As I mentioned in my previous blog that this summer I will be traveling again to Europe. Well, I actually just came back from that trip and I can’t wait to share my experiences and things that I have seen. It was pretty epic for a short trip. I don’t want it to stop (as most of you will surely feel) but now I am back in Dubai to work and start to dream again of where to go next.
I thought before starting to share my awesome trip, I would like to blog a short story of my first Europe trip. let’s call it a Travel Tuesday flashback.
Two years ago, embarking on my first solo trip in Europe was just a dream. I never thought I will be able to do it. Asians (Southeast Asian in particular) are pretty much not the travel westward kinds. We love to travel but because of all visa applications needed we became confined with our little region (which is really beautiful). So, to travel to famous European spots was a dream come true for a guy like me.
My plan was to go to Paris then travel by train to the South of France (Montpelier and Saint Andre de Sangonis), stayed a few days in Barcelona then fly to Italy to visit Florence, Venice and Rome. It was a good plan and a feasible one I must say.
After getting my visa approved (it was surprisingly easy —-but it took a month) I started thoroughly researching about the places I will be visiting. It was a dreadful period. I was so stressed but my motto was “ginusto mo yan kaya panindigan mo” (you wanted this, so live with it). To cut the story short, although I complained a lot with booking trains, planes and hostels (and all connections), I was able to sort everything out and I was ready to hop on the plane and start my first European journey.
My first destination was Paris and I was warned that “people there are cold and really a snob, everything is very pricey, be careful of pick pockets and also people doesn’t speak English so I need to learn basic French.”
To my surprise, not only the French were very warm, most of the people I met spoke clear English, good enough for us to create a conversation. I also met a Filipina who is an aunt of my friend in Dubai and I lived in a Pastor’s office/flat (a friend from London hooked me up with this Pastor, he was so accommodating).
I was stunned with how this city is very beautiful, big but it feels just right. A lot of tourists though cause it was summer when I arrived there, but who am I to complain (right?). At the heart of the city, you can see old European buildings, although altered and mixed with modern shops, you can still feel the nostalgia that every alley conveys.
I fell in love with this city immediately. I don’t know why some of my friends don’t like Paris. I met my very first travel family who adopted me for the day. We became close friends and until now we still talk (love this part of traveling, I will tell more about this in my next blog).
After Paris, I went to Saint Andre de Sangonis and Montpelier where I saw the beauty of the French country side. I live with our French intern and his girlfriend and we really had a great time. I remember buying a French baguette at a local boulangerie and my first taste of pastis. I must say, I was really living the life of a local which was pretty amazing. Who ever said again that French people are cold? I had a chance as well to watch a bull fight and a bull run, it was scary but interesting and at times I felt bad for the bulls.
Even though I didn’t want to leave, but my time in France was over. I did a cross country carpool to reach Barcelona. It was very warm when I was there. The city is very beautiful. You can feel immediately that arts thrive in this city, with the work of Gaudi being celebrated everywhere.
I haven’t had a chance to really meet anyone in Barcelona even though I stayed in a hostel that is why it became one of my least favorite city (for sure I will come back and stay longer to experience it more)…but removing that aspect, it is very beautiful (the place, the people and the FOOD).
Flying from Barcelona to Italy. I first arrived in Florence and I saw a lot of Filipinos in the city. It was nice to speak Filipino after quite some time of speaking English and a bad French, Italian and Spanish. Florence during summer is really a very touristy place but still, even with this much congestion you can still enjoy the sight and sound of the city. It is a city thriving with its love for the arts and at the same time boasting its very traditional Italian cuisines. Amongst all cities in Italy, I think, I ate the most here.
Other cities/towns I visited was Pisa, Venice and Rome. It is so amazing how much different landscapes you can find in a country and the amount of history that it displays.
I was so happy to be able to ride a gondola, post awkwardly near the Tower of Pisa and even marveled at the Roman Colosseum.
All in all my first experience in Europe was very amazing. It opened my eyes on how much history and beauty are out there. Surprisingly, a lot of things I learned from all the museums I saw I only heard for the first time during this trip (I googled most of them after and watched documentaries).
I think as a backpacker, exploring Europe should be one of the top list (even if you are European), I fell in love with this region and while planning for my 2014 summer trip, I can’t help but remember all the good things I saw and experienced.
What is your best European memory and what is your favorite/dream destination?