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A long weekend in Paris: Sorry Mum, no proposal

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Woke up in Paris.  No big deal. 

 We decided to head to Paris over the August long weekend as we figured that we would need at least 3 – 4 days just to skim the surface.  One of the bonuses going at the end of summer as well is that you can get some pretty decent deals on hotels and flights while the weather is still 20+ degrees.  This heat even managed to provide a pretty epic thunder and lightning storm on our first night that kept us awake as it was roasting hot in our petite hotel room so let ourselves sleep in.  Fortunately, we had already decided to knock off the tourist spots closest to our hotel in Montmartre so headed up the steep steps to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur.

We had been in a fantastic Basilica in Montreal, Canada and were starving so chose to head to a food market away from the tourists.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find the area but stumbled upon a fantastic bakery and devoured the yummiest quiche and pastries for a mid morning snack.

Tried the metro out for the first and last time as we decided we would rather walk or bike and enjoy the sights between destinations rather than roast in a metal tube underground.  Fantastic way to get around though if you are short of time.  Stopped at Place de la Concorde and strolled along des Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe and up its 284 steps until we had spectacular but grey views across the city.

The sun came out after a recharge back at the hotel so we enjoyed an early evening walk down to the Louvre when the sun came out.  Crossed the Seine river at Pont des Arts bridge with all the padlocks signifying couples love.  Makes me wonder who is still together after all those years or were some just a flash in the pan and moment of Passion when they clicked closed on what was probably a very similar evening. It was also confusing that we came across another bridge exactly the same.  Who started this trend and are people even locking them in the right place?


Finished the day with half a dozen garlic and pesto Escargot (snails) as a starter at dinner.  Really, what’s the big deal.  They were delicious and no different to eating mussels in New Zealand I think.

Morning at the Louvre.  I must say that while it was great, I have been to better museums.  The highlights were definitely the statues while Adela liked the Napolean III rooms.  It was quite hilarious watching the other tourists that were obviously only there for Mona Lisa who after the 30 second photo-op with her would try to spend the rest of the time looking interested but failed miserably and would leave just as quick.

Grabbed a fistful of pastries and baguettes and lay in the sun next to the Eiffel Tower over lunch soaking up the suns rays.  However the heavens opened up and we ended up under a tiny leaking shelter with some French Michael Jackson tribute singers and dancers who took to the rain like ducks to water.  I love when you travel that anything can happen.  They proceeded to entertain and weird us out at the same time for the next 20 minutes until fortunately we could escape as the sun came out again. 

We cycled back down at sunset and climbed to the 1st floor of Eiffel Tower to end our second day in Paris.  The other tourists seemed content to line up for over an hour to catch the elevator up while we waiting no more than 5 minutes grab our tickets and use these wonderful contraptions called stairs to walk up.  It really is a beautiful and I can see why they call it the City of Lights.

That morning we had joined the locals and hopped on the Velibs.  Basically you pay $1.70 for 24 hours and use the bikes, which are located about 300m apart on the streets all across Paris, for 30 minutes at a time for free.  You just have to wait 5 minutes between uses which is perfect as you can cross huge distances such as between Montemartre and the Eiffel Tower in that time and then spend more time sightseeing at either end of your journey while enjoying the natural streets vibe and personality that you don’t see from the metro.

Back on the Velibs the following morning to the local food markets near the Bastille.  Beautiful jambon, fromage and oeuf (ham cheese and egg) crepes for breakfast.  Oh man they were delicious and I wish I had discovered them on the first day!  Although my waistline thanked me that I had not as our bread babies from all the baguettes, croissants and pastries were already in force.


Unfortunately that made us late getting to Notre Dam so we joined the rest of the daft tourists who show up late to extremely popular and busy attractions and traipsed into the church.  Mass was being held so free entry.  Bonus.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get as many cool photos from inside and outside we stood no chance with the zombie hordes in the way.  Damn you tasty crepe for making us late.  

This lateness had a knock-on effect with an hour long queue at the Catacombes to the south of the Latin district.  For some reason the Catacombes were not listed in our top 10 guide book nor was there information about them easily found elsewhere.  I had heard about them through a friend and am glad we visited.

