Two trips to Paris

This post was inspired by a recent post by my blogger friend Bri, in her own words, ‘a 22 year old with an intense need to see the world.’ Read all about her adventures at A Little Slice of Bri. Cool name, right?! But wait a sec, and this might sound a bit strange to many, but Bri hates Paris!

What? How could someone hate Paris, right? But when I read Bri’s post about why she hates Paris, I started reflecting upon my own visits to Paris on two separate occasions. I was quite close to having a disastrous first trip myself & might have completely agreed with her if I hadn’t been saved by one more day on my first visit, and with the second trip this year, a very happy one at that 🙂

The first time I arrived in Paris was the day after Mr.A had returned from a trip to China, so the poor guy was totally messed up in terms of body clock 😦 Plus, we booked cheap flights between Stockholm & Paris, which meant we had to fly to and from airports far outside of the city viz. Skavsta outside of Stockholm and Beauvais on the outskirts of Paris. Unfortunately, we hadn’t accounted for the additional travel time 😦 So we arrived  at our hotel by mid-day, already tired. Hotel rooms in Paris are not my favorite, they are tiny and cramped up, and you’d have to shell out a lot for a relatively small improvement. Nonetheless, we ended up spending a lot of time sleeping off the fatigue on the day we arrived. We were going to spend only the weekend; to my dismay one day was already gone! So my first day in Paris was quite in tune with yours, Bri!

But we decided that Sunday was going to be different. Totally refreshed, we cashed in on  all the major sights with the help of the L’Open Tours hop-on-hop-off bus. The Louvre is enormous and grand but we didn’t spend too much time there. We prioritized the Mona Lisa, but it was too small and too many tourists like ourselves were trying to get a closer look. The irony, I know! It was a bit disappointing, but that’s what I mostly hear from fellow travelers, so no surprise there. It was fun to take the quintessential illusory photos at the Pyramid, though. Up at the Eiffel Tower, the view was enjoyable, and I liked the modern history around it’s construction. We rode the bus along Champs-Élysées to the end of Place Charles de Gaulle. It was interesting to draw parallels between the Arc de Triomphe and similar arches in other cities (I wrote a guest post on A Date with Delhi, inspired by that visit.) A high point of the day was the grand Notre-Dame Cathedral.  Even better, we finished the day with a really nice dinner with a classmate from our Manila days. We were exhausted by the end, but it wasn’t so bad after all 🙂

The second time around, however, things were looking up. Earlier this year we celebrated the wedding of that same friend in Paris! It’s not just that I’m slightly biased because this couple is dear to me, but I do believe theirs was one of the most beautiful and romantic weddings I’ve ever been to. On a bonus we got to hang out with a bunch of other friends who studies with Mr.A and me at B-school in Manila. It was an absolute joy to reconnect after so many years – a mini reunion of sorts. Thanks to the bride, we also got to spend a day at Disney Land Paris, trying out all the thrilling rides! Back in the city, we followed one of Rick Steves’ audio guides and walked by the Seine river at a leisurely pace, going back to the Notre-Dame Cathedral during the day and watching the shimmering Eiffel Tower (from a little distance away) at night.

I honestly think our company affected our mood the second trip in a hugely positive manner. And it does take a lot of things to click together to bring about an aha! feeling, but only a couple of negatives can spoil an entire trip. So I would say, why not give Paris a second chance, and never say never 🙂

[On a side note, if you haven’t tried out the Rick Steves’ Europe guides, I would highly recommend giving it a go. You can use the app to use it on the go & enjoy many a nook & corner that regular guide books do not provide. They are extremely well researched and thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve tried different guides in Rome, Florence, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and many others, and never been disappointed. Nope, he didn’t pay me to say all that, I am a true fan 😉 ]

 

Thorny/ Jardin Exotique d’Eze

 

 

Prickly, bristly, thorny, but gorgeous nevertheless. That is how I remember the outstanding inhabitants of the Jardin Exotique d’Eze, also called Jardin Botanique d’Eze. The botanical garden holds an excellent collection of cacti & succulents, on the hilltop above the medieval village of Èze. It overlooks grand views of cliffs on the one hand, rolling villages on another, and the wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea on the other. The garden undulates with circuitous paths leading to the top; along the way you can admire the unique and rare specimens. Sculptures of the female form scatter the grounds as though living in harmony among the thorns.

