Go Do - Jónsi


The Final Stretch

Today was our last day of classes at Universiteit Maastricht - tomorrow evening I'll be in Venice! I'll be backpacking along the coast of the Mediterranean for the next three weeks. I'd go into more detail, but seeing as I have to wake up in 4 hours I'm going to keep it short...

On the agenda:
  1. Venice April 6-7
  2. Zagreb, Croatia April 8
  3. Split April 9-10
  4. Dubrovnik April 11-12
  5. Amalfi Coast, Italy April 13-14
  6. Rome April 15
  7. Florence April 16
  8. Tuscany April 17
  9. Cinque Terre April 18-19
  10. Nice, France April 20-21
  11. Barcelona, Spain April 21-23
Back to Maastricht on April 24th!
So all in all, I'm shooting for 11 cities in 20 days. Call me crazy, but I came to see all of Europe and I plan to do so. At least Western Europe... SO EXCITED!

I'll have limited internet access and probably will not post over the three weeks, but if you need to reach me, shoot me an e-mail!

Dubrovnik, Croatia


Bonjour, Paris!

Paris – The lights! The crepes! The romance! Just a 4-hour train from Maastricht, the quick trip on Thursday gave us three full nights in one of my favorite cities yet.
Since this post is late, I’m going to hit you with the highlights and do my best to spare the details:

-       Eiffel tower at night. A sparkling light show happens every hour, on the hour. It was fantastic.
Posing with a local at Montmartre
-      -  Morning was spent touring the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre for a panoramic view of Paris, and a quick picture by the Moulin Rouge windmill to pay homage to the movie.

-       - We made it to Notre Dame for a Friday afternoon Lent service (all in French… we didn’t think through that one), then a quick metro to Trocadéro, home of the Palais de Chaillot, a beautiful building that offers the best view of the Eiffel from its grass green hills. Dinner was a trademark French crepe, fresh off the press and complete with “poulet et fromage” – basically, a French quesadilla. We caught the even light show and walked around the Seine River and Eiffel area. It quickly became our favorite hang out in Paris.
Notre Dame

-       Breakfast at Café Angelina – “the only place to have a cup of hot chocolate,” according to Audrey Hepburn. It was decadent, to say the least.
-       The Louvre – Student i.d. means free entry! We stopped by to say hi to Mona… turns out she’s the strong, silent type so we left shortly thereafter.
Jardin des Tuileries
- Jardin des Tuileries – my favorite part about Paris was the greenery. This central garden, leading up to the entrance of the Louvre, was full of picnickers and children pushing sailboats around its many fountains. It was beautiful, I wanted nothing more than to stop and read a book in the grass and enjoy the flowers.
Jardin des Tuileries

-       Arc du Triomphe. The Arc marks the beginning of a walk down Champs-Elysees. The victory arc is a beautiful piece of architecture reflecting a sad bit of history for Napoleon. The highlight here was witnessing a proposal… precious.
-       We walked down Champs-Elysees to the metro, our final destination being the Eiffel Tower (Round 3? Why not.)
-      I’ve had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower on my mind for as long as I can remember. Overlooking the fountains at Trocadero as the sun set on the Eiffel Tower was absolute bliss. We purchased Brie, baguettes, and fresh fruit to go along with our cheap bottle of wine from a local market.
Another check off the bucket list

-        Climbing the Eiffel tower – SO much fun! A mere 1,665 steps brought us to the second tier of the Eiffel. From there, we took an elevator to the very top for incredible views, just as the evening lights began glimmering.
Top of the Eiffel with our new friends... ¡Hola, Ricardo y Angel!
-       Finally, we got crepes with some friends we met on the Eiffel, stopping to enjoy the masterpiece we had just conquered. At the Palais de Challot we caught a live musician doing renditions of U2 and Adele for a crowd, the Eiffel glowing in the background. Perfect end to a perfect day.
Front of Chateau de Versailles
Sunday: (yes, there is more. My apologies)
VERSAILLES! Ohhhh my, what a wonderful Sunday. With spring in the air, the gardens of Versailles were blooming with golden daffodils and begging for a stroll through the carefully constructed landscape. 
The property is absolutely extravagant. We were unable to tour the palace due to a time crunch and excessive crowds, but made up for it by paddle boating on the Grand Canal! The man-made lake is a central location for the tourists that come to Versailles – people were picnicking all across the lawns, bike riding through the many garden paths, and enjoying ice cream on the warm day. After our boat excursion, we had lunch on an outdoor terrace in the gardens. It was wonderful.
Paddle boating on the Grand Canal

All in all, the weekend in Paris exceeded expectations. Abundant sunshine made for great pictures, enjoy! 



