Mainz on the Rhine

I was just going through some old photos, and look what I found!  Pics from a trip to a German town called Mainz (pronounced like “mine” with a zzzzz at the end) from 2003!

It’s near Frankfurt, but we never did make it into Frankfurt itself, because there was so much to do in Mainz and along the beautiful Rhine.  Castles and vineyards and tschu-tschu trains! Oh my!

Me and a Castle on the Rhine

Castles in various states of preservation dot the Rhine, but they’re all pretty awesome.

Tschu Tschu

Same sound, different spelling for this “Tschu Tschu”!

Us with Castle and Flowers

This is where the Tschu Tschu went. Up a hill to this lovely place!

Castle Turret

It was July and the weather was lovely!

Gutenberg Museum

As a writer and the daughter of a printer, I have a deep love for Gutenberg…and his cool drinking fountain!

What do you call these cars that hang from cables overhead? I must have known that at the time, so was I thinking about the wine the vineyards would make, or the river Rhine in the distance?

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2 Chicks Trip to Paris Part One

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe photo by Lesli Latt

 

I’m not sure how it happened, but it has been almost four months since we went to Paris, and I’m still overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the experience.  I’ve been to Paris a handful of times before, but every time offers a whole host of new things I want to capture—and this translates into A LOT of photos. 

My other challenge has been in choosing how much to share.  I’m the type of person that takes notes along the way because I want to remember and share everything. I want my friend, whose birthday the trip celebrated, to have a detailed record as well.

Cartier on the Champs Elysee, Paris

Lesli in front of Cartier on the Champs Elysee

But I realize that the majority of people who are going to come to the blog don’t need everything, or even want it.  So now I will endeavor to offer you the highlights (which really doesn’t narrow it down much!).

Of the 3 cities we visited – London, Paris and Rome – Paris was my favorite.  It seemed to have the best combination of old world charm and modern comforts.  It is a city that runs smoothly without obliterating or being inconvenienced by its history.  

My goal was to show Lesli as much of Paris as she could see in 3 days, and still have time to sleep.  So we started with a quick walk around our hotel’s neighborhood. We stayed at the Tilsitt Etoile, very close to the Arc de Triomphe and one end of the Champs Elysee.  Then we napped and prepped for our dinner cruise on the Seine.

This served the dual purposes of seeing an overview of the city while getting a taste of the culture through food, drink and music.  This is a must for any short stay in Paris. There are a number of companies that offer cruises with varying levels of comfort.  We chose Bateaux Parisiens , and loved it!

Here’s where it took us :

Bateaux Parisens Seine route map 

Click here for the interactive Cruise Map and it’ll tell you all about each of the places!

2 Chicks on the Seine

 Here we are enjoying the cruise.  The photo of me was taken by the onboard photographer as a souvenir photo. I almost didn’t get it, but Lesli talked me into it.  Thanks, Lesli!

Below are some of the photos we took during the cruise– see if you can match them up with the map.  (See? Interactive and educational, aren’t we?)

Bateaux Parisens photo montage of Seine Sights

And here’s a video to give you a taste of the magic! 

Afterwards, inspired by the sights and sounds, and full of great food and plenty of wine, we hung around to take photos of the Eiffel Tower at night.  Pretty good for our first day in Paris!

PARIS ~ DAY 2

The next day we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour with the goal of hopping off at the Louvre.  The great thing about the bus is that they have running commentary so you know what you’re looking at, and a map to follow along.  Still, I could hardly remember, (and surprisingly, didn’t take notes!) so I did a lot of research when I got home to identify all the buildings I photographed. 

Paris Sights 
 
Please enjoy a little sampling of: The Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Le Grand Palais, Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris Opera, and The Louvre! 
 
I did further research after looking at our Louvre photos and video.  And I’ll tell ya why: the magic of art is that it evokes memories and emotions, it refers to something else, and that something is different for each person.
 
