Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Roma in 2 days!

It was the last leg of our trip and the emotions were all mixed, rightly so! The train journey from Florence to Rome was scenic. The weather was just perfect. It is one of those typical European routes where one can get excited about the Italian landscape.

Our early retirement the previous day did a lot of good! We were wide awake, enjoying the beauty. We were at our B&B at 2.00 and knew we had to just run out to cover Roma!!

We stayed close to the Vatican, at Bibi & Romeo. I had recommend this place, Romeo is a perfect host. He is so helpful and everything about the B&B was just so right. Even though he is not available at the B&B, he has ensured everything is set right that you will never need him, and if you do, he is just a call away! Romeo pulled out a Roma map and gave a good brief about what best can be done in 2 days. We had our itinerary, inputs from the people on ground our always helpful. We did a quick re-grouping of our plan and off we went to start our tour.

We visited the capuchin crypt where the ossuary is decorated with bones. It was first of its kind, for us in the entire trip. We began our walk for the evening from there. Our next stop was the Pantheon,(Admission free)where Raphel's tomb is placed. I found Rome to be very busy that evening with loads of people walking down the aisle. There was a demonstration in front of the pantheon, making it appear very busy and crowded.

The evening was themed, "Roma for Free" for us, we next spent some time near the Trevi fountain! Bought some Pizzas and stood by the fountain. I am not sure which part of the day, the fountain would be free of tourists but an evening is definitely not the time! We stopped by at the Spanish steps, these are places where you can just sit and observe the scores of tourists around!!

The piazzas in Roma are indeed beautiful with sculptures and fountains! Piazza Popello, Piazza Navona and Campo de' Fiori were are next stops. The Pyramid at Piazza Popello is the one that features in the movie Angels and Demons. The fountain of four rivers is found in Piazza Navona. The Piazzas are the ideal place to slow down, grab a cafe, take a few bites and experience Roma.

We headed back to our B&B after our walking tour for the evening! We spotted a Pizza house near our B&B, a small one with white board placed outside that read - 'Honest Pizzas for Honest Prices". We were extremely happy to find this place - the man in the kicthen is an awesome human and his pizzas tasted great! He made our Pizza in 2 mins - yes 2mins. Customized vegetarian pizza not in his menu! We then had our next 2 meals in Roma with him :-)

Our penultimate day of the trip was planned on exploring the ancient Roma. Where else would one start but the Roman Colosseum. We spent a good 2 hours in the Colosseum!! To even stand in silence and imagine being in the days of Nero as a spectator at the Gladiatorial arena is a truly nerve wrenching experience!

A walking tour through the remains of ancient Rome, at the Palatine hill and Roman Forum. Excavations are still on and many are still being studied. If you are truly interested a good guide book will be of great use.

Capitol hill museum was our next destination, slowly by now, museums were becoming were becoming a bit of an overdose. 2 weeks of walking around every city was getting to us as well but here again we were in for a surprise. Every museum has something new to offer. The temporary exhibition here had put the works of Michaelangelo and Leonardo. When i say works, i mean the original study and paper works of these geniuses. A treat! Mouth of truth was our next destination for the day - a belief that the fingers will be cut off if you lie here! We ended our day with a visit to the Trastevere area, another side of Roma. I found it quieter, and more worn down as compare to Piazza Navona.

We wanted to either visit the catacombs or baths of caracalla, but we couldn't as most attractions in Roma during this season is closed by 16.30-17.00

We had a flight to catch at 8.30 the next day and our plan was Vatican and if possible may be squeeze one of it in but as luck would have it, there was a strike in Rome.

We walked to the Vatican, first the St.peter's basilica, it appears non-impressive from the outside but very impressive as you get in - truly rich! The vatican musuem has over 1200 rooms and it is impossible to do justice - it houses Raphello's major works as well. We did our best!
We had to create more buffer time as the strike was on. We headed to our man for our last mean in Italy - ate to heart's content and walked back to pick our bags to the airport!

