The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of discovering beautiful places and winding up in embarrassing situations — a combination only traveling abroad can offer.
On our escapade across mid-Europe, my family and I have have visited Paris, the western coast of France, Bruges and Brussles, Belgium and eastern Germany.
Each place taught me different lessons to bring into my semester abroad. Of this I’m thankful, not only because, hopefully, same mistakes won’t be made twice (i.e. if you leave luggage in your car in Paris, it will get broken into), but also because I know my knowledge and experience will only build from here.
I could write at least 500 words on all I learned over these two weeks, but I know you’ll be tempted to stop reading after paragraph five (and hopefully not before). So here are some photos and some lessons. They’re in no particular order, but if you’re strapped for time, jump down to the Neuschwanstein (no, it’s actually spelled like that) Castle. It might have been the highlight of the trip. Now, I’m going to go get settled into my new flat on Rue Souveraine. Cheers!
Lessons from this gorgeous, albeit ritzy, fishing village on the west coast of France:
- If mussels are in season in Europe, order them. They are delicious.
- Tudor architecture is grand in its own way.
- People dress to the nines in towns like this one…leave your ‘Merica t-shirts at home.
Omaha Beach, France // Ste Mere Eglise, France
Lessons from an incredibly sobering day:
- History is important – take time to learn it outside of classrooms.
- You can hear statistics (like 9,387 souls are buried at this cemetery), but sometimes you have to see a visual to get it.
- Life as I know it has truly been bought at a price.
Bruges, Belgium // Ghent, Belgium
Lessons from these wonderful, historic little Belgium towns:
- Belgians (especially Belgian monks) really, really know how to brew beer.
- Make sure you always see what a town is famous for (i.e. Michelangelo’s sculpture in Bruges).
- If you love a town from just walking around, you’ll love it even more from above. Find a way to get a bird’s-eye view.
(not to be confused with The Berg, CoMo)
Lessons from a town that’s been teaching Germany since 1386:
- Seeing the castle in ruin reminded me of this important lesson.
- Appreciate small moments for the gifts they are, like watching the sun set beautifully over the Rhine River.
- If you think maybe traditional German food and your stomach won’t get along, take the coward’s approach and go for Italian. Every time.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Lessons from one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been:
- We can build the most beautiful empire ever, but that doesn’t change the fact we’re going to die (sorry that sounds so depressing, but really though, read a little about the story of the king who built this place. He barely lived in the castle a month before he died).
- Life is short, so fill it with what you find breathtaking. For me, that’s nature. (complete 180 from the lesson above, eh?).
- Everyone should experience a real-life fairy tale at least once.
Lessons from the big city:
- Don’t be an idiot (see paragraph three above).
- Time spent in a café is time well spent.
- A big, vibrant city has someplace for everybody. Take the time to find your someplace.