I turned 31 and I’d been travelling 31 days with Winnie on this Eurotrip with almost 31°C weather.
We rented a Mercedes Benz and drove the Northern coast of the island. The driving was smooth like butter but not the best vehicle to take on those windy and narrow roads.
Along this route winding up the mountains, we stopped at many spots: Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deia, Soller, Port of Soller, top of the crazy windy roads of Sa Calobra (looks crazy but apparently worth it to go down for what’s down there) and made it to Cap de Formentor for sunset with a few lookout points along the way. It is crazy because the roads are super narrow along the mountain with many curve but you also are dealing with mountain bikers, motorcycles and other cars speeding around corners. There are many lookout points along the way on the mountain BUT please make sure your car can clear the difference in height between the road and the side of the road to deter from scratching your rental car.
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
We left Sa Pobla and hit the road in search of beaches. We drove to the North East side of the island and drove south where we ended in Palma.
Cala Mesquida and Es Trenc. Mesquida was a smaller beach with resorts right beside it but also had many hiking trails nearby. Parking is tight and since it is near a resort, parking can be time consuming. We decided to check out Es Trenc, is a long and narrow road that winds along before you can get to the parking lot (7€). The road to get in is super narrow and can barely fit 2 cars passing one another at certain points. There are area to pull over into to let the oncoming car to go through. You walk from the parking lot a bit and it opens up to see the 3.5KM beach. When we got there, the sun was still out but within 15 minutes clouds rolled in. We hoped the clouds would break but unfortunately it didn’t.
We moved on and made our way towards our Airbnb in Palma. We walked the boardwalk of Playa de Palma. The clouds opened up for a little bit but no clear sunsets.
We realized later that the weather had called for a downpour but all we got was a little drizzle twice for maybe 15 minutes each time. Good for us I guess.
We lived the glamorous life and went to IKEA for dinner – Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes so in a way, we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in a Ikea in Spain. There are so many options of food and snacks! I was even able to grab a bag of the Bilar car candies.
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Final day in Mallorca and we decided to start the day at Anima Beach to get our last bit of rays on a beach. Just make sure you note where you park. If you park within blue, that is 1 hour parking if zigzag it’s bus and no parking. You need the white lines or clear and you’re in the clear as we learned the hard way.
We checked out of the Airbnb and parked our car for the day and explore the main section of Palma. We started with the area around Plaça de l’Olivar and ventured down to the marina and back into the main area.
Had lunch at restaurante La Mémé. We both got the 3-course meal for only 14,50€. I got the salmon wrap and salad to start, the goulash with potatoes and ended with carrot cake and the meal also includes a drink.
As we walked around the city, we stumbled across two more of Gaudi’s buildings as well. We had planned to reach the airport later in the evening and so to kill some time, Winnie got a pedicure.
For our final meal in Spain, we went to Celler Sa Premsa – where we ate in an old wine cellar. We ordered the sobrasada (raw, cured sausage from the Balearic Islands made with ground pork, paprika and salt and other spices – this region is known for the sobrasada). I got the grilled squid and Winnie got the Tumbet and of course a nice sangria to end the trip with.
We dropped off the car rental and had the classy stay overnight in an airport. What we did learn from our travels is that if we need to sleep overnight in an airport and haven’t check in yet, you can either find a location that is close to an outlet to charge your phone or whatnot but if you want to be comfortable, try to find the “café” and they usually have cushioned seats that you can put together and form a makeshift bed (well at least when the café is not open for business).
Mallorca, Spain – London, UK – Toronto, Canada
Got into London via Gatwick and went to the New Cross area to grab Winnie’s bigger luggage from her friend Liona’s. Continued on and dropped off her stuff at her friend Tim’s place in South Kensington area. These are two very different areas of the city for sure. It was suppose to rain but the rain held off giving us a 15°C day and lovely lighting.
We had our final meal together at Squirrel – Thai me up bowl and a ginger cayenne shot for me. The interior is cute with a tree house themed design.
After lunch, we walked over to Charles Bridge and area before we bid farewell at Kensington station and I made my way to Heathrow to head home to Toronto.
And that was that. 11 flights, 2 trains, 4 car rentals, 6 countries and 16 cities (London, Madrid, Sevilla, Porto, Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Munich, Berlin, Edinburgh, Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Barcelona and Mallorca) in 36 days.
Many have already asked me what was my favourite place or best memory was and to answer truthfully, we did so much that it is hard to truly pinpoint. Each city we went to had its highlights for sure. I would truly have to go through my Instagram posts or even these travel posts to remember all of it.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people along the way including some of my wonderful Yuujou friends (in person) and many of Winnie’s friends.
Thanks to my travel buddy Winnie for joining me on this month long adventure. Also for correcting my spelling errors, being the GPS and my model. We made it through without killing each other so that’s a good sign.
After an unconventional sleep in the Barcelona Airport, we picked up our car rental and drove into town. Had to take a second or 3 to recalibrate to driving on the right side. Picked up a nifty little Fiat.