Just as much of modern art and pop culture refers back to the classics, when one’s first exposure is through pop culture, it works the other way too.  Lesli and I have always enjoyed each other’s pop culture references, but in order to honor the real artists and intent behind the works we captured on film, I did hours of research on the Louvre’s website and elsewhere.  (I also noticed that I’ve photographed many of the same things each time I’ve been to the Louvre.  I’m sure it would make for a great psychoanalytical study, but I’ll save that for another day.)
 
Ultimately, though that’s what travel ought to do – reflect ourselves back to us and then push us beyond what we know to discover more.  And the world is full of so much more!
 
Here are some of the Louvre’s greatest hits, as chosen by we 2 chicks:
Louvre Sights, Paris

Louvre's Greatest Hits

Phedre et Hippolyte by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guerin

Adoration of the Magi by Bernardino Luini (or our name: Mohawk baby Jesus)
 
Mona Lisa by Da Vinci
 
The Young Martyr by Paul Delaroche
 
The Nativity by Fra Diamante
 
Penitent Saint Jerome in Ecstasy attributed to Luca Signorelli (or our name: Super Jesus flying high)
 
– I went kinda Joss Whedon and thought this guy was holding a little pet demon, but actually, he’s Portrait of a Man with a Statuette by Agnolo Bronzino.
 
Winged Victory of Samothrace (AKA Nike of Samothrace)
 
The Sisters of the Artist by Theodore Chasseriau
 
The rest of the stuff we loved can be seen in our video, below.  Don’t hate us because we’re pretending to be shallow!  And you can search the Louvre online for any I missed.
 
 Then we left the Louvre in time to catch the last visit by the hop-on-hop-off bus. 
Louvre Courtyard from inside the Pyramid

Louvre Courtyard from inside the Pyramid - photo by Malayna

 
 It was bright, so I donned the only sunglasses I had with me – my SPY sunglasses!
 
Atop the Paris Tour Bus

Cool sunglasses, and cooler (spy) sunglasses!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here’s a sampling of some of the photos I took with said spy sunglasses.  See the earpiece? I’m like a secret service agent or something! 
Paris captured by spy sunglasses

Paris captured by spy sunglasses

 
Wait til you see what I got on the following day! 
 
Check back for Paris, Part Deux!

From Cannes Film Fest to Frankfurt part 1

(WoW co-founder Malayna Dawn met this guest blogger when they were both interning at KROQ-FM in Los Angeles!)

By Tracey Adlai

A few years ago I discovered that attending the most prestigious film festival in the world, Festival de Cannes, was free (with accreditation) and ever since, I’ve been on a mission to make the Cote d’Azur my playground for one week every May.

Festival de Cannes - photo by Tracey Adlai

There are several different levels of accreditation, mostly reserved for film professionals, but one is dedicated to granting screening access to everyday film lovers.

To read more about how to apply to attend the Festival de Cannes, check out my article for The Valley Film Festival.

In the past, my travel partners and I were able to find roundtrip air AND comfortably share a standard suite at MMV Cannes-Mandelieu Resort, for 6 nights, for about $1,000 USD each.  No joke.

With the rising cost of airfare, and, well, the rising cost of everything else, I lost my cohorts and didn’t travel abroad in 2010. I vowed then and there to never rely on having a travel partner again.

PLOTTING A SOLO ADVENTURE

Like most people, I have a full-time job, side projects, financial responsibilities, family obligations, etc. and carving out the time and saving the money to travel requires planning and research.

Once I received my Cannes accreditation in February, I started pricing airfare. Even 3+ months out, there was nothing under $1,200 USD.  That wasn’t a bad price. It was an OK price. If money wasn’t tight, and if I didn’t know better deals were to be had, I would’ve have booked it. Instead, I played the variable pricing airline game and waited until I could find a flight, including all taxes and fees, in the $800 USD range. I used Kayak.com to track and compare airfare – it’s one of my favorite travel sites and one I trust because they don’t handle third party bookings.

Fortunately, the cost of staying at MMV Cannes-Mandelieu  hadn’t changed (approx €130/ $190 per night). Sure it was costly for one person, but I justified the expense by being familiar with the surrounding area; I knew where the supermarket, ATM, and best croissants were. Plus, having access to the free shuttle to/from the festival offset potential cab fare. (The hotel is approx 4 miles from the center of the festival.)

