5 cities, 4 countries, 3 gelatos, 2 macarons, and 1 fried pizza. And too many espressos to count.
That’s me trying to recall all we ate the past 9 days so I can remember to review it all on Yelp.
I just had nine whole days of traveling with three lovely friends on our free week DIS gives us. We planned our trips back in August since we knew we would have this week off. It is a bit daunting to be given the freedom of a whole blank slate for a week and the opportunity to choose whichever destinations in Europe your heart desires. It’s a good problem to have though. We decided on:
- Paris, France
- Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland
- Rome, Italy
- …including Vatican City!! we can’t forget our smallest country in the world
The countries were all noticeably different and unique in their own ways. We packed our trip with exploring and eating to get the most out of each day we could. And with that being said, this could be an incredibly long post–so I’ll try to showcase some of our highlights of the week!
and a ps: you can always click on the photos to make them bigger!
When I was younger, I was OBSESSED with Paris. I dressed up as Madeline for Halloween once, a French artist for another year. I had Eiffel Tower clip on earrings. In pottery class I made a shoe with the sole the French flag, heel the Eiffel Tower, and strap the croissant (really imaginative if you ask me). My room was “cafe in Paris” themed. While I stopped the French theme for costumes, ditched the clip on earrings, gave up pottery phase, and remodeled my room, my dream of visiting Paris has lived on.
I was SO excited for the first part of our trip to Paris. I had done a lot of research on the city, transportation, and all of the sites we could visit.
The first day we did a free walking tour to get our barrings on the city and learn more about its history. It was a cold Saturday morning but we all loved our tour guide, Harry, originally from England. Not Harry Styles. Or the Prince. But Harry the wonderful tour guide. Harry taught us a lot, like Napoleon’s inappropriate behavior in front of the Pope in Notre Dame, or how it only took one person, Dietrich von Choltitz, to disobey the orders of putting bombs under iconic Parisian spots to save the city from being destroyed in WWII. After our tour, we felt like we knew more about the city’s story and had a better grip on its layout.
We headed to the Eiffel Tower after that and turning the corner was a magical moment. Ahhh I wish I could relive it!
And from Harry’s recommendation, we went on a boat ride on the Seine that night to see the city of lights illuminated. We saw the Eiffel Tower light up when we left, and we came back right on the hour to see it sparkle.
The next morning we woke up to visit Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle *(which was free with our Danish residence card!). We went on a Sunday morning, so mass was going on in Notre Dame and I don’t know what overcame me but the experience of being in that church was so powerful and emotional. I started crying!?!?! When we left, I broke the silence with my friends saying that I cried (lol). But then they said they all were tearing up when we were inside! I bet I will remember that visit for the rest of my life.
Sainte-Chapelle was absolutely stunning, with stained glass lining every space on the wall.
We made our way to Versailles after our lunch where I had this quinoa berry porridge thing with almond milk. When we got to Versailles we had to wait in the long queue because we were eligible for free* tickets with our Danish residence card. Pro: free. Con: you can’t “buy” ahead because you don’t have to buy anything. We were so happy to get in after waiting over an hour in the cold and wind. The palace was absolutely huge and grand.
For dinner that day we had a traditional dish of steak-frites which we literally inhaled. It was absurd.
The next morning we went to the Louvre and you’d best believe I was playing Lorde’s iconic French anthem while we were waiting in line. (But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre, down the back, but who cares—still the ~LOUVRE~). We saw the major pieces in that giant museum: the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Liberty Leading the People, to name some of the big guys. Buuuuut we learned from our wonderful Harry (we literally loved him) on our first day that the Louvre used to be a palace for the French kings, so even though I don’t know a ton about art, I could appreciate the building which was once (well, still is) an elaborate palace.
We stocked up on our macarons, saw the Arc de Triomphe, walked the Champs-Élysées, and eventually made our way to Montmartre to see the Sacré-Cœur and a view of Paris from the top of the hill. We also got dinner there where I spoke REAL FRENCH to a real FRENCH PERSON!! 5+ years of French lead up to that very moment of me asking if we were able to sit in the restaurant now. We saw the Eiffel Tower twinkle one last time and with that…we said au revior à Paris.
The next morning we woke up real bright and real early to catch our train to Zurich. The ride was through the French countryside and it was snowing!! It was so beautiful. Even the man checking our tickets was stopping to pull out his phone and take pictures out the big window. When we got to Zurich, it was about noon. We spent the rest of our day wandering about the capital city, without a big plan in mind. We saw Lake Zurich, a few churches, Bahnhofstrasse (their shopping street), and Lindenhof, which gave us a view over the city. In between that all we also got Swiss chocolate and found a really cozy cafe to recharge at. Our first impressions of Zurich was that 1. it was expensive (sooo we went to the grocery store to find the rest of our meals aka sandwiches and pasta) and 2. it was tiny! Not to say that small = dislike. Not at all. It was a beautiful city with its lake and mountains (ummm the literal Swiss Alps) in the background. It was just so small, we felt like we had accomplished it all in just half a day.
The next morning our group split up. Aoife and I went to Lucerne where Colleen and Sam went to Interlaken. From Lucerne, we took a 15 minute train out of the city to begin a hike. A hike sounded like a great idea-nature, being active, and I must repeat: the Swiss A L P S. Then I realized I genuinely have never hiked in my life. But hiking is just walking right?
