In Bruges

Thanks to the movie (In Bruges, title ^^) Nick and I made the train trip through the chunnel to see Bruge, Belgium. This leftover Medieval town was every child’s dream fulfilled at any age. Nick was unsure but we got the tickets early and they were so cheap he couldn’t say no. The town was every thing I imagined and more. Nick couldn’t even do his Colin Farrell Irish impressions because let me assure you, Bruge is no shit hole.

We walked in (about a mile) from the train station. We really had no idea what we were doing or where we were going so we jus followed the crowd.

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NICEST MCDONALDS EVER.

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It was raining off and on but luckily we had umbrellas. Despite this, we couldn’t resist and took a boat tour through the canals for only 8 euros. It was breathtaking.

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Some of the bridges and buildings were as old as 600 years. The last picture of a bridge is 600 years old and has not been renovated at all. It has not been touched architecturally or supported at all. Incredible. 

 We didn’t eat too much Belgium chocolate but we did see quite a bit of exquisite kinds.

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And this store.

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The rest of the evening was devoted to Belgium beers, as requested by Nick. But seriously… how do you even choose when 100 kinds is the minimum at any restaurant…

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Passion fruit.

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Vinegar. 

 HOW DO YOU DECIDE? 

 We got the last train back from Bruge to Brussels for the morning train out of Brussels. On the way out Nick got an all moldy purple pack of Skittles.

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN, BELGIUM?

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Picturesque Germany

Tubingen. This is everything and more that I thought Germany would be. It was a 45-minute bus ride from the Stuttgart airport. My friend is a German major and living there the entire school year and was a great host. I was there for a day in between Berlin and Munich and then there for a half a day after Munich before flying back to London. We didn’t really do much but walk around and that was more than enough.

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A GLOBE STORE

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Some traditional German food.

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Spaghetti ice cream!!!

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We went back to my friend’s apartment but on the way bought a bunch of cheap German beers from the grocery store for our own authentic German beer tasting.

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For dinner we walked over to this farm about 10 minutes away to get some sides for our Schweine Schnitzel. At first when we rolled up I was a little sketched out about the whole situation… it looked like the Chain Saw Massacre plantation in the middle of a small German town.

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Once we got closer and my eyes adjusted the place was actually quite cute. There were tons of cats and farm life. They had a store but also a 24 hour vending machine outside of it. Meat, cheese, all of it!

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Like c’mon… they even dyed them. So cute.

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Side notes: that was the best goat cheese I have ever had. I’m not kidding, we went back the next day because I had to get more of this wonderful smoothy gem. Also, the items did not drop. There was a bar that came out so the eggs would be fine when they were brought to you.

Not only could you buy all your farm food needs through vending machines in Germany but you could also return your glass bottles back like a vending machine. But, instead you were putting in your bottles to get back money (reverse vending machine). I actually found this so incredibly amazing… I don’t know why more places don’t invest in such things. The recycling rate in Germany has to be higher than any other country that I’ve visited anyway.

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That was all of our adventures on the first day I was there. The second time was a half day before my flight back to London. We just hung out and walked back through the town and down to the bridge with that original picturesque river side house before I had to leave the charming place.

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Deutschland or Dutchland?

From Berlin I flew to Stuttgart. My friend was studying abroad in a tiny town 45 minutes from the airport. I’m going to skip that for now since I was there the last day and go straight to Munich. We took the bus directly from Tubingen to Munich and it took about 3 hours for about 24 euros each round trip. We made one huge mistake: everything, EVERYTHING is closed on Sundays. The day consisted of a lot of wandering around sightseeing. We also made a huge observation: Pennsylvania really is Dutchland. It’s known as that because there’s a huge Pennsylvania Dutch population back home (they’re really Deutsch but there was a translation error at some point in the past). Everything from the woodlands to the decor of the few open restaurants was something plucked right out of my area back home.

We walked from the bus station into town and saw some things along the way… I’m the worst and couldn’t name one.

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That I do know is the Bavarian National Museum. It was only one euro on Sunday so at least that had it’s perk. The museum was just a lot of dead Jesus’s, ugly babies, and a few women holding the ugly babes. These were my two personal favorites:

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After that we walked next door to the English Gardens. They were so pretty despite the time of year. It was just tons and tons of people out with their dogs and loved ones hanging out. The atmosphere was the utmost excellent. Also, at one part of the river that goes through the park there was a mound  set up to create a big wave for a group surfing. It was freezing and they were extremely talented.

