Be it the muse of artists, a paradise for chocolate-lovers or the city of freedom, if I had to summarize my Euro Trip in one word, I would be rendered speechless- maybe, for the lack of better vocabulary or an inability to cover it within such restricted lines.
Europe has so much to offer to everyone- the artist looking for an inspiration, a nomad on the road, an academician on an educational tour, a man of its own origin- you just can’t get enough of it when you’re there, and you just can’t cover it in words, when you’re not.
One word? I don’t know, how I will be able to summarize it at all! What do I start with?
The cultural encounter that proved all typical stereotypes people have about these places, wrong? Everything, from the cobblestone streets to the quaint villages; cities built on the history of their ruins to the ones creating a history of their own? A man in Netherlands can walk by the same road each day and still discover something new. I am still, a passing traveller.
Nevertheless, I’ll make an attempt to do so. Perhaps, finding myself taking reroutes often but doing my best to cover my experiences into a written account. So, here goes my version.
My wife and I had always had the Euro Trip on our to-do list but due to all possible circumstances related to working middle-class millennials, this trip stayed prisoned on the list for the longest time. Finally, being touched by a nomadic inspiration, an internal push to discover the unknown, a thrill to learn about the world through its open book and well, an year-end bonus and some free time- we ultimately decided, if not now, then really when?
After all, you don’t make out time for travelling but rather you make out time for work, classes, duties and responsibilities- travelling is the life you live in-between all that.
We had initially planned on marking London as our first go-to spot in the Euro Trip but due to certain circumstances, the ongoing World Cup being one of them, we thought we’d stick to Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Putting the Indian spirit to test, we managed to get an amazing deal on MakeMyTrip, one that cost us ₹66,000 (both ways) for the flights along with a ₹20,000 cashback. Our Visa also arrived in 3 days.
We had planned our itinerary in such a way that we landed in Paris first and then immediately travelled to Amsterdam, coming back to the City of Love at the ending cycle of the trip. We were fuelled by the perception that Paris would be the ultimate shopping stop for the trip and a great pack-up of the whole experience, and even though, Paris did manage to surprise us wonderfully in many ways- shopping didn’t make it to the list.
Our first encounter with the “City of Love- Paris” was unapologetically brief before we reached our first destination of the trip via the thalys- Amsterdam.
AMSTERDAM: A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Amsterdam isn’t a place of one origin, it speaks of its history, its culture and its artistic heritage through world-famous museums, beautiful canals and the work its people left behind.
That’s the first thing you notice about the city. It’s tendency to adapt to the “new” while staying in touch with the “old”- Amsterdam is a tale of two cities- a cultural and contemporary one.
There’s a lot to do and many places to visit in Amsterdam but on one fine day, there’s nothing more special and memorable than just taking a stroll in the streets of the city and getting lost by the beautiful canals.
We spent good four days in the capital and hence had sufficient time to spend between the Amsterdam of the locals and the Amsterdam of the tourists.
A visit to the Vang Gogh Museum and Rijkmuseum is surely recommended. Even if you’re not a history buff or do not understand the “abstraction” of artwork in general- these places are the historical treasures of Amsterdam. If you’re on of those who remember Van Gogh as “the guy who cut off his ear,” you’re in for one major rollercoaster ride.
The museum is open everyday and the entrance charge for adults is 15 Euros and nothing for children.
We also stopped by the red light area or as the Dutch call it ,”De Wallen” and made sure to pay a visit to “Oude Kerk”, Amsterdam’s oldest building and the oldest Parish Church. Even though, we had heard rumours of theft and in general, the boogieman in the lanes of the red light area, we were fortunately blessed with another day.
P.S.- We were really looking forward to visiting the “Anne Frank House” but unfortunately, we couldn’t get the tickets due to the insane demand for them.
ROTTERDAM, GEITHOORN AND ZAANSE SCHANS- ONE DAY PICNICS
Will you live here for the rest of your lives? Yes.
Can you afford to spend one more day as a tourist here? No.
This sums up our one day trips to each one of them.
A city known for its maritime history- Rotterdam, the picturesque quaint town of Giethoorn and the open- air museum of Zaanse Schans.
The places came along as a breath of fresh air when visiting Netherlands, although they can be “touristy” as well but it’s nothing compared to the capital.
Everything has something new to offer. Be it Zaanse Schans where you can experience life as the Dutch lived it or Geithoorn, a town with no roads. They are perfect destinations for day-trips to get those insta-worthy photographs and a visual feast.
Big ups to Sven, a close friend, who showed us around Amsterdam and his hometown, Rotterdam and our Air BnB host, Victoria for the warmest welcome and stay in Amsterdam.
Thus, with Amsterdam, ended one of the most memorable parts of our Europe Trip. From Amsterdam, we took a Flixbus to Belgium, the journey lasting for around 3-4 hours.
BRUSSELS- COMIC STRIPS, FRIES, CHOCOLATES AND WAFFLES
Brussels is a city that will continue to humorously astound you. A classic example of this is the Manneken Pis- a popular public fountain in the city, a hero of many tales and a mascot with many theories behind its existence.
Brussels is quite a small city so we spent one day here, like the rest of our destinations in Belgium. Even if you don’t have any plans as such, and wander around the city like us- you will come across its many specialties unknowingly- like the waffle shops at the corner, the comic strip walls, its iconic little statues and its amazingly delicious fries.
GHENT- MEDIEVAL OLD TOWN
With relatively more popular cities around like Brussels and Bruges, Ghent tends to be overlooked by many tourists or serves as a city-break destination for many others but in my opinion, the place has so much to offer- if not more- than many of its neighbours.
Get a look at beautiful medieval castles like Gravensteen, stroll through the Kouter Flower Market and grab a bouquet on the way or have photography sessions in front of the gritty street arts– for our one day trips in Belgium- Ghent proved to be a memorable one.
BRUGES- THE CHOCOLATE TOUR
Finally, in Bruges, I unleashed my chocolate addict and most of our day was spent checking out chocolate shops and cafes. We managed to find this one amazing shop by the name of “Daya Chocolates” that gave us the savoury, sweet delights at an affordable price.
Bruges was also our shopping spree destination. Even though, we were saving our shopping maniacs for Paris, Bruges all in all was quite light on the pocket and the shopping got done on a shoe-string budget.
STOP 3- FRANCE
From Bruges, we took another Flixbus (5-6 hours) to reach Paris.
PARIS – THE CITY OF LOVE AND LIGHT
So, by the time we reached Paris, we were already expecting a lot of things, for better or for worse. We had heard some rumours that France can be unsafe. Again, never encountered any situation that gave it validation.
Most of our time commuting in France was spent on the e-cycles and the metro buses (Tip: If you plan to stay in France for more than five days, you should but the pack of 12 in Paris to make traveling in buses cheaper).
Yes, we did go to the must-visit places like Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Cathedrale Notre- Dame de Paris, but the best part of Paris was spent on its streets. Paris was more of a feeling, an experience of the variant hues the city had to offer and its altogether vibe. Although, the place is touristy, it fits the bill for every kind of traveller.
However, our much-awaited shopping trip was a downer. Paris was too expensive for our liking and didn’t have anything different to offer in this sphere than the rest of Europe. Although, the food tours did manage to make up for it for the most part.
Four days spent in the city of lights and our romantic rendezvous came to an end. With this we bid adieu to our much-awaited Europe Trip. We again boarded our flights via Dubai Airport. I had already received the confirmation notification for the “Digital Travel Influencers Convention” in Amsterdam. Hence, one trip led to another and I boarded my flight to Malaysia midway.
All the pictures on this blog and my trip were shot on the Fujifilm XT-3.