Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Grand Anniversary

I continue to realize that I started this blog to record the planning of two trips–our Europe trip as well as our return to Las Vegas trip.  But Europe has taken over, and I only occasionally remember that we are also going to Vegas.  To be fair, we booked it on Christmas day, and I started planning The Great Europe Mid-Life Crisis Trip on the first of the year.  So it was easily forgotten about.

But that does not mean that I am not very excited about it.  We went last year at the same time–it was my first trip to Las Vegas, and I loved it, which is why we made the return trip our Christmas gift to each other this year.  And this year, thanks to the way the dates fall and how late we will be in school, we will be in Vegas for our 4th wedding anniversary.  Which is why my husband asked me this morning to think about where I wanted to go for our anniversary dinner.  And I did think about it–for about fifteen seconds.  I scanned the list of fancy restaurants we didn’t have time (or money) to visit during our last trip, and I looked him in they eye and told him where I most wanted to have dinner–at the Grand Canyon.

No, that’s not a name of some fancy restaurant with a $200 tasting menu (though, to be fair, there are so many restaurants like that, it just might be!).  I want to go to the Grand Canyon.  I want to eat a crappy National Park Service hamburger and look out over the edge of the canyon.  That is what I want to do for our anniversary.

And so I have taken a brief break from Europe trip planning and have started googling new phrases–‘grand canyon vegas tours’ and ‘reviews of papillon tours’ and ‘best way to get to grand canyon from vegas’.  I’m watching promotional videos and doing multiply-by-two math.  I’m discussing with my husband and weighing the pros and cons of a bus trip over an air trip–he seems to think an air trip is the only way to go, whist ever-cheap me faints at the cost (that’s an extra week in Europe, I exclaim) and leans toward 10 hours on a bus (all while dreaming of a flight plus helicopter plus river cruise tour, that would cost more than the entire week in Vegas).  But I’m trying to put it into perspective–we could go out for a fancy dinner.  And that would cost me that same week in Europe.  And I wouldn’t get to see the Grand Canyon.

I may need to start putting larger bills in my Saving-for Vacation money jar!  Or get a second job.  And a third!

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Planning Ahead

I’ve spent the day researching and contemplating the Solo Tracy Trip–multiple snow days in a row have afforded me the time to do so.  And after thinking and researching and researching and thinking, I’ve come to a decision.  Great Britain it shall be.

While it makes the most sense to stick with the trip that not only is planned but also makes the most sense, both geographically and monetarily (as well as matrimonially and linguistically, as my husband is ok with it and I speak the language), there is one very good reason for foregoing Switzerland for a solo tour of England and Scotland: this is the kind of trip I likely won’t be able to take ever again.

For those of you who actually know me and will freak out about this next part–don’t worry, I’m most certainly NOT pregnant.  But some day I might be–or, more likely, we will adopt.  And when we have a child–however that happens–I would like that child to be able to travel.  And not just to the Jersey Shore.  I feel certain that I will find a way to make this happen (though, again, that might involve selling actual organs–or perhaps we could take the easy route and just win the lottery.) So I am forced to ask myself–would I take my future possible child to the Alps?  Would I show him or her The Sound of Music, and dance around with him or her in my living room in preparation for an Alpine adventure?  Absolutely.  Would bring him or her on an uber-budget tour of England and Scotland, stopping at every castle and cathedral and pub along the way?  Um…no.  No I would not.  This is not to say that children and castles and cathedrals do not mix (though the pub option is most certainly out)–I’d love for my future possible child to be able to appreciate these things.  But will he or she?  Probably not–at least not for many, many, MANY years.  And he or she does not even exist yet.  So to England I shall go, on the dream trip of every nerd, history buff, and English teacher–as I am all of those, I am sure I will have a wonderful time.

Yo-de-lay-E-ooo!

I’ve heard people joke that lots of babies are born 9 months after a terrible snow storm; if this is true, there are bound to be many babies born in October and November–nine months past this miserable winter.  But in my case, I’ve been keeping myself busy in a much more G-rated fashion–trip planning, of course.

We’ve actually decided upon one thing–our side trip from London.  Doug got to pick, as I have been encouraging him to become more active in the planning process (and, ok, I’ll admit it, because he’s been kind of annoyed that I’ve made all of the decisions–but seriously, if he wants to do hours upon hours of research, he’s more than welcome).  We will be going on one of those canned tour bus trips that take you to multiple impossibly far away destinations at one shot.  He wants to see both Oxford and Stonehenge, and that’s the only way to do both.  Most tours that include both also throw in Windsor Castle for good measure, which I’m excited about (though I’d really rather go to Leeds…but more on that in later posts.)

