travel diary: switzerland – france – england

Hi friends! 🙂

Today I’m finally coming around to posting the final instalment of my european travel diary. I know it’s VERY overdue, but I think part of me hesitated to write it because concluding this series also means the trip is definitely over… which is a fact I’m still struggling to accept.

Although I still find myself dreaming of European streets months later, I have to admit that this leg of the trip was definitely my favourite. There is so much unique beauty in both Switzerland and France that I had no idea even existed. Since I anticipated Italy so much I somewhat overlooked how incredible both these places are and Paris actually ended up being my all-time favourite stop of the entire journey. From my eyes to yours, enjoy loves!

LUCERNE.

After saying a sad farewell to the country of my roots, we welcomed the next action-packed day of our journey- Lucerne, Switzerland. After checking into the hotel we set off for our first Swiss adventure which was of course, climbing an alp! Ok so, we didn’t climb…. but we did take two modes of transportation haha. Our trip up Mount Stanserhorn started with a rocky cable car which stopped halfway and we then transferred onto an aerial car and were lifted into the air as our own little bubble floating within the clouds. Unfortunately the day we decided to make this treck was a little (understatement) too cloudy and by the time we got to the very tip of the mountain the entire vantage point was fogged over with mist and wispy smoke. At the top we realized the humid air of Italy was long gone and was abruptly overtaken by a Switzerland snowstorm! Transitioning one day from sunny skies and tanned skin to fuzzy blankets and blistering snow was definitely monumental.

After our day quite literally with our heads in the sky, we made our way back down the mountain and continued our Swiss journey on land… or more like on water. We boarded a cruise through Lake Como and indulged ourselves in all things this culture had to offer — panoramic landscapes, white wine and of course, loads of decadent Swiss chocolate. Lake Como was absolutely stunning. The crystal lakes were eerily still and swans floated peacefully under bridges as we took in Switzerland from the centre of a pool of clear blue glass.

After the boat cruise and feeling a little warmer, we made our way to the Lion Monument. Our contiki guide informed us that while being around this monument it was respectful and expected for us to be as quiet as possible, but of course, with a group of 60 buzzed travellers this did not happen to say the least.That night we took it easy and did a little exploring of our own. We made our way to a restaurant we stumbled upon and bought a few drinks and chatted about how quickly time was flying and how heartbroken we were that our much anticipated trip was making it’s last stop in the morning.

PARIS.

But not to fear, because Paris was waiting with all it’s enchantment and adventure. Paris… the city where lights, roses and champagne come at no shortage. This city had an ethereal effect on me that still gives me goosebumps to even think back on now months later. The drive from Switzerland to Paris was definitely long and after a cultural Parisian main course of duck we took off on a night tour, which was actually quite appropriate for the city known for it’s light. I specifically remember the Chainsmokers song “Paris” ringing through our heads as we glided through artsy boulevards and evening sparkles. My entire body felt lit up from the inside out as I took in the view I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl.

To celebrate our first night in Paris, we without a doubt had to stop at the Eiffel Tower and experience the iconic landmark close up. When we jumped off the coach my first reaction was to bolt towards the tower in utter awe. We managed to climb the entire 700 stairs to the top and absorbed the city of lamp lit streets and ornate architecture from the best view in the entire city. When we made it to the top, we leaned against the rail and gazed up at the golden structure twinkling in a million dancing swirls of light all around us.

When we made our way back down, we realized we missed the coach ride back to the hotel but instead of being bitter we made the most of our time in Paris… We purchased one too many bottles of champagne after a battle with a street vendor, but eventually layed back in the grass and watched the tower light up hour after hour until we mutually agreed in the hazy twilight that it was potentially time to head back to the hotel.

The next morning we had the entire day to ourselves to explore all things Parisian. We started the morning by being cultured and visiting the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay to appreciate the original Impressionist art of the greats — Manet, Monet, Van Gogh. After picking up croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice, we set back off to the Eiffel Tower for lunch.

… But not without a few stops to pick up baguettes, sparkling wine and classic Parisian macaroons. After indulging in crispy baguettes and delicious desserts, (and realizing our champagne popping skills were not up to par after almost hitting a few people) we made our way to the Arc De Triumph to check off another Parisian landmark. Luckily this vantage point was only 300 steps compared to our treck the evening before, but nonetheless felt like a lifetime to reach the ever-sought after view of Parisian bliss from the top.

That night (which was technically our final night of the trip) we made our way to Novelle Eve where we watched a cabaret show from dimly lit tables and indulged ourselves in exquisite Parisian cuisine. Later that night we met up with the rest of the group and ended up at a local pub. We threw our hands in the air and danced the last night away in the comfort of all our new best friends from all around the globe and the familiar old school harmonies of a live band.

LONDON.

The morning of departure came all too soon and we knew that the next stop of our trip was heading back home to Canada. As much as we dreaded waking up at 6 am every morning to board a rocky coach, being able to sleep in just didn’t seem right after all the adventure and love the last 13 days had blessed us with. It seemed unreal that one week we could be jetsetting top speed around Europe taking in all the magazine-worthy views, and the next we’d be back in our hometowns with only souvenirs and memories to hold us to this exact moment.

After a few melancholy goodbyes, half the trip stopped off in Paris and the rest headed back to London for one last adventure and dinner. We visited Buckingham Palace and then met the rest of the group at the hotel pub. We ordered a classic London feast of fish & chips and indulged in our last European beverage of choice. The tone of the night was a complete 360 than all the others and a sombreness lingered throughout the air. The next morning after a breakfast stop and last goodbyes, Shauna and I headed to the Tube with mochas in hand both devastated yet completely thrilled with how Europe was everything we dreamt it would be and more.

… And I guess that’s it!

To everyone I met on this trip and to every place that took my breath away, I am so eternally grateful. The last semester of school had been super tough leaving behind the place I called home and battling through the final set of exams, but this trip changed everything for me and put me in a completely refreshed mindset. It created this newfound zest for life within me that I somehow lost somewhere along the way. The jaded feeling I felt from closing a chapter of my life was totally transformed into an excitement for all that was waiting for me ahead.

I fell in love with all things Europe and I can’t wait for my next big adventure.

Thank you for coming along with me and retracing my steps across nine stunning European countries.

Bonjour for now, loves!

xo Olivia