A Travellerspoint blog

Annecy, France

After Paris, I headed to Annecy. It is a smaller town an hour south of Geneva. I went there because a woman that I worked with the past few months, Stephanie, grew up there and recommended that I visit. I got there by train from Paris and then walked to the hostel. I got really lucky because the hostel I was staying at was the perfect backpacking hostel. This guy named Sergio, who was from Spain, checked me in. After I put down my bags I went to walk around the town. As I was leaving the hostel I ran into Sergio again and we started talking. He asked where I was going and I told him I was heading into town to walk around. He said that he was waiting for a friend and then heading to the beach but they were walking the same direction so he offered to walk with me. I met his friend Fulvia, who was from Brazil. They were both so nice and we really got along. They stopped in town at an amazing sandwich shop which Sergio said was the best. He had been working at the hostel for a year and a half so he knew all the best places in town. They asked if I wanted to go to the beach with them and I said sure. We sat along the beach for a few hours and walked around to see a bit more of the city. It was beautiful. I should clarify that the beach was at Lake Annecy. The lake is huge and has several small towns surrounding it and beyond the towns are giant mountains.
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I talked to Fulvia, who had the next day off, and we made plans to go hiking the next day. The next morning I got up early and walked around town for a few hours. The old city was a few minutes from the hostel. There were lots of small canals with bridges running all over them and all sorts of shops and restaurants in these old beautiful buildings. There were tons of swans and ducks in the river. There is one bridge that looks over an island in the middle of the canal. It is a castle that was used as a prison but you can now tour. It is the most famous bridge in the city. There is also a giant beautiful park right on the lake. I ended up wandering up to a castle and decided to go in. It had been converted into a museum with art, exhibits about the history of the lake, and a separate museum/laboratory about the conservation of the lake.
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In the afternoon I met Fulvia at the hostel for lunch. We were debating about whether or not to go on the hike because there had been possible rain for the afternoon and Fulvia hadn't gone hiking before. There were 2 guys sitting at the table next to us and one of them told us we have to go. He was American and said he had done the hike a few days ago and that it was a must-see. He showed us pictures from the hike so we decided to go. The guy he was sitting with said that he had wanted to go on the hike too so we asked him if he wanted to join us and he agreed. His name was Victor and he was from Switzerland. We all headed off to get ready and then met back in the kitchen. Fulvia said there were two more people joining us. They were both working at the hostel too. One was named Larissa, and she had arrived the same day as me from Brazil. The other was Adrian and he was Sergio's brother. So all 5 of us headed out on this hike. We walked around part of the lake to get to the bottom of the mountain. The first 5 minutes were hard because it was straight uphill in the sun but after the path was shaded by the trees and there were lots of switchbacks which made the hike pretty easy. It took us about 2 hours to get up. The view from the top was pretty amazing. you could see the whole lake and the towns around it. It was a really great experience because none of us really knew each other when we left the hostel but we all became friends by the time we got back.
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It only took us about an hour to get back down. After we were so exhausted but we still wanted to celebrate what we had done that day so we met up for drinks on the patio outside. We sat around and talked for a few hours. Sergio joined us when he finished working and it was so fun. I was supposed to leave the next day to go to Geneva but I decided to stay another night there because I loved the hostel, the town, and the people so much.

The next morning I walked around again. This time there was a giant farmers market with all sorts of cheeses, wines, fish, vegetables, and of course, bread. I got a crepe for breakfast and then wandered around the town for a few hours. In the afternoon I met up with Fulvia, Sergio, Larissa, Adrian, and Victor and we went to the beach. I tried getting in the water but it was too cold and there was a storm coming. That night, there was a holiday in France so there were music festivals in all the streets. It was once a year and I felt really lucky that I had stayed another night to be able to see that. I went into town with Fulvia and Adrian. On every street corner, there were different musicians playing. They were playing all sorts of music and it was so fun to listen to all of it. After a few hours, it started raining so we went back to the hostel and hung out with Sergio, Larissa, and Victor again. That's what I love so much about staying in hostels. You meet people and can immediately hang out and become friends, even for 2 days.