After a month of watching airfare go up, I got nervous about the rising cost of my 6 days in paradise. Suddenly I had an “a-ha!” moment – I remembered that I had air miles! Since I was dipping into my reserve, I added a week to my vacation, and decided to make this a true holiday by exploring other parts of Europe.

My original idea was to fly into Paris, spend a few days in the City of Lights, take a train to the South of France, attend the Festival de Cannes, and via another train to Rome, end my trip amongst historical ruins. It was the just the vacation I wanted.

USING AIR MILES

As I waited for the extra week of vacation to be approved, Paris and Rome were no longer available options using air miles. What was left? GenevaZurich, Frankfurt and Venice.

A week into daydreaming about each destination and having my friends on Facebook chime in, I decided to start my adventure in Geneva, Switzerland and end it in Frankfurt, Germany. Air miles were cashed in and about $120 USD in taxes and fees were paid. (Yes, you still need to pay fees and taxes. Fees are tacked on for every leg of the flight and vary by airport and country. If you’re flexible, click around and see which destination has the lowest.)

Geneva - photo by Tracey Adlai

My adventure was scheduled to begin in Geneva on Tuesday, May 10. Because the Festival de Cannes has fixed dates, and I prefer to attend the first week to connect with filmmakers and industry professionals in town for premiers, I knew that I needed to travel south by Friday, May 13, or Saturday, May 14th. Given that I needed to spend 4 to 5 days in Cannes, I was free to explore starting May 18th, as long as I was in Frankfurt on May 24th to return to the U.S.

Now that I knew when and where I was arriving and departing from, it was time to fill in the blanks!

(to be continued in a future WoW post! Stay tuned….)

 

2 Chicks Take a Trip to London

Because Lesli and I flew from two different locations to meet in London, our take on everything was from very different perspectives.  For example, this was her first trip out of the U.S., so she was thrown off by driving on the “wrong” side of the road and by our Heathrow Shuttle driver’s creative weaving through traffic at top speed.  I flew from Colombo, Sri Lanka, where we drive on the same side of the road as they do in England, and far more creatively!  So the poor girl had her every comparison sprinkled with the further comparison of my experience as an American expat.  Ah well, that’s why I am more than just the average tour guide!

Our first order of business, after getting to our lovely hotel, The Hesperia London Victoria, was to find dinner.  The St. George’s Pub at the end of the block was so packed that people were standing outside to enjoy their pints, so we found ourselves something that seemed authentic inside a nearby shopping center.  I had fish and chips, of course.  The next morning’s breakfast was not so authentic…we skipped the £13 English breakfast of eggs, ham and baked beans offered by the hotel for scones and a hot beverage at the nearby, familiar and much beloved Starbucks!  (We don’t have them in Colombo.)  Then onto the hop on-hop off bus, The Original Tour.

Our first stop was the only place I really insisted on seeing – The Sherlock Holmes museum!  I’ve been in a Victorian era state of mind lately (perhaps since moving to Sri Lanka in 2000 actually, where it seems some are keeping the era of British rule alive). 

Loved it! 

At the same stop was Madame Tussaud’s, where I’d never been and had no intention of going. Lesli wanted to compare it to the one in L.A., so we went, and I had A BALL! 

 

LONDON LESSON #1 – Sometimes it’s the stuff you didn’t plan that turns out to be the most fun.

While Lesli stuck with more contemporary stars, I traveled through time, fiction and cultures, cuz that’s what I’m all about.  (I don’t really spend much time in reality….) 

Then it was back on the bus to see the sights of London town. One of Lesli’s priorities for London was to see a palace, so we did Buckingham Palace one day and Kensington Palace the next.  Unfortunately, the tours inside Buckingham didn’t start until later in the summer. Kensington Palace offered tours, but not merely of the palace rooms.  While they are refurbishing it, they’ve created an art installation called The Enchanted Palace that was AMAZING.  It was such a highlight that I’m going to delve into it in a separate post.

