This is a very long post, it’s mainly just info for me to remember next time I travel
- Overall i did well, I was worried about going in the first place, as I really don’t like getting places, but I actually enjoyed it all for the most part (except maybe the 14hr flight home and the week of Jetlag).
- I could navigate around quite well, and follow signage most times… you get to understand the words for entry and exit in foreign languages quite quickly.
- Get a small plastic coated fold out map, and a marker pen that writes on it. The hotel paper maps just don’t last.
- Google Maps is great, but it’s also great to have something to mark up and plan your assault on the city (especially in Paris where some Museums are closed Monday and some are closed Tuesday).
- Get there early – like 45mins before opening, so you are first in.
- Don’t go with someone who has different ideas than you, or make a deal to look at things at your own pace – I go through museums very very quickly because I’m a visual person and one 10sec look is as good as staring at the thing for a few mins. I would go nuts if I could not get in and out of some of these places quickly.
- The most important tip – get prepaid entry tickets where possible that allow you to skip the queue. I waited over an hour and a half in the queue for the Picasso exhibition in Paris and did not get anywhere in the queue because the museum filled up with all the special people first. So I left the queue and didn’t see the exhibition.
- Being slightly claustrophobic meant that if I had to miss out on something, I just would… eg the Eiffel Tower, when it had the sign up saying overcrowding was possible at the top and the queue was a mile long, I decided then and there that it was not worth it – there are many other tall things in Paris to climb (the hundreds of stairs at the Arc De Triomph for example).
- Watch out for the Gypsy beggars around the Musem’s in Paris – I got targeted by them 3 times. Twice was someone picking up a Gold ring whilst walking towards me, then asking me if it was my ring. I don’t know what the scam was but I just knew it was not right, and when it happened exactly the same way the second time I knew there was something to it.
- London, Paris and Barcelona’s were great. Easy to navigate and get around, but boy some of the connections at the bigger stations went for miles and miles.
- Whilst I was mainly on the District and Circle lines in London that are not very much underground, some of the tube stations feel like they are miles underground, which is not good for my level of claustrophobia. I tried to find a 3d map of the London tube system but, probably for good reasons, it is banned for security purposes.
- I had to get used to the crush… I worked out that if at least 1 or 2 people got off then I could fit… and if I just did not want to squeeze in, there is always the next one.
- In London it was best to get into the middle of the seats area next to the pole – it is way from the doors.
- Barcelona and Paris on some route’s have connecting carriages that open up the whole train – this is great as they are much less claustrophobic.
- Beggars and buskers on trains are a real pain.
- I need to learn how to say “turn your iPod down” in every language.
- Beer in London is great – the Ale’s rather than the Lager’s. Contrary to popular belief they are served cold and they are not gassy and very tasty.
- Beer in Spain is great – it’s cheap, and cold, and even cheaper than a soft drink or water in a lot of cases… sometimes not a great idea to have a few beers over lunch and then go out touristing.
- Beer in Paris is expensive and not worth it… occasionally wine may be cheaper but not very nice, and mostly all drinks, including sparkling mineral water are very expensive.
- I think I probably had about 2 good coffees on the whole trip. In London they try to pass off filtered coffee as americano / long black and even when they use a proper coffee machine it’s still very weak.
- So I switched to double espresso’s from then and still struggled… a few in Barcelona were thick as mud and tasted just as bad, and in Paris they were a half decent long black in a tiny cup, but still on the weak side for a long black.
- Switching to espresso in Spain was much easier as it’s easier ordering an “espresso doble” than an Americano.
- Trying to pass of Nespresso coffee (the ones made with the pod’s) as real coffee at the conference was really bad – but funnily enough the American’s loved it.
- Back home and even the long black’s are quite strong… we have good coffee here, but I’m sure I did not find the good places whilst away.
- Next time I go, I’m going to have someone waiting at the airport with my name on the card. I have proved to myself that I can do it – I can do the transfers myself and get there myself – I worked each route out down to the last step, and when Google Street View is available in more countries it will actually be much much easier. In Paris, for example, I actually got to my hotel without having a map – there was a local area map at the metro station and I found the last few streets from there. It’s just a pain to get through metro stations with luggage.
- 7 Flights in 25 days (6 International), and I had 1 piece of lost luggage for 24hrs and one 2 hr delay – so that’s really not too bad, I think.
- Having good luggage really made a difference… It was light – even at 16.9kg full it was easy to carry and manoeuvre, and It was easy to pack.
- The wheels are good – and they don’t make that horrible clickly noise on the cobble stones – it just wheeled effortlessly behind me most times.
- Thank goodness I had basic change of clothes and all necessary toiletries (including shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste and cleanser in the little bottles in the clear plastic sealed bag) in my hand luggage as it came in very handy when my bag took the scenic route to Paris and I did not have for 24hrs (but that wasn’t all the airline’s fault… they were quite good… the bag had arrived at the hotel early in the morning but they did not tell me about it).
- I had a great system for packing up at each hotel – clear the bed and make piles – handbag; pockets; backpack; toiletries; bag.
