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Budget Trip to France

My trip to Paris

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I had always wanted to see Paris and last year we went in October of 2011. We did all our own arrangements and bought our Euro's ahead of time.
You can buy your museum passes and Metro passes right at CDG- Charles De Gaulle Airport. The come in 2,4, 6 days and some come in different day denominations so you have to figure how many days you need the metro and how many days you will be seeing the sites. Our plans were to fly to Paris and get our rental car then drive to Mont St Michel which is about 4-5 hours away but I feel is worth the trip. It is a monastery that was built back in the 1300's and when the time comes in it is surrounded by water and it has hotels, shops and restaurants all on the island. It it so cool . We stayed in this little hotel down the road . There is a few places to eat and in the morning you can go to Brioche Doree which is like a little fast food cafe. We then headed for Caen and the military museum which is very expensive and my husband who loves military history did not enjoy so save your money. We then headed to the American Cemetary and you would think it would be easy to find but it has only one sign and it was not even isted in our gps from the rental agency., If you see a big photograph of a church that was bombed and the church behind it that was rebuilt you know you are in the right area. It is called Coleville Sur Mer. It overlooks the British Chanel and it it very peaceful and somber and when you look around you see all the white crosses of the soldiers that lost their lives. We then made our way to our hotel in Marne la valley near Paris disneyland. We stayed in a nice budget friendly hotel named Hotel D'elysee which has a free shuttle to the parks and near by is a metro station and right across the street is a mall with a full grocery store. Disneyland Paris is very small and the food is pricey. We got 2 donuts and 2 hot chocolates and it was about $14.00. Most of the rides were closed. We took the metro out to Palace of Versaille which is included in the museum pass but the gardens are not. Marie Antoinette's apartment was included but you either have to pay for the gardens our walk around the gardens down the road for about 30 minutes. We did not do this since it was bitter cold while we were in Paris in October so bring a coat or some heavy sweaters and scarves to keep you warm as well as gloves. We made our way into Paris via the metro and we saw the Arc De Triomphe which has 300 some steps up a spiral stair case and you can't stop because people are behind you waiting to get up. We also went to the Military museum where Napoleon is buries and it really neat, We saw the Eiffel Tower and a word to the wise make sure which ticket counter you go to casue we got in the line that was the shortest but it also turned out to be stairs only line and we had to climb 720 steps to the second level and you can pay 5Euro to get up to the third which is worth it. It started to get dark and the lights came on and it was so magical . We found someone to take our photo . We also tried a croque monsier while there which is a grilled ham and cheese with the cheese on the outside and we had a waffle with powdered sugar very yummy. We went to the louvre which you could go to for several days not see everything. Make sure you give yourself a mental break while there. See the place for a few hours then grab lunch or take a walk outside to the fountains and see the obelisk and the place were Marie Antoinette was beheaded. The go back in a tackle the rest of what you want to see. Wed. and Fri they are open till 9pm so you can see the place in day at least what it is you want to see since there is so much. They have egyptian art that is from before christ. So much history is here. We went to the Hard Rock cafe one day for lunch and it's the only place I could find Ice tea. I was so excited and word to the wise they really don't have much in the way of diet soda in france. We visited the Notre Dame church which is include in the museum pass as well as the Louvre and the Arc De Triompe it is worth the money for the pass and you can avoid most lines . Also enter the Louvre from the mall on Rue de rivoli it saves alot of time waiting in line. Make sure you go up to the towers in Notre Dame becasue you get to go up to the bell tower and there are so many little passage ways and nooks and cranys and great views of the gargoyles. Near by the church is Gallery Lafayette which is a beautiful builing and a shopping store that has a great stained glass roof and a roof top terrace that you can overlook the city . You can see the Eiffel tower from everywhre. We had such a great time and because we stayed outside of Paris the hotel cost was cheaper and a little more to what we are used to in the US except they don't give you buckets of ice so everyday I took my big ziplock bag down to the bar and got ice for our drinks and to keep things cold . Buying the passes really does save you money and you can buy just for the amount of days you need., You just have to figure out how many days you need the metro and how many days you need the museum pass since they different days for the tickets. like 1,3,5 and 2,4,6. Also make sure you have euro's for tolls if you plan to drive outside of Paris. They really hit you with tolls and make sure you have a gps and get directions online use Michelin which is for european trips and it even tells you an estimate of tolls , gas and miles and directions and things to look for. Many places have wifi and there is an app for metro lines but you need to have wifi to use. Carry a bag or backpack with water and snacks to save money as well and watch out for picpocketers especially on the metro and the museums. You can use your us credit card at many stores and restaurants but it will not work in the machines to get the passes so you will need to get the tickets from the ticket agents to get your passes. If you attempt french the french will attemp to use their english and we did not find anyone that was rude to us . They were very helpful and friendly so brush up on some key frases and it will go along way. We booked our airfare from Aerlingus which has great rates to Paris. Happy Traveling and don't be afraid to go to Paris it really is a wonderful city a bit expensive but very magical.

