Hello from Portland, Oregon! After nearly a month on the road, Kris and I are once again sleeping in the comfort of our own bed. Our wardrobes now consist of more than four shirts per person. (“It’s weird to have so many clothes to choose from,” Kris told me yesterday.)

We have no jet-lag to speak of, but I’m fighting a lingering sinus infection, and Kris went to the doctor to learn that she has bronchitis. This pair of illnesses put a damper on our last few days in Paris; we spent a lot of time sleeping in the hotel room instead of sight-seeing.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I made many observations about personal finance on our trip, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to collect them all into one place as a blog post. On Monday, I plan to discuss the Big Idea I got from this trip, but I think most of the little stuff will just remain in my head as fodder for future discussions.

For now, though, here are a few of the things that impressed me most:

A tiny produce store on the corner of a Florence street.

  • Here in Portland, there aren’t many single-purpose food stores. In France and Italy, they’re the rule rather than the exception. As you walk along the streets, you constantly pass bakeries and fish markets and produce stands. I like it.
  • In France and Italy, there were lots of short (day-long or hours-long) strikes. And, of course, France has had a huge series of strikes over retirement reform.
  • In Italy (especially northern Italy), it’s customary for each person to pay to use a table in a bar or restaurant. You’re charged coperto as a cover charge if you plan to sit to drink your coffee.
  • In both France and Italy, people don’t drink tap water — at least not in restaurants. They pay for bottled water. I’m not a fan of this custom. The water generally costs €3 or €4 per bottle! As a point of comparison, you can generally buy a bottle of house wine for that price — which is why when many Italians dine out, they drink wine in place of water. (We drank so much wine in Italy…)
  • Italy has a delightful blend of transportation. People use Smart cars, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, buses, subways, and their own two feet. There are plenty of regular cars, too, but most of them are small (lots of Mini Coopers!). I think we saw just two SUVs during the ten days we were in Italy.

Fun juxtaposition of transportation: scooter, Smart car (parked sideways), and SUV.

For now, I have a lot of work to do in order to catch up with the blog and its related tasks. I did a great job of preparing guest posts (thanks for all who contributed!), but there was nothing I could do about the hundreds of e-mails that have piled up in my absence, or about the other tasks involved with this site. The next ten days are going to be busy.

Note: If you sent me e-mail in the past month, please be patient. I’m now even further behind on e-mail than usual. I’m going to respond in last-in, first-out fashion. This may not be “fair”, but it’s easiest for me to do. That means if you sent me e-mail on September 25th, it may be a couple of weeks before I answer.

I’m excited about getting back to work. If you have any suggestions for topics I should tackle soon, please let me know in the comments! (And if you want to read the travelog of our adventures, stay tuned to jdroth.com, where I’ll be posting city-by-city recaps of our trip.)

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