My best friend got married and moved to The Netherlands last year. Once when we were talking about how long distance friendship is quite the struggle at times, she asked me to plan a trip to visit her (and her husband, of course!) This particular thought began to slowly take shape, and I thought to myself, “Why not? Maybe this is the perfect gift to my 25-year-old self!” My parents were on board with this plan from day 1, and having travelled to many countries himself, my dad took upon him the task of sorting out all the intricacies of my trip — tickets, visa, etc. All three of us planned the trip together. I was spending 17 days in Europe, and we decided to utilise all the time we had on hands to the maximum. With our base in Rotterdam, my entire trip covered four countries — The Netherlands, France, Italy and Switzerland.
In love with Paris!
We drove down to Paris from Rotterdam. A four and half hour car journey via Belgium, we entered Paris early afternoon to the sights and snarls of traffic. Having checked into our service apartment via AirBnB in Bastille our first stop in lovely Paris was to grab some vegetarian French lunch at a nearby bistro. The nightlife in Paris is much talked about. And we decided to do just that on our first night. We hit the Latin Quarters (one of the popular party streets) and hit some interesting non-touristy pubs to experience some French culture. On our second day in Paris, I was quite eager to visit the entire popular city sights — we went to see Mona Lisa at the Louvre, visited the mighty Notre Dame and boarded the Bauteaux Marches for a beautiful boatride down the Seine that takes you right upto the Eiffel Tower! After grabbing a quick bite at La Fayette, we decided to pay a visit to the Arc de Triomphe. I went up the swirly 284 steps to be greeted with the most breath-taking sight of all — Paris at night! The well-lit roads and lovely Eiffel Tower in all its glory truly blew my mind away.
A walk down the fancy Champs Elyssees, with a bite of Laduree’s yummy macaroons, we headed towards the Eiffel Tower. Trust me when I say this, the best time to visit the Eiffel is at midnight. We were the last group to go all the way up; and the view left me speechless! On our last day in Paris, we decided to go to Roland Garros. We made this trip all the way here because my dad is a huge tennis fan and I knew he’d love something from there. Unfortunately, their website gave us some wrong information and they were under renovation. Quite a dampener that was! Our final stop was at the Sacre Coeur, another astonishing church atop a tiny mountain. Sometimes, I wonder if all these words can even explain the beauty that was Paris. One must truly experience it to understand what I mean.
We were spending around three days in Rome; during which I decided to head to Florence. This particular trip was not on my list, but one that I added on a whim. Straight out of a movie, I boarded the wrong train, headed to the wrong place and lost about four hours in all of this mess when Florence is only 55 minutes away from Rome! Nevertheless, I reached the beautiful, sunny Florence late afternoon and was greeted by the picturesque views that made up this city. With about three hours to spare in this exquisite place, I decided to spend all my time at the Piazzale Michelangelo. With multiple gardens interconnected all over the area, along with a fine, panoramic view of the entire city; Florence stunned me into speechless wonder. I traipsed around the rest of the surrounding gardens with some pizza and mouth-watering gelatos for company.
We drove down to Interlaken from Geneva. A wondrously picturesque two and half hour drive, we were accompanied by the mighty Alps through the entire trip. At Interlaken, you are greeted by a sight of paragliders in their multi-coloured parachutes and large Swiss cows grazing around their green pastures. The entire city has a very distinct old school charm that calls out to you instantly. Having checked in at a wooden cottage with an amazing view of the mountains, we decided to explore Interlaken on foot. Soon, I began to dillydally around the thought of going paragliding myself. I have always wanted to try this out, my friends urged me to give this a shot because — “how often do you get to jump off the Alps?”
After signing up with Paragliding Interlaken, we were taken on a 20 minute van ride up to Beatenberg, where we would be strapped onto our safety harnesses before running off the mountain. We were exactly 1,350 m above sea level and, I enjoyed every minute of my 35-minute experience — views of the entire Interlaken region and Jungfrau mountain range was absolutely majestic! My pilot Danny offered to try out some “risky games” where we would suddenly start twisting around like a tornado, yet something kept me calm throughout! There is truly a whole different charm to be able to travel alone and with friends. My 17-day rhapsody around Europe gave me a mix of both. I enjoyed every minute with my friends; and equally enjoyed spending my time alone. Having made an experience of a lifetime, I enjoyed every minute in Europe — returning to Chennai after losing my heart to Paris, reminiscing the cold in The Netherlands, wishing I could be a paraglider by profession and gorge on pizzas and gelatos all day without gaining a single kilo!
(Nina is a PR Professional and part-time stationary designer by passion)...