Francisca was our tour guide (very spunky but also very passionate and well knowledgeable. We had a group from all over (Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, USA, Germany etc).
Some information I learned from this walk:
-1 man designed the whole outer city grid
-He tried to keep it all even and uniform but people started building taller and well, Gaudi,
-El Raval – gentrified – use to be red light district
-La Rambla – New city – chic local designers
-Barcelona was walled in – the king gave the land to the soldiers who used it to party, drugs and sex.
-There are 7 beaches – all artificial with sand from Egypt
-The Olympics made the city get visitors and they had to clean up
-The square with execution – The executioner was the local butcher and chosen. His family would inherit the business. The executioner couldn’t live in or outside the wall in fears of being murdered so they would literally live in the walls and climb down each time to perform an execution and then climb back up. The perks of being Executioner was that they could keep the body parts. Hands and feet hung on the door were good luck.
-The steps where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen of Spain is in that same Square.
-Agata – breast cut off – a pastry is named after this and feature a cherry on top
-The cathedral face of Eulalia of Barcelona (also known as Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia also known as Barcelona Cathedral) was a facade getting ready for Olympics. You can also see a image of Darth Vader if you look close enough.
-Geese live in Eulalia of Barcelona as the Saint was a goose herder. They punished her for being Christian. There her into a barrel with sharp objects and threw it down a hill. She survived. They burned her at the stake. She survived. They stepped her down naked and starfish her on a cross to shame her but snow fall covered her. They cutt off her head.
-The main Plaza Reica was cleaned up and pushed all the red light district to La Raval to prep for the volume of people coming for the Olympics
-Sport – the tower – 26 ft when a little cold at the very top. Sculpture.
-The New city uses Jewish tombstone pieces in they’re walls from the Jewish mountain where they bury the dead. It was faster and cheaper than digging up the Jewish Mountain.
-The Jewish, Muslim and Catholic lived relatively harmonious together in Barcelona until at one point, the Catholic and Muslim people started to perish rather quickly to some unknown disease at the time. They thought it was a plot to kill them as the Jewish were seen to not be suffering from loss as much. From outrage that such a thing could occur, the Jewish were murdered almost wiping them all out. Turns out because of their faith, they must wash their hands before every meal which in return kept them healthier as hygiene was also a major cause of the deaths.
Francisca also gave us a link to her website that can be helpful finding many attractions and places for food she recommends seeing in Barcelona.
After the tour, I met Winnie and off we went into the mountains. We drove over to Montserrat. Windy roads up but the environment was lovely. We had originally planned to hike Sant Jeroni but we realized late that we needed to take the funicular up to do any of the hikes and we wouldn’t have been able to finish that hike before the last train down. – GET THERE EARLY IN THE DAY!
With the time we had with the car rental, we decided to drive over to Sitges. This coastal town is known for the beaches, nightlife and being very LGBT friendly. We went midday in the off-season so it was dead and we walked Passeig Marítim and admired some of the beachfront homes.
Took it real easy in the evening and bought groceries and made our own tapas.
Since Winnie had already been to Barcelona earlier on the trip, she had also set up appointments for herself upon her return which left me to explore on my own. I had a very early start to get free admission to Park Güell‘s Monument section of the park. If you get in before 8AM or after 630PM it’s free! If you make it in before 8AM, you can technically stay all day if you really wanted. It took awhile for me to get out of this massive park but I continued on and walked over to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Crazy amount of tourists and also this place is forever under construction.
Not too far away was Parc de la Ciutadella. I got a little turned around and didn’t realize that the entrance to this park was only on the North side as I continued along the east side of the wall of the park and ended up walking around the whole park but on the outside as the only entrance I saw on that side was to the Zoo (connected but not connected to the park). I did eventually make it into the park but since it was such a long walk, I quickly walked through. There is a apparently a mini Arc de Triomphe.
And not too far from that park was La Boqueria – Mercat Boqueria Barcelona in La Rambla. 1€ fruit cups and smoothies, much needed after my morning walk. As I was crossing the street, it just so happened out of all places, I just so happened to bump into a familiar face from back home who was also on vacation.
Before coming to Barcelona, I was told I should book a paella cooking class – so we did. We booked with Airbnb experiences and booked with the lovely Helina (she’s originally from Belarus and learned how to make paella the true Catalina way from her husband’s family). We were a group of 14 from all over the world (Scotland, Korea, Ecuador, South Africa, New Zealand, USA & Brasil). Helina took us through La Boqueria and explained more about jamon, fresh seafood and spices. We purchased fresh seafood and went back to her mother’s condo nearby and that’s when all the magic began.
It was a team effort as each person had a different task in the prep. We made a Spanish classic – pan con tomate (literally garlic, tomate Para pan, olive oil, a good baguette and slices of Jamon Serrano or Iberian if you want meat), sangria and seafood paella. It was such a wonderful experience and so tasty! Depending on where you had positioned yourself at the table, you were assigned a different task. My spot was in charge of cleaning the mussels, others had prepping the sangria, making pan con tomate etc.
