After years of writing “travel the world” on various goal sheets and school questionnaires, posting what seems like thousands of travel pins on pinterest, and researching a large number of different kinds of trips I finally decided to make a move on these long term desires.
With just a few clicks and a 150.00 down payment, I booked a month long trip to Europe.
The company that I booked the trip through (“EF College Break”), is designed for people ages 18-28 who are on a bit of a travel budget. The tours are comprised of anywhere from 15-40 people and range anywhere from 8 days to 35. The one I chose was called “Grand Tour of Europe” and lasted 30 days. This of course was perfect for my situation being that I had just graduated high school and also needed to pay loads of money in the near future for college, but also wanted to see more than just one place in Europe. The total trip cost was $5,600.00, which seemed like a lot but in all reality wasn’t when you factored in the flights, accommodations, transit fares, entrance fees and so forth. During my first year of college I paid around $500.00 a month to pay off the entire trip 60 days before departure.
The trip itinerary included London, Paris, and Amsterdam for three days each, Frankfurt for one night, Lucerne Region and Venice for two, Rome for three, Florence and Cannes for two, Nimes for one, and Barcelona and Madrid for three nights each.
We boarded our overnight flight on June 1st, at 9:58 pm and arrived in London at 12:00 pm. With a six hour time difference, I thought we would be much more exhausted but the excitement of being in the United Kingdom over powered my desire to pass out and make up lost sleep from the plane ride.
London was a good way to transition from the American lifestyle to the European lifestyle. There was no language barrier and the lifestyle was pretty similar to what we are used to in the US. We stayed in Chiswick at a very nice hotel right near the tube entrance. The tube was much more complicated than the simple metro transit that I am used to, but was easy to navigate once you figured it out. The double decker busses are seriously everywhere and were one of my favorite parts of London.
During our three night stay, we visited all of the tourist musts! We stopped by Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower Bridge. At Buckingham palace, our tour guide suggested that instead of waiting up close near the palace to watch the guards physically change position that we should wait to see them all exit in order to be extremely close and have a good view of the guards. This was well worth it-We didn’t get stuck in the crowds, and we got to see the guards much closer than we would have if we would’ve waited up near the palace. We rode the London Eye, which in my opinion was not worth the 35 euro it cost. Despite the good views, the ride only lasts about 20 minutes and the views can be seen from other places within London. Abbey Road was extremely cool to see, but to my surprise was a very, very busy street for traffic and tourists, which made taking the classic picture very difficult. My advice would be to visit this very early in the morning before the work traffic happens because the people in the cars are not very happy about tourists darting across the road.
We participated in a 5 hour bar crawl (put on by OneBigNightOut), which included stops and entrance at 5 bars with a free shot in each and a t-shirt for only 15 pounds. I found this to be extremely fun. The bars (clubs, really) that we visited were all very different and fun. They played a bunch of American music and you were able to meet other people easily. We also visited the Natural History Museum of London and the Science Museum which were free! WOO.
We took the Euro Star from London to Paris which only took about 2.5 hours. Once again, our time difference changed from 6 to 7 hours ahead of time at home. For our three days in Paris we stayed in a hostel called the Generator (I highly recommend this to students who are looking to travel/stay in Paris for cheap).The Generator is definitely designed for young people. The hostel has a 2 bars, a lounge, a rooftop terrace and a club. We found that we would spend quite a bit of time in the basement bars here.
In my opinion, the subway system in Paris is extremely dirty, and gross. There is graffiti everywhere, an extremely frightening population of homeless people and it smells everywhere. During our second ride on the subway ever, we nearly witnessed a pickpocket. There are also signs EVERYWHERE warning you about pick pockets. It also is a bit more difficult to understand the subway system there because of the language barrier, but once again was manageable once you got the hang of it. We just always had to ensure that we had nothing valuable in open pockets, and that our purses were in front of us and we were cautious of them the entire time. I felt very cautious and nervous regarding my stuff during my time outside of central Paris.
