France + Italy October 2022

Old Nov 15th, 2022, 09:14 PM
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France + Italy October 2022

After discussing my then-upcoming plans to visit Europe with a few in this forum, I promised to post a trip report when it was completed. So here it is, good, bad and ridiculous.

Week 1
08/10 - 09/10
24 hour flight from Brisbane, Australia to Paris, France with a 3 hour layover stop in Singapore. Singapore airlines is nice to fly with. Pretty uniforms, provided earphones, blankets and pillows, good airplane food, unlimited free drinks, good selection of entertainment. Sidenote: As a larger girl I only had to get a seat belt extender once during the whole trip, which makes me wonder why the seat belts aren't standard sizes, but that's neither here nor there.
We made our way to Hotel Angleterre in Montmarte by about midday on 09/10, and after a nap, went out for dinner. It turned out that we had arrived on the last day of some kind of festival, so Sacre Coeur was packed. We ended up having pizza and wine at one of the restaurants and as another side note, one of my friends have warned me that the wine in restaurants wasn't that good, and she was right, at least with the house wine.



10/10 - 11/10 My dad found a detailed walking tour of Montmartre and we decided to spilt it up into two days, as we didn't want to be in a rush.
https://pariskathmandu.com/montmartre-itinerary/

Some of my favorite spots from this walk were the Wall of Love, Cafe Des Deux Moulins (from Amelie- delicious creme brulee) and the Museum of Montmarte, which overlooked a beautiful garden that we weren't allowed to enter. Our first stop of the day wasn't on the list, but we had to go through it to get to the real first stop- Parc Monceau, which was absolutely beautiful and we spent a good deal of time there before actually getting on with the tour.
This was also the day I discovered the Aperol Spritz and I was never the same again. We intended to eat lunch at Pink Mumma but unfortunately it was packed so we ate at PNY Burger instead, which was right across the street.
I would return to Montmarte, hills and all.













12/10
Day trip out to Giverny and Versailles.
Monet's House and gardens and the tiny village were quite charming. His gardens in particular were deigned quite beautifully and have been kept in their original state. We enjoyed drinks and sandwiches at the bakery closest to the church (can't remember it's name) and met a group of American tourists and had a great chat. It's nice to exchange stories with people from around the world.





​​​​​Versailles was quite interesting to visit, and we found that the palace had been organized in a way that would take us throughout history as a tour guide led us around and told us the stories of French kings and queens. It is important to note that many original pieces were missing from the rooms and things had been moved around. Still, it was an ornate and beautiful place. There were also a great amount of tourists even though October is supposed to be off-season. I suppose everyone else had the same idea as us.






13/10
The next day we took a walk and visited more landmarks. First though, my dad was getting sick of the basic European breakfast and wanted something more substantial than the pastry/coffee/juice combo (this coming from a man on a diet who never usually eats breakfast, go figure) so we went looking for that and ended up in Marais, one of the trendy suburbs according to some. Happy with what we got in one of the cafes, we got on a train and ended up ticking off a few spots that I've been wanting to see for a long time: Victor Hugo's house, Opera Garnier, Notre Dame (still closed to the public, much to my disappointment), the Eiffel Tower (which we didn't go up as it was expensive and also raining by this point), a walk in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and finishing off in the Latin Quarter. It was here that we found my favorite dinner of the whole trip, in La Petit Hostellerie. It was a three course meal for 10, and I got to try the two french dishes I'd been wanting for a while- French Onion Soup and Beef Bourguignon (thanks, Julie and Julia). Both were absolutely delicious, and we actually returned here for the same on our last day in Paris, three weeks later.
​​​









14/10
Rest day. We did some laundry, wandered around Montmarte a little, bought a few souvanirs, and packed our bags for the trip south we were about to take. For dinner we ate at one of the little Lebanese restaurants around our area, and had an early night, as our train was leaving early the next morning.

(To be continued.)
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 11:39 PM
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Great report Miacharlie. I am pleased to read that you achieved your dream. Looking forward to reading more.
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Old Nov 15th, 2022, 11:46 PM
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Love your photos Miacharlie, I am very inspired by your report!!

