Sunday, August 20, 2017

Paris in just one day!

Solo for the first time.
Paris for the first time.
A day in a new country.
A day trip in a new country for the first time.

Paris the city of love, Paris the city of love and Paris - the city of many of my wishlists was finally going to be ticked off this summer. The plan was to start a euro trip from Paris with one of my friends and then meet another one in Prague. However, the universe had other plans and my Paris itinerary was shortened from 3 days to just 1 day. Essentially it acted like a stopover to Prague as there are no direct flights to Prague from Mumbai and I had to anyways flight via Paris.

But I was determined to not let this dampen my spirits and make the most of what i can see and do in Paris in that one day that I had. Also, like i mentioned earlier, this was a trip of many firsts for me so I was really excited to make it a memorable one. And I am glad I did not cut this part of my trip because it was so much fun doing things all by myself, chalking my own itinerary without anyone else's preferences interfering mine and finding my way through the Paris lanes and public transport. Made me feel more independent, confident and was liberating at the same time. Seriously, even if it for a short while just try a solo trip and you'll know what am I talking about. And Europe with it's accessible transport everywhere is a great place to start out! 

So that's about travelling solo, now going back to the Paris itinerary. Since it was my first time in Paris and I had just a day I wanted to ensure I atleast cover the key sights and here are some tips:

A)List down the key sights you want to visit
B) Shortlist the ones that are close to each other so that you dont waste too much time in commute
C) Plan this before the trip so that you dont waste time on that day and chalk it out on a map. 
D) The above will also help you choose your accomodation. Plan your stay closest to the first spot you marked in your route map.
E) Choose a hotel close to a metro station
F) Pre-research on how to reach the hotel from the airport so that again, you do not waste time on that day. Youve got just some hours right?

So that's how I went about chalking down sights and I knew Eiffel obviously had to be a part of the plan I also wanted to have the best view of the city because so many blogs spoke about it, and yes also not miss out on some Parisian shopping and eating. So here's sharing what all I did there -

First stop --> Hotel Elysees Bassano -
The airport has direct shuttle buses that take you to various parts of the city. I chose Elysees bassano as it is close to the famous champs de elysees and that is where i wanted to start my day. The bus dropped me at a stop that was 5 minute walk away from the hotel. The hotel was small like most in Paris but had all amenities one would require. And a lift and a great bed!

Next stop --> Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees
After a quick nap and a nice shower I stepped out to the nearest site. Arc de Triomph which faces the most famous street of paris champs elysees

paris blog
Arc de Triomphe

paris blog

Next stop--> Laduree
How can a trip to Paris be complete without indulging in some french wine and macaroons. And which better place than the iconic Laduree to indulge in some. A walk at champs elysees has to include a visit to Laduree there.

paris blog

paris blog

paris blog

paris blog

Next stop--> The Eiffel Tower, River Seine, Trocadero gardens
From Champs Elysees take a quick uber ride to be dropped at the Eiffel just facing the Trocadero. Now Eiffel has two sides - one facing Champs de Mar gardens and the other Trocadero gardens an station. I got off at the side facing Trocadero so that I could take the train then to my next stop.
Also, while at the Eiffel you can skip going on top to get the city view. there are lesser commonly known places to get the city view and a city view that has Eiffel in it too. Besides not going up the Eiffel will save you hours of waiting in queue when you are time pressed. 

While I am making this sound so functional I completely forgot to tell you how the first sighting of this monument gave me the feels! Once i was done drooling i just went click click click.

Ticking off bucket list

paris blog
Captured from Trocadero
River Seine

Tip: Cross the road and then click your pics to get the whole of the Eiffel and avoid being photobombed by hordes of tourists. While you are here do not forget to take home some eiffel keychains and magnets as souveneirs from the trinket shops. The walk from the Eiffel to Trocadero also covers the river seine. Trocadero gardens is a great spot to take some pretty pictures of Eiffel and just sit and admire its beauty. The metro station too is just a walk down the stairs. One can choose to come back here in the night to get an evening view of the Eiffel sparkling with lights.

paris blog

Next stop --> Palais Royal and Louvre
From trocadero walk a few steps down to enter the station. I didn't really know the route but there machines that help you plan the route map. The destination stop was Palais Royale Louvre Musuem and checked the fare and bought the ticket. think it was not more than 20 minutes to the destination station and the Museum Palace is just bang opposite the stop once you come out. Now since I was time pressed I didnt enter the musuem just marvelled at the beauty of the Louvre, the palace and the fountains from outside. It was a pretty place.

paris blog

paris blog

eiffel blog

Next stop --> Perfume shopping at Fragonard
Like I mentioned earlier, Besides trinkets I also wanted to buy something parisian for my loved ones back home. So i had researched on original french perfumeries and came across Fragonard on one of the websites. They have a wide variety of perfumes that will not pinch your pocket. I bought lots of them to give as gifts. They came for around EUR 17 each. The shop was in a galleria mall right next to the louvre that houses a lot of other french stores and cafes.

perfumes paris blog
Bought from Fragonard
Next stop --> City view from Montparnasse tower
Now I didnt want to lose sunlight before my next stop. So i grabbed a quick snack and started out for Montparnasse tower. I chose this place to get the entire city view just before the sun sets. There wasn't much queue hence unlike going on top of the Eiffel this really didnt take any time. Sat here for a good hour just admiring the beauty of the city and Eiffel against the sun setting.

