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!

8 Things That Inspired Me When I Traveled In The UK

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I’ve been to the UK/Ireland quite a few times, and I’m going back in January. My mom’s family is very proudly Scottish, Irish and English so I grew up hearing a lot of stories about these magical places called Ireland and Scotland. I wanted to visit so much that three years I finally packed a backpack and headed out solo. I’m so incredibly glad I did. I’ve met so many amazing people throughout my travels, and I love how different and beautiful each trip proves to be. Here are some of my favorite things about traveling throughout the UK (we’ll do another one on Ireland, I promise).

Glasgow, Scotland: A bun can always go higher up on your head

I’m not really sure if there’s some kind of competition for buns in the UK, but they are no joke. Glasgow is one of the funniest cities you can go to on a winter Friday night because the girls are known for their high buns, and their short skirts. And since it’s Scotland, you can imagine how cold that kind of fashion becomes. As someone who wears their hair in a bun 80% of the time, I was inspired when I went to Glasgow for the first time.

London, England: Pastries as far as the eye can see

I adore bread in all of its many forms, and the UK has some of the best sugary (not savory – that all goes to the French) breads and pastries I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know what the trick is, or how a country manages to tackle pastries with such perfection, but they are simply to die for. Something I’ve learned about Europe is that the flour there tastes so much better than what we have in the U.S. Even just from living in France, the recipes don’t work the same, and it’s so much more difficult to cook using French flour when you’re used to American. I assume there’s something similar in the UK and that what’s there is something from some mystical world, as well.

Stratford-upon-Avon, England : Tomatoes – a nutritious part of every breakfast

Okay, so I’m not sure how many people are already on this train, but I never ate tomatoes (or really vegetables) with my breakfast until I travelled around the UK. Now, I really prefer to have them with some eggs and toast and tea. It’s SO GOOD. English (or Scottish) breakfasts really are just the best, and again, I’m not sure what they do to make the food so good, there, but it really is out of this world.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Walk Through Cemeteries to Get Writing Inspiration

Okay, Harry Potter nerds. You knew this was coming. A fun fact that I learned when I was in Edinburgh was that JK Rowling stole. Yep. Flat our robbery…of names. It’s true! Many of JK Rowling’s character names come from dead people in Edinburgh cemeteries, including the notorious Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. Brilliant, huh? I’m really excited to go back this January and explore more of the geek side of Edinburgh. I was only there for a day and a half last time and it really was not enough time to satisfy my geekiness. Click the photo below for more info on the cemetery where Tom Riddle is buried.

 

London, England: Brown eggs are better

I grew up with chickens. And we ate their eggs. Thank god we didn’t slaughter them, as well, but my mom was pretty inclusive of the “fresh egg” policy. Unfortunately while having chickens, we also had a rooster who liked to get it on with the ladies. That being said, there were a couple of times when our lovely fresh brown eggs got cracked open into a pan with a underdeveloped chick coming out. Talk about trauma. It’s a wonder I’ve ever eaten eggs again. Luckily my mom had sympathy for me not wanting to eat brown eggs after that. The funny part was that the first time I went to London I realized there was nothing else but brown eggs in the store. Ha. Kill me. Needless to say, I got over my fear, found out brown is better, and now I won’t even buy white eggs.

Glasgow, Scotland: You will never forget the first time you see an original Van Gogh

I love Van Gogh. I always have, and I always will. Up until 2013, though, I had never seen an original (at least, not that I can remember). Scotland wouldn’t probably be the first place that you would look for an original, but that is (accidentally) the first place that I saw one. In fact there were two. And when I saw them I couldn’t believe they were real. It was a bit like that time I was in Rome and thought, “Wow, that looks just like the building from Gladiator,” as I was driving by the Colosseum.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Always visit the worst club, with the best people

On the authority of three natives, I have (without a doubt) been to the worst club in Edinburgh. How did such a blessing come about, you may ask? Well, it really comes down to striking up conversations with the locals, rather than always staying with the group. I actually can’t remember the name of the club we went to, but my pesky memory could probably find it if I was back in Edinburgh (#photographicmemory) but I can assure you – it was all it claims to be.

