I have just returned from an 11 day amazing journey through London, Stratford, Normandy, Paris, and Rome. I took 25 others with me – 18 students and 7 chaperones. It was a beautiful trip – and although I have been overseas several times, there is always a learning curve when experiencing different cultures – and it’s really fun.
If you’re planning on traveling soon, anytime in the near future, or at all, here are just a few things we as naive Americans need to know when traveling in Europe.
Keep your passport close and your passport closer.
Pickpockets know who we are. We’re kind of obvious, traveling in herds and toting our cameras. One of my chaperones had hers stolen from a zipped purse while she and her daughter were linking arms. It happened that quickly. Put it in a lanyard pocket under your clothes and take it wherever you go.
Bring extra money for the bathroom.
No, there isn’t a special market or “deal” in the bathroom. They just aren’t free. In Europe, most bathrooms cost money – and if you aren’t eating or drinking in that establishment, it isn’t polite to use the restroom there like we do in the United States. Plan on 1 Euro ($1.50ish) for each trip to the bathroom while touring about.
In France, always open with “Bonjour”.
Unlike the U.S., it isn’t polite to just ask a question of someone working at a museum, historic site, or restaurant. You always open with a greeting before proceeding with your question. Trust me, I found out the hard way. 🙂
You might just have to squat.
Some bathrooms – especially for us in Rome – are still in the floor, just as they were long ago. Prepare for a great quad work out and plan for leg day every day.
In Rome, motorbikes rule the road.
There is apparently no rule that motorcycles or bicycles have to adhere to the same laws as cars. They weave in and out of cars whether they are stopped in traffic or traveling along. They use the space between cars, between lanes, and they even make their own lanes when necessary. According to one taxi driver I met in Rome, “motorbikes rule the streets”.
Order “without gas”.
Sparkling water is a favorite in Europe – and I actually grew to like it and picked some up as soon as I got home. But, if you want just regular, boring water, you need to order it without gas – no bubbles.
My husband washes his bald head nightly (at home) with a washcloth. Apparently this is not a “regular” thing in Europe. None of our six hotels had them, and when I requested for a “petite” towel in Paris, we received a bath mat. So, Brady washed his head with a bath mat. Comme ci, comme ca.
We stayed in adorable boutique hotels – but in Europe, they are much better at
limiting the opulence and staying away from ridiculously huge rooms. With that being said, they do the same with elevators. Elevators were good to fit maybe one or two people and their luggage. With that being said, we were often trying to get 26 people to their rooms on multiple floors. So we mastered the art of “sending up the luggage” and meeting it at the different floors. We rolled with it!
Pepperoni is not pepperoni.
I was super pumped to be in a genuine Italian Pizzeria – and excited to order my fave – pepperoni pizza. But be warned, my friends. Pepperoni is not that. On my pizza, it was tomatoes, peppercini, and zucchini. The waiter and I spent several minutes saying “pepperoni” back and forth – because of course, to him, it WAS pepperoni. But the pizza was delicious regardless.
People are people.
No matter our nationality, people are still people. I met a couple on their way to the Queen’s Ascot races in London, a Welsh bus driver, several amazing tour guides, and hoteliers who went out of their way to help a sweet, sick girl on our trip. I loved learning from them and about them, appreciated our differences and embraced our commonalities.
Everyone should travel. See the world. Open your eyes. Experience the joy. And hopefully, these tips will help you along the way.
I have been posting daily on social media – counting my JOYS through #100daysofJOY! Please check out the post and join the revolution trying to “positivify” the internet!