DEPARTURE DAY

Today’s the day.  I am currently at JFK International Airport, Gate 11, and I’m so nervous/excited/in disbelief that my stomach is knots.  I was anxious in the car when there was traffic on the way, but check-in and security were a breeze and I have free Wi-Fi so I am very content.

I am hoping to have a blog post every day while I’m in Paris.  Even if I can’t write a whole post every day, I will at least post a picture (note to self–figure out how to post Vines on WordPress).

After some last minute additions this morning, my suitcase was able to zip (yay!) but it was five pounds overweight (boo).  However, I managed to pack for an entire month abroad in just two bags so I am very happy about that.

My dad and I before leaving for JFK.  A whole month and only two bags, look at that!
My dad and I before leaving for JFK. A whole month and only two bags, look at that!

I hope I didn’t forget anything, but I guess I’ll find that out on Monday when I am unpacking in my room.

Some things that I am currently worried about:

  • that the person sitting next to me on the plane will smell, snore, incessantly try to make small talk, or otherwise be awful to sit next to
  • or worse yet, that I will be asked to change my seat and will have an aisle seat, thus making any possibility of comfort or sleep impossible
  • that my luggage will not make it with me to Paris and will be lost forever
  • that the thunderstorms brewing in the north east will delay my flight

Things that I did during my last morning in the US:

  • put Q-tips in my bag, because I couldn’t remember if I packed them before.  Plus they have about 147 uses (only an approximation) and it is my personal belief that you can never have too many Q-tips
  • realized that I almost forgot my debit card, which would have been A Big Disaster
  • Briefly panicked when my suitcase was 4.6 pounds over the limit, which means I’ll have to pay a pretty large fee
  • had my last American meal—a ham, egg, and cheese from Paul’s, my town’s bagel store—with my family

My next post will be when I am in Europe!!

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The tribulations of traveling abroad

First off, I would like to acknowledge that I know this is a first world problem and that I am incredibly lucky to be studying abroad, let alone also travel Europe during my summer vacation.

However, planning weekend trips is incredibly stressful.  I am a planner and worry easily, so this only makes the process worse.

Before I started searching for planes, trains (but not automobiles)* for travel, I figured that the tickets would be incredibly cheap.  Decide to go to Dublin for the weekend? Get a plane ticket for $50!  Want to go to Warsaw on a whim? Book a train for $60!

…I was sorely mistaken.

Perhaps it was because I was only booking a little less than a month ahead of time, but I could not find a ticket to London or Rome, my two dream destinations (after Paris of course) for less than $150.  I ended up paying about $180 for a plane to Rome and $260 to take the Eurostar to London.

After I recovered from the shock of the prices, it was tough to coordinate times and weekends to go with the other Lehigh students on the trip.  We have a Facebook group that we talk on, but with different schedules during the summer it was hard to get things done quickly (you also don’t want to buy a nonrefundable ticket only to find out that no one else can go).

I booked my trip to Rome through Ryan air earlier this week, and then had to book London.  Earlier in the week, I tried to book a train and the purchase wouldn’t go through, saying that there was a problem with my card number.  After triple checking my card number, I realized the website defaulted to the UK page…and when I switched to the US, the price of the ticket went up (even with converting euros to dollars).

So now tonight, I finally had the basics down–we had the times finalized and I had the right country selected this time.  But the saga wasn’t over yet, I was still getting an error message.  In a panic, I called my bank and went through the frustrating menus until I reached a human being.  And so I learned my latest lesson in planning trips abroad–tell your bank that you are going to be overseas, or they may do pesky things like decline purchases on your debit card (even when you actually have money in your checking account!)

I am hugely relieved now that we have two weekend trips finalized.  For the other two weekends, I am hoping to travel to Normandy beach and somewhere else in France before Bastille day on Sunday the 14th and am going to throw caution to the wind and spontaneously plan a trip for the third weekend.

I leave tomorrow (there are no words to describe how I am feeling right now) and am spending the last night at home watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The most exciting month of my life starts tomorrow!

