Travel Tip: Know Your History

Nowadays, before I go any where, I begin to immerse myself in the country of my next destination.

When I first started traveling I would select a place and buy a guide book. I would spend the few months before the trip pouring over the guide book and deciding what outfits to bring. I would see which museums were worth it and read reviews of restaurants. Where I choose to eat can often make or break a country for me. I felt like these were the most important parts of the trip.

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Of course where you stay, where you dine and what you see are all important aspects of your trip abroad, it is equally important to know a thing or two about the place you’re visiting. How can you truly appreciate all the thing you will be seeing without having some original reference to what they are? It just so happens that I am a history geek. I love reading and learning about events of the past. Sometimes that can be what triggers me wanting to visit a place.

Lets take my next trip as an example. I went to Paris the first time about 7 years ago. In a whirl wind trip of a few cities. Over the past few years I had been thinking about revisiting the country because I felt that I had barely spent any time in Paris let alone the entire country.

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I started researching France.

They have a bad stigma in the United States. Everyone says the French are rude. Is this true? Well the first time around I did experience a particularly rude ticket agent while trying to buy a rail pass. Does this make everyone in  France rude? Probably not.

I know plenty of rude New Yorkers. And plenty who aren’t. I picked up a book called “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz which is all about living in France and enjoying the cuisine. I was immediately sold on my Paris trip 2.0. How could I have ever questioned returning to a place that holds chocolate, cheese and wine in such high regard? That alone is worth a trip anywhere. After reading about the culinary delights that await me I decided to read a book on the history of the country.

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Of course, I knew a lot of basics about France.

The French revolution is a fascinating time( heads were rolling) , I had learned about Napoleon ( he’s super short!) and enjoyed Alexander Dumas’ retelling of The Three Muskateers but obviously there is so much more. In my many afternoons spent in the travel section in Barnes and Noble I stumbled across “Paris to the Past” by Ina Caro. A must read if you are going to France. Not only does she bring to life each time period perfectly her ability to make you feel like you knew each French historical character, from Joan of Arc to Louis XVI, is uncanny. I was fascinated and was completely confident in my choice to revisit France. She also explains to you how to use the Paris rail system. How far each city/castle is and which lines to take. This is pure gold when it comes to information. You can even bring the book with you and use it as your guide the stories are so well told.

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I now know exactly where I am going when I land.

I have decided which parts of the history most fascinate me and how I should divide my time when I am there. After reading up on it as much as I can I know what I will be able to get out of my trip. I have a love and understanding for the country that  exists now because of all I know it went through which leads to a much richer experience.

How do you prepare for a trip?

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