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travelgirl2 Jun 15th, 2006 01:31 AM

Travelgirl's Trip of a Lifetime
Hello Fodorites! We are about to embark on our trip of a lifetime. 11 weeks travelling through Asia and Europe. First stop... London.

Muchas gracias for all the suggestions and advice. I will try to post little reports as we go along. We are a family, with boys aged 11 and 13. We are staying at a combination of hotels and apartments. Looking to experience different cultures and hoping to last the summer without experiencing complete exhaustion!

Carrybean Jun 15th, 2006 02:52 AM

What a grand time you'll have. Enjoy every second.

Margo_Chester Jun 15th, 2006 03:45 AM

Have a wonderful, safe journey! Looking forward to a few reports "from the road"

SuzieC Jun 15th, 2006 04:30 AM

Where is home Travelgirl2? Going "around the world"?

travelgirl2 Jun 15th, 2006 01:13 PM

Home is New Jersey, so I guess, yes, we're going 'round the world.

Right now, we are facing the challenge of packing. It seems that we are running to this store and that store for all the things we need for our trip. New bathing suits, watches, snacks for the plane ride, a new suitcase, sunscreen, some clothes, sandals, etc., etc., etc.

There was a fun thread a couple of months ago about everything you have to do at home while preparing for the trip. I feel like I'm doing everything that was on everyone's list!

We are also experiencing the last few days of school, with all the attendant celebrations, gifts, etc. 3 more days to go and we'll be aloft!

travelgirl2 Jun 16th, 2006 08:58 AM

Ok, now that we are just about to leave, our house is falling apart. Five days ago, our dishwasher broke. Yesterday afternoon, we noticed that the leechfield around our septic tank is flooded (that can't be good, can it?). Last night, I heard a tremendous "boom" resound throughout the house. After verifying that DH was still in one piece, we hunted for the source of the noise. Turns out the garage door spring broke. Now, the garage door won't open and my car is a prisoner in the garage!

I have spent all morning working on the most pressing of these problems. Every repairman in New Jersey is fully booked today, even those that advertise "emergency service". Wish me luck!

HappyCheesehead Jun 16th, 2006 09:04 AM

Hi Travelgirl2 - Best of Luck to you for a great trip -you deserve it after a bizzaro week! We have been in the position of hearing that crazy boom and trying like h to figure out just what happened.

You might want to make sure the water is turned off to the house before you go, we once had a basement flood on a quick 5 day trip to Charleston. With your luck.......

CRAZY4TRAVEL Jun 16th, 2006 09:04 AM

Good luck travelgirl2. Getting ready for the trip is a marathon but half of the fun. Sounds like life is throwing you some curve balls though which is not fair. I hope you get your troubles worked out so you can have a carefree and wonderful holiday.

tower Jun 16th, 2006 09:47 AM

Travel girl...super news! How about sending us an itinerary so we can "follow" your exciting trip! The boys are the beneficiaries of a lifetime experience at a tender age! Enjoy!

Stu T.

escargot Jun 16th, 2006 10:27 AM


Think of it this way.

1. You won't need your dishwasher for 11 weeks anyway, so before you leave and when first back home, paper and plastic and no washing until the new one is installed.

2. Your septic will get a rest for 11 weeks, maybe the water table is high, maybe it's nothing too drastic. An 11 week rest will tell or a quick pump out before you go, and then bed rest for it for the 11 weeks. :)

3. hmmm...the car....borrow a friends, rent one, forget about it ! ANything you don't have, you can buy if you need it or do without.

4. No one is sick, your trip is still on - it's warm out...the boys can shower with a hose outside until you leave :)

Think....this too shall pass......leaving...escaping....soon....excitement ....exploration...leaving all worries behind !!

BON VOYAGE and keep good notes - can't wait for the trip report....

travelgirl2 Jun 16th, 2006 11:54 AM

No success in remediating anything. Everything will have to wait until we get back. Good thing I drove to the store yesterday and bought more paper plates and toilet paper. Well, I guess we don't need the toilet paper since no one is allowed to use the bathroom for the next 2 days!

