8 Countries In 21 Days (Eurotrip 2014)
It was in the dead of winter, I was working up north on a drilling rig wayyy back in the bush. I received a text from my girlfriend Rebecca claiming that she landed tickets for the Tommorowland Music Festival in Belgium! I immediately transferred her money to pay for the tickets and we were officially going to Europe! Woot Eurotrip 2014!!
Before our trip, I had only been to 3 countries in the world but I’ve always had a passion for travel and seeing new things. Booking these tickets really made me happy to know I had another adventure nearing. So after some extensive planning on where we were going to go in Europe, we purchased our tickets!
We chose to fly Air Transat and were impressed with the hospitality and professionalism of the crew. I would definitely choose them again for long flights. We had packed and repacked our backpacks 10 times each to get a feel for exactly what we would be bringing. I would say I over packed a bit but not much. After all I was going to be living out of this bag for almost 3 weeks.
So after we..
..felt we had packed the right stuff and the right amount of clothing, we set out. We flew directly from Calgary to Paris in 9.5 hours (I think) We took a taxi to our hotel to unwind a bit.
Now if you’ve never been to Europe, don’t be alarmed by how tight everything is inside the buildings. Its pretty common to only fit two people with no luggage in the elevators. The rooms and hallways are all similar in the fact it’s very space saving, and it makes sense, cram as many people as you can into a small area to maximize the use of the space.
I was always taking my time when walking through older buildings to note all the differences in architecture and design. Another strange thing I noticed was that there aren’t many toilets in Europe with a water tank, most are plumbed directly into the wall with big buttons on the wall to flush. I’m intrigued by weird things like that I guess haha!
we’re in the city of love..
..and had only the one night here as we were leaving for Spain in the morning! We saw as much of the city as we could by foot and then resorted to the bike taxis. The people in Paris weren’t the most pleasant, I mean, I’m not saying everyone was an a$$hole but once the locals find out you’re a tourist, it’s a noticeable difference in service.
The crappy thing about it, we know french(mostly). But that didn’t bother me, I was in awe of the massive structures and museums and art and sculptures! OMG Paris has an extensive amount of jaw dropping architecture! And the food!! Exceptional cuisine wherever you go, but still worth looking up some popular places on yelp or google. Especially if you are craving something in particular. Anyways we saw the Eiffel tower..
..and the outside of the Louvre but it was closed for construction or something. So after a 9 hour flight and countless miles of foot soldiering, we were done! We settled into our super comfy hotel bed with Parisian decor surrounding us and had a fabulous sleep. Wake up!! I set an alarm for 6am if I recall, we had to be at the train station by 8am.
We purchased Eurail passes..
..and I recommend this if you plan on using trains to see Europe. If you don’t want to use the train system its actually more affordable to just fly! Unlike Canada, Europe has unbelievable deals when it comes to flights. It’s actually not even fair! Like it would cost me at least 300$ to fly from Kelowna to Calgary, but I could fly from Barcelona, Spain to London, England for 30Euros which is about 55$!! I’m still confused as to why we have to pay so much more in Canada.
So we’re in the train station in Paris and it’s amazing, seriously I’d say some of the most beautiful buildings were the train stations in big cities. So off we go, high speed rail travel at it’s best!
The good thing about trains..
..is you can see so much when you travel, although it may take longer, it’s worth it if you have the time to do it. Plus most trains have usb charging stations or plug ins for euro-style electronics. Keeping our phones and cameras charged was probably one of the biggest challenges during this trip.
We travelled south..
..through France into Spain where we cut back west into Pamplona. I fell in love with this city and only wish we had more time to spend here. It was filled with history and culture unlike anything I’d ever seen anywhere in the world!
Everything was made out of cobblestones and rock, it was a beautiful city that gets filled with life once a year for the San Fermin Festival. This festival lasts 8 or 9 days and has so many cultural traditions and also hosts the running of the bulls! (thats why we’re here lol) So the first day in Pamplona we missed the bull run because it starts at 7am, we didn’t arrive until 8pm or so.
