Reading travel guides: Louis Vuitton City Guides 2013

I am very happy to discover that I do not know all and I still have so much to learn. Especially when it comes to luxury and fashion, I have the feeling but not the knowledge. My latest revelation is that Louis Vuitton bags were initially aimed to elegant travelers and not exclusively for fashion addicts. Now, there are for both cases, but if I would have think more about the practical qualities of the bags it was almost obvious that there are rather designed to help you during the travel.

Recently, I had the opportunity to check on my own some of their products in a local shop and found many traditional models that are an useful tool for anyone interested in intensive luxury travel. Of course that if you plan to spend some weeks in a hostel somewhere in India, a Louis Vuitton bag is largely inadequate and may attract the attention of presumptive thieves, but otherwise, either for a weekend or for a long vacation in a four to five-star hotel, such a bag is a very attractive accessory.

Louis Vuitton was launched in 1854 in Paris as an official company producing packing products for Napoleon IIIrd. The industrial revolution was on the way and people started to move more often by train or steamships and especially the French high-class needed some special bags. In the 1930s, the company diversified their offer by including many other leather goods as well as simpler weekend bags.

The travel guides are aiming at a high-end audience, interested in shopping, high-end locations, art galleries, museums and luxury adventures. However, despite the good look of the package of guides, the design of each guide is quite simple, without too many images or overloaded with graphics. Some small and comprehensive maps are aimed to offer the basic information and are written in a simple and practical way. The guides, produced by the fashion brand since 1998, are available in French and English, in a fancy blue-and-brown kit. They are quite small and easy to carry. As expected, the best information is included in the Paris guide, while in other cases, one book is dedicated to more cities: Berlin, for instance, have only 100 pages out of 300, where Munich, Salzburg and Vienna are also featured. The newest entry on the list of the 40 guides is San Francisco. Other cities featured are: Athens, Istanbul, Zagreb, Antwerp, Beirut, London, Monaco, Naples, Rome, Milan, Toulouse, Moscow, Odessa, Warsaw, Dublin or Birmingham. Buying them is more than a practical issue, is part of a personal fashion statement.


Adventures on the road: Bankrupt in Norway

If you are not a real traveler, you may not cope with various adventures, it is true, but in some cases, the adventures are obstinately following the traveler. In my case, at least every three travels there may be something going on around my head that add some taste and stress to my travels. I either fall asleep in the airport and miss the flight, or buy a ticket one day later than the date I am supposed to travel.

One of the most ridiculous adventure of mine took place in Norway. And, as Oslo is one of Europe’s most expensive capital cities it has to do with money. Or rather, the lack thereof. 

My trip to Oslo (that I hope to feature in detail a couple of posts later) was planned during a very busy and crazy week. (This is the rude excuse as almost all my weeks are busy and crazy, with or without travel involved) I bought a guide and talked with my friend that I was supposed to meet there and made a reservation for 3 nights and paid by card, but did not care about other details, such as getting some information about the exchange rates and taking some more Euro cash with me, as I usually do. The departure was in a hurry and did not find in my way any trustworthy ATM in Berlin. I left home with 50 Euro in my pocket and it was enough to buy a ticket and a transportation card from the airport. Shortly after, I decided that I want to get some cash as well, and I went to the huge ATM in the airport, interested not only in getting enough money for the basic needs of the trip but also to see how does it function. Don’t ask me why I did not switch to English or right now, I do not even remember if it was the option of a switch to English. All I know is that I tried to get a certain amount once and the demand was refused, I tried one more time, with a different amount, and the refuse continued and following the thirds unsuccessful attempt I realized that my card was blocked. 

Optimistic enough, I took the bus to town and once I arrived in the center, close to my apartment, I tried my luck once again, in a drug store. (In Norway, you may find a lot of ATMs in every corners of the street or in different shops). This time, I tried with a different card and the result was the same. Still smiling, I go to the apartment and check my e-mail trying to organize my time till the meeting with my friend. Maybe on the way I will have more time to try again an ATM. I did it once again and the request was refused. Time to panic a bit, but the pleasure of meeting my friend and having a nice talk at the House of Literature and after at a vegetarian Indian restaurant was too pleasant to think about the money issues. At least, my room was paid in advance, and I had a card for transportation and not too many food-related needs.

However, after another failure to get money the next day, I decided that it is about time to contact my bank(s) – as two different cards were repeatedly unsuccessful. Surprise! In both cases I was told that my cards were blocked because there were repeated attempts to release significant amounts of money. As I would find out later, because I was not aware with the local currencies, I tried for the beginning to get 20,000 Euro from one card, and as I was not having the luxury of such an amount, the bank blocked the accounts. I should congratulate the bank for the initiative, but on the spot, with only 10 Euro left in the pocket and two days ahead, it was not the happiest news and no time at all to think about the highest efficiency of the banking sector in time of crisis. I was angry and unhappy and I needed some money. One hour and one tear later, I made a ‘deal’ with the bank: they will allow me to get some small amounts of money, around 50 Euro the day till I will be back home and I will submit a list of proofs about my adventure in pushing the wrong buttons of the ATMs and requesting huge amounts. 

The rest of my trip was spent in a very humble way: buying water and vegetables, visiting parks and free locations despite the heavy snow. At least, I had the chance to have 2-3 cups of coffee in the country where surprisingly, coffee is highly appreciated. No museums, no sky, only a lot of walking tours and meditation about the misery of being always in a hurry. 

Once returned, it took me another 10 days to finish the papers for the bank and get the green line to use my cards. Beyond those unpleasant episodes, I still love the Norwegian winter and plan to be back one day.