Posted by boydsbears 15.07.2012 13:45 Archived in France Tagged france in sites Comments (0)

Our first trip to Europe

Mediterrean Cruise

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We planned this trip for over a year and I researched everything down to how to dress to fit in with the locals I found out that europeans do not wear sneakers except for athletic activities and you must keep your shoulders covered at all times in churches. We arranged to have friends drop us off at JFK and pick us as well. We left at 10:00 with plenty of time as our flight did not leave until 6Pm . Around 12:00 we all stopped to have lunch at Applebee's . We told the hostess that we needed a table since our friend who is pushing 500 lbs would not fit in a booth. She looked at us like we have 3 heads or something and then she told another coworker and they gave us the same reaction now they were dead and had only a few customers it was like the twilight zone. I should have know then it was going to be a strange day. After lunch we continued on to JFK . We were about a half hour away from the airport and we got stuck in a traffic jam that lasted 2 hours and we had to be at the airport at least 2 hours before our flight. I am starting to panick at this point. My husband starts to drive agressively on the shoulder of the road and I got on the phone to the airline to see if there was a later flight or what we could do. There was a later flight but
We had a connection in Madrid and things would get so messed up trying to catch our cruise. We finally made it to the airport and I grabbed the passports and travel documents and he grabbed the luggage. When he got out of the car his wallet fell on the ground and luckily our friends saw it and ran to find us . I was at this point in panick mode trying to find our ticket counter which was Iberia who I probably would not do business with again . I found a British Airways employee and asked where Iberia counter was and he is asking me questions like business or first class. I said what I am in a hurry I don't have time for this just tell me where there counter is. Our friend comes running up and gives me my husbands wallet and I finally find the counter and my husband is already there. At this point I feel like I am having a heart attack and I can't breathe. The ticket agents say relax and I tell them our flight is going to leave I can't relax. They inform us that our flight has been delayed an hour so we are good. I finally start breathing again and we make our way to the security desk to get through security. The TSA Agent tells us that we never signed our passports but lucky for us we had our licenses. At this point we think ok we are doing good now. We wait to board our plane and we get seated. Shortly before take off the captain tells us that a passenger has decided not to fly and they have to find his luggage and get it off the plane. Well now there is no way we are going to make our connection. We try to relax and figure we will deal with it when we land. Most of the crew and passengers speak only spanish and we know only a little spanish. To top it off our seats got moved to the very last row by the bathrooms and all night long we heard slamming doors. Word to the wise never books these seats.

