Europe 2016 Trip Day 1 – Flying to Paris

Paris is a city that has been near the top of our travel wish list for years; Rick Steves’ Paris 2013 book has been on our coffee table since it was first released. Through the years we had toyed with the idea of a London/Paris trip or including Paris in some other combination of cities, but earlier this year when we started looking at other cities to combine with our 2016 Mediterranean cruise, Paris jumped to the top of the list of starting points.

On the plane toasting the start of our trip
On the plane toasting the start of our 2016 Europe trip

High-speed train travel is so easy and affordable that side trips to most cities in mainland Europe are very doable. We flew into Paris for a few days, then traveled by train to Amsterdam where we spent two more days before checking into the cruise port.

We checked into the Odeon Hotel in the St. Germain district of Paris mid-morning and had to wait for a while in a nearby restaurant while our room was prepared. This is where we learned that a “cup of coffee” in Europe is not necessarily what we are used to back in the US. But once our room was ready we checked in and kicked back for some rest.

A "cup of coffee" in Paris
A “cup of coffee” in Paris

After a short nap we were ready to walk the streets of Paris, one of the most picturesque cities we had seen. No doubt I will be using that term when describing other cities on this trip, but the buildings in Paris have a very unique style of architecture that makes them very recognizable. Since we were pretty sleep-deprived and jet-lagged at that point we limited our afternoon walk to areas within about a mile of our hotel. We crossed the Seine on a bridge covered with locks (this seems to be a  popular thing for kids to do these days – probably started by the lock companies).

We made our way to the nearby Notre Dame cathedral, which proved to be probably the most impressive building I have ever entered. Outside Flora was thrilled (as you can see by the look on her face) with feeding the birds bits of bread. Wedding pictures were being taken nearby, and a saw an especially impressive statue of Charlemagne, which helped remind me of the deep history of the area we were visiting. I will post more pictures of all the things described here in a blog gallery posting that will follow.

We spent about an hour in Notre Dame (there was much to see) and while we were there a mass began with amazing organ music, singing, incense, with much latin being spoken. It was a truly moving experience and our timing had been perfect.

But all too soon fatigue set in and we wandered back toward our hotel to get some sleep. The next blog entry will contain pics to go with these descriptions.


Europe 2016 Trip

We had last visited Europe in 2013 and were dying to go back, visit new places, and revisit some old ones. In August 2016 we got our chance and combined a 12-day cruise with an additional week before and another week after. During the trip we visited 6 countries (7 if you want to count Gibraltar, which is actually part of the UK) and got to see Paris and more of Italy (our favorite spot in the world).

As time allows, I will be adding a description entry for each day of the trip sharing a little of what we learned in each place followed by a separate entry that contains a few of the photos we took that day. Welcome aboard!

Why do we travel?

Some people love to travel while some people prefer to stay close to home and often wonder what’s the big deal.  Some of us love adventure and do what we can to create it in one form or another and others feel that life supplies more than enough adventure without seeking it out. There is certainly something to be said for sitting in the comfort of our home and watching the world go by while sipping a cold adult beverage and often that is the mode in which we operate. But sometimes we have an itch that can only be scratched by hitting the road, whether for a nearby destination or for somewhere far away and exotic.

For us, there is a joy in seeing things we have never seen before or viewing things up close that we have only seen in movies or books. But more than that, the reason we travel usually goes far beyond seeing new things and really is more about experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, and gaining a more in depth understanding of the world around us and establishing our place within it.