Category Archives: Budget travel

How to have a Roman holiday for a 50’s price

    Awful. Just… awful!

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Rome. Most people ooh and aah when they hear this word, but I really didn’t. A couple of years ago we went there and it was absolutely horrible. The complete lowpoint of our Italy trip. We were robbed, there were storms, the metro didn’t work, we had to take 2 busses and a train to get to the “centrally located” B&B – and the bus stopped running at 7 p.m. Vile! We even vowed we would never come back.

Never say never

But then again… Never underestimate the power of your favourite movie, even the location can influence you immensely.

Guess what my favourite movie is! Go on, guess!

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Of course it is. Roman Holiday, what else. Roman Holiday was the reason we risked going back there,

and we definetely did NOT regret it! Get ready to hear some oohs and aahs…

 

GETTING THERE

We bought the cheapest tickets possible (Ryanair). We didn’t have luggage – you don’t need it!!! 10 kg of hand luggage should suffice. Logging it around isn’t much fun, and you won’t wear most of the extra clothes you bring. And, if you are honest… aren’t you planning on buying something truly Italian to wear while you’re here?

No cabs or special buses for us, the train brings you to the centre as well and it’s very comfortable. No problems whatsoever. I could even take a little nap.

GETTING AROUND

Instead of buying a public transport pass  for a couple of days (either around 6.00, 16.50 or 24.00 euro for 1, 3 or 7 days) we bought 10 individual metro tickets (you only pay 9). We walked all around Rome and only took the metro when we absolutely had to . You see so much more when you walk! + need we say more: all those buttery treats can add as much as 5 pounds a trip (and they tend to go to the hips).

Btw, you only get to use one metro ticket one time . If you get out of the subway, you can’t use it anymore. However, you can use the same tickets on the bus (we think, well, we did, anyway), where you get an hour and a half no matter how many times you get off. You can also rent a city bike, just like in Paris. The Bikesharing program (tel. +39-06-57-003, http://www.bikesharing.roma.it) gives access to bikes all around the historic centre of Rome for the low price of €0.50  per half hour. Compare that to €4–€5 per hour from private rental firms. 24/7!

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We wanted some sort of guide, because our last trip was so bad, but we could only get a decent guide book in Italian. I took Italian in college but this was something else! It was fun though

SLEEPING: SOCIAL NETWORK

Internet is a wonderful wonderful thing. Use your contacts to find a place to crash! Ask friends to ask friends to ask friends if they know anyone who lives in the place you want to visit. Otherwise; use sites such as www.couchsurfing.com or another faithful one:  www.airbnb.com (although some cities are starting to ban airbnb because people are no longer wanting to stay in a hotel- I wonder why?)

We slept in a  comfy sofa bed in an artistic small space for 15 euro a person a night. The place belonged to a lovely opera singer, and her personality was visible in every square inch of the apartment.

"Our" place
“Our” place

Some people might perceive that to be a problem and prefer the neutral environment of a hotel, but I definitely want to be in a space where you can actually feel people are living rather than just staying.

View from our 5th floor walkup
View from our 5th floor walkup

And most important of all: it had a coffee bar right in front of the building! The coffee was crazy strong (and I am used to very strong espresso), the decoration seemed to be more appropriate for a funky nightclub and the waiter was extremely weird, but we called it home that week!

We stayed in the San Giovanni part of Rome, which we really liked. I would avoid the Termini, although it is handy because of the train station, I really don’t like the neighbourhood.

WHEN IN ROMA ANTICA…

10456082_10152473277017486_4345513889253194328_nAudrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_at_the_Mouth_of_Truth_Roman_Holiday_trailer

La Bocca della Verità (English: the Mouth of Truth) Served as a lie detector since the Middle Ages.

It was believed that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off.  (We didn’t even try 😀 )

 

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The Colosseum was a bit too expensive to enter so we just read about it whilst sitting in front of it, enjoying the view without breaking the bank.

 

 

 

 

If you go up close to the Coloseum, you’ll find the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the oranges) – Free entrance. It ‘s a prime spot for anyone who’s in love or who likes a stunning view.

