Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Hey! If you're reading this, it means I'm finally back home all safe & sound, catching up on my favorite shows & seeing what all I've missed out on while I was away. If you're new here, let me fill you in: I've just return from a long, three-week journey (sounds like an epic start to a great story, so I'm goin with it) to Europe & I have so many things to share but for now, let me just say that in reality, it was nothing short of amazing. This is my first official blog post about my travel experiences so this post is going to be lengthy (the other ones, not so much). Grab the popcorn, it's gonna be a good one!
Here is how it's going to work. I'm going to write up & share with you all a blog from each major city with checked out. We had a total of 5 hot spots we hit up so I'm going to break it down into 5 separate posts. Trust me, it'll save you from having to read a bunch of non-sense for hours & it'll save me from getting hand cramps from having to type so much. It's a win-win for everyone. First up, Paris!
Y'all. Let's be real for a second. I had never been outside of the country except for trips down to the Caribbean (I don't count that as international travel). This entire trip was such an eye-opening experience that I cannot begin to put into words, but I'm going to try for yall's sake. We started off the trip flying into Dublin, Ireland (with a connecting flight to Reykjavik, Iceland via WOW Air). We stayed the first night in town & on the very next day, we headed out to Paris, France. If y'all ever want to feel "international," just travel to a country where English isn't the primary language. You will instantly become the foreigner, oh how the tables turn! Right off the bat, I was blown away. Hearing people talk in nothing but French was so mind-blowing. I couldn't stop eavesdropping on everyone's conversation. Ya gotta remember, this guy hasn't done this before, so it's the littlest things that will bring me joy at this point!
We finally made it to our hotel (Hotel Alhambra) via taxi & got ourselves settled in. It was time to get this show rollin! Our first mission was to scope out the general area & get familiar with our surroundings (I always say this is one of the most important safety things you can do when traveling. Know your exits, as my dad always taught us! Ya never know about crazy people.) Once we knew where we were, our next stop was to go get Metro tickets. Travel Tip: Don't be afraid to use the Metro. If it weren't for the Paris Metro system, we would've been forced to fork out money left & right for other means of transportation. We were able to get a 3-Day pass for no more than roughly €23. This thing took us ALL over the city. Yes, it will be crowded (what city metro isn't?) but when you're able to have the freedom to go just about anywhere you want within the city for 3 entire days at only $26 USD, how much more could you ask for? I could buy so many baguettes with the money I've saved! Day 1 in Paris consisted of checking out the outside of the Louvre (that glass pyramid structure is much more impressive in person, just saying) & catching glimpses of the infamous Eiffel Tower in the distance. We ended the day relaxing at one (out of HUNDREDS) of the cafès near the Eiffel Tower. Never did I ever think I would be eating at a real, authentic french cafè while looking up at the Eiffel Tower.
We woke up bright & early the next day (although it was pouring rain this day) to catch a morning breakfast. Travel Tip: No matter what meal you're eating, be prepared to devour a lot of bread. A lot. Funny story: I ordered what I thought would be a simple croissant & orange juice. Turns out, that wasn't all I ordered. It came with a basket of sliced baguette pieces, a half of a buttered baguette, AND a croissant! You should have seen the look on my face. I mean, I LOVE bread (who doesn't??) but I couldn't believe they expected me to eat all of this bread so early in the morning! Hahaha Whew, let's just say we were stuffed when all was said & done. Since it was raining this day, we decided that it would be a great day to check out the Louvre & see that beautiful masterpiece they call Mona Lisa. Yup, and so was everyone else. Travel Tip: Be prepared to stand in line. Everywhere you look online, you'll see places that offer advanced ticket sales & "no line" tickets meaning you can cut the lines & go straight through. Well in today's world of technology, everyone is now doing this. So much so, the "no line" line is now LONGER than the normal ticket lines! Seriously. Anywhere & everywhere you decide to go see and do, there will be lines. We experienced the same situation for not only the Louvre, but also for the Palace of Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, & the Eiffel Tower. It was tourist paradise! Getting back on track, the Louvre is incredible. It's hands-down the largest, single building museum I have ever been to. Tickets to get in were €17 (free for kids under 18). Because it's such a BIG building, our main objective was to hunt down the major pieces of artwork & to go from there. At first, we got stuck in the Egyptian artifacts & couldn't find our way out (when I say this place is big, I mean it's HUGE *insert Donald Trump voice here* (sorry, had to)). We finally found our way towards the Greek sculpture wing & eventually made it to the Italian & French paintings. From there, we were able to see all of the iconic pieces you learn about in history & even better, the movies! Super surreal to be in the presence of Mona Lisa herself. Travel Tip: Mona Lisa is a crowd pleaser. So much so, she attracts a huge crowd every day, all day. Fight your way to the front & see her in all her beauty. You may never see her again! After the Louvre, we went & checked out the largest shopping store I had ever seen before. I'm talking a store that takes up 3 buildings. Called Galeries Lafayette, every brand you can think of is inside this store. In the center of it is a mega-plex plethora (is that even a thing?) of perfume & makeup. It's also a fantastic location for some serious photo opportunities. For all of you shopping connoisseurs, this is your place to be!
