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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): What I Wish I Knew a Year Ago...

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I Wish I Knew a Year Ago...

Do you ever wonder like I do....what if I knew a year ago what I know now....what would that be?  Not the "machts nichts" unimportant stuff that goes in one end of your brain and out the other...I'm talking about the good stuff...the stuff that is going to help you again and again....what is that stuff?  Are you willing to share?  Here are some that came to the front of the line in my life at the moment...


  • Horse sausage has a distinct smell, look and feel to it....and even though I was suckered into eating a donkey sausage and a monkey sausage in Paris....I think I would fall over if I ate a horse sausage...just...can't...do....it.


  • Realized that European banking is WAY more secure than what we have stateside and I wonder all the time, why our system hasn't changed to the European system.  Not only do I need a username and password on my banking website, but I have to use a little electronic PIN generator for EACH transaction.  The flipside, is that without this PIN generator, that churns out a unique really long number for each transaction you want to complete, your online account is worthless to pay bills.  Don't head back to the US or on a trip without it if you need to pay bills while you are gone (or set up a future payment instead).

  • That I can survive without buying more Polish pottery.  Yes, I was a junkie.  I used the excuse that my tour job had me going back to Boleslawiec, Poland again and again...and I had to take the free pottery and also buy a few more pieces here and again there.  I haven't bought a piece since last Spring...and haven't missed it.  Moderation in anything is key, and you CAN stop yourself from overspending/buying!

  • I am glad I did not buy a new car coming to Belgium.  One word, the roads SUCK...okay, they suck badly!  I've never seen so many ruts, potholes and deep ditches in my life.  No wonder most cars (older than a few years) are required to have yearly inspections by the Belgians at their inspection (CT) stations around the country.

  • Belgium is more expensive than Germany and France.  I love how the hoards of Belgiums cross over into France to do their grocery shopping here.  We are about 20 minutes from the border and 30 minutes from shopping heaven...that is much cheaper than here.  Of course, get stopped by the police, and you could end up paying for the privilege.

  • As I suspected, being 2-1/2 hours to Paris is a real treat!  I've got it all figured out now....best ways by train and car from this direction and where to stay around the city supercheap:-)  Even day trips can be done very easily.  Or how about taking a ferry or the Chunnel to Dover and shopping at the big favorite, TESCO...the British version of their Walmart.  Who said Belgium was a speedbump?  It is more of a gateway!

  • I know more about Estonia, Poland, Finland and a few other countries I've never been to.  It's great being stationed here with all the internationals....learning about their home countries...visiting them and their families and getting ideas on lodging and what to see and do that not every tourist knows about!  Ten thumbs up!

  • Belgian fashion is not known for it's..well...fashion-sense....I've honestly seen some of the dumpiest fashions right here.....I don't know if it's because we don't live in a metropolitan or hip area....or if Belgians just don't like dressing like nonsense?  Maybe I am missing something or our stores don't have much.  I end up shopping at the German and British branded stores we have in the area...C&A and H&M are my favorites:-)  Is H&M British?  I don't know...but I like it.

  • Like Germans know their crepes and pastries, Belgians know their waffles and pastries.  The pastries are not as good as the Germans'....but they sure are prettier...in fact, the food is prettier...where the Germans go for quantity...the Belgians go for....prettiness.  Just look at all the Michelin starred restaurants Belgium has compared to Germany AND France....hmmm...but I hope you are not a big eater and just like pretty food. It is tasty though.  Just memorize the word for horse, ie "cheval" and you'll be okay.


  • Do you have any enlightenment you'd like to share?

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    10 Comments:

    Blogger Four of a Kind said...

    Please fill us in on Paris! We are in Stuttgart and have been told NOT to drive to Paris...it's a mess! But we'd rather drive because we have 2 small children who do better in a car than a train or bus. Any suggestions? Where to stay? What to see?
    ~Amanda

    May 26, 2011 at 8:44 AM  
    Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

    Driving to Paris is not the problem...it's the driving IN Paris! Use Via Michelin to see what the tolls will be driving, just so you can do a cost analysis of what it will cost there and back, and if that is okay with you. We used to to the fast train...luckily it stops in Stuttgart on its way from Munich to Paris....if you book well ahead, you can go for a reasonable amount.

