So in June 2006, after about 5 years of study, I FINALLY graduated from University. With a few letters after my name (BComp & BEd) it was about time for a vacation.
I booked my ticket and moved to The Netherlands (I have plenty of family and friends there so this was nothing particularly terrifying). I rented a room at a friends place and got myself a job as a teachers assistant. It was up to me to ensure that the teachers were actually teaching proper english. Though according to one of my colleagues “Australian is not English” and “I don’t know what language you people speak down there”. Good thing I was there to look out for the students, protect them against weirdo’s who think that the word ‘ramp’ refers to a speed hump!!
Anyway…working at a school, I conveniently got a week off from time to time.
During the first week off I jumped on the Thalys (fast train) to Paris. It was the middle of Summer, I went to Sacre Couer an overlooked the city, checked out the Eiffel Tower, Napoleans Tomb, the Notre Dame and of course Euro Disney. I had a fabulous time!!
I must admit – I am not ooozing enthusiasm because this was my third trip to Paris. BUT this was the first time I went in Summer. It actually made the experience much more pleasant, though Paris will still never make it to my list of favourite places.
I have always had trouble in Paris – even when I order food from a picture in the menu they refuse to serve me what I order, knowing that I can’t argue back. I’m not completely rude either, I do attempt to speak french and be polite, but my french is appalling!! So anyway, that was a fun week off work.
The second week off I flew to Ireland. Spent a few days in Dublin rented a car and drove down the coast to Dungarvan, and a quick look down as far as Cobh, then headed back up to Dublin. Went a bit inland rather than coastal, and went via Kilkenny.
Cobh was a gorgeous sleepy little town/fishing village in the side of a hill. The buildings were all very quaint and colourful and the people were so friendly.
Kilkenny was a small little town in the middle of nowhere, but adorable and with such an amazingly friendly, welcoming community. An interesting fact – kilkenny has 365 pubs. So you can try a different one every day of the year!!!
After working for a number of months I was a bit over it, so I quit my job, bought a 2 month unlimited access Eurail ticket and headed off on a grand (and very tiring) adventure!
Because I don’t want to bore you with the details, I will pick out some of the best bits.
Two months backpacking by train took me from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Bergen, Norway; Berlin, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Munich, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; Venice, Italy, Florence, Italy; Rome, Italy; Nice, France; Barcelona, Spain; Madrid, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal then 40+ hours of train travel back to Amsterdam.
At the end of all of this, I flew to Austria for a week of R&R on the ski slopes of the Zillertal region – stunning!!!
My pearls of wisdom
DON’T bother going to Oslo, I was surprised at finding hookers and drug dealers within 2 metres of the main strip
DO go caving in Budapest, easily one of the most amazing things I have ever done!!
DON’T go to Pompeii as a day trip from Rome, it really is too far away for a day trip
DO a cooking class in Barcelona – heaps of fun, and you get taught how to make your own Sangria and can make/drink as much as you like!
DO go on a gondola ride in Venice, because otherwise you will regret it forever. However, make sure you are good at bargaining and don’t jump into the first gondola you see. Even with good bargaining skills it will still be a rip-off.
DON’T tour the Colosseum in Rome with a bad hangover, you don’t get the chance to really appreciate it.
DO go to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm – one of the most amazing things I have seen!!
DO ice skate whenever you can!
I backpacked Europe in the middle of Winter and had a blast – lucky for me it was the hottest european winter in 500 years!!