This week I received the “official” approval for my leave from our HR Department. Apparently the unpaid portion of the leave needed to get HR approval (and potentially City Manager approval). I wrote a memo to my boss requesting the Sabbatical and she wrote a memo to HR supporting the request. In a way, it seemed like a formality, but so many things at the ol’ CoB seem like formalities and end up being thwarted. So I was not getting my hopes up.
I was very successful at that, considering when my boss showed up in my doorway on Wednesday morning clapping and jumping up and down to tell me it was approved (and no need for CM approval), I was in a state of shock. Don’t get me wrong, I was grinning from ear-to-ear, but it took a bit for it to settle in. I am really going to Europe for 90 days. This is really happening. Wow.
Because of our uncertainty, my boss didn’t want me to book anything that was non-refundable. I had already booked my ticket to Poland, but if HR said no to the unpaid leave, I still had weeks of vacation I could use, so I knew I would be going for some amount of time. But I still refrained from booking anything else. So once I got the word, I have been a booking machine!
But let me back-up. I came across the concept of “luxury hostels” last weekend. Apparently this is a thing now. Seriously. Google it. So I have found several Luxury hostels in towns in which I will be staying. I booked some of these (as refundable bookings). So right now, I have accommodations in Krakow, Prague, Salzburg, Munich, Baden Baden, Koblenz, Cologne, Berlin, Lisbon, and Dublin. Not all of these are hostels and not all of the hostels are luxury hostels. But it is definitely the trend for this trip. Thankfully my accommodations (perhaps with the exception of Munich) are all refundable and change-able, if I find something better or if I have a travel companion in any of those places.
Last night and this morning have seen me on a booking tear, though. I booked my flight home from Dublin on Aer Lingus. Can’t wait to fly them again (hopefully they won’t be on strike). I also booked my flight from Athens to Edinburgh. I am so glad that one day I was price-checking that flight at work and couldn’t remember my itinerary. The previous checks had revealed that the best flight was on British Airways for about $230 (before baggage fees) and with a stop in London. I thought I was scheduled to fly on Thanksgiving, so I put that date in and found an Easyjet flight for $75. And this flight was direct. I double-checked my itinerary and realized that I was supposed to fly on Black Friday, NOT Thanksgiving. But for that savings, I decided I needed to alter my itinerary. So with fees (of which those discount airlines are so fond), the total price was $133. Can’t beat that! (Also, what better way to start my Love Actually viewing season than watching it on a 4 1/2 hour flight on Thanksgiving!)
So I realized that eliminated a day in Greece, but decided I could live with it. I thought I was done booking things, as I wanted to wait to book the flight from Edinburgh to Dublin. But then I remembered I needed to fly from Rome to Athens. So I thought I would check that flight to see what it was running these days. As I was about to type “Athens” into Kayak, I decided, on a whim, to see if there were, by any chance, flights to Santorini now. If you’ll recall, a month or so ago, there were no flights to the Greek Islands from anywhere. I was very disappointed in this because I am so excited to see Greece. Well, what do you know? There was a flight!!!! So I booked from Rome to Santorini (with a brief stop in Athens) for $130. This means I get into Santorini a day earlier than I thought. I thought I would spend one day traveling to Athens and then had to catch an 8-9 hour ferry from Athens to Santorini the following day. But with this flight, I salvaged the day that I had given up with the cheaper flight to Edinburgh. It all worked out in the end!
So I went to bed last night very satisfied with what I had accomplished, thinking I was done with bookings until I purchase my Eurail pass next month. But this morning I decided to check out car rentals. I will be renting a car for 4 days in northern France, as the train doesn’t provide me with everything I will want/need (especially for the trip to Normandy). I found that with Europcar I was able to book the car to be picked up in Rouen (at the train station) and returned in Caen (at the train station) for $140. Sweet!
I will also need a car in Ireland (after Dublin), so I thought I would check out that rental with Europcar. I did not have the same results. 6 days in Ireland (picking up and returning at the Dublin airport) was $400. Um, no. I will have to check other rental companies, but I really don’t want to use Enterprise again. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if my photo was up in their office as persona non grata from 2012!!
So that one can wait. But I think I’ve made tremendous progress and it really has sunk in. I am going to be in Europe for 90 days!!!!