Top 10 Tips and Tricks for surviving Paris

It was a last minute decision to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Paris and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Though I still can’t figure out how we got out of the holidays with my in-laws or my family, but I digress. After giving up a planned vacation for a new job it had been 18 months since a proper vacation, and needless to say we were both thrilled to be on a plane to the City of Lights for nearly 2 1/2 weeks.

New Year's Eve at the Eiffel Tower

New Year’s Eve at the Eiffel Tower

Since we’ve been back stateside we’ve been asked numerous time “What was your favorite part?” or “What would you recommend?” and honestly it’s really difficult to answer. Most in part because there were sooooo  many favorites and so many recommendations.  Since I’ve had some time to mull answers over, I’ve decided to do a 2 part blog-series on our faves and the recommendations. In this post, I’ll share our  top 10 tips and tricks to navigate through Paris during the winter.

1.  First and foremost, Kyle and I fell in love with experiencing another culture’s holiday season and would highly recommend it to everyone and anyone.

Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris

There’s less tourists, the locals are out, and the people are in high spirits. Paris is definitely one of the cities you must experience and explore during the holidays. From the Christmas markets to the hot-mulled wine to the lights hung around every street corner, it was amazing on so many levels and unfortunately this photo doesn’t do it justice.

2. Speaking of hot, spiced, mulled wine. Make sure you get a cup or two or three of “vin chaud” to keep warm during the cold, windy, wet (and possibly snowy) winter season. It will keep you warm long after you’ve drained the last drop.

Vin Chaud: hot, spiced, mulled wine.

Vin Chaud: hot, spiced, mulled wine.

We fell in love with this beverage, so much so that we made sure to have a cup everyday. It was that good.  Also, avoid asking the proper wine folks about this as this is considered ‘beneath’ them. We were even told on one occasion that it wasn’t ‘popular’ only to find out 25 feet away were two carnival-like kiosks selling them.  Keep an eye out for sandwich, kabab, and sweets (churros, donuts, etc) kiosks….they have the best vin chaud. The cafe versions are twice as much and don’t taste nearly as good.

3. Trust me. Get a Museum Pass.

It’s 42 Euro/Person for the two-day pass and is totally worth it especially if you’re only in town for a few days. But be sure that it gets you into the Musee (museums) you want to go since it doesn’t work for Eiffel Tower. Also, these must be used in consecutive days, so plan your Musee routes in advance to get the most out of it.  Finally, all Musee (museums) have two lines; security and entry. Typically security is the longest and the Museum pass lets you bypass the second line (entry) so don’t get frustrated when you’re standing in the first line with the ‘non-museum pass’ folks.

4. If you’re in need for some tchotchkes (keychains, magnets, old books, old magazines) to give to your friends, co-workers, and family be sure to buy it from the locals instead of the hawkers. The latter stalk tourists in front of the Louvre, Versailles, and all the major tourist sites. The locals are located on the Seine River by the Notre Dame Cathedral.  These sellers only have green boxes to sell from and have to fit all their belongings in 4 crates. We learned that by law there are only 250 sellers allowed per year and the average wait list time is eight years. Which basically means that someone needs to pass-away. It may be the PNW in me but there’s something to be said for supporting the locals.

5. As shared in a previous travel post, eating out can get expensive even if it’s for the simplest things like water, fruit and coffee. MonoPrix is a local grocery store chain (more like Fred Meyers with clothes and toiletries) we visited at least every two days to grab bottled water and snacks that’s significantly cheaper than the museum, cafe, or restaurant food. A smaller, more express store associated to the Monoprix is the Monop…..less selection but still you can grab the essentials.

Monoprix

They  saved us when Delta lost our luggage and we needed beanies and umbrellas. Also, both the main and express stores take credit cards with no spending minimum which is a huge life saver esp if you just want a bottle of water or a coke.  Besides, this is where the locals shop and it’s always exciting to see the variations of products available in different countries.

6.  You’ll inevitably use the metro lines while you’re in Paris. Make sure you purchase the carne in packs (10 tickets for 13.30) at any metro station, as it’s significantly cheaper than buying individual tickets.