Paris blog

paris blog
Eiffel from Montparnasse tower

Next stop --> dinner and back to the hotel
After Montparnasse, i wouldve ideally liked to go back and see the eiffel by night with lights twinkling however, I was really dead with the jet lag and all the walking around and I knew I was going to come back to Paris someday with my husband and wanted to reserve that sight for that time. So I decided to call it a day with some good warm dinner and a glass of wine that I grabbed at a place called Sophia's just next to my hotel. Summer having longer hours of daylight really helped me cover whatever I wanted to. And I retired pleased as a punch looking forward to my flight next day for Prague.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A 3 day trip to Amsterdam - Day 1

"Whatt? 3 days? That's too less for Europe!"

"This is like a trip to Lonavla.."

"Are you sure you don't want to extend the trip?"

This pretty much sums up the reactions I got from everyone who knew I was travelling from Mumbai to Amsterdam for just 3 days. But believe me 3 days (excluding the travel time) is enough to cover this cute small city. And also this was going to be my first trip to Europe ever.. I didn't care how long or short it is. All that mattered is that I am finally making a vacation to my dream destination. And while Amsterdam may not be the best or the most scenic town to kick off one's European journey it is easily reachable (read non stop flight from Jet Airways), easily accessible (by just walking or tram-ming) and to all those who are money-wise just like me the 3 day trip will not cost you more than what you would spend in Dubai if you choose a budget stay.

So here goes how I spent my 3 days in Amsterdam:

Travel Date - May first week. The weather was a little cloudy, breezy and definitely cold for a person coming from Mumbai (average temperature in the day 12 degrees and dropped to around 6 in the nights). the good part though was that the sunset was at 9:30 everyday which allowed us to enjoy daylight for long.
Air Travel - Non stop flight from Jet Airways - Mumbai to Amsterdam, 9 hours of travel
Visa - Schengen Visa applicable for all Indians. All details here.
Hotel - The Times Hotel - A cute boutique hotel (most of the hotels are like this) which had canal facing rooms and big windows that made our tiny room look bigger and brighter with all the sunshine. All the sun light also helped us in getting up early to make the most of the day. 

The Times Hotel
View from the hotel

This is located in one of the residential, more peaceful and non touristy area of the city Herengracht. (all the streets that have the canal bridge are called gracht). And hence, was a litttle expensive. But if you like me are keen on the view then this was pretty worth it. The free wifi worked well and helped us with our free whatsapp calls to our families to give them our daily updates. Breakfast was not a part of our package, so will not be able to comment on how good or bad it was.

Day 1 

Landed in the morning, the train station is right outside the airport. Collected the 3 day Amsterdam pass  for EUR 25 that allowed unlimited rides within the city through trains, trams, buses and ferries. I then took a train ride from the Airport station to Central Station and then a taxi ride from there to the hotel ( on the instructions of my hotel staff). It sounds smooth but it wasn't the first time. Had to ask a few people at the airport for guidance. But the Dutch unlike some of their snooty neighbours are very friendly and sweet.

Post check in in hotel took a short two hour nap to catch up with sleep till my friend arrived from London. Once she did we went out to grab a quick lunch and explore the area outside and cover our days agenda. Our first meal in the city was at The Pancake Bakery. We ordered savoury and sweet pancakes and finished them in no time. 

Tulips everywhere
Pizza Caprese pancake
Pizza caprese pancake

Dutch Pancake
Dutch pancake with chocolate icecream - soo good
Post which we took our first tram ride and landed at Rembrandt - the tourist hub. We walked to the Museum of Bags and purses (forgot to mention but Amsterdam we felt could be easily called the city of museums. They have museums for everything and anything. It would be safe to say they have a museum every 5 blocks). But it was shut. Most of the museums shut by 5 and have long queues. So do try to cover them in the morning.

Rembrandt Square
Rembrandt Square - This is 9pm!! no sign of sunset
Cheese & More Amsterdam
Take home some classic Dutch Truffle cheese from here
treats and cakes
Picked up some treats on the way

cakes amsterdam

Since I was catching up with my friend after long ( she stays n London post marriage) we thought of stopping by a pub. We had two glasses of red wine each ( to battle the weather). Damages for 4 wines - EUR 15 which is cheaper even by Indian standards. We then decided to visit the world famous Red light district. Turns out it was walking distance from Rembrandt at Dam Sqaure. But not before stopping at these attractive shops for some cheese and treats. Bought the gouda truffle cheese that is made there locally. 

The Red Light district is just like what they show in the movies however not sleazy. The whole street was lit up with red and other colourful lights with women dressed in their sexiest best standing like mannequins on display while people window shop and stare. We also went for one of the shows for the experience of it. The show basically has multiple mini shows. We saw around 3-4 and then got bored. it runs through the night and EUR 40 once you walk in you can stay there till 3 am. For those interested there is also a Museum of Sex and a Museum of prostitution ( see I wasn't exaggerating about the "city of museums" bit after all!) to know how it all started.

beautiful canal view amsterdam
Blurry but beautiful!
Once the stroll through the district got over we headed for dinner back to Rembrandt square. We found a small place that sold vegetarian falafels (EUR 5 onwards). pretty yummy and filling and decided to end the long day we had.

Will put up more on day 2 & 3 soon.