Monthly Archives: March 2012
And I’m off! I’m leaving for the airport in about an hour and with all my packing done, I thought I’d share what exactly I’m bringing for ten days in Europe in March.
I’m using my new backpack for the first time. I bought it for my longer upcoming trip when I graduate in May, so I figured I’d try it out on this trip and learn how to walk around with it on. My shoulders are already sore from yoga yesterday so I’m a bit nervous I’ll be in pain by the time I get to Amsterdam tomorrow!
- 6 t shirts
- 7 sweaters (a combination of warmer pullover sweaters and cardigans)
- 4 nice blouses
- 3 dresses
- 1 skirt
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 3 pairs of tights
- 2 jackets (one rain jacket, one lighter jacket)
- 1 sweatshirt
- 4 pairs of shoes (one sandals, one converse sneakers, one heels, one boots)
I definitely overpacked on the clothes. I do it every time and regret it every time! I just can’t help it. Maybe next time I will learn…
- Canon EOS 20d camera body
- Canon wide angle lens 35 mm f 1.4, which I rented from Borrow Lenses. **Side note: soooo obsessed with this lens. Don’t know how I am going to go back to my regular lens after using this for 2 weeks. Can someone please donate their old one to this poor college student?
- Nikon Coolpix P700 (great alternative to when I don’t want to lug around the DSLR)
- Unlocked Blackberry
I’m not bringing my laptop, so my posts about the trip won’t be up until I get back. Until then, au revoir! (Yes, I am pretending I know French. I did download a French guidebook on my Ipad, does that count?)
I’m leaving for Europe in 6 days! I had a bit of a mini meltdown yesterday when I realized I was leaving in only a week. Where has March gone?!
- Leaving March 21st, 2012 from SFO
- 4 days, 3 nights in Amsterdam
- Train from Amsterdam to Paris
- 7 days, 6 nights in Paris
- Arriving back at SFO April 1st, after a night layover at JFK
I’ve never been to either Amsterdam or Paris so I’m extremely excited. I’ll be with 3 friends from school, 2 of whom I grew up on the same street with. We are also meeting up with another friend from school in Paris, where she’ll be visiting her mother and childhood home. I’m quite lucky to have a personal Parisian tour guide!
Here’s what I’m most looking forward to:
- Taking silly touristy pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower
- Overdosing on cheese and baguettes in the parks of Paris
- Wandering along the canals in Amsterdam
- The Anne Frank house
- The D’Orsay and The Lourve
- Enjoying Versailles in the springtime
- Experiencing European nightlife for the first time
I’m so stoked for my trip! Now on to that mountain of schoolwork I need to finish by Wednesday…
After spending countless hours on Trip Advisor while planning my upcoming trips, I thought it might be interesting to check out what sights received the best reviews for my town, Berkeley. The number 1 attraction in Berkeley is the University of California Botanical Gardens, and since I’ve never been during my four years here, I decided to check it out.
Logistics: you can either drive (there’s a parking lot), take a $5 taxi from Berkeley BART, a bus, or walk. I walked. Its a little bit of a hike, but not too bad. Its free for UC students and free for everyone on the first Thursday of each month. I incidentally went on the first Thursday of the month, but it was not crowded at all. Other days it is a $10 entrance fee.
I started out by going in the “desert” greenhouse.
I checked out the “jungle” greenhouse too. Hoping to see some of these plants in the wild on my trip!
I was the youngest person there by a few years.
They have over 32 acres to explore, with 12,000 different plants from all over the world.
The Asian part of the gardens has a beautiful pond, with tons of loud frogs.
Some of the plants have funny names.
Agave, from the Sonoma state of Mexico. I recognized this since it is a key ingredient in margaritas.
A lonely palm tree.
I loved the colors of this plant, found in the African part of the gardens.
All in all, I had fun checking out the number 1 rated activity in my city. Its worth a few hours if you ever find yourself here in Berkeley!
Ok, so this photo is a little lame, I’ll admit it. Here’s my excuse: my DSLR was broken this whole week and in the repair shop. I finally got in back today (yay!) but I was less motivated to take pictures this week since I was stuck to using my point and shoot. Anyways, here’s the photo. Leftover pizza from the California Pizza Kitchen in Walnut Creek, CA.
So Napa isn’t really known as being a budget destination– and for good reason. Wine tastings add up quickly and cheap food and accommodation are not readily available. However, there are ways for poor college students like myself (also other budget travelers) to experience Napa and still be able to eat for the next month! Here’s my top 5 tips for cutting down on expenses when in wine country.
1. Split the tasting– or skip the tasting
As I mentioned, wine tasting fees really add up. If you go to 3 wineries in a day, you could spend $60 just on tasting fees (not including any bottles of wine)! This isn’t feasible for many travelers. To save on the fees, split a tasting if you’re with someone. There’s several benefits to this approach: you save money and stay more sober, both of which allow you to try more wineries in a day. There’s also the option of skipping the tasting altogether– lots of wineries have beautiful grounds that you can walk around for free if you don’t want to do a tasting. Beringer Winery is one example.
2. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)
Although there’s a great selection of restaurants in Napa Valley, many of them are upscale and thus expensive. A fun alternative is to bring your own picnic supplies! Many wineries have tables and grassy areas where you can enjoy your own food. My favorite is to bring bread, cheese, and cured meats. You’ll save even more money if you buy this food a little outside of the wine tasting region, as the Oakville Grocer, Dean and Deluca, and other deli options in the area are somewhat overpriced. Downtown Napa would be a good place to find cheaper picnic food.
3. Don’t do a bus tour
I’m all for taking a tour if you plan a drinking a lot. Part of the fun (at least for me) is getting drunk in Napa! I am a college student though, after all. Needless to say, It is NOT safe to drink and drive I am not condoning that. But if you’re planning on just doing a small amount of drinking and spreading out each winery visit (and eating lots of yummy food in between), then it is so much cheaper to rent a car every day than take a bus tour. Renting a car only costs about $15 a day, while bus and limousine tours can run between $90-200 a day, which does not include tastings fees. This could easily add up to several hundred a day if you’re doing all the tastings and buying wine! The one advantage to taking tours is that they sometimes take you to wineries off the beaten bath. However, if you read their Yelp reviews, the reviewers often mention which wineries they go to. Read the reviews and visit the wineries yourself!
4. Look for discounts online
Many wineries offer discounts on Yelp and Facebook (especially if you check in), so do your research beforehand. A common deal is to offer two tastings for the price of one. Discounts can also be found in the wine region magazines, which are given away for free at the Visitor’s Center, your hotel, or in the wineries themselves. Another place to check is Groupon or other daily deals sites. I’ve seen coupons for wine tastings, bus tours, and other special events at wineries on these sites.
5. Check out other activities besides wine tasting
Believe it or not, there’s other stuff to do in Napa besides wine taste. A few wineries have Bocce Ball courts. Some have art exhibits: Mumm Napa currently has an Ansel Adams photography gallery on display. Another option is the Culinary Institute of America, where you can participate in cooking demonstrations or take a tour. There’s many festivals that take place in Napa throughout the year– check the Napa Chamber of Commerce for more information. Napa is also a beautiful place to bike, and there’s several bike tour companies to choose from. There’s also the Napa Museum, if you want to see some art.
So I hope I proved that you don’t have to have lots of cash to spend to enjoy Napa. There’s plenty of free activities and ways to cut costs, so don’t think you have to skip Napa just because you aren’t spending tons of money!