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Posts tagged ‘Travel Tips’

Some Things Are Never Easy!

The Dreaded Airport!

The Dreaded Airport!

I’m back from vacation!

As one gets older things are not so easy! I put this post under the Travel Tips category, but maybe it would be better under Travel Warning!

My observations:

The long term parking lot gets farther and farther away from the airport. At our airport the only solution was to walk from the new LONG TERM lot to the departure Terminal!  A good 30 minutes and pulling/carrying luggage to boot! Are you kidding me?

There is a great deal of distance to walk in the airports now to get on or get off a plane! You know you are in trouble when the signs are posted to let you know how much time is needed to get from A to B! 20 minutes? Are you kidding me?

At the Departure Gate, a good hour is spent notifying passengers to MAKE SURE their wheeled carry-on luggage fits in the bin used to measure said luggage. No one pays any attention to said notifications, but the passengers begin to eye up everyone’s carry-on luggage. When the announcement to board plane is made the boarding attendant personally asks, as she takes your boarding pass, that each passenger place their carry-on luggage in measuring bin to see that indeed your carry-on is the proper size. Most fail, and passengers get to leave their luggage, to be properly stored in the baggage section on the plane. Results: Over 1 1/2hours to board plane and plane is an hour late taking off!  Check YOUR Baggage in the first place!

The seats on airplanes are getting smaller and smaller and I sit in business class!

After arrival at destination, to get to the Car Rental Station, one does the required 20 minutes from Landing station to terminal, including 3 sets of escalators, and more walking to wait in line at Passport Control. Following Passport Control, you are off to claim baggage in another section of the terminal. From there you exit the terminal, walk over the sky bridge to another building and take a set of elevators to the ground floor and a large bus terminal. Now you wait in the proper bus line that it took you 20 minutes to figure out, because there are lots of buses going everywhere and you must wait on a particular brand of Car Rental Bus that finally picks you up and takes you to the hinterland where the said Car Rental Station is. At the Car Rental facility there is another line and although you have pre-booked everything there still is a line and finally after a thorough car examination, by the attendant, you can escape the airport. Now the fun begins because you are driving on the opposite side of the road and on the opposite side of the car than you are used to! There is always an adjustment period, and lots of driving reminders from your better half!  There, now didn’t I make that sound more civil than it actually was?  But, who cares you are out of the Airport!

Moving on…………………now to return home.

On final arrival at destination, at the end of the trip, new adventures await. There are now new computer kiosks to check your passport, take your picture, and get your fingerprints. This all has been added since you departed the same airport three weeks prior. You still get to talk to the agent, who asks if you have any food with you, or plants before he welcomes you back to the US.

Waiting at the baggage claim, you wait and wait and wait, because this time your plane arrived early and it seems every other plane has arrived at the same time too. TWO hours later you have your luggage, (this is the reason no one wants to check their bags) as you watch the Customs Line get longer and longer and six lines deep. Once in line with the throng of other people, the beagle sniffing drug dog is the only thing one finds remotely amusing! Who knew they used little beagles for this job? When you finally get to Customs (after another 1 1/2 hour wait) I am again asked about any food or plants and after 2 seconds of questioning I am allowed to pass. I want to Run out of that airport Screaming, but I don’t. There is probably another line for that!

Believe me when I say ONE NEEDS a Vacation from the Vacation upon return! My front porch may be my next vacation spot!

PS OK, My ranting is over! I did have a lovely time in England doing my annual garden tour. As always, there were some setbacks and some new unplanned adventures. Read all about it in future posts, now that I have re-couped from the air travel! Have you had similar experiences? I have traveled to Europe at least once a year for over 15 years and I have never experienced “Airport Situations” as this years! And I get to experience it again in September!

PSS…….If one is looking for gainful, steady employment I think the drivers of the small shuttles that Beep, Beep, Beep along while taking passengers from one spot to another, may be a good prospect with job security to boot! I can’t see the “Airport Situation” getting any better any time soon! There, all is off my chest!

 

Great Expectations

 

A Young Daphne du Maurier

A Young Daphne du Maurier

No this is not about the Charles Dicken’s classic novel. It’a about how I always have such “Great Expectations” before I set off on a new adventure (vacation)!

My new adventure is Cornwall in the United Kingdom and I am really looking forward to it. So I have been doing some research (as always) and this time was led to books by Daphne du Maurier, an English novelist who wrote between 1931 and 1989. She was born in Cornwall in 1907 and died in Cornwall in 1989. So I think she would know about Cornwall! Three of her books were written specifically about life in Cornwall; Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and Frenchman’s Creek. So I ordered a book from the UK that contained all three books. It was published in 1939 and the book itself was a treasure. The binding was like new, so someone cherished this book. There was that musty smell that old books have, with the pages yellowed on the edges. I felt the book had just left the library of Miss Jane Marple’s cottage in St Mary Mead! I have a good imagination, don’t I? Agatha Christie is another author I enjoy! Imagine my surprise to find out that the sweet looking, Daphne du Maurier, who wrote these fantastic romantic novels, also wrote The Birds, which was made into an equally famous movie by Alfred Hitchcock!

