So as I reminisce a lot these holidays… I’ll turn back time and start going into my previous holidays! ^^ I still enjoy it just thinking about them, and I really miss all the times back then;;; Even though time can’t really be turned back anymore, and I’ve experienced it already and the same experience won’t ever come again, but these are all in my memories and there they will remain forever~ I’ll always treasure and remember the times back then. As I move and look forward, I’ll learn from the past, I’ll appreciate the past, but hopefully I won’t get stuck in them ^^;
So anyway, in this post I’ll be recounting my 2010 Europe tour! ^^ It was my first time out of Asia and it was a fantastic tour really. My family and I went to Italy, Switzerland, then France. We were supposed to end off in London but if you remember, that year the snowfall was heavy in London and the airports were closed… So was the express train to London from France. So we had to take a long, long bus ride if we wanted to go to London, which eventually the rest of the tour group did, but we didn’t because my second sister and my mother fell quite sick back then and my dad couldn’t risk going back late because he had work right after Christmas. So we stayed extra days in Paris and flew back on Christmas Day~ it was my first and so far, only time spending Christmas in a 10 to 12 hour direct flight back here~
All my recounts here include my thoughts and recollections and are by no means accurate since that happened quite a few years ago! But they’re just some of the fond bits of my memory which I’ll share. (:
To begin… We transited in Dubai and then flew to Rome, Italy first. Rome was amazing. The medieval buildings throughout Europe are just amazing and until now I still really love those kind of architecture.
I can’t really remember what we did on that day we landed. It was definitely bright and we began sightseeing.
Around late afternoon to evening we went into Vatican City, the smallest country in the world. The border between Vatican City and Italy was really just a line running along a road! Once we stepped over we were considered in another country. And that was pretty cool to me back then since I was pretty young… :3
In Vatican City we went to visit the church. But before that we stood in the centre of it, where there were huge towering pillars all around.
There’re actually three pillars per row supporting the building. There’s this one point at the centre of the ‘square’ that if you stand there, all the three pillars in every row are aligned no matter where you look. I found the spot and it was pretty cool seeing all the pillars aligned. You only see the front pillars~
The sky then was pretty cool. One thing that struck me upon touchdown was that the Italian sky was unusually clear. There weren’t many clouds and later on when the clouds appeared they formed a magnificent view of the sky.
I visited the church at Vatican City. One thing about the Roman architecture is that they have lots of carvings and drawings on the wall and every inch has been intricately designed. There’s a lot to look out for when looking at such medieval designs and I thought that was cool…
How often do you get to enter a church and stand in the hallway looking down at a completely empty aisle? For me it’s not often and standing at the centre of a tabernacle was, needless to say, a pretty rare thing. I think there’s a sense of grandness you get from visiting such a grand and holy place and being one of the few people there, because that’s when you get to really appreciate its grandeur and the mightiness of the place itself. It’s when you get to feel the place for itself without being bothered by people. So I really liked the place there.
It was getting dark when we left Vatican City. The weather was definitely awesome because it was mid-December when I visited Europe so it was winter ^_^
On the night of the first day we visited the Colosseum. The Colosseum is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and it’s the largest amphitheatre in the world. Of course, from these pictures none of its grandeur or splendor can really be seen, but when I saw the Colosseum for myself that night I wow-ed. It’s really huge and the Europe feels were all over me;;; It was pretty late at night and because of jet-lag I was definitely tired but I’m very glad I didn’t miss this one!
I don’t remember what we did on the second day. But I tried the supposedly best ice cream in the world in Italy! Whilst many people tried wine I ate a plain single scoop of vanilla ice cream. Looks can be deceiving.
It REALLY tasted delicious. It had a special taste which I can’t describe because that was so long ago but it really was one of the most unique tastes I’ve acquired so far.
Another point in the Italy trip was of course visiting one of the seven wonders of the world, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa! At first when I went to the area I saw the larger building surrounding the leaning tower and it was only when I focused on it did I really see that it was leaning slightly to one side. And seeing it with my own eyes was honestly not a very big deal, although it did give me a sense of awe.
