A Chronicle of Amy and Sean's World Travels
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Average Daily Cost in Europe

Back in our planning stages, I loved reading travel blogs to day dream, but the practical side of me was always wondering: how much did it cost?  Here’s a brief breakdown of our average daily cost to travel through Europe.  This figure does not include supplies or gear; costs at home; misc. fees like ATM fees; or most significantly, major transport (which we define as anything that takes us from one overnight destination to another, whether it be plane, train, bus or rental car). Basically, the average daily cost includes things like accommodation, meals, snacks, alcohol, activities, and minor transport like subways.  Any oddities are noted below.

  1. Germany ($73/day) (No lodging costs because we stayed with a friend.)
  2. Poland ($91/day)
  3. Hungary ($101/day)
  4. France ($132/day) (No lodging costs except for one night in a B&B in Mont St. Michel and an air mattress because we stayed with a friend in Paris.)
  5. Portugal ($133/day)
  6. Croatia ($142/day)
  7. Czech Republic ($144/day)
  8. Slovenia ($148/day)
  9. Spain ($154/day)
  10. Northern Ireland ($187/day)
  11. Ireland ($255/day) (This figure is estimated; we lost track of our budget quickly after many a round of Guinness.  Costs are also higher because we went out more than usual while our friends were visiting.)
  12. Belgium ($272/day) (This just for a 2 day trip to Brussels.  Again, costs were probably higher because we drank a lot with our friend and bought an excessive amount of chocolate.)

There are a lot of factors that affect costs, and I plan to write in the future about some of them, including tips we’ve learned for saving money.  To give you a sense of our travel style, we are not eating ramen noodles and staying in hostel dorms, but we watch our spending.  Where you stay has the biggest effect on the budget.  In general, when it comes to accommodations, we always have a private double; we try to avoid shared bathrooms, but will share if we’re feeling cheap; we try to find clean, simple budget accommodation, which means a variety of hostels, pensions, apartments, guesthouses, and B&Bs; and we will sometimes spend $10 or $20 more to get a private bathroom, free wifi, better location, or overall nicer place.  When it comes to eating, we always eat 3 meals a day and usually dessert or snacks; we usually order a drink or two with dinner, and occasionally have a few drinks at other times; we stay at places with free breakfasts if it makes sense, but tend to self-cater breakfast otherwise;  we tend to eat out almost every day for lunch and dinner, but sometimes self-cater if we have a kitchen; we usually spend our most money at dinner, as it is typically our nightly entertainment; and overall, we tend to eat what we want and not skimp on food.

Hope that helps to put the European portion of our trip in context.  Europe is definitely not as cheap as developing countries, but as you can see, it does not need to be outrageous.  If you have any questions about our European costs, leave a comment or send me an email.

Au Revoir, Paris.

From Paris by day

From the time we stepped off the train a little over two weeks ago, Paris has been disorienting.  Like many big cities, it is loud, crowded, hectic.  Further complicating things is the fact that Paris is in France.  Our friends working in Paris told us that up is down in France and down is up, and not to question why.  (This hasn’t stopped us from questioning why the light switches turn out upside down, why the spin cycle on the washing machine only actually spins every couple minutes, or why two light switches need to be in the correct position to turn on the overhead light).  Every time we go into our favorite bakery around the corner, we feel like the people using cash who interrupt the flow in that credit card commercial.  We stand there, debating our choices, while the other customers sail in and out.  The girl behind the counter eventually gives up on us and walks away.  When we finally make our selections, we awkwardly order.  Meanwhile, the cashier continually calls out in a sing-song voice, Bonjour!  Merci Beacoup!  Baguette!  Madelienes!  Mer-ci Bea-coup!

I liked Paris from the start, but I couldn’t say it was love at first sight.  Sure, I thought, Paris is a nice city, but what makes it different than any other big city?  Initially, the highlights of Paris were seeing our friend Matt and Sean’s friends from work and the hairdryer, heated towel rack, and washing machine in the apartment.

We filled our days with all that Paris has to offer.

We admired the very tall stained glass windows at 13th century Saint Chappelle.

From Paris by day

We viewed the flagrant flaunting of royal opulence outside the city at Versailles.

From Versailles

We gazed at the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance at night.

From Paris by night

We walked down Champ Elysses to the magnificent Arc de Trimoph, and strolled along the river by Notre Dame.

From Paris by day
From Paris by day

We had a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by spring flowers.  (And very aggressive French ducks).

From Paris by day

We viewed Paris from up on high, from Montmarte and Printemps.

From More Paris…
From More Paris…

Sean went to the Louvre, and Musee de Orsay.

From More Paris…

We visited Notre Dame.

From More Paris…

We did sport in Luxembourg Garden, and watched others do sport, French-style,  in Luxembourg Garden.  (A woman at Matt’s work told him that she was into “sport.”  When he asked what type of sports she liked, she said, “oh, I do fitness.”)

From More Paris…

We amused ourselves by playing chicken with the French on the narrow sidewalks, once we realized we were the only ones constantly moving out of the way.

I visited La Patisserie Reves, where pastries are treated as works of art.

From More Paris…

We walked around the Merais neighborhood, where Jewish shops abound.

From More Paris…

I did a taste-off between the macaroons from Laduree and Pierre Herme. (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it). I declared the verdict between the shops to be a tie, with the chocolate ones from either to be the big winner.

