Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I JUST finished editing my photos from my time spent in Europe in 2017. Yes, almost two years to complete editing and finally being able to sit down, cull, sort, and fine tune edit 600 photos. Woah.
In 2017, my fiance Chris and I visited 5 countries in 4 weeks. Our purpose for travel was two-fold: for one, I had just graduated with my Bachelor of Commerce degree in the spring and was ready for my first European adventure! Secondly, it fell nicely because Chris was heading to Poland at the end of July to dance in an international dance festival there called "Światowy Festiwal Polonijnych Zespołów Folklorystycznych Rzeszów 2019."
Say that 10 times fast.
All of my recommendations and small tips are based on short travel times in each city/country. The cities that we visited were Glasgow, London, Rome, Salzburg, Zakopane, Krakow and Rzeszow. This blog will only expand on the first 4 cities because Poland deserves its own blog post.
1. Glasgow, Scotland
Ahh, Glasgow, arguably my favourite city of the whole trip and honestly? It wasn't really technically on our schedule! We flew into Glasgow with Westjet because it was honestly one of the most affordable flights we could find. I had no real desire to visit or tour Glasgow at the time.
The people here are SO kind, like Canadian-level kind! Also, it was excellent ease into European culture in a country that spoke my language. We ended up arriving in Glasgow at 8:30 am, and I refused to let jetlag and exhaustion get in the way of starting our vacation. I personally don't sleep in on vacation - what about you??
Here are my top visits in Glasgow:
Meadow Road Coffee: if you know me, you know that I'm a coffee snob/nerd/enthusiast. Meadow Road Coffee was right across the street from our Airbnb and were lifesavers as the sleepy Canadians, fresh off the plane, walked into the cafe looking for coffee before they were able to check into their apartment. They served proper, third wave coffee and were delightful to chat with.
Buchanan Street Shopping: our Airbnb host suggested this shopping district to us, and it did not disappoint! It reminded me of something you would find in Montreal or New York. Be careful actually spending money there though, the Pound to CAD conversion is brutal!
University of Glasgow: Now THERE'S a real university! Wow. We didn't officially tour the campus, but we walked around and let it take our breath away! It reminded me of Hogwarts! Did you know? The University of Glasgow is the 4th-oldest English speaking University in the world!
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Mueseum:
Ashton Lane: this was our last stop in Glasgow before heading out to London the following day. The cobblestoned back alley is a vibrant place to eat and drink! We enjoyed fish and chips at the Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen.
Bonus Point: the subway/tube system in Glasgow is so simple to use. It's one big loop around the city so if you miss your stop, just hold tight! You'll get back there eventually!
2. London, England
You'll find this list much shorter as we literally had an 8-hour layover (or so) in London. We spent one afternoon in the city, stored our bags for the day and took our own walking tour. We also spent way too much money (approx $40 each) using the London Express to take us from the Airport to Victoria Station in half an hour. Don't be like us. Use your money for better things!
Our departure from Victoria station took us walking distance to the main sites though!
Buckingham Palace: Way too many people, but it was so fun to see where the Queen lives! I always only saw these places on TV so to see it in real life was exciting!
Westminster Abbey & St. Margarets Church: our stroll took us to these grand spectacles of architecture. Again, so many people but London was so beautiful!
The London Eye: Again, we just looked at it, we didn't ride it. We did stop at a nearby McDonald's though because we were in desperate need of wifi and water. London is sweaty in the summer - dress accordingly.
Big Ben: I'm glad that we passed and I was able to photograph Big Ben because I believe that this time around it'll be under construction/renovation and unable to be seen.
London was short and sweet, but if you're on a tight budget and not there for long, it is possible to see all the sites without completely breaking the bank!
3. Rome, Italy
I guarantee you that I'm crying or will start crying as I write this. Rome is Disneyland for me. Rome is the Catholic Church and pasta and pizza and everything I love in life. Rome is heat and culture and loudness and prayer.
Airbnb: I'm going to link our Airbnb here because it's a gold mine and I want everyone to know about it. We had air conditioning in our ROOM. Not just in the entire apartment, but in our own room. That was huge! Rosa was also excellent because she waited up for us even though we arrived in Rome very late (around 10:00 pm) and were so hungry. She let us into our Airbnb then directed us to Al Jolly Ristorante, a nearby restaurant. I was in heaven.
Vatican City: I mean, duh. As a cradle Catholic, this was EVERYTHING to me. We pre-scheduled the 4-hour tour and never looked back.
Okay, that's not entirely true. I genuinely love being Catholic, but I don't think that I will ever do this tour again. And if I do, it'll be to skip the line and then go pray in St. Peter's on my own. A 4-hour tour of anywhere in +30C heat and huge crowds aren't good for anyone. I'm so grateful that we were able to be there, but I preferred our early Sunday morning, private, mass experience.
SIDEBAR: Chris proposed after the 4-hour tour, so it wasn't THAT bad.
We went back early Sunday morning (I think like 8:00 am) for Sunday mass, and that was much better. No lines, no security, just people who were there to pray and receive Christ. We snuck into a Spanish mass that was being said at one of the side-alters in St. Peter's and I am still so grateful for that experience.
Pergamino Caffe: Chris and I had a fundamental rule during our trip called the 2/3s rule. We spent two-thirds of our day together; touring, sleeping, eating, hanging out, whatever. Then we spent one-third of our day separate. It was so important! Time apart meant that we'd have something to talk about when we came back together and also gave us the opportunity to just breathe separately. Chris really loved the Hop-on, hop-off tour buses and I really liked coffee shops. I spent a few hours one day at the Pargamino Caffe which can be found at the North-East side of the Vatican, outside the walls. 10/10 recommend for excellent service and great coffee.
4. Salzburg, Austria
Austria is the birthplace of music and the home of the Sound of Music, and I loved every second of it. It indeed is a little fairytale within itself.
The Sound of Music Bus Tour: BONUS IT'S A SING-ALONG BUS TOUR! This day was the most fun. Chris and I spent the night before watching the (whole) movie so that we were both ready for this tour! They play clips of the film as you go which is great because then they stop at where you are in the movie. I cannot recommend this tour enough! It's so fun and so beautiful! Also, you really learn the inside scoop about the film and its production.
Hotel Sacher Salzburg: this whole area and the river, in general, are lovely to walk down. The Hotel was where Julie Andrews stayed while she was filming the Sound of Music (what a queen!). Chris and I spent our first evening walking across the Love Locks Bridge and strolling through the street corners. On the opposite side of that lock bridge from the Hotel, there's a spot for cruises of the river, and right near that, there's was a hotdog and beer stand. LET ME TELL YOU, that was the best hotdog and best radler that I've ever had.
Stiegl-Brauwelt: This was fun. We walked here and don't ask me how because I'm pretty sure it was a 30-minute walk both ways, but it was worth it! The tour itself was interesting and only about 45-minutes. We ended with a drink or two in the garden restaurant.
BONUS POINTS: I noticed that Red Bull was on the menus in restaurants around Salzburg a lot and then learned that their head office is there. We passed by it on the Sound of Music tour, and it seemed really cool! I would try to get a trip there next time if I could!
These 4 cities were wonderful visits and places to temporarily call home. I've linked all of the Airbnb's that we stayed in so please check them out if you're planning on visiting the area! I haven't touched on Poland, but we spent about the same amount of time there as we spent in these 4 cities, so I'm going to save the Poland blog post for another day!
Let me know your comments and questions below! I'd love to hear from you.