San Sebastian

I cannot reasonably express just how beautiful the costal town of San Sebastian is. Mountains drop off into the ocean while ships are anchored in the cove where the city resides. Gorgeous vistas and an amazing sunset were what greeted me on my first night in Spain. And the next three days it rained.

Some people just have all the luck in that respect I suppose, but I was now two for two on beach towns welcoming me via deluge. Regardless, it was a lovely town where I met many lovely people (mostly Australians for some reason) with quite an active nightlife.

La Rochelle

The weather in Nantes had been pretty bad and ended up following me to the coastal city of La Rochelle. I arrived at my hostel resembling a drowned rat as I had forgotten my umbrella in the car that had given me a ride between the towns. The place that I was staying decided to host a cookout in spite of the rain and I helped to earn my keep (and the free food) by assisting with the set up. A lot of locals who were clearly all well acquainted showed up and it was nice to interact with people other than just fellow travelers.

The next day I decided to walk to the beach since it was finally a nice day. La Rochelle is largely a harbor city, however there are two small beaches that are popular with the locals. Unfortunately, I am accustomed to the Atlantic ocean after it has been warmed significantly by southern waters and couldn’t handle the temperature that everyone else seemed to enjoy. The wind was also quite strong making a great day for the numerous sailboats, but not quite so conducive to seaside sleeping.

The city center of La Rochelle is largely pedestrian with food carts and artisan booths open any day of the week. Walking around the enjoyable atmosphere I could spot many foreigners such as myself mixed in with the local color. It has a very sophisticated vibe for such a touristy place with winding cobblestone streets and large medieval towers marking the harbor entrance, and I enjoyed it immensely.


The capital of Brittany was my next stop. Especially after visiting Fourgeres and hearing some of the history of the region I was excited to get to visit Nantes. I only spent one full day there, but I got as much of the experience as I possibly could. 

The Chateau was free to the public so I went and walked those ramparts as many school groups ran around the courtyard and moat park having picnic lunches. There was a small hedge maze that I got to wander around (and by “wander around” I mean pretend that I was looking for the Triwizard Cup) before I went to the Nantes Cathedral. 

It’s always very interesting to me when I visit the grand churches in Europe that you can almost always tell immediately whether or not they were bombed in the second world war. Not by the structural reconstruction which is usually pretty seamless, but by the windows. In the case of the Nantes Cathedral, half of the Nave was blown apart while the rest survived and in order to commemorate this the windows that were lost were replaced by abstract patterns of stained glass as opposed to biblical representations. This was not the first time I’d seen a church with this particular style of half preserved half modern glass.

In Nantes, someone decided to build a giant steampunk Elephant that tourists can ride. I have no idea why, but it’s there. Honestly it is a work of art in and of itself and the scale brings to mind Tolkien’s Oliphaunts in an interesting way. 

All in all, Nantes was a quiet city with many large parks and pockets of tranquility. 

Fougeres and Mont Saint Michel

After arriving in France, I spent one night in a pretty little coastal town called Cherbourg after which I promptly made my way further south to the city or Rennes. Once there I met with a lovely woman who was more than willing to show me around the region of Brittany, including the most important towns to visit. As it turns out I didn’t spend very much time in the city save to sleep.

My first day I took a bus to the town of Fougeres which is home to the largest Medieval castle in Europe. I started my meandering in the town proper which is situated on the top of a mountain, then slowly went through public gardens and gorgeous churches down to the Chateau nestled in the valley. The town was lovely and exactly what one would expect from a small French village right down to the cobblestones, but it was clear that the main attraction for the town was the massive castle which played a large role in the unification of France along with being home to the regional fairytale character Melusine. 

After crossing the drawbridge that allowed one to pass the moat and enter the fortress, I wandered through the various towers and along the ramparts to view the defensive arrow slots. It felt like I was walking around a movie set, but every so often there would be a description of the history of the place to remind one that “Oh yea. This is actually a real castle.” 

My favorite part of the tour was their retelling of the story of Melusine, for whom a tower is named. According to the legend Melusine was cursed for practicing her magic recklessly to become half serpent on the weekends, however she is still able to keep her powers. One day she meets a knight who falls in love with her and they are married. She uses her magic to give him everything from land to riches- only with the caveat that he can’t see her on Saturdays. One day his curiosity gets the better of him and he sees her in her serpent form. She is so furious that he has broken her rule that she turned into a dragon and flew away, only returning to bring bad news.

