With two young children and a husband whose job currently equals a very small amount of time off, vacation time is limited and typically involves a “staycation” rather than a big trip. So, for this post I wanted to go back and reminisce about a trip I took to Europe 10 years ago this summer (how has it already been a decade?!?!).
My sister was living in London, England at the time on a two-year visa. I had just recently finished my post-secondary schooling (undergrad and post-grad), and gotten my first real full-time job which meant PAID VACATION (my 25-year old self feels that deserves all caps). Without the need to pay for accommodations, just the flight and spending money I was Europe bound. One important thing I quickly learned was the mind-blowingly low cost of travel in Europe (compared to Canada). Not only was I going to visit my sister in England, but a trip to Paris for a few days, and a trip to Spain for another few days were subsequently also booked.
My cousin was along for the ride for the first part of the vacation, and my boyfriend (now husband) joined for the second half. It was a jam-packed week of fun and adventures, as Europe has no shortage of things to do and see. I did pick up a few tips that I used on subsequent trips to Europe (and other cities in North America):
- There are many benefits to visiting a foreign country (or even an unknown city) and having a resident or native as your tour guide. My sister was able to give us a huge personal walking tour of London on our first day, which was also beneficial in keeping us awake after a red-eye flight. Having someone know where to go and how to get there without hesitation or consultation of a map saved us and our jet-lagged brains so much time and effort. We were able to see and do so much with minimal planning on our end. This was not the case in Spain which was totally new to me and my boyfriend and my very basic Spanish could only take us so far (and it not a major city that we were in). While it was enjoyable, it was harder and more time-consuming to know where to go and what to see and do (1st world problems, I know).
- I highly recommend walking as much as possible in any European destination. While European cities are well-designed transportation-wise you get so much more out of walking and seeing all the sights. On top of walking across most of London, we also walked across Paris (literally – from Notre Dame all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, with a nap under the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the day!). We saw so much of the local life away from the tourist locations and discovered some fantastic restaurants and shops. Though you do not want to miss the standard tourist sites as some of these monuments are just amazing to actually see in person.
- Know your interests and what you want and have to see and be open to some off-the-beaten-path options (which natives will be able to fill you in on or that you find on your own wanderings). For anyone looking to try something different and up for a bit of a party I highly recommend the church in London.
I hope many of you have had the fortune to visit Europe and see the sights and experience the culture. Italy is still on my bucket list, along with a trip back to Paris for my wedding anniversary. What are you favourite cities and sites in Europe?
Note: Please excuse the absence of photos in this post, iPhoto is not cooperating despite my best efforts (and this trip was before Facebook was very popular).