After that wonderful cooking experience Winnie and myself parted ways as I went to Carmel del Bunkers (also known as El Turó de la Rovira, or simply The Bunker) to take in the sunset above the city. During the Spanish Civil War, this was the bunker where anti-aircraft guns were installed. I took the train to a certain point then it’s all about walking. There is a sign to a pair of stairs that leads to a lookout point and you think that this is the bunker but it is not – keep going up. I got to the top of those stairs and there is a great view up there. You think that this view is the bunkers, keep going! From these stairs, you go left and follow the bend and over the bridge. The bridge isn’t the end. Keep going up. You will definitely know that you are at Carmel del Bunkers. There will be people climbing and sitting all over the place on cement structures. You will also have a 360 view above the city and there will be people selling cervezas if you didn’t bring any to enjoy the view. The sunset wasn’t the best but for the moment, the sky opened up with a large slash across the city and that was lovely. My phone was dying and I wanted to make sure I got back to the Airbnb before it died since my phone was my lifeline so I didn’t stay until the sun went fully down. There is another alternative to get to the Carmel Del Bunkers and it is a bus route that will drop you off closer to the top and then you walk up. I walked down the street and hopped on the bus to get me home.
We had looked into going inside Sagrada Familia early morning but there weren’t anymore tickets online. Many of our friends had recommended that we go inside but since we had a short period of time, we just searched up videos of the interior since we couldn’t go in. Also, we would have to wear clothing that covers our shoulders and almost to our knees and well, it’s hot weather for us and tights we’re a no go for us.
We went to Brunch & Cake to start the day. I got the Acai bowl with peanut butter and Winnie got the brekkie board. There are multiple locations.
As we were walking to brunch, we had started to see people walking the streets in costumes and we got curious. October 12th is Spain’s Fiesta Nacional de España – Hispanic day. It is the day Christopher Columbus discovered the America’s in 1492. It is a national holiday and obviously a huge parade with so many people dressed up in colourful costumes dancing their hearts out in the heat.
The sun was finally out majority of the day so we made our way to the beach. Platja del Bogatell had beach volleyball and some cute restaurants on the beachside. We decided to just lie down and take in the sun and do nothing else. The clouds did roll in after a few hours so we left and walked around. Since it was the weekend and also a holiday, the streets were filled with so many cute families and people going to the movies.
We went to Xemei for dinner (early celebration of my birthday). My friend had recommended this Italian restaurant in Barcelona and it did not let us down. We got the Fish assortment to start and I got the Pappardelle with beef cheek ragu and Winnie got the Grilled octopus tentacle with eggplant. We finished off with Almond and orange ice cream and tiramisu.
The start of the roadtrop – Edinburgh to Isle of Skye. We booked a car rental and picked up our car at the Train Station (Note – there is an extra service fee renting from the train station) and we got upgraded to an MG car. Needed a little calibrating to driving on the left side of the road but also the speed being in miles instead of kilometers. Roads are very narrow here with roundabouts and at times, the roads become single-laned streets with little passing sections to go aside to let the car opposite direction pass.
Along the way, we stopped by the small village of Glencoe and Fort William. The Wildcat in Fort Williamis a vegan cafe serving ample variety of food, pastries and coffee as well as a shopping section for eco-friendly products in the back. We saw many chilis go out but I settled for the full vegan breakfast – chestnut & herb sausage, haggis, scrambled tofu, potato rosti, avocano, baked beans, mushrooms, baked tomatoes, wilted spinach and sourdough bread.
We continued on the road stopping by Eilean Donan Castle. It is the most photographed castle in Scotland apparently and to this day, the family does on occasion still reside in the property. It has its own bridge to get to the castle as well.
Seeing as we were making good time and weather was somewhat cooperating, we decided to go and see more. We drove to the Fairy Pools and did the walk down from Glucagon na Sithichean. The winds were brutal with mist lightly covering everything. The waters were so clear and from above. We also drove down the road to see another fairy pool on the side of the road. There is a beach further in but no point in going when it’s super wet, windy and dark outside. Please also watch out for roaming sheep.
The sun went down so we checked into our hostel – Skyewalker Hostel. Dropped all our things and drove 30 minutes to get into Portree (kudos to Winnie driving in the dark and rain). Had dinner at the Caley Bar – I got the burger that comes with fries, onion rings and coleslaw.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Our first full day in Skye, we started our day back in Portree stocking up on groceries at the Co-op before hitting the open road. We drove to the Fairy Glen (many miniature cone-shaped hills). Next stop was Quiraing where the sun started to come out but we didn’t realize where we had stopped in that parking lot was the entrance to the 6-8KM trail. We drove down the bends to see the other side to realize this. At that point, there was no turning back. We just kept going.
Stopped by Cuith-Raing – a lookout point.
With the gorgeous sun out, we stopped by Kilt Rock with his waterfall before making it over to Old Man of Storr. We hiked to the top and we were so happy the weather cooperated. When we were heading down from our hike, the rain started up so we were lucky. We drove back to Portree and wandered the town a bit going to stores like Or and the Gathering Hall Market.
