It’s reading week, it’s Christmas break, it’s a 3-day weekend. You want to escape the anxiety, the stress and the tiredness from the endless study sessions at the library. But you’re also a student – you’re paying rent or spending an extortionate amount on travel to get to uni… so, where can you go?
What about going on mini holidays around Europe? It is cheap and cheery, great for those who are seeking culture and who want to be more experimental with their food – let’s be honest, it is perfect to get away from reality wherever you go!
I will relay to you some of my own adventures during my uni breaks and hopefully, by the end, I will have convinced you that you deserve to go and book your own break.
When I say Amsterdam, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘I missed my flight.’ Long story short – crap service, overbooked seats on the flight and sticky July weather.
Not to worry, I was able to make my flight in September and in all honesty, it was a better time to go.
I was able to beat all the long queues you would usually find during peak times; however, the Anne Frank House was the only exception, as there was a 2-hour wait to enter. This did not in any way undercut my visit there, and turned out to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I also managed to visit the Van Gogh Museum and went a little crazy with the bookmarks, postcards and mint tins in the gift shop. Did you know that Gogh painted 72 paintings in 70 days?And I can’t even finish an assignment on time.
If you have never tried poffertjes before, just wait until you travel to Amsterdam to try them. If you have not heard of them, Google it and grab a bib, because you will drool. I ordered a hot chocolate whilst I was at a café and asked for whipped cream, but instead of it melting into a smooth and fluffy marshmallow-y state at the top, it was served separately on a saucer…
Overall, I spent just over 2 days in Amsterdam and managed to squeeze in some great sights and activities. I purchased the I-Amsterdam city card beforehand, and this covered free transport while I was there (I used the tram continuously), free and discounted tickets to the Van Gogh Museum, Tulip Museum, and even a free boat ride across the canal. If you are a nervous flyer, do not worry, because by the time you finish saying your prayers you will already have landed.
I visited Athens during my reading week in February and spent over 4 days exploring the sights, the culture and obviously, the food. I was really surprised I got to see the sun while I was there, in the middle of February, and chuffed because it made all my Instagram-worthy pictures look ten times better.
The Acropolis is known for its ‘architectural and historic significance,’ and the more I walked through the rocky paths, the better it got. This included: The Parthenon; The Temple of Athena; Theatre of Dionysus, and much more. The walk up the slopes and then back down again builds up an appetite for sure, and there are many restaurants nearby to sate your hunger.
I made another stop in Plaka and I don’t know what other word to use other than ‘cute’ to describe it. There were jewellery stalls, quirky cafés and a shop dedicated to serving gelato only – I had two generous scoops of Nutella and Bueno gelato. I also attempted to run along the entire track at the Panathenaic Stadium but struggled a lot. Despite my measly efforts, how many people can say they have done that?
Initially, I was expecting gloomy and wet weather (like the rest of Europe at the time); however, it turned out to be better than I had anticipated. This time of year they have some sweet deals too, as I was able to save half the price on some of the main sights! Where you would spend €20 on a ticket at the Acropolis during peak times, I got to see all of that for €10. Being a student, I was able to get free tickets into the Acropolis Museum, and a discounted price at the Panathenaic Stadium.
Did I mention that I climbed Mount Lycabettus? I’ll let you fathom how I did this when you go try it yourself.
These are just two trips I made in Europe in the past six months but I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Manchester to visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s house, and soon will visit Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and explore Bath later on. If you’re not into going abroad, or if you need some time to save a little more, don’t underestimate some of the beautiful sights we have in the UK. If you are someone who wants to experience new things during uni breaks, don’t limit yourself to a certain place or a certain time. Don’t be afraid to prep and plan ahead, and as One Direction would have said, ‘LIVE WHILE WE’RE YOUNG!’