Thanks for all your encouraging posts! I will definitely check the water. And, escargot, I am so pumped up after reading your post. You should be a motivational speaker.

LoveItaly Jun 16th, 2006 12:34 PM

Hi travelgirl, why do emergencies always happen at the worse times? Story of my life and many others it seems.

wishing you and your family a wonderful eleven weeks, what a summer you will have! Memories to last a lifetime. When you get on that plane just forget about everything and just think about having your family with you for eleven special weeks in very wonderful locations.

travelgirl2 Jun 17th, 2006 08:18 AM

I am reminded of what great friends and neighbors I have. So many people have offered to lend a car or even drive me around town. Such generosity. It reminds me why I love living here.

And, good news. I had reserved a 9 passenger van from AutoEurope for $1449 (manual transmission) for a week in Tuscany. (We have family joining us.) I found a better price on and AutoEurope agreed to match it. $1187 for an automatic. Yeah!

Things are looking up :)

kswl Jun 17th, 2006 08:56 AM

&quot;An 11 week rest will tell or <i>a quick pump out</i> before you go&quot; . . .

there is no such thing as a quick pump out of a too-full or non-functioning septic tank, alas. :(

travelgirl2 Jun 18th, 2006 04:36 PM

We flew from Newark to London this morning. We much prefer the 8 am flight to an overnight flight. You do lose the day to travelling, but you arrive ready for a walk and dinner and a late bedtime. The next morning, we'll be ready to roll.

The flight was uneventful. Due to the magnitude of the logistics for the trip, I was up late making various arrangements. At about 1 am, when I knew I would only get a couple of hours of sleep, since our ride was coming at 5 am, I decided to book a London airport taxi. I sent an online request to (based on several of your recommendations here). The response came back that I would hear in 24 hours. Uh oh. We would be arriving before then. So I called and was told they were fully booked. I tried another limo service and they were fully booked. It looked like we were going to take the Heathrow Express after all. Then, surprise, in the morning there was an email from justairports saying that we would need a larger vehicle for 4 people and our luggage. Now, I was confused. Was there a car available or wasn't there? So, I decided to act as if we had definitely arranged a car and sent back a note saying the larger vehicle was okay and that we would like to confirm the ride.

Then, we piled our luggage in the New Jersey airport limo and took off. I felt bad that we were half an hour late leaving our house and the limo driver had to wait. But then again, I had only had one hour of sleep. There were no hard feelings though, as the limo driver told us all about her year living in Japan and gave us lots of helpful advice. She said that where she lived, if a restaurant owner crossed his arms and raised them slightly while frowning, it means that he is refusing to serve you. She said that there are no laws to prevent someone from refusing to serve anyone they chose and that she saw it happen more than once. Interesting. In the US, that just wouldn't be pc (politically correct). Hopefully, we will only meet friendly restauranteurs.

We got to the airport in plenty of time. While checking in to our Virgin flight, we learned of the weight limit for carryon items. 6 kg. We pulled out an empty bag and stood in line, re-distributing the weight in our 5 carryons, spreading it among 6 carryons. (They allow 1 personal item plus 1 carryon.) I am afraid this is probably the first of many instances where we will not be completely informed. Because of the amount of arrangements I've made, I simply have not been able to be thorough about any one thing. We will have to live with this. So far, it seems that we are all taking everything in stride and regarding this as an adventure.

LoveItaly Jun 18th, 2006 04:55 PM

An adventure!! Yes travelling is travelgirl. Intersting comment about the restaurant owners/managers in Japan.

Enjoy..and I hope you will be be doing a running commentary during your trip. Best wishes and do enjoy every moment no matter what happens.

travelgirl2 Jun 18th, 2006 04:55 PM

Day 1 - London

We arrive at Heathrow at 8:30 pm. The other passengers tell me they saw ambulances and fire trucks as we taxi'd to the gate. We all agree that we think we have been circling for a while. I never find out what was going on.

