I didn’t mean to wish away my summer, but September couldn’t have arrived soon enough. Rob and I were about to set forth on our epic euro backpacking adventure!
The trip had been on my mind for almost 7 years… ever since returning home from my first trip across the Atlantic in 2007. I traveled alone on my first trip over. Traveling solo through London, Scotland, Belgium, Germany and Amsterdam had been a huge challenge and rewarding experience for me. I had the time of my life and I met many wonderful people on that journey but I knew that my next big adventure would have to include a travel partner. It’s tough to relive memories when you have no one to share “remember when” moments with!
I couldn’t have asked for a better person to travel with. My boyfriend Rob survived the 3 week journey with no injuries or break ups. We had traveled several times together, but this was by far the most challenging of the trips. I am fortunate that he trusted my master planning skills and basically let me throw all of the details together! I am one lucky girl!
The route for this second adventure developed naturally over the course of 2 years. Naturally the goal destination started with Italy. More specifically Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera (an UNESCO World Heritage Site). If you have never heard of this place before… Google it now! Really, how could you Not want to visit this place?!
Strung along 18km of serrated cliffs… is one of Italy’s treasures… Five villages are cut off by mountains choked with olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards, where farmers have eked out a living over the centuries.
Next was the task to find a budget friendly flight. I had done previous research into trans-Atlantic flights before and was intrigued with Iceland Air’s service. Not only were they affordable but the flight came with a few hard-to-resit perks such as free stopovers in Iceland. I booked our tickets 12 months in advanced and officially started our holiday planning! It turns out that Halifax to Iceland to Paris was the best deal around. It pays to book early as the cost of a round flight was only $850! It didnt take much convincing to choose this route. Iceland has such a unique landscape with it’s glaciers, geysers and steaming solfataras, volcanoes, waterfalls and geothermal baths. Not to mention arriving in Paris meant a chance to enjoy a dreamy night under the lights of the Eiffel Tower!
The Scenic Route
The choice of how long to stay in each place depended on how much we wanted to see on this trip. There was so much to see in so little time! Since Rob and I share the same travel style, I knew he would be up for a busy and full itinerary!
Once the travel dates were confirmed, it was time to piece together the route from Paris to Italy. After weeks of reading vacation reviews the decision was to take a scenic detour through Switzerland. Sure we could have taken a high speed train from Paris to Italy…. but we couldnt pass the opportunity to add such a unique destination to the trip. Another UNESCO World Heritage train route (from glaciers to palms!), stunning alpine vistas, delicious food and a memorable snowy gondola trip 10,000 ft up Mount Titlis.
After traveling the rails through the Alps, we planned to head straight to Venice. From the Venice to Florence, to Pisa to, the 5 towns of Cinque Terre, then off to Rome & the Vatican. Other must-see highlights included Naples(with the birthplace of Pizza), Pompii(for it’s untouched Roman ruins), and Sorrento, Island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast for its Mediterranean resort-like atmosphere!
To top it all of , we made most of the Iceland Air flight promotion, we arranged to stay overnight in Iceland. Relaxing in the the geothermal Blue Lagoon, and a roadtrip around the Golden Circle were at the top of our to-do list!
Organization Is The KEY
Our philosophy- see what each place has to offer and then revisit the area for a longer stay another time!
Sound like a lot to squeeze into 3 weeks? Sure it was a squeeze but we made the most of our time. The key to our success was organization. Google Maps & Google Calendar was used to sort out all of the plans a head of time. Every calendar day had information on the places we were visiting, train schedules, and accommodation reservations. Detailed city maps were made highlighting important sights, transportation info and even located public bathroom locations! We never had to spend an afternoon searching for a place to stay or waiting for trains since everything was arranged months in advance! Being organized saved us time AND money! In fact our long train trips (on the high speed trains) booked months in advance were only a fraction of the original ticket price… even cheaper than a railpass!
To help plan the itinerary and budget wisely… we made a list of the places we wanted to see and the places we absolutely MUST not miss… and also a third list of some ‘Splurge’ things to do/see. The result was a well balanced trip where neither of us felt disappointed or feel like we missed out on something!
How we kept to our $100 a night budget
Another benefit of planning early… great affordable options for accommodations! Since we have enjoyed hosting and surfing with Couchsurfing for many years now… we originally planned to Couchsurf with hosts during this trip. But we quickly realized many people are unable to confirm couch requests months in advance. Hotels were not an option as we were planning on visiting some of the most expensive cities in Europe. We researched hostels and there were many fantastic and unique options available, but we found it difficult to find good prices for semi private rooms. That’s when I discovered an awesome website called AirBnB.
Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone.
Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.
The website connected us with hosts all over Europe. It is a place where people can advertise extra rooms and even entire apartments for rent! The best part of staying in guestrooms & guest houses is the personalized experience. You get to experience neighborhoods like a local. Our local hosts were full of wonderful recommendations and helpful guidance before and during our stay! I highly recommend checking out the AirBnB site for yourself if you plan to do any traveling!!
I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures!
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UNESCO SitesBrushing up on History
UNESCO SitesBrushing up on History
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a site that has been nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s International World Heritage program. The program aims to catalogue and preserve sites of outstanding importance, either cultural or natural, to the common heritage of humankind.
Italy has the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, with 49.
We ended exploring 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this vacation!!
- Notre-Dame, France
- Paris, Banks of the Seine, France
- Brenina Express, Switzerland
- Venice and its lagoon, Italy
- Historic Centre of Florence, Italy
- Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Italy
- Cinque Terre, Italy
- Historic Centre of Rome, Italy
- The Vatican City, Vatican
- Historic Centre of Naples, Italy
- Archaeological Areas of Pompeii, Italy
- Amalfi Coast, Italy
- Þingvellir National Park, Iceland