My Travel Style

As a reader of this site you may have noticed that I don’t take a multitude of trips. I sometimes wonder if “TripwithBrit” is an honest name for this blog. I don’t travel year round, traveling isn’t my job (yet). One of these days it might be, especially if I win the Powerball on Wednesday. I can take a lot of trips once I pocket 500 million dollars. I try to take one trip a year if that is feasible. I work full-time and I am lucky to get about 5 weeks of vacation, plus sick time and a lot of holidays. I can also work longer hours and use those extra hours for vacation. There are perks to working for the US government. My wife Angela also works full-time but her job isn’t as hip as mine in terms of vacation time. I’ve taken one trip without her and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it. I’ve grown used to having her with me all the time.

So, while I may not have as many trips under my belt as other travel blogs, I still felt like maybe I would write about how I prefer to travel. There are so many different travel styles and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about my blog. One thing I will be up front about is that we don’t ‘do’ hostels. Not that we think there is anything wrong with them of course. But we are married, my wife is in her 40’s, I’m in my 30’s and we have certain ideas about when we travel. We like our own space. We like our own bathrooms and showers. I think that comes from just living on our own for so long. We don’t really drink so we prefer not to stay in any sort of place that has the reputation as a ‘party’ place.

There is one thing I prefer to do at least part of the time on my vacations. I like to rent apartments. One thing is that it saves money because you have a kitchen and you can cook for yourself. But do you want to know what I love about rental apartments? A kitchen means its an excuse to go to the grocery store in a foreign land. I love grocery stores! I mean, not so much here in the US, I know what I am getting into. But in another country I just think it’s so fun. I mean, have you seen their chips? They have the coolest flavors! We had steak and potato and turkey dinner chips while in Paris. The turkey dinner? It tasted like Thanksgiving. C’mon America! Lays has a contest every year but I find their flavors so boring. Cheese garlic bread? Please. Give me some steak and potato chips and I’ll buy out the whole aisle. I stayed in a rental in Krakow, Paris, and Amsterdam. When in Switzlerland my brother and sister-in-law rented a beautiful apartment in Lucens. That is what I prefer. I prefer a place that feels like home, a place where I can cook. I don’t have to get up, rush to get ready and find a restaurant to eat my meal at.

Our Paris apartment was a block from the Louvre. We went with the website Vacation in Paris There were a few things we were not happy about with the apartment but for the most part the apartment suited our needs perfectly. And it was in the ideal location. VIP comes pretty highly recommended on a lot of different travel sites I frequent. There was a Franprix just around the corner

 

When in Amsterdam we stayed in a gorgeous little apartment called the Korenbloemen. Unfortunately Hugo, the owner, no longer rents this apartment out. It was the idea location, close to the Dam Square, close to the Red Light District, a quick walk to the Anne Frank House and a bunch of different museums. It was small and a bit dark but we couldn’t have asked for a better apartment. There was a grocery store just a few blocks away.

In Switzerland my mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece stayed in a really great bed and breakfast type establishment. It really was just 2 levels and the first level was occupied by the owners and then we had the 2nd floor. Unfortunately this place is also not in operation anymore but it is probably one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed in. I was incredibly ill on that trip and all I wanted was a comfortable place to lay my head and this was it. The temperature went down to around 5o°F (in July) and I slept like a rock. And the view? Well, that speaks for itself.

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The view from our house in Lucens, Switzerland ©TripwithBrit

One thing I like to do is stick to a budget when it comes to accommodations. I like some comfort but rarely do we stay in a luxury apartment or hotel. Our Ireland trip will be the exception. It is our delayed honeymoon and a few of the nights we are staying in a high end hotel in Kilkenny, Ireland and we are staying at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel (Glenlo Abbey) outside of Galway for one night. The rest of our trip we are staying in mid-range priced places. But luckily for us most of Ireland is fairly cheap (especially compared to Paris or Bruges).

When I travel I can be occupied for hours roaming around taking photos. I am so glad that Angie is a lot like me. Our first trip together was Paris and Bruges. We had never traveled that far together and I don’t think we knew what to expect of each other. I’m so glad she too likes to take it easy on vacation. We don’t over plan our days. We have an idea of what we want to do on a particular day but we don’t plan it by the hour. I prefer not to come home from vacation exhausted from overdoing it every single day then I need another vacation to recover!