We had not planned to stay in hotels for most of this trip to save money. Obviously it would be more affordable and exciting to stay a tent for free! From the train station, we had to find a place to set up camp (as it was getting dark) I think we went on a short stroll to find a park that would suffice for hiding the tent. The sleep was not the best the first night, it was chilly out and the humidity did not help. Bundled up in the sleeping bags made it better but it’s not a great place to wake up haha…
So we get up..
..get dressed, brush teeth, pack up tent, roll out and find out what this town had to offer! We carried our backpacks full of gear for most of the trip, if you are staying at hostels or hotels obviously you can leave your bags in the rooms. Although when you’re self sufficient, it may be a challenge to find places that will store your bag, but they do exist!
After a full day of hoofing it with our backpacks we decided to find a better camp and set up shop for the night and half the next day. We found an amazing spot beside a river on private land that was hidden from all angles. Jackpot.
This way we felt comfortable locking our bags and everything inside the tent with a luggage lock on the zippers lol. Never had any issues with thieves which was a relief.
That day we enjoyed some of the finest coffees and food we’d had in a long time! Just the bread in Europe will blow your mind! The first day in Pamplona was strictly to find a camp and explore the region so I could figure out how the bull run works.
You must be in the streets of downtown Pamplona by no later than 6am to be accepted into the running squad. Any later and you will be denied access into the streets, all entrances are closed off with giant wooden gates and are patrolled by the police or army. The city is truly alive with people from all over the world to get their adrenaline fix and run with the bulls!
The atmosphere was euphoric..
..and I can’t wait to go back to experience that feeling again. The streeets of Pamplona are all so similar its very easy to get lost and walk around in circles for hours haha. Make sure you get a map, they are easy to find during the festival from all sorts of vendors.
Me being a person who doesn’t drink alcohol found that the town really starts ramping up as the day progressed, people just got more intoxicated the more we explored haha, it certainly seemed like the thing to do!
I was surprised because you have to be up very early to be in the streets before the gates closed, and with my past experiences I had a hard time getting up early if I got hammered the night before, but whatever, not my problem lol… So that being said, we didn’t go to the bars or pubs or taverns or beer gardens or anything to do with drinking, I prefer it this way now after 9 years of sobriety.
After many more miles..
..of walking and exploring, we got sushi and went back to camp, it was a little more peaceful in our new camp as we were far enough from the city core it was mostly quiet. I woke to the sound of the river and little duckies in our camp, I was nervous for the bull run… I donned my white pants and red “blue jays” jersey with a red bandana for the running.
The standard attire consists of the white pants and white shirt with a red bandanna tied around your neck but I like to switch things up and this way I could proudly display my Canadian heritage on the jersey!
Heres me with my new running friends, the dude with the blue shirt was from Colorado and there were a couple of firefighters from Texas nearby too.
The majority of the people..
..in the streets seemed to look like locals though! I was impressed how many dedicated older gents were in the pack as well. As you can see from the pic I am wearing my GoPro camera around my chest in hopes to get this crazy event on film but apparently it’s against the rules to videotape the running of the bulls.
I got caught by one of the Policemen and he escorted me out of the gates and denied me entrance back in. I was crushed, we came all this way to do this and I screwed it up. We were supposed to leave Pamplona that afternoon and head to Barcelona by train to catch a flight to London.
Since I only had this one chance to take part in the bull run, I wasn’t gonna let those guys kick me out without a fight! I talk so tough but I was almost in tears when I went into another gate and buddy completely said NO WAY and pushed me back into the crowd of hundreds of people to fend for myself.
..I took off my jersey and hid my GoPro in my pants and went back to the first gate, swimming through hundreds of bodies to get to the gate again.
I tried to crawl underneath and I got caught by one of the guards again but this time I pleaded with the gentleman to let me run, I was begging him and he looked at his buddy with empathy in his eyes and said, “Go ahead” !!! PHEWW! I was back inside to try my luck against the bulls!
While all this was unfolding..
..in the back streets, Rebecca sat in the bleachers of the big arena where the bull run ends. She waited patiently there for a long time while they just kept cramming us tighter and tighter together in the streets like sardines. I noticed the guy in front of me shirt said “If you can read this I hope you’re not a bull” haha
Finally a gunshot! This is the symbol to us that the bulls have started running.. Another shot! All bulls are away.. wait for it.. wait for it… people were jumping, trying to peek over the crowd to see whats happening behind us, all of a sudden, cowbells.. getting louder! Start Running!!