The next day I went to Mont Saint Michel which is home to a very famous Abbey built into a mountain that becomes an island during high tide. Getting out there was interesting as there is currently quite a bit of construction in order to make the town more accessible for tourists- therefore making it harder. The Abbey was gorgeous with amazing views of the Normandy coastline from the courtyard. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast and raining on and off for my visit, but I did get to see the noontime mass, hearing the monks and nuns singing the cantor was worth the price of admission.


You may or may not be aware, but there are only two nights a year when the general public is allowed to be among the massive pillars of Stonehenge. It is a protected heritage site and officials are worried about general wear and tear, however it is also considered a sacred religious site for many pagans and druids throughout Europe, so on the Solstice in December and again in June admission is free to all who wish to come and witness the rites.

It’s also a popular night for hippies to come and play in drum circles on the shortest night of the year.

In one of my London hostels I met a girl named Nadia who had also heard about the festival and was planing on attending. We had agreed to meet up, but didn’t follow through with a meeting point so imagine my surprise when I ran into her on my way to get in line for the bus! She and her friend Rachel were rather close to the front so I happily joined in with them and climbed aboard the double-decker bus headed for the stones.

After sitting a forty minute traffic jam, we arrived as the sun was setting. As we were walking in I noticed someone with a rather impressive camera stoping every few minutes to turn around, so I looked to see the amazing skyline that we were walking away from. A few minutes later, Rachel, Nadia’s friend, asked to take a picture with on of the generators because it said “Power Electronics” which is her major. After a bit of an awkward exchange, we were laughing about it when the guy with the camera from earlier came up saying “Sorry, but I have to ask… Why DID you take a picture with that light?” As it turned out his name was Jon and he had come in from London on a whim. Thus our merry band of three became four.

Upon finally arriving at the Stones, we all kind of scattered to take as many pictures as we could before the sun went down and the crowds made it impossible. The sunset was incredible, with the sun itself turning into a pink ball floating on the horizon. During that time we met a girl named Bethan who led us to a group of people who were far more prepared than we, with blankets and a clearly marked nest of things. It is incredible how jovial and friendly everyone was. Naturally there were a few drunk college guys, but for the most part it was just 30,000 people looking to celebrate summer and each other in a fun and lighthearted atmosphere. Making friends was easy.

I enjoyed walking around taking pictures of some of the characters that were present, and listening to the rites and rituals of those here to celebrate religiously. As night fell, my wandering decreased but the drum circles became more and more prominent. I honestly believe that there was not one moment from sunset to sunrise that a drum was not being played. Around one thirty the chill began to set in, so our group of misfits huddled together for warmth for the next few hours until dawn appeared fresh and rosy fingered.

After such an amazing sunset, the sunrise was a long time in coming. The sky had lightened a full hour before actual daybreak, but it was definitely worth the wait. Legend has it that on the Summer solstice there is a specific stone that aligns with the sunrise, however I was lucky to even be next to the circle, those who were inside had been waiting in there all night. After the sun made its first appearance a massive cheer went up over the crowd for the official arrival of Summer. However, once it was fully in the sky, the spell was broken and everyone began the long walk back to civilization.

It was defiantly an amazing experience that I will never forget, and if I ever have the chance to go again I will do so in a heartbeat.


After living the London lifestyle, (aka having to spend so much money on food you can’t do anything else) I decided to take a bus and visit the Welsh capital of Cardiff. The first major difference I noticed was the weather. Where London had been blustery on and off, Cardiff was gorgeous with blue skies and a perfect breeze.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest however, my main reason for visiting is because I, as some of you may know, am a huge nerd. I have a deep love for many different aspects of nerd pop culture, including Doctor Who. Since Cardiff is one of the chief filming locations for the BBC, they have set up something called the Doctor Who Experience which is this really cheesy interactive walkthrough adventure followed by a museum of all the old props. I loved it. Sitting and having Daleks scream at you before being shuffled into a forest that just happens to be inhabited by weeping angels and then having to help the Doctor get back to the Tardis? Who wouldn’t geek out over that?

