Slater McArdle is a Sailing Instructor at CIC. He’s from Oceanside, California. He writes about his recent European adventures.
In April of 2010 my aunt was a contender in a national book writing competition called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. She made me a promise at the time that if she won, she would take me to Ireland. In June of 2010, she won the contest, rising above over 2500 other applicants. That meant the trip was on. It took us a while to pin dates and such. We couldn’t go in winter because it was too cold, and summer wouldn’t work. The rest of the year I was in school. Finally the opportunity came. I decided to take a year off of school, so there was loads of time available. We talked about it and decided to leave a couple weeks after I got home from camp. My aunt put me in charge of planning everything, and as I started planning it the realization suddenly hit me that I was going to be in Ireland for 3 weeks, and I had a year off. I should go to Europe while I was over there. Once I’d made that decision things really got rolling. A little over a year later, our plane touched down in Dublin, Ireland.
Over the next three weeks, I had my first experience in a new country. I was in a new time zone, in a new car, driving on the wrong side of one-lane roads. Besides the fact that Ireland is a civilized country and they speak English, there aren’t too many similarities to Southern California. First of all everything is green. I’ve never seen so many shades of green anywhere. That wasn’t the only green thing though. Renewable energy was huge over there. Wind farms and solar panels were abundant, which was really cool to see. Everybody in Ireland was also really friendly. Even in the really small towns where tourists don’t usually go, people were welcoming and accommodating. The weather in Ireland was probably the one low point. If it wasn’t raining, it was cloudy and windy, and the cold was bone chilling. If you look at the people, the culture, and the history, and the overall beauty of Ireland it was more than worth it. After such a magical time I was more than ready to tackle the rest of Europe.
My first stop was London and it was lots of fun. I was staying in Greenwich, one of the nicer parts of London and with the tube system it was easy to get everywhere. Taking the bus tour of London was one of the best ideas ever. I took a river boat tour of the Thames and got to see London from the water. One thing about London is all the museums are free, so I got to browse there for a while then walk to the nearby Royal Observatory. After that it was time to have dinner and hit a couple pubs before moving onto my next destination.
Next was Amsterdam, and I’d decided to go by train. After making the crossing and changing trains a few times, I was in Europe’s liberal center. During the trek to my hostel, I got to enjoy some of Amsterdam’s beauty in the twilight. The next morning I spent most of the day touring through the canals, and visiting some very old ornate churches. The architecture is quite beautiful in some parts of the city. I hit more churches, a couple coffee shops, a Buddhist temple (the largest one in Europe), and Madame Toussauds. It was hard to tell who was a visitor and who was a famous wax figurine. Once I was done there it was time to pack up, and I figured I should quit while I still had my money and my sanity.
I then arrived in Bad Munstereifel, Germany. Bam, as the locals call it is a tiny little town where a good friend of mine lives. We went and saw an old German castle where people would live for a week at a time in the traditional old style, cruised on the Rhine River, and I got to take a ride on the longest closed race course in Europe in a Lotus sports car. It was sad to leave and say goodbye to my friends, but it was time to press on.
My next destination had to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I stayed two nights in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Located in a picturesque valley in the Swiss Alps, Grindelwald was like something right off a postcard. There was plenty to do in the town itself, but the real reason people go there is to explore the surrounding mountains, and that’s exactly what I did. I took a gondola up to 7000 feet, and then hiked up another 2000 feet to a beautiful runoff lake. It was a beautiful sunny day, and even at 9000 feet, it was warm. The views throughout the entire hike were so amazing; it was right up there with the scenery in Yosemite.
My next stop, Rome, was quite the opposite of beautiful sweeping mountain views with nature all around. Over 2000 years old, and home to millions of people, Rome is the definition of a bustling city. There was so much to see. I started off with a bus tour which gave me a lot of great history and background. I saw the Coliseum which looks like a football stadium after a bombing and I saw Palatine Hill. The hill was the site of a massive palace and home to an amazing view of Rome. The next day was Sunday. I went to mass at the Vatican and listened to the Pope rattle on in Latin. My last day there I spent just seeing some of the lesser sights that I had missed the days previous and recharging my batteries for my final stop.
I decided to take a night train for my last ride, to Paris, the city of lights, love, and cheap bread. I met an Australian guy on the train who became my traveling companion for 3 days. We started with the Arc de Triumph and the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, felt just like that of the Empire State building just with a different city spread out below. The next day we dedicated entirely to one massive exhibit: The Louvre. It was big, quiet, and the artwork was amazing. The Mona Lisa was much smaller and less spectacular than I thought, but it was still worth seeing. My last day there, my new friend and I took a free walking tour. We got to see a lot and get a lot of history from a great tour guide. He even showed us a 16th Century Facebook! After that we visited Napoleon’s tomb, took some photos then parted ways. That marked the beginning of my trip home. The next day I spent 26 hours getting home, and the entire time I reflected on one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Europe was incredible and I hope someday I can return.
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