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Two week, whirlwind, first time in Europe, Europe vacation

I started planning this trip a year ago. This site helped a lot with that!
We flew into CDG and spent the next 3 days walking around Paris. I had made reservations for the Louvre so that was the only thing we HAD to do. I also made reservations for a day trip to Amsterdam. We really enjoyed our time in Paris. Walked around the city, found the streets that are lined with rose bushes. It was such a fragrant walk! Of course we saw the Eiffel tower, the Arc, the other touristy things, St Chapelle, etc. But we weren't really TAKEN with the city like I expected to happen. Weather was a little cold for us Floridians, and wet. But we expected that and were appropriately prepared. It was downright brisk in Amsterdam! We only had time to go to the Ann Frank House while there. What a great decision. It was an emotional tour for me.
We then took the train from Paris to Lyon. Stayed two nights in Lyon-I seriously could live there. What a beautiful place. We splurged in Lyon. We stayed in a four star hotel on Place Bellecour. The view from the room was amazing. We had a lovely lunch and exceptional dinner in Lyon. Both were events all their own. We went to Paul Bocuse for dinner. I had to. I studied him in Culinary school. Being a chef myself, I got a tour of the kitchen and pictures with the savory and pastry chefs. The whole meal was exceptional, the service was unmatched and we were made to feel welcome and appreciated. The dessert course was like a circus in the dining room! What fun!
We toured The Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvier while in Lyon. There are no words!
We then continued south, via train travel, to southern Spain to visit with friends for a few days. Spain is Beautiful!
Flew via Vueling Airlines - great flight by the way! back to Paris and the next day took a train to London for a night. British History Museum, toured London via cab. Rode the London Eye. That was awesome.
While we were in Paris, Jacque Chirac's funeral was held. Made our hop on hop off bus tickets a waste of money as they could not stop at all the stops due to road closures.
While we were in London, we did not use our hop on hop off bus tickets as there were protesters on the bridges, closing them and the buses could not get to all the stops. We got a taxi and he took us everywhere we wanted to go. He was amazing. He knew all the back roads and had access because he was smaller than the buses.
Next day we went back to Paris, stayed the night at a hotel at the airport and came home.
We flew Air France. We flew economy. One checked bag each. We chose the row directly behind the more legroom bulkhead row, because husband walks with a cane and we thought they would make us move at the last minute if I chose those (more legroom bulkhead) seats and didn't want to take a chance on sitting apart. The flight there was not bad. The flight back, the two people that sat in front of us reclined their seats fully for at least 8 of the 9 1/2 hour flight leaving us about 9 inches (at most) space between our faces and the seat back, unless we also fully reclined. For much of the flight they did not lean back on those reclined seats.
The food on both flights was pretty bad. We wished we had bought sandwiches to eat on the plane.
There were no crazies, no crying babies, and everyone was fine till we got off the plane in Miami and got to Passport Control. What a cluster of disorganization that was. I Probably could have brought about any kind of food in to this country. The agent that came off break early to open another lane because there were so many people, was not concerned about anything. Asked me a couple questions, said thanks - next, and I was headed home with all my stuff within an hour and a half of landing instead of probably three hours if he hadn't come off break. I went from about 150 people ahead of me to next in seconds when they broke up the line and moved us over to the other side of the room.

Posted by
7254 posts

Yeah Miami is a major major port of entry. It was pretty wild even back in 2002 arriving after a flight from Rio de Janeiro.

Posted by
1261 posts

Thank you for your report. That certainly was a whirlwind trip - glad you enjoyed it. Next time, more of Spain?

On Paris, the tourist world seems pretty split between those who think it's perfect and can't get enough and others (including me), who think it's fine but nothing special. I guess, never the twain....

Posted by
681 posts

I think Philadelphia is just as bad. We have to go through Miami most of the time and just dread it and the drive up 95 to get home. Yuk!

Posted by
3448 posts

Huntle, thank you for your informative report. Nice to hear about the positive as well as the challenges you encountered. I keep hearing wonderful reviews of Lyon. It certainly has peaked my interest! Your impressions will be helpful for future traveler's.

Posted by
2023 posts

Your trip sounded great. You were very smart to use that taxi in London. We have been many times and have yet to see as much as I would like. We rarely use taxi and it is a real challenge to deal with the tube and walking for an entire trip.

Posted by
1260 posts

That’s a lot of moving around. What was your opinion of that aspect? For me, it would have been way too much. But, what was your opinion? Do you think you spent too much time in transit? Too much time checking in and checking out? Too much time getting lost as you arrived in a new place?

Posted by
4716 posts

On Paris, the tourist world seems pretty split between those who think it's perfect and can't get enough and others (including me), who think it's fine but nothing special.

Yes, I'm in the "meh" camp along with Barcelona.

Posted by
3078 posts

It sounds like you had a good time on your trip. Thanks for the report. Like Dale, I'm curious how you felt about being on the move so much. I think this is my first time reading/hearing about a day trip to Amsterdam from Paris. Is that something you would do again?

Posted by
43 posts

Dale and Dave - re: moving around so much - I do wish I had planned a little differently. As far as the day trip to Amsterdam, I do wish we had longer there. I would have liked to have been able to go see the working windmill. But it was an easy day trip from Paris on the Thalys. The whole purpose of this trip was to see where we want to come back to. If I ever stay in Paris again, it won't be IN Paris center. I would have liked to stay longer in Lyon. When I started planning this trip I had no desire in the world to go to Spain. None. Ending up there is another long story about friendships and life changes and how people lose touch with each other. I wasn't impressed with just across the border from France, Spain. But I also should say I can't really give an opinion more than what I saw from a train window though. Once we got south of Barcelona, I fell in love with the landscape. Almost as much as I loved southern France's. I wish I had stayed longer in Spain with our long lost and then found friends. Knowing what I know now, I would have spent a week in Lyon and a week in southern Spain and then come home. I'm older than some on this forum and younger than others. We appreciated the train travel. It forced us to slow down and relax. We bought a 7 day global pass because we wanted to be able to go where we wanted to if a mood hit. That's how we ended up in London for a night. We had considered adding another week. Another week away from my own bed and I would have been impossible to get along with! I have been spoiled and found hotel beds to be mostly less than comfortable. We did have one room with an awesome bed, but we paid for that comfort and were only willing to pay that for two nights!
We are already planning the next trip. One destination for a week. Will be able to pack lighter, too.

Posted by
68 posts

Thanks for sharing! Now that it's complete, would you have done anything differently? Are you glad you did a day trip to Amsterdam or was that too much moving around?

Posted by
282 posts

Thank you for your report, Huntle! That seems like an awesome experience at Paul Bocuse in Lyon. I'm going to stop there on my next trip - I was in Lyon about a day once and clearly didn't appreciate it. It's hard to get an accurate idea of a place when we're there for such a relatively short time. I'm in the camp of Paris devotees but don't know about a street lined with rose bushes - where is that?!

"Probably could have brought about any kind of food in to this country" - I had the same experience with Passport control at JFK last week! And the current government is so concerned with illegal immigrants! Hmmm.