Why do the Locals Treat Europe Like an Ashtray and a Urinal?

A Year Ago Today

This is my rant from a year ago today (September 24, 2014) about how most Europeans seem to treat their countries like an ashtray and a urinal. We encountered this behavior mostly in France, Spain and Italy.

Note: There are No Pictures with This Post

You’ll notice the lack of pictures with this post. Considering the subject matter, trust me, it wouldn’t be pretty.

A Conundrum

We have found it very odd that most Europeans seem slim, fit and health-conscious, yet, on the other hand, a large majority of them smoke.

Treating Europe Like an Ashtray

Not only do an inordinate number of Europeans seem to smoke, and a lot of them chain smoke, but they don’t seem to care about disposing of their cigarette butts properly. Just dropping them on the ground – or the beach – or the sidewalk – or in the street – seems to be the method of choice.

Do they not see that this makes the entire place look like a massive ashtray?

It seemed almost everywhere we went, in Spain, Italy or France, we couldn’t escape the huge number of cigarette butts – everywhere!

Thankfully, cigarette smoking is no longer allowed on buses in Europe. On this visit, we took several, long bus journeys and would not have been able to stand it if they had allowed smoking on the buses.

And don’t get in the way of a smoker when the bus stops for a break, they’re likely to run you over in their rush to get their next fix. They often exit the bus with a cigarette already in their mouth and a lighter in hand,  before they are even fully off the bus.

There didn’t seem to be any particular age group that was so hooked. Both young and old were held hostage to this filthy habit.

It’s not that there aren’t any smokers in North America. Of course there are, but it is really rare to see cigarette butts littering the streets, parks, beaches, etc. Europe, on the other hand, seems like one large ashtray.

When we stopped at a small beach restaurant to enjoy a couple of beers, the waiter was serving food while a lit cigarette dangled from his mouth. Amazing!

One of the exceptions we noted in Europe was Paris. It’s a beautifully clean city, but they work very hard to keep it that way.

Treating Europe Like a Urinal

The other thing that made us wonder about Europeans, in general, was their lack of outrage at public urination.

Many times during our travels we saw men (yes, it was always men – easier for them, I guess), urinating in public – either at the side of the road, next to a tree, in a public park, you name it, we saw it all. But, besides that, even when urinals are provided they are often built so that the occupants are visible to passersby – and that was even in Paris!

Pet Poop

While we’re on the subject of public urination, let’s talk about the overabundance of pet poop. While we saw many people doing the “stoop and scoop” thing and cleaning up after their pets, they were the exception and not the rule.

While we were staying in Spain, we had to avoid way too much dog poop on our morning and evening walks. And dog poop deposited directly on the walking paths – right in the way!

I guess one person thought they were “cleaning up” by placing a paper towel over the pile of poop and then just walking away!

Animals at Restaurants

While I’m on a rant, maybe it’s time to mention the number of people that bring their pets, usually dogs, to restaurants.

Okay, maybe at an outdoor café it’s not too bad, but some of these people, with smaller dogs, would put them on their laps and even on the tables!

Are there no health codes for restaurants in Europe?

Itinerary for Our 2014 Adventure

Our 2014 Adventure

We began this adventure on July 21, 2014.

Well, it’s a year later, the trip is over, but the memories remain.

Here’s a quick look at our itinerary before we begin the individual posts documenting this fun, amazing and educational trip.

Flag Canada
Canada

July 21

Bus to Thunder bay and then three flights ending in Iceland on July 22nd.

 

 

Flag Iceland
Iceland

July 22 – July 25

Reykjavik, Iceland

 

 

Flag United Kingdom
United Kingdom

July 25 – August 10

London, United Kingdom

 

 

Flag France
France

August 10 – August 14

Paris & Lyon, France

 

 

Flag Spain
Spain

August 14 – September 5

Vera Playa, Spain

 

 

Flag France
France

September 5 – September 28

Cap d’Agde & Marseille, France

 

 

Tunisia
Tunisia
Malta
Malta

September 28 – October 5

Mediterranean Cruise – including stops in Tunisia, Malta and Italy before returning to Marseille.

