Paris for Beginners

My love affair with Paris began 21 years ago. I took advantage of an Air France fare sale and went to Paris for the first time. It was over my birthday weekend in March 1996.

It was only my second time in Europe, and really the first as an adult traveling alone. My first trip “across the pond” was to England on a one-month exchange program in college. I didn’t have any decisions to make during that trip as it was heavily scheduled.

But when I was getting ready to visit Paris for the first time….
I didn’t know what to expect.
I didn’t plan anything. This was before smart phones, the easy availability of the Internet, and all of the content you can quickly find online.
I didn’t know how to find a hotel. Really! This was before Expedia, etc. (My lovely travel agent/aunt booked my hotel.)
I didn’t know how to get around the city. I vaguely remembered learning about the metro from my 7th grade French teacher.
I didn’t know that tipping was not expected. (It’s weird the things you remember, huh?)
I didn’t understand jet lag, or how to deal with it.

I was only in Paris for 4 days that first time. I remember walking lots on the first day; which is still something I always do when I arrive in Europe from the U.S. But then it was because I was too intimidated to try public transportation.

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I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
I visited Mona Lisa.
I went to the catacombs. (I have only done this the one time. I found it too creepy, and damp.)
I tried a street crepe.
I went to Sainte-Chapelle (And forgot that I’ve been there, so I went again a few years ago.)
I ate lots of cheese and baguettes.

I wanted to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday to see the view and the sunset. However, I missed that chance because of a poorly timed nap, and jet lag.

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Arc de Triomphe / Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

I am taking my niece to Paris for her first trip next month. So, I’ve been thinking….what do I wish I had known 21 years ago, or what is a good beginners guide to Paris?

I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach to travel advice. I think many travel writers recommend the same Paris attractions: Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees.

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Louvre / Picture credit: Wikipedia

I don’t love the Louvre. I like and appreciate art; but I don’t think standing in a long line to enter the museum and then fighting the crowds to see Mona Lisa should be at the top of anyone’s Paris plan. Especially if you are there for a limited amount of time. I would, however, consider a guided tour of the Louvre. I did that for the first time at the Hermitage and I really appreciated my guide’s expertise and her ability to quickly navigate the museum with a limited amount of time.

I think this is what a Paris newbie needs to think about: What are your interests? Art? Architecture? Eating? Shopping? Gardens? How do you want to spend your time in Paris?

I am biased because I love the city; but I do think there is something for everyone in Paris, and I know everyone will not like what I like. So, what should I show my niece?

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River Seine

I plan to show my niece how to get around the city. I love the metro and it can get me just about any place I need to go. That is one thing I wish I had done during my first visit. I hope I can help her feel comfortable navigating the city from underneath it.

I gave my niece a guide book, with lots of post-its marking what I think we should do. I’ve asked her to read through it and think about what she is interested in doing.

I am going to take her to the Louvre, but I plan to be smart about it to avoid as many of the crowds as possible. Disclaimer: I am going to the Louvre on this particular trip because of the special exhibition of Vermeer paintings. Otherwise, I might have skipped it. I haven’t been to the Louvre in at least 5 years and don’t feel like I have missed it.

Where else do I plan to take her? And why?
Seine River cruise – because I think it is a good overview of Paris
Orangerie Museum – because it is my favorite art museum
Berthillon – because we all love ice cream
Eiffel Tower – for the view
At least one street market – to see how different shopping can be from our American big-box store experience
Rodin Museum – because I haven’t been
Pere Lachaise – breakfast with Oscar (one of my Paris traditions)

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Monet at L’Orangerie

After you identify what you want to see/do, the next step is to figure out when places will be open. Pretty much everything is open 7 days a week in the U.S. but that isn’t the case in Europe. That can be a tough lesson to learn; especially if you have limited time. And even though I am not a novice traveler, I still sometimes forget to make sure the places I want to go to will be open when I will be there. (Note to self: return to Florence and visit Uffizi.)

I look for places that have evening hours – some museums will stay open late one day per week. If you Google a place it will tell you when it is likely to be busy. That can be very helpful in planning the best time to be somewhere. I like to visit some museums, like the Louvre, in the evening. Typically fewer people, but certainly you will miss the large school groups.

I’ve also learned, the hard way, that even though I am tempted to squeeze in as much as possible; that typically results in fatigue rather than fun. Planning 2-3 things per day is a good start; but have a well prioritized back-up list also for days when you can conquer more.