Giardino degli Aranci; Via di Santa Sabina, Rome, Italy
Giardino degli Aranci;
Via di Santa Sabina, Rome, Italy
view from Giardino degli Aranci; Via di Santa Sabina, Rome, Italy
view from Giardino degli Aranci; Via di Santa Sabina, Rome, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

Excellent plan in the pricey Roma Antica neighbourhood: buy your supplies at Alimentari Pannella Carmela (Don’t you just love the name?) at Via die Fienili 61, walk up until you reach the via di Monte Tarpeo. Then you see Piazza Santa Maria Nova . You will be absolutely gobsmacked : the view over the Roman Forum is amazing. When you’re done being amazed, keep on walking all the way up. You will see a little square with benches with one of the best views of Rome we could find. Have a lovely picnic there and soak up some sun!

View from Via di Monte Tarpeo over Roman Forum
View from Via di Monte Tarpeo over Roman Forum
View from Capitolini
View from Capitolini

 

 

WHEN IN ROME … TRASTEVERE

Random alley in Trastevere
Random alley in Trastevere

Trastevere is absolutely beautiful. But avoid at weekends!

If you walk out of Trastevere and start climbing the Giancolo, you’ll find a magnificent view at the top over large parts of Rome, but the view over Vatican city is especially lovely. And there is a coffee/booze cart present 😀

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Wandering around this magnificent city might just be the very best thing you can do. Every time you think you’re just going to drop dead from the heat and the climbing, you discover views like this…

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Spend an afternoon reading your favourite book overlooking the city

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EATING & DRINKING

Breakfast

Don’t you dare miss breakfast!!!!! “Vorrei un espresso e due cornetti, per favore/ Vorrei un espresso e un brioche con gianduja” will get you in just the right mood to start your day in Rome. Just in case you were wondering, gianduja is the REAL nutella, although I personally think you can’t even compare the two. It’s just so delicious!(REMEMBER: if you sit at the bar, the price is about half of what you would pay for sitting on a terrace) .

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Coromandel… We walked in because of the name (I love the Coromandel region in New Zealand). And boy that was a good call! If you want to have a scrumptious breakfast (especially if you are one of the poor lot who chose a hotel with breakfast and is sick of the stale croissants with some horrible sugary filling: this is the place for you! I celebrated my birthday by having too many espressos and too many cornetti with guianduja here,  and I ❤ it. I can still taste it. I think I’ll try to make some guianduja myself, like, now. http://www.coromandel.it/

Coffee

Chill out. Live the dolce vita. Walk in the sun. Have too much coffee. In Rome, you can find some decent coffee practically everywhere.  I like to just discover new places (if you know the standards are good) Some of the treasures:

I was lost so I don't know where it is, but I do know it is somewhere near the Piazza Navona!
I was lost so I don’t know where it is, but I do know it is somewhere near the Piazza Navona!

 

Chilling in a bar writing some postcards.. bliss!

This bar is close to the Alimentari Pannella Carmela (where you can buy excellent picnic-supplies) , Via dei Fienili 61, go down the street. It's a nice neighbourhood bar in a very touristy area.
This bar is close to the Alimentari Pannella Carmela (where you can buy excellent picnic-supplies) , Via dei Fienili 61, go down the street. It’s a nice neighbourhood bar in a very touristy area.

 

We have an address on this one (close to the Pantheon):

Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè  Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82  00186 – Roma – Italia  Telefono/Fax: 00 39 06 68802048
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82
00186 – Roma – Italia
Telefono/Fax: 00 39 06 68802048

 

Ice cream- gelati

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Did I mention I love Audrey? Anyway, I figured out where the iconic ice cream came from, and of course I had to get some (even though that meant standing in a crowd of military men screaming at each other)

10401898_10152473251672486_2963769031129534997_n Why are you lookin’ at me like that??

