For those who have shown concern for my safety, I thank you and wanted to assure you that I am staying safe. Also, in many train stations, airports and most areas where there are a lot of people, there are either police and/or service people with very large guns in hand, just waiting for anyone to get out-of-line.
I know it’s been a while since my last post. I have been spending time with family and friends, meeting new people, planning what to do next, and I was down for the count for 48 hours around New Years. Or, I can just fess up and admit I got lazy. However, after spending a good length of time traveling through Europe and either experiencing things first-hand or just noting items for future reference, I decided a pro-tips post was in order.
Pro Tip#1: The true need for coinage…
I have shared how I loathe carrying coins in a recent post. However, it has grown on me. The reason for my attitude adjustment is due to how much I am in transit, and the desire for clean bathrooms. It goes without saying that the bathrooms that cost anywhere from 50 – 1 euro or franc are usually spotless, whereas the free ones, well, let’s just say can be fairly repulsive with either wall-to-wall graffiti, the fresh scent of urine or missing toilet seats. Therefore, always carry coinage throughout Europe, for if nothing else, it gives you peace of mind when you are in need.
Pro Tip #2: Doggonit…
My favorite thing is taking leisurely strolls through Paris arrondissements, while taking in the sights and sounds of quaint sidewalk bistros and cafes, with their small tables and chairs, colorful tablecloths, the sound of clinking espresso cups and the lively French chatter drifting through the crisp air. There is always amazing architecture, with detailed stone work and scrolled wrought iron balconies, with beautiful greenery hanging from them. The Eiffel tower, St. Marks Church, among others, always drawing your eyes upward, until, it happens. It, being you have taken a step into one of the many random land mines dropped on pedestrian sidewalks through out the city by neighborhood dogs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, I place blame on the dog-owners that don’t appear to care where their pooch plops. That being said, even if your head is up in the clouds admiring the beauty of the city of lights, keep it real and pay close attention to your path, or you could be picking out unwanted poop from the bottom of your shoe.
Pro Tip #3: Best travel days and times…
First off, I understand it is not easy to travel during off times when you are parents. So, this Pro Tip might be more for my friends whose kids are old enough where they can take off on their own, or you are like me and can do what you want, when you want. I have found the best times to travel are either right after a major holiday, when kids are in school, in the off-season, or traveling during winter. Prices for flights, lodging and rental cars are usually much less. Also, consider the timing of your flight, train or bus, as the absolute worst times are during commuting hours.
I had an early fight out of Paris and I left at a peak time during the morning commute. I had my larger backpack, which made things even more fun, and why I made the conscious decision to go even lighter this trip. I missed the first train given there were so many commuters forcing their way on and off the train. Things got so ugly that one woman who was holding her phone got it knocked out of her hand and it dropped onto the track. Side note… don’t ever carry your phone in your hand during commuting hours in the Paris RER train stations.
Of course, as there are positives, there are also negatives. Traveling in winter means you are bringing more clothes, and they may be bulky, which means bigger luggage and less space for other stuff. Then there is the logistics for bulky clothes. Finding a place for them in the overhead bin of an airplane, train or bus, having to carry them when you don’t need them, which means either tying it around your waist or holding it, which then limits your ability to take pictures and be hands-free. Needless to say, if you are like me and like traveling light, either travel in the warmer seasons or pack like a true minimalist.
Lastly, when traveling through Europe, I have found some flights to be less expensive than trains and busses. Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Volotea and Vueling are some great airlines. Just keep in mind, as they are inexpensive, they charge you for everything else. On most of these, you can only bring one bag into the cabin that has to be certain dimensions, and you will get checked at the gate. If you have more than one bag and it cannot be added into the other, or your bag is too big, you are going to shell out $60 euro. So, read the baggage info on their website. I found that with my large backpack, that has wheels, they do not question it if I have it on my back, but they do when I am using the wheels, go figure.
Pro Tip #4: The minimal approach to traveling…
I am traveling through Italy for ten days and all I am carrying is a regular size school/work backpack. This is easier than you think and totally doable, even in winter. I feel I have nailed the art of packing. Of course, it helps that I am a minimalist, however, you can do it too. First off, the best way to get more clothes in your luggage is to roll them tight. This also keeps the wrinkles to a minimum. Secondly, pack undies, briefs, boxers, however you want to refer to them, and you can re-wear other top items more than once. Limit the number of socks you bring, unless your feet sweat a lot, otherwise two or three pair should do the trick. Bring your mix-n-match clothes. For winter, everything I have is interchangeable. That being said, you will need to do laundry, but it is a small price to pay to have less weight to lug around. You can minimize on toiletries based on where you are staying. So, save your back, plan ahead and pack light.
Pro Tip #5 What to do…
Most of you have experienced walking towards someone on a sidewalk and it is almost a near miss, as you keep following the same line towards each other. As soon as this dance starts, just pick a route and lose eye contact. This guarantees you will avoid this from ever occurring. Of course, this does not work for those whose eyes are focused down on their smart phones while they are maneuvering through crowds.
So far there have been no negatives on my trip. Well, there was the 90-euro ticket for crossing a solid white line on a two-lane highway in Ariege, France, but that does not really count. If you consider how much speeding tickets are in the US and throw in points on top of it, this one was a freebee. Other than that, no missed flights or trains and only positive experiences. In all, I have visited five countries, Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, Slovenia and now Italy.
As for how I will spend my last month of freedom before heading back to Portland, I am on a train from Rome to Florence, Italy. I will be returning to Paris for a few days and then ending in New York and Maine. I will be back in Portland mid-February and will go on hiatus, well, at least until I earn more money for my next adventure.