The inside of Central Paris is definitely on the other end of the Spectrum.Since we arrived early in the daytime, we began our site seeing right away. Our tour guide, Filippos, gave us a very very long walking tour of the city where we saw the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower,the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame, the parliament buildings, the river and more. Near the Eiffel Tower and the shopping districts were extremely nice and well taken care of.
The Eiffel tower is much bigger than I had ever dreamed. Any picture you’ve seen does not do it justice when it comes to size. The tower is massive. It towers over the entire city of Paris by a landslide. We stayed in Paris during the Euro cup which made it much more busy than usual. We received tickets to go to the second level of the Eiffel Tower (included in the cost of the trip). Our tour guide said we could pay the extra money to travel to the top, but in his opinion the view was the same. We followed his advice. The line to enter only took about 45 minutes, and the security was pretty strict, but not overly strict. We were able to bring our bags. An elevator took us up to the second level-Only a few from our group were brave enough to take the stairs! The views from this level were absolutely incredible. You had a complete 360 view of the whole city. Also! Be sure to come back at night where you can see it light up! The show starts on the hour after sunset and only lasts about 5 minutes so don’t be late!
We brought a few bottles of wine to drink and share during a canal cruise where we also had a unique view of the city. Along both sides of the river, tons of people in little groups were sitting by the river enjoying a picnic, drinks or just talking with their friends on the rivers edge. After the cruise, we decided to do the same. We walked up and down the river, drinking our wine, listening to the musicians play their saxophones and looking at all of the vendors shops. This was one of my favorite memories of Paris and made me truly feel like I was in Europe. We also visited the Louvre which was so amazing. We saw the Mona Lisa there, but were extremely surprised at the size! It is much smaller than it is depicted to be. We spent over 2 hours at the Louvre and didn’t even see one full wing of it. One of our guides said that new art is moved into it every tuesday and that if you wanted to see the entire thing, you would have to spend 8 hours a day there for a month. We spent an evening at Montamarte, the artist district of Paris and a high point of the city with gorgeous views. Here we watched the sunset over the city, and listened to locals sing, dance and play music. I would say this is definitely a must when staying in Paris.
I also tried Macaroons for the first time at a little shop called Lauderee. I had the classic vanilla (daring, I know), and the salted caramel. We also took advantage of being in France and consumed SO many crepes. You could get these literally anywhere. There are so many shops and little vendors selling them on nearly every street corner-both dinner and desert ones! My favorite was definitely the Nutella and Strawberry. Wow. Thats all I can say about it. Well, probably messy too. So make sure you get extra napkins.
The Palace of Versailles was an optional excursion for our trip that I am so glad I signed up for. The lines for this are extremely long. It definitely would’ve probably taken about two hours to go through the line, but since we were part of a group (guided tour) we were able to just walk right in during our time slot. SO lucky. The palace is also known for it’s gardens. You could spend hours just in the gardens. Our tour guide suggested we make use of the gardens early in the morning before the crowds of people came to really enjoy the peacefulness and the scenery. This is something I am so glad we took advantage of. The gardens are all trimmed perfectly, everything is symmetrical. It is all about line, shape, and definition. When you look straight out, you can see for miles. It is a shame that for the longest time this was kept from the public. We took a stroll through the garden but could not make a dent in it because of how large it is. On the inside of the Palace, there is gold seriously everywhere. In America, you do not see anywhere near as much gold as you do everywhere else in Europe. I had never seen gold like this. Entire ceilings were filled with gold in every room of this whole entire palace. The palace was incredible. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it before. Later in the trip, I would see more royal palaces but prior to this experience, I hadn’t seen anything of the sort and it blew my mind.
I definitely think I needed more than 3 days to really enjoy all that Paris had to offer.
We took a private coach bus from Paris to Amsterdam. We made a small stop in Ghent Belgium for a quick waffle (which did live up to my expectation btw) and some lunch. Afterward, we were right back on the road. During our time in Amsterdam, we once again stayed in a Generator. I seriously love them (just another shameless plug, woo!). The Generator in Amsterdam is very close to the center of the city. The building used to be a school, so it has a bit of an older look but is still extremely awesome. This one also has a bar as well. In order to get into the city we just hopped on the bus that was only about a four minute walk from where our hostel was located. Our night of arrival we had a walking tour where we saw Napoleon’s palace, the Red Light District, the first ever coffee shop (amsterdam style coffee shop), a local college, the Anne Frank House, a canal cruise and more.
