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Trip Report Our European adventures

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This trip report will cover our adventures in France, Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic for our trip in August. Fodorites were so patient in answering my questions, so i'm going to try to get this report out asap :)

We flew from New Zealand to Paris on August 4th. We arrived in Paris in the mid-afternoon on Friday. After travelling 30 hours, we were exhausted. We took a cab from CDG to our hotel in the 6th, one that was recommended to me on Fodors! I have only wonderful things to say about Hotel Clement in Saint Germain des Pres. Upon arrival, we were informed that we had been upgraded to a superior room on the 4th floor. The staff was wonderful, spoke English and was very accommodating to us during our stay. The area that the hotel is situated in is beautiful, only a brief walk to the Luxembourg gardens and Café de Flore, a highlight of our stay in Paris.

Intending to bypass the jet lag, we hunkered down for a brief nap with alarms set to ring 2 hours later. Unfortunately we managed to sleep through these and woke up at 10pm. We picked up a bottle of wine and wandered to the Pont Alexandre III to watch the Eiffel Tower light show. That done, we searched for somewhere to eat closer to our hotel and settled on Café de Flore, which was surprisingly empty at 11:30pm on a Friday night. It was here that we had the best meal of our trip, their onion soup with bread and cheese. Chased down with a few beers, we decided it was time to get some more sleep and back to the hotel we went.

Jet lag kicked in again in the morning and we woke up at 6am. Deciding to go for a run in the Luxembourg gardens, we had the place to ourselves which was a great way to begin our day in Paris. After our run, we wandered to the Ile de la Cite, stopping along the way at a creperie for breakfast. First Nutella crepe done and dusted! Arriving at Notre Dame early, we went straight into the church without waiting in any lines, and it was worth it. Beautiful to say the least! After our tour of the inside of the church, we walked across to Ile de Saint Louis and picked up gifts for family back home at La Cure Gourmande lolly shop. We stopped in at Hotel de Ville for a quick photo after this.
Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower in the 7th. This was probably the worst decision up until this point, as it was early afternoon by this stage and the Eiffel Tower was packed – not to mention it was nearing 30 degrees and we were in no mood to wait in line for hours in the heat. No worries, we decided to come back early the next morning. Instead, we did a bit of exploring through the 7th and back into the 6th to our hotel, stopping for an early dinner on the way. Once we were back at the hotel, my boyfriend surprised me by getting down on one knee and popping the question! We are engaged!!

Paris day two. Still a slave to jet lag, I woke up at 4am and had a few hours to kill before my new fiancée woke up. :D We set off bright and early for our second attempt at climbing the Eiffel Tower, with enough time to stop at a corner café in the 7th for breakfast. It was here that we tried our first Parisian croissants. Still warm, with coffee and jam, this was by far the best way to start our morning. We continued on to the Eiffel Tower, and managed to go through security, walk up and make our way back down within an hour.

From here we crossed over to Trocadero, took a few photos and continued our journey to the Arc de Triomphe. From here we wandered down Champs Elysees, stopping for coffee and to see the Lamborghini’s parked on the side of the street (more to my fiancées excitement than mine). We eventually arrived in the Tuileries gardens, which were the most beautiful I have ever been in! I could have stayed here for hours wandering and relaxing among the trees and gardens. The weather had other plans however, and as it neared 30 degrees again we decided to continue along to the Louvre.
We had decided previously not to go into the Louvre, mainly because I had already visited here on my last trip to Paris and the fiancée is not a huge art fanatic. Which was fine by us, we chose instead to stop by a bakery and pick up some baguettes and tarts to take back to our hotel for lunch. We relaxed during the late afternoon, then headed out for dinner (cannot remember where we went on this day).
Paris day three. We visited the Conciergerie and Saint Chappelle on this day. We purchased the joint tickets you can get for them both, and again managed to skip the lines by arriving early. I was expecting there to be a bit of a wait for Saint Chappelle, but we went straight on in upon arrival. The Conciergerie I found was underwhelming. I don’t know how we missed it, but we ended up coming away from the exhibition without seeing Marie Antoinette’s prison. Does anyone know where it is? Saint Chappelle, on the other hand, took our breath away. I now understand why people advised us to go on a sunny day so you can get the full impact of the stain glass windows. It was amazing. Definitely a must see for those heading to Paris.

