Trip Report – Solo European Escape
By Susan Fleming
As a working woman in perpetual motion, slowing down for a solo trip to Europe was a dream come true thanks to a combination of inexpensive sale/mistakes fares and an off-season American AAdvantage award redemption. It had been 15 years since my last trip to Europe, so I was anxious to visit friends and a few familiar European cities. After arriving in Milan early one October morning, I made a quick stop for an espresso and boarded a train bound for Parma and the Villino di Porporano, a small bed and breakfast that had been recommended by a friend. The luxurious rooms and delicious breakfasts made the Villino di Porporano the perfect place to rest and recover from the long international flight in economy class! Two nights in Parma allowed for plenty of shopping and the opportunity to try fabulous local restaurants and specialties including the famous cheese. The weather was very mild and I was happy to find that the off-season in Parma meant that I could walk freely without crowds throughout the city and the local museums.
The Cinque Terre had been on my travel bucket list for some time, so I took a train to the coast and was able to find a room at an agriturismo farmhouse. I was somewhat surprised to find that it was not off-season in the Cinque Terre as tourists, honeymooning couples and cruise ship passengers packed the narrow streets. Luckily the Agriturismo Uliveto nel Parco was located high on a hill and away from the crowds in Monterosso al Mare with spectacular views, a cozy farmhouse and lovely grounds lined with fruit trees, olive trees and vegetable gardens. After a few days hiking and touring the five villages of the Cinque Terre I took an inexpensive flight to Frankfurt to visit relatives.
While it was not my first trip to Germany, it was my first time in Frankfurt. I was delighted to have the opportunity to tour the city with my German relatives and visit their favorite wine cellars and restaurants. It was the height of the apple harvest and I thoroughly enjoyed samples of apples, apple wine, apple desserts and pastries as we strolled through the streets and outdoor markets of Frankfurt.
After a long weekend I traveled from Frankfurt to Paris for the last leg of my trip. I was fortunate to be able to stay at a friend’s flat in the 15th arrondissement, so without the burden of an expensive hotel, I was able to stay in Paris for three nights. Since I had been to Paris before I decided to skip nearly all of the typical tourist destinations and instead focus on visiting lesser known spots based on recommendations from friends. I spent the first day losing myself in the narrow alleys of Paris, shopping at thrift stores, visiting outdoor markets and watching the sunset from the Sacre Coeur. On the second day I visited the Albert-Kahn gardens, had tea at the Grand Mosque of Paris and had a wonderful dinner in the La Chapelle quarter (little Sri Lanka). On my final day I enjoyed the tastes of Paris, finding an amazing pot of hot chocolate at a hidden cafe in the Marais, a lunch of falafels on the rue de Rosiers and finishing the day with a dinner of crepes and wine in a small cafe near Notre Dame. A quick shopping trip to Shakespeare and Company and an evening walk along the Seine made for a relaxing end to my European escape.
FFP miles spent: 20,000 American AAdvantage
Hotel points spent: None
Approximate flight cost/fees: $544
Airline(s) / Routing: DEN-JFK-MXP & GOA-CDG-FRA/ FRA-CDG & CDG-LHR-DFW-DEN on Delta, Air France, Alitalia, American Airlines and British Airways
How booked: Online
Type of award(s): Coach off-season Mile Saver Award on American
Hotel(s): Villino di Porporano Agriturismo Uliveto nel Parco
Month/year of trip: October 2014