Paris

Day 4 & 5

Paris

Paris truly lives up to its moniker of “The City of Light”. Though it is a small city, there is a lot of traffic on the roads. The lanes are divided into an inner ring road & an outer ring road. Those living within the limits of the inner ring road are considered Parisians while those residing near the outer ring road are considered Non-Parisians. The suburbs of Paris are cheaper when compared to Central Paris. There are huge digital screens inside tunnels & the term “Fluide” displayed on these screens is an indication that traffic is flowing smoothly. We stopped for lunch at Hotel Bhojan, a vegetarian restaurant owned by a Parsi. After lunch, we went up to the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower, post which our guide Patricia took us on a city tour & showed us the many highlights of the city. We were put up at Hotel Novotel for 2 nights. The following day we went to Eurodisney and that evening we also went on the Seine River cruise.  During the cruise, the famous landmarks of the city were again pointed out to us. There was an automated electronic voice-phone to assist us for that purpose. After a long day, we returned half-dead to the hotel. The next morning we headed to Germany.

Must-visits

Eurodisney – I’m not a particularly big fan of Disney + I didn’t enjoy the rides much….I prefer extreme rides that give me a huge adrenalin rush! :P For those of you who are true Disney fans….you will love this place!

Paris’ Grand Palais (Big Palace) was built for the World Fair of 1900. The building is best known for its enormous glass roof. The Grand Palais is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world. It mainly serves as a public exhibition hall and host to a variety of grand events.

The Louvre Palace houses the Louvre Museum and is the best art museum in the world. The famous glass pyramids are the main entrance to the Louvre Museum.

The Avenue des Champs-Elvsees is a prestigious avenue in Paris. The name is French for ‘Elysian Fields’, the place of the blessed dead in Greek mythology. The avenue runs for 2 kilometres from the Place de la Concorde in the east to the Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly the Place de l’Etoile) in the west, near the location of the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-Elysees is used for all the major celebrations. This is where Parisians celebrate New Year’s Eve and where the military parades are held on the 14th of July. The wide sidewalks provide adequate space for outdoor cafes and bistros. Most people walk on the north (to the left when traveling by car), which is the sunny side, where there are more cafes, theaters, chain stores, boutiques and fewer trees. Thus the left/north side houses the more expensive shops. Fewer stroll on the south, which is relatively less sunny and is dotted with banks and luxury restaurants.

Place de la Concorde is an eight hectare square in Paris. In the middle of the square is the obelisk that comes from the Egyptian temple of Luxor.

Indian Tourists

Eating Indian food will be the last thing on your mind when you are in this beautiful city. You will want nothing more than a glass of champagne and a breath-taking view of the Eiffel tower from your hotel room (C’est la vie! is all you can think of :) ).

Holland + Brussels

Day 3

Madurodam

Madurodam

Atomium

The Atomium

Harwich is a port on London’s East Coast & the Stena Hollandica is one of the two ships from Stena Line sailing on the route of Hook of Holland to Harwich. Aboard the Stena Line, we were each given a sea pass, which also allowed us access to our respective cabins. The ferry left shore (London) at 11.30 pm and reached Hook of Holland at 7.30am. We docked off from deck 9 and proceeded towards the immigration counter. The first stop was Madurodam, a model of a Dutch town on a 1:25 scale. Along the way, we passed the scenic countryside of Netherlands. There were flowers blooming everywhere & it was like a picture-perfect postcard (Sigh! How I wish I was there right now! :( ). With so much scenic beauty around, no wonder the Netherlands is ranked 8th in the list of “Happiest Countries of the World”. The Dutch seem to enjoy an idyllic life, either indulging in their favourite sport of ‘rowing’ or lazily cycling along the deserted lanes. But given the shortage of manpower in Netherlands, I’ve been told that the Dutch work very hard to earn their bread. Next we went to the Rembrandt cheese & wooden factory, where we got a first-hand demonstration of how cheese is made. We then stopped for lunch at Gandhi, a restaurant in Haarlem that serves North Indian food. After lunch, we headed for the canal cruise on lover’s boat. As we passed by the Amsterdam Airport, we got a chance to catch a glimpse of a plane taxing on the overhead runway across the highway. For a mere 13 Euros, the cruise on lover’s boat was definitely worth it. Then we drove to Brussels, a 3 and half hour drive. The first stop in Brussels was the Atomium, a gigantic monument with 9 steel spheres connected so as to resemble a magnified version of a unit cell of an iron crystal. We then proceeded to the Grand Palace, where we got to see the Mannekin Pis statue. We bought Belgian chocolates (Godiva) and feasted on waffles. That night, we stayed at Hotel Best Western and in the morning we left for Paris.

