Inspired by...Road Trip!

There’s something about road trips that makes me think of summer and the ultimate bonding experience.  Maybe it’s the freedom of the road in front of you and the fact that you’re in complete control of where you go and what you do that entices and excites me so much (life as a control freak :) ).  I’ve always loved car trips, ever since I was little, which reminds me of a road trip I took when I was 8:


My dad had been away all summer at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, receiving special training, and it was a long (10 weeks, to be exact!) summer without him.  I remember bits and pieces of that summer — my mom and I bribing my brother with baseball cards and bubble gum so he would do his reading lessons,  going to summer camp and getting a canoe stuck in a swamp, beach days at Horseback, but what I remember quite clearly is the “road trip” we took down to Virginia for my dad’s graduation ceremony at the end of the summer.


My grandparents came down the night before, armed with all sorts of treats — like books, and journals, and tic-tac-toe notepads — to keep us occupied on what I was told would be a 9-hour journey.  My mom woke me up at 4:00 the following morning (I actually remember the time quite distinctly), and I remember being carried in my pajamas out to our old Dodge minivan.  I thought it was so cool that I was up so early (it makes a difference when someone’s carrying you!) and that I got to go in the car in my pajamas and drive through states I had never seen before, but I also remember the excitement of finally seeing my dad again.  This road trip was what took me to see my dad, finally.  I think that’s why I like road trips — because it’s a journey to something that you’ve planned and there’s not only a destination or a person waiting for you at the end, but you also get to see the sights along the way.


Inspired to be,



Inspired by...Salzburg!

The next day, I got up around 5:15 so I could get to the train station for my 6:40 train to Salzburg.  It was a long ride — about 5 hours — but it was easily the most gorgeous part of my trip because the whole ride took me through the Alps and there is nothing like sitting in a very comfortable train seat and going through snowy towns and by rivers and woods and such.  It was quite relaxing!

I got to Salzburg around 12:30 and headed to my hostel which wasn’t far away at all.  I think this was my favourite hostel (trying to remember all of them!) because it was pretty cheap, very clean, and it played The Sound of Music every evening at 8:00 in the lounge.  Also, it was located right near the Mirabell Gardens which is where a bit from the song Do, Re, Mi was filmed :)  After I checked in and got settled, I headed out on a walking tour of the city.  I had a fantastic tour book for this city, and the self-guided walking tour took me around all of the major sites.  The catch?  It was pouring rain most of the time…  Oh well, I had an umbrella and a rain jacket so I survived!  My book got a little wrinkled, but I think it makes it look well-travelled.  

I saw the statue of Mozart in the, wait for it, Mozartplatz, that was put there on the 50th anniversary of his death.  Salzburg, and most of Austria in general, makes a big deal out of the fact that Mozart was born there so his face is on everything!  Sometimes it’s a bit tacky, but sometimes it works.  Another one of my favourites was the Neue Residenz and the Glockenspiel, which has been around since about the 17th century and chimes in the morning and evening.  It doesn’t sound like church bells, but more like handbells and the sound is really charming.  I also climbed up the face of the Monchsburg cliff face near the festival hall to get some beautiful (albeit cloudy) views of the city — I got better ones the next day when it was sunny.  My tour book had also recommended a little bakery near St. Peter’s cemetery that is famous for its rolls which it sells for only a Euro, so after walking around in the rain for the longest time trying to find it, I stumbled upon it and was very grateful for the warmth!  It’s the oldest bakery in Salzburg and I think it’s been around since the 13th century or so.  Let’s just say it was so worth getting soaked because it was the best brioche I have had in my entire life— so light and warm and sweet, and there were a few raisins in it — I was in heaven!  I finished my walking tour and headed back to get into dry clothes for The Sound of Music!

The next day was my full day in Salzburg so I had breakfast in the hostel and set out for the city centre again.  I visited a few of my favourites from the previous day and then began a long uphill trek to the Hohensalzburg Fortress which had been highly recommended.  This has been around since the 700s and I got to see an exhibit where they have models detailing how it has grown since then.  It hasn’t been used as an actual fortress in quite some time (since 1860), but Napoleon used it as a military barracks when he was off being Napoleon.  I also got to see the fortress interior which hasn’t been modernised or lived in since the 1500s and at the end of the tour, they took us up top where I saw the Alps in their full beauty and it’s something I will never forget.    

After I had seen as much as I could of the fortress, I took a funicular down to the old city and then crossed over the newer part of the city.  I walked along the Steingasse which is full of history: I saw the alleged birthplace of the composer who wrote Silent Night (Joseph Mohr), and then a wall that had been gouged out a bit at the end of WWII because an American GI tried to get his tank up the street to visit a brothel.  Good job, guys.  