Italy
Italy

 

Denmark
Denmark

October 5 – October 6

Marseille, France to Copenhagen, Denmark

 

 

October 6 – November 3

TransAtlantic cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark to Los Angeles, USA stopping at

Portugal
Portugal

Ponta Del Gada, Azores, Portugal

 

 

 

USA
USA

 

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Miami, Florida, USA

 

Colombia
Colombia

 

Cartagena, Colombia

 

 

 

Panama
Panama

 

The Panama Canal, Panama

 

 

 

Costa Rica
Costa Rica

 

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

 

 

 

Mexico
Mexico

Puerto Chiapas, Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

 

 

 

USA
USA

 

Los Angeles, California, USA

 

 

 

Canada
Canada

November 3 – November 4

Los Angeles, USA to Home

Back to Wales for a Couple of Days

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 13 ~ Day #156
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$15600
$22.76
$13773.94
$88.29
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097+93=15190
6378.9
5966+786=6752
119
28439.9

Current Location: Burry Port, Wales

Today’s Total Expenses: $22.76

Transportation: $13.39 (€10.00)
Food: $9.37 (pizza – €7.00)

Miles Traveled Today:
Road Miles: 93 (20 miles – Venice to Treviso + 73 miles – Bristol to Burry Port)
Air Miles: 786 (Treviso to Bristol)

Last Stop at Our Favorite Café

Before checking out of our hotel, we again had breakfast at the corner café. Although this was only our third time here, it was a ritual we were going to miss.

Our coffee of choice was, yet again, cappuccino. After perusing the available pastries we chose something that most certainly had to be bad for us but we slowly savored every bite.

Checking Out of Our Venice Hotel

Knowing that the reception area of the hotel was on the second floor (our room was actually in a different building) we knew better than to drag our luggage up two flights of stairs just to check out.

As the room cost had been paid in advance, all we really had to do was return the key. I waited with the luggage while Geoff did that.

Venice Bus Station

With our luggage in hand we headed for the Venice bus station. This was easy to find as we already knew where it was – just across a bridge from the Venice train station.

From our hotel we walked along the Grand Canal until we saw the train station. Then we took the large, wide, white bridge across – you guessed it – another canal.

After that it was just a matter of dodging some traffic (and, remember, I already said that Italian drivers are crazy!) to get to the ticket office.

We purchased our tickets and went to the designated area to wait for our bus to arrive.

In keeping with my usual nervousness about missing any transportation, we had arrived more than half an hour ahead of schedule. But I was happy to wait knowing that we wouldn’t “miss the bus”.

Overall Impression of Venice

Truth be told, we weren’t all that sad to be leaving Venice. Three days was plenty for us.

We know that lots of people see Venice as a romantic destinations, but we didn’t. Actually, we saw it as rather run down and dirty. Most places were in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint. There was graffiti everywhere and the streets were dirty. We noticed that the length of time it took to get dog poop cleared off the streets was determined by how many people had walked through the poop and whether or not the canal overflowed and rinsed it with dirty water. Yuck!

Apologies to all those who rave about Venice but it’s not a city that we’ll be visiting again.

European Bus Travel

There were two buses that day that went to the Treviso airport. One left in the morning and got to the airport hours and hours before our flight back to the UK and the other one arrived at the airport in the evening less than an hour before the flight.

We took the earlier bus for two reasons – we didn’t want to be dragging our luggage around Venice and – we didn’t want to take the change of being late for our flight.

We had packed a lunch, we both had good books to read, so were were good to go.

Our bus arrived and it was modern, comfortable and clean.

The towns along the route were much more prosperous looking as wells as cleaner and more modern. There was lots of open space and even some farming along the way.

The trip took about an hour, even though we only covered about 20 miles. However, it was a pleasant and relaxing journey.

Treviso Airport

We arrived at Treviso airport at about noon, which meant we had about and 8 hour wait for our flight.

We found ourselves some comfy seat, at least as comfy as you can get in an airport. We had our packed lunch and then cracked open our books and immersed ourselves in their pages.

What? Pizza Again?

Although we had packed a lunch for today we hadn’t packed anything for dinner.

Geoff checked out the small café in the airport and, like all airports, the food was hugely expensive and the selection was extremely limited.

Geoff decided to head out of the airport to see if he could find a take-away with a better selection and better prices.

To my surprise he returned with a pizza in hand!

I was a bit confused seeing that we were still in Italy and our track record with pizzas had not been great. But, once again, it was the best deal of what was available.

To our delight, it was actually the best pizza we had while in Italy. Geoff explained that the place he got it from was actually run by orientals. Hmmmm – could that have something to do with it?

We had the pizza with our last one liter tetrapak of the €0.70 red wine. It was actually a pretty good meal.

