37 Days in Europe


I fell in love with Europe at an early age, my aunt took me along on her travels when I was fifteen, and again at age seventeen. I got to experience a taste of twenty cities across thirteen European countries before I had even graduated high school. I am forever grateful for those travel experiences, they played a big role in shaping who I am and the way I see the world. Ever since those trips, I was thirsty for more travel, which I have been able to do several times since then, both within the United States, Canada, and Europe. My first time revisiting Europe after age seventeen was when I went to Istanbul, Turkey for business (and pleasure) when I worked in the design industry with my aunt; the second time was to The Netherlands and France for leisure.  I always found myself longing to spend more time in Europe(I'm sure that's not too unusual), and so it was always my plan to go on a longer adventure at some point in the future.
After graduating college last year, I decided the time had come to pack my bags and roam another continent for a while. At first, my plans were beyond ambitious, I had way too many countries and cities on my to see and do list. After a lot of overwhelmed planning, a bit of a nervous breakdown, and a much needed reality check from my mother and aunts, I was able to narrow down my itinerary to a realistic goal. It all panned out to fourteen cities throughout five countries in 37 days:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
  
Ghent, Belgium:


Brugge, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

Paris, France

Saint Jean De Luz, France

San Sebastian, Spain

Madrid, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Marseille, France

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Venice, Italy

Florence, Italy

Rome, Italy

That still sounds and looks a little crazy huh?  Believe me, it was crazy and exhilarating!  My brother joined me on this trip, and our mother and aunt met us in Madrid, Spain for the last leg of the journey.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it, we saw and did so much, it was an unforgettable experience for all of us.  We traveled by train from one city to the next, and that in itself was quite an experience, to say the least.  Traveling by train can be hectic, but the views really make it all worth it.  I learned a lot from my experiences on this trip, I learned more about myself and what I want in life, and more about the family members who I shared the time with, and especially more about the world and the people in it.  There are so many differences, yet so many similarities among people across societies and cultures.  I always enjoy experiencing those differences, I try to savor them, the good and bad.  That's what life is all about, soaking up the details!  

We flew out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a Norwegian airlines 787 Dreamliner jumbo jet and it was, as Larry David would say, prettttty pretttty prettty pretty good!  Although, the seats will never truly be comfortable until they fully recline.  Oh wait, that happens in first class!  Anyway, I brought one of those twisty neck pillows, so it all worked out.  Other than that, it was a really nice flying experience…  Very cheap compared to all other airlines, brand spankin' new plane, larger bathrooms, very clean, nice window tinting/shade option, super high ceiling, interesting kaleidoscope of changing colors on the isle ceiling, and of course, everyone gets a little flat screen monitor with free movies, tv shows, music, and games!  A little USB plug next to the headphone jack to charge your electronic device.  Very nice indeed.  Now can we please get reclining seats too?  :)


    


This 787 Dreamliner is a beast, when you stand in the aisle it looks like it goes on forever!  The best part of this type of plane is that it can fly longer distances, yet it boasts 20 percent lower fuel consumption per passenger compared to similar sized aircraft, it's also a step towards a future of more environmentally friendly aircraft, with : 25-30 percent reduction in NOx-gasses.  I read an article about this young company that mentions its affordable prices are due mainly in part to its fleet of new gas-efficient aircraft, making it steep competition and the rival of all other airlines.  I say rightly so!  It's a crime what the airlines are charging us to fly, so I support this new move in making flying more affordable.  Food and snack options were still very expensive, although made very convenient through onscreen ordering and built-in credit swipe, ha!  We did not eat any meals on the plane ride there, only on the return flight at the end of the trip.  I can say that both the dinner and breakfast served were really good, and I have high culinary expectations.  It was certainly a big step up from the first time I ate a plane meal on an international flight 15 years ago!  





One of my goals for the trip was to spend less time running around like a tourist and more time mingling and lounging like a local.  For me it's important to really experience a city and remember it in details, not in a blur of activity that blends into vague memories.  My brother and I spent a lot of time riding bike and exploring the city outskirts, parks, beaches, and night life.  We also found the most popular public hangouts and met some really great locals in each city, locals who taught us things about the city that we might not have learned otherwise.  We walked, rode bike, walked some more, paddled ourselves down canals, walked some more, took river cruises, swam in the ocean, jumped off piers, walked some more, rode more bike, went to sleep really late (or should I say really early? hehe), woke up and did it allll over again…for 37 days straight! It was a big adventure, no doubt! Some things happened to us on this trip that are still hard to believe…  Luckily, time did not fly, it truly felt as though I was there forever!   There were happy moments, sad moments, scary moments, pure joy, wonderment and glee, disappointments and fights (traveling with family isn't always easy!), lots of train rides (about 13 in total!), train strikes, luggage struggles, hotel crises, yummy culinary experiences, infuriating culinary experiences, examples of kindness and humanity (aaaand examples of the exact opposite), sunny days, rainy days and major storms, cold days, hot days, windy days, short days, long days, perfect days, lots of peddlers, overwhelming crowds, low-key crowds, blissful peace, soul searching, breathtaking views and moments with nature, amazing history, stunning architecture, you name it and much more…. the list goes on and on! So here I go, join me as I guide you through the 37 crazy beautiful days that I spent in Europe….

I'll be back in a few hours with my first post on Amsterdam!

~ Catherine ~

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