 

Paris Metro Stations

Paris Metro Stations

Be sure to download these two apps and you can thank me later.  “Paris Metro” app and  “Google Maps” for Paris. Download the latter to access without wifi connection in advance. You can zoom in and identify where you’re at (using your phone’s GPS) along with the nearest metro stations. Once you have this, figure out where you want to go and open up the Paris Metro app. Click on the “route” tab and enter were you are and where you want to go. It will automatically offer you the metro links you need to take. This app  saved our lives.  Note: The #1 line (Yellow) is the main line to all the main tourist attractions. 

And for goodness-sake don’t even consider renting a car unless you want to die.

7. The RER lines are separate than the Metros and depending on the line, and where you want to go, can only be accessed through certain Metros stations.  Use the “Paris Metro” app that I noted above to help you. For example, if you want to catch a train to CDG airport, you need to head to the Chatalet metro stop to get to RER B.

Paris Metro App

Paris Metro App

Also, the RER runs every 15-30mins and they are more confusing to figure out what platforms you need to be on, so plan more time for these, especially if you go to Versailles or to the airport. If you’re staying in the city, your carnet ticket can get you on the RER and the metro (for example if you’re going to see the Moulin Rouge in the Monmarte arrondissement (neighborhood) you don’t need a separate carne. But if you’re going to and from outside the city like Versaille, you’ll need to buy different tickets at the metro counters that cost a bit more.  IE) Versaille RT is 13.30.

8. Parisians get a bad rap for their stiff-arm, cold shoulder attitude. But, honestly that’s instigated from the tourists. Going up to a Parisian and speaking English isn’t going to win you points just like a Chinese person coming up to you in Seattle speaking Madarin won’t get them very far either. For the most part, Parisians are polite and you don’t need to be purchasing a new Louis Vuitton purse to be on the receiving end of this. From cafes to boutiques to bakeries Parisians will always say “Bonjur” and you respond accordingly. After 7pm “Bonjur” is now “Bonsoir.”

Get into the habit of saying “Parlez-vouz anlais?” (Do you speak English) or “Je ne parle pas francais” (I don’t speak French). It will be a headache saver. The “Speak Easy French” app is awesome to learn how to pronounce the phrases correctly. The only bummer is that you can’t access the app without wifi.

9.  Create a routine . Get into a habit of popping into your local, corner cafe for a cafe au lait (cafe latte) or cafe (espresso) on a daily basis for your morning java fix and then head around the block to your boulangerie (bakery) for a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant).

Morning cafe au lait

Morning cafe au lait

If you can, grab a sandwich to for an afternoon picnic while you’re grabbing your croissant.  Regardless of how long you’re in Paris, these establishments and their staff will recognize you and give you better service. You’ll become a local in no-time!

Impromptu picnic with a veiw

Impromptu picnic with a veiw

This also means you should try to spend as much time in Paris if you can. We recommend a week or more. With so many museums, cafes, gardens, etc to experience, anything less is crazy!

10. The Eiffel Tower is a must and you can’t experience it from the ground. Reserve your tickets at least one to two months in advance through their website.  If for some reason you forget about this, you can can either stand in line for three to four hours (I’m not kidding) or you can pay double the price and go through a reputable third party vendor (what we did) to get in as a group. We recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours. They were great, prompt, and easy to use. The only downside was the price and there was a massive windstorm on the day we were scheduled to go up the Tower that the Summit was closed.  So be sure to book in advance and save your euros for a lovely, authentic dinner.

Have you visited the City of Lights? Post your tips, tricks, and advice below and be sure to check back for Part 2: Our Favorites.

 

Five Year Anniversary: Does wood cutlery count?

When celebrating one’s five-year anniversary, tradition says that gifts should be paper or wood. “Wood represents strength solidity and warmth- are the traditional material on the fifth anniversary.” A modern gift is cutlery. Does wooden cutlery count? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. 

This past August 16th, we celebrated our five-year anniversary. I still can’t believe it’s been five years. It feels like yesterday when we were toasting the bubbly, smashing cupcakes in each other’s faces (I believe I started it), I was in the most expensive dress I ever owned (still own, and still the most expensive), and it was the one of the happiest (and most expensive) days of our lives.

