Category Archives: Travel: Europe

PACKING LIST:Backpacking around Europe

cafe in paris
I studied in Paris in college (oh the things we did… ah youth.) and then my cousin and I traveled around for a month or two after I got out of classes.

Bag:
Granite Gear Vapor Pack
or
Eagle Creek Voyage 65L Travel Pack or a Eagle Creek Switchback and daypack or purse like the EC Drifter*

*remember you have to carry this comfortably even when you have your full pack on, so a daypack that doesn’t attach can be a tedious chore and I tend to hand things that I have to work to carry to the nearest busker as a tip.

Clothes:

  • Black pants
  • Khaki Cargo pants
  • Really good walking shoes (I use Keen’s or my Merrell boots-I’ll leave it to you to decide yours, just remember that you need good foot/ankle support as you are carrying all your stuff (perhaps 20 pounds) on you for long distances on hard surfaces.)
  • black tshirts
  • sleep shirt or light sweatshirt (you can always buy clothes when you are there… I actually prefer this… especially on beaches, the roadside vendors always have the coolest clothes.)
  • a skirt
  • shorts
  • Socks (smartwool)
  • Undies (ex
    officio magic undies
    )
  • 2 scarves (I use the pashminas-useful as a blanket or a scarf)
  • Jammies/hotel wear (I tend to go with yoga pants as mine are quick drying and can double as another pair of pants.)

Stuff:

  • swimsuit – for the beach and less-than-private shower facilities
  • crocs/ flipflops / shower shoes – I like Crocs because I can walk in them for long distances, but they can be a bit bulky (though for the ladies, the Mary Janes are much more manageable). However, they are waterproof and if you are staying in hostels (or skeevy hotels 😉 ) you want to wear these in the shower. Really.
  • Camera+charger and spare cards
  • A book (and just trade someone for a different one when you are done. Works on the AT, works in the rest of the world.)
  • journal
  • A thumbdrive(and portableapps configured***) for internet cafes -card adapter for your camera** card + place on the web to upload them (flickr or XDrive, etc)
  • Silk Sleep sack (good for both hostels or when the harsh chemicals that they wash sheets in hotels in burn your skin as they do mine. This is also good for adding another +10 degree rating to your sleeping bag without adding a ton of weight or having to buy a new one.)
  • toiletries

**or, instead of chargers, bring along your USB cables (bonus if multiple things you have charge off of mini USB) and bring a Solio [My review | Amazon] and its wall charger. You can tie to the top of your backpack and let it charge in the Cezanne-esque light of the valleys in Central France or plug it into the wall where you are staying.)

***just install portable apps to a directory on your WIN machine and start using it. After about 2 weeks of regular use you will have all your bookmarks and setup about like you like it (actually, I recommend you do this anyway as a backup). Then just copy it to your thumbdrive and go play! Another sneaky trick is to double up on the adapter and put a memory card in it to hold your portable apps instead of buying a thumbdrive (and portable apps sits quite happily on a 512M card, so you can use old cards that aren’t big enough to hold your larger pixel depth images from your camera.)

….or you can just put a bunch of clean underwear in a backpack and go! (As a matter of fact, my cousin put two skirts, two shirts and clean undies in a carry-on bag and did just this.)

PACKING LIST:Paris 1 week

So, Paris is a bit of a dressier city…even for me, the REI poster child.
I’m not going to go bananas and wear heels (the world would end thankyouverymuch) or dresses, but I do tend to spiff just a bit when I am there.