As go through immigration, there is no line at all. We walk right up to an agent. He asks the kids all sorts of questions. How long are we in London, where we are going next, why we are here, what we want to see. He wants to hear the kids answer, particularly the youngest, who is so shy that he doesn't know what to say. He keeps us for what seems like 10 minutes, having fun with us. He is testing the kids on the difference between sushi and sashimi, what there is to see in Kyoto, etc. Oh, did I mention that we are in London for 2 nights and then on to Japan? Well, the agent is very funny, but we are tired and want to get to the hotel, so I am happy when he lets us through.

Now, the big question is - will there be a car waiting for us or not? As we exit, we see lots of men holding signs with people's names on them. We scan the crowd, scan it again, then walk a little further and scan a second group of waiting drivers. Nope, nothing. And we'd been so hopeful. Then I glance an internet kiosk. 1 GBP for 5 minutes. As I long onto my email account, hoping for a confirmation message, my son starts talking to me about something. I tell him, wait, wait, I only have 5 minutes here. I successfully log on and scan through the messages. Yes! There is one from just airports. But, will it say there is no car available? I open it and... it says our ride is confirmed and we should meet our driver in front of the Hertz desk. Hooray! So, we go there and there he is. And a delightful chap he is. DH sits in the front seat and they strike up a conversation the entire way into London. The kids sit in the back seat and take a cat nap. It turns out the driver has also been to Japan and he gives us more advice. He is big into the quality of life and makes several observations that strike home with me about how people work hard and are under so much stress. He recommends that we go to Edgeware Road to find a quick restaurant for dinner. When he drops us off at the hotel, I feel that we are friends and I have to restrain myself from hugging him goodbye.

We check into the Thistle Marble Arch. 2 rooms, but they don't have connecting rooms to give us. I read another poster who got connecting rooms, so that would have been nice for us. But, I got this hotel for $107 per night (including taxes and fees) per room on Priceline, so I can't complain. The rooms they give us are on the 7th floor and are much bigger than the 8th floor room I had last time I was here. This really is a decent hotel, especially at Priceline rates.

We drop off our stuff and head out for a 4 block walk to Edgeware Road. We go to the Beirut Express, at the corner of George Street. At 10:30 pm, it is packed and bustling and there is also a line of take-out diners waiting for their food. We sit right down, nodding and saying hello to two gentlemen next to us. It is a long table for 12 people, so we are right next to each other.

travelgirl2 Jun 18th, 2006 05:17 PM

There must be something about being on vacation. At home, we might exchange a few words with strangers. Here in London, we are having hour-long conversations with strangers. The 2 Indian gentlemen next to us are very friendly. One of them is a businessman from Dubai. He has been to New Jersey several times, so we exchange notes. He tells us all about Dubai. It sounds like a fascinating place.

The other man suggests what we should order. When we agree, he calls the waiter over and orders for us. As we eat, he asks us if everything is okay. When he notices that we are out of pita bread, he calls the waiter over and orders more.

He is a fascinating and gracious man. He has referreed at Wimbledon. His friend tells us he has been recognized by the Queen. It turns out his son (in New Jersey!) is in the same line of work as DH, so he gives us his business card. At the end of the meal, he disappears for a little while and when he returns, his friend tells us he has treated us to dinner. We are stunned. We repeatedly thank him for his hospitality. As they leave, we just sit there, still stunned. As we realize that we have licked every plate clean (metaphorically), we leave too.

When we return to the hotel, it hits me that we are actually in London and our adventure has begun!

LoveItaly Jun 18th, 2006 05:24 PM

Travelgir, A good beginning..which I am sure means a good eleven weeks. I enjoyed your post, and hope to see so many more!!

travelgirl2 Jun 18th, 2006 05:30 PM

Thank you LoveItaly. It is so much fun to make these posts. I am glad that they are being read.

I hope others are enjoying them too. I know that I love to vicariously enjoy other people's trips.

Sometimes it is discouraging to post and then not know if anyone has read your post, so thank you to everyone who has encouraged me by letting me know you were reading.

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