For several months recently I've been traveling around Europe. Write to me at email@example.com if you would like to receive a very short email each time I post new words and pictures here. I would love for you to tell your friends who love to travel about this blog. And I would be very happy to read about your experiences, your suggestions and your questions in the comments section. Let's make this blog a conversation! Thanks!
My apologies for having neglected this blog for the past six months or so. I’m going to beginning my blog again because I’m now planning a long journey for 2019. For the next few months, as I prepare for my trip, I’ll sometimes share with you my thoughts about planning a months-long journey and some tricks I’ve found for saving money. I will also be telling you about my plans and the places I plan to visit. Many of them are far off the tourist trail — I’m excited!
In the past six months I did make one good trip. I went to Georgia and Florida to visit family and to experience some places that were new to me. I’ll begin the reincarnation of my blog by telling you about two of them, Florida and Savannah Georgia.
One project I spent lots of time on recently was printing and framing a few of my favorite photos from my past travels. Have I ever told you that I had my bathroom “wallpapered” with my old maps? One long wall of maps seems like the perfect place for a photo display. Here are some of the pictures that hang on that wall now.
The photo at the top was taken in Killarney, Ireland, 2016.
When I go to Europe I usually stay for months. I’ve learned some ways to make my travels affordable. There are some basics like “go off-season” that everyone knows and I use those ideas. Here are a few updated tips for your next trip that can make it more affordable.
Pick your destination(s) carefully. For example, if you’ve been to London or Paris or Rome in the past choose smaller cities this time, or (even better) explore the countryside. Rental cars can enable you to visit beautiful places where you’ll not only pay less for your accommodations but also have better opportunities to meet local people. Renting a car may be less that a rail pass or multiple train tickets. (I always use AutoEurope, an American company that guarantees the lowest price.)
Go there on one of the new airlines that are hundreds of dollars less expensive than the legacy carriers. Check Kayak.com for discounted fares by the new Icelandic airlines such as WOWair. Or fly to Dublin on AerLingus then continue on to your destination on Ryan Air or another AerLingus flight. I’ve also learned that it is much less expensive for me to depart from one of the major east coast US cities than from North Carolina.
Decide in advance how much money you can spend on restaurants, museums, tours, etc. Upon arriving in Europe consider taking that entire amount of money out of an ATM so you’ll spend only cash. Wearing a money belt would be a good way to protect your money. If you wear one, put the amount you plan to spend that day into your pants pocket first thing in the morning. Don’t let anyone see you take money from your money belt.Alternatively, keep a running list of what you’ve spent and how much is left in your budget. Use debit cards rather than credit cards and check your bank balance occasionally. Some people open separate bank accounts just for travel expenditures.
Do your homework before going! The Internet is a gift to travelers. Read message boards such as the one at Fodors.com for information about the places you plan to visit. Read books that are for budget travelers such as Rick Steves’ or Lonely Planet guides. Google “budget traveler” and find many blogs and articles to explore.
Nearly every large European city offers discount cards for tourists that lower the costs of museum entry and transit fares. Make a point of discovering these before you leave home. Before leaving home compare the cost of the card with that of visiting only the museums that interest you. Know exactly where to find them and what’s required to purchase them. For example, if you plan to be in Paris for a month and want to buy a monthly Metro pass, you must provide a passport-size photo for the permit that is required to purchase the card.
Of course, there’s always this “nag” from me: stay in an apartment or an AirBnB-arranged room in someone’s home instead of staying in a hotel. The ability to cook some meals is the best money-saver of all. Visit the neighborhood bakery for breakfast goodies and make your own coffee or tea. Visit a market or take-away food emporium for lunch supplies or pack your lunch before leaving your accommodations in the morning. (Yes! You can find peanut butter in most European food stores.)
I don’t know where the young man pictured at the top of this post slept the night before but I thought he was very clever to shave in a fountain in Florence.
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What’s your best idea for saving money while traveling? Please use the “comments” section below to share it with us.
A medieval/renaissance city filled with history and beauty and lively people, Verona should be on every tourist-to-Italy’s bucket list. Wander through one square after another, finding marvels everywhere.
The market place has fulfilled that role for 2000 years, and has a Roman statue in the middle in a fountain to prove it. The square where the court has been held for hundreds of years is next, with a magnificent stairway of carved pink marble.
