Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thoughts on Europe

First, good news! We made it back to Minneapolis. We were some of the lucky ones; only 1 runway was open at Paris' CDG Airport yesterday and about 60% of the flights were cancelled. Our flight was on time, then delayed, then suddenly on time again. After we boarded the plane, we sat on the runway for about 2 hours by the time we actually took off ... but we made it!

Somehow we were also lucky enough to be upgraded to first class. We had seats that laid down, a hot three-course meal and real blankets and pillows for the flight. Surprisingly, it wasn't Andi working his magic on this one. Our seats were changed so many times from all the cancelled flights and somehow (luckily) we were upgraded to first-class. Usually that kind of luck only happens on meaningless flights - like Chicago to Minneapolis - when you appreciate it, but the flight time is too short to really enjoy it. Let me tell you, a 9 hour international flight is the perfect time to be upgraded. It was awesome.

After spending the last 10ish days in London and Paris, I wanted to share our thoughts on traveling to these two great cities:

  • The "smoking kills" message hasn't hit there yet. Everyone in London and Paris smokes which sort of surprised me. Sure, I had the typical Euro cliche in my mind, but I didn't really think it'd be like that. At one point I told Andi, I felt like I needed to carry around a cigarette just to fit in. 
  • The horn honking. It's ridiculous. Is there some sort of secret horn-honking code? Must you honk your horn back and forth to each other repeatedly? And during the middle of the night? Beep! Beep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Please stop. Thankyouverymuch.
  • Taxi's - no one takes 'em unless you're traveling quite a distance. In fact, we took a taxi to our bed and breakfast in Rouen and the owner was shocked the cabbie took us because it was only a few blocks away (we didn't realize how close it was when we took the cab). This might also be attributed to the ease of mass transit in both London and Paris. It was far less expensive and many times faster to take the Tube/Metro or walk. Which leads me to my next point ...
  • All the walking must be why everyone's so skinny. We walked, and walked, and walked on this trip. Andi always says I should start exercising and I think I just banked exercise credit until next March.
  • It's no secret Europe is known for trending fashion (especially Paris). Everyone was dressed pretty trendy, but I didn't feel out of place either. The style is so eclectic that really anything goes. For my first time visiting Europe as a whole, I admired the overall style design in Europe. Very clean lines, smooth, stylish. I didn't do much shopping for clothing, but I did pick up a few things along the way like a really cool green glass water vessel.
  • Almost everyone we encountered in London and Paris spoke English which was a nice surprise. We'd read if you tried to speak the language in Paris they appreciate it. And I think that's true. But after we stumbled our way through ordering a meal or asking a question, the person usually relieved us by speaking English. All the signage in Paris was in French and sometimes that was tricky, mostly in train stations as we had to decipher where to go. The one word we took back from France was "Sortie" or Exit. We learned that word well....
  • Europeans definitely can't handle inclement weather. Our flight was cancelled Sunday and re-booked for Monday. London Heathrow all but shut down completely. There wasn't all that much snow/ice but they don't have the infrastructure to deal with it. Very few plows on the road and virtually no shovels being used.

A few people have asked our thoughts on traveling in Europe during the winter. First, I'd say we had an amazing trip! We saw everything we wanted to, the people were friendly, getting around was easy and the food was amazing (in Paris, especially). That said, it was cold. Average temps were around 30 during the day and 15 at night. More difficult was the rain and snow. It rained / snowed 4 of our 10 days and that was harder to deal with because after we were wet, we really lost interest in touring around. We were dressed for it (except in retrospect, I would have brought water-proof boots) and we handled it like true Minnesotans. Would it have been even better in the summer? Temperature wise, definitely. Crowd wise, I'm not so sure. It was busy wherever we went so I can only imagine what it's like during their "high" season.

We had an awesome time, and now I'm happy to be back in Minnesota. Even more excited it's Christmas this week!

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