RTW Budget Update: Europe

We’ve shared our RTW budget previously and now that we’re a few months in, it’s time to check-in. I’ll spare you the heartburn if you’re curious about the end result – we went over budget. But that’s okay. I’ve got explanations (or excuses) on why we went over budget. Learn from our mistakes and plan accordingly.

Part 1: Major Transportation

  • Estimated Expense: $1,400
  • Actual Expense: $1,002
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse): +$398

Good news! Transportation in Europe is all it’s cracked up to be. Comfortable, clean, fast, efficient, and relatively affordable. We’ve faired much better than expected due to the great decision not to purchase a rail pass. I’ve mentioned before that we were on the fence on purchasing a Eurail pass and I’m glad we didn’t. Here’s how it would have worked out for our route (all prices quoted for 2 people):

  • Cost of Travel with Eurail Pass: $2,170
    • London to Paris via Eurostar (not covered on Eurail): $132
    • Paris to Florence to Cinque Terre to Bologna to Venice to Ljubljana to Budapest: $1616 (the cost of a 10-day saver pass for 2 people)
    • Budapest to Istanbul via Wizz Air: $277
    • Istanbul to Cappadocia and back via Pegasus Airlines: $145
  • Cost of Travel without Eurail Pass: $1,002
    • London to Paris via Eurostar: $132
    • Paris to Florence to Cinque Terre to Bologna to Venice to Ljubljana to Budapest: $448 (the cost of point to point train and bus tickets for 2 people)
    • Budapest to Istanbul via Wizz Air: $277
    • Istanbul to Cappadocia and back via Pegasus Airlines: $145

Part 2: In-Country Costs

So we started our analysis on a high note. And now to the bad news. I’m breaking it up between Western Europe and Central / Eastern Europe due to the large differences in costs.

Western Europe

  • Estimated Expense: $2,520 (14 days at $90 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $3,957
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse):  -$1,437

Whoa! That number looks bad. We must have spent all our time blowing dough along the Champs-Élysées in Paris or sipping wine at 5-star resorts in Tuscany. But no. We didn’t do those things. There is a simpler explanation. We spent more time in Western Europe than we had originally planned. Our original budget called for just 14 days (2 weeks), but in reality we spent 21 days (3 weeks).

So – because all things numbers can be fudged around to make things seem better or worse if you want them to, I’m going to do just that. With an adjustment to the budget based on our actual time spent.

  • Adjusted Estimated Expense: $3,780 (21 days at $90 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $3,957
  • Adjusted Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$177

So what happened? Even if I try to mess around with the numbers, I can’t fix them. We overspent. We spent too much on cozy apartments in Paris and Bologna, we visited tourist hot spots like Cinque Terre and Venice, and we had far too many apertivos, bowls of pasta, and gelato in our near two weeks in Italy. But that’s okay. We were comfortable. We ate well. And we’d say it was well worth it.

True Cost for Western Europe: $94 / day / person

View from our apartment in Paris booked from Airbnb
View from our apartment in Paris booked from Airbnb

Central / Eastern Europe

  • Estimated Expense: $2,520 (21 days at $60 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $2,766
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$246

But of course, I need to mess with the numbers again. This time it’s going to work against me though, as we fell a few days short of the originally planned 21 days in Eastern Europe.

  • Adjusted Estimated Expense: $2,160 (18 days at $60 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $2,766
  • Adjusted Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$606

With the $450 we dropped on the hot air balloon in Cappadocia, good eats in Ljubljana, and free flowing beer in Budapest, we overspent just a bit. Woops.

True Cost for Central / Eastern Europe: $77 / day / person

Getting ready to fly with Butterfly Balloons in Cappadocia
Getting ready to fly with Butterfly Balloons in Cappadocia

Stop! This is the Empire of Death.

Buried underneath the crowds of Parisians sipping on espresso in neighborhood cafés are miles and miles of tunnels. In the 14th century, the Parisians mined for valuable stones under their very feet, but by the 18th century these underground quarries had long since been forgotten.

