A year ago I shook with excitement and wonder as I confirmed my booking on the European Odyssey, an 18-day trip of a lifetime with Topdeck Travel that would mark my first visit to Europe and the UK. For 11 months I waited impatiently for the day to arrive that I would hop aboard an aeroplane and flit off halfway across the world, to marvel at the Eiffel Tower on a fine summer’s day in Paris, and stuff my face with all the gelato I could lay my hands on, and frolic amidst the immaculate snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps.
It’s completely mind boggling, then, that after all the anticipation, all the planning and all the trauma of receiving my Visas only 10 days before departure, I’m already back in Cape Town, having had 3 of the most incredible weeks worth of adventuring of my life so far. When I arrived in London, it took ages to become accustomed to the fact that I was actually on actual English soil, and it was like that for most of the trip – I just could not wholly believe what I was seeing or where I was standing half the time. As I wandered the sleepy streets of Engelberg, a tiny Swiss resort town, I kept having to stop and ask myself, “Is this real life?”
Now that I’ve returned home, though, my feet may be firmly planted on the African continent, but my heart is still way back in Amsterdam, enjoying a dinner of hot chips, with my legs dangling over the edge of the canal and recounting memories with my Topdeck family.
It sounds really unpoetic, but is there really any other way to say that I literally had the best time ever, than by saying just that? Nah. It was literally the best. Amazing. Life changing.
The tour was so well-organised, so on point at every single moment. Our tour leader was fantastic, and since the group was so small, she quickly became like a travel mom, chastising us for using the wifi too much and forcing us to partake in Austrian drinking games instead (okay, a cool travel mom, then). As we crossed the border into each new country by bus, she’d hop onto the mic and regale us with stories particular to that destination, enlightening us about Berlin’s infamous nightlife, or about how to differentiate between real gelato and its more mass produced counterpart, or about the potency of a particular, legalised Dutch delicacy (if you know what I meeean). Our driver/travel dad would blast “Les Champs-Elysées” from the bus stereo so loud that we’d have that song stuck in our head for most of the trip, but, most importantly, arrive in France feeling already part of the culture. And, when I gorged myself on pesto pasta in Venice, all I could hear in the background was “It’s amore!” (or, as I prefer to pronounce it, “Eat some more, hey!”. Really, I’m hysterical).
And, of course, the group of people I travelled with absolutely made the trip. It was so ridiculously easy to connect with everyone, but I guess that’s what happens when you throw a bunch of like-minded 20- and 30-somethings onto a bus and whip them around Europe on a breathtaking whirlwind of a tour, where each stop was as amazing as the one before.
It was exhausting, since we were really only in each city for just over 24-hours, but after each jam-packed day spent exploring and eating and shopping and taking photos, I dropped into bed feeling the best kind of tired. I could wax lyrical for days about the friends I made and our escapades and misadventures and aching legs from walking too much and, omg, GELATO and, of course, I will – just, not all at once.
Look out for weekly instalments as I recount my 18-day European Odyssey, which began with some hustling on the London Underground, and took me all the way to Paris, Swiss Alps, Florence, Rome, Venice, Austrian Alps, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and back to good ol’ Britain. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I’m so excited to share my tales of a European summer with you.
Au revoir, ciao, auf wiedersehen, goodbye (for now)! xxx