Going Geek

My first night in Paris.

The long climb. Montmartre, Paris, France. February 2015.
The long climb. Montmartre, Paris, France. February 2015.

So last week I said I’d start recounting my trip from the beginning and we’re continuing here: my first night in Paris.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have been a night worth mentioning, except to note the manners of my hostel roommates while throwing my hat in the arena of discussing behavior and etiquette in hostels.

But then, the night took a turn.

While I was spending my first weekend of reading week in Paris, my family in Los Angeles we’re spending there Valentine’s weekend in the LAX Marriott attending the Doctor Who convention, Gallifrey One.

As a fellow fan of the show, my family was bringing my official series one script book (9 is my doctor!) around to the attendees for them to sign. Two of these actors were John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) and Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato).

Through the wonder of technology, my mom was able to connect us through the Google Hangouts app and I was able to chat with these actors about my trip in an extremely unique encounter.

John Barrowman launched himself in a string of questions in French which I didn’t understand until I was able to explain that I was visiting Paris but living in London. And if you know anything about Barrowman, what transpired next will be of no surprise.

While he signed my book, he talked about the things I should go out and do while I was in the city (and when John Barrowman gives you advice, it’s going to be an adventure). One of his main points of contention was to pay attention to where actual French people were and where they were eating and to avoid going to the tourist based establishments as they wouldn’t really give you a taste of Paris—at least, the real Paris.

His other advice was to look at the gay districts of Paris and basically wander and play and generally explore. The call was quick so I didn’t get the exact names of the gay clubs and areas he listed but after a quick look I was able to figure out the basics.

One area was Montmartre which also houses Sacre-Coeur and a great view of the city. I was basically instructed to wander the area and take it all in—not just the landmarks a book guide would point out to me. While I’m not sure if this is the clubbing area that John was describing (to be explained in a moment), the area is beautiful and if you don’t mind the climb (or climbs as you weave yourself through the district area), everything from the views to the street art to the buildings are well worth the effort.

The other area I discovered was the younger, “hipper” district (which I can see being an area where the shenanigans john described might occur) of La Marais. This is a great place to wander around and I think would be an interesting area to work and live in. it was very artsy filled with boutiques and small art galleries and shops where (I really witnessed this) the owners will lock up midday to go grab lunch and make their way back later leaving nothing but a back soon sign.

While I wasn’t in either of these districts at a time when the nightlife was buzzing, john described scenes wherein the party goes all night and into the morning and it’s common to see patrons stripped down to nearly nothing and just enjoying themselves. I wasn’t able to explore this side of Paris on this pass—there was a concern, among others, about being a single female venturing alone into the city at night—accompanied by others at some point, these areas and experiences are something I look forward to seeking out.

Shortly after getting off of chat with John (which I will never get tired of writing) after good nature teasing about my missing Gallifrey and best wishes on my travels, I found myself in an equally lively chat with Naoko.

While she did not give me places to go, we chatted for a while about my plans for reading week and she very teasingly (yet, with great authority) told me to not listen to John (in the sense of me staying out of trouble) and to remember to study!

While my first night in Paris didn’t involve much going out into the city or adventure in the traditional sense (I was knackered by the time I got to the hostel from the day of travel anyway), it was most definitely a very unique fan experience and a travel story that I will not be forgetting.

These kind of things, even if not part of the traditional ways of exploring a city, allows you to gain new perspectives on your travels and makes each trip a unique adventure worthy of sharing.

Plus, it was just so cool!

So to wrap up this week, be open to anything, even if they seem odd or unexpected and thank you so much, family, John and Naoko.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Going Geek

From the Road

Day 4 Book nerd/Reading week adventure

Inside Time. Clock of Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France. February 2015.
Inside Time. Clock of Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France. February 2015.

While I’m currently part way through week 4 (and falling completely in love with Lyon), we’ll start our adventure at the beginning of this travel saga: getting here!

After getting up ridiculously early (at least, I thought that at the time–again a story that will follow!), and making my way through London’s tube system to get to Victoria Coach Station (only getting lost between stations once, I swear!) for my 8am bus, getting me ticket, and following their check-in procedures, the trip over to France was a really positive experience.

