Okay, we read Rick's books, watch his videos and plan perfect Rick Steves European vacations, right? Well how about those times when things don't work out so well. Like the time we booked a hotel so far from central Milan we had had to leave the place before sunrise to get to the airport on time on departure day, or the time we rode the Circle Line on the London Underground the wrong way, instead of only having to go six stops we took the Underground Idiot Ride in the opposite direction for about eighteen extra stops, or the biggest blunder of all, going to Paris around the first of July when Tour de France was finishing in Paris! Honest to God, I was so clueless, on the Saturday night before I read a sign at a bus stop that informed us that the buses would not be running tomorrow (Sunday) due to the conclusion of the Tour de France. So let's hear your stories of woe! Tell us all the details of your Euroblunder!!!!
Apart from visiting Brussels, my biggest blunder would be traveling to Helsinki during the summer solstice. After Xmas it's the biggest holiday of the year and everything shuts down for a couple of days, and the entire population appears to leave the city. The streets were completely deserted and I thought there was some sort of zombie thing going on. Of course the LP guidebook did give a warning about it, but my brain didn't absorb it.
Ah Venezia. I was on a train from Florence to Venice with two girlfriends. We had booked a hotel outside of the city center to save some money. This was our first time back to Italy after a college study abroad and we considered ourselves quite the seasoned travelers. We shared a car with two college students and we were imparting all of our travel wisdom on them. We told them to be careful they were getting off at the correct train station because Venice has two (we were so smart!).
We got off at Santa Lucia. We had directions from the hotel website to our hotel. "Go to the bus depot, take bus 9, walk a couple of blocks etc etc" We went to the bus station and asked where could catch the number 9 bus. I have never seen anyone look so confused. He asked several of his coworkers and no one knew what we were talking about. We eventually got on the only bus that had a number 9 in it and quickly realized this was not the correct bus. We ended up getting off on practically a highway. We were eventually able to flag down a taxi and took it to our hotel. It cost about 30 Euro.
So we get to the hotel and guess what? The directions on the hotel website were from the Mestre station. After acting like snots to these college students, we got off at the wrong station. And the kicker? The hotel provided a free shuttle to and from Mestre AND the city center.
But thinking about this always makes me smile.
While in Brussels my friend and I were going to take the train to Antwerp for the day. We went to the platform indicated, but didn't catch the announcement that our train platform had been changed. We ended up getting on a train going in the wrong direction, AND accidentally sitting in a 1st class car with 2nd class tickets. We were on the train for an hour before someone came along to check our tickets. We asked when we were getting to Antwerp. "Antwerp??" he said with big eyes and looked at our tickets. We then got yelled at about being on the wrong train and in the wrong class. We were sent back to 2nd class and told we would need to get off at the next stop and wait for a train back to Brussels. I never did see Antwerp. My first arrival in Salzburg wasn't stellar either. My mother was with me on her first trip to Europe, and first I got us on a bus at the train station going in the wrong direction. We rode that bus to the end of the line, then back to the train station! Then once we finally reached where we were going, I left my mother behind so I could race to the hotel since we were late checking in. I never had told my mother the name of the hotel, and she kept walking and got lost. I ended up spending my whole first 2 hours in Salzburg running about old town looking for my mother. It was an unfortunate time to discover that my phone that had always worked in every other European city I had tried it in did not have service in Salzburg.
Forgetting that many European hotel rooms' lights work only if you put the key in the slot by the door. No big deal to some. Big deal to me. I ended up breaking my ankle on a raised threshold I didn't see due to a combination of darkness and too much beer.
Few years ago I visited my niece in Antwerp where she lives with her boyfriend. On the weekend they drove me around Belgium (Brugges, Ghent, Dinant, La Rochelle etc.). On workdays they were at work and I was on my own. I decided to go by train to Brussels and walked and traveled by bus around Brussels as much as I could to see as much as it's possible in one day. Got to the train station in Brussels pretty tired and did not bother to check train timetable because trains between Brussels and Antwerp go very often ( 10 to 15 minutes). Well, for some reason that was not the case this time. Trains were coming and leaving, none of them to Antwerp. They all were going different directions, most of them to Anvers. After about two hours the train to Antwerp finally arrived and then took a long time because it was stopping at every station. When I talked to my niece and her boyfriend about my adventures in Brussels and why it took me so long to get back to Antwerp they were laughing like crazy. They have two languages in Belgium (I of course knew that). Antwerp is in Flemish speaking part of country. Brussels is in French speaking part. Anvers is the French name for Antwerp. I felt like an idiot.
In 2008 I stayed in a hotel in Brussels for one night before returning to the U.S. When I checked in, the clerk asked if I wanted breakfast the next morning and I said yes, but it would have to be at 6:45 because I had to leave at 7:00. He said 6:45 was a little early but they could do it. Then I asked if he would call me a taxi for 7:00 the next morning and he said the person on duty at that time would do it.
At 6:45, no breakfast arrived. I went down to the desk to check out and request a taxi but no one was there. Across the hall from the desk, one hotel room door was open and a was man sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I knocked on the open door and said, "Excusez-moi? Excusez-moi?" He didn't wake up so I stood directly over him and repeated, "Excusez-moi?"
Finally he woke up. I asked, "Vous travaillez ici?" and he said yes. I knew my French was bad but I was too annoyed to care.
He asked if I wanted breakfast and I said no, I had to check out. I asked if he'd call me a taxi and he said I could get one right here, whatever that meant. He helped carry my bags down from my room (the hotel was a walk-up and my room was on the 4th floor). When we reached the front desk, he continued past it and out the door to the street. I left my room key on the desk and followed him. I asked again where to get a taxi and he waved in no specific direction and said something in English I didn't catch. "Can you just call one for me?" I said.
"You get them right here. Thank you, bye." He shut the door in my face. I was alone on the street with no cabs in sight.
I went to the hotel next door but the doors were locked. I took out a coin and tapped it on the glass (it's louder than knocking with your first) until an employee came out. I told her I needed a cab ("J'ai besoin d'un taxi") and she pointed down the street to a taxi stand which I'm sure was obvious to everyone but me.
I chose one and told him I wanted to go to the airport. During the ride, he asked where I was from, why I was in Belgium...and if I was married. His name was Hassan and he was 31. He asked for my e-mail address so we could write each other, and said next time I could stay with him in Brussels and wouldn't have to get a hotel room. I only had my university e-mail address at that time and didn't want to give it to him. I started to imagine that he was taking me somewhere other than the airport.
But we did arrive at the airport. He told me I was charmante and said the fare was 42 euros, but I only had to pay 40. Maybe it would have been even less if I gave him my e-mail address.
Not checking to see how big a holiday "Spain Day" is and arriving in Sevilla with hotel reservations that did NOT cover the holiday weekend figuring I would fill in the remaining days later.
We ended up at the train station booking service being told that ALL hotels in Sevilla were full. When I pleaded that we would take a hostel or spare room -- didn't have to be American-style comfort, just better than a park bench -- they found a nice bath-down-the-hall hostal near the Cathedral. (Which was my preference anyway. )
After that, I kept a closer eye on holiday and weekend bookings!
Not asking for help/directions when confirmed lost. After a few years we solved this problem.
Thinking, "Hey, maybe I should give absinthe another try" after already drinking my fill of Czech beer. I don't think I ever felt quite so toxic as I did that next morning.
We had a lovely stay at an apartment in Venice. On the second day of our three-day stay, we noticed a sign at the water taxi station and, using what limited Italian that we knew, translated that there would be a boat regatta on the canals on the day we were leaving and no water taxis (nor any transportation of any kind) would be running! We had to walk across Venice, over many bridges, pulling our luggage, to get to the train station. Fortunately we discovered this in time to leave our apartment early to arrive at the train station on time. Lesson learned - check out local events that may effect your travel plans.
Well, there have been many...but one that jumps out - our 1st trip in 2008...going from Rome to Pisa for a quickie then on to Cinque Terre. Our train ticket from Pisa to CT said via Carrera...so we thought that meant we had to get off the train and change at Carrera...not so. So there was an hour wasted at a little train stop with nothing to do other then to sit and wait an hour for the next train.
Also - getting off in Naples at the wrong stop for Herculaneum. Hubby thought we had to go one more stop...nope. And it was a Sunday (fewer trains), we of course had no idea where we were, so there was another hour wait for a train to take us back one stop...another hour of sitting and doing nothing.
We made so many train errors on that trip - but we've gotten much better at them in the ensuing trips...
In Paris I ordered what I thought was going to be a plate of cured meats to go with an expensive bottle of wine, but what I actually ordered was a hot dog!
I arrived in Paris a day early for a RS trip. In the morning I wandered down to the breakfast room. I guess I was still a bit jet-lagged and my only focus was getting a cup of coffee. I went directly to the pot, filled a cup and sat down. A moment later a lady came over and started yelling at me in German. Then her husband came over to find out what was going on. Evidently, the woman had her cup by the pot, waiting for the coffee to brew. I took her cup. The man translated my apology of "I didn't know the procedure" and the lady finally stopped yelling. I was a little bit shaken up about creating an international incident on my first day!
