Before I delve too deep into my fabulous Jordan adventure, let’s chat about my end-of-RTW Eurotrip, shall we? Somehow I managed to convince my 26-year-old homebody-of-a-brother Alex* to travel to Europe for a 2-week sprint from London to Amsterdam to Paris and back again.
It was to be my very last hurrah in my scheduled year of RTW travel, so I wanted to make it count.
And there’s no one I’d rather toast the end of the adventure with than my little brother! (Except maybe my little sister – but I already took her to Europe for her Sweet 16.)
*You may remember Alex from the “oops, I set myself on fire” debacle right before I left for Jordan. I’m happy to report he’s healing well and is almost back to normal, aside from some telling scars…
Alex & the Queen at Big Ben
My brother isn’t half as wild about traveling as I am.
I’m convinced if I didn’t do all the planning, he’d never leave Florida… unless it was for a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. Despite his happy-at-home nature, after a few days out of his bubble he is usually ready to move to whatever destination we go to.
It happened in Hawaii. It happened in London. And it definitely happened in Amsterdam…
I can be myself with my bro. Yes, this is myself.
We weren’t short on adventures in London. It was the first week of December, so the whole place felt like Love Actually. We saw the Queen musical, We Will Rock You. We seriously had to see it – our signature brother/sister karaoke duet is Bohemian Rhapsody. One morning we spotted what we are 90% sure was AC/DC in our hotel lobby. We ran into Tilda Swinton on the Eurostar and dared each other to ask her if she’d like some Turkish Delight. (We were both too chicken.) Alex managed to tip a bathroom attendant something like £10. (He never quite caught onto the whole foreign currency exchange thing.) We somehow both had relationship drama in just four short nights in London. It was a wild and practically sleepless couple of days, but showing my little brother around one of my favorite cities in the world was worth the exhaustion.
We wandered London for hours. It’s a huge city, but surprisingly walkable.
Hannah & Dave, ice skating at Hampton Court Palace
Many of the people I’ve met over the course of the year have been from London, so I couldn’t wait to introduce Alex to all of them. When we weren’t living it up at The Langham, we stayed with Hannah & Dave, who I met in Mykonos under hilarious circumstances. On our first night, Hannah made us bangers & mash and then they showed us around their local pub. Before I knew it, Alex was off having a blast, making new friends and dancing his feet off.
Josh, Alex & Dave at the pub
Steph, my roommate from On the Go trip in Egypt, & Alex
Big Ben & Alex
London was over much too soon, and we made our way via British Airways to Amsterdam. Unlike London and Paris, where I’d been plenty of times, I’d never been to Amsterdam before, so when we arrived, naturally neither of us had a clue where to go. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you all this, but I will anyhow. (What are sisters for?) Alex was pretty nervous once he saw every sign was in Dutch. Not that he expected otherwise, but it was his first time in a non-English speaking country and, as sometimes we well-traveled travelers can forget, that can be overwhelming.
The streets of Amsterdam
Once we figured out the tram and a few choice Dutch phrases, we were on our merry way to our first hotel – the Seven Bridges, just down from Rembrandt Square. This was Alex’s favorite property – he loved the history behind the 300-year-old canal house and the centuries’ old furniture decorating our room. Two nights later, we stayed at The Toren, a boutique just a few minutes from the Anne Frank House, which I preferred for its art deco style and swanky restaurant.
The world’s best waffle can be found in Amsterdam
We had a several day-long discussion about the chocolate, strawberry & whipped cream waffle we shared in Rembrandt Square. Was it the best waffle in the world? Is 7 euros too much to pay, even if it’s literally the best waffle in the world? We decided yes, if it is the best waffle in the world, then why not pay nearly $10 for it?
It was a really good waffle.
Alex and Rojta in Dam Square
Naturally I had to introduce my brother to the cute, single Dutch gals I’ve met during my travels, so we had lunch with Rojtah one day and Pam the next. Rojtah and I bonded at a hostel in Oxford when one of the guys from the front desk asked both of us out. He didn’t realize we were roommates. She’d said yes after I declined; but ultimately she talked me into joining up for their little date. It was hilarious and awkward.
Pam & Alex near the Anne Frank House
Pam was my sidekick during three weeks in Bali. We met at a yoga retreat in Ubud and continued our friendship at the Surf Goddess Retreat in Seminyak. It was an insane three weeks. I seriously hope I end up with a book deal so I can really get into what happened, but between earthquakes, tsunamis, monsters and stupid boys, there’s just not enough space here for now!
After Alex & I toured the sobering Anne Frank House, Pam picked us up and took us to her favorite Dutch apple pie place. We warmed up by the fire, escaped from yet another sleet/hail storm and reminisced about the insanity that was our Bali trip.
Finally, after the whirlwind that was London and the quick three night visit to Amsterdam, we stumbled, exhausted, onto the Thalys train bound for Gare du Nord, Paris. After sleeping the full four hours, we found our way to our hostel near Sacre Coeur – Alex’s first hostel ever. It wasn’t a good experience as our room reeked of swampy, sweaty feet. So we checked out the next day in favor of a comfy Airbnb apartment near Porte de Clichy. (Coincidentally, the same stop from the movie Taken. Glad I didn’t know that until later.)
Angie & Lauren along the Seine
Our cousin Lauren is an au pair in Paris, so she took us to some of her favorite haunts in the city. We especially loved her favorite crepe stand and a very random karaoke location in St. Germain des Pres, I think. (Oh yes. We sang Bohemian Rhapsody in a bar in Paris. To the delight of no French people.)
Angie Away tip: grab a bottle of wine and share it under a bridge – any bridge – along the Seine. Wave to passersby on the Bateaux Mouches. Make friends. Make funny faces. Take lots of pictures.
After Lauren’s petit tour de France, it was only fitting that I’d show the bro & the cuz to one of my favorite Parisian spots – Angelina, on the Rue de Rivoli. It may be tourist friendly, but I don’t mind. The Chocolat l’Africain is some of the best stuff ever imbibed, and I make it a point to get some every time I’m in Paris.
We checked off all the major sites: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame. Despite my very specific and dire warnings, Alex managed to get suckered by nearly every scam artist in town… the bracelet guys in Montmartre, the “blind” girls under the Eiffel Tower.
He’s gullible, that brother of mine.
We ate quiches and crepes and every tasty looking pastry we desired from les boulangeries. We could have tried to fit more in – more museums, or l’Opera or Pere LaChaise.
But we were wiped out… him, from a week of non-stop travel and me, from a year.
Jumping cousins at the Louvre
My brother is amazing to travel with. He schleps my bags up and down subway steps with no complaints. (Actually, he wasn’t too happy about carrying my satchel, but I told him all guys in Europe have a man-purse and he believed me. So sometimes the gullibility pays off.)
Mmm sand chicken and ass-kebab. Is that French cuisine?
And just like that, the year I started all alone in Fiji came to an end in Europe. I celebrated the journey with new friends I’d met all over the world and my favorite brother, who knew me before I was Angie Away.
I boarded that last flight home feeling accomplished, exhausted and more than anything else, like the most blessed girl in the whole world.
For the full 2011 recap, click here.
Check out Alex’s band, Master Radical on Reverb Nation.com/masterradical.