My First Europe Trip - Sneak Peek
My First Europe Trip - Sneak Peek

Sneak-Peek Into My First Europe Trip

As I write this from my window seat in the TGV Lyria from Basel to Paris Gare De Lyon, I reflect upon the last couple of weeks that I’ve spent during my first Europe trip. All of you know how much I love travelling and exploring new places, cultures and cuisines.

However, planning an international trip was always a far-fetched dream for me. Just the thought of travelling overseas, getting the Visas, currency, planning and most importantly the funds required to plan a trip prevented me from taking an international trip. 

But thanks to my work, I got to do 2 international trips in less than 3 months! If you’re following my blog and my journey you know that I took my first international trip to the US in November last year, and currently, I’m almost at the end of my first Europe trip.

In this blog post, I’m going to give you a sneak peek into my first Europe trip. PS: If you’re following me on Instagram, you already know most of the details, but the fine print is what I’ll share in the upcoming blog posts. 

How it all started?

That’s the first question, how did the whole thing start? It was back in mid-December when I was at a team meeting in Pune and was discussing my plans to attend KubeCon in Paris with my manager. Luckily, even before I could initiate that discussion, he initiated it.

Now that I had a nod to start the process, it was time to do some research on Visas, travel and everything else. Further, just like my last trip to the US, I planned to extend my work trip by about 10 days to travel to a few places that I always wanted to. 

My First Europe Trip – The Plan

One of the best things about Europe is the EU. Further, the applicability of the Schengen Visa in most of Europe countries makes it super easy to move within Europe without applying for anything else. After applying for my visa in December end, the good news came around my birthday that the visa was approved. With the major hurdle out of the way, the next step was to plan the flights, apply for leaves and plan the finer details of the post-conference itinerary. 

My First Europe Trip - Sneak Peek
My First Europe Trip – Sneak Peek

As for leaves, we had Holi and Good Friday falling in the same week, so I applied for 3 days there and got the full week off with both weekends. I also applied for 3 days in the following week so I had 10 days after the conference which I could utilise.

Further, Europe is expensive and you need to find things on which you can save money. One of the things that I saved money on was the Eurail Pass (more details later) which allowed me to travel across Europe almost free of cost!

So here’s a high-level overview of my first Europe trip.

1. France

Ever since I started learning French at NEHS, I always hoped to visit Paris someday. But like I mentioned earlier, planning an international trip was something extremely overwhelming so if it hadn’t been for my work, I wouldn’t have ever visited Paris.

Nevertheless, it happened! It was a bucket list item for me as I wanted to see and experience everything that I had read in my French book. KubeCon Paris took place from March 19 to 23rd. While I thought of exploring Paris on conference days in the mornings and evenings, nothing happened as I was extremely tired by the end of the day. 

Exploring Paris, France after KubeCon
Exploring Paris, France after KubeCon

So the next plan was to explore Paris over the weekend and Monday. The places to explore and activities included the Eiffel Tower, Seine River Cruise, Louvre Museum, Roland Garros Stadium Tour, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dam, Arc De Triomphe and Champs Elyse.

I also visited the Palace of Versailles on Sunday so that was one unplanned thing that I did. Apart from that, I explored the alleys of Paris tried Croissants and Pain du chocolate from all the boulangeries that I could, visited cafes and even had Indian food in Paris. I’ll have more detailed posts about this coming soon. 

2. Switzerland

The next place that I wanted to explore was Switzerland. Yes, the “honeymoon destination” without my honey at the moment. I got a lot of DM saying that being single and visiting Switzerland is unlawful! Well, it is what it is!

Anyways, the plan was to make Lucerne the base and move around. Mt Titlis was only on the plan. However, I also visited Rigi and a quick walking tour of Interlakenwell when you have unlimited train rides you take full advantage of it. Apart from that, I wanted to experience Bernina Express, however the tickets were sold out (also expensive).

Breathtaking Switzerland - seeing snow for the first time!
Breathtaking Switzerland – seeing snow for the first time!

A little bit of research led me to find that there are local trains that run on the same route with almost negligible pricing compared to Bernina Express. The only thing missing are the panoramic windows, the guides etc. And that’s what I did.

I travelled from Lucerne to Chur with a halt at Zurich (explored the museum and tried Cheese Fondue) and then took 3 local trains from Chur to St. Mortiz, St. Moritz to Tirano to travel on the Bernina route which is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage route

3. Italy

Since I was taking the trains to Tirano which is in Italy, it made sense to also spend a few days in Italy. I was in a fix whether I should spend a day in Milan or Venice, Florance or Naples or just Rome. Finally, considering the already hectic schedule (and expenses), I decided to stick to only Rome. So I took the train from Tirano to Milan and then from Milan to Rome. I spent 2 days in Rome and tried to explore as much as I could. I walked more than 50,000 steps in just two days! 

Explore Rome - Ancient Buildings & Italian Food
Explore Rome – Ancient Buildings & Italian Food

Further, I didn’t realise it was the Easter weekend and Pope was going to be present in the Vatican City for the mass, hence most places were either sold out or not available to access due to Easter. That’s where I felt my planning could have been better, I could have gotten cheap tickets for a lot of places. But anyway, that’s a lesson learnt.

I visited the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum along with St. Angelo’s Castle, and St Patrick’s Basilica in the Vatican, exploring local markets and also trying a variety of Pasta and Pizza. 

4. Bonus Day Outing at Doha

I booked Qatar Airways flights from Hyderabad to Paris and return as they were the cheapest at the time of booking and more importantly, the timing suited me as I had a couple of talks scheduled on day 1 of KubeCon.

And if you remember my first trip to the USA, I had booked Emirates via Dubai and I explored Dubai in half a day. I planned to do the same in Doha as well. With a layover of over 20 hours, I wanted to try Middle Eastern food and visit the Islamic art museum and the souq.

Doha in half a day.
Doha in half a day.

But guess what, who forgot that it was Ramzan and no eatery would be open during the day? Yep, that was a miscalculation from my end, so couldn’t get any Mediterranean food, but that’s okay.

My First Europe Trip Was Fun!

You’re doing a crash course on Europe” was what one of my friends replied on my Instagram story. Well, in the limited time that I had, I wanted to visit all the places that I always wanted to visit.

As I’m looking outside the window of my TGV at the moment, all I feel is extremely happy along with a little bit of pride and a voice “You did it!”. It’s an extremely joyous moment as a few decades ago my grandfather was invited to Paris to speak at a conference and now it was me who was in Paris to speak at a conference. There couldn’t be a better coincidence than this.

So that’s about it for this blog post, I know there weren’t any blog posts in the last two weeks and you now know why. I didn’t get time to write and schedule anything before KubeCon and then during the vacation, I was just walking and shuttling trains and metros.

However, I’ll have more detailed blog posts of everything I did in the future. Until then, thanks for being a part of my first Europe trip! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj, DM @Atulmaharaj on Instagram or get in touch.

About Atulmaharaj

A seasoned blogger and a content marketer for close to a decade now. I write about Food, Technology, Lifestyle, Travel, and Finance related posts. Blogging brings me joy and the best part is I get to read and e-meet so many amazing bloggers! PS: I'm also the founder for Socialmaharaj.com :) Favorite Quote: "Traveling is like reading a book, one who hasn't traveled, hasn't turned a page.

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