Staying at the Grand Hotel Leveque on Rue Cler in 1995. The worst place my wife and I have ever stayed at - the room was disgusting and faced the street, where the delivery trucks unloaded and merchants set up shop at about 4:00 a.m. Internet was not what it is today, so there was no TripAdvisor or Booking.Com to research the hotel. I trusted the RS guidebook; the hotel was also featured in either his 1991 or 1993 series Paris show. In any event, it was a huge mistake. However, in fairness, I will say that one of the RS recommended hotels that we stayed in in London a few years earlier was as good as Grand Hotel Leveque was bad.
Europe's pretty hard to screw up. Moving right along to other continents:
Asia -- Deciding to see what Kazakhstan had to offer, and studying like the dickens, but getting a ticket and visa for Tajikistan and not catching on until the Dushanbe airport wasn't exactly brilliant.
Africa -- Chobe-on-a-bike-with-a-sleeping-bag was amusing, but mostly for the animals.
Leigh, oh your post made me laugh!!! Your poor mother! And poor you!!
As for me, it was when I first moved to Hungary to teach English more than 20 years ago now. The first free weekend I had, I was so excited to make my first trip to Budapest. I went to the train station, noted the time of departure and the track, bought my ticket, and went out to wait for the train. After a few minutes, a train showed up on the right track. That seemed awfully early (because of course I was early), so I went ahead and got on it. After a while, the train left the station -- it was still earlier than the time designated for the train to leave, but what did I know?
Somehow I either asked the conductor or a fellow passenger now that the train was actually moving (I.e., too late!) where it was headed -- and the answer was not Budapest.
Now here's the best part of the story. At the next station, the fellow got off the train with me, walked me into the train station in this new town, helped me buy my new ticket to Budapest, and then when my original train came through, put me on it.
I always wondered how long of a journey he had ahead of him that day, and how late he ended up being to his destination because of his kindness to me. Now that is generosity!
Kim, you apparently lived there so your perception could very easily be different from mine (I spend about a month in Budapest every year for the last 10 years). Our experience that has endeared us with Budapest is that the sort of thing that happened to you (to a somewhat lesser extreme) was fairly common. Still to this day we look like tourists and if we hesitate in a metro station or at an intersection it is fairly common to be approached with an offer to assist. And this coming from young people and from sour looking older gentleman who you would not believe by the expression on their face that they had a heart. Amazing people.
To the topic of post: Budapest is tied with Florence as the number one destination this year on the Conde Nast list. But I have been to a few of the other places on the list and am amazed that anyone could think they were much worth the effort. The lesson is pretty straight forward; we are all human and no two are going to view things the same. That’s what keeps life interesting. What I really don’t understand is if you have invested thousands of dollars getting to Europe on someone else’s recommendation of where to go, why in the heck wouldn’t you work in a little flexibility or a Plan B in the event that your taste didn’t concur with the person you got the recommendation from? It just isn’t that hard. We discovered Budapest on a Plan B move when the city we had traveled to didn’t catch our imagination the way we had hoped it would. It’s not that hard to pack up and hop a train to the next town; even if you have to come back for the flight home.
Second trip to Italy in Dec 2011, we headed to Sorrento via the Circumvesuviana. Very nervous about getting the right train. We asked a woman on the platform and she told us we were in the right place. Yes! Jumped on the next train and headed out. Seemed strange that the other riders were all young, no one had luggage. After a bit, I got out my iPad to check my R.S. guidebook. The kids all stared at my iPad like they'd not seen one before. (Have to admit one did not see as many on the road a couple of years ago.) Looking at the map I said "Honey, I think we are on the wrong train. None of the towns matches with the route in the book."
Yup, we were on the wrong train and had gone around the OTHER side of Mt. Vesuvius. a long way from Sorrento. The conductor laughed when we got off and explained where we were going. Our 45 minute trip from Naples to Sorrento took about 2 1/2 hours! Lesson: ask the locals but read the sign on the front of the train.
Not checking the Metro schedule in Paris. Had one night to wander around before catching my flight out of CDG. Trained it into the city from my airport hotel, had a great dinner, wandered all over the place. About midnight, I hit the Metro station at the Arc de Triomphe, where the smiling guy in the booth sold me a ticket all the way to CDG and sent me on my way. Transferring at Gare (du Norde I think...could be wrong), I'm waiting and waiting and waiting. Here, the last train to CDG had already departed when I purchased the ticket at the Arc. Nice guy, huh? Now it's almost 2am. Ended up getting taken for a 65 Euro unlicensed taxi ride to the airport by a fat chainsmoking smelly driver who screamed at me because I didn't give him a "service" tip.
Sorry to interrupt these great stories but I have a quick question to Bonnie: was that the regatta at the end of July?
I'm so sorry to laugh at your expense but some of these stories are really hilarious; particularly the young lady waiting for the train to Antwerp. I'm taking lots of notes :) Thanks for sharing guys.
In July, there's the Festa del Redentore with a regatta as part of it. Actually, there's at least dozens of regattas during the year, the big one being the Historical Regatta in maybe September.
On our first trip to Europe, many years ago, we were taking the train from Paris to Amsterdam. I thought it would be romantic to have a lovely lunch on the train. I made the reservation and pre-paid an arm and a leg for the meal. I had done my homework ( or so I thought!) and the guidebooks said there were usually two sittings. We heard the announcement and recognized the French word for lunch, but nothing else that the announcer said. As it was early, and we weren't hungry, I told my husband, not to worry, we would just go later for the second sitting. We waited another hour or so, but there were no more announcements. We decided to mosey on down to the dining car anyway. When we got there, we got a stern lecture from the waiter entirely in French, including a lot of gestures to his watch. We didn't understand a word, but apparently he was saying that, on this train there was only one sitting for lunch and we had missed it! Our lunch was purchased from a snack cart, once the train was in Belgium. I still have the lunch reservation confirmation in a scrap book. It was a very expensive reminder to pay attention when you hear the announcement, even if you're not hungry.
We planned a trip to Dublin and London around the Dublin Marathon my husband had signed up to run. And since I research our trips thoroughly, transportation from the Dublin hotel to London hotel seemed easy enough. (Using RS book, but without the benefit of the helpline). Dublin hotel to airport via cab. LHR to London on Heathrow Express. Then the tube (I think we had to change tube lines also), then about a 4 block walk to the hotel. Since I left on vacation from a work trip, and we were only moving between hotels once, I had a "larger than carry-on" suit case, plus our carry-ons and day packs. The the things I neglected to factor in to the "plan" was 1) my husband ran 26 miles the day before and we had to get up at 5am to catch our flight 2) using the tube with luggage means a lot of up/down stars and walking. 3) traveling with more than normal carry-on 4) my husband just ran 26 miles.
He was so-so mad at me and wondered why we couldn't have taken a cab from the train station. We probably saved $10 on the cab.....
What a great image, Karen. Your poor husband!
When we were living in Italy for a bit, one of the things my husband really wanted to do was visit the Lamborghini factory. We scheduled our visit, planned our trip through Florence and Bologna. From Bologna, we would take a bus to Sant'Agata Bolognese where the factory is. The bus we were on was not announcing the stops, and we couldn't tell quite where we were... but it was the scheduled time that we were supposed to arrive in the factory and we were in a small town... So, we got off the bus. As soon as we got off, we realized it was the wrong stop but the bus was already pulling away. Looking at the map, we were 5 stops too early. In a totally different town. We had about twenty minutes to make it to the factory on time. We started speed-walking, out of that small town and down the side of a highway. We made it about 2k, realized we still had a ways to go and stopped at a gas station to get a number for a taxi and let the factory know we would be late for our tour time. It was a mess. We made it there, they brought us up to where the group was, and we enjoyed the rest of the tour but that was a miserable experience for a bit walking down the side of a highway in a foreign country as trucks of hay drove past. It was almost out of a movie, and with some distance between the event we can definitely find the comedy in it now.
That is, however, why I tend to advise anyone considering a factory tour just to rent a car or hire a driver from Bologna. The bus is doable, but isn't necessarily easy.
on my first trip to Europe I was starting in Rome with a friend. An experienced traveller, he made reservations for a hotel in Rome. I didn't even know its name. He was arriving at FCO about 30 minutes before my flight and was going to meet me in the terminal, then we'd make our way to the hotel. I arrive, tired, at FCO. No friend. Ok, he's getting a snack or something. Nope. An hour later I realize I'm on my own. Finally it occured to me to try to call him. Turns out he missed his flight. Since my plans were to tag along I had no idea how to get into Rome or where the hotel was.
I made loooots of blunders on my first solo international trip - but that's how you learn, right?
- Got off the shuttle at the wrong terminal at JFK, made it to the gate less than ten minutes before the flight closed.
- Did not pay close enough attention to the UK exchange rate with regard to my spending money and ran out two thirds of the way through.
- Did not bring a functional credit card to cover oh-shit expenses. (I'd cut it in half long before the trip hoping to avoid temptation - fortunately, I had it with me and was able to use it by phone for a couple crucial expenses.)
- Went on an expensive wild goose chase by train through western England and southern Wales looking for a particular castle because I hadn't done my research on how to get there.
- Nearly got fined for fare-jumping on the ride back - which was entirely unintentional, I was under the impression from the man at the station that I could use the same ticket. The only reason he didn't grab me by the ear is because the train was hugely crowded and he had more important things to deal with at the time.
