My time in Europe lasted just five short months, from January to May 2015. It nevertheless instilled in me a lifelong desire to return, to live abroad again where travel is so easy and history is so deep. The countries I had the good fortune to visit astonished me; the people I was able to meet encouraged me; the food I was startled to eat delighted me. I learned so much during my limited time there, and I hope to learn, see and experience more every time I return!
During my stay abroad I was based in Scotland, and from there I made journeys to Ireland, Italy, England, a train trip which criss-crossed continental Europe and a journey from Barcelona to Paris with my wonderful mom.
I was privileged to spend the final semester of my undergraduate career at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The city is the most beautiful I have ever seen, and it was an absolute pleasure just to walk the streets every day I was in residence. Each part of town contains its own history and many buildings have their own checkered pasts, which all meant that there were plenty of engaging tales to be heard around every turned corner. I fell in love with Scotland, and hope to visit again as soon as possible.
Ireland enraptured me. It was a cheap, quick plane flight from Edinburgh, and I visited four times while I was living in Scotland. I learned about the history of the country, saw some of its sacred and beautiful places, and visited a famine ship that changed my life forever. Ireland sparked my love and interest in genealogy which is my primary passion today. I found so much in Ireland to love.
I was in Italy for one magnificent week, and my roommate (flatmate) and I traveled from Venice, during Carnevale, to Florence, which is a universe all its own, to Milan, with its magnificent cathedral and otherwise New York-esque vibe.
In all my European travels, I only made two ventures down to England, Scotland's other half on the larger UK island.
The first was a lovely visit to London for three days- it was not enough time in that massive city, but I got to hit the highlights.
The other was a bus trip to the Lake Country- Wordsworth's territory, Hadrian's wall, and an ancient ring of standing stones. What a beautiful area.
Train Travels across Europe
During my April vacation, I took advantage of the Continent's magnificent public transit system, and bought an unlimited-use train ticked with EuroRail. I traveled for two weeks straight, on a bus from Scotland to London to Calais to Amsterdam, and from there took the trains more or less on a whim from locale to locale. I visited nine places in two weeks, couchsurfing and once sleeping on the train. I was armed with just a regular backpack filled with clothes and water, and came home with maps, turtles and stories.
I spent about a week in Barcelona, enjoying the sea and the warm (relative to Scotland) air, wandering down La Rambla, looking at buildings and parks designed by Gaudi. Overall I didn't take to the massiveness of Barcelona, the sprawling nature of the city, but it had one particular instance of shining glory- La Sagrada Familia is the most beautiful church I've ever entered, and I doubt that any structure of architecture will surpass it in my lifetime. I completely agree with the principle behind the design- there is an incredible sense of reverence that washed over me inside that building. Absolutely phenomenal.
My mother and I took the train from Barcelona to Paris, getting to the city of love several hours late. Nevertheless we enjoyed our time there; I was surprised by how delightful I found the architecture, the atmosphere, the food and the tourism. I am not often a fan of large cities, but both London and Paris were pleasant to tour and enjoyable to wander. I think I was influenced by my love of history, and historical architecture and landscape design in particular. Cities in America lack so much when it comes to history, and so I was enthralled with the centuries of Europe before my eyes at every turn. We saw the Louvre, watched the Eiffel tower rise behind a tree as we lunched outdoors at a street cafe. We saw the Opera house upon which "The Phantom of the Opera" was based and I saw the gleaming golden palace and intricate grounds of Versailles.