A must for me on vacation though? A shower. Not a hand-held shower hose but I need an actual, legit shower that I can stand up in and have the water cascade down me. I think that is about the only ‘must’ for me when I book any accommodation. You want an amazing shower? Try out the shower at Hotel Pullman Brussels. Pullman

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We may have splurged a bit on this hotel… ©TripwithBrit

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Brugge, Amsterdam and Marriage

So much has happened since my last post. I don’t even know where to start. Maybe from the beginning. I guess that would be the smart option. We came back from our Belgium and Netherlands trip not even a month ago and can I just say what an amazing time we had? I saw more of Belgium which is hard to believe considering the amount of times I’ve spent there. For such a small country there sure is a lot to see. I spent time with family. I bonded with my niece. I ate some chocolate. Drank some beer. We went to so many war museums. The Atlantic Wall Museum in Oostend. Go there. You won’t regret it. The “Trench of Death” in Diksmuide and the Ypres Tower also there. Go there. Again, you won’t regret it. We stayed at Martin’s Brugge again and I have no complaints with it. It is steps away from the main square. It’s clean and the staff is friendly. We had an top floor room with amazing views!

And…I went to Paris.

And I am sad to say this. I don’t know if I should admit it in my blog but I don’t think Paris is my favorite city anymore. Now, I may get a lot of flack for this. And I am willing to deal with the flack. It has been two years since I set foot in that city. We went on a Saturday, which I can imagine was probably not the best day to go. I can deal with tourists. I can deal with being shoved trying to cross the street. I can even deal with one of the birds shitting on my leather jacket as I stood outside of a Starbucks on the Champs de Elysees. What I cannot deal with is the throngs of gypsies/scam artists/aggressiveness that we had to deal with. The amount of scammers I saw and had to deal with was out of control. It was not like this two years ago when we went. I have always defended Paris. We never had problems with people being rude. We never had people talk down to us because we were American. This was my third time to Paris but my least favorite time spent there. I think it will be a very long time before I go back.

But I do have to say, Paris is still an incredibly photogenic city. If you can ignore the bad, just imagine the gorgeous pictures one can take there.

Then we went to Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam years ago, for not even a full day and I really enjoyed my time there. But this time was really great. Now, sadly, when we finally got to Amsterdam we were incredibly sick. We had very bad colds, sore throats, I spiked a fever a few times. But we pulled through. Two friends from London flew over to spend a day with us which was amazing. I have ‘known’ Grete and David since we started talking on a travel website 8 or 9 years ago. This was our first time meeting and it was like meeting two old friends! We had a blast together. We went to the Anne Frank House. That was an incredibly moving experience. If you go I highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time. You save a lot of time! We got there right after opening and the line was already stretching around the building and down the block. We went to the Resistance Museum which was incredibly informative. I really enjoyed seeing that.  The Prostitution Museum was interesting but I found it more depressing than informative. The Marijuana and Hemp Museum was a lot of fun, lots of cool artifacts and a lot (and I mean a LOT) of history associated with it. We enjoyed our time at a coffeeshop called Basjoe’s. It was right across the canal from our apartment. We went one night and the budtender was very nice and patient with us and we have no complaints with his recommendations for us.

The apartment we booked:

http://www.dekorenbloemen.com/en

I cannot say enough great things about this apartment. It is centrally located. Just a few short minute walk from the Dam Square and the Red Light District. It is quiet, for the most part. With Amsterdam being a city of course there is always noise. The apartment is a basement apartment so we did hear more noise than somebody on the top floor but it didn’t really bother us at all. Just go down the street and you are right in the middle of the tourist track, shops, restaurants, coffeeshops, cafes all within a few minutes. When (yes, WHEN) we go back to Amsterdam I would not hesitate to stay there again.

And this goes without saying but Amsterdam is absolutely gorgeous.

And now for some big news. Big. HUGE!

Last week, on November 5th the gay marriage ban was tossed out for the state of Missouri. Which is great for us. Because we live in Missouri! We were already planning an Illinois wedding for the spring. But guess what we did? We got married on November 7, 2014! We really had no notice, our families couldn’t even come due to it being so last minute. But WE. ARE. MARRIED. In our home state! It was the most amazing day. St Louis City Hall is absolutely beautiful. We were lucky enough that our friend Jenny and her fiance Jon could get off work to be our witnesses. Jenny held our rings, Jon took pictures. We found a minister who was already up there with her church marrying gay couples and she married us with less than 24 hours notice. I still don’t know how we pulled it off. We are married now. I have a wife. She has a wife. Life is good.

Travel plans for the future you ask?