Day 2 -We are woke up by flight attendants at 7am there time and 1:00 am our time shoving a breakfeast tray in our face. We have had very little sleep and now we are getting food in the middle of the night. We ask the attendants if they have several flights that go to Barcelona since this is where our destination is. We are told yes every 15 minutes by one , every 30 by another and still another says oh yes every 45 minutes. We finally land in Madrid and this place is even bigger than Chicago's Ohara Airport. They have signs telling you how long to get from one area to another and it was 30 minutes to get to where we needed to be. We finally find someone who can help us get another connecting flight to Barcelona . We wait at our gate for our next flight. We start down the ramp to board the flight and are sent back because the crew that is to fly this flight has not arrived yet because they were delayed on another flight and have to have so much time off in between flights. So now we are once again waiting to fly to Barcelona. Finally we board our flight and fly to Barcelona. Hey we finally made it to Barcelona and we make our way down to get our luggage and we wait and we wait and guess what no luggage. We go to the lost luggage desk and finally find someone who speaks english and file a report. Important not make sure you know what your luggage looks like and the exact color and brand. We knew it was red and we thought we knew the name brand but we were not postivie. We head out to where the cruise staff meets you and they already know we have had our luggage lost and let us know they will do there best to help us get our luggage. We head to the transfer bus and it's pooring outside and half to walk through the rain to get to the bus. They take us to the cruise terminal and we are standing in the rain waiting to get checked in. We figure at least we have our swim suits so after lunch we can hop in the hot tub. Few hours later we are still waiting for our luggage and trying to figure out what to do about dinner since we only have the clothes that we are wearing . We only had our swimsuits and a few items in the carryon . After this we always pack a change of clothes for 1 to 2 days and something we can wear for dinner in the main dining room when on a cruise. End of day 2 still no luggage.

Day 3. Lucky for us Royal Caribbean laundered our clothes and gave us some tooth paste, tooth brush , and deodorant to get us by till we get our luggage and they gave us a bingo t-shirt as well. We head out for our first excursion which is to Nice, Monte Carlo, Eze (France) and Monaco. While trying to enjoy our visit we were trying to shop for clothes when we had free time on our excursion. Since we only had one shirt and 1 pair of jeans. During our visit to Eze this Medieval village we had lunch which was included in the tour. While visiting with other cruisers we explained our situation. A mother and daughter from Australia makes a joke and says we can tell what day it is in our pictures by looking at the sticker number from our tour since we are wearing the same clothes everyday. My hubby says yeah that's funny but it's not. We had no clue what the meal was but it was very tasty and the chocolate dessert was awesome. That day we got to see the flower market in Nice , Monte Carlo Casino from the outside since we did not have the proper clothing attire and several Ferrari's they were like Toyota Camry's here they were everywhere. We also got to see Where Princess Grace and Prince Ranier were buried and the castle in Monaco with the changing of the guards. We had such a great time even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering if our luggage would ever show up. When we got back to the ship still no luggage so now we were going to miss the first formal night. I had bought 2 fabulous dresses to wear for the formal nights and now I might never get to wear them. They had some clothing at the courtesy desk so I went to see what they had in my size but they had one shoe , a skirt and no shirt so I could go topless with one shoe if I wanted to go to the formal night. My husband had ordered a tux so he had clothing to wear . We had to go to the Windjammer Buffet for dinner instead and then we headed for the hot tub and had it all to ourselves and the pool area was desserted we had it all to ourselves on this huge ship.