I read all three novels (they were romance) and I did get a good perspective of the sea, coves, bogs, moors, smugglers and inns in Cornwall. I got a good idea of the Cornish people as well; very sturdy those folks! So now in my mind I have “Great Expectations” for Cornwall. I googled Jamaica Inn with the plan of going there, since it still is a working inn. The reviews, however, were very dismal. The location is off a very busy road (as it was in the old days) but the Inn is more like a rest stop on a toll road. Very touristy. It did not meet my expectations, so rather than ruin my dream I’ll think of Jamaica Inn as written in the book.

Another book I read before my vacation was The Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tim Smit. Wow, this garden has been in Cornwall since the 1600’s and there is quite a story here! Heligan is on my “List of Gardens” to see during my Second UK Garden Tour. I won’t spoil it for you, but I must say, I think it will be the first garden I’ve ever visited that had an exorcism by a priest in the 20th century! Now that should interest you, it did me!

One of The Lost Garden of Heligan Sculptures

One of The Lost Garden of Heligan Sculptures

I was also inspired by all the documentaries, mysteries, and great TV programs to be found on the Acorn App (all British TV) that is streamed to my TV! I hardly watch anything else now! No sex, no violence, no filthy language here! How refreshing! I especially like all the Agatha Christie, Miss Marple series, with my favorite Miss Marple being Geraldine McEwan, who was the sleuth from 2004 to 2009. What a darling old lady she was! I am glad I got to peek into her cottage at St Mary Mead (on TV) because I know I will see small villages that are very similar on my Garden Tour and I just know my book came from one of those cottages! Hopefully, I’ve offered some inspiration for your pre-travels, it’s good to know something about the place you’re visiting, so you get a feel of it before you arrive! Great Expectations To You!

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

 

 

 

AnyList: A Must for Planners!

Make a List

Make a List

I am a list maker! And an itinerary maker, a book reader, a blogger, a plan maker, and oh yeah, a grocery shopper! So I am always looking for a better way to keep it all together! And I want it on my IPhone, my IPad and my computer, simultaneously. And all in one place!

This week I have been experimenting with the App ANYLIST and I love it!

Here are the reasons why:

I can quickly create any Organized Custom List I want and find it on my IPhone, my IPad and my Computer in one place. I can make Folders and keep lists in each folder. For example; I have a “Travel Folder” and in it I have a “Travel To Do List”, a “Packing List,” and an “Itinerary List,” to name a few. I also have a custom “Book Folder” with lists in it, and a “Blog Folder” with lists. All kinds of Lists and each in it’s own Folder! I can mark items off the Lists one by one or create a “Favorites List” to save items for the next time I travel and I won’t have to make each List over again. I can just add new items to the custom “Favorite List.”

I can share my lists with friends or family or mark them private.

It makes a FABULOUS Grocery List! It automatically puts your items in a grocery category and you can customize the categories to the Layout of your grocery store and how you shop there! For example; if you go down the vegetable and fruit aisle first at Kroger, the fruits and vegetables would be first on your list at that store. Do you shop for different items at different stores? Do you shop for bulk items or at vegetable stands? You can customize your grocery items to different stores or locations.

If your husband is like mine and wanders a different way in the store, the list can be set up for him with his shopping pattern!

You can import recipes from the web or write your own and save the ingredients to your List. It also saves the actual recipe and instructions too, and shows which item goes with what recipe. And puts the Recipes in categories too, like,” Main Dishes, “Breads,” “Pasta,” whatever category you want them in.

You can take a picture of an item, if you want a specific brand of anything. This is good too if your husband is shopping for you, as he will most likely come home with the only product you didn’t want, or buy several different kinds of something because he had no idea what you wanted! I know this from experience ladies!  You can also add a note to the Grocery item, such as to remind yourself you have a coupon.

You can add anything to any List by Voice by using Siri! I Love this, I don’t even have to open AnyList to add something!

Location Reminders alert you when you go by your Grocery Store, etc. that you have items on a List for there. So you won’t get home and say, “I drove right by the grocery store, or CVS, or the cleaners, and forgot I needed some things!” Your Lists can be categorized to your local store, how cool is that?

So, if you are a List Maker like me or an Organizer, this is the App For YOU! Enjoy!

PS…… I needed some help with one of the instructions and a real person answered my email promptly. Another great thing. And they send out new messages periodically to review a feature of the App, so you will get full use of it! Absolutely LOVE IT!

PSS… I am posting this under my Tuesday Travel Tips even though it is not Tuesday. I have too many tips to post and not enough Tuesdays right now.

 

 

 

Before you Go on Vacation You Might Want to TEP!

Let's TEP!

Let’s TEP!

Where are my emails? What info did I have in my Itinerary? How can I send a post and a picture to my family? How do I see all the maps I downloaded? How do I call my vacation host? What’s the weather for today? I need my Wi-Fi!!!

Does this sound like you when on vacation?

It’s that time of year again when I’m off for a vacation and absolutely DREAD turning on my International Service on my phone! The roaming rates are sky high to begin with and I am at the mercy of internet service at my place of lodging! We do not EVER use the free Wi-Fi services offered at coffee shops or other places. They are not SECURE!

So this year we are using TEP, a portable Wi-Fi, for Smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Why are we going this route?

Here are the benefits:

  1. It is a small hand held device that provides internet access with your own Wi-Fi network and your own personal password. It will fit in my husband’s pocket or my small purse!
  2. It will connect up to 5 devices at the same time, in every country that I would ever think of going to! Even on a cruise ship!
  3. It has 8 hours of battery life with a 20 hour standby time. It comes with a battery charger too.
  4. There are no set up or cables required.
  5. There is no Data limits or caps.
  6. You can rent the device or buy it. (We travel a lot so we bought one, the fees are lower per day and you are only charged for the days you use it. If you rent one it is mailed to you and then you are charged a flat fee for every day it is in your possession, whether you use it or not and we didn’t want to have the hassle of sending it back every time)
  7. There are no ROAMING FEES!
  8. 24/7 customer support. Get in touch via phone, email, chat, or social media!
  9. 100% No BS money-back guarantee, guaranteed.
  10. The reviews were fabulous!

This is going to be one less headache when traveling! And with the money saved I can buy another plane ticket for a vacation! Yipee!

PS I am posting this under my Tuesday Travel Tips even though it is not Tuesday. I have too many tips to post and not enough Tuesdays right now.

 

 

JustPark: How To Find a Parking Space ANYWHERE in the UK!

My Abarth, Zoom, Zoom!

My Abarth, Zoom, Zoom!

Time for the annual Garden Trip to the UK! YEAH! For Americans there is the thrill of driving on the wrong side of the street with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car! Now if that is not enough to say you are having fun then let’s add looking for a parking space in a village with unknown, very narrow streets where you pull in the side mirrors to keep from hitting the cars that are double parked on the only main street. And these are the villages that have only one main road!

Last year, after driving from Heathrow Airport to Tenterden, we thought we were well into the feel of the wheel so to speak. The hardest part is pulling out onto the road, we tend to forget and go back to our old ways on the wrong side. It’s good to have another person with you to remind you, “You are on the wrong side dear,” or more like, “What the hell are you doing? You’re on the wrong side!’

When we arrived in Tenterden we immediately began our quest for a parking lot. We wanted to go to the grocery store and have a look around town before we went to the B&B. We pulled into a lot and a spot after waiting for someone to pull out. It was a very busy lot to say the least, but we were so glad we had even found a parking lot! We got out of the car and noticed quite a few people were sitting in their car. Well that was good because we couldn’t figure out how to pay the meter. There was only one at the end of the lot. A very nice man came to our aid and said we had to put in the number of our license plate to correspond with the number marked on the pavement of our spot in the lot. Back to the car to get all the proper information. Then back to the parking meter and after having to get the correct change made from quite a few of the car sitters, we were making quite an impression. Then I noticed a very sick looking woman walking with crutches from across the street to the car park. As I looked up I saw the sign, “Surgery Parking.” It was what we call, the doctor’s office parking lot. OMG! So we went and moved the car. We drove down the street a little further and found the entrance to the grocery store parking lot. Imagine our amazement that you pay to park here as well! But at least we knew how to pay the meter and after again getting change from some more of our new car friends, we were able to get out and about. Now picture this scene, to some extent, in every town we visited. At least after that first day we always tried to keep a lot of change with us!

This year I found the App, JustPark, an app for parking in the UK. I tried it out to see if it would actually work in some of the places I was going. It did. Just put in location. The map pops up with the location of the lot. Then pick a lot, if there is more than one. Sometimes in really small places there is no lot, you may be parking in a private drive close to your location. It also shows how far you are from particular sights or events. Good to know! A virtual camera shows you the actual parking space. It asks you what day you want to park there and for how long, and you can extend it without returning to the lot to put more money in a meter, so no parking tickets either! The App shows you the fee to park there. Because I have put my credit card info into the app, at home on a secure computer, my spot is paid for when I get there. The map screen shows me exactly how to get to the lot! I hope this works as well as I want it to! It will make my day so much easier! Check out JustPark.com! Oh and how do I always have wi-fi everywhere abroad? Without the roaming fees that drive me crazy? See my next post on TEP!

PS I am posting this under my Tuesday Travel Tips even though it is not Tuesday. I have too many tips to post and not enough Tuesdays right now. And no I am not taking my Abarth!

 

 

Cady Luck Leedy’s Tuesday Travel Tips: #3

Do Not Travel Like a Hobo

You Do Not Have to Travel Like a Hobo

Tip #3: You Have to Know How to Hold ‘Em and Know How to Fold ‘Em!

Traveling in the summer months is easier to pack for. Clothes weigh less and are not bulky. I make outfits that mix and match. For any trip over two weeks;  seven tops and five slacks. Interchangeable. Period. This combo makes thirty five different outfits! For trips under two weeks; five tops and four slacks. Add a lightweight sweater that goes with anything, or a light-weight wrap.  Remember you can’t enter most religious sites wearing shorts, or having  bare shoulders. You’ll need a cover-up and appropriate clothing. I always have just two main color schemes, light and dark.  My choice is black and tan.  I choose tops than can go with all the slacks.  My slacks are capri length or long. This makes a very big wardrobe and believe me it so much easier to deal with.  To dress something up add a scarf! If I have a washer and dryer available on an extended trip I go with the 7/4 rule. Don’t be bogged down taking tons of clothes! You will tire of lugging them around, and will not wear most of them!

Sacs from Eagle Creek

Sacs from Eagle Creek

The next best thing to soap is  Compression Sacs from Eagle Creek, the kind that don’t need a vacuum to suck out the air. Put your clothes  in it, and then roll the sack like you are rolling out a pie. The air escapes and it is flat as a pancake. A miracle!  You will be amazed how much you can get into these sacs! The sacs come in three sizes.  Small, medium and large.  I take one large Compression Sac empty, to use for dirty laundry. I can  separate the dirty from the clean stuff so I always know what is what. They are extremely durable and I have been known to mail home my dirty laundry in these sacs, when I bought too many goodies on vacation. (You’ ll still need to find a box to mail them in, but it will be a small one!)  Also, if you go to a laundromat in Europe it is easier and less noticeable to carry your laundry to and fro in these sacs. Mark one for clean and one for dirty, so you can bring back clean clothes in a clean sac.  Put dirty clothes in marked dirty sac, roll it up, squeeze out the air and place  sacs in Veggie Borsa and off you go to wash!   Scented laundry sheets are a real winner. Place them in the dirty clothes sac and in your suitcase and everything will smell heavenly!

Smart-Compression Sac

Smart-Compression Sac

Evelopes

Envelopes

The other must have is the Eagle Creek Envelopes and it’s matching bags.  These come in different shapes and sizes, the items shown here are the ones I use.  One for pants, one for tops, one for underwear and one for toiletries.  I love it because it keeps my clothes sorted and I don’t have to pull  everything out of my suitcase to find something.  Also, if I am staying in one spot for a long time I take the envelopes out and put them in the dresser drawers. Easy! It is amazing how your clothes stay freshly pressed in these envelopes too.

How to do the Shoes

How to do the Shoes

For shoes, your new best friend, will be the plastic sleeves that the newspaper comes in.  Perfect for shoes, slide the shoe in and pack them. Keeps everything clean. I wear my heaviest shoes on the airplane and pack another pair in Papa Borsa’s front pouch, which is easy to get to. I take three pair of shoes total. One pair of black sandals, for dressier occasions without extensive walking. Also, two pair of walking shoes. We tend to walk a lot, so comfortable shoes is a must. One tan pair, one black. Again they will go with all my outfits. Do not take white tennis shoes! You will stand out in the crowd as the loud, touristy American! They make all sorts of colored, fancy or not, walking shoes and they are stylish anywhere, so you will blend in. I also bring a small roll of duct tape in a bright color to make a fashion statement. Ha Ha! Place a strip on the back of your ankles before you leave home and you will never get a blister, no matter how far you walk!

Small plastic bags in assorted sizes come in most handy for makeup, lotions or hairspray that may leak.  Place all toiletries in a plastic bag before it is put in the toiletry bag.  Bring only what is necessary and in small plastic travel containers. A small bar of soap and detergent is handy to wash out underclothes in my room. I also bring a small nylon stretchy clothes line.

I never take a hair dryer, too bulky, no matter the size. Most hotels, and B&B’s offer one to use. If not, I go with my “whatever” hairdo! I am on vacation!

Stuff to carry in your purse at all times:

A Tide to Go pen. You want to get at a possible stain before it has time to set. Ever been to a bathroom to discover no toilet paper?  Carry Handywipes  and a No Rinse Hand Sanitizer.  Carry a very small umbrella. If you have it with you, you will never need it.  Enjoy your next vacation!

 

Cady Luck Leedy’s Tuesday Travel Tips: #2

Tip # 2. It is very important to carry the right bag! This is a little story about bags, one of the most important parts of traveling!

The Borse Family

The Borse Family, Papa, Mama and Baby Borsa

There once were several Borse (Italian word for bags) that lived in  “The End” cottage. They were very excited to be going on vacation! Papa Borsa was big, blue, and handsome, with lots of pockets.  His favorite feature was a big pouch for an extra pair of shoes right on his front that was easily accessible. He could carry a newspaper, an umbrella, and all kinds of goodies in his side pouch. He also had a heart sleeve, a place he held dear, that carried the Mrs’s  lipstick and chapstick and anything small that would make the Mrs look good at all times. All the small items are easy to get to without opening the main bag.

How to do the Shoes

How to Do the Shoes

That’s why Mama Borsa fell in love with him at first sight. She knew he was the brains of the family and carried the computer, the Ipad, and IPhone and all their connectors, so he was always ready to compute. His big belly was ready for anything! Be sure to wrap the shoes in the plastic bags the newspaper comes in! You can never have enough plastic bags and newspaper bags are some of my favorites! Those bags are so handy! Papa Borsa was so thoughtful, with a plastic sturdy bottom on the outside, so he wouldn’t bring dirt into the cottage. He came from Lug and had lots of brothers and sisters in bright cheerful colors!

Mama Borsa was an organizer, she wasn’t too big or too small, but just right. She had lots of pockets and zips and came with several straps, so was very adjustable to all kinds of situations.  Since she was in charge of the purse strings she had a small change purse for credit cards, money and identity cards that clipped to her innards and could never be dropped or left on tables to be lost. She came from the family of Baggallini’s.  They were a family of zippy, deep pockets, and closures known for their endurance and strength.  She was called Odessy by her family, but just Mama at home.

Papa and Mama Borsa, had many children, but they decided for every trip,  that Veggie Borsa, should be one of the children to go. He was adopted from the check-out aisle at the market and was the baby and liked to carry lots of things with him all the time, because he was very stretchy.  Mama had to keep an eye on him when shopping, if he left her side.  He would be found with all kinds of gifts and goodies, and since he was so flexible he would stretch and stretch until he filled up. Mama and Papa were always surprised that he could carry so much and still not be too heavy to carry home.  Papa Borsa was so proud of him! Especially when they went to market.   With Baby Veggie Borsa along you didn’t need to pay for Papersacks Borsa to carry the groceries home.  Baby Borsa was glad to help and never dropped or broke one thing! Even wet he never let the family down. He was a real bagger!  After a big day when he was ready for his nap, he would fold up so tiny and could be tucked in almost anywhere! And he slept!

This year, the cousins Pacsafe and Secrid, were going on vacation too. Pacsafe was always so secretive!

One of the Pacsafe Cousins With Sacrid

One of the Pacsafe Cousins With Secrid

He had a very strong, wire-coiled exterior and strap that could not be cut through and tough locking straps so you could lock him to a chair or a post! Nothing was going to phase Pacsafe! No one would get away with him! Secrid was a small little fellow that always traveled with Pacsafe. When you saw one, you saw the other! He carried the credit cards and his strong aluminum shell prevented the theft of credit card numbers when no one was paying attention. But Secrid always paid attention! They were very happy to be joining the trip this year!

The Borse Family looked forward to the big plane ride. There was a big overhead bin where they all could cuddle.  Papa hoped he would meet a briefcase to discuss the world in general.  Mama hoped to delve into all the fashion and food of the world, with her new bag friends.  And Baby Veggie thought he might be the only one along for the ride. Pacsafe hoped someone would try to steal him on vacation, so he could show his muscles, and Secrid was itching to go shopping and zip his cards through the machines! After meeting up with all their friends, they finished their snacks and settled in for a nice long flight! See you on vacation! Enjoy!

PS  The Papa Borsa Bag sits easily on my small luggage and over the pull-out handle. Nothing to carry. My Mama Borsa Bag is a cross-over bag so it frees up my hands. Nothing to worry about leaving somewhere. I take Baby Borsa whenever I am out shopping or just going to the corner for baguettes!

 

Cady Luck Leedy’s Tuesday Travel Tips

Tip # 1 

The Knee Bone is Connected to the Thigh Bone. The Thigh Bone is Connected to a Headache.

Bellagio,Italy

Bellagio, Italy

I really want to talk about luggage here. See all the steps?  What if you had to go from a) the bottom of that tiny stoned stairway to  b) the top where your lodging is? Would you want  to drag a large overgrown bear with you? Or better yet, could you carry that bear over your shoulders?  Now let’s also throw in, it’s hot outside, you are tired and you are not even sure if this is the right stairway to heaven.  Get the picture?  Less is more. You can’t take it all with you. Italy, France, Turkey, Germany, (you fill in the blank) like any other place has stores.  AND carrying too much will give you a headache to  boot.

So you say you will rent a car?  Well you still have to get from the airline terminal to the rental car agency.  Sometimes in order to get there this will include stairs, tiny narrow escalators, long tunnels with more stairs at the end, or a combination of all of them.  How much does that suitcase weigh?  What about the Borse, how heavy are they?  (See the next post about the Borse family)  Some of the most beautiful villages in Italy are all uphill.  Even downhill feels uphill to me.  Be prepared to pull or carry. Light.

Varenna, Italy

Varenna, Italy

Once after landing at the Florence, Italy airport I made my way to the car rental area and found myself in line behind a group of two men and three women, who were traveling together.  Now I could sense this was going to be trouble from the get-go because the women were telling the men, in detail, what to do.   One gentleman filled out all the paperwork, as instructed by the ladies and when the agent thought they were through and handing over the papers, the women decided the other gent should be added as a driver as well. Back to the beginning. I stood in line for over an hour and the line behind me got longer and longer.
“Hellooooo, my knee was saying. Why are we standing still for such a long time?”   When it was my turn it took ten minutes and out the door I went.  Note:  Make all your car reservations at home and it will save you time and trouble.  When I got outside I found my car parked right behind The Group and watched in awe as they tried to get fifteen pieces of luggage into a mid-sized sedan.  Big luggage. They tried every which way under the sun, again at the direction of the ladies, and finally decided that the two large cases would have to go in the back seat of the car and the three women would sit on top of them.  Bent over.  Noses touching the seat in front of them.  Those poor men!  I hoped they didn’t have to go very far!  How would they be when they arrived at their destination?  I did not want to know.

I like to take the train most of the time.  The trains that are “Mind the Gap” are easily accessible, just step from a platform over a small open space and you are easily on. Prince Charming is never around when you need him.  Some trains in Italy are small.  The trains in Italy may look like this:  1. Narrow entrance to get on and off .  2.  Three or more giant steps that you must be prepared to hoist your luggage to and then yourself.  For me it is luggage first than me.  3. Trains are on time (well Italian time) so you have to get a move on when the train comes to a halt. 4.  Be prepared for the entrance to be crammed with people who do not want to move to a seat.  Picture this. I was taking a train from the Zurich Airport by way of the local train. I had to take a train to get to another train. The train stopped, the door opened and all I saw were faces and piled high luggage.  I quickly assessed the situation. The train was ready to depart  so up went my case and I scrambled on behind it. Nobody moved. We were eyeball to eyeball with my suitcase squeezed between us. I couldn’t even turn around to face the door and just hoped my fanny would not get caught in it when it closed.  I looked up and read the sign. Do not lean on the door.  Luckily, I only had one stop to go before we all poured out.

Menaggio, Italy

Menaggio, Italy

Sometimes after you reach your destination in paradise there are stairs just waiting to greet you.  So you have a room booked on the first floor?  Well that will be the second floor in Europe. Most hotels do not have an elevator or if they do it is tiny,  not room enough for you AND a large suitcase.   You must be able to carry your luggage up the stairs. By the time you get there heavy luggage will make your knees weak, your legs screaming, your back aching, and give you a killer headache.  You will need a drink!  Or two, but won’t want to walk back down those stairs!

So what kind of luggage do I travel with? One on wheels, durable, but light weight.  It measures 16X23 inches and has an easy to recognize name tag

My new best friend

My new best friend

and strong pull out handle to slip on Papa Borsa because he doesn’t like to be carried.  Remember that your luggage does not like cobblestones, so it must have a durable handle that can lift it to carry and will not break easily.  My favorite accessory is the luggage scale.  Don’t leave home without it. You don’t want to get to the airport upon departure to have the smiling attendant say your ticket is now @$$%%^^^%#$$$$ because it is overweight.  You will be directed to another line to take stuff out or re-arrange it. Re-arrange it to what?  Use that scale beforehand and know how much the suitcase weighs.  Practice walking with your suitcase full. Go up and down your stairs at home carrying it.  Can you do it?  Remember the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone is connected to the back bone.  All the way to your head.  Save yourself a headache.  Travel light. Now let’s get down the stairs!  How about these?

Stairs in B&B, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Stairs in B&B, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Next….. what do I pack and how do I pack it?