It was intense!
People were falling over each other trying to get a better pole position. It was Mayhem haha. I’m now approaching “dead mans corner” as the bulls are very near, I quickly jumped around the hard 90 degree corner and lay flat against the wall as all 6 massive bulls ran right past me! It was a victory so far!! Now I have to keep up to the bulls because they close the gates to the arena and won’t let every person who runs on the streets into the Coliseum.
The big bulls just run the street course, they leave the arena immediately after entering, I was fortunate enough to have made it into the elite few hundred people who were now inside the arena and not really sure what to do next lol..
We walked around just talking to each other for a while until, all of a sudden they released one small bull that was full of piss n’ vinegar and trying to kill people LOL. It was crazy!! People were getting smashed every two seconds! Since I’m so short I really had to keep my head on a swivel looking for where the bull might be so I wasn’t in the line of fire!
I did manage to sneak..
..my GoPro out of my tight white pants and strap it up but accidentally had it in picture mode taking still shots every 3 seconds instead of video. I have a few good pics but was kinda bummed because the video would do it way more justice…
Although, that being said, I was lucky enough to run with the bulls and get a few pics instead of getting kicked out for good. So this bull vs humans game went on for close to two or three hours I’d say.. I was exhausted.
Rebecca got some good footage from the stands too and you can see me run past a bull and touch his back avoiding getting impaled. INSANE to say the least but quite the experience that I would recommend to anyone who likes a little rush!
After the run Rebecca and I reunited and went back to camp so I could get changed. Then we had a few more hours to see some other festival related shows and the Giant Head parades.
Here’s one of the giant head guys after the parade playing around with some kid. I loved the whole scene in Pamplona, I will never forget those days there and can’t wait to go back! Back to the train station we go with no time to waste haha..
We bullet train to Barcelona..
..and arrive at 4 or 5 pm hungry and tired we walk the promenade to eat at a fabulous little tapas restaurant. Tapas are a Spanish known type of sharable food like appetizers but made with gourmet type ingredients and very unique dishes.
We didn’t want to set up camp so we just slept on the marble floors of the airport with about 50 other people travelling out of the city in the morning. Again finding a power outlet that didn’t have a dozen people plugging in their devices was pretty hard haha. We had a horrible rest on the marble and it was time to wake up for a plane ride..
Off to London to compete in a half marathon known as Tough Mudder! Rebecca had an old friend from university whose parents lived in England and they agreed to let us crash there for two nights! We arrive in London and immediately have to find the bus station to get a ride to the midlands where we are going to stay, also only miles from the Tough Mudder course as well! pretty convenient 😉
We meet up with her friend..
..from school and he drove us to this quaint little British town in the Midlands of England. Everything was made of brick in these nice little neighbourhoods. The people were mostly friendly to us 🙂 However, this one time there were these two gals bickering at each other pretty extensively in a bus station haha.. I had to record it as it was hilarious!
We had fish n chips that night and WOW it was super good! I will say that stereotype held strong for the Brits because that was really the best I’d ever had for sure! We probably should have eaten better the night before doing a half marathon in the mud but regardless, it was worth it 🙂
So off to the Mudder course in the am! Nervous/tired/cranky lol but excited to earn my third Mudder headband!! HooRahh! we get signed in and get set up to start this long day of running in pastures with muddy obstacles throughout. It was hard, not only physically but it took a toll on both of us mentally. It was my idea to sign up for the event in the first place and Rebecca was on the fence. She didn’t have as much fun as I did during the race and it was a challenge to keep the spirits up. Either way, we persevered and completed our third Tough Mudder together!
Back to the house..
..for a clean up and some good home cooking! Not to mention, some rest! We got a ride to Cambridge the next day with her friend and we explored the universities and old town. They actually filmed Harry Potter at one of the schools which is a neat fact I never knew!
I think it was the building above with all the vines on the walls. I took this picture from a “punt” ride (long skinny boats where the driver uses poles to move around). These boats are basically the same as Italian gondolas in Venice but they are called punts in Cambridge. We ate lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant that day which was outstanding (and expensive) but hey, we’re on vacation right!!
