They say that anticipation is half the fun, and that's definitely true for travel. Chris and I have a trip to Paris coming up in the next few months, so I'm starting my preparation. After years of traveling, I have lots of favorites in terms of guidebooks, suitcases, and the many little travel items that make a trip more enjoyable.
First off, I have my favorite suitcase, a Travelpro Rollaboard, which is the correct size for European planes. That means my bag won't have to be checked because it's oversized. We always carry on our luggage because we don't want to risk losing it, and we love not having to wait at baggage claim. Bringing a small bag means I really have to pack light, but it's worth it! I also have a medium sized Travelpro tote that's twenty years old and still going strong.
The most important thing about preparation, of course, is planning what we'll do. For European travel we love the Rick Steves' guides for learning about all the important sights and the lesser-known gems that are off the beaten track. His books are well written, concise, and fun to read.
To make the guides even more portable we take Rick's advice and, before we leave, cut out the part of the book we'll be using and just bring those sections. Then we're not lugging around the whole book. Brilliant!
We also do a lot of online research to find out about museums, art exhibits, music, and other events that may be going on. We have a tradition of going to see an opera whenever possible on our travels. It makes for a really special, memorable evening.
I also plan locations where I want to take photos for my work. Of course many of my photos are spontaneous shots that I find along the way, but I do like to identify cafés, parks, and sites that might provide photo ops of people enjoying themselves in beautiful settings.
To organize all that information, I have my husband, Chris, who is a whiz at combining all the activities we've identified into a optimized hour-by-hour spreadsheet that I load onto Evernote (we really are such nerds). We try to schedule only two big things a day, morning and afternoon, then plan walks, window shopping, or cafe sitting to fill in the rest of the day.
I am a list maker, so of course I make lists for what I'm going to pack. I'm big on layering and having everything work with everything else so I have lots of options, and not much laundry. Two things I always bring are sun hats (I'm big on sun protection) and scarves (I hate to be cold).
Finding a packable good-looking hat has become something of a quest. These are my current favorites. The top left is by Wallaroo, and the one on the right is by Hatch. Both are crushable.
I have also started a tradition of buying a scarf from my favorite scarf store in Paris, Diwali on Rue St. Louis en l'Île, the ritzy main street in the center of the Parisian island. The shop is always a pleasure to visit with its hundreds of beautifully displayed brightly colored scarves and accessories, and the shopkeeper is always très gentille!
Finally I pack my collection of items that make traveling easier and more enjoyable. From top, clockwise,
So there you have it! All – well most – of my hard-earned travel secrets! But I'm always ready to learn more. How do you make travel easier and more fun?
On our last visit to Europe, Chris and I were entranced by the city of Dresden, Germany, situated on a bend in the Elbe River near the border to Czechoslovakia. For centuries the city was the Saxony capital and the royal residence of the Saxon king. The castles and palaces of these kings together with the city's exquisite and monumental churches make the historic city center a treasure of Rococo and Baroque architecture.
For me, the most interesting architecture in Dresden was the beautiful Zwinger Palace, which served as orangery, exhibition gallery, and festival arena for the Dresden court. The palace complex, partially situated at the location of the 12th century city wall, is a series of rococo, baroque, and neoclassical buildings connected by galleries that enclose a green-space. It is especially pleasant to view the gardens from the raised walkway that runs above the galleries for the circumference of the palace.
Like much of the city center of Dresden, this palace was reduced to rubble after the catastrophic carpet bombing of the city by American and British forces during WWII. The massive rebuilding of the palace was begun by the Soviet government in 1945 and completed in 1963.
I was fascinated by this porcelain tile mosaic on the outer wall of the Dresden Castle. Called the Procession of Princes , or Fürstenzug, this 335 ft long artwork was originally created as a painting in 1871 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty, who were Saxony's ruling family. The mural shows portraits of the 35 electors, dukes, and kings of the House of Wettin in a procession on horseback. Later, in 1904, the painting was replaced with porcelain tiles, making this the largest porcelain mosaic in the world.
Dresden has many beautiful churches. Two of the most famous are the Katholische Hofkirche (the Dresden Cathedral, on the left), and the Frauenkirche Dresden (the Lutheran Church of Our Lady, on the right). I was inspired by the scope, complexity, and thoughtfulness of the rebuilding efforts of these treasures.
When I travel I love seeing beautiful architecture, especially when tourists and natives are enjoying the urban landscape and bringing it to life. I'm always on the lookout for scenes of people biking, relaxing, and dining outdoors together because this is often the basis for my paintings. After reviewing these photos, I'm itching to get started on some new canvases!
I hope you enjoyed my mini-tour of Dresden, and that you are inspired to visit this beautiful, historic city.