My Top 2 Travel Spots in Europe: Italy and Switzerland

Dislaimer: This post has been a long time coming. I started it in 2019 and have now finished it during the 2020 Pandemic. Going back through my phone and adding in the pictures took too long by far! But, sometimes some projects just take forever, and that’s alright with me…

In 2018, I continued my travel adventures, going to places both close and far, checking things off my bucket list that had on there for a while. One of my biggest travel ‘tasks’ for the year was to fulfill my promise to my parents (mom, especially) that I’d take her to the mountains and the beauty of Alberta. In 2014 when I’d visited there myself, I was in awe of the scenic wonders the place had to offer, and within our own country! This wasn’t some far away dream like Italy or Europe (We’ll come to that in a bit). So a big item off my bucket list got checked off as my mom and dad looked out the car windows and absorbed the wonderful surroundings of the lakes and mountains of Banff, stood by a tall canyon and looked down its winding, curvy crevices and thunderous roaring falls (Maligne Canyon), and canoed in one of the most scenic and natural lakes in Jasper at the base of a giant peak (Pyramid Lake). All these places are beautiful and I recommend them all to anyone wanting to explore the beauty of Canada. (Also see my blog post about this trip to Alberta). 

A top spot on my list in 2 years ago was Italy! I’d been telling Imran I wanted to pretty much since I met him and I finally visited with him and got to live the dream I’d been dreaming about since I was around 17. And ain’t Italy grand! We got to explore so many amazing, historical, almost fantastical cities and towns there and fall in love with all my experiences in that land. From Italy itself, my favourite place emerged:

Venice

I’ll never forget how wide-eyed I was taking in my first real view of Venice. Stepping out of the train station and looking at buildings floating above water on either side of the grand canal. At that time it was more the water and the large and small boats whizzing by than the glamorous buildings on the water. The water was a hazy blue and sparkling in the sunny light of that July day (Canada Day back home!) The buildings were a contrast of white with red stucco rooftop tiles. mixed in were colourful smaller buildings, mainly shops and hotels with wide (or narrow) pathways full of people walking on them. I also glimpsed on our water-bus ride to our hotel buildings with gardens inside of them. Where you’d see tall trees sticking out of buildings and green grass, tucked behind walls and gates and almost surreal in a place surrounded by water. Small gardens and beautiful patios where people sat, ate, drank wine, and got together were also plentiful and beautiful. Just taking it all in on our long water-bus ride to our hotel was an entirely surreal experience.

Venice – one of my favourite cities in the world

Thankfully, despite us going in summer, the water did not smell and we got to enjoy a gondola ride as well as explore the many bridges and squares of the city. The white Rialto bridge where lovers come to take pictures (and buy flowers from young Bangladeshi vendors to woo their girls with), the Aman Canal Grande hotel where George Clooney and Amal Clooney got married a few years ago (it looks grand from the outside, I can only imagine how grand it looks from the inside), and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore which is view-able from the end of the canal – are all spectacular spots to gaze at while on the water. And I was in awe looking out at all of this, breathing in the vibe of the place and noting down the details in my memory.

Riding through a city on the water

My favourite really was the gondola ride through the little waterways of Venice itself. Although the price is hefty (buy for cheaper when you arrive in Venice!), the experience was worth it. We had our own gondola, ridden by a trusted Venetian gondolier, dresses in his red and white striped shirt, telling us about each of the important buildings, telling us to duck our heads when we came to a particularly low bridge. It was definitely an experience I cherish and look back on. 

Me on the gondola ride in Venice

Another thing I loved in Venice was exploring it at nighttime. You could start walking and easily get lost in the narrow alleyways, coming across other also lost tourists trying to make their way about. We stopped for some late night gelato and kept exploring the streets, some lit with lamplight, and came to a big square in the city. It may have been around 10 pm but the shops were open, restaurants were serving food, and the only big difference now was that you didn’t see the boats and gondolas lining up each waterway in the city. 

