10 Biggest Fails of our Europe Trip

10 Oct

DSCN0367We did a lot right on our trip. We picked great cities to visit, we hit a ton of incredible landmarks, ate and drank well and had a wonderful vacation. Having said that, we did made our share of mistakes. We probably could have avoided getting overcharged for baggage, getting stranded outside a hostel in Paris AND Rome with just a bit more planning, but some things are inevitable. You’ll get bumps and bruises* and eat at the wrong place and attempt to drink more than you’re capable of**. That’s just a part of vacation. Here’s our 10 biggest mistakes we made in the order we made them and a tip for each one to make sure you don’t make the same mistake on your next vacation.

*Or, if you’re me, a LOT of bumps and bruises.

**That one’s if you’re Zack.

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1. Flying Easy Sleazy Jet

If you take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s that you never fly Easy Jet. You’ll look for a flight from one European city to the next, see a bargain on Easy Jet and think, “How bad could it be?” Terrible. It could be terrible. On our first flight, they hassled Caitlin about the size of her carry-on bag, then after we re-arranged things in our bags, they charged us 30 Euro per bag, but that was just the start of it. Since my name was spelled Z-A-C-K on my ticket and Z-A-C-H-A-R-Y on my passport, they wanted to charge me 270 Euro (~$400) to change my name in the system. It took half an hour to convince them not to*. On our next flight, it was delayed 40 minutes with no explanation** AND they charged us 150 Euro for overweight bags. They weren’t that big. We paid more than double the cost of the flight for checked baggage. It was all a nightmare.

*All the while, I was sitting down by the “Help” desk (ha, “Help.” Right.), having panic attacks. I should have known Zack would find a way, and I honestly truly did, deep-down, but it seemed pretty hopeless there for a minute.

**Actually, that’s not true. To Easy Jet’s credit, the delay was not their fault this time — the Venice airport is so small that all of the transporter buses to get us out to the plane were tied up, so the captain said the plane had just been sitting in the parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for us. That said, Easy Jet never bothered to explain the delay to us until we got on the plane, which was majorly annoying and stressful.

Tip: Just don’t fly Easy Jet. Take a train. Do anything else. I beg you.  Trains are WAY better. You’ll think, oh, but I’m saving time and a little bit of money! Nope. You can find train deals, and once you get them, you can just hop on and hop off and you don’t have to go through security a million hours early. Trains win at everything in Europe.

2. Zack’s Call Attendant Button FAIL

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When we arrived in Berlin after a wonderful flight from Dusseldorf to Berlin on Air Berlin, everyone on the plane stood up rather early. German efficiency in action*. I usually prefer to sit until the folks a couple rows ahead of me start grabbing their overhead luggage, but I was as anxious to get off the flight as these efficient Germans.  I stood up and I guess my head bumped that “attendant” button, because before I knew it, a stewardess was speaking to me in German and I was scared/confused. Caitlin didn’t notice what was happening at first and my go-to trick of just looking at Caitlin when someone started speaking German hadn’t clicked yet, so I felt dumb for what seemed like two minutes, but was probably eight seconds**.

*Better to have “German efficiency” than “Italian pushiness,” which we experienced on our SleazyJet flights. Seriously, those people stand up BEFORE THE PLANE STOPS MOVING, and they do NOT respect the “you’re in front of me, please go first” rule. They just barrel past you and then walk slower than you once you’re off the plan.

**I was definitely NOT helpful in this scenario. I was totally out of it, and when I realized what was happening I got embarrassed too and, rather than being supportive of my poor, tired boyfriend, I rolled my eyes at his faux pas. Not cool, Caitlin.

Tip: Sit down until your row is about to grab their baggage. Don’t let efficient Germans intimidate you.

3. Caitlin’s Train Sneeze

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On the train from Berlin to Freiburg, Caitlin had a case of the sniffles so bad I was running to the train bathroom to pillage all of their toilet paper and paper towels. Her nose was the same leaky faucet that went off when we were in San Diego and she was flying through the tissues faster than we could stock up on them. She was wearing my hoodie backwards so it was all sleeves in her sneeze zone, so somewhere between, ahh, ahhhhh and chooo, she panicked. She didn’t want to ruin my Arcade Fire hoodie*, so she turned to the railing to her right and slammed her nose into it as if there were super magnets in her schnoz**. She started crying and I felt terrible, but soon she started laughing through the tears and I had to crack up along with her. The way she slammed into it with such gusto was scary as someone who loves her, but at the same time, it was quite a spectacle***. We laughed about it constantly for the next few days and I was prone to re-enacting it at any given moment.

*It woulda been sacrilege!

**Actually, my nose was unscathed. I slammed my forward right into the wall, and had a sore spot there for dayyyyys.

***I just laughed at it again reading this sentence.

Tip: It’s OK to sneeze on your boyfriend’s sweatshirt. Don’t hurt yourself trying to avoid snotting up a hoodie.

4. Zack Attempting The Boot At The Wrong Time

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While Caitlin was sneezing her way into railings, I looked like this after drinking a mini bottle of whiskey on the train. By the time we arrived, I was no longer drunk — I’d had one more beer after we changed trains and was more faded than drunk. We got settled at our hostel, walked around and went out for a meal at a place that happened to serve 2 liters of beer in a boot. I’d easily put down 1 liter mid-Berlin Bike Tour and 2 liters was the inevitable next step. However, I was beer thirsty after the ride, but even though I clearly had excitement about the boot, after already being drunk and sobering up, I didn’t have it in me. I gave up 1/3 of the way through. (Proof of the failure.)