Try the sorbetto al cioccolato fondente  [sorbetto al tschokolato]! Of course they will understand if you say it in English, or even if you point, but it just sounds so much better when you say it in Italian… Try it everywhere (but especially here. And in Trastevere. And …)

Via dei coronari 65-66, 00100 Rome, Italy
Via dei coronari 65-66, 00100 Rome, Italy

I saved the best for last: Fior Di Luna (Via della Lungaretta 96 , in the Trastevere neighbourhood) if like heaven in a bowl. You’ve got to try it!

Trastevere is one of the nicer areas in Rome, but at the weekends I think it turns into a big circus and you’ll do well to just stay away. But on weekdays… Mamma mia! Beautiful alleys, nice shops, bars and restaurants,..

Lunch

10482756_10152473277082486_1503797609612199729_nYou can go and have a slice of pizza anywhere, trastevere is a nice neighbourhood if you’re not there in the weekend.  There is a bakery close to the Campo di Fiori that sells amazing pizza (Forno di Campo de’ Fiori). Don’t stay there but keep walking away from the Campo di Fiori , you’ll find a beautiful, peaceful piazza (no idea what it’s called) where you can just have a lovely lunch sitting by the fountain. Although, I must admit, we did see a sea-gull brutally attack a pigeon while we were sitting there…

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Dinner

Picnic with a 5-star view
Picnic with a 5-star view


Don’t overspend on dinner. Be creative! Buy some bread and cheese, some olives and a bottle of wine and have a picnic on a hill overlooking Rome. 5-star view for free.

Yum
Yum

Another idea is to use  the “l’aperitivo”. (basically happy hour) After work, Italians meet for a drink and some tapas before dinner. I always have wine but if you want to go full on you’ll have to have a spritz (Prosecco or Aperol and sparkling water)Most restaurants and bars offer a selection of tapas along with your wine. The thing is: after these tapas you don’t really need dinner anymore. Our favourite bar bar none (no pun intended) is one we stumbled on while we were getting lost in our hunt for our gazillionth ice cream.  It’s called Caffè della Pace, (http://www.caffedellapace.it/ Via della Pace, 3/7 ) and it has a very cool, laid back atmosphere.  It’s really worth it to go and have a look (it’s not difficult to find, we are just not very good at not getting lost)

Water

Every Roman street has a piazza, every piazza has a fountain and every fountain has safe water- so even if you drink espressos all the live long day, you’ll never have to get thirsty.

Piazza with...
Piazza with…

FREE WIFI

Being the budget travellers we are, we always need some free Wi-Fi to plan our next visit or our next meal. Combine pleasure and planning by finding a free Wi-Fi bar, café or cinema. The trick for staying as long as possible on as tight a budget humanly possible is to order separately and thus gaining more free Wi-Fi time. Advantage: you get free snacks with each order placed. So the double amount of free snacks. Voila.

HOW TO MAKE RYANAIR FLIGHTS ENJOYABLE

Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t expect to be alone on the plane. As is to be expected from a low-budget-travel-means, you will be faced with numerous annoying people with cringe worthy habits that will send you through the roof if you expect a quiet ride. DON’T-DO-IT!!!! It’s never gonna happen unless you book yourself a private jet plane (and what’s the fun in that?)

Bring cookies. (Need we say more?)

Bring lightweight books. Who are you kidding with your intelligent literature? You’ll never be able to concentrate amidst all the  screaming, the noise, the take off and landing,… Anyway, bring your happy-go-lucky chicken soup for the soul and you’ll do yourself a huge favour.

Bring socks- the air-conditioning  on full blast seems heaven the first few minutes, but you can get really chilly after that.