It was extremely interesting to listen to our tour guide talk about the way that prostitution in the red light district was normal,accepted and even encouraged to some extent. This was a bit of a culture shock moment for me. It was hard for me to picture someone telling their young daughter or son that someday they could potentially end up working in the red light district selling their bodies. Of course, I understand and respect their way of living/lifestyle but it was definitely different than what we are used to in the US. It was still very interesting to see the relaxed vibe that everyone in the red light district, and the whole city really had.
The nightlife in Amsterdam was crazy different than what we are used to. Here, bar close is at 2 am, in Europe clubs and bars open at 12 am and stay open until 6 am. They don’t start getting busy until 2 am, which is when we are used to going home. The club we went to was called Escape and was very reasonably priced, but we had a 10 euro cover as well as a fee to use the restrooms. The music was fun, but we went out on a thursday so it wasn’t the busiest. The night after a bunch of my friends went and they said it was crazy.
On our second day in the city, we visited a cheese and clog factory in the dutch countryside. Here, we were given a presentation on the process of making cheese, as well as the process of how clogs are made and decorated. In this shop, I had never seen more clogs in my entire life. Here we bought a small pair of Clogs for Millie (niece) and tried 15 different kinds of cheese. The cheese was served with a raspberry wine which was surprisingly delicious with the cheese. We bought a garlic and herbs cheese to bring back home to the states with us. Afterwards, we visited a small fishing village where locals caught, sold and served fish. We stopped for lunch and tried the popular seafood dish and also spent a lot of time walking through the various souvenir shops.
On our final day, we decided to sign up for an Amsterdam bike tour. If there is one thing that you should know about Amsterdam, it is that bikes rule the city. They will not stop for anything. Pedestrians really don’t matter to them- I almost got hit numerous times in the city. There is a ridiculous amount of bikes, and very few cars.
We got on our bikes and took the ferry across the canal and began our tour. We rode for a total of 4 hours, and biked somewhere between 13-15 miles. During the ride, we stopped at a windmill that is still in use to this day. The mill uses the wind to crush large stones, but rely’s solely on the wind to make the machine work. We didn’t know that some of the mills were still in use because most of the ones we had seen had been turned into shops and pubs. We also made a stop at a large bell tower that was part of a very small popular village. We climbed probably the tiniest, steepest stairs ever in existence but made it to the top. The view was actually gorgeous. It was a lot of fields, canals and small houses in the village. It was really relaxing and green. A very vibrant, beautiful green. So beautiful in fact that it definitely made me want to visit Amsterdam again. The countryside was definitely the best part of the city.
Frankfurt essentially was just a pit stop between Amsterdam and where we were staying in Switzerland. The hostel we stayed in here wasn’t as nice as the ones we were used to. It also didn’t have air conditioning. Apparently, very few places in Germany have air conditioning because the temperature in the summer usually stays at about 65-75 degrees. Of course, the day we are there it is a blistering 90 degrees and we all are completely miserable.
Miserable is a little harsh seeming that we were in Germany, a foreign country and on vacation but it seemed awful because of the heat and having been in a bus seriously all day. We decided to leave the hostel because we figured we only had one night plus it was much too hot to stay there. We went to dinner at this local place and had one amazing meal. We also had amazing beer. The boys said it was the best beer that they had ever had. Very foamy and served in a very tall glass.
Afterward, we went back to the hostel and sat in the boiling hot lobby, drinking beers and watching the Euro cup final with people from all different countries. Once again this was a “Wow, I’m definitely in Europe moment”.
ENGELBERG/LUCERNE REGION, SWITZERLAND
The drive to Switzerland was long, but so beautiful. We stopped on the way at a little fishing village in the mountains where we saw a demonstration on cuckoo clocks. It was fascinating to see the different types and how each of them worked by either two weights, or batteries (thanks technology). We also made a pit stop at Rhine Falls where we saw the second largest waterfall in the world with Niagara Falls being the largest.