The exhibit afterwards was actually really interesting, being a theatre nerd myself I could really appreciate the costuming details and the different props used. I walked around the Roald Dahl Pass and Mermaid Quay afterwards and window-shopped.

Upon returning to my hostel I met up with some people who wanted to find a pub to watch the second England game. Luckily for us, nobody in Wales really cared about the outcome (there were a few fans, but hardly dominant) so the poor showing on Englands part didn’t put a damper on the rest of the evening. The nightlife in Cardiff is actually quite active so we enjoyed the rest of our time.


London was a bit of an exhausting adventure for me. I traveled from quiet and idilic Bruges to the bustling metropolis that makes up England’s capital- and I didn’t have a bed. My first scheduling mistake for this entire trip just happened to be on the day that my host country was playing their first game in the Cup, which meant that everyone and their cousin were in the capital to watch the match. Unfortunately for me I thought I had booked for Saturday and Sunday nights, but as it turned out I had reserved for Sunday and Monday night. Once I realized my mistake, and that any of the available beds were going to be astronomically priced, I found a place to store my luggage for the night and resolved to simply stay out and celebrate England’s inevitable win over Italy. 

I went to Piccadilly Circus in the SoHo region assuming that it would be broadcast there, and when eleven o’clock rolled around I -along with about three hundred others- was surprised to find that the largest screen in the city wasn’t playing the game! A great scattering occurred after as everyone desperately tried to find a bar with a large enough tv to stand outside the window and press your nose to the glass. My final destination was a place called “The Round House” where I was able to pack in enough to lean against a table. 

Energy was high and people were very drunk, especially once the score tied up. I was really looking forward to just bar hopping and enjoying the festivities of a Saturday night in London… and then they lost. The game was over at one, the bar was closed by one twenty, and I was left sitting int McDonalds (the only place still open, and overflowing with disappointed brits) with nothing to do with the next five hours. Everything was closed, so I ended up wandering around Westminster until going and sitting in a train station. As soon as I could retrieve my luggage I went to my hostel, checked in and slept in the common area until my room was ready.

After waking from my much needed nap, I set about wandering around the city. I walked around Westminster by day and saw Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace- with Big Ben being the most exciting of the three for me. There is just something so surreal about seeing such and iconic monument, it almost makes you giddy. I went down to the Tower of London and saw the drawbridge go up on the Tower Bridge, so all in all I hit most of the touristy London things. 

In the city there are bicycle stands where you can rent a bike for unlimited half hour rides over a 24 hour period for only 2 pounds, which is quite a deal considering one trip on the tube costs close to 5, so that was how I chose to get around. Now most of the time this was a great quick way to get around, I just grabbed a bike and off I went. The only time I really ran into difficulty was on my last trip, when I had my 20 lbs backpack and my 5 lbs boots on my feet. Now generally I consider myself to be in good shape, I’ve been walking everywhere I go in Europe, hiking in Germany, etc. As it turns out, I’m not. I found myself huffing and puffing up the slightest hills and trying my hardest just to make it to my destination on time. 

In the end, London was really fun but very expensive. Big shock, I know. The thing that really gets you is the size of the city. Most places that I have been you can conceivably walk from one side to the other in two or three hours. London is so unfathomably large that I have no idea how long it would take. I do have some great memories however, including watching the USA vs. Ghana game in the hostel bar and wining a bet with an Australian who had the nerve to doubt my arm. He had to sing Enrique Inglasias for karaoke.


Happy Solstice everyone! #stonehenge #sunrise #summersolstice #festival #travel #backpacking #beautiful #eurotrip  (at Stonehenge)


Happy Solstice everyone! #stonehenge #sunrise #summersolstice #festival #travel #backpacking #beautiful #eurotrip (at Stonehenge)


I arrived in Bruges after spending about three hours in Brussels and deciding that I didn’t want to be in Brussels anymore- a decision I most certainly did not regret. As soon as I got off the train, I met three English guys who were staying in the same hostel. (Generally speaking, when you’ve been traveling as long as I have you can spot your wandering brethren easily.) We sat in the hostel bar and talked for awhile before being able to check into our rooms. 

