I’m back! I took a little break from Canada and ventured off to Europe… This shy, quiet and indecisive girl actually made a split second decision to go to Europe Alone. Almost all of my friends and family were shocked that I rather impulsively bought a plane ticket and travelled solo where I was thousands of kilometres away from home and for a period of 26 days. The crazy part is that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
So what did I do in Europe? Well I booked a Topdeck tour.
What is that you ask? A Topdeck tour is a guided organized tour for people aged 18-35 years that includes accommodations, travel to various countries on a coach bus (but does not include flights) and most meals were included.
Where did I book it ? On Tourradar. It was extremely easy to book, they compare different tours, they have the best guaranteed price, they have 24/7 customer service and they respond to you so very quickly! If any of you are interested in doing a tour, I suggest to book with tourradar. **plus you can save 5% on your bookings if you use this link here friend discount ** What a deal ladies and gents!
I’ve been putting off so many things lately its time to get my butt in gear. I keep blaming the change in weather and environment for my lack of creativity and motivation but I’m going to admit I’m just being lazy. I decided to listen to the greek Yiayia sitting next to me on the plane and “put it (pictures) in computer, make bigger and much nicer”.
As a “basic tourist” I went ahead and took pictures of my food (because that’s what I do), in an attempt to document the moments I fell in love with Europe and possibly recreate them back home. Now it wasn’t easy to choose what to eat because I am extremely indecisive in restaurants. What made my life a lot easier was that, with Topdeck, most of the meals were planned. Now most of you ask (all the time actually) ” Oh you’re a vegetarian, what will you eat ?”. Let’s just say being a vegan in the countries we visited would have been a lot more of a challenge.
Pros : lots and lots of veggies, I had personal pizzas all to myself, there were two other vegetarians so I didn’t feel alone
cons: variety: In France it was meat or an omelet. I ate so many omelets. In Greece there was zucchini, eggplant and an unlimited amount of greek salad. “Chips” every day.. you’ll see what I mean below.
The adventure began in London, England…
I stayed at Wombats Hostel for two nights, where the scheduled Topdeck pick up was on the 1st of september. Very clean and comfortable sleeping quarters, extremely helpful staff and very central location. I made a friend on the first day of arrival and we took a long walk along the River Thames, lost track of time and ended up eating Domino’s pizza. The next day we had the ultimate London experience : rain, rain and more rain. Took a hop on hop off bus and went to Madame Tussaud’s alone ( I don’t recommend going alone it’s not very fun) and then went on the London Eye for amazing views of the city.
And I couldn’t leave London without trying out Fish n Chips!
So the group met early in the morning: a great big group in which the majority was from Australia and New Zealand, 2 from Canada, 1 from England, 1 from Mexico, a Tour leader from Bulgaria and a driver from Hungary. It was incredible to interact with people from the other side of the world, similarities and differences alike. We drove to the cliffs of Dover where we took a ferry to France.
Paris, the amazing city of lights! On the first night we walked to our restaurant for our first dinner… where I had a delicious yet very stringy bowl of french onion soup, ratatouille and an omelet. Oh and french delicacy : escargot with a garlic sauce. I have to mention that I was the only french person in the trip so I served as a translator and the waitress was very grateful. After dinner we had the City of lights tour and saw the lit Eiffel tower that I had not seen last time I was in Paris. A Very romantic sight for sure.
We played tourist around Paris the following day. Took the metro and walked to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur where the view is definitely amazing. The Galleries Lafayette has a worthy viewing platform too. I’ve been up the Eiffel tower as well which is a must see. I would have liked to say that we dined at Paris’ Oldest and most prestigious cafe but we did walk to it and I took a picture. That’s good enough right?
If there is one thing I enjoyed the most in paris it would be the FatTire Bike Tour. The tour guide was hilarious and we really enjoyed biking through the busy streets of paris, stopping for information at various landmarks and having a beer in the park.We had a picnic with the Topdeck group at the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel tower, absolutely incredible.
Paris adored, we said see you later France and headed to Switzerland ! We stayed in Lauterbrunnen, a beautiful little swiss town with incredible views. Our optional activities included Sky-diving or taking a train to the Top of Europe (Jungfrau Mountain). I took the path rather than the free fall and did not regret my decision one bit. Stinky cheese fondue for dinner! The second night we had a delicious penne Alfredo with an apple pastry and some chocolate from the Lindt store.
“Sur le pont d’Avignon,
L’on y danse, l’on y danse,
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond.”
The next destination was Avignon, France. The old town was magnificent and we had lovely little dinner. Eggplant dish, savoury spinach and cheese crepe and a chocolate mousse.
We visited the 2000 year old roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard, which is in extremely good shape considering it’s age. Then did a guided tour in Barcelona, Spain. Saw the famous Sagrada Familia that I remember my art teacher talking about in high school. Although it is a bizarre structure the unfinished basillica is incredibly ornate and detailed. I will have to go back and truly admire it once the construction is done along with the Park Güell that I did not have time to visit. Dinner that night was a vegetable Paella.
The following day was the day I fell in love, spanish Tapas. We dreamt about chips and aioli for the remainder of the trip. Tapas are a way to go if you’re indecisive like me. You can totally share with friends or just eat it all yourself and have to be rolled out the restaurant. The good thing is that this was just around the corner from our hostel. A very busy restaurant but I strongly advise you to go if you’re ever in Barcelona, very close to Las Ramblas. (I suggest you go to the beach first so you don’t feel bad about walking around with a food baby.)
Next stop : Fragonard perfumery on our way to Nice, France. The quality of the perfume is outstanding and I enjoyed the tour we had around the factory. I would never have thought that it takes about 7 years of university to become a nose or that there is anywhere from 50 -250 scents in a perfume. The scenery in Nice was breathtaking and the water at the beach was perfect. We ate at la Place du Jesus where I had once again an omelet.
