Hemmingway, street-side cafes, baguettes, antiquities, window vignettes, cafe music, 5-course dinners, cobbled streets, elaborate gardens, flamenco dancers, palaces, teahouses, gelato, ancient ruins, vineyards, fishing boats, plazas, tapas, wild horses, coffee service, pastries, bridges, bike rides through the country. It was everything I thought it would be, and oh so much more.
I spent 32 days traveling through the continent of culture. 7 countries, 6 international flights, 12 international trains, 3 long-distance bus rides and numerous trips on public transportation and taxis carried me across continents, cities and seas. I've been dying to go to Europe for as long as I can possibly remember, idolizing the different countries in my mind. The time came and somehow, the stars aligned. I boarded an Air France flight and was carried across the dark, vast Pacific Ocean, over Greenland and Big Ben, all the way to Paris.
We dined under the stars in Paris, indulged in pastel perfections at Laudree Cafe and saw the world's greatest art in the Louve. Fine Swiss chocolates were had in the pristine city of Zurich while we blitzed through pastures and farmland, the rapid-speed train slicing through the sharp Alps. In Vienna, where all is grand, palaces were strolled while the world famous Opera rang song through it's heavily draped walls. A Cathedral like no other, flooded with rainwater offered cover and was followed by the world's best bratwurst.
With a familial connection, the Czech Republic was a special destination for us on this trip. Bustling into the city of Ostrava on the thundering train, we sailed through hills on the drive to our country home for the next few days. Staying at a historic Pension, surrounded by champion Stallions made for a stay that was truly in the heart of the country.
In the great city of Prague, former Rome of the North, the famously colorful buildings surround the bohemian Astronomical Clock just a stone's throw from the great Charles Bridge and grand Castle of Prague. Ricotta cake, apple streusel and hot raspberries with buttermilk ice cream provided an anything-but-healthy meal paired with molten-thick hot chocolate at the Louve Cafe, former hangout of Einstein.
I parted ways with my traveling companions at this point, continuing on my own, down to the messy, beautiful, wild, countries of the south. Through Salzburg and Bologna the train whipped through long, dark tunnels, bursting into a snowing scene, straight out of a children's story. Tiny Northern Italian homes spilling flower boxes sat sprinkled through the mountains. Florence, Rome, the Amalfi Coast- each offering it's own version of Paradise and all things Italian. In San Sebastian relaxation was redefined. Crystal clear waves crash into the boardwalk as a 2 hour lunch is enjoyed overlooking the bay.
Time is of a different purpose in Barcelona. The day is long and filled with pleasure. Lunches stretch into late afternoon hours, causing the social event of dinner and tapas to begin once the sun has set. Here I watched the streets come alive as the last rays of daylight were replaced with sidewalk tables, shimmering candles and strolling lovers.
All of the magical, illustrious above said, I also spent hours wandering alone lost in the dark in Florence, waited out long delays the pouring rain at the train station and flew in a cramped plane with a double ear infection. With the good comes the not-so-comfortable. But over the course of that month I collected experiences, memories, influence and perspective, more than I could simmer down to 1 concise post. I'd never spent so much time enveloped in a different place. Words spilled continuously onto my journal each time I settled on the train. So for the next post, in order to do justice to the people, stories and energy that each place shared with me, how about we divide these photographic stories into slices, each a small vignette of a country, and see the beautiful, messy, collage that it is. Next stop, Paris.....