Monthly Archives: April 2010

A Country Road. A Tree. Evening.

We live in a society obsessed with planning; as an obsessive compulsive person, this should make me very happy–if only we could also become obsessed with semi-colons and dashes, my life would be perfect.  But I can’t help but wonder how far is too far.

Several things led me to this conclusion.  A woman I (sort of) work with today told me that she went on her honeymoon to Italy and did absolutely no pre-planning.  I gasped.  Why did you do that, I asked.  Because we were young, she responded, and then admitted they’d probably ‘missed half of what they should have seen’.

Should have seen?  When did vacation become a list of things we ‘should have seen’?  Vacation as checklist–when did that happen?

Yet another woman I work with (hi other woman–I know you read this) is planning a trip to Disney World with her family.  After hearing how very much effort goes into said planning, yes, you guessed it, I gasped.  But not nearly as loudly as I gasped at non-planning woman.  I have to think that when I went to Disney World with my family twenty years ago, they did not do the amount of planning that most families do today.  Hell–they couldn’t do as much planning, as the websites and phone apps required for such planning simply did not exist (when I was ten years old, the word ‘app’ was only used as shorthand for appetizer).

Is it this technology that has created this obsession?  I’m going to have to draw the conclusion that yes, yes it is.  Because thing three–the third thing that led me to believe that we are a plan-obsessed society–is what I did during my detention duty today.  I cross-referenced.  Yes, you read that correctly, in preparation for what is supposedly ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’ (though I hate that term–post on that yet to come), I am CROSS REFERENCING.  I went through the restaurants recommended in my Lonely Planet Barcelona City Guide (which, by the way, I selected only after reading multiple guide book reviews on Amazon) and looked up each establishment I’d highlighted on Tripadvisor and took anecdotal notes in the margins.  I TOOK ANECDOTAL NOTES.  Seriously.  This is not normal.

I’ve given some thought to reserving part of our trip to just experience the cities and countries we’re visiting–to live without a plan.  And then I realized that even THAT is a plan.  Clearly, there is truly nothing to be done.

Full Disclosure

Dear reader, I’m telling you something that even my husband does not know–I just spent the last 20 minutes figuring out how much it would cost to go to Istanbul.

I’m insane, you say?  You are right.  But in the spirit of full disclosure, here are the thoughts I’ve been having…

1.  I really want to go to Istanbul.  I’ve had this thought for a while.  It seems like a really important thing for me to do.  I’d like to learn more about Islam.  I really would.  I don’t like the fact that people hate it so much, yet I know nothing about it.  But at the same time, I don’t want to go anywhere…I’m going to say ‘more hardcore’ for lack of a better term…than Istanbul.  I would be like Islam Lite, if you will.

2.  I bet I could rearrange my flights with very few fees.  Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Istanbul–I’m sure I could find a way to finagle it.  Yes, I used the word finagle.  I don’t know if that’s even a word, but there it is.

3.  Gee it is cheap to stay in Istanbul.

4.  Damn Istanbul is beautiful.  See number one, and picture above.

5.  I have a whole week between Vegas and London….

It is at that point that I stopped.  Nay, it is at that point that I MUST BE STOPPED!  Fortunately the little mom on my shoulder–I don’t have an angel and a devil, I have a little me and a little mom–told me to cut it out already.  Thanks tiny mom.

Things Yet To Be Done

I just learned an important lesson: travel planning and making dinner do not go together well.  Dazed, glossy eyed, and obsessed, I spent the last hour or so working on the first pages of my self-made guide book as my spaghetti sauce slowly simmered, then boiled, then reduced to a thick film burnt to the bottom of my sauce pot.  I’ve added water and crossed my fingers.

But my self-made guide book is going well–so far it has a mostly unfinished table of contents, one of three travel itineraries created (in table form), and a header and page numbers.  I’m hoping to keep it under 20 pages, as size and weight are an issue, but I figure I can just print it out in 8 point font.  I have good eyes.

The self-made guide book is only one item on my list of ‘Things Yet to be Done’–though it is probably the most time consuming (well, maybe not–see numbers five and six below.)   The list currently looks something like this:

1.  Finish reading all actual guide books.

2.  Upload iTunes to netbook.

3.  Learn to upload pics to netbook.

4.  Practice using netbook in general.

5.   Brush up on my French.  Note:  I likely need a bit more than a ‘brush up’, but it won’t be as time consuming as, say, number 6…

6.  Learn Spanish.

7.  Buy pants for husband. (I realize that this seems odd, but I refuse to wash jeans in a hotel sink, so the man needs some travel pants!)

8.  Comparison shop for memory cards.

9.   Make a ‘how to take care of our house, dogs, and garden’ guide.

10.  Complete self-made guide book and have it copied and bound.

That seems like a lot, but really the only scary ones are 5, 6, and 10.  And as of today, I still have 83 days left to accomplish all of it–minus that one week in Vegas that I keep forgetting about.  Oh–which means that I need to add…

11.  Plan the Vegas Trip.

Planes, Trains, and Airport Pods

As of about ten minutes ago, our entire trip is booked.  Whew!  That certainly took a while.  Now I know what travel agents are for.  I have over twenty pages of typed notes, and a three page itinerary of booked lodging and transportation.  This all took me over three and a half months.  Travel planning sure isn’t easy–but it sure is fun.

