Eating Abroad, Eating in New Countries, Eating in New Country, Eating New Cuisines, European Travels, Food, Help Needed, International Cuisines, International Foods, Italian Vacation, Italy, Questions, Recommendations Needed, Travel, Travel Abroad, Travel Europe, Travel Italy, Travel on a Budget, Traveling

Traveling Italy Questions

As I have stated in previous posts, my husband and I will be traveling to Italy in the summer of 2018.  We are beyond thrilled.  The flight and hotel are booked.  We are staying less than a mile away from the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum.

Since I have started blogging, I’ve noticed lots of traffic from individuals in other countries (even those from Italy).  So, I am asking so kindly for some advice, tips, and help.  Furthermore, I promise to mention your comments and recommendations here once we visit.  I have done much research in the past few months, but I trust locals more than a few ads on the computer.  Sure, I know how to dress in the churches and simple Italian phrases to get me by, but I want to know about the hidden tips, best food places, and what everyone should see on their first trip to Rome.

So…I have 5 days in Italy.  One day for Florence and one day in the Vatican.  The other three days are completely devoted to Rome.  Here are my questions that I’m hoping you as my reader will help me out:

  1. Where are the best places to eat in Rome?  You know…the places the locals actually go and are not filled with tourists.                        tourists
  2. What are the absolute must see sites in Rome (or around) and Florence?       florence
  3. What should every new traveler experience during their Italian getaway?         Rome_animated_intro
  4. Any hidden tips or help when visiting the Vatican?                 St.-Peters-Basilica-Vatican-City
  5. What is something you wish tourists knew and what helps a tourist blend in as much as possible?                                                          tourist gif

 

As always, thank you for your help folks.  Your input helps us all when traveling abroad!

xoxo

Your Wanderer

Eating Abroad, Eating in New Countries, Eating New Cuisines, European Travels, International Cuisines, Paris, Paris in 48 Hours, Teach, Teaching, Teaching and Traveling, Travel, Travel Europe, Travel on a Budget, Traveling

Paris in 48 Hours

Years ago, I had the chance to visit the City of Lights and fell in love.  No, not with a man. I fell in love with the city of Paris.  The culture.  The food.  The history.  The art.  This city had me amazed.  I felt as if I had gone back in time.  I loved eating Nutella Crepes.  I saw the Mona Lisa.  I went as far on top of the Eiffel Tower as they would let me.  I shopped.  I visited Notre Dame Cathedral.  I dined in cafes and drank wine as I watched the people go by.

But I only had a little over 48 hours.  If I could go back in time, I would have set more time for this city and country in general.  France treated me well.

When I arrived in France, I took a tai to my hotel (which had a gorgeous view of the city and right across the street from The Louvre) and spent time checking in.  By the time I had checked in and settled myself, I was left with an evening and two full days in the city.  That night I wandered the streets, got my bearings, and figured out where I needed to go for my little 48 hour period.

So what should you visit if you only have 2 days in the magical city?