Bag:
Purple eBags WeekendereBags Purple Weekender

Clothes:

  • Black pants
  • Black skirt
  • Khaki jeans
  • Black shirt (that can double for a nice dinner out or daywear)
  • White shirt
  • Several black t’s and white t’s (for under sweaters, other shirts etc.)
  • Sweater
  • Patterned shirt (x2)
  • jammies/socks/undies
  • scarf (patterned, black-when you walk around in the cold with the same coat on, I tend to want to vary the accoutrements)
  • Keen Briggs tennies
  • Black shoes (something un-tennis shoe like)
  • Things:

  • Camera (+charger, spare cards)
  • Computer (VAIOlet + cables, bluetooth keyboard, mousie, Travel G Router)
  • Shopping bag (something that folds up in your day pack for trips to the supermarché)
  • notebook/pen/travel watercolors (wanna know how to get the French to talk to you even if you are a feeelthy American? Start sketching or painting in a cafe. They love it and are adorable about it, too. I really do adore the French, but you have to accept that they are a completely alien culture from the U.S. They clearly have other priorities, flaws yes, but we have our own as well.)
  • eBook (+waterproof cover)
  • Pocket wallet (for metro tickets, immediate cash needs, 1 credit card-should fit in a pants pocket that isn’t your back pocket)
  • Paris Packing Image

    Things to do in Paris when you are not dead

    PLEASE NOTE: I wrote this back before the EURO took over, so I don’t have cost approximations anymore… I think it was about a 1.5 FF=1$ conversion then. Happy Paris-ing!

    Whether you are backpacking around or just on a regular vacation, here’s my list of things to do:

    1. Buy a liter of Evian and carry it around in your bag (see the packing list for details) to drink. Cokes cost 25-50 FF ($5-$10) each. Think about that when you order drinks. Outside of a cafe or restaurant, you will want to drink the water and get carryout food to eat in a park or walking along.
    2. Buy a carnet (10 Metro tix) and use the Metro to get to the farthest point out, then walk back to your hotel. It will be worth the walk back. You will see so many more things than you would if you just took the Metro everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, the Metro is incredibly efficient and all that, but sometimes, the goodies aren’t on the main streets or in the guidebooks.
    3. Go to any cafe and order coffee (say this: “Du cafe, s’il vous plait.”), its actually espresso, but drink as much of it as you can. That way you’ll have a nice buzz and the world will seem to move slow, thus extending your vacation time. If you just can’t take the espresso route order the cafe crème, which is more like cafe au lait here.
    4. Catacombs (Metro: Denfert Rochereau) It will take you about 3 hours to walk all the way through the catacombs and longer if you decide to really look around you. Check in your guidebook when the catacombs are closed, like all the other museums they are closed one or two days during the week. If you are sensitive to ghosts this may not be the best place to go.
    5. Au Pied des Cochons, near St. Eustache cathedral (Metro: Les Halles) St Eustache pastiche is a restaurant that I adore! They love to hear about how wonderful their food is and the chef will basically treat you like royalty even if you speak only English. Most places will sort of do this, but this place I really think they deserve the praise. Carpaccio is wonderful if the have it on the menu still.
    6. Eiffel Tower(Metro: Bir Hakeim),Paris 05/97 at the base of the Eiffel Tower but do yourself a favor and walk across one of the bridges to get to the tower. Its really big. Yes, its cool looking, but the thing that always strikes me is that its soooo biiiiggg. Underneath the tower itself are hot dog vendors. Buy one and get the homemade spicy mustard. Then, go back and get another one.
    7. After you have eaten too many hot dogs, sandwiches niçoises, sandwiches au jambon et beurre on baguettes, then it is time for crepes. My favorite is the one with Nutella (a hazelnut chocolate spread.) but you can get different toppings.Most vendors of food on the street have wonderful food and MUCH cheaper than restaurants. Good for the daytime eating. At night go to a cafe on the street that has “menus prix fixes.” Eat outside on the sidewalk tables.
    8. Musée D’Orsay (Impressionism and more modern art) (Metro: Musee D’Orsay) has my favorite paintings in the whole world: “Les Raboteurs du Parquet” Gustave Caillebotte, “La Charmeuses de Serpent” Henri Rousseau and the sculpture by Degas “La Petite Danseuse” Orsay is an old railroad station recently converted into a museum. Look around at the architecture as well as the art.
    9. Cluny Museum (medieval art)(Metro: Cluny La Sorbonne)
    10. Louvre basement LouvreKitty with base of old chateau in the North wing…I can’t remember which wing that is, Richelieu, I believe. The Louvre is worth several walk throughs. Go one day and nose around. Leave for lunch, rest, then go back (your ticket will let you back in for the day) Then a few days or a week later go back and concentrate on the areas you really want to look at.
      Don’t try to see everything and avoid the French painter’s wing if you value your sanity.
    11. Luxembourg gardens (Metro: Luxembourg)IMAGE013 was near one of my old stomping grounds in the 5th arrondissement. Its gorgeous. Go there and look around the grounds, don’t miss the bee keepers hut near the west entrance and then go sit in the center near the fountain and people watch.
    12. Pantheon (Metro: Luxembourg) is also in the 5th, just up Rue Soufflot. Go out of the East entrance of the Luxembourg gardens and then walk straight up the street.
    13. Pigalle (Metro: Pigalle), the red light district, is cool during the day, but at night you’ll have more propositions that the Legislature after a reformist movement. Anyone and anything will proposition you, then your husband/wife after you say no…they really don’t care. If its transvestites you are wanting to see, go to the Bois de Boulogne after dark and just watch as the entire cast of La Cage au Folles seems to seep out of the woodwork. Its really cool!
    14. Arc de Triomphe (Metro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile) is the absolute largest tribute to one’s own ego I have ever seen. Napoleon really loved himself. Another good place to go is…
    15. Les Invalides and the musée de guerre (Metro: Ecole Militaire). This is where Nappy is entombed. A very large monument to a very short man. The real attractions here are the gold covered dome (beautiful on a sunny day with those Paris blue skies), the Musée de Guerre inside the back wings of Invalides with suits of armor form the middle ages… ) and finally the Rodin museum out in the open air. Acid rain and all.
    16. Picasso museum (Metro: 3rd arrondissement, I believe.?.) Need I say more?

