Thanks to the week long parliamentary recess, my friends and I decided to hop across the Atlantic to Switzerland and France. We spent a couple of chaotic days in Geneva which included being fined by the police for an innocent tourist mistake, enjoying a pot of hearty fondue (arguably the best thing about Switzerland), touring the UN for a short 15 minutes due to a two and half hour entrance delay which later resulted in us sprinting across a train station with our suitcases to catch our train that was leaving in three minutes. Crazy.
Our train took us to Basel, a quaint little town in Northern Switzerland. Before you ask how it was, I unfortunately have no idea because by the time we got there, it was dark and we had another train to catch at 8 AM the next morning. Traveling mishap.
Throughout our time in Switzerland, I constantly regretted how little I planned prior to our trip. While I’m typically okay with wandering around and deciding things to do spontaneously, traveling through Switzerland isn’t cheap whatsoever. Booking things ahead of time, specifically for transportation, is crucial as last minute train tickets can definitely add up.
Thankfully, our train tickets to Strasbourg weren’t too expensive and we actually created an itinerary for the day. Having a schedule was so foreign to us that we almost missed our boat tour! We then explored the area of Petite France and participated in an informative walking tour to end the day. We learned that throughout history, annexation over Strasbourg switched back and forth between France and Germany and that was evident through its varying blend of architecture.
After nearly a nine hour bus ride, we made it to Paris! This was my first time so I really didn’t know what to expect. Here are some of the things I learned:
> Paris is huge. You basically have to take public transportation to get around anywhere. In order to save money and really get to know the city though (more to save $ honestly), we walked approximately 8 miles a day and by the end of the trip, our legs were pretty much jello.
> Escargot is delicious. The garlic, the butter, everything. If I had the financial means to eat snails every day, I totally would.
> People openly stare. Despite Paris being an international hub, my friends and I were constantly stared at wherever we went. Whether it was because we were POC or because we were American or both even, it was still pretty unsettling to be honest. This forced me to reflect on many things such as my cultural identity and expanded my gratitude for the openness that I grew up surrounded by in Los Angeles.
Aside from that however, France was so cool! Each area had its own uniqueness to offer, from eating crepes at the farmers market in Bastille, to firsthand witnessing where Marie Antoinette escaped in the Palace of Versailles, to watching the Eiffel Tower glimmer in the night, to exploring through the underground catacombs, everything was so different from what I’d experience back in Scotland or in the States. And as cliche as it sounds, learning about the history and culture of another place is truly the best part of traveling.