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the good (and bad) girls guide to...
getting out of the country
by maigen thomas (@Maigen)
8.25.08
general


You need a vacation. A mini-break. A holiday.

Maybe you need to step away from a high-pressure job, or take some time to think about a lovelife situation. Maybe your family is driving you crazy. Maybe you just need to get away for some "You" time.

Now is the best time for you to get away from it all. I'm not being facetious, actually, this truly is the best time of year to travel -- the kids are headed back to school, the tourist season is just about over, but the weather is still lovely enough to get out and enjoy everything any particular city has to offer. It's a perfect time for you to schedule that getaway, be it alone or with your closest friends.

Most people think the beach is the perfect relaxation: drinking mai-tais, soaking up the sun, listening to the waves, enjoying long stretches of silence. If that's what you've got your heart set on, I recommend St. Lucia or St. Maarten. They're the quietest this time of year, and still oh-so-delightfully sunny. And while that's a lovely plan, I'd like to recommend something different for anyone who has a bit of an adventurer's soul:

Europe. Anywhere in Europe, actually. I'm in love with the whole continent. I haven't been everywhere, but the places I have been are amazing. I feel as if I'm divulging state secrets writing about these amazing places and things to do, but I want someone else to be able to have wonderful memories as well! There are so many places to visit, I could spend weeks cataloging them. Instead, I chose my top four favourite locations to visit and included my favourite things to do while visiting.

Let's start with something familiar: England. Particularly, London. Home of Sense and Sensibility, High Tea and Colin Firth (mmm!). They still speak the Queen's English, though some of them sound as if they're doing so through a mouth of marbles. I'm not sure even Professor Higgins can help the worst of the lot. The Good Girl in you will dutifully wander through St. James Park and view the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. The Bad Girl will wonder what the Guardsmen look like without the silly hats...and pants. The Good Girl will probably take a Double Decker Bus tour of London, viewing The Eye, London Bridge, Tower of London and all the main hotspots for touristas. The Bad Girl would get her own all-day Underground pass and exhaustively see every sight on the map in one day! She might also -- and this is just a thought -- take a jaunty stroll through the west side of SoHo, checking out the seedy sex shops, then make a night of hitting all the hot clubbing spots. London is top of the line for music and DJs! Remember to keep track of how much you spend -- the GBP is trading at roughly $2 USD, making this one of the most expensive cities on earth.

In Moscow, a Good Girl might say "Priviet" to a comprehensive (and stunning) tour of all the subway stations -- The Moscow Metro is unlike any other metropolitan transportation system in the world. Stalin believed that instead of providing decent housing for all of the citizens of the USSR, it was better to build less living accommodations and more “palaces of the people”. These “palaces” were public buildings, monuments, and parks that were architecturally impressive and decorated top to bottom in pro-soviet images and were meant to serve as a matter of pride and enjoyment for the Soviet citizens. The metro is one of the finest examples of this theory. The downtown stations are filled with valuable artworks such as murals, statues and mosaics as well as crystal chandeliers and marble archways and benches. Interesting to note: each station was designed by a prominent Soviet architect or artist.

A Bad Girl might do well to remember she's in Russia -- and keep things pretty tame. They will not hesitate to throw you in jail for breaking the law -- or for getting too naughty while being an American. There are ballets, theatre, tons of shopping and great clubs to visit. McDonalds is fairly easy to find, but a bank is not. The easiest one I found was a CitiBank -- only because I recognized their trademark red umbrella. Taking out $1000 from the ATM was hard to swallow, until I realized one thousand Rubles is only $40. Still an expensive city, though. My latte in the morning ran me about 200 Rubles -- which doesn't seem like much, until you realize that's $8. Steep.