My last morning in Annecy I walked around town on my own, and then again with Larissa. Both Fulvia and Larissa walked with me to the bus station which was so nice of them. It was a little hard to leave that place but it is definitely somewhere that I'll go back to.
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Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 22:33 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris

I went by train from Germany to Paris. My friend Helene picked me up from the train station. I met Helene and her sister Claire when we were in Bali. Claire is actually still traveling in Southeast Asia so I stayed with Helene. There was another guy staying with her too, his name was Sandro and he was from Italy. My first afternoon in Paris we went to Montmartre which is a really nice neighborhood in Paris. We climbed up the stairs to the Sacré-Cœur Church and from there we had a really nice view of Paris. We walked around the neighborhood there for a while too but there were so many people there because it was a Sunday.

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Sunday night we went to the Quai and met with some of Helene's friends. We sat at a cafe along the Seine River and drank cocktails and got to know each other. They were very accommodating and tried to speak English when they could. We watched the sunset and it was a really nice night with good people.

The next morning we got up early to take Sandro to the bus station so he could take a bus to the airport. Afterward, Helene and I went to go see the Eiffel Tower. It actually lived up to my expectations, which was a bit surprising. I feel like for giant landmarks like that, they usually don't end up being as great as they're advertised to be but I really thought the Eiffel Tower was cool. Here are some not very good pictures I took of the Eiffel Tower.

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After the Eiffel Tower, I stopped at a bakery and got a chocolate eclair which was amazing. Then we walked to the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe. That was really cool to see but I didn't stop to do any shopping.

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For dinner, we headed into the Jewish Quarter (per Bruce's recommendation) to get falafel. We went to the most popular restaurant and I ended up getting shakshuka instead but it was really good so I was happy. I asked if it came with pita and the waiter told me it came with a baguette. I thought that was really funny and really French. After dinner, we walked around the area for a while and then met up with some other friends we had made in Bali, Jeremy, Mackenna, and Svea. We walked around until we found the perfect spot along the river to watch the sunset. It was really fun to all be together after 8 (ish) months.

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The next morning Helene and I got a late start and went to meet her friend Leah for lunch. She was really nice and we met up with her again later that night. After lunch, Helene and I went to the Musée d'Orsay, which is a really nice art museum across the river from the Louvre. We spent a few hours walking around and looking at all the paintings. I saw paintings by Renoir, Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh (to name a few). Here are some of my favorite paintings from the museum.

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After the museum, we walked around the Tuileries and the Louvre. I didn't go inside the Louvre because it was closed on Tuesday, apparently the only day of the week it's closed. It would have been smart to look that stuff up in advance but I'll know for next time. I did get to see the big pyramid though and walk around the area for a while. I stopped for 20 minutes to listen to a street musician who was playing the cello. That night we went to meet Leah and another one of Helene's friends for dinner. We sat and talked for a really long time but it was really cool to get to know some other people as well.

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Paris is a beautiful city. It really is. No, it's not the cleanest but all the buildings are so intricately designed and because they are all the same style it gives Paris a really unified feeling.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 10:09 Archived in France Comments (0)

Germany

I spent the last 2.5 days in a small town in southern Germany. I was visiting a friend, Helena, who I'd met last year in Malaysia. I stayed with her in her mom's house in Thaleischweiler-Fröschen. Yeah, that's the name of the town. It's pronounced like Ta-leish-vile-er-frosh-en. It's a mouthful. It was really small. Only around 7,000 people. I loved it though. It was a really pretty area surrounded by mountains and forests. When we got to her house we made pizza and she studied a bit while I sorted out forms for college. Our first night she took me out to one of the nearby towns (30 minutes by car) and we went to the club there because it was ladies night. There is a U.S. army base in that town so there were lots of Americans there. We went with some of her other friends which was really cool. The club played German music and American music so I knew some of the songs.

The next morning Helena made an amazing breakfast. She made boiled eggs and rolls which we ate with all sorts of jams and spreads. She is an amazing cook. Then we went out on a hiking trail that left right by her house. We hiked 7km to see a castle which used to be there. The castle was from the 1800s but was mostly in ruins now which was still cool to see. She told me that she used to go to play there as a kid. I thought that was so cool that she played on castle ruins as a kid. Here are some pictures I took of the castle.
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That night she made a traditional German meal from that region. She made homemade pasta with mushroom and spinach sauce. It was amazing. I didn't take a picture of it although I should have. We both worked for a few hours again and then we watched a movie.