    PARIS ’99: day 3: Happiness is a warm internet connection

    Slogged out of bed (still sick) to nice offering of pain au chocolat and Carte Noire coffee on the thick side (mmm…motor oil.) and thank you bugboy!
    Prepared myself to do battle with the three headed beastie of tourism and sallied forth into the wilds of Paris.
    Deb spent her day toute seule [all by herself] as was her prerogative…and bugboy and I went to the 6th arrondissement.

    IMAGE014

    Took the Metro to Mabillion and walked along the backside of St. Sulpice. I think that the back parts of cathedrals are so much more interesting than the front parts, so this wasn’t a bad thing at all.

    IMAGE026

    It also was the direction rumored to hold an internet cafe.
    I had done a search on the web of listed cafes and it worked completely miserably for London, so I didn’t have a lot of faith in it.
    Stopped in a La Poste to get some stamps for my cartes postales for the fredlet fans at home and ended up with prepaid envelopes… not exactly what I had in mind, but the guy was so earnest about saving me money (not to mention that he was really nice and didn’t just switch into English because he knew I am american…which is a habit shared by MOST of the french people I know.) I love the look of the post cards with foreign stamps and postmarks and any abuse that it goes through in the journey home…à la Griffin and Sabine.
    Followed the street around the back of Le Sénat down the Rue de Medecis and SUCCESS!
    Cafe Orbital (complete with webcam..however, it doesn’t seem to be up at the time of this writing…so try occasionally and see if it works…) saved my life from a lethal case of DT’s from lack of email. Mailed all the people I had been craving and got my email from various and sundry webbies, surfed for a few minutes then my allotted time was up.
    Cafe Orbital is right across the street from the Jardins de Luxembourg, so we walked over there long enough to get rocks in my socks then headed for the Boule Miche [Boulevard St. Michel]. I took bugboy into the McDonald’s for un coca [a coke] where I used to fuel my nights of drunken revelry back in 1990 (No really dad, you didn’t waste any money sending me to Paris for school…really). Say whatever you want, but its cheaper than eating just about anywhere in Paris…and when you are having withdrawals from coca cola, its dirt cheap.

