Five months ago, on January 5 2013, I was getting on a plane headed for Barcelona.
Last year I was at a crossroads in my life. If I continued on the path I was on, I knew exactly where I’d end up. Not that the path was bad, necessarily, but I was feeling trapped into a life I wasn’t exactly sure I wanted.
So, I decided to pack up and head to Europe. What better time to do it? I quit my job, left my family, friends, and a boyfriend behind and set off on a new journey. It was definitely a risk, but one that was so worth taking.
I spent 6 incredible weeks in Barcelona, Spain. The first four weeks were spent completing a course through Oxford TEFL- teaching English as a foreign language. Having no experience whatsoever, I was thrown into teaching an English class on my second day. I learned all about how to make a lesson plan, teach from the heart, and cater to speakers of many languages. I met amazing people- both teachers and students. I ate tapas and drank beer on the weekends with my fellow Oxford teachers. I went to Speaking Club on Thursday nights, cooked paella (or really watched people cook paella) and learned to navigate the Barcelona metro and supermarkets. It was honestly one of the most amazing times I’ve ever had. I made friends I know I’ll have for a lifetime.
Barcelona itself- the city is magical! There’s such a special, welcoming feel to it. I was there in January and February- low tourist season- so I feel like I got to experience the real deal. I visited all the major sites- Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia, churches, museums, the beach… everything. Honestly, it was heartbreaking to leave.
Once my 6 weeks were up I flew to Paris where I met my mom for a week. We stayed in an apartment across the Seine from the Louvre. There was a lot of cheese and wine, many museums, and of course the Eiffel Tower. My favorite part of the city was the Shakespeare & Company bookstore- I spent hours in there just reading and looking at books. Surprisingly, I was somewhat disappointed by Paris. Maybe it was because I was coming from Barcelona- a city so full of life and character- that Paris seemed stuffy and dull.
In Paris I met up with my Topdeck tour- a rowdy awesome bunch of Australians. We set off on 24 days around Europe… such an incredible journey. We started in Paris where we stayed in a shit hostel miles from the city center. We saw a topless cabaret show and drank wine. From Paris it was off to Switzerland in a big coach driven by an even rowdier Irishman whose favorite phrase was WOOPAH! The Swiss Alps in February are COLD. We stayed in a tiny town called Lauterbrunnen where we were surrounded by huge peaks. At night, with the snow falling, it was eerily silent. I took the coldest shower of my entire life in Lauterbrunnen when the machine for hot water wouldn’t take my money. We had a traffic light party in a small rustic bar and a few people went skiing during the day.
From Lauterbrunnen it was on to Italy- first stop Florence. Florence is by far my favorite Italian city. We had a walking tour and visited Ponte Vecchio. There was a karaoke night involving mass amounts of alcohol and everyone loosened up and started getting comfortable. From Florence we drove to Rome- we actually arrived just hours after Pope Benedict stepped down. In Rome there was the required toga party. I was able to meet up with friends from Barcelona during the day and saw the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and the outside of the Coliseum. From Rome we traveled to Venice, where we saw St. Mark’s Square, went up inside the bell tower, bought masks, and had a masquerade.
Italy to Austria- we made our way to Salzburg, Austria where there was strudel, The Sound of Music tour, and shopping. From Salzburg we went to Vienna and only had one night there- where I took advantage by iceskating on a huge rink outside a government building.
To be continued…