Category Archives: Experiences

Budgeting for Europe

In April 2012, we spent 22 days in Italy, France and the Netherlands. One of the toughest things to budget for was the average amount of spending money we’ll need per day. Bookings flights, hotels and car rentals before-hand meant that these costs were already accounted for. We also managed to book a great number of attractions online. What we were left with, are general day-to-day, cost of living expenses.

We are currently in the preparation phase for our next trip, and it seems that we’re again down to the cost of living expenses. This time we are however armed with the knowledge learned from our previous trip, and I would like to share some of it here. As a traveler, I know how hard it is to find accurate information on this.

When we arrived in Italy last year, our biggest shocks were how much things cost when converted to South African Rand. We quickly learned that this is the wrong way to approach purchases. Instead we took the spending money  we had, and worked out a daily allowance for the duration of our trip. To check ourserlves, we took notes of every single item we bought each day, and made sure that the average spend throughout our trip did not exceed the initial daily budget we had set.

Here is a short breakdown of what our average daily costs were, with a brief description of typical items bought. I’ve broken these down into two sections: costs with and without a rental car. The cost for the rental car is not included here, but associated costs like tolls, petrol and parking have been factored in.

In total, our average came to €74.83 per day for two people.

A summary of our expenses in Italy, France and the Netherlands in April 2012. Click the image for a bigger version.

A summary of our expenses in Italy, France and the Netherlands in April 2012. Click the image for a bigger version.

WITHOUT A RENTAL CAR

Eight days in Venice, Assisi and Rome | €78.74 per day for two people
Water taxis in Venice, souvenirs, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, pasta, canned goods, butter and other spreads, yoghurt and breakfast cereals, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), entrance to museums and basilicas, Pompeii entrance fee and maps for Pompeii and Assisi, guided tour of the Vatican with audio-guides, bus and metro guidebooks in Rome, five-day metro passes in Rome, eating out for dinner at reasonably priced restaurants, coffee at cafés.

Six days in Lyon, Paris and Amsterdam | 74.64 per day for two people
Metro passes for Paris and Amsterdam, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), artwork and souvenirs, entrance to museums and the Eiffel tower, dinner out in Paris, coffee at cafés.

WITH A RENTAL CAR

Five days driving from Rome to Florence via Pisa, Florence to Genoa, and Genoa to Turin (Italy) | €94.30 per day for two people
Single use bus tickets, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), toll for use of all highways, diesel to refuel the rental before returning it, guidebook to the Ufizzi gallery, entrance to Medici chapel, cold & flu medicine, lunch and occasional coffee at cafés.
Note: These costs also include a dinner out for my birthday, as well as two birthday presents for me: a leather jacket and a pair of leather gloves.

Three days driving from Chambery to Chamonix, Chamonix to Bourg-en-Bresse, Bourg-en-Bresse to Lyon | 36.66 per day for two people
A taxi between train stations in Turin, a small amount of groceries, entrance to monasteries and cathedrals, two bundles of washing at a laundromat 🙂

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A night tour at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria

We spent Saturday night at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, better known as the Pretoria Zoo. They offer night tours with knowledgeable guides, focusing on nocturnal animals. The tour starts at 18:30 and ends at around 20:30, where after groups may proceed to designated picnic areas to braai and spend some time relaxing around a bonfire. If you’d like to make a bigger trip out of this, you may also book a camping tour.

The Pretoria Zoo stretches over 88 hectares (roughly 217 acres) and celebrates its 114th year in 2013. The night tour is well worth the effort, as there are only a few other guided tours in the zoo at night and there’s no jostling for a view. The tour is however very focused, so if you want to see a bigger variety of animals it might be better to visit in the day. Photo opportunities will also be better then 😉

I managed to get a few pictures, but with my ISO set to 3200 most of them are very noisy.

An exotic buck seen in a spotlight at the Pretoria Zoo A flock of flamingoes settling down for the night at the Pretoria Zoo

A juvenile eagle owl sitting on a log at the Pretoria Zoo

A male bengal tiger seen at night in the Pretoria Zoo

A view of the union buildings and the city of Pretoria in the background, with a sundial in the foreground at the Pretoria Zoo A pack of wild dogs sleeping under a tree at the Pretoria Zoo

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Look at those feet!

I usually get annoyed with people who post about their pets, but I can’t help it this time!

