Towards the end of last year, I wrote about the 5 places that I’d love to revisit. Although I love exploring new countries, I also love going back to places that I enjoyed the first time around. I mean, if you have a favourite flavour of Ben & Jerry’s (Half Baked, of course), you don’t only have it once and then continuously just try other flavours- you go back to what you love. Besides, just because you’ve been to one place in a country, doesn’t mean you’ve done it- the culture of one town can be wildly different from another.
Thanks to England’s proximity to France and the great transport links, including the Eurostar, Channel Tunnel and ferries, I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve been to France. In my childhood years, it was the place I always went to with my family. Places such as Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley were relatively easy to get to by car, Provence and Dordogne took a bit longer but were hot in the summer and felt more exotic. Disneyland will always be one of my all time favourite family holidays and Calais and Dunkirk are close enough to be easy destinations for school trips and other day visits. Then there’s Paris- one of the most beautiful cities in the world, stuffed with tasty treats, galleries and stunning architecture. Admittedly it may have taken something like 15 hours (more or less- I forget exactly) by coach but had I been sensible and got the Eurostar it would only have been an hour or two. That’s definitely how I’ll get there next time- there will always be a next time.
I don’t know if it’s because Germany is in my blood (my Grandpa was from Berlin) or if it’s because Germany is just a great country- it’s probably both- but I love going back and probably always will. I first went to Germany on a school trip to visit the Christmas markets in Aachen and Cologne. I loved it and not just because of the shopping. The cathedral in Cologne was stunning and there was a festive, old-worldly atmosphere.
A few years later, I went to Berlin for the first time with my Dad, where we went to hunt down some family-related places. Even though I was only in the city for a few days, I fell in love with it and ended up spending a summer at a language school there after university. During that time, I started to think of Berlin as home and I’ve been back more than one, although it isn’t quite the same when I don’t have acres of time on my hands to both relax and explore.
Last summer, I went to Dusseldorf for the first time on a work placement. I had heard mixed reviews about the city and I didn’t imagine I could love anywhere as much as Berlin but, thanks to the people, I did. Some of the town may be a bit industrial but there are some truly beautiful areas and a friendly atmosphere. I can only hope that I get to go back again.
I don’t think I’ve every been to a country quite like Italy. The first time I went was to Rome with my family when I was 12. My parents dragged my brothers and I to as many of the sights as possible, such as the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Vatican and the Pantheon. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have but I still realised it was all pretty awesome. A few years later, I went back on a school trip, I didn’t get to spend long in Rome itself, with only enough time to pop and see Ostia, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the Palatine Hill, before we went down south to Naples. There we found Mount Vesuvius and the preserved ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which had been buried by it.
Last year, I went back to Italy but this time the destination was Venice. I have never been anywhere like it- the city was like a museum in itself. Venice is a city in a lagoon, made up of several islands and is full of narrow lanes, beautiful buildings and canals with boats instead of roads and cars. Next on my list is Florence. When studying art history at school, the majority of the paintings, sculptures and buildings we studied were in Florence. I can’t wait to see them for myself.
The first time I went to Belgium was to Ypres on a school trip to visit the battlefields from World War I. It was a heavy-going trip but one that I think is important for everyone to take. On our way back, we stopped off in Bruges, a town of canals and cobbled streets. I didn’t think that I would ever go back to Belgium but then at the end of last year I got the opportunity to go to Brussels. It wasn’t a city on my bucket list but I wasn’t going to say no and I’m glad I didn’t. The city had some beautiful architecture, the food was delicious and the nightlife was fun to say the least. I’d happily go back and do it again.
I’ve never actually been to the mainland of Greece but I have made it to a couple of the islands, of which there are many. I first went to Crete with the family whilst I was at school. It was a family holiday that came second only to Disneyland. We had arrived at night and awoke the next day to find blue mountains in the distance, across the sea, on the one side and a mountain looming in front of us on the other. The local food was delicious, the beaches were beautiful and the water was clear. My only regret is that we didn’t explore the ruins on the island- I don’t know how I let that happen.
Following the success of that trip, we went to another island a few years later: Paxos. As lovely as the small island was, it wasn’t the same. Driving was particularly terrifying as big cars came hurtling around the mountain roads. Having said that, spotting a little octopus whilst snorkelling was pretty cool. I probably wouldn’t go back to Paxos but I’m certainly planning of visiting more of the islands and maybe one day I’ll actually make it to the mainland.
I first decided to go to Vietnam as part of my Great Big Gap Year Adventure. I didn’t really know much about the country so I decided just to spend a week in Ho Chi Minh City – the country’s largest city. I didn’t really research what to do whilst I was there but I did find the War Museum, Cu Chi tunnels, Ben Thanh market and a tour along part of the Mekong River. In hindsight, I certainly could have done more but, in my defence, the weather was insanely hot so I did have to take refuge every now and again.
A couple of years later, I went back to Vietnam, this time to the country’s capital- Hanoi. I’d seen images of Ha Long Bay on an episode of Top Gear (yes, that really is where I got my inspiration) and I was desperate to go. Again, I didn’t really do my research but I still managed to find a few places to explore: Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Dong Xuan market, Fanny’s ice cream parlour, the Revolution Museum, the War Museum, the flag tower, Lake Hoan Kiem and a fantastic restaurant called Quan An Ngon. Ha Long Bay alone made the trip worth it. The bay is full of turquoise water, with huge rocks looming out of it. It’s an incredible site.
So I’ve been to northern Vietnam and I’ve been to southern Vietnam but I’ve never been to anywhere in between. It turns out that wasn’t a good decision, the whole country is supposed to be amazing. I guess I’ll just have to go back again.