Safety and the Babushka Ladies and Gents, Elderly Grandparent Types

The Paris TrainThe most important safety and security rule to know when starting out on your vacation abroad is KNOW WHERE YOUR PASSPORT IS AT ALL TIMES.  Once I have landed at my destination,   found my luggage and gone through customs, I head for the bathroom, my adjustment area.  I wear a silk passport protector around my neck so my passport can be worn on my chest. My protector also holds my cash and my credit cards.  In my wallet in my purse I carry only what I think I will need for the day. So I put my passport, money and credit cards in my safety  passport protector  and away I go somewhat secure in the knowledge that my stuff is safe around my neck, on my chest, and under my bra.   Here is my scoop on bathrooms. I have never forgotten this. I once read about Debra Dean, author of the Madonnas of Leningrad, going to a restroom in the Copenhagen Airport.  The walls of the stalls went all the way to the ground, even the door to the stall.  When she tried to leave she pulled on the door of the stall and it would not budge.  The lock, like one on a school locker, would just spin without catching.  Eventually, a woman came into the bathroom and Debra frantically tried to explain her predicament in English, and realized the women on the other side did not speak English. The woman left.   Debra, now in panic mode, tried the trick that works in all the movies.  Run a credit card up and down the space between the door and the jamb.  It didn’t work. The woman  returned with another women who spoke a little English and Debra tried to describe her husband so they could find him.  Her husband was eventually found followed by the airport security.  There was an exchange of words about breaking the door down, then the sound of metal on metal and the door of the stall swung open. So….the moral of the story is Always Look Before You Lock.  If the walls go  all the way to the floor I gently prop my foot up and hold the door closed, not locking it while using the toilet.  No easy task, but hey I am not locked in the stall!  I try to wipe down the door with a Handywipe before I leave it too. This episode reminds me why I like the Babushka Ladies, the word I use to describe  the helpful grandmotherly type women. Sometimes you can find them  seated out in front of the bathrooms in big traffic areas of markets, museums, etc. in European cities.  They look like someone you would not mess with, a meaty sort of woman with big arms, no smile. She sits behind a table with small toiletry items on it.  You pay her to get into the bathroom.  Men and women must pass her and pay her.  She knows who goes in and out. I love this woman!  I know if I don’t come out she is going to come looking for me.  I know no one will be fooling around in her bathroom. I know I can adjust my passport protector. I know she can break down that door if she needs to!!!!!  I look for the Babushka Lady bathroom! I’m sharing my private trade secrets here!

I have found that same security in other areas.  Babushka ladies can be found at train terminals.  For some reason I have problems with tickets and how to use them properly in the machines. Safety and Security Help #2:  Watch the person in front of you to see how  to operate any kind of machine,  any machine that requires a stamp or placing a ticket into a slot.  In Paris I once put my ticket in the train turn style in the wrong slot. How could there be two slots and I pick the wrong one?  Well, anyway it ate my ticket. So my hubby trudged back to the line to buy another one. The line was long so I pushed the luggage to the side of the turn style to wait.  While I waited more people approached the turn style and had the same problem that I had experienced. Except, one little detail, they just picked up their luggage, and pitched it over the turn style with their body following suit. What?  Not long after, teens came along, no ticket at all and just jumped the turn style altogether.  I just stood there.  That’s when the Babushka Lady Police showed up. They asked me questions in french.  I did a lot of arm waving and pointing and mime trying to explain about my ticket. They shrugged their shoulders and looked the machines over until my husband came with a new ticket.  But, I thought all along someone was watching me on a camera and sent the Babushka ladies to see what was going on.

Safety and Security Help #3.  Be on the lookout for Babushkas

Last year I stood perplexed at the train station turn style at Victoria Station in London. I fiddled for the right  ticket, why are there always so many?  Before I could say Jack Robinson there was a Babushka lady there who opened the turn style and told me to just go on through. There must be lots of cameras and ladies for me. I take comfort in that.

While at the Prague train station I encountered the Babushka Man. I placed my luggage at my side on the floor while looking  up  at the screen to see what platform I should be going to. The next thing I knew a man had picked up my luggage and was walking off with it.  I was so surprised.  I rushed after him, tried to speak to him, tried to take my luggage back. He kept walking and talking, with me huffing and puffing behind him,  going through a tunnel, up the stairs and to a platform.  As he put the suitcase down, I took a good look at him for the first time and noticed he DID have some sort of uniform on.  Well it was a blue shirt and slacks that matched. I got the message to stay put. He left, but I didn’t think that I was on the right platform and how did he know?  The train did pull in that I was to take, but not my carriage.  There are numbers on the carriage that match your ticket and seat number.  The Babushka Man came back to the platform to make sure I was still there. I watched him out the corner of my eye as he helped other people with their luggage.  He watched me while the carriage I needed was brought round and hooked to the train.  He motioned for me to get on. I obeyed and  was so surprised when I boarded.   There were little red  velvety booths with sliding wooden doors instead of individual seats.  Inside the booth a wooden table separated the cushioned seats. I felt like I was in Agatha Christie’s book, the Orient Express!   I’ve never been on such a beautiful train.  The Babushka man waved goodbye and I was off.   I was the only person on that carriage. I felt bad that I was so stupid!  While on the train a concierge came by and took my order for food and brought it to me.  He brought me maps of Budapest where I was headed to. When I arrived in Budapest the door of the train opened and there stood a new Babushka Man to take my luggage. I let him.  He talked  and talked all the way to the cab area while I just nodded and smiled. I had no clue what he said. I tipped him big and wished he could share it with the Prague Babushka Man, who I knew thought I was a jerk.

