I thought I would keep a travel diary of sorts as I get ready to embark on this 9 day trip to Florence via Paris. In case you missed the news, I won a trip to Florence, Italy via ItalianFix (I can still barely believe it! I am so excited!).
The first thing on my to-do was to book flights. Now I know the new fashioned way is to monitor the online sites like Kayak and Orbitz and hunt for the best deal. However I rely on a local travel agent to do my bookings. Reasons:
1. This is their job and they can book you on multiple airlines with their handy-dandy ticketing system. Just like I don’t put up my own wallpaper, I don’t book my own tickets. I am not an expert in either of those two things. My friend, Aparna Thakurdas, from school is a fabulous travel agent based in India, so if you happen to be travelling to or from India, get in touch with her.
2. I believe that time is money. I do not have an extra 3 to 4 hours to whittle away searching for the best flight, whatever that might be. 10 minutes on the phone with Sneha at East-West Travel and she was able to give me 5 different options, routing through Paris, or Istanbul or whatever. We finally picked routing through Paris so we could spend a couple of days there.
Now that the flights were booked and we had two whole days in Paris, it was time to book a hotel. This is going to be my very first trip to Paris and it is only for two days. The best advice I can give you about location is to ask a local. Now lucky for me, the local I know is the fabulous Anne Scherrer who happens to live in DC. Anne recommended that for just two days to stay in either the 6th arrondissement (Saint Germain) or 3rd arrondissement (Marais). Paris is divided into districts (arrondissements) and as a two-day tourist, the 6th suited us best. It is on the Left Bank (of the Seine) and in walking distance to the Louvre, Notre Dame and just a short metro ride from the Eiffel Tower. Also, it is very easy to get to from CDG (Charles de Gaulle) airport via RER (train).
Anne Ditmeyer (of Prêt à Voyager blog) is an expat in Paris explains the districts well. David Lebovitz is another fantastic resource. I follow both Anne (@pretavoyager) and David (@davidlebovitz)on twitter, and you should too.
Once I knew where I wanted to stay, it was easy enough to find a hotel. Once again you can spend mindless hours on hotels.com or bookings.com or airbnb or any number of hotel websites finding the perfect hotel at the right price. I admit I did that for a while but soon realized the idiocy of it and went straight for the source, in this case the The official website of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau and found our hotel right in Saint Germain that fit into our budget. Hotels in Paris can be very expensive but you have to remember that you are probably not going to spend too much time inside your hotel room and certainly never going to be ordering room service!
Now if we were staying there for longer, a few weeks or a month, renting an apartment in a more residential (less touristy) arrondissement is what I would do, to get more of a flavour of the local life. Next time!
Flight found. Hotel found. Now on to shopping!
The most important thing to buy would be some comfy shoes. I can’t think of anything more comfy than a pair of Tieks but I am having a hard time deciding which two pairs I should get. Too many choices!
Next up would be clothes! As my friend Christy said, easy to pack are blacks and grays and some colourful scarves, shoes or accessories. Right up my alley! I am going to get some colour in there too, I will report back on my shopping trip once I get a few things. I am one of those people who gets rid of 99% of their wardrobe at the end of the season and start afresh each season.. so I rely on about 6-8 key pieces to get me through the season.
Anyway, more later, this is my update for now!