After finishing up here we wandered over to Place de Vosges, picking up a baguette and tart along the way for a picnic. This was another must see on my list of things to do and I wasn’t disappointed. By the time we started to head for home I wasn’t feeling too great, and was starting to come down with the cold which would hang around annoyingly for the next week or two. We spent the rest of the evening getting dinner and relaxing in the hotel.

On our fourth day in Paris, both of us were definitely feeling under the weather. We had originally planned a day trip to Fontainebleau, which we had put off until our last day. Sadly, we were feeling too sick to visit. Instead, we spent the day wandering around the 1st arrondissement and stopping at a bistro by the Louvre for duck. As this was our last day in Paris, we took it pretty easy and revisited a few of the places we had been to during our stay.

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    The next morning we checked out of Le Clement and took a taxi to Gard du Nord. We could definitely have taken the metro instead, but at this point we were feeling pretty self-indulgent :D. We boarded our Thalys train to Amsterdam, and three hours later we were arriving at Centraal. Again, we took a taxi from the station to our hotel, the Ibis Styles Amsterdam City on the outskirts of the canal districts, as it was raining when we arrived. Although this hotel was budget, it had absolutely everything we needed for our stay. Our room was perfect, and we enjoyed our stay here. We found a Chinese takeaway around the corner from our hotel, which was exactly what we were feeling like, and spent the rest of the evening unpacking and relaxing.

    The next morning we wandered up to the city centre, visiting a torture museum along the way. I had been really excited about the torture museum, but was a little let down by what we saw. It was still interesting, and something a bit different from our other sightseeing so far. After this we wandered up to Dam Square and the Royal Palace. After this we continued on to a more R rated museum, if you know what I mean. Definitely something that we thought we may as well do while in Amsterdam! In the evening we had a pre-booked canal cruise booked with Blue Boat Company. This left from right outside our hotel which was definitely a plus. The cruise lasted 1.5 hours and included a complimentary drink. We enjoyed the cruise!

    Looking back on my notes for what we did in Amsterdam, the list is definitely not as extensive as Paris. This was most definitely a positive though. We spent the majority of most days just wandering the city and people watching. This was exactly what we did on Day two.
    Day three we went exploring again, and found a beautiful church (still don’t know where it was in the city which is a pity). It was gorgeous. Relatively small and very colourful, it was definitely a big difference from Notre Dame in Paris! We continued with our exploring and ended up back near or hotel, where we stopped at a restaurant by one of the canals and had an amazing dinner. I’m not sure what the restaurant was called, but I’ll endeavour after posting this trip report to find it! We highly recommend it  had my first and only steak of the trip here, and it was great.

    Day four in Amsterdam, we went out for pancakes for breakfast. I had been badgering the fiancée about doing this all trip, but as our breakfast at the hotel was free we had never quite gotten around to it. Well we did today, and it was definitely worth it! Afterwards we headed for Vondelpark, passing by the Rijksmuseum and discovering the gorgeous little garden to the right of it! Has anyone been through here before, with the giant chess board? Back to the story…we spent a happy few hours in Vondelpark, relaxing in the sun on our last day in Amsterdam. On our way back to our hotel, we stumbled upon some markets which we had a lot of fun exploring. We both came away with new watches for the staggering price of 5 euros each :D For our last dinner in Amsterdam, we tried a Vietnamese restaurant just up from the hotel, which again was amazing.

    Out of our entire trip, Amsterdam was one of two favourite cities. Looking at our itinerary, we didn’t really ‘do much’ but this was the whole purpose – just to take it easy and relax in the cities we visited, instead of rushing around trying to tick off a never ending list of sights that we feel we ‘must see.’

