Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Way back in the day, TH visited London without me. I gave her a detailed list of places to visit and what to do in order to keep her upright until the evening. It was an exhaustive paper list and map with a specific routing of what to see along the way and where to eat. While there might have been Internet in those days -however, computerized maps, nor GPS were not available to every Tom, Dick or Sally. My itinerary kept her amused and worked as she was exhausted by the time she got to her final destination.
These days, things are both easier and more complicated. Travel planning not only requires more than the Boolean of smoking or no smoking, single or double; but which of the 90880 travel reviews do I trust for a hotel recommendation. I contend we suffer from travel decision fatigue and that is even before we actually get to the airport to board the first flight.
When it comes down to it, I love planning than the actual trip. It is the combination of preparation, curation, anticipation of what might the new thing, along with the familiarity of the old and true that excites me. Some trips are methodically planned, e.g. car trips and others are loosely based on a few hard to procure reservations and gaps filled with whatever we see or can fill in along the way. The explosion of social sharing of information and sometimes the over sharing makes trip planning even easier these days. Friends are willing to share out lists, links, hidden gems to their friends because sharing is fun. Some folks keep detailed itineraries and share them with anyone who might want to copy them cappuccino by cappuccino and are mortally offended if you do not find each and every thing they did as fascinating as they did. Nod politely with each offer of help or advice and go home and sleep on it. It is ultimately your trip, own it.
Visual curation seems to be the new thing in travel planning - both for aspirational travel or for itinerary planning. Marrying images with a map and some text or another link to information is priceless for travel planning and for on the ground navigating. I'm a big fan of a few techniques for doing this.
Suggestion One - Try trip planning using imagery instead of guide books. Going to Rome? Paris? New York? Louisville? Seek these places out using discovery apps or web sites. A few to try include Pinterest, Instagram (or the web equivalent), Flickr and Trover. Use the key word function to find a place and start discovering. This probably can't be done on the plane somewhere, but requires a little time before your trip to find places that intrigue you and if you are lucky are geotagged with a location. Take notes, or in the case of Trover, start making lists of places you want to visit within the application (nifty feature).
Putting this on a map - I know everyone is gaga for Pinterest, but Pinterest has not done such a great job of integrating all their pinning with a map interface So, you can love and repin something from one person's board to your own, but no geographic information gets transferred, so it up to you to start creating your own map using Google Maps, this is clunky, but useful and shareable.
Suggestion Two - Use online guides for trip planning. Lots of guides are now available electronically and some actually work well when you are off line. Many tourist boards now make mapping applications with some background information and useful tourist information. Some municipalities even create podcasts that you can listen to while walking around. Use these, love them and remember to remove them when you are done.
Time out guides are also great because they are free and update with current events. They are available on the web and from app stores. These are handy if you are trying to decide between two museums or to see what is nearby. Time out also lets you plan out an itinerary by day and works well offline. Drawback - there are advertisements that pop up, but that is the tradeoff for a free app.
Download specialty apps for trip planning and navigating - food, art, fashion. Not all of these are free, but they can be useful depending on the quality of the maps used. Many of them seem repetitive - there may be 940 bakeries in the center of Paris, but most food tourists flock to 15 of them. Don't be smug or angry that someone else beat you to the last baguette, everyone is getting the same information.
Suggestion Three - Be flexible. Have a back up plan. A 76 degree day in Rome sounds delightful when you are sitting in 45 degree Seattle, until you realize that swollen feet, sticky armpits and cameras that weigh a ton can make the most delightful stop for gelato seem like a death march. Maybe you should use this time to go sit in a cafe and write that postcard you promised to the cat sitter.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
This blog post is really for my friends M and A who are going to Paris for a week. They are quite lovely people - well traveled and have an amazing perspective on the world. I believe the last time they were in Paris, they might have been roughing it a little more.
In any case, here is my best what to see in Paris advice. Take what you can from it and throw the rest away.
Welcome to a city that is full of amazing stuff - croissants spilling out of shop doors, dogs clad in Chanel, millions of instagrammable shots everywhere you look and tourists, scads of tourists.
Be a tourist for a few days, take in the city by bites, there is no need to see it all in a purposeful way. Make it fun, not a trudge.
Paris is a bunch of cities in one. Pick a few things that appeal to you - gardens, fashion, art, technology, revolution, food and focus on them. No need to be greedy. Paris will always be there. Focus on those things and do them well.
Interested in gardens and adaptive reuse? Visit Parc Andre Citroen, Parc de la Villette, Viaducts des Arts, Canal St. Martin, Bercy, Bois de Boulogne, Giverny spring to mind and don't forget the Jardins des Plantes.
Interested in Markets - pick three to see - one with a great view is the Marche Au President Wilson, Posh Organic Market - Boul. Raspail, Ethnic Market - one on the Canal, Covered markets are worth a look as well... The Quai de la Mégisseries and others close by have great plants. From this you get a sense of how Parisians try hard to eek out a little green in the smallest of balconies.
Outdoor Art - Musee Rodin, Pompidou and the sculpture garden located at Quai St. Bernard on the Seine.
Understanding Hausmann - walk the Grands Boulevards, at least for bit - Start at Opera, look down the Avenue, go towards Madeleine, marvel at the square and the poshness that surrounds. If you are strong willed, walk up Boul. Malesherbes to see the grandness of the streets. You can stop anywhere along the way to rest your feet. Contrast this with the Marais and its medieval feel.
Find the best box of chocolates - you know my favorites - Foucher, Jean Paul Hevin, La Maison du Chocolat, compare and contrast. Do the same for macarons - you don't have to order a whole box, it is perfectly okay to order one or two.
The maps that you get from the hotels are remarkably well designed and should be used in conjunction to those you use to navigate on your phone.