We dubbed this trip our, ‘last dash to Europe’. At ages 65 and 60, we know that as we grow older, driving abroad will become more difficult and humping around large pieces of luggage, running through airports and long flights will become increasingly tedious. Even now we see a big difference in stamina from previous visits. We walked nearly five hours in New York, something that used to be a breeze, yet this time we both laughed at the hip pain that followed.
Then there are the prices. The US dollar pales in spending power compared to the Euro. To top it off, prices are steep. Bare bones hotel rooms average 100 euros or more per night, at current prices, that’s about $135. Add to that currency conversion fees charged by credit card companies, taxes and the like and costs spiral.
At our hotel in Giverny France, they had what they dubbed a traditional breakfast, a feast they said, at 10 Euros per person. Since we were in a more remote area, we decided to go for it. For the equivalent of about $14 per person, we got a croissant and scrambled eggs, coffee and orange juice. There was yogurt available and some bananas that looked as if they had seen better days. And for me, yogurt in a bowl loses a lot of its allure compared to the same in a tidy, portion controlled little package. I’ve stayed at small hotels in the States with better selections and fresher choices and many breakfast is included in the price. This was honestly one of those that if it were free, I would have skipped it. Having paid for it, we ate it.
Gas is about $7.50 a gallon, and many of the super highways that connect cities, charge high fees for their use. That caused us to cancel one leg of our trip to the south of France that would have added over $1,000 to our costs.
In France, driving had many advantages. We could come and go as we pleased without worrying about depending on a bus waiting for a tour. It made seeing places like Normandie and Mont St. Michel extra special.
Barcelona turned out to be a surprise. We were amazed at how much we liked it. (Learn more by clicking on Featured Destination.) A visit to Giverny was all it took to see what inspired Monet and Mont St. Michel was a last minute add-on that was worth the drive.
Memorable dining experiences included Coquilles St. Jacques, fresh caught scallops we found at a restaurant we discovered on the French coast, fresh escargot in Bayeax, and paella we found at a restaurant outside the tourist area in Barcelona.
It took nearly two years to completely plan this vacation and just a month to implement. We researched relentlessly, looked for the best bargains that wouldn’t affect quality, and negotiated prices whenever possible. In addition, we used points from affinity cards like Hilton, American Express and MasterCard to pay for a number of hotels, air between New York and Paris and for on board spending on the Carnival Sunshine.
Our cruise on the Carnival Sunshine was a transatlantic, a first for us and something I would never repeat. We brought along lots to do for the many days onboard and of course there were lots of onboard activities. Still, 11 days at sea in 16 nights was ten too many. Then came my paranoia about being in the middle of the Atlantic which cemented my decision to never do this again. I love ports. So much so that I remember thinking after six straight days onboard that I would rather be on a ship that docked in Nassau everyday than to do this again and if you know me, that’s pretty drastic.
We had our first cabin with an aft balcony on this cruise. There was a lot to love: Watching the sail away from port; sunrises and sunsets, but given the direction we were traveling, our verandah faced east most of the time. That had the sun shining directly on us much of the day and the balcony too hot to use. There’s not much wind back there, which is a good thing, unless it’s dreadfully hot. Unlike side balconies, there was no protection from rain or sun because there was no covering. I would do it again, but next time I would be more aware of the direction I was traveling.
Overall, it was a once in a lifetime trip, most likely not to be repeated, but one with lots of memories and fun times we’ll treasure for years to come.Follow @DigitalDebbie