This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to visit five countries in Europe (thanks to a summer class in Cambridge). I flew to Europe two weeks before my class began to enjoy a few cities, and I was able to continue exploring after it was over. While I certainly had a wide range of experiences in Europe this summer, my three favorite cities were Edinburgh, Scotland; Cambridge, England; and Paris, France. I was able to spend at least a week in each of these cities which allowed me the chance to become familiar with the cafes, museums, and culture they had to offer.
Ah, Edinburgh! This city was incredibly inviting. It had the best ice cream (looking at you, Mary’s Milk Bar), Diagon Alley (no joke!), and a castle on a hilltop that could be seen from practically any corner of the city (including our hotel window). We had a fantastic whiskey-tasting experience at a family-owned shop, we climbed to the top of King Arthur’s Seat, and we explored one of Queen Elizabeth II’s residencies, known as the Palace of Hollyrood. On our last night, we hiked up a hill near our hotel to see a view of the city. As we sat on a bench, surveying the view, we heard a familiar tune: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” My mom and I looked at each other, shocked. We assumed it must be a show nearby. I quickly pulled out my phone and googled Elton John’s concert schedule. Sure enough, that evening he was playing live at a stadium in Edinburgh! We enjoyed the music from afar, hardly believing our good fortune. This little memory is pretty reminiscent of our stay in the city of Edinburgh.
I took a class in Cambridge this summer for three weeks which offered me the chance to establish a bit of a routine in the city as I discovered artsy restaurants and favorite clothing shops located close to my flat. Cambridge was the perfect college town. It showed off beautiful buildings, centuries old. It offered easy access to the city by simply biking or walking through beautiful fields dotted with cows. It was family-friendly, and our group saw cute kids running around chattering in their British accents. The small city looked like a village out of a fairytale, simply modernized to fit the 21st century. One of my favorite parts about Cambridge was exploring the stunning old churches residing on each of the college campuses. As there are over 30 universities in Cambridge, it was easy to find new chapels all the time. The stained glass was incredible, and the people at each church were welcoming and gave us interesting historical facts about each place. Cambridge was an easy city to enjoy.
Paris was one of the last places I visited during my time away, and the week was a dream come true. I had originally planned to stay in Paris for only two or three days, and I was worried I wouldn’t get to see everything I had planned in my itinerary. Thankfully, some travel plans changed last minute for my friends and I, meaning an entire week was at our disposal. A few of my favorite parts of Paris include enjoying delicious meals while savoring glasses of rose; visiting the l’Orangerie (which features Monet’s waterlilies) twice; watching the lights sparkle on the Eiffel tower from across the Seine; and wandering the halls of the Paris Opera House. One of the most special parts of Paris was the feeling that I had truly accomplished all I desired to do in the city. I felt content leaving Paris, as though I had soaked in all it had to offer me.
Overall, my experience traveling in Europe this summer taught me so much and gave me the incredible chance to explore countries with a fresh perspective. I would highly encourage would-be travelers to explore the world at any chance they might receive!