I vaguely remember stopping by some pizza stall on the way back after seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Because we had some free and easy time after that my family and I walked around looking at things and finally stopped by a small stall.
The stalls in Italy, or I would say generally overseas as compared to my country, are mostly lined up along the streets on the first floor, and there’re all kinds of stalls available as you walk down a street. Depending on the location here that’s not widely everywhere here. I guess that’s a cultural learning experience I get when I’m overseas, especially in places like Hong Kong – the street-lined shops are practically everywhere.
When we went to Italy we visited the towns Rome, Pisa, Verona, Venice, Florence and Milan (in no particular order) and there might have been more but I can’t really remember~ so now I’ll move on to Venice!
Venice – the low-lying island off Italy. In Social Studies I learnt Venice as a chapter, its rise and its fall as a metropolitan city in the earlier centuries. But when I went there I hadn’t learnt of that, and anyway that’s not what I’ll be recounting here.
We took a boat to Venice. It was cold, really cold. The sea breeze combined with the already very low temperatures made it a freezing ride on the boat with seagulls (or maybe it was pigeons, crows or eagles) flying overhead.
Venice was a beautiful city. Starting by walking until we found the main square of the city the walk was a pleasant and a chilling one. In Europe I often experienced the biting cold of winter, and walking along the sea was just brrr. The sights were nice except that Venice is pretty old and the buildings were old. But they all held its own history and secrets.
In the town square this was the first thing I saw. And the thing I could see from the distance – the clock tower.
The clock tower is apparently an icon of Venice although I won’t be explaining it.
The buildings around the square were similar to the rest of Europe – intricate carvings and sculptures. The church building at the square was filled with carefully-carved designs, decorations and statues.
You can see it too. Each painting is detailed and actually upon closer look the facial features can also be clearly seen because they did it beautifully. They really put a lot of effort into their buildings and their work then. Quite different from modern architecture – whilst modern architecture is detailed as well, most of the buildings here are smooth. The design is sleek and definitely not showing different levels or colours or messages at different parts of the building. For example, my church is nothing like the church in Venice. To begin with, there isn’t a huge long hall with wooden chairs lined neatly all the way. My church is really modern and in the sanctuary it’s filled with rows of individual cushioned chairs. That gives off a very different feel.
One thing I could commonly see around the square, not just in Venice but throughout Europe, were the pigeons. They weren’t just normal pigeons – they were big and really, really fat pigeons. I don’t know if that’s their breed or they really ate a lot or they just had a lot of fats to protect them from the cold. But the pigeons were really bold and they stole food craftily.
There were many things going on around the square, but I don’t remember. The next thing we did was that we headed over to the river to ride a gondola! It’s the term they use for their own boats which cruise along the narrow waters between buildings. But before that, and that’s something which left a pretty amazing impression on me, I found out that I had to pay to use a public restroom – and it wasn’t just a mere 10 cents like they have here in certain places only (otherwise toilets are all free) – it cost me £1.50 which is almost $3 here…!!! :O
Anyhow our gondola was guided. As we went along the ‘streets’ of Venice we saw steps leading literally from houses into the water. It was probably their back door or fire escape route or something. But the river channels were narrow and Venice was old. The buildings were old and it was evident that the cement had corroded with long-time contact with the water and there was a lot of miss growing on the walls of the buildings. To add on, the water wasn’t clean at all. Even though I’d say that the gondola ride was pleasant, it was cold and it had been an eye-opener. However one thing which I was proud to see was Mozart’s red house, and whilst I saw it only from a distance, it had an important feel to it, as if it still stands as the building which housed the great musician Mozart.
I was really glad to emerge out into the open river channel, I’ll admit that. But it marked the end of an experience – although there’s more up ahead!
After the gondola ride we went to visit a glass factory. I’d never seen so much glass in my life before. Glass of so many different glasses, designs, shapes, thickness, quality and levels of intricacy – glass-making was really an art passed down from the earlier centuries and till today it stays in Venice.
