The Excitement Builds

After spending a couple of days online with a window open at Hostels Worldwide and another open to Hosteling International I have found (and booked) all of the lodging for what ended up becoming a 120-Day European Holiday!  Yep, you heard me right – 4 months!  Since I am planning the basics with so much advance time I was able to pick and choose the cream of the crop from each of the locations I want to visit and spend time exploring.

On the google travel map I created, I chose a possible driving route. Following that route I began searching for hostels, B & B’s and hotels along the way.  The first place I like to check is Hosteling International.  I’ve stayed in their hostels before and highly recommend them.  If I couldn’t find anything there, or I just wanted to see what else might be available then I go to Hostel World.  The advantage to their website is that they not only list hostels, but also B&B’s and hotels.

The blue line on the map below is the travel route. Scattered along the route are little mustard colored icons in the shape of a person lying in a bed which tells the name and location of the lodging I’ve booked a room with.

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Before making an actual booking at each place, I went through and made notes on what was available for which dates and put a place mark on the map with the name of the hostel and the date.  I tried to spend at least 2-3 days at places of particular interest and a week in a bigger city.

When I found myself having to drive a fairly long distance from one point to the next, I also looked for something in between and found additional, delightful little side notes to stop at. This process took awhile to accomplish but, the results were fantastic!

When I got back to the point where I would need to get on a plane and fly home I counted up the total days and realized I had added 20 extra.  I could have shortened my trip, perhaps not go to Scotland and Ireland this time.

“I wonder if I could afford to actually stay that long?” I asked myself.  I decided to tally up the total cost for each night’s stay and then divided it by the number of days.  When I saw the results I couldn’t believe my eyes!  The average cost of a night’s lodging was only $34.59!  That’s totally terrific!

Based on that figure and what I know I would spend on average per day for food, fun, a car (and some gas to put it in) I could definitely afford to do to the whole 4 months worth!  This is getting better and better by the minute.

Knowing where I wanted to go and for how long, it was time to look at available flights that hopefully will jive! Saving airmiles on a particular credit card, in my case – United Mileage Plus – is a huge piece of my traveling puzzle.  I buy everything on my rewards credit card each and every day and only pay one bill per month; the visa card.  Doing so allows me to earn, and more importantly – save – miles for traveling to distant places.  I have gone a lot of places over the years doing just that. More than likely I would not have gone because I wouldn’t have been able to afford the expensive airline tickets.

Saving miles is definitely the way to go….it takes awhile to earn enough to go somewhere big like Europe but when I use my credit card daily to buy anything I would normally use a debit card or check for, it adds up faster than you might imagine.  I’m not a big spender or spend a lot of money shopping either.

Knowing I had close to 100,000 miles saved to use, I began an online search for “Award” travel.  Didn’t take long to find not only one but several possibilities this far out in the future; but also one that allowed me to a do multi-city trip!  Wow, that’s a first!  West coast to Paris, Paris to Aberdeen; Aberdeen to West Coast! This is working out so, so fantastically great. See how fun it is to dream and what it become a reality if ya just put in some effort to see what the possibilities are?

Before I booked my airline ticket however, I went right back to the beginning of the route and started booking a room for the nights that I wanted at each location.  It’s really quite easy. I put down a very small deposit for each of my stays, a small percentage of the total bill.  If I want to change something about my booking, that’s totally doable as well or even down right cancel up to 24 hours prior to arrival.

When I finished each and every booking, I went back to my reward airline membership and booked myself the ticket I found to fit my desired route!  Yeah!  It’s becoming a reality right before my very eyes. I have an actual airline tickets now and a host of places to visit and explore!

My wonderful friend, Maria, and I have been day dreaming about going to Paris ‘someday’ together for a number of years. We’ve been diligently saving our money and our air miles to do so.  She let me know in the recent past that she had enough saved to go to Paris and that we could start planning it.  I’ve been planning alright, as you can see, so as soon as I booked my flight, we got the same flight for her allowing us to travel together to Paris. Yippee! It’s a dream come true for both of us!

Want a glimpse of where this itinerary is going to take me and the places I’ll be staying at?  Keep reading…..

