How We Traveled To Europe And Within Europe

Traveling-in-europeWe booked our tickets for Europe via AirTreks which I learned about via the Rolf Potts podcast.

We all flew out San Diego direct to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. Carson flew back from Paris to Washington, DC (IAD) to San Diego via United a week earlier than Conrad and I.  Our return flight was a direct Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to San Diego.  I thought all the flights ended up being affordable, and having AirTreks do all the coordination was wonderful.

We bought all our train tickets in Germany using the German Train App (Bahn).  The app was very helpful and useful.

We bought our local Belgium train tickets at the stations using their kiosks (the English interfaces on all the kiosks we used were easy to use & understand).  Some kiosks took my standard Visa and others required me to use the Debt Visa.  In the end, one or the other ending up working.

I used the Internet to buy our train from Brussels to Paris via Thayls.  This was a great option because the travel time between Brussels and Paris was less than 2 hours.

Once in Paris we used the kiosks to buy local subway tickets within Paris.  Again we had the same issue with credit card vs. debt cards. Sometimes one would work and in another situation it wouldn't. In the end, one of them worked.

I used the French Train App (SNCF) to buy our train tickets from Paris to Normandy, and the the kiosk at the train station in Normandy to get back to Paris.  This SNCF app also had a copy of our tickets so that was nice not to have another set of paper tickets.

We did use the Paris subway system a couple of times on the 2nd day.  It was very handy.  Tickets were purchased at the local kiosks in the subway station.  Also we bought our tickets to Charles de Gaul using the kiosk at the main subway station near our hotel.  They were more expensive then some other options but the ride was a direct ride without subway line changes.

Carson flew home from Paris via United on Monday, June 17th.  After she left, Conrad and I flew from Paris to Rome using via Vueling Airlines.  These tickets were purchased via CheapOAir, but I did our seat upgrades directly using the Vueling Airlines app.  The flight on Vueling was good.  Conrad and I both had luggage that would have been OK for their overhead, but when we checked in they had us check the bags.  This slowed us down in Rome by about 30 minutes in waiting for our luggage.

Once in Rome, our AirBNB host setup for us a car service to pick us up at the airport and take us to our AirBNB.  This worked out great because we had the least amount of time in Rome and we weren't so sure about our public transportation options.   The trip from the airport was great and the trip back to the airport, which was early in the morning, also worked out great.  It was money worth spending.

We ended up flying on EasyJet from Rome to Amsterdam.  We carried our luggage on without a problem.

The flight from Amsterdam to Berlin (TXL) was on KLM.  I really liked the KLM experience.  We got to carry our luggage on and they had cool snacks!

 We left Berlin to Frankfurt on the night before we were flying back to San Diego.  This flight was on Lufthansa and we had to turn in our luggage at the gate because of our ticket class.  There was definitely room for them.  That was kind of a bummer.  It took like 40 minutes to get our bags which made us late for trying to get into the hotel that is in the "secure" part of the airport.  So we had to go outside of security and stay at the Sheraton that is attached to the airport.

In summary ....

  • [PART 1] All the flights worked out without any major issues.  We didn't get to carry on our luggage a couple of times. Which mostly only caused us delays in waiting for our bags.  All the airports worked great.  Moving around, getting through queues, shopping, services, etc. were great.  I think I liked the Amsterdam and Frankfurt airports the most. But Paris, Berlin, and Rome were not bad.  I have been to worse in the U.S.
  • [PART 2] A lot of what we did at the front of the trip was take trains. This worked great for three people.  I think that is why in PART 1 -- it worked great because it was just two people flying vs. three people flying.  The train experience was also overall very seamless and a good time.  Having the right mobile app was key so I definitely recommend using them.

Back to the main Europe 2019 page.


Thoughts & Tips for July 2019

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Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Health Update (Bulged Disk & Bike Injury)

It has been a year since my last major issue with my bulged disk in my lower back. I am back to probably 90% overall, but I don't think I'm ever going to be back to the same level with running.  I was running an 8.5 minute mile before the injury, but I'm lucky to get in the 10.5 minute mile range now.  Which is OK because my core is about 10x stronger via Pilates, and my swimming and biking have taken off.  The new me is frankly more interesting from an exercise perspective. I was tentatively planning my next Sprint Triathlon for the end of July, but that weekend we are going to be off to Napa area for a wedding.  Unfortunately, August is not looking good with other conflicts, so maybe my next Sprint Triathlon will be in September.

