I put together the above movie with the scraps of video I had on my iPhone- it's not going to win at Cannes but it does give a nice little summary of our experience. Acknowledging that our holiday was a precious thing, I really focused on seeking out the things that bring me joy: cute animals (don't you just love squirrels!), beautiful flowers, scenic views and delicious food (I'm already missing the orgasmic gelato in Italy).
When you are travelling from a place as far away as Australia, it's hard not to try fitting in as many countries as possible -you can easily go rushing around ticking things off the list. Neither of us wanted that, we were more keen to take the time to really drink in each place and live like a local. We did our best to take things slow, and our favorite moments were mostly ones we had stumbled across by accident. It's a lovely thing to be so free that you can just step outside and walk, no time limits and no need to know where you are going. On that note, here are my tips for having a really enjoyable holiday:
Some free-spirits might hate this idea, but I think this is the best way to actually be free when you are on holiday. Knowing exactly how you are going to get from point A to point B, especially how to get from the airport/station to your accommodation, can seriously cut out a lot of unnecessary time-wasting and could give you a whole morning or afternoon's worth of free time.
It also pays to get to know your neighbourhood in advance. Sussing out the location of basic amenities such as the nearest grocery store and decent restaurants in the area you will be staying can take out a lot of hassle and free up your time for having more fun and exploring. That's what you are there for after all- who wants to waste a whole morning looking for a co-op?
The apartment above was where we stayed in Stockholm and it was inside the tallest building in the city. It was in a central location which made our time there so enjoyable because we had the freedom of coming 'back to base' for a rest before venturing out again. The apartment is available for rent here.
I think AirBnB is the perfect way to do this. Not only can you find something really central to the area you want to investigate, but you also get access to a local who, if they are a good host, will give you lots of insider knowledge on the best places for cheap food, delicious coffee, the easiest way to get around and the coolest places to hang out. If you have limited time to explore a place, this is so useful because you aren't wasting time walking around aimlessly or spending money in crap neighbourhoods.
Our host in Berlin, Sabine, was very friendly and took the time to point out on a map the best neighbourhoods to explore and even where we could find cheap bike rentals. If you like the look of her apartment (picture above) you can find it here.
An overseas holiday is an opportunity to really feel like you are living. So wake up your senses with delicious food, fill your lungs with fresh air, soak up the sun (or smell the earthy scent of the rain). Spend time appreciating sights that make you smile- vibrant blooms, a quirky local walking his tiny dog, a shop window full of hand-crafted chocolates, a bike propped up against a flower bed down a cobblestone lane way. Be aware of everything that is around you and don't be afraid to smile and express your joy. These are the things that will make you feel alive.
Embracing local life and traditions provides a richer experience in a place, and markets have a fantastic community spirit. I went to one in Siena, Northern Italy to gather some things to make a lunch and I loved seeing the whole town come down to do their shopping. The elderly Italian ladies were my favourite- all of them were dressed up for the occasion after having just spent the morning with their hair in rollers. I had a hilarious time going from stall to stall in search of fresh buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and plump pomodorro (tomatoes). I knew just enough italian to complete a transaction and the male storeowners were all hamming it up for me (hint- wear lipstick). They were all winking and handing me free samples of cheese and salami, 'for a bella donna'. One guy even motioned to stuff a bag of tomatoes down his pants- I'm afraid that one might need to re-visit his repertoire...
Even if you have to budget all your other meals make this one worthwhile. Pick a place that has excellent reviews and tell the waiter you are keen to get their recommendations for traditional food and the best local beer or wine. They will love being asked for it and you will hopefully get something phenomenal. In Europe you can find plenty of old dining halls serving up traditional food. We found one in Stockholm, Sweden that was opened over a century ago and was still serving up boiled knuckle of pork and their classic 'golf ball sized meatballs with lingonberries'. To be honest they could have called them cricket-ball sized and they were melt-in-your-mouth damn delicious! I went home with a very silly and satisfied look on my face.
Ahhh- writing this post has made me wish I was still there! The first week back at work and getting over that heinous jet lag is always tough, isn't it? Are you planning any trips? Let me know if you have any questions, I'd be happy to make some suggestions.