- Deliberately fare-jumped a small portion of another train ride: the UK train system is insane, and I was told to buy a round trip from Wales to Edinburgh back to Wales, get off at Crewe, and take the train from Crewe to London. Due to the aforementioned lack of funds, I took advantage of the chaos in Crewe (there had just been a major deadly crash in Hertfordshire a few days earlier so the trains were way off schedule and horribly crowded), crossed my fingers, and hopped on. Smart? No. But that's the sort of thing when you're 24, three thousand miles from home in the days when internet access was minimal, and you can't think what else to do!
- Had a 9am flight out of Heathrow, and was unaware that the Underground didn't open until 7am on Sunday, so I spent an hour and a half waiting outside the gate in Westminster while the remnants of the Saturday night drunks stumbled by, and got to the airport ten minutes after my flight closed. (Happily, they rescheduled me without any charges.)
It was as educational as it was fun, that's for sure.
Peg - I just noticed you question-this was the "Vogalona" paddling and rowing race. This year it is Sunday, June 8.
When we first moved to Bonn and were struggling mightily with German verbs, my husband stunned an entire bakery into side-splitting laughter when he asked to have his loaf of bread "circumcised."
On our 2000 trip to England, we ended in Rye and the plan was to drop the rental car in Brighton, take the train to London and then catch the Eurostar/chunnel to Paris. (I have many times made the mistake of tacking on a little something extra to intineraries, and as great as Paris is this was not the time to take a three day bite out of our England trip. A lot of those tacked on bits in another country were favorite stops, so it's still something I am conflicted about. File it under "trying to do do much in too little time," I guess.) Anyway that was one long day, because we left Rye in the morning, probably later than we should have, and by the time we found the rental return in Brighton it must have been close to 1:30pm after many wrong turns. We made it to the train station in Brighton on a taxi, which drove right by the Royal Pavilion just to torture us (still have never visited there). Time was short to make our 3pm train to Paris, and there was a direct train to get to one station, but we needed another that required two connections - they told us to switch in East Croyden and again in Clapham Junction. I still remember those names vividly, for some reason it sounded like they must be kidding - change twice? We thought about just staying on the direct train to the wrong station and getting on the tube between them, just because it seemed easier. Fortunately we thought better of it and successfully made the two changes. If we had gone to the other station it might have taken forty-five minutes or more to get across town to catch our train, which we would then have missed. (Multiple train changes always make me nervous, glad we listened to the ticket agent's advice). It must have been seven hours from Rye to our hotel in Paris, we killed almost the whole day just getting there and it was pouring down rain in Paris. We caught a taxi that might have been a non-registered one, the car broke down in the middle lane of a busy street for a number of minutes but finally he got it started again, thankfully. The worst part, or the funniest in retrospect, is that after the crazy mad dash to make the train, we only made it on the Eurostar train five minutes before it left! Ah, good times.
My side is splitting and laughter tears are flowing as I sit on our balcony in Barcelona drinking wine and contemplating which story to tell.
So many crazy adventures in the last 14 years of European travel, but the first trip in 1973 with 2 girlfriends, running to the train from Vienna as we were on the wrong track, jumping into 1st class, being yelled at and told to get to another car, having our luggage stay behind the locked door in 1st class, having to explain to Yugoslavs in "sign language" how do we get our luggage back who then spoke to the trainman. We got our luggage and then stood on the overnight train from Vienna to Athens, through Belgrave with locals, their chickens and portable record players. Only Americans on the train? I'm sure we were!
This is a great thread == the whole reason why I started posting on the RS Travelers Forum, so others wouldn't make the same stupid mistakes I made!
1. Bringing the wrong traveling companions. Not going into detail here.
2. Trying to do too many cities in too few days! First European trip was to Spain to visit my son and friend's daughter while
they were doing a college semester. We were on a bus or train every two days. Saw most of Spain from a window of a
bus or train.
3. Assuming everyone speaks English! They don't -- especially when you're off the beaten track. Brushed up on the
College Spanish and bought an Italian Language program and dictionary so that I'd at least be able to read train schedules!
4. Traveling from Madrid to Toledo via bus. Going, everything was fine, returning, got on the City Bus, didn't realize we
needed to get off and change at the main terminal to Madrid. Circled the city many times before we figured this out!
5. Walking from Termini being jet-lagged to the hotel. Should have spent the few bucks on the taxi. Stupid decision!
6. Staying in a BnB in Trastevere -- with absolutely NO privacy! Arco di Tormei. The computer was right outside our door, and they
could hear every time we coughed or anything else. I investigate more thoroughly these days on BnB's.
7. Not making sure the rooms/apartment had A/C in summer months. Not realizing that screens are not an assumption,
and spent several very hot, soaking nights being bitten by mosquitoes!
8. Attending a family wedding in a small town in Italy and expecting everyone to speak English! Corrected this one by buying a
language program that I use to brush up on every time. (See #3)
9. Walking outside at the Malaga airport to smoke! Didn't know I couldn't get back in to collect the luggage! My hearing impaired husband was inside, trying to get the luggage, didn 't speak a word of Spanish, and I had to make signals through the window to an English speaking person to communicate! Absolute panic!
We checked thru security at Charles DeGaulle Airport for our flight home. Wife asked security guard where restroom was, and he told her thru that glass door. (He didn't say she had to check back through security.) She went out and back thru the same door.
10 minutes later, the whole wing of the airport was emptied--including the security staff. They also offloaded two wide body airplanes about to leave, and had to reprocess all of their luggage again.
We waited outside the airport for 90 minutes before allowed back into the concourse. There's no telling how many people missed their U.S. connections due to the delay. It didn't seem fair that we actually made our connections.
I went to Europe, France to be particular, for the first time in 2007 as a 17 year old French III student with my high school French club. During our trip we were lucky enough to have our own coach bus that we used to travel to most of the major regions in the country. For the most part we were in touristy places where most of the people spoke good English. I tried to use French as much as I could over there but wasn't finding the opportunities because everyone would see us and just start speaking English. Finally we stopped for 3 or so hours in a small town up near the border of the Normandy and Brittany. There were not many English speakers! Yes! This was my chance to use my primitive, at the time, French III skills. Everyone split up for lunch and a group of about 6 of us decided to go to this small seafood café located near where our bus was parked. We ordered and had a fabulous lunch! However, our check never arrived. It was getting later and all of us 17 and 18 year old American girls were freaking out about missing the bus. So we came to the conclusion that someone had to raise their hand and ask for the check in French. As soon as the suggestion was made I jumped out of my chair, raised my hand, and screamed without thinking "Je suis l'addition"! (Which means "I am the check") Immediately after having said that there was an uproar of laughing coming from all directions in the café. I had realized what I had said and turned beet red! We finally got and paid our check to the restaurant and were on our way to the bus. On the way out an old man with gray hair and eyebrows and a huge cigar grabbed my arm and just started laughing at me and told his wife to take our picture. As a middle school French teacher 6 years later I tell my students that story and get the same uproar of laughs from them.
I'm surprised people like riding the train so much with all these train blunders. I have my own. I once took a train from Baccharach to St. Goar to try a restaurant there. Before leaving the station I checked the times for trains back (one about 9 and the last one about 10) and headed to the restaurant. While there I met a group from Seattle and had a nice conversation. I had planned on the 9 train but decided to stay longer and catch the last train home. I went to the station and waited long enough to be sure something was wrong. I then went and checked the schedule. The 10 pm train was only on Fridays and Saturdays. By then everything was closed, no taxis or even car traffic. I walked the 14 km back to Bacharrach. Now I check the notes next to train schedule times more carefully.
Just a few months ago we stayed in an airbnb apartment in Rome. The apartment owner spoke very little English and we spoke no Italian. There were no instructions on how things worked or didn't work. The night before we left to catch an early flight home we asked what to do with the keys when we left. She said to leave them in the apartment, and we did. They had people coming in the day we left.
When we landed in the U.S. much, much later we found we got a frantic text asking if we left the key in the lock. We did and that was not good. That door had a lock that locked the door with bars vertically and horizontally. We did not hear back from her directly, but gave us a generally favorable review with a comment stating that the door had to be disassembled.
We felt horrible with this unintended situation. Our doors have deadbolts where the key still works even with a key on the inside.
A few years ago, my family and I took a trip to Paris and London. For reasons that aren't particularly pertinent to this story, we ended up flying from Calgary to London and taking the Eurostar to Paris, but flying back to London. So, we were not familiar with the train between central Paris and CDG.
The day we were to fly to London, our alarm didn't go off. Our alarm was my husband's iPod touch, and he had muted the sound for some reason the day before and forgotten to turn it back on. I woke up and realized we were running late and quickly got everyone up and out of our rental apartment with our luggage. We had no time to stop for breakfast or even have coffee.
We were staying on Ile St. Louis, so we had a metro ride of a stop or two to the station where we would catch the airport train. However, we ended up getting on the wrong train. I forget the details, but the train had either the same name or number as the airport train, but it was not the right train, and in our rush, we didn't notice. After going a couple of stops, we realized we were not travelling in the right direction, based on the station names. We had to get off the train, go around, catch another train back to the transfer station (Chatelet, I think), and then find the correct train. A sign pointing to the correct train seemed to point us right through a glass wall, and we stood there, confused for a few minutes, trying to figure out whether to go right or left, since we couldn't go straight ahead, as the sign seemed to indicate. A nice young man, noticing our confusion, helped us figure it out, and we finally got on the correct train and made it to the airport. We checked our luggage, went through security, found our gate and got into the lineup for our flight, with only about 10 minutes to spare. After standing in line for about 20 minutes, we were told that there was a problem at Heathrow airport (we found out later it had been a small fire in a control tower), and our flight would be delayed at least three hours.
