When I was in Rome, I took a tour of the Colisseum, laid eyes upon the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica, tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain and climbed the Spanish Steps. Yet, when I think of Rome, what I remember the most is the taste of authentic Italian pizza, getting a mouthful of nutella gelato, and sipping an expresso on a sunny day in a little cafe off a cobblestone road.
Some of my favourite memories from my trip to Europe are lazily lying around in a park in Berlin, with an iced coffee and a good book. I loved having dinner in Spain with my best friend, Emma, over a seafood paella and two pitchers of sangria. I loved going to the beach in Villefranche-Sur-Mer with my new Finnish friend Laura whom I’d met in my hostel, and later that week having a picnic dinner on the beach with her French friends, playing trivia in a local pub in Nice, and dancing the night away on picnic tables in a bar called Wayne’s.
I loved looking out the window of my bus in the Scottish Highlands and feasting my eyes on those beautiful, rolling green hills. I loved making new friends in Wales and spending several nights in a row drinking pints of cider in pubs with the locals. I’ll always remember that moment in Scotland when my train sped through a field of dandelions, and hundreds of white fluffy seeds floated through the open windows and danced through the air, filling the whole train with what looked like fuzzy snowflakes.
Or savouring sips of my Guinness beer in a Temple Bar in Dublin. Or that day in Florence I spent shopping in the market for leather bags and scarves and beautiful, intricate pieces of hand-made jewellery. That time Emma and I got caught in a thunderstorm in Paris and ended up getting back to our hostel crying laughing and sopping wet.
While on a pub crawl in Bruges I met my other half (although I didn’t know it at the time). Or the memory of sitting in a strip-club in Prague at 5AM with two new friends, drunk off of buckets (literal, buckets) of mojitos. And the time I had a lovely conversation with a kind, young Italian man on a train from Milan to Verona.
Climbing a challenging mountain in Belfast in the pouring rain, only for the sunshine and a rainbow to greet me at the top. Riding in a red double-decker bus in London, drinking wine in Paris, eating a “special” brownie in Amsterdam, and savouring a scoop of green apple gelato in Venice.
I remember seeing such iconic sights as Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, the Mona Lisa, the Berlin Wall, Prague Castle, Buckingham Palace, and the Monte Carlo casino.
But all of my favourite moments on that trip were of tastes and smells and building relationships with new friends.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the memories I tend to take away the most from my travels revolve around the smaller, every day things you encounter while on the road – how a city smells, sounds and feels.
It’s the moments when you slow down, relax, have a cup of espresso and make conversation with a new friend that are often more cherished than simply checking off landmarks on a bucket list.
It’s the little things in life that bring you the most joy.