Warning: this post will probably be insanely long!
Our Spring Break adventure started on Sunday, 5 April. We took the bus to Dublin and immediately had a good omen for the trip as it was only 5 euro instead of the usual 15! Our flight to Brussels was also 5 euro so we decided it was the 5 euro trip. :) Our hotel in Dublin was in a fairly good location and was very tiny and cute. We honestly probably wouldn't have been nearly as excited if it didn't have a spiral staircase with a loft (yes, we are easily entertained). It also had a submarine bathroom - porthole in the door and the sink was actually IN the shower! We then went on a walk around Dublin - first stop, St. Patrick's Cathedral. We didn't go in because we are cheap, but we walked around the gardens, which were absolutely gorgeous! After passing a creepy statue and the place that sells fish 'n' chips the size of a small child (sadly, we did not eat there), we saw the place where Handel's Messiah was first performed and then on to Dublin Castle (I'm very disappointed that last year we didn't realize we were staying a block from a castle!) The Castle had a labrynth design in the garden so naturally we walked through it. On the way back to the other side, we ended up walking in a single file line and, I think, really entertained a guy who was sitting on a park bench near by. We decided to go to the Temple Bar area for supper and waited for 2 hours to get into a place that served Boxty - it was worth it. Naturally, no dinner is complete without a trip to get gelato!
Monday morning we woke up at 5:00 in order to get to the airport in time for our flight to Brussels - yuck. The cab driver was very nice and asked us where all we were headed. We explained our plan of winging it, but we were flying from Hamburg to Dublin on the 13th. He was surprised that we were coming back to Ireland and in my head I was thinking, "Why wouldn't we come back? We live here!" Obviously, I am well adjusted. :) Our hotel in Brussels was in a very sketchy area, but it was nice. While trying to sightsee in Brussels, we ended up getting on the metro, heading to what we thought was towards the city centre, walking from the metro stop to where we thought the city center should be, and ended up exactly where we started! Turns out, we get turned around on a metro...Once we found the city centre, we enjoyed Belgian Waffles IN BELGIUM! It was very exciting. The Grand Place in Brussels is very pretty, but it's really the only thing in the city worth seeing. Kelsey and I decided they made it the capital of the EU because it didn't have anything else going for it. On the way to the train station to figure out our tickets for the next day, we had many sketchy men around us. Our response to this, start speaking random Irish. Three of us had taken an Irish language course so we taught the other one a few phrases (mostly she just said slan, which means goodbye) and spoke in nonsense Irish until we got back to the hotel. We had lots of stares on the metro....
Tuesday, we went by bus from Brussels to PARIS!!!!!!!! I love Paris, in case you couldn't tell. :) On the way, we got stopped at the border for passport check, then again about a half an hour outside of Paris. After they had brought the drug dog onto the bus, they started checking the bags...evidently the dog liked Katherine's bag because she got pulled off the bus and had her bag searched. Good thing she could speak French! She was asked several times when we were in Amsterdam (we've never been) and was told she better just tell them because they saw the map of Amsterdam on her seat....map of Amsterdam = map of Brussels. The rest of us were very entertained and took pictures from inside the bus. Our hotel in Paris was perhaps my favorite on the whole trip. We had an awesome view of Montmartre from our window. The elevator was super tiny, though, and could only fit one of us with our bags, but we were on the sixth floor so we waited and took turns. After making plans to go to Lyon, we went to see the Eiffel Tower. It sparkles every hour - I was happy! We didn't go up in it, but we took LOTS of pictures.
Wednesday we saw a million things and walked 100 miles! Our first stop was Notre Dame. I didn't get any pictures inside because they were having mass and when I was there in high school I was annoyed with the tourists walking around taking pictures so I just walked around and tried to stay away from the congregation. We then decided to go the Paris Pantheon. EU citizens get in free so...we decided we are "Irish" and gave them our NUIG IDs. It worked! We then spent the rest of our time there practicing our Irish accents. Turns out I can only do an English accent. Our next stop was the Louvre. They had the same deal for EU citizens, but it turns out we're not Irish so it didn't work. :( After spending 3 1/2 hours in the Louvre and seeing the Egypt wing, the Venus de Milo, Nike, and the Mona Lisa, we walked down the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe...turns out that is a looooong way, but, we got crepes so it was ok. We then went to Montmartre and, after initial sketchiness, enjoyed walking around the little village. We went to the Sacre Couer Church and became very ashamed of our fellow citizens as some American students were having a party on the steps leading up to the church. Our response was to shout insults at them in Irish. We then finally went back and collapsed into bed. Wednesday was also my mom's birthday so I got to call her and wish her happy birthday from Paris!