Creating the perfect traveling playlist

I always make playlists when I go on vacation–usually they are to be able to fall asleep easier on the car ride, but they also bring back memories of the trip.  Jag Star’s Leavin’ will always remind me of going to Quebec with my school during freshmen year of high school and Tyler Hilton’s Kiss On will remind me of summers spent at my grandparents’s house in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.

I tend to make playlists that are very eclectic-some top 40, some slow songs that I can fall asleep to, a few throwbacks, and some band that I found on the internet and thought was cool.

So what’s on my playlist for Paris?

  • Hey Porsche-Nelly  –a fun song that is good to listen to when driving around and has become one of my favorite songs of the summer

 

  • Give me a Reason-Pink feat. Nate Ruess  –an absolutely beautiful song that I love to sing along to and has the right lyric/piano balance to fall asleep to

 

  • Any song by  Ed Sheeran  –because he has an absolutely beautiful voice and amazing lyrics
  • First day of my life-Bright Eyes 

 

  • Sweet Louise-The Belle Brigade –an incredibly sweet song about falling in love 

 

  • Only the Good Die Young-Billy Joel  

 

  • Thunder Road-Bruce Springsteen –because no playlist is complete without some Bruce 

A French newcomer learns the language

I am ashamed to admit that I am only in proficient in English.  Despite taking Spanish from first grade to junior year, I never became fluent, and thus have become one of “those Americans” that only speaks English.  I am glad that Prof. Savage has assigned us some language work to do before leaving so that we can get around and know the basics for conversations when we arrive.

We are using Lonely Planet’s French Phrasebook and CD to learn the basics beforehand.  I uploaded the tracks to iTunes and then put them on my phone so that I can listen to them while driving to work (I suppose I also could have just put the CD in my car, but that would have been too easy).

It’s been good to practice the sounds and pronunciations while in the car, but because I am a visual person it has been harder to memorize specific phrases and learn words so that I can recognize them when they are written out, like when I am walking through the airport and looking for the train.

To better memorize words, I’ve gone back to my old high school tactic of flash cards.  It is odd to work on a language without formal instruction, but hope that if I have some basics, the all-essential “Parlez-vous anglais?” (do you speak english?), and then manners, which likely transcend language barriers, that I will get by.

How to pack for a month abroad

I have never been a light packer.  I would like to believe that it’s not because I’m a diva but because I like to have options–you never know when you are going to spill (which for me, is often), when the weather may change, or what your mood will be like.

Needless to say, this isn’t a good trait to have when you are studying abroad for a month.

My dad pulled my suitcase down from the attic yesterday, and it is unfortunately much smaller than I remember (but it is big and pink, which were essentials for 8th grade me when I purchased it, and makes it easy to spot on the baggage claim belt).

I leave in 6 days (gulp) and so have begun packing so that I have time to find those missing items and get organized.  Suitcases fill up quickly though, so I may have to condense my clothing.

3/4 of the way full and not even halfway done with the packing list..
3/4 of the way full and not even halfway done with the packing list..

Our professor has given us a list of other must-need items that we may not think of:

  • Airline Tickets/Passport/Wallet/Hidden money pack
  • Picture ID – small photo (about ¾ inch square) for metro pass
  • Cash (in euros)
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Contact numbers to report credit cards or traveler’s checks lost
  • Towel (not provided in room)
  • Toiletries bag/Prescription and OTC medications
  • Plug adaptor/converter/Travel alarm clock
  • Small portable Umbrella
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Luggage locks/name tags
  • Travel-sized Woolite/clothesline
  • Sunblock/Bathing suit
  • Empty collapsible bag for shopping/souvenirs
  • Camera and backup batteries/film/memory card

Many of which are items that you have bought at some point in time to be prepared, but then forget where you put (is there really a good spot to store your mini first aid kid?  I know I have one, but who knows where it is).  This week will be spent tracking down those items and finishing my pre-work for the courses abroad (but there will be another post on that later)

Some other items that I thought I was clever to think of–laundry detergent, an empty sunglasses case to keep headphones and a phone charger from getting crushed in my carry-on, and a carry-on that doubles as a bag to use when traveling on the weekends.

Other websites that I have consulted to make my packing list: