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  • Writer's pictureGrace Hamilton

UK, EU: A Q&A for my future self

I jet to the northern hemisphere TONIGHT, and to be frank, I have no idea what I'm doing.


I've never travelled solo overseas and have only been interstate as such once. Granted I'm well-travelled overall, there's something drastically different when it comes to visiting two countries in two weeks, both of which you've never set foot in (not even for a stopover). So in a bid to make myself laugh/ cry at the end, and hopefully do a bit of learning, I've decided it only suits for me to compare how I feel before versus after my adventures.


Of course, those who have been to England or France before will no doubt feel much better about themselves once they've made fun of my lack of cultural knowledge. To that, I say: Thank you. Being humbled is a favourite past-time of mine. Without further ado, here are my pre-UK/ EU thoughts, predictions and planning.


In my carry-on

Gum, deodorant, perfume, passport, wallet, portable chargers and bank, book to read, eye patches, spare undergarments, spare leggings and t-shirt, soft toy, slides, make-up and face cream

For the real nosey ones, you can download my full itinerary (made with canva) below <3


Beige and Cream Minimalist Travel Itinerary Planner-2
.pdf
Download PDF • 194KB

LONDON

How long?

5 days (more specifically, I arrive at night Thursday 29th February and take the Eurostar to Paris on Tuesday 5th March).

A question to myself: was it too long, too short or just right?


Where I want to go:

Kensington Gardens, Diana Memorial & Hyde Park

St Paul’s Cathedral & Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Walk to Tower Bridge, Glass Walkway, Victorian Machines

Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace & Wellington Arch

The Guard’s Museum, Big Ben, London Eye & Trafalgar Square

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew

Kew Village Markets

A question to myself: was my itinerary too ambitious? How should it be done?


Pictures taken from: Royal Parks website


Places I want to eat/ drink:

The Chocolate Cocktail Club - 72 St John St

The Churchill Arms - 119 Kensington Church St

The Star Tavern - 6 Belgrave Mews Way

The Mayflower - 117 Rotherhithe St

A question to myself: where do I recommend for breakfast, lunch and dinner?


Note: For The Chocolate Cocktail Club, you can apparently get a free cocktail on entrance if using a Paris Pass. Or explore the London Explorer Pass options.


The transport:

Here's a new one. Australia - and specifically Queensland - is quite behind on the whole public transport thing. We have it in many forms, but it's nowhere near the scale of what I've seen in Japan, the US and even down in Sydney or Melbourne. When I do travel somewhere with an advanced public transport system, there are usually learning curves. Japan for example: Shit runs on time. Sydney: I saw my first domestic double-decker. It's the little things. With London first up on my itinerary, I've had to acquaint myself with the main stations I'll need - Waterloo, King's Cross, Paddington and of course St Pancras International. Will I get lost? Probs (75% chance it'll happen at least once).

A question to myself: what should I have known... and how many times did I catch the wrong train?


For a lot of it though, I intend to walk - never mind the fact I'm still nursing a broken leg (totally irrelevant). I'll be donning my Apple Watch to give me an estimate step count, and Apple Maps does say the likes of The Guards Museum, London Eye and Trafalgar Square are around a 20 minute walk from one another, while the royal-ish places seem to back onto one another. I'll of course by taking the (sensible) option of training out to Kew and the markets. A question to myself: was it as easy as I thought to choose the by-foot option?


Note: Download the TFL Go App on Apple or Android for a complete guide of all the tracks! I haven't put it to use yet, but just meandering and planning has me feeling more confident.


Screenshots taken from: TFL Go website


Culture shocks:

These are way less predictable than when I travelled to Japan (2023) and Vanuatu (2022).

  • Language: Being an English-speaking nation takes away the communication barrier. However, people do claim British accents differ by region and I intend to test that theory.

  • Make-up: I heard from a friend who recently moved to London that women never shy away from a full glam look. In my mind, that means the full shop from base to bake and those stereotypical 'chav' brows. I don't know if I'm more excited about investigating the epidemic of said chavs, or worried I'll be under-blushed for my intense cross-city walks.

  • Economy: I have no idea what to expect when it comes to the cost of living in London - largely since the conversion rate is atrocious ($1 AUD = 0.49 GBP as of February 16th) and it's near-impossible to live off one wage in east-coast Aus. I'm expecting most food, clothing, transport and etc to cost around half of what we pay here.

  • People: I beg you, please tell me British people are nice. Is that a silly thing to ask? Will my Aussie accent put me in local's good books? Will I be able to sit at a pub for dinner and not be stared at for voluntary lonesomeness?

The golden question: what were the top culture shocks?


PARIS

How long?

7 days (arriving via Eurostar from London Tuesday 5th and leaving Tuesday 12th.) A question to myself: was it too long, too short or just right?


Where I want to go:

The Big Ones:

Eiffel Tower

Musee du Lourve

Musee d’Orsay

Disneyland Paris

Eiffel Tower:

Southern Bastille:

St Germain & Les Invalides:

Latin Quarter:

Lourve et Les Halles:

Montmartre:


I got most of my ideas of Pinterest, example like:

A question to myself: what did I miss and what could I have left out?


