March 19th, 2014

Traveling 101: Take it from the Inexperienced

Two posts in one day, woo hoo!!  I mean, I have to…I am a little too far behind to NOT.  Whoops.

Anyway, all of us here at JFoRCe (JFRC) are currently in all-out recovery mode from spring break.  I’ve never seen our IC/library so crowded, and everyone is only just now starting to complain about all of the homework hitting hard.  However, there’s always time to recount spring break stories and share some of the things I picked up about traveling while doing it!

First thing’s first, promise me that if you’re going to constantly move for 10 days straight, PACK LIGHT.  Don’t ever, EVER, pack more than you need to.  No, you don’t need that extra pair of jeans.  NO, you most certainly do not need to pack three sweaters.  I can tell you after lugging around a packed duffel bag with at least three outfits that I did not even bother to look at…it’s just not worth it.  Also, use something that distributes weight evenly (um, hello? Backpack!).  Otherwise, all you’ll have is one freakishly strong shoulder and one normal looking one.

Second, trains are definitely the way to travel in Europe.  Don’t get me wrong, I love flying, but on a train you can watch the country pass by outside of the window.  This is especially cool on the long train rides.  And, you have way more space to stretch out in a train…I mean, who doesn’t want that?

Third, as one of my fellow bloggers pointed out in her most recent post, nothing in Europe is free, and the Euro sucks when it comes to exchange rate.  For my spring break, a friend and I traveled around northern Italy.  We visited Bologna, Padova, Venice, Trieste, and Torino.  Without fail, in all but one place, we had to buy an entire tourist book in order to get a map.  Now, it all worked out seeing as we kept the books as souvenirs.  Nevertheless, an entire book just to get the map?  Really, Italy?  Also, dinner is EXPENSIVE.  Our solution?  Apertivi!!  An apertivo is just a drink (wine, beer, or even a soft drink) and a small appetizer.  And, of course, after that we found a cheap kabob place and had that for dinner because apertivi simply did not fill us up.  FYI, kabob here is not meat on a stick, it’s actually more like a burrito or meat wrap, and they’re SO good!  Also, you don’t need to buy every souvenir you see…okay, well, maybe THAT one, but that’s it!

Fourth, hot chocolate is better here.  Without a doubt.  It’s basically chocolate melted down and ladled into a cup for you to drink (or scoop out with a spoon).  I could get on board with this.

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Fifth, learning is actually pretty cool sometimes.  Not only did I learn a lot going to various museums or visiting various royal palaces, but I also used what I learned in the past to make a cool discovery.  Did you know that writer James Joyce (author of Dubliners) lived in Trieste for part of his life??  Me either!  So imagine how cool I thought it was when I visited a pastry shop that he used to eat in, and the chapel he married his wife in!  Learning rocks.

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Finally, Italy is beautiful.  This was certainly something I learned traveling all over this country for 10 days.  Every city is different, every scenic countryside has something new to show, and I will never get enough.  Venice was absolutely beautiful with canals winding through the islands that make it up, water everywhere.  Trieste is perfectly nestled between sea and mountains, that Austrian influence accentuated by beautiful buildings and straight roads.  Torino equally beautiful, situated along the Po river and demonstrating the French influence.  Even though most people try to see as many different countries as they can on spring break, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see the country I’ve been living in these past couple of months.  I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend spring break.

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Next on the travel agenda: Sicily and then Prague!  Hopefully I follow my own packing and spending advice for the remainder of the semester…

Ciao for now!!

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