Woohoo, it's the weekend, y'all!
For the month of September, I am continuing along with the "40 Days in Europe" series. No, I will not let the memories go, yes, I have something special planned for October. Anywho, I am excited to share this post with you because it's story based, and those are always fun. I hope that you can get a taste for the overall vibe of each event and that the pictures serve their purpose. If you still have not figured it out, I adored Europe, and feel so blessed that I was able to spend 40 days there.
It's story time!
10. My first pub crawl in Porto, Portugal.
Wow. I made an idiotic decision to attend a pub crawl the night before I was set to another city, but that's what makes backpacking an adventure. I had missed the pub crawl the night before because sleep is a thing, and the hostel staff really pushed that I should check it out prior to departing. I am so glad I did! I was able to hang out (i.e. pregame) with some hostel mates and so I did not feel completely alone when we finally ventured off at midnight (past my bedtime, y'all). We went to four different pubs, but the beautiful thing about Portugal, is that a little bit of money goes far. A bunch of beers and sangria later, I realized that it was 4am and some folks and I had a 9am train to Lisbon. Panic mode! However, by the grace of God, I made it to the train 6 minutes before we departed and slept the entire way. I had an epic time and it solidified why I love hostels so much.
9. Wandering through Lyon's secret garden
It's funny how things happen when you don't have a plan. Initially, I was going to go from Lisbon to Paris. However, when I was consulting an app that would give me price estimates, I was determined to get to Paris another way. Insert: Lyon. I remembered hearing a tiny bit about the city during the three years I took French in high school, but I could not recall quite enough. After consulting handy dandy Google, I determined that I could have an enjoyable 24 hour stay there prior to taking an extremely cheap Megabus ride to Paris.
Let me tell you something. When I visited the Parc de la Tête d'Or, I felt like I was in a fairy tale. I almost feel as though they designed the park for that very purpose. From "secret" pathways, hideaway benches, swans, botanical gardens, carousels, zoo animals and more, I had the perfect introduction to France. Unfortunately, later that day I was called racist and a b----, but moving on, that park was so incredibly serene. Best of all, it was FREE. I could not believe that I was able to capture to many beautiful moments in the perfectly manicured oasis for no costs. I know a lot of people sleep on Lyon for Paris, but if you have the opportunity to go, you HAVE to visit the park for yourself. I dare you to frown while you are there.
8. Running around castles in Sintra
If you are following me on Instagram, you know that I have a mildly obsessive love affair with Portugal, to the point that their flag is my phone's background. I can write an entire post about it, and I am sure I eventually will, but there was just so much beauty around it. Thanks to a member of Nomadness encouraging me to visit Sintra while I was in Lisbon, I decided to check it out. I. Was. Not. Ready.
If I felt like the park in Lyon was a secret garden, the castles in Sintra were where the gardens should be housed. The history geek in me was thrilled to be among history and see how former Kings and Queens lived. It got a bit awkward since I am pushing 6 feet tall, but I was still able to enjoy myself. I only wish that I had more time to visit more castles and palaces, but that will give me something to do when I get to back. I am pretty certain that regardless of the palace you choose to visit, you will be blown anyway. The upkeep is commendable and for a few hours, you will certainly feel like royalty (or wish you were born into it).
7. Getting a wee bit schwasted in Brussels with bartenders and bae after a Portuguese win.
Back in July, I told you about my less than ideal introduction to Belgium. In hindsight, I am just proud of myself for not being extremely impulsive and leaving. It all paid off in the end, because I was fortunate enough to be befriended by local bartenders in Brussels that wanted me to develop a new opinion of their home. Well, between the bartenders and the soccer gods letting Portugal win the Euro semifinal (I might have shed a thug tear because I took it was a personal sign that things were getting better). Somehow, 4:00am came rather quickly, but it was amazing. They showed me so much love I felt like a local because I could have #whateverIlike. I even stayed in Brussels an extra day, just so the party could continue (reasons why I love backpacking). It just went to show me that one monkey don't stop no show, and to make the most of any situation.
6. Kicking it in London with true locals.
I got to see 'Canes in Europe and that truly warmed my spirit. When an old friend had slid in my Instagram mentions, I made sure that I was available to hang out with her and her friends. Now, let me preface with the fact that I hardly got to see any of the classic London tourist spots, so don't ask me about them. Harrods? Nope. Buckingham Palace? Nah. British Museum? Whoops. But guess what, I am completely okay with that.
While Brixton is getting gentrified, I could still appreciate its culture. If you are looking for the Caribbeans and Africans of London, you will find them there. I loved the food options, the random music sets, and the street art! We stumbled upon random pop up events and I even got to second line with some older gentleman. But as I always preface, it's about the experience. Brixton was pretty much unforgettable.