From there we took another bus back to London Luton airport. We’d already flown into the Heathrow airport and let me tell ya, those airports MASSIVE!
We camped out that night about 5 km away from the airport on this old trail that led up to a treed area with meadows overlooking the industrial section close to the airport. That night wasn’t the best as were pretty sore from the Mudder and travelling all day.
Up early again!
I was just waiting for a chance to sleep in for a change haha! But good news because were boarding a flight to Nice, France. Mediterranean here we come! It was early afternoon when we landed, took a bus into town from the airport, not too far of a trip which was nice. It was Frances National Holiday the day we got there, which was pretty cool. We got a hostel with a single room for a couple, it was pretty nice I guess. It was really hot like 35C* when we got there so staying in the tent would not have been comfortable. It was nice to get a bed again for a couple of nights.
Nice is gorgeous and the crepes here rival any I’ve ever had anywhere my whole life!! We went back to this little crepe place twice it was so good! homemade chocolate toooo!!
Look at the size of that thing! Mmmm my mouth is watering right now as I type this haha. We rarely had a bad experience with food on this whole trip, Europe has quality dining figured out for sure!
We were in Nice..
..for two nights, it was a good break before flying back to England. We indulged in Nice and took a bus all the way up to Monaco.. It wasn’t that far, we got off before Monaco and hit the beach for a bit, then carried on up the coast and checked out an unbelievable palace before making our way back. Busses are cheap and a great way to make up ground if you’re tired from walking.
Now be wary because most beaches in this region are not cozy white sandy beaches! They are rocky and covered in dried seaweed. However, it didn’t bother us too much. Make sure to pack a big blanket or thick towels if you want to lay down and be comfortable. I heard the beaches get better as you head south down the Mediterranean coast.
Two days in Nice..
..with lots of exploring, relaxing and just soaking in the sun! Oh yeah, if you’re wondering.. there are women who are topless at the beaches in France. It’s not mandatory and I would say only 20% of women actually do it. It’s good to wear sunglasses if you’re a man 😉
I went bottomless for the afternoon but didn’t get good feedback.. LOL .. All jokes aside, Nice was one of my favourite places in Europe and I would certainly go back in a heartbeat!
Hopefully Rebecca doesn’t mind I put this pic up lol. We’re still good friends which means I should be allowed to post half-naked pictures on the internet haha. Let me know Beck and I’ll take it down if you wish 😉
Off to London!!
again.. lol I know right. England seemed to be our starting point for every new adventure on the list. This time we were catching the train from London to travel under the English Channel to Belgium where the Tomorrowland festival is. We stayed in a massive hostel in London that had giant rooms with 40 bunk-beds each.
Because we checked in super late, after midnight while everyone was asleep in the room. We had to be quiet and try no to disturb the other guests. We were also assigned different bunks so that created a challenge in the dark room as well. I wouldn’t recommend staying in a hostel with this many beds in on room if you’re with someone. Unless it was your buddies or other random travellers, it’s nice to sleep in the same bed as your partner.
The next day..
..we met up with my friend Rylee and his buddy from Saskatoon, they also had tickets to the festival and we travelled there together. The train station in London was gigantic and it was swarming with people from all over the world trying to get registered for the festival and get their global journey packages.
It was a very slow process.. finding one persons name on an envelope mixed with 9000 other envelopes in the same bin haha.. needless to say, we were in the train station for a while!
There’s me posing with the beauty’s that help guide the way through the giant train station. The Tomorrowland crew and volunteers were very helpful throughout the trip and that made it a lot easier to navigate the halls and get to where you were supposed to be. ALL ABOARD!
Now this train is fast!
I’m pretty sure Rylee had an app to tell us how fast we were going and it was over 300km/hr I think! Before we knew it, we were in Brussels! Now the next rat race to get to the Buses that brought everyone to the festival grounds near a town called BOOM!
It was record-breaking heat in Belgium that summer, I recall the temperature in the crowd in front of the stage was over 45C* on the third day. The Tomorrowland festival boasts some of the biggest crowds in the world and it was an amazing experience from start to finish!
..if you ever go, I recommend packing as light as possible because the trek to the campsites is ridiculous like an hour walk at least. Some people were having a hard time trying to carry three coolers and all their camping gear. Other people had wagons to assist getting their gear from point A to point B which was clever. We were complaining and we only had backpacks haha.
But seriously, it took a long time to get there so be prepared, bring a water bottle or a hydration pack that you can refill once inside as carrying boxes of water bottles may be an added challenge 😉
We finally found..
..our designated spot which was confusing but asking for help is the easiest way to navigate at first. We got camp set up and met some our neighbours. Small world because the group right beside us were from Kelowna which is only 30 mins from my hometown! Halfway across the world and get paired up with locals from home. Pretty cool..
Above is a funny picture where our camp mates are sharing some of my baby powder for obvious reasons! I was the only one who came prepared in this department. If you’ve ever been to a music festival in the summer you’ll know why baby powder is so popular amongst the males 😉
There was an afternoon show..
..at the campground stage for the campers and people of tomorrow! It was wicked to just cruise around and dance and be free for a change. Hadn’t had any time to really unwind since we got to Europe.. That being said, we forgot we were sleeping next to 100,000 other people who came here to party hardy for four days straight haha.. There were some pretty extensive campsites with sound systems and lights with like 5 tents surrounding the common area.
Lots of work and effort goes a long way when you’re limited to supplies in the campsite. I do believe one can leave the grounds and go into the small town of Boom for supplies and get back in without issues. But Rebecca and I didn’t really need anything else than what we could get at the general store in the village.
Anonymous masks! Also the same mask from a Nicky Romero video “Toulouse”. I bought two of these masks before we left Canada but found out when we got there that they were selling them at the festival too… sad face. But whatever, who cares if other people have the same mask! Wearing a mask in that kind of atmosphere is unlike anything, it’s very liberating in a devious sort of way.
I enjoyed the first night..
..it was fun making friends and taking in the beauty of the countryside and magical environment. Check out my Morphsuit that I wore on day three!! Wow did lots of people take pictures with me hahaha! Surprisingly the suit was not as hot as I thought, it actually lets the wind blow through the material. Still pretty uncomfortable after a whole day of raving.
Sleeping wasn’t easy the first night, people wanted to celebrate and I didn’t blame them. This is the biggest rave in the world and I didn’t expect the whole place to shut down after midnight haha. Being sober makes it a little harder to fall asleep with this kind of buzz going on but I managed.
We got up before the majority..
..of our neighbours and got in line for the showers. I’ve always been a morning person and I don’t think being here would have changed that. Getting showered up in the morning is usually a struggle at most “camp in” music festivals, even if you’re the early bird. It’s almost guaranteed there are lots of “birds” earlier than you.
Nothing feels better than a shower after a full day of raving though, so it’s worth the wait! Black feet are normal in this atmosphere. I chose to wear my running shoes more than my sandals to also protect my feet from getting stomped on.
The festival grounds opened at 11:00am and the line-up to get in was nearly 2 kilometres long!!! It took a while no doubt but we made it in. Once you get inside you can see so much of what you came here for! The real beauty is behind the gates for sure!
The music starts at 12:00 on most stages (there’s 15 by the way) And it’s impossible to see every DJ unless you ran from stage to stage which is also unfeasible due to the amount of foot traffic.
We made an effort..
..to see all the big names that we knew but were also pleasantly surprised by some unfamiliar groups that we just randomly came up to check out. It’s all about following the vibe and being consumed by the musical energy created by these world renown DJ’s . I’m honestly a fan of most music but I’ll admit these last few years I have a real dependency for electronic music, it’s amazing I love it on so many levels! And dancing!! OMG I can dance all day no problem.. In fact, I play music via bluetooth speaker 85% of each day just so I keep my vibe going :))
Clearly if you dance like me..
..you get pretty tired after 12 hours of doing this! Our sleeping pads weren’t very thick in the tent and I was pretttttty sore after a couple of days of hard raving. I sucked it up because the fun factor outweighed the soreness for sure! It’s not like everywhere you go it’s full on rave style with fast paced music.
There are places with a relaxed atmosphere where you can sit down and have a break too. Seeking shade was a hard too as most people gathered under anything that created any type of shadow.. There were also the little creeks and ponds where some people braved swimming despite the signs saying there was bacteria in the water and swim at your own risk. Mehhhhh I’m good thanks, I still had 7 days left of my trip!
