For 10 amazing days in June of 2015, I spent time in 3 of Europe’s most famous and intriguing cities. Travelling with my girlfriend – inarguably the best locator of accommodations within central areas of the cities we are to explore – I had the pleasure of not stepping inside a car for 10 days and staying in privately owned condominiums with full kitchens. This afforded us a truer experience of these cities: walking to the local bakeries, grocery stores, and laundromats; cooking our meals; and pretending even for this short time that we too were Europeans.
Over 500 photos taken, descriptions, stories and pictures of our trip enough to fill volumes, I am to attempt the near impossible and present our tour of 3 of the greatest cities of all time in this, but one blog post.
Paris, the Grande
Paris, the bustling metropolis, offers up France’s (and Europe’s) history through the open doors of Notre Dame Cathedral, the tall spire of the Eiffel Tower, the thousands of works of art in the Louvre, and the ultimate in architectural design throughout its inner core. Paris’s investment – and planning – in its subway system allows millions of residents and visitors each year to see the city without stepping foot inside a vehicle. And falling in suit with most European cities’ pedestrian culture, walking is the norm (far from most North American cities where we are so tied to our cars we will drive down the block and public transit is near non-existent). A combination of subway, regional train, and our own feet carry us to the many wonderful destinations within – and just outside – Paris.
Rome: Europe’s Historical Heart
Having spent three days in Paris, we boarded the short flight to Rome. It is perhaps here I attained the greatest appreciation for the history European cities have for us to reflect upon, admire, and sometimes admonish. From St. Peter’s Basilica, to the Vatican Museums, to the Sistine Chapel, to the Colosseum, we see much of western european human history unfold before us – glorious and cruel; religious and secular; Christian and pagan. Throughout our explorations, we are amazed at the patience, artistry and masterful skill of those artists, architects and labourers who spent so many thousands of hours creating almost unearthly works of art for us to marvel at centuries later, and hopefully for centuries to come.
Yet it is not just the art and architecture of Rome that left me with an ever-after desire to go back: it is the people, the culture and the food that I remember being of just as much warmth, history, and welcome.
Having spent three days in Rome, though hesitant to leave, we hopped aboard the high-speed train to Venice. Marvelling yet again at the investment European countries have made in public transit, and the ease at which one can travel throughout much of the continent, we sit in comfort, cruising at up to 250 km per hour through sunflower fields, past quaint villages, and across the channel of water separating the island of Venice from the mainland. Walking out of the train station, taking in the majesty of the Grand Canal, I cannot resist mimicking Indiana Jones upon his arrival in Venice: “Ahhh…Venice.”
Eager to explore this perhaps most romantic – and unique – of European cities, we push on to our apartment in the heart of the city and prepare for 2 wonderful days of getting lost amongst the city’s narrow, angular pathways.
Farewell to Venice
Not only was our experience in Venice so different than any other we had ever had, so was our departure. Rather than hopping in a taxi cab to the airport, in Venice one takes the boat! As our water taxi skirted down the canal, out into more open water toward the airport, we looked back wondering just when we may get to see this strange and wonderful place once again. We will certainly have many other adventures ahead of us, but this one shall be beyond compare.
Having flown from Venice to Charles de Gaulle airport in France (just outside of Paris) we were greeted by a pleasant surprise on our overnight stay prior to flying back to Canada and the U.S: the quaint village of Roissy. It being our last night in Europe for 2015, we decide to take a quick look around this little town and discover that as the massive Charles de Gaulle airport has grown up around it, the village has held onto its history and its charm. If unaware of the seemingly constant and not-too-distant whine of jet engines from the airport, one would assume you were strolling through an old-time village in the French countryside. This evening we decide to walk up to the Eglise Saint Eloi (church) reading on the plaque outside that – to our surprise – it was built 500 years ago.
Realizing that we are truly in the twilight of our 10-day trip to Europe, this being our last evening here, we try ever-so-difficultly to sleep, thoughts, images, smells, and flavours of Paris, Rome and Venice wafting through our heads, and thoughts of our return already coming to be.