My favorite photo from our wedding day.

My favorite photo from our wedding.

Due to some major life changes…ahem….me starting a new job at an awesome company, I had to start earlier than planned and gave up my month of vacation that we originally looking forward to. I say that like it’s a bad thing but really it’s not.  I actually started with three weeks paid vacation and there’s no accrual. I can’t believe I just typed that. I’m not gloating, bragging; okay maybe I am, in the tinniest sense. But, after working for my old company for nearly eight years just to get three weeks of vacation, this feels like a gift from God.

I digress. Gone is a month filled with backpacking, road-tripping, camping on the beach, and possibly being eaten by a bear.  I’m now working (and loving it) at a fab company and Kyle’s on summer break. We decided to head out of town on a four day holiday to a four star campsite  (that’s like a five start hotel) for some down time to celebrate.

But this isn’t a post about ratings, stars and screaming children– I’ll save that for another day. It’s a post to celebrate the 5 glorious years we’ve called our own. While hiking up to Rachel Lake (my new favorite hike and lake), I decided to start a “Top Five” list of sorts. This was partially self motivated because Kyle had shoved a can of bear spray in his day pack and knowing I had no idea where we were going, it was safe to assume we were taking a jaunt into  ‘bear country’ and thus I decided we needed to talk the entire time to keep away The Bears.

The Top Five Lists

 

Though we did have a lot of similarities, we had more fun re-living the last five years with ‘remember that one time…’ than we did actually putting them into these lists.  Regardless of these lists, I know what you’re really thinking about….

No,I did not get Kyle wooden cutlery but I did think about it.  Instead, I got him a rad, new, minimalistic wallet for his ‘green paper.’ He’s been eyeing out these wallets from Bellroy which I do have to say, make some amazing, quality leather goods. I fully endorse this small company especially since their wallets arrive beautifully wrapped so you don’t have to do it!

Kyle in typically fashion out did me. He spoke to the wood-sey girl in me with gaiters and the girly-girl in me with a gorgeous Kate Spade necklace. I see these gaiters lending me to my passion for the outdoors… in the woods. And my necklace is green, which is the same color as the trees! DUH. See, we totally have it together.

Photo Credit: www.rei.com

Photo Credit: http://www.rei.com

 

The 5-year bling

The 5-year bling via @jackieostlie instagram

 

But, honestly I’m really not that high maintenance as these gifts makes me out to be.  Proof? Rainier and Freezer-Dried Beef Stroganoff for our 5-year anniversary dinner. Does it help that I picked it out?

The celebratory grub

The celebratory grub

Saving is more than investing, it’s about Word of Mouth

In the last month, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s been a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series has also been a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories as  much as I have! 

The lovely Kristina!

The lovely Kristina!

Today’s blog post comes from the land down under. Kristina and her husband Jeff moved to Australia several years ago and are one of the reasons for our travel adventure inspiration.  There’s a lot reasons why she’s a fave but her passion for reading and love for her kindle are a few top reasons…oh and she’s one of the sweetest people I know! 

First a bit of backstory about me. I am a loyal bank goer since before I can remember.

I was set up with a kids saving account at Bank of America for my college fund. Years later when my dad started to work at Boeing and became part of Boeing Employees Credit Union, I too started an account with them (my Bank of America savings account still in tow) for checking, saving and car loan.

After finishing college my BofA account was no longer needed as the funds were depleted but in turn I got one of their Alaska air miles Credit Cards so I could put all of our wedding expenses on there and get miles.

I never thought I would leave BofA or BECU as they have always been great to me and very helpful. But then the Big Move happened. We were moving overseas and both companies did not have branches overseas. Then started my search for a new company. I knew we would open accounts down here in Australia but I was loyal and wanted to stay with my companies.

