Browsing Tag

trips

Europe, France, Travel

Three Nights in Paris

January 21, 2015

Stu and I went to Paris earlier this month and we were there when the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened. It was obviously quite a scary time to be exploring the city but in all honestly our trip was not affected by the attacks at all. The public transport systems ran smoothly and all the main attractions remained open with extra security. On the actual day of the incident, we didn’t even know anything had happened until we got back to the hotel and checked BBC News on our phones. Anyway, here’s how our trip went.

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Staying at – Mercure Eiffel Tower.

Duration – 3 nights.

To celebrate our 5 year anniversary in true cliché style, Stu and I headed to Paris. We decided to stay in the Mercure hotel right next to the Eiffel Tower because of the amazing views it offered and for its accessibility. It is so easy to get to. From the Charles De Gaulle airport you can get a train to the Eiffel tower for under 10 euros each. I’d had a little search on Trip Advisor and this seemed the best way to get to anywhere in Paris as Taxis can be expensive.

We arrived late in the evening so checked in and went straight to bed but we’d already seen the Eiffel Tower all lit up as the hotel is ridiculously close to it. I always feel a bit surreal seeing famous monuments for the first time because it isn’t really the first time. My generation will never see anything for the first time, everything is over-shared on Facebook, Instagram etc. I think that’s the main reason anyone goes anywhere, just to take the same photo you’ve seen someone else take. Anyway, enough of me being cynical (I’ll save that for another blog post), let’s get back to Paris!

As this was our first time in Paris we wanted to be the typical tourist and go see all the main sites. As we were under 26 and EU citizens we also got into all museums and art galleries for free and to climb the Eiffel Tower for a reduced price. Just show your passport or driving licence and in you go! We headed straight to the Eiffel Tower on our first morning with the aim of climbing to the top. We were greeted with this.

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Um, don’t think we’ll be seeing much if we climb it today! It actually looked a bit spooky in all the fog. We weren’t disappointed by the weather though as we still had a couple of days to climb the tower so we headed off in search of a croissant and a coffee.

We walked what seemed like miles for the rest of day and saw lots of the city. You can use the Metro system to get around but you get to see so much more if you take the time to walk. Paris is full of cute restaurants and boutiques that are tucked away down alleyways that are begging to be explored. We walked from the Arc de Triomphe to the Lourve and back to our hotel and saw lots of Paris this way. The Arc de Triomphe was really interesting with the tomb of the unnamed soldier. You can pay to go to the top of the Arc but we decided against it because of the fog. On the way to the Lourve we walked past the ‘Place de la Concorde’ where Mary Antoinette was famously executed. Best of all, once in the Lourve, I got a selfie with Mona Lisa!

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There are hundreds of restaurants in Paris so you really are spoilt for choice when choosing somewhere to eat in the evening. Stu and I went for our standard technique of walking around, reading the menu and choosing somewhere which looked reasonably busy and the food sounded nice. My GCSE French came in handy here as some of the menus didn’t have English translations. We found that waiters were happy to explain anything we couldn’t decipher so don’t worry if you can’t understand a word of French. We wanted to stick to the local cuisine so ended up eating a lot rich food with every course having some sort of cheese or bread. I’m pretty sure my blood was 3 parts brie and 1 part red wine by the time I came home. Stu ordered snails for one starter so we got to try some stereotypical French food. They weren’t too bad, a bit chewy and tasted mainly of the garlic sauce they were cooked in.

The second full day of our trip was the day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. We were planning on visiting the Notre Dame today and we ended up there at midday when the bells of the cathedral rang out to start the minutes silence in respect to the victims. This was an extremely poignant moment with ‘Je Suis Charlie’ signs being held up along with pens to symbolise freedom of expression.

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We walked around the Notre Dame afterwards and the cathedral is home to the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen. I don’t seem to have the photos we took of them but I’ll upload them once Stu has sent them to me. I’m a massive Disney fan so I spent the whole time looking out for Quasimodo. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen but I did spot a few gargoyles!

We also climbed to the top of the Eiffel tower on this day. We waited until it was dark and got to see Paris all lit up which looked spectacular. There’s a little flat at the top of the tower where Mr Eiffel entertained guests – who knew?!

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On our last day I got to be a true history nerd and visit the Palace of Versailles which I have learnt about in so many lessons. The palace is so beautiful and extravagant, it’s crazy how much money each King and Queen spent on the place and the gardens are just as spectacular as the rooms. You can spend hours here, there is so much to see, from the King and Queen’s bedrooms to the ballrooms to the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versaille was signed to end WWI.