One issue from the bike fall in February that has been nagging me is pain in my wrists when I flex my hand all the way flat (like doing a push-up).  At first they were super sore, and then they got better, but in June they got worse after some gardening (ie. pulling weeds).  The right wrist is better than the left wrist, and I spent most of the month of June with a series of different wrist guards on my left hand to keep it immobilized as possible. As I type this things are better, and I haven't worn a brace all day today. 

Europe 2019

Most of June was consumed by an awesome trip to Europe with my daughter Carson, and my son Conrad. We were gone from June 8 until June 23.  The three of us visited: Germany (Frankfurt and Bad Pyrmont), Belgium (Brussels and Ottingies), and France (Normandy and Paris).  And then Conrad and I continued our trip to Italy (Rome), The Netherlands (Amsterdam), and back to Germany (Berlin and Frankfurt).

I think between Conrad and I we took over 1000+ pictures.  Most importantly was the memories (but as time goes on the journals and the photos will be golden).  I hope to blog more about the overall experience sooner than later.

Here is a photo from Normandy:

Normandy-blog-postTechnology & Tips

As I mentioned last month, my son Spencer and I are starting a new project to digitally scan photos this summer using the Epson FastFoto FF-680W Scanner.  So far everything I've scanned with this scanner has turned out wonderful.

This carry-on luggage from Travelpro Luggage called the Crew 11 20" Carry-on International Rollaboard (w/USB Port, Black) was great for travelling in Europe.  It was easy to pack and easy to maneuver with while on travel.  I'm a big fan.

My birthday and Father's Day present was the Sony RX100-VI camera.  I used it exclusively in Europe and it is now my "go-to" camera.  Very fun to take pictures with and easy to carry.  Here is a one photo from Paris:

Carson-paris

Future

So on the 4th of July we usually do a 10K run called the Old Pros in Scripps Ranch.  I hope to run the whole 10K which will be a big deal for me since my max distance over the last year has been 5K.

Like a mentioned earlier we have a trip at the end of July to Napa for a wedding, and we are also hosting a student from Belgium for a couple of weeks.

Quote I'm Thinking About

“Just because people understand what to do doesn’t ensure that they will actually do it.” ― Marshall Goldsmith,


Berlin To Frankfurt To San Diego

DSC00929-COLLAGEOn Sunday, June 23 -- Conrad and I left Berlin for Frankfurt (photos).  We arrived late in the evening in Frankfurt and stayed the night at the Marriott Hotel next to the airport.  We wanted to stay in hotel that was in the actual boarding area (bod hotel) but it was closed by the time we got there.

The Marriott Hotel was great though and probably the best "hotel" that we stayed in.  Unfortunately it was for less than 8 hours.

After getting up on Monday morning (6/24), we made it through security and immigration with no issues.  We had some time for some last minute shopping, food, espresso from McDonald's (not bad), and some time to see a bunch of airplanes.

The flight home was smooth sailing on Lufthansa and it was really good to finally get back home.  Immigration control in San Diego was also a breeze.

Here are some photos from our last day in Germany:

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Experiencing Berlin

DSC00888-COLLAGEConrad and I made our way to Berlin on Saturday (June 23) from Amsterdam (photos).  The trip from our hotel to the airport was very straightforward: walk to the ferry, take the free ferry to Central Station, and then take the airport train from Central Station to the airport.

Here are two sets of pictures from Berlin:

One of the super fun parts of Sunday afternoon was hanging out with Conrad's girlfriend Skye's family (aunt, uncle, nephews, and niece) who happened to be in Berlin at the same time:

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At the end of the day on Sunday, we headed back to the Berlin Airport for a late evening flight to Frankfurt.  The trip to Frankfurt from Berlin had no major issues.

