Monday 19 November 2018

Planes, Trains & Cruiseships – The Stuchberrys do Europe.

Recently a couple of people we know have been in Europe, and between that, the pasta and pizza they get to devour, and the fact that baby is currently the size of a French pastry, it’s made me so nostalgic for our honeymoon. So I’m going to talk about it. Only 5 months late. (and no, to answer the burning question: baby Stuchberry didn’t join us in anyway in Europe – he waited to be a Canadian made baby).

When we were figuring out what to do for the honeymoon, we brainstormed a lot. Did we want to do something relaxing and just go to Hawaii? No, we definitely wanted to do Europe, but what parts? Paris was a non-negotiable for me, and Croatia was a spot Jake really wanted to see because his Grampie was from there. We wanted to take a cruise for at least part of it because it was the most efficient way to see numerous cities without having to book hotels in 6 different places, but then what else? So, we booked flights in and out of Paris, 3 weeks apart, and then we figured it out from there. 2 nights in Paris, a train down to Barcelona for a night, get on a 7 day cruise in Barcelona that took us to Gibraltar, Marseilles, Genoa, Livorno & lastly, ended in Rome. Spend a few nights in Rome, train to Venice for a few more nights, then an overnight train back to Paris for a day, then home. Whew! It was a lot.

And it, was, PERFECT. I am so incredibly happy this is what we decided, because not only was it just the most amazing vacation I’ve ever taken, it was the most incredibly romantic 3 weeks. Something about discovering new cultures, languages you don’t speak, regions, food & people with your brand new husband – there is nothing like it and I will cherish this trip for the rest of my days.
I won’t go into too much detail about the trip because quite honestly, it would end up being 6 parts. I’ll stick to our 3 favorite stops, our least favorite stop, and maybe throw in a tip or two. First up, both of our undeniable favorite place, Paris.

Paris has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, and it not only lived up to the hype my head created, it far surpassed it. We were warned of “rude Parisians”, and we honestly never met one.  The weather was beautiful – hotter than either of us expected it to be and incredibly humid, but never did one rain drop hit us; we referred to our gorgeous weather the entire trip as the honeymoon gods smiling down on us. Our first day there after arriving to our hotel around 9 am, we quickly changed out of our airport gear and set off for some refreshments. We ventured a few blocks and settled on this corner café, and took a seat outside. The most chic, tiny, lovely man came to our table and started speaking to us in French, which quickly reminded me: in all the midst of planning a wedding, I had forgotten to brush up on the languages we’d be speaking!! And did you know, the French you learn in school is NOT the French they speak in France – make sense of that. So thankfully I knew to say Please, thank you, numbers & Café au lait – the very basic, very important things. He decided what we would have for lunch – Croque Monsieur – and even though Jake ordered a beer, he brought us two café au lait (this will forever be the moment Jake became a coffee drinker). It was the most delicious meal, like, I’m still thinking about it. A man came up to our table to ask for money and within 30 seconds, our lovely waiter was ripping a strip off of him in no time, sending him on his way to ensure our lunch wasn’t spoiled. We loved him, and we came back every day we were in Paris. I asked him at one point, “Parlez-vous Anglais?” to which he replied “No.”, so our relationship existed of very warm smiles and the very basic words.

From there, we walked. We had grabbed a map at the front desk of our hotel, and we walked and walked and walked – cost effective and in my opinion, the best way to discover a city. Everywhere you go in Paris, it really feels like the scene of a movie – it honestly is that beautiful; Montemarte feels as though you have travelled back in time when you’re wandering through the cobble stone streets, listening to street musicians playing on their accordions and passing the most quaint, beautiful little boutiques . We learned really quickly that traffic is insanity, and when you’re crossing the street – move it or literally lose it; they will honk mercilessly at you if they have to even take their foot off the gas to allow you to cross. The first day we decided to really go for it – walk to the Eiffel Tower – about 5 km each way from our hotel. It was about a 45 minute walk and it was worth it. When we caught a glimpse of it poking out over the trees, I literally gasped and my eyes welled up with tears. Even Jake was absolutely blown away when we got to it. It really does take your breath away. Of course it was insanely packed, but we walked around the park beside it, grabbed some drinks and parked it on a bench to admire where we were. Every part of me was bursting with excitement that after years of dreaming, I was here.

We arrived in Paris at 9 am, but had been up and travelling technically for 27 hours and trying to stay awake until bedtime was a massive challenge – the first night I woke up every hour and thought I had slept for 7; jetlag is weird. The next day we ventured out again, and strolled down to the Louvre which again, thanks Honeymoon Gods! Was not very busy at all, for Paris standards. We spent 4 hours in there and felt as though we barely hit the surface of what could be seen. We made a stop and introduced ourselves to the Mona Lisa (along with 3000 other people), ooh’d and awe’d at the jewellery exhibits (okay, just me), and took in as much history as possible. I hate to admit this, but most of the time I was more into the ornate gold frames than the artwork itself, except for the floral pieces, I was super into those. After even 4 hours, we probably only saw 1/3 of what the museum had to offer, but after a certain point our brains just couldn’t take anymore in. After a hotdog and water break, we went off adventuring again. The next day when we woke up, both of our legs were so sore we couldn’t understand what was going on, until I looked at my steps tracker and realized that in two days we had walked roughly 25 kms each day. It made my steady diet of butter, cheese and pastry feel a lot more deserved ;)

I knew I said I wasn’t going to go on and on, but as it turns out you can’t summarize how magical these places are in only a few paragraphs. So next up, I will tackle the cruise week, and Barcelona.
But first! Tips for a European City:

  •    Walking shoes. You will see lots of locals in amazing get ups & footwear, but since you’ll do most of your adventuring by foot, just accept that you’ll be wearing sensible footwear. My Birkenstocks MORE than paid for themselves – after the first day and one blister, it was like walking on clouds.
  •     Learn at least a few words in the native language. A lot of the locals speak a bit of English, but I found they were a lot more polite if they could see us trying. Then they’d humor us and switch over to English.
  •    Don’t bother trying to wear your hair anything other than what it naturally wants to do. Atleast for us, when we went it was extremely humid, so I stopped wearing makeup after the second day, and let my hair do it’s own thing. Much more low maintenance, and you’ll fit right in. The running joke was if it was humanly possible for my hair to get bigger & curlier - & it always did. 
  •    Pack a vibrant scarf and colorful lipstick – the two things I was bummed I didn’t have, every second woman had amazing scarlett lips and I didn’t even think to bring any. We only brought carry on luggage and I literally packed the day before - I was still in wedding fog and if I could, I'd have packed much better & smarter. Oh well, next time! 
  • Use a map. Unless you buy an international sim card (and I will go into the pros and cons of that one later), your phone is going to be useless unless you’re in a WiFi zone – which thankfully a lot of restaurants do provide. All of our hotels had old school maps, and a lot of them have the landmarks displayed to make it easier to find them.

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