This was our first trip abroad, so we decided to go big. We saved up, bought plane tickets, Eurorail passes, backpacks, and put in notices our jobs. We had two friends decide to join us for the first two and a half weeks of the trip. The idea of traveling through Europe for two months was both exciting and slightly terrifying. Reading tips from other travel blogs is what helped prepare us for the trip, but there were plenty of things we were not expecting. That is why we decided to start this blog, so that we can give tips, recommendations, and ideas about do’s & don’ts while traveling in foreign countries.
Our trip began in Paris, France! After spending about 24 hours on an airplane (including the time changes) we finally arrived in Paris midday. Overall, Paris was probably the most confusing city that we went to. The first thing we did was get the Orange cell phone sim card at the airport so we could use the GPS on our phones (we would highly recommend getting.) Next was the really hard part, the Paris metro system/public transportation. Non citizens have two metro options; a one trip pass that will take you from point A to point B once or a day pass that allows unlimited use for the selected amount of days. We will have a more detailed post on Europe’s public transportation at a later date, but we all choose to get the three-day pass for Paris. If you’ve never used public transportation before it can be very chaotic, you have to make sure you’re on the correct bus/metro and it is going in the right direction. We found our way using google maps because you can put in your destination and it will tell you exactly which bus/metro you need to take and which direction it needs to be going. Having a group of four made it easier to afford a place to ourselves. We booked a great house on airbnb for our stay (see link below to get $40 in travel credits when you sign up for airbnb), it was a little far out from the cities main attractions, but our three day passes made it easy to get around.
After dropping our backpacks off at the airbnb we headed to the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, and out to dinner. For anyone who does know the Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate the French Army. The inside walls have the names of the French generals that were lost in battles, the names of major battles that took place during the Napoleonic Wars, and the tomb of the unknown soldier is buried beneath it. The Place de la Concorde is a major square with an Egyptian obelisk, the Fontaine de Mers, the Grand Palais, and the Jardin des Tuileries. From here you can also see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Because it was starting to get dark and we were exhausted from traveling we decide to head back to the airbnb for the night.
We spent the next day at Palace of Versailles. This is a must see for anyone that has not been to Paris before. It costs 27 euros to visit both the palace and the gardens, but it is well worth the money. You are going to want to grab one of the free maps at the ticket office to help guide you through the gardens and palace. We ended up spending the whole day here because there is so much to see. We started off exploring the gardens of the palace, it stretches over 30,000 acres which includes 1400 fountains and 400 sculptures. Some of the more popular coves include the Orangery, Apollo’s fountain, Neptune fountain, and the Mirror pool. We recommend giving yourself all or most of the day because you will want to see everything. Once you’ve explored the gardens make your way to the Grand Trianon, this was the small palace that the king and his family would retreat to for privacy. It has its own private garden and because it is a little out of the way it tends to be less crowded. We saved the Palace of Versailles for last. Be prepared to have to wait in line, it took us about an hour and a half, but it was definitely worth it. Our passport tickets included an audioguide that explains a lot of the palace’s history. The palace tour allows you to go through the grand apartments, were royalty lived, and the famous hall of mirrors, which is covered in 357 mirrors and glass chandeliers. The palace is also home to famous French works of art, along with a section called the gallery of battles that shows many paintings of famous battle or wars fought in French history. Once we finished exploring all of the palace we tried to visit the catacombs of Paris. The wait for the line was over 2 hours and we weren’t going to have time to enter before it closed. We have been told that the catacombs are a must see, unfortunately we were not able to make time for it during our trip.
We started off the next day by going to the Louvre. Keep in mind that during the months of October through March admission is free on the first Sunday of the month. Make sure to get there early because it does get very crowded. Normal admission price is only 15 euros and it is well worth it because you could spend a whole day there and still not see everything. You will want to make sure you grab one of the free maps so you can better plan out your time. One of the biggest attractions is definitely the Mona Lisa, but there are many other famous paintings and statues. For example you can find Venus de Milo, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, the Royal Treasury and the Law Code of Hammurabi. The Louvre is made up of four floors of artwork you can explore, only having half a day we decided to explore mainly the denon or south side. The lower floors tend to have more Greek and Roman work. While the top floors have works of art from the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, France, and other European countries, throughout the 1250-1850. This part includes all of the previously mentioned artwork plus much more. We were not able to get to the richelieu or north side, but we briefly went through some of the sully or east side. The majority of the sully side is antiques and artwork brought over from Egypt, along with French artwork from 1350-1850 on the top floor. We listened to the free Rick Steves audioguide instead of buying an audioguide there. We ended up using this app throughout the trip for many destinations. Next we headed to Notre-Dame de Paris. You can visit this beautiful cathedral for free! It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, designed in Gothic style with many stained glass windows and four large bells. It is also the home of the Crown of Thrones, a well-known religious artifact. After we finished at Notre-Dame we walked to Le Jardin du Luxembourg or the Luxembourg Palace. The former royal residence is now a modern-day meeting place for the French senate. For this reason you most likely will not be able to go inside the building, however the gardens behind the building are free to explore. Once we finished here we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was originally built for the 1889 Worlds Fair, many French people were not pleased with the tower because they believed it was unpleasant looking. However, because it was seen as a cultural icon among tourists it was kept standing to this day. The tower itself is 1063 ft tall, to get to the top you will have to go up 1,710. Prices will vary based on age, how many floors you want to go up, and whether you want to walk or use the elevator. Keep in mind if you can, try to double back here once it gets dark so you can see the Eiffel Tower light up! A great spot to get a full picture of the tower is the Palais de Chaillot. This is also home to several architectural, navel, and ethnographic museums. Finally, we made our way to the Sacre-Coeur or Sacred-Heart referring to Jesus divine love for humanity. The basilica itself is free to enter, but for 8 euros you can also see the crypt and go into the dome which gives you an amazing view of Paris’s monuments. There is also a garden off to the side of the Sacre-Coeur where you can take some beautiful pictures. It was also the place where David proposed to me! After leaving this area were headed back for the night and prepared to head to Normandy, France.
We plan to put out a new post about every week talking about the different countries we visited. Plus we will be making some bonus post that talk in more detail about using public transportation, booking airbnbs or hostels, and tips for packing! If you have any questions or comments let us know by emailing us at Garvin2017@heartofanadventurer.com. If you read this post before December 24, 2017 please follow this link to vote for us in Cancun.com’s #CEOCancun job search https://ceo.cancun.com/profile/david-garvin. Make sure to follow us on our social media sites to get updates on when the next post will be out. The next post will be covering Normandy and Nimes, France.