Sailing over a sea of clouds with Virgin Atlantic
If someone would have told me I would be travel for an entire month I would have probably said: "Yeah right!" What was supposed to be slightly under three weeks turned into an unexpected adventure whirlwind of "hop on - hop off" trip through Italy, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.
Letting go of worries about business, home and garden was the biggest challenge, but I kept reminding myself "you live only once so enjoy the experience" and that's exactly what I did. It worked well for the exception of right before drifting off to sleep when worries would try to creep in. Thankfully though when you walk 7-8 miles each day, you get so exhausted that sleep knocks you out before you even have a chance to realize when all lights go out.
So now that I have sifted through tons of emails, uploaded all trip photos, took care of a garden that resembled a jungle, cleaned the house and adjusted back to the change in time zone ( all had to happen within one day) I am officially back and ready to dive right back in where I had left off.
I have so many great stories and photos to share and hope that you chime in and share your experiences with me too.
I flew Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic and OMG what a great experience that was! The stewards and stewardesses were incredibly attentive and being able to sleep in your own little cocoon was just about as awesome as it gets. You even get Pj's that you can change into to be more comfortable.
Upper Class Sleep Pods on Virgin Atlantic
We flew into London Heathrow and from there on Easy Jet, the European equivalent to Southwest Airlines to Rome. Easy Jet has very strict baggage rules, so make sure to pack light or pay ahead of time to avoid unpleasant surprises at the airport. I travelled with my new Osprey Meridian Convertible Wheel Pack and was able to bring everything on board making it count as one carry-on bag. The day pack zips right onto the main bag, but can be removed as necessary. I'll write a review about the Osprey bags later. I am totally in love with them - they are awesome as travel gear.
Osprey Meridian Convertible Wheeled Travel Packs
Our trip also involved taking many trains, car rentals, public subways and buses. In many European countries the public transportation system is so reliable and easy to use that it makes sense to look into week or several day passes. Hubby and me purchased these passes depending on the zones we were navigating through. They allowed us the convenience to hop on and off buses and subways anytime we were ready to move on and saved us money in the long run. There are several free apps you can download ahead of your departure that allow you to input your starting point and destination and which will then show you the fastest route via subway or bus. At all subway stations the lines are color coded as well. All you have to do is find your point of interest and look for the end station of that line to travel in the right direction.
I strongly suggest to always check with airlines and trains several days ahead of your next departure to see if everyone is departing as scheduled. When we were in Germany Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) decided to strike exactly on the day we were scheduled to travel. We found passage on a privately operated rail REI and got to our destination in time. If we had not checked ahead of time, we as well as many other travelers that day might have been faced with some serious delays in getting to our destination.
Be prepared for things to be done a bit differently to what you are used to. We were warned about taxis in Rome. There are those taxi drivers that will try to take advantage of tourists and they will approach you as soon as you even look in the direction of a taxi stand. Hold your ground and stand in line behind all the other travelers waiting for a ride. There is a big sign that states the taxi fare into town, so as you get on make sure to state that you won't pay more than what is listed. And then get ready for the fastest ride into town ever! Our taxi driver took on two more people - why go empty when there is so much room to be filled in a cab?! As soon as we all sat in the car and gave hotel names, our driver took out his phone and started to consult his gps, all while driving at race car speed out of the airport towards the freeway. Hubby, stylish guy as he is sat in front and I noticed how the driver kept glancing over to him. Apparently Italians are very style conscientious and I noticed after one such glance that our driver straightened out his Polo Shirt collar ala 70's style.
I just about died laughing in the back and forgot all about the fact that we might just crash any second at this crazy speed with a driver who was paying absolutely no attention to the road. Have to give him credit though, he got us to our destination in one piece and did not over charge.
Car rentals in Europe are just like here, just hand them over your credit card so that they can put outrages sums as deposit on them :) All I have to say about renting a car in Europe is to check with your credit card company to see what they cover. Each rental station like the ones here will try to sell you additional insurance coverage, which you can decline if your credit card company covers you. Be sure to abide by all the rules! Speed limits are much higher than in the USA, but they vary as you approach towns. Since I was the co-driver, I kept shouting out the change of speed as my hubby raced down the freeways and highways. He used to own a Ferrari and Porsche and although our car was from some Korean maker, it did not stop him to put the foot on the pedal and go for it. Since I don't pray, I put myself into a meditative trance, deep breaths, in and out - hoping that it will be over soon. We did get one ticket promptly mailed and awaiting us upon arrival in the USA - mmmm - I wonder why?!