Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Europe - 2009 Pt.2

France was stunning. The people were beautiful, the food was yummy, and it just felt wonderful. We hit up all the usual spots: the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees, and the Louvre. Robbie and I slept with our windows open and drove in the craziest taxi ride I've ever been in (and I've played chicken in a cab in Africa)! Bonus: we happened to be in Paris for the final stage of the Tour de France, so we waited for hours and were able to see the cyclists ride the loop on the Chaps-Elysees 14 times!

We disembarked from Paris on a small river cruise. It was a great contrast to the mega-cruise we had previously been on, although, there were probably only 8 of us under the age of 50. On more than one occasion, I sat on the roof deck, soaked up the sun, and watched the beautiful French countryside float by. It was peaceful.

We finished up our adventure in England. We were surprised to find that London had been experiencing quite a rainy summer, so the weather was cooler than expected. We learned that all museums are subsidized by the government and free to the public, so we made sure to hit these up first. We also learned that Britain had not yet converted to the Euro (they were still using the pound) as their official currency, so items were priced higher than the rest of the European Union, and even higher than the States. Robbie and I spent a morning exploring Piccadilly Circus, an afternoon reading in Hyde Park, and an evening in Notting Hill. Actually, our last night was spent at a small restaurant in Notting Hill, escaping the pouring rain and making friends with a waitress who was preparing to set out on her own travel adventure in Spain. It was the most "local" I felt and I hope I hold onto that feeling for as long as possible.

  • The best thing about Rome is that you can get lost in the city, yet still stumble upon beautiful landmarks. While Robbie and I wandered around, we found the Fountain di Trevi, ancient ruins, and the Parliamentary building.
  • Eating pastries in a sidewalk cafe in Paris, while a thunderstorm passed overhead, made me feel so sophisticated and fancy.
  • I love the history each city holds. There is always a back story and each place seems to have the most of something, or was the headquarters of an empire at some point in their history!
  • Florence is labeled as Firenzi on all train tickets in Italy. Be aware of this so that you are sure to board the correct train.
  • If a public restroom looks exceptionally nice, beware. You may have to pay to use it. I learned this the hard way in Croatia when the attendant wouldn't let me leave until Robbie ran to an ATM machine to pull out local currency.
  • If you want to rent bikes form Paris' awesome rental system, check out the advice Oh Happy Day provides here.
  • If you are traveling to multiple countries that do not have your native tongue as their primary language, end with a country that does. By the end of our trip, we were so excited to be able to not have to think of that aspect of communication and getting around.

During this trip, I really fell in love with travel and realized it is something I will be doing throughout my life. Seeing different cultures, experiencing such great food, and taking time to walk around and enjoy the beautiful surroundings was amazing. It stirred an appreciation in me that I continue to hold onto today.

What do you recommend to first-time international travelers? Is there a place you just wouldn't go? I'd love to hear!


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