Traveling to England was my first real foreign travel, and my first real solo trip. During college, I went to Mexico and the Bahamas with friends, but since I did not get a stamp in my passport it never seemed foreign (enough). Traveling to the UK is a rite of passage for many Americans, usually following high school or college graduation. Like me, it is often the first stamp in our passport and we finally get to travel abroad by crossing the pond, aka Atlantic Ocean. The UK is notoriously expensive, but it is a great destination to take off those travel training wheels and start to explore this big, beautiful world. Warning – I have made this crossing many times over the last 20 years and it is absolutely to blame for my wanderlust now.
Champagne is my go-to beverage for celebrations, Sunday brunch, a quiet night in, and every other occasion that I can think of.
In February 2002 I spent a week in Reims, France to explore part of the Champagne region. The main purpose of my visit was to enjoy as many varies of Champagne as I could! I called to reserve my cellar tours (before online reservations), booked my hotel (through a travel agent), and rode the TGV train from Paris Gare de l’East to Reims. My hotel was a short walk from the train station, and I stopped at a local café for dinner and pastry.
Between Champagne tastings and cellar tours, I managed to visit the Palais du Tau and nearby cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims. I walked to most places with the occasional taxi ride. Exploring the city as a solo female traveler was easy and safe.
The down side of travelling solo all those years ago (before smart phone with built in cameras) is that I have a fuzzy memory and very few, poor quality photos. Admittedly, the photos were made even worse by the massive amounts of Champagne consumed during operation.
My friend Lisa recently went to the Champagne region, and was kind enough to share her experience and photos.
During a recent trip to Europe to visit family, my husband and I snuck away to France for just a couple of days. We thought about visiting Paris, but then I ruled against it… I wanted to go to the Champagne region instead.
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As I mature (which is a nice way to say, get older), my approach to travelling is changing. In my early 20’s, I had a checklist of places to visit. Before the term bucket list was coined and the creation of Pinterest, I literally had a world map on my wall that I would stick a push-pin into after visiting each city.
I had a magnificent job that sent me to work in the United Kingdom for almost a year, twice! Travel was forever changed for me. Sure, I used London as my home base to travel Europe on the weekends, but the push-pin strategy never satisfied my wanderlust. I collected many pins, but it was not enough.
Even a few days in a city is only long enough for me to decide what I need to do and see on my next visit, and discover the hidden gems from locals. My first visit to Paris was a mere 3 days, barely enough time to see the top 5 tourist attractions (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louve, Notre Dame, and Champs Elysees) and very little else (and there is so much more to see). I felt rushed. I felt like a tacky American tourist – maybe, because I was.
After a few more hurried trips, I realized that break-neck speed of travel is exhausting. I do not want to spend more time in transit than exploring. In the last decade, I started to slow down, put down the guide book, and talk to the locals. Simple curiosity and a good attitude have resulted in invitations to private country estates, weekends in sleepy little villages, multiple wedding receptions around the world, cheering with the fans for local amateur sports teams, and so much more off the beaten path activities. I am simply not satisfied by sheer number of cities visited, I want to connect and savor the destination.
Granted, slow travel is a luxury. Not everyone can spend weeks at a vacation destination. 10 days in Cancun enabled me to complete my Scuba certification start to finish, with a couple extra dives at the end. Weekend trips are focused on a few activities at a destination, and almost always followed up with a longer visit to see more. Continue reading Benefits of Slow Travel→
In light of the recent attacks, Paris is on my mind.
My first trip to Paris was in October 1998. My pathetic high school French immediately gave me away as American, but everyone that I encountered was warm and friendly. My friend and I flew into Charles de Gaulle for a long weekend. Our hotel was near the airport which required a train trip each day into the city for sightseeing. The currency was the French franc (pre-Euro), no one had mobile phones, and paper maps provided directions to each of our destinations. I spent a full day at the Louve and finished the day with an evening view from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I was hooked on Paris and crammed as many other attractions into the next day as possible before leaving.
In the years since, I have gone back to Paris several more times, usually by myself (sans selfie stick resulting in few photos). In May 2001, during our European vacation, my Mother and I spent a week in Paris.
The Louvre 2001
Along with the top tourist destinations, we toured the Paris Opera house (Palais Garnier) and explored the famous fountains and gardens (Jardin des Tuilleries) around the city. By this time, the currency was Euro, I knew to take the train in from London, and our hotel was in the city near the train station. We still relied on paper maps, and we selected restaurants by delicious smells as we walked by.
More recent visits have included internet booked hotels & train, mobile phone with international texting, and the same warm and friendly people of Paris.
Many years have passed since my last visit, and I find that today, Paris is on my mind.
Are you ready to visit Paris? First timers, or ready for an awesome trip, here are Practical Tips for Visiting Paris from Anna Everywhere. She guides you through using the metro public transportation, tips for museum tickets, and the real story on the Paris Catacombs!