Mainland Europe might be right next door but I feel there’s always somewhere new to explore, especially as I’m trying to squeeze in as much as I can. As I said, I’ve cut Finland from my route for being too far out, and I put Spain and Portugal in the cold as I’ve done them a lot before and don’t feel the need to go back just yet. In the evenings when I review my route, which is every evening now until I go, a few places shout at me from my list as particularly special.
Before I go, I wanted to note these down and see if they live up to my expectations. This is how I feel about them now, without ever having visited; this list doesn’t include places from past trips as it would be unfair to compare. In the order of how I’ll visit, here’s where I’m most excited to go!
This is the first stop on my trip and comes in before I stamp the start date on my interrail pass. It was also the first place I knew I wanted to go and I’ve a boat trip through the fjords planned, as well as going up into the mountains and taking cracking photos of the place. Between the fjords and the mountains lies Bergen’s fish market, where I’ll ‘catch’ my dinner by ‘casting’ out my wallet.
To me Bergen looks magical, fresh and invigorating, especially as you go higher up. My imagination puts me down by the water in the sunshine and then up the mountains, also in the sunshine! It’s the great outdoors calling and I get serene just picturing myself there. My prediction is it’ll be a calming start to my journey where I won’t be rushing around too much before all the major city breaks.
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
There’s probably many ways to pick a destination but I made my mind up to visit Veliko Tarnovo from one picture of the Tsarevets Fortress covered in snow, looking like something from a post-apocalyptic filmset. As it’ll be July this won’t be my experience but it just looked so interesting and different from a lot of architecture I’ve been exposed to.
The city dates back 5,000 years, so I’ll be sure to learn more at the archaeological museum, visit monasteries and invest in a walking tour – the number one rated thing to do in Veliko Tarnovo on TripAdvisor.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
I plan to hit the three main Bleds; Lake Bled, Bled Island and Bled Castle. Looking romantic on Google Images, it’s only fitting my boyfriend will be joining me, so I’m sure we’ll go to some foodie restaurants and walk the length of the lake into the evening. This is what appeals to be most, simply enjoying a beautiful setting and interacting with it at your own pace. This is why I’m going to discourage going rafting but am willing to go rowing.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Young, rich and famous… not me in a nutshell but I’m going to fake it! Simply, it looks fantastic and full to the brim with energy. It’s also the location of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘How To Catch a Thief’ which I’ve watched lots since I was a kid. It’s glamorous, intriguing and anything more I say will just be a continuation of buzz words. Hopefully when I’ve been I’ll have more to say, especially about the casinos, gardens and oceanographic museum.
What I will say relates back to budget. I couldn’t find a single hostel in Monte Carlo so went all out on a hotel. I suppose this means I’ll get a more authentic experience as well as my own bed?
Gorges du Verdon, France
Known as the Grand Canyon of Europe, I couldn’t say no. My plan is to book myself on a group tour taking you up to the gorges where you can hike and admire the view. A contrast to Monte Carlo, I want to gain some perspective here and feel small in the face of nature, the universe etc, but I’m sure it’ll be busy in August and a little distracting. However, as I’m quite good at wandering off from the crowd and blocking out the chitter-chatter, I’m not too worried.
Basically, everywhere looks good and that’s why I’m setting off. My own top places to see in Europe inspire me the most to go on this trip, and to a degree, make me want to buy a selfie stick and not throw it away after ten minutes (shout out to Matt Ray for this idea).