Hotels and Airfare: Booked
€uros: Purchased (well, at least enough to pay for our hotels and Germany portion of the trip. May need to get some more....)
Research: Never ending. But I *love* it, so it is all good...
Planning: Quite possibly the most fun thing of all. See 'Research'
Travel info/map book: Paris and Rome portions are complete, still working on Amsterdam and Germany, but those two areas are much lower key with less actual planning needed. Which stresses me out, to be honest. I don't *know* what I will do...I have options to choose from. Lots of options.
Excitement: Ramping up!!
Getting down to the nitty gritty here! I am still working on my book, which is truly a labor of love. I used to carry it in my bag to work, so I could add to it while here, but now I am worried that something could happen and it could get stolen, and that would so much suck...so I leave it at home. Gotta get over that. It will be awesome and useful and all that. I need to find a large rubberband to help keep it closed, though. Too much paper added inside of it, the magnet can't quite reach to keep it closed very securely.
I am also bringing a phrase book with German/French/Italian in it. I am going to cut it up into sections (by language) and separate it out and bring it. The most important parts are the menu decoders. I am learning how to ask if there is seafood in a dish in three languages. Go, me!!
Other than the phrase book and my own personal travel bible, we are bringing a street map of Paris, and either an iPod touch or cheapo mp3 player. I reallyreallyreally want an iPod touch, but was planning to sell my wedding dress to finance it, and that hasn't happened yet. I dropped the price on the dress by $40 today, so we will see if that sweetens the pot enough. Fingers crossed!!
The mp3 player will be for downloaded podcasts to take with us in areas that we are not paying for a tour guide--(still determining which areas those will be...)the colosseum and Vatican in Rome, etc, etc. Better to have info on what exactly it is you are looking at, rather than just looking and not understanding.
The iPod touch would also download podcasts, but also maps and apps for the Paris transit system (even though I have already looked up which exact trains and which exact stops I need to be using...more info NEVER hurts...), and lots of other useful travel gadgets. And music, stuff like that. We are bringing the laptop with us, both for photo dumping off the memory cards, and also to keep in touch with work (Ethan) and blog (alyca). Ethan has a messenger bag that the laptop fits into for travel, then we will leave it in our hotel rooms and take the messenger bag as a day-bag for our whirlwind touring.
I still need to figure out what exactly we are doing in Germany--definitely a few castles, maybe a chairlift/viewpoint hike, wine and cheese tasting, etc. Gotta sort that out.
Amsterdam, I know WHAT we are doing, but not WHEN. We will do the Dutch Resistance Museum (WWII), Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum (Ethan says it was cool), Keukenhof gardens (half-day or more trip for a billion picture opportunities), 22-mile bike ride along canals and windmills (Ethan did it a couple years ago and LOVED it), and random relaxation. Except for April 30, which is Queen's Day, a national holiday and celebration where an additional 1 million people pour into Amsterdam and party like it's 1999 for the day. Old people, young people, etc, etc. Music galore, yard sales by little kids. Craziness. No public transportation available, and nothing will be open...so we will have to see how that day shapes up. Probably not our most awesome, but I am told it is a 'must do' at least once. But we (Ethan) are not crowd people, so I am not sure how fun it will truly be. But, I have my orange shirt all prepared, and I am ready to give it my all!!
Paris, we do the Sacre Coeur church and Opera Garnier the first day, followed by an evening bike tour of all the sites lit up at night, and a boat cruise afterwards. The next day, it is off to the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb, then the Rodin Museum gardens (to see the Thinker). Then over to the Arc de Triomphe (may go to a nearby hotel with a fabulous 35th floor bar with billion dollar views first...), walk down the Champs Elysees, then view the Petit and Grand Palais', over to l'Orangerrie museum to see Monet's water lilies, then back to the hotel to crash....and up again to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.
Our last full day in Paris involves Notre Dame, St Chapelle, Cluny Museum (to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries), then the Pantheon, Luxembourg gardens, Church of St Sulpice, and St Germain des Pres for dinner and mimes and street artists.
A very full city.
In Rome the next morning, we tour several churches, the Cappucin crypt, National Museum of Rome, then walk the Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazzas Colonna and Navona, Campo di Fiori, and the Pantheon. Hopefully at sunset when these are all lit up. I am unsure how this will all work, since I want to see the Pantheon during the day, and the other sites at night. And some nearby churches, too. Amazingly beautifullness is inside.
Next day, we do the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill, then Capitol Hill, Capitoline Museums, and Largo Argentina (cat sanctuary).
Our last full day is reserved for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica and Castel St Angelo.
Then we come home and deal with insomnia and look forward to going back to work. Actually, we come home and I disappear into my scrapbook room until I have photos edited and beautified.
After all this, our next vacation: Heading to Florida in September to watch the last space shuttle launch. A must see, in our opinions. Last chance, too. I just hope weather cooperates and we are actually able to watch!! You better believe we will photograph the heck out of that.