After shopping in the Buckingham souvenir shop, we walked back to our hotel near Victoria Station, and happened to notice that the musical Wicked was playing nearby.  Lesli and I saw Wicked together in L.A. … twice… and LOVED it.  I was quite obsessed by it, actually.  But we had tickets for the ballet that night – another of Lesli’s requests for the trip. The Northern Ballet was performing Cleopatra at Sadler’s Wells across town.  My lovely cousin, Nazra, was meeting us at our hotel with a print out of exactly how to take the Tube to the theater, how long it would take, and where to walk from the station.  Once we were all dolled up and ready, Nazra showed us the way.

We found our place on the train and then heard an announcement, but couldn’t understand a word.  People started leaving the train, so we asked someone.  Apparently, the Victoria Line was closed until further notice. Gasp!  Back up from The Underground we rushed, trying desperately to hail a cab (and apparently not very politely—we got told off!) until we realized there was no way we’d make it in time.  That’s when we found ourselves standing in front of the Victoria Apollo Theatre, staring at the sign for Wicked. We took it as a sign from the great and powerful Oz, and in we went. 

Having the soundtrack from the original Broadway cast committed to heart and memory, we were absolutely delighted with the performance. Not just because of the British accents of the characters, either.  The young woman playing Elphaba, who we later learned was Rachel Tucker, held up to Idina Menzel and then added her own magic.  We were so thrilled by the performance!  If you want a taste, check out this clip on YouTube:  http://youtu.be/XQAsv6ZnGFo

Afterward, we lingered, trying to find just the right souvenirs to represent our London Wicked experience. We were there so long that the staff began turning off lights and locking doors.  Oops! They ushered us out, and as we started toward our hotel, we noticed a small crowd gathered. And just as we walked by, out popped the star of the show fromt he stage door, Rachel Tucker!  Lesli told her how impressed we were with her, even compared to the two previous people we’d seen in the role (Lesli knew their names) and then we got her autograph on Lesli’s souvenir poster, and we took a photo with her!  See?

LONDON LESSON #2 – When plans go wrong, sometimes the alternative turns out to be WAY better than the original plan!

The next day, we were off to see Westminster Abbey before meeting Nazra for tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace.  The weather was great, so we enjoyed the walk from our hotel, then took the Tube– successfully this time—to Kensington Park, where we strolled until we found Nazra.  She joined us on the tour of the palace too, until it was time to part ways. Then to the Tube again to meet my husband’s cousin, Jani, and his lovely wife Angela (and their adorable little Isabel!) to experience Portobello Market. 

Turns out we were too late for the market. So after the obligatory tourist photo, Angela was only too happy to help Lesli cross another thing off her list – Harrod’sI’m glad to have seen it, but honestly found it a bit overwhelming. Lesli, however, had found a palace she could fully appreciate, and thankfully, a willing and able tour guide in Angela. I was quite happy to check out the décor with Jani and Isabel in the stroller. 

Angela knew of a lovely little pub nearby where we could have a dinner of Bangers and Mash and some cider, and then helped us find our way back to our hotel, where we had to pack for an early airport pickup for our flight to Paris!

 

In the next posts about Paris and Rome — be sure to check back discover how we took photos when they weren’t allowed!  Muah ah ah!

Written by Malayna Dawn for the Women on World Excursions blog , which she co-manages with some fabulous, world-traveling, women friends.

Chick Trip Planning 3 – Top 5 London Hotels

It seems like it should be easy to find a hotel I like, which fits my needs and falls into my budget, but I found it to be a challenge…that became a time-consuming obsession!  
 
 http://mappery.com/map-of/London-Underground-Transportation-Map
 

 

 

In London, it almost doesn’t matter if you’re not smack dab in the city center, as long as there’s a tube stop (London Underground – their subway system) nearby. So I checked the ones I liked on a map to make sure I wasn’t booking us too far from easy mobility. And then I checked the reviews at TripAdvisor.com

I looked at about 40 hotels, according to my notes, but I suspect I looked at more and just decided not to keep notes on many more than that.

