Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sabbatical FAQs: How I traveled

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, while I was in Europe, a lot of folks asked me a lot of questions.  I’m answering the most common ones in a set of three blog entries, of which this is the second.  And, it's a bonus day:  two entries for a May Sunday!

How was it traveling alone?

I’d mentioned to quite a few folks that I was expecting to travel alone.  I’d also offered to a group of friends that if they could live with my rules and trip structure, and if they had the time off and the resources to do the trip, they were welcome to join me.  Jennie did, and we toured together for the whole trip.  Gina joined for most of Amsterdam. 

How were they so lucky?

They agreed to the rules and structure, and they had the time and resources to do so.

What were these rules and structure?

Basically, that I was going to do whatever I felt like doing, and I was going to do it in luxury.  I planned absolutely as little as possible, so I woke up each day with somewhere between no idea what I was going to do and a simple idea, e.g., go see the Louvre some more.  Anyone with me could, of course, make a plan and follow it, but anyone who wanted to stick with me had to live a largely unplanned life. 

Why did you almost always write as “I”?

Because this blog is mine and reflects only my opinions.  I didn’t want to have to represent a consensus or even differing opinions; I wanted to give my reflections on what I’d experienced. 

What made it a luxury trip?

Basically, the hotels I chose and the fact that when I went by train, I rode in first class and, whenever possible, on high-speed trains. 

How’d you get from city to city?

From Raleigh to Paris at the beginning, and from Paris to Raleigh at the end, via American Airlines. 

From Paris to Florence, the train ride would have taken over 12 hours, so I flew on Air Italia. 

From Florence to Venice, via high-speed train. 

From Venice to Vienna, again the train ride would have taken over 12 hours, so I flew on Austrian Airways, operated by Air Moldavia.

From Vienna to Prague, by train.

From Prague to Amsterdam, once again the train ride would have taken over 12 hours, so I flew on Czech Air.

From Amsterdam to Paris, by high-speed train. 

What were these luxury hotels?

Both Paris stays:  The Mandarin Oriental Paris.

Florence:  The first was the Relais SantaCroce, and then when it was booked and I wanted to stay longer, the HotelBrunelleschi. 

Venice:  The Westin Europa & Regina Venice.  (I’d intended to stay at a hotel owned locally, but after checking into three rooms, all with terrible Wi-Fi and all tatty, I left it and went to the Westin, which was marvelous.)

Vienna:  The Ritz-Carlton Vienna.

Prague:  The Mandarin Oriental Prague.

Amsterdam:  The Sofitel Legend The Grand.

I may rate the hotels on different criteria in a later blog entry.

Why didn’t you name the hotels earlier?

I liked the feeling of people not knowing where I was, and if someone was looking to track me down (e.g., for work), I wanted to restrict them to email or phone.  I didn’t want to be able to receive any packages or surprise visitors. 

You’ve mentioned before traveling in Europe on the cheap, and now you’ve traveled in luxury.  Which do you prefer?

Luxury.  No doubt.  I’ve loved all my European vacations, but staying in great hotels makes everything easier and more comfortable, and I intended to spoil myself this trip. 

Was it worth what you paid for it?

From a “look at how much good you could have done with that money” perspective, certainly not.  For me, for this trip, which very well might end up being the European trip of a lifetime for me, absolutely.  And, I’d saved up for years for it, so I haven’t hurt my financial situation by doing it. 

How much did you spend?

I’m always amazed that people will ask this, but they do.  I’m not going to answer this question, because I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business. 


David Drake said...

Air Moldavia? Jesus God.
It may be a lot better than I think, but there are obvious reasons why a ship or airline would want to be headquartered in a place with no legitimate government.

Mark said...

Yeah, when I saw the name, I considered that possibility, but by then I was in line to board. Fortunately, the flight went well.


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