Taking a trip to Europe has always been a plan my wife and I had. This past month my wife and I finally got the chance to go. Our plan was Paris for three days, from there we would fly from Beauvais to Pisa. From Pisa we would take a train to Cinque Terre and stay in La Spezia. And we would end our adventure in Florence, for another three days.
Because we were going to be traveling so much we decided to pack light. Our goal was to be as simplistic as we could when we traveled. This meant we both needed a sturdy, quality, and durable bag, that could carry our clothes, toothbrushes, and copies of St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ (a must read for any true renaissance man). Our permanent solution to this temporary problem were two Thrux Packs, built in the USA by Thrux Lawrence. The packs fit everything we cared to bring with a bit of room to spare.
These packs ended up serving us very well. They made for great conversation pieces on every plane ride, they transformed into incredibly comfortable stools when waiting to catch the train, and they even had enough room to carry a baguette or two.
Our first leg of the trip brought us to Paris. My wife and I were most excited about this because we got to see my sister and her family and we also got to be in the most romantic city in the world (I’m not kidding, people were making out everywhere, it was a freaking epidemic). We entered the city by going through the doors of the metro station, my wife’s pack got stuck in the doors as they closed, I had to pry her out but the Thrux pack held true, not a scratch on it. We walked up the steps and onto a very quiet street near the Notre Dame (which was our rendezvous point). Before us lay an empty cobble stoned, scooter scattered road, littered with cafes and bakeries, and a heavy smell of tobacco in the air. It was marvelous. We walked to the end of the road and found where all the people were. Everyone seemed to be gathered on the side of the road, next to the Seine, waiting in anticipation for someone. We found out from some American woman that the Queen of England was about to drive by (she had been visiting Paris that weekend). Showing how truly American we were, we shrugged our shoulders and kept walking, “I’ve already seen the queen on my 5 dollar bill from the Toronto airport”, my wife said. I love her.
We found my sister and her family in front of the Notre Dame as planned, and spent the next 72 hours eating way too many pastries, seeing way too many beautiful buildings and works of art, and all-in-all enjoying ourselves way too much. Our packs were used minimally while we were in Paris, mostly because we were staying in one place the entire time we were there. However, our packs became much more essential to us as we left France and headed to Italy.
We landed in Pisa at about 8 pm. The nice thing about Pisa is that you can literally walk from the airport into town. The bad thing about Pisa is that all of the street signs are carved in marble on the sides of old buildings, and half of them aren’t even there. Needless to say, finding our airbNb house for the evening was quite the challenge. We ended up roaming around Pisa for about two hours before we found our place, but the entire time our packs did not present us with much trouble. After finding our hosts house, we ditched our packs, went to the nearest pizza shop and bought a margherita pizza and two beers. From there we roamed the street of Pisa until about one in the morning, talking and eating, seeing the Leaning Tower, and eating the best gelato I have ever tasted.
The next day my wife and I found ourselves eating Wheaties with our host’s lover. The one thing all cultures have in common is the sense of awkwardness. We left Pisa extremely excited to see Cinque Terre. Our plan was to hike as far as we could with our packs and take a train to La Spezia to stay at an olive farm. We got to Cinque Terre around noon and were immediately blown away. The streets are speckled with row boats from local fishermen, and nearly half of everyone there was American, which was really comforting for us. We began to hike around the first hill when we came to a blocked off trail, the road had been washed away by rain the week before. So we decided to hike up to the top of the hill. It was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. Imagine climbing a staircase and on either side of you are vineyards terraced into the Mediterranean sea. And every direction you look is a feast of colors and flowers. Beauty aside, this trail was wicked hard. Our packs seems to grow heavier and heavier and we started to feel like Christian from ‘Pilgrims Progress’. One thing I will say about the Thrux Pack is that when they are stuffed as full as you can get them, they don’t form as well to your body, making them a bit awkward to carry. This was normally not a problem for us, but when we began our hike up the long trail we started to feel the discomfort. The sun began to bake us like gingerbread men, and we were sweating so hard our sun glasses wouldn’t even stay on. If any of you readers are going to hike Cinque Terre with a Thrux Pack, make sure to pack very lightly. This was the only time in our trip where we weren’t thrilled to have packs strapped to us, in hindsight though, there were not very many hikers with backpacks. We on the other hand had every one of our possessions along with us (big mistake). We got to the top of the hill and decided that swimming was more fun. We worked our way down the hill and spent the rest of the day swimming in the sea and watching fire flies. There was a positive side to this mishap though. Our backpacks became much more supple and less stiff when we got done with our hike. I think the sun and the sweat of our backs actually made them more comfortable. I know this sounds gross but it’s true, if you want to truly break in your Thrux Pack, just load it with as much stuff as you can and go hike the closest mountain to you. Works like a charm.
