Reflecting on Travels Pre-COVID

Greetings, everyone in the blog-verse! I hope all of you are having a good weekend so far despite all of the civil unrest we have been experiencing here in the US. Just incase anyone reading wondered: I believe that Black Lives Matter. I believe that there needs to be some changes made to the way law enforcement utilizes their power, and I also believe that Jesus is King. I have a lot of feelings about the current state of the world, but let’s all remember what’s most important: KINDNESS. Let’s all be kind to one another, ok? Ok.

After the craziness of life lately, I have been reflecting on my trip abroad in the fall of 2019. Not only do I miss the thrill of travel and the opportunities to discover new places and culture, but I miss TRAVELING. COVID sucks a little bit, let’s be honest. But what doesn’t suck is going through old pictures and daydreaming about future trips!

Here is my brief account of my solo travels around Europe from 2019. I hope it inspires you to go out and plan some excursions in the future!

October 7-12 // ICELAND (with my mom!)

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I kicked off my trip with a 5 day visit to Iceland! I had wanted to visit this volcanic island for quite some time, and was happy to finally make that dream come true.

I did a 5 day, 4 night tour with Gj Travel, so I didn’t have to worry about renting a car or getting my own accommodations. It was super nice, and pretty cheap for everything being included (minus food). I landed in Iceland at 6am and spent the entire day wandering around Reykjavik. It’s such a fun little sea town! I visited the viking museum, animal reserve park, and wandered through Hallgrimskirkja (the church).

Hallgrimskirja

After some dinner, and the most expensive gin & tonic EVER, I finally hit the hay. The next morning, I wandered down the checkered street to grab some coffee before meeting up with our tour bus. We drove around the city, then started out towards a little fishing village for lunch. Following that, we crossed over to the bridge between continents, and then soaked in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon! We ended our day in the small town of Hella in the southern peninsula. I got my own little cabin by the river and saw the most amazing sunset!

That night, our group learned about the Northern Lights and stayed up watching. There was a glimmer of green in the distance, but that’s the best view we got. The next morning, we set off to see some waterfalls. To begin, we went to Seljalandsfoss, a very pretty waterfall where you can go behind the falls! I ran around like a crazy person because NATURE.

Then, we went off to a museum right by Skogafoss, and learned all about the art and quirkiness of Iceland’s past. After a latte, I then proceeded to run around Skogafoss. You could take a little trail up to the top of the waterfall then go further back to see cascades running through the hillside. SO PRETTY.

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From the top of Skogafoss

That afternoon, we headed to the black sanded coast of Vik! The amazing rock features were so unreal, which is probably why the beach was crazy busy. After snapping some pics, I wandered down the beach away from the crowds and witnessed a sweet German couple getting engaged! I snapped a picture as it was happening, then waited around awkwardly to get their email address. Bottom line, if you ever need a secret engagement photographer, I’m your girl.

There were no Northern Lights that night, but our group enjoyed some hot chocolate and sharing of cultures. For example, some Aussie girls showed me pictures from a Spongebob theme party they went to. Their costumes were amazing.

The following day, we started at an organic tomato greenhouse!! We got a tour of the property then got to indulge in everything tomato! Beer, soup, ice cream, bloody mary’s, etc. EVERYTHING TOMATO. Following this, we got to meet some real Icelandic horses!! My favorite!! We got to pet the horses then watch a private horse show where we learned all about the different gaits Icelandic horses have. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, honestly.

Next, we headed out to a couple National Parks (I honestly don’t remember their names) and the town of Geysir where Gullfoss and some geysirs are. Gulfoss is a wonderfully powerful waterfall that spews cold mist at everyone who greets it.

The day ended back in Reykjavik where my mom and I walked around and had a nice Asian fusion meal. I went to bed nice and early because the following morning I was up and off to Brussels!

October 12-19 // BELGIUM (with myself!)

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Grand Place at night

I found myself in Brussels. Surrounded by a train system I did not understand, I wandered awkwardly onto a train hoping it went to downtown Brussels. It did! I got off the station at Brussels North, and was instantly lost. I wandered into the the old Botanic gardens with my big ‘ol bag, feeling like a silly American tourist (because I was). I wandered and wandered, until I found Grand Place and my first waffle of the week. YAY. The rest of the day included finding my Airbnb, getting super lost, and making some spaghetti.

On Sunday, I went to Waterloo! Why Waterloo you ask? Because I went to Church! Crazily enough, my church in Denver, Colorado has a campus in Waterloo. I took the train down, wandered the charming streets and found Red Rocks Church nestled in a neighborhood school. I was greeted with coffee and pastries and some wonderful worship. I went back to Brussels for the afternoon, where I continued to get lost in wonder as I wandered aimlessly through the old streets.