They were amazing and freaky and scary and moving all at the same time.  The entire self-guided tour lasts on average 45 minutes, although we took over an hour, as you wander in caves and tunnels under the city itself.  Approximately 6 million Parisians skeletal remains were dug up when the city ran out of room in the area to bury them so they were literally thrown in to the abandoned quarry tunnels.  They were then rearranged after a few years and now lay stacked in patterns and shapes in the multitude of tunnels.  It is a definite must see in Paris but get there early as they close at 4pm.


I felt like my limited French had been holding up okay until our last night.  I managed to order us a bottle of Rouge and for our starter I ordered what I assumed was breads and dips and a roast vege salad.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I thought I had done a pretty good job explaining that we would order our mains after the starter.  But unfortunately the waitress didn’t think so.  She brought out a main size plate of green beans and roast vege salad.  That’s it.  No meat.  No sides. Just the green beans for Adela.  She had mistaken that we wanted them as main dishes.  I was too proud to correct her and the meal was actually tasty enough any.  Fortunately we finished of with a flaming creme brulee that was divine. 

Starving in the morning, either from our late start or “light” meal last night, we stopped at one of the first cafes we saw for a scrumptious breakfast of coffee (pure hot chocolate for me), orange juice, a baguette and a croissant with jams.  Although it was tasty it ended up being quite a touristy cafe and we spotted a local cafe just a block further down an alley for cheaper.  

Spent the rest of the morning at the Army Museum at the Invalides Hotel which was built in 1671 for injured and sick soldiers.  Now its a very interesting war museum that contains history from the 17th century through World War 2.  The museum also contains the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte (not Dynamite) who led part of the French Revolution.  Very interesting visit and one of the highlights of the trip.


We loved our time in Paris and I am glad we did as I had huge expectations and fortunately was not disappointed.  However a few things did not get the nod, including the Louvre and the ridiculous crowds.  I guess I can’t complain too much though as we were adding to the same crowds at the same locations!  However, as much as we loved it I don’t think we will be back to Paris as we feel like we have experienced everything we wanted to.  In saying that though we are already planning our next trip to explore the rest of France and I look forward to working on my French so that we can enjoy more tasty treats such as green beans.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. treadmill reviews

    September 27, 2011 at 3:42 AM

    Much appreciated for the information and share!
    Nancy

  2. Sam

    February 3, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I got a few sneaky photos in the Catacombes too. The spookiest part is how they’re arranged in artistic patterns, its not just stacking for practical storage but weird human bone art. I found that odd but interesting. Haha, perhaps the waitress was just messing with you. “I’ll bring these kiwi tourists a big plate of beans, that’ll get em wondering how good their French really is!”…

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      Apparently the catacombs were originally just filled with bones then someone actually went through and arranged them all! That is creepy! Haha and I bet the waitress was just messing with us 🙂

  3. Cathy Sweeney

    February 3, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Sounds like a very nice few days in Paris. I haven’t been to the Catacombes — should really do that next time. You really enlightened me about something too. I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know that you could take stairs to the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower. I just thought there was the elevator and we didn’t have time to wait around for that. Thanks for the tip!

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      Thanks Cathy! No worries about the stairs, we didn’t know about them either until we asked someone else 😉

  4. Caro from Passport and a Toothbrusg

    February 5, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    I miss France!! Made me so anxious to go back (5 months to go!)! Love the idea of the Velibs, a great way to explore any city!

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      The Velibs were awesome. Most of the major European cities are so well made for biking. Unfortunately the UK has not caught up yet!

  5. dtravelsround

    February 5, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    I’ve been once to Paris … wasn’t overly impressed, but your post makes me want to go back and give it another shot. I think my problem was I had been traveling solo for nearly a month by then and wasn’t in a great frame of mind. I would love to go back and try it again now that I’m older, wiser and more patient. Still don’t speak any French though!!

  6. Andrew

    February 6, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    We did a weekend in Paris this past September that was nice. Did nowhere near the amount of stuff you guys did, but had a great relaxing time. We actually stayed just around the corner from the Catacombs and say the big lines, but with no interest in going in.

    • Cole

      February 7, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      The Catacombs were cool I reckon, although a bit creepy. Hopefully you will go next time!

  7. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    February 8, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    I only had 5 days in Paris. That wasn’t enough!

    • Cole

      February 8, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      We were only there 4 and would love to go back. So many other places to see 🙂

  8. cheryl

    February 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Looks like a lovely long weekend. I’m dying to get to Paris! 🙂 Never been yet.