I have also determined that flying on Iceland Express, though risky, really is the cheapest option.  My flight, with a departure date 12 days later than Doug’s–would only be $637 round trip from Newark to London.  That’s at least $300 less than any other flight from any other city to any other city that I’ve researched (and I’ve researched a LOT of cities!  Snowy weather, remember?)  I’ve not booked it yet, but the desire to do so has led me to contemplate my solo leg of the trip even more.

Which brings me to the final update–I’m thinking of nixing the Great Tour of Britain all together.  Or, at the very least, shortening it considerably.  You see, I realize that I may have been seduced by the idea of traveling.  And traveling is expensive.  Going from place to place…to place…to place…it adds up.  It would be much cheaper to go to ONE place.  Somewhere that I could tour around on local transportation or, better, on foot, and stay there for a while.  After a bit of contemplation, I realized where I’d go if I could only go to one place.  It is a rather unexpected, almost random-sounding location, but I have good reason.  I’d really, really like to go to Switzerland.

You see, I have an obsession with large mountains.  The big, pointy kind with snow on top.  And I honestly almost start to cry when looking at any sort of picture or video of the Alps.  Large, grassy meadows, steep hillsides, cows complete with bells, and those jagged, icy peaks.  It makes me want to yodel.  Ok, not really.  But I’d watch other people yodel.  And that’s pretty hardcore in and of itself.

I’ve looked into transport from Paris to Switzerland and then Switzerland to London; if I fly into Geneva and out of Zurich, the small inter-European flights will cost less than the price of a Eurostar train from Paris to London.  It seems like a good idea.  I’ve also settled on the town of Murren as a base, but this is still up in the air (get it?), as lodging is hard to come by.  But I figure with all of the money I’d save on transportation, I could spend a few extra dollars a night.  This will, of course, require much more research.

On the other hand, I finally finalized my Great Tour of Britain plans, complete with actual budget and specific lodging.  I’ll be holding on to all of that for when I realize that Switzerland is cost prohibitive.  Which I’m sure I’ll do sometime very soon–extremely soon, that is, if this snow keeps up!

Bag Lady

Thanks to the dozens of email lists I’m currently on, I received an email today that eBags was having a 25% off sale.  So I bought a bag.  Ok–actually, I bought two bags.  You see, I stupidly gave my husband options.  Men don’t need options.  Men don’t want options.  And when you give a man an option, you are bound to be annoyed.  So I was forced to buy two different bags to compare them to each other.  The first was the one I’d already picked out for myself–a Kelty Redwing 3100 (pictured left).  It got great reviews, many from people who used it as a carry on.  Which, for me, is its purpose–as well as ‘only piece of luggage for a five week trip’.  I’d already decided on this bag for myself, as it looks more comfortable than the other option–an eBags exclusive, the Weekender bag (pictured right).  My husband was wary of the Kelty because, quote, it did not come with the Carry On Seal of Approval.  I tried explaining to him that of COURSE it had a little seal of approval–it was being sold on its own company’s website.  But he got all twitchy and uncomfortable.  What if the Kelty doesn’t fit?  Huh?  Huh?  What then?  I decided against ripping my hair out, and just ordered both of them.  Thankfully eBags accepts ‘Bill Me Later’, so I’ll just return the one we don’t want without ever having paid for it…and then order another of the one we like.  I’m putting money on it being the one I chose–once he sees they are not only the same size, but that the Kelty is much more comfortable.  And I’m such a big person I’m willing to admit publicly, right here in a future post, if I am wrong.  I shall title the entry ‘I Was Wrong’.  But don’t hold your breath.

The Service

Yesterday, whist visiting my grandparents, I had an actual conversation with my pappy.  This might not seem impressive, but the fact is that he is 90 years old and almost completely deaf; he has been ‘hard of hearing’, as my nana puts it, for longer than I’ve been alive.  But my nana asked about this trip, and when I told her we’d be going to both England and France, my pappy perked up.  Memory is a strange thing, and though he often tells the same story two times in a row, he can remember over sixty years ago like it was yesterday.  You see, he, like most men of his generation, was in WWII–‘the service’, as he calls it–and was stationed for two years in England and two years in France, on the border of France and Belgium.  And he remembers crazy facts–the names of the towns he was stationed in (Liege, which is actually in Beligum), the name of the river that ran thorough the town (the Meuse) and the details of his job right down to how much he sold his military boots for before he came home ($80, which was equivalent to four months army pay!)

