Hey guys- so it's been a couple of days since the first installment of my most memorable experiences of my European vacation, but without further ado-- here are #6-10! Happy reading!!
#6. So another one of the things that I enjoyed about being in Europe was how easily accessible it was to get around to so many different countries. There were buses, trains, flights, and even car pooling. While train travel is typically the most popular and easiest way to see the country sides, I did a little of everything, with the exception of car pooling. I was on a budget and occasionally had to select from the cheapest route possible to get around. Which in most cases was by bus, or plane. Surprising, right? We know that in the U.S. flights can be quite expensive going from state to state, but in Europe- going from country to country by plane was much more affordable (in most cases) than the train. Just to give you an example- I flew from London to Spain for 35 euro (approx. $41 U.S.) From Spain to Greece for 80 euro (approx. $93 U.S.) And from Paris, France to Venice, Italy for only 50 euro (approx. $58 U.S.) Now compare that to train travel, from Paris to Venice was 85 euro (approx. $100 U.S.) Not only that, I found out that many of the countries that I went to were actually inaccessible by train. For instance, going from London to Spain- I would've had to take a series of trains and possibly even a ferry through several countries, because there was no direct route. Which meant that I would've been paying a lot more money, taking a lot more time, and making a lot of transfers to get from 1 place to the other. Also, between Spain and Greece is the Mediterranean sea; and unless they have under water trains that run on bubbles- there is simply no train for that particular route. After all, Greece is a series of islands that are surrounded by water. Which also meant that there was no train leaving Greece headed back inland. However, once I was finally back on land, I was able to take trains to many different countries. I took trains all throughout Italy and Paris to get around. These particular trains just stay within one country. For example, from Venice, to Milan, to Pisa, to Rome, etc. This was a basic city train, like the Metro. When it came time to leave Italy, I had the option to take a Eurail train into Switzerland, or any other country of my choice, as long as they bordered each other. I opted out of that option and decided to take an overnight bus instead. It was much cheaper than the train, and it saved me from having to pay for a room overnight.
Why would I take buses, instead of trains if they were the faster option? I have a couple of reasons. There were several pros and cons with taking the popular Eurail train from country to country:
A) A Eurail pass can be quite expensive depending on the amount of countries you plan to visit. In my case, I went to 9 countries. When I did my research, a pass that would allow me that type of access was well over $1,500- not only that- it was very limiting from what I was able to find out. As I mentioned before, the pass was only good for bordering countries. Which meant going from the UK to Spain was out. From Spain to Greece, out. From Greece to France, out. From Switzerland to the Netherlands, out. And from the Netherlands back to the UK out! That's already 6 countries that I would not have been able to access with my Eurail pass! A real bummer.
B) The Eurail pass had too many different "if, and's, & buts" about it. For example- if you were in a country for 5 days, you would only have access to the train for 2 or 3 of those days. And if you were in a country for 10 days, you'd only have access to the train for about 5 of those days (not the exact details, just an example of the restrictions) Again, for the type of money they were asking for, one would think they'd have full access to any train, going to any country. But it simply wasn't that easy.
From my personal experience, and in my opinion- flights, and buses were the way to go for the traveler on a strict budget. I saved hundreds of dollars by flying and catching overnight buses to and from my destinations. Although while in any particular 1 country, train travel can be very cheap. I found that it was much easier to just walk into a train station and buy a ticket in advance for the next city that I wanted to visit within a country. Often times, the tickets were readily available, and didn't have as many restrictions. I was able to talk a live person and get the correct location of the platform I was suppose to be on, the exact time the train would arrive and depart, and I was able to get whatever other questions I may have had answered. It took the hassle away from trying to figure it out on my own online.
(Pictures of me on the TrenItalia, the Italian train that runs through Italy, and my boarding pass)
#7. Another experience that deserves it's recognition is the honor and respect that people had for each other, regardless of background, race, or skin color. I remember walking through Athens, Greece with a lovely young lady that I met in my hostel. She was Canadian, and was just the perfect travel mate for the few days that I was there. She had been in the city for a few days, and knew how to get around much better than I did. So I ended up grouping with her and touring the city and seeing the sights. While out, we would run into different vendors trying to sell us their merchandise and get us to sample their products. One vendor in particular was a young Jamaican guy. As she and I were walking, he approached us and called me his "sister." He then told my travel buddy to "take care of my sister. She is my same skin color, so she is my sister, but we are all related!" He then asked us to put our hands out. He slipped a black and white bracelet on my wrist, and said "this symbolizes us as people. Black and white coming together as one." He held our hands together and it was in that moment that I was able to quickly snap a picture of all of our hands merged together. The different shades of our skin color all coming together under one commonality. That we were human. All put in the same place at the same time, for the same purpose- to love and take care of one another. I was so happy to experience that moment as it meant a lot to me. Especially with all the race manipulating in the U.S. it was pleasant to see such oneness and unity in that short moment. It's a memory that I'll cherish forever.
