A rough translation- “travel broadens the mind,” or, “travelers have tales to tell.”
This past month has been a complete and utter whirlwind. As the days of March rolled by, I became more aware that my time in Ireland is limited. This month, however, I’ve had to opportunity to travel all around Europe. In the course of two weeks, I visited London, Amsterdam, and four different cities in Italy. It’s been awhile since my return to Dublin, but boy, am I still exhausted- in the best way possible.
On the weekend of March 10th-11th, two friends and I set off for London, England. London is a place that I had always wanted to visit ever since I was small. As one of the largest and most eclectic places in the world, I could not wait to experience what this city had to offer. The only catch? We had 24 hours.
We started our day at Camden Market. Walking through the neighborhood to get there, I realized that I was going to fall in love with London that day. The storefronts were adorned with a variety of vivid colors and larger-than-life replicas of everyday items. It almost made me feel as though I was living in the movie, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” After browsing around, we stopped for breakfast at Cereal Killer Cafe in the market. Here, you could also pretend you’re living in a movie. The movie I’m talking about here, however, would be “Elf.” At Cereal Killer, you get to create your own cereal concoction, topped with whatever you so choose. I chose a combination of Lucky Charms and Fruity Pebbles topped with marshmallows. Just let me tell you, Buddy the Elf 100% had the right idea.
After our stop for breakfast, we made sure to make stops at all the tourist destinations. We walked through the vibrant streets of Notting Hill, found some treasures at Portobello Market, and even waved to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. To finish off the day, we ascended 30+ floors to take in a 360 degree, panoramic view of London at Sky Garden. I’ve been to my fair share of observatory buildings, (New York, Chicago, Dublin, etc.) but nothing was quite as breathtaking as London after dark.
A few days later, I embarked on my favorite trip to date: Amsterdam. We had quite an early start time, as we only had one day to fit everything in. However, my early morning grumpiness faded as soon as I stepped into the city. Amsterdam is hands down one of the most beautiful cities I’ve had the privilege of visiting. To be completely honest, living in Dublin, I had not seen the sun for more than a few hours at a time since early January. The weather in Ireland was starting to take a toll on me. Amsterdam was that blip of sunshine that I needed to continue on. I even got to walk around with my coat off- that’s just how nice it was that day.
Our morning started off by walking along the canals. We were in awe of just how beautiful they looked with the sun shining down on them. We followed their twists and turns all the way to the I Amsterdam sign. Here, we had a photo op with just about every letter in the sign and nearly broke some bones trying to climb to the top. While in Amsterdam, we also went to the Anne Frank House, which was one of the most moving and humbling experiences I’ve ever had. Then, we grabbed a bite to eat, did some shopping, and watched the sun’s reflection on the water as it set over the canals. Definitely a top 5 favorite day of all time.
A mere five days after my galavant through Amsterdam, I headed off to Italy. While in Italy, we had the opportunity to stop in four different cities, taking in the unique qualities each one had to offer. We began in Milan, took a train to Venice (my favorite), and made our way through Florence before hitting our final destination of Rome.
Upon our arrival in Milan, we were quite exhausted. We had a nine-hour layover in Brussels, Belgium, in which we explored the city for the day. The city was quaint but didn’t really have much to offer by way of interesting tourist attractions, so by the end of the day, we were anxious to get to Milan. The main thing I was excited to see was Duomo di Milano. I have seen so many beautiful pictures, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Even though I was attacked by a flock of pigeons outside, nothing could take away from its beauty.
The next day, we took a train to Venice. I had heard great things about Venice, but I wasn’t expecting it to be my favorite place in Italy. I was quickly proven wrong. Venice was hands down one of the most breathtaking places I’ve visited. The water of the canals was the purest blue I had ever seen. It was almost as if the city was stuck in some time warp with transportation being limited to walking and boating. We started the day with a breakfast along the gorgeous canals with the warm sun on our backs. The highlight of the day, however, was obviously the canal ride. Taking us through the “back roads” of Venice, we were able to see sights that you can’t see on foot. We were then briefly taken out into the Lagoon where we had an uninterrupted view of Piazza San Marco and Doge’s Palace. This is genuinely a place that I hope every person gets to see at least once in their lifetime.
After Venice, we were off to Florence and the region of Tuscany. While in one of the wine capitals of the world, we took advantage of a vineyard tour/wine tasting. We ventured into the Tuscan countryside to the Torcibrencoli Vineyard. Here, we got to tour their lovely vineyard and enjoy their finest wines paired with a home-cooked spaghetti dinner. After taming our appetites, we headed back to Florence to catch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.
On our last day, we were off to Rome- the city I was most excited for. I have heard nothing but amazing things from friends and family that have visited Rome before I had the chance, so I was thrilled to finally be visiting.
We started off the day by visiting the Colosseum. I couldn’t believe I was finally getting to see such a large piece of history in real life. The building itself is still so largely intact, you would never believe that it has been around since 70AD. After roaming around the Colosseum, we headed over to the Roman Forum and then to the Vatican, followed by a stop at Trevi Fountain.
I was truly blown away by the beauty that Italy possesses. Each city is so unique and has its own dynamic that can’t be found in any other city. I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to say that I have seen all these amazing cities and the treasures they have on display. I can’t wait to return!