    And next, onto Berlin! Trip report to come!

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    So romantic - top marks to the boyfriend for proposing in Paris!
    Bookmarking your hotels for my trip next year.
    Had no idea it got so hot in Paris so perhaps I will plan for September.

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    Before continuing on with the Berlin segment - a few Europe tips that i was concerned about/looking for the answer to before we left:

    SPENDING MONEY BUDGET:
    I've decided to outline our spending money budget for each city and how well we got on with it, in hopes that it will help other travellers when they come to plan for their trip. This was one thing that i struggled to find much information on. Bear in mind that this spending budget does not include our hotel. It is purely food/sightseeing money.

    Paris - 130 Euros a day for a couple. Definitely manageable, we usually ate bakery food for breakfast/street food for lunch and out at whatever restaurant we liked for dinner. Some days we did go over, but that was largely the fault of alcohol :) There were also some days where we ate at a cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which was still completely in budget. You can find English breakfasts for about 10euros each - these include coffee, croissants, an omelette in one case and other bread sticks.

    Amsterdam - 130 Euros a day for a couple. Budget worked well. I wouldn't recommend any less however. We usually ate breakfast at our hotel, then went out for lunch and dinner. We did do a bit of souvenir shopping out of that budget too for family at home, so bear that in mind too.

    Berlin - 110 Euros a day for a couple. This was too much money for us! We ate out twice a day, usually big meals at a restaurant/cafe for both. Even after this and sightseeing we had about 20 euros a day leftover which we put into shopping money.

    If you are staying in Kreuzberg/Mitte area, we recommend eating at:
    - Stadtklause - this was one street over from our hotel. Dinner costed us about 15 euro all together, and beers were about 3 euro for half a litre.
    - Another of our favourite restaurants was Morelos - steakhouse and cocktail bar. We went here twice. The second time, we drunk enough German beer and raved about it enough to the waiter that we were gifted the glasses we were drinking from as a present.
    - DO NOT eat at Ristorante Marinelli - the only meal of our trip which really really disappointed us. The pizza was far too salty, and the Cabonara pasta was undercooked and lacked sauce or flavour.

    Prague - 110 Euros a day for a couple. Again, definitely do-able. I think this worked out to be almost 3000 CZECH Koruna a day. Again, we were able to eat breakfast and dinner at any restaurant we chose, as well as a snack during the day and a few small souvenirs.

    I understand that for some these budgets will be way off, but they worked for us really well. We never missed out on any sights (apart from Prague castle) because of a lack of funds, which i was worried about.

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    Oh i forgot to add -

    Restaurant recommendations for Prague. We ate so well in this city that i feel i have to outline our favourite places:

    - Restaurace U Templaru. We went here twice in one day, because the pizza is that good. The waiters are friendly and remember you, there was live music at night time and a steady flow of beer which definitely helps.

    - Restaurant U Malvaze. We stumbled across this place while walking to Charles Bridge one night and deciding we wanted to stop for dinner. I think this is a hotel as well? It was beautiful - we both had soup but the food was amazing.

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    Thanks that is so helpful.
    I budget the same way in that spending money is just that (hotel is paid for)so its for food, drinks, souvenirs and attractions.
    130 Euro is about $200 NZ. That's $100 each which was our budget for the States this year. We eat a lot of baked beans on toast when saving for a trip but it's worth it in the end.

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    The next morning we caught the tram a little up the street from our hotel to Amsterdam Centraal.

    We arrived in Berlin late afternoon on a Tuesday after catching a 6 hour DB Bahn train from Amsterdam. The train ride was easy enough – just a word of warning for those who are travelling on DB Bahn trains between cities and have booked their tickets online and printed out – always carry the credit card with you that you booked the tickets with. They will ask to see it.