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Italian on the go

Italians are a friendly lot, and they tend to get even more friendly if you attempt to speak their language. Some useful phrases and words:

  • Parla Inglese?   Do you speak English?
  • Grazie [gradzie] Thank You
  • Prego You’re welcome
  • Per favore – Per Piacere  [per piatchere] Please- with pleasure
  • Ciao  Hello / Goodbye
  • Buon Giorno   Good Morning – Good Afternoon
  • Buona Sera Good Evening
  • Buona notte Good Night
  • Arrivederci  Goodbye
  • Scusi (informal) Scusa (formal)  Excuse me
  • Come sta? (singular)   How are you?
  • Quanto costa?   How much does it cost?
  • Dov’è ….? [doové]  Where is …?
  • Dove posso trovare un…/  Where can I find a…
  • Vorrei qualcosa da mangiare  [vorrei kwalkosa da mandzjare] I  would like something to eat
  • Vorrei qualcosa da bere  [vorrei kwalkosa da bere] I would like something to drink
  • Il conto, per favore.  Check please. (This is the only phrase my boyfriend ever mastered. If you hear his name you’ll never believe it: Gino)
  • Bagno  Toilet
  • Mangiare  To eat (verb)
  • ristorante  restaurant
  • Stazione  Train station
  • Polizia / Carabinieri  Police
  • Taxi  Taxi
  • Fermata dell’autobus  Bus stop
  • Aeroporto  Airport
  • Farmacia  Pharmacy
  • Medico  Doctor
  • Ostello  Hostel
  • Supermercato  Food store
  • Negozio  Shop
  • Ospedale  Hospital
  • Museo  Museum
  • Biglietteria  Ticket desk
  • Guida turistica  Guidebook
  • Visita guidata  Guided tour
  • Orario di apertura  Opening time
  • Spingere  Push (a door) (this will come in handy if you read it on a door and don’t know if it means push or pull!)
  • Tirare  Pull (a door)
  • Bar  Cafeteria
  • No grazie  No thanks
  • Sì grazie  Yes thanks
  • Vai via!  Go away!
  • Girls: this may come in handy:
  • Assorbenti interni  Tampons
  • Assorbenti  Pads
  • Sono incinta  I am pregnant
  • Very important if you have any allergies (one tip: they tend to not really pay attention! Make sure they hear you)
  • Sono allergico a…  I am allergic to…
  • Senza zucchero  Sugarfree
  • Senza glutine  Gluten – free
  • Sono celiaca   I am celiac
  • Senza soia  Soy – free
  • Senza lattosio  Lactose – free
  • Senza uova  Egg – free

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Staying in Paris on a budget

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We assume only girls will follow this reasoning: we economized on sleeping, eating and transportation, but we did spend some money on shopping, french breakfasts and wine.

GETTING AROUND   dsc_0345

Instead of buying a Paris Visite- metro card for a couple of days (either around 17, 24, 34 euro for 1, 2 or 3 days) we bought 10 individual metro tickets (you only pay 9). We walked all around Paris and only took the metro when we absolutely had to . You see so much more when you walk! + need we say more: all those buttery croissants can add as much as 5 pounds a trip (and they tend to go to the hips), and walking all around Paris is an excellent way to avoid the Paris 5.

Furthermore: you only get to use one metro ticket one time . If you get out of the subway, you can’t use it anymore. However, you can use the same tickets on the bus, where you get an hour and a half no matter how many times you get off. You can also take a city bike, which costs around 1,70 for 30 mins.  (www.velib.fr)

SLEEPING: SOCIAL NETWORK

Internet is a wonderful wonderful thing. Use your contacts to find a place to crash! Ask friends to ask friends to ask friends if they know anyone who lives in the place you want to visit. Otherwise; use sites such as www.couchsurfing.com (or http://www.appartager.com  for a longer stay in Paris).

We slept in a real bed (okay, we admit, we do have some back pain at the moment) in a cozy closet-sized space for 5 euro a person a night.

WHEN IN PARIS (or anywhere)…  BE PARISIAN

it’s depressing  how Parisian girls can look effortlessly stylish. You can, depending on your self-esteem, feel like a clumsy, overdressed elephant in under ten to twenty seconds. Luckily, we stayed with such girls and were able to sneak a close peek in their lives and bathrooms. We discovered some of their secrets.

First of all: they just look like they didn’t really try to look gorgeous but do anyway. it’s actually very well thought out. They all live in a very small space, which results in very small wardrobes as well. This means they choose one color and they stick by it. Like the grand dame Coco herself, they choose black. They might accessorize with nudes and greys, but they stick to their favorite color no matter what.

