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Old 12-10-2003, 08:07 PM   #1
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I am going to Europe in less than 10 days with my boyfriend and this will be our first time! WE are going for 14 days from MADRID to PARIS to FLORENCE and then ROME and then back to MADRID. Here are my main concerns and I need advice because I am very nervous!


1. Bag/Backpack- we will only be there for 14 days, so is it ok to pack enough to fit into a large North Face back pack? or one of those large TIMBUKTU bike messenger bags? We are working with stuff we already own...and we are tight on money. Is it SAFE to leave our bags in hostels and Bed and Breakfasts during the day? I heard from friends that they may get stolen or broken into....what do we do to prevent that from happening? I dont really want to carry the bag all day with me...we will be walking so much, Id like to keep it minimal on my shoulders. A day bag kinda deal.
2. Will it be extremely awkward or difficult if our Spanish/French/italian is a bit rusty? WE both took classes but they were years ago.
3. I heard the WINTER in Europe is very cold (we live in SF, CA)....what is appropriate dress for the places we are visiting? For GIRLS- I'd like to bring a dress and a good pair of formal shoes --- will it be too cold to use that? AND- a big outercoat is sufficient? What about longjohn/thermals? Shoes? I only have sneakers...is that not tough enough?
4. EURAIL- how hard is it? do trains run pretty often through the cities so that we can catch them? Do we need to make reservations for Eurail trips? I already purchased the tickets.

Thanks so much....these are all I can think of for now, but I need to start getting ready....time is running out, plus I'm juggling finals and work.
--ann
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Old 12-10-2003, 09:10 PM   #2
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To the Boards bananann, great to have you along!!!

I will try to answer some of your ????


is it ok to pack enough to fit into a large North Face back pack? or one of those large TIMBUKTU bike messenger bags? We are working with stuff we already own

You have ansered your own question on this one, you will work with what you have...And not going out and spending $$$ on new bags will really help the wallet.

Is it SAFE to leave our bags in hostels and Bed and Breakfasts during the day?

I always left my main pack at the hostel, the only thing in it was clothes anyway...I have never had anything stolen when I have left it. Always keep your money, passsport and plane ticket with you, and even if something did happen to your clothes, you have what you really need with you. Alot of hostels have lockers in the rooms, so bring a pad lock with you. And as a last resort, almost all hostels have look up room where you can keep your bag when you go out if your worried

Will it be extremely awkward or difficult if our Spanish/French/italian is a bit rusty? WE both took classes but they were years ago.

You will not be able to speak like a local, but any effort to speak the native tounge should be met with alot of respect from the person you are talking to, and its like riding a bike, you never forget!! It will come back to you I am sure


I heard the WINTER in Europe is very cold (we live in SF, CA)....what is appropriate dress for the places we are visiting?

In December, January and February days are short and cold. Average high temperatures are in the 40s and low temperatures in the 30s. If you go during that period, pack a warm coat and an umbrella. Occasionaly it even snows in Florence in the winter. Florence is much less crowded in the winter than during other seasons.

I'd like to bring a dress and a good pair of formal shoes --- will it be too cold to use that?

Its always nice to bring something you can wear out for a night on the town, even when you are on a budget.

a big outercoat is sufficient?

Is it insulated? if not, it may not be warm enough at night, day time should be ok with a sweater


What about longjohn/thermals?


Well I am from Canada, and the long johns and thermals do not come out for less that -20, BUT you are from Cali, you might want to bring a pair each if your not used to the cold weather. They should not take up to much room in your bags. even thugh you space is limited, try to make room for it.

I only have sneakers...is that not tough enough?

hmmm, hard to say, if you get snow while in Italy, those sneakers are not going to do much good keeping you warm from the elements??? I would have to say no on the sneakers, summer time for sure, but winter...Try and score a pair of half decent books from someone for Christmas...and make sure you work them in before you go, you do not want to be nursing blisters!!!


Your eurail question, I will have to leave to someone with more experience than I have on that topic.....

Hope this helps ya out!!!!
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Old 12-11-2003, 05:21 AM   #3
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thanks so much ! but now I just came upon another problem. We are flying into Madrid and heading straight to Paris to make it in time for Christmas eve (our goal was to spend it in Paris, but we booked our flight to arrive in MAdrid---yea we're rookies). So here we are stuck with arrival in MAdrid at 330 pm and the train in Madrid leaves at 7 pm for Paris. it is the ONLY train that will get us to PAris by our goal time. So....what is the best way to head from the airport to the train station before 7 pm? WE still have to validate our Eurail PAsses as well.
UGH, what a mess.
we are going to be T I R E D.
i hope its worth it.
-ann
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Old 12-11-2003, 07:56 AM   #4
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YOur not going to have alot of time at all!!! You still have to account for flight delays and check out/customs??? Your going to have to bite the bullet on this one, take a taxi from the airport to the train station, its gonna cost ya a bit of $$$, but at least you will get there.

Another way to do this is buy the Metro ( subway) Go to terminal 2 and go down to the subway, here are the Directions to Chamartin Train Stn Via Subway

( I think thats were your leaving from, but confirm that for sure) The trip should take about 45 min and thats still not bad.

