Basel, Switzerland

 

Basel was a great town! My parents have lived in Geneva, Switzerland for a few years and during that time, we had never been to Basel! It was really exciting to finally go, especially since I had heard it was a different vibe than in Geneva. I found that was totally true, it was grungy! I saw so many young and old couples with colored hair, bomber jackets, doc martins, and dark maroon lipstick (though that’s like high fashion now?). It was like a ritzy version of freaks and geeks. I definitely have future plans to go back there.

Okay my little travel tips. (1) Bring a camera with the right lens. I usually just bring my little nifty fifty when I travel because I want more room for scarves from Venice on the way back. Unfortunately, when I want to take landscape shots, I forget all about those scarves and just groan. Another thing, (2) pack only what you actually think you’re going to wear, and remember if you’re going to have a washing machine! I probably could have saved myself six pounds in my suitcase. Lastly, and this is something I’m planning on investing in and I don’t have yet, (3) get a Fitbit. Find some device that tracks your steps. I love long walks around the city, but then I have no way to track how far I’ve walked. Vacation doesn’t always leave time for four miles on the treadmill; using a Fitbit will help you feel better about the heavy fondue dinner you’re eating!

Jake, Samee, and Rory: Castle Exploration

Maastricht

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Typical transportation in Maastricht

I traveled to Maastricht in May of 2013 and it was a breath-taking trip. It’s amazing how the culture can change in only an hour long plane ride. The top three things I learned there were to (1) not be afraid to walk on the grass. There was so much green everywhere, and sometimes I wasn’t sure if i was supposed to walk on the lawn or follow the path. Then I saw lots of people running and biking over the grass, so I learn it was okay. (2) They plant a tree when they get a new queen. I didn’t quite understand this tradition, but it seemed to be a specific type of tree that was planted and had a dainty little gate around it. (3) There were roman baths here. I was walking through a square and I saw different colored tiles on the ground. The family I was visiting there explained to me that there used to be roman baths in that area. Instead of preserving them by not building over them, the builders of the town decided to remember the baths differently. they outlined them in different colored tiles. Now that I knew, I started seeing them everywhere! Interesting!

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A peaceful scene in Maastricht
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One of the many cafes in Maastricht
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The sunsetting on a beautiful street in Maastricht
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A quiet holland street
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Lighting Candles in a cathedral

 

Zermatt

During the winter of 2012, I was able to learn to ski. So the first on my list of the top three things I learned while in Zermatt was (1) to ski, and that when you’re skiing you should look forward to where you are going. This was helped by me being able to look at the giant moutons around me. (2) I also learned that some ski villages don’t allow cars! We had to park our van and then get on a little elctric trolly to go up to the ski resort. This made the snow super beautiful and stay white! (3) The villagers who were there skied EVERYWHERE. Outside of every restaurant I saw little places for people to stick their skis or ski boots. So cool!

Annecy

I have been to Annecy plenty of times, but I am never quite over the quaint beauty of this town. It was the first town in France I had visited actually, all my time previous to my first visit was spent in Geneva. So to me Annecy was like WOW. Everything I turned to look at I was like wow, there are canals and colors and bikes! Now, of course I am a little more seasoned so even though Annecy had still stood out to me, I’m not as easily pleased.

Something that has stayed true of my thoughts about Annecy is that is really is beautiful and quaint. I usually stay in the la vieille ville, there is something about being around really old buildings that makes me excited. Like, I can’t get super old building in Ohio. I need to appreciate them here and now.

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A lively band plays in Annecy and the local residents come out to watch.
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A serene bridge over a canal shows why this town is called “The Venice of France”
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Boats float on the canal

When I was visiting one time, there was a giant market going on. I love being able to buy jams, meat and fruit straight from the person who produced it. It also gave me a chance to practice my french. The people there would be pretty patient with me as I struggled to pronounce some names, but I came away knowing more and with armfuls of goodies.

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Fresh jams for sale at a farmers market
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Beautiful buildings in Annecy

Of course there is the lake. In the summer, and I’m assuming a little into the fall as well, you can rent paddle boats, canoes, and boats. It was incredibly relaxing to be able be in the middle of the lake surrounded by laughing locals and tourists. You get out there and then when you look around it’s an incredible view. Both the huge mountains and the city around, very picturesque.

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A relaxing place to sit and view the French Alps.

London

London, such a great city. It’s super amazing how it can be filled with such amazing history and also be so modern. When I was here, I was with my family. First lesson learned, when you’re traveling with a group of people, don’t be selfish. Maybe you don’t want to go to the London Tower but your group does, just be selfless and go with them. Then try and see if you can do something you really want to do afterwards. The second lesson is that you should do your research about where you are going. Look up the old antique bookstores, the statues that you want to see, the bus routes. If you do your research, it’ll be a much smoother trip. Lastly, and possibly most important, your plans will most likely go wrong. Something will go wrong. You have a group of six but you can only find taxis for five people. There is a event happening in the garden you wanted to take pictures in. You have to be flexible. I cannot stress that enough.

Belgium

Belgium was another amazing country. It is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever been to, and by that time I had been to a few. There were so many huge buildings there that looking nothing like buildings I had seen before! You can sit there pinning the pictures on Pinterest of places and think they are beautiful, but thats very different then being right underneath them. I found myself overwhelmed to take super gorgeous pictures, but (1) don’t pressure yourself to take the kinds of pictures you see everywhere else. Try taking things from a different angle or of everyday objects that are slightly quirky. The photo of the yellow bike against the door I almost didn’t take. Now, it’s my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. (2) Try to learn about the history of where you’re going. I didn’t know anything about Belgium and it’s history so when I was there I asked as many questions as possible. You should also always (3) look for unique things in each city you go to, find out what makes each city special.