10 days, 4500 kilometers, 7 countries and 4 cities later we are back to Italy. This has been a wonderful experience. Thank you everyone for letting Bus2alps be such a big part of your study abroad experience. See you next time!
Day 9 (Paris)
Our last big group night outing started at Sacre Couer for sunset, and then headed to the great night light show of Paris’ iconic tower. Excitement and anticipation was high as we exited the Trocadero metro stop. Everyone knew they were in store for one of the greatest sites ever. We turn the corner, and wham, there she is, towering high above. Of course I mean the Eiffel Tower. Excitement, joy, (even a few small tears), flowed from everyone as we gazed at one of Europe’s great architectural achievements. Everyone popped some French wine, and watched as the Eiffel Tower twinkled on the hour.
The last full day in Paris, and on the Northern Loop was free for exploration. Many people joined Bus2alps staff, as we headed to Versailles, home to French opulence and excess. The typical tour of the inside was done, with some following it up with a bike ride in the famous gardens. After some time at the palace, we all returned to the city center where last minute, Starbucks, souvenir and designer shopping, and museum visits took place.
As I write this the day is ending, and so is the tour. Soon we will board the bus headed for Florence, Rome, and the end of an incredible ten days together. This trip is a microcosm of the entire study abroad experience. Long trips change your life, give you new perspective. Study abroad is a 4 month delve into this, but Fall Break is just as important of an experience. Everyone made lasting memories and tons of new [best] friends. Myself and the rest of the Bus2alps staff were privileged to have been part of everyone on this group’s experience, and to show all of these students to 4 of our favorite cities in the world.
Days 7 & 8 (Paris)
The romantic and charming city of Paris, with its large boulevards and grandiose palaces. This is the icon of opulence, power, culture, and everything else that is stereotypical about the snooty French. But, they are rightfully confident in themselves, they have an incredible country, city and livelihood. Most of all, the French have style. The first night it seemed as though we never left Amsterdam, heading to Montemartre for the Paris Pub Crawl. Montemarte is home to the Moulin Rouge, Paris’ Red Light District, and in my opinion, Paris’ best neighborhood. Lying under the Sacre Coure are Paris’ most unique and eccentric bars, and homes to many famous painters.
After a night out in French uniqueness, we headed for the heart of Paris. We embarked on our last New Europe Walking Tour, where we learned of French opulence, revolution (and blood thirst when it came to overthrowing royalty), stubbornness, and desire for perfection. The walking tour brought us to Notre Dame, down the lovely smelling River Seine, Pont Neuf, the Louvre and I.M. Pei’s pyramid, and ended on the Champs-Elysees in sight of the Eiffel Tower and Arc du Triomphe. The lasting themes of French history, their greatest treasures were deeply hated by its people on original inception. The Eiffel Tower was hated. I.M. Pei’s pyramid was hated. The French were disgraced that this “imaginary line” they drew to connect the Louvre, Egyptian Obelisk, Arc du Triomphe, and their financial district did not actually line up. So are the French. Oh yea, we also saw where Sarah Jessica Parker walked in Sex and the City (sorry I am unfamiliar with this one).
So where did we head after this French lesson? Well, many headed for the designer shops, while others headed up to Sacre Couer, high up in Montemartre to catch a glimpse of the entire city and to watch the sun set. We all plan to reconvene later to head down to see the Eiffel Tower light up, one last big enjoyment together on what has been an unforgettable vacation.
Day 6 (Amsterdam)
By early afternoon the sun was shining, lighting up this beautiful city. Amsterdam was the perfect place today to wander around. Many on the trip took advantage of a full day to visit multiple sites, including Anne Frank, Heineken, and Van Gogh. Some even rented bikes, a national past time in the Netherlands. As lovely as Amsterdam is, it is time to move on as Paris awaits. See you all in France.
Day 5 (Amsterdam)
Romantic canals, fantastic architecture, the allure of Amsterdam, bike bells ringing incessantly, tulips, trams chasing after you, funny Dutch language, liberal and accepting culture. These are all things that we ran into in our first day in Amsterdam. This is how Amsterdam charms you, with a multi-faceted aura that is comfortable with any ideals, dreams, ambitions, and morals, as long as you contribute monetarily to society. When you boil it down, most of us came to Amsterdam for its beauty, and to understand exactly how such a unique city that intertwines a Red Light District with a residential neighborhood could be so thriving.
