The Château de Versailles is, let’s face it, one of my most favourite places that I’ve ever visited. In my naivety I’d imagined that visiting it would be a bit like visiting a National Trust house back at home, and in a way it is…it is a rather large royal residence after all. But this Palace is off the scale of splendiferous, so large and ornate and full of stories that I was blown away and could not get enough of it. I spent a day there in August, and despite the fact that we were there for a good seven hours, I felt like we can’t have seen even half of what there is to explore.
Once upon a time, six girls and two guys (ie, myself and five friends) decided it would be a ruddy marvellous idea to go on a hen weekend in Paris, in celebration of one of my bestest pals Chris. Amongst other things, we bought with us a picnic basket, a selection of decorations for our AirBnB house, and a small child by the name of Noel. Don’t worry though- Noel’s mum was one of the six girl hens of the posse. He wasn’t just a random kid we picked up on the Eurostar as that would obviously have been really out of order. Our two days in Paris were jam packed with a whole load of extremely awesome things to do, so here for your reading pleasure is a blow by blow account of what exactly we did and the things I personally discovered along the way.
Our ship sailed into Lisbon one midday in April, gliding underneath a red suspension bridge which looked suspiciously similar to the Golden Gate Bridge and past the Statue of Christ the King (ie, not Christ the Redeemer as they have hanging out in Brazil) high on a hill overlooking the river. The springtime sun was gleaming and quite frankly I was having a whale of a time. And despite the two smaller versions of well-known landmarks we were greeted with, let me tell you this, Lisbon is a unique stunner of a city- the oldest one in Western Europe- and having only had a few days in April and a few days in August to visit, definitely a place I need to explore further. The whole place is a wash of different colours, with the look of a pastel coloured fairytale land about it- in my mind the colours of the buildings in Lisbon were decided in the style of the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty randomly aiming fire at Aurora’s dress (‘Pink!!!’ No, blue!’), and whilst I basically fell in love with the whole place and had a glorious time exploring, I also made a few critical errors whilst there. So here, for your reading pleasure is not just what you should do in Lisbon, but an opportunity to learn from my mistakes, pals, and realise what’s also really not a fantastic idea.
I watched a film a few days before we arrived in Reykjavik this Summer, and that film was called ‘Bokeh.’ You might have heard of it. Although you probs haven’t. It’s rather a low budget kind of film, in which not a lot happens; a young American couple go on holiday to Iceland (staying in Reykjavik, to be precise), and a couple of days into their holiday they discover that everyone else in the entire world has vanished. And that is IT, no reason given for the mass disappearance and no other massive developments in the plot after this mysterious event. Just two younguns, adjusting to life alone in one of the most isolated but beautiful parts of the entire world. I recommend watching it just because it showcases so much of the weird and wonderful scenery this country has to offer, though be prepared that it’s not your normal end-of-the-world Sci-fi blockbuster. What is striking about it is that it really hammers home just how isolated the country is; although technically part of Europe, it’s location is rather a long way away from every single other European country, and Reykjavik itself is the Northenmost capital city in the entire world, situated not too far from the Arctic Circle and therefore even before the fictional disappearance of humanity one of the quietest capital cities you are ever likely to set foot in. In the height of winter, the sun is up for a mere four hours, and in Summer (around the time I was there), it’s only set between midnight and around 3am. It is freaky you guys. Freaky, but pretty full on awesome at the same time, so here are some of the awesome things you can see while taking a visit yourself.
Most people head straight for Amsterdam when they take a trip to The Netherlands, which is understandable- it’s an awesome old city with a tonne of stuff to see and do and which is famous round the whole world. (For various reasons, know what I’m saying? Wink wink, nudge nudge and all that) But Rotterdam has a completely different vibe; Europe’s busiest port, it’s filled with abstract architecture and sleekly designed cafes, shops, bars and restaurants, as well as museums and galleries galore, all strung together with a series of bridges across the water. Truth be told, this place is just plain, downright cool, and the people are even cooler; I’m not gonna lie here guys, coolness is something that I often find rather intimidating, but fear not! In my experience, as a general rule Dutch people may be super cool but they are also super friendly and open to conversation. It’s a nice quality to have. Good on you, people of The Netherlands! I was able to explore the city when life just took me there by chance due to many overnight stays whilst our ship was docked there, and all I’m saying is, it is one full on interesting place with a completely different atmosphere to it’s more famous neighbour- far less touristy, way more like a living breathing bunch of people all being awesome together.
Perched on the South East corner of Spain (although some would argue that it’s not a Spanish city but a Catalan one) Barcelona is one of the most interesting and simultaneously downright AWESOME cities I have ever been to. Now that is quite a claim. The only reason that I even knew very much about the city at all prior to our visit was because of a book I once read, and loved: The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. You should definitely go and read it right this minute because it’s BRILLIANT.
Anyway. That is beside the point. We booked the flights and accommodation extremely last minute, which gave us some hefty and welcome savings; three of us altogether, exploring Barcelona for four days at the height of Summer, and here’s what I recommend doing if you happen to find yourself in the same glorious area for a short while anytime soon.