5. Running into an old college friend in Amsterdam.
Just like no.6, I got to run into another college friend randomly while in Europe! It seemed as though every time I would feel mildly lonely, Big Homie would come through. I got to meet Edward's mother and brother while they were visiting Amsterdam for the Beyonce concert. Among taking pictures at the Iamsterdam sign, strolling through a park, and having a great meal, I got caught up and ended up missing my bus to Berlin. Whoops. But, everything happens for a reason and since I ended up staying in Amsterdam an extra 36 hours, I was able to catch up with two more friends from Nomadness at an epic brunch.
4. Learning about Lisbon's street art culture through a tour.
We already know, that wherever I go, I am there for the street art. If I get any clue that there is some dope art around, I am going to find it. Usually, I enjoy finding it on my own but after reading reviews about the street art tour my hostel provided, I decided to take a chance. One word: Wow.
I learned SO much and was brushing my shoulder's when I was increasingly able to identify the artist of a mural by the style. Our tour guide was legit and extremely passionate about the art. Best of all, he was super chill. If someone in the group saw some art tucked away, he would accommodate our wish and drive us over to see it (i.e. take a picture for the 'gram). Now, I know a lot of people call Berlin the street art capital of Europe, but my underappreciated Portugal should be in the running for that title too. Some of the murals looked like photographs and I was in awe. Our guide also pointed us to areas we could venture off to after the tour, and that is exactly what I did. I loved everything about it.
3. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time while watching a French Euro match.
I could not have picked a better way to visit the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I admit, I was a bit nervous about going to Paris... the Eiffel Tower... to a crowd... to watch France play, but it was SO worth it. It was a task to get in there, but it happened!
What do I mean? Well, since it's story time, let's chat. When I arrived to the first entrance, security was attempting to tell us it was full. Being the determined folks we were, we walked past them, only to see that they really weren't allowing anyone else into that area. But, when there is a will, there's a way. We found another entrance, and pushed our way to the gate. Three bag checks later, we were in there!
Y'all. I am so glad I did not let fear hinder me. Watching France beat Ireland (who I had a mild beef with at the time) was icing on the cake. The crowd was going crazy and the city was in an upbeat mood. We paraded out of the FanZone cheering and dancing, listening to cars (including cops) honk horns and just smile. We already know that France is going through a lot, so it was nice for them to catch a break. More importantly, I loved the experience I can forever tie to the Eiffel Tower. I might not have had a boyfriend there, but I've got a dang good story.
2. Seeing Portugal win Euro 2016!
Obviously, you knew this was coming. I was so proud of my European cousins (my affection term). I felt, like me, Portugal had a chip on their shoulder and persevered like the Little Engine That Could. I loved following their journey, watching them with the locals, and seeing the underdog prevail. The fact that in a room of 60 people, there were only 5 of us jumping up and screaming with excitement is telling. I supported France too (until that game), but I was elated to see my cousins win even when Ronaldo was hurt. I mean, if people already thought I was Portuguese, I might as well celebrate with them! Oh, #WhatATime to be in Amsterdam when they won.
1. Feeling officially liberated in Barcelona.
I wrote a post about the emancipation of my afro in Europe, but overall, I feel that Barcelona was the perfect last stop on my 40 day adventure. I came to a point where I would just top caring about makeup, hair, sweat, and just wanted to live. I got to have quiet time at the beach and watch the sunset for three consecutive nights and just reflect. While it would have been great to share some of these experiences with a friend, I needed this time alone. While I don't feel like I was "lost", I definitely enjoy what I found from the trip. I absolutely cannot wait until the next trip I take (wherever that is) because I love the growth that came from my travels.
Alright, alright, cutting it down to 10 after a 40 day adventure was HARD, so, I'd like to include some honorable mentions.
- Hooking up with a dear friend from Dallas and going on a Rome party bus for her birthday. Hey, Eve, hey!
- Going to the Trevi fountain in Rome. It was my favorite place in Rome and incredibly sexy to see at sunset. Yes, I threw in one of my coins for love. Ha!
- Biking around London like an idiot. They drive on the left side of the road and I am just thankful the good Lord didn't let me be involved in an accident. Getting lost was fun though!
- Surviving my longest flight to date! I wrote about it here.
I miss Europe immensely, but I am blessed to have had an epic time there (even among dumb drunken decisions). If you are on the fence about going, then clearly, I didn't do my job with this post. Take a chance and step outside of your comfort zone. Some of my favorite memories were completely unexpected, but that is why I love them even more.
Have you been to Europe? What is your favorite city or memory? Let's talk about it!