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We continued to walk around and find things. Like this arch in the distance, because you aren’t a real European city unless you have an arch.

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We also found a massive St. Patrick’s Day jamboree taking place.

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We continued on in search of a nice German bar to sit and hang out for our last few hours. This is much harder than it sounds. As I mentioned before, most things were closed due to it being a Sunday. All the tourist bars were open but extremely over priced and packed. The beer gardens I read about were not nearly what I expected, they were no Austin, Texas beer gardens to say the least. We did eventually find the Hofbrauhaus and I got some terrible pictures.. It was the only open gift shop in the entire city of Munich (I am not exaggerating, I looked very hard).

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We finally settled on the cutest little place. It was kind of like “Mom’s Dutch Kitchen” (a restaurant in my hometown) but actually good and the real deal. There were even rifles on the wall… you do not see that in Europe… ‘MERICA

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Speaking again of home, here’s a picture on the bus ride. I honestly would think this was taken in PA if I hadn’t taken it myself… EXACT SAME FORESTRY.

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Anyway, all in all I liked Munich a whole lot better (minus the whole being closed thing). It was a lot happier of a place and really had a very cute atmosphere. I don’t really feel like I need to go back, but seriously this is what I got to stare at all day and not be able to go into…

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the 1984 set

I had a four day adventure to Germany last weekend that started in Berlin. I would just like to start by saying that the airport in Berlin was extremely touristy… maybe even worse than the Eiffel Tower. For example:

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I got into Berlin pretty easily on the bus. Before I even really got in I got my first Deutsch treat… so yummy.

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I checked into my hostel (Womabt’s, it was good) and started to explore Berlin. I started with the East Side Berlin wall gallery. Now “gallery” means it’s just what’s left standing of the wall with all the art. It’s not the conventional indoor gallery. Do not be like the Americans I heard asking the merchants where the “gallery” was when they were standing there staring at the wall. (face palm)

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Old German men playing betting games along the wall…IMG_3531

Across the river was gorgeous also…

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Boat hostel!?

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After the wall I wondered around a bit and went to the Charlottenburg Palace. While I was walking there I ran into this large German man walking four chihuahuas. It was adorable and he let me play with them…

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It was late so I didn’t get to go inside, but the outside as you can see was gorgeous. After that I walked around and just kind of explored near the palace and the area around the zoo.

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So I’m not sure the affiliation with Berlin and bears but it was pretty prevalent all over the city. It was actually a cute unifying thing that I really enjoyed. After that I walked through a big part of the Tiergarten to the Bradenburg Gate. I do not recommend this, it is a lot bigger than it looks and I ended up walking a lot more than I was hoping to….

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Berlin TV tower…

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I passed the cathedral on the bus too, which was gorgeous.

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I ended up passing a lot on the public transportation and seeing a lot of Berlin without really having to go there. (unable to really catch pictures)

Final opinion: I do not like Berlin. Despite the pictures that I’ve shown, it was so dark and gloomy. A lot of the housing and buildings looked exactly how I imagined the entire setting of 1984. A lot of the buildings were just cement with windows. It was like a cleaned up newer version of a lot of the old Polish ghettos I saw in the Krakow old town. It was incredibly sad and just so depressing. There was no question about there having been a war there. The entire city gave me a very bad vibe and really killed my whole aura. I even ended up breaking out in random hives at the end of the night so I just went home to bed. It was weird, don’t let me turn one off… it’s a bustling lively city with a lot going on. It just wasn’t for me.

The Real Paris (in my head)

At this point in the trip I was blown away by the palace of Versailles but not so much by Paris. Honestly, except for the certain structures I didn’t find the city any more impressive than London. I also really had it with the French. We had terrible experiences in almost every circumstance with any kind of French help. They were incredibly rude to us. I was openly scoffed at on the tube just for sitting there talking in English. When my friend started to ask, “Hello do you have…” in rough French the waiter responded by walking away mid sentence to grab an English menu and slam it in her face. She could only speak French roughly but she could hear it, and openly heard how badly they kept talking about us. Even the police officer during the gypsy event was talking about how annoying we were because we were speaking English. We quickly learned. If we spoke a third language first that they didn’t know they would respond in English. The same person that we heard speaking fine English would turn to us and pretend like they didn’t know what we were saying at all. SO, by murmuring Spanish they either couldn’t hear me or didn’t understand Spanish but either way didn’t think I was American and responded in great English.