Some thoughts about this part of the the trip:

  • We managed to take the bus from the airport to a stop near our hotel (short 10 minute walk), and hotel was very close to a Berlin City Train Station.
  • Our flight from Amsterdam to Berlin was on KLM.  They had a great little snack step-up (photo) that was pretty well engineered and tasty.
  • Conrad really wanted to buy Birkenstocks in Germany.  We found some but the selection was not great.  And they cost more plus the taxes made them even more expensive then buying them in the U.S.  So we skipped those purchases.

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Experiencing Amsterdam 2019

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SUMMARY -- Amsterdam was one of the cities that we spent more time than others ... mostly because I was attending Getting Things Done (GTD) Summit 2019.  The conference was 2 days (Thursday and Friday).  We arrived on Wednesday from Rome.  We left on Saturday for Berlin.

Here is a collection of photos from Amsterdam:

Some additional thoughts about Amsterdam:

  • The train from the airport to Central Station was pretty easy to navigate.
  • The airport in Amsterdam was pretty nice and easy to move around in.
  • Taking the bus from Central Station to the GTD Conference was super easy.
  • Our hotel was on the other side of Central Station and required a ferry ride.  The ferry was free and left every 15 minutes.
  • The hotel we stayed in worked for us but it wasn't super great. There was no air conditioning so luckily for us it never got very hot.  I think the room we had would have been less than ideal if the weather got warm.
  • Rain comes and goes in Amsterdam.  Even that big storm on the first night was basically over in 15 minutes.
  • Lots of bikes.
  • Walking in Amsterdam to and from our dinner and after GTD Conference events was good.
  • There is a subway system that we used the last day that worked out pretty well.
  • More info about Little Delirium.
  • More info about Castels.

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Getting Things Done (GTD) Summit 2019

GTD Summit 2019 Collage

The Getting Things Done (GTD) 2019 Summit was held in Amsterdam from June 20-21, 2019. 

BACKGROUND -- My family and I had already purchased our airplane tickets by the time I confirmed I was able to attend, so we ended up re-arranging and making some adjustments so I could attend. My son Conrad could still get to his major city requests, and Carson could fly home "early" but still spent time in Germany, Belgium, Normandy, and Paris.  It was an answer to prayer that it all worked out. Here is our complete trip summary.

The conference was amazing!  I still need to summarize all my notes (Part 1 - Day 1 PDF is DONE!) [Still working on Part 2], but here are some links to some online content about the conference:

GTD Roadmap For Summit 2019


Experiencing Rome

Rome

We arrived in Rome late in the afternoon on Monday (June 17, 2019) and made it to our AirBNB via a reserved driver.  This worked out great as our time in Rome was actually the shortest overall at this point.  The driver was waiting for us as we left the luggage area and drove us straight to the AirBNB.

Here are some pictures of our AirBNB.  I would recommend staying there again.  The location was good and it had a good kitchen and sleeping arrangements for us.

We did a walking tour the evening we arrived And then had dinner.

Our second day Tuesday (June 18, 2019) consisted of the following events:

On Wednesday morning we got up pretty early and made our way to the airport again using a reserved driver.  We had a relatively early flight to Amsterdam and we had read things could be problematic at the Rome airport. In our case it was not a problem getting through security, and things went very smoothly getting to our gate.  We had time for breakfast and some shopping at the airport.

Some other thoughts about Rome:

  • Walking around was very easy with Google maps.
  • No scooters.
  • The main events - Vatican, Colosseum, etc. -- had no tickets available at the last minute.
  • There is no way you could get me to drive in Rome.  Crazy!
  • There seems to be amazing history around every corner.

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The Big Travel Day

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SUMMARY -- Monday, June 17, 2019 was our big travel day - Carson flew home to San Diego from Paris. Once she was airborne, Conrad and I made our way to Rome (and then on to Amsterdam, Berlin, & back to Frankfurt to fly home to San Diego on Monday, June 24, 2019).

Screenshot 2019-11-09 at 16.17.52

MORE DETAILS -- The trip from our hotel in Paris (Hôtel de Roubaix) to Charles de Gaulle airport was a straight forward train/metro ride (RER B).  It took less than an hour and wasn't very crowded.