While I talked about why I chose this bus system over other means of travel a few weeks back, now that I’ve made the trip, I definitely can say it was not only a good choice but a lot of fun. I mean, I was in a bus that was in a train…. Like, I was looking out of a window and I could see the walls of a train.

Despite this fun – or rather because I want people to enjoy this kind of trip as much as I’ve enjoyed it – I think there are some things that need to be said.

To start, a few weeks back I fount this post I really like which listed some good manner rules of staying hostels (though I may add to this at some point in the future with new examples!), so I thought I’d likewise give my list of dos, don’ts, and basic code of conduct when using coach travel:

1. Get there earlythis goes twice for families and groups! Seats are first come first serve so if you want to be together, it’s simple: be the first ones on the bus! This time will also let you get settled in, get out what you’ll need, put your carry on away and otherwise just be ready for the long haul that coach trips tend to be.

2. Stay flexible. Okay, so you came in early, got comfy, but the hear a ruckus about a family that was late and now a five year old will be sitting on her own if someone sitting alone doesn’t move. If you are one of these people (comfy or not), please do everyone a favor and volunteer!

True story: this happened on my coach—I was not sitting alone, but I gave up my seat so the dad could sit closer to the others once it was sorted—and no one moved very quickly which meant scolding and some not very nice glares.

If you can help out in these situations, do it! This may mean asking your seat mate if they would mind if you both gave up your seats (even if they say no, it doesn’t hurt to ask!)

3. Don’t shame people. This is a basic rule of life for me, but linked with coach travel and the example above, this is key.

If the girl sitting by the window alone doesn’t want to give up her seat, she was early and she’s not obligated to move to appease any other passenger. Talking loudly about or pointing out how rude a certain person is not to move won’t do anything but annoy everyone else on the bus.

Shaming only works if the person you are shaming has something invested in the situation which causes them to behave how you want them to—a stranger may not care what you think about them, so why should they do anything to help you out? They don’t and won’t.

Plus, you don’t know their story, so you don’t know why they are doing (or not doing) something. Maybe there is a reason she need to sit by the window or in that part of the bus and she can’t move seats because of that—you simply don’t know so stop fixating and keep going. It’s not the end of the world!

4. Have everything you need easy to access. Or may need. First and foremost, this is important for passports if you are going to be crossing borders. They will be checked, so have it ready so everyone can get through security and back on their way.

You need snacks, a book, your game system, whatever, have it with you where you don’t cause a commotion or too much noise. If you are digging through your bag, you are probably taking up space and jostling the person next you or at least bothering them which does not make a happy travel partner.

Which brings us to…

5. Watch the noise! I don’t care what time of day your trip begins and ends, if it is longer than an hour (sometimes not even that long!), someone will be trying to sleep. Respect your fellow travelers and keep the volume down.

This doesn’t mean you can’t talk or have fun if you’re with people, just don’t yell or listen to music or watch videos or anything else that makes noise without your earphones.

6.And seriously, stop making (constant) phone calls! While I understand you have to contact someone if they are picking you up, letting them know when you are heading out or will be arriving soon, but I don’t want to know your life story so keep it quick and share your news when you actually see them.

There are a lot of reasons not to do this but mostly, just respect the rights of all your fellow passengers to not want to share in your life story/drama. Phone calls should be short, to the point and done quietly, for everyone’s sake!

7. Don’t be late getting back. On long trips, you’ll get a break part way through usually somewhere there is a store and a quick stop café or diner. That’s great: get out, stretch, take a walk, hit the bathroom, grab a bite, whatever you need to do, do it! However, you have to prioritize.

If the driver gives you a time limit, that’s the time limit. Know what you need to get done, go do it, and get back. If you don’t, one of two things will happen: 1. You’ll get back to a bus full of angry people who are going to be late for their plans because of you (unpleasant); or 2. You’ll get back to no bus (most the time this won’t happen—there are count-ins—but seriously, it’s been done!)

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So those are my basic etiquette tips but there are undoubtedly many more that can be tacked on.

I, however, have to get running back out because I’m traveling and my day isn’t over yet!

In the meantime: share a story from your travels, good or bad, or some of the hard and fast rules you’ve discovered as you’ve traveled.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar!

From the Road

Final prep, part 1…

Last minute check list and to dos before heading out.

grey cities. La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon, France. February 2015.
Grey Cities. La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon, France. February 2015.