* Roma pass priced at 25 Euros is worth. The first thing we did when we landed at the train station was to pick them.
* Roma pass entitles you to - travel in Metro, Buses
* First 2 attractions are absolutely free and discounts then on(Let the colosseum be one of your first priced at 12 Euros)
* Roma Metro does not connect you well - be ready to use the bus and walk.
* Gelatos in Florence are much better than in Rome.
* Staying close to the vatican is a good choice - Cheaper & safe - you are still close to one destination
* If you are close to the vatican, try the pizzas @ 10, via andrea doria - best for the prices!
* A good 3 day would be enough to cover the top attractions in Rome.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Italy Travel Guide

Traveling through Italy, one can expect to be blown over by artistic history, food, and landscape. Even if you aren't inclined to art, you still will be amazed by most cathedrals and monuments!

The popular circuit for traveling in Italy would be Milan-Venice-Florence-Rome-Naples-Sicily especially if you are traveling extensively in Italy.

The abridged version generally is Venice-Rome-Vatican city!

I personally believe it is better to take some time and relish the country than be hurried. Yes, the Roman Colosseum, Vatican church and Venetian Islands are a must see and would give you the glimpse of Italy but wouldn't you wanna relax on the beaches, and lose your taste buds to sensational seafood?

The northern and southern Italy are remarkably different - People, Culture, Food, Landscape - its good to experience both!

Season: Visiting Italy in winter and summer are two different experiences too!
Summer being the season, is filled with tourist. It is when the sun shines, perfect climate for traveling! Costs are high. Ideal time to explore the beaches and unwind in idyllic lush green surrounding.

The biggest plus in visiting during winter is cost! you will pay half the price for most things, as its off-season. But also be prepared to see most places wear a pale look as many wind up their business.

If you are going to spend many days in Italy then, i would suggest these quiescent hidden treasures : Lake como region - bordering Alps, be ready to witness some splendid landscape; Cinque Terre - enchanting rugged coast with cliffs, Verona - famous for its Arena, City walls and Juliet's love story; Lake Garda - scenic landscapes for rejuvenation; Islands in venice - Lido, Murano ; Coasts of Tuscany, Naples, Sicily - white sandy beaches.

They are not really hidden but relatively retain their cultural charm and beauty!!

Must See:

Last Supper Painting, Milan - Make your reservations online, gets booked a month in advance. You get to see this marvel for 15 mins exclusively! You can read the history of this painting. Expensive but still worth it, if you love and can appreciate art!

Venice - Just cause there is no place like it! Try to get away from the crowd and sail through the narrow alleys to get a real experience of being in venice.

Piazza Michaelangelo, Florence - a charming small city! experience the beauty of walking through this place. Go up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo - the view of florence from here is a real beauty!

David, Accademia Gallery, Florence - Entry on the expensive side but again worth the fee to see this sculpture of Michaelangelo

Leaning Tower of Pisa - The bell tower of Pisa cathedral that leans! 15 euros to climb up, if you think its expensive, you can skip it! The tower isn't very tall to give you great views. Walking up the tower in itself a experience, as you can feel the slant as you go up!

Roman Colosseum and Forum - Just to think you are standing in a place where gladiatorial games were held is a creepy feeling! Walking through the excavations of Roma makes you wonder! Read up Roman history to enhance your experience.

St.Peter's Square/Vatican Museum - Being in the world's smallest country! The vatican church is marvelous - take your time to stop by and be stunned. The museum is mammoth! It houses Raphel's work.

The Trio - When in Italy, make sure you see the works of Leonardo, MichaelAngelo and Raphel.

Apart from the historical monuments that will leave you astonished, spend enough time in scenic areas- Lakes, Beaches, and Hills. Learn to speak a few words of Italian, interact with the people, have a croissant and a cappuchino - truly Italian!

Travel and Food - the awesome combo! and in Italy, it is just gonna add up!!

Just let yourself shamelessly gobble those yummy Pizzas & Gelatos!!

Allora ;-) Godetevi il vostro viaggio gastronomo!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Paris Travel Guide - Less on cost, More on experience

There is plenty of information available online that will help you plan your travel to Paris. Here, i would be trying to put together my experiences that will help you explore Paris like a true traveler! Traveling in Paris, i realized if exploring the city is your interest then there are various means to cut cost and still experience the city's charm.

The first question that arises on people's mind is whether to take the Paris pass or not.