Amsterdam - Europe's own sin city. Day-tripping on Friday gave plenty of time to experience the heart of Dutch culture.

Our day was packed, starting with an outdoor market - vintage books, maps and records galore! A walk along the canal, lined with boats and Christmas lights, brought us [Hailey, Annaliese, Brady and I] to the Anne Frank House. The exhibit offered a whole new look at WWII and left me wanting to read her book again. She was so young - only thirteen - but wrote so well.

Boats and twinkle lights along the canal
Next up was the new Starbucks concept store, which recently popped up in design news. "Slow Coffee Theatre" is a brewing method that Starbucks is introducing, and Amsterdam is one of the pilot operations. My review: I want to move to the city so I can study in Starbucks 'The Bank' ALL DAY. It was wonderful, I think I'll design my future house interior after it. Lush, earthy, comfortable yet simple - well played, Starbucks, well played.

Inside Amsterdam's newest Starbucks
After dinner and coffee, the four of us tried our luck in a (less-than) classy casino. The language barrier made your basic slot machine seem like neuroscience... Needless to say, we split early.

Last up was the Red Light District. Walking through the dark but crowded street broke my heart. Depravity on both ends - the women and the men - who are involved in the scene. It felt empty and dark despite the droves of people, aimlessly searching for fulfillment in things that don't satisfy. Again, I learn a lot just from seeing different things like this so I was glad to have the opportunity, regardless of the ill-feeling it left me with.

Annaliese and I near the city center!
Amsterdam was my only trip this weekend! I caught up on sleep and (attempted to) chip away at the mound of work I've put off this semester. Let's just say I have a full two weeks ahead of me.

Click here for a short album! Excuse the poor quality, I left giganto-Canon at home this weekend.


Family Ties

Shout-out to my wonderful Grandpa on his birthday!!!

This one's for you:

From Johnny Cash sing-alongs through the New Mexico desert, to chili-making and birthdays at the cabin (let's not forget El Rancho). Sharing a mutual love for licorice and confronting purse smugglers in NYC - I could go on and on with memories. But what I most appreciate is all of the wisdom you share with me and your constant encouragement! I love you SO much and hope you feel blessed today.

Anna B.

P.S. - If you're going to go out and hoot with the owls tonight, you'd better be up to soar with the eagles tomorrow morning.


Mountains Beyond Mountains

No photoshop involved, I swear.

Arriving in Interlaken is like stepping into a postcard. The train into town winds around the crystal-clear lake at the base of the valley, framed by the huge peaks of the Swiss Alps... I guess you could say I'd be okay with building a summer home in Interlaken.

Fourteen of us stayed in the famous Balmer's Herberge in the center of Interlaken. Renown for outdoor sports like bungee jumping, skiing, zorbing and paragliding; the town has a youthful vibe in the best way possible.

Call me granola girl, but I'll proudly say that hiking is one of my favorite pastimes, and Interlaken doesn't disappoint. On Friday, we hiked up one of the mountain trails for a panoramic view of the valley. The weather was PERFECT - clear skies, sunshine, and just warm enough for t-shirts.

On Saturday, Katie, Brady and I hiked to a town called Lauterbrunnen. From there, we took the gondola up to a mountain summit (Murren, to be exact). A tram running from peak to peak allowed us to stop at the ski chalets and towns that dot the Alps. Words can't express how beautiful it is! I felt tiny beneath the mountain shadows.

The highlight of this trip for me was being refreshed in the mountains - that is always where I hear from the Lord. Hiking up to Lauterbrunnen, I suddenly became aware of His presence... How nature is a reflection of Him. It came to life as I started praying and thanking God for putting me there, just for that day. Psalm 36:9 kept running through my mind - "In your light, we see light." Another was Psalm 23, "He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.."

It's so cool (by cool, I mean humbling) to see scripture come alive. Moments of complete awareness of God's presence are rare, but when they DO happen there is nothing like it. There is nothing like having "full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:22) and "peace that passes all understanding"(Phil 4:7) - and then to realize that the Lord IS. That He IS the nature I am so drawn to, that everything is withheld in Him... it's incredibly difficult to communicate the feeling of His love. But I pray for anyone reading that "the eyes of your heart may be enlightened to know the hope to which He has called you" (Eph 1:18). Because nothing in this world, no matter where you are or who you are with or what you do, will satisfy like the Lord satisfies. And that was confirmed for me this weekend! Praise Him.

Romans 1:20
Switzerland was absolutely wonderful -  beautiful train ride, fun people, stunning scenery... I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.

Check out the pictures here!