Switzerland was probably one of my top three favorites of the trip. I have never seen such a royal, vibrant green in my entire life. The little town that we were staying in (Engelberg) is right outside of Lucerne. To get to it you have to go halfway up one of the mountains and then down back into the valley to reach the town. Anywhere you are in the town you have a 360 view of the mountains. The lodge we stayed in was called Angels Lodge and it was more of a low key ski resort and spa. We all went to dinner and had an outrageously expensive meal the first night, paying near 20 franks each for a simple cheeseburger and fries. After dinner we all headed back to the Lodge, showered, and drank wine on our balconies. The temperature was a perfect 65 degrees, and every breath you took in was so fresh and clean. It sounds ridiculous and exaggerated but honestly if you have been there, you know exactly what I am talking about.
The next day we were up bright and early to visit Mount Pilatus where we took a cable car all the way to the top. The issue was rain and the massive clouds of fog everywhere you looked. When we got all the way to the top, you couldn’t really see anything besides white. It kind of hurt my eyes actually. Despite being really excited and then let down about seeing the view from the mountain, the experience was really cool. On the way down we saw all sorts of milk cows just hanging out on the mountain with their own little bells hanging from each of their necks.
After the rail car brought us all the way down, we boarded a ferry to reach Lucerne. It was still raining so that kind of stunk, but this was the only time that we had rain on the entire trip so we were actually pretty lucky. Right upon our arrival into Lucerne, our tour director took us to see the dying lion that is carved into rock in the city. I have only seen pictures of this before obviously, and much like the eiffel tower, it is much larger than I expected and truly marvelous. The water surrounding the lion as well as all of the water in Lucerne is a clear, beautiful emerald color. From the lion, we headed to a very crowded tourist shop to buy swiss army knives and other souvenirs such as real swiss chocolate. It took us so long to pick some out because there were so many different kinds to choose from. The rest of the afternoon was ours to look around, get some lunch and enjoy the town, but we couldn’t really do much because of how rainy it was.
EEP! I am so excited to talk all about Italy because it was my absolute favorite on the trip. There is something about the atmosphere in Italy that just makes it feel so perfect. On our way, we made a pit stop in Verona to see the famous Romeo and Juliet balcony. At our time of arrival, it was extremely crowded with tourists so it was somewhat difficult to enjoy. After a brief two hour visit, we headed to Venice. We didn’t stay in the actual city of Venice, but on a little island that was about a 20 minute ferry ride from the inner city. The first night we immediately headed down to the beach to watch the sunset and of course to drink the cheap Italian wine we had purchased from a rest stop on the drive. It was here where we met a crazy guy from Prague who essentially told us he can never visit the United States because he was wanted for murder. Oh. Yes, oh is right. We ditched him after that. Earlier, a man from our hotel had told us there was going to be a beach party at 10 pm so we stayed down there to find it. They were playing American music and selling 2 euro shots so we ended up having a really, really fun night.
The next morning, we took the ferry back to Venice where we were given a very poorly guided tour of the city. The man giving us the tour had a broken headset, and a very, very thick accent so we couldn’t understand much, if anything that he was saying. BUT we made the most out of it and just asked our own tour guide to fill us in on what we really needed to know. We toured St. Marks Basilica which was one of the prettiest churches that I have ever seen. PSA ladies if you are reading this and plan on traveling to Venice- or any really old churches for that matter- you have to have your knees and your shoulders covered. I struggled with this because it was hot and I brought a lot of shorts and tanks. If you don’t want to wear something way too hot, just bring a scarf to drape around your waist or shoulders. After the tour of the Basilica, we headed to the Murano Glass making factory where we were given a demonstration on how they make some of their glass products. I purchased a pair of earrings, but proceeded to lose them like the next day. After we walked through many of the small shops, and small winding corridors until we reached the canal where we took the famous gondola ride!