  1. Eiffel Tower–this seems like a no brainer but what a sight to see.  Most places in the city can see this monument for miles.  I could see it from my hotel.  I could see it in the air when I flew into Paris.  I could see it from the street.  So, what should you do when you visit it?  Some words of advice: take the elevator if issues with walking or climbing, otherwise use the stairs.  Since one of my traveling companions struggled, we took the elevator to the second floor and went up an additional floor to get a better view with less crowds (the higher you go, the less people you see).  Yes, it does cost money (11-17 Euros), but it’s worth every penny.  Stop in the first floor if possible to experience the see through floor!  No worries, there are restrooms, but make sure you know the hours of operation to enter.  During my time, the very top was under construction.  However, I went as far to the top as allowed.  Breathtaking.  There are no other words.  In the words of Jack Dawson, “I’m on top of the world!”  on top of the world
    img_2677
    I could see the entire city, and that was the moment I truly fell in love with Paris, France.  There were not enough  words other than “I am returning one day.”     Check here for more information: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/smartertravel/18-things-you-need-to-kno_b_9149368.html.
  2. The Louvre–For you art or history fans, this is a must.  I was determined to see the Mona Lisa.  Gosh darn it, I wiggled and elbowed by way to the front of the crowd so I could see the iconic picture up close. Besides the Mona Lisa, I was able to go through floor after floor of historical and modern art.  I had the chance to see Napoleon’s belongings and artifacts.  One thing I highly recommend:  Do a little planning beforehand.  There are 380,000 objects and 35,000 works of art on display.  There is no possible way to see everything. When I first arrived, I took a map and figured out which rooms I wanted to visit and which rooms would have to wait until another visit.  I immediately circled what I wanted to see and the floor they were on display.  I highly recommend seeing the following: The Winged Victory of Samothrace, The Venus de Milo, The Raft of Medusa, Hammurabi’s Code, The Lamassu, and of course, The Mona Lisa.  While there, you will find some rooms empty while others are filled with hoards of people.  Mapping out your time first hand will help with confusion, eliminating time waste, and making sure you visit some of the most famous art pieces in the world!
  3. Notre Dame Cathedral–History, architecture, and religion. What a wonderful and beautiful sight.  One thing I loved about this place of worship–it was free!  While traveling, I found many churches charged a price to enter and look at the relics, art, or architecture.  Notre Dame de Paris was one of the few places that welcomed visitors and even allowed pictures (no flash though!).  On my second day in France, I had the chance to visit the Cathedral and learn more about it.  It. Is. Crowded.  Just a forewarning.  However, I loved once I was inside.  People were generally quiet.  The area was cooler and more peaceful.  It was nice to be in a less stressful environment.  Outside everyone takes pictures, but inside is more reserved.  When entering the church, men should take off their hats.  Ladies–please wear something appropriate.  This is not a time for midriff and breasts hanging out.  While there, I wore shorts and a tank top and was not turned away.  In Europe, it is more common for women to wear something that covers the shoulders and knees.  Although I did not find this (and people were not turned away), men were asked to take off their hat as a sign of reverence.  Remember, you are in a place or worship, so treat the area with respect.  Yet don’t forget to take pictures and truly look at the phenomenal details.  img_2681
  4. Wander–take the beaten path for a few hours. Above are three places that will easily keep you occupied for 48 hours.  However, I highly recommend spending one afternoon (or morning) shopping and wandering around the area.  While I was near the Eiffel Tower, I saw a small farmer’s market across the area.  Here I was able to talk to the locals and find some neat odds and ends.  I bought scarves and other items to take home with me. I also had the time to wander up and down the streets and look at a few boutiques.  I found one of my favorite dresses in a small boutique, and it always reminds me of Paris now.  At one point, I remember being completely lost (even with a map) down the streets of shopping.  Locals were kind enough to help me get back to my original area.  I found cafes that served scrumptious food (see my previous blog post about eating abroad) and had time to relax a bit.  My time in Paris was an absolute delight, because I was able to see non-touristy areas as well. img_2675

 

So, Paris in 48 hours.  Not enough time, but it is doable!  I loved my time in Paris, and I would return in a heart beat.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” – Thomas Jefferson.
xoxo
Your Wanderer
Eating Abroad, Eating in New Countries, Eating in New Country, Eating New Cuisines, Food, International Cuisines, International Foods, Love of Teaching, Teaching, Teaching and Traveling, Travel, Travel Europe, Travel NYC, Travel on a Budget, Travel the U.S., Traveling

Eating Abroad

Eating abroad sounds fun and exotic…except when you have the palate of a 5 year old.  I live off of coffee, donuts, and Mac & Cheese.  My tastes have not changed much since childhood.  Vegetables? Bleck.  Fruit? Eh. Candy? Now you’re talking.

Sure, I’ve had great food.  Other times I questioned why the “pea soup” was red instead of green.  I asked my traveling partners what meat we were consuming and they simply shrugged because they couldn’t identify it either.  On the other hand, I’ve had fresh fruit off the trees that made my mouth water and crepes on the streets of Paris that made me promise to return one day.

