Four Cities, Three Gals, Two Weeks

Four cities, 14 days. Three gals on a journey of a lifetime.

Did I have what it takes to make the most of it all? Was I ready for the time of my life? And, when all was said and done, did any of the cities we visited become my favorite?

If you ask me, Henry was on to me and my imminent departure. I think he had an allergy flareup as a way to get me to stay. The fiend!

Yes, yes. and heck, yes!

Being an honorary Girl Scout, I was ready. My ducks were all in a row. Indeed, having started planning this trip months in advance, I prepared and trained for this European vacation with the utmost precision, one befitting well, um, Captain Von Trapp, whistle and all. I kept countless lists of all I would need to do prior to departure. Passport? Copy of passport? Check and check!

I was determined that nothing would go wrong. I paid all my bills in advance. I arranged for a friend to water the plants in my patio. I even made a trip to my local Target store to purchase the necessary toiletries, making sure all were under three ounces.

Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I asked a number of friends for advice on traveling abroad. (Thanks, Ashley, Trisha, Christine, Bella, Susan and Clare!)

I left a copy of my itinerary with my son (who never even looked at it!), along with thorough instructions on the care and keeping of Henry. I also contacted Henry’s vet to let his office know, that in the event of any unforeseen mishap, my son would have the authority to make all decisions on Henry’s behalf. I then gave them my credit card number, in case of emergency expenses.

My daughter (seen here at Park Güell) was climbing the walls, having already spent six weeks in Barcelona by the time I arrived. Just kidding. She loved it there!

I also made sure my trust was in order, and then proceeded to get all weepy as I told my son where I keep all the important documents, in the event of, well, anything. Of course, I reminded him of my desire to be cremated, in the event that my plane didn’t make it across the pond. After all, I found it unfathomable that a plane could make a ten-hour journey without stopping for gasoline! My son, the compassionate soul that he is, just stared blankly at me and shrugged.

Then, I did what every traveler does prior to departure. I packed, keeping in mind what my daughter, who was already in a Barcelona study abroad program, advised. Pack lightly! A daunting task, if you ask me, given I am fond of having all the comforts of home wherever I go.

To save space in my suitcase, my friend, Susan, said she’d heard that some people pack just two pairs of underwear and alternate. At first, I wondered, exactly how much space does underwear take, that I should only pack two? I assumed what she’d heard, but didn’t mention, was to pack two pairs and wear the other 12 on the plane. Not the most comfortable way to travel, mind you, but I was up for the challenge.

When the day came to board the plane, I was ready. Which is when Henry had an unexpected bout with allergies (clearly, he was allergic to my impending departure), and I had to make the decision whether to take him to the vet and hope they’d see him without an appointment (he’s Henry, after all!), which could have the potential of leaving me with barely enough time to go through security and board the plane. Or, I could leave it to my son to handle once he dropped me off at the airport. I chose the latter.

Six days later (well, actually, 24 hours later but it sure felt like six days!), I arrived at my first destination: the London Heathrow Airport, which was all abuzz with Olympic fever, and where I spent every minute of a two-hour layover maneuvering my way through the maze, the crowds, the security, etc, in order to get from one gate to the next.

The view from atop Park Güell, one of Gaudi’s finest achievements.

And, before you could say, “Bob’s your uncle,” I was headed to Barcelona–exhausted and damp with perspiration–to meet my daughter and a friend she had met through her study abroad program, who would be traveling with us.

Together, the three of us would leave Barcelona and traipse across Europe. And, by Europe, I mean Vienna, Salzburg and Prague, all cities rich with history and chocolate. Yes, the world was our oyster–and we had lots of ground to cover!

But first, there was the matter of ice.

Turns out, I love ice. Have a thing for it, really. But, ice could be the very thing that separates Americans from the Europeans. The line in the sand, if you will. And, the lack of it had the potential to cause an international incident.

For, like Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. And, by Kansas I mean, the USA. But, I’ll tell you about it in my next post.

Did all my planning guarantee nothing would go wrong? And, what was my favorite city?

Well, all will soon be revealed.
In the meantime, tell me. How do you prepare for a long trip?

36 thoughts on “Four Cities, Three Gals, Two Weeks

  1. Aw, Monica, Sir Henry looks like he’s already feeling a case of the blues missing you in this photo! Poor thing! I can’t wait to read other posts of this trip of yours! I can only imagine what fun you had! In regard to your question, I always “underpack.” I find it’s easier to buy whatever I need where I go rather than have to worry that my suitcase is overweight and that the airline is going to charge me an astronomical fee. Sadly, this makes for having to wear the same outfit day in and day out much like a uniform. Sigh. Your daughter’s photo is wonderful! 🙂

    • Bella, you should have seen Henry upon our return. He was so happy to see me, he couldn’t stop wagging his tail and jumping for joy. What glee in his eyes. Guess I was happy, too. Thanks for the practical packing advice. Less really is more!

