September 2013 lead me to pack my bags and head to Europe. A trip without planning or structure, I bought a ticket to London, England and my European journey began.
After a stopover in Montreal, my flight landed me on British soil at early hours of the morning, and I was BEYOND thankful that my aunt was sweet enough to brave the morning rush-hour traffic and pick me up from Heathrow. Zipping through the narrow streets of downtown London, I dozed off while snapping pictures from our moving car. Jet lag had officially sunk in.
Over my years of traveling I’ve become a bit cocky in the sense that I truly believed I was immune to jet lag. Australia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia… All of those trips I was able to get into the swing of things relatively fast. I cannot say the same for this trip. Europe kicked my ass. I was a walking zombie for days, weeks even. Yet I somehow managed to snap some decent photos with blurred vision and obsessive yawning.
London was exactly how I pictured it to be. Busy and culturally diverse. I was staying in a community that has a very large population of Ultra Orthodox Jews. The Synagog was a couple blocks away and with a religious celebration going on, the streets surrounding were filled with men in traditional Jewish attire, from Kippahs to Shtreimels and Bekishes. Not too far away is a large Afro-Caribbean community and also a large Turkish community.
London provides an abundance of restaurants to eat at with any kind of food you could possibly want, including my introduction to Ethiopian food. London spoiled me with not only delicious meals from all the restaurants but also at-home cooking. Both my uncle and aunt are fantastic cooks who created mouth watering meals that had me going back for more.
After spending a week indulging in food, shopping the Camden Market, hitting the London zoo and attempting to learn the London Transit system. I packed a carry-on and headed to the airport to catch a flight to Venice, Italy.
I landed late in the evening and headed straight to the villa I had rented, just a 30 min train ride outside of main Venice. The villa, located literally in the middle of nowhere was very cute, I was surrounded by farm land with rows and rows of tomato plants and grape vines. I decided that I would take it easy and enjoy a relaxing evening in. My plan was to tackle the maze of Venice in the morning.
A grin from cheek to cheek was plastered on my face upon exiting the train station and stepping foot on the staircase leading me to the narrow canals and brick pathways of The Floating City. I was ready to experience a piece of Italy.
Venice, though beautiful to look at, is over crowded with tourists exploring and locals trying to make money selling random memorabilia. Every corner, every walkway, every staircase is covered in imitation name brand purses, sun glasses and shoes. You’re bombarded with young handsome Italian men trying to persuade you into purchasing anything and everything.
I was famished. I didn’t really expect the food to be overly exceptional since I had situated myself in such a highly populated tourist attraction, but none the less, I sat down along the main canal and ordered my first “real Italian pizza”. As I ate what tasted like cardboard with melted cheese on it and some eggplant or something or other, I was serenaded by a trio of men. Your stereo typical Italian moment. In appreciation for the talent, I dropped a couple Euros in their hat and bid them farewell.
I decided against buying a map. I figured following the herds of people would eventually get me from one place to another, and I’d at some point find my way back to the train station. I did some shopping, snapped some photos, ate Gelato and rested my feet.