We began our delightful time in Amsterdam with a walking tour. Amsterdam is easily the most confusing city in Europe to navigate, so having an experienced guide show you around is paramount. The theme of the day was tolerance and acceptance. We learned how Amsterdam became such a liberal and accepting city, and how, despite their being things that are legal here that are not legal in most of the world, the Dutch don’t necessarily partake in these activities. The Dutch are genius businesspeople and innovative engineers, creating a country that thrived on tax dollars from these otherwise illegal activities, and building a country, and a city on once flooded swampland.
After the tour, most of the group headed off for self-exploration, a common attraction in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is one Europe’s most walkable city (despite it being hard to navigate). The joy of Amsterdam is to take off for hours, amble around the street, and learn first hand why Amsterdam is this unique city. For those who chose a more concrete activity there was a somber moment at the Anne Franke House, an adventure at the Heineken Experience, art history at the Van Gogh museum, climbing on the IAMSTERDAM sign, and pancakes and waffles at the Carousel breakfast shop. See you tomorrow for day 2 in this amazing city!
Days 3 & 4 (Berlin)
After a night reminiscing on songs from our childhoods at Lucerna, we made our way north, over the border into Germany, past Dresden and into Berlin. We settled into our accommodations in the shadow of still seemingly communist buildings. While some people relaxed in our cool hostels, others made their way up Berlin’s TV Tower for views of Germany’s capital, and to the East Side Gallery, a large mural of anti-communist and freedom propaganda.
Berlin is one of Europe’s most dynamic and culturally diverse cities. Varying interests and influences have shaped this city into a hodge podge of ideals and themes. What better way to explore these than through a pub crawl. Yes, on initial thought it can be assumed that this is just a giant party through Berlin’s Oranienbergerstrasse. It is much more. The pub crawl actually showcased just how distinct of a city, and how these polarizing ideas mix in Berlin.
The next morning followed up with a complimenting tour with New Europe. This tour brought us through the Brandenburg Gate, past the Reichstag, into the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, and ended at the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. During this time we learned how Berlin has been such an influential city in its short time of people a major civilization. The tour pieced together how the Nazi regime brought to prominence and then crushed this city; how this led to it coming under Communism, and the rise and fall of 2 Berlins, East and West. This is one of the best tours you will be on in Europe. Afterwards we checked out many of Berlin’s other sites, followed by a group dinner right on the River Spree at a traditional German Brewhouse. We then loaded up our chariots and set off for Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most wonderful cities….
Days 1 & 2 (Prague)
The first stop of this 10 day adventure across Northern Europe’s best cities. We pulled into the glowing gem of Eastern Europe, Prague, and got ourselves situated in world-class hostels Mosaic House and Czech Inn. After a recharge from the overnight bus rides, we embarked on our walking tours of this great city, courtesy of New Europe Tours. Our guides Isaac, Jana and Christian met us and gave us the full scope of what happened in this city through their own boisterous enthusiasm, and over-the-top sense of humor. These tours were perfect for the college-aged students over the group as they blended some history, lots of jokes, and some nonsensical stories that poked fun at the Czech people that helped tie it all together. Yes, one of the major stops on the tour was Starbucks. Way to go Howard Schultz!
After enjoying the looks of disappointed tourists waiting to see something cool at the Astronomical Clock (only to find that the clock is beautiful, but the show it puts on is overhyped), we split for lunches at traditional the Czech locale called Lokal, and Bohemian Bagels (for those like me who missed a little bit of home). The first night we reconvened for The Clock Tower Pub Crawl, a tour through Prague’s famous, and cultural underground nightlife scene.
Saturday morning we awoke to our bountiful Czech Inn and Mosaic breakfasts before heading off to see Prague Castle. Some of the group went further in depth of Prague Castle, hopping on the New Europe Prague Castle tour, a 3 hour explanation of the significance of this 9th century structure. The rest joined us Bus2alps staff on our ‘Wonderfully Awesome Bus2alps sightseeing tour of the other side of the river in Prague.” The long name doesn’t justify how awesome it was. We spent a couple hours exploring the West side of Vltava River, going through the Castle District, giving peace a chance at Lennon Wall, romancing the Charles Bridge, and of course taking a pit stop at Howard Schultz’s espresso laden empire (Prague has about 8 Starbucks). Over half of our group lunched on traditional Czech goulash and potato dumplings at U Flecku, Prague’s largest brewery.
Before we head off to Berlin, we need one last night out in Eastern Europe’s top nightlife spot. Of all the eclectic clubs in Prague, many of us will head to Lucerna, where we will start with ABBA and end with Coolio. Lucerna is one of the coolest clubs in Europe, blasting music froms the 80s and 90s while the whole crowd dances and sings along. After a night a flock of seagulls night and parachute pants, we head off to Berlin!