AndromedHa

Europe Trip – My Tips for a More Enjoyable Trip!

Posted on: July 23, 2013

Bonjour! Ciao! Hola! Hello!

Yes, I’m still alive and well. Very well actually ūüôā I just came back from my dream trip last week to Europe! Well… me and my husband only visited 5 cities in 4 countries: Paris, Venice, Rome, Barcelona, and London (a.k.a. the infamous touristy cities in the world).

Since I was a teenager, I dreamt of visiting Europe for vacation or study while learning all the history and culture¬†about Europe. Not that other continent attract me less, but it’s just something about Europe that is enchanting, elegant, and romantic. Up till my trip to London, I didn’t realize that I got British bugs in my mind! From Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Beatrix Potter, to the famous Harry Potter – and yes, I enjoy and adore them all hahaha…¬†Actually¬†this trip was kinda out of the blue. I mentioned to my husband that we should travel before we have kids and Europe was the first thing that came up in my mind. My husband was kinda hesitant since Europe trip can be – and IT IS! – expensive. Planning was kinda frustrating for both of us since the budget that we set wasn’t enough and we never expected that until after we booked the non-refundable¬†plane ticket and started to book hotels. Luckily, my husband is a savvy guy. He found ways to save on hotels – see my post about Airbnb – and get a bit refund for the plane ticket using our credit card. (Check if your bank has special promo for credit card travel reward).

While the financial crisis was averted, planning for the sightseeing for 5 cities was overwhelming for me. I borrowed travel books from the library to get some overviews about famous tourist attractions. It helped a bit but then my to-see-list became longer and longer! Way too long…. Thus, we had to scratch off some places that we might not be that interested in. Oh don’t forget about the admission fee! Some of the places have pretty expensive entrance fee. Although we did some researches about London Pass, Barcelona Pass, train pass, etc. (I’ll explain later when I do my entry on each city), we ended up to forgo some of the passes.

To add more stress – to me especially, every person whom we mentioned that we were going to go to Europe said to be extra careful due to lots of pickpockets and scams. Plus, my aunt and uncle who just visited Europe a month before were almost pickpocketed!¬†I was freaking out for a week thinking about how not to be the victim of pickpocket. I read blogs & forums and they mentioned to avoid looking as tourists, such as wearing less jewelries, not carrying expensive bags, dressing like locals (i.e. in Paris, locals wear neutral coloured clothes and never wear sneakers or sandals).¬†Well, we¬†kinda followed that but¬†even when we dressed down,¬†our face still shows that we’re¬†Chinese decent (the exotic Asians hahaha). I found that people in¬†Paris, Rome, and Barcelona looked at us in a funny way because we realized that not many Asians live in these cities- and obviously knew that we ARE tourist.¬†The funny thing is that when¬†we were in Paris and Rome, we saw¬†lots of locals¬†wearing colour clothing¬†too! So, the¬†‘myth’ that Parisiens only wear neutral coloured clothing is kinda not true.¬†However, the coloured clothing that they wear is usually monochromatic¬†and has¬†less crowded pattern, but again, they DO wear other than neutral colors. What I love about Barcelona is that¬†the women there dare to wear brightly coloured clothes like neon yellow & hot pink! Combined with hot weather in Barcelona,¬†the clothing that locals wear is relatively from¬†thin material yet they looked¬†very comfortable and fashionable!