    Bugboy immediately cottoned on to the fact that it is indeed a “Royal Cheese” rather than a “Royal with Cheese” as was previously mentioned in Pulp Fiction.
    Next door the the restaurant du diable [the devil’s eatery] was a cheesy postcard, bought a few more since I had previously exhausted my supply. Waved briefly up the Rue Soufflot to the Pantheon and we were off again.
    Guibert Jaune lie in wait at the end of the Boule Miche. I ferreted out the papeterie [paper shop] au sous sol [in the basement]. Triumphant price on a wooden artists model (52FF=about $10, where in the states they are about $90!) nabbed a few more cadeaux [presents] drooled a bit more at all the art supplies and rounded off the fetishistic shopping trip with another notebook.

    IMAGE020

    Notre Dame,

     

    Notre Dame was trussed up like a pig in scaffolding, so the view was pretty dismal. We walked around back to the better view (IMHO) anyway. Flowers were magnificent in the sunlight and this really cute little girl with this funky camera was taking her mother’s picture.

    La Petite Photographeuse

    La Petite Photographeuse,

    Moved along to the book sellers along the river in the 6th and perused their wares all the while viewing the fabulous view of Notre Dame de Paris in springtime. On whim, we decided to go to Pére Lachaise cemetery to visit Jim Morrison. After 10 years of visiting Paris, I had never made it over there…and it was high time I made the pilgrimage.
    The 20th is a very calm place. I’m sure they get sick of the groupies hanging out in front of J.M.’s grave all the time. Lots of funky carvings and gorgeous graves. I took and entire roll of just funky looking things while I was there, and I’ll scan a few when I get them developed.
    Cobblestones will kick your butt everytime though. After about 20 minutes, I was dying. (Mind you, I had made the 9 mile trek with no adverse effects the previous day…so it was the cobblestones.)
    J.M.’s grave was quite sedate compared to the tales that my cousin had told me when she went there. I remembered her pics and her saying that there was a giant crowd, candles and a wake-like attitude..but it seemed to me to be more of a bunch of tourists with a macabre sense of curiosity. Oh well.
    I decided it was time to test bugboy’s learning on how to ride the métro…so I made him lead me home. I was just going to follow him regardless of whether he made any mistakes…so if we ended up in London it was his problem. He did rather well and we made it home around 5:30 ish.
    Deb was already back and we had dinner then went out for dessert. Late night pillage for essentials at the Monoprix across the street (Nutella, Carte Noire, cookies, etc…) and then home to bed. Am pooped.

