I am going to Europe this Summer for two and a half weeks. The first leg of my trip will be spent with Dan and his family as we retrace his grandfather's footsteps as a soldier in World War II. The second leg of my trip will be spent with my childhood best friend, Nell, who currently lives in London. We slacked off in planning so we couldn't find bargain flights anymore. She wasn't too keen on flying out of the smaller airports that are more than an hour away with multiple rail and bus transfers.
BUT, she is willing to sit in a Megabus for 8+ hours. So, we will meet in Paris and fly to Milan from there. Milan was the only cheap flight we were interested in. She really wanted to go to Santorini but the logistics became too complicated and the trip too short to fly to Athens then ferry to Naxos.
So, Milan it is! The places of interest in Italy that I came up with are the Dolomites, Venice, countryside (Tuscany) and seaside or coastal (Cinque Terre or Positano/Naples). Cinque Terre is the most accessible to Milan and has neighboring seaside villages that may still be affordable to our budget. The rest are either too expensive, too hot/buggy or just way too far. From the photos I've seen, Cinque Terre is a colorful version of our hometown, Baguio City, perched seaside. The winding, terraced paths feel familiar.
I have read a lot of negative articles on Cinque Terre's summer overcrowding and closed trails due to mudslides. Rick Steves comes up a lot with fingers pointing at him blaming him for making the place too famous for tourists, especially Americans. Well, the good thing with traveling with Nell, we couldn't care less where we are. We've spent so many times together in the shittiest of places and situations. We are still hoping for a good travel experience but the destination really is only about 10% responsible.
So, here's how I plan trips: flights, accommodation, and transfers. The destinations I pick mostly rely on prices (season) and access (cheap flights). I do not go into detail what to do each and every hour of the day, maps of every nook and cranny. I find it most important to just get to point A to point B, a place to stay in each night. I book through websites that offer free cancellation, just in case I find a better deal. The rest is serendipity.
Flights and Transfers
EasyJet baggage allowance: http://www.easyjet.com/en/help/preparing-to-fly/baggage
We are flying from Paris Charles de Gaulles (CDG) to Milan Linate (LIN) through EasyJet. So, Nell has to find a way to get to the airport from Bercy where she will be spit out by her Megabus. I found two ways:
- Transfer from Bercy to Les Halles Chatelet (14) then Chatelet to CDG (RER-B).
- Buy an Air France airport transfer pass here and walk to Gare de Lyon to board the bus to CDG.
From Milan LIN to the Milan Central train station, we will take the airport transfer bus. It will spit us out right at the Milan Central train station where we will be boarding to get to Cinque Terre the next day: http://www.atm-mi.it/en/AltriServizi/Trasporto/Pages/airbus.aspx
From Levanto, it's about a 10 minute walk from the train station to the guesthouse/villa. Levanto will be our base as we explore the area. It is a 4mins train ride from Cinque Terre villages. There is also a hiking path that connects Levanto to the villages.
Milan - Hotel Centrale, 15 minute walk from the train station.
Levanto - Hotel Villa Gentile, central location about 10 minute walk from the train station.
Milan - Holiday Inn, free airport shuttle.
Paris - Ibis Bercy, near Nell's Megabus station and two transfers to CDG airport for me.
Although Cinque Terre is the main destination, the surrounding towns are probably just as charming and less crowded so when we get there, we will ask about less busy villages paths. Otherwise, Nell and I will be content with sipping wine and people watching from a corner in the main square.
My impression of Milan is modern and hectic, we will probably end up just sipping wine in a corner, again. We do know acquaintances in the area so if the timing is right, maybe we can meet up with them.
Lastly, it will be Nell's second time in Paris and my third so sight-seeing will be not be in the list. A glass of wine close to where we will be staying (12th Arr./Bercy) will be good enough. If we get a second wind, I would love to go to Montmartre again.
The trip is about two months away. I have picked up a bunch of hours to offset the costs! Now, I just have to drag myself out of bed and get to work!