Taking a trip to Italy is really one of the best decisions you could make -- Rome, Pisa, Milan, Venice... it doesn't matter where you go, you will be treated to amazing food and astonishing wine. A Good Girl should try visiting Pisa, getting a picture holding up the Leaning Tower, then heading out on a train to Lucca or Florence. This is the main area in Tuscany for sight-seeing and sampling all manner of edible (and drinkable) delights. In Rome, get a tourist map and hit as many Piazzas as you can -- you'll fill up a memory card in your camera faster than you can say "Ritengo così bello qui!" Venice is the city for lovers, so bring a date... or, if you're into being a Bad Girl, find one while you're there. Trust me, you'll have no trouble at all! In Milan, be prepared to feel like the wallflower -- the people are GORGEOUS and dress to the nines just to go out for coffee. This is one city where Good and Bad Girls alike will be making copious mental notes about style and fashion. And shoes. Oh my, the shoes...

A Bad Girl, well... she'll have a field day in Bella Roma -- the men here are amongst the flirtiest in the world. And they really are the hottest. Remember this phrase if you decide to partake in the delights: "antibambino, por favore"! If you want to see a more realistic Rome, head to the Jewish Quarter (in the southwest of the city, across the Tevere River) for more local flavour and cheaper prices. The touristas tend to stick to central Rome, which is nice. Romantic strolls with your new boyfriend -- who likely only speaks a small amount of English -- are delicious when the sun goes down and it's still warm and only a tiny bit humid.

Ah, Barcelona. My favourite city in the world! Like Italy, Spain is on the Euro, which is trading at about $1.70 USD. Keep that in mind when you're spending hours with friends over crisp, sparkling Spanish Cava at a tapas restaurant -- where they charge by the skewer or small plate. It usually is pretty affordable, though. Good Girls might become Bad Girls in this city, which has a sexy appeal all its own. The food can be spicy or mild, but it is always flavourful and always complemented by wines of the region. By day, you can take the Number 59 bus to the very last stop and find the Olympic Village (from the 1992 Olympics) and a public beach. Or, if a Bad Girl were so inclined, she could take the C2 train out to Sitges, a predominately gay town about 35 minutes outside of Barcelona, and hit the nude beaches for an all-over glow. In the evening, you should definitely take a stroll down La Rambla, which is the big tourist area -- there are street performers, artists and musicians nearly 24 hours a day. Most of the bars and restaurants are open until at least 4am if not later. Some clubs and lounges don't even open their doors until midnight!

My personal favourite thing to do in Barcelona is a club crawl. There's this amazing area down at Paseo Maritimo, all the clubs and lounges are stacked up side by side. No cover charges, but the drinks are expensive. They'll entice you into their open doors with free shots and thumping bass -- after your free shot, just head to the next one... and the next one... and the next one until you find the one that strikes your particular musical desire. The last time I was there, I ended up salsa dancing until past four in the morning with a tall Italian who spoke no English, but was a fantastic dancer!

You'll have a fantastic time no matter where you decide to go in Europe. You will definitely never regret going, and you certainly won't be thinking of your problems while you're there, but there are no guarantees once you step back on home soil. Just remember -- what happens in Europe stays in Europe!


ABOUT MAIGEN THOMAS

Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.

more about maigen thomas

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COMMENTS

alex b
8.25.08 @ 9:08a

A friend was in London recently, and told me that he and three people each paid £20 for an English breakfast- making every plate of eggs, beans, and toast cost roughly $80. Maybe it would be cheaper in Ireland or Scotland...

reem al-omari
8.25.08 @ 1:16p

I'd love to go to all the places you mentioned. I must become a millionaire first, of course, but I will make it work somehow. I did a lot of traveling when I was too young to appreciate it. But I know how one can have fun in London as a kid . . . go to Hamleys! Heck, you can have fun as an adult there!

[edited]

brian anderson
8.25.08 @ 1:46p

I was considering a trip to England this summer, but it seems that the prices got in my way. It's difficult lately with the dollar so weak; even the Canadian dollar is at par, which makes it expensive just to drive across the border and spend a few days there. I love travel, and August in Paris without many tourists is amazing, but the price of getting there and the low amount of vacation time in US companies make it difficult.

alex b
8.25.08 @ 2:45p

Hmm. For traveling:

Good Girl = saves money.

Bad Girl = brings Sugar Daddy.

maigen thomas
8.25.08 @ 5:31p

that's how I like travelling, alex!



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