Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Eurotrip Day 1: Getting There

Here it is! The first official Eurotrip post! Settle in...because this one barely gets you to Germany! The actual trip from my house to Danielle's was so crazy that it deserves it's own post, so we'll start at 5:30am on Friday, when I woke up:

Friday, September 2nd, 5:30am (12:30am GMT +1:00)
I woke up. It was an early wake up call, but I had a busy day ahead. Anthony had come over after work the night before (since we wouldn't see each other for two weeks) and we hung out until he had to go to work. I'd actually decided to take the day off, solely because I had a long training run to get done. So once Anthony left I did some preliminary packing (which means I threw a bunch of crap on my bed) while I mentally prepared myself for 18 miles.

Around 10:30 I got myself outside to pound some pavement. It was the second longest run on my training schedule and I knew I couldn't miss it, so off I went for over three and a half hours of marathon training.

But I got them done, because they had to get done (and I knew trying to do them when I landed in Europe would be a bad idea!).
Longest run to date!
And fastest half too! It was a good day for running!
When I got home I immediately threw my running stuff in the wash (since I would need it in Europe) and got myself in the shower - I had just about two hours before we had to leave for the airport. I showered up and then started packing everything away, whittling down the items I felt were truly necessary for the trip so I wouldn't have to check a bag.

This Bag
It might be boring to stop right here and talk about this, but this bag amazed me the whole trip so I really want to. Not only did it fit a ton of stuff, it was really versatile too!

A few weeks before leaving I decided to go to REI and pick up a new camping back pack to make travelling via public transit slightly easier. I have a large camping backpack (that does not fit carry on) but I don't use it and plan to sell it, so I wanted to replace it with something more practical.

Holy crap guys - I am in love with this bag. REI's Grand Tour 80 Travel Pack!

I bought it just before their Labor Day sales were announced, but was able to save 25% anyways because the bag was in the sale and I purchased it 13 days prior so I got a retroactive discount or price adjustment or whatever:
It's a cool bag because it comes with all the bells and whistles of a normal camping backpack, but it also has a smaller, removable backpack that can be used for short excursions (like the trips I took out hiking and to the seaside and stuff):
There's a pouch that the small pack fits in, and you just clip it all in. If the main pack is totally full (to bursting, lol) like it was when I decided to buy two bottles of wine in Germany...no biggie. You just clip the small pack to the front straps and you're good to go.

Because I brought liquids back with me I had to check the bag on return, but I was able to carry it on going over. I simply pulled the small backpack (containing all of the things I needed for the plane) out and the large pack fit in the carry-on bin (which displeased the ticket agent who printed my boarding pass...I think she was hoping it wouldn't fit!).

And FYI, for checking (or inclement weather while travelling) there is a waterproof cover that stores in a side pouch and can easily be placed over the pack. When you zip it on you can do it so that the straps are exposed so you can still carry the pack:
That's right. All stock photos and then this ONE that I took at my Aunt's house haha.

...or you can tuck them in and pull the drawstring and it turns the pack into a dufflebag:
This bag was seriously magical and so easy to travel with, even when it was heavy!

Moving On!
I finished packing, forgot to make a sandwich, and my mom and I hopped in the car to get to the airport. This was at 4:30pm CST (11:30pm GMT+1). I got to the airport with plenty of time to get through security, grab some food, charge my phone, and wait at the gate listening to frat boys talk about picking up girls.

Spoiler alert: All their moves seemed super lame.

Flight #1

My first flight took me from Chicago to Reykjavik, and was about five and a half hours. It was a night flight and most people slept, but I have a hard time sleeping in any moving vehicle so I just dozed on and off for an hour or two before giving up. The flight was largely uneventful, which is always good when you're travelling!

I did have a slight moment of panic though - I hadn't booked my train ticket from Paris to Trier and realized I really needed to do that to avoid paying some exorbitant fee at the station. So I managed to do that in the air.
Reykjavik upon landing.
Flight #2
I landed in Reykjavik and had a short layover (only about an hour), during which I had to go through passport control to get to the next gate. I looked around for some food to eat and couldn't decide on anything, so I skipped it. That was definitely one downside to the Icelandair layover: The flights are too short to get a meal on them, so you're stuck with super expensive airport food and/or packing things to eat (although the airplane food isn't great so...eh...at least it's free?). I'd packed a decent number of Clif bars, but after a while I was really craving vegetables.

Note to self: Europeans do not believe in cheap, accessible produce while travelling. Basically all they had at airports and train stations were sandwiches, or tiny $10 salads...blah.

I won't lie...flight 2 sucked a bit because, though I had changed my seats for my flights so I'd be solo in transit, the airline changed my seat back. Three hours with your ex and his two best buds is not exactly fun, so I tried to spend most of it at least half asleep. Honestly, by the time we landed in Paris I was donezo with all the travelling...and still no where near my end point.