Let me tell you it was worth the euros. We didn’t get a guy that sang, but we were stuck behind one who did so we got the best of both worlds. The rides are much shorter than I thought, and you are in the gondola with about 4 or 5 other people. Luckily, we knew everyone who was in our boat. Our driver (?) was really kind of lame. He mainly just talked to other guys steering other gondolas, but the canals were truly beautiful and obviously everyone dreams of riding gondolas when they think of Venice. I think that it is an absolute must, but that it was different than I expected. There are a ton of boats that are always right next to you so you don’t really have that secluded feel that everyone thinks it has, but it was still awesome. That night, we headed back to our little Island and enjoyed a nice dinner with our friends. We drank the famous Aperol Spritz, ate Spaghetti Bolognese and enjoyed each others company.
Alora! We arrived in Rome in the early evening and went right onto our guided Twilight Stroll of Rome. Since it was in the evening, there were much less people and it was more local which we all really liked. We visited the Spanish Steps, many different squares, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and more. The next day, we woke up and visited the catacombs. These were interesting to see, but many of us felt it wasn’t worth 25 euros because our tour only lasted about 20 minutes. Afterward, we attempted to explore the city. We walked through the pantheon, which is free. It only takes about 5 minutes to see the whole thing. It is very interesting how the sun shines on a different statue depending on the day. The huge hole in the ceiling provides the only source of light so the building is somewhat dark. We also visited a number of squares and saw a huge fountain statue that represented the four continents known at the time. It was interesting to see the way that the sculpture portrays alligators because they just had to guess what they looked like.
After, we visited “La Casa del Caffe” and ordered their most famous drink that is only served in Rome called the Granita al Caffe. Essentially it is a blended iced coffee mixed between two layers of whipped cream. Basically the best coffee thing I have ever tasted. For only three euros. I suggest investing in this if you are visiting Rome anytime soon. For lunch, we ate at a small local restaurant and got the best deal. Many of the restaurants have people outside attempting to bring customers into their restaurants. This can be very helpful, but also really annoying. The place we chose had a deal. For 1o euros you could get a complimentary glass of champagne, a beverage, an appetizer and an entree. I decided on the bruschetta and a carbonara pasta. The food in Italy was by far the best.
In the afternoon, we traveled to Vatican city where we went on a guided tour through the city. Since only a part of the Vatican is accessible to the public, our visit was only about an hour and a half long. Our guide showed us the gardens, where the pope lived, talked about how the Dome was suppose to be the biggest (even though its not) and how Michelangelo hated painting the fresco in the chapel. The cathedral was absolutely breathtaking. It blows my mind that these buildings that are thousands of years old are so tall, so intricate and so beautiful. Inside the building was lots of gold and mosaics. When we entered the Sistine Chapel, we weren’t allowed to talk-or take pictures. By the end of the 15 minutes that we had stood just looking at the ceiling, I definitely had a strain in my neck. It is gorgeous of course, but also is sort of difficult to look at. One, because of how tall it is-and how far away it is from you to the ceiling, and two, because there is just SO much to look at. It really is crazy to me to think about how Michelangelo was so high up, and laying on his back with his hands held in the air to paint the whole thing. Thats exhausting. On the ceiling, you could see some of the paneling starting to fall off (probably partially why you aren’t allowed to take pictures).
Later in the evening we prepared for our Roman Feast. This was an excursion that we all signed up for. The waiter explained that we would be trying 6 different kinds of wines, each paired specifically with the food items for the best taste. Since we were having 6 different kinds of wine, we also would be having 6 entrees. Some of the entrees included a veggie tray, a meat and cheese tray, bruschetta, and roast beef. This feast was so fun because we just got to sit back and enjoy the company of those in our group.
The next day we visited the Colosseum and the Roman Ruins. We visited both top floors of the Colosseum, but the bottom level we did not. Despite all of the visual aid that has helped re create what the inside looked like during Roman times, it is very difficult to picture how everything exactly went down at the Colosseum-especially because all of the seats and floors are worn away. To me it really didn’t feel that it was a real place used for REAL gladiator fights, ship battles and more because it is just so difficult to fathom in your head. I was very surprised to see that a lot of the roman ruins that we toured after the Colosseum were still standing. Many of the buildings looked newish (take that term with a grain of salt) and maintained. We didn’t tour inside any of them, but we did see the tomb of where they buried Julius Cesar. It was surprisingly a small little area. I figured that they would have a huge memorial with marble statues of him on giant horses or something. Still. Very cool.
