Cousin Peggy asked me a question. She’s curious to know how John and I made the choices for our trip in July. I told her it was kind of a long story, so I’ll answer it here.
Each year John and I go to a country we have never been to before. Last year we ran out of months in the year, and by the time we were ready to travel, I spent about 4 hours on the phone with a high energy agent at US Airways trying to find the one country we could fly to on frequent flier miles withink 3 weeks. That turned out to be Turks and Caicos.
In other years we followed invitations of friends who were living/traveling in places such as Scotland, Korea, Venezuela, and China. In other years we did dream trips, like Argentina and Costa Rica. This year we are again following the lead of friends, meeting Kirk and Corinne at the house they rented in France, and staying for some time in Spain since neither of us have been there before.
So how’d we decide? Well, we knew we would be with the Hinckley family during certain dates, and we also knew we wanted to go see the second to last stage of the Tour de France from Montelimar to Mont Ventoux. We wanted some time in Barcelona, and I wanted to take John to some of my favorite French towns from when I spent a summer semester at the Universite de Paul Valery in Montpellier in 1989: Carcassonne and Sete.
For this year’s trip we also had an Ace in the Hole: I took a graduate course in French Poetry last semester to brush up on my French. The class was really hard. So I hired a tutor, who was born and raised in Toulouse. She was recommended to me by someone in my swimming class, and guess what her job was in Toulouse? Travel agent! So each week we spent half an hour on planning the trip and half an hour on poetry.
We worked at the computer. She showed me the town of Cadaques in Spain and I was hooked. So we made sure to add it to the list. And when every hotel within 60 K of the Tour de France was booked, she suggested we stay in Marseilles and drive up early to catch the action. This was all very helpful for us in picking towns where we could stay.
As for our lodging decisions: we love to rent houses and apartments whenever possible, and we always use VRBO.com for that. And we have also had great success with the luxurylink.com site. They run auctions for packages at fine hotels. I had almost rented an apartment in Barcelona, but the online service was pulling a little bait and switch, so we found the luxury link package and decided it would be a nice splurge for the end of the trip. The package includes 4 nights, breakfasts, a tasting dinner one night, stone massages, and a suite room with panoramic views. Another bonus of rentals and auctions: they were paid in dollars from the states, so we did not have to pay the 3% conversion fee from our credit card, or worry about the exchange rate.
We use the website Tripadvisor.com to check out the hotels and neighborhoods. With me working on one computer checking availability, John was on another computer checking ratings and reviews for the hotels and areas. We also look for travel blogs where people report their experiences in differnent areas. We have gotten lots of great ideas from blogs about where to visit and where to stay. We often read a blog of a restuarant or a market and say we have to go there!
So, our plannig does come down to a big investment in time. But I get really excited to read about other people’s travels, so it’s not a chore. More like a hobby.