Paris, The "City of Light" is a destination in itself and it is on every traveler's list. As one of the cultural centers in Europe and one of the most romantic cities in the world, the things to see and do are almost endless but without a proper planning, they can become easily overwhelming. However, it doesn't have to be this way. A few minor twists can completely transform your Parisian experience.
Learn a few basic French words
You may know, that France is one of the European countries where Engish is not widely spoken. If you are not prepared, the language barrier can easily create unpredicted and challenging situations. That being said, there are ways to go around this. Patience and learning a few basic French words like "Bonjour", "merci", "S"il-vous-plait"is a good start!
Choose a centrally located hotel
Paris is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world. Comprised of 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods), there are a variety of accommodations that can satisfy many travel tastes. If you are a first-time visitor, choosing a hotel that is either a walking distance to major must-see sights( Eifel Tower, Norte Dame, Louvre Museum etc) or near a train station can save you a lot of time and frustration. For our recent stay, my husband and I choose the boutique Louison Hotel located in Saint- Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. Also known as "Luxembourg", this arrondissement is home to the Luxembourg Museum and Gardens. This being our first time in Paris, we loved the location: steps away from multiple metra/train stations (including Gare Montparnasse for a short train ride to Chateau De Versailles), shopping, and a wide choice of restaurants and historical cafes including Le Procope, the oldest cafe in Paris. There was a nice mix of residential buildings and small hotels that didn't feel touristy.
Reserve your museum tickets ahead of time
Paris is home to one of the most visited museums in the world and if you don't reserve your tickets in advance you risk waiting on hours-long lines.
Travel Tip: Choose a ticket with a time entry/skip the line option. For some museums, you may have to do that a weeks in advance.
Travel Tip: If you are planning to purchase The Paris Pass, consider for how many days you are in Paris and how many museums you like to see per day (once activated, the Paris Pass have to be used in consecutive days and might not make a financial sense)
Give yourself an extra time to get to your point of interest
Paris metro is one of the oldest and one of the best systems in the world, but the complex metro system can be a challenge even for the most experienced traveler. Expect to take a couple of days to master the train system and to get lost a few times before getting used to it.
Travel Tip: If you can, just walk! You will get exercise and you will discover hidden neighborhood gems on your way.
Get an early morning start
Why would you get up early on your vacation? There are many reasons to do so, but the primary being is to avoid the crowds! Unless you book a "behind the closed doors/after hours entry" private experiences you will still wait on lines, but they will be considerably shorter compared to mid-day museum visits, also you will get better picture opportunities.
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My husband and I woke up this morning to see thru our porthole window cloudy skies. Today, our Windstar Yacht was scheduled to arrive at Porto Vecchio, Corsica France, a lush island paradise, known as the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Among European Tourists Porto Vecchio is known as "St Tropez" of Corsica, a fashionable resort town dotted with art galleries, boutique shopping, gourmet dining and night life
A complimentary shuttle arranged by the cruise line took us to the Old Town, which was about 10 minutes uphill ride from the modern marina. We started wondering thru narrow cobblestone streets (the town is best explored by foot), and found the Place de Republique ( the main square), visit the imposing St Jean-Baptiste Church dating back to the 19th Century and made our way to the Genoise Gate which offered panoramic views of the Harbor, sea and surrounding mountains.
Our last stop was the Tourist Bureau, where we arranged a Taxi to take us to Bonifacio- a must -see popular medieval town located in the southern tip of the island. The total taxi cost one way was 60 Euro, on the way back a different taxi driver asked for 84 euro.
Travel Tip: If you plan to visit Bonifacio independently, try to arrange a round trip taxi as soon as you get off the ship! Ask the cruise director to help or the port person. We couldn't find any taxi stands in Porto Vecchio and trying to arrange it on your own can be a challenge if you don't speak French language (the official language in Corsica) We had to wait 45 min at the Tourist Bureau before our taxi arrived.
Leaving Porto Vecchio on our way to Bonifacio, the real Corsica start unfolding- a mountainous lush, green island with a rolling hills and happy grazing cows. For some reason reminded me of Maui, Hawaii....
Passing thru Porte de Genes (the only way to enter Bonifacio) , our taxi driver dropped up off in the Citadel since it is a steep uphill climb to the Citadel and the Old Town from the Marina. A little tourist train also runs in the summer from the Marina (5 Euro)It didn't take us long to realize that the taxi left us at a vintage point overlooking the Marina and it's jet-set yachts- a perfect picture opportunity!
Travel Tip: Ask your taxi driver to drop you off in the Citadel
We started making our way to the top of the town to the entry of King Aragon Steps. After paying admission 2.5 Euro we start descending. Legend has it that this 187 steps carved into the limestone cliff face were built by the Aragonese in a single night in their failed attempt to gain the town in 1420.
Travel Tip: Climbing the steps require to be physically active- the steps were uneven and at places, slippery. However this was memorable experience and the views of the gleaming Mediterranean Sea and the cliffs were stunning!
Bonifacio's Old Town, with a labyrinth of narrow streets and historical buildings was built by Genoese and its great place to wonder around. After exploring King Aragon's Steps, we stopped by chic boutiques and passed trendy restaurants. In addition to the Old Town, the Harbor also offers a wide choice of restaurants and shopping.
Mid afternoon was time to go back to Porto Vecchio and board our Windstar Yacht because the next port of call was waiting!
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