photo of train station
Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing, Travel With Alex: Europe 101

Europe 101: Trains and Ferries

There are so many things to love about Europe. From art to history, gorgeous scenery, and unbelievable food! One amazing aspect that is often overlooked is how EASY it is to get around the entire continent. Let’s face it, in the States, you are pretty much dependent on air travel to make your way from one part of the country to another. On the other hand, Europe offers so many travel moments that avoid the hassles that air travel can throw your way. So travel friends, trains and ferries await! Let’s go!


Trains and ferries offer a unique way to travel because so many of them are in convenient locations and often get you into city centers. Passengers often experience far Less wait time and far more comfort and reservations are easily made and can lend themselves to more relaxed travel plans.

Ferries that connect with ease.

With so many coastal countries, Europe has a great system of local and regional routes to make travel a breeze. From overnights that connect Italy and Greece to small hops that lace together places along great rivers like the Thames, Europe’s ferries do not disappoint. Here are some of our faves:

  • Ferries to and from many northern European destinations (2-4 hours)
  • Gdansk to Denmark (5 hours)
  • Belfast to Scotland (2 hours)
  • Italy to Greece (overnight)
  • Greek Islands (island hoppers)
  • The Rhine and Thames Rivers (local service)


Trains that speed through the countryside.

Europe’s amazing web of train tracks provides efficient escapes and easy transfers for every kind of travel. There are very few places that trains can’t fill the request. If your plan is to move from city to city in a reasonable region, trains are a sure bet. Often, train trips can become part of the splendor that Europe is famous for. Zipping through countrysides or along winding rivers can make the trip as much of a highlight as anything else you’ve planned out. Some of our favorite routes include:

  • Swiss Glacier Express
  • Norwegian Fjord Loop
  • The Jacobite Train in the Highlands AKA Hogwarts Express
  • Chunnel from London to Paris
  • Thalys High Speed Trains with routes like Paris to Amsterdam
  • Overnight Trains Venice Simpleon
  • Orient Express


Train Stations that let you know that you’ve arrived!

Expect to be wowed by some of the amazing city center stations that dot the most visited cities. With gorgeous architecture, great shopping, charming entrances, and convenient locations, the great stations of Europe never disappoint. There are tons of little moments that await anyone who takes in the scene. You can picture the hustle and bustle of every day life mixed with all kinds of tourists and travelers, professionals, and even the local teenagers. Train stations provide a slice of present life with a heaping helping of grandiose past. Some of our highlights are:

photography of train station inside building
Photo by Abdel Rahman Abu Baker on
  • Kings Cross and St. Pancreas in London
  • Gare Du Nord- (Gare Du Lyon just for the restaurant)
  • Amsterdam Central
  • Gare Du Orsay which is now a museum
  • Prettiest exit is, by far, Lucerne, Switzerland
galeries lafayette building
Babcia and Yia Yia!, Travel With Alex: Europe 101

Paris 101: The Little Moments

I think anybody who flies in to Paris for the first time has quite a bucket list! Between the big draws like the iconic Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, any first time visitor would quickly fill up their days simply trying to get to the powerhouses. So, if our philosophy is always plan like you’re going to return, what do you do when your plane touches down one more time in the eternal city of lights? Let’s explore some of Paris’ little moments. The neighborhoods, churches, and museums that beg for us to come in and admire are waiting!



The fifth museum listed in any guidebook about Paris is The Cluny. Unfortunately, its name does nothing to help explain the treasures inside. With its brand new layout and great little courtyard, this museum is a fascinating focus of the Roman and medieval history of the area. Religious relics take center stage in this Roman bath turned medieval abbey. Of particular note ore the Lady with the Unicorn tapestries.

the greek statues paris little moments
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Another fascinating museum that doesn’t always find its way to the top of the list is the Musee Carnavalet. Newly updated and sporting a lovely courtyard garden, this museum covers all things Parisian. From stunning Art Nouveau rooms to perfectly preserved rooms from the Belle Epoch, the museum has more detailing the rise of Paris than the Louvre. Check out floors 2 and 3 for the most bang for your buck.


Montmartre and the Sacre Couer: this little area sees huge crowds and not the best food. It caters to the throngs of tourists and the streets are packed. And for very good reason! This little neighborhood is super charming! It’s where the great artists made their bohemian homes and where they found inspiration for some of the most famous art pieces in the world. Be sure to wander the streets down the hill as you make your way toward the Moulin Rouge.


The Latin Quarter: over crowded, over priced, over done. The food is again catering to masses of people and include greek fast food and gelato in almost every other place. The huge portions only signal that this is an investment local establishments are willing to make and, therefore, really only care about the cash flow and not the authenticity. While the streets evoke a certain charm, they are best to simply walk through on the way to another area like Saint Germain or The Luxembourg Garden Area.

photo of alley during daytime paris little moments
Photo by Shvets Anna on

Saint Germain is a left bank area right next to the Latin Quarter. While there are some serious tourist draws like Les Deux Magot, this area tucked in between the river and Luxembourg Gardens can be a great choice and a better compromise with your wallet. Wide shopping streets and second pass attractions surround this arrondissmont

The Marais is an interesting part of town. This area that stretches from Les Halles and north contains a diverse array of sites to visit on its narrow streets. It seems like a surprise is possible around each corner. Paris seems grittier and more realistic than it does in the frothier areas surrounding the Louvre. Some great eateries call the Marais home. Look for the great food along Rue de Pavee, Rue des Rosiers, Rue Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie. Each of these unique areas provides a wealth of great atmosphere and people watching.

The Julia Factor

E. Dehilirin is the famous restaurant supply store that Julia frequented while she lived in Paris. Unfortunately, the charming exterior does not follow through on the inside. The store is still in the supply business and makes very little effort to cater to touristy passersby. Look for a spatula or spoon with the company logo to be about the extent of your purchases unless you are a serious chef willing to buy quality copperware.