Lavandula
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 12:37 AM
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Nice start to your trip. Sounds like you had fun and your planning worked out.
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 04:38 AM
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Enjoying your report a lot, especially mentioning what you ate and where. Your pictures are lovely, especially that garden! Looks as if it was a wonderful trip! What a memory to share with your Dad.
Looking forward to more and thank you for taking time to write this.
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 05:40 AM
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In France you get a French breakfast, not a European one ;-)
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 05:44 AM
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Sign me on, MIACHARLIE!
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 05:55 AM
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Enjoying your report and photos! We didn't spend a lot of time in Montmarte so we didn't visit Parc Monceau! It looks beautiful!
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 07:15 AM
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Good start!
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 08:05 AM
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Your photos are quite good.

Although you carressed Dalida's breasts, do you know who she was? (YouTube is your friend.)
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 10:59 PM
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Week 2
15/10
This was a rather stressful day, and it was entirely our fault. Prebooking a train ticket weeks if not months in advance means nothing when you're late and miss said train. Even though we got up early, dad didn't take my advice and finished packing that morning instead of the night before, and I am not a fast walker, especially before breakfast, so we ended up missing our train. We had to buy new tickets because for some reason there wasn't the same route going again, and we'd have to change trains instead of coasting all the way down on one.
All this is to say we were very tired and frustrated by the time we got to Annecy that day, where we picked up a hire car, and after a wander around the old town and exploring the ancient prison on the island, we got on our way to Chamonix.
Let me tell you, I could not relax the entire hour and a half while my dad drove on roads he wasn't familiar with, using a GPS system neither of us could follow very well, and needed to be reminded to stay away from curbs. We were not used to driving on the right side of the road. But eventually we arrived in Chamonix relatively unscathed. The trip there was beautiful when we could relax enough to get our eyes of the road, driving through mountains capped with snow and feeling the temperature drop down to pleasant shivers.





16/10
We stayed at the aptly-named Hotel Chamonix, which was cozy enough, although they didn't provide any toiletries like all the other hotels did. But that was fine. The town was charming, nestled between snowy mountains, and the breakfast provided was very good, hosted by the hotel opposite us.
My dad had been here twice before, once with mum and once with my other sisters. The first time, a blizzard ruined his plans to go up Mont Blanc. The second time, he had a freshly broken leg and couldn't enjoy himself. Third time's the charm- we took the cable car up the mountain, and this time there were clear skies and we were able-bodied enough to enjoy the breathtaking views, as well as a rocky walk across the mountain to find a pretty blue lake.








​​​​17/10
After another night in town, we reluctantly said our goodbyes, slightly annoyed that some of the attractions were closed. I guess we have an excuse to return someday, but it might have to be in peak season so that we can see everything.
We drove south, heading for Avignon. The weather grew warmer, and dad spent the drive trying to distract me from the stress of being on the road with him by explaining the Tour De France to me. This is the only sport he regularly watches, so he knows a good deal about it. It's actually quite interesting.
We were only spending one night in Avignon, so when we arrived, we quickly checked into our Ibis hotel on the outskirts of the city walls, and went for a walk inside them. It was interesting to find that the modern world has touched even the ancient inner city, passing popular American stores inside crumbling stone buildings. This was where several popes fled to from Rome when Christianity was having a difficult time, and their influence shines through in the Palais de Papes and the Basilique Saint Pierre. We picked up some sandwiches and beers from one of the supermarkets and went to sit by the river on the other side of the city, enjoying the evening, before returning through the Jardin Des Doms and winding through the ancient streets back to the hotel.






18/10
The next day we travelled even further south, stopping off at two small towns on our way to the city of Nice.
Fontaine de Vaucluse sits on a natural spring that flows through the town and is a favorite of the ducks in the area. It's peaceful and quiet, with restaurants lining the river and a short hike through the forest to the source of the spring, which was practically empty at that time of year. Dad and another man both jumped the fence at the end to go and explore, and the lady waiting with me shared a long-suffering glance with me as we waited. She only spoke French, but even if I didn't understand the word for 'boys', I would know exactly what she was saying when she lamented their flaunting the rules.






After a relaxing break, we headed back to the car and continued on to Roussillon, a town that sits in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, and is famous for its red cliffs and ochre quarries. It was a very cute little town, but as small as it is, I was surprised to find how touristy it could be. We wandered from one end to the other and back, taking in the vivid colours and views over the old quarries.