From More Paris…

Somewhere between evening walks to fetch the different components for dinner, daily visits to “our” bakery, “wasting” time sitting outdoors at cafes, spotting a French model perform a fashion shoot on a crowded street, tasting the French and international flavors of the city, and visits to Luxembourg Garden, I think I fell in love with Paris. Often, the days we didn’t have anything in particular planned were the best ones, because something always popped up. I think this is what I like best about Paris. Paris is big, concrete and stone.  I had to search for little bright spots.  But they kept popping up.

From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From More Paris…
From Paris by day
From Paris by day

I will be posting about our trip to Brussels this past weekend soon, but I must get to sleep now. Tomorrow, we are off to Morocco, a whole new country, a whole new continent. As fascinating as Europe is, it is much like the United States, relatively speaking, so our first foray into Africa should be interesting. We fly into Essaouria, and will be traveling throughout Morocco for the next two weeks.

April in Paris

I have a new love…

…and her name is Burrata.  No, it is not a pastry.  (Shocking, I know).  It is an Italian cheese.

No, we’re not in Italy, but one of the wonders of Paris is the accessibility of all things fabulous from elsewhere in the world.

Burrata is creamy, salty, and tangy, all at once.  It was delivered fresh from Campania, Italy to the Italian food co-op in Paris’s 5th arrondissement today.  It was worth the hour long walk to the  co-op and the blatant ridicule and laughs the man behind the counter and those in line shared at my expense during my awkward efforts to order.  Yes, it was that good.

In Which We Storm the D-Day Beaches and Besiege Le Mont-Saint-Michel

This past weekend, we hopped a train to Northern France with Matt and Brad to check out the Normandy region of France.  Our first activity was to pick up the aqua box otherwise known as a Renault Kangoo.

From Weekend in Normandy

The ‘Goo was one of the most atrocious cars I have ever seen, but it had tons of room and it served us well.  The ‘Goo is a manual, so Sean took a couple of practice laps around town before we set out on the highway.  It’s like riding a bike, Sean told us. To his credit, he only stalled once.  In some of the towns, the roads were so narrow that the stone buildings jutted out in into the roadway, but Sean informed us that the ‘Goo felt like she was on rails.

We headed out to the Gold Beach first, where the ships the Allied forces purposely sank to create an artificial harbor on D-Day were still protruding from the water.

We then drove through the French countryside to Omaha Beach, which is one of the beaches where the American platoons landed on D-Day.  There, we explored the memorial museum set up by the United States on the land granted to the country by France.  Following the museum, we headed to the cemetery, where thousands of crosses and Stars of David were perfectly aligned in rows, marking the graves of 9,387 American soldiers who died in France during World War II.  The orderly rows, with the ocean waves in the background, belied the chaos that occurred on D-Day.

The hometowns of the soldiers were listed on the markers.  It was all too easy to find graves of men from Pennsylvania.  I was reminded of the line in Our Town where the narrator observed that many times soldiers fight for the freedom of people they’ve never met in places they’ve never seen.

We then wandered down to the beach itself, where two German bunkers still remain.  Looking at the peaceful coastline, it is hard to imagine the fighting, death and destruction that occurred just over sixty years before.

From Omaha Beach, we headed to Pont du Hoc, a sharp cliff that American Rangers had scaled while under fire on D-Day to reach and destroy German weapon stockpiles.

You were able to climb in and out of concrete crevices and holes, many of which were still lined with the original barbed wire.  In America, a site like this would be fenced off from the public.  In France, only the deepest holes were blocked off, and by blocked off, I mean that the government evidently inserted some newer barbed wire to deter people from going near the area.

The D-Day beaches, a significant part of World War II, were interesting to see with our own eyes.  Perhaps it is because any of the war-torn sites in the United States happened many years before our lifetime or the lifetimes of our family members, with the exception of Pearl Harbor.

However, we all agreed our favorite part of the trip was visiting Le Mont Saint Michel.  Mont Saint Michel is an island.  The first building on the island was first inhabited in 708.  The Benedictine monks settled into the abbey at the top of the mountain in the 10th century, while the village grew up below its walls.  The abbey and village are still here today, which is almost incomprehensible.  What is further incomprehensible is that the island was under siege from the British for 30 years during Britain and France’s 100 year war – almost our whole lifetimes.

We could see Mont Saint Michel way in the distance before we arrived in the town of Saint Michel.  There are no other way to describe it other than majestic.  In the late day fog, it looked like something from Disney Land, soaring high above the rest of the land.  The island itself raises high into the air.  When you got up close, you could see lots of old stone buildings jutting into the air around the island, culminating in the giant abbey at the very top.  On the land leading up to the island, sheep graze in the grass, most of whom barely paid attention to us as we photographed them.

I was expected Mont Saint Michel to be a cluster of old, unusable buildings, so I was surprised to learn that there are approximately 51 inhabitants on the island.  When we entered through a stone gate at the bottom of the island, I was even more surprised to see what looked like a quaint little European town, complete with gift shops, creperies, brasseries, a post office, and a hotel.

We followed the narrow, rambling cobblestone path up the hill.  Periodically, one of us would exclaim, wow.  This is really cool.

Up the hill, past the buildings, we climbed endless amounts of stairs, until we finally reached the abbey.  At the very top, light streamed through the windows of the otherwise dark chapel.

We then wandered through the stone rooms, each one more fascinating than the next.  We never did figure out how someone seamlessly integrated modern technology into the building.

I am sure we will be saying this a lot on this trip, but le Mont Saint Michel was one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen.  It is one of those places where it is impossible to capture the awe you feel when you see it up close, despite the hundreds of photos you take.

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