After much talk, I continued our stay with BECU as they continued to allow us to keep our account even though there wouldn’t be much activity and we will still get/receive all our loyalty rewards. BECU was so helpful and accommodating I knew that we had made the right choice to stay with them. But when it came to our credit card with BofA we weren’t so lucky. So we started shopping around for a new credit card. I wanted a card that I could get miles for (as we would be travelling even more now), didn’t have a huge yearly fee and would work with us that we were living overseas for the time being. I fell upon Capital One. Now at first I wasn’t too sure about this company as all I could remember or think of for this company was their Viking commercials which concerned me a bit. But after so much needed research I decided to go with them as their fee was less than what I was paying with BofA, their air miles went to any airline (I wasn’t just locked into one airline), they were so accommodating of us being overseas, they have no international transaction fees (so even when we travel we can use the card and not get charged extra fees) and how cool is it that I could put whatever picture I wanted on there:

Photo Credit: Kristina Gutherie

Photo Credit: Kristina Gutherie

Ok that was a lot of rambling but I wanted to give you some back story before I shared my great customer service story.

As I said before Capital One has been excellent about us being overseas. They have always been helpful when it comes to weird charges and such and always willing to have me call collect or even call me back so I don’t have to pay the international calling fees (I just use Skype though so there is no worries there but it’s nice to know that service is available).

I always pay my bill on time (even early in most cases). But this month our internet went down for about a week (now you don’t really understand how much you use/need internet until your internet has went down but in any case it was done) and it was right during the time when our bill was due. So when our internet came back up I got on to do all of our banking and realized I had missed our due date (this has never happened but alas it did). I was getting ready to just suck it up and pay the fee as I knew it was our fault for being late.

I was talking to my husband and he said ‘just give them a call and let them know the situation and see if there is anything they can do.’ I highly doubted that they would do anything, as most places would say that we need to pay on time and not make excuses. So I called them, still thinking that I would have to pay the fee but wanted to ask anyways. Expecting to be on hold for awhile, I was shocked when someone answered the phone within a minute (points in my book) and it was a real person not a computer (another point). I then explained to her (I have forgotten her name unfortunately, as she was awesome) the situation: our internet was down and I missed paying our bill on time but was there anything they could do. First off, she was so understanding about having our internet go down and seemed genuinely empathic. She then said she could look into for me if I could give her a few details. I did and within seconds she was telling me that she would gladly reverse the charge and I should see it in one to two days on my statement. I was off the phone with the situation resolved in less than 10 minutes, that’s unheard of! She was so helpful and understanding it made me realize another reason why I am so thankful I changed to them.

I have recommended Capital One to so many people over the last three years and I will continue to share their amazing company with as many people as I can. I can’t say enough good things about a company that is so understanding, helpful , accommodating, and downright a joy to work with.

Thanks for following this month’s customer service blog series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these bloggers stories, experiences, and hopes as much as I have. Has there been a particular story that has resonated with you? Would you respond differently if you were in their shoes?  The one consistency I see in all these experiences, regardless of the #goodbadugly, is the customer’s initiative to respond and take action.  By doing so, you’re paving the way for companies to reinforce positive behavior or identify areas to improve.

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 30: Sometimes $20 makes all the difference by Meeka Kullberg

July 28: Changing the world one white mocha at a time by Stacy Wong

July 18: A Stranger in a Strange Land by Sandra Boedecker

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline.

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started. 
The lovely Kayla Robertson

The lovely Kayla Robertson

Today’s blog post comes from across the pond. UK to be exact. Australian native turned UK resident turned EU local, Kayla Robertson is a media relations whiz, social media sweetheart, and one of the brightest-sharpest-go getters I know.

Wanting to charge passengers to use the bathroom. Orchestrating an ‘emergency’ landing to save costs on fuel over customer safety. Asserting that seatbelts are useless in a plane crash. Adding a £10 levy for ‘leg room’ for customers sitting near emergency exits.

When it comes to bad experiences on budget airline Ryanair, where to start?

I decided to take my research to twitter to investigate further.

Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/Alex_Morgan_/statuses/355000457292292097

Photo Credit: @Alex_Morgan_

Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/meggiepeel/statuses/355040507996536833

Photo Credit: @meggiepeel

Photo Credit: @tp83avfc

Photo Credit: @tp83avfc

Photo Credit: @WGoodchildMusic

Photo Credit: @WGoodchildMusic

I also stumbled upon a website called www.ihateryanair.org.

