Ibiza Part II (End of the EuroTour)

While getting our tan on, we ran into Ed, a representative from Cirque de la Nuit, who explained the party packages they were offering.  After what seemed like forever we decided on a package that included the following tickets:

  • Thursday: Sankeys Club and another club I can’t quite remember the name of.
  • Friday: Ibiza Rocks
  • Saturday: 12:30 Boat Party with all you can drink followed by a pool party from 4-12

11855784_10153585527239190_7694926899291509965_n (1)One spot we went to played mostly techno and EDM, we did NOT have a great time there.

 

 

 

 

Another club we went to had the movie Alien vs. Predator showing in what can only be described as a movie theater room.

I think we spent the majority of the night watching that movie, or in my case, watching the insides of my eyelids, as I had absolutely no interest in the movie and was exhausted anyway.  They woke me when it was over and we went home.

Friday night was when we agreed to do our “white night” dinner.  We had walked by Le Bar one night on our way home from the club and thought it’d be a great spot for dinner. Unfortunately we hadn’t made reservations in advance but when we arrived looking as amazing as we did, they couldn’t turn us down and found us a nice table.



The service and our server was amazing and so was the food.  It was a great evening.

The boat party was the best! We all had a great time (well minus my one friend who refused to take her motion sickness pills knowing we’d be on a boat). But one monkey didn’t stop our show.  The drinks on board were made in batches and they had about 4 or 5 varieties in addition to beer.  The drinks were all really good and I lost count early on of how many I had consumed. 11889448_10153585527029190_3067368239767974309_n 11026321_10153585526779190_6324890737352355901_n (1)

The DJ was awesome he played a mixture of hip hop and dance and enough to satisfy the music taste of all onboard. and so were the other partiers on the boat.  The only downside was that we were under the impression that the boat would dock at a small nearby island and not just in the middle of the sea.  Many of the folks on the boat jumped off the boat into the sea for about 30 minutes or so before it was time to head back. I very slowly took the ladder down and mostly held onto the side of the boat.  Because the way my swimming skills are set up…

After the boat party we went back to our AirBnB to shower and get dressed. We went to Swag (the only club on the island that plays Hip-Hop every night).  We were originally told that Swag tickets were included in the package but apparently they weren’t.  Luckily Greta from Cirque de La Nuit got us free tickets. And we had the BEST time at Swag. I really wished we had gone before our last night since they played the music we liked best.

Swag was awesome, the DJ was from NY and he played a great set and mix of hits (he played a lot of Philly artists which was even more amazing since we’re all from Philly) that made us not want to leave (Sat Aug 15). But we had to be at the airport by 6:30 the next morning and the combination of drinking all day and partying all night was a bit much for me at 30.

Packing to leave for the airport took me forever. I was tired, still intoxicated, sleepy and by the time we got home from Swag there wasn’t much time to do anything but pack. The flight back was a bit rough for me. And it never fails, I always have the most fun on the last night of all my trips. Lesson learned: pre-pack as much as possible if planning to go out the night before you leave. I was sad to leave Ibiza but all things come to an end.

My TripAdvisor Reviews for this trip:

Cirque De La Nuit

Le BAR

Sante Carne

Revolution Bar

Worlington Hall

 

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Hello Ibiza, Goodbye Amsterdam (EuroTour 2015)

The last leg of our EuroTrip ended in Ibiza, a small island off the coast of Spain. I was looking forward to this beach getaway the most. I love the beach, the lazy time just enjoying the sun, the breeze, and the water.

We took a local train from Amsterdam to the airport. Since I hadn’t gotten a chance to take a photo at the Amsterdam sign at the main train station, after we checked in and went thru airport security I left my carry-on bag with my friends and went outside the airport to capture a few flicks with the Amsterdam sign at the airport.