    • Cole

      February 12, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      Pack your bags and go Cheryl! It is an awesome city 🙂

  9. Ele

    September 22, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    I had a great plate of snails in a small restaurant (name escaped my mind) near the Parthenon. Might have been a tourity place but I didn’t feel I was ripped off. I didn’t see the catacombs, so one thing to return to paris for. + Per Lashais (spelling?) cemetery.

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Europe

5 European Cities to Visit in the Dead of Winter

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As one of the most polarizing seasons, winter could be termed as both a blessing and a curse by those who like making the most out of nature.

After all, while it brings about the opportunity to build snowmen and to ski on magnificent ice slopes, it also brings a chill to the bone and a desire to never get away from the fireplace.

Don’t forget about the hot chocolate either.

That is why, when it comes to vacationing in winter, it gets quite difficult to choose from a location – especially when the destination is as diverse in climate as Europe. Do you select a place that’s sunny and warm? Or somewhere that lets you enjoy the ice and cold in the best ways possible?

To make that decision easier for you, here are 5 European cities that you could visit in the dead of winter, with the assurance that you would come out of the vacation phase with a smile on your face.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a city that is synonymous with sunshine, warmth, and some of the world’s most breathtaking architecture.

The temperature rarely drops below 45 degrees even in the coldest months of the year. While the sunshine remains present amidst the rainy days. This means that you can enjoy the best effects of winter without having to endure the worst of them.

If you happen to be a fan of football, then these effects can be increased by several times. This beautiful city is home to one of the greatest football clubs of all time and with Barcelona FC in contention for a championship virtually every year, odds are you’ll be walking out with a smile on your face after watching a win. Not a bad way to take a break from the beach!

Athens, Greece

While you wouldn’t be able to go to Mount Olympus’ mythical version in this day and age, you can still experience Greece’s magnificence through the beautiful city of Athens.

Like Barcelona, Athens also sees rare drops in temperature while being consistent around 45 degrees throughout the heaviest months in winter. With the architecture that you can experience under the sun, this weather can actually be ideal for an exploratory walk.

And if you are a fan of Greek food, then checking out local restaurants for authentic dishes would only add to the overall experience of your trip.

Venice, Italy

Since Italy is full of some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world, it would be quite debatable to say that Venice is the crown jewel of the country in terms of structural beauty.

But it is.

From the way that the city has been designed to the manner that the buildings have been developed, Venice remains a breathtaking sight for anyone who visits it.

That remains true even in the months of winter, where the does drop to around 30 degrees, but still provides the tourists and inhabitants with a way to enjoy the magnificent sights under the sun.

Zugspitze, Germany

Germany is considered to be one of the coldest countries in Europe, but it is a good thing for those who enjoy a bit of snow during their travels.

And for those who do, there are perhaps not many places that are as marvelous as Zugspitze in terms of a memorable winter experience.

With snow covered mountains and a temperature that dances around -14 degrees in winter, you can enjoy an array of winter sports such as skiing, sledding, and snowboarding to your heart’s desire. If you are one to enjoy snow and everything good there is about the season of winter, then Zugspitze is the place to go.

Marseilles, France

While Paris gets quite cold in winter without the weather enhancing any effects of life within the city, Marseille seems to be quite the opposite. The city is as lively in the winter as it is during its busiest days in summer, with plenty to do in adjacent areas.

You may visit the many architectural sites and tourist attractions in Marseilles itself, but you can add to that experience when you choose to visit the Christmas markets in Aix en Provence or Avignon.

With that, the many warm and steamy French soups and bouillon based dishes that you can enjoy in Marseilles only add to the trip. This means that by the time you are done with your visit to Marseilles, you are bound to be fed well, have some goods in your shopping bags, and some memorable pictures in your phone to boot.

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Europe

Even the Most Expensive Cities Have Cheaper Alternatives: Paris

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According to the results of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Worldwide Cost of Living” survey, Singapore, Paris, Zurich, Hong Kong, and Oslo are the most expensive places to live – and visit – this year. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit them, though – actually if your budget allows it, you should cross them off your bucket list as soon as you can. But this doesn’t mean you have to break all your piggy banks and sell your soul only to spend a weekend in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Unless you’re adamant that it’s “Paris or bust”, there are alternatives to this crowded and top-dollar destination you might want to consider – and start saving for your dream trip nonetheless.

