Touchdown – What to do when you land in a new city – Europe
No we’re not talking about Amsterdam. I mean climb something! The best way to get the layout of a city is to see it from a different perspective. Grab a map and work out where everything you want to see is. Whether it’s Montparnasse tower in Paris or the top of the Vatican, get a birds eye view and work out a plan of attack!
Work out the public transport
Europe is full of wonderfully designed metro systems, tram and bus networks and ferry lines. If you want to get around in a cost effective way and experience the city like the locals do jump on the metro. Always buy a ticket (and validate!) and use Google maps to work out the lines, you can’t go wrong. Unless you end up on the express service to Rome… Let’s not talk about it!
Coffee culture is ripe in many cities around the world. For me Italy is the king of coffee but there are many close runners up. Take a break from ticking off the Eiffel tower. Cool off before the Colosseum. Grab a cappuccino before cruising the canals of Venice. It’s a great way to see the locals relax and try some tasty local treats too.
Know your money
I travel a lot and I’m still not great at this one! Knowing what 10,000 Hungarian Lev equates to might make a difference to getting that taxi in Budapest or trudging around trying to find your obscure back alley air BnB by foot. I use XEs currency converter app to check the rate (often several times a day!). Handy it works offline too! Getting the best rate for your travel money can make travelling all that more affordable. Don’t get ripped off, there are people around relying on your ignorance!
This is the best advice I have ever received from a fellow traveller. Sure you have to see certain UNESCO world heritage sites. You have to get a picture holding up the leaning tower of Pisa or topless at the highest point in Europe (although I’m still not quite sure why?). But that’s not where you will find truly unique experiences that make travelling the world so rewarding. For that you have to veer off of Las Ramblas or the Champs Elysees. Take a side street that smells like fresh bread or has some cool street art. In some places like Venice and Florence it’s hard not to get totally lost! But that’s half of the fun.
Go left when everyone else is going right.
Get some air
Some of my favourite places to visit in a city are the parks and botanical gardens. A city can have so many smells, noises and faces that sometimes you just need a break from it all. Cities also have some of the friendliest wildlife around as they are more used to people. Spot Pelicans in London’s Hyde park, bears in Bern, Switzerland and cats living amongst the ruins in Rome.
Learn the lingo
It’s surprising how many people don’t do this and then wonder why people aren’t very friendly or patient in Europe. Learn a few words in the language of the country you are going to. A simple Ciao, Hola, Bonjour or Dobrý den can make all the difference to your experience and usually gets a few laughs for your terrible pronunciation! You don’t fit in in Italy unless you’re constantly shouting prego at someone!
European cities are a culinary explosion of culture and deliciousness. Eat bread. Drink wine. Eat more bread. Have a five course meal in the middle of the day. Eat a bit more bread. Have whatever the local specialty is. Did I mention the bread? We have a phrase; fat, broke and happy. That’s how to do Europe!