A Week For Myself, Harry Potter, and Van Gogh: Travel Week 1

Strap in, folks, this is gonna be a long one!

This past week was DIS’s first of two travel weeks. Since my study tour travel week isn’t until the next study week – only two weeks away! – I had the entire week for independent travel. So I decided to go all out.

(If you don’t want to read an entire recap of my week, I’ll do a TLDR list of things I’ve learned at the end. Something for everyone!)

Part 1: Paris

On the first Saturday of my travel break, I boarded a plane to Paris. I had my passport, my printed tickets for Disneyland, and a suitcase full of clothing staples I could wear multiple times throughout the week.

Of course, I forgot my headphones. So I also paid for overpriced Bluetooth earbuds (because I also forgot my lightning adaptor) from the airport tech store so I wouldn’t absolutely suffer on the plane. Remember your headphones, kids.

One of my best friends is studying in Paris right now, so once I landed she took me under her wing to navigate me through the city. This night was Blanche Nuit in Paris – “White Night” – so there were a bunch of one-night-only events going on in the city. A lot of the things we tried to go to weren’t actually what we anticipated (or just…didn’t happen?) but it was a good way to walk around the city and explore.

At midnight, we were at the Eiffel Tower and saw it sparkle. I immediately texted my mom to tell her I was in love with Paris.

The next day we started at Musee d’Orsay to see their new Degas exhibit – Degas is my favorite artist so I was pumped – and because we have EU resident student IDs, we got in for free! Free ballet paintings!!!

The day was full of things that I hadn’t done the last time I was in Paris, including Sainte Chapelle and the best falafel I’ll probably ever have in my life.

We also got the famous hot chocolate from Angelina’s (pro-tip, you can get it from a cart outside so you don’t have to wait outside to have a seat for the restaurant!) and crepes later that night, because my entire goal for this semester is to eat my way through Europe. It was a goat cheese crepe, 10/10 recommend both the hot chocolate and the crepe.

On Monday, we went to Disneyland Paris. It’s about 40 minutes from the Paris city center, and it was the one thing I came to Paris wanting to do. I have no words other than I love Disneyland Paris and would like to come here every day for the rest of my life and get their Nutella-stuffed muffin.

It’s hard for me to put into words my love for Paris. There are countless things to do that I haven’t even seen yet, and just walking the streets makes me, a certified Single Pringle, fall in love with just the idea of love. I love chocolate croissants and flowers and hot chocolate and white houses with greenery growing up the side and the Eiffel Tower. I love Paris.

Jardin du Luxenbourg

Part 2: London

On Tuesday, I boarded the Eurostar at Gare du Nord and was London bound – all on my own, without any friends in tow.

Because I was alone, I was able to do all of the things that I dreamed of doing – which, ultimately, just meant seeing West End shows and the Harry Potter Studio tour.

Tuesday was spent exploring, mostly walking around the main sights (except Big Ben, who is stylishly hidden by SO MUCH CONSTRUCTION).

Both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I saw a show on the West End. Because, well, of course I did.

Buckingham Palace
Piccadilly Circus
The West End

Walking around London, I felt at home – it felt like New York City, but with more beautiful old buildings and better accents.

Taylor Swift’s “London Boy” was on play the entire three days, I promise you.

On Wednesday, I spent most of my day in Watford, wandering on the Harry Potter Studio Tour on the Warner Bros lot. And let me tell you, every dream I’ve had since being the precocious first grader reading Harry Potter came true.

I can’t share every picture I took or every thought I had or else we’d be here for a twenty page dissertation. But I will say that this is an absolute must-do for literally any Harry Potter (or movies in general? because these sets and props made this theatre technician start crying) fan.

The model of Hogwarts used for sweeping overhead shots and also used for making me openly sob in front of multiple families on my tour
The Hogwarts Express, obv, that was actually used in the movie so like….*heart eyes emoji*

On Thursday, before my Eurostar train back to Paris, I went to the Theatre Cafe near Covent Garden, which is my new favorite place. It’s exactly what you imagine it to be, and yes, it’s great. I also stopped by the National Gallery to see Van Gogh’s sunflowers – before seeing another version of them (of which there are five – who knew?) just two days later, but more on that later.

Part 3: Amsterdam

I returned to Paris Thursday night just to leave early Friday morning for Amsterdam – Paris has direct trains to Amsterdam, only 3 hours, and as we all know, trains are better than planes 100% of the time.

We arrived at around 10am, and we immediately went to get pancakes. Who knew Amsterdam has amazing pancakes? Me, now, apparently.

We also visited the cat boat. Yes, you heard me right. It’s a BOAT of CATS. It works as a shelter, it’s free to get in, and the cats are adoptable.

The best day of Amsterdam was Saturday – after waking up extra early to try and get day-of Anne Frank House tickets (very important to note: 80% of Anne Frank House tickets are sold beforehand, and sell out very fast. 20% of tickets are released day-of, and you have to have STRATEGY to get them), we got our tickets and then set off for the Van Gogh Museum.

If there are two people who greatly affected my adolescence, it’s Vincent Van Gogh and Anne Frank. Seeing their work and their home and hearing their stories…affected me. I cried a lot. And this became one of the most important days of my life.

It’s hard to put into words what either of these places really meant to me isn’t really possible. So really, just take my word for it.

Full disclosure – this is from the National Gallery. Photography isn’t allowed in the Van Gogh museum, but he painted FIVE of these sunflowers!! So you get the idea.

And after a rainy, delayed flight home, I am back in Copenhagen. Absolutely exhausted, but fully fulfilled from this trip. What did I learn, you ask? WELL, dear reader…

TLDR; What I learned in my travel week

  • Trains are the best way to navigate Europe
  • Don’t forget your headphones at home, and make sure you have headphones you can sleep in – if you hate snorers, you will inevitably end up with one in your hostel room
  • Having a hostel that isn’t the best at least motivates you to spend more time out in the city you’re in
  • Your phone plan from Lebara only has 5 GB of data for outside of Denmark. This is….very important.
  • The Anne Frank House WILL sell out a month in advance. Get online at 8:45 am and try your best.
  • Van Gogh painted his famous sunflowers five times
  • The only places at Disneyland Paris with vegetarian food are the Mexican restaurants
  • The props designers for the Harry Potter movies are who I want to be when I grow up
  • Riding the London underground is MUCH more expensive than you think it will be
  • Amsterdam has GREAT pancakes
  • There are more types of gouda cheese than you could ever imagine – go to the Amsterdam cheese museum for proof (and for free samples)
  • If you don’t know if it’s going to rain or not when you’re going on an Amsterdam canal tour, assume it will and go with a covered tour. It will probably rain.
  • Hot chocolate is, on average, better in Europe

So now, if you don’t mind, I am going to go sleep. I am very, very tired. Goodnight!

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