November 14, 2011, | 0 Comments

Europe on the Fly with Shiv and Lil – Part Four

If you recall in Part One, before embarking on their European vacation, Shiv and Lil were hoping to visit eight cities in three countries over the course of ten days. Considering their very last minute planning, they had to cut down their trip to six cities with the bulk of their time spent in Barcelona, Rome, and Paris. But you really can’t go wrong with those three!

If you recall in Part One, before embarking on their European vacation, Shiv and Lil were hoping to visit eight cities in three countries over the course of ten days. Considering their very last minute planning, they had to cut down their trip to six cities with the bulk of their time spent in Barcelona, Rome, and Paris. But you really can’t go wrong with those three! They also wanted to accomplish three goals: stick to a budget of $2500 each, have a blast, and arrive home safely. From what we’ve read so far, it looks like they blew their budget after about the third day! But after speaking with Shiv and Lil, they said they only went over by $300 each.

And did they have a blast? YES! Since the ladies have been back – so yup, they also accomplished their third goal of arriving home safely – all they’ve talked about is their trip. I’ve learned that Barcelona is by far their favourite city out of the three. It’s a combination of the nightlife, the beauty, and the people that made their time in Barcelona so memorable. I also found out that they felt the most at home in Paris, mainly because of its multiculturalism as well as their familiarity with French. And they loved Rome, oddly enough, not for its history but its delicious cuisine.

In Barcelona, Shiv and Lil enjoyed the exciting nightlife, hiked up Montjuïc for the beautiful panoramic views, and gazed at unique architecture of Antoni Gaudí. In Rome, the ladies explored the Colosseum, climbed the Spanish Steps, and most importantly, tasted the best pizza, pasta, and gelato ever! In Paris, the ladies visited the typical tourist attractions – Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre – as well as a few neighbourhoods such as the Latin Quarter and Montmartre. We’ve heard all about their adventures in Barcelona and in Rome, but now we’ll hear about their journey from Rome to Nice and then to Paris.

Saturday, September 24th 2011 – Nice, France via Milan, Italy

No one could possibly enjoy having to wake up at 3:30 AM to catch an early flight, especially not 2 individuals who love to sleep! But Lil and I managed to do just that and make our way over to the Termini station to catch our bus back to Ciampino Airport. We were taking a Ryan Air flight to Milan. With the airport fiasco from Barcelona still fresh in our memory, we were exceptionally early for our flight which ended up being delayed by half an hour – geez!

Once we landed in Milan, we took a 45 minute bus ride to Stazione di Milano – the central station. Our first impression of Milan? Ugh, why are we here? It’s very dark and industrial looking, and the people we encountered were not the most pleasant. Perhaps that was the case in just that part of the city, but it didn’t make us want to spend any more time there so a few short hours later, we purchased our last minute train tickets to Nice and were on our way to France! Since we had asked for the cheapest tickets, we had to make stops at the small Northern Italian towns of Genoa and Ventimiglia which turned out to be a positive inconvenience. If you ever get a chance to take a train ride along Northern Italy and the South of France, do it! You will see the most beautiful sceneries where you’ll be sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and gorgeous towns situated on hilltops. Oh and yachts galore!

Nous sommes arrivées en France!

Our picturesque train ride brought us to the beautiful city of Nice. Located in the French Riviera, it is definitely a place that I have wanted to see for some time. As with the other cities we visited, the area surrounding the central train station was kind of sketchy which automatically gave us a bad impression of the place. This feeling didn’t last for long as we made the 15 minute walk to our hotel, H33, which we had only booked the night before in Italy. Talk about last minute! To our pleasant surprise, our room had been upgraded to something nicer than what we had expected – ohhh yeah!

Once we freshened up, we walked over to Place Massena, which is considered to be the heart and soul of Nice. It’s a massive square with statues, a large fountain, sculptures, and benches. A lot of people were out and about as we made our way past this area to head over to Old Nice. At the time we of course had no clue that that’s where we were headed but we figured it out later. We were starving by this point but unfortunately got overwhelmed by the number of restaurants that lined the streets. The prices didn’t help matters either as they were higher than what we had become accustomed to in Barcelona and Rome. We wanted to enjoy authentic Niçoise cuisine but were confused as to what that could be since most of the restaurants had an Italian flavour. So we settled for some Italian at La Storia and of course we had wine since it was still super cheap. We drank more wine on our European trip (responsibly of course!) than we have in total this whole year. The rest of our stay in Nice (which was only 1 day) consisted of failed attempts to buy something cute and local for my best friend’s daughter, Lila, taking random pictures of us air jumping near landmarks, checking out a car show, and of course shopping for shoes! Our initial intent was to head over to Cannes and Marseille, but we made a last minute decision to just head over to Paris. The inter-city travels were starting to take a toll on us.