Off we went to find food, and, fortunately, we found a cafeteria close by. It was one of those places where you go to different stations with your tray and either choose cold food from chilled display cases or order hot food that is cooked as you wait. All five of us had filled our plates with food, poured ourselves coffees, and had just received our plates of hot eggs and placed them on our trays. We hadn't paid for our food yet when we heard an announcement that our flight would be departing in 15 minutes and anyone who wanted to be on it should return to the gate immediately. (Apparently, our flight had been granted a small window of time, and if it didn't take off quickly, then it would definitely be delayed for hours.) We looked at one another wondering what to do. My husband declared "Leave it." and we all set down our trays and dashed out of the cafeteria without paying for all the food we'd placed on them and had cooked for us, and without eating anything or having so much as a slurp of coffee.
I still feel bad about that and wonder what the people who ran the cafeteria must have thought of us.
We finally got to eat a meal at a fabulous Lebanese restaurant near Paddington Station after checking into our inn in the middle of the afternoon. The food was delicious!
We took a driving trip from Belgium, through a couple of towns in Germany and on to Prague. We were using our trusty GPS that we purchased in Italy and has taken us on numerous trips around Italy, France, Germany and Belgium. The trip was going well until we got to the border of Germany and the Czech Republic when the GPS went to gray, like we had fallen off the face of the earth! Apparently, the GPS was loaded with Western European maps only-- not Eastern European maps. Never rely solely on GPS!
Two blunders come to mind:
1). Getting up an hour earlier than usual to catch breakfast at Luna Simone hotel in London after coming in from Paris the night before. We were so exhausted we forgot that London is an hour behind. We dragged our tired behinds out of bed at 8am, got down to the deserted breakfast room, realized it was really 7 am and we could've had an extra hour of sleep!
2). Last October, we took a train from Florence to CT. We were staying in Monterroso so we were so excited looking out the train windows when we saw the coast. We started counting down the stops. Finally, we were in Monterroso! So imagine 5 ladies getting up, getting our luggage off the racks, squeezing out of our compartment, and trudging to the door to get out only to have it shut on us! The conductor shook his head at us and said we should've been waiting at the door to get out when the train stopped. Oops. We had to go all the way to La Spezia and wait over an hour to catch the next train heading back. This time, we were ready to get out when it stopped at Monterroso!
We were staying at Hotel Eremo Gaudio in Varenna on Lake Como. Getting to our room at that hotel involved taking 2 funiculars up a steep hill and an elevator ride up 2 floors. We had a gorgeous view of Lake Como from our room. Our last morning at the hotel, we were getting ready to go down to breakfast (again 2 floors down the elevator and 2 funiculars to reach the breakfast room) and I looked out across the lake and saw a huge black storm cloud coming toward us. My gut was saying to me "Take the luggage down with you to breakfast." I ignored my gut and left the luggage in the room. A huge thunderstorm hit while we were at breakfast (torrential rain, wind, thunder and lightning) and knocked out the electricity to the hotel so no power to the funiculars or the elevator. We had a train to catch early that morning and our luggage was up a very steep hill. We had to run up the wet slippery stairs on the hill and two flights of stairs to our room to get our bags and then run back down the hill to reception to check out and get a cab to the train station. Luckily we pack light. In hindsight, it could have been worse. We could have been trapped on the funicular or the elevator when the power went out.
We usually drive when our trips turn away from cities and into rural areas. We were driving in notorious Italy in 2012, just outside of Siena, toward our Tuscan apartment rental about 10km outside of town. Driving in Italy was fine, generally. No problems with other drivers, really. But the signage, or sometimes lack of signage left us more confused than usual (I'll never forget coming to a "T" junction on a country road once and a sign pointing to Florence BOTH ways!). So we got ourselves turned around a bit and generally confused looking for our turnoff. I had maps on my iPod Touch and was trying to glance at it in my left hand while I drove with my right. I shouldn't have done that. I let the car veer to the center line just as a car going the other way was essentially doing the same thing. To this day I don't know if the other driver was distracted as well or not, but we were very fortunate. We didn't collide, but we did clip mirrors, destroying mine. I was so unnerved by the sudden near miss that I drove another mile or so until I figured I ought to pull over and see how bad the damage was. Never found out what, exactly, happened to the other car which was well out of sight at that point. We sat there for a few minutes until my heart rate returned to normal, then drove another two weeks in Italy with no drivers side mirror. It cost us an extra $400 when we turned the car in. Hertz was pretty casual about it. I suspect they see this a lot. One could argue that we should have had "super-duper" insurance or something, but even the extra $400 was far less than we would have paid for extra insurance on a 3-week rental. But boy am I glad that our cars did not get 6 inches closer together or it would have been an entirely different situation.
Our worst blunder was making reservations to stay in hotels recommended by the Rick Steves guidebooks in one very long (6 months) visit to Europe involving England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Croatia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Iceland, Wales, Poland, Hungary, and Sweden. We thought his suggestions would be as good as what other guidebooks suggest but at each one, we spent only 1 day and it was mostly spent looking for someone to go on Tripadvisor so we could change hotels the next day.
Most of the ones suggested didn't have elevators or air conditioning but did have a lot of stairs. Most had no bellhops to carry your luggage up or down and were old and worn and sometimes didn't even have a bathroom in the room. Amenities were non-existent or pitiful, beds were not comfortable and housekeeping was sloppy. When traveling, we want luxury and comfort not cheap dumps. On the bright side, however, Rick's books were great for sightseeing, transport, food, and things to do. His coverage of art museums is great. Now we use them only for those purposes and not for hotels. We also used only first class train seats and hired drivers to take us many places as we don't like buses.
...trying very very hard to not say what I'm thinking...
Someone quick add another great story please!
Right there with ya Randy!
My biggest Euroblunder!!??........that's a real tough question! :)
Not a Euro blunder - just a positive experience. And even if there was a blip, it was probably so insignificant that it's not worth remembering.
When my friend & I went to Sicily; staying in a beautiful B&B that was all original baroque - breathtaking - one of the owners picked us up; he & his brother helped us up 4 flights of stairs with our luggage. No extra charge for kindness.
The rooms there were not expensive and couldn't believe the beautiful rooms for the price. Upon arrival, one of the owners gave us our choice of rooms since they were available then. We had a lovely view - french-style doors opened up to paradise. Every morning, I would go out onto the balcony & watch the hustle bustle down on the street.
Across the way, there were many other buildings - apartments, storefronts, as far as your eyes could see - it was so great to people watch - as they went about their daily life - my friend & I were part of it!
The room had two separate, very comfy beds. The maid came every day to change linens, clean bathroom - which was spotless, updated & a very good size! The fridge held complimentary bottled water. The desk had an old "tube" TV - but we did not go to Sicily to watch TV. Most of the rooms had an en-suite bathroom - the one that didn't (where UK men had stayed) had a private bath a bit down the hall; you needed a key to enter. So, it was "their bathroom." There was also a small, private kitchen guests could use - stove, fridge, a table with chairs, dishes/glasses/utensils included if you wanted to cook a meal or whatever. The little back door off that kitchen was so quaint - you could step out there & see all the rooftops of the building as well as others. This amazing building went on and on.
At arrival, there are two huge doors you enter through from the street; they gave us keys to enter the large courtyard, the main door of the B&B upstairs (& of course our room); since they were in and out at all hours.
There were other apartments within the courtyard belonging to others - some hung out their laundry, some had their doors open, & you could hear people playing musical instruments or listening to music. Going into the courtyard, just looking up; it was so wonderful. The owners lived on the property, on the "other side" of the building. There was also an upstairs apartment they were renting out "to a friend" for a little while. The owners had their own big kitchen they used to make cafe, bring out juice, light morning breakfast, etc. They had fruit & croissants & some type of bread, jams to eat. Fine for the morn.
When out & about, we ate late morn/afternoon. We had things like Arancini (filling) or small, a la carte styled meals - eggplant or peppers, pizza slices etc; which held us until dinner. Maybe a sweet if we wanted it; then headed to dinner about 7:30 PM
It's very easy to find out ahead of time if a hotel has an elevator, a bellhop, an en suite bathroom, and any other amenities. I have stayed in some good RS hotels and some bad ones. But I knew ahead of time what amenities they did or did not have.
On our last trip in 2011, we stayed at a number of Rick's featured hotels. They were always clean. They were inexpensive. They always were less than 5 star. We saved our money to spend on nice dinners and other more enjoyable things. We did not get bedbugs anywhere, we were never attacked. I rate his accomodations exactly what he claims them to be - basic, not fancy. We do not want first-class accomodations - we want a place to sleep that is clean, cheap and safe. We got reliable results from Rick's recommendations.
MarieB - I like your style of travelling and appreciate your input!
George: For you and many, you seem to have the spare money to do both. For my wife and I, we are not wealthy, but simply middle class, and we have to choose where to spend our money. We always pick dining over sleeping as for luxury.
