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Parisian Adventures Day 1

And it was off on a Eurail journey again….and my first overnight train from Venice to Paris. Much has been written about this train-the luxury of first class, the food , the convenience.

These are all lies. The train is filthy, cramped, and a totally awful way to cross from one country to another especially from 2 cities as glamorous as Venice and Paris are. The food cart runs out of food minutes after you leave. The waiters are rude, uncaring and probably poorly paid. The rooms have almost no space to sit let alone sleep and most importantly you must not only lock your room at night when you attempt to sleep you must also barricade the door with luggage. Two separate families lost passports, money and handbags on the awful overnight disaster! Since this train makes several stops through the night and since you often only discover your loss in the morning, the perpetrator is usually long gone and there were several exhausted, woebegone faces at breakfast in the morning.

The morning on the train isn’t much better. The coffee is runny and weak, the croissant is hard and unpalatable and there’s no point even discussing the sham of a hole that masqueraded as the bathroom.

This train is NOT WORTH IT! TAKE A FLIGHT- ANY FLIGHT INSTEAD!

Thanks to this awful journey, I arrived very exhausted in to Paris. Now this was our second to Paris as a couple. We decided we wanted to do this trip because the first time we visited Paris we were on our honeymoon! A tour every few hours , staying in a small hotel ( that was all we could afford) and running between one tour and the next trying to cram all of Paris’ sights into a 3 night stay and also relax and enjoy our honeymoon proved to be an impossible holiday. Most of the trip was fraught with arguments and tears because we were so exhausted after doing sooo much! But even in between all the running and madness we fell in love with this beautiful , romantic city. We promised that we’d visit again-with out the tours and the schedules and that’s what this trip was for.

We had taken an apartment at the beautiful Fraser Suites on Champs Elysees. This was because one of the things we learnt about Paris was hotel rooms are terribly tiny. We’d stayed in Fraser Suites in Malaysia and the large bedrooms, huge living room and a wonderfully compact kitchenette! We wanted to stay centrally in Paris and this 5 star part-hotel seemed ideal- even more son once I saw some of the world’s best tennis players staying there with us as they were playing the very exciting Rolland Garros French Open!

We were upgraded to a suite on our arrival. The newer rooms were plush, with new furnishing, facing Champs Elysees and the Arc di Triumph and were large and spacious. Two televisions(not that we got time to watch tv), a large living room with a dining table, a bedroom, 2 super sized bathrooms, a stocked kitchenette and a massive bed and I found a new home in the heart of Paris. This trip was going to be different so Day 1 started with no plan at all and it was wonderful.

The last time we came to Paris , we arrived (like we did this time) on a Sunday and everything was shut! That was six years ago. This  time Paris was bustling on a Sunday- everything was open, everything was crowded, everything was buzzing and alive and it was amazing! We stopped to pick up some croque monsieurs on our way at Champs Elysees and decided to take the underground to the Latin Quarter.

Briefly glossed over during tours , the Latin Quarter with its frenetic activity, quirky shops, arty bars and cafes is a wonderful, bohemian vision of Paris. Each bylane has lots to explore, each cafe has new , exciting food smells and each shop has interesting , quirky things to take away, buy and keep! This area is very filled with students and young couples and is so diverse in culture and colour it was absolutely magnificent walking through the Latin Quarter.

Paris is exciting every time you visit but I believe the more you walk through Paris , the more layers you uncover. Like an onion, you can keep peeling and peeling and discover new and exciting places, people and sites within the city and still realise you have more to see.

Paris is more than the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame–those are exciting and pieces of history that you must see…but walk through Paris,see the architecture, meet the people, sip the cappuccinos….the romance of Paris is all around for you to discover…

We came to Paris first on our honeymoon…but we really fell in love with Paris this time ’round.

More on our Parisian adventures and a special trip to Versailles…next week!

Best Times To Travel-:  June through to October – but expect crowds and tourists! So remember Paris is beautiful but make your own memories….different from the brochure memories that are sold to you! 🙂

Price Factor-:  EXPENSIVE!!! $600- $1000 per night for a 5 star hotel but you must know that you should stay in the centre of Paris for sure (Champs Elysees, Concorde  is great or opt for something more arty like Opera)…then everything is walking distance and everything- amazing!

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The Great Ocean Road and Yarra Valley(the MUST DO Day trips from Melbourne!)

As promised last week I’d finish writing about the Must-do Day trips from Melbourne, so here goes!

