As someone who has been attending one of the largest universities in the States for the past 2 years, I thought that I had gotten used to walking long distances. Little did I know that navigating London on foot can be an exhausting and challenging feat. In fact, I have been doing so much walking in the city that my boots started to fall apart! Sure, there's always the Tube and the classic London double decker bright red buses to take me around the city, but I truly think that the best way to see any city is on foot. And over the past week I have walked more than I think I have ever walked in my life...
Day 1: After completing our midterm exams, my roommate and I decided that we would go on an adventure! The weather was extremely beautiful, so we decided to walk all the way from our residence hall to Regents Park (1.5 miles) where we admired the colorful leaves and breathed in the crisp, Autumn air. We then walked towards Primrose Hill, another area of the park containing a huuuge hill that, when at the top, you can see an amazing view of the city. The top of the hill has a spectacular view of the London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, and even our residence hall in King's Cross! We then decided that instead of taking the tube, we would walk along the Regent's Canal back to our residence hall. The weather was beautiful and we were finished our exams...so why not! In total we walked over 5 miles that day!
Day 2: With our midterm exams finished and our papers turned in, our midterm break began! My agenda for the next 6 days consisted of Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam! On Thursday I arrived in Paris and headed straight to the Catacombs--underground ossuaries in Paris, France that contain the remains of over 6 million people. After trekking down flights of stairs, we walked through a series of tunnels and labyrinth-like walkways containing the remains of millions of people. I'll be honest...it was a bit creepy. But it was an incredible sight to see and once again...required a lot of walking. Next, we walked to Luxembourg Gardens and Notre Dame Cathedral. All of the trees in the gardens were beginning to turn bright shades of red and yellow. Walking through the park it really felt like Fall weather! After a whole day of walking through Paris we decided to grab dinner at a cafe along the Seine and I tried the famous French delicacy...escargot (which were surprisingly pretty good!). We ended the evening walking along the river all the way from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. Even though we walked over 7 miles and I was super exhausted, the shimmering lights of the Eiffel Tower made it all worth it. The sight was something that I had only seen in photos and being there to see it in person truly took my breath away.
Day 3: The next day we decided to travel to Versailles--the palace of King Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette--which had huge, lush gardens and huge state rooms with glorious murals on all of the ceilings. In general...the palace was huge. I thought Buckingham Palace was lavish, but Versailles had gold trimmings in all of the rooms, as well as beautiful paintings and murals on the walls and ceilings. Even the beds of King Louis and Marie Antoinette were huge! A huge palace calls for a lot of walking. After walking around Versailles from a little after 10 am to 2 pm, we decided that it was time to head back into the city center. After a quick power nap on the metro from Versailles, we decided to stop at the Eiffel Tower again, so we could see it's magnificence in the daylight! About an hour and several hundred pictures later, we walked to the Louvre where we saw the famous Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo sculpture as well as other magnificent sculptures and works of art. I guess you could say our legs/feet were a bit tired after another jam packed day in Paris.
Day 4: During our last day in Paris we decided to walk along the all the way down to Arc de Triomphe! This is was the point in our trip where my legs were really starting to feel the burn. I made a terrible error in that I only unfortunately packed only one pair of shoes. Travel tip: NEVER PACK ONLY ONE PAIR OF SHOES. After walking around Paris for hours I decided that I needed to give my feet a break and buy a pair of shoes. A girl can never have too many shoes, right?
Day 5: After exploring Paris for a few days, we headed to Brussels, Belgium in search of a new adventure! Our first stop was the Comic Book Museum. Although I'm not extremely into comic books, I found the museum really cool! There were exhibits about the creation and production of comic books and even a whole exhibit on the Smurphs. I had no clue that comics were such a big part of the culture in Belgium but it was really cool to walk around and see tons of different kinds of comics in tons of different languages. We then walked to see the major sights of the city: Mont des Arts, Royal Palace, Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, and of course Manneken Pis (although I'm not quite sure why a small fountain of a little boy peeing is such a big landmark...)! And of course, we ate tons of waffels and fries! Once again, we probably walked about 7 miles...maybe even more that day! It felt amazing to break in my new shoes in an amazing city that I had never been to before. Brussels was filled with so many wonderful people and amazing sights to see and foods to taste. By the end of our time in the city my shoes were well traveled in!
Day 6: After leaving Brussels we finally arrived at the last stop on our journey...Amsterdam. I am extremely proud to say that I did not use public transportation at all while in Amsterdam! The city is a huge canal system that is extremely beautiful and honestly makes you want to walk everywhere so that you don't miss a single sight. We wandered through the canals during the day, walking aimlessly and seeing what we could find! We ended up walking to Dam Square, past the Anne Frank House, through the Red Light District (which was quite a sight to see....), and down the shopping streets of the city. Although we did so much walking, it didn't feel like a ton because we were surrounded by unique architecture, glistening canal waters, and vibrant leaves. It sort of felt like I was walking through a painting.
Day 7: Finally, we reached the last day of our Midterm journey. We woke up extremely early in order to go to the Anne Frank House (the line gets suuuper long during the day). And although we woke up at the crack of dawn it was definitely worth it. I had chills walking through the bookcase that kept the secret door to the Frank family's hideout hidden. The museum also housed Anne's original diary. The quotes and stories written by Anne displayed throughout the museum really made me think about how talented of a writer she was and how many people she reached and inspired. It also made me think about how much of a tragedy the Holocaust was and how many incredible lives were cut too short because of it. Visiting the museum was truly an incredible experience and I think it's an experience that everyone should have if they ever go to Amsterdam! After we visited the Anne Frank House we headed to the Van Gogh Museum, the Albert Cuyp Market, and went for a late night stroll through the city center before heading back to London!
Although walking around may hurt my feet at times and wear out the soles of my shoes, I really do love it. I'm really beginning to appreciate the ability that I have to walk outside my door everyday or just take a short train or plane ride and be able to experience amazing cities and landmarks right at my doorstep. Even though it may cause me to take my shoes to a cobbler or buy a new pair of sneakers...I'm going to keep on walking!
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<p>Natalie Walden is a Junior at Penn State University, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in International Studies and Vocal Performance. On any given day, you can find her around campus singing with her a cappella group or drinking Jamba Juice at one of the HUB tables. She is a brother of Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity and one of the THON chairs of the Oriana Singers and Glee Club THON organization. Her talents include impersonating Britney Spears/Shakira and binge watching shows on Netflix (which she will not be doing much of while abroad...). Natalie has never been to Europe before and can't wait to share all of her amazing adventures across the pond!</p>