This week is my last week of prep before heading out for my first real solo travel excursion.

While I’m technically still on my first solo adventure (moving to London for school), I’ve had a pretty stable (almost) home away from home experience in London. I came over not knowing anyone but knowing that I was going to be in a dorm with a bunch of fellow students and that I’d have a network of people right away who would be there with me throughout the year. So, basically, not quite the same as solo traveling.

Anyway, this trip (as I’ve discussed over this last month) is a pretty big thing and I‘ve had to consider a lot while planning as a young, single, female traveler. In that light, these last bits of wrapping up besides packing (which I’ll talk about later), here’s my list of things to do before heading out.

1.  If you didn’t nail this down earlier (ie, this was a quickly planned trip so I’m finishing this process!), go into Google Maps and map locations. You can make different maps for the various cities you are going to visit or whole countries if you want in order to figure out a basic schedule of what sites you’ll be looking at together. You’ll be able to see which places are close enough to make a good day out so you aren’t trekking back and forth every day! I still suggest this as part of planning your accommodation, but, even after that, you can pop a few more last minute places before you head out.

2.  While looking things up and mapping them out, it’s just handy to look up where your country’s consulate is within the county(s) you are visiting. Not only is it sometimes fun to see how the area consulates are set up in, but in case of a bad bind, it’s already conveniently pinned! Traveling by yourself, it may also be handy to know where some of the emergency services are located near where you are staying.

3.  On that front, it’s good to have some on hand emergency numbers. Not all emergency services have the same number so look them up and key them in your phone along with the numbers of where you are staying and anyone you may know around the area. If you have an emergency contact, you should make sure that there number is easily accessible and actually note it along with the name (and this is true for everyday life, as well as travel!).

4.  Go over your travel and reservation itineraries and have all of your paperwork in order, together, and easy to get to. The days right before and especially the day you leave is always crazy, so have everything you can/will have on hand when you walk out the door together in a folder early (seriously, this is overlooked to many travelers detriment!).

5.  Don’t just look at your large scale travel in this last minute preparation. How you are getting to your first destination is just as important as the travel you’ve spent all that time planning! After all, if you miss or just mess up your first large scale send off because getting to your first check point went awry, you’re whole trip can get pretty turned around. And remember, you’ve done your research, so if there is something earlier in terms of said large scale travel options, it doesn’t mean you should switch things around—you picked what you did for a reason! (Long term readers: remember the Irish Ferry timetable debacle? Earlier was decidedly NOT faster!)

6.  Lastly (for this week’s post), give someone you trust your itinerary. The closer they are to where you are going the better since they’re more likely to be able to get to you if trouble occurs. Just basic details like where you are going to be on which days and the addresses and numbers of the places you are booked at. Really simple and it will give both you and your loved one(s) some much needed peace of mind.

The rest of my pre-trip items will be covered on Friday’s Silk Sheets and Grilled Cheese on what to pack and some inspiration I’ve looked at to help that along. In the meantime, go out and get some things you may need for packing—travel size shower products, books, ect., but we’ll cover that more on Friday with all the choices and reasoning behind them.

So until Friday: hope you stay tuned for the adventure, and happy travels!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Final prep, part 1…

Getting there and staying…

Well, staying temporarily.

Quite a Day. Louvre, Paris, France. February 2015.
Quite a Day. Louvre, Paris, France. February 2015.

If you’ve tuned in the last couple of weeks, you know that my focus for now is getting ready for my first leg of the book nerd tour during my reading week. So, the planning saga continues.

This week, I’m talking about major travel bookings—basically, travel and lodging.

You can look back at some of my first posts to get some break downs and comparisons of transportation and accommodation types and some tricks to save some money, so I’ll let you look back at those for more general ideas.

One of the things I learned this week is that France is expensive. This isn’t my first trip so I knew Paris, like many metropolitan cities, costs, however, last time I visited I was with family so didn’t see the bills to really understand how much.

In this expensive light, the best advice is to give yourself time to shop around and check all your options before putting any money or reservations down (not everything can be changed once you accept the terms!).

TRANSPORTATION:

When it comes getting to and around France you have some options but, in this case, time should be taken into account as much as funds.

