Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Paris - Europe Trip Part 4

Italian dog we tried to make friends with

Work is out of control so it has been difficult to get the last post of our epic European adventure up - but here it is.  We decided last minute to book a cab back to the Naples airport which is a 45 minute journey from Salerno.  When researching things in advance several transfer companies had quoted stupid money - 180 Euros (270 CAD) for the four of us.  Every other day but Sunday there is a shuttle bus that is very reasonable that leaves from the train station going to the airport.  We were leaving on a Sunday which I wish I would have known about this before making all our hotel arrangements.  Anyway, I refused to pay that much so our plan was to take a short cab to the Salerno train station, local metro train to Naples, grab a SITA bus to the Naples airport all taking 2-3 hours depending on if the train was on time.  That would have still cost us about 80 Euros.  After our cancelled train episode taking the local train to Pompeii I decided we were going to take a cab to the airport instead.  I texted my AirBNB guy to see what kind of arrangement he could make.  And just like that for 120 Euros (still expensive but doable at $180 CAD) we were picked up by a local taxi.  By this time in the trip my foot was swollen and hurting, after doing 105,000 steps in one week in Italy.  I didn't think I could make it the cheaper route so we paid up and got whisked to Naples in a nice clean safe cab with a very nice taxi driver.  By the way, I strongly recommend anyone with a smart phone download the google translate app which works even offline.  Halfway to Naples one of our party needed to use a restroom and so we typed up the request and the taxi driver read it and quickly exited the freeway.  It certainly saved our bacon as he was very smiley but only spoke 3 words of English and combined with our 3 words of Italian we would have had a hard time communicating this.  Anyway, we gave him an extra tip for that.  


Our flight out of Naples was with the discount airline Easyjet.  They have the best reputation of all the discount airlines who fly within Europe and we were pleasantly surprised by our experience.  Yes, you pay for every little thing but we found the staff was extremely nice and plane very new.  Knowing our luggage would be well over their carryon limit I had paid for us to each check 1 bag when I purchased the tickets.  It is cheaper to buy your luggage allowance upfront with that airline rather than at the last minute.  They only allow 1 item as carryon and it was supposed to be less than 10kg.  Many were clearly over that - and after 1/3 of us had started to enter the boarding area they told everyone else all luggage had to be checked and could not go as carryon even if under 10kg.  This did not surprise me - people try and take advantage of it otherwise.  We landed 1/2 hr late due to traffic at Paris Orly and not being able to land but fortunately the car service BT Transfer I had hired was still there waiting for us.  Because there was four of us with luggage it was cheapest to pre-hire a service for 60 Euro to take us to our hotel. I highly recommend them - on time, friendly drivers, clean vehicles.  We ended up with Mercedes vans both directions. If we had been travelling without the boys likely we would have taken a group shuttle as would be cheaper. The van easily held 6-8 people but we had it all to ourselves.  Our drivers spoke English and we booked online without credit card and paid cash upon being delivered to our destination.

We got to our hotel around 6pm the first night so were hungry and to be perfectly honest tired of pasta and pizza by that point.  We went to a small bistro right across from the hotel and had the very best french fries, hamburgers, and ham sandwiches (with fried egg on top called Croquet Madame).  A little shell shocked at the prices but we made an error and tipped the first night.  France includes a service fee so tipping is not really required.  We made sure to not make the same mistake on our other restaurant meals there.

Restaurant just down from our hotel
 We stayed in a hotel called Astotel Hotel Lorette which is in the 9th district of Paris.  We loved it.  Our room was a double superior and the boys got a twin standard.  For 15 Euro more a night ours was twice the size, theirs like a shoe box.  I still highly recommend the hotel though, you get what you pay for and the twin superior rooms were sold out when I booked them.  They had the best breakfast of any hotel in Europe we have been to with crepes, cheeses, fresh squeezed orange juice, eggs, pastries, tea, coffee and a myriad of other things you would want.  They were also right between two metro stops so very handy for us to get around the city of Paris.  For what we paid I consider this hotel a huge bargain in Paris.

I had prebooked our time slot to go to the Eiffel Tower months in advance and managed to snag tickets that were valid to go to the very top platform.  There are three viewing platforms.  One you walk up to, the second you take an elevator to and the third to the top platform which you again have to wait for an elevator to from the second platform.   If we had to do it all over again - I would have just bought the second platform as I actually thought the views were nicer from there as you were closer to the ground and could see more.  We had a crystal clear sunny 27 degree celcius day so perfect for seeing it.

The only thing I didn't like about the Eiffel tower:  The crowds.  They were massive.  If we hadn't of prepurchased tickets we would have waited in a 3 hour line just to get to the 2nd platform.  You have to go through 3 sets of security to even get in the lineup for the elevators.  They do a bag search.  They remove anything sharp (don't bring your wine bottle openers here).  They tried to confiscate my stepson's redbull because it was pressurized.  He instead drank it on the spot lol.  Anyway, we enjoyed it but due to the shoving that occured to try to get back down in the elevators and the fact that they don't have any staff actually controlling the crowds preventing that from happening I wouldn't go again.  I hate crowds to begin with but all four of us felt the same way.  Keep in mind my youngest stepson weighs about 250 lbs of pure muscle as is a body builder so he got fed up and just stopped the crowd for us by putting his arms out and allowing us to move forward.  One should not have to bring a bouncer with them to see the eiffel tower safely, just my opinion. The views are spectacular but there are other places that you can see great views in Paris ie from Sacre Couer and Arc De Triomphe.

If for any reason you can't prepurchase tickets as they are sold out I highly recommend just paying for a guided tour - tour companies have access to the tickets and they avoid the line similar to our pre-purchased tickets.  Yes, more expensive but so worth it.


The Siene River


Us!
 We were somewhat deflated by the temperature and crowds after that and my foot had swelled up and I was having difficulty walking.  Yes, the same one that I had tendonitis on prior to our trip.  I didn't let it bother me for most of the trip but I think the heat made it worse plus the week prior of walking.  With only 2 days in Paris we made a fast choice and decided to take the metro straight to the other attraction we wanted to see - the Arc De Triomphe.  I have a picture of it hanging in my living room so had to see it.  Napoleon had it built and it is the start of the Champs Elysees.  It is a miracle people don't get killed here daily trying for photos as when the light changes people run to the middle of the street for photos.  Not worth it in my opinion, I chose to take this photo as we were crossing the street.
Arc De Triomphe and start of Champs Elysees
 Our final day in Paris I could barely walk. We told the boys that we were tired and they were welcome to do whatever they wanted in Paris on their own - by this time we were certain they had the Metro down and would be fine - our only stipulation was that they went together.  In the end we were all tired and they chose to go with us to Sacre Couer which was just a short walk through Pigalle from our hotel.  It is at the top of a hill though, and in the hot hot weather we were very wilted when we got to the top.  Very pretty church with more great views of Paris.  We are not really art museum people so stayed clear of those but we did get a good taste of what Paris had to offer.  The only thing we were shocked by was that food in restaurants is the most expensive place in Europe that we have gone to.  And if you order a drink of any kind with your meal you are looking at 5-8 Euros just for that.  I would like to see other parts of France in future travels and am sure the prices are nothing like Paris.
Sacre Coeur
Two nights after we got home there was a terrorist incident in Paris within a 15 minute walk from our hotel there.  Does that mean people shouldn't travel to Paris?  Absolutely not - beautiful city with lovely places to see if you can stand the crowds.  Unfortunately these incidents happen all over the world, even in Canada so don't let that stop you from travelling and given the chance I would do it all over again.

We managed to miss a rolling Air France strike that occured the 2 days prior to our return flight and the only incident on the way home was that our luggage was misplaced somewhere between Vancouver and home.  By the time we landed at home they knew 1 piece of luggage had been left behind and would either be delivered the next day or we could pick it up at our local airport and get $100 future credit - we took that option since it was a 5 minute drive from the airport.

I oversaved for this trip - had 3 budgets - economy, realistic and stupid.  We came under $80 each to my realistic budget of $3250 per person.  We knew this trip would be costly, likely our most costly ever since it was four adults (two of which have to eat enormous amounts of food and 4 meals a day, no lie) going to two of the most expensive countries and eating out for a lot of our meals.    Fortunately there is money left over in the travel account for our next adventure.  Yes, we could have done many things cheaper - but that is not what this trip was about.  We had a blast with two of our adult kids and spent the money to do it.  We have zero debt and saved all the money for the trip ahead of time, only using credit cards to get points along the way.  By the way, most restaurants in Italy do not take credit cards if you plan to go there.  Cash only.  That figure also included us flying to Edmonton prior to meet up with the boys so we could all depart on the same flight which they appreciated and I think made things go much smoother.

Things of note:

Metro in Rome 1.40 Euro each way
Metro in Paris 1.90 Euro each way (but you could buy 10 ticket packs that would make it cheaper)
Rome has Uber but they were far more expensive than the taxi that my AirBNB host booked for us both ways
The subway in Rome was fairly new and nice and clean - I was surprised (not sure why)
Subway in Paris smelled like pee - and was quite a bit older than I was expecting
Both subway systems are safe to use though, a great way to get around

Down the road we have one more Europe trip, likely in 2020 with my stepson and his girlfriend (she pays her own way) and one trip to somewhere hot in 3-4 years with my stepdaughter as we promised all of them to take them to another country.  She doesn't have any inclination to go to Europe though that may change in a couple of years time.

Our next adventure is already being planned, but it will be a beach vacation with 100% relaxation just the two of us.  We need it.  We landed and hit the ground running.  Ever since we got home our business has been stupid busy - it looks like another crazy year for us that way.

I plan to share more pictures of our adventure in future posts, I think I took a dozen pictures of old doors so expect to see some of those lol.

28 comments:

  1. I love visiting Italy and France via your blog. I have been reading but not posting. Like you , life has been crazy busy and I have nnot been commenting. I think I am regaining a little control here.

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    1. Every time I think I've regained control we get another inquiry for business which we really can't accomodate until the fall but they have to be fleshed out as we are trying to line up business for then. We used to think our summers were quiet, now they are just as busy as the rest of the year!

