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!

A Geek Guide To Vancouver, BC: Part 1

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If there’s one thing I like to do, it’s find out geeky things about a city. Remember that time I uncovered a Sherlock Holmes society in San Francisco, or when I visited every major spot in Paris that was from “Midnight in Paris”? Or what about the Star Wars x-wing in Denver? Game of Thrones castle in N. Ireland? Or the site in Ireland of the huge Braveheart battle? Yeah, yeah, I love geeky things. So, it makes sense for me to join the two things together while I’m on the road.

This weekend we’re spending some time celebrating our anniversary in Vancouver, and it’s been such a fun trip. Of course, any time I come to a new city I have to find out EVERYTHING GEEKY about it, so here is a compilation of my findings from day 1 in British Columbia.

Famous Geek Icons from Vancouver: 


Alexander Ludwig: 
It wasn’t until today that I realized that this hunk was from both the Hunger Games AND one of my favorite shows, Vikings. I really had hopes that I could correct the grammar on Vikings based off of the actors being Scandinavian, but nope. This boy’s from good ‘ole British Columbia. Luckily, he’s still fun to watch being a Viking bad ass on the show, and it’s nice to know we both hail from the west.


Michael J. Fox:
Blast from the past, and Back to the Future, it’s true that this Hollywood icon isn’t as active in the geek world right now, for obvious reasons, but he’s a geek idol, nonetheless. Back to the Future was a series that molded and shaped my childhood and I’m happy to find out he grew up not too far from me.
Ryan Reynolds: Obviously most famous, at the moment, for his portrayal of the Marvel bad-boy Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds has been a favorite from Just Friends to The Proposal. In case you (and half the geek world) are trying to still forget – he was also DC’s Green Lantern, and appeared in the Wolverine, as well.

Hayden Christensen: Personally, I prefer to think of him as the actor who brought Jumper to life, but we do have to credit him for some of the weirdest Star Wars movies, as well. To be fair, it wasn’t entirely his fault that they’re the embarrassment of the geek community – the script writers weren’t doing to hot, either.

Shawn Ashmore: I may or may not have had a crush on him when I saw the first Xmen movie (I was like 12) but how could you not!? Him and Rogue were the perfect couple and then she went running after Logan – what was she thinking!? Anyway. He only kind of counts because he was raised in Alberta. But he was born in Vancouver, so they still claim him as their own.
Colbie Smulders: To be honest, I still don’t even know her Avengers character name, but she’s awesome and one of the few female characters in the movies who doesn’t have powers. She can also be found on Agents of Shield, a show that, for the life of me, I can’t find time to watch, mainly because I’ve heard some good and a lot of not so good about it.

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Somewhere to grab some geeky books: 

I love used bookstores. In fact, I love pretty much any place I can get a good deal on a good read, and this morning that was the first place I plopped off to. I was really excited to score on a book by Diana Gabaldon, who writes the Outlander series. I learned about the books via the STARZ show, but I’ve started to read the books and I adore them, as well. The book I found was an accompaniment to the series, called “The Outlandish Companion” which goes into details about the series and why Diana chose certain aspects to put in/leave out. It also has commentary and helpful additions, such as genealogies, to help out along the reading of the first four books. Overall, I’m really happy with the find. Especially since it was only about $15 (with the conversion rate). Somehow I always end up finding the heaviest books while I’m traveling and this one weighs in at about 600 pages to keep the trend going.

My stop today was at Book Warehouse, which is located at  632 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1G1

 

Geek places to eat:

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Storm Crow Ale House: This is an updated/more contemporary version of the Storm Crow Tavern, which is amazing in its own right. We kind of accidentally stumbled upon this one, not actually realizing there were two in Vancouver, and really loved the atmosphere and the people who were hanging out in there. I actually was really happy to be hanging out mid-day because a lot of people were just hanging out there, playing games and having good food. I would definitely recommend. Click HERE for the website.

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Storm Crow Tavern: This Tavern is also a real treat, and is decked out with memorabilia, geek art, books and a giant octo-monster head. And they also have tons of games to choose from playing. The best part is that the food is also amazing. I had a cod sandwich and some raspberry rhubarb crumble for dessert. It was sublime. Definitely stop by this spot if you’re a sci-fi and fantasy fan. Click HERE for the website.

