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And so, I arrived back in Paris. Back to where it started three months prior. I stayed in the same hostel as the first time, and revisited only my very favorite spots. 

I’ll miss Paris for the sweets for sure.


I went to two crossfit gyms while I was there, one familiar and one new. CrossFit Original Addicts was how I remembered it. I’ll always go back. The other was CrossFit RAR. They opened while I was in other parts of Europe, very shiny. I did a long metcon with my first friend in Europe.

It was a modern gym with beautiful locker room facilities and fancy new equipment. The floor was a bit warped and soft which was strange, but that’s my only complaint.

I’m excited to return to my home gym, Flatirons Performance Center. I miss coaching, I miss my fellow coaches, and I miss my wonderful community! 

After purchasing a small suitcase and filling it with wine, I went to the airport to fly home. Relief, sadness, excitement… Just a few of the emotions I was feeling as my plane left the gate. I had a very brief layover in Iceland, and got to take some beautiful photos from above.

And here’s my final photo for you all:

Minneapolis from the air. Home. 

I’m writing this from my parents’ kitchen table in Fargo. Happy to be home and back to some familiar. Preparing for thanksgiving with the family, and then back to Boulder on Saturday. I’m excited to see all my favorite people, and return to making money instead of spending it! I’m sure you all have questions, and I’ll be happy to answer them. However,for the sake of expedience, here’s some FAQs.

1. What was your favorite part?

Well, that depends! Rome was the most fun and the best sightseeing. Barcelona had the best food and a beach. Ireland had the best nature. Stuttgart had the best gym culture. If I was going to move overseas, I would go to London as I felt very at home there.

2. Did you ever get bored/scared/lonely?

Of course! All of the above! However, it was generally short lived. Traveling alone has its ups and downs. I had a massive amount of freedom. It’s just easier. Easier to find couchsurfing hosts, easier to make decisions, easier to meet people, easier to blend in. There were absolutely times that I wished I had someone with whom to share experiences though. I think for a trip of this length, traveling solo is best, but for future, shorter trips, I’d like to have a friend.

3. Was couch surfing weird? (And what is it?)

I was fortunate to have only positive experiences with my hosts. Every host I had was warm, welcoming, and accommodating. They brought me into their home like they would a beloved friend, and I’m so thankful for the hospitality I was shown. My hosts often took me to their favorite places, shared meals and drinks with me, and took a great interest in getting to know me. 

Basically, in the couch surfing app, you search for a city, and a list of hosts come up. You sift through their profiles, and make requests to stay with people you think you’ll get on with. They can either accept, decline, or make counter offers for different dates. Often, they have also been travelers and love to share stories. Some just like meeting people from around the world. It’s totally free with no strings attached. I often made meals for hosts however and always kept their place as tidy as I could so as to not be a burden.

4. Was the language barrier hard?

No. Most people spoke at least some english, and I’m quite blessed with the ability to pick up some languages fairly easily. Google translate came in really handy for tough situations, but I had alsmot no issues with communicating.

5. What are you going to do now?

I’m going back to coaching and personal training at Flatirons for sure. I’d love to return to Verde, but they haven’t room for me at the moment, so I’m going to look for something else. 

6. Do you feel differently? 

Not really. I’d say my biggest take away from all of this is that I’m perfectly ok with me. I can be happy by myself, and I can depend on myself (and google maps). I’m less fearful, more bold, and trust my instincts a little more. I learned to live with very little, and didn’t really miss my material things. I’d recommend solo travel to anyone.
That’s it. That’s all of it. 

Thank you for sharing my journey. 

Jenna

Yeah. It’s green.

I spent a full seven days in Ireland after Manchester because I found another £9 flight to Paris the following week. Mostly, I was in Dublin, but I did make it out to the west for the weekend to see the Cliffs of Moher.