Well not being racist, even if you’re Caucasian, local still can easily identify you as tourist from the way you talk and the most prominent thing is CAMERA! People in the forum gave advices not to¬†flaunt your camera around the neck. First day in Paris, I followed this and I became uncomfortable and felt restricted from capturing the uniqueness of the city. Luckily, before the trip, me and my husband bought¬†money belt¬†for¬†each of¬†us¬†that¬†is big enough to carry our passport & money. I still carry a wallet in my SLING bag (many forums advice travellers to use a sling bag with zipper and flap to deter pickpocket) but I put just enough money in my wallet to pass a day while the rest of¬† the money & my credit card¬†go into my money belt under my clothes! To add extra security to my bag and let me less worried being pickpocketed; I bought a¬†small combination lock with wire sling. The lock has number combination instead of key so that I don’t need to carry keys or worry to lose the key (I bought this at Target for about $10). Plus, the wire sling¬†is more flexible than metal lock, ¬†so I can slide it between the zipper head of my bag & the D-ring of the bag strap. With these security measures, I felt more comfortable to sling my camera in front of my body and take as many picture without worrying some naughty hands go through my bag. Another tip is to research for credit card with free transaction fee. My husband signed up for Amazon credit card with no transaction fee and he did some research on the exchange fee that was pretty close to other major banks. With this credit card, we only carried enough amount of money.¬†In fact, we didn’t need to do any money exchange at all¬†during our trip. If the store or restaurant accepted credit card, we just simply swiped our card. Therefore, we were¬†not worry about losing our big fat¬†cash – in case we were pick pocketed.

Bag security

My other tip is to use a bag that is big enough to carry a small umbrella, a scarf/ light sweater, tissue paper, and bottle water. When we were in Rome, the accommodation that we stayed had internet problem. For the whole stay, we couldn’t connect to the internet and thus, we only checked our emails and browsed whenever we found free wi-fi. I had weather app on my iPhone, but it needs internet to give the latest forecast.¬†From the day we landed in Europe (Paris was our first stop),¬†the weather had been good, i.e. no rain, and even if it rained, it was only for a while or at night when we were sleeping. However, on our 3rd day in Rome, we planned to visit Villa Borghese. It’s a big park with lots of attractions inside the park –¬†the most famous one¬†is Galleria Borghese but we didn’t go there. It was hot in the morning but then suddenly, it was pouring rain when we arrived at the park!¬†We were soaked! So yeah our visit to Villa Borghese was a short one but anyway, we had fun riding Segway for the first time!¬†ūüôā

Oh! Girls… Sunscreen is a MUST!!! Europe is H.O.T during summer. In a way, visiting Europe during summer has advantage and disadvantage. The advantage is that Europe, like any part in northern hemisphere, has longer daylight during summer. Even at 9pm, the sun still shines bright. This makes the sight seeing more pleasant since you can max out your day. However, most European stores close pretty early in the evening. I noticed in Paris, the stored closed at 5 or 6 pm. So by the time we left for museum and wanted to go shopping, we could only window shop ūüėõ The major disadvantage for visiting Europe during summer is the TOURISTS and LOTS of them…. People from any part of the world seem to flock to Europe when we were there. Thus, we had to line up for everything. The worst was lining up for Vatican Museum under the hot sun! And please please stay hydrated! Most of European countries’ tap is potable – you can drink from the tap! And there’re lots of drinking fountains available. Yet, we bought bottled water – which is very expensive – since we weren’t sure about drinkability of the tap water. Can you imagine a glass of rose wine was only 2 euro compared to a bottled of water for 3.5 euro! Crazy huh!

My very last tip is that wearing comfortable shoes is a MUST!!! And I’m not kidding!!! I had tendonitis on my right ankle due to the nature of my work – walking up and down the stairs everyday. For this trip, I brought 2 flat shoes: one is the dressier from Nine West and another one I just bought from Aldo is the fabric, Converse-like shoes. I wore my Nine West shoes on my first day in¬†Paris since the weather forecast showed it might be raining. And it was a BAD idea! My foot hurts like hell by the end of the day. Since then, I wore my comfy shoes. However, I must say, know your limit well. Although I wore more comfortable shoes, we managed to push one day in Rome by visiting St. Peter Basilica and Vatican museum in the morning and Colloseum & the Forum in the evening. The¬†Vatican museum is a¬†huge one! And¬†I think I walked from 8am to 8 pm nonstop!¬†The result was… My ankle hurt so bad and my tendonitis was back ūüė¶ Being stubborn, I pushed myself to walk more the next day but it got worse. Luckily, my hubby bought me Dr. Scholl insole for my shoes and it improved my poor right ankle.