Reunited With Our Traveling Companions

Shortly after we’d finished our dinner our traveling companions showed up.

While we were waiting for our flight to be called we swapped stories of our adventures over the last three days.

RyanAir On Time – Again!

Our RyanAir flight boarded on time, took off on time and landed in Bristol on time.

It was an uneventful fligh, which is the kind we like to have.

Late Arrival Back in Wales

After arriving back in Bristol, T & E picked up their cars. T headed back to Coventry so he could be back at work the next day. We piled into E’s car for the two-hour drive back to Burry Port in Wales.

Our Last Full Day in Venice

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 12 ~ Day #155
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$15500
$120.38
$13751.18
$88.72
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
6378.9
5966
119
27560.9

Current Location: Hotel Matre, Venice, Italy

Today’s Total Expenses: $120.38

Accommodation: $87.03 (€65.00)

Food: $33.35 (€24.91)
Consisting of:
Rotisserie chicken: €5.50
Groceries: €12.41
Cheeseburger Lunch: €7.00

Miles Traveled Today:
Nothing to record for today.

Today is our last full day in Venice. It’s off to Treviso tomorrow and then back to the UK for a couple of days. On Saturday, it’s back to the Bristol airport for our flight to Alicante, Spain.

Breakfast at the Café

We really enjoyed our pastry and cappuccino at the corner café yesterday and looked forward to going again this morning.

While we stuck with the cappuccino as our coffee of choice, we each picked a different pastry than we had yesterday. I selected one that hand some chocolate in it and Geoff chose one with an apricot filling. Both were lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Really bad for us but oh so good!

Deal at a Deli

We set out to continue exploring Venice and passed a deli that was selling whole rotisserie-cooked chickens for €5.50. Considering that a small piece of lasagna we had thought about buying was €7.00, this seemed like a really good deal.

We made note of the location and decided we’d pick one up on our way back to the hotel that day. It would make a good dinner.

However, just a few steps down the road we though better of that. It was quite likely that, if we didn’t buy the chicken now, we were running the risk of none being left later.

We retraced our steps, bought the chicken, took it back to our hotel room and stored it safely in the tiny fridge that was still stoically working.

Dinner assured, we again set out.

San Marco Basilica and Square

Our goal for today was to visit San Marco Square. The map we had helped guide us to this famous location.

After many turns, bridges and canals our path opened on to the huge Saint Mark’s (San Marcos) Square.

The square boats lots of outdoor cafés and, of course, throngs of tourists.

Keeping Our Feet Dry

Everyone knows that Venice is a series of canals and is surrounded by water. Not only that, Venice is slowly, and unevenly, sinking.

During our exploration of Venice we had noticed, at times, some of the canals overflowing their banks, including the canal right outside our hotel.

We had also seen stacks of things that looked like long, low tables. They had a plywood top screwed to a metal frame with legs about two feet tall. At first we thought they were tables for the street vendors but they’d seemed too low for such a purpose.

It wasn’t until we were in San Marco Square, and it was flooding, that we understood their purpose.

They were used as platforms to put over flooded section so you could walk on them and keep your feet dry!

That’s why we had seen stacks of them all over Venice. We now saw them in use in San Marco Square. We used them ourselves to walk over some flooded sections so we could get into San Marco Church for a tour.

Missing Our Camera

We wish we had photos to share of the ornate clock in San Marco Square, the tower that is under restoration and the church itself.

Cruise Ships in Venice

After touring the church we walked out to the ocean, just off the piazza, to watch a cruise ship entering Venice.

We then strolled along the water and crossed many canal bridges to find ourselves in a very wide street – very unusual for Venice.

Treating Ourselves to Lunch

This unusually wide street had several outdoor cafés and we decided to treat ourselves to lunch.

We began checking the various offerings and the related prices. We settled on a tiny café with just a few tables inside and couple of tables out in the warm sun.

We chose to sit outside because it was such a warm, sunny day. We did, though have to ask them to open the awning because it was actually a little too sunny. Once we had a bit of shade, it was perfect.

We had already checked the posted menu before we sat down, but we again looked over what was available before making our final choices.

As we have mentioned before, pasta dishes are very expensive in Italy and we’re not really sure why. So, we passed on a plate of spaghetti and both ordered fresh-made cheeseburgers and fries which were considerably less expensive. For the both of us, the bill came to just €7.00.