Lucky for me, it didn’t rain much while I was there. It was chilly, but not unbearably so. Dublin is quaint for a big city. One can easily walk the whole of it in a day. I chose to take a relaxing approach to exploring the city by going out in small bursts to explore. The first hostels was in was right in the thick of everything which made it easy. Dublin is split in half by a river. There’s a distinct difference between the two sides. One is high class, one is low, and the locals will make sure you know that. I spent most of my time in the low class, old town area. It suited me with its vintage charms. One night was spent there doing a backpackers pub crawl. We visited several pubs where people were playing Irish music, drank plenty of Irish beer, and generally danced to our hearts contents. 


The best part of Dublin for me was the Guinness Storehouse. It’s the original birthplace of Guinness where Arthur Guinness had such a vision that he signed a 9000 year lease which is on display in the floor of the orientation area. The water there flows down from the nearby mountains, and they use only Irish grown barley for their iconic malt. The storehouse (museum) is shaped like a giant pint glass that would hold some 14,000,000 pints of Guinness. Each floor was dedicated to a different part of the Guinness story from the brewing process to Arthur Guinness’s life, the years of advertising campaigns to learning to pour the perfect pint. The top of the pint glass is a pub with a 360 view above Dublin. Amazing. I was entertained the entire time, and the guinness was so fresh, it was like tasting it for the first time again. 


Like every city, there’s a million pigeons. Here’s one sad little pigeon I saw who was missing a foot! Poor little dude. 


There was another brewery in Dublin called The Porterhouse. They don’t serve Guinness much to the disappointment of several people I overheard at the bar. The day after the election, I drowned my sorrows in their house porter and sticky toffee pudding. *sigh*


So that’s Dublin. The people are nice, the beer is great, and the beef stew will take the chill out of you. 

The best part of Ireland is the Cliffs of Moher. I spent the weekend in the nearby town of Galway where I was cold and damp most of the time, but the food was delicious. I treated myself to a dinner for one of fish stew, fresh mussels, yummy malt bread, and of course, banoffee pie.


The next day I hopped on a bus to the cliffs. On the way, we stopped by some caves. They were alright. They used to be hibernation caves for the now extinct Irish Grizzly, so that was cool. 

Here’s some shots from along the way. Ireland has a very unique landscape. 


Let us not tarry. Here’s the cliffs:


It’s a lot of photos. I don’t care. I love them all. It was cold and windy as shit, and there were signs everywhere warning people not to get too close to the edge as every year, someone gets blown off. Such a magical place. 

My last night in Dublin, I went to Navitas CrossFit. It was quite cramped, but the coach did a good job herding us. The workout was fun, and it felt great to really sweat. The community wasn’t the most lively, but they were kind. Before my trip to the west coast, I had worked out at a normal gym called Raw. It was hot and crowded with a healthy mix of bodybuilders, power lifters, and even a few oly guys. I went bro mode and did leg day, bodybuilding style. You’d think some of them had never seen a girl squat! It was really quite fun, and I’d recommend the gym to anyone who just wants to get proper swoliosis. 


That concludes Ireland! I had a super early flight to Paris which is never fun, but I survived. I was happy to be going to my final destination.

I only gave myself 4 days in London. I had no idea just how much I would love it. From the delicious food to the vibrant markets, London captured my heart. What helped the most was CrossFit London. They were the first affiliate in Europe. They have nearly 1000 members between a few locations. They’re all grit and heart. Or course, at the gym I loved most I took no photos. I’ll have to just describe it. The location that I visited was set inside two joining bridge arches. The rigs were homemade out of scaffolding bars, the bars were slightly rusty, and they had all the gymnastics equipment you could want including parallel bars and a blow up tumbling mat. It was cold and little damp like the rest of London, but the people were warm and welcoming. I showed up for class and felt instantly like family, like I had always been there. I wasn’t other. During the WOD, we were all helping and challenging each other, one upping and no repping, laughing and encouraging. I was invited back two more times during my stay, and went gladly. I can’t say enough about the warmth of the community. My second time there, we did a nasty team WOD, then they brought me out for some traditional English food. We ate meat pies and drank beer and talked like old friends. After dinner, we went to a gym function where I met more of the community. As the party wound down, the original group of us decided on second dinner as the meat pies hadn’t held over long. We went to an amazing little BBQ place that served delectable ribs and brisket sliders. Such a lovely evening with lovely people.

