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Europe Spring 2014

MedMapI’m thinking I need a vacation. That’s probably because I don’t have a lot going on in my life. I’d really rather be working on a job somewhere, but since no one seems interested in hiring me, I figured I’d book a trip for the spring. The reservation is made and the status went from “Hold” to “On Request” to “Ticketed” when I paid for it so I’m assuming I’ll get to go. The dates are April 9th – July 8th. I fly into Barcelona and back from Bucharest. Now I just have to figure out what to do for 90 days.

I’m thinking: Barcelona, Tangier, Fez, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Gibraltar, Ronda, MalagaCosta del Sol, Cuenca, Carthage (Tunis), Ibiza, Andorra, Palma de MallorcaCagliari, Sardinia, Bonifacio, Corsica, Bastia, Malta, Sicliy, PalermoCannes, Nice, Monaco, Bucharest, Transylvania, Odessa, Chisinau, and/or Kiev.

Now, I just wish my wife would go. But when I told her that she was going to have to learn to say “western style toilet” in Arabic and Russian if she wanted to go she said “I don’t think so!”

Cathedral in Barcelona Spain

Barcelona CathedralThis is a picture of the Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. This is not the largest religious structure in Barcelona. That goes to the Sagrada Familia which is actually the top tourist attraction in Barcelona. I went to the “church” to visit. The term church is in quotes because I couldn’t seem to get anyone to tell me the times for mass. I could get lots of people to take my $30 to get in to see the inside of the main area of the church, but that is only used for services “on special occasions” I was told. When I asked if Easter was considered a special occasion I was told that it wasn’t. I’m not sure what special occasions Continue reading

Airfare Rumors – March 24, 2014

IAH - DUB - $722I’m working on my airfare skills. I’m giving myself 30 minutes to find cheap R/T airfare. Results: OKC -> BAH = 575;CDG = 727; FCO = $798; SHA = $877; DFW -> BAH = 498; BRU = 595; DUB = 736; FCO = 771; SHA = 836; MNL = 863; IAH -> BAH = 501; IST = 567; EUROPE = <700 (10+). It turned out all those less than $700 fares in Europe were bogus. Most were in the $720-$900 range. Sad. This fare is for two weeks in Dublin, which is an expensive city. However, you can get really cheap airfare out of Dublin to lots of places in Euopre. Sounds like a twofur or eve a threefur. Or, catch a ferry to England or Scotland.

Airfare Rumors – March 20, 2014

IAH - TLV $763I’m working on my airfare skills. I’m giving myself 30 minutes to find cheap airfare. Results: OKC -> DUB = 749; SHA = 877; DFW -> HKG = 908; MNL = 863; BAH = 498; DOH = 604; KWI = 631; DUB = 710; IAH -> SHA = 693; CAI = 755; TLV = 752; EUR = 650 (10+). All fares in dollars. EUR = Europe (multiple destinations). Time to find and record was 20 minutes. Remember, they’re rumors. Well, maybe not the Houston to Tel Aviv in January, 2015. I verified that one. Now why would anyone want to go to the Holy Lands for two weeks instead of freezing their tush off in OKC?

Cheap European Tours

It seems that most escorted tours to Europe cost in the $150 to $200 a day range. You’ll probably get a really nice hotel, transportation, guide, breakfasts, maybe some dinners, maybe some attractions, and maybe some other stuff like discounts and the factories where they take you to see the “local” attractions. Yes, I’ve been on escorted tours. Here are some places where you can get tours for around $100 a day. Continue reading

Bastia, France Accommodations

Corsica FerryMy plan is to catch a ferry from Corsica to Nice, France at the end of May or first of June. But, I’d like to spend some time on Corsica. Due to the fact that Corsicans seem to have higher prices for accommodations and a lack of hostels, I’ve taken to changing my approach on finding budget accommodations in Corsica. There’s not much in English on the Internet. I’ve now started polling hospitality network members to see if they know of any budget accommodations in Corsica. I sent off a few inquiries and I’ve gotten one back from a gentleman in Bastia, France that looks interesting. He told me to contact the tourist information office in Bastia. I hadn’t really thought of that. So I went to their website and sure enough, they list accommodations. It seems that they had links for Hotels, Rentals, Homestays, Rental Organizations, Collective Accommodation, Campsites, and Hotels & Residences. Now I have some more research to do.

Cheap Sleeps in Corsica

This following a post I made in the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum. It discusses my Corsica Problem.