Those are the things I learnt during my trip. I hope they gave you some insight about Europe trip that you’re planning to have one day. Me and my husband loves to enjoy the attraction; hence, we only had minimal shopping time. Most of our shopping was in the souvenir shops since I had to buy magnets for my mom’s collection. A lot of people said that branded bags & clothes are cheaper in Europe than anywhere in the world due to tax refund for EU visitors. We didn’t have a chance to buy any branded stuffs since we’re not really into them and honestly, time felt just flying by when you’re in a vacation. Our to-see-list is very long and still, we couldn’t visit them all in a such short period of time.

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Magnets & souvenirs 
(yeah.. they’re expensive but i gotta get something to commemorate my trip, right?!)

So here’s my recap my experience of each city…. *Note: this is purely my opinion*

–¬†PARIS: people said that Paris is a romantic city. For me, it didn’t feel that way. In my opinion, it was a bit overrated. Although the city itself pretty safe, the metro looked old and dirty. I even said to my husband that I didn’t feel that I’m in Europe when we walked around Paris. It was too many tourists from all over the country speaking their own language. What I was imagined was Parisiens speaking French! hahaha… Anyway, it is still a beautiful city and I can now crossed off Paris from my bucket list ūüôā

–¬†VENICE: It is one of the most unique city in the world I’ve ever visited. It is a floating city and for days after in Paris that I eventually felt like I’m in Europe! The one thing I adore was that there’s no single car inside the city but you have to get use to vaporetto (ferry)¬†route & schedule! Basically, to go from point A to B in Venice, you can walk but I found that it’s a bit hard to navigate the¬†maze-like streets in Venice.¬†That reminds me, there’s NO FREE map¬†to explore the city. Tourist map was sold for 2 euro! I guess that’s how you make money from the tourists.¬†Or you can download free app in your smartphone to navigate around the city.

–¬†ROME: It is an¬†old city that¬†maintains it’s old architecture and European flair.¬†I¬†even noticed that there’s no new development inside the city that reflects modern architecture. That’s why I adore Rome!¬†Wherever you walk, you’ll find¬†a small church and¬†the decoration inside¬†it was very pretty.¬†The ‘holy and pure’ environment inside the church¬†made me want to pray every time I enter them. The metro in Rome was okay. Although there are only 2 lines, it stops near every major attraction¬†so it’s¬†very convenient.

–¬†BARCELONA:¬†We thought there’s not much to do in Barcelona. But we were wrong! In fact, it might be¬†our favourite city throughout the trip – despite¬†its famous reputation as the¬†number one pickpocket city in the world! Barcelona¬†is very clean! When we walked, we saw people¬†sweeping the street in the morning¬†and there’s no single cigarette butt¬†on the street – well, at night, it is a bit dirty. The¬†metro is very convenient with extensive lines but beware of pickpocket!!!! And here, I fell in love with Gaudi! The bright coloured houses, unique structure, and his nature-inspired architecture just melt my heart!

–¬†LONDON: It is a massive city but a fun one!¬†It is a metropolitan city with very good metro and bus systems. It also is a very diverse city in terms of people’s ethnicity. Only here, people didn’t stare at us and looked funny for two Asian tourists ūüėõ The city is very safe and not a lot of homeless people were seen.

There go my tips for Europe tips. Feel free to ask me anything if you have one or bunch!

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Sorry for the lack of pictures… I’m trying to sorting out 9000+ photos from my trip and yes, a week wasn’t enough! I’ll update some pictures as soon as I’m done with them ūüôā

M.a.J

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3 Responses to "Europe Trip – My Tips for a More Enjoyable Trip!"

Thanks for the tips! I think those who are planning a trip to Europe will find them very helpful.

Ahhhh I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog! I’ve been planning for the past 9 months for my upcoming Europe Trip and the big trip will start next week. So excited but I try to prevent any bad memories such as pickpockets so I accidentally found your blog. =)

Yup… I was paranoid too before my trip. I find that the padlock is really useful and it’s pretty common among tourists. Having money belt is helpful too, at least when someone took your wallet, you still have some money on you. Enjoy your trip! ūüėÄ

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