I’ve been slowly posting pics & a record of my most recent trip to Europe in late July/August. I checked out the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, traveled to Brussel and checked out the Atomium among other things and after that moved onward to the Netherlands.

One of the next adventures on my trip was getting to drive my uncles cargovan on the narrow Dutch roads. I’ve had my license here in Canada since I turned 17 (so… counting back that’s like almost 9 years, holy crap!) I checked out the laws before I did it just to be sure I wasn’t doing anything illegal, turns out I can drive in the Netherlands for up to 160-somedays months with my Canadian license! (As long as the car is registered to a dutch person in the Netherlands) After successfully not driving into anything my uncle allowed me to take my cousins car to go visit my grandparents for the afternoon. I got a little bit lost thanks to an outdated map on the TomTom. (They can’t build roads that fast where I live in Canada.. haaa….) but managed to get to my grandparents despite a ten minute detour through parts of the city Groningen that I didn’t know. (Yeah, even though I grew up there, go figure!)

proof 😉

After that I my uncle dropped me off at my bff’s mothers house where she was staying that night and we spent the evening geekily playing Boggle, drinking wine and sitting outside in the warm evening.

The next day my friends brother took us out on his boat for the afternoon and we spent most of the afternoon drinking juice, eating more pistolets with filet americain and enjoying the hot weather. Seriously, I had fan-tastic weather when I was home! It’s never like that, the Netherlands being a low-lying country it tends to rain… a lot.

The seriously awesome little boat

I spent a few days lazing about before travelling onward to the UK with C. where we spent two sun-filled days walking around Windsor, drinking beer, eating fries and sleeping in. Much sleeping in.

Windsor Castle, UK 2012

I really didn’t take very many photos on this trip and I really regret it now. My whirlwind UK trip took all of two days after which I returned to the Netherlands, visited my grandparents again, had dinner on a floating dock in Rotterdam, had a marathon Big Bang Theory watching session with C.  and subsequently got ill from the fish that we ate. Travellers ailments. So much fun. 😉

Mmmmm I want more

From Canada to Iceland to Belgium to The Netherlands to the UK to the Netherlands to Iceland and back to Canada, I spent 17 days completely free. It was a fantastic trip, I learned stuff about myself and will definitely plan something like this again in the future, hell, I’ve already started dreaming about it and googling destinations.

Where would you like to go? 

Other posts related to this trip: Before departure: Deciding to Travel Solo, Iceland/first few days: We have liftoff!, A Hopscotch to Brussel, and The Atomium and Homeward Bound




Continuing on from We have Liftoff! and A hopscotch to Brussels, I’ve finally had the time (now two weeks after returning) to upload my photos to my external harddrive and sort them all. Time for more trip pics! You ask, I deliver. 😉

Friday July 20 marked day 2 in Brussel, Belgium. I managed to roll out of bed midmorning (time zone adjusting not going well) and went for lunch at a cafe just up the street. I enjoyed the thing belgians are good at: a hot chocolate made with real cocoa on the spot and a sandwich with filet americain (which really really is delicious) as I attempted to read the French new paper with some  success!

The windows in my room at Hotel Aristote, facing Rue Stalingrad

After brunch I grabbed the Hop on, Hop off red tourbus at the Bourse, I bought my student ticket from the driver and it was 20EUR (reg 22EUR). Ouch, it is valid for 24 hours however so you can get two days of enjoyment out of it. I stayed on the bus and changed lines ones to see the whole tour in one go.

Walking up to the Atomium. © – SABAM 2010 – Andrea P.

The highlight of my second day really was the Atomium. (with my student discount and a coupon I paid 6EUR for entry) It took me a while to get there because I wanted to take another bustour first so by the time I got to the Atomium it was later in the afternoon and raining a bit. Not to worry, my overpriced 20EUR umbrella came to the rescue! The Atomium is seriously cool though! Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area. The Atomium was built for the ’58 world expo and represents a small part of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. On the inside you are able to take the elevator up and visit the top sphere where you have a fantastic view of Brussel. Visitors are able to visit 5 out of the 9 spheres.

Inside. © – SABAM 2010 – Andrea P.

After the atomium, I took the bus back to avenue Louise to check out some of the shops. I didn’t realize that most shops would be closing at 6PM, even though the place was crowded with tourists so the only store I visited was the Tiffany’s & Co and the Hermes store where I almost broke the door and a HUGE black man with white teeth smiled at me and opened the door. Oh the memories.

beautiful parks!

That Friday evening I walked around, I went out for dinner at a sit down restaurant by myself for the first time ever and took pictures of buildings and Grand Place and various other sights.

Brussel is a nice looking city with tree-lined cobblestone streets and wild and manicured gardens but overall I didn’t like Brussels very much and I’m unlikely to return, unless there was a specific reason to. (Hello future husband? 😉 yeah maybe not) I guess I’m with Bridget on this. Here’s why: I was greeted and mumbled French things to by more men than I can count and I really didn’t love this city as much as I loved my next stop; Windsor UK. I felt it was too multicultural and had very little atmosphere of it’s own; everyone is from somewhere else and even though I enjoy hearing other languages and meeting other cultures I had hoped to experience more of Belgium, rather than a mish-mash of everywhere-else. I enjoyed the fabulous croissants and chocolates belgium has to offer but I found Brussel seriously lacking personality.