New Orleans next fall. Probably right around November so we can be there for our first wedding anniversary. And for 2016…well…who knows? Right now we are weighing our options. Alaska. Italy. Ireland. Normandy was thrown out there just tonight. We shall see what the next year takes us. Last week I was all about Alaska. This week I envision us in Ireland. This is me we are talking about, by the time 2016 rolls around we could be planning a vacation to Vietnam for all I know.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

I am driving Angie crazy. I mean, more than normal at least. She told me a couple of days ago that the condo will be paid off in 4 years. 4 years! Do you believe that? I will be done with school in roughly 2 years. My car will be paid off in 3 years. I am getting a degree in a job that will be easy to come back to if I take a year long break. Or longer. You know. Depending on what I can save in the next 5 years.

Yeah. I’m already planning our 1 year+ trip around the world in 5 years. I’m driving her crazy. I’m already asking her where she wants to go. So far we said Sydney for New Years Eve (on a yacht in the harbor preferably but I won’t get too picky). Two months in New Zealand. Cambodia. Indonesia. At least a month in Paris. Iceland. Finland. Sweden. Switzerland. Denmark. Croatia. Ireland. Italy. I mean the list just goes on and on. And how does one plan a year long trip? How do you stay in another country for longer than 3 months without a work visa? I mean isn’t that the rule or am I mistaken?

So now I won’t stop talking about it. Or thinking about it. I have a new fascination with Bali. I think Angie does too. First of all, holy shit, what a photogenic place! I don’t think it is possible to take a bad picture there! I have no real desire to go to Cambodia but Angie has wanted to go there for years. She said she’ll be happy just going for a week which I decided I could handle. I’m sure it is a wonderful country, I’ve just never had a reason to go there, nor a desire. Of course, I want to stay in Paris for a month. Maybe longer. I wouldn’t mind 3 weeks in Paris and then explore the rest of France and go into Switzerland for another 4 weeks or so. A month in Australia at least. I don’t know. I just feel inspired. It gives me a goal to strive for. Start paying on my student loans NOW, not later. Get bills, credit cards, hospital bills paid off. Be debt free in a few years. My only concern would be leaving our babies (the cats) for too long.

I really should just concentrate on our trip coming up. 2 weeks in Europe in October. Belgium and The Netherlands. Seeing family. Seeing friends. Taking more pictures. It is going to be an incredible trip. I am in desperate need of a vacation even though it hasn’t been a year since my last one!

Until next time…

 

You have to dream before your dreams can come true.

While sitting here

desk

Dealing with this

paperwork

I dream about

The best advice I can give anyone is to close your mouth and open your mind. Go out and see the world. Because until you do, you haven’t lived. If you can’t afford to right now, don’t worry. Eventually you will. Put a little bit of money aside each check, even 5-10 dollars. Save it. And then go on that amazing trip you’ve yearned for your entire life. It pains me, to see my generation, sitting idly by as their life passes them by. They have no desire to experience something completely out of their comfort zone. They are the stereotype, the typical Stupid American we hear so much about. They have no desire to educate themselves, to realize there is a huge world outside of this country and there is so much to see. Countries filled to the brim with deep, rich history. It was amazing to me to walk around Krakow and imagine life for the Jews during WWII. Or walking through Auschwitz imagining what went on there. To go to Bastogne, Belgium and see the tribute to America. To stroll through Paris and imagine life in the jazz era. You see…I feel like I’ve lived. I feel like I have. And I want to see so much more. This hasn’t quenched this thirst, this incredible need to see more. When I travel I want to feel something.

“Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective.”-Rick Steves

“A daydreamer is a writer just waiting for pen and paper.”

Do you ever just want to get away? Pack your bags and go? Do you question how your life is going and what you are doing with it? Do you worry that you are too old to fulfill one dream and too young to fulfill another?

That’s life, I suppose.

I blame turning 30. I’m not old by any means. I had no issues turning 30. I wasn’t scared, I didn’t cry about it, I didn’t become fearful at mentioning how old I would be. But at 30 I’ve decided that life just isn’t worth living unless you are living. Are you picking up what I’m throwing down? Are you catching my drift? Should I add a few more cliches so you know what I’m talking about?

I work a normal 9-5 job (or rather a 6-2:30 job). I sit in a little cubicle and push paper around my desk for 8 hours a day. Luckily I have a big window with a big window sill so I’m not stuck with no link to the outside world. And in those 8 hours, while doing my job, all I can think about is when I can leave. Every day I listen to travel podcasts. “Shall I go to Paris, Ireland, Amsterdam, Sweden or Finland today?” is what I ask myself around 8am, as more co-workers filter in. I turn on my MP3 player and listen to a French movie, not because I can understand even half of what they are saying but because its a different language than what I am used to hearing. I go online to the Tunein website and select a radio station from France or Belgium or Poland just so I can hear a few songs in different languages or even just listen to the DJ talk. When I get home I check out websites like Trip Advisor, Virtual Tourist or websites for expats and dream some more. Every other day I switch the background of my computers to another location.