For some reason even though this was a "BIG" day I only have four photos documenting this part of the trip.

Screenshot 2019-11-09 at 16.20.37Screenshot 2019-11-09 at 16.21.03

Carson made it through security and then customs on her own in Paris, but it took much longer than we had anticipated. She was successful in flying home on United from Paris to Washington, DC (IAD), and then on to San Diego.

Once Carson was airborne we made our way to a smaller terminal to fly down to Rome via Vueling Airlines that was booked via CheapOAir. 

While we were waiting for our flight to Rome we found a store called Spencer, and as we were leaving we could see a Concorde airplane display from our seats on our plane.

The trip down was uneventful and we got to Rome without any issues. Our Airbnb host reserved us a driver who was waiting for us and we made our way to our Airbnb in Rome pretty efficiently.  After checking-in to a wonderful location we managed to do some city exploring and get dinner before bed (see next post).

Collection of all the photos of the day.

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Experiencing Paris, France

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When we arrived in Paris (Saturday, June 15th) it was still late mid-day (trip summary). We ended up dropping off our stuff at our hotel (Hôtel de Roubaix) and then started walking toward the Seine . We ultimately made our way to the Effiel Tower.  We took a tone of photos.

Here is our collection of photos from the Effiel Tower.

We ended the day eating at Hall S Beer Tavern (pictures) for dinner. We were super hungry, the food was excellent, service was pretty good, and sitting down for an hour or so was much needed.

The next day we headed to the Louvre for a guided tour (highly recommended), and then we had time to walk and see what we wanted.  We did that for about 2 hours. Once we were done at the Louvre (most of the morning) we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, and Norte Dame.

We had lunch at L'Etoile 1903 near Arc de Triomphe.  The only picture I took was of the beer (I think we were super hungry and just started digging in before a picture could be taken of our food):

Leffe-beer-The food was good at L'Etoile 1903 and I would recommend eating there again.

After we were finished for the day we ended up eating dinner at Cafe March (photos). We all liked our food and the atmosphere was good. I'd eat there again.

Just before dinner though, I was able to meet up with Rolf Potts (travel writer) for a quick picture. He was in Paris at the same time teaching a class on writing.  I've been listening to Rolf's podcast for some time -- Deviate.  Some of his podcasts actually inspired parts of this trip.

Rolf&steve

Other pictures from Paris can be found here.

Some other details and thoughts about Paris:

  • The French people we met in the stores and restaurants were super helpful and accommodating of our lack of French.
  • There are a lot of scooters in Paris.
  • Taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower from the other side of the Seine was a great recommendation from our train companion from Brussels to Paris.
  • He also recommending going to an "unofficial" memorial for Princes Diana which we did.
  • The subway system while we were there was great.
  • The train system worked well for us also.
  • We probably could have done better on the hotel but we really weren't in the room all that much other than to sleep so any "better" setup would have been lost on us.
  • Having Carson leave us early was a bummer but it all worked out in the end.

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Normandy To Paris (2019)

BayuexOur trip from our Airbnb in Normandy back to Caen  to return our rental car included a stop in Bayeux.  If you are going to this part of Normandy I would consider Caen over Bayeux for renting a car.  The city is bigger and the rental agencies are all near the central Caen train station.

We stopped in Bayeux to see the Tapisserie de Bayeux. that was more than like created in the 11th Century and is over 70 meters long. The tapestry tells the "engrossing story of the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066."  It was definitely worth seeing and the audio program was very well done.

After this museum we made our way back to Caen and then turned in our rental car.   We then had a train ride from Caen into Paris (via the Saint Lazare Train Station) and then a Metro ride (subway) from St. Lazare to the nearest stop near our hotel.

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In Paris we stayed at the Hôtel de Roubaix (6 Rue Greneta, 75003 Paris, France).  I thought the place was average and good for our situation.  It was easy to get to and easy to navigate to the Louvre for sure by walking.  Also it was easy to get from the hotel to the airport via a big transit hub that was just down the street (10 minute walk).  We used Booking.com to reserve our rooms.

Here are all the photos from this part of the trip.

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