Did you know?

The Hague is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State, but the constitutional capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the national airline of the Netherlands.

Must-visits

Make sure you don’t miss out on the journey aboard the Stena Hollandica. She sails to the Netherlands from Harwich to Hook of Holland and at daytime she sails back to England. She can accommodate 230 cars, 300 freight vehicles, and 1200 passengers. The coaches & vehicles are loaded on deck 3, food is served on deck 9, all the duty-free shops are on deck 9, and the cabins are on deck 11 &12.

Madurodam is located in The Hague, in the Netherlands. For almost 60 years Madurodam has been the smallest city in the Netherlands. It is a model of a Dutch town on a 1:25 scale, composed of typical Dutch buildings and landmarks, as are found at various locations in the country. It was established for two reasons: as a war monument and as a charity foundation.

The Rembrandthoeve is situated on the Amsterdam border. Windmills and farms dot the landscape and central Amsterdam is only ten minutes away. The Rembrandthoeve is a traditional farm where wooden shoes/clogs and cheese are made.

Dam Square is a town square in Amsterdam. It houses The Royal Palace, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and The National Monument, a World War II monument entirely by white travertine stone.

The Royal Palace of Belgium is one of the most beautiful official buildings in the capital, Brussels.

The top sphere of the Atomium provides a panoramic view of Brussels. It is definitely worth a visit, if nothing else, at least to marvel at engineering sophistication.

The Grand Place/Grote Markt is the central market square of Brussels. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Town hall and the King’s house are located here.

Indian Tourists

After being exposed to the hustle-bustle of Indian towns, you will love the unusual calm and silence of the Netherlands. Most of you will want to plan your retirement here, at least that’s what happened with the group I was traveling with :D

In Brussels, stop craving for Indian food & feast on the ice-creams & freshly-made waffles that are available everywhere :P

London

Day 2 (July 9th, 2010)

It was a bright sunny morning in London, quite unlike the weather Londoners are usually accustomed to. Our coach driver was patiently waiting in the lobby to greet all of us (The tourist buses are called coaches in Europe & that is the best mode of transport in Europe, especially if you have to cross numerous borders). After a heavy English breakfast, we headed out on a city tour with our local guide Sara. The first stop was Albert Hall. From there we proceeded to other London landmarks – Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge, River Thames (in case you’re wondering how we managed to cover so many places in one day, we didn’t actually stop at all of these landmarks. We just got a glimpse of them from the coach, while we did stop at a couple of landmarks). We stopped for lunch at Bangalore Express in Southwark, a well-designed place with plush décor that served Indian food (Surprisingly, you get some of the best rotis & paratas in most European countries. It’s probably ‘coz they are so good at making bread).  Our next stop was Madame Tussauds wax museum, where we spent a good 2 hours. We were then given just 1 hour to shop at Oxford Street. :( From there, we then drove to Harwich port to board the ferry – Stena Line Hollandica (world’s largest superferry) to the hook of Holland.

Must-visits

The Clock Tower also known as “Big Ben” after its main bell. Big Ben towers 96 meters high in the sky overlooking Westminster. It has 393 steps to reach the top.

The London Eye is just so prominent that you cannot miss it……but if you’re not particularly fond of slow rides, you can skip this one.

The Tower of London, which is also Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It houses the famous “Kohinoor” diamond.

The London Bridge (we all remember the famous nursery rhyme, don’t we?) & the Tower Bridge is not the same. London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London while Tower Bridge is a suspension bridge over the River Thames & is situated close to the Tower of London.