We’ve been on a waiting list for a new staffie for months now. A new litter has finally been born, and the breeder we’re buying our new addition from sent me some pics yesterday. I cannot wait to bring this little thing home! I know our 2 year old staffie, Gelos will love having a friend (other than the terrified cat).

Red staffie bitch puppy held in her breeder's hand

So very tiny and immensely cute. (Photo by Yolandi van der Linde)

Litter of stafforshire terrier puppies

Only a few days old and fast asleep. (Photo by Yolandi van der Linde)

 

Black staffie dog at age one and a half

Gelos looking attentive at age one and a half. Gelos was bred by Nickelback Staffies.

Brindle staffordshire terrier dog on the lawn

Eating a palm seed on the lawn of our flat in 2012.

 

All images by the author, unless otherwise specified: © catterflyworx 2012.

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I’m bad at updating this blog and I suspect it’s because I
a) over-think things, and
b) feel that I need to post new items that are relevant to what’s on here already.

Clearly, this approach is not getting us anywhere. Inspired by Jen Christie‘s (slightly mad) #30dayblogs challenge, things are changing around here.

Stacks of coins or change

Change is good (get it?)

I’m not quite up for the epicness of Jen’s approach, but I do need to get things going again. I have a vast and very diverse interest (and slight obsession, at times) in many things, which has not been reflected up to now.

So prepare yourselves, minions. From here on forth, there will be a great deal of #randomness going on here, which I believe will be awesome.

For the travel junkies who originally started following my Eurotrip2012 reminiscence… We are planning a trip to Iceland and Russia in December 2014, so I promise you’ll still get something out of me!

A change in Pace

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Turning our house into a home: the before & after

In December 2012, we moved into our very own house. As first time home owners, the first week was filled with excitement. The four months following that first week, has been filled with a lot of hard work.

The reward has been worth it though, as this past weekend was the first one since the beginning of December last year that there was no ‘To Do’ list. No more walls to paint. No builders tramping through the house and no more small little things niggling at my conscious to get done.

Door to master bedroom

Well, I’m lying. There was one more thing. It read: “Take and post some before and after photos.”

Done.

For those of you who want more info, our work regime was roughly as follows:

  • Remove all carpets, replace with laminate wood flooring in all bedrooms and study. Sand and varnish parquet floor in lounge, dining area and hallway.
  • Resurface the bath, basin and toilet (changing the colour of the enamel from blue to white).
  • Move into the house.
  • Unpack most of the boxes. Don’t unpack everything, as we’ll have contractors in the house for the next two months.
  • Remove all curtain pelmets.
  • [DIY] Paint the bathroom, WC, hallway, master bedroom, lounge, and dining room.
  • [DIY] Mount curtain rails and hang newly made curtains in lounge (YAY!!).
  • Pack the kitchen back up and use the study as a temporary kitchen.
  • Demolish kitchen.
  • Start replacing the kitchen.
  • Remove tiles from wall in study.
  • [DIY] Put cornices up in kitchen.
  • [DIY] Paint cornices, kitchen walls, study.
  • Unpack the rest of the boxes, including the kitchen (again).
  • Build and [DIY] cover frame for TV mount to hide cables.
  • [DIY] Mount TV-cable-hider-frame and TV (at 2am the night before your housewarming).
  • Enjoy fabulous new kitchen while preparing food for said housewarming 🙂

All images by the author: © catterflyworx 2013.

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Eurotrip 2012: Everything in one place

Eurotrip 2012: The route (click for more detail)

Reliving our trip in April digitally over the last few months has been amazing. Sometimes I wish I’d taken more photos and other times I wish I had spent less time behind my camera. Either way, I have loved capturing the trip here.

I’ve summarised the posts below in chronological order of events, with the photo galleries  (for those days where I could just not get around to writing) below the story of our trip. I hope this helps ease navigating the month long trip! Continue reading

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Eurotrip 2012: Highlights from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

27 – 30 APRIL: AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
THE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THREE DAYS IN AMSTERDAM

Continued from part 14: Day four in Paris

As with most things in life, all good things must eventually come to an end. I’ve been putting off writing this post (for a month, I know!), as I feel that it will finally conclude a trip I’m not quite ready to forget.

The entrance to Pension de Laurier. Photo from http://www.hostelworld.com

We depart the beautifully wet city of Paris on an early morning train to Amsterdam. The owner of Pension de Laurier, the B&B we will be staying at, kindly smsed us details explaining which trams to take to get there safely. Of all the train stations we’ve arrived at over the last four weeks, Centraal Stasie seems to have been the most confusing one to decipher. It cost two journeys back to the station in order to get tickets for the bus and tram system, but finally we succeed.