Their make-up looks like they’re all fair-faced maidens out of an annoying fairy tale, but a closer look into their bathrooms revealed they use quite a bit of makeup. Hauschka for the organic lovers, Givenchy for the others as a fond de teint. Some blusher. Yves Saint Laurent Mascara (or another high quality one). An nude, brown or gold eye shadow you use in a fine line all around your eyes (instead of an eyeliner), a Chanel lipstick and you’re set!

Second of all: they buy the very best they can buy for the money they can spend. And I mean this literally. Even girls living in the dodgy end of Paris in a 16 m2 apartment buy organic food and wine, spray Chanel nr 5, use O.P.I for their nails, and have designer handbags and Dior sunglasses.  They just don’t have a LOT of it (they haven’t got the room for it anyway).

Thirdly, they have the attitude. Never ever change your path when you are walking, even if someone is coming right at you. Just look at your friend or straight ahead and you’ll win every chicken race. Never say please or thank you to anyone who might look like an outsider (and with outsider we mean anyone who doesn’t live in Paris city) or just if you can help it.

Lastly: wear a scarf. If you want the Parisian feel, never go ANYWHERE without a scarf.

Et voila, you’re practically a Parisian already!

SHOPPING MEKKA

VINTAGE BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paris is, to no one’s surprise, fashion heaven. The amount of vintage shops is astounding. Why on earth would you go the Chanel store in rue Cambon if you can find a vintage 1940’s handbag that has the olde worlde feel in every stitch and chain? Why buy over the top Dior sunglasses when you can have a 1950’s one that’s sold by a woman using a cigarette holder in one hand and a mirror in the other?

But forget about the brands. Paris has style without brands. We found 2 woolen cape jackets, tons of beautiful shirts, skirts and handbags for the price of a decent Parisian meal. We’re on our way home with five (!) extra bags full of beautiful clothes that look like they’re made for us but are actually getting a second life. The Kilo shops really are the place to be. You have 2 in Le Marais and another one in the 1st arrondissement.  (http://kilo-shop.fr/) You can weigh anything you want to buy in the scales scattered all over the shop and immediately see how much it would be. But never fear; a big smile and a small chat can go a LONG way in changing the price…

EATING & DRINKING   dsc_0304

Paris equals fine dining, amazing wine,.. and so on. However, most of those dining experiences are well out of our budget.

What we couldn’t miss, however, is le moelleux from le petit marché (9 rue de Bearn) we didn’t buy anything else, so we felt like we could get one moelleux to share (9euro). If you have some cash to spare, take a main course as well, you won’t regret it.

http://www.stillservedwarm.com/dining-at-le-marais-le-petit-marche-paris/
http://www.stillservedwarm.com/dining-at-le-marais-le-petit-marche-paris/

Check  this for some more pics!

What you can’t miss: breakfast!!!!! Un croissant et un p’tit noir au comptoir (a croissant and an espresso at the bar) is all you need to start your day off just right. (REMEMBER: if you sit at the bar, the price is about half of what you would pay for sitting on a terrace) . If you’re visiting Paris in warmer weather, just take your viennoiseries (baked goods) outside and have a picnic.

Don’t overspend on dinner. Be creative! Buy a one-euro tabouleh in the supermarket and pimp it with some rocket salad, avocado, tomatoes or good olive oil. Think Jamie.

FREE WIFI

Budget travelers as we are, we always need some free Wi-Fi to plan our next visit or our ride home. Combine pleasure and planning by finding a free Wi-Fi brasserie, café or cinema. The trick for staying as long as possible on as tight a budget humanly possible is to order separately and thus gaining more free Wi-Fi time. Advantage: you get free snacks with each order placed. So the double amount of free snacks. Voila. Always ask in advance if the Wi-Fi is turned on because busy cafés tend to turn it off between noon and 3 am.

HOW TO MAKE LONG BUS RIDES ENJOYABLE dsc_0414

Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t expect to be alone on the bus. As is to be expected from a low-budget-travel-means, you will be faced with numerous annoying people with cringeworthy habits that will send you through the roof if you expect a quiet ride. DON’T-DO-IT!!!! It’s never gonna happen unless you book yourself a private jet plane (and what’s the fun in that?)