    The train ride is actually really lovely, so if you can try and get a window seat. Anyway, we arrived at Berlin HBF and caught a train to our hotel, the Ibis Potsdamer Platz. The staff at the hotel were really helpful and there was always English speaking staff available. We did have a few issues during our stay: we could not connect our laptop to the WIFI of the hotel, and after speaking with the receptionist and the technical team, nothing was resolved. This wasn’t such a big deal, as we managed to buy 24 hour WIFI packages from a local telecommunications company for 5 euro a day during our stay. The air conditioning in the room also didn’t work very well, which was a bit of a pain on the warmer nights. It wasn’t anything too serious though, and overall we still enjoyed our stay with them.

    The location of the hotel definitely helped that – it was situated around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie and just down the road from Potsdamer Platz.
    After arriving at the hotel and unpacking, we went in search of food. We ended up settling on Stadtklause, a little german restaurant/pub across the road a bit from our hotel. We weren’t disappointed – the food and beer was cheap, delicious and the wait staff/chefs, even though they didn’t speak English, were extremely welcoming and attentive. We went for a small walk after dinner to see the Brandenburg gate and wandered past the Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Europe at the same time.

    The next morning we went for a run from our hotel up past Potsdamer Platz and through into Tiergarten. The parks in Europe are amazing for running in. It helps that for the most part the ones that we visited were all flat, which in NZ (especially the city we live in) is a rare occurrence. Afterwards we paid a visit to the Topography of Terror, a free exhibit which is situated on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters. I highly recommend a visit here if you have the time. Not only is it free, it is also extensive, with indoor exhibits as well as an outdoor exhibit with a portion of the Berlin wall. It was after we finished up here that we stumbled upon the Mall of Berlin, a 4 storey shopping centre where we admittedly spent about four hours. Both myself and my fiancée love shopping, thank god, and so it’s very easy for us to be distracted by huge shopping complexes.

    Berlin day two was our day trip to Potsdam. We decided to catch a train at 10am from Friedrichstrasse train station, a 30 minute walk from our hotel. Getting to the station was easy enough, but when it came to buying our tickets from a machine we fumbled a little. Unknowingly we ended up purchasing two day passes for children for the ABC Berlin zones. Our train left from platform 3 (if I remember right) and we got off at Potsdam HBF. During the train ride a conductor never came around to check our tickets, so we still didn’t know at this point that we had bought the wrong ones. From Potsdam HBF we made our way to Schloss Sansoucci with our pre reserved tickets in hand. The Schloss was amazing. It was a lot smaller than we expected, but once you get through the first couple of rooms on the tour, the beauty of the palace is breathtaking. I managed to sneak a few photos before I was firmly instructed by a staff member that photography is prohibited unless you have a licence. After finishing off the tour of the inside of the palace, we went to make our way into the gardens. By the time we had reached the fountain it started raining. Unfortunately, we decided that because of the rain we would forgo seeing the rest of the gardens.

    We wandered back towards town and ended up at the Potsdam Brandeburg gate. From here, we cut up the road that I think leads to the Dutch quarter (?) and stopped at a kebab shop for lunch. They didn’t speak a word of English, but we still managed to order the meal that we wanted by a lot of pointing and hand signals. After lunch we headed back to the station. We visited the information centre in the station and were told by the staff there that our tickets were for children. Knowingly now, we decided to risk the journey on the day passes we had already bought, and boarded our train for Berlin. The ticket conductor did make the rounds on this journey, glanced at our tickets and continued on to other passangers. We had gotten away with it. :D

    Berlin day four. We started off the day with another run in Tiergarten. We visited Checkpoint Charlie afterwards, then had lunch at a Vietnamese/Japanese restaurant close by. We wandered down Unter den Linden, and over to museum island. Relaxed in the park outside Berlin Cathedral. Pretty sure we were targets of a scam here: two muslim ladies would start screaming at each other from different ends of the park. They would run towards each other fists raised (with their young children in tow) and proceed to have an extremely loud verbal argument while watched on by everyone relaxing on the grass. After about 10 minutes they would retreat to the outskirts and send their children to spectators with a note written in English asking for money and explaining about their difficult life without food or clothing. We saw straight through it in a second (all their clothing was brand new, they were not malnourished and their mothers were waiting for them to collect the cash only a few metres away). Unfortunately, just another scam that visitors to Europe have to contend with now! (Forgot to mention that we were jostled numerous times in Paris by young girls asking us to sign petitions. I told them no every time, and they would move on to their next target.)

