Oh how I love Europe! When I was younger, I used to dream of escaping my small hometown in Southern California and flying straight to London. I used to dream of looking out at a beautiful view of Paris from a balcony. Then, I had the wonderful opportunity of spending my first semester as a transfer student at NYU studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. My dream of going to Europe finally came true and my dream of living in Europe permanently, that childhood dream, became even stronger during those five months that I spent in Europe.
Old Town Square
1. Czech Republic
Prague, or Praha as it’s known in the Czech vernacular, is a city that I had never dreamed of visiting, but I was so privileged to have lived, studied, and worked in the “city of a thousand spires.” I woke up everyday to a view of old, pastel-colored Romanesque buildings in the district where I lived, Vinohrady, and went to school in Prague’s famous Old Town Square, where the NYU campus is located, all while walking on streets and streets of cobblestones. There’s so much culture and history in Prague, which are so palpable that I could always feel that rich culture and history every where I went in Prague. To be honest, I still miss it a lot, even though it has been almost two years since I was there and even having now established my life in New York City.
As you can probably guess, I could go on and on about my favorite places in Prague. There’s the usual tourist spots, like Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, The Lennon Wall, Wenceslas Square, and Pařížská Street (Prague’s Madison Avenue, where my fashion internship at InStyle Czech Republic had me go to a lot). Then there’s my favorite restaurant on Celetna Street to get goulash and dumplings with my friends and our favorite tea house in a charming part of Prague called Malá Strana. The Prague Zoo is huge and really fun and it was also cool visiting the grave of influential novelist Franz Kafka, who was born in Prague, in the New Jewish Cemetery. The capital city is also home to some amazing historical and art museums, such as the National Museum and the National Gallery, and some odd, yet interesting museums too! I also had the pleasure of taking an overnight trip to a picturesque village about three hours away from Prague called Český Krumlov, which I highly recommend! The old castle of Vyšehrad, which according to legend is the first settlement of what would become Prague, is also a wonderful place to visit. Prague is really like a third home to me, behind Fallbrook and NYC.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Me on Charles Bridge rubbing the statue of St. John of Nepomuk for good luck!
The Lennon Wall
Old Town Square during Christmastime
I attended classes, shopped, and went out like four nights a week (something I don’t do as much of in NYC, that’s for sure) to the favorite bars and clubs of my fellow NYU students with my friends, such as a club and restaurant called Radost, which became famous after Rihanna filmed her music video for “Please Don’t Stop the Music” there and which serves a delicious vegetarian brunch in the day which my friends and I often had (especially after having gone to Radost the night before!). When I wasn’t going to school, shopping, or going out at night with my friends, I kept myself busy traveling around Europe on the weekends and doing my first internship ever as a Fashion Intern at InStyle Czech Republic, which was such an amazing experience and which helped me master the Prague Metro really well and helped me get to know the streets of Prague really well too. I also frequently got to go to the best and most exclusive shops and boutiques in Prague, which wasn’t bad either!
The very important political history with the Velvet Revolution, the Romanesque and Art Nouveau buildings adjacent to Gothic churches, the flowing Vltava River, the delightful Christmas markets and the tall, brightly-lit Christmas tree in Old Town Square during Christmastime, and those darn cobblestones. I really do miss living in the “city of a thousand spires.” Praha, miluji tě (Prague, I love you in Czech)!
Oh how I love Deutschland, another favorite country in Central Europe. While I was in Prague, I went to Berlin with my roommate and friend in order to attend the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what a fantastic city it is! From the Brandenburg Gate (see photo above) to the remains of the Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie to the Reichstag to the Pergamon Museum on Museum Island where I finally saw the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in person, Berlin, like Prague, is a capital city with so much rich history and culture that it’s all around you. It was definitely my favorite trip while I was in Prague and my friends and I have so many memories from our great five day trip in the German capital.
