Monthly Archives: May 2014


A visit to Europe – part 1 of… probably many

I rather wish I’d followed up on my original goal of writing a little each day during our trip to Europe. As it is, I only started writing on the first day… and nothing more after that. It was just too hectic, and we were so exhausted at the end of the day that staying awake to write was out of the question. So what comes will be based primarily on memory… which I confess is not always the sharpest. Oh well. Perhaps some of this will be interesting to read, or of use to other travellers.

The Start (Planning)

It’s hard to believe that the trip is over, particularly since we started thinking about it over 6 months ago. S and I had realized that we both had a significant amount of airline mileage that was due to expire, and needed to figure out quickly what to do with them. Luckily, one is able to book a flight up to several months in the future – the booking just needs to be made BEFORE the mileage expires. So though our mileage was due to expire in December, we decided to plan a trip around the “golden week” period in Japan, where we’d be able to combine a number of national holidays with my regular paid holiday at work, for an extended vacation. Total time off? THREE WEEKS. I’ve never taken that much time off from work since I finished university! You can imagine I was pretty psyched 🙂

Since I’d never been to Europe before, it was high on my bucket list, and since neither of us had been to Italy, our destination was easily settled. We also decided to toss in a quick trip to Prague since… why not? It sounded cool, and images of the city online looked like it would be a pleasant/easy start to a Europe trip. So we quickly decided – 3 days in Prague, and 2.5 weeks in Italy. That was the easy part.

Much harder was figuring out exactly how much time we would spend where. Three days here? Two days there? Another two days here, or maybe three days?
Even though we already knew we wanted to spend most of our time in Italy, there are just so many places IN Italy that we wanted to see. The gondolas in Venice, Michelangelo’s statue of David in Florence, the seaside cliffs of Cinque Terre, the hilltowns of Tuscany, and more! 2.5 weeks is no where near enough to see Italy. However, we tried cramming in as many locations as we could (which, ultimately, we ended up regretting somewhat), and our final schedule looked like this:

  • Prague: 3 days, 4 nights
  • Venice: 2 days, 3 nights
  • Cinque Terre: half day, full day, and 2 nights
  • Florence: 2 days, 3 nights
  • Siena: 1 afternoon, 1 night
  • Agriturismo in Tuscany area: half day, full day, and 2 nights
  • Rome: 3 days, 4 nights

We also squeezed in the following side/day trips:
1 afternoon in Vienna (during a long layover between our flight from Prague to Venice)
1 afternoon in Pisa (when we were traveling from Cinque Terre to Florence)

As you can see, we hit a lot of places in just 3 weeks! Though it was nice to see/experience each new destination, it was also extremely tiring having to shuffle luggage around, catching the trains/buses/flights, juggling accommodations, etc. In the end, I think we would have found it more relaxing/less stressful if we’d just stuck to, say, 4 places instead of 7. Or better yet, I wish we’d had more time off! You could easily spend a couple months exploring Italy alone. For example, we never hit Milan, or Naples, or Sicily, or Sardegna, etc. Sadly, work won’t let me take that much time off – I think I was extremely lucky to have been able to take off 3 whole weeks as it was.

After much discussion, our destinations were set – it was now time to start planning where we’d stay, what we’d see, and of course let’s not forget – what to eat 😉


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Dave Powell's ShootTokyo has been a popular site for many people looking to enjoy the sights of Tokyo, and he's now making a book!  Check it out 🙂

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ShootTokyo: The Book

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It's heartbreaking.  

I confess that I haven't followed much of the news on Syria because… well, because there's always stories of war in the news these days.  Shootings, bombings, killing… conflict, conflict, conflict.  One becomes numb to hearing about it.  But this article focuses on the people, the families and children that have been uprooted, their lives torn apart.  And it breaks my heart.

#syria  ?

‘So many ways to die in Syria now’: Neil Gaiman visits a refugee camp in Jordan
The conflict in Syria has forced two and a half million people to flee the country. Neil Gaiman visits two refugee camps in Jordan run by UNHCR and hears the stories of some of those who have escaped the violence and terror to rebuild their lives in these cities in the desert • See more photographs from Neil Gaiman’s visit to Jordan