What happens when you combine a hotel cat and cheap wine? Bed bugs, that's what. Here's what happened to me.
Venice in August is not the best time or place to get a great meal.
During this traditional month of Italian family vacations, many a restaurant shuts down for a week – or more. Despite my advanced planning, I still ended up at a tourist trap during our 2016 trip. The dour staff refused to serve free tap water. Only pricey bottled water was available, chafing against my frugal principles. Given the dire circumstances, I opted for a more economical choice: a bottle of cheap rosé. And thus my bed bug saga began.
Skipping merrily home to my clean but threadbare hotel, I encountered the property’s resident cat, Pierre, on the steps. I should pause and say I assumed it was the property’s cat, based on his cat-like claim of the courtyard space, but, as Ryan points out, it really could have belonged to anyone – or no one at all. But with the demon liquor in my veins, I considered it prudent to scoop Pierre up and bring him to my room in a brazen hope of enjoying a genuine cat nap with him.
Intoxicated with the love of a temporary pet (and bargain-basement wine) I didn’t perform my customary bed bug sheet check...
This gorgeous, sun-soaked Spanish city is the perfect cozy escape.
What does the perfect holiday abroad look like to you? Does it conjure up images of sun-soaked coastal spots? Maybe it involves getting in touch with your inner art connoisseur, as one can expect with a tour of Barcelona’s famed art museums. Personally, we're partial to cozy locales. And one spot we haven’t been able to stop thinking about is the charming city of Seville, Spain.
Below are a few attractions we highly recommend, especially for first-time travellers, as well as some packing tips to keep in mind.
How hard could it be to find a tree-loving rodent in a city filled with parks?
The gardens of Paris' Rodin Museum are a fine setting for many a good thing. You can enjoy a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city. Great works of art are resplendent in a natural setting. Rodin's masterpiece, The Thinker, awaits your admiring gaze. What you can't do, however, is see a squirrel.
I wish I could tell you that "squirrel" is code for a kind of art or maybe even a pastry, but no. I'm talking about your everyday prosaic squirrel. Red, grey, black, flying, I was open to them all but in Paris, they eluded me.
I don't normally look for vermin when I travel and, if I did, I don't know if squirrels would top my agenda. As a dog owner, squirrels have long been on Oliver's list of enemies (along with the mop, highway rumble strips, and the doorbell). As such, while I have no personal animosity with squirrels, familial loyalty dictates that I hate them. But my hand was forced when I shared the story of seeing sheep grazing on public lands not far from my Paris apartment.
My tale of discovering the Eco-Mouton came in the middle of an online networking event with colleagues. My reference to actual animals somehow had its wagon hitched to a separate reference about animal-like energy (aka "feeling squirrel-y") and a comment was made that I should be on the lookout for squirrels as well as sheep. Challenge accepted! I'd find an adorable squirrel, take a quick snapshot as it delicately nibbled away on a gourmet nut like the true discerning Parisian it was, and gain the accolades of my friends. There was just one problem....
There are no squirrels in Paris.
So you want to go to Paris.... May I suggest some travel advice, recommendations, hints, tips, and unbreakable rules from someone with a life-long love affair with the City of Lights?
I've spent one month and half a lifetime in the City of Lights.
The part about one month is very true. From mid-October to mid-November, 2022, I lived in Paris. I found a wee apartment with sloped walls and wooden beams and made the city my home.
The reference to half a lifetime is a bit of hyperbole but, in its own way, equally true. I first visited the French capital in 2001 and I've made at least half a dozen visits in the years since. I'm never not wanting to be there.
I believe you could live in Paris your entire life and not discover all of its secrets. As such, I am far from an expert. On the other hand, I know Paris better than just about any travel destination and I've learned quite a lot in 20+ years of adventures. And that brings me here, in an effort to wrap up my very best Paris travel advice, suggestions, recommendations, tips, and tricks. For everyone who has said that they absolutely have to get my advice before planning their own big trip - here it is. This post is for you. I'll accept macarons in lieu of thanks.
France's Palace of Versailles is beloved by everyone - except me, it seems. Would a day of cycling Versailles bring redemption?
Every great story needs a villain and, for 21 years, the French Palace of Versailles was mine.
I visited Versailles on my very first trip to Paris in 2001 as an international student. The excursion was an optional class trip but one I had eagerly agreed to. After all, it was one of the most popular attractions in France. What wasn't to love?
Turns out: Plenty. I had a miserable visit, so bad that I've long described Versailles as my least-favourite travel destination. It was a damp, cold, drizzling April day. I was hungry. I had a headache. Versailles' pricing structure was confusing and costlier than expected. Pushy touts made for a jarring welcoming committee. I recognize now that, in retrospect, Versailles didn't even stand a chance. It was never going to be a good travel day and it (mostly) wasn't the Palace's fault. But it took me the better part of two decades to come to that conclusion. It was time to revisit Versailles and give it another shot. Could a day spent cycling Versailles provide the redemption I was looking for?