The Roman atmosphere I loved very much. Walking downtown around sunset is very heartwarming. There is a constant sound of chatter, clanking dish ware being used in outdoor restaurants, water trickling down from fountains and music being played by the locals. The cobblestone streets and old architecture give off a specific unique look that really can’t be compared to anywhere else. Combined, this gives the city a very comforting, soothing atmosphere that I loved being a part of.
The next day, we traveled to Florence which was a very quick drive. Our rooms weren’t ready upon our arrival, so we headed straight for our tour. This tour was extremely quick because it was so hot outside that afternoon. During the tour, we visited the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower. I refer to this church as the pink church. The outside of the building is pink with hints of green, obviously to resemble a flower. The inside, as every other church was very pretty. This church was interesting because you could climb to the top of the dome and overlook the city if you wanted to. Our tour guide told us during it’s construction that it didn’t have a roof for awhile because it was just too large and too difficult to create a dome for it at that time. She also told us that they had originally believed that this should be the location that they put the Statue of David, but decided to put it near the palace instead. Since it has obviously been moved. On the rest of the tour, we saw the palace, how the queen traveled to and from the palace to her home across the river and Ponte Vecchio-the famous bridge that wasn’t ever burnt down during WWII by the Germans.
That evening, we all got dressed up and headed a little bit further outside of Florence to go to a vineyard to do a wine tasting. The vineyard we visited had a huge table set up in the back overlooking the vine fields for our whole group. There was baskets of bread lined down the table and this cute little Italian lady-Victoria- announced that this was her families vineyard and they produced all the wine themselves. She then told us we would be sampling 6 of their best wines and would be served pasta and dessert. We tried three reds and three whites-one of which was called Vittoria (her father named a wine after her). During the tasting, she kept bringing out bottles and bottles of wine and told us to finish everything that she brought us so obviously we obliged. On the way home, being that we were all a little more than intoxicated, we turned our coach bus into a party bus. Our tour guide was playing music over his microphone and everyone was dancing and singing in the Isles. People driving behind or next to us definitely thought we were insane. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel. We weren’t really feeling like going out, so we decided to stay at the hotel. A bunch of us headed back to my room and played cards and drinking games until about 11, and then we headed down to the pool and lounge area. Apparently, it was stoplight night so everyone was covered in green, yellow and red all over their faces and arms. We ordered buckets to share and had a great time dancing the night away.
The next morning would be my favorite of the entire trip. We boarded our bus and drove about 40 minutes to get on a train to Cinque Terre on the Italian coast. Cinque Terre is comprised of 5 small villages that were originally built up onto the hillsides near the water to avoid pirates entering and raiding their cities. Only about 20 years ago did they become popular and ever since have become a huge tourist site. The train stops at all 5 villages, but the three we visited were my tour guides favorites: Riomaggiore (the oldest), Monterosso and Vernazza. In Riomaggiore, we hiked to the high point of the city and viewed the most blue water I have ever seen and enjoyed the contrast of the coloring of the old buildings that peek outside of the side of the terrain. It was here that we decided to go cliff diving and swimming in the water. The waves were calm where we were, and the cliffs not extremely high. All of us wished we could spend our entire day on this island, but realized we had so much more to see.
In Vernazza, Jack and I ate lunch outside next to the ocean. Our view from our seats was simply breathtaking. We were right in front of a small beach area filled with colorful boats, clear water and lots of wading tourists. Right off the beach were bright yellow, red, and orange buildings all with different heights with lots of green hill behind. At this restaurant I ate the best Pesto pasta and Jack had the best pizza he has ever had! Because I had done some previous research, I knew that climbing to the top of the hill was a must because apparently it has the best view. After about 40 minutes of climbing huge, steep, broken steps, we reached a place with an extremely amazing view of the village (see below!).