I think having the right attitude is a big part of a successful trip. Things can, and will, go wrong. Thankfully I can usually just roll with it, regroup and/or move on.

One last beginners tip – it is always a good idea to learn a few key words and phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. I have never found the French to be rude, but I can speak enough French to be polite.

I am very excited to be playing tour guide for my niece in one of my favorite cities in the world! I can’t wait to see what she is interested in doing. I will even go back down to the catacombs if she really wants to see that, but I won’t volunteer it.

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Place de la Concorde

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52 Places to Go in 2017

This is a list put together and published by the New York Times.

I like lists like this because inevitably I learn about places I’ve never heard of before, and it gives me more to dream about for my bucket list. Plus, perhaps I will use this list to re-prioritize my travel plans for the next few years.

Here is the list. My notes on some of the locations are below.

  1. Canada
  2. Atacama Desert, Chile
  3. Agra, India
  4. Zermatt, Switzerland
  5. Botswana
  6. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  8. Tijuana, Mexico
  9. Detroit, Michigan
  10. Hamburg, Germany
  11. Marrakesh, Morocco
  12. Greenville, South Carolina
  13. Pedregal, Ecuador
  14. Penzance, England
  15. Osaka, Japan
  16. Stockholm, Sweden
  17. Sikkim, India
  18. Ile de Porquerollels, France
  19. Madagascar
  20. Sanya, China
  21. Cyprus
  22. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  23. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  24. Kingston, Jamaica
  25. Comporta, Portugal
  26. Kazakhstan
  27. Gabon
  28. Athens, Greece
  29. Northwest Puerto Rico
  30. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  31. Napa Valley, California
  32. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
  33. Sedona, Arizona
  34. Madrid
  35. Ketchum, Idaho
  36. Maldives
  37. Calabria, Italy
  38. Antequera, Spain
  39. Lofoten Island, Norway
  40. Ibera Wetlands, Argentina
  41. Istria, Croatia
  42. Placencia, Belize
  43. Langtang Region, Nepal
  44. Bozcaada, Turkey
  45. Birmingham, Alabama
  46. Sacred Valley, Peru
  47. Laikipia, Kenya
  48. Busan, South Korea
  49. Portland, Oregon
  50. Budapest, Hungary
  51. South Bronx, New York
  52. Ryukyu Islands, Japan

There were several places on this year’s list that I’ve never heard of before. I can always brush up on my geography!

Canada: I recommend visiting Canada, and I will be spending time in Canada in 2017. We own property in Ontario on Lake Huron and plan to spend lots of time there during the summer months. I want to see other parts of Canada as well; such as Vancouver, but that probably won’t happen in 2017.

Croatia: I am confident I will get there; and maybe as soon as 2018. I want my next cruise to be on the Mediterranean; and will pick an itinerary that includes Venice, Italy and Croatia.

Tijuana, Mexico: I was there when I was ten years old. I would like to return and see how much I can remember; but I think it is probably very different now than it was in the 1970’s. It was the first place I visited where I had to pay to use a public toilet. If I remember correctly, I just crawled under the door since I was a wee child.

Hamburg, Germany: I was there in 2014 for one day during a Baltic Cruise. I probably won’t go back, but am glad I was there. Great pretzels!

Marrakesh: Yes! Going to Morocco has been on my list for several years. I have to believe I will get there. Eventually.

Penzance: I used to visit England for work, and every time I scheduled a trip I tried to see if I could squeeze in some time in Penzance. It never worked out because it is just too far away from London to make a good day trip. I still hope I get the chance to visit Penzance.

Stockholm: I highly recommend this unique city. I love water, and Stockholm has lots of it! It remains at the top of my list of places I need to visit again. I was only there for one day. I need more time in Sweden.

Great Barrier Reef: This is just about the top of my bucket list. I am a certified scuba diver and really want to see this amazing part of our ocean before it is further destroyed.

Minneapolis: Well, isn’t this interesting? This is my home town and I very much approve of it being on the list. We have a beautiful city with great arts, outdoor activities and culture; but I don’t think enough people visit here because we seem to have a reputation for having 9 or 10 months of winter every year. That is a bit of an exaggeration. Come here! Even if it is just to see where Prince lived and died.

Napa Valley: I am scheduled to be in Napa Valley for work in April. I’ve been before, and am really looking forward to going back. I have a wine cellar in my house and would like to fill it up.

Madrid: I loved Madrid and hope I can visit there again. I would like to go during the winter months. Their summers are a bit too warm for me. Tapas!

