Annamae Beeler Sax - “Halfway There: Making the Most of the Time I Have”

Annamae Beeler Sax

Annamae Sax is a double major in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry and Gender and Women's studies (specialising in Queer and Trans Studies) who is traveling from Tucson, Arizona to Maynooth, Ireland. When she's not in class or stuck in a book, she loves to act, hike, and explore the world with her friends.

I could have sworn it was just yesterday that I stepped off the plane in Dublin, desert brain reeling as I tried to gain my Irish land legs; yet somehow, (I must have blinked) it’s just about December and my first semester is drawing to a close. It’s mind boggling how quickly my year abroad is going by, and I’m desperately trying to pack in as much travel as possible between essays and theater productions.

Our fall break took place over the end of October and the beginning of November, and my friends and I were quick to make the most of it. We booked an incredible trip with bus2alps that took us through Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, all in under ten days. We flew from Dublin to Barcelona to meet up with our group of other students from all over at our first hostel. (Funniest part of this trip? We drove between cities, so you tend to get pretty close with people when you’re on a bus with for over ten hours straight.) Each city began with a local tour guide who walked us around and gave us the info we needed to fully take in the city.

Barcelona was amazing. Our tour guide took us to a beautiful cathedral, through the government buildings, popular shopping areas, and we ended it at Parc de la Ciutadella, which had a bubbling fountain at the center. From there we had free time, and my friends and I took to the city immediately, finding a good restaurant for tapas, fitting in a tattoo appointment for me, and ending the night at a pub crawl. We found ourselves on the beach at one am, shoes in our hands as we ran through the crashing waves. It was the perfect ending to an incredible day. We spent the next one exploring: the Sagrada Familia, parts of the city we hadn’t been to yet, and ending with Park Güell. Seeing Gaudí’s work in person was breathtaking, after seeing it in pictures for so long. That night we got back and packed, and the next morning set out on our longest drive of the trip, to Paris.


Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona

Arriving in Paris late at night sounds very glamorous, unless you’ve been on a bus for almost twelve hours with twenty-something other students all dying for food and a shower. However, we didn’t have time for that as we checked into our hostel as fast as possible and caught the metro to the Eiffel Tower to see the eleven o’clock light show. We all got crepes and watched the tower light up, then went back to get some much-needed sleep before the big day ahead of us. The morning of Halloween dawned bright and cold, and we got started on our walking tour right away, making our way past the Notre Dame, the tower, and ending at the Louvre. Once we split off for free time, we went to the Louvre first. (Spoiler alert: the Mona Lisa is beautiful, but kind of small and underwhelming in person. Sorry.) Then we went to Champs-Élysées, the main shopping area, to walk around and shop a bit. We went back early to get ready for Halloween and head out for the Paris pub crawl, filled with crazy costumes and strobe lights, all led by an insanely tall wizard with a staff who herded us from pub to pub. The next day was dedicated to Versailles and its many lush, detailed rooms and vast gardens. Then it was time to load up and begin our drive to Amsterdam.


Eiffel Tower in Paris

We got to our Amsterdam hostel that night, and we tucked in so we could get an early start the next day. Our tour guide was incredible, taking us on the metro to see the heart of the city: the canals, the shops, the monuments to World War Two, the Red Light district, and then to a cheese tasting. Amsterdam was easily my favorite city; it was so welcoming and had an endless amount of stuff to do. Over the span of our two days there, we took pictures with the IAmsterdam sign, went on a boat tour, went to the Van Gogh museum, visited Anne Frank’s house and got our own copies of her diary. I even found time to get a tattoo of a tulip, Amsterdam’s flower, and had some bulbs sent home to my mother, red and yellow striped like the ones on my arm.


Amsterdam Canal River

Our drive to Berlin went quickly, as did the whole trip to be honest, and we arrived in our last city reluctant for the trip to end. I was especially excited to visit Berlin, as this is where my father and his family are from, and I felt especially connected. We spent that night on a pub crawl, and started the next day with a walking tour. We had another awesome tour guide, who took us to all of the beautiful monuments the city has created for the victims of the war. We went to the Berlin wall and Checkpoint Charlie, and ended at the final monument, a statue of a mother and her dying child, dedicated to all of the victims of war and tyranny. It was very somber, but much needed, and getting to experience the city like that was wonderful. From there we went to the East Side Gallery to see all of the murals. The art was equally fun and poignant, everything vibrant and full of life. We ended the night eating classic German food, and I enjoyed some of the best Spätzle I’ve ever had.


Standing on where the Berlin Wall once stood

My friends and I caught our flight back to Dublin early the next morning, utterly exhausted and utterly content. I went into the trip knowing it was kind of going to run me into the ground, and I welcomed it. There’s nothing like the exhaustion you get from traveling, and there’s nothing like the memories it leaves you with. I loved every single city I saw over my break, and I plan to go back again to a few of them. I’m already up to my eyeballs in my winter break plans, but getting a second to reflect on my most recent trip reminds me of two things: I’m an insanely lucky person to live the life I do, and there’s no other life I’d be living. (Even if I could use a little more sleep now and again.)