Posts tagged travel lessons
Europe 2013 - France Part 1
This is going to be a long one folks.  I just couldn't narrow down my pictures.  If you've been following along, we're off to France this week. (If you need to catch up, read here and here and here.) We decided to explore France's Normandy region.  We stayed in a small town called Bayeux, which is a really good base if you're interested in visiting some World War 2 sites. Bayeux, amazingly was untouched by the bombs of WWII and is beautiful.  I was smitten by the cathedral.  I could not stop taking pictures.

Bayeux Cathedral

Bayeux Cathedral interior and exterior

At night!

We took a half-day tour of various WWII D-day sites.  I learned so much.  It was fascinating.  Sites we visited included Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach (think Saving Private Ryan), and the American Cemetery.  It was a humbling day.

Pointe du Hoc

Omaha Beach Memorials

American Cemetery

On our last morning in Bayeux, we rented a car and headed toward Mont St. Michel.  Mont St. Michel is a tiny island that houses a monastery and only has about 30 full time residents.  The island is packed during the day, but at night, it felt like it was just the two of us (and the cats...).

Mont St. Michel

After the crowds, it was just us and the cats. :)

Huge windows inside the monastery overlooking the beach

Inside the monastery

As you can imagine, space on the island is limited and so are hotel rooms.  We wanted to spend one night on the island, so we booked a room well in advance.  I got an email from the hotel about a week prior to when we were suppose to arrive stating that they accidently overbooked the hotel and were moving us to a different one.  This wouldn't have been a big deal, but the hotel they put us in was a couple miles away from the island because, apparently, all the rooms on the island were booked.  I was pretty upset and disappointed and returned the email practically begging them to keep looking for another room on the island and to keep us updated if one was available.  A couple days went by and I checked again.  I got an interesting email in return.  This is what it said:
Dear Madam,
I’m afraid but at the moment I have no cancellation. But I was thinking of a different option if you wish :
We take care of a few rooms for the monks and the nones in a separate building.
This place has no star and is very simple and there are 2 single rooms available as they don’t need it.
I know it is not the best solution but it is inside Mont Saint Michel. The rooms are charged 50 € each.
If this option suits you, let us know.
Sincerely, Christine / reception
Really?!  Our option was to stay in a room normally reserved for monks and nuns?! Fantastic!
Obviously, monks and nuns have no need for beds bigger than twin size, and we could have rented two rooms if we wanted, but what's the fun in that?  We just squeezed onto a twin bed--it was only one night.  We did have a sink in the room, but the toilet and shower were in the hallway.  This isn't a big deal for us though, because we often stay in places where this is the case. 
Top: Our room is THIS big! Bottom right: hallway  Bottom left: tiny bed
This was actually our favorite place where we stayed during our whole trip.  I mean, how many people can say that they've stayed in a monk's room? The coolest part, though, was where the room was.  We had to go down an alley no bigger than the width of my shoulders, around a corner, up some stairs, and then we reached our building.  We felt secluded--like we had our own private piece of the island.  It was amazing!
Tiny alleys and stairs leading to the monk's room

View from the door to our room. We felt magically secluded.

View from our window!
Is there a lesson here?  Of course!  When travelling, things may not go as you have planned. But stay open minded, because you never know what opportunities you may get!
Stay tuned for the Europe 2013 conclusion!  We're almost to Paris!!
Travel Stories - Lessons Learned

Pillowcases by UrbanBirdandCo on Etsy
 My husband and I love to travel.  We try to take trips as often as we can afford to do so, which means we are pretty much always saving for a future trip.  I have some fun travel stories to share, including some experiences when we learned a valuable lesson.  Today, I thought I'd share one of those valuable lessons...

Our last trip was in August 2012, and we went to Scotland and Ireland.  We typically stay in multiple cities and towns, trying to get the most out of our time overseas by seeing as much as possible.  This story begins on our last day in Scotland before we ferried over to Ireland.  We were in Glasgow--Scotland's biggest city. We navigated our way through the city to our room, which was located above and managed by the pub below.  We usually don't stay in hotels--mostly we stay in small, family run bed & breakfasts or hostels. We couldn't find a suitable B&B or hostel in Glasgow, so this was the next, best (still affordable) option.  The rooms were nice--we dropped of our bags and headed out into the city.

It was a Saturday, so Glasgow was busy.  At some point during each of our trips, we will tire of large cities--fighting crowds constantly is just not our thing.  After getting a super late lunch, sight-seeing, and museums, we were done with Glasgow.  We stopped at a bookstore for some evening entertainment, grabbed dinner at a grocery store (salads, yogurts, and chocolate), and we went back to our room to relax for a while.

After we ate, we were lying on the bed reading, when I glanced down and saw a bug crawling in between us. Instantly, I'm thinking BEDBUG.  But, we didn't know what a bedbug looked like exactly, and we had no way to look it up.  So, I texted my mom: "Could you please message me a picture of a bedbug?"  We compared our new friend with the picture, and they didn't really match.  Still unsure, and kind of grossed out, I called my mom and had her read the bedbug description--size, color, do they come out during the day?  Still, they didn't match--our friend was too small.  Regardless, at this point I did not want to get back on the bed.  Bedbugs are the last thing we need during a three week trip to Europe. We pulled up the sheets to inspect the mattress--nothing.  Phew!  Then I looked down.  Attached to the bed skirt was a bonafide bedbug.  Turns out our little friend was a juvenile.  Ugh! SO GROSS!

Our little friend

So after we shared our discovery with the management and refused to stay in an adjacent room (which also had bedbugs--we checked), we had to find another place to stay at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night in Scotland's biggest city.  We made multiple calls and could NOT find a room for less that $250.  We gave up.  We took a cab to the town where we were to catch the ferry the next morning and stayed at a Sleep Inn.  Not exactly a quaint B&B, but we were desperate. But our fun adventure didn't end there, folks.

Once in our very cushy room, we thoroughly check for bedbugs.  Our bags did not touch a soft surface (and luckily they didn't in Glasgow either, otherwise we might have carried them with us!).  Sheets were ripped from the mattress. Pillows were inspected. Extra blankets were tossed into the corner.  Finally, after a shower, we could sleep.

Or so we thought.  The fire alarm goes off at 3:00 am!  "ATTENTION, ATTENTION.  THERE IS AN EMERGENCY.  PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING."  Are you kidding me?!?!  So, I throw on a jacket, grab my purse, Brandon gets dressed, and we file out the building with all other guests.  Apparently I was the only person who didn't put on any pants.  Nope.  Just sleep shorts for me in the 50 degrees.  Thank goodness it was just an alarm malfunction, because the fire department took 10 minutes to show up.  While we were waiting in the parking lot, we realized that we didn't grab everything we should have--Brandon's glasses, our second camera---my pants! Geez.

Left: Brandon and me making pouty faces in our cab leaving Glasgow. Right: Waiting in the Sleep Inn parking lot.

So two lessons were committed to memory during these exciting ten hours abroad.  Lesson 1: Learn how to identify a bedbug (adult AND juvenile).  Lesson 2:  Be evacuation ready.  Seriously.

Rest assured, we were diligent about both of these for the rest of our trip!