Czech It Out

Non-stop travel, studying and absorbing life in Europe for the past six weeks is catching up with me! Prague was a great experience in learning my limits. Six of us took an overnight train to the Czech Republic on Thursday - needless to say, the 'City Night Line' left me sleep-deprived and cramped from head to toe.
View of St. Vitus Cathedral from the Charles Bridge

But Prague! It's beautiful. Our first day in the city was a blur, but by no means a disappointment. I was captured by the city, finding it to be a melting pot of European culture.
Emily, Annaliese, Hailey and I
Elizabeth and I ventured from the group for our Saturday in Prague. Simple joy was found in the FULL cup of normal-size coffee (a rare find in Europe) from Krusta Bakery near our hostel in Mala Strana. We wandered up picturesque Nerudova Street, stopping in the 'traditional Czech' stores along the way, which heavily cater to tourists. Prague Castle sits atop a hill, lending for a beautiful view of the city. We caught the changing of the guards at the castle before walking through St. Vitus Cathedral. The Cathedral was beautifully lit with morning sunshine, but swarming with tourists (for once, I didn't feel out of place!). 
Elizabeth and I at Prague Castle
Hiking up Petrin Hill for a view of the whole city was my favorite part of Prague. A sea of red roofs running into the Vlatva River, layer upon layer of buildings and Cathedral spires, Prague is absolutely beautiful! At the top of Petrin Hill stands the Petrin Observation Tower (they get real creative with names) -  a tribute (or shabby look alike? I'll let you decide) to Paris' Eiffel Tower set in the grassy area of Petrin. I could have sat and enjoyed the view forever. But Prague was calling! So much to see, so little time.
View from Petrin Hill
After Petrin, Elizabeth and I walked back down through Mala Strana and across the Charles Bridge. The landmark is littered with tourists from every country. Beautiful 17th-century sculptures line the bridge, overlooking a crowd of visitors. We stopped for live music, courtesy of the Dixieland Jazz Band (yes, we bought a CD) and admired the paintings of the artists holding shop on the bridge.
Live jazz on Charles Bridge!
Reaching Old Town Square, we took in the diverse architecture found in Prague. Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque structures can all be found within the city center - so much history in such a small area! Prague has an addicting energy. I normally hate tourist traps like those lining the streets into the city, but something about the buzz and mix of cultures made it fun to be a part of. 

Our final stop was Halveske Trizste (or Havel's market), an outdoor smorgasbord of Czech pashminas, paintings and produce. After bargaining with the locals, we trekked back to Hostel Mango for a quick nap before our cheap but delicious dinner of traditional goulash soup. An evening stroll around the city, beautifully lit at night, ended with crepes on an outdoor patio with my sweet friend Annaliese.

What I learned: {The Lord stands with me and strengthens me} 2 Timothy 4:17
Although it started off rough, Prague ended up being a great trip! I learned further dependency on the Lord, and the extent of how vulnerable I am, physically and emotionally (never been so tired in my life!). This weekend followed up a meaningful experience in Cologne that happened earlier last week - I hope to post about it later. 

Enjoy the short but sweet album, knowing that the pictures never do the scenery justice! 


Hardcore Days & Softcore Nights

Scotland wins my love for favorite country in the UK. Our four day visit to Edinburgh, Elie, and St. Andrew's was absolute bliss. How to sum it up in one post?! I'll do my best.

Hailey and I on the coast
Staying on the Royal Mile put us at the base of Edinburgh Castle and the center of everything the country's capital does best. If I ever open a boutique, the storefront will be inspired by what I saw in Edinburgh. A little eclectic, a little traditional - who knew Edinburgh had such a great vintage selection? The girls and I went on half of Sandeman's New Europe Tour - but shopping & lunch was calling our names so we ditched the history lesson early.

Beautiful Edinburgh!
Hailey & I found the greatest potato shop for lunch, walked around, and made a pit stop at the Scottish National Gallery to check out its beautiful painting gallery. Leaving the museum, we caught a streetside bagpipe performance. So cultural! So fun!

Greyfriars Cemetery, the inspiration for several characters in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, was the highlight of the afternoon. Taylor, Kristen and I found the tombstones of Thomas Riddle, Professor McGonagall and some others. Located in the heart of Edinburgh, Greyfriars is both pretty and eerie - I loved it. We stopped for hot chocolate at The Elephant House after the cemetery, where Rowling penned the Sorcerer's Stone overlooking Edinburgh castle.
Pink & white 'mallows? Okay!