Day 4- Today we are off to Rome or Roma as the italians say. I had learned some basic italian to get us by and since I took 3 years of french I just did some brushing up . We got on our tour bus and we were greeted by this petite little Italian girl who taught us some italian an entertained us for our hour ride. They had bathroom breaks built in and we stopped after half hour or so and we had to pay 40 Euro Cents to use the bathroom. When it was my turn I got a big surprise. When I entered there was nothing but a bowl no seat to be found. I thought did I get the guys am I missing something. Needless to say I made the best of it but I really appreciated american bathrooms at this point. We made our way into Roma and we went to see St Peters in chains church and it was beautiful , it was small and quaint but very nice. We then made our way to the Colosseum unfortuanately our tour did not include the inside but a definite must for the next visit to Roma. From a distance we could see the Forum it was awe inspiring and then we mad our way back to the bus and made our way to St. Peter's Basillica. After making our way through the metal detectors we got in line to see the Basillica. We spotted to swiss guards dressed in costumes that would have been a style from hundreds of years ago. When we got inside we could not believe how beautiful it was. The mosaics on the walls and the marble statues everywhere and the dome at the top of the ceiling. The gold trimming everywhere . There was so much to look it and absorb an even if you are not a religious person this place had something everyone. When we booked this tour we did not realize this is where the pope speaks this made our visit even more special and they even have there own post office. We bought a post card and mailed it from there to my husbands sister who is a devout catholic. We knew she would go crazy over this. We tried to find someone to take a photo of us out front but we had trouble finding someone who spoke english and the one woman we got did not take a good photo but lucky for us a photographer from our cruise line was taking photos and we were able to get one. It was such a nice day about 70 degrees. They gave us some free time so we went back in to take more photos in the basillica and while I was waiting for my husband to take a photos I over heard a conversation that made me chuckle. One man said to another I thought it would be bigger than this and the other said this is only the entry way you have to go inside further which is so much larger. The inside is said to hold any church inside it since it is so big. We headed out to find a place to have lunch and do some souvenir shopping. We found this great little pizza place where for 6 Euro you got a very large slice of pizza , Drink and gelato. It was delicious and a great deal. We bought a few souvenirs and met up with our tour group. We all loaded up on the bus and head back to the ship. It was such a great day and we enjoyed every minute of the beauty and culture in the city of Roma. We want to return to see the inside of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Michelango's Sistine Chapel, and the spanish steps just to name a few. We did get to see Michaelango's Pieta in the Basillica it is behind bullet proof glass since some crazed person attacked the statue and now in order for people to still enjoy it the statue has to be behind glass. We all loaded on to the bus to make our way back to the ship and reflected on what an amazing day it had been. When got back to our room we were hoping to see our suitcases but still no luggage. We got ready and headed to the buffet again. Word to the wise if you are normally an early eater do not do the 2nd seating for dinner it's at 8pm and by the time you get done you are tired. We did not see any shows on this trip because we were running all day and eating so late and with jet lag mixed in we were just plain exhausted.

Day 5- Florence or as they called it Firenze- It was another hour drive to get to Florence. When we arrived our tour guide walked us around the city pointing out the Merry Go Round that in remembrance of when Florence had been the capital at one time. We saw statues of David and Medusa and Neptune in the Piazza and they told us stories about them. We walked over the bridge the Ponte Veccio where they have many gold jewelry shops. Then we had free time for about an hour. We got a Gelato and it was so rich and creamy. They give 2 flavors but of course we were not sure what they were so we pointed to what looked good and enjoyed. I got Strawberry and something with chocolate and vanilla not sure what it was but it was so good. We wondered around and took pictures of the Santa Croce Church and near by was these bronze doors known as the Gilberti's Gates of Paradise. There was scenes in each of the blocks on the doors . It was magnificiant. The original ones are in a museum like the original David statue. We met up with our tour group at this leather shop which was also a designated bathroom break. They had great leather items for a reasonable price. I got some great souvenirs like leather coin purse and the one I got for myself they even embossed it with my initials. My husband got a reversible belt they put his initials on it as well and it was about 14 Euros. They had some great deals. The place was right by the Santa Croce church. We made our way back to the bus and while driving around we saw the stone walls surrounding the city and and a great view of Florence. I did forget to mention that while we were we in Rome they have the man in uniform standing on this little circular platform with a whistle directing traffic. It was hysterical to watch with all the crazy traffic. They also told us that cars will double park and leave the door open so you know they will be quick so if you need to get out you can push there care out of the way. Crazy and she said alot of cars get stolen this way. Do you think!!! We made our way back to the ship and headed to our room and guess what we had luggage waiting for us. I have never been so happy to see my luggage. We unpacked and got ready for dinner. We finally showed up to the main dining room and met our table for the first time and they were all from different parts of England with different accents. It was really cool the only thing was due to their slang we had to keep asking them to repeat themselves. One of the wives would ask me if my if my meal was nice or lovely everytime which is customary I guess in England. One of the other wives asked if we had horses when we said we had 5 acres of land. We chuckled and said no we just live in the country and you get 5 acres when you build generally. We had so much fun talking with the people at our table.

