We're heading to Europe!

Guess what interwebs! Sam and I are planning a trip to Europe. After some major motivation and begging from her, and tons of reluctance to spend money from me in this economy we have decided that we’re going to take a nice vacation to a faraway land. The current plan is to fly to Rome and spend a few days there, fly to Barcelona for a few days, then end the vacation in Paris.   Even though I’m more of the Asia traveler being most comfortable in Hong Kong and Tokyo, I’m looking forward to immersing myself into the European food, history and culture.

We’ll update you guys on the planning phase of our trip, as this is often the most exciting and important part of any vacation.

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Planning For Our Trip to Europe

Let’s begin planning for our trip, these are the main topics we are focused on right now:

  1. What is our budget?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. When are we going?

Budget

moneySince S and I do not want to use up all of our vacation at once, we decided to take a 2-week vacation.  So, we now know the length.  Next we asked some of our friends how much a typical 2-week trip to Europe was. Most people mentioned around $5000 a person if we are staying in hotels and $4000 if we were staying in Hostels.  Since I’m traveling with S, I want to make sure she’s safe throughout the trip, so Hostels (cue the movie) are out of the question.  I don’t want to have to worry about someone creeping up on her in the middle of the night, or having our luggage stolen from us when we’re in the bathroom (this may happen, but European backpacking is usually safe for men and women).  Therefore, we decided to stay within a $5000 budget range per person.  That’s $10,000, which I hope we do not completely spend.  Here is our proposed budget:

Flight 2 x $1000 $2000
Accomodations 14 x $150 $2100
Food 14 x $75 $1050
Transit (Trains, Buses, Taxis) 14 x $50 $700
Shopping 14 x $50 $700
Attractions 14 x $30 $420
Leftover for everything else   $3030

I highly doubt we would spend this much, but it’s always good to plan a little extra just in case.

Destination

So, knowing how much we wanted to spend, now it’s time to figure out where we want to go.  Since this is my first time going to Europe, I wanted to go to the more touristy areas.  When Western Europe comes to mind, I think of London, Amsterdam, Rome, and Paris.  S has already been to Amsterdam, and London seems too much like many American cities. So, the logical choice was Paris and Rome.  S also mentioned that she really wanted to go to Barcelona in Spain.  Looking at the map of Europe, it doesn’t look like any of these cities were really that accessible to each other.  My imagination of traveling through Europe was through trains thanks to the great game of “Ticket to Ride”.  With further research, though, we’ve found that flying is another economical and efficient manner of traveling between cities.

Here’s our list of cities we would like to go to: Barcelona, Paris, and Rome.

Date of Travel

Timing this trip can make or break our budget.  If we decide to fly out in High Season for any of the countries, we’d be paying a pretty high premium for flights and lodging.  Plus, we’d miss people-watching many of the locals (that would be no fun).  We decided to choose our dates based on weather, middle to low season, and work schedules.  The best time for us is October.  Fall weather should not be too bad, and a majority of the tourists are long gone.  Plus we should be saving almost half on airfare and lodgings.  We also decided to maximize our savings by flying out on weekdays so we’re selecting dates on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

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5 Day Travel Itinerary: Washington DC

I went to Washington DC a couple years ago to visit some relatives and took the time to tour the city. Washington DC is a great city if you’re into museums. I happen to love museums, so this trip was a blast.

The National Mall is a strip of Smithsonian Museums in front of the Capitol in Washington DC.  Because the Smithsonian Institute is government funded, all the museums in the National Mall are free, which makes DC an ideal vacation spot for those of you who want to take a trip on a budget.

Make sure you check what other events are occurring during your trip. I didn’t and happened to go to DC when there was a national Boy Scout convention. These kids traveled in the 20s and were in every museum, making it difficult to see each exhibit.

Weather:
We went in August and the weather was scorching! The 10 minute walks to and from each museum were difficult in the 90 degree weather. I would recommend going in the spring or fall when the weather is less extreme.