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I loved Paris and I’m really happy I finally got to visit, it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time. Stu and I have no trips planned now so we’ll be job hunting and hopefully planning a few city breaks. I’ll still be writing though, there are places we visited in Australia that I never dedicated a full post to so expect to see some of that and some of me moaning about the job hunt, enjoy!

Australia, Travel

The Outback with Mulgas Adventure Tours

December 1, 2014

One of the most iconic symbols of Australia is that big ol’ rock they have in the centre, Uluru. I was desperate to visit Uluru during our time in Australia because I felt that by visiting the Aussie Outback, I would be experiencing the ‘real’ Australia. So last month we finally made it to the Red Centre and took part in a 3 day tour with Mulgas Adventure Tours.

The tour picks you up from your accommodation in Alice Springs at 6am on Day 1. Alice Springs is the nearest city to Uluru and it’s still about a six hour drive away which just goes to show how big Australia is. Aside from a few stops at random roadhouses, the first morning is spent in a coach. Your coach driver is also your tour guide so you do get a bit of information as you’re travelling. This journey will make you realise just how little there is in the middle of Australia. It’s amazing how little the terrain changes over hundreds of kilometres.

You arrive at camp in time for lunch. Your coach driver/tour guide now adds the role of Chef to their job title. Our guide was called Lockie and he was very good at his job with a good balance of informative and fun. Our group also helped prepare the meals and I think this is standard across every tour. After lunch, it’s finally time to head to Uluru! We’d had our first glimpse of the rock from a distance but nothing prepares you for how big it is.

The Mulgas tour gives you time to walk around the base of Uluru which is about 10.5km. I just couldn’t believe how long it took us to walk around it, every time you thought you were near the end, you would turn a corner and realise there was still a lot more to see. Lockie told us some of the Aboriginal dreamtime stories about Uluru which are really interesting and it’s good to find out what makes Uluru so sacred to the Aboriginal people.

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Once the base walk is completed, you head to the sunset viewing area to watch how the colours of the rock change as  the sun goes down. The change is quite subtle so it’s best to take a picture of Uluru every 5 minutes and look back on your photographs afterwards. If I’m honest, I didn’t think it was that impressive. I think this feeling comes from seeing photos of Uluru at sunset which were clearly taken by professional photographers.

This trip gave me one of my favourite travel memories to date, sleeping under the stars in the Australian Outback in a swag. A swag is like a big canvas sleeping bag and looks like this.

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With next to no artificial light at the campsite, the stars look truly amazing.

Day 2 involves a beautiful early morning wake-up call of 4am. However it is totally worth it to go and see the sunrise at Uluru. Next up is another big walk of about 8km around Kata Tjuta which is another rock formation near to Uluru. In my opinion it’s actually more impressive than Uluru and the walk is a lot more interesting as there is more to see.

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Day 3 involves more walking, only the 6.5km today! The final landmark of the trip is Kings Canyon and your guide will take you on the rim walk. This walk starts with a steep climb up the ‘Stairway of Death’ but the rest of the track is relatively easy. As this is the final day, once the walk is completed, it’s time for lunch and then the long drive back to Alice Springs.

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I really enjoyed this trip, especially all the walking, it felt good to be doing that much exercise! I’m glad we made the effort to go and see some more of Australia and I would highly recommend Mulgas Adventure Tours. This trip cost $355 each and was definitely worth it.

Australia, Travel

The East Coast of Australia

November 29, 2014

Have you done the East Coast yet? Did you go up or down? I’ve heard you shouldn’t bother going here but should definitely spend at least 3 nights here! How much money do you need? How long does it take?

The Australian East Coast trip is infamous with backpackers. It’s usually where they spend the majority of their time in Australia and sadly sometimes the only part of Australia they will see. I’m lucky enough to have done the East Coast twice so hopefully I can help with some of the standard questions every newbie in Australia seems to ask.

Up or Down?

Typically, when travel agents say ‘East Coast’ they mean Sydney to Cairns or vice versa but some do include Melbourne (and so they should as Melbourne is awesome!). Where you start your trip usually depends on where you flew into or where you closest. If you are bang in the middle of the two cities, you should think about the weather conditions. Do you want it to get warmer or avoid the heat? Planning ahead is also a good idea. Australia is an expensive country so you may need to work after completing the East Coast. Where would you rather work is a question you should be asking yourself. I travelled up towards Cairns from Melbourne on both occasions. The first time because I flew into Melbourne and out from Cairns and the second time because I was travelling just as the coast was starting to get warmer and I wanted to end in Cairns where it would be hottest. Let’s be honest, all I wanted was a tan!