Murano and Burano get an honorable mention here because they are so beautiful with their colourful homes, glass-making world class shops, and the local vibe you get from the place! I’ll post pictures below. 

Interlaken

My second favourite place from our travels to Europe was Interlaken. Interlaken means ‘between lakes’ and it is exactly that kind of place, tucked in between two beautiful lakes, surrounded by the green hills and white mountains of Switzerland, and a truly stunning place.

Interlaken near where our little cozy B&B was

My second favourite place from our travels to Europe was Interlaken. Interlaken means ‘between lakes’ and it is exactly that kind of place, tucked in between two beautiful lakes, surrounded by the green hills and white mountains of Switzerland, and a truly stunning place.

After our (long) commute from Zurich by train to Interlaken, we made our way to a small bed & breakfast that we found out was owned by a couple who’d traveled from Canada to open up a B&B in this little beautiful town. The view from our room was spectacular! Overlooking a pathway, a stream with gorgeous blue waters flowing under a bridge, and paragliders jumping off mountains – their silhouettes against the sky completing the beautiful landscape around us.

A town between 2 lakes, surrounded by the Swiss Alps

Interlaken is situated between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. We took a boat ride from Lake Thun into a smaller town two hours away, and those 2 hours on the stunning Paraiba-like blue waters, fresh from the glacier tops, were my absolute favourite. I always love boating across a lake and this was by far the most visually pleasing experience I’ve been on. Surrounded by the proverbial picture that pops up in our heads when we think of Switzerland – think green grassy hills with wooden cottages, cows feeding off the grass, and high Apline peaks surrounding us in the distance. It really was the picturesque sight of Switzerland you see online and in travel magazines. The water really was the bluest of blues (honestly, I couldn’t get over it!) and as you came close to the shore it turned see-through and you could look down at the edges and rocks and people swimming. We were dropped off at a town called Spiez and explored the little town’s shops, streets, bridges and the Spiez castle. It made for a perfect day in Switzerland.

Thoroughly enjoying the boat ride in Lake Brienz

Another amazing experience in Interlaken was us taking a funicular straight up a mountain to a place called Harder Kulm. From here, you looked down at the little town of Interlaken you just came from, the two lakes, and the Alps surrounding you again, but this time they felt closer, as you were on top of a high hill yourself, able to see peaks like the Jungfrau (one of the highest mountain in the Bernese Alps), Monch and Eiger. One of the cool things about the viewing point is that you were standing on a pane of glass, so you could look down at the mountain you were standing on, while on the edge. Definitely not for the faint-hearted!

The Viewpoint – standing on top of the world? Kinda!

Situated also on the top of Harder Kulm was a restaurant we dined at, taking in the mountain views around us. We had the famous Swiss cheese fondue where you dip in potatoes and bread in cheese – I’d say we were not as impressed as we were hoping to be LOL. But just the experience of being up there, eating on top of a mountain while surrounded by the Swiss Alps, listening to the Swiss folk music played by the live band surrounding us, taking in the very fresh air – the experience hit all the senses and you could not but feel happiness in a place like that. I believe we spent about 2 hours up there before we made our way down again with the funicular.

I’d say our Italy/Switzerland trip was by far one of the best ones we’ve taken in the last couple of years. It was beautiful, surrounded by amazing, what felt like out-of-this-world sort of places, and one day in the future I’d love to go back and re-experience some of these amazing sights!

Being on the ground and looking up and around was just as spectacular as looking down from above

About the author

I'm Shaista. Most of you know me as Shai. I'm back to work on this blog/website which I started many years ago but let go due to life happening. But now I'm back and willing to let my creativity have a platform on this little slice of the internet. This baby is my Sunday Morning project as that's pretty much the only time I have to read/write in the week. Let's see how this pans out.

Browse through, look at the pictures in the Gallery, read a post or leave a comment. And remember to take a deeeeeep breath at least once a day (we don't do enough of that!) Hope to see you on my page again soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *