Tag Archives: Paris

European destinations I have almost been to

I’ve been living in the heart of Europe for over 12 years. In this time, I have visited dozens of countries on countless trips, short and long (the European countries I’ve been to are shown in the map). But some destinations, however classic or accessible, keep eluding me. So, I haven’t been to Paris. From Rotterdam, where I live, its only 3 hours away by high-speed train, and tickets are sold as cheap as 50 Euro, but I somehow managed to miss on Paris entirely. Closest I’ve been was passing by on the Boulevard Périphérique on my way to the Mediterranean sun. Brussels, which is much closer, I haven’t visited too. I’ve been all over Belgium, have flown out of Brussels’s airports many times, but as far as the city itself is concerned, I have only got as far as the Belgian fries stand outside the Central Station. OK, it’s more than the average Contiki “traveller” gets to see, but I still don’t feel like I’ve been to Brussels.

Speaking of airports, the airports of Barcelona and Rome are the only part of these famous cities that I have seen. I honestly intended to spend a few days in Barcelona with my girlfriend (now known as wife), but delays and mechanical mishaps on the way meant we headed straight into the Pyrenees and that Barcelona is still on my wish list. In the meantime, I settle for Barcelona, the neighbourhood tapas bar. Rome I have passed a few times, flying to and from Israel to visit the family. The Italian national carrier, Alitalia, is famous for its strikes, and if I got “lucky” I could have got stuck in Rome for a day or two as a result of one of those strikes. But their numerous strikes seemed always to be unsynchronized with my travels. My luggage, on the other hand, got to spend a vacation without me on several of those occasions – Alitalia managed to lose it on 3 out of 4 flights, delivering it anywhere between 1 day and a week later.

Another European capital that is on everyone’s lips is Budapest. I have, in fact, spent about 12 hours there on another layover on my way to Israel. But I arrived at the dead of night, went straight to a friend’s apartment to sleep a few hours and went back to the airport to catch my flight, so I don’t think it counts. Warsaw, another of Eastern Europe’s gems, I could have reached by a night train from nearby Cologne. I haven’t even seen the airport of Warsaw – like that British pilot in Frankfurt, I flied over several times but never landed.

Last but not least – one of the first European cities I have almost been to was Bucharest, the capital of Romania. I was there way back in 1991, as we immigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel. Inside the Communist block, Israel had diplomatic relations only with Romania, so most Soviet Jews stopped in Romania first as they left, before going to Israel. I have spent there a full two days, lodged in former Soviet barracks, which I am sure does not qualify as “have visited Bucharest”. All in all, despite, as I said, having lived more than 12 years in the heart of Europe, in a place with probably the best connections to everywhere and extensive travels, I still have a whole lot of Europe to discover. Lucky me.

Who cares about Paris, when you can go to Sint Oedenrode? This is my stay on the latest weekend getaway - B&B 't Nachtegaeltje.

Who cares about Paris, when you can go to Sint Oedenrode? This is my stay on the latest weekend getaway – B&B ‘t Nachtegaeltje.

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The 7 things I now understand a little bit better about Americans (in Europe)

My post titled “7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe” keeps drawing new comments, and not all of them are friendly. But I welcome them all, since the goal of the post was, in fact, to learn more about Americans in Europe and why they behave the way they do. Thanks to all those people (mostly Americans) who took the trouble to comment, I have indeed learned a few new things.

  1. Why don’t they drink tap water?
    Still unexplained. Possible answers were “Maybe it’s because we’re next to Mexico”, blaming low quality of tap water in some parts of Europe (and extrapolation to other parts), and more generalizing “American paranoia” (the last one is from an American, I merely quote here).
  2. Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
    I was duly pointed to the fact that “Certain parts of Europe do in fact have low seasons, they just tend to be tourist magnets.” So yes, some sea-side resorts have low seasons, but the weather then is rather bad, and most businesses are closed, so in fact, they have no season at all then. If you’re going to Ibiza or Dubrovnik in the “low season” be prepared to visit a ghost town.
  3. Why do they use money belts? and
  4. Why don’t they use ATM’s?
    Commentators combined answers to these two questions, so I guess they are related.  I can live with the explanation that (some) Americans are not used to the crowds – “In America, we usually drive in cars and don’t walk much or use public transport.” Another commenter says that “pickpocketing certainly exists across the globe but is pronounced in Europe due to social problems.” I tend to disagree with this broad statement – social problems anywhere in Europe are nothing compared to India or Latin America. Perhaps, indeed, as another commenter suggests, “Money belts are a combination of paranoia and ignorance.”
    As far as ATM’s are concerned, apparently, “For Americans, ATMs often have very high fees for foreign transactions.” On the other hand, it does not apply for all Americans, as these comments clearly show: “Money belts are stupid. My wife and I use ATMs.” “I have never owned a money belt! They’re totally useless. I find that you’re better off with a little bit of street smarts and an ATM card with no international fees.”
  5. Why are they in such a rush?
    The most common explanation is the one I originally came up with myself – limited vacation days. But, as I’ve written in another post, the shocking truth is that Americans don’t even use the little leave they have! Why they insist on choosing quantity instead of quality? One commenter explains it as follows: “I could sit around in cafés or parks lounging and relaxing but how is that any better than moving at a fast pace to see as many sights and museums as possible?” Personally, I think a good vacation is exactly the opposite of “moving at a fast pace”, and is actually intended for relaxing. But has made a career out of writing about it, so I’ll refer all further questions to him.
  6. Why don’t they have a clue?
    Still a bit vague here, even though my question seems justified. Apparently, “most Americans think of Europe as Disneyland”. This is perhaps explained by “They don’t have a clue because they are never taught to be curious about what the rest of the world is like”, although it seems a broad generalization. But, as one commenter rightfully pointed out, “99% of them won’t even come over to Europe for not having enough time so, support the ones that do!” I couldn’t agree more.
  7. What’s up with Paris?
    As one commenter puts it, “there’s an unhealthy obsession in American culture with Paris as the capital of romance and beauty. Personally, I think it is neither.” On the other hand, another commenter says “I don’t know if I can explain Paris if you haven’t been there. I don’t think I would want to live in Paris, but as a tourist, I love Paris. ” According to others, “Paris is dirty, overhyped, and overrun with tourists”, “Paris is incredible but it’s also a dirty, angry city with tons of social problems.” So there’s definitely something about Paris, I just didn’t have the chance to check it out for myself yet.