Murano Glass Jewelry

We used the map we had of Venice to get ourselves headed back toward our hotel, but by a different route.

We did hit a dead-end once and had to double back but mostly we made progress while getting to see even more of Venice.

Along the way I continued to ooh and aah at the beautiful glass jewelry that we’d seen in so many shops.

To my surprise, Geoff said, “You should get a set.” Meaning a set of earrings and a pendant.

I mentioned the budget but he said that we never waste money on cheap souvenirs and we will likely not return to Venice. And, what better place to buy glass jewelry but in Venice, a city that is famous for its Murano glass.

Isn’t he sweet? How could I say no?

Being the savvy shoppers that we are and also, given the fact that a lot of stores sold this kind of jewelry, we did look for the best price.

We found it at a tiny shop that sold nothing but the glass jewelry sets. After spending quite a bit of time looking at, I’m sure, everything they had in the store, I made my selection.

I chose a set that had an off-white flower in the center, tinged with a burnt orange accent and set against a black background. The pendant and earrings were tear-drop shaped.

Every time I wear them I will think of our time in Venice.

Another Grocery Run and Back to the Hotel

Yet another grocery run but not too much because we’re off to Treviso tomorrow so we’ll be checking out of our hotel in the morning and saying farewell to our tiny fridge.

Once back in our room we enjoyed the rotisserie chicken we had bough, with a small salad and more of our amazingly good, amazingly cheap, wine.

We had enough leftovers to pack ourselves a lunch for the bus ride from Venice to Treviso tomorrow.

All in all – a good day.

Our Second Day in Venice

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

Oct 11 ~ Day #154
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$15400
$106.46
$13630.80
$88.51
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
15097
6378.9
5966
119
27560.9

Current Location: Hotel Matre, Venice, Italy

Today’s Total Expenses: $106.46

Accommodation: $87.03 (€65.00)

Food: $19.43 (€14.51)

Miles Traveled Today:
Nothing to record for today.

Pastry and Cappuccino

As we mentioned yesterday, our hotel room rate included a continental breakfast. Actually, it included a pastry of our choice and a coffee of our choice at a tiny corner café near the hotel.

We each picked our pastry and ordered cappuccino. The delivered both to our bar-height table. Both were delicious and we enjoyed them slowly while doing some people-watching.

We again braved the maze that is Venice with map in hand in case we got totally lost.

At first we thought we might try to find the pizza/gelato take-away we had visited yesterday. But, with every turn, bridge and canal looking pretty much the same, we gave up the search and enjoyed finding new places.

More Groceries

Before getting more groceries we needed to stop at an ATM to get some cash. We were, of course, nervous that we might encounter the same problem we had in Greece, but it worked and we got enough Euros to buy more groceries.

I didn’t mention yesterday that the grocery stores actually charge €0.05 for each plastic bag, so today we were armed with the plastic bags from yesterday’s grocery run. I guess this is a good way to encourage recycling.

We were careful not to buy too much as our tiny fridge couldn’t hold very much.

but, as we enjoyed our €0.70 wine so much last night, today we splurged and bought the wine that was €1.40!

After dropping the groceries back at our room and having a bit of lunch, we again went exploring.

Beautiful Glass Jewelry

In several shop windows I kept noticing some unusual looking jewelry – pendants, earrings and sets.

After stopping to get a good look it finally dawned on me that these were made of glass. Many of them hand very intricate patterns blown into the glass such as flowers and geometric shapes. There were also all kinds of colors and color combinations to choose from.

With a sigh, I remembered our budget and tore myself away from the store window.

Expensive Pasta

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of pasta as a fairly inexpensive dish. Well, not in Italy.

When we would look at some of the menus displayed outside of restaurants it always confused us when a plate of spaghetti was priced higher than a meat dish. And, lasagna seemed to be particularly expensive.

However, we stopped by a small deli that had a large selection of pasta dishes for take-away. We thought this might be a cheaper way to buy lasagna than at a restaurant. But, apparently a small piece, barely enough for the two of us, would be more than €7.00!

We said “no thanks” and headed home to make sandwiches and enjoy our wine.

Evening Constitutional

Once again we headed out for an evening stroll and enjoyed the sights and sounds and people.

On the way back we contemplated buying some strawberries from one of the street vendors but just couldn’t bring ourselves to pay the outrageous prices. Truly, we wouldn’t have paid those prices even if we weren’t on a budget.