Starting with Price
The rationale for an inexpensive hotel is that we’d be so busy sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere, we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room. So I started the search at Hostel World.com, because a well-traveled friend assured me it includes hotels and B&Bs as well as hostels and the reviews are spot-on. It was, indeed, a great resource for affordable hotels. She also suggested EasyHotel.com  –  for just the basics.  Other friends suggested Premiere Inn and Holiday Inn hotels. 

Premiere Inn London Eye

BUT I found I wanted someplace a little bit special. This was going to be my friend’s first trip outside of the U.S. and I wanted her to feel like she was in London.  We’re also the kind of girls who like to nap or perhaps sleep in and get a slow, languid start, so we’d probably spend more time in our hotel than most. 

Sense of Style
Therefore, I did a search for “unique, boutique hotels in London” and found Secret Places.com.  It wasn’t as easy to use as some sites, but had lovely suggestions.  Unfortunately, most of these were either outside of our price range ($200 or under) OR too far away from public transport options. Still, I fell in love with the Lime Tree Hotel and hold out hope that it works out for a future visit. 

Lime Tree Hotel

Once I had fallen in love with a hotel that had a sense of design that felt good, it was impossible to go back. I wanted to be excited about where we stayed.  The Hotel Guru had some nice choices as did Epoque Hotels, but they either didn’t have rooms with 2 beds available (called Twins) for our travel dates, or were too far away from tube stops. If they had, we might be staying at one of these:

Tophams Hotel

 

• The warm and cute Tophams Hotel 

• The lovely New Linden

New Linden

• The very hip Hoxton Hotel which periodically offers a £1 sale.

Finally, it was down to sharing a bed at the clean, modern, Euston Square Hotel or not sharing a bed at the Hesperia London Victoria, which had everything we needed and a great location too.  

Overall, I found that Agoda.com and Expedia had good rates and were easy sites to use in the search, which was at times, completely overwhelming.

So, after much research, here are my top 5 London Hotel recommendations:

1. The Hesperia London Victoria – wins for great price, great amenities and great location.  
2. Tophams Hotel –  Very cute, good price and location.
3. The New Linden – Nice, with good rates and location.
4. The Hoxton – very cool, but a bit far away.
5. Lime Tree Hotel – far away but so lovely!

I’ll report back when I’ve actually been to London and experienced the room for myself!

2 Chicks Planning a Trip – Part 2

http://www.zazzle.com/san_sebastian_postcard-239052563112264807

San Sebastian postcard from VictoriaShaylee on Zazzle.com

 

In Part 1, we tackled the first few steps of travel planning: imagining the ideal, researching the costs, and finding a way (financially).  Now that we’ve found our way, it’s time to get into specifics and fill in the blanks.

First, before solidifying dates, be sure to check if there are any public or bank holidays that will fall during your trip.  This can put a damper on your time if everything is closed.

Getting from A to B

 Doing this helps solidify decisions regarding timing and budget, because as with life, travel is a constant balancing act between time and money to get maximum joy.  After you get the general sketch, you can start coloring in the lines!

With airfare covered to our first stop in London, it was time to see how much else we could squeeze in.  I knew it was cheaper to take a car across the channel to France on the ferry, but how long would it take to get from Paris to Rome?   Ahh….time to examine logistics  – the thing that usually gets in the way of my grand plans.

A friend mentioned that the Eurostar gets you from the center of London to the center of Paris in about 2-1/2 hours. It would save us the trouble of getting to and from the Dover to Calais ferry and when I researched it, it costs the same as just the ferry ride without a car.  Sold! 

Image from GE Tours.com

Then, it turns out the driving distance between Paris and Rome is about 950 miles, or around 1530 kilometers. That’s a lot of driving. And then I found one travel website that said: 

“The blunt reality is that even for experienced Europe travelers, driving in and around some of the major cities, especially Paris and Rome, can be very, very challenging for driving, parking, etc.  Are you ready and experienced for this type of driving adventure?” 