    If you decide to drive, and I hear you with little kids...I would choose lodging on the EAST side of Paris, right around the ring (cause that's where the traffic gets crazy, inside the ring...and also time it so you don't arrive anytime near rush hour AM or PM). Use the links for hotels/B&Bs/hostels on this page and open Google Maps in the other window. Google maps also lists the closest train/metro stops...you want to be within close walking distance to them. It'll also be cheaper for lodging right on, our right outside the ring.

    We used a variety of different hotels for our tourgroups. They were all okay...lodging in Paris...take one star (if it is star rated) off the rating to get a true sense and read the reviews on Booking.com and Tripadvisor.com.

    If you stay longer than a few days, I recommend apartment rentals, try http://www.only-apartments.com/apartments-paris.html

    If you want a personal B&B recommendation, you can connect with me on Facebook, and I'll send you that thru messaging.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
    Blogger Matt and Erin said...

    We day-tripped it to Paris last month from Kaiserslautern, the tolls were not super costly (rough estimate for both ways, 70 euro) and we parked our car for the day at Euro Disney (12 euro) and bought 24 hour passes for the two of us (24 euro) and rode the train from Disney into Paris (about 30-45 minutes, depending on time of day). Rough cost for two adults in Paris, driving a beater honda (to save on gas $$)....about 250 euro. (Including tickets to the Louvre)
    Good luck!

    May 26, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We always stay in Versailles. We stay in a place that has a view of the palace and take the metro into the city.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:48 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hi! Can you give me a link for info on the fast train that goes from Munich to Paris? My daughter hasn't let us forget the fact that 4 years ago we didn't go up into the Eiffel Tower! So we have to get there this time. Thanks for all your information-I love it!

    May 26, 2011 at 9:10 PM  
    Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

    Thank you! The TGV is the high speed train coming thru Stuttgart...I know at one time they had 29 euro fares, but you really have to book those WAY out...you can go thru the German rail's website at http://www.deutschebahn.com/site/bahn/en/start.html or there are also a variety of others. To read more about it google "tgv, paris, stuttgart" and you'll see all the sites come up...Rail Europe is one of them too...you could also get SATO/Carlson Wagonlit to do the dirty work for you and get them to check the various fares and when would be the best time to book those fares. We are taking another high speed train, the Thalys to Amsterdam soon, and the kids are pretty excited...we booked it 4 months out, and it ended up being cheaper than the regular ICE fast (but in this case, slower) train. Thalys I think only comes from Cologne to Paris, so that would be too far in your case...but TGV is nice too and gets there in under 4 hours from Stuttgart...not shabby!

    May 26, 2011 at 9:42 PM  
    Anonymous Janice said...

    Sounds great! I did some "Googling" a little earlier today and I checked out some trains. Have you ever done one of the sleeper trains? I bet my kids would love that. I can't figure out if 4 people can stay in a cabin though. We are headed to Garmisch for a year so I think Munich is the place for us to take a train out of. Thanks.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:53 PM  
    Blogger Jessica said...

    H&M (Hennes and Mauritz) is actually Swedish! So it's only my furniture but now all my clothes come from there lol. I love the list! I agree with everything. The banking is a real pain when traveling outside the eurozone since only our credit card works abroad now. But the tradeoff is that it's much safer. I haven't taken a ferry to Dover yet? Is this good for a shopping day trip? Do you have a link or any other info on this? sounds fun!

    May 27, 2011 at 1:48 PM  
    Blogger MooAtU2 said...

    H&M is Swedish.. I was curious as well and looked it up since they seem to be everywhere.

    I've tried horse sausage. It's not very good, so you are not missing much :-)

    May 27, 2011 at 3:01 PM  
    Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife at Life Lessons of a Military Wife**** said...

    Janice, they have really cut down on the sleeper cars since trains are much faster these days w/IC & ICE and of course high speed. I haven't done it in many, many years (since West Berlin was in a Sea of Red). The sleeper cars I'm familiar with have four bunks, two on each side...again, get SATO/onpost travel to do your research for you and then go from there.

    So H&M is Swedish. Shows how much I really know!

    Yes, some folks do go to London for day trips. Or they do the Canterbury Castle/Cliffs of Dover thing with a side trip to Tesco...or Tesco and Dover...so many possibilities. I'll have to post about it sometime down the road....so much to talk about and so little time...sigh. Til I write something, you might want to google it...I know I'm not the only one who must do this kind of thing:-)

    And if you go before I write....would LOVE a guest post! My blog is always open to guestposts from all of you!

    May 27, 2011 at 4:20 PM  

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