Surprise! Surprise! We thought that London would have been the most expensive country on our trip. However, London came in second place to Florence (our first stop), as the most expensive. Florence topped out at $6837 for the month, while London topped out at $6351, all inclusive.
This quarter was the most expensive since we left, with Vienna's expenses being $5080, while Brussel's was only $3054, and London's as mentioned was over six thousand dollars. We truly felt that London would have hit the top of our pensions. It did not and we have managed to save money each and every month.
Our financial system is monitored down to the penny in this way: two ledgers are kept; one is for food costs, while the other one monitors all other daily expenses (e.g. entrance fees, rent, and travel). At the end of each month, we add up all the tallies and convert them to American dollars. To keep food costs down, we usually eat a piece of fruit for breakfast while generally eating lunch out at a cafe or restaurant. Diner is usually eaten at home in the apartment. Several times per week, we go shopping either in a local market or grocery store. This saves us about 25% on our food bill. Being 70 years of age, we do get a concession of 2-3 Pounds or Euros below the normal adult entrance prices. The underground train service (AKA "the Tube") in London, besides being quite efficient (we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes for a train) was a huge money saver. As well as being inexpensive over all, it allowed us to live outside the expensive Central London area. Advice from many fellow travelers taught us to seek apartments within a half-hour train ride from Central London. Thus Fulham was perfect for us. We also saved a lot of money at the six National Museums in London (National Gallery; British Museum; Museum of Science and Technology; Natural History Museum; Victoria and Albert Museum; and the Imperial War Museum) as admissions were free for all. What was quite expensive to visit were the Queen's five palaces and castle, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey. One expense that did cause us some difficulty was the tour of Parliament. This tour had to be booked almost a month in advance, but when the time came to take it, we found that it had been cancelled because of a huge (70,000 persons) demonstration that took place just outside of the Parliament building. We are currently trying to recoup that money through our credit card company.
There were some obstacles which we encountered during this quarter while visiting Vienna, Brussels, and London. While in the Grand Place in Brussels, we learned that someone had hacked some of our credit card information by means of a pocket electronic scanner. Fortunately, our bank caught the attempted fraud and froze the account before anything bad could happen. Imagine being in a foreign country without access to our funds in America. Under normal circumstances, we would not have been able to receive mail, so the bank could not send us a new card. However, our landlady was kind enough to let us use her personal address, so we did receive the new card within 48 hours. The lesson learned by this is to protect the credit card information by surrounding it with a metal style wallet or aluminum foil.
As Americans, we are sensitive to unattended bags, packages, and backpacks being left in public places. In Europe, they harbor no such concerns. On at least three occasions, we notified authorities of unattended items in public places and no one seemed overly concerned.
As many of our readers are aware, we try to book apartments two months in advance. As we get closer to the summer months, this has been harder to do because it is the high tourist season and many apartments are already unavailable. This has required us to try to book further ahead. It is a challenge and it is imperative to be flexible. For instance, we have booked two weeks in Dublin through the beginning of August but could not find any available apartments in the counties of Galway, Cork, nor Kerry, which are Lorraine's ancestral areas. So we have had to switch our focus to Quebec and Montreal. Ireland will have to wait for another trip. Flexibility is a must!
Yet, nevertheless, this continues to be a wonderful trip and a great experience. We would not have missed it "...for the world." It is hard to believe that we are entering the "home stretch" of this one year adventure. When we began last October, this point seemed so far away. Anyone can do this provided you stay healthy and have a decent pension or savings. One couple we met is using the interest from their 401k to finance their travels. So there are many options.