6 Of My Favorite European Museums

I am an unapologetic nerd. I was born and raised into a nerdy family, and it’s just who I am as a person. When I travel, this spills over into my itinerary. I love visiting places that have literary significance, historical significance, or just allow me to buff my nerd knowledge. MOST of the time these places are museums, so I thought I would share my top five favs so if you happen to be planning a trip to Europe you can stop by some of my favorite spots. Tell them Emilee sent you. JK I definitely don’t have that kind of sway…yet.

1. Parlamentarium | Brussels, Belgium | FREE

This museum is AMAZING. And that’s coming from someone who isn’t even a part of the EU. At the beginning of your tour you’re given a headset that walks you through the history of the EU, where it came from and how it functions today. I honestly never knew any of this information and it was such an amazing lesson in world history, and also in current economic situations in Europe. There’s obviously a bit of a bias, but I felt like overall the structure of the museum was amazing and very interactive. I think I spent 2-3 hours in there.


2. The Louvre | Paris, France | $18.50

I’m sure all of you are SO SURPRISED to see this one on the list. But, really. The Louvre is one of my favorite places on the planet and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for people to visit it. It honestly will change your life. One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make about The Louvre is that they go in for an hour, walk around two floors and say they’ve “been” to the Louvre. You’re cheating yourself with this approach. I would say take a couple of days to go to the Louvre. Go a morning on one day and just sit and look at paintings. Go an evening another day and walk through the lower levels of The Louvre. Look at the Middle Eastern exhibits (which, by the way, barely anyone knows about). There is so much history in this museum it really is a must-see multi day/hour visit. While I lived in France I think I went 6 or 7 times at 2-3 hours a pop…and I still haven’t seen everything.

3. The Sherlock Holmes Museum | London, England | $21

This might be the nerdiest one on the list, but I’m a pretty hard core Sherlockian, and I absolutely loved being able to visit the real 221B during my first trip to London. This museum is essentially set up as the house of Sherlock Holmes with a Victorian style guard at the front door, three levels of Sherlock Holmes related artifacts, and an over-priced gift shop. Everything you could ever want, right!? If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan like I am I would definitely recommend visiting the museum for photos if nothing else. The whole museum takes about 30 minutes to an hour to go through.


4. Titanic Museum | Belfast, N. Ireland | $25

You think you know about the Titanic because you’ve seen the movie? Ha. Try reliving the entire experience from day one as an immigrant in the early twentieth century to the day the ship sinks. WARNING: This museum is REALLY emotional and there is a really high chance of you feeling feels. One of the coolest parts of this museum is that the admission ticket is made to look like the tickets that were originally made for the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Since I’ve been obsessed with the Titanic since I could read, this museum was absolutely amazing to go through. It’s several floors and takes about 2-3 hours (at least) to walk through.

5. Van Gogh Museum | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | $22

Can I tell you how much I love Van Gogh? If you know me well, I probably already have…but here we are again. I distinctly remember the first time I saw an image of a Van Gogh painting. It was the same feeling I had when I first heard French. So right, and a forever part of my identity. The Van Gogh museum was a sacred space for me. From the first moment I slipped on the headphones for the self-guided tour I was completely immersed and could have been in that world of Van Gogh for forever. Not only is this museum the world’s largest installment of Van Gogh paintings, but it’s also such a personal experience since it’s in the home country of the artist. Must see. I think I spent 2-3 hours in the museum.

6. Natural History Museum | London, England | FREE

This is actually one of my most recent visits, and GUYS, THEY HAVE DINOSAURS! I’ve been to London three or four times before, but I had never visited this museum until November and it was so cool. Basically everything natural history related is in this museum, and it’s broken down into geology, biology and just general awesome. We actually got kicked out of this museum because it was closing, to be sure to get there early. You could easily spend 3 hours in this spot.

And that’s the best of the best! What are your favorite museums? Let me know in the comments!

Lessons Learned In Amsterdam: Day 2

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I’m not in Amsterdam anymore, but I still thought I’d write a recap of what happened so you all don’t think I fell into a canal or never came back from Holland.
After going to bed at the beautifully early time of 10pm (I had been up at 5 am – and I had no kids there. Yes, I slept.) on Saturday night, I woke up the next morning at 7:30am and headed on a solo adventure around the city.

I admit that this was kind of intentional. The night before had gone from slightly sketchy to etch-a-sketch real quick and I decided to go home early. But Amsterdam in the morning light was lovely. I was basically the only one awake in the city, but the stores were just starting to open up and the coffee shops had been opened for a bit, already. I suspect they open early so that all the tourists who had a bit too much “fun” the night before can grab some caffeine before boarding their trains, planes and buses back to wherever they came from.

I love walking around cities when no one is on the streets, though. No matter where I am it’s always my favorite time of day. I feel like this time, whether early morning…or the other kind of early morning, allows you to really get to “meet” the city. Not the people, tourists or the culture that has grown out of whatever twisted ideas people of that generation have placed there, but the actual city.

You get to see the skeleton architecture without the forms and figures of other people shadowing them. And the thing about European architecture is that there really ARE things you should be looking at, when it comes to buildings. They are beautiful and intricate with carvings and embellishments that just do not exist in the modern world. The buildings carry stories. And, even if just for a few hours, I get to walk around and learn them. And THAT is one of the biggest reasons I travel.

