Tim & Jen Butcher
📆 Days in Europe
Traveling to Europe as a married couple presents its own benefits and challenges. Tim and Jen have successfully navigated Europe's foregin streets and languages multiple times as a couple and with friends and family. Enjoying Europe's rich history and architecture while sampling its delicious cuisine keeps them wanting to more. Whether they're exploring an Irish countryside, or sharing pints at an ancient pub, Tim and Jen find that awe and relaxation that everday life just does not provide.
European travel brings us a lot of joy and relaxation that we can't get at home because of everyday life.❞
Hello! What's your name, where are you from, and where have you travelled to in Europe?
Tim and Jennifer Butcher, we are from Niagara Falls, NY. We have travelled to Ireland twice, Great Britain twice, Italy, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.
In one sentence, why should someone travel to/through Europe?
Jen: To experience the food and culture.
Tim: For me it is mostly the history but I also love the architecture and the pubs and beer halls.
What motivated you to take your first trip to Europe?
Tim: We were on our honeymoon and preferred to spend the money on a trip to Ireland rather than on a wedding.
Do you prefer Solo travel or traveling with others?
Tim: Most of our trips have been just my wife and I, but one of our trips was with my mom and that was really great for her to see the country of Ireland where her grandparents were born. We also took a trip with friends of ours to England and it was so much fun we want to plan another European trip together.
What went into planning your first trip to Europe?
Tim: We looked at guidebooks and tried to prioritize our time and what we wanted to see. We also planned the flight and car rental ourselves. We wanted to see some of the cities but also experience the natural beauty that Ireland is famous for.
If you had to plan one final, perfect Eurotrip, what would the itinerary look like?
Jen: I would go back and experience something rural similar to the Cotswolds.
Tim: I would love to see my favorite place in Europe again: Venice, but the place I would most like to see is Russia. I would visit Moscow and St. Petersburg.
What's your advice for first-time Eurotriprs who are just starting to plan a trip?
Tim: My first piece of advice would be to make sure they will enjoy Europe. Are they ready for a different country that may speak a different language, serve unusual food, not have your favorite channels available on TV? Hopefully the answer is yes. I would then suggest going to Ireland or Great Britain for their first trip since they speak English and the flights are shorter and cheaper than other parts of Europe (at least from an American point-of-view). Since the British and Irish speak English, but with a heavy accent that varies throughout each country and region, the barrier to entry for American travelers is low, but you still get the feeling that locals are speaking a different language.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced when planning your Eurotrip?
Tim: That's easy, what to leave out! I usually have a huge number of things I want to see and do and I have to pick the most important places and activities and leave the rest out due to time constraints.
Jen: Tim does the planning for our trips. I find that planning the trip is overwhelming, too many options for destinations, sites, hotels, schedules, etc. But I do make specific choices once the location is picked. I like to focus on things I might want to see and like to plan where we go for dinner. I also like to find fun things like bakeries and bookstores which I really enjoy.
How do you stretch your money so it lasts longer when you are in Europe?
Jen: I don't take cabs and I try to find cheaper places to stay.
Tim: I do try to stay in cheaper places. For me it is all about location. I like to find a place in the center of a city close to all of the attractions even if there are fewer amenities. For example, we stayed in a place in Florence, Italy that had no TV but I didn't care because I opened our curtains and stared at the Baptistry and Duomo. Way better than anything on TV!
In your opinion, is Europe an expensive place to travel? Why / why not?
Tim: I don't think so when compared to travelling inside the US. The price of the flights to the west coast are not that much. I don't think people who haven't been to Europe realize how many people turn their homes into affordable and cozy B&Bs. I keep thinking about a woman who ran a nice B&B out of her home on the Dingle penisula in Ireland. We were having breakfast in front of a large window that looked outside and she kept aplogizing because for the rain. We thanked her and said it wasn't her fault it was raining. Germany also had some nice small B&Bs in Munich that we satayed in.
What are the 3 most important things to consider when packing for a trip to Europe?
Tim: Suitcase weight (50 pounds), electrical adapter, bringing enough socks and underwear.
Airlines limit the weight of suitcases to be 50lb. Anything over that will be charged extra so we try to stay under 50lb. People should focus on what is most important to them. If you can wear a shirt or a pair of pants more than one day it helps you bring fewer clothes. Some hotels will wash your clothes for a fee and if you have extra time and less money you could go to a laundry mat and wash your own clothes but I haven't sone that.
Just don't forget the most important stuff like passports, electrical adapters, plane/trian tickets and guide books.
How would you pack differently for a 1-week trip to Europe versus a 1-month trip?
Tim: I've never been to Europe for more than 2 weeks at a time so it is tough to answer that question. The biggest concern for me might be bringing enough prescription medication for that amount of time. I mentioned above what to bring for a long trip. A short trip would be much easier with fewer clothes. Most of the other stuff would stay the same, including the toiletry bag that has your soap, mini shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, razor and mini shaving cream.
What is your favorite destination in Europe? Why?
Tim: My favorite country is Ireland for the scenic beauty and pubs. My favorite city is Venice. I love going somewhere and feeling as though I stepped backward in time. When you are in Venice at night and only hear the gondolas going by along with people's footsteps and voices it is magical. One of the best meals I had in Europe was a dinner of braized rabbit in florence. It was made simply with just a little bit of seasoning and was delicious. The dish wasn't complicated with a fancy sauce or presentation. The chef just made a great dish and the rabbit was allowed to shine. I don't even remeber what the side dish was.