Taking pictures of snowdrops!
Day two started with a fun morning around Edinburgh before a train to the seaside town of Elie. Kristen's family friends, Marion & Dave, were our wonderful hosts for the next two nights. Their renovated loft is one of several in a 17th-century estate overlooking the woods - big, beautiful trees and snowdrop flowers cover the landscape. It was night and day, staying in their gorgeous space as compared to the sketchy hostels we've been frequenting! Marion and Dave went above and beyond to bless us over the next two days. It was such a treat!

Dave and Marion - THANK YOU BOTH! :)
We walked along the coast of Elie before returning for a wonderful dinner... wonderful is an understatement, it was actually the best meal I've had in Europe to date. No kidding. ITW (Is This Womanly?) became the phrase of the week... shout-out to Marion who gave us etiquette lessons over our stay. We are 10 times more cultured and refined now, thanks to her guidance.

Crail Harbour
Our tour of Scotland's fishing villages was on the schedule for Thursday, with a final destination of St. Andrew's! On the way, we stopped in Crail Harbour and for a tour of the fish market, where freshly-caught salmon and other North Sea fish are brought to be smoked, packaged, and shipped out worldwide. As a business minor, I loved getting a firsthand look at the logistics of the fishing industry. It was also THE best smoked salmon I've had in my life. 

On route to St. Andrew's, we stopped for hot chocolate, coffee, and Scottish tablets on the terrace of Crail Harbour Tearoom. It was beautiful by the sea - I love a good tearoom, so this hit the spot.
Coffee and hot chocolate at Crail Harbour
Arriving in St. Andrew's, we went directly to the fourth floor of the Old Course Hotel to get a view of the iconic golf course. The breathtaking view of the green running into the sea made me want to pick up golf again. We took pictures on the 18th-hole bridge, and I did my best Tiger impression in honor of my brother Justin (hollaaaa!). 
Rooftop of St. Andrew's Old Course Hotel
Following lunch at the course, we headed over to St. Andrew's University. I loved wandering through the brick buildings of the school, partly admiring its beauty and history, partly imagining myself as Kate Middleton meeting Prince William for the first time on campus... Creepy, I know. 

Pavlova for dessert
Dinner that night was a casual five-course dinner prepared by Marion, featuring the salmon from the market that morning and homemade rhubarb pie. Seriously - Marion and Dave outdid themselves. We had so much fun.

Friday was the send-off! We had lunch at a local pub in Elie before our hosts dropped us off for a flight from Edinburgh to Brussels.

Kristen and I on the coast!
Scotland was wonderful. I want to visit again some day, maybe in the summer for a round of golf at St. Andrew's and a sailboat ride to one of the many islands off the coast... you know, something simple. Four days was not long enough!

Check out the pics here!


Dublin, Doolin, and everything in between.

Taylor, Kristen, Hailey, Elizabeth and I in Doolin
Carnaval break was a whirlwind of 10 days - SO many great experiences in such a short amount of time. I'm breaking it up into several posts so as to not overwhelm with information. So here goes:

Kristen, Taylor, Elizabeth, Hailey and I kicked off the break with a sleepover in the Charleroi airport. WORST IDEA EVER... but so funny looking back on. I slept in an airport security bin, and when I say "slept" I mean inhaled dust and the smell of body odor while simultaneously trying to guard my belongings. It was great.
Sleeping in a security bin? Why not.
Day 1 in Dublin was a blur, thanks to lack of sleep. I'd like to share fun cultural memories but can't recall anything past our 3-hour nap in the hostel lobby.

Day 2 started with a 2-hour train ride from one coast of Ireland to the opposite. The country is just like the pictures - bright green fields, burly white sheep, and country cottages across the landscape. We spent the afternoon in the fishing town of Galway, enjoying a farmer's market with local food, flowers, and artisan crafts. Lunch in a traditional pub, wandering through the old cathedrals, a stop at an afternoon tea room - it was a perfect day! An evening bus brought us to the tiny village of Doolin - our stop for two nights. We were even offered an upgrade from hostel to B&B by our wonderful Rainbow's End hosts Mattie and Carmel.

Rainbow's End B&B
Doolin (population 500ish) is rural enough to where we could see HUGE stars above the hills and castle ruins. What a welcome! Saturday night was spent in the most authentic Irish setting you can imagine - McGann's pub. We happened to be there during an eulogy for a local musician who passed away - it was something I'll never forget. Dancing, drinks, and celebrating the life of a dear member of the community. That's how I want to go out - with celebration!