The sad thing is–I did not know any of this, and would not have ever known if I hadn’t been sharing the details of this trip.  I’ve since done some research, and that research combined with what my pappy told me have helped me to figured out his role in this part of history.  Again, sadly, it is often easier to do research than to talk directly to him, as these conversations are awkward three-way dialogues involving my nana screaming directly in his ear.  I know that he was an army mechanic, and worked on tanks.  He told me he was in charge of ‘Patton’s tank’, and that he had to ‘crank it up fifty  times every day’–my nanna explained to him (without even asking me–she just knew) that I don’t know who Patton is (though thanks to google, I do now) and, according to a lot of cross referencing, this seems like he was in some way involved in The Battle of the Bulge, which I also just learned about (don’t tell my high school history teachers…or my current middle school students!)

Several parts of the conversation were quite amusing–for example, he told me to take lots of chewing gum with me.  The French are amused by chewing gum, he said.  It is novel, he said.  Said I–I think it is a bit different now, pappy.  I’ve seen the birthplace of Shakespeare, he said.  It was a disappointment, he said.  Go there, he said, I wanted to, just like you do, but it was a huge disappointment.  I laughed.

I am so glad we were able to have this conversation.  Who would have thought that the planning of a trip a quarter of the way around the world would result in my becoming closer to my own grandfather?  What a wonderful surprise.

On My Own

I’ve been doing a lot of research for what I’m calling the ‘Tracy Extension Trip’–the days that I’m hoping to spend in Britain after the husband returns home.  But before I did this research, I did a lot of thinking and reflection.  Do I really want to travel on my own?  And the answer continues to be an overwhelming yes.

Many people–including my mom, whose comment can be viewed on my last post (hi mom!) think this is a bad idea.  But I know me–and I remember the person I used to be.  I rediscovered her last summer; it is only because of her rediscovery that this trip is even happening.  I visited her via yet another one of my own blogs–Blog on the Run–which I started as a means of documenting my last summer’s adventures–both of which were extensive, bold…and completely on my own.  And do you know what?  Not only did I have a fantastic time, but I appreciated Doug even more, both when I was gone as well as when I returned.

That being decided, I’m left to plan the solo portion of my trip.  I’ve been reading and googling like mad, looking up reasonable lodging in towns that are unreasonably priced during the times I’d like to visit, and I’ve found some fantastic options.  Several B&Bs have written back to my email inquiries (or enquiries, rather, if I’m driving on the left hand side), as well as extremely safe and affordable lodging at various universities throughout the UK.  For some reason that I do not understand, I’m drawn to Edinburgh, despite or, perhaps, because of the giant arts festival that will be taking place during the time I can visit.  In the past two days, I’ve spent the bulk of my researching time focused on this one city.  I don’t know what it is about Edinburgh–but I know I’d like to go there.  I’ve followed similar hunches in the past, and had life-altering experiences.  Here’s hoping this one will be life-altering for the better.

I could not be more excited.  Long live old me.

Why Not?

I write this blog for many reasons; one reason is to help organize my thoughts.  And I’m needing some serious thought organization.

I’ve been given official ‘permission’–and that is in quotes because really, I don’t ever ask for permission, I just do things–to stay in Europe after my husband has returned home.  He has to come home, or else we would be staying longer–he has to work, and I’ve planned our trip up until almost his literal last hour available.  He can just suck it up and deal with jet lag at work.  But it is not MY last hour available–in fact, when I look at our calendar, I see all of his days filled in, and all of mine empty.  Which means I can either return home and water the garden for a month until I return to school, or stay behind and visit all kinds of amazing places I’ve always wanted to see.  Oh which option will I pick?

Clearly, I’ve already chosen.  See how helpful writing is for making decisions?

Now I get to decide what I want to do and how I want to do it, all on my own.  And I get to slash have to spend as little money as possible.  I’ve already perused all of the major hostel websites, and plotted an insane course through the UK via coach rather than train.  It seems you can get a bus pass for far less than a rail pass (I’m assuming because traveling by bus sucks exponentially more than traveling by train).  I’ve landed on the UK for two very good reasons–one, it seems extra-mean of me to make my husband not only fly back alone, but also take the trip from Paris to London all by himself and two, it makes sense for me to travel solo in a foreign country that at least speaks English (not that my husband would be any help, well, anywhere, in that regards).  But I have to admit that I’m still kicking around a trip to Switzerland and Italy on my own.  Though I might have to sell major organs and/or get my husband VERY drunk near a credit card to make that happen.

Plus I like the idea of more time in England.  And Scotland.  And Wales.  Actually, I like Wales a lot.  There’s a really freaking big castle there.  Many, actually.  And I’m having an odd love affair with the idea of Edinburgh, though getting a room there during that time period is going to be expensive, and for good reason–the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that week.  Which I super want to go to.  And I’ve also looked into ferries to Dublin.  Because…why not?  Right?  Why not.