Paris pass provides you free admission to most of Paris's Museums and Monuments.

Don't take it!
Traveling within Paris - Metro is the best! The Paris metro connects the city very well, you will never feel the need for another transport.

Again with the metro you have several options - Paris Metro Pass, Daily Pass and Carnet(10 Tickets)

Paris metro pass allows you unlimited travel for a day,two,three, etc. You can choose the number of days.

Daily pass - unlimited travel for a day

Carnet is the best bet - you get 1 tickets for 12.5 Euros as compared to 1 ticket for 1.50 Euro.

Take a metro to your first place and then walk to the nearby attractions. Most attractions are close by and walking helps you experience the city better. If you had to take the metro everywhere you will miss the city.

You will use 3-4 tickets a day. Taking the daily pass at 6.5 Euros is not worth. Buy a carnet and use it! It saves money and time.

If you are traveling more than 2 countries in the Europe, the next question is ,"Do i get the Euro Rail Pass or not?"

The Euro rail pass may come handy if you traveling in through many countries and countries where rail is expensive. We did Italy without a rail pass and it worked out cheaper. So, don't jump and get the Euro rail pass, make a quick calculation and compare. The trains in Italy are said to cheaper than rest of Europe.

What to see?

With over 70 museums and monuments in Paris, what to see and how many days to spend in Paris?

The number of days depends on your time and interest in exploring the city! 3 days in Paris would be ideal, if you are traveling across many places. If you have the time anywhere between 5-7 days would be just perfect!

What is worth seeing in 3 days?

Museums - Pick 2-3 (Don't miss the Louvre)
Eiffel tower - book early to skip the lines. Go there around sunset so that you can see it both in daylight and night lights!
Arc De Trimoph and Champs Elysees - Walking up the Arc is worth it. You have Elevators too. At champs Elysees, spend time to try out the food.
Cathedrals Notre-Dame and Sacre Cour

Visit the Pantheon and Invalides. Luxemborg is close to Pantheon. Take a cruise on the River Siene.

Other main attractions: Moulin Rouge, Catacombs, more cathedrals, Palace of Versailles(Away from main Paris), La Defense(Modern buildings), Opera

Get a good map of Paris and spend some time to mark the place you are interested in and grouping them together! Keep both map of paris and metro map handy always!

All these attractions come at a price! The Museums are Free on the First Sunday of every month. Plan accordingly and save good money!

Experiencing the french culinary is definitely a part of your travel! Often, the small neat restro serves the most tasty and authentic food. Rue Mouteffard is a place where you should have one dining experience for the price and taste. You will get a 3 course meal for anywhere between 9 to 13 euros. All the restaurants display their menu outside, so it is easy to choose your place! Drink Parisian wine - you can buy some from Rue Mouteffard.

Dining in Paris is relatively expensive as compared to Italy. Find those quaint little shops for your money's worth. Montmarte is another area where you can eat cheaper.

Try the croissants - awesome!

Accommodation - If you are traveling alone, backpackers accommodation would be ideal and inexpensive. Please read the reviews on TripAdvisor before you make a booking, otherwise you might land in a shabby place.

Couples can also get into backpackers/hostel, if you aren't keen on luxury. They offer the basic necessities and are essentially clean.

You can get a room for anywhere between 60-80 Euros!

you still want to stay in a hotel and not ready to spend - try hotels little away from the main city! but then be ready to spend extra on commuting!

You may find cheaper accommodations near Gare du Nord, but it is better to avoid that area-mugging and pick pocketing is a possibility!

Montmarte is close to Gare du Nord, but is safer! You can find an accommodation here too.

Like in any new city, be completely aware of your surroundings, don't flaunt, carry only a day's cash and travel safe!

People of Paris - Language remains a barrier but humanity thrives beyond languages!
If you are focused to comprehend what the other person is saying, you will definitely understand irrespective of the fact that you know nothing of that language. Humans communicate your their body and mind.

We found the people of Paris to be warm and friendly. Everyone tried their best to help and greet even though they didn't speak English! Don't hesitate to ask. It is better to ask and be sure than be lost!

Paris is beautiful, just immerse yourself in her beauty and enjoy!

