Liebster Award Part 2

Thanks to the Wife of Bath for this nomination for the Liebster Award and for her great questions!

I’m not going to pass it on this time at the risk of appearing stingy… but I never know if the people whose blogs I read really want to be linked to and publicized or not! So I’ll just answer WOB’s questions and mention that her blog is about traveling on a modest budget and is really interesting.

So, for her questions:

1. What types of art do you seek out when traveling?

I prefer without a doubt modern art, from the early 20th century to nowadays. I have a hard time appreciating medieval art, for example, though if it’s linked heavily to the culture of a place, I’ll go and have a look. I’ve loved the Reina Sofia in Madrid and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. If there’s a modern art museum in a city I’m visiting, chances are I’ll stop in.

2. How do you communicate with people in countries where you don’t speak the language?

Well, this doesn’t happen much anymore. In Spain I manage to communicate in Spanish, and I’ve traveled to a good number of francophone or anglophone countries. Since I stay in Europe mostly these days, that covers me pretty well. Otherwise, I try to pick up “please,” “thank you,” “I don’t speak… [insert language]” and “excuse me” before arriving in the country. In Poland I asked one of the people at the hostel to write me a note in Polish for my ticket at the train station. Otherwise I find gestures and smiles get you a long way!

3.  What is your best budget travel tip?

When I was younger, it was to try Couchsurfing. I really believe in it both as a host and a former solo traveler. Like a good youth hostel, it can make you feel less alone traveling. These days, though, I really prefer to have my own space and to control my environment, so I’ve let it go. My best budget travel tip would be to plan well—don’t let yourself be surprised by expensive taxi rides or train tickets bought at the last minute.

4. What’s your favorite conversation you’ve had with a stranger on public transportation?

Possibly the Irish woman next to me on my flight back home after my second year in France. The content wasn’t too important, but I was fairly sad, and she cheered me up.

5. Where do you sleep while traveling and how do you find your room (hotel/b&b/hostel/couch-surfing, etc)?

Nowadays I tend to sleep in budget hotels, though I also like vacation apartments. I know these are controversial in cities like Paris where housing prices are extravagant. For rock-climbing trips with the boyfriend, personal websites are the best places to get insider recommendations.

6. Thinking in terms of infrastructure or urban planning, what have you encountered while traveling that you wish you could bring back to your home town?

The notion of hometown is a little confusing these days. I love the whole velib concept, but it would never work in hilly Poitiers. J pointed out once that all the bikes would always be at the bottom of the hill and there would never be any on the stations on the “plateau”—the pretty center of Poitiers.

As for Texas, well, every city in Texas needs help with public transportation, even Austin, where the timetables were horribly unreliable (says someone who had just returned from living in Europe).

7. When you tell people where you are from, what do they say (as in, if you’re from Chicago people go “Al Capone–bang bang bang!”?

Ha! When I say I’m from Texas, they typically say something about George Bush, which I’m so over. People often bring up Texan stereotypes a few months after meeting me, saying, “Before I met you I thought of Texas as… [insert stereotype here]” and I never know what they expect me to say. Good for you? Good for me? Maybe you should get out more? Then I feel mean.

8. What’s the biggest tourist trap you’ve ever visited?

Mme Tussaud’s in London. I don’t regret it, though, because it was on a trip with French middle schoolers and they truly loved it.

9. What do you think is the most under-rated and over-rated tourist destinations?

I’m trying to think of a place I’ve truly been disappointed with, and it’s hard. I personally did not care for the Louvre, but if you like that type of art, there’s no way it would be a miss.

One place that people often travel to that makes me sad is Dublin. Since it’s where the airport is, they assume it’s the best first taste of Ireland, and every time someone says they’re traveling to Ireland and just to Dublin, I truly regret it for them. Ireland is so rich culturally and in natural beauty in the west and in its little villages (I’ve not yet been to the north), that why anyone would pay for a plane ticket just to go to Dublin is just beyond me.

Under-rated: Texas! It’s a huge state so visiting Texas, per se, doesn’t make any sense, but I wish more people knew what a cultural and natural variety of things there are to see there.

10. How do you afford to travel?

When I was a language assistant, I afforded traveling by never budgeting for anything, and couchsurfing. Since then, things have of course gotten more organized as I plan for more than the next month financially! Again, I plan ahead, travel in numbers, and try to cook rather than eat out.

11. Do you use travel guides?  If so, which are your favorite?

When I was more of a budget traveler I loved the Let’s Go guides. But it’s been a while since I’ve used a guide to plan a trip and not just the internet.

So that’s all for this time! Again, thanks to the Wife of Bath for asking and nominating!

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