Since we didn’t really have a proper meal that day (minus the tons of snacking) we chose to stay in Portree for dinner. We went to Prince of India – I ordered the lamb Tikka Biryani and the special Pakura.
We were able to drive back to Port na Long while the sun was still up (much easier than pitch darkness and rain). Our hostel featured a see-through dome where you can relax and look upon the stars but only when the sky is clear which sadly it wasn’t.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
We kept checking the weather going into this trip and this day in particular was suppose to be raining 15-20mm. The Scottish have a word – dreich meaning wet, dull, gloomy, dreary at its most miserable of weather.
Today however, the rain for the most part stayed away and we got some golden rays.
We drove over to Dunvegan Castle – the clan of MacLeod. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and goes back at least 800 years. The garden was super lovely to walk through as well.
The rays of sun were strong as we drove to our next destination – Neist Point Lighthouse. It did get dark and gloomy along the way and traffic came to a halt because of the cows. We got to the top and waited in our car until the clouds pushed away a bit. Windy but we made the climb down and up to the lighthouse.
Considering we thought the day would be rained out, we stopped into a Cafe and asked about any other hikes and a couple mentioned Coral Beach in Claigan. The walk down to the beach is easy going (about 25 mins each way). The best part was climbing up to the top of the cliff after you’ve made it to the beach. It was incredibly windy and ever more so up top.
We drove back to Portree for dinner and grabbed some classic fish and chips at Chippy’s. The rest of the night was spent trying to untangle my hair. A lot of hair was lost that night.
Isle of Skye – Glasgow – Edinburgh, Scotland
Isle of Skye was great timing for us in terms of weather especially. We left in the morning and the rain just kept pummelling down.
We drove back to Edinburgh but of course with stopovers in Fort William for lunch at Wildcat Cafe once again. I got the miso peanut butter tofu wrap. We also decided to detour and check out Glasgow on our way back.
The weather wasn’t ideal but we did manage to walk around a bit to see the church (outside because it closed before we arrived) and around the square, part of campus and the famous shopping area and arcade. I even found a Tardis. We also stopped by a piece of home – Tim Hortons (but no honey cruellers so we carried on). We made it back in Edinburgh and made a nice stirfry to end this chapter of our time in Scotland with Nuala and Maya.
Edinburgh to London to Barcelona
Early morning train ride from Edinburgh to London Euston. Of course we had loads of snacks to get us through our travels. Winnie and myself parted ways once we got into Euston. I went to explore the city and run some errands and she went to exchange clothing at her friend’s place where she was storing her larger luggage.
In my few hours walking around, I went to Novelty Automation, Oxford Street, Carnaby, the Burlington Arcade (still has its own private police in big hats and capes), and Goodwin’s court in Covent Garden.
Walked over to London Bridge train station and we both hopped onto the train to Gatwick airport using our oyster cards. It was a long ride especially with rush hour travellers.
The flight with Vueling to Barcelona was super smooth. Since we arrived late in the evening, we decided to sleep in the airport. We found an outlet behind a machine so we plugged in and slept on the floor.
6AM wake up call to drive through the fog from Porto to Sintra. The drive from Porto was roughly 3.5-4 hour drive to Quinta da Regaleira. Honestly, I was following the speeds of the other drivers and at certain points I was driving a consistent 160KM/HR on the highway.
Originally planned to visit both Quinta da Regaleira (€8) and Palácio da Pena (there are 2 ticket options – Park & Palace €14 OR just Park ticket €7.50). For those heading to Quinta da Regaleira – Parking – there really isn’t much parking nearby Quinta and if the spots that are close are not empty, it’s only a one way road that takes about 30 minutes to circle back around. We found out the hard way and on the second time around, we found a spot where people had made their own spots on the side of the road about a 15 minute walk past Quinta da Regaleira.
We ended up just going to Quinta da Regaleira. We walked around the site to the infamous Initiation Well and cave system as the main attraction. Continued to the Fountain of Youth and the palace. We decided to nix Palácio da Pena and head to the beach side. We figured out that both myself and Winnie aren’t as big into Castles and Museums as many other travellers tend to be. Also, the weather was lovely and back home in Toronto the weather was starting to get cooler and we wanted to soak in the sun as much as we could.
We drove to Azenhas do Mar to take in the views and that’s where we overheard a guide mention of this beach town Cascais and decided to drive over. We situated ourselves at Praia dos Pescadores but not before getting ourselves some acai bowls. Took a few hours to catch some rays on the sand before heading to our Airbnb in Caxias.
Our Airbnb location was about a 15-minute drive over to Lisbon where we met up with my friend Kat who I originally met through Yuujou and had the opportunity to meet in person in NYC back in July. Timing wise, she literally just moved there the day before but happily met up for dinner with us to show us one of her favourite places.