By the time we got back from Versailles I was ready to go to bed but we wanted to see the one last thing: Sacre Coeur. We got a train into a rather ghetto side of the Sacre Coeur which ended up skipping about 75% of the hike up through Montmartre. We got some pictures and and went inside…

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We wanted to see the sun set over the city but it was at a horrible diagonal the complete wrong way. This was as close as we got…

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As we chased the view of the sunset down the mountain we went straight through Montmartre. Montmartre was everything I had always expected Paris to be. It was beautiful and cute and the people were still just as rude but not quite as much.

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We kept walking down Montmartre until we hit….

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After that we realized we hit everything on the map except for Arch de Triumph, so we took a quick tube over. I’m not sure what was going on but there were guards out and some kind of procession taking place with the anthem blaring.

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Different arch, different city, feels the exact same.

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Let them eat cake!!

Very last minute we decided to make the trek to Versailles! For some odd reason, most of my friends who go to Paris haven’t gone to the Palace of Versailles. I really don’t understand why at all. It was about 45 minutes from our hotel and so easy to get to. We took the RER C from Paris, it was no extra cost there on the 3 day pass but was 3 euros to get back. Also, with a EU residency you can get into everything at Versailles for free (hidden and only in French knowledge).

Anyway, I’ll start with the actual palace. Gold, gold, gold. You go in and it’s very directed. There were mobs and mobs of tourists so you were mostly moved along with the crowd. There was insane artwork by Fosse all over the walls and ceiling. The Hall of Mirrors was insane. Marie Antoinette was first on my lists of things to watch as soon as I got back and I strongly recommend you watch it (and then go)!

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We went out back into the gardens and our minds only continued to be blown… (excuse the construction, like always, everywhere)

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We rented bikes to go around the rest of the ponds. It was much too long to walk around. It might have been my favorite part of the whole Paris weekend.

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There’s a whole side estate, Marie Antoinette’s. It really barely offered anything that we didn’t already see and at that point we were hungry, our feet hurt, and we were ready to go. Unless you’re spending the entire day there, I really wouldn’t recommend going. The walk really wasn’t worth it…

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We left the grounds and walked back to the train station (took all of about 10-15 minutes). I kind of wished we got to see more of Versailles as it’s own city. Just from the Palace to the train we passed these beauts…

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And then even better on the actual train back to Paris… dah dah dahhhhhh look closely

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Day 2: Minor Gypsy Spotting and some other sites

We spent the next day going to see all the other classic tourist spots of Paris and…

WE SAW OUR FIRST GYPSIES!

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You can see them there, conglomerating and strategizing their next tackle. That was on the Love Lock bridge. You can see the sides of the bridge have wood all along them, blocking the locks and probably preventing the sides from falling off.

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We came up on the Louvre (actual destination) and stayed for about 3 hours. We only waited in line for about 45 minutes (apparently this is very short, we got there around 9:45). It really is impossible to see it all. Also fun fact they don’t publicize: if you are a EU citizen or resident it is completely free. Even a visa of any kind is accepted (student exchange, anything for an extended period of time).

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Afterwards we walked towards the Opera House and went to an adorable coffee shop on the way.

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The Opera House was gorgeous. The Lafayette Gallery was behind right behind it, also amazing.

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Lafayette Gallery Shopping dome…

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Bastille…

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We walked along St. Antoine Street passing loads of beautiful churches and sites. While along it we even saw some American reality star being filmed getting into her car. She actually messed it up and we got to watch her get into a car and drive away 2-3 times.

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We walked along to go to the island with Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle. Both of the lines to get in were unfortunately incredibly long. It was really disappointing we weren’t able to go in but they were still so beautiful from the outside.

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We ended the day with macaroons in Luxembourg Park. The park turned out to be a lot less beautiful as I had expected, it was more of a recreational park than a tourist one and I wouldn’t really recommend.

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The macaroons are all they’re cracked up to be… so yummy (and harder to find than we had expected).