Thank you @Wil :)
You can blow it all on one little trip - - or you can spread that fifteen hundred buck a night room over a couple of weeks in the places us regular heathens stay.
Speaking of stars - - the average Joe has no idea what the stars mean. (and they're often self-assigned since there's no universal rating system/agency). A joint can up its star count by having a bigger parking lot and a business center instead of larger rooms. Stars are not an indication of cleanliness, ambiance, friendliness, quality, or any other intangible. Many of the world's finest hotels don't even play the star game. They're probably a pretty good gage of snob appeal for the faux intelligentsia.
Can we please get back to the "Euroblunders" topic ??? As I read it, Terri Lynn's blunders were (1) booking hotels based on a guidebook's recommendations without cross-checking reviews from other sources (Trip Advisor, booking.com) and (2) not realizing that the guidebook's requirements for hotel recommendations were not the same as her family's preferences.
How SHE chooses to travel is HER choice. How YOU choose to travel is YOUR choice. Let's just leave it at that and hope that people reading this thread will learn from ALL our blunders.
So ... any other funny stories ??
In Sorrento I couldn't get the pay phone to work to get a ride from the train station to the vacation rental. How far could it be?? We set off walking and found the property, but there was a security gate. Waited for someone to come out and went through and tried to buzz the rental agent. Surprise! We were renting a stand-alone bungalow on the propery and nobody in the building would answer us. And now we were locked INSIDE the gate. Luckily the rental owner showed up on his Vespa only a few minutes later with keys and instructions on how to open the gate (from both sides. )
Lovely time in Sorrento after that. Lesson learned: working cell phones are very useful!
1st time I went to Florence (when I was but a young pup), I thought, hey I'm American, we drive rental cars, it's what we do, and Florence is big city, surely there will be overnight parking somewhere in the touristic center of the city. Hah! (This was before Florence got as restrictive as it is now about driving in that area.)
Oh - the phone thing! We were in Villefranche and staying at an airbnb. So we found where the apartment was, but couldn't figure out how to get in. So we hung around for maybe 20 min...no host to be seen. So went up around a corner and there was a tourist bureau...asked if he could call her for us, but he couldn't (or wouldn't - it was a local call, for crying out loud). So, I very stupidly used my MasterCard in the payphone. So, for about a 1 min call, when we got the bill the next month - almost $40. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use your cc in a payphone. Next trip, most likely get a 'disposable' cell. (She was out waling her dog, BTW, and was about 10 min from being home).
And...when we were in Florence, we were given directions on how to find the bus at the train stn to get to our accoms (another airbnb). So, we totally misread the directions and came out of the 'back' of the station instead of the 'front'. Couldn't find the buses...noticed a bus depot across the road - but it was for tour buses I think. Then half figured it out, but stood at the wrong bus stop for at least 20 min, before it finally dawned on us where we were supposed to be. Were then packed like sardines on the bus. Moral of this story - sometimes it is better to just pony up the euro for a taxi...it would have saved us probably 45-60 min of being lost and waiting for a bus, then being crammed on...
Here's a rare post where I'm not acting in any sort of official capacity. I just want to add to the conversation. ;)
Once upon a time I needed to call my hostel where I'd be staying at my next stop. I got distracted as I was leaving the payphone at a train station in the south of France. As I was departing on my train, I realized I left all my trip information - my planned itinerary, hotel/hostel names, addresses, flight reservations and a pass for a music festival - in my folder that was resting peacefully inside the phone booth.
I was able to recover all the info I needed (this was before the internet was as useful as it is today), including a rare re-issuing of the festival pass, within two days... but that was a mess.
Not sitting down on the bidet before turning the water full on . . .
In Vienna and Germany there are 4 star hotels where I have stayed at the end of July- August offerring two star prices. The price of a single with all the amenities minus AC goes for 59-67 Euro, where it is normally 99-109 Euro. When it's like that, no problem staying at a 4 star. Otherwise, the hostel is another option for me.
First trip to Venice and stayed outside of the city... no reservations so we just found a hotel, parked the car, checked in and found out how to get the bus into the city. Spent the day and early evening in Venice and decided it was time to return to the hotel and realized we had no idea of what bus to take, nor did we remember the name of the hotel. After hours of walking and trying to find our way we finally just hopped on a bus that we thought might take us to the area and saw the rental car and recognized the hotel as we passed it... got off at the next stop and walked back to our hotel... I now try to be more responsible and take acard from the hotel, but sometimes the excitement just takes over:))) That is only one of the many, many blunders I have had in Europe... but they all end up making for a good story.
Just a mini-blunder, but at a restaurant in Berlin the other day, I wanted to leave a tip and asked for the change in German, literally translating "can I just get 20 Euro back?" The waiter thought that was hilarious and said "of course you can have it back, it's your money!" I can't help but think something was lost in translation with my awkward grasp of German (or tipping customs)...
Ok, I'll ask the question some may have been wondering about:
Warren, why were you sitting on a bidet?
Inquiring minds want to know.
I was traveling in Italy with my grown daughter in 2002. We were basically following the Rick Steves Italy tour itinerary using trains. Our first two nights were in the town of Varenna on Lake Como. I had planned to get cash using ATM machines and getting out the maximum my card allowed so as to reduce transaction fees. I figured I could safely withdraw 300 euros at a time. The machine screen had buttons for up to 200, so I used the more option and typed in 300. I immediately got a message "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS". I suddenly panicked since I had made sure I more than enough money to cover the entire trip in my checking account. My daughter stepped up and offered to use her ATM card. I don't remember how I finally figured out what had happened, but I had typed 300.00 into the machine not remembering that in Italy the commas and periods are switched for money. I had asked for 300,000 euros!
The webmaster's reply made me think of one that someone else did. We were flying from Venice to London and I had a few minutes to kill so I decided to use the airport internet (this was 2008, before I had a netbook/ipad)...there was a woman using it before me. So as I was using my min, they started boarding the plane. When I began to leave, I noticed a black binder on the floor by the stool. Looked in it - someone's itinerary all written out. I didn't notice if the woman had gotten on the plane (there was another boarding as well). Asked the ones at the desk but they didn't have a clue (and I left it at the desk as I didn't want to take it in case they came back). The only thing I rem about her was she had a silver/grey hardside suitcase. When we were getting off in London, lo and behold...there she was standing there as we were getting off. I asked her if she had been using the computer...she said yes...I told her about finding the binder, but leaving it at the desk. She looked absolutely crestfallen and kinda ill. But at least she knew where it was...maybe she arranged to have it sent...I felt so bad...
I am sure I have made many little mistakes, but I honestly recall having ever making a big blunder..or perhaps I just considered them normal ups and downs of travel?
The post by the lady who booked all rs hotels and was very unhappy just seems to point out that one MUST actually invest a little more effort/research into their holiday and it's not just about money. If one has lots of money and no desire to do the homework it might be best to use a travel agent, at least I would assume they will do a little research.
Trying to speak Italian on our first trip to my favorite country. At dinner in Venice on our second night in Italy and having practiced long and hard with my Italian phrases at home in SoCal, I tried a little Italian communication with our waiter. I noticed him smiling a lot when we ordered and by check time he was chuckling. "Ok, what words did I get wrong," I asked. None he replied, you're speaking Spanish.
A couple of days later, I'm at the Tourist Info counter in Florence with a city map in hand, asking the lady at the counter, "can you show me where 'via Pandolfini' street is? She literally put her forehead on the counter nearly choking with laughter and started telling other employees what I just said. Ok, what did I say now I asked. She said "the way you pronounced that word means "dirty baby diaper". This was later confirmed by Italian friends of ours in Sicily. It's still my favorite country though.
OMG jim_bird1, your post made me laugh so hard! Thanks for sharing!!
It was 1972. We were two young guys, just graduated from college and in Europe for the summer. Early into the trip, we checked into a small hotel in France and were completely baffled by what we found in the bathroom. It looked like a toilet, but had no seat and two water faucets. After some serious consideration, we had it figured out, and promptly washed our socks and underwear in what we later discovered was called a bidet.
I have certainly had an enjoyable evening chuckling over some of these adventures lol. I recently took my first trip to Europe, a week in Germany with my daughter and solo in Paris. I stayed with a Parisian family and they made me feel so welcome and a part of the family. First mistake I made was when the mother asked what I would like to do first, get a cafe or see the Eiffel Tower. Why Eiffel Tower of course, thinking she was coming along. She helped me buy packet of Metro tickets, told be to go here, go there, take this train, take that train and like a dummy I got on the Metro and took off, not remembering what she said or writing the directions down. It occurred very quickly to me that I was lost, and I had gone to the end of the line. Gave her a call on my cell, using up most of my minutes and she helped me get to the Eiffel Tower, in cold pouring rain! But, I certainly had learned to use the Metro and will never forget it lol! I realized too that every other tourist was soaked to the bone but still having a lot of fun.
None understanding that a panini in Italian is simply toasted bread!
Saw a sign near Vatican City advertising paninis for 5 euro (I guess another blunder is to pick a restaurant right on that strip rather than walk another couple of blocks). Went in and ordered ourselves some pressed sandwiches, and ended up paying 20 euro for it. Totally got ripped off!