However, as a traveler, it’s very difficult to not offend the culture but also eat something you’re not familiar with or even like.  So what should I do?

  1. Know what You’re Ordering.  Ah, the days of Google Translate are here folks and with a touch of a button.  Although Google has been ridiculed at times for it’s accuracy, it is now better and smarter at converting what is needed.  Luckily, there is even an app for that. Download the Google Translate app.  Word of advice: Once you pick the language you will need on your journey, download it so you can use it offline as well.  When I was in Mexico with my husband, we were lucky enough for most menus to be translated into English as well. Not the case when I was in Europe.  Although we used a translation tool, it wasn’t much help.  With the Google translate app not only can you type in your phrases or words, but you can also take a picture as well! If you’re unsure or have dietary restrictions, use a tool to help you figure out what you may need or want.  If you’re feeling adventurous, go for it. Yet for my Vegan, Kosher, Gluten Free, etc. amigos, look up what you’re ordering first to make sure it’s what you need and avoid the added stress.  8890946c-af6e-4a80-9489-c40f6e9b53cf
  2. Grow a Pair and Try New Foods.  “Just try it!” my mother used to say to me over and over again.  Although I hate to admit it, some of my favorite foods are due to simply tasting the food. Pesto sauce–it’s green why would I like it? Tried it. Loved it.  Calamari–that sounds weird no thank you.  Tried it. Delicious.  There are so many foods that I fell in love with because I simply tried the food.  In new countries, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when trying and tasting new foods.  However, I gave myself a strict rule–eat what the locals eat.  If that means eating tacos that may in fact have burned my mouth and I began sweating in my seat and drinking a pitcher of water…hey, I tried it.  Eating locally can also mean getting to know the locals.  Through food I was able to learn more about English customs and what they ate on a daily basis.  So what were some things I tried? France–Escargot.  Germany–Wienerschnitzel and mashed potatoes (oh Mylanta, yum).  England–Chicken Tikka Masala.  Dominican Republic–Goat meat.  I found that items I hated at home were scrumptious abroad.  Sure, I found things I disliked, but I found I had a culturally sound experience through the food.  145a175f-af60-4b14-a57d-e8a7d542da4a
  3. Learn about the Eating Customs.  Sure, we like to think that our proper ways of eating are applicable to all countries.  Nope.  Sure, slurping your food here is not acceptable, but in Japan it is encouraged!  Find what your country customs include so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb. As I was researching for my own trip to Rome, I found that drinking cappuccino (or any form of milky coffee) after 10 AM was pretty much a big no-no.  Good to know since I’m in a constant state of drinking coffee!  However, the more you stick out, the more people will know you’re a tourist.  Learning about the eating customs may help save you some embarrassment.  Burping in China? Shows your appreciation of the food.  Thailand–don’t even think about putting your fork in your mouth. Don’t pass food between chopsticks in Japan. South Korea only wants you to eat when the oldest member has begun.  This list continues for various countries.  Even if you were in French club in high school…learn the customs.  3d819b79-b3b5-4b34-9b66-68e579551608
  4. Research Beforehand.  If you are traveling to a country and unsure of the foods do some research ahead of time.  For instance, my husband and I are going to Italy in the summer.  Although I am an avid fan of Italian dishes, I began looking up what items I may like or things that will be new to my palate. With the ease of modern technology, we can easily find simple food items that we like, want to try, or meet our dietary needs/restrictions.  Not sure about a restaurant? TripAdvisor will give you tons of information about what is available, pricing, and reviews.  Sure, we like to think that we can find something the same, but in reality, we are out of our comfort zone.  Do a little research before your trip to find what you want, restaurants to try, and cuisines to blend in with the locals.