From there we moved on to Florence. Neither of us really knew why we were going to Florence, but we heard it was great, so we went. We got there and were not enthused. I think by this point our morale was incredibly low. we were sweaty, dirty, and the architect we were staying with was frustrated that we could not speak Italian. This is where our packs really started to show their strength. Every day we were in Florence we got dumped on by rain. We are talking Florida sized alligator tear drops raining from the heavens. Our packs were exposed to the rain the first day, I was worried because I thought the bread I just bought was going to be soaked, but when we got back to the house, our bread was warm and dry, and everything else in our packs was dry as well. The only thing that even looked wet was the leather, which even though had not been treated for rain, had remained a beautiful brown. This happened two more times, in front of the Academia, and the next day when we snuck in the Bomboli Gardens.
The first thing most people notice when they buy a Thrux Pack is how stiff the straps are. They are incredibly tough, Horween leather on leather stitched to the nines. If a nuclear bomb went off the only two things left standing would be cockroaches and the world’s Thrux Packs. This made me a bit nervous for our trip. I was afraid the straps would be a bit too uncomfortable and too stiff, but by the time we left Florence, the straps of our bags were well broken in, and had lost none of their strength. In fact they seemed to grow even stronger from all of the use.
We left Florence much happier, we had seen the most amazing pieces of art in the world and all the while looked awesome in our packs. My wife and I got countless compliments on our bags when we walked through the Florentine leather shops (which if you know anything about the people of Florence, it’s that they know good leather products when they see them).
We took a train from Florence back to Pisa and had about five hours to kill before our plane took off going back to Beauvais. When we got back to Pisa we were dying of heat, our feet had huge blisters, and our morale was now at an all time low. We found a good pizzeria with a/c and watched the World Cup as our skin cooled off a bit. Then we headed to an old abandoned church on the side of a river and sipped on a bottle of champagne. “We are easily the most stylish bums any of these tourists have ever seen”, my wife said. I couldn’t agree more. There we were, sitting on the steps of this church laughing our heads off because we were dirty, sweaty, and very sleep deprived. That was the best moment of the trip. It is funny how sometimes the most unexciting events of a big trip, can also be the most fond memories when looked back upon.
We got to Beauvais late that night and were greeted at the airport by our host for the evening. He gave us some grim news. Apparently, the Parisian transportation unions were on strike that week, and there was only one train leaving for Paris in the morning. Needless to say we were worried. We slept very lightly that night, and woke up as early as we could to catch the train. We were the first ones at the counter that morning to buy our tickets, but when we went to pay for them, our card was declined. “Oh my goodness!, We are going to be stuck in France!”, I said to my wife. We ran around Beauvais trying to find an ATM, and found a very creepy man who led us to one. In hindsight this was not a very good idea. But he was our last resort. He brought us to an ATM and sauntered off. I used the same card and it worked! There must have been a problem with the train stations card reader (note to the reader: on a big trip abroad, cash is key). We bought our train tickets and were finally on our way back to North America. But the trip does not end there.
We had an eighteen hour layover in Montreal. When we landed we desperately tried to find an earlier connecting flight, but we had no luck. So we decided to stay with my brother-in-law’s cousin in the city. We took the bus only to find ourselves lost in suburbia. At this point we were delirious from the lack of sleep and decided to lay down. The Thrux Packs made very nice pillows as we waited on some old lady’s yard for the bus. Long story short, we made our way to the city, enjoyed some very encouraging Canadian hospitality, and made it to our flight back home without any problems.
This trip was one of the most exciting adventures I have ever been on. It was also one of the most difficult learning experiences I have ever had. I have never been a very big traveler, and so we learned mostly by trial and error. But the one thing that would not fail us was our Thrux Packs. They remained strong and useful. They carried all of our belongings, kept our champagne cool, and our baguettes dry. We will most assuredly be taking another trip back to Europe soon, and when we do, our Thrux Packs will be joining us.– by Phillip Siemens