Monday, June 19, 2006

Eurail Pass (updated)

I've been doing a lot of math and research, and I think we're going to go with either the 15 day flexipass or the 1 month consecutive day pass..

Here's what I've calculated so far:

Madrid --> Barcelona $70, 6 hrs
Barcelona --> Portugal $70+75 ($145), 6+10 (16) hrs
Portugal --> Southern France $75+40 ($115), 10+6 (16) hrs
Southern France --> Paris $90, 7 hrs
Paris --> London $90, 3 hrs
London --> Paris $90, 3 hrs
Paris --> Italy $80+85+20+40 ($225), 4+6+3+5 (18) hrs
Italy --> Austria $35+30+75 ($140), 2+3+7 (12) hrs
Austria --> Switzerland $50+30+70 ($150), 3+2+5 (10) hrs
Switzerland --> Madrid $60+75+70 ($205), 3+9+8 (20) hrs

The total price if we bought individual tickets would be approx. $1320 +/- some for different routes. I didn't measure mileage exactly to find the cheapest, but the difference wouldn't be much.

The flexipass 10-day costs $465 and the 15-day is $612. The other option is a 2-month consecutive day is $897, or a 1-month is $634.

I'm thinking that if we pay out of pocket for the Madrid --> Barcelona ($70) and then start our passes on July 30, we'll have unlimited travel until we leave (August 30). That'd cost around $700 and we could be a bit more flexible, versus the $612 for 15 travel days and the timing of trains might mess with that a bit and put us at a disadvantage.

Anyone have any experience with these things? If so, help! heh.

Also, I'm not sure if the flexipass applies to the chunnel from Paris to London, I think it doesn't. Which would knock of a travel day or two, and $180 that we'd have to pay separately.

So there's that. I'll order the pass once I get home from camp (I'm going tomorrow instead of today).

Anyway, I got my travel stuff from the money belt is not the same as the one on the package/website/the one james had, but it'll work. It just has one big pocket instead of a divider... big deal. I ordered a gimmicky travel journal cos I know I'll be more likely to use it if it's not just a blank intimidating journal to fill, heh.

I emailed one of the girls from Spain who worked at camp last summer, hopefully I can see her the day I'm by myself in Madrid. I'm nervous, excited and anxious about that first day...

We have a place to stay in London (thank you Dean)!!! I'm really excited cos originally we were going to just take a day trip to London from Paris, but with the cost of the chunnel I'm glad we'll get to stay a bit longer. I updated the calendar to include a full day in London, plus the day traveling there and traveling back.

I'm serious about advice regarding the Eurail Pass... please! It's a lot of money and we don't want to be wrong, heh.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tentative Schedule (updated 6/19/06)

If you click on it, it'll open in a new window and it's bigger.

The question mark week is when Sarah's family is going to plan part of our trip...

It's all coming together! Now that finals are over and I'm almost done packing, I'm getting more and more excited about the trip... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've been researching which Eurail pass to get. I'm thinking the Flexipass cos it gives you 10 or 15 travel days in a 2 month period. It seems like we'll be traveling approx 10 or so days, depending on that ? mark week, I'll decide when I get back from camp on July 2.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hostel in Madrid

I just reserved a spot in a hostel for my first night in Madrid! I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing... I traveled by myself in Vancouver and Seattle, but everyone spoke English and things were arranged similarly to the way they are around this area (y'know, California). I hope my Spanish is good enough to get me where I need to be. I arrive around 9:00am, and I told the hostel I'd check in around 11:00am... That gives me two hours to get through customs, figure out the metro, and arrive at the hostel. I don't think it'll matter too much if I don't get there right at 11:00am, I would just hate for them to give my room away to someone. I printed out my receipt (with directions!) and my next step is to do a bit of research about the metro in Madrid. Hopefully it's simple enough, and if not, I'm sure people in the airport will be used to helping poor little tourists like myself. Heh. Anyway, here's a link the hostel and all of its cool handy dandy luxuries:

It's called the Mad Hostel (I'm hoping that's short for Madrid and not referencing insanity, especially because that'd be in English and this is in Spain.........) and it has really great reviews. Most of the hostels I looked up had free internet access, so it looks like this whole travel blog thing might work out just fine. No guarantees, though...

Here are some photos of what the place supposedly looks like (you never can trust these internet photo shoots... heh).

Fancy lookin'...

Not entirely sure what this is... dining area with padded walls? Maybe this is where the insanity part comes in... heh

We get a bathroom attached to the bedroom! Pretty nifty... It looks so clean, too. Heh.

Ooohh la la...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Driving Test... dun dun dunnnnnn

Okay, so this doesn't exactly relate to my summer travels, but it relates to traveling as a whole... y'know, mobility...


Friday morning I had another driving lesson, followed by the driving test...

My lesson went well; I asked to practice things like lane changing, 3 point turns, reversing in a straight line, parking, etc...

After about 45 min of driving around, I parked and got in line at the DMV... at which point I started to get really nervous.

