Monthly Archives: May 2010

Finally!

I finally made the last reservation for our trip.  Wait, I know what you are saying–didn’t you do that a while ago?  Yes, I said that a while ago, but I didn’t do that a while ago.  Since that post we decided to go to Amsterdam for a couple of days and booked that; since then our London day trip plans fell through and I had to come up with an alternative plan.

For some reason, this alternative plan was extremely difficult.  Even the booking of the Amsterdam trip from Paris was easier–we thought about that for 36 hours, did some basic research, and booked it.  But the London side trip was different.  Perhaps because we have such a short stay in London–only five days–I wanted to make sure that we were using our time as efficiently as possible.  But finally we are done.

The previously booked Bath and Stonehenge tour turned out to not exist, which is a long story not even worth writing down.  But it is all for the best, because for about half the amount of money we will be taking a train to Bath on our own.  We will have  four hours there with an unlimited bus pass before we embark upon our Mad Max half-day tour of Stonehenge and Lacock.  We will then return to Bath around 5:30, in time for an early dinner and a tour of the actual Roman Baths.  Our train leaves at 10:02pm, which, according to everything Rick Steves, means we get to enjoy Bath ‘after the tour buses depart’.  Rick Steves says these kinds of things a lot.

So basically, for half the price of a bus tour out of London that would have involved 9 hours on a bus and 90 minutes in Bath, we get to spend more than eight hours in Bath AND the husband gets to see Stonehenge.  And we have lunch at a thatched-roofed inn in Lacock.  On top of all of that, my husband gets to giggle at the name ‘Lacock’ for years to come.  I’m sure there will be lots of pictures of signs.  Hopefully it will be a great day for all.

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Testing 1, 2, 3…

Well, the backpacks have been tested, and they passed with flying colors.  Most ‘how to pack lightly’ or ‘how to backpack across Europe’ books and websites advise something along these lines:  “pack your backpack to capacity and walk around town; see how that feels, then go home and take out half of what you thought you needed”.  I tried something slightly different.  I went to Book Expo America and packed the bag full of books (19 of them to be exact), and then packed another bag full of books, and then walked around the Javits center all day long.  And as an added bonus, my much-smaller-than-me (but probably stronger than me) friend did the same thing.  The verdict–yes, the bags can hold a lot.  But no, I don’t want to be schlepping a lot around with me.  In fact, after yesterday I’m thinking of taking a toothbrush and a change of underwear.

Scratch that–I’m sure I can buy a disposable toothbrush at each stop.  I’ll just take the underwear.

Seriously though, the bags worked out better than I could have hoped.  For how much it weighed full, I was impressed with how well it carried on my hips and shoulders, and I only had a bit of chafing from the one strap (which I cannot figure out–why only one strap?)  I did utilize the uber-dorky waist belt, as did my much-cooler-than-me friend.  When I first put it on–empty–I thought ‘wow–I have to fit everything I need for a month in here?’  But after I’d filled it up, I was amazed at how much it could hold.  Not that I’ll be putting it to that kind of test, but still, it is good to know that it is possible.  Maybe I can buy some souvenirs.

In other news, as this was originally an all-things-travel blog, I suppose I should be writing about my Book Expo trip.  The only problem is that I have a book blog, too, and cannot figure out on which blog this trip belongs.  As we basically got off of the bus, made a beeline for the convention center, grabbed dozens of books and then cabbed it back to the bus station, I’m thinking it is more of a book blog post than a travel post.  But I did decide one thing–I sure hope I like London more than I like New York (I’m confident that I’ll like Paris and Barcelona, though I suppose they could be just as bad.  But I doubt it).  Granted, I only saw a few blocks, but I’ve been there before and continue to not be impressed.  Yet everywhere I look, there are people taking pictures.  I’m about to be one of those people, and I can only hope it is somewhere a bit more interesting–and less dingy–than the Manhattan that lies between Port Authority and the Javits Center.  Because there was nothing scenic or quaint about that.

Rick Steves-Style Travel Forum

Welcome to my little blog!  If you would like to participate in a ‘how was your trip’ forum, please comment on this post.  If enough people comment, I will happily do all of the work associated with setting up an actual forum on this site.

So…how was your trip?  Highlights?  Lowlights?  Things you wish you’d done differently?  Things you are glad you knew in advance?  Please feel free to comment on other people’s posts–that’s the point!

Day Tripping

As our trip approaches, we are now in super-planning mode.  On the schedule for this week–day trips.  It seems these need to be booked in advance, too.  I had some issues with our London day trip, which is actually turning out for the best…but more on that later.  Because right now all I can think about is our day out of Paris trip that we just booked.

I.  Am.  So.  Excited.

But allow me to preface this with an explanation.  We are cheap.  And we hate bus trips.  I thought these two things could not live happily together until I found out how insanely expensive bus trips are.   In case you were wondering, bus trips are insanely expensive.  I did some comps before I booked about-to-be-named Paris day trip, and here are the numbers…a day trip from Paris to the Loire Valley is $182 per person.  PER PERSON.  To Mont Saint Michel–$204.  The Champagne region–$212.  A rental car for a day in a country where I can’t read the street signs–$194–and then I’d have to drive in said country.  These are all real numbers, people.  And do you know what ended up costing about 50% less than any of those options?  An overnight trip to Amsterdam.