I flashed back to my last trip to Paris when I drove just from Paris to Monet’s House in Giverny, on to Versailles and back.  It was all fine until we tried to get back to our hotel in Paris and couldn’t find our way off of the highway called the Peripherique! There was a tantrum involved.  I’d like to avoid tantrums.  So I’m NOT up to this driving adventure.

The Eurail from Paris to Rome takes 11 hours. We can save on one night of hotel expense if we take the night train, but we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sight of Provence’s fields of flowers at night. And we aren’t so into flowers that we’d want to waste a day that way. 

Luckily another friend told me that flying costs the same as the train – and she was right!  And it gets us there in about 4 hours, even with a short layover in Switzerland.  The airfare wasn’t that much more to fly us back to London to catch our flights home either, even with stops in Germany.  Time and budget balanced. Sold!

The moral of the story:  Talk to your friends!

(The wonderful vocalist for this video/TV ad is Nadia Ackerman. Check out her stuff on Facebook!

Getting around A, B & C

A great way to get an overview of a city is from the hop-on, hop-off tourist buses. They give you the highlights and a bit of history, allow you to explore what interests you and offer a day or two of easy transport options for one price. They range from $13 – $36 and some offer discounts on museums and such too! 

In London: The Original Tour

In Paris: The Red Bus  OR L’Open Tour

In Rome: Trambus – 110 open tour

I then suggested top my friend that if at all possible, we should try to stay 3 nights in each city. That might enable us to get out of the city to see something else, like Stonehenge, Versailles or The Vatican.  She made it happen!

Where to Stay

We have the option of staying with friends in London and saving a few nights of hotel costs, but it would also limit our freedom a bit. We’d worry about imposing upon their time and might cut our evening revelry short to accommodate their schedules, so we decided against it for this trip.  But it’s always a good option if you’re traveling alone and have to keep the budget down. 

After the travel expenses, we can afford about $150-$200 per night for 9 nights, but we want aren’t necessarily comfortable with the idea of a super-budget hotel.  Instead, I began looking at any and all available discounts at my disposal.  Frequent flier miles and their partners, credit card points, discounts available from professional organizations, etc….  I’m still working on that.

In the meantime, Trip Advisor.com is a great resource for the hotel search.  I’ve found Yahoo Travel to be useful as well.  Both let you select by price, amenities and location and offer reviews. It’s a bit of a science distilling all the information into something useful, but it’s a money-saving endeavor that can assure a quality stay!

Next time, we’ll hone in on things we definitely want to do and see in each city.  Until then, here is some homework for you: watch these movies to put you in the mood and help you decide! (Mouse over the links to see who was in it and what year it was made.)

French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline '95

London: Notting Hill, Love Actually, and Bridget Jones’ Diary 

             (and these from IMDb)

Paris: Amelie, French Kiss, An Education, Da Vinci Code (and these from IMDb)

            for Versailles, Marie Antoinette, and The Affair of the Necklace 

            (and these from IMDb)

Rome: Only You, Eat Pray Love,  Angels and Demons, and Jumper 

               (and these from IMDb)

Eat Pray Love 2010

2 Chicks Planning a Trip – Part 1

For my 40th birthday, I chose to celebrate with travel, and went to Cambodia to explore the Angkor Wat temples.  So now that my good friend is about to turn 40, I thought she should do the same.  But unlike me she hasn’t traveled beyond North America, so I started thinking of places she really ought to see. Then I thought I’d share the process with all of you! So here are the first few steps: imagining the ideal, researching the costs, and finding a way (financially).
STEP 1 – IMAGINING THE IDEAL
For her, I chose these, from the most ideal to the extremely acceptable:
  
• Europe – There was a time when all well-bred and educated young people took a trip to “the Continent” –especially France and Italy. It was known as “the grand tour”.  While I did the tour just after graduating from college when I was 23 (part of my 2nd trip around the world, thanks to travel-loving parents), I think it might be time she completes her education. 