We had an amazing dinner at Noobai, which is a 3-tiered restaurant that overlooks the city and is a great place for sunsets. The food was amazing as well! I got the codfish loin, Kat got the prawn curry and Winnie got the mango salad. We shared a lovely pitcher of sangria as well.
After dinner, Kat walked us through her old neighbourhood before leaving us for a conference call. We ventured off to continue our quest for tasting pastel de natas. We stopped at 3 spots: Alcoa, Fabrica da Nata and Pastelaria Casa Brasileira. I think for me, the flaky buttery crust of Fabrica won but the custard of Casa Brasileira won for that night.
Portugal is also known for this codfish croquette called Bacalhau but we were so full we did not have the chance to try one for ourselves.
During this adventure, we also walked by Santa Justa Lift (you can pay to get an above roof top level view right in the middle of the city), MUDE and Timeout Lisbon Market. And finally to end the night, went to pink Street where we met back up with Kat at 4 Caravelas and met all her Remote Year friends for drinks. Sam, Victor, Austin and Scott were the ones we chatted with the most.
Lisbon – Porto, Portugal
Sama Sama – same same but different.
After being in Lisbon for less than 48 hours, I can definitely see how Lisbon is the San Francisco of Europe. Incredibly hilly, by the water, impacted by earthquakes and has it’s own version of the Golden gate Bridge (same architect) and has the tram system.
First thing we did that morning was to get up and goto Pastéis de Belém for the OG (if you will) for pastel de nata. To be very honest, it was good but not my favourite. I stand by my choices the night before of the custard of Pastelaria Casa Brasileira and the flaky crust of Fabrica with Manteigueira as a close second overall. Right across the street is Jerónimos Monastery and on the other side of the road that we kept driving past was Belém Tower.
We drove into Lisbon city centre and walked around during the daytime since all the places we saw the previous day was in the evening. Had breakfast at Fauna and Flora where I ordered the Spicy Pumpkin pancakes.
Walked through Alfama area and all the way to the top of Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for the best view of Lisbon. There are steep streets to get up there but well worth it.
A pitstop we needed to goto before leaving Lisbon was for pastel de nata from Fabrica. We ate lunch at Sama Sama. I got the Maggie crepe and the Lemon drop smoothie and we got to eat in their affiliated bar on the corner called Crafty Corner.
We drove 3.5 hours to get back to Porto and returned the car rental by the afternoon. Got to the airport and dropped off our bags in the storage lockers. On our way out of the airport since our flight wasn’t until the morning, we decided to head back into the city however we looked up and saw on tv that they were playing volleyball, albeit a very fuzzy quality screen. We ended up standing there for an extra hour watching before we finally left.
We decided to hop on the metro line and get back into town for one final meal. Walked around a bit trying to find food and ended off at Casinha Baixa Do Porto. We ordered the codfish with creamy potato puree, mini-francesinhas, tripinhas, folded egg with spinach and manchego cheese on bread and finally a smoked salmon salad. We had also looked into this food market type of establishment called Food Corner that housed a different cuisine per floor but we didn’t quite like the options at that time.
The accommodation for the night: Porto airport. One thing we learned about travelling and sleeping in an airport is that if you haven’t checked in yet, you can find the closed cafes and push the chairs together to create a bed. We observed others doing the same and followed suite. We have also slept on floors by power outlets.
Porto, Portugal – London,UK – Stockholm, Sweden
3 airports, 3 countries. Porto – London – Stockholm.
We slept in the airport overnight to catch our 630AM flights. Winnie and myself parted ways (but only for a few days). She wanted to stay in the warmth while I decided to head to the Scandanavian country of Sweden to visit a friend in Stockholm. I landed into Stansted airport in London early in the morning to 14°C but in the sun, felt amazing. Since Stansted is further out of the main city centre and I had another flight to catch in the evening, I stayed put but found a good spot outside of the airport by the bus meeting room by a power outlet. I also found a good spot on the hill in the sun.
I was able to charge up all my devices and catch up on backing up photos. When I travel, I always bring my mogics powerbar so I can share the charging with others. During my charging time, I was able to make friends with a man named Vullant. He is an army chef who lives in London and was coming back from Izmir, Turkey from visiting his mother.
Having plenty of time and the weather cooperating at 22°C, I took back to the hill to catch the rays before I had to go through security.
Ryanair is the cheap budget airline but it can afford to be because it doesn’t fly right into the city centre’s. During my evening flight, luckily I took out my earbuds earlier near the end of the flight as I made friends with the girl beside me – Jamila. She is originally from Holland but lives in London. She was travelling to Stockholm to attend a family wedding.
She was even kind enough to offer me a ride into the city centre however timing wise, her cousin was running late and the bus I originally booked was more feasible. Coming out of the airport, the weather was drastically different from what I had experience so far into the trip at 5°C.
I took the Flygbussarna from Skavsta to the city centre. It took 1.5-2 hours but at least the bus has outlets and USB plugs. I got off the bus around midnight to 2°C but briskly walked to Centralstation and was able to get a glimpse of 2 of the metro stations. I purchased the 72-hour metro card pass for unlimited travel on their transit system.
