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Guest Post: A Peek Through My Spectacles

February 13, 2012

Hello! This is Anna from Spectacles, and while Jacquie is off having a fabulous time
in London, she asked me to do a little guest post for you.

I’ve been back in this country for approximately 50 days (but who’s counting?…) after
having my own adventures studying abroad. I lived in Copenhagen, but since that city
is small and pretty darn expensive, I took every opportunity I had to travel. I took some trips solo, some with my class of 25 people. I spent a week in Paris under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and 2 days in the tiny city of Vilnius, Lithuania, where my great-grandparents were born. I wandered the streets of Amsterdam, stuffing myself with a few too many vlaams frites, and dared to go into seemingly abandoned warehouses in Berlin to find clubs filled with the coolest-looking people I’ve ever seen.

So if you’re lucky enough to spend a little time wandering on the other side of the

Atlantic, here are my tips for making the most of your adventure:

1. Eat the street food, even if it’s weird.

In Stockholm, the street carts serve hot dogs, shrimp, and mashed potatoes all
together in a wrap. In Prague, people line up in the cold for fried cheese on a toasted
bun. Strange? Perhaps. But they taste pretty darn good (especially after you’ve had
a glass or five of the local brew).

2. Don’t be afraid to look like you fit in (it may make your life a little easier)

Whenever I traveled to a new city, I realized that there was always something about
me that made me stick out like a sore thumb, whether it was the American labels on
my clothing or the confused look I wore while staring at a map. There are little things
that you can do to make yourself look less like a tourist or an easy target for scam
artists (in Paris I could not get away from sketchy teenage boys who wanted to sell
me Metro tickets for way too cheap a price). Avoid bulky backpacks and download
a map onto your iPhone. Look around you – is everyone wearing the same hairstyle?
In Copenhagen I started to rock the ‘Scandi-bun,’ or the top-knot, and it helped me
to feel like I fit in a little better, even though I wasn’t clad in head to toe Acne. Ditch
the awkward sneakers and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience.

3. Plan ahead (but not too much)

Obviously, you have certain places that you must see in a city. Go see the undersized
Mona Lisa. Take a gondola ride on a Venetian canal. See where the king and queen
go to bed every night. However, every city in Europe has a labyrinth of hidden gems
that you have to step off the beaten path to find. In Paris, I ducked out of the rain
into one of the remaining arcades to have one of the best meals of my life, with not
another tourist in sight. The best clubs aren’t the ones advertised in a guidebook.
You want to go where they may not speak any English and where the drinks are
cheap. Get lost.

4. Put your camera away (but keep it close)

Once in a while it’s a good think to get your face away from a viewfinder and to
really see your surroundings. You can’t capture everything with a camera, and it’s
valuable to stop thinking about how to eternalize a moment and to really immerse
yourself in the present. When I went to Oslo, I left my DSLR on the cruise ship and
ventured into the city with just my iPhone to document things. It’s a small city, and
since I wasn’t pausing every few seconds to snap away, I was able to cover an awful
lot of ground and to get a real feel for this Nordic capital.

5. Go into that crazy-expensive store

Even if you could never dream of affording a closet full of Chanel or Cheap Monday,
it’s really a lovely experience to go into the big flagship stores and just enjoy being
surrounded by beautiful and luxurious things. I went in to the Galleria in Paris with
the intention of buying myself a new wallet, but left empty handed when I realized
I would much rather travel a little bit more than have something by Marc Jacobs to
throw into my purse. Oh, reality…

6. Avoid Starbucks!

You know how Starbucks is in every town in America? It has invaded Europe as
well, although it’s more expensive than at home and distracts you from the unique
and very delicious local coffee shops (and not just the ‘coffee shops’ in Amsterdam).
They can make a pretty darn good latte in cafés all over Berlin and be prepared for
some very strong espresso in Paris. If you can get it in your hometown, try something
else while you’re here.

So in conclusion, travel fearlessly. And if you have any room in your suitcase, would you mind smuggling me over? I miss it all far too much.

Check out more from my travels at my travel blog: Covering Ground. If you want to see
more of my photography from my time abroad, check out my Flickr page.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2012 8:21 pm

    This was really helpful, especially for a girl like me who ends up eating in McDonalds on holiday and stays where everyone understands what I’m saying,


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