Travel Tales and Tips

I am currently preparing for a fairly extended trip to Europe over the European Christmas and winter season. This year I will not be celebrating Christmas with family in the Australian fashion – outdoor BBQ, cold beverages and beer happily chilling in a large plastic tub full of ice, fighting gigantic flies for the right to eat the Christmas feast, having ice-cream for dessert (or if you’re not quick enough, sadly watching it melt in your bowl from the heat while politely pretending to listen to your neighbour…) You get the idea.

This year, I will be celebrating Christmas in Toledo – Spain. Why Toledo? Well, my husband and I are doing a tour of Spain so we thought we would arrive a few days earlier and spend them in this fascinating ancient city. Reading about Toledo in my favourite travel guide (DK Spain), it struck me that Toledo is like the Jerusalem of Europe. An ancient walled city that has been to Jews, Christians and Muslims for centuries. For those of you  who have read my other blog posts or my book ‘Not A Typical Tourist in Israel and Jordan’ know that I fell in love with Jerusalem, so it is not surprising that I should now be drawn to its sister city in Europe. I’m very curious to see what the similarities and differences between the two cities will be.

Preparing for my trip, I have been searching for and reading travel blogs about the destinations I am headed to. Most of them seem to be written by brave people who like to travel independently and stay in budget accommodations without knowing a word of the local language. I have found these blogs to be immensely useful but wanted to write a series of blogs that is also an honest review of the places I visit, the accommodation I stay at, the modes of transport I use, and of the tour companies I go with.

Personally, I like to make my travel as stress free as possible so I tend to combine organized tours with independent travel. For the first time ever, I have chosen to use the train system in Europe to get around as well as flying. I must confess that the idea of catching a train in a foreign country makes me hyperventilate with anxiety. I am so bad with directions, it is not at all unusual for me to catch the right number tram that is unfortunately going in the opposite direction, miss my train stop completely and end up at an unfamiliar and wrong station and generally lose my way…And this in a city I live in. One time I was asked by a lovely elderly couple visiting from Sydney how to get to a certain street in the city of Melbourne. I live in Melbourne. I had no idea what direction that street was even though I walked it often. I was so embarrassed I pretended I was also a visitor to Melbourne on a business trip…

So, in these blog posts you will find some hopefully helpful travel tips for the inexperienced traveler who likes the security and comfort of a travel group and some independent travel, some comfort on a budget (I don’t fancy cockroaches in hotel bathrooms or stained bed sheets or suspicious stains on carpets, and preferably a shower that works…) and some funny tales to amuse you.

Happy Reading!

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