    We went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant near our hotel (Morelos – Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar). Definitely recommend, the staff here are lovely and the food is very good.

    Day five in Berlin was definitely a lot more relaxed than the previous days. We spent nearly three hours exploring the Jewish Museum. It is H.U.G.E. We felt like we rushed through it and didn’t read everything we could and we still spent nearly three hours there. I do recommend it if you have the time, but make sure that you allow yourself a good couple of hours to do so.

    We relaxed in the afternoon, and headed back to Morelos Mexican restaurant for dinner. We enjoyed a few beers that night, and went for a drink in Potsdamer Platz afterwards to see what it was all about. Was definitely a bit more expensive, but for one drink we enjoyed ourselves.

    The next morning we headed for Prague….

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    >> with a note written in English asking for money and explaining about their difficult life without food or clothing <<

    Really bizarre.

    Firstly, everyone who lives in Germany, including immigrants, even illegal ones, receive government support: free housing and utilities and a monthly allowance which is sufficient for food, clothing, public transportation, even going to the cinema every two months. For a family with two children, the total amount of government support adds up to something around 1,700 Euros per month.

    Secondly, they had notes in English - in Germany! This is ridiculous and shows that they target English-speaking tourists only. And obviously, they find enough of them who are so naive to give them something.

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    Totally understand missing your 2 hour alarm after your 30 hours long haul, I thought ours was bad :) but 24 hours seems light in comparison.
    We have been back a month from our trip, but the kids are not happy the pre trip budget measures are still in force... decided to keep a 'travel account' going, for my as yet undecided next trip.
    I don't love big cities, but I do like to read other people's experiences of them.

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    kiwiabroad3000-So excited to see your trip report as I have read many of your post in planning my trip-leave tomorrow!!! Thank you for being so prompt. We are only visiting Germany. Our plan is to sleep 30 minutes upon early afternoon arrival in Hamburg. I hope we have better luck waking up than you did.

    I got tears in my eyes when I read of your engagement. What a special memory you have for that moment!

    I hope it cools down during our stay. It sounds like there was a heat wave during your visit.

    So glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to Schloss Sanccousi. I am buying tickets today. Bummer about the rain. We plan to grab lunch in the Dutch area.


    Welcome back!

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    @traveller1959 - it was really bizarre. After the little boy figured that he wouldn't be getting any cash from us, he targeted another English speaking couple a couple of meters away. It obviously worked on them - the woman gave him a couple of notes and looked like she really sympathized with everything he was saying. I thought that was a bit naiive but that's just me! Strange that they are only targeting english speaking tourists too....

    @Adelaidean, 30 hours is about the shortest duration you can get when you fly from NZ to europe...our journey back totaled 39 hours because of a 10 hour layover in Melbourne. It's pretty tiring stuff but worth it :)

    @foolforfrance - from what i was looking at online, the temperatures only increased in every city the week or two after we left! hopefully it cools down for your stay. Germany wasn't terrible though, the heat waves really hit us mostly in Paris and Prague. A tip - when you arrive at Schloss Sansoucci, head straight past the ticket station and line up out front of the entrance. They have tours booked every 15 minutes (from what i could understand) and they will open the doors about 5 minutes before your allotted time and will call for all those scheduled to come inside. I think you have to be there exactly on time/5 minutes early for entry (from what i could see).

    I had planned for lunch in the Dutch area too, and then a walk to the Neuer gardens (i think they are called). We decided not to do this, sadly, because of the rain. definitely something we will do again when we manage to get back :)

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    And we arrive at the Trip report for our FAVOURITE city…Prague!