- I had a large mesh back for dirty washing, which worked great for taking to the laundromat or serviced laundry also, plus separating the dirty from clean in the bag.
- I packed toiletries first, then shoes, and other hard stuff, then squeezed in the clothes around them
- My bag had a separate compartment for underwear and small things, so they did not get lost floating around in the main part of the bag, this worked really well.
- I was very successful in only buying tiny souvenirs that did not weigh much at all 15.9kg going out and 16.9kg coming back.
- I picked well with the hotels… one was recommended to me, the rest I picked myself.
- I always went for the newest or refurbished one so at least the bathrooms would be good.
- I researched trip advisor extensively.
- It pays to query something, as at the Umi hotel in London, I queried the recent upgrade of the hotel as they had some bad trip advisor comments, and they gave me a fridge in the room and a nice bottle of Australian wine on arrival – excellent service!
- Get one with wifi included free – the Praktik in Barcelona was great! the London and Paris hotels had paid services which is a real pain fiddling with user names and passwords each time you want to log on… i’m sure they really don’t make that much money on the internet so they should just give it away for free!!! and these expensive hotels that charge 30 euro per day for internet access are a joke!!!!!
Hotel Details (I will do trip advisor ratings and upload some video later)
- London – Umi Hotel – great for 50 pound a night but unless they really keep up with the maintenance it could get bad quickly. Great service and good breakfast included.
- Bilbao – Miro Hotel – lovely hotel and right near to the Guggenheim – this one was the most expensive when I booked but when the dollar crashed it ended up being the same price, as I had paid for this one when the dollar was high.
- Barcelona – Praktik Hotel – excellent Hotel, very small rooms, no services, but great price and great location – and free Wifi or Computer.
- Paris – Hotel Jeanne D’Arc – older style but still clean and reasonable. Good service generally, OK breakfast, reasonably priced WiFi, but excellent, excellent location.
Chatting to people
- Whilst I would love to travel with someone else for a lot of the time, travelling alone makes me much more outgoing than I normally am – I force myself to chat to people, and especially when everyone around is talking Spanish or Vrench it is great to have a chat to the nearest English speaking person, and I met some great people that way.
- On the first tour of the architecture festival, after the tour, I went up to three of the guys that were on the tour alone and invited them to come and get some dinner with me (after a disastrous lunch, and feeling very hungry, I suggested to them that it’s a better idea to stuff up the meal ordering as a group than as a solo person). Two of they guys said yes, and we went and had a meal… yes, we didn’t make a great choice with our meal, but we had great conversations and met up again a few times over the course of the conference to share a meal or coffee and became great conference buddies.
- Serendipity also plays a part – in Bilbao I had a lovely afternoon tagging along with an English couple and then ran into them in the street twice again that night. In Barcelona I ran right into my turkish dinner buddy in the middle of the busy main street, far away from both our hotels.
- There was also a lovely German couple, an American older lady who was well travelled and travelling alone, and a lovely German lady also that I chatted to on my travels, just to mention a few.
- Also catching up with friends and family was excellent – it was as the years apart had vanished as soon as I started chatting to them.
- The conference was great for interaction and it’s a great thing to do to have something to do where you know you will have something in common with the people there – an instant talking point.
- Aussies will always find other Aussies and i met so many at the conference – you can spot an Aussie accent a mile off in a sea of yanks and poms.
- The Be2Camp, Green Drinks and the Girl Geek dinners in London were great – excellent conversations with like minded people – and many business cards exchanged – i have a lot of email catching up and linked in connections to foster now that I am home.
- Going from <10 deg in Paris to >35 deg in Dubai in less than 24hrs is not a good idea – I was so chilled to the bone in Paris that with the temperature changes and the long flights I inevitably came down with a cold.
- I need to allow myself time for rest… in just over 3 weeks I had 2 half days of rest… the other days have been go go go the whole time…
- I have tried to do more things at night but after going going going the whole day i just want to crash in the evening, early… unfortunately CNN does not make for good wind down and relax television, so thank goodness for the internet and catching up with twitter, and for having a good book, which I bought when I had a 2hr delay at Gatwick.
- There is no way in hell you would get me to Europe in the Summer. I went late October / Early November and there was still way too many tourists for my liking (especially in Paris)… I will happily cope with the cold to avoid the tourists!
- The eeepc was a godsend – just being able to have the computer available any time was great… and it’s so easy to carry around – not lugging a big laptop around
- Getting the sim card in London was great, especially paying 5 pound for unlimited internet access on the phone.
- Even if you have to pay to use the internet on the mobile phone it is great, especially for things like google maps when you are lost (and with the phone’s built in GPS it works really well).
- Twitter – I really would not have coped without twitter – being able to keep in contact with everyone back at home and see that life was happening just the same every day was great, and being able to update my travels onto twitter was great also… I think therefore I twitter is an apt saying… it’s not real and it didn’t happen, unless it’s on twitter.
Well most of this post was typed on the eeepc whilst waiting for my Paris / Dubai flight… I think there are a lot of good tips for me to remember for next time, especially having a particular purpose for the trip, meeting up with friends, and giving myself time to rest.