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Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Luxe Moment from My Travels: Frugal, Of Course

I've been wanting to write about some of the more emotional aspects of my recent trip to middle and eastern Europe. Miss Em said Ummmmm. That's not really about frugality, is it? Good point. I do tend to wander. So I may have to start ANOTHER blog I won't have time to keep up with.

So: ON TOPIC. We were exceedingly frugal on this trip, perhaps because we kept detailed records of spending for the first time. In fact, I think we need to add a bit more luxe on the next trip. However, luxe moments do crop up, sometimes unexpectedly.

Moment 1 in BUDAPEST. We walked over the Danube from the Buda side to the Pest side. There, in all its renovated glory is one of the top architectural sights--and sites--in Budapest.The magnificent art nouveau Gresham Palace, now a hotel. Mr FS and I peered in, but felt a little timid and self-conscious, shabby even. Then we saw people even more shabby. They marched in and so did we. Our leaders were tourists, as we were. Then we noticed that the guests were just as shabby--typical tourist dress, with broken-in shoes. I realized that--as in the USA--hotel lobbies are public spaces. Public spaces have bathrooms. This is no big deal in my home country, but in Budapest--and elsewhere in the big world--bathrooms are hard to find and may require payment. Shocking to Americans!

Mr FS remembered that he had seen a website featuring public bathrooms in Budapest. Just in case you are IN the hotel right now, here are the provided directions:
In the Gresham Palace Hotel walk in the main entrance and then towards the reception desk. Turn left into the major hallway as you approach the desk and the toilets are on your right.

By golly, it worked! What a bathroom! All marble. Truly over the top paper towels. Mr FS asked me if the towels were really paper. We brought one home as a souvenir (is that ethical?--sorry, if it's a breach). We made a point of stopping by the bathroom whenever we were nearby--maybe thrice more. The sense of luxe never wore off.

Next luxe moment: previewing a celebrity, almost royal wedding.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beans for Jeans

We came home and Miss Em went away the next morning. Before she left, she said "There's a reason there are two bags of red beans in the car. The food bank thrift store is letting you trade a bag of beans for a pair of jeans."

Beans for Jeans: what a great idea!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I Bought in Europe: Souvenirs

Two large tubes of paprika paste: one regular, one hot.

It's not that I'm so virtuous. We had small suitcases, were traveling between cities, took subways and buses. Not to mention that we have an overstuffed house as it is.

If there's anything we want--haven't thought of it yet--we'll have to go back. Now there's an incentive.

On my first trip to Europe, I bought a skirt from Biba, a fisherman's sweater, a Spode plate for my mother, a pair of platform shoes, and that's what I can remember 30plus years on. Wish I still had the Biba skirt.

Has your travel-related buying changed?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Prague: TBYM

We returned lat night from our longest trip ever, a dream trip of cities, three heretofore unvisited, including the city of my mother's birth. How did we pay for it? Being mere teachers and all. Who haven't had a raise in at least five years? The short answer is always the same: FRUGALITY. The longer answer is TBYM.

TBYM. That means TRAVEL BELOW YOUR MEANS. The term is adopted from the familiar LBYM, a cornerstone of frugal living, early retirement, and the like: LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. So when I hear about the snazzy lodgings and luxe restaurant meals of other tourists of my acquaintance, I'm not jealous for more than a few minutes. We are trading a long vacation for a shorter--and perhaps more intense--one.

The rough stats:

Airfare and inter-city transport: a bit under $3000. OUCH. I do envy people who can rack up big frequent flyer numbers through business cards and the like. I am not one of those people.

Lodging: Thank you internet for AirBandB and similar. We paid between $38 (Budapest) and $70 (Vienna) per night. Our apartment in Paris was teeny and probably below the acceptability level of many people reading this. We thought it was fine. These little apartments had washers and--most important--kitchens, so

Food: OK, my kids say we should go out more. Still, I LIKE cooking and I loved figuring out how to use the unfamiliar ingredients of Eastern Europe. So we ate chez nous mostly, just like at home. The best thing we ate: some strawberries in Prague.

Yeah, the numbers added up, but not as much as you would think. We're going to start saving for next year!

Do you TBYM?