I can’t believe it’s already been almost a month since I came back from my dream trip around the UK and Europe. I slacked and never got around to recapping ANY of my days from Feb. 27 – Apr. 11, so I basically failed.
This is just me word barfing everything as fast as I can before flying BACK to Europe tomorrow… and this time, it’s for work, so I won’t be broke as beans anymore (well, I’m going to be broke forever, lezzz be real, but rich in experiences). 😉
Countries: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales (technically all the UK except for Northern Ireland); Greece, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, Portugal
Cities/towns/villages: London, Ilford, Stratford, Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Hove, Southampton, Bromley, Cambridge, Oxford, Chester, Peak District, Lake District (Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Elterwater, Penrith, Grasmere), Exeter (Devon), Penzance (Cornwall), Hull, York, Glastonbury, Liverpool, Manchester, Shrewsbury, Church Stretton, Wells, Windsor, Watford, Dublin, Aran Islands, Kilfenora, Cork, Galway, Ulster, Athens, Berlin, Burano, Torcello, Murano, Bruges, Budapest, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso Bay), Krakow, Wieliczka, Lisbon, Sintra, Paris, Giverny, Versailles, Prague, Edinburgh, Fort William, Glasgow, Glenfinnan, Glencoe, Grangemouth, Isle of Skye, Iverness, Mallaig, North Kessock, Fortrose, Cromarty, Portree, Stirling, Barcelona, Madrid, Cardiff, Bangor, Barmouth, Blaeneau Ffestiniog, Caernarfon, Cwm-y-Glo, Llanberis, Harlech, Portmeirion, Snowdonia, Swansea
- 3.5 months
- 103 days
- 17 countries
- 50+ cities
- 20+ towns/villages
- 12 flights
- 7 overnight buses
- 1 ferry
- 2 or 3 overnights at airports, and one very expensive airport mix-up (ugh)
- 34+ long-distance trains
- 9 long-distance buses
- 32 hostels
- 4 hotels
- 4 regions of Europe (Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western)
- 2,240+ miles walked
- 0 days slept in past 8 A.M.
- Approx. 48,000 photos (iPhone, Canon EOS M3, GoPro)
- 28 friends seen (some multiple times)
It isn’t possible to recap this UK/EU trip in words and photos. I just want to transport all of you into a Pensive of my past 103 days and leave you all to gape in awe at all the historical places, gardens, landscapes, people, cultures, and foods that I’ve seen. The majority of the world has already been to Europe, whereas this was finally a dream come true for me – 26 years later – and I couldn’t have been more grateful for this opportunity. I can’t even describe how happy this trip made me.
For one, it’s the longest backpacking trip I’ve ever done. And it’s the poorest I’ve ever been – but richest as well (in experiences, duh). CHEESE. And while I don’t recommend anyone else to hop around on a whirlwind Europe tour, 1.5 days per country, I wouldn’t change my experiences at all. Cramming as much as I could into each day proved to be well worth my money, despite how tired I’d be in each moment. But I don’t remember that in the photos when I reflect back on everything – all I see are the beautiful colours, nature, sights, and sounds I experienced. Magic.
It’s hard to choose a favourite. Each city and country is different and special in its own right. But overall, I’m in complete love with London. I’m also in complete love with The Lake District. Oh my God, that place is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve ever seen, and I think the fact that I visited in winter made me love it even more. It’s impossible to pick between London and The Lake District, so both are tied for #1 in my heart (for this trip). I go back and forth every day trying to decide if I love Wellington just as much as London… k, brb, gonna just plan out my retirement in New Zealand and England right now. I’ll make it work with my near-poverty-level-yearly-income (the truth)… 😛
Oh yeah, and I absolutely adore EDINBURGH, Bruges, Budapest, Barcelona, and ohmyGod Cinque Terre. Other favourites include Lisbon, Stockholm, Cambridge, Paris, Cliffs of Moher… oh wait, I can’t venture into landmarks, because then I’d just name off almost every stunning landmark I saw in person. Excuse me.
I was surprised by how much I loved colourful, bohemian Barcelona (again, don’t trust other people’s opinions and just experience a country for yourself as you see fit!)…
…but disappointed by how depressed and gloomy I felt in Berlin. In retrospect, Berlin has some killer food (Mustafa’s Kebab!) and an endless amount of stuff to immerse yourself in (arts, music, nightlife, food, bars, museums, you name it) – I think I was just sad because I had left London the days before. I was particularly fascinated by the beautiful governmental Reichstag (Bundestag) building and its intricate architecture.
I loved how Lisbon was a literal replica of San Francisco (except cooler, because it’s European, duh). My favourite “must dos” always included castles, hiking trails, FOOD, palaces, and usually avoided museums (unless they were absolutely incredible, like The Louvre). I found that I began to appreciate and understand the importance of art toward the end of my trip (because I ended in Paris… possibly one of the most cultural and artsy cities in Europe, ha). I wish that epiphany came sooner.
Athens was lovely, but I wasn’t a big fan of the heat (even in March, I considered that too warm), but the food was TO DIE FOR (€2 gyros, thank you very much omg heaven – and the gelato is a whole new story). Bruges was A BEAUTY – straight out of a Beauty and the Beast fairytale, almost. Budapest was marvellous on so many levels (the castle, the Danube River, Margaret Island, the ruin pubs) – I’d live there. Copenhagen was clean, mystical, and a pristine first dip into Scandinavia for me. I fell in love with everything in Stockholm, especially how its archipelago is composed of 30,000 islands (and Djurgården is probably one of my favourite places of all time). England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – all different but so very amazing (and the biased part of me loved all of those places more than others because I spent more time exploring them).
Ireland was hills and hills of lush green beauty, much the same as New Zealand. Scotland was truly stunning (especially Isle of Skye), and I fell in love with every Scottish accent I heard. Wales was a bit more isolated from the rest of the UK (so its public transport is operable, but not as efficient or obviously frequent), but it’s beautiful – especially Snowdonia National Park (omg, WOW). Italy was lovely, but wasn’t fond of the pizza (I need to revisit with a local) so I ate gelato and paninis virtually every day. I attribute my 15 lb. weight gain to this fact (okay, I gained 15 lbs. on the ship – not this trip alone – but I like to blame it on the gelato because it makes sense, HA!). Krakow was so much fun, especially since it was the only place I really had a full two days with my dear friend (and tour guide) Amanda. Paris was gorgeous, but it took me a day to get used to the tourism (and then I fell in love the longer I stayed there – especially with all the bridges and Ratatouille connections, like Tour d’ Argent). Oh my God, and Giverny. One of the best days of my trip – Monet’s House and Gardens was just incredible and I recommend it to anyone who visits Paris (easy half-day trip). Lisbon – I was so happy visiting this country! An unexpected love. Prague – so quirky and hip. Barcelona is way more amazing and colourful than Madrid (in my opinion) – and I loved Barcelona so much that I dreamed of the day when I’d get to port there on a ship (and my wish came true)!
I wish I could write more in depth (maybe when I’m on the ship), since half the memories are sadly escaping me now – but I just wanted to do a recap for my own sake. What a freaking amazing 3.5 months… and I can’t WAIT for the next few months sailing around Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean now! x