They made glass in that factory itself, and I remember the guide from the factory explaining a lot of things I never knew about glass. I did buy one which wasn’t as expensive as it could be and I was pleased with the design (no picture of it though). I remember the trip to the glass factory left me satisfied for some reason, and it was our last stop in Venice before we took the boat back to the mainland at dusk.
Touring Europe like this definitely included a lot of travelling time on the bus. We took the bus everywhere, from city to city and from country to country. But it was all part of the valuable experience I had taken away with me till today and I’m glad I tried it. I was happy to be able to try it despite the long hours of being cramped on the bus, and I didn’t feel that it was as long as it sounded because I had been fascinated with the surroundings outside. Learn to enjoy every moment of a trip, and you’ll enjoy the whole trip. (:
Now on to another part of the trip – Florence in Italy. I’m remember being very awed with Florence for some reason. Perhaps it was visiting some church and learning something really cool about it (but I can’t remember what it was!!!), but Florence did strike me somehow.
It was night when we toured Florence. I remember walking through some narrower roads with tall buildings on either side. And the tour guide talked about a great flood which had happened some time ago in Florence. He/she pointed out a mark running through the buildings three metres above the ground – that was how high the flood waters had been, and they had left a mark on the buildings.
The river in Florence was nice and cooling, and I really felt a coolness whilst walking along it. There was also some sort of a mini waterfall in the middle of the river when the river level changed.
My family had been really tired, especially my two younger sisters, and I remember being the only one following the tour guide and being interested and active. A Europe tour was simply cool for me. Actually we went to Europe that year because I randomly suggested Italy lol and there we went~
I don’t remember whether it was Florence or Milan where I saw this church. But an interesting point I learnt about this church was that it was built over 500 years, which meant that different generations had built different parts of the church and completed it! Look at how intricate and complicated it is – each detail has been carefully carved out, with no part left undone. It was a very big and long church, maybe it was the biggest in Europe, I can’t remember, but different parts of the church had different styles of architecture due to the different centuries, trends, architects and times as the 500 years went by. That was pretty awesome.
I’ll move on to Milan, where we were given free and easy time to shop. Although I didn’t really buy anything but I remember the scene at the huge square. It was night time and it was freezing cold, with a gentle breeze ripping through my hair. But there were lights everywhere, and a mega huge Christmas tree at the centre of the square. I took note of the different lighted signs, particularly the pharmacy for some reason, and from my memory my family had gone into the basement of a restaurant to eat either western food or pizza. It had been warm and cosy then and it had been a relief from the cold outside.
We went into the shopping alley as I call it – a long row of shops. The shops were mostly those branded shops because I vaguely remember seeing or stepping into Louis Vuitton. The branded goods are slightly cheaper in Europe as compared to the prices here but that’s not important because we didn’t buy anything… haha. What I noted was not the throng of shoppers (it was really very crowded!), but it was the design of the dome at the centre of the shelter covering the entire shopping alley/street.
It created a very grand, majestic and festive feel. I didn’t know that even shopping, or walking along the streets for me, could make me feel this grand. You’ll find nothing like this here, so it was the first time I was seeing something like that, and it caught my attention.
So far during the trip it had only snowed at night. I hadn’t actually seen it snowing yet – until we went to Verona.
Verona, the town of Romeo and Juliet. Of course we visited Romeo and Juliet’s balcony. There were quite a lot of tourists there and to get to the courtyard where you could see their balcony you had to walk through two gates. The place was pretty old, which gave off all the unique medieval and homely feels which I love.
Romeo and Juliet’s balcony (:
I only saw snow when we reached Verona. Although I didn’t have a powerful camera to capture the tiny snowflakes falling from the sky, it was the first time I was actually seeing it snowing and it was amazing. The Christmas feel was here. The winter feel was here.
In Verona we ate ice cream despite the cold and we also bought some embroidered stuff. The shopkeeper sewed on our names and the town’s name on-the-spot for us. It was really pretty and they’re really skilled at it – they were precise and quick.
