A European Summer

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Join us as we implement our new rating system, The “Johnny Lawrence Meter of Excellence”, to rate and scientifically quantify in the most accurate way possible some of our best travel experiences of 2018.

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Mel and I have had an excellent few months of exploration as of recent. After multiple months of stagnation on the ground in the LA area (much to our chagrin), our leash was cut giving us a new lease on life; our prospective journeys ahead were to be limited only by our imaginations. After careful planning our trip itinerary was constructed in only a few days, our bags were packed, and our belongings were jammed tightly into a garage. We jetted out of LA with slight trepidation as we were leaving with no particular plan in mind. While we had made this type of trip before nearly 7 years ago, there was still no impedance on our minds drifting down all of the possible disastrous avenues one could encounter. In complete hindsight nevertheless, it was an excellent decision.

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The first leg of our journey was Reykjavik, Iceland from LAX;  hauntingly gorgeous and well worth the excruciating costs (of everything.) Simply exploring the major populated area on foot  (which can be done in a day) and drinking in the architecture is a worthy adventure all its own. The structures to be seen balance the juxtaposition of sterility and beauty much like the winter tundra they are seated in.

Worth a look is Hallgrimskirkja church; unmistakable as it is one of the tallest man-made buildings in the city.  We enjoyed trips around the Golden Circle, Gullfoss’s waterfall, it’s nearby Geysir collection, and having an excellent little jaunt on foot around some of the local small towns.

The downside? The price. To be clear, Reykjavik made London and Singapore feel like New Delhi, monetarily speaking. Something as simple as a ham sandwich could run you about $20 US; not a good one either. Surely there are some worthy culinary excursions to be had in Iceland, we didn’t find any ourselves. To be fair, a high-end restaurant in any town would be a treat. One shouldn’t base their opinions of a country’s food on the top restaurants in that country; the ground level experiences are the way to go in order to encounter the authentic stuff. Neither Mel nor I were enthralled with Icelandic food.

Reykjavik and surrounding area…Our rating: 3

. The visual splendor is Reykjavik will be at odds with anyone on a budget, this aside, the ‘outdoorsy’ types are in for a treat.

From Iceland, we journeyed on to see family in England, which included multiple trips around London and the historical city’s peripheral small towns. We walked over 40 miles of London in the course of two days and spent the remainder of the two months in Hertfordshire, where we drank in historic pubs (Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans being one), and took rambles in the surrounding countryside. There is no real way to summarize such an iconic city as London,  but you can access some of our top London picks here.

 

England…Our rating: 3

 Setting the unfortunate recent crime wave in London aside, we’d like to quote Samuel Johnson to explain our rating… “if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life”.

 

Our path then brought us to see an old friend in the Gran Canaria (of Canary Islands fame). What we had anticipated was a bit of a trashy-party paradise full of twenty-somethings getting crazy. Sure, that can be found on the south side of the island. Both of us having been born or raised near cities with wild nightlife, we typically won’t actively seek that type of thing out. This naturally made us gravitate toward the north of the island, which presented the diametric opposite experience. We explored endless winding stone-paved streets with charming cafés, lively beaches and incredible seafood restaurants. The atmosphere, food, and people were reminiscent of my childhood family holidays in Greece, call it bias but I grew to love the Island in the short time that we were there. Tip: Come with your gym body. Scantily clad is the modus operandi of the Canary Islands. Read in more detail about our Gran Canaria adventures here.

Gran Canaria…Our rating: 4

Incredible food, friendly people, relaxing beaches.

From Spain, it was on to Lyon France where one of our travel friends (who we met at the Harbin Ice festival in China) had invited us to his family’s estate in the village of Renaison. We spent several days gorging on copious amounts of cheese and French wines while playing classic French yard games which mildly resembled drunken yard bowling.

During the festivities, we sampled local wine at a nearby vineyard and traversed the glistening reservoirs.  Following our jaunt in the French countryside, we returned to Lyon to enjoy booze, cigarettes and unique ambiance of the city’s many beautiful cafés.

My personal favorite among our more touristy stops was the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, easily one of the most beautiful buildings I have been to. The church is teeming with sculptures and paintings which would delight both novice and well versed art enthusiasts.

                                                         Lyon/Renaison…Our rating: 4

Lyon is gorgeous as is the Renaison countryside; the culinary delights and the native people made this place one of our best summer experiences.

And then there was Budapest. 

The city is rich with history and beautiful architecture. Basilica of St. Stephen, Castle Hill and the Aquinicum Roman Ruins are just a few of the treasures lining the streets of this gem of a place.

Top on the list of things to do there? Do not miss a night cruise along the Danube. Be picky about which boat you pay for; spend a little extra for the smaller crowds and a glass of your favorite tipple! Recommended to us by a family member, the boat trip was a true high-light!

Budapest…Our rating: 3

(Brought down a mark by how unbearable the crowds are in the heat of the summer)

.Architecture, friendly people and memorable experiences make this a city one shouldn’t miss.

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Agree or disagree with our run-down? Where are some places that could have upped the Johnny Lawrence meter? Shoot us an email at cheers@rarejaunt.com