    img_2612
    Bakery in London
  5. K.I.S.S.  When in doubt, keep your ordering to something simple.  Do not be “that person” who orders tons on the menu to only find you hate it and waste platefuls of food.  You like chicken–look for a plate that offers chicken.  You like sweets, check out a local bakery.  Tea time in London? Try a cup–trust me, it’s way better in England.  No wonder they have a specific time of the day designated for it.  Try new things, but keep it simple and your expectations realistic.  If you have a sensitive palate (or an immature one like me), keep your eating simple and you can gradually work your way up. img_2615

 

You may not like the food.  You may love it.  You won’t know until you try.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” ~Clifton Fadiman

Talk soon folks!

xoxo

Your Wanderer

Career, Love of Teaching, Teach, Teaching, Teaching and Traveling, Travel, Travel Europe, Travel on a Budget, Travel the U.S., Traveling

Travel on a Teacher’s Salary

I have traveled since I was young.  Traveling is in my blood.  Loving it is an understatement.

Do I love airplanes?  Not particularly.  How about long road trips? Eh, not really.

Yet once I’m there, I am in love.  I have been to every state on the east coast, covered most of the midwest, and multiple states on the west coast.  I was lucky enough to have a parent that encouraged traveling, immersing in culture, and trying new foods, places, and customs.  I have had the travel bug for as long as I can remember.

Yet, here I am.  Teaching.  Adulting.  How can I afford to visit different places around the world on my little teacher salary?  Sure, when I was living with my folks I had the chance to go to Germany, France, Canada, England, and over half of the U.S.  But now?  How can I do it now?

It’s not easy.  Plain and simple.

It takes planning, budgeting, and LOTS of research.  So where have I been since I left the nest and entered the working world?  Over the past few years I have visited:

  • New York City, NY
  • North Carolina (multiple times and locations)
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Ocean City, NJ
  • Mexico
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Las Vegas, NV (almost every year at this rate)

What’s next you may ask?  Italy.  Booked and Paid.

So, let’s get a few things straight–I am not making millions at teaching.  Sure, I sell things on Teachers Pay Teachers, but I’m not making a salary off of it.  During my first year of teaching, I made a whopping $23K.  Yup.  After moving districts I was able to increase that salary, but it’s not raining money in my household.

So how do I do it?

