You can say what you like about the French, but both times that I’ve been to Paris, I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting the kindest, sweetest, chic-est people. Everywhere you go in Paris feels like there’s magic and romance floating in the air. From tasting macaroons at Ladureé, to jealously watching lunchtime diners sipping champagne on the Champs Élyseés, Paris has a certain feel to it. If I could bottle that feeling, I’d douse myself in it and fall in love again, every single day.
It’s been a dream of mine to go to Barcelona since I first learnt about Gaudi’s famous architecture when I was 14. I longed to see the raw, unfinished Sagrada Familia, Park Güell’s elaborate designs and La Pedra’s curvy Art Nouveau exterior. To put it in a nutshell, Barcelona did not disappoint, neither did Guadi and neither did the summer sales at Zara.
Oh how I loved Rome – the sights, the sounds… the food! Even the random thunderstorms that happened in the middle of the day. It was so wonderful to feel the sunshine on me, after leaving a strangely cold 3 days in Amsterdam. This was our first full day in the city, and we were off to the Trevi fountain.
I was so delightfully surprised by the gorgeous gothic city of Prague.
I hadn’t really had any expectation before we got there – I knew very little about it, and to be honest hadn’t really thought much about The Czech Republic. Prague was so wonderful, I can honestly say that it’s on my list of cities to return to!
Vienna. My word. Where do I even begin?
We arrived at our campsite in the pouring rain and it was already flooded. But with no option of an upgrade, we all scrambled out of the bus, grabbed our tents and tried to pitch them on the driest looking ground we could find.
We really struggled to not get our tents wet, having to shield them from the rain with our flys, which just became completely awkward. Our shoes were covered in mud by the time we were finished. I got a little bit depressed at that point… But the fantastic showers made up for it.
We spent the evening at an amusement park, where I shivered and shook from the wet and the cold. I had a delicious pork schnitzel for dinner, and my first of what was to be many, many beers.
It was it cook, Keish’s birthday, so a couple of us headed out to celebrate with her. Once again, we were left at around 4am trying to find a can in the pouring rain.
From the the hot and sunny Croatia, we moved on to the incredible country of Hungary. In all honesty, I hadn’t expected much from our stop in Budapest (which is pronounced “BudapeSHt”) but I ended up being completely blown away. It seems to be a city I could live in.
We arrived at an empty campsite quite late I. The evening, pitched tents and grabbed dinner. There were too many mosquitoes to count – a repeat of Kavala unfortunately. My bites were just starting to heal, when I was bitten twice as mic. As before!
We headed out to explore Budapest by night (and to get away from all the mozzies). We ended up at a place with a similar feel to Bombay Bicycle Club for those of you who live in Cape Town – all sorts of random chairs on the ceiling and bits ‘n bobs everywhere.
General day-to-day goings on:
Life traveling with Contiki leaves me with a constant smile. We have mostly kiwis and Aussies on tour, with 2 Americans, 4 Canadians and Wilandri and I representing SA.
Our stopped in Croatia was in 2 parts – 3 nights in Dubrovnik and 1 night in Zadar, with a stop off in Split along the way.
Daaaaamn did we have fun in Dubrovnik. There are 4 sections:
We arrived, set up tents and went out to the old city of Dubrovnik – it was incredibly beautiful! Glimmering lights on smooth stone streets, bustling with people. The magical ancient history was almost alive in the air. We headed to Skybar for some buckets – they literally serve drinks in buckets. From there we moved on to Revel night club, which is inside the walls of one of the old forts. We had an awesome night out. We headed home at around 3am, and went down to the beach, about a 5 min walk from our campsite where we all swam in our underwear, before going to bed. Epic night out!
Day 1, night 2:
We were up later than usual, and headed out into the old city on a walking tour, which was great. We met up with our group, and we hopped aboard a boat in the harbour, and spent the rest of the day sailing. We docked at a very small island and swam, jumped off the boat etc. we stopped at another island for lunch. Croatia’s been very expensive for Wilandri and I. The currency is 7 kuna to 1 euro, but with the SA rand plummeting lately it’s ended up with Wilandri and I using the equation: PRICE IN KUNA / 7 X 13 = FML…
We docked the boat closets our campsite and walked up to the hotel’s pool, which was just absolutely unbelievably incredible – massive pool, warm water& deck chairs.
We went back to camp, got dressed and headed into town with a few people to grab dinner. We ended up at an Irish pub listening to a live musician. We ended up jumping the fence into the hotel’s pool, going for a dip, and ended up all learning The Haka in our underwear on the poolside stage. We ended up dragging our mattresses out of our tents and ending the night at about 3:30 underneath the stars.
Day 2, night 3:
We had a free day, and ended up relaxing next to the pool. We grabbed lunch at a local cafe before heading down to the beach with drinks to watch the sun set. There was a jetty on the beach, and just about 5 meters from the jetty was a huge inflatable children’s play park, anchored in place. It was after hours, so 3 of us girls convinced the owner to let us have a go. We swam out to it, with the sun having just set. It was so difficult to climb onto, and once you were finally up, it was impossible to stay that way – it was so slippery, I can’t believe children don’t come off of it second best! We took an early night and went to bed.
Day 3, night 4
Off to Zadar we went! I was very sad to leave behind croatia’s beautiful city of Dubrovnik, but not sad to say toodles to their expensive prices! We spent most of the day driving, but ended up at a sweet, seaside campsite. I ended up submitting a design for the Tshirt that everyone orders to remember the trip. I did it about 30 minutes before it was meant to be handed in, and mine ended up getting chosen! So watch this space for pictures, as soon as I get some. I’ve ordered a hoodie and a ‘singlet’ (tank top).
I’ll never forget… When I was in grade 9 we had an amazing history teacher, and we were learning about world war 1. There was a chapter in our text book called ‘Tension in the Balkans’… It’s just always stuck with me for some strange reason. And now here I am, in the Balkans.
I’d like to start off this blog post by acknowledging all the unbelievably incredible cities of Europe. Paris is romantic, Rome is historic, Munich is social, London is fashionable. They all have their place. But I have decided, before even having visited half the countries I’m here to see, that Istanbul is by far the best of them all.