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How to be a LadyNerd Tourist: Europe Edition

In which Mandy W. recounts her literary and culinary adventures in Europe. (OK, it was mostly culinary.)

How to be a LadyNerd Tourist: Europe Edition

Now that it's nearly the middle of September (sigh), let's all dish on what we did, "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" style!

I actually didn't go anywhere over the summer, which has been making me a bit antsy for a getaway. But in all fairness, 1) summer's actually awesome where I live, and 2) earlier this year, I went to Europe for the very first time and spent over three weeks there! Let me tell you all about it so we can hate April Me TOGETHER.

But first! A LadyNerd dareth not venture into the world unprepared! Or at least this one doesn't. Here's an example of the number of travel books I had borrowed at any given time. Because when I do something, there's no halfway; I use my full ass!

Not to sound like a complete shill (not like I even could, since I have yet to receive a free basket of champers -- hint, hint), but the TripAdvisor apps were SUPER useful in planning, navigating, and -- most importantly -- finding tasty business. The Bookstore Guide was also a great resource in finding bookstores that carry English titles.

Another unintentional product placement pro-tip: If you've got a Paper Ink ereader, download some city/museum maps and change your lock screen image to whichever one you need as you travel! The battery should last you much longer than any LCD device, plus you'll look and feel a little less touristy. But! Be smarter than me and test the images out beforehand, so you don't have issues with contrast, zoom, etc. And also have a paper backup, just in case technology hates you. 

Since I was going to be alone-ish for the first week (business trip, WHAT WHAT), I also took a self-defense course before I left. It was a bit "That's my purse; I don't know you!", but still a worthwhile experience. Although I always felt perfectly safe in all of the places that I visited. (Of course, I was a day vampire, i.e. mostly going out during daylight hours, so.)

And now the actual trip! Which included going to Texas for the very first time! Because layovers in my own country would make too much sense. (OMG terrible pun alert: it actually would have made too much cents.)

Amsterdammit

So what does one do in a hedonistic destination like Amsterdam? If you said "pancakes and museums", then LET'S BE TRAVEL BUDDIES.

My arrival coincided with the opening of the renovated Rijksmuseum, which was a BFD. And y'all, I was within 20 feet of ROYALTY. Sure, the since-abdicated Queen Beatrix was in a car and I had no idea what was going on. And I was much more preoccupied with hunting down a restroom. Sorry, Q -- your presence was not worth peeing my pants over. Although ironically, I later spilled a glass of water on myself when I was having pannenkoeken for dins, so it did look like I peed myself. THE QUEEN IS ALL-POWERFUL.

Afterwards, I wandered over to the fine folks at The American Book Center. (I decided that my new travel souvenirs for myself would be translated books and nail polishes. In addition to all the extra lb.'s from fooding.) I picked up Winter in Wartime, which will surely make me cry, and Joe Speedboat, because I'd like a book that I can read without blubbering.

Speaking of uncontrollable sobbing, I also went to Anne Frank House. I ugly-cried all over the dang place. But if there's ever an appropriate place for excessive emotions in public, this is it. (Though full disclosure: I had been traveling for over twenty-four hours and I was alone on another continent, so I was an emotional wreck to begin with.) The second I stepped inside the museum, my eyes already swelled with tears. It was devastating and heartbreaking. And horrifying that we're only seventy years removed -- or none at all, in some places -- from treating each other with such cruelty. And so I cried for Anne, and I cried for all the lives lost during the Holocaust. I cried for all the shitty things that people do to each other. I cried for how unbelievably lucky I am, and how I need to appreciate everything more. And yes, I even cried for Hazel and Augustus. Given the incredibly strong emotions I felt during my visit, you'll understand why I was absolutely livid to learn that the Biebs had been there a day before I was and somehow made the experience about himself. This was also the weekend before the Boston Marathon, so my faith in humanity was rather shaky during that stretch of time, to say the least.

But on a much happier note, here are some of the tasty things that I ate: 

Eat. Prague. Love.

Then I took an overnight train to Prague! (And almost missed it due to a detour for apple pie, because of course I would.) And you guys -- Prague is now officially one of my favourite places on Earth. The gorgeous architecture, the cobblestone streets... I loved just wandering aimlessly and exploring the beauty and the history of the city.* I know I'm romanticizing Prague from being there for all of a week, but it really was the quintessential European experience for me.

*All that wandering on cobblestone streets also made me go crying to my mommy to bring me a pair of comfy tourist shoes. Which I ended up wearing only once, but still. Choose your footwear wisely.