I lied. I have this photo, but it’s of me in the gym, not the gym.


And here’s a venison meat pie.


Here’s London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral: 


My first night, my couchsurfing host and I took a long walk around the center of the city. We crossed all the central bridges, heard some great buskers, and enjoyed the only semi-warm weather I had in London. Here’s some photos:




London is home to Camden Town Market. It’s a bustling vintage market teaming with retail stands and food trucks. There were so many food trucks it took me 30 minutes to decide what to eat. I ended up having wild game dumplings, the best brownie I’ve ever eaten, and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. I thought Italy had won hot chocolate, but I was so wrong. This one from Chin Chin Labs was thick, creamy, and rich, but the real kicker was the hand torched, homemade marshmallow cream on top. I died a little. If you’re ever there, don’t hesitate. Get two.


As every Harry Potter fan does while they’re in London, I visited Kings Cross Station. Fan girl heaven.


I had my first full English breakfast near Brick Lane complete with black pudding and a fried slice. Now, I love sloppy breakfast food, but this was too much. I couldn’t finish it! The black pudding was quite good I was surprised to learn. For those that don’t know, it’s basically blood and oatmeal sausage. 


Graffiti has been a constant in most of Europe. Generally, it’s the kind that detracts from the city. Immature marking by kids, not artists. London, however, has proper art. Here’s some examples:


Lastly, here’s Big Ben and some funny signs.



London, I love you. I’ll be back.

Before this trip, when I thought of Florence, I imagined a quiet Italian town on a hill surrounded by vineyards and filled with art and cafes. I was so wrong. It was crowded, dirty, and beside the cathedral and certain monuments, I found it to be kind of ugly. I’m happy to have seen it once, but I have no intention of returning. Though I did buy a sick leather jacket since this is the leather capital of the world.



Here’s some of the pretty parts:

Side story: there’s a traditional Florentine sandwich called lampredotto. It was recommended to me by more than one local, so I got one. Little did I know it’s marinated cow stomach. I took two bites and then googled it because the texture was so odd. I made it about two more bites before I just couldn’t anymore. Surprise stomach sandwich. Thanks Florence.


The main cathedral is amazing. The natural pink and green stone made it so incredibly beautiful. And of course, there was amazing statues everywhere. The crowds just detracted from the beauty so much. Walking through the streets was torture. The best part was meeting a guy named Darrien with whom I would spend time in Rome exploring. Because seriously, look at this river: 


I guess the bottom was treated with a material that makes it look like this, but it still looks gross.

Enough of that. LETS TALK ABOUT ROME!!!

I would move there tomorrow. 


Are you not entertained?! This was the first thing I did when I got there. It was as amazing as I hoped. We all kept commenting on how much we wanted to be able to travel back in time and see Rome in her prime. Everything was alive with history. Monuments of the old empire lay everywhere. I’d be walking down a winding street and suddenly round a corner and have my breath taken by some new amazing thing.


Rome only has two metro lines and they’re crowded. They’ve been trying to build a third line, but they keep finding new ruins and artifacts when they dig. Fun fact.

Kick ass ruins everywhere. 

Then there was the Vatican. I had tears in my eyes for so much of the Sistine Chapel. It was overwhelming. I wish I could have taken photos for you, but they’re forbidden as flash can damage the paint.



But these above are all mosaics! I couldn’t believe it! That’s not a painting. It’s tiny tiles arranged masterfully. Incredible.

I didn’t sleep much in Rome as I was there on a weekend and the hostel always had parties for us. It was so much fun meeting people from all over the world. I also didn’t workout in Rome as the gyms were pretty far from the city center, and I had a mild hangover most of the time when I was completely enraptured in sightseeing. I even got to meet up with a friend from my trip 9 years ago! It was such great coincidence we were both in Rome! Late night Italian dinners wit friends could never get old.