Thankfully, the next day was bright & sunny! We took advantage of this & hit up Notre Dame. The place was super packed so we weren't pressed on standing in line to go inside. The outside was just as amazing! Afterwards, we grabbed lunch at a local cafe (surprise, surprise) & decided it was the perfect time to check out the Arc de Triomphe. It was beyond stunning. I was actually more excited to see this than the Eiffel Tower. Shocking, I know! The sheer immensity of its concrete structure alone is something that must be seen in person. Photos cannot do this monument justice. The view from the top is just as spectacular! Next up was to go check out the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. Travel Tip: Be sure your personal belongings are kept close as you ride the metro into this part of the city. The surrounding area of the Sacre-Coeur is a bit sketchy, with locals trying to sell you "souvenirs" & knick-knacks. Once you're closer to the Basilica, the area becomes much safer. This Catholic Church is a great spot for photography, as its iconic white domes contrasts beautifully with the blue skies behind them. Composing images here is super easy for anyone! Because of where we were, we were also able to walk to the infamous Moulin Rouge. It was awesome to see it in real life, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone. It was definitely an "oh wow look, there it is! Ehh, alrighty move on" kind of moment. Travel Tip: I personally do not recommend this attraction to groups with children. The entire avenue is filled with adult stores on both sides of the street. Definitely for mature audiences!
On Sunday, we left our hotel early in the morning to head to the Palace of Versailles. Travel Tip: This line was the longest line (length wise) we stood in so arriving there as early as possible is strongly advised. It goes by pretty quickly which helps! Everyone I talked to kept suggesting that whatever we did on this trip, we HAD to go check out the Palace. While it was an incredible place, the crowds were too overwhelming to fully enjoy the experience. Travel Tip: The Palace of Versailles is closed on Mondays. Everyone & their moms were there! This place was PACKED with tourists. So much so, that once we were inside the actual palace, our only focus was on one thing: GET OUT. Haha Seriously. The entire interior was packed like a can of sardines. I know. It's hard to imagine a palace being that crowded. We were just as shocked. Thankfully, the gardens were a breath of fresh air. Literally. With being located outside the Paris region, it was so nice to get away from the city for a bit. After the Palace, we headed back out to the Arc De Triomphe to check out the famous shopping avenue of the Champs-Élysées. It's filled with a plethora of shops, cafes, car dealerships & anything else you can think of!
The last thing we had left to do while in Paris was the most important: Conquer the tower. The Eiffel Tower. On the final day, we decided it was time to go check things out & see what was going on! Travel Tip: This line was the longest line (time wise) we stood in. There are multiple lines to go through. One at the base for getting to the first two floors, one on the second floor to get tickets for the top. And one for the elevator to get to the top. Be prepared to wait. This turns into an all day excursion. The entire thing took about 4-5 hours to complete. The view from the very top was worth it though! Plus, we now have the opportunity to say we went to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. The real one. Not the King's Dominion one. We even stayed out late to watch it come to life at night & do it's magic. Every hour, on the hour, it sparkles for a straight 5 minutes. Something movies could never do justice!
Paris was a treat but after 4 days in the "City of Lights," we were beyond ready to quit being tourist (for the most part) & go to the other quieter countries (excluding Italy. Italy was cray - blog coming soon) & take things on a slower pace. Plus our legs were on fire from walking so much! Our next stop: Annecy, France. A slower pace city in the French Alps whose cobblestone streets & lake provide the town with so much local entertainment. A spot you won't want to miss out on!
However, in the meantime, thanks for reading & enjoy these images!