That was it for my day in Salzburg and it was quite a full day, so I was happy to relax with The Sound of Music that night…yes, again :)

5 points to Gryffindor if anyone can guess in what song (from the movie) this fountain is shown!

5 points to Gryffindor if anyone can guess in what song (from the movie) this fountain is shown!

Inspired to be,


Inspired by...Travel Day and Zurich

So, DAY ONE!  On Monday night (the 30th), I realised that, oh my god, I was leaving for Europe the next day and I started to freak out just a bit…okay, a lot.  What had I done???  I had no choice at this point, as I had booked my hostels, my EuRail pass, and all of my train reservations, but still, it was a lot to take in.  Also, there was the whole stress of packing since yours truly in a stroke of genius decided to wait until about 9:00 that night when I had to be up at 2:30 in the morning.  BIG mistake, since I had less room than I thought I had.  Anyway, I slept a little that night but I kept thinking about getting myself to the train station and not forgetting anything major, like my passport for example.  Finally, it was 2:30am and I was dragging myself out of bed, having finally fallen asleep.  I was out the door by 3:15 and on my way to Tottenham Court Road where I would take a night bus a few stops to King’s Cross/St. Pancras International.  This was one of those moments that the Tube not running 24 hours really wasn’t fun.  I eventually made it to King’s Cross, checked in for my Eurostar train, and then waited….and waited…and waited, until it was time to board!  This was it!  I got comfortable in my seat and settled in for a 2.5 hour train ride — I was prepared with a long episode of Sherlock and my relaxing playlist so I could get some sleep.

I arrived in Paris around 8:30 am local time (Paris is one hour ahead of Greenwich time) and had about a three hour layover with no wifi, so I needed to find some way to entertain myself.  It was a gorgeous day so I took a walk and got a crepe since I only get them in Paris and it had been so long.  I was in a much better mood after that :)  Then I had a quick train Lille Europe, which I think is north of Paris, but I didn’t really pay much attention.  After another hour layover, I was on the train to Marne La Vallee Chessy, which is definitely in France, and I think it was farther south.  The layovers were getting shorter at this point, but my train to Strasbourg was delayed so I killed a little time in the station and we were finally on our way!  Luckily, we made up a lot of time on the way to Basel (on the France/Germany/Switzerland border) since this was going to be my tightest connection yet, and I had just enough time to run through the station and make my train to Zurich!  I got in at 9:00pm having travelled for just about 18 hours and I was exhausted and in desperate need of a hot shower and my bed.  My hostel was close to the train station which was lovely…but reception was on the third floor with no elevators, so you can imagine the look on my face when I got in the door. Finally, after checking in, a blissful hot shower, and sheets on my bed, I collapsed!

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And now onto Zurich!  It’s an absolutely gorgeous little city in the German side of Switzerland with a river running through it, and incredible views of the Alps just beyond the river.  Here’s the flip side, though: it’s expensive.  I found out when I went to Starbucks to get a bottle of water and a snack bar and it cost me 8 Swiss francs which is the equivalent of 7 USD.  Good thing I was only there for a day!  I mostly walked around on my day in Zurich since, while it’s a beautiful, quaint city, there’s not a whole lot to do besides poke around in churches and see the river.  I did find a market in the train station and got to sample some cheeses and pastries which was quite enjoyable, and I hiked up this huge hill to get a nice panoramic view of the city and listen to the church bells chime.  I also found a fun music store on the main street near my hostel where they let you open any CD you want (well, they open it for you) and you can listen to it with amazing Bose headphones for as long as you want!  I listened to German music for a bit, and then found a Broadway classics CD that I liked a little more :)  

Also, on a slightly unrelated note, LSE finally released the exam schedule (it got delayed because of a software issue or something so I was searching for wifi all day so I could figure out when my exams are), and I’m coming home on June 4th!  I’ll be home in time for David’s graduation which I thought was a long shot, but it worked out and I am so relieved!

After a long walk by the river and a few more pictures, I called it a day and headed back to the hostel.  The next day was going to be an early wakeup, so I needed to get some sleep!

Inspired to be,


Inspired by...My European Adventure: The Beginning

I’m back!!!  I returned on Thursday from 17 days of travelling around Europe and I can’t wait to share it with you!  Before I go into all of the lovely pastry/Alps/castle/ beach-infused details, let’s talk logistics:


Who: Yours truly, the brains behind Katherinspired, the 20-something living in London for the year with a long break in between spring and summer terms who had (and still has) incredibly itchy feet.

What: Seeing the farther-away places I didn’t go last term, because how can you not when you have the perfect break in between terms?

When: March 31st - April 16th

Where: Zurich, Switzerland; Salzburg, Austria; Munich, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany; Paris, Bayeux, and Bordeaux, France; San Sebastian, Spain.  WOW.