  2. You made it through Heathrow with the Olympics bearing down? Good for you!!

    How would I prepare? I’d borrow your list of to-do’s.

    I have a tendency to agonize over leaving home for any length of time. I’d be nuts by the time I got out the door. Check, check and re-check. Passport, passport, cats ok, not leaving behind some essential item, did I pack right?

    But those pictures are very enticing… maybe one day I’ll make it across the pond.

    Those tiles are gorgeous…

    • Eloise, don’t get me wrong. I’m more like you than you think. A homebody at heart. The way I see it, it’s easier to just stay home than to agonize over packing, making sure my bills are paid, and other stuff. But, for all the agony and stress, it’s worth it. To see such beautiful sights first hand, makes it all worth it. I’m home now, back in the comfort of the familiar. But I’ll always have the memories of seeing the world and having the time of my life!

  3. Henry’s a smart little pooch. You going on his turf and not taking him. I do hope you brought him souvenirs back. I’ve gone through Heathrow Airport. Not the most comfortable place for catching a nap. Felt like I was in a kitchen the entire time. Good to get across the waters every now and then. Did it take about two weeks to get over the jetlag? Maybe the tea kept you going til bedtime. The Brits love tea and buttered bread.

    • Sigh. Totsy, the only souvenir I brought back for Henry was a little bag of pretzels I got on the plane and, turns out, it’s one of the few foods he won’t eat. Too salty, I suppose. Getting rid of jet lag is harder than I expected. But everyday gets a bit better. This morning, when I woke up at 4:30, I was able to go back to sleep. Success!

  4. It’s my first time here – such a funny post. Turns out I’m a much calmer overseas traveler these days. This post reminded me so much of the trip I took to Innsbruck, meeting my daughter who’d been studying abroad there. We gallivanted our way down through Italy and over to Germany. Turns out we make great traveling companions. And ice! What a kindred spirit you are there. I once asked, quite naively, for crushed ice for my Diet Coke at a little ramshackle snack shack in the middle of a Malaysian rubber tree plantation. Who knew? My older sister, as I recall, hit me on the side of the head.

    Ahhhh travel – nothing quite like it.

    • Ah, ice. It’s nice to be home where I have complete access to all the ice I could ever want. Now that’s bliss.

      Glad you found my blog. I love how you and your daughter gallivanted through Europe and discovered you make great travel mates. How nice!

  5. I’ve never been to Europe; packing for a long trip here in the States is hard enough! I put in way too many items, then take them all out and move them to another suitcase, then start the whole thing over again. It’s grueling! Yes, I’d agree Sir Henry know when he saw the suitcases that you were off on an adventure that didn’t include him. Dogs just know that sort of thing, and they don’t like it. Not. One. Bit!

    • Debbie, As lovely as Europe is, it’s almost not worth it thanks to the need to pack and pack wisely. Too much trouble. But I did get some great photos of amazing scenery out of it. Okay, it was worth it. 😉

  6. Sounds like a fabulous trip! I always overpack, but now that there’s a weight limit for baggage, I have to be good. 😦 My new strategy is to color coordinate everything. I get sick of whatever color by the end of the trip, but at least everything goes together so if I spill something on a top, I’m not stuck with a skirt that doesn’t go with anything else I brought. And I make lists… lots of lists.

    Can’t wait to hear more about all of the fabulous places you went.

    • Shary, I have to say, at least they don’t charge you to check a bag when you’re going abroad. You pay $2K for the flight and checking the luggage is on the house. Nice, eh?

      I can’t wait to share my photos with everyone. Thanks for reading!

  7. Henry does not look happy 😦

    I don’t think I could pack for such a journey because there is definitely not enough room on the plane for all my belongings 😉 I’m one of those I’d rather have and not need it than need it and not have it kind of gals.

    I am looking forward to more posts on your trip.

  8. Turns out, I’m the worst traveler ever. I. NEED. CHOICES! I’m moody — even when it comes to clothes. Some days, I am not in the mood for a certain outfit … so planning in advance messes with my mojo.

    So, yeah, I can’t imagine ever packing “lightly.” That’s crazy talk.

    And when I’m in San Diego later this month (and hopefully will have a chance to connect with you for a Diet Coke or two!), you can rest assured there will be a suitcase full of attire choices and LOTS o’ clean underwear in my hotel room!

    • Mikalee, I’m so with you! I love choices! I hate simplifying, as if I’m going to have to live like a minimalist on some deserted island. But, having to take a few trains made me realize just how heavy my suitcase was, especially since, at every city, I accumulated more and more souvenirs. I was ready to throw the entire suitcase off the train. It was either that or losing an arm, which felt at times as if it was going to come off, from carrying the weight of that luggage. Sigh.

