Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Novelty Sight-Seeing and Souvenir-ing

I've never been very into conventional souvenirs (the impersonal, mass produced kind that say the name of the place you've visited - think Niagara Falls ashtrays, and tiny decorative spoons), but it occurred to me that I already have begun a small collection of large, latte mugs with the names of cities I've visited such as Denver, CO, West Palm Beach, FL, and Vancouver BC. The thing is that these mugs happen to be found at Starbuck's. They ARE functional after all, so I hope it's not quite the same as the mini spoons, and certainly more healthy than the ashtrays.

With this in mind, I wondered if there even were Starbuck's stores in Paris. I mean, they're everywhere, right? So why not Paris too? I couldn't quite imagine it, so I looked on the Starbucks website and found that Paris contains a total of 10 Starbucks, Vienna - 10, Munich - 7, Brussels - 2, Salzburg and Luxembourg - zero.

I can't quite fathom going out of my way to find these mugs, but since many seem to be located either in airports or near major sights I'll probably end up adding at least a few more to my collection.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I Heart Rick Steves and Google Maps

To find my Paris lodging I searched Hotels.com, recommendations from friends, and finally chose a place that I found on Rick Steves budget hotel list on the "Sleeping In Paris" page. My small room in the Port-Royal Hotel (on Porte-Royal Blvd) will be for one person, will have one washbasin (sink), no toilet, and no shower (the last two are down the hall), all for 48 euros per night (coming to under $250 for 4 nights)! I'm perfectly happy with an inexpensive, bare-bones room (provided it's clean) because I don't plan to be there all that much. The time I will be there I mostly plan on looking at the back of my eyelids, in the dark, not at how the room is decorated, or at a stunning view out of my window, or (god forbid) anything on television. (Really - I'm not traveling from one side of the planet to the other to see what's on my hotel room's fancy, flat-screen TV!) The money I save can be used for experiencing everything outside of my hotel room. As for a deposit on my reservation, none is needed, and they don't accept credit cards. I suppose we'll see if there is actually a room waiting for me when I arrive. ha!

Thanks to the nice people at Google Maps, and because of the genius of the "street view" of their maps, I was able to see the neighborhoods of each of the Paris hotels that I considered staying in. I feel so comfortable with the neighborhood I'll be staying in, and have "virtually" walked it so many times that I know where the Poste office is, and where the nearest metro entrance is located. It feels strangely familiar to me now,... as if it were my neighborhood. I just wonder what it will be like when I'm actually there. Because of this map view, I also know that my hotel is located on a wide, tree lined street (vs. a narrow back-alley looking street), there is a pharmacie 2 doors down, a movie theater nearby, and, in fact, a McDonald's just down the block. I'm interested in that last item only for the sake of novelty. It will be on my Paris to-do list to have the Royal Cheese on the Port-Royal blvd. More on that later....

Trip Skeleton

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Over the last few weeks I've managed to construct the skeleton of my trip, spending hour upon hour on the internet (for which I was teased by Craig who said "just go and figure it out when you get there") and then on the phone with some of the people I'll be visiting. My trip will now consist of 4 days in Paris, 4 days in Luxembourg, a train ride to Brussels where I'll catch a plane to Munich where I'll likely only stay a day. My cousin kindly will be driving 2.5 hrs to Munich to retrieve me, at which point I'll spend 5 days in Austria with her and her family. My fifth day in Austria we'll go to Vienna, see a few sights and I'll board a plane to Paris. I'll spend one last night in Paris and fly home the next day. I won't bore you with the (clever to me, but boring to you) details of how I'll get around quickly and cheaply, but suffice to say that my weekend of internet research will have been worth it. I've managed to avoid two 8hour, $300+, train rides, giving me more time and money to enjoy being there.

Saturday, November 1, 2008