We had an evening in Monaco where we ate pizza, walked in the Monte Carlo casino and sat at a rooftop bar overlooking the town. I don’t believe I enjoyed Monaco that well just because of the lifestyle, more enjoyable for the rich and famous that park their yacht in the harbour.
Our french experience was over and we were off to Beautiful Italia. Verona was the first stop, home to the famous balcony of Juliet and the Verona Arena. The Verona Arena was built in the first century which is still used as a functioning theatre. We ventured in the streets and got our first gelato!
And then there was the beautiful Venezia, Italy. Caprese salads and caprese sandwiches are everywhere. Pizza is consumed on the daily since we arrived in Italy. We went to the bridge filled city and got lost in its beauty and side streets. We went to a lace school and a glass blowing demonstration as well as a gondola ride.
We stopped in Pisa to visit the square where we saw the famous Leaning tower of Pisa.
Florence was the next destination on our adventure and it was my favorite place in Italy. The ornate architecture of the marble Duomo was spectacular. We had a guided tour from a local and learnt so much about Florence. We saw the imitation David because we were limited in time. We got caught in the rain and hid in a cafe where I had my first espresso and a delicious Italian Tiramisu. Also I was always tempted by more gelato. For dinner we ate an obscene amount of pasta and then they served us pizza. We needed Limoncello that night to help digest and also be rolled back to our cabins.
We left Tuscany and headed to Rome but stopped in Orvieto on our way. An enchanting village with adorable side streets and little cafes. We arrived in Rome and did a walking tour starting at the spanish steps, then we headed to the Trevi Fountain, the pantheon and the fountain of four rivers. We begged our tour guide to stop and get gelato before dinner… little did we know we wouldn’t have much space after this extravagant mountain of gelato. We then proceeded to digest and walked to the Capitoline hill, the roman forum and the Colosseum. Half of our group was leaving the next day, so when in Rome have a ridiculous farewell party… The next day we visited Vatican City and regretted the lack of sleep.
We took an overnight ferry in Ancona, Italy to Greece. By this time I knew I packed too much clothes and not enough medication. I suggest that you bring everything for common illnesses because you never know when you’ll need it. Cough and cold, fever, indigestion, common pain relievers in general are a good idea, a good probiotic and if possible antibiotics if your doctor can prescribe you one before leaving it would save you having to find some in countries where you don’t speak the language.
Then we were off Sailing across the Ionian sea to the greek islands for 3 days. An experience of a lifetime. Greek salads, eggplant lasagna, stuffed grape leaves, baked feta and tomato on bread with tzatziki, spanakopita, cheese pies and cappuccino to watch the sunrise… Greek food was my absolute favourite. My bucket list item of going to Greece is half checked because I know I need to go back soon enough.
After sailing we went to the Greek Island of Mykonos where I ate abundant portions of feta and tomato. The Beautiful blue and white buildings gives you a glimpse of Santorini. We rented quad bikes and drove around the beautiful Island. Our guide came along for the ride and she suggested we stopped at this adorable bakery. I picked this little pastry that was similar to a Boston cream/puff pastry. “I love me some KOK.”
One of my friends from New Zealand purchased a bottle of Marmite and got me to try it. I neither love it nor hate it but I’m glad I tried it.
The end is near, of my trip at least. The last place we went was Athens. We had a tour of the city and I went up to the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon. Most of the Landmarks visited were under renovations or construction so I was a little unimpressed when I arrived. I remember having exams on the ancient greek art and the crazy thing was that I stood in front of a building that was built many ages ago for various reasons and imagine what it looked like when it was just built. I loved the historical sites, art and architecture I had the chance to see. Nothing seems to be built that strong and detailed these days.
With a heavy heart and eyes full of tears I said farewell to my Topdeck family. I miss them everyday and it’s crazy how little time we had to get to know each other. Got back on the plane and arrived at home safely.
So from where I stand now, back at home, I’m a “travel sick”. I’ve got the travel bug and I don’t think I’ll get rid of it until my next flight is booked.
Here are some tips if you want to book a trip of this type :
- Pack light – necessities only, you can always buy something or do some washing.
- Book the longest tour. I had the unfortunate event of having to leave everyone and watching them continue together. You get mega depressed and you’ll regret not having stayed.
- Don’t book a return flight! I’ll know for next time that it’s simpler to change your mind and go to another country maybe visit family or friends along the way if you don’t have a set date to go back. So much stress for nothing.
- Bring medication.
- Polaroid cameras are fun but take up a lot of room. I was fine with my phone camera and my Polaroid… but then again if I was a good photographer it wouldn’t matter what kind of camera I use.
- Don’t buy your alcohol in bars folks, it’s a lot cheaper if you buy alcohol at a store and drink it before going out.. the euro to Canadian dollar conversion is quite substantial.
- ATM’s – take out bigger amounts if possible and the less frequent the better.. 3$ charge adds up quite quickly so think again before removing something like 20 euro at a time.
- Smile more and be happy.
- Eat new things.
- Talk to people and get out of your bubble.
- Take a chance on love ( No this isn’t a Chanel reference.. ok maybe)
- Bring some music…
- Pack Towel saved my life. Get one. Don’t even leave the house without it.
- Lastly, bring some Lavender spray or Tea tree.. You never know when you’ll need it, something like “Don’t let the bed bugs bite”.
Lastly here is a song that makes me cry now for two reasons : it was our wake up song on the bus and because I can’t stand the original version anymore.
I can’t Feel My Face covered by Canadian band Walk Off the Earth and Scott Helman.
P.s I have a hard time waiting for my jumper (hoodie) when it’s in the dryer.
~Happy and safe travels ~
· Lexa ♥