This post is a departure from my usual format. No pun intended (departure). HA. I had a handful of things running around my head that I’ve wanted to share, but don’t exactly fit into a ‘place’ per se. So here goes. I’ve titled them so you can skip to what interests you.
Overall – how is it? Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. That’s one of my all-time favourite John Denver songs. It applies to life, and to this trip. We took some down-time here in Krakow. We needed it. We are going to continue our R&R by spending more time in Gdansk (Poland) than we originally intended. Beyond the original 3 nights we planned in the middle of Gdansk (which is one of the tri-cities, Gdansk, Gdynia, and Sopot), where we will do some sightseeing, I decided to book a place close to the beach in Gdansk, to chill for a few extra days. In order to still visit the many other places we are excited about, unfortunately, we will need to skip Stockholm. The rest of our plans are intact, but always subject to change 🙂
Toilets/Bathrooms – In my experience since leaving the US, toilets almost always have two flush modes. At times labeled 1 and 2. Like when I was a kid and my parents asked ‘you need to go #1 or #2?’ HA! The toilets I’ve used in Europe seem to use just as much water but seem less effective than at home, if you know what I mean. At times, public toilets have no seats. Like in the ‘boy’ position, but no way of changing it. Looks like there are bolts (or bolt holes) FOR the seat, but no seat. Squat time baby. HA. On some trains, the seat is spring loaded to be ‘up’ for boys. You have to pull it down and sit on it before it springs up. That was Italiarail. Surprised? Ha. At other times, pretty common, public toilets are not free. That’s right, you pay to enter the toilet area. It’s usually in the range of 30 cents to 1 American dollar. Maybe $2 at the worst. The more you pay, in general, the nicer/cleaner the bathroom is. That makes sense. There was one on the street in Berlin – like a circular hut, 4x the size of a porte-potty in the US – that one had a timer. The door would open 20 minutes after you (pay and) enter. READY OR NOT! HA! It had a special mode, however, for handicapped. I’m not sure how it worked but with a code/badge, you would get 40 minutes instead of 20.
Cigarettes. Most of you know I’ve never smoked in my life. And I’m certainly not going to start now!! One thing I’ve noticed. You can’t ignore it. Cigarette packages here have disturbing pictures on them. Obviously to remind you of what cigarettes can do to you. I hate seeing this but I support it. It made me question. And realize. Why we don’t do this in America. Think about it. Are our politicians really looking out for us? I can’t imagine they don’t know about this idea and yet it’s not been implemented in America. If you know me you know I’m not a political person. I consider it a personal failure as an American that I don’t have the time and energy to follow the details of politics. I barely skim the surface. But this. This bothers me. We should do this. Seeing hat picture every time you pick up a pack of cigarettes. I have to believe this is going to deter our kids from picking up smoking. And, isn’t that worth ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY?? Rant over.
Health. Overall, Laney and I are in good health. Aside from that sickness in Bulgaria. We get worn out, I suppose that’s expected. Feel like I’m tired a lot. And it’s not unusual for us to not leave our apartment until 12 or 1 on days we don’t have something booked to do in the morning. I’ve noticed I haven’t needed my allergy or asthma medicine as much. That’s good.
Food – of course, it’s all about the food!! We are trying to eat the food of the region. And generally, we are doing pretty good. Also, we try to cook our own at least part of the time. In Paris, we cooked at home a lot. Not only because it’s expensive (but it is), but also because we had been eating out a lot before that, and were ready for something simpler, and we were chilling a lot, so not out and about all day, every day. While there, we made tomato and baguette sandwiches, sometimes with ‘rotisserie’ type chicken that I found at the store. I also made eggs as usual. And ‘french’ toast from some day-old baguette. Cooking depends a lot on being home, and on what is available at a nearby store that is ‘easy to fix’. Real cooking I haven’t done much. Partly because kitchens are so small. Sometimes we ‘cheat’. I had a McDonalds breakfast sandwich the other day. First time really cheating. We had to get in the car for the salt mine, and ‘grab and go’ breakfast isn’t that accessible here. And I was too lazy to make scrambled eggs again. HA. Laney had Subway a couple times in Krakow. We had Japanese the other night. A taste of home, ironically. But mostly, I have SO enjoyed the regional foods. Laney too. Though she is a little less adventurous than I.
