EUROPE IN 1 WEEK
“No you can’t do that – it’s a waste of time”. “Spend time and immerse yourself to appreciate the culture” – Those were the advise I have read when we were planning to visit London, Paris, Venice, Rome and the Vatican in just 5 days. I only have 8 days left on my vacation days out of the 17 days allotted by my employer. A major holiday is coming up – a long weekend – I have to devise an itinerary that will have us visit major sites and attractions in Europe for a very short timeframe. And 3 days of it will be spent visiting relatives who lives about 2 hours south of London.
Right timing and careful planning is essential – it is the middle of March and the target date of travel is late May and take advantage of Memorial Day weekend. The dates of travel will be to leave on a Saturday and come back the following Sunday for a total of 9 days. I have to book the airline tickets, reserve a hotel room, find train tickets, shop online for tour packages, map out and route the path and read all pertinent reviews on where to go, what to eat, what to wear, and so on.
First, the airline ticket – I searched a lot of websites – http://cheapoair.com, and http://expedia.com to see if there are travel bargains. I am also looking for direct flights so as not to waste time changing planes or waiting at the airport. I found out that if you do a little research, the price given by these online brokers are just a few bucks more than if you go to the carriers website. Plus, they will either have you change planes or make you have a long connection. Finally, I booked directly at the United Airlines site for a non-stop flight from Washington, DC to London Heathrow. The price difference? – just $3 each higher and we get to fly non-stop in the morning and be there late in the evening.
Next step will be to book the train travel to France and Italy – I booked a train going to Paris using http://Eurostar.com. and another train going to Italy, this time an overnight train going to Venice with train connection the following day going to Rome.
Third will be to book the hotels – keeping in mind the distance and possible travel time from the hotel to the train station or airport.
Day 1 – Saturday – Direct Flight to London
Flying out of Washington, DC at 8AM and arriving London, Heathrow at 9PM. I was able to get the best deal for http://HeathrowExpress train going to Central London. Cost of the trip for 2 is $22. The trip is only 15 minutes as compared to about 55 minutes travel on the regular train. Before the trip, I booked a hotel room close to St Pancras International train station, about 5 minutes walk away, where we are going to take the Eurostar train to Paris on Monday.
Day 2 – Sunday – Touring London
Booked the city bus tour that includes the Thames River cruise. Got to see Elizabeth Tower or the famous Big Ben, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, as well as got to ride the London Underground (or subway) and back to our hotel for a Sunday dinner. Tip of the day: use the underground, its cheaper than taxi.
Day 3 – Monday – Lovely Day In Paris
Left St Pancras International Train Station at 8:15am via Eurostar and arrived at 10:50AM at Gare du Nord train station in Paris, France. We then took the Metro Train to transfer to Gare de Lyon train station, where we will take the Thello Overnight train to Venice at 7:00PM. We rented a luggage locker at the station and then headed to 3 famous sites – The Louvre Museum, Arc De Triomphe and Eiffel Tower . We head back to the train station around 4PM with plenty of time to spare – chill out in the Train Bleu restaurant and waited for the train that will take us to Venice, Italy.
Day 4 – Tuesday – Gazing at the Canals in Venice
The train is scheduled to arrive in Venice around 9am, but due to track maintenance delays, we reached Venizia Santa Lucia around 12 Noon. Luckily, our hotel is just across the train station and we just walk and cross the Scalzi Bridge and off we go to sightsee. We did a lot of walking and enjoyed every minute of it. Along the way, we take photographs of ancient houses, canals, places of worship and most importantly the 2 famous place the Venice is known for – Rialto Bridge and St Marks Square . We also experience the Gondola Ride and then have a wonderful dinner overlooking the Grand Canal. It was really worth the trip.
Day 5 – Wednesday – When In Rome
The train station was just across our hotel, in fact, that was intentionaly planned ahead so that we can catch the first train that leaves for Rome. The travel time is about 2.5 hours and you got to ride on a highspeed, very efficient FrecciaRosa Train. We arrive at Roma Termini and the first thing that I noticed is, it is a bit crowded but what can you expect, this is a major city. We booked our hotel close to the Metro and some major sights. As soon as we were able to check in – off we go. Our first stop is the Trevi Fountaion, then The Pantheon, and a few blocks away is the Piazza De Venizia. Our final stop was The Colloseum– an ancient wonder of the world. We wrap up our day dining in a quaint little restaurant that caters to the locals – very authentic and reasonably priced.
Day 6 – Thursday – Wandering in Vatican City
The last of our Italian itinerary brought us to The Vatican Museum. This is another place that people around the world flock to. We booked our tour via Aviator and got the Early Morning VIP pass. We were the first in line and were allowed in before the museum opens to the public. We were escorted to the hallways of the up to the entrance of Sistine Chapel. From there, we wander around the area until we reached St Peter’s Basilica. We spent a whole 2-3 hours in awe at the magnificence of the architecture.
And Finally – A Word of Caution –
Wherever you go, there are places that you need to be careful handling your belongings. Majority of the places we visited was really very safe. However, do not put your guards down – there are certain elements in our society that are still lurking and pounce on you if you are not careful. Pickpockets are and con artist are taking advantage of foreigners and since you most of them are not caught – just mind what you have and where you’re going. It is still however a trip worth taking.
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