Lyon

Lyon has a history of almost two millennia, and it shows: the remains of the Roman settlement Lugdunum, built at the confluence of the rivers Saône and Rhône, are showing to this day. Lyon might not be a capital city – it doesn’t have the size or the population – but its role in the everyday life of France was always important, both as a trade and a cultural hub.

The city has many gorgeous sights to see, like the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, the Tour Métallique (a tall TV tower that replicates the top of the Eiffel Tower), among others, covering every age from the birth of the city to its modern times. Plus, it has museums, parks, gardens, and a street art group that has been designated the cultural ambassador for the city. Not to mention its cuisine, the unique and popular Lyonnaise cuisine that has become a worldwide sensation.

Lille

A relatively small city in the north of France, Lille is another charming alternative to a crowded and overpriced Paris. It features many distinct architectural styles, most of them with a clear Flemish influence. Among its landmarks, you find its Cathedral (Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille), its Citadel, its palaces, and gardens. Lille is also the place with the biggest flea market in Europe – Braderie de Lille takes place on the first Sunday of September, with millions of attendees and over 10,000 sellers gathering in the streets of the city. It’s a charming, agreeable, and colorful city that will offer its visitors a beautiful experience.

Strasbourg

Last but not least, let us mention a city with a double significance – on one hand, it’s the official seat of the European Parliament, on the other, it’s a wonderful place to visit and a great alternative to an overcrowded Paris.

Strasbourg is a place where French and German architecture mingle in a unique way, with an Old Town filled with timber-framed houses surrounding typical French landmarks and churches. It also has many notable parks, some with historic significance, and almost too many museums for its small size. Plus, it’s a distinctively multicultural city where visitors will find it easy to fit in.

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Europe

Let’s Do A Road Trip In Europe Fin

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Its that time of year again. It is the holidays and vacation, mirth and much merriment is upon us. Those of us who are lucky are able to take a few days to a few weeks off for vacation and can enjoy it abroad or do a staycation. A trip abroad is probably preferred, there’s so much to see and do, it would a pity to while the days away in your own hometown.

Get a move on, grab your bags, get a ticket and jump on a plane to Europe. When you get there, rest for a bit and begin your road trip. Nothing beats traveling on the road and taking all the sights that nature has to offer while stopping by at different locations.

Remember, a road trip can be very feasible and pleasant if it is done right. Make sure to have your car inspected, checked and ready to go for a long distance road trip.

You’ll want to make sure that you have your oil checked and your tires as well. Proper tires from suppliers such as Kwik Fit will get you squared away and ready to hit the road.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Grossglockner

One of the top places that you’ll want to go is in Austria. There’s this little spot called Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, this spot is one that is talked about by road trip aficionados of all kinds.

The Grossglockner is the opposite of what it sounds like, it’s not gross at all, it’s quite pleasant actually.  The path will take you through different sights ranging from mountain tops to rivers, to rock formations and more. What’s fun about this place is that you will also be able to have different changes in the road itself, it is not just one straight path but one that is filled with turns and changes to keep you from getting bored.

Italy and the Amalfi Coast

Italy is a place that won’t disappoint, it has food, culture, and history to keep you company. Italy also has beautiful sights all over too. One of the best places to drive through would be the Amalfi Coast.

The Amalfi Coast has everything you could possibly want, beaches, cliffs, and beautiful fishing villages. The place is not only beautiful in nature but in culture as well. One can check out the Cathedrals, Villa Rufolo, engage in some boat tours for a quick respite from their road trip and also view the Sirenuse from afar.

Portugal – The Estoril Coast

Drive from Italy, pass by countries such as France, Spain and reach the destination of Portugal. You will find the climate and the overall setting over here to be appealing.  On your way to this beautiful place, make sure to check out popular spots such as Lisbon and other prominent locations such as Sintra. The Estoril Coast was home to the nobility of ages past and even to those that we see as nobility today, celebrities, wealthy people and tourists with a couple of euros or dollars to their name stop by this place and immerse themselves in the manmade and natural attractions that this place has to offer.

Don’t Hesitate, Time Stands Still For No One

Time is slipping, check out budget and look into which part of Europe you want to stick to. Make the decision and take the trip, it will be a great refreshment and you will be glad you were able to have the experience. Take a few snapshots and indulge in the experience of #RoadtripsofEurope

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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