Need more info, ASK :-)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paris - the charming city!

Just back from a lovely 2-week trip in France and Italy! Well, what do i say, words would fail to capture a travel experience. Traveling definitely rejuvenates the soul and leaves you asking for more! Only wish, i could travel someday aimlessly. Paris was an inclusion to our Italian trip and ended up being one of my favourite places in the itinerary.

Paris is charming! A city that is modernized yet retains its historic-artistic-rustic touch. The first thing that impresses you about Paris is its connectivity! Paris is so well connected by its Metro(14 lines) and RER(3 lines). It is quite maze on paper but once you complete your first onward journey, it is out-rightly simple. Paris is a city that needs to be relished by walks. Yes, walk through those quaint little lanes winding around the corners with numerous cafes and ristorante - quite an experience.

It is best to group your sites of interest together, get off at one metro and walk through the rest and board the metro at the end. Most metros are underground, by traveling completely in a metro you will miss the sights of this beautiful city!

Paris has the right mix of monuments and museums that doesn't bore you! I understand for most people scanning through museums can be utterly boring but don't worry Paris is not entirely about museums. Yes, it has over 70 museums if i am not mistaken. So, it is better to choose the top 2 or 3 for your visit. Unanimously the top 2 picks would be Louvre Museum and Musee de Orsay!

Louvre, besides housing the famous Mona Lisa of Leonardo Di Vinci, has some of the best collections of paintings and sculptures. It is massive and if you are inclined towards art and want to spend time - a day wouldn't be enough! Louvre was a palace that is now a museum and hence even if you are not interested in the paintings, the sheer brilliance of the architecture will leave you agape.

Musee de orsay is another museum with fantastic collection, earlier a railway station, now houses some magnificent art collection - Van Gogh,Paul Gauguin and many more. You can witness many art enthusiasts sketching in there, totally unmindful of the other tourists.

Apart from this, we visited the Centre Pomipdu, a modern art gallery. It gives perspectives from two different worlds of art. At the end of the trip, i began to respect and hold great admiration for the art from Renaissance period. Modern art banks on individual perspective's while in the art of the ages, you bring out one perspective that everyone can appreciate alike!

Take time off from monuments and museums during your travel to spend leisure hours in the old streets of Paris. It provides you rich Parisian experience. Rue Mouteffard is one such area, be there and immerse yourself! The numerous eat-outs can give you a true Parisian culinary experience. It is cheap and yummy! It is a nice place to window shop as well. You can shop for the Parisian Wine here, if you drink wine - don't shy away from wine tasting - lots and cheap!

Then the famous monuments, who will fail to see the Eiffel tower when in Paris. You can spot this tower from most places in Paris! Standing tall against the mighty wind - truly a wonder! Spend some time near the Eiffel tower, in the day light and night time - it is worth it! The view from the Eiffel tower is breathtaking as well - be there during sunset and just get lost! You get better views of the Paris city from the Arc De triomphe - honors the soldiers who fought the french revolution. You can spot other attractions from the Arc whereas from the Eiffel Tower you will get a Panaromic view. Both are definitely worth it.

Walk along the Champs-Elysees, a different experience from the old streets of Paris. It is thriving and vibrant with many business houses and small street stalls selling food, jewelery and clothing etc! There is plenty of food all over, stop by and continue picking what you would like to experiment - there is lots of variety!

There are several other attractions, choose what you may enjoy! If you are interested in French history, a visit to the Musee de l Armee - a brilliant digital portrayal of French history - is a must! It is within the Les Invalides that houses Napolean's Tomb.

There are many Cathedrals that is worth a visit - Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Cour is a must! Sacre Coure is less written about but it is eloquently stunning! The Montmarte area in which Sacre coure is situated is another place worth taking a walk that will help you explore Paris.

Finally, don't forget the cruise on the River Siene. It is beautiful and appealing. The live commentary gives you a lovely summary of the city! You may consider doing this on your first day as it gives you very nice perspective about the city and attractions. Most important attractions are along the River Siene and hence you can get a bird's eye view of them!

Next post on Itineraries for traveling in Paris, Recommendations for Food, How to take the Metro and Ways to save money !

Stay Tuned..