Arriving at Pension de Laurier could not have been more different from our Parisian “hotel” experience. It felt like arriving home to a place of love. We showered and felt 1000 times better for it, ready to take on the city of Amsterdam.

After Venice, Amsterdam seemed a breeze to navigate. The streets were easy to understand and the entire city if amazingly beautiful. I truly feel as though I would be able to live there, if ever I wanted to leave the sunny “velde” of South Africa behind.

We had so much planned for Amsterdam, but after so many museums, beautiful parks, exciting roadtrips and historical sites; we were completely touristed-out. We spent our last three days in Europe being far less industrious and far more relaxed. We also stopped taking notes of what we did every day, so I am recalling the highlights from memory!

1. Walking to the Van Gogh Museum and instead of going in, enjoying a picnic of cheese, fresh bread and champagne on the lawn in front of the museum.

Picnic on the lawn in front of the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, Museumplein, Amsterdam

Boerenkaas with black truffle

2. Shopping in De 9 Straatjes area. The shops here are quaint and small and intimate and awesome!

3. Sharing a serving of fresh ‘frittes’ with Francois in De Dam Plein, watching the “kermis”.

4. Finding a cheese shop with amazing fresh breads down the road from where we were staying.

5. Discovering that Burger King was running a promotion 🙂

6. Walking through the Westermarkt market on Sunday.

7. Marvelling at the very Dutch, very lopsided architecture.

8. Enjoying the rest of Amsterdam, in gloriously sunny weather.

9. And of course, being in Amsterdam on 30 April 2012 for Koninginnedag!

Koninginnedag 2012 by Antonio Olmedo

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
Koninginnedag 2012 by Antonio Olmedo.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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Eurotrip 2012: Day four in Paris, France

23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE

Continued from part 13: Day three in Paris

26 April: The creepy underground of Paris’ catacombs

As you’ll know from our visit to the Capuchin Crypts in Rome, I have a slightly morbid fascination with the way in which human remains are on display. Growing up in South Africa, this is completely unheard of and more than a little eerie.

I also realised (a little belatedly) that this scene in the Court of Miracles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was actually far more creepy than I initially thought as a child back in 1996.

The catacombs in Paris was one of the only attractions we couldn’t book tickets for before-hand and my only advice here is the GET THERE EARLY. We stood in line for two hours, as only a select amount of people are allowed in at any given time. There are numerous warnings to the faint-hearted about the catacombs’ confined spaces and somewhat disturbing displays of remains. In addition the passages accessible to the public form an almost 2km long labyrinth some 20m underground. This tour is not accessible to young children. Though cameras are allowed, you are not allowed to use flash and the conditions are very dim.

In comparison with the very stylised displays of the Capuchin Crypts, the catacombs seemed impersonal and gave a distinct “function over form” feel.The catacombs used to be stone quarries in the 1700s. Abandoned because of the dangerous conditions, these empty tunnels became the perfect place to store the remains of approximately 6 million people when the Paris cemeteries were filled up in the early 1800s. Along the path are signs showing the cemetery that the remains originated from, as well as the date on which they were moved.

I loved the experience and highly recommend it!

Our trip concludes: Three (very lazy) days in Amsterdam

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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Eurotrip 2012: Day three in Paris, France

23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE

Continued from part 12: Day two in Paris

25 April: An epic tour of the Louvre
We had all the best intentions in the world to get up early, but fail miserably and choose to sleep in instead. After some coffee and a croissant from the corner bakery, we take on the majestic Louvre.

We were amazed at how much we were actually able to fit in, though I suspect this is largely down to the fact that I had planned a route through the museum in order to see everything that we considered a “must see”. Generally, I’d be waxing on about the immensity, the overwhelming awe, and the incredible collection of artwork that is housed in the Louvre at this stage. However, in this case there truly are not enough words to describe the magnificence of this awesome collection. Instead, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Continues with Paris’ creepy underground – a visit to the catacombs.

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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The things you’ll see: Street art and alleys from Venice & Paris

Due to some crazy deadlines and loads to do at work,  I’m struggling a bit to update this as regularly as I’d like. However, I’m shamelessly hoping that I can placate you with a bribe in the form of some photos from Venice and Paris. This is an assortment of doorways, alleys, street art and other tid-bits unsuitable for a general gallery of travel photos.

All images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012

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