If you are strapped for cash, coaches can get you from London to Paris at a cheaper rate than train lines, but they also take around 8 or 9 hours to get there. This can be a plus if you book an overnight bus and can sleep on long moving trips like these, but, if time is limited, you don’t want to waste a whole day on the bus. (Cost and time is also huge for traveling between cities—look at length of your trip as well as cost because cheaper trains may give you a nice experience but they can stretch the 2 hour train ride to 5 or more!)

Avoid some costs by research, booking early and seeing if you can find any discounts or coupons (no matter how you choose to travel!).

One item I forgot to look at (but really wish I had) is thinking about long term/whole trip travel. While it is generally thought (and in your average case true) that booking a return trip saves you time, money, and hassle, sometimes booking a few different one-way trips is a better way to go.

For me, for example, I’m going from London to Paris to Lyon. Thinking ahead, I could have booked one way from London to Paris another one way from Paris to Lyon, and then one way Lyon to London, instead of return trips between London and Paris and between Paris and Lyon. On the way back, I now have to pay for two trips between big cities (which adds up) but I also have divided my time in Paris to a few days at the beginning and a day at the end of my trip rather than three consecutive days.

This method does not guarantee savings but it is definitely something to consider when you are planning—one way tickets can really be your best friend! And, as always, read any and all fine print before you head out and buy anything (including how and where you get your tickets!).

HOUSING:

If you’ve read my accommodation breakdown mentioned above, you’ll know that I’ve grown to love hostels. For me, they are a great chance to meet people and make memories and stories that hold a unique quality you won’t find staying in private quarters, like hotels—though you do have to be wary of what you give up in terms of privacy and luxury.

This trip, I’ll be hosteling again but, for the first time, I am doing this alone—and I won’t lie, it’s a little daunting. For single travelers—especially young ladies—hostels are great and fun (and something that I think should be experienced) but you have to plan smart.

Look at the areas you are considering staying at and their security ratings. Weigh the benefits of private rooms, all girl dorms, or mixed dorms, but also the size (a mostly empty room may seem nice when you get a cheap price but sometimes you have to consider safety in numbers and look at fuller, larger count room). What I’ve experienced and heard, the communities at hostels are pretty safe (depending on WHERE in the world you go) and people look out for each other, but it’s always better to play it safe!

One thing about hostels is you ABSOLUTELY have to read all the fine print. Look at what is included (and not included, Wi-Fi, food, kitchen access, ect.), times for checking in and out (seriously consider 24 hour check in if you’re looking at cheap travel—off hours are cheap but don’t necessarily fit check in deadlines!), curfews and staff availability, late and cancellation policies, lean towards those that have luggage storage (and ask if you can use this after check out as well if you’re in the city longer than your checkout time), and obviously location.

I always map out where I’m coming in to the city, where I’m leaving it, and where I want to visit while I’m there before I look at hostels. You may find a really cheap place, but if you have to walk for hours (I’ve had this happen!) to get where you want every day or spend more money on transportation than you would have just booking a closer accommodation, are you really benefiting?

A Disaster in Planning: The hours of misguided hiking with all our baggage (in more ways than one!). Stratford Upon Avon, Summer 2013.
A Disaster in Planning: The hours of misguided hiking with all our baggage (in more ways than one!). Stratford Upon Avon, Summer 2013.

There is one thing that I’ve noticed in my French bookings I hadn’t seen before: most hostels I looked at didn’t allow access to your rooms during most of the day for cleaning (no siestas here!). This is important to consider because as a hosteller/ backpacker, sometimes you will want a quick lie in for an hour in the afternoon because you are moving around so much or just issues of jetlag. While this is your prerogative and we all want to see as much as we can when we visit new places, these limitations are something to really take into account.

The last thing I can think of is if you start and end in the same city, you don’t have to stay at the same place. Sometimes it’s nice because you’ll have some knowledge of the people and area but there is no obligation! If you hate where you are staying the first time around, look at the cancellation policy and find a new place to stay on the way back. However, don’t cancel until you have the other place locked in (you don’t want to end up with nowhere to stay!)

Anyway, that’s all for now folks. Thanks for sticking around!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. Any stories or bits of advice are always fun, lovely and appreciated so comment below!

Getting there and staying…