Now for a section called Funny Signs.


God yes, I love language.

This concludes Italy. Next post will be Barcelona ❤️

Baci!

Ciao! 

Here’s the first of two Italian posts. Italy was my first foreign love, and that has not changed.While I was there I made new friends and reconnected with old, ate delicious pasta and drank amazing wine. I learned an impressive amount of Italian in a short time spending time with people who hardly speak any English. All in all, and unsurprisingly, I love Italy. 

I left off in Zurich. My final day there, I went to a really cool gym called Balboa. It’s not a CrossFit affiliate, but the do similar classes. They also do yoga, martial arts, weightlifting, and other classes. What I loved most was the vibe. Upstairs is a full cafe and bar:


There’s a glass portion of the floor through which you can see the gym downstairs. Everything was immaculately clean and modern. The instructors were professional, and the classes were well run and organized. The whole atmosphere of the place was so pleasing to me. 

After Zurich came Milan. The fashion capital. It was a beautiful, metropolitan city with good transportation and plenty to do. I stayed in a hostel that was located near a metro station, and made getting around very easy. On my second day there, I met two American guys who were on the same kind of trip as me. They were really nice guys with lots of stories to tell. We spent most of my time in Milan together. The first night, we went to the apartment of their Italian friends. We had pizza and wine, guitar sing alongs, and lots of laughs. There was a guy there who was more American than some Americans I know, yet he’s never set foot on American soil. He’s Indian. His accent was American. His sense of humor and music taste? American. His explanation was simple: “I’ve been watching American movies and television all my life. I consider English my first language, I even think in English.” I’m so happy to have met him!


This was a really disturbing art installation drawing attention to domestic abuse.

These guys. So great. ?
The next day, we went to Lake Como. A one hour train ride brought us into absolutely gorgeous mountain country around the pants shaped lake. Varenna is located in the right pocket of the “pants.” We spent the day sun basking, eating, exploring, and taking photos. We couldn’t have wished for a better day!



The Europeans do hot chocolate so much better than us. 
The city of Milan is situated around Il Duomo. The giant church. Breathtaking.



There’s also the old castle that marked the entrance to the ancient walled city that was Milan wayyyy back in war time Italy. Only a few remnants of the wall remain now.

AND THERE WAS A CAT CAFE! 

Happiness is coffee, cookies, and kitties. 

Then I hopped at BlaBlaCar to Venice. 


Miriam, me, Anna in 2007

When I was a junior in high school, my family hosted a Venetian girl for a year through foreign exchange. It was one of the best years of my life! Anna became the sister I never had, and we still keep in touch. The summer after my senior year, I went and stayed with her family for 5 weeks. Her father picked me up, and it all felt like just yesterday.

I spent a nice long weekend with her parents. They treated me like a daughter, and we had a really lovely time. Their home is about 20 minutes from Venice in a country-like setting. It felt like home.

I even got to see Anna’s cousin and her baby!


Anna’s mom, Giuli, brought me to the lovely little town of Treviso to just snoop around. It was a crappy, misty day, but we had fun anyway. She’s a really happy, positive person. I got to really spend quality time with her this trip.


That fountain exists. 

She took me to Venice too. Gloriously sunny weather guided us through the winding streets and throngs of people.


It was exactly has I remember. Timeless, vibrant, salty.

Miriam and I got to reconnect. We spent a day exploring some caves an hour north of Venice.


It was really fun just walking around surrounded by such beauty. 

I learned how to walk on stilts! Just adding to my list of odd talents. Anna’s father made them for her years ago.


The only thing that could have made the Venice trip better is if Anna could have been there! Sadly, she now lives in Mexico. 

Florence and Rome in the next post…
I’m going to catch you up to current times over the next two days. Sorry for the absence! Stay tuned!