Of course our flight was delayed, but once we landed in Ibiza we took a cab to our AirBnb, grabbed food nearby, and walked around along the beach. We met a woman, Alesandra, who was about our age dancing in the street to a live band, her mother and grandmother sitting nearby encouraged me to dance with her, so I did. Afterwards she offered us free tickets to the club she worked at and told us to text her beforehand to confirm if she was working.

We woke up the next morning and walked a bit to find tickets to do excursions etc. we got the information we needed but didn’t book anything. We found a place nearby to get breakfast right on the beach complete with delicious mimosas. Let the fun begin!

After breakfast was the designated time for sun & sand. But before we could get our relaxation on we were intrigued by a speed boat pulling a group in a what can only really be described as a huge inflatable circular water raft.  Instant fun and we signed up immediately!

The four of us dropped our belongings, grabbed the life vests and hopped into the raft holding on to ropes on either side of us.  The ride was quite bumpy and a few of us fell off the inflatable benches onto the raft floor with the velocity of the boat making it pretty difficult to gain composure.  I’m pretty sure a few of us sustained a bruise or two, but it was so worth it.  It was unexpected fun, especially since the boat driver was deliberately maneuvering the raft to keep us from gaining composure and getting drenched in the process. 11907760_10153585525919190_1803335373055328077_n I don’t remember the cost and unfortunately (or fortunately) it wasn’t captured on any camera. But here’s a shot of the boat and raft in the water.

 

We made it back to the beach where we rented an umbrella and chairs.  A few of us went to a nearby shop to purchase some libations.

Luckily we happened to find a store with an ice bucket special that included a bottle of alcohol, ice, water, cups and juice.  I did a bit of negotiating for the price since we wanted to swap out the type and brand of alcohol pre-designated for the deal but the liquor bucket ultimately made for a great beach trip.

After a quick photo shoot we went back to relaxing on the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Train From Paris

Next stop on the tour was Amsterdam!  But not after yet a little more travel drama…but this time we arrived at the train station in Paris to depart for Amsterdam. We probably got there way too early.


Unfortunately, we had to walk down to the second to the last Thalys train car (#18) for our seats only to learn that there was no more room for any of our luggage on our car. After being directed to the previous car (#17) to check for availability and being told the same.

We broke up our group of 4 into 2.  Two of us ran all the way to the 5th train car, where we finally found availability for our massive luggage.  We were not pleased with leaving out luggage so far out of sight and reach from the reserved seating we had in car #18, but what are you gonna do?

Returning to our seats was not a simple task as a train employee was refereeing an argument between a nice lady with kids who purchased a reserved seat and the arrogant man who was sitting in her seat and was determined not to move.

The train was full so finding an empty seat for him would probably not be easy. Getting past that drama took a few minutes. Finally we arrived at our reserved seating of 4 only to find a group of young guys playing cards and occupying them.

After making it clear that we had reserved those seats we were on our way to Amsterdam. I believe it was about a 3 hour ride.


Ironically, this happened to be the same train that 3 Americans would stop a gunman a mere 2 weeks later; only that train was going to Paris from Amsterdam. #Godisgood

 

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Paris 2015 (EuroTour Leg 2)

We took a taxi from Charles de Gaulle airport to our AirBnB.  Which was nice and in a great location. Check in went very smoothly and after changing clothes we were out the door to site see the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower etc.11807733_10153563176729190_4788113633193727604_o 11807321_10153563169679190_2758840853483044888_o

 

We grabbed lunch and tried to get tickets for a dinner show, but the two shows we had interest in seeing were sold out for that night.

Although it was something we discussed doing weeks in advance we hadn’t actually purchased the tickets. (Lesson Learned: Book ahead, next time).

11822392_10153563167269190_3817035091518645833_nAfter site seeing, we returned to the apartment to figure out our next move.  This took awhile but eventually found a place to have a really nice dinner.  Santa Carne, an Argentinean steakhouse.

