How to Spend Ten Days in Europe

Five countries. Ten days. How did I do it? Lack of sleep, for one thing. But it also took careful planning, spontaneity – and more than one wire transfer, if we’re being completely honest.

Still, those ten days were some of the most memorable of my life. I ordered muesli at a German Starbucks after walking the streets of Munich. I waded in the Mediterranean next to naked Spaniards and took a bus ride past the glittering waters of Nice. I even wandered through the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona half-drunk, after drinking an entire pitcher of sangria by myself at the legendary 7 Portes. True story.

As August descends upon us once more, I’ve been reminiscing about my trip to Europe last summer. This time in 2018, I was packing my bags for the adventure of a lifetime while dealing with some of the hardest events of my life back home. And though I’m miles from where I was then (literally and figuratively!), I can’t help but think back on my trip and marvel at everything I saw, did and ate while I was abroad.

So, to help me ward off wanderlust while stuck at my sweaty work desk, I’m here to tell you exactly how I did it: how I made it through five European countries (Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France) in just ten short days. Hint: an absurd number of Pain au Chocolat lies ahead!

(Oh, and I should probably mention: this trip took place before my diagnosis of IBS – so I pretty much ate whatever I wanted.)

Days 1-3: U.S.A., Germany and Italy

Day One: U.S.A., Germany & Italy

The first leg of my European adventure began in Logan International Airport, in my hometown of Boston, MA. A seven hour flight took me to Munich, Germany for a 12-hour layover, where I experienced my first day of independent travel in 20 years of life. Hours later, I landed in Verona, Italy – where I, of course, took an Italian taxi straight to my hotel and promptly passed out in my warm, cushy bed.

What I saw: In Munich, I took the train from the airport to the city center, where I visited Marienplatz. This central square of landmark buildings includes the enormous St. Peter’s Church, among other historical sights.

What I did: I made the sweltering trek from Marienplatz to the English Garden. Along the way, I saw the Maximilaneum, the seat of the Bavarian Parliament. Fun fact: my Snapchat caption read “Where you at Angela?” (As in Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister of Germany at the time.)

Where I ate: I learned that German Starbucks tastes nothing like the Starbucks back home – and enjoyed a popular European breakfast of bircher muesli, or overnight oats made with yogurt and milk, mixed with shredded apples, dried cranberries and an assortment of nuts.

On my way back to the airport to catch my flight to Italy, I munched on a traditional German fruit torte: Bavarian cream sandwiched between layers of cake, topped with a gelatinous berry mixture. Mmmm!

Day Two: Italy

After landing in Verona, Italy in the early morning, I took a shuttle to the train station to hop a ride to Milano Centrale in Milan. I spent the rest of the night exploring Milan, chilling at my hostel and enjoying my first taste of Europe since 2010.

What I saw: I arrived at Milan in the evening, and so spent most of my night wandering close to my hostel near Naviglio Grande canal. The neighborhood features both stunning views and cozy, mom-and-pop wine bars by the shore.

What I did: When in Milan, one must drink like an Italian! Not only did I treat myself to a glass of red wine by the waterfront, but I also enjoyed a prosecco spritzer as I watched the sunset by the canals. The view is not to be missed.

Where I ate: I couldn’t tell you the name of the place, but I sat down to eat at a little wine bar along the Naviglio Grande canal. I spent an hour reading Crazy Rich Asians while I dug into a glass of red wine and complimentary antipasto.

Later, after working up an appetite wandering in-and-out of the waterfront shops, I treated myself to a traditional Italian gelato from 70 Anni. The flavor? My go-to stracciatella: a creamy base with decadent chocolate shavings in every bite. Ben & Jerry’s will never taste the same again.

Day Three: Italy and Spain

Come morning, I ventured to Castello Sforzesco by metro, explored downtown Milan and hopped a flight that would bring me to my next destination: Barcelona, baby!

What I saw: Not only did I relive Italy’s medieval past as the Castello Sforzesco fort, but I also ventured to Milan’s premiere destination: Il Duomo. This magnificent church features stunning architecture and stained glass windows. The memory is one I will never forget.

What I did: After finally escaping the long line leading to Il Duomo, I wandered through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a high-end collection of couture fashion shops ranging from Chanel to Prada.

