Friday, August 26, 2011

Third Stop: The canals of Venezia

Ciao readers,

Just spent 2 nights in Venezia which was way more then enough. This city is a maze with lots of small streets with plenty of shops (you easily can get completely lost). We did the typical attractions in Venice - St. Marks Square, Doge Palace, a gondola ride at sunset, and spent a day at Lido Beach.
We have arrived in Italy yet I do not think we have experienced authentic italian food (it is because Venezia does not have their own style of cooking), everyone working at the restaurants in Venice were from mostly Bangladesh or some other foreign country. I am looking forward to Florence!

Ciao,

9to5travelgirl
P.S gelato is amazing


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Second stop: j'adore Paris

Je suis tombé amoureux follement de Paris ( I have fallen madly in love with Paris). 
Words can not describe the love I have for this city, not only is it one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, but also the most romantic. Every street corner, building, road looks beautiful. And if you know me even a little bit, you'll know I love pretty things lol.  
There is so much to do in Paris, and below I will highlight the best parts of our 3 nights in this city:
1) Picnic by the Eiffel tower - if you had to do only one thing in Paris I would suggest this. On Sunday evening we had the boys surprise us by preparing for a picnic supper at the park across from the Eiffel Tower. They bought delicious artisan breads with 3 different cheeses, dip, croissant desserts, and 4 bottles of wine ( most of it purchased at a Paul bakery) to take on the picnic. We arrived for 8:00pm, played cards, relaxed on our blanket, and waited for the sun to set, and the Eiffel tower to light up ( we were pleasantly surprised when at 10pm the tower started to sparkle).  La tour d'eiffle est magique, the Eiffel tower is magical and definitely not overrated. The evening was absolutely romantic ( couples getting proposed to, people celebrating birthdays, it was full of happiness).  After our late night picnic we headed across the river and enjoyed ice cream and a merry go round ride!
2) Louvre - I believe this is suppose to be the most famous gallery d'art in the world. It was also the most breathtaking in my eyes. We spent 4 hours on Monday at the Louvre seeing world famous pieces like the Venus de Milo, Rebellion Slaves by Michel Angelo, Napoleon's apartments, and of course the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world ( the insurance for this is over 700MM USD). Just a tip if you don't speak or read French you can rent audio headsets that provide commentary for each piece or room ( definitely a big help). We enjoyed lunch at an outdoor bistro just across from the Louvre ( lots of them to choose from).
3) Champs elysees - shopping, bistros, and entertainment is what this main Paris street is known for. We did some exploring and window shopping at some high end Paris boutiques.
4) Arc de Triomphe - The Arc de Triomphe (in English: "Triumphal Arch") honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. I would suggest climbing this as its more cost efficient then the Eiffel Tower and you get a great view of it from the top ( to snap some real panoramic pics of the city).
5) Chateau de Versailles - Take a tour of this magnificient castle. Located approx. 20 minutes away from Paris.  The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until October 1789 when the royal family was forced to return to the capital after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a beautiful monument, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.  I would strongly suggest taking the private group tour, which allows you to explore the areas of the castle that are not open to the public, with a true historian that shares all they know about the history of the Versailles. There seemed to be some animosity between the Chateau de Versailles staff and the Louvre museum, and it could be due to the fact that after the French Revolution many of the Versailles art pieces were sold to the Louvre, which today they won't return back to the Chateau de Versailles.
6) Caius - this was a French cuisine restaurant we tried that had the most splendid service and mouthwatering truffle ravioli. During our trip we did experience some snobby French individuals, but that was balanced by some very wonderful individuals that were understanding of our language barrier. This restaurant in particular went out of their way to explain food dishes ( even drew an image of a shrimp to explain what it was). The food, ambiance, and service were superb, and at the end of our meal they brought by a tin full of candy to end off our night. I would strongly recommend checking it out, approx. 39 € per person.
 