I don’t know where this was, as in which town in Italy. But we visited this huge old castle. It was really gigantic. The grounds were open and spacious despite being enclosed by these high walls on all four sides and it was covered with grass and snow (mostly white snow covering the grass anyway). Other than that I don’t remember much about this castle, except for its size.
Somewhere through our trip in Italy we stayed at this hotel, Ripamonti Residence. What struck me when I first went there was that it was HUGE. And there were definitely a lot of rooms. I remember getting lost trying to find our rooms – we even got confused with which floor we were on and had to go up and down looking for our room. The hallways were long, very long, and quiet, and I remember it interested me because it felt like there were secrets hiding behind every door. Excuse me because I was pretty young back then ^^;
The room was also huge. I vaguely remember having two rooms which were unfortunately separated on different floors so my family was split into two! There was a bedroom with a king-sized bed and there was the living room, and even a kitchen area (I think). The room was wooden and was pretty dark, but I kind of liked it.
This was a model they had.
Anyway, now that I’m sort of done with recounting Italy, I’ll move on to the second stage of my holiday. This was the place I had dreamed of going ever since my parents went there for their honeymoon when I was ten. There are a few places I always liked and I still particularly love – New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada. Although I grew to love more countries such as Finland after I went there on a school trip, I’ve always loved these three countries and I’m proud to say I’ve visited two of them (: Anyway, on to the place of my dreams, the land of mountains, chocolate and snow – Switzerland!
The trip there was in no way short. It was a really, really long bus ride winding through snowy mountains from daylight till the sun set, and even then we were still travelling. I really loved the scenery outside though, so when the bus was quiet and most people were sleeping on the journey to Switzerland from Italy, including my little sister who was beside me, I was the only one by the window, gazing out at the scenery. Did I mention I LOVE mountains and the countryside?
The journey there was tranquil and beautiful. It only made me love Switzerland more, love the countryside more. And from the place we first went to – Interlaken, I fell in love with the place. I’m not a fan of big cities although sadly I live in an urban area and I’m studying about urban environments (=_=””). I just love the countryside, its natural beauty, and the freedom I feel when I’m there. Much more relaxing and breathable.
So as I mentioned, we first went to Interlaken, where we stayed at this hotel which didn’t allow any water on the floor of its bathroom because it didn’t have a drainage system to allow the water to escape somewhere.
We went out to walk that night, and my dad brought us to a restaurant which he and my mum went on their honeymoon. It specialises in hot chocolate fudge with marshmallows.
Bebbis Restaurant is apparently a famous restaurant in Interlaken. There wasn’t just food, but entertainment during dinner as well. There was this guys dressed up who went around the restaurant parading tricks, stunts and some jokes. I can’t remember what sort of performance he put up, but he definitely caught everyone’s attention, and I vaguely remember that he impersonated someone too. I can’t clearly remember if it was the boss itself who did all the entertainment though.
The marshmallows with chocolate honestly tasted a little weird then, but since I was there I wasn’t too bothered by it. That’s all I remember.
The next day… I don’t remember what we did the three(?) days in Interlaken. We didn’t follow the tour group to Berne because my mother fell sick. So my dad brought us out to walk and see the quiet cold town.
There was lots and lots of snow, and an actual level crossing. I got to see a train crossing and we had to wait at the sides. That was the first and only time I’ve ever seen such a thing as I’d always read in books and seen in shows.
We played with snow, I remember. That thrill when walking on fresh snow fallen the night before, on snow that no one had stepped on before. We stopped by the roadside and played with snow while walking 😀 The pond wasn’t frozen and i got to see ducks swimming around in the freezing water. How they stand that, I don’t know.
Interlaken’s like a quiet town surrounded by mountains on all sides. That was pretty cool since I like mountains, and I actually felt much closer to nature for once. I felt relaxed, I was happy, and I was experiencing what I’d always wanted to feel and experience. What could be better than that?
Before leaving Interlaken I bought this box of chocolates with the Switzerland map on it. Switzerland’s a landlocked country but it’s short of nothing – it’s rich, and it’s terribly mountainous. It’s like the entire country’s made up of mountains. The map in the box of chocolates I bought was sort of 3D and it had bulges all over it, indicating the height and size of each and every mountain, and information about Switzerland. I think I still have that cool map somewhere.