The final booking involved my two nights in London after returning from Barcelona and Doug’s one night after returning from Paris.  I decided to do a small, Rick Steves recommended B&B for my first night back after Spain, and a room in a strange pod-esque room for both Doug and I for the evenings before our early flights back to JFK.  It is called Yotel and looks very strange (see pictures above and below), but it is located in the Gatwick Airport terminal.  This seemed like a good idea given our flights out, both of which are on or around 6am.  We can stumble out of bed and into line at security, no airport shuttle needed.    

Now that we have hotels, apartments, B&Bs, airport pods, plane tickets and train tickets taken care of, I get to continue with the most fun part–planning the details of our trip.  If anyone is looking for me in the next three months, aside from work and one week in Vegas, I’ll be on the back porch with a travel book and a highlighter, smiling.

Enquiry

I’ll admit it, I was a bit upset about having to fly out a day later than I planned.  But it turns out that everything is actually working out better than according to plan.  I sent in inquiry (or, rather, enquiry) to easyHotel asking about a ‘late’ check in–as in ‘almost 24 hours late’.  They clearly state in the terms and conditions portion of the website that ‘Your room will be held for your arrival untill 10.00am the morning following the first night of your reservation – after that time the booking will be deemed cancelled.’  That is copy/pasted, folks.  Yet, when I emailed them–via a very impersonal inquiry (enquiry) form on the site, they responded that checking in after 10am on the next day–whatever time that may be–would not be a problem.  So though we are traveling over night, and landing at 8 in the morning, we will immediately have somewhere to shower and abandon our bags.  Thank you easyHotel.  I only hope our stay is as pleasant as the booking process.

Tasty Words

I just read over the last, oh I don’t know, forty or so posts of this blog, and I’m beyond amused.  I cannot believe what this trip has become, and more than that, I cannot believe how very wrong I am, time and time again.  So in the spirit of total disclosure, here are some things I was very, very wrong about, complete with verbatim quotes from myself…ahem…

I said lots of things that ended up becoming ironic.  For example, from my post titled Genesis, I stated that “the Europe trip has been downgraded considerably” and that while I had “learned how to pack three weeks worth of clothing in a backpack”, I would clearly not need that skill.  Now that the trip is almost completely planned and neither statements are true (and both backpacks have been ordered and practice packed), I suppose I must eat my own words.  Mmmm.  Tasty words.

I go on to actually have the nerve to name a post ‘The Three Thousand Dollar Book’, in reference to how much the book Europe Through the Back Door will have actually cost me, after the trip planning is done.  I don’t even want to address how that is incorrect, but let’s just say–it is.

I then spent several posts discussing Italy.  We are not going to Italy.  There is then a brief flirtation with the idea of Amsterdam and Bruges, but that never really goes anywhere.

I am then reminded that we decided to visit London because Iceland Express flies from Newark to London cheaply.  We booked airfare on Aer Lingus–out of JFK.

The following is possibly my favorite part–in my post titled ‘The Dark Side’, I state: “Perhaps I’ll abandon my (admittedly great) husband and stay in Europe without him.  THAT would be interesting! (Note:  I’m not actually going to do that.  But I’m thinking about it–which is important to note.)”  Riiiight.  I’m ‘not actually going to do that’.  Except that I AM going to do that, in a whole other country, for a whole extra week.  Plus two extra days in London, that I just told him about today.  He took it very well.

So clearly I am wrong all the time.  I’m so glad that my husband does not read this blog and, thus, will never hear me say–or read me write–those horrible, horrible words!

Airfare Booked!

That was way more stressful than I thought it would be.  But we have airfare.  YAY!

Looking on Kayak last night, I found a random day in July where flights were $300 less than any other day; I looked again today, and the dates we needed were available for the same rate.  After lots and lots of REALLY SPEEDY thought and comparison and some shaking and freaking out, I booked two different flights–the same flight out but with two different return trips–on Aer Lingus for $695 per person round trip from JFK.  That is a savings of $600 from what I would have paid if I had booked before yesterday or if we wanted to fly out of Philly.

We will be leaving for London one day later than we wanted to leave, though to be fair, my leaving plans were a little insane–I was trying to get a flight out the evening of a day my husband has to work.  Bad idea.  With the new plan, he gets to come home from work, sleep in his own bed, and get up the next morning and take his time–our time–getting to the airport.

And the more I think about it, leaving from JFK instead of Philly seems like a better and better idea–it is impossible to get to Philly via public transportation, so someone would have to take us (or we’d spend more than the flight on three weeks worth of airport parking); there are buses running every 30 minutes from here to NYC, and some go directly to the airport.  Perfect.  I feel good about this, even though we’re technically losing a day in London.

Though it helps that I’m not actually losing a day in London, as I booked my flight back for two days later than my return from Barcelona, giving me an afternoon, evening, and full day and night to do whatever I want before I return home.  I really wanted to go to Bath, and I think that’s exactly what I will do.  But I will think on it for a while, lest I run out of things to plan.