(Picture of 3 cultures united in love for humanity)
#8. Aside from being a traveler, I'm also a fashion designer. I design women's exotic, and high fashion clothing. So, with that said- of course the fashion in all of the different countries was another one of the highlights while on my vacation. There were so many different styles and trends that it made my head spin. There was no better place to get inspiration for my fashion designs than in Europe. The styles in London, Milan, Spain, and of course Paris were absolutely amazing! Sometimes as I would just walk around the city, and snap pictures of mannequins in the boutique windows. From the culturally influential Spanish dresses in Spain with full flowing trains and pastel colors, to the high fashion runway clothing in Paris- the entire continent was overflowing with head turning fashion everywhere I went. I loved it! I was able to stroll through fashion areas where they sold fabrics, and other supplies for making clothing (one of my favorite locations in LA is the fashion district) which really inspired me and gave me ideas on how to incorporate these styles within my own clothing designs. The clothes that the Europeans wore just walking around the city, whether it was raining or not was like being at a fashion show. Although they weren't dressed up really fancy, they also weren't dressed down by any means either. The street fashion was appropriate for all different settings: the office, the train, a casual stroll, going out to lunch, or even on a dinner date. It was just appropriate. From the blazers, loafers, and satchels that the men wore, to the leather and fur jackets, and capes, and platform shoes that the women wore-- I was in complete awe of the dress code. In fact, I felt particularly under dressed in many of the places I went. There I was, a traveler, carrying a bulky backpack, wearing stretch pants, tennis shoes and t-shirts. Ugh.... It was so embarrassing seeing as to how I'm usually a dressy person. (Being a fashion designer, I have no choice.) However, being on an extended vacation, I was very limited on what I could carry around in my backpack- and I didn't have time, space, or energy for heels, pencil skirts, or satin blouses. But, I can definitely say that the European standard of dressing completely inspired me to change my entire wardrobe around upon returning home! It was just incredible!!
(Pictures of some of the fashions I came across while in Europe)
#9. Another great experience I had while in Europe was in Barcelona, Spain. The hostel I stayed in had nights were they'd prepare dinner for the travelers. And it just so happened that the day I arrived was Paella night!! For those of you who may not know what Paella is- it's a common dish local to Spain. It contains rice, seafood, chicken, some veggies, and is heavily seasoned with flavor. The ingredients can vary depending on your liking, but that is commonly how it's served. It's one of my favorite dishes to eat in authentic Spanish restaurants while in LA. It's also not a cheap dish. The average plate in Spain was about 18-25 euro depending on the restaurant serving it, and in LA- it typically costs about $20. In the hostel I stayed in, they prepared it from scratch! All fresh, frozen ingredients. I watched with my own eyes as the chef bought out the clams, calamari, chicken wings, veggies, rice, seasonings, and herbs. I made sure to take my notes as well. To see and have this authentic dish prepared right in front of me, by a local Spaniard made it even more special to me. The aroma in the air, the curious faces of what it was from people who had never eaten it, to the line that wrapped around the kitchen when it came time to serve it. The food was delicious! I was so happy that I got to partake in that moment. It was not only a fabulous welcome to Spain, but a great introduction to the hostel life, and a marvelous way to keep me coming back.
(Pictures of fresh Paella being made and served)
#10. Pensions- I mentioned pensions before and what they were back in the first installment of my most memorable experiences in Europe. A pension is like a bed and breakfast, but on a little different scale. It's a step above a hostel, but slightly under a hotel. I had my own room, but I had to share a bathroom with the other people who were also staying in there. It wasn't a problem. Unlike a hostel, the crowd was much older, more mature people who understood the proper etiquette of sharing common spaces. No one taking hour long showers, running up and down the halls, talking loudly with their friends, playing loud music, or coming in at 3-4 in the morning disturbing the entire building. It was a much more comfortable, and relaxed environment. It did come with it's downsides as well. Being as to how it was a place for more mature people, you wouldn't find very many people who were interested in going out and exploring the city by foot, or that were looking to go to the bar down the street for a couple of drinks. These people were life long travelers who came in groups and caught tour buses around the city. They mingled more so with each other, than they did the "outsiders" which was understandable. It didn't bother me. I would stay in a pension when I needed a little more peace from the hostel life, but couldn't quite afford a hotel. It worked for me because I made it work. Overall, the experience was worth blogging about, and it helps to give people an idea of the options they have while traveling abroad. Hostels are the cheapest options, then comes pensions, and then hotels. They all basically offer the same things only on a different scale. You'll get a bed, and a hot shower in all of them. But whether you're a person who prefers peace and quiet and privacy, or a person who likes the crowd and being around a group of your peers will help you make the decision that works best for you.
(Picture of a bed and breakfast style Pension in Europe)
Thank you for reading part 2 of my most memorable experiences on my European vacation. If you've enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on your social media pages with others. You never know who it may inspire! To keep up with future post, please subscribe to my blog and be the first to know whenever a new blog is posted. Until my next post- goodbye and happy reading!!
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