|Italian dog we tried to make friends with|
Work is out of control so it has been difficult to get the last post of our epic European adventure up - but here it is. We decided last minute to book a cab back to the Naples airport which is a 45 minute journey from Salerno. When researching things in advance several transfer companies had quoted stupid money - 180 Euros (270 CAD) for the four of us. Every other day but Sunday there is a shuttle bus that is very reasonable that leaves from the train station going to the airport. We were leaving on a Sunday which I wish I would have known about this before making all our hotel arrangements. Anyway, I refused to pay that much so our plan was to take a short cab to the Salerno train station, local metro train to Naples, grab a SITA bus to the Naples airport all taking 2-3 hours depending on if the train was on time. That would have still cost us about 80 Euros. After our cancelled train episode taking the local train to Pompeii I decided we were going to take a cab to the airport instead. I texted my AirBNB guy to see what kind of arrangement he could make. And just like that for 120 Euros (still expensive but doable at $180 CAD) we were picked up by a local taxi. By this time in the trip my foot was swollen and hurting, after doing 105,000 steps in one week in Italy. I didn't think I could make it the cheaper route so we paid up and got whisked to Naples in a nice clean safe cab with a very nice taxi driver. By the way, I strongly recommend anyone with a smart phone download the google translate app which works even offline. Halfway to Naples one of our party needed to use a restroom and so we typed up the request and the taxi driver read it and quickly exited the freeway. It certainly saved our bacon as he was very smiley but only spoke 3 words of English and combined with our 3 words of Italian we would have had a hard time communicating this. Anyway, we gave him an extra tip for that.
Our flight out of Naples was with the discount airline Easyjet. They have the best reputation of all the discount airlines who fly within Europe and we were pleasantly surprised by our experience. Yes, you pay for every little thing but we found the staff was extremely nice and plane very new. Knowing our luggage would be well over their carryon limit I had paid for us to each check 1 bag when I purchased the tickets. It is cheaper to buy your luggage allowance upfront with that airline rather than at the last minute. They only allow 1 item as carryon and it was supposed to be less than 10kg. Many were clearly over that - and after 1/3 of us had started to enter the boarding area they told everyone else all luggage had to be checked and could not go as carryon even if under 10kg. This did not surprise me - people try and take advantage of it otherwise. We landed 1/2 hr late due to traffic at Paris Orly and not being able to land but fortunately the car service BT Transfer I had hired was still there waiting for us. Because there was four of us with luggage it was cheapest to pre-hire a service for 60 Euro to take us to our hotel. I highly recommend them - on time, friendly drivers, clean vehicles. We ended up with Mercedes vans both directions. If we had been travelling without the boys likely we would have taken a group shuttle as would be cheaper. The van easily held 6-8 people but we had it all to ourselves. Our drivers spoke English and we booked online without credit card and paid cash upon being delivered to our destination.
We got to our hotel around 6pm the first night so were hungry and to be perfectly honest tired of pasta and pizza by that point. We went to a small bistro right across from the hotel and had the very best french fries, hamburgers, and ham sandwiches (with fried egg on top called Croquet Madame). A little shell shocked at the prices but we made an error and tipped the first night. France includes a service fee so tipping is not really required. We made sure to not make the same mistake on our other restaurant meals there.
|Restaurant just down from our hotel|
I had prebooked our time slot to go to the Eiffel Tower months in advance and managed to snag tickets that were valid to go to the very top platform. There are three viewing platforms. One you walk up to, the second you take an elevator to and the third to the top platform which you again have to wait for an elevator to from the second platform. If we had to do it all over again - I would have just bought the second platform as I actually thought the views were nicer from there as you were closer to the ground and could see more. We had a crystal clear sunny 27 degree celcius day so perfect for seeing it.
The only thing I didn't like about the Eiffel tower: The crowds. They were massive. If we hadn't of prepurchased tickets we would have waited in a 3 hour line just to get to the 2nd platform. You have to go through 3 sets of security to even get in the lineup for the elevators. They do a bag search. They remove anything sharp (don't bring your wine bottle openers here). They tried to confiscate my stepson's redbull because it was pressurized. He instead drank it on the spot lol. Anyway, we enjoyed it but due to the shoving that occured to try to get back down in the elevators and the fact that they don't have any staff actually controlling the crowds preventing that from happening I wouldn't go again. I hate crowds to begin with but all four of us felt the same way. Keep in mind my youngest stepson weighs about 250 lbs of pure muscle as is a body builder so he got fed up and just stopped the crowd for us by putting his arms out and allowing us to move forward. One should not have to bring a bouncer with them to see the eiffel tower safely, just my opinion. The views are spectacular but there are other places that you can see great views in Paris ie from Sacre Couer and Arc De Triomphe.
If for any reason you can't prepurchase tickets as they are sold out I highly recommend just paying for a guided tour - tour companies have access to the tickets and they avoid the line similar to our pre-purchased tickets. Yes, more expensive but so worth it.
|The Siene River|
|Arc De Triomphe and start of Champs Elysees|
We managed to miss a rolling Air France strike that occured the 2 days prior to our return flight and the only incident on the way home was that our luggage was misplaced somewhere between Vancouver and home. By the time we landed at home they knew 1 piece of luggage had been left behind and would either be delivered the next day or we could pick it up at our local airport and get $100 future credit - we took that option since it was a 5 minute drive from the airport.
I oversaved for this trip - had 3 budgets - economy, realistic and stupid. We came under $80 each to my realistic budget of $3250 per person. We knew this trip would be costly, likely our most costly ever since it was four adults (two of which have to eat enormous amounts of food and 4 meals a day, no lie) going to two of the most expensive countries and eating out for a lot of our meals. Fortunately there is money left over in the travel account for our next adventure. Yes, we could have done many things cheaper - but that is not what this trip was about. We had a blast with two of our adult kids and spent the money to do it. We have zero debt and saved all the money for the trip ahead of time, only using credit cards to get points along the way. By the way, most restaurants in Italy do not take credit cards if you plan to go there. Cash only. That figure also included us flying to Edmonton prior to meet up with the boys so we could all depart on the same flight which they appreciated and I think made things go much smoother.
Things of note:
Metro in Rome 1.40 Euro each way
Metro in Paris 1.90 Euro each way (but you could buy 10 ticket packs that would make it cheaper)
Rome has Uber but they were far more expensive than the taxi that my AirBNB host booked for us both ways
The subway in Rome was fairly new and nice and clean - I was surprised (not sure why)
Subway in Paris smelled like pee - and was quite a bit older than I was expecting
Both subway systems are safe to use though, a great way to get around
Down the road we have one more Europe trip, likely in 2020 with my stepson and his girlfriend (she pays her own way) and one trip to somewhere hot in 3-4 years with my stepdaughter as we promised all of them to take them to another country. She doesn't have any inclination to go to Europe though that may change in a couple of years time.
Our next adventure is already being planned, but it will be a beach vacation with 100% relaxation just the two of us. We need it. We landed and hit the ground running. Ever since we got home our business has been stupid busy - it looks like another crazy year for us that way.
I plan to share more pictures of our adventure in future posts, I think I took a dozen pictures of old doors so expect to see some of those lol.