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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My First Castle

Blogging is difficult when you spend your time Living Out Loud.  But better late than never …right!

A view from the garden.
A view from the garden.

My world-wind weekend ended with my first Castle visit. A new friend offered to take me to see my first castle. So of course I happily obliged. We drove about an hour from Frankfurt to the city of Heidelberg. The drive there was very scenic and beautiful. The scenery is much like what I imagine the French countryside looks like. I guess I never imagined the German countryside to be so beautiful.

Upon arriving in the city and parking, we walked up a few steep cobblestone hills. And I’m so glad I happened to bring my “walking sandals” with me. I didn’t initially know what we’d be doing that day and had just purchased sandals made for walking, although they’re ugly, they do a good job.

We visited the garden outside of the castle first. It was a great day and the view was amazing. I left my camera home, stupidly, but my phone took surprisingly nice pictures. We enjoyed the views for a while before heading over to the castle.

Unfortunately, the castle was closed until 11pm for a performance. So we were only able to take pictures of the outside. That just means I have to come back.

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My First Week Abroad

Guess who moved overseas?  MEEEE! That’s who.  Yup, I’m always traveling somewhere, so this is sort of an extension of that passion.  Only this will be a slightly new experience for me.  I’ve never lived anywhere outside of the United States for more than four months.

So where am I?  Deutschland or Germany as most people say.  It was a lot of work preparing for this new chapter… visas, packing, housing etc. But I survived and without too many headaches.

I’ve visited Germany for a short time earlier this year and it was super cold and snowy but ultimately I pressed forward with my decision to move here.

Anyway, I arrived to Frankfurt on a beautiful summer day.  My first week in Frankfurt was pretty good. I didn’t have jet lag and was able to score a few things from various stores in the not-too-distant area. I got a TV, some groceries, (I swear the bread will be the death of me, but it’s so delicious) and some household items like cleaning supplies and toilet paper.  Once I get cable and internet I’ll be all set.

In addition to shopping all day, I was invited to hang out on Saturday night with an acquaintance I’ve known for a few years and a small group of others. I had an amazing time and the guys were all really fun characters.

Starting the night at O’Reileys near the train station downtown was good. I had a chicken club which would have been better if they didn’t use Miracle Whip or the mayo substitute.  Even better was that they had Magner’s Cider beer on tap. WINNING! I’m not a real beer drinker so I’ll chose Cider beer, wine, or mixed liquor whenever I’m out. I hear Apple wine is really big in Germany so I’m dying to try it.

After dinner we took a cab to the Sachsenhausen area near the Hooters. Let me tell you, that was like nothing I had ever expected to see in Frankfurt.  It was like a huge party where you feel like you know half the crowd.  I can only compare it to a combination of D.C’s U-Street corridor combined with Philadelphia’s South Street and Baltimore’s Power Plant Live but with mostly outdoor seating, cheap drinks, and hookah with huge groups of people. I don’t even know if that’s an accurate description but it’s all I can come up with for now.

Apparently, the guys we went with had become favorites of one of the cocktail waitresses at the first spot.  So we got awesome treatment and really great drinks for a good price. We bar hopped for a while, taking shots here and there. It always seemed that the bartenders would capitalize or magnify our “Americaness”…I know that isn’t really a word but our shots were red, white, and blue. Although they were quite good. And our drinks were “American-sized”.  I guess “when in Germany do as the…Americans?”

It’s Europe so cigarette smoking is widely acceptable and sometimes expected; luckily my hair didn’t smell like smoke the next day.

Most memorable was the ridiculous number of bridal and grooms party’s strolling through Sachsenhausen, selling kisses, hugs, adult toys, and everything in between. Apparently, the proceeds go to the bride or to offset the cost of the wedding.  I won’t say which of these treasures I indulged in but it was a good time.

I wasn’t ready to go but one of the ladies was.  The night started at about 6:30 and ended at about 1:30 AM.

I think my first weekend in Germany was a success.

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