A Europe trip was long overdue for this New Yorker. I managed to clear 19 days (flight time inclusive) to figure out how to plan such an itinerary and came up with:
Day 1 – Fly from NYC to London overnight
Day 2 – Check in hotel, brief sightseeing, sleep
Day 3,4 – Explore London
Day 5 – Daytrip to Paris via Eurostar
Day 6 – Travel to Edinburgh, sightseeing
Day 7,8,9 – Tour the Scotland highlands
Day 10 – Travel back to London, Harry Potter tour
Day 11 – Fly from London to Barcelona, sightseeing
Day 12-18 – 7 day cruise
Day 19 – Fly back home
The most challenging part is planning it all (and saving enough money as well). The flights, hotels, where to go, how to get there, things to avoid, not getting lost, saving money, optimizing time, eating, bathroom stops, what to pack, currency, backup plans for when things go wrong, survival, etc. Somehow, everything went according to plan with a few minor mishaps. Follow me on my travels as I cover the itineraries, highlights, and other random encounters and experiences.
My first time in France. Perhaps it was a bold idea to set up Paris as a day trip from London. I booked a round trip Eurostar train and tried to do as much as possible in 8 hours. It was a really hot and not a relaxing day in the slightest (felt like muggy NYC). I did not expect so many Chinese tour groups and so many selfie sticks. I foolishly forgot to do any research for eating spots. Also, we forgot our French phrase book and the translator app wasn’t working. Additionally, all I know about the french language is Bonjour and Merci. So let’s go France!
I originally had Les Catacombs on my itinerary but my research showed that the lines are inescapable (no fast passes) and can exceed 2 hours, especially during a hot summer on a weekend. So the day started with the infamous Champ de Mars (Eiffel Tower). After getting off the Eurostar at the Gare Du Nord station, we had to learn to navigate through the metro to reach the La Motte-Picquet station. It was then a quick and straightforward walk to Champ de Mars park where the best views of the Eiffel tower are in my opinion. Beware the pushy merchants especially if they see you taking selfies without a selfie stick (like I do).
Well, I underestimated the length of the lines; even for the staircases. I think the line lasted 30-45 minutes (much worse for the lifts though), but it was the weekend after all. Yes the stairs, 669 steps to the second stage of the tower for the grand view of Paris. As usual, the views are always worth the effort of the climb. You can choose to ascend to the third stage at the very top but the detail of the city would be lost a bit and only elevators can get you there which must be reserved in advance I think.
After getting back down and eating a crepe, we crossed Pont D’lena bridge to Jardins du Trocadero; a major spot for Eiffel Tower selfies.
It was at this point where we realized that there would be no time to walk up Kleber Ave to the Arc De Triomph. But that was ok, the camera 10x zoom will just have to do. Onward to the Musee de Louvre.
After a €8 cab ride from the Trocadero, we entered the massive museum building plaza and then through the transparent pyramid entrance. I think it helps to pre-book tickets online to avoid the longer lines; my wait time was only 5 minutes.
Once you’re in, you quickly feel like a bee in a hive. The ridiculous amount of people swarming through the hallways had the temperature feeling quite tropical. I’m surprised the paintings didn’t melt. I’m not much of a history buff and I think museums are boring, but yet, I appreciated the epicness of the Louvre. First and foremost, we had to locate Mona. Once we made it to the Mona Lisa room, it was like hundreds of children trying to get free candy from one person. I got as close as I could without getting crushed or smothered to death by body heat. After a few skillful overhead shots, I escaped the herd of sheep and was able to breathe air again. Notice the selfie stick on her shoulder in her glare.
With an hour left before closing, I took pictures of ceilings, walls, paintings, sculptures, and fancy rooms even though I know very little of what I was actually observing (I’ll look it up later). I was surprisingly impressed with the detail of the artwork. The Louvre definitely deserves a whole day to explore and appreciate, perhaps more.
With very little energy left, we made our final trek along the Sienne river through several lock bridges to arrive at the one and only, Notre Dame. I originally planned to climb the 387 steps to the top and hang out with the gargoyle statues but the staircase was closed off by then (6pm). The line to get in the church was also rather long and decided not to go inside but I’m sure it’s quite epic. That’s ok, the building from the outside was impressive all by itself. You notice more and more detail as you zoom in the photos.
A few blocks south from Notre Dame was an area full of restaurants and shops. After inhaling some fast food and more crepes, it was time to head back to Gare du Nord station to catch the Eurostar back to London (while snacking on some macarons). All I have to say is whew. Paris alone requires at least a few days to see the sights and eat at the multitude of restaurants. If I ever returned, I’d make sure not to visit during the summer. But wait, there’s more. Scotland bound tomorrow…