What I ate: Outside the galleria, I sought outdoor seating at Signorvino wine bar, where I enjoyed a glass of dry, refreshing rose alongside the most memorable spaghetti I’ve ever eaten in my life. Decked in a simple pomodoro sauce with burrata and basil, the taste of the pasta at Signorvino will forever be my “last meal” request.

Days 3-5: Spain

(Because I spent so much time on-and-off of planes and in-and-out of airports during my travels, which consumed much of the day- and nighttime hours, I’ll be lumping the rest of the destinations into a single summary from here on out.)

Days Three, Four & Five: Spain

Ever since this trip, Barcelona has ranked as my favorite city I’ve ever traveled to. I long to go back one day to experience the things I never got to see – for example, the sold-out Gaudi steps at the famous Park Guell.

What I did: Of all the cities I visited, Barcelona was by far the most walkable. I wandered in-and-out of shops and museums, including both the Chocolate Museum and the Picasso Museum. From my favorite artist of all time, Picasso’s pieces left me feeling inspired to go into the world and create something beautiful! Finally, I took my first dip into the Mediterranean at La Barceloneta beach. I couldn’t have been more enthused to visit la playa – except, maybe, if I’d been prepared for all the nudity I was about to see there….

What I saw: Much like Paris, Barcelona boasts its own Arc de Triomf. The gorgeous landmark was built in 1888 as an entrance for the year’s Barcelona World Fair (and for the record, no, I didn’t just know that off the top of my head – thanks, Google!).

What I ate: For weeks leading up to my trip, all my boyfriend heard from me was how badly I wanted to taste the traditional paella in Spain. 7 Portes, Barcelona’s original paella restaurant, makes a delicious chicken and vegetable paella that can’t be beat. Wash it down with a pitcher of their homemade sangria for an unforgettable experience that will leave your taste buds dancing a sexy Spanish flamenco!

Days 5-7: Switzerland

Days Five, Six & Seven: Switzerland

Being the political science nerd that I am, I made every effort to add Geneva, Switzerland to my itinerary for one reason, and one reason alone: I wanted to visit the United Nations. What I didn’t anticipate was how much else I would find to love about Switzerland!

What I did: My morning began at the train station, where I ventured to the Palais de Nations, Natural History Museum and Musee d’Art et d’Histoire. The night concluded at Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s iconic water fountain, which – as the name implies – launches a jet of water 460 feet into the sky.

What I saw: As planned, I visited the home of the United Nations at Palais de Nations. Outside, the palace was lined with flags from every delegation. Seeing all the colorful, diverse flags felt like the perfect nod to my trip, and to the global world we live in today.

What I ate: Geneva is, culturally, both Swiss and French in its own unique way. Thus, it felt like the perfect place to enjoy a traditional French breakfast: an espresso and a Pain au Chocolat. (Though, if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t my first croissant of the trip – nor would it be my last!)

Days 7-10: France, Italy, Germany and Back

Days Seven, Eight, Nine & Ten: France

From Switzerland, my foray into French culture continued in the blue beaches of Nice. As a Francophile, I consider myself a Parisian at heart – but Nice played the perfect contrast to the bustling cities I’d visited previously. Its blue waters and calm skies relaxed me as I drank in the amazing art and delicious food around me.

Following my adventure in Nice, I headed back the way I came: through Verona, to Munich, and, at last, back home to Boston, where my mom greeted me with a hug – and I left feeling like a completely new person. Without getting too dramatic, allow me to say: it’s amazing how travel changes you, and how the places we visit stick with us long after we pack our bags.

What I did: I’m a lover of French food and art, so Nice felt like a playground! I visited the Matisse Museum – where it felt like fate that the exhibit there was a collaboration with my favorite artist, Picasso, whom I’d spent time with in Barcelona not too long ago.

What I saw: As I took the bus across Nice, my favorite part had to be the stunning blue waters of the Mediterranean. After all, Nice is known for its beaches – and while I never found time for another swim, I did revel in the sparkling view before me, more than once marveling how I’d been so fortunate to get to Nice on such a beautiful day.

What I ate: Thanks to my hometown of Boston, I was already a fan of the French Paul Bakery. Eating at a true Paul in France felt more special somehow, so when I found one at the train station, I knew I had to put in my order. For lunch, I enjoyed a multigrain baguette with chicken, tomatoes, lettuce and dijon mustard. And let me tell you: it was delicious, affordable….and just as good as it looks.

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