Beehive Rome, Le Village Hostel, and the Residence du Palais), but have yet to write them for Amsterdam, Brussels, and London.  I will be doing that shortly.  Feel free to look up the Stayokay Staadsdoelen, SleepWell Hostel Brussels, and the Generator London on TripAdvisor if you want to see my reviews.  I assure you, they will be harsh.
Aside from the unpleasantness of sharing rooms and bathrooms with strangers, we were simply too old.  Tina and I were ALWAYS the oldest people in the dorms, which isn't terrible I suppose.  But we are just beyond the whole "party phase" that the typical hostellers were more concerned with.  It would have been nice to chat and meet people who were more on our level.  But I guess if we'd stayed in hotels, we wouldn't have had that opportunity anyway.

Also (and I can't believe the uber-planning/anal-retentive Lindsey is about to say this...) I think I would have liked to do a "fly by the seat of our pants" trip.  By that I mean, fly to London and then just go whenever and wherever we felt like.  Meaning, no hotel reservations, no train reservations....just spend time in a city and, when we get bored or are done with it, move on to something else.  Knowing now how safe & easy it is to get around Europe, I can see how do-able it would be.  And it doesn't scare me.  Next time, I think I'll do that.  A week in Spain & Portugal with no plan...sounds good.

By far, Tina's and my favorite city was Paris.  We could have easily spent another day or two there.  We also really enjoyed Brussels and would have liked to do another day there OR travel to Bruges.  The beer and chocolate is just too good to only enjoy for 24-hours.  Must get more.  For those reasons, we wish we'd spent less time in Rome & Amsterdam.  Both are good cities, sure.  But we didn't enjoy them nearly as much as we had hoped.  The Roman men were despicable - we were shocked to find that the Italian people were MUCH harsher & unfriendly than the Parisians, which is the total opposite of what is believed by American society.  The third day in Rome, we could have done without.  And it would have been nice (in hindsight) to have that day in Paris. 
As for's really a remarkable city.  Seeing how different the culture is from...well, everywhere in the world! truly an experience that everyone should see.  We learned a lot and are definitely glad to have appreciated what it has to offer.  However....we could have done without the third day.
Amsterdam (the drugs, the prostitutes) really are only frequented by the tourists mostly.  That's what drives the city's economy.  We  talked to many locals who don't do drugs, never have, and who have never hired a prostitute.  It's all tourists.  The prostitutes are even, for the most part, Eastern European.  Not even Dutch.
Having said that, the Red Light District and all its awesomeness is mostly frequented by Stag Parties (the UK and Irish version of bachelor parties) and young college kids coming over to get completely annhialated by drugs & beer. 
True though, we did meet some nice American Navy boys, as well as lots of friendly locals.  But the "party atmosphere" was just too much for us, sadly.  We had no desire to get completely wasted or messed up on drugs, and we certainly didn't want to visit a Red Light Door.  We appreciated it, but are now leaving it to the professionals and partiers.
I do regret not seeing more of Amsterdam.  We were so fascinated by the prostitution, we spent too much time viewing that in the Red Light.  We should have rented bikes and just toured around south of the city and gone to the VanGogh museum.

We should have packed better.  Most of our clothes were capris and yoga pants with short sleeves.  But (aside from three of the days) it was pretty chilly during the entire trip.  We found oursevles wearing our North Face jackets more than we wanted. 

It's funny, but Tina and I agree on every aspect of the trip, as far as these afterthoughts go.

Far and away, our favorite was Paris.  I can't say enough about how amazing and beautiful that city is.  We NEVER encountered a gruff, grouchy, rude waiter.  We NEVER had a bad meal in Paris.  We ALWAYS ate something different and liked everything we had.  And every part of the city that we explored had something new & wonderful to appreciate.  Specifically, the Montmarte district, where we stayed on the first night.  It's just great.  I can't even say how great.  You just have to experience it.

Our second & third favorites were probably a tie between Brussels & London.  I can't decide which one I liked better.  I think I'd choose Brussels second, but Tina would choose London.
Brussels is great and we truly enjoyed the mix of French/Belgian/Dutch culture & architecture.  Plus the food and beer is just hard to top.  But we do know that Brussels doesn't have too much as far as "sights" or things to do.  So it'd be great to go back and do Bruges or another Belgian town.  I bet the countryside and southern Flemish part is beautiful and has a lot to offer.
London was also wonderful, very much like New York City in a lot of ways.  We really enjoyed the Covent Gargen/Piccadilly/West End area and REALLY enjoyed going to see "Les Miserables".  This was a highlight.  Tina and I are both fascinated by the royalty & history that is in London, so seeing the Tower of London was great in that regard. 
Also, we spent the majority of our London time with our friends (Katie, Sarah, and Pippa), which made it a broader experience to see London with some Brits.  We could easily do another couple of days there.  It would have been nice to go to the British Museum.

Amsterdam and Rome are obviously our fourth & last favorites.  Don't get me wrong - BOTH cities entertained us and had lots to offer.  We enjoyed quite a lot about both.  But we wouldn't go back.  At least anytime soon.  Glad to have seen them, but would much rather see other, new cities & countries before we'd go back.
Having been to Rome before this trip. I did find it to be a bit different.  However, the first time, I was with family members who spoke fluent Italian, which undoubtedly helped.  Plus, I was only there for 2 days the first time and did different things.  It may have just been bad luck that we got such grouchy, unfriendly waiters.  Who knows.

Lastly, seeing old friends was SUCH an amazing part of this trip.  In Rome, Tina got to meet up with her best friend from high school, Tanja, and her husband.  How random is that?   In Amsterdam, I met up with my old friend, Martin, who was an exchange student in my high school during my freshman year.  Who would have thought I'd see him again (and have the same old laughs!) after 12 years?!  It's amazing to think of.  In London, we met up with Tina's friend Katie, who she'd met in Arizona while Katie was attending flight school.  I'm glad to be able to call Katie a new friend of mine!  And I met with my old and dearest friend from middle school, Sarah, and her friend Phillippa.  I hadn't seen Sarah in FOURTEEN years!  Would I have ever had that opportunity do to such a thing?!  It was just mind blowing and wonderful.
I thank Facebook for that.  Truly.

Thank you to everyone who followed this blog during our two weeks.  It was a pain in the ass to come home and write/post pictures each evening (so I wouldn't do THAT again either!).  But I'm glad for all the feedback and followers that I had.  It felt like a lot of you were on the trip with us and got excited about seeing what we did each day.  So thank you!

Ciao!  Au revoir!  Tot ziens!  Cheerio!
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