dwell on the beauty of life. watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.
— marcus aurelius —
i love the mountains. i’d take mountains over the beach any day of the week and twice on sunday. there is something about the majestic beauty of them that makes me weak in the knees. living in boston my mountain scenery is quite limited so i was really looking forward to the first of two weekend trips i had planned on my latest european journey. i planned to fly into zürich and rent a car for the day to drive around switzerland and germany en route to liechtenstein, my country #43. i had been to switzerland in college but it was so long ago the only thing i remembered was that i went with two friends on our way to italy and we pooled our money together to stay at an actual hotel, not a hostel, in bern. we all slept in the same bed because there was only one but that didn’t matter because at that moment we felt like kings, so i was really looking forward to a return visit…. and this time i would have the whole bed to myself. a major life upgrade.
as i rolled into the zürich airport bright and early on that warm august morning, i made my way to the hertz counter to scoop up my day’s transportation, excited to change recycled airplane air for some fresh mountain air. because i am an imbecile and still don’t know how to drive a stick (i have unsuccessfully tried, so new teachers are always welcome), my only requirements were that i needed an automatic and navigation, although being lost in switzerland wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. sensing exhaustion and my overall americanness, the woman at the counter asked me where i was off to for the day and when i told her i was driving to country #43 she kindly upgraded me to one of my favorite cars, a mini cooper s. i excitedly took the keys and ran out the door ready to get the show on the road. i was positive my day was going to be off to an amazing start because upgrade aside, it was an absolutely beautiful sunny day and i was about to spend it surrounded by breathtaking mountain views….. or so i thought. i sat in the airport parking garage for nearly 30 minutes because i could not figure out how to get my car started. i had my super amazing spotify playlist blasting but i was going nowhere fast. about to admit defeat and go inside to ask for help, i snapped a picture for snapchat and finally saw the ignition button in the picture i took (ahh, technology). by the way, one of the benefits of solo travel is that no one was there to judge me and i was finally on my way. crisis averted, blonde moment over.
first and foremost, if you haven’t been to switzerland you need to go. as in right now. get on a plane and pay this gorgeous country a visit. i spent the majority of my day driving in switzerland and was literally pulling off on random exits because there were so many churches, beautiful mountain views, and cute villages nestled into the valleys the entire drive. it made me so happy and at that moment there was no other place in the world i wanted to be. i typically go to capital cities when i travel because it offers the best chance at easy, direct flights but there is something to be said about having the ability to get in a car, go, and be outside the city hustle and crowded streets. to me, it was absolute perfection. it really made me think a lot about where i want to be spending time going forward on holidays and vacations because southern germany, austria and switzerland are everything i absolutely adore about europe.
switzerland aside, i eventually made my way to konstanz, germany (about 70km from zürich), the first of many beautiful stops on my thursday drive. keeping in the theme of pretty little trips, you should visit this city also. it’s well worth it. i am, however, going to skip over that part of my roadtrip in this post because i included it in my love of germany post, which you can read here but if you find yourself driving around the area, make it a destination. it’s stunning, trust me.
now, onward to liechtenstein, the sixth smallest country in the world (fun fact, i have now been to four of the top ten smallest countries in the world: malta, monaco and vatican city). i did a little research on this tiny principality before i left and found out that its small population is invited to a beer party once a year at the castle on its national holiday, clearly i need to plan accordingly next time, i missed it by one day. another interesting fact about my country #43 is that it is one of two countries in the world that is double landlocked. make sure to stop by uzbekistan if you want to visit the other one. it also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world, one of the highest GDPs in the world and has very little crime. you should also know that between noon and 1:30pm everyone is out to lunch, literally. i think it’s a law or something. sounds like a pretty legit place to live, eh? (note to self: add vaduz to list of potential european home bases).
my first order of business was to stop by the capital city of vaduz (by the way, this is not the biggest city in liechtenstein, that honor goes to schaan). i approached the city like a 90 year old sunday driver and had people honking at me in no time. i wasn’t exactly sure where i was going so leave it to someone from boston to get this peaceful village all in a tizzy. i spotted a castle perched up in the hills out of the corner of my eye and cut off three cars to pull into what i thought was a public parking garage in the valley below. turns out it was indeed a parking garage, but for a doctor’s office, and me and my mini were trapped inside because we didn’t have the garage door opener to get out. minor problem and karma is indeed a bitch. i should have been a nicer driver earlier. #lifelessonsinliechtenstein. pondering how i could get out of this situation without ramming the door down with my sweet ride, i forced the door open with my american brute strength (just kidding, the door was on wheels but i couldn’t get it closed when i left… they did have cameras so i may be banned from further trips to vaduz) and soon found a legit parking spot by a charming little church.
i left my car and paid for my parking (or at least i think i did. i’m still not 100% sure, but i didn’t get a ticket. i’m sure the police were busy reviewing the tapes of the blonde girl breaking out of a parking garage like it was an escape room) and off i went. i did absolutely no research on vaduz and figured i’d just wing it and have a nice, get lost kinda afternoon. i walked around the aforementioned church and encountered a nice gentleman in a suit who asked if i was lost (obviously i was not a citizen otherwise we would have already known each other from the annual beer party at the castle the day before). i wanted to answer, when am i not, but wasn’t sure it would translate well, so i asked him where i should go and what i should see instead. he directed me to a path close by to see the castle that i spotted when i was driving in. apparently it offered the best views of the city. he was not wrong.