I have encountered the Babushka Lady in Italy too.  The Italian ladies tend to be skinny, older, wearing a black or flowered dress with hose to their knees and black comfortable looking shoe string shoes.  It was raining, pouring actually.  I was in the Piazza of the Vatican when it started  to rain buckets.  I noticed an unorganized  queue forming in the street and thought it might be the line for a taxi. A taxi stopped.  Five Brits jumped from the curb and stumbled over each other to get in that cab. An Italian Babushka lady materialized out of nowhere. She pulled the back door of the cab open and in no uncertain terms told the Brits what she thought of them.  Evidently she had been standing there a long time.  She was soaked through and through.  When they didn’t get out she opened the taxi driver’s door and let him have it too. By now the Brits understood that she was having that cab now! No ifs, ands or buts! The Brits got out and she got in. I went to look for the metro.

In times of need, the Italian Babushka Lady is there for you. I have stopped them to ask questions. I have been lost. I like to greet them on the street. I talk to them on the bus. I know they are thinking my Italian sucks, but they always try to help me.  In Milan, again at the train station,  I waited by the yellow machine that needs to stamp your ticket before boarding the train. It didn’t stamp properly.  Sure enough here came the Babuskas‘ to look at it.   At least I had already made it through the turn style right?  The ladies moved on and as I stood there a young woman rushed up and asked me in Italian if this was the right train to some city that I thought I had recognized on the boarding screen. I answered her, in my best Italian, trying to reassure her that it  was indeed the correct train and she had enough time to make it. She looked shocked that I was not Italian.  She scurried on, but I was so happy to realize I was now the new Babushka lady!

PS  I have not had the nerve to try to get a picture of the Babushka, maybe this trip!

You Have to Know How to Hold Em’ and Know When To Fold Em’

Traveling in the summer months is easier to pack for. Clothes weigh less and are not bulky. For any trip over seven days I take seven outfits that mix and match. Seven tops and seven slacks. And two lightweight sweaters that go with anything. Interchangeable. Period. This makes a very big wardrobe and believe me it so much easier to deal with.  To dress something up add a scarf!

Sacs from Eagle Creek

Sacs from Eagle Creek

The next best thing to soap is  Compression Sacs from Eagle Creek, the kind that don’t need a vacuum to suck out the air. Put your clothes  in it, and then roll the sack like you are rolling out a pie. The air escapes and it is flat as a pancake. A miracle!  You will be amazed how much you can get into these sacs! The sacs come in three sizes.  Small, medium and large.  I take one large Compression Sac empty, to use for dirty laundry. I can  separate the dirty from the clean stuff so I always know what is what. They are extremely durable and I have been known to mail home my dirty laundry in these sacs, when I bought too many goodies on vacation. (You’ ll still need to find a box to mail them in, but it will be a small one!)  Also, if you go to a laundromat in Europe it is easier and less noticeable to carry your laundry to and fro in these sacs. Mark one for clean and one for dirty, so you can bring back clean clothes in a clean sac.  Put dirty clothes in marked dirty sac, roll it up, squeeze out the air and place  sacs in Veggie Borsa and off you go to wash!   Scented laundry sheets are a real winner. Place them in the dirty clothes sac and in your suitcase and everything will smell heavenly!

Evelopes

Envelopes

The other must have is the Eagle Creek Envelopes and it’s matching bags.  These come in different shapes and sizes, the items shown here are the ones I use.  One for pants, one for tops, one for underwear and one for toiletries.  I love it because it keeps my clothes sorted and I don’t have to pull  everything out of my suitcase to find something.  Also, if I am staying in one spot for a long time I take the envelopes out and put them in the dresser drawers. Easy! It is amazing how your clothes stay freshly pressed in these envelopes too.

How to do the Shoes

How to do the Shoes

For shoes, your new best friend, will be the plastic sleeves that the newspaper comes in.  Perfect for shoes, slide the shoe in and pack them. Keeps everything clean. I wear my heaviest shoes on the airplane and pack another pair in Papa Borsa’s front pouch, which is easy to get to.

Small plastic bags in assorted sizes come in most handy for makeup, lotions or hairspray that may leak.  Place all toiletries in a plastic bag before it is put in the toiletry bag.  Bring only what is necessary and in small plastic travel containers. A small bar of soap and detergent is handy, to wash out underclothes  in my room. I also carry a small nylon stretchy clothes line.

Stuff to carry in your purse at all times:
A Tide to Go pen. You want to get at a possible stain before it has time to set. Ever been to a bathroom to discover no toilet paper?  Carry Handywipes always and a No Rinse Hand Sanitizer.  Carry a very small umbrella, if you have it with you, you will never need it.

Oh, and duct tape in some bright color to make a fashion statement!  Put it on the back of your ankles and you will never get a blister, no matter how far you walk!

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