The Eiffel tower from the Seine river.
Yesterday I got a message form a person that is always in my heart. Patricia used to babysit for me and my siblings when she was finishing high school, and had no many plans for the future, probably babysit… forever? So my mother, who believes everybody should study farther than high school, offer her the same money she was getting every week, but to work only on weekends, so that Patricia could go to study.
Sometimes, all we need is a person who trusts we can achieve something bigger than what we imagine. And four years after, Patricia was a school teacher with one of the higher grades in the whole country. I am not lying, and to prove me right: she just won a national contest and the award was a trip to Madrid.
That was why she contacted me: she is staying in Madrid for a week, for a seminar, and then she wants to stay another week to go to France and Italy. And I found myself with this sweet sense of pride towards her. After all the years she spent taking care of me, now I can do something for her.
The Art Nouveau Metro entrances in Paris.
Patricia told me they are not planning on spending much money on food and I remember those were my exact same words; then I went to Italy and I lost all my money eating pasta and pizza, not to mention Antwerp and the original Leonidas chocolaterie! I found myself in the position of a travel agent trying to guide a first time traveler to one of the most amazing cities on Earth.
How to move around
- Low coast airlines are fast and they have some amazing promotions, especially when you buy the tickets in advance. The downside is that most of the lower prices are to travel only with your carry-on
- Trains: Rail Europe has many promotions for non-Europeans to go through different countries for some good prices. And the luggage is not an issue, but it takes more time to go from one place to the other. If you like to watch around, though, it might me the perfect way to enjoy the view.
- Forget about renting a car! This tip was for her, who almost doesn’t even drive in a small town; she will want to fade when trying to get into Rome.
How to calculate money
So, my advice here would be: don’t do what I did.
My first time in Europe I spent all my savings in a two and a half months backpacking Euro trip. I did that because I am very Latina, that means disorganized to the bones, I leave everything to the last minute and I like to eat.
Calculate some money to eat everyday and also some extra money to buy souvenir. She told me she was planning on eating sandwiches, I asked her not to lie to herself. We all do the same, apparently. Now I believe: it’s better to have some money for eating and then not spending it in food, so we can spend it in something else, than to run out of money.
The Gargoyles of Notre Dame de Paris
The Mona Lisa through technology
Museums, yes or no?
I love museums. I know I am a bit nerdy, but to go to London and not visit the National Gallery or the British Museum… or going to Paris and just taking a pic outside the Louvre… not cool. Especially ‘cause this former nanny of mine is very catholic, so she will want to go to the Vatican Museum.
Unlike in England, Vatican Museum expects visitors to pay and the line usually gets very long and it’s just a huge waste of time. So I told her, either she can go very early or contact a tour that will avoid the line for her and have an experienced guide at the museum.
The churches, on the other side, some of them expect visitors to pay, and well… they all look the same. Unless you are planning on visiting the Sagrada familia in Barcelona or the cathedrals of Milan or Cologne… I am not a big church fun.
Happy hour in Paris
My biggest disappointment in Paris was the heat. I mean, I went there on an amazing road trip with my boyfriend, in the middle of the European summer. I just wasn’t expecting so much heat in the north. Especially because they don’t know the magic of the air conditioning yet. So, all the bars and businesses are ready for the cold weather, while in the summer… I went from bar to bar enjoying the mojitos during the happy hour because I couldn’t stand myself nor my dress… nor my boyfriend.
Saint Angelo Castle in Rome
Rome = Pasta
Rome equals everything that is beautiful. One of my favorite cities, besides the dirty streets, the crazy traffic and the slow rhythm. It’s my soul city, it behaves the same way I do. And maybe that is the main reason why I could never live there: we are too similar.
The magic of Rome is that you can walk everywhere and to get lost in this city is even more spectacular that to follow a map. I know that firsthand because I always get lost. It doesn’t matter how many GPS I have, I get lost. And I love it.
“Oh, good!”, Patricia told me, “then I can walk and lose some weight”.
Fontana di Trevi, Rome
Me. At the Colosseum, Rome.
Rule number one: in Italy don’t watch your weight. You cannot escape from the gellaterias, the pizzerias and the fresh pasta. I am a truth believer that you can feel the taste of the cheese only by looking at it.
And that is another reason why I could never live in Rome.