[August 2015] In the summer of 2015, I took a solo tour around some parts of Europe. I went to Paris, Fontainebleau, Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan, Florence, Rome, The Vatican City, Pompeii, and Venice. (In this order)
My trip was in two phases. I started off in Paris, spent weekends in the environs, Brussels and Amsterdam. Then kicked off the second phase in Barcelona with a 5-hour high speed train from Paris into the city. (I have an acute fear of flying).
The hours go by quickly, trust me. Besides, If you really go down to the fine details, it’ll cost you about the same amount of time to go by air once you include the time spent to get to the airport, check in and board.
I spent 2 days in Barcelona, 1 in Milan, 2 in Florence, 4 in Rome, took a day trip from Rome to Pompeii and the Vatican City, 2 days in Venice and 4 nights back in Paris.
My first weekend in France, I spent in Paris. A friend of mine was in the city and he was so gracious as to take me around. We went to Pigalle to see the Moulin Rouge. I didn’t get in though, I think you need to book a ticket in advance.
Then we climbed the hilly terrain up to Montmartre. The view of Paris is beautiful from up there. The bottom of the Sacre Coeur church was quite crowded with tourists. I guess I am not one to complain because I added to the numbers. We did a quick tour of the Church and just walked around afterwards, ending the day at the ‘I Love You’ wall – it has those three words written in multiple languages.
Brussels wasn’t part of the places I initially planned to visit but I’m glad I went. My friends planned to go as a last minute decision. I had initially planned to go to Lyon but when I checked the fares to both Lyon and Nice, I found that Brussels was a cheaper choice.
We left Paris at about 3pm on the afternoon train. It was scenic and beautiful and Brussels, even more so. It took about an hour to arrive in the city. Then we took a tram to downtown Brussels. My friends booked a shared room in a hostel while I booked to stay in a hotel close by with another friend of mine. I was initially terrified of hostels and I imagined nothing but horror at the thought of staying in one.
But the hostel they stayed in was pretty cool and that changed my mind about hostels completely. For the rest of my trip around Europe, I booked my nights in hostels, except for Florence, where I couldn’t find one.
We dropped our bags and headed out. We were greeted by a huge parade and street parties at every turn and corner. I have never seen anything more flamboyant in my life! Then we treated ourselves to the infamous Belgian waffles & frites.
We spent the entire afternoon walking around until someone suggested we go crash for a bit and head out later to join the night party. Old age kicked in and we all slept until the following morning! Sunday was for gardens, museums and pubs.
I took an evening train from Paris to Amsterdam and arrived in the city by 11 pm. Spent the first night in a 12-bed all female room and the day visiting the Anne Frank Museum, the Red Light District and other places. The next night, I switched accommodation to Hotel Vondel and got upgraded to a pent house!
The next day, I visited Zaanse Schans, (40 minutes away from Amsterdam) to see the windmills before heading back to Paris.
I arrived in Barcelona Sants train station at about 1:30 pm from Paris. The trip took about 5 hours with stops in different parts of France. I got off the train and made my way to the hostel I had booked for the next few nights.
For day 1, I walked around the Gothic Quarters and the Barcelona Cathedral, ate tapas and paella which is sort of like Jollof Rice (but not quite), got inducted to Sangria and watched the Champions League Final at a local bar. (Barca FC won that match, three goals to one and Barcelona went crazy!)
The next day, I visited the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell before taking the next train out to Milan the following day.
Milan, Florence & Rome
I had some lazy days in Florence before heading to Rome to spend the next four days. For my first night in Rome, I took a bike ride with a hostel guest to a few tourist spots. We rode to the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia and the Trevi Fountain (which was closed for renovations. Who knows, if I had been able to make a wish, I might have found the love of my life by now!)
For day 2, I went to the Roman Forum, spent quite a while here with a new friend I made. At first, I was not very interested in going in but I’m glad he convinced me to because it was such an amazing experience.
Then we headed to the Pantheon, spent sometime walking around and taking a few pictures with these guys.
But you have to careful with them. They charge tourists for photos and try to exploit them. I had initially encountered them at Colosseum and refused to pay any money but finally decided to do so at the Pantheon. It cost us 5 Euros each for a couple of photos. Oh well, when in Rome.
Vatican City & Pompeii
Day 3 and 4 in Rome were for the Vatican City and Pompeii
My last day for this tour was spent in Venice – my dream city. I didn’t get to stay for long though so I hope I get a chance to return. I returned to Paris using the Thello sleeper train and flew back home from there.