Go through an opening in the wall, and come into a beautiful square surrounded by renaissance palaces.
A statue of Dante, the Italian writer/philosopher, stands proudly in the center of the square.
My favorite restaurant in Italy, Ristorante Dante, is in that square. On a good day you can sit for hours, enjoying fine wine, delicious food, the beauty of the surroundings and delighting in people-watching.
A popular place with tourists is “Juliet’s House.” Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet are supposed to have lived in Verona. It’s a small stone house completely covered in graffiti, the old fashioned kind with names written in a heart “4-ever.” A lovely “Juliet” sculpture stands near the entrance.
Verona has an intact Roman coliseum. In summer a series of some of the best-loved operas are performed there: LaTraviata, Aida, La Boheme, Romeo & Juliet among them. The coliseum seems to be the centerpiece of the city. A wide street lined on one side with sidewalk cafés runs along one side of it and a park filled with greenery is on another.
The city streets of Verona are lined with upscale shops and lovely old buildings. It’s all spotlessly clean with pots of flowers everywhere. The entire city flaunts its age proudly!
Parma is a beautiful old city. Before we went to Italy all we knew is that Parma is the source of Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. We discovered a busy and appealing city with a very long history and a collection of fine old buildings. Parma dates from 183 BCE. An earlier Celtic settlement existed in the same place. It’s small and easy to explore because the center is laid out in a grid pattern which is unusual for a city this old. It has many glorious churches and palaces. Today it is a rich and proud small city, one of the most prosperous in Italy.
Parma’s most notable structure is the Baptistery at the cathedral, called “the most perfect medieval structure in Europe” by every book I’ve got, a building which illustrates the change from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. It is seven stories high, octagonal, made of pink marble. The exterior carving is very fine and the signs of the zodiac run in a band around the outside.
Scenes from the life of Christ and other Biblical views are carved around the three exterior doors. Each of them has an exquisite tympanum, two of which still have some of their original paint.
It is the inside of the Baptistery which is spectacular. Sixteen “rays” made from stone extend from the floor seven stories to the roof. The interior is entirely covered in beautiful, bright frescoes, originally created by famous native artists of Parma. This building dates from around 1250 AD. Think about how difficult it must have been to design, to construct and the paint.
The Parma cathedral is beside the Baptistery. A purely Romanesque cathedral built in the 12th century, small looking from outside but feeling huge and deep inside. It too is made of pink marble and is covered inside in floor to ceiling frescoes. The nave is smallish but serves almost as an ante-chamber to the altar which is raised and is reached by many marble stairs. Side altars on either side of the main altar add more richness and beauty. There is a tall bell tower from the 14th century standing beside the cathedral, slightly tilting.
During our visit to the Baptistery a large group of school kids came in. They were part of a larger group, probably a hundred and fifty or more. Kids are the same everywhere – funny, cute and noisy. They were getting their art lessons with the icons and items in the churches as teaching aids. Few of them will remember much of it for long I suppose, but how great it must be to grow up among all this beauty and history and art.
Today’s city center is focused on a large, bright yellow building with a massive clock tower on top known as the Palazzo del Governatore, once the palace of governors and princes. The city streets are lined with upscale shops and fine restaurants. A narrow river runs through the center of the city, crossed by five classic bridges.
Parma has many historic sites to explore. There’s a five-pointed “cittadella” (fortress). The “Parco Ducale” is an enormous park and garden open to visitors today It was originally part of the Farnese-built ducal palace. This small city requires several days to fully enjoy, but taking your camera and your taste buds there for a night or two will keep you busy.
Wikipedia’s entries about Parma are very detailed and have excellent photographs. Some of them are:
Imagine a city filled with 1600-year-old buildings richly decorated with original artwork. Ravenna, Italy, is just that place. The capital of the Western Roman empire from 402 AD until the fall of Rome in 476 AD, Ravenna’s earliest extant religious buildings date to that period. The larger, grander buildings were constructed in the 6th century. Mosaic tile artwork covers the interiors of many of the ancient churches, baptistries and mausoleums begun between 400 AD and 550 AD that remain in perfect condition today. Here are some of my photos of many of them.
The Neonian Baptistry, ca. 430 AD, is one of the oldest buildings in Ravenna. The interior is lavishly decorated in mosaic tilework and sculpted stone.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placida, also dates to the early 5th century.