As the tunnels lay empty there was a new problem above ground. The Cemetary of Innocents had been in use for nearly ten centuries. Obviously, over this amount of time overcrowding became an issue as much for the cemetery as for the health of the locals who lived around it. In 1785, the city shut the Cemetary down and found a new use for the long abandoned quarries- a new kind of graveyard, now know as the Paris Catacombs.

The bodies were always moved at night- carts of bones covered in black veils, priests singing service to the dead along the way. In all, there’s six to seven million people stacked under the streets of Paris. Artfully arranged five or six feet tall with rows of skulls in between more and more bones. And more spectacularly, since the early 1800’s, it’s been open to the eyes of the public.

We took the walk, eyes wide. Here’s what we saw.

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Translation: Stop! This is the Empire of Death.

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Essential Info

The Paris Catacombs can be found in Square Claude-Nicolas-Ledoux in the 14th arrondissement. It is open daily from 10 – 5 (with last entry at 4) except for Mondays and public holidays. It’s 130 steps down to the 2km long walk and 83 steps back up. €8 entry.

My Monet

Considering the family of artists that I come from you’d think I’d be all over Paris, reciting little know facts of monuments, paintings, relics. But museums have never really stirred me. I struggled through an art history class in college, but all that I’ve learned seems to have left me. As I stared at the Arc de Triomphe my vague memories left nothing for even a crumb of conversation. I couldn’t have had less of a want to get lost in the Louvre for a day. But my conscience started getting the best of me- ‘You were in Paris and didn’t go to the Louvre?!’ I know, I know. But it’s not for everyone and maybe it’s not for me either.

It’s too much. Too big, too overwhelming, too many things to look at, too much history to know to make it meaningful, just too. I need something a little more manageable, a little more me.

And that’s where Monet comes in, or rather, his house. Turns out, Monet lived for much of his life in Giverny, about an hour train ride west of Paris. For me this was my Louvre. A beautiful house (green as the garden), a beautiful garden (as bright as the flowers), some lily pads skimming softly on top of the water and the weeping willows doing what they do, hanging how they hang. This was something I could get excited about; this was something I couldn’t miss.

Slowly, I’ve found, I’m more interested in the backstory – the leading up to it: art, writing, anything – than the actual work itself. To create a great work, you must be inspired, or experience something that breaks open a new world in your head. What is it for the great artists? How did they see the world? Where did they come from? What did their parents do? Their brothers and sisters? What did they choose to study? What did they choose not to study? What did they believe? What did they collect? What did they do when they were bored? Where did it all start and what can I learn from that? And how did all of ‘this’ manifest in their work (painting, drawing, sculpture, novel, short story, musical score, photograph, performance, whatever it may be)?

I’m not sure what my visit to Monet’s house has taught me yet. Maybe it’s how to design a house, an inspiration to learn to garden (even though my thumb is definitely the opposite of green), a better understanding of color palettes, a reminder to find inspiration in the unfamiliar (Monet collected Japanese tiles and paintings, but never actually made it to Japan), and the list could go on, etc. The lesson could be any of those things. Maybe it’s a building block, creating a foundation for another experience, or maybe it’s a mess of all of them. Whatever will come of it, I look forward to pulling these lessons from what is now my past into some kind of significance in the future.

The Green Garden

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DSC04121purpleflowers_roof

The Water Garden

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The House

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Around Vernon & Giverny

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Pick the right day:

– Open from April through October from 9:30am to 6:00pm
– Standard entry (house & garden) is €9.50

Make your way:

– Take the high speed direct train from Paris St. Lazare to Vernon (€13.90 one way)
– From Vernon you can:
+shuttle bus (~€7 round trip)
+walk the 5km
+rent bicycles (€12 each/all day) at one of the shops across the street from the train station

*We rented bicycles and it was a lot of fun. Those give you the added bonus of being able to make your way easily around Vernon or Giverny after visiting Monet*