City Breaks, Featured

The Suitcase Scholar Returns to Europe


Remember how much I hated Paris? Because I do. Man, did I hate Paris. Which is part of the reason why I’ve stayed on this side of the Atlantic for the past five years.

Until now.

This weekend I’m flying to Madrid. And doing Madrid things. Then I’m taking a train to Barcelona. You know, to do Barcelona things. It will be my first trip back to Europe since the failed Paris trip of 2010. And it will resemble that trip in absolutely no way.

Tracy Goes to Europe: Then vs. Now

Transportation and Timing

Then: Flew into London through Dublin. Four days in London. Train to Paris. A week in Paris. A train to Amsterdam. Two days in Amsterdam. A train back to Paris. Another week in Paris. A train back to London. One day in London. A flight home, also through Dublin.

Now: Flying direct to Madrid. Three days in Madrid. Train to Barcelona. Four days in Barcelona. Flying direct home.


Then: An entire year spent saving up and plotting.

Now: We just officially determined we are really going the day before yesterday. We leave tomorrow.

Planning and Preparation

Then: Months of internet searching, forum posting, and note taking, resulting in a 19-page binder ‘o itinerary. Several practice packing trips as well as endless comparisons of comfortable shoes, practical luggage, and careful wardrobe comparison.

Now: I know when our flights take off and land and when we have to get on the train. I have hotel reservations. I’m taking my Converse, my favorite pair of black (non-cowboy) boots, and whatever is currently in the dryer.


Then: See all of Paris. And London. And Amsterdam. Every museum, every park, every square.

Now: I know I’d like to eat some ham, drink some wine, and take some photos. I’d also like to nap occasionally. Ok, I’d like to nap daily.


Then: One night in a cheap pod-hotel in London’s West End, another three nights in a room over a nightclub in Hoxton, a VRBO-rented apartment in Paris, a deal-on-Expedia room in Amsterdam.

Now: A Marriott property in Madrid and a well-located boutique hotel in Barcelona.


Then: Over a year of saving-up, one dollar at a time, until we had enough. Total cost: a lot. You don’t want to know.

Now: Booked on points on a whim. Total cost: so, so little. You don’t want to know.


Then: Constant daily updates via blog, along with dutiful note-taking so as to be able to blog upon my return.

Now: Want to know how the trip is going? Follow me on Instagram. There will be zero from-the-road blog updates. Zero. There may be a post or two when I return. Or not. You know–whatever.


When I think about how much I’ve changed as a person over the last five years, it blows my damn mind. I’m excited to see what 2015-me is like in Europe. Because I know what 2010-me was like. Everyone knows what 2010-me was like. Including that poor waitress who watched me yell at my husband and then storm off out of the (door-sized) window in the front of the bistro.

So–what do you think? Will it be different the second time around? Or are you rubbing your hands together in anticipation of angry posts-to-come?

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