Sounds pretty crazy right? It was. Do I feel like we missed out on anything? No. Did we sleep much? Nope.
A couple of years ago, I got the chance to take one of my best friends to Europe. It was her first time so I wanted to make sure she got as much out of it as possible. I had 12 days to play with in terms of being a tour guide and to this day I am proud of everything we managed to see and do. So here it is, a glimpse into our crazy itinerary:
Orlando to London Gatwick- day 1
Within 30 minutes of our plane taking off, I had spilled red wine on myself. Score. Then upon landing, my friend in the UK who was supposed to pick us up had stayed out the night before and was still asleep. Perfect. (Note to self: I need new friends; or don't fly in on a Saturday morning) But no sweat, I am pretty confident in my driving skills, so I got a rental car and drove us to our hotel. Let’s pretend I didn’t panic on the road and go the wrong way through a toll. Anyone who has made the transatlantic journey heading East will know that the jet lag on this route will hit you hard. As much as we wanted to sleep, there was no time! We freshened up and found a rooftop bar to watch the Bayern Munich v. Dortmund Champions League final that was being hosted in London. It was an incredible atmosphere and I’m so glad I got to introduce her to the fun that is football in Europe. We then stumbled into one of the most amazing little Thai restaurants I desperately wish I could remember the name of. After a pint in the pub, it was finally time to go to bed!
From London to Paris - day 2
We set off early the next morning with 2 of my UK friends in tow and drove to Paris – one of my favorite ways to get there since the view of the Dover cliffs from the ferry are always lovely! My old roommate from my time in London was living in Paris so we had a free place to stay. Once there we spent the first part of the day catching up and hanging out at his flat. Then he drove all 5 us into the city and we walked around Paris without much of an agenda. We wandered through Montmartre, sat in cafes, had crepes, and were perfectly Parisian for a day. I mostly recall that night though. We picked up a couple of bottles of wine and champagne from a corner shop, sat in front of the Eiffel tower, and let time pass just talking and lounging around. Eventually the lights from the tower started to sparkle and I remembered why this is my favorite thing to do in Paris.
Onward to Rome- day 3-6
The next day it was on to Rome because there’s no rest for the wicked. This was my first time in Rome as well so I made sure we had 3 days there. I needed the time to do my thing and wander aimlessly, let the map sink in, and let that city of ruins and pizza change me. We walked a lot in those days but we also ate a lot (let’s also pretend I didn’t eat whole pizzas by myself). The most striking thing to me about this city was the clash of past and present: parking lots built around ruins as if it was the most normal thing; pizza places overlooking the Colosseum as if you could have dinner and then watch a lion-versus-gladiator-man-eating-show. The other thing I distinctly remember is that they have Kinder Bueno gelato. If you ever find yourself in Rome, forget about drinking wine in the piazzas and find the nearest gelato place! I can say for certain that we saw all of what Rome has to offer, soaked it up and ate it.
Rome to Albania - day 7-10
With another early morning wake up, we headed to the airport and caught our flight to Albania, another destination I hadn’t visited before. But boy am I glad we did. Albania has absolutely stunning countryside, with some very good looking people and a gorgeous coast line. We started our journey in Tirana where we drank, partied, and ate. We then got a car and drove down the coast where we spent another few days by the beach. Driving through this country was quite the adventure, not just because of the mountain roads, unpaved sections of highway, and occasional stops by the police looking for a small bribe - we also had the brakes give out on us while driving down one of the winding mountain roads. I’ll never forget the 5 minutes after we finally got the car to stop, which were filled with relief and laughter and a touch of nausea. Overall though, I honestly don’t remember the details of our time in Albania because it was such a magnificent blur of drinking, eating, and good times. I do remember the food though (shocking, I know)! I would walk back to Albania for the stewed meat dishes and salty fried goats cheese.
24 hours in Corfu - day 11-12
Since we found ourselves quite close to the Greek border at this point, I knew a 5th country would make the trip. We hopped on a ferry and headed to Corfu. For exactly 24 hours. We had to make sure we caught the ferry back the next morning, otherwise we would have missed our flights back to Rome, back to London, and then back to Florida. So no pressure at all. But Corfu was lovely, with winding alleys, historical sites, and delicious Greek food. We wandered around a bit, explored the island for as much as we could, and reminisced over the last 10 days the 4 of us had spent together. The vibe on Corfu made for a relaxed last evening. Making our way back was quite the opposite the next morning when we needed to buy our ferry tickets with cash and had none. A frantic scramble ensued, running through the alleys we had so leisurely wandered the day before. But alas, it all worked out and we made it back in time to stick with our itinerary. The only casualty was my phone which I left behind somewhere in the kerfuffle. A small price to pay. And thus we began our long journey home.
Any trip to Europe is always full of incredible sights, beautiful architecture, and people that remind you what’s truly important in life. But this particular one will always be special to me. I got to take one of my best friends, show her all of this, and also feel a bit like we were Thelma and Louise on the run. Minus the tragic ending of course.