I’m back! I bet you guys didn’t even notice I was gone. My birthday was last week and I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Paris and Rome with my mom.
I debated on whether or not I should write about this trip. I’ve been talking on and off with someone I know about traveling to Europe and figured maybe I should turn this into a post on tips for traveling to France/Rome. So, here are 4 things I learned on my first trip to Europe!
Money exchange stations exist to legally rob you!
I’m lucky to have friends that have traveled and studied abroad. Almost all of them warned me to stay away from money exchange stations. I also read online that the rates are always higher at these places. For those of you who don’t know about money exchange, the Euro is worth more than the dollar. While I was there, the Euro was worth 24¢ more than the dollar. We stopped at an exchange station in the airport. To withdraw 200€ from my bank account would’ve cost me $299 at the station. Following the advice of friends, I waited until I landed in Paris, found an HSBC ATM machine in the airport, and withdrew 200€. After deducting the difference between the Euro and the dollar (which was $53.79 for 200€), HSBC’s bank fee, and Bank of America’s bank fee, 200€ actually costs me $266.40.
And you’ll definitely need to keep cash on you for day-to-day purchases and for the public restrooms. Some of them, you have to pay for.
If you won’t eat it at home, eat it anyway.
I’ve never been a big cheese eater but I can tolerate mozzarella enough to enjoy pizza, ziti, and lasagna. I can’t stand creamy or super soft cheese but I understand how rude it is to order food and ask the chef to do something differently to it. Our first night out, my mom ordered an eggplant appetizer for us to share and this showed up:
We were both confused because we were expecting (the only Italian eggplant dish we were familiar with) eggplant parmesan. What we got was a layer of chopped eggplant, fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and pesto. The cheese was soft. Eek! Normally I would’ve asked for it to be removed from the table due to the smell alone but when in Rome (or Paris)… It turned out to be one of the most memorable and best tasting things I ate while away.
Manners are important no matter what language you express them in.
When I got to Rome, I was hungry and incredibly cranky. I dashed in the first McDonald’s I came across. I ordered and found a quiet place to sit. Then, I realized how much Italians skimp on the extras. No ketchup packets, no straws, no napkins, and no condiment station in sight. I went back to the register to ask for napkins but in my confused/hungry/cranky state, I could only get out “napkins?” One of the cashiers looked up at me with a look of disgust and replied “napkins, please.” I’d forgotten how many people in Europe actually speak English and that if they could understand my request for napkins, they could understand the word “please.”
And McDonald’s in Europe is not like McDonald’s in the US. The Mickey D’s in Paris had wedge fries and served Heineken and the one in Rome served waffle fries and mozzarella sticks (which are now available in the US).
3 days is not enough time to experience one of the greatest cities in the world.
My mom and I spent 3 days in each city and the entire trip was wonderful. I enjoyed my time away from home and I really enjoyed being somewhere so strange to me. The people are different, the streets are unfamiliar, and there’s just so much to explore. There’s so much to explore that 3 days in each city just wasn’t enough. I have friends abroad who travel to the US for weeks, and sometimes months, at a time. Now, I understand why. I don’t think I’ll be able to manage a month-long vacation any time soon, but the next trip I take back to Paris will absolutely be for at least a week.