Monday, August 6, 2012
ON THE ROAD
Art Boy and I don't get out that much, Hobbit-like as we are in our affection for hearth and home, not to mention the kitties. (That's why I'm the Inconstant Traveler!) So on the rare occasions that we do venture out into the great world, we like to make every nanosecond count, because who knows when (or if) we'll ever be back?
After two fabulous weeks in Europe last June, one in Vienna and one in Prague, I've come up with a short checklist of ways to make the most of your precious travel time. Everybody tells me September and October are the best times to travel (better weather; fewer tourists), so if you're planning an adventure this fall, maybe these tips will be useful!
First things first: always wear slip-on shoes in airports. It's not such a big deal flying between European cities, but in US airports, you're going to have to put them in the bin at the security checkpoint, so the less time spent fooling with straps or laces, the better.
A sturdy, square-bottom tote bag, with scrunchable straps that can be folded over under the seat in front of you, is the best possible device for carrying whatever you'll need on the plane. I used to use canvas, briefcase-shaped carry-on bags, but they tend to slump after 12 hours in the air (who doesn't?), and they're hard to get in and out of.
Once you've arrived, if you're going to be hiking around town, ladies, bring a minimal purse just big enough for cash, key, an iPhone-size camera and (if you're an obsessive note-taker like moi), a tiny note/sketch pad. (This can also double as an evening bag.) If, like me, you bring the same saddle bag you haul around back home, you'll feel like a pack mule.
If you're going to museums—which is what we spent most of our time doing, this trip—this is critical: pick up a brochure with a floor plan at the front desk and find out the exact location of what you want to see most. Then start there; otherwise, you could be wandering around dazedly for hours before you stumble across what you came to see—and by then you'll be too exhausted to appreciate it.
(Another good museum tip: bring a bottle of water in a backpack and check it in the coat room. It can get hot in museums, and they rarely have drinking fountains—especially if they're located in a former palace or monastery.)
And finally—try NOT to travel in June! Global warming is real, folks; Vienna is about the same latitude as Seattle, Prague even farther north, yet we had hot, steamy days in the uppers 80s, with 80-90% humidity, almost the entire trip. (Even when it was raining, as it was the day we walked to the Hundertwasser Museum in Vienna.)
If you must go in June, prepare to strip down to a tank top. On the upside: despite generous helpings of strudel, Viennese sausage, Prague ham, and Bohemian Sekt (Czech sparkling wine), this is one vacation where we actually lost weight!
(Above: at the Gare de Lyon, Paris (sigh).)