When travel offered me a second shot at visiting Wellington, I wasn’t going to miss a morning at Te Papa, a lunch of green-lipped mussels (right), and a pair of three-quarter pants that are all the rage in New Zealand and Australia.
When choosing a hotel room for a short stay in one of Europe’s major travel destinations, location is always the key for me.
Yes, I want a clean room in a friendly place. But I start with location, which, for a budget room, usually is near a train station or a subway stop.
Some of the best sources for budget lodgings are guidebooks such as the Rick Steves series and online sites where you can read the reviews from other travelers, including TripAdvisor and Booking.com. Both have worked for me.
Rome is one of the more expensive cities in Europe, but don’t let anyone tell you that you must spend $350-$400 a night. I recently slept two nights in Rome at Hotel Mediterraneo, a fine old establishment where single rooms start at less than $200. (I found a room on the Internet at $160.)
Seems fitting that a statue of hometowner Christopher Columbus stands in front of the train station in Genoa, Italy, where I began my journey home to America. From Genoa, a train would lead to Rome, then on to Rome’s port of Civitavecchia, where I would board a cruise ship, Azamara Journey, to cross the Atlantic to Miami.
How do you cram enough stuff for two months of travel – during the changing weather of fall – into a 50-pound bag? That was my limit, imposed by most international airlines, and specifically Lufthansa, which flew me from the United States to Frankfurt, Germany, in late September.
This was a smart weight limit anyway. I was not going on a tour bus, nor preparing to sit in a resort. I would wheel and carry my luggage through Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Greece – on planes, trains, buses, subways, a barge, and three ships, including one that eventually would cruise me back across the Atlantic to the United States.
Pulling 50 pounds of suitcase on wheels along city streets is not so tough, even in hill towns. Lugging 50 pounds up the steps of budget hotels is a bit of work. Carrying it up and down the steps of Europe’s train and Metro stations is a serious strain. I would have fared better with a 40-pound limit.
The 50-pound bag I named Charlie. It’s made by High Sierra, with three compartments, and actually can convert to a backpack. Fat chance.
On the road again. To the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Portland, and mountains in between.
Flew into Seattle, rented a car -- through Hotwire this time. Bought the cheapest car, ended up with Hertz and, surprise, a peppy Mazda 3, far better than what I paid for. It happens.
Thing about Hotwire is that you buy the deal, put the money up ahead of time, without the options of canceling or changing. That's the trade-off. I Paid $156.68 for five days, including taxes and fees. Rental car fees are killers. The car was $94.68.