Our party of four had an amazing time at Santa Carne. 3 of us ordered the L’assiette du chef (Chef’s choice) which is essentially 3 different types of steak with potatoes and salad. The couple at the table next to us had gotten the same dish and it looked amazing. He also said he had ordered it medium well which is normally how I take my steak, but it was a bit too red for me so when I ordered mine I got it well done and was more than satisfied.

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The fourth person in our party ordered the La Brochette (steak skewer) and she also was happy but for only 10 Euro more why not get the Chef’s choice? We also ordered a rose wine which was okay.

The service was amazing! Our Argentinean server, Ariel was a bit shy about speaking English to us and communication was a small challenge but he gladly grabbed a chef from the kitchen, Lara/Laura to interpret for us all and she was awesome as well. It was a great time and made my second time in Paris a thousand times better than my first trip to Paris.11813429_10153563168969190_6516908020220582999_n

We had a mini photo shoot while waiting outside to be seated for dinner…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was wearing a silver and custom made center pearl ring on my left ring finger.  A 28-year old Ariel grabbed my left hand and noted the ring. I quickly switched the ring to my middle finger to indicate that I was not indeed engaged or married, as he continued to flirt.  We all had a laugh about that.



After dinner we stopped for me to get my favorite European treat, a crepe!  It was a delicious Nutella and banana crepe.
Magic in the making
Magic in the making
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Someone wanted to be in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Disastrous Flight to Paris (EuroTour 2015)

Getting to Paris was a huge ordeal. Flying on EasyJet meant leaving out of Gatwick. Which was estimated to take roughly an hour from our London hotel.

We had an early morning flight so we reserved an Uber, but apparently the Uber arrived and couldn’t find our hotel so he canceled the ride. The hotel front desk clerk tried to help us find a taxi that could fit all four of us and our luggage at 6 AM which was not an easy task. After working out the logistics for our huge bags and ourselves in the taxi, we were on our way.

taxitrunk

Eventually we had success but along the way I had to stop at the ATM to get enough pounds to pay the cab driver which also cut into our time. We finally arrived at Gatwick to the longest line I’ve ever seen.  We broke our group of four into two in order to speed up the check in process.

I had tried several times several days before our flight to check in online and pay for our checked bags to no avail. The baggage option was not available to pay in advance, perhaps after completing the online check-in.  Once we finally arrived at the counter we had to pay a lot more. This slowed down the process, but eventually myself and my one friend finished checking in and she and I proceeded to go through security.

Of course this is the one time I get stopped and have to empty out my bag and combine/condense all my liquids into 1 quart size bag. I had to throw out my hand sanitizer, shaving cream and a few other things that I only didn’t check to ensure my bag wasn’t overweight.  Each airport and each airline’s security terminals abide by different rules…sometimes they’re really strict & sometimes they’re really lenient, so you just never know what you’re going to get.

My friend also had security go through her belongings. By the time we finished and looked up at the board our flight’s gate was listed as CLOSED. We decided to check at the gate to see if they would let us on.  We ran for dear life it must’ve been 2 miles from the security checkpoint to our gate.

We went up and down escalators and long hallways…I had shin splints, and I was out of breath by the time we made it to the gate which seem like it took at least 20 minutes. And we were nervous because we did not see either of our other two friends pass through the security line.

Once we arrived at the gate, the lady asked my name and told me that we were the only two people left.  Reluctantly they opened the gate and let us board the plane.

Still worried because the two friends had not made it through security by the time that we had. But to our surprise they were in their seats on the plane when we boarded. #wonthedoit

Apparently they had gone through another security gate and also had to run for the plane. I said a long prayer of gratitude that we all made the plane in one piece because it was one heck of a trip just getting there.

Lesson Learned:  If you are flying out of Gatwick get there really early, it is almost as bad as Heathrow.

Read about the awesome time we had once we arrived in Paris next.

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England 2015 (EuroTour Leg 1)

The three of us arrived in London, Heathrow on a Wednesday morning and awaited our fourth party’s arrival flight.  Luckily after an hour we realized her flight was delayed several hours.  We went to our day room not too far from the airport and waited for her to arrive.