The next day we got up and went to her cousin's farm only 10 minutes away. They had dogs, cows, chicken, rabbits, and horses. The farm was beautiful and we went and helped feed all the animals. After that, we went on another hike about the same length. It was a 40-minute drive to the trailhead but we got to see 3 different castles along the hike. The first castle was pretty much just a tower but there were giant sandstone formations next to it. We saw tons of people who had hiked up there with big backpacks of rock climbing equipment. The second castle was bigger but it was all in ruins. However, we got really good views of the third castle and the first castle and sandstone rocks. Then we hiked up to the third, and largest, castle. We were able to go inside the castle which was so cool. They had lots of information about the history of the castle. Richard the Lionheart was held captive there for a year. I didn't know who he was at first but Helena said that his story was commonly told in Germany. After the castle, we looped back to where we started and drove back to her house. She made another amazing dinner which was sort of like a flatbread. One side had meat and onions and the other had cheese and cranberry sauce. It was so delicious. That night we watched another movie. It was a much more relaxing few days because we weren't in such a big city. It was so nice to see her again after a year and I hope I'll get to see her again next year!
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Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 02:24 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Amsterdam

Hi again! I wanted to cover briefly some of the highlights of my time in Amsterdam.

My two favorite museums were the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. I learned a lot about Van Gogh's life and I got to see how his painting style developed which was really cool. It was evident how much his style changed after he moved to Paris. The paintings from his time in Paris were much brighter and he started focusing on using lines throughout his paintings. I got to see the painting of the sunflowers which is one of my favorites. I also loved the Rijksmuseum and could have spent hours there. I think one of the coolest things I saw there was a giant model pirate ship. I loved all the paintings too. A lot of the artists use light really well to make their pictures look so real.
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I spent a lot of time in Vondelpark which is kind of like the Central Park of Amsterdam. It was huge and I did manage to walk around the whole thing. There were tons of people sitting on the grass because it wasn't raining for a change. There were also lots of people walking, running, and biking through the park. I also spent 2 days in Noordwijk which is right on the beach. It was so windy the first day that I couldn't even walk down to the beach because the sand was blowing so much. I went the next day with some girls from Germany that I'd met at the hostel. We walked along the beach for a while and sat in the sand dunes. I read my book and it was really relaxing. Another highlight was a canal tour. Yes, it was a very touristy thing to do but I really enjoyed it. It was a really different view of the city. We listened to an audioguide that pointed out landmarks and gave us the history of the city and the canals.
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My favorite new food from Amsterdam is stroopwaffles. I am obsessed. It's two really thin waffles with a layer of syrup in between. They are highly addictive. I keep thinking that they would be perfect if you were running late in the mornings and really wanted to have a waffle and syrup in the car. Crossing the street in Amsterdam is definitely as dangerous as people warned me it would be. You don't just have to watch out for cars, you also have to watch out for bikes (which won't stop for people), trams, buses, and other pedestrians.

I also met up with my friend Summer for lunch. She is from Hong Kong but is getting her masters in Amsterdam. We met last year in Bali and it was really fun to catch up and see her again. I also met some cousins, Arnold and Guya Troostwijk. I also met two of their children and one of their grandchildren. They were so sweet and showed me around Amsterdam for a day. Guya cooked an amazing dinner and it was really incredible to meet them.
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Overall, I think Amsterdam is a really cool city but it wasn't exactly my "vibe" for lack of a better word. It is really cool to visit and see all the museums but I don't think it's a place I'd like to live or study in.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 09:07 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

Dublin

So I've spent the past 4 days in Dublin with my friend Mackenzie. I met her last year in Thailand. She is from Vancouver but is also traveling around Europe this summer so we had planned to meet up for a few days.