    total miles walked:approximately 6

    PARIS ’99: day 2: will work for hip replacement…again

    The third time I woke up (around 3 AM), I couldn’t go to sleep til about 6 AM. So 8 AM was a shock to my already exhausted system. I finally dragged my hiney out of bed around 9:30. Deb administered Carte Noire coffee-industrial strength and we chatted until 11.
    The order of the day was walking.
    Started off walking the Champs de Mars to the Eiffel Tower…struggled through tourists and up the river to the Pont de L’Alma, where Diana’s memorial is… graffittied and grotty looking. I’m disappointed about that, actually…and more than a little surprised. Something screamingly nasty has been released around there, so we trundled up to the Champs Elysées to remove ourselves from the psychic ickiness.
    Fouquet’s for breakfast of pain au chocolate [chocolate croissant] pain au raisin [raisin roll] and brioche sucrée [sugar covered brioche]. There, snotty french waiters (normalcy returns) grumbled about the impending rain du jour. it didn’t rain though. =: )
    Followed the Champs Elysées along to the Place de la Concorde and then up the Rue de Rivoli for semi-casual shopping. Deb avoided the ‘abortion’ (that I. M. Pei pyramid that is the entrance to the Louvre-I don’t think it is horrible, but I do think the context is a little wacky) but I dutifully took Bugboy for a looksee at its pointiness.
    Toward the end of the Louvre we triumphed at the hunt with a pair of black criss-crossy shoes for me. yeah! Deb had shoe visions of another particular store, so we moved on. Also dodged into Marks & Spencer for Deb to grab some lounging shorts and while Bugboy and I were waiting on her we watched some bagpipe players in full regalia (Is there anything worn under the kilt? No, everything is in perfect working order…) but I really didn’t pay too much attention to the fact that they were way out of context in Paris since we were in a British store.
    IMAGE009
    We had to stop for light sustenance after the first part of the day’s walk (it was after lunch, after all…) just past the Rue du Pont Neuf. More of the fabulous sandwich action and endless quantities of café crème that I adore…yum!
    Walked past the Tour St. Jacques which is a giant flamboyant Gothic tower that they used to use for fire watches, but really isn’t used for anything anymore that I know of. Everyone I’ve ever talked to has a soft spot in their hearts for it…
    This time it was Deb’s turn to return successful from the hunt. She scored a new pair of Arche sandals near the Pompidou Center …where we were headed to pillage the internet cafe.
    D’OH! The internet cafe in the Pompidou didn’t even exist anymore! They were redoing the whole museum for the L’année 2000 and it was a casualty of the reconstruction. So much for mailing everyone. It was frustrating to say the very least since AOL, which supposedly will let people check their mail WASN’T letting me log on.
    Deb was still in shopping mode, so we left her at Les Halles and metro’d it back to the apartment to rest our dogs. We were followed soon enough by the shop meister Deb with provisions for dinner of pasta and a hunk of roast beast for me.
    AOL still proved to be elusive for the rest of the night despite my, bugboy’s (…and my mother’s help) best efforts to connect.
    I will deal with their carcasses later. There will be blood and lots of it with white hot death raining down upon them. Je te le jure…[I swear it to you…] (Ooohhh..don’t I sound medieval!)
    total miles walked:approximately 9

    PARIS ’99: day 1 Dude, business class ROCKS!

    I lucked out on this trip. My mom had frequent flyer miles that were going to expire and she offered them to me. (Tough life, right? Hey, if you are offered good things, accept them gracefully and HAVE FUN!) Aside from the fact that I had enough room to stretch out my legs (short ones though they are) I am simply amazed that I even made it to Paris in the first place.
    I had stayed out late on the previous Saturday night and then having the time change, I was a little groggy anyway. In addition to that, several weeks before I mentally had shifted my days 1 forward. Ya know, I thought it was Tuesday when it was Monday…and this had been going on for weeks…so I thought I needed to be at the airport on Tuesday oops.
    Luckily, bugboy called me and was doing his last minute panic of “I’ve never been overseas before…am I packing right? What have I forgotten?” and I actually had to look at my tix and notice that I’d better get my butt in gear and finish all my little details. Thanks bugboy! So I actually made it to the plane on time and on the right day. Sheesh.
    But, back to the aforementioned business class…oh, heavenly chair.
    Feet rests. Seats lean waaaayyyy back. Seat wide enough for fat fredlet fanny…and lots of toys to futz with…no map, alas. (must just be for the plebeians, let them eat cake and all that jazz…) No big deal though. I had enough to distract me.
    “Ms. Fredlet?” (huh huh uhhuh huhuh…she called me Ms.) “Would you like some champagne before we take off?”
    Why yes. Yes, I would.
    Take off was uneventful, so shall it remain. However we did fly out over San Francisco proper (Hey, there’s Lorraine’s house! Hi Twinnie!) It really is a gorgeous city…saw the breakers on Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park and the GG Bridge heading off into the wilds of the North Coast. Then poofy white clouds obscured the view as we head over the east bay…Sigh.
    Lunch was smoked salmon with a silly little salad followed by veal and veggies. Total protein kick for me (which is good) and while I was full, I just couldn’t pass up a few small bites of the cheesecake for dessert. Oh my.
    I was pretty comatose after dinner and I’d seen both movies on the flight so I decided to go to lay back and be alone with my thoughts.
    And did you know that the seats in business class are psychic?

