Monday, 29 October 2012

London and Paris... A drive by

We arrived into London Heathrow feeling refreshed after our luxurious premium economy upgrade (a little treat we added for ourselves when we booked our flights) and excited for the start of the European leg of our journey. Whilst our time in London was only short, it essentially served to split our holiday into two parts. The most obvious reason for splitting our trip like this is to work off the uncomfortable jet lag that would inevitably rear it's ugly head as a result of going backwards in time from America to England (If I'm completely honest we were still feeling the effects of the Australia to America flight as well). Aside from the necessity of recovering in a place that was comfortable and familiar, we used our time in London to be normal... This involved a night on the town with friends, several aimless wanderings through the city, a visit to the cinema and some shopping. I find that this simple act of normalcy (by which I mean "not being a tourist") serves to re-calibrate your senses giving you renewed vigor with which to take on the next leg of your journey. On top of all this our stop over afforded us the luxury of dumping a combined 15kg of luggage weight on my dear friend Daniel (Thaaaaaaaanks Daniel!)

In order to stagger the train journey to our next major destination (Spain), we decided that we would include another short stopover in Paris. Now I am the first person to preach positive thinking and the old "give it a red hot go" philosophy when it comes to visiting a new city, but I am also the first to tell people that Paris is not always the beautiful city of love that every one makes it out to be. Paris is the sort of city that can sometimes take a few tries to get right... After two visits, I myself am still trying... But I have faith that I will have Paris down to a fine art by the time I return!

The beautiful Pont de l'ArchevĂȘchĂ© adorned with hundreds of thousands of "Love Locks" declaring undying commitment between lovers. One of the growing (albeit slowly) collection of things I like about Paris.

Shanwah's tasty tip: I am cheating a little here because I discovered this tasty tip during my last visit to the city of lights with Jade and Ross. On our first adventure to Paris, we stayed in a teeny tiny apartment in the very centre of The city. This fantastic location afforded us the ability to wander to many a tourist destination with ease and get to the Louvre early enough to avoid the lines... It was also next door to a quant little Chinese restaurant. The "Palais Royal Hong Kong" seemed the logical choice when we couldn't be bothered to walk to a traditional French restaurant (it was also a great place to eat while waiting for the laundry as there was a laundromat next door) and the price was definitely right for the money conscious travelers that we were. The French/Oriental gem served up some fantastic Chinese specialties full of flavor and much needed greenery...not to mention that the service had us tipping generously!

Monday, 8 October 2012

A note tourist traps...

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the controversial topic of tourist traps. There is an unavoidable downside to discussing your holiday plans with someone else, it seems that as soon as you mention travel they instantly become an expert on the destination at hand. The self righteous ones will tell you to avoid all the tourist traps and popular destinations because a "real" traveler should seek out a unique experience at every possible chance! At the same time your easily entertained friends will spend all their time trying to convince you to ensure you see every attraction mentioned in the Lonely Planet top ten. My advice (because I am obviously the final word in travel *sarcasm*) is to do a comfortable mixture. Tourist traps are necessary and there is no way around it! Your first trip to Paris would be a bust if you didn't see the Eiffel tower, but that doesn't mean you have to visit it every time you go to Paris. The biggest downside to tourist traps is the crowds of people trying to do exactly the same thing as you. I think that the two most successful ways to ensure you don't get frustrated with the crowds and have the entire experience ruin the whole city for you (don't even talk to me about Pisa) is firstly lower your expectations. The Statue of Liberty is much smaller than you think and Hollywood is a lot less glamourous so if you hype it up you will most probably be disappointed (I sound like a killjoy but it is human nature to try and make things look better than they actually are so if you arrive with lower expectations you will appreciate things more). Secondly, you need to research! It really makes a difference if you research things like; the best time to visit, the best place to buy tickets (avoiding queues always makes me happier), your favourite way to deal with rude people (I always enjoy doing a little dance to amuse myself while waiting for Mr Tubby McLinecutter to finish taking up my space) and the best way to have your own unique experience because essentially these sights are what you make them. Now go forth and unashamedly be a massive tourist, you can even take tacky perspective photos... I know I do.