Day 6- Naples or Napoli as they say. Today we are headed to the ruins of Pompei. We load on to the tour bus and in about a half hour give or take we are there. We enter in to the site with our tour guide and he tells us many facinating stories about the people who once lived her. At one point he shows a building which he explains was a brothel and in the front of it is a symbol of a body part(male) pointing to the direction of the building and on the walls are pictures of certain acts we shall say and the traveler would point to what he wanted since they all spoke different languages. An elderly gentleman who was in line with us said well in my 80 some years this is the first time I have waited in line to see a brothel. The tour guide was very strict on keeping our tour to a specific time and seeing specific sites and at one point he got into a heated argument with a teacher who was giving a tour to a group of students from England because they were in our way and we had things we needed to see and to maintain our time schedule. It was crazy. The place was interesting and eerie at the same time once you realized that people were buried alive by hot volcanic ash. They had a replica of a person's body in a glass cubicle showing how this person was positioned at the time of their death it was so surreal. They had big blocks down th middle to walk on because back then the water and sewage flowed down the street. They told us that they washed their clothing in urine. At that moment I was like thank god I was born in today's time I don't think I could have handled living back then. The place was massive and they are still uncovering more ruins it was amazing how preserved the frescos and mosaics were. We then headed back to the ship and had the rest of the day to tour Napoli on our own. It was a very cramped and busy city but still interesting to visit. I always collect ornaments from everwhere I go and I could not find one ornament in italy anywhere.

Day7 -Sicily(Palermo) to be exact - We loaded our tour bus and made our way into the city. The streets were so tight especially when other buses are coming from the opposite direction . These drivers really can manuver these buses. They should us the four Corners which represented the four seasons and we saw the fountain of shame which they explained that when it was purchesed and brought to Palermo the people were not used to naked statues and were very upset and called it the fountain of shame. We also toured a church and the aisle was so long that even standing in the middle when my husband took my photo I looked like a thousand miles away and they had the different zodiac signs on the floor and when the sunlight shinned on them would link them together. They also had beautiful art and treasures in this church. We had some free time to shop in went into department store that seemed like something we would have. The prices were pretty expensive as well. There were several protestors in the street marching and yelling about the mistreatment of the serbians. It was kind of scary. We headed back to meet our group and made our way back to the ship by this time we are pretty tired and the hot tub is calling our name. We join our table for our second formal dinner and this time we got to get all dressed up and I got to wear at least one of my dresses. We had a really nice photo taken of us by the photographer a nice momento. We had great food and conversation with our table mates from England as usual.

Day 8 - This was our day at sea and boy did we really need it. We were spent and slept in really late. We lounged and shopped and swam and hot tubbed and just plain relaxed. This was a great ending to our cruise. We had so much fun even with all the mishaps. Travel is a great thing but you never know what is going to happen it may be good or bad you just don't know but it is always an adveture. Lucy for us we bought cruise insurance and airline insurance and we did not know that our cruise covered air as well so we were double insured and our credit card whom we booked through also had baggage delay insurance on our trip and the airline who caused all the issues (Iberia) paid us back the smallest amount and we went through nightmares on the phone with them since you had to deal with people who spoke little English and you had to call spain. All in all we got back about 1,700 dollars for our luggage delay which paid for our airfare to Spain since this was when oil went sky high and increased the cost of jet fuel and airline prices. After this trip we reevaluated how we pack and plan trips period. It was quite a lesson learned and one of our best times traveling. We enjoyed the people of Italy so much . They were so helpful and friendly and one waiter at our restaurant in Florence gave us his card in case we needed anything. He helped us order our food and we sat outside and had salad and pizza it was Marguarite style - sauce, mozzerella cheese and oregano it was simple but good and tasted different from ours and different from what we had in Roma as well. They also only had oil and vinegar for dressing which was also strange for us. I bought a venetian hand painted mask at the market close by the restauant as well. We also like to bring back a souvenir that represents where we have gone. I hope you have enjoyed our adventure and next time I will share our budget trip to Paris France.

Posted by boydsbears 13.07.2012 09:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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