Through my experience with the travel experiment Yuujou, I was able to connect with what I call the Yuujou 25 family (my digital family from around the world). And in Stockholm, I finally got to meet Isabelle in person finally! (She hosted me during my short stay in Stockholm).
The original plan was to go to Australia & New Zealand for Sept/Oct 2019 with my friend Winnie. We were hoping for a flight deal to come along. Unfortunately no deal came by the deadline we gave ourselves so we decided to go to Europe together instead. Our itinerary is all over the place zig –zagging all over Europe. We narrowed down our top 10 countries we wanted to visit in the time period we had and researched where we could fly to for a bargain. From there, we chose to go to the warmer destinations first to extend our summer. The last leg of the trip was originally going to be staying in London/UK but we decided during the trip to go somewhere warm because let’s be fair, the heat makes things happier especially being in chilly and wet weather for awhile.
Now, before you get to the itinerary (all the way at the bottom), I am posting some (hopefully) helpful tips and information that came up during our trip.
Money – STACK (Pre-paid Mastercard)
36 days of travelling to multiple countries with different currencies takes a lot of organizing. When I travel, I usually carry a good amount of cash on me and pay that way so I don’t incur high conversion fees using my credit card. I made sure I knew what countries I was going to and calculated roughly how much I would be spending per day and got cash for certain countries I knew I would be in for a longer duration.
I tried to average about $60CAD/day. Prior to setting off on this trip, we tried to book our Airbnb’s, car rentals and flights in advance so at least those costs were covered.
My brother told me about this card called STACK, which is a conversion fee pre-paid Mastercard. With this card, you Interac transfer money from your bank account to the card account via the app using the special custom question and answer the app provides you with. Say you decide to transfer $200 to the card, if the card gets stolen, the card is not linked to your actual bank account and if say only $200 is on the card that is the limit that can be used. This card comes as a physical card but is also a virtual card via the app.
What I liked about using this card is that it was a very fast and secure way of paying for things abroad and the app also notifies you when a transaction has been made and will convert it automatically to your main currency so you don’t have to calculate the conversion yourself. And it is conversion fee free!
I used this card more so in the Scandinavian countries because they have started to adopt the cash-less transactions method but I still used cash in many of the other countries we travelled to.
Use my referral link and you’ll get $5 in your account when you activate your card.
Download STACK now: https://getstackco.app.link/fuqEmfMNH1 (this link only works on your phone via the app once its downloaded)
Yes Ryanair has super cheap flights BUT many hidden costs or steps. We decided to go to many countries because of how cheap the flights were (12£ one-way to go from London (Stansted) to Copenhagen (CPH) is a real good price). We also booked early. These cheap tickets have many drawbacks. First off, many of the airports you fly out of or into are not usually the main airports and are usually smaller airports outside of the city centre which adds more travel time.
More recently, Ryanair changed their luggage requirements from what use to be a free carry-on (still smaller than regulation size on other airlines) and now the only free luggage you can have must be 40x20x25CM. Depending on the airport and the staff, they don’t really check the size of your bag. I got the size compliant bag (Swissgear – https://www.shopbentley.com/en/escape-collection-travel-tote-swiss-gear-1016684.html) and it sits under the seat no problem with room to spare. The staff didn’t really check so you could get away with a slightly larger bag or a bag that can squish.
REMEMBER TO ALWAYS CHECK IN ONLINE. You can do this up to 48 hours. For non-EU passengers, you must print your documents, as they will not issue you a boarding pass. I found that with flights not connected to the UK, the boarding pass will be issued to your Ryanair App however, if you are flying out of or into UK, you must print your boarding pass to get a Visa check and stamp. I have heard that if you don’t print it and ask at the check-in desk, there is an expensive fee for them to print for you.
Car rentals – International Driver’s License
As a Canadian, you are required to have your International Driver’s License to rent a car in Spain.
Travelling throughout many countries in Europe for over a month, trying to find a SIM card plan that works in all the countries and for that period of time was a challenge but there are definitely options out there beside “roaming” with your phone plan back home as that can be costly.
For my 36 day Eurotrip, I purchased this 30 day SIM card that works throughout 71 European countries with 12GB + 3000 minutes + 3000 texts. You are also able to top up this plan when in the UK by purchasing in-store.
Photo & Video Storage – SSD & USB – I brought an external to back up my photos from my DSLR and my phone every night. I also bring a USB for back-up to the back-up of the external for peace of mind since my phone internal storage is not large enough to store all the photos from the trip for the entirety of 36 days. I would suggest bringing another USB (64GB should suffice) to be the back up to the back up for the phone photos so you can clear space.
You can also use cloud storage but I am not a fan of that so these are my alternatives.
Alltrails is amazing for finding hikes around the world. People review or comment on each hike and also you can see the difficulty and lengths. You can also download the app.
