Fashion writer Crystal Andrews talks travel in Europe
If you’re thinking of conquering Europe soon then you should meet Crystal Andrews. A 22 year old recent graduate and freelance fashion, lifestyle and pop culture writer from Perth, Crystal recently lived out her childhood dream holiday, putting all of those years of French lessons to good use in Paris and seeing snow for the first time in Rome. Here she lets us in on the highlights and craziest moments of her holiday, and why sometimes planning every detail of your trip can pay off.
How many countries have you travelled to?
So far, five; England, Italy, Germany, France and Indonesia. A list which is hopefully the tip of the iceberg for me. There has been more than one trip to Bali, Indonesia because it’s pretty much requisite travel for Sandgropers.
If you could narrow it down, what would be your favourite?
France was far and away the winner for me. I’ve studied French from the age of 7 right through to University, and it was a long-burning dream of mine to soak up Paris. Even in the middle of winter, the cobble-stoned avenues, fireplace-warm wine bars and the saunter of real Parisians could not have been more perfect.
You were in Europe earlier this year - what was on your itinerary?
This year’s trip was a long time in the making, with plenty of unmet savings targets and false starts along the way. But eventually, my boyfriend and perfect character foil, Sean, and I nutted out the ‘Official Trip of our Childhood Dreams.’
My cousin and her husband flew from Aberdeen to meet us in London for our very first weekend in Europe, ticking off as many sightseeing items and posh London must-dos as we could (think Big Ben, English tea and the Phantom of the Opera.) We also spent a beautiful afternoon visiting my grandmother in Coventry, which is the first time I have seen her since I was 11.
Next were a couple of days in Rome which was only memorable for its ancient ruins (despite being snowed out of the Colosseum) and one sinfully good restaurant. Sean’s childhood travel dream was Florence and we got there by train. In a stroke of incredible online booking luck, our hotel was a base camp of total luxury from which he guided our exploration of the galleries, Il Duomo and what felt like all of the restaurants.
The trip wildcard was Berlin and it was absolutely the best surprise. While the plan was simply to explore and immerse ourselves in the history of the city, the holiday gods timed our arrival with the start of the Berlin International Film Festival - so we savoured some German cinema. I also insisted on a visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just out of Berlin which was unforgettable.
Finally, my own dreams came true and we spent a couple of weeks in Paris, the home of my heart. It was days of wondering around wide-eyed, nights spent in underground swing jazz clubs and the ultimate childhood fantasy of two days at Disneyland. Space Mountain, yeah!
What was the highlight?
My first ever snowball fight somewhere in the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome. The night before we landed in Rome, the city had been blanketed in its heaviest snowfall in 30 years. I had never seen snow before and was so beside myself with excitement that I ran around like a madwoman; shaking trees, wadding up snowballs to pelt at Sean and dodging his pathetic lobs at me. This memory is closely followed by my first glimpse of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which left me breathless and very humbled.
Two moments are in hot contention. First, a slightly leaky shower in our very lavish Florentine hotel room scored us an upgrade to a suite of a absolute luxury. Our hotel was on the designer shopping strip, slotted nicely between Tiffany & Co and Burberry. The combination of the site and our new room was head-spinningly decadent.
The second is a not-very-original game of bingo that Sean and I devised and played in Berlin. We spent a day thinking of outrageous types of people to fill out two makeshift bingo cards. That night was spent bar-hopping and screeching out “Nein!” whenever we spotted someone on our card. The state of people-watching in Berlin is second-to-none, and the loser (me) was subjected to a shot of liquor at a Helmut Newton inspired whiskey bar.
Which city would you have liked to have spent more time in?
Berlin surprised us both with how easily and quickly we fell in love with it. It is such a cosmopolitan city and such a friendly population despite huge diversity. Every stranger is willing to stop and help, or simply have a chat. Plus, things get hectic by dark!
Any favourite purchases?
I was treated like the VIP I’m not in the Prada store on Rue du Faubourg St-Honore, Paris. After much fawning, I waltzed out with a brand new bag and much less Euro. Prada: 1, Crystal’s willpower: 0.
How would you describe your travel style?
Obsessively planned. Unfortunately, I’m just not the wing-it-and-see type. I like to know where I am going, when and at least have a skeleton to-do list. That said, I do think that the days allocated for aimless wandering are some of the best.
Where are you planning on travelling next?
At the moment I am torn. It’s a coin flip between sunning myself on a Greek Island, or sneaking into fashion parties in New York City.