We then hopped on the train again to visit Monterosso, which has a lot more of a beach area. Here I did a lot of shopping, and sitting on the beach. PSA to people wanting to visit. This beach is ROCKY. Seriously, your feet will die. The rocks are everywhere (no sand that we are used to) and they are sharp and large. Despite the rock issue, the beach was amazing. We spent a lot of time in the water because it was so so hot. We also got gelato here. I had Amaretto and Raspberry and boy were they good. These villages are a must if you are visiting Italy. I would go here again in a heart beat. If you are planning on visiting-make sure you have a couple of days because an afternoon just isn’t enough.
That night, we headed to the inner city where Filippos, our tour guide took us to a very small, local Italian restaurant. The food was cheap and delicious. The best part of this place by far was the wait staff. This plump middle aged man with a huge beard would just sing in Italian so so so loud to certain guests in the restaurant. It made the experience feel extremely authentic. Afterward, even though it was my last night in Italy, I headed home early because I was so worn out from the long day that we had. The next morning, we awoke bright and early to head to the South of France, but since the drive was so long we made a pit stop in Pisa to see the leaning tower. I also got an Italian purse here. Probably not real, but also still cute.
When we arrived in Cannes, it was late afternoon. Where we were staying in the city was really close to the beach so our tour guide led us to the main street closest to the beach. Here I saw more yachts than I have ever seen in my life. Apparently Cannes is really known for being a wealthy hangout place. I also learned that it was the home of the second largest film festival. Near the place where the film festival is held every year is an indent of Angelina Jolie’s handprints. AHH. My girl. We didn’t really have a tour of the city, so we were left to visit it ourselves. We spent awhile walking around near the beach which was nice because it had no rocks! We then went out to eat and headed back to the hotel. We went to bed pretty early that night too. Italy wore us out!
The next day we decided we wanted to have a beach day. We all slept in because it was the first time in awhile that we didn’t have a guided tour in the morning. We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to the beach. First thing we noticed was that there were plenty of women going topless which you obviously don’t see in the US very often so it was different thats for sure. We spent about 5 hours at the beach just enjoying the sun and the water, but also spraying on sunscreen because it was SO hot once again. Despite reapplying every hour, I still got fried. That afternoon, Jack and I ate at an American diner because we were craving a huge cheeseburger and fries. (We hadn’t had American food in approximately 2.5 weeks and were having some withdrawals). That night, I decided to go out with some friends of mine and get a drink. We went to some place that was way out of our league and ended up ditching that place to drink wine and eat Pringles on the beach. I would say I enjoyed the second half of that night the best.
Much like Frankfurt, Provence was a filler city because it was too far to drive from Cannes to Barcelona. Therefore, we only spent one night there. Since we arrived in the late afternoon, we headed to dinner immediately after arriving. We went to this amazing place and I ordered a chicken kabob with vegetables and salad. It was amazing. I could’ve ate an entire extra meal of it after I finished my first plate. For dessert they served me vanilla bean ice cream, which once again was amazing. After, we walked barefoot in this long fountain/pond type thing that was in the middle of the city. We saw a lot of little kids swimming in it earlier, so hopefully it wasn’t rude or disrespectful to be doing so. It was a very calm, relaxing night. Our tour guide told us to take it easy in order to prep ourselves for Barcelona.
On our way to Barcelona, we stopped in Caracassonne, a medieval town, for lunch. Jack ordered a beer and it turned out to be massive, and I ordered a Madame Croquette which was delicious! Once we arrived in Barcelona, we wasted no time getting busy. Once again, we stayed in a generator so we loved the atmosphere of the hotel, but wanted to go out an about in the city. We took the subway to the city center and headed for a bite to eat. Jack and I went to a small restaurant and ordered a few tapas. I ordered some wings and the papas bravas. Afterwards, we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for a big night out.
In Europe, clubs don’t even open until 12 which we are definitely not used to in the United States. By two when the clubs there start to get busy, people in the US are the ones clearing out of the bars because it’s close. The club that we really had heard great stuff about was closed the day we arrived, so we decided to take our tour guides recommendation and go to Razzmatazz. We made the trek there around 11, and didn’t get in until 12. The place had a seventeen dollar cover, but it came with a drink so it balanced out. When we got inside, we realized we were one of the first people there. We looked up to see that the place had like 4 different levels to it. It was huge. The drinks weren’t ridiculously expensive, but from 12-2 the DJ sucked. This is when I left, but apparently after that it got CRAZY. My friends said the entire place was packed, a woman was the DJ and she was awesome. My friend lost (or potentially got pick pocketed) her phone and wallet in a mosh pit. It was a crazy experience for them I believe.
