Now settled in London for the past month with our friends Anne and Jian, we have been able to slow down and think about the month of February and to appreciate that we have now been away from Perth for 6 months! (Amazing how time flies!). As such, this post will fly over our stops in Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris and my next post will be of our unforgettable time in Scotland!
For me, February was one of the more gloomier and harder parts of our trip. The European winter below the Scandinavian countries were warmer on the thermometer, but I felt the cold even more so because of the dampness. The cold, wet air weighs you down and the dampness seeps through your jackets and under your skin making it clamy. Also, it could be because by February, we had been traveling full time for 5 months straight. Though I shouldn’t complain about my life at this moment, I’ve realised that the constant running after trains, planes and new destinations does wear you out physically and mentally. That backpack which I had been streamlined to a slim 15kgs started to feel heavier than when it was 18kgs back in October 2013. Things started to look the same and lose their ‘magic’. I am put at ease with this ‘state of being’ as Chris, our roomie from the Maldives, shares the similar ‘saturation of the senses’ feeling from the prolonged state of ‘doing something new all the time’ which comes with extended travel. It is so nice to be able to compare notes with someone else who is going through the same thing, same time, but different path.
For me, the light in all this gloominess has been the wonderful old friends and new that we have met this month. These people have allowed me to stay in touch with something constant, something that hasn’t changed during this vagabond period in my life.
Since we did so much in the month of February, and I know there is a time limit to one’s attention span, I will keep this post to the highlights of each place.
In Berlin, we did not see our Airbnb host as much, however, he was nice and friendly and helpful when he showed us into our apartment. It was in Berlin where Kev and I were so over audio guides and so I googled up ‘walking tours’ and stumbled across Sandemans free walking tours. This is one of the best tours I’ve ever been on. If you haven’t heard about Sandemans, have a look here: https://www.neweuropetours.eu
Sandemans provide walking tours in and around Europe which are approximately 3 hours long. They also provide a ‘free’ walking tour that is also around 3 hours. These tours are led by extremely fun, approachable and easy going tour-guides who absolutely love their adopted city and their job. The free walking tour allows you to orientate yourself with the city, and are extremely informative about the culture and history of the place. The ‘free’ part is that there is no set fee to go on the tour, but at the end of the tour, you can give the tour guide an amount that you can afford and that feel is the right value of the tour. So in a sense, if you can’t afford it, or you did not like the tour at all, you don’t need to pay them. However, since discovering Sandemans and now having attended these tours in Berlin Paris, Edinburgh and London, Kev and I have never been on a Sandemans free walking tour not worth paying. It just doesn’t do the tour guide justice for spending 3 hours our with us, keeping us entertained and being so much fun. My only regret is that we did not find out about these guys sooner and used them at the beginning of our travels!
So here are some snaps from in and around Berlin.
On the way to Paris, we stopped by in Amsterdam for 3 days. We had a happy time. 🙂
Paris led us to old friends!
Firstly, Kev and I stayed with Sarah and Stephane and again took another Sandemans free walking tour to hear about how Paris remained beautiful throughout the years of war. Sarah showed us her lovely apartment and showed us how the French eat. That is, cheese and baguette… and more cheese and baguette. I was not complaining. Not complaining at all! I fell in love with the fact that around Sarah and Stephane’s place there was a boulangrie (selling baked goods), there was a fromagrie (selling all the wonderful kinds of cheeses you can think of), and a cavast (wine seller) all less than a 5 minute walk. This is apparently how it is in France. Each neighbourhood has their local boulangrie, fromagrie and cavast. No wonder the food was amazing. I compare this concept to the Italians who also source most of their food from within a 10km radius. This truly must be the secret to good tasting food and wine that does not make you bloated and does not make you sick.
Also, in Paris I was able to catch up with old, old, old friends that I met in China in 2007 when I went there to learn Mandarin. Ah…Quentin and Qiao! It was amazing seeing these two again 7 years later! These guys took us around Paris by night showing us Mont Marte, the old Moulin Rouge area and treated us to charcuterie (cold meats, cheese, pickles and bread).
Lastly, one of the happiest and most colourful times of our trip, we made it to Euro Disney!
This wraps up a quick post on our stops to Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam! My next post will be of our road trip around Scotland! Stay tuned!