Next we went on to one of the high mountains in Switzerland, Mount Titlis. It was -10°C up on that mountain to which we took a few cable cars to reach the top.
And boy, was it cold. But magnificent.
That’s what being on top of the world is.
The view was, summed up in one word, magnificent. It’s during these moments that you stand quietly at the top, silent taking in your surroundings and appreciating the beauty and the mightiness and the magnificence of Mother Nature and God’s creations, soaking in how perfect every mountain is, how big each landform is, how the quiet, desolate snow-capped mountains stand undeterred before you and showing it’s greatness. And it was freezing cold at the top. Although I stayed outside quite long to look at the natural beauty I’d always dreamed of, I was pretty much freezing and went in a few times. I took pictures though, lots of them, so you can imagine my hands were frozen like Popsicles despite having gloves on, and my face was a stinging cold.
My dad pointed out to me that the sun gently shining on one side of the mountains were pretty. And I’m glad he got my attention then, because they really are pretty. The soft sunshine rested along the white reflective snowy slopes of the mountains. The feelings was indescribable. Watching it was right out a dream.
I managed to take the summit too, and in the last photo so far, there had been wind and that was what I saw after looking out a window when I was indoors. You can barely see anything. It made me wonder how a blizzard really’s like. Did I mention I’m interested in natural disasters and all these avalanche and blizzard things interest me? (No I’m not a sadist.)
We ate ice cream indoors on top of the mountain lol. I remember it was part of our lunch or something. Little sister ate too much then and developed a small cough the next day;;;
Anyhow. On from Titlis, it was Lucerne. And this is a famous landmark in Lucerne.
It’s the Lion Monument, or the Löwendenkmal as it’s known in German. It’s a sculpture designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn, commemorating the Swiss Guards massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France. That’s ice in front of the monument.
Then there’s this famous bridge too.
It’s the Chapel Bridge, with many many paintings under its roof. On 18th August 1993 at around midnight, a fire broke out on the bridge and burnt it, destroying 85 of the 110 paintings underneath the roof. However, the bridge was restored one year later, but of course it wasn’t quite the same as before. More information on this bridge can be found here.
We were given time to walk around and ‘shop’. I remember it was the first time I saw H&M before it opened here a few years later. Anyway. Switzerland is famous for its watches, and I remember seeing many many watches and advertisements on watches and time clocks there. Even in my home right now I have a pretty cool clock which my parents bought from Switzerland when they were there on their honeymoon. It looks nothing like a normal clock and instead has many many gears. I’m not taking a picture and putting it up here though. But it’s nothing like you’ll imagine.
I remember going into this expensive watch shop there and I saw this glass-enclosed pendulum. It was a vacuum inside and there was this ball running up and down from one end to the other of a smiley-face slope at the same speed. It had been maintained there for ages because there’s no frictional force to slow it down inside that glass chamber. And it kept accurate time. That’s how all clocks and watches keep time anyway.
My stay in Switzerland was definitely much shorter than that of Italy although I lived Switzerland more. I didn’t like Lucerne as much as Interlaken or Mount Titlis because it was a town itself. But I’ll always remember Switzerland itself, and the magnificent cold mountains. I want to live there quietly forever…
Switzerland was a dream come true. Although my family doesn’t usually shop overseas so I don’t remember buying a lot of things but memories itself are a valuable asset. It’s something that can never be taken away or lost from you (unless you get amnesia at any rate). It’s what’s yours to keep, and yours truly.
Anyway, on to France! I only went to Paris in France and it was a gruelling eight-hour bus ride to Paris because of jams and what not. We only arrived in the evening.
What I saw on the way there before I fell asleep. It was too long a bus ride to keep awake and it was too cramped. If I stayed awake it’d probably have been the longest eight hours of my life lol. So I just occupied myself on the way there.
We came to see this first.
