Thursday, May 01, 2008

Euro-tic Adventure, Part IX of X

Budgeting

When we first planned this trip out back in January, we'd decided that $3000 per person was the maximum amount we wanted to spend. In the end, despite all the heart palpitations over the expensive pounds, we actually spent just under $2500 per person. We alternated lavish meals with local foods from the market and hit the freebie museums (especially in London), but never sacrificed the things we WANTED to see because they were expensive. Of the $2500, about $1200 went towards major transportation (planes and trains), $600 went towards lodging, and the remaining $700 was our slush fund for the Metro, food, drinks, and daily attractions. If you plan ahead, going to Europe is suprisingly feasible -- particularly if you travel with another person, and especially if you're under the age of 26 (those little snots get discounts on EVERYTHING).

We did not use any of the all-inclusive tourist passes, partly because we didn't want to visit many of the included places, and partly because going off-season meant there were no lines to begin with!

Going Off-Season

The warm travel season for Europe officially starts in May. Even towards the end of the trip, we could feel the increase in tourists acutely. To me, going right at the end of the off-season was a worthwhile trade-off -- we got to experience the cities and most attractions without any crowds or lines. The downsides: sometimes our toes froze, and some places had greatly reduced hours or were closed for renovation. If you don't mind a "cold, but getting warmer" Marco Polo approach to tourism, April is a great month to go. Any earlier would be way too cold to be worth it.

Big City Awards

LondonParisBarcelona
MetroEasiest To UseMost TediousMost Efficient
AttractionsCheapestMost ArtsyLeast Interesting
CleanlinessCleanestUnmemorableMost Likely to Smell Like Raw Sewage
GraffitiNearly PristineGraffiti EverywhereGRAFFITI EVERYWHERE!
SmokingMore than the StatesMore than LondonEveryone Smokes
PricesPlum CrazySlightly PriceyNormal
ToiletsIn the BasementFree self-washing street toiletsFilthy, even in Burger King
HistoryFeels ModernHistory Is OmnipresentBest Blend of Old and New
FoodTasty and FillingToo Much Cheese and BreadI Hope You Like Seafood
DrinksGreat BeersEven the Cheap Wines are GoodWine and Beer -- Your Choice
LocalsVery FriendlyFriendly When ApproachedWhat Locals? It's All Tourists
NavigationEnglish is FunStraightforwardOnly Sucks When You Leave Downtown
PetsWhat Pets?CatsReally Wimpy Dogs
CharacterBusy and ModernAncient and CharmingBusy and Modern

Favourites

I preferred the little cities over the big cities in general. Carcassonne was wonderful, but I could see it getting boring after more than a couple days. Collioure was a perfect idyllic setting, and someplace I might want to retire to someday. Out of the big cities, London was my favourite for its charm. If I spoke all three languages fluently and could move to any of these cities today, my pick would be London -- I could see myself living a daily life there without to much effort.

To Be Concluded tomorrow...

GTA 4 did not release with stunt stabbings
Free Tibet, but not on Mount Everest
London blogger exposes life on the Tube

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