Must see:
The National Air & Space Museum
Holocaust Memorial Museum
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Mt. Vernon (George Washington’s home)
National Zoo

I would skip:
International Spy Museum – Was pretty lame and not worth the $18 entrance fee

Since there are tons of interesting museums in DC, I created an aggressive itinerary to follow on my trip.

Itinerary and photos after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Rick Steve's Rome 2010 – Night Walk Across Rome

RomeNightWalkMap

Rick Steves is one of my heroes.  He seems like the nicest person on earth and he’s traveled to so many great places in Europe.  I’ve basically read Rick Steves’ Rome 2010 twice within the past 2 weeks and now I’m finally taking notes.  Follow along with me as I jot down his popular walks and tips.

Campo de’ Fiori

Start at the Giordano Bruno statue.

What to see: Theater of Pompey where Julius Caeser was assassinated.

What to eat: Forno – hot Pizza.

Piazza Navona

What to see: The Four Rivers Fountain – Statues of four river gods support an Egyptian obelisk.

What to eat: Tre Scalini – Famous for their rich chocolate ice cream

The Pantheon

What to see: The Pantheon – It will be beautifully flood lit.

From the Pantheon to Piazza Colonna

What to eat: Tazza d’Oro Casa del Caffe – granita di caffe con panna (coffee slush with ice cream)

What to see: Egyptian obelisk – Taken by Augustus after his victory against Mark Antony and Cleopatra

What to eat: Giolitti’s – Rome’s most famous gelateria.

The Trevi Fountain

What to see: The Trevi Fountain – This was built to show off the abundance of water brought to the city from the great aqueducts.  The statue depicts the figure of Ocean at random areas of his watery Kingdom.

The Spanish Steps

What to see: The Spanish Steps – Named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican which has been around for the last 300 years.

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When in Rome…

Rome Spanish Steps Night

Ciao! K and I are enjoying our first ever European tour together in which we will explore 3 of the most romantic and historic cities in the world – Rome, Barcelona and Paris. Our first stop of this adventure takes place in Rome. Rome, such a beautiful city. We’ve only had one full day here so far, but I’m already in love. But before I write about today, I’ll write about our very first experience as all visitors should experience.

We landed at about 12 noon at the Fiumicino airport and opted to take the train to our vacation apartment rental in the center of Campo de’ Fiori, a famous square with restaurants and a day market selling everything from spices to seafood to cured meats to touristy dust collectors.

Rome St Cecilia

After settling in, we headed to Trastevere for Rick Steves’ walking tour. Just like every other tourist in Europe, we’re strong followers on Rick Steves. His books are very detailed and they sometimes take you off the beaten path. Through this walking tour, we saw the Church of St. Cecilia, Piazza in Piscinula and the Piazza Santa Maria. Trastevere is a cute neighborhood inhabited by locals. We were instructed by our apartment rental manager to “get lost” in this neighborhood. We didn’t exactly get lost, since we always plan things out, but we did explore.

Taverna della Scalla Cacio y Pepe

For dinner, we landed at a mediocre Italian restaurant called Taverna della Scalla for a classic Roman dish, cacio y pepe (black pepper and parmesan pasta), Napoli pizza (margherita pizza with anchovies) and mozzarella di bufala with parma ham.

Rome Pantheon Night

From there, we took the Rome night walk tour since I am told… that is how everyone should first see Rome. Each of these destinations are beautifully lit. We started off at our apartment in Camp de’ Fiori then headed for Piazza Navona, one of the city’s most famous squares. The Piazza Navona is a lot larger than Campo de’ Fiori and it is filled with restaurants, street vendors and the famous Four Rivers Fountain. We headed for the Pantheon then to the Trevi Fountain. You can’t go to the Trevi and not throw in a coin, you just can’t. So, we did and left after a few dozen photos. Our last stop was the Spanish Steps. We hung out for a while, even sat on one of the many steps to people watch. It was beautiful. At the end of the walk, we were exhausted as that was a travel day. Stay tuned for our 2nd day of adventure!

Rome Trevi Fountain Night

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