We're home! We arrived in Denver around 7pm on the 1st, just in time to sleep for a full 2 days straight before celebrating the fourth and moving to the mountains for my job on the 5th!
Before I start to forget, I wanted to write some of what we learned on the trip along with some thoughts and things that did and did not work well...
- Research your Airbnbs. Some were fabulous and worked really well (Florence) while some were pretty awful (Athens). Airbnb can be an awesome tool to stay around the world fairly cheaply, but you get what you pay for so do your research! Your sleeping arrangements can definitely impact your time in a city, whether it be positively or negatively.
- When possible buy reservations for trains, not just a ticket! A ticket allows you on the train, a reservation is usually no added cost, but locks you into a specific seat for a train leaving at a specific time. If you want flexibility of taking a train on a different day or at a different time, don't bother with the reservation. If you have a long train ride and you know which train you want to be on, get a reservation and guarantee a little rest from standing.
- As cool as party hostels seem, it's probably best not to stay in one of you want to go to bed before 4am. We didn't stay in any, but visited clubs/bars in a few and were glad we had a quiet place to go back to sleep at!
- All Europeans must be dehydrated. Bring a water bottle to refill unless you want to be like me and buy a huge plastic one every other day.
- In many places, beer or cider was cheaper than water. That's why you have a water bottle. Go for the beer or wine with dinner!
- Naps are your best friend. It's easy to get cranky and often very hangry. Get up early and hit all the sights you want, take a quick nap before or after dinner before heading out to explore the night life!
- Packing cubes were awesome and made unpacking/packing every other day so easy. Definitely worth the purchase! I had one cube for tops and the few light dresses I brought, one for pants/shorts, and one for socks, underwear, and pjs. I also had a smaller one for all things electronic. Finally, I had a small clear plastic toiletry bag and one smaller one for make up for a total of 6 smaller bags inside my backpack. Organizing everything like this was a lifesaver.
- Reconsider getting the Eurail Pass... You might not even need it. RyanAir is a great low cost way to get around Europe. Most of our flights were cheaper and faster than the trains! All of our flights and trains added up were cheaper than the cost of the Eurail pass would have been for the time we were abroad!
- Everyone told us about their experiences or preconceived notions of people from different countries. Most of the time, we found that these were incredibly wrong. So many people told us the French weren't very friendly, but everyone we encountered in Paris was fabulous and so helpful! From the waiters to the random woman who helped us find our train platform, most of the people were very friendly and suggested things to do and places to eat or shop. Just like any group of people, you can't categorize a whole population because each individual is completely different. While some cultural norms and tendencies definitely differ from ours from country to country and city to city, each person is completely different.
This is all I could think of for now... Read my full blog posts from each city for more!