A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AnneO

Number 10!

Hello everyone and welcome to my travel blog for my 2015 summer European adventure! This time, I will be travelling with my aunt (and godmother) Patti. This trip is a milestone of sorts for me because it will be my tenth visit to Europe (hence the title of this post). But for Patti, it will be her first time so I am very excited to introduce her to some of my favorite spots.

We leave tomorrow (May 21) and return on June 1. We will spend three nights each in Paris, France; Luzern, Switzerland; and Genoa, Italy. We then will spend our final night in Milan, Italy. We have a lot planned but also have made sure to leave some flexibility in the schedule to do whatever we feel like at any given time. The weather forecast looks pretty good with highs generally around 70 predicted for most days. There will probably be some rain, but I bought a new spring jacket/raincoat specifically for the occasion so I feel prepared. As usual, I am going carry-on only! My bag actually feels pretty light compared to when I packed it for London and Dublin for two weeks in January. Packing spring clothes vs. winter clothes really makes a difference, not surprisingly! I have a lot of room for souvenirs.

As in the past, my goal is to blog each day, wi-fi connection permitting. All of our hotels except the one in Milan advertise free wi-fi so hopefully we will be pretty well-connected. I also bought a new bluetooth keyboard to use with my Ipad to make typing easier. It is a little heavy but hopefully the extra weight will be worth the ease of blogging. I found it really slow and cumbersome in January when I was blogging just with the Ipad's touch keyboard.

If you would like to follow us on our journey, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the blog using the link on the right. And please feel free to comment on my posts. I love reading your comments while I am traveling. I will try to respond if I have the time.

In the meantime, if you are interested in reading my blog from my January trip, you can find it at londondublin2015.travellerspoint.com

Happy travels to us!

Anne

Posted by AnneO 11:59 Archived in USA Comments (4)

I Did Not Come All The Way To Paris To See Clowns!


View Summer 2015 on AnneO's travel map.

Our long day started early yesterday morning. My parents drove us to Milwaukee and we left about 5am. Traffic in Milwaukee was good, and checking in at the airport was a breeze. Then, when I got to security and went to take out my Ziplock bag of toiletries, I found I had forgotten them. Wonderful. Really, that isn't the worst thing in the world, but it did mean that when I got to Toronto I spent quite a bit of money at the Clinique counter to replace some of the makeup that was in the bag. Oh well.

Our 7-hour layover wasn't terrible. We spent the first 3 hours in the Plaza Premium lounge. It cost $50 each but it was worth it for all the food and drink and comfy chairs. It would have cost more to stay longer than that so we left after our three hours were up and went down and sat at a table near our gate. Our flight was on time and incredibly smooth. It was a 777 and pretty big inside. The legroom wasn't even terrible. We both managed to sleep a little bit so that was good.

Getting through customs in Paris was essentially nothing. No forms to fill out. No questions asked. They just opened our passports, stamped them, and let us in. I'm not complaining but I haven't seen customs that lax in years. We then went and bought tickets for the RER train into the city. This takes about half an hour. Our hotel, 3 Colleges, is just a few minutes walk from the Luxembourg RER stop, in the Latin Quarter. It is your typical tiny Parisian room but it seems nice enough.

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Our room wasn't ready yet when we got there though so we dropped off our bags and went out to see some sights.

First though, we were hungry, so we stopped to get a croissant and something to drink. We then headed over to Notre Dame Cathedral.

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There was a pretty long line to get inside but it moved quickly so it didn't take long to get in. It really is beautiful inside. Outside, however, we saw our first clowns of the day. Clowns are creepy. I do not like clowns.

After looking around inside, we went around back to a little park.

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There, we discovered that parks in Paris have free wifi. There are signs on the park benches about it. Of course, being free public wifi it was a bit sporadic and it kept kicking us out. But I won't complain about free. I was able to check in on Facebook so I was happy about that.

We then walked over to the Isle San Luis and looked at some of the shops before we stopped at a creperie for lunch. We discovered that we like sweet crepes much more than savory ones! This should not be shocking to anyone who knows us. After lunch, we took a boat ride on the Seine, The weather is absolutely gorgeous here today so it was great to be out on the water. Plus we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!

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Oh, and while we were going under one of the many bridges over the Seine, there was another clown waving down at us. I really hope that is the last clown we see here!

After the boat ride it was about 4pm so we knew our room would be ready so we walked back and that is where I am now. We are resting up before going to dinner and working hard at staying up until a reasonable hour to get rid of the jetlag. We've almost made it!

Tomorrow we are hitting some museums and the Champs Elysees. Should be a busy day!

Au revoir!