 • England – Both of us being Jane Austen fans with a general appreciation for literary history, we could do a tour of locations from Jane Austen novels and films and also visit King Arthur’s Tintagel. She also shares my love for the modern day romantic comedies of Richard Curtis—Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. We could do a tour of those locations. 
 
• New York – We’re both fans of musical theater, and quite a bit of America’s literary, film and social history has taken place there.  It’s one of the world’s greatest cities and everyone should visit at least once. Plus we both have When Harry Met Sally memorized, (she orders food like Sally does too!) so we might need to pretend we’re in it.
 
• New Orleans – This city is a beautiful, living piece of Spanish and French colonial history, as well as some of the more colorful parts of America’s backstory—Pirates, Riverboats, Plantations, Swamps, and Ghosts!  (I fell in love with it because I’m an Anne Rice fan.)

STEP 2 – RESEARCHING THE COSTS

Airfare– it’s the biggest piece of the cost of travel, followed closely by accommodation.  But you gotta get there before you need a place to stay. 

• Online Searching – I used to be able to get significantly cheaper airfare from Lowestravel.com, but now they have pretty much the same airfare options as Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Flights, or Orbitz.  Searching through TripAdvisor.com lets you compare, and is a good way to keep track of your searches for hotel as well.

• Choosing Dates – Keep in mind that travel costs will vary depending on the season and the day you want to travel.  Her birthday is actually in the first week of June, but I found if I used a date at the middle to end of May, the airfare dropped by about $300.  Also, fares tend to be cheaper when they’re on a weekday. It is supply and demand in action – more people want to fly on weekends, so they can charge more for the privilege.

Other Transportation –  
 
• If we were going to travel around England, I would rent a car, or maybe get a BritRail Pass. 
• If we’re going to Europe, we’d need to get across the channel from the UK, and around Paris and Rome.
So I did some basic research on all the options. 
• Car rental/Britrail Pass – A search for “car rental in London” brought up familiar U.S. chains Hertz and Enterprise.  It looks like $200-$250 for a week. A Britrail pass costs $249 for a week.  So the cost is about the same, we’d have to weigh the pros and cons of carrying our luggage and walking from train stations.  We’d probably rent a car.  We’re American after all – and born & bred Los Angelenos at that.  We love our cars!

• Ferry/Eurail – To cross the channel via ferry from Dover to Calais is actually less expensive if you have a car for some reason.  We could rent a car in England and drive to Paris.  It’s £39 with a car and £59 without. I usually just double that to estimate the cost in dollars.  But to be specific, I go to xe.com’s universal currency converter— £39 = $63, £59 is $95.

I’ll have to check how long it would take to drive to Paris from London.  I’ve driven in both England and France before, and I’m used to driving on the other side of the car and other side of the road (from the US perspective) from living in Sri Lanka. 

A Eurail pass for 2 countries within 4 to 10 days is advertised as “from $169” – but upon closer inspection, for adults 26 or older, a 2nd class saver ticket for France and Italy is $275 per person.

STEP 3 – FINDING THE WAY (FINANCIALLY)
 
It has been my experience that once I know how much money I need to create the trip I want, the rest sort of falls into place somehow.  So I never wait until I have enough money saved up.  I start planning the trip first, and then find ways to make it happen.  This is how The Law of Attraction works!  (Check out my articles on The Power of Thoughts & Goal Setting.)

So many people put off doing the things they want to do in life until they have enough money, but the money always gets spent somehow until they’re too old to enjoy it when they’ve got it. 

Within days, she and I had found the money.  Hers came from a bunch of people who love her. They all chipped in to give her a great 40th birthday present when I suggested my plan.  Mine will come from a creative use of available discounts, frequent flier miles, and accumulated credit card points.  Neither of us will need to go into debt to pay for this trip! 

So it’s been decided, she can take a week off of work without negatively impacting her budget. We’ll meet in London (she’s flying from LAX, I’m flying from Sri Lanka), and do 2 days in London, 2 days in Paris and 2 days in Rome.  
Next time we’ll get into the serious planning!

All images from http://www.zazzle.com/vintage+postcards — buy them as prints, t-shirts, mugs, etc!

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