St Paul’s Cathedral – a Church of England cathedral dedicated to Paul the Apostle. It sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London.

Piccadilly Circus – a road junction and public space at London’s West End in the City of Westminster. It is famous for its video displays and neon signs mounted on the corner building as well as the statue of an archer popularly known as Eros.

Monument to the Great Fire of London is the tallest isolated stone column in the world built to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City.

Trafalgar Square – a huge public space with the Nelson’s Column at its center. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square. The Column is flanked by fountains and guarded by four monumental bronze lions. The square is famous for its pigeons.

Oxford Street – Selfridges is located right opposite to Marks&Spencer and has a food hall at the basement. Don’t forget to check out Primark on Orchard Street. They stocks goods and fabric which are relatively inexpensive going by European standards.

The Royal Opera House – performing arts venue and home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. (Unfortunately, this was not on our itinerary! I would have loved to visit this place)

Indian Tourists

The first thing you notice when you land in London is the huge number of Sikhs around you (right at the airport itself). It’s mind-boggling! I haven’t seen so many of them at one place in India itself!! …… and there are plenty of Indian faces around…so Indians will feel very much at home here.

Secondly, all you Indian travelers, please DO NOT JUMP QUEUES. It is deemed extremely impolite & you will be at the receiving end of nasty stares if you do so.

Indian food is not at all a problem as there are Indian restaurants at almost every other corner. Given that the national dish of UK is the chicken jalfrezi (it’s no longer chicken tikka masala! :D), it’s no surprise that Indian cuisine is available almost everywhere.

Do post your comments below!

The much-awaited take-off

Finally, my long awaited dream of traveling to Europe became a reality when my family attended a travel expo in January, 2010. The travel agency Thomas Cook was offering an attractive summer package to Europe and my Dad was convinced about the deal. I was elated and couldn’t contain my joy. In fact, I was glad I coaxed my parents into visiting the expo. My Dad booked the 8 countries tour package for the entire family. It was called the “European Extravaganza” if I remember correctly – how apt! the name itself sounded so enticing! :P In case you are wondering how big this family is, bookings were made for my parents, my younger brother, and myself. It’s not a huge family after all!!! :P …Otherwise Dad would have second thoughts about the travel plans :D

We set off on our transcontinental journey on 8th July, 2010.  From Bangalore, we boarded our flight to London Heathrow airport via Mumbai. Our tour manager was Mr. Custodio Fernandes & we were traveling with 14 other families from various parts of India. The group consisted of doctors, just-married couples, a chartered accountant & his family, and businessmen with their families. We reached London in the evening & we were all so jet- lagged that we just had dinner that night and crashed. (The travel agency had wisely not planned anything for that evening. I must say, they sure do know their customers well!)

This was my itinerary (12 day trip to 8 countries)

Day 1&2: London

Day 3: Holland & Brussels, Belgium

Day 4 & 5: Paris

Day 6: Germany

Day 7,8,&9: Switzerland

Day 10,11: Italy

Day 12: Vatican

Follow this blog to know more about my fascinating journey to each of these places!!

About the blog

Hi folks,

Join me in reliving the memories of my unforgettable journey to some of the most picturesque locales of Europe!

This blog is intended for those of you who have always dreamed of that perfect European getaway & also for those skeptics & cynics who wonder what the fuss is all about (you’ll soon see why Europe is touted as the ultimate travel destination). For all you Indians out there, this blog will help you relate to & find solutions to some of your travel woes (you know the common problems Indians face when they travel! ;)). We Indians are always on the lookout for a “little slice of home” no matter in which corner of the globe we are & we should be proud that the “Indian-ness” is what makes us special! :)

Through this blog, I will take you through eight European countries, each a treasure-trove of its own. Besides taking you through my holiday experience, I will also be sharing details about famous landmarks & the stories behind them, must-visits (it’s a sin if you don’t visit these landmarks on your trip!), and most importantly give you that one reason why you must visit these places/countries at least once in your life. So hop on and enjoy the ride with me!! :)

P.S. Don’t forget to carry your sunglasses & umbrella before you hop on! :P

Watch this space for upcoming posts!