Anne

Posted by AnneO 08:43 Archived in France Comments (6)

Sainte Chapelle and Two Museums


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After a good night's sleep, Patti and I set out for the day. Our first stop was breakfast at La Croissanterie where we had yummy almost croissants. Our first stop after that was going to be the Pantheon but when we got there we found it was closed for some event. On the way there, however, we came across a religious parade of some sort. There were groups of people that each seemed to be representing a saint. Many of the groups were made up of scouting or school groups. There had to be thousands of people in this parade because it seemed to go on forever. We have no idea what it was about though. Is today some holy day that I have forgotten? Maybe it has to do with Pentecost?

With the Pantheon closed, we made our way to our next stop, Sainte Chapelle near Notre Dame. I have no idea how this is my sixth time in Paris but I never went to this place until today. I have missed out because it was absolutely amazing. I am going to post some pictures below but they don't do it justice. It is hard to get a really good picture because it is quite narrow and so you never really get far enough away for a full picture, plus there are people everywhere blocking a good view. If you ever go to Paris, you must go here! We had a hard time leaving.

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After we finally pried ourselves away, we decided it was snack time. I remember a crepe place I went to with my students in January that was near the Louvre (where we were going next) so I thought that would be convenient. However, the stand wasn't there anymore so we went into a cafe and had crepes there. We both chose nutella and banana and it was wonderful. On the way there, I took this picture:

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Next, on to the Louvre. Here is a picture of me trying to do the thing everyone does, even though we couldn't get the angle right.

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Before the trip we downloaded Rick Steves audio tours for a few places in Paris and this was one of them. Neither of us was interested spending hours at the Louvre so this was perfect. It took about two hours to see the biggest hits, such as the Vinus de Milo and Winged Victory.

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And of course the biggest disappointment in my opinion, the Mona Lisa. I have never understood the attraction of this since the first time I saw it in 1994. But I guess it's a must-see, as you can tell from the crowd surrounding it.

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After our tour, we ate lunch in a cafe in the Louvre. I had a baguette sandwich and Patti had quiche. It was all very good and reasonably priced for a museum cafe. We then walked across the Seine to the Orsay museum. I wouldn't normally recommend doing both of these on the same day but we won't have time tomorrow, our last day in Paris, so we decided to do it today. Again, we had a Rick Steves audio tour that took about an hour and a half. We saw Renoir, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Rodan, etc.

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Here is a great view of Sacre Coeur from the Orsay:

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By the time we were done we were really starting to get tired, but we had one more stop. Or at least we intended to have one more stop. We decided to take the metro and get off to walk the last few blocks of the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. However, the stop we wanted to get off at was closed and it would have been more complicated than we wanted to figure out how to get there. So we gave up and decided to take a taxi back to the hotel to rest a bit before dinner. Of course, finding a taxi was also complicated because you can't just hail a taxi from the street; you have to find a taxi stand. We eventually figured it out though and here we are.

As soon as I post this we will venture out again for dinner. Tomorrow we go to Versailles. Oh, and let me add that it was another beautiful day here in Paris. It started out pretty cool but as soon as the clouds cleared and the sun came out it was nice and warm. A perfect spring Paris Day.

Au revoir!

Anne

Posted by AnneO 10:14 Archived in France Comments (5)

Crowds, Crowds and More Crowds (and a Clown)


View Summer 2015 on AnneO's travel map.

Before I get into what Patti and I did today, let me tell you about ice cream. We went to this place near our hotel to get a cone last night and when we ordered they told us we could have as many flavors as wanted. We weren't sure how several flavors could get onto one regular-sized cone, but then we saw what they did. You have a main scoop of whatever flavor, and then all the other flavors are added on the outside kind of like petals on a rose. Then they top it off with a mini-cone. I don't know how well you can see in this picture, but here was Patti's cone:

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OK, moving on to today, We went to Versailles and Rick Steves recommended getting out of Paris by 8am to beat the crowds because Versailles opens at 9am. So that is what we did. We got on the RER train at just before 8 and got to Versailles about half an hour later. There was already quite a long line at the entrance. When the gate opened, it took us about half an hour just to get to the gate and go through security. By the time we left, we estimated that the lines were taking at least an hour. So we were glad to get there when we did.

Again, we did a Rick Steves guided tour of the palace. A word of advice to any of you thinking of going here: you had better be OK with crowds. You basically shuffle along from room to room in a preset route that you cannot deviate from, shoulder to shoulder with the other tourists. But the palace is definitely opulent and worth visiting.

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We opted not to visit the gardens for a few reasons. First, you had to buy a separate ticket to go in there and there was a line to do that; second, there was another line to take the little train out to the furthest smaller palaces and we didn't want to walk that far; and third, there were some things back in Paris we wanted to do. So we went back to the train station to catch the RER train back to Paris. I know, some of you who have been there think that was the worst decision ever.