Once we had our fill of charming and quirky villages, we headed to Nice. This ended up being a stressful part of the drive, as our GPS wasn't clear enough about where we were supposed to go and we ended up in Cannes while I called the car hire office and told them we would be late for drop off. Thankfully they were happy for us to come in the morning, so that just left getting from Cannes to Nice and then finding parking near our hotel, which wasn't easy. Eventually we checked into Hotel Trocadero and that was the end of the stress. For now, at least.

(To be continued)
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Old Nov 16th, 2022, 11:45 PM
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So lucky to have that perfect day in the mountains! Lovely photos.
I think you’re a younger demographic than a lot of us ‘oldies’ Mia, and I appreciate you reporting back and I totally get the driving stress - I’d not survive the anxiety of driving other side of the road myself.
Too bad about that train ride, but we’ve all done something like that.
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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 12:29 AM
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what a wonderful report.. love it.. Pics are terrific. I love Aperol Spritz too... best drink
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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 01:19 AM
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Really enjoying reading this, thanks for sharing. Your photos are great - love the colours of the narrow street in Roussillon.

Kay (another Brisbanite)
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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 12:03 PM
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It can be a bit stressful at first when you start driving on the opposite side. I do not drive but my husband adjusts fairly quickly. He is gearing up again for next year.
Lovely photos and great memories you made even if there were some hiccups.
Have a great day from Toowoomba.
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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 01:43 PM
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Looks like you were lucky with the weather, too. I also dislike driving in Europe. If I travel without my husband I don't drive, I much prefer the train, but there are obviously some destinations where you need the car. You did well driving with a dodgy GPS. Maps are not entirely a thing of the past, they still have their purposes in my book!

Lavandula

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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 04:00 PM
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Hello from another Brisbanite

I’m enjoying your well-written report. Neither my husband nor I drive when in Europe as we had enough trouble just driving in the UK a few years ago with a GPS and google maps often being confusing. One time in Cornwall we were directed to drive down a steep laneway into a river!

After that trip I decided that it would be good to also have detailed local paper maps next time.

Judy

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Old Nov 17th, 2022, 06:43 PM
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Great read! Thank you for sharing your adventure. I hope you continue to participate in this form. You can give a lot of good advice to others, from planning to execution of the plan.
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 04:48 AM
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Week 2 (continued)
19/10 - 20/10
The first two days in Nice were spent following another walking tour that we put together ourselves. This part of the trip was supposed to be the chill portion before we headed into Italy, so we took it easy.
We visited the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum of Nice, which had a lot of interesting exhibitions on different artists, as well as being able to walk along the top of the building and enjoy the view of the city. Onto the Port de Nice, where we got some ice cream and sat for a little while, before walking up around the bottom of Castle Hill and heading towards the English Promenade. After a nice walk along the coastline and dipping our feet in the water, we went up Castle Hill, had some drinks and explored the area, before heading down in the old elevator. That walk up the hill was killer, but there are places to sit and rest on the way, which I took advantage of.
We headed back through the Old Town, which is a treasure trove of all the souvanirs you could possibly want, as well as quaint old architecture and restaurants.








21/10
I had been wanting to visit one of the cute seaside towns, and so we headed to Menton, a popular holiday destination with plenty of history. Popular in summer, maybe- this was the first place where I felt the off-season taken seriously. Down by the beach, it was eerily silent and the overcast sky didn't help. It felt like a ghost town. Apartments and hotels were shut up, and few shops were open. However, it was a nice walk, and we found one of those tourist trains operating, so we bought tickets and took a ride around town while the recorded tour guide explained the sights. Here we bought many lemon products to take home, and tried the different treats on offer in the small part of the city that was still busy.









22/10
This was another rest day. Laundry again, souvanirs, packing, and trying new foods, as well as planning our train trip meticulously so as to not find ourselves in the same predicament we were in when leaving Paris. Tickets secured, bags packed, route to the station plotted out, we went to bed early again.

(To be continued)
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Old Nov 18th, 2022, 08:14 AM
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I'm thoroughly enjoying your report Mia.

Count me in as another Aperol Spritz fan.
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