Where to go?

I’m probably going to contradict myself in this next section. When deciding where you want to visit, talk to friends and travel agents to get their advice but don’t listen too closely. This is YOUR trip. Your best friend might think that you only need to spend 1 night in Byron Bay but you might love it there and want to stay 3 nights. So do your research and make up your own mind. I’ll write where Stu and I went on our trip to give you an idea but there are plenty more places to visit so don’t think this is all the East Coast has to offer.

Melbourne (7 nights) 5 nights spend in a campervan doing the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island. 2 nights in the city. 

Sydney (3 nights) We’d been to both Sydney and Melboune before hence not staying long in each city.

Byron Bay (5 nights)

Surfers Paradise (3 nights)

Noosa (3 nights)

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island (2 nights in RB, 2 nights on Fraser then 1 more night on RB) A self drive 4×4 Fraser trip is the one to choose!

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays (1 night in AB, 2 nights on a boat trip then 3 nights in AB after) A travel agent will give you the best advice on which boat is best for you. 

Mission Beach (3 nights) We only went to Mission Beach to do our skydive – amazing as you get to land on the beach.

Cairns (6 nights) There is loads to do here – The Great Barrier Reef, Bungy Jump, Atherton Tablelands, Cape Tribulation etc.

How long does it take?

The simple answer is, as long or as short as you want it to be. It all depends on how many places you want to visit. A typical amount of time is about 6 weeks. You can get open-dated travel vouchers for your trip so if you don’t have any limits on time you really can take it at your own pace. Another factor that comes into play is how you will be travelling the East Coast. If you have your own car or campervan this gives you a lot of freedom. If you will be using either the Greyhound or the Premier coach service then you have to stick to their timetables and ticket restrictions. Most of all, it depends on how much money you have and how long you can actually afford to travel for. Which brings me to my next section quite nicely…

How much does it cost?

It always comes down to money unfortunately and Australia is known for being very expensive. As well as paying for your boat trip and Fraser Island tour, there’s transport to think of, accommodation, extra activities, food and drink. It can add up to crazy amounts and unless you are really good at budgeting, you will spend more than you hoped you would. Our East Coast package cost just over $2000 each. This included our transport up the coast, all our accommodation, our skydive, the Fraser trip, the Whitsundays boat trip and the campervan hire in Melbourne. On top of this is spending money. Everyone will need different amounts of spending money but the East Coast is mainly about making friends and going out every night with them. You can stick to goon as much as you want but you’ll soon realise you’re spending money very very quickly. However, do not panic, remember this is a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to be missing out on memories because you can’t afford to do something. Just work a couple more months and do it properly. Australia might be a long way from home and you don’t want to go back with any regrets.

I hope this blog helps some of you plan your trip and you get the most out of it. And don’t forget that Australia is a massive country and there’s a whole lot more of it to explore than just the East Coast.

Fraser Island

Asia, Travel, Vietnam

The Cu Chi Tunnels with Delta Adventure Tours

February 25, 2014

During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City we really wanted to go visit the tunnels as the Vietnam war is one of the only things we knew about the country before we came!

We booked the trip through our accommodation and paid 131,000 dong each and then you have to pay 90,000 entry fee when you get there. This equates to about £6 each.

We were picked up and on the road by 8:30am and our tour guide, Mr Bean (not kidding), introduced himself to us. He claims to be a war veteran and fought with the American soldiers against the VietCong. He was really nice and full of stories and facts and the war but he constantly talked and asked “Do you want to hear my story?” over and over again which did irritate a few people towards the end.

The tunnels themselves were really good. At the site they have examples of the traps set to injure the American soldiers. They looked like they could impale someone not just injure them!

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We were shown a sniper hole which is a narrow hole in the ground with a cover on the top to slip the gun under. Everyone had a go squeezing in it unless they thought they were too big to get out!

We also got the chance to climb through a stretch of the tunnel network. I have never been so hot and cramped in my life! It just kept going lower, whilst getting darker and hotter. I could sort of squat and waddle along but Stu literally had to crawl on his hands and knees! We were both glad when we reached the end but some people left via the emergency exits at certain points as it was very claustrophobic.

All in all a very interesting trip and worth doing if you’re ever here.

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