When T and I started planning our first Euro Trip, it wasn’t quite simple. It was going to be at least a 2 week trip, I was sure about that. I always thought exploring a country, or even a city – over a couple of days doesn’t really do the right justice to it. So our plan was to start with Paris – not my choice, but I conceded France over Greece a while back – and end in Nice. And that we would take buses and trains to travel from Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, other places and finally end up in Nice. Great plan. I prefer doing my own itinerary, and not going through agents. For International Flights this is easily doable using various compare portals, and for stay it’s always Tripadvisor etc. Got our tickets, booked places to stay and the works. We were going to travel in the beginning of April. Then I happened to visit Johannesburg at the end of February. Speaking to people there, and discussing about the upcoming trip to Europe, a person I met pointed out that it may be worth seeing a bit more – outside of France perhaps. I didn’t agree, but the thought didn’t leave my mind.
That night I didn’t sleep. It was a weekend, so that was cool, I often pull these nocturnal stunts! I checked for viable options to travel, without changing our main tickets. And finally zeroed in to Italy. Just 5 days, so decided to stick to Rome, maybe a day or 2 in Florence. Booked the tickets from Paris and return to Nice. Scoured Trip Advisor for places to stay, and got my shortlists. When T woke up in India, I gave him the news, and went to sleep happy.
Fast forward to April. We landed in Paris in the evening, and headed to our beautiful and cute hotel called the Passy Eiffel. A small boutique hotel, tiny rooms, sliding wardrobe to save space, but we could see the Eiffel Tower from our window, and that was all the foolish happiness we cared about. But have you heard of being too well prepared for a trip? That was me. Always used to traveling and doing stuff alone, I was an overzealous planner. Now obviously I have to share all that planning somewhere! So here goes.
Paris Travel Day 1
In the morning, we started by walking to the Eiffel Tower, along the River Seine. The area is usually crowded with tourists and travelers, and huge queues in front of the monument. We already had skip the line tickets for the next day – bought on Viator, so the morning was just lazy having breakfast and ice creams and taking photos – enjoying the sun. We also met an old gentleman, who took us around the city, explaining different traditions and history of the various places. He also knew the perfect places from where to photograph the Notre Dame or Napoleon’s Tomb or other places. Always good to meet friendly folks in a city.
That afternoon we had a coach – our mode of travel to Versailles, a royal château and once the seat of French power. The palace is large, beautiful, and extremely well maintained. A lot of similarity to the Schönbrunn in Vienna, but this had way too many people. Actually, the first thing you would notice about ANY tourist place in France are the infinite long looking queues. A little bit of improvisation is needed unless you want to wait for hours! We took our own audio guides and explored different parts of the palace on our own. T was more into the sculpture and paintings, while I liked the grandeur and history. The Royal Chapel (yes the King had one!) is grand, and usually a little quiet. The Mirror Room, as well as the rest of the palace is usually SO packed, that it’s unbreathable. Thankfully, we went on a day that had bad weather predicted, so the crowds were less! After the palace, we hung around in the Royal Gardens, a really large landscaped area and then headed back to our coach.
In the evening, we walked a lot around the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and then to the Eiffel – at about 8pm, they light up the tower, and there are star lights on it, quite beautiful to see. In April, the weather is quite chilly, and we headed back after dinner in one of those quaint little cafes.
Paris Travel Day 2 & 3
The main agenda of Day 2 was to explore more of the city. We had our Alternate Tour of the Eiffel booked, which actually starts from the bunker beneath the Eiffel Tower, where you can see all the hydraulics work. It was an amazing start. We then came back to the surface, and skipped the winding queues getting into the elevators and headed straight up. It was the day time, so you can clearly see different parts of the city. The elevator takes you up to the top – 1 level. The top level is accessible at an additional 5 euro per head. There’s a food court on top – 1, and the highly acclaimed Jules Verne restaurant at the second level. As we were ascending to the topmost level, it started drizzling, and that made everything even prettier, while I was totally freezing in my bones!
After getting drenched on top of the Eiffel Tower, we then spent the day and the next exploring the rest of the city. We went to Notre Dame, the Lock Bridge, Louvre – most of the time on bus, and sometime walking a LOT. There are 1 or 2 day tourist bus pass available as well, they cover most of the tourist spots, so for super short stays, they are convenient. If I have to opt for that, I’ll use City Discovery, they are standard and reliable.
And soon it was time to head to Rome. I was super excited, because I hadn’t been to Italy earlier. While I liked Paris, it wasn’t as breathtaking as I thought it would be. But then I am the more prosaic and practical about these things. History and art is more romance than extravagance. So next post up is on the gorgeous Roma, what to see, and how to plan your travel, and best use your time in the historic city.