Eiffel Tower2

March 24 – April 7: Two glorious weeks in Paris!  Lodging – Le Village Hostel, Montmartre

Bridges in Paris    moulin_rouge_night  Louvre   Le Village Hostel 1   Le Village Hostel 2

Apr 8: Lyon, SLO Living Hostel

Lyon     slo living hostel Lyon 3slo living hostel Lyon 1     slo living hostel Lyon 2    

Apr 9 – 15: southern coast of France Villeneuve-Loubet, Residence Syracruse Timeshare (near Nice)

Residence Syracuse Villeneuve-Loubet 2    Residence Syracuse Villeneuve-Loubet 3 Residence Syracuse Villeneuve-Loubet 4     Residence Syracuse Villeneuve-Loubet

Apr 16 – 22: Canet-en-Rouissilon

(on the other end of the southern coast of France near the border of Spain).

Lodging is another timeshare week at a place called Malibu Village.

Canet-en-Rouissilo     Malibu Village 1 Malibu Village 2    Malibu Village 3

Apr 23: Carcassone Hostel, Carcassone, France.

Will spend the night in the middle of a World UNESCO sight! How cool will that be?

carcassone hostel     carcassonne-france-3 img31949-Carcassonne-Hostel-France-patio-bbq-crowd    carcassonne-youth-hostel

Apr 24: Toulouse; El Gran Camino Hostel

This spot marks the end of the first month.  We’ve still have 3 more to go!

toulouse 1     toulouse-2

toulous 3     toulous 4    el gran camino hostel 1     el gran camino hostel 2

Apr 25-26: Bordeaux, Residhotel Tatry

I’ll give you a taste of the next 30 days starting with the Bordeaux region.

bordeaux-european-best-destinations    bordeaux chateaux and vineyard bordeaux vineyards     Bordeaux_attr_22  Residhotel Tatry 1     residhotel_galerie_tatry-10

I’ve listed the rest of the stops below with the corresponding date.  If you want to see more, look for my next posting.  I’ll be adding pictures to each place.  This is going to take a little while.  Thought you’d enjoy seeing what I’ve compiled so far.

When I get done adding pictures to each date and location, over the course of the coming winter, I will work on the next phase; planning the individual weeks I will be in a major city, like Paris, for instance.  I will build a separate travel map just for that location, with place marks denoting the various sights and attractions I hope to visit.

I have one built for Amsterdam already.  (Started planning that portion of the trip last winter – tt’s going to come in real handy.)  I will also refer to my favorite guidebooks from Rick Steve’s.  (www.RickSteves.com) to plan my visits to particular places.  Rick provides wonderful narrative, helpful suggestions, and is a wealth of information regarding the details of buying tickets, public transportation, and basics like that as well as a thorough rundown on various attractions and their history.

Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the process of planning, seeing for yourself how easily it can be, and seeing photos of some of the results.  Would love to hear any of your comments.  If you’ve ever visited any of these locations and would like to offer recommendations of must see/must do’s while in the area I’d love to hear them.

 

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And yet another trip to Scotland?

As I have mentioned before, I quite simply love the country where my name comes from – Scotland!

I cannot imagine being so close and not going there while I am in the neighborhood!  If it isn’t too much of an additional cost to fly from Paris or Amsterdam to Aberdeen then I will add this next part of the trip. Besides, it’s already included in the count for the 100-day holiday!

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First stop Aberdeen to visit my dear cousin Lindsay, then south to Stirling once again where the origins of the Frew name apparently reside.  I want to visit the Fords of Frew, and spend some time marveling at the William Wallace monument which I only had time to see from a distance this past spring.

Then the road leads to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond to relax among the gorgeous scenery for a few days. Next, Inverary, a special place indeed with a ancestral castle to visit!  Next stop the wonderful harbor town of Oban where I can catch a boat to the very ancient and special Isle of Iona; Celtic Kings are buried at it’s Abbey.

I will travel south through Ayr; an absolutely beautiful area!  I wonder if I could get another booking at Jackie’s place; Turas-Mura Guest House?  If you’re ever in the area, I HIGHLY recommend you stay at this delightful and comfortable B&B. www.turasmara.com

Another area south of Ayr on the southwestern tip of Scotland is another that I only had time to drive through.  I want to explore around some other ancestral sites like Newton Stewart and Galloway Estate.

Looky there!  Ireland is oh-so-close at this point!  How about a ferry ride across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland!  I could visit with and get to know my new Frew friends (and possible relatives) a wee bit better.  Didn’t have nearly enough time to barely scratch the surface the last time!  I could also pick up the threads of discovery about my oldest known Frew ancestor, Sgt. John Frew, who was born and raised near Balleymena.

