Having born to parents with itchy feet and a love for travel, I started traveling at a tender age of 4 and caught on the travel bug pretty early in life. In adulthood, having all that experience in my bag, I began spending a lot of my time daydreaming about destinations and making travel itineraries. Believe it or not, that is my favourite thing to do.
Travel is sort of my life now. Having extensively travelled the length and bredth of India and left footprints in south-east Asia and parts of Europe, I have now moved base to London. With a sole purpose of fulfilling my dream of seeing Europe, this is the most exciting phase of my life.
So that would be me, your travel planner, who loves to ramble on and on about destinations and food; then write about it.
About this post
Guide to Europe travels in five little steps...
I haven't travelled Europe extensively, but whatever I have, these would be my top tips ...
1. Walk everywhere. And this is my no.1 advice. Taking the local bus or a tram or worse, a taxi, will totally ruin your experience. You will end up only seeing the city from afar and not really stop to smell the read deal. Of course, unless you are really drunk or so tired that you cannot lift a leg, then of course rely on the public transport. But otherwise, walk down a street, turn an unknown corner, spot something interesting, walk to it and come back, find a cobbled street with a cafe, stop and take in the moment. Trust me, it is the best way to experience a city in Europe. The beauty of any European city is hidden in these unknown streets and markets, not so much in the 'top 10 tourist attractions' as advertised on Lonely Planet (no offence to the lovely travel mag.. but sometimes I just find all the suggestions, certified tourist traps).
2. Every city/town has a street or an area that is teeming with tourists - Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Oxford Street in London, Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris or Taksim Square in Istanbul. I would suggest, avoid them. They are over-rated, over-priced and over-crowded. Take the bylanes, streets away from the noise and you will find the soul of the city. Walk as far away from these streets and you will find the real people and the real moments. You will experience the city's true vibes and that is the kind of memory you would be happy to take back with you.
3. And after you have done that, find a local bar or a pub, get chatting with the locals and get to know the real city that you are visiting. But be very careful, the locals can smell a SLR-lugging, map-holding tourist from miles away so you got to be as natural as they come. You must be the kind of traveller who is interested in blending with the city and experiencing it as the locals see it. Only then will you be able to get some worthy tips out of them.
4. Do your research beforehand or hire me to do it for you (shameless plug) but make time to visit the local street market. European cities are famous for their weekend markets, their sunday village pop-ups and you must make time for them. Imagine walking around a sunday market, blending in with the locals, enjoying a snack and taking time to chat with stall owners who will have stories to tell... I was once travelling to the South of France and found myself drawn to a Sunday village market in the little town of Villefranche sur Mer. I bought a bronze key, intricately designed and was about 200 years old. So unless you are a staunch lover of the fridge magnets and tacky memorabilia (usually made in China), I would suggest go for the real deal and a real memory back from the city you visit. Go the local markets.
5. And finally, eat the local food. Do not, and promise me you won't, but do not go to Barcelona and eat Pizza or worse, Indian. Even if you have dietary constraints or preferences, every city has its cuisine that will satisfy anyone's dietary requirement. Stick to that, as much as possible. If you are in Barcelona, enjoy some Tapas... yes, they are widely seafood-focussed, but there are some very delicious Chicken and vegetarian options that will interest your taste buds. Oh! and following on from my 2nd tip, avoid the local cuisines on the main tourist streets. If you step into a bylane and find a hidden gem of a restaurant, not only would it be cheaper but a better experience as well.
Happy European voyage, fellow travellers...