Countdown to Europe


THE MOMENT I GOT REALLY EXCITED ABOUT MY UPCOMING TRIP — a Mediterranean Eurail sojourn, long in the planning — was when a friend asked where I was going, exactly. I said, “Madrid, Malaga, Cordoba, Zaragoza, Barcelona, Girona, Collioure, Arles, Nimes, Aix, Marseilles, Nice, Menton, Turin, Milan, Verona [that’s it, above], Vicenza, Lucca, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento,” and realized how amazing that list sounded. Some of those places will, of necessity, be pass-throughs, and others day trips from a base city — I only have a month, after all. The list is subject to change according to whim and weather, so we’ll have to see how it plays out in reality, but that’s the general outline.


Arcade in Turin, Italy

Three more days and I’m off. Senior travel to Europe is hot, have you heard? The New York Times ran a piece last week about a Seattle couple who have been air b’n’b-ing it through Europe for the past year-and-a-half (with no desire to return to the U.S., apparently). The ‘solo women travel’ category has blogs aplenty, and it won’t be long before the Times does a piece on that, I’m sure. But I’ll scoop them right here on casaCARA, and I hope you’ll follow along.


One of the historic cafes that abound in Turin 

You don’t even have to go through the packing and paperwork (hotel & train reservations, travel insurance, Verizon data plans, etc.) that have consumed me for months. I spent two hours yesterday just organizing pills and toiletries.


Zaragoza, Spain; Cathedral of San Salvador, Zaragoza

I got the ‘pack light’ memo, and I’m prepared to spend the next month rotating three pairs of pants and five tops. My travel wardrobe is built around a single color, as they advise: black (can’t take the New York out of the girl). It’s all going in a 22″ carry-on (a hard-sided rolling suitcase), plus a small backpack. The hardest decision: what devices to bring. My laptop, iPad and iPhone are all coming with me; point-and-shoot, too. Second hardest: shoes (I’m taking black ankle boots and a pair of pewter-colored flats). If by Naples it’s warm and I’m sick of my footwear, why, I’ll just order a pair of sandals from L’Artigiano dei Sandali (a tiny shop “Jackie Kennedy had a soft spot for,” according to guidebook spin).


Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

I couldn’t take 11 travel guides, so I copied notes about places that sounded intriguing (restaurants, especially) into a small Moleskin notebook. Yes, I could have put it into Evernote or another app, but I’m not ready to give up actual paper notebooks when I travel.


Menton, France 

It was interesting to note, as I transcribed from guidebooks, which restaurants I chose to include, and which I skipped over. “Since 1802″…yes! “Be sure to book in advance…” NO! “On a verdant square…” yes! “Local Piedmontese…” yes! “See and be seen…” NO! “Tiny 1920s”…yes! and so on. I’ll be lunching large and dining small, most likely.


Someone asked me if this trip was a pilgrimage, and it is: an architectural pilgrimage. All I have to do is stroll the streets, no worries about opening hours. Are you on board?

(If you want my posts delivered by email, sign up in the box at upper left.)

Photos, top to bottom:,,,,,, destination360

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in FRANCE, ITALY, SPAIN, TRAVEL. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Countdown to Europe

  1. Amy says:

    Cara – I’d advise against a rolling bag. When I was in Italy I found the cobble streets to be unforgiving and impossible if I had a rolling bag. Consider a convertible weekender. It becomes a convenient backpack. I just bought a new one from eBags (TLS convertible) for a good price. You might be about to get it overnighted.

  2. Julia Mack says:

    Traveling light is a great idea — you can always make a few chic European clothing purchases and say adieu to your New York choices.

  3. Caren Rosenthal says:

    Very impressed that your doing this solo. Looking forward to your posts.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Enjoy! and allow me to enjoy vicariously! Looking forward to your posts.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Cara, you make it sound so exciting, to plan for travel, almost a forgotten art,
    have a wonderful trip!

  6. Great post Have a great trip!!! Love you!! Tzip

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. cara says:

    Hi all, glad you are coming along for the ride! Amy, I hear you on the luggage question. There will be cobblestones I’m sure, in Arles and other places, but it will be mainly city sidewalks. I looked at the TLS bag and it’s nice, but I’ve never been good carrying heavy backpacks, either with schoolbooks or babies. I’ll see how it goes with my current suitcase and if it doesn’t work, well, i’ll buy something else in europe. Caren, I may seem intrepid but I’m going alone mainly because I couldn’t get anybody to go with me — at least not where and how I wanted to travel. One blogger wrote that she travels solo because her friends have neither the time nor the inclination (I would add money in many cases), so her options were to not go, or go alone. That’s basically where it’s at, and I’m going!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Buen viaje! I’ll be thinking of you.

  9. Christine Schwartz Hartley says:

    Go Cara — it will be great, I’m sure!!! I think you have the right approach to meals: when I was alone in Valencia for 3 days (a present from Ben; an easy and cheap trip from Marseille where I’m based in the summer), I found dinners most difficult: better to make them quick and light. I’d stick with the roll option to spare your back. Fare thee well! xoxoxo

  10. coppermaven says:

    Can’t wait to read your posts! I’m sure there will be lots of adventrues.

  11. Amy says:

    Have a great trip! It will be fun to ‘travel along’ virtually. Traveling alone will a be great adventure, untethered to the whims and desires of others.

  12. mimi holligher says:

    I am so excited for you!!! Can’t wait to hear about it and don’t forget to take tons of beautiful fotos. As you already do. Buon viaggio!

Got something to say? Please say it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s