In Giverny, France, Claude Monet's home and gardens are an absolute delight in autumn. Gorgeous colours and smaller crowds create a special seasonal magic.
Claude Monet's home, studio, and gardens in Giverny, just outside Paris, are one of the city's most popular attractions in summer and for good reason. The famous water lily pond, the Japanese-style bridge covered with lavender wisteria, and the flower beds studded with vibrant pastel blooms are the stuff of travel legend, the subjects of a million photos. But those who are truly lucky will bypass Giverny's famous summer scenes (and crowds) and discover a different kind of magic altogether if they visit in late October.
The best things to do in Zürich West: All the fun, funky, and frugal things to do in Zürich's trendiest neighbourhood.
The Yonex Badminton Halle in Zürich West is home to cheap beer, fierce gameplay, and a FABULOUS Dolly Parton cardboard cutout mascot. In many ways, it’s a most unusual site to stumble across in the heart of Europe’s financial capital. But it’s also emblematic of Zürich West’s remarkable transformation from what was once primarily an industrial site to the fun, funky neighbourhood it is today. I’ve had the chance to explore the neighbourhood with a private guide who lives there and I can attest to what an amazing travel destination it is.
What are the best souvenirs from Paris? We spoke with Jo Karnaghan, author of The Ultimate Paris Address Book, for her recommendations. This is what she has to say about everything from second-hand books to Chanel bags.
Long time readers of TurnipseedTravel are well acquainted with my friend Jo, the voice behind FrugalFirstClassTravel.com. Her hometown expertise for Sydney, Australia, has featured prominently in early blog posts here (like this one about the best sweet treats in Australia and this one about an insider's guide to the city). Over the years, we've not only connected in Sydney but also in Ottawa and even in Athens. Jo was by my side when I almost caused a bit of a scene in the Athens meat market! But if there's one destination that I always go to her for advice about, it's Paris. And there's no better person to connect with to chat about souvenirs from Paris.
Jo first visited Paris in 1991 on a bus tour of Europe. While she didn't stick with the formulaic group tours (can't blame you there, Jo!), she DID stick with Paris and has been back to the City of Lights about 20 times - and counting. In fact, she was in Paris when she conceived the idea for her blog. As she says: "It was mid 2011 and I was sitting in a cafe on rue du Bac. I literally wrote out my first "business plan" on the back of a paper napkin. (From memory I was eating duck confit as I did it)". Frankly, of all the possibly souvenirs in Paris, coming home with a vision for a travel empire seems like the best possible one of all! But for more every day gifts and souvenirs, I knew Jo would have amazing suggestions. After all, she packs light (so she knows a thing or two about being practical), she embraces frugality (hey, it's right there in her blog name!) and she always has an eye out for a first-class experience.
I chatted with Jo about her new book, The Ultimate Paris Address Book, and got her expert advice on how to source memorable souvenirs from Paris. (Plus - there's a special coupon code for readers at the end!) This is what I asked her...
With two days in Bordeaux, you'll find plenty of bargains and indulgences to choose from, from tiny pastries to incredible wine tours.
If there's one thing I learned from my recent trip to Bordeaux, it's that there's no period of time too short or too long to explore. If you have a tiny layover, you can still cram in a wonderful visit. And if you have a week, a month, or even more, you would have no problem filling the time. But for most visitors, I'd argue that 48 hours is a great introduction to this gorgeous French city. My perfect two days in Bordeaux starts like this:
With a coffee and canelé (or three...) in hand, I head to the market, weaving my way along some of the city's best shopping and sight seeing streets. I'm hoping it's a Saturday, as the market is always extra busy then. Then I head over to my favourite wine shop for some amazing browsing, free samples, and maybe pick up a few bargain-priced bottles for later. Next door is le Grand Théâtre, where I'll pop in to see if there are some frugal last-minute tickets to be had. Nearby is the tourism board, where many wine country tours depart from. That's how I'll spend my afternoon, exploring two or three Chateaux. I'd spend my evening at the opera or maybe having dinner in wine country.
Come day two, I'd have a leisurely start with croissants and cafe au lait, before heading to one of the free Sunday attractions listed below. I'd splurge on a wonderful lunch at La Cite du Vin, tour the exhibits, and finish with a free glass of wine. I'd sneak in one more freebie museum or attraction and finish up with some shopping or maybe check out one of the recommend walking routes in my guidebook.
Now your perfect two days in Bordeaux might look exactly like this - or it might be totally different! In an effort to break down some of your best value options, I'm listing my favourite "saves", "splurges", and "steals" so you can craft your perfect trip, at your perfect price point. No matter what you choose or how long you go, I'm certain you'll love Bordeaux as much as I did.
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