After insurance was clearly on file, I pulled the car around and waited for a few minutes. An older russian (?) guy came out and he was really friendly. I felt a bit better and got 100% on all of the control check things... whoo! ha.

We started going and I was really nervous. I made sure to breathe and after a minute or two, I was feeling a lot better. The guy was really nice and made a little bit of small talk and wrote on his clipboard... After about 13 or so minutes we were almost back at the DMV. I got nervous cos the test was supposed to last 20 minutes and the guy already had me pull into the DMV parking lot. I parked (quite nicely, I must say), he made some marks, and said...

YOU PASSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, he said it very nonchalantly, but I got a HUGE smile of my face and got really happy... After less than 5 hours of practice, and only.. errr... 2 years of having my permit..


He told me I have pretty eyes, and I thought "hey, if having pretty eyes will get me my license.... shoot, whateva'" ha. Actually, I did miss 8 points (of a total 15 permissible). eeks... But they were almost all for the same thing. I missed two traffic checks (I swear I looked, I just didn't turn my head drastically enough, pfft) and a few stopping at the line things. Turs out, in certain parts of Capitola (of course, not the parts where I practiced), they have three lines at corners. There is one line where you're supposed to stop, and then the two cross walk lines. I kept stopping between the stopping line and the first cross walk line, instead of before the first line... Which is so freakin far back! pfft, whatever. It was safe, just not "driving test" quality. Oh well, I still got 100% on my permit test... heh.

I left the DMV gleaming... and sorta talking to myself, haha. Y'know, that really-super-excited-happy talking to yourself kind thing... "I finally got my license! And now that I finally have it.. I can not drive for a really long time." Ha. It's true, though... Now that I don't need to practice for the test, I won't drive for a long time. heh. Think about it, this summer I won't have a car.. and next year I don't think I'm going to get a car, so.... yeah. heh.

However, today I drove on Highway 1!!!! WHOA! Traffic merged into my lane and everything... haha. I didn't freak out, but I definitely need more practice with that whole cars coming into MY lane thing. heh.

I swear it's psychological, too... now that I have my license I'm a lot more confident on the road and everything. Funny how that works.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Let's start from the beginning... (added: itinerary)

I suppose it's appropriate to start off this travel blog with a brief story about how it came to be that I will be traveling this summer.

Sometime last year I decided that no matter what, I would travel the summer after I graduated college. I had planned to get an internship for this upcoming summer, but as time went on, that was becoming more and more unlikely. It was extremely difficult to find a placement that was interesting, but that did not require either a BA or a year-long committment.

My good friend, Sarah, who I had been planning to travel with, had been planning to go to Barcelona, Spain this summer for her cousin's wedding. We joked about how I should go with her, but I never thought anything would actually come from it.

Toward the end of winter quarter I decided, 'why not?' I mean, really... logically, it made sense. There were plenty more internships available for me once I graduated and could committ more, plus I have field study coming up in the fall... I was burned out from school, RA stuff, etc. and really wanted a change. That was basically the whole point of not going back to Loma Mar for the entire summer... change. What better or more drastic of a change could there be than picking up and traveling for a month and a half?

So the decision was made. I researched tickets, waited for Sarah to get hers... and waited... and waited... and finally her mom told me to get mine and she promised they would get theirs (note, it's now June 5 and still no tickets have been purchased in their names, yet I'm not anxious). I waited 'til the prices dropped, missed out on one deal but nabbed the next at $973 or something like that. I'll be flying out of Oakland Aiport on July 19 at 7:10am and I will arrive in Madrid on July 20 at 9:00am.

So far, we're planning to visit Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Northern, Southern, you name it!), France (Southern, Paris), UK (London day trip), Italy, Austria, and possibly Portugal! Know somewhere we can stay for free? Let us know! Heh.

This is where I'm going...

And this is who I'm going with (Sarah)!

And yes, we might even meet up with Lani (who was wonderful enough to grace us with her presence in the background...) in Madrid before we head back home.

I have officially purchased almost all of my travel goods (money belt, plug adapter, extra camera battery, toiletry case, sunglasses, travel guide for research, skirt + shoes for the wedding, etc.) and now there's nothing left to do but wait... oh, and somehow fit all of my stuff for 6 weeks into a carry-on suitcase. Good thing I took packing skills 101 all those summers at camp.

Here's my itinerary. The first flight keeps flip-flopping between 7:10am and 7:30am, although I may be staying the night in the airport anyway, so it really doesn't make a difference...

Departs Arrives
From Time/Date To Time/Date

Oakland, CA (OAK) 7:30am
19 Jul 2006
Atlanta, GA (ATL) 3:13pm
19 Jul 2006

Atlanta, GA (ATL) 6:25pm
19 Jul 2006
Madrid, Spain (MAD) 9:00am
20 Jul 2006

Madrid, Spain (MAD) 11:25am
30 Aug 2006
Atlanta, GA (ATL) 3:05pm
30 Aug 2006

Atlanta, GA (ATL) 7:08pm
30 Aug 2006
Oakland, CA (OAK) 9:07pm
30 Aug 2006