Europe Trip 2016 – A Look Back

Europe Trip 2016 – A Look Back

It’s crazy to think it’s been a year since Dean and embarked on our epic three week European vacation.  This time last year was our last day in Paris before our infamous journey to Prague.

Now that I’ve had a year to reflect, I want to talk about the things I loved and the things I would do different next time.

British Airways is awesome.

Seriously, I can not say enough how much I loved flying with British Airways.  The only downside is that as there is no direct flight to Heathrow from Edmonton anymore (thanks a lot Air Canada), we had to fly to Calgary first and then flew from Calgary to London.

As someone who honestly hates flying (seriously, I hate it and have really bad anxiety when flying too), I was so impressed with the plane we took to London.  It was their brand new 787 that I nicknamed “Big Momma” because that plane was huge and it was beautiful.  Plus, the crew inside were going to take good care of us.

As it was an overnight 8 hour flight, we chose to sit in Premium Economy (yes, I know not everyone can afford to do that but if you can, do it).  It wasn’t the first class seating with the fold down beds (that would have been an extra $4000 for one way), but the seats were big, comfy and you had tons of leg room.  The food on board was amazing (even though I only had the meal on the way back as I was asleep on the way there).

We even flew British Airways from Oslo back to London and it was great.

When it gets hot in London, it gets humid.

I was honestly not prepared for how hot and specifically, how humid it was in London when we were there.  The last time I was there, was for the Triathlon World Championships in 2013 and it was cold and pouring rain the entire time.

Because I did not think it would be so hot, I didn’t bring any shorts with me.  Next time, I would pack at least a couple of pairs just in case.

I guess when we were there, there was a bit of heat wave going on.  What sucked is that the air conditioner was broken in our first hotel room.  We were eventually moved to another room in the hotel that promised the air conditioner was working, but when Dean and I both woke up at 1am sweating, we were pissed.  The temperature was at 25 degrees Celsius and the person who came up to our room to look at the thermostat tried to say that’s “room temperature”.  It’s not.  We understand Celsius as we are Canadian.  We left our things and and moved to a third room down the hall as we were both so tired and angry at this point.  Enough to say that we will not be staying there again whenever we go back.

I want to spend more time going to museums in London.

I have been to the Natural History museum in London (highly recommend it) and the Tower or London but that’s it.  I want to actually spend more time next time hitting up more museums and art galleries next time.

The dodo skeleton at the Natural History Museum in London

I would not take the 7am train to Paris again.

That was so early.  There was a lot of caffeine consumed as I know I was still dealing with jet lag at that time.  Plus, we couldn’t check into our hotel till later so we left our things in a locked room at the hotel.

I would stay in an Airbnb apartment next time in Paris.

We stayed at an Aparthotel near the Paris Opera House (the Palais Garnier) and it was fine, but was insanely tiny and you could hear the metro station below you.

Next time I want to stay somewhere that has a full kitchen (like we had in Prague) so I could cook our own meals.  While I love going out to eat, I get sick of it very quick and it gets very expensive, very quick.  I love the idea of going to market to pick up some food and wine and sitting around a nice table having a home cooked meal (especially one that is Parisian inspired).

I would do a cooking/food tour next time in Paris.

Friends of ours did one in Prague and loved it.  I thought what better place to really explore food than Paris. As Paris is such a haven for food and has an entire culture that revolves around eating, it would be an amazing experience to do a tour and see some of the non-touristy spots and learn some more of the history of Parisian cuisine.

The Moulin Rouge was fun.

Moulin Rouge is one of my favourite movies of all time, so when Dean asked if I wanted to go to a show there, of course I said yes.  While it’s not quite what you see in the movie (nothing ever is), it was still a lot of fun.  The show had everything from magic tricks, to singing dancing and a lot of toplessness.

Before the show, we did a river cruise along the Sienne and supper.  Despite the fact that it was raining (the boat was covered), it was still a really cool way to see Paris.

The Musee d’Orsay is a must see.

Yes, the Louvre is amazing.  Yes, seeing the Mona Lisa in real life is also amazing.  But, the Louvre is busy and it’s huge, and it’s almost impossible to see everything in a single day, as well as trying to push through throngs of tourists is a less than pleasant challenge. But, I honestly really loved the Musee d’Orsay.  Seriously, the building alone has so much history to it.  Plus you get to see Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and paintings from Toulouse-Lautrec.

The Starry Night – Van Gogh

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (one of my favourite artists)

NEVER TAKE THE BUS FROM GERMANY TO PRAGUE!

While I go into the full story HERE , it was massive lesson learned that sometimes flying is your better option, anxiety be damned. I’ll take a 2 hour flight over a 10 hour party bus any day.

I can’t wait to go back to Prague.

Seriously, I have never been more impressed with a city in my life.  As Dean nor I had ever been, we honestly did not know what to expect.  I can truly say that it became one of my favourite cities.

Between how beautiful everything there is, the food was unreal (and unbelievably cheap) and it was place where we both felt safe.  Sadly, we honestly did not feel quite as safe in Paris compared to the last time (for obvious reasons) and it’s the only place where I ever had to have my bag searched at every place I went and saw officers and military on the streets with the rifles in hand at all time. While we saw security in Prague, it was not even close to what we saw in Paris (or even London).

Old Town Square Apartments are amazing.

Thankfully Dean and I had the absolute pleasure of travelling with and staying in Prague with our friends Tony and Lisa.  Lisa is basically a travel ninja and found the most amazing apartments to stay in for the week we were there.  They had two separate living spaces, a full kitchen (which we all loved), laundry and a really nice sitting area where we all watched a lot of Netflix.  Old Town Square was about a 5-10 minute walk from where we were and there was an awesome coffee shop that we all frequented everyday.

We were a block away from an amazing coffee shop called Bakeshop. We would regularly shop there for coffee and dessert and they had the biggest meringues I have ever seen!

I could spend a full day just at the Prague Castle

We got there in mid afternoon and found there was just not enough time to fully see everything.

If you do ever go, I hope you enjoy climbing stairs and walking on a constant uphill.

Three weeks is too long for me.

I’ll be honest in saying that by the time we got to Oslo, I was ready to go home.  It’s unfortunate as even though I enjoyed Oslo, I was over living out of suitcase by that time and wanted to go home.

Oslo was our last stop before we headed back to London and back to Canada.  While it was beautiful, it rained most of the time.  The rain by that time had matched the mood I was in.

You need more than a couple of hours to see the Fram Museum

There are three separate museums in one area and sadly due to time, we only got to one.  It was still pretty cool though.

The ship that did explorations to the North and South poles

Vikings are legit badasses.

If you do ever go to Oslo, you have to go to the Viking Ship museum.  It was awesome!

The Viking Ship Museum

It’s crazy to think of dozens of explorers in pre-Columbian eras crammed onto these boats, travelling to Iceland, and even Newfoundland in Canada, establishing trade routes and conquering lands on boats that were surprisingly small and seemingly fragile.

Food (and everything) is crazy expensive in Oslo.

It was quite the sticker shock going from a place like Prague (where food is so cheap and so good) to Oslo where food is expensive (and very average).  Lunch at a TGI Friday’s for a basic salad and water was $70 Canadian (no, I’m not joking).  The average supper in Oslo cost us around $200.  Thankfully we were only there for four nights. As amazing as the culture and community seem to be, if you’re a tourist and not used to it, it can be a bit jarring to see those prices.

Overall, it was an amazing trip that I will always remember.  As of now, there’s no big trips (for us) planned for this year.  2018 though will likely see us heading back to Prague and then finally travelling to where we have always wanted to go, Italy!

Planning for that has already started.

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