Most adventurous? Kangaroo. Chicken gizzard. Whale (don’t judge). Blood sausage pierogi. Can’t think of anything else right now. Ha!
I’m going to do a post on just food at some point so I will save the pics for then.
Budget. I would say we are pretty much on budget so far. in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, my budget is higher than in, say, SE Asia, and South America. But, it seems we’re keeping to it pretty well.
Future planning. As I move through Europe, I’m planning the rest of Europe and also looking ahead to Nov through February/March. I’m putting the big rocks together, as my friend Joe Ghali would say. Big flights and tours are being booked 3-6 months in advance. Smaller rocks, like accommodation and trains, are in the 1-3 month range. Details of what to do when we get there, that’s within the month, sometimes just a day or two before. Though, I’ve learned that some of the outdoor/active stuff we like the most tends to book up early, so I’m going to pull that in a bit. Focus on that a bit more. This definitely provides some version of ‘work’ and a little stress. But it’s all worth it. Fun at times. Stressful at others.
Packing to move. This has been a bit tricky. Each airline we fly has a different set of rules. Most are discount airlines, like Spirit in AC, where after you buy your ticket, you buy a seat, buy a carry on, buy a checked bag. Cheap rates like $29 per person expand to $50 to $80pp, but still that’s not too bad. Most of these airlines have strict size regulations on carry ons. And it’s VERY SMALL. And the checked bag is a weight limit. Pretty much like the US. Sometimes it’s 30kg, so we can check just the big duffel. If it’s 20kg, we pull out the cheesy (but VERY USEFUL) nylon bag I stole from Dad and try to peel off some of that weight. Sometimes, they will combine the weight of 2 checked bags, so you just need to have 2 ‘bags’ purchased to cover the full weight.
Clothing/Stuff – As for stuff, it’s not rocket science. I think we have enough. When it’s hot, I can’t imagine why I have 2 pairs of jeans, a sweater, etc. but then it cools off and I remember. HA. I’m starting to get sick of my clothes tho. As expected. Just kinda boring wearing the same thing over and over. Even if it ‘works’. This, of course, is pretty easy to remedy. Just buy new stuff and toss the old. The best thing we packed? Rain jackets. Like windbreakers but waterproof.
Arguments. A group of guys from the UK the other night were pretty fascinated in our travel plans. They asked if we’d ‘fallen out’ yet. I said only once. And it, of course, was over something stupid. We were late for a tour, and could have arranged better our transportation there. When we finally grabbed a taxi, I failed to give the driver the address, and thought we would be close enough to walk, where he dropped us. Laney asked ‘why’ had I not given him the address. Frankly, I was pretty flustered and by the time I thought of it, he was driving and it wasn’t a good time to ask. I was irritated. Lots going on. Typical stuff. Otherwise, we get along great. We DO spend a lot of time apart. Separate rooms, when we can. Or just ignore each other in close proximity. HA. Headphones are our friends.
Overwhelmed. If there is one word to describe the trip, it’s this. (see note on being tired a lot, above). And this has both a good side and a bad. I’m overwhelmed with the fact we are ACTUALLY DOING THIS. Overjoyed. Then overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I have to do. The blogging (which, I do as much for myself as for you, no offence). All the planning. Trains, planes, buses, taxi’s, airbnb’s. And forget it when things change like with Amalfi (worth it) and now Gdansk. Or when I realise I’ve made a mistake. I’ve done that twice now. Had a flight out on the wrong day. Fortunately, our airbnb has, both times, been able to accommodate, so I keep the flight. Other times, I’m overwhelmed at the kindness of people. The friendliness. And then, at the history and stories of the places we go. The American cemetery in Normandy was a big one. Still is. So was hearing a big table in Krakow sing Sta Lat. Both times I’m trying to mop up my tears.
