Ok, so, I just finished booking a trip to Europe. My hands are shaking and the back of my neck is as stiff as a tree trunk. For me, what should be an exhilarating feeling of excitement always seems to translate to a physically agonizing state of raw nerves and tense anxiety. I go around with my shoulders in my ears, my eyes as wide as saucers, gnawing on my inner lip. I don’t sleep well. All I can think about is the matter at hand.

These plans have been in the works for weeks. Months, really, if you count the time from which I started daydreaming and collecting inspiration on Pinterest.

It was around December that Ryan and I decided 2013 was the year to go to Europe. For me, this is a life-long dream. I am hungry for travel.

We’ve haven’t ventured outside the US much, except for an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta where we stayed for my dad’s wedding. But being served an endless supply of tequila while never leaving the confines of the pool doesn’t really count as international travel.

Ryan spent a few years of his childhood living in Holland, and toured much of Europe with his family during that time, but he admits that, at the time, the sight of breathtaking cathedrals and majestic ancient castles lacked a certain luster and quickly got old for him. I guess when you’re six, you really just want to be playing Atari. (If you’re six in the 1980’s, that is.)

So, for us to finally go now, together, is a pretty big deal.

It all started with me wanting to go to England, actually. I am obsessed with England. I love everything about it. For all the standard reasons; nothing terribly original here…

The charming accent. The amiable British slang. The dry humor. The quirky names for food. The legendary music. The mahogany-wooded, brass-railed pubs. The rolling hills. The country gardens. The red phone booths and black cabs. The ritual of afternoon tea. Even the rainy days and grey skies.

I even had a British flag in my college dorm room:

flag

(OK, so I wasn’t the best interior decorator back then….)

These days, I seem to watch more British television than American television. I’ve discovered and fallen in love with shows like Peep Show, That Mitchell and Webb LookSpaced, Look Around You, Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, The IT Crowd, Snuff Box, The Inbetweeners, Black Books, Saxondale, etc.

What I’m trying to say is,I just really like England. And I wanted to go there. Badly. So we decided to go to London.

But then we got to thinking….since we’re already over there, shouldn’t we see some other countries? Of course we should.

That’s where things became difficult. Which countries should we visit? How much time (and money) could we afford to spend there? Should we go with a “less is more” approach, and spend more time in fewer places? Or should we just take a bit of a “sampler tour”, seeing as many countries as possible?

There are so many beautiful countries in Europe. We’ve heard particularly wonderful things about the cozy nature of Germany from more than one friend, and Brussels, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy also got rave reviews from other travelers we know. We even considered adding a Scandinavian cruise to our agenda. (Although then we’re getting back to our “comfort zone” of indulging in “small tastes” of each port of call, and this time, we were up for some real, self-guided travel.) I do hope to see all of those wonderful places someday.

Ultimately we decided to keep the itinerary clean and compact. And, well, Paris seemed like a no-brainer. It’s fairly close to England, and it’s an amazing city that I’ve always known I needed to experience at some point in my life. And since we’re not likely to get out to Europe every year (if our track record is any indication), we also considered the fact that it’s apparently one of the top places to visit while you’re young. (Or in our case, young-ish.)

Plus, it’s très romantique!

So, we had settled on London (with a side trip to beautiful, gorgeous Bath) and Paris for sure. But what about one more country….just one more?

It was a tough choice. And I’m sure not everyone will agree with it. (And others, wholeheartedly, will.)

We decided on Amsterdam. (Which also, along with London and Paris, happens to be one of the previously mentioned Buzzfeed’s top cities to visit while you’re young. And I’m not sure as to what criteria they base this on, but it seems about right, so we’ll go with it.)

Aside from the fact that Amsterdam is adorable, I was particularly curious to see Holland, since my husband spent part of his childhood there. Obviously I’ve heard a lot about it. I even fill his wooden shoes with candy every Dec. 6th for Sinterklass Day.

sinterklaas

I imagine us on a tandem bike, careening through the tulips. It’s idyllic, I know. It’s all part of my A’dam fantasy.

So, we’ve gotta go to Holland.

I scoured travel forums obsessively day and night for weeks, gleaning advice, looking for the best hotels in the best locations, etc. I also asked a couple friends for advice and recommendation, which helped immensely to point me in the right direction and instill a sense of confidence in making decisions.

I finally bit the bullet and started booking hotels, which, true to form, I found exciting, yet nerve racking. The good ones (at least, what I think were “the good ones”, according to hours spent trolling TripAdvisor) were filling up fast, even months ahead, and I missed out on one that was recommended by a friend by waiting one day too long. After that, I picked up the pace.

Once I got the ball rolling, I found myself feeling more gleeful with every booking. I even called England early one morning to book a beautiful, gorgeous B&B in beautiful, gorgeous Bath, and spoke to a very lovely British woman who chirped, “Bye-bye, love! Bye-bye!” before she hung up, which delighted me.

In addition to the hotel bookings, I also lined up a Tour of the Cotswolds, for that English Countryside Experience, and tickets to The Book of Mormon in London, the comedy musical from Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The fun has just begun!

The whole thing finally felt very official when I booked the plane tickets, however. I still have to fill in the transportation plans between cities (which I’ve looked into extensively, just haven’t booked), but other than that, we are good to go.

And yet, I still can’t quite believe it. I am floating in a haze of over-excited, stiff-necked elation. I’m going to London! I’m going to Paris! I’m going to Amsterdam! Part of me wondered if I would ever say those words. I am so very grateful for this special time in our lives.

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