The last night featured some huge names that put on shows that would rival most concerts.The togetherness that is created through the people and the music is unreal. Especially when every ones bracelets light up at the same time. Almost 300,000 people are engaged in some kind of euphonious trance. Also the fireworks/pyrotechnics were unforgettable!!!
Honestly when it’s all done..
..it feels like you’ve left a piece of your heart there. Awaiting your return to fill your core with love and togetherness. The people of Tomorrow have a special bond when they leave. I’m probably not the only one who feels that missing link.
Overall, it was a great festival but costly. Primarily the global journey tickets with camping. If you choose to stay in hotels (which some do). It’s considerably cheaper but you won’t have the same experience as camping with the majority of the festival goers.
We trashed the tent after the festival, it rained and our tent was ripped. It was a bulky item to keep carrying for the next week. My passport got wet in the tent too. I would advise folks to get a locker and pay the extra money just for that reason. I’ll write another post on the headaches involved with damaged passports and renewing them.
After escaping the crowds..
..of the festival grounds and the town of Boom, we were on our way to Milan, Italy using our Eurail passes. The train ride was slow but it was a good chance to catch up on rest. The Milan train station (below) is the quite the display of architectural greatness. As was much of Milan, or Italy for that fact.
We stayed in a less expensive hotel to save some loot while our trip was winding down, We still spoiled ourselves with first class dining and delicious sorbet every chance we got, but saving a couple bucks here and there is always wise 😉
The Milan Cathedral..
..was the most impressive structure that we have encountered as of yet. It was mesmerizing looking at all the details in the stone. It would have taken an eternity to build this.
There’s me confessing my sins (well not really, just posing for the picture).
Luckily for me, a gentleman offered to take my photo while Rebecca had to stay outside. She was denied access to the church because she was wearing short shorts and a halter top. In some religions it’s not okay to wear such revealing clothes. Good to know if you plan to see lots of churches.
We stayed one night in Milan and checked out as many museums that we could find… Fortunate for us, there were lots of sorbet stops throughout the city to help cool us down. It was hot in Italy. The next day we left around noon by train en route to Rome!
We got a fancy hotel this time with a rooftop garden that overlooked the Vatican..
There’s so much to see..
..and do in Rome, I wish we had more time there. We did not wait in the infamous line up for the Vatican city and Sistine Chapel tour, We paid extra for a “skip the line” service that gets you in quicker with fewer headaches!
You don’t have enough eyes to see everything inside that complex array of golden hallways and jaw dropping art. It takes a couple of hours to see most of the rooms in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel but it is something you will never forget!
Two nights in Rome is such a tease..
..one must need at least 2 weeks to explore. We never had a chance to visit any beaches or surrounding areas of the Roman Empire. I do want to return here to experience more of the city on a deeper level.
First day was the Vatican and a little shopping for our families.. There are lots of vendors and flea markets throughout the city so be sure to check out those to save a buck. The second day we explored an old castle that doubled as refuge for the Pope in the event of an attack on the Vatican. There is a secret tunnel connecting the two landmarks underground. The Pope would flee his home in the Vatican and remain in the stronghold of the fortress until enemy troops were defeated or fled.
The castle had prison cells and war tools everywhere. This tour was very informative and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history. The last day there we watched a guy who was playing guitar in front of that very same castle and it was serene. I truly felt a sense of euphoria as he played and I’ll never forget it.
We flew out that evening..
..to Amsterdam for our last night in Europe.. Sad, but excited to get yet another stamp from the Netherlands! We arrived pretty late in Amsterdam but that didn’t stop us from checking out the Red Light District and some coffee shops 😉
Staying in a really neat hotel called the Radisson Blue was nice for the end of our trip. It was modern and had a cool vibe to it. We only had the one night so we stayed up as late as we could walking around taking in some of the highlights of the Red Light District.
This three-week EuroTrip certainly made it clear that I am addicted to travel and experiencing new things. I will continue to travel and bring to you, a great story and travel tips to help you get out into the world and experience it for yourself! Thank you for reading my blog! I would love any feedback on this post or questions/comments! Let’s share stories and travel tips!