SALT LAKE CITY — While many people plan the majority of their trips during the summer when the kids are out of school, the fall is a great time to travel abroad. An expert gave tips on how to personalize a trip to Europe.
Salt Lake City resident Murielle Blanchard has worked as a travel consultant since 1986. Blanchard grew up in France and moved to Utah to work for Black Pearl Luxury Services, a division of Utah-based Morris Murdock Travel Agency. Blanchard was recently awarded as a top travel adviser in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure, making it her fourth consecutive year to earn the award.
While Blanchard specializes in planning trips to France and Italy, many of the tips she gives can apply to other European travel destinations.
"Before departure, I recommend books to read and movies to watch," Blanchard said. "And as far as locally, I make sure that they experience some private activities or that I make sure they get to meet local people. … I refer to my clients as my guests because I provide them with all the logistics of the trip, but primarily I expose them to the culture of the country they are visiting before the trip and also during the trip, choosing unique experiences."
Here are a few do's and don'ts when traveling to France and Italy, according to Blanchard.
- Remember that France can be quite bureaucratic at times and standing in line or waiting to use the phone can be frustrating. When this happens during your trip, take the opportunity to focus on things that are new and interesting and it will help you relax.
- Be sure to greet shopkeepers or strangers with native greetings like "Bonjour, monsieur" or "Bonjour, madame." French people are not generally on a first-name basis with strangers, especially in business or other formal situations, Blanchard said.
- Avoid eating breakfast at cheaper hotels; it is usually overpriced and of poor quality, Blanchard said. Instead, opt for a fluffy, fresh croissant and a cafe au lait in a nearby cafe to help you experience the local cuisine.
- Make sure to take some time to just walk around the city you are in without any specific destination. Paris, for example, is a very walkable city and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you run into.
- When visiting Italy, Blanchard highly recommends ordering a pizza with ham and figs or potatoes and rosemary because they are popular, traditional Roman cuisine. As we all know, "When in Rome...."
- Don't expect to eat dinner in a local restaurant before 7:30 or 8 p.m., and lunch is rarely served before 12:30 or 1 p.m., Blanchard said. Visitors to Italy should plan accordingly.
- Make sure to look around when walking down Rome's quaint streets. Many old buildings have remnants of frescoes and original statues on the facades that are beautiful.
- Visitors to Italy shouldn't trust pedestrian crosswalks. Most locals ignore them, even when they are below yellow flashing lights. Crossing busy streets in Rome, in particular, can be daunting and dangerous.
- If you visit Italy, don't expect to hail a taxi from the street, Blanchard said. However, cabs can be found at marked areas throughout the city.