Bring some wine. Really, you’re gonna need it. That adorable two-year-old that was smiling so angelically? We can guarantee you it’s going to start screaming at one point. And it’s going to be sooner rather than later. Wine will make the screaming a lot less nerve-racking.

Bring cookies. (Need we say more?)

Bring cards so you can be the person playing solitaire.

Bring lightweight books. Who are you kidding with your intelligent literature? You’ll never be able to concentrate amidst all the previous mentioned screaming, the fourth fast and the furious rerun, the girl next to you playing solitaire, and the two annoying giggling girls in the back drinking the aforementioned booze (oh wait, that’s us, come and say hi!). Anyway, bring your happy-go-lucky chicken soup for the soul and you’ll do yourself a gigantic favor.

FAILURES

Getting in without a ticket

There was a (supposedly excellent) exposition of Brassaï in the Hotel de Ville when we were visiting. Because it was free, the line was insane. Naturally, we tried to get in there another way. We walked all around the hotel, trying every door and even the car park. We considered jumping over the fence, but that seemed a little extreme. We tried to get through by going to another expo in the same building that wasn’t as popular (no wonder, as it was about the murdered soldiers in the first world war). Even as we were only pretending to go to the expo to find an unguarded door, we got depressed. We tried chatting up the soldiers outside, but all we got were some lewd comments… We abandoned the mission in search for some ice cream mid- project. Lesson learned? Don’t be a sissy and climb that wall .

The trip home: where did we go wrong?

We had it all planned out: we contacted a couple of people on taxistop (www.eurostop.com). We chatted with one guy who was going to Brussels the same day we wanted to get back. Sadly, suddenly we couldn’t get through anymore, he didn’t answer any of our messages,…  So we had to book 2 bus tickets (as these were the last two tickets and Lien had to be at school the next day). But alas… an hour after we booked the tickets, our ride suddenly called back and asked if we were still coming along! Too little, too late. Lesson learned? Always get an extra day if you’re travelling ad hoc.

Going to Paris on the cheap

How do you visit one of the world’s most expensive (or the most expensive for all I care) cities without robbing a bank? It’s very easy, really.

First of all: how do you get there? If you decide well in advance, you can take the bus from most European cities, but if you decide last minute, like we always do, it’s too expensive.

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Hitchhike! If you have something to defend you with, running shoes, and a cell phone, hitchhiking can be loads of fun! You meet new people, you never forget travelling this way, and your adventure doesn’t just start when you reach you destination, it starts way before that, from the moment you start writing the name of your destination on a cardboard cutout…

A couple of rules still apply: Girls: do NOT wear anything too sexy (trainers and a big smile should do the trick), guys: try not to dress too boho (for obvious reasons). First hitchhike your way to a major gas station with a restaurant of some sort. Start asking people you deem trustworthy if they are going in the direction of the city you want to see. You never get in a car with more people than the number you’re with. We didn’t want to get into vans either, and tried to ask small families, women, and truck drivers (they are thoroughly screened on the crazy-factor). We had a sign but we didn’t want to go and stand at the side of the road, because then you can’t control who’ll stop and if you want to get in with them.

After an hour and a half of “no’s”, we saw a bus driver with an empty bus. “Hey”, we thought, “maybe he’s going to Paris to pick up some people! lets ask!” And so we did. The bus driver barely nodded (we assume he’s not supposed to pick up hitchhikers) and let us on the bus. He went to a town close to Paris. Sebastian, a middle aged man, unhappy in his job but really he was a nice, kind Italian. He loved to chat and even made us some espresso (because no self respecting Italian bus driver would NOT have an espresso machine in his bus (or so he said).

4 hours later we reached the suburbs of Paris (not the nicest place to be), caught a train to the center and reached our destination for less than 5 euro’s each. We took about 7 hours to get there, but we had such a blast on the way we didn’t even care.

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