Monday was fun! I went to the old medieval town of Bruges! IT IS SO COOL.  It is heavily influenced by the Dutch, so there were windmills, canals, river cruises, and a town square. I spent most of the day wandering its quaint streets lined with old churches, historic architecture, and climbing windmills. I even had my first official Belgium beer, Zot! This is all very exciting, I know. To top it off, I also saw the Madonna of Bruges which was sculpted by Michelangelo. I spent all day being stoked on Bruges and having the freedom to do whatever I wanted and go down whatever streets spoke to me.

Tuesday was interesting. I was supposed to go to Amsterdam, but plans changed, so I booked a train ticket to Blankenberge, on the coast of Belgium. I spent the morning on the walking on the beach and enjoying The Belgium Pier. Truth be told, I had no idea Belgium even had a beach, so it was fun. In the afternoon, I went to Ghent, which is a town similar to Bruges and just walked around enjoying it. There was a man making bubbles in front of an old church, so it was magical to watch.

Back in Brussels, I was at a loss for what to do on Wednesday. I wanted to explore more of the country, but I wasn’t sure where or what I should do, so I turned to my trusty friend…the internet. I discovered that there was a town down south called Dinant with a citadel and old church. So on Wednesday, I boarded the Luxembourg train to head down south. It was rainy when I finally got to Dinant, but I was so stoked on the view! The Collegiate Church of Notre Dame stood tall before the citadel behind it on the cliff. I first went to the Citadel where I climbed some 480 stairs to the top, and went through the craziest museum I’ve ever been to. I highly recommend it. I’d explain it to you, but it’s honestly better experienced in my opinion. Plus, I’m doing a poor job keeping this post short like I promised. Also! Dinant is where the inventor of the saxophone was born so there were sculptures of saxophones all over as well as a cute little saxophone museum. As always, I spent the rest of the day wandering and ended up back in Brussels, tired and ready for sleep on my futon.

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View from the citadel!
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^^^ Dinant! See, I told you it was cool.

The rest of my days in Brussels consisted of going to all the museums I possibly could. I cried in the MOOF Museum while watching a film on the creator of the Smurfs (also from Belgium) and tried to take mirror selfies in every museum for fun. I had the Brussels card, so I could get into 40 museums for freeeee!

That was Belgium! It was the most fun. Fun fact: I also left a pair a of pants in my Airbnb’s refrigerator because someone told me that would clean them?? And then I totally forgot they were in there when I left…oops.

October 19-27 // SCOTLAND (with myself!)

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OH MY WORD. It felt GOOD to be in the UK after having been in French speaking Belgium for a week. I mean, first of all, it was wonderful to understand which bus to get on and which stop I needed to get off at to find my Airbnb. I stayed in Darly, Edinburgh, and it was charming and lovely and cute and amazing and friendly and people smiled and it was just amazing and if I keep talking like this I’ll never stop and wow I just love Scotland.

Right off the bat I headed to High Street and watched the sunset right outside of Edinburgh Castle. Dreamy. I cried, actually. I watched The Good Place on Netflix then went right to bed.

On Sunday, I took my time (meaning, I got super lost several times) and found the birthplace of Harry Potter at the Elephant House, then got coffee at Black Medicine Coffee. Next, I strolled to Arthur’s Seat where I got the best view of the city, ocean, and hills! Then I walked up Calton Hill, bought some replacement pants at H&M, HAD A BURRITO, strolled Victoria Street, and visited the graveyard where Tom Riddle was buried at sunset. Once again, Edinburgh is dreamy and one of the best places on the planet.

In honor of keeping things “quick” Monday and Tuesday consisted of seeking out latte art, visiting bookstores, gaping at art in museums, learning history, Scotch tastings, wandering the National Botanic Gardens of Scotland in the freezing rain/wind, touring Edinburgh Castle, and wandering the streets by night after eating some delicious cake from Lovecrumbs. Oh, and more.

Wednesday I made my way up to the highlands on a tour. It was a LONG day. I was super cranky because I didn’t get to move as much as I would have liked, but it was a pretty place. We stopped in Glen Coe, where we learned the sad tale of its’ past, then journeyed up to Loch Ness. Let me tell ya, Scotland is an amazing country. It is beautiful. The accents are beautiful. The history, though, is tragic, but the people are proud, and that’s beautiful.

Ok! Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The last three days of my solo travels were pretty good. I had a cold, but I made myself push on. I took the train up to Aberdour, a cute seaside town just north of Edinburgh. Totally cute, and it goes along the Fife Hiking Trail. I took that for a couple of miles along the coast then turned around to get some soup. Back in the city, I continued to wander, hiked up Arthur’s Seat again, and revisited my old “haunts” the rest of the days. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I did or where I went, I loved Scotland and that’s the main thing I want everyone reading to know.

Currently // THE PRESENT

Well, what fun it has been reliving my travels with you all. It turns out recounting three weeks worth of travel was a lot harder than I thought, mostly because I had to pick and choose what to put in and leave out. Bottom line is this: I’m happy I had the chance to do it. Hopefully I’ll get to do some more soon.

Cheers,

Michelle

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