I mean it is just walking. But on an incline. For 2.5 hours straight. In the Swiss Alps. 🙂
Was I out of breath for 90% of said 2.5 hours? Absolutely. But, we had the ability to stop and take as many breaks as we (I) needed. Breaks were good, they allowed us to turn around and take in the beautiful view. I was so proud of us (mainly me, because I had faith in Aoife the whole time) of making it to our destination. The viewz were definitely worth it. We made it half way up the mountain and took the cogwheel the rest of the way up. At the top it was snowy, cold, and wicked windy. We downed our lunches because ya girls climbed 251 flights of stairs that day according to the health app and we were starving. We took in the view from the top, mostly from inside, but quickly going outside for as long as we could bear the cold and wind. We took the cogwheel all the way down and spent the rest of our day walking around Lucerne.
ROME & VATICAN CITY:
Ah yes, Italy. The land of my ancestors. I have never been more proud to hand over my credit card and have someone glance at the name in my life. (Do people actually look at names? or is that just me when I work at the ice cream shop? Reply post) Yeeesssss disregard my red hair please look at all those vowels.
Ok–enough about my heritage. More about Rome.
When we first got there…I’ll be honest…I was a bit…underwhelmed. Going to all of these new places has made me appreciate Copenhagen even more. It is so clean here, giving me false expectations of every other European city. I tried to keep an open mind though because we were in Roma!!!! We went to lunch and booked a walking tour for night. In between we took a hard, much needed nap.
When we woke up it was pouring rain. But the show must go on. And we paid 2,50 euro for our booking fee and we were not wasting it. We got to our tour’s meeting point and were sufficiently soaked by then. The giant unavoidable puddles (literally unavoidable, trust me I tried) and multiple cars totally splashing water onto us wast honestly so funny I couldn’t even be upset about the rain. Our tour guide was quite the character with quirks and funny sayings. We loved her and again, learned so much from the tour. Not only did she teach us a bunch about Roman history, but gave us tips for the city, like where to eat, how to keep our stuff safe, and how to save money at the tourist sites. She recommended Rick Steves’ Europe app.
The next morning we had our reservation for the Colosseum and Roman Forum. With our new trusty Rick Steves’ App, we were able to get a lot of interesting history about the sites we were looking at which definitely made the visits exponentially better with the history. And it was free !
We also went to Palentine Hill and the Pantheon that day. Dinner was in Trastevere, which is a funky neighborhood across the River Tiber. There were sooo many cute restaurants on the streets, it seemed like you couldn’t make a bad choice.
Next morn, we woke up early to head to Vatican City. If you had to ask the biggest mistake or bump in the road of the trip, I would probably say this (even though it wasn’t that bad). According to the Vatican’s website, we thought we would be able to see Pope Francis give a special mass that day. It said free and no tickets necessary, however the Swiss guards said umm no. That was fine, we decided we would do the Vatican Museums that day instead. I wish we had reserved those tickets in advance, but when we looked the whole time we were in Rome was already booked. So we waited about 3.5 hours in line. Not ideal but at least it was sunny. This was the only ridiculous line we waited in all week, so definitely recommend buying tickets in advance if you can, but also knowing when to utilize your EU residence card to get into things for free! The Vatican Museum was super crowded. So we mainly went with the flow and ended up at the Sistine Chapel to see the ceiling Michelangelo painted. And…of course…I was using the Rick Steves app to learn about the ceiling which taught me that Michelangelo wasn’t lying down to paint, but instead standing up and curving his back to paint on the ceiling. A chiropractor could’ve made serious ca$h off him I’m sure. We went into St. Peter’s Basilica aka the Catholic church. It looked beautiful from the outside, but when you go inside you see how absolutely massive it is in there. It’s actually the biggest church in the world! And sadly that night I randomly got sick?! Which was unfortunate so I had an early night in since we had one more day left on our trip.
In the morning we packed up and went back to Vatican City since Pope Francis speaks from his apartment window on Sundays at noon. It was raining all morning and while we were waiting for him to come out. Not drizzling or raining, but genuinely pouring for hours. And we joked about what would happen if the Pope came out and it stopped raining. But as he was speaking, it was getting lighter. . . and probably three minutes into him speaking, the rain STOPPED. COMPLETELY STOPPED. I was crying, my friends were crying, the woman next to us was crying, you’re crying, everyone is crying!!! Ok, you’re not. But it was absolutely incredible. Everyone put their umbrellas down to continue to listen.
And with that, we wrapped up our time in Rome, stopping for gelato one more time before we headed to the airport.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to multiple spots that week. What a wild 9 days we had. My favorite place? Definitely Paris because I was a Paris girl. I know I want to go back one day. I definitely realized how much energy traveling takes out of you. And it’s okay to slow down – ie: me chilling out in Rome after getting sick at the end of the day. Our trip was, I think, the perfect balance between planned events and going with the flow when we needed.
Merci, France, for making one of my biggest dreams come true; danke, Switzerland, for your natural beauty; and grazie Italy, for sharing history from over 2000 years ago.