Text and Photos by Lorraine Fabre.
Travelling with friends can be either a great experience or an incredibly aggravating one – usually, it’s a bit of both. Memories are made and places are explored, but it comes with endless struggle to to organize the trip in the first place, constant urging of the group to get moving in the morning, and polite arguments about whether to buy muesli or regular cereal for breakfast. Variables such as destination and company may vary, but travelling with friends is a universal experience that no doubt many of you have experienced. My own story is the typical example of a vacation with friends, and despite the occasional irritations and hiccups, the trip was something I will never forget.
We had dreamed of jetting off to Europe after graduation for years. Coming from Vancouver, which has little history to boast of and is at least a plane ride away from most major North American cities, Europe offered some much needed contrast. Our fantasies took the shape of countless shared Pinterest boards brimming with picturesque views of the Amalfi Coast and authentic Greek islands. But the sobering realization that we had limited financial means put an end to our aspirations of checking off every location on our bucket list. So we compromised to settle on three iconic cities: Paris, Milan, and Dubrovnik. Skopelos, where Mamma Mia was filmed (a holy grail for my friends and me) would have to wait for another summer.
Destination 1: Paris, France
Resolved to make the most of our time together, we landed in Paris and immediately set out to explore the riches of the city of lights, walking an average 25,000 steps per day. We abided by a fairly standard itinerary, visiting the Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, Sacré-Coeur, and other fixtures of the Parisian landscape that one can’t avoid. Though our schedule was tight, we also left room for spontaneity. The World Cup coincided with our trip, providing the perfect opportunity to go out on game days and cheer on Les Bleus, enthusiastically celebrating with the locals despite our blatant lack of football knowledge. On June 21, local DJs and bands performed in all neighbourhoods of the city for the Fête de la Musique, yet another opportunity for us to don our most french-looking outfits and dance the night away.
Destination 2: Milan, Italy
After six days immersed in Paris, with an obnoxious number of croissants consumed and our feet aching, we set off for Milan. We arrived a day later than planned because our airline went on an unannounced strike (but really, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a dose of french bureaucracy and “la grève”). It wasn’t hard to see why Milan had been one of the epicentres of the Renaissance: the Sforza castle and the Duomo, Milan’s cathedral, both epitomizing the grandeur of the fifteenth century, sufficed to prove this. Whereas we had arrived in Paris with a list of places to visit, Milan invited us to get lost in its quaint streets and abandon any semblance of an itinerary. With no particular plan in mind, we wandered through shop-filled streets, allowing our instincts and impulses to guide us, stopping for lunch to eat a Panzerotto (a fried pizza pocket), which proved two things: Italian food is unrivaled and that it is possible to visit Milan on a budget!
Destination 3: Dubrovnik, Croatia
But the true highlight of the trip was our last stop, Dubrovnik, Croatia. The view from our descending plane, of the lush hills of the mainland juxtaposed against the sparkling Adriatic sea, elicited exclamations of awe and excitement among passengers. We stayed in Lapad Bay, a lively area not yet overcrowded with tourists, which also allowed us to save money on accommodation. Highlights included strolling along the fortified walls of the old town (where Game of Thrones is filmed), with panoramic views of the city and the sea. Also, the beaches provided us with a much-needed break after a week and a half of city life. And let’s not forget the Culture Club Revelin, the crown jewel of Dubrovnik’s nightlife, a club located in a fort complete with dancers on stilts and confetti intermittently falling from the ceiling. For anyone thinking of visiting Dubrovnik, I would highly recommend walking on the city walls early in the morning to avoid the crowds. We spent the better part of an afternoon at a cliff-bar, a must in Dubrovnik, where we cheered on the brave souls who jumped off the rocks into the water. Evening walks around the bay became part of our routine, the sunset casting a different light on the neighbourhood we had become accustomed to, making it appear more mysterious and subdued than it did in the daylight.
Three weeks flew by and before we knew it we were headed back to Vancouver, our skin several shades darker and our minds infused with wanderlust. It felt strange not living and spending each moment together at first, but we all eventually settled back into the swing of normalcy. Though distance and different fields of study now separate us, the memories made on this trip will last forever.