This is the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Nope I don’t know how to pronounce this too, I just call it the Arc. This arc stands at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, and honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
After that we were on the the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Of course! Who’d miss that when at Paris? The Eiffel Tower was tall and brr, cold.
And being on it.
This was the view I got from being on the Eiffel Tower. It was chilling, it was cold, and there was wind. I was freezing up there and my sister was feeling ill. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the view and visiting one of the wonders of the world. I’ve heard that Paris is a neat town which is planned on grids and although I don’t know how true that is, Paris certainly looked neatly-planned from the top of the Eiffel Tower in all directions. The tower also swayed with the wind, and it was kind of like feeling an earthquake when I’m here at home, the ground just swaying slightly, light enough for you not to stumble and fall but not that discreetly such that you can’t feel it or you can’t feel yourself swaying or getting dizzy for some people.
I’m getting so many feels just writing about my holiday a few years back and it’s cold and raining outside too so it’s like a perfect atmosphere T__T; Without the music and the bed. Recounting one of the good holidays I’ve had sure brings a lot of warmth and fuzzy feelings too~ although the Europe trip was not the best trip I’ve ever had (if I were to rank, the Europe trip is probably the third best, followed by Finland in the second place and the tragic New Zealand trip in the first place), but it sure was a good experience.
I remember we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant of sorts in France, and they finally had Chinese food during the Europe tour! Although I much prefer western food, but my family was glad for some Chinese food for a change, and second sister was being terribly ill and throwing up.
So our trip kinda ended in France where we extended our stay at Novotel Hotel because sister and mum was too sick to continue to London and dad couldn’t miss being back here by the 27th of November because he had important work. We didn’t do much during those days then, although what was interesting about the hotel (besides me falling on my butt in the bathtub), was that the toilet bowl was separated from the main toilet, in a small enclosed room right beside the main door. I don’t know what’s the use of that till now, but that was just something I noticed.
A few other random stuffs I noticed in France was the different keyboard layout as compared to here, and that the taxi fare was horribly expensive. Seems like I can’t complain here because the taxi fare there was four times more expensive than it is here, and yet here we’re still going on and on about increasing fare prices. Another thing I noticed one night whilst returning to the hotel was that on the opposite side of the road we were travelling on, there was a massive traffic jam. It wasn’t moving and it stretched for kilometres, even beyond where we turned off into our hotel. Just, wow.
That year was the year I spent Christmas Day on a 10-12 hour direct flight back home. That was the first time I sat right at the back of a full plane, the first time my second sister kept moaning from being sick and kicking me most of the flight, and the first time my TV and entertainment system broke down and because I was too dumb not to tell the stewardess, I ended up stoning and dreaming or sleeping the entire way back.
The sunrise was generally later in Europe then and sunset was way earlier. The sun rose around 8am and set around 4pm, quite a contrast to Finland when I went in the summer and not the winter, and the sun rose at 4am and never really set at midnight. The night sky in Finland was a dark blue (you could actually see blue and not black) the entire night, and that was über cool.
I had too many feels about the trip. It was filled with memories and the coldness and the beauty I much prefer compared to modern art and urban living.
I’m going to revisit some of the places if I can in the future, and I’m going go along with the people I love. I’m going to be happy about it and I shall look forward to travelling, maybe next year. Unfortunately this year I probably won’t be travelling much, the first year as far as I can remember, due to circumstances and it’s such a pity but I’ll just have to bear with it and work for whatever I want next time.
I really look forward to a good trip in the future. To a place I love, with the people I love. I just look forward to that time which I hope will come again. ^^
This has been a super duper long post about my Europe tour and I think that most people probably wouldn’t bother reading right through till the end LOL. Too boring maybe? I don’t know, but I suddenly felt like documenting my trips and travels and here’s the start of it. Been working on this post for quite some time so it’s lengthy… I don’t know how or when it’s going to continue but I enjoyed reminiscing at the very least, and here I’m sharing some of my experiences with you guys. There’s a lot more which I didn’t include, and a lot more which has yet to be said, but if I ever get around to sharing more, then you’ll know more. (:
I love travelling, I miss travelling, and I especially miss that one special thing.