Spain & Portugal Travel Tips

This post is by one of our travelers, Lauren.

For our Spain / Portugal travelers, here is a quick top list of what to pack for Spain in May:

1)   Comfortable shoes!  We do a lot of walking and cobblestones can wreck havoc on heels.  Even flip flops aren’t always the best choice for long days.  Choose something with support that can go the distance.

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2)   Layered clothing – Having a variety of sleeve lengths can help with adjusting temperatures throughout the day.

3)   Clothing that can multi-task – Choosing clothes you can wear more than once will help keep your suitcase nimble and with plenty of room for souvenirs!  For women, long flowy skirts, cotton dresses, or sleeveless blouses can be worn both day and night.  For men, khakis or long sleeve button ups can be worn in a variety of atmospheres.

4)   A good day bag – Either a large purse or satchel to keep key items.  Please note that this bag should be very secure with zippers.  Unfortunately, in Spain, we must be very prudent.

5)   Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat – The Mediterranean sun is quite strong!

6)   Any medicines you typically might need – They will be available at a pharmacy of course, but typically it is good to pack a Benadryl, a few Advil, a few Pepto tablets, etc. that you may already have a supply of at home….for if the need arises.

7)   Bubble wrap & ziploc bags – In case you buy a lovely wine or port or breakable item to bring home, bubble wrap can be handy to add as a filler to your suitcase.  Ziploc bags add security to olive oils and liquids.   Otherwise, if you forget – – your dirty clothes can make excellent packing material.

8)   Earplugs – Typically, most people do not need them.  But in case you have trouble sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, these can work wonders.

9)   Conditioner – Many women need conditioner which most hotels do not provide.  Pack it if it’s a necessity.

10) Travel Journal & a pen – Many people find this a great way to keep track of their journey.  Leave space if you’d like to tape restaurant business cards or tickets later.

 

This is the blog of Beyond Ordinary Travel, an organization providing tours and experiences for travelers who enjoy high quality travel.  If you’d like to join our group of travelers, please visit beyondordinarytravel.com. 

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How to speak like a true Parisian

This post is by Kay Pfaltz, Founder of Beyond Ordinary Travel. 

Traveling to Paris? I offer these tips to the first time traveler.  A few French phrases will get you far along that chic boulevard without having to rent a Yorkie or poodle or shell out the Euros on the Hermès scarves. And a few dos and don’ts never hurt either.

The French are polite, and the French are more formal than we Americans.

Therefore when entering a boulangerie or shop of any sort, always say, “Bonjour.” If there is one woman behind the counter, even if she giving your tattered clothes a disdaining eye as you dare touch her elegant rows of lingerie, say, “Bonjour Madame.” If there are several people waiting in line in the boulangerie when you enter, say in your best singsong voice, “Bonjour Mesdames, bonjour Messieurs.” A smile is optional if not all that common, but I have found in France as elsewhere on the journey of life, that a smile has taken me farther down that same boulevard than mere politesse, flattery or any other sort of adulation ever has. Upon leaving utter the simple words: “Merci” and “Au revoir.” These simple words are the gold keys with which you’ll begin to narrow the chasm that yawns between the American mentality and la mentalité française, and banish for a few moments in time, if never forever, the image of ugly American.

A typical French patisserie

A typical French patisserie

Please. Your mother may have taught you this one, but she was, mais bien sûr, right again. S’il vous plait or please. Saying please, like a smile, will not hurt and will in fact if not exactly open doors, help you to keep them from slamming in your face. If asking for a coffee, you can do it many ways but the easiest is: Un café s’il vous plait. If someone does you a favour, say thank you, merci. And if you do someone a favour for which you are thanked you may reply, Je vous en prie, formal for, literally, “I beg of you.” Or if it is a friend or someone you know casually, you reply, Je t’en prie or De rien, it’s nothing.

The French are very logical. And by that I mean, of course, illogical. Never mind that theirs is fundamentally a Cartesian society, their very thought, intellectualism to the tenth degree, founded, for better or for worse, by Descartes.  Therefore, you must be prepared for their illogical logic. For instance if you have business to do in a France Telecom office and are told to wait, beware the small increments of time. If you are told to wait for “un moment” (a moment) you’re probably okay. But beware the moment that “un moment” becomes “un petit moment” (a  little moment)  for that is longer still or, horrors of all, “un tout petit instant” (a very little instant/moment). You might as well get out the sleeping bag.

Coffee, black or white.  Where coffee is concerned I have to admit I think the French are quite logical. In the morning, they like it with milk or cream, as in café au lait or café crème. (If you are a cream lover, be warned that many café owners will simply give you steamed milk no matter what your desire.) An express (short for espresso) or un café are also acceptable at breakfast. These are small, strong coffees…espresso. At what hour is the bewitching hour when you would never find a Frenchman asking for a grand crème? Well, at tea-time it is still permissible to have the milk, although a thé, tisane or infusion is often more fashionable. (But don’t look at me, I love my crèmes as much as my doubles.) After dinner, however, you always order un café or un express, unless of course you order un double or un double express in which case we know you’re either an insomniac who wanders the streets of Paris instead of sleeping or that enviable youth who can still imbibe large quantities of alcohol and strong coffee and sleep like a bébé.

Awaiting a cup of coffee in Provence

Stay tuned….

This is the blog of Beyond Ordinary Travel, an organization providing tours and experiences for travelers who enjoy high quality travel.  If you’d like to join our group of travelers, please visit beyondordinarytravel.com.