I was also fortunate enough to visit Prague before it suffered from significant flooding. I sincerely hope the city is recovering well, and that -- if it hasn't already -- it'll soon be restored to its full glory.

Anyway, I did a TON of bookish things in Prague! I had a pretty decent book haul (which is what happens when I'm left to my own devices in a foreign city): 

•  Of Kids and Parents, from The Globe Bookstore
•  How I Came to Know Fish, from Shakespeare & Sons
•  Gargling With Tar, from Karolinum Bookstore (the university press -- I think? -- has some great-looking covers, BTW)

Plus! One of the hotels that I stayed at was in Karou's neighbourhood! And yes, that means I jotted down her addy and tried to figure out where she lived. But my navigational skills were telling me that her apartment was either a shopping centre or in the middle of the road (although Google Maps swears it exists), so here's a picture of a nearby street.

But the best thing I did in Prague -- bookish or otherwise -- was the extended tour of the Strahov Monastery Library. It's often listed as one of the world's most beautiful libraries with good reason. We were led around by this sweet little old lady, and we all had to wear these giant slippers over our shoes. Here's the theology wing, which houses most of the oldest books: 

And here's the wing for science (and philosophy? It's been like five months, you guys). LOOK WHERE ALL THE BOOKS LIVE!

SO PRETTY.

There are even secret staircases!

And LOOK! Rolling library ladders! That's some real Beauty and the Beast shizz, y'all!

I also took in pretty much all of Prague's famous sights -- including Petřín Tower. Fittingly enough, it was at this Czech version of the Eiffel Tower that I got to speak un petit français! Granted, all I said was "For thirty minutes?" and "You're welcome." Although out of context, I kind of sound like a hooker.

And on the topic of languages: I got by everywhere just using English. Even though I made vocab cheat sheets, I was too scaredy-pants to whip out phrases in the local languages. Which is surprising, since making an ass of myself rarely stops me in other instances, e.g. all over the pages of FYA. 

Prague also turned me into a HUUUUUGE hot chocolate snob! Like, seriously -- best I've ever had. And trust -- I had A LOT.

Needless to say, I freaking loved Prague. Here's a photo that perfectly sums up my favourite things from this entire trip:

V for Vienna

The next stop was Vienna! Palaces, music -- and, of course, 'ZERTS!

I also happened to be at the Hofburg Palace when the Czech prime minister rolled into town. I don't know how I kept finding myself at these things, and I'm sure this stuff happens all the time in Europe, due to the close proximity between the countries and all. But I still thought it was pretty neat.

And I had originally taken this for Megan no h. But upon further examination, I realized that I was looking at it backwards and that it was not a unicorn horn hat.

Hungary Like the Wolf

I also went to Budapest for a day! I tried finding more modern, YA-ish books, but didn't have much luck with bookstores from here on out. Which is to say, there were no giant kissyfaces or neon pink covers in the translated section. 

But! Budapest does have prettiness! And castles!

Rome, If You Want To

And then I went to ROME! Y'all, that was the number one place I wanted to go to, EVER. Although I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. (So yes, I was whelmed in Europe.) But it was also super busy when I went, due to a national holiday. So it's not surprising that the coolest thing I did was also the least crowded -- the arena and underground tour of the Colosseum! Plus: IT'S THE FREAKING COLOSSEUM.

Let me tell ya -- it took a lot of restraint not to run around yelling, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!"

SO. FREAKING. COOL.

I also went to all the big attractions: the Forum, the Pantheon (The Mark of Athena, HOLLA!), the Vatican Museums... and the pizza place near Vatican City! SO MUCH TASTY BUSINESS.

And here's some fake tasty business that reminded me of Posh, because obvs.

And one last political sighting: I was outside the Palazzo del Quirinale when Italy's new government was formed, ending a two-month stalemate. Apparently, I'm just a magnet for dignitaries and heads of state. OMG WHY DIDN'T I GO TO LONDON!?

I'm On A Boat

.... Oh wait, that's because I was too busy going on a cruise! The nerd-tivities were minimal, but I did find this gem in the library: 

Speaking of, here's the Library of Celsus in the ancient city of Ephesus! 

And see the perfectly clear sky? The blinding sunlight reflecting off the pillars? 'Twas a scorcher, y'all.

The cruise also made stops in Sicily, Mykonos, and Crete. (No Athens, though that's a grumbly story for another time.) But the biggest discovery was my new FYA office! Please forward my mail accordingly, KTHX.

 

And now it's YOUR turn! What did y'all do over the summer? Share it in the comments!

 

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Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.