Sunday, June 30, 2013

Photo Blog: Lyon

Lyon is the third largest city and France, and with two beautiful rivers and the luscious Parc de Tete d'Or, I found it to be a very serene place to visit. I wish I could have visited on a sunny day! Below are a few of my photos.

Have you been to Lyon? What was your favorite attraction? Share it below!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Running Out of Paper Money in Europe: What To Do

Photo Credit: Catalan Countries

Local Currency Counts!

It's important to have cash in the local currency on you for those moments when a credit card will not be accepted or just doesn't make sense. I primarily use cash for bus transportation and for small meals. For everything else I use a credit card that was no foreign transaction fee. I prefer not to pull out my entire wallet every time I make a purchase because I feel like it makes me a target for pickers. I've never been picked, nor have I felt uncomfortable in public areas, but I still take precautions just in case.

Find an International ATM

Photo Credit: NY Times
So, if you're American and you have run out of cash in Europe, the first thing you need to do is find an international ATM, or a bank that speaks English. The best international bank I've used is Barclays. This is essentially the same as Bank of America, so if you are a BOA customer then you're in luck. However, I am a Chase client, and therefore I get charged a fee by Chase every time I take money out, no matter which bank branch it is. (Chase is only in the US). Since the fee is 5 USD, I always take out a lot of money at a time so that the fee is used more efficiently. I did this in London, and when I left London, exchanged the pounds for euros at the airport for a 3 pound fee (same as a bank would charge you if you aren't their client.)


Take out a lot of cash at a time, you can always exchange it. Don't carry all of the cash on you all the time, unless you have a money belt. I prefer staying in airbnb places, so I know my money is safe in my room when I leave for the day (as an alternative to a hostel). Use your credit card if you have one that doesn't charge you fees for most purchases and pay it off every couple weeks to ensure you avoid interest fees.

That is all for today! Travel Safe!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Photo Blog: Trier, Germany

I took a day-trip from Luxembourg to Trier, Germany (easily accessible by train) and spent a few hours walking along the river. Here are my photos from that day:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Photo Blog: Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a relaxing, calm city. It's surprisingly busy during the day, but at night around 100,000 commuters leave the city for their homes via car or train. Then, it is very quiet and serene. Unfortunately  it rained most of the days I was there, so I didn't have many photo opportunities. If I could describe Luxembourg in two words it would be "lush" and "green".

The cathedral 

The train station

The next three are over view's I took from various points of the city

Have you been to Luxembourg? Are you lucky enough to be able to speak French? I could only communicate in sign language and subbasic French (hello, thank you). I didn't find many people who spoke English freely (not that I expected to). Overall a very lovely town with gracious and nice people.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Photo Blog: London

No amount of photos could do London justice. It just might be the most beautiful city I've ever seen. There is so much history, and so many beautiful buildings. Everyone should go to London at least once.

Buckingham Palace, just before the rain began to fall.

Bridge in Hyde Park

Building in Hyde Park

Parliament at sunset

Parliament & Big Ben in the Day

London Eye

Random House: I happened by it on the way to a thrift store. Perhaps someday I'll work here...


Have you been to London? What was your favorite part? Share your experience below!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Taking the Train in Italy: Step One - Buy Your Ticket!

As an American who had previously never traveled by train, the intricate train system in Europe was very intimidating to me when I first arrived. Now that I've used it quite a few times, I think it's truly amazing! I might even take the train in the U.S. in the not so distance future to compare experiences.

There are three ways to buy train tickets in Italy:

1. Online at

2. At the train station through the ticket vendors (real people)

3. At the train station through the self serve machines


There are pros and cons to buying online. Number one, if you're going to buy online, it's best to plan your trips in advance, up to two or three months. That way you can purchase the less expensive economy tickets. You can have the tickets sent to you, or retrieve them most of the time from the self serve machines at the stations. If you wait too long to buy online, only the expensive tickets will be left and they can be significantly higher than economy.


Buying the tickets from a real person has an obvious advantage: you can talk to them, ask questions, and figure out how the system works. I did this on my day trip from Venice to Florence, and while I wish I'd bought the tickets in advance to save money, I'm glad I was able to talk to someone in English about how the Italian train system works. For the high speed trains, typically 1st and 2nd class tickets are all that's available at the train station. Economy is the cheapest, and sells out online quickest. 


Buying tickets at the self serve machine is great. You don't need to wait in the long line, as you do for the ticket vendor. Also the machines I used all had an English option when you click the British flag at the start. This makes it extremely user friendly for tourists. You can easily buy a regional train ticket (very affordable) or high speed ticket to pretty much anywhere on the same day, or for a future date. I highly recommend this option for shorter trips.

High Speed versus Regional

Not to point out the obvious, but if you want to get somewhere quickly, the high speed trains are going to be the way to go. They travel super fast, and don't stop at most stations. When I took the high speed train to Florence, the train only stopped three or four times and took just under two hours.

On the other hand, I took the regional train from Venice to Verona, and it also took two hours because it stopped at every station along the way. However I only paid 7.50 euro each way for the regional train, and ended paying 45 euro (2nd class) each way for Venice to Florence. When traveling only for the day to a far away place, it definitely makes more sense time wise to splurge on the high speed. If you're like me, then you're only in Italy for a short period of time and you don't want to spend half a day on a train when you could just as easily be taking in all of the sights.

What About Everywhere Else in Europe??

As far as I can tell from taking the train in other European countries, the process is very similar. There's simply a different website for online purchasing, and all of the stations I've been to have had the self serve machines. In general, if you're able to plan your itinerary in advance, then buy the tickets ahead of time online. Just beware of the sites that charge a premium because you're booking through them instead of the actual train service (I.e. eurorail). If you're like me, and don't care to plan ahead, then plan trips that are short distances and can be taken on the regional lines. When I went from Luxembourg to Trier, it cost me 9 euro for a round trip ticket, which I bought in person at the ticket vendor window on the day of the trip (regional train). I only used the online booking system to find out the train schedule.

I hope this article was helpful for other new travelers.

Travel safe!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Photo Blog: Bilbao, Spain

Wow! Bilbao is so beautiful! It is a little city in Basque Country, Spain and I hope to come back and travel to the surrounding areas some day. Although it did rain, I was able to make the best of my dry morning before heading indoors to stay warm. With a map in hand, it's very easy to navigate around Bilbao. Below are photos of the areas I visited in the day I was there.

Overview of Old Town