I sure love this part of planning – dreaming up what I want to do!

Anyone want to come along any portion of it with me?

Next I’ll be working on lodging locations along the route from Amsterdam to Italy.  Also will share with you an Amsterdam city map of the must see/must do details.  Stay tuned!

New Routes to Explore

Since my last post, I’ve been working on a possible route from Amsterdam south toward the northern part of Italy. It looks intriguing and is wrought with possibilities.  As you can see by the picture below, the route I am considering would take me through the western part of Germany and into the tiny country of Luxembourg.  It also includes a bit of Switzerland!  I would love to visit an Alpine village and explore the hills with the goats and cows tinkling their bells while looking at gorgeous panoramic views of the majestic mountains!  Yes!

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I have also put temporary red place marks on the locations I’d like to visit while I am in Italy: Venice, Florence, the sister city of Medford; Alba, and Cinque Terra, before traveling back north to Paris where I would return my rental car.  Might even take a train through this route.  Will have to check out the possibilities of that!  I love the dreaming part of planning a trip.  I can let my imagination go wild!

(If you would like to view the picture in a larger format, just single click on it and it will appear in a separate window and much larger so you can view the details.)

100 day Holiday

I’ve been busy earning some traveling money for the last couple of months and therefore haven’t posted anything on my site.  I had full intentions of sharing with you the process I went through to plan my last trip to Scotland, England and Ireland, but, because I earned more travel money I have already begun the process of planning my next adventure in the Spring of 2016!

Destination? France, The Netherlands, a little bit of Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy and another jaunt over to Scotland and Northern Ireland while I am so darned close.  (Can’t seem to be in that neck of the woods without going to the country I love the most!) I roughly figured out how long it might take me to visit all of those places, hence the name – “100 Day Holiday!”

In my last post I was talking about dreaming and dreaming big.  Visiting Paris has been a life-long dream.  I shared my dream with my friend Maria and she exclaimed “I’ll go with you to Paris!”  So the two of us started saving our money and our air miles for a plane ticket and began visualizing being there and what we wanted to see and do.  Now we are actually going!  Two other friends that I have traveled with before are also planning on joining us.  Maria will only be with us during the Paris section, but my other friends, Jack and Debbie, are seriously planning on going even further with me throughout France and possibly beyond.

Instead of sharing with you how I planned my last trip, I am going to share with you each step, while I take it! This is how I plan a trip specially designed for me and some friends who have said they would like to come along as well.  If anyone else would like to join me on any part of it – just let me know.  This is going to be fun, fun, fun!

In the preliminary stage of planning the first place I like to go is online to “Google Maps.”  Google Maps are the greatest little traveling tool that I have found. It’s extremely useful.  Not only is it a great visual of the route and places I intend to visit, but it can hold all the necessary details quite easily for me. I can use special icons for different types of ‘placemarks’ and type in necessary information on them to view later while I am traveling.

For instance, I can use an icon that looks like a person sleeping in a bed for hostels, hotels, or B&B’s, or a flower icon to designate a garden I’d like to visit, perhaps a castle icon, or music symbol for festivals and events I’d like to attend along the way.

Each of the icons also have a small screen that pops up when I click on it and it has a “description” section where I can type in pertinent information about the place, website links, points of interest, contact info, etc.  It’s very handy and I don’t have to keep all those details in my head or carry around a big heavy book, just take my smartphone and ipad and I have it made. When I arrive at a place I planned on visiting, I just click on the icons in my travel itinerary map and I have the necessary info I need and want.  I also like to “title” the icons with the date and location so I can tell at a glance where I’m headed next; when and where my next reservation is scheduled (i.e., “3/24 – 4/7 Le Village Hostel, Montmarte, Paris”) .

A google map can have many layers also; about 10 total, I think.  I like to build one layer with just the lodging locations for instance.  Another layer – driving directions.  I also like to have a layer that lists ancestors with the birth and death dates annotated, and the placemarkks are located on the town they were from.  Yet another layer are special interest sights I hope to visit; castles, gardens, museums, markets, ancient churchyards, etc.  I can turn the layers ‘on’ and ‘off’ depending on what information I want to visually display on my screen and to make it easier to find the detail information I need, or I can have them all ‘on’ so I can see all the details at once.  It takes some time to build it, but it’s well worth the effort to be organized so I can relax while I travel knowing I have the information I need at my fingertips.