To be honest, we ate out a lot this trip. When we could, we tried to make some meals with friends. We also stocked up on snacks like fruit and breakfast (skyr, yogurt, granola etc). You will find that there are many grocery stores but some are superior to others in terms of quality for the price. Budget friendly grocery stores you should be on the lookout for are Aldi & LIDL.
Spain – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)
Eating times Different times for eating. They take siesta very seriously and will take hour long lunches where the kids will go home as well to eat with family. Dinner usually starts around 8PM.
Desayuno – breakfast – 7-9AM
-a Spanish classic is a toasted baguette with olive oil and crushed tomatoes
-other breakfast foods consist of churros and chocolate or pastries like croissants.
Almuerzo – Mid-morning snack – 1030-11AM – Coffee with a muffin or a croissant with ham and cheese
La Comida – Lunch – 2-330PM – Most important meal of the day.
Merienda – Mid-after snack – 530-730PM – More about socializing – more drinks than food. Churros are popular at this time of day or a small meat and cheese sandwich.
La hora del aperitivo – Tapas Hour – 830-10PM
La Cena – Dinner time – 9-11PM – Dinner is usually much lighter than a standard dinner meal. Traditional Spanish dinners are shared plates.
-Try Clara – beer with lemonade or lemon Fanta
-Try Tinto de verano – Red wine with Sprite or Fanta (very popular in Spain) – very similar to sangria
-Hola – Ola – Hello
-Adios – bye
-Si – Yes
-No – No
-Pardon or Disculpa – Excuse me
-Por Favor – Please
-Gracias – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Lo SIento – Sorry
-Factura – Bill
-Salud – Cheers
-Camamos – Let’s eat
Portugal – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)
-You need to try some pastel de nata (Portugese Egg Tarts)
-Ola – Hello
-Oi – Hi
-Tchau – Bye
-Sim – Yes
-Nao – No
-Por Vaor – Please
-Obrigado – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Desculpe – I’m Sorry
-Perdao – Pardon me
-Saúde – Cheers
-vamos comer – Let’s eat!
Sweden – Stockholm – SEK – Swedish Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Physical cash transaction is not common here.
-Tap and Swish (E-Transfer) is the common transaction types
-Stockholm is made up of many little islands connected by bridges
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip.
-Access is their tap transport card – I got the 72-hour card. You can take all the forms of transportation ranging from bus, train, tram and ferry.
-Fika – an important part of Swedish culture. Fika – coffee break
-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nej – No
-Ursäkta – Excuse me
-snälla du – Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Varsågod – You’re welcome
-Förlåt – Sorry
-räkningen – Bill
-Skål – Cheers
-låt oss äta – Let’s eat
Denmark – Copenhagen – DKK – Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip
-Biking is taken very seriously and has its own road rules just like driving a car.
-Copenhagen Card – You can use the calculator on their website to see if it is worth it to purchase this card. We purchased it but mainly for the unlimited travel. We purchased the 72 hours card. It’s sort of an honour system in a sense as you have to write in your start date and time on the card. You don’t tap it when boarding trains/buses etc but there may be a fare/ticket checker on some of your rides and must show your card. I wish we used the erasable pen we had instead so we could adjust it as we were in Copenhagen for a little bit more than 72 hours and it would have been nice to not have to purchase a day pass for the last few hours. The card gets you into many attractions and discounts on many other things.
-Make sure you check if certain attractiions are open on specific days
-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Ingen – No
-undskyld mig- Excuse me
-Vær venlig (vair-vin-lee)– Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Selv tak (sell tack) – You’re welcome
-Beklager (bi-clay-er) – Sorry
-regning – Bill
-Skål (skuul) – Cheers
-Lad os spise- Let’s eat
Germany – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (10%)
-Drinking is allowed in public
-Many flea markets on Sundays!
-Many stores are closed
-Grocery stores are closed Sundays however the ones in bus/train stations are exceptions
-Hallo – Hello
-Tschüss – (choose) bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nein – No
-Entschuldigen Sie – Excuse me
-bitte – Please
-Dankeschön– Thank you
-Bitte – You’re welcome
-Es tut uns leid (astudentslight) – Sorry
-Rechnung – Bill
-Lass uns essen- Let’s eat
London – Pound – £
-Oyster Card – train/subway/bus system is very intricate but can get you everywhere.
-Tip is around 10%
Scotland – Pound- £
-Similar to Quebec to the rest of Canada, Scotland is the United Kingdom’s counterpart whereby at a certain point, they wanted to separate to become a country of their own.
-It doesn’t really snow here but the temperature remains an average low of maybe 5C
-Edinburgh seems to be a popular for international students to study
Congratulations, you have made it to the piece de resistance – My Itinerary for 36 days in Europe. We did move around things we did on certain days in certain cities but for the most part, this is what we did and they are grouped by areas in each city to maximize your days.
Since we had a sick traveller, we took it a little easier this morning. Also, Raptors had won the championship and back in Toronto, they were hosting the huge parade so we all tuned in for that.
We took our time and slowly made our way back to Healy. We stopped by Roadhouse in downtown Talkeetna for breakfast – no tipping required as the fee is included in the fee. I got the biscuit and gravy. We shared a nutty cinnamon bun. Great assortment of baked goods and each meal comes with 2 drinks.