The remains of the Berlin Wall
Besides sightseeing and going on walking tours throughout Berlin, my friends and I had plenty of fun going to various Dunkin Donuts shops throughout the city every morning for breakfast, eating Berlin’s signature food currywurst, and shopping at really cool flea markets, among other activities, all while trying to stay warm as Berlin was freezing cold during our entire trip! And Berlin’s nightlife is quite eclectic with my favorite places that we went to being a cool punk bar called Cassiopeia, which introduced us to one of the haunts of Berliner punks and which had a random treehouse and abandoned factory building outside in the back, and this club called Matrix, which we went to with some Swedish and French friends of ours whom we met at our hostel, and which randomly (but amazingly) played the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Our final day in Berlin was the best as it was the day of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was our main reason for being there! My friends and I stood in that freezing cold which I’ve previously mentioned and in sort of heavy rain, but it was definitely worth it as we found out by the start of the night celebrations. We, to our utter amazement, saw famous politicians such as then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (President Obama sent a video message which played on a big screen), Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, and the last head-of-state of the former USSR Mikhail Gorbachev speak and Bon Jovi (Yes, Bon Jovi and yes, it blew our minds!) perform in front of the Brandenburg Gate. It was great seeing all of these famous and very important people speak near a very, very long line of huge and beautifully-painted tiles, which were decorated by people from all over Germany and the rest of the world for the anniversary. The celebrations finally ended with the huge tiles falling like dominoes along the pathway where the Berlin Wall once stood. It was such an amazing experience!
The Reichstag with the Fall of the Berlin Wall 20th anniversary tiles in front of it
I also have a special place in my heart for Bavaria and in particular, my favorite castle in the world, Neuschwanstein Castle. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see it in person, but I know I’ll definitely see it in the future. This magnificent fairy tale castle, commissioned by the “crazy” King Ludwig of Bavaria, inspired Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland (which I’ve seen many times in person being from SoCal and having gone to Disneyland like 100 times since I was little) and it has inspired me to (one day) have my fairy tale wedding in a German castle!
Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich
I just really, really love Germany. I took a German language class along with Czech when I was studying in Prague and I’m an avid fan of both the Bundesliga football team Bayern Munich and the German national football team, also known as Die Nationalmannschaft. Most importantly, I eagerly want to visit the Nurburgring race track, which is one of the homes of the Formula 1 German Grand Prix, in the future and my favorite Formula 1 driver is German. All in all, I have a wunderbar love affair with Deutschland which will never end.
If I had to choose one place to retire in, it would be Europe, and if I had to choose one country to retire in, it would be Switzerland, which has three main regions made up of German-speakers, French-speakers, and Italian-speakers. To make another Disneyland connection to my fervent love for Europe, my favorite Disneyland ride has always been the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, is based on the famous mountain, the Matterhorn, in one my favorite places in Europe, the Swiss Alps (see photo above). Snow-capped mountains which dwarf traditional wooden farmhouses and roaming brown cows, both of which nestle on rolling green hills. Yes, Switzerland is quite picturesque, indeed.
But unfortunately again, I couldn’t find time while I was in Prague to visit Switzerland, but I can’t wait to go there in the future. Well, to be honest, I’ve technically been to Zurich, but that was only for a 4-hour layover on my way to Prague from NYC. To one day, in the near future, ride on a train through the Alps, visit cities like the Swiss capital Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, and even random, but equally picturesque towns, like Baar, will really be a dream come true!
A charming traditional Swiss farmhouse and Swiss cows!
While I was in Europe, I visited Rome, Paris, Berlin, London, and Dublin, which are all fantastic cities, of course, but oh how I wish I went to Switzerland! Well, since I plan on retiring in Switzerland, then I guess I’ll wait for my charming traditional Swiss farmhouse nestled on rolling green hills with brown cows and huge mountains surrounding me. Also, as I’m a chocoholic, my favorite Swiss chocolates are Toblerone (of course!) and Milka (which I discovered in Prague), both of which further add to my dream!