My Godbrother picked us up from the hotel and we went back to his house about 2-hours away not too far from Cambridge, UK.  Although the original plan was for us to stay with him, we ultimately got two rooms at nearby hotel (Worlington Hall Country House Hotel).

 
The room I stayed in was a suite, a 2-level apartment almost, looked as though it hadn’t been rented out in months, had a slight smell of mildew/mold and it was outside of the rest of the hotel.  It was sooo cold we slept in our clothes but because we were unsure of the cleanliness we slept on top of the sheets.  Man I almost froze that night. I woke up congested and irritated.

He came to get us after we ate the traditional English Breakfast at the hotel and we went back to his house to shower and get dressed. There was no way I could shower in a room that cold.


After 4 women got dressed we were off to Cambridge to sight see. We visited a museum had lunch at Revolution Bar and took a ton of selfies and usies. Here are some pictures of our afternoon.

The next day my bro grilled the best chicken wings and later we roasted marshmallows and s’mores on the fire pit at his house. We booked a different hotel for that night.  After chatting with the manager we thought that it was 2 double beds and because the price was so high we agreed to make it work (2 in each bed). But when we later got to the room, we realized it was actually two twin beds pushed together.  They had given us the keys earlier in the day but told us the room would not be ready until much later.   Four women in what is essentially a queen size bed was NOT fun!  I didn’t sleep much at all.On the third day we went to London and got another hotel.  We dropped off our bags at the hotel before heading out to sight see.  We saw Big Ben, London Bridge, and Buckingham Palace.  We followed that with dinner at an Irish Pub where most of us got the Fish and Chips, which was much better than the first time I had tried it years ago in another England Pub.


  

We had planned to go out to the club scene that night but were pretty tired by the end of the day so we just headed back to our hotel for the evening.

The next day we would be leaving for Paris but that didn’t go quite as planned…

 

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Booking the EuroTour

Actual travel dates were August 4-16, 2015.  It took weeks to solidify the entire trip. But ultimately it was decided to do a roundtrip flight from Philadelphia to London and piece the rest of the trip together from London.

Although I know waiting just a bit longer to purchase the that flight would have been much cheaper, the majority of my friends had the money ready to purchase this trip and wanted to get that leg of the trip out of the way. In hindsight, I should have set up a shared account or had them just send me the funds via Paypal and purchased the ticket a week or two later when it dropped by $100 dollars.

Unfortunately, I purchased our tickets at $985 USD direct from PHL to LHR on British Airways. I love British Airways because they serve free alcohol.

The next step was booking the intra-Europe travel. After searching across flights and trains it ended up being cheaper to take flights for most of the remaining travel. (At least the upfront travel costs…) in hindsight, it is really important to calculate baggage fees, baggage weight limits and the cost of the airport hassle when doing this comparison.

I was able to score a flight from Gatwick, London to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris for $66 USD. But it ended up being cheaper to take the train from Paris to Amsterdam at only $39 USD.

From Amsterdam we flew to Ibiza for $69 USD. But finding a decent priced flight to get to our return flight out of London from Ibiza was a bit more difficult. I waited a few more weeks to book that flight and got it for $186 USD.

So let’s recap for travel:

  • $985
  • $ 66
  • $ 39
  • $ 69
  • $186

Total $1345 for travel.

We had a few hours layover in Germany on our way back to London from Ibiza.

Here is a snapshot of our travel path for the trip.
Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 12.02.09 PM

In the next post I’ll detail our lodging and recommendations.

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I’m Planning a EuroTour!

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Planning a 12-day European trip was no easy feat.  Usually I find the planning phase exciting but this was almost overwhelming.  Possibly because I was coordinating the budget, dates and desires of 3 other individuals.  Getting four-opinionated women to agree on something of this magnitude was no walk in the park.

This might sound a bit “bougie” but personally, I’m not the biggest fan of repeating foreign countries unless I’ll be visiting different sites or cities.  So the first hurdle was deciding on which countries/cities we’d visit.

