A rich history, some of the world’s most stunning scenery, orange chimney pots on Parisian rooftops, Pompeii, the Swiss Alps, castles and cathedrals, frescoes, Notting Hill, high tea. While dreaming of my next European adventure, I look back at my last.
3 to 12 August 2005: London calling (and surrounds)
We kicked off our adventure in London, or more precisely in Brixton (the Clapham end). I’m not sure what the neighbourhood is like today, but ten years ago it provided a colourful backdrop to our stay. Our visit to the capital of cool was packed with London highlights: sitting in the middle of Trafalgar Square at lunchtime, taking a photo of the policemen at 10 Downing Street, grabbing lunch from the deli in Harrods and having a picnic in Hyde Park, many rides on red double decker buses (and one minor bus crash), touring Buckingham Palace, lighting a candle in St Paul’s Cathedral, strolling through the markets along Portobello Road in Notting Hill, shopping at Camden Market, window shopping at Sloane Square and along Regent Street, experiencing the musical phenomenon that is The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, exploring Westminster Abbey and the Tower Bridge, and chatting to a Yeoman Warder. We also hired a car and took a day trip to Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bristol and Bath, where we enjoyed high tea in style: think ballroom and grand piano.
12 to 17 August 2005: Bonjour Paris
There’s something about Paris. The language, the romance, the elegance. The first time you see the Eiffel Tower, window shopping and people watching along the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe with the cars circling it, the pastries. We visited at the height of The Da Vinci Code craze, which added a dimension to a day at the Louvre and a visit to Sainte-Chapelle. Highlights of our stay included climbing to the top of Notre Dame and taking photos of the city with gargoyles in the foreground, being awed by the Panthéon and what it represents, getting lost in Montmartre while looking for the Moulin Rouge, and stepping inside Galeries Lafayette. My favourite memory is drinking French red wine on the lawn of the Champ des Mars while watching the Eiffel Tower light display.
17 to 24 August 2005: Hallo Switzerland
Given my Swiss heritage (find out more about me here), it’s no surprise I feel at home in Switzerland. I’ve often thought if I ever have the opportunity to live in Europe, then Switzerland would be my pick. We began our adventure in Zürich, sipping white wine beside the lake. The Banhofstrasse is a shopper’s paradise, with luxury designer goods and of course Swiss watches. A must-do is Mount Pilatus near Luzern. At just over 2000 metres above sea level, it provides an expansive view of the city, its lake and the Alps. Being summer, our visit was punctuated by the sound of cowbells and an alpine horn. Very Heidi. We also spent time in Langenthal, a one-hour train ride from Zürich and where my mother grew up, and visited my aunt’s farmhouse in Bleiken in the canton Bern. Other than seeing family, my fondest memories are of the food: risotto, vermicelles made with chestnuts, homemade jam, dried meats, meringue with fresh whipped cream, raclette, so many different types of cheese, Lebkuchen. Switzerland is a foodie’s paradise.
24 to 31 August 2005: Ciao Rome (and surrounds)
We caught the train from Zürich to Rome. This was not like the TGV we took from Paris to Zürich, or like the efficient Swiss rail system. It was a perfect introduction to the loveable chaos that is Italy. The Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel and Piazza del Popolo were every bit as impressive as they are in the guidebooks and movies. But then there’s Pompeii. The Amalfi Coast is still on my bucket list because at the last minute we chose to visit Pompeii instead. Almost rebuilt after it was destroyed by an eruption from Mount Vesuvius, a second eruption left it covered in ash and forgotten for many years. Most impressive was the sophistication of the technology evident 2000 years ago. Pedestrian crossings — three large, flat stones set in the street, with room for the carriage wheels between the stones — signs for porters, and terracotta and lead pipes.