Saturday morning I grabbed another filet americain sandwich and hopped back on the train to Diemen, Amsterdam to meet up with a few digital friends. (which was a blast) First class train tickets are really the way to go, I really enjoyed the ride home and for the 6 hours of train travel I endured on Saturday to get to my uncle’s farm and enddestination of the day; Groningen…. 25EUR and not having to put up with crowed coupes, what a steal!

Have you ever been to Brussels, did you like it? Was my experience a one-off, what should I have done different?

I haven’t written a whole lot about my upcoming travel plans, aside from my mentions of attending FINCON12 (speaking of which; I need a roommate or I won’t be able to go! Please email me if you’re in the same boat!) Mostly, I haven’t mentioned it because much of it has just been dreaming and half-planning things I would like to do. I’ve been thinking about taking a week or two off this summer to travel. I love travel and one of my primary motivations to get my financial shit together has been an increased freedom and ability to see the world. I feel such excitement when I get the privilege of being able to go somewhere! I realize I am so fortunate.

At first I had a short jaunt planned to NYC with my sister last month, which got cancelled after she had her passport stolen, after that I discussed travelling to Newfound Land with some family members but for various reasons that also, fell through. (It was expensive too) I also talked to long-lost childhood friend from Milan, Italy, this past winter about going to Italy to see Milan and Rome and was invited to stay at their vacation home in Tuscany. How awesome would that be? Meet old friends, and see beautiful Italy too! But that never came together either, perhaps next year.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Left with no summer vacation plans I dreamed of exotic destinations I feared I would never see. But, since I regularly traipse discount airfare websites to dream about faraway places I  accidentally found a great deal on airfare at the end of July, almost exactly $1,000 for a return ticket to Europe. I didn’t put much thought into it and booked the flight a couple of weeks ago with no plans for accomodations etc. I was hoping I could go, but wasn’t sure if I would actually make it. Aside from making an attempt to get time off work I haven’t talked about it here or in real life because still, my plans are uncertain.

With my planned travel date getting a little close for comfort today I took advantage of and booked another few deals while planning out my trip. I’m still not 100% certain that I will be able to follow through because of crazy work obligations, but I’ve made my plans and hopefully come next week I’ll get a chance to see a few new places. Yeah, if you’re wondering how I deal with this type of uncertainty in my life being a type-a, slightly ocd, organized geek… not very well at all! It’s 1:30AM and I can’t sleep! Back to the point though…

It took me years to get to this point of just booking a trip and going, without a buddy a sibling or some sort of travel partner. I’m not sure what has held me back, fear, I think mostly. I tried to plan things with friends but too often they fell through and I felt disappointed because I had truly intended to go. While I would love to be going with someone, I’ve realized that travelling by yourself isn’t a bad thing at all. I am independent by nature, have travelled a bit in my young life already and have survived not one but three immigrations. Surely, I can handle travelling through the Western world by myself.

This will be my first, true, solotrip to foreign countries, one of which I don’t speak or even slightly understand the language. I’ll be hitting four countries; Iceland, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. I speak and understand Dutch fluently (it’s my mother tongue) but french, flemmish and icelandic? I might be able to get a few words out in French but my Icelandic is limited to ‘Takk’ which means thank you. Flemmish just baffles me with all their funny words and soft g’s, though I can understand 75% of it because it is a form of Dutch. I’m sure I’ll be fine but it will be interesting!

As for why I chose these countries: Iceland just happened to be included in the itinerary since IcelandAir allows free stopovers on your way to North-America or Europe. This got me googling Iceland and it turns out it’s a place I would love to experience. From Iceland I move on to Belgium. I chose Belgium because, while I’ve been there passing through, I’ve never really visited as a tourist and I’m curious! I hope to indulge in much chocolate and beer and sights, from my single private room at a central hostel. While booking private rooms as a single person is a little bit more expensive than doing the dorm rooms, I’m making it work in my budget by getting discounts on other things. For example. I ran into a deal ( where I was able to book a first class train ticket from anywhere in Belgium to anywhere in the Netherlands for 25EUR (which is a steal for a first class 5 hour train journey!) Woohoo! Which allows me to get from Brussels to the very tip in the North of the Netherlands where my place of birth is and where I have family.

Of course my home, the Netherlands is a given, I will be visiting my grandparents, the primary reason I began thinking of this trip… seeing them before they don’t remember me anymore, as they are getting on in age, the other reason: to see C. and visiting my uncle in my place of birth for a night or two.  Ahh and then the UK where I will be for a couple of days with C. during the official opening of the Olympics. Not that I’ll be attending because I don’t have tickets.. (yet?) but hey. I can say I was there! Land of the red phonebooths and fish and chips has been on my must-see list for as long as I can remember. I can’t wait to go! Legoland awaits!

After that, back through Iceland, I’m thinking of walking around Reykjavik, seeing the sights and perhaps doing a boat tour… and after that back to Halifax, Canada.

Four countries, a few days in each, a few familiar places (Halifax Stanfield Airport is probably too familiar at this point) and a lot of places I’ve never seen. I’m so  excited and I do hope that work doesn’t get in the way and I have to cancel, as of right now… it’s a go. I’ve started nailing down my plans, my family and friends now know, I’ve announced it on the blog! I’m going to do it! One week from now I’ll be working my way to Iceland where I’ll have my first spa experience ever at the Blue Lagoon. (how cool does that place look!??)

At a certain point your dreams and desires overcome your fears and I think that after 26 years on this planet, I’ve finally reached that point (atleast in this regard) So what do you think of travelling solo? Have you ever done it, how long, where did you go! Details details!