Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Planning Stages: Places to Go and Things to Do

When it comes to vacations, I'm not usually a very well thought out person. Especially if I'm visiting people I know in a new place. I typically have a general idea of something I might want to do, but for the most part, I rely on the people I'm visiting knowing "what's good in the hood." Since I don't really know anyone in Europe, I'm having to take a slightly different approach. And by slightly different approach, I mean I have to make a list of things I want to see and do in a place other than my head. While I wouldn't mind hitting up your regular touristy attractions like the Eifel Tower and the Coliseum, I feel like I might prefer to just hop on over to a city and see what the locals tell me about where to go and what to see. It might take a game of charades, but that's all part of the experience, right? I could be completely wrong with the way I'm going about all of this, but I guess I'll find that out when I get there. Until then, I've made a short, tentative list of places I would most like to see and a couple things I would like to do on my trip. Here they are:

Valencia, Spain
     - For some reason, the thought of Valencia encapsulates me. I think I've probably only seen a dozen pictures of the place, but every time I do, I catch myself thinking, I have to go there. If I do nothing but stand in the square for half an hour, I need to see that place. 

Bike across Portugal
     - I'm not sure where this idea came from, but it popped into my head and stuck.. The fact that I will be able to say, "I biked across a country" is probably part of the reason I'm set on it. My plan is to buy a bicycle in Badajoz, Spain, and bike to Lisbon using side roads. If I have to camp in the middle of a field of llamas, so be it. I just hope they don't spit at me.

Walk across Andorra
     - Again, I'm not sure where exactly this idea came from, but much like with Portugal, the bragging rights of saying "I walked across a country once.." are just too much to turn down... Especially when said country is in the Pyrenees Mountains and google says it should only take about 10 hours. Mind you, I don't plan on doing this in a straight shot. I'd like to walk in and grab a place to stay for a day to experience the culture, then trek out the other side. Probably from Spain to France, since my journey is beginning in Spain. 

Interlaken, Switzerland
      - If there is even a question as to why this is on my list, you haven't seen photos of this place. It's on my bucket list to skydive over every continent, and this seems like the perfect place to do that. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, but it's a haven for base jumpers. A friend of mine went a couple years back and said every time they looked outside they saw someone falling from the sky. Sounds like my kind of place. 

Prague, Czech Republic
     - Yet another of those places I've always wanted to just go to. I love old architecture, and for some reason, Prague, over other cities I've explored via pinterest and the interwebs, seems to have a very unique character about it that just leaves me enamored. 

Venice and Trieste, Italy
     - Personally, Venice - all of Italy, really - seems more romantic than anything else. Probably because of the Renaissance, but who cares. While I would like to sneak foam swords into the Coliseum and have a duel in the middle of a tour, there's not much else in Rome that entices me when someone mentions the city. I have to say that there's not a whole lot I necessarily want to see in Venice, either. The idea of a floating city is just enticing... Also, if you've ever seen The Italian Job, the scene where Jason Statham is navigating the boat through the canals is just awesome. I have unreasonably high hopes of witnessing a high speed boat chase. I'm certain it won't happen, but a girl can dream. Trieste... Well, I've been told that Trieste has the world's best sunsets.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
     - I mostly want to see this place to see what all the hub-ub is about. I can assure you, I have no interest in the red light district other than to say I've been there (without "renting" anything/anyone). The blue lights on the other hand... Haha. Just kidding. 

Bergen, Norway
     - I've been fascinated with the idea of the Norwegian Fjords for years. I love mountains, and seas, the edges of cliffs, and all things green. This is one place I absolutely must see. Whatever happens, I will make it to that place one of these days. 

Kristianstund - Molde, Norway
     - For those of you that know what these two cities are connected by, you know where I'm going with this. The Atlantic Ocean Road is 5.2 miles of danger, wonder, and amazing, all rolled into one. Or so the pictures and writings seem to think. I'll find out for myself. I would most like to ride this road on a motorcycle, but we'll see what the weather is doing when I'm there. I'm not exactly experienced on two motorized wheels, and I would prefer not to be blown into the tumultuous ocean by a 30 knot gust. I mean, that would be a pretty good story, considering I survived it, but not one I would want to tell time and time again.

Lovrecina Bay, Brac Island, Croatia
     - I really have no other reason for this than the fact that I want to see a beach in Croatia, and this one seems pretty secluded with amazing sandy beaches. 

     - Because London. I also know a guy there, and it would be nice to reconnect.

My trip to Europe, while I do plan on seeing some cool sights, is less about the sights and more about the experience. I may make it to a museum or two (if they're free, cause I'm cheap like that), but I would most like to experience the cultures and learn the histories (not just of Europe, but of the world, Europe is just my destination this time around). Language is another of my great loves, and if I come away knowing a few random words in several languages, I'll be more than happy. Above all, I just want to learn about the cultures. In a place like Europe, with the Schengen Agreement and all, how does each culture maintain its individuality while also integrating in a way that appears seamless from afar? Perhaps it's not seamless at all. I'll never know until I go. 

(There's also a list of the world's most dangerous hikes, some of which are in Europe. I would like to hit some of those up while I'm there, but that may be a whole different post altogether. )