2017 was a whirlwind. One definition of a whirlwind is “any circling action or violent onward course”; so let’s break this down. My current mental state towards how I see myself is the ‘violent onwards course’ and to be real, I know for sure that this will carry into 2018 but more about that some other time. I did get a couple of good things out of 2017 and the first that comes to mind is my travels, my travels being the ‘circling action’.
Getting on and off planes was a circling action, walking off and walking back on a tour bus was a circling action, trying copious amounts of new foods is a circling action, saying hello to strangers and then fare welling those strangers as friends is a circling action, pressing the shutter button on my camera is a circling action, seeing breathtaking and amazingly beautiful landmarks and sites is a circling action…
Travelling is a circling action, and this circling action was the highlight of my 2017. Travelling has changed my perspective on life in ways that I had never imagined it would and it has influenced the next couple of steps I take. What better way to end this relatively shitty year than reflecting on my travel highlights of 2017! Turn back time with me and relive the most memorable highlight of each country I visited in 2017.
Destination #1 // England
Easy. That afternoon in Regents Park; read about it here, and a watch a small part of it here.
Destination #2 // Scotland
One night in the small town of Oban located near the Scottish Highlands, my Contiki group and I embraced the cold and took a walk from the Columba Hotel along the shoreline of Oban Bay to the Skipinnish Ceilidh House where we drank a whole lot of alcohol and learnt some Scottish Highland dancing. I remember that night so vividly even though my bodily fluids were probably 75% vodka and coke. Most of the other Contiki-goers and myself danced all night and worked up a sweat whilst singing along to various Celtic live music. It was a night I’ll forever remember.
Destination #3 // Ireland
Imagine the wind whipping your hair around your face with so much force that to gently stings your skin, painful, right? Yes, but it is such an irrelevant factor when your sitting on the grass approximately one metre from a cliff edge overlooking the deep blue ocean that sits below the desaturated, overcast sky. This was me, sitting upon the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in 2 degree celsius weather wrapped in my snow jacket after walking for 15 minutes off of the designated tourist track. It was so much more than I had ever imagined.
Destination #4 // Wales
In transit from Ireland to England I ventured throughout Wales into the small, but famous village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, or Llanfairpwllgwyngyll for short; one of the longest place names in the world. Unfortunately I did not see much of this town, but the railway station gift shop is full of all sorts of goodies!
Destination #5 // France
France is one of those places where nothing seems real, whether you’re slamming down some snails in a local Parisian restaurant, standing on top of the Arc De Triomphe, looking up at the sparkling Eiffel Tower against the starry night sky, exploring the city of Lyon, or walking the pebbled beaches of Nice. I’ve already wrote about segwaying along the Nice waterfront, you can read it here, but just to reiterate, that was my most memorable moment in France.
Destination #6 // Switzerland
I was super lucky when it came to visiting Lucerne in Switzerland as it was the city’s Carnival festival on the full day we had there. I remember walking down the colourful confetti covered streets of Lucerne in pure amazement at how naturally beautiful the city is and how full of joy and festivities the locals were. People shrouded the streets dressed in eccentrically scary costumes, as the aim of the festival was to scare off the evil winter spirits. Loud and upbeat music was heard hear all around the city, people were freely drinking in the streets, and tourists like myself were getting the ultimate live-like-a-local experience on that particular day. I will forever remember the magic and beauty that Lucerne gifted me with that day.
Destination #7 // Spain
Barcelona throughout the daytime was great, but Barcelona at nighttime is colourful and vibrant and I was lucky enough one night to get drunk enough to really enjoy it but still be sober enough to remember it all. My Contiki group and I went to this bar called ‘Jagerbomb’. It was completely empty as it was only 8pm when we arrived, but in return the bartenders gave us free shots and $5 spirits. When free or cheap alcohol is present some part of me completely gives in and I down as much as I can as quick as I can; I’m impatient and it’s completely unhealthy and I do not recommend. In the span of 45 minutes I had two vodka orange juices, a Jagerbomb, three shots and a Malibu and Coke… We danced, we sang, we sweated in our Winter attire, and it was one of the best nights ever. I remembering voicing out loud to others that I was the high jump champion in grade 7 for the girls division, and then I proceeded to jump over a couple of fences and send my parents videos of me talking about how my dream of walking along a Barcelona beach came true.
Destination #8 // Italy
I visited Pisa, Florence and Venice whilst I was in Italy, but Rome took the cake for me. There’s something so enticing and enchanting about Rome; and I think that it has something to do with the fact that it was built on ruins and almost every building has some sort of history attached to it. We did it all! We visited the Trevi Fountain the night we arrived and started the day after with a trip to Vatican City and then proceeded onto the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica, and ended the day with access to the Colosseum. After the Colosseum, it started to pour down rain, and most of our Contiki group voted to catch the Metro back to the hotel, but there we a couple of us- myself included- who wanted to see more of Rome, so we propped our hoodies up over our heads and headed off into the rain. Using Google Maps we walked around Rome trying to find our way to our hotel for around an hour. After seeing parts of Rome that tourists don’t usually see we arrived back at the hotel absolutely soaked but filled with happiness.
Destination #9 // Vatican City
This one’s easy. If you ever go to Italy, buy priority entry tickets to Vatican City and look up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s masterpiece is truly perplexing but astonishingly beautiful.
Destination #10 // Monaco
Monaco is another very small, but beautiful country. The winding roads and incredible vistas make you feel just that little more royal. The highlight though is the Monte Carlo Casino or Casino de Monte Carlo. Watching upper-class locals and visitors place large amounts of money on bets is accelerating! We all crowded around various tables throughout the night watching the gambles being placed, dressed to our finest and drinking. Some friends of mine even joined in, I however decided to cheer everyone else on, as I had no idea how to play the simplest game.
Destination #11 // Austria
I decided to depart from the rest of the group for half of the day and make my way to the Museum of Applied Arts. The walk to the museum was so beautiful as Vienna is a work of art and the art displayed had so many stories, meaning and information attached. It was just a lovely and relaxed day to myself, one of those days where I realized how incredibly lucky I was to have the life I have.
Destination #12 // Germany
I had never once had an interest in Berlin until the Contiki bus pulled up next to the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall and I was told of Berlin’s history. It amazed me that such a hostile situation regarding a restriction on the freedom of movement within one country existed in such a modern time. I walked up and down the East Side Gallery taking photos, and explored any part of the wall that was still standing when I got the chance. I learnt of the ‘death strip’ and even visited one on a night tour. From then on, Berlin became one of my favorite European cities.
Destination #13 // Czech Republic
I was standing in Old Town Square in Prague surrounded by bubbles, smiling from ear to ear looking like a complete loser in a hot pink scarf. It was a perfect day; cold, but not too cold, the sun was shining, the square wasn’t too busy, and one of the locals had a large bubble blower and was showering the square in rainbows. I was surrounded by old buildings topped with colourful roofs of a gradient orange palette, with a trdelnik in hand loving life.
Destination #14 // Netherlands
About an hour after tears were streaming down my face from saying goodbye to all my Contiki friends that were making their way back to London, I set out on my own adventure into Amsterdam city centre. I jumped on the tram and walked throughout Amsterdam to the Van Gogh Museum and back. I walked over the canals, taking in the scents from various cafes, gazing at the saturation of colourful flowers covering the bridges of the canals, and trying to dodge the all to confident cyclers. I fell in love with Amsterdam that day.