General European Observations

We are home! Here is a list of general observations from our 30 day adventure in France and Italy.

Travel advice from Rick Steves *should be listened to.* Seriously. When he tells you to bring a wash cloth? Bring a damn wash cloth. Hell, with four bodies, I should have brought twelve!

Bring lots of laundry detergent (that you aren’t allergic to.) Consider one load every four days. Don’t listen to anyone else. This man knows his stuff. Rashes from European detergent are not pleasant. One of the laundromats we went to in Italy (lavanderia) had built-in laundry detergent and fabric softener. This was lovely, but not the norm. Oh and use a damn laundromat instead of hang drying your stuff. Mildew is not the best cologne. Hang drying only worked when the weather hit about 90, with the humidity below 40, and no rain in the forecast.

Rick Steves (you’re getting the hint, right? LISTEN TO HIM) says to bring similarly colored clothing. Do this. Because of the above. Washed a pair of red shorts with white socks and undies. We like pink, right? Thank goodness the answer is yes.

Bring toilet paper when your friend tells you to. She too knows her shit. He he. Literally. Oh not a good thing to forget this one. Not at all. MP could probably write a travel book that would rival Rick Steves I bet.

For four bodies, one entire bar of soap and one entire tube of toothpaste is enough for 30 days. Also important because *I am freaking allergic to even these simple items.* Grr. While we didn’t have a problem finding soap that worked, the toothpaste was a fail. Grr.

Wine is CHEAP in France, mildly affordable in Italy. But at the Venice airport? $1.80 for a glass of wine, $3 for a liter. Seriously. Score!

Build in no less than a 3 hours layover between flights. Especially when you have to clear customs AND recheck bags. Again, FAIL.

For pictures you only need ONE real camera and a cell phone (with either an international plan or a sim card from each country you travel to for your jail broken phone.) Any more cameras and you just have dead weight with you. Even with four people. Y’all can share.

I LOVE Paris! Both of our accommodations were lovely there. Air BNB is da bomb, as is our travel agent friend.

You know those giant zip lock bags that  you use to put your clothes in than squish the air out to make packing easier? Use them. Bring extra. Life savers I tell you. Another Rick Steves bit of advice I did not follow: bring extra normal zip lock bags as well. In all sizes. You will need them, I promise. Maybe even a full size garbage bag. It will have a multitude of uses. See the rain section below.

Bring more than one pair of shoes. Even if you are a cranky teen who doesn’t believe you will need that second pair. You will need them. I promise you.

That light weight rain jacket Rick Steves mentions? Yup. Don’t leave it at home. That umbrella your cousin mentioned? Don’t smirk. You need it. One for each two people. Rain or shine, you will find a use for it. In a pinch your back pack can be wrapped in that extra garbage bag to keep your stuff dry as well.

Here’s one from my thirteen year old: make a list of what you brought and consult with it each time you pack and unpack. It will keep you from leaving things behind. Like your language book. Yeah, yours. Sorry sweetie, I’ll buy you a new one :-(.

A good pocket knife is irreplaceable. I’ve never been a gal to carry one. Until now. Oh the many uses and life saving tools it has.

Checking bags is for the birds. However I’m not good at packing lightly (okay not true – but the fam isn’t good at it) and shopping lightly (this is true.)

Veggies are a rarity in Italy. I ordered fried veggies at a hole-in-the-wall in Venice and got what The Husband would call croquet: veggies wrapped with mashed potatoes, battered and then fried. Delish, served with polenta. But other than a version of salad, that was it for veggies. I am now in veggie withdrawals.

Lastly: We had a very successful trip! We made it 30 days without a cold or food poisoning. The only adventure of this sort we endured was heat exhaustion (a kiddling) and minor injuries (all mine, I win.) Oh yeah, and just exhaustion in itself. Which is where we are right now. Speaking of that… Off I go to fill my wine glass. Heh. Had to correct that from whine ;-).

Too Busy!

We just spent our last day in Venezia Italy. Tomorrow we start the long journey home, through Paris. We’ve had a great time but oh my goodness does sleeping in our own beds sound beyond good. I’ll get back to posting pics when I get home. I’m afraid texting blogs has tried my last bit of patience. More to come for sure!


Our last day in France was a busy one. We got up bright and early and got on our first toll way. We drove to Carcassonne, then spent our evening in Toulouse.


Obligatory foreign soda photo.

Another can of foreign soda. Funny name :-).

Our friends had called up an old school buddy and had them meet us there. We learned a little bit of history and enjoyed the city immensely. So much so that next time we go to visit our friends in the South of France we will do a slightly longer stay in Toulouse to soak up a little more of their culture.


Beautiful brick building in Toulouse.

The city is nicknamed the pink city for all the brick buildings.


Toulouse cafe

One of my many favorite parts of France is the many cafes. This was the last one we visited. What makes cafes  even better in France 1) they have coffee AND cheap beer and 2) all of the beautiful architecture to look at while you sip your cheap beer.

We only stayed the night there to make the car return and arriving at the airport easier, which it did. It was sad to leave France but very exciting to head to Italy.

That’s next.


Of all the the things I’ve learned while we are traveling: history, managing bus and train travel, what to bring with you when going on vacation, I think how to hand-wash clothes is my favorite.  No,  seriously.

There hasn’t been a washing machine in over a week. Even when there has been one there hasn’t been a drier. So I hand wash when I need to, The Husband wrings them out and we hang them up together. Team work.

At the end of a washing session my forearms are tight, my arms satisfyingly tired. The feeling is vaguely familiar. So vague, in fact, that it’s taken me weeks to make the connection: this is how I feel after a good workout. Yes, it’s been that long – a month and a half maybe.

Apparently I’m missing working out, not enjoying the handwashing. If I didn’t just buy laundry detergent I’d be all over dropping and doing 20. Erm. Or 10. Or at least a modified military press or 2. Wait, what’s a military press again?

Actually,  we broke down and visited a lavanderia today. The humidity is too high for our clothes to dry properly. This might be a trend.  I’ve heard stories of roadside washers and driers along the motor way. We just might need to visit one of these.

Here’s to clean clothes. And working out :-).

The Last Pics of South of France

It was so hard to narrow these picks down.


A modern church: 77 years old. Not sure what part of Agen we were in. It was stunning to see  a newer structure made mostly of brick.


This is a shot from a restored ancient village also in a part of Agen. The buildings where built 6 feet apart to help with preventing fire spread.



A monkerey. Yeah I know that’s not a word :-). This is a very old building where the monks of Moirax lived. We might have still been in Aubiac here but ii could have been just outside.



This looks like candied bacon right?  No? I think we miss bacon. It’s really candied papaya.



We found the papaya at Carcassonne. A million magnificent photos exist for this place,  Google it and you’ll see. For me my camera was flirting with ghosts. It barely worked while we were there. I kept getting photos of orbs or simply black or white shots or scenes I hadn’t even framed. Ross Allison shared that indeed the castle et al is haunted. Glad it wasn’t just me.


Giant Nutella.

Last photo from this area: the largest container of Nutella I’ve ever seen. This should make at least a few of you smile.

Next up: the rouge city; Toulouse.