I know that right now I can’t pack up and leave. Its not an excuse, its just the Gods honest truth. I have a fiance here, a condo, a car. But this 8 hour a day job, this paper pushing, this monotonous job is the precursor to the life I want to live with Angie. I want to be the person that says “Oh, last week we went to Paris!” like its the most normal thing in the world. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that in 6 years where you live will be paid off? That your car will be paid off, that all you have to pay for is car insurance, phone, and electricity which in reality doesn’t cost much. I can’t pack up and go right now but it sure is amazing to know that by the time I turn 37 this paper pushing job will be a thing of the past. It gives me hope on the worst days and its a little bit of sunshine.

Every day I dream about Paris

The Eiffel and graffiti

Every day I dream about Belgium

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Every day I dream about Poland

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Every day I dream about Finland

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But mostly…I dream of Paris. I miss Paris so much I feel it in every bone in my body. There is an ache for it. An ache to experience life there. To live there and breathe the Parisian air and befriend the French and understand them and know them. I will forever be grateful of the time I’ve spent in Paris, even if it is never enough time.

 

EUROPE!

Okay so I lied in the last post. I didn’t update by Friday. Well by last Friday. Today is technically Friday. I am at home sick with what I think could be the flu so what better time to do this?

First things first.

After spending time in Paris and then time in Bruges I have come to the conclusion that I actually prefer Bruges over Paris. I never thought I’d say this but it’s true! Paris is absolutely gorgeous. There is so much to see and so much to do. It was almost overwhelming. With Paris we felt the need to rush. It is a big city, like New York City, lots of people living there, they have places to go, people to see (or the other way around) and while we didn’t come across one rude French person, I didn’t feel like we had the opportunity to really relax while out of our apartment. We had some issues with our apartment as well. While we would go with the company again (they are aware of the problems) there is no way we would choose the same apartment though. All in all though, our time in Paris was fabulous. We didn’t overdo it, we did take our time about things and didn’t rush around every single day. Angie and I work out rather well when it comes to vacationing. We don’t like to have an itinerary planned hour by hour. We kind of wing it as the day goes. And we don’t beat ourselves up over things we missed out on. We are both of the mind set that Paris (and Bruges) aren’t going anywhere so we’ll just have to go back!

I’m going to do a Paris post then do a Bruges one probably tomorrow. It’s a lot to type out all at once!

PARIS

We arrived in Paris at around 9am on Sunday, December 2nd after a long day/night of traveling. We were exhausted (no sleep on the plane for us). We dropped our bags off and went in search of breakfast. I don’t remember the name of the  cafe but our waitress was adorable and was excited we spoke English and seemed excited to speak it with us. Angie didn’t recognize anything on the menu so at 11am she ordered a cheeseburger and a Heineken. I went for the more French breakfast of a croque monsieur (which was amazing I might add). We stopped by the Franprix down the street from the apartment and picked up basic sandwich meat, drinks, chips, that sort of thing. Our plan was to not eat out a lot in Paris. It’s so expensive there to begin with plus we’d eat out a lot in Bruges. We went back to the apartment and both fell asleep. I normally try to stay up all day and just sleep at night but the exhaustion was too much for me. We woke up in the evening and just piddled around the apartment and then went back to bed. Can I just say this apartment was in a PRIME location? It was in the 1st arrondisement 1 block from the Louvre.

On Monday, the 3rd, we were up super early (we both had major issues with jet lag in Paris—it didn’t really go away until we made it to Bruges on the 7th). We got ready and walked to the Louvre to take pictures of the outside. While I have been there before this time was a lot nicer because there was hardly anyone there. The best part of my experience there was being mistaken as native French by some Russian tourists asking for directions. I tried to help them as much as I could with hand signals and everything. The daughter even said “Merci” as they were walking away. It made my day! It was raining and kind of cold so we went to the apartment and warmed up then headed out later on in the afternoon. We WALKED all the way to the Notre Dame and I have to admit—BIG disappointment. No lights were on outside, it looked closed up. Notre Dame is one of my favorite spots in Paris so that disappointed me but we were able to see a lot just walking around. We saw the Eiffel from afar and its so gorgeous when it is lit up against the black sky. We walked across the Pont de l’Archeveche and took pictures of all the locks. Some people call it tacky, others call it beautiful. I call it art and took pictures. In a way it is tacky, in a way it is beautiful, especially the story behind it.

