Although this was not the first time we had been to Europe, nor was it the first time we had traveled for long periods of time, our Excellent Adventure still taught us a few things–both positive and negative–to keep in mind for next time.
First and foremost–DON’T OVERPACK. We did, to our constant regret. The third bag is a heavy load to schlep around, and it can get expensive too. Although we were able to duck avariciously exorbitant airline fees for the extra checked bag, when we were in Venice, we had to pay for a day’s storage, then a round trip on the vaporetto to pick up the cursed thing.
One reason we overpacked was we were panicked about winter in Europe. Even though I bravely told everyone that Europe would be substantially no colder than New Orleans, we were not so sure. But the real reason we overpacked was, we just overpacked. I packed four pairs of pants and wore two. Three pairs of shoes, including heavy boots and wore one. The boots came out of the suitcase one time and were not necessary at all. When you stay in a place for any extended time, you will have access to laundry. Just like at home.
The second lesson was that you can hire a company to cart your bags to the train station in Venice, and they will even let you ride on their workboat, saving you the extra 13 euro cost of the vaporetto. The net cost to us for the transport was only 15 euros. Just look up Trasbaglia when you get to Venice. They respond quickly to e-mail, and they show up exactly on time.
While we are on the subject of transportation, Uber works great in Paris, poorly in Nice and not much at all in Florence, where only Uber Black is available. On the other hand, taxis in those cities are first class and much less expensive than in the U.S.
Since we are from New Orleans, dining is of paramount importance, and it’s hard to find a bad meal in any of our European cities. We never did try for the uber-expensive Michelin-starred restaurants, preferring instead the neighborhood bistros where the locals eat. I wrote about this earlier, so I won’t belabor the point, but do not eat in any restaurant that displays photos of the dishes on their menu outside. The food will be bad and generally overpriced compared to the same cuisine better prepared down the street or around the corner from the tourist centers on the main squares.
We generally shared an appetizer or salad (most salads in Europe are huge), ordered one entreé each, with a bottle of wine. Only rarely did our bill exceed 100 euros. One of those occasions was well worth it (Ciasa Mia across the street from our apartment in Paris) and one was not (Il Profetta, which we had remembered from our first visit to Florence but greatly disappointed us this time).
Better still, if you return to the same restaurant and the owners get to know you, they may actually discount your bill. It happened to us twice in Florence.