The Beginning: London and Paris

Never in four days time I have seen so much, slept so little, and walked as many miles and I have in these past 96 hours. And I love it.

Classes don’t start until July 6th, but my best friend Amber, who is also studying abroad with me, and I flew over a week early to do some extra traveling. We began our journey on an overnight flight to London Gatwick Airport. Extremely jetlagged and running purely on adrenaline, Amber and I started our exploring that same morning by checking out Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Churchill’s War Rooms. The next day was a marathon of a day as well; we visited The Tower of London, The Crown Jewels, The Tower Bridge, river cruise on The River Thames, The London Eye, Tate Modern Museum, and Buckingham Palace. How did we fit all of this in? Two things: The London Pass (which was a great investment for two days), and PLANNING.

All of the attractions in London were impressive; they’re tourist attractions for a reason. I thoroughly enjoyed them. However, one of the parts I’ll remember most vividly 30 years from now is meeting some local guys at our hostel common area. We struck up a conversation, played a few games of pool (which have different rules than American pool by the way), and went out to their favorite local place for dancing. We saw the best of both sides of London.

The next day was on to Paris via train. An English friend I made during the journey made a slightly disappointing Eurostar Train that was delayed and had broken AC slightly better. We arrived at our hostel, dropped off our bags, and caught the metro to the Louvre. I wish I were more of an art history buff so that I would be able to appreciate it more, but even with my minimal knowledge the museum still awe inspiring. And yes, the Mona Lisa is one of the least impressive things there. A beautiful 9:30 sunset and a walk towards the Arc de Triomphe with ice cream and my best friend was how I ended my first day in Paris.

Over the next day and a half we spent in Paris, Amber and I did a tour of the Palace of Versailles, picnicked in the Palace Gardens, saw Notre Dame, and climbed the 300 stairs to the top of the Sacre Coeur. I believe that we truly experienced Paris in the most iconic/touristy fashion when we ate crepes while watching the sunset over the Eiffel Tower. I left Paris on Friday morning knowing that I would love to visit this city again one day.

Traveling for those five days to London and Paris and my final destination of the Netherlands gave me confidence. Not only did Amber and I book and plan everything ourselves, we followed the plan and IT ACTUALLY WORKED. Things fell into place. Sure, we had a couple delays, made a couple wrongs turns, but that’s what it’s all about. We did what we planned to do and we did some things we didn’t plan to do along the way. And the unplanned parts were just as good as the planned. If I’ve learned anything from the past week it’s to have a plan- but don’t be afraid to just go with the random flow sometimes too.