The Gorgeous Gorgeous Keukenhof Gardens in Holland

Thankfully, I shook off my thinking that getting there from Amsterdam would be a hassle. The gardens were AMAZEBALLS! I was there on April 23, perfect and peak timing for the tulip festival.

A Paris Primer

A bit long…

TRANSPORTATION
There is a train strike ongoing in France. There are calendars available indicating on which days there will be service and on which days there will be strike. I arrived in Paris on a strike day so instead of a train into central Paris from Charles de Gaulle, I took the Roissybus for 12 euros. There’s also Le Direct bus. And if there’s no strike you can take the RER B train to and from Gare de Nord; it’s the fastest way. (Of course, you could spring for a taxi. I’m frugal.)

Strike calendar and guidance on what to do if you need to travel on a strike day: https://www.thelocal.fr/…/updated-calendar-when-to-avoid-tr…

If you’re staying in Paris for a few days and you’re comfortable with public transportation, buy a carnet of metro tickets — 10 tickets — which can be shared and used on the metro or bus. You have to validate the tickets when entering the station or getting on the bus. The tickets are little flimsy slips of paper; be careful not to mix up used and unused ones. I find the signage kinda wack in Paris metro stations, so you have to really pay attention if more than one metro line stops at a particular station. And make sure you know which direction you need to go.

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The Eiffel Tower, view from the Trocadero

EATING
Don’t hesitate to try out a boulangerie in Paris. Amazing pastries and breads and usually you’ll find nicely priced sandwiches, which are a great option if you’re on a budget. As for dining out, I mostly use Yelp to locate places with good reviews near where I am. If the place has at least four stars, I’m OK with it. My best Paris meal of my recent trip was grilled dorade and mushroom risotto at Cafe Constant near the Eiffel Tower.

COMMUNICATION
Try to always greet people with a “bonjour.” It’s just common courtesy in Paris. Also throw in a “merci” or two and an “au revoir” as you leave. If you’re handy with more French than that, you’re awesome.

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Place des Vosges in the Marais

NEIGHBORHOODS
I’ve been to Paris four times and stayed in different arrondissements, the 14th, the 1st, the 6th and the 11th. Around the center of Paris, it’s gonna be pricey, unless you end up in a crappy Airbnb like the one bad one I booked for my last trip. (Read ALL the reviews on Airbnb, y’all. Trust me.) My favorite neighborhood so far was where I stayed for the longest, seven nights, in the 11th arrondissement. It’s more residential, making me feel more like a local. And it’s close to the Marais, which is hip and cool. The best thing about an Airbnb, if the hosts are good, is you’ll get insider tips about where to go and where to eat and what to see. The best tip of this trip was to visit the Marche des Enfants Rouges, a very popular market. I had amazing Japanese fried chicken.

ATTRACTIONS
I’m kind of a museum nerd and I love the Musee d’Orsay, a former train station. The Louvre is amazing but unless you’re just hitting the highlights, you’ll need a lot of time there. And get your ticket in advance to avoid long, long lines. The Musee du quai Branly is near the Eiffel Tower and currently has a crazy, in a good way, “Ghosts and Hells” special exhibit; get the audioguide. Another special exhibit I enjoyed was a huge light projection show at the Atelier de Lumieres; get an advance ticket.

For the Eiffel Tower, if you want to go up, get tickets FAR in advance or pay a premium for a tour that includes admission. You can stand on the ground near the Eiffel Tower all day and night for free, though. Another option for Eiffel Tower views is the Montparnasse Tower; tickets are cheaper and easy to get. Sweet dusk and sunset views.

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Digital Immersive Exhibition at the Atelier de Lumieres

Team Carryon: Ride or Die*

(*See Urban Dictionary)

My being solidly #teamcarryon led to many, many, many “debates” with my partner/boyfriend/bae when we first started traveling together. He just wasn’t down, didn’t see the point, and the idea of him NOT being down made me very anxious.

It couldn’t be just ME not checking a bag. #pointless

Over time, I got us more bags to try, bought him packing cubes, wore him down and eventually we even graduated to #teambackpack. #yay

(I am, however, still seeking THE ONE TRUE BAG.)

Traveling carryon only — even better with a backpack — allows you to be more nimble and quick. Agile. We don’t do luxury travel. We walk A LOT and rarely take taxis. We go by bus, train and metro. And when you’re navigating those cobblestone streets in Europe and metro stations or facing four flights of steep stairs in a traditional Dutch house, smaller bags or backpacks just make more sense.

On my last trip, three weeks in Europe, I carried one 40-liter backpack (REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack, Women’s), one smaller backpack-tote bag and my Pacsafe anti-theft day bag (Citysafe LS150), which could fit inside the smaller backpack.

I was never happier (prouder? more relieved?) to be traveling with a backpack than when on my way back to Paris from Milan by train, we all had to de-train and take buses to a different station, and new train, to continue the journey.

When I heard someone say, “Pas baggage!” — no luggage — my hand shot up and I made it on the first bus out.

I did that…

On January 22, 2018, I formally told the powers-that-be that I’d decided to leave my job of 19-and-a-quarter years. I figured some kind of rock-n-roll pants were appropriate. (Also, I’d lost 10 pounds so I could finally zip them AND sit in them.)

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I look a tad dazed, right? I think I’d just gone and done the damn thing when I took this picture.

It’s been three months and a week. So far so good. I’ve traveled for about a month of that time, to Cartagena, Colombia, my first time in South America, and to Europe (Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Milan) for three weeks. More about that in another post.

So yeah, this is my blog. A pic of me from my first trip to Italy, in the Navigli district of Milan, fall 2013.

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