It is a good list and gives me something to think about as I try and plan my travel for the next few years. 2017 is pretty much all planned out and I don’t think I will be adding anything new. If I did manage to squeeze in something later this year…it would be Japan or Australia. G’day mate!

 

 

 

 

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Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

I am starting with the end of my last cruise for the next series of posts.  

Sailing the Na Pali coast was the last part of my January cruise on Norwegian’s Pride of America. 

I’ve been to Kauai before, and sailed this beautiful coastline in 2001; and it did not fail to dazzle me again. 


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The Daily Post: Or

I have been fortunate to have traveled to many of Europe’s great cities, and I love most of them. There are two, however, that I love the most – and have visited the most: London and Paris.

When scheduling a short (less than 2 weeks) trip to Europe, I thought that I should pick one place to visit; in this case, London OR Paris. But I didn’t want to choose. I wanted them both, and that is precisely what I did last week. I spent 3 nights in London and 3 nights in Paris.

As I write this…suffering from jet lag and probably getting sick… I am not sure it was the best decision, but I had so much fun!

I love Paris for the art, architecture and food.

I love London for the theatre, museums and history.

Here are some of my pictures from last week.

A small break in the clouds above the Grand Palais.


The Orangerie is my favorite Paris museum. I ❤️ Monet.


A close up of one of the flowers.


French champagne.


Simple but delicious sole.


Champs Elysees selfie


Breakfast with Oscar Wilde in London


London Eye


Christ Church in Oxford


High tea in a cat cafe

Paris or London? Always a difficult choice. Do both if you can.

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End of a dry spell

I haven’t been traveling lately. And for good reasons. But that is about to change. 

There are lots of reasons why I’ve stayed close to home – primarily because my mom died almost six months ago. 

The dry spell is ending. I have three trips in the next three weeks. 

The first trip is next weekend with my dad to their house in Arizona. I will be going through my mom’s stuff; donating her clothes, and bringing home family stuff. Dad plans to stay down there for a few weeks. 

I will be in my former home in two weeks. I am going to Washington DC for a long weekend with my cousin. One good thing that came from losing mom was reconnecting with relatives. I know it will be an awesome weekend. 

The last of these three trips will be fantastic! I am going back to Europe, and I can’t wait. I am so looking forward to being out of the country during the home stretch of this horrible presidential election. But I will vote before I go. 


Other life change – I’ve changed jobs and will be traveling occasionally for work. I am looking forward to being a road warrior again.  

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Daily Post: Learning

I always thought of myself as a good student, but I don’t recall learning very much about World War 2 when I was in high school. Perhaps the curriculum at my school district was not very deep?

When I planned my Viking River Cruise last year, I didn’t realize it would come with a history lesson. But I guess that isn’t much of a stretch considering most of the cruise was in Germany, and we visited many historically significant places.

I won’t try and regurgitate what I learned, because I am not confident about how much I could actually remember. Plus, there are much better sources about WWII history than my blog. 🙂

One of my favorite cities on that trip was Nuremberg. One thing I do remember learning as a child was to hate the Nazis. And that was also the theme during our day in Nuremberg.

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Court Room 600 – site of the WWII Nazi trials

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The defendants sat on the left side of the room.

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Side by side photos of how the courtroom looked during the Nazi trials and how it looks today. Many differences; cross, seating, 2nd level windows for reports

My grandfather served in the military during WWII, but he only served stateside. He never talked about his military career, or the war. My mom told me he never served abroad because he was German. I didn’t question that as a child, but I do now. Was being German really a reason why a young man wouldn’t be able to serve his country (born in the USA) while fighting the country of his ancestors? He had 4 small children at home – perhaps that was really why they didn’t send him abroad.

I hate that I didn’t spend more time learning from my grandparents when they were still alive. I have so many questions, about so many topics. I wish I had taken better advantage of them. Plus, I miss them!

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Daily Post: Surface

I love the water. And the surface of water is something I enjoy photographing – especially when it is calm and reflective.

But who doesn’t love whales? Especially when they are breaching. It was so much fun to see them breaking the surface of the water as they were coming up; but more so when they came back down. Our guide said breaching is not typical behavior when they are in Alaska. You are more likely to see it when the whales are near Mexico and Hawaii in the winter.

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Whale watching in Juneau, Alaska

It was almost two years ago when I went on an Alaskan cruise. These pictures are all from that amazing vacation.

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Salmon just at the surface of the water

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New Eddystone Rock

Alaska – go there!

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