Another reason I travel is because I’m obsessed with Van Gogh. Like if you saw my bedroom wall you would understand. I’ve always been in love with his paintings since I was 10 and saw The Starry Night for the first time. At the time I had no idea who had painted it, but I knew it was the first time I saw a “rule-less” art form that I could connect with freely.

It just so happens that Amsterdam holds the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in its Van Gogh Museum, and I was not disappointed by the experience. I’ll also take this time to say that, if you go there, BUY THE MEDIA GUIDE. It was so worth the extra 5 euro to be able to hear the stories and extra information about each piece of his work. And yes, I almost started crying involuntarily when I saw “Sunflowers” not only because they’re my favorite flower, but also because that’s one of my favorite paintings… and if you watch Doctor Who you’ll know why.

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After that I went to the Ruks Museum and saw some Rembrandt (which, honestly, the museum was kind of obsessed with) and my first Vermeer, which was absolutely breathtaking, as I knew it would be. To be able to paint like that. Insane.

It also reminded me of this movie I saw when I was 12. It’s a Hallmark, so don’t watch it without some tissues.

Brush with fate – trailer

After that I really had only a couple of hours before my train came, so I dropped in on McDonalds (it’s tradition to try their food when I travel) and their french fries were spot on – better than the original fries in the US. Which is saying something since five countries later, I’ve tasted some pretty nasty non American McDonalds meals. Of course, the argument could be made that any meal from McDonalds is nasty, but I appreciate that European places seem to try harder to make healthy options available.

Next up was the train station and reading my new “The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh” book, which is such a good read, if you have any interest in art. So much snark from that man. The guy on the train kept looking over at me because I was holding this biographical book and giggling like a child. My life.

Public transportation was free in Paris on Sunday due to the Charlie Hedbo events, so getting back home was a lot easier than it might have been. And that was the end of my adventure.

Also a couple more lessons learned from Amsterdam:

1. If you’re not a bike you’re not important.

2. You can get lost in tiny cities too.

3. They aren’t homeless people, they’re postal workers.

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I Don’t Care: I LOUVRE It!

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Wow! It has been a WH-ILE! Sorry for the silence on the blog front, but I’ve been trying to settle into the Paris life, and it’s taken me the past few weeks to even feel remotely partially through the process. Moving across the world is hard. Moving a second time, to live with a different family is (even though it seems like it should be easier) harder.

But I’ve finally started to feel like I’m ready to step off the wagon and start exploring my new home. And after unpacking, and getting into the rhythm of things, the dust is finally starting to settle.

So, here are the updates of my life!

  1. Let’s talk spiders. No matter where you go in France there are Lord Of The Rings sized spiders crawling up the walls. That might be a slight exaggeration, but they are HUGE. I can’t even tell you how many of them I’ve killed, but I know that when I go back to the US I will most definitely be the braver for it.
  1. I got promoted! I’m super excited about the ability to work with the website I’ve been a contributing writer with for the past year, except now I’m a *drumroll EDITOR! I’m so excited to start new projects and really be able to pour myself into writing, photographing, editing and traveling. There are some super cool projects coming up, so stay tuuuuuuuuned @TheExploress!
  1. Church: The last couple of weeks I have loved being able to attend Hillsong Paris, which is absolutely amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to go to church, but it has been such an awesome way to meet other people who are living in Paris and from all parts of the world. My favorite thing, though, is that the sermons are in English AND French simultaneously. It really is just the most beautiful thing.10678667_819611111422254_5419823618893278652_n 1797967_10152746031020505_2671417041007696703_n10704138_702182236530113_4894031641390018656_n
  1. I’ve been illustrating! I’ve never really considered myself someone who likes to draw, in fact I used to tell people I hated drawing. There are a few reasons for this, including feeling like I’ve always lived with someone who was better at it than me, but now that my next closest artistic rivals are 5 and 8 I started following a path I’ve wanted to for a bit, with a combination of paint and pencil, which I’ve absolutely loved.Hobbit Illustration
  1. I’m going to Berlin next week and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve wanted to visit Germany for so long and I can’t wait to visit such a beautiful city while on holiday. I’m lucky because for most of the holidays that the kids will have off from school, I will also have off to travel, so I plan on taking several more trips throughout the next year, trying to see as much of Europe as I can while I’m living here! If you have any suggestions for Berlin sightseeing, shoot them my way!
  1. Every week I’ve decided to visit a museum, tourist spot or historically significant place. I have a lot more “every week” goals I’m going to be implementing now that I actually live in a place where I’m able to create an active schedule (aka a city that actually has a population under the age of 60) but I’m going to be adding them little by little. This week me and two of my friends decided to follow in Beyonce’s footsteps and visited the Louvre, which was amazing. Our adventure included singing (“Prince of Egpyt” in the Egyptian part, trying to sing “Hercules” in the Grecian part and “Les Miserables” in some French parts), getting temporarily lost in the museum and having in depth conversations about the inaccurate proportions of male figures both in painting and sculpture representations. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better time, or for better friends to adventure out with.

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