I’m also a big fan of Rick Steve’s ‘Europe Through the Back Door’ TV shows on PBS, his guidebooks and his tour itineraries.(RickSteves.com)

I download the guidebooks from his website onto my ipad along with free audio walking tours he offers of famous historical places which I listen to while I’m touring that particular site.  I haven’t been on one of his tours yet, perhaps one day, but for now, I like to look at the places he recommends for his tours, and I like to watch the programs because he provides such wonderful informative commentary on the art, history and culture of a given area and most importantly, he likes the kind of stuff I like.  Once I get the basic route figured out and arm myself with the aid of Rick’s guidebook I retrace my steps to each individual location I have chosen to spend a night or two at and begin the second process of choosing what I want to see and do while I’m there.

If the location I am currently planning is a fairly large place with lots of things to see and do, for instance Paris or Amsterdam, and I will be staying there for at least a week or two, then I like to create a separate google map just for that location.  Cities and all of their sites to visit, can really clog up the “main” map and it’s easier to find the details on a separate map for that location alone.

The first ‘solo’ trip I ever took was a 3 week vacation to the Hawaiian islands.  While I was there I bought into a timeshare on the big island. That timeshare has long been paid off and it earns me a week vacation every other year. I have accumulated deposited ‘weeks’ from the timeshare and thought it would be great to set up an ongoing search to see if there could be anything available to me while I am in France.

So I did that and lo and behold, I not only found one, but two suitable locations on the southern coast of France; one up by Nice near the border of Italy and another further down the coastline near the border of Spain! Those were each available from April 9th until April 23rd so I booked a week at each location; one week after the other.  Afterwards I went back online to Le Village Hostel site and booked 2 weeks in Paris prior to the timeshare weeks! With 2 weeks on the southern coast of France, and 2 weeks in Paris, I’m already set up for a whole month!  That was easy!

Now back to Google Maps…. Now that I have a couple of reservations, I create a new map and put a placemark on the map using a hotel bed icon for Le Village Hostel and each of the timeshare locations.  I’ve begun an itinerary!

I looked at the map of France again and thought it would be nice to travel north from the southern coast toward the coastline on the northwestern side of the country working my way eventually to Amsterdam and came up with a suitable route that I think might work.  The next step will be to find lodging along the route I have chosen.

I really like staying at European hostels for a number of reasons: they have everything a traveler needs for starters; a clean bed, showers, a place to prepare meals, and best of all – a wide range of fellow travelers – many of whom become friends!   I really like the tried-and-true variety that Hosteling International or Hostel World offer.  I have learned that I can expect a certain level of professionalism, be served by well-trained helpful staff, be provided with clean and safe suitable dwellings to stay in, and all that for a very reasonable price.

I searched both sites (www.hostelinginternational.com and www.hostelworld.com) and found hostels available for the whole route I thought would be nice: Toulouse north to Bordeaux, then onto the Loire Valley, Rennes, Mt. St. Michel’s, Rouen, and on into Belgium at Bruges & Ghent, and finally through the Netherlands at Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, and Amsterdam!   By the time I got done calculating all the costs from Paris to Amsterdam for the hostels and the timeshares it worked out at an average of only about $38 per day for lodging for a total of 41 days!  That’s incredible!

I really like to have a rental car to travel from place to place.  I like the freedom it affords me to stop when and where I desire and to easily take a different route than planned if the spirit guides me.  Also, when I will be at the timeshare unit for a week, I can easily take day trips to and fro from the timeshare location and really explore the local area each day without having to mess with train or bus schedules.  It’s an added cost, but well worth it. One doesn’t need a car in the big cities however, public transportation will get you anywhere you want to go in Europe, but once I start touring the countryside, that is the time to rent a car.

For each of the locations I had decided to stop at and spend a night or two, I’ve put icons on my map for lodging. Each stop is generally about 100 miles apart; close enough together that I won’t spend all day getting to the next location and will have time for sightseeing along the route.

Here is a picture of the driving route layer on my map from Point A – Paris to Point G – Amsterdam.

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This next one shows it with the icons for lodging and what looks like when I click on one of the icons to view the detailed information about that particular place.

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Looks like an interesting route, doesn’t it?  So far, oh-so-good!  In my next post, I will show you the section of the route I hope to take from Amsterdam down through the western side of Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland and on into northern Italy.  Stay tuned! Maybe, just maybe, one of you might say, “Hey, I want to go there too and join you on this trip!”