You may or may not be familiar with the movie “In Bruges” but it is more or less accurate to what I experienced during my visit, in essence- a beautiful medieval city with cobbles stone streets and canals filled with swans that makes you feel like your living in a fairytale. (However, to my knowledge no dwarves were harmed while I was there.) I was easily entertained by walking around the small city and taking picture after picture of the canals and churches there while occasionally sticking my head into the Belgian chocolatiers in order to get a free sample. At night (well, six o’clock. It didn’t actually get dark until 10:30) however, the main part of the city rolled up the sidewalks and the people headed to the few pubs in town. Conveniently for me and my new friends, one of the most popular spots in the city was actually the hostel bar!

This was where I ended up watching the first game of the world cup, in a hostel bar whose design aesthetic I can only describe as hipster saloon  with local Belgians mixed in with my fellow travelers overwhelmingly cheering for Croatia, mainly to spite the handful of actual Brazilians present. Needless to say, the high energy of the game led to a great atmosphere.

I returned the next night for the Spain vs. Holland game and tried to root for the Red Fury while swimming in a sea of orange. However the game didn’t hold my interest for long and I ended up listening to two Australian sailors try to explain the game of cricket to limited success. The rest of the night was spent with my friends from the first night until the early hours of the morning when the barman kicked us out.

Bruges itself is an amazingly beautiful city with unique and beautifully preserved architecture, but what made my time there so enjoyable was the people that I met while there.


In my opinion, Amsterdam lives up to the hype. I stayed here for four days and enjoyed avery minute of it! Unfortunately food is very expensive here which cut substantially into my culture budget, however I did go to see the Van Gogh museum which was really amazing. They hold his famous “Sunflowers” and “Almond Blossoms”, but really its much more interesting to be able to chronologically see his work evolve as he experiments with color and style, then drastically change as his madness takes over.

Rest of my time was spent walking around the cites many canals, and dodging cyclists as they zoomed by. I did make the obligatory visit to the infamous red light district, but I went with two guys from my hostel which made it infinitely more entertaining for me. I think my favorite reaction was “It just feels like some kind of demented toy store.” needless to say, they were uncomfortable and we didn’t linger long. 

There is an artisan district called Spui (pronounced spao Dutch is weird.) that held a streetfest last Sunday that featured music, performances and (of course) food. Walking down here was fascinating due to the copious amounts of graffiti that grace the walls of the street. There is a famous house called The Snake Houseso named for the large reptile that adorned the side of the building that is facing demolition by the city, so they were holding an exhibition for local artist to sell their work and raise awareness for the preservation. 

All in all, Amsterdam is just a laid back city with beautiful canals lined with flowers and bicycles. It’s definitely a must see.

Frankfurt and Köln

Due to my struggles in Stuttgart I arrived in Frankfurt late at night and only had one full day to see the city instead of the anticipated two. However, the next day I woke up to go walk around the city center and lo and behold there was another street food fest. It has become my observation that any excuse that German cities can find to celebrate eating, they will take. Despite the dreary weather, it was nice to walk around the very modern city center. I mainly wandered around the various kitschy souvenir shops and saw the old parliament buildings.

The next day I went to Köln, or Cologne for English speakers. The weather here was beautiful and I spent most of my day here just seeing the various beautiful parks and going in and out of churches. All told, I enjoyed Germany (particularly the soft pretzels) but I was happy to move on to the Netherlands.


To be perfectly honest, this city was the hardest for me so far, which is why I’ve been avoiding writing about it. However, it has been a week and a half since I left- so really it’s time.

Kate, one of my fellow ISA students in Morocco, was visiting her past host family in one of the nearby towns so I decided to come and see her in order to catch up on the month that we spent apart. Unfortunately at the last minute she was unable to put me up and the hostels in Stuttgart were all full, so I turned to couchsurfing in order to find a place to stay. There is a huge international community of travelers who post that they are willing to host and show people around when traveling and it’s a well maintained system or reviews and verifications- so perfectly safe. I was so lucky to be able to do so because honestly if it hadn’t been for my wonderful host Elham and her son Sam my time in Stuttgart would have been miserable.

The Saturday of my stay I was finally able to meet up with Kate (there were several snafus with transportation and communication- which was the main source of my frustration with the city) and she took me around the downtown part of the city. Most of Stuttgart was destroyed in WWII resulting in an interesting fusion of modernity and classical architecture. My favorite example of this can be seen in the main cathedral near the old palace. The exterior is completely restored to look as an old german church ought to- but once you go inside you can see high cedar beams being supported by stainless steel and traditional stained glass paired with a more contemporary pattern of color. The organ pictured above was my favorite example. 