The Bus
As soon as I got through Charles de Gualle airport I had to figure out how to get to the Paris Est train station. My flight landed about 13:30 GMT+1 on Saturday (6:30am CST) and the train wasn't until 7 pm, so I had a fair few hours to figure it out. The very nice woman at the info booth told me I would need to take a bus to some station (it started with a D, sorry I can't be more helpful here for all of you planning trips from Paris to Trier) and then the RER to Paris Est.

I found the bus stop and acquired a bus ticket...and then waited. And waited. And waited. With like 30 other people. The first bus came and as many people as possible crammed themselves into an already full bus. 'No big deal,' I thought, 'I'll just catch the next one.'

During this time I went inside and bought two tiny ass bottles of water for €4. They had signs in the bathrooms that the water wasn't drinkable, and I kind of trusted that with it being a Paris airport. I figured I could wait for the bus to the next station but I definitely couldn't - I was super dehydrated from travelling (this was a theme that repeated itself all week). So I "splurged" on some Evian after only 30 minutes in the country.

And then I went outside and I waited some more. And then the scenario with the first bus repeated itself, and I found myself left in the dust again after people crammed themselves into every available spot without me coming close to the doors.

'Alright...not this one either...'

By the time Bus #3 came, me and this one guy were determined to both make it onto this bus. We looked at each other and had a silent pact - we will make this happen. So we stood strong at the front of our little queue, and when those doors opened we nudged our way through the crowd and found two spots to stand at the back of the bus. Success!

Train #1
When I got to the RER station I had no clue where to go so I went over to a ticket agent and told him I needed to get to the Paris Est station. He told me I had to go to Platform whatever, and then stared at me.

"Uhh...okay...do I need a ticket or something?"

People. The dude literally threw a ticket at me through the little slot and told me it would be €1,80.

Alright then. I threw some money at him through the slot (treat others how you want to be treated and all) and off I went....annnnnd almost got on the wrong train because hey, why not put a random platform with no additional signage to other platforms on it? But I was smart and realized the stops on the screen for the train I almost got on did not match the train I needed to be on, and I managed to find my platform quickly after that.

I was a bit hesitant though, and asked the first friendly looking person I saw if he spoke English (and he did!) and then asked if the train from that platform would take me to Paris Est. This guy was so nice too. I learned after about 10 seconds at the airport that people either didn't speak English, or didn't want to speak English, so I really was lucky that this guy was nice and spoke English. (And bad on me for knowing 0 French.)

Anyways, he confirmed that I would get to the right place, and we ended up sitting near each other on the train as well. Before he got off he told me, "You have 9 stops left - good luck on your trip!" which I thought was above and beyond. So at least that left me with a decent experience on the RER!

Paris Gare-de-l'Est

From some helpful blog: "Gare de l'Est (East Station) is one of the biggest and oldest (est. 1849) rail stations in Paris."

Not to ruin it for you, but it was a boring few hours. I spent two hours drinking coffee, charging electronics, Facebook chatting people (Hannah and Anthony), journaling (the only entry I wrote the whole trip), and finding a bathroom to wash my face. Oh, and I bought some more too-expensive water (#stillbitteraboutit)

And I took a selfie too:
I swear all major train stations in Europe look the same.
And then I actually ate a sandwich and some fruit because I was starving and even though I wanted a giant salad I figured I'd better just buck up and eat some bread.

Train #2
When my platform opened I went and found my seat on the train (it was pretty empty) and began the journey out of Paris towards Saarbrücken.
FYI guys...the trip out of Paris was like being in Wisconsin :P
 The ride to Saarbrücken was fairly boring. I had to set an alarm so if I fell asleep I wouldn't sleep through my stop...but I made it, and then it was just a short (30 minute) wait for the train to Trier!

Train #3 - the final leg
I was sooo tired and ready to be done travelling by the time I got on the train to Trier.
 I honestly can't even remember the trip, I just remember ticking down the stops in my head, and reminding myself that there were two extras than what were shown on the schedule/map at the station I'd left (way to confuse travellers, map makers!).

When my train rolled in to Trier Süd I followed the crowd down the stairs, and stood looking around confusedly for about 3 minutes until I saw Danielle walking towards me. Just a few minutes later and we were sneaking through her garden and into her apartment, where I'd be spending the next week!

To wrap things up...we arrived at Danielle's just after 11pm (GMT+1)...which means I had been travelling for 23 hours and 30 minutes since leaving my house. And that was after an 18 mile run. I was honestly pretty overtired, overemotional, and ready to sleep (not helped by the fact that I was hungry too, so I ate some veggie pizza that Danielle had). I emailed my mom to let her know I'd arrived, and then I got to know this little guy a bit (Danielle's dog Archie):

And with that...it was time for bed.

There's more coming, I promise! Thanks for being so patient while I've been the slowest blogger ever!


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