As you’ve probably come to expect, we had not yet purchased tickets to get to Paris – that’s how we roll! So we showed up at the station to find that Paris was 6 hours away by train (Shoot! Yes, we forgot to check this in advance as well.) And all of the economy seats were sold out! We ended up paying 180 Euros each for a first class train ride to Paris. But let me tell ya, in the future I will fork over that extra dough for a first class train ride. More space = more comfort = happy travelling!

Sunday, September 25th 2011 – Paris, France – the City of Lights or is it Love?

Our 6 hour train ride brought us to Paris around 11:00 PM where I made quite an unfashionable entrance into such a fashionable city. I ran for my life to throw up in a garbage bin at a train platform. Six hours stuck on a train coupled with a bad migraine took a toll on me. Lil displayed what an awesome friend she is, yet again, by holding my hair and comforting me. Thanks Lil!

So not only is she a great friend for sticking by my side, Lil also has an amazing grasp of directions. She very quickly found our way to our hotel where I completely knocked out. I think she stayed up reading her Harlequin romance novels. Not kidding!

This was my second time in Paris but Lil’s first. It was just as magical as the first time though! We did all the typical tourist-y things like admiring the Eiffel Tower at night (the best time to see it!), walking along Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and visiting Notre Dame. We also went to Montmartre, my absolute favourite area in Paris, which is home to the Sacré-Cœur. This white basilica stands atop a hill and when you make the physically demanding but well worth trek up there, you can gaze down on all of Paris. It’s beautiful!

[caption id="attachment_2321" align="aligncenter" width="629"] The beautiful Basilique du Sacré-Cœur at night[/caption]

The Louvre was also on our list of places to see but when we made the trip, we found it closed. It was a Tuesday. We’re still trying to digest that one. To compensate for the closure, we decided to visit the Centre Pompidou museum, but it too was closed on this Tuesday. Given our double strike, we decided to change up our plans a little and watch a French movie. The attendant recommended that we watch La Guerre est déclarée which we were led to believe was a chick flick. Both of us have a very basic grasp of French so this seemed like a great idea to test our knowledge of the language. Even with our basic understanding, we quickly realized the movie was not a chick flick but a serious film about a toddler battling cancer. Some things were definitely lost in translation with the attendant.

[caption id="attachment_2322" align="alignleft" width="294"] The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays but that did not stop Shiv from taking a picture with the Pyramid.[/caption]

Most of our meals were enjoyed at the Latin Quarter (suggested by Lil’s former boss) which is similar in concept to Trastevere in Rome and Old Nice but the prices are unbelievably low. For 10 Euros you could enjoy an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. You can’t go wrong with that! The hardest part was deciding which restaurant to visit as there are tons and the staff lined outside to ‘encourage’ you to come in.

We couldn’t conclude any of our trips without great food. In Paris we enjoyed croissants, baguettes, French macarons, couscous (Lil had a craving for it so we found a great spot in the Latin Quarter) and of course, wine.
Our multi-city travels were great and we loved how fast paced it was, but it was very tiring so when it came time to pack up to head home we were both somewhat relieved. But this feeling soon gave way to sadness, despair, and angst for the next trip as we arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport to make our way to Toronto. Au revoir Paris!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about Shiv and Lil’s crazy adventures in Europe. Last minute planning is not always convenient or the more inexpensive way to go but sometimes it is better late than never! There are so many places in the world to see and not always enough time! So whether you prefer to travel alone, with a friend, or with your whole family, put some time (and money) aside to explore a small fraction of the world. To help you with your next trip, check out the following websites:

Booking.com – for hotels Expedia.ca – for flights Ryanair.com – for European flights Tripadvisor.com – for understanding local tipping customs, where to find the top attractions, where to eat, etc.

Now I’m taking my own advice, so the next time you hear from me, it’ll be all about my adventures of travelling with an infant to an all-inclusive resort! Adios amigos!

- Kiana Amirpour

[series title="Europe On the Fly" title_wrap="div" limit="5" list="ol"]

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