Yep.  The Husband is getting his wish–his number one choice of places to visit whilst in Europe.  For far fewer euros than a trip that would require endless hours on a bus, only occasionally punctuated with wine and/or castles, we’re spending 36 hours in Amsterdam.  A crazy early 3 hour high-speed train ride out of Gare du Nord puts us at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station by 9:30 am, where we will remain until 8pm the following day.  The train tickets and hotel–which, by the way, was crazy cheap, well located, and got excellent reviews–were all booked as of a few hours ago.  The husband was actually dancing at one point, singing a little song in which all the words were ‘Amsterdam’.–not an easy feat with a word that long!

Two Months

It is officially two months until our trip.  Two months from right now, we will be flying over the Atlantic.  That is, of course, barring all volcanic eruptions, which I cannot even allow myself to think about right now.  Two months.  I only have to click ‘over’ two times to see our trip on my iCalendar.  And I only have to click one time to see our Vegas trip…ah, our under-appreciated Vegas trip.  You’ll be fun, too, I’m sure.  But Two Months until Europe.  Yay!

However–that means that in THREE months, I’ll have just returned home and awoken after a good 12 hour sleep.  Ah well–in three months and two days I’ll be planning next year’s trip.  Istanbul, here I come!

Vive La JFK

I love sales.  They are my favorite thing ever.  And, more than that, I love email updates about sales.  Those are the best.  Because then you don’t miss said sales.

Today I received an email about an Expedia summer hotel sale.  It was the email I didn’t even know that I was waiting for.  You see, our flight leaves JFK at 5:45pm.  This would mean that we would have to take a 9am bus, arrive at noon, and sit around the airport for over five hours before taking off for a ten hour flight.  That sounds like it would really suck.

Instead, we are taking an any-time bus the night before, having dinner with the husband’s friends, staying over at the Thirty Thirty Hotel, sleeping in, having a leisurely lunch, and then taking a cab to the airport around 3-ish…before a ten hour flight.  That sounds much better, does it not?  And we get the added bonus of spending a day in New York before leaving for London.  Because really, that’s where all European vacations should begin.

I sincerely do not think it is possible for me to be any more excited about this trip.  And I forgot to mention–speaking of sales, I found out that we will be in Paris for the last two weeks–and thus the best two weeks–of the yearly summer sale, when the French government decrees that things can officially go on sale, and there are often markdowns of up to 80% off of retail.  And did I mention that the Euro is falling?  Yep–it is not possible for me to be any more excited.

Admitting I’m Wrong–Sort Of

My husband and I will be married for four years this coming June, and for possibly the very first time, he has gotten his way.  We bought a house across the street from my mother and 100 yards from my work.  I have made him the official ‘doer of dishes’ and ‘carrier-in-er of groceries’.  I planned this crazy trip and he happily followed along, even going so far as to occasionally take part in the planning, complete with actual enthusiasm.  So I feel it is only fair that he picks some–nay, many–of the things we do on said trip.  I’ve already devoted an entire day to the British Museum at his request; I hate to admit it, but he’s probably right about our need for that much time, even considering our short stay in London.  I’ve also been rather laissez-faire with the Paris planning, honoring his desire to “just sit in a park and eat cheese”.  And just now, right before I wrote this, I booked the day trip of his choosing.  We will officially be spending one day on a small-group day trip from London to Stonehenge, Bath, and Lacock.

It hurts me to say this, but really he…was…right.    I really did not think that Stonehenge was the best option–in fact, I felt it was the worst option.  I read lots of reviews of Stonehenge–and even typing that now I realize how insane that sounds, because really, who can review an experience like that?  And many of the ‘reviews’ were very, very bad.  It is boring, many people said.  It was small, many people said.  To be fair, it is quite possible that those people did not know what they were looking at.  A student of mine gave me his ‘review’ of Rome–it was ok, he said, but ‘everything was broken’.  Ha!

So I then did hours of research on different ways to visit the various areas that we are both interested in–you know, to avoid Stonehenge entirely and thus get my way–and, well, this trip is THE BEST OPTION.  Wow–it actually hurts to type that.  But it is true.  We talked a lot about our one day outside of London.  Our top three choices were Bath, Oxford, and Stonehenge; we’d prefer a small group tour, and he really wanted to see Stonehenge with a private ‘inner circle’ tour.  He wanted to go to Stonehenge, and I wanted to go to Oxford; we both wanted to go to Bath.  How we ended up with his first and second choice and my second and (absolute) last choice is beyond me.  Perhaps my only-child powers are failing me.

It could be that.  That or the fact that I’ve wanted to see Stonehenge since I was a little girl.  I had those Time-Life ‘Mysteries of the Unknown’ books that featured places like that, and I used to sit on my orange swivel rocker and page through them when I was in third grade.  It could be that I’ve been actively pagan since I was 22 years old, and the idea of visiting a place like that actually makes me want to cry.  That or the fact that I know that I have a day and a half after returning to London from Barcelona to visit Oxford.  And maybe Stratford, too.  Ahhh…there she is.  Only child is back.  Long may she reign.