We arrived in Edinburgh off an overnight flight and headed to the ATM to get sterling. My husband fussed with the machine and then walked back to me with a sick look on his face. The debit card (which we seldom used at home) had expired 2 months prior and apparently we never got the automatic replacement cards. We had credit cards but had never used them to take cash from an ATM so we didn't know the PIN number! He got on his cellphone and called our US bank and learned that we had been mailed replacement debit cards and they had never been activated. The bank has a series of security measures (secret questions and such) and we have a long time relationship with them, so we were able to get them to give us a new pin over the phone for the credit card to take cash from the machine. The bank fedexed new debit cards to our next hotel stop and waived all the extra fees for taking cash using the visa credit card.
A bad start with a couple of tense hours and we were finally on our way on what became a great trip.... And now we double check the expiration dates on all cards and continue to use USAA Federal Savings Bank because of their marvelous service!
While in Munich in 2009 my husband and I took a day trip to Salzburg. My husband loves Mozart and since Mozart was born in Salzburg, he was determined that our first stop be Mozart's birthplace. In between a flower shop and a pub, we found a small plaque indicating this was where Mozart was born. We were incredulous! The pub was full, but there was standing room in the back at the bar. We ordered two beers and asked the bartender, "So this is where Mozart was born??" He pointed to a small door that opened to a narrow staircase and motioned for us to go up. We did and, sure enough, upstairs was a museum with all sorts of Mozart memorabilia. We wandered through the maze of rooms and exited on a large street. As we turned to look at where we'd been, we saw the whole front of the building covered with "BIRTHPLACE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART" along with a ticket booth where you paid for admission. We had truly seen Europe (and Mozart's birthplace) through the back door!
Sometimes you have to laugh at other's foibles. I know Paris quite well. One night I was down in the metro when I saw 4 men at the ticket machine frantically trying to get tickets to CDG. They kept putting money in the machine and pushing buttons, to no avail. It took me about 10 seconds to figure out what they were doing. Right next to the ticket machine was a condom machine! Yep, you guessed it. They had bought dozens of condoms. We all laughed and I showed them how to get their tickets. However, they had spent all their loose change, so we went across the street to a souvenir shop where they bought me a little trinket so they could break a big bill. I walked them to the right direction going metro and I believe they made it to the airport. They had a great sense of humor and were so grateful, that we laughed and laughed. I still slap me knee when I think about it!
A fiasco at the Munich train Station Hauptbahnhof. This gigantic station has 32 platforms and 2 subterranean lines and it sees 450,000 passengers a day. My sister and I did not know this - we thought we had the correct train and I got on while my sister almost severed her arm while the door shut as she was trying to get on the train. I start speeding away while my sister is left at the platform. (And it was the wrong train!) I panicked! Sister had our only cell phone, I had the money. After asking what to do, and getting blank stares, a young man finally told me to get off at the next stop and walk back to the main station. I was able to do that but lo and behold, in the vast array of tracks and platforms, I could not find my sister! This gets worse. I go upstairs and look and look - in the meantime, she stays at the track we left from (Girl Scout rule: stay where you are so you can be found). While sister is standing there, a young woman with twin babies in a stroller asks in German if she could watch her kids - she'll be right back. (My sister is assuming this since she doesn't speak German.) Now sister is panicking because she's stuck, has to use the restroom, I'm not coming, this woman is taking awhile, and now she's watching two babies! What if the woman doesn't come back? What if she is accused of stealing the babies? I go to the main information desk (long lines, of course) to ask if they can page her - they appear to not understand what I am saying - I go back twice more to no avail. More panic sets in. Finally, I spy a coin operated phone in a small alleyway at the station - I manage to call home to ask my husband to call sister's cell phone to tell her where I am and ask where she is. After a couple of calls back and forth with hubby as intermediary, we manage to arrange to meet at Burger King. I go the Burger King. She goes to the Burger King. At least 45 minutes goes by and I can't find her! I go back to the information desk to find out that there are TWO Burger Kings in the station - I go to the other one and we finally meet and scream and cry with relief! We learned a valuable lesson: read up on where you are going and pay attention to train stations and their layouts and double-check before and at the train station which train and where to take it and don't be afraid to ask questions! What's is amusing to my sister and I is that every time we travel to Europe, we get asked for directions, etc. I guess we look like "locals." It's nice to "blend in" but in a situation like this, it can be scary! Oh, and the German woman finally did return to get her babies!
Spent 10 days in Italy doing Pisa, Florence, and Venice by train with my fiancee. The morning we departed Florence for Venice, we asked our hotelier (a Venetian native) if he could mark on our map where our next hotel was. We showed him the address on our confirmation letter, and he dutifully marked the spot. On the train, about a third of the way to Venice, we realized we hadn't gotten our confirmation letter back, and due to the "wonders" of technology, didn't have an electronic version (we could get it, but it would take a computer and the internet, neither of which we had - and the prospect of hunting for an internet café was not one we were looking forward to). Mild panic set in with fiancée, as the reservation had clearly stated we needed the letter with us. Tapped a quick note to the hotel in Florence on my phone asking if he could scan and email it or fax the next hotel. He went one better - he called the hotel in Venice for us, explained what happened, and we were greeted with warm smiles and an unexpected, "Your previous hotel called, everything is in order, there is no need to worry. Welcome to Venice!"
Last summer in London, we found out that "lower ground" means basement. Not a good thing for my husband who was walking with a cane at the time. We had to move to another hotel for the rest of the visit.
Many years ago went with a summer program from college. About 12 of us took our first side trip to Paris. All a little tired from the train ride the night before but thought seeing the Arc de Triomphe would be great. We thought it was funny that we had to run across all 8 or so lanes of busy traffic, lots of honking, laughing and I am sure some rude gestures laterm we made it.
Of course we missed the underground entrance at the other corner.
Oh, we made several on two trips 20-25 years ago:
- Having the wrong language "map" in Belgium. We didn't realize they were still "fighting a civil war" and the Belgium was unofficially split in the middle...and we had rented a car in Luxembourg during the time when they were switching from leaded to unleaded gas. The Belgium map we were using had some town names that seemed familiar and others that seemed to have different names than the ones on the signs as we drove. Lots of argument between my husband, the driver and me, the navigator. DH thought for years that I was just the world's worst navigator until I showed him stories about the language issue. We were running on fumes because the gas stations in Belgium did not have the correct gas our car needed. There ended up being one gas station in town- Elf Gas, that had the correct nozzle and gas...
Another was in Munich. It was a hot day and we were looking for a place to purchase water and we hiked over to Englisher Park. We saw a large billboard with a map of the park and we instructed our two young daughters (11 and 15) to go sit under a tree for shade while we deciphered the map. Little did we know that the billboard was blocking our view of the nudist sunbathing area of the park. Our girls were "traumatized"- those old guys--Whew!
This taught us to do our homework and really research before we go. BTW- Englisher Park is well known for nude sunbathing, but we just stumbled upon the park, so to speak. Our fault entirely.
Oh, then there was the time we did laundry in Germany and I put the clothes in the washer and left to go grocery shopping and left my DH in charge. I spoke a bit of German and DH did not at all. I returned to WWIII with the manager yelling at my husband. Seems he decided to take out the laundry a bit too early in the cycle and they were sopping wet and he was wringing them in the alley. The other patrons were sitting there stone faced at the extreme anger of the manager and an American soldier told me he felt sorry for my husband...
I work a lot harder at learning as much as possible before I travel now, but these things happen. It has been interesting reading all of our collective blunders.
These stories are great! I have a couple of my own but will skip the long version and just supply warnings and headlines:
1. Always check to make sure your own passport is returned to you after you and friends check into a hotel in a foreign country.
2. Avoid being thrown off a bus in Paris by always having small change available.
Just thought of another one:
3. A camera and Google Translate can help you have clean clothes.
I have two such blunders:
1. Three years ago after a wonderful week in Switzerland, we rented a car in Logano and drove to Venice. I had read that parking in Venice was a problem and that you should select a parking lot on the mainland close to the causeway - a "fact" I convinced my husband to do (and I will NEVER live it down). We had no problem catching a bus into Venice and had a wonderful stay at the Westin Hotel - lovely! When we asked the at bus ticket booth which bus would take us back to our car, we were told the # 5 bus. We caught that bus, discussed with the driver where our car was and would he take us there - absolutely! On the bus, we watched as we sped past our stop on the way to the airport, meandered around residential areas for 45 minutes, sped past our car again on the way back and ended up getting a cab back in Venice. You gotta love Italy!
2. We visited family last summer in Slovenia - a gorgeous country with wonderful people. We decided rather than driving to Budapest or flying, where we wouldn't see much, if anything, we would take a train. Our family helped us get 1st class tickets in Ljubljana and we were on our way at 6AM - before the coffee shop opened, so we had no breakfast, not even coffee! Much to our surprise, there was no food service OF ANY KIND on the train. When we reached Croatia, they changed locomotives and our 1st class car dropped back in the pecking order - no problem, it was a beautiful day, we were comfortable in our compartment - life was good! Our only stop long enough to let us off to get food was Zagreb - so when we arrived around 11:30AM we got off. When we emerged from the terminal with our food, the train was gone, with our luggage! After trying to get an explanation from several people in uniform, a very nice man finally explained that they were again changing locomotives and our car dropped further back in the pecking order. An hour later we departed, our luggage in tact, only to find that our entire car had no air conditioning because Croatian workers failed to connect the circuits to it. That day it was 103 degrees. By the time we reached Budapest at 5:30PM we were soggy and spent, but a lovely cab driver helped us find our river cruise ship - what a delightful interlude after a blistering day!