The night with a twinkling Eiffel Tower from the front of our hotel (every hour on the hour).

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Day 1: Gypsy Hunting

As soon as we arrived in Paris and got our metro tickets my friend was robbed by a gypsy. They came up to her with “help the deaf babies” papers and all attacked her at once grabbing her attention so they could steal her wallet out of her purse right under her. We spend the next two hours in the train’s police station gypsy hunting. We quickly learned the only thing the French hate more than Americans are gypsies. They refused to even try to talk to us until I started yelling gypsies. Then they tried to understand my friend’s broken french and watch the video tape. They brought in 6 gypsies total with no luck. Trust no one who tries to talk to you or you will spend your first two hours in Paris gypsy hunting with the police.

On a side note getting a metro ticket right off the train is pretty vital. Paris is really big so you do have to take the metro everywhere (unless you have the kind of money for taxis…). You can get a 3 day pass for 24 euros. We found it to be more than worth it by the end of the three days.

After that we went to our hotel: Eiffel Villa Garibaldi. It was a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower back in a less tourist section. It was perfect. And there was construction going on during the day so despite fashion week we got incredible prices.

Obviously first thing was first, go see the Eiffel Tower.

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After that we walked along the Seine past the Chaillet Palace, Hotel Des Invalides, Musee de L’aarmee, and ate crepes over the Port Alexander III bridge to the Grand Palace and the other next door palaces. There are a few other pretty sites along the way but I’m not so sure what they are..

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First Crepe

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Winston Churchill

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The Grand Palace and surrounding ones hold a lot of the fashion shows apparently. We found this by our own research. While we were passing we saw people running around with pamphlets and security all over. It looked so important, but unfortunately we didn’t see anyone we knew to be important.

Don’t drink the Polish vodka

For the weekend Nick and I went to Kraków, Poland. This is our third Eastern European country now and they’re all quite similar but I think I would have to say this was my favorite.

  1. Kraków isn’t a huge tourist place like Prague but it does have some tourists and a lot of kids travel there to drink. This leads to a pretty fun crowd and a minimum of selfie sticks.
  2. It’s SOO cheap, we believed Hungary and Czech Republic would be this cheap (they’re not) but Poland really is. The food wasn’t as great as I thought, 6USD for a whole meal.. Okay. I was actually really looking forward to the traditional food but whatever it was still better than the other two and the cheapest.
  3. THEYRE CITY IS ON A GRID. It’s a small city and its SO EASY TO GET AROUND. It’s marvelous. I LOVE GRID SYSTEMS.
  4. I’m kind of a UNESCO nerd and huge parts of the city are considered sights, and they are beautiful.
  5. I didn’t have bed bugs. I’m still kind of recovering from this trauma. And we got our own suite at a hostel (TuttiFrutti), dead center, for about 15USD a night.
  6. The people looked more like me. I haven’t gotten to any of my real home countries yet (sad face) but I have a bit of Polish and it showed. So yeah that’s always pretty cool.
  7. It was like insanely warm. Even though we looked up the temp we still went out with jackets we didn’t need because we just didn’t believe it was that warm. It was in the 50’s… isn’t Eastern Europe supposed to be cold? It was just fantastic.

ANYWAY back to on point, we got into the airport late Friday night around 9. There were buses from the airport but they were awkwardly located. The train’s under construction. So, we got a taxi. It was only about 20pounds so it really wasn’t that bad plus it was so late we just wanted to get in.

We became friends with a group of students on “Erasmus” (same thing as student exchange pretty much) who were from France, Germany, and Spain. We ended up going to a “communist bar” for those who still relish in the old days (or just want a cute place to drink). A beer was literally $1.50 converted. Shots were about $1.

We woke up the next day for a good amount of walking through the town, as I said it’s a pretty small one at that. We were staying in the “new” old town and took the “royal way” (or road) through the city.

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The “main square” was gorgeous and I’m pretty sure considered a UNESCO site. I was starting to believe Europe was just a continent made up of squares… but really this was probably my favorite out of all the ones I’ve seen before.