  1. Set a certain amount/percentage to be taken out of your paycheck per pay to put towards travel.  This may be $20; it may be $100, but it’s training your mind and willpower to save the money.  For me, I had to transfer this money to an entirely separate bank account that I could not easily access.  Over the course of a year, you will have enough money saved to take you somewhere awesome.
  2. Look at companies like Groupon, Funjet, Kayak, and even Orbitz.  These places allow for vacation packages–flight and hotel.  Conveniently, these places also give you the option to look at reviews, proximity to local food joints, and even distance to the nearest airport/train station.  Websites like Groupon allow you to get great deals on awesome vacation packages; just make sure you read the fine print.  If you’re not around a major city, you can have your flight altered for a fee.  Talk to a representative for more information. Mexico Beach
  3. Research. Research. Research.  When my husband and I planned our Italian Getaway, we were immediately taken aback by the outrageous prices per person.  I put my head in my hands and wondered if I was ever going to return to Europe.  We spent days researching, browsing websites, and looking at prices.  My husband soon realized that a very expensive week was followed by an insanely cheap week through Orbitz.  After searching week by week from May to August, we found the perfect week that allowed us 5 days and nights in Italy in a 4.2 star hotel with flight for $700 per person.  Woah!  It was insane.  We booked it immediately.  Look for trends in prices, seasons, and even flash deals on the websites listed above.
  4. Sign up for offers through hotels.  Sounds crazy and will fill your email box with junk mail?  I’ll be honest–yes.  Yet there always seems to be a gold nugget hiding in the list of unopened emails.  During my first visit to Las Vegas, I went through an offer to stay at the Wynn Hotel for free!  Once I went to Vegas and signed up at multiple hotels, those rewards and offers continued.  Through this, I was able to see Fabulous Las Vegas multiple times in the course of a few short years, because I only had to pay for airfare and food.  img_2572
  5. Network.  Staying in contact with friends and traveling with a buddy has allowed me to visit new places for a fraction of the cost.  I visited NJ, NC, CA, NYC, and PA because of friends chipping in together.  We slept in the same small bed, but we didn’t care.  We were able to see a new city for $50-$100.  On the other hand, having friends and family in different parts of the country also allowed for new traveling experiences.
  6. Air BnB.  When I was in San Francisco, I had my first experience with Air BnB.  Although it was different from staying in a nice hotel, it was well worth the money for a few nights of sleep.  The host was kind and provided a clean place to sleep with a private bathroom.  Quite honestly, my husband and I never saw our host, and we were in and out so often that the room was a quick place for us to catch up on sleep and off we went again.  It was half the price of a hotel in the city, and we were able to walk to various restaurants and shopping.  To get into the city, we needed an Uber but it was close enough that it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  7. Exercise and Plan to Walk!  As a traveler, I have found that taxis and transportation are easily where the money goes down the tubes.  Vegas–walked everywhere.  I was averaging 15 miles of walking per day and only took a cab at the very end of the night when my feet could no longer handle it.  London–walked.  Paris–oh good lord, I walked everywhere.  If you’re in a city that you can easily walk around and get to point B from point A, get on a good pair of shoes and walk.  Burn off those wine and chocolate calories through the city if you can.
  8. Transportation Options.  So what if I can’t physically walk for huge amounts of time or my hotel/room is too far away?  How do I find a cheap flight? Here are some options:
    • Bus--How did I get to NYC? Bus.  I took a bus overnight there and back.  Sure I didn’t get the most restful sleep of my life, but it was hundreds of dollars cheaper than a hotel.  Just invest in some coffee when you arrive in your desired city.  Bus transportation also is a great option in bigger cities to avoid outrageous cab costs.
    • Train–Although trains are available in the U.S., it is generally as long as driving and not always as cheap as one dreams.  However, in Europe, not only was this an affordable option, but it allowed me time to relax and take in the scenery that I otherwise would have never seen.
    • Airline Promos--Look at flights on Wow Air or Skiplagged.  These places offer affordable flights in specific time windows or find loopholes in the airfare pricing to give you the best deals.
    • Flight and Hotel Packages–Want to have your flight paired with your housing for the week?  Check out vacation packages on a multitude of websites.  Personally, I have found amazing packages through Groupon, Funjet, and Orbitz.  Not only does it help eliminate costs, but it also helps eliminate the headache of planning every detail.
    • Uber/Lyft–In a big city and the distance is too far to walk?  I have been in this situation before.  Uber and Lyft offer options much cheaper than a taxi or renting a car and generally give you the cost up front.  The drivers are usually friendly, and when splitting the cost with friends, it is the way to go with transportation. Germany train station**Train station from France to Germany**
  9. Make side Money.  As teachers specifically, we have options to do tutoring on the side, sell items on Teachers Pay Teachers, or even begin tutoring kids from other countries via Skype.  I do not make tons of money off of Teachers Pay Teachers, but a few bucks here and there do add up.  Additionally, I tutor two nights a week which equals roughly $60/week.  Even a small amount like that can easily be added to your travel fund over the course of 9 months.  Lastly, I have seen many positive reviews about VPKID–flexible tutoring schedule all from the comfort of your home. We don’t see the $20 here or the $40 here as a big deal, but when we don’t touch that money and save it, we end up with a vacation during the summer.
  10. Little bit of Luck.  It’s true.  Part of traveling is luck.  You find a great deal on a hotel or flight.  You find a friend that lives in the area and crash with them for a few days.  You travel with friends who also have that travel bug to split the costs and see the same attractions for a fraction of the cost.  Part of traveling is planning and budgeting, but another part will always be luck.

Traveling is one of the best adventures and memories one can make.  There is a wide world out there.  Get out there and see it.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Augustine of Hippo

Make sure to also visit me on Instagram @TeachingTraveling.

Talk Soon Folks!

xoxo

Your Wanderer