I clearly like G Adventures, as this particular tour was the fourth one I’d completed in the space of 12 months.
It was the last week of September and the weather was still sunny and warm. I arrived in Venice with two days to myself before the tour commenced. Upon arrival at Marco Polo Airport I caught a water bus to Rialto. This was when it got difficult because I had to drag my 20kg luggage up and down stairs, through the hundreds of tourists filling the little Venice streets to get to my hotel. It’s my own fault for packing too many clothes – I never learn!
But you want to hear about Venice, right? Well, I pretty much ate my way through the city. There is delicious pizza, pasta and ice-cream everywhere, just like you would imagine. But I was a sucker for their sweets and pastry stores. I explored Venice on the wander, thrilled with every single bridge, canal and gondola I saw. I made it to the tip of the island, where Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is situated. It’s actually really relaxing there, away from the masses of tourists on the other side of the water. I sat on the steps of the church for a while to rest my feet and really register where I was in the world.
I also stopped by the Rialto market and of course, made my way to the popular Plazza San Marco.
I met my G Adventures tour group the following night. It was smaller than the last, and it was the “classic” style, so we were staying in hotels instead of hostels, and sharing a room with one other person. The next morning, we made our way to Slovenia.
My whole Europe trip revolved around Lake Bled in Slovenia. Earlier in the year, I saw a photo of Lake Bled and it took my breath away. I made it my mission to visit Lake Bled by the end of the year. What made the experience even more special was the group of girls in my tour who I hiked with to reach a viewpoint that was roughly 700m high. It was a challenging hike but it was absolutely worth it. I will never forget the moment I reached the top and I looked out at the beyond beautiful Lake Bled. It is officially one of my favourite sights in the world.
Everyone on the tour was excited to participate in the Sound of Music tour. I’m that weird person who has not actually seen the full movie, despite knowing what it’s about and even knowing some of the songs. So I ended up doing my own thing in Salzburg, such as munching on a scrumptious sacher torte!
We only had one full day in Vienna. In situations like this it’s always hard to work out what to do and how to fit everything in. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself to see everything. So I decided to spend half the day at Schönbrunn Palace and then the rest of the day wandering around the city. Schönbrunn Palace is amazing. The garden is massive and the palace itself is wonderful. I did a short tour with an audio guide, expanding my knowledge on Emperor Franz Joseph, astounded by the exquisiteness of the palace. Schönbrunn Palace is a must when in Vienna. As for the city, well, put simply, I fell in love.
Our last stop was Budapest. I am fully aware that it is a popular tourist destination, and everyone says its’s a beautiful city. They were not wrong. But I realised I did not know a whole lot about Hungary, and I was disappointed with my ignorance. So I became a good student, listening very carefully to my tour guide, reading plaques and signs explaining the history of certain sights and monuments, tasting local food and attempting to learn the local language. I also went to a ruin bar for the first time called Szimpla Kert and was really lucky to gain access to the members exclusive Brody Studios!
Before I knew it, I was saying my goodbyes to the group, watching everyone wish each other the very best in life. The thing about group travel is we all know we may never see each other again. We go our separate ways and continue on with our lives. But we remember the people we shared these experiences with.