Upon returning from studying in the states I was eager to continue traveling. With one month to spare before I started my final year of University in the North West of England I wanted one last adventure. I had a friend in a similar situation and so without hesitation (or preparation) we booked a 21-day Euro train pass which would take us to Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Venice, Rome and Brussels. We did not set out with many plans for each city, we would take each day and place as it came, exploring the cities organically but not necessarily avoiding the generic tourist traps. For each city was a first time visit for the both of us so we wanted to take in as much as we could. Matt was also more than content with this logic as he is a likeminded laid back individual. I don’t remember being particularly excited before leaving, it was just something we thought we should do.
Our first stop was Paris which brought the humorous realisation that a lot of the places we had chosen to visit were romantic and perfect for couples. Romance aside, Paris offers it all and I feel there was so much we didn’t see in the three days we were there. We found it too easy to spend a day by the Eiffel tower lounging around in the sun for the day. I remember admiring Paris for its spaciousness and cleanliness, for such a major city it has plenty of open areas, plazas and parks. We walked a lot over the few days we spent there. One of the highlights for me, came when we were walking back to our hostel. We had been out for a few drinks, it was a warm clear night so we decided to sit along the canal and have a night cap. This was a common thing in Paris, especially a little away from the touristy packed centre. People would sit along the canal, talking, eating, playing music, smoking and drinking. About ten yards away from us a young man on his own started playing the guitar. It wasn’t long before we got talking to him and offered him a beer. From what I remember he was from Argentina, currently living in Paris and hoping to pursue a career in music. He was very good I remember that and I specifically recall this moment as my favourite from Paris. It is a good example of what travelling can offer, something so unique and spontaneous which left me with very fond memories of my time in Paris.
I could have happily stayed in Paris a little longer but we were soon on our way to Amsterdam. A hectic few days of taking in the sights during the day before enjoying what Amsterdam had to offer by night. Whereas the evening scenes in Amsterdam leave little to the imagination. A unique cool place I would like to return to eventually. From Amsterdam we took a very scenic, probably the most enjoyable, train ride to Munich. This was a nice change in pace and culture, we were ready to take a step back in Munich and enjoy some downtime. Munich was in fact Matts favourite place we visited on our travels and he had this to say about the trip.
‘Too many Brits don’t make the most of what Europe has to offer when it’s right across the channel and on our doorstop, therefore we ventured out taking in over 50 hours of at times tedious train journeys. I would have to say my highlight of the trip would be the bierkellers we found in Munich. The beer halls were like no other pub or bar you might find elsewhere; whereby everyone was there to just have a good time; with no TV’s or smart phones out on the table…just a hall full of people enjoying each other’s company. They don’t do half measures either, as their drinks are twice the size of everywhere else in Europe. The food is impeccable, and focus isn’t given on fancy presentations; its focused upon good wholesome home cooked food! If you want to soak in the culture of a city, the people, then had to the bierkellers where everyone makes you feel welcome and you can guarantee a great night.’
My favourite moment in Munich came on a day we decided to go cycling around the English Gardens. It was here we stumbeled upon a group of surfers making the most of a make-do wave which had been created in a fast flowing river. I thought it was brilliant how in a city so far far away from the coast people were still creating ways to enjoy doing something they love. The image below shows a group of surfers lining up for the small but everlasting wave.
We then went to Venice and finally Rome in Italy. Two very authentic beautiful Italian cities, but it was Venice which stood out for me. Our time in Rome was tainted with most of the famous landmarks being under maintenance and restoration. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and I think one day I would like to return. Venice however, Venice offered the chance to travel back in time to a beautiful floating city. It’s capacity to enchant is powerful, never have I enjoyed getting lost more than in Venice. I don’t think I could ever tire of the place, its beauty and ambience are worlds and at times centuries apart from anywhere else I have experienced.
I fell in love with Venice and I hope the trip marked just the start of a fantastical romance. Nile Rodgers said it best himself…
‘If I could live in one city and do every single thing I do there, I would choose Venice. You can’t turn your head without seeing something amazing’
Once we left a captivating Venice we made brief but memorable stops in Milan and Brussels on out journey home via train to London. We arrived in Brussels at night, groggy and a little uninterested in seeing the city. We wandered around the enchanting cobbled streets, before stumbling upon the Brussels light show in the Grand Place. A mesmerising remarkable display which grabbed and excited each and every sense. The vibrant lights danced and dazzled highlighting the true beauty of the gothic buildings. A truly incredible almost euphoric like experience which kept us beaming with delight all the way back to London.
Europe has a lifetime of adventures and opportunities to offer, with so many different cultures in such a compact environment it really is humanities playground. If I could only revisit one of the places we visited it would be Venice. In hindsight we should have done a little more research before travelling, which could have helped us be a little savvier and not spend as much money as we did. But with that being said, it was a fantastic trip and the first chance I get I will certainly be exploring more of Europe. Topping my list of places for the next trip are Helsinki, Florence, Berlin, Barcelona and Monaco. Looking back my favourite moments of travelling around Europe came unexpectedly, whilst I enjoyed seeing the landmarks and admiring the sights, my lasting memories will be stumbling across the surfing in Munich, our musical friend in Paris and the lights of Brussels.