Our first stop back in Paris was to view the Eiffel Tower from my favorite spot at Trocadero. Given the number of people there, it is clearly everyone's favorite spot. We took some pictures and then bought some artwork from a vendor nearby.

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Then back in to the Metro to finally see the Arc de Triomphe. And guess what was there? Yes, another clown! Aargh!

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After that we decided it was time for lunch and that we would eat somewhere on the Champs Elysees. We got a table outside and had a leisurely lunch. Our view from our table was acceptable:

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We then walked a little further down the Champs Elysees, along with half of Paris it seemed. Well, the half that weren't at Versailles or Trocadero at least. Patti then wanted to go back to some souvenir shops near Notre Dame to pick up some things. So we took the Metro back there and walked over to the Isle St. Louis. Patti found what she was looking for and we stopped at a bakery on the way back to buy tarts. We took them to the park behind Notre Dame and ate them there. Because one must always eat tarts in a park when in Paris if the weather is nice, like it was again today.

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We then walked around the side of Notre Dame closest to the Seine to make our way back to the hotel for our afternoon rest. I don't think I have ever been on that side of the cathedral. We came upon a statute of St. John Paul II. We then walked through a small park across the river from the cathedral and I got a final look. I am really happy with the picture because the bright sun made it so I couldn't see anything on the screen when I took it. Seriously, Paris pictures just take themselves.

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Tomorrow we leave Paris for Luzern, Switzerland. So tonight we will have dinner and then re-organize our bags.

Let me just add one thing about Paris. When I tell people how much I love this city, I often get comments about how they have heard (or they themselves have found) French people are rude. I have not found that to be the case generally. Of course, there are rude people everywhere (except maybe in Ireland because those are the friendliest people in the world). In fact, the guy who sold us our tarts today wasn't super friendly but I think he was just a curmudgeon. Everyone else we dealt with was super friendly and helpful and more than willing to speak English when we asked them in French if they spoke English. I have found that most people who think the French are rude, are rude to them first. And that's what I have to say about that. I will talk to you tomorrow from Switzerland!

Au revoir,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 08:08 Archived in France Comments (4)

On To Rainy Switzerland


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By popular demand, here is a picture of dinner. We went to a French bistro for our last dinner in Paris and had classic French food. It was a very cool place and very crowded. I had a pork dish and Patti had boeuf bourguinon (I have no idea if I am spelling that anywhere near correctly). They were both excellent.

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OK, today we made our way to Luzern, Switzerland. I wanted to replenish my Euros so I would have some later for Italy so I went to an ATM while Patti got ready. Next to the ATM was the Croissanterie so I had to stop one last time to pick up breakfast. We ate in the room, checked out, and took a taxi to Gare de Lyon to catch our train. It was a three-hour ride to Basel, Switzerland where we changed trains and it was another hour to Luzern. We originally planned to just walk to the hotel but because it was raining we decided to take a taxi. We checked in and after we got settled we started looking online and in Rick Steves' book for a place to eat dinner.

We are staying at the Stern Luzern hotel. This is the same hotel I stayed in the last time I was in Luzern 20 years ago. It was under different management then and called the Goldener Stern. That name is still on the building outside. When I was making reservations I thought about staying here again, but because of the name change I wasn't able to find it right away when I looked. But the hotel was listed in Rick Steves' book (yes, I am a fan of Rick Steves. And yes, if he told me to jump off a European bridge, there is a decent chance I would do it) and when I looked into it I realized it was the same place. As you might be able to see from the picture, the room is quite a bit bigger than our room in Paris. And it overlooks a cute square in front of a church.

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For dinner, we went to a pizza place. We ended up there on accident really. The place where we were going to go didn't sound appealing once we looked at the menu and the place we went was across the square you see in a picture below. But first, a picture of my pizza, the Vesuvio (sorry, I started eating it before rememberint to take a picture of it). It is basically a margherita pizza with ham. Patti had the Nonna, which had bacon, onion and olives. She thought it was the best pizza she ever had.

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We then walked around a little bit until it started to rain harder so we came back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the forecast for tomorrow is for more rain and highs only in the high 50s. Luckily, the hotel has umbrellas you can use for the day so we will see if any are still there when we go out in the morning. I don't think we are going to be in too much of a hurry.

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One thing we are working on getting used to is hearing German instead of French. I know next to no German so it is much harder than it was in France or will be in Italy. Of course, most people here speak English so it's just a matter of remembering to say "danke" instead of "merci" most of the time. So with that...

Auf wiedersehen,

Anne

Posted by AnneO 10:02 Archived in Switzerland Comments (3)

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