All the UK: Cuppa Tea, Tea, Tea, Tea

I have an addiction to tea and I, first off, blame the BBC. But secondly I blame traveling around in countries where you basically get it shoved down your throat. Word from the wise: NEVER say no when you’re offered tea the UK. Even if you just barely sip it, just take the damn cup.


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Have you been to the UK? Comment below with what inspired or shocked you! 

How to Plan the Perfect Trip without Being Perfect

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I wish you could see my bedroom floor right now.

Not very many people understand how many hours, days, weeks and months it takes to pull together a truly amazing trip. The myth that you “just go” is one that I think leaves a lot of people disappointed, and wishing they had spent more pre-planning time on their trips. Instagram can be a tricky lens to look through.

I’m planning two trips right now, one in December (to HARRY POTTER WORLD!) and the other one in January (Europe 2017!). Both are completely different, since one is international and on is right here on the west coast of the U.S., but I’ve reached the point where I can use similar styles of planning on both.

Note: This is not a post on how to pack for a trip, or not forget your toothbrush. It’s how to ensure that you get the most from your time spent in a place. 

So, since none of you lovelies can be here, amidst my organized chaos, I’ve decided to share some of my trip planning tips with you! After five years of circling the globe, I’ve learned a thing or two…


Dream BIG

Don’t limit yourself when you’re planning your trip. I always say this because you never know what you might find along the way. I usually have a list of about 50 things that I want to do in a given city, but then I only do about 5. Why? Because some things might be closed on the dates you’re there, some might be under construction. You might miss a bus or a train or get off at the wrong stop (#ohthetalesIcouldtell). And THAT is why it’s a good idea to have a list. Even before you leave, and you’re planning your trip out, have a notebook where you write down any and everything that peaks your interest. This is also a great way to keep track of all the suggestions people give you!


Know What You Love 

Take a moment and write down some things that interest you. Shoot for 5-10 things, but if you’re feeling inspired, go ahead and keep on writing. Done? Great! So, now that you’ve decided on your interests, start Googling. Yep, that’s write. Literally write the name of the interest with a comma and the place you’re visiting. The Google gods are more than generous when it comes to providing you information about the things you love. Here are my go-to’s:

  • Art Museums
  • Van Gogh
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Geek (I usually branch out to things like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek etc.)
  • Books (famous authors)
  • Famous movies (filming locations)


Connect with People

I have a pretty strict rule that I connect with people who actually live in the places where I travel. I love touristy things as much as the next person, but there’s something amazingly fulfilling about chatting with people who know a place inside-out. My biggest tip on this one is to either use a site like Couchsurfing or Airbnb for meet-ups, or for finding a place to stay, OR just start talking to people. As an introvert I usually do the first, but I’ve also found myself making really amazing friends on tours, just by striking up a conversation. Oh, and don’t be afraid to go on tours, adventures and touristy things alone – that can be one of the best ways for you to meet new people in the city! Just remember, safety first.

 

Spread Your Net WIDE

If you’ve seen the movie “Yes Man” then think of this step like that. Say yes to things you normally wouldn’t. Things that are safe obviously, but things that challenge you to stretch beyond who you currently are. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and someone offers you a place to stay in a little town near the big city you wanted to go to – GO. When you’re first planning out your trip, post your plans on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. The first time I ever backpacked, I ended up staying a week with a complete stranger (friend of a friend) via my Instagram post on the plane ride to London. Travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone!


Make a Mess

Guess what? Your trip is not going to go as planned. You might miss a plane. You might have lodging plans fall through or you might just straight up hate a city you thought you would love. It happens. It’s called life, and it’s OKAY. Pick yourself up, mark it off to “travel bingo” and move on. Traveling around the world isn’t always easy. If it was, then everyone would do it. But if you’re passionate about learning and growing as a person, it’s more worth it than you might ever know.

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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