Overall a great trip, we explored the city of Paris by using the metro/ trains which were very easy to understand in comparison to the TTC. The culture felt relaxed at a much slower pace then anywhere in North America. What I found intriguing was how the seating outside bistros was facing the street for some true people watching enjoyment. 
Would I go back to Paris? QUI QUI- I was thinking about my next trip back the whole time I was in Paris. 
Paris and I have fallen in love!
 
Au reviour Paris, Ciao Venezia...
 
Looking for pasta,
9to5travelgirl
 
P.S took a flight from Paris to Venice using easyjet charter airline, which is actually not as shady as they make internal europe airlines sound. Strongly recommend! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Stop: London

Our European adventure has finally begun, joining us on this trip is our oldest couple friends (my husbands best friend and his wife who I've known since junior high - we actually started dating our husbands the same time 9 years ago, so when I say "we" on my posts it means the 4 of us). We just spent two nights in London, and likely spent as much in 2 days than we would in 2 weeks anywhere else in the world. Needless to say London is quite overpriced ( we learned that the hard way in Leicester Square enjoying one too many 10£ mojitos).
We arrived in London on Friday and took a train to King's Cross station which was 10 minutes walking distance to our hotel. One of our family members suggested we stay close to King's Cross as it was easily accessible, aside from making it easier to catch the eurostar to Paris this location should be avoided at all costs ( especially if you're a virgin to the city and want to do all of the typical tourist attractions). I would have rather enjoyed staying in Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, and even forked it out for Park Lane.
We spent our Friday on the Big Bus Tour visiting St. Paul's Cathedral, London Bridge, Tower Bridge ( which is much more visually appealing than the London Bridge), London Eye ( we avoided going on only because it looked like it would take an hour to come down), Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. I am a checklist kind of girl, and was definitely happy to get all of our big tourist attractions done within one day. For lunch we had fish and chips with Peroni's at a pub across the street from Westminister Abbey ( I found the green peas the best part, I guess battered fish is not my thing). Being there on a Friday we were able to see what "happy hour" really looks like, at 6pm we ended up in SOHO and enjoyed cosmos on the street in front of gem bar/lounge. Happy hour being pretty foreign in Toronto, seeing a crowd full of individuals drinking on the street, and clubs pumping at 6pm felt like I was in the twilight zone. Definitely a cultural experience we enjoyed! After a cosmo or two we took the tube back to our hotel to change, and then headed to Leicester Square for dinner at Spice Market ( this is where we had one too many Mojitos), and headed for even pricier post dinner drinks at the W hotel. We had a great night with a bartender who told us the ins and outs of bar service in London ( and to avoid asking for a fat shot, as it will get you a skinnier one for sure).
The next day our plan was to enjoy a soccer game, but at 150£ each we realized just like Toronto Maple Leaf tickets, it just wasn't worth it. So instead we searched SOHO to find a pub that would play the Liverpool Vs. Arsenal game. It was like giving candy to a baby, we left the boys at the pub, and the girls were off to shop. I love my husband but we can not shop together, which makes this adventure even sweeter going with another couple - you have a female companion to do that all with. We spent the day exploring Regent street ( the best part was Hamley's toystore which completely brought out the big kid in me), Oxford street (Top Shop, Next, Reiss, Uni Qlo, Dorothy Perkins, and many more) and finally Knightsbridge where we explored the retail maze also known as Harrods. For dinner we had Northern Indian food (we heard the indian food in London is unbeatable - we weren't homesick yet) at a place called Punjab which was established in 1946.
Our time in London was fun. We had all never been and were happy to check it off as a city we explored. Would I go back? Probably not. The second I arrive in a city I can usually tell if I am in love, unfortunately for London and I that didn't happen. We are heading to Paris now, and I have my fingers crossed we have instant chemistry.
Looking for love,
9to5travelgirl

P.S. I think my legs are going to fall off from all the walking we did, and its only been 2 nights!