After Stuttgart we went to the nearby town of Gerlingen, where Kate was staying, because there was a “very typically German” street festival happening called Sommerfest. Most of it consisted of street food, which I certainly didn’t mind, and a carshow. However the main attraction was a Ferris Wheel that had been set up in the center of town. Kate used her connections and got us free tickets to go up and see the quaint German town from above. It was beautiful, with red roofs and just one small church in the town center.

The next day Kate and I went hiking in the woods near Gerlingen in order to reach a popular picnic destination called Schloss Solitude. Basically it was this old governors palace that was surrounded by horse ranches and offered an amazing view of Stuttgart in the valley below. We stayed there for a bit just enjoying catching up with each other and eating the brats we bought from a nearby (overpriced) cafe.

We made plans to message and meet up on the Monday of that week, but again technology had other plans so I didn’t get to see Kate for the rest of my time in Stuttgart, however instead I got to spend some time with my kind host Elham! We ended up going to a local women’s shelter and helped sort clothing donations for a resell store, and it was really fun just sitting and talking with the other volunteers and eating the cherries that Elham had brought from her sisters garden. I was even given a nice jacket for my efforts, her exact words were “It’s your style I think. You should have it, it’s too strange. We wouldn’t be able to sell it.” Which is probably true, its a really strange jacket. 

I left Stuttgart the next day, again having transportation troubles, and happily went on to Frankfurt.


i decided to make a day trip from Munich back to Austria in order to visit the birth place and home of Mozart. I took a relatively early train and got there right as the rain started. The deluge did not serve to discourage me from wandering around downtown and seeing all the tacky souvenirs that one could buy (Including Mozart Bobbleheads and rubber ducks).

For the most part it was uneventful, I simply went in and out of churches avoiding the rain and randomly hearing a few bars of melody from “The Sound of Music” which was filmed there. 

Honestly my favorite part was walking around the grounds of the Abby that sits near the top of the mountain and seeing the graveyard. Each plot was treated as a separate garden alive with flowers and candles and whatnot. I thought that it was the most beautiful cemetery I had seen since Rabat.


After leaving Alexis I headed to Munich, the city most famous for having the second most underwhelming clock (after Prague). Unfortunately during my stay the weather was cold and blustery so I had to miss out on some of the recommended attractions. However, I enjoyed exploring the downtown region and looking at all of the shops. 

Central Munich has a very old Glockenspiel fixed into the town hall that puts on a show three times a day of a medieval royal wedding complete with a jousting match. It was actually very cute and I was fortunate when I visited to be standing near one of the sassiest tour guides in Germany, therefore getting all sorts of fun information.

A few days prior Alexis and my family had teamed up in order to shame me into replacing my trusty old Toms and buy new shoes for the last bit of my trip, so I spent most of the rainy afternoon ducking in and out of the many shops that lined the downtown area of Munich, occasionally coming across adorable souvenir shops filled to the brim with cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers. 

After shopping I went to the oldest and most famous Beer-house in the world, the Hofbrauhaus. There I was greeted with traditional Bavarian music, home made beers and a large hall filled to the brim with tourists and locals alike. After hunting for a seat, I eventually settled near another solo traveler who was in Munich on business. The food was pretty good, but what you were really paying for there was the experience and atmosphere.

The next day that I spent in Munich, I took a day trip to Salzburg, which I will write about later, was Ascension day and therefore a bank holiday in the town. All of the stores were closed, with most of the restaurants now being frequented by patrons in the traditional Bavarian lederhosen. I chose to spend the day in the Duetsches Museum, which is a huge science museum. Now for those of you who know me, science and I do not have the best relationship, however it was open and relatively cheap. 