This is the ceiling of the Arian Baptistry, built in the late 5th or 6th century. It was placed next to the ancient cathedral which was destroyed long ago.
Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, dedicated in 504 AD, features a row of 22 Virgins along one wall and 26 Martyrs along the other.
Possibly the most beautiful because its interior is covered in ancient mosaic art, the Basilica of San Vitale was constructed in the mid 6th century. The building is considered to be one of the best examples of early Christian architecture in Europe.
Sant Apollinare in Classe is another beautiful mid 6th century Christian church in Ravenna.
In addition, two other important buildings of this era, the Archiepiscopal Chapel (ca. 500 AD) and the Mausoleum of Theodoric (ca. 520 AD) can be visited.
“Slow travel” means taking time to explore the places you visit. It’s a “hub and spoke” way to travel. Staying in one cottage or apartment for a week or longer and taking day trips to surrounding places is an ideal way to discover more than just the touristy centers of major cities. Italy, for example, offers many opportunities for exploration of historic, artistic cities and beautiful agricultural areas.
On our first trip to Italy my husband and I stayed for three weeks in Montaione, a village in Tuscany. We caught the train from a nearby town for day trips to Florence several times. We explored Siena twice — one of those days was Easter Sunday. We spent days in San Gimignano, Pisa, Cortona, Assisi and Volterra. We explored the Chianti region. We enjoyed just roaming the countryside, poking around in small ancient villages, going inside very old churches. (Here is a link to the place where we stayed in Montaione.)
Another time we spent ten days in the Veneto, the region in northeastern Italy that includes Venice. We stayed in a very Italian apartment (that means a kitchen and a bedroom – no living room) in a village named Barbarano near Vicenza. (Here’s a link to gorgeous pictures of the property where we stayed and the surrounding area.) We made three train-trips into Venice, several drives to Vicenza, went twice to Padua and to Verona. We were there in the off-season when the rent was very low. That trip was really our introduction to Italy and we couldn’t have chosen a better place to begin.
On our third trip to Italy we stayed in a small village named Cetona on the line dividing Tuscany and Umbria. Although we were tourists who visited Orvieto and other small cities, what I remember best was the experience of “living” in a small Italian village for a week. We were there in May when the school year was ending. One evening all the children in the village put on a performance with all the village in attendance. Children dressed in homemade costumes representing summer, autumn and snow danced in the village center. Although we didn’t understand a word, we loved the experience of temporarily being part of life in a small Italian town. (The place we rented on that trip seems to no longer be advertised on the internet. Prices of rentals in that area have sky rocketed but some good deals are still available on AirBnB.)
I plan to share with you in my next few posts some of the beautiful but less well-known places we have visited in Italy. I hope you’ll discover that renting a small place and exploring the Italian countryside can be very affordable and very interesting, and that you’ll plan your own trip there soon!
The photo at the top of this post is of the doorway of our apartment in Cetona.
My home in Ireland this year and last was on a former dairy farm that dates to the 17th century. My hosts, Dick and Susan, sold their cows and some of their land a few years ago and turned to hosting visitors in their three self-catering rentals. (“Self-catering is a British term for a vacation rental with cooking facilities.) I discovered Fruit Hill last year, While there I made new friends.
This year I stayed in a small cottage that Dick built in the early years of this century around a massive chimney that was all that remained of an old “bake house.” Dick and Susan have rescued a large late-17th century house from ruin and live there now with several of their children. They never seem to stop working, but they always made time for conversation with me.
Just outside my windows a local farmer grew a field of hay. After he harvested and bailed it and hauled it away he brought in a large herd of steers. Sometimes they peered at me over the stone wall separating us.
Opposite the cottage there’s a beautiful view from my kitchen window of a large field of hay. I enjoyed photographing the changing of the seasons there. (A photo of the view from my kitchen window is here.)
Fruit Hill farm has truly become my Irish home. I am very comfortable there. I feel fortunate to have found it. I now have two more generous Irish friends. I have the luck of the Irish, indeed!
The photo at the top was sent to me by Susan. It was taken by Gareth Landy. The lower photo is of a nosy steer who wanted to know what I was up to. He was just outside my living room window. Here’s a link to a post with many photos I created last year at Fruit Hill.