Reflection by Bethany Houston

During my time in Europe, I took advantage of the opportunity to travel around the continent for a relatively low cost. In my four months abroad, I visited a total of 11 countries: England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, and Spain. Although all these destinations have much to offer, there are a few cities that will always have a special place in my heart!

Amsterdam, Netherlands has to be at the very top of my list. This city struck me because of how quaint everything is. From the leaning buildings and beautiful waterway system, to the historic windmills and mile-long tulip fields, Amsterdam has so much character and beauty. I was able to spend about a week here, and I can’t wait to be able to go back some day.

Italy is also such a beautiful destination for a multitude of reasons. I was able to visit Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice. I think Florence was my favorite simply because of the natural beauty and the culture there. Unlike many big cities, it didn’t feel like a tourist town. There definitely were a good amount of tourists there, but they were more integrated with the Italian locals than in the other destinations I visited. I also had the opportunity to dine at a locally owned restaurant, where I was able to try authentic wine, dinner, and dessert all for under 10 euros.

Norway also has a special place in my heart. I went to Ålesund, a small city on the west coast with a friend of mine who lives there. Ålesund is a harbor city just like Charleston, so it has beautiful figords and waterways winding through the mountains. Plus, the blanket of snow over the whole city makes it such a dream.

Lastly, Paris, France was one of my top destinations. Paris is odd, because it’s one of those places that you dream about visiting all your life. However, leading up to the trip, I was warned about how smelly, dirty, and underwhelming the city actually is. Yet to my surprise, I didn’t find any of that to be true. Paris has a lot of the architectural and natural beauty that Florence has. The only real difference I noticed was the tourists. As I mentioned before, Florence doesn’t seem like a big tourist city, but Paris definitely is. Due to its popularity, there are so many people there that the city really can’t accommodate everyone. I went in December, so it’s possible there are more tourists in Paris around Christmas time than at other parts of the year, but the crowded streets just made it a little hard to relax and fully take in everything the city has to offer.

In all honesty, it was difficult for me to pick just a few destinations over all the rest, because they are all so different and beautiful in their own way. I also still have so many places that I want to visit one day, but I am so glad I was able to see what I could during my time abroad.

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