Places I want to eat/ drink:

Eiffel Tower: Saint James Paris - 5 Place du Chancelier Adenauer

Latin Quarter: Little Bastards - 5 rue Blainville

St Germain: Prescription Cocktail Club (speakeasy) - 23 rue Mazarine Louvre & Les Halles:

Experimental Cocktail Club - 37 rue Saint Sauveur

Harry's New York Bar - 5 rue Daunou

Champs-Élysées:

Zig Zag Club - 32 rue Marbeuf

Bar du Central, 99 rue Saint-Dominique

A question to myself: was I rejected from any places? Did they ask for more ID? What was the nightlife like compared to Australia and how did I keep safe?


The transport:

I opted (last minute) to purchase a five-day Paris Visite - Visit Paris - transport pass for 82 euros. Apparently I will be able to use it for five consecutive days, unlimited, on all public transport including the RER and Paris Metro, busses and etc (with some exceptions which I don't seem to be impacted by). I also opted for the zone 1-5 pass so that it would include my travel to Disneyland, unlike the zone 1-3 pass. A question to myself: were there any exclusions I missed/ was it worth the AUD $160 upfront?


Culture shocks:

  • Language: As someone who studied French from 2014-2022 in primary, secondary and tertiary - but has no one to practice with EVER - I'm equally excited and nervous to put my skills into action. I'll be the first to admit, my reading skills are about 1000X better than my speaking, listening or writing (though the latter takes second place). I have, however, noticed online that 90% of French-speakers have a proficient level of English.

  • People: Are they as rude as television makes them out to be? All I can think of is that one episode of Modern Family when Mitchell decides to dress 'like the French' and just 'agh ugh, oui' at everyone to be respected. I'm not an extrovert when it comes to strangers, so this will either make or break me.

  • Pickpockets and thieves: OMG I cannot stress how worried I am about this. The whole concept of there being hundreds of petty thieves lurking and ready to pounce on mesmerised tourists haunts my dreams. I have taken several precautions in advance (see below), but the update on this front will either be fantastic or tragic.

Waist bag and anti-theft security bag from Strandbags (and a lil bit of creative touch up with some clearance paints and spare buttons. Luggage from American .



  • Economy: This speaks for itself. I remember Italy was reasonably priced when converting to AUD, but that was in 2016: before I had bills to pay back home.

  • Transport: Was my Paris Visite Pass a good idea, and was 5 days the right choice? I haven't been on public Euro transport before. In Italy I used private transport the whole time, and I highly doubt it's anything like Japan. This one will be more of a learning moment than a culture shock, to be honest.

  • Meal times: I am the kind of person who enjoys having breakfast at 8am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6pm in order to get 'bed ready' by 9-10pm. I have, however, become aware that many French do not eat said dinner until the 8 or 9pm mark. I thoroughly hope there's a pocket in Paris that doesn't follow this rule.

  • Smoking: Even the boys (and girls) on my Hinge - because I changed my location to Paris in advance with the hopes of meeting some locals - are almost always holding a cig in their pics. Is this a generational thing? And is the stereotype that real?

  • Littering: Australia is pretty woeful when it comes to people's littering habits, some places more so than others. It was a shock to the system when I visited Japan last year and was met with zero pieces of rubbish despite the lack of public trash bins. From what I've heard, Paris is a hate or love city and many describe it as dirty. So, let me be the boss of that.

The golden question: what were the top culture shocks?


LOIRE VALLEY

How long?

3 days (arriving via train Tuesday 12 and leaving Friday 15th).

A question to myself: was it too long, too short or just right?


Where I want to go:

Château Royal de Blois

Château de Cheverny

Château de Chambord

Château d’Amboise

Château de Chenonceau Question to myself: was I sick of châteaus by the end?



Places I want to eat/ drink:

L’Orangerie du Château - 1 av du Dr Jean Laigret (Michelin Star)

Food Market - Place Louis XII

Bars/ nightlife: La Pacha - 23 Rue Denis Papin

L’Enjoy - 14 Rue des Orfèvres, Les Trois Orfèvres -6 Rue de Orfèvres

Ben’s Blues Bar - 41 Rue Saint-Lubin

L’Elite Club - 1 Rue du Mouton

Kb9club - 3 BIS Rue du Mouton

Pale - 18 Place Foire-le-Roi

A question to myself: How different was the nightlife compared to big city nightlife?


The transport:

I plan to do most of my public transport using the good old bicycle. 1) there are plenty of hiring options, 2) it will be an easy way to up my scenery, and 3) you can take bikes on the trains when needed - aka, when my broken ankle needs some TLC. Going by Apple Maps, most of the châteaus on my itinerary are a 30-60 minute bike ride. With three days up my sleeve, I'm sure that will be doable.

A question to myself: was it in fact doable? More importantly, did you even hire said bike?


Culture shocks:

  • Transport: I assume it will be different to Paris city centre - perhaps less frequent bus stops or less crowded.

  • County v City: This kind of encompasses the whole people and language thing too. I just want to know if the vibes differ when in a more 'rural' area. Not that I consider Blois/ Tours or the like to be off the grid, but my uneducated guess is that the region is generally less populated and offers a more country-esque feel.

  • Economy: It could go either of two ways: way cheaper, or a little more expensive than Paris. Why? Because it's a less travelled destination for first -time youths, so prices will either be more affordable to help attract tourists, or more expensive due to small business demand.

The golden question: what were the top culture shocks?


I've got a grand total of 12 hours before my plane flies off. So, wish me luck (or don't) and stay tuned for what I hope will be a positive review in the coming weeks.

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