My ten countries of 2017 (part 2)
Last week I took you on a trip through the first five countries I traveled to in 2017. You can read all about it here. Now it’s time for another five (+) countries who absolutely stole my heart. On the menu? Switzerland, Italy, France (already included in the last post but also an important part of our summer roadtrip), Spain, Hungary and The Netherlands. We also had short pit-stops in Luxembourg and Andorra but those were almost purely for cheap booze and gasoline. Still worth the mentioning right? Let’s see what I did this summer and the second half of 2017!
6. Switzerland (July)
On the first of July I embarked on the Eurotrip adventure with Beyond Borders through Switzerland and Italy. I won a blog contest (thanks to you guys!) which made me able to travel with this organisation for free for a whole week. My boyfriend and I were already planning a roadtrip through Spain and France and this concept was a welcome extension. On the first day we set off in Dutsie (our lovely car) and drove all the way to the Lake of Unterägeri where we spent our first night in the back of our van. Of course we had to make a pit stop in Lucerne first to soak up the typical Swiss lifestyle and architecture. The next day we enjoyed the amazing mountain views when driving windy little roads up and down the hills. To be honest, we only spent a very limited time in Switzerland but still managed to get a general feeling of the country. Our impression: expensive prices, snowy mountains and very dangerous but beautiful roads.
7. Italy (July)
On the second day of our Eurotrip we arrived in sunny, warm Italy. This was a welcome change after the rain and cold (even snow!) of Switzerland. Over the next six days we drove all the way down to Rome before we made our way back up and crossed the border to France. We spent more than a couple of nights on campings located next to some of the amazing lakes Italy has to offer (Como and Lago di Bracciano for example). What else did we do during our week in Italy? We visited the lovely and charming cities of course. Cinque Terre is on anyone’s wishlist when travelling through Italy and couldn’t be left out for us either. We also wandered around Rome, Florence and Pisa. We went on a crazy adventure and did a Via Ferrata in the Alpi Apuane. I will write about this scary experience later. And of course we enjoyed la doce vita by eating amazing ice cream, tiramisu, pizzas and drinking cheap wine (all vegan of course). We also made it a priority to jump into a lake or the sea every single day. The good life indeed.
After the Eurotrip adventure with Beyond Borders was finished, Arno and I went on with our trip to France. Earlier that year we already spent a weekend in Paris so this wasn’t our goal anymore. We were more interested in the nature this country has to offer, which was a welcome change after the busy cities of Italy. I could write multiple posts about our adventures in France and the places we discovered (which I might do later). Right now I’m going to limit myself to some of the absolute highlights. Gorge du Verdon (if you don’t get stung by a bee and swell up). Calanques National Park (if you go early enough). Minerve (what an amazing discovery with almost no tourists). And everything in the French Pyrenees. Ps. Spot me in the above picture!
8. Spain (July)
After a short stop in Andorra to refuel on cheap booze, we set further course to Spain. The story repeats itself: great nature, a lot of swimming and great food! We did visit more cities in this country but none more than a day each. Bilbao was our absolute favorite (a lot of vegan food!) but we also loved Zaragoza and Santander (cheap cocktails anyone?). Once again there are too many memorable places to mention here so I’ll just make a short selection. Playa de la Arnia (no tourists, amazing water colour, great rocks to climb on), Salto del Nervion (very foggy walk if you go early in the morning, no waterfall but there are a lot of goats with bells), Belchite (unfortunately you have to take a tour to be allowed to actually walk alongside the ruins), the deserted town of Janovas (Huesca) we accidentally stumbled on and spent the night and of course Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. All these places deserve to be explained and praised in a more extensive manure later on! But man, Spain is beautiful! And to think we only saw a little part of this big country…
9. Hungary – Budapest (September)
In September my best friend and I decided to visit Budapest since it was her birthday that weekend and we wanted to do something spontaneous and a bit crazy. I also have a friend from Amsterdam living in this vibrant city so reasons enough to pack our bags and head to a new destination. We stayed at the LOL Boutique Hostel where we met a couple of nice Turkish guys, ready to explore Budapest before starting their semester abroad. Over a game of table tennis (I won of course) we convinced them to go out with us for my friend’s birthday. Budapest is famous for it’s huge ruin bars and I can tell you, they are indeed amazing and impressive. I mean, you can seriously get lost in them! If you’re lucky enough, faith will grant you with happy hour and you’ll have no problem getting drunk on a budget. Unfortunately the next day was less fun. With a hangover we headed to Széchenyi Baths and Pools. Luckily for me this was enough to recover and in the evening I enjoyed a lovely vegan meal at Kozmosz Vegan Etterem. My friend had to take hers to take-away. What else did we do? We joined a free walking tour (we tried to join twice but missed the first one. Typical us). This is a great way to see a lot of the city in a short period of time and meet fellow travelers. We ate a lot, visited more ruin bars and did almost everything by foot. As you will notice when you visit, people always tell you everything is ten minutes away, tops. Wasn’t always accurate though. We also hiked up Gellert Hill which granted us with an amazing view over the city.
And oh, my biggest tip for the party scene as a girl? Be assertive! Guys will come up to you, try to dance with you or buy you a drink and they can be persistent.
10. Amsterdam – The Netherlands (December)
And of course I couldn’t let 2017 end without going back to the place I called home for six months last year. Both of the friends I visited in Serbia and Lebanon moved back to Amsterdam and made it a lot easier for me to see them. Since I’m working two jobs and taking a specialization course on the side, I didn’t have a lot of time. And it wouldn’t be Amsterdam if it wasn’t extremely cold or wet and of course, I got sick. I still had a great time catching up with my friends, exploring the city by myself and eating loads of vegan food at the Vegan Junk Food Bar, The Happy Pig Pancake Shop, Vegabond, Maoz Falafel shop and Spirit. Did I mention I only stayed for two days? Amsterdam = food paradise.
That’s it folks. These are all the places I visited in 2017. Today we’re the fourth of March and I’ve stayed within the borders of my own little country so far. I can’t wait to get out there though, so please leave me your best tips for 2018!