Shakespeare and Co.

I have only two words for you in regards to this iconic bookshop shop that contains far more history than Julia memorabilia: long lines!! Shakespeare and Co. is certainly an institution but it has a one way path through the store that takes away from the browsing aesthetic that makes bookshops so inviting. I gave that long line a long pass and opted for the left bank booksellers stroll.

brown bookmark and black plane keychain
Babcia and Yia Yia!, Intro To Travel Lit

Travel Lit: 10 Ways Books Make Us Better Travelers

Books work so very hard to take us on a journey through stories with settings and characters that inspire and ignite the imagination. For the traveler, books are even more important as they produce wandering memories and inspire travel dreams. Let’s face it travelers and literature are two peas in a pod!

woman in beret looking at piles of books placed in front of antique shop
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In fact, there are plenty of ways that books make us become better travelers no matter what kind of trip we are taking. It’s one of the most important things that we do all year long. Here are 10 ways we use books:

Create context for your destination.

As we plan for any trip, our first move is to hunt down some books to start learning about where we are off to. No matter what destination is in our sights, there’s a book out there to help get us excited about our adventures. To be clear, we certainly look for great new book picks but we also read and reread plenty of great classics. If we are on our way to Paris, we may choose our old copy of Julie and Julia to enjoy. However, if we are headed to Texas, we might opt for a brand new book of essays entitled Being Texan.


Inspire travels you never thought of before.

As teachers, we are always throwing book picks at each other. Our conversations are often about that list of books from Ambassadors or the new Sunshine State book awards. Usually, one new title will stand out to us as the “I haven’t thought about going there in a while” book. Books do a great job of stirring up the senses and taking us to new and exciting places. Using quality literature to get you going is what we are all about! I just put down the true crime book entitled The Galapagos Affair. How about a trip to the Galapagos?


Allow for new experiences when you know the literature from where you’re visiting.

Setting. It’s an undeniable part of any good read! We are often drawn to books with great setting and that can easily get us prepared for our upcoming experiences. If we are off to the Far East, the crowd pleasing trilogy Crazy Rich Asians may be just the right fit. It may not let us into those fancy circles but it can remind us to review the rules of Marjhong and ensure that it’s part of our trip! On the other hand, we could be right in the middle of the juicy Bridgerton series and are headed for high tea to take on biscuits and scones with a High Tea tour on a double decker bus touring London by Brigit’s bakery. Perhaps a good book sends us on a journey to find that setting as is the case with most traveling fans of Harry Potter!

Connect the past with the present.

No matter what era of history your mind wanders to, there is a book for you! Can’t get enough of Ancient Rome? There’s a book. Enjoy learning about the Vikings? Books have you covered. Do you want to learn more about the European founding of Australia? Check. Fiction and non-fiction abound! Some of the best literature helps connect the modern reader with the amazing tales of the past. One of our favorites is Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. Middle schooler Percy takes us on an epic adventure across the US while teaching us about the ancient Greek Gods. We recommend this for kids and adults alike! Read it then, take a cruise through the Greek islands!


Open the world of art to the non art lover

Books can teach us so very much even when we are not expecting them to. Plenty of travelers struggle with art appreciation and are looking for ways to connect with art. Take in great fiction like the DaVinci Code to not only enjoy a great read but to also start wrapping your mind around the art of Paris. Enjoy incredibly moving non fiction like The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History to learn about The Monuments Men. This band of brothers was tasked with repatriating all of the stolen art of WWII. Way to tie it all together! Art is an integral reality of any travel and has the ability to be embraced. Books certainly help.

woman sitting on ottoman in front of three paintings
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Give kids a starting point to make travel more relevant

International children’s literature is at an all time high. There is more for children to read than ever before. Classics like Madeline and Paddington offer glimpses of faraway places. While modern picks such as Katie in Scotland make travel a relatable topic for young minds. Use our Travel U series to look at all kinds of children’s books that will inspire you! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Extend travel while you are not out and about

Sometimes a good book is just the remedy true travelers need when they are grounded. Literature can help you sort through all of your different travel choices that are available to you. If the world is your oyster, books are the tool to use to pry it open! Sometimes, though, it’s hard to make a choice with so many options. We like The Wordy Traveler Subscription Box as a great way to see what newly written and newly wandered. Another great source for curated picks are the many, many book lists over on Good Reads.


Make world customs and traditions easier to understand

Sometimes there’s so very much to keep in mind when we travel. We always want to mind our P’s and Q’s while feeling comfortable in our own skin. Books can enlighten us on how to conduct ourselves when out and about. But literature can also give us an understanding of a culture like no other avenue. Take, for example, Joyce’s Ulyssus. This classic story takes us through Dublin in one day in the life in 1904. Be sure to know that Bloomsday will take place every June 16th and you can join in the revelry! But don’t you think it’s a good idea to read the book before you do? Ireland has tons of literary connections to enjoy. Check out Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawls to partake in all the fun!

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Uplift your own storytelling skills

If there is one thing those Irish know how to do, it’s tell a great story! And that could be said about so many other places as well. From Africa to North America, storytellers can be such an integral part of why and how we travel. The teacher in us will always tell you that the more you read the more you will develop your own storytelling skills about all of the places you’ve been. So, tell your stories and keep reading the tales of others.

Unlock the true meaning of quality travel

No matter where you go, books can be the key to unlocking purposeful travel for any age. Kids will connect better, adults will appreciate context and everyone will understand their destination just a little bit more. Books provide far reaching understanding of global understanding and values. Whether you are turning the page or listening to a book, the world awaits as the story unfolds. Enjoy the adventure!

PS: Here’s just a little more book fun!