We were much enlightened during these 2 weeks and learned really well how we liked to travel. The best advice we received pre-trip was one guidebook's SEVERE tip of packing light-ONE 20 pound backpack each, and NO check-ins.
We washed our clothes every few days but walked so much with our packs that we were so glad we did not pack more than was necessary (save a few articles). I was very glad I chose to layer for warmth and cold as the weather was unseasonably (very LA-esque) warm the first 10 days and fall chill only hit us in the last 5 days of our trip. A second pair of shoes is a nice luxury-for me, a pair of tasteful ventilated flats that allowed me to slip out of my hiking boots every now and then. Wrinkle free and blended synthetic fabric for clothes were extremely helpful for quick overnight drying.
We wish we had made a few more reservations than we did so we didn't spend as much time as we did in internet cafes for the short duration of our trip but we also liked the flexibility, it enabled us to change our plans on the go, so in the future it would be nice to find a better balance. We learned that getting up early before the sun rose, whether it is to beat the tourist crowd or meet our train schedules was absolutely necessary if we wanted to maximize our sightseeing. I learned that sometimes fancy dining isn't that great and watching where the locals go to eat is key to a satisfying meal!
It was absolutely amusing for us to finally see the real life sources of the fairytale illustrations we grew up with, the half-timbered European towns, Shire-like rolling hills, castles, towers, white tailed foxes and Pinocchio! A heavy breakfast or snacking through the day + proper dinner is the way to go for cost-effective meals in Europe, but having access to a full kitchen really helps to cut costs.
Train-ing it was the way to go as driving has hidden costs in gas, tolls and hair-raising urban driving. We particularly struggled with the lack of street signs-there were NONE! Most street names were on the buildings and in some cities, they were not always present!! We learned, quite enviously, that in Europe, energy had a real price, and paid for dearly, so conservation efforts-smaller more efficient cars, public transportation, bike rentals were the norm.
© Amy Tan