Why: Why not?  Seriously, though, I did this trip so I could get out and explore, so I could marvel at something (Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?), so I could have an adventure beyond the adventure that this year has already been.


     Travel: I had a few different options for how I wanted to travel around Europe, but I eventually chose a EuRail pass.  I love trains and the scenic views they provide, so I thought it would be a fun way to enjoy the journey.  EuRail has several options, including a one, two, or three-country pass, a flex-pass that allows you a certain number of “travel days” within a set period, or a global pass which gives you unlimited travel within a certain amount of days.  I opted for the global pass options because I didn’t want to be limited in case of train delays or anything, and because I would be travelling through so many countries.  I do think it would have been cheaper to fly (…Ryanair), but then you miss the scenery and “on the ground” interaction, I think, so it was worth it.  What I didn’t realise before purchasing the pass is that certain trains (especially ones in France and Switzerland) require you to make reservations in addition to having a pass, which also cost more money.  That was a bit frustrating, but even with the additional cost of the reservations, the pass pretty much paid for itself if you factor in the cost of all of the train tickets.  I was pretty intimidated by the idea of planning this huge trip itself, so I procrastinated a bit, but I eventually sat down one day and just began booking my trains and the dates I would be in each place, and it fell into place like a puzzle.  Best feeling ever.

     Accommodations: I was especially worried about hostels because I had never stayed in one by myself before.  Obviously, the concern here is security both for myself and my stuff, so I thought I would have to book single rooms in all of my hostels…which is really expensive.  Luckily, I found HostelWorld which is a website that lets you search for hostels using specific filters.  So, when I was looking for hostels in Zurich for the nights of March 31st and April 1st, I used filters like “luggage storage” and “hairdryers available” (trust me, it was a concern).  The website was fantastic — I was very satisfied with all of my hostels.  They were fairly inexpensive (with the exception of Zurich, but nothing in Switzerland is cheap, anyway), clean, and all were centrally located.  Also, I wasn’t expecting this, but all of them had free wifi!  If you’re going to be travelling, definitely use HostelWorld so you can get the hostel you want and need.

Touring: When you’re planning a trip like this, you want to make the best use of your time.  I was going to have between a day and a day in a half in each city, so I wanted to see all of the major sites and get as much of a feel for the city as I could.  Luckily, I live right near one of the best travel bookstores I’ve ever encountered: Stanford’s.  This place is a goldmine.  They have maps (both vintage and modern), tour books, novels about travelling, and basically everything this wanderlust-filled traveller could ever dream of.  Once I had booked all of my trains and accommodations, I popped on over to Stanford’s to get tour books on all of the cities I was going to.  Hands-down my absolute favourite were the books by Rick Steves.  This man is a genius when it comes to travelling around Europe, I promise.  He has a show on PBS, as well as an app, but I relied on his tour books because they helped me make the most out of each day.  What I love about his books is that they teach you the smart way to travel.  He has a walking tour of the city in each book with an easy-to-follow map that takes you around the major sites, while also making it logical.  Additionally, he divulges the tricks of the trade that he’s learned throughout his extensive years of traveling.  For instance, when I was in Salzburg, he had rated visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress an absolute must, but what he also did was talk about how to visit the fortress — when I first got there, he said rather than turning right at the entrance to a certain site, turn left for fewer crowds, and things like that.  Some of my best memories from the solo bit of the trip were my walking tours so I highly recommend him!

Packing: I know some people are able to “backpack” around Europe with literally nothing but a backpack, but I am not that kind of person.  Seriously, though, how do people do that???  17 days of the same clothes from my suitcase were enough to push me over the edge so I can’t imagine.  Anyway, I digress.  I took my carry-on-sized suitcase, and a good sturdy shoulder bag and that was it.  I packed basics that I knew I would be able to mix and match since I had very little room (light sweaters, layering pieces, leggings, a good skirt, my tall boots, and a pair of sneakers, etc.) and I organised them in big ziploc bags.  This is especially useful for saving space since you can squeeze the air out of the bags, and is good to keep things clean because god forbid your shampoo spills or something.  I packed all of my toiletries, stress remedies, first aid stuff in plastic pouches (these are my favourites), and then squeezed whatever else I thought of at the last minute somewhere else in there.  My advice?  Don’t leave packing for a few hours before you have to go to bed before you have to get up at 2:30 am.  Trust me, don’t do this.  You always have less space than you think you do and you want to walk out the door feeling like you have your life together, at least partly :)

Well, that’s it for the logistics of my trip!  Stay tuned for details of my travelling day and my day in Zurich, coming soon to KatherInspired!

Inspired to be,