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Advice RequestThis will be our first time in Europe.

Along with your prayers, we welcome your tips and suggestions.

One friend directed us to Rick Steves’ “Europe through the Back Door”, which answered a lot of our questions. But perhaps you have a few more tips for us, especially regarding what our kids might find most meaningful and how to make use of local transportation?

To get reduced air fares, we extended our time in Europe to fly through London on a charter. This enables us to spend a few days each in London, Paris and Italy without substantially increasing the overall cost of the trip.

But being “on our own” for three extra weeks raises various questions for which we could use guidance:

We still have a few questions you might help with:

  • What tourist sites would be most memorable for our children?
  • How do we make effective, inexpensive use of local transportation?

If you have suggestions, comment below for everyone’s benefit, or email us privately.


3 Responses to “Travel Logistics Questions”

  1. Dave Emerson says:

    First and foremost, the key to travel, as anything, is prayer, faith, surrender, & seeking God’s direction & following his priorities.

    That said, I’ve found it best to focus on memorable experiences & experiencing & learning to appreciate the local culture, not trying to do or see “everything,” which only results in illness, stress, and bad memories.

    I’ve found Rick Steves’ Travel Guidebooks very practical and helpful in exploring Europe. They aren’t written from a particularly Christian perspective, but they give a good handle on good inexpensive places to stay & eat, traveling more like the locals.

    Rick’s Travel Philosophy ( http://www.ricksteves.com/about/pressroom/travphil.htm ) is worth memorizing, at least key parts such as:

    “A tight budget forces you to travel close to the ground, meeting and communicating with the people. Never sacrifice sleep, nutrition, safety, or cleanliness in the name of budget. Simply enjoy the local-style alternatives to expensive hotels and restaurants.”

    Also “Extroverts have more fun. If your trip is low on magic moments, kick yourself and make things happen. If you don’t enjoy a place, maybe you don’t know enough about it. Seek the truth. Recognize tourist traps. Give a culture the benefit of your open mind. See things as different but not better or worse. Any culture has much to share.”

    And my favorite, which I think every traveler should memorize: “Of course, travel, like the world, is a series of hills and valleys. Be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic. If something’s not to your liking, change your liking.”

    If you only have 3 days each in London, Paris, and Rome I would focus only on top aspects of each town & not try to go outside those towns to other parts of the country at this time. Barb & I had 3 days for Rome, and focused on what Steve’s cited as the top attractions, doing them his way. We downloaded his guided tour of the Vatican Museum to an i-pod and found it extremely helpful–much better than trying to read from his book. He tells you exactly what to see, where to find it, & shortcuts that saved us tons of time, like the secret passage from the Sistene Chapel straight to St. Peters, bypassing a round-about route that involved exiting the Vatican Museum, traversing the outside, & re-entering & going through security screening again. Best time to do the Vatican Museum is the mornings the Pope does his thing is St. Peters Square–everybody’s there. Not worth the long wait & heat anyway. This is the sort of stuff that makes, in my opinion, investing in each of Steve’s books on the 3 cities you’ll be in (don’t need the whole country–smaller to pack just 3 three city guides. Get ’em now from Amazon, 2012 edition only.

    Try to book a hostel (meaning inexpensive/budget hotel where the bathroom may be down the hall, not “youth hostel,” although those might also be worth considering. The key is to stay in either a central location or one with good access to subway or public transportation that will get you where you want to go easily. We spend more for location & less on quality of hotel.

    In Rome we enjoyed several of Steve’s walking tours. When I went to Spain with our daughter Beth, she wanted to just sit & drink coffee in sidewalk cafes & take in the atmosphere while writing post cards (now it would be e-mails). There are tiny storefronts sellilng a wide variety of rectangular pizza slices I think your kids would enjoy. And buy the kids & yourselves Italian Gelato at least twice a day while in Italy.

    Finally, download or buy key traveler’s phrases in French and Italian. Learn now and practice “Excuse me,” (both when asking a question and also when you want someone to move or bump someone–I’m pretty sure they are two different phrases in both French and Italian) “Do you speak English,” “Please, thank you so much, etc.” in both French and Italian. Start using it with each other now, and as many additional words as you know. Nationals who speak some (even much) English will almost always answer “a little” when asked if they speak English, rarely “yes,” no matter how good their English skills.

    There’s lots more, but you’ll find most of it in the chapter on “Rick Steve’s Back Door Approach to Travel” or something like that in all his books. Start here, after you’ve read the philosophy linked above:

    If you have extra time, check to see when his PBS or other shows on your 3 cities will be on tv where you live, or get them from the library. Or maybe assign a kid & parent or 2 kids to research and rough in a schedule for each of your 3 cities.

    Steves has his flaws, he is human, but it’s the best approach I’ve found.

    Finally, if possible & practical, see if there’s a church or Bible Study you can attend, certainly in England. These things are often best researched in advance, and once you have your hotel you can use Google Maps or Mapquest to locate churches within walking distance, or check with people you know. You might want to try to take in an Evensong service at one of the Anglican Cathedrals in England. Europe provides a great opportunity to explore some of the many flavors of the Christian faith.
    Enough for now, wish we were going with you!
    Keep looking up!

  2. Larry Bentley says:

    London; #1 Miss the Olympic crowds if you can
    London Eye – large Ferris type wheel, great view of city.
    British Museum – Rosetta stone which they will have studied, “Bogman”, Elgin Marbles and then see matching work in Greece from where it was ‘borrowed”
    Texas Embassy – TexMex food in London! Near Trafalgar Sq.
    Kinsengton Gardens has a great playground with swans in the pond when we were there, Peter Pan statue and pirate ship sure to be a Wesley hit .
    Holy Trinity Brompton – home of the Alpha course, a different style of worship, prayers for the Queen too!
    Tower of London (do early in day) + walk across London Bridge
    Remember London and most of European cities have a lot of walking, sure you ride the “Tube” but wear good shoes and be prepared for blisters, have a SAG plan, what to do when folks get tired.
    Tube has daily pass good for non-rush hours, so have things to do close to hotel/hostel for those peak hours. Check out pass online, may be cheaper to buy here than there.
    We didn’t get to Wilberforce’s tomb but should have. If they have seen movie “Amazing Grace”.

    Paris: sure normal tourist stuff but
    Pick a clear day for Eiffel tower, no point in paying to see inside of clouds.
    Louvre museum – WOW – Mona Lisa just to watch Japanese tourists all taking photos where sign says not too.
    Medieval art work’s distinctly Christian flavor
    Venus de Milo, mummy room, Winged Victory of Samothrace (2nd C BC) and don’t forget Whistler’s Mother! Yes, it is there if not on loan. Old city wall from Roman era.

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