June 3
We both met up at the hostel and spent time catching up. We hadn't seen each other in almost a year so it was an exciting reunion. We decided to do one of the most traditional Irish things, and go to the pub. We were walking over the bridge next to our hostel on our way to find a pub, and we stopped to take a picture. An Irish guy came up to us and asked if we wanted our picture taken. We agreed and started talking to him and his friend. Their names were Sean and Steven. They were from Dublin but were out taking pictures of the bridge. We asked them for a pub recommendation and they brought us to one of their favorites. We talked for a while and it was really fun to hear about how similar/different life is in Ireland from North America.
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June 4
We got up a little later than planned which meant we didn't get the free breakfast at the hostel. So instead we walked just down the street and got donuts and coffee for breakfast. Then we started making our way to Dublin Castle. It took us a while to get there because we kept stopping anytime we saw an interesting shop or church. We stopped in an art gallery and walked around there for a while. Then we went to Christ Church Cathedral which was beautiful. I'll include some pictures of it below. We finally made it to the castle and toured around. I stopped to read every page in the guidebook. The castle was really beautiful and there were so many small details. Even the doorknobs and ceilings were ornately decorated. After that, we headed back to the hostel to get ready. That night we had booked a traditional Irish music pub crawl. The pub crawl met at a pub near our hostel. We arrived early to find an incredible violinist and guitarist playing. We watched them for a while before the tour left. We had two guides who were incredible. They were really hilarious guys. One played guitar and sang while the other played traditional Irish pipes and whistles. They taught us a lot about traditional music and also explained the meanings behind the songs that they played. Some of the songs had really funny lyrics and others had no vocals. After the pub crawl ended we walked past another pub with a live band. They were playing a song we both really liked so we stopped in to listen. We ended up being there a few hours because the band was so good. We loved all the music they played and we had fun dancing and singing along.
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June 5
We had our first decent breakfast in Dublin and then we went to tour the Kilmainham Gaol Prison. It was an old jail that had been used during the Irish civil war and war of independence. I thought it was really creepy. We did a guided tour so we learned about who was put in the cells and how they died. Many people were hanged in the prison and it was also a port where prisoners were shipped off to Australia and Tasmania. After that, we went to the Guinness Brewery tour. I didn't love this tour because it felt so touristy. I feel like I didn't learn much about the history of the brewery or the process of brewing beer. After that, we had decided to do a bit of shopping. On our way to the shopping street, we passed by the Leprechaun Museum. We found out that the next tour was in 5 minutes so we bought tickets. The museum was probably my favorite in Dublin. The whole basis of the museum was really to tell stories about leperchauns and to correct some stereotypes. For example, leprechauns are not usually dressed in green. They normally wear brown suits to blend in with the ground where they live. The green was added by Walt Disney because it made them more visible on the screen. The museum was designed to make you feel like you were in the stories too. They had rooms to make you think you were in a giants house, or a fairy's hollow, or a leprechaun's house. After that, we did a bit of shopping and called it an early night.
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June 6
Mackenzie and I had booked a tour outside Dublin to go see the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough (pronounced glend-a-lock). Our tour left early so we went to the meeting point after getting free breakfast at our hostel. The first stop of the day was at Powerscourt Gardens. The gardens are ranked #3 in the world by National Geographic and were amazing. We walked around for an hour and a half before getting back on the bus. I think the pictures will do a better job explaining what it looks like.
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We took a lot of pictures.

We stopped for lunch in a really small village. The food was decent though. We walked around a bit after lunch and I found one of the whistles that they had used on the traditional Irish music pub crawl. I ended up buying it because it was only 7 euros and I can play a D major scale and a really basic tune. I sound pretty terrible so hopefully that will improve. We got back on the bus and started to drive to Glendalough. It was a really pretty drive and we stopped several places to get out and take pictures. When we got to Glendalough we walked through the Monastic City which is the ruins and graveyard of an old monastery and then hiked out to the upper lakes. Again I think the pictures do a much better job than I do so here they are.
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June 7
I got up early to pack and get breakfast. Then I walked to Trinity College to go see the Book of Kells. It was really impressive. The books were so old but the designs were so tiny and complicated. It was really impressive. Then I headed back to the airport to fly to Amsterdam.
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Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 04:18 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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