To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

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The print that I bought. Love love love.

For a healthy chunk of my childhood Tuesdays nights meant two things: Popcorn and fresh fruit/veggies for dinner and piling in the living room to watch Star Trek. At the time it seemed perfectly normal that our family nights consisted of Sci-Fi shows. Another example would be that every Christmas we would marathon a Sci-Fi series (ex. All the X-Men movies, every Batman film ever created etc.). This was our normal. And it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized not everyone had such a geek infused childhood.

Since I was reared on a heavy serving of Sci-Fi and fantasy, it’s no wonder that I’ve always gravitated toward those things even in my adult life. I read comic books. I watch pretty much exclusively Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV shows. I wake up to the Doctor Who theme song every morning on my alarm clock. The ring tone on my phone is the Legend of Zelda theme…dubstep. Have I earned my geek badge, yet?

One of my new favorite girl power geeks is Jane McGonigal, who is a game designer and author. If you want to look her up, I would highly suggest watching one of her TED talks (especially the one about how gamers are going to change the world) – they’re all amazing. In one of these talks she says:

“Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying, and trying now. Gamers don’t sit around.” 

And while my gaming is definitely not up to par with a professional grade (gaming was always my brother’s thing, and we’ve talked before about how I kept away from things in his corner), I think this quote is fair of geeks in general. Being raised as a geek really shaped who I am because it taught me that, while there are obstacles (black holes, empires to destroy, Klingons) to overcome, there are always ways to overcome them.

Having stories of dragons, spaceships, other worlds, heroes, warriors, heroines and hobbits helped form my own foundation of one of the most important keys to success: grit.

The get back up and try to save the world again mentality.

It doesn’t matter if it takes 10 years of episodes *cough Stargate, you keep fighting for what you believe in. And sooner or later, you’ll make a difference…or die trying (and then having an epic burial where your body, grasping your brilliantly shining sword, soars over the edge of woodland water falls in a hand built elven boat).

Either way, the point is developing the desire to always find a way to conquer obstacles. It’s a skill that I think the instant gratification culture of today misses all too often, and is something that I really hope to impart to any kids I work with/ever have myself.

It’s pretty rare that I really disclose how much of a geek I am to people, but since I’ve been in Paris I’ve been trying to get better about it. Despite popular opinion, I’m actually extremely shy by nature, so it’s really hard to put myself out there and really present the things that interest me.

But this past weekend I got an amazing opportunity to go and hang out with some of my fellow geeks at the Paris Manga/Sci Fi Convention and it was So. Much. Fun.

I can honestly say it was the first time I’ve felt at home in France, because even though everyone around me was speaking French, I was able to share so many other commonalities with the people around me. I got to rock a Cosplay and revel in the panels that were in English (translated in French) and it was so cool to see other Whovians and think, “Wow. These people live 8,000 miles away from where I come from, and they love the same fandoms/TV shows/comics that I do!” It was a pretty bonding experience. Especially when I sat next to a group that dressed as all 12 of The Doctors.

My favorite moment, though, was when I found TinTin (or, rather, his cosplayer) who I actually yelled at in a crowd of people in order to get a picture with him. Like I said, I’ve always loved comics, and TinTin is a series that I’ve read probably 10 times. All 20+ of them. (It’s all about priorities when you’re a kid.)

Another amazing part of the show were the artists who were lined up doing live drawings in the styles of their work, and selling their prints etc. I LOVED being able to watch professional artists draw and illustrate. It’s so rare that I felt like it was such an honor. And I bought, and had signed, a Daenarys Targaryan print which is now hanging on my wall and that I LOVE.

All in all it was a perfectly refreshing experience. I feel like I went on vacation even though I never left the city. And the best part? There’s another one next weekend.

Allons-y! May the force be with you.

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Me and TinTin! I was so happy I have a ridiculous grin on my face. Also I got to hold snowy – win.
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Me and The TARDIS.
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Me and my Cosplay as Mels from Doctor Who.