The second smallest country in the world (behind The Vatican) just happens to be my favorite part of the Cote d’Azur, or the French Riviera, and I’m sure that Lovelies by now know about my love for Monaco from reading the posts where I mention my ardent love for the luxurious and scenic area for the rich and famous. Besides my adoration for Monaco’s former princess, Grace Kelly, there is one main aspect that I love about the small, but affluent and glamorous country which lies along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
The wonderful, former Princess Grace Kelly in her office in Monaco
That one main aspect is the famous and legendary Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, which I remember hearing about from my car-and-racing crazy Dad and brother when I was little. I also remember seeing them watch it on TV with the cars racing very fast through the narrow street circuit while fans excitedly watch and cheer from the grandstands, from apartment balconies and windows, or while taking in the sun on yachts and boats lined up on the vast Mediterranean. I’m pretty sure I can name most of the corners of the race track by now (maybe!), and well, as I do love ritz and glamour, it’s definitely my favorite F1 race of the season.
2011 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix
My adoration for the wonderful, former Princess Grace, my love for the famous and legendary “jewel-in-the-crown” Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the all-encompassing culture and glamour, and the breathtaking views of houses and buildings on vast hills overlooking boats and yachts on the glistening Mediterranean Sea. There’s really no place like Monaco. Driving my red vintage 1964 Ferrari 275 GTS through the streets of Monte Carlo with my favorite Chloé sunglasses on and the wind in my hair. That sounds absolutely wonderful.
Okay, so England may be a very cliche choice, but I really do love England. As I previously said, I used to dream of living in London and finally going there while I was in Prague was a huge dream come true! Also, for all the Lovelies out there who read my post about my favorite current British TV shows which I wrote about two weeks ago, some of my favorite TV shows are British. I could go on and on about my trip to London, like seeing famous landmarks, such as Big Ben (see photo above), the Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye (see photo above), and Shakespeare’s historic Globe Theatre. My friends and I saw amazing art exhibits at the Tate Modern and walked across the Millennium Bridge on our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. And I took plenty of photos of the capital city’s iconic red telephone booths and rode those iconic red double-decker buses. But there are other parts of my trip that aren’t typical, but are rather quite unique to my trip.
Me at Buckingham Palace
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Inside of the Tate Modern
The Millennium Bridge and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral
My friends and I went to London during Thanksgiving weekend and as we weren’t in the US, we didn’t have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but instead had a delicious Indian food buffet dinner at a pub nearby our hostel called The Blue Eyed Maid. Furthermore, we traded in turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for curry, basmati rice, and samosas! We also took a really cool tour called the “Grim Reaper Tour” of the darker spots in the East End of London, including the murder trail of the the infamous Jack the Ripper, courtesy of New Europe, which I highly recommend if you really want to get scared one night while you’re in London! And of course, I just couldn’t get on that plane to Dublin without going to King’s Cross Station and having my friends (who aren’t really Harry Potter fans) take photos of me at Platform 9 3/4.
Furthermore, there’s other stuff that I love about England (besides London, the British Royal Family, Kate Middleton, Topshop, British telly, The Beatles, Oasis, etc.), such as the historic Silverstone race track, home of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, and Manchester City Football Club, a team which my brother has been a diehard fan of for a longtime now. He’s a City boy through and through and he hates Manchester United. I’m now sort of getting back into following the English Premier League, my brother has successfully converted me into a Manchester City supporter, and I’m really cheering MCFC on this season. I already have my favorite players (Edin Dzeko, Adam Johnson, and Gareth Barry) and I’m excited (as is my brother, of course) that they’re in the UEFA Champions League this season. There’s just something about this underdog team who have made their mark in the top tier of EPL teams that really makes me happy to support them. I don’t know if it’s the great chemistry of MCFC’s players, the fact that they’re sort of the EPL equivalent to Bayern Munich right now, or that City’s usual starting defenders look really tough all the time, but whichever reason it is, I’m City ’till I die!
Edin Džeko of Manchester City Football Club
England has everything, be it historic and famous landmarks, music, TV, football, racing, fashion, fish and chips, or Harry Potter, among many, many other interests, and that’s why it’s such a great country. It has something for everyone.
Well, I was born and raised in a small town in San Diego County, I’ve lived and attended college in San Francisco, and I’m currently living and attending college at NYU in New York City, which are all wonderful places, but Europe (and especially Prague) will always be near and dear to my heart.
Which countries in Europe are your favorites, Lovelies?