      You must tell me when you’re in town! The Diet Coke is on me!

  9. Okay, Monica, let me clear the air here. I advised you to pack lightly, and when you asked me how, I told you what others had shared with me about 2 pairs of underwear. I was flabbergasted myself and would never only pack two pairs, but you would be amazed how many people tell me they do exactly this. It’s limiting the shoes that really help save space. People, pack clean underwear!!!!!

  10. I pack a lot of underwear but I could do with less shirts. I always pack too many shirts. My hubby turned me onto the pressure-sealed bags that shrink down clothes. Pretty handy for travel!

    • Catherine, I thought so, too, and this time after packing all my tops, I took a couple out. Well, I ended up washing a few and on my return flight home, ended up wearing my pajama top home! Talk about schlepping!

  11. Oh Monica, I was in fits as usual. Love that Henry had an allergy – how smart of him. I planned for months too. I had lists – about 25- and I was on Trip Advisor- my favorite travel website – almost everyday. I can’t tell you how many new friends I made and how many travelers helped me – esp. with where to find gluten free food for my daughter in Europe. Greece was tough. We unplug everything and talk to family in case the children are separated from us. I worry about planes, check out the pilot if I can to see if he looks sleepy or safe. I make big signs to put in my suitcase with addresses and telephone numbers. I also contact our Allergist and Pediatrician, get letters – oh yes! I do it all.

    I am much much more neurotic about my underwear however, – I don’t leave home without 10 – which means, I can’t do without them. I pack them everywhere, in every suitcase. in case bags get lost. I do this for my kids too. Of course my whole family thinks I am a nutter! I also ziplock them, because I don’t want security rifling through them 🙂

    How lovely that your daughter is studying in Barcelona. I hope she enjoys every single minute.
    Can’t wait for more…

    • MM, I love your process for packing. I love that I’ve met my match when it comes to packing–but you’re so much more thorough. Thanks for the tips on packing underwear in all the suitcases, and using plastic bags. Makes sense. The former, I was already doing to some extent, having learned that lesson years ago when I was a kid. I was traveling with my mother and sister from Venezuela back to New York. Due to some problem with the plane we had to land in Aruba and stay there for 3 days while the plane was being repaired. We were not allowed to have our luggage; only our carry-on could we take to the hotels in which they put us up. Well, back then we weren’t smart enough to pack underwear in our carry-on, let alone a toothbrush. Those were the roughest three days of my youth. Well, sort of.

      • I learned a similar lesson Monica when I actually saw a note in my suitcase, saying they had checked our bags and my neatly packed( bagless) underwear was a mess – yuck! so, from then on, everyone gets a zippy in my house:-) I mean can you imagine? Now I pack an outfit each and underwear in our carry- of course I go the extra length and pack my good purse and shoes as well.

    • I have a theory about the ice thing. I think they really believe they’re doing me a favor by not offering any. I even stopped at a McDonalds once, for a Coca Cola Light, and not a smidge of ice was to be found in my cup. My cup ranneth over with nothing but soda. Sigh.

  12. yep, in the words of the Soup Nazi (Senfield show) – no ice for you :). How wonderful to be study abroad. This experience will stay with your daughter forever and the friends she will make there will be her friends for life. My son studied in Belgium and we also visited him there and from Brussels we traveled to Luxemburg, Amsterdam and Paris…. Can’t wait to read the rest of your journey.

    • Ariana, don’t even remind me of the ice debacle. Too soon, and hits too close to home, shall we say. My daughter loved Barcelona. She’s home now, but I think she left her heart there.

  13. The underwear thing. That is just bizarre. Who wants to wash undies, when you can be picnicking under the Eiffel Tower. Underwear takes up no room, I always bring extra and one even in my carry on. You never know where you’ll get stuck without your bags.

  14. Henry was onto you!!! Dogs do things like that they are sneaky with a capital S.

    Your preparations would put the scouts to shame.

    I gather London Heathrow has seen some of it’s busiest days ever so your adventure there I do not envy you at all.

    As for how I prepare for a long journey, well the longest I have ever done is a drive to Scotland so not exactly Scot of the Antarctic type preparation needed, I think all I did was check the TV was switched off. Never flown so can’t really comment on that experience either! Come to think of it I am a boring soul at times. Perhaps I secretly long for adventure. Maybe one day I will fulfil my mid life crisis dream then that will be an adventure.

    I am looking forward to more of your story soon.

    By the way your daughter looks like you from the pictures of you as a youngster on your blog.

      • I am sure he is happy to see you back, from the pictures he looks a contented happy dog, and I am sure you took him a little something back.

        I love visiting places but I always like to get back home again.

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