Jen: Italy because of the food. The best part was the fresh ingredients that made the pizza and sandwiches other dishes so good. The high quality of the olive oil and herbs seemed to improve all of the dishes. I think the wines are even better than what you can buy here because they don't need to add sulfates because they aren't being shipped overseas.
What was your first trip to Europe like?
Tim: It was my honeymoon in Ireland and was really fun. It was in 2000 so it was pre-9/11 so the airport experience was different. There were no scanners just simple metal detectors and you could leave your shoes on. The smoking policies in Europe were also much different back then. Before flying back to the US there was a pub in the Shannon airport with ashtrays everywhere and they sold mini cigars. I knew this would probably be my last chance to smoke in a US/European airport so I bought a small pack and had a smoke and a pint of Guinness before flying home.
The first challenge arriving in Ireland was driving on the other side of the road. This adjustment was easier on the roads near the Shannon airport which are not as busy as Dublin and one reason to not fly into Dublin. We stayed a beautiful castle near Galway our first few nights. We also explored Clifden which is a really cute town. We drove to the Dingle peninsula which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Dingle has exceptional pubs and the peninsula is stikingly beautiful with views of the ocean. We also visited the Rock of Cashel which is a historic site on top of a hill with the ruins of a church and a wonderfull example of a round tower. Near the end of the trip we spent a few days in Dublin and saw the Liffey river with the cute little ha penny bridge and the famous Temple bar near by.
Can you tell us about a funny story/situation you've been in when traveling in Europe?
Tim: On our honeymoon to Ireland in 2000 we didn't have a smartphone or navigation so I was trying to drive and read a map at the same time. It got to the point where I was coming to a full stop at every intersection to check if we were going the right way because I had made so many wrong turns. Luckily, most of the Irish countryside is so devoid of cars that stopping wasn't a problem.
On our way to see the Cliffs of Moher we saw on older man walking next to some cows and asked for directions. He said something completely unintelligible to us. After he finished we thanked him and drove on to try to find someone we could understand to ask directions from.
In Venice we stayed with an older Italian couple that didn't speak English. The only time I understood the wife was when we were leaving she was somehow able to ask us where we were going next and we said 'Rome' and she said 'ah, bella Roma!' It was really nice to hear.
In Prague I accidently took our room key with us when we left the hotel even though guests weren't supposed to do that. I realized when we got back to the hotel that the large piece of wood attached to the key was there for a reason.
It was fun in Rome to take a taxi ride to the airport and watch the cab driver swear at people and make obscene gestures even at 5 o'clock in the morning.
Traveling by train in Germany and Austria everything was clean and modern. We then entered the Czech Republic where the train looked like something from 40 years ago. There was also a man on the train that wanted to chat with us who was completely drunk and I remembered that we had just entered the country with the highest amount of beer consumption per person in Europe. In a pub in Prague I realized why people drank so much: The beer was delicious and cost $1.60 US per pint.
How do you find social connections while traveling around Europe?
Tim: Connecting with people is the best part about the pubs in Ireland and the UK. Some of the best conversations we had were with the people who ran the B&Bs that we stayed at in Ireland. They enjoy hearing where we lived in the US. They were also interested in what we had seen and what we were going to see in Ireland.
What are some of your favorite foods in Europe, and in what countries are they found?
Jen: Pizza in Rome; gelato anywhere in Italy; meat pies in the UK; Pork, butter and dairy in Ireland; spetzle, pretzels and brats in Germany; cicchetti in Venice bars.
Tim: I also loved the meat pies in London and the rest of the UK. We had a wonderful dinner of fish and chips in Galway, Ireland. We sat at table with some older local ladies and they confirmed that the fish and chips we were eating were the best in Galway! The pizza in Rome was amazing. The brats in Germany were great. The cicchetti combined with the delicious wine in Venice was a real highlight. Being able to point at the appetizing small dishes and choose what you want and then stand there and eat and drink was incredible. In Florence, I had an amazing dinner of braised rabbit. Florence also had excellent sandwiches at different places especially the restaurant 'i fratellini'.
If you've travelled through Europe more than once, what has changed in how you plan your trip now from your earlier trips?
Tim: Slowing down the itinerary is very important to avoid exhaustion early in the trip and we try to include more rural, quiet places to relax and recharge. I think a big part of the problem are cities. Cities have some important sites to see but, for me, they don't represent the country you are visiting. For example, Dublin might represent Ireland better than New York city represents the US but I think the Irish country side is the real star of the show and gives you a better idea of what Ireland is like. Cities are more intense and the itinerary tends to get more crowded while in a city but it is important to get ouside of the cities and slow down and enjoy things more. The Cliffs of Moher need to be enjoyed and not rushed to really experience them and enjoy it. However, I will say one of my favorite cities was London. I want to go back there but try to slow things down even while in the city. If that means spending an entire day in one museum or one pub then so be it. I will still enjoy it and be able to appreciate it beet.
What does travel give you that everyday life doesn’t?
Jen: Brings me a lot of joy and relaxation that I can't get at home because of everyday life.
Tim: I feel addicted to seeing new places and countries because I enjoy it so much and only travelling can fill that need.
When you come home from a trip to Europe, has it changed you? How?
Tim: I have a different perspective when I return home. I see things in a different way. For example, when I hear people complain about the price of gasoline I think about how expensive it is in Europe . In other ways I appreciate being back in the US in bathrooms and showers that I fit in (I'm 6' 4" tall) and having king size beds more readily available than the typical smaller ones found throughout Europe.
What do you wish you knew before your first trip, that you know now?
Tim: We probably should have paid for a car with navigation. We also made a mistake of taking a nap our first day because of jet lag. We should have stayed up and gone to sleep later which has helped on other trips to adjust to the time in Europe.