February is nearly half gone and I’m just now feeling as if there’s a new year ahead of me and things to plan for. The holidays have long passed, the remnants of that nasty bout with bronchitis are finally gone, the Super Bowl — which always seems to allow some sort of hanging on to a reason to plan a party — is history, and finally, a lovely several days spent with an old friend who came to stay have also been crossed off my calendar. Time flies.
So I’m sitting here, my fingers and toes freezing in spite of the clear, sunny weather outside my window, and thinking about what needs to be done. I chide myself for not having gotten back into my writing yet after planning how I might go about settling into a daily routine. I’ve retrieved the old family photos I began to scan last year to resume the mind-numbingly boring task so I can make a book of them for my sister and brother. I sift through old posts on my food blog making mental notes to repair broken links, or to prepare an old recipe again to upload better photos. But what has really drawn my attention from everything is searching for air fare deals. I’m obsessed.
I don’t consider myself a good shopper — one who is good at finding any kind of a deal — but when I want something and have thought about it long enough, searched for other options, then finally decide it’s what I want, I purchase it. Yes, the cost has to be reasonable, but that isn’t what drives my final decision. When it comes to purchasing airfare, I cringe at the notion of having to pay what is often hundreds more for a ticket when a bit of searching can save money. So far, my “bit of searching” for tickets for a trip to Europe we’re planning this year has stretched to weeks — and I’m not quite satisfied with what I’ve found so will gamble and continue to search. Skyscanner is my new favorite tool, but I keep an eye on Sherman’s, Travel Zoo, Fly.com and who knows how many others.
Once upon a time, when we wanted to fly somewhere, we’d visit the local travel agent and she would do all the work. We’d receive our itinerary and tickets in the mail soon after. Now, the MoH and I bounce ideas around, deciding what time of year we’d like to go (there are serious seasonal constraints related to work), the cost, where we’ve gone before, and would like to go, begin to search for flights. When you live in the most southwest corner of the US like we do, flying anywhere east — especially to Europe — takes some planning. Add another $500 per ticket to the cost and think about settling in for a good 13 hours if we’re lucky, and if we’re not, 18 hours. But we’re game.
We have traveled to Europe three times over the years — not counting the time I lived there as a “Navy brat.” We’ve taken our youngest to England and Wales to climb through the castles. And then we took our youngest and one older brother to Italy. A few years ago, we took the MoH’s parents on a whirlwind road trip through England. And now, the MoH and I are headed back by ourselves first to Paris, and then to Germany.
I’ve rented an apartment in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre, for our week in Paris and that is something I’ve not done before — make a firm decision about lodging before our flights are booked. But each time I plan for one of our vacations, whether we’re staying in the US or not — I learn a few tricks, or take a risk and try something different. Without ever having been in the travel business, I’d say I’ve developed a knack for piecing a good time on our vacations with zero problems (knock on wood). It’s never a quick process, but I don’t mind — in fact, I enjoy it.
We usually plan for between 7-14 days for our trips depending on where we’re going. And by the time that 14th day arrives, I am usually ready to head home often because we do so much on our vacations. Beaches and umbrellas are usually not involved because the beach and sun are not novelties to us. We live five minutes from the beach and in 10 years have not done more than take walks there or enjoy an occasional sunset. I know, I know. Does it count that I have sand chairs and an umbrella in my garage? Beach towels? I have lived my entire life in places drenched in sun, so I am happy to spend time in places that aren’t. The Moh thinks otherwise.
We’ve waited a long time to see Paris and I’m going to do my best to get just the right amount of fun built into our visit. As much as I enjoy seeing the expected sites in a city many travel to every year, I enjoy seeing it from a resident’s perspective as much as I can. This involves walking, sitting, sipping, people watching, and nibbling. Shopping for a picnic to enjoy somewhere in a park or alongside a river — even the place we’ve rented is fine. I enjoy more of the history than shopping — unless it’s about food, and lots of time to take photos I’ll always have to remember our trip. No one else seems to care about them but me, and that’s just fine.
With more than three months to go, I need flight tickets, train tickets (a night train no less), a car rental, and hotel reservations in various places in Germany. We’re squeezing Austria in. Maybe. I know others enjoy the serendipity of stopping where ever they are, then finding a place to stay, but I guess I don’t see the romance in that notion. If I know where we’ll stay, then I can relax.
That’s romantic enough. High maintenance romance at its best.
In the meantime, I’ve been looking for things to do and think this has us written all over it. Talk about fun. When we lived in Spain, those Citroens were all over the place — usually with corragated sides painted a dull grey and still sporting the shaded headlamps used during WWII. And yes, I can see myself standing up to wave at passersby.