I had Europe on my bucket list for many years. It stayed there for a while because there were so many places left in the US that I had not seen. Needless to say, after much thought, I decided to go for my 40th birthday.
I spent about 18 months planning the trip. Sometimes, I like to “wing it”, but this trip wasn’t one of them. I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything. My friend Eliska, decided to go with me, so we planned the perfect 10 day adventure! We went in December and the weather was cold, but not freezing.
We had a friend who’s sister lives in Paris and was able to stay in the cutest flat for free, so that helped our budgets! It was situated in an up and coming part of the city (the 10th ARR) with cute restaurants and coffee shops. We found out pretty quickly that Parisians sleep in and stay up late (as compared to the US), so lots of things weren’t open when we were ready to start our day. For me, Paris wasn’t about the food or wine (saving that for my next European vacay), it was more about the architecture and history. We didn’t shop much or eat much for that matter, but we soaked in every street. The most popular landmark in Paris is of course the Eiffel Tower. It was magnificent. Even more magnificent in person. And, at night the tower was like a dream. The Louvre, Notre Dame and The Palace of Versailles were also gorgeous works of art. Seeing the Mona Lisa was surreal and even the Princess Diana Memorial was something I felt a strong connection with. For the most part, the streets were clean. There were some areas that reminded me of NYC, but not many. If you spoke a little French (luckily, my friend Eliska did), people were very nice. We did splurge at Laperouse. And, in my opinion, the best restaurant we dined at while in Paris.
“For me, Paris wasn’t about the food or wine, it was more about the architecture and history.”
After a few days exploring Paris, we took a 2.5 hour train ride into London where I fell in love even more. Things you see in photos come to life and it’s a remarkable experience. London didn’t have a communication barrier like France, so exploring was a little easier for me there. Most of the time, I was as in awe, soaking it all in. St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Regent Street were just a few places we visited while in England. We even ate fish and chips and drank some local beer!
We also traveled into Belgium where we enjoyed the beautiful City of Brussels. I will never forget seeing the square for the first time. ‘Le Grande Place’ looks like something out of a movie. We ate waffles and chocolate and clams and much much more. We found beautiful side streets and stumbled upon The Royal Palace and some gorgeous views of the city.
After a day in Brussels, we hopped on the train and headed back to Paris. We took a boat ride down the La Seine River to coast by the Eiffel Tower at night (which is an entirely different experience), dinner at Le’Avenue, cocktails at The Plaza, added a lock to The Love Lock Bridge, Saw Moulin Rouge VIP style and visited the Sacre Couer where the city view was magnificent.
It was the trip of a lifetime and I feel so blessed to have a safe and fun experience. I love traveling with friends. Especially ones that love visiting places they’ve never been! Looking forward to traveling across the pond again someday soon!
*we used a travel agent for booking flights, the train rides and tours. Dinner reservations through Open Table and booked St Ermin’s Hotel in London via Marriott direct. We used Uber to get us around each city.