I just returned from Europe yesterday and would like to start by saying thank you to everyone for all the wonderful information that is found on this forum. I would also like to thank the people who answered my many questions before my departure.
We had a wonderful time. We went to London, Paris and Venice over a period of 11 days. Although I repeatedly heard people say that these places are expensive I never fully understood just how expensive they would be. London, Paris and Venice are VERY, VERY, VERY expensive. I really felt it because the exchange rate was so awful for the US dollar.
With that aside, I planned the trip all on my own and we had no problems at all navigating The Tube in London, the subways in Paris or the train in Venice. We had a slight issue getting our train tickets from the machine in Venice because the machine was completely in Italian and there were no attendants but once I remembered that I had my Italian book in my purse -- we easily figured it out. We took public transportation everywhere and it was great. We did a lot of walking too but considering all the bread that we ate while away -- walking was a good thing. :-)
I did need to work while I was away and took my laptop computer with me. I made sure that each of our hotels had high speed internet access. What I didn't do was to ask if it was free. I travel frequently in the States and have never had to pay for Internet access so it did not occur to me to ask. This was an issue that I had not anticipated. Internet access cost me from 15 pounds to 30 Euros each day. When you think of it in terms of US dollars (which I automatically did) -- Internet access was very expensive. In Paris and Venice I had to pay by the hour!
We took larger pieces of luggage than I originally planned but it was no problem at all. Not even on public transportation.
We flew from Paris to Venice and back to London again via Ryanair and it was just fine. I was afraid that our luggage would exceed the weight requirements or that we would only be allowed to take one bag on the plane each but neither of these things were an issue. I would definitely fly Ryanair again. It didn't even bother me that the seats didn't recline or that they won't even give water for free.
Ordering food in each country was an experience -- particularly in Paris and Venice where all items were ala carte. We even had to pay for water. And, I really like ice in my drinks but to get more than a cube or 2 in a drink was a rarity.
We stayed at Holiday Inn Hotels in each country and they were each conveniently located to public transportation and were reasonably priced. Two of them even included breakfast in the price of the room. While breakfast was nothing to jump and shout about -- it was filling and a wider variety than I expected.
London to me was like any other large metropolitan city. It was like being in New York. It was ok, I'm glad I had the opportunity to visit but unless I'm visiting someone in particular, I don't need to return.
Venice was very nice. It looked like something out of the movies. I loved the water and the streets and the gondolas. We went to Murano and Burano also to buy glass and lace. I'm glad that we went to Venice but now that I've been I do not need to return there either. I'll probably do Rone next time.
Paris was absolutely, positively beautiful! I loved it. I loved the buildings, the greenery, the cafes and bistros, the people watching, the bread and pastries, the tourist attractions -- everything. I do plan to return sometime soon.
Although I took a money belt, I only wore it the first 2 days. After that I didn't want to be bothered with it and felt safe and secure with everything in my purse. I grew up in L.A. so I know how to keep my things close anyway. :-)
I did buy European converters and adapters for my laptop, cell phone charger and a couple other things but I didn't realize that the UK has one type of plug while Paris and Venice have another. Fortunately I did buy one kit that had all kinds of plugs in it so I was able to rotate the applicances -- but I wish I had realized that beforehand.
I took my digital camera and since I had my laptop with me I downloaded photos every night and e-mailed them to family and friends. That served 2 purposes for me. Number one, family and friends said they felt like they were experiencing the trip with us and number 2 -- that way if I lost my camera or laptop I could get copies of the photos from someone I had sent them to.
Well, I think I've remembered everything that I wanted to share. I hope this information will help someone else as they plan for a similar trip.
Europe was fantastic and I can't wait to return.
Thanks again for all your wonderful information!