When I was younger, I always thought that my honeymoon would be the best time to explore Europe for an extended period (ahem, a few months would be ideal). The Europe honeymoon didn’t happen because never would I have imagined that we would be working on HHWT and that we would be so busy with work! Alhamdulillah, my brother enrolled in a university in London – the perfect excuse for a yearly Europe honeymoon (while I visit him)?
For our first ever Europe adventure, we tackled 3 cities in 12 days – Rome, Florence and London. It was way too short to take in everything the cities had to offer but we tried our best. Here are some of the lessons we learnt from our trip:
1. Accommodation – The Search Can Be Long But It’s Worth It!
Searching for an accommodation is always challenging and it was especially so for this trip as we were visiting 3 cities. We chose to stay in Airbnbs as we love the feeling of waking up to our own place.
My family joined us when we were in London so here’s my brother relaxing in our cosy London apartment!
Having your own kitchen is also a plus - you can save by preparing some of your own meals!
As we’re currently planning for our own home, it was interesting to see how the interior design and style of homes vary across different cities! Our apartment in Florence had a hint of Mediterranean style, with antiques and travel trinkets collected by the host over his travels, while the style of our apartment in London was of course, beautifully British.
Airbnb hosts are also a great way for you to learn more about your destination and to uncover insider tips and recommendations! Through our research, we found out that Florence has a leather market and were planning to bag home a leather souvenir. However, after speaking to Stefano, our Florence host, we learnt that most of the products on sale in the leather market aren’t produced in Florence and we were better off not purchasing any bags or goods there ?
If you’re searching for your accommodation on Airbnb too, we hope our tips will come in handy!
#HHWT Tips to pick the Airbnb of your dreams:
1. Start by picking a location that’s convenient!
- For us, that meant staying near Termini in Rome as we had a morning flight to London to catch and staying near a Piccadilly Line tube station in London so that we could hop on a straight train from the airport.
- We know many HHWT readers prefer to stay near halal food options so if this is a factor for you, always narrow your search with location first!
Walking to Termini (Rome) at 5am!
2. Read as many reviews as possible
- While it may seem like a chore, reviews reveal plenty about your host, the safety of the area, cleanliness and so much more! We read almost all the reviews of our accommodation and don't forget to check the most recent reviews!
- Another way to expedite your search is to pick “Superhosts” who consistently receive ace reviews. Stefano, our host in Florence, is a Superhost.
3. Don’t forget to check if there is lift access!
- The London leg of our trip was with family so lift access was a MUST. However, we forgot to check for lift access for our first apartment in Florence and let’s just say ascending 5 floors of narrow spiraling stairs while lugging your bags is excellent cardio. I was struggling so badly even with my Airbnb host’s mum’s help!
- P.S. Use the filters to narrow your search so it’s a lot faster.
4. Check the number of beds and toilets
- We were a party of 5 in London and having ONE toilet would be a pain, so this was important in our search criteria for our London Airbnb!
- If you’re travelling with a bigger group, remember to check that there are enough beds too.
2. Stay Curious About The World
Visiting the Vatican City and various churches in Italy was an eye-opening experience! We learnt so much about the locals, their traditions and their manner of worship.
Sometimes, it’s easy to dismiss a destination simply because it is a non-Muslim majority country. But the truth is there is still much to learn from others and their way of life. Doing so might even reveal more about yourself as you reflect on how you are different.
3. You’ll Learn A Lot About A City Through Its Food
Every trip that we go on, we search for experiences that enable us to understand more about the locals and their culture. Mikhail and I believe that you haven’t truly experienced a destination until you’ve tried the local cuisine. That’s why we spent lots of time researching for the best local eats for all our trips!
We walked for 20 minutes (feels like eternity when you're hungry) from the Vatican Museum to find this Sicilian restaurant which is highly recommended by the locals!
During the Italian leg of our trip, we were obsessed with finding the best gelato that the locals swear by. In fact, we love gelato so much that we signed up for a Gelato and Tiramisu class in Rome before our trip. Daniela, a local and self-proclaimed food snob, was the host of our Airbnb Experience :)
P.S. We told Daniella about our dietary restrictions before our trip and she had no issues making sure that all ingredients are Muslim-friendly!
Before our class, Daniela shared with us what goes into each dessert - Very natural ingredients are used for gelato and we learnt that sorbet is the diet version of gelato as no milk and less sugar is used. Mouthwatering desserts that are kind of healthy? Sounds perfect to me! ?
Perhaps the most important takeaway for us was learning to differentiate which gelateria in Italy are worth the calories! While it’s tempting to drop into any gelateria, tourist traps (those right next to popular sights) should be avoided if you want to try authentic gelato.
Signs of a superb and probably artisanal gelateria:
- Seasonal flavours are available – When we visited in November, it was chestnut and pear season!
- Natural colours – While bright colours look perfect on your Instagram feed, they’re probably full of artificial ingredients when gelato is meant to be natural!
- The origin of the flavor is stated – Which shows how much effort the chef puts in to source for the ingredients
4. Things Will Go Wrong, Be Patient
We had our fair share of problems on our Europe trip… Our brand new luggage lost a wheel on our flight and we couldn’t flush our toilet on the last night in our Rome Airbnb. Our host really tried to help us fix it but it just couldn’t work ☹️ Thank God it was our last night!
It would have been easy to get frustrated and angry at every single thing that went wrong but perhaps it is through these trials that God is testing our patience. You’ll realize that it’s a waste to let these small things get in the way of your awesome trip!
5. You’re A Team
When we travel, I spend a little more time in shops and Mikhail spends a little more time staring at artefacts (old stuff). I could be impatient and hurry him through the museums or Mikhail could be grumpy and sit at the waiting area (husband’s bench) while I shop but we choose not to do so.
Living together for the past months has taught us that marriage is teamwork and that means looking out for each other, supporting each other, learning to give and take… And this is ever so important when you’re travelling because you’re in a foreign place and you only have each other. The next time you disagree with your travel partner, try your best to reach a compromise. After all, isn't it much more worthwhile to make the most out of your trip and treasure these memories of a lifetime together!
“Travel is the only thing you buy which makes you richer” and we couldn't agree more.
Our apartments and experience were sponsored by Airbnb but our opinions are ours, as always.