    We boarded our train for Prague at 11am on a Sunday morning. It was another DB bahn train, and we had booked seats in a private 6 seater compartment. Our companions for the first half of our trip were two German couples who were heading to Dresden for their 30 year wedding anniversaries, if I remember right! They were extremely lovely, and both ladies spoke enough English for us to hold up a conversation for the 2 hours that they were with us.
    We arrived in Prague main station and headed to find our hotel (Ibis Praha Old Town). Luckily, the train station in smack in the middle of the city, and the walk to our hotel was only 5-10 minutes long. The room was almost identical to the one we had in Berlin, which was expected as they are both Ibis hotels. After checking in and relaxing for an hour or so, we headed out in search of food.

    We still had a few euros to get rid of at this stage, so we found a hotel restaurant that would accept them as well as Czech Koruna’s. Luckily, the exchange rate they used wasn’t terrible (25 Koruna’s for a Euro I think?) and we settled in for lunch at King’s Court Hotel restaurant. Food was great, if not slightly overpriced. At this stage however we weren’t so fussy on the price as they accepted euros.
    After dinner, we headed for a quick look at the town square. We stayed for a few drinks at one of the restaurants in the square, staromestska restaurace. We were really disappointed that we never got to eat here during our stay – the food smelt wonderful while we were having a few beers, and this restaurant was always busy every time we walked past. Just a quick note for readers – we were told that the menu prices changed significantly if one sat outside as opposed to inside. I think the waiter said the difference was close to 50% increase for sitting outside!

    We decided to go check out Karlovy Lazne on the same night, which for those that don’t know is a 5 storey club down by the Charles Bridge. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we enjoyed checking out the local night life!

    The next day, we went for a walk around the Jewish quarter. The architecture here is stunning! We lost ourselves in the little streets for a good hour or two, before climbing up to the lookout in Letna gardens. I had intended on heading here for the Letna beer gardens, but we never actually made it to the beer gardens. Instead, we found a circus and what looked to be a gypsy commune set up on the hill! We also discovered a skate park/beer garden which looked out over the whole of Prague. Great stumble upon!
    Once we had finished exploring the Letna gardens, we wandered back down through the town square towards Charles bridge. On the way we found the cutest garden restaurant down an alley from the main road! I mentioned it in one of my posts above I think - Restaurant U Malvaze.

    I actually can’t remember at all what we did day two in Prague!!
    Day three: We went out for both lunch and dinner at the same restaurant (I mentioned in a post above). We wandered up to see the castle today (we thought it was too hot to wait in lines to actually go in though, and besides we were running low on funds as this was our last full day in Europe at this point!)We walked over Charles Bridge and up to the castle – such a nice walk!!! Spent a little while exploring the area around the castle, and then we resumed our walk back down to Charles bridge, stopping at a small café on route for something to drink.

    The next day was home time – we checked out of the hotel at 10, and spent two hours grabbing breakfast and wasting a bit of time looking around prague one last time before our pre-booked car service came to pick us up and take us to the airport. I highly recommend Prague airport transfers if you are looking at options for how to get from the city centre to the airport. They were on time, efficient and very polite.

    This brings us to the end of my trip report! I’m sure I’ll think of a few points I have forgotten and post them below. I hope you enjoyed reading about our European adventures 

    Until next time (which will most likely be our honeymoon!)

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    WOW!

    Thank you for your review! I'm actually going to Paris next month then onto Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and finally back to Munich to fly back to San Diego.

    I shall keep in mind the places you and your fiancee visited. *CONGRATULATIONS*

    I'm so bookmarking this page as well! :)

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    Enjoying your trip report. So I could remember my trips, I set up a free blog and blog almost daily on trips. I would never remember anything if I didn't. I do a lot of home exchanges and my trips are based on those.

    You can see my blog at altecockertravels.weebly.com

    My blog is a free blog--nothing special. I put all my adventures and photos there and it is permanent. Whatever you say on Fodor's eventually gets "buried" because it is way down in the posts.

    Congratulations on your engagement!

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