Monday, April 13, 2009

In-N-Out Europe Style

So, we have our flight in and we have our flight out, but everything in between is making us loopy. Maybe, as I was explaining to Dallas, it's because we are trying to see all of Europe in 3 weeks and for 50% off. It's all too much. Our hair is falling out. Our eyes are strained. Our brains are flipping and flopping. It's all too much. I cannot even say what the plan is at this point, because Geoff may call and say "Let's go with plan B, and scratch the second part of our original plan B, but add a second helping of that other thing we were talking about, but we'll take the bus instead of the train, after we return the rental car at the airport in the town before the big city. K?" Then I will scream or cry or laugh or something, and then say "K."

Delia in Barri Gotic, Barcelona

Confused? Me too. To make a short story long it all goes back to the Summer of 1982, when Geoff and I met and talked and talked and talked and decided that someday we would go to Europe. We postponed our trip a bit, but this is it. This is the Summer we go to Europe, and because it is 27 years later, our plans have changed... there are 4 children to bring and inflation to consider. Geoff wisely insisted on sending an advance team to figure out the Ins and Outs of traveling abroad. Mom and I went to Barcelona, Spain and Avignon, France. We got lost and we got chocolate. We walked 42 miles a day and learned to punctuate our sentences with "Vale." We took lots and lots of pictures, and agreed we need to learn more about our cameras. We figured everything out and came home resourceful, informed brilliant beacons of travel wisdom.


Now Geoff and I are trying to apply our dreams, my wisdom, his visions, the children's needs, our savings account and all of the allure of rivers, villages, castles, museums, trains, and Europe in to one seamless adventure, that I call Chickens Abroad.

Here I am, being savvy, at McDonalds', across the street the Sagrada Familia. Lesson learned: Expect the unexpected. My initial posts from Barcelona were long and distressed... I had not expected jet lag to be so real and I was really sad to be out of touch with my husband and children. Bloggers and friends saved the day with all of their encouraging and helpful comments, and once Mom and I got our bearings we figured a lot out. It was in these comments that we learned about the free wifi at McD's, and I have "Lusks' Journal" to thank for telling me about this. I am not opposed to burger joints, but I am an In-N-Out girl and there was no way I was going all the way to Europe just to sit in MickyD's, but now I know a soda, clean bathrooms, and a smoke-free place to sit make it a worthwhile stop. Expect the unexpected.

One thing Geoff and I expected was that we would all go to Barcelona together. Hmmm. Maybe we are meant to go back another time. Nothing is decided, but I think we are trying to see too much, go to too many places. I really want to return to Spain, but now that Geoff has me infected with travel fever, I know we can make it to España next time, and this time can be about places within easier reach of London, like France, Belgium and Netherlands. Or maybe...

Santa Maria Del Mar

There is so much to figure out. And our 1985 copy of Europe on $20 a Day is no help at all. LOL.

I did not expect to like Picasso's work as much as I did. I had never seen his paintings and sketches, the art he did as a child, from before Cubism and I really like those very much... enough to help me appreciate later works.

Next up... we need to decide where to stay and how to get there. And then when we get there we can discover all of the unexpected parts, the parts that work and the parts that do not. Good ideas and helpful suggestions are coming and in and I appreciate every one of them.

Our first day in Europe the Metro was a daunting labyrinth and I might have flown straight home if I thought it were feasible, but fortunately curiosity and hotel reservations kept us moving forward... thank God. So I have to remind myself that all of this is probably as simple as the Metro, and we will soon see that the loopyness, the flipping and flopping will all be worthwhile in the end.



Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

Good luck with the family trip. One piece of advice from someone who's traveled many times to Europe: simplify!

It's guaranteed that you won't be able to see/do everything that you wish. So pare down your countries to just three, one per week. And then do a maximum of two cities per country. Already that's still a lot.

But you'll be less stressed and will have a lot of fun. You don't want your trip mainly to be about the transportation, whether it be via train, bus or airplane. :-)

Tiglizzyclone said...

Sounds like you will be fine, but busy. Might be Chicken Abroad will be too tired to post much?? Have fun!

Lesley said...

You have only three weeks: enough to explore maybe three cities (two would be better), if it's only cities you want to see.
It's summer, it's Europe, and despite the limitations of the economic downturn, there will still be MILLIONS of people. Be prepared for heat, crowds and long lines at the most popular places — and these won't be organised by Americans with a flair for that sort of thing!
You've obviously been really sensible and done lots of research, so draw up a list of things each of you wants to see, then edit SEVERELY and try to involve as little travelling as possible, and as much time as possible to be in the places you want to be.
From the family list, pick the one or two places that would be lovely to stay in as well as explore. Find yourself places to stay there and use them as bases from which to set out and explore.
Rent a house or a flat and you'll be able to cook the occasional meal (saving you an absolute fortune) and pack lunches etc etc.
You can save lots by making yourself picnic lunches, if you're somewhere with a decent market. Pack a knife or two, buy local bread and produce, something to drink, and spread out in a park or somewhere scenic for a yummy lunch.
We've always gone for creating a 'home' base, and having somewhere familiar to return to after a day or two of adventuring is invaluable. Travelling is exhausting!
In all honesty, this may not also be the trip of a lifetime for Maria. Kids are sturdy travellers, but they like what they like! You may need to factor in a lot of downtime for her: she'd probably still rather watch TV, play on the swings in a park, or splash about in a pool, than take in the sights of the great cities that will fire up the rest of the team.
Above all, allow yourselves a day off here and there to do nothing and catch your breath. Otherwise you'll need a holiday when you get home!

By the way: the word verification thingy is WINGER! It's an omen!

nikkipolani said...

You make a delightful traveloguer, Natalie. The things you notice about your surroundings and about yourself, the things you see and capture with your camera and words... I think you ought to pack up the children and just traipse about :-D

Mary Smith said...

Ohh! You are so lucky to be in Europe and what a great experience for your children. Thanks for sharing your photos. How inspiring.

lusks said...

Things will work themselves out. Take one step at a time, you can always come back and see some more, don't try to cram too much in.

Thanks for the recognition regarding the wi-fi. I thought everyone knew that it was free at McD's and all you need buy is a coffee.

I shall give you another tip for travelling, have a look at SERVAS at
My husband and I are members and have met so many wonderful people.

Will you be venturing up to Scotland, we would make you most welcome.

judy in ky said...

This trip is going to be such a great experience for your children. They will never, ever forget things they see and learn about the world.