first-europe-trip

A Month in Europe

Our first month of travel still seems unreal to me. I look back over the pictures now and I cannot believe all the places we managed to go and the things we did. Never before did I really picture myself traveling. I grew up in a family that vacationed in South Padre Island in Texas every year to see family. In fact, I really hadn’t ventured out of Texas save for a few marching band trips and vacations with Zach’s family up to Colorado.

Traveling around the world always seemed like a thing other people did. It was a life for people who had the money and the time and the knowledge how to do it. I never thought twice about it beyond that.

Until Zachary, that is. I think it was really his vision and his courage that allowed me to believe this was possible for me too. And I think it could be possible for a lot of people. I’m just very thankful that I have a husband to push me beyond the personal limitations I put on myself, and one who works hard and knows how to save money! I owe a lot to him.

But enough of that mushiness. I should comment on some of the details of this map.

We tried to find the cheapest and most efficient way to get from place to place – which didn’t usually go hand in hand.

Our round trip tickets (which we found through Scott’s Cheap Flights for $400 a piece) were in and out of Barcelona. Before we left for Europe all we had booked was a hostel for Barcelona, one for Paris, and one for Rome. So we basically knew the beginning, middle, and end of our trip.

We did also plan before we left Texas that we wanted to drive through the French countryside. It’s very expensive, though, to rent a car in one country and return it another one. So, we took a bus between Spain and France and then rented a car. Also, we don’t know how to drive stick, and renting an automatic ended up being a lot more expensive.

It’s very easy to get an international driver’s license as well. We went into a AAA the day before we flew to Barcelona and Zach got one within an hour. I am not 25 yet so it would’ve cost more for me to rent a car, so I skipped that step.

The south of France is gorgeous! During our drive up to Rocamadour I think we stopped almost every half hour to get out, walk around, and take pictures. We loved it! Zach drove through all the very windy roads (that do not look quite so windy on Google maps!) and felt like a racecar driver. I felt like I was going to vomit. But to each their own!

I must say out of Tours, Amboise, and Loches – Loches is by far the best! There’s a great castle that you can walk through there. The small town is beautiful. Amboise and Tours were just alright to me. There’s nothing, in my eyes at least, particularly special or unique. They seem more like a great place to live than a great place to visit.

Our Italy adventures look a tad messy on the map. The cheapest option to fly into Italy was into Bologna. And we knew we wanted to see Venice and Florence. Milan was sort of thrown in because we were there, the bus tickets were cheap to get from Venice to Milan, and we thought, “Why not?”

We absolutely adored Italy! And we are very much looking forward to more chances in the future to return. We both loved Venice a lot. We heard Venice ‘taking heat’ a lot from other people, but once we got off the main street it was so beautiful with all the canals! Plus, the main street was great for shopping as well. They had stores with items that were unique to the area which is what we love.

In hindsight, we wish we would have gone straight from Milan to Pisa then to Florence. As soon as we got into Florence the first afternoon we thought we might as well go to Pisa first thing since we wanted to go at some point over the next couple days anyway. We soon discovered Pisa does not have many more attractions beyond the famous leaning tower so we were able to do the whole trip in one afternoon.

We also loved Rick Steves’ guided tours (available as podcasts) wherever they were available, basically all over Italy. They are free and a great way to see the cities we were in!

We used goeuro.com, Flixbus, and Ryanair for a lot of our travel tickets. They provided great cheap ticket options. We did not get a Eurail train pass because we realized it would be a lot more expensive to do it that way for what we wanted.

And now we are moving forward to our next trip to Amsterdam, Bruges, Berlin, and Prague! Stay tuned!