    “Oh fredlet, you want to lean back more than that…”
    I do? Oh, you are so completely right…
    ” And fredlet, my pet, your little feet need to be raised.”
    Ahhh, I see the wisdom in your words, my friend.
    ” Let me just turn on this lumbar massage here as well…”
    nnnnggguuuuuhhhhhh….. (eyes roll back into my head)

    Get the picture?
    Now if I can just find a man with all these qualities, I’ll be set. Hah.
    I spent the first 2-3 hours of the flight asleep, but the second movie rolled around and I was awake again. I tried to go back to sleep, but it just wasn’t going to happen so I read my book and daydreamed the remaining 6 hours of the flight.
    Breakfast had bell peppers (NOT listed on the menu thankyouverymuch-feh) and we landed soon after they finished up the service.
    Collected my luggage, flirted with a band that had a gig on Thursday night in town and gave suggestions of things to do for a chick who’d never been to Paris before.
    Bugboy was set to arrive from Austin about a 1/2 hours after me, but at a different terminal. So I caught the navette [shuttle] to Aerogare 2. His flight was a little late, but in the grand scheme of things, it meant nothing and I didn’t mind hanging out people watching. Collected the Bugboy and tromped off the the RER.
    They’ve done quite a bit of construction since the last several times I’ve been to Paris. So, I’m thinking Bugboy must not have been too impressed with my tour guidance getting us in to Paris. Yet, get into Paris we did.
    My lack of brains continued to bite me in the form of me not having the exact address on the fax (just the name of the hotel and the fax number..no phone number though) that I was using to get us in to the hotel since Deb, under whose name the room was registered, wasn’t set to arrive until after we did. I had the name of the hotel and the general area where it was, but I was tired and needed a shower to restore my human status, so I didn’t feel like just walking around looking for the hotel with Bugboy and our luggage in tow.
    I took a chance at the École Militaire métro stop and walked into the nearest store and asked if they could look it up in their Pages Jaunes [yellow pages]. Well, after a bit of nudging, the finally located the hotel and it was about 3 blocks away. Works for me.
    Installed ourselves in the room. Restored human status with showers and Deb arrived. That was a happy thing. We originally had planned to meet up that night at 7 at the Place Saint Michel for sandwiches grecs [gyros] and having woken up with a sore throat monday morning, I was feeling the effects of not having been able to sleep on the flight, which is my normal cure for any sort of jetlag. I haven’t ever really had jetlag before and it kicked my hiney this time.
    Anyhoo, we tromped around the 15th arrondissement until we found a wee tabac and had sandwiches au jambon et beurre [ham sammiches with butter] and Deb had ravioli followed close on its heels by a café liégois [coffee sundae]. The waiter was really fun. French waiters are usually the devil’s lapdog, but this one was lots of fun and sweet! Spoke french when we spoke french. Spoke english when we spoke english. Spoke italian when we spoke italian (he started saying italian things when Deb ordered the ravioli…) Lots of fun!
    I managed to make it to the general vicinity of the bed when we got back before going comatose, but Deb (oh she of the iron will) went out for a walk…it was about 8:45 or 9 ish at night. I woke up when she got back, blearily inquired as to her well being and probably passed out again before she answered.
    Apparently though, I was not meant to sleep through the night as I was woken up every few hours…oh well. C’est la vie.

    total miles walked:approximately 2

    PARIS 97′: day 10

    I slept late, and woke to church choir faintly coming from the church out my window. As the entire of France is closed on Sundays. Ack and I decided to go to Cinquieme Element (Fifth Element), with French subtitles! I know its not a terribly big deal, but I think its cool that I can go to a foreign movie and understand the words and not have to read the sub titles. Sure, its a Hollywood film, but oh well. =: )
    The theatre was really awesome. I think that the seats are probably more comfortable than my furniture at home. Granted they can afford to get these seats since they charge $10 a ticket.
    After the movie we walked around the Champs Elysees a bit and watched the people the went home since we were going to be going to going to Avignon the next day.
    miles walked: approximately 1 mile