It does appear that my post has hit a nerve, even though for some it was the wrong nerve – if you want to know more, check out the comments of the original post here. I still don’t understand (some) Americans, but thanks to the feedback, I understand them a little bit better. More comments are warmly welcomed!

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7 things I don’t understand about Americans in Europe

Perhaps its because I haven’t been to the USA. Or its just me and it seems perfectly logical to everyone else. But there are quite a few things about Americans in Europe that I just don’t get. These 7 are the ones that puzzle me the most.

  1. Why don’t they drink tap water?
    I agree, tap water is not the same everywhere. Even in some European countries (like Ukraine) tap water is not safe to drink. But Americans buy bottled water even in the Netherlands, where tap water is the purest, safest, tastiest in the world. Somehow, they seem to think its “not done” to order tap water in a European restaurant, and some of them are fixed on the idea Europeans don’t drink tap water.
  2. Why do they think Europe has a “low season”?
    Having climbed to the top of Mount Pilatus above Luzern in April, I was shocked to meet dozens of Russians, the women plowing the 2 meter deep snow on high heels. The cable car was already running. What low season?

    Having climbed to the top of Mount Pilatus above Luzern in April, I was shocked to meet dozens of Russians, the women plowing the 2 meter deep snow on high heels. The cable car was already running. What low season?

    Americans see Europe as some Caribbean resort, that only opens when tourists are there. Therefore, half of them avoids Europe outside that imaginary “low season” because they think Europe is “closed”, and the other half only goes in the so-called “low season” because Europe is supposedly “packed” in the high season. Europe is full of Europeans, and they keep Europe busy even when the Americans are not around. November to March is “low season”? Don’t forget the Christmas and Spring vacations and the skiing resorts are filled to the rim.

  3. Why do they use money belts?
    To the average American, Europe is a thief’s paradise. Scared of pickpockets, Americans in Europe resort to using those silly money belts. As a result, every time an American has to pay, every pickpocket knows exactly where the said American stores all his money. If they’d just use ATM’s, they wouldn’t have to carry all their money around and be such a tempting target, but…
  4. Why don’t they use ATM’s?
    Why are Americans changing money? Don’t they have ATM’s in America? Why would anyone want to carry a stack of $$ all the way to Europe instead of just using a plastic card to draw money out of any ATM machine? They must think they’re going to Somalia or something. Some Americans are actually using traveller’s cheques. You gotta be kidding me! That’s, like, so 19th century!
  5. Why are they in such a rush?
    The average American in Europe, whether on an organized tour that promises a European “experience” or travelling independently, is in a horrible rush. Their schedule includes on average 3-4 hours a day on a bus or train, not including boarding and disembarking. Add to that an hour for checking in and out of the hotel every day (since they’re in a new town every evening) and there is very little time left for “experiencing” anything but lack of time. I know Americans have limited leave days, but why not use your vacation as it is intended – for relaxing?
  6. Why don’t they have a clue?
    No, I don’t expect them to know everything about their destinations. But you’d think a minimal level of knowledge is not too much? At least try to browse through a couple of Wikitravel pages before going somewhere, why don’t you? Nowhere is this lack of clue more severely shown than in Amsterdam. I understand and know from personal experience that reading about the Red Light District and the coffee shops is one thing, and seeing them “live” is another.  But being surprised they even exist? That’s just too weird.
  7. What’s up with Paris?
    I admit, I haven’t been there myself, so it might be I am wrong. I’ll do my best to check it out ASAP. But I honestly can’t imagine what can be so damn wonderful about Paris that every American dreams of going there and once they’ve been there, goes on and on about how great it is. Do they have a “Paris admiration class” in high school or something?

Of course, the above does not apply to Americans only. A lot of Australians in Europe have the same issues. More seriously – of course, I know it does not apply to all Americans. But many Americans visiting Europe travel like they’re trying to relive the Eurotrip movie or at least as if the said movie is their only source of information about this diverse continent. And that is what I understand least of all.

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