We went to Europe…uhhh…five months ago. Sheesh. Shame on me for neglecting such a treasure trove of moments that engaged our tastebuds, memories, and childlike glee. This was the fourth of four grand adventures Andrew and I planned for 2015, and it landed just ten days after our Pacific Northwest adventure. Unpacking, repacking, and working 7 of the 10 days in between meant that I hurried into Europe with no sense of anticipation. Zero. Counting down the days, dog-earing ideas in travel books, not being able to sleep due to excitement–these are the fruitful layers of longing that should always preface a grand trip. In that way, I did myself a disservice. However, we sucked the dang marrow out of the travel time we had in 2015, and for that, I give myself grace. All I know is that my friends at work were through with all our adventures: “I’m sorry, where you going now? Europe!?! Don’t talk to me.”
Everyone has a different way they want to experience Europe, and let’s be honest, how could you go wrong? Spend all your time in Italy? Okay, I could eat their food, roam their streets, and drool over their art all day. Visit ten countries in ten days. Why not? Cultural bootcamp at its finest. As a 19-year-old I spent my sophomore fall semester in Vienna, Austria. It was 2002, the last time the US dollar was stronger than the Euro, and we knew how to make those dollar bills stretch. I ate carrots and Nutella for lunch and washed my clothes in a bathtub. We also knew how to make the time stretch and used the ’10 countries/10 days philosophy’ as we planned our days off accordingly. If it was connected to the Eurail, we saw it, and saw it briefly. Again, why not?
The thing is, I just ain’t that girl anymore. So we approached our few week European tour not with a singular locale in mind, but not with a million either. Vienna was an obvious focus. We would spend a week there as I force-fed Andrew my manic memories. And since Andrew’s prior European experiences were isolated to Poland, we needed a splash of variety as well. Slovenia was a favorite destination of mine in the past and right next door to Austria–check. Barcelona was the most vibrant city I’d ever visited and it’s the polar opposite of Vienna–check, double check.
We ended up flying to Vienna–1 week. Rented a car and drove throughout Slovenia (Lake Bled, Ljubljana, Piran)–4 days. Drove back to Vienna, flew to Barcelona–4 days. Flew back to the US. Worked the next day. (“Don’t talk to me.”)
It truly was a joy to share such a beloved place with such a beloved partner. Andrew endured my rambles and my abrupt recollections. We met up with an old friend, drank melanges from Cafe Hawelka, walked the mystical grounds of Central Cemetery, gazed at everything Klimt-related, ate buckets of gelato, and were inspired by Hundertwasser’s colorful vision. Vienna was familiar and timeless. As always.
Slovenia and Barcelona were two sides of an exotic coin. The first was highlighted by castles, dragons, and coral-roofed coasts. We rowed a boat to a cathedral in the middle of a lake, for Pete’s sake. Barcelona proved just as vibrant 13 years later. The weather was perfection and the most touristy decision we made turned out to be an absolute highlight: Fat Tire Bike Tour. Holy moly, we felt like we were 12 years old riding around our own Catalan neighborhood. Endorphins for days.
So here’s to you, Europe, and all your sumptuous delights.