It seems that I am not alone.

Yet somehow Ryanair’s customers keep coming back. The airline’s sales are actually increasing rather than decreasing, and despite countless public accounts of terrible customer service, poor safety and of genuine security fears, Ryanair’s business is thriving. Perhaps service and ‘the customer is always right’ theory is not the life-blood of a successful business after all?

As a frequent Ryanair traveller and victim, I’d like to share with you my story.

Before carrying your luggage, carry your wits about you
Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

It was in February 2010 and I was backpacking through Europe alone. A little Australian girl, with an extra large backpack and an even larger dream of things to come. I was relatively ‘wet behind the ears’ and known for frequently losing my passport/wallet/driver’s licence at the worst possible opportunity. But more on that later.

I’d arrived at the check-in gate early. Two hours early, as I’d wanted to enjoy as much of the airport time as possible. I quickly checked in my luggage and then spent a precious hour trying on multiple perfume samples at the duty-free, before enjoying a lukewarm latte at the cafe. Life was good.

I saw the boarding light flash next to my Rome flight number and walked towards it like a moth to the flame.

But lions don’t toy with their prey?

I was one of the first in the cue to board and warmly handed my passport and ticket over to the flight attendant.

“Are you an EU citizen?”

“No, I’m Australian. You can see it there on my passport.” On every page. I smiled.

“Non-EU members need a special visa stamp. You don’t have one. If you run, you may still be able to get it.”

Hmm interesting. Nobody mentioned this to me before. Not the coiffed attendant at the check-in desk, gossiping in-between customers. Not the website when I bought the ticket online. I think.

“Oh okay, I haven’t heard this before…” I murmured.

“Run. Now. You might make it before the end of the queue.”

And run I did. I ran through what seemed to be the longest airport ever designed, back through the cafe, through the duty-free and to the original check-in desk, sweaty and heaving great asthmatic breaths. I explained the situation to the new flight attendant, obtained my flimsy stamp, and ran back. Mo Farah, eat your heart out. An Olympic star was born.

I arrived at the queue as the few remaining passengers dwindled in. Three flight attendants had gathered at the desk and were waiting for me, like leopards circling their prey.

“Don’t you dare say that I didn’t tell you about the stamp,” the original coiffed attendant screeched at me as I arrived. “It’s your bloody fault.”

That’s right, she actually swore. I was speechless.

“It’s not right of you to blame your mistakes on the Ryanair staff,” said her colleague next to her. “It’s our job to tell you these things and I was there when she did.”

If my mouth could have opened any more, in-between the great rattling gasps I was taking, it would have.

“No… you definitely didn’t mention… you only spoke about my luggage…”

“Get on the plane now before it takes off.”

I threw them the dirtiest and most dignified scowl I could muster before scurrying on to the plane. I vowed to never catch another Ryanair flight again, and seethed the entire way to Rome. At least I had my passport and wallet on me.

Yet the ‘love affair’ continues

Three years have passed since that experience and sadly I broke my promise to myself. Multiple times.

Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

Photo Credit: Kayla Robertson

I live in London now and as an EU ‘local’ I consider it a badge of honour to have a bad Ryanair story to share. I’m proud of that fact that I can give travel advice freely like a seasoned pro and impart fear in new backpackers with little budget airline knowledge.

Crucially, I’ve also learnt to keep my wits about me when travelling. I’ve learned that I can’t blame anyone for their mistakes – or for my own – when I’m the one who bears the consequences. Research and preparation are key, and it’s a lesson that’s carried me well.

So in that respect, perhaps my Ryanair experience wasn’t so bad after all?

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Day 22: The Kullberg’s

I’ll be honest, when I think of kids my body cringes, I start to have a panic attack, and I immediately start searching for the nearest exit. Obviously, I’m…no, we’re not ready to have kids anytime soon. However, every time I visit my best friend in Portland, I think, “We can do this. They make it look pretty easy.” Besides, how adorable is this face?