McGann's Pub in Doolin
Day 3 - Waking up to fresh scones in the Rainbow Bed & Breakfast set the day off right. We got a (crazy, roller-coaster in real life) ride to the Cliffs of Moher from Mattie, our host. The Cliffs are stunning - deep blue sea set behind steep stone walls and perfect green grass. Words can't describe how beautiful it is! After soaking in as much as we could, the girls and I took a wonderful 2-hour walk back to Doolin. We were blessed with PERFECT weather - sunshine and a slight breeze - it was gorgeous!

Day 4 brought us back to Dublin. Our initial airport sleepover was a learning experience (NEVER.AGAIN.) so we invested in a hostel before an early flight to Scotland the following morning.

Dublin was my least favorite of the metropolitan cities we've been to so far. Still, we had a great time touring the Guinness factory, Trinity College, and an evening in the Temple Bar district with a friend of Kristen and Elizabeth's who is studying in Dublin. 

Kristen, Hailey and I at the Guinness Factory in Dublin
Ireland was great! High point - Doolin. Low point - airport and sketchy hostel. 
Good luck mucking through the album, I filled an entire memory card in these 4 days alone!


Valentine's Day + Carnival plans!

I couldn't have stumbled upon this quote at a better time... losing my backpack last weekend was unpleasant, but this put things in perspective. How often do I find security in my things? I had to let it go! And trust that God provides everything I need to get through each day. Matthew 6:25-34 was a great passage to read through.

So candid. V-day 2k12.
Valentine's day in Maastricht was so fun! It's starting to warm up so I went for a run that took me by a beautiful cemetery, a medieval Cathedral, and up to the second river that I had yet to see.  I hope to go back and photograph soon!

To celebrate the holiday, Taylor made yummy strawberry crepes, my friend Katie surprised me with fresh white tulips (flowers might be my favorite thing), we had a festive get-together in the dorms and later went to the Shamrock. An overall successful Valentine's Day, in my opinion.
Taylor's AMAZING crepes. Pro status.
Tonight, 5 of us girls are going to Brussels and sleeping in the airport, as we take off for Dublin early tomorrow morning! I can't believe its already Carnaval break. Ireland and Scotland are on the agenda for our 10-day vacation this week... Can't wait!


Ze Veekend in Germany!

Our short trip to Munich and Fussen in Germany this weekend was a blast!
I’m trying to shorten these posts; I tend to rant, so here is my attempt at Germany in a nutshell:

Friday, Feb. 10
- 9-hour train ride to Munich 
- Marienplatz Square for shopping and chocolate-covered bananas. And a look at the Glockenspiel! Intricate architecture, to say the least
- Hofbräuhaus– the official site of Oktoberfest each year. With 1-liter beer mugs as the standard, it’s safe to say the place was wild! We got a taste of traditional German culture with a live brass band, men in feather-flecked hats with shorts and suspenders, and hefty beer garden women serving fresh pretzels.
- First stay in a hostel (thanks for the mems, 4you)

Saturday, Feb. 11 
Visiting Dachau was difficult, but necessary. It was completely different than visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., something about entering the guard gate marked with “arbeit macht freit,” walking through the stark white halls, seeing where they slept, where they lived, where atrocities were carried out for 12 years – it just hits you. I left with a lot of things on my mind.

-Deutches Museum - beautiful view of Munich from the museum's top floor.

Olympiapark and the BMW museum in the afternoon. Olympiapark, site of the 1972 olympics, was SO cool. I liked seeing the 'Schwimhalle' best.

 - Night train to Fussen! And a night out with the whole group (9 of us total).

 Sunday, Feb. 12
Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle!) This was one of my favorite mornings! Fussen is, hands down, the cutest European town we’ve visited so far. It was a winter wonderland – pure sparkly snow, huge pine trees in a little valley surrounded by mountains, and cute café’s in the town center. We stayed in a little house/hostel, got breakfast, and then took a bus up to the castle. 

The 20-minute hike up to the castle was BEAUTIFUL! I can’t even describe it. I’ll have to just leave you with the pictures. After the castle tour (very obscure on the inside, and has spent most of its existence as a museum rather than a monarch’s residence), we literally RAN down the mountain to make a bus to the train station... hilarious, but I have never been so cold in my life.

We got back to Maastricht late last night.

This weekend was such a blast. It was freezing (a chill 5 degrees in Fussen yesterday), but beautiful and I love the people who I’ve been privileged to travel with.

The only downer this weekend was the loss of my beloved backpack, containing my clothes, toiletries and makeup, homework, and room key for the dorm. In a moment of rush, I left it on a train going from Koln to Aachen (the train’s ultimate destination was Paris). We are in the process of trying to track it down right now, but recovery is not in my odds.

In order to process my loss, I’ve written a modified haiku:

Where have you
Gone to?

Check the full Germany album HERE!