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  2. Oh, my dear! I enjoyed every single word and photo! What an amazing trip!

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  3. loved reading about your trip and seeing the photos. I look forward to seeing the doors pics - we took a lot of those too.

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    1. So many pretty doors! Our doors are rather boring in Canada, at least in the West where no building is generally over 150 years old

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  4. I saw that first picture and thought, "Wow, Buddy sure did change a lot while you were away!" lol. I definitely know that I could not have been able to keep up the pace of visiting all those places and I hate crowds too. You did and saw so much in such a short time that I would have needed another week off just to rest. Good thing I did a bit of traveling when I was younger so I don't feel like I missed out completely. I was lucky enough to see Salzburg, a very beautiful city.

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    1. That dog was so beautiful. His owner obviously brushes him for hours. He/she was a huge standard poodle and very elegant. Wanted nothing to do with us though, just watched cautiously while he waited for his master to come back. I would love to see Salsburg, maybe a future trip. We are tired. Our next trip will have almost nothing planned as we really need rest

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  5. What a great trip and photos. And really helpful info, too. Hope your foot is recovering.

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    1. The foot is getting better but as with your eye not fast enough for me :)

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  6. I loved this post. I will have to read the other two which I have not read due to illness.

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  7. A wonderful holiday, great pictures, welcome home to the hectic life.

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    1. Our life is what we have made it, a wildly successful business lol. We are raising rates so we can work less, if people want us that bad they will have to pay more to get us. Hubby is 56 this weekend and he's tired after working very very hard for others and for our own company. We need more balance that is for sure.

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  8. Wow that sounds like a wonderful trip. Not sure I could do "cities" like that though as like you I hate the crowds. I'm very impressed with the way you researched your trip too - but then again I suppose as a party of four you had to didn't you. It's been lovely to see your photos. Anna

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    1. I am a researcher and was a travel agent for 15 years with Thomas Cook (managed an agency) so I am used to all the bits that add up to a great holiday. We didn't have access to the internet back then, that has made it far easier!

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  9. This has been great info for when we head to Europe! THANK YOU for being so specific, even though you probably wondered if we were getting anything out of all your little details. (We were, and are.)

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    1. I sometimes make my posts specific so that if anyone asks me later I have it documented lol. I also keep a master list of everything we did (itinerary from before the trip) so that I have a good record. You'd be surprised how often I go back to them when a friend asks about this or that as they are going to the same place

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  10. You had a amazing trip and all of your planning paid off. Sorry your foot made the end difficult. - Margy

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    1. We were all tired by then anyway, I didn't let it bother me when in Italy, but I am not 18 anymore lol

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  11. Appreciate you taking the time off from your hectic business schedule to post. Sorry to hear about your foot. I had a second tumble that ended up with me getting stitches in Rome just above my right eye. I haven't posted for a week as I am trying to keep up the pace of touring around as )well as rebuild my body. We arrived in Nice late afternoon yesterday ( May 31 ) and like you were tired of pasta and pizza so we settled for a veggie burger and fries :))

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    1. OMG Contessa! Stitches - very unwelcome souvenirs from your trip. Please just enjoy the rest of your trip. Funny, we even went to non-tourist restaurants and still just pizza and pasta. We ended up having large salads with chicken one night in Salerno as wanted some healthy food without bread or pasta as the base

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  12. What a great read. Your tips and experiences are so useful.
    I'm so glad the weather played nicely after our dreadfully long Winter. Paris has to be seen in the sunshine.
    Sorry about your foot, I hope you're getting some relief from it now. xxx

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    1. My foot is a little better although I am still not doing 10,000 steps a day, feel really lazy but it needed a rest. I am going to go back to the DR next week to see if he has any ideas, maybe go to physiotherapy

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  13. Sorry that your foot gave you so much trouble. It seems you managed to power through and have a wonderful time in Paris.

    I know I was shell shocked by the food prices in Denmark (Copenhagen) and London as well. I was told to expect double what we would pay here and that was about right.

    When we visited Paris on the cruise (never again, as it took 6 hours of riding a bus to and from), our first stop was the Arc de Triomphe. The traffic was insane! We didn't visit the Eiffel Tower but had photo ops from various vantage points. Good enough for me as I dislike crowds and am afraid of heights.

    Hope things slow down just a bit so you can rest up the foot and get well.

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  14. You would have hated going up the Eiffel tower - good call on that. We looked around the Arc de Triomphe for a few minutes, went 2 blocks down the Champs Elysees then returned to the metro to get home, just worn out!

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  15. I love how your posts are chock full of travel tips! You don't sugar coat REALITY. The weather in Paris looks great - such blue skies. I hate crowds as well so will need to find a 250lb man to muscle me through if I ever go there :)

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  16. So sorry about your foot. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope I can book Eiffel Tower tickets still. When daughter and I went in March four years ago, we just walked up and had maybe a 10 minute line. Our new budget after my blip is $3200 midrange with a few splurges.if I can stay to bargain if $3000 per, all the better.

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