Beginning of a Polish break dancing act with some nice stretching…

St. Peter & Paul Church

Wawel Castle is one of the huge attractions in Krakow. I honestly didn’t find it that amazing… I mean it was definitely awesome but Prague’s was still probably the coolest. We did not go in though. Keeping past traditions, we do not pay to go in about anywhere. I’ve found the majority of European castles like this you really don’t need to pay to go into. They let you around it and inside is usually pretty boring and there’s some cooler whiskey tour you could pay to go on or site you could walk by for free. I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything and am pretty cool with the turn out. We still went up close and walked the grounds as you can see. The view was actually over the river onto the really new parts of Krakow where a lot of their industry is. It wasn’t really very appealing, I didn’t even think it was worth taking a picture of most of the time (whoops). Although, as an emerging nations/ international business major/junkie I think it was a pretty neat representation of Poland’s advancement. During the recession Poland was the only economy that was still drastically growing in Europe, they’re killing it industric-ally (??) right now.

Not sure where this awkward picture came from but it’s somehow our only one together (??)

We left and went into the “old” old town, “Kazimierz”. I’m not sure how but we somehow managed to stumble into a massive Christian (maybe Catholic?) church grounds there…

Anyway, we kept walking and started to get into the real Jewish area. We couldn’t find any exact addresses but this was the area that they filmed Schindler’s List.

It started raining pretty hard and already getting dark, we weren’t up for much so we went back and headed up the Royal Road. And honestly, the Old Town was just kind of really depressing… it was all ghetto-esque and extremely run down. I know that’s kind of the point of seeing it but still… this is why I didn’t want to go to Auschwitz. Just seeing that much in Krakow was enough to depress me. Although, from what I’ve heard from everyone I completely recommend everyone go and see it and learn from it!! It’s just not exactly my thing.

The Krakow Barbakan

Stumbled upon a massive/old Polish shopping mall…

This was an opera/theater house we ran into, it was so so beautiful.

So, it kind of looks like we didn’t do a whole lot in Krakow… but we really saw the majority of the sites inside the city and I already talked about Auschwitz and my opinion on it. But the one major thing about the city is the drinking. On almost every website they will tell you to go out and explore the night life in Krakow as the biggest attraction. I completely support this and it was a big part of our trip, the last night especially. We explored 4 different bars and I indulged on the extremely cheap Polish vodka. After throwing up three times in the 2 hour long customs line coming back into England and once on the train, I’ve come to the conclusion Polish vodka is literally nail polish remover. Did the bottles even capitalize the P? I doubt it. My main lesson from this trip: don’t drink the Polish vodka. You will vomit, a lot.

Liverpool

For the weekend Nick and I went to visit his friend in Liverpool for his birthday.

Let me start by talking about tickets. To get the train round trip it was 160pounds. THAT IS AROUND 240 USD. TO GO TO ANOTHER PART OF ENGLAND FOR THE WEEKEND. We got a bus that took 1.5 hours longer for 16pounds. That is a 146pound difference. A 213 USD DIFFERENCE. THAT IS HUGE. LIKE WHAT?

Anyway, we somehow managed to catch the bus and got into Liverpool around noon. Another thing about transportation: cabs in Liverpool are CHEAP. You don’t really need them anyway because you can walk almost everywhere, but if need be don’t be afraid to call/hail one. You won’t have to give up the rights to your first born child. Anyway, THIS… Liverpool Cathedral.

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And this… BOMBED OUT ONE? Unfortunately there was an event going on so I couldn’t go inside. But I did see the “I ❤ Bombed Church” shirts. *creativity*

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And there was a Central Perk… like I’m back in the states or something.IMG_2798

As you can see the day was BEAUTIFUL which is apparently not the usual for Liverpool (we soon learned ourselves). The rest of the day Nick and I walked through down a little down toward the docks and museums.

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We start with the Liverpool Museum. It was meant for children and we really didn’t stay long.

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^^ wrong way dude

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We started walking through the docks and to the Tate Modern Art Museum. Here is where Nick declared he found my “real mother” and where I “got my scowl from”.

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Last but not least: THE BEATLES MUSEUM!

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Not sure what’s up with this but there was a couple things about McCartney and Russia? Like Russia had their own shelf in the museum.

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We walked back and it was dark by then. The bombed out cathedral was beautifully lit up…

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We went out for Nick’s friend’s birthday and I got a pizza with half beef curry and half chili. The chili pizza may have been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted.

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The next day it poured down at a nice heavy, steady pace. We stayed inside until our past back to London.