The 4th we were a bit worn out and didn’t leave until later on in the day.  We went to dinner at Louisa Cafe. Definitely a place for tourists but decent food and the waiter was very nice and very patient to the fact that all we could say was ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’, and a smattering of one word French words! We went to see Palais Royal which was right down the street from our apartment. That was a place that Angie definitely wanted to go to but a lot of it was under construction. We had a good time though and took some great pictures. Angie considered running through the columns like in the movie but decided against it. After that we headed to take some pictures of the Louvre at night. One word—STUNNING. Okay I can say a lot more words. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Atmospheric. As we were walking in we heard some haunting music and realized it was coming from somebody playing his bass violin. So beautiful. We walked around for a good hour taking pictures of the exterior. The best part of that experience? Having some American (this is almost embarrassing) yell at us for being in their shot while taking pictures. I am pretty sure they didn’t realize we were American until we started speaking English. Not a very good impression of American tourists going by that group!

The 5th was definitely the most Parisian experience of our time there! We had a Romanian mother and daughter pretend to be lost and ask for directions. While the daughter distracted Angie (and she thought she was distracting me) the mother came up to my side and kind of tried to get behind me (my purse was on the other side). Luckily I knew what was going on and stepped as close as I could to Angie while Angie gave directions (also, this place was practically right down the street). I just quickly grabbed Angie and we walked away. Not 10 minutes later some guy tried the gold ring scam on us. I’ve always wanted to experience this and I wasn’t disappointed. He was ahead of us (not behind us like he should have been) and he picked it up, looked at it like it was the most beautiful ring he has ever seen and asked us if it was ours. Now, mind you, this was a gold band definitely made for a man and probably 3 sizes too big for our finger. He kept trying to get our attention but we walked away. I think its hilarious people fall for this stuff! Roughly 10 minutes later we were at the Ferris wheel taking pictures and we come across a huge protest! Police were out in full force. It was all very French and very organized. They had masks but nobody was wearing them. We were handed some paperwork but it was all in French. I think it had something to do with wages, I’m not really sure.  We when walked to the Theatre Vrai Guinolet which is puppet show that has been there since 1818 and featured in the movie Charade. It was the cutest thing ever. The man running the show was probably 80 years old and scolded us about not knowing 5 languages like he did! I took some video of it, it was definitely a highlight of the trip.

After that we went to the Louvre (again) but this time we went inside. They are open late on Wednesdays and we were hoping it wouldn’t be as busy. It was busy but not overwhelming. I saw the Mona Lisa. It was nice to say I saw it—but I think I would have liked it more if there wasn’t so much fanfare surrounding it. The Louvre is so beautiful on the inside and so overwhelming and we only saw one wing! Winged Victory was my favorite. The placing of it on the staircase was so beautiful. There were many pieces that gave me chills but my favorite part about the Louvre were the ceilings in some of the rooms. So, so, so gorgeous.

Our last day in Paris we packed up, had a big breakfast and walked all the way to the Eiffel Tower. We went across the Pont des Arts, had the ring scam tried on us again, and somebody try to get us to sign a petition. Angie laughed at the guy because he asked us if we spoke English then proceeded to explain the petition in French. Just so everyone knows, I am NOT complaining about these scams tried on us. I found it hysterical and it was all a part of the experience. In a big touristy city scams happen and I was okay with it. It just made for interesting stories. We didn’t go up the Eiffel but we were there when it was lit up which was nice. I love that entire area. Its more residential and since I’d like to maybe own an apartment in Paris one day it was nice to get an idea of the buildings. You know, because one of these days I will win the lottery. We walked around and took pictures and posed in front of the Eiffel and decided to take a cab back to the apartment. There is a little shop a few doors down from the apartment called Oh Mon Cake! so we stopped in there and bought a cupcake and a taramisu which was pretty good. We had to be up at 6am to catch our train to Belgium. We didn’t get any sleep on our last night in Paris. I guess the restaurant next door wanted to give us a proper send-off but forgot to invite us to the massive party they were having that raged on until 3am, complete with neighbors getting pissed and stomping all over the floor until it finally quieted down. We didn’t get much sleep! I called a taxi and he met us at the apartment at 8 and took us to the train station (Paris Nord). What a fun station! We boarded the train and were on our way to Bruges via Brussels…