Tate

Tate

Tate and Derek are about as close to kids as we get (for now). We love driving down to Portland to visit Ryan, Meeka, and these two awesome dudes. I went to college with Meeka, and she’s become a dear friend of mine…bestie even. Lucky for the both of us, Kyle and Ryan are two peas in a pod; which makes our Portland trips even better.  We’ll probably never have kids (never say never), so we tend to spoil these guys like they were our own.  I just knew  I’d have to write about the Kullberg’s for January-Blog-A-Thon.

I still remember when Tate was first born. He loved me.  I’m not being prideful or gloating. He really did. I’d carry him for hours and we’d just hang out. I’d walk around the house or I’d prop him up on the couch next to me and we’d watch football for hours. Well, he’d watch football, I’d talk to Meeka.  He’d coo and ohh and smile at me. Never cried. Never fussed. Except when Kyle came around. Yup, that’s right. Tate did not like Kyle….at all. Before he could talk, Tate would grunt-groan-scream anytime Kyle came near me. It was hysterical. We’d test it out on numerous situations, all leading to the same outcome. Jackie and Tate would be alone in the living room and Kyle would need to drink his beer in the room on the opposite side of the house.  Poor guy.

Kyle and Derek

Kyle and Derek

And then the day came where the tables turned. It’s still vivid in my mind. The adults had done a day trip out to Timberline to go skiing and snowboarding. We came back home, showered and were busy prepping dinner. Meeka and I were in the kitchen hanging out, Kyle alone on the couch watching sports; when suddenly Tate teeters over to him, crawls into Kyle’s lap with a book and asks him to read to him. WHAT?!? Meeka and I nearly dropped our beer. After that, Tate only hangs out with Kyle…it’s apparently a guy thing and girls aren’t invited.

Kullberg's and Ostlie's

Kullberg’s and Ostlie’s

We adore these kids and their parents as well. If I ever was allowed to give a parenting medal, I’d give it to Ryan and Meeka. They are an amazing team. They back each other up, are an awesome support system, and are the most patient parents I’ve ever met…even after the 52nd “Why?” question. Nothing gets by these two and yet they are hysterical, witty, and humble. They are engaged parents, give meaningful answers (remember that 52nd “why?” question?) and treat them as individuals. Their values and expectations live in and through Tate and Derek. I have never seen kids so well behaved than I do these little dudes. Each and every time we leave Portland, Kyle and I have have something profound that we individually picked up from observing Ryan and Meeka co-parent. It’s inspiring, encouraging, and pretty amazing to watch people parent well. It almost makes us wish we had kids.

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 13: Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel
Day 14: Hi my name is Jackie and I am addicted to Senor Taco.
Day 17: Daily Life in the Ostlie Household…in Rhyme

Day 19: Superpower = Life without pain
Day 20: The Beautiful Life

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Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.

Day 19: Superpower = Life without pain

This March will mark five years since my car accident that has left me with chronic back pain, neck pain, sciatica and all other compensating pains that come along with one’s body trying to get along with life. Gone are the days of multiple work-outs and awesome rock climbing trips. Back to back spin and swim workouts are no longer. An active life filled with long runs, half-marathons, four hour climbing sessions are of dreams. And the only hot yoga pose I look forward to is savasana.

http://www.dailycupofyoga.com/2011/12/25/yoga-nidra-for-sleep/

Photo Credit: Daily Cup of Yoga.

My super power would be the ability to live life and do all my favorite activities like rock climbing, running, swimming, spinning, weight lifting and bikram hot yoga all without pain. Life would be full to the brim with backpacking trips, rock climbing trips, and spin sessions. I wouldn’t be the only person in my work area with a tall desk, tall chair and an ergonomic keyboard. My check book would be full of more money versus my calendar full of physical therapy, and acupuncture appointments. I would actually be able to carry things up and down the stairs without depending on Kyle.  I wouldn’t need an ergonomic pillow. And I can sit for hours on a plane without having the utmost desire to drop and do some stretching mid flight. Oh, and I’d be able to do more things like this….

Photo Credit: youaresocool.net

Photo Credit: youaresocool.net

 

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 13: Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel
Day 14: Hi my name is Jackie and I am addicted to Senor Taco.Day 17: Daily Life in the Ostlie Household…in Rhyme

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Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.