Tip: Only tackle a beer challenge when you’re prepared for it. Something only Zack can speak to, but I will say that I was proud of him for listening to his body and not forcing himself to finish just for the story. He stopped the Boot so he wouldn’t “boot,” himself.

5. Caitlin’s Bike Fall

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Caitlin’s injury proneness only got worse once we got to Freiburg. She’d managed to stay on her bike despite riding off the path into a corn field when the rain started really coming down on our Black Forest ride, but the wet cobblestone road was too much for her. On her way home for our final evening in Caitlin’s little old college town, we biked in the rain past the train station and realized they didn’t sell tram tickets at the stop we’d be hopping on in the morning. She was tired of riding on the wet stones and said we should walk the bikes back to find a ticket at another station. I tried to be a hero and ride back and get us tickets lickity quick. She told me to go straight until the road dead ended and take a left. I said “STAY RIGHT HERE.” I rode for 5 mins and found a station with tickets, bought them, and before I could even get back, Caitlin called my name a block and a half before the meeting spot. While I was gone, she’d tried to come after me to correct her instructions and her tire got stuck in the train tracks and her bike slid out from under her. I know Zack emphasizes the “stay right here”-ness of this story. I understand why. It’s just, in my defense — the boy is TERRIBLE with directions, and I did not have my phone, and I do not remember his phone number off the top of my head because he is simply in my cell phone as “Zack:)” so I was absolutely panicking. We never should have split up in the first place. Obviously, in retrospect, I wish I’d stayed put. But when you give the person you love wrong directions when they’re starting with an incomplete deck in the first place, in that regard — your instinct is to try to rescue the situation.

Tip: Never leave the meet-up spot. 

6. Not contacting our rented apartment in Paris

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This is a lesson we had to learn twice. If you’re not staying at a hotel proper where they have a front desk that’s open 24 hours, make sure you’re in constant contact with the owners. We did e-mail the guy who rented the apartment we booked in France, but had no phone number for him. So when we arrived at 1 pm, we had no way to contact him. We ended up hearing a vacuum cleaner and the cleaning woman let us put our bags down and we killed a couple hours until a friendly couple who was also waiting for the owner helped us contact him to tell us where the key was. 

Tip: Make sure you have the phone number of the place you’re staying if it’s not a proper hotel and alert them that you’re coming early and often and have a meeting time in place. I can do nothing more than agree here. We would have hit the ground running and accomplished even more in Paris had we been able to settle into our living quarters sooner.

7. The Penis Statue Vine at the Louvre

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So we covered how Caitlin doesn’t love museums, but I don’t always love them either. I amused myself by making a Vine of all the penis’ on the French statues*. That kept me entertained and also got me in a bit of trouble. They didn’t give a lot of these dudes a lot of credit in the penile department, so I had to get pretty close to capture them in a Vine. This was pretty embarrassing**, but was made far worse by the fact that I had to reach close to capture one particularly small dong and I got too close and an alarm went off. Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just taking a 6 second video of this sculpture’s penis. Moving on***.

*…sigh.

**FOR EVERYONE

***”Moving on” is what I did while Zack was doing this. I kept my distance because the whole thing seemed weirdly creepy to me. I did just chuckle at “penile department,” though.

Tip: Respect the art. Save the goofy Vines for street performers and beer challenges.

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8. Trying to See Paris in 3 Days

2 days in Berlin at least gave us a good feel for the city, but we could have used two more*. A day and a half in Freiburg was perfect. Three days in Venice was a day too much. Two days in Rome could have been four, but we were able to see a ton and felt sated. Three days in Paris was such a tease. We needed a full week and barely made a dent in our plans. We’ll fix this soon enough. A week in Paris. It’ll happen**.

*I’d also love to go back when we’re not jet-lagged the entire time. It was tough to explore the Berlin nightlife, which is some of the best parts of Berlin, because we were just pooped.

**We’re lookin’ at you, 2016.

Tip: Don’t try to see Paris in less than 5-7 days.

9. Zack’s Fake Italian Singing

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I’m pretty sure I got this “trick” from my dad. When I’m walking around the canals or ruins in Italy and I’m feeling that Italian vibe, I start singing nonsense Italian. “Babbala boobala, beebala boobala” and so on. Caitlin LOVED it*. She insisted I do it as often as possible. Or the opposite of that. Watch the Vine here. 

*My concern was that an Italian would overhear us and punch Zack square in the face. Otherwise, I usually condone nonsense singing. I constantly sing made-up songs to Scooby.

Tip: Save the singing for the Gondoliers or Opera singers.

10. Not contacting our hostel in Rome

No Vacancy

Well, this lesson came back to bite us quickly, but there wasn’t much we could have done. For this arrangement, we’d e-mailed the hostel a week before our trip saying that even though we’d originally said we’d arrive at 4, our flight would have us getting there closer to 11 and we wanted to double check if that was OK. A one sentence e-mail reply said it was fine. Well, after Easy Jet made us 40 minutes late, we arrived closer to midnight and I had three missed calls from a Rome area code. They’d actually been calling all day and I’d tried to answer the second and third call, but no one was there. Anyway, we get to the door and it’s just a buzzer for an apartment building and no one answers and no one’s answering the phone number that called me. Long story short, we managed to get into our hostel after what we’ll call “an ordeal,” which you can read about in our upcoming Rome post. It was a rough start to our stay in that city. 

Tip: Seriously, make contact often with wherever you’re staying if it’s not a hotel. E-mail and call and text them often. Make sure they’re open and know you’re coming. Yes, yes, yes. If you’re staying at a place that is run by a fun-loving woman, remind her closer to your check-in date that your check-in time is going to be later. She will NOT remember otherwise.

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