Exactly one year ago today, I departed for the trip of a lifetime: five weeks in Europe. It had been a dream of mine since childhood to go to there, and I was finally able to do it. I ventured there alone, with one lone suitcase and swirling feelings of both excitement and anxiety.
For 35 days, I traveled by bus (except in and around Greece, which was by sea) with 20 or so strangers-cum-friends (mostly Australians!) through 11 countries, 30 cities, and innumerable sites and spaces. I saw, experienced, and ate so much along the way that not even my 124 pages of journaling could give a full picture. But when I got back, I tried – focusing on the food, of course – to do just that on this blog. It took me three months, but I chronicled my entire journey here, and it’s the first place I go when I want to relive any part of it. Since many/most of you weren’t reading my blog at that time, I want to share those posts with you. All these same links are also in my easy-to-access travels page, but here I want to offer extremely brief (and hopefully enticing enough to earn your clicks!) synopses of my adventures in each city.
On my transatlantic flights, I was impressed by the quality of the veg meals served on the plane.
In London, England, I didn’t get to sightsee much, but I did get to eat at a vegan buffet and a devilishly good pizza place.
I ogled European service station food on my way to Paris, France, where I then ate a fabulous multi-course dinner and took a nighttime cruise on the river Seine with my new traveling companions.
The next day in Paris, I ascended the Eiffel Tower, explored the Louvre, and ate amazing crêpes before seeing a dazzling show at the Moulin Rouge that evening and drinking into the night with the group.
In Bordeaux, France, I drank some exquisite red wine on a café terrace at night in front of a stunning cathedral.
In Madrid, Spain, I sipped sangria and dined on a great vegetarian paella in la Plaza Mayor before going to a salsa bar. The next day, a small group of us shopped along el Puerto del Sol, prowled the Prado museum, and topped it off with a tapas dinner.
In Barcelona, Spain, I visited la Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece, and ate dinner at a Spanish buffet restaurant.
The next day in Barcelona, I experienced the unbelievable food market on Las Ramblas, enjoyed my fresh snacks at Park Güell, ate another buffet dinner, was blown away by a flamenco show, and partied the night away afterward.
In Nice, France, I ate dinner on the French Riviera, waking up early the next day to run alongside the Mediterranean Sea before spending hours swimming in it. That evening I ate a breathtaking dinner at a villa above le Grand Corniche before visiting Monte Carlo, Monaco, for an exhilarating night of drinking and gambling.
I saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa before arriving in Florence, Italy, where I ate pizza, saw Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia, and shopped till I dropped before a huge dinner at a Tuscan vineyard in the Chianti Hills, followed by the most creative cocktails ever.
In Rome, Italy, I saw the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Colosseum (WHEW!), and ate such Italian favorites as pizza, pasta, pesto, risotto, gelato, and tiramisu.
An overnight ferry took me to Athens, Greece, where I saw the Parthenon and ate dinner (and baklava!) at a taverna downtown.
So began a 3-day cruise of the Greek Isles. I ate the strangest gyro ever in Mykonos, Greece.
An excursion to Kusadasi, Turkey, allowed me to see the house of the Virgin Mary, visit the ruins at Ephesus, and experience a crazy Turkish bazaar.
In Patmos, Greece, I hiked a mountain to visit the monastery of St. John.
In Venice, Italy, I ate a pasta dinner, sailed the Grand Canal by night, and drank bellini in St. Mark’s Square.
The next day in Venice, right after visiting the Murano glass factory, the rainstorm of the century occurred. I still bought a beautiful mask, toured the Doge’s Palace, and ate (and drank) a pub dinner, but you won’t believe what that downpour did to us.
In Vienna, Austria, I was surprised how much I loved the food, and how sensational the trip to the opera and ballet was.
The next day in Vienna, I toured Schönbrunn Palace and the Habsburg crypts, had authentic Viennese coffee and Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher, visited Freud’s house and a Schnaps factory, and had the most bewilderingly wacky (but scrumptious!) dinner at a country mansion.
In picturesque Salzburg, Austria, I went to a farmers market and saw the house where Mozart was born.
In Munich, Germany, I saw the Glockenspiel at the Marienplatz before taking the train to…Oktoberfest! Donning my new dirndl, I drank a dizzying amount and had one of the most wild, fun, crazy nights of the trip and my life.
I toured the fairytale castle at Neuschwanstein, nestled in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, before an uneventful stop in Liechtenstein.
In Lucerne, Switzerland, I found myself delighted by the food and uniquely-Swiss entertainment.
The next day in Lucerne, I rode to the top of Mt. Pilatus (7000 feet!), ate too many Swiss pastries, ran alongside Lake Lucerne, and ended an excellent dinner with chocolate fondue.
In Strasbourg, France, I admired the cathedral, rode a carousel, ate gelato, and bought French cookies/biscuits.
Heidelberg, Germany, I food-shopped and ate a rustic, very German restaurant dinner.
After a morning cruise along the Rhine River through the Black Forest, I visited Cologne, Germany, and ate Middle Eastern food in the shadow of their awe-inspiring cathedral.
In Amsterdam, Netherlands, I had a marvelous Indian meal before strolling through the Red Light District.
The next day in Amsterdam, I visited a Dutch fishing village and Anne Frank’s house before dinner at a floating Asian restaurant. After a nighttime canal cruise, I went to the Grasshopper (pot bar, uh-oh!) and wandered the Red Light District even more.
I came back through London on my way home, eating some Indian food on the ferry first. (I accidentally also re-blogged about that pizza place!)
I was gushy and emotional, but grateful and inspired, in my wrap-up post. And now, a year later, I look back on all this and am still amazed by and in awe of everything I saw and did. This solo trip to Europe was the gutsiest thing I think I’ve ever done. Were there negative consequences stemming from it? I’ll be honest: yes, there were. I still struggle with some of them, and I’ll admit I have not met all the goals I set for myself upon my return. But I can say with certitude that I would not give up this experience for anything in the world. I am eternally thankful I had this opportunity, and all these unforgettable memories will reside in my heart for the rest of my life.