i had a really nice afternoon in the capital, and a city surrounded by mountains and helpful men in suits is reason enough to pay it a visit. vaduz left me with some beautiful sights throughout my day and i’ll return the favor to you with two more pictures from the city center below (and sorry ladies, the guy in the suit did not make the cut).
now because you don’t need an entire day in vaduz, as i learned, i did a quick google search in the car and found another worthy destination close by. the next stop on my tour would be to balzers, and i didn’t just stop because it had an interesting name. home to gutenberg castle, this village on the rhine is a charming stop on any drive through liechtenstein. i wandered around the village, spotted the castle in the hills high above (which you can go in and tour but was closed by the time i got there) and had a nice late lunch in the park nearby. a pretty solid day. well done #43, well done.
at this point though, exhaustion and jetlag started creeping in and i decided to head back to zürich to relax, finally have a beer, and prepare for a week in germany with friends before i was off again on another pretty little weekend trip, this time to paris. ooh la la.
ahh, beautiful paris. i was never suppose to be here. i was never suppose to be meeting my best friend and her daughter in one of the most architecturally gorgeous cities in the world, yet here i was, at charles de gaulle airport waiting for them to arrive from copenhagen.
i am a firm believer in signs, everything being connected in some way and that everything happens for a reason. because life likes to give you a little detour here and there to keep you on your toes, i ended up having some extra days open after my time in the mountains and in germany and it just so happened my friend and her daughter also had a free long weekend. she ended up finding the most perfect airbnb in the 4th arrondissement (le marais) that just happened to be open the one weekend we needed, but booked solid for months to come. while part of me was still mountain dreaming, paris was meant to be. i was meant to be in this city that weekend and i was sure as shit going to enjoy it.
this was my third visit to the capital of france, my fourth to the country. full disclosure, this paris roundup is not going to be about major sights and fancy french restaurants. i actually have never even been up the eiffel tower, nor have i been in the louvre (i know, terrible). a lot of people give me a hard time for how i travel. that i go from place to place too quickly and i should be giving more time to cities and countries i visit. while i definitely agree with that, and have plans to do that in the future, when i do get to a new country, city or am on a revisit, i am all about slow travel. i like to get lost. i like to walk everywhere. i like to day drink and watch people hurry by as i sip my delicious local beer or wine. i’m not in a rush to see everything there is to see, i’m not wanting to wait in lines galore with thousands of other people just to say i’ve been here or there, and most importantly, i’m definitely not losing any sleep over missing out on something the whole world has seen. being an american and living my whole life there means everything looks different to my eyes. the architecture, the balconies outside of apartment buildings, the cobblestone streets, the sounds of the ambulances and police cars. it’s all different and all just as exciting to me as it is for someone to go up to the top of the eiffel tower.
this weekend in paris was a mix of touristy things (my friend and her daughter had not been to the city itself before) and also a weekend of just enjoying the amazing weather and trying to be wannabe locals. it was also a new experience for me because for the first time i would be traveling with a child, and i mean this in the very best way possible. i love my friends’ kids and to be able to spend time with someone i knew as a baby and see her all grown up posing at the eiffel tower was such a wonderful experience. my boozy paris nights from college were replaced with watching cartoon movies on netflix and having a glass of wine with people i love the most in our small, rented apartment. i’ve realized moments like this really mean more to me than jetting off after a day or two to a new location just to prove a point. (if you are picking up a theme over my last few posts, i am really ready to transition to slow travel mode. i want to feel, see, do, experience and fall in love with a place, and you just cannot do that after only a few days.)
we strolled around at night gazing at the full moon over paris’ most famous sights, then enjoyed a home cooked dinner at our apartment. we took a boat tour down the seine pointing out beautiful things left and right that you can only find in a city like paris, and then got dressed up and enjoyed a tantalizing cabaret show at the lido on the world famous champs élysées. we went to the louvre (just the outside.. i’ll buy anyone a bottle of french wine if they can get me inside) and posed like tourists, same thing at the eiffel tower. it was fun, funny and just downright relaxing. it was also just what i needed. time to recharge, enjoy life with those you love, and realize that things are never as bad as they seem.
sometimes it takes something unexpected, like a trip to paris that just happens to come together at the last minute, to put things in perspective. at the end of the day if you’re not enjoying the moments life gives you and if you’re not willing to make the best of every situation that is thrust upon you, you’ll never actually be living your life to the fullest. you’ll never grow, you’ll never learn, and you’ll always wonder what if. when you can look back and say “we’ll always have paris.. or malta.. or dortmund.. or that sunset on the boat..” you’ll know you’ve actually been living, but if you never even take those first steps, you’ll only be able to say “we always had those dreams that were never fulfilled”, and who wants that hanging over their head? not me. get out there and live your dreams, see the world, go on some pretty little trips, and just be happy. life is short, do it right.