I had visited England and France before but for the sake of the group I agreed to make that trip again. Partially because I have several friends and family in England and lodging would be free.   AND since I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with Paris during my previous trip, and felt that most Parisian sites could be seen in one day, we agreed to spend the least amount of time in France.

England–check   France–check

So where to next…

Amsterdam! I’m excited about this city and have heard great things.  And finally Spain, well sorta–when I think of ‘vacation’ I think of blue water and sandy beaches and for all the money I’m spending I definitely had to hit a beach.  And after all of the city/country hopping, what better place to relax and end this trip than the gorgeous beaches of IBIZA off the coast of Spain!!!!

Ibiza is the city I’m most looking forward to visiting.

Stay tuned for details on booking this and trip details.

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Europe on a Budget

A co-worker had mentioned that a holiday was approaching and that we’d have a day off from work that equaled a long weekend.  He had planned to go to Paris with the free time. Which got me to thinking maybe I should use the time to travel as well. I got the idea that maybe my mom could come for a visit and we could travel together.

After asking around about European cities others had been to and recommended, I was informed of United Airlines European cruises. Initially I had wanted to go to Italy since I had never been, luckily I found a cruise leaving from Venice and that’s when I went into planning mode. My mother was immediately on board to go wherever I chose.

I searched and put the trip together from beginning to end including getting my mom from the states to me in Germany on a budget.  I found a roundtrip-direct flight from BWI (Baltimore) to FRA (Frankfurt) for my mom on Condor Air for $781.00 USD. I booked this exactly one month before our trip to Venice.  My mom arrived on the 27th of August to Frankfurt. We left on the 29th of August to begin our vacation together.

On the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy
On the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

RyanAir is a popular cheap airline that services many locations throughout Europe, but their flights usually leave out of the less popular airports. Since I was ballin’ on a budget this seemed like a great idea. For Germany that airport is HAHN, less than a 2-hour drive outside Frankfurt.

We took the Bohr Bus from the Main train station in downtown Frankfurt to HAHN for 14.00 euros ($18.76 USD) per person for a one-way trip. Our direct flight on RyanAir was from HAHN to Venice-TREVISO and I pre-paid for one checked bag for each of us and ground transportation from the airport in Venice to nearby our hotel.  The total was $211.45 USD for both of us. Not bad at all.

My mom picked our hotel, Casa Sant’andrea, was booked through Olotels for 29 through 31 August 2013 with a twin room and breakfast for $240.00 USD. Luckily the bus let us off about 3 blocks from our hotel that was right on the water. So it was very conveniently located.

Our Royal Caribbean cruise booked through United Cruises came to a total of $1,659.85 for the both of us and the itinerary is below. Even better was how close our hotel was from the departing port, walking distance or the next stop on the “People Mover” the elevated train system in Venice.

  Day  Arrival Departure
1 Venice, Italy 5:00 p.m.
2 Split, Croatia 7:00 a.m. 3:00 p.m.
3 At Sea
4 Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey 8:00 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
5 Mykonos, Greece 7:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
6 Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece 12:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m.
7 At Sea
8 Venice, Italy

I used a total of 25,000 United Airlines Award miles (plus $52.60 in taxes) for our return flight from Venice to FRA, Frankfurt’s main airport.

So here’s the math not including the $781.00 for my mom’s roundtrip ticket from the US to Germany…

Cost Item
37.52 bus to HAHN
211.45 RyanAir flight
240 Venice hotel
1659.85 Cruise
52.6 United taxes
2201.42 Total

Maybe $2182.65 seems like a lot of money but for two people at close to only $1000 per person for a 7-day cruise and roundtrip airfare and 1.5 days in Venice, I don’t think it’s too bad. This was my first time putting together a trip like this and with less than a month prior. I was proud of myself. I now know I could have gotten the cruise for a lot less but it was -really my first cruise, now I know better.

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