Day 13: Top 10 Must Haves for International Travel

The first time Kyle told me that I had to fit all my belongings into a backpack for our European Holiday, I nearly spit out my beer at him. And when he showed me his backpack, I nearly threw my beer at him. You see, my hubby is a frugal, light-weight backpacking fiend. He spends hours online looking up ways to get rid of ounces, not pounds, for our backpacking and camping adventures. It just so happens the peak of his light-weight obsession coincided with our holiday.  Lucky me.

Realistically, I knew that backpacks were the way to do it. Because let’s just be honest, cobblestones + stairs + rolling suite case = a very frustrated, sweaty, cussing Jackie. But, when push came to shove, and I looked at our packs, I kinda wished we were millionaires and had butlers to carry all our stuff.  But alas, we are not millionaires and have not won the lottery (nor will we). So, I begrudgingly started getting rid of items from my wardrobe list. I guess there would be no outfit changes for me. Sigh.

So you may be wondering, what exactly did she pack with her? Well, friends let me tell you, it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Granted it took some time….okay, a lot of time, to match up shoes with outfits, making sure cardigans matched tops which also matched pants, but it was well worth it.

The European Holiday Wardrobe

The European Holiday Wardrobe

But, I digress. This post isn’t about my wardrobe or how many ounces Kyle got ride of for his pack but rather the top 10 things that we couldn’t live without for 4 weeks. Without further adieu….

10. Sperry Top Sider Shoes: My biggest concern wasn’t carrying a 60L back throughout Western Europe. It was actually how I was going to do so with severe foot pain. Earlier in the year I developed a lot of pain in my right foot. Most of my doctors and therapists think it’s from my earlier car accident and my body continues to compensate for it. Despite giving up heels and falling in love (not by choice) with flats, most if not all my flats I had acquired over the  years no longer helped me but rather hurt me. Praise the Lord for Sperry’s. I had a few requirements while hunting for a pair of flats.  They had to be comfortable. They had to be cute. They had to go with every outfit I was bringing. They had to work in sunny weather as well as rainy weather. These are the winners!! Kyle even has a pair and loves them!!

Sperry Top Sider Angel Fish Boat Slip-On Shoe

Photo Credit: SperryTopsider.com

9. Bose Quiet Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones: These are an investment. But I promise they are well worth it. Especially if you’re on 13-18 hour long plane rides and even longer train rides. I swear by them…apparently Trip Advisor does as well. I’ve continued to use them beyond travel. These puppies helps drown out the incessantly loud talkers at the office so I can actually get work done.

QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones

Photo Credit: Bose.com

8. Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf:  Like my Sperry’s, I needed a scarf that would go with everything and anything. It had to be comfy, not scratchy and be dressed up or dressed down. This scarf not only fits the bill, but is so amazingly soft, it reminds me of a baby’s blanket.  There’s also so many ways you can wear this scarf, it’s amazing. On the planes and trains, I need up using it as a blanket and shawl. Unfortunately, I could only get it in a drab gray color when I was shopping for it. The color went with everything but it’s definitely not my first pick. Lululemon is always changing their colors each season so be sure to check back often!

Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf

Photo Credit: lululemon.com

7. Thermarest Pillow: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. “She actually brought her own pillow?!” Yes, I did. This is my true stand-by, for all travel needs. My pillow accompanies me on camping trips, backpacking trips, road trips Portland, visits home to Hawaii, and now throughout 7 countries in Western Europe. It’s made of the same amazing foam for backpacking Thermarests and stows into a little roll that fits nicely in one’s carry-on luggage.

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Photo Credit: rei.com

6. Kindle: Well, this shouldn’t be a surprise now should it? Considering that I raved on and on and on about this lovely device in my previous blog post.   It also looks like Amazon upgraded their Kindle collection to the Paperwhite with the same great features, plus some cool new ones. Regardless of what version you have I highly recommend this device. The iPad was too heavy and we hardly used it especially since connecting to wifi was a hit or miss.  But I had loaded my kindle with at least 50 books before I left so was quite content throughout the entire trip.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Photo Credit: amazon.com

5. Starbucks Via (Flavor- Columbia): Not all European countries favor coffee as much as Seattle-lites do. And those that do, well, let’s just say it’s roughly $8 USD for a latte. Way too much for a budget traveler. On a last minute whim, I decided to buy a large pack of Via coffee from Costco. Thank goodness I did because every morning I was treated to the lovely aroma and taste of back home. It’s the best way to start a day full of adventure.

