This entire trip started with the idea that I wanted to visit London for a week. That snowballed into 6 weeks of travelling and 7 countries visited. My sister, Cristina, and I opted to do a tour for the start of the trip and I’m so glad we did. After some research we decided to travel with TopDeck which is very similar to Contiki but with much better rates. Many, many shortlists later we picked the Europe Express: Paris, Switzerland, Italy, Germany & Amsterdam, all in 11 days. It’s a whirlwind.. It’s tiring.. but I still think it’s one of the best ways to travel. So much stress was lifted knowing that our accommodation was sorted in each place, we had transport to each country AND most of our meals were covered. Plus, TopDeck allows you to do your own thing. They offer 3-4 activities in each country and you decide how many of them you’d like to do, or you can go off and do your own thing for the day. And obviously the best part of travelling this way is meeting so many cool people. You bond pretty quickly when you’re hopelessly lost in a foreign country.
Paris was our first stop. One quick ferry ride and a not-so-quick bus ride later, we were in the land of crepes and croissants. Honestly, this place is unreal. None of the stereotypes you hear about have been stretched – I honestly saw people riding their bikes with baguettes in them. I know for a fact that I’ll visit Paris again. Now that I’ve done all the touristic hotspots I want to have NO PLANS and just roam the streets, laze along the river Seine and sit in coffee shops eating dessert until 2am. Basically live like a french girl.Those tiny specks are the top of peoples’ heads below me, while I stand on the 1st floor of the Eiffel tower.
Our next stop was Switzerland, which was such a highlight. There were about 7 of us South Africans on tour who had never seen snow before so WE LOST OUR MINDS. I honestly wish I had recorded everyone’s reactions as the snow started falling on us. #africanproblemsIt took 3 trains and 2,5 hours to get to the highest point of Europe, Jungfraujoch. But, sheesh, what a scenic ride.Our hostel which had everything, including a club downstairs.
A few days later we arrived in Venice. Venice is exactly what you see in photos. Because I’m such a sucker for old, ruined buildings I got a little snappy happy. Also important : I tried italian pizza and it’s true. Italians do it better.
TopDeck also surprised us by taking us to Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet, which wasn’t on our original itinery. How nice of them. I kind of wish they’d warned us though so I could’ve written a letter to Juliet too. Maybe she could have helped a girl out. Ha.
Finally, Amsterdam. My favourite (not for the reasons you think, get that look off your face). This city is everything. Highlight of my trip was cycling around this city, just doing life as the locals do. I LOVE that this place is so cosmopolitan. I also love that the language barrier seemed minimal compared to all the other countries we visited. I found it so easy to get around because I could actually read signs and ask for directions. 12 years of learning Afrikaans at school finally paid off.
After our trip we spent a week in London which was extra fun because my mom came to join. A week in London just is not enough though. I made a list of places I wanted to visit while I was there and I didn’t even get through half of them. This place is just so busy with so much to do, even more of a reason to go back.Buys coffee. Spills coffee. Classic Carla, and not the last time I embarrassed myself amongst tube riding professionals. We found Jamie Oliver’s take out by Piacdilly Circus. We ate there 3 times in the space of 7 days because it’s THAT good. I know that there’s hundreds of fancy shops in Harrods, but THIS is all I cared about.On our last day we visited the Warner Bros Studios, about and hour out of central London. It’s been on my bucket list forever and if you have any warm fuzzy feelings towards the story of Harry Potter it’s something you NEED to do. They’ve recreated a bunch of sets from the movies and have a lot of the original props, as well as plenty of souvenirs like chocolate frogs and wands. I was completely geeking out the entire time. Another highlight was getting to see two of my best friends in London. WHAT. Our travels overlapped by a couple of hours so we jammed packed that time with a visit to the top of the Shard, Krispey Cremes and more of Jamie Oliver’s burgers.
This trip has been such a huge blessing and I can’t believe that it’s already all over. I’ve already started planning my next one because I’m slightly over ambition when it comes to travelling. The bug has bitten for sure.