The museum itself was huge, parts of it spanning four stories, with information on any subject you can imagine from aeronautics to computer science to genetics. Unfortunately, only around one third of the information cards had English, and the English it did have was perplexing to comprehend for someone who is more accustomed to the humanities. By the time I was through I was quite exhausted at having so much to look at, but my time there did serve for one thing- I was homesick for the first time since leaving in January. There were two reasons for this, 1) while I prefer not to go anywhere near the subject, both of my parents love and teach science while my sister chose to major in Physics for her undergraduate career. I would look at an exhibit and think about how much more they would be enjoying what was to be seen, and how much longer it would be taking to travel through the museum. 2) There was a section on aerospace, and seeing the models of all the space shuttles made me nostalgic for the times when I was younger and would go outside with my family to watch the shuttles launch, only to hear the sonic boom two weeks later when the astronauts returned. Its always surprising what hits you.


Last Friday Alexis and I piled into a carpool from Linz to Prague where all that was played for the next four hours was classic rock, occasionally interrupted by German Metal. We arrived in the rain and after a bit of a struggle, meaning that the directions provided were rather poor, we found our Hostel. Upon entering I almost went into reverse culture shock due to the fact that there were so many Americans. I was honestly surprised because I had been all through Italy (which I would expect to have more of a draw for the traditional tourist) and barely met a handful, but in the Czech Republic they were present in droves! So strange.

Now when I go to a city, I barely plan any further than a way to get there and a place to stay. Alexis, however, is a planner. During our car ride she read a travel book that she had downloaded to her tablet and figured out all of the things that she wanted to do before hand. We immediately set out to find the Old Town Square, which was about a block away from the hostel. Once we got there shehad her eBook out and read me all of the interesting facts about the sights within the square that I would have never found out otherwise. Most of the information was helpful and cleverly written, however I am not sure that I will be able to forgive the sensational description given of the famous Astronomical Clock. This guide book spoke of the twelve Apostles appearing while the Gluttony and Wrath danced a deadly dance below, all accompanied by the ringing of bells. To say that the event was an anti-climax would be an understatement. Standing in the crowd, in the rain, we waited for the top of the hour, said “that’s it?” and then went on our merry way.

The clock itself is beautiful- so beautiful in fact that the designer was blinded immediately after its completion so that he could not create anything to compare. Which seems a bit harsh, but hey- it was the dark ages. The rest of the square is equally lovely, with towering churches and baroque facades on the storefronts that surround the popular area. I haven’t seen so many wedding portraits being shot since I left Charleston.

The next day we woke up early to get breakfast and make it across the Charles Bridge before the crowds became too dense. The bridge is lined with many statues depicting religious or historical events, with vendors and musicians dotted in-between keeping the pedestrian path rather bustling.

We went to the Palace Museum at the top of the hill, but really the palace is the least of the attractions that you get for your money. The entry ticket also gives you access to the historical barracks (one of which Franz Kafka used as a residence), a nice small Basilica, and some great views of Prague. The true marvel to be seen however is the Cathedral of St. Vitus. The gothic style building dominates the skyline and the interior is host to amazingly breath-taking stained glass windows. It took 600 years to complete and the details to be seen could easily have taken up our entire afternoon.

Most of the month of May is host to the Czech Beer Festival, so we decided to wander over and czech it out. Now, most everything that we had seen thus far had been aimed at tourists and therefore had English description. It was made clear to us that this was an event by locals for locals once we arrived and everything was in Czech. We played a dangerous game of “look for words that kind of seem similar and hope” which payed off pretty well for our first round (we relied on the similarity of the word “Lime”). For the second I used the almighty Google to aid in my decision while Alexis asked someone what they had bought. Poor Alexis, who actually enjoys most beers ended up with a sweet sugary substance that would make a Smirnoff Ice seem strong, meanwhile I got one that, while still being quite sweet (it was blueberry flavored), at least still resembled beer. 

For our final morning in the city we decided to visit the Jewish Museum located in the old Ghetto, and on the way grabbed some delicious crepes from a street vendor that had set up in the square. (When we asked about the occasion for all the extra food the kind woman told us that there was and Ice Hockey tournament that weekend.) The museum itself is really more of a string of different sites within the complex that included several synagogues and an extremely overcrowded cemetery. Many things were on display, most items having been appropriated by the Nazi’s in order to make a museum “for the extinct race of people”. The most powerful exhibition was a room of children’s drawings that were done during the war that depicted their life in the Ghetto and being taken from their homes in fear. Almost all of the children were killed in camps.

After lunch Alexis and I parted ways so that she could get back to the books that I had been distracting her from.