 

 

Around the French Riviera:

Mr.A hired a car on our trip to the south of France, so we enjoyed the flexibility of being able to explore several of these beautiful villages between the essential visits to Cannes, Nice and Monaco. Road-trips are always a fun part of our trips, as Mr.A and I firmly believe that the journey is as important as the destination 🙂 Èze is a short 30 minute drive away from Nice, and it is totally worth the detour. If you are done with the glitzy part of town or had your fill of the beaches, Èze, with its cacti garden, stone houses and tiny boutiques, could offer you a peaceful diversion to finish off your trip to the Côte d’Azur. I would also recommend St. Paul de Vence, another medieval fort town on a hill with narrow lanes, amazing art galleries and a general air of history about it, as well as Grasse, known as the world’s capital of perfume thriving on its perfumeries since the late 18th century, where you could take a guided tour and educate yourself about the science behind scents and noses. There are so many obscure and cozy places around the scenic Riviera, exploring as you go is definitely a good way of making the most of it.

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Jardin Exotique d’Eze.jpg

Travel checklist : 2015

The new year brings forth reflections & plans. Here is my travel checklist for last year & I’ll soon post about my plans for 2016 🙂

Öland, Sweden : Last spring, Mr.A & I went on a fantastic road trip with some friends to the island of Öland in the south-west of Sweden. Sometimes one enjoys the journey more than the destination. But in this case, we loved both equally. We rented a van so we could all be in the same vehicle. It made the trip more fun, we went along singing songs and playing games. The island itself, including our quaint little cottage was super cozy & cute. We drove around the sights most of the time but also rented bikes one afternoon. It was great timing too, since spring was just creeping up and everything felt bright & cheerful.

Faro, Portugal : We were simply ecstatic to be part of a beautiful destination wedding in Faro. A Lebanese friend got married to his lovely Jamaican bride. We had been to Lisbon & Porto in December the year before and we jumped at the opportunity to visit Portugal once more. I’ve posted pictures from Faro at least thrice on Sunny District! It was a fantastic event with dinner at a seaside restaurant, touching speeches, setting of sky lanterns to with the newly weds, and then a crazy night of partying hard & dancing harder! Mr.A and I hung out for a few more days and went around Portugal’s heavenly Algarve region which boasts of serene beaches spotted with marshlands and islands. We took a boat ride to see the famous desert island, Ilha Deserta, and walked around the perimeter. On another boat trip we visited the Benagil Sea Cave. This cave is often included in lists of natural wonders around the world. The sea flows right into the cave and the high ceiling even lets boats drive in during low tide. What a perfect way to end the ride!

Cinque Terrre, Lucca & Florence, Italy : In the summer my sister & her husband visited us from India, and being the history buffs that those two are, they had to visit the must-dos for all lovers of history, Rome and Florence. Mr.A and I had been to Rome before, but we joined them on the rest of the vacation travelling through Tuscany. We started with Lucca, a medieval town known to have retained its medieval city wall. We rented bikes over the wall and visited several old structures. We rented the prettiest apartment ever, it was so old and artistically done up, we fell so in love with it, we didn’t want to leave! Then we headed to Cinque Terre, that stunning cluster of towns along the Italian Riviera. Oh so beautiful! Sea, breeze, sun, food and wine, all of it was to die for. Next stop was Florence, which was another awesome place where we learnt an enormous amount about the Renaissance history, art & culture.

Gothenburg, Sweden : Sweden’s second biggest city after Stockholm is Gothenburg, or Göteborg in Swedish. This was a work trip but the office & hotel were quite centrally located and add to it the long summer days, I had enough time to check out the main sights. My colleague said  let’s do the Paddan, the quintessential guided tour of Gothenburg by boat. Best suggestion ever. The guide on board had a funny commentary about the history of the city & the monuments or buildings that we passed. The boat glides under many bridges along the tour, some of them so low during a high tide that we had to duck our heads by getting off our seats and crouching on the floor! Definitely a ride to remember 🙂

French Riviera, France : We took off on Mr.A’s birthday again. Seems to be becoming a tradition, this November getaway of ours, but I’m not one to complain! French Riviera. We hired a car and saw some lovely places along the way… Nice, Monaco, Cannes, Eze, Antibes, St. Paul de Vence, Grasse… all so charming… promenades along the sea, villages in the hills, artisans’ workshops, painters’ ateliers, racing circuits, perfumeries… we could have stayed on forever.

A wonderful year indeed! Do tell me how yours went.