We have jumped the hurdle of acquiring your schengyen visa, what’s next? Adventure? Excitement?
Self awareness through traveling either alone or with a group? sheer joy? How about all of the above, AND THEN SOME! you are now a solid step closer to your traveling goals.
To help with expectations, although nothing will beat your own personal experience, We will share our very first taste of Europe with you.
On the day of your flight, it will be best to print all your flight itineraries before you leave Jamaica. As you travel through Europe you will learn that the print, serves as your “ticket” to board your flights/ busses and trains.
The day of my flight came and I had a suitcase that was over packed and ridiculously large, looking like my mother put me out with no hope of taking me back. Me and my frighten self (my frighten self and I…. if we’re trying to sound like my English classes paid off in any sort of way ) had an outfit for every possible occasion, as well as other options, just in case I no longer liked the initial get-up ….. WILD! This I later realized was a TERRIBLE idea. Pack light and thank me later, trust me.
After a 9 and a half hour flight, I arrived at the Bruxelles National Airport, where we then boarded a train to the capital, Brussels Belgium. As I stepped off the train, that first “cole breeze” really hit. Bredda! Is the quickest i ever mek my way through my bag (in front of everyone with zero shame) to draw for my sneakers and a pair of socks. It was the end of April, and the weather “should have” been warmer than what we experienced. It will serve you well if you wear sneakers and have a thick sweater in close proximity. That way, you won’t have to rummage through your lot to access your warm things. The weather app will become your best friend. After locating our Air BnB, the adventure started. In light of the blistering cold, never have I ever seen a more beautiful place. I was captivated and in complete awestruck!
The roads were immaculate and made of cobble stone. If “nuh dutty up Jamaica” needed a mentor, here would be it. The buildings in the Grand Palace appeared to be from an Enid Blyton story book, glossy charcoal colored with gold trim . There were violinist on the side walks and the smell of Belgium waffles filled each corner.
It was said perfectly by Gustav Flaubert “ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in this world”
Like Racquida, my first time to Europe had me packing like an amateur, and I brought the proverbial “house and land” with me, big mistake! Do NOT do that. I recommend you take Racqs advice and pack light. My first point of entry was Paris, and I made another big mistake (well my cuz Dominic did :p) and picked an airbnb that was just outside of the Paris in an area called Franconville, where very few locals spoke English. Luckily I spent about 6 months practicing my French before our trip, on an app called DUOLINGO. This app was a godsend, I learnt more French than I ever did during my time at university, and it’s FREE! I recommend finding somewhere within the Parisian districts. One thing to note Paris is divided into 20 Arrondissments (basically districts), and all districts have interesting things to see and do, depending on your interest.
There are Hop-on-Hop-off Tour Buses that you can take for a flat fare, which will carry you around the city, for you to explore at your leisure and you can just catch one of the many buses in rotation, when you are ready to move on. For the first timers to Paris, here are the 4 districts I recommend:
This district is home to the Louvre Museum and the Palais Royal with lush Gardens. For the shopaholics, there are stores galore in nearby streets such as Rue St- Honore’ and Place Vendome, just be sure to watch your spending because things are quite pricey here.
I found this district to be the most beautiful with sights such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral which is situated between the banks of the Seine River and has the best streets for those instagram shots! The Marais District is also located here and it has a Renaissance, medieval vibe with some of the best street food.
The is where the famous Latin Quarter resides with amazing bookshops such as the Shakespeare & Company and the huge French Librairies surrounding Place Saint-Michel. How about drinks at the Sorbonne University and get lost in medical art at the Musee Cluny.
And finally the location on everyones Bucket List this is the area that hosts the Eiffel Tower and The Trocadero gardens that surround it. This area is huge with lots of restaurants and bars that are situated around the tower.
I recommend getting a SIM card once you land at the airport, Orange worked out well for me and it was fairly cheap. Google Maps is your lord and master, be sure to download the offline maps (when on wifi) for whatever country you are in to save data. Google Maps also tells you the train schedules which will be a big help. There’s so much more tips, I can share with you but that will be in a next post 😉