Let’s start at the beginning…
Back in 2012 I got a letter in the mail from People to People inviting me on a 4 week trip to France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. I begged my parents to go.
Their one request? I help pay for it. So for the next 9 months I did everything I could to make money and ended up paying for half the trip, mainly from selling cookies at school (lesson learned: giving half your classmates diabetes is very rewarding).
Those nine months flew by so fast, but extremely slow at the same time. I don’t know how many travel guides and tips I read or how many times I practiced packing my suitcase. But before I knew it my mom was waving goodbye to me from the parking lot of Albertson’s as our bus drove away.
As much as I don’t want to admit I was a little scared for my first flight. I remember waking up mid-flight from turbulence and honestly thought we were about to crash and I’d have to live out the rest of my days on a deserted island… and then I fell back asleep.
We spent three days in the iconic city of love and our first stop (after the hotel of course) was the Eiffel Tower. I have this thing for tall buildings, or honestly anywhere, where I can just look out over a city. I don’t know what it is but seeing all the people running around just living their life is so calming to me.
We obviously couldn’t go to France without touring the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. I also loved lounging around the Sacré-Cœur. There’s a bunch of shops on the road leading up to it where I got most of my souvenirs from France. I also ate my first ever crepe *heart eyes*
The next stop was a farm on the border of France and Switzerland where we learned a little about the agriculture and I got to milk a cow! During this time the cinnamon challenge was a big thing, but ya know since were from Louisiana we put a twist on it and used Tony’s seasoning instead. The family tried it and hearing a French woman curse in English was hilarious.
Traveling through the mountains we ended up in Lucerne, Switzerland. Before letting us loose on the streets for free time, one of our chaperones insisted on us hiking walking to the Lion Monument. It was amazing to see in person, and honestly at the time I didn’t appreciate it enough. We also walked the Chapel Bridge and even signed our names on it (look for mine!)
The first day in Austria we met with our homestay family. Another girl on the trip and I were paired with best friends so we all hung out together. We went to the aquarium, shopping, and out to eat. Aaaand since the legal drinking age is 16 in Austria.. we went to the bars (sorry mom). I remember phoning home for my nieces birthday, everybody asked if I was having a good time – I definitely was.
After the homestay we went into Vienna, toured the city, and took a cooking class on how to make apple streusel. And, one of my favorite memories actually, we learned how to play the bongos with African refugees. We all sat in a circle hitting the drums singing Shakira’s Waka Waka. It was one of those pure moments where you just stop and look around and you can’t help but smile.
The next day was quite somber. We toured the Mauthausen concentration camp, and I honestly could not finish the tour because I was so overwhelmed. It’s one thing listening to the horrors in history class and completely different when you see it in person.
Our last country, Italy, was my favorite by far. We went into Venice by train and, although it was trash day, I feel in love with the city immediately. We took a gondola ride weaving through the streets – the guy singing to us and everything. And then for lunch our chaperones gave us 7 euros to find food somewhere. My friends and I split some pizza as we sat down in the plaza people watching and feeding the pigeons. And, since we were in Italy, we ate gelato for dessert of course.
The next day we went to Florence and saw the Statue of David and stopped by the Leaning tower of Pisa.
Rome was the last city on our adventure. We took a walking tour of the city seeing sites such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain. I remember sneaking away from the group near the fountain because I saw a little crepe shop nearby, after the one in France I was on the hunt for them. We also went to the Vatican and marveled at the Sistine Chapel which is definitely a must see you guys!
It amazes me that people live in these beautiful cities just casually walking by these sights each day. Like imagine how much more fun your commute to school or work would be if you got to see the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower every time?? It baffles me honestly. The United Sates just doesn’t have that kind of history.
Our last night we did farewells over dinner and then jetted off to America in the morning. After traveling for 4 weeks I got home and had the best sleep in my life.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to read part 2 of the story! Orr sign up for my emails and I can remind you 🙂