The next day, we took a guided bus tour being that Barcelona is so big. We saw the Olympic Village, Tibidabo, the palace, the Sagrada Familia and lots of Gaudi’s famous work. We took a tour of Park Guell which was so interesting for me because I am an art nerd so I absolutely love his work. In the afternoon, we did some shopping in the down town area of the city and ate at a tapas bar for dinner. The restaurant was cool because for the payment, they just counted your toothpicks that the tapas had been on and that was the amount you paid. The tapas here weren’t all that good, but I had an amazing summer wine drink that they didn’t tell me the name of. It was something similar to Sangria, but so so much better. That night, my favorite part of Barcelona, we went and saw the magic fountains. I had never seen anything like it before, but apparently Disney World/Land has something similar? So I guess you could use that as a reference, but it was seriously amazing here. There were people everywhere and the music was all loud, fun and the colors were so bright. The show went on for longer than a half hour. I figured it would just be about 10 minutes long. What a pleasant surprise. Afterward, our tour guide took us out for drinks at this YAG bar which was so fun. Basically it was only our group that was in the entire bar so we were all just dancing and having a great time.
The next day, we spent the whole day shopping for Souvenirs. I did a really bad job of keeping up with it when we were in the first few cities because I just kept pushing it off. That evening, the group all went to a paella dinner with Sangria and we didn’t feel like going so instead decided to go to a paella and sangria thing that was being held at our hostel. Turns out it was super awkward and weird so we left and went and ate a pizza in a place across the street. Later, Jack and I took the Subway down to the beach front where we did a little walking around, and watching the sunset over the water.
The first day in Madrid we found ourselves dying of heat. It was hot. The hottest Ive ever been probably. Of course, our hotel was located in an area that buses couldn’t travel own so we hauled all of our luggage down the streets for about 6 or 7 blocks. The hostel we stayed in was really cool. It was called the 007. The inside walls were decorated with notes from travelers from all over, each leaving their mark. We were all so hungry when we arrived that we once again decided to go to an American diner to get some food and drinks. After Filippos took us to this extremely tall building that had a rooftop bar. EF paid for our first drink there, so I enjoyed a strawberry mojito (which everyone loved, and therefore ordered after me so that bartender hated us ) while watching the sunset over Madrid. Wow. What a good time. Afterwards, we headed to the rooftop to play some cards and then went out to the bar/club. The place we went to (Joy Eslava) was okay. It was pretty big but the people there were incredibly strict, the drinks were very expensive and the music was not very good. We are talking like 10 euros for a water here people. A water. We left the bar pretty early that night because we just weren’t feeling it.
The next day we went on a guided tour of the city where we saw the Plaza Mayor, the temple of Debod, the El Rastro market and the palace. We did a tour of the palace, which wasn’t as amazing as Versailles, but was pretty cool. One of the ceilings in this room really blew my mind. It was decorated with protruding plaster vines painted all types of greens, blues and yellows with flowers everywhere. It was extremely eye catching. Might have been my favorite ceiling of all the ceilings that I looked at. Who would’ve thought that I would be spending so much time looking up during this trip? That night I just hungout at the hotel because I was not feeling the hottest. At least I started to feel sick towards the end of the trip.
On our last day, I mainly finished doing all of my souvenir shopping and visited the museum containing Picasso’s Guernica. In the evening, I packed up all of my things, and attended our farewell dinner where I sobbed like a little girl. This trip was truly one of a lifetime. I did so much and am so proud of myself for taking that leap of faith to start off my travel journeys. I met so many amazing people that I hope remain a part of my life, and brought home memories that I will never forget. I encourage anyone who is even thinking about traveling in the slightest to just do it. It is so worth your time and hard earned money.
See you soon, Europe