Traveling with Rick Steves

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I had car pooled with Rick for 2-3 weeks leading up to the grand departure for Roma. He was a stellar co-pilot during my morning commute, although he never chipped in for gas. But, he did provide me with great advice on how to travel smarter.

Prior to leaving, I loaded up my phone with his walking tours in podcast form. These are all free. He also offers an app, which is more interactive, but I found the podcasts ample for my travel education needs. I should probably mention Rick wasn’t physically with me on the trip, but he might as well have been. We had a volume of notes distilled from his travel books–attractions by location, hours/days closed, cost, best time to go.

Traveling abroad is an amazing challenge in terms of project management and logistics. You could easily create a matrix of which attraction is open when, then build your itinerary around that. I didn’t go that far, but I was tempted to bust out my pencil. Rome and Paris were perfect candidates for this level of planning. They both have more museums, piazzas, vistas, restaurants than you can possibly visit, no matter how long your trip.

Here’s a brief overview of the cities and sites we ended up visiting. All of which I hope to chronicle in the coming weeks.

  1. Rome – 4 nights – Colosseo, Galleria Borghese, Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, Trajan’s column, Pantheon, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Boca della Verita
  2. Florence – 3 nights – Galleria dell’Accademia, Uffizi, Il Duomo di Firenze, Giotto’s Campanile
  3. Venice – 2 nights – San Marco, Murano island, numerous bridges and dead-end roads
  4. Paris 5 nights – Eiffel tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triumph, Versailles, Jardin de Luxembourg, Musee d’Orsay, Pantheon, Louvre Pyramid, Moulin Rouge, Arc du Carrousel, Rodin Museum, Champs de Mars, Giverney (Monet’s jardin and maison)

And that’s leaving out some things! This was an incredibly active trip. Each day we had 1-2 things slated for the morning. For Italy, we would see a site or two in the morning, explore a bit, eat lunch, then I’d take a short nap before our dinner and strolls at night. For Paris, we rarely went back to the hotel. We didn’t have an unlimited train pass, so we tried to make the most of each pass by exploring the area we were in. Don’t worry. I still had my naps. Either I fell asleep sitting upright or I’d use Leann’s shoulder as a pillow for a short nappy nap.

For all of the above attractions, the longest we waited in line was for the Eiffel Tower (close to 2 hours). We tried to make a reservation in advance and they were all booked. I’m not sure how far you need to book, but as soon as you know you’ll be in Paris, try to book a slot. Otherwise, we booked ahead for Vatican, Accademia, Uffizi and Borghese (fun story about this one for a future post). Climbing the Duomo was the second longest wait time–about 45 minutes. Everything else was pretty much 10 minutes or less. This is a must for all travelers trying to see a lot in the time they are visiting.

This was the first trip to Italy and France for both me and my lady friend. Accordingly, we loaded up the trip with the must-see tourist sites. In future visits, we could take a more relaxed approach now that we’ve seen all the must-sees.

If you are at all like us (crazy), book what you can in advance, create a calendar, buy city passes to skip lines, start working out to get in better shape. But most importantly, invite Rick Steves along for the adventure.

Cherché Paris en la Nuit

“Now what do you want to do?”

The first night in every city is daunting. Do you want to see the highlights your first day or save some for your first full day?

My travel pattern so far has been to explore that first day/night to get an idea of the transit system and where things are located. It has proved successful do far.
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Staying in Montmartre is a bit far from the main attractions of Paris which are mostly in the 7th arrondissement. Alors, we hopped the metro and ventured off to see PARIS!
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After walking around a bit we realized we were near the louvre. Then a few more turns and, in the distance, we saw the glass pyramid designed by I.m. Pei. I squealed. I’m not ashamed. Maybe I pranced with a bit of frolicking. It wasn’t my most masculine moment but I don’t care. We snapped some pics then soldiered on pointing at buildings we’d long read about but had never seen in person.
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A few more turns and I saw it. Bright in the night. Just the narrow, skeleton top. Le Tour Eiffel! This is one of those moments in your life when it’s ok to pee your pants. Just a little bit. It’s amazingly impressive to see an international landmark. Le tour Eiffel quintessentially IS Paris.
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Nous faisons une promenade à le Tour Eiffel. There is a mini arc de triumph which we initially mistook for the real thing. Le grande arc is a ways up Le champs des Élysées. It took a while to get there on foot. But when you do…
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It is breathtaking. Unquestionably impressive and beautiful.20140528-072013-26413755.jpg

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Every hour at night, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes. Make sure you stay to see this. Overall, there’s no better way to see a city then to visit some of it’s quintessential attractions at night. So what if it’s touristy. You ARE a tourist.

Vivre le grande vie!

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