Practical Things. Travel Tools. I’ve come across a lot of recommendations for travel tools. Particularly from the Worldschoolers group on FaceBook. These are people who travel continuously with their kids. Here are some of my most-used tools (all on my phone, but also on the computer). Rome2rio. On this site/app, you enter ‘From’ and ‘To’ and it tells you all the possible ways to get from A to B. Plane, Train, Bus, Drive, combinations thereof. It includes Ferries too. And for each option, the estimated price range, AND the amount of total travel time. Very cool. Seat61.com. This site has insane advice about train travel (and some other methods). Mainly Europe and UK. But when to buy the tickets (early in some cases can save you TONS), where to buy them (fees, etc.) and what the best routes are. Skyscanner. For checking flights. I used this a lot in the beginning. I knew we would be hopping around and sometimes, planes are cheaper and faster than trains. Of course you need to account for shuttles/bus/taxi to and from the airport and the agg of plane travel, but it is what it is. This app allows you to say where you are and leave the ‘destination’ as Everywhere. Where can I go cheap, is the question. I find it’s better in Europe (where there are lots of cheap flights) vs the US where things are pretty expensive all around.
Airbnb – How have they been? Actually, great! Not a bad one yet. All clean. All comfy beds (reasonably). All with good, hot showers. I’ve not been good about taking pics at too many but here are some I took recently.
These are Paris. A small studio with a loft. I let Laney take the bed in the loft. The steps looked a little rough me. Especially in the middle of the night with no contacts in. Ha.
This, above, is what I now call a European shower. It’s just a small space with a shower head on the wall. At first I was a little weirded out by it. The toilet is just peeking out by the blue towel. So yes, the toilet gets wet. Sometimes the sink is in the same area. They get wet, but who cares? I think, if I needed another shower in my house, I might do this. Why not? You can make a powder room into a full bath. Even if you only use it occasionally. Just keep the toilet paper out of the spray. HA!
These are Poland. 2 separate bedrooms. They have numbers 1 and 2 so I suspect they are revered separelt at times. I’m ok with staying in hosts home but staying with strangers andsharibg a kitchen and bathroom with someone I don’t know AND have no reviews or track record on. No thanks.
Laundry – So, I don’t have a washer in NEARLY as many places as I thought I did. HA. My goal was every-other place. Turns out I failed at that. HA. But what I’ve learned is that things don’t need to be washed NEARLY as much as you might thing. Gross? maybe. HA. Survival. Plus, Dad bought me this cool Scrubba thing, which we use to store our dirty clothes, and then wash them in small batches, as needed. Mostly socks and underwear. When we get to Gdansk, WASHER! AND DRYER! A first, on the dryer. We usually use the towel-warming racks in the bathroom, or a sunny spot by an open window.
Windows and AC. AC is pretty unusual. Even when a place claims to have it. It’s been warm so we’ve had windows open a lot. Speaking of windows. NO screens. Pretty much anywhere. Paris may have been the ONLY Airbnb place we had that had screens. Do bugs come in? Some yes, but not many, and they leave almost as quickly.
Exercise – for my gym rat friends out there. As some of you know, I brought a TRX system. Some said ‘there will be gyms where you go’. In some cases, there are gyms, but they aren’t too close by, and without a car, it just hasn’t happened yet. In some places, finding one would be a challenge. SO, I’m glad I brought it. It was probably a month before I used it at all. Partly because we were travelling with other folks and extra busy. Partly just laziness. HA. Lately, Laney and I have been using it pretty regularly. A couple/few times per week. It’s definitely not the same as the gym, but it will do for now.
Well, that’s my stream of consciousness for now.
Hope you enjoyed reading!