Well, we’ve been home a week today from our incredible European adventure. Needless to say, it’s a bit of complete chaos coming home – a yard that managed to become completely overgrown in the time we were gone, 1000 work projects, Chase’s new obsession with getting a puppy…. But I figured I should be taking some time to blog about the things we did and places we saw (some recaps, if you will. I like recaps, they’re organized) before life completely takes back over and I fall off my cloud from that brief time in life where I had nothing on my mind except seeing everything I could with the love of my life.
So here we go, recap numero uno: 10 places I think you have to see. Obviously this is biased, because it’s based only on the places we saw. But, we saw a lot. For forty days we never stopped walking (bonus: I’ve never eaten so much in my life and we both came home with baggy clothes), we visited 17 locations in the end (add Brussels to the itinerary… long story), and I saw enough museums to be satisfied for at least a year. But here are the places that now that we’re home we both seem to keep mentioning to people, the places we keep talking about to each other, and the places I want to go back and see again – because once was just not enough (even for a crazy exhausted, museum-over-saturated person like myself).
Without further ado, in no particular order….
1. Statue of David, Florence (Italy)
This Renaissance masterpiece, the statue of David, was one of the biggest “holy shit” moments I had the entire trip (excuse my French). Lots of things that get amped as big as David turn out to be an enormous buzz kill in person. Like, no offense to the world, but The Mona Lisa experience is a little bit disappointing. It’s really, really small, and there’s a hoard of people surrounding it so big that you can’t even get within 10 feet of it. It’s like being at a Taylor Swift concert, except she’s a midget with no microphone so you can’t actually see her – you just know she’s there.
The Statue of David was the opposite. A room filled with unfinished Michelangelo’s leads you down a hallway, where he’s standing there – regal as ever – under a beautiful dome. He’s enormous, he’s majestic, and he literally takes your breath away.
2. British Museum, London (England)
“In the 19th century, the British flag flew over one-fourth of the world. London was the world’s capital, where women in saris walked the streets with men in top hats. And England collected art as fast as it collected colonies.
The British Museum is the chronicle of Western civilization. History is a modern invention. Three hundred years ago, people didn’t care about crumbling statues and dusty columns. Nowadays, we value a look at past civilizations, knowing that “those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
The British Museum is the only place I can think of where you can follow the rise and fall of three great civilizations — Egypt, Assyria, and Greece — in a few hours with a coffee break in the middle..” – Rick Steves, Europe through the Back Door
The British Museum was Chase’s favorite site that we saw our entire 6 weeks in Europe. The amount of history is unspeakable – you walk in and are welcomed by the Rosetta Stone, move from there to ancient Greek statues. Admittedly, we had to go through really quickly (poor planning) and that remains one of our biggest mistakes of the trip. Save a day in London for this, and you really won’t regret it. (Bonus: entrance is free!)
Eagle-headed protective spirit, Assyrian, around 865-860 BC
From Nimrud, Temple of Ninurta
Stoneware figure of Budai (‘Laughing Buddha’)
From Henan province, northern China
Ming dynasty, dated AD 1486
Figures of three goddesses from the east pediment of the Parthenon (Hestia, Dione, and Aphrodite)
The Acropolis, Athens, Greece, about 438-432 BC
3. Electric Ladyland Museum, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
The Electric Ladyland Museum is the self-proclaimed “first museum of fluorescent art.” It’s an enormous collection of rocks and minerals that change colors under different types of fluorescent light, and is complete with an “interactive” fluorescent “participatory environment.” I wrote about the details of our (…stoned and hilarious) visit here.
4. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (France)
We were about an inch from not visiting due to the long lines, but I had heard too many good things and at the last minute we decided to suck it up and spend a couple hours in line (good news: it only turned out to be about an hour). Thank God we did: the Musée d’Orsay turned out to be one of the most incredible museums we saw during our whole trip. With the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, I was starstruck at every turn. From Money to Maney, to Degas and Renoir and Cézanne and Seurat and Gauguin and Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec, you won’t be able to catch your breath from one room to the next.
You can’t take pictures here, which was incredibly dumb. So, you’re going to have to just take my word for it and go see it for yourself :)
5. Rodin Museum, Paris (France)
The Rodin Museum was where I said the words “this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” so many times that Chase still, a month later, hasn’t stopped teasing me about it. I can’t help it – it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The museum was Rodin’s old house and studio that was transformed into one of the most gorgeous places – well – I’ve ever seen. More than that, walking through gave me an appreciation for sculpture, and the female form, unlike one I’ve ever had. The most beautiful part was a room inside with sculptures emerging from uncut marble, and that was the one place I couldn’t take pictures (go figure), but here are some shots I got throughout the rest of the “most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen” experience.
Rodin, Gates of Hell
Gates of Hell Close-Up
Rodin, The Thinker
6. Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau (Germany)
Dachau changed my life. Since visiting I’ve read “Last Train to Dachau,” “Journey into Darkness,” “The Envoy,” and now “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” It filled me with more confusion, questions, and humility than any experience has in my entire life. I won’t go into it here, but if anyone else out there is as fascinated and disturbed by WWII as I am, I’m always open for a Skype session.
A map of all the camps during the war. I was absolutely astonished how many of them there were.
Dachau, The Showers
Dachau, the Crematorium
7. Roman Forum, Rome (Italy)
So, I’m going to be real with you – we visited here after a long, long day of walking. We’re talking 10 hours on our feet. I was pooped, and the audio guide wasn’t really working, and I learned embarrassingly little. BUT I did enjoy the gardens and some of the most incredible views of Rome I’ve ever seen or could ever imagine. Visit for that, and stay for some history if you have it in you :)
Bad sunburn after a long day in Rome. A rare published no-makeup shot from yours truly.
Roman Forum gardens
The views were absolutely unbelievable
8. The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City (Italy)
So, when we went to Vatican City it turned out to be the same day that the presidents of France and Germany also decided to visit the Vatican. This is a major bummer because it meant we that we didn’t get to see St. Peter’s Basilica, but luckily our time at the Sistine Chapel was amazing and *sort of* made up for it. Maybe.
We hired a tour guide which was fabulous, but totally not imperative. I would spend some time researching the art of the Sistine Chapel before you go, because it’s a lot more fun being in there when you know what to look for and what you’re look at. Unfortunately there weren’t any pictures here, either, but I
stole borrowed some off of the internet (each photo links back to its original source).
9. Dali Museum, Figueres (Spain)
A love of Dali is something Chase and I have had in common since day 1. Actually, I think his art was the first thing we ever talked about (and I gave him my number so we could text about it since we were in a crowded bar where people were singing dressed like animals). So, when we found out that there was a Dali museum about an hour train ride outside of Barcelona we knew we had to go.
We weren’t disappointed. A jack of all trades, Sir Dali designed this museum himself and made it as theatrical as he is. It’s a complete experience, and any Dali lover will be able to spend a whole day there (just like we did).
Courtyard of the Dali Museum
10. Sorolla Museum, Madrid (Spain)
My mom, who is a pretty amazing artist, told us we had to visit the Sorolla museum when we were in Madrid – and I’m so glad we did. Like Rodin, the museum was also his house and studio, and the artwork was absolutely breathtaking.
- Getting engaged in the Rhine Valley
- Getting stoned and confused at the Electric Ladyland Museum in Amsterdam
- Seeing the Freud Museum (even his chair was there!)
- Starving my way through London
- Eating my way through Italy