I will be in Sardinia the last week of May. I want to take the ferry from Santa Teresa Gallura to Bonifacio. From there I want to go to Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi or L’Ile-Rousse to catch a ferry to Nice, France. I’ve looked on LP, HostelBookers, Hostelworld, Wikitravel, airbnb, TripAdvisor, etc. There isn’t much under €50. I don’t want to depend on finding a CS host, as there are aren’t many active ones in Corsica. I’ve traveled a little (100+ countries). Sometimes, you get off a train or a bus and people are standing there with signs for accommodations. I doubt that will happen in Corsica. However, there’s often pensions, small hotels, zimmers, and, of course, the basic flophouse. Sometimes you have to locate the “bad area of town” to find them. I can sleep rough, but I’m not bringing a tent this trip. I do have room for a bivy in my carry-on rucksack. I’m looking to find cheap accommodations in Corsica. Do I simply need to wait till I get there to find them? Do they exist? It’s pretty rare that I can’t find something cheap on the Internet. I’m open to opinions, advise, BS, wisdom, recommendations, observations, suggestions, etc, etc, etc. And, yes, I do know that money can solve this problem. But, what’s life without some challenges? TIA.

Did I get a lot of response? No. One reply. But, it was fruitful. I was told “look for gites d’etape or Chambres d’hotes on the Internet. In May Corsica is not packed with tourist, but if you want to bargain you need some French or Italian language and don’t call them French ever, this always double the price.” That started me thinking. The language issue could be part of the reason why I’m having trouble finding something.

Dear Rosita

Rosita, this post is for you. I talked with Rob yesterday and he told me you were thinking about going to India, Thailand, or Bali wanted opinions. Opinions are like elbows, almost everyone has one. My opinion is go where you want. Yes, I’ve spent a month in India, a month in Thailand, and a week in Bali but it’s not my trip. You asked about safety and public transportation in those locations. Some Comments based on what you said in your post:

Everywhere is safe if you use your head. So, you are a female and traveling alone. But you don’t have to be alone unless you want to. You’ll meet plenty of people just like you from all over the world if you stay in hostels. I always find people to go out with for a meal or a beer when I stay in them. Sometimes, I even need to get a private room to get away from them. You never need to be alone when you travel. Sometimes we even wind up traveling together. I met three Canadians in Egypt and we spent about two weeks together.  As for trouble, yes, you can be really unlucky. Yes, there’s random crime everywhere. Even in San Diego or Oklahoma City. If you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time…

India – trains. They go everywhere. Where they don’t do buses go. They’re cheap. Overnight trains means you sleep on the train and save a hotel room. Book early. Book here. Don’t get the bottom bunk. Indians like to bring food on the trains and they store it under the bottom bunk. Think tuk-tuks locally. There’s so many you’ll get tired of saying “No, thanks.” India is 4,000 years of history and a culture that tends to polarize people – they either hate it or love it. Not so many bars. It’s got temples and beaches. It’s got the desert and the jungle. But, it’s huge. I was there a month and I just scratched the surface (Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, Rajasthan, & Mumbai). Northern India can be cold in the winter in some places (Delhi & Agra) and there’s no heat in budget hotels, just lots of blankets.

Bali – the farthest two points on the whole island are 108 miles apart by road. That’s the whole island. Scooters cost me $5 a day when I was there. You can drive the whole island in a couple of days. Three max. Bali is beach. And a little slice of paradise. With a Hard Rock and an incredible number of bars.

Thailand – it’s Bangkok. More bars. I don’t know if you’re into the world’s best massages ($5), Khaosan Road,  or Soi Cowboy. But it’s only 240 miles from the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park (160 square miles – it’s not just a temple, it was a city – and you can get a guide and a tuk-tuk  in Siem Reap for a whole day for $25). There are buses all over SE Asia. Examples: I rode from Saigon to Phnom Penh for $16 and  Bangkok to Chiang Mai for $20. From Bangkok you can fly to KL (Kuala Lumpur) for $22 ($44 R/T) on Air Asia. Once in KL you can fly to Java, Sumatra, and Borneo in less than an hour for $50$-60 R/T. I love KL, primarily because it’s a cheap air hub and it’s only an hour from Singapore by bus ($8). Singapore has Tiger Air. More cheap airfare. My God! I hope you have a lot of time. The possibilities…

 

Europe 2014 Itinerary Update

The latest update for the Europe 2014 trip goes something like this. I land in Barcelona on April 10th. I have 3 nights booked at a hostel in El Gòtic. I leave Barcelona April 15th for Seville. I need to get from Seville to Fez, Morocco where I fly back to Barcelona on May 13th. I’m thinking buses and trains. I leave Barcelona for Malta on May 17th. I leave Malta for Sicily on May 21st. I leave Sicily for Sardinia on May 26th. Somehow, I need to be back in Barcelona by June 10th when I catch a flight to Bucharest. I return home from Bucharest on July 9th. I’m thinking Eastern Europe for a month. These dates are “done deals” as the airfare is booked. The rest of the time I can just wander around as the mood strikes me. Yes, I have an itinerary, but it’s got some flexibility built into it.