The Great Ocean Road and Apollo Bay with the 12 Apostles ARE FAAAAR from Melbourne! It’s comfortably a 4 hr to 5 hr drive so don’t look at seeing both and returning the same day unless you want to get stuck on a God awful tour bus for an entire day!

I’d recommend renting a car and driving their. AVIS has an office at the Grand Hyatt in the center of town and you can very easily rent a car. All you need is a Valid License written in ENGLISH! You don’t even need an International License! I opted to get an International Drivers License because I didn’t want to take a chance and that was very easy to apply for, took a day in processing and made my trip stress free (for me!!!) The husband’s never stressed when I’m at the helm … cos I’m the lister, the planner, the organizer , the madly OCD one! 😉 It works!

So off we went …I drove (yes you can make all the jokes you want about Women drivers!!! But I drive well… and I had the license! So that’s that!) With a GPS System that was far too chatty for our liking and was continuously ” re-calibrating!!!!” in a terribly annoying nasal drawl; we headed off out of Melbourne!

The minute you leave the city limits , you see the changes. Roads and highways now start moving past undulating hills, small townships and quaint coffee shops. Buildings are few and far between. There are more cottages and homes…more gardens and bicycles! And then you take the turn on to the Great Ocean Road and everything stops! A wide road on a cliff edge in front of a panoramic ocean is all that lies in front for miles and miles. Cars drive, stop and park on the left and take photographs of the incredible 180 degree view and every time you think you have the greatest photograph, you’ll find one that’s just a bit better a few minutes ahead!

My advice is to drive along and stop on the way….a cuppa coffee, a seat on a cliff edge… or just a run in the sand… that’s what Australia is all about…and that’s what a vacay should be all about too… Relax, unwind and breathe!!!

We stopped for coffee at about 5:30 p.m at Lorne ( we only left Melbourne just after lunch). The coffee shop was nondescript. I was tired. The coffee was superb!

Charged it took us another hour or so to reach our destination. We were stopping for the night at Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant and Villas. This is not a very luxurious place to stay but has a beautiful view. We were barely staying there for a few hours, so we ate a comfortably-sized well made dinner and went to our villa to sleep.  The villa had wonderful views of the bay but was strictly okay. Sure, if you have a family and want to use a kitchenette and washing machine and want to make your own food; this might be a good option but it was bitterly cold with colder floors and small rooms and I was glad I was here for just a night. Driving for so long, I fell into a dead sleep.

We loaded our car and headed off to the helicopter point where we had booked a helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles!

Now this was beautiful! I got some incredible photographs and we also learnt something very interesting. There were only 9 rocks that jutted out from the sea but as 9 Apostles wouldn’t attract that much attention it was decided that this would be called 12 Apostles. One rock however had now fallen, and there were only 8. The breathtaking view of the sea front and of these magnificent rock structures in the morning made the looooong trip worth it!

And then it was back home to Crown Towers and back home to Melbourne!!!

Yarra Valley is only about an hour away from the city and it was definitely easier to get to and infinitely less tiring! We left after breakfast to the Domain and Chandon Vineyards where we were taken on a fabulous tour across the winery. This tour is free and you just need to sign up at the reception when you get there. To do special tasting and wine and cheese pairings you do pay a bit extra but if you’re a wine lover (like my wonderful husband is) then a connoisseur will take you through the history of each wine , the thought behind it’s creation and fill you will fun facts and interesting stories of how the wine came to be and more importantly how it is being appreciated!

Yarra Valley has several vineyards…so you can stop at one and move thru all. They’re all barely 5 minutes away by car!

After the vineyards you could grab lunch at the wonderfully pretty Sweet water cafe at the beautiful Chateau Yering a historic house converted into a boutique hotel, with beautiful rooms each with a personal touch!

And since you’re in Yarra you must taste the cheese! A coffee and a plate of cheese at the Yarra Valley Dairy  is a perfect way to sober up, end the afternoon and head back into town!

These are both trips I recommend you do yourself so you can personalize it the way you prefer and don’t need to do the plain , simple , mass produced lunches that tours usually thrust on you! You can stop along the way- taste the cheeses, enjoy sea breezes, take your own photographs,decide on the perfect wine and just laze or go as fast as you need to!

Do these day trips at your pace…your way!

And along the way try out my faves, I know you’ll love them too!

Price Factor-: 12 Apostles Helicopter rides are approx $190 for 2 people and take about 10 minutes. Domaine Chandon wines are available by the glass from $8 or by the bottle from $22.00.

Best times to travel-: Southern Hemisphere …so once again I recommend August – February. We went end March and tho Yarra was just perfect, Apollo Bay was super chilly already!

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