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30th June
written by Hazel

I haven’t been looking forward to writing this post.  To be honest, we hit a pretty low point in our trip and it threw both of us for pretty ugly loops.  I don’t want to dwell on it, but I think there are some traveling lessons to be learned, and we’ve had to adjust recently.  We got very accustomed to being able to plan a day or two ahead of time and just show up places and have things work out.  This is not the way that Europe works.  Especially in the summer.  Especially if you’re trying to save money.

We discovered this in a dramatic fashion.  The night before we left London I booked us a bus from London to Paris (which is really kind of cool – they put the bus on a train and take the train through the chunnel!) and then started trying to look for a place to stay.  It was late and we may have had a drink or two with our friends and we just wanted to go to sleep since we had to get up early for our bus.  But we couldn’t find a single hotel or hostel online in Paris for the next night for less than 200 Euros.  Total panic ensued.  And we still didn’t have a place to stay when we left the next morning.  We also didn’t have our bus ticket printed, but that was easily solved with an internet cafe across the street from London Victoria Coach Station.

By the time we got to Paris in the evening we were worried, tired, stressed out and figured we had two choices.  We could jump right into our Eurail pass and take a train to somewhere smaller where we thought we could get cheaper accommodation, or we could wander the streets of Paris fairly randomly until we found a place to stay.  We flipped through the train timetable (which we have since become very well acquainted with) and picked Strasbourg since we wanted very much to go there and there was a train leaving soon and it was only a two hour trip by TGV.

We took the Metro to the train station and then managed to find the ticket counter with only a little difficulty.  I had six years of French, but it was a long time ago and I was so stressed out about not having a place to stay that I wasn’t in a great state of mind.  I tried though, and we found out that there were no seats left to Strasbourg!  This all may not seem like much of a big deal, but it was such a change from how things had gone on the trip so far that we were struggling.

Eventually we decided to take one of the only other trains available and go to Luxembourg.  We got our tickets seven minutes before the train left on the other side of the station, ran over there, and collapsed on the train.  But we still didn’t have a place to stay.  Our guidebook listed only one hostel and it was some distance from the train station.  And the final blow fell when we stepped off the train and it was absolutely pouring with rain.  It was about ten o’clock by then, dark and not at all pleasant.  We were so desperate that we went into the first hotel we could see, a Best Western, right across from the train station.  The man at the desk very kindly informed us that they only had one room left and it could be ours for only 400 Euros and then made the claim that it was the ONLY room available in all of Luxembourg City.  I almost lost it at this point.  Justin asked if there was any internet access and started looking for other places.  The one hostel was full.  No other hotels were showing up.

We knew there were other hotels though because there were many in the region of the train station.  So we walked down a slightly seedy street and in the first lucky turn of events of the day the next hotel we saw had a room available for a tenth of the price of the Best Western.  We were so relieved to have a safe, warm place to stay.  And by the time we woke up the next day we realized that we were happy enough with the hotel to book a second night to give ourselves some time to get organized.  I would like to say that everything went smoothly from there, but we had a couple more bumpy days in store.

Lessons learned:

  • You definitely can’t use the same travel strategies in every place!
  • It is always a good idea to book ahead if you know where you want to be going.
  • There can be a very fine balance between being flexible and going with the flow and being unprepared.
  • Europe in the summer probably needs quite a bit of planning.

1 Comment

  1. sam

    I’m just glad you guys managed to stay safe and that nothing bad happened!

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