We walked around the general area and ended up going to the Talkeetna Historical Society – $5 to go through the museum that is located in an old schoolhouse. We stayed around to listen to one of the guys who have climbed Mount Denali. The talk went on for about 40 minutes and then we decided it was time to leave and begin our long trek back in the direction of the previous day.
We drove an hour and half north to check out Hurricane Gulch viewpoint. Then onto Denali North Viewpoint – You can definitely skip this lookout point as Denali Viewpoint South is much worthwhile. The rain was on and off during our drive. I feel like this drive in particular was too arduous especially for the views. We spent a lot of time in a car and pretty much just backtracked. We already made the decision not to do big hiking back at Denali especially with one of our people feeling under the weather.
Drove back down to Talkeetna and was trying to get to XY Lake (pass flying squirrel and turn right). We missed it the first time around and ended up at Christensen lake. We dropped off Merle and Kenny back at the cabin as both were now feeling under the weather. We ventured back and found the right entrance to XY Lakes. Once you turn onto the street, the entrance will be on the immediate right side and you follow down the path. The longest of hikes is 5.2 miles around XY lakes.
Once we finished the hike, we went back for Merle & Kenny and went back to downtown Talkeetna for dinner at Denali Brewpub. I got the Belgian beer then split fish and chips with sweet potato wedges as well as a sirloin pretzel dip sandwich with Ryan. The Fish & Chips was better than the sirloin pretzel dip sandwich.
After dinner, we walked over to Fairview Inn which was literally in eye sight distance. They had karaoke that night and Kushaan sang Backstreet Boys. We also were able to play some shuffle board and ping pong before calling it a night.
Since we stayed up late the previous night, we had a late start on our final day. The group went for coffee and tea and spoke with Todd who gave us recommendations for our route back to Anchorage. We took the Hatcher’s Pass route that would take us through the mountains before bringing us back to to the highway that would eventually bring us back to Anchorage. This detoured route took us off-road and it was quite nice to see that hidden route. It did get quite intense though as we started to get higher in elevation and Ryan was driving us into the clouds. It was a literal sheet of white that surrounded us and it didn’t help that the roads were narrow and hard to see metres in front as we ascended. We did see a few people on motorbikes pass up coming from above. We made it to the top of Summit Lake which was 3500+ft above sea level. It would’ve been a beautiful view if the clouds and mist had lifted but the eeriness of the fog made the experience pretty cool on its own.
At this point of the trip, 3 of 5 were sick. We all have been in tight quarters of the car for the week and that cough just started to spread.
Since the detour was a lot slower than we thought, we stopped in Palmer to get the infamous Taco Bell we had been talking about before hitting the road again. Since the weather was much colder than Denali and we had sick people, we continued past Reflection Lake, Mirror Lake and Thunderbird Trail which are apparently great little trails and stops right off the highway.
When we reached Anchorage, we decided to spend the day indoors at the Anchorage Museum. It was such a beautiful Museum with great exhibits. We pitched in $5 extra for the special exhibit – Frozen in Time (Not worth it). The collection of art and the dedication to spotlight Alaskan history was very informative especially coming into Alaska not really knowing anything. Alaska is actually quite the melting pot. Besides the Native Americans that lived there before, there were people from Sudan, Russia, Philippines, Japan, and so on and so forth.
We would have loved to stay longer however we needed to get Ryan to the airport by 630PM and we still had one more place to go before we dropped him off. We went to Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria which apparently has been known to be the #1 pizza in America and we had to try it out. The place is pretty cool. You can sit down and eat, order out and there is also a beer garden area where you can sit in a courtyard and drink and if you do takeout, you can eat there as well. We (Ryan, Kenny, Kushaan and myself) shared the Forager – Mushroom & spinach white pizza – not bad but also not the best pizza I’ve eaten.
Kenny ended off our final meal with a gratitude and appreciation circle where everyone went around our group and you had to name at least one thing you appreciate and/or a funny moment that each person brought to the group. It was a great way to end the trip and made us feel closer especially for strangers coming together in a timespan of 6-7 days from different walks of life to experience Alaska together.
After we dropped off Ryan, the rest of us besides Kenny had a few hours to spare before we also had to get dropped off at the hostel. Once again, the light messed with our sense of time as it was already 7-8PM and we were trying to kill time but majority of establishments were already closed. We went to the park by the Airport where we saw what sort of looked like what I’d imagine a sunset would look like at this time of year. We still had time to kill and found a place called Boba Tree and got a little taste of boba before getting dropped off. I got the Banana & avocado smoothie – $5USD.
The route home such as the route getting to Alaska took us from Anchorage to Seattle to Vancouver before reaching Toronto. It just so happened when we landed in Seattle, I messaged my friend Jenn (who is also a mutual friend with Kenny) just so happen to be flying out that same morning. I caught her for a split second before she had to board her plane enroute to Montreal.