Friday, February 27, 2015

Traveling and Staying in Venice

One of the places I knew I wanted to visit when we took our Euro-Trip was Venice. Venice definitely comes with mixed reviews, but to me it sounded romantic, beautiful and utterly unique. A bucket list location that is a mystery into how long it may continue to be around for. It sounded so mystical that I just felt like I could NOT miss the opportunity to visit! 

The hardest part in planning our trip to Europe was traveling between locations. I know they have an amazing train system but a train from Paris to anywhere in Italy is quite a long haul and the more I kept researching the more I realized it's also expensive! I kept stressing over this part of our trip before we booked our international tickets because I wanted peace of mind over getting from location to location before I booked flights out of different airports. I decided that I would look for flights on Orbitz like usual between Paris and Venice, and somehow AirFrance had flights for 50E from CDG to VCE... say what?! 50 EURO!? That's cheaper than a train and way shorter!!! Trains were taking hours of our time, a flight was an hour.. I booked this flight before we even booked our international tickets because I finally felt good about traveling in Europe and on the cheap! My advice, just looked at every option possible and also Rome 2 Rio is an excellent resource as well! I highly recommend downloading the Ulmon app for Venice too, because it's the best non-wifi map you could ask for, especially in a confusing city like Venice!

We also had to consider where to stay in Venice. Venice is an extremely expensive city but I felt like the options in terms of using AirBNB did not feel as welcoming as those in Paris and I felt like I wanted to explore the option of a B&B for our stay. I headed to my favorite travel buddy, TripAdvisor, for real reviews and photos of locations to stay. I started looking at the list from Number 1 on and emailing different owners when I found good reviews. I found a B&B called You & Me on the top of the list and emailed the owner to find availability and luckily she had a room available! Stefanie was super responsive and helpful in the process of booking. She didn't even require a credit card to hold the accommodation which I thought was odd, but upon meeting Stefanie, I see why. She was the most friendly and helpful person we met in Italy. She was so passionate about her B&B and her wonderful home of Venice. We loved staying at her home which was very close to the Rialto bridge and easily walkable to many attractions in Venice. I just wish we had stayed longer!! I highly recommend looking into B&B's for Venice. There are more of them than hotels and the rates are definitely better. We also had a wonderful host that gave us helpful advice and information for our stay which is valuable in a city of many dead-ends and corners! Here's our cute little room below:

Stay tuned for my Venice recap tomorrow!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day Trip to Reims, France

We had one free day while visiting during our sister city exchange and I had always wanted to visit the Champagne region of France. We happen to only have been an hour drive away so our wonderful family offered to drive us to Champagne for a tasting. We booked a tour and tasting at Mumm in Reims. Reims is the largest part of the Champagne region. Its cathedral was where the Kings of France received their coronation as well. The same cathedral was heavily damaged during WWI but was chosen to be rebuilt. I have photos of the cathedral below. Remis is beautiful and it's also a short train ride from Paris so I highly recommend visiting!

This dusty cellar is where the cuvee's over time are stored since the beginning of the Mumm house in Reims. The bottle in the middle signifies the beginning of the red ribbon now associated with G.H. Mumm. There are over 25 million bottles in the under ground cellar space that is owned by Mumm and founded in 1827!
 CHEERS! We brought back 3 bottles of this yumminess!

The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims was started in 1211 and like I mentioned, was home to the coronations of the Kings of France! It was heavily damaged during WWI and you can see in the photos, bullet holes as well as the areas that have been rebuilt because of the war. All the stained glass was pretty much replaced and almost the whole ceiling.
These are photos of the destruction inside the Cathedral.

Reims was absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend every make a short day trip to the region if you have time. The above photo was so shocking to me. It was on our drive to Reims and it was a grave site to those who died in WWI in France. I had never before felt so connected to a war like I did when I was in France. I looked at the woods thinking of the men who were in hiding there and who risked their lives fighting for their country. It was really touching to be so close to history. France really is such a special country and I can't speak highly enough of how wonderful our time was there.

I hope you will one day think of visiting France!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

French Countryside Part 2

Over the next few days in France, I traveled to many smaller towns outside of Compiegne. We were able to see centuries old churches and cathedrals, eat a lovely little restaurants and go shopping in some cute shops! I couldn't get over all the adorable kids clothes in France!! Made me wish I had a little one to shop for, but I would've been broke after visiting.

Part of our group was lucky enough one evening to go to dinner at the home of Isabelle and Patrice. They had such a lovely home that was part built in the 1700's and part built in the late 1800's! It's just amazing the history France has!

On our final evening we went to the town of Pierrefonds, in which there was an old chateau that had been renovated by Napoleon to look Medieval castle. Rumor had it, Michael Jackson saw the Chateau de Pierrefonds and offered to buy it but they refused to sell it to him. It's also been featured in many movies, including the Man in the Iron Mask.

The gang celebrating our final night together..
Our lovely French mom, Guilhene!
We ate dinner on this pond overlooking the Chateau.
 Too much rose perhaps? That Tavel will make you happy!

The day we were flying out of France, hubs played golf at Chantilly, one of the best courses in France and the ladies were able to tour the Chateau de Chantilly. Yes, the home to Chantilly Cream and Chantilly lace! The Chateau was very remarkable. It wasn't a busy day, and the Duke that had lived there had a private art collection that made it feel like we were in our own private Louvre! There was even original pieces by Rafael.

OH FRANCE, you were truly remarkable! All these experiences truly made us fall in love with everything France had to offer. From the small towns to the glamorous city of Paris, we truly cherished our entire time in France but it was also due to the amazing relationships we were able to build through the sister city program. We are so thankful for the opportunity and hope to keep taking part in these programs!

Do you want to visit the countryside now?! I sure hope so!!