Thursday, we took a train to Lyon. If you EVER get the chance to go there, DO IT! It may have surpassed Paris as my favorite city in Europe....I haven't decided yet. Our hotel here may qualify as the sketchiest hotel of the trip, but the city made up for that. Our first stop was to sit by the river and watch the little kids play in the water - they were so cute! We then walked around the city looking for a place to eat. The deciding factor was the fact that they guy came out and explained the menu to us (well, to Katherine as she was the only one who spoke French!) and it was actually open at 6:00 (most of the restaurants weren't open until 7:00 or 7:30). It was an excellent choice! We ended up sitting there for over 3 hours! The waiter also joked with us a lot (the language barrier made everything funnier), and we made the chef happy by taking pictures of our food. We then bought wine and apples to take back to our hotel room - very French!
Friday, we decided to go up to the big church on the hill above Lyon. We climbed 230 stairs - yes, we counted - and then continued up a sloping rosary garden. We didn't actually go in the church as we were worried about making our bus to Frankfurt, but the view was well worth the climb. After we checked out of the hotel, we became vagabonds! We took a night bus to Frankfurt Friday and a night bus to Hamburg on Saturday so we really had no home...it was fun! Kelsey and I also discovered to just use the bus's bathroom as if you get off the bus, the bus may leave you, and Vivane may have to frantically run up to the driver and tell him to stop. Thanks Viviane!
Saturday morning we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. Evidently the Germans trust the French more than the French trust the Belgians because we did not have our passports checked upon entering Germany. It made us nervous because people kept asking us, "Why are you going to Frankfurt?!" but it turned out to be a lovely city. We decided to go the zoo - I'm not sure which was more entertaining, the animals or Kelsey being really excited about the animals. On the way to the zoo, we stopped at Starbucks for breakfast...the chairs were so comfy Katherine ended up taking a little power nap (which, I'm sure, was much needed!) After lounging for a couple hours in Starbucks, we went to the zoo. At the zoo, I realized that my bank card, garda card, and driver's license were no longer in my pocket. Bad realization. After the zoo, we found a place that served Frankfurters. We discovered that our idea of a Frankfurter and there idea of a Frankfurter are quite different so we had sausages instead. We also discovered that Germany has very expensive water. Water is usually free...In Germany it is 2.50. Good to know. After dinner we proceeded back to the train station where we hung out in front of the storage lockers and took vagabond pictures. This is when I realized that the cards I thought I'd lost were really in the pocket of my other jeans. Good realization.
Our bus for Hamburg left at 12:45 AM and lasted 7 hours. Upon arrival, we found our hotel almost immediately (first time that had happened all trip) and found out the room would not be ready until 3 PM. It was then 8 AM. Our dreams of sleep and showers were dashed. They did, however, have a breakfast room where we sat and ate and checked e-mail and maybe even slept a little. We also looked up Mass times as it was Easter and Kelsey and I really thought we should go to church. We found a 12:00 Mass that was in English (yay!) so we went to that, then walked around Hamburg and ate lunch. By the time we were done with that, our room was ready so we went back and took showers and really long naps. We then thought we should try to eat hamburgers in Hamburg so we went in search of a restaurant. Turns out very little is open at 10:00 at night on Easter Sunday. We ended up eating at a little restaurant that served Croatian food (we think), which was very good. The waitress was adorable - she was so impressed that we were American and tried to explain the menu even though she didn't speak any English (good thing Vivane speaks German!) We then collapsed into bed yet again and had the best night's sleep in the world. This was probably my favorite hotel of the trip, and it was also the cheapest!
This morning we left for the airport at 9:00 and arrived in Dublin at 2:00. We then found a bus going directly to Galway so we got on it and arrived home at 6:00. It was a wonderful trip, but I am glad to be home!