Starbucks Via Columbia

Photo Credit: Starbucks.com

4.  Travel Mug:  In order to enjoy my delicious Starbucks Via each morning, one must have a travel mug, similar to the one below.  I ended up bringing an old stainless steel mug I wasn’t worried about losing, breaking, or someone stealing. It served my purposes wonderfully. Unfortunately Kyle’s mug didn’t turn out to be such a good thing. We ended up purchasing him a KeepCup from a local Whole Foods for $24. Turns out it was one of the our worst purchases ever. The sides of the cup aren’t insulated so you can’t hold the cup once you fill it with a hot beverage, which completely defeats the purpose of having a mug for hot beverages. We used it once, washed it when we got home, and returned it. Like I said, worst purchase ever.

Bodum Travel Mug

Photo Credit: Bodum.com

3. Nalgene: Since we’re outdoor folks we naturally brought along our small (12 and 16 fl oz.) to bring in our day packs and purses It actually turned out to be a great, free idea. We filled our water bottles at drinking fountains and even filled it with large bottled water for day trips throughout the city. I would definitely recommend this for all travelers. For trips home or car rides, we always bring along it’s larger, older sibling…the 32 fl oz version.

Nalgene 16 oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle

Photo Credit: nalgene.com

2. Medicine: In hindsight this was probably one of the smartest things we packed. At first Kyle was pretty adamant against it. It would take up more space and we ‘probably’ wouldn’t even use it. Well, we had both worked ourselves into a tizzy up to the minute we left…I was even handling phones calls and emails as we were boarding the plane which only means one thing. Colds. Naturally on day two of adventures in London, we both weren’t feeling too great. Kyle got hit the first half of the trip and I the second half. We used all of our medicine we brought along and had to buy some along the way. The reason I say to bring your own is that in some countries and cities, over the counter stuff isn’t really over the counter. And pharmacies aren’t open every day. It became a nightmare just to find something that resembled Nyquil. And once you finally do get your hands on it, you can’t read the instructions. Most, if not all grocery stores, we found only carried cough syrup and Percasit. Go figure. Nyquil, DayQuil, Emergency, Airborne, and Advil PM, served us well.  I would advise bringing these along with whatever other medicine you need to have with you.

rborne Effervescent Health Formula Pink Grapefruit -- 10 Tablets

Photo Credit: vitacost.com

1. Ziplock bag, Dr. Bronner’s soap, Webbing (thinner version of climbing rope), and Binder Clips: I realize this is more than one item. But it serves one purpose. Clean Laundry. Kyle had read up quite a bit about backpackers doing this…along with international travelers who are on a budget. Besides who wants to fork over $13-$20 USD everytime you need some clean underwear. We actually ended up doing laundry in our hotel or hostel rooms every 4 days or so. We love Dr. Bronner’s because you can use it for laundry, bath, shampoo, even toothpaste. I wouldn’t go as far with the latter but apparently others swear by it. I’d suggest the baby, no-fragrance version esp if you’re traveling.

Dr. Bronners Mild Liquid Soap

Photo Credit: rei.com

The trip was amazing on so many levels but we also learned a lot about ourselves. We’re pretty resourceful when we need to be. We are addicted way too much to REI. And we can successfully live off “very little”… 3 dresses, 3 cardigans, 2 pairs of pants, 2 tops, 2 pairs of socks, and 2 pairs of shoes. Kyle, even less than that (minus the dresses and cardigans).  I guess I don’t need that butler after all. Perhaps Kyle’s light-weight backpacking obsession is starting to rub off on me? As we start to plan our next adventure, I’m sure we’ll both be drinking beers together as we celebrate how much we’ve paired down from this last trip.

Have you done a lot of international travel? What have you found to be irreplaceable when you’re thousands of miles away from home? I’d love to know!

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 14: Food

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Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.