If you have not brushed up on your spanish, the taxi might be the better route??? if you get lost in the underground, it could take some time to get back to where you wanna be.
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Old 12-11-2003, 08:54 AM   #5
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Yeah, I'd go for the taxi too...In Greece my friend and I almost missed a boat that took us on a day tour in the islands, and we called a taxi, and told the guy 5euros more if we were there on time...He was all excited (not about the money but for the challenge) and got us there on time! What a nice guy! He didn't take the extra cash but he got a small kiss!
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Old 12-11-2003, 01:12 PM   #6
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bring your thermals - do it.. or pay the price!!!

i'm from san diego and when i was in germany in october, the average temp. was about 43 degrees F. i would be wearing silk long johns (top and bottom) plus a silk cami and often times both of the turtle necks i had... really. bring some leg warmers (which are a huge fashion there now, but worn on the outside) and put them on under your pants, your shins will get cold, also, i say some ear muffs or some sort of protection for that area... my nose and ears were frozen for 3 weeks straight!

but you'll have a blast!

don't worry about the space the long johns will take up - you'll be wearing them the whole time... also, as much of a good tecnique layering is (and it is) just bring a big ass jacket, warm and snuggy - same thing regarding space - that baby won't spend a second in your bag.
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Old 12-11-2003, 02:42 PM   #7
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thanks so much!~ Iwill probably opt for the taxi cause I dont want to be stuck there without a place to go. And, do I need to make reservations for overnight trains? If I dont make them and just get there and try to get on one (I dont need a sleeper, a reclining seat is fine with us). Will it be a safe bet that I will get two seats that night?
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Old 12-11-2003, 11:54 PM   #8
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If thats the only train, you should make a reservation! Sleeping in your chair will be fine, they´re much more comfortable than airplane seats, bigger, and more room. Just hang on to your daypacks with all of your valuables when you´re sleeping. you can even use your daypack as a pillow, preventing thieves from walking through the train and snagging it.

Take a cab...should cost you more than $20Euros. Are you taking the train out of Atocha or ChaMartin? chaMartin is closer to the airport.

Look, worst case scenario, if you get stuck in Madrid for Christmas eve, make the most of it. Madrid is a much livelier city than Paris in my opinion.

joans right, it will be cold, so you might want to take her up on her recommendations.
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Old 12-12-2003, 12:45 AM   #9
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Quote:
we are going to be T I R E D.
I remember thinking this also :D

However, I think with most peeps you get off that flight, bus, train, whatever feeling like you want to conquer the world, and loaded with adrenaline that snuck out of hidden pockets you never knew existed

And remember, TRAVEL PUNK is global baby! so if ya have any probs, just log on and ask
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Old 12-15-2003, 06:16 AM   #10
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Hola! Bon Jour! Ciao! Bananann!

I just came back from these countries 3 days ago, so here are my tips!

1. Bag/Backpack- 14 days is not that long, so I think you'll be ok with a small travel pack/larger backpack, but of course, it all depends on how lightly 'you' can pack. It sounds like you 'can' pack lightly, so more power to you! Definitely, bring a small day backpack so you can carry daily essentials: small camera, snacks, notebook, etc. So, many people do, but I personally wouldn't leave my backpack open and laying around the hostels. Bring a lock with you, and be sure to leave valuables in the safe at the hostel.

2. Spanish/French/italian: Most service people speak English. I personally found the French a bit more resilient against speaking English, the Spanish and Italian will say that they speak "un poco/poquito." My personal belief is that if you're in their country, then we should try to speak their language as much as we can. Consider bringing a Western European phrase book with ya, the locals truly appreciate you trying.

3. Weather, dress: Well, we are getting deeper into the winter so it is cold, but it doesn't seem like you'll be visiting any places high up in the mountains, so you can expect the weather to be fairly comparable to the US. Of course, depending on where you live, if it's Buffalo or something, the weather may actually be milder there. Since you're not going into any rough terrain and will be in major cities, a good pair of sneakers will be fine. One thing you may want to consider is one good, comfortable pair of black walking shoes/boots/closed clogs, something you can wear day into the evening, this way you don't need to bring the sneaker plus an extra pair of shoes for going out at night. In addition to t-shirts, bring a wind resistant thermal fleece type of sweater and jacket. At times you may be able to get by with just one of them, plus you get pretty warm once you've been walking for a while.

4. EURAIL- since you'll be sticking to major cities, you'll not have any problems finding trains, but most trains that travel from major destinations do tend to require reservations. Just be sure to visit the train info. counter everytime you arrive in a new city, that way, you know what to expect before you leave for your next destination. One tip, even though the eurail gives you the right for 1st class, sometimes, if the trip is only a couple of hours and requires that you pay for a reservation, then you may consider going with the 2nd class option, b/c it's cheaper. If you are taking an overnighter, definitely dish out the extra few euros to go on 1st class, believe me it's worth it, and your body will be thanking ya the next day.

Au revoir! Hasta luego! Ciao! :D
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Old 12-17-2003, 03:14 AM   #11
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Welcome back Carisia! Thanks for the great tips and glad that you´re safe and sound
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Old 12-17-2003, 05:37 AM   #12
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Hola T-Punk! Nice to be back!
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