In 2006 I was on a tour of England with the Fresno State Wind Ensemble performing in churches and concert halls around the country. My friend and I were finishing up breakfast at the hotel in Leeds one morning as our director walk past, waved hello and said "See you on the bus!" Less then a minute later we left the hotel only to see the bus rounding the corner without us!
We immediately went to the train station knowing that our next gig was in Croydon, a suberb of London, later that afternoon. When we arrived at the ticket counter we realized my friend's money belt was on the bus. I offered to pay for both tickets, but all my cards were declined! It was a perfect storm! After a couple hours we managed to get a hold of the guide. He wired us some cash, we got on a train and made the gig!
The guide was so impressed with our ability to handle ourselves so, knowing the two of us would be leaving the group and backpacking around the Netherlands, he offered for us to stay with him in his apartment in Amsterdam. We took him up on it. He took us on a tour of the canals in his boat and gave us lots of travel advice. After two days he said "I'm going sailing for a couple weeks. Here is a key. Lock up when you leave." We were floored!
The eruoblunder ended up being my greatest travel memory!
On a recent Rick Steves Tour to Italy, our bus stopped at one of those roadside cafeterias with hot meals. I was on the way to the pasta bar with our RS tour guide and the bus driver. I said something about the penne looking delicious. They both looked at me crossly. Unfortunately the word for "penis" is "pene". And if you don't pronounce "penne" as "pennnne", making sure more than one "n" is heard - you have committed a very embarrassing Euroblunder! Fortunately I was forgiven. But I never thought consonants would get me in trouble in such a vowel heavy language! I am fairly fluent in Italian so, beware, it can happen to you! But it makes me laugh when I think about this incident!
One meets kindness in unexpected ways - even as the result of a Euroblunder. Every guide book contains dire warnings about taking street taxis in Russia and traveling alone in St. Petersburg I was extremely cautious. I asked my hotel to call a taxi to transfer me to the hotel where the tour was to begin. The receptionist made the call and told me to wait for a white Peugeot, number "360" on top. A number of taxi-looking vehicles slowed down and stopped, but I ignored them. Up came a white Peugeot - the driver motioned to me, but the car number was 58. So I shook my head - nyet. He became more insistent, gesturing me to come, but I was firm, shaking my head - nyet! "Number 360" I shouted. He got out his cell phone in exasperated frustration; then he motioned me to look at his license plate, which began with "360". Oh - so sorry - so-o-o-o sorry!. He gave me "that" look, put my luggage in the trunk and we drove away. Along the way, I felt obligated to mention that the agreed-upon price was 350 rubles, and when we got to the hotel, I gave him a 500 ruble note. Now I've been in the hotel 2 hours, settled in and think I'll edit my photos. I can't find my camera. I panic. I go downstairs and ask if I've left it at the desk - no. Back in my room I begin to cry because my camera is gone - but I couldn't let it go. I called my old hotel and asked the receptionist to call the taxi company to see if I left my camera in the taxi. The old receptionist then called the new receptionist who told me, they will try and contact the taxi driver, but.... Two hours later I get a call. The receptionist says the taxi driver is downstairs and he has my camera! I go downstairs and the taxi driver is my hero! I start crying again and telling him how grateful I am. He is smiling, the staff is beaming. I am saying "spasibo" (thank you) to everyone. Kindness.
This happened to us just last year. We had booked most of our rooms through the popular booking engine booking.com choosing the option to pay when checking out of the hotels. But we got a private offering from Accor Hotels for a pretty good discount, something like 40% for our five nites in Munich for a Privilege Room with breakfast buffet at the nice big Mercure by the Hauptbahnhof - but it was pay in advance. Well, we weren't likely to have to cancel and we had purchased trip cancelation insurance, and we had been very happy with the same deal at the Mercure Montparnasse in Paris the summer before. As many of you know, Europe was experiencing a an unusual heat-wave last summer. When we checked into our room in Munich the A/C was obviously not cooling. They would not repair it or move us to another room with a working A/C. They made all kinds of insulting and offensive excuses, such as Americans were just unusually sensitive to the warm weather, or that that was just the way German A/C worked, or that we were just imagining that the A/C wasn't working. That was obviously absurd since we live in Central Texas where we know the difference between a working and non-working A/C. Also we had spent the five previous nites in the same heat-wave in Wurzburg, Rothenberg, and Nuremburg in hotels that had perfectly working A/C. So the long and short of it was they just had us and we had to suffer. If I hadn't prepaid for the room I would have told them "Thanks, but no thanks," and gone elsewhere, say the Hilton by English Garten. It almost ruined the entire vacation having to come back to a hot stuffy room our whole stay in Munich, and Accor has never offered to make me whole. Last time I make the EuroBlunder of prepaying for my room.
My worst blunder was not remembering that getting cold medicine in a pharmacie could get you something stronger than the-counter-remedy you get in the States. I'd been fighting a cold and went in and told the nice person behind the counter what was wrong, she gave me a little bottle and when I got home it said to take 50 drops. I'd never heard of anything like that but I started trying to get drops out of the bottle, it didn't feel like I was getting anywhere so I poked a hole in the top and took a small swig. A couple of hours later my wife and I were getting ready for bed and I was feeling very strange, the tiles on the wall were moving around and a leaf that had fallen from the flower arrangement seemed to be floating across the floor. When I thought I saw someone walk past I knew something was wrong. I called back to California and contacted a friend who worked as a nurse, he asked what I'd taken for the cold-something I hadn't even considered. I told him and he called Poison Control. They told him that given the symptoms I had to go immediately to the hospital. By the time I got there I felt much better but they put me in intensive care for monitoring my heart. The doctor came in and asked why I had taken so much of the drug. Apparently some use it to get high. I told him that it was just foolishness on my part and not attempted transcendence. The mood got more relaxed then and the Hospital staff in Nordlingen was wonderful. I spent the night in a ward room with a young German kid who had broken his arm at work and was released in the morning. I'd done everything right with my insurance, but they still dithered for almost a year before they paid the Hospital $800 for the bill.
Remember, non-prescription meds in Europe might be quite different than those you get here.
On my first trip to Europe, I was taking an overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo. I got a plate for the buffet dinner and started loading up my plate at the first station, then proceeded to cut in line at the second station, then the third. I was wondering why people were looking at me a) like I was so rude, and b) why I was such a glutton. I found out later on that trip that unlike in America where we go to the bar once and pile the plate to the ceiling (going back makes us look like pigs), it is totally opposite in Scandinavia. They have separate courses and a clean plate for everything--even a course just for herring!
After our Italy tour, my husband and I stayed in Italy for a week on our own. We were in Venice (on the mainland) and wanted to get to our hotel. We asked at the Tourist Information booth the approximate costs of taxi's and buses. Taxi's were about 30E and buses about 15E. We opted for the taxi since we weren't familiar with the bus system. My husband approached a taxi driver outside the train station and asked what the fare would be. "Fifty Euros," he said. My husband argued, "No, Thirty Euros!" Counter offer from the taxi driver said, "No, Fifty Euros!!" The volume escalated and my husband stormed off. He went to the next car which was a limo. Unfortunately, the driver was with a hotel and asked why we hadn't taken the cab. "He wants too much," my husband said. In Italian the driver called to the taxi driver and asked the price. "Fifteen Euros" he yelled. My husband had mistaken 15 for 50 in Italian. I told him to learn the numbers before we went to Italy!
There's a good lesson in the condom vending machine story. It's not unusual for tourists to think they're doing something right when they aren't. If something doesn't work, it's a better choice to assume you're doing something wrong and either ask for help or try something different. It's usually not a good choice to think, "this should work" and keep doing it over. Einstein defined crazy as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. That's how you end up with a dozen condoms and no money left to buy tickets.
Your sister almost getting her arm ripped off trying to get on the train, reminds me of another truism for traveling in Europe. Be ready to get on (or off) the train when it stops. Big stations like Munich often have longer stops that give you a little more leeway. At small stations, however, the rule is the train stops for maybe 30 seconds. If you, and your stuff, aren't on the train in that amount of time, something or someone is getting left behind. Don't expect time to drop off one suitcase, then go back to the platform to grab your other suitcase while the train waits patiently - it won't happen.
On my wife's first trip to Europe (she'd traveled Asia with me), with three kids in tow, we rode a local train along the Rhine. I let her go first to get off the train, the three children between us, then me bringing up the rear. She and the kids had pooh-poohed my urging to be ready to get off when the train stopped, so they weren't in any hurry to make their way to the exit. We stopped at the station and my wife tried pushing the button to open the door, it didn't open (the only thing I can think of was she was pushing for the door on the wrong side of the train). She pushed it and pushed it again (doing the same thing over again, though there wasn't much time here to rethink what she was doing), then looked to me to solve the problem. Unfortunately, I had three kids between us who were in no hurry. By the time I caught up to her, the train was moving again. This all occured in full view of a conductor who watched us with a bored, and completely uncaring expression. We got off at the next stop, lost an hour to catch a train back. Since we missed the KD boat I had planned to catch - and the next one was out of service due to a maintenance problem (and the one behind that sold out) - we didn't get to do the KD boat trip I was hoping for.
My three teenagers( 2 x 14 girls, 1 x 17 boy) and I were traveling by train in Germany from Fussen to Nurnburg on the second day of our trip abroad. Our trip required that we switched trains in Ansbach. We bought tickets in advance and had an assigned wagon and seats. Our layover in Ansbach was less than 5 minutes. A train arrived at the platform in Ansbach and we started to head for it. But we did not see any numbers on the outside of the train indicating which wagon was which, so we hesitated getting on. I finally concluded that this had to be our train so I told the kids to board. One daughter got on the train first, than I got on. My son following me hesitated slightly and to our horror the doors on the wagon shut and the train started to move. I tried desperately to open the doors but was unable to. Both my son and daughter on the platform had the most panicked look on their faces. I'm sure it matched mine inside the car. I had lost my kids!!! (Before departing for Europe, the children's mother informed me on numerous occasions, that if something happened to the kids while traveling that she would cut my throat.) I thought to myself that I had only been in country 24 hours and was already a dead man. I yelled for them to wait and I would come back, but they couldn't hear me over the train. The train we were on was a fast train and would not stop for an hour. Withing a minute or two I spotted a conductor. He spoke fairly good English and I spoke broken German. I explained to him the problem. In short order, he tried to make a call on his cell but he had problems making a good connection. He departed from us and returned 15 minutes later. He had made a 4 way call and eventually contacted the train station in Ansbach. Much to my great relief, the DB staff in Ansbach located my children on the platform and put them on the next train to Nurnburg. They arrived safely in Nurnburg 90 minutes later After that fiasco, we made a decision to board the train first and figure out the wagon issue later. I soon discovered that German train stations have a chart on each platform detailing the specific train number and the exact order of the wagons. We never did have another train problem in Germany.
Euroblunder for sure! My husband and I were in Venice, Italy and were walking the streets looking for the beautiful casino we had seen while on the canal. First of all, I was very obviously pregnant. My husband wasn't sure if we were headed in the right direction to the casino, so he would stop and ask, periodically, "Dove la casino?" Every time, the person would look at me and laugh and then give a direction. It seems the "laughing matter" was the fact that my husband was saying 'casino' as we say casino in the U.S. However, the correct pronunciation for the gambling casino was 'cassino' --- the term 'casino' in Italian is a brothel. Hence, the laughter at asking for a brothel with a pregnant wife standing by your side!!! Believe me....I have never let him live that one down!
We didn't think we could afford a Rick Steves tour of Paris and the surrounding area, so we bought his guidebook to France and used it to plan our itinerary - same hotels, same restaurants, etc. We had taken a train to a town in the Loire Valley where my husband had booked a hotel (and paid in advance for 2 nights). After a long day, we arrived at the hotel, exhausted and ready to check in to our room. However they had no reservations for us! I promptly whipped out my confirmation to prove that we had a reservation. When the desk clerk read it, she burst into laughter. My husband had inadvertently booked a hotel with the same name in another town quite some distance away. We were just crestfallen and didn't know what to do. The clerk reassured us that she had a room for us, and would even call the other hotel to straighten things out and cancel our existing reservation. However, she asked that we go to our room and come back to the desk in about an hour, as she was going to be very busy checking in the Rick Steves tour group! I nearly burst into tears, wishing we were part of that group! We learned a lesson - the hard way. Next time, Rick, I'm coming with you!
We were on the next-to-last day of a road trip through Bavaria, Italy, Austria and back into Bavaria when we stopped for lunch at a Munich cafe. It was clearly a sports bar with posters and photos of soccer players on the walls. My wife was going meatless at the time. Maybe it was because of our limited experience with the language but she had a hard time finding vegetables and had been eating Spaetzle at most every German meal. Our lunches came; I enjoyed my 'brats but my wife just couldn't stomach any more spaetzle and ate very little of the pile on her plate. The owner/waiter came over to clear our plates, saw how little my wife had eaten and asked if anything was wrong. He started laughing when she told him, said something in German out loud and pulled a yellow card out of his shirt and held it over her. The place broke up -- and so did I.
@ Diana....the Burger King is located at the Bayerstrasse exit where the hotel is. You could have suggested as a rendezvous point the Starbucks coffee place or in front of the Rail and Fresh, (the WC facility downstairs).
My wife and i decided to visit Europe for the first time during May 2002. A friend in Amsterdam loaned us his car, an old Renault 5. Being from South Africa, I was new to driving on the wrong side of the road. That is another story. I did my homework, planned in detail. We traveled from Amsterdam through Brugge and the on to Paris. By this time I was getting used to winding down my window instead of changing gears.
We arrived in France and in front of us we saw the tollgates. Cars were going through putting a ticket or something into a machine. We had no ticket. I stopped between two gates and sent my wife running of to an office in the distance. She wound through the cars and reached the office and not able to speak French told the Clerk: Aikona billet. "Aikona" meaning something like "no" in Fanagalo. The clerk gave her a strange look but open a carton and gave her a ticket. She wound her way back to the car.
I drove into the gate and got a ticket from the machine that dispenses it!I was so embarrassed that we got of the highway at the first gate, paid our money and stopped for something to eat.
Rick Steves warned us to hold onto our ticket after scanning it when traveling on the Metro in Paris. Never forgot in the first 10 days in Paris and held onto the ticket stub with no incident. On the 11th day, for some reason I can't explain, I threw the stub in the trash rushing to catch the train. The ticket police stopped everyone that day checking for tickets, of course. Just my luck. Had to pay €40 in cash to several very stern, unblinking police.
1976 Hitchhiking from Brussels to Amsterdam. Waiting at the entrance to the autoroute forever. Finally someone stops but they are not going all the way. They state where they are going, which of course is too fast for me to understand, but, i figure part way is better then no way. Twenty kilometers or so up the highway he lets me off. Farm country. Again stand at the entrance, but there is no traffic, so I go down to the highway and stand under the bridge and stick my thumb out ( i know this is illegal) and try to get cars traveling at 140 K, or so, to stop. Finally, yes a car stops, drives me at harrowing speeds to Amsterdam, directly to the hostel/room I was staying. I thank him profusely. It is now late, the rooming house ( i did not travel with reservations then) is closed. I check my guide book, I believe it was Lets Go Europe, and sure enough it states this place is closed in January. God i just love this stuff.
Bought tickets straight thru to Freiburg.
Conductor said train was canceled and must get off at next stop. Saw train saying Freiburg so we all got on it.
Arrived at Freiburg Switzerland not Germany.
Got in cab and showed driver the address. He wanted to know if we wanted to drive us so far.
Wow what a fun thread to read! I have a couple of good ones.
Several years ago while visiting Mt St. Michel with my husband and then 7 yr old son. Shortly after arriving my son asks my husband if he can go explore to which he replies sure. I looked around and saw sign that says something like "beware of quick sand and the tide as it comes in at the speed of a galloping horse". Asked my husband where my son was - we ran in different directions around the island to find my son. All turned out fine, but sure was a few minutes of total panic!
In 2012 we were leaving Konstanz heading to Berner Oberland. We arrived at the train station a few minutes early and saw train on correct track, but were unsure if it was our train. We got on and found seats and my husband said "you wait here and I'll go see if this is the correct train". Well I bet you can guess what happened next - the train started moving - I was on and my husband was off. Talk about total panic! We had 1 cell phone between us, but not 2. The train stopped shortly - about 5 miles down the road in Kruezlingen. I hopped off hoping to catch a quick train back to Konstanz and indeed saw there was one leaving in 1 min. Raced down and over 2 tracks just in time to see it pull out of the station:( Quickly ran outside and found a taxi driver (our scheduled train was going to be leaving Konstanz in 10 mins) and asked how long to take me to Konstanz train station? He advised 10 minutes. I told him I would pay extra if he could get me there in 5. We got to Konstanz in about 9 minutes - I paid the driver and pulled my backpack out fast! Ran to the track shouting my husband's name. He actually answered and we jumped on the intended train:) It was something I won't ever forget, but looking back on it was one of the "stupidest" euroblunders we EVER made, and shouldn't have been in such a panic as we could have just caught the next train. I think it was being separated and not being able to communicate that threw me into such a panic:)
Heading down an unmarked piste in the Rif mountains of Morocco without a full tank of gas.
Accepting an invitation to a disco in Florence without knowing that it required a drive way out of town.
Trusting the Greek bus schedule posted on the sign instead of the Greek taxi driver telling me that the bus would not come for hours.
Driving down the Croatian coast on a Saturday in August and finally getting to Rab Island without a hotel reservation.
We were driving to the Salisbury train station after leaving Stonehenge. At the back of the station, my partner jumped out of the car and said he'd meet me on the platform. The night before, I'd arranged by telephone to drop off the rental car at the station (over 10 years ago -- I don't know if that still can be done), and it took me a while to find out where to park, pay the parking fee, and display the ticket on the dashboard. Then I had to find a luggage cart, unload the car, get everything into